Saturday, September 30, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 4

The column that I'm sure everyone waits in anticipation for... my picks for the week against the spread for Week 4. I don't want the suspense to build, so let's just start!

Chargers (-2) over Ravens - I love the Ravens D, and I loved the Ravens picking up Steve McNair at the time... but, McNair has just not played well so far. He's skipping a lot of passes to open receivers and has just generally been inaccurate. He's like a less mobile Michael Vick with a little better arm, and Jamal Lewis isn't good enough right now to carry the entire offense. Even in Baltimore, I'll take the Chargers to win and cover.

Saints (+7) over Panthers - I do like the Panthers to win this game, but the spread seems a little high. The Saints were awesome last week. Great defense, solid offense, and good special teams. Deuce and Bush are going to win them a lot of weeks... for Carolina, they almost blew a 17-0 lead against Chris Simms and his ruptured spleen... I think they're the best in the West now with Steve Smith back, but I'll take the Saints to cover.

Texans (+3.5) over Dolphins - The Dolphins struggled mightily in beating the Titans last week. The Texans are an awful club, but I like David Carr to find Andre Johnson enough to pick the Texans to win the game outright. Something's rotten in Miami, and it's not just Daunte Culpepper.

Colts (-9) over Jets - There's lots of reasons to pick the Jets to cover... it's in NY, the Jets are playing very well right now, Chad Pennington is back, and the Colts can't stop the run or run the ball themselves... but I just have a feeling the Colts will come out and whomp the Jets.

Cowboys (-9.5) over Titans - I think TO will wind up playing and have a nice game. That, combined with the Cowboys 2-headed RB situation, and the fact that the Cowboys D should eat up Kerry Collins + whatever RB Tennessee starts this week, and I'll take Dallas to cover. I still maintain that Tennessee is the only team that will be able to challenge Oakland for the #1 pick in the draft.

Falcons (-7.5) over Cardinals - This is one I have a tough time picking. The Falcons looked so bad on Monday night, and the Cardinals have all that talent on offense. But, I think Atlanta should be able to run all over the Cardinals defense, and they should be able to put pressure on Warner, and, well, let's just say that I think Matt Leinart will be starting next week.

Vikings (+1) over Bills - So the Vikings were a fumble away from beating one of the top 2 teams in the NFC, and the Bills lost by 8 to the Jets... and the Bills are favored? Maybe in past years, when the Vikings could never win on the road, I could understand more. But the Vikings have already notched a road win, and so this shouldn't faze them. I think Pat Williams & Co. can shut down Willis McGahee, causing Losman to pass, and regardless of how decent Losman looked last week, I'll take the Vikings here.

Chiefs (-7) over 49ers - I'm not a big Damon Huard guy (but then, who is?), but I think he should be able to sufficiently hand the ball of to Larry Johnson. A lot. And that should be enough to cover the spread at home.

Rams (-6) over Lions - The Packers just beat the Lions by 7 at Ford Field. The Rams are traditionally a very good home team. Yeah, I'll take the Rams to cover.

Browns (-3) over Raiders - This is a vow from me... until the Raiders actually cover once, I will not pick them. Bad coach, bad QB, bad line, yada yada yada... Plus, I do like the Browns. Charlie Frye gets the job done, and he has some emerging targets. Browns are the pick.

Redskins (+3) over Jaguars - The Jags defense is great, but I think the Skins are a little underrated. They came in and lots of people were predicting Super Bowl, and then they played 2 poor games in a very complicated offense basically without their All-Pro running back, and now people are writing them off. At home, with a healthy Clinton Portis, I think they can beat the Jaguars. The Jags offense isn't that good right now either (well, unless Maurice Jones-Drew has something to say about it).

Bengals (-6) over Patriots - I'm sorry, but in Cincy, I don't see how New England can compete. I think they'll be ok by the end of the year when the receivers are more in sink with Brady, but right now the offense is not clicking. After 3 games, Ben Watson leads the team with 11 receptions, followed by Troy Brown and his 10. I think the Bengals will be able to bottle up the run a little bit, and then that great offense should be able to score enough to cover the spread.

Seahawks (+3.5) over Bears - This is tough without Shaun Alexander playing, but I think the Seahawks have enough weapons with Hasselbeck and the 4-WR sets. Offensively for Chicago, Rex Grossman showed he can be rattled some when pressure is put on. Plus, the running game has been non-existent for the Bears. I think the Seahawks win a pretty low-scoring game.

Eagles (-11) over Packers - The spread is pretty high, but I see a HUGE game for Donovan McNabb. Rex Grossman, Drew Brees, and Jon Kitna have passed all over Green Bay in the first 3 weeks, and McNabb is looking better than he ever has in his career. Big day for McNabb, big day for the Eagles, and a MNF win over Green Bay.

Last Week: 6-7-1
Season: 25-20-1

Friday, September 29, 2006

Composite NFL Power Rankings

I'm not really creative enough to create my own power rankings, but I thought it might be fun to look at some of the more well-known NFL Power Rankings, and find where the teams are average placed. So I loooked up the Power Rankings for ESPN, Dr. Z, CBS Sportsline, and Fox Sports, then I went crazy in Excel to figure out the averages. I'll put them in order (and their averages) and comment afterward:

1.5 - Indianapolis Colts
2.0 - Cincinnati Bengals
2.5 - Seattle Seahawks
4.5 - Chicago Bears
5.3 - Baltimore Ravens
5.5 - San Diego Chargers
7.0 - Jacksonville Jaguars
7.8 - Denver Broncos
10.0 - Philadelphia Eagles
11.5 - New Orleans Saints
12.0 - Minnesota Vikings
12.0 - New England Patriots
12.5 - Atlanta Falcons
13.0 - Pittsburgh Steelers
13.3 - Dallas Cowboys
17.3 - St. Louis Rams
17.5 - Carolina Panthers
17.8 - New York Giants
18.3 - New York Jets
20.5 - Washington Redskins
20.8 - Buffalo Bills
22.3 - Arizona Cardinals
22.8 - Kansas City Chiefs
23.5 - Miami Dolphins
25.3 - San Francisco 49ers
25.5 - Green Bay Packers
27.8 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28.0 - Cleveland Browns
28.3 - Detroit Lions
29.8 - Tennessee Titans
30.8 - Houstan Texans
32.0 - Oakland Raiders

  • The Indianapolis Colts got 3 of the 4 first-place votes, with the Bengals receiving the other one. In the ranking that the Bengals were #1 (Dr. Z), the Colts were actually 3rd with the Seahawks coming in 3rd.
  • Colts, Bengals, and Seahawks were the top 3 in all 4 rankings.
  • The Oakland Raiders secured the bottom spot in all 4 rankings.
  • The biggest disagreement for individual teams from the polls was with the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons. Both received a #9 vote and a #15 vote... no other teams had a range bigger than 5.
  • If you had told me before the year that the Saints would be above teams like New England and Pittsburgh and actually deserve to be there, I probably would have laughed.
  • On the same token, if you had bet me the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be below teams like the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers and very much deserve to be that low, I would have lost a lot of money.
Anyway, those are just a few of my quick thoughts. If you create your own rankings or know of others I should use, just email me or leave a column, and depending on if I'm abitious enough to do this next week, I'll include that ranking as well.

What's the biggest surprises from this list?

College Football Picks: Week 5

I'll just make quick picks because I got another coming tonight (to make up for last night, where I had to study for 2 tests!), so I'll just pick the big games and post the scores I've got:

(22) Boise St. 31, Utah 27

(5) Florida 31, Alabama 13

(14) Oregon 34, Arizona St. 27

(24) Georgia Tech 13, (11) Virginia Tech 10

(1) Ohio St. 24, (13) Iowa 16

Last Week: 5-0
Season: 14-6

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Does a team from the NL Central have to go to the playoffs?

Unfortunately, according to my sources, the answer to that question is yes. What a shame.

As of sometime last week, the Cardinals led the Astros by 8.5 games in the division and appeared to have a playoff berth locked up... then they lost 7 in a row, Houston won 7 in a row, Cincy got hot, and all of a sudden we have a 3-team race.

St. Louis - 80-76, -
Houston - 79-78, 1.5 GB
Cincinnati - 78-79, 2.5 GB

Ouch. The Cardinals are 1-8 this month playing such great teams as Milwaukee (73-84) and Houston. Looks like they really want this division.

Here's the remaining schedules:

St. Louis: San Diego (1), Milwaukee (4)
Houston: @ Pittsburgh (2), @ Atlanta (3)
Cincinnati: @Florida (2), @ Pittsburgh (3)

St. Louis also may have a game that was postponed Sunday, September 17th against the Giants, although to be honest, I'm not really sure what that's all about. Anyone know if that will get played?

Based on remaining opponents, the Reds seem to have the easiest schedule, but with them being down 2.5 games with 5 games left and 2 teams ahead, chances of winning this seem to be slim and none (before Tuesday's games, they stood at 1.4%). So we can probably scratch them off.

