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NFL Draft Cootie List

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Today begins one of the best sports weeks of the year, NFL Draft Week! It should be a national holiday, we should all have the week off of work to put our finishing touches on our draft boards, pick out the right finger foods for our draft day parties, and select our draft day crushes – those young men that older men salivate to have on their team. Trust me we all do it. Now, it’s always fun to pick your draft crushes and to get really pissed off when you, as the Couch General Manager, don’t get the player you’ve been wanting since you saw him dominate in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or was it the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl? Either way, you’re mad. But did your team select the exact opposite of your Draft Day Man Crush? The one player you did not want your team to select, the player that was dominated in all the YouTube video research you did all offseason, your Draft Cootie!

The Draft Cootie List is something no fan should have to deal with, they have all the tell tale signs of being a bust. They have red flags whether it be injuries or off the field concerns. They’re like that person on a reality show that is just there to get really drunk. There main purpose is to get famous and eventually the inebriated loser gets the boot in that first episode. They bring all the requisite drama for a reality show, but are really ruining it for that one special person trying to find true love! Pretty much they are JaMarcus Russell (the ultimate Cootie).

If you are too old to know what Cooties are or you had a really bad experience in elementary school with said cooties, let me refresh that memory of yours and bring back some hurtful ones. Cooties are a highly contagious viral disease that is transmitted through the act of touching, or an airborne disease or through rumors from the dickhead bullies in elementary school. There is no cure and once you are afflicted by this disease will completely cockblock you and ruin your game. (Can you tell I’m bitter?). Cooties were pretty much the first STD that elementary kids had to deal with. In some cases, you are given Cooties because that significant other may be interested in you and are trying to deal with such new feelings. Which is directly related to our Draft Cootie List.

San Francisco 49ers Draft Day Cootie List:

For the sake of the 49ers Cootie list, I won’t add any players that are way out of position for the Niners to draft (Top 10) or positions that are not of need (OT, ILB, RB).

Keenan Allen: A talented wide receiver that played his college ball at the University of California. He would fill a position of need for the Niners at WR and he’d be close to home, but he’s got a lotta Cooties. First, he’s got a nagging knee injury that has been the talk of front offices around the league. He also failed a drug test. That’s a lotta cooties, I wouldn’t touch him in the first or second round.

Margus Hunt: Physically, he’s everything you would want in a 3-4 DE on a team desperate for more depth on the defensive line and looking for an eventual replacement of Justin Smith. He’s 6-8, 275-pounds and was a Discus and Shot Put thrower in Estonia. But he’s already 25 and he never really dominated at SMU. If he falls to the Niners second pick in the second round is the only time I’d consider drafting him.

Eric Reid: Former safety for LSU, Reid dominated two years ago in the SEC, but this past year was a disappointment. He’s only 5-10, which is short for a safety, especially in a league where the receivers are getting bigger and bigger, height is a big deal to talent evaluators. I’d rather have Jonathan Cyprien.

Who’s on your Draft Day Cootie List? Be safe my loyal readers!

Follow Lance Cartelli on Twitter!

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The 49ers are Super Bowl Bound – A Roller Coaster of Emotions

The glass is half full.  You can do anything you set your mind too.  Lindsay Lohan can beat this! David Akers can totally hit a 38 yard field goal.  Optimism – it’s a crazy thing and it was tested on Sunday in the Cartelli household, especially when the one thing that brings you happiness is down 17.  On the road.  In the NFC Championship game.

Spoiler Alert:  There will be screaming.  There will be yelling.  There will be dancing.  And there will be joyous and angry tweets!

Without further ado:

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Coming off a week where your team just dominated last years MVP and your newly crowned QB in his first playoff start breaks records, you have to feel a little bit of confidence going into the NFC Championship game.  It also didn’t help that ESPN and NFL Network were all picking your team to win and it shouldn’t be close.  They were even favored by four on the road according to Vegas.  The Georgia Dome was going to be rocking, the Falcons were going to feel disrespected, and they were going to come out swinging.  And that is exactly what happened.

Before I could blink Quintorris Lopez Jones, better known as Julio Jones was dominating.  He was a man amongst boys towering over everyone that even tried to cover him.  It was like if I was in a room with Danny DeVito.  After the first drive the 49ers were down seven.  Not to worry, we have Colin Freakin’ Kaepernick.

My optimism is still at a very high point.

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Well, Colin Freakin’ Kaepernick and the 49ers have a three-and-out.  Not good.  Can the defense get a stop?  No, No they can’t.  A field goal – they are now down 10.  That’s okay, we’re gonna get points right here right? Wrong.  Three-and-out. This feels like the 49ers vs. Seahawks all over again.

The Falcons smell the blood in the water, are the 49ers the innocent surfers deep in the ocean about to get chomped on?  Cue the Jaws Music as Julio Jones makes a ridiculous catch over Tarell Brown and the Falcons are up 17-0.  We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Oh, by the way.  This was all in the first quarter.  Optimism fleeting.

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No, no it wasn’t.

At this point in the Cartelli household, my face is in my palm, my Dad is walking around yelling and not being able to watch and my Mom is playing Spider Solitaire upstairs.  I did not watch 19 weeks of 49er football to be disappointed once again in the NFC Championship game.  Time to will my team to victory.

Optimism at an all-time low –  the 49ers respond with a long touchdown drive capped off my rookie LaMichael James touchdown.  17-7.  Screaming and yelling commence.  I remember saying louder and more confidently, “We’re still in this”.  A stop.  Another touchdown drive lead by Kaepernick and Frank Gore.  17-14.  

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After being punched in the gut and knocked down, we bounce back, By “we”, I mean my Dad and I.  We’re back in this.  Every play matters, we’re screaming, high-fiving, wondering why Troy Aikman sounds like a lesbian, but I digress.  Did the 49ers leave too much time on the clock for Matt Ryan?  They sure did.  After having all the momentum, the 49ers allow a touchdown to put the Falcons up 24-14.  I hate you, Matt Ryan.

