Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 NFL Awards

"And just like that. As mysteriously as he arrived, he was gone."

The same can be said about this year's NFL season. After a busy off-season filled with QB (Robert Griffin III) v. Head Coach (Mike Shanahan), old faces (Andy Reid) in new places (Kansas City), a lawsuit against the league that was eventually settled, and same story, different year with the Cowboys, we finally kicked off the 2013 NFL season in Denver with Peyton Manning starting his MVP campaign with a record-tying 5 TDs (and zero INTs) against the defending champion Baltimore Ravens, which proved to be indicative of the Ravens season after their second Lombardi trophy as a Baltimore franchise. On the opening Monday night game, we saw the Chargers reminisce their glory days with Norv Turner while allowing the Texans to storm back from down 28-7 to win one of their two games this year.

Today marks the first Monday after the regular season, and while it is commonly known as "Black Monday", there are 12 teams whose playoff runs are about to take off towards a trip to East Rutherford for Super Bowl XLVIII and the other 20 will be facing questions on whether their coaching staff, starting QB (or lack thereof), and front office is in line to improve upon missing out again next year.

These players helped shaped a great 2013 NFL season, regardless of the black eyes the NFL continues to hand down with head-scratching decision making and new "rules" to help protect players.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year


Kiko Alonso - LB - Buffalo Bills
Sheldon Richardson - DL - New York Jets
Eric Reid - S - San Francisco 49ers
Alec Olgetree - LB - St. Louis Rams

Alonso will likely be the runaway winner, leading all rookies and finishing third in total tackles, while also grabbing up 4 INTs, and notching 2 sacks. Richardson played very well for a very good Jets defensive line, recording 12 tackles for loss along with 77 tackles, good for fourth on the team. Reid may be overlooked because of all the other studs the 49ers have on defense, but he finished third on the team in tackles, third in pass defenses, and second in INTs on a team that allowed only 221 yards passing per game. Olgetree deserves some fanfare as well, but he will likely be overshadowed by his teammate Robert Quinn. Olgetree racked up 117 tackles to go along with 6 (!) forced fumbles which is third behind ... Robert Quinn and Robert Mathis. Along with 10 pass defenses, I would say the combination of Quinn and Olgetree will be a force for the Rams in the coming year.

Winner: Kiko Alonso

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year


Cordarrelle Patterson - WR - Minnesota Vikings
Eddie Lacy - RB - Green Bay Packers
Keenan Allen - WR - San Diego Chargers
Le'Veon Bell - RB - Pittsburgh Steelers

Patterson and Lacy will be your two spotlight players amongst the voters, but Allen was the Chargers only real threat at WR all year for Rivers, and had 8 catches for 5 TDs in a three game span to help propel the Chargers into the playoffs, to go along with 1,046 receiving yards. Bell, while only playing in 13 games this year, set a Steeler record for most scrimmage yards by a rookie, only lost one fumble, and caught 45 balls for 399 yards to go along with 860 rushing yards. A full, healthy year will likely see Bell as a top 5 rusher. Patterson is a speed demon, and was the only player this year to have 2 return touchdowns. He finished second to Devin Hester in return yards with 1393, but had 9 fewer returns than Hester and averaged 32.4 yards per return, leading the league. While he was only able to catch 45 balls for 4 TDs, we have to think that the QB situation in Minnesota was the only thing holding Patterson back. All Eddie Lacy did was rush for over 1100 yards, score 11 TDs (third in the league behind Lynch and Charles), and also only lost one fumble.

Winner: Eddie Lacy

NFL Defensive Player of the Year


Robert Quinn - DE - St. Louis Rams
Robert Mathis - LB - Indianapolis Colts
Luke Kuechly - LB - Carolina Panthers
Lavonte David - LB - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Too many great defensive players this year to narrow down to four, so this category will vary quite a bit amongst writers, but I picked out four players who stood out the most to me. Quinn and Mathis are almost the same person. They both had 19 sacks (19.5 for Mathis) and finished 1-2 in forced fumbles. While Quinn was on a team that didn't lead a whole lot, it is pretty impressive that he was able to amass that many sacks. Kuechly, last year's defensive rookie of the year, didn't lead the league in tackles again this year, but that may be because of an improved defensive line for the Panthers, but he was still manage to finish fourth with 156, back-to-back years with 150+ tackles, and 4 INTs. He is the best player on the top defensive team and that usually helps the player's case for post-season awards. Lavonte David, behind all the smoke that has been looming around football in Florida these past few months, has been putting the hurt on all his opponents. Second among linebackers with 5 INTs, along with 2 forced fumbles and 144 tackles on a bad team. Add on 6 sacks, and I think David makes a strong case.