Which would leave it between the Cards and Astros. Even though Houston has 2 left against Pittsburgh, St. Louis probably has the easier schedule because Atlanta has a better record than Milwaukee, and St. Louis is at home for their remaining games while Houston is on the road. However, Houston just won 2 on the road while St. Louis just lost 2 at home. Baseball is a funny game.

In the end, I suspect that the Cardinals lead is just a little too large. 1.5 games is a lot to make up at this point in the year, and with the Cardinals playing their last 5 at home (where they are 46-29 on the year), I suspect they can at least win 2 or 3 of these last 5, which may be enough to hold on, unless the Astros remain invincible.

Either way, this at least provides us with some type of playoff race other than the NL Wildcard (which is pretty darn solid). Can the Astros do it?

Twins Magic Number: 0

(I apologize in advance for the fanboy-esque post... I'm just a little excited right now!)

After starting the year at 25-33, who would have thought the playoffs would be in the cards for the Twins? Admittedly, probably not me. But I'll admit the hearing the words "The Twins are going to the playoffs," is music to my ears.

With the Twins 8-1 win over the Royals and the White Sox 14-1 loss to the Indians (way to go out with a bang!) the Twins are assured of at least the Wildcard. The magic number is 0.

Meanwhile, the race for the division is still on. With 6 games to play, the Twins stand 1 (one) game out from the Tigers. This is a little misleading, however, because the Tigers have the tiebreaker. So in other words, if the Twins want to avoid a first round matchup with the Bronx Bombers, they have to win 2 more games than the Tigers do in the last week. The odds are against them, but then, the odds have been against them all year.

In the clincher, the Twins followed the same formula they followed all year... young pitcher on the mound, "pirahnas" getting on base, and the mashers in the middle driving them in. Boof Bonser was once again excellent, and appears (at least in my eyes) to have a strangleholdon the #2 spot in the rotation. With 6.1 good innings, his record is now at 7-5 with an ERA of 4.15. Thank You Brian Sabean indeed!

Offensively, the Twins were patient, drawing 6 walks. But they also got the power. Justin Morneau cracked his 34th HR of the year, and is now at 129 RBI, 2nd most in the AL. Torii Hunter also hit his 30th HR, meaning that after so many years of not having a HR hitter, the Twins have 2 this year. Funny how that works. Another possible milestone for Hunter is that he is now close to reaching 100 RBI. He needs just 5 in the last 6 games to become the 3rd Twins player (Morneau, Cuddyer) to reach that mark this year. Should we resign Torii? I don't know. But it's been fun watching him play for the last month?

In the race for the batting title, Joe Mauer helped his cause with a 2/3 day, raising the average to .349. His main competitors both had good days as well - Derek Jeter went 2/4 to raise the average to .340, and Robinson Cano went 2/4, leaving his average at .342. With 6 games left, this looks like it will be a very tight race, although it is still Mauer's to lose, obviously.

But with the playoff spot clinched, there's no need to worry about the batting title, awards, or anything else. Just enjoy what a marvelous ride it's been so far, and hope that the good times continue.

One thing is for sure... it's a good time to be a Twins fan!

Monday, September 25, 2006

NFL Week 3 Recap

Back with the ever-popular (not) NFL recap... some good games, some crappy games. But that, I suppose, is the nature of the NFL.

Dolphins 13, Titans 10 - Well, Miami sucks worse than everyone thought. They struggled through the first 2 games, but I didn't think they'd have any troubles with a bad Tennessee team. And then Tennessee was up 7-3 at half and it took a late FG from Miami to get the win. It was a regular Daunte Culpepper game... accurate, but not a lot of yards, took a few sacks. Only difference is that they played such a bad team it was enough to escape.

Colts 21, Jaguars 14 - I'm not sure we learned anything here that we didn't already know. Indy has lots of trouble running the ball right now, and the Jaguars defense is real good. The Jaguars defense held Indy to 14 points (with the other 7 coming on Special Teams), and Peyton Manning hit less than 50% of his passes. The thing we really learned is that Maurice Jones-Drew is definitely a big-play guy for this Jags offense.

Redskins 31, Texans 15 - As I thought, people were panicking way too early in Washington. Sure, it was the Texans, but once they got a relatively healthy Clinton Portis playing, it's amazing how that did wonders for the offense. For the Texans, Andre Johnson is real good, but the offense and defense continue to look rather mediocre under Gary Kubiak. And ugly 0-3 for them.

Packers 31, Lions 24 - And the Pack win Round 1 in the Battle for the Bottom of the NFC North! Brett Favre, yeah, he can still bring it. After watching Detroit these past 2 weeks and Seattle this week, I have to ask... how in the world did Detroit hold Seattle to 9 points in Week 1?

Jets 28, Bills 20 - That Mangini guy is showing some signs of being a pretty good coach, as the Jets move to 2-1. The Bills outran and outthrew the Jets, but turnovers caused this one to swing into the Jets favor. Losman threw 1 INT and fumbled 2 away (one of which was returned for a TD), and that was all she wrote. Don't look now, but the Jets are tied for the division lead.

Bengals 28, Steelers 20 - Yes, these Bengals are definitely for real. Like the Jets/Bills game, the Steelers actually outscored the Bengals, but turnovers were the difference. Make that 5 of them for the Steel Curtain. Carson Palmer was a lot better than Ben Roethlisberger on this day, and that was the story of the game.
Panthers 26, Bucs 24 - Here is something I don't understand. Last week, DeAngelo Williams was Carolina's best offensive player. This week, he got 4 carries and 0 receptions. I guess this is why I'm not a head coach. Regardless, that Panther offense is about 10 times better with Steve Smith in there, as he immediately produced a 100 yard game, as the Panters eeked out the victory in Tampa.

Bears 19, Vikings 16 - Ugh. Pass.

Ravens 15, Browns 14 - Yeah, hold off on that Ravens Super Bowl talk for just a minute here, at least until they can get some consistent offense. Jamal Lewis was ok, Steve McNair was pretty bad for 3 quarters, and the Ravens needed a late Matt Stover FG to sneak by the winless Browns without a decent RB. I'm sorry, I just can't see these guys competing with the Bengals in the North. That said, I really like the trio of Charlie Frye, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow... a nice foundation there as long as Winslow can keep his head on straight.

Seahawks 42, Giants 30 - The game was definitely a lot more of a blowout than the score would indicate. Looks like the Giants may be closer to the team we saw in the first half against Philly than the team we saw in the 2nd half. I couldn't really watch this game after about the first quarter, and it wasn't because I had something else to do. It was just ugly.

Eagles 38, 49ers 24 - If it weren't for Frank Gore fumbling at the goal line and the Eagles returning it for a TD, this game may have come down to the end (although that would have only made it 24-10 at the time). But regardless, Frank Gore came back down to earth a little bit, while the Eagles offense did not. McNabb looks great, Westbrook gained 117 yards on only 8 carries, and Reggie Brown had a big day. Good fall all around for the Iggles.

Rams 16, Cardinals 14 - Everyone seemed to anoint the Cardinals as sleepers, but someone apparently forgot to tell Kurt Warner, becuase 3 INT and 1 fumble lost later, the Cards are now 1-2. The good news for Arizona is that Edge finally got going, with 94 yards on the ground. Someone told me this earlier, and I agree... Jeff Wilkins is an extremely valuable kicker for fantasy football, because the Rams just can't get it in the endzone. I believe that's 11 FG in 3 games for Wilkins.

Broncos 17, Patriots 7 - I think this game was mostly about the Broncos defense. Champ Bailey shuts down one side of the field, but they also shut down the run (50 yards rushing), and held Brady to a low YPA. That, combined with 2 big plays from Javon Walker was enough for Denver to win this game. One good sign for NE is that Doug Gabriel established himself as a guy who can make some plays at the WR position, which is a rarity for NE these days.

And that's Week 2. The Monday nighter features Atlanta going to New Orleans... my prediction:
Falcons - 27
Saints - 13

Saturday, September 23, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 3

And back for another week of thrilling picks! Jacksonville/Indapolis is the big game on the schedule, but there's a lot of good inter-divisional matchups this week.

Redskins (-4) over Texans - The Redskins have not looked good the first 2 weeks, but I think everyone's overreacting a little bit. It's the first 2 games with a new, complex offense, and it's largely been without their best player. The Texans have a trio of Ron Dayne, Samkon Gado, and Wali Lundy at RB. David Carr is playing very well, but Gregg Williams is smart... I think he'll make the Texans run the ball a lot, and I'm not convinced they can.

Jets (+5.5) over Bills - I just find it really hard to pick Buffalo favored by this much with JP Losman as their QB. The defense has been great, and the Bills are at home, but I can't get over JP Losman here. So my pick is the Jets.

Jaguars (+7) over Colts - I still think the Colts will win the game, but 7 is a pretty big spread for as well as Jacksonville played Monday night. I think Joseph Addai will start to get more and more carries for the Colts, and they will just be better and better offensively when that happens. Plus, that Manning fellow is good. But the Jags always play the Colts tough, and I think they'll be able to keep this one close, even in Indy.

