Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Awards and Playoff Predictions

Hopefully you won't all hold it against me that the full preview is out a day after the start of the regular season! But that's a chance I had to take because things were busy. By the way, other good season previews are here or here over at WBRS if you're interested. In case you missed the division previews, here they are:

Atlantic Division
Central Division
Southeast Division
Northwest Division
Southwest Division
Pacific Division

So let's move on from there, to the Conference predictions. If I recall from what Pradamaster told me, the division winner is only guaranteed a top 4 seed, unlike the top 3 seed from last year, which is a big and welcome change. So without further ado, here's my top 8 in each conference.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Detroit Pistons
3. Miami Heat
4. Boston Celtics
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Washington Wizards
7. New Jersey Nets
8. Orlando Magic
Next in Line: Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers

1. Dallas Mavericks
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Phoenix Suns
4. Denver Nuggets
5. Houston Rockets
6. LA Lakers
7. LA Clippers
8. Utah Jazz
Next in Line: NO/OK Hornets, Golden State Warriors

Before we get to the predictions, let's go through some awards, both real and fictional, because it's my blog and I can make up awards if I want to.

(5) Dwyane Wade - This isn't a slight to Dwyane Wade as much as its respect for everyone else above him. I think Wade could potentially wear down a bit as the regular season goes on, and that, combined with the overall greatness of the guys above him puts him at 5.
(4) Kobe Bryant - Much the same for Kobe as for Wade. If he won the MVP, it wouldn't be at all surprising. But he'll be out probably the first week with a knee injury, plus I think his game will be changed a lot from last year.
(3) Tim Duncan - He had a foot injury last year and was still unbelievable in leading the Spurs to the best regular-season record in the West. This year, all reports say that the foot is feeling great, and he should have a new focus after their early ousting in the postseason.
(2) Dirk Nowitski - He was great last year, and continues to improve and vary his game. He added an unstoppable post game from 15 feet last year, and just continues to improve his offensive game.
(1) LeBron James - I thought he was the best player in the NBA last year, and I think he will be again. We all know about his game... 30, 8, and 8 is not out of the question.

Rookie of the Year
(5 TIE) Jordan Farmar - I think that as the season goes on, he'll start to earn more and more playing time for Phil Jackson. Farmar's a tough PG who just knows the game well, and is a great leader on the court. I'm not big fans of Smush Parker (more on him later) or Sasha Vujacic, which is why I think minutes may be there for Farmar's taking.
(5 TIE) Rodney Carney - With the sad state of Philly, Carney should be starting before too long. He's solid defensively which is a rarity in Philly these days, and can knock down open shots. And Philly doesn't have a whole lot of other options.
(4) Tyrus Thomas - The most athletic player in the draft, I think he'll have an immediate impact defensively. He's a great shot-blocker off the weak side, and he'll get up and down the floor.
(3) Randy Foye - I think it'll take him a little while to adjust, but he's got great game. He can shoot from the outside, get to the basket, and play good defense. With defenses focusing their attention on KG Foye could thrive if he gets the minutes.
(2) Rudy Gay - Gay should get a decent amount of minutes, and with his enormous talent, that's all he needs to be effective. He can finish on the break, has a great pullup jumper, and should pull down rebounds. Passion & Pride likes him as their 6th Man of the Year... I'll settle for #2 on the Rookies list.
(1) Brandon Roy - I think he'll have the best opportunities of all the rookies to contribute, and he's one of the most NBA ready. Portland's got young talent, but they won't be contending, which is why Roy will get a lot of minutes at the 1 and 2 guard. He's got an NBA jumpshot, and he'll be able to get into the lane.

6th Man of the Year
Leandro Barbosa - I just love his game offensively. He can score off the dribble, get out on the break with his blinding speed, and hit the open shot from downtown. He excels in the 1/2 man off the bench in the role that the Suns use him, and he should average at least 10-15 points per game off the bench for the high-scoring Suns. I think that will be enough to edge out Andres Nocioni for the 6th Man of the Year Award.

Most Overrated Players
Peja Stojakovic - On a team with many very good players he thrives. This is what happened in Sacramento when they were winning all of those games... he can stay out of the way and just hit jump shots. Which is nice, but he's sure getting paid a lot to do it. He'll knock down open shots, but I'm skeptical about his ability to create for himself. Of course, with Chris Paul he may not have to.
Smush Parker - He's an average to slightly above average 3-point shooter. That's it. He doesn't create many shots for himself or others, he's not a great ballhandler, and he's not a great defender. He's solid as a guard off the bench, but as a starter, I think he's very overrated.
Ben Wallace - Before you bit my head off, I think he's a bigger offensive detriment than people realize. Last year in the playoffs it was a 4-on-5 offensively for Detroit every time they had the ball. He doesn't score, and he's terrible at the line. The defense is obviously great, and Chicago is certainly better off with him, but I really think the offensive ineptitude is understated.

Most Underrated Players
Gerald Wallace - He contributes in all areas of the game. He's a high percentage shooter and excellent rebounder at his position. But mostly he's excellent defensively. He steals (to the tune of 2.5 per game) and blocks shots (2.1 per game). And at only age 24, he should keep improving as long as the Bobcats don't try to push Adam Morrison ahead of him.
Andres Nocioni - He was my 2nd choice for 6th Man of the Year. He gets overshadowed a bit because Luol Deng plays his same position, but Nocioni is a weapon. He averaged 13 and 6 per game off the bench last year, and is a threat behind the arc. He'd be starting on a lot of teams.
Yao Ming - People obviously know about Yao, but I'm not sure that everyone realize how good he really is. He has become a veritable weapon down low for the Rockets, which makes them a real threat with a healthy T-Mac. After the All-Star break last year he averaged 25.7 PPG and over 11 RPG. He's certainly the top Center in the NBA and probably one of the top 10 players in the game right now.

Playoff Predictions
Cleveland over Orlando in 5
Detroit over New Jersey in 6
Miami over Washington in 6
Chicago over Boston in 4

Dallas over Utah in 5
San Antonio over LA Clippers in 6
Phoenix over LA Lakers in 7
Houston over Denver in 5

Cleveland over Chicago in 7
Miami over Detroit in 7

Dallas over Houston in 6
San Antonio over Phoenix in 7

Cleveland over Miami in 6
Dallas over San Antonio in 7

Dallas over Cleveland in 6

I was tempted to pick San Antonio or Phoenix in the West, but I just think Dallas it the most versatile team... more offensively potent than San Antonio, better defensively than Phoenix. That combo is enough for them to finish the job this time.

Well, how wrong am I?

Monday, October 30, 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

And at last, the final division of these previews before I do my final preseason preview. I know you've all been waiting.

Golden State Warriors - With Nellie Ball in effect, they should at least be more interesting to watch. Everything about this team depends on Baron Davis staying healthy, which as you know is no guarantee. There is no decent backup to Baron. But if he can stay healthy, they might have a playoff chance with Nellie. Jason Richardson is very good on one wing, and Mickael Pietrus has shown flashes at the small forward spot. Mike Dunleavy will start at the 4, and that will cause matchup problems (both for Dunleavy and whoever he's guarding). If Baron can stay healthy and the young guys keep improving, they'll contend for the 8 seed.

LA Clippers - Coming off the playoff berth, expectations are high. Maybe a little too high. Cassell and Mobley are a year older, and I'm not sure Elton Brand can be quite that good again. Though things aren't all bad. Corey Maggette was hurt for a large portion of last year, and having him healthy is a huge help. Also a wildcard is the development of Shaun Livingston... as John Hollinger wrote, "As for Livingston, he's a wild card -- a 15-minute-a-night curiosity if he doesn't learn how to shoot; a frighteningly talented player if he does." All told, I expect a return trip to the playoffs for the Clips, but it won't be easy.

LA Lakers - They've got on guy who I've heard is pretty good named Kobe Bryant. But they also have a little more depth this year, with the additions of Vlad Radmanovic, Shammond Williams, Mo Evans, and Jordan Farmar. Tack on the improvements of guys like Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum, and there's no reason why these guys can't be right back in the playoffs. As long as they have Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they have a chance.

Phoenix Suns - These guys are hands-down the most fun team in the NBA to watch, and if Amare Stoudemire comes back they could be the most talented as well. They're athetic, great shooters, and obviously they can get up and down the floor. With Kurt Thomas in there, they're also half-decent defensively, and even better if Amare can be healthy. They're title contenders regardless.

