Archive for January, 2012

Best of 2011

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

It’s time for the sixth version of my year-end lists (time really does fly by), and as usual, I posted them late. But also as per usual, I hope the following is well recepted, even if it produces plenty of disagreements:

MOVIES

When I first started doing my year-end lists here, movies were my most covered, followed closely by TV. In fact, I could barely come up with a top-five list for music. Things have changed since (most evident by music, since I find that easier to utilize while I write, which has become a far bigger part of my life). But I also want to acknowledge how many movies (and TV shows) I’ve yet to see this year, so when considering my following rankings, realize I plan on watching the following ASAP: A Dangerous Method, Melancholia, The Skin I Live In, Shame, Our Idiot Brother, Into The Abyss, Midnight in Paris, The Trip and Young Adult.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – My favorite movie of this franchise was No. 4, in no small part because it was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, but really, no director did a truly poor job in this series, and while I actually found the first half of the two-part finale better than the latter, this compilation deserves recognition. David Yates was the final director, and I’ve heard from many people his TV mini-series “State of Play” was terrific, so it comes as no surprise he ended this properly. However, the epilogue was beyond horrific. Really, we invested in this Harry Potter heroic character to see him become a (horribly) middle-aged dude watch his kid go off to school like everyone else? Was this a bad joke? What an embarrassing ending to an otherwise worthy franchise that deserved far better.

9. Horrible Bosses – This is a shaky movie to put on a top-10 list, but it’s more of a reflection of how little films I’ve seen this year and also my affection for comedies above anything else (I did watch Super 8, Hangover 2, Hanna, and wait for it, Scream 4 to name a few I omitted here). I wasn’t opposed to Jennifer Aniston’s turn as a bad girl (and by that I mean I enjoyed seeing her attempt to deep throat a banana), but make no mistake, I imagine this movie won’t be among my top-20 after I eventually get caught up and watch the ones I missed listed above.

8. Hall Pass – My biggest takeaway from this movie was learning my friend Rachel can fit eight long necks in her Coach purse. Not that it necessarily needed alcohol. Two scenes stood out: the pickup line – “You must be from Ireland because my penis is Dublin.” And another I’ll let you guess, but it involved the hot Nicky Whelan downplaying a previous sexual relationship ironically, and I was somehow the only person in the theatre to laugh audibly. Without question, I seem to like Farrelly brothers movies more than most, as they always mix the crude with genuine in a way I appreciate. “The Three Stooges” admittedly looks terrible, but I thought “Shallow Hal” and “The Heartbreak Kid” were funny, while “Dumb and Dumber” is in my top-three of all-time (not just comedies). Moreover, “Kingpin” is in my top-five comedies, while “There’s Something About Mary” is in my top-10 (and “Me, Myself and Irene” isn’t far off that).

7. Bridesmaids – The whole “can a movie driven by females succeed?” narrative seemed a bit ridiculous, so it was nice to see this answer be a resounding yes. And by success I don’t mean at the box office, as “Bridesmaids” was definitely the funniest movie I saw in 2011. It wasn’t perfect, and it could’ve been 20 minutes shorter, but it was well written and acted, and there’s little doubt Kristen Wiig is a star. The shitting scene may have been unnecessary, but the setup felt real, and the sequence when Wiig is trying to get the cop’s attention was pretty damn good. Melissa McCarthy went and pulled a Zach Galifianakis here, essentially stealing the show.

6. Win Win – I really liked this movie, as Paul Giamatti continues to make wise decisions. It’s mostly described as “warmhearted,” but loss is the ultimate theme here. Considering the writer also wrote “The Station Agent,” one of the most underrated films of the past decade, it’s no surprise I was a big fan of his latest. I strongly recommend “Win Win.”

5. Moneyball – When I first heard about Moneyball being turned into a movie, I figured it would be a disaster. When it was later revealed Steven Soderbergh dropped out (or was kicked out), my worries only grew. Apparently, it was Brad Pitt who kept the project going, even though he’s not much of a baseball fan. That said, I don’t think it was low expectations that contributed to me genuinely liking this film, which was both far from perfect yet one of the better sports movies ever. It was ridiculous how Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were totally ignored, but the same can also be said about the book, so there’s no real foul there. And the movie’s quality shouldn’t come as a total shock with the people involved (Aaron Sorkin, Bennett Miller, the cast). Someone who’s a movie buff yet knows nothing about baseball questioned me afterward whether such a model could be long-lasting – meaning teams with money will obviously eventually catch up, right? Well, yes, that’s pretty much exactly what’s happened since.

4. The Tree Of Life – I asked my friend Chason to post this review, and here’s what he had to say: “Yeah its new agey in a really unconvincing way, overreaching, overbearing and completely self indulgent, but Tree of Life is also the best movie of the year. It was ridiculous sounding whenever I tried to describe this movie to anyone unfortunate enough to ask – Ugh everything? It’s about family, it’s about nature and nurture, it’s about what makes us human, it’s about all creatures on this earth, it’s about outer space, inner space, religion, evolution, chaos, order, science, the supernatural, dinosaurs (also the best dinosaur acting ever. Or at least since the remarkable performance given by that Triceratops in Jurassic Park 2, which was nothing short of a game changer for digital emotions but tragically overlooked because of the alien bugs from the other 1997 movie, Starship Troopers), and on and on.

However, Tree of Life is basically about what every movie is about, a character in the midst of change, specifically a midlife crisis for Sean Penn’s character. Except while most movies are like oh he feels so trapped by his job, or he just needs to stop being such a man-child and become more responsible, or he needs to stop being such a pushover. (I’d give an example for what happens for girls in these situations but major movies are still more sexist than me and as far as I can tell change for women in film is signified by two or three new outfits and maybe a makeover scene?) While Malick’s film is from the typical white male point of view, he handles the midlife crisis in the most non-reductive way imaginable. The logic goes what makes the character like this? Well his relationship to his parents and how they grew up, and what makes them like that? Well the world, and why is that like it is? Well it can be broken up into the way of nature and the way of grace, and then were onto suns exploding, Jessica Chastain flying through the cherry blossoms, and poltergeists moving furniture around. What is so masterful is the way Malick deals with Penn’s crisis in such an explosively macro way and on such a personal micro level.

