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2018 NFL Preview: Five Things About Each Team (with Playoff and Award Predictions)

I usually write up an NFL preview on Facebook, but I pay for this domain now and I stand with Eduardo Saverin so it’s happening here. Just a few notes on each team with an over/under bet, then postseason and awards predictions at the end.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

  • I know the Cowboys haven’t actually been “America’s Team” for years now, but it’s still pretty surreal to see them with one of the more random rosters in the league. There’s only one household name on that defense, and that’s only because Cris Collinsworth definitely has a crush on Sean Lee. (In fairness, DeMarcus Lawrence might be after this season too.)
  • I’m in the “Dak Prescott is good” camp, but my fellow members and I are undoubtedly going to catch flak for that during this season. His numbers will suffer because he is throwing to safely the worst group of targets in the league. Dez Bryant has been bad for a few years now, but he’d look like 2008 Larry Fitzgerald in this receiving corps. The top wideout is the fourth best receiver from last year’s Jaguars, and the starting tight end is some character named Geoff Swaim. Never trust a guy named Geoff.
  • Ezekiel Elliott needs to put up MVP-level numbers for this team to make the playoffs. They do have the best offensive lineman in the NFL at the moment in Zack Martin, but he’s already battling a preseason injury. Combine that with the autoimmune disease that Travis Frederick is dealing with, and I’m not exactly buying into Zeke’s MVP campaign.
  • I’ve thought the Cowboys defense would absolutely suck going into the past couple of seasons, and that was never the case more than last year. But yet again, they overperformed and turned out to be relatively average. I still think they should suck and I’m definitely not confident in a secondary that’s filled with a bunch of young, late-round picks, but who knows at this point?
  • Remind me again why they haven’t traded for Earl Thomas yet?

OVER/UNDER 8.5 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

New York Giants

  • The Giants are putting A LOT of faith into a 37 year-old quarterback who hasn’t been good in three years. I’m one of the biggest Eli fans in the world and have gone to great lengths to defend his legacy, but this is a huge gamble by the front office. Yes, he was excellent in the one game he played with a healthy supporting cast last season. And the front office did everything possible to surround him with more talent. And the Giants upgraded at head coach from the literal worst offensive mind in the league to one of the best. So I think he’ll be better, but if Eli doesn’t rediscover at least his 2014-15 form, then a lot of fans will be wondering after only one year why the Giants didn’t draft a top college quarterback when they had the chance.
  • Giants fans should rightfully be psyched about Saquon Barkley, but they should do so with their feet over the brake pedals. His college tape is incredible and filled with highlights, but he also had three games last season where he averaged under 3.0 yards per carry against Big 10 opponents. He doesn’t have much history of breaking tackles and is dependent on his elusiveness, and that’s tough to bank on in the NFL. Not to mention, he’s running behind a still mediocre offensive line that people think is suddenly solid because the Giants broke the bank on a good-not-great left tackle. I think his final stats on the year will be good (probably great from a PPR fantasy perspective, considering he’ll catch 70+ balls), but I think he’ll have multiple games on the ground this season that are total duds.
  • Paying Odell Beckham all of the money in the world was 100% the correct decision. He’s safely one of the three best receivers in the league, and unlike the other two (Antonio Brown and Julio Jones), he’s not on an offense that is stacked at every unit. In other words, it’s easy to argue that he’s the most valuable non-quarterback offensive player in the league. (Yes, wide receivers are generally more valuable than running backs in 2018.)
  • Olivier Vernon is one of the biggest X-factors in the NFL this season. He’s the only surefire pass rusher on the Giants, and that’s with them switching to a 3-4 base defense this year. That sounds ominous, but Vernon is actually that good where he can singlehandedly make quarterbacks uncomfortable. The only thing that can stop him is his own body, and that should make Giants fans nervous considering his missed a lot of action last season and is already dealing with a high ankle sprain. The injury doesn’t appear to be that serious, but he really needs to be at 100% for this to be a good defense.
  • The secondary is probably going to be a major issue, and it seems like no one is talking about that nearly enough. Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins are going to do their jobs, but it’s pretty tough to hide a gap in your secondary…and the Giants have a few. Free safety is just one big question mark, and Eli Apple is in line to play 90% of the snaps this season. Yikes.

OVER/UNDER 7 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Philadelphia Eagles

  • The reigning Super Bowl champs added reinforcements to what was already the best roster in the league. Sure.
  • It’s not exactly all pillows and rainbows in Philly though. Eagles fans are terrified about Carson Wentz, right? And that’s not as much a question of “if he will fully recover” as it is “when will he come back?” The Eagles have the most complete roster in the division, but that doesn’t exactly mean they can go for a few weeks without their starting quarterback and still cruise to the NFC East title. (Who am I kidding…Eagles fans think Nick Foles is the second coming of Tom Brady.)
  • The Mike Wallace signing was super underrated. Torrey Smith wasn’t able to hold defenses accountable over the top last year because he’s not good at football, but Wallace should do a better job of that.
  • It’s annoying how deep that offensive line is. And that defensive line. I’m annoyed.
  • I think this secondary will get a lot more exposed this year. The dominant pass rush and great safety duo of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will do a lot of heavy lifting, but you can’t hide cornerbacks, and I think this is a Bottom 10 group of corners. The Eagles hugely benefited from a career year out of nowhere from Patrick Robinson last year, but now he’s in New Orleans. Ronald Darby is a fine CB2, but I don’t think Jalen Mills is any good and a lot of faith has been put in Sidney Jones for a dude who’s played one game in his career.

OVER/UNDER 10 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Washington Redskins

  • I wouldn’t necessarily say the Redskins upgraded at quarterback, but they definitely didn’t downgrade. Alex Smith is good, and Kirk Cousins has never been as good as his stats might indicate. Smith doesn’t have Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill anymore, but the ‘Skins have an underrated group of weapons, and their offensive line is better than Kansas City’s. I wouldn’t be shocked if he tears it up.
  • Not to be overdramatic about a rookie injury, but Derrius Guice’s torn ACL is so, so bad. I don’t watch too much college football or pretend to be a scout, but I thought Guice was one of the most impressive players in this draft and his north/south running style fit PERFECTLY with the Redskins. I know I just spoke glowingly of Alex Smith, but he’s not a carry-the-offense quarterback. They need a pure runner to balance the offense out. As for his replacements, the Bottom 2 running backs in the league last season in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) per Football Outsiders were…Adrian Peterson and Samaje Perine. Again, I feel crazy saying this about a running back who’s never played a regular season down, but I think Guice is the difference between this team being a playoff contender instead of just middle-of-the-road.
  • The Redskins have had Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay as their offensive coordinator within the past five years. Dan Snyder gonna Dan Snyder.
  • The front seven is…um…kinda great? They have a bona fide superstar in Ryan Kerrigan, a very good edge rusher on the other side in Preston Smith, a tackling machine in Zach Brown, and a defensive line that’s young, deep, and talented. If this group gets the positive injury regression that it’s due for, no joke this could be a Top 5 front seven in the NFL.
  • …the same cannot be said about the secondary. It’s basically all of the same shit I said about the Giants’ secondary, except Josh Norman/D.J. Swearinger is a step down from Jenkins/Collins. The Redskins are gonna be dropping at least two people into coverage on any given play that I’ve literally never heard of.

OVER/UNDER 7 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Eagles – 11-5
  2. Giants – 9-7
  3. Redskins – 8-8
  4. Cowboys – 6-10

 

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

  • I won’t run that long for the rest of the divisions. I just know most people reading this will be a fan of NFC East teams, so provided some extra depth.
  • I’m sorry to any Bills fans reading this for wasting one of the five bullets with that anecdote. And I’m sorry for doing it again here.
  • But I’m doing it for a reason: quite simply, this is the worst team in the NFL.
  • They have Bottom 5 quarterback, receiver, and offensive line situations. The one threat in this offense is a 30 year-old running back who has a domestic violence black cloud hanging over him.
  • The defense is pretty bad too. But if you’re looking for a bright spot here, the Bills have a really good secondary. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer is an excellent safety combo, and Tre’Davious White was silently just as good as Marshon Lattimore last year.

OVER/UNDER 6 – UNDER (3/3 Confidence)

 

Miami Dolphins

  • Nothing says “the NFL is back” like the Dolphins having the dumbest offseason in the league. No lie, it’s happened for at least five straight years now. It’s honestly amazing. I started to think things were changing when Miami picked up two draft picks for a glorified slot receiver that they were never going to sign long-term (Jarvis Landry). But lo and behold, they followed that up by handing out TWO big contracts to slot receivers that aren’t as good as Landry (Danny Amendola and ALBERT WILSON)!
  • The Dolphins definitely signed Frank Gore so they can tweet something when he passes Curtis Martin on the all-time rushing list, right? We’re all on the same page here?
  • I will give some credit to the Dolphins front office: the Josh Sitton signing makes a ton of sense to help out Laremy Tunsil. And while I can’t endorse any team voluntarily taking on Robert Quinn’s contract, he is a really interesting buy-low candidate. He’ll get a ton of chances playing opposite Cam Wake.
  • I understand the Dolphins moving on from Ndamukong Suh’s monster contract, but I’m still not sure that was the wisest move. Suh didn’t rack up big sack totals while he was in Miami, so naturally he flew under the radar even though he’s still an incredible player. And the Dolphins run defense looks absolutely hopeless without Suh playing up the middle. Free advice: this is the team you want to start your running backs against in fantasy.
  • I hope the Dolphins plan on playing Minkah Fitzpatrick at cornerback, only because that way I can tell people I’ve heard of one of the Dolphins cornerbacks.

OVER/UNDER 6.5 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

New England Patriots

  • What goddamn voodoo did Bill Belichick do to get this level of incompetency out of the AFC East for almost TWO DECADES now? I tweeted about how insane this stretch of mediocrity has been.
  • Look, the Pats are going to cruise to the division title again. And they’re probably going to have it clinched before November is over.
  • Here’s the thing about the Patriots this year though that hasn’t been the case in the past: the roster isn’t all that good. They’ve drafted like total shit the past couple of years. They’re probably still going to win 11+ games because they have Tom Brady, but I’m not sure this is a .500 team with an average quarterback behind center.
  • New England has one of the worst pass rushes in the league. It’s Trey Flowers and a bunch of nobodies. That’s not optimal when teams are throwing against you for most of the game.
  • The good news is…the secondary is strong, even without Malcolm Butler. The gamble on Stephon Gilmore is paying dividends, and Devin McCourty continues to be one of the most underrated football players of my lifetime. (A 31 year-old with two rings and three All-Pro selections…we’re usually having different conversations about players like that at this point in their careers.)

OVER/UNDER 11 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

New York Jets

  • I’ve been seeing a lot of the Jets as a trendy dark horse pick, and while I don’t agree with it, I kinda get the rationale. We’ve already covered how the Bills and Dolphins don’t look any good. But I’m pretty sure it’s more of a Sam Darnold thing. The kid has looked awesome in preseason, and it’s not typical for the third overall pick in the draft to be called a “steal.” For 7 of the past 8 seasons now, at least one rookie QB has succeeded right away (Watson, Prescott, Winston, Carr, Luck and Griffin and Wilson, Newton, Bradford). Makes sense that people are betting on Darnold to join that list after this season.
  • Darnold has some weapons at his disposal, but there’s not a true playmaker on this offense. Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell are fine. Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse are fine. They’re fine.
  • This offensive line is not fine though. It is bad. Expect a lot of sacks and interceptions for Darnold.
  • The secondary might be the strength of this team. Trumaine Johnson is bound to become one of the worst contracts in the league in a few years, but for now he’s still a solid player. Buster Skrine is one of the better slot corners in the league, and Jamal Adams seems on his way to superstardom. They’re all going to need to be at their best, because the Jets might not have a sack all season. (Leonard Williams is great, but he’s more of a run stuffer.)
  • Todd Bowles is a good coach, right? Because I think Todd Bowles is a good coach. I know the Jets only went 5-11 last year, but he still did an incredible job. They were universally picked to be the worst team in the league going into the season, and yet they won 5 games and lost 7 games that were within 10 points.

OVER/UNDER 6 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Patriots – 12-4
  2. Jets – 7-9
  3. Dolphins – 5-11
  4. Bills – 2-14

 

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

  • I really loved the Bears’ offseason. They hired a head coach who will actually spend a minute developing Mitchell Trubisky. They bought low on Allen Robinson and took a chance on Trey Burton. I loved the picks of Roquan Smith and Anthony Miller. And now they just got Khalil fucking Mack. Good things going on in Chicago.
  • Kinda just hinted at it, but I’d be excited about Trubisky this season as a Bears fan. He was far from special last year, but he had some of the worst coaching in the league and absolutely nobody to throw to. Now he has weapons everywhere and a reinforced offensive line that should be solid if healthy. I wouldn’t expect a Carson Wentz sophomore jump, but I could definitely see him turning into an above-average QB this year.
  • I love fantasy football, but I also hate fantasy football. I say this because it convinced the public that Jordan Howard had a disappointing sophomore season. But this was a 22 year-old who rushed for over 1,100 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry on a bad offense. Yet people think he stunk because he didn’t have much PPR value.
  • Did you miss the Bears having one of the better defenses in the league last year? Because I bet you did. Granted, they got breakout years from Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos, but this defense still has good players in every unit with a good combination of youth and experience. You could have called the pass rush a weakness, but now the Bears have addressed that by trading for one of the 15 best players in the NFL. Sure. Throw in Roquan Smith and the potential for fellow Top 10 pick Leonard Floyd to finally record double-digit sacks playing opposite Mack, and this is probably one of the five best defenses in the league.
  • I’m sure you’re guessing that I like the Bears a lot this season. Well, I do. I’d pegged them as one of my sleeper playoff teams BEFORE the Khalil Mack trade, but now you can remove sleeper. I’m not worried about them playing in the best division in football. This team is too talented.

OVER/UNDER 6.5 – OVER (3/3 Confidence)

 

Detroit Lions

  • This is the most “meh” team in the league this year. It’s such a boring roster. I can’t think of one good reason to tune into Lions games this year as a neutral fan, unless you’re one of those weirdos who’s obsessed with Matt Stafford. Speaking of which…
  • I’ve been seeing a lot of “Stafford is a top tier QB” takes. Well, he isn’t. Zero career playoff wins in nine seasons, and that’s with a Top 10 receiver of all time for seven of them and an excellent duo of receivers for the past two. Yes, I’m comfortable calling the duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones excellent. They both catch anything thrown within their vicinity.
  • The Lions have four running backs on the roster with fantasy football relevancy. I don’t have much insight about that. It’s just weird.
  • I enjoy watching Darius Slay play football. That’s literally all I have to say about this defense.
  • I couldn’t be more out on Matt Patricia. There’s something to be said about the previous two defensive coordinators under Belichick to get hired as head coaches (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini) quickly flaming out. And I was never impressed with Patricia’s in-game abilities. You’re telling me he couldn’t figure out a single adjustment to slow down NICK FOLES in the Super Bowl?

OVER/UNDER 7.5 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Green Bay Packers

  • The NFL QB landscape is in somewhat of a strange place right now. There are more good quarterbacks than usual, but there are only two “if he’s playing, they’re in the playoffs” quarterbacks. Tom Brady is one. Aaron Rodgers is the other.
  • I don’t think Davante Adams is one of the Top 10 receivers in the league, but he’s going to have Top 5 production. I’d be stunned if he doesn’t score at least 12 touchdowns.
  • I wouldn’t have advised the Jimmy Graham signing, but I get it. He’ll score at least 10 touchdowns too, but that might be on 50 catches for 500 yards. He’s essentially filling the Jordy Nelson red zone role. (You might think that’s harsh towards Jordy, but he has not been good since tearing his ACL three years ago. No, I haven’t forgotten about his 2016 season with 97 catches and 1257 yards. Playing with Aaron Rodgers is just that chill.)
  • Hey Green Bay, turns out good things can happen when you don’t voluntarily sit out of free agency! The Mo Wilkerson signing was just silly. He fits like a glove into a front seven that is going to be impossible to run on. Jake Ryan missing the entire season sucks, but Clay Matthews is versatile enough so they should be fine.
  • I’m not ready to call the Packers secondary good yet, but I think it could be? I was praying the Giants would somehow end up with Jaire Alexander or Josh Jackson in the draft. Welp, the Packers got both of them.

