My Adoration of Expression Coupled with Anime

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Over the years, phrases such as “It’s too bland,” “It’s dull,” “It’s safe,” and “It’s formulaic” have been ingrained into the wordy musings of this blog. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can only assume that when I say these things, people think I mean they’re boring, bland, or formulaic in a general sense, when in reality, they’re all those things largely due to a single driving factor: expression (or sometimes referred to as “heart”). Now, something as vaguely termed as “expression” is a bit tricky to pin down in an objective sense, so as a small, yet effective example, simply look at the cute gif I have posted above of my favorite vampire waifu: Shinobu, from the Monogatari series. Notice the blended array of colors which supplants it out of its immediate reality, the emphasis on her allure being planted right on her face, and the almost cutesy representation of her original design that creates a distinct mood. This is what I like to call “expression,” something that exaggerates, defies, or simply heightens the norms of character exuberance and/or personality—which bleeds into other aspects of a creative work.

While this post is looking at anime, other art forms such as video games, manga, and films all work within a similar field, where expression can become a make-or-break factor in terms of my enjoyment towards it. Take a recently-crowned favorite manga of mine, Miman Renai, and the infinite amount of gush I wrote concerning its artistic chaos. Despite a simple story with inherently semi-problematic reasoning and characters who only briefly cross into territory that accentuates their complexity, the manner of expression and artistic freedom made me adore it to near-maximum levels. Silly faces, absurd observations, Egoraptor levels of emotional and physical overexaggeration, and an earnest atmosphere that coddled it all in a coherent space without (completely) destroying the confines of reality. This is by far the greatest spectacle of Miman Renai as an art form and a golden example of my love for “expression” in visual media.

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Taking into account my favorite anime, most of them have some form of expression to them, with the most vibrant of the bunch being Katanagatari (from the author of the Monogatari series, which isn’t shocking). Its entire aesthetic is bright and varied, with quirky character designs and a world with blown-up color. Best of all, its characters are hilariously one-dimensional, but in a way that screams parody rather than conforming to what sells.

However, my other favorites being Dennou CoilOokami to KoushinryouToradora!, and Shinsekai yori, someone reading my thoughts thus far wouldn’t be able to see what makes them so rife with expression in the way I’ve explained it to mean. And they would be right, because these other examples aren’t anywhere close to the absurdist levels of Katanagatari, but this is all surface-level stuff. These series’ expression is within the manner of their character progression and insight, such that they change gradually throughout the course of the series while still retaining the better parts of their core personality. Admittedly, Ookami to Koushinryou does not have a lot of what makes typical expression so infatuating, as it has a higher degree of focusing on an aloof narrative structure that simply embodies the relationship between its lead characters and THE POWER OF ECONOMY!!!

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Dennou Coil and Shinsekai yori, on the other hand, have another form of expression that aids in the development of both characters and narrative: artistic expression. Essentially, these series have “a point” they’re trying to make, or trying to envelop the viewer into a grandiose tale that one can empathize with and gather insight on various circumstances (i.e. loss of loved ones in Dennou Coil; social hierarchy in Shinsekai yori). The way the story is presented also plays a vital part in its retention of intrigue, which each series does splendidly enough to draw attention initially and reap rewards by the end; childlike adventure in a sci-fi setting with Dennou Coil, and the dangers of repeating the past in a fantasy setting full of telekinetic kids and anthropomorphic mole rats in Shinsekai yori. These stories with meaning are something that makes them intriguing to watch analytically as well as simply for pleasure. It also makes them more memorable for their inherent quirks as those without them. It’s part of the reason I gave mother! a good score despite not caring for it, and gave Mayoiga an average score despite its glaring technical flaws.

Yet not all is fine in dandy in the world of youthful naivety and cheeky children. Shounen anime are among the most exuberantly emotional anime on the planet, with episode after episode of monologues and screaming dialogue full of gusto and usually a lot of angst. This, in terms of what I’ve said, could qualify for an example of expression, and I would agree; however, with almost everything in life, execution is the name of the game. It is not expression alone that is what makes itself alluring, but the way it is the presented, the way it inflates itself with value, and the way it distinguishes itself from the crowd (or other ways that mean more to others than myself). Boku no Hero Academia is a great example of expression used in a very similar way to many other Shounen titles, but creates more meaning through focusing on characters by putting them in eventful situations and giving the viewer a reason to not treat them as background filler. The execution is not distinguishable at all, yet it works through tinkering—giving weight to one’s actions, and having that result in true character development. Because let’s face it, Boku no Hero Academia’s story is not nearly as captivating as its characters. Here, it works, while in other series where the focus is more driven towards narrative, it likely won’t work as well. Context is important, as one should be able to identify what a particular series is trying to do and why its type of expression works as well as it does.

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Which brings me to the obligatory “Trash all harem and trend-baiting series” section of the piece. Series such as Rosario + VampireNo Game No LifeBlend S, and Urara Meirochou all have a common fatal flaw: there’s no point to them. They indulge in what’s popular at the time for the sake of indulging in what’s popular at the time, putting no effort into any real stakes of human interest or conflict. While all are vibrant in their color palette, it doesn’t mean much when the execution is so derivative and void of impact. This isn’t to say these shows are (altogether) bad or that they can’t be entertaining to viewers (Lord knows No Game No Life is), but that they lack that sort of “oomph” (another word that mirrors “expression”) that keeps me interested long-term or invested in what’s happening onscreen. Their level of expression is fairly low in my eyes, which makes me immediately shy away from them if not for my allure to their easy-on-the-eyes design. And this applies to any anime that may or may not catch my interest in upcoming seasons. There’s a reason why I only watch two or three anime a season: the rest don’t scream, “Oh, yeah. That’ll be expressive and not super cliché.”

When it comes to anime, titles such as Ping Pong The AnimationKuuchuu Buranko, and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita are going to be infinitely more interesting to me than Free!Hajimete no Gal, or Monster (Sorry, fans). Their uniqueness, expressiveness, and potential for meaningful content are what draws me in more than simple fan service or a super-realistic plot full of normal characters. Again, this isn’t to say the latter series can’t work, but it doesn’t do much for me personally. I am, or at least I am developing into, someone who enjoys a blend of “objective” solidity and artsy-fartsy development or imagery. URAHARA was a series I had high hopes for due to the artsy-fartsy discretion, but the “objective” side faltered fairly quickly. It doesn’t always works, with execution and situation playing as much of a role in its power than the power itself. When it works, you have a crowded mess of eights and above in your anime list. When it doesn’t, your average rating per series hovers around a 5/10.