They should not only give the Oscar to that boy who plays little Sean Penn but also remodel the statue itself from here on out to look like him. Ditto Pitt. Sure the ending looks really fucking stupid but at that point only the heartless won’t be sipping on that new agey kool aid, and what Malick is getting at here is not filmable anyway. At the beginning of the movie Brad Pitt drew an imaginary line for his son and ever since Sean Penn had been putting up imaginary walls for himself. By the end he crosses back through a door into a space with no divisions, where he’s free to connect to those who mean the most to him and to experience the beauty of a world that had never gone away but that he had just shut himself off from. What the life altering shit more do you want from a movie? There is an unimaginable amount of variables to affect our place in the world but for Malick it’s a choice how we experience it. The man made a movie about what every dumb comedy, or talky talky drama, or flat quirky dramedy is about and took it to the nth power. Malick does not pussy foot around or take it lightly, there is not a joke or a hint of irony in it. No shying away, no whining, no pop music soundtrack or attempt at being cool or stylish or hint of advertisers’ dirty hands or reducing the complexities down for a dumbed out sponge brained audience. It makes every other movie this year look flaccid. Timid at best. It’s over ambitious joy in trying to answer an unanswerable question.“ (Editors note: Whatever you think about my reviews here, Chason wins.)

3. Drive – The opening scene is terrific, with a heist centered around Ryan Gosling, showing his skills in suspense-filled fashion, culminating with the perfect timing at the end of a Clippers game at the Staples Center. The next half of the movie goes cheesy, and it does so for a reason, setting up the viewer for what’s to come: over-the-top violence (yes that was the point) and a switch in tone so abrupt you don’t know what hit you. I can certainly see others not liking this type of filmmaking, but I fell hook-line-sinker and thought it was brilliant. Sure, there are some holes, but Gosling’s understated performance needs to be noted, and I’m not sure many other actors could have pulled it off (at times there was no dialogue for minutes, and he utilized a toothpick that would make Carl Everett jealous). There’s no question this movie is more style than substance, but it invoked early Michael Mann, and the scene with the mask at the ocean was better than any horror film I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t in love with one decision at the end, but I’ve revealed enough already – this movie was different and daring, and I applaud them for it. This lawsuit against “Drive” was pretty great, and the soundtrack was equally as awesome. Also, good to see Albert Brooks back. Until the final month of the year, this was my favorite film of 2011.

2. The Descendants – Alexander Payne is easily one of my favorite directors. You probably don’t need me to say this, but his resume before his latest featured “Election,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” which doesn’t get much better than that. Those three movies would all appear on my top-20 all-time list. “The Descendants” isn’t as good, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a pretty terrific film. Maybe I related closely here because my family is also fractured and deals with some of the same BS (not that it makes me unique in any way whatsoever), but it was clear coming out of this movie I liked it far more than the other three I watched it with. A.O. Scott from the “New York Times” did a far better job than I ever could reviewing this movie, so I’m going to point you to him here.

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I have a few movie buff friends who will no doubt cringe at this, and I have no argument; this is a “whodunit” mainstream movie. Of course, it’s also executed near perfectly, and I’m obsessed with David Fincher (“Se7en” is in my top-5, “Fight Club” is in my top-10, I ranked “The Social Network” No. 2 on my year-end list last year, and I also loved “Zodiac” and “The Game.” Furthermore, I decided to pretend “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” never existed). As a Fincher staple, the opening credits are legit (but nothing will ever beat “Se7en” when it comes to this), and I entered knowing absolutely nothing about the books. This movie was no doubt over-the-top, and while I would never argue this film was the “best” of 2011, it was my favorite. The “discovery” actually meant little to me (I also thought it was obvious), because it was beside the point among what else was happening, which was plentiful. The movie had about three endings, because there were that many stories going on (the actual true ending was pretty heart-breaking, which I prefer to heart-warming). I’ve read arguments why it was wrong/unnecessary to include some scenes, and those were easily the toughest to watch in many years for me. Beyond that, I’m a total sucker for this genre in general (and again, let me reiterate, the material here isn’t exactly “Citizen Kane” but Fincher executes story lines I’m a sucker for masterfully), and I thought Rooney Mara was nothing short of brilliant (and nothing short of hot). There wasn’t a film that kept me more on the edge of my seat (in nearly three hours that flew by) than “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

TV

First off, here are shows I didn’t watch this year (I’d rather watch a bad show with half-paid attention in the background while I write than give the same treatment to a show I know deserves my full treatment. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give full attention to some below, it’s just an explanation as to why some clearly inferior shows are listed above others I’ve yet to watch) but most certainly will: Breaking Bad, Homeland, Shameless, Enlightened, Archer and Wilfred.

And here are honorable mentions I did watch that just missed the list: Episodes, Modern Family, Damages, True Blood, Dexter, Parks and Recreation, Californication, Entourage, Bachelor Pad, The Challenge: Rivals, Weeds, 30 Rock, The Office and Tosh.O.

10. Gigolos – I wanted to put “Episodes” here, highlighting a little known show I found entirely watchable that ultimately produced one of the more surprising twists of the year at the end of its season. But then it got nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes, and Matt LeBlanc actually won Best Actor for it. So instead I’m going with “Gigolos,” which might have been one of the truly craziest shows of all-time (and was totally overlooked at the Emmys). Rumors suggest these guys were actors, but I can’t decide if that makes it less or more crazy. It wasn’t one of the 10 best shows this year, that’s for sure, but instead of rehashing others (like Parks and Recreation, which while I still enjoy, it took an obvious step back this season), let’s talk about “Gigolos,” which not only “called” all other reality shows but also pushed all its chips onto the table in a big raise, as it made all others look positively tame. I can’t say there are too many redeeming qualities, but if you like bad television and/or reality shows, this pushes the envelope to say the least. I’d be shocked if there’s a season 2.

9. Workaholics – For ultimate payoffs, I enjoy dramas, but they’re so much harder to pull off, so for the most part I prefer comedies, both in film and television. Workaholics is under the radar but is also often laugh out loud funny. It’s easier to identify with some characters on the mainstream comedies on NBC, but I personally prefer the absurd when it comes to laughs.

8. The Ricky Gervais Show – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are obviously funny, but it’s Karl Pilkington who’s most fascinating on this show, as few people in this world have a more bizarre thought-process, and there isn’t even a hint of irony here. Also, I really enjoyed this riddle.

7. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – This show is hit-and-miss, but “Thunder Gun Express” was one of the most memorable things I watched this year. In fact, it’s still on my DVR.