It’s halftime.  Usually  my chance to shower, relieve myself in the restroom, eat, cry (when losing), and yell at the television some more.  Not Sunday, I had no appetite, bodily functions weren’t working, I didn’t move, paralyzed by an awful half.  Will this be the last half in the 2012-13 season for the 49ers?

The 49ers start with the ball and for the third straight drive they score a touchdown.  Down 24-21, both teams look unstoppable like underrated Denzel Washington & Chris Pine movie of the same name.  Shootouts are fun unless your team is apart of it then you just want to rip your hair out.

The 49ers needed a stop, a turnover, a something! I was being modest when I asked the #1 defense in the league for a stop and then the greatest thing you can do on Twitter happened.

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Yes, I retweeted myself.  Don’t overuse such a power, it comes with great responsibility.

The 49ers are in great position to tie or take the lead from the Falcons after the interception by Chris Culliver they get into field goal range and it’s up to David Akers.  Akers in 2011 set the record for most field goals made in a season and started off the season with a record-tying 63 yard field goal in Green Bay.  Now, that I’ve said all the good about David.

Here’s the bad:

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Hate is a strong word.  It was said in a time of great passion, but Akers may be on my short list of actual things I hate**. Notice I said things – I know he’s a good person, he did great things last year and has had a great career.  But he is awful, just the worst.  The Super Bowl is going to come down to a field goal and knowing that Akers is on the sideline scares the bejesus out of me.

**Other Things on Short Hate List: Girls that wear bright red lipstick, Adults with baby teeth and huge gums, Facebook (Especially people that like stupid pictures that say “Like this or you want your elderly Grandmother to die a painful death”), Bandwagon fans, and the Kardashians.

After the miss, this game entered into the pantheon of games that will shorter my lifespan by 5-10 years.  Can Matt Ryan score again and put this game on ice?  Not just yet.  He takes his eye off the ball, fumbles, and Aldon Smith recovers it.  New life!  Optimism still alive.  Screaming, yelling, and more high-fives.  This euphoria does not last.  Crabtree runs a slant route, catches it, gets to the half yard line and fumbles.

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 12.35.37 PMIt’s like I just watched Click again.  I can feel the tears building up.  The 49ers cannot lose because another fumble in the NFC Championship game.  For the love of Kyle Williams it cannot happen!

The 49ers get a stop thanks to a timely tackle by Carlos Rogers and they are back in business.  This time no messin around – Gore runs it in for a Touchdown and the 49ers have their first lead of the game, 28-24.

I’m on the edge of my seat now and have really poor posture, but all the back pain will be worth it if the 49ers can hold on.  There’s plenty of time for Matty Ice to comeback and win this game, it’s what he does.

It comes down to a 4th down and 4.  All-Pro LB Navorro Bowman on Roddy White – a mismatch.  There’s some jostling for position, but Bowman knocks it away!

The 49ers win!  I’m jumping up and down, screaming, yelling, fist-pumping like I’m Tiger Woods and I just won the Masters.  My dad doing the same thing.  Mother dearest, dancing away.  Then a sigh of relief, the biggest comeback in NFC Championship history and a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.  It’s been 18 years.

18 years.  18 years since I was watching the 49ers demolish the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl.  18 years since Steve Young to Jerry Rice in that 49-26 victory.  If the 49ers Super Bowl drought was a kid, he could buy cigarettes, fight in a war, and get blacked out drunk in the dorms of his college because you know he would be in a University not a Community College!

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Super Bowl Bound.

– Lance Cartelli

The 49ers Make a Statement + Week 16 Picks

For two and half quarters on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers looked like the best team in the NFL.  For one quarter they looked like every other defense that Tom Brady has carved up in his illustrious career.  And for the final half of the 4th quarter the 49ers did just enough to hang on to defeat the New England Patriots 41-34 in an epic battle to clinch back-to-back playoff appearances for the once storied franchise.

The New England Patriots were arguably the hottest team in the NFL, winning seven straight games, lost for the first time at home in 21 games, and had also won 21 straight in the second half of the season at home.  Snapping all of these ridiculous streaks with a second year quarterback that has started only five games in his career, the 49ers made a statement that the NFC goes through San Francisco.

What we saw on Sunday — in the most entertaining football game of the year — is that neither of these teams will go quietly into the night.  The 49ers came out swinging – the defense was dominant, the offense was explosive, and the 49ers were up 31-3.  The Patriots could’ve packed it in and said good game, but they came storming back with 28 straight points in about a quarter.  Resiliency like this is a sign of a great team.  After tying it up at 31, the 49ers got a great kick return from rookie LaMichael James and on the next play scored a 38 yard touchdown from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, a blooming connection in recent weeks.  Both these teams showed that no matter what kind of adversity they will face in the coming weeks and in the playoffs, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with.  This was a Super Bowl Preview.

But it won’t be easy for either team.  New England is now the #3 seed in the AFC and will probably have to face the Denver Broncos in the second round and potentially the Houston Texans in the AFC Championship.  New England will have to win both games on the road if everything holds form.  The 49ers are currently the second seed in the NFC but the Green Bay Packers are breathing down their neck just 1/2 game behind them thanks to the 49ers tie with the St. Louis Rams.  The 49ers also have to travel to Seattle to play a hot Seahawks team in the toughest place to play in the NFL.  A showdown with the Packers in the second round of the playoffs is looming ahead and depending how the season plays out it could very well be in Lambeau Field.

Either way the playoffs that being in a few weeks have some incredible match-ups potentially in the 2nd round and beyond.

Week 16 Picks:

Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions – The Lions were just beatdown by the awful Arizona Cardinals and this week they have to take on the team with the best record in the NFC, after coming off a 34-0 shutout of the defending champs.  It’s pretty simple.