Lions (-7) over Packers - The Lions being favored by 7? I guess that shows what the oddsmakers think about the Pack. And me picking the Lions to cover about shows what I think of them as well.

Steelers (-2) over Bengals - I love the Bengals this year, and Palmer is playing great... but it's hard to see the Steelers falling to 1-2. Big Ben should be healthier and the Steelers are at home. Plus, the Bengals will be without their starting center. This is a weak vote for the Steelers, because I think this should be a well-played and competitve game.

Dolphins (-10.5) over Titans - I have very little confidence in Daunte Culpepper... he's not completely healthy, he's making dumb mistakes, taking too many sacks, etc. But, I think the Titans are the worst team in the NFL. Yes, worse than the Raiders. Even with the enormous coaching edge that anyone has over Art Shell. Vince Young should start to see more and more action, and while that's good for the long-run, it's not so good for the short-term.

Vikings (+4) over Bears - so after yesterday we know all about the Vikings and all about the Bears... but who will win the game this week? Well, I think the Bears win a tight one... but I'm still not sold on their offense, especially if Minnesota can stop the run and force Grossman to throw. Plus, I can't pick against the Vikings at home.

Panthers (-3) over Bucs - If Steve Smith plays, I like Carolina here. DeAngelo Williams established last week that he will be a huge contributor offensively, and the defense was superb. As for the Bucs, it appears I significantly overrated them, because they can't do anything offensively, and that won't change against Carolina.

Ravens (-7) over Browns - I admit... I traded for Steve McNair in Fantasy Football and am now a little worried after a couple of subpar performances. Still, the defense is so good that I think the Ravens can score enough points to cover the spread.

Giants (+3.5) over Seahawks - This is purely a gut feeling after the way the Giants finished last week... Seahawks are very talented, but Alexander hasn't been that great. If Strahan and Usi can put pressure on Hasselbeck off the edge, I like the Giants here. Eli Manning's darn good, and the whole offense is very talented. The logic in me says to go with Seahawks, but I'm going with my gut and taking the Giants.

Eagles (-6) over 49ers - The Niners are as improved as any team in football, but I think they'll be taking on any angry Eagle team, and I don't expect Andy Reid to lighten up if his team gets the lead. I see a big day for McNabb and the Eagles, as they go into SF and get a win, which is definitely not as easy as it used to be.

Rams (+4.5) over Cardinals - Ok, the Rams did not look good at all last week against the 49ers. Consider this another gut feeling.

Broncos (+7) over Patriots - Talk about winning ugly... last week the Broncos beat the Trent Green-less Chiefs 9-6 in OT while the Patriots held off the Jets for a 24-17 win. Both teams are having some of the same problems - they can't always pass the ball. For the Broncos, the problem has been Jake Plummer. For the Patriots, Tom Brady hasn't had a whole lot of guys to throw to. This week, I see the Broncos being a little better offensively because Shanahan is really smart, but I also see Brady doing just enough to win the game, but not cover the spread. Broncos are the pick.

Falcons (-4) over Saints - 2-0 is 2-0 is 2-0, but the Saints win have come against Cleveland and Green Bay. Atlana has run the ball all over the field against Carolina and Tampa Bay. I love Reggie Bush, I like The Deuce, and the Saints are a decent bunch, but I just can't see them slowing down Atlanta's run game. Like, at all. I like the Falcons to win by 10+ points.

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 19-13

Friday, September 22, 2006

Interview with a Bears Fan

Like way back in the day (read: 2 months ago) when I interviewed a Tigers fan and vice versa, I am back at it, this time with The Zoner from Zoner Sports, who happens to be a Bears fan versus my being a Vikings fan, which made this a natural match.

Me: The question on everyone's (or at least every fantasy player's) mind - is Rex Grossman for real? He's had a great first 2 games, can he keep it up consistently? What's the difference so far this year for him?

Zoner Sports: I heard a commentator say recently that here in Chicago we tend to be so reactionary. He’s right. Before the last preseason game there was plenty of Brian Griese talk. Rex had a terrible preseason until then. Now he’s the next Peyton Manning.

But I think most Bears fans have thought Rex could be a good pro if he could get the experience and stay healthy. Last week bore that out a bit. And that’s the difference so far—health and comfort factor, as well as Ron Turner calling great games. Don’t expect 35 TD passes, but these certainly aren’t your father’s Bears.

Me: What exactly is going on with the running back situation? Are Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson just splitting carries? What do you think should happen there?

Zoner Sports: Lovie Smith has made it his practice to always play the player that the staff thinks is the better player. He did again this week by naming Danieal Manning the starter and moving Chris Harris to nickel back. Eventually, Benson will assume the load for the Bears. When that will happen is anyone’s guess. If Benson can break some long runs I wouldn’t be surprised to see it sooner rather than later. Jones will not be a Bear next year.
But for now TJ is the starter and that’s how it should be. Most teams now use 2 backs to some extent and it can work.

Me: What is the Bears biggest weakness?

Zoner Sports: Right now hardly anything. But I would say the one thing I’d like to see on Sunday is the Bears stopping the run. Ahman Green ran for 110 in Week 1 after being out for a long time. If Chester Taylor has a good game, teams will say that’s the way to attack the Bears D—to run right at them.

Me: What is your prediction for Sunday's game? Can the Vikings score on the Bears defense?

Zoner Sports: The Vikings have beat 2 teams that a lot of people thought would be in the postseason. I don’t think nationally they are getting many props just yet. The Bears have been amazing, but they played Detroit and the Pack. This is a great ‘shake out’ game for both teams. I hope it’s Bears domination, but a safer prediction is Bears 20, Vikings 13.

Me: Assuming Rex Grossman is for real, do the Vikings realistically have any chance in the division? Bears have the best defense in the NFL, and if the offense is even average, is there a chance for anyone else to win the division?

Zoner Sports: I look it at like this: If the Bears could go 11-5 last year with basically no passing game, what will they do with a healthy Rex and an additional RB in Benson, who was hurt for a lot of last year? If Rex and the offense keep playing like they have, it won’t just be the North—the entire NFC won’t have a chance.

Also, remember to check out his blog for my answers to his questions about the Vikings! Should be a great game Sunday between 2 hard-nosed defenses.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 4

Normally I preview the top 5 games on Friday, but since I'm planning an interview with Zoner Sports about this weekend's Vikings/Bears matchup, this will be pushed up a day! Unfortunately, there are no great matchups like last week... heck, on paper, there looked to be about 5 games last week that projected to be better than any this week... but let's not let that derail us.

Alabama at Arkansas - Not the most riveting matchup on the field, but there's an excellent rivalry here, and these teams are basically fighting for third place in the SEC West after Auburn and LSU. Both teams eeked out wins against Vanderbilt, but that's about it. The key to this game is really how Arkansas freshman QB Mitch Mustain plays against a solid Bama defense. If he plays well, Arkansas wins. If he struggles and gets rattled, Alabama wins. I like his talent to be the difference at home. ARKANSAS 17-14.

Wisconsin at (6) Michigan - After last week, we all know what Michigan is capable of, the key is for them to bring that type of energy every week. With Chad Henne, Michael Hart, and Mario Manningham, they have the offensive talent to compete for a Big 10 title. Wisconsin won't be an easy game though. They're always a solid team, and John Stocco is one of the underrated QBs in a great Big 10. Also, freshman RB PJ Hill Jr. is performing, with 415 rushing yards after 3 games. These guys will help the Badgers put forth a good effort, but I don't see an upset happening in the Big House. MICHIGAN 31 - 17

(22) Arizona St. at (22) California - I really like Rudy Carpenter, and I think he's one of the best QBs in the country. After 3 games he's thrown for 842 yards and 9 TD. However, Cal has rebounded nicely after the Tennessee debacle, especially QB Nate Longshore. After putting up 2 straight solid games, it looks like Cal now has at least a little balance in the offense. The continued improvement of Longshore, along with the explosiveness of Marshawn Lynch is enough to hold off a talent Arizona St. offense. CALIFORNIA 38-31.

(12) Notre Dame at Michigan St. - The Spartans have won 7 of 9 in this matchup, and with Drew Stanton at QB, they have the talent to make it 8 of 10. They'll be taking on a determined Notre Dame team, who got embarrassed at home last week by Michigan. Heralded as a Heisman candidate by everyone, Brady Quinn showed he can become rattled and inaccurate on the deep ball, which is what happened last week. How does he respond? Under the tutelage of Charlie Weis, I think he comes back and plays a great game this week. With these offenses and defenses, whoever has the ball last might win. NOTRE DAME 41-38.

(24) Penn St. at (1) Ohio St. - The Nittany Lions held off to beat the Buckeyes this year, and if the Buckeyes don't pay attention, Penn St. has the talent to come in and beat them again. Penn St. has talented players offensively. Tony Hunt is a very solid RB, and they have a bevy of talented sophomore receivers. However, I think there will be too much Troy Smith in this game... he's dominating everyone through the air, and I expect that to continue. OHIO ST. 34-14.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 9-6

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Feels like a links day!