OVER/UNDER 10 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Minnesota Vikings

  • I know I’ve already thrown some backhanded shade at Kirk Cousins in the Redskins section. I’m not a fan of his, but it’s not like I think he’s bad by any means. He’s solid, but the Vikings basically gave him all of that guaranteed money to consistently play as well as Case Keenum did last year during his miracle season. If you’re expecting Kirk to take things to a much higher level, I’m not sure you’ve watched him play before. (His stats are probably gonna be awesome, and I’ll undoubtedly get chirped about them. But c’mon, the Vikings might have the best group of weapons in the league.)
  • I do think there’s a chance the Vikings offense is even better this season, which seems crazy to say considering they finished 2017 ranked fifth in DVOA per Football Outsiders. But that has less to do with Cousins than it does with Dalvin Cook. I think he could explode in this offense if he stays on the field for 16 games.
  • More so than the Bears or Packers, two other teams in this division with great rosters, I think the Vikings might have a fatal flaw. That offensive line really sketches me out. They were actually solid last year, but they stayed relatively healthy and wildly overperformed as a unit. But I think there’s a good chance they crash down to earth hard this year, especially with Nick Easton already done for the season and Pat Elflein doubtful for the start of the season as well.
  • I don’t feel the need to write too much about the Vikings defense. It’s great at every level. I mean, they added Sheldon Richardson to an already loaded defensive line. There’s almost no scenario where this isn’t a Top 10 D.
  • They are choosing to roll with a rookie kicker. Good things the Vikings have never had kicking issues before.

OVER/UNDER 10 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Packers – 13-3
  2. Bears – 12-4
  3. Vikings – 11-5
  4. Lions – 6-10

 

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

  • I don’t have a damn clue about this team. Will Joe Flacco play better with better surroundings? I don’t know. Will Lamar Jackson take over the starting job? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure they won’t be awful, but I’m also pretty sure they won’t be great. I just don’t know.
  • Wild move by the Ravens to sign like 17 receivers this offseason. “Bold strategy, Ron Burgundy. Let’s see how this escalates quickly.” – Trey Wingo.
  • Just as a fan of football, I hope Marshal Yanda gets back to dominating again. He’s probably already a Hall of Famer, but a few more Pro Bowl seasons would seal that.
  • I’m pretty sure Terrell Suggs is made out of vibranium, but if this is the season that he finally slows down, then I have no idea who’s gonna rush the quarterback on this team.
  • ^That might not matter though, because this secondary is GOOD. Jimmy Smith’s four-game suspension isn’t ideal, but they have crazy depth at cornerback so they’ll be fine.

OVER/UNDER 8 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence) ((I’d go 0/3 Confidence if I could.))

 

Cincinnati Bengals

  • This is the most overlooked team in the NFL. Look, I don’t think the Bengals are going to light the league on fire. But they have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. If Andy Dalton plays ok, then I see no reason for them not to be a .500 team. If he plays anything like he did in 2015, then I think this is a playoff team.
  • I’m not on the Joe Mixon train like a ton of other people seemingly are, but I’ll concede there’s a chance I’m wrong there. Either way, the Bengals running game will be fine. Gio Bernard continues to be one of the most underappreciated players in the league. He does everything he’s asked to do well year after year, and he’s somehow still only 26.
  • AJ Green is still the fourth or fifth best receiver in football. He’s coming off his worst 16 game season, but I’m betting on the big rebound. Like All-Pro rebound.
  • I thought the Bengals had the worst offensive line in football going into last season, and they definitely were in that conversation. It’s still not a good unit, but they made a serious effort towards improvement by drafting Billy Price in the first round and trading for Cordy Glenn.
  • This team is going to be freakin’ tough to throw against. Geno Atkins/Carlos Dunlap/Carl Lawson is a terrifying pass rush, and I expect William Jackson to make the All-Pro jump this season. Jackson was one of my favorite college prospects in recent memory coming out of Houston, and the Bengals “stole” him with the 24th overall pick. People forgot about him because he tore his ACL and missed his rookie year, but he returned last year and immediately dominated. He was the fifth highest graded cornerback in the entire league by Pro Football Focus. If you’re not a believer in PFF, then here’s a simpler Jackson metric. The number of catches Antonio Brown had while covered by Jackson: zero.

OVER/UNDER 6.5 – OVER (3/3 Confidence)

 

Cleveland Browns

  • Ah, our beloved Browns. Look guys, the roster doesn’t totally suck anymore. But this team still isn’t good. Six-win improvements from one season to the next are incredible. So 6-10 should be the dream, not the expectation.
  • I’ve spent a few minutes thinking about it, and I can’t come up with any worse leadership going into a season in recent memory than Hue Jackson/Todd Haley/Gregg Williams. Even before the Hard Knocks exposure, this had disaster written all over it. Pretty sure Hue needs to go like 15-1 to keep his job next season. And seriously, HOW is Gregg Williams still getting a Defensive Coordinator opportunity in 2018? He’s basically the answer to the question of, “what if Urban Meyer didn’t know shit about football?”
  • I don’t really have any strong opinions about Baker Mayfield. He wasn’t my favorite QB in this class, but I get the logic behind picking him first and think he can be really good. That all being said, I just haven’t liked what I’ve seen from him leading into this season. He really seems to already think he’s hot shit for someone who’s never played a professional down. Maybe it’s just insane confidence, but I don’t really want my rookie QB doing underwear ads. And yeah, I know I sound like an old fart radio host right now, but I just don’t like it. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets all pissy sitting behind Tyrod Taylor, who’s likely better than him right now. (No, Baker does not remind me of Manziel at all.)
  • There are few players across the league that I’m more intrigued by this season than Jarvis Landry. I think Landry should be a great player. He’s got amazing hands and physicality. I just don’t think he is one. Last season, he caught 112 balls for 987 yards. Maybe that was just a product of Miami’s play-calling, but 8.8 yards/catch is so shitty. That’s like a baseball player getting 200 hits with 180 of them being bunt singles.
  • Myles Garrett needs at least 15 sacks for this even to be decent defense.

OVER/UNDER 5.5 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • I couldn’t have possibly been less impressed with a 13-3 team than I was with the 2017 Steelers. They won an improbable amount of close games, including three-point wins over the Colts, Browns, and Rodgers-less Packers.
  • I’m so sick of hearing people fawn over Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, he can still play. But he’s totally immobile, an injury risk on any given down, and has lost more than a few ticks off his fastball. And if he was still (or ever) an elite quarterback like people insinuate, don’t you think he would have otherworldly numbers playing in an offense with a great line AND the best running back AND the best receiver in the league? Because he doesn’t.
  • Speaking of the best running back in the league…we’re days away from their season opener and Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t reported. And now his offensive linemen are openly talking shit about him. I’m not sure if you’ve watched a Steelers game before, but he usually gets the ball about 40 times a game. Totally nothing to worry about here!
  • And speaking of the best receiver in the league…Antonio Brown has been putting on a Jerry Rice clinic for the past five seasons and some of you morons have the audacity to debate between who’s tops in the game. 116/1570/10. That’s AB’s AVERAGE stat line over the past half decade. Case closed.
  • Uhhh I think the Steelers D is super average. I’m not going to blame them for a second for falling apart after the Ryan Shazier injury, but the truth is this group was overperforming even with him in the lineup. They gave up 45 points to Blake Bortles in their playoff game. Forty. Five.

OVER/UNDER 10.5 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Bengals – 10-6
  2. Steelers – 8-8
  3. Ravens – 7-9
  4. Browns – 5-11

 

NFC SOUTH

 Atlanta Falcons

  • Yeahhh…this roster is amazing. I know it’s really similar to the one they had last season that lost in the Divisional Round. But they were coming off the biggest Super Bowl heartbreak of all time and had a brand new playbook to learn. Not to mention, they still managed to go 10-6 in a season that everyone labeled a disappointment. That’s usually a good sign to me that big things are in store.
  • I’m a functioning human being with a heartbeat and two eyeballs, so naturally I’m concerned about Steve Sarkisian calling the plays. There’s some concern about Matt Ryan too, to a lesser extent. But if this offense clicks, they should average 30 points per game.
  • If you’re like me and think the first 2000-yard receiver is going to happen within the next few years, then Julio Jones this season wouldn’t be a bad bet.
  • I know this wasn’t a great draft for tight ends, but not one stood out for the Falcons? A first or second round talent at tight end would be lethal in this offense.
  • Cue the “the NFL is a copycat league” cliché, but it’s true that when a team develops an innovation that works in a big way, the other 31 teams will install it ASAP. And sacrificing size for speed on defense, like the Falcons have done, feels right up that alley.

OVER/UNDER 9 – OVER (3/3 Confidence)

 

Carolina Panthers

  • I feel really bad for Cam Newton. I’m a huge fan of his, as in I think he’s one of the five best quarterbacks in the league. I just do not think this season is going to go well for him whatsoever. The Panthers finally fired Mike Shula, and who do they bring in to call plays for one of the most gifted quarterbacks to ever play the position? You called it…Norv Turner!
  • Have I mentioned how much fantasy football sways our perception of players? Because Christian McCaffrey was total dogshit running the ball last season. He’s essentially Wes Welker with running back eligibility. (He got 113 targets!) That’s sweet if you’re trying to win your PPR league. It’s not if you’re trying to establish a balanced offense in the NFL.
  • This offensive line is going to be SUCH a problem. First, they lost All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency. Then All-Pro right tackle Daryl Williams mangled his knee in training camp. Then the Kalil brothers…oh who cares they both suck anyway. Basically, what I’m saying is…good luck Cam!
  • Good news for Panthers fans is this team will still cover tight ends and shut down the run as well as anyone. God bless Luke Kuechly.
  • Bad news for Panthers fans is that might not matter, because teams should learn to throw deep against this defense every single play. The pass rush is deep but without a difference maker on the edge, and that secondary is rough. And it was rough before Ross Cockrell, one of my favorite offseason signings, broke his leg in training camp.

OVER/UNDER 9 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

New Orleans Saints

  • The Saints might be the most hyped team going into this season, and as much as I like to play contrarian…this roster is nice.
  • I’m not sure what else there is to be said about Drew Brees. He’s a consensus Hall of Famer and still feels like the most underrated player in NFL history. The wheels are going to fall off eventually, but it won’t be this year.
  • Alvin Kamara could experience some significant statistical regression and still be one of the five most productive running backs in the league. That’s how incredible he was last season.
  • You might not know much about Cameron Jordan if you casually play fantasy and watch RedZone, but he’s one of the 25 best players in the league. He had 13 sacks last year, and honestly that feels low for how often he was in the backfield. Jordan led the league in batted passes too. That’s some JJ Watt in-his-prime shit.
  • Man, that linebacker corps is baaaaad. Like, “set back a defense that had its first good year in almost a decade last season” baaaaad.

OVER/UNDER 9.5 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Please don’t make me write about this team. You just know this is going to be a miserable season for everyone involved.
  • I think we’ve gone a little far with the Jameis Winston hate. If you wanna write him off for his off-the-field behavior, that’s fine. Hell, I’ve done it. But he doesn’t completely suck as a football player. I’ve given up hope that he’ll ever be great, but can still make things happen.
  • Mike Evans might be better with Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center than Jameis. I have nothing concrete to back up this claim. Just feels right.
  • You know what, serious props to the Bucs front office for the goddamn Queer Eye-level makeover they did to the front seven. JPP is past his prime and Vinny Curry has something to prove outside of Philly, but pairing them with Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and first-rounder Vita Vea is some nice work.
  • ^Who cares though, because this secondary could absolutely be the worst in the NFL this season. HOW is Chris Conte still a starter?

OVER/UNDER 6.5 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Falcons – 12-4
  2. Saints – 11-5
  3. Panthers – 7-9
  4. Buccaneers – 4-12

 

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

  • The Texans are where I differ the most from my fellow NFL prognosticators heading into this season. I’ve seen a good amount of people penciling them into the AFC Championship Game. I think they’re going to stink.
  • I love Deshaun Watson. I think he’s special and already one of the three most fun players to watch in the league. I still can’t believe 11 people were drafted in front of him. (If you think this is some revisionist history, peep my tweets on the matter.) But even with all of that, I’m not high on him this year. For starters, as electrifying as he was last year, he did not take care of the football whatsoever. In just seven games, he threw eight picks and put the ball of the turf three times. And that doesn’t even include the high number of risky passes that either fell to the ground or were miraculously caught by DeAndre Hopkins. The sophomore slump can be very real for quarterbacks, and I just see it happening to Deshaun. I really hope I’m wrong, but there’s a ton of red flags.
  • One of those red flags being the offensive line. It’s so bad. Like worst in the league bad. Like “holy shit on who’s watch did this happen?” bad.
  • This isn’t providing any incredible insight, but it’s true that the hopes and dreams of this defense all rely on the health of JJ Watt. If he gets back on the fast track to becoming one of the greatest players of all time, then yeah this is suddenly a Top 10 defense. But this is two years and two major injuries later. I’m not sure we’ll ever see that level of game wrecking from Watt again.
  • Watt aside, there are a ton of wild cards in this Texans defense. Jadaveon Clowney has gone from “overrated in his first few seasons” to “wait I actually think he’s underrated now.” Whitney Mercilus is back after missing most of 2017. Jonathan Joseph is ancient but still somehow the top cornerback on the team. And I have no idea what to expect from Tyrann Mathieu, but I know teams don’t just cut 25 year-old superstars. Considering he wasn’t great in either of the past two seasons, maybe we should all lower our expectations here?

OVER/UNDER 8.5 – UNDER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Indianapolis Colts

  • The catastrophic damage that Ryan Grigson did to this roster as the GM is truly unbelievable. The new regime has started to turn things in the right direction over the past two years, but there is still such a lack of talent and experience on this team.
  • I’m really rooting for Andrew Luck. He’s so easy to make fun of that I think a lot of people conveniently forget how great he was. Good thing is there’s actually some reason for optimism on the offensive line this time around. Just keeping him in one piece would be an upgrade.
  • What in the name of Edgerrin James does Luck need to do to get a quality running back???
  • Maybe the most anonymous defense I have ever seen heading into a NFL season. I’m familiar with three players.
  • I’m excited to see what Malik Hooker can do in a full season. He was such a baller at Ohio State and had a three-game interception streak last year before tearing his ACL in Week 7. Could be a Pro Bowler if he stays healthy.

OVER/UNDER 6.5 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • The Jags are one of the toughest teams to peg going into 2018. On one hand, they led the Patriots late in the AFC Championship Game before they went conservative and had calls go against them. On the other hand, last year was kinda a perfect storm with everything going right for the defense. They should be good, but how good is the question.
  • Blake Bortles’ ceiling is about as low as it gets for a NFL starting quarterback. But I liked the way he played in the playoffs. This offense can at least be effective if he just takes care of the football and scrambles a few times a game. The less he puts the ball in the air, the better. (Let’s be real…even if he had any accuracy, these receivers wouldn’t do shit to help out.)
  • ^Going off that point, Leonard Fournette might carry the ball 350 times this season if he plays 16 games. I think that’s a good strategy? As in, I think that Fournette is good? No doubt he’s a freak of nature, but he only averaged 3.9 yards/carry last year and didn’t contribute much in the passing game. His impact definitely goes beyond the stats, but it would be comforting for Jags fans to see them improve a bit.
  • I mentioned it earlier, but last year was a too-good-to-be-true season for the Jags D. They stayed healthy for 16 games across the board, which is practically unheard of. They also had over half of the starters have career years. That’s not exactly a coincidence, since this defense is a mix of huge contracts and high draft picks. But you can probably bank on slight regression from some of the stars, and there’s just no way they’re going to avoid injuries at the same rate.
  • That’s not to say this defense won’t be elite again. Oh, it will be. Is having the best pass rush AND the best cornerback duo good?

