Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What's Your Favorite Movie Line? Zach's Top Ten

A few days ago, Terry came across a great clip from the Academy where individuals from the film industry named and discussed their favorite movie lines (you can watch it here). That got us to thinking: What are our personal favorite lines from movies?  Everyone has their own criteria for ranking lines, but for us it really only boils down to one thing: Whether the line stuck with us or not.  Here is a ranking of my favorite lines from movies, along with brief explanations of who said them and why I love them so much.

Honorable Mention

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The line: “Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!”

Said by: General “Buck” Turgidson (George C. Scott) 

Annie Hall (1977) 

The line: “I guess that’s the way I feel about relationships. You know, they’re totally irrational, crazy and absurd.  But I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.” 

Said by: Alvy Singer (Woody Allen)  

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

The line: “Don’t call me stupid!” 

Said by: Otto (Kevin Kline)

Speed (1994)

The line: “Pop quiz, hot shot.” 

Said by: Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) 

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

The line: “Bitch, you don’t have a future.”

Said by: The Bride (Uma Thurman)

The Top Ten

10. Terms of Endearment (1983)

The line: “You got me into this, so you’re gonna have to trust me about this one thing: You need a lot of drinks.” “To break the ice?” “To kill the bug you have up your ass.” 

Said by: Garrett Breedlove (played by Jack Nicholson)

This list kicks off with a line that is not the world’s most profound or memorable or clever or even that funny – at least, when you read it on paper.  But watching Jack Nicholson deliver this line is nothing short of tremendous.  I tend to think it’s the ultimate Jack Nicholson quote, demonstrating the essence of his onscreen persona.  It’s rude, crass, shockingly vulgar, and wickedly funny.  It’s a perfect setting for the line, too: At a highfalutin Houston bistro Nicholson has taken his next door neighbor Shirley MacLaine to, on a date which has been years in the making.  The line belongs to Jack of course, but MacLaine is great here too: Look at the ostentatious outfit she is wearing, the blue eye shadow smeared on her face, and the pretentious batting of her eyelids when she informs Jack that she does not care for escorts who get drunk (in retrospect, it’s a softball set-up that every movie audience knows Jack is about to smack out of the park).  The delivery here is also important; replace Jack with an Al Pacino or Nicolas Cage or Adam Sandler and the effect of the line is entirely different.  Jack Nicholson is an actor who has always understood the power of restraint (albeit, perhaps more so earlier in his career).  The key to this scene is that in actuality, Jack really likes Shirley MacLaine and wants her to free herself of her pompous pretension.  The line reads as a startling insult, but its intelligent delivery by Nicholson renders it as fundamentally good-natured as it is unexpected.

9. Sideways (2004)

The line: “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!”

Said by: Miles Raymond (played by Paul Giamatti)

For this list, I’ve tried to select quotes that go against conventional wisdom and mass consensus (“I make him an offer he can’t refuse” is nowhere to be found here), but sometimes a line is so beautiful and so catchy and so reflective of the totality of a character, I must force myself to look past its understandable popularity.  In Sideways, Miles loves wine but has a particular disdain for Merlot.  He doesn’t explain why he feels this way until a crucial passage at the middle of the film (which occurs shortly after this scene), so for the first hour of Sideways, his hatred of all things Merlot comes off as a curious tic-like amusement that reflects his utter dysfunction and anxiety in all things social.  It’s even funnier when you watch the movie; for all his boneheaded ignorance about wine, Jack at least knows one thing for certain – Miles hates Merlot, and knows his explosive rage toward anyone inferior enough to suggest drinking it.  He also knows, like the audience, that Miles is quirky and absurd, like the best kind of humorists.  Robin Williams once said that comedy is a kind of explosion that comes out of a deeper and darker side of anger.  Miles is a dark and depressed individual who is newly-divorced, works a thankless job, cannot get published, and indulges in alcohol, the strongest depressant of all.  Drinking Merlot should be on a shortlist of things that wouldn’t bother the oenophile Miles, but somehow, ironically, this absurd small detail is precisely the thing to set him off and lead him “to the dark side.”  Had Miles been a viewer watching Sideways, it would be the most enjoyable experience he’d have had in a long time.

8. This is Spinal Tap (1984)

The line: “You can’t really dust for vomit.”

Said by: Nigel Tufnel (played by Michael McKean)

Yeah, I have a lot of lines from comedies on this list, but somehow, movies like Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave aren’t particularly rife with wicked one-liners.  So be it.  Spinal Tap, of course, is and there are so many lines to choose from that boiling down the dialogue to one single moment is a virtually impossible task.  Of course, “This one goes to eleven” is the one everyone picks, so why not opt for what is at the very least a top-five Spinal Tap line, and one that typically elicits the most amount of voracious laughter from audiences – that is, if audiences even catch it.  It’s one of those buried lines that has “improvisation” written all over it, and many times goes unheard because audiences are too busy laughing at the dialogue that precedes it: A recalling of the tragic death of Tap’s second drummer, Eric “Stumpy Joe” Childs, at the hands of choking on vomit not believed to be his own.  Indeed, Stumpy Joe’s death will always be an unsolved mystery because, alas, you can’t really dust for vomit.  Just as Derek and Nigel explain later in the film, there is such a fine line between stupid and clever, and Spinal Tap’s script dialogue finds an uncanny balance between insights containing outright stupidity and bizarre cleverness, albeit with frequently misplaced and confused logic.  The real symphonic harmony of Tap comes not when the actors are performing on stage, but when McKean, Guest and Shearer are riffing on each other through unbroken stretches of seemingly unrehearsed and blithely honest conversation. 

7. Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

The line: “It looks like Phil Donahue is throwing up in a tuba.”

Said by: James Earl Jones (played by James Earl Jones).

My unfailing love of Naked Gun 33 1/3 oscillates somewhere between indefensible and contrarian, but moments like these make it unapologetic.  Like many of the lines on this list, it operates successfully on two levels: first, without any context or background (because the idea of Phil Donahue throwing up into a tuba is funny in its own right), and second, within the context of Naked Gun 33 1/3’s story events.  The set-up: Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielson) learns of a diabolical terrorist plot to blow up the Oscars.  In order to find the trigger to the bomb (which is located inside one of the award envelopes), Drebin disguises himself as Phil Donahue, and abundant hilarity ensues.  But perhaps the funniest moment occurs after the girlfriend of the head mobster (played by Anna Nicole Smith) tries to thwart Drebin by seducing him backstage, until it is revealed that she is – SHOCK! – a man (of course, this joke was probably funnier when audiences could recall the cultural zeitgeist of The Crying Game, but no matter).  Drebin’s response of disgust – itself unintentionally funny in its outrageous lack of political correctness by 2015’s standards – results in an ill-timed stomach discharge at the precise moment Mr. Jones and Ms. Dukakis are about to present the award for Best Picture (and for those of you counting on home, that’s the second line of dialogue on this list pertaining to vomit.  This list is nothing if not scatological.)  And keeping in line with the Zuckers’ brand of rapid-fire comedy, immediately following Jones’ subdued exclamation comes another comic gem by the film’s sendup of Gil Cates: “Someone take a note.  I don’t think we should invite Phil Donahue back next year.” 

6. Tootsie (1982)

The line: “That is one nutty hospital.”

Said by: Jeff, the roommate (played by Bill Murray).