That’s what being expressive means to me. What does it mean to you?

A Halloween Horror: Mayoiga… Isn’t Terrible?

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An average rating of 5.7 out of 10 on MyAnimeList—ranked 7,657th on the site as of writing this. Numerous “Worst of the Season” awards from fellow anibloggers. Each top review on MAL is a 4 or below (not counting the 8/10, as the entire point of that review is to portray it as an intentionally abstract comedy). A friend of mine recommended that I marathon this series as a Halloween joke of sorts, and with all of these expectations placed on it as a surefire unintentional comedy the likes anime has never seen before, I’ve finished the series and am left scratching my head. Why did I enjoy this series more than Yuri!!! on Ice?

Now that is a scary statement, right?

So what’s the deal with Mayoiga, or The Lost Village? Why did it end up being rated so low, so panned by everyone as though it were common knowledge? Why do I feel like I completely missed the point as to why it’s almost universally accepted as tragically underwhelming? I haven’t been this shocked by such a positive (by relative standards) score since Umi Monogatari, another series that’s rated fairly low by most anime databases that I ended up liking. Were my expectations so low that I ended up being impressed, or is there something more to this series that I feel many averted from their gaze because the plotholes were so enormous?

Indeed, I will admit outright that this post isn’t to say Mayoiga is a good series—it’s below average. My point is to say that the series is not one that should be considered the worst of the worst that anime has to offer. There are far more shows that deserve such an “honor.” Koi Koi 7Diabolik LoversDog Days’Green Green (probably), Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, and others just like them have far less value as outlets of entertainment than Mayoiga. For those who have seen all titles listed (God save you, first of all), what is something that they all share, that they all have in common? The fact that they’re all creatively-shot. They do nothing to distinguish themselves from the pandering, market-testing corporate shells that focus exclusively on profit. They are bland, predictable, and will only truly work on someone who has never watched an anime ever before.

Let’s talk about the Star Wars prequels. No, hold on, come back for a second! It’ll be harmless, I swear. What do they have that The Force Awakens doesn’t? If your guess was “George Lucas,” that would be correct, but not quite what I was getting at. My input is “a creative soul.” The Force Awakens feels like Star Wars for the sake of giving people more Star Wars, with no real weight put upon the things that happen without relying entirely on the already-established characters of Star Wars lore to pick up the slack of the mindless new characters and their cookie-cutter motivations. The prequels, for all the shit they get, whether the acting, the writing, or the overuse of special effects, actually feel like they matter. They feel like George Lucas put his numbed-up brain and drug-induced heart into his precious creation and released it into the cruel, uncaring world. Said world is correct in tearing it to shreds, but what I would argue is that they at least felt like they had that sort of gusto that made them enjoyably dumb, instead of efficiently dull. In some cases, this is all one needs to make a “better” product, though the scenarios involved are wildly varying and dependent on numerous different situations and expectations.

Mayoiga is essentially the Star Wars prequels to me. It is dumb, it has plotholes, the characters are really overdramatic and the world they soon discover has logical inconsistencies. Not to mention, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Yet in spite of all of this, I felt its heart beating within me, I was able to empathize with the “message” it tried to convey. I was able to detract the logic in favor of the symbolic imagery and moral coding it embedded into its narrative. In some cases, it’s better to look at the world not through the perception of your own reality, but the reality faced by the characters in fiction. In many ways, logic plays a major part in Mayoiga’s downfalls, with characters being really hyped up for no reason while at the same time cool under pressure when the moment calls for it. In others, the logic within, that states that these characters, who all deal with the backlashes of deep emotional and psychological abuse and trauma, somehow aren’t allowed a little insanity to satisfy the viewer’s idea of realism? I’m willing to adjust, if ever so slightly, for the sake of trying to understand the world within.

In nutshell form, that’s all I really have to argue, at least to an incessant degree. Mayoiga has creativity all around, whether intentional or non-intentional, through the manifestation of its fucked up world, and I think people should be more open to explore how isolating it can be to think that the world is against you. Edgy as it turns out, or consistently inconsistent, I can at least get out of the experience saying, “Holy shit, this one dude had silicone implanted in his head to grow two whole inches and now his inborn psychological scarring takes the form of a giant, malformed pair of tits!” CAN KOI KOI 7 ALLOW ME TO SAY THAT? HOW ABOUT DIABOLIK LOVERS? Of course not. Those series don’t take chances.

So am I hyping it too much? Is the splendor of something new and enticing (and non-traditional in its approach to human emotion) blinding me to what is actually something obscenely bad? Probably. Despite all of this pent-up frustration that I was swindled out of ironic enjoyment for genuine enjoyment, I really do feel this series has worth—if not for the sake of what the message entails, then how it’s presented. Despite all the dumb, I was immersed every second of the experience, constantly trying to pinpoint who was doing what and why and how. A series that both inhibits and encourages thinking. Mayoiga is an absolute mindfuck that I would recommend simply to see how people would interpret it.

Is it just stupidity incarnate, or something more?

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

The Objectively Subjective Objective

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For as long as I’ve been blogging, it’s curious that I never made a post like this before in the past. When people read my reviews and look at my (low) ratings for various series, they may think to themselves, “Well, what exactly does this guy look for in a series?” I understand only about one in a thousand people actually think that, as most are satisfied with simply looking and forgetting, but I figured it’d be nice to keep note of what makes my ratings my ratings. What makes me think a series is good or bad and, most importantly, why my opinion holds more weight to me than others.

Now, that last sentence may seem conceited, which I wouldn’t argue isn’t. Everyone has some sort of pride to them within their work or hobby that allows them to feel more confident in their ability to share their thoughts or opinions with others. Especially noteworthy of critics (or those who aspire to be) is the sense of “Elitism” that is stereotyped into the persona of anyone who doesn’t have a systemic average rating of, say, seven or above. I am no different, as while I’ve never been directly insulted through the term “elitist,” I have often called myself, in jest and seriously, more aligned with the elitist mindset than otherwise. There is a reason to this, and one of the major reasons I decided to write up this post.