OVER/UNDER 9 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Tennessee Titans

  • There are very few others rosters in the league that look better than this one on paper. There is talent in every single unit on both sides of the ball. If there’s a real weakness here, not sure what it is. I wrote this earlier about the Falcons, but I love teams that are coming off “disappointing seasons” that were actually successful, all things considered. The Titans fit that bill too.
  • I’m not entirely sure what Mike Vrabel did to earn a head-coaching gig, but he gets points just for not being Mike Mularkey.
  • I’m excited to put this in writing this year, because now I’ll have something to look back on when I inevitably think about making this prediction again next season: THIS is going to be the year for Marcus Mariota. I just can’t quit him, and I genuinely don’t think I should yet. High hopes for what he can do with a playbook that doesn’t resemble the 1950s Packers.
  • I couldn’t have loved Dion Lewis the signing more for the Titans. One of my favorites of the offseason. A four-year deal to a 27 year-old running back goes against just about everything I believe in, but I just think Lewis is that good and has that much left to give. He was one of the ten best running backs in the league last season, albeit in limited action. I think he’s better than Derrick Henry, and I think he’ll see a lot more than just third-down work.
  • The Titans D was incredibly average last year, and they didn’t do a complete overhaul of it this offseason, but I still think it might be awesome this year? Jurrell Casey is one of the ten best defensive linemen in football. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo is a great edge-rushing duo, and in relief they have rookie Harold Landry, who somehow fell to the second round. They have a thumping pair of inside linebackers. And then Malcom Butler was added to an already solid secondary. There’s a ton of injury history among this group, but that’s really all I can see derailing them.

OVER/UNDER 8 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Titans – 11-5
  2. Jaguars – 10-6
  3. Texans – 6-10
  4. Colts – 5-11

 

NFC WEST 

Arizona Cardinals

  • I don’t like the looks of the team, but man, I don’t think they’re going to be picking Top 3 in the 2019 Draft like a lot of other people apparently do.
  • Do you think a bridge quarterback with 8-8 upside who’s going to be done for the season by Week 4 is worth $20 million? Because I don’t!
  • David Johnson’s 2016 was one of the best running back seasons of the past decade, but I’d be surprised to see him regain that level of production. Nothing to do with his health…that season just happened in Bruce Arians’ high-octane offense with a lot more talent around him. This Cardinals offense will be night-and-day from that one.
  • The funny thing about this offensive line is it might be Top 5 in the NFL in terms of name recognition, but it also might be considered a Bottom 5 unit by season’s end. Most of the linemen are either overrated or past their primes, and each one of them carries major injury risk. Starting center AQ Shipley is already out for the reason. Please don’t put Josh Rosen out there to die.
  • This defense is fine! They lost their coordinator and some marginal talent, but this group finished fourth in DVOA last season. Chandler Jones is still there. Patrick Peterson is still there. The Cardinals’ main problems won’t be on this side of the ball.

OVER/UNDER 5.5 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Los Angeles Rams

  • Part me of thinks it’s an oversimplification to call this the “Dream Team 2.0,” but it really does remind me a lot of that 2011 Eagles team. I just think acquiring as much talent as possible without regard for culture and scheme is bound to backfire. I’d love to fade this team altogether, but I’m really not a fan of this NFC West, so I’ll begrudgingly pencil them in to win the division.
  • I wasn’t that impressed by Jared Goff last year. His numbers were good, but he didn’t take control of that offense or every really “wow” me. And that’s with an offensive genius calling the plays and the Offensive Player of the Year in the backfield. He really sucked in that playoff game too. I just don’t see him becoming an elite QB any time soon.
  • This was one of the best offensive lines in football last year, but I think they might collapse this season. I’m not adding up the ages of all 32 lines, but I gotta imagine this one is the oldest. They all stayed healthy last year too, and that shit just doesn’t happen twice in a row.
  • I’d say I’m nervous about the Rams pass rush because they have absolutely no edge presence…but Aaron Donald. So yeah, the pass rush will be great. Just because of Donald.
  • This secondary has stupid depth, but I’m not exactly wild about it. The Marcus Peters/Aqib Talib starting duo is beyond worrisome. You just never know with Peters, and Talib is already 32. Plus they’re both shitheads. The Rams will probably be among the league leaders in interceptions, but I don’t think this is going to be the shutdown unit that a lot of people are expecting.

OVER/UNDER 10 – OVER (1/3 Confidence)

 

San Francisco 49ers

  • I’m in on Jimmy G. I think the 49ers have something. I’d just exercise a little bit of patience here. I feel pressure to either be all-in or all-out on him this season, and I just think he’ll be pretty good? I will say…I’d be really surprised if he sucks. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets MVP votes.
  • This feels mean, but I think the 49ers are better off with the Alfred Morris/Matt Breida backfield combo than Jerick McKinnon as the prominent three-down back. I didn’t understand the McKinnon love this offseason whatsoever. He’s been in the league four years now…and he’s been pretty bad the entire time. He averaged 3.4 and 3.8 yards per carry in the past two seasons with 150+ carries in both of them. Like, what was I missing here?
  • Whatever the Marquise Goodwin yardage over/under is, give me the over.
  • For a defensive line that has three guys drafted within the first 17 picks over the past four years, this unit should be way better. DeForest Buckner is a beast by all accounts (I admittedly haven’t watched him much), but that’s about it. Solomon Thomas had about as silent of a rookie year as a third overall pick can possibly have.
  • I’d be psyched if Kyle Shanahan was a coach on my team, but for god’s sake let’s hesitate on declaring him the next Bill Walsh.

OVER/UNDER 8.5 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Seattle Seahawks

  • I know everyone outside of Seattle is excited for the Seahawks’ downfall. But I just can’t see it drastically happening this year, barring a Russell Wilson injury. I have basically the same exact outlook for this team as I do for the Panthers, but no one seems to be talking about how Carolina is doomed like they are with Seattle. Teams with Top 5 quarterbacks will always stay at least mildly competitive. Wilson is a Top 5 quarterback.
  • That said…this roster is terrible. By my count, the Seahawks have EIGHT good players, and that’s including no-show Earl Thomas and the rookie punter who was the preseason MVP.
  • Even ignoring the reports that Rashaad Penny is a fatso now, the Seahawks could be tried in court for drafting a running back in the first round with the amount of holes they have all over the depth chart.
  • The game-changing middle linebacker is an endangered species, but the Seahawks have one of the few in Bobby Wagner. Everything I said about the team not falling apart because of Wilson can also be applied to the defense and Wagner.
  • I’m not gonna throw the t-word around, but Russell Wilson missing the season and the Seahawks subsequently going 2-14 might be the best way to make this team really good again in the near future. (OK, they should tank.)

OVER/UNDER 8 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

  1. Rams – 10-6
  2. 49ers – 8-8
  3. Seahawks – 8-8
  4. Cardinals – 6-10

 

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

  • No team made me more money against the spread last season than the Broncos. I thought they were transparently terrible from the get-go but it took the betting public until about Week 13 to catch on. I do not expect that to be the case again this season. This could be a sleeper playoff team if a few things break right.
  • I laughed out loud when the news broke that Case Keenum got a 2 year/$36 million contract. But the more I think about it, the more I get it. Would I be psyched if my team planned to start a 30 year-old journeyman QB with only one season in his career that didn’t completely suck? No. But there’s no getting around how awesome Keenum was last year, fluky as it seemed and probably was. You could justify the contract on the gamble alone that he’ll play that well again. But when you consider that the gap between an average QB and the Broncos QB situation last year is about the same as the gap between an average QB and Tom Brady, it makes even more sense to pay him.
  • Wanna bet that Demaryius Thomas puts up a line of at least 80/1000/8 again?
  • 20 sacks seems in play for Von Miller this season, especially with Bradley Chubb on the other edge.
  • Vance Joseph has to be the least inspiring head coach in the league, obviously excluding Hue Jackson. You can tell Elway is already pretty out on him. If this team doesn’t have a winning record by Week 8, I could definitely see him getting canned.

OVER/UNDER 7 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Just about every season in the modern NFL, there’s an offensive phenomenon that no one sees coming. Last year it was the Rams. Before them it was the Falcons. And before them it was the Panthers. This year, I’m all in on it being the Chiefs.
  • There’s nothing in particular that Pat Mahomes has even done to get me on the bandwagon. I just think Andy Reid will be the premier offensive mind in the NFL until the day he retires, and if he’s willing to trade away Alex Smith after the best season of his career for this kid, then yeah I’m gonna guess that they know they have something. I think the Chiefs coaches have spent all offseason giggling behind closed doors.
  • Some other teams have amazing groups of weapons, but no one’s sniffs the Chiefs. They’re elite at running back, receiver, AND tight end. Throw in an offensive line that isn’t spectacular but has a high floor, and I seriously think this is going to be the highest scoring team in the league.
  • The defense has sooooo many question marks. It was one of the worst in the league last year, and the best player from that group is now in LA (Marcus Peters). They were the literal worst team against the run by DVOA, and all they did to address that was sign a career-average linebacker in Anthony Hitchens. So yeah, expect some shootouts.
  • I think there’s more reason for optimism on D than people are giving them though. Eric Berry and Justin Houston are both back, and I’m not ever going to count out either of them. And I think the gamble on trading for Kendall Fuller, a slot corner coming off the first full season of his career, to play outside will pay off.

OVER/UNDER 8.5 – OVER (2/3 Confidence)

 

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Can someone tell me when and why Philip Rivers became the muse of NFL writers? I get that he’s still crazy efficient for his age, but seriously people like Philip Rivers now?!?! IT’S PHILIP RIVERS!!!
  • ^That was all about Rivers as a person, but let’s talk about him as a QB too. He hasn’t been to the playoffs in five years. He hasn’t helmed a 10-win team since 2009. As much yardage as he’s put up lately, this is the same guy who has led the league in INTs twice within the past four years. And he almost always has weapons at his disposal. I cannot get over the Rivers fascination. It’s truly confounding to me. (And do NOT even get me started on Philip Rivers, the Hall of Fame candidate.)
  • Hunter Henry’s ACL injury really blows. He was going to catch 80+ balls in this offense, and now his replacement is the ghost of Antonio Gates. But hey, that just means more targets for Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
  • As you can tell…I’m pretty out on Rivers, the person and quarterback. But I’m not out on this Chargers team. I am super in on this defense. They are going to be fairly easy to run against, but DAMN they are going to tough to throw against. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are going to hit opposing quarterbacks on every single dropback. And Casey Heyward is the best cornerback in football – stop writing him off.
  • No joke, I feel like I have to dock this team at least one projected win for playing in a soccer stadium that’s regularly filled with 90% visiting fans. People talk about a Chargers curse as if this all isn’t total karma for quitting on San Diego.

OVER/UNDER 9.5 – UNDER (1/3 Confidence)

 

Oakland Raiders

  • I know I wrote earlier that the Dolphins had the dumbest offseason. They were neck-and-neck with the Raiders for most of the offseason, but then Gruden and Co. dramatically swooped in at the final hour with the Khalil Mack trade to take home the title!
  • It’s never a good sign when my first reaction to a team’s offseason is a gut feeling that foul play is involved. That’s how much I hate what the Raiders did to a roster that I already didn’t really like. It’s old and lacking talent. Winning combo!
  • I seriously think this team is going to be so, so bad. I know that isn’t bold. But however bad other people are guessing, I’ll go 2-3 wins lower.
  • I don’t think Derek Carr is good. Honestly, I’m not even sure he’s average. That magical 2016 season he had, where his numbers weren’t as great as I remember them being, is just starting to feel more and more like a flash in the pan.
  • This is the worst defense is the NFL. The secondary doesn’t suck, but there was one great (let alone good) player on the entire defense and now he plays in Chicago.

OVER/UNDER 7.5 – UNDER (3/3 Confidence) ((Sorry for making you wait until the end for the easiest bet of the season.))

 

  1. Chiefs – 12-4
  2. Chargers – 9-7
  3. Broncos – 9-7
  4. Raiders – 3-13

 

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

  1. Packers
  2. Falcons
  3. Eagles
  4. Rams
  5. Bears
  6. Saints

NFC Championship Game – Falcons over Packers

 

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

  1. Chiefs
  2. Patriots
  3. Titans
  4. Bengals
  5. Jaguars
  6. Chargers

AFC Championship Game – Chiefs over Jaguars

 

SUPER BOWL

Falcons over Chiefs

matt-ryan-julio-jones

MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Offensive Player of the Year: Pat Mahomes

Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jackson

Coach of the Year: Matt Nagy

Walter Payton Man of the Year: Benjamin Watson

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The Washington Capitals Are In The Stanley Cup Finals. I Have Some Thoughts About It.

If you like sports, like me, then you probably know that the Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-0 on Wednesday night to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1998. If you are a Caps fan, like me, then it was one of the highlights of your sports-watching life. And if you know how to read, like me, then you should check out my thoughts on this team, the series, and the upcoming battle against Vegas:

