Friday, 14 August 2015

NFL NFC 2015/16 Season Preview

Following on from my AFC preview last week, it is now the turn of the National Football Confernce to come under the NTTA microscope. And where else to start but in the divisional home of the Super Bowl runners, Seattle Seahawks

NFC West
This division for the last few years was a straight battle between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. Yet the Seahawks have the upper hand ever since Russell Wilson came to the fore and the legendary 12th man crowd made them impossible to play at home.

Having come within two yards of winning the Super Bowl for a second consecutive season, there is still the competitive drive within the organisation due to the head coach Pete Carroll, QB Wilson and the vaunted defensive unit called the Legion of Boom led by the irrepressible Richard Sherman.

Following the faux pas and wrong play calling, Marshawn Lynch remains as the lead back yet finally Wilson has a legitimate red zone target in Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, who has left the New Orleans Saints in search of some finger jewellery.

Seattle are the red hot favourites agin in this division, but the runner up could well be different. The 49ers are in meltdown as a franchise, numerous retirements of key personnel coupled with off the field behaviour has decimated their roster, never mind the departure of influential leader Jim Harbaugh to his alma mater of Michigan University in the college ranks. A lot will depend on Colin Kaepernick whose play last year left a lot to be desired at times, and the team will do well to reach five wins for the year and avoid last place.

St. Louis Rams have made some upgrades in search of a playoff spot in a division and conference where 9 games is required at minimum. In defence they have added Nick Fairley from Detroit to join names such as Michael Brockers, sack king Robert Quinn and James Laurinaitis . They have Nick Foles at QB who will offer some much needed assurance and precision at the position to help playmakers like Todd Gurley, Tavon Austin and Tre Mason.

Arizona Cardinals welcome back Carson Palmer, but can he survive an entire season on the injury front with a receiving core led by Larry Fitzgerald. The defence of the Cardinals led by Tyrann Mathieu as well as Patrick Peterson, who is the punt return specialist. Can Bruce Arians conjure up some more magic or will the Cardinals be a team full of talent unable to get over the hill?

Prediction: 1. Seattle 2. Arizona 3. St. Louis 4. San Francisco

NFC North
The division with the leagues best quarterback can now lay claim to having the leagues best running back. Never has the return of one player had such an anticipation of expectation for one team.  Minnesota Vikings exceeded many peoples predictions last year following the season long suspension to Adrian Peterson for off the field conduct. Yet those same Vikings won 9 games with some great play by rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, who grew into the role as QB and leader as the season went on. The return of all day AP make Minnesota a legitimate play off team.

And a threat to the dominance of Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers. Many feel the Packers can be the team to defeat Seattle if they get the chance, but like Seattle, the Packers need home field advantage to maintain superiority over their rivals.

Detroit Lions still have Matthew Stafford and Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson, yet they have lost Fairley and Suh from a stellar defence last year, and the continual reliance on this QB-WR duo will again be too much for Detroit to overcome.

Chicago Bears had a pretty bad season last year but have not seemingly changed much apart from employ coach John Fox from Denver. Jay Cutler is still at the helm with Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffrey. The draft pick of Kevin White from West Virginia, will give them a much needed boost in the same way Mike Evans and Odell Beckham did for their teams last season. However, the defence still looks ageing and the need to pressure rival QB or stop Peterson has not been addressed.

Prediction: 1. Green Bay 2. Minnesota 3. Chicago 4. Detroit

NFC South
After so many years of back and forth between Atlanta and New Orleans, there is a gradual sea change in this division based upon who has the best QB. Now that might be legitimate in most NFL divisions but three years ago you would have picked any team with Drew Brees leading the team. Now it seems time is catching up with the Big Easy, a terrible defensive showing last year gave Brees too much to do and the lack of weapons meant they were chasing their tail. The departure of Jimmy Graham also means this again will be a long season for the Saints.

That incapability led to the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton to step in, all the more surprising considering he did it without Steve Smith, but the growth of Kelvin Benjamin and the maturity of Newton was encouraging. This makes the Panthers the tentative favourites but in a division where 8 wins can get you in the play offs, that is an unusual situation to get home field.

The Atlanta Falcons need to bounce back and with Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones and Roddy White, they have every chance.