Sacramento Kings - I'm not very optimistic about the Kings chances of returning to the playoffs. When healthy, the starters are decent enough. But the bench? Not so much. Their top bench players are Kenny Thomas, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia. These guys just simply aren't talented enough in the deep Western conference, and that's before even considering the seemingly inevitable Ron Artest blowup.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Phoenix Suns
2. LA Lakers
3. LA Clippers
4. Golden State Warriors
5. Sacramento Kings

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I give up trying to understand the NFL

If you'll check my picks for the games, you can verify I'm not smart. Consider:

Last week the Jaguars lost by 20 points to the Houston Texans. This week, they played without their starting QB and ran the ball all over the Philadelphia Eagles and shut down Donovan McNabb for the most part, who's an MVP candidate at this point in a 13-6 win. The Texans are 2-5 (and lost to Tennessee) while the Eagles drop to 4-4.

A few weeks ago it took the Chicago Bears three (3) non-offensive TDs and a late missed FG to eek out a 24-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, the Cardinals have lost to the previously winless Oakland Raiders and then were handily beat by the 3-4 Green Bay Packers. The Chicago Bears led their game 41-0 at the half.

Speaking of the Raiders, a couple weeks they looked like they might have a shot at going 16-0... now they stand at 2-5... the same record as the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Vick has thrown 7 TD passes in 2 games.

The NFL. I don't understand it. I just watch it.

2006 NBA Preview: Southwest Division

And now on to the division that had, at least for my money, at least 2 of the 3 best teams in the NBA last season. And that's not even counting the team that employs Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

Dallas Mavericks - Where to start. They have one of the best coaches in the NBA, one of the top 3 or 4 players in the NBA, and a great cast of guys who all know their roles. They can play smallball, pound it inside, play a perimter and uptempo game, or beat you with strong defense. They have the most versatile roster in the NBA, which is why they made it to the Championship last year and have a shot to repeat that this year. Another good thing is that Josh Howard keeps getting better and better. What a joy to watch.

Houston Rockets - I know I have mentioned this once before... but think about how the Heat won the NBA Title last year... they had a playmaking off guard that could score at will when he was on his game, a solid Center down low to keep defenses honest, a couple of guys that could hit down open shots, and role players that didn't command the ball. What do the Rockets have? An off guard that can score at will when he's hot (and healthy), a great Center that's gotten better every year, and they now have capable role players with guys like Shane Battier and Bonzi Wells. I'm not saying they're the Heat and that they'll win the Title... but if McGrady stays healthy, they're very dangerous.

Memphis Grizzlies - Their starting guards are Damon Stoudamire and Eddie Jones. I think both were in their prime about 5-10 years ago. Sadly, it doesn't get much better. Pau Gasol is out to start the season. Jake Tsakalidis is their starting center. Shane Battier, Lorenzen Wright, and Bobby Jackson are all gone. They've got some nice rookies with Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry, but this will be a long year for the Grizz, especially considering that they were in the playoffs last year.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - The team that made the biggest splash in the offseason, and seems to be the sleeper pick of many people. However, I think they played over their heads last year and may have overinflated some expecations... but there is definitely lots of reasons for optimism. It starts with Chris Paul, and I do really like him a lot. Simply put, he's second only to Steve Nash as a playmaking PG in year 2 of his NBA career. The assist total should only go up, with Tyson Chandler being able to outlet the ball and start the break, and Peja Stojakovic in town to drain the 3. David West is efficient and very good on the low block. And through the draft and a couple of other minor additions, they'll have more depth. If nothing else, Chris Paul makes them one of the most exciting teams in the League to watch.

San Antonio Spurs - The old reliables are all back in town for San Antonio. With mainstays Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, we know they'll always be in contention. But they also made some other nice moves. They signed Jackie Butler, a guy you may not have heard of but according to John Hollinger, "...he's been working out all summer in San Antonio and I expect him to be a revelation this season as the Spurs' starting center." So that's nice. They also signed role players like Matt Bonner, Jacque Vaughn, etc. The core is the same, but they should be better able to compete with teams like the Mavs or Suns when they play small.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Dallas Mavericks
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Houston Rockets
4. NO/OC Hornets
5. Memphis Grizzlies

Friday, October 27, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 8

Back with the fun game we all like and enjoy, my picks for the NFL games. I've been marred in a large 2 week slump, which has seen me drop all the way down to .500 for the season. Hopefully that changes this week.

Bengals (-3.5) over Falcons
Michael Vick finally was good at passing for one week. On the road against Cincy, I'm not sure he'll duplicate that success in the air. We've been fooled too many times before. I'll take Cincy and the points.

Bucs (+9) over Giants
Giants have been real impressive over the past few weeks, now looking like the best team in the East. But the Bucs have shown they're not quite as bad as they showed in the first 4 weeks. Bruce Gradkowksi has got the offense going a little bit, and the D is starting to play well. I'll take the Bucs to cover the spread, though the Giants to win the game.

49ers (+15.5) over Bears
The last game the Bears played the offense produced absolutely nothing against Arizona. I'm sorry, but I'm not taking them to cover this huge spread, even with how good they looked in the first 5 weeks. Bears are still a great team, but not quite the invincible one they were 2 weeks ago.

Eagles (-7.5) over Jaguars
Two straight heartbreaking losses for the Eagles, as well as seeing their record drop to 4-3 has to be good motivation. Meanwhile, everyone was crowning the Jags as one of the best teams in the NFL after their defense destroyed Pittsburgh on MNF, but they've since struggled. They got pummeled by Houston last week, and now Leftwich won't be playing this week. They're better than they've been playing, but I'll take the Eagles to cover.

Seahawks (+4) over Chiefs
Seneca Wallace didn't look all that good last week, but with a full week of practice he should better. But the better news for Seattle is that Damon Huard is hurt and might not play... it'll be a game-time decision. If he doesn't start, Brodie Croyle will. Last year at this time, Croyle was a decent QB at Alabama. I don't see that ending well.

Texans (+3) over Titans
The Titans have been playing better under the resurgent Travis Henry, but the Texans are starting to get things figured out offensively as well. Wali Lundy ran the ball well last week, and David Carr to Andre Johnson is better than what the Titans can put out there right now. This won't be a real pretty game, but I'll take Houston.

Saints (-1.5) over Ravens
Sorry, still not buying this Steve McNair thing. He just has not been very good so far this year. The Saints, on the other hand, have been playing great offensively. They use the Reggie Bush/Deuce McAllister combo perfectly, Drew Brees is playing excellently, and the receivers are solid. There might not be a more fun offense in the league to watch. At home they've been really, really tough this year.

Packers (-4) over Cardinals
Two mediocre teams. I'll take the home team in this one.

Chargers (-9.5) over Rams
The Chargers should be the best team in the NFL, they have that kind of talent, but they've just been maddeningly inconsistent. Though at home they've been real good... I'll take them to cover against St. Louis in San Diego (anyone know the origin of the name, by the way?)

Colts (+3) over Broncos
I know how good the Broncos defense has been this year. And I know how good their running game is. But I refuse to take a Jake Plummer led team over a Peyton Manning led team, especially when the Jake Plummer led team is favored. Not going to happen.

Jets (+1.5) over Cleveland
I like Romeo Crennel, I like Charlie Frye, but I just don't like the Browns right now. 1-5, and they're averaging 14.7 PPG this year. Now that it appears the Jets have some type of a running game with Leon Washington, I'll take them to win this game.

Steelers (-9) over Raiders
The Raiders are looking like an actual NFL team finally, but the Steelers have to be getting desparate... sitting at 2-4, a win is imperative here. I don't think they'll disappoint.

Cowboys (+6) over Panthers
Everything points to the Panthers here... Romo looked bad last week, Panthers have been playing great since Steve Smith returned, and it's in Carolina. I just have a feeling this will be a close game.

Patriots (-2) over Vikings
I hate picking these Vikings games... I think this will be a real tight and competitive game with either team having a shot to win it. Two very good defenses, two good running games. I'll take New England just because if they win I'll at least have some positive from the game. If the Vikings win, well, I'll be happy to have been proven wrong.

Last Week: 4-8-1

Season: 47-47-6

2006 NBA Preview: Northwest Division

Now that I've previewed the East, it's time to move on to the stronger, deeper Western conference. Because that's just the natural progression of things.