Ok, I had to do a lot of studying for my first Accounting test Wednesday (think of me at about 5:15 CDT!), so I didn't really have time to write something cool and exciting (like I ever do anyway). Which means it's a perfect day to spread some cool links around in the hopes that it will point at least one person to a page they like!

First off, don't look now, but the Minnesota Twins are a 1/2 game behind the Detroit Tigers for the division lead. And Justin Morneau went 5/5 in the game, bumping his average up to .326, and getting his 124th RBI of the year, only 5 behind David Ortiz for the AL Lead. Yes, his MVP argument is strengthening everyday.

I think I agree with Bruins Nation in that Oklahoma is overreacting just a wee bit to the blown call. There is no doubt that it was a completely blown call, and there is absolutely no excuse for missing it both on the field and and in the replay booth... and I can even kinda agree with asking the game to be voided (though it definitely should not be), but now they're talking about canceling their game at Washington next year. I understand that Oklahoma takes their football seriously, but threatening phone calls to the replay official are a little much. Not that that's never been done before, but it's time to move on. Which is what I'll do now.

Why is Deadspin the best around? Exhibit A. Not only is the post itself funny, but the comments are absolutely hilarious.

Kevin Antcliff is back in business on the newly created Mile High Sports!

This didn't take long (and I can't say I blame Lions fans!)

Erasmus James is done for the year... great. :(

Anyway, this is just a little bit to whet your appetite... I'll be back tomorrow with a regularly scheduled post!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Assessing the Playoff and Division Races

With 2 weeks left in the MLB season, now's a good time to take a look at who's winning the divisions, who's in the Wildcard lead in each League, and who has a chance to make the playoffs.

AL East: This one is pretty much over. Yankees hold a 10 game lead with 12 games left to play. I've really been amazed at how quickly the Sox have fallen... they were leading if I recall at the All-Star break, and then they made no moves at the deadline, and then the 5-game sweep, and it's been all downhill from there. One semi-interesting note here is the Jays are only 2 games behind Boston for 2nd in the division, and they haven't been there for a while.

AL Central/Wildcard: I combine these only because it looks pretty certain that the Wildcard winner will be coming out... which leaves 2 spots open for 3 teams. As of right now, the Tigers are in the lead, the Twins are 1.5 behind, and the Sox are 6 behind. Here are the remaining schedules:

Twins: @ BOS (3), @ BAL (3), KC (4), CHI (3)
Tigers: @ CHI (2), @ BAL (1), @ KC (3), TOR (3), KC (3)
White Sox: DET (2), SEA (4), @CLE (3), @MIN (3)

The way all of these teams are playing right now, I think Chicago is the odd team out. Their pitching has been inconsistent, and they don't have quite enough offense to make up for it, which is why they're 4-6 in their last 10 and things aren't getting any better. For the division title, I think the Tigers have built up a little too big of a lead and their schedule is a little easier than the Twins. So I have the Tigers winning with the Twins taking the Wildcard.

AL West: A's lead by 6.5 games and they have 13 games left (12 games left for the Angels)... it's more possible for a comeback here than the AL East, but it would take a collossal collapse and I just don't see that happening, as the A's are pitching pretty well and playing good baseball.

NL East: The Mets just clinched Monday... so move along, nothing to see here.

NL Central: Despite a pretty mediocre team outside of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have managed to build up a 7 game lead in the division, mostly thanks to the extreme awfulness of everyone else. 2nd place Cincy is 4 games under .500.

NL West: And finally an interesting race. It's been back-and-forth lately, but as of now it's the Dodgers that hold a 1/2 game edge in the division over the Padres. A 3rd team, the Giants, is still holding out some hope as well, 4.5 games back. I like the Padres here, because I think their pitching is a little better than the Dodgers.

NL Wildcard: This is potentially the most interesting race... the Giants and Marlins are just barely in the discussion, but they pretty much have to win out at this point. So it'll basically come down to whoevers loses the West and the Phillies. Right now the Padres hold a 1.5 game lead on the Phils. It looks like the Dodgers and Phillies have better overall pitching than the Phils, but the Phils do have Ryan Howard, who's been out of his mind since the All-Star break. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll get quite enough help, which I why I like the loser of the West (the Dodgers in my predictions here) to get the consolation prize of the Wildcard.

Agree with the picks? Disagree with the picks?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

NFL Week 2 Recap

As always, a look at all of the action from Sunday:

Colts 43, Texans 24 - This score is deceiving, because the game wasn't even this close. The Colts led 30-3 after 3 quarters, and Manning finished with 400 yards. By the way, now is officially the time to add Joseph Addai to your fantasy teams if possible. 82 yards rushing (on 16 carries), 22 yards receiving and a TD. With Manning drawing all the attention, Addai should have running room provided he gets the carries. And by the way, now's the time to drop any Texans RBs that you have on your fantasy team.

Saints 34, Packers 27 - The Packers were playing at home, jumped out to a 13-0 lead, Brett Favre played well... and they still lost. Reggie Bush showed he can still contribute even without running much... he had just 5 rushing yards on 6 carries... but he caught 8 balls for 68 yards, and got 36 yards worth of punt returns. Meanwhile, Deuce ran for 2 scores. Get comfortable Packer Backers... it's going to be a long year.

Bengals 34, Browns 17 - And once again, the Bengals have the second best offense in the NFL. Carson Palmer was great, throwing for 350+. Rudi Johnson ran for 145 yards. For the Browns, a running game would be nice. Rueben Droughns gained 32 yards on 14 carries. That AFC North is rather tough.

Bears 34, Lions 7 - One week of excellent offense? I could consider a fluke. Two weeks? Well, I'm closer to believing that the Bears can be a good offensive team to go along with the offense, and that scares me. Looks like Rex Grossman was the right choice to start at QB after all, with his 4 TD on 20/27 passing. What does it say about Seattle's offense though that they could only muster 9 points against the Lions, who gave up 24 here in the first half? Wait, Mike Martz is still the Lions Offensive Coordinator, isn't he? Lions are averaging 6.5 PPG.

Ravens 28, Raiders 6 - As if the Raiders offense wasn't bad enough last week, Sunday they decided to turn the ball over 6 times. Or to put it another way, they had as many points as turnovers. Sometimes I wonder why they show up.

Falcons 14, Bucs 3 - Through 2 weeks the Falcons might be looking like the most dangerous team in the NFL. Nearly 300 yards of rushing for the Falcons is nice... combine that with holding their opponents to 4.5 PPG is even nicer. Now if they could only get a FG kicker. As for the Bucs, they've scored 3 points in 2 games and Cadillac has not gotten things going running into the wall. Uh oh.

Vikings 16, Panthers 13 - Wild, wild game. I thought the Vikings were pretty close to being dead in the water, and then Chris Gamble tried a backwards lateral on a punt return... one of the stupidest plays I've seen. Here's an interesting thought... Ryan Longwell accounted for all of the Vikings points, with 3 FG and a TD pass. Vikings defense was superb, and they absolutely shut down every Carolina Panther not named DeAngelo Williams (trust me, this guy is the real deal, and already the best RB on the Panthers). Have I mentioned how much I love Brad Childress and Mike Tomlin?

One more thought on this game, and that's to give credit to Julius Peppers. I have never seen a defensive dominate a game more than Peppers did. He had 6 tackles, 3 sacks, and a blocked FG, but the stat line doesn't do justice to the impact he had. He seemed to be disrupting things in the backfield every play, and if he wasn't there, he was usually pursuing guys downfield. Just an absolutely extraordinary player to watch, and I'm very glad the Vikings don't have to face him again.

Giants 30, Eagles 24 - That Eli Manning guy can play. 31/43, 371 yards, 3 TD, and a great 4th quarter comeback. McNabb ain't so bad either, throwing for 350 yards himself. I'm just shocked to see an Andy Reid coached team blow a 24-7 lead in the 4th quarter. Of course, a game like this makes me feel a lot better about my pick of the Giants to go to the Super Bowl. Very good football game between two very good football teams.

Bills 16, Dolphins 6 - I think a lot of things can be summed up by this thread at a Dolphins message board... let's just say I feel a lot better about the Daunte trade.

49ers 20, Rams 13 - Maybe those Niners can play a little bit... Alex Smith continues to make strides and is making better decisions with the football. Of course, it helps that he has a running game, and Frank Gore is certainly providing that. Gore ran for 127 yards on Sunday. The Niners are still a ways off, but they're definitely on the right track... good young coach in Mike Nolan, and good young skill players. When they're able to get a little more talent and depth on that defense, they'll be a very solid club.

Seahawks 21, Cardinals 10 - Well, the Hawks offense was a little better this week, but 21 points against the Cardinals isn't exactly anything to write home about. Hasselbeck connected on less than 50% of his passes, Alexander wasn't great, but the defense was again stellar. Warner got a decent amount of yards, but the Seahawks held the Cards to 10 points, and the Cardinals aren't going to be winning any games where they score 10 points.

Chargers 40, Titans 7 - Hold on a minute, you might not be the worst team in the NFL after all! The Vince Young Era might be coming sooner than anticipated, and that is most definitely not a good thing. For Tennessee, Kerry Collins sucked, they had no running game, and the defense sucked. This just a dreadful, dreadful team.