6. Portlandia – The tone of this new series was set early, opening with this song. Season one was just six episodes and extremely quirky. One episode centered around a couple inquiring about just exactly how organic the chicken they may order for dinner was, which leads them to investigate where it was raised in order to find out how nice of a life it had. In fact, this show is so bizarre, filled with irony and the totally absurd, I can’t do it any justice, so instead I’ll just give you a few clips: House Sitter, Customers Only, Whose Dog Is This?, and Did You Read?

5. The League – I never had this show in my top-10 the previous two years, as even as a fantasy football writer I found it OK but certainly not great. However, “The League” grew into its own this year, as the Schaffer influence (also a “Curb” and “Seinfeld” writer for many years) became more apparent than ever. In fact, at times I couldn’t help but not compare it with “Curb.” And there’s a strong argument Rafi is one of the funniest characters on TV right now. I participated in a fantasy football draft with Stephen Rannazzisi last year, but there is no homerism here (although there is apparently name dropping), as I actually think the fantasy football angle might be the worst part of this show. The “Thanksgiving” episode featuring Jeff Goldblum and Sarah Silverman was a standout. Also, how good was Ruxin’s acting during the season finale?!

4. Sons Of Anarchy – Season 2 was one of my favorites ever. And while Season 3 was pretty bad, it ended with a bang. Season 4 was the exact opposite. It was really strong throughout, until its finale became a copout that essentially made everything that happened before it relatively moot. Still, I’d obviously prefer the latter, since it composed 95% of the season. Jax has developed into one of the better protagonists on television, but more importantly, Clay has become one of the worst villains in TV history. Here’s a strong review of the season finale (and season in general) by Alan Sepinwall.

3. Beavis and Butt-Head – Call me juvenile, but this is the only show I watched every episode multiple times this year. One in which Beavis teared up after sniffing an onion on his chilidog revolved around Butt-Head mocking him for crying the entire time (I mean literally nothing else happened during the episode, other than the critique periods, which have much more fodder these days with “Jersey Shore” and “16 and Pregnant” as options). Another had the duo learn that asking a father for his daughter’s hand was proper etiquette, so after requesting this repeatedly, the dad finally decided to let them down nicely, saying he doesn’t foresee his daughter marrying either of them, to which they replied “who said anything about marriage?” (Get it, they just wanted her hand). Another consisted entirely of them in an elevator, waiting to push the button that prompts the automated response to say “going down” anytime a female enters. I could go on and on, but by now you must be thinking, where did the lowbrow humor go? But I assure you, it only gets worse from there. In all seriousness, the brains behind this, Mike Judge, has directed and written three movies, and they are “Office Space,” “Idiocracy” and “Extract.” There are few funnier people alive. Although I will say if I rated these in tiers, there would be a massive break until the next one…

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm – I’m obviously biased, but Larry David absolutely killed it in Curb’s eighth season, which I thought was actually one of the best of the series. “The Safe House” was one of my favorite episodes of all-time, while “Palestinian Chicken” and “The Bi-Sexual” were A+ as well. Not to mention the redemption of Bill Buckner episode, among others. If I had the choice to have dinner with any three people, dead or alive, my answer would remain Larry David and no one else. I try not to get worked up over this stuff, but it’s such a joke “Curb” gets so ignored at award shows. Really Golden Globes, this wasn’t one of the five best comedies of the year? Johnny Galecki, Thomas Jane (I’ve watched every episode of “Hung” for some reason, and it’s terrible), and Matt LeBlanc are better actors than Larry David? Whatever you’re smoking, I want some of it. It’s a waste of burning calories, I know – “The Wire” never won any awards – so I digress. Anyway, “Curb” is my favorite show ever, and it’s never not placed No. 1 since I’ve been writing these year-end lists, until…

1. Louie – I saw Louis C.K. live this year, and he didn’t disappoint. In fact, I was with my friend Cory who had seen him earlier in the year, and as advertised, he said very little material overlapped. This aspect can’t be understated, as the best comic in the world right now doesn’t deserve credit for just being the funniest, but he rarely repeats a joke, which is frankly unheard of. You all probably know by now his setup with FX – he has total control, including editing. In fact, he turned down more money just to avoid ever getting a note from some exec who will no doubt fuck up an otherwise masterpiece. And make no mistake, this show is a masterpiece. Considering I just called him the best comic in the world, it’s a bit strange this show isn’t the funniest on TV, because it’s not trying to be. It’s definitely the weirdest. And darkest. That’s without question. And when the jokes hit they hit hard. I love Louie’s willingness not to care about norms – if he thinks a storyline has run its course, then it ends (often there are two shows in the 30 minute segment, and they aren’t necessarily broken up equally (not unlike Beavis and Butt-Head!)), and he’s had a couple of different actresses play his mom. There are no rules with Louie, and FX deserves a ton of credit for realizing what they have here (it may be a no-brainer to you and me, but don’t underestimate how clueless the TV industry is). Louie has been the best television show each of the past two years, and we should all consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be living in an era in which Louis C.K. exists.

MUSIC

10. Other Lives: “Tamer Animals” – At times they sound like “The National,” and I had never heard of them until this year. Workaholics, Tamer Animals and Real Estate are only on here thanks to my friend Matt’s recommendations, so cheers to him.

Listen to: Tamer Animals, Desert, Dust Bowl III, Weather, Old Statues

9. Real Estate: “Days” – This album is listenable from beginning to end, so I guess it comes down to personal preference on this age-old question (and by that I just made it up), would you prefer 10 “B” songs or three “A” songs and a bunch of “Ds” (or a reasonable facsimile of such a dilemma, you get the point). I personally prefer the latter, but admittedly that may only make sense considering the current music landscape (which may be ending soon, so I’d like to personally thank “Anonymous” here for their attack after the government seized Megaupload. They are doing God’s work). Bottom line, there are no standouts on “Days,” but it’s totally solid throughout.

Listen to: Green Aisles, It’s Real, Younger Than Yesterday, Wonder Years, Out Of Tune, Easy (I also wanted to post “Kinder Blumen,” “All The Same” and “Municipality” but couldn’t find links.)

8. Coldplay: “Mylo Xyloto” – After asking a friend (somewhat tongue-in-cheek because I knew he had never heard it since he was likely too busy listening to Joanna Newsom for the 10,000th time) “how sick is the new Coldplay song featuring Rihanna?” I then immediately wondered if I was the only person to ever utter that exact phrase. But I’m tired of defending Coldplay. If you strip away all extraneous aspects, you are left with a group that continuously puts out catchy albums, with their latest being no exception. Chris Martin shouldn’t be ashamed of the music he’s making (and who cares if he’s insufferable at times?), nor should those who like it. And if you’re too highbrow for it, then congratulations on your superiority. Also, get fucked.