The most surprising storyline will probably come from Tampa Bay who with the overall #1 pick selected Jameis Winston, who lost only one college game at Florida State, his last game versus
Marcus Mariota's Oregon Ducks. Although a tough season on the field, Winston showed unbelievable strength of character and leadership to win 11 games, some from double digit deficits. This temerity
and stubbornness will serve Lovie Smith and his Buccaneers well, as the closeness between the four division rivals is too close to call. Winston also has impressive rookie Mike Evans as a deep threat although Winston is not renowned for his arm strength.

Prediction: 1. Carolina 2. Atlanta 3. Tampa Bay 4. New Orleans

NFC East
For so long the toughest division to call, based on the long held rivalries between the four huge franchises. And it is no different this year either.

Dallas Cowboys won the division last year, and have the potential to go deeper this year if Tony Romo and Dez Bryant fulfil full seasons. Yet it is on defence that is the worry, the selection of Randy Gregory in the draft and Greg Hardy in free agency smacks of a team who irrespective of individual players off the field issues, they are going all in to win big this year whilst Romo can still stand upright.

Philadelphia Eagles played a different brand of football, up tempo, lots of plays and score a
lot of points, yet the defence could not match that intensity. The arrival of Sam Bradford will surprise many but if he can stay fit, a big if obviously, he can marshall an offence without risking injury to himself, yet can they overcome the loss of LeSean McCoy whilst Demarcus Murray will find it hard to replicate his personally great season at Dallas this year.

Washington Redskins are a mess and continue to be so long as they have an unfit QB at the helm, the franchise that is a disgrace will struggle to win 4 games this year and a blessing may be to tank the season and get a new franchise QB and end the Griffin era.

Which leaves us  with the New York Giants, who for me have the potential to be the seasons dark horse much like the Minnesota Vikings. A terrible start to the season was rejuvenated by the inclusion of the phenomenal Odell Beckham Jr, who single handedly (literally) won games by doing ridiculous grabs for big plays. This elevated the play of Eli Manning who finished the season on a tear finally having a stellar Wide receiver at his disposal. The improvements on the offensive line will aid Eli and co.

Prediction: 1. New York 2. Dallas 3. Philadelphia 4. Washington

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

NFL AFC Conference 2015/16 Season preview

For any writer to do a full preview on all 32 teams and 8 divisions is a stretch, but I will give it my best shot. They say start with what you know,so I am starting with the AFC, the conference which is home to the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots.

Much has been made during this offseason about one man and the effect it will have on his team, it is easy to forget there are 31 other teams vying to win this season. And that is from a New England Patriot fan. I am biased, yet I accept this is a weird offseason leading into the preseason. If I was the Patriots I would accept the suspension and get the first four games, which on paper look no worse than a 2-2 record anyway (v Pittsburgh, @ Buffalo, v Jacksonville and @ Cowboys) and then reset the season come October with Brady under centre.

AFC East
My preview begins in the AFC East which thank to some key personnel moves on and off the field for certain teams, the division which has been New England's for nearly a decade is now under threat.  The Miami Dolphins realised that they need not only a capable QB for themselves, but a pass rush to attack the various QBs they face such as Brady. Therefore the signing of Ndamoukah Suh is a masterstroke, a player whose defensive capabilities are limitless but perhaps a change of climate will do him the world of good.

Rex Ryan, left New York, but did not get far heading north to Buffalo, staying in house and bringing a winning mentality to the floundering Bills who have enough offensive weapons to give any defence headaches all year. Expect Shady McCoy to lead the charge and with Sonny Williams the lead wide out in his second year, the pace will be tough to be second to the Patriots.

The New York Jets have a new head coach in former DC of Arizona, but the loss of
Sheldon Richardson for the season is huge for a team whose defence kept them in more games than you would think. Gene Smith is still the QB and that raises enough doubts that they will again be wooden spoon champions in the East.

The reason the battle for second will be tough is that the Patriots will again employ the siege mentality as us against them takes hold. With or without Brady, you anticipate that the presence of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will be sufficient for either Brady or Garrapollo to engineer victories. Much has been made of the losses on defence, no Revis, no Browner but time and again the Patriots have a turnover of defensive personnel and they either draft well or pick up free agents. The general acclaim afforded them for picking up Malcolm Brown in the draft indicates the nerves about the Patriots defence should be put on the back-burner.

Prediction: 1. New England 2. Miami 3. Buffalo 4. New York Jets

AFC North
So often this division has been one of feisty competition and resilience, now it looks like a division of teams failing to fulfil their potential. The theory of consistency holds true, but you can be a good regular season team yet you have to back it up in the playoffs. Something that has alluded the Cincinnati Bengals led by Andy Dalton and the still employed Marvin Lewis. For them it is easy, win the division and win a playoff game. Just one. Only one to have credibility.