caps trophy

  • I would kick this off with something to the tune of, “I can’t believe it,” but I actually can. Everything we’ve come to expect about Capitals playoff hockey went out the window with Evgeny Kuznetsov’s series-winning goal against the Penguins. Now THAT was something I couldn’t believe. But I genuinely didn’t even consider the idea that this team would choke on Wednesday night, especially after Game 6 when the Caps stuffed every Lightning player in their lockers, pulled them out just to steal their lunch money, then threw them each in the dumpster. I was telling everyone willing to listen that for the first time seemingly ever since my Capitals fandom launched years ago, I was more excited than nervous for a crucial playoff game. I felt good about pulling out a win. Now, did I expect the Caps to win 4-0? No…but I wasn’t surprised by it.
  • After the Caps collapsed yet again in the second round as the top seed last year, everyone suggested that maybe they would be better off entering the playoffs as a lower seed. Not only would it lower the pressure, but in all likelihood it would also help them avoid Pittsburgh. Well, the Caps still had to face the Penguins in the second round (albeit a Penguins team with much less depth and motivation), but turns out there is actually something real to the pressure aspect. In years past the Caps would skate tentatively and deliver hits with no regard for defensive assignments or penalties, just because their nervous brains told them that’s how to “set the tone.” But this year the Caps are FLYING and laying the wood in key moments. And just look at the differences in the crowds in the biggest games. Last year’s Game 7 against Pittsburgh notoriously had a funeral vibe, and I didn’t and still don’t blame those fans in attendance for a second. We all knew the team would come out flat, and they somehow managed to not even meet our lowly expectations. They didn’t come remotely close to scoring at any point in the game. But this year the shutout went the other way around in Game 6, in arguably the best postseason performance I’ve ever seen from the Caps. And by all accounts, it was the loudest the arena has ever been. The players and the fans are all feeling the same energy.
  • With all of that being said, this team doesn’t deserve the underdog label for a second. Just because the Caps didn’t win the Presidents Cup for the third straight year doesn’t mean this team isn’t REALLY good. I mean, they finished with 105 points, won the Metropolitan Division, and landed in a close second in scoring across the league. Yes, a good chunk of the roster throughout the season consisted of rookies, castoffs, and AHL’ers. But this team has essentially the same exact core as the teams who put up two of the best regular seasons in NHL history.
  • There are a few reasons that the Caps were slept on coming into these playoffs, but none bigger than the rough regular season of Braden Holtby. A two-time All Star and just two years removed from winning the Vezina Trophy, Holtby is safely still one of the best goalies in the league, but he was so bad down the stretch that he temporarily lost the main job to Philipp Grubauer. Now, Grubauer is good and was insanely hot in the final weeks of the season, but that decision in hindsight was truly laughable (even if it fired up Holtby, which was absolutely not the logic behind it regardless of what people say). Holtby didn’t have to do much in Game 6, but pretty much the entire first period of Game 7 took place inside the Caps’ zone, and Holtby turned the Lightning away with relative ease. After posting back-to-back shutouts in the two biggest games of the season, it’s safe to say The Beast is back.
  • Still, let’s not pretend that Holtby has been the igniter behind this Capitals run. It’s been Alexander Mikhailovich Ovechkin. Ovi has always been a good-to-great postseason player despite the adverse reputation that’s recycled by Twitter Eggs every year, but this year he’s taken it to a level that I didn’t even know existed. He’s second in both goals and points this postseason (and he’s creating more dangerous scoring chances than anyone else…by a mile.) But it’s his intensity and sheer will to win that I’m talking about. You want to talk about setting a tone? He’s either scored or had the primary assist on THREE goals within the first 90 seconds of games in these playoffs. And I can feel the hits he’s been laying from my couch. Allow us to flip the calendar back a year. Ovi had his worst postseason and was noticeably gassed during the Pittsburgh series. Barry Trotz couldn’t even put him on the ice towards the end of third periods, and there was REAL talk on whether the Caps should consider moving on from him. Now? It looks like he’s pulling a Federer with a second prime that no one anticipated. (Yes, he’s buddy-buddy with Vladimir Putin. Why do you ask?) Nobody in that hideous Golden Knights jersey is going to be safe when #8 is on the ice.
  • A lot of people who are way smarter about hockey than me have already written pieces on how incredible Ovechkin has been, so let’s show a little love here to some other members of the squad. First up…Barry Trotz! Ted Leonsis will never admit it, but I think it’s safe to assume Trotz’s future was toast once the Caps fell behind 2-0 to Columbus. The Grubauer decision immediately backfired, the power play went stagnant, and he was getting toyed with on the lines by John freaking Tortorella. Fast-forward one month and he’s four wins away from becoming the greatest coach in franchise history. In addition to effectively firing up the team for the biggest moments, some specifics that I’ve loved: unleashing Jakub Vrana, moving Chandler Stephenson around in the lineup, and benching Andre Burakovksy for a game.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the league in postseason points and scored the biggest goal of the playoffs, yet I find myself yelling “SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK KUZY” at the TV at least five times a game. It is unbelievable how many good looks he creates for himself.
  • It’s pretty much a lock that the last few years on TJ Oshie’s eight-year deal are gonna be rough on the Caps. But if they actually win it all this year, then the deal is already worth it. Some people might not agree with that assessment, but a deal like that was probably what it took to bring Oshie back. And there is no shot this team makes it this far without him. He’s crushing it on both ends. I think I speak on behalf of all Caps fans when I say we’re comfortable with sucking in 5ish years if we get a ring out of it.
  • Does anyone’s bookie take in-game bets on faceoffs in the defensive zone? If so, please let me know because I have some money to place on Jay Beagle. He is such money. That dude should never pay for a drink in the District in his life.
  • Don’t ever leave us, John Carlson. I know some other team is going to offer you a shit ton more money than the Caps can, but you can’t beat that DC traffic and summer humidity right?!?! (He’s a goner, so let’s just hope we can send him off with a Cup. And throw in that Norris Trophy too.)
  • Two guys who actually played really well in Games 6 and 7…Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen! Contracts considered, Orpik is probably the worst player in the league, and Niskanen has regressed badly this season. It’s a dangerous game to expect those two to keep up that level of play, but honestly it’s just a relief to know that they’re both capable of turning back the clock when they need to most.
  • Some quick thoughts on the Lightning. They could not have reminded me more of the 2015-16 Caps. AKA, it must royally suck being a fan of that team. A laughable amount of talent throughout the roster, an incredible young goalie, household names on the fourth line…and they were still completely overmatched. This series only went seven games because of Tampa’s complete dominance on the power play over the middle games, but on even strength they had the look of a team who all hooked up with each other’s sisters. Just no visible chemistry whatsoever. I know that they’re a veteran team who took hit after hit throughout the series, but I can’t get over how bad their body language was. OH, and all the shit that Ovi took for his “struggles” in the postseason? Steven Stamkos deserves that tenfold. That dude was a total ghost during 5v5 play from Game 1 to 7.
  • I made the impromptu decision to go into Capital One Arena for Periods 2 and 3 for the viewing party with the game on the Jumbotron, and BOY am I happy that I did. Was it weird that I went alone? No way! Did I high-five and hug strangers? Yes way! (Seriously, I could not recommend this experience highly enough for Caps fans for the away games.)
  • I love that Ovechkin touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. LOVE IT. I think it’s beyond lame when fans give athletes crap for celebrating before championships. It’s exactly how I feel about baseball teams champagne showering after each round. You survived past a great team! You did something awesome! Fucking celebrate it!
  • More than half of my brain thought Ovechkin and Backstrom were going to kiss in this moment. Nothing crazy…just a little peck of respect.
  • As a sports town for the last decade, DC has pretty much been the kid who decides to go on a break with his longtime high school girlfriend (Redskins) once he gets to college just to give it a shot with the hot chick who lives down the hall in the dorm (Caps). But after a few weeks, you realize that you like this new girl more. She allows you to be yourself. You have fun without even trying with her. It makes you realize how unhealthy things were with your ex. She wanted you to go to college with her in Ohio. And now that you think about it, she would yell at waiters and say some pretty racist shit in the backseat of Ubers. So yeah, DC is becoming a primarily hockey town.
  • I don’t identify as a DC sports fan (especially since I absolutely despise the football team), so I can’t fully bask in this run like faithful Washingtonians can. Still, as a dedicated Caps fan, I expect personalized congratulations messages from each reader. Thank you.
  • I admittedly don’t watch too much of the NHL regular season outside of the Caps and the Sunday games on NBC, so my knowledge of the Golden Knights doesn’t extend too far past these playoffs and a few articles I’ve read on them. So, I won’t try to provide any sort of breakdown here because it would suck. But what I will say is that I am happy as shit that we drew them. Yes, obviously they are legit considering they made it to the Finals. I know Marc-Andre Fleury is playing the best hockey of his career. But this is still an expansion team. I know the draft rules benefitted them. I know they found diamonds in the rough in William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault. I know their home ice might be the best in the league. I know destiny is on their side. Vegas is still an expansion team.
  • Not much Conn Smythe drama here. It’s Ovechkin vs. Fleury. Let’s hope it goes better for Ovi than this showdown did.
  • PREDICTION: CAPS IN 5. #ALLCAPS
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THE OFFICE Episodes Bracket

bracket last time

The Office is my favorite show of all time. And I know that a ton of other people feel the same way, especially since the show’s popularity has grown proportionally with Netflix over the past few years. While some diehards go back and forth over the best character (Michael is the only real answer) or the best season (2 or 3 are both acceptable), the debate that’s probably most up for interpretation is best episode.

There were 201 episodes of The Office filmed over the show’s nine-season run, and in the spirit of March Madness, I trimmed that number down to 64. No rules or guidelines were followed in the seeding – if the episode was one of the Top 64 in the catalog, then it made the cut. So that explains why “The Incentive” or “Trivia,” two of the better episodes from Season 8, didn’t make the cut, but “Ben Franklin,” one of the lesser episodes from Season 3, did make it. I considered Michael’s highlights and lowlights, impact on the greater story arc, and GIF-ability when putting the list together, but when voting feel free to follow your heart…or Michael’s personal philosophy of “don’t ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or where you’ve been, ever, for any reason whatsoever.”

WINNER

michael and oscar

2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Thanks to everyone who voted! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rewatch the series for the 497th time.


 

CHAMPIONSHIP

office finals

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

A fun piece of trivia about DIVERSITY DAY is that…the episode was webcast on Myspace two weeks prior to airing on NBC as a promotion for the then-upcoming premiere.

A fun piece of trivia about GAY WITCH HUNT is that…the kiss between Michael and Oscar was completely improvised by Steve Carell.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

FINAL 4

office final 4

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 1. DIVERSITY DAY

Best random Michael quote of CASINO NIGHT is…“Dinkin Flicka” – Michael to Darryl.

Best random Michael quote of DIVERSITY DAY is..“This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell out of here.” – Michael to Toby.

2. STRESS RELIEF vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Best random Michael quote of STRESS RELIEF is…“Five thousand three hundred dollars for a dummy?” – Michael to David Wallace, after David told him that the dummy cost thirty-five hundred dollars.

Best random Michael quote of GAY WITCH HUNT is…”Oh, there’s Gil, Oscar’s roommate. I wonder if he knows.” – Michael to camera, right after Oscar came out of the closet.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ELITE 8

scranton 8

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 3. THE INJURY

Worst part of CASINO NIGHT is…Jim’s “I’m sorry I misinterpreted our friendship” line. This isn’t an actual criticism. Honestly it’s really good writing. It’s just fucking brutal to watch.

Worst part of THE INJURY is…that some people apparently didn’t know the rules of Shotgun in 2006? (1:10). I know that’s a lame pick again, but these two episodes don’t really have flaws.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ELITE 8

stamford 8

9. BASKETBALL vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

Worst part of BASKETBALL is…Michael. He’s essentially an unrecognizable character when you go back and watch this episode. The show was still attempting to emulate the British version at this point, so Michael’s character exists under the similar concept of “what if your boss was the biggest asshole in the world?” Don’t get me wrong…the aggressively non-PC version of Michael Scott is still funny. But I significantly prefer the version we grew to know and love, where Michael exists more as an idiot who will go to literally any lengths for approval.

Worst part of STRESS RELIEF is…Jim and Pam watching the bootleg DVD with Andy. This hour-long episode aired directly after the Super Bowl, so they had more time and money to work with. Those extra resources turned into this subplot featuring Jack Black and Jessica Alba, which ended up being way more weird than funny.

 

NASHUA REGION – ELITE 8

nashua 8

4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Worst part of THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT is…the callback to Jan (0:43). There are some amazing ones to old characters in this episode (shoutout Karen), but Jan’s was underwhelming.

Worst part of GAY WITCH HUNT is…how poorly some of the dialogue has aged. Even though this episode is a classic specifically because of how far it crosses the line, some of Michael’s homophobic slurs to Oscar catch you so off guard nowadays that you can’t believe this episode aired on NBC in 2006.

 

UTICA REGION – ELITE 8

utica 8

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

Worst part of DIVERSITY DAY is…Jim. This is a bit of a stretch, especially considering “not a bad day” is probably Jim’s best line of the entire series. But his character was not nearly developed yet. It’s strange to rewatch this episode and see Jim care a lot about work and call a girl “hot” (1:03).

Worst part of THE DUNDIES is…Ping. He ranks near the bottom of my list of Michael’s go-to characters. I feel like this might be a reference to something that’s going completely over my head though? If not, then yeah it’s just a lazy and mildly funny Asian impression.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – SWEET 16

scranton sweet 16

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS

Episode MVP of CASINO NIGHT is…Jim…for finally professing his love to Pam, obviously. But less obviously, for co-discovering Kevin’s band, Scrantonicity.

Episode MVPs of A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS are…Pam and Karen…for having more people show up to their Christmas party.

3. THE INJURY vs. 2. BEACH GAMES

Episode MVP of THE INJURY is…Dwight…for being nice to Pam and for dropping an A+ “that’s what she said” in front of Michael (3:28).

Episode MVP of BEACH GAMES is…Pam…for doing the coal walk, calling out the office for treating her like shit, and telling the truth to Jim. Huge episode for Pam.

 

STAMFORD REGION – SWEET 16

stamford sweet 16

9. BASKETBALL vs. 5. FINALE

Episode MVP of BASKETBALL is…Jim…for actually being really good at basketball.

Episode MVP of FINALE is…Dwight…for burying the hatchet with Kevin, reuniting with Michael, and marrying Angela.

6. THE FIRE vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

Episode MVP of THE FIRE is…Michael…for being the first one out of the building.

Episode MVP of STRESS RELIEF is…Dwight…for somehow not getting fired.

 

NASHUA REGION – SWEET 16

nashua sweet 16

1. DINNER PARTY vs. 4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT

Episode MVP of DINNER PARTY is…Jan’s assistant, Hunter…for gracing us with “That One Night.”

Episode MVP of THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT is…Michael…for finally finishing his passion project, even if he realizes that it actually sucks.

3. GOODBYE, MICHAEL vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

Episode MVP of GOODBYE, MICHAEL is…Michael…for giving meaningful goodbye gifts to everyone, besides Oscar.

Episode MVP of GAY WITCH HUNT is…Oscar…for getting three months paid vacation and use of a company car to not sue Dunder Mifflin for Michael outing him.

 

UTICA REGION – SWEET 16

utica sweet 16

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY

Episode MVP of DIVERSITY DAY is…Kelly…for slapping Michael for his terrible Indian accent.

Episode MVP of GOODBYE, TOBY is…Phyllis…for gaining the upper hand on Angela after she catches her hooking up with Dwight.

14. DRUG TESTING vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

Episode MVP of DRUG TESTING is…Creed…for acing Dwight’s drug test.

Episode MVP of THE DUNDIES is…Ryan…for winning the “Hottest in the Office” Dundie.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ROUND OF 32

scranton 2

1. CASINO NIGHT vs. 8. THE NEGOTIATION

CASINO NIGHT…also known for: “Why are you the way that you are?”

THE NEGOTIATION…also known for: Roy attacking Jim.

5. OFFICE OLYMPICS vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS

OFFICE OLYMPICS…also known for: Michael asking Ryan to come into work early just to bring him breakfast.

A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS…also known for: Dwight’s Christmas miracle.

11. PHYLLIS’ WEDDING vs. 3. THE INJURY

PHYLLIS’ WEDDING…also known for: Jim conditioning Dwight with Altoids.

THE INJURY…also known for: Dwight’s concussion.

10. GOSSIP vs. 2. BEACH GAMES

GOSSIP…also known for: Michael telling everyone about Stanley’s affair.

BEACH GAMES…also known for: Team Voldemort.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ROUND OF 32

stamford 2

1. BOOZE CRUISE vs. 9. BASKETBALL

BOOZE CRUISE…also known for: Michael’s motivational dancing.

BASKETBALL…also known for: Phyllis requesting to cheerlead.

5. FINALE vs. 4. SCOTT’S TOTS

FINALE…also known for: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

SCOTT’S TOTS…also known for: “Andy sowwy.”

6. THE FIRE vs. 3. SAFETY TRAINING

THE FIRE…also known for: Who would you do?

SAFETY TRAINING…also known for: “Hey Darryl, how’s it hanging?”

7. NIAGARA vs. 2. STRESS RELIEF

NIAGARA…also known for: Andy tearing his scrotum.

STRESS RELIEF…also known for: The Roast of Michael Scott.

 

NASHUA REGION – ROUND OF 32

nashua 2

1. DINNER PARTY vs. 8. THE JOB

DINNER PARTY…also known for: “SNIP SNAP, SNIP SNAP, SNIP SNAP!”

THE JOB…also known for: Jan’s boob job.

12. THE MERGER vs. 4. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT

THE MERGER…also known for: Michael trying to push Tony Gardner onto the table.

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT…also known for: Goldenface.

6. THE CONVICT vs. 3. GOODBYE, MICHAEL

THE CONVICT…also known for: Andy hitting on Pam.

GOODBYE, MICHAEL…also known for: Michael and Jim’s goodbye.

10. TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY vs. 2. GAY WITCH HUNT

TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY…also known for: Little Kid Lover.

GAY WITCH HUNT…also known for: Gaydar.

 

UTICA REGION – ROUND OF 32

utica 2

1. DIVERSITY DAY vs. 9. FUN RUN

DIVERSITY DAY…also known for: Pam falling asleep on Jim’s shoulder.

FUN RUN…also known for: Michael’s carbo-loading.

5. THE CONVENTION vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY

THE CONVENTION…also known for: Michael’s hotel room party.

GOODBYE, TOBY…also known for: Michael giving Toby a rock as his going-away present.