New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys – We are entering “Tony Romo Destroys His Team in Heartbreaking and Dramatic Fashion” Time, but it is one week too soon.  Cowboys pull out a victory at home against the Saints.

Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers–  The Titans needed Mark Sanchez to be Mark Sanchez just to escape with a victory over the Jets.  I don’t think they will be so lucky against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs – Andrew Luck vs. Brady Quinn.  That’s all that needs to be said.

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins –

San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets – I think the whole world — now that we are still alive — is thankful that this game was flexed out of primetime.  I don’t think Chargers and Jets fans can take another primetime embarrassment.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles – The Redskins are fighting to keep control of the NFC East and are eyeing a showdown next week with the Cowboys.  This is a classic trap game, but the Eagles mailed it in weeks ago.  RGIII and company handle their business.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers – The Bengals and the “Red Rifle” go into Pittsburgh and defeat the Steelers making all Gingers proud.  It really is the end of the world.

St. Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tampa Bay got destroyed last week verse the Saints, but their stout run defense makes Sam Bradford beat them and he can’t.  Bucs win and stay alive.

Oakland Raiders @ Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton has been dominating the past few weeks and is single handedly saving people’s fantasy football teams, but he can’t save his own team.  Thankfully — for him — he’s playing the Raiders.

New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars – I think the Pats are a little angry about last week, Jacksonville I’m sorry.

Minnesotta Vikings @ Houston Texans – The Texans will overload the box to stop the run and dare Christian Ponder to beat them, I like those odds for the Texans.  AP will still go off for a big day.

Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos – The Broncos got a gift last week as the 49ers beat the Patriots and ascended the Broncos into the #2 seed with their sites set on a 1st round bye.  The Browns won’t be able to stop Peyton Manning.

Chicago Bears @ Arizona Cardinals – Let’s see…Arizona Cardinals have the worst QB position in the NFL (Sorry Jets) and they are facing a defense that is based on turnovers.  Bears end their losing streak and remain in the playoff picture.

New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens – The Giants have been playing awful, they can’t rush the passer and Eli Manning isn’t helping either.  This seems about the time the Giants win every single game for the rest of the season. Ugh.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks – The 49ers must go into the toughest place to play in the NFL, Seattle, and defeat a team that has scored 50+ points in back-to-back weeks after their defense was on the field for 95 (!) plays last week.  Oh yeah, it doesn’t look like Justin Smith will play either. The Seahawks might be without their top two corners and need to win to stay alive in the NFC West.  This will be a blood bath but I have to go with the team that just beat the Patriots on the road.

– Lance Cartelli

Jim Harbaugh on Saved by the Bell! The 11 Reasons Why This is the Greatest Video of the 90s

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We live in the generation of the Internet.  YouTube videos, cat memes, hilarious GIFs, and people complaining about trivial things on Facebook and Twitter #firstworldproblems, while taking selfies of themselves on Instagram.  If you’ve been searching the internet for as long as I have you tend to think you’ve seen it all.  That nothing that ever comes up on Reddit will ever surprise you.  Well, think again, I give you the greatest video ever.  Jim Harbaugh on “Saved by the Bell”…No, not the original “Saved by the Bell” with our favorite characters Zach Morris, AC Slater, Lisa Turtle, Screech, Mr. Belding, and the girl from “Striptease”, but the lesser known but still corny as all hell — “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” that gives us mainstays Screech and Mr. Belding.

The video is embedded below.  Start at 14:59 (unless you want to watch the greatness that is this episode in full) and see the most amazing cameo of cheesy 90s television of ALL-TIME!

  1. [14:59] Jim Harbaugh IS Screech’s Cousin! and Screech even says they look “like twins”.  I don’t know much about Jim other than that I have a huge man crush on him and he’s one of the greatest coaches in the league, but knowing that he is at least in “Saved by the Bell” Family with Screech is like finding out your super hot girlfriend loves watching you play video games and thinks that watching SportsCenter is a good way to spend a Tuesday night. 
  2. [15:24] Jim Harbaughs intro.  He walks into the after-school hangout “The Max”, which makes me incredibly jealous.  Every place I’ve gone to school hasn’t had a super cool hangout like “The Max” where everyone goes to have a burger and a soda.  If this was real life these kids would be in the parking lot of their High School smoking weed or trying to get their older sibling to buy them a six pack of Smirnoff Ice.
  3. [15:26]  Huge applause for Jim Harbaugh (Obviously, even I’m giving him a standing ovation).  The one thing that sticks out to me is that in the almost two years that Harbaugh has been Head Coach of the 49ers he’s worn one thing. Seeing Harbaugh in anything other than his sideline apparel is like seing a cartoon character not wear the same outfit they always wear in every single show.
  4. [15:43] Harbaugh drops the killer line, “Screech is that you?  I couldn’t recognize you over all those muscles”.  An absolute classic and as you can tell from previous commercials, Harbaugh’s comedic timing is immaculate.
  5. [15:56] Harbaugh has heard of this High School football player who looks like Soulja Boy!  This has to be the highlight of this kids life especially after he did his football dance at the 2-yard line.
  6. [16:01] Jim Harbaugh the Coach comes out and boy is it a good look for him.  He eloquently says, “You know, people think I’m a hero because I can throw a football”.  No Jim, YOU ARE a hero because you resurrected Alex Smith’s career and brought this team out of a 9-year depression, but I digress.
  7. [16:32]  Screech has the audacity to pull a “Jim Harbaugh” and slap Jim on the back.  Harbaugh may not have liked it, but he did not break the 4th wall (The Golden Rule of Acting – Someone get this man an Oscar or at least a Daytime Emmy!).
  8. [16:52] Boom! Jim Harbaugh is absolutely killing it.  Two classic lines in one appearance?  He may have missed his calling after weird guy does an awful cheer, Harbaugh says, “Cheerleading sure has changed since my day”.
  9. [18:56] Harbaugh triumphantly returns to save the day, this time wearing a brown blazer.  It’s so dapper, I want to be just like him.
  10. [19:15] Jim brings it home, giving us not only comedy from earlier, but a little bit of emotion to really drive home his message.  “Being a hero isn’t about what you do out there on the field,” he says. “It’s about who you are in here [heart]. It’s about helping your friends, your school and your community.”  I have no doubt in my mind that Jim came up with his own lines, I’m sure he could even make the great speech from “Any Given Sunday” even better. 
  11. [19:55]  I wouldn’t say Jim is a guy that holds grudges, but he definitely forgives but does not forget.  He gives Screech the “Handshake” and slaps him on the back ala San Francisco vs. Detroit.  See Schwartz he does it to everyone, stop overreacting!