Denver Nuggets - A lot of things will revolve around Carmelo, the great talent that he is, again, but a lot of how the Nuggets do will be determined by the health of the bigs. Marcus Camby is very, very good on both ends of the floor if he's healthy, K-Mart can be a solid contributor, and Nene is a solid big off the bench. Andre Miller's a rock at PG, I really do like JR Smith at SG... if the bigs stay healthy, I see another division title in their future.

Minnesota Timberwolves - KG at least has a little more help with the additions of Mike James and Randy Foye, but that doesn't mean the TWolves are anywhere near where they were a few years ago. Trenton Hassell is not a very good starter, and I'm not a big Ricky Davis fan. At center, Mark Blount just isn't very good at all. I'm sorry, but these guys will not be headed to the playoffs in the West, even with a top 5 player in KG. There's just not enough talent around him.

Portland Trailblazers - I like what the Blazers have done, getting rid of some of the bad seeds and bringing in a lot of young talent and hoping it develops. They're at least a year off from being a decent team, but at least they're going in the right direction. They've got young talent everywhere in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, etc. At the very least, they should be entertaining at times to watch (until the inevitable Zach Randolph incident).

Seattle Supersonics - With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Sonics should be raining 3s and scoring lots and lots of points... on the other side of the equation, however, they can't stop anyone. They've got a lot of first-round big men, but so far that hasn't translated into much production down low. This should probably look a lot like last year... lots of offense, no defense, and no playoff berth.

Utah Jazz - Like Denver, a lot of Utah's success will be determined by the health of the big guys. Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur has not got to play a lot with each other because of injuries, but if they all stay healthy it's a potentially excellent, excellent combo. Plus, the depth up front leaves something to be desired, making good health even more imperative. In the backcourt, they have a very solid Deron Williams, who should improve a lot on year 2. They've got a whole host of other guys to play the 1-2-3 spots, including Gordan Giricek, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, and Derek Fisher. It all depends on the frontcourt.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Denver Nuggets
2. Utah Jazz
3. Seattle Supersonics
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
5. Portland Trailblazers

The Ultimate Bill Walton Quote Library

For more posts involving Bill Walton, look here.

Let me start with some background. At one time, I really liked Bill Walton. As I listened to him more and more, I began to dislike him very strongly as an announcer. However, my perspective has slowly begun to change again.

It all started when I was searching and came across a post from last year's playoffs where I mentioned Bill Walton:

While we're on the subject of announcers, I must admit I'm not a big fan of Bill Walton if he's in a 2-man team. However, the trio of Mike Tirico, Bill Walton, and Steve "Snapper" Jones is very enjoyable. Tirico is one of the best in the business at play-by-play, Walton throws in his great exaggerations, which are actually rather amusing ("Elton Brand represents everything that is right with the NBA. And with the world."), and Jones makes fun of Bill every chance he gets. They're very enjoyable.

Things started to hit me... yes, he's exaggerating. No, he doesn't really seem to bring great basketball insight. But yes, he's entertaining.

Then I came across a post from last March at Detroit Bad Boys that really just kinda summed up my feelings, without me even knowing it at the time. Here's part of the article:

For a long time, I was in the camp of the Bill Walton haters. I seethed every time I heard him laud praise upon Kazaam or fall at the feet of Kobe Bryant…I mean, Mamba. I chose to watch games on mute rather than hear his man-love for Coach Wooden seep into whichever game he was talking over. The incessant stammering coupled with the goofy, Deadhead persona made him unbearable. It seemed even his play-by-play partners were beside themselves at his stupidity.

But something happened along the way that caused me to reconsider my disdain for Big Red; I actually turned the volume up and listened to one of his games. And in doing so, I realized quickly that the joke was on me, that my naivete and/or blind-hate had kept me from appreciating Walton for what he is: a willing punchline. His hyperbole, his non-sequitors, his uncomfortable hetero-crushes–Walton is just playing along, throwing humorous tidbits against the wall to see which ones stick. Why else would someone say the following:

"You look at Vladimir Radmanovic, this guy is cut from stone. As if Michelangelo was reading and a lightning bolt flashed before him."

I mean, this just describes things absolutely perfectly. If you take him seriously, you won't like him. If you take him for what he is... a guy trying to lighten the mood and be entertaining, well, he's just that. Teamed with Steve "Snapper" Jones, and it's quite a treat.

Then I came across some other sites with Bill Walton Quotes... a brief sampling:

“Tracy McGrady is doing things we’ve never seen from anybody – from any planet!”

"Mick Jagger is in better shape than far too many NBA players. It's up in the air whether the same can be said of Keith Richards."

“John Stockton is one of the true marvels, not just of basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization!”

“Yao Ming is the best thing to happen to the NBA in a long time. He is just a beautiful person inside and out. The vision, the creativity, the gentleness of spirit … he has it all.”

"Show some respect to this living legend, this hall of famer...Arvydas Sabonis."

"Its a critical game, the battle for 10th place!"

I mean, this stuff is funny. Shame on me for not appreciating it sooner.

So that gave me an idea... there's not enough Bill Walton quotes out there on the internet. So I'm asking for your help... whenever you see an outrageous Bill Walton exaggeration, here's what you should do:

1) Post it here in the comments (I'll put a link to this post in the sidebars)
2) Email me the quote at uclabruins24 AT hotmail.com
3) Just post it in the comments of the most recent post... Bill Walton takes precedence.

And hey, if you post a quote, I'll give you some recognition and thanks... doesn't get better than that! So join me, in this, the Year of Bill Walton, as I hope to build the Ultimate Bill Walton Quote Library.

For more posts involving Bill Walton, look here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

While not as deep as the Central division, this division includes the defending champs, and a couple of young and improving teams.

Atlanta Hawks - The young talent is accumulating in Atlanta. Josh Smith improved each of his first 2 years, and looks posied to be an Andrei Kirilenko type player. Marvin Williams may not have been the right choice over Chris Paul in the draft, but that doesn't mean he's not immensely talented (though injured at the moment). And we all saw what Joe Johnson can do when he played great at PG last year. They're still not anywhere near a playoff spot, but they've got some good, young pieces.

Charlotte Bobcats - The Bobcats cupboard is not bare either. Thanks to starting off going just for youth, along with some solid drafting and FA signing, the Bobcats are a talented, young team. In April, PG Raymond Felton averaged over 17 points and 9 assists per game. I don't know that his numbers will be that good this year, but throw in a scorer in Adam Morrison, and that helps. Gerald Wallace is very possibly the most underrated player in the NBA. He takes high percentage shots, rebounds well, and is great defensively. Inside, they've got depth, with guys like Emeka Okafor, Primoz Brecez, Sean May, Melvin Ely, etc. They're probably a year away, but if things go right, a playoff trip is not out of the realm of possibility.

Miami Heat - If you thought Dwyane Wade carried a big load last year, well, he'll have to do it again. Basically the whole team is back, which is good because they won the title, and bad because they were already old, and now they're just a year older. And with Jason Williams out to start the year, backcourt depth will be very thin. Regardless, they should be able to basically coast through the season and get to the playoffs, where they'll look to regain the magic of last year. As long as they got DWade, they got a chance.

Orlando Magic - Like the Hawks and Bobcats in the division, this is a very young team that will probably be better next year than they are this year. Unlike the Hawks and Bobcats, they're a pretty solid team now as well. It all starts inside with Dwight Howard, a big-time force. He's already perhaps the best rebounder in the NBA, and continues to improve his offensive game. Something like 18 and 14 per game this year is not out of the question at all. Also down low is Darko Milicic. He's another guy I like, and I think Detroit would be a lot better of they had kept him. Darko is immensely talented, and should be a force for the Magic in the future. The backcourt is anchored by Jameer Nelson, who's also young and continues to improve. If Grant Hill can give them at least half a season, they've got a very solid chance to make it to postseason play.

Washington Wizards - The Big 3 returns, and they will once again have to carry the load for the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas is one of the top players in the NBA, Caron Butler averaged 19 and 7 after the All-Star Break, and Antawn Jamison can score from anywhere. But can everyone else chip in? The bench is extremely weak, so they need to stay healthy. Darius Songaila provides some nice front court depth (even if they did overpay), and Antonio Daniels is a very solid 6th Man. If they can stay healthy again, I like them to finish about where they did last year... 4th or 5th seed.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Miami Heat
2. Washington Wizards
3. Orlando Magic
4. Charlotte Bobcats
5. Atlanta Hawks

College Football Picks: Week 9

I'll be honest, there really are not any great games this weekend... some decent ones, but that's it. Anyway, since I'm in the middle of NBA previews, I'll just give my quick predictions without the analysis.