I will not deny that every opinion is inherently subjective. I will not deny that the differences in perspectives and priorities for each individual person will affect what they find good or bad about a particular subject.  I will deny that these opinions and theories cannot be objective, especially when dealing with a purely artistic or creative medium such as anime. I’ve dedicated my entire critical life to studying the standard guide to what makes a work good or bad based on the context of the subject. Anyone has seen it in a typical review set-up: Story, characters, art, sound, etc. These things are what I would argue can make an opinion objective in nature, though not concretely. I believe in the objectively subjective, that things can be argued into being more true than not; that, say, Toradora!’s characters are more realistic than unrealistic, or One Punch Man’s story is too comically one-dimensional to be given credible weight to its drama. Not that these become established facts, but become credible enough with substantial evidence to be able to be understood by the general public.

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One of the most irritating phrases I’ve heard in my time online is “Everything is subjective anyway, so why make such a big deal about it?” If everything is subjective, why even bother critiquing? Why even bothering distinguishing what is good and bad? Why even blog? Why even watch? Why even be different? Why not just release a bunch of shit for no reason because it’s all subjective anyway and nothing matters? Please bear with my snarky attitude, but it’s something that I feel is too slippery a slope to be said so easily. It almost sounds nihilistic to me; nothing in life matters and we all die in the end, so why put any effort into anything? The beauty of critiquing is so that we can appreciate what makes things good and bad, what resonates and what should be worth one’s time. We critique so that we can continue to attempt to shape the works of others into something bigger and better for more to be able to enjoy. That’s why being more objective than subjective matters to me. So that I can distinguish what makes a series worth not only my time, but your time.

I can enjoy the living hell out of something and still think it’s shitty on a technical level. Take my review of Custom Robo. I love that game to death, but it’s not great in any sense of the word. The gameplay is fine, but the story is incredibly standard, the characters are beyond cheesy, and the graphics are absolutely putrid. It’s not something I would actively recommend if it weren’t for the off-chance that it could allow people to enjoy the game as I did so many years ago. Basically nostalgia. Despite the fact that I adore it so, I only gave it a six out of ten, and that may be generous of me. I could absolutely rate it higher based on enjoyment, but I don’t think the qualities of the game are good enough to warrant so high a score just because it means a lot to me. That would be unfair of me to reward a game for being special to me, for being overly subjective with a topic on my own bias. That’s another reason why objectivity is a large part of what I try to embody.

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On the opposite spectrum, mother! was an incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking film, with great attention to tone and tension. Yet, by the end, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling, especially knowing that it all had one, all-encompassing meaning. I ended up not really enjoying the experience, aside from the fleeting question of “What does it all mean?” I awarded it a seven out of ten. Something I genuinely love gets a six while something I barely enjoyed gets a seven. That would almost seem blasphemous to some, but it’s something I feel strongly about—it’s the type of integrity I try to apply to myself for the purpose of critique. I want people to know what a film, a game, or an anime is worth on its own, while filling in the little details that make it what it is (through my own lens). That is what it means to me to be objectively subjective: to judge a topic based on its core parts and what it succeeds in doing regardless of personal preference or enjoyment. And I expect those who come to read my posts to know that that is what I strive for. All of my ratings are still my own, and I can rate something higher or lower than what it deserves, but I’ll do what I can to explain myself past a simple number score.

So with my brain fried and my fingers slowly bulging with every clack of my keyboard, I’m hoping this makes enough sense for people to acknowledge what makes my ratings my ratings, and how my religion of objectivity is a means of genuine worth rather than a stubbornness to avert societal norms. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and it’s taken some time for me to really develop as my own mental self has grown. To be more open and inviting of ideas; for a long time, I wouldn’t accept that everything was inherently subjective! While something of a personal case, it’s not something I feel more should do, but I would encourage others to take a more intrinsic approach to series and what they’re worth in terms of general characteristics. Of course, I never really delved deeper into that, as what makes characters good or bad is, again, fairly subjective, but I feel it’s the thought that counts. People should just think more, y’know?

Kuzu no Honkai: A Case of Sexual Timidity

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Not to sound unsure of myself, but I would like to briefly note that my opinions and thoughts on this particular criticism of Kuzu no Honkai to be somewhat incomplete. It’s more of a gut feeling that I had watching the anime and having experience with other forms of dark, introspective series. This argument is something I don’t actually have too much evidence for, as some of the things I’ll go more into detail about can be debated against with ease. Consider this a messy opinion piece, something that I feel is present without the sort of solid foundation to legitimize its bearing on the quality of the series.

And I felt I needed to say this before I go on, as I feel it’s important to be honest with my readers about how I feel during such debatable pieces as this one. Too often I wonder if people who make extraordinary claims and back them up with such flimsy details aren’t conscious of how it makes them appear. Call it my own pride, but if a claim I make sounds sketchy even to me, I feel it should be noted before it’s said. It could also be a defensive mechanism because I’m too honest and I’d feel too bad about “deceiving” people.

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Now then, the claim in question is that Kuzu no Honkai is too naive. The manner in which it tells its story and the way it introduces sex as a means of showing the emptiness of the characters is incredibly simplistic and immature. Sex itself is something of a hot topic within the world of anime, but the fact that Kuzu no Honkai has it so prevalent within itself shows some lenience that rarely comes from mainstream anime. Unless, of course, the sex is used for laughs and giddy temptation. Really, one simply need to look at the ocean of harem anime, or anime that simply have characters show sexual attraction to those around them.

One could praise Kuzu no Honkai for portraying sex in an artistic or mature way, however I would disagree. The way it portrays sex is simply a refreshing spin within a medium where sex is taken too lightly. To have one go through a marathon of To Love-ruHigh School DxD, and Sekirei, then watch Kuzu no Honkai, one would definitely appreciate the change of pace. It’s not only limited to these types of anime, either, where sex is a blatant device to entice viewers, but others where even the prospect of holding hands is considered too risqué. A fellow blogger once made an intriguing point about how Kirito from Sword Art Online‘s quick path to OP status was a refreshing spin from the typical Shounen protagonist’s zero to hero approach. While that may be true for certain eyes and times, it’s something that doesn’t always work to make characters or stories better (further referenced for my disdain for SAO), as is the case here.

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Through another perspective, there’s the fact that while sex is led up to and hinted at, sex is never actually shown. Natsu no Zenjitsu shows plenty of sex, and not just the interpretation of it, but the act of it. The sights, sounds, movement of characters’ bodies and faces. Kuzu no Honkai‘s use of sex is little different to me than the way ecchi uses sex; both are used for enticement, only Kuzu no Honkai‘s intentions aren’t to lure viewers to drop their shorts, but to drop their hearts. I found it humorous that, try as the characters might, not a nipple was shown, never anything past foreplay, and the characters, despite how empty they seem to be portrayed, have enough humanity within themselves to cover up at the last moment. This could almost sound like a positive for the show’s characters, though not so much for the argument. This gave an air of the author knowing this would be shown on TV at some point, so they cut their losses and went for what would be most suitable for the general mass, instead of pushing it further.

