Sunday, December 28, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 30-20 loss to Green Bay Sunday

Thoughts halftime Lions, Packers

- Not a good first half for the Lions, to say the least. They are fortunate they are only down 14-7 and still in the game, especially given the injury concerns surrounding Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. It's amazing how much better the Lions are in their two-minute offense than their regular offense. Makes you wonder why they don't play up tempo more. It was a nice drive to end the half, but with great help from Brad Jones and a bad penalty by the Packers.
- Matthew Stafford is proving the critics he is inaccurate and inconsistent right so far today. He must be more accurate throwing the football if the Lions are to be all they can be. He missed way too many throws in the first half. It was especially costly when he missed Calvin Johnson with the deep throw. It's not like the Lions' haven't run the ball well. The run blocking has been pretty good. Playing outside in the wind isn't an excuse, either. Those were just bad throws. In contrast, see how well Rodgers played despite being far less than 100 percent?
- The Lions defense hasn't only been stout this season. It has been very effective forcing turnovers. Another big play by a safety in the second quarter, this time James Ihedigbo forcing a fumble. Good thing, too, because otherwise the Lions vaunted "D" is getting scorched.
- It's kind of odd to see two teams playing in a big game like this displaying such shoddy tackling.
- I know Matt Flynn has burned the Lions in the past at Lambeau by the Packers are a totally different team with him in rather than Rodgers, who has 24 TD passes and no interceptions this season in home games.

My column. MSU victory over Baylor would solidify its spot as everything Michigan wishes it could be:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Packers

- You have to give Micah Hyde credit for a tremendous return, but what is Sam Martin doing punting the ball straight down the middle like that? There is a reason teams punt to one side or another, not down the middle. It is because the sideline then takes away one direction, preventing a big return. That was bad punting as much as bad coverage or a brilliant return.
- Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy was coming off a concussion the first time the Lions faced the Packers at Ford Field. He is obviously much better prepared for today's game. He is running very hard, which only made the Lions' goal line stand more impressive. That was a character moment for the Lions, the type didn't pass at all in the past Lambeau Field.
- What an absolutely travesty it is that DeAndre Levy wasn't voted into the Pro Bowl/ Actually, he should be a first-team All Pro.
- This type of game, outdoors in December, is tailor-made for Joique Bell's running style, but he still must take care of the ball. The near lost fumble by Bell wad disturbing.
- Late this season, Eric Ebron is coming on. It's kind of remindful of the development Herman Moore made his rookie season many years ago.

My column. MSU victory over Baylor would solidify its status as everything Michigan wishes it could be:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 20-14 victory over Chicago Sunday

My column. Rogue behavior by Dominic Raiola aside, Lions living a charmed life:

Fox 2 Round Table on Lions win over Bears with Dan Miller and Terry Foster" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Thoughts halftime Lions, Bears

-  Just when you think it is too good to be true for the Lions, it is. That was awful. The Lions, obviously, are making too many mistakes. The misplay on the punt by Jeremy Ross was brutal.
- The interceptions thrown by Matthew Stafford were beyond disappointing. If there was ever a game the Lions need to play it close to the vest and just methodically win, it's this one. Stafford has not been as sharp today as he needs to be moving forward. And even if he isn't sharp, he needs to take care of the ball. This is the game to take the three points rather than forcing the issue. It should have been 13-0, and the Bears done. Instead, it's game. I've defended Stafford many time when I feel like he has been treated unfairly in this town, but there is no defending the indefensible.
- The Lions' defense is playing well. They did bend a little bit early in the second quarter, but they didn't break until put into a very difficult spot at the very end of the half. Alshon Jeffery looks like he has already checked out on this season for the Bears. Jimmy Clausen isn't a very good QB. But it gets back to the Lions' offense. They can't afford to waste scoring chances in the red zone and turn the ball over. Those factors have been the big equalizer.

My column.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Bears

- The Lions need to be careful in this game the same the Eagles needed to be, but weren't yesterday against the Redskins. The Lions can't let the Bears hang around. The sooner they take care of this the better. The drive at the end of the quarter wasn't good.
- Outdoors, on grass in December, I have to admit I was wondering why the Lions are relying so much on Reggie Bush today. But evidently, the coaching staff knew something. That was a brilliant catch-and-run on fourth-and-five and changed the course of this game. It was a terrific TD run, too. Looks like Bush still has plenty left in the tank and whatever issue he was having were strictly in regard to health.

