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Breakout candidates for 2020 – Defense edition


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I started this exercise of choosing second- and third-year players in the NFL I expect to take the next step in their development, based on being in a better situation due schematic changes, the respective team not re-signing certain veterans and allowing their young guys to play a bigger role or just my evaluation of them coming out of college.
Once again, my criteria was – they were not allowed to have a Pro Bowl so far, reached a major statistical milestone (1000 yard season, double-digit sacks, etc.) or are just looked at generally as one of the better players at their position already. I didn’t include guys that made my list already last year (Kemoko Turay, Justin Reid, etc.) or haven’t seen the field at all yet (Jonah Williams, Hakeem Butler, etc.). Across my two articles on these breakout players, you will only find one top ten pick, since I believe those are obvious choices anyway, if those guys just haven’t been healthy or whatever it may be.
In this version, we are looking at eight more defensive players ready to break out in 2020 after talking about offense last week already:


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Ifeadi Odenigbo

When I did these write-ups, I actually realized later on that Odenigbo was originally drafted in 2017 in the seventh round by the Vikings, but he only made the practice squad that year and was later claimed and waived by the Cardinals and Browns respectively. So since he finally made an active roster in 2018 and that’s when he finally saw the field, I thought he still qualifies. With all those guys Minnesota has had on the D-line in recent years, it was a challenge for Odenigbo to get their coaches to believe in him, having only played in one game for Arizona before last season. However, he was on the field more and more towards the end of this past year and with little investment in the draft into the front, the Vikings are betting on him to continue to develop, similar to what happened with Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter. Odenigbo recorded seven sacks and tackles for loss respectively, while adding another 18 pressures to the mix. He also forced a fumble and returned another one for a long touchdown against the Chargers, while he was actually called down on another scoop-and-score, where he originally got the trifecta (strip sack, fumble recovery and return TD). That is much more impressive putting it into context, as he played just a third of the defensive snaps. Now with Everson Griffen off the roster (unless he somehow decides to re-sign with the Vikes, Odenigbo is almost a shoe-in for that second defensive end spot in the starting lineup.
Number 95 was mostly used in passing situations, especially early on, as three quarters of the snaps he played came on pass-rushing downs, and Mike Zimmer used his inside-out flexibility on different sub-packages. Odenigbo was asked to line up anywhere from pretty much 2i in sort of a track stance pointed inside to a wide nine alignment. His favorite (and best) move at this point is the dip and rip, but he also flashes a nice up-and-under combined with a high swim move. However, he also has a lot of power behind those pads, as he set up one of his teammates as the initial slanter versus Detroit and just flattened a guy I talked about in my offensive edition of this breakdown last week already in Frank Ragnow. In addition to that, I think the Vikings DE already shows good timing and execution on twists, freeing himself up by using teammates appropriately. As he seems to be transitioning to a starting role, the biggest question now is – How much improvement can he show as a run-defender? He displays very good pursuit coming unblocked from the backside, but at the point of attack he has some issues holding his ground at times, due to not always playing half the man and getting drawn in and allowing cutback lanes. In the pass game, Odenigbo needs to work on being more successful on secondary maneuvers and not give away opportunities if that initial rush stalls.


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Marcus Davenport

Leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, Bradley Chubb was considered the clear-cut number one edge rusher coming out of N.C. State and after him most people said there was a huge drop-off. The Saints however shocked everybody by trading up to the 14th overall pick – not for a quarterback, but rather an outside linebacker from UTSA. While there isn’t a lot of buzz around Davenport entering year three of his pro career, I can promise that New Orleans did not spend their 2018 and ’19 first-round picks on a player they didn’t believe in. I was very surprised at the time of selection, because I thought they were looking for a more immediate-impact type of player with Drew Brees arriving in his 40s and the team coming off a 13-3 record, but there was never any question about the talent this kid presented. Davenport has missed three games in each of his first two years in the league and “only” put up 10.5 sacks, but he went from 28 QB pressures as a rookie to 50 last season. He might have been even better against the run, helping the Saints finish as the fourth-best rush defense at 91.3 yards allowed per game. So this is kind of a case for the improvement he has already made and I think the coaches in New Orleans already looked at 2019 as his breakout season, but among more casual fans, I believe Davenport will move his name into more of the conversation as one of the better young edge rushers this year.
I personally had the young phenom as my 13th overall prospect coming out of San Antonio. When you put on his tape in college, that combination of explosiveness, power and closing burst really stood out. He already flashed the ability to string his hand together to dominate as a pass-rusher, but he needed to do it more consistently, and he showed the shock in his hands to own the point of attack, if he played with better extension. Those to me were certainly coachable areas and with the situation he was in, I thought he could produce in year two or three. Well, we have arrived at his third season and I believe he is ready to roll. I don’t think there’s much to critique as a run-defender about Davenport. He may still be a tick late recognizing some schemes, but when he extends those arms and drops the anchor, you won’t see much movement and he just owns tight-ends. In the pass game, I do believe he needs to broaden his repertoire a little and rush under a little more control, but he has clearly shown signs of becoming a difference-maker in that area as well. He has burst to win around the edge if he times his swipes up correctly, but also the immense power to bull-rush big offensive tackles back right into the quarterback’s lap. If he just learns to convert speed to power a little better and works on finishing that under-and-under he flashes with a follow-through chop, he could be scary. With third-round pick Zack Baun probably rushing outside on sub-packages, it will enable the Saints to move this guy and Cam Jordan more inside and create mismatches that way.


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Jeffery Simmons

Simmons was the 19th overall pick for Tennessee last year. In his debut game he had three pressures on eleven pass-rushing snaps. The rest of the season wasn’t as promising, but considering I didn’t expect him to suit up at all in 2019 after tearing his ACL in pre-draft workouts, the fact he did collect valuable on-field experience, playing less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps just once from that point on, only helps him more. Purely based off his tape, I had Simmons as my IDL3, behind only Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver (both top five prospects for me) and ahead of the two Clemson standouts (Christian Wilkins and Dexter Williams). I even said without the injury he would have been at least around the top ten when I put out my big board a few days ahead of last year’s draft. In limited playing time as a rookie, he recorded 32 tackles, four of them for loss and two sacks. Simmons was an immovable object at Mississippi State and looked to be the same among grown men. I went back and watched the Raiders game in week 14, who have some maulers in the run game and you saw guys almost bounce off the rookie as if he was a brick wall. More importantly, they doubled him on pretty much every single snap he was on the field, probably because of what they had already seen on tape.
This guy has some shock in his hands, the ability to look through the blocker on zone-runs and then get back to the gap behind him as the running back decides to cut up into it. He didn’t look as mobile working his way down the line laterally as I thought he did in college and he will have to do a better job working across the face of some blockers, rather than allowing them to wall him off at times. You see him just be a split-second late of actually stopping the ball-carrier rather than allowing him to stumble forward or barely miss altogether. If he gets back to his collegiate form, he can be an elite run-stopper. Having him out there will allow the Titans to run primarily sub-packages with Harold Landry and now Vic Beasley on the edges. The area he still needs to prove himself at is getting after the quarterback. Simmons is very straight-forward as a pass-rusher and didn’t show a lot of finesse to win in that area, getting stuck with stalemates for the most part if he couldn’t drive his guy backwards initially. He flashed a few quick wins on reps with the arm-over, but he has to get off the ball with more of a plan. I believe his ability to shoot upfield, the unbelievable power and just that disruptive style of play will show up big time in his first year at full strength.


