Sunday, September 30, 2007

5 NFL Questions Goings Into Week 4

1) With Stephen Jackson already ruled out, how will the St. Louis Rams develop a game plan that won't leave QB Marc Bulger, already nursing sore ribs, constantly planted on the turf of Texas Stadium?

2) Are the Oakland Raiders, under the leadership of first-year coach Lane Kiffin, slowly losing their moniker of a team that has no fire, intensity, or faith in their ability to win games?

3) Will Panthers QB David Carr begin a career resurrection this week...or...will he find himself in a familiar position (sacked multiple times and on the losing end of a divisional matchup)?

4) Will the anticipated hoopla and celebration over Brett Favre's 421st TD pass building by the minute in Minnesota, will the "moment" aid or prevent the Packers from moving to 4-0 this weekend?

5) Will LT or LJ rescue their teams, and respective fantasy owners, from further peril?

***Extra Credit Question***
6) Which injured starter, likely to play still, is most likely to aid his team in earning a W.
A) Brian Westbrook
B) Kellen Winslow II
C) Plexico Burress
D) Shaun Alexander
E) None of the Above

The Sunday Docket: MLB

Quite a bit on today’s docket:

1) Major League Baseball ends its 2007 regular season with four teams struggling to secure the final two spots in the National League Playoffs.
2) Week 4 of NFL action kicks off with several marquee matchups and fantasy showdowns to drool over.
3) The fallout from Look-Ahead Saturday (aka Demolition Saturday) continues.
4) The President’s Cup finishes. Okay, it’s golf. Nevermind.













MVP Candidate Matt Holliday and the Rockies are making a push for the playoffs.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

First on that list may be the best viewing you’re going to see all season long. And wouldn’t you know it, the schedule makers won’t let us enjoy any of it.

Several questions, ala 60 Minutes-style, must be asked. **Tick, tick, tick**

Why aren’t the Mets and Phils playing each other this weekend? Anyone who thought Florida or Washington would be better last-weekend matchups for the two NL East perennial favs is a lunatic.

Why aren’t the Padres clashing with an NL West opponent instead of the Brew Crew?

Why is Cleveland playing KC, the Yanks hosting Baltimore and the Red Sox playing Minnesota? At least, Anaheim drew Oakland. Score one for the schedule makers.

As we enter Sunday, the American League playoff pairings are set. In fact, Boston was even friendly enough to secure homefield advantage with a 4-2 victory over the Twins.

Here’s your ALDS matchups:
#1.
Boston vs. #3. Los Angeles
#2.
Cleveland vs. #4. New York
[Note:
Boston cannot host the Yankees as they are both in the AL East.]

As for the National League, that’s where things get mighty interesting.

Over in the NL East, New York and Philadelphia are tied for first place (both at 88-73). Even though the Phils have dominated the season series, the two would play a tie-breaker,on Monday evening if they ended up with the same record (for the NL East title only, the wild-card will be discussed later).

New York hosts Florida, with the game starting around 1:10 pm, with 300-game winner Tom Glavine dueling with Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis. After Saturday’s 13-0 victory, which included a near all-out brawl between the teams, you had better believe Florida is playing for more than pride.

Philadelphia hosts Washington, with the game starting around 1:35, as 78-year old lefty Jamie Moyer clashes against Nats pitcher Jason Bergmann. Taking only one day to relinquish their newly earned NL East lead, the Phils fans will definitely be doing some scoreboard watching before the first pitch.

Odds: Both teams should win. However, it’ll be interesting to see if it’s the Mets snaking their ways back into the playoffs OR falling face-first into the record books with an unprecedented September choke (up 7 games on September 12th in the division).

In the NL Central, the Cubbies are your champs. However, they don’t know exactly who they’re playing yet. Odds are it’s Arizona. Although former Central contenders, now relegated to being spoilers, Milwaukee can spoil the Pads season with a victory.

In the NL West, Arizona has locked up the divisional crown. Nevertheless, they’re not exactly sure who their opponents will be just yet. As for the rest of the West? Two teams and one wild-card spot. That scenario is only more clouded when you add in the Mets and Phils potentially.

San Diego concludes its four-game set in Milwaukee at 2:05 pm. After a brutal loss on Saturday evening, much of which came from the bat from Tony Gwynn Jr., the Pads appear ready to replace scheduled starter Brett Tomko with Cy Young favorite Jake Peavy. Jeff Suppan will take the mound for the Brewers. Win and you’re in, Pads fans. It doesn’t get much easier than that

Colorado
: Just when you thought they were dead on Friday night after having their 11-game winning streak snapped against Arizona, the Rockies spanked the division champs 11-1 on Saturday afternoon. While they trail the Pads by one game, the math is simple. Beat Arizona, hope for the Padres to lose and you have yourselves locked into a tie-breaker. The game is the latest meaningful launch, with the first pitch starting around 3:05 pm.

Odds
: As much as I want to see the Rockies defy all odds, the Padres will spoil their fun.

The scenarios can’t be stopped. Here’s the official explanation. Admit it though; you’d love to see a four-way tie. SAY IT!

More than just the playoff race is up for debate on Sunday (and potentially Monday) as well. The Cy Young race may have a lot to do with what Jake Peavy does on Sunday. He is the likely starter for San Diego.

Also on the radar has to be the NL MVP Race has yet to be decided. Enter the key players:

Brewers 1B Prince Fielder, Mets 3B David Wright, Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, and Rockies OF Matt Holliday (my selection, by the way). Who will make the play that wins them the award? Better yet…who won’t?

Until next time…

Look-Ahead Saturday

Are you a fan of a nationally ranked top 25 collegiate football program?

You might wanna take a deep breath before peaking at today’s scoreboard. Or what I have detailed below for all of you to cringe at (a round-up of the top 25 and the freefall the rankings will see in the next 48 hours).

In essence, it was a bloody mess this weekend for the “perceived” top 10. The damage even spread to teams ranked 10-20 and 20-25.

Nobody was spared.
Not even the Irish.















Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The carnage was consistent and unexpected, at least to the so-called experts.

So who or what is to blame? Weak early scheduling? Underachieving Heisman-hopefuls? Global Warming?