My column. If flattery gets Michigan nowhere, there better be a Plan B to Jim Harbaugh:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The biggest issue regarding Jim Harbaugh becoming Michigan's next football coach

We've seen this one before...
Remember Tom Izzo, and his courting with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Dan Gilbert's devotion to Michigan State, alma mater, is unquestioned, but what didn't he do to try to get Izzo to coach his NBA team?
So why would anybody think it will be any different when it comes to Stephen Ross, as prominent a Michigan alum as there is, and the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are a disappointing 7-7, just the 11th seed in the AFC and very unlikely to make the playoffs. In three years, Joe Philbin, Miami's head coach, is 22-24. It's unlikely he will be back next season.
These are the factors that likely would make the Dolphins more appealing to Harbaugh than Michigan:
- The Dolphins possess one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Ryan Tannehill, and a solid defense. It is not a major rebuilding job like at Michigan. The Dolphins are capable of winning now.
- The NFL pays more. Harbaugh would likely make more than $8 million per year as the Dolphins' coach. Only Alabama's Nick Saban at $7.1 million makes more than $5.6 million among current college coaches.
- For all the waxing poetic about how Harbaugh is a "Michigan man," he is also an NFL man. He's played or coached in the NFL two decades. It's clearly his comfort zone.
- The NFL is all about coaching. The recruiting game is out of equation.
It's an interesting situation with Ross. Nobody has ever donated more money to Michigan. The business school is named after him.
But it would be naïve to believe he wouldn't take Harbaugh as the head coach of the Dolphins because of his alma mater.

My column. New faces, but same problems for the Tigers:

My column. Ugly win by Lions paints a beautiful picture:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 16-14 victory over the Vikings Sunday

Thoughts halftime Vikings, Lions

- Minnesota's Norv Turner has always been a better offensive coordinator than head coach. Obviously, the Vikings' OC had an excellent game plan for the Lions' vaunted defense. But even given how well Turner prepared QB Teddy Bridgewater, those turnovers were inevitable in this environment against a defense like the Lions. I think Bridgewater has a higher upside than most people, and he is improving by leaps and bounds, but he remains inconsistent. Rare is the rookie QB who is not.
- If Lions' safety Glover Quin doesn't get a spot in the Pro Bowl this season, it was be travesty of the highest order. He continues to make big plays. None, however, may prove to be more significant than his interception. This game was in danger of getting away from the Lions before the big play by Quin.
- Loved the formation with Golden Tate in the backfield, but for the most part, the Lions' offense has staggered.
- The Vikings are daring the Lions to run the ball. It's that simple. And the Lions' passing game won't open until they make the Vikings pay for their game plan by gashing them with runs.

My column. New names, but same problems for the Tigers:

Thoughts after first quarter Vikings, Lions

- Disappointing start, obviously, for the Lions. For a team that needs this game so desperately, they have played with anything but a sense of urgency. Minnesota's offensive front is whipping the Lions defensive front so far. The Lions' defense is making Matt Asiata look like Marshawn Lynch.
- The Lions' offense looks completely out of sync. The Vikings are daring the Lions to run the ball, but they haven't effectively until this point. The idea of short passes and getting yards after the catch hasn't been working. The Vikings have been sure with their tackling. Minnesota has an excellent secondary. Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are especially good players. Still, this isn't like the some sort of safe Matthew Stafford and the Lions shouldn't be able to crack, especially at home.
- This is a game the Lions' defense needs to force turnovers. Vikings' QB Teddy Bridgewater has done a much better job of taking care of the ball since the first meeting between the two teams, but he is still hesitant with the ball after making his initial read because of inexperience. The Lions' safeties have fed off such situations this season.
- The Packers loss at Buffalo today isn't that surprising. It was on the road, against a winning team with a stout defense and after the Packers played on Monday night. But it was how the Packers lost, that is surprising. The Bills defense just stymied the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers played a terrible game. The Packers are not a particularly good road team, but I do think they will win at Tampa Bay next week. Of course, none that might matter if the Lions don't get their act together today.

