Friday, December 23, 2005

NFL picks week 16

This week has been a rough week as my car blew up and it is a brand new car. I use blew up because the engine needs to be replaced; it didn't actually blow up.

TAMPA (-3) over Atlanta Tampa is just the better team, despite the loss to NE, and this game is at home. Atlanta does not have the defense to shut down Tampa's ground game.

CINCY (-13.5) over Buffalo Cincy still has something to play for, and Buffalo is on their tenth QB switch. Something has to eat at Buffalo with their terrible QB situation and seeing Drew Bledsoe put up good numbers in Dallas.

CAROLINA (-5) over Dallas I can't believe the egg that Dallas laid in DC last week. Bledsoe had a terrible game, the defense played terrible, and they played flat. They were driving after the Skins first TD, and it was a required answer to the turnover and TD. Unfortunately, mental errors cost them any points, and the mood was established. They are playing a superior team this week than last, and I just don't see them winning. What is sad is that if their kicking game had come through for them earlier in the year, they would not have to play so hard in these last few games. Sitting at 11-2 with homefield rather than 8-5, the pressure would be off of them. They would have only need to win 1 game of their last 3 to clinch the NFC east, and only win 2, maybe 1, to clinch homefield. They pissed it away with bad kicking and execution late in games.

Detroit (+3) over NEW ORLEANS New Orleans is done. I just wonder what they will do in the draft. I'd grab Leinart from USC in a heartbeat and just work him with those good receivers and Deuce like mad in the offseason. I will not comment on Detroit because they are a hopeless franchise as long as Matt Millen is in charge.

Jacksonville (-6) over HOUSTON This is a shaky pick because Jacksonville seems to be playing to the level of their opposition with Garrard under center. He's tanking his audition for a starting job elsewhere. Sure, he is winning, but it's not like he is playing well. He had one good performance vs. the Colts and the others have been less than stellar. Houston made a mistake last week, I can't believe they won a game. Maybe Capers got angry at the accusations of throwing the game vs. the Titans.

NY Giants (+3) over WASHINGTON Washington is rolling through this second half like I thought they could. I remember saying they had a better second half schedule, and they had Dallas/NY at home. Huge difference compared to the early season schedule. Still, NY has Tiki running at full speed now, and they are going to bring it in DC. I think that last week's performance solidified his claim to the MVP award this season. A lot of attention has been given to Eli Manning, but it has been Tiki's superhuman performance this season which has carried the team offensively.

Pitts (-7) over CLEVELAND Pittsburgh needs to win out to make the playoffs, and even then, if there is a 3 way tie between the Steelers, Chargers and Jaguars, due to tiebreakers, the Steelers would be on the outside looking in.

San Diego (-2) over KC Tough pick. KC is unbeaten at home in December since days of yore. San Diego just throttled the undefeated Colts who are everyone's Super Bowl pick. The pass by Brees to McCardell in the 4th was amazing. I was surprised Marty called the play, and then I was surprised to see Brees hit the spot. At that point (17-16, Chargers inside their 10) I thought the Colts would score 2 more TDs and show everyone why they are the SB favorite. I was wrong. Great play, great game.

San Fran (+9.5) over ST LOUIS St Louis just lost to a Rutgers Qb playing with no offensive weapons. I have not picked San Fran in many games and it has killed me to keep missing with them. What I did with this pick is go with my gut, and then do the opposite. F-you San Fran.

MIAMI (-5.5) over Tenn Saban is doing an awesome job with this team, and they are one QB away from giving the Pats trouble in the AFC east. Who will be next year's starter…….
5. Aaron Brooks - No, I don't think Saban would put up with him
4. Jay Cutler - This guy has the same name as a pro bodybuilder. I don't think Saban wants to go through a QB grooming when he can win now.
3. Steve McNair - He'll be available an has the skill. I don't know if they would take the injury risk that comes with McNair.
2. Philip Rivers - He'll need a new home this offseason. The Dolphins have a decent pick to trade, but maybe not enough. Rivers has spent 2 years in back up mode learning a good offense. It's a trade for the future.
1. Daunte Culpepper - This could happen, and would be really good for their offense. Culpepper has weapons around him and a running game to take the pressure off.