Slow down Al Gore. I have the answer. It’s looking ahead. Yep, looking ahead on the schedule. You can’t put it past even the nation’s top players and coaches. Everyone does it. Sometimes, to a costly degree.

That was definitely the case, whether in victory or near-defeat, for the numerous teams in the top 25, on Demolition Saturday.

Let’s take a look at the bloodbath that was the USA Today Top 25

#1. USC [Defeated unranked Washington 27-24 despite 3 turnovers and 16 penalties.]
Next Week – Stanford. Ever seen Jim Harbaugh’s menacing scowl? I’d be looking ahead too.

#2. LSU [Defeated Tulane 34-9 despite trailing 10-9 late in the second quarter,]
Next Week – Hosting #3 Florida. Well, they used to be #3.

#3. Florida [Lost at home to Auburn 20-17 after trailing 14-0 and giving up two game-winning field goals as time expired.]
Next Week – Traveling to #2 LSU in primetime. Auburn was the only team to defeat the National Champs last season too.












Credit: Yahoo! Sports

#4. Oklahoma [Lost at Colorado 24-27 despite holding a 24-7 second half lead.]
Next Week – Red River Shootout against the Longhorns. About them…

#5. West Virginia [Lost at South Florida 13-21 after QB Pat White went down with another injury against the Bulls.]
Next Week – Syracuse. So maybe that doesn’t matter. Then again, tell that to Louisville. What is important is that right now, Syracuse/UCONN/South Florida are tied for 1st in the Big East. Wow.

#6. California [Won at Oregon 31-24 behind a comeback week from WR DeSean Jackson.]
Next Week – Oregon State. Traveling to #11 Oregon and walking out a victor, despite a rather poor first half, is a strong statement for the likely #3 team in all polls next week.

#7. Texas [Lost at home to Kansas State 21-41 in a game Colt McCoy personally took the Longhorns out of with 4 INTs.]
Next Week – Aforementioned Red River Shootout with OU. Neither team is likely to be a national title contender after this weekend or next.

#8. Ohio State [Won at Minnesota 30-7 and should return to the top 5 on Monday.]
Next Week – Purdue, who is also 5-0 and tied at the top of the Big Ten. Looks enticing.

#9. Wisconsin [Just got by another opponent, this time Michigan State, 37-34 at home this weekend.]
Next Week – Illinois. Traveling to Champaign will be as tough as ever with Ron Zook sparking the Illini to an upset victory over Penn State today.

#10. Rutgers [Lost at home to unranked Maryland 24-34, their first game ranked in any poll in the top 10 ever. So you go up and lose? Nice!]
Next Week – Nationally ranked Cincinnati hosts the pride of New Jersey, in a game oozing with early-season bowl implication.












Credit: Yahoo! Sports

#11. Boston College [Victorious 24-12 over Massachusetts in a highly unimpressive effort; nevertheless, they’re likely to enter the top 10.]
Next Week – Hosting Bowling Green. Antonio Daniels sightings maybe?

#12. See above for California vs. Oregon.

#13. Clemson [Lost 3-13 at the hands of struggling Georgia Tech on the road.]
Next Week – Hosting Va. Tech. This weekend’s loss may only heighten the importance of this mid-season showdown between the Tigers and Hokies.

#14. Virginia Tech [Victorious over North Carolina 17-10.]
Next Week – Traveling to Death Valley to take on ACC-rival Clemson Tigers. Hey, at least Brandon Ore, 93 yards, almost eclipsed the century mark.

#15. Kentucky [Defeated Florida Atlantic 45-17 behind 5 TDs from legit Heisman-candidate QB Andre' Woodson.]
Next Week – at South Carolina. Finally! Somebody didn’t wait one extra minute to pound an inferior opponent into submission.












Credit: Yahoo! Sports


#16.
Georgia [Victory by means of a 45-17 victory over Mississippi.]
Next Week – at Tennessee. Like the Wildcats, UGA’s boys didn’t take very long to decide the victory of this game.

#17. Hawaii [Overcame 5 INTs from Colt Brennan to overtake Idaho 48-20.]
Next Week – Plaguing Brennan’s Heisman chances, Hawaii continues against winless Utah State to try and become this season’s Boise State.

#18. See above for West Virginia vs. South Florida.

#19. Penn State [Lost at Illinois 20-27 behind borderline putrid play by QB Anthony Morelli.]
Next Week – Iowa. The point is: Illinois is no longer a freebee on the Big Ten schedule, especially when playing in Champaign.

#20. Missouri [Defeated Illinois State 38-17.]
Next Week – Nebraska. Suddenly, this team is now among the favorites in the weakened Big Twelve.

#21. South Carolina [Defeated Miss. St. 38-21 to move to 4-1.]
Next Week – Hosting Kentucky. Talk about another statement game for the Ole’ Ball Coach. Think he wishes he’d had the chance to recruit Andre Woodson?

#22. Nebraska [Blew past Iowa State 35-17 at home.
Next Week – Traveling to Nebraska. With losses for OU and UT, NU suddenly controls its own Big XII destiny technically.

#23. See above for Wisconsin vs. Michigan State.

#24. Alabama [Lost at Florida State 14-21, perhaps ending Nick Saban’s early-season honeymoon in Tuscaloosa.]
Next Week – Houston. They weren’t looking ahead; but did they take the Noles seriously enough? Then again, who would’ve?












Credit: Yahoo! Sports

#25. Purdue [Victorious over 0-5 Notre Dame 33-19.]
Next Week – Ohio State. One of the biggest trap games of the weekend was avoided quite nicely. Haha to Irish fans. Haha.

And that’s a wrap!

Next week has plenty of drama, but the rankings sure will be different.

Fortunately for the fans, the week is still more than fine:

LSU vs. Florida, Texas vs. Oklahoma, Rutgers vs. Cincinnati, Kentucky vs. South Carolina, Georgia vs. Tennessee, Virginia Tech vs. Clemson, Ohio State vs. Purdue, and Nebraska vs. Missouri.

