Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Several bowls (Outback, Capital One, Gator) get their due; yet, several marquee names (Cotton, Sugar, & Fiesta) get their own days/nights.
Nevertheless, let's tackle the 5 games you'll have the opportunity to watch tomorrow, in order of course.
11:00 am - Outback Bowl [South Carolina vs. Iowa]
Ever since November 15th's 56-6 beatdown from his former Gators, I've had the odd feeling that the Gamecocks may be tired of waiting for Steve Spurrier to inspire/coach/prepare/transform them to the next level. While his team is playing on New Year's, that's hardly a compliment when you consider their 7-5 mark and yearly "fade to bowl season". Meanwhile, Iowa can hang it's hat on costing Penn State a BCS Title Game appearance and that the majority of its skill position players (primarily QB Ricky Stanzi and RB Shonn Greene) are all returning next season. I see no reason to believe the Gamecocks will "get up" for the Ole Ball Coach and deliver an inspired win. I'm taking Iowa to continue building towards next year, even if it's entertaingly-close.
Impact Players: Sophomore Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi may walk into next season challenging the far more well known Big Ten QBs for top honors. No better place to lay your claim than here.
Prediction: Iowa wins 27-23
1:00 pm - Gator Bowl [Nebraska vs. Clemson]
The two coaches on the sideline may command more media attention than the talent on the field. Bo Pelini would love 9-wins and a New Year's Day bowl game victory for his first season; meanwhile, Dabo Sweeney still has a lot of detractors-in-waiting after securing the job after being brought on in an interim basis for fired Tommy Bowden. While the game will ultimately come down to the talent on the field, I can't help but wonder how the major stories in each region's newspapers will be impacted by a win/loss due to the performance of these coaches (and not necessarily their teams).
Impact Players: Clemson RB tandem James David and CJ Spiller may have combined for 1300+ yards and 18 rushing TDs; nevertheless, they were both cataclysmic dissapointments - alongside their team - the majority of the season. Draft stock matters in bowl games, big time.
Prediction: Clemson wins 30-28
1:00 pm - Capital One Bowl [Georgia vs. Michigan State]
Most people expect this one to be a laugher in favor of the Bulldogs, yet I'm not so sure. In a season in which they started #1, this team isn't making a statement similar to that against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl last season. Both teams are loaded with upperclassmen, which means the game will come down to execution and who can avoid giving up the big play late.
Players to Watch: Matthew Stafford has one last major chance to show why he's #1-overall talent; yet, it's Michigan State senior RB Javon Ringer that might be the most talented player on the field.
Prediction: Georgia wins 38-28
5:00 pm - Rose Bowl [Penn State vs. USC]
I could talk for days and days trying to break down this game, but I won't. Why? Because this game will come down to one simple question: can Penn State keep up with the athletes at USC? Well, can they?
Players to Watch: The three skill position players at Penn State better be ready to run-run-run. QB Daryll Clark must realize that ball security and long, time-consuming drives are his best friends. RB Evan Royster better be ready to bruise people up the middle, as well as along the edges. WR Deon Butler has got to open up lanes - perhaps through making an early catch or two downfield - in order to spread out a speedy (and underrated) Trojan defense.
Prediction: USC wins 41-17
8:00 pm - Orange Bowl [Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech]
The BCS game most people don't claim to "care about", just might end up being one of the best, seriously. Tech has a lot of talent and much of it isn't juniors and seniors. Meanwhile, Cincinnati was an 11-2 team and outside of an embarassing loss in Stoors (not in basketball, mind you) they dominated Big East play. While I can honestly admit I didn't watch a single snap of the Bearcast season, Hokie fans know not to underestimate opponents; especially after Tech lost to Kansas last season - in absolutely horrid Miami weather - in the Orange Bowl.
Players to Watch: Any legit Hokie fan will tell you that Jason "All" Worlds is one of the reasons they're most excited about next season. His playmaking ability is astounding due to his size and speed around the corner. He'll pose more than a few problems for Cincy's backfield.
Prediction: Virginia Tech wins 21-20
While bowl games - especially with the writer's on this staff - might take priority #1; it'd be a mistake to miss out on 5 potentially entertaining New Year's Day bowl games.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
1. Year of the Falcon
If your team missed out on the postseason, I really don't see how you can cheer for anyone other than the Atlanta Falcons. (And if you're still too busy sulking, then I invite you to go back to Ft. Worth and continue crying over spilt popcorn). I understand that the Miami Dolphins finished with a far worse record last season, and therefore finished with a 10-game turnaround compared with the Falcons' 7-game positive swing. However, the Fins coach stayed with them through their 1-15 season, and their turmoil was entirely based around poor football decisions. Now, I generally can't stand the Falcons, and I cheered against them most of the time, for no good reason really, but I still didn't like them. But this team watched its "quarterback of the future" get sent to prison for heinous crimes against animals. And then, as if being led by Joey Harrington wasn't bad enough, faux-savior/faux-coach/faux-human Bobby Petrino quit on his team with 3-games left in the 2007 regular season. This poor team basically had a gigantic turd laid on it's head both at the onset of last season and near it's end. What Mike Smith, Michael Turner, Matt Ryan and Roddy White have done there is nothing short of miraculous and awe-inspiring. And as much as it pains me, I'll be cheering for these guys starting this weekend.
2. Year of the Psych-Out
The Washington Redskins record through Week 8: 6-2. The New York Jets record through Week 13: 9-3. The Tampa Bay Bucs record through Week 13: 9-3. San Diego through Week 13: 4-8. Guess which ONE of these teams actually made the playoffs ...