Patriots 24, Jets 17 - Interesting game here. Looked like the Pats had this thing wrapped up and on cruise control, but the Jets came storming back in the 4th and actually had a shot to tie things up with a final drive. For the Patriots, Troy Brown was their leading receiver. That's a problem. On the bright side, both Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney ran the ball well. For the Jets, Chad Pennington continues to impress coming off injury, throwing for over 300 yards for the second straight week.

Broncos 9, Chiefs 6 - There is really no reason the Chiefs should have been this close in Denver with Damon Huard starting at QB, except for the fact that Larry Johnson is really good. You have to believe me on that. After another bad performance by Plummer (16/30, 173 yards, 1 INT), are we any closer to seeing Jay Cutler? My guess: yes. The fans want it, Plummer's playing poorly, and the offense is not doing well. If they struggle again next week, Shanahan at least has to think about it, right?

Cowboys 27, Redskins 10 - I know Portis was out, but is there anyone out there that thinks Mark Brunell can lead this offense? A weak-armed, erratic, 35 year-old QB? Yeah that usually turns out well. Meanwhile, Bledsoe was a lot better than last week, but then again, it would have been hard not to be. TO didn't get going at all (3 catches, 19 yards), but the offense was so bad he didn't need to. The Skins only TD came on a kick return. Oh my.

Jaguars/Steelers square off Monday night. Two very good, very tough defenses.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 2

Let's have a gander at the Week 2 picks!

Dolphins (-6.5) over Bills - Yes, the Bills did a lot better than I expected last week. They gave the Patriots all they wanted and more. But I don't like them to do it again. With a game under his belt, I expect Daunte to be a lot more comfortable and more in sync with the rest of the offense. Plus, I think the Dolphins will give it to Ronnie Brown more and the balance will also help Daunte. Better offense = the win and covering the spread for the Dolphins.

Vikings (pick 'em) over Panthers - If Steve Smith plays, I'm not as confident. But what I saw of the Panthers last week without him did not impress. Delhomme was off, they had no running game, and now the line is banged up. Meanwhile, the Vikings showed signs of being a very physical team that is solid defensively and takes care of the ball offensively. In the home opener for Brad Childress, I'll take Minnesota.

Bengals (-10.5) over Browns - I like Charlie Frye, Romeo Crennel, and the Browns. But, the O-Line is a mess. And the Bengals offense is real good. Palmer is back, Rudi is a tough runner, they have playmaking receivers, and a good O-Line. I'll take them to cover.

Lions (+8.5) over Bears - Ok, the Bears scored 26 points last week. That was against the Packers. Now they take on a Lions defense that allowed 9 points to the best offense in the NFC last season. This seems like it will be a similar game to that one... with a score like 13-9 Bears winning (Roy Williams guarantee notwithstanding). I think the Bears will win, but it'll be a tight, low-scoring game.

Bucs (+5.5) over Falcons - The Bucs can't be as bad as they showed last week, right? Right?

Ravens (-12.5) over Raiders - The Raiders were just so incredibly and unbelievably bad last week I have a hard time picking them to cover against anybody, let alone the team that may have looked the best last week. Seriously, that Raiders/Chargers game was without a doubt the worst football game I have ever had the displeasure to witness... the Line was awful, Aaron Brooks was awful, Art Shell was a corpse on the sideline, and the Chargers didn't even have to try in the 2nd half.

Let me put it this way... I can't even blame Jerry Porter for not paying attention to the game.

Giants (+3) over Eagles - Donovan McNabb is back and as good as ever, but I like the Giants here. They have a great RB combo (Brandon Jacobs looked beastly last week), and I do like Eli. I think the Giants can get a good pass rush on McNabb... I think it'll be a tight game, and I'll take the Giants to cover.

Saints (-2) over Packers - Trust me... the Packers suck. Brett Favre makes worse decisions than any other QB in the NFL, the Line is a sieve, they have one reliable pass-catcher, and they gave up 26 points to the Bears last week. Meanwhile, Texans fans are still trying to stick their heads into an oven, because Reggie Bush is one of the few guys (for me, at least) that if he's on TV, I'm making every effort I can to watch him. And that Deuce guy is pretty good too.

Colts (-13.5) over Texans - Texans three-headed monster at RB - Wali Lundy, Ron Dayne, and Samkon Gado. Uh, yeah.

Cardinals (+7) over Seahawks - The question of the week: is the Seahawks line that bad or is the Lions D-Line that good? That's why I thought Shaun Alexander was the third best fantasy back going into the year. They overpaid for Branch, but in the short-term he's another solid offensive player and another good receiving option for Matt Hasselbeck. I like the Seahawks to win, but I'll take the best WR in the NFL and the rest of the Cardinals offense to score enough to cover.

Rams (-3) over 49ers - The 49ers did look very solid last week, but the Rams defense absolutely shut down Jake Plummer. Now, Plummer isn't very good, but at this point he's probably still better than Alex Smith. Frank Gore should again put up big numbers, but I'll take the over on Mark Bulger throwing for 300 yards.

Chiefs (+11) over Broncos - Larry Johnson didn't put up big numbers last week, but he's still extremely talented. At least, talented enough to keep the game semi-close for a while.

Patriots (-6) over Jets - So maybe the Pats don't have a #1 WR. But they've got one of the top 2 QBs in the NFL and a nice 1-2 punch at RB. Laurence Maroney is looking already like he's going to be a star. Chad Pennington: welcome back. You were great last week. It's just too bad you're not facing the Titans again.

Chargers (-11.5) over Titans - And here we have the Titans, the only other NFL team that will be able to challenge the Raiders and Packers for the #1 spot. Vince Young as a #2 QB? I like Vince, but he won't be ready for another 2 years. Who did the Chargers have to pay to get their first three games against the Raiders, Titans, and Browns?

Redskins (+7) over Cowboys - Terrell Owens should have a huge game here... Troy Williamson was consistently open last week for the Vikings, and Owens is just a little better than Troy at this point. But Drew Bledsoe's still the Cowboys QB, and that works against Dallas. For the Skins, there were a lot of things I saw that I liked from the Al Saunders debut, but consider the Jason Campbell Watch on... Mark Brunell is really old and can't throw that well. But we kinda knew that already.

Jaguars (+2.5) over Steelers - I don't understand why everyone thought that the Jags beating Dallas last week was such an upset... did they not watch Jacksonville play last year? They have a top 5 defense, Byron Leftwich at QB, and a nice trio of WRs. If Fred Taylor stays healthy, these guys are a threat to the Colts in that division. At home, I'll pick them to beat the Steelers. The Jags are real good. You're on notice.

Last Week: 9-7
Season: 9-7

Friday, September 15, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 3

And we have reached the best Saturday, at least on paper, of many college football years. 7 different matchups where both teams are ranked... I'll take a look at 6 of them closely (for the record, Texas Tech is my pick in the other one). Seriously, if you ever plan to watch college football, this is the weekend to do it.

15) Oklahoma at 18) Oregon
A rematch of the Holiday Bowl last year, a game the Ducks had to have been looking forward to, especially since they're at home, where they're always very tough to beat. Dennis Dixon is playing great at QB, and Jonathan Stewart is one of the best RBs in the conference. They survived a trap game at Fresno St. last week, and are 2-0, just like Oklahoma. For the Sooners, everything obviously revolves around Adrian Peterson. Through 2 games, he's averaging 28 carries and 152 yards per contest... for a guy that got dinged up last year, I'm not sure that this is the best plan, but frankly, OU doesn't have a whole lot of options. In the end, I love Peterson, and I love coach Bob Stoops... but this OU team is not balanced enough, and Oregon is loooking more and more like it might be the 2nd best team in the Pac-10. If it were in Oklahoma I'd feel differently, but with the game in Oregon, I'll take the Ducks. OREGON 23-20.

17) Miami at 12) Louisville
This is a big game for many reasons. One, Larry Coker is firmly on the hot seat. Whether it's fair or not, a 1-2 start does not bode well for his future. Two, Louisville is trying to establish itself as a power. A lot of the Big East talk is centering on WVU, but Louisville's not so shabby. And three, the Big East needs a high-profile non-conference win. And no offense to Maryland, but that doesn't count. Two years ago, when Brian Brohm was a freshman, he saw playing time in a game at Miami and played well in a game Louisville nearly won... now, he's one of the Top 3 QBs in the nation. Miami's down right now, their "swagger" appears to be MIA, but they're still very talented. Kyle Wright is improving every day, and they have a very athletic defense. Without Michael Bush, I'm not sure Louisville can be balanced enough offensively. MIAMI 24-23.

4) USC at 19) Nebraska
Just how far back is Nebraska? Is USC good enough to make another run at the title? These are a couple questions that will be answered Saturday night. Nebraska is of course under Bill Callahan, and the WCO is starting to click with Zac Taylor at QB and some talented WRs. Meanwhile, as you know, USC replaced their whole backfield, but if you saw their first game, you wouldn't know it. John David Booty appears to be a suitable replacement for Leinart, and the plethora of talented backs helps offset the loss of White and Bush. Meanwhile, they have the best WR corps in the country, and the defense is more experience than last year. I like Nebraska, but they just don't have the talent to compete with the Trojans. USC 38-24.

