Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 1: Derek Carr and The Giant Claw

Written by :
Published on : September 14, 2016

 

 

 

Welcome to my new digs blobs and ghouls! While the last NFL season was spent woozily sprawled out on the couch with the room spinning, this year I’ve decided to take refuge in my macabre sanctuary. A place where I can obsess over the week’s best play as well as the week’s weirdest movie in peace. Without the cruel admonishments of so called “tasteful” film critics.

 

Pull up an electric chair, lay back on the rack, and get comfy as I run the tape.

 

Week 1: Derek Carr Strong Run and Vault For First Down

 

 

Now those familiar with the old Pretzel know that I have a certain weakness for the defensive side of the ball. As such, I was hoping to start the season with a big sack, safety, pick, or crucial stop, but after reviewing all the tape I couldn’t get this one out of my head.

 

It’s a tie game in New Orleans well before the half, and the Saints send a couple of extra guys after Carr on a 3rd and 9. After a quick scan downfield, the Oakland QB scoots to the left and takes off, and while most of the focus rightly belongs on his acrobatic flip-dive for the first, I really like the determined run that got him to that point. Even in slow-mo, the guy’s legs are a blur. There’s something about this play that while risky, also smacks of the irrepressible excitement of football’s return. I’m not saying that Carr wouldn’t be able to repeat such a feat in say week 15, but I am saying that the likelihood of it is rarer than an ex-convict’s first steak out of the joint.

 

Week 1: The Giant Claw

Director: Fred F. Sears
Released: 1957

 

Giant-Claw-5

 

Val Lewton became deservedly famous for producing a series of fright flicks for RKO that traded in on atmosphere and what WASN’T seen, leaving the scares to your imagination and keeping the production’s budget manageable. But sometimes you just want to see the damn monster, and I want my monsters like this.

 

Behold The Giant Claw: A massive and indestructible flying chicken with the head of a vulture, a beak lined with rows of T-Rex teeth, and a bitchin’ Mohawk to boot. This one fits solidly into that 1950’s commie-hating, nuclear-annihilation-shit-scared, national-security-at-all-cost zeitgeist that gave us wonderful films like Them! and The Thing From Another World.

 

You’re obviously in this one for the ugly puppet, but television vet Jeff Morrow and female lead Mora Corday dabble in some genuinely clever and romantic back-and-forth dialogue that is much better than the usual filler these types of flicks tend to have between action scenes.

 

Behold the trailer!

 

 

And the entire thang for the craven and brave!

 

 

Until next week, gang… Stay creepy.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: NFC South

Written by :
Published on : September 11, 2015

 

Ah the NFC South, the only division where you can make the playoffs without a winning record. It was a wacky scene last year, and I don’t see it getting any less wacky with a young Saints crew deep in reconstruction, a Falcons team with a potentially explosive offense (which they’ll need considering their defense), a tantalizingly improved Buccaneers gang, and a Panthers team flirting with a serious drop in production.

 

Listen up you weisenheimer, the ball’s got some crass opinions to share…

 

New Orleans Saints:
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I’ve got a lot of affection for the Saints, but the team has changed so drastically in such a short amount of time that they’re nearly unrecognizable. The Junior Galette debacle was a costly embarrassment, and I’m not fully convinced that C.J. Spiller will be successful even if he seems like a great fit in Nola’s offensive system. It’s not all bad news of course. Having a young team means that some guys are going to inevitably crawl out of the woodwork and become big playmakers. Drew Brees still has some great options to throw to: Marques Colston will remain a solid end-zone threat and will be perfect for those third-and-short surprise pass plays. I also love how Brandin Cooks has emerged as Drew’s go-to receiver. I expect great things from him this season.

 

From the coaching perspective, I think Sean Peyton is one of the best in the league, even if that signature visor makes him look like a white-boy rave DJ from the Wisconsin suburbs of the late 90’s. This is also going to be a terribly important season for Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. All the wild, free flowing, blonde hair isn’t going to help him keep his job if the Saints defense crumbles under injuries and inexperience.

 

The crystal ball says:

Rebuilding. Rebuilding. Rebuilding. Even if a passel of these young players emerge as studs, it’s still going to take a bit of work getting everyone on the same page. Jimmy Graham’s loss is definitely going to hurt, as is the absence of some of the defensive vets (due to injury), like Jairus Byrd. The Saints don’t make the playoffs this year, but Rob Ryan keeps his job and lives to fight another day.

 

Atlanta Falcons:
 photo atlantafalcons_zpsnhsgpfyx.jpg

 

Deflategate was an interesting litmus test for a league that sometimes struggles with its successes in the face of scandal. I was a little shocked that more attention wasn’t paid to the story of the Atlanta Falcons pumping extra volume into their arena to mess with the other team. In my mind this is way more egregious than the PSI of a football in terms of actual game outcome, so I’m quite comfortable labeling the Falcons as cheaters right from the get-go.