Okay, so San Diego did squeak in despite not finishing with a winning record (8-8) thanks to Denver's choke job over the final three weeks of the season, but that doesn't take away from the fact that in the NFL two cliché rules ALWAYS apply:
A) You can never count a team out, and
B) There's no such thing as a sure thing (not even Norv Turner losing in December).
Now, the Redskins were never as good as their 6-2 record implied, nor were the Bolts nearly as bad as their 4-8 record claimed. Regardless, both teams psyched-out their own fans and those of their rivals, and thereby helped create a very intense and important Week 17 of the NFL season.
3. Year of the Bad Calls
Normally I do not re-use a blurb from my intro to the FourCast again as an item, but this was a big one. Starting with Ed Hochuli's terrible blown call in the Week 2 Denver/San Diego matchup, and ending with Walt Coleman's irresponsible overturning of the "No Touchdown" call in the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game, this was a poor season for the NFL's officiating crew. (NOTE: I do believe that Santonio Holmes scored on that play against Baltimore, HOWEVER, there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call of "No Touchdown." Therefore, Coleman overstepped his bounds as a referee ... regardless of what the NFL's resident douchebag Mike Pereira says). Unfortunately, these bad calls decided games that ultimately decided playoff scenarios (Baltimore could have become the #2 seed rather than the #6 seed), yet nothing could be done after-the-fact.
Poor officiating has dogged most professional and collegiate sports since their inception, this is a fact of life which we must face and accept. However, when the officiating raises to blatant irresponsibility and horrendous calls which determine the final outcome of games, then action must be taken. The NFL must institute some form of an in-game review of its officials in extreme situations ... such as when referees blatantly ignore the standard by which they blow their whistles and overturn calls.
4. Year of the "Evening Out"
There would have been an embeded youtube clip of the Seinfeld "evening out" or "even steven" episode here. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a short clip of it on youtube or anywhere else on the web. But in essence, in the episode, Seinfeld always manages to break even. Whether it's on his trip to Vegas, or when he loses one gig, but finds another one for the same weekend for the same pay, Jerry believes that things always even out. As he told Elaine, when she was down on her luck, "Elaine, don't get too down. Everything'll even out, see, I have two friends, you were up, he was down. Now he's up, you're down."
Well, this law applies to the NFL and it's extreme parity. In the 2007 regular season, the New England Patriots became the first team in history to finish 16-0 in the regular season. Even though they did not win the Super Bowl, such dominance over the course of the regular season seemed to fly in the face of the great parity which the NFL preached. Enter the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Just as there was an undefeated regular season team before the Pats (the 1972 Dolphins finished 14-0), there was once a winless team in the NFL as well (the 1976 Bucs finished 0-14). But Lions had to go and out-do the Bucs and lose 16 games in one season. While this sucks for the Detroit fans, it's for the greater good. Hopefully the powers that be in the Motor City will take note of the fine folks in Miami, Atlanta and Baltimore, and turn this around for the league's first 0-16 team.
Thanks for another season. Breakdown of each individual playoff game begins on Thursday morning!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Let's get a few things straight (again)...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
..."The Guys You DREAM about Being"...
#1. (13-3) Tennessee Titans
Comment: Ever since the run for undefeated ended (not that anyone took it too seriously), the Titans did just enough - including a highly impressive home victory over the Steelers - to secure homefield throughout the AFC. Their reward? Potentially the suffocating defense of Baltimore OR the winner of the Colts/Bolts. Awesome, right?
Guy to Watch: Albert Haynesworth is the heart and soul of this defense. We get it. Nevertheless, if this team can't score enough points on offense, the Titans may be one-and-done. I'm looking at an aging Kerry Collins and wondering if his last playoff go-round will be his most memorable or not.
#2. (12-4) Pittsburgh Steelers
Comment: Big Ben should be fine and the Steelers will make the very most of their week off. Problem is, this team can be beat in Pittsburgh. How do I know this? David Garrard and a very different Jaguars team took some of the luster away from Heinz field last year. Nobody is walking into Pittsburgh intimidated anymore.
Guy to Watch: Santonio Holmes was a collosal fantasy dissapointment. Duh. Nevertheless, he has downfield ability and can open up lanes for both the rush game and for slot wideout/cheap-shot artist Hines Ward.
..The Guys Everyone Out of the Playoffs Wants to Be Next Year"...
#3. (11-5) Miami Dolphins
Comment: Just because the team beat teams it was "supposed to beat" doesn't mean it will lie down - at home - against the Ravens. Take care of the ball, slip Ted Ginn downfield a play or two, and bust open an unexpected special teams play or two and the game may be theirs. Playing with house money makes you very dangerous.
Guy to Watch: Ronnie Brown is the lone Dolphin Pro Bowler for a reason. His ability in the Wildcat Formation allows the Dolphins 4-5 chances a game to open up a big play. He'll need to be ready for a brutal pounding from the Raven defense. If he survives though, Miami might too.
...Yes, YOU can make the playoffs after starting 4-8...
#4. (8-8) San Diego Chargers
Comment: 4-8 and suddenly everything seems to go right. While LT's groin is an obvious issue, Phillip Rivers isn't the NFL's top-rated QB for no reason. As dangerous as the Colts are, you gotta know the Chargers have no fear about them coming into their house.
Guy to Watch: Antonio Cromartie has to be the elite shutdown cornerback many pegged him as after last year's sensational effort. While that's easier said then done against the likes of Manning/Wayne/Harrison, it's time for AC to go Prime Time.
..The Teams NOBODY Wants to See Right Now"...