I’ve learned so much from this timeless video and I hope you have to.  First off, Jim Harbaugh is a phenomenal actor that not only has comedic timing but really brings his message home.  He also is just an aggressive handshaker and back-patter and that if you ever come in contact with him (May God allow this to happen to every single one of you) just be prepared.  Finally, that no matter how long the Internet lasts — probably until the “Matrix” or “Terminator” happens — it just keeps on giving.

– Lance Cartelli

Who Should the 49ers Start at Quarterback?

Who Would You Start?

We have been hearing it all week – “Who will be the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers?”, “Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?”, “Is there a quarterback controversy in San Francisco?”, “SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THE 49ers?” — Okay, Maybe not that far, but still – that is the buzz around the league and the talk of the town on ESPN and NFL Network.  It sure is a nice problem to have for Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers: Two starting quarterbacks that are playing lights out and the one that just got “benched” due to medical issues took that team to the NFC Championship last year and was an overtime away from advancing to the Super Bowl. The solution to the biggest question in San Francisco is actually really easy to answer.

There is no quarterback controversy.  The Colin Kaepernick era has begun in Northern California.

Yes, there is an argument for both quarterbacks.  Really sound arguments for both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

If you’re an old school guy, like Trent Dilfer who is against the switch at QB, then your argument is: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Alex Smith is 20-5-1 in his last 26 games as a starter under Jim Harbaugh.  He completed 70% of his passes this year (leads the league), he’s third in the NFL in passer rating, and led this team to the #2 seed in the NFC.  Smith knows the offense, doesn’t make mistakes, and will rely on his running game and defense to stay in games and make plays when they are needed to be made (New Orleans).

With Alex Smith, the 49ers floor is higher, but the ceiling is also lower.  For Harbaugh to make this move he realized that the Alex Smith 49ers have reached that ceiling.  Could they win the Super Bowl with Alex as the QB?  Possibly.  But a lot would have to go right for that to happen.  Harbaugh also sees the New York Giants — the 49ers Kryptonite – – looming for a potential rematch in the playoffs.

Now for the Kaepernick enthusiasts out there  — Captain Kap of the Starship 49ers — he’s a playmaker that offers unreal athleticism that allows him to avoid sacks and run the ball, a gunslinger mentality to throw deep and take chances that Alex just doesn’t take, and the two things that have surprised me the most: his unreal accuracy and knowledge of the offense.  Just a couple months ago, during the Preseason Kaepernick looked improved, but nowhere near where he is today.  Harbaugh may have resurrected the career of Alex Smith, but he also traded up in the 2nd round last year to take Kaepernick.  Never underestimate a handpicked player by a Head Coach.  This is his guy.  His floor is lower than Alex Smith’s, but his ceiling is through the roof.  Will there be growing pains?  Most likely.  Does he offer the 49ers the best chance to win?  Yes.  Once again, the Giants are lurking out there, and Kaepernick brings a new dynamic to this offense that could lead this team past their biggest enemy.

In the NFC Championship game last year against the Giants most people remember Kyle Williams two fumbles, but they do not remember that the only offense the 49ers had was from Frank Gore and Vernon Davis.  The wide receivers caught one pass for three yards, and Alex did not play well.  In the back of Harbaugh’s mind he knows that he needed more big plays out of this offense, and Kaepernick is a playmaker.

For as much as Alex Smith has resurrected his career as “The Phoenix” of the 49ers, he still has history against him.  Those first six years, with six different offensive coordinators, when San Francisco were the cellar dwellers of the NFC.  In the NFL, perception is reality and the perception is that Alex, for as good as he has become, just cannot overcome certain physical traits that limit him and that Kaepernick happens to possess.

Harbaugh said that he will announce his starter against the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, he will come up with some kind of saying where they will have two starters because Alex Smith is still the starting QB, but Kaepernick is not a backup.  It takes a lot of, ahem, fortitude for Harbaugh to make such a drastic change, but he has all the confidence in the world with this quarterback, this coaching staff, and this team.  Behind the sayings, the smoke-and-mirrors, there is the future and present of the 49ers.  The Colin Kaepernick era.

– Lance Cartelli.

What Happens if Kaepernick, 49ers Plays Well? LIKE REALLY WELL?

He was selected in the 2nd round (36th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers just a year ago, thought to be the next starting quarterback for the Niners coming off a 6-10 season with a new Head Coach in place who wanted his own guy.  But then something happened – Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith and the 49ers kept winning.  They were the surprise team in 2011, going 13-3 and were an overtime away from advancing to the Super Bowl.  There was always the question creeping around the corner though, when will it be Colin Kaepernick’s time?  Well that time is now.

Kaepernick has been getting increasing playing time this year, seeing his most extensive time in games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and last week against the St. Louis Rams, when he took over for concussed Alex Smith, and Kaepernick looked good.  He brought his team back from a deficit to take the lead and eventually tie.  But the question is, what if Kaepernick looks good? Like REALLY GOOD, in his first start?