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Ed Oliver

This young man was my fourth overall prospect in last year’s draft behind only Quinnen Williams, Nick Bosa and Josh Allen (the edge rusher). Oliver was an uber-talented, explosive athlete coming out Houston, who I think is still learning the game to some degree. He came in as a freshman with the Cougars and immediately dominated, recording 22 tackles for loss and being named First Team All-American – an honor he would repeat his two other years there as well. While it was obviously a transition from the AAC, where he was just so superior to everybody else physically, compared to lining up against professionals every single week, I thought he started flashing more and more as his rookie season progressed. And while Jordan Phillips just put up double-digit sacks for Buffalo and got a big deal from the Cardinals in the process, I thought Oliver was already the Bills’ best interior pass rusher in December. Overall he recorded five sacks and TFLs each to go with 31 pressures on 374 pass-rushing snaps. That ratio may not be up there with some of the league’s best, but he definitely showed sparks on winning in that area and he finished up playing 53.7 percent of the snaps on defense overall, as part of a deep rotation.
Coming out of Houston a year ago, it was clear Oliver needed some time to adjust to the NFL, after he was playing at the nose mostly in college and not having to stay true to his run fits all the time. While there are still moments where his pad-level gets too high and I feel like he is a tick late recognizing the run scheme, at 287 pounds his anchor is excellent and he has the ability to chase down plays laterally. In the pass game his natural power and quickness present problems for the opposition. What really stands out as well is he flexibility he possesses, as can be knocked from the side and somehow regain his balance to keep going and even if he ends up outside his pass-rush lane, he just continues to work. Something Oliver does really well already, which will give him a couple of “easy” sacks in 2020 is set up his loops to the outside on a twist, staying tight and aiming at the outside shoulder of the guard before pivoting outside suddenly. As a rookie, he had his issues going up against the better-schooled guards in the league, especially trying to beat the Steelers’ Ramon Foster and David DeCastro, who landed their hands inside his chest early and Oliver couldn’t gain an advantage. If he can work on being a little more pro-active and rushes the passer with more of a plan overall, I think he could be a Pro Bowler in year two.


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T.J. Edwards

A four-year starter at Wisconsin, Edwards recorded 366 tackles over the course of his career and made several impact plays for the Badgers. Unfortunately he could not participate in any on-field drills at the 2019 NFL combine due to a banged up ankle and if you can trust his pro day results, his athleticism is still below-average. Labelled as a classic college linebacker with limitations to translate his game to the next level, Edwards ultimately went undrafted and signed with the Eagles. As a rookie, he mostly made an impact on special teams, with nine combined tackles on punt and kickoff coverage. He only played 11 percent of the defensive snaps, but when he was on the field, he earned close to an elite grade by Pro Football Focus and got involved on another 21 tackles. When you divide those 122 snaps by the amount of tackles he recorded, that actually gives him the highest tackle rate of any player at the position with at least 100 snaps played. In his first year under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, he was mainly utilized on early downs to stop the run, as he was on the field for 89 run downs compared to only 33 pass plays.
That is somewhat understandable, since you just have to love his oldschool mind-set in the frame of a well-built, strong guy. Edwards aggressively shoots downhill on inside runs and drops the shoulder on lead-blockers trying to move him out of there, actually stonewalling some of those guys and creating traffic jams that way. At the same time, he shows enough patience with combo-blocks in front of him to not just give away free cutback lanes by overrunning plays, keeping bouncy feet as he deciphers what he sees in the backfield. He offers a sturdy base to absorb the contact by offensive linemen climbing up to him and keeps them at extension, while also showing the mobility to mirror pullers and beat them to the spot. Then he really brings some thump at initial contact on tackles to stop the forward momentum and missed only one attempt on the year (on special teams). It is kind of funny how Edwards was labelled a pure run-stopper because of some athletic limitations, when he actually intercepted ten passes and broke up another 15, while adding eight sacks throughout his career at Wisconsin. He may never be a candidate to shadow more dynamic backs or tight-ends one-on-one, but his feel in zone and ability to get involved as a blitzer should keep him on the field for third downs more. Edwards is also quick to recognize play-action and turn his head for potential crossers behind him before swiveling back towards the quarterback. I believe Edwards will be an excellent replacement for Zach Brown at MIKE, who left in free agency. There are some questions about linebacker trio with Duke Riley and Nathan Gerry, Jatavis Brown or Davion Taylor, but Edwards should be a fixture in the middle on first and second down at least.


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Byron Murphy

Murphy was my number one corner heading into the 2019 draft ahead of guys like Greedy Williams and DeAndre Baker and he was the first pick in round two. While he started all 16 games for Arizona and missed less than 30 snaps the entire season, I think barely anybody really knows about or watched this guy play for the Cardinals as rookie. There were definitely some learning experiences early on and if you look at the total yards and touchdowns allowed, it’s not a beautiful sight and 78 total tackles for any corner aren’t a great sign either. However, a lot of that had to do with the 105 targets coming his way (fourth-most by any player in the league) due to lining up on the opposite side of Patrick Peterson and the fact he was part of the 31st-ranked pass defense. I thought he improved every single week and he actually put up better marks in coverage than his running mate Peterson, despite being targeted at a much higher rate – 7.7 compared to 9.3 yards allowed per target. Murphy also intercepted one pass and broke up another ten.
What I loved about Murphy coming out of Washington last year was his innate feel in zone coverage with an outstanding ability to click-and-close and be a play-maker. He can flip his hips with ease and has that gliding speed to stay on top of routes, rarely allowing opponents to detach from him late. In the run game, Murphy does not shy away from getting involved as a tackler, arriving low and up-ending bigger ball-carriers routinely. You see him fill the D-gap or squeeze plays from the outside on several occasions. He also won’t allow bigger receivers to bully him as blockers, keeping them away from his frame and leveraging the ball accordingly. The rookie mostly played in the slot versus 11 personnel once Patrick Peterson returned in week seven last season and he was utilized as a blitzer off the edge a few times, where he chased running backs down from behind or got into the face of the opposing quarterback. He was heavily exhausted when he was moved in the slot and had to follow receivers back-and-forth across the formation on motions at times. The one thing Murphy really struggled with as a rookie was playing with his back towards the quarterback on slot fades and such as, where receivers could use subtle push-offs and win with their frame, as he almost purely face-guarded them and didn’t even try to snap his head around. The Cardinals have added a super-rangy player is Isaiah Simmons and beef up front to stop the run on early downs, in order to set up third-and-long situations. Allowing the now second-year player to focus more on his coverage and now with veteran Robert Alford being brought in as another outside corner, I see Murphy taking the next step in his developing. By the way, re-watching those Cardinals tapes – Budda Baker is just a freaking baller.


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Rock Ya-Sin

At the start of last year’s draft process, Ya-Sin wasn’t a huge name since he had only played one year at the FBS level for Temple. However, after he and now-49ers receiver Deebo Samuel went back and forth at the Senior Bowl, I started falling love with this guy and so did the scouting community. As a rookie with the Colts, wearing number 34 as the spot he was selected at, he started 13 of 15 games and played at least 93 percent of the snaps in ten of them. Ya-Sin was targeted on 15.2 percent of pass plays and he had some struggles, but he also improved a lot from the first to the second half of his debut campaign. There was one really rough showing versus one of the NFL’s young star receivers in Courtland Sutton, when he was penalized five times and was responsible for 75 receiving yards. However, the rest of the season he was called for defensive holding three times and for pass interference just once (40 total yards). That’s not too bad for a rookie who likes to get into the face of receivers and whose play-style out of college could be described as “grabby”. Over the final eight weeks, Ya-Sin held opposing QBs to a passer rating of just 75.8 and didn’t allow any touchdowns (after being responsible for two up to that point), while coming up with his first career pick.
Ya-Sin can be described is a very sticky, quick-footed corner. As a rookie, he primarily played outside and faced some tough matchups, while even being asked to travel with some of the game’s elite, such as Michael Thomas. While I’m not saying that always went great, his competitiveness is off the charts and I think he has all the tools to develop into an excellent cover-corner. Ya-Sin was rarely just caught out of position. It was more about struggling to find the ball down the field and panicking a little when he did overcommit initially. The more experience he had, the more comfortable he felt turning his head and making a play on the ball. I still love his competitiveness, rapid feet at the line, ability to read the hips of the receiver and use his length to get his hands on the ball. He had a few textbook reps, staying in phase with the receiver from press alignmenz on hitch or curl routes and knocking the pass down coming out of the break. I thought playing in year one, he was also a pretty good edge-setter in the run game and he didn’t just wait for the ball-carrier to cut back inside to stay clean. You saw him fight off blocks and try to cut down the guy with the ball. Now with Pierre Desir gone in free agency, I expect Ya-Sin to step into the spotlight as Indy’s true CB1. The Colts also brought in veteran Xavier Rhoades, who I thought looked broken down last season, but will help this kid grow mentally as well.


