NFL Playoffs: Winners and Losers – Wild Card Round

Wow. What a weekend right? Not only were the games exciting to watch, but the level of play from the bigger hobby names was impressive. I think this might have been the first time in a while that I have watched every minute of every game during the wild card round. Usually I just spend my time wallowing in my own Vikings self pity to enjoy it. Here are my winners and losers.

Tony Romo – WINNER

Over the last few years, Romo has put up great numbers, only to see his big game loser reputation peck away at his legacy. After putting up monster numbers for the regular season, Romo started very flat against the teeth of the Lions’ league leading defense. Demarco Murray also didnt have the normal success due to the way they played him, and it looked grim. He turned it around and was able to squeak out a win, mainly due to some calls and the Defense. His values are going to continue to go up as long as they keep winning, and a matchup against Green Bay could put him into the stratosphere with a win. I am genuinely curious what would have happened to his cards if he hadnt botched that snap to lose the playoff game however many years ago. Im guessing things might be different.

Check these out:

2013 National Treasures Tony Romo Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

2014 Flawless Tony Romo Jumbo Patch Auto

Andy Dalton – LOSER

I almost feel bad for him at this point. Not only was he playing without AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham, but he was going against a Colts team that has some serious firepower in Luck and Hilton. I was shocked that it wasnt more lopsided, but Dalton walks away with another playoff loss. I am of the ilk that thinks he probably doesnt deserve ALL the credit for most of the woes, but he is just not fun to watch.

For a QB with so many playoff seasons, you would expect more:

2013 National Treasures Andy Dalton Inscription Auto

2011 Topps Chrome Andy Dalton Auto RC

2011 Contenders Andy Dalton Auto Ticket RC

Andrew Luck – WINNER

Here is the thing with Luck, as it is clear he has the tools to be a GREAT all time NFL QB. There are definitely times where it isnt pretty, but that happens. He had receivers drop some nice throws, and that hurt a lot. If Hilton had hung onto a few more of the balls he threw, probably would have been a blowout. The throw he made to Moncrief while falling down is seriously impressive though. That is why collectors are all over him – they know he is something special. Curious to see what happens next week when they roll into Denver. The story lines almost write themselves.

Luck is turning into the Hobby’s favorite son:

2012 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Black Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Contenders Andrew Luck Cracked Ice Auto BGS 9.5

2012 Exquisite Andrew Luck Auto RC /99

Ndamukong Suh – LOSER

After that stupid decision to spike Aaron Rodgers like he did in Week 17, I wanted him to lose. Although he made some nice plays, this definitely was not a game he will want to relive. Suh is going to be a free agent this year, and he definitely wanted more playoff games on a national stage to prove his worth outside of his horrible decision making skills. Collectors are indifferent as a defensive player, but he definitely has a rep.

Defense isnt worth anything, but Suh still gets hobby love:

2010 Exquisite Ndamukong Suh Auto Patch RC

2010 Contenders Ndamukong Suh Rookie Ticket Auto

Joe Flacco – WINNER

We all get that there is this big discussion of whether or not Flacco is one of the ELITE (ugh!) QBs in the NFL. Its seriously a big fucking joke now, and it was only fitting that the Steelers couldnt put it together to beat the Ravens. Not only did he play very well, but he did it on the road against a tough defense. There is no doubt Flacco is good, but collectors dont seem to identify with his vanilla persona. I think a deep run will help him more than ever this year.

Flacco has won a title, but doesnt get the same attention:

2013 Topps Supreme Joe Flacco Auto Patch /10

2008 SP Authentic Joe Flacco Auto Patch RC

Logan Thomas – LOSER

For Lindley to play like he did, and for Thomas to not even get a look for the starting role is pretty nuts. It was almost a referendum on Thomas’ prospects as an NFL QB, and that doesnt bode well for the people holding his cards. Even if he did get one snap, it doesnt matter, sell while he is still in the league.

His cards have already become relatively worthless despite massive prospecting:

2014 Topps Platinum Logan Thomas Auto RC

2014 Topps Finest Logan Thomas Auto Patch RC

I am literally counting the days until we get to see the best teams take the field against the winners from this week, as the matchups are absolutely insane. I mean, the Green Bay / Dallas game might end up being the best playoff game in a while, and that is saying something. Hopefully next week plays out as well as this week did.

