Calm Down. Brighton and Hove Albion Is Just Fine

So, I’m a regular lurker on a popular Brighton and Hove Albion forum called North Stand Chat where there is currently a lot of panic about the state of the football club. Traditionally, people are always quite pessimistic about Brighton’s chances in any particular match or promotion campaign, but the team sits at the top of the league even after Thursday’s throttling by Huddersfield Town.

Brighton looked quite poor and admittedly haven’t played to the dominant form from earlier in the season in quite some time, but is the time to panic really while on top of the table with a five-point cushion and a game in hand on third? Just look at these people:


“Hope for the playoffs at best”

To miss the playoffs would mean Derby (currently the top team outside the playoff picture) have to make up 14 points over 18 matches (plus a +23 to +9 goal differential). Even if Derby won every remaining match, they’d finish on 88 points. Brighton are currently on pace for more than 98 points.

This was a dumb thing to say.


Maybe taking the piss here.


The notion that Brighton isn’t playing well is somewhat understandable. They haven’t looked amazing like they did at the beginning of the season. It’s been awhile since the Seagulls turned in a performance like the 5-0 dismantling of Norwich City on October 29th or the consecutive 3-0 victories over Rotherham and Nottingham Forest in August, although granted those teams have played horrible all year.

But, here’s the six-game form for the top seven clubs.

  • DWWLWW – 13 points     –     Leeds United
  • WDWLWW – 13 points     –     Huddersfield
  • WLLWWW – 12 points     –     Reading
  • WWLWWL – 12 points     –     Brighton & Hove Albion
  • WDLLWW – 10 points     –     Derby County
  • LWLWWD – 10 points     –     Newcastle United
  • DDWLDW – 9 points       –     Sheffield Wednesday

Are Brighton really performing badly? Two chasing clubs have caught up one point over the last six matches. And Brighton have picked up two points on second-place, just-need-to-show-up-to-be-promoted Newcastle.


I suppose this party dog here is mostly upset with others on the forum as opposed to the club’s performance. But still, the notion that Brighton have “gotten away with more than our fair share of results” is incorrect as well. Just because a club scores a late winner in one game doesn’t mean a game will be stolen from them later. Brighton boasts an excellent back line at full strength, with arguably the two best center backs in the Championship in Dunk and Duffy and a keeper who’s played tremendously this season and particularly over the last few months. There’s a reason teams haven’t scored late goals when they’re on the pitch.

The team looked awful against Huddersfield, true. Brighton couldn’t keep possession at all due to Huddersfield’s constant pressure. The worry could be that other clubs are now aware of how to exploit the Albion.

Maybe, but first, not every club is able to pressure the way Huddersfield did the other night. Huddersfield has a very strong second level of attack including Izzy Brown, Rajiv van La Parra, Elias Kachunga, and Tommy Smith that bothered the Albion’s midfield all night long and was very successful. Most clubs don’t have that talent and take on a huge risk if they can’t steal possession in Brighton’s defending half.

Second, that was not at all Brighton’s best 11 on the pitch. Sam Baldock should be back for the match against Brentford on Sunday. I don’t know if Dale Stephens is hurt or was just resting, but he should be available as well.

(Also, this is a bit tangential, but Solly March should be starting over Jamie Murphy on the left side. Murphy is a defensive liability that was exploited all night by Huddersfield’s Smith and March is more creative with the ball as well.)

Dunk is suspended for Brentford, which is a scary thought. But, my entire point is that people look at a single football match and think they can extrapolate a lot more information than they should. It’s a 46-match season and one or two bad performances does not a crisis make. Brighton will be fine, but I guess the blood pressure of Albion fans is not.



I Hate Politics So Much

I’ve stayed relatively silent on social media regarding politics this entire election season. I think that 1) I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said by countless others already, 2) nothing I say is going to change ANYONE’s mind at this point – everyone is just digging deeper and deeper into their own beliefs and 3) I’m not as well-informed as I should be on many topics and political discussions.

However, now I have to put a thought out there. I should mention that I’m quite liberal in my beliefs, as is my girlfriend, who is English and hopes to move to the US to be a Spanish teacher.