Listen to: Princess of China, Paradise, Up in Flames, Up with the Birds, Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Charlie Brown, Major Minus

7. Kanye and Jay-Z: “Watch The Throne” – I’m not big into rap at all, but this marks the second straight year a Kanye West album made my year-end list. Not only did “Watch The Throne’s” best song sample “Blades Of Glory,” but it produced two of the most repeatable phrases of the year (side note: my fantasy basketball team is named “Wall So Hard.” I might have to draft Jason this year to name my fantasy baseball team “That Shit Bay”). If you don’t like this album, I might “murk” you.

Listen to: N**as In Paris, Murder to Excellence, Otis, Gotta Have It, No Church in the Wild

6. The Black Keys: “El Camino” – Are these guys capable of making bad music? I saw them in concert this year, and they were great. I also had their album “Brothers” in my top-10 last year, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. This year’s release wasn’t as long or as good, but it’s top heavy, with a few undeniable hits you’ll want to put on repeat. They have also undeniably gone mainstream, but I hate to throw the whole “sell out” label, because that’s usually inspired by jealousy and/or the reluctance to admit “your group” has simply become popular. “El Camino” also produced the best ad I’ve ever seen for an album.

Listen to: Gold On The Ceiling, Lonely Boy, Little Black Submarines, Run Right Back, Stop Stop

5. The Decemberists: “The King is Dead” – I never gave The Decemberists a chance until I listened to this album and after being impressed, I checked out “Picaresque,” which was also terrific. After later releasing another E.P. in 2011 (highlighted by this song), it sounds like “The Decemberists” might not make any new music for some time – if ever again – which is a shame, because they are clearly talented. Love the singer’s voice, and I’m a sucker for the harmonica. At times they sound country, and I’m not sure any group utilizes as many instruments other than maybe Sufjan Stevens (seriously, how good is this song?!).

Listen to: Down By The Water, Don’t Carry It All, Calamity Song, All Arise!, Rox In The Box, June Hymn

4. Foo Fighters: “Wasting Light” – I’m a big fan of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. That hardly makes me unique, but I’d rank “Wasting Light” as the genre’s best album since the 90s ended. Recorded using analog tape in the garage of Dave Grohl’s house with no computers whatsoever, this stripped down version couldn’t have worked better. In many other years, this album would be No. 1 on my list. It’s pretty crazy a group that has been together for more than 15 years just produced one of my favorite rock albums ever.

Listen to: Rope, Dear Rosemary, Arlandia, I Should Have KnownBridge Burning, Walk, These Days, Back & Forth, Miss The Misery

3. TV On The Radio: “Nine Types Of Light” – TV On The Radio is probably one of my five favorite bands ever. It’s hard to describe their style, and they employ multiple singers, but their latest album was their best as far as I’m concerned. I saw them in concert this year (it didn’t end well, but that’s neither here nor there, and TVOTR had nothing to do with that either way). But before the concert started I ran into Kyp Malone (don’t say I didn’t warn you about name dropping) at a nearby restaurant, and not only was he approachable (I hate doing this to celebrities, but I wanted to buy him a drink), he seemed genuinely surprised he was even recognized. Good people. My biggest dilemma was ranking this album #2 or 3.

Listen to: Second Song, Forgotten, Will Do, Troubles, Repetition, Killer Crane, Caffeinated Consciousness

2. Radiohead: “King of Limbs” – As anyone who’s ever read me knows, Radiohead is one of my obsessions, so while any one of their previous albums would have ranked as my favorite of the given year, I guess it might come as a surprise “King Of Limbs” doesn’t. It’s an A-/B+ at worst, but even as someone with A+ expectations, it’s hard to be disappointed by them once again producing a fantastic album, albeit on the short side. Their appearance on “The Colbert Report” was absolutely hilarious as well. But I’m willing to admit this reportedly long-lost discovered song by them (it’s not them) made me think what they could produce if they turned to music back in “The Bends” era. Please Radiohead, just one more time, if only for me.

Listen to: CodexSeparator, The Daily Mail,  Lotus Flower, Little By Little, The Butcher, Morning Mr Magpie, Supercollider

1. Bon Iver: “Bon Iver” – This isn’t just the best album of the year, it’s one of my five favorites of all-time. LeBron James is jealous of Justin Vernon’s talent. Seriously, I’d rather SOPA pass than Bon Iver stop making music. I’d prefer this lady or this man raise my child than be deprived of ever listening to this album again. For once I was blind, now I can see. Anyone not listening to this album would be more egregious than the Colts passing on Andrew Luck or finding this true story boring. To be clear, I like Bon Iver’s latest work.

Listen to: HoloceneMichicant, Perth, Calgary, Minnesota, WI, Beth/Rest, Towers, Hinnom, TX

SONGS

My favorite tracks (not listed above) from 2011 were: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye, “Easy Please Me” by Katy B, “Crystalline” by Bjork, “Only If For A Night” and “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine, “We Found Love” by Rihanna, “E.T.” by Katy Perry, “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair,” “Reckless Serenade” and “All My Own Stunts” by Arctic Monkeys, “I Need a Doctor” by Dr. Dre, “How I Roll” by Britney Spears, “Powa” and “Gangsta” by tUnE-yArDs, “Uberlin” and “It Happened Today” by R.E.M., “Mine Is Yours” by Cold War Kids, “Whole Love” by Wilco, “Midnight City” by M83, “Called Out In The Dark” by Snow Patrol, “The Wolf” by Fever Ray, “Victory Dance” by My Morning Jacket, “Not Your Fault,” “People” and “Guilty Filthy Soul” by AWOLNATION, “Underneath The Sycamore,“ and “Home Is A Fire” by Death Cab For Cutie, “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey, “Good Life” by OneRepublic, “Vomit” by Girls and “Virgin” by Manchester Orchestra.

I already nearly lasted until the end of January to get this posted, so no “worst of” this year (actually my worst of occurred recently – it’s the ref who blew the premature whistle when Ahmad Bradshaw clearly fumbled with two minutes left in a tie game in the NFC Championship game in a ruling that isn’t called 97.8% of the time. I would never wish ill will upon someone, but I can’t say I’d lose sleep if that referee somehow soon contracted Syphilis).