Big Ben put up some huge numbers last season but as he ages, the stellar QB needs to adapt and utilise Le'Veon Bell this season to win the division, while the loss of Dick Lebeau will be a loss for any team.

The Cleveland Browns have another QB competition but it is between Johnny Football and Josh McGown, not exactly a great competition to begin with. Despite that who will the winner throw to
with Josh Gordon suspended for the season.

That leaves us with the Baltimore Ravens, a team with a perfect balance on both sides who have
quietly gone about their business and have the least questions to answer on the field. Can Flacco be less of a fluke and prove his elite status.

Prediction: 1.  Baltimore 2. Cincinnati 3. Pittsburgh 4. Cleveland

AFC West
Ordinarily this would be an easy decision and say the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning at the helm would walk this division, get 12 wins minimum and compete with the Patriots for home field advantage. Yet the ageing Manning means the division is up for grabs although 10 wins might be enough for whomever. The biggest problem for Denver is protecting Manning, and Ryan Clady's injury at left tackle (Manning's blind side) will ask serious questions on his power of recuperation. A blessing for the Broncos was the advancement of CJ Anderson who gives Manning a great number to call at the line.

Elsewhere in the division, Kansas City have the most efficient QB but he had no downfield threat to keep them in high scoring games. Still a good defence marshalled by Andy Reid will make the the biggest threat to Denver.

San Diego have a good QB but a lot of questions on their defence and the four game suspension of Antonio Gates for PEDs is a big loss.

Oakland Raiders are not going to the be the laughing stock of the league, but again they have a young QB without much offensive weapons to help him mature and gain wins. Latavius Murray showed flashes of explosive game changing potential last year but is not considered their first choice RB, a mistake if they do not want to be dead last again.

Prediction: 1. Denver 2. Kansas City 3. San Diego 4. Oakland

AFC South
Quite possibly this could be the closest division in the AFC this season thanks to the elevation of one teams defence, and more consistent QB play hopefully coupled with the leader of the packs intention to not protect their star asset. This is the division that will see a real change of scenery.

Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are many neutral observers tips to again reach the AFC championship game, yet to this observer the team have not done enough to beef up the offensive line to protect Luck. This makes it al the more remarkable when they play twice against the Houston Texans who can boast a defensive line that includes boy JJ Watt, the now fully fit Jadeaveon Clowney and newly acquired Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle - a scary combination. If the Texans can get a full season out of their QB either the young and maturing Ryan Mallett or dependable Brian Hoyer, some yardage out of Arian Foster (note Foster suffer a groin injury on 3-8-15) then the Texans are not only a division winner but a formidable opponent.

The Texans also have a favourable schedule. They open at home to Kansas City followed by a three game series versu three of the awful NFC South (Carolina, Tampa, Atlanta) so a possible 4-0 start perhaps, followed by a tough trip in Week 10 at Cincinnati for Monday Night Football with New England visiting Houston in Week 14. Not a terrible looking schedule, certainly not one to be scared of.

The other two teams have young QBs. Tennessee got Marcus Mariota and so changed their scheme, can the Hawaiian native lead the team to glory. It is down to expectation and Mariota should be given the keys for a season and not have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders.

Whereas, Blake Bortles is expected to progress and get more wins this year for the Jacksonville
Jaguars, Bortles showed flashes of quality coupled with bad rookie decisions, yet the acquisition of
Julius Thomas from Denver gives him a security blanket and red zone target.

Prediction: 1. Houston 2. Indianapolis 3. Jacksonville 4. Tennessee

Click here for my NFC preview.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Thoughts on Admission

This little seen film from 2013, Admission, directed by Paul Weitz, stars Tina Fey as Portia, a senior admissions officer at Princeton University, who whilst up for a big promotion is approached by a forthright head of a special school John, played by Paul Rudd, to consider a student of his he considers a prodigy but is beneath the expected societal and cultural acceptance of the lauded Princeton school. 

After meeting the student, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), John tells Portia that he thinks Jeremiah is her son who she gave up for adoption 17 years before hand.  This coupled with the separation of her relationship with an English professor she has been with for ten years, throws Portia's personal and professional life into a tailspin.

