9/17: Griggsy’s Gripes

17 09 2011

Griggsy is back on his game and not a day too soon. It only seems fitting that I finally start getting my feet under me and Chris gets his next round of Gripes up the same day that the Penguins opened up training camp. I am trying to get all of the papers graded tonight so that I can get a post up tomorrow about the Pens (I have two I am working on now), but at least for tonight and part of tomorrow we’ve got the Griggsy’s love.

 

——

 

It’s once again time for the best part of your week. With a lot of goings-on lately, let’s just get right into the gripes….

 

->Well, that was quite an egg laid by the Steelers against Baltimore. The offense couldn’t stop turning the ball over, the defense couldn’t stop anyone, and there were a lot of players looking disinterested far

too early on in the game. It’s just not something I’m used to seeing from that team, especially against arguably the team’s biggest rival. They looked like it was preseason game number five, basically. And for a team that usually shows a ton of pride in their game, they didn’t show quite as much last Sunday….

 

->However, there are two additional thoughts I have about the game. First, the Ravens deserve a lot of credit for playing about as well as I’ve seen them play in the last 3 years. It pains me to say that, obviously. But I would be a fool not to say it. They looked hungry, hey looked multi-dimensional offensively, and they looked like a much better team that I expected.

 

But that brings me to my next point. In the NFL, there are two weeks of the season that tell you very little about the season as a whole, and how teams will play for the entire year. Week 17 is the biggest

misleading week of the year, because teams are either resting players for the playoffs, or playing backups to make decisions for next season. The next biggest in terms of misleading weeks, however, is

Week 1. Some teams don’t come into Week 1 with everything figured out. Some are still trying to figure out new schemes, or are still trying to get the chemistry right to be successful. This is especially the case in this season, where teams only had 7 weeks worth of training time prior to Week 1’s games.

 

Back in 2003, the Patriots went into Buffalo for a Week 1 game against the Bills. They returned home after Week 1 with an 0-1 record after a 31-0 ass-kicking. At the end of the season, the Bills weren’t the team raising the Lombardi Trophy. New England won it all that year, despite the waxing they took in Week 1.

 

So, what does that all mean for the Steelers, the Ravens, and the NFL after the first week? Honestly, I don’t know. And neither does anyone else. And that’s ultimately the point. Don’t assume that the 2011

season is over for the Steelers, or that the Ravens will run away with the division and such. 16 games may be the shortest schedule in all of pro sports. But it’s a very long time, and things are going to change in a big way before the season is over….

 

->I will say this, though. I don’t envy the Seattle Seahawks for Week 2….

 

->The Penguins’ training camp has opened officially, and excitement is high. Sidney Crosby’s practicing (albeit without contact), and Evgeni Malkin has returned after a disappointing wasted season that was riddled with injuries. There aren’t many open spots on the roster, with many returning players from last season. We all could probably list our projections for the opening night roster, and we’d be able toget it 90% right (or better). The question, in my eyes, is what the lines will look like, especially if Crosby isn’t ready for Game #1 (which is expected to be the case). Everyone has their guesses, and

this is mine, based on both what I want to see and what Dan Bylsma’s tendencies are as coach:

 

Sullivan-Malkin-Neal

Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy

Cooke-Letestu-Dupuis

Jeffrey-Adams-Asham

 

This is assuming that Dustin Jeffrey is ready to go in October. If not, you may see Eric Tangradi, Richard Park, or Nick Johnson get that spot. Hell, I suppose that Steve MacIntyre may get that spot, if Bylsma feels he needs a fighter against Vancouver. Regardless, you can see that there aren’t a lot of guys in danger of losing their spot. Hopefully, there won’t be complacency from any of those guys.

 

The defense and goaltending are similarly set, so don’t expect to see any “camp darlings” getting an immediate shot in the NHL at any position. But those guys may very well set themselves up to be the

first call-up due to injury. Teams suffer lots of injuries during a typical NHL season. Hell, just look at the Pens’ season last year. So, positioning yourself to get an early call-up is a big deal. The aforementioned Tangradi and Johnson may be two that are at the top of the list, if they don’t make the Pens’ roster out of camp….