 

What happened to Atlanta anyway? Seems like just a couple years ago they were poised to make a serious Super Bowl run. Certainly a decaying running game and the retirement of Tony Gonzalez were big factors, but this is also a team that’s had some defensive deficiencies for some time now. Maybe that changes with Vic Beasley starting the season as a rookie DE, but I’m not holding my breath. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are definitely going to create some offensive fireworks together along with Roddy White thrown in for good measure, but like many other middling teams, there’s only so much you can hope for with this current group.

 

The crystal ball says:

Dan Quinn is coming into a tough situation as a first time head coach, and while I respect his WWE wrestler look, I don’t think we can expect a whole lot outta Hotlanta this season. On the plus side, it’s a very weak division with a once dominant Saints team regrouping. So the Falcons have a shot at doing well within the NFC South, but personally, I still like the Panthers for the division, making a wild card slot highly unlikely for the dirty birds. We’re going to see plenty of beautiful highlights from Matt Ryan and company in game recaps next to losing scores.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
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Lovie Smith is not to be trifled with even if he does have a habit of making willfully bad decisions and betting on the wrong horse. I like his reworking of the Bucs and with Jameis Winston we might finally have a team on our hands. Vincent Jackson is a mammoth-sized receiver, and the perfect type of guy for a talented young QB to pitch to. There is this nagging sense however that Mike Glennon wasn’t exactly the worst QB ever, so really how much better can Jameis Winston make this team?

 

As far as Winston is concerned, he could be golden in the NFL as long as he can keep his off-field extracurriculars in check. We’ve seen plenty of dudes who are prone to bad behavior wreck themselves in the NFL. Hell, guys who aren’t prone to bad behavior land in hot water too. The Winston pick was a hopeful gamble and I hope he keeps it together long enough to play. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay does have a pretty solid defense despite what last year’s stats might suggest. That D is only going to get better with the addition of George Johnson who had a great last season with the Lions. Like the Falcons, this is another club that has problems with the run game, but I’m not totally ready to give up on Doug Martin. Sure, he’s not going to light up your fantasy scoreboard, but I think the muscle hamster (worst nickname ever) can provide an adequate run game to bolster Winston’s arm.

 

The crystal ball says:

It’s so tempting to imagine the Buccaneers popping off. I do think they make some huge strides. Winston will behave, at least for his rookie year, but watch out for the offseason and the following one. I see steady improvement all around as Lovie Smith gets his hooks deeper in the team and Winston settles in. At first the crystal ball was telling me that the Bucs had a good chance to make the playoffs but then she admitted that she had been drinking too much white zin the night before. The Bucs have a good shot at a .500 season, and at this point, that’s almost as good as making the playoffs.

 

Carolina Panthers:
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No Kelvin Benjamin. Yeah, Aaron Rodgers can survive without Jordy Nelson, no sweat, but Cam Newton is going to have a really hard time without his number one receiver. Greg Olson can only catch so many; and how much can really be expected from Ted Ginn Jr. and Stephen Hill? There’s a lot of talk about the Panthers running the ball more, but if they don’t throw it enough that will prevent Cam from running, which is arguably his greatest asset. Look, Superman ain’t exactly known for his arm accuracy. I think Jonathan Stewart has some promise in the backfield, old as he is, and let’s not forget that Carolina has a strong defense. I can’t pronounce the dude’s name right but I can’t wait to see some of those big tackles Luke Kuechly is bound to make. Say it with me now… “Keek-Ly.”

 

He obviously doesn’t see it this way but I think this will be a great chance for Ron Rivera to show off his chops as head coach. “Riverboat Ron” is working in a division that will be up for grabs all season, and will likely be emboldened to make some risky player decisions based on that. He’s shown in the past that he has the balls to go for it on fourth and short, and he’s going to need all that chutzpah with a diminished offense and a quarterback just starting to show signs of decline.

 

The crystal ball says:

This is Carolina’s division to lose. The Falcons will do well statistically but aren’t a major contender. The Saints are sidelined in rebuilding, and the Bucs might just be nipping at their heels. My sweetly murky crystal ball still sees Carolina as the strongest group in the bunch mostly thanks to a stout defensive backbone and an offense that’s not afraid to be unorthodox. I think they make the playoffs and are once again promptly eliminated in the first round.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC West

Written by :
Published on : September 5, 2015

 

This season’s AFC West promises a grueling divisional battle between a Broncos team that may be on the decline and a solidly improved Chiefs defense. Meanwhile, Oakland is looking for a new start with a potentially impressive QB/WR connection, and though you shouldn’t sleep on the San Diego Chargers, you know you will anyway.

 

Let yourself go as we gaze into this hazy quartz sphere…

 

Oakland Raiders:

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Who do you like better as a second year quarterback in a hurting franchise, Blake Bortles or Derek Carr? It’s a trick question. They’re both promising, and they’ve both got a long way to go. I think Carr has the edge at the moment due to having Amari Cooper as a target. I try not to get too excited about any draft prospect before I see them in the regular season (which has been nearly impossible with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston on hand in the preseason), but with Cooper it’s hard not to think that the Raiders made a wise decision.