As always, feel free to let me know what I got right, what I got wrong and what I missed in the comments.

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Bet On It

Friday, January 20th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 3-1, winning my best bet. I’m 5-3 during the playoffs, with a 1-1 record on best bets. Onto the Championship Round picks:

Ravens +7.5 at PATRIOTS

GIANTS (Best Bet) +2.5 at 49ers

Comments: I obviously hope I’m wrong about the Giants, but I have a strong New York feel this week, so I’m going with head over heart.

The Scoop

Monday, January 16th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

As a 49ers fan, it doesn’t get much better than Saturday. The tailgate started at 8:30 am, so we were all in good shape by gametime. The hit on Pierre Thomas (not sure why so many people thought a penalty should have been called on a clearly legal hit) set the tone, and I couldn’t have been more surprised by the early 17-0 lead…The Saints had half as many fumbles Saturday (three) than they did during the entire 2011/12 season. Saturday also was also the first time Drew Brees was picked off during the first quarter of a game all year…While his touchdown catch on third down was big, Michael Crabtree had bad back-to-back drops that ended another drive…What a crazy good pass from Brees to Marques Colston for a 25-yard score…How about 15 catches for Darren Sproles?

Craziest volleyball rally of all-time.

Aussie tourist’s bungee cord snaps into alligator infested waters.

Justin Smith is a grown ass man. Frequently double-teamed, he recorded five QB pressures and a season-high four QB hits Saturday, not coming off the field for a single snap (a whopping 83)…What a block by Joe Staley during Alex Smith’s 28-yard touchdown run, which was a career-long. Smith has thrown for 300 yards zero times this season, but he led the league with the lowest INT% and made some seriously impressive throws Saturday. He ended the regular season with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio and the third-best QB rating in the NFL when facing a blitz and just led SF on back-to-back 80-plus yard TD drives in the final 2:30 minutes of a Divisional playoff game, becoming just the fourth player ever to throw for three touchdowns with no interceptions while rushing for a TD in postseason history. Hard to believe this happened just last year…This marked only the fourth time in NFL history a team scored a touchdown to take the lead in a playoff game with less than 10 seconds left (somehow I have been at two of these, with both featuring sobbing 49er receivers)…With four lead changes in the final four minutes, seriously, how sick was that game?!!

Crazy brah surfs on his car’s windshield.

Caught cheating prank.

Did Tom Brady really throw five touchdown passes before halftime? That’s fairly impressive…Aaron Hernandez had more than twice as many rushing yards as any other Patriot. Of course he did…I’m beginning to think Tim Tebow versus Tom Brady is a mismatch in a shootout…As Cousin Sal will attest, the over/under for completed passes by Tim Tebow Saturday night was just 11.5. He completed nine in a game in which they were trailing by 28 points at halftime against a New England defense that allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season…With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady punted on 3rd-and-10. Of course he did.

Embarrassing goalkeeper error leads to a goal.

Guy making iced tea like a boss.

What a terrible play by Jacoby Jones, losing a fumble on a punt return at his own six-yard line. Inexcusable. What was he thinking trying to pick the ball up with a defender right there?…There were some really nice catches in this game, highlighted by Arian Foster and Lee Evans, who both hauled in impressive one-handed grabs…T.J. Yates made some really poor decisions and throws on his interceptions, but it appeared to me Andre Johnson is clearly still not 100 percent, as it looked like he could have done a better job trying to break up a couple of those picks…As poorly as Yates played (although Dan Dierdof thought he played an excellent game), Johnathan Joseph was fantastic, shutting down Torrey Smith…Arian Foster also played extremely well, but his fumbling problem has become a serious issue. He’s now put the ball on the carpet seven times over his past seven games…I have no problem with Baltimore going for it on fourth-and-goal, but Ray Rice really struggled during that stretch. He fumbled the handoff before kicking the ball (and advancing his team three yards) on second down and then followed that up by stumbling and falling down on his own during the next carry. He was then easily stopped on a fourth down run straight up the gut. Not his best sequence.

Pro-bowler fail.

Seriously, why is Brian Orakpo such a dick in those Geico ads?

The Greatest Sports GIFs of 2011.

How was that Greg Jennings play not a fumble? Surprisingly, the Giants/Packers game could have gotten out of hand even earlier if not for a couple of breaks for the home team (of course, the Hail Mary was fortunate for New York). Also the roughing the passer call that extended a Packers drive late in the game was also highly questionable…Aaron Rodgers led all rushers with 66 yards during Sunday’s game. It was a successful strategy by the Giants, as he also took a season-high four sacks and was limited to a season-low 5.7 YPA. Of course, Green Bay certainly didn’t play it’s “A” game (or anything close to it), suffering numerous drops, while Rodgers was uncharacteristically inaccurate at times…What a huge strip by Osi Umenyiora, as not only was it Rodgers’ first lost fumble of the year, but he had a wide open Greg Jennings in the end zone as well…I’m cool with being aggressive, and onside kicks have a much better chance of being successful when they are a surprise, but it was interesting to see the favored home team attempt one early in the second quarter in a tie game…Not that Hakeem Nicks had a bad season, but where has this man/beast been all season when on a lot of my fantasy teams?…Not sure it ultimately matters as far as bulletin board material, but it was interesting to see Vernon Davis openly rooting for the Giants to win while interviewed at halftime, and I must say, I was doing so myself quite authoritatively. It’s really no disrespect to the G-Men, who are clearly playing as well any team in football right now, but there’s no reason not to want to play at home. Go Niners.

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Bet On It

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 2-2, losing my best bet. Onto the Divisional Round picks:

Saints -3.5 at 49ers

Broncos +13.5 at PATRIOTS

Texans +7.5 at RAVENS

GIANTS (Best Bet) +8 at Packers

Comments: The 49ers must be the first No. 2 seed that are underdogs by more than a field goal in the divisional round. I’m backing SF, but I wouldn’t be surprised if New Orleans won handily…13.5 points is an awful lot in a playoff game, but ultimately I see New England pulling away with too much firepower…The Ravens are too tough at home…I see the case that people are forgetting just how good this 15-1 Packers team is, but the Giants could also easily win this game outright.