(5) Texas over Texas Tech

(9) Florida over Georgia

(23) Missouri over (19) Oklahoma

(21) Georgia Tech over Miami

South Carolina over (8) Tennessee (UPSET SPECIAL!)

Last Week: 2-3

Season: 28-12

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Central Division

After looking at the worst division in basketball yesterday, now comes what may be the best division in basketball, with all 5 teams having a shot at the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls - The Bulls made perhaps the biggest move in this NBA Offseason by signing Ben Wallace, who was surprisingly not that good in the playoffs last year, but will provide much needed rebounding and defensive toughness inside for the Bulls, while deferring offensively to the scoring guards and wing players. The addition of Wallace and Tyrus Thomas in the draft will make a good defense even better, which is good because they will struggle to score. I like Kirk Hinrich a lot, but he can't carry the scoring load. Ben Gordon is hit-or-miss at times. Luol Deng is another solid player but not one that will carry the scoring load. We know they'll play defense, but where will the points come from?

Cleveland Cavaliers - First off, they have one thing that makes them really good no matter who else is on the team... LeBron James. In my mind he was the best player in the NBA last year, and should only be better with another year under his belt. He's not a great defender at this point, but he's the most athletic player in the NBA, a great passer, and the best at finishing at the basket. So they have that going for them, which is nice. Elsewhere, a lot of things are the same, but I think they have some decent depth. Eric Snow and Damon Jones are not very good at the Point, so it would be a good thing if rookie Shannon Brown could push them for minutes. Larry Hughes wasn't that good last year, but if he's healthy that's a massive upgrade over the junk they put out there in his place. Donyell Marshall and Anderson Verejao provide solid front-court depth. And with LeBron, anything is possible.

Detroit Pistons - They are obviously due for a little bit of struggling losing Wallace and replacing him with Nazr Mohammed, but they'll still be a solid ballclub. The other four starters return, all of them above average. Depth, though, is an issue. Up front, there's the mainstay Antonio McDyess, but after that is it undersized Jason Maxiell? Dale Davis? In the backcourt, Carlos Delfino and Flip Murray are ok, but nothing to really depend on. The Pistons have remained extraordinarily healthy in the past couple years, and they really need that trend to continue, or they're in trouble.

Indiana Pacers - The Pacers are deep, but don't have great star power. Jermaine O'Neal is the cloest thing they have to a star, but he's had trouble staying healthy for the past couple of seasons. Al Harrington was a very nice pickup however, and will be very solid for them. The they've got guys like Stephen Jackson, Danny Granger, and Marquis Daniels on the wing... all solid players, but nothing to write home about. And that pretty much describes Indiana. Solid, but not able to compete realistically for the division or conference title.

Milwaukee Bucks - They've got a lot of young talent on the roster, but they'll be battling for the last playoff spot once again. Charlie Villanueva is a very good looking (not literally, haha!!) young forward, and immediately boosts the front line. Andrew Bogut looked solid as a rookie, though he'll be out for a while to start the season. And we all know how dangerous Michael Redd is. A lot of the season rests on the PG Maurice Williams, who is the starter now that TJ Ford has left the building. If he can improve even more from last year, Milwaukee will be right back in the playoffs. If not, they might just miss out on the fun.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Detroit Pistons
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

In the midst of the football season being in full swing, and the World Series winding down, it came as a mini-surprise to me that the first NBA regular season game is less than a week away, with opening night being on Halloween. So it's time for some quick previews, starting with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics - Once again, the C's will be very, very young, but also talented. As with any young bunch, consistency is key. The Celtics need to take better care of the ball and rebound better. These two areas will be determined a lot by who eventually starts at PG, and if Al Jefferson can get back to looking like the budding star he was 2 years ago. At PG, I'm not really crazy about Sebastian Telfair or Rajon Rondo... frankly, I don't think either of them can shoot a lick from outside right now... but if one of them can get established and take care of the ball, the PG spot will be ok, and the Celtics will have a very real shot at .500 and maybe, just maybe a shot at the division title.

New Jersey Nets - I don't really like this team much. The big 3 is there, but getting older. Vince Carter doesn't give much effort defensively or going to the basket, Richard Jefferson is not that effective in a halfcourt set, and Jason Kidd is not what he used to be as an outside shooter or defender. After that, things look bleak. The bench, in a word, sucks. Their 6th man is either Eddie House or Cliff Robinson, and that is really, really bad. They have Marcus Williams, who as I've said I like a ton, but the 2nd unit is just bad. If they have any injury problems (and they had hardly any last year), they'll be in trouble.

New York Knicks - Ah yes, the abomination that is the New York Knicks under Isiah Thomas. The team should be better just by pure luck and the fact that the young guys will play a little more, but not by much. Their big FA signing of the offseason was Jared Jeffries, a bad offensive player who they overpaid for. Shocking. This is still a team filled with shoot-first PGs and poor offensive 2/3 men... and that's not a good combo. One bright spot should be Channing Frye, who will get more time this year, and should thrive if the Knicks push the ball a little more. Frye is a guy I really like as well as a fantasy sleeper!

Philadelphia 76ers - I love the Sixers, but the whole offseason was much ado about nothing. They tried their best to trade Allen Iverson, but at the end of the day he's back in Philly. The big FA signing was Alan Henderson (though Rodney Carney should immediately get playing time as a rookie and be a solid player). As a result, I see a lot of the same things happening as last year... great offensively in transition, awful defensively. Andre Iguodala is very solid defensively, and Samuel Dalembert has the potential to be solid defensively, but there's not much else in that category for the starters. Allen Iverson will take a lot of chances and get a lot of steals, but he also gambles and loses a lot. Chris Webber is playing basically on one leg. Kyle Korver is a situational shooter moonlighting as a starter. It could get really ugly defensively.

Toronto Raptors - This is one of the teams I'm most looking forward to seeing how they do under new man Bryan Colangelo. They should play at a fast pace, be a little better defensively, and be relatively competitive as they begin the slow climb to respectability. Chris Bosh is the star, and he's a darn good play at the 4 or 5 spot. After that, Mo Pete is a solid player, the rookie Andrea Bargnani is intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how TJ Ford fits in the offense. If nothing else, they're deeper and will have loads of cap space next year... it will be an interesting year North of the Border.

Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Boston Celtics
2. New Jersey Nets
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New York Knicks
5. Toronto Raptors

Monday, October 23, 2006

My College Football Top 10

There's so many rankings... AP Poll, BCS Rankings, etc. Well, I figured I'd toss my name in the hat with my top 10. This is just the order of what I think are the top 10 teams in the country.

1. Michigan
I've said before I consider them the best team in the country, and they did nothing to change my mind Saturday. The offense wasn't as explosive with Mario Manningham out again, but the defense was dominant in the 20-6 win over Iowa. Drew Tate didn't get anything going in the passing game, and the Hawkeyes had 41 yards rushing.
2. Ohio St.
The Buckeyes are more like 1A then 2 for me, as they continue to impress on both sides of the ball in a 44-3 drubbing of Indiana. Troy Smith is the best college QB in the nation right now,and they have the playmakers. With games against Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern coming up, they'll cruise undefeated into the game with Michigan.
3. West Virginia
What a running game. I know Pat White isn't a very good passer, but he doesn't have to be in this offense. I know that West Virginia hasn't really played anyone, but their closest margin of victory this year was 17 points. That's good. I think the combo of White and Slaton (#2 in the Heisman running now) is enough to put them above USC as they head into Louisville in 2 weeks.
4. USC
How impressive does that season-opening thrashing of Arkansas look now, with the Razorbacks running through the SEC? The talent is there for the Trojans, they just need consistency from the young guys. They should have two relatively easy games as they head down the home stretch, which includes games against Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame.
5. Florida
Theoretically, Auburn should be above Florida because they beat them, but I still think Florida is the better team and would win on a neutral field, which is why they're at #5. With a game against a suddenly anemic Georgia team this week, Gators look let to cruise to the SEC East Title, barring upset. And that season-ending date with the Seminoles is always a good one too.
6. Texas
Let's make one thing clear, Nebraska is a very solid team, especially playing at home. Texas got the break with the Huskers fumble late, but they still played a good ballgame. Colt McCoy continues to look extremely impressive... making plays throwing and running the ball, and not making big mistakes. And I think Limas Sweed is starting to put his name in there as one of the best WR in the nation.
7. Auburn
I don't think anyone would mind seeing a Florida/Auburn rematch in the SEC Title Game, but Arkansas might have a little something to say about that. Auburn has to win out to have a shot, and with their conference games remaining being against Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama, they have a great shot at that.
8. Louisville
Louisville is not nearly as explosive without Michael Bush in the lineup, but they're still very dangerous. Brian Brohm is excellent, the receivers are dangerous, and Kolby Smith and George Stripling are doing a good job filling in for Bush. With the offensive firepower of Louisville and of West Virginia, that game in 2 weeks could be the best game of the year.
9. Clemson
Clemson gave one of the most impressive performances I've seen all year on Saturday night. Defensively, they shut down Calvin Johnson, and harrassed Reggie Ball all night. Offensively, well, look at the numbers for the RBs. James Davis ran for 216 yards, CJ Spiller ran for 116 yards and a score, and also caught a 50 yard pass. On that 50-yard TD catch, the moves he put on were ridiculous. He made a couple of GT defenders look foolish trying to tackle him. Huge Thursday night game at Va. Tech this week... after that their last 3 are at home.
10. California
They had a hard time getting by Washington, but it was through no fault of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch ran for 150 yards and 2 scores, including the game-winner in OT. Still, it would worry me some if I were Jeff Tedford in that Washington turned the ball over 5 times (compared to 0 for Cal) and it still took overtime to win the game.