As far as the coaching switch-up goes, it’s tough to get too excited about Jack Del Rio. That said, it can’t get any worse than Dennis Allen’s attempt to bring Oakland back from the brink. The dude tried, and it just didn’t work. It does help to have a guy like Justin Tuck in the locker room though. Sure his production has declined pretty significantly from his glory days in New York, but you’ve got to imagine he’s worth the contract for his ability to mentor the younger guys.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

As with so many other teams on the lower rungs of the NFL’s ladder, this one has some new talent that it needs to mold properly in order to start winning. This is the definition of a building season, and the Raiders are once again destined to remain at the bottom of the AFC West, even if Del Rio’s strategies take hold. At least we get some new Khalil Mack highlights.

 

Denver Broncos:

 photo denverbroncos_zpsj9y7wmvl.jpg

 

The NFL’s eternal bridesmaids return this season with some elephant-in-the-room-questions regarding Peyton’s continued high level of production, his health, and his age. These are questions worth asking but I don’t see Manning losing much steam this season. He’ll remain a class-A quarterback, but what about next season? What about the season after that? There’s gonna come a day (sometime soon) when Manning’s going to have to hang up the cleats, giving up the game he loves in favor of pursuing his other passion: endorsements.

I’m also a little concerned about the departure of John Fox. I know Kubiak has a history with the franchise but it’s not like the Broncos exactly suffered under Fox’s reign. Sure, there was an embarrassing Super Bowl drubbing at the hands of the Seahawks, but I find it hard to give up on a top tier coach for one loss, even if it is in THE game. Hey, remember when Danny Trevathan dropped the ball before the end zone on a guaranteed pick-six against Baltimore in the 2013 season, resulting in an automatic touchback? I started paying attention to him after that mostly because of schadenfreude, but was soon impressed by how good a player he actually is. I love that defense in Denver. They’re as fun and dynamic as the offense is methodical and boring.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

A strong season will be marred by a few hiccups in adjusting to Kubiak’s return. It’s a strong possibility Denver doesn’t make the playoffs, which will cause that overly earnest fan-base to go apoplectic. This is a team currently in decline, even if that decline is almost imperceptibly gradual.

 

San Diego Chargers:

 photo sandiegochargers_zpsjys5xbok.jpg

 

The Chargers are a weird team because they’re sort of a non-factor when you look at the league as a whole. It’s strange because they aren’t a “bad” team, and they usually finish the season with an over .500 record, or something close to it. The Chargers are also a team for which that hoary old “any given Sunday” adage was invented for: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t take the Chargers for granted. It’s not entirely surprising when they make the playoffs, and it’s even less so when they don’t, but something is missing here. For all of Phil Rivers’ manic facial expressions and gnashing of teeth, this is a team that seems to suffer strongest from a lack of heart. They’re the vanilla pudding of the NFL: good, but unremarkable.

Rivers is the rock here and his contract extension was much deserved, but it seems like he’s got an ever shrinking coterie of talented receivers to throw to, and all the while the running game has remained stagnant. Gates does a great job bucking body image norms (even in the position of tight end), but his age is going to lead to a drop in production that I think we’ve already seen a preview of. There’s a bad stereotypical comparison to make with the SoCal locale they play out of, with a relaxed and lackadaisical attitude. Obviously the players and coaching staff don’t feel that way, but looking in from the outside, it’s hard to believe that this is a club with a strong work ethic or culture.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Rivers will be reliable as ever, but he can only do so much. The run game continues to struggle and the Chargers win just enough games to satisfy fans with another .500 or over season. Keep an eye on that defense though, they’re good and they may start to develop the kind of identity this team sorely needs.

 

Kansas City Chiefs:

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I love Andy Reid and I don’t care who knows it. I love his comeback with the Chiefs after leaving Philadelphia, bruised, broken, and disgraced. Along with Reid, we’ve got another guy with something to prove in QB Alex Smith. He was let go by the ‘Niners, despite playing quite well, in favor of a shinier new model (though I’m guessing plenty of 49ers fans would be happy to have Smith back over Kap at this point). Justin Houston turns an already great d-line into arguably the league’s most terrifying and amped up pass rush. While it’s certainly not the best look to call yourself “the LeBron James of the NFL,” Jamaal Charles’ point is well taken in that he is one of the NFL’s premier running backs. C’mon Jamaal, let’s not forget that LeBron’s favorite athlete is Calvin Johnson!

There are some potential concerns here with a lack of big play receivers, and Charles was hung up with some injuries last season. For a team that doesn’t throw many touchdowns, I’m curious to see if Maclin will be used as a deep threat option, modifying the Chiefs’ game-plan somewhat.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

I think the division goes to the Chiefs this year. It’s going to be a tooth and nail street fight with Denver, and it’s going to get nasty. Even if the Broncos do edge them out of divisional champ status, they definitely still make the playoffs in the wildcard spot. The defensive front continues to dominate and the offense grounds, pounds, and stays consistently productive.

 


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