Philly (+1) over Arizona Arizona lost to Houston. It's earth shattering. Who could lose to a team deliberately trying to lose to get the first pick? Dennis Green is a coach I respect, but seriously, what is he doing with the defense?

SEATTLE (-7.5) over Colts I don't trust Seattle even if Indy plays its starters for 2 quarters.

DENVER (-13) over Oakland Oakland is burnt out, and needs a QB. Throw them in the loop with Miami on those names listed above. Denver will crush them because Shanahan always loves to pound the Raiders.

Chicago (-6.5) over GREEN BAY Favre has not gone a week without a pick since week 7. Chicago will eat him alive this game. I liked Grossman in college, and I hope that he develops and can become a good starter for the Bears. They will have a good backfield for the future with him and Benson.

Minnesota (+3) over BALTIMORE Fighting for their playoff lives, Minnesota will pull it out. I also hate Baltimore. They are my second favorite team to blow out when I play Madden.

New England (-5) over NY JETS The Pats will finish 11-5 just like I predicted after the loss to the Pats. Their defense has become healthy and they are playing bad teams. They are 3-5 against teams over .500 and 6-0 vs. teams under .500. They are my favorite team to blow out when playing Madden.

Friday, December 16, 2005

NFL Week 15 Picks

I would like to apologize for last week's terrible picks record. I was struck down by the Gambling Gods for getting too arrogant. I ended up 5-10-1, and was bailed out by having the Cowboys best point spread. That is a huge lesson to learn, do not just use one source for your point spreads. Look around at different websites for the best spread for your wager. Same goes for when cruising through Vegas sports books. If you're going to place a futures bet, why bet $25 on the Panthers to win the Super Bowl at 20-1 at the Bellagio when you can get it for 25-1 elsewhere.

Last week was a disturbing week in the NFL. There was one bona fide great game, Dallas vs. KC, and a variety of terrible match ups & horribly played games. I think we learned a lesson that some teams will do anything to get the number 1 pick, the Texans, and others will forget that they are in the hunt for the best running back to come out of college since Marshall Faulk, the Jets. Some would say Ricky Williams was "can't miss", but I feel he became a much better back once he got to the pros and lost weight to gain foot speed. Oh yeah, I stopped linking each name unless I want you to see someone's stats. You all know where to go for stats.

This week's picks will have a Van Halen song tagged to them to tie in with my post from earlier in the week.

RAVENS (-3) over Packers
Last week the Pack got bailed out by the refs blowing the call of holding in the end zone. I don't get how they called it non-endzone holding when the lineman tackled the defensive guy on the giant yellow A in the endzone. In Lambeau, the Packers could barely beat a struggling Lions team (dome team) with an idiot coach playing on the road. It's the 80s all over again. I don’t get the clock management at the end of the game. The Lions had time outs but didn’t use them after holding the Pack to punt with 1:30 left. They have fast WRs and the punting conditions were terrible. It was possible for them to get the ball at the 35 and work the sidelines and some fly patterns to get a FG. I like how Favre threw a pick to end regulation to keep his INT streak alive.

Van Halen tag: "Loss of Control" - "I'm only wastin' time. I think I'd better go." Please retire, no. 4.

BEARS (-3) over Falcons
Bears at home are much much better than Bears on the road. The Falcons remind me of the Patriots. They are mopping up terrible teams and not beating quality opponents. Mike Vick is also hurting, and when he can't run free, defenses don't have to waste a spy linebacker on him. The Falcons receivers are terrible, and this is going to play into the Bears hands. They will keep the Falcons one dimensional and contain them. It's going to be an ugly game, too. Maybe 17-9.

Van Halen tag: "Dreams" - Ohhhhhh baby dryyyyyy your eyes, save all the tears you've cried, cau-uuuuse that's... what... dreams are made offffff" - Bears fans have to suck it up and keep on believing.