Just missed: Tennessee, Arkansas, Notre Dame

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NFL Week 7 Recap

A wild, wacky day of NFL action. Let's go right to it.

Chiefs 30, Chargers 27 - A doubly bad day for the Chargers... first they lose, and now they found out that Shawne Merriman will be suspended for 4 games. Although on the bright side, LaDainian Tomlinson continued his great passing... by my count, he's not 6/9 with 5 TD passes in his career. Meanwhile, Larry Johnson... he good.

Texans 27, Jaguars 7 - Just when I think I have things kinda figured out, this happens. The Texans stomp the Jaguars. Early in the year the Jags D was hailed as one of the tops in the NFL... and David Carr was great against it, Wali Lundy averaged nearly 5 yards a carry, and the Texans scored 27 points. I can't figure the NFL out.

Bengals 17, Panthers 14 - Two really good teams playing in a tight ballgame. Not really much more to say about it. Another big day for Steve Smith... this guy is just ridiculous.

Patriots 28, Bills 6 - Yeah, the Patriots are real good again. Brady is looking more comfortable every week... Ben Watson was solid at TE, Doug Gabriel continues to be their best WR, and the rookie Chad Jackson had a 35 yard TD grab. With that rapidly improving passing game, the two-headed monster at RB, and Bill Belichek game planning defensively, these guys are definitely going to be a threat in January once again.

Falcons 41, Steelers 38 OT - Just a great game here. Back and forth all day, big play after big play, and Michael Vick even making plays with his arm. One little thing that irritated me about this game, and about announcers in general... with the score 38-38, the Falcons ran a play that was stopped for not that many yards. The announcers reaction was something like this, "You can run that play successfully against a lot of teams, but not against a defense like the Steelers." Really? A great defense that gave up 38 points (at that point in the game)? Not against a defense that allowed Michael Vick (!) to tear them up in the passing game, or allowed Jerrious Norwood to get 8 yards per carry? Yeah, Steelers defense was awesome today. I hate announcers.

Bucs 23, Eagles 21 - Was that the best kick ever? I mean, when Elam kicked his, that wasn't to win the game, if I recall. 62 yarder, outdoors, to win the game. Unbelievable.

One more pet peeve, and this goes for everyone's logic and thinking skills. That was NOT the 2nd longest kick in NFL history, as I heard on lots of the NFL shows after the game. Two players made kicks that were 63 yards, which makes Bryant's the 3rd longest kick in history. Now, looking up the story, the AP does have it right, but all the TV shows I heard them say it was the 2nd longest kick in history, which is wrong.

But regardless, incredible, incredible kick.

Jets 31, Lions 24 - If I recall, Leon Washington mostly split carries at Florida St. with Lorenzo Booker... well, he's sure playing well as the starter for New York, with 129 yards and 2 TD on the day. Don't look now, but the Jets are 4-3 and have a date with the Browns next week.

Packers 34, Dolphins 24 - Last year, I thought the Dolphins were one of the better coached teams in the NFL. This year, not so much. How else do you explain Joey Harrington throwing 62 passes, and Ronnie Brown only getting 15 carries. 62 PASSES!! Have the Dolphins lost their mind? I mean, if you have a guy like Peyton Manning, I can understand throwing a lot of passes, even though 62 is way too many. But Joey Harrington? Throwing 62 passes in a game? Is this some kind of bizarro world?!?

Broncos 17, Browns 7 - Jake Plummer sucks a lot, the Broncos defense is really good, the Broncos running game is really good. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Vikings 31, Seahawks 13 - Dear Shaun, We need you back. I need you back. We're not the same without you. I mean, just between you and me, Maurice Morris isn't very good. Like at all. With Matt in there, we could just go 4 wide and throw all the time, which was kinda effective, but now he got hurt, and who knows if he'll be back. Please Shaun, Hutch is already gone, Matt might be gone, we need you back. Sincerely, Mike H.

Raiders 22, Cardinals 9 - So the Cardinals nearly beat a team that is arguably the best in football (Bears) one week, then get smoked by the team that is arguably the worst in football (Raiders) the next week? Matt Leinart looks like a seasoned veteran against the best defense in the NFL, and looks like he should still be buried deep in the depth chart against the Raiders? Football is a funny game.

Colts 36, Redskins 22 - Joseph Addai is putting up better numbers than Edgerrin James right now. I mean, I know their situations are very, very different right now, but do you think that Indy regrets letting Edge go? Like at all? Me neither.

Monday nighter is a good matchup... Giants/Cowboys. Hopefully I'll get to watch it and won't have to be writing a speech the whole time! Such is life.

Friday, October 20, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 7

As we inch closer towards the midway point of the year, well, most things still aren't clear about the NFL. Ok, the Colts offense is good, the Bears defense is good, and the Raiders suck. We do know that, I guess.

Jaguars (-9.5) over Texans
Apparently Gary Kubiak reads this blog, because after last week I sad that Ron Dayne was atrociously bad, and now it looks like he may not even play, leaving Wali Lundy and Samkon Gado to split carries. Coincedence? I THINK NOT! Well, actually yes it was, but let's not get into that right now. The moral of the story is, the Texans are bad, and the Jags offense is a lot better now that Maurice Jones-Drew is getting more time.

Panthers (+3) over Bengals
This pick worries me, because it seems like everyone is picking the Panthers, and that can only mean bad things. I think I read that all of ESPN's "experts" picked the Panthers to win this game. Regardless, the Bengals are struggling a bit right now, while the Panthers have looked unbeatable with Steve Smith in the lineup. And Julius Peppers is a freak, if you haven't noticed. I'll ride the hot hand.

Bills (+5.5) over Patriots
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Patriots eeked out a 19-17 win on opening day after a JP Losman fumble. Now, it's in Buffalo, McGahee is running the ball well, and I don't think Losman will take another safety. I like the Pats to win, but the Bills to cover.

Bucs (+5.5) over Eagles
Vince Young's been ok, Matt Leinart's been solid, but Bruce Gradkowski has been the best performing rookie QB so far. I'm not kidding. He's sparked the offense, is making plays, and now they even have Cadillac going. In Tampa's two games with Gradkowski at the helm, they lost @ NO on a punt return, and beat the Bengals. I'll take them to cover at home against Philly.

Jets (-3.5) over Lions
The Lions were pretty solid last week, as Roy Williams has finally erased some of the Lions 1st Round WR Curse by being, well, real good. But they did get some bad news, as stud DT Shaun Rogers was suspended. Other than the game against Jacksonville, the Jets have been a consistent team that has been in ever game under Coach Eric Mangini. I look for them to get above .500 with the home game against Detroit here.

Packers (+5.5) over Dolphins
Wow. This is not a game I'd like to have to watch this week.

Chargers (-5) over Chiefs
I realize this game is at Arrowhead, but did anyone watch the Steelers/Chiefs game last week? And the spread is only 5? So much for that improved KC defense. As for the Chargers, as I keep saying, as long as they continue to let Philip Rivers throw the ball, they're very possibly the best team in the NFL. Great running game, great defense, and what looks to be a real good, young QB.