Bill Murray has had so many great deadpan lines over the course of his career, and this one never fails to crack me up.  It actually comes at the heels of an even funnier moment in Tootsie (who am I kidding, it might be the funniest moment in cinematic history), when Dustin Hoffman reveals to a shocked medical staff at Southwest General that he is not the outspoken hospital administrator Dr. Emily Kimberly, but “Edward Kimberly, the reckless brother of my sister Emily” (and he is “not deranged!”)  The reaction of the medical staff, the actors who play them, the TV crew at the soundboard, and audiences across the country is the same: Genuine shock, horror, and disbelief.  Actually, that’s only partially true.  The reaction is all the same except for in one place: Michael Dorsey’s apartment, where his roommate Jeff (a brilliantly understated Murray) is halfheartedly reading a Dashell Hammett novel and exclaims, in the wry way only Bill Murray could master, that Southwest General “is one nutty hospital.”  Perfect.  Acting is such a crucial part of what makes these lines memorable, and Murray’s subtle body movements (wagging his finger, shaking his head, the hint of a smirk) make this line a perfect coda in a movie that is always self-consciously aware how ridiculous its story really is. 

5. Apollo 13 (1995)
The line: “We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure as hell not going to lose one on my watch.  Failure is not an option.”

Said by: Gene Krantz (played by Ed Harris)

In actuality, “Houston, we have a problem” is a rather empty line, void of any real meaning, substance, or eloquence.  It’s essentially the glorified way Tom Hanks exclaims “Oh shit!” after the first main bus undervolt goes haywire.  So if we’re really scavenging Apollo 13 for its most memorable and erudite sentences, we need look no further than Ed Harris’ character, NASA flight director Gene Krantz.  Krantz has several zingers that do a great job of putting the potential of mass disaster in a broader perspective, while espousing the need for an optimistic outlook when all hope looks lost (“With all due respect, sir, I believe this will be our finest hour.” “I don’t care about what anything was designed to do, I care about what it can do.” “Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”)  But it is this line that most effectively sums up Krantz’s philosophy and outright purpose at mission control (while serving as the convenient coopting of his image for larger mass consumption).  Specifically, I like two things about this line.  First, Krantz is not-so-subtly watching out for his back by making sure he avoids any blame at the future day of reckoning.  And secondly, if you really think about the line, it’s seems somewhat redundant.  I mean, do the eggheads at mission control, in the midst of sleepless work schedules and sweat-filled moments of haphazard and improvisational patchwork, really need to be reminded that failure is not an option?  They may not need the reminder, but we as an audience do.  The beauty of Apollo 13 is watching how countless individuals, from the spacecraft’s designers to the NASA pilots to medical staff to the engineers to CAPCOM  (and even to “the guys sweeping sweeping the floor,” as Lovell says early in the film) are firmly committed to getting Lovell, Haise, and Swigert back safely to home.  It’s simple and extremely honorable.  Failure is not an option for anyone.

4. Casablanca (1942)

The line: “Round up the usual suspects.” 

Said by: Captain Louis Renault (played by Claude Rains)

There are more well-known lines (“Here’s looking at you kid;” “Play it, Sam.”)  There are more evocative and richly worded lines (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world . . .”  “The problems of three people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”)  There are more ironic lines (“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship).  And certainly funnier lines (“I’m shocked – SHOCKED – to find that gambling is going on here!”)  But the usual suspects line has always been my favorite; not so much because of what is spoken in the line, but what is unspoken.  After Major Strasser has been shot by Rick, Captain Renault is faced with a major decision: Whether to arrest Rick and conform to Vichy’s Nazi apologists, or tacitly stand up to the Nazis by turning the other cheek.  By opting to round up the usual suspects – code word for “Nothing happened here!” – Renault enables Casablanca’s amoral code of justice (or lack thereof) to serve as a victory for Rick, Ilsa, and the rest of the Allied Powers.  Renault’s line could have been something bland and simplistic like “Major Strasser deserved to get shot” or “Let’s head back home.”  But this eloquent dialogue serves as a symbolic refrain throughout Casablanca – that corruption almost certainly corrupts, but also (as Renault significantly informs Strasser earlier in the film) “blows with the wind” and of course by the end of the film, we know from what side of the ideological vortex the prevailing wind is blowing. It’s saying exactly what we need to know, but without saying it. 

3. Jackie Brown (1997)


The line: “You can’t trust Melanie. But you can trust Melanie to be Melanie.”

Said by: Ordell Robbie (played by Samuel L. Jackson)

A line that probably no one remembers, is uttered in such passing reference that you might miss it, and really doesn’t have much to do with the main events of the film.  It’s so overlooked, in fact, that I can’t even find a sufficient YouTube clip of the scene it is in.  But no matter – someone needs to talk about how great this line is.  Like I said, the actual circumstances behind this line aren’t particularly important; Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) has just discovered that his girlfriend l'il beach girl Melanie (Bridget Fonda) tried to enlist his former cellmate Louis (Robert De Niro) to scheme Ordell out of his money.  After busting Louis’s balls for having sex with the woman he assumed to be Ordell’s girlfriend (“I hope you felt appropriately guilty afterwards!”), Ordell’s response to Melanie’s wily treachery is not surprise or even anger, but resignation that, alas, some people behave in exactly the ways we expect them to behave.  You can’t trust them, dammit, but you can trust them to be them.  This line actually reveals less about Melanie than it does about Louis – that he’s more loyal to Ordell than Melanie suspects – and Ordell – that he knows this about Louis and he knows Melanie’s true agenda behind seducing Louis.  Hell, he even sort of respects her for it.  Why not, it’s not as though he’s exactly morally pure either.  The line may be about Ordell’s relationship with Melanie within the confines of the quirky Tarantino cinematic universe, but quietly, it’s about all of human nature.

2. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

The line: “Does he make you laugh?” “He doesn’t make me cry.”

Said by: Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney) and Tess Ocean (played by Julia Roberts)

#2 may sound high, but let me explain.  Here’s an example of a line that cuts across like a dagger to the heart.  In this particular scene, Tess (Julia Roberts) is explaining to her former beau Danny Ocean (George Clooney) why she left him for the emotionally cold casino baron Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).  But in reality, this exchange is as much about Danny and Tess as it is Rick and Ilsa or Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater or Rhett and Scarlett.  In only ten brief words, the entire history of motion picture romances – and in particular, love triangles and forbidden passions – is thoroughly expounded.  You don’t need any flashbacks, any reminiscing, any sex scenes, or any cheesy romantic montages to explain the power of Danny and Tess’s attraction.  You also don’t need anything more to demonstrate the helpless inadequacy of Terry Benedict as a replacement for Danny.  And it is at this point of the movie where you know, without any doubt, that these two characters must end up with each other by the end of the movie, because as everyone who watches movies knows, the only sin greater than being with someone who can’t make you laugh is being with someone so distant that they can’t even make you cry.  Just ask this guy.  Of course, it is extremely helpful having actors as elegant, beautiful, and iconic as George Clooney and Julia Roberts recite this dialogue.  But like many lines on this list, all it takes is simply a few brief, fleeting words to explain everything.

1. My Dinner With Andre (1981) / Autumn Sonata (1978)

The line: “I could always live in my art, but never in my life.” 

Said by: Wally (played by Wallace Shawn).

My all-time favorite line from a movie has two unique qualities going for it.  For starters, it comes from not one, but two different movies.  And secondly, I must confess that I have never actually seen Autumn Sonata, the movie by the Bergmans (Ingmar and Ingrid) from which it initially arises.  My knowledge of the line purely comes from my many viewings of My Dinner With Andre, a movie obsessed with words and phrases and the startling ideas that are sometimes contained inside and conjured by them.  The line comes early in the film, when Wally (Shawn) is explaining to the audience his uncertainty toward meeting his old friend Andre (Gregory) for dinner.  You see, Andre was once a promising up-and-coming theater director and close friend of Wally’s, but in recent years, had begun behaving in erratic ways, such as traveling to remote places and talking to trees.  “Obviously, something terrible had happened Andre,” Wally explains. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back comes one night when a mutual friend of theirs witnesses Andre on a street corner in a strange part of town “seized by a fit of ungovernable crying” while repeating the aforementioned line from Autumn Sonata.