Winner: Robert Mathis

NFL Offensive Player of the Year


LeSean McCoy - RB - Philadelphia Eagles
Josh Gordon - WR - Cleveland Browns
Peyton Manning - QB - Denver Broncos
Jamaal Charles - RB - Kansas City Chiefs

McCoy led the league in rushing, Gordon in receiving, Manning in passing, and Charles in total touchdowns. These are just "default" candidates either. Each had a very impressive year, so picking out the most impressive year is the task. McCoy, while leading the league in rushing with 1,607 yards, "only" got 9 rushing touchdowns, but had an impressive 10.4 yards per reception along with 2 touchdowns while leading the league in scrimmage yards. Josh Gordon blew away everyone over a three week stretch. In games 10-12, Gordon had 649 yards over 31 receptions and 4 touchdowns, setting an NFL record for most yards over a three-game period. He finished the year with 1,646 yards with 3 starting quarterbacks. Jamaal Charles only led the league in total touchdowns this year with 19 (12 rushing, 7 receiving) and had an explosive game against Oakland with 4 receiving touchdowns on 8 catches and 195 yards, and finished second in scrimmage yards. Manning's year, by far, was the most impressive. 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns (both single-season records), 68.3 completion percentage, and 115 quarterback rating (not sure how this was worse than his 121.1 in 2004). This makes the second time he's broken the touchdown record and became the first QB since Dan Marino in 1984 to hold the passing yards and touchdowns record.

Winner: Peyton Manning

NFL Coach of the Year


Ron Rivera - Carolina Panthers
Andy Reid - Kansas City Cheifs
Bruce Arians - Arizona Cardinals
Bill Belichick - New England Patriots

Had the Cardinals made the playoffs, Arians would have won his second consecutive coach of the year award, with two different teams. Rivera was on the hot seat at the end of last year, and many wanted him fired, but survived an offensive coordinator turnover, drafted very well on the defensive side of the ball, and this team is the number two seed. Reid would be a lock if the Chiefs didn't flounder against the Broncos and Chargers, but getting back into the playoffs is a good pitch. Belichick is as deserving as anyone, considering they've been without two of the best tight ends in the game most of the year, dealing with the loss of Wes Welker, and still just a win away from the top seed. Getting a first-round bye was huge for this team, who has a lot of new pieces, so props to the entire coaching staff for getting this team back into high-octane form.

Winner: Ron Rivera

NFL Most Valuable Player


Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos
Tom Brady - New England Patriots
Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Chiefs
Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints

Brady is very deserving of this award, and part of me wants him to get this one, but it will likely be Manning again. Brady has carried the team on his back, 5 comebacks, including one over the Broncos, and a number 2 seed. His coach got snubbed for coach of the year, but I vote for Brady for MVP.

Winner: Tom Brady

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Candidates for Texas Head Coaching Job

Just in case Mack Brown does indeed step down in the next 48 hours (and if you are not buying Saint Nick leaving T-Town), I've scoured the Interwebs for the next head coach of University of Texas Longhorns. Hard to pick just one...

Coach from Old Spice Commercial

Nobody Wants to Hear That Story Again

Although he is aged well beyond what we've come to expect out of a "new" head football coach, I suspect the press conferences will go very well when he begins by drawing, yet again, on the white board what exactly went down on that mild summer night outside of White Lake, New York in 1969.

Coach from Aflac Commercial

He's Gonna Help Us Turn This Thing Around in the Second Half

In the first 8 seconds, the coach admits he is not a real leader, and thus brings in a duck to help turn the team around for the second half. Of course, instead of the Aflac duck, he would have to bring in Bevo, who would say just as much (and bring as many "grown man tears") as the duck did.

Robin Williams from Snickers Commercial

Let's KILL THEM, with kindness.

It is not everyday you get a prospective coach who has played a cross-dressing nanny, president, alien, Peter Pan, psychopath, and physician in previous realms of life, but Robin Williams (as long as he is hungry) is the perfect coach to take over for such a prestigious football program.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AT&T "Next" - The Dollars and Sense

AT&T has followed up on T-Mobile "Jump" device upgrade program, where you have the ability to upgrade a device every 12 months, with "Next". I won't go into too any detail on the T-Mobile side, but I will break down several scenarios for users wishing to utilize the program.