My column. New face, but same problems for the Tigers:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So this is the cost of winning now for the Detroit Tigers

If your read the earlier posting on this blog (see below) you know the reasons why I like the Tigers reportedly dealing Rick Porcello to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes Thursday. They needed to balance out their club. Cespedes, even though he is older, has a higher ceiling as an every day player than Porcello as a starting pitcher, unless somehow Porcello can change his "pitch-to-contact" ways. As is, Porcello's ceiling is as a No.3 or No. 4 starter. Both are the same place in their contract (eligible for free agency after this season).
The Tigers would have liked to re-sign Max Scherzer, and it still could happen if the market doesn't open up the way his agent Scott Boras might anticipate. But Boras waits to the very end with his clients. The Tigers had to move so they don't get left holding the bag come later in the winter. So you had the earlier deal with the Yankees for starting pitcher Shane Greene, and this one with Cincinnati for pitcher Alfredo Simon Thursday.
The Tigers overpaid for Simon, who is eligible for free agency after this season. Eugenio Suarez was pushed to MLB sooner than ideal, and is still a mid-range prospect. Jonathan Crawford is a very solid prospect. He could come back to haunt the Tigers.
Simon was brilliant the first half of last season, but very mediocre the second half. His value to the Tigers may come out of the bullpen. He was good there in 2012 and excellent there in 2013 before entering the rotation in 2014 and taking off, well, at least for a half a season. He has a power arm that actually plays out better as a reliever. So it's not as if the Tigers are blocked from re-signing Scherzer because they have Simon. He is insurance for the rotation, but he can also work from the bullpen, which might actually be preferred.
My column. Reggie Bush, the right of free expression and the wrong place:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's not a coincidence the Red Wings are playing better because so is Pavel Datsyuk

When Pavel Datsyuk is healthy, it's splitting hairs to find flaws in his game. There is nothing he doesn't do well. And there are two things he does better than any player I have ever seen, stick handle and take the puck off opposing forward.
But he hasn't ever been a big goal scorer. His high is 32 goals in 2009. He has scored more than  27 goals in a season since, nor even gotten to 20 since 2011.
So what Datsyuk is doing early this season is raising eyebrows. He has 12 goals in 17 games, including seven in the last seven. His shooting percentage is 26.7, the best among all NHL players with double digits in goals and double what it was last season when he was injury plagued. Also, he has 22 points in 17 games.
Without question, Datsyuk resurgence at age 36 has been a major factor in the Red Wings' resurgence overall.

My column. Quality free agents could Lions over the top:

My column. On the travesty of Ohio State in the CFP, and why MSU must carry Big Ten football's tattered banner:

Monday, December 08, 2014

On the idea of the Tigers trading Rick Porcello to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes

It's the trade rumbling of the off-season so far: Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Based purely on baseball value would I do it if I were the Tigers? Absolutely. It was pretty clear how valuable Cespedes was to the Athletics last season in comparison to a starting pitcher as their season collapsed after trading him to Boston. And that starting pitcher, Jon Lester, is better than Porcello.
Rick Porcello: A lot of hits, not many K's
My view on Porcello has changed in large degree because the game has changed. While he's relatively young (he won't turn 26 until two days after Christmas), has won a lot of games in the major leagues and has excellent competitive character, I don't see Porcello becoming a genuine No. 1 or No.2 starter in this era because he doesn't miss enough bats.
We've been raised with the idea of pitching to contact. Even at youth games, you will hear, "Let your fielders do it." Ah, but the notion of pitching to contact is not ideal. It puts the margin of error and probability into the equation. While striking out hitters may drive up pitch counts, it does lead to more consistency. It's impossible to get a seeing-eye single when a hitter K's.
Porcello is an interesting case. He was drafted because of his big-time arm strength, and a fastball that did run into the upper 90s at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, but in order to make MLB sooner, he developed a two-seam (sinking) fastball that has become his bread and butter offering. Too often, when he gets into trouble, he hasn't been able to put hitters away with a strikeout. He will have long streaks of tremendous pitching, but it eventually it becomes his undoing. It limits his upside. Porcello still has a 95 mph four-seam fastball, and has been at his best when he uses it to change the eye-level of hitters and get strikeouts. But it hasn't been that often. He allows a lot of hits per inning, but doesn't strikeout that many. His defensive independent pitching numbers are those of No.3 starter, not of a one or two. It's also why his ERA is high.
I know, people say the same thing about Doug Fister, and they are very similar scenarios except for the age factor. Fister actually did better in Washington than Detroit last year, despite pitching more to contact and rising fielding independent statistics. Why? He had much better defense behind him. Also, he was still a three starter for the Nationals. Not a 1 or 2.
I didn't have an issue with the Tigers trading Fister given their starting pitching depth and holes elsewhere. The problem was getting virtually nothing back in return.
Yoenis Cespedes: Worth a long-term deal?
Velocity is up among pitchers since 2000 (some say as much as two miles per hour), perhaps because they are being taught better fundamentals at an early age, and arms being better taken care of. You just don't see as many funky pitching motions as you used to. Hence, there are more pitchers throwing harder than ever in the pool. If you look at the bullpens of Baltimore and Kansas City in the playoffs, that was certainly the case. Combined with free swinging hitters, there are more pitches not put in play than ever. It's changed the game away from "pitch to contact" to "make them swing and miss and improve the odds."
It's driven down the value of a pitch-to-contact pitcher like Porcello from the standpoint of giving him a huge, multi-year contract, which would have been a no-brainer a few years ago.
Cespedes is not without his flaws, but he is plus defensively as a corner outfielder, has power and those lamenting about his career .263 batting average should note it is above the MLB average of last year, which was just .251. As a rookie he did have a sky-high OPS. He would help the Tigers.
The chances of this trade happening are very minimal, though. Clubs looking to move good pitchers or players a year before free agency aren't seeking to deal them for players with the same issue. The Tigers like Porcello, but at what cost? The Red Sox like Cespedes, but at what cost? Dealing for one year, rental players makes little sense. The idea is to get players with several years under club control in return for such premium talent.