Something that could be used in association with the previous point is the anime’s penchant for telling, not showing. While not always the case, there’s definitely a lot of telling within the plot, particularly by whoever is the focus of the individual development. Whether it be Hanabi, Mugi, or Akane, (though usually more Hanabi and Akane) the dialogue is definitely something one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by. Whether this overwhelming is good or bad depends on the viewer. For me, it was obviously very bad. Too often I felt what was being told to me was very clear based on their prior actions and train of thought, something I feel the series took too much advantage of. Watching Kuzu no Honkai was like listening to a teenager in high school monotonously overexplain the story of their first Facebook lover. Lots of angst, lots of self-reflection, lots of crying/cringing, and not a break in sight.

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Through the use of sex, this tell-a-thon mixes in with the fact that sex is never actually shown. It combines with the type of storytelling that relies on the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves, taking sex at face value as a symbol of one thing depending on the situation. It would be really nice to see the characters actually react to the sex, rather than the build-up to sex. Many times the characters fantasize about the idea of sex and what it would mean to them to have sex with the one they love or “love,” but fantasizing about sex and having sex are two completely different beasts. Not just foreplay, either. If Hanabi is wincing and in tears at having her genitals fondled, I would like to see her reaction to actually hitting the home run. That sentence sounded incredibly disturbing. Still, it would be intriguing to see if she continues to fight her overwhelming negative emotions or if she’d abandon them and simply let it happen at the expense of comforting pain. If only I had that chance.

On its own, Kuzu no Honkai is a decent series with an intriguing premise that can stand with the best of teen dramas. What the series lacks in subtlety, however, it more than makes up for with dialogue straight from an early Linkin Park album. Its dedication to its craft is admirable, though many (including me) could be easily turned off by how painful the amount of depressing self-deprecation the characters spew at themselves, to the point where they can’t take it seriously. It doesn’t surprise me that the series is so highly-acclaimed, taking into account that the average anime watcher is in their teens and are attuned to sensitive jargon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the series could’ve been if it hadn’t been directed so heavily at only that demographic.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

K.O. Course! Why Mario Golf Is Superior to Super Smash Bros.

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The inspiration for this article came upon replaying Mario Golf for the first time since I was about seven or so. My love for the game even went so far that I dedicated a homework assignment to one of the game modes present within it. My inherent love for golf games was directly inspired by it, which translated into my continued love for the game so many years later. The essence of “classic games” is that no matter the era, one can have great fun playing them. Mario Golf is a classic in my eyes, while another, more popular franchise seems to be the case for everyone else.

I took it upon myself to replay Super Smash Bros. as well, going from beginning to end in both games, unlocking everything I possibly could before moving on. By the end of each game’s “end,” it was clear to me what the superior title was, but I seem to be in the minority based on user score comparisons. As shown by Metacritic and Gamefaqs, the user score for Super Smash Bros. is much higher than that of Mario Golf (Though I acknowledge not many users rated Mario Golf on Metacritic). However, critic consensus agrees that Mario Golf is the better title. I suppose my critical aspirations would fit well enough, huh?

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Not without reason, of course, would I make a claim that one game is clearly better than another. I’ve observed a number of different things, both objectively and subjectively relative to people’s expectations of fun, that give an edge to Mario Golf. Some of these things are directly correlated to my own biases, as is typical for any reviewer, but I’ve tried to limit the amount of ego-inflated elitism that one might expect from a comparison piece such as this one. Disclaimers aside, my reasons for why Mario Golf has a noticeable handicap over Super Smash Bros.

1. There’s More to Do!

In Super Smash Bros., one has the option to play in Training, Classic, Bonus Stages 1 & 2, and Vs. Mode. One could also argue that they could check out the character profiles in the Options menu, but that’ll take little out of the player’s time overall. When replaying Smash Bros., I played the game in two sittings—both spanning within an hour’s time—before I unlocked every character. After that, I felt no motivation to continue playing, as the only other mode worth playing was Vs. Mode, and that’s a lot more fun with other people. It says a lot about a game when after two hours, there’s little more for the player to do. It takes a huge risk, relying on the gameplay alone to keep the player enticed enough to keep playing after every goal’s been checked off the list. In this case, it isn’t quite enough.

In Mario Golf, one can play Tournament, Training, Ring Shot, Get Character, Speed Golf, Mini-Golf, and a number of Multiplayer modes. Not only does it have three more modes than Smash Bros., but each mode takes longer to complete than its competition. By the end of a sitting in Mario Golf, a few hours can go by without a second thought, so long as you haven’t rage-quit before that. When normal golf gets too stale, one can participate in Mini-golf, where putting is the only factor and the courses are giant numbers. This was the mode I felt inclined to write about in my schoolwork. It’s also, ironically, become my least favorite mode in the entire game.

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A common struggle now a days with games is money spent vs. length one can get out of a game. With these two, Mario Golf is the clear winner in long-term replayability. Unlocking everything takes anywhere from twenty to thirty hours, while Smash Bros. has everything behind a thin layer of a few hours.

2. It’s More Challenging!

I’m not saying Smash Bros. isn’t hard, as that is far from the truth, but taking into consideration the work it takes to unlock everything, it’s a breeze compared to Mario Golf. The most Smash Bros. requires the player to do to unlock things is simply play the game. Unlocking Ness is probably the hardest challenge, as the player has to go through Normal difficulty in Classic Mode with three lives and beat it without continuing (Which I did on my first try).

Unlocking Bowser in Mario Golf took me umpteen tries, with the winning round requiring me to land four Eagles in eighteen holes in order to beat him by a single stroke. There’s no adjusting the difficulty in the Options menu, either. You’re going to have to play the game of your life to survive and it’s all meticulous planning and taking advantage of the weather conditions. It can be frustrating, for sure, but once you beat it, your sense of accomplishment rises like a four-ton weight being lifted off your foot. I’ll say this, though: the final course is nothing short of bullshit. So many rough patches and bunkers placed throughout each hole that screwing up is a likely scenario no matter how careful your shot is.