On Friday night, we had some friends over for dinner and some drinks. Nothing fancy, just some nice burgers and lots of wine. As it has been so wont to do over the past year, politics forced its way into the conversation. I was mildly surprised to learn that one of our friends is a very strong Trump-supporter. Most 20-somethings are more liberal and almost every expat I’ve met in Madrid is quite anti-Donald Trump.

We had a very civil discussion, but disagreed on almost every topic, immigration included.

With yesterday’s news that several “Muslim countries” are banned from entering the US for 90-days, I suppose the first step in Trump’s immigration reform, my girlfriend came up to me to discuss our future.

Just a few days ago, we had a somewhat definite plan (as definite a plan can be in an international relationship) on what we would be doing over the next few years. This summer, I will return to the states to hopefully start a career as a journalist and she will return to England to teach high school Spanish and look into joining me the next school year (2018-19) in the US.

But after yesterday, we’re not so sure. My girlfriend is white, not from a Muslim country, and definitely not a terrorism threat or felon, so those are all in our favor, I guess. And our hopes for the future haven’t changed, but who knows what ridiculous step is next in the plan to “Make America Great Again”? Will she even be able to come into the country?

Our situation is no tear-jerker, especially compared to many of the heart-breaking stories being put out there every hour since the ban began. But, my girlfriend wants to move to the US to teach Spanish. Anyone who works in or around a school will tell you that bilingual Spanish teachers are a commodity in the US. Learning a second language has benefits well beyond communication with a whole new group of people and Americans are WAY, WAY behind in terms of bilingualism. We should be encouraging bilingual teachers to come to our country and teach our children new languages.

But just because she’s a white non-Muslim shouldn’t give her any special rights. I teach English to a lot of Muslim students here in Spain. Should they not have the same right to come to the US to teach Spanish to American children when they are my age?

This ban on Muslims (because that’s what this is) is outrageous and sickening. The president has signed an executive order in direct contrast to American values. It isn’t making us safer, but it’s making us a laughingstock. For the first time in my life, I’m embarrassed to say I’m an American.

Packers @ Falcons Matchup Preview: Part Two

Yesterday, I started previewing the NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Falcons by taking an (admittedly, pointless) look at where each team had advantages at each position on offense. Today, I’ll look at the defense.

First, analyzing a defense’s strengths and weaknesses is always harder than an offenses. Defenses act as a single unit more than offenses and they are also usually more reactionary (run-pass options aside). Because an offense can decide whether a particular play is a pass or run and where the ball is going, every individual player has a specific job on that play that they know before the ball is snapped. On defense, each player’s job may change depending on if the play is a run or pass and where particular offensive players go.

That’s a long way of saying that individual defensive players are generally more reliant on the talent around them and therefore, more difficult to evaluate. But onward we march, regardless!

Interior Defensive Line

Falcons: Jonathan Babineaux, Grady Jarrett, Courtney Upshaw

Packers: Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry

Mike Daniels may be the strongest player in the NFL – at least it seems that way. Watch Tyron Smith try to cut block him, only to have Daniels shove him away and make the tackle. That’s the signature move of four-time Pro-Bowler, 2016 All-Pro left tackle, possibly-the-best-lineman-in-the-league Tyron Smith. In fact, Pro Football Focus named Smith’s cut block as the seventh most unstoppable force in the league before the season. Apparently, Daniels’ two-hand shove is a even less “stoppable”.

Banineaux is a fine player himself, but he doesn’t have the game-wrecking ability that Daniels does. The Falcons are extremely athletic all over their defense, but the Packers are better on the nose.

Advantage: Packers

Edge Rushers

Falcons: Vic Beasley, Brooks Reed, Tyson Jackson, Dwight Freeney

Packers: Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Datone Jones

Beasley led the league in sacks this season and has taken a huge leap forward in his second year. He’s the best player on the Falcons defense and they could be relying on him to get the Packers offense off the field with a sack or forced fumble. And he might do just that! Buuuuuut, he’s cooled off a bit. He’s accrued just three solo tackles and one sack over his last three games and last week had just two assisted tackles. I think he’ll be a great NFL player, but at this point, I think he’s still able to be game-planned out of a big game.