On paper and in marketing the film should offer ample opportunity for romantic comedy conventions to take place between Portia and John who seem perfect for each other; yet Portia is indicative of recent female lead characters in American rom-coms of the new Millennium in that they have to balance between life (work and family commitments) and love (personal). 

Portia admits that maybe she should have kept the baby, and maybe been a better person for it. The leaving of her fiancé for someone he has got pregnant is a shock to her world order and leads to her admission.

This film makes all its characters have admission of something or other. Portia with her admission of pregnancy to her mother who did not know. Her mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin) admitting that the failure to name Portia's father is her biggest regret. John admitting he should stay in one place for the good of his adopted son, Nelson. 

All these admissions lead to an overall sense of confusion in the general tone of the film.  Is it making a comment on Portia's life balance or punishing her for giving up her newborn for adoption so promptly.  In romantic comedies there is generally a level of closure and finality embellished in the happy ending of stable home life or marriage. In this finale, a clever twist on the supposed new job interview leads to a celebration of Jeremiah's new step in his life whilst Portia is left on the wait list in reference to her only child.

Audiences are waiting for a film to better utilise the collective talent of Fey and Rudd together, who clearly have some good chemistry as evidenced in the dialogue scenes between the two. Weitz, the director, did a better job in terms of tone for In Good Company; here you get a feel that certain scenes are merely rushed or telegraphed to the detriment to the end product.

However, all in all, the film is still one that is entertaining and will not be a waste of your viewing time thanks to the cast on display more than the script.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Thoughts on Whiplash

Trying to catch up on the films you have missed can be stopped by many roadblocks. You may have work commitments, family problems, health issues. Or you might just not have enough hours in the day to watch everything you would like to. Or you might not have a DVD player. Thankfully I have an amazing girlfriend who purchased a new device and the first film she purchased was the Oscar winning film, Whiplash.

We proceeded to watch it late on a Tuesday night, knowing we wouldn't be up early and that the film was a tight 90 minute running time.

Whiplash tells the combative relationship between a young drum student, Andrew (Miles Teller) and his volatile teacher Fletcher (Oscar winner J. K. Simmons). Unlike other mentor and pupil films, the mentor and pupil meet from the outset, and the pupils aim to please he mentor is at the forefront throughout, even at the behest of the pupils writer father played by Paul Reiser.

Simmons' portrayal of Fletcher as this abrupt and bullying figure is the voice of the film, the way he bewitches his students into motivation for performance is paramount. Yet for all the grandiose of Simmons' role, a lot has to be said for Teller's role as Andrew.

Teller has a strange face, one that looks older than the age he is meant to be playing. Yet it looks like a face that has lived, one that can be calm and reflective in one scene, yet highly expressive and emotive in another such as when he gets passed up by another drummer; his impassioned face says it all. The strain he puts on himself to learn the pieces going to physical extremes is painful to watch.

You get the impression that Fletcher will never be pleased with any performance by his band, and the constant referrals to Charlie Parker and the legend of Bird is a little bit telegraphed somewhat by Damien Chazelle's screenplay. Yet in this day and age of seen it all before film, it is nice to see a film that is positive about the human spirit and capability it can achieve, and an alteration on a familiar movie sub-genre.

The ending has been much discussed as to what it means for both characters, is Fletcher pleased or not? For this reviewer it showed that anyone can wave their hand up there and conduct, it takes special musicians to play like Andrew does in the finale. In that sense, Andrew is reminiscent of Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes, sacrificing body and soul for the glory.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Moeen holds the key

After watching the first two days of the first Ashes test in Cardiff, it looks to this writer that the most important player in the England side this summer could well be batting all-rounder Moeen Ali.

His occupation of the crease on the first night and the second morning helped England get past the benchmark of 400 and a personal score of 77. These were valuable runs for a batsman who despite one Test century already has only an average of nearly 28. There was undoubtedly pressure on Ali coming in at 8 in the order where he will have to firstly shepherd the tail and face the new ball versus the left handed pace of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc.

The reason Ali needs the runs is to validate his inclusion in the side as our front line spinner until England come across a pitch that warrants the inclusion of both he and Adil Rashid, whose prominence in the one day series versus New Zealand.

England's positioning of Ali so low in the order is because of his security and responsibility with tail enders, but there is a distinct possibility that Ali may well be elevated up the order should the continued drought of runs for Ian Bell persist.