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There’s a point where a game can be too frustrating to call it “competitively challenging,” and Mario Golf passes this to some degree in later portions. However, Smash Bros. doesn’t feel all that challenging at all, especially what it requires to unlock everything needed to be unlocked. Without that challenge, games can feel like a monotonous drag that ultimately serves as a waste of time, with limited fun.

3. It Requires More Precise Player Input!

This is probably the most subjective point, as one could argue that what I’m about to explain is more characteristic of what’s more enjoyable to some than others. Super Smash Bros. isn’t simply a button-masher with results being better suited for those who blend the controller for a minute or two. Still, as a fighting game, one can take advantage of one or two moves to desecrate the competition without a second thought. It feels almost like hammering a single button over and over again in order to win. Again, not usually the case, but it tends to happen more than one might expect.

One could also argue that Mario Golf is simply golf, so its controls don’t have to be so varied, to which I can agree. Even so, to have the buttons be so limited, yet so indicative of the outcome of the match feels so much more controlled than otherwise. I enjoy not having to worry about all sorts of different button maneuvers and outdated tactics improved by sequels when I could just have a near-mastered limit of control available upon my own accord. Only drawback to this is that it becomes hard to top in following sequels. In any case, my love of tight controls in video games shines through brightly here.

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I could make other arguments, but they’re more nitpicks about Smash Bros. than anything worth making a valid, objective argument about. With my own interpretation in mind, why is it that Super Smash Bros. is so much more beloved? I’d argue a few different things, such as “Mario Golf is just golf” and “Super Smash Bros. has a larger cast of Nintendo characters from all sorts of titles.” Fighting games in general are far more popular than golf games, and people are more accustomed to playing them, since golf is a game with more of a narrowed demographic. Does this mean we’re all a bunch of violence-loving savages?! A post for another day. And who doesn’t love crossovers? If The Avengers is any indication, people go gaga over characters within the same universe interacting with one another.

Nostalgia is also a very likely candidate in deeming the popularity of one title to another. I grew up more with Super Smash Bros. than Mario Golf, but I’m able to distinguish the quality between them with a clear head. In the end, Mario Golf has given me a lot more trial and error, frustration, and tear-inducing joy than Super Smash Bros did, and the feeling of enjoyment really isn’t that close. There’s more to do, more to endure, and more to strategize for. It’s just golf, yes, but it has that Nintendo charm and polish that gives it more appeal than others within the same genre. That appeal trumps even others on the same system.

What is your input on the matter? Is Super Smash Bros. the better game? Or is Mario Golf an underappreciated spectacle as I’ve tried arguing for? Feel free to leave a comment, and I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read! Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

The ratings for these titles and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.

Top 10 Worst Individual Quarterback Seasons

(Edit: This post can also be found on my football-themed blog.)

In today’s NFL, the quarterback is undeniably the most important position on a team. If the quarterback doesn’t perform well, it throws off the functioning of just about every other offensive position. Not to mention their inadequacy puts more pressure on the defense to perform at a higher level just so the team doesn’t fall behind. As the years go by and the passing attack of each team grows more and more vital, a quarterback’s worth has skyrocketed to levels of almost mythical proportions. This past year saw Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Nick Foles almost as detriments to their team’s success, despite a good core around them, whether offensively or defensively. This got me wondering: has there been anything worse than these three this year?

This list will take a look throughout NFL history for the quarterbacks that, for lack of a harsher word, “underwhelmed” when given the chance to perform. Of course, this list would be painfully hard to sort out if I were to look at quarterbacks with only one or two abysmal starts in their career. Therefore, I added a stipulation that a quarterback must have started at least six games in a single season to be eligible to compete for this list. There are a few people that definitely would have made it had it not been for this stipulation, but alas, they probably don’t care to re-live it.

10. Vinny Testaverde – 1988

Vinny Testaverde

Statistics:

• W-L record: 5-10
• 47.6% completion rate; 3,240 passing yards
• 13 touchdown passes; 35 interceptions
• Total QBR: 48.8

Some would argue that Testaverde’s sophomore season wasn’t all that bad. He had three decent games that season against Indianapolis, New England, and Detroit, and otherwise kept his team within a score’s reach of leading the game. But there’s one factor about this season that made me want to put Vinny on this list out of sheer astonishment: number of interceptions.

35 interceptions in 15 games. That’s just insane. Even more so when you consider the era. This was 1988. This was well past when teams started passing the ball more. This was after Dan Fouts. This was after Terry Bradshaw. This was during the era where Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason were taking the league by storm with their innovative passing offenses. To throw 35 interceptions this close to the turn of the new millennium is worthy of being put on a list like this. It’s the second-most interceptions thrown in a single season (George Blanda owns the record with 42 in 1962) and no one has even thrown more than 29 in a season since then.

9. Bob Lee – 1974

bob lee

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 852 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 14 interceptions
• Total QBR: 32.4

Now the list becomes really fun.

Meet Bob Lee. Fans of this era may remember him as the longtime back-up quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. In 1973, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons and led them to an 8-2 record as a starter. Up to that point, he was 13-3 as a starter for both the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. Things were looking good for Atlanta leading up to the 1974 season. Until it actually happened.

In the first game of the 1974 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys, Lee was 4 of 22 passing for 28 yards and an interception. They lost 0-24. It was only a sign of what was to come. The team put up two wins against New York (Giants) and Chicago in consecutive weeks, with Lee playing moderately well, to put their overall record with him as a starter at 2-2, but it all went downhill from there. With four more starts and another game participated in, the team went 0-5, with Lee only throwing a touchdown pass in one of those games, while accumulating 5 interceptions. They would finally bench him after a week 10 loss to Baltimore in favor of back-up Pat Sullivan, who didn’t perform much better.

Looking at his numbers on their own paints an ugly picture. Even for 1974, only 3 touchdown passes in almost nine games is unacceptable. His rock-bottom QBR might be the most telling part of his whole season. Absolutely nothing went right.

8. John Skelton – 2012

john skelton

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-5
• 54.2% completion rate; 1,132 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 9 interceptions
• Total QBR: 55.4

What a funny season it was for Arizona in 2012. They started the season 4-0 and even defeated the mighty New England Patriots in week two. They finished the season 5-11. Mr. Skelton was their starting quarterback for six of those games.