OK, OK, sounds a bit hysterical, I realize.  But the line reinforces the central question of My Dinner With Andre: How are artists supposed to function in a “real” world where they are left without the tools to create their art?  What happens when the painter loses his brush, or when the sculptor loses uses of his hands?  Perhaps it isn’t even this extreme; maybe the question is more how anyone with a passion is able to successfully find balance.  For most of us, the two weightiest compartments of life which struggle to coexist are “work” and “family,” which Wally and Andre spend a good amount of time discussing.  But artists have an additional impulse to fulfill: Creativity, something which often demands more time, attention, and money spent away from those other aspects of life, leading to dysfunction, abuse, and bitterness.

This line strikes me as particularly resonant for people who love movies because when life presents you with difficult or demanding circumstances, it is so tempting to simply tune everything else out by turning on a movie.  Movies illustrate complex problems too, but they also show crafty and commendable way those problems are battled and conquered.  Life is not so convenient.  For artists – or anyone with a passion – life’s problems are dealt with indirectly and tragically, through channeling fiery emotions on to a blank canvass rather than the individuals or circumstances that are actually the root cause of the dysfunction.  Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off.  William S. Burroughs injected heroin.  Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and countless others drank.  It’s so much easier to live in your art rather than in your life.  But My Dinner With Andre (and maybe Autumn Sonata, I’m not entirely sure) warn us of the dangers of indulging too much in that temptation.

Thoughts?  Disagreements?  Any lines left unfairly overlooked?  Write in the comments section below!

Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 MLB Trading Deadline: Who Should Go Where?

With one week remaining, and the trades that had Scott Kazmir and Aramis Ramirez switching teams yesterday, the mad dash to July 31st and the MLB Trading Deadline has officially begun.  One thing that has happened thanks to the second Wild Card is that more teams still feel like they have a shot at making the postseason.  (The worst team in the American League is only 9.5 games out of the Wild Card.)  There has been talk recently by rookie Commissioner Manfred to push the Trade Deadline back because of this new form of parody, but for now we have a lot of teams buying, and some teams trying to decide whether they should give up and start selling.
Another factor in this year's Trade Deadline is the importance teams have placed on prospects and draft picks.  With the emergence of phenoms like Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa, teams are not wanting to part with their big-name prospects to get a player for a couple months.  Teams are much less likely to sacrifice the future for the present now.  On the other side, selling teams are asking higher prices for players with expiring contracts because keeping them could mean giving them a qualifying offer in the offseason, guaranteeing them an extra first round pick in next year's draft if they decide to leave.  So teams wanting to unload talent are making sure they get top-notch talent for their players, but the buying teams are less willing to give up this talent fearing they could be parting with the next superstar.  (This is especially so now that the rules have changed.  To offer a player a qualifying offer with a draft pick attached, you have to have the player on your roster for the entire season.)  With all this said, no one really knows what to expect from the Trade Deadline this year.  There are teams like the Cubs and Astros that are ahead of schedule in their development and are trying to balance keeping the core together for the future while making a competitive run at the playoffs this year.  You also have teams like the Tigers, who are not really out of the playoff chase, but are considering selling to ensure a future.

Let's stop and look at the top 10 players that are potentially available this Trade Deadline, how available they are (1-5 scale, 1 meaning not likely, 5 meaning very likely), and one team that would like to have them for the rest of the year.

10.  Jonathan Papelbon
Trade Likelihood: 5
Landing Spot: Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Papelbon has been a superstar closer for a decade now.  He is also on a losing team just about to start a major rebuilding process.  He wants out, and Philly wants him out.  He has never really had a good relationship with the city there.  The Cubs could use some bullpen help down the stretch this year.  They could also use his veteran leadership on such a young roster.  Theo Epstein had success in Boston with Papelbon, which he has shown he values.  The question is if the Cubs will be willing to give up the prospects it will take to make the move.  Whether it is to the Cubs or not, Papelbon will be on the move.  The Cubs just make the most sense.

9.  Francisco Rodriguez
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays
K-Rod is a little more under the radar than Papelbon.  However, he might be a better option for teams needing bullpen help.  He has a similar track record as Papelbon, but he doesn't come with the baggage.  As we saw with the Aramis Ramirez trade, the Brewers are willing to part with players for small prices too.  He seems like a perfect fit for a team like the Blue Jays.  The Jays may have the best lineup in baseball, but their pitching, starting and relief, has held them back all season.  Bringing in a proven closer like K-Rod might be the small push the Blue Jays need to get over the edge.  Whether it is K-Rod or not, the Jays need something.

8.  Hisashi Iwakuma
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: Kansas City Royals
As a Mariners fan, one thing I have learned in recent years about Seattle is they rarely sell, and if they do, it has to help the team in the short-term and long-term.  No one has said anything about Hisashi Iwakuma being available on the trade market, but the Mariner front office is also very closed-lip publicly about any possible transactions.  This is a player I think the Mariners should consider shopping.  He is a high-quality starter no one really talks about.  Unless they think they can re-sign him this offseason, or think the draft pick from the qualifying offer is greater than any offers on the table, they should pull the trigger.  A perfect landing spot for Kuma would be the Royals.  The only chink in the defending AL Champs' armor is an elite starter to front their rotation.  This would give them that guy, and probably for a lot cheaper than some of the more elite names.

7.  Yoenis Cespedes
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: New York Mets
The Tigers are one of those teams sitting in limbo right now.  They could make a run for the Wild Card spot, but they also have some notable expiring contracts on their roster they don't know if they can bring back.  The Tigers are deciding if it is more important to stay competitive this year or be more competitive the next couple years.  If they decide to sell, Cespedes is one of the guys who could be on the move.  He is one of the most underrated players in the league, maybe because he is potentially looking at his fourth team in a year.  The Mets have a stockpile of young talent and are in the mix this year.  Trading away one of their phenom arms might be able to give them the punch the offense needs to get over the hump.  It could also keep the Tigers relevant down the stretch this year with the other bats they would still have in their lineup.

6.  Koji Uehara
Trade Likelihood: 3
Landing Spot: Washington Nationals
The Red Sox have not been the team everyone thought they would be this year.  They are currently in the cellar of the AL East with the worst record in the American League.  They have some pieces they could consider selling, with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez topping that list.  I can't see them parting with their two top free agency splashes this last season though.  Their closer is a much more likely candidate.  Every team is looking for bullpen help, especially after seeing what the Royals were able to do last year with a top notch pen.  The Nationals have the lineup (especially as everyone starts to get healthy) to compete in the postseason.  They also have the arms in the rotation.  Just a little help in the bullpen from a guy like Koji might put them over the top.

5.  Ben Zobrist
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Minnesota Twins
Oakland loves to tinker.  Ben Zobrist was the one of the few players in all their dealing last offseason that was an established player when they acquired him.  With them not able to compete this year, he makes the best candidate to be traded.  With Kazmir already gone, it is obvious they are in selling mode.  The Twins, one of the most unlikely contenders this season, would make a lot of sense for Zobrist.  He is a strong, switch-hitting bat that can play anywhere in the field.  It is the kind of subtle move that would make sense for a team like the Twins, who had a different kind of mid-season boost when Ervin Santana ended his 80 game suspension recently.  One more bat might just get them in the playoffs.

4.  Adrian Beltre
Trade Likelihood: 1
Landing Spot: San Francisco Giants
There has been no chatter about Beltre being on the trading block.  I mentioned at the beginning of the season that by this point, he should be.  If it weren't for Beltre, Joey Gallo would be as much of a household name as Kris Bryant right now.  If the Rangers want to make room for Gallo now, since they aren't really in contention this season, trading Beltre would be on the table.  There isn't a huge market for third basemen so the trade seems unlikely (especially considering Beltre still has one year left on his contract), but the contending team that needs one the most right now is the Giants.  The Casey McGehee experiment did not work this year, and Beltre might lift that offense just enough to keep them in contention the rest of the way.