6. COCKTAILS vs. 14. DRUG TESTING

COCKTAILS…also known for: Pam and Roy breaking up for good.

DRUG TESTING…also known for: “You look like you want to tell me something.”

7. INITIATION vs. 2. THE DUNDIES

INITIATION…also known for: Dwight ditching Ryan.

THE DUNDIES…also known for: “BEST. DUNDIES. EVER.”

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE


 

SCRANTON REGION – ROUND OF 64

Scranton Region

  1. CASINO NIGHT (S2/E22) vs. 16. HAPPY HOUR (S6/E21)

 CASINO NIGHT…best known for: Jim finally making his move.

HAPPY HOUR…best known for: Date Mike.

  1. THE NEGOTIATION (S3/E19) vs. 9. THE CLIENT (S2/E7)

 THE NEGOTIATION…best known for: Michael accidentally cross-dressing.

THE CLIENT…best known for: Michael holding the business meeting at Chili’s.

  1. OFFICE OLYMPICS (S2/E3) vs. 12. THE RETURN (S3/E14)

OFFICE OLYMPICS…best known for: Phyllis beating Kevin by a nose in Flonkerton.

THE RETURN…best known for: Andy punching a hole through the wall.

  1. CHRISTMAS PARTY (S2/E10) vs. 13. A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS (S3/E10-11)

CHRISTMAS PARTY…best known for: Yankee Swap.

A BENIHANA CHRISTMAS…best known for: Michael’s “Bros Before Hoes” speech.

  1. MURDER (S6/E10) vs. 11. PHYLLIS’ WEDDING (S3/E16)

 MURDER…best known for: The standoff at the end of the episode. (Also Tube City.)

PHYLLIS’ WEDDING…best known for: “This is bullshit.” (Also Kelly’s emergency.)

  1. THE INJURY (S2/E12) vs. 14. LOCAL AD (S4/E9)

THE INJURY…best known for: “I burned my foot.”

LOCAL AD…best known for: Andy forgetting the Kit Kat slogan.

  1. VALENTINE’S DAY (S2/E16) vs. 10. GOSSIP (S6/E1)

 VALENTINE’S DAY…best known for: “The Faces of Scranton.”

GOSSIP…best known for: Parkour PARKOUR!

  1. BEACH GAMES (S3/E23) vs. 15. MICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY (S5/E23)

 BEACH GAMES…best known for: Pam’s confession to Jim.

MICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY…best known for: Pam making her first sale.

 

STAMFORD REGION – ROUND OF 64

stamford region

  1. BOOZE CRUISE (S2/E11) vs. MICHAEL’S LAST DUNDIES (S7/E21)

 BOOZE CRUISE…best known for: Michael’s advice to Jim.

MICHAEL’S LAST DUNDIES…best known for: “9,986,000 Minutes.”

  1. WEIGHT LOSS (S5/E1-2) vs. 9. BASKETBALL (S1/E5)

WEIGHT LOSS…best known for: Jim’s proposal to Pam.

BASKETBALL…best known for: “Secret Weapon” Stanley.

  1. FINALE (S9/E24-25) vs. 12. BRANCH WARS (S4/E10)

FINALE…best known for: Michael’s return.

BRANCH WARS…best known for: This incredibly awkward conversation between Jim and Karen.

  1. SCOTT’S TOTS (S6/E12) vs. 13. BEN FRANKLIN (S3/E15)

SCOTT’S TOTS…best known for: Being the most polarizing episode of the show.

BEN FRANKLIN…best known for: Dwight’s interrogation of the Ben Franklin impersonator.

  1. THE FIRE (S2/E4) vs. 11. SEXUAL HARRASSMENT (S2/E2)

 THE FIRE…best known for: “RYAN STARTED THE FIRE!”

SEXUAL HARASSMENT…best known for: The debut of Todd Packer.

  1. SAFETY TRAINING (S3/E20) vs. 14. THE DUEL (S5/E12)

SAFETY TRAINING…best known for: The stress of Michael’s modern office causing him to go into depression.

THE DUEL…best known for: Andy using his Prius as a weapon.

  1. NIAGARA (S6/E4-5) vs. 10. DIWALI (S3/E6)

NIAGARA…best known for: Jim and Pam’s wedding.

DIWALI…best known for: Michael proposing to Carol.

  1. STRESS RELIEF (S5/E14-15) vs. 15. PDA (S7/E16)

 STRESS RELIEF…best known for: The fire drill gone wrong. And the CPR demonstration gone wrong.

PDA…best known for: Kevin enjoying Michael and Holly’s PDA.

 

NASHUA REGION – ROUND OF 64

Nashua Region

  1. DINNER PARTY (S4/E13) vs. 16. CASUAL FRIDAY (S5/E26)

DINNER PARTY…best known for: Jan breaking Michael’s flat screen TV.

CASUAL FRIDAY…best known for: Kevin’s Famous Chili.

  1. THE JOB (S3/E24-25) vs. 9. MICHAEL’S BIRTHDAY (S3/E19)

THE JOB…best known for: Jim asking Pam out.

MICHAEL’S BIRTHDAY…best known for: Michael’s birthday call to Jan.

  1. CAFÉ DISCO (S5/E27) vs. 12. THE MERGER (S3/E8)

CAFÉ DISCO…best known for: Michael’s dancing.

THE MERGER…best known for: “Lazy Scranton.”

  1. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT (S7/E17) vs. 13. CHAIR MODEL (S4/E14)

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT…best known for: “The Scarn.”

CHAIR MODEL…best known for: Phyllis trying to set up Michael with her friend.

  1. THE CONVICT (S3/E9) vs. 11. FRAME TOBY (S5/E9)

 THE CONVICT…best known for: Prison Mike.

FRAME TOBY…best known for: Michael’s reaction to Toby’s return.

  1. GOODBYE, MICHAEL (S7/E22) vs. 14. MONEY (S4/E7-8)

GOODBYE, MICHAEL…best known for: Being the episode that should have been the series finale.

MONEY…best known for: “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!!!”

  1. PRODUCT RECALL (S3/E21) vs. 10. TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY (S2/E18)

PRODUCT RECALL…best known for: Jim impersonating Dwight.

TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK DAY…best known for: Stanley yelling at Ryan.

  1. GAY WITCH HUNT (S3/E1) vs. 15. HEALTH CARE (S1/E3)

GAY WITCH HUNT…best known for: Michael kissing Oscar.

HEALTH CARE…best known for: Dwight’s health care investigation.

 

UTICA REGION – ROUND OF 64

utica region

  1. DIVERSITY DAY (S1/E2) vs. 16. DID I STUTTER? (S4/E16)

 DIVERSITY DAY…best known for: The index card game.

DID I STUTTER?…best known for: Stanley erupting at Michael.

  1. BACK FROM VACATION (S3/E12) vs. 9. FUN RUN (S4/E1-2)

BACK FROM VACATION…best known for: The topless photo of Jan.

FUN RUN…best known for: Michael hitting Meredith with his car.

  1. THE CONVENTION (S3/E2) vs. 12. GARAGE SALE (S7/E19)

THE CONVENTION…best known for: “I hope it’s urine.”

GARAGE SALE…best known for: Michael proposing to Holly.

  1. BUSINESS SCHOOL (S3/E17) vs. 13. GOODBYE, TOBY (S4/E18-19)

BUSINESS SCHOOL…best known for: Michael showing up to Pam’s art show.

GOODBYE, TOBY…best known for: Holly thinking Kevin is mentally challenged.

  1. COCKTAILS (S3/E18) vs. 11. TRAVELING SALESMEN (S3/E13)

COCKTAILS…best known for: Dwight inspecting David Wallace’s house.

TRAVELING SALESMEN…best known for: Ryan taking the lead on the sales pitch.

  1. THE DEPOSITION (S4/E12) vs. 14. DRUG TESTING (S2/E20)

THE DEPOSITION…best known for: Michael pushing Toby’s tray.

DRUG TESTING…best known for: Jim convincing Dwight that he smoked the joint.

  1. INITATION (S3/E5) vs. 10. BROKE (S5/E25)

INITIATION…best known for: Pretzel Day.

BROKE…best known for: “Well, well, well…how the turntables…”

  1. THE DUNDIES (S2/E1) vs. 15. COMPANY PICNIC (S5/E28)

THE DUNDIES…best known for: Pam’s acceptance speech.

COMPANY PICNIC…best known for: Jim and Pam realizing she’s pregnant.

 

VOTE HERE VOTE HERE VOTE HERE

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Should We Be Excited For WESTWORLD Season 2?

Westworld 2

I suppose now that my HBOGo has temporarily stopped working in the middle of my Westworld rewatch, it’s as good a time as any to write this up. HBO flexed on us all and dropped their Season 2 trailer during the Super Bowl. Twitter caught fire, Facebook caught fire, even Neopet Island is probably burning (RIPinpeace). We were afforded a quick break from the 24-hour news cycle based around the geopolitical landscape that has purposefully bastardized itself into pop-entertainment and created a distrusting, uninformed public. BUT, I’ll give that rant another time, it’s all very disconcerting.

Getting back on track…the large majority seems super pumped for the show to return, though not all were jazzed about the trailer itself. So, Westworld Season 2, let’s talk about it.

Right off the bat, let’s just discuss how crazy this is. I have invented a brand new type of blog post, addressing whether or not to be excited for something new. Instead of taking a paycheck for it I will be receiving 20% off the back end. Now putting my finances and incredible inventions aside, hear my words, children.

Westworld is a complicated subject for me. On our old podcast, I proclaimed that it would win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. And ultimately, I was uhhhhh…wrong. Which I completely understand, because my biggest takeaway after Season 1 was a huge feeling of disappointment. The trailers for the first season were jaw dropping, I was so incredibly excited for it. The involvement of Jonathan Nolan, the variety of big screen actors, the promise of gunslingers and whores, what could be better?

But like I said, I was disappointed. V disappointed. V V disappointed, if I’m being completely honest with myself. I thought this was going to be the series of the year, if not the decade. I thought that HBO had seamlessly created their next big hit in preparation for the post-Game Of Thrones world. Well, all of that expectation played a major part in my final opinions of the show. I hopped aboard the hype train and when it didn’t deliver what I was looking for I was quick to write it off. Westworld is not as bad as I thought immediately following the season, but I’m going to walk you through some of the very real problems it has.

My most minimal complaint: the NOLAN-STYLE EXPOSITION DUMPS. The world within the show that they present to us has so many profound differences from ours; they need to establish the rules as soon as possible to help us enjoy it. Upon rewatching, however, these exposition dumps are GLARING. If you’ve never noticed that Chris and John Nolan favor pretty overt exposition scenes in their films, you won’t be able to unsee it now. A confused character, an outsider, a new guy: they all represent the viewer and get to ask the questions that the viewer would ask. The wiser character onscreen explains the rules of the universe and voila! We get to kick back and enjoy it from that point forward. They shell out massive details about backstory and plot just so we can catch up.

With Westworld specifically this creates a larger problem. This show is like a parfait, there are a ton of layers. With each layer comes different rules, different backstory, and different intrigue that needs to be set up. For example, we get exposition about the real world, and then about the people in the real world. We get a shit ton of exposition about the park, and then hosts within the park. Then we start getting exposition from and about the humans within the park. And this goes on and on for the first few episodes and serves as pretty ineffectual storytelling. This technique might work for a 2-hour feature film but it really sucks you out of a TV show, especially when it’s right out of the gate.

A bigger issue: THE STORY IS KINDA FUCKING DUMB. Don’t get me wrong, certain elements are fascinating. Machines on the quest for awareness and intelligence, great. There’s a lot of meat in that. But following the least attractive Hemsworth (maybe he’s the friendliest, idk) brother as he apprehensively walks around the park and then literally disappears while no one addresses the head of security vanishing — kinda fucking dumb, dude! How about the story arc of Lee Sizemore? Oh, you don’t know who Lee Sizemore is? Obviously that’s the sign of a great character within a great story! Lee Sizemore was the angry little developer that was trying to head a coup and overthrow Ford. Do you remember where his plot line ends? Me neither! And it’s upsetting because this wasn’t sleight of hand. They weren’t drawing our eyes to one side while having the real story creep up from the other. They were attempting to thicken the world but it ultimately meant so little.

And Sylvester and Lutz (the two scientists that give Maeve way too much leeway which results in mass human murder and possible total robot overthrow and genocide) make a series of the dumbest possible decisions in the realm of character. The story needs to get to its final destination though, so someone has to make these dumb decisions. The story, in its current form, NECESSITATES stupid/unlikeable characters. Maybe it’s a commentary on human hubris? Except eh, because it is a story about human hubris, just not in that way. We created our own replacements, we can’t fathom intelligence rising and surpassing us, what does it mean to truly be alive? All great questions, but tech specialists not resetting a host once she has the ability to murder humans? Blahhhh.

While John Nolan’s contributions to “Christopher Nolan” films go largely unappreciated by most people, his work is usually great. But if you think that stories like the one found in Inception are brilliant and everyone who doesn’t appreciate them are just idiots, then I wouldn’t be surprised if this is your favorite show. Inception is far superior to Westworld, but each is pretty heady in its own way. Westworld is complicated like a maze, okay yeah like a maze. Except this maze also has fire shooting from the walls, kind of a hat on a hat.

Now we’re entering the most important spoiler territory: the BIG twist of the season. It turns out that we’re watching multiple timelines and that William is the Man In Black. I did not think this was executed well. In this media age, people sniffed it out from the first episode. I was mostly onboard the denial train, because this wasn’t a clean getaway. There are mistakes in the timelines, some that can’t be explained away by “employees are hosts.” Two general rules for a good twist: you have to make a clean getaway because people can rewatch whenever and look for your mistakes, and you have to provide such a strong story that even the most discerning of people don’t look for twist — because they’re so enraptured in the story that you put in front of them. The latter is the trick.

HBO seems to favor the “big twist” ending to shows. When that’s your m.o. you need to come up with new and inventive takes. The best way to do that seems to be, hire me to write your movie and give me the life I deserve. That’s just a fact. That’s completely without bias.

If Westworld is your favorite show, cool. I’m not going to take anything away from you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I want every show, every movie, to be great. I just can’t be complicit in pretending that this show is objectively great. It is good. The production value is off the charts, and the fact that they could pull it off as well as they did was an amazing achievement. I’m just spoiled and expected more.

To answer the initial question: “should we be excited for Season 2?” Plain and simp — yes. Watching it for the second time, it’s much easier to take a step back from criticism and enjoy the ride. It’s an impressive technical feat with strong performances and fascinating themes. I’ll enter Season 2 with tempered expectations and go with the flow. Get your milk ready for April 22nd.

Oh…and the THEME! The music on this show is perfect.

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Arie Was A Good Bachelor

Arie 2

THE MOST DRAMATIC HEADLINE IN BACHELOR HISTORY RIGHT THERE FOLKS. Ok, so maybe that’s an overexaggeration, but it’s definitely not an opinion shared by most of the fellow citizens of Bachelor Nation. Arie Luyendyk Jr., the 21st Bachelor in the history of this beautiful franchise, has been getting absolutely crucified by fans over the past few days in a way that none of his predecessors had been following the conclusions of their seasons. And it’s not totally unjustified Internet rage. In case you’ve spent the past 72 hours living under a Twitter rock, or a Twock (don’t use that), then allow me to catch you up to speed. By the finale, Arie had professed his love for the final two contestants: Becca Kufrin, the likable and “ready for marriage” option, and Lauren Burnham, the hottest option from Day 1 who just so happens to have zero original thoughts. Determined to follow the rules of the show and propose by the end of the season, Arie surprised most fans by choosing the safe route and popping the question to Becca. She instantaneously said yes, and we soon learned that they were happily engaged for about two months following the proposal….or at least it seemed that way to Becca. Arie was internally agonizing over his decision. After a private conversation with Lauren, Arie decided to give it a shot with her before it was too late. And here’s the kicker…HE ALSO ALLOWED THE CAMERAS TO CAPTURE THE ENTIRE BREAKUP WITH BECCA.