A Raging Embarrassment – The Panini Points System

When the Panini points system was first announced at the industry summit last year, everyone went fucking bananas with excitement. I was not among that group, because like some who can actually think about the situation, I was of the opinion that redemptions were not the problem. It was the task of getting an unfulfilled card replaced that was the problem. Now that we have reached a point where the system is a train wreck, I think its time for a big “I told you so!” moment.

Just for reference, here is what points sell for these days. Remember the price they used to sell for?

150 Panini Rewards Redemtpion Points

250 Panini Rewards Redemtpion Points

900 Panini Rewards Redemtpion Points

300 Panini Rewards Redemtpion Points

Panini thought they could revolutionize the whole situation with a fix that didnt address the real issue, and in the process, made people hate redemptions more than they already do. Again, having redemptions isnt the thing that people SHOULD be pissed about. Sometimes player generated logistics dont allow all cards to be signed in time for a product. That’s fine – as long as the eventually sign, the cards are still as nice as ever. That’s where the true product comes into play. Fixing the actual redemptions is the equivalent of realizing your car is going way too slow, and replacing tires instead of the engine. Its a fool’s way of approaching this problem. Some of my favorite cards in my collection were redemptions at some point, and I was happy to wait.

What Panini fails to realize is that collectors dont like opening packs and not being sure of what they end up with. They like being able to walk away satisfied with spending the money they did. That’s what made redemptions unattractive in the first place – not because they werent sure of the card, but instead of whether they would actually get what was promised to them. That question leads to frustration. To remove the item aspect and replace it with a nebulous point system, makes it even worse. Panini literally wants you to do the work for them, and pay to have it shipped when you do (not kidding). Its funny, because some of the best cards Panini has made would have flopped under this system.

Points cut costs, and that’s why Panini wanted to go that way. It has nothing to do with satisfying collectors, as we have seen that all products that are worth half a damn DONT have points in them. Basically, they dont want to spend the time to produce a card if its not able to be fulfilled, which is understandable. But to not give people the choice of waiting removes all desire from that program. Its like “Here is your card we couldnt be bothered with making for you.”

There is also a lack of understanding the way team and player collectors work as well. A scrub from a good team can still be valuable in some cases, even more so if they turn out to be someone like Austin Davis or Justin Forsett. People like having those things in the bank, even if they dont pan out. Taking that out of people’s hands just makes it all the more disappointing and enfuriating to pull these points cards.

I think one of my followers put it best:

But the above notion isnt the only thing about this that is such a fucking joke, and that is just beyond hilarious. There is literally no support for this program what-so-ever. The inventory on the site is so bad that its hard to even find one thing that is relatively worth saving your points for. It would be one thing if they offered some nicer stuff, but the cards are either A) Overpriced for what they are, B) terrible players, or C) terrible sets that no one would ever want. There is a reason many of the available inventory is on there.

Bottom line, Panini needs to pull their heads out of their collective asses. If they have their way, they will eventually be the only sports card manufacturer with a league license for any of the major sports. From what I have heard, save some relatively powerless individuals, there is no one on the team that really can grasp what it takes to make a quality product or design a good looking trading card. Everyone is so concerned with keeping cost low, that it almost negates any true progress that can be made with any brand based equity.

Its almost paradoxical in nature considering how much they overpaid for each of the exclusives they own, as they are very happy to throw their money around in that fashion without any profit margin consideration. In their opinion, it seems like they want us to be stuck holding the bill while they dine and dash.