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Nasir Adderley

My top-rated safety from a year ago, I thought Adderley was a perfect match with Derwin James on the Chargers, because he has that range for a true deep middle safety to allow Derwin to roam and play more around the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately he had hamstring issues before even being drafted, which forced him to miss mandatory minicamp and most of training camp. He only appeared in one preseason game and then played 10 defensive snaps across four regular season games, making two pretty meaningless tackles, before the Chargers placed him on injured reserve. So with that little experience, Adderley barely meets my criteria, but he was active for four games and I want to grab the opportunity to talk about one of my favorites in last year’s draft. Coming out of Delaware, he filled the alley in the run game with the mind-set of a linebacker, while also showing the ability to cover ground to bail out his team-mates on the back-end. When the ball is completed in front of him, he punishes receivers and when it gets into his hand, he shows off his background as a kick returner, where we had one of the sickest plays I have ever seen, running an opponent over, staring him down and proceeding to go the end-zone.
Outside of some questions about the level of competition in the FCS and how much different he moved different than anybody else, I loved everything about his game. The one time we did actually see him play with pros – week four of the preseason – Adderley made one interception and deflected another three passes, while one of them should have been another pick, with a receiver knocking the ball out of his hands late, and he got both hands on another ball down the seams to deny a touchdown. You could see him show up outside the numbers against go-routes and cut in front of deep in-breaking routes, which led to the one INT he actually made. In addition to that, you saw him try to go underneath offensive linemen and be willing to take on some contact on screen plays, instead of staying back and avoiding collisions, getting involved late on scrums or jumping on the back of a receiver trying to catch the ball at the sideline. Now with Chris Harris added to the mix, Casey Hayward on the opposite side and Desmond King in the slot, with the guys they have up front to get after the passer, plus Derwin possibly being sent as a blitzer with his stupid closing burst, Adderley has the ability to gamble and make plays. Plus he gives them somebody who plays with an attitude, which I really appreciated going back to my evaluations coming out of college. Before he can become an impact player, he first needs to beat out Rayshawn Jenkins, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on the field for the majority of snaps.


Notable other names:

Oshane Ximines
Rashan Gary
Jerry Tillery
Mack Wilson & Sione Takitaki
Rashad Fenton
Mike Hughes
Darnell Savage
Tracy Walker

If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/03/breakout-candidates-for-2020-offense-edition/
You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KPNzxK-V_c
submitted by hallach_halil to nfl [link] [comments]

I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One

NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride!
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So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin.
I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell.
But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ!
In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what? I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation.
Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper.
Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.

For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.

…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.

pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.
Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself.
Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant.
Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!"
The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!"
If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats.
We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think.
We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
to nonsensical
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices.
As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion
A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun."
I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.

When in doubt, have fun.

Keep smiling.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.

The Graham cracker diet does not work.

Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time!
Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment.
But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie." Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help!
In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time."
In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.)
Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag!
Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong.
Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.

Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate." Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know.
The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
  1. Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on.
For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
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Putting an asterisk on every VFL/AFL premiership ever