I’m not kidding when I say it was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever watched on television. It lasted about an hour, even though Becca told Arie to leave around the five-minute mark. It nearly broke social media, with people sending threats to Arie and Chris Harrison for allowing it to unfold before our eyes. But not me. I want to personally thank both of them. BECAUSE THIS IS THE BACHELOR WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. THIS IS WHY WE WATCH. Go watch 60 Minutes or some shit if you’re preoccupied about being a good person. It was drama and entertainment in its purest form. (And, for the record, Becca is doing just fine.) Which, at the end of the day, isn’t that the reason we tune in in the first place?

That’s a good question, PJ. Entertainment value is definitely one of the methods we should use to measure Bachelors and their seasons, but it isn’t the only one. Everyone has their own standards for grading these suitors, but here are the core four that I consider:

  1. Was he qualified to be the Bachelor?

This takes into account his job, his history within the franchise, and whether or not he is handsome enough to carry the torch. Basically, does he deserve this honor?

  1. Was he serious about being the Bachelor?

This show is infinitely more interesting when the protagonist is genuinely looking for a wife. It sets up way more drama, because these people are all terrible actors and it’s obvious when they are just pretending to go along with the narrative. Take that bullshit to Bachelor in Paradise.

  1. Was he a good guy?

This is a tough one. Ideally we want our Bachelor to be someone worth rooting for, but you have to balance that against the risk of a boring season. Some of the best Bachelors in the show’s history were dickheads. But with that being said, there’s no way to spin misogyny, verbal abuse, or general disrespect as a good thing.

  1. Finally and most importantly, did he anchor an entertaining season?

Once again…it’s the reason we watch.

 

So now that we know the ground rules, let’s put Arie to the test. We’ll stack him up against each of the five Bachelors who predated him, going back to Sean Lowe because that’s just about when social media took this show to another level. (It’s also when I started paying attention again.) GET YOUR ROSES READY.

 

Was Arie qualified to be the Bachelor?

Best Recent Example: It’s probably Arie.

Worst Recent Example: Nick Viall

You have to go pretty far back into the archives to find a hard yes to this question. Among our most recent Bachelors are a 27 year-old software salesman, a farmer from Iowa, and a man who struggled with the English language. And we were also fresh off the season of Nick Viall, a debatably good-looking Salesforce employee who had already been through THREE difference chances at love within the franchise. So yes, Arie was a good choice to have the title bestowed upon him. The initial feedback wasn’t exactly positive, but that wasn’t because people were upset with the decision. We were just completely thrown off. It had been over five years since he finished as the runner-up on Emily Maynard’s season of The Bachelorette, and EVERYBODY was expecting Peter Kraus from Rachel Lindsay’s season. But in hindsight, the producers made the right call. I like Peter, but he was pretty boring and only lost because he was openly critical of the expedited nature of the show. Not sure if that’s the guy you want with the power. As for Arie, he was well liked despite his weird “kissing bandit” reputation, and professional racecar driver is elite when it comes to Bachelor occupations (even if he sucked at it).

Verdict: Absolutely.

 

Was Arie serious about being the Bachelor?

Best Recent Example: Sean Lowe

Worst Recent Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

We’ve seen both extremes of the spectrum on this one lately. At the “yes” end, you have Sean Lowe, who respected the process and is still happily married to the winner of his season. Right behind him is Ben Higgins, who broke the rules by telling two women that he loves them but also still seems genuinely distraught over his broken engagement with (Real) Lauren B. On the far other end is Juan Pablo, who was clearly there to hook up (shoutout the ocean sex with Clare) and dismissed all of the girls telling him that he doesn’t deserve love with his trademark “ees ok.” And Nick Viall isn’t far behind him, because it didn’t take long to realize that he was way more into the status of being the Bachelor than actually finding a wife. Arie is somewhere in between all of these guys. He too told two women that he loves them, and opting to have the cameras rolling for his post-show breakup proved that he had a pretty major taste for drama. Keeping around a 22 year-old for the majority of the show also raised a red flag. Still, I’m giving Arie the benefit of the doubt here. He sent home women as soon as he didn’t see a future with them (for the most part), and he handed out multiple one-on-one dates to the women he was clearly the most interested in. Oh yeah, and his proposal to (Fake) Lauren B tells us that he didn’t back out of his initial engagement just for entertainment purposes.

Verdict: Not the most serious, but yes he cared.

 

Was Arie a good guy?

Best Recent Example: Ben Higgins

Worst Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

I’m not gonna try too hard to sugarcoat this: the answer is no. Even though he was on his best behavior for the first 10 episodes of the season, Arie undid all of it and more with his performance in the finale. It was seriously that bad. I know I’ve already covered it, but the way he went about the breakup with Becca was just so, so bad. Pretty much every former Bachelor and Bachelorette validated that he had the option not to do it in front of the cameras too. But that’s not even what concerned me the most about it. How about Arie just turning into an emotionless sociopath out of nowhere in the moment where he needed more empathy than ever? I’m still so confused what happened to him in that moment. He said his feelings towards Becca changed when they were “hanging out”…dude you were ENGAGED for two months. Or how about when Becca was emptying her tear ducts in the bathroom about a half hour post-breakup when Arie had the audacity to ask her “are you ok?” I get that this was an extremely tough moment for him to compassionately execute, but it seems pretty indicative of his true character that he seemed so slightly concerned about the news that he was breaking to Becca.

Even with all of that though, I don’t really think Arie is a bad guy deep down. He’ll deservedly have a dark shadow cast over his season forever, but he came off as a nice guy for most of it. He handled his first 28 breakups well, and all of the women in the mansion seemed to genuinely like him. He was totally respectable to each of the four families that he met with, and he didn’t start any controversy whatsoever before the finale. Yeah I know…it all comes down to the Becca breakup. But for what it’s worth, he wasn’t the first Bachelor to change his mind. And he actually handled it better than the first guy, Jason Mesnick, who broke up with his then-fiance across the couch from Chris Harrison during After The Final Rose. (For the record, Jason absolutely made the right decision. 15 year-old PJ was absolutely in love with Molly, and Jason is still married to her.) Arie probably doesn’t deserve this consolation prize either, but there have been recent Bachelors with objectively worse temperaments too. I already covered Juan Pablo, Nick was a narcissistic asshole, and just take a quick look at Jake Pavelka if you wanna go back a little farther. I mean, I’m not even sure they’d be allowed to air this kind of behavior anymore. So while Arie wasn’t even the worst we’ve seen in the past few years, all of your “Arie is literally all guys in 2018 #fuccboi” tweets were fair game.

Verdict: No, but his douchebaggery is getting overblown.

 

Did Arie anchor an entertaining season?

Best Recent Example: Juan Pablo Galavis

Worst Recent Example: Chris Soules

I’ve already said it: some of the most entertaining Bachelors in history were some of the worst at it. Looking right at you, Juan Pablo. And some of the nicest guys to ever have the platform, like Ben Higgins and especially Chris Soules, ended up on the boring side of things. As for Arie, his season was pretty entertaining, even before the finale. Yes, part of that is probably due to the fact that we were coming off a series low point with Nick’s season, but Arie deserves props for bringing the show back to its roots. He maintained control throughout while keeping around contestants for almost always the proper amount of time. We’ve seen villains last too short and too long in recent years, but Arie entertained the idea of Kyrstal for just about the perfect length. He was articulate, blunt when he needed to be, had a solid sense of humor, and brought along the finest wink game the show has ever seen. And this is a guy who brought a taxidermist to the fantasy suite…he kept it interesting.

Don’t get me wrong…Arie had his drawbacks. It’s been years since we’ve had a cringier Bachelor. I wanted to die whenever he whispered or opened the door with “hiiiii” or asked a girl in the highest octave voice “what’s wrooooong?” And sure, he loses some points for ending up with a girl that 0.1% of viewers were hoping that he’d end up with. But let’s not act like the finale goes in the cons column for this category. In fact, it’s the biggest pro. It was the most purely entertaining Bachelor moment…maybe ever? And this franchise NEEDED it. I know the show isn’t in danger or anything, but I’m pretty confident that it had slipped over the past few years and that the producers knew it. I personally know a ton of fans that dropped out after Nick and Rachel’s shitty seasons, so when you extrapolate that it’s likely way more fans were lost than gained. I don’t have the numbers to back that up, but I think I’m right considering the show decided to run a spinoff AGAINST ITSELF near the peak of this season. None of that will be the case for the near future. The show is back in a big way, and it has Arie to thank for that.

Verdict: Without a doubt.

 

So with positive grades in three of the four qualifying categories, Arie checks out as a strong Bachelor. Definitely not perfect, but fans should remember him fondly. I thank him for his contributions.

 

If you were wondering, here’s how I rank the Bachelors discussed above:

  1. Sean Lowe
  2. Arie Luyendyk Jr.
  3. Ben Higgins
  4. Juan Pablo Galavis
  5. Chris Soules
  6. Nick Viall
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Should, Could, Will, and Where: The 2018 Oscars

Oscars season, baby! Before the big show tonight, Connor Stambaugh and I are here to break down everything we want to happen and everything that actually will happen.

Moonlight

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game, Mudbound

PJ

Should Win – Call Me By Your Name

Could Win – Logan, if they decided to hold the voting at Comic-Con.

Will Win – Call Me By Your Name

Where Is…Stronger?

Talk about an eclectic crop for this category this year. A movie from the Pineapple Express guys, a comic book movie, a movie that went mostly unseen (including by me), a Netflix movie…and then there’s Call Me By Your Name. Despite being a boldly and proudly gay movie, the screenplay is pretty straightforward and doesn’t feature much drama or tension. Still, it’s beautifully written and features one of best scenes of the year: the monologue delivered from Michael Stuhlbarg. Get your peaches ready, people. As for Stronger, I had pretty low expectations going into it, just because I generally dislike the “let’s make a movie about this tragedy that just happened” movies. But it is excellent. I think most of us expected this movie to mainly focus on the bombing itself or Jeff Bauman’s physical struggle in learning to walk again, but it smartly centers the drama on the psychological toll taken on heroes who unwillingly become heroes.

Connor

Should Win – Call Me By Your Name

Could Win: Absolutely nobody else.

Will Win – Call Me By Your Name

Where Is…seriously why was anyone else even nominated?

See it and fucking TRY to tell me otherwise.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Connor

Should Win – Lady Bird

Could Win – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will Win – Get Out

Where Is…Colossal?

This is an absolute beast of a category and a case could be made for each of the contenders. I am going with my gut here and predicting Get Out for the win. If The Shape of Water takes Best Picture, and Three Billboards takes the two acting statues, this *has* to go to Peele, right? Right?!?! If it doesn’t win here, Get Out will go home empty-handed and will singlehandedly break Twitter. I’m throwing Colossal with Anne Hathaway into the mix too because it has a ton on its mind and explores those ideas in fascinating ways. And just keep reading if you want an idea of how phenomenal I think Lady Bird is.

PJ

Should Win – Get Out

Could Win – Lady Bird

Will Win – Get Out

Where Is…Phantom Thread?

This is annually my favorite category, because it’s where the most original movies get recognized since the Academy is usually too afraid to put them in the Best Picture class. That’s the case once again with The Big Sick, but they actually decided to give major props to two of the other coolest movies of the year: Get Out and Lady Bird. I’m fairly sure Get Out will actually win, for two reasons. First, because it fucking deserves it. Second, because I don’t think it will get the serious looks it deserves elsewhere and there’s ZERO chance the Academy lets it leave the Dolby Theatre empty-handed. I think Lady Bird has a better chance than people are giving it too, for similar but non-racially charged reasons. Greta Gerwig somehow made a screenplay about a theater chick from Sacramento universally relatable. I’d say Phantom Thread has an outside chance as well, but it didn’t even get nominated. I mean, the “are you here to ruin my evening, or possibly my entire life?” line is better than the entire The Shape of Water script.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project, Woody Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water, Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World, Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

PJ

Should Win – Sam Rockwell

Could Win – Rockwell’s name is already engraved.

Will Win – Sam Rockwell

Where Is…Armie Hammer for Call Me By Your Name? And Jason Mitchell for Mudbound? BUT SERIOUSLY…WHERE IS ARMIE HAMMER???

I could spend this entire blog talking about how good Sam Rockwell is in Three Billboards. The humanity that he brought to piece-of-shit Jason Dixon convinced a ton of people that his character, who was fired, shunned by his small town, burnt nearly to death, and unsuccessful in his final investigation, was somehow redeemed at the end of the movie. Still, I’d rather talk more about how badly the Academy botched this category. At most they got 3 of the 5 right (there’s little defense for Harrelson and literally none for Plummer). I’d maybe let it slide if it was a down year for supporting male performances, BUT THEY MISSED SOME GREAT ONES. Armie Hammer is seriously an all-time bad snub, and Jason Mitchell deserved this spotlight too. Rockwell is winning in every single scenario, but it would’ve been great for those two guys to get their moments.

Connor

Should Win – Sam Rockwell

Could Win – Willem Dafoe

Will Win – Sam Rockwell

Where Is…Armie Hammer?

As dominating as Frances McDormand is when she’s onscreen (and she is), Sam Rockwell’s bumbling, racist cop is usually the one you can’t keep your eyes off of. He has the greatest character arc of anyone in the film (not that he changes *that* much) and leaves his mark as a villain who might want to be a hero but has no idea how, or if, anyone will let him. Dafoe grounds the entirety of The Florida Project and I wouldn’t be mad in the slightest if he got his “career” Oscar for this little gem. Everyone knows Armie Hammer has the movie star looks, charisma, and build of a leading man. But this is almost a two-hander with Timothee Chalamet and the two of them exhibit some of the greatest chemistry I’ve ever seen in a film. Or anywhere. It’s a thing of beauty and I hope he rests easy knowing—nomination or not—he’s redefined his career.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Mary J. Blige for Mudbound, Allison Janney for I, Tonya, Lesley Manville for Phantom Thread, Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird, Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water

Connor

Should Win – Laurie Metcalf

Could Win – Laurie Metcalf

Will Win – Allison Janney

Where Is…Holly Hunter for The Big Sick?

Everyone loves Allison Janney. She knows how to work a room better than anyone in Hollywood and she’s looking very solid here. Can someone tell me exactly what Octavia Spencer did in The Shape of Water to steal this nom from Hunter? I love Spencer but come on. Highway robbery. In what is technically the most wide-open acting category (not really), watch out for Laurie Metcalf in the heartbreaking role of her life. This should be hers. Yes, Janney has the flashy lines and comedic chops, but honestly have you ever seen a more realistic depiction of a working class mother? I haven’t. She grounds the entire film while Lady Bird has her head in the clouds. The reason the phone call is as powerful as it is at the end of the film is more of a testament to Metcalf than it is to Ronan—and that’s saying something.

PJ

Should Win – Laurie Metcalf

Could Win – Laurie Metcalf

Will Win – Allison Janney

Where Is…Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip?

You nailed it. I have no idea why Metcalf isn’t the runaway favorite for this award. Honestly, I probably think it was the best overall performance of the year. (Not “overalls” performance, which clearly goes to Frances McDormand). Usually when I feel this strongly about a candidate, I eschew what the “experts” are predicting to roll with what I think is right. But Janney has won EVERYTHING leading up to the Oscars. And look, I am way more into I, Tonya than most people. Janney is outrageously funny in this role…but that’s really all the role is. Besides those two, this category is super weird. Octavia Spencer did nothing special for me in The Shape of Water, and I guess Mary J Blige is solid in her like 8 minutes of screen time in Mudbound? Connor already covered the deserving Holly Hunter, so how about Tiffany Haddish’s star-making performance? Girls Trip made a ton of money, but I feel like it was still overlooked because this movie is just as, if not more, funny than Bridesmaids. Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nom for her breakout role in that movie, and Haddish deserved the same treatment here.