If I am Panini, I take every opportunity to start making amends with collectors for the shitty calendar of products that never seem to end.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 National Treasures Baseball

There seems to be an internal debate among Baseball collectors, especially in terms of whether or not unlicensed products are a viable collecting option. Although many times the players are easy to identify, the lack of logos can be a complete turn off to some people. Personally, Im all about the way a card looks, logo or no logo, so I was excited to see what NT Baseball was all about.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2014 National Treasures Jacob DeGrom Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2014 National Treasures Jose Abreu Nicknames Inscription Auto

2014 National Treasures Byron Buxton Silhouette Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 National Treasures Frank Thomas Sweet Spot Auto Booklet

2014 National Treasures Jose Abreu / George Springer Dual Book Relic Auto

Here is where I dont get Panini, as some of the cards look really freaking boss. They are high quality, high end type releases, which would normally suggest the rest of the set is the same. It is far from it. Many of the cards are cheap gimmicks that look horrible, and others are just poorly designed. At 450 dollars a box, you could find 100 products that look better and can deliver similarly cool cards for the money. Hell, I would rather join Dynasty group breaks than take my chances with this stuff.

Panini seems to have a new obsession, one that plays off of their current ungodly fixation with separated areas for signatures. Acetate cuts, which are everywhere in this product, seem more like a cop out for lack of hard signed cards. Panini likely wanted us to think they were some cool new autograph type, but that is far from the truth. They are literally glorified stickers, and unlike said stickers, break the entire design of a card.

Going back to the first part of my dislike, we have a shit ton of cards where the signature area is either too small or completely cordoned off. Panini’s design team fails to see why cards that have fluid designs are much more visually appealing, and I cannot stand it for a minute.

That being said – the jumbo patch autographs that serve as the main hits are great. They are not just great, but easily one of the best Panini baseball designs I have seen in a long time. A wise person once said that there is nothing better than doing something simple in the best possible way, and that's exactly what they did with these.

Overall, this product is not my favorite or even close to acceptable in terms of design. Panini can continue to build fans of people who enjoy patch content over design appeal, but I will never be among that group. Cards need to look better and Panini generally sucks at that. Its really unfortunate, considering the potential this product had.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Absolute Football

For as long as I can remember, Absolute has been a complete crime scene. Horrible format, horrible content, all around garbage. It has been a laughing stock among the industry circles with some pretty clever nicknames I have heard thrown around. Yet, like many dead Panini brands, it is trotted out each year with fanfare. Sometimes I just feel bad for them. Yes, we have gotten to the point where I pity their stupidity.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2014 Panini Absolute Odell Beckham Auto Quad Relic /20

2014 Panini Absolute Mike Evans Tools of the Trade Auto Relic

2014 Panini Absolute Teddy Bridgewater Tools of the Trade Auto Relic

2014 Panini Absolute Joe Namath Absolute Ink Auto – only Panini would name a sticker auto set “Absolute Ink.”

2014 Panini Absolute Johnny Manziel Auto Relic

That being said, it doesnt look bad this year, and I am shocked. From a design perspective, I actually like the way this product looks down to many of the worst offenders from previous years. Not only did they get rid of the horrid fucking die cut letters that I cant stand, but they did a great job making the card dynamic. That scares me some, because it almost gives Panini another reason to put another year behind this dumpster fire.

Unlike previous incarnations of Absolute, design isnt the issue with 2014. There are so many glaring issues with format and content that it almost renders the rest of the product moot. At 150 dollars a box, with 2 autos and a bunch of crappy jersey cards, you are asking for trouble. Who might those two autos be? In just about every box I have seen, its a mix of sticker dump checklist bombs like Aaron Dobson, Da'Rick Rogers and Joseph Fauria, or a rookie scrub that will sell for 2 bucks. Since Panini doesnt seem to get that junk relic cards sell worse than junk these days, it sets everyone up to bend over and spread their cheeks.

The other issue is that as many as 2 boxes out of the case will have what looks to be a 150 point card in them. Seriously. You read that right. They are putting point cards in boxes that cost over 100 bucks a box. As someone said on twitter, it takes talent to make people hate points cards more than redemptions. Its even worse when you can also pull 150 point cards in Score. Dont charge me for a sports car and deliver a lemon hatchback. That’s what is happening here. Its despicable and disgusting to see the way the boxes perform.

I usually make my criteria based on design first, but it is just too hard to ignore how bad these cases and boxes are looking. Design almost doesnt matter. Scary shit people. This is the company that is going to be the only game in town. Im going to keep saying that in my posts, because I need that to sink into your brains right now. Good god.

NFL Hobby Awards – 2014 Season Is OVER!