#5. (12-4) Indianapolis Colts
Comment: The media loves this team and Peyton Manning likely has a third NFL MVP secured (although he did share one with McNair). Blah blah blah. Wake me up when something new is said.
Guy to Watch: Addai and Rhodes are behind the likes of Manning and Bob Sanders in acclaim; nevertheless, I want to see if these two backs can work the same chemistry they did two seasons ago en route to a championship.
#6. (11-5) Baltimore Ravens
Comment: The coordinators (Cameron & Ryan) have been the perfect duo behind their rookie head coach. Meanwhile, Ed Reed (9 INTs) is playing as well as any defender in football, the RB duo of McClain & McGahee (in that order) look terrific, and it's another rookie QB leading his team to 11 wins. How sweet.
Guy to Watch: Haloti Ngata was given a real tough time in Baltimore after being drafted, until he showed up on the field. Nowadays, he's perhaps the most athletic man - at his size - the NFL has seen in quite some time. He clogs the middle and allows those playmakers behind him to dominate. Not bad for a collegiate underachiever who "took plays off".
..."The 11-5 Team NOT in the NFL Playoffs"...
#7. (11-5) New England Patriots
Comment: I'm a bitter Jet fan, so I'm clinging to a pathetic notion that as long as the Pats are out...all is good. It's all I have...
Guy to Watch: Matt Cassell, of course.
..."The Same Old Jets"...
#8. (9-7) New York Jets
Comment: There's nothing left to say except, "same old Jets".
Guy to Watch: Vernon Gholston has an offseason to get ready for next year. 12 total tackles again may run him out of New York for good.
#9. (8-8) Houston Texans
Comment: Another season where they end well in Houston. Question is: when do they start well and put two-and-two together?
Guy to Watch: Steve Slaton has dynamic talent. Better get him a legit compliment in the first 3 rounds of the draft next season. Ahman Green can't be that guy.
#10. (8-8) Denver Broncos
Comment: One win in the final four weeks and we're all treated to yet another Colts/Broncos game. Thank god this team lost out.
Guy to Watch: The RB-position needs stability and some luck with injuries. Peyton Hillis ain't the answer, either.
#11. (7-9) Buffalo Bills
Comment: Dick Jauron should save his job; however, real answers are needed when you go from 5-1 to 7-9. Especially when you're winless (0-6) in the AFC East amidst those final 10 games.
Guy to Watch: Trent Edwards. Up-and-coming superstar my a**.
..."The Other Others"...
#12. (5-11) Oakland Raiders
Comment: Whether or not they hire a new coach is irrelevant. The team can't draft well and there's nothing stable in the locker room. 5-11 might be the best this team sees for the next few seasons.
Guy to Watch: JaMarcus Russell has shown glimpses. But are only glimpses what you expect from the #1 overall pick?
..."How the 'Mighty' Have Fallen..."
#13. (5-11) Jacksonville Jaguars
Comment: As dissapointing a team as the Green Bay Packers, the Jags are lucky their media market stinks and they aren't getting any play as total underachievers.
Guy to Watch: David Garrard sucked this year. That's being nice, too. Another ECU QB flameout? Probably.
...And then there's "THEM"...
#14. (4-11-1) Cincinnati Bengals
Comment: I love that people were stupid enough to believe in this organization.
Guy to Watch: Chad Ocho Cinco is a pariah. Ride his big mouth out of town if you want any chance of locker room continuity and self-respect.
#15. (4-12) Cleveland Browns
Comment: I called this record EXACTLY. Anyone who believed that this organization - behind Savage & Crenel - were playoff bound was an idiot. 4 QBs or not.
Guy to Watch: Brady Quinn is gonna need a lot of Myoplex to pull this organization out of the toilet. 10-6 was a fluke. A total fluke.
#16. (2-14) Kansas City Chiefs
Comment: It's gonna be a series of double-digit loss seasons for years to come...
Guy to Watch: Giving all that money to someone with the character of Larry Johnson will bury Carl Peterson's legacy in Kansas City. Probably serves him right, too.
PHSports Playoff previews and predictions start TOMORROW!!!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Let's get a few things straight...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
..."The Guys You DREAM about Being"...
#1. (12-4) New York Giants
Comment: Despite the Plaxico-incident, Jacobs missing two weeks/being banged up for a month, and the difficult task of defending a championship...the G-Men remain the team to beat in the NFC as the #1-seed.
Guy to Watch: Brandon Jacobs. Eli is the epicenter of this team; however, this season - unlike last year's playoff team - hinged on the ability of their monster back to brutalize defenses in the first half. 3 more dominant efforts and they may very well again hoist the Lombardy Trophy.
#2. (12-4) Carolina Panthers
Comment: 12-4 is a lot easier when you're undefeated (8-0) at home, which is exactly where the Panthers will be in the Divisional Round in two weeks. Plenty of rest for DeAngelo Williams (1515 yards and 20 total TDs) and company.
Guy to Watch: Steve Smith has more ability than any receiver his size. In fact, it's not even close. He's got to have his head straight and his legs ready to burst through secondaries throughout January. He'll need to carry this team - even more than Williams/Stewart - late in close playoff (potential shootout) games.
..The Guys Everyone Else WISHES to Be"...
#3. (10-6) Minnesota Vikings
Comment: Don't forget what Gus Frerrote did for this team; however, Tavaris Jackson did just enough to lock up the NFC North and a home playoff game for the Vikes. The health of Pat Williams and their psyche against a dangerous Philadelphia team loom ominous. By the way, welcome to the NFL Playoffs Adrian Peterson.
Guy to Watch: Tavaris and A-Pete are the easy gets. I'm watching to see if Bernard Berrian can continue his recent torrid month and prove the contract was well worth it. His speed dramatically changes games downfield.
