Football and Me Part XV

This is the fifteenth post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Eventful weekend sportswise but uneventful weekend lifewise so no need for a running diary; no college football on Saturday was a stark reminder that we really aren’t all that far away from having no football on Sundays–there are now only three full Sunday slates left. Thankfully, yesterday’s was GREAT. Packers takeaways first then miscellaneous thoughts from the weekend + food porn:

Packers Highlights

  • First and foremost, it must be noted that the Packers’ 46-16 victory, which was even more of a blowout than the score indicates, came after the Raiders’ coaching staff spent the entire week telling its squad, “NOBODY BELIEVES YOU CAN WIN THIS GAME!” Every week, the Packers play with a gigantic bullseye on their back and this contest was against a team that came into the weekend in a tie for the lead in its division. The best the Raiders could muster was a game that was over before the first quarter ended.
  • It was great to see Ryan Grant show a burst that we really haven’t seen out of him in years. Hopefully this means that the first part of this season was spent getting comfortable running on his healed ankle. Yesterday, he stepped up in James Starks’s absence and rushed 10 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns; before that this season he had run 92 times for 316 yards and no touchdowns. I may or may not have been angry every time he got a carry instead of Starks. Perhaps, because he was able to share the load with Starks, he will be fresher than most running backs are headed into the Playoffs and can help the Packers build and protect leads.
  • I can’t be the only person who Googled “Taylor 82 Packers” before sending the obligatory “You can’t stop Ryan Taylor, you can only hope to contain him” mass text. Upon further research, he was a 7th-round pick out of North Carolina.
  • NEXT GUY UP ALERT: Love seeing DJ Smith and Robert Francois step up with huge interceptions. I’ve said it before and will almost assuredly say it again but it’s a miracle that Ted Thompson and his staff find these people and that Mike McCarthy and his staff develop them into players who can step in and not only avoid being liabilities but also contribute toward a dominant victory.
  • Aaron Rodgers continues to have strikingly beautiful eyes (confession: I find these pictures by going on Google Images and searching Aaron Rodgers hot) and play at a historically brilliant level. Yesterday he went 17/30 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. At 96.7, this performance comprised his worst quarterback rating of the season by a sizable margin; his previous worst was 106.2 in last week’s Giants game. Like almost everyone else, I have no idea what goes into quarterback rating or why it is drawn up so that a perfect rating is 158.3 but I know that it reflects what anyone with eyes would be able to tell you: ARodg is pretty good.
  • Quick response to Brandon’s Brent Favre post last week about Jermichael Finley: Brandon wrote, “Personally, I haven’t decided yet what I want the Packers to do.  It’s a joy watching Finley play, and there are numerous occasions where it seems like Rodgers is just going to #88 every play until the defense proves it can stop him.  But he’s going to cost a lot of money, and Thompson will have some other contracts to extend.  There will be a lot of discussion about this after the Super Bowl.  Stay tuned.” The Packers are 99.8% going to franchise Finley. The franchise tag for a tight end is only expected to cost $5.4 million next season. Finley may argue that he should be designated as a wide receiver, where the tag would cost the Packers $9.5 million. Perhaps they could meet in the middle? Seems fair. Either way, my prediction is that Finley plays on the Packers next season before they go their separate ways. He’s a match-up nightmare and one of my favorite Packers but I can’t see the Packers paying him what someone else will, especially when they are going to have to figure out extensions for Clay Matthews and BJ Raji before the end of next season.
  • Sour note of the week was obviously the Greg Jennings injury. Right now it’s still a little bit murky but it’s looking like an MCL tear which would have about a six-week recovery time? We should know more this afternoon. Hope to have him back in time for the playoffs. His production this season has shifted a little bit to Jordy Nelson this season but it’s important to realize that Nelson often has favorable match-ups because of the attention that defenses must give Jennings and Finley.
  • 13-0. 19 straight wins. Pretty OK time to be a Packers fan.