Let us look at the pricing scheme of the iPhone:
On-Contract Price Off-Contract Price Monthly "Next" Fee Costs after 12 Months Overhead from "Next" Fee*
iPhone 5 16GB $199.99 $649.99 $32.50 $390.00 $191.00
iPhone 5 32GB $299.99 $749.99 $37.50 $449.99 $150.00
iPhone 5 64GB $399.99 $849.99 $42.50 $509.99 $110.00

*This is the On-Contract Price subtracted from the Costs after 12 Months

Notice that the overhead costs become cheaper as the phone's price increases. Essentially, instead of waiting a year for your upgrade, you pay the overhead costs to get it now. I liken this to a layaway for a phone. Over time, you pay a little more than what you would if you bought it at the appropriate time you could pay for it all at once, but, the key difference between the T-Mobile and AT&T plans are there is no down-payment for AT&T. I imagine that the taxes are included with your monthly bill, but I cannot confirm this, but I would imagine the sales tax has to come in to play. So depending on your area, you could pay more in sales tax on top of the monthly charge. Update: If I would have kept on reading the AT&T site, I would have seen this: "You only pay taxes up front ...
". Yes, you must pay you respective taxes up front.

So, here are a few things to consider:

  1. The more expensive the device, the less overhead charge you pay over the next year for the upgrade. If you bought an iPhone 5 at release on-contract, and wanted an iPhone 6/5S, you can wait another year, and pay $199 (or $99 if the iPhone in 2014 has released) up-front, extend your contract, while the iPhone 6 is released. If you do utilize the "Next" program, you will end up paying almost double what you would normally have had you waited the 2 years, unless you opt for a higher-priced device.
  2. If you decide to get a new device after 12 months, your current device on the "Next" program must be traded in. So, if you break your phone, you are financially responsible for it. Unlike a contract renewal, you just "wait out" your contract duration and then buy a new phone, without worrying about the previous one. This case, you are on the hook for the full, off-contract price of the device if something happens to it before your trade-in period (between 12 and 20 months).
  3. After 20 months, the phone is yours, and you no longer have a service fee to pay. Essentially, you bought the phone off-contract and paid for it over 20 months. This is especially nice if you just want to wait the normal 2 years for a new device, you can take the money you have been paying for the last 20 months (anywhere from $32 to $42) and save that over the next 4 months, and help pay for a traditional upgrade device (or fully pay for one, depending on your selection).
In conclusion, this is a nice program for those who want the newest phone every year, and don't mind paying for that privilege. Just be careful, if you do utilize the program, to read the terms and conditions. You can visit the official AT&T Next web page for more information.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What I Learned About Xbox One

1) Always-on Internet

Perfectly fine option, but should not be required. If I want to play games without a disc, I can understand the need to keep the license refreshed every 24 hours. However, if my Internet goes down with U-Verse, so does my TV. What can I do with my Xbox One then? Although I am unclear if I can play games I bought digitally offline (why shouldn't I), I know that I can't play disc-based games, even if I can prove the disc is still in my possession. I can't take advantage of any TV-based functionality, and I am also not sure if digitally downloaded movies from Xbox will work offline. My options are to a) watch a Blu-Ray movie, of which I have a whopping two movies or b) play music or movies local to my network, e.g. from my Windows 8 desktop or whatever I thought to save locally to the Xbox. Both of those options are likely very slim, simply because I don't buy a lot of movies and music. Without Internet, my gaming and media console is now a very expensive Blu-Ray player. Think about the $499 price tag (plus tax), the absurd Xbox Live membership (I still buy mine for under $50/year, but still), games and accessories, and we are talking well over $600 for a machine that is designed to be incapable of its primary purpose simply because I do not have Internet. Strike one.


2) Game Lending and Reselling

This one lead a lot of people to scratch their heads, because the initial impression was that Microsoft would charge YOU to resell your game to someone, including GameStop. This is not the case, but there are still some puzzling caveats and a scary, open door does exist. Microsoft requires you to deauthorize the game you want to part ways with from your account, which makes sense, because it installs to your hard drive. GameStop will then buy it, as usual, and resell that to someone else. That could seemingly happen many times. However, if you decided to let a friend have a game, two requirements must be met: 1) They have to be a friend on your Xbox Live for at least 30-days (strange) and 2) this action can only be done once (even more strange). I get the idea behind the fact that game companies want to keep revenue close to their chest, and not resellers, but Microsoft may have overstepped here. This means you won't be selling your old games on eBay or anymore and even if you did, you may not be able to play it if it has been given away once already. Granted, 90% of the games I buy are brand new, and that may be once or twice a year. I won't give Microsoft a strike two just yet, because I think they are also looking at this method to drive DOWN the price of new games, so buying a used game isn't as enticing as it once was. The "scary, open door" here is that Microsoft will allow third-parties to charge a fee to trade-in a game. I am not 100% clear on whether the reseller (GameStop) will pay the fee, of if the end-user trading in the game pays that fee. Either way, it is an awful way to allow money-hungry companies like EA to milk more money out of its consumers and partners. As I am really unclear how this could work, and since Microsoft isn't forcing anyone to follow this model, I can live with it, simply because I don't trade in games (anymore) and I only buy a game or two per year.
UPDATED: From Paul Thurrott, Xbox One games will retail for $59.99 and that might make this another strike.