Alex Smith is currently having his best season ever.  He ranks third in the NFL in passer rating and yard per pass, but (as designed by the offense) he is only 29th in passing yards.  The 49ers are a grind it out, run the ball, let the defense win you games kind of offense and Smith isn’t asked to do too much.  But an offense ran by a player like Colin Kaepernick could potentially take this offense to a whole new level.  He’s got a Laser Rocket Arm, and runs in the 4.4’s.  We’ve seen glimpses while he’s in.

Now tonight, Kaepernick gets his first start of his career, and it’s against arguably the best defense in the NFL, who cause turnovers at an alarming rate.  No doubt that Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Brian Urlacher and company are licking their chops to force Kaepernick into uncomfortable situations where they can take advantage of his lack of experience and cause turnovers to win this game.

But what if he wins? If Kaepernick goes for 300 yards, 3 TDs, and say 70 yards rushing (highly doubtful)?  What happens when Alex Smith is healthy?  It could be a full on quarterback controversy with a team that is leading their division, and could potentially own the #2 spot in the highly competitive NFC.

My thinking is that Jim Harbaugh is linked to Alex Smith at least until the end of the year.  Smith newly signed a 3-year deal with the 49ers, but they can cut their losses at the end of the year.  Alex Smith gives the 49ers their best chance of winning now.  He’s safe, efficient, trusts his defense, and Harbaugh believes that can win this team a Championship.  But if Kaepernick absolutely kills it then he may have no choice but to go with the ‘hot hand’ and the potential.

This is the biggest game of the year for the 49ers that will no doubt have huge implications on the NFC playoff picture.  With a win the 49ers own the #2 spot in the NFC, with a loss they fall back to #4 and the Seattle Seahawks lurking right behind them, and they Niners still have to travel to Seattle in a couple weeks.  A huge game for the 49ers that could potentially mean a first-round bye or a lot harder road in the NFC.  Will Colin Kaepernick reach his potential and grab the starting job away from Alex Smith tonight?  We will see on Monday Night Football.

49ers Tie? What Does That Even Mean? How Am I Supposed to Feel?

The San Francisco 49ers tied the St. Louis Rams 24-24 on Sunday for the first tie in the NFL since the Donovan McNabb game in 2008 (and yes, McNabb games can end in a tie). But the question is, how are you supposed to feel after a tie?  If you’re a Rams fan — is it a moral victory?  For 49ers fans — a loss that just doesn’t show up in the loss column, but something that makes your win/loss record look funny?  Are we supposed to feel happy? Sad? Indifferent?  Has Football finally converted to Soccer?** Do you feel like you just kissed your Sister? (I’m an only child, so I do not know that feel bro) For the 49ers, this game has longstanding repercussions and silver linings that will go beyond this game and could determine how far this team goes in the Playoffs.

**I even googled what an ‘aggregate” is and I still don’t get it…seriously Soccer how are you a sport?

I always want the bad news first. so let’s start there:

  • The Defense – The 49ers are supposed to have the best defense in the NFL.  A defense that imposes their will, stops the run, and limits the big play.  None of that happened on Sunday.  The Rams ran all over the 49ers with Steven Jackson running for over 100 yards, the 49ers gave up the big play as well.  On the first drive, they uncharacteristically gave up a 36 yard Touchdown to Brian Quick and almost gave up a game altering 80 yard pass play to Danny Amendola that got called back due to an illegal formation penalty.  In all the 49ers losses the defense has not been able to stop the run which is their bread and butter.
  • Home-Field Advantage.  Well Niner fans you don’t have to worry about head-to-head tiebreakers anymore.  With the tie, the 49ers now have to finish 1/2 game better than the Seahawks in the NFC West to win, and a 1/2 game better than the Bears, Falcons, Packers, Giants to insure a first round bye in the Playoffs.  A win on Sunday and a win on Monday versus the Chicago Bears would’ve been huge for home-field for the 49ers.

Now the Silver Linings for the 49ers:

  • Colin Kaepernick – The 49ers backup Quarterback saw his first extensive playing time since being drafted in the 2nd round last year.  He came into the game down by seven, and led this team to eventually take the lead.  After starting slow, Kaepernick finished the game 11/17 for 119 yards passing and 66 yards rushing with a touchdown.  Kaepernick takes a lot more chances than Alex Smith and clearly has the more talented arm, but he does not have the grasp of the offense like Smith.  Kaepernick will eventually be the starting Quarterback for this team, and Sunday’s game was encouraging for a team that may need him sooner rather than later.
  • Technically the 49ers didn’t lose.  San Francisco played one of their three worst games of the year, and the worst first quarter of the season coming off their bye week, but they didn’t get a loss that would’ve hurt their chances at winning the NFC West and getting home-field even more than a tie.  In a hard fought NFC West game against a rival, the Niners were down two touchdowns and came back despite playing terrible defense and having the backup Quarterback in, I will take that.  Plus if you have any friends that are fans of other teams you can always drop the line, “Technically we didn’t lose, so shut up!”.

Now that I’ve helped you handle that weird feeling of a tie, there has to be an alternative for the NFL to incorporate that ends the horrible tradition of teams making their records look weird, and having a decisive winner every week.

In a sport that is so under the microscope with injuries, there is absolutely no way that, if a game ends after five quarters you cannot play endlessly 6+ quarters, it just doesn’t make sense especially when you play the following week. So what are some alternatives?