Eagles (+3.5) over RAMS
I'm going to go with the Rutgers QB over the Harvard QB. The Eagles have been playing with the TO thing over their heads so long, that it has run its course….regardless of birthday parties. The Rams are at war with themselves, and will not put up many points on the Eagles. The Eagles played the Giants extremely tough (at home), while the Rams got beaten all over the field by the Vikings. I think it comes down to the Eagles getting something out of their running game. They ran last week against the Giants, who have been stuffing teams, and the Rams cannot hold any run game in check. If they can run, it will take pressure off of their passing game and give their defense rest. Is Mike McMahon playing well enough to get a decent contract or become trade bait? Remember when A.J. Feely parlayed the 2-3 game stint with the Eagles into a good contract with the Dolphins.

Van Halen tag: "D.O.A." - "Broken down and dirty, dressed in rags" These Eagles are just fighting and clinging on tot he season for pride.

Browns (+3) over RAIDERS
What a waste of Randy Moss in his prime. With Moss, I think I would just keep chucking 30-50 yard bombs downfield every other series. He'd love it, and who could cover him? I have the arm, maybe I should try out for the Raiders. The Browns are too well prepared of a team to no be ready for everything the Raiders throw at them, and with Norv Turner's boys turning on him, it's going to be an ugly finish to the season. Turner is gone at the end of the season, and the Raiders will make a run at some other terrible assistant.

Van Halen tag: "House of Pain" - "Say you're gonna leave me cause I only tie you up. I always love you tender but you only like it rough. why you're leaving me again."

Bengals (-8) over LIONS
The Bengals had their hiccup game last week, which was a division rivalry game. I still can't believe I did not see that cover coming. Interdivision rivalry and 10+ points being thrown around. I think the Bengals come back this week and destroy the Lions. Marvin Lewis knows that home field advantage is within his reach. A week to rest Rudi Johnson will help too now that they lost his back up/sub and he gets 25-30 carries a game.

Van Halen tag: "Best of Both Worlds" - "You don't have to die to go to heaven Or hang around to be born again Just tune into what this place has got to offer Cause we may never be here again." - Bengals fans have to enjoy this moment, because it could be the start of something great or one flash in the pan.

Cowboys (+3) over REDSKINS
This game makes me nervous, but now that I look back on the schedule, not so much. The Redskins just beat up two bad teams, and the Cowboys went 1-1 against two teams with records of a combined 17-9. Both teams are banged up, but I think the Redskins luck from earlier this season has run out. They are 7-6, but if you consider their 3-0 start, they are 4-6 in their last 10 games while playing weaker opponents (they started 3-0 by nipping the Bears, Cowboys, & Seahawks). I just keep going back to all of the missed FGs by the Cowboys and dream about them sitting at 11-2.

Van Halen tag: "Ballot or the Bullet" - "are you prepared for your very last breath, don't you dare start what you cannot finish" (hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, sorry, bad lyrics, bad song) One of these teams have to finish the good start they had.

Panthers (-9) over SAINTS
This will be played in front of 20,000 people. No home field advantage except for the travel. The Panthers also need this game to stay in the hunt for the division, and will need to rebound after last week's loss. I can see them going nuts on the Saints and taking anger out on them. If you are the Saints, you have to love how Matt Leinart will probably drop to you in the draft. He can step in and have all of that talent around him. The problem with their QB situation has been poor decisions. Leinart is known for making good decisions, and I'd take a chimpanzee trained in sign language over Aaron Brooks.

Van Halen tag: When the band got rid of Sammy, that's the closest I can get to Benson telling Nawlins, Haslett, Brooks to flip off.

DOLPHINS (-9) over Jets
I believe in Nick Saban's team. They are a decent Qb away from making a playoff run in the NFC and being an 8-8, 9-7 team in the AFC. Imagine if they had Brad Johnson to use instead of their carousel of terrible QBs. I seriously hope that the Dolphins consider trading for Rivers from the Chargers. He could step in and get them a couple of wins getting the ball to their talented receivers. They should have a decent enough pick that when coupled with a 2nd rounder or a 3rd rounder, they could tempt the Chargers.