Steelers (-2.5) over Falcons
I'm sorry, I have officially jumped off the Michael Vick Bandwagon. His completion percentage is a shade above 50%, 5 points lower than last year. That's not enough to make up for a few more rushing yards a game. Now that it looks like Big Ben is back to his old self, and Willie Parker is firmly entrenched, I'll take the Steelers.

Broncos (-4.5) over Browns
Until someone does something against this Denver defense, I have a hard time picking against them. As long as Jake Plummer doesn't really have to do anything, the Broncos are real good. I don't foresee the Browns forcing this game into a situation where Plummer has to make plays.

Cardinals (-3) over Raiders
Lost in the Leinart Hype (including by me) is that early on when the numbers were great for him, he didn't really have to do anything. They put him in shotgun, he dumped the ball off, and the receivers made plays. Now, Leinart was great on the last drive, but my point here is that if the WR are making plays against the Bears defense, they'll make plays against the Raiders defense.

Seahawks (-6.5) over Vikings
I love love love the Vikings D, but I'm not sure they can score enough with Brad Johnson. Plus, if they win and my pick is wrong, well, I'm ok with that too.

Redskins (+9.5) over Colts
If the Titans can come within a point of the Colts, the Redskins can, right? Well, that logic is stupid, but I'll still take the Skins to cover. I'm still having a hard time believing they're this bad though... I'll give them one more week to redeem themselves.

Cowboys (-3) over Giants
Two very good teams, two inconsistent QBs. Drew Bledsoe is Drew Bledsoe. If he has time, he's not bad. If he doesn't, he's really, really bad. Eli Manning, I have a tougher time figuring out. At times he'll look great (2nd half vs Philly), and other times he'll make passes that leave you scratching your head. I can't figure it out. What this means is that your guess is as good as mine regarding this game... but I'll go with the home team and the Dalls Cowboys.

Last Week: 6-7
Season: 43-39-5

Thursday, October 19, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 8

In the heart of the conference schedule, as teams get ready for the stretch run... ok, I'm still working on my intros! But anyway, let's just stop this and get to the picks.

Iowa @ (2) Michigan
A couple weeks ago, Iowa was looked at as one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the Big 10, especially with Drew Tate at the helm. Now, they're barely above water after losing to Indiana, who hasn't been all that good the past few years. And now, they head into The Big House, home to what I believe is the best team in the Nation. Their only shot is if Drew Tate has some big-game heroics, but I don't see him doing enough. Not against Michigan. MICHIGAN 27-13.

(22) Boston College @ Florida St.
The Seminoles started off the year looking good with a win over Miami at the Orange Bowl... things haven't gone so well since. The offense is inconsistent, they have 2 losses, and they've fallen out of the poll. Meanwhile, BC is coming off of a convincing 22-3 win over Virginia Tech, which put them at 22 in the rankings. However, with the uncertainty over whether Matt Ryan will be able to play, combined with this game being in Tallahassee, I'll go with the Noles here. FLORIDA ST. 16-14.

(19) Rutgers @ Pittsburgh
Rutgers, yes Rutgers, is looking to remain undefeated heading into Pittsburgh (granted, they haven't exactly had a world-beating SOS). Pitt is playing pretty well themselves, as they stand at 6-1 with their only loss against Michigan St. Tyler Palko is playing very well, the D is solid, and they are getting solid contributions from the running game. For Rutgers, Ray Rice is a very solid RB, and Mike Heel has some weapons catching the ball. However, I like Palko and Pitt a little more, and I like them to drop another team from the undefeated ranks. PITTSBURGH 31-21.

(13) Georgia Tech @ (12) Clemson
Great matchup here between the two best teams in the ACC, though they have different ways of going about it. For Ga. Tech, everything is centered around Calvin Johnson, the best WR in the nation. For Clemson, it all revolves around the great running game, led by James Davis and freshman CJ Spiller. Both Davis and Spiller average over 6 YPC, and have combined for 20 rushing TD. Clemson's only loss came by 1 point at BC, while GT's only loss was by 4 points to Notre Dame. This will be a great football game between two very solid teams, but I like Georgia Tech a little more with the versatility of Reggie Ball at the QB position. GEORGIA TECH 34-31.

(5) Texas @ (17) Nebraska
The last matchup was between the two best teams in the ACC, and this pits the two best teams in the Big 12 (especially with Adrian Peterson out). Texas has played great football since the loss to Ohio St., and Nebraska has been solid all year long. For the Huskers, it's all about the passing game under Bill Callahan, and Zac Taylor has been superb, with 14 TD passes. For the Longhorns, Colt McCoy has upped him, with 18 TD passes already. But the real difference here is in the RBs... Marlon Lucky is a fine looking sophomore, but he's no match for the combo of Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles. Nebraska is Texas' top competitor, but the Longhorns are the class of the Big 12. TEXAS 28-17.

Last Week: 4-1
Season: 26-9

Links and the like

I'm still recovering from my Accounting test I had, so I thought I'd just post some links, in the hopes that someone, somewhere would get enjoyment out of at least one of them. If you do, let me know. I'm an easy person to please.

Who's the post-game tirade champion? Big Picture reports, you decide.

Now this is a celebration I can support.

I heart Fire Joe Morgan.

I haven't been able to watch a whole lot of baseball since the Twins were defeated, but apparently it is still going on, and we will have a Game 7... and the pitching matchup... wait for it... JEFF SUPPAN VS. OLIVER PEREZ!! Perez' ERA is 6.55 right now. Maybe he's just been saving his best stuff.

College basketball is right around the corner... and that means previews. The start of the college basketball year can't come soon enough, as far as I'm concerned.

You know, as bad as Isiah Thomas is as a GM, maybe he should just focus on that instead of focusing on TV analysts. My bad, stupid idea.

Hopefully that will be enough to hold you over. If not, well, my apologies.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

9 Things I Think I Know about College Football

Ok, I realize I'm basically copying Peter King's "10 Things I Think I Think," but I don't think he'll mind. If you're reading this Peter and you do mind, my apologies.

Anyway, here are the 9 things I think I know about college football as of right now. These are probably sure to change within the week, because that's how things are. So sue me.

1) For all the preseason talk, the Big East is better than the ACC.
The ACC has more depth (since they have about twice the teams), I'll grant you that, but the Big East is much stronger up top. With the anemic FSU offense, and the mediocre seasons of Miami and Va. Tech, that leaves Clemson and Georgia Tech as [arguably] the 2 best teams in the ACC. They're solid clubs, but West Virginia and Louisville are both head and shoulders above them. The rest of the Big East isn't so bad either. The 3rd and 4th best teams are Pittsburgh and Rutgers, a combined 12-1. Pitt is playing great with Tyler Palko at the helm, and Rutgers has some fine talent on offense. I'll take the top 4 in the Big East over the top 4 in the ACC, no questions asked.

2) It's a shame Adrian Peterson may never play another college football game.
Let's face it, there's a great chance Peterson will leave Oklahoma for the NFL after this year, and that's probably the right choice. I'm just disappointed that with the broken collarbone, we may not see him run the ball in college anymore. He's carred the load (when healthy) in Norman since he got there, and he was on a Heisman campaign this year. Let's be honest, he is better bit the NFL prospect Reggie Bush was, just a much different style of RB. It was great to watch him for the Sooners, and it's too bad that we may never get to see that again.

3) The new clock rules are bad.
Seriously, a running clock after the change of possession? They thought this was a good idea? Can they at least change it so the clock stops in the last 2 minutes, or maybe the whole 4th quarter? Please?

4) The Heisman is Troy Smith's to lose.
Coming into the year, I thought Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson were the Heisman favorites. However, Quinn has struggled a bit (especially against Michigan), and Peterson is hurt. Leaving Troy Smith all alone up top. If OSU goes undefeated, there is a 0% chance Smith doesn't win the Heisman as long as he stays healthy. You can quote me on that.

5) All things being equal, Florida is the best team in the SEC.
Yes, I know they lost to Auburn. And Auburn played great. But I think they were helped out a lot by the home crowd. Obviously, that's the advantage of home-field advantage. However, if these teams meet again in the SEC Championship, I'll take Florida. I think they're faster, more athletic, and stronger up front defensively. One thing's for sure, that's definitely a rematch I'd love to see.