3) Game rentals

At time of launch, Microsoft has no plans for game rentals. Redbox, who currenlty rents out games for $2/night will not have any Xbox One games available. I don't see this changing either, unless one of two things occur: 1) Redbox does digital rentals that are simply given to you via email or text message or 2) Redbox signs a deal with Microsoft and gains access to specialy-made game discs that cannot be installed or resold. The issue with number 2 is those games will not be able to be sold, like Redbox currently does for their used games. Also, it will likely drive up the price of rentals if those games are forever doomed as rentals, because they hold zero market value outside of Redbox. At least currenlty, they take real game discs that can be sold just like any other game. The first option seems viable, but I imagine Microsoft handling digital rentals their selves, if that route is taken (no word on if that would be available). I am sure that Microsoft is looking hard at this situation, because Redbox buys a lot of games, and will not be able to buy any if something isn't worked out. They fact that they have no plans to support this at launch, when no one will be able to afford a game retail after purchasing a new Xbox One (see #4) will mean we have to watch a lot of TV to get any use out of it. Strike two three.


4) $500 is the price of a computer

I recently built a gaming PC for about $800. That included a 24" monitor. If you built a gaming experience with Xbox One, you are looking at over $600.

  • $499 + tax

  • Xbox Live $60

  • One game $59.99

  • Extra controller $50?

  • Total: $645 + tax

Don't forget that since Internet is required, just add that to the cost, although you likely already have connection. The price is way too high to be worth it, considering the question marks behind the antics. For $399, I should get this console with a year of Live. For $499, I should get much more. Strike three four (I know there are really only three).


5) TV and Multitasking

TV is not a big deal for me but a cool addition. The fact I can watch TV and play Xbox is cool. Also, the ability to Skype and play, listen to streaming music and play, or simply look up a strategy guide, all on one screen, is reason enough to justify the costs. The deal with the NFL is also a plus, and the continued push to add content to their subscription model makes me excited. Too bad it was already strike three four.
6) Will not play Xbox 360 Games
Just to beat a dead horse, the Xbox One has shifted architectures. For those unfamiliar, the first two Xbox consoles were powered by a PowerPC-based CPU, which is the same architecture Macs were powered with before they switched to Intel chips. Xbox One will be powered by an x86 processor, or what you commonly see in PCs today. What does that mean for you? No Xbox 360 support. Although I have no knowledge of the development behind any of the Xbox games in the past, I would think, because of the flexibility of x86, that there could be a way. Emulation, for example, allows us to play DOS, TurboGrafx, NeoGeo, and even arcade games to this day. The emulation may not even be possible for several years, but I really, really hope that I can insert my Xbox 360 disc, and the Xbox One say "do you want to launch this Xbox 360 game? You will lose your ability to snap (multitask) and achievements will not be earned". There are several Xbox 360 games I have never, ever played, and if I decide I want an Xbox One sometime soon, I want to be able to play through the older library of games without having to switch to the 360. Now, that may seem rather lazy, but I already have two gaming consoles, and a third would be more than my current TV supports in HDMI inputs (Uverse box takes up one of three slots). I know that in the past, we couldn't play games on newer consoles. The SNES wouldn't play NES games, the N64 wouldn't play SNES games, Sega Saturn couldn't play Sega Genesis, and so on. We've seen technology shifts before, and this one is no different. The PS4 will also yield the same issue, as it has also shifted architecture. The WiiU is the only backwards-compatible system that is of the current generation. The WiiU also has Virtual Console, which allows for playing classic games downloaded from the Wii U store. Could we see the library of 360 games migrate over? I don't see why not, but I can understand if the development is focused on next-generation gaming, not previous ones.
Although the Xbox One is flawed with handling content (mainly games), I do believe it will be a great console. The pricing and handling of the Internet requirement will keep many people, including me, from purchasing it day one.
I outlined solutions to some of the issues I had above, but here is a quick recap:
Unless a specific game requires Internet to stream services and features, DRM should not require Internet if the game is a disc-install (simply insert the disc) or a digital download (I can't share that download anyway, so let me have no DRM check). Game discs should be the more expensive option, and digital downloads should be at least $5 cheaper, since it will be strictly locked to my system. Game rentals could be handled in the cloud. Redbox could link to your Xbox Live account, give you a rental disc, you take it home, install the disc as you play, and Redbox will communicate with the Xbox servers how long you have to play the game. Once that is up, you can set it up to automatically renew your rental or just hault gameplay. Digital rentals would work the same way, except without the need for a disc and Redbox would simply email or text you a code to redeem for a 24-48 hour rental. Drop the price to $399 with a Kinect, and include a year of Xbox Live. If I buy a $499 model, I should get an extra controller or game of my choice.