Until then…

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clement's Weekly Picks and Prognostications...Week 4

This week’s edition offers up several challenges whether it be from the NFL ranks (Which team doesn’t have a star RB hurting or slumping?), the NCAA (Why bother with having pre-season polls anymore) or the fantasy realm (Did anyone else peg Kevin Curtis for 200+ yards?).

While we’re barely a quarter of the way there, plenty of teams have to be feeling like their season is already over. Whether you’re a fan of the 0-3 New Orleans Saints, the 0-4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, or the struggling 0-3 fantasy team that is plagued with injuries and low scores, tougher times may be nearby.

That is, unless you have Norv Turner to right the ship!














Credit: Yahoo! Sports


Let’s dive head-first into the NFL side of things.

NFL Picks: [5-4]
New England [-7] @ Cincinnati










Credit: Yahoo! Sports

It’s a lot of points for a road team in primetime. However, the Bengals D is borderline anemic and the Patriots will take advantage of their extra day to scheme the Bengals O. Just as we saw in 2006, the Patriots will dominate the Bengals in the second half and cruise to a huge victory.

Seattle [-1 ½] @ San Francisco











Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Talk about owning a team. San Fran swept Seattle last year, yet lost the divisional race because they lost twice to Arizona. As ugly as the Niners looked last weekend against the Steelers, Frank Gore will slice and dice through the Hawks rush D as the Niners take the outright victory.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants [NL]









Credit: Yahoo! Sports

It’s not uncommon to have no line for an NFC East matchup. While the Giants outscored the Skins 21-0 in the second half en route to their first victory, expect McNabb and his nameless receivers to rack up plenty of points and take home the shootout W.

NCAA Picks: [3-1]
#5. West Virginia [-7] @ #18. South Florida













Credit: Yahoo! Sports

You can bet Rich Rodriguez and company won’t be sleeping on the pride of Tampa this time. Despite Raymond James Stadium being filled to capacity, Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine will have their revenge and hold up the spread while doing it.

#6. California [+4.5] @ #11. Oregon










Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Am I missing something here? California’s talented wideouts will have a field day against the Quack Attack’s questionable secondary. Don’t bet the house, but bet plenty on the Golden Bears devouring this spread.

3 Must Starts and Must Sits:
START
…Last Week…
LJ: This is starting to become a real issue for some owners. Unfortunately, he draws the Charger rush D anchored by Jamal Williams this week. Ouch.
Pennington: Told ya so. He even ran one in!
Moss: Campbell has overthrown him far too many times for his owners to feel too great about him being anything more than a #3 wideout this season on your fantasy squad.

…This Week…
Marshawn Lynch: You always start an RB who draws the Jets. Always.
Ben Roethlisberger: He has a lot to prove against former coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. It doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals secondary, outside of Adrian Wilson, pretty much stinks.
Travis Henry: Expect a bounce-back effort. Shanahan knows the rush game has to put up good numbers for Denver to have any shot with Indy.

SIT
…Last Week…
Rivers: About what I expected honestly. Better fantasy performance than the real performance. People really overrated him, even if he did go 14-2 last season.
Leftwich: Joey Harrington!?!? Where has THAT been?
Curtis: I don’t think there’s a big enough shoe to fill my big mouth after this debacle.

…This Week…
Julius Jones: It’s officially time to stop wondering how much Barber will steal from him. Now, it’s Jones who will have to be the thief.
Wes Welker: Look for a lot of big plays to Moss and Stallworth this week. The underneath routes won’t net much more than 4-5 points for Welker.
Roddy White: When's the last time a Falcon wideout put together back-to-back stellar performances? Exactly.

If I could just say a few more words, I’d be a better writer.

Until next time…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

YES!

At PHSports, the contributors often disagree. However, there's one topic we all agree on and that's the importance of accountability.
In fact, the first post on this blog criticized poor officiating.

With that said, I was ecstatic to see the MLB's decision to suspend Mike Winters for the remainder of the season for his actions in the fracas resulting in Milton Bradley's torn ACL. He was out of line.

Too often, officials become part of the game when they should be mere flies on the wall. How does the MLB go about compensating Bradley if he is indeed out of contract at year's end?

When did officials learn to provoke players? I know calling players like Bradley and Rasheed Wallace volatile is an understatement, but this calls the integrity of the game into question.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday FourCast: Week 3

The bar has been placed high in the FourCast in previous weeks. Despite losing to the Colts on Sunday, the weapon-less Matt Schaub demonstrated exactly why he is the man to lead the Texans out of obscurity. Also, the AFC has once again been the standard bearers of quality and the NFC sucks (except for Dallas and Green Bay right now) as Sum pointed out in Week 1.

#1: Donovan McNabb Mike Tomlin Is Fantastic Humble

I really wanted to stick it to the Donovan McNabb haters, but I decided to forgo the obvious story and applaud the humility of one Mike Tomlin. The 35-year-old head coach could have sent a message that he’s the boss by abandoning the feared 3-4 defense (and the thought of firing defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau) in favor of his beloved Tampa [Cover] 2. Long story short, he didn’t. The team is 3-0. The defense has 12 sacks, six takeaways and three comfortable victories. Tough games await, but Pittsburgh’s poise runs from 1 to 53 on the roster and there’s a quiet confidence in the Steel City. I know where it’s coming from. (Hint: It’s not from Big Ben’s mole.)

#2: Dallas and New England Cannot Keep Up This Offensive Explosion

Send the hate mail now. Dallas and New England have jumped out of the gate to undefeated records and heavily incorporated the passing game. Tony Romo and Tom Brady have lit up good and bad defenses alike. Whether the Chicago and San Diego defenses are who we thought they were is to be seen. What I know is that teams who rely on the pass and have cold weather teams on their schedule later in the season must reach some level of balance. Both are capable of winning 13 games in their respective conferences, but do not expect the QBs to put up the gaudy numbers. This leads us to the next point.

#3: Running Back Depth Will Win Games in October

The running backs are falling and they are falling rapidly. Through less than three weeks, no less than nine teams have lost a starting running back for a half due to injury. Another back, Steven Jackson, will miss his team’s game at the Cowboys, making it an even ten. Nowadays, two running backs are not enough as many teams already split carries. The teams that are ready to address these injury issues through solid third- and fourth-string running backs and have depth at the offensive line will assuredly win games next month as the playoff push begins. This same theme grows exponentially as cold-weather settings start to make an impact.