Recently there's been a bit of a debate around the traps concerning this 2020 season and whether or not the eventual premiership should have an asterisk next to it. And that's a silly debate, because of course every VFL/AFL premiership ever can have an asterisk next to it. Just pick and choose the asterisks that you personally believe should exist:
Year Premier Reason this premiership gets an asterisk
1897 Essendon didn't even have a Grand Final
1898 Fitzroy general clusterfuck
1899 Fitzroy too much rain
1900 Melbourne Melbourne winning the flag from 6th so bullshit they changed the final system in response
1901 Essendon umpiring error gives Essendon the semi-final 'win' - should have been Fitzroy in the GF
1902 Collingwood season tainted by Essendon's 'Goodthur' controversy
1903 Collingwood Collingwood's captain was called "Lardie" that's not even a real name
1904 Fitzroy Crapp umpiring
1905 Fitzroy MCG too wet and soft
1906 Carlton fake Grand Final, was just the prelim in disguise
1907 Carlton fake Grand Final, was just the prelim in disguise again - also illicit Geelong pre-season affair with the VFA's Richmond clearly taints the whole season
1908 Carlton Essendon clearly psychologically scarred by vicious Fitzroy riots
1909 South Melbourne Argus system 'challenge match' is kinda bullshit
1910 Collingwood season tainted by Carlton bribery scandal
1911 Essendon season tainted by player expenses shenanigans
1912 Essendon rules tinkering: players have to be branded with numbers on their backs so that fascist 'Stewards' can report them - I mean what is this, the Napoleonic occupation of Iberia???
1913 Fitzroy silly finals system allows Fitzroy to play St Kilda again in the GF after losing to them in the prelim
1914 Carlton Jamieson illegally in the back of Bollard, South robbed, #justice4bollard
1915 Carlton comp too imba after University pulls out
1916 Fitzroy wrong for spooners to also be premiers
1917 Collingwood season compromised by WW1
1918 South Melbourne Carlton too distracted by the Allies thumping the Kaiser to perform well
1919 Collingwood season clearly unbalanced by the winless Melbourne having their first professional season (ie. with paid players) eight years after the rest of the comp
1920 Richmond a player debuts in the Grand Final for Richmond and plays a key part in the result? that's too implausible to be true
1921 Richmond Richmond's season tainted by ball-stabbing incident in R7
1922 Fitzroy season tainted by Richmond fans death-threating an umpire into retirement
1923 Essendon Grand Final played on Caulfield Cup day? that's not even close to September
1924 Essendon nonsense round-robin finals system that was immediately scrapped
1925 Geelong compromised draw with the three expansion teams
1926 Melbourne Collingwood into the GF without winning any finals - a contrived win for Melbourne
1927 Collingwood GF the lowest-scoring match in 20th or 21st centuries, not good enough to count as a real GF
1928 Collingwood Pies players under a bribery cloud
1929 Collingwood Pies hoarding all the goals and premiership points actually the cause of the Great Depression? #wakeupsheeple
1930 Collingwood Geelong defeats Collingwood in the Preliminary Final but the Pies get to go again because the Argus system is a joke
1931 Geelong R6 was played in two halves, either side of R7 and R8? you can't count 1931! how do we know who even really won?
1932 Richmond uh... Melbourne playing three games for premiership points at the Motordrome and losing all three clearly tainted the season in ways we can't fully appreciate
1933 South Melbourne Bloods deviously importing so many players from WA they should be called the "Swans"
1934 Richmond I mean technically Richmond kicked more goals on the day but that's no match for Bob Pratt's 150 goals in the season
1935 Collingwood Bob Pratt taken out by a brick truck the Thursday before the GF and you can't prove it wasn't a Collingwood player driving the truck
1936 Collingwood Gordon Coventry rubbed out for 8 weeks and missed finals but clearly he was just a fall guy and they should have suspended the whole team
1937 Geelong Sellwood? Hawking? Abbott? if the Cats were going to time travel modern champions back to take the cup at least they should have come up with better fake names
1938 Carlton MCG 12,000 over capacity? some people actually watched the game from on the grass inside the fence? well that's just unsafe
1939 Melbourne rules tinkering: VFL trying to get holding the ball called more often - now you can't just drop the ball when tackled!
1940 Melbourne if you don't think St Kilda winning the Patriotic Premiership was the real premiership that year then you might as well go kiss A-dolf Hitler's boot
1941 Melbourne season compromised by WW2
1942 Essendon season compromised by WW2
1943 Richmond season compromised by WW2
edit: Methuen's suggestion - Jack Broadstock shouldn't have been on the field: went AWOL in order to play and was arrested by military police before Jack Dyer intervened
1944 Fitzroy season still compromised by WW2 (no MCG)
1945 Carlton Bloodbath
1946 Essendon some of the Bombers' record 11 third-quarter goals have to be fake, it's statistics
1947 Carlton season clearly should have been called off in shame after the Big V went down to WA in Tasmania of all places
1948 Melbourne clearly the season should have ended on the drawn Grand Final, 69 to 69
1949 Essendon Coleman kicks his 100th goal for the season in the concluding minutes of the GF - a story stolen directly from Jack Titus in 1940, you have to ask what else was faked about Essendon allegedly 'winning' this premiership #fakenewsflag
1950 Essendon Essendon's captain was the biggest Dick ever to play Aussie rules
1951 Geelong Coleman set up by Caspar
1952 Geelong season tainted by weather so wet and muddy they had to introduce white balls mid-season
1953 Collingwood Cats' full-forward caught having an affair and forced out of the team, they then lose the GF and you can't prove it wasn't a Collingwood player in disguise sent to seduce him
1954 Footscray season tainted by Fitzroy betting scandal
1955 Melbourne Melbourne's kamikaze tactics
1956 Melbourne season compromised by accommodations for the Olympics
1957 Melbourne allowing everyone to compete for the night series clearly tainted the real finals somehow
1958 Collingwood MCG bias
1959 Melbourne uh-oh, Essendon implementing a special high performance training regime, sounds suss
1960 Melbourne Melbourne shouldn't have been able to play a Grand Final with no opponent, that's clearly unfair
1961 Hawthorn just the expansion teams playing, doesn't really count
1962 Essendon medical shenanigans
1963 Geelong whole of round 11 postponed due to weather, season obviously invalid after that
1964 Melbourne Fitzroy clearly should have won the premiership: their lay down misère (zero wins, #1 worst offence and #1 worst defence) was clearly the highest bid
1965 Essendon crowd support drove the Dons to the prelim win and a GF berth after a brutal attack off the ball on one of their players but was it a false flag operation?????
1966 St Kilda timekeeper was a big St Kilda fan you say? oh sure, we can toootally trust that the siren was correctly sounded in this close fought St Kilda game
edit: showmanic also suggests St Kilda kicking the ball out of bounds deliberately (legal until 1969) to use up time at the end of the match
1967 Richmond competition clearly unbalanced by players wanting to play for the Galahs rather than compete for the premiership
1968 Carlton too windy
1969 Richmond VFL tinkering with the dang rulebook again to try to boost scoring: now you get a free kick if the opposition kicks it out of bounds on the full??
1970 Carlton Syd Jackson probably should have missed the game through suspension
1971 Hawthorn R21 Fitzroy v Carlton played in zero-visibility fog clearly a sign of interference by ghosts, season should have been abandoned
1972 Carlton too many goals
1973 Richmond take your pick of option 1, cheap hits and punches take out three Carlton players or option 2, Francis Bourke and Royce Hart not supposed to be playing but played anyway
1974 Richmond Tiges tainted by R7 brawl at Windy Hill
1975 North Melbourne season ruined by pointless rules tinkering: bizarre, wacky centre 'square' introduced to replace sturdy, traditional centre diamond
1976 Hawthorn pre-equalisation era resource disparity: Hawthorn had a complete monopoly on former captains tragically about to die from cancer at too young of an age as a source of motivation, North Melbourne forced to rely on just wanting to win the premiership
1977 North Melbourne rare second-ever drawn GF clearly contrived for the advantage of the first TV broadcast
1978 Hawthorn political interference: North Melbourne supporters clearly too exhausted from booing Malcolm Fraser in R20 to effectively encourage the team to victory
1979 Carlton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6orWbfMkWDI&t=8s
1980 Richmond bottom of the ladder Fitzroy had more points for than top of the ladder Geelong? clearly a fake season
1981 Carlton Garry Sidebottom misses the bus
1982 Carlton Carlton illicitly obtains special powers from Helen D'Amico
1983 Hawthorn Morwood/Foschini transfer clusterfuck making a mockery of VFL transfer rules - plus the Big V goes down to both SA and WA, just call off the season already
1984 Essendon season destabilised by breakaway competition rumours
1985 Essendon season tainted by biff: Lethal breaks Neville Bruns' jaw, John Bourke for the Pies reserves gets suspended for 10 years and 16 matches
1986 Hawthorn illegal Tasmanian bank account
1987 Carlton compromised draw with the new expansion teams
1988 Hawthorn compromised draw with the new expansion teams
1989 Hawthorn illegal Tasmanian bank account
1990 Collingwood replay of drawn Pies v Eagles QF pushes back whole finals schedule, disadvantging Essendon
1991 Hawthorn take your pick of option 1, you can't play a legitimate GF at Waverley or option 2, match tainted by Bound for Glory
1992 West Coast Vic teams get their zones taken away and a foreigner team wins as a result #AntiVicBias
1993 Essendon Baby Bombers bust their way through the salary cap
1994 West Coast rules tinkering: arbitrarily changing the length of quarters from 25 to 20 minutes
1995 Carlton Diesel Williams the recipient of not only payments outside the salary cap but also one of the first ever racial vilification charges
1996 North Melbourne West Coast forced to play 'home' semi final at the MCG
1997 Adelaide psychological warfare: Port Adelaide entering the comp and blasting innocent ears with their terrible club song - Crows unfairly advantaged by being already partly immune to Port bullshit - alternatively steroids in the AFL
1998 Adelaide Crows somehow allowed to win flag from 5th on the ladder edit: and while losing their first final, just like Carlton the next year
1999 North Melbourne finals system is so shit that Carlton finishes 6th, loses first final, yet progresses to semi-finals where they play West Coast who are once again forced to 'host' a semi at the MCG - Blues make it to the GF where they're rolled by Norf
2000 Essendon season compromised by accommodations for the Olympics (and retrospectively, Lions' intravenous saline scandal and Carlton's salary cap breaches)
2001 Brisbane Lions Lions' intravenous saline scandal (and retrospectively, Carlton's salary cap breaches)
2002 Brisbane Lions six games not involving Carlton forcibly moved to Princes Park after Carlton moves games to Docklands - meanwhile Carlton wins the spoon and then has their salary cap cheating exposed, fuck 2002 Carlton basically - also Adelaide forced to 'host' a semi-final at the MCG
2003 Brisbane Lions all the non-Vic teams made finals #AntiVicBias
2004 Port Adelaide Brisbane forced to 'host' home prelim at the MCG - also because Port's win triggers insufferable debates about whether to count SANFL Port's flags
edit: lbguitarist's suggestion - St Kilda's PF momentum ruined by ground invasion after the G Train's 100th
2005 Sydney Barry Hall escaping suspension after the prelim
2006 West Coast druuuuugs
2007 Geelong 1) Cats commit murder in broad daylight and get away with it, 2) disgraceful Melbourne v Carlton spoonbowl with priority draft pick at stake, 3) 'Guttergate'
2008 Hawthorn morally bankrupt Hawthorn triple team Fev to stop him also getting to 100 goals
2009 Geelong take your pick of option 1, season tainted by Melbourne's tanking or option 2, Hawkins hitting the post
2010 Collingwood St Kilda robbed in broad daylight and the police did nothing about it
edit: NitroXYZ's suggestion - St Kilda robbed of momentum by replaying the GF the following week rather than playing extra time, replay replaced with extra time from 2016 season onwards
2011 Geelong tainted by Meatloaf and the lavish Gold Coast concessions
2012 Sydney season tainted by Essendon doping regime and the lavish GWS concessions
2013 Hawthorn season tainted by revelation of Essendon doping regime
2014 Hawthorn Brendon Bolton coaches Hawks to five wins from five games while Clarko out with Guillain–Barré syndrome yet nobody tests Bolton to see if he's some kind of cyborg or superman (though clearly swapped back for the real human version to go coach Carlton)
2015 Hawthorn treatment of Adam Goodes puts a stain on the whole comp
2016 Western Bulldogs umpiring so biased the AFL had to apologise for it
2017 Richmond THEY'RE WEARING THE WRONG JUMPER
edit: NitroXYZ's suggestion - Cats forced to play 'home' QF at their opponent's home ground; veryparticularskills' suggestion - Cotch dodges suspension after PF
2018 West Coast Sheed played on
edit: PyrrhicNicholas' suggestion - Maynard was blocked
2019 Richmond Gilstapo intimidation
2020 ? pandemic-affected season
submitted by spannr to AFL [link] [comments]

NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020

We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them.
Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now.