The Scoop

Monday, January 9th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

After the Bengals jumped out to an early 7-0 lead (every team that scored first lost this weekend), they were outscored 31-3 thereafter. There were three fumbles in the first 20 minutes (all recovered by the fumbling team), as postseason jitters were evident (Arian Foster needs to correct this problem, although he’ll almost certainly be at the top of my draft board in 2012 regardless)…This was the first ever matchup between two rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs…Marvin Lewis made two bad challenges early on plays that were quite likely not going to be overturned, effectively burning two timeouts and ending any chance of Cincy correcting a possible injustice later in the game. He deserves the fault here, but why doesn’t the NFL just turn to the college system when it comes to replays?…What a play by J.J. Watt! In a Wild Card weekend filled with numerous drops, his catch was the most impressive…

Police getting caught planting evidence by their own camera. Despicable.

Man misses mouse and shoots roommate, revealing child rapist.

With a sick hurdle, now Jerome Simpson is just showing off…The “effort” while trying to tackle Arian Foster on his 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by the Bengals was among the worst I’ve ever witnessed…After the Bengals completed a 16-yard pass on 3rd-and-19 early in the fourth quarter in a 14-point game, what was Gary Kubiak thinking calling a timeout when Cincy lined up to punt? After reconsidering during the break, the Bengals (predictably and rightfully so) went for it on 4th-and-3. Although they didn’t pick up the first down, Houston then made another curious decision, as Jonathan Joseph decided to catch an interception that cost them 23 yards of field position, making it ultimately like a punt anyway…Tom Hammond referred to Matt Schaub as Matt “Schoop” three times…Speaking of announcers, how great is Mike Mayock? Dude is so over the top, honest and most importantly, passionate. He’s the NFL’s equivalent to the NBA’s Jeff Van Gundy, and that’s a good thing.

Marriage proposal fail.

Cooking show fail.

With all due respect to the Packers, who remain rightfully the favorites to win the Super Bowl, there’s little question in my mind the single toughest challenge in the NFL right now is to play the Saints in New Orleans. That said, there’s even less of a question the Lions should have had a 21-7 lead Saturday night, as they were absolutely robbed of a defensive touchdown thanks to an errant whistle (Drew Brees lost a fumble that would have easily been returned for a touchdown). Seriously, what was that ref thinking? The line judge even threw his beanbag, letting it known he ruled it a fumble…After letting it be known I liked the Saints versus the field to score the most points this weekend, it wasn’t ideal to first watch the Texans drop 31 points and then have New Orleans have just 10 points at halftime (with the Giants/Falcons upcoming matchup projected to be something of a shootout too). Well, whatever adjustments the Saints made during the break worked, as they scored 35 points (which could’ve been 42 if they wanted) over the game’s final 30 minutes…

I’m not sure I’d describe him as the “dumbest,” but this criminal certainly isn’t the smartest.

Man named “Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop” arrested.

New Orleans is 9-0 at home against the spread this season…The Saints had the fewest fumbles in NFL history during the regular season this year. They had two during the first 25 minutes of Saturday’s game…Over his last four contests, Calvin Johnson has 36 catches for 771 yards and six touchdowns. He’s topped 210 yards in three of those four games. Only Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens are in the conversation with Johnson when it comes to best wide receivers in NFL history…Robert Meachem had a big game with no Lance Moore, but he also dropped a perfectly thrown ball while wide open that would have resulted in a 60-yard touchdown…Not sure why Drew Brees was rewarded a first down on a fourth down sneak when he jumped over the line holding the ball out like all that mattered was if it crossed the goal-line for a touchdown, since he landed well behind the first down marker, but apparently it worked…Speaking of bad referring, and this was the worst weekend I can think of in recent memory, how about them allowing the clock to run out after the Saints kneeled the ball on FOURTH DOWN at the end of Saturday night’s game? I understand it’s inconsequential, but this is a billion dollar industry, so they might want to get the details right. I mean, there were still gambling ramifications, no matter how unlikely.

Watching these flagrant fouls by high schoolers is surprisingly (and depressingly) intriguing.

Basketball team loses at the end of a game because the other squad has six players on the court, and the coach is fired hours later.

Roddy White led the NFL with 15 drops this season and had a couple (back breakers) more Sunday. You’d have to be Gary Busey level crazy to take him over Julio Jones next year…The Hakeem Nicks versus Victor Cruz debate, however, is much closer. I haven’t made up my mind yet…Matt Ryan had a 10:0 TD:INT ratio with an 8.2 YPA over the final four games of the season, and he posted a 17:3 TD:INT ratio with a 100.6 QB rating over Atlanta’s last nine contests during the regular season, taking just seven sacks over that span. Another interesting note is that despite the narrative that suggested otherwise, his YPA jumped from 7.2 indoors to 7.8 outdoors while his INT% dropped (from indoors to outdoors) in 2011. Still, he picked apart bad teams and struggled against good ones, so it’s no surprise he was a no-show during the Falcons’ embarrassing performance against the Giants on Sunday…I’m beginning to think Eli Manning’s past (and only) two ugly home games during the postseason weren’t predictive of his next one. Seriously, how pathetic were the Falcons in short-yardage situations?…

Tim Howard scores a goal from 100 yards out.

Tattoo gives guy permanent erection.

What a hilarious ending to the first half. First the Giants call a timeout with 2:05 left with the Falcons facing a 3rd-and 21. The decision itself was questionable at the time, since Atlanta was likely to attempt a pass anyway, but it certainly wasn’t indefensible. But it was humorous when Joe Buck later went out of his way to praise the timeout after the next play resulted in a Julio Jones 18-yard catch in which he went out of bounds. Emphasis on the out of bounds. So the difference was the Giants having 1:58 left versus 1:53 left plus a timeout, yet Buck was applauding the former. Man is he awful. Troy Aikman is insufferable as well…Soon thereafter, Hakeem Nicks’ catch should have been ruled a first down. And instead of getting a measurement, the Giants quickly threw an incomplete pass out of shotgun needing just inches for a first, resulting in a punt…Then Atlanta pushed all its chips into the table and raised the level of incompetence, deciding not to call a timeout with more than 30 seconds left on a 3rd-and-4 play, so their ensuing first down at midfield gave them a whole four seconds to work with (not sure what was more weak, Mike Smith’s cowardice or Matt Ryan’s arm on his following Hail Mary attempt)…Seriously, who loses 24-2? It’s more embarrassing than getting shutout when your defense produces more points than your offense.

Man employs skeleton so he can use HOV lane.

Woman caught sleeping in front row during NBC News/Facebook debate.