#4: Offensive Genius? Defensive Mastermind?

Never do I want to hear these words attached to Brian F. Billick and Marvin Lewis. I’m aware of what these men did as coordinators in Minnesota and Baltimore, respectively. Throughout his tenure in Baltimore, Billick’s offense has been serviceable at best, and he’s even had a 2,000-yard back at his disposal. As for Lewis, his defense misses more assignments on a weekly basis than the Bengals had player arrests in 2006. That number was nine in case you forgot. You can only blame it on youth for so long. For the next 14 weeks, both of these men will be fighting for their jobs, and in most likelihood, they will be buoyed by the opposite side of the ball.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Answers

... to the NFL Week 3 Questions

1. In short, they could not cover the Detroit quartet. When Calvin Johnson went down, the numbers subsided. Nevertheless, Detroit mustered 400+ yards through the air. What many didn’t know was that “Donovan MakNabb [sic] is fantastic.” Thank you, Charles Barkley.
2. Nope. Steven Jackson finally got over the century mark, but LT and LJ struggled. LT found the endzone … through the air. Their teams are a combined 2-7.
3. Apparently, other people feel this way. Rex’s travails climaxed in the second half. The crowd chanted Griese, but Lovie Smith stuck to his guns.
4. No sign of the axe in Miami. Trent Green played well and Ronnie Brown rediscovered form with three trips to paydirt.
5. In three capitalized letters, YES!

Key Injuries Looking Forward to Week 4

I have a little time today due to having four wisdom teeth removed on Friday, so here are some of the injuries that may impact your fantasy teams. There will be more information as we receive further reports.

QUARTERBACKS
Player Injured: JP Losman (knee)
Prognosis: Out at least 3 weeks and probably longer
Impact: Rookie Trent Edwards will be the starter. Lee Evans loses overall value, but will not be completely useless as both the Jets and Cowboys give up yards to #1 wide receivers. The Bills have a bye in Week 6.

Player Injured: Jake Delhomme (elbow)
Prognosis: No structural damage. Day-to-day (but aren’t we all?)
Impact: Hello, David Carr. If he can’t go against Tampa, Carr is the guy. Not too much of a fantasy drop-off for Steve Smith.

Player Injured: Jay Cutler (mild ankle sprain)
Prognosis: Uncertain
Impact: Cutler is resilient and his backup Patrick Ramsey moves around the pocket like a person with a chronic ankle sprain. Either way, good luck playing at the Colts next week.

Player Injured: Josh McCown (left foot injury)
Prognosis: Uncertain
Impact: McCown gutted it out until halftime, but Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin opted for Daunte Culpepper. No fantasy drop-offs expected, though the team seemed to operate slightly better with McCown at the controls.

RUNNING BACKS
Player Injured: Brian Westbrook (abdominal strain)
Prognosis: X-rays negative
Impact: Westbrook will be likely listed as questionable and come out to play against the Giants, who will expect him to be at 100%.

Player Injured: Ahman Green (left knee sprain) and Ron Dayne (chest)
Prognosis: Uncertain
Impact: If I am Gary Kubiak, I sit both of these guys down and play Samkon Gado against the hapless Falcons.

Player Injured: Rudi Johnson (hamstring)
Prognosis: Should play next week
Impact: Uh oh. Hamstring injuries don’t go away. The shifty Kenny Watson is the beneficiary of Rudi’s ailments. He won’t benefit too much as the Bengals face New England. Rudi is a trooper though and the extra day to heal will alleviate doubts.

Player Injured: Clinton Portis (?)
Prognosis: Should play after bye week
Impact: Portis limped off the field in the second quarter but returned. His absence on the final drive was curious, though Ladell Betts is a very established backup.

Player Injured: Chester Taylor (hip)
Prognosis: Questionable (like his ability to carry the ball inside the red zone)
Impact: A molester to defenses within the 20s, Taylor’s hip continues to trouble him. Childress could have used Taylor yesterday in the second half to lighten the load for rookie phenom Adrian Peterson.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Player Injured: Hines Ward (bone bruise)
Prognosis: MRI negative. Likely to play in Week 4
Impact: No real impact. The Steelers have had comfortable leads in the second half of each of their games, so that has subtracted from Ward’s fantasy output.

Player Injured: Calvin Johnson (bruised lower back)
Prognosis: Uncertain
Impact: Johnson was poised for a career game when he made an amazing catch that put his condition in doubt. This will improve the fantasy status of Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald, but may hurt Roy Williams in the rare two-receiver sets.

Player Injured: Jacoby Jones (separated shoulder)
Prognosis: Out at least 2 weeks
Impact: If you’ve seen Jones’s potential, this stinks. Kevin Walter and Jerome Mathis are the only healthy receivers for the Texans. They could sign or trade for a receiver. If they were playing 30 other teams, they’d have no chance this week, but they play the Falcons (and possibly without DeAngelo Hall).

OTHERS
Player Injured: Vernon Davis (sprained right knee)
Prognosis: Will undergo MRI and re-evaluation
Impact: Head coach Mike Nolan is optimistic that Davis is fine, but I’m not optimistic about that offense. The 56 yards gained surpassed his previous output, but it’s pitiful given the camp reports during the pre-season. NEVER read into the pre-season.

Player Injured: Paul Posluzny (arm)
Prognosis: Out for the year
Impact: There goes my defensive rookie of the year pick. He was off to a solid start. This hurts a stout Bills defense that is on the field for long periods of time due to a largely inept offense.