Food Porn

I went to Yolk for brunch on Saturday with my friend Zack who writes Unvegan, his girlfriend Bina, and a few of their other friends and relatives. Yolk’s menu is like six pages long and quite intimidating so it was a very good thing Zack was there to steer me towards the bacon batter waffles and eggs, an item that I missed upon the first perusal. Without him, I would have probably ordered a bacon/cheese/pesto quesadilla which would not have been nearly as exquisite:

Bacon batter waffles + eggs over medium @ Yolk

I was lucky enough to watch the first slate of brilliant NFL games with my buddy Taylor, my former roommate who got transferred to London for work a few months ago. We went to Schoolyard Tavern and split deep fried macaroni and cheese as well as Monster Tots, which are tater tots that are doused in buffalo sauce, topped with cheese and bacon, and served with queso sauce on the side:

Monster Tots and Deep Fried Mac and Cheese @ Schoolyard Tavern

Other quick thoughts from the weekend.
  • On Saturday night, I luckily stumbled into the best boxing match I’ve ever seen: Khan vs. Patterson. As tends to happen in boxing, the fight ended on a controversial split decision and I highly recommend that everyone who enjoys watching sports goes out of their way to catch the inevitable re-match. Khan was the favorite, the welterweight champion, and hails from the United Kingdom while Patterson has literally grinded his way to this level from homelessness and had the advantage of fighting in his hometown Washington DC. I don’t really know very much about boxing but this is what I was able to take away:
  • Khan was vastly superior technically. Sometime in the middle of the fight, Patterson became aware of this and the fact that if he continued to fight at Khan’s pace he would definitely lose. At this point, Patterson started to go all out. He was throwing everything he had into his punches and, while somewhat undisciplined, was landing enough of them to win a few rounds and somehow stayed balanced enough not to leave himself exposed to counters that would knock him down. Patterson had a 0% chance at winning the fight without this strategy and a 15-20% chance with it and went for broke.
  • Khan got a point deducted twice for pushing off. These penalties ended up being the difference in the final result. Max Kellerman, whose work I have followed and enjoyed since Around the Horn first came on the air, strongly insinuated corrupt refereeing, saying that Khan should have been explicitly warned that points would be docked and that if this happened to Patterson in the UK there would be harsh allegations of “home cooking.” I disagree, slightly. My stance is that this may hold true for the first point that was deducted but that the first infraction should have served as ample warning to not do it again, which Khan blatantly did. After the first point was deducted, the referee had to make the same call again.
  • Patterson was a great winner and immediately offered Khan a re-match. Khan, however, was anything but a gracious loser, saying that he had “to fight two people” (Patterson and the ref) and criticizing Patterson’s unwieldy style.
  • I’d bet on Khan to win the re-match but it will be pretty awesome.
  • Yesterday was the best NFL Sunday of the season. Six games came down to the final play: Patriots-Redskins, Texans-Bengals, Saints-Titans, Vikings-Lions, Bears-Broncos, and Giants-Cowboys. Additionally, Falcons-Panthers and 49ers-Cardinals came down to the final two minutes. More thoughts on these games and their ramifications in tomorrow’s Tuesday Trends. With sincere apologies to my good friend Bauer, a die hard Bears fan on or greater than the level that I am with the Packers who flew to Denver for the game, let’s just say that I’m not going to get tired of seeing Marion Barber run out of bounds or fumble anytime soon. I know he’d feel the same way if the situation was reversed, though. Tebow!!!!
  • Did everyone see that insane Cincinnati-Xavier fight? Kevin Cronin’s outrage (7:15) in after the game followed by only suspending Yancy Gates for six games might be the biggest dichotomy I’ve ever seen between bark and bite. Gates might have gotten a lifetime ban for throwing that punch in the NBA.
  • Awesome buzzer beater in Indiana-Kentucky. Would it have killed Tom Crean to crack a smile? He does realize that he’s coaching basketball–a game–not leading troops in Afghanistan, right? On the wet blanket coaches scale, this was only surpassed by Nick Saban’s being visibly upset with his Gatorade bath after clinching the 2009 National Championship.
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