6) California is the best team in the Pac-10.
Sure, they got rocked in the opening game against Tennessee, but they're a different team now. Since then, their closest game has been 18 points, and that's including games against ASU (who gave USC all they wanted), and a very talented Oregon team. USC's still a very talented team, and they'll be playing Cal at home, but from what I've seen, Cal is the better team right now. That may change in the next month when they play, but right now Cal is better defensively and more explosive offensively.

7) Michigan (with a healthy Mario Manningham) is the best team in the country.
Ohio St. may have something to say about that, and they obviously have a strong case, but no team has impressed me more than Michigan. Chad Henne has been accurate and is making good decisions, Michael Hart is the best RB in the Big 10, and Mario Manningham is the most explosive player not named Ted Ginn in the conference. But what sets them apart is the defense. They're giving up 13.6 PPG, but that's not against an easy schedule. They held a powerful Irish team to 21 points, a pretty darned good Wisconsin team to 13 points, and no one else in the Big 10 over 14. If they get by Iowa, it looks like pretty smooth sailing for the Wolverines to be heading into Columbus with an undefeated record.

8) There will be more BCS Controversy.
As it stands right now, there are 5 teams near the top of the polls that are undefeated in Ohio St., Michigan, USC, West Virginia, and Louisville. With OSU/Michigan and WVU/Louisville games in the future, that leaves 3 of those teams being possibly undefeated. USC still hs games against Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame, and I don't really like their chances to come out of that unscathed. Which would leave 2 teams... and odds are, at least one of them will lose. That's what tends to happen. Which would leave a 0-loss team playing a 1-loss team in the BCS Title Game. Which means that...

9) Michigan will play Auburn for the National Championship.
Obviously in this scenario Michigan would beat Ohio St., and as I've mentioned, I think that's entirely possible. Which leaves Auburn as the 1-loss team making it. They have 5 games left on their regular season schedule, and frankly, the game are not that intimidating. Their toughest remaining opponents are Georgia (who has looked pretty bad lately) and @ Alabama (who hasn't been that great either). After that, they may not even make the SEC Title game. For all intents and purposes, they are 2 games back of Arkansas, and the Razorbacks are playing real well behind the running game and solid defense. It's very possible they lose 1 game or less the rest of the way. The biggest crimp in this plan that I see is that I look at West Virginia's remaining schedule and I'm not sure anyone can beat them, especially with Michael Bush being hurt. But it is worth noting that Auburn is above West Virginia in the inaugural BCS Standings.

So there you have... some bold predictions, some not so bold. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bears defeat Cardinals

What a weird, wacky game. One of the strangest I've ever seen. With the Bears down 20 points with absolutely no offensive production to speak of, they came back to win. 2 defensive TDs and a Special Teams TD. Unbelievable game, and as a Vikings fan I was even rooting against the Bears! Some of my thoughts:

- If a team forces 6 turnovers and controls the TOP by about 2:1, they have to win the game about 99% of the time, right? Yeah, I think it's correct to say the Cardinals gave this game away (not that the Bears defense and ST wasn't fabulous in the comeback).

- You can officially stop any Rex Grossman for MVP talk... he was atrocious. Just simply awful in every aspect of the game. I realize the O-Line wasn't giving him great protection, but that's no excuse. Terrible decisions, forcing passes downfield into double and triple teams, fumbles, overthrowing guys... I mean, this was an all-around bad effort. As good as he looked for 5 weeks, he looked worse on this week. A lot worse. 14/37, 148 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT, 2 fumbles. Wow.

- On the other hand, I was extremely impressed with Matt Leinart. Making his second start, all he does is play an efficient game against the best defense in the NFL. His receivers had a lot to do with it because they played great, but you can't teach the kind of poise he showed on that last drive. Unfortunately, Rackers spoiled the storybook ending, but Leinart was great.

- The Edge - 36 carres, 55 yards. Bet he misses Indy right about now.

- Devin Hester is a weapon out there. He needs to be used more on reverses and WR screens, I think.

I'm still kinda in shock. Down 23-3, and they didn't score an offensive TD. And they won the game. I've never seen anything like it. And here I thought this was going to be an awful MNF game!

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't provide the YouTube clip of Denny Green "blowing up" after the game talking to the media:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

NFL Week 6 Recaps

With the Vikings in their bye, I had some more time to flip around between games, which was ok. Anyway, a brief look at all the games will follow. But I'm sure you already guessed that.

Saints 27, Eagles 24 - I think I've been underrating the Saints a lot. I've been overly stingy with them in my predictions, but they have a very good RB in Deuce, a solid, accurate QB, and a plethora of options in the receiving game. As long as the defense is decent, they'll compete for the division title. The revamp in one year's time for the Saints is pretty remarkable.

Lions 20, Bills 17 - Ok, it may be time to start talking about Roy Williams as one of the best WR in the NFL, after hauling in 10 passes for 161 yards and a TD. He's always been extremely talented, but he's missed a few games in each of his first 2 years. If he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he's Honolulu bound. Also an encouraging sign for the Lions is that there was a Kevin Jones sighting! How about that!

Cowboys 34, Texans 6 - Ho hum. TO is still real good, the Texans still can't run the ball. Ron Dayne is just atrociously bad. There's not really much else to say about this game, other than to note that the Texans actually led 6-3 at half.

Panthers 23, Ravens 21 - You heard it here first, the Ravens are better off with Kyle Boller at QB than with Steve McNair at QB. McNair's not mobile anymore, doesn't have good arm strength, and isn't that accurate anymore. McNair is washed up. As for the Panthers, boy, they're pretty good with Steve Smith in there. 189 yards against the Ravens D? That just doesn't happen very often.

Giants 27, Falcons 14 - I am becoming more convinced every game... Michael Vick is not an NFL starting QB. Even after all of these years, he's just not a good passer and doesn't make great decisions in there. I honestly think the Falcons would be a better team with Vick at RB or WR and Matt Schaub at QB.

Titans 25, Redskins 22 - I've been defending the Redskins as a talented team that just needed more time to understand the offense and playbook, but I have a hard time defending them now. I mean, if you're a playoff team, you can't lose at home to the Tennessee Titans. You just can't. I've long said that Drew Bledsoe is not very good at all... well, Brunell is the worst starting QB in the NFC East.

Bucs 14, Bengals 13 - Another impressive performance for Gradkowski. These Bucs aren't all that bad. With a little luck, they'd have beaten 4-2 Carolina and 5-1 Tampa Bay... as for the Bengals, I can't really figure them out right now. Things started off so well, but their last 2 games they've scored 26 points. Not so good for a team that I thought had the 2nd best offense in football.

Seahawks 30, Rams 28 - Deion Branch, good to have you. 2 TD for the Hawks today. Just great efforts by both Hasselbeck and Bulger, but the real star of the game is Josh Brown. 2 49-yarders in the 4th quarter, and then a 54-yarder as time expires... that man has ice in his veins. Figuratively speaking.

Chargers 48, 49ers 19 - It's official, the Bolts are real good. It appears that Marty has loosened the reins fully on Rivers, and that's a very good thing. I realize it was only San Fran, but 29/39 for 334 yards is very nice. If Rivers can provide balance with LT and Turner in the backfield, the Chargers will be real tough to beat with that defense.

Steelers 45, Chiefs 7 - Not really much to say about this one. Pittsburgh just thoroughly dominated every facet of this game. And yeah, there was a reason I didn't like Brodie Croyle in the draft... 3/7, 23 yards, and 2 INT. Tough debut.

Jets 20, Dolphins 17 - Until the Jets packed it in sometime in the 4th, very nice game for them. Pennington was solid and got some big plays, and the Barlow/Washington duo provided balance in the running game. The positive for Miami is that they finally got Ronnie Brown on track, which is probably a good sign in the long run. Unfortunately, there's not many positives in falling to 1-5.

Broncos 13, Raiders 3 - A win's a win, but it wasn't all that impressive for Denver. If the Raiders were merely awful instead of terribly, completely awful, this would have been a tight game. Instead, the Raiders shot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. Hey, it's the Art Shell Way.

Bears/Cards on Monday Night. I project the Bears to win by about 25. They're that good right now.

And that's your Week 6.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 6

Back for another week of the greatly anticipated, never disapponting NFL picks against the spread! I don't want to keep you all waiting another word, so here we go.

Seahawks (-3) over Rams - The Rams are playing well, Shaun Alexander is out, and the Rams are at home... Rams in a route, right? Let's just say I'm not quite sold on St. Louis yet. Their wins are against Denver, @ Arizona, Detroit, @Green Bay, and their loss came against San Fran. Not exactly an incredible body of work there. Plus, they are still having problems putting the ball in the endzone when they get in the red zone. Matt Hasselbeck has to be star in this offense with Alexander out, and I think he'll have a big week.