7) Florida at 13) Tennessee
After 2 weeks, this game looks a whole heck of a lot better than I thought it would be before the season started. Tennessee dominated Cal in week 1 before barely escaping with a 35-34 win against Air Force. Meanwhile, the Gators are looking explosive, with Chris Leak at the helm and true freshman Percy Havin proving to be one of the most explosive players in the country. With a banged up Volunteer secondary, I like the Gators and Chris Leak to have success throwing the football, and then relying on the defense for the rest. FLORIDA 24-16.

11) Michigan at 2) Notre Dame
Notre Dame will be looking for their 3rd straight win in the series, which is something that doesn't happen all that often. Michigan has looked stellar, and they have a plethora of options offensively with Chad Henne, Michael Hart, Kevin Grady, Steve Breaston, and Mario Manningham. For the Irish, we know about the offense, but through 2 games the defense has been much improved from last year. Which is what I think will make the difference. Well, that and Charlie Weis' ability to control the flow of the game. Two very talented teams, but I like NOTRE DAME 34-31.

6) LSU at 3) Auburn
Wow. What a game this should be. These teams have two of the most talented defenses in the country, experienced QBs, and balanced offenses. LSU won their first 2 games by a combined score of 90-6. Auburn won theirs (against 2 major conference teams) 74-14. Last year, Kenny Irons gained 218 yards in an OT loss to LSU, and while I can't see him doing as well this year, he's the best offensive player on either team. And Brad Lester's not too shabby either. Like a lot of SEC games, this should be a defensive battle, low scoring, and whichever offensive team makes the least mistakes should win. At home, I'll make a weak vote for Auburn... but this is the game of the week. AUBURN 13-10.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 6-4

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

David Ortiz = Peyton Manning?!?

Ok, not really. And I realize this story is a few days old, but David Ortiz' recent comments made me recall comments made my Peyton Manning after their last playoff loss, which he caught some flack for (including from me).

If you don't recall, Manning said this:

"I'm trying to be a good teammate here, but let's just say we had problems in protection."

Not a terrible thing, but still calling out his teammates in the media. How is that so different from David Ortiz saying this?

"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," Ortiz continued. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

Talk about throwing your teammates under the bus!

And yeah, it's not like Ortiz has Manny Ramirez or someone like that hitting behind him... oh wait, scratch that, he does.

Anyway, Ortiz' whole argument is wrong. He claims the media is just making up excuses not to vote for him... which is why A-Rod won the MVP last year and why someone else might win this year. Disregarding the fact that A-Rod was better last year, isn't the media the ones perpetuating the theory that Ortiz is a nearly infallible clutch hitter, which is the main appeal of Ortiz? Yes, yes they are.

Even if Ortiz is saying people aren't voting for him just because he's a DH (and he should be penalized there), there's also the small fact that Ortiz hasn't even been the best hitting DH in the AL this year (that's Travis Hafner)... but we shouldn't let that get in the way.

Just one more newsflash to David Ortiz (because I know he's reading), you can help your team win games even if you don't hit 40 HR. Such as by playing good defense, getting on base, running the bases well, etc. But once again, who asked me?

I'm just wondering why there's been fairly little talk (at least from what I've seen) about Ortiz basically saying the guys around him in the lineup aren't that good... but maybe I'm just overreacting?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Vikings: 1-0

I'm a little bit of a (ok, a big) Vikings homer, so allow me to gloat a little about the 19-16 victory against the Redskins. Beating a playoff team on the road to start the year on Monday Night Football is not something I've been able to get used to during the Mike Tice Era, so this was especially great. Even more so because of all the predictions such as Sports Illustrated, which had them at 6-10, or others that picked them last in the NFC North. Anyway, all of my rambling, incoherent thoughts follow... probably more than you'd care to read about the Vikings, but it's my blog and I'll write if I want to!

- How good was the debut of Brad Childress? Beating Joe Gibbs on the road on MNF? With a starting safety suspended? I just can't say enough about how excited I am about Brad Childress being the Vikings head coach... everything looks crisper.

- Brad Johnson just did what he always does. He's efficient with the ball, doesn't make mistakes, and puts the ball where it's supposed to be. He's not very mobile. He doesn't have a rocket arm. But he's smart. And that makes up for the lack of physical skills. 7.4 YPA, 1 TD, and 0 INT. I'll take it.

- Let me say something... it's an absolutely joy to watch Steve Hutchinson block. I never thought I'd say it was a joy to watch someone block, but then I hadn't watched Steve Hutchinson all that closely. He's just a mauler, opening up holes for the RB and not letting his man get anywhere near the QB. He was expensive, but on this night at least, he was worth every penny.

- The Redskins have a very good defense. So to go 9/17 on 3rd down against these guys, well, that's awesome.

- There's definitely room for improvement defensively... they didn't really put much pressure on Brunell and they didn't cause any turnovers... but they held a good offense (preseason stats be darned!) to 16 points and 266 yards. I'll take it for the first week in a new scheme with a new LB corps and a rookie starting in the secondary.

- I was kind of watching the Raiders/Chargers game as I was typing this... and wow, that game was absolutely atrocious. Maybe Aaron Brooks should try holding onto the ball a little longer.

- Did I mention how much I like Brad Childress?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

NFL Week 1 Recap

The day finally came... the first Sunday of the year in the NFL! As always, lots of games, some upsets, some good finishes, and we know a lot more than we did going into the day. So here's a quick snapshot of each game.

Eagles 24, Texans 10 - Yes, McNabb is back. 314 yards and 3 TD back. Don'te Stallworth appears to have been a fine pickup, as he got 141 yards and a TD. The leading Texans rusher was Wali Lundy, who had 32 yards on 11 carries... man, you'd think there would have been someone available in the draft for them to take.

Bengals 23, Chiefs 10 - This game was marred by the scary hit on Trent Green, but thankfully it appears that the X-Rays are negative... but all the thoughts have to go out for him after that. Meanwhile, the Bengals scored 17 in the 2nd quarter, and that was all they needed. Palmer was accurate, but they rode Rudi to this one.

Seahawks 9, Lions 6 - I didn't get to see much of this game, so I was surprised when I saw the score. So much for the Mike Martz Effect, at least for this week. The Lions had a talented defense last year (and that was before they added Ernie Sims, who looked excellent) , so it's not a total shock that they held Seattle to 9 points, but for all this jinx talk, not a great start for the Seahawks. By the way, game 1 A.S.H. (After Steve Hutchinson) didn't go so well... 51 yards on 19 carries for Shaun Alexander.

Saints 19, Browns 14 - The Reggie Bush Era begins, and that sound you hear is Texans fans trying to stick their heads into an oven. Bush ran for 61 yards on 14 carres, and caught 8 passes for 58 yards. He even returned a few punts for good measure. He good. Also, welcome back Kellen Winslow. Looks like the soldier can play... to the tune of 8 catches for 63 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, when Charlie Frye has 17 more rushing yards than anyone else, that's usually not a formula for success. The Browns needs Droughns to do a lot better than 27 yards rushing.

Falons 20, Panthers 6 - Apparently Steve Smith is really, really valuable. Jake Delhomme wasn't very good, Deshaun was ineffective for the most part, and Drew Carter led the team in receiving. The Falcons had no such problems. Vick threw 2 TD, Dunn ran for 130 yards, and Michael Jenkins even caught a TD. Not so fast in handing that NFC crown to the Panthers everybody.

Jets 23, Titans 16 - Eric Mangini's coaching debut was more of the more successful ones today, as the Jets, projected basically to suck, beat the Titans. Not that the Titans are necessarily world-beaters themselves. Kerry Collins gave us all a pretty good indication of why every other team in the NFL passed on him this offseason. Vince Young completed all of his passes, which was nice... although one was to the Jets, which wasn't as good. Chad Pennington showed that yes, he is very much back from his injury.

Ravens 27, Bucs 0 - I'm shocked. Not that the Ravens won, because I knew they'd be solid with Air McNair, but that they just thoroughly dominated the Bucs. Chris Simms was terrible (3 INT), and they had absolutely no rushing game to speak of. Cadillac has 22 yards on 8 carries. Is TB this bad or is Baltimore this good? Was it just an abberation?Most shocking result of the day, at least for me.

Rams 18, Broncos 10 - The sound you here is the seat getting a lot hotter for Jake Plummer with Jay Cutler waiting in the wings. 50% passing with 3 INT... um, yeah, that's not very good. They were able to get yards on the ground, but that was basically wiped out by 5 turnovers. Denver's D played well, but they can't be put in those types of bad situations all the time. Scott Linehan wins his debut, as the Rams have just enough talent to be a threat in the NFC West.

Patriots 19, Bills 17 - Second most surprising outcome of the day for me. I came in expecting the Bills to suck, and they gave NE all they wanted and more, succumbing only when JP Losman was dropped for a safety in the 4th quarter of a tie game... THROW THE BALL AWAY. Where have you gone Deion Branch?