3.  Johnny Cueto
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays
The Reds need to deal Cueto.  He is one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of the worst teams in baseball.  It's unclear if the Reds will undergo a full fire sale, but Cueto and Jay Bruce seem to be the minimum to swap teams.  The only thing that could keep Cueto in Cincinnati would be injury concerns that have popped up recently.  On the other side, if I were the Blue Jays, I would be all in on this season.  They are in contention for the division and the Wild Card still, and are just a couple pitchers away from being one of the scariest teams in the AL.  I already said earlier they should acquire a closer like Francisco Rodriguez.  Picking up an ace like Cueto would truly make them a force going down the stretch.

2.  David Price
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers
David Price is in the same boat as Yoenis Cespedes.  The Tigers seem less than confident that he will stay when this season ends and his contract expires.  Shopping him seems like a logical choice, even if they are still in contention.  The Dodgers seem like a perfect landing spot for him.  They have the two best pitchers in baseball right now in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but their rotation after these two is non-existent.  Bringing in another ace like Price would solidify the rotation as the most dominant in baseball.  It also wouldn't commit them past this season so they could still try and sign Greinke in the winter.  The question is would the Dodgers be willing to give up one or two of their top-notch prospects they have been protecting to make the splash they need to make a World Series run this season.

1.  Cole Hamels
Trade Likelihood: 5
Landing Spot: New York Yankees
Cole Hamels is the prize of the Trade Deadline this season.  He needs to be dealt for the Phillies to move on, and he still has 3 years left under his contract.  He also is an experienced postseason pitcher that has showed he can shine under the lights of October.  Every contending team should be calling the Phillies about Hamels.  The only issue is the price tag will be high.  That is why he wasn't dealt last offseason, and also why he hasn't been dealt yet this season.  For some reason, this feels like it all leads to a team like the Yankees landing him.  The Yanks have surprised everyone by playing some great baseball this year.  Their one weakness is their rotation, and a guy like Hamels seems destined to pitch in the pinstripes.

We will see if my crystal ball pans out for me this time.  The one thing we know about the Trade Deadline is nothing is out of the question.

Where do you think these players should go?  Did I miss any high-profile players on the trading block?  Start the debate below...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Actors Whose Films Gross the Most Money

I don't know about most of you, but the actor in movies has a lot to do with my choices in going to the cinema.  As I researched this topic, I was shocked by who is in the Top 50 and even more about the Top 10.  

I do have favorite actors that I always enjoy seeing.  My personal favorite actors are: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Harrison Ford, and Joaquin Phoenix.  Just to name a view of them.

I will be putting the actor, how much money the films make, the number of films. and the highest grossed film.  All money totals are in million dollars amounts.  So lets get to this list:

          Actor:               $ Amount:    Films:      Highest Film:
50. Anna Hathaway     $2,263.7        23    The Dark Knight Rises

49. Sigourney Weaver   $2,276.4      46            Avatar
48. Steve Carrel           $2,291.6        22        Despicable Me 2
47. Leonardo Dicaprio  $2,334.7      24             Titanic 
46. Sandra Bullock      $2,336.2      34              Gravity
45. Antonio Banderas   $2,374.1     42              Shrek 2
44. Dustin Hoffman      $2,378.6     41              Meet the Fockers
43. Rupert Grint            $2,390.5    13      Harry Potters Deathly                                                                              Hollows Part 2
42. Mark Wahlberg       $2,395.4     35          Transformers 4
41. John Travolta          $2,398.8     44              Grease
40. Nicholas Cage         $2,407.0     56      National Treasure 2
39. Adam Sandler       $2,412.5        30            Big Daddy
38. Elizabeth Banks    $2,443.0        34       Catching Fire
37. Ralph Fiennes       $2,446.5        32      Harry Potter Deathly 
                                                                    Hollows Part 2
36. Jonah Hill              $2,448.9        26         The Lego Movie
35. Daniel Radcliffe    $2,449.2       13      Harry Potter D.H. Part 2
34. Woody Harrelson  $2,456.3       47        Catching Fire
33. Don Cheadle          $2,471.8       32      Avengers: Age of Ultron
32. Bradley Cooper     $2,487.4       23       American Sniper
31. Tommy Lee Jones   $2,494.7     43       Men in  Black
30. Scarlett Johansson  $2,536.3      34       The Avengers
29. Jim Carrey                $2,545.2      27           The Grinch
28. Owen Wilson           $2,545.8      36         Night at the Museum
27. Brad Pitt                   $2,610.1      38         World War Z
26. Julia Roberts            $2,641.7      39          Ocean's 11
25. Emma Watson         $2,681.8      14      Harry Potter D.H. Part 2
24. Matt Damon            $2,722.7      37      The Bourne Ultimatum
23. Helena Bonham Carter  $2,739.6   33   Harry Potter D.H. Part 2
22. Cate Blanchett     $2,786.5       36     LOTR: Return of the King 
21. Stanley Tucci          $2,797.1       48           Catching Fire
20. Ben Stiller               $2,798.2       36        Meet the Fockers
19. Will Smith                $2,814.3      22             Independence Day
18. Orlando Bloom         $2,815.8     17   LOTR: Return of the King
17. Robert DeNiro          $2,909.8     74         Meet the Fockers
16. Liam Neeson            $2,937.1      61        The Phantom Menace
15. Gary Oldman            $3,029.8      36       The Dark Knight
14. Cameron Diaz           $3,031.7      34       Shrek 2
13. Ian McKellen            $3,135.2     31  LOTR: Return of the King 
12. Stellan Skarsgard      $3,168.5    42           The Avengers
11. Bruce Willis              $3,186.4    58          Sixth Sense

Now for the Top Ten...

10. Johnny Deep             $3,229.0    43        Dead Man's Chest
I'm not surprised about him being in the top ten but I figured he would be a little higher.  He was on a roll for a while but with recent flops to his name, he might be slowing down.  He however has another Pirates movie on the way so he could move up a couple spots sooner rather than later.

9. Michael Caine          $3,262.0       56        The Dark Knight
One of three people, that I'm truly surprise to be on this list.  But he has over fifty movies to his name, as well as several big Christopher Nolan movies to his name.  The Dark Knight killed the box office when it was released and he was a stand out in that film....right?

8. Robin Williams         $3,279.9        49        Night at the Museum
I'm surprised that Night at the Museum was his highest grossed movie.  It's sad that he will slowly move down this list from this point on.  But he was a great actor, with a very good talent of making us laugh!

7. Tom Cruise                $3,392.2        35           War of the Worlds
Surprised that it's not one of the Mission Impossible sequels.  He is totally a movie star!  War of the Worlds is a pretty good movie.  I guess I never realized how well it did at the box office.

6. Robert Downey Jr.     $.3,536.3     53             The Avengers
He will be in the top five by the summer next year with out a doubt.  Though the number one spot will not be to out of reach for him.  He has Captain America: Civil War and the Avengers 3 Part One and Two coming out in the next couple years.

5. Eddie Murphy     $3,810.4     38                    Shrek 2
Here's a man that was a huge star and now has completely fallen from the stature he one had.  I'm still surprise he is this high on the list.  But his early work made bank, when he was on his game.

4. Harrison Ford     $3.935.1               40               Star Wars

One of my favorite movies stars ever and favorite movie characters too.  By the end of this year his movies will gross the most of any actor so far.  Star Wars has proven to be an very marketable and continue to be the iconic film franchise.  Han Solo is who we all wanted to be when we grow up.  He is also the only one he shot too!