Player Injured: Steve McKinney (torn ACL)
Prognosis: Out for the year
Impact: Houston is competing with Buffalo for the most injuries. McKinney’s injury hurts the depth for an already-thin Texans O-line.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

5 NFL Questions Going Into Week 3

  1. If Jon Kitna stays concussion-free all game, how on earth is the decimated Philadelphia (assuming Sheppard and Dawkins either cannot play or are limited) secondary going to cover the Detroit quartet of receivers?
  2. Will two of the big fantasy three running backs (LT, Steven Jackson, LJ) gain at least 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground?
  3. Does anyone else see this as the game (v. Dallas) in which Lovie Smith pulls Rex Grossman at halftime if he is ineffective?
  4. The loser of the Jets/Dolphins game will be 0-3. Will the loser drop the axe on their starting quarterback?
  5. Will the San Diego players regret the hiring of Norv Turner after today's game at Lambeau Field against Green Bay?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Clement’s Weekly Picks & Prognostications…Week 3

Not my strongest showing last week, but I credit myself for being gutsy enough to think the Colts could outmatch the Titans and the Eagles wouldn’t come out nearly as flat in their home-opener

We’ve learned a few NFL-related things thus far. They include:











Credit: Yahoo! Sports




A) The Patriots don’t care if Belicheat did in fact cheat. They love him and are primed to win him a fourth Super Bowl.

B) Many of the 2-0 teams may not see double-digit wins, but they’re far more likely to than some of the surprising 0-2 teams.

C) San Diego under Norv Turner was completely overrated in the pre-season (even though they did open w/ Chicago and New England).

D) Vince Young is a legit MVP candidate. Despite a questionable supporting cast, the Titans will be in almost every game they play.

E) The NFC North is wide open.

F) Nothing too tumultuous from TO or Randy Moss yet; except 3 TDs a piece.

G) Jamal Lewis had more yards on a TD run last week than LT has all season. Interesting, even if only after two weeks.

H) Justin McCarreins should be cut. No questions asked.


As for this weekend, we’re coming fast and furious with picks and prognostications for everyone to enjoy!

NFL Picks: [3-3]
Dallas @ Chicago [-3]









Credit: Yahoo! Sports








In primetime, the Bears made a definitive stand against the Giants last season. However, Dallas (2 Sunday Night appearance in 3 weeks) has displayed a top offensive arsenal. The real question becomes: Can Rex Grossman and Bernard Berrian wreak havoc on a relatively poor Cowboys secondary? Maybe a little. Stick with the Boys to bust the spread, who won’t allow Devin Hester to bail out Grossman this weekend.

San Diego [-4.5] @ Green Bay












Credit: Yahoo! Sports



If the Chargers fall to 1-2, Norv Turner is in serious trouble of losing the confidence of this team if he hasn’t already. Green Bay’s stud corners are highly underrated these days. Yet, its Antonio Gates that may be the most troubling for the Pack defense. Until Jackson/Wynn show me a little more, I’m taking the Chargers behind LT to bounce back big time and spank the overachieving Pack.

Tennessee @ New Orleans [-4]












Credit: Yahoo! Sports

It’s a real treat to see Vince Young finally get the Monday Night treatment. The Saints know that their pre-season expectations are done with now that they are 0-2. While neither team can afford a loss, win or lose, Vince Young’s playmaking ability will keep this game within 3 points.

NCAA Picks: [3-0]
#12 South Carolina @ #2 LSU [-16.5]










Credit: Yahoo! Sports


-Make sure you know that this game is at 3:30 pm and not in primetime. That matters when you consider how tough the Bayou Bengals can be at night. Just ask Sean Glennon. Spurrier has his highest ranking as a Gamecock, but reality will set in – big time – when he loses by more than 3 TDs to the nation’s roughest and toughest defense.
As for the fantasy side of things…

3 Must Starts and 3 Must Sits:
START
…Last Week…
Willis McGahee: He wasn’t a stud, but a TD and nearly 100 yards rushing means he was nowhere near a dud.
Donald Driver: That 4th-quarter TD made everything just fine for his owners.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Yeah, about that…

….This Week…
Larry Johnson: He may have another tough matchup against a staunch Vikes rush D, but learn this lesson: NEVER SIT LJ WHEN HE’S HEALHY. NEVER!
Chad Pennington: If he goes, start him. Ditto if it’s Clemens. The Fins D looks downright abysmal at times.
Santana Moss: If Campbell hadn’t grossly overthrown him late in the game, Moss would’ve had a fantastic primetime performance. Next up: The Giants. Get ready for a feast of points!

SIT
…Last Week…
Antwaan Randel-El: He almost had a spectacular TD for his owners. Almost.
Jerricho Cotchery: Who else knew the Jets would look so good in the 4th quarter? Whoops.
Laurence Maroney: All those TDs for the Pats and still a quiet night for their #1 back. I knew Brady would bamboozle the highly overrated Charger “secondary”.

…This Week…
Phillip Rivers: If you have another option at QB, try it out. Rivers looked poor in his mechanics and in his confidence. Screaming and throwing stuff on the sidelines never is a good sign.
Byron Leftwich: Don’t do it. Even if you think Harrington will get the axe at halftime. Just don’t.
Kevin Curtis: No Eagle wideout deserves to be started anytime soon. None of them. Well…maybe Harold Carmichael.

If I said anymore, you’d walk right out of the theater.

Until next time…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Expanding Horizons, Thinning Rosters

More news coming to you via the quick hitters. In short, we’ve got perfectly content black quarterbacks who may be na├»ve, unhappy studs due to conservative playcalling, injuries and suspensions causing a fuss and a major shock in London.

Vince Young and Jason Campbell have shared their thoughts in disagreeing with Donovan McNabb’s assessment on the treatment of black quarterbacks. Jeffrey Chadiha of ESPN’s First Take hit the nail on the head by arguing that neither quarterback has started a full season and that their feelings may change once they are in the NFL for 9-10 years.

Vernon Davis and Larry Fitzgerald have joined the All Un-Happy Pappy team. Both feel that their roles in their current offenses have been marginalized. Davis has 4 receptions and 27 yards in two games and felt he was frequently open on Sunday at St. Louis. As for Fitzgerald, he’s averaged 53.5 yards per game, which is about 20 yards below his average last season. I feel Davis has more of a case and that Fitzgerald should be heartened by the offensive line’s ability to run-block for Edgerrin James, because that ultimately results in wins.