Jaguars 24, Cowboys 17 - Nothing real surprising here, except that Bledsoe was as bad as he was. The Jags are a real solid football team, as they showed. They're very good defensively, and they have some good talent at WR. They once again look like a playoff team. For the Boys, no surprise that TO had a big impact. He made a great adjustment on the TD catch, and finished with 80 yards on 6 catches. Meanwhile, if Bledsoe struggles like this again, how long before Bill takes a look at starting Romo? Methinks it could be sooner rather than later.

Bears 26, Packers 0 - We knew the Bears were good and the Packers sucked, but I didn't realize the difference was this big. Packers shut out in Lambeau? Say it ain't so! Brett Favre continues his run at the record books (for most INT, that is), with a couple of 2nd half picks. The one good news of the day for the Pack was that Ahman Green looked very solid coming back. Everything else they'd like to forget.

Cardinals 34, 49ers 27 - I was, and I suspect a lot of Niners fans were, impressed with Alex Smith. Better decisions, he has a better arm than I thought, and he looks like he already has nice repoire with Antonio Bryant. Meanwhile, don't look now, but Frank Gore is a very solid RB. I'm telling you now. For the Cards, was that an excited fan base I saw? What a change from year's past! Oh yeah, another don't look now... but Larry Fitzgerald is already the best WR in the NFL.

Colts 26, Giants 21 - I saw so many Peyton Manning commercials I hardly remember anything about the game! The Manning Bowl lived up to the hype, in an exciting game that went down to the final possession. Peyton didn't end with great numbers, but he was excellent on 3rd downs, keeping the drives alive and the Giants defense on the field. Now if they only had a running game. Meanwhile, the Giants look like a playoff team to me. Good defense, a great RB combo, and I'm a big Eli Manning fan. By the way, anyone else just find Adam Vinatieri in a Colts uniform to just be really strange looking?

Anyway, that's the Sunday of NFL... thoughts? How'd your team do?

Friday, September 08, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 2

In case you missed it last week, I pick what I think are the 5 biggest games of the week, and then pick who I think will win.

Minnesota at (22) California
We all know about Cal's game last week, where they took a trip to Knoxville and promptly got embarrassed. This week, they stay at home, with a Minnesota squad that's feeling good about itself coming. There was RB questions coming in for the Gophers, but then converted LB Alex Daniels ran for 155 yards and 3 TD, and Amir Pinnix chipped in 124 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Cal still has Lynch & Forsett, but the QB position is unsettled, as both starter Nate Longshore and Joe Ayoob struggled last week. Still, even with the QB questions, I think Cal is too talented a team to lose at home to Minnesota... CALIFORNIA 34-24.

(18) Clemson at Boston College
Boston College was less than impressive in the NCAA opener against Central Michigan, aside from a big day from the QB. The victory was not in hand until Central Michigan tried an absurdly awful trick play in a 31-24 game. Meanwhile, Clemson was one of the most impressive teams in the ACC last week, led by RB James Davis and freshman CJ Spiller. I suspect it is the rushing attack from those guys that will lead Clemson to a tough ACC road win. CLEMSON 20-17.

(12) Georgia at South Carolina
It was a rough go of it for South Carolina last week in Year 2 under the Ole Ball Coach, even if they did beat Mississippi St. 15-0. The line was awful, and because of that Blake Mitchell had very little time to throw, and Sidney Rice was a non-factor. Well, now throw in a team that is a lot better defensively and offensively, and I see a lot of strugging for the Gamecocks. The offense should be better this week, but not good enough. GEORGIA 31-14.

(19) Penn St. at (4) Notre Dame
Well, how good is Anthony Morelli? That seems to be the big unknown going in here. Notre Dame didn't look overwhelming in a 14-10 win, but we know all about that offensive firepower, and what it should do to a largely inexperienced Penn St. defense. Morelli has some weapons as his disposal - young receivers like Derrick Williams, and a good RB in Tony Hunt. So what does that all mean? I think we could have a relatively high-scoring game with these talented offenses. But, playing in South Bend, I like the Irish in this matchup. NOTRE DAME 34-27.

(1) Ohio St. at (2) Texas
Finally... the rematch and the game we've all been waiting for. Even better now that's it's 1 vs. 2 in the polls. In the classic battle last year, Texas won in a hotly contested matchup. This year, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, and co. look to get even in Austin. Texas initially had some questions at the QB positions, but Colt McCoy answered a lot of those with a great performance against North Texas.

It's almost sick how much offensive talent will be on display here... for the Buckeyes, there's Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr, Antonio Pittman, and Chris Wells. For Texas, there's the aforementioned McCoy, Jamaal Charles (pictured), Selvin Young, and Limas Sweed. Not to mention a couple of solid O-Lines. Um, yes, there's the potential for a few big plays here. So who do I like here? At home, with the emergence of McCoy, I like Texas. With everything the Bucks lost on defense, I think the Longhorns are definitely the better defensive team at this point, and they should be able to contain Ginn just enough to allow the offense to do the work and control the ball. In another classic, I'll take TEXAS 27-24.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 3-2

Daunte Culpepper

When Daunte Culpepper was traded from the Vikings to the Dolphins this summer, in a lot of people's minds it seemed to move the Dolphins from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender. Apparently those people forgot a few things. As the Pacifist Viking wrote a couple days ago:

For some reason, the rest of the world is pretending Culpepper isn't the quarterback that threw 6 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the first 6 games of 2005. Or that he's the quarterback with 81 career fumbles in 81 career games (well, I guess not everbody--obviously John Bolster is aware of it of I would have nothing to link to there). Or that he's had 6 seasons as a starter and has 2 playoff wins on his resume.

Don't get me wrong, Culpepper is one of the most gifted athletically QBs ever. I am a Vikings fan, I've seen probably every NFL game of his career. He has one of the 5 greatest NFL seasons ever on his resume.

But 18/37, 262 yards, and 2 INT? Being outplayed by Charlie Batch?

Now, I know the Steelers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but that's really a sparkling debut. Especially when, down 21-17, you throw 2 INT in the 4th quarter, including one that's returned for a TD. For Vikings fans, this seemed too familiar... bad game against a good team... it was kind of the story of a lot of Daunte's career.

These are probably some of the same ideas I would have dismissed a year ago, but let's look at some things:

- He has never really been successful without Randy Moss - Sure, it's a small sample size. But Daunte was absolutely atrocious before he got hurt last night, and he was pretty darn bad Thursday.
- He doesn't read defenses well - This ties back to the first point if its true, because he has seen many defenses where teams aren't geared up for Moss... it didn't even look like he saw Joey Porter on his 2nd INT.
- He's not as mobile as he used to be - Of course, even the fact that he's out there playing this soon after the injury is an incredible thing, and beggars probably can't be choosers, but Daunte is significantly less dangerous if he's not a big threat to run. He had 8 rushing yards in the opener, and didn't really even look to run.

Now, it's true that I did not like the trade at all when the Vikings made it... and I still don't... but I feel a whole lot better now after watching last night's game.

Do I think Daunte is as bad as he showed on Thursday? Of course not. He's always been an accurate passer, and he was playing a top-flight defense. But I think some of the questions remain... he will force some passes, misread coverages, but a lot of that was covered up by his athletic ability. If that's been diminished by the injury, how dangerous does that leave Daunte Culpepper?

One thing's for sure, I feel very comfortable about my pick of the Patriots to win the AFC East.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 1

Let me first say I don't actually gamble and have no money on any NFL games, but I think picking them against the spread just to see how I do is fun. For odds, I just used the first column here, because I don't really know the good place to get odds. But enough talking, let's get to the picks.

Steelers (Pick 'em) over Dolphins - Yes, Roethlisberger is out, but I still like the Steelers here. They're great defensively, and Willie Parker should get the ball a lot. As long as Batch can avoid big mistakes, I like the Steelers in a defensive battle.

Broncos (-3.5) over Rams - I like the Rams offense, and the game is being played indoors in St. Louis, but the Broncos do the same things the Steelers do well - run the ball and play great defense. I think it will be enough to cover the spread.

Jets (+2.5) over Titans - I like the Jets outright here... both teams are awful, but I think the Jets have a little more stability at QB as long as Pennington is healthy. One thing's for sure, this is a not a game I would like to have to watch.

Panthers (-5) over Falcons - There are concerns about Steve Smith's health, but I think the Panthers have enough to cover. Delhomme is nice, and Keyshawn is now in the mix. Plus, with Deshaun and DeAngelo in the backfield and that great defense, they should be able to control the game.

Bengals (+1) over Chiefs - The Bengals are a team I really like (though not enough to pick them to win it all like this guy) Carson Palmer looked fabulous in the preseason game I saw, and the rest of the offense is at potent as ever. LJ should run wild for the Chiefs, but I like the Bengals to win the game.

Lions (+7) over Seahawks - I like the Seahawks to win the game, but I think the Lions can cover the spread. As we all know, Martz is in town, and the Lions are playing at home. A weak vote for the Lions here.