#4. (9-7) Arizona Cardinals
Comment: As ugly a 9-7 team you've ever seen, they still won their division for the first time since Kennedy was in the Whire House AND will host an actual playoff game.
Guy to Watch: Darnell Dockett is the only defender - outside possibly Wilson/Rolle - who defenses gameplan against. Michael Turner can't be allowed to easily pass through the guard and tackle spots or this game will be well over before the first half ends.
#5. (11-5) Atlanta Falcons
Comment: At the beginning of the season (or even the mid-way point), if you had the Falcons at 11-5 and a favorite in their opening playoff game...you need to hit up Cesar's Palace immediately. This team is playing with house money. Enjoy watching 'em.
Guy to Watch: John Abraham has shut it down in previous playoff games, going as far to not even suit up. He'll need to be all over Kurt Warner next weekend...or the Falcons won't leave Arizona victors.
#6. (9-6-1) Philadelphia Eagles
Comment: Somehow, the tie-game didn't come back to bite them. Meanwhile, Andy Reid and Donovan F. McNabb are playoff bound yet again. Don't look now Giant fans, but the Iggles might be coming to town in two weeks. Look out.
Guy to Watch: We all know how Brian Westbrook makes this team go. I got it. Instead, I'm taking two. Correll Buckhalter showed Dallas what a "change of pace" nightmare he can be; especially in the passing game as of late. Meanwhile, A$$ante $amuel needs to earn a few more of those $$$ back A$AP.
"One of a Kind...for better or WORSE"
#7. (9-7) Dallas Cowboys
Comment: The biggest off-season train wreck resides in Dallas (sorry Favre & Jet haters). Not only is there the issue of Wade "The Babe" and Jason Garrett's futures, but you also get to deal with TO, the never-ending Romo-saga, and the same December questions that continue to plague this franchise. 1996 was their last playoff win. Man, that seems so long ago...
Guy to Watch: TO. Of course.
#8. (9-7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comment: John Gruden, Jeff Garcia, and the entire organization should be ashamed for losing at home to the Oakland Raiders. Half this roster is out the door and Monte Kiffin is leading the way. One word: regression.
Guy to Watch: The next QB added to this "rotation". Good luck.
#9. (9-7) Chicago Bears
Comment: Kyle Orton may be the future of this franchise at QB; however, the only "skill players" worth feeling confident are Matt Forte and (probably) Greg Olsen. This team needs to unearth a playmaker or two in the upcoming draft, somehow and someway.
Guy to Watch: Is it me or was Brian Urlacher missing this season?
#10. (8-8) Washington Redskins
Comment: Starting 6-2 becomes null and void when you finish 2-6. The real question becomes: is Jason Campbell the QB of the future? You better find out real soon, Mr. Snyder.
Guy to Watch: How soon can Jason Taylor exit the Redskin roster?
#11. (8-8) New Orleans Saints
Comment: Picking up also-rans (McKenzie, Fujita, Vilma, Shockey) isn't working. Meanwhile, what is going on with the RB position - even without Deuce in the mix after this year - and when will this defense be able to stop a JV offense, no less an NFL-one.
Guy to Watch: Is the Jeremy Shockey-experience over already?
..."The Other Others"...
#12. (7-9) San Francisco 49ers
Comment: Mike Singletary put this team on his back and they went 7-9. Kudos. But I gotta ask: what happens when they no longer "sneak up on people", is Shaun Hill their future QB, can Frank Gore stay healthy, and is Mike Martz still have any "genius" left in him?
Guy to Watch: In case you couldn't tell, I'm wondering where Shaun Hill is on the depth chart before Week 1 next season?
#13. (6-10) Green Bay Packers
Comment: Backward steps to say the least. BIG ONES. Rogers seems fine; however, this team too easily slipped to 6-10. What is to be done for a team that likely overachieved in '07 to reach 3-13, yet drastically underproduced its way to double-digit losses in '08?
Guy to Watch: Was giving all that money to Ryan Grant a big mistake?
..."How the 'Mighty' Have Fallen..."
#14. (4-12) Seattle Seahawks
Comment: The team got injured and old all in the same season. Dangerous duo in all the wrong ways. By the way, how stupid does that Deion Branch-deal continue to look???
Guy to Watch: By the way, how much longer is Matt Hasselbeck going to be able to stand up right for more than 10 games in a season, new head coach Jim Mora Jr? What if he can't any longer?
...And then there's "THEM"...
#15. (2-14) St. Louis Rams
Comment: Players L-O-V-E "player-friendly coaches" like Jim Haslett. Duh. But how much do players love losing their last 10 games in a season and appearing to have little to nothing in the pipeline for the future (sorry, Chris Long)?
Guy to Watch: Is Tory Holt much longer for St. Louis?
..."0-16 says it ALL"...
#16. (0-16) Detroit Lions
Comment: I made a real mistake last season thinking the Falcons (post-Vick) were the ugliest situation in football. Motown is in mourning over their "football" franchise. 0-16 shouldn't be wished upon any players or fans. Not even those surviving the post-Millen "Era of Shame" in Detroit.
Guy to Watch: Whichever future #1 overall pick (likely a QB) gets his career ruined next by this franchise. Beware Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford.
I thought I'd hand out some hardware, but I'll save that for later.
AFC coming soon...
OUT: Tampa Bay (winners of the Denny Green Award), Chicago, New York Jets
In the NFC, all teams and seeds have been figured out. The Dallas/Philadelphia game is now a playoff game.
#1: NY Giants
The AFC is slightly more muddled.