Nick Perry is the Packers’ answer on defense. He’s probably not as good as Beasley, but the Packers run much deeper here. Where the Packers can put edge rushers all over the field with Perry, Clay Matthews, ageless Julius Peppers, and Datone Jones, the Falcons follow Beasley with Brooks Reed (Clay Matthews-lite), Tyson Jackson, and ageless-but-not-quite-as-much Dwight Freeney.

Advantage: Packers

Inside Linebackers

Falcons: Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell

Packers: Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Joe Thomas

Man, this is a young group. Ryan is the only one of the four starters (Jones, Cambell, Ryan, and Martinez) who isn’t a rookie, and he’s just a second-year player with almost exclusively special teams experience. Thomas comes in as a nickel player and is usually effective, but nobody here is someone the opposing offense should worry too much about.

Advantage: Draw


Falcons: Robert Alford, Brian Poole, Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Jalen Collins,

Packers: LaDarius Gunter, Demarious Randall, Micah Hyde, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Kentrell Brice, Josh Hawkins

While the Packers list of guys here is unfortunately long, the Falcons only played five different players in the secondary last week. Brice was fine after Burnett went down with an injury, but the Packers really need him back healthy this week and it’s still unclear if they’ll get that. Green Bay has suffered from injuries and terrible cornerback play all season, but Clinton-Dix and Burnett have been the main reason the pass defense has been arguably passable (pun intended).

LaDarius Gunter has faced off with Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant already this playoffs and now he’ll get another top-tier wideout in Julio Jones. He worked out Odell well and wasn’t terrible against Bryant, despite the big wideout’s impressive stat line. If Gunter can slow down Jones even a little bit, that’s a huge win for the Packers.

Micah Hyde’s playmaking abilities are the Packers’ Vic Beasley equivalent, insofar as he could stop one or two Falcons drives and that could be enough to win, with how both offenses are playing.

Despite all that, the Falcons have more consistent corners and safety play that’s just as class as what the Packers provide. With all the injuries the Packers are nursing in the secondary, as well as their receiving corps, I could see Allen and Neal having particularly good games.

Advantage: Falcons

Packers @ Falcons Matchup Preview: Part One

The 2017 NFC Championship game will be played Sunday between two remarkably similar teams. The Packers and Falcons both sport high-powered offenses and leaky defenses, leading Vegas to open the over/under line at an incredible 60.5 points. Hopefully, we’ll see a game that lives up to that entertaining expectation.

To preview the game, I’ll be taking a look at how each unit matches up with the same unit of their opponent. I realize this is a useless exercise, but just try to stop me. First, we’ll compare offenses.

***DISCLAIMER*** Remember that this exercise, as with any exercise comparing units that will never be on the field at the same time, is pointless and just for fun. Any stat referencing a quarterbacks record against another quarterback is almost as useless. Aaron Rodgers has never scored against Jay Cutler. He’s scored against the Bears defense.


Falcons: Matt Ryan

Packers: Aaron Rodgers

These are probably the two leading candidates for MVP in the league so far. If you look at the stats, Ryan has the advantage. But anyone who would rather have Ryan start at quarterback for their team in a playoff game is either a delusional Falcons fan or Skip Bayless (also delusional).

Rodgers has torn up the league over the last few months. His statistics over that stretch (2384 yards/ 21 TDs/ 1 INT/ 68.9%) are impressive, but Ryan supporters are quick to point out that the Falcons QB has put up similar numbers (2350 yards/ 14 TDs/ 0 INTs/ 73.2%) over the same stretch.

Both are playing great football lately, but the reason people aren’t gushing over Ryan the way they are over Rodgers isn’t because he’s a bigger name. It’s because individual plays and throws he’s making are absolutely ridiculous. The man is possessed. Some of Ryan’s credit must go to Falcons Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan for his impressive play designs, while Rodgers is making his own plays happen.

Advantage: Packers

Running Back

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman

Packers: Ty Montgomery, Aaron Ripkowski, Christine Michael

Clearly the advantage goes to the Packers here. Their versatility between a speedy hole-hitter like Michael and a physically imposing bulldozer like Ripkowski (not to even mention Montgomery as their best all-around back) gives them an obvious edge.