Andre Johnson is expected to be out for five weeks, according to PFT. Everyone can now acquaint themselves with Jacoby Jones, the 3rd round pick out of Lane College. The loss of Johnson is an early test for Matt Schaub, who despite his fair share of plaudits has only started a grand total of four starts.

The 49ers defensive prowess may take a huge hit. Manny Lawson tore his ACL during practice and has been ruled out for the year. It’s a devastating blow for the 49ers, because Lawson is a great fit at the linebacker/rush end position.

Rumors were abound regarding Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry eight-game suspension being cut to four on a good basis of behavior. Those rumors can be placed on hold following this developing story.

Moving to the defensive side in Cincinnati, if the Bengals think that signing Dhani Jones will shore up that leaky defense, then they have another thing coming. I’m being kind when I say leaky. He’ll make a few plays but will struggle in pass coverage against running backs and tight ends.

THE MORE APTLY NAMED FOOTBALL
In HUGE news from across the pond, Jose Mourinho’s contract as manager of Chelsea Football Club has been terminated by mutual consent. Issues between Mourinho and other members of club management (including owner Roman Abramovich) reached a fever pitch during the January transfer window (when teams can buy other clubs’ players) when the manager felt that he was not receiving the necessary funds to overtake Manchester United in the English Premier League.

To put this situation in perspective, imagine Bill Belichick resigning in the middle of the season … and that doesn’t even amount to this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lay Off Of Donovan

Since Monday night’s game against the Washington Redskins, talk of Donovan McNabb’s precipitous decline has quickened in football circles. His unconvincing performance made him a target around water coolers on Tuesday morning. His comments made to HBO’s Real Sports making the claim that black quarterbacks face more scrutiny [than white quarterbacks] have once again made him a lightning rod for criticism in Philadelphia and beyond.

Source: Eagles Gab

When asked if white quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer are held to the same standards, McNabb responded, “Let me start by saying, I love those guys. But they don't get criticized as much as we do. They don't."

In two words, I agree. When Carson Palmer returned from a career-threatening knee injury last season, pundits and fans alike used words like “courageous” to describe his performance. Can the same be said for the 5-time Pro Bowl quarterback [and other black quarterbacks in the NFL] who has missed 13 games the last two seasons? Absolutely, positively not. Having watched nearly every snap of his first two games, McNabb has looked shaky in the pocket and he has shown signs of overcompensating on his throws. Being fair, Carson Palmer lacked the poise shown in 2005 and early 2007 throughout the entire 2006 season, and he has Rudi Johnson (over 1300 yards rushing the last three seasons), two stud receivers and a suspended jailbird who’d be the number one wide receiver in Philadelphia. If Palmer shows more self-assurance and holds onto the ball late in just one of their games, the Bengals would have had as many wins as player arrests likely resulting in a playoff appearance.

Source: Reading Eagle

As many football experts have noted, prior to last season, McNabb had achieved more than Peyton Manning by making the Super Bowl and leading his team to multiple NFC championship game appearances. He has done this without the supporting cast that is at the disposal of either a Manning or a Palmer. Though detractors will cite that his sole Super Bowl appearance was a result of having Terrell Owens on the same team (and on the same page), McNabb led the Eagles to two playoff victories that year without his top receiver’s services.

Expecting McNabb or any other quarterback to be at the same performance level as he was prior to his season-ending knee injury last year is unfair. In fact, I suspect some of the gripers reached for McNabb in fantasy football leagues and thought that he would scorch underrated defenses in Green Bay and Washington. Consider it a lesson learned. Another lesson taught is that players who miss a considerable amount of time due to injury in three of the past four seasons do not return as the same player with the same abilities in spite of marvels in the medical field.

Adjustments must be made by the coaching staff and the altered player in order to maximize upon the skills that remain at the player’s disposal. Yes, I’m talking to you, Coach Reid. Why use a first-day draft selection on a 3rd running back if your play selections are dominated by short passes over the middle [to players who only know how to run slant and out patterns]? Without a wide receiver on the roster that can a) take a hit over the middle and b) hold onto the ball, the coaching staff must utilize the split backs formation more often in order to develop a steady diet of the power run. This will allow for McNabb to manage the game more efficiently and use the play-action pass to maximize the production of inexperienced, finesse route runners. While the thought of using a talent such as McNabb as a game manager scares most Eagles fans, this change in mindset and action will result in the most wins for the organization and nurture the beleaguered quarterback to health as he continues to recover from his latest injury.

It must be noted that Donovan McNabb has been sensitive to media criticism and this has taken away from his perceived focus on the gridiron. Nevertheless, McNabb has been and continues to be expected to perform at a top-five position level without the skill position corps of other upper-echelon NFL quarterbacks (excluding Tom Brady until this season). Additionally, poor special teams play and uneven playcalling have preceded McNabb’s lackluster showcases as reasons for the Eagles’ early season defeats.

With all of this said, do us all a favor and lay off of Donovan McNabb.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NFL Not-So-Quick Hitters

After two weeks, the experts are deciding which 2-0 teams are pretenders and contenders. I’ll spare you the regurgitation of 15-minute ESPNEWS loops and provide comment on the major goings-on in the National Football League.

I’m avoiding talk of the “declining” Donovan McNabb, because I intend to rail on that issue tomorrow.

1. First things first. Randy Thomas suffered torn left triceps during last night’s game against the Eagles. According to the AP, Thomas will have surgery to repair the tear, which will require him to wear a splint for at least six weeks followed by rehabilitation for several weeks afterwards. He’s likely headed to the injured/reserve list. That means the right side of the undefeated Redskins line is out of commission (Jon Jansen out for the year). Normally, it would be panic time in Washington, but Joe Gibbs has faith in longtime Jets guard Jason Fabini and fellow veteran Todd Wade. Additionally, Washington is high on rookie tackle Stephon Heyer, who excelled in training camp. Don’t be shocked if Keydrick Vincent enters talks with Washington. His run blocking quality fits the two-back system employed by the Redskins.