  • 40 yard dash.  A 40 yard dash — everyone’s favorite event at the NFL Combine, especially if you’re a fanboy of those things like yours truly, but not from your fastest player, but from an offensive linemen that weights over 300 pounds?  What do you think? No, it’s entertaining (who doesn’t love watching fatties run?), but would never work.
  • Skills Competition.  A skills competition with the Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs and defensive skill players would be a fun alternative, but we couldn’t have that determine a game, especially if it’s make or break for the Playoffs.
  • Penalty Kicks.  If we are gonna have a game end in a tie, and kickers miss field goals for game winners like Sunday, why not have the kickers do Penalty Kicks like in real Soccer?  It could happen…

Although the San Francisco 49ers versus the St. Louis Rams game was entertaining, yet ultimately disappointing, I hope I helped you deal with your  latest confusion of feelings, since you were an adolescent, on how to feel after a tie game.  Whether you’re happy the 49ers didn’t lose, pissed off they didn’t cover the spread (I know I am!), or that it feels like you kissed your Sister, just know there is always next Monday in a huge game against the Bears, we can only hope there is a decisive winner in that game.

– Lance Cartelli

The Worst Loss of the Week

We all experience it.  That bitter feeling of defeat, that punch in the gut where your whole week is ruined because something that you have been looking forward to for awhile (for me, its been 9 months in the making) is taken from you and ruined.  And even worse, you know what’s coming — the Facebook posts, the Twitter tweets, the text messages, the Snapchat’s of people laughing at you, and if people still use it — the phone calls of people giving you shit because your beloved team lost.

So I’m here — mainly because I needed to blog and Kavon wanted me to write something — to rank the worst defeats of the week.  So, if one of your teams lost in dramatic fashion, a blow out, or your favorite player got hurt, then get all your sharp objects away from you because we are all on suicide watch.

Warning:  If you are in a good mood, no that’s too happy, if you are in a mediocre mood don’t read this you will become extremely depressed and may cut your wrists and black your eyes while listening to the Dashboard Confessionals.

The Candidates: 

  • The San Francisco 49ers blow out loss to the New York Giants – Well, we might as well start with my number one reason for depression of the week.  It started on a cold January afternoon (actually it was like 65 degrees in San Diego, suck it non-Californians), but the 49ers were in position to advance to their first Super Bowl since defeating the San Diego “Super” Chargers in 1995 and all did not exactly go well.  In case you’ve been living in a cave or have been so inebriated for 9 months then you probably know that the 49ers lost that game because of a couple fumbles here and there and an inept offense.  Okay, I’m officially teary eyed…must power through.  Well, the 49ers had a chance for a little bit of revenge on Sunday.  They had the defending Super Bowl Champions – who the Niners thought had their championship – in their home stadium again and laid a complete egg.  Dominated 26-3, the 49ers threw three interceptions, recorded zero sacks and got one (!) hit on Eli “Mouth Breather” Manning and didn’t even reach the Red Zone.  It felt like I was watching a Cleveland Browns game.  Okay, now I’ve gone from teary eyed to weeping like I’m watching Click or Air Bud (Fun Fact: those are the only two movies I’ve openly cried too).  Level of Depression: Getting drunk and bashing your head while yelling “Oops” like you’re on Real World.  (PS: RIP to that guy in previous video).
  • The New York Yankees and Derek Jeter – Not only did the New York Yankees lose the first two games of the ALCS at home, they lost Mr. Yankee Derek “How Could You End it With Minka Kelly” Jeter to a broken ankle.  But don’t worry Yankee fans you still have Alex Rodriguez.  Wait…he’s not on the juice anymore and 37 years old and strikes out almost every time a pitcher throws him a pitch?  Well, shit.  They can still win tonight though, right?!  Oh…Justin Verlander is pitching?  Shoot…I’m trying to find a silver lining…I got nothing.  Level of Depression: Find someone to feed you popcorn because popcorn makes everyone feel better! Right A-Rod? 
  • How Bout ‘Dem Cowboys – Ah, I’ve totally forgotten the first bullet point and I have reached a happy medium after the Cowboys loss (Sorry Levi).  The Cowboys ran the ball down the throats of the Baltimore Ravens, managed to injure Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb for the rest of the year and injured Haloti Ngata for the remainder of their game and still couldn’t pull off the win.  Dez Bryant had arguably the best game of his career – something Cowboy fans have been waiting for since he was drafted – but with every high their is a low, and that low is a Dez Bryant dropped two point conversion.  Down two, the Cowboys recovered an onside kick, got a pass interference call, but wait, here comes that low, terrible clock management from Head Coach Jason Garrett set up the Cowboys for a long field goal that Dan Bailey missed wide left.  But hey, at least they caught the snap! Level of Depression:  Actually, I don’t know how depressed Cowboy fans are, they have to be used to this, right?
  • The San Diego “Super” Chargers – Okay, now I’m completely over that first bullet point, what 49er loss?  I had to save the best – or worst, depending how you look at it – for last.  The Chargers dominated the first half 24-0, mainly because the Broncos thought the football like it was Hulk Hogan’s disgusting Sex Tape.  After that debacle, the Philip Rivers decided to revert to 2011-Philip Rivers where he thought being on offense was a dumb idea and he liked giving it away.  The Broncos stormed back to score 35 unanswered to defeat the Chargers 35-24.  The Chargers became the first team in NFL history to be up by 24 points at the half only to lose by double digits.  Ouch.  The loss inspired some great Facebook and Twitter posts along with the hashtag – #FireNorv (the only one suitable for your eyes).  All is not bad Charger fans, they are tied for first in the AFC Worst West at 3-3.  Level of Depression:  From what I read on social networks, it is not depression that San Diegites? San Diegans? are suffering from it’s more rage, so Norv and Philip, if you’re reading this lock your million dollar homes, there is a mob coming for you.  I think Rivers has enough kids to build a tiny army though.

– Lance Cartelli

Week 6 NFL Power Rankings: West Coast the Best Coast?

Where Does Your Team Rank?

Remember those cute little puns about the NFC West this past decade or so?  The NFC Worst?  Not anymore.  The NFC West is now the NFC Best.  Every single team in the NFC West is above .500 in the division.  Yes, the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals, and 49ers are all ABOVE .500, no other division boasts that.