As someone who had the Steelers at the back end of a teaser and loaded up on them in my home fantasy playoff league, Sunday’s game was a miserable experience. At first I found it funny the Broncos were putting up a fight, but in the end, the joke was clearly on me…Pittsburgh was the only team this year not to allow a 100-yard game from a receiver. Demaryius Thomas had 109 receiving yards on two catches during the second quarter Sunday…There was a “12 men in the huddle” penalty in all four games this weekend…As much as I criticized the draft pick at the time, it’s very possible Demaryius Thomas over Dez Bryant was the right move, although according to Pro Football Focus’ rankings, Bryant (#10) rated well ahead of Thomas (#57) among wide receivers this season…Not only did the refs blow another call on a clear fumble by Ben Roethlisberger that was ruled an incomplete pass, it also highlighted another error(s) made the previous day…

Man has massive 200-pound tumor removed from leg, looks happy regardless.

Papa John’s apologizes for racial slur.

The Steelers finished the year allowing just 5.6 YPA – a significant 0.6 fewer than the next lowest. They also allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL. So it was a surprise to see Tim Tebow throw for more yards against them Sunday than any QB had in 2011. Ryan Clark was out (why did he travel with them?), while Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton both left with injuries, but give me a break. Ike Taylor got abused, and while there’s an argument Dick LeBeau is the second most valuable coach in football, he deserves to be criticized heavily. It’s great that his containment scheme worked (3.9 YPC), but how that also resulted in both a non-existent pass rush (this game was mostly decided at the line of scrimmage) and his corners left on an island one-on-one is beyond me. Tebow actually deserves a ton of credit for some of his throws downfield, which were pinpoint accurate, but it’s embarrassing to give up a long touchdown (with no safety help) in a new overtime format in which allowing a field goal could be considered a win…I love the Tebow story as much as anyone, but I’d argue what happened is crazier than most give credit for (says the person who backed Pitt) – he rolls to his right side as often as I do, as in never, so there was a serious coaching issue with Pittsburgh on Sunday. I’m not surprised by an upset in the NFL, but I was shocked at how the Broncos beat the Steelers…That’s what I deserve for picking a serial rapist over a pious virgin.

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Bet On It

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 6-9-1, winning my best bet. I finished the year 127-122-7, and while I’m not happy about my performance in 2011, I have finished above .500 in four of the five years I’ve done this (with the lone under being by just one game). I easily had my worst year in the best bets, finishing 7-9-1. Last season I went 8-3 in the playoffs but was under .500 the previous three years. Onto the Wild Card picks:

Bengals +3 at TEXANS

LIONS +11 at Saints

Falcons +3 at GIANTS

STEELERS (Best Bet) -8.5 at Broncos

Comments: I’m positive I’m on the sucker side with Pittsburgh, but I just can’t help myself.

The Scoop

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

By Dalton Del Don

After watching Matt Flynn get 10.9 YPA with six touchdown passes, it’s apparent Aaron Rodgers was holding this offense back all season. Coach Mike McCarthy has quite a dilemma on his hands entering the postseason…In all seriousness, if Sunday proved anything, it’s that Jordy Nelson is legit. Sure, the system is obviously terrific, and Flynn could easily be a starter somewhere in the league next year, but Nelson is such a playmaker. His 13.3 yards-per-target mark in 2011 is off the charts and historically good. And think, that number would be even better had he not had to stop once reaching the end zone 15 times…Pretty insane the Packers finished 15-1 while actually allowing more yards than they gained this year…Titus Young and the Lions were robbed of a touchdown on a bad call, which was extra frustrating since the team was out of challenges…It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Calvin Johnson one of the three most physically gifted wide receivers ever (although Rodney Harrison actually said this about him Sunday night: “He’s not overly fast.”), and he just had one of the best games ever at the position, but Matthew Stafford is really coming into his own lately. The numbers obviously speak for themselves (5,000 passing yards, 41 TDs), but he’s developed into a true superstar and is just 23 years old. If starting a franchise, whom would you take first, Johnson or Stafford?

Man high on meth in underwear (get it, like “Breaking Bad”) crashes stolen police SUV after streaking through highway traffic. Seriously, watch how insane this guy drives.

What a remarkable season by Maurice Jones-Drew, who won the rushing title and finished just 20 yards shy of reaching 2,000 total yards while scoring 11 touchdowns, all while playing for the NFL’s worst offense, at least when looking at yards-per-game…It should be really interesting to see what now happens regarding Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

Here’s a road-rage street fight that ends in a handshake and an attaboy.

Steve Slaton badly outplayed Daniel Thomas, which isn’t a great sign for the rookie moving forward…It’s truly hilarious the Jaguars asked for permission to interview Brian Schottenheimer for their head coaching job, since you know, he should be fired from his current offensive coordinator position…As for Rex Ryan, he’s definitely made some mistakes, but coming off back-to-back AFC Championship appearances (during his first two years ever as head coach), there’s no way he should be on the hot seat (unless he refuses to can Schottenheimer).

This year in unnecessary censorship.

It really is too bad Jonathan Stewart’s prime years are getting essentially wasted in what amounts to a three-back committee. His 142 rushing attempts ranked 32nd among running backs this season. His 32 missed tackles ranked ninth – just one fewer than Adrian Peterson…Marques Colston has racked up 29 catches for 422 receiving yards and five touchdowns over his past four games. He’s my top ranked wide receiver in fantasy football playoff leagues…Drew Brees finished the regular season producing 30 touchdowns over eight home games.

Look at this dog. Would you just look at it!

Just when it looked like Minnesota might have two legit quarterback options, Christian Ponder continues to battle the injury-prone label, and Joe Webb gets exposed. But it’s the Vikings’ secondary that is by far more concerning, as they just ended the 2011 campaign allowing an incredible 34:8 TD:INT ratio. And that was with the team leading the NFL with 50 sacks!…It’s unbelievable the difference between Percy Harvin’s production with and without Adrian Peterson in the lineup…I would be pretty shocked if Mike Martz returned to Chicago in 2012.

Another blooper from a local news team.

After ending the first quarter down 21-0, my “best bet” (the Patriots) didn’t look so great, considering I was down 32.5 points. A 49-0 ensuing run meant I ultimately covered by 16.5 points, however, which was pretty crazy…I, for one, appreciated Stevie Johnson personally wishing me a happy new year…I would happily take an Aaron Hernandez vs. Antonio Gates bet for who has more fantasy points next year if someone was so willing…Pretty funny to see Bill Belichick bring back in Rob Gronkowski to make sure he finished with more yards than Jimmy Graham to set the NFL record for yards by a tight end when the game could have ended with kneel downs.