Bell, currently at four, has struggled to get into double figures of late and looks most likely to be dropped should England go behind in the series. Ali would likely go to five with first innings centurion Joe Root going to four in Bell's place, hence the need for runs for Ali before a promotion up the order.  This would allow England to position Rashid at eight or a fast bowling alternative like Chris Jordan or Chris Woakes, an individual who can score vital lower order runs against the Australian attack.

Ali also needs to take wickets and his dismissal of Steve Smith has warranted inclusion yet much like Australia destroyed the end of Graeme Swann's career by attacking him out of he test side, Ali has also been targeted by Smith and Chris Rogers on the second day. This has always been a negative of Ali as he does not yet have the control to stop the flow of runs at one end of the innings like Swann was capable of, perhaps Rashid with his greater experience of bowling may provide the resolution but who is to say the Australians will not treat his leg spin with the same disdain.

Whilst captain Alastair Cook cited Ben Stokes as the possible difference maker for this Ashes series with his gusto and fiery brand of play reminiscent of Botham and Flintoff past, perhaps it will be the mild-mannered unassuming professional from Birmingham who will hold the key to the urn.

Moeen with his lower order runs and wicket taking knack could change various innings in this series this summer.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

How to win at Fantasy Football

I am a huge NFL fan, I have watched it for over 15 years and I have been lucky enough to see my team, New England Patriots win the Super Bowl four times. Yet it was only three years ago I started playing NFL Fantasy Football along with my friends from north of the border in Dundee and Dan Ferdinand.

This has led to a better appreciation of the NFL and a better understanding of the game by paying more attention to the stats and figures of the game based on individual performances from week to week. It was this statistical analysis and love of numbers that first drew me to the game, the yards per carry, per reception, pass completion, win percentage and so on.

Personally, I have been fortuitous in my leagues, I have been to the final of one league two years running and been competitive with others regularly. So to make the game better and spread the word, I am going to give a breakdown of how to do well in leagues and how to enjoy it.

Take it seriously, but enjoy it
It is a fantasy football league, it is not real. Succeeding does not make you a potential GM of your favourite team, but it shows you are capable of understanding players strengths and teams weaknesses by selecting a certain player against this team to another. Yet enjoy it, yes cheer when your player makes a big grab but don't forget it is fun, so best to avoid leagues that involve money at first these will come along in time. Bragging rights and Twitter traffic are what you play for at first.

Play in different leagues
Try different varieties of leagues from Dynasty and keeper league, to straight draft selection to 2QB leagues. Personally I have not enjoyed 2QB leagues due to the nature of picking the bottom of the heap due to draft order or having bad luck with player injury and form, this guy picked Matt Schaub when he threw a pick six every week seemingly and I got the awful post-Super Bowl season of Joe Flacco.

You have to do your research. Read injury reports so you don't have a scratch player on your starting team. Don't pick players with the same bye weeks as this will leave you short handed against your week's opponent. Pick players who are sometimes consistent and not necessarily productive, you need a 16 game player not one who sits out, for example, the walking concussion Wes Welker is someone to avoid.

Listen to specific podcasts
The ESPN Fantasy Football podcast is my go to for chat and discussion and good tips such as handcuffing your QB and RB or WR such as Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, as is the combination of Frank Gore in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck, Gore is one of those trusted backs who plays every week and will have much success in Indy making Luck a better player if that offensive line has improved.

Watch the first two weeks
Pay attention to teams stats, do they spread the offence or is Matthew Stafford still aiming at Calvin Johnson 25 times. This is where you find your potential sleepers and pick ups like Odell Beckham Jr became last year. This goes hand in hand with your research.

Also to consider is the theory of garbage time, the fourth quarter period of any game when a team is so far behind on the scoreboard that they start throwing the ball instead of running the ball to try and score quick touchdowns against a defence playing deep safety coverage and avoiding injury on the tackling front.  Teams renowned for this in recent years are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders; so perhaps try and see when a second or third receiver gets the majority of his yardage. Despite the deficit, a team having to throw will not go to the first choice receiver too often, meaning a Jaguar third option will pay dividends even the Raiders who although have a good back in Latavius Murray need to be ahead to get reward from him.

Trust your judgement 
If you think Andrew Luck will have a better year than Cam Newton, trust your judgement and stick with it. Only drop Luck if he is injured. Do you think Rob Gronkowski is better than Jimmy Graham, then chances are you are right. And on the subject of Graham his signing to Seattle changes the fantasy profile of two players; Russell Wilson although a great dual threat QB becomes a better option due to the space and double man coverage Graham will receive in the red zone and Marshawn Lynch will now get the ball thrown to him less due to the potency and capability Graham provides.