At the top of the division is one of the best teams in the NFL, the 49ers.  Against the Buffalo Bills, the 49ers racked up 300+ yards passing AND rushing in a 45-3 shellacking.  Read that sentence again.  An incredible feat that has never happened, EVER in the NFL.  In a league that has already transformed into a spread offense, pass happy league, the 49ers run the ball at an amazing clip of 6.1 yards per carry through five games, even when teams know what is coming they cannot stop it.  Since San Francisco lost to the surprising Minnesota Vikings, the 49ers had a wake up call, they have outscored their past two opponents 79-3.  And it hasn’t even felt that close.  Alex Smith leads the NFL in passer rating, yes, THAT Alex Smith and he had his first ever win throwing for 300+ yards and three touchdown passes.

The rest of the division possesses potential top-10 defenses with a lackluster passing game.  The Arizona Cardinals may have the worst offensive line in the NFL, with one of the worst quarterbacks under pressure, Kevin Kolb.  Now with the loss of both starting running backs Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells, the run game will be even less effective for the Cardinals.  But they exhibit an elite defense at all three levels that will keep them in the game and with Patrick Peterson, the most dynamic return man in the game, returning punts and kicks, the Cardinals will compete for a playoff spot.  The Seattle Seahawks also exhibit a great defense that has been lifted to potential greatness with first round pick Bruce Irvin as the bookend pass rusher opposite of Chris Clemons.  The difference between them and the Cardinals is they can actually run the ball.  Marshawn Lynch is a beast and Robert Turbin has potential to be one of the better back-up running backs in the NFL.  The Seahawks weakness is that they lack any kind of passing attack.  Russell Wilson has been a nice story, but he’s a rookie and is holding back the Seahawks, we may see Matt Flynn soon.  Tied for third place with the Seahawks is the St. Louis Rams.  The Rams are building in the right direction, but lack any kind of explosiveness from their skilled positions on offense.  The Rams with multiple early round picks in the coming years will be a force to be reckoned with as long as Sam Bradford transforms from injury riddled “Captain Checkdown” to a more explosive passer.

Week 6 NFL Power Rankings:

1. Houston Texans (5-0) – One of the most well rounded teams, but in a very easy division and without a signature win, they are first (for now).

2. Atlanta Falcons (5-0) – The Falcons pass game has been incredible and the defensive secondary has really improved, but when they need to run it can you really trust Michael “Where’s My Cheeseburger” Turner?

3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1) – The most balanced offense in the NFL. The offense is catching up to its defense, a loss the Vikes might have been a blessing in disguise.

4. Minnesota Vikings (4-1) – The surprise team in the NFL.  Christian Ponder has developed into a good quarterback who doesn’t make mistakes, and Percy Harvin is turning into an MVP candidate. My Fantasy team thanks you.

5. New England Patriots (3-2) – Despite being 3-2, the Pats have a solid run game and defense that this team has lacked the past few years. Thankfully Tom Brady’s nose is still intact.

6. Baltimore Ravens (4-1) – The defense isn’t the same this year, and Flacco is hit or miss, but they are still a top-3 team in the weak AFC.

7. Chicago Bears (4-1) – Right now, the best defense in the NFL and they possess the best cornerback tandem as well.  With the Packers slipping up, can they usurp them?

8. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) – A great defense, but Kevin Kolb and a terrible offensive line scare me.  I see a drop off eventually.

9. New York Giants (3-2) – The Giants depth at receiver and running back has been huge for them to stay above water while dealing with the injury bug.  A big test against the 49ers this week in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) – The Eagles have won every game by two points or less and Mike Vick seems to be afraid of the ball, they will have to win inside their division to make the playoffs.

11. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) – Should be 2-3, and the worst passing offense in the NFL, the Seahawks must rely on their defense, special teams, and running game to win.

12. San Diego Chargers (3-2) – The Chargers lead the AFC West, but their three wins are against the Raiders, Titans, and the Chiefs.  McKayla is not impressed.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) – AJ Green has been the best receiver in the NFL and they have the best Ginger QB in the NFL, so they have that going for them.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Big Ben has been really good with one of the best receiver corps in the NFL, but another injury to Troy Polamalu spells trouble for this aging defense.

15. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) – Andrew Luck has not need any luck, he’s been very impressive and his first signature win against the Packers on Sunday proves it.  They also have the “I’m Winning for My Coach with Leukemia, You Can’t Beat Us” going for them and that’s scary.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – The Cowboys are tied for the least amount of points in the NFL, the offensive line has been a disaster, but the Defense is much improved.  Can Romo save the day?

17. St. Louis Rams (3-2) – The Rams did the 49ers a favor by beating the Cardinals, but their lack of offense is not good, especially with Danny Amendola out for an extended amount of time.

18. Green Bay Packers (2-3) – Yikes.  This was a team that was supposed to be angry after a loss to the Giants in the playoffs, now they are struggling just to get back there.  Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy don’t even look at each other…#Drama?

19. Denver Broncos (2-3) – The Broncos have had a murderous row of a schedule, but they will battle the San Diego Chargers for first place in the AFC West next week, hopefully I’ll be able to watch it? #Blackout

20. Miami Dolphins (2-3) – Ryan Tannehill has looked just as good as Luck and RG3 and has less weapons, the Dolphins defense has also been very good.  They are clearly the second best team in the AFC East.

21. New Orleans Saints (1-4) – The Saints finally got their first victory of the season.  All they needed was a buncha calls from the officials, and their exiled coach to be there for support.  Good luck the rest of the way Saints!

22. Washington Redskins (2-3) – The way RG3 plays you can’t expect him to last the season.  Also, the Redskins couldn’t cover a dead fly or kick a field goal for their lives.  Yet they are only a game out of first in the East.