John Skelton lifted a struggling Cardinals team in 2011 in relief of starter Kevin Kolb by leading them to a 5-2 record. Going into the 2012 season, Skelton and Kolb had a quarterback controversy all throughout the preseason, with head coach Ken Whisenhunt finally picking Skelton as the starter just before the regular season debut. In his debut, Skelton won the game against Seattle, but had a mediocre game. Even worse, he sustained an injury during the game that kept him out of action until week six. And by week six, the Cardinals’ season was all but falling apart.

Skelton did not throw a touchdown pass until week seven in a losing effort against Minnesota, in what many would agree was his only good game of that season. Otherwise, it was like he wasn’t there at all. John’s placement on this list isn’t for how badly he played on a consistent basis—though he did anyway—but more for how little his assistance paid off. In his six starts, the most his offense put up in points was in his first game against Seattle, where they scored 20 points. However, Kevin Kolb threw a touchdown pass in that game after Skelton was injured, so one could argue that John only put up 13 in that game. Otherwise, his offense put up 19 points or fewer, with his offense failing to reach more than 14 points in three of those starts.

His season ended in week 13 when he threw four interceptions in a rematch against Seattle; he was benched for rookie Ryan Lindley. In roughly six full games on the season, John Skelton only managed to throw two touchdown passes. Two touchdown passes in six games… in 2012. In as pass-happy a league as the NFL is now, that’s just embarrassing. It’s not surprising to know he flamed out in the NFL soon after.

7. Mike Taliaferro – 1968

mike taliaferro

Statistics:

• W-L record: 3-4
• 38.1% completion rate; 889 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 26.9

The most amazing thing about Taliaferro’s worst season is that he won three games.

To some degree, Taliaferro may not deserve to be listed after Skelton or Lee, but there’s something special about the lowest total QBR in a single season I’ve ever seen. 26.9. Even for 1968, a monkey could do better. Even more ironically, Taliaferro would follow the worst season of his career with his best. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1969.

Similar to Lee’s situation, Taliaferro was a back-up for the New York Jets before signing with the Boston Patriots to become their starter. Unlike Lee, his first season with his new team wasn’t nearly as successful. The Patriots won their first game against Buffalo, but flip-flopped from there. Taliaferro would go on to have good games against Denver and his second round with Buffalo, but those were squished in-between games where he would throw 3, 4, and 5 interceptions in a single game. It’s not hard to imagine why his QBR was so low when he’s throwing so many errant balls. He was benched after his 5 interception performance against his old team.

Taliaferro’s season may not stack up with how consistently bad those before him were, but when he was at a low, he was far further down than anyone could imagine. It’s hard not to put him at least this high with that QBR of his for that season. 26.9. I still can’t believe it can even reach that low.

6. Alex Smith – 2005

alex smith

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-5
• 50.9% completion rate; 875 passing yards
• 1 passing touchdown; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 40.8

The only person on this list still on an NFL roster—and starting, for that matter— is Alex Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.As with any first overall pick, Smith was expected to perform well almost immediately. He did not.

Keep in mind: this is 2005. Once again, far past the times when the focus of an offense is running the ball. The quarterback is essential and his malfunction could lead to a lot of disaster. Such is the case with Alex Smith, who was thrust into the starting role in week five. It didn’t do the offense any favors, as Smith was a turnover machine. He threw five interceptions in his first two games as a starter. He was benched until he was forced back into action in week twelve, and would finish out the season as the starter.

In his second phase of starting, Smith played marginally better, but still turned the ball over multiple times a game. He would not throw his first touchdown pass until the last game of the season, against the Houston Texans, in an ultimately pointless game for both teams.

To his credit, Alex Smith’s last two games of the season were by no means bad. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 131 yards against St. Louis and his performance against the aforementioned Texans wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, his bad far outweighs the impact of his good in this case. Much like a combination of Skelton and Taliaferro, he was consistently bad and gave his team little chance to win, while his lowest lows were gravely so. His 40.8 QBR, for 2005 standards, is almost as bad as Taliaferro’s 26.9. His 1 touchdown pass in 9 participated games is the proverbial cherry on top of an otherwise nightmare season.

5. Joe Namath – 1976

joe namath

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-7
• 49.6% completion rate; 1,090 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 16 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.9

There’s chatter among new-age NFL fans about the legitimacy of Joe Namath’s “greatness.” Ask anyone who watched him play during his era and they’ll tell you how amazing he was. Except maybe Colts fans. So, was he great or not? One thing’s for sure: he was not very great in 1976.

What’s intriguing about this year is that his numbers are interestingly deceptive. You compare them to the statistics that have been shown from guys earlier on in the list and they’re favorable by comparison. Once I reviewed his games individually for that season, placing him this high on the list was a no-brainer. How’s this for inefficiency: in six of his eight starts, Namath failed to put up more than 7 points. That’s astounding. Sure, you can’t blame all of this on him, but he didn’t help by throwing his first touchdown pass in week five.

Namath played so poorly that the team benched him after a two interception performance in a 0-20 loss against Baltimore. Here’s where things become interesting. Three weeks later, New York blows out Tampa Bay 34-0. Namath played during the latter half of that game, and played better than he did the entire season, going 7 for 12 for 94 yards and a touchdown. The next week, New England blows them out, leading to Namath coming in and taking charge… by throwing 5 interceptions. He was benched yet again and wouldn’t start again until the final game of the season, where he would throw 4 more interceptions in a 3-42 loss against Cincinnati. He started poorly and crashed to the finish.

Taking this into account, for the games Joe Namath actually started, he went 88 of 174 for 814 passing yards with 2 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. This was through eight games. Ouch.

4. JaMarcus Russell – 2009

jamarcus russell

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-7
• 48.8% completion rate; 1,287 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 50.0

JaMarcus Russell is considered by many to be the biggest Draft bust of all time. He was selected first overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and faced a mine field’s worth of behavioral problems and struggled with limiting his weight all throughout his career. All of these things eventually contributed to his downfall and outright release from Oakland, which was made possible by his 2009 season.

It began with a lackluster, but not excruciatingly terrible, outing in a loss against San Diego, where he would throw a touchdown pass and 2 picks. From that point, he would not throw another touchdown pass until week six. In between that, he threw another 2 picks and completed less than 40% of his passes in two games. His win over Philadelphia in week six would be the last touchdown pass he throws as a starter, as he went on to throw 3 more interceptions in 3 more games. He was finally benched for his inadequacy after going 8 of 23 for 64 yards in a loss against Kansas City. He finished the season with another touchdown pass and 2 more interceptions as a relief player.