 

Best Actor

Nominees: Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name, Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

PJ

Should Win – Daniel Day-Lewis

Could Win – Timothee Chalamet

Will Win – Gary Oldman

Where Is…Jeremy Renner for Wind River?

I feel like this is a pretty underwhelming group for what is often the can’t-miss category of the night. Maybe that’s unfair, because I love three of the nominated performances, but Gary Oldman’s inevitable win is probably why I can’t shake that feeling. And that’s coming from a HUGE Gary Oldman fan. That’s Sirius motherfucking Black. I just feel like Darkest Hour shouldn’t be bringing home any important hardware, even if Oldman fully committed and nailed Churchill’s quirky mannerisms. It’s a boring take on my part, but Day-Lewis should absolutely win. We’ve reached the Michael Jordan effect here. Just like Jordan should’ve won MVP for every season he played in the 90s, DDL should win Best Actor whenever he graces the screen with his presence. Even if he wasn’t at his Daniel Plainview heights, he got me to deeply care about an idiosyncratic dressmaker in the 50s. As for snubs, Gyllenhaal was probably the worst, but I’ll give a quick shoutout to Jeremy Renner for playing a silently grieving father to a T.

Connor

Should Win – Timothée Chalamet

Could Win – Timothée Chalamet

Will Win – Gary Oldman

Where is…Jake Gyllenhaal for Stronger?

Commissioner Gordon is going to get his. And it really is a great show he puts on. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal deserved so much more recognition than he got for Stronger. But no other performance this year made me *feel* as much as Chalamet’s. He learned Italian, piano, guitar, and does it all so effortlessly that I kept forgetting how young he is (youngest Best Actor nom in something like 80 years). So deserving. It’s an honor just to be nominated alongside these guys but for my money he should be installing a shelving unit for this hardware. Good luck looking at a fireplace ever again after you see this.

 

Best Actress

Nominees: Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, Meryl Streep in The Post

Connor

Should Win – Saoirse Ronan

Could Win – Sally Hawkins or Saoirse Ronan

Will Win – Frances McDormand

Where Is…Vicky Krieps for Phantom Thread?

Another absolute lock here. McDormand redefines “powerhouse” in what has to be one of the craziest, angriest scripts of the century. Her Mildred does unspeakable things, and is in no way redeemable, but McDormand brings enough raw pathos to the role that you are on her side all the way. Hawkins has the most challenging role of the bunch (mute janitor who loves fish monster) and this is easily Ronan’s best of her young career, but nothing will get in the way of Mrs. McDormand…except maybe herself—she publicly said the Academy should reward a younger actress…(I’ll let you talk Krieps).

PJ

Should Win – Sally Hawkins or Frances McDormand

Could Win – Sally Hawkins

Will Win – Frances McDormand

Where Is…Vicky Krieps for Phantom Thread?

Like Connor said, McDormand is winning this award. And I think that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because she is absolutely ferocious, hilarious, and occasionally heartbreaking in this role. Mildred Hayes is probably the character of the year. On the other hand, this is such a loaded category this year so it’s unfortunate that the other four nominees will receive consideration more as a formality than anything. It might be kinda obvious by now that I think The Shape of Water is a pretty overrated contender, but Sally Hawkins is by far my favorite part of that movie. Not just because she brilliantly plays a mute woman, but she actually convinces the audience that her love with a fish man makes any sense despite the fact that all they did together was dance one time and eat a few eggs. I’d be psyched if she won. The same goes for Ronan, who had to do more in her movie than anyone else, and Streep, whose performance I feel like is somehow being underappreciated. I thought Margot Robbie was really good as Tonya Harding (even if she looked absolutely nothing like her), but I’m not too sure what she’s doing here. I would have rather seen Gal Gadot recognized for her breakout role as Wonder Woman, or especially Vicky Krieps for doing the impossible by going the distance in an acting boxing match with Daniel Day-Lewis.

 

Best Director

Nominees: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, Jordan Peele for Get Out, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

PJ

Should Win – Jordan Peele

Could Win – Jordan Peele

Will Win – Guillermo del Toro

Where Is…Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name?

Major props to the Academy, because they crushed this category. I probably would have handpicked the same five. But there isn’t really much intrigue here, because del Toro is winning. Part of the inevitability is because this category is often used as somewhat of lifetime achievement recognition. More than that though, it’s because GDT turned this insane vision into a good movie, and the 13(!!!) total nominations proves just how well rounded and technically masterful the voters think The Shape of Water is. I’ll still be rooting for Peele, but I can get more into that in a second.

Connor

Should Win – Christopher Nolan

Could Win – Nada

Will Win – Guillermo Del Toro

Where Is…Edgar Wright for Baby Driver?

Look, nobody is taking this away from Guillermo. He’s incredibly beloved within the industry (while people have trouble connecting to Nolan’s coldness). He’s won every precursor. It’s his. Fine. But the sheer audacity of what Nolan tried to do — and completely achieved — should not go unnoticed. This is his first directing nomination, but, almost certainly, it will not be his last. Also, Edgar Wright deserves a shoutout for the technical wizardry and pure cinematic rush of Baby Driver.

 

Best Picture

Nominees: Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Connor

Should Win – Get Out or Lady Bird

Could Win – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will Win – The Shape of Water

Where is…The Big Sick?

It’s a three-horse race at this point between The Shape of Water, Three Billboards, and Get Out. Shape has clearly captured the hearts of the older voters with its love letter to old Hollywood (man, it feels like that’s *all* you need to go for to score a nom these days) and Three Billboards is the actors’ favorite, so watch out. But of the three Get Out is the only one that changed the game. Its lack of an editing nom spells almost certain doom but there’s a groundswell of support for it and it’s a true underdog worth rooting for. The Big Sick was robbed in several categories, this being the most notable. (Really? Darkest Hour?) And then there’s Lady Bird. I’ve gushed over this film for months and after repeat viewings I’m here to tell you that it’s still an all-timer. Arguably the greatest exploration of the mother/daughter relationship ever put to film, Lady Bird’s success is just one of many signs that the tides are changing in Hollywood. Great Gerwig is here to stay and Saiorse’s third nom before age 25 proves that she is the greatest actress of her generation. It’s as close to perfect as anything 2017 had to offer. In other words — it’s hella tight.

PJ

Should Win – Get Out

Could Win – Get Out, Lady Bird, or The Shape of Water

Will Win – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Where Is…I, Tonya?

I have zero clue how on earth Darkest Hour – this year’s second best movie about the Dunkirk evacuation – scored a nomination. I really would have liked to have seen I, Tonya in its place or as a tenth nominee, because I think it’s objectively terrific and arguably the most entertaining movie of the year. Yes, the movie overlooked some important information and essentially chose a side despite aiming not to. But I loved the way that it leaned into the unreliable narrations and absurdity of the whole situation, all while offering a brutally honest look into American classism and condemning our society’s need for a villain to hate. Still, I’m not gonna complain about this group. I think the Academy went 8/9 here, which is WAY better than they usually do.

Biggest award of the night is the biggest tossup. I think there are four legitimate possibilities. I’m buying that Lady Bird actually has a chance, even if it’s an outside one. It would need to win Original Screenplay first, and I already covered how I don’t think that will happen, so we’ll cross it off. I’m scrapping The Shape of Water too, even though it’s probably the most common pick and has the most nominations by a mile. I expect it to land between third and fifth on a lot of ballots, but are there really enough voters who think this was the best movie of the year? I’m guessing not. So that leaves Get Out and Three Billboards, two radically different movies but my two favorites from this group. Get Out is my absolute favorite though, and I think it’s the *best* movie of the year too. It had me laughing out loud at times and on the edge of my seat at others, but it also just so happens to be one of the smartest and sharpest movies on racism ever made. Jordan Peele pulled off a masterpiece, plain and simple. Still, it technically falls within the comedy and horror genres, probably the two least popular within the Academy. I think conventionality wins out and Three Billboards nabs the main prize. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a conventional movie with its zigzagging script and some of the most vulgar dialogue ever put on the big screen, it has already won big at other awards shows and is a lock in at least two major categories. Some people do not like this movie at all, but I’m betting on way more people loving it.

 

Nominee From Another Category That Needs To Win

PJ

Best Original Song

“Remember Me” from Coco

It’s embarrassing how livid I will be if “Remember Me” doesn’t win. For starters, Coco kicks ass. The song kicks ass. Just so much ass kicking. But more importantly for the sake of defending its award credentials, the song is CRUCIAL to the movie. If you weren’t teary-eyed or completely bawling when Miguel sings it with Coco at the end of the movie, there is actually something wrong with you. Seriously, give this award to that stupid song about PT Barnum with a chorus of “OH OH OHHHHH” and see what happens.

Connor

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049

Went in with sky-high expectations, left completely satisfied. No film looks better this year, except *maybe* the final shot of Tom Hardy’s plane on the beach in Dunkirk.

 

Best Picture Ballot

Connor PJ
1. Lady Bird 1. Get Out
2. Get Out 2. Call Me By Your Name
3. Call Me By Your Name 3. Lady Bird
4. Three Billboards 4. Three Billboards
5. Dunkirk 5. Dunkirk
6. The Shape of Water 6. Phantom Thread
7. The Post 7. The Shape of Water
8. Darkest Hour 8. The Post
Phantom Thread* (haven’t seen) 9. Darkest Hour

 

Personal Top 10 of 2017

Connor PJ
1. Baby Driver 1. Get Out
2. The Big Sick 2. The Disaster Artist
3. Lady Bird 3. Three Billboards
4. Call Me By Your Name 4. I, Tonya
5. Three Billboards 5. The Big Sick
6. The Florida Project 6. Lady Bird
7. Get Out 7. Phantom Thread
8. Dunkirk 8. Coco
9. The Disaster Artist 9. Wind River
10. Stronger 10. Call Me By Your Name
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The Up-To-Date, Best-On-The-Internet Guide To Binging Black Mirror (AKA My Personal Rankings)

Unless you live under a rock or in a dystopia where you sleep in a boxed room with advertisement-laced screens for walls, then you are at least familiar with Black Mirror by now. It is Charlie Brooker’s masterpiece series that poses questions of what not-so-distant futures would look like if certain technologies advanced beyond our control, and more importantly asks how humans would instinctually react in the face of these technological adversities. “The Twilight Zone for millennials” is how your uncle would probably describe it. The tone ranges from funny to thrilling to just plain dark, but above all else, each chapter is seriously thought-provoking in its own unique way. For fans like me, it has become an absolute obsession, which I’m well aware is setting up perfectly for a meta finale centered on the Black Mirror community who treat the show as a way of life.

Part of the beauty of the show is its anthology format, meaning each episode is completely independent of one another (sorry to my female readers for that mansplanation). Now, unless there is an actor or director attached to one of these episodes that prompts you to watch that entry first, you probably would have no idea where to properly begin your journey. Allow me to serve as your cookie and help out (nailed that reference…you’ll get it soon.)

Almost every episode has a major twist and is way more fun if you have no clue what’s about to go down, so I’ll keep reviews simple for all of the newbies. I will include spoiler-filled sections though, because these are essentially my personal rankings and debating Black Mirror with fellow fanatics has become a hobby of mine. So whether you’re watching for the first time or the tenth time, go forth and enjoy!

1. “The Entire History Of You” (Season 1, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: I’d say there are four of five Black Mirror classics, but this is the only one of that group that embodies everything we love about the show. In an alternate reality where everyone has devices implanted in their brains that allows them to rewind and stream memories, how far down the rabbit hole would you go to potentially prove suspicions about a loved one, even if it meant tearing apart everything that matters to you? Would you be able to resist those feelings of jealousy and paranoia? Black Mirror has tackled the subject of memory in a few episodes now, but this spin is still the most original and chilling.

entire history of you

For The Veterans: Fucking Jonas. That name is forever ruined for me. I’ll never forget my feelings of doubt and embarrassment for Liam slowly turning into “oh no…oh no…oh god no he’s actually right.” It’s been nearly two years since watching this episode for the first time, and I still have absolutely no idea what I would have done in his shoes.

2. “San Junipero” (Season 3, Episode 4)

For The Rookies: The episode that officially brought Black Mirror into the mainstream, with some assists from the Emmys and Saturday Night Live. It’s commonly called “the happy one,” although that totally shortchanges the script and isn’t even all that true. The story seesaws between beautiful and heartbreaking and poses the deepest of deep questions. Would you spend your afterlife on loop in a virtual paradise or roll the dice on the natural outcome? What if your loved ones didn’t get the chance to make that same decision? And good luck getting “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” out of your head!

san junipero

For The Veterans: Kelly and Yorkie forever. One of the best love stories ever produced on television, I can’t even begin to describe my rush of emotions once those credits rolled and we found out that Kelly chose her. It’s like the “Red Wedding” episode of Games Of Thrones in the sense that it’s impossible to overstate just how shocking the ending was at the time. Oh, and you bet your ASS that I’m picking San Junipero if I’m in Kelly’s deathbed.

3. “Be Right Back” (Season 2, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: So I settled on the order of this list through a mixture of objectivity and subjectivity, which is the reason that “Be Right Back” clocks in at only third. While I absolutely adore this episode, I might be underselling it because it could definitely be called the best episode of the series. Would you bring back a deceased loved one if he/she left some of himself/herself behind? It is truly a spectacle to watch and features what is legitimately some of the best acting I have ever seen from Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson. And it’s just about as emotionally gutting as it sounds.

be right back

For The Veterans: That scene on the cliff. My god. I’m getting teary-eyed just writing about it. Do I buy the idea that Martha would let the daughter visit the clone of her father? I guess so…beats her stumbling upon him during a game of hide-and-seek. Do I buy the idea that Martha isn’t breaking Robot Ash out of the attic every other night to take advantage of his jackhammer abilities? Uhhh no.

4. “Hang The DJ” (Season 4, Episode 4)

For The Rookies: I love this episode so much. If you told me prior to the season that Black Mirror would be taking its magnifying glass to dating apps, I’d be irrationally excited. And “Hang The DJ” still exceeded all expectations for an episode of its kind. Depending on the kind of person you are, you will either immediately sign up for eHarmony or delete your Bumble account following this essential hour of television.

hang the dj

For The Veterans: I knew the twist had to be coming, and they laid out a bunch of clues along the way, but I was still so pleasantly surprised when it finally happened. And you better believe that I was smiling like an idiot during the real-life meeting in that final scene. Considering the perfect chemistry between Frank and Amy, I’m assuming the 0.2% of simulations that didn’t end in rebellion were due to Frank killing himself after a year of a forced relationship with that one bitch.

5. “USS Callister” (Season 4, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: Another gem from Season 4, “USS Callister” is nothing short of an accomplishment. Its 76-minute running time allows it to address more than the average episode, but it still effectively explores so many themes without feeling overstuffed. The episode has star power, is extremely topical, looks amazing, and happens to be really funny in a super twisted way. Only Black Mirror can have an episode get this dark while still touchingly paying tribute to Star Trek.

uss callister

For The Veterans: Lesson learned: be nice to the tech guy in your office. This episode does such a good job of having us buy into Daly as a simply misunderstood guy just to suddenly reveal that he’s actually the Harvey Weinstein of cyberspace. I do think the plot has some flaws – how does the smartest coder in the world miss a backdoor in his own simulated reality that leaves him vulnerable to permanent entrapment? Still, the rebellion led by Lt. Cole is so exciting and ultimately rewarding that all faults can easily be overlooked.

6. “White Christmas” (Season 2.5)

For The Rookies: Maybe the most ambitious chapter of the series, even to this day. It has a 74-minute running time and doesn’t waste a single second, considering it’s essentially three mini-episodes squeezed into one holiday special. There’s so much to break down with this plot, but at the same time there’s almost too much to tease. It might sound like I’m of the opinion that this episode tried to do too much, but I actually think it all comes together in a pretty compelling fashion. Oh, and Jon Hamm stars in it…just trust me on this one.

white christmas

For The Veterans: Where to begin? The first vignette, the one where Jon Hamm’s character accidentally coaches a man into a murder-suicide, could have been an episode on its own. The second vignette, with Talisa from Game Of Thrones playing the digital copy of a rich woman stuck inside an Alexa-like product, is horrifying in a good way, but also underdeveloped and improved upon by future episodes. The final vignette, which reveals why the two men are at the outpost in the first place, is the highlight of the episode. The resulting two-part twist is both a hit and a miss. From the perspective of Rafe Spall’s character, it’s absolutely devastating and a nightmare to consider. But for Hamm’s character, it feels kinda weak and anticlimactic.