Eagles (-6) over Texans - Same old story for the Texans... on the other hand, the Eagles will be much improved with better health all-around. I think the Eagles got a real shot at winning the East, and this should be the start of it.

Bucs (-3) over Ravens - These are two teams that I really like... the Ravens have McNair which should make the offense better if he's healthy, and the Bucs have a good defense, and young and talented QB and RB. I like the Bucs at home.

Browns (-3) over Saints - Reggie Bush is in town, but the Browns are headed in the right direction under Romeo Crennel. Charlie Frye is a very solid young QB, and I like them to cover at home over what will be an improved Saints team.

Patriots (-10) over Bills - The Bills are just awful. And Tom Brady should be better than ever, especially with a running game. The spread seems rather high, but I think the Pats will cover.

Bears (-4.5) over Packers - The Packers are just an awful club this year (sorry Packer backers)... Favre should have retired yesterday, the line is a mess, and Greg Jennings is their #2 WR. Enough said.

Cardinals (-7.5) over 49ers - Warner, James, Fitzgerald, Boldin... ah, if the Cards only had a decent line! But I still like them to cover, although I think Alex Smith will be a heck of a lot better this year than last, and Frank Gore is a solid RB.

Cowboys (+1.5) over Jaguars - The Jags will again be in the playoff mix, but I think the initial burst the Cowboys will get from TO on the field, along with their stout defense will be enough to cover in Jacksonville.

Colts (-3.5) over Giants - Obviously this is a preview of my Super Bowl, and I like the same result here. Plus it's early in the regular season... Peyton Manning should be on top of his game, right?

Vikings (+4) over Redskins - Quote of the preseason, courtesy of Bill Simmons:

To the dumbest plan of the year: the Redskins investing in two free agent receivers (Antwan Randle-El and Brandon Lloyd) and an expensive offensive coordinator (Al Saunders) to go with their expensive gamebreakers (Clinton Portis and Santana Moss) … only they're going with a washed-up Mark Brunell at QB again. How does that make sense? Does Joe Gibbs do this with NASCAR, too? Does he spend a ton of money on his cars and pit crews, then find the most mediocre drivers possible?

In other words, I'll take the Vikings outright.

Chargers (-3) over Raiders - This line seems like it should be higher... did someone forget to tell the oddsmakers that Aaron Brooks is the starting QB for the Raiders this year?

So, what picks of mine are horribly wrong? :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NFL Predictions

With the NFL season officially kicking off Thursday, I figured now was a good time to post my predictions for the order of finish in each division, as well as my playoffs picks and Super Bowl winner. So without further ado:


New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals
*Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos
*San Diego Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders


New York Giants
*Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears
Minnesota Vikings
Detroit Lions
GB Packers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
*Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals
St. Louis Rams
San Francisco 49ers

* denotes Wildcard

AFC Playoffs
Bengals over Chargers
Patriots over Steelers

Colts over Patriots
Bengals over Broncos

Colts over Bengals

NFC Playoffs
Bucs over Panthers
Cowboys over Bears

Giants over Bucs
Seahawks over Cowboys

Giants over Seahawks

Colts - 27
Giants - 17

Ok, so the boring pick at least as far as the Super Bowl winner is concerned, but I like the Indianapolis Colts to be your Super Bowl champs, beating the New York Giants. Obviously there's the concern for some people about Peyton Manning never winning the big game, or Edge being gone, but I think Indy will be just fine. The defense should be improving even more, and they still have the most dangerous offense in football. Which is why they're my pick as the Super Bowl champs.

Monday, September 04, 2006

FSU beats Miami 13-10

First off, it's really good to have college football back. What better way is there to spend weekend afternoons than to spend them watching college football. I wasn't able to watch a lot on Saturday, though it doesn't look like I missed a whole lot. However, I did get to see FSU/Miami, and it was about what I expected (though I thought Miami would win going into the game). Here are all of my jumbled thoughts:

- I don't mind all of the other rule changes, but I really don't like the clock starting on the change of possession. I understand they want to speed the game up, but I at least wish they would do away with it in the 4th quarter.

- This game looked a lot like last year, where FSU won 10-7. If Miami had just made a long drive at the end of the game that ended with a botched FG attempt, I would have thought I was watching a replay.

- FSU's defense was just everywhere. The linebackers were fast, the secondary was excellent, and the line put constant pressure on Wright. This is the defense that lost 4 first-rounders in the Draft last year? Really? Wow, they're extremely impressive once again. Miami managed 3 rushing yards.

- Miami's D was pretty darn good as well. Aside from a couple good FSU catches, the secondary was excellent in coverage. If you thought FSU holding Miami to 3 rushing yards was good, well, Miami held FSU to 2 rushing yards. If I was playing a nintendo game on the easiest level, I'm not sure I could hold the opponent to 2 rushing yards.

- While I'm on the subject, I'm with Todd Blackledge, I don't understand why a sack counts as negative rushing yards. Just seems kinda stupid to me. Let me also state for the record that I think Blackledge is excellent as a color man. Let me also state for the record that Lou Holtz should not be anywhere near a TV camera. The man is approaching senility quickly.

- Sam Shields, you need to catch the ball. Great pass by Wright on that 2nd to last drive, and I think that effectively killed any shot the Canes had at winning the game. On the other hand, Darnell Jenkins and Lance Leggett were very solid for the Canes. All-American TE Greg Olsen was a non-factor for the Canes.

- It's clear why EDSBS is the best college football blog throughout the land: Excellent live blog of the second half with a nice overview of most of the things that went on.

- All in all, it's clear that these are two of the top defenses in the NCAA. Both are fast, can get to the QB, and cause turnovers when the other teams make a mistake. FSU will certainly be in the top 10 next poll (probably released by the time you read this), and Miami shouldn't fall much further than 15 or so IMO. I'm not sure FSU has the offense to be able to contend for a national title, but the defense is certainly in place.

Excellent football game all-around, and a great way to end the first weekend of college football of the year!

Friday, September 01, 2006

NFC North Preview: Minnesota Vikings

And now the final stop on my NFC North voyage... the Minnesota Vikings. I live and die by the Vikings each Sunday, which made the beginning of last year rather painful.. anyway, hopefully things improve this year. Here's a look:

About Last Year: As bad as things were on the field at times, they were even worse off the field. I'm sure you've all heard about everything a million times, but hopefully all of those problems are in the past. On the field, the Vikings sucked at the start of the year, and then Daunte Culpepper got hurt. Now, that's certainly not the only reason the Vikings turned things around in the 2nd half. Heck, it wasn't even the biggest thing. In the 2nd half of last year the Viking defense turned into a shutdown, turnover-forcing machine, and this was the biggest reason the Vikings were playoff contenders by the end of the year. Anyway, they finished 9-7.

What they Added: First and foremost, a real coach. For a multitude of reasons, Mike Tice was awful. Brad Childress and the rest of the staff is not real experienced, but I feel 100% better and more confident with them in the helm, because I think they actually know what they're doing and stuff. Elsewhere, the biggest pickup was obviously Steve Hutchinson, the best OG in the league. Sure, they overpaid a little bit, but they could afford to. They also get back Pro-Bowler Matt Birk on the O-Line. Chester Taylor was also brought in to try and bring stability to the running back position. He hasn't looked great this preseason, but he's a solid runner that should also be able to catch some balls for the Vikings. Defensively, Ben Leber was brought in and will start at LB for the Vikings. They also picked up Dwight Smith to start at safety.

What they Lost: Well, Daunte Culpepper is gone. Though it's not like the Vikings didn't have time to prepare for that, because he was out over half the year. Still kinda disappointing that the Vikings lost their 2 most talented players in a 2-year span. But that's the past. Another big loss is Koren Robinson, and again, I think we all know about that. It's not easy to replace your #1 WR who also happens to be a Pro-Bowl kick returner right before the season begins. Defensively, Lance Johnstone is gone, and he was an excellent pass rusher for the past couple years. In the secondary, the big loss is Brian Williams, who stepped in greatly when Fred Smoot was injured, but left for Jacksonville in the offseason. Safety Corey Chavous is departed as well. All in all, there was definitely a fair amount of turnover as Brad Childress tried to remake the team into what he wants it to be.

What does this all mean? I have no idea. If things clicked right away and the Vikings went 11-5, I wouldn't be really surprised. If the offense never came together and the Vikings finished 10-6, I wouldn't be overly shocked. There's just so many variables and so many new parts that it's hard to see how things will work at this point. However, I'm optimistic. The defense has looked great this preseason, and the front 4 has the potential to be top front 4 in the league. The linebackers are improving and the secondary is solid. Offensively, they have a very talented Line, it just needs time to come together. Brad Johnson has always been a very solid QB. If the line plays up to its talent level, the Twins should be a solid running team, and Brad will have the time he needs, which allows him to be an accurate passer. Call me crazy, but I see 10-6 and a share of the division title... but I may be biased!

I should also mention that I'll be out of town for the Labor Day Weekend, so obviously this won't be updated for a couple days. So anyway, enjoy the holiday and the sports weekend, especially some excellent college football games!