#3: New England/Miami
#4: Denver/San Diego
#6: Baltimore/New England/Miami (?)
If Baltimore and Miami, then New England will be the first 11-5 team to not make the playoffs since the expansion of playoffs to six teams from each conference. And Clement will have something to hang his hat on.
- Which coach needs a win today more than anyone else?
- Which coach whose team is currently in playoff position (but not yet clinched) at risk of losing his job if his team loses today?
- Will Rod Marinelli empty the playbook to avoid history?
- If the Patriots lose in the 1pm game and Brett Favre has an early case of the "dead arm", would Eric Mangini give him the hook to save the season?
- How will Dallas D come out after giving up two 70+ yard runs in the closing minutes of their last contest?
Saturday, December 27, 2008
It has been a long time since I had an opportunity to do a set of projections (and predictions), so I have taken advantage of this extended holiday period. As expected,
Because we use the projection/prediction model, there are some picks that are off putting to say the least.
The other is USC among the last four. The Trojans have done exactly squadoosh to justify an at-large bid. Nevertheless, USC storms and norms until mid-January under Tim Floyd. Because of attrition related to recruiting practices (i.e. possessing an utter willingness to take on one-year players), it takes a while for his new players to learn how to defend well. That said, do not be surprised if they come out as the #3 team out of the PAC 10.
If you have any questions, comments, or just wish to send a shout, shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2: Duke (ACC),
3: Gonzaga (WCC), Notre Dame, Purdue (Big Ten),
6: Villanova, Davidson, Xavier (A-10),
7: Miami-FL, Baylor,
8: St. Mary’s, UNLV (Mountain West),
9: Creighton (MVC),
13: VCU (CAA),
15: American (Patriot), Cornell (Ivy),
16: Pacific (Big West), Hampton (MEAC),
Last Four In:
Last Four Out:
Next Four Out:
Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Big Ten: 7/11
Big East: 9/16
Big XII: 5/12
West Coast: 2/8
Mountain West: 2/9
Thursday, December 25, 2008
For those of you not jumping off the ledge, you should be fantasy-free (no true league has anything going on in Week 17) and the official stretch-drive to the playoffs ends (or does it truly begin) this weekend.
Best of luck to all of you on the "playoff" bubble.
Except for Pats fans, of course.
Let's cut the politicking (is that a word?) and jump into the fun!!!
That, my friends, is the ultimate pitty.
Credit: New York Times
NFL Picks: 41-30 [Pretty terrible at 58% success, even if they aren't the "gimmes". Terrible, indeed.]
Upset Special: 14-11 [This record was once close to 5-10, so the 3-0 weekend deserves a BOO YA.]
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (+6.5)
New England smells the playoffs and knows it can put a TON of pressure on the Dolphins. Interestingly, both Miami and the Jets should know the final of this game before their kickoff. How much of an impact that is scares me. Pats in a ROUT. I'm talking 30+ point-W.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles (-1 1/2)
This is a tough game as both teams took major steps backwards. Duh, Clement. Anyways, I'm less inclined to penalize Philly because they were overachieving a bit and the Redskin D has been stout all season. Dallas ran into an angry Baltimore team and it's pass rush didn't seem too affected. While McNabb will obviously be under constant pressure, I wonder if the Dallas O - especially without a 100% Marion Barber III - can click enough in hostile Philly to earn the W and thus a playoff spot. The soap opera won't end...yet. Dallas wins somehow, someway.
Chicago Bears @ Houston Texas (-3)
Houston can finish out the season in style, but they've done that before. Meanwhile, Chicago has to avoid scoreboard watching with the Vikes playing a resting-Giant squad also at 1pm. Somehow, I see Hester making a big play or two and the Bears playing inspired football. Even if it leads to no playoff reward.
Washington Redskins @ San Francisco 49ers (-3)
Singletary appears ready to lock up with the Niners for a few years; meanwhile, Zorn appears to have at least one more year in San Fran. I see Portis and Campbell playing for nothing but pride (maybe contract $$$ for Campbell) and the Skins eeking out a road W.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore (-12 1/2)
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
Ravens roll, but not by 13+. The Jags will attempt to grind it out and make a statement for next year. Spoiling the Ravens' season might be the perfect offseason "bright spot" for an otherwise depressing season.
Miami Dolphins @ NY Jets (-2 1/2)
Jets lose and the fans may cry S-U-C-K. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kellen Clemens take some snaps, even before the 4th quarter. The Jets can't pressure the QB, force turnovers, or drive downfield (outside of the first drive). Unless they have a pick-six (or two) in mind, Miami is winning the AFC East. Who'd have thunk that one?
Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers (-9)
Call me crazy, but I don't see a San Diego 35-10 victory. Of course, winning by even 10 is likely. Thus this tricky spread. Nevertheless, I won't call for the Denver road upset; however, I suspect San Diego will be complacent in the 1st half and then win in the 2nd. I'd feel so much better if this spread were 10...
Best of luck to all this Sunday. Even if the "playoffs" for you will be nothing more than NFL Draft prep...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The tussle between Texas and Wisconsin told us a few things. If you protect the ball and shoot the ball from deep, you can stay in a game but you will not necessarily win. Ultimately, Texas outhustled Wisconsin on the boards and won the game behind huge games from Damion James (18 and 15) and Gary Johnson (16 and 8). What on earth is wrong with Connor Atchley?
Illinois categorically dominated Missouri in their annual rivalry matchup. The Illini shot 57% from the field, 44% from 3-point range, doubled the Tigers in assists and outrebounded the opposition by seven. Meachem and McCarney will get the kudos, but senior point guard Chester Frazier had eight assists, six caroms, and three steals but only two turnovers.