2. The Jets season of woe continues. No, there is no QB controversy, but they lost their sole Pro Bowl player CB/KR Justin Miller for the year. In this league where you now need 15 corners to endure a season, Miller possessed added value. As an aside, for the Madden ’08 heads, use Miller as the third player from the right in the punt block formation. He has nine blocks for me this season. Yes, nine. On top of that, I suck at Madden, so a real player who can actually force the computer to punt would get at least twenty.

3. Lord Byron has landed in Lukewarm-lanta. With that poor excuse for an offense, I refuse to call it Hotlanta unless when referring to the Braves. Leftwich's deal lasts two years and is worth $7M. He will be there “to compete with” Joey Harrington. Reading between the lines, Leftwich will be starter after a successful second-half showing prior to the bye and named starter thereafter, or he will be the starter after the Week 8 bye. I guess Bobby Petrino is not serious about drafting Brian Brohm. Side note: What kind of slap in the face would it be to Brohm if the Falcons drafted Kentucky’s ‘Andre Woodson?

4. The Pokes signed suspended and embattled defensive tackle Tank Johnson. NFL teams think they’re so brilliant when they sign players the week before their team plays their new signee’s team. Honestly, what can Johnson tell them? They like to blitz a lot. They play Cover 2. Urlacher is good. Let Grossman throw a pick-six. Anyhow, Dallas can look forward to Johnson contributing from Week 9 onward when his suspension is over. In that time, he will have to become accustomed to the switch from his role in a 4-3 Cover 2 defense to being a nose tackle in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 setup. Starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson was ruled out for the year after their Week 1 shootout with New York.

5. Kevin Curtis is tarrible [sic]. He was a bad signing and has shown signs of one Todd Pinkston. He can still be good, but why sign a player to a lucrative contract with a similar skill set to your new #1 wide receiver Reggie Brown (who should not be a WR1 but that is another story for another day)? Until Philadelphia signs an impact player who can catch the ball over the middle, Donovan McNabb will continue to be marginalized by a limited playbook. Expect Philly to consider speaking with free agent misfit Antonio Bryant or a player on the block who’s not afraid to be a possession receiver.

Tuesday FourCast: Week 2

After watching Sum take the kickoff back for a score with his Week One FourCast, I have the daunting task of following him. I need seven on this drive. No pick-six here. I need a sure thing. Where is the Browns offense when I need them?

#1: The Measure of a Man

What makes a player great? Is it the number of touchdowns he scores? Is it a popularity contest? Is it the number of supermodels he impregnates? I beg to differ. Brett Favre will eventually hold all of the relevant quarterback records in the NFL. He will break the record for TD passes this season. He might break the passing yardage record this year. However, all of those pale in comparison to the record Favre broke when he led his Packers past the Giants. Favre eclipsed John Elway, moving into first place in all-time wins (149).

The all-time wins record is a testament to who Favre is. If Favre had to choose which one of his records he could keep, the best bet is that he would keep the all-time wins record. Since his first year with the Packers, watching him connect on game-winning TD pass to Sterling Sharpe, I could tell that something special was beginning. Even then, it was evident that Favre plays with heart. Favre has been called many things: a throwback, a gunslinger. However, there is one name he has earned. Winner.

#2: The Mis-Measure of Man

With the microscope on the New England Patriots after their videotaping fiasco, many forget about the players involved and their reputations. Sure, there are some players at fault, who knew what was going on. However, there are those that were just playing the game. Now, every player on the Patriots is potentially tainted. We heard Jaws on Monday Night Football. He said that every QB could complete 75% of their passes if they knew the opposing defense's calls. Does this mean that Tom Brady's career is a farce? I disagree.

I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I think the penalty Goodell imposed upon the Patriots was a bit heavy-handed. Anyone that thinks other teams do not participate in similar activities are naive. All sports involve an element of gaining as many advantages over your opponents as you can. If anything, this controversy will only cause teams already involved in these activities to come up with stealthier ways to continue. Half a million dollars, while affordable to Belichick, was a bit much. However the bane of this controversy will be the forfeited first-round draft pick. Just to put perspective to the value of the pick, the Patriots landed Randy Moss for a 4th rounder.

#3: Deep in the Heart of Texans

Throughout the far-from-storied franchise of the Houston Texans, many excuses have been made to explain the futility of the team. The wide receivers wore the underachiever label. The offensive line gave up a great deal of sacks. Probably, the most logical was the lack of a power rushing game. Yours truly bought into the theory that their team was caught with their pants down when Tony Boselli's injury proved to be career-threatening and the team lacked a backup plan. However, the apparent problem was staring them down from the opposite sideline in Carolina. That would be former Texans #1 overall pick, QB David Carr.

Watching current Texans QB Matt Schaub, one can easily see the difference between the current and former starters. While making his WRs look good, Schaub also makes his offensive line look better. Schaub understands the value of getting rid of the ball, whether he's aiming for a receiver or throwing the ball away. Carr would try to milk his time in the pocket trying to make the play, resulting in him staring up at the lights 249 times in his Texans career. Then, there's that little matter of the Falcons trading Schaub away and putting their hopes into the hands of Ron Mexico...er...Michael Vick. That’s another story in itself.

#4: Fantasy Fix - The Ground Game

The consensus top three fantasy football draft picks this year were LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson, in no particular order (after Tomlinson, that is). Often, great fantasy players get off to a slow start. Two games into the season last year, they had a combined 620 yards rushing averaging a little over a hundred yards per game. The teams were a combined 3-3. This year, the same three have so far put up a combined 284 yards, their teams going a collective 1-5. Has the playing field leveled in fantasy football?

Fear not, my fantasy football addicts. If you were lucky enough to land one of these three studs, do not succumb to the trade offers that bombard you as we speak. Stick to your big guns. They will hit their stride, and come fantasy playoff time, they should be at their peak. And if anyone doubts you, pull a "Pacino" and have them say hello to your little friend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Randy Moss, Master of the Debut

Source: MSNBC

Last Sunday, Randy Moss raised eyebrows after his 9-catch, 183-yard performance at The Meadowlands against the New York Jets. While detractors believe Moss has shown signs of slowing down throughout the years, others feel strongly that his move to Foxboro has rejuvenated his career.

Fantasy football managers and regular fans of football have wondered whether Moss’s performance last Sunday was the start of a trend or a mirage buoyed by strong debuts with new teams.