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1. Arizona Cardinals


Why they can win the division:
Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other.

Why they could finish last again:
Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league.

Bottom line:
I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020.


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2. Detroit Lions


Why they can win the division:
Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough.

Why they could finish last again:
Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive.

Bottom line:
I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark.


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3. Miami Dolphins


Why they can win the division:
When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game.

Why they could finish last again:
As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams.

Bottom line:
As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here.


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4. Los Angeles Chargers


Why they can win the division:
First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy.

Bottom line:
In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division.


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5. Washington Redskins


Why they can win the division:
These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game.

Why they could finish last again:
Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you.

Bottom line:
These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently.


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6. Jacksonville Jaguars


Why they can win the division:
I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period.

Bottom line:
The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now.


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7. Carolina Panthers

Why they can win the division:
Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7.

Why they could finish last again:
Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season.

Bottom line:
The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center.


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8. Cincinnati Bengals


Why they can win the division:
We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates.

Why they could finish last again:
As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year.

Bottom line:
I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air.


If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/
You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
submitted by hallach_halil to nfl [link] [comments]

[Tales From the Terran Republic] More Fallout—Caw and Karashel Attack the Locus!

Our two favorite councilors do a stupid, get in a fight, and generally be... well...
themselves...
The rest of this series can be found here
***
“Oh my little wiggly jellybean!” a distressed looking baleel exclaimed. “I’ve been so worried! I’ve tried and tried to get through but...”
“Calm down, mom,” Karashel said into the microphone of her incredible new desktop (courtesy of the Xx), “I’m fine.”
“The whole capital is on fire!” her mom cried. “The news isn’t saying much but on those sites you told me about... Fighting in the streets? Orbital strikes? Did we… did we actually...”
“Yeah, we did,” Karashel said grimly. “I’m not supposed to talk about it yet but there are over fifty thousand humans dead in the city alone… Nothing justifies what they did in response but still...”
The pupils of her mother’s eyes fully dilated.
“What did they do?” she asked in horror.
“I don’t have all the details, but the humans have some sort of new ‘terror weapon’, something horrible that they used on the vulxeen homeworld. It’s killed… oh mom you don’t even want to know how many are dead or how they died. It’s awful.”
“They could use it on the capital!” her mom squealed. “Come home! Come home right now!”
“I can’t,” Karashel replied.
“Just quit that silly job,” her mom said imploringly. “You can get a job anywhere!”
“You don’t understand,” Karashel replied, “I can’t. There’s a blockade right now. Nothing is going in or out of the capital. They don’t want the humans sneaking in one of those… things and they don’t want any of the human warriors still here escaping. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly safe!”
“Human warriors? Terror weapons?” her mother cried. “How can you possibly be safe?”
“I’m staying at a friend’s embassy,” Karashel said proudly. “This place can take a hit from one of their fusion bombs!”
THEY HAVE FUSION BOMBS?!?!?
Karashel winced. She shouldn’t have said that.
“Don’t worry! I’m safe in here!”
“Oh, Jellybean! You can’t possibly be safe!”
“Don’t tell anyone,” Karashel said as she leaned in close to the mic and started to whisper, “The embassy that I’m in, it belongs to-”
“THOSE... SIBLINGFUCKERS!!!” an enraged screech echoed down the hall. “IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS...”
“Mom, I gotta go,” Karashel said looking at the door. “Something is up.”
“Jellybean!” her mom cried. “Wai-”
Karashel switched off the transmission and quickly scooted out into the hall as the breaking of glass could be heard from Caw’s office.
She cautiously poked her head into the room as Caw pulled out a rather wicked looking carbine from a smashed bookcase and was slamming a black oblong object onto it.
“Caw?”
“What?” he asked in annoyance as an amber light glowed briefly on the side of the weapon.
“What’s going on?” she asked nervously. Caw was many things, excitable, intolerant, pedantic, but one thing he wasn’t was violent, at least she thought he wasn’t.
“Robbery! Plunder! Violation!” he yelled as he started to storm out of his office. “And if they think I’m going to just sit here and let them do it they have another thing coming!” he yelled as he shoved his way past her.
“Wait!” Karashel asked desperately undulating after him. “Where are you going?”
“The Locus!” he shouted.
“But there are humans in there!”
“I don’t give a FUCK!” he screamed steadily leaving her behind.
“Can I come with you?” she shouted.
Caw stopped and turned around, looking at her in astonishment.
“Have you lost your mind? There are humans in there!”
“You don’t care, why should I?” she yelled catching up to him.
“Because I’m an Xx!” he exclaimed. “If the humans are smart enough not to wish to anger the kalent they will almost certainly extend me the same courtesy. You are a baleel. No offense but they could slow roast you over open coals and nothing of consequence would be the result!”
“I’m still a councilor!” she replied. “They can use me as another hostage or something!”
“Compared to who they are holding at gunpoint, you are of absolutely no consequence!”
“Yeah, we suck,” she snapped. “but I still want to go!”
“By the ancient gardeners why?”
“Because I want to talk to them!” she replied. “I’m getting nothing but wormshit from official channels! I want to understand what’s happening and why? Who better to ask than human warriors!”
Caw looked at her in amazement. So great was her hunger for knowledge she was willing to risk her very life! That was so…
Romantic!
It was something right out of dramas, out of ancient history!
How could he say no?
“Well, more than one person has died because of Xvakk’Keen, the knowledge madness,” he chuckled, “but few do it with such style! You can die from this, you know.”
“Possible, but not likely,” she replied. “one thing is certain though. I won’t get another chance like this!”
“Ok,” he replied with a shrug, “I’ll try to protect you with my Xxness but no guarantees.”
“Wasn’t asking for one!” she giggled nervously. This was insane… exhilarating, but insane.
“Well what are you waiting for?” Caw grinned. “Let’s go!”
***
Caw sprinted down the hall, hissing in exasperation as he had to stop every few dozen yards as Karashel “ran” after him.
“Can’t you go any faster?” he shrieked.
“If I could I would!”
An Xx, pushing a hover cart laden with boxes of data crystals, walked around a corner. Caw lunged forward and seized his cart. With a single jerk, he slid all of the boxes off, scattering thousands of crystals across the floor.
The other Xx shrieked and screamed in an alien tongue. Karashel didn’t know the exact wording but from Caw’s grin, it wasn’t nice.
“Get on!” he yelled.
Karashel flopped onto the cart and started wiggling herself onto it. Caw, his patience finally gone, grabbed her, rather inappropriately, and threw her onto the floating cart.
She squealed in surprise as she tried to grip the cart as Caw tore off at a breakneck pace, scattering Xx and other races as he threatened to plow right over them.
She laughed insanely. This was fun. She started making siren noises as Caw laughed, despite his rage.
“Woo Ooo… Wooo Ooooo...” she shrieked as Caw sprinted through the sprawling building.
