Ratto: Playoffs for 49ers, Raiders? No chance

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Ratto: Playoffs for 49ers, Raiders? No chance

Sept. 6, 2011

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This isnt going to end up with the punch line being Andrew Luck. It just isnt, so dont get your hopes up. Or down, as the case might be.

Neither the 49ers nor Raiders have either the gumption, the brass, the contempt for their audiences, the resources or the good fortune required to throw enough games to win the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

And thats assuming they would even try. I mean, Andrew Luck might be the new Peyton Manning, or Dan Marino, or . . . oh, fill in your favorite, you know where were heading here . . . but to get there, you have to be so bad, or hope the team that does get his rights is so stupid, that it can be done without going fingers-up to an entire season.

In short, too many games, too many ways to screw it up with success without quite having enough ways to make success mean something. To wit:

WEEK ONE

SEATTLE at 49ERS
RAIDERS at DENVER (Monday Night)

Tarvaris Jackson comes to a place hes never won, a fact which many 49ers have in common with him. Seahawks arent very good on the road, or in general. WIN.

Based on the preseason, Denver looks like a good pull here, though undoing the rash Josh McDaniels Era will take some time. LOSE

(49ers 1-0, Raiders 0-1)
WEEK TWO

RAIDERS at BUFFALO
DALLAS at 49ERS

Buffalo is really under-good, but at home . . . oh, they could play in Chan Gailey living room and not get this one. WIN.

If Dallas is to be taken seriously, it has to win here. Has to, I tell you. Of course, thats Dallas problem. LOSE

(Raiders 1-1, 49ers 1-1)

WEEK THREE

49ERS at CINCINNATI
NEW YORK JETS at RAIDERS

The Bengals may actually be worse than Buffalo, but home field does help some. Probably not enough, though. WIN

Rex Ryan cannot let his team give up a single winnable game, even if it is three time zones away. Talent imbalance matters. LOSE.

(49ers 2-1, Raiders 1-2)

WEEK FOUR

49ERS at PHILADELPHIA
NEW ENGLAND at RAIDERS

An excellent chance for two hunch routs. Not upset routs. Straight routs. If you need to know why, you dont watch enough football to have gotten this far into the story. LOSE AND LOSE

(49ers 2-2; Raiders 1-3)
WEEK FIVE

TAMPA BAY at 49ERS
RAIDERS at HOUSTON

Weve seen Houston already, and have every reason to believe in the Texans full wingspan and plumage. LOSE

Tampa, on the other hand, doesnt inspire quite as much this far west, especially looking ahead to New Orleans. WIN

(49ers 3-2, Raiders 1-4)

WEEK SIX

49ERS at DETROIT
CLEVELAND at RAIDERS

Hard to see Team Harbaugh nailing this down, as Lions are better and at home. LOSE

Browns are supposed to be better, but well believe that when it is rammed into our red-rimmed eyes. WIN

(49ers 3-3, Raiders 2-4)

WEEK SEVEN

KANSAS CITY at OAKLAND

This looks like a game in which the Raiders can eliminate themselves from the Luck-Fest. Chiefs are better, but not better enough. WIN

49ers have a bye, a week they struggled with under Mike Singletary a year ago.

(49ers 3-3, Raiders 3-4)

WEEK EIGHT

CLEVELAND at 49ERS

Dont have a great reason why just a hunch. Fans will start demanding Scott Tolzein, though, and that should be enough of a hint. LOSE

Raiders load up on Denver packages during bye week.

(Raiders 3-4, 49ers 3-4)
WEEK NINE

49ERS at WASHINGTON
DENVER at RAIDERS

This one hinges on just how bad you think the Redskins are. As for 49ers, youre already getting a sense of that. LOSE

Raiders are back at sea level. First chance to see how well Hue Jackson absorbs and reacts. WIN

(Raiders 4-4, 49ers 3-5)

WEEK TEN

RAIDERS at SAN DIEGO (Thursday)
NEW YORK GIANTS at 49ERS

Not a big believer in Raiders on the road after a short week against the divisions best team. LOSE

Not a big believer in 49ers at home against a superior team at any time. LOSE

(Raiders 4-5, 49ers 3-6)

WEEK ELEVEN

RAIDERS at MINNESOTA
ARIZONA at 49ERS

Minnesota is one of those wild card teams who could be really good or really bad, but Vikings will be motivated to get to Los Angeles first. LOSE

Arizona isnt; mostly bad. WIN

(Raiders 4-6, 49ers 4-6)
WEEK TWELVE

49ERS at BALTIMORE (Thursday)
CHICAGO at RAIDERS

The superior team theory, twice. We like chalk here. LOSE, WITH TRYPTOPHAN; LOSE.

(Raiders 4-7, 49ers 4-7)
WEEK THIRTEEN

RAIDERS at MIAMI
SAINT LOUIS at 49ERS

Dolphins are very definitely in Luck sweepstakes (sorry, Andy), and will prove it here. WIN

Rams are best team in the division. A chicken with a piano is the best musician in a coop full of them. WIN

(Raiders 5-7, 49ers 5-7)

WEEK FOURTEEN

RAIDERS at GREEN BAY
49ERS at ARIZONA

Green Bay is really good. LOSE.

Arizona isnt, but this is the NFC West, so that is a redundancy. LOSE

(Raiders 5-8, 49ers 5-8)

WEEK FIFTEEN

DETROIT at RAIDERS
PITTSBURGH at 49ERS (Monday)

Lions on the road arent as good, and the playoffs have already eluded both teams. LOSE

Steelers have much to play for, but 49ers are still in rancid division race. Steelers will stop running game, and thatll be that. LOSE

(Raiders 5-9, 49ers 5-9)

WEEK SIXTEEN

RAIDERS at KANSAS CITY
49ERS at SEATTLE

This is the 200-yard Darren McFadden game weve all been waiting for. Merry Christmas. WIN.

And this will be the only road win by an NFC West team against another NFC West team. Happy Non-Sectarian Festival. WIN

(Raiders 6-9, 49ers 6-9)

WEEK SEVENTEEN

49ERS at SAINT LOUIS
SAN DIEGO at OAKLAND

Rams clinch division with this one, a proud 8-8 team with no discernible strengths past Sam Bradford. Ringing out the old. LOSE

Chargers long ago clinched division, but always get a kick out of putting a whipping on their Californii brethren. Ringing in the new. LOSE

(Raiders 6-10, 49ers 6-10)

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.