I am so sad right now because the regular season has reached its conclusion and that means its just a few more weeks of football left before the barren wasteland of sports during the summer. This was quite the year in the NFL, and ripples were felt throughout the entire hobby. Here are how I see the awards shaking out in terms of hobby performance this year.

Hobby MVP – Aaron Rodgers

When you think about it, Rodgers is really a perfect storm. One of the leagues best QBs on one of the leagues most widely collected teams. He doesnt sign much, which only means that his cards are that much more valuable. Rodgers had a ridiculous season AGAIN, and that only improves the aura currently surrounding his legacy.

2011 Gold Standard Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl Rings Auto

2005 SP Authentic Aaron Rodgers Auto Rookie Patch /99

2005 Topps Chrome Aaron Rodgers Gold Xfractor Auto PSA 10

Hobby ROY – Odell Beckham Jr

There is no hotter autograph right now than his, and it is a big reason why 2014 wax hasnt completely tanked from its pre-season peak. Beckham didnt play the whole season, but he still managed over 1000 yards, 12 TDs and one of the best touchdown catches I may have ever seen. Hobby ROY is almost more important than the MVP because of how many rookie products there are, and when the big bopper products hit to close out the year, Beckham’s main cards will be huge.

2014 Flawless Odell Beckham Jr. Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Odell Beckham Die Cut Auto RC

2014 Strata Odell Beckham Auto Shadowbox

Biggest Disappointment – Johnny Manziel

When the season started, there was no bigger name in cards than Johnny Football. Now that he finished the season in embarrassing fashion, he isnt even the top QB in the class any longer. Its really unfortunate that he didnt start the world on fire, because 2014 wax was so dependent on his good play.

2014 SPX Johnny Manziel Auto Patch Blue with Inscription

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel Black Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Flawless Johnny Manziel Auto RC /20

Most Underrated Hobby Player – JJ Watt

Defense gets no love. None. Watt gets more love than just about any other defender, but his autographs are still low for the incredible player that he is. The issue is that he doesnt get the kind of focus and ball touches that the offense does, and he plays for a team that very few people collect. Watt should be a hobby juggernaut, but he is always upstaged by the other side of the ball. Another season with 20 sacks, and also a number of receiving TDs. Absolutely nuts he doesnt sell for more.

2011 Contenders JJ Watt Auto Ticket RC

2014 Flawless JJ Watt Auto

Slow Hobby Death Award – Jay Cutler

Its crazy to believe that the Bears benched their QB in the way they did, just after signing a huge contract in 2013. Although arguments could and should be made for Adrian Peterson to win this award too, but he still maintains a ton of value for some reason. Cutler rarely signed, which made his cards very valuable, but they have tanked lately.

2013 National Treasures Jay Cutler NFL Logo Auto 1/1

2006 Contenders Jay Cutler Rookie Ticket Auto

Rookies to Keep Your Eye On #1 – Teddy Bridgewater

There was no more accurate passer in the NFL during the last few weeks of the season than Bridgewater, who won the most games of any rookie during the season. He played great for a team that had a ton of drama.

2014 Topps Triple Threads Teddy Bridgewater Triple Patch Auto 1/1

2014 Bowman Chrome Teddy Bridgewater Gold Refractor Auto /50

Rookies to Keep Your Eye On #2 – Jeremy Hill

No one saw him coming, and that is hard considering how hard of a runner he is. The guy churns up yards like a beast, and his cards go for very little comparatively. I really like what he brings.

2014 SP Authentic Jeremy Hill Auto Patch RC

2014 Topps Finest Jeremy Hill Jumbo Relic Auto

Rookies to Keep Your Eye On #3 – Mike Evans

Everyone was all over Odell Beckham, but lost in playing for a team that is picking near the top of the draft is Mike Evans who had a MONSTER season. He somehow caught a ton of TDs on a team that had no one to throw him the ball, which only makes the case more.

2014 Topps Platinum Mike Evans Red Refractor Auto /5

2014 Flawless Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto Logo

Overall, this has been a year that I think many people would have some issue with in regards to play of the rookie class, but it has been pretty interesting overall. The playoffs are yet to come, but it is really sad that some of the top rookies will be on their couch watching on TV. I guess we will have to see how everything plays out.