A rather elaborately dressed Xx and a group of what were clearly guards were waiting for them at the exit.
“Woooo Oooooooooooo...” Karashel slowly tapered off into silence as Caw came to a halt directly in front of the lead Xx.
“What the FUCK do you think you are doing?!?!” the well dressed Xx yelled.
“Stopping a crime, ambassador!” Caw yelled.
“You can’t be serious, Caw!”
“As serious as a blocked bowel!”
“Crime?”
“One of the Eel Lords is in The Locus right now! There is only ONE THING that would have one of them here!”
“...”
“Now get the FUCK out of my way, Kawk!”
“Fuck it,” the ambassador said and started to walk away.
“Shouldn’t we help him?” one of the guards asked.
“Nah,” The ambassador said as he walked away. “It’s just one eel and a few humans. Caw is enough. Don’t reveal what that weapon does if you can help it,” he called out over his shoulder as he returned to his office.
He had a drama to finish watching.
Caw sprinted to his waiting grav-car, Karashel in tow.
***
Karashel squeezed her eyes shut as Caw, switching his grav-car to manual, careened through the capital with breakneck speed.
“By the progenitors themselves,” Caw screeched. “If they have touched so much as ONE THING I will snatch that glowing tally-wacker right off of his scaly head and SODOMIZE HIM WITH IT!!!”
Kalent don’t glow... Karashel thought to herself trying not to lose her rice balls as the grav-car turned on its side and she felt her stomachs being shoved down into her foot.
“What are they stealing?”
“Things priceless beyond measure! Things that belong to all of us, not just to those sanctimonious sperm breathers!”
“Eeeeeee!” Karashel screamed as they plummeted for what felt like forever.
Then, throwing her forward into the restraint webbing that had mysteriously appeared, the vehicle slammed to a halt.
She carefully opened one eye and saw Caw retracting the window. Standing there was a Federation trooper.
“What?!?” Caw snapped impatiently.
“You can’t proceed any farther, sir,” the trooper said calmly. “This is a combat zone.”
“Really?” Caw said in his best patronizing tone. “Is that why there are all these soldiers and tanks? Wow! I would have never guessed. Now get the FUCK out of my way!”
“Sir,” the trooper said pointing his weapon at Caw, “get out of the car, now.”
“Boy,” Caw said glaring at him. “Do you know who I am?”
“No, and I don’t care. Get out of the car!”
“I am Caw Itsheesh, the councilor for the Xx. If you think you have a problem now, fuck with me. Then you will know what a problem really is! Now I’m driving through this barricade. Shoot me if you want.”
“Sir!” the trooper yelled as Caw hit the accelerator.
The air around the car glowed as bolts from the guards’ blasters struck the vehicle’s shields.
“They actually shot at us!” Caw laughed as he quickly turned a corner to get out of the line of fire. “Maybe I should get a diplomatic transciever after all!”
He looked over at Karashel who had wiggled out of the restraint web and was cowering on the floor board.
“Relax, they can’t get through these shields with those toys! They would need… One of those!” Caw yelled as he hit the brakes as a strange curvy… thing… floated down in front of them.”
Caw retracted the window again and leaned out of his ride.
“Get out of my way, eel!” he shouted. “I’m councilor-”
“I am perfectly aware of your identity, Xx!” a loud voice said. ”Go away.”
“I will most certainly not!” Caw yelled at the craft. “I am going to The Locus and you will not stop me!”
”The situation is delicate. We do not need an Xx, especially you, further complicating matters.”
“Barring me from the archives is a direct violation of the accord!” Caw shouted. “Are you telling me that the accord has been broken? If so, there is no reason for the Xx to remain sitting on this spoiled egg you call the Federation! If I leave I’m taking ALL of our toys and we are going HOME!”
The strange craft hovered there in silence for what seemed like forever.
”Proceed but be warned. If you cause harm to our lord, it will not go well for the pathetic Xx!”
“Try it, you prickless bastards!” Caw yelled as the craft floated back up into the sky.
***
Hands tied behind her, Tawnie, glared at the kalent with pure hate as she sat against the wall with one of the Forsaken soldiers standing over her.
Colonel Laurent rubbed his bruised eye. For a little slip of a civilian, that girl was a fighter. It took four of them, and one of her boots to his face, to stop her from attacking their hostage.
Thank God she snatched a sabergun instead of an AK. The AK’s safety was a lot simpler to figure out than the control interlock on what she grabbed.
“I am so very sorry for what the Federation did,” the sarcophagus said with a regretful tone.
“Fuck you!” Tawnie hissed as she spat at him, causing his attendants to leap between the two.
“Children, please,” the abyssal lord said calmly, “Human spittle is not dangerous to us.”
“You better fucking kill me!” Tawnie yelled at the kalent. “Because when I get out of here you’re dead! All of you are fucking DEAD!!!”
“Tawnie,” the colonel said still rubbing his eye, “you will get your chance to kill soon enough, I promise. For now, please calm down.”
Calm down?!?” Tawnie shrieked. “They killed my family!… They killed my MOM!”
“And we will avenge her,” Colonel Laurent said calmly.
“How?” Tawnie yelled.
“I think...” The colonel said turning to the kalent. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Yeah,” Tawnie hissed. “Let’s fucking do this!”
“The archives!” the sarcophagus said in alarm. “You can’t! We had an agreement!”
“The situation has changed,” the colonel said with a grim smile. “You need to go, now.”
“Sir?” a voice said over the colonel’s communicator. “We have a situation.”
***
“What the hell?” the colonel muttered in French as two figures were brought into the room, an Xx and … what the hell is that thing?
What are you doing here?” the colonel asked.
“I’m Caw Itsheesh, councilor for the Xx,” Caw said confidently.
“And I’m Karashel, councilor for the Baleel,” Karashel added cheerfully. “Hi!”
“I didn’t ask who you were,” Colonel Laurent snapped. “I asked what the fuck are you doing here!”
“I’m investigating a crime against all species!” Caw said in a loud confident voice.
“Well then I suggest going to the human enclave!” the colonel replied with an icy voice. “If you want your crime, you will find it there!”
“And we shall, believe me, we shall!” Caw shouted in reply. “We are outraged by the events of today, the crimes committed by the Federation, and your kind, are unforgivable!”
Our kind?” Tawnie screamed from the corner of the room. “Our kind?!?” she yelled as she struggled to her feet, only to be firmly sat back down by the human standing beside her. “Get off me!” she yelled at him as she bit his hand.
The soldier just smiled. Teeth don’t do much against combat gloves.
“But today I am addressing the crimes perpetrated by them!” Caw shouted as he pointed at the black sarcophagus. “Thieves! Vandals! Looters!”
“We have far greater concerns,” the sarcophagus said gravely. “the humans are going to destroy everything down there… everything.”
“W-what,” Caw gasped in horror. “You can’t!”
“We have the capacity,” the colonel replied. “Shouldn’t be that difficult.”
“What’s down there… It’s priceless!… Beyond priceless!… Please!” Caw begged.
“More priceless than fifty thousand lives?” the colonel asked. “They must be avenged.”
They were!” Caw screeched.
“What?” the colonel asked.
“Oh dear,” the sarcophagus said in a rather shaken voice. “Yes, Colonel, Jessica Morgan exacted a terrible price for their lives. She unleashed what can only be described as hell itself upon the Vulxeen homeworld. They will be avenged several times over before the death ceases.”
The colonel shrugged and turned to Tawnie.
“Tawnie, if we untie you do you promise to behave yourself and get that lift operational?”
“Fuck yeah I do!” she said with a malicious smile. “As long as I get to see it burn.”
Colonel Laurent nodded to her warden who proceeded to pull her to her feet and cut her restraints. She grabbed her tools and sprinted towards the exit, pausing only to flip off the xenos as she left.
“Look,” Caw said imploringly, “Colonel was it? What is down there are treasures for all people, all species, things that-”
“If it’s for all of us,” the colonel said cutting him off, “then why are we just now finding out about it?”
Yeah, Karashel thought as she looked suspiciously at her friend. What are you hiding, Caw?
“It’s… complicated...” Caw said cautiously.
“Is it?” the colonel smiled. “Well it won’t be for long.”
“If you do this,” the sarcophagus said evenly, “It will be war.”
“It will be war anyway,” the colonel replied. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that the kalent, and the Xx won’t get involved anyway? It was a fucking kalent that suggested our genocide in the first place!”