This will not answer that burning question, but it does reveal his success in opening games with his new team.

Year

Opponent

Receptions

Yards

Touchdowns

1998

vs. Tampa Bay

4

95

2

2005

@ New England

5

130

1

2007

@ New York (Jets)

9

183

1

Source: Pro Football Reference

Though the sample size of three games is nowhere close to generalizable by rigorous scientific standards, Moss has averaged 6.0 receptions, 136 yards and 1.3 TDs per game in his debuts with new teams. This compares favorably to his overall per game career statistics of 4.9 receptions, 78.3 yards and 0.7 TDs.

Take it for what it’s worth, but fans of Moss should not get used to 150-yard performances on a regular basis.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Clement’s Weekly Picks and Prognostications – Week 2…

One week down, sixteen to go. While some of your favorite NFL teams faltered (cough, Jets), others like Tarvaris Jackson and the 1-0 Vikes surprised.

In the fantasy realm, Dallas QB Mr. Carrie Underwood broke open more than a few matchups with a 5-touchdown performance (4 through the air, 1 on the ground) while still enabling fantasy owners of TO (2 TD receptions in the second half) and even Marion Barber III (impressive TD run on a fourth and short) to enjoy their respective days.

That Randy Moss guy (9 receptions, 183 yds, TD) put up impressive numbers in his Patriots debut despite missing nearly the entire pre-season. The same can be said for Plexico Burress and his 3 TD Sunday night performance.

The opening week signified struggle and disappointment for the big three of fantasy football. Despite totaling 2 TDs, LT underachieved with less than 30 yards rushing. LJ was non-existent. Steven was missing the “Action” from his Jackson, matching last year’s lost fumble total of two.

As for last week’s predictions, as one of my idols, Johnny Drama might say, “VICTORY!”

The Panthers game finished exactly as I expected. Ditto for the matchup on Sunday Night. Had Brian Billick arrived in Cincinnati with a gameplan and Steve McNair had two less turnovers, I’d be bringing out the brooms. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Nevertheless, LSU putting the beatdown on Virginia Tech made for a 3-1 final tally in Week 1. The Tigers thrashing allowed us to take the briefest of glimpses at QB Tyrod Taylor, who should be a professional after his junior season in Blacksburg.

Now that Week 1 is spoken for, I figured I’d keep the love coming fast and furiously!

Week 2 NFL Picks: [2-1]
Indianapolis @ Tennessee [-7]















Source: ViewImages.com


-So Vince Young, you’ve got the Madden curse staring you directly in the face and the Colts at your place in Week 2. Step up with the upset and you can lay claim as the leader of the up-and-coming team in the AFC. Sadly, that’s easier said than done. Despite totally shutting down the Jaguars rushing attack last week, look for the downhill rushing of Addai and the precision downfield aerial assault of Manning to take over midway through the 2nd quarter as the Colts cruise by double digits.

Sunday Night Football
San Diego @ New England [-3.5]


















Source: NBCSports


-Both teams took home key victories in Week One. However, the Patriots looked as good as possible doing it. While LT is more than willing to call out the Patriots yet again, the Patriots seem as determined as ever to return to the Super Bowl. Always trust a Bill Belichick team over a Norv Turner team. Always.

Monday Night Football
Washington @ Philadelphia [-6.5]













Source: Yahoo! Sports

-If you think Philly only lost due to a pair of special teams disasters, you completely ignored the dominant performance by the Packers front 7 against the interior of the Eagles offensive line. While Jason Campbell was far from stellar against the Fins, he did walk away 1-0. Neither team looked very good, but remember that the Skins always play the Eagles tough at home. Since it’s a road game, take the Iggles…big.

Week 2 NCAA Picks: [1-0]
#22 Tennessee @ #5 Florida [-8]
















Source: FoxSports.com

-Run the ball and you win in this series. If you are Tennessee, control the game for three quarters and then let the whole dang thing slip away in the closing minutes. Tennessee is too mistake-prone to win in the Swamp, or cover the points, without a more solidified rushing attack.

#1 USC [-10.5] @ #14 Nebraska














Source: GettyImages


-It will be a sheik pick to take Bill Callahan’s Huskers in this game; a sort of program-rebuilding game. Yeah, we’re buying that one. Don’t let any upset talk fool you, Pete Carroll is more than ready to lead his Trojans, who may double or triple this spread, to certain victory.

3 Must Starts and 3 Must Sits;
START
Last Week
Jacksonville Defense: Neither beautiful nor a disaster, fantasy-wise at least. Push. I should’ve suggested anyone playing against Charlie Frye.
Brian Westbrook:
No TD and an Eagle loss. Unimpressive on all accounts.
Darrell Jackson:
Too bad we couldn’t count that fumble recovery he pounced on in the endzone.

This Week
Willis McGahee:
Without the Jets rush D (or complete lack thereof), McGahee gets $20-million from Baltimore instead of $40. Start him. Unless you don't like 117.5 ypg versus 73 ypg for his career.
Donald Driver:
Don’t even think about sitting him, bum foot or not. The Giants secondary will get torched for the second week in a row.
Maurice Jones-Drew:
It’s going to be a bumpy ride all season. When you see the Atlanta D (especially without Rod Coleman) on your schedule, start your running back with confidence.

SIT
Last Week
Lee Evans:
Hater or not, I KNEW IT! Score one for the big guy.
Ronnie Brown:
Not the trickiest of picks. Now as for next week…
Joe Horn:
Nice fill-in pick. Then again, was it too easy?

This Week
Antwaan Randel-El:
He won’t see nearly as many targets as the Skins will pound the ball on Monday night. Don’t buy this guy too heavily.
Jerricho Cotchery:
Lav Coles is a sturdier redzone target; nevertheless, neither Jet wideout will fare as well as Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh did on Monday night (especially since Clemens appears to be in as Pennington is likely out this weekend).
Laurence Maroney:
You gotta start him … or do you? The Chargers rush D will force Tom Brady to beat them with his arm … which he gladly will.

I’d say more, but you’ve had more than enough love this week.

Until next time…