Gordon Hayward was a stat sheet stuffer at Xavier. Hayward, a 6'8", 180-pound freshman only made 4 field goals, but he scored 19 on the strength of 10 made free throws. Add 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and you have another unearthed gem playing for Butler.
Kansas is a team in disarray, but they did have assists on 18 of their 22 field goals in a 84-67 loss at Arizona. Chase Budinger had a very quiet night, but Jordan Hill and Jamelle Horne had double-doubles.
Of all games played last night, only one team reached double digits. The UCLA Bruins (113). Has Michael Roll ever scored 25 points in a pickup game?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
That needs to change...I'm just not sure if I can do it today.
I'll try a theme, but as usual it's going to be a little too self-serving, cliched, and gimmicky.
Hey, it's all I can do!!!
I know...let's butcher a classic (holiday) Christmas song!!!
1) On the 1st Day of Christmas...
You know the rest. Basically, the "mother partridge" feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. Sounds a lot like Bill Parcells with (last year's 1-15) Miami Dolphins to me. During the offseason he set his claws into the organization and did a few things many didn't agree with: hire Tony Sporano, trade Jason Taylor, give big money to Ernest Wilford, and bring over ex-Cowboys like Anthony Fasano/Jason Ferguson. Well, all of the above worked except choice C. Nevertheless, the team is 10-5 and in total control of its playoff destiny. Parcells also had the foresight to keep Chad Pennington in the AFC East with a very manageable 2-year contract. It's been a quiet year for Parcells in Miami only in front of the microphone. His impact has been felt like an after shock on the field.
2) On the 3rd Day of Christmas...
Three turtle doves. Home Alone 2 didn't get it right; instead, it's the three theological virtues. In reference (sorta), what three NFL stars got by on their virtues - instead of their performance - to make the Pro Bowl?
A) Brett Favre had no business being invited to Honolulu, especially after the past month. Despite his team being 6-8, Phillip Rivers leads the NFL in touchdown passes AND Matt Cassell has only struggled in Blitzburgh (who hasn't?) leading his team to 10-5 with a surprisingly deft touch and quicker feet.
B) Clinton Portis was my NFL MVP two months ago and has played as bruised and battered as any back I can remember in recent memory. Nevertheless, Brandon Jacobs - despite missing two weeks - is the heart and soul of the best team in the NFL. While I love Eli, we saw what the Giants were sans-B Jacobs the past two weeks. Insert him this past week into the starting lineup and you notice how much free space Jacobs softens up for Derrick Ward (200+ yards!) in the second half and OT. DeAngelo Williams fans (20 TDs!) might have a legitimate beef too. Portis was a little too irrelevant the past five or six weeks on a team that rode him to 6-2 and then collapsed. While you can blame most of that on Zorn & Campbell, I'll take Jacobs in the Pro Bowl over Portis. This is gonna cause some HEAT!
C) John Abraham needs to be a Pro Bowler. He's stayed healthy (somehow) and has piled up 16.5 sacks and forced 4 fumbles. He is the havoc causer on an emerging Atlanta D. While it's tough to argue with the DEs taken before him, I might cost-cut Jared Allen or even Julius Peppers in exchange for the less talent-surrounded Abraham. He's done more with much less. That means Honolulu for me in a close DE-race.
3) On the 6th Day of Christmas...
The six days of creation of the world. Got it. The first six picks of the recent NFL Draft have had relatively quiet seasons. Almost too quiet. #1 overall pick Jake Long was 50/50 with Dolphin fans on draft day, yet has been a steady contributor and should be for the next 5-6 years (or more, let's not guarantee 10 yet). 2nd overall pick Chris Long has been quieted by a 2-13 team; however, has shown promise and potential at the defensive end position (played in all 15 games, 4 sacks). 3rd pick Matt Ryan - the exception to my rule and my emerging man crush - has the Falcons - yes, the Atlanta Falcons - in the NFL playoffs and somehow eligible for the NFC South division title and maybe even a first-round bye. I don't want to hear any CRAP about the first-to-worst rule in that division either. Many thought this team would struggle for decades after the Vick-debacle (like me!). Fourth pick Darren "Run DMC" McFadden has shown two things: A) An ability to play throw pain B) The need to be in a platoon or at least 2-back system. Of course, he is a RAIDER, so his career may be over with before his rookie contract ends. Fifth pick Glenn Dorsey was considered an absolute steal 24 hours after the draft; yet - especially with the trading of Jared Allen - he is all alone on a relatively talentless KC defensive front. He has 1 sack, but it isn't fair to label him after one season. Vernon Gholston came in with HUGE question marks and has struggled mightily in the Jet 3-4 system (12 tackles and 0 sacks ALL YEAR). He is quickly being labeled a bust, yet has gotten praise from LT (the real one) and will need an offseason or two before he's out of New York and a draft-day villain.
4) On the 10th Day of Christmas...
Ten Lords-a leaping. I almost forgot it was in reference to the 10 Commandments. Sounds like a good basis for fantasy football banter.
A) If Kurt Warner got you to your fantasy championship game, he sure didn't win it for you.
B) If you had a non-Ray Rice Raven RB starting, you sure loved that 4th quarter in Big D.
C) Chad Ocho Cinco better hope his name change gets him drafted next year in the first 8 rounds of most leagues.
D) Michael Turner is gonna be a top 5 pick.
E) Matt Forte is gonna be a first-round pick.
F) What in the world will people do with Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson?
G) Any chance Matt Cassell will go before/in the same round as Tom Brady?
H) Who you got: Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson?
I) Will the Charger D be a force again with the return of Merriman?