7. “Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: The premise of “Nosedive” is one that you might’ve discussed with friends with some possible marijuana involvement: what if we judged each other in our daily interactions on the Uber five-star scale? The bright color palette fits perfectly with the episode’s materialistic tone, even if they both make you want to throw a brick at your TV by the end of it. If you choose to watch chronologically, then you’re definitely gonna be thrown off by an episode written by The Office and Parks and Recreation alumni. But it’s a great introduction to what Netflix brings to Black Mirror.

 nosedive

For The Veterans: I know a lot of people don’t love the ending. It’s definitely predictable and barely qualifies as a twist, but I’m cool with it. Bryce Dallas Howard is amazing in that wedding speech scene, and the final shots from the jail cells really stuck with me. Also shoutout Alice Eve, who’s just delightful in everything she’s in.

8. “The National Anthem” (Season 1, Episode 1)

For The Rookies: The episode that got it all started, and Charlie Brooker definitely didn’t choose to lay up with his first shot off the tee. I sincerely apologize for this graphic image, but it’s the question this episode asks (in American terms): if a universally beloved figure, say Reese Witherspoon, was kidnapped and her captor’s only demand was for the President to bone a pig on live TV, would you expect him to do it? And on top of that, would you watch? Yup…things get real FAST. It’s captivating stuff and speaks volumes to modern societies, but I rank it in the middle of the pack because it just doesn’t feel like Black Mirror. It’s not even remotely sci-fi. An undoubtedly great episode of television, but not where I’d recommend you start.

the national anthem

For The Veterans: Still one of the best twists, and I still feel like an idiot for not catching it before it went down. Bravo to Brooker and Co. for making the audience feel like just another person at the bar watching the pig fucking. Trump steps up in this hypothetical situation without much pressure, right? “Oh, this released Reese Witherspoon? Well that’s an added bonus.”

9. “Black Museum” (Season 4, Episode 6)

For The Rookies: Arguably the most polarizing episode of the show. I’ve seen a lot of people whose opinions I trust call it Season 4’s best episode, while I’ve also seen a ton of reviews calling it a series low point. I fall somewhere in the middle, because I really enjoyed the episode but also recognize its glaring weaknesses. I can’t really preview anything from the story without giving something away, so my only advice to first-timers is that “White Christmas” is required watching first, because “Black Museum” rips off its structure to a point where it would be copyright infringement if done by a different show.

black museum

For The Veterans: OK, I’ll start with the bad. I didn’t like either of the first two asides that Rolo narrated. The pain addict story just made zero sense to me. I almost think it was supposed to be parody of some sort, but if not then good lord that sucked. And as for the dude who signed up to have his comatose wife’s consciousness put inside his brain…how the hell did he think that was going to go?! He voluntarily signed up for schizophrenia! And even Rolo’s side comments like the boner joke…beyond cringe-worthy. So if you’re wondering why I really liked the episode, it’s because the twist is that good. It was set up perfectly and registered as a full 10/10 on the satisfaction scale. I think the final scene with the stuffed monkey being put in the front seat and Nish’s mom being implanted in her brain (did she not learn the lesson of that story?) was really cheesy, but oh well. FUCK Rolo Haynes.

10. “Metalhead” (Season 4, Episode 5)

For The Rookies: A ton of fans probably don’t have kind things to say about “Metalhead,” but I really like this episode! I’ll just get out in front of what makes it different: it’s shot in black-and-white and it’s the series’ shortest with a 41-minute running time. That’s probably what so many people hate about the episode, but I thought the minimalistic strategy was risky in a good way. I can also tell you entirely what the episode is about, because that’s revealed right off the bat: humans are running for their lives from murderous robot dogs. That’s it, and it’s awesome! And Boston Dynamics…hey idiots…keep this shut down forever, ok?

metalhead

For The Veterans: There really isn’t too much else to discuss because of how straightforward this episode is. I was momentarily confused why the woman chose to attack the dog that was blinded by paint, but then a few minutes later it made sense once it was revealed that more dogs were on the way. The teddy bear twist also totally worked for me.

11. “Men Against Fire” (Season 3, Episode 5)

For The Rookies: This episode is pretty consistently ranked near the bottom of similar lists, but I think it’s a bit underrated. It takes place in a post-genocide dystopia brought on by the American military, so it’s probably not surprising that “Men Against Fire” focuses on possible advancements in military technology, which I think is a fascinating subject. It’s a powerful episode that places the Black Mirror microscope on the ruthlessness of the people in charge of American institutions.

men against fire

For The Veterans: Yes, the overall message of the episode is heavy-handed and essentially exists as a middle finger to American military strategy. And yes, the twist is kinda obvious and is executed way too early. But the reveal that the “roaches” are actually genocide survivors is still devastating and works as a painfully effective metaphor for how certain leaders view certain groups of people. Take your pick which scene is more emotionally crushing: the one where Stripe is forced to watch his murders on loop, or his return home to what’s actually a rundown shack.

12. “Hated In The Nation” (Season 3, Episode 6)

For The Rookies: This episode is probably better than a few in front of it on this list, but I’m sorry…it’s just way too long. Clocking in at an hour and a half, it’s still the longest of the chapters (besides “Bandersnatch”) when it really didn’t need to be. It’s paced perfectly for a murder mystery, but there are just some elements of the story that felt like fluff to me. But like I was saying, “Hated In The Nation” is still great and finally gave us the Black Mirror spin on social media that we had been waiting for. Just get ready for what’s practically a movie when you sit down to watch this episode.

hated in the nation

For The Veterans: You KNOW that you or one of your friends would’ve participated in the #DeathTo hashtag. While the twist is incredible, this is the worst episode to watch with your parents, just because of the inevitable “you know you’re never really protected behind a keyboard” lesson during the ending credits. And I know from memes that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate, but did we really need the Black Mirror take on colony collapse disorder?

13. “White Bear” (Season 2, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: Ahhh, “White Bear.” The story opens with a woman waking up in a house with no recollection of how she got there, only to go outside to find other people either hunting her or filming her. So basically, a woman lives an actual nightmare. But considering this is Black Mirror, you can correctly guess that there’s more to it than that. I’m not at liberty to divulge what that is, but just know that you’re probably gonna be sitting in silence for a few minutes after this one.

white bear

For The Veterans: It’s been nearly six years since this episode was released, and it’s still widely debated by the “love it” and “hate it” camps. Personally I lean more towards the latter camp, although I totally get the appeal. While you can’t really dispute against this twist being the most disturbing, you can definitely argue that it’s still the best that the show has ever pulled off. My thing is, it just took so long to pull out the rug from underneath us that I was almost bored during the first 30 minutes. And as for the twist itself, it lasted so long that my “HOLY SHIT” reaction had time to devolve into “oh ok” before the episode was over. Some critics probably have ethical issues either empathizing with a child murderer or publicly torturing someone against their will, but this is Black Mirror we’re talking about. I actually think “White Bear” offers one of the more accurate representations of our culture, because I am positive that I know people who would willingly participate in this social experiment on a nightly basis.

14. “Fifteen Million Merits” (Season 1, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: Another reason why I’d recommend binging in this order instead of chronological order is the show’s suggested back-to-back of “The National Anthem” into “Fifteen Million Merits.” It goes directly from the most tech-absent episode into what is by far the most sci-fi entry in the series, and it might catch you off guard. This episode takes place in a dystopia where humans are relied upon to pedal stationary bikes in order to generate electricity, which in turn earns them virtual currency called “merits.” Merits can be spent sparingly on vending machines or to skip advertisements on the television walls within bedrooms, or they can be spent in bulk to participate in a talent competition that offers the only escape from this indentured servitude. I actually think this is one of the most profound episodes of the series, and you get an A+ performance from Daniel Kaluuya in it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t blame you for writing it off as too weird.

fifteen million merits

For The Veterans: I struggle a lot with this episode, because I think it manages to simultaneously be ahead of its time while falling victim to not aging well. The final twist is BRUTAL and yet so good, and left me permanently paranoid that politicians have the leaders of the resistance movements against them on their payroll. Also something I didn’t remember until a recent rewatch, how about Black Mirror lowkey exposing the Harvey Weinstein types six years early in the scene where Abi has her drink spiked then is peer pressured into doing porn? Still, I really dislike a lot of the technical aspects of this episode. I’m not too sure why the show assumes that Wii avatars and shows styled like The Wiggles will be staples of our future culture. And while American Idol and X Factor were huge when this episode was released, we’ve fortunately started to move on from shows where people publicly try their hardest to prove their talents just to face judgment from millions of viewers at home (for the most part).

15. “Shut Up And Dance” (Season 3, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: I actually kinda like this episode, but I admit that I am overrating it despite its ranking at #15. It’s not particularly good. In a way the events of this episode are strangely relatable, considering we are shown in the first few minutes that our teenage protagonist is a normal kid who rides his bikes to and from his restaurant job. But then he downloads some shit he shouldn’t have downloaded, and all hell breaks loose. Sure, it’s well acted (Bronn!) and definitely exciting, but it doesn’t really offer any insight whatsoever. I just don’t understand its purpose outside of terrifying every single person who watches it.

shut up and dance

For The Veterans: If “Shut Up And Dance” is one of your favorites (which I know is the case for a lot of fans), that’s all good. You and I just happen to like Black Mirror for different reasons then. The climax of this episode is absolutely bananas. The kid LITERALLY MURDERS a man. So yeah, I’d argue it’s way more nonsensical than thoughtful. Like, what was the message here? That some people are just dicks? That we shouldn’t watch kiddie porn? Um…got it?

16. “Arkangel” (Season 4, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: This episode asks the question that makes every 21st century teenager’s heart sink: what if your mom had one of those child tracker apps embedded into your brain as a toddler? I was SO psyched for “Arkangel” upon learning the premise of the episode, which is why I am sorry to report that I found it really underwhelming. Look, I’m not aiming to rain on any parades here. I encourage you to still watch it, and I hope you enjoy it! But aside from the acting (Rosemarie DeWitt gives an all-time Black Mirror performance), I’m not really sure what there is to like about it.

arkangel

For The Veterans: Ugh, how did this end up as such a “meh” episode??? There was SO much potential here. It just seems like every decision related to the episode’s vision was the wrong one. The mom choosing to reactivate the tablet just as her daughter was losing her virginity then later snorting coke was way too convenient. But those are minor critiques…let’s talk about that ending. It STUNK. Sara literally beating her mother over the head with the tablet was some laughably clumsy writing. And like, I get that Sara had no sense for the exact damage that she was inflicting, but how was she surprised that she was fucking up her mom’s face? And then she freaks out and decides to…hitchhike a ride? Whatever.

17. “Playtest” (Season 3, Episode 2)

For The Rookies: A lot of fans vouch for this episode, and there’s a solid chance that you’ll soon be one of those fans. But I think it’s the single-most overrated episode of the show. I was STUNNED when some people told me that this was their favorite episode of Season 3. It just does nothing for me at all. Maybe it’s because I’m not a gamer whatsoever. Maybe it’s because I’m completely disinterested in virtual reality technology. Or maybe it’s just because I don’t love the horror genre. But if you feel differently about one of those qualifiers, then this could be an episode for you.

playtest

For The Veterans: I know I’ve already told you how I really feel about “Playtest,” but even from an objective standpoint I think it’s a mediocre episode of Black Mirror. I’ll acknowledge what I found great about it. The cheap-looking CGI monsters trick Cooper into thinking the haunted house isn’t so scary, only to be lured deeper into the test to have his Alzheimer’s fears exploited. That was really smart and genuinely terrifying. But the twist that reveals that Cooper actually died within a second of beginning the test is just so convoluted that it leaves the audience with the wrong kinds of questions. I’m not really sure what the social commentary of this episode is either…Cooper seems like literally the only person that would face the consequences of this technology. He goes out of his way to visit an experimental video game company and knowingly breaks the specific rules given to him. What did he expect? And what’s the overall message? To call your parents more? The whole episode is just way too clever for its own good. Oh, besides when it decides to take the simple route when Cooper casually hooks up with the hottest girl I’ve ever seen through a dating app. Honestly more unrealistic than any of the video game tests.

18. “Bandersnatch” (Season 4.5)

For The Rookies: “Bandersnatch” is…a lot of things. It is the newest chapter of the series, debuting 12/28/2018. It’s the longest of the series too, with a minimum runtime of 90 minutes. It’s probably the most innovative of the bunch, being the first of the Choose Your Own Adventure variety. It’s also possibly the…dumbest? The interactive technology is definitely cool and impressively operates without any glitches, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling annoying and confusing and unnecessary all at the same time. Tie that in with a forgettable story and forgettable themes, and you have this whiff of an episode. It’s a whiff I suppose you can appreciate, but a whiff nonetheless.

bm_bandersnatch_9

For The Veterans: I might have just given “Bandersnatch” too much credit in that opening section, because this plot stinks out loud. On top of being impossible to follow and not genuinely Choose Your Own Adventure since the characters basically tell you no if you make the wrong choice, it’s just so goddamn lame. It features an unbearable amount of meta commentary, especially with the Netflix stuff. Hated that. Will Poulter’s character is cool and has the only interesting things to say on the subject of free will, but his moments are few and far between. There was definitely a massive miscalculation here, because instead of going back and watching the alternate endings when my path ran its course, I was just relieved that the episode was finally over.

19. “Crocodile” (Season 4, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: An episode about insurance investigations that is just about as exciting as that sounds. A total dud from Season 4, “Crocodile” starts out with a genuinely interesting scene where a couple accidentally kills a biker then decides to dispose of the body. It all goes downhill from there. It’s another episode built around memory-based technology, but this take is the least cool and innovative of the bunch. Again, I encourage you to watch it and form your own opinions, as is the case with the previous 18 episodes on this list, but I’m pretty positive you won’t love this one.

crocodile

For The Veterans: Whew, I have so much to get off my chest about “Crocodile.” I’ll start with the acting, which was easily my least favorite of Season 4. And that’s coming from an Andrea Riseborough fan, but her performance was way too one-note for my liking and limited my engagement in her character. Are we positive that Mia doesn’t just get off on killing people? When it became clear that she was also going to murder the investigator’s husband (yes, her fourth kill of the episode), I was out. And THEN she decided to kill the baby. WHAT. THE. FUCK. And then we find out that the baby was blind and didn’t need to die at all, because of course he was. I seriously felt like I was being tested by this episode. Even for Black Mirror standards, it went too far and was barely even worth the watch for entertainment purposes.

20. “The Waldo Moment” (Season 2, Episode 3)

For The Rookies: So I’ve said it a few times now, but I cannot recommend highly enough that you watch every available episode of Black Mirror. Each chapter brings something new to the table for the most part, and public opinion is so split on so many of them that you might end up really liking an episode that’s among my least favorite. HOWEVER, none of these rules apply to “The Waldo Moment.” It is the only episode of the show that is legitimately bad. I’m paraphrasing here, but it essentially asks, “what if Stewie Griffin ran for President?” You can seriously just skip it.

the waldo moment

For The Veterans: This episode annoys me so much that I don’t even want to spend any more time writing about it. It is aggressively non-funny, and I’m pretty sure at least part of its purpose was to be the first comedic Black Mirror episode. And get the hell outta here with your thinkpieces on how it’s gained relevancy in the age of Trump and Brexit. It was bad in 2013, it was bad in 2016, and it’s still bad in 2019. It’s so fucking bad.

 

 

Disagree with my rankings? Or want to just tell me how smart I am? Find me on Twitter @Real_Peej