1. I think -- no, I know -- that one of my favorite books every year just landed in the email box the other day: "Football Outsiders Almanac 2012." The reason I always love the book is the guys writing the team-by-team essays are thoughtful, smart and fun-loving. You can tell they love football. The intelligence comes through in every page. (Click here to buy the book in PDF form. If you want the physical book, go here or visit Amazon. Cost is $22.95.) Try five of my favorite tidbits on for size:
a. How good was Aaron Rodgers last year? He threw just six picks, but he's even lower in a stat Football Outsiders calls "adjusted interceptions." Two of his picks were catchable balls that bounced off the hands of his receivers before being picked off, and Rodgers didn't throw a single "dropped interception" (a pass that would have been a pick except the defender dropped an easy catch).
b. Tony Romo last year averaged 8.6 yards per play without pass pressure, but only 2.3 yards per play with pass pressure, the biggest gap of any regular starting quarterback except Rex Grossman.
c. The Jets used seven or more defensive backs on 11 percent of pass plays, far more than any other team. In fact, only one other defense used seven or more defensive backs on more than 1.5 percent of pass plays -- Dallas. Rex and Rob Ryan sure think alike.
d. Opposing kickers were a mind-blowing 29-for-30 against the Jets last year, with the only miss by Sebastian Janikowski from 56 yards. That's just absurd bad luck for the Jets, unlikely to carry over to 2012.
e. Miami's Cameron Wake led the league, drawing 13 offensive holding calls last year. Nobody else had more than seven.
2. I think one of the notes that caught my eye over the vacation was Saints owner Tom Benson retaining Sandusky investigator Louis Freeh to investigate the Saints case. But Freeh got hired, I'm told, to look into that ESPN story that said the Saints bugged the visiting coaches box for three years. The Freeh group will have access to all Saints correspondence to look into the allegations and report back to Benson.
3. I think I couldn't care less if Michael Vick thinks the Eagles have what it takes to be a dynasty. What's he supposed to say? "Our ceiling is 10-6?"
4. I think it's good to see Rex Ryan down 106 pounds, and I hope he can keep it off when the stress of the season hits. I see he told Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger he's been getting advice by someone he calls "my little sensei'' this offseason. Rex, you've lost a little sensei.
5. I think if the Lions don't cut cornerback Aaron Berry -- arrested Saturday night for pointing a gun at three people outside a bar in Harrisburg, Pa. -- after his second arrest in 26 days, they're simply not serious about cleaning up what's become a total embarrassment of a roster. Seven arrests in one offseason ... ridiculous. The Lions have to put some teeth in cleaning up their act, and the only way to start doing that is to cut Berry. Today. (Editor's Note: The Lions cut Berry later Monday.)
6. I think the excitement level in Denver for Peyton Manning looks like it's off the charts. That's good for the franchise. The key for him, I think, will be seeing how his neck and shoulder hold up on consecutive days of hard throwing. I know he's done a lot of it already, but there's something about doing it with pads and your wideouts being covered downfield. I'm sure that's what Manning's looking forward to seeing too.
7. I think it's a great sign to see Cam Newton reporting with the rookies today in Spartanburg, S.C., for the Panthers. The more you hear about Newton, the more blue collar he sounds -- just the way Ron Rivera likes his quarterback.
8. I think it's a great piece of Gene Upshaw's legacy that a new cancer center in his name was dedicated over the weekend near his former home of Truckee, Calif., near Lake Tahoe. Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer in 2008, and his family donated money to help fund a needed new cancer center.
9. I think I'll miss most of the Olympics, hopping from city to city over the next month. Hard to believe the opening ceremony is Friday. It's always one of my favorite TV events. I'm excited for that Denver-area swimmer, Missy Franklin, who seems like such a good kid, with her head on straight.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. A former colleague at Newsday, reporter Manny Topol, died early this month. He's one of the best reporters I've ever worked with. If you lived on Long Island over the past 30 years and read that great newspaper, you were fortunate to have read Topol, a great digger and truth-seeker.
b. This is the best story I read in the past month, about an inmate in Indiana who murdered both parents in 1993, at age 14, and now is trying to prove he belongs out of prison.
c. Had a great time running in the Run To Breathe 10K race, Boomer Esiason's run to raise money for cystic fibrosis research, in Central Park Saturday. Boomer's son Gunnar, a rising senior at Boston College, has CF as many of you know, and Esiason has been a tireless fundraiser in the two decades since Gunnar was diagnosed. The Esiason Foundation has raised and contributed $60 million in those 20 years to the cause, and that's helped the life expectancy of CF patients rise from 19 to 27 years.
d. Regarding Saturday's race. You want the good news or the bad news? Well, I ran it in 65:10 (the official time was 65:44, according to the New York Road Runners website), and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. But the good, I guess, is I beat 995 other runners in the 4,822-person field. The bad: I lost to 3,826.
e. I'll be running another half marathon in the fall. Details to come soon.
f. Red Sox: 55-68 since last Sept. 1. I sense a pattern developing.
g. Tim Lincecum and Jon Lester should have a long phone call. Lots in common.
h. I find myself as a Sox follower not being angry with Lester, but rather pitying him. He doesn't want to be this horrible.
i. My biggest problem with the HBO series "The Newsroom" is some of the unimaginable things that happen when the real fur is flying during newscasts. Such as a lowly associate producer telling the all-powerful anchor during a commercial break on election night that maybe he shouldn't parade his new bimbos in the newsroom in front of his former lover, the executive producer of the newscast. I mean, are you crazy?
j. I don't know how I missed The Descendants when it was out a year ago. But that's one great movie. Not a good movie. A great one, a great slice of real American life.
k. And I watched Crimes and Misdemeanors the other night again. Next to Annie Hall, it's Woody Allen's best, in my opinion.
l. Coffeenerdness: Nothing better than sidling up to a tiny coffee bar in Venice, ordering a cappuccino, and getting black-as-coal espresso with a little milk frothed in. For about $2.
m. Beernerdness: Best beer I had in Europe, and I think it had more to do with the day and the scene (busy square in Venice, sidewalk café, 90 degrees) was a cold Italian lager I'd never heard of, Castello. Cold beer, shady table, watching the world go by on a square twice as old as the United States. Cool.
n. Good to be back. Looking forward to hitting the road.
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