Enjoy your season and follow me on Twitter @JamieGarwood

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

In praise of...Breaking Bad

Last night, I had the pleasure of completing my first box set. Breaking Bad. It has taken just about five weeks but me and my girlfriend, have witnessed countless deaths, numerous cooks and shady dealings in Alburqueque. We have followed the transformation of high school Chemistry teacher Walter White from fighting lung cancer to the horrific Heisenberg, the empire builder who would stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Oddly enough, when the conclusion of series 5 first aired in America on AMC I avoided any spoilers as best I could, thankfully the Internet community found it necessary not to ruin it for non-watchers as it is something best experienced first hand, much like The Mousetrap.

The ending was to me a complete finite ending deserving of the legacy that Vince Gilligan and his team have created.  Usually when series come to a finish, it is perhaps two series past its sell by date or the characters have outstayed their time.  Breaking Bad was good because it did not take a series as  the same temporal period for the viewer, for example, the original audience did not witness a White family Christmas when they did. The action started in series one around Walt's 50th birthday and ended a day after his 52nd, therefore the condensing of all the narrative action in to a timeframe of five years served a greater reality to the drama; things change dramatically from day to day in our lives, so why can that not be reflected in our viewing pleasure?

A lot has been made of the writing by Gilligan and his writers, yet while the show has been rightly heralded as the perfect amalgamation of talent, special mention must go to the acting of Bryan Cranston and the ensemble who infused all the characters with not just a belief but a humanity not seen before in American television drama. Whereas, characters in the West Wing or The Sopranos, where highly stylised versions of political and gangster conventions, in Breaking Bad these were actual people doing what comes naturally to survive and exist.

Yet that was the appeal and motivation for Walter to begin with. We meet a man on his 50th birthday, who feels unfulfilled in his life. A teacher who is not respected, mocked by his alpha male brother in law who works for the DEA. Had things been different for him he would have been a CEO of a Fortune500 company, yet fate dealt him a bad hand seemingly, and he cancer diagnosis leads him to reassess his options. His lack of insurance coverage means his family will be bankrupt should he die, so he attempts to cook Crystal meth and get close to the $700,000 he requires for the medical bills and pay his disabled son through College in his absence.

In the final episode, when Walter and his wife Skylar talk for the last time, she believes he will say he did it all for the family. Yet he surprises her by saying he did it for himself and he liked doing it. That was a good line to have Walter say, as the series has predominantly been about pride and the things people do when their ego is out of control. And it was this battle of wills sometimes between Walter and Jesse. I say sometimes as too often Walter seemingly got away with his malicious acts of violence, in contrast to the mindset of Jesse who has seen too much bloodshed and wanted to avoid it as best he could.

The story would ask if it was possible to avoid violence, or if it was the only course of action with say the murder of Gus in the nursing home.  It would also make you root for the villain as Walter slowly became one, and made you root for Hank and Mike who were oddly purveyors of justice and attempted to make you get the bad guy.  Through the last series, you were still rooting for Walter until he crossed the line of domestic violence in the episode containing Hank's death, that was the act that made you want to get caught, or die and ultimately the act that made him leave New Mexico and go into hiding.

I saw an interview with Gilligan, where he said his writers stole from the best in reference to their ending matching The Searchers. I think they also stole from The Godfather, in that Walter is similar
to Michael Corleone played by Al Pacino; a man so vastly different from that young idealistic soldier,
that he is almost unrecognisable. Yet the way in which he slips into the skin of malevolence and murder is the most unsettling aspect of it all. Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel was as a watershed moment in American film history, as is Breaking Bad in American television history.

Is Walter the devil or just a bad man, I believe he was not a changed man, he was a man who learnt a lot about himself and became a version of himself he did not know was possible nor capable of such acts. How do we know what we are capable of doing until we do it the first time?

Breaking Bad is as close to the perfection people have envisioned in this box set culture. A show that was brilliantly written, wonderfully acted and produced week in, week out not missing a beat and containing surprise that kept you gripped throughout without going for cheap way outs and belittling the audience it treated with intelligence and respect.  The ending was as close to perfect to, because it tied up all the loose ends with a sense of gravitas and humanity befitting a show about living and dealing with your own mortality.