J) Which rookie - come on Armin, help us out - will be a first 5-round pick?
I hope you enjoyed the ride. Enjoy the holidays!!!
Monday, December 22, 2008
You can play out ANY scenario you want and get your results. And I mean ANY.
As usual, Yahoo! Sports is the place I go to get the very best.
Here are 5 nuggets from this week and 5 more from next week...
...5 From This Week...
1) How about we eliminate the division champs from the NFC and AFC West in the playoffs? Denver is choking almost as hard as the Jets and the Bolts may sneak in behind Norv Turner of all coaches; meanwhile, the Cardinals are an absolute embarrassment. I don't care when they 'clinched', they're the easiest 1st-round out in years, even at home.
2) Nobody wants New England in the playoffs. Nobody.
3) Brett Favre is going to retire. Mark it down. Let's see how New England acts if Cassell may get courted by the Jets.
4) Matt Ryan and Michael Turner should share the NFL MVP (see above dumby!)
5) Mike Smith and Tony Sporano should share the Head Coach of the Year Award.
...5 For Next Week...
6) If the Chargers win, that sets up Indy @ San Diego in the 1st round. Who doesn't like that drama/rematch? Even I do...
7) If the Eagles beat Dallas at home, neither might be in. Why? Oakland would have to beat Tampa for Philly to get in at 9-6-1. Ditto if the J-E-T-S beat the Fish & Pennington. By the way, it's S-U-C-K now.
8) Baltimore can still get knocked out with a loss. Although they can get in without a W without too bizarre a scenario, barely.
9) With #1 locked up, do the Giants suit up a team against Minnesota?
10) If Chicago loses tomorrow night, the Vikes might not suit up a team either.
Here are a few of the "more" important scenarios to take into account:
-Denver vs. San Diego is FLEXED by NBC. The winner is the AFC's 4-seed. Lock it up.
-Dallas wins and they are in. After all these past few years have seen for the enigmatic wideout of all wideouts, TO needs to help deliver a win in Philly. Wow.
-Miami wins and they are AFC East champs and the #3 seed. Easy. If they lose, there is NO scenario for a playoff birth. NONE.
-New England could end up only the second 11-5 team to NOT make the playoffs. How? Miami & Baltimore winning (both are favored).
The real key - as I see it - is the scheduling of games. Flexing can be done by CBS & Fox as well for the 4pm slate.
But which game gets the national 4pm spotlight? Or do two?
Dallas vs. Philly has FOX written all over it; meanwhile, NY Jets/Miami is a CBS showdown. There are other options; however, I don't see any being as plausible.
The aforementioned two could be very very interesting seeing as Tampa/Oakland should be a lock for 1pm; ditto for Buffalo/New England and Jacksonville/Baltimore. OH THE DRAMA!
Just imagine if New England and B-More win; who do the Jet fans root for between them and the Phins? Seriously? While nobody ever roots for their team to lose (or do they?), will memories of Spygate remind Jet fans a loss to the Fish spells doom for the Patsies?
Note: The team would never feel that way...I hope. Pride is pride. But fans (not me...yet) have sadistic levels of thinking.
While that's playing Devil's Advocate, it's still a game you play with playoff scenarios. While I see ZERO chance of either occurring, obviously there's two ways to get in for New York's not-so-finest:
1) WIN & New England loss to JP Losman & Buffalo (yeah, sure)
2) WIN & Baltimore loss to 5-10 Jacksonville (I'm on it!)
Note: Both are home games for the Patsies and Ravens.
Of course, WINNING in the first place isn't likely. Nevertheless...
It will be as crazy a Week 17 as we've seen in years. Especially if - let's say - the Jets beat the Fins and Iggles the Cowboys (or vice-versa in that second game) and neither of the four are in.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Well, a partial dislocation of my left elbow did the trick!
Two more weeks to go and the NFL season is officially white hot.
Wouldn't you know it, but both the AFC and NFC have every seed up for grabs.
(Note: The exception to the rule came true Thursday night as Indy clinched the #5-seed after defeating the Jags 31-24.)
True, several teams have clinched either a division (Tennessee, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Arizona), a bye (Tenn & Pitt), and others just a playoff spot…wait, none of the “wild-card” are locked up yet (again, except Indy).
Interestingly enough, Carolina can win next week and clinch the #1-seed in the NFC OR lose out and potentially miss the playoffs altogether. Best-case to worst-case, to say the least.
6-8 San Diego is alive; meanwhile, it’s possible an 11-5 Patriot team could miss the playoffs (not likely though). Even crazier is that two 10-6 teams (as opposed to just Cleveland last season) AFC teams and several NFC will likely miss the playoffs.
Imagine if the Falcons and Phins end up 10-6 and both are out of the playoff picture.
The Jets could go from 8-3 and Super Bowl contenders to 9-7 and 2 games out of the playoffs.
Skin fans have sentiments far drearier as their playoff path seems invisible, despite a 6-2 start.
You gotta love this time of year, right? NO.
It’s far too much stress I tell you. Too much!
Fortunately, you have me to kick around…as my picks have suddenly become sublimely average.
NFL Picks: 41-26 [Taking credit for the Bears W over the ‘Aints. Pay can back me up. I swear!]
Upset Specials: 11-10 [If I can get this thing to something like 16-12, it’s a respectable season.]
I’m taking each and every game that MATTERS. HONEST!
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tennessee Titans (+1)
Chucking the Titans to the side of the road is a mistake. An even bigger mistake is noticing how the Steelers do nothing but dominate fourth quarters. With Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth already ruled out, I don’t like Titans chances for brusing up Big Ben and an underachieving Steeler rush game. Tight ends will play major factors in this game and I’ll take the veteran Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu over the emerging talent Michael Griffin at the other key position, safety. That means I’m going Steelers for the cover.