3. Tom Hanks        $4,264.2          42              Toy Story 2
A surprising name to be on this list.  It's weird to see him this high because you don't really think of him as a guy who is a blockbuster star.  But sometimes the mold will be broken and stars will surpise you.  He was in awesome movies like,: Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, Toy Story, and Saving Private Ryan.  Woody from Toy Story is totally the Luke Skywalker of the series just not as cool as Buss Lightyear (Han Solo)

2. Morgan Freeman      $4,311.8       58           The Dark Knight
 He always seems to be in huge movies as some wise character.  I really enjoy a lot of his roles when he is not phoning it in.  He will always be Red to me.  The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite films of all time.  

1. Samuel L. Jackson   $4,587.0    66               The Avengers
At first I was kinda surprise by this cause he seems to be in a lot of supporting minor roles.  But if you look at his filmography, you will quickly find out he is in a ton of huge franchises. I.E.-Jurassic Park, The Avengers, Star Wars, Die Hard, and XXX.  As well as Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained.  

Well thats the list.  It was really interesting to see the actors and where they place with all the others.  Weird not to see guys like Al Pacino and Chris Pratt crack the top 50 yet.  

So I might do Top 25 directors total grosses soon as well.  So keep on the look out for that  


Friday, July 17, 2015

Should the NFL Playoffs Expand From 12 to 14 Teams? A Year-by-Year Analysis

            As you should know by now, the National Football League currently operates the best playoff seeding system out of all the major sports: 12 total teams, consisting of four division champs, awarded #1-4 seeds on the basis of regular season win-loss records, plus two wild-card teams as #5 and #6.  Of course, there have been historical hiccups, such as this year’s NFC Wild Card game which featured a 7-win 4 seed (Carolina Panthers) and a 5 seed which not only lost five of its last seven games, but did so without scoring over 18 points in any of them. 
            But sometimes those historical hiccups have provided us with tremendous games.  The 2011 Broncos finished 8-8, were led by Tim Tebow, and had no business hosting a playoff game against the defending AFC champions . . . and the rest was history.  Same with the 2010 Seahawks and the 2008 Cardinals.  Maybe instead of saying that the NFL operates the best playoff system, it would be more accurate to say that the NFL uses the least flawed method, compared to the NBA (where more than half the league’s teams make the postseason and the playoffs last two months), the NHL (ditto), and the MLB (where homefield advantage in the World Series is determined by a meaningless, frivolous unofficial game in July).
            Anyway, for the last several months, the NFL has thrown around the idea of expanding the playoffs from 12 teams to 14.  Instead of the top two teams in each conference getting an extra week off, only the top seeded team would receive a bye, while the 2 seed would be forced to host a Wild Card game against the conference’s 7th-seeded team.  The advantages of this system are obviously mostly monetary (this is Roger Goodell we are talking about): The NFL receives revenues from two additional playoff games, as well as hypothetically more competitive (read: must-see) games in the final weeks of the regular season.  While many defenders of this expansion laud the fact that it doesn’t really change too much about what already makes the NFL playoffs great (still fewer than half the league’s teams make the playoffs, still only four weekends of postseason football), no one really seems to be talking about why it would actually improve the playoff system.  And those who actually examine that argument in depth tend to fall in the “con” rather than “pro” camp.
Even fewer people are seriously looking at the question of whether the 7th best team in each conference deserves to make the playoffs in the first place.  Therefore, I have broken down each season of the playoffs since the NFL readjusted its seeding system in 2002, and have determined whether the 7 seeds from each of those seasons deserved to make the playoffs.  Furthermore, I consider what their hypothetical matchup with the conference’s 2 seed would have looked like, and whether they would have had a chance of moving on to the Divisional Round.  No, I don’t use statistical analysis or metadata, but I do use a programming system more advanced than any computer: My own memory of each team.  I award subjective grades to each team on the basis of whether their playoff birth as a 7 seed was truly justified or not. If I find that more than half of the 26 7 seeds since 2002 merited a playoff appearance, I will begrudgingly agree with the commissioner and encourage playoff expansion to 14 teams.


AFC 7 Seed: Houston Texans (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Denver Broncos (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES

Could They Have Advanced? YES

NFC 7 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (10-6-0)
Would have played at: Green Bay Packers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

Let's begin our analysis with this past postseason. 2014 was one of the few years where everyone (at least, everyone who runs this website) agrees that the Patriots and Seahawks were the two best teams in their conferences, so its unlikely that the 7 seeds would have had a significant impact on the playoff outcomes. In the AFC, however, the Texans had the best player in the league (J.J. Watt) in the midst of having the best season of his career, and finished the season having won four of its final five games. One of those wins was a 12-point victory over the AFC's 6 seed, the Baltimore Ravens. Remembering how underwhelming Peyton Manning played in the latter half of the 2014 regular season and the eventual AFC Divisional matchup against the Colts (the NFL's 19th-ranked scoring defense), the Broncos would have been an optimal matchup for Houston -- and would have made for the premier game of Wild Card weekend. The Texans absolutely deserved a postseason birth. Final Grade: A

In the NFC, the Eagles stormed out to a 5-1 start before Nick Foles was injured and replaced by Mark Sanchez. The Sanchize played OK and actually had a better QB rating than Foles, but blew three straight December games for Philadelphia -- against Seattle, Dallas, and most inexcusably of all, the Washington Football Team. The 2014 Eagles also had one of the flukiest statistics of recent years: They scored eight touchdowns on defense or special teams. Tellingly, most of those touchdowns came in the first half of the season. It is tempting to believe they could have had a shot against the injured Aaron Rodgers . . . but then again, they lost to the Packers in a Week 11 game at Lambeau Stadium by a ridiculous score of 53-20. So despite the fact they won more games than the Texans, the Eagles were less deserving. Final Grade: C



AFC 7 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8-0)
Would have played at: New England Patriots (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Arizona Cardinals (10-6-0)
Would have played at: Carolina Panthers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? YES

The Steelers started the 2013 season 2-6, but finished 6-2 down the stretch, which prompted many of the initial rumblings about expanding the playoffs to 14 teams. Pittsburgh's offense played the second half of 2013 like they did for the entirety of 2014 -- mostly spectacularly, with Ben Roethlisburger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown being virtually unstoppable on the field. So why didn't they deserve a playoff birth (besides the fact I hate the Steelers)? Look at who they beat in those final six victories: Buffalo, Detroit, Cincinnati, Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay, and Cleveland twice. Meanwhile, they dropped November/December games to the Patriots, Ravens, and Dolphins -- any one of which would have clinched a playoff spot under the current system. The Patriots game was particularly egregious, with the Steel Curtain defense giving up 55 points in a 24-point loss at Foxboro. And guess who they would have played in the Wild Card round? This doesn't exactly bolster their playoff credentials. Final Grade: C-

Like the Steelers, the Cardinals also finished the season white-hot, winning seven of its final games, including key wins against Indianapolis, St. Louis, and most impressive of all, in Seattle against the eventual Super Bowl champs. Had they taken care of business by beating the 49ers at home in Week 17, they would have clinched a playoff birth outright; instead, they gave up a game-winning drive to Colin Kaepernick with only 29 seconds left. That makes me think that they didn't truly deserve a playoff spot -- a true playoff team should win home games with their season on the line. But the Seahawks game was so impressive, the NFC West was so competitive in 2013, and the Cardinals had beat the 2nd-seeded Panthers by 16 points in Week 5. Arizona's home loss to the 49ers does stick out, but you know who else also lost to San Francisco at home? Carolina, in the eventual NFC Divisional Playoff. Case closed. Final Grade: B+


AFC 7 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8-0)
Would have played at: New England Patriots (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Chicago Bears (10-6-0)
Would have played at: San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? NO