My column. Why MSU vs. Baylor, as much as Ohio State vs. Alabama, carrying Big Ten's tattered football banner:

My column. Sunday's win over Tampa Bay a sign there will be a different ending for the Lions in '14:

My thoughts and column on Lions' 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Thoughts after 3 quarters Bucs, Lions

- The impact of the Lions' defensive line is starting to show. Josh McCown is being hit a lot after releasing the ball. The Lions will have to be careful not to get roughing the passer penalties. Suh and Ziggy Ansah could have easily drawn ones in the third quarter.
- Matthew Stafford has been efficient today. He hasn't tried to do too much. And he doesn't have to. The deep throws to Calvin Johnson have had a big impact on this game (each thrown over 60 yards in the air). The Bucs secondary is playing unusually deep even for a Tampa Bay 2 team. The Lions are hitting the underneath stuff now. He is 57 of 75 (76 percent) for 668 yards and four TDs and no interceptions last two games.
- Thanksgiving vs. Chicago and today we are seeing why Calvin Johnson is, well, Megatron. He's been terrific.
- Sometimes overlooked is Stafford's field awareness. Like tossing that botched snap out of bounds. There was not going to be any grounding on the play because he was out of the pocket.

Thoughts halftime Bucs Lions

This isn't necessarily fancy, but the Lions are doing what they need to do in order to beat the Bucs. The first thing is taking care of the ball. The second is taking it away. It's been pretty methodical so far, just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. The facemask penalty on Jason Jones was costly, though. It doesn't feel like the Lions have lost control of the game, however, despite the late TD by the Bucs.
- The Bucs are a classic example of how important quarterback play is in the NFL Josh McCown got a lot of cache for how he played for the Bears last season when Jay Cutler, and Lovie Smith obviously liked him from the time he was there. Personally, I think Mike Glennon is much more threatening. Obviously, the Bucs will be looking to take a QB in the upcoming NFL Draft. Just wonder who will be at the head of the list, and whether they would even consider Jameis Winston, while weighing his enormous talent against his excess baggage.
- I have long thought DeAndre Levy is the most underrated player on the Lions, and perhaps this town. But it might be Glover Quin. Having two quality safeties has made all the difference in the world for the Lions. James Ihedigbo is a way better player than I thought when the Lions signed him.
- Ndamukomg Suh's tackle with just a little more than two minutes left in the half was his first since there were four minutes left in the New England game. He negated it with a roughing the passer penalty on the next play.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Bucs, Lions

- Matthew Stafford is doing an excellent job of spreading the ball around today. Putting tight end Eric Ebron in the mix is a huge part of that equation. The middle of the field is going to be open against the Tampa 2 scheme the Bucs' deploy under Lovie Smith. The Lions need to continue taking advantage of it.
- Golden Tate is a terrific player. What a compliment he is for Calvin Johnson. Today it is particularly noticeable. The Bucs are clearly confused defensively.
- It should be 14-0 or 10-0 now right. It wasn't very creative play calling on the play going for it on fourth down in Bucs' territory. It was a long yard. The choice to run up the middle routinely wasn't the right one. The result speaks for itself.
- You can make a strong case that Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is actually a better player than Ndamukong Suh. But the one area Suh definitely holds the edge is durability. McCoy had to leave this game after the first series because of knee injury. Suh has been remarkably durable so far in his career. McCoy missed a lot of time earlier in his career because of injury.