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs (+4)
Don’t sleep on the Phins facing a challenge this week. They play teams close and aren’t likely to blow anyone out. Problem for KC this week (and every week) is turnovers, the pistol formation stifling LJ in the redzone, and the overall lack of playmaking talent on the defensive side of the ball. Pennington won’t have that crippling 3-turnover game that allows 2-12 teams to pull upsets. Phins cruise, which means a win by 7-10. Joey Porter may have 20 sacks on the year after this game for his season tally. 2 extra INTs too.
San Diego Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Not the best time for Tampa to struggle with stopping the run. Then again, LT is a shred of his former self this season. Remember the Bucs are 6-0 at home and they realize their playoff lives are on the line. A division title still remains a possibility; enhanced even more with Jeff Garcia likely back under center. While the Chargers can really put a TON of pressure on Denver (who has no gimme itself this weekend), I like the Bucs to move to 10-5 and end the Charger season across the country.
Buffalo Bills @ Denver Broncos (No Line)
Not sure what’s going on with the psyche of either team right now; however, I’m taking the Broncos to win a close one. In all honesty, I flipped a coin.
Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings (-3)
The game is in Minnesota, so I’m taking the Vikings. You need more? A-Pete versus The Burner should be amazing. The real storyline may be Ryan & Jackson though. While I’m not sold on Tavaris, I am also not sold on the Atlanta D on the road. Vikes win, with probably a push on this 3. I'm pulling for the upset though.
Carolina Panthers @ NY Giants (-3)
Another game that screams for a push. The G-Men must improve the juice in their pass rush - despite their lack of depth this time of the season - and force Jake Delhomme to rush throws into a crowded secondary. While I don’t want to go 0-3 in consecutive weeks with the G-Men, I also don’t know if the Panthers will run all that well against the Giants. I’ll take New York’s finest football team. If DeAngelo Williams was a Pro Bowl snub, we'll know after this weekend.
[Picking Against My Own Team] Upset Special #1:
New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks (+5)
I pissed and moaned last week and the Jets did almost everything they could to lose at home - after leading 14-3 (with the ball at midfield early in the 2nd quarter) – to the lowly Bills. Nevertheless, a win is a win. Or is it? While some Jets are talking about the lack of need for style points…I’m questioning offensive playcalling, a bland defensive scheme, zero intricacy with blitz packages, and a lack of reliance on the rush offense with the lead. Seriously, only 1 carry for Leon Washington? I’m calling for the outright upset here by the Hawks. Why? I know the Jets all too well. 8-3 was maybe the worst thing that happened to this team and coaching staff.
[Monday Night] Upset Special #2:
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears (-4 ½)
Spoiler alert! Not sure why, but it will be!
[Quasi-]Upset Special #3:
Baltimore Ravens @ Dallas Cowboys (-4 ½)
Obviously, this is a VERY different game if it’s being played in Baltimore than in Texas Stadium; especially weather-wise. The health of Tony Romo may quickly come into question - especially considering the ferocity of hits the Ravens lay on opposing QBs - as without Romo the Boys are DOA. Ditto for the patience of Cam Cameron in Joe Flacco if DeMarcus Ware can get around the corner and pressure the rookie QB. If Flacco can't make big throws downfield, the Ravens won't dink and dunk their way to a road W. Two other factors really stick out: the Ravens unbalanced line and the lack of a Raven running game. One needs to help the other as the new line-formation won't do enough if it's only intention is to contain Ware on the edge. My pick is the Cowboys; however, I’m sticking with the Ravens to keep it close. Very close.
Ten Fantasy Insights/Questions on Championship Weekend:
1) If you don't have your championship in Week 16…your league stinks.
2) If you are pairing up a regular season title with a potential playoffs title, that’s awesome.
3) If you are pairing up a regular season tite, point’s lead, and a playoff title…you are awesome.
4) If you are the 8-seed playing for the playoff championship, I have two words for you: silver lining.
5) If your NFL team is out of it, I hope your fantasy team isn’t.
6) Whose your fantasy MVP: Kurt Warner, Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, or maybe even Tony Gonzalez?
7) Whose your fantasy LAMO over the year: Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Derek Anderson, or maybe even LT as your #1 overall pick?
8) Which rookie QB did you ride to a greater fantasy surprise: Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco?
9) Who's the #1 pick next year: Adrian Peterson or the field?
10) Is Matt Cassell a top 7-8 QB – wherever he is – next season (fantasy football-wise).
See you next week…to close out the regular season (gulp).
Friday, December 19, 2008
It's a dicey situation. Sadly, coaches are held to higher standards than their players. It comes as no surprise - whether he's guilty of all charges or not - that he wants to talk basketball and is "upset" for his players. Obviously, he was in the wrong at some point. Only the people there will ever know the truth. As for the greater ramifications, it's sad how easily athletes, celebrities, and anyone of some sort of fame can blame issues on alcohol.
Why is it okay for alcohol to cause us to say things we might not have before, make inappropriate advances towards others, or lead us down the darkest of roads? I've been drunk in my life and it's never caused me to do anything I didn't want to. Instead, it only allowed me to have a built-in excuse. Fortunately, I've never been dumb enough to start hitting people, bursting out racial or prejudice slurs, or anything of the sort. I don't see people suddenly speaking foreign languages they learned in high school, forgetting how to use the bathroom, or other "acts" that alcohol might impair you with. It's as if you can blame this substance for you forgetting how to be a human being.