 

->The Pirates finally lost game 82 earlier this week. Around the same time, Neal Huntington got a three-year extension as GM of the team. This may stun you, but I actually think this is a good move for the team. There will be continuity in the organization for an extended period now, and the team is certainly making strides, both at the MLB level and in the minors. Many more prospects, and lots of quality players in Pittsburgh, it’s all leading to a legitimate positive outlook for the Buccos in the future. They may not win a World Series anytime soon. But they will win 82+ games sooner than later….

 

And on that bombshell, this is where the Gripes sign off….





Back For The First Time

11 09 2011

Folks,

I have arrived in my new town and have mostly unpacked. I am still alive. I am doing well and, frankly, couldn’t be happier.

I am still doing some amount of unpacking and needing to pick up various supplies that I forgot to bring or buy in my recent trips to the local shopping…areas. I am officially living in the middle of nowhere (but that’s what I wanted). My school is pretty much right in the heart of the city, but is honestly only a 15-20 minute drive. I am thoroughly enjoying being able to only be 20 minutes from life and activity…or from quiet seclusion in the middle of nowhere.

Being completely and totally alone hasn’t really sunk in yet. I have a friend in Asheville who is planning on coming to visit me in 2 weeks for my birthday. Hopefully she can make it for the weekend. I think I will greatly enjoy seeing a familiar face at that point.

And what move would be complete without a complete lulz moment. My lulziest of lulz so far? Trekking the old microwave all the way from Pittsburgh to Fayetteville to have it literally blow up on me the 2nd day. Now I need a new microwave. Outside of exploding microwaves it’s been a pretty easy move and adjustment period. We’ll have to come back and evaluate that statement in a few weeks time and see if I’m still so chipper.

It’s going to be a completely insane first few weeks, but I want to get one or two Pens Previews done this week, both as a means of keeping my sanity as well as getting geared up for hockey season, which is right around the corner.

Many thanks to all the kind words and well-wishing I got from everyone. Tomorrow is the first day of school for me. Things are about to get real.

-Walt





9/3: Griggsy’s Gripes

3 09 2011

Griggsy is filling the void while I am crotch deep in packing and boxes and insanity. Ol’ Walt is heading off on Wednesday and it’s likely I will not be around until the following weekend at the earliest, but first – Griggsy. Also, thank baby Jesus for football. Here we go.

 

———–

 

I’m finally back. The Gripes have returned. Your long national nightmare is over. OK, maybe you didn’t miss me quite that much. Regardless, I’ve climbed back into the saddle, and the Gripes will come riding out with me.

Before that, though, a word of congratulations to the esteemed head of the site. Very happy to see Walt get the job he’s richly deserved for a long time. I’m very happy for you, man, and I hope all goes well in the next phase.

Alright, enough with the kind words. It’s time for griping:

->I am sick of hearing about Sidney Crosby’s concussion. I am sick of hearing about Sidney Crosby’s recovery from his concussion. I am sick of people speculating about when (if) Sidney Crosby will be healthy enough to come back. I get that it is the 87-ton elephant in the room, if you’re a Penguin (or NHL) fan. But with all the speculation, the non-stories, the non-updates, etc., It’s driving me insane. I don’t want to hear anymore.

Look, it’s clear that no one knows anything about this. The Penguins, the media, the fans, Crosby himself, none of us. We are all clueless about how severe the concussion was. Or was it multiple concussions? None of us know how long it’s going to take for all the symptoms to go away. We sure as hell don’t know how it’s going to effect him when he gets back on the ice to resume his career. Whenever that may be.

Let me repeat that again: No one knows anything about this!

So, everyone needs to stop speculating. Until he’s cleared to be on the ice, practicing, able to take hits, the speculation needs to completely stop. I don’t want to see, hear, or read anything about it anymore. Please. For the love of Mario, just stop!….

->Craig Adams had an appendectomy a couple of weeks back. My best wishes to him. Also, no truth to the rumor that he cut himself open and ripped out the appendix with his bare hands, with only a bottle of whiskey to numb the pain. That’s completely untrue. Craig Adams doesn’t feel pain….

->The faint “beeeeeeeeeeeep” you hear in the distance? That’s the Pirates’ season flat-lining. The viewing will be held this weekend. The funeral? It’s 8 losses away….