I’m definitely joking, but the Packers have slapped together a serviceable ground game in the last few weeks. When you look at where they were around the middle of the season (players like Knile Davis and Don Jackson were getting serious playing time), Montgomery, Ripkowski, and Michael have done a great job at picking up chunks to set up the passing game. That’s their real attribute.

That’s why the Falcons are better here. The Packers run the ball because they have to to keep defenses honest. The Falcons run the ball because it works. Freeman and Coleman are so versatile and Shanahan utilizes that versatility. Both are big playmakers and just as likely a reason they’ll beat you as Ryan is with his arm.

Advantage: Falcons

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Falcons: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper

Packers: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Jared Cook, Ty Montgomery(?)

This is a hard group to analyze because we still don’t know who is going to play or how effective they will be. Jones didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, but says he’ll play (it’s worth noting that Jones was injured early in the Week 8 game against the Packers and continued to play, but posted a line of three receptions for 29 yards while hobbled), and Gabriel was limited on Wednesday and Thursday in practice. That’s likely more precautionary, but Gabriel relies on his explosiveness to make plays and any hampering of that explosiveness turns him into a “meh” weapon.

The Packers are even more banged up. Nelson, Adams, and Allison are all questionable and Coach Mike McCarthy said that if it were a regular season game, none of them would play. But because it’s the NFC Championship game, certainly at least one of them will be out there. I think Nelson is the least likely as he’d be playing with broken ribs and breathing issues. Adams’ ankle twisted underneath a defender against the Cowboys, but he returned to the game. Allison has a hamstring issue we know less about.

I included Ty Montgomery here as a Wideout as well because if the Packers are as hobbled at that position as it seems, they may need Montgomery to line up there. If you didn’t know from the 50 times a game the announcers mention it, Montgomery is a converted wide receiver.

If everyone here were healthy, the edge would go to the Falcons because Julio Jones is the best receiver on the planet, but there’s so much we don’t know about everyone’s availability and effectiveness. Still, it seems the Falcons top weapons have a better chance to play than the Packers.

Advantage: Falcons

Offensive Line

Falcons: Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Chris Chester, Ryan Schraeder

Packers: David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga

These are two of the best lines in the NFL, point blank. The Cowboys got all the love this year, and that’s deserved, but these two are right there with them. Watch those clips of Aaron Rodgers shuffling around in the pocket for eight seconds and focus on the offensive line. Nobody’s holding and none of the pass rushers get a clean angle on Rodgers. Some credit goes to Rodgers for reading the pocket, but it’s still really impressive what they’re doing up front.

And the Falcons are the only team in the NFL to start the same five up front in every game this season. Personnel continuity is most important on the offensive line – those five players work as a single unit more than any other group on the field – and that’s clear in Atlanta. Mack is their best player on the line, but it’s the group of them that have kept Ryan clean and holes open all year for the rushing attack.

The Packers’ line is a better pass-blocking unit, but the Falcons are probably better run-blocking. It’s a close call.

Advantage: draw


Packers @ Cowboys: Drunk Recap

So I had some beers during the game and I’m now drinking a celebratory whisky afterwards. Apologies for any mistakes or terrible writing.


What a game. Packers went up 21-3 to start the game and then slowly let the Cowboys back in through the rest of it. Finally, the ‘boys tied it up with less than four minutes left at 28. Packers hit a 56-yard field goal with less than two minutes. Cowboys hit a field goal with like :44 on the clock (can’t remember exactly but I think that was it).

This is a game the Packers lose. It’s a game that goes to overtime where the Cowboys get a stop and knock through a 30-something yard field goal on their first possession. We’ve seen it before. Two playoff games against the Cardinals have been lost in overtime. The 2014 Seahawks game was lost in overtime. I was ready to proclaim this one over as well.

But Mason Crosby is a god.

Remember four years ago when Crosby hit just 21 0f 33 field goals and everyone was calling for a new kicker? The Packers brought in a guy in training camp the next year, Crosby beat him out, and kept the job.