Huh, this sounds familiar: The 8-8 Steelers as the AFC's 7 seed, having to travel to Foxboro to play the 12-4 Patriots. Don't say they NFL isn't predictable. Then again, there are some important differences between the 2013 and 2012 Steelers: While the former finished the season strong down the stretch, the 2012 team collapsed after a 6-3 start, with particularly inexcusable losses to Cleveland and at home to San Diego and Cincinnati. And the Bengals loss -- their third straight December loss -- occurred on the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception! And while Pittsburgh did not play New England in the 2012 regular season, the Steelers finished only 3-5 on the road and had a -10 turnover ratio on the season. They did beat the eventual Super Bowl Champion Ravens in Week 13... but so did five other teams during the regular season. To merit a playoff spot as a 7 seed, you need more impressive credentials than this. Final Grade: C-

The 2012 Bears suffered one of the most remarkable collapses in NFL history: They missed the playoffs after beginning the season 7-1. Only the 1993 Dolphins -- a team which began its season 9-2 through 11 games -- suffered a more agonizing collapse in the regular season's second half. The case of the 2012 Bears begs the question of whether one of the league's best teams through the first two months of the season should be punished because of bad luck and injuries in the final two months. But here's the thing: The Bears didn't really suffer that many injuries, nor did they really have bad luck. Their final five losses (which occurred over a six-week stretch) all came at the hands of playoff teams. Had they made it into the postseason as the 7 seed, they would have traveled to Chicago -- the site of their Week 11 loss to 49ers, in which they were defeated 32-7 (ironically, it was also Colin Kaepernick's first start). Like the 2014 Eagles, the Bears scored a ton of TDs by defense and special teams (nine in total) and when that scoring began to cease, so did Chicago's winning ways. I tend to give the Bears the benefit of the doubt because 10 wins is the same number as the season's eventual Super Bowl champion (the Ravens) and because the Bears were unequivocally better than the NFC's 6 seed, the Joe Webb-led Vikings. But playoff heavyweights, Chicago was probably not. Final Grade: B-


AFC 7 Seed: Tennessee Titans (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Baltimore Ravens (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Chicago Bears (8-8-0)
Would have played at: San Francisco 49ers (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

The first of our "Wow, this team would have made the playoffs?" moment occurs with the 2011 Titans, a team about as unmemorable and unremarkable as any mediocre team in NFL history. The Titans won nine games primarily as a result of having the league's third-easiest schedule in 2011, playing in a division sans Peyton Manning for the first time in 14 years, and a meaningless Week 17 win against the Houston Texans' subs. The Titans didn't boast a single Pro Bowler, altered between 36-year-old Matt Hasselbeck and rookie Jake Locker at QB, and even Chris Johnson barely cracked 1,000 yards. Intriguingly, they did somehow manage to beat the Ravens during the regular season . . . in a Week 2 game in Nashville. The 2011 Titans are Exhibit A in the argument to retain the current NFL Playoff format at 12 teams. Final Grade: F

Once again, the Bears, like the Steelers, were left on the outside looking in. They were a talented defensive-minded team that played in the same division as two of 2011's best offenses (Green Bay and Detroit) and they did beat the Lions by 24 in Week 10. But after a 7-3 start under Jay Cutler, Chicago collapsed down the stretch (sounds familiar?) after Cutler's season-ending thumb injury. Under Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown, Chicago lost five straight games in the month of December, with its offense averaging 13 points per game. Had they made the playoffs in 2011, they would have probably looked similar to the 2014 Cardinals -- a strong defense undermined by an atrocious offense -- and their playoff fortunes would have resembled the 2014 Cardinals too. Final Grade: D


AFC 7 Seed: San Diego Chargers (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? YES Probably not

NFC 7 Seed: New York Giants (10-6-0)
Would have played at: Chicago Bears (11-5-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? YES

2010 is probably the strongest historical case for opening the NFL's playoff field to 14 teams. In the AFC, the San Diego Chargers accomplished an amazing feat no other team had achieved in a 16-game regular season: They finished #1 in offense and defense in terms of yardage. Philip Rivers led the league in passing yards, and in the Bolts' first season without LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego still finished third in rushing touchdowns. They finished second in the league in sacks (47) and allowed the fewest first downs. So how did they muster only nine wins? They had horrible special teams (bottom-five in both punt and kickoff return yardage surrendered), had a -6 turnover ratio, and could not overcome a 2-5 start. They lost the AFC West title to the Matt Cassel-led Chiefs(!). Yikes. Still, the yardage statistic lends me to believe they could have kept pace with any team in the league. They would have faced a tremendously tough challenge in Pittsburgh, the #1 defense in points allowed and the eventual AFC Champions. It's worth remembering that between 1995 and 2012, San Diego was 0-6 in games played in Pittsburgh, so while the upset is a promising thought, realistically it would have been unlikely. Final Grade: B+

We all know about the 2010 Giants -- even if you have no recollection of 15 of the 16 games they played. The only relevant game came in Week 15 at home. You know the scenario. After blowing a 21-point 4th quarter lead, there's 14 seconds left, 4th down for the Giants, Desean Jackson to return the punt. The rest is history. What's less remembered is that New York finished with the same win total (10) as Philadelphia, but lost the tiebreaker due to that game. Like the Chargers, the 2010 Giants finished in the top ten of both offense and defense, led the league in takeaways (42), and were only one season away from winning their second title in five years. But like the 2013 Cardinals, playoff teams don't blow 21-point leads at home with the playoffs on the line. Still, 10 wins is still undeniable, particularly since it's the same total as the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers (as well as the 10-win Buccaneers, another team that somehow missed the playoffs). They would have had a very realistic shot against the Bears -- a team they beat by two touchdowns in the regular season -- but perhaps an event like the Desean Jackson punt is devastating enough to quell any momentum you would have had going into the postseason. As a Patriots fan, I often ponder the question: If only the Giants had finished out of the playoffs in 2011...  Final Grade: A-


AFC 7 Seed: Houston Texans (9-7-0)
Would have played at: San Diego Chargers (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Atlanta Falcons (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Minnesota Vikings (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

It's hard to believe that either of the 7 seeds would have caused major disruption in the 2009 playoffs -- a postseason which saw two #1 seeds reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 16 seasons. In the AFC, the Texans benefited from the AFC's second easiest schedule (behind the Chargers) and beat only two teams with a winning record all season. One of those games was in Week 17 when the Texans defeated the Patriots -- an inexplicable game where the Patriots starters played the first three quarters, New England built a 14 point lead, and blew it when the subs came in (it was also the game where Wes Welker was injured for the playoffs, a particularly hard pill to swallow since it was a meaningless game for New England). That makes me believe the Texans were really an 8-8 team, which is appropriate since their offense was spectacular and their defense stunk. Still, the Texans did win four straight to end the season and played the AFC Champion Colts respectably in both games. It's a close call -- especially because the Schaub-to-Johnson passing connection was at its apex -- but since the Texans didn't really demonstrate in the regular season they could stack up against more talented teams, I can't really merit a playoff birth. Final Grade: C

The Falcons made the playoffs in every season from 2008-2012, except for 2009. Like the Texans, they were mediocre team who played the NFC (and Super Bowl) Champion Saints respectably, but unlike the Texans, the Falcons had a very tough schedule -- third toughest in the league, in fact. They were 6-7 before finishing with three straight wins. But by that point of the season, Michael Turner was lost to an ankle injury, and the Falcons had only beat one team with a winning record all season. Remembering the Falcons playoff record in the Smith/Ryan era (1-4), it's hard for me to believe they could have gone into Minnesota and given Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson a serious challenge -- particularly since the 12-4 Cowboys lost by 31 to the Vikes in the Divisional Round and we all remember how close they were to beating the Saints in New Orleans. Like many of the teams so far on this list, the 2009 Falcons were a good team, but an even better argument as to why 14 teams in the playoffs is two too many. Final Grade: D+


AFC 7 Seed: New England Patriots (11-5-0)
Would have played at: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? HELL YEAH
Could They Have Advanced? UH...