->I am fresh off one of the worst vacations possible. Two cars and six people started out of the Pittsburgh area for a trip to the beach for a wedding, originally scheduled for August 27. In order, this is what happened: A tire blowout on Car #1, followed by that car’s battery dying on the side of the highway (3 hours into the trip); My body completely betraying me for the entire trip in multiple ways; Car #2 getting stuck in the sand in the Outer Banks; Car #2 getting pulled over for speeding the next night; Car #2 getting totaled the day after that in Georgia (long story, don’t ask); An earthquake knocking a pipe off-track for one of the sinks in the beach house; The threat of a hurricane looming for a week; That threat eventually leading to the wedding being moved up two nights; Having to strap most of the luggage to the roof of Car #1 because an additional two people had to be fit into said car; Running like crazy to get away from the storm in time on Friday; On said run, Car #1 nearly loses another tire because 4 of the 5 bolts are sheared off without anyone knowing; And finally, after getting back to the starting point, Car #1’s battery dying again when we head out to take me back to my house.

Worst trip ever? Probably not. And I’m sure you could send me stories of your trips from hell. But holy hell, I had to laugh most of the time, just to keep myself from crying….

->So, college football has started this week. And to be honest, I always feel very mixed at the start of college football season. It’s a strange mingling of excitement and disappointment. Excitement because there are always a lot of entertaining games every year. The Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-10 (or whatever they’re calling these leagues now) all have high-level teams that lead to entertaining action week in and week out. Lots of future NFL stars coming out of those games, believe that.

However, disappointment creeps in quick, and the reason is obvious. College football never decides a true champion. Never. The BCS is a joke, has always been a joke, and will always be a joke. I refuse to invest my attention into a sport that doesn’t decide who the best team is on the field. So, I will watch a couple of games when there isn’t something better on, which is mostly in September. Once the NHL starts up, college football gets pushed to the side almost completely. I will continue to watch my alma mater (We Are! Penn State!) and have a passing interest in Pitt and West Virginia, but that’s it.

You have so much potential, college football. But until you fix the big problem, you’ll be nothing more than a minor blip on my sports radar….

->Onto big boy football, the NFL is less than a week away from regular season kickoff. It snuck up on us really quick. Peyton Manning isn’t healthy yet, and Colt fans are in panic mode. Arian Foster’s hamstring is causing much consternation (both for Texan fans and fantasy football owners, but don’t tell Arian that). Chris Johnson may or may not report to the Titans before the season begins. And that’s just the AFC South.

So, with that in mind, what follows is the Gripes’ NFL Predictions:

AFC East-

4) Buffalo Bills (4-12): Ryan Fitzpatrick is a better-than-you-think QB, but he can’t do it all himself….

3) Miami Dolphins (8-8): They are going to be a lot better than most people predict. Not good enough for a playoff spot. But .500 for them is an accomplishment….

2) New Jersey Jets (10-6, AFC Wild Card, #6 Seed): Great defense, and a great 1-2 running back punch. But the passing game still isn’t strong. Good AFC team, but not truly elite….

1) New England Patriots (12-4, AFC East Champion, #2 Seed): Tom Brady is one of the best in the league (still), and he has great pieces around him. An elite NFL team, without question….

AFC North-

4) Cincinnati Bengals (1-15): Probably the worst team in the NFL this season. Andy Dalton is basically being fed to the wolves….

3) Cleveland Browns (6-10): The Mistake by the Lake is actually improving quietly. Scary that they may actually contend again in the near future….

2) Baltimore Ravens (11-5, AFC Wild Card, #5 Seed): They’ve lost a few players, and gotten older in some spots, but they have great players, and will contend all season….

1) Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3, AFC North Champion, #1 Seed): They’ll fight off the Super Bowl loser curse. They’ve gotten faster on offense, and the defense is healthy and deep, despite age….

AFC South-

3T) Tennessee Titans (4-12): Chris Johnson’s holdout is portending bad times this season. They look worse than last season on paper….

3T) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Maurice Jones-Drew has health concerns, there is upheaval at QB, and the D isn’t that good. They will struggle….

2) Houston Texans (10-6): So close again to making the playoffs. But close isn’t good enough. Not enough D to match the explosive offensive talent….

1) Indianapolis Colts (12-4, AFC South Champion, #3 Seed): They are ripe for the taking this season, with Manning’s injury. But they’ll just have enough to hold off the Texans….

AFC West-

4) Denver Broncos (6-10): Kyle Orton is good, or at least good enough to fight off Tebow. The D is still too young and full of holes, though. Knowshon Moreno’s a stud….