Redskins (-10.5) over Titans - Let's just get one thing straight... I have no idea why that Colts/Titans game was that close. Indy at home against a Vince Young-led Tennessee Titans. By all means, that game should have been a blowout. But I suppose that's why they play the game. Regardless, I still think the Titans aren't very good, and the Redskins should be getting better and better with Al Saunder's offense every week.

Bills (-1.5) over Lions - Coming into the year I thought the Lions would be able to challenge for .500 and the Bills would suck... I've done a 180. Last week against the Bears notwithstanding, the Bills have shown to have a good running game, solid defense, and on rare occasions, JP Losman can do some things. Meanwhile for the Lions, the defense sucks, and the offense isn't all that great right now. Mike Martz-Ball is in full effect... meaning they pass the ball A LOT. Only problem is that their only playmaker on offense is Roy Williams, who will play but might be slowed by a back injury. I like the Bills to keep Detroit out of the win column.

Bucs (+5) over Bengals - Bruce Gradkowksi was impressive last week, and if he can be average, this Bucs team is not THAT bad. Heck, they were in the playoffs last year. The defense is older but still talented, and if they can get Cadillac going, he's a very solid back. Plus, I have the image of the Bengals getting shellacked by the Pats in my head. I think Cincy will probably win, but I'll take Tampa to cover.

Panthers (+3) over Ravens - Most of what I have read about Steve McNair with the Ravens so far has been positive, but I'm not sure why. I thought he was a great pickup for Baltimore, but he looked washed up. He's not very mobile anymore, he doesn't have great arm strength, and he simply hasn't been accurate. His QB rating is 67.0, and he's got a measly 5.5 YPA. They have a great offense, but the offense is led by two past-their-prime players in the backfield. I don't see this ending well.

Eagles (-3) over Saints - Finally, a Reggie Bush TD! Seriously, anyone notice Reggie Bush is leading the NFL in receptions right now. This man is just ridiculous. And don't think now, but Deuce is putting up very good numbers running the ball. Just a great, versatile 1-2 combo. However, McNabb is just playing too well right now. The Saints have obviously been very impressive so far, but I don't think they're on the Eagles level at this point.

Texans (+10.5) over Cowboys - First off, let me get something off my chest... DREW BLEDSOE SUCKS. He makes terrible decisions, takes terrible sacks, and that's not really a good combo. Wasn't the end of last week's game vintage Bledsoe? He held on to the ball forever, takes a huge sack, and gets put in an impossible situation. Now, he did get bailed out by the defense, so he's got another chance. And what does he do? Throws a TD to the Eagles. Vintage Bledsoe. That said, I think the Cowboys defense is too good to let them lose to Houston, but I'll take the Texans to cover.

Giants (+3) over Falcons - The terribly difficult opening schedule for the Giants continue, as they head to Atlanta. They've been a little inconsistent this year, a lot of that which can be tied to Eli Manning. But, they played very good defense shutting down the Skins this week, and with Jerrious Norwood possibly a little limited for Atlanta this week, I think the defense can play well enough again for the Giants to win this game.

Jets (-2.5) over Dolphins - Was there a more surprising score last week than Jacksonville beating NY 41-0? Granted, the Jags are more talented, but the Jets had been very competitive against solid teams all year. Really a weird game. Joey Harrington brings the Dolphins into New York this week, and I just have a tough time picking Harrington. All those years in Detroit, and he was still making awful, awful decisions... I think this will be a tight game, but ultimately the Jets will win after Harrington throws a bad pick in the 4th quarter. That's my prediction.

Chargers (-10) over 49ers - An amazing thing happened last week that you may have missed... Marty actually let Philip Rivers, you know, throw the ball against Pittsburgh, and amazingly, things turned out well. That can only be a good thing for San Diego. If Marty continues to get at least somewhat of a good balance run/pass, then the Chargers have the talent for a Super Bowl run. Rivers is talented, and LT/Turner is a great combo in the backfield. In other words, 49ers should have no shot this week... but you just never know with Marty.

Steelers (-7) over Chiefs - Is this the week the Steelers start in any way resembling the team they were last year? Damon Huard's been a nice story, but this Pittsburgh defense is too good to let him beat them, right? Roethlisberger can't continue to play this badly, can he? Well, I'm banking on that here with a pick of Pittsburgh, but I'll admit I'm not real confident about it.

Broncos (-14.5) over Raiders - Doesn't NBC get to pick what game they want in the Sunday night time slot? Or is that only later in the season? Please tell me it's just later in the season and this game was chosen well in advance... because it could be awful. The Raiders suck badly, and Denver's defense is dominant. To put it in perspective... Denver is averaging just over 12 points per game this year - and they're favored by 14.5. Uh yeah, this should be a real awesome game to watch.

Bears (-10.5) over Cardinals - The Bears are looking simply unstoppable. Rex Grossman is playing very well and getting the big play. The defense is the best in the NFL. The average score of Bears games this year is something like 31-7. Oh yeah, and the Cardinals are starting a rookie QB, their best WR is hurt, and their O-Line is dreadful... I'm quite surprised the line isn't higher.

Hopefully I can rebound from a poor week last week.

Last Week: 4-7-3
Season: 37-32-5

Friday, October 13, 2006

College Football Picks: Week 7

And we're back with another thrilling edition of the picks, as we get close to the release of the BCS rankings, which are always fair and without controversy. Anyway, the picks:

Iowa St @ (23) Oklahoma
Each team remains winless in the Big 12, which makes this basically a must-win if they want to have any small chance at contending for a conference title. Iowa St. was thought to be able to compete this year, but they have really struggled... their 3 wins have all been tight this year, against Toledo (45-43), UNLV (16-10), and Northern Iowa (28-27... and by the way, go Univeristy of North Dakota, a D2 school, who went to Northern Iowa and won 35-31 earlier this year!). Iowa St. still has the weapons, especially offensively, to get it done in the Big 12. Unfortunately, they don't have the weapons to stop Adrian Peterson. OKLAHOMA 24-16.

(19) Missouri @ Texas A&M
If Iowa St. has been the disappointment of the Big 12, Missouri has been the revelation. Some thought the Tigers would struggle after the loss of Mr. Everything Brad Smith, but Chase Daniel has stepped in and played great football. Meanwhile, every game is big for Dennis Franchione, who's trying to save his job with the Aggies. Call me crazy, but with the 12th Man, I like the Aggies in a mild upset over a good Mizzou club. TEXAS A&M 28-24.

Arizona St. @ (3) USC
The year started with high hopes for the Sun Devils, with two good QBs returning and a talented offense. Things haven't exactly materialized. Sam Keller transferred, and Rudy Carpenter isn't exactly setting the world on fire. Meanwhile, the Trojans just continue to do what they do, which is win. A lot. Even with all the losses USC experienced offensively, they are still stacked with Booty at QB, all the young RBs, and the great WRs. ASU has a shot if Carpenter can get back to last year's form, but I don't see it happening at USC. USC 34-21.

(4) Michigan @ Penn St.
The Wolverines are playing like one of the best teams in the country, but they received some bad news when they found out Mario Manningham will miss this game. The Wolverines have lots of options offensively, but Manningham might have been the best, already with 9 receiving TDs. But even with him out, they still have enough weapons with Henne leading them to get by the Nittany Lions, in a rematch of the most underappreciated game of last year. MICHIGAN 28-21.

(2) Florida at (11) Auburn
And for the second straight week, Florida is in what looks to be the game of the week. Last week they took on LSU at The Swamp, but now they'll travel to take on a reeling Auburn team after an ugly defeat at the hands of Arkansas. Coming into the year, I was a really big supporter of Auburn, but they had some things exposed last week. They O-Line did not do a very good job of opening up holes for the talented RBs, and Brandon Cox can't win a game by himself, especially with a dirth of good WRs.

Meanwhile, the Gators played their best game of the year in handling LSU. The offense was solid, with Chris Leak taking the majority of the snaps, but Tebow playing great in relief, not only in the short yardage run game, but also throwing the ball a little. 2 passes last week for 2 TD... that's efficiency. Bottom line, I believe in a thing called Urban Meyer. Consider me firmly on the Gator Bandwagon. FLORIDA 24-13.

Of course, that just means you shouldn't be betting on Florida this week!

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 22-8