Since then, he’s hit 86% of his field goals and has extended his playoff field goal streak to 22, none more important than the last two he drove through.

Here’s my internal thoughts while watching the kick:

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-2-34-43-amOh, God, it’s really coming down to this… I wish he missed the first kick during the icing. It would make it hurt less…

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-2-35-10-amWow, it REALLY IS coming down to this. They snapped the ball. Here we go. What happened to our 18-point lead?!? Why???


Oh shit, where’s the ball? Did they block it? I think they blocked it. Overtime here we go.


Wait, the camera’s still moving. Maybe they didn’t block it. WHERE’S THE BALL?????






oh my. it went in. there’s the officials with their arms up. that’s the game. packers win. how about that.

*actually pulled a muscle in my back because I fist-pumped too hard*

My girlfriend was sleeping in the other room so I couldn’t shout but I made some sort of mouse noise on accident and I actually did throw out my back a little from jumping up and punching the air. That’s not hyperbole. I proceeded to venmo my buddy some money to buy shots at the bar he’s at. He’s a Bears fan but I know he secretly loves/admires Aaron Rodgers and wants to see greatness. It felt really really good.

To be quite honest, part of me was okay with the Packers losing tonight. I would have been really mad that they blew an 18-point lead, but I would take solace in the idea that I could watch the last four football games of the season without any stress or pressure. I honestly think I lost a year off my life. I took my heart rate on that final drive (before that incredible toss and catch by Rodgers and Cook) and it was higher than when I finished my run earlier today. That’s not healthy.

But the relief and catharsis at the end – that was worth it. It felt really, really good.

The whole night felt really good.

Packers @ Cowboys: One more thought…

So I already previewed the NFC Divisional game between the Cowboys and Packers, but after publishing, I had one more thought I wanted to put out there. While watching the Texans-Patriots game, I was repeatedly frustrated at Texans coach Bill O’Brien’s refusal to play aggressively, especially in the redzone.

The first occasion came in the first quarter on fourth-and-four from about the Texans 15-yard line. This was still very early in the game and it was the drive directly after the Patriots first touchdown, so I can understand that O’Brien wants to get his team on the board and “answer” his opponents’ score.

But, the other school of thought is that you’re playing one of the best defenses in the NFL and you have a terrible offense. You know the Patriots are likely going to score at least a few touchdowns against you, and maybe more, so you NEED to take advantage of your redzone opportunites with touchdowns.

O’Brien kicked the field goal and made the score 3-7. I don’t like the call, but I don’t hate it.

The second time O’Brien made a way-too-conservative call wasn’t long after that. Dion Lewis took the kickoff back for a touchdown after the Texans first field goal, the Texans went 3-and-out and then Tom Brady threw a pick.

Tom Brady threw an interception! Do you know how many teams have gotten a chance to score after a Tom Brady interception this year? Two. Seattle and Baltimore – possibly the two best defenses in the league this season. And now the Texans lucked into one at their own 35-yard line.

They moved the ball down to the 8-yard line for a fourth-and-two. The score was 3-14. Step into the mind of the Texans head coach…

A field goal makes it a one-score game, but should we really be worried that this early? No. The second quarter just began and we’re expecting an offense like New England’s to score multiple more times. What we should be worried about is getting the most points we can after lucking into great field position and a redzone opportunity – especially when we don’t know how many more we will have. I’d be willing to gamble three points on our ability to get two yards, if it means we can get four more.

Obviously, there’s the risk that we might not pick up the first, or get stuck on fourth-and-long even after picking it up. But when you’re a 17-point underdog, you need to take those risks if you want to win.

The Texans were playing to keep it close into the fourth quarter (according to what Bill O’Brien told the announcers), but that can’t be the strategy of a huge underdog. It’s the same thinking that encourages coaches to go for two at the end of games and “go for the win” rather than take an extra point to tie. If your team is worse, wouldn’t you rather bet the game on winning one play from the two-yard line than winning an extra overtime period? The Texans should have been playing like that from the beginning.