Van Halen tag: "Runaround" - "here we go round n round n round" - Sorry Jets fans.

Cards (-1.5) over TEXANS
This line should be taken off the board after last week's performance. The missed FG was awful. A 31 yard chip shot was shanked wide wide wide left and looked like a kick by the Dr. Pepper Big 12 FG challenge contestant. I would seriously consider trading down the number 1 pick if I were the Texans. They could add 3 quality picks with the right suitor and maybe the number 1 for next year from a team (J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets).

Van Halen tag: "One I Want" - No. 1 pick is targeted.

Seahawks (-7) over TITANS
For all of the jokes on the Colts easy Schedule, what about the Seahawks? They play their toughest non-division foes at home (Colts, Cowboys, Giants, Falcons). They played a discombobulated and depleted Eagles team. They have a weak division, and got a late bye week to help rest their team midway through the season. No road games against the Patriots, Steelers, or Chargers on their schedule. The 'Hawks will run over the Titans though, and if they have trouble putting them away, this will be a sign of worry for the 'Hawks playoff chances.

Van Halen tag: "Top of the World" - The Seahawks have to feel it with homefield advantage for the weak conference within reach.

JAGS (-15.5) over 49ers
I hate picking 49ers games because the spreads are so ridiculous. I feel like I am picking USC games. You know how they can blow out a Top 25 opponent by 30 points or forget to bring their "A" game and let an inferior opponent stay in it? Betting on the 49ers is like betting on a USC foe. I just hope they give Alex Smith more time. The last week of carping about his small hands ("carnies, circus folk, small hands, smell like cabbage" - A. Powers) and calling for his release is ridiculous. Didn't anyone learn anything from Drew Brees? Some guys need 2-3 years to develop. For all the talk about Eli Manning, he's still making bad throws (off his back foot, yikes) and getting bailed out by the phenomenal running game they have.

Van Halen tag: "Finish What ya Started" - Jags fans must be asking for a good finish and not another flame out.

COLTS (-7.5) over Chargers
I am a believer. I also feel that the Boston Sports Guy is hyping the Colts up while the Pats go 11-5 so that he can still pick the Pats to beat the Colts. The Colts will have homefield advantage, a week off, and tons of confidence going into the playoffs. There is no stopping them. They have thrashed the Steelers, Jags and Pats. Who is going to stop them?

Van Halen tag: "Man on a Mission" - Either team can claim this one.

Steelers (-3) over VIKINGS
I know the Vikings are a good story, but let's stop the lovefest with them. Who have they beaten on this magical run? Outside of the Giants game, which was a freak return TD game, the Vikings have beaten 0 teams with winning records. I went against Pittsburgh last week, stupidly, and I will not do it this week with their backs against the wall.

Van Halen tag: "Everybody Wants Some" - The Vikings are always looking for a new score.

Broncos (-8.5) over BILLS
Somehow, my faith in the Broncos has evaporated. What the heck has happened to them? They received a gift from the Ravens last week, who had several drives inside the Broncos 30 end in 0 points. They might have peaked too soon, and I think the Cowboys game really expose them. It was a win, but a Pyrrhic victory. They can kill a team like the Bills, but it isn't going to cut the mustard vs. the AFC's contenders.

Van Halen tag: "Jamie's Cryin'" - My cousin Jamie is crying knowing that Jake Plummer has reverted to his old self.

GIANTS (-2.5) over Chiefs
Eli will bounce back from last week's terrible performance because the Chiefs have a terrible secondary. You can throw deep on them, and the Giants have the horses to do just that. The Giants also need to win to keep pace with the Boys and Skins. If they lose this game and then lose vs. the Skins, they're going to have to rely on tiebreakers to get into the playoffs. Coughlin knows that you control your own destiny if you just win and he will have them focused on stopping the Chiefs running attack and banking the win. As a Dallas fan, I loved last week's win over the Chiefs, and the final drive was fantastic. Still, I feel a pang of jealousy when I see Eli get under center in the 4th quarter. He looks so comfortable in the 4th. Much has been made of his accuracy, which does concern me, but if his blonde, idiot tight end would catch the gimme passes, his completion percentage would be a couple points higher. Shockey catches 55% of throws to him. Some can be blamed on Manning, but a majority are those easy ones where Shockey forgets to catch the ball first.