“What she suggested was far from what transpired, Colonel,” the abyssal lord replied from within his sarcophagus. “You have already struck one of the races behind the travesty that befell your people.”
“One that you, both of you,” the colonel said glancing over at Caw, “idly sat back and watched.”
“I didn’t know anything about it!” Caw screeched angrily. “You can be assured that we WOULD NOT have just sat idly by had we known!”
“I didn’t know about it,” Karashel added trying to help. “It wasn’t announced in the council or anything. For the record we are really angry about it too!… not that it matters much...”
“I beseech you,” Caw said his voice shaking, “please don’t do this!… Not this… The kalent does speak the truth, though. If you destroy what is down there, the Xx will never forgive you as well.”
The colonel kept his countenance grim but he was becoming increasingly concerned. Two “elder races”…
“Hey,” Karashel said with a friendly, if a bit disgusting looking smile. “Maybe… maybe we could work something out?”
“Quiet,” Caw hissed. “This is beyond you, Kara.”
“I might not be some big “elder race”,” Karashel said puffing herself up to her full somewhat slimy height. “But I’ve been studying humans! And from reading their history I know two important things. When they are angry begging for mercy doesn’t work.”
She then flicked her eyestalks over to the kalent.
“And neither do threats. Humans don’t give a fuck when they are like this.”
She undulated towards the colonel.
“So, why don’t we make a deal,” she said in a friendly voice. “You have them by the, as you call them, ‘short and curlies’.”
The colonel laughed.
“So, give them a tug,” she said in a friendly voice.
The colonel smiled at the slug-like creature. It had offered him an out, God bless the thing.
“So what would you suggest, Kara was it?”
“Karashel, but Kara is cool.” she replied. “Well first of all why don’t we go see what all the fuss is about?”
She looked back at Caw with a wicked smile.
“I mean, these treasures are for ‘all of us’ right?”
If looks could kill…
***
The lift went down for a good minute before it came to a stop.
The doors opened into a wide hallway, wide enough for small vehicles to drive down it.
“Ok, we’re here,” Caw said as the group left the elevator. “The data center is this way.”
“Yeah,” Karashel said, “That’s nice and all but what’s down that hall over there, the one you are trying very hard not to look at?”
Caw glared at her.
“Let’s go that way!” Karashel said brightly and started scooching along.
I’m going to shoot her, Caw thought darkly, Just as soon as I get my gun back...
The hallway ended at a large doorway.
“If you don’t mind,” the colonel said gesturing at the door.
Caw, cursing under his breath, entered a code into the keypad mounted in the wall.
A door as thick as the entrance to a bank vault silently started to open.
The lights switched on, illuminating huge chamber filled with row after row of books, scrolls, stone and clay tablets… statues…
And some cases that were completely obscured.
The colonel let out a low whistle as he looked around.
“A museum?” he asked.
“A repository of priceless manuscripts and artifacts”, the sarcophagus answered.
“Artifacts of what?”
He smiled as he caught Caw glancing over at whatever was in that black box behind him.
“Um...” Caw said uncomfortably, “Items collected from the various races of the Federation, things from their early history.”
“Annnnnd?” Karashel asked impishly.
“And ‘other stuff’...” Caw mumbled.
“My Xx friend here is quite correct in his accusations,” the sarcophagus said. “We intended to remove certain items for safekeeping. We felt they were no longer safe here. Our current situation is proof of that. Even you must agree, Caw Itsheesh.”
“Tell me about this ‘other stuff’,” the colonel said examining a most unusual statue. It unnerved him.
Caw sighed.
“There are species, civilizations, far more ancient than even the kalent,” he said, “Here is where their artifacts are stored, their writings, everything we could find is in stored here. This… This is why we joined the Federation. To gain access… to this.”
“And why didn’t I know about this place?” Karashel asked, just a bit angry.
“You?” Caw scoffed. “You haven’t even scratched the surface of the archives you can reach! Until a few days ago you didn’t even try. What good would this do for you? You can’t even begin to understand what is in here! If you reached a point where this would be of use then you would have been made aware of it, not that it would ever, ever happen to a society so devolved as yours!”
“Well fuck you too.” Karashel replied. “Maybe if we knew such things existed then maybe more races would be inclined to seek your precious knowledge.” she replied nastily.
“You don’t even begin to understand how foolish you are sounding right now!” Caw sneered.
“And you don’t have the slightest idea how much of a condescending prick you are being at the moment! Do you know why we are so ‘devolved’? You shitheads fucking hobbled most of us out of the gate, do you know that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Culture shock, motherfucker!” Karashel snapped. “I’ve looked at my history too!” she said advancing on her “friend”. “Blindsided by you ‘siblingfuckers’ before we were even close to being ready! Completely overwhelmed, swallowed up by a galaxy a million times bigger than anything we expected. Slapped around by the vulxeen and the morash, and a dozen other races while you, and you,” she said pointing at the kalent, “just sat there letting it happen!”
Her body started quivering.
“And why? Why?” she said starting to yell. “Pure ‘devolved’ colonialism! A fucking land grab! God forbid the Empire, who takes care of its subjects get to us first! We just got swallowed up! Could the Xx have survived that? Or the almighty kalent? You were free to develop on your own, at your own pace, figure out things for yourself, and when you did enter the galaxy as a whole you did so fully established, able to stand on your own, protect yourself on your own!”
She turned on Caw undulating towards him angrily.
“And you have the fucking nerve to look down at us?” she demanded. “How long did it take you to develop your precious ‘post scarcity society’ huh? How many thousand years, how many hundred thousand years did it take? How many years did you spend just as fucking filthy as us? Did you go from where we were at first contact to your oh so perfect enlightened state in one-hundred and eighty-three years? Did you do it in two hundred and eighty-three, three hundred, four?”
Caw flinched.
“Yeah, that’s what I fucking thought!” Karashel snapped.
“Damn,” the colonel muttered. “I’m just going to look around a little while you guys sort things out,” he said with a smile as he started walking around looking at the strange and weird objects.
“But we didn’t have the archives!” Caw shot back.
“So fucking what?” Karashel replied. “Technological and societal progress are two entirely different fucking things. You can’t expect a society to just magically change just because they have some fancy new toys, you… asshole. We got grabbed and hurled right into the deep-end of this fucked up galaxy, free to ‘chart our own destiny’ right to the fucking bottom!… Fuck you! Our civilization survived, intact! So did all the rest of us lowly little dirty undeserving worms! Until you get hit with something like we did, you can’t say shit to me!”
“You tell them,” the colonel smiled as he admired the most alien thing he had even seen in his life, an obelisk, floating on its side in a long crystal case.
“Amazing,” he muttered and then he froze.
There on the obelisk, was a very familiar symbol, an eight-rayed chaos star… with an… eye?… in the middle. The rays weren’t straight though, they were curved making a spiral and those weren’t arrows on the ends…
They looked like… hands!
Fear gripped him as he started to look at the other symbols more closely. He hadn’t been this afraid since his first battle, so many years ago.
He felt his mind “falling” into that obelisk… there was something in there!
He wrenched his gaze away from it and staggered back.
Pale and sweating, he walked back to the entrance.
He sensed the creature in the sarcophagus looking at him.
“So now you understand?” it asked quietly as Caw and Karashel continued to yell at each other.
“I understand that you really don’t want to lose what’s in here,” he replied.
“I have a proposal,” the abyssal lord said quietly, “How would you like to survive, not just you, your men as well. I can make that happen.”
“Yeah, only to stab us in the back once we are safely away from your little treasure trove.”
“You little boneless slimeball!” Caw yelled.
“You judgmental feathered poo-ball!” Karashel snapped.