But how does this apply to the Packers game against the Cowboys? Green Bay isn’t a 17-point underdog, not even close. In fact, many experts are picking the Packers to win the game outright, and most are at least expecting a competitive contest.

Well, we all remember the 2014 NFC Championship game against Seattle. It gets brought up all too often for Packers fans’ liking. And one of the most popular criticisms of McCarthy in that game was his very conservative decisions on the goal line early in the game. They kicked field goals from the Seattle 1-yard line twice and another from the Seattle 22 on fourth-and-one. With the best player in the league as your quarterback, you would think at least two of those fourth-and-ones would be converted, resulting in more points for your team. And even if they aren’t, your defense is playing incredibly and you’ve pinned them deep in their own territory. You very well might get another shot at a short field on your next possession.

Conservative playcalling has cost McCarthy and the Packers in the playoffs before, and we watched it destroy Houston’s slim chance of winning last night. I would hope the Packers come out firing with aggression and trusting Rodgers’ hot hand to pick up important chunks of yardage in high-leverage situations. It could mean a trip to the NFC Championship.

Packers @ Cowboys Preview

Football is at its best when the Cowboys and Packers square off in the playoffs.

Dallas and Green Bay are two of the best-recognized and best-represented franchises in NFL history. They share a combined nine Super Bowl titles (and nine more NFL Championships, all courtesy of the Packers) and have two of the largest and most spread-out fanbases in football (I have no stats to support it, but it sounds correct, doesn’t it).

Even their uniforms look good across from each other on the field. The green and gold contrasts with the silver and blue and, though the styles have changed over the years, the aesthetic looks like you could be watching a game from 1967.

But even without all the pomp and history surrounding the game, we’re in for a treat. The Dallas ground game has been gushed over all season and the Packers offense has seemed unstoppable for two months.

This game boils down to essentially which defense can slow down their opponents offense more. Packers DT Mike Daniels will be a huge factor in creating a fulcrum and making Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott uncomfortable. If Daniels can penetrate and make Elliott either bounce outside or dive into a crowded line, that will go a long way in stopping the Dallas running game. When Elliott isn’t bothered in the backfield (see 5:55 and 8:15 of the linked video), he makes you pay.

On the other side, Aaron Rodgers’ recent stats speak for themselves and there’s been plenty of analysis of the Packers passing game thus far. One area to watch in particular though, is TE Jared Cook. Since Cook’s return in Week 11, he’s progressively gotten more and more involved. Dallas’ pass defense is quite weak against tight ends this year. According to Football Outsiders, they rank 30th defending the tight end. Cowboys LB everyman Sean Lee could see time one-on-one with Cook and that matchup could determine the outcome of multiple Green Bay drives.

Unexpected Heroes:

Green Bay – S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

Clinton-Dix has emerged as a franchise safety this season. His help in coverage has allowed the Packers to maintain some semblance of a secondary despite like, eight different cornerbacks playing over the course of the season. But where he has been really effective, and where he’ll need to be effective on Sunday is in the run game. Clinton-Dix will be called on to stack the box against the Cowboys’ dominant offensive line. He’s made big plays all year and will need to continue doing so if the Packers want to keep the Cowboys from running all day. That will leave Morgan Burnett alone over the top, but it’s a risk the Packers will have to take. 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 big play (INT, FF, FR, etc.)

Dallas – WR Cole Beasley

When these teams played in October, Beasley had a big game, catching six balls for 58 yards and two short scores. He’s exactly the type of player that the Packers offense can’t handle. Because Green Bay lacks a shut-down corner, their safeties need to provide help over the top against top-tier receivers. Thus, players like Beasley, Adam Thielen, and Mohamed Sanu benefit from the extra attention drawn by Dez Bryant, Stefon Diggs, and Julio Jones, respectively. I see Beasley having another big game to supplement Elliott and the Dallas rushing attack. 7 catches, 85 yards, 1 touchdown

My Pick: Call me a homer, but I think the Green Bay rush defense will be able to hold Dallas under 150 yards rushing – which has to be considered a success. That will put too much pressure on Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott to deliver in his first career playoff game. Julius Peppers and Nick Perry have looked great lately. Elliott can beat them, but Prescott can’t.