Another thing to note is that through his 9 starts, Russell threw for 1,064 yards. Had that trend continued, he wouldn’t even reach 2,000 passing yards on the season. This is 2009. That is as bad a statistic as I’ve ever seen from someone who’s started over half of the season in the modern era. Not to mention the 2 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. He’s not guilty of throwing a lot of picks, but he’s guilty of not doing hardly anything to get the offense going. Almost like an advanced type of John Skelton, JaMarcus Russell failed to amass 14 points in all but 2 of his starts. For Joe Namath in 1976, that’s bad. For JaMarcus Russell in 2009, that’s humiliating.

3. Marty Domres – 1974

marty domres

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-5
• 50.3% completion rate; 803 passing yards
• 0 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 33.2

You read that right: 0 touchdown passes.

Starting six games during the 1974 NFL season, Domres threw exactly 0 touchdown passes. He ran for two touchdowns, but he threw for exactly 0. The team knew he wasn’t worthy either, as they benched him twice throughout the season for back-up Bert Jones. Domres was so inadequate that they simply didn’t rely on him to throw it that often. He only had 136 attempts through the air in 6 starts. That’s between 22-23 attempts per game.

Amazingly enough, the one start he made where his team won was against none other than Bob Lee’s Atlanta Falcons. Even then, he went 4 of 11 for 74 yards and an interception. He ran for a touchdown, though. Otherwise, he had individual games where he threw 2, 3, and 4 interceptions. He didn’t throw an interception in only 1 of his starts. 11 interceptions and 0 passing touchdowns in 6 starts.

One could argue that for 1974, his statistics aren’t exactly worthy of being this high on the list for a 6 game stretch. But for me, it’s really an accumulation of his worth to the offense. With 0 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 720 passing yards in 6 games, he isn’t much of an asset on the practice squad as opposed to a starting offense.

2. Matt Robinson – 1980

matt robinson

Statistics:

• W-L record: 4-3
• 48.1% completion rate; 942 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.7

Another batch of statistics that are misleading. Matt Robinson was absolutely a detriment to his team. He was so much of a detriment that it’s amazing he managed to have a winning record as a starter! Matt Robinson’s production, as the season rolled on, slowed to that of a purr. It’s not that he played any better or worse, the team just put the reins on him.

In his first game as a starter, he went 18 of 41 for 178 yards and 2 interceptions. The team lost to Philadelphia 6-27. In his next game, he went 10 of 20 for 198 yards and ran for 2 touchdowns. His team won against Dallas 41-20. Notice something here? When the game falls behind, he falters. When he’s got a huge lead, he lets his defense do its job and settles down. It happens all throughout the season. In his next start, the team lost to San Diego 13-30. Robinson threw 4 interceptions in that game. From that point on, the team put a leash on Robinson’s control of the offense. In his next three starts, he had a combined 37 pass attempts for 183 yards… with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. He won two of those starts by a combined 6 points. Amazing how once he starts doing less, the team starts winning more.

Despite winning his sixth start, the team benched Robinson in favor of Craig Morton. It wouldn’t be until the final game of the season that he would start again. Even so, with a 7-8 record, going up against a 4-11 Seattle team, the results didn’t matter. They let him loose and he played okay in the sense that he didn’t turn it over. He also went 9 of 23 for 99 yards and a touchdown in the air and on the ground. A nice way to end the season, but it does little for his season overall. When he was expected to perform, he didn’t. He had his hand held for a majority of the season and he struggled without it. That’s why he’s this high on the list. Not because he had horrible stats, though that helps, but because they could have the same record with just about anyone. Even an aging and broken down Craig Morton.

1. Ryan Leaf – 1998

ryan leaf

Statistics:

• W-L record: 3-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 1,289 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.0

Some say JaMarcus Russell is the biggest Draft bust of all time. I say that honor belongs to Ryan Leaf, and his rookie campaign is the ultimate evidence to back up that claim.

It started off alright. His first two starts netted him a 2-0 record and he performed okay enough for a rookie. But his first start against Kansas City proved to be the point of no return. He went 1 of 15 for 4 yards and 2 interceptions as the team lost 7-23. The scene in the locker room afterwards was not pretty.

His performance on the field would not improve either. In the next 6 starts, he had a completion rate of over 50% once, threw for over 200 yards once, and passed for 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. The year is 1998. Peyton Manning is about to terrorize the league for over a decade with his passing attack. To not be able to throw for more than 2 touchdowns in 9 starts is pathetic. Leaf was benched after week nine and came in one more time during the season as a relief player, where he threw 2 more interceptions to finish off the season. I’m not sure his 39.0 QBR has been matched since.

Leaf’s time in the NFL flamed out soon after and the Chargers suffered for their second overall pick greatly. I’m not sure anything could match his first game against Kansas City as an indicator of poor quality. They gave him a whole other season to improve upon himself and he didn’t. Though, frankly, after his 1998 season, I’m not sure how you could give him another chance, especially after his off-the-field antics and attitude. He may not have had otherwordly numbers, but his influence was enough to have me put him #1 on this list. He performed badly, he behaved badly. He was essentially the entire package of bad. He paid for it dearly, as his life after the NFL wasn’t too clean, either.

NFL Pick ‘Ems (Week One; 2015)

[Indianapolis @ Buffalo]

There seems to be chatter that Buffalo has a legitimate chance of beating Indianapolis, much in part to their terrifying front four and dual threat project at quarterback. It would be easy to pick Indianapolis in this match-up, seeing as they’re a consistently good team. However, Buffalo’s defense did make both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning look like Geno Smith last season. Not to mention Indianapolis’s defense isn’t anything extraordinary. It will be interesting to see Tyrod Taylor at quarterback for Buffalo in his first career start after four years as a back-up to Joe Flacco. Do I think he’ll be anything special? Not likely, but we’ll see. With the uncertainty of Buffalo’s offense, I feel more inclined to favor Indianapolis in this game.

Winner: Indianapolis

[Cleveland @ New York (Jets)]

Two dismal franchises who are constantly subjected as the butt of many jokes. One of these teams can say that literally. Both have aged veteran back-ups as starting quarterbacks. Both have pretty good defenses. New York has debatably better running options and undebatably better receiving options. Mix in the fact that Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are the starting cornerbacks for New York’s defense and it’s hard to pick against them, especially when they’re playing at home. I expect a defensive game, but who knows what will happen with these two teams.