NFC 7 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Carolina Panthers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? YES

2008 was one of the flukiest years in NFL history: Tom Brady lost for the season after 7 minutes, Brett Favre on the Jets, Kerry Collins leading the Titans to a 1 seed, the Broncos blowing a three game division lead with three weeks remaining, and the Arizona Cardinals coming within two minutes of winning the Super Bowl. And then there's the 2008 Patriots, one of only two teams to win 11 games and miss the playoffs (the other was the 1986 Broncos). Sure, they didn't have Tom Brady, but Matt Cassel exceeded all expectations as his replacement, leading a top-five offense with four straight December wins. Their late season surge was capped by a 40-point win over the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals in Week 16. There's almost no question that any 11-win team merits a playoff spot (for the sake of argument, just ignore the 2014 Cardinals). Unfortunately, the 2008 Patriots would have gotten a bad draw with Pittsburgh, the eventual Super Bowl champions and a team which annihilated the Pats by 23 in Foxboro in Week 13. More bad luck for the unluckiest team in NFL history. Final Grade: A

The 2008 NFC Championship game featured two nine-win teams (the Cardinals and Eagles), so it's understandable to believe the Bucs could have been competitive in the postseason. In Jon Gruden's final season as coach, Tampa Bay was the exact opposite of the Patriots, finishing the season with four straight losses after a 9-3 start. But they played in a division where all four teams finished .500 or above, and of course played strong defense all season. They would have played the Panthers, who the Bucs had split their season series with; but of course this was the same Carolina team that ultimately did lose their home playoff game to a 9-win team they had defeated earlier in the season. In most other years, the 2008 Buccaneers would have gone unnoticed as just another mediocre near-.500 team that would have been overmatched in the postseason, but given the wacky circumstances of 2008, I suppose anything could have been possible. Final Grade: B


        AFC 7 Seed: Cleveland Browns (10-6-0)
Would have played at: Indianapolis Colts (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (8-8-0)
Would have played at: Green Bay Packers (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

The Browns were certainly a sentimental darling in 2007, but beneath the facade, did a Derek Anderson-led, Romeo Crennel-coach team truly merit a playoff appearance? Anderson undoubtedly enjoyed his best season as a starter, with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow combining for 2,400 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Jamal Lewis enjoyed a superb comeback season. But five of the Browns' six losses came on the road, including an inexcusable Week 16 loss in Cincinnati which would have wrapped up a playoff birth, if not the AFC North division (won by 10-win Pittsburgh, who beat the Browns twice). Those losses hurt. The Browns had a pretty easy schedule and really only had one impressive victory all season -- an overtime victory against the Seahawks. I give them the benefit of the doubt because the AFC's 6 seed (Tennessee) wasn't significantly better than the Browns and because 10 wins is the most the Browns have had in any season since 1994. Really, it's just another case of bad luck for the city of Cleveland. Although I don't think they would have been a serious threat to the Patriots or Colts, I can't really imagine any NFL fan in 2007 feeling happy that a 10-win Browns team failed to make the postseason. Final Grade: B

The 2007 Vikings were an unremarkable team except for its running game: They led the league in rushing yards, and gave up the fewest rushing yards to opponents. 296 of Minnesota's rushing yards came courtesy of Adrian Peterson's record-breaking performance against the Chargers in Week 9. They also had an extremely impressive game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in Week 12, when they won in the Meadowlands 41-17. Still, Tavaris Jackson was horrific at quarterback, the passing defense was statistically the league's worst, and they dropped their Week 16 home matchup to the Redskins -- the team which eventually clinched the NFC's 6 seed. Like I've repeated throughout this article, true playoff teams don't blow home games in the final weeks of the regular season when the playoffs are on the line. It's hard to imagine rewarding the Vikings with a playoff birth as a reward for their subpar play in the season's final weeks. This is the kind of scenario I worry about if the league does expand to 14 playoff teams. Additionally, as 7 seed they would have traveled to Green Bay, where they lost 34-0 earlier in the season. Thus, unfortunately for long-suffering Vikings fans, this one's a pretty easy call. Final Grade: D-


AFC 7 Seed: Denver Broncos (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Baltimore Ravens (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO
Could They Have Advanced? YES*

NFC 7 Seed: Green Bay Packers (8-8-0)
Would have played at: New Orleans Saints (10-6-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO
Could They Have Advanced? NO

Like many teams on this list, the 2006 Broncos was a tale of two seasons: One which saw Denver shoot out to a 7-3 start with impressive wins at New England and Pittsburgh, and the other when they decided to bench Jake Plummer and start rookie Jay Cutler in his place, with the Broncos subsequently finishing 2-4 down the stretch. Oddly enough, I don't recall many Broncos fans being upset with that decision; 32-year-old Plummer definitely had a "ceiling" fans knew he could not get past, and his subpar stats (11 TDs, 13 Ints, 55% completions) demonstrated that Denver was winning in spite of him rather than because of him. Strangely, when Cutler took the helm at QB and the offense dramatically improved, the defense declined; it was also the tough part of Denver's schedule. Still, all the 9-6 Broncos needed to do Week 17 was beat the lowly 49ers at home. Favored by 10 points, they lost in overtime, enabling the 9-7 Chiefs to take what should have been their 6 seed. Thus, the 2006 Broncos represent a quirky anomaly on this list: A team which did not deserve to make the playoffs, but had they done so, could have proved competitive -- especially against a Ravens team which only mustered 6 points at home to the Colts. Final Grade: C

Coming off a 4-12 season in 2005, the 2006 Packers started the season 1-4 and 4-8 before eventually winning their final four games. Three of those games came against sub-.500 teams and the fourth came against the NFC's top-seeded Bears in Week 17, a game in which Chicago spent most of the time resting its starters (and yet somehow Rex Grossman managed to throw three interceptions). So far in this article, I've been highly skeptical of awarding a "YES" grade to 8-8 teams clinching a 7 seed, and the 2006 Packers are no different. They finished the season nicely, and maybe even offered a preview of their much more successful 2007 campaign, but Green Bay had no impressive wins on the season, turned the ball over a lot (Favre had 18 TDs and 18 Ints) and were the product of one of the weakest-ever seasons in the NFC. Final Grade: D-


AFC 7 Seed: Kansas City Chiefs (10-6-0)

Would have played at: Denver Broncos (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? PROBABLY NOT

NFC 7 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (9-7-0)

Would have played at: Chicago Bears (11-5-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

Like the 2007 Vikings and 2006 Rams, the 2005 Chiefs were led by a powerful young runningback who carried his team on his back in the season's final games. But like the 2007 Browns, the Chiefs played poorly on the road (where five of its six losses occurred) and played in a season where 10 wins simply was not enough. But if you watched football in 2005, you probably remember how unprecedented and dominant Larry Johnson was; in the nine games he started as a replacement for the injured Priest Holmes, Johnson ran wild for 1,351 yards and 16 TDs. In nine games. Kansas City did lose three games during that stretch -- all on the road -- but it's hard to believe that anyone in the AFC would have wanted to face the Chiefs as a 7 seed. KC would have traveled to Denver, who Johnson torched for 140 yards in Week 12, but who also went 8-0 during the regular season and owned the league's second-best rush defense. That would have been a great game. The Chiefs didn't play particularly great defense that season so I suspect Denver probably would have had the edge, but this would have been a scenario when seven playoff teams would have been fun. It's also worth remembering that Kansas City's win total matched the Super Bowl Champion Steelers'.  Final Grade: A