Crazy footage of a car/motorcycle accident. Of course, Big Ben would call this kids play since a helmet was involved.

I can’t believe how surprisingly competent Jake Delhomme was in relief Sunday. Even so, I’d be hoping T.J. Yates starts this week if I were a Houston fan…Ben Tate is fantastic and would easily be a top-five fantasy back should Arian Foster go down next season (which in a way, makes Foster a safer pick)…Not that we should be thrilled with the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup in the AFC, but it would have been tough to stomach that Titans team making the playoffs…It’s one thing to go for two at the end of the game locked in as the No. 3 seed and wanting it to end, but doing so after committing a false start had to upset a lot of Raiders fans. Coming from Denver, maybe Gary Kubiak wanted to stick it to his old division rivals one more time.

Horrific story: Man hires a prostitute, and his daughter shows up.

Don’t sleep on what Brent Celek did down the stretch. He could easily be a top-five fantasy tight end next season…Rex Grossman ended the year throwing an interception in 12 straight games…The Eagles actually ended up finishing ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East, whose champion had fewer than 10 wins for the first time in the history of the division.

The 45 most powerful images of 2011.

Frank Gore looks like a flat tire. I’d say there’s about a 50 percent chance Kendall Hunter has more fantasy points next year. So take the latter since he’ll be much cheaper…Want to hear something crazy? The 49ers haven’t committed a turnover over their past 22 quarters…Over the last three years, coach Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams beat just one team that finished the year with a winning record. That team was the Saints this season…Andy Lee is ridiculous and more valuable than most realize. He netted 56.8 yards on five punts Sunday…Sticking with special teams, what a great fake field goal that resulted in an easy touchdown. Who knew David Akers had such an arm…With a 34-13 lead with less than five minutes left against the NFL’s worst offense, it was absolutely terrifying to watch my 49ers nearly blow the game Sunday (and in turn the No. 2 seed). Got to give the Rams credit for not giving up (call them the anti-Bucs).

This dog goes down stairs in style.

Speaking of Tampa Bay, what a pathetic performance. Down 42-0 with seven minutes left in the second quarter, really?…I’m not sure how high I’ll be willing to take Julio Jones in fantasy leagues next year, but I know it will be higher than Roddy White…Over his previous three games combined, Michael Turner had run for 176 yards. He had 172 rushing yards at halftime Sunday.

Man named Omar Little arrested in Baltimore.

What a ridiculous catch by Larry Fitzgerald at the end of Sunday’s game…Marshawn Lynch’s 11-game scoring streak came to an end in Week 17, and he’ll be one of the more interesting players to rank in fantasy leagues next year…Not only did Arizona end the season on a 7-2 stretch, but a whopping four of those wins came in overtime.

Danilo Gallinari misses wide-open layup in final seconds down two points.

He’s a big health risk, but if Vincent Jackson left via free agency, Malcom Floyd could easily be a top-12 fantasy wide receiver next year…With their season on the line, Oakland forced the Chargers to punt zero times Sunday…Michael Bush really wore down as his huge workloads caught up to him down the stretch…With the Raiders well within Sebastian Janikowki’s range (56 yards), it was perplexing to see the team complete a six-yard pass over the middle of the field with no timeouts remaining, effectively ending the half. Then again, this is the team that just broke the NFL record for most penalties in a season. Of the eight most penalized teams in the history of the league, the Raiders appear six times on the list…Vincent Jackson finished with nine touchdowns this year. Sunday’s was his only against a divisional opponent…San Diego was just inches away from becoming the second team of the day to suffer a safety on a kick return (Green Bay being the other)…Oakland lost the division based on the third tiebreaker (record against common opponents), which can’t be easy to stomach…Can’t believe Norv Turner may actually keep his job yet again…I’m only going to say this once, because I want him on a bunch of my teams, but Carson Palmer is going to have an absolutely monster fantasy season next year.

This beard must be seen to be believed.

The Broncos backed into the playoffs with a .500 record, having been outscored by 81 points on the year and losers of three straight. In fact, they would have been shut out at home Sunday if not for a muffed punt on a fair catch by Javier Arenas, leading to the team’s lone three points. After Sunday’s loss, this Huffington Post headline killed me…The Chiefs’ defense was quietly strong down the stretch, holding their opponents to 16 points or fewer in five of their final six contests, with three of them coming against playoff teams.

When it comes to flops, Drayton Florence just took it next level.

It’s crazy to think the loss of Rashard Mendenhall moves the needle at all when it comes to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes. I doubt it moved this week’s Vegas line a hundredth of a point…After recording 43 catches for 800 yards and five touchdowns over the first half of the season, Mike Wallace totaled just 29 receptions for 393 yards and three touchdowns over the second half. He reached 70 yards just once over that span, as he’s been a big disappointment after such a hot start…With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Steelers declined a holding penalty on third down, which allowed the Browns to attempt (and make) a 49-yard field goal. It was a curious decision, albeit not a no-brainer either way.

Helmet-to-helmet hits are especially painful if you’re not wearing a helmet.

Andy Dalton has thrown just six touchdowns over the past seven games, although it’s worth noting he has just one interception over the past six. There’s little question Cam Newton is the NFL’s Rookie of the Year…I don’t consider the Ravens one of the best teams in the league, but they could be looking at a home game against a depleted Texans team in the Divisional Round, and it’s not implausible they face a Steelers team they have already beat twice this season at home the following week. They could easily make the Super Bowl with that path (however, I don’t like their chances at all if they have to go to New England for the Championship Game).

I can’t say I’m surprised Alistair Overeem dominated Brock Lesnar, but wow what a disappointing way to end a career. Really, a kick to the midsection? Of course, I’d probably be hospitalized for six months if that happened to me, but come on man.

Hardly anything should surprise us at this point when it comes to the Cowboys and Giants, but I didn’t expect one team to be up 21-0 midway through the third quarter Sunday night. Eli Manning received far better pass protection, but both quarterbacks played well…Victor Cruz had five touchdowns from 68-plus yards this season…I’m sure it means nothing, but Dallas was 0-4 during Sunday Night Football this year…How do the Cowboys punt down 10 points with fewer than five minutes left? Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan are both terrible…The Cowboys have won one playoff game over the past 15 seasons.

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