23. Oakland Raiders (1-3) – The Raiders offense is improving with Carson Palmer and a bye week will help them with their injuries, but their defense still leaves a lot be desired.  They are not on the same tier as the Broncos or Chargers in the AFC West.

24. Detroit Lions (1-3) – The Lions had a great opportunity to take the next step and to win the NFC North, yet they have taken a step back and have no running game or secondary.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – The Bucs are playing (a lot harder) for their new coach, even until the end of the game.  Too soon Giants?  But they still lack talent at some major positions.

26. New York Jets (2-3) – The Jets bounced back with a stronger performance on Monday against the best team in the NFL, but when your starting skilled players are Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schillens, a Tight End named Cumberland, and Shonn Greene then it’s not all Mark Sanchez fault. But still I WANT TEBOW!!!!

27. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Cam Newton has hit the Sophomore Slump, but their defense is so bad they are years away.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) – I hurt my head when I was facepalming myself watching them play the game of Football, I could hear the fans cheering my injury all the way from Kansas City.

29. Buffalo Bills (2-3) – Easily the worst defense in the NFL.  Spending 100+ millions of dollars on your defense didn’t really seem to work out, they’re like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

30. Tennessee Titans (1-4) – CJ0K you are dead to me!

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) – Well looks like the Blaine “My Hair is Perfect” Gabbert era is quickly coming to an end.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-5) – Well, Cleveland you’re used to this, right?

2012 San Francisco 49ers Season Outlook

Can Alex Smith and the 49ers Improve on an Impressive 2011?

The San Francisco 49ers surprised everyone, including the ‘experts’, with their rise to the top of the NFC West, 13-3 regular season record and #2 spot in the NFC, epic victory over the New Orleans Saints, and ultimately a devastating loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champions the New York Giants.

Can a team that had the second best record in the NFC, had the #1 run defense that allowed a shade over 77 yards per game and gave up only 3 rushing touchdowns (the least amount since the NFL went to 16 games) and had a +28 turnover differential get better?

The answer…Yes.* But how?

*For those that know me, know that I have this weird, obsessive, undying love for the 49ers, but, if you understand that, then you know I’m very grounded with my homersexuality for them, so don’t take this with a grain of salt…or do, I don’t really care, just keep reading.

The one glaring weakness the 49ers had all year –which directly lead to the loss to the Giants — was the 3rd down and red-zone efficiency, or lack thereof.  The 49ers were terrible all year and that was the reason they lost, not Kyle Williams two fumbles, although that didn’t help.  The 49ers starting wide receivers against the Giants were Michael Crabtree (1 catch, 3 yards), Kyle Williams (0 catches), Brett Swain (0 catches).  I know math isn’t everyones strong point so let me add that up for you, the starting wide receivers for the 49ers — the creators of the West Coast Offense — had 1 catch for 3 yards…I’ll repeat that ONE CATCH FOR THREE YARDS! (and they still should’ve won).

How did the Niners rectify this?  They went out in free agency to sign Randy Moss, probably the most physically gifted wide receiver of all-time, to a low-risk high-reward non-guaranteed contract.  Are the 49ers getting the Moss of the New England Patriot days? Hell no.  But if they can get a guy that can still run, and take the top off a defense, even if he’s just a decoy — which means you can’t double team Vernon Davis or put an extra man in the box to stop Frank Gore — then he’ll be a contributor.  Next, the 49ers signed Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, another speed guy, to be the #3 receiver on a rebuilt wide receiver corp and the 49ers used their 1st round pick on AJ Jenkins…seeing a theme here?

The 49ers lacked speed at almost every skill position on offense so they signed two speed wide receivers to compete for starting position, drafted a speedy receiver of the future. Oh, and they drafted LaMichael James to be their Darren Sproles of the offense with the second round pick. The 49ers identified their one glaring weakness and tried to make it a strength.

Let’s not forget this was a team that, after a lengthy lockout last year, hired a new Head Coach, installed a new offense and defense, and had about two weeks to do that, with much maligned Alex Smith as their starting quarterback.  I thought going 6-10 would’ve been fanfreakingtastic (I love being wrong sometimes).

But what bout the strength of the team?  The Defense.  The 49ers statistically had a Top-3 Defense, but realistically they were the best defense in the NFL. The 49ers have the best front-7 in the league, and are returning all 11 starters on defense, had the best run defense in the NFL (teams just stopped running on them), and had a league high +28 turnover differential.  Aldon Smith, the phenomenal rookie, will take over at OLB this year for Parys Haralson.  Smith recorded 14.0 sacks last year – one sack shy of breaking the rookie sack record — and he only played 48% (!) of the snaps last year.  Math lesson #2 – if he played double that he would’ve had 28.0 sacks last year (clearly not realistic, but still).  The resigning of the OLB on the opposite side of Smith, Ahmad Brooks, the best corner on the team, Carlos Rodgers, and franchising Dashon Goldson, solidified the best defense in the NFL for at least one more year.

Now the 49ers may not go 13-3 or better this year, the schedule is pretty ridiculous, they face the top six passing teams in the NFL, but this team should be better and are clearly a Super Bowl contender.

*I even went this whole blog post without questioning 49ers QB Alex Smith, just shows what a good coach can do for someone.

Here is my prediction for the San Francisco 49ers record:

1: @ Green Bay Packers – L

2. Detroit Lions – W

3. @ Minnesota Vikings – W

4. @ New York Jets – W

5. Buffalo Bills – W

6. New York Giants – L

7. Seattle Seahawks – W

8. @ Arizona Cardinals – W

9. Bye

10. St. Louis Rams – W

11. Chicago Bears – W

12. @ New Orleans Saints – L

13. @ St. Louis Rams – W

14. Miami Dolphins – W

15. @ New England Patriots – L

16. @ Seattle Seahawks – L

17. Arizona Cardinals – W

11 – 5. NFC West #1.

What do you guys think?

-Lance Cartelli

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