The 2005 Minnesota Vikings are remembered for one thing: the Love Boat Scandal. What no one remembers is that once the air was finally cleared after a 2-5 start, the Vikes actually played really well, finishing 7-2 with Brad Johnson taking over Daunte Culpepper's job at QB. No Randy Moss, no Fred Smoot, no Moe Williams. Go figure. They actually finished one game better than their historically great offensive team of the year before. To me, however, the 2006 Vikings are not a whole lot different than the 2006 Packers: They quietly rebounded after an uncharacteristically weak start, didn't really beat anyone all that impressive until beating up on division champion Chicago in a meaningless Week 17 game. The Vikes did have a six-game winning streak which did feature a commendable Week 10 win against the NFC East champion Giants at the Meadowlands. I suppose the best thing you could say about them is that they were the ultimate Tyson Zone team, while the worst thing you could say is they got what they deserved: Staying home in January. Final Grade: D+


AFC 7 Seed: Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7-0)
Would have played at: New England Patriots (14-2-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: New Orleans Saints (8-8-0)
Would have played at: Atlanta Falcons (11-5-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

The 2004 Jaguars were mediocre in virtually every respect and only had three victories over teams with winning records: Two occurred in the first two weeks of the season, and the third was a massive upset over the Colts in Indianapolis in Week 7. They rallied in the final four games of the season, winning three of its final four, but its one loss during that stretch was costly: An inexcusable Week 16 21-0 shutout at home at the hands of David Carr and the Texans -- their second loss of the season to Houston. All they needed to clinch a playoff birth was a home victory over David Carr, and they couldn't score a point? The Jaguars were a competitive, defensively sound team during the Jack Del Rio era and even won a playoff game in 2007. The 2004 season showed the promise of things to come (they finished 12-4 next season), but by no means did they deserve a trip to New England to be annihilated by the eventual Super Bowl champs. Final Grade: D-

The Saints started 2004 with a 4-8 record until winning their final four games, capped off by a victory over the NFC South champion Falcons, who were resting Michael Vick for the playoffs. They lost every game they were supposed to lose, won most of the games they were supposed to win, went 1-5 against playoff teams with their starters intact, and were largely the beneficiaries of an extremely weak NFC. How weak? Had the Saints made the playoffs, they would have been the third 8-8 team from the NFC to clinch a playoff birth. Even more dumbfounding was the fact that both of those 8-8 teams (the Vikings and Rams) won their Wild Card playoff games. Does that mean the Saints had a chance of going into Atlanta and putting up a fight against the Falcons? Maybe. But that doesn't mean they deserved to be in the playoffs in the first place. Final Grade: D


AFC 7 Seed: Miami Dolphins (10-6-0)
Would have played at: Kansas City Chiefs (13-3-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? YES
Could They Have Advanced? NO

NFC 7 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (9-7-0)
Would have played at: St. Louis Rams (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

You could have made the case that the Dolphins had one of the NFL's two or three best defenses in 2003. They held eight of its opponents to 12 points or fewer. All but one of Miami's losses came to teams with 12 or more wins, and all but two of its losses were by a touchdown or less. They took the 14-2 Patriots to overtime. They went 6-2 on the road, and had the league's best runningback (Ricky Williams) and linebacker (Zach Thomas). They should have made the playoffs. But they did not, due mostly to their weak passing game and 34 turnovers on the season. It's possible that Miami's defense would have been talented enough to slow down the Chiefs -- a team which lost its Divisional Round game -- but their sluggish offense (which scored 28 points or more only once) would have been its Achilles' heel. They deserved to be in the postseason, but I don't exactly lose sleep thinking about the possibilities of Jay Fiedler in January. Final Grade: B+

Question: Name the only NFL team since 1990 to start 6-0 and miss the playoffs. The answer? You guessed it -- the 2003 Vikings, a team probably talented enough to contend with Marc Bulger's Rams and Quincy Carter's Cowboys, but whose stunning collapse made their case for a playoff birth fairly indefensible. The 2003 Vikings were somewhat the football equivalent of the 2011 Red Sox -- a team that gave up a ton of points and could only win games when their offense could manage to score a few more points. And then it culminated in one of the more improbable single-game collapses in sports history: The last second TD pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole (and the second appearance on this list by the inimitable voice of Paul Allen). But if we're being honest here, Minnesota didn't even deserve to be that close to a playoff birth, having finished the season 3-7 and losing its final four road games. The stats look pretty, to be sure; but in a 14-team playoff, we lose the unbelievable impact of that Nate Poole YouTube clip forever. Final Grade: D


AFC 7 Seed: Miami Dolphins (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Tennessee Titans (11-5-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

NFC 7 Seed: New Orleans Saints (9-7-0)
Would have played at: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4-0)
Deserved Playoff Birth? NO

Basically, the same story with the 2002 Dolphins as with the '03 team: Strong defense, great running game, competitive division (no AFC East team finished under .500), and complete and utter ineptitude on the road. The Dolphins went 2-6 away from home which included losses in its final two games, three-point defeats at the hands of the Vikings and Patriots. If they had played all their games at home, the Dolphins would have been a surefire Super Bowl contender -- they had impressive victories over the Jets, Patriots, and AFC Champion Raiders. But the last I checked, 7 seeds would not receive the luxury of homefield advantage. Once again, no sleep lost here. Final Grade: C-

The 2002 Saints were a different story. Possessing arguably the league's most explosive offense, the Saints leaped to a 6-1 start, possessed a 9-4 record heading into December with the 1 and 2 seeds still in play, and promptly lost its final three games. Amazingly, they swept their season series with the eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, the same team they would have hypothetically matched up with in the Wild Card round. That sounds intriguing on paper, but once again, we're faced with the question of whether a team that suffered a second half collapse should have been rewarded by backing into the postseason. New Orleans blew three straight games, any one of which could have granted them the 6 seed. Instead, the Falcons earned the playoff spot -- a Falcons team which swept the Saints. A rematch with the Buccaneers would have undoubtedly been interesting, but in all likelihood would not have changed the playoff results. Final Grade: C+ 


So for those of you keeping track at home, I concluded that only 10 of the 26 7-seeds merited a playoff birth. And of those 10 teams, only four of them had a reasonable chance of advancing, although it may be worth noting that all four of them occurred within the last seven years. And out of those four teams, I don't really believe any of them could have seriously advanced to the Super Bowl. But of course, there's more than just "likelihood": The extra playoff game between the 2 and 7 seeds could have seen season-ending injuries during the games, like Carson Palmer's or Rob Gronkowski's. It could have motivated previously stagnant teams to go on deep playoff runs and play their best football of the season. As an NFL fan, I can't help but wonder if we could have seen another Music City Miracle or Jacoby Jones catch in those nonexistent games (and as a Patriots fan, I'm still bitter about that 2008 team). And it is perhaps significant that none of the 26 teams on this list finished worse than .500.

But conversely, if 10 of those teams deserved a playoff spot, that means 16 of them did not. For every 2008 Patriots and 2010 Giants, there's an '02 Dolphins, '05 Vikings, and '09 Falcons lurking in the distance. Additionally, teams seeded second which won the Super Bowl (such as the 2002 Buccaneers, 2004 Patriots and 2008 Steelers) would have been forced to play an extra game in exchange for surrendering an extra week of rest. And while the NFL playoffs have certainly had its share of unpredictability and upsets featuring lower-seeded teams, the arguments I presented here honestly don't do a whole lot in convincing me that a 14-team playoff is the optimal direction for the league to go in. Of course, the opinions above are not written in the language of dollars and cents, but as a fan who knows that nothing in sports is better than the current format of the NFL playoffs.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Write them in the comments below!