“I personally believe that the Forsaken are here to stay,” the ancient fish replied. “The Federation isn’t going to win, at least not completely. How would you like to be their envoy to the kalent? Your men can be your staff. You join me on my ship and we return to our home system. We will prepare an embassy for you there where we can ensure mutual non-aggression.”
“I thought nobody returned from your homeworld.” the colonel replied quietly, their conversation completely overshadowed by the raging argument next to them. It was starting to get ugly.
“They don’t,” the abyssal lord replied. “It will be a one way trip for you and your movements will be very restricted.”
“Sounds like prison. Hard pass.”
“Perhaps,” the creature replied, “but it will be a most pleasant incarceration. Our guests are quite happy and it will be a far better fate for you and your men than your current one.”
“How can you say that?” Caw yelled. “The two situations are completely different! You are comparing a rock with a rock lizard!”
“Really?” Karashel yelled back, “Consider the rise of organized labor in twentieth-century America...”
“Oh here we go with the twentieth century again!” Caw exclaimed. “I wanted you to glance over it as a cautionary tale, not make a fucking religion out of it...”
“Why don’t you address my point instead of bitching about it… bitch!”
The colonel looked at the black sarcophagus with a shrewd look in his eye.
“Here’s the deal,” he said after a few moments. “I go with you. My men get the option between staying with me or evacuation.”
“Evacuation?”
“Yes,” the colonel smiled. “A fleet of transports, completely unarmed, will be allowed into this system. We will then evacuate everyone who wishes to leave, everyone. While that happens I, and a few very well armed and well equipped soldiers will remain here, to ensure the Federation’s good behavior. If anything goes wrong, we start blowing shit up. Once they leave, me and my men will go with you. You can execute us at that point if you want or you can take advantage of the opportunity to start a dialogue with the General, something that you really want to do.”
“I cannot make promises for the Federation, Colonel.”
“Bullshit,” the colonel replied. “That’s my deal. Make it happen or hope you took good pictures.”
The sarcophagus sat there silently for a moment.
“Listen, you little shit,” Caw yelled, “You can claim ‘culture shock’ all you want but does not excuse-”
“It isn’t a fucking excuse, shithead!” Karashel shouted, “It’s an explanation!”
“What’s the difference?”
What’s the difference?!? Listen here, pillow stuffing...”
The sarcophagus moved towards the colonel.
“Alright, we will make it happen,” the creature said. “It will take some time, but we do have pull, perhaps not as much as you believe, but we can exert pressure.”
“No problem, gives us more time to set the charges,” the colonel smiled.
***
An hour later Karashel and Caw were still going at it.
“And you leave the aat out of this!” Caw yelled.
“Why?” Karashel replied. “Just because they are your little pets makes them immune to your pathetic rating scale? How is their ‘post scarcity’ coming along?”
“That is completely unfair!”
“My point exactly!”
“Gah! That’s ‘wormshit’ and you know it!”
“Ok, how are they when it comes to other societal factors, hmm? Public welfare doesn’t require literacy! How about universal suffrage? You mentioned kings, where does feudalism rank in your little grade book?”
“They are still developing!” Caw said defensively. “At their age, your people were likely still figuring out how to rub sticks together!”
“Why would we… nevermind!” Karashel gurgled, the yelling wearing out her voice box. “You love to compare us to you but compared to you we aren’t that much more advanced than your little aat buddies are we?… Or are you not as technologically advanced as you claim to be?”
“SCREEEEEEEE” Caw screeched. “You are without a doubt the most arrogant presumptuous sanctimonious little turd I have ever met!”
“Quit complimenting me and answer the fucking question!” Karashel said spitting up a little bit of phlegm. “Where. Do. We. Compare. To. You. Relative. To. The. Aat? Are we closer to them or are we closer to you?”
Caw just stood there and fumed.
“Thought so,” Karashel said triumphantly. “You give them a pass and shower them with cuddles and kisses only because they have tech that you want. I bet if we had things that you wanted you would be much more forgiving of our little shortcomings as well, us ‘still developing’ and all.”
If you developed as much native technology as they have, sure, we would be much more ‘forgiving’” Caw replied, “But you haven’t done shit and the aat had even more of your ‘culture shock’ than you did.”
“Wormshit,” Karashel snapped back. “The aat are protected by their bulletproof minds! They are so far behind most of it went clear over their heads… and they have been protected by you since you found out about all of their goodies! Nobody is going to fuck with them!”
“But they were the targets of the injustices you cry about before that!” Caw replied with a sneer. “And they came out of it the winners, unlike the baleel. If you want to try to pull in another race in a pathetic excuse to distract, do take care not to use one that completely outclasses you in every single way!”
“Listen here you piece of...”
“It is done,” the abyssal lord said, “The Federation has agreed to an evacuation of the capital in exchange for you sparing the contents of this room.”
“If you are intending to fuck us on this you do realize that you will have to deal with whatever the General considers worse than what she has already deployed as well as what I do here, yes?”
“If the Federation ‘fucks’ you they have us to deal with as well.”
The colonel gestured to one of his people
“Sir?”
“Get me a connection from here to the hyperspace relays. I need to speak with the General.”
“How can you not see the complete lack of validity your argument holds?” Caw screeched.
“If it is so invalid, prove it! All I hear is screeching and insults!”
“I can’t disprove a ghost! Your argument is indeed valid,” Caw screeched, “if your presumptions were true. You have yet to prove a single one of them!”
“Oh, really...”
“Should we tell them that we are done here?” the sarcophagus asked.
“Nah,” the colonel said with a smile. “We got plenty of time and I want to see where this goes.”
“Indeed,” the sarcophagus replied. “It is most gratifying to see an Xx get it’s rectum stretched over its head like this. What is that creature?”
“I think it’s a baleel?”
“Interesting...”
***
“Ok,” Karashel gasped. “I will agree to forestall this ‘discussion’ until I ‘acquire knowledge’ concerning some of your points and verify some of your less asinine statements.”
“Yes… yes… We are going around in circles,” Caw sighed in complete exhaustion, “And we are running out of new combinations of slurs. I will also investigate some of your outlandish statements.”
As the anger and the baleel equivalent of adrenaline faded she started to realize what she did, what she said.
Oh Creators what have I done?
“So...” Karashel asked looking down at the ground, “are we still friends?”
“What?” Caw looked at her raising his crest in confusion. “That is the absolute dumbest question you have ever asked, and that’s saying something. Of course we are! I haven’t had that much fun in ages!”
“That was fun?” Karashel asked in shock.
“Well,” Caw replied with a smile, “Wasn’t it?”
“...”
Karashel looked him with a combination of shock and horror.
“By the Creators themselves, it was… Void take me it was...” she gasped.
“Now we both retreat, gather fresh information, and then do this again!” Caw said happily. “You have chosen a most intriguing position, an invalid and doomed position, but an intriguing one. I look forward to the fresh thoughts this Xvakk’Lok, knowledge battle will create!”
“And I look forward to kicking your ass!… Not that I have feet...”
“I hope you will accept your defeat with the same amount of grace as the foolish confidence with which you approach it!”
“Oh bite me.”
“Bite you?”
“It’s a human term.”
“You two kiss and make up yet?” the colonel asked.
“We are taking a break to reinforce our positions,” Caw replied, smoothing his feathers.
“You do realize the exact circumstances in which you two decided to have your spirited debate?” the sarcophagus asked. “The extreme gravity? The potentially dire circumstances?”
“Silly me,” Caw replied. “I was so engrossed in teaching my silly little sidekick a lesson that you were the only one who had to make concessions. Don’t worry, if you had gotten in over your head, I would have come to the rescue.”
“...”
The colonel snickered.
“However, the fish is right. This is a rather unique situation,” Caw said to Karashel. “Since we are here there are some things I would absolutely love to show you...”
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