Winner: New York

[Carolina @ Jacksonville]

Carolina’s only receiving threat is tight end Greg Olsen. With Kelvin Benjamin lost for the year, the starting wide receivers for Carolina’s offense are Ted Ginn and Philly Brown. When you combine their receiving stats from last year, it amounts to 35 receptions, 486 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Let me reiterate: Carolina’s only receiving threat is tight end Greg Olsen. Their defense, however, is quite stout… when they want to be. Last year, their defense started out awful, giving up an average 374 yards per game. After their bye week, that average dropped to 265 yards a game. If that defense continues to flourish, it should be an easy game. Who are they facing an—oh. Jacksonville? Yeah, they shouldn’t have any problems.

Winner: Carolina

[Green Bay @ Chicago]

Oh, woe is the Green Bay Packers, who lost their #1 receiver in Jordy Nelson during the preseason. How can they possibly go up against the 30th ranked defense two years running with a two-time MVP at quarterback and Pro Bowl weapons at running back and wide receiver?

Winner: Green Bay

[Kansas City @ Houston]

Now this is an interesting match-up. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding both of these teams. Houston has the benefit of J.J. Watt, but do they have any other stars on the defensive side to pick up the slack? They got Vince Wilfork in the offseason and re-signed Kareem Jackson. And what of Jadeveon Clowney? Will he be the force they expected when they drafted him #1 overall in 2014? The offensive side isn’t any more clear. They released Andre Johnson, their all-time leading receiver, and are starting veteran Brian Hoyer at quarterback. If one were to ask if the Houston Texans improved during the offseason, I’m not sure many would answer positively.

On the contrary, Kansas City looks a little more optimistic. Jeremy Maclin has looked to be a stud throughout the preseason and Alex Smith is a lot more reliable than Brian Hoyer. On defense, not much has changed. Still more Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and the return of Derrick Johnson should provide a fierce defensive nightmare for the Houston offensive line. It’s an interesting match-up ripe with uncertainty, but I have to go against the home team.

Winner: Kansas City

[Miami @ Washington]

Miami has Ryan Tannehill, Cameron Wake, Jordan Cameron, a plethora of athletic receivers, Ndamukong Suh, Reshad Jones, Brent Grimes, and Olivier Vernon. Washington has controversy.

Winner: Miami

[Seattle @ St. Louis]

Seattle hasn’t always been at their best away, but St. Louis has shown inconsistency with their production year-in and year-out. Their defense has always been good, but never great, despite great talent amongst every position. Nick Foles is definitely an upgrade at quarterback, but will it be enough to get St. Louis past the hump? Against Seattle in their opener, who have largely retained their roster from last year (save one member), I don’t think they’ll get off to a great start.

Winner: Seattle

[Detroit @ San Diego]

Another interesting match-up. Two teams who had overall good seasons last year, though San Diego wishes Philip Rivers didn’t get injured halfway through the season. With Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games of the season, Philip Rivers has very few targets to choose from. On the flipside, can Detroit’s defense continue their surprise surge from last year? I believe this will be a close match-up, but I think Detroit’s offense will be the deciding factor in its outcome.

Winner: Detroit

[New Orleans @ Arizona]

Arizona had a lot of offseason signings both offensively and defensively, molding their team into something new, while retaining their old ways. Carson Palmer is back starting and looks to continue his winning ways. I still feel Arizona doesn’t have as many weapons as they could have, but will take advantage of what they have. New Orleans is historically less dangerous on the road, and Arizona’s defense is fairly good in its own right. Drew Brees or not, I don’t expect New Orleans to exceed twenty points. Oh, and their defense doesn’t look good either.

Winner: Arizona

[Baltimore @ Denver]

Baltimore’s preseason left much to be desired. Their defense didn’t look up to the team’s standards, giving up 21 points against Philadelphia’s starting offense in their second game. Questions are starting to arise for John Harbaugh’s former Super Bowl-winning team. However, Baltimore has a tendency to do more with less, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up finishing the season with a winning record. However, against the high-flying offense (despite a declining Peyton Manning) and pass-rushing defense of the Denver Broncos, I don’t think their season will start with a win.

Winner: Denver

[Cincinnati @ Oakland]

Is this game gonna be nationally televised? No? Okay, cool.

Winner: Cincinnati

[Tennessee @ Tampa Bay]

The #1 pick going against the #2 pick. Or more accurately, they’re going against each other’s defenses, but you can’t sell tickets that way. The coincidence is definitely uncanny, regardless. Neither of these teams have looked all that spectacular in the preseason, though I believe Tampa Bay has more playmakers on both sides of the ball. As much as I’d like to see Tennessee flourish with Marcus Mariota, I don’t think they have all the pieces in place to do so yet. Despite this, I think the game will be close, with Tampa Bay pulling out by a field goal or two.

Winner: Tampa Bay

[New York (Giants) @ Dallas]

Oh, boy! Remember last year when Odell Beckham had that amazing catch against Dallas? I wonder what he’ll do this time! Holy shit, football is awesome! Remember what the final score for that game was? Dallas winning 31-28. That shouldn’t change.

Winner: Dallas

[Philadelphia @ Atlanta]

Philadelphia, out of any other team, had the best preseason for me. Sam Bradford looks like a great pick-up and its defense looks like it can hold its own. I’ve been impressed with Chip Kelly’s alterations to this team and was at first very skeptical of his decisions. I can’t wait to see how the season plays out for them. Hopefully Bradford doesn’t tear another ACL. Atlanta is another team I thought looked good in the preseason. Their offense hasn’t skipped a beat with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ chemistry, and their defense looks to have improved dramatically from last year. Aside from the past two years, Atlanta has also been very good at home, so this will be a tough match-up. In the end, however, I think Philadelphia has the edge with its front seven.

Winner: Philadelphia

[Minnesota @ San Francisco]

Honest question: does anyone believe that San Francisco will finish the year with a winning record, taking into consideration all the players they lost in the offseason? This team is the very definition of uncertainty. Former head coach Jim Harbaugh is gone. Patrick Willis is gone. Justin Smith is gone. Aldon Smith is gone. Anthony Davis is gone. Chris Borland is gone. Michael Crabtree is gone. Mike Iupati is gone. Perrish Cox is gone. Frank Gore is gone. Combine all those players together and that’s a total of 21 Pro Bowl appearances. San Francisco looks like a defeated franchise right now.

And the Vikings look like a rising power.

Winner: Minnesota

(I have a link to Odell Beckham’s catch highlighted under “amazing catch,” but WordPress doesn’t want to show it for some reason.)