3) Oakland Raiders (7-9): McFadden’s very talented, Campbell will be better, but the D can’t be as good after losing Nnamdi. Despite that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make the playoffs….

2) Kansas City Chiefs (8-8): Last year was a perfect storm. This year is the opposite. Bad schedule, inconsistencies all over the field, and luck last year that won’t be there this year….

1) San Diego Chargers (9-7, AFC West Champion, #4 Seed): I am not as high on them as others. But the talent is there on both sides of the ball. A playoff team, but not a champion….

NFC East-

4) Washington Redskins (5-11): Addition by subtraction helps (McNabb, Haynesworth), but I don’ttrust the QB, and they will still give up too many points….

3) Dallas Cowboys (8-8): They have tons of offensive weapons, the defense does a lot of good things. But it’s a tough schedule, and I don’t trust Romo (health) and Jason Garrett (weasel)….

2) New Jersey Giants (9-7): They and the Cowboys are virtually equal.The Giants look extremely average, and Eli turns the ball over a ton. But he keeps them in games….

1) Philadelphia Eagles (11-5, NFC East Champion, #3 Seed): They proclaimed themselves a “dream team”. But Vick is brittle, the front seven is weak, and Andy Reid is still Andy Reid….

NFC North-

4) Chicago Bears (5-11): I still don’t know how they made the playoffs last season. This season? A massive step back. Bad O-Line, turnovers from Cutler, and the defense falls apart….

3) Minnesota Vikings (6-10): Donovan McNabb is washed up at this point. Adrian Peterson will face 23-man fronts. The defense really lacks playmakers….

2) Detroit Lions (10-6, NFC Wild Card, #6 Seed): Yep, you read that right. The Lions are in the playoffs, baby. Playmakers on D, playmakers on O, soft schedule, it all adds up….

1) Green Bay Packers (12-4, NFC North Champion, #2 Seed): The World Champs (and it pains me to type that) will be back in the playoffs again. And they’ll be much healthier this season….

NFC South-

4) Carolina Panthers (4-12): They have a great backfield (Williams, Stewart, Goodson), but Newton is going to struggle, and the defense isn’t good enough….

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7): Josh Freeman will be a year better, LeGarrette Blount will get a chance to prove he’s no fluke, but I don’t love the defense. This 9-7 record feels right….

2) Atlanta Falcons (12-4, NFC Wild Card, #5 Seed): They might be the second-best team in the league. The offense will be more explosive, and the defense is just plain solid….

1) New Orleans Saints (13-3, NFC South Champion, #1 Seed): The offense has an overwhelming amount of weapons, and the defense still makes huge plays. Very high on them….

NFC West-

3T) Seattle Seahawks (5-11): The fall will be hard for them, despite only losing two more games than 2010. Awful at QB, weaker on defense, especially losing Lofa Tatupu. Not good….

3T) San Francisco 49ers (5-11): Jim Harbaugh has a lot to do to overhaul this team. And he still doesn’t have the QB he wants. He’ll trade up to the #1 spot next season to draft Andrew Luck….

2) Saint Louis Rams (7-9): A lot of tough games on their schedule. They might be the best team in the division by Week 13, but by then, Bradford & Co. will be too far out of it….

1) Arizona Cardinals (10-6, NFC West Champion, #4 Seed): I don’t trust this team a lot, but Larry Fitzgerald will have a huge year, because he finally has a QB who can throw passes within 20 feet of him….

 

2011 Playoff predictions:

Wild Card Week:

NFC) #3 Philadelphia def. #6 Detroit, #5 Atlanta def. #4 Arizona;

AFC) #6 New Jersey Jets def. #3 Indianapolis, #5 Baltimore def. #4 San Diego

Division Round:

NFC) #1 New Orleans def. #5 Atlanta, #2 Green Bay def. #3 Philadelphia;

AFC) #1 Pittsburgh def. #6 New Jersey Jets, #5 Baltimore def. #2 New England

Championship Round:

NFC) #1 New Orleans def. #2 Green Bay

AFC) #1 Pittsburgh def. #5 Baltimore

Super Bowl XLVI: Pittsburgh def. New Orleans, 24-22; MVP- Ben Roethlisberger

->Come on, you couldn’t expect me to pick anyone else, could you?








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