Van Halen tag: "Could this be Magic?" - Can Eli keep the magic going against another quality team?

Bucs (+5) over PATS
I hate going against New England in December at home, but the Bucs are over .500 and rolling. The Pats this year are 2-5 versus teams over .500 and 6-0 against teams below .500. They are a good team at beating teams they should beat, but they have trouble with talented teams. The Bucs need to get their ground game going though, because throwing a young QB at Belicheck is a bad idea. I hate this pick. Each week, there is a game I just feel awful about. Last week, it was the Saints/Falcons game (I even said "I hate this"). The week before was the Ravens/Texans game, darn inept Ravens offense. This week, it is taking the rolling Bucs against the Pats as the Pats are building some momentum against bad teams.

Van Halen tag: This season for the Pats has to be similar to when they got Dave and Sammy back to do the combo best of album. They got Bruschi back, the injured guys are coming back, but I don't think they they will hang with the heavyweights.

Good luck and have a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Van Halen: My Guilty Pleasure

I will confess: I like Van Halen. Not like I like The Who or Pearl Jam, but I really enjoy their music. I feel like I am admitting a humiliating fact about myself, but I know the band has sold millions of records. I am a rock 'n' roll fan at heart. The sound of guitars and drums get me moving, and I use plenty of rock songs for my workout music or 'pump-me-up' music. Van Halen has always been on my list of bands that I will crank in the car. I remember when they came to Maine and you could hear the concert from miles away. I stayed up that night and listened as they played for 2.5 hours.

Who is the better lead singer, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? David Lee Roth had the better vocals, was a better performer, and had that little something extra that you cannot define. He would be remembered in a better light had he not left the band and his solo career not crashed. There was something hysterical in his antics in their videos. They were the perfect video band because they created unintentional comedy at will, had charisma (even the bassist), enjoyed making videos, and had songs under 4 minutes. Sammy Hagar had that real high range and rocking "scream tone" down solid. Hagar also was a little tougher than Roth, who seemed kind of femme despite always singing about banging chicks and putting the bustiest women in his videos. Hagar also used "Hey, Yeah, Oh, Woah" better than any other rock singer (Eddie Vedder is #2). Hagar seemed to do best singing about love, which isn't the most rocking. He really was the toughest sounding pansy of all time. Therein lies the key; he made love sound rocking. Roth is the better lead man, but I just enjoy Hagar more.

How would I break down the top 5 songs from each lead man? Here's a list of each singer's top 5 songs......(I would be stupid for not saying that the key to all of their songs was Eddie Van Halen; amazing work in every song and a goofy smile in every video.)

Roth era Van Halen

5. Dance the Night Away - Their first release, and something you never realize is sung by Van Halen. It's a good party song, and something I love to hear in the summer.
4. Hot for Teacher - While this seems like an adolescent rock song, there's something that rings true with every male. There is usually one teacher from your childhood you had a crush on (you might have fantasized about years later), and this song does a good job of conjuring up those images. The video was also hysterical, and the dancing by the band is terrible.
3. Panama - First off, I've heard dozens of people scream "Animal" when the chorus starts. This is a misheard lyric of the first degree. It also took me about 10 years before I figured out that the song was about a car. Supposedly, it is about a stripper Roth met in Arizona, but listen to the lyrics; it's about a joy ride in the car. It could be about a chick, but I'm voting for the car.
2. Runnin' With the Devil - Just a cool song. The guitar work, the beat, the lyrics. It's a loner-on-the-road-who-gives-a-sh*t song. There's a theme of freedom throughout the lyrics.
1. Jump - The synth, the guitar work, the lyrics. "Can't you see me standin' here I got my back against the rockin' machine". Classic.

Hagar era Van Halen

5. Right Now - There is a great message in this song, and it had an excellent video. It was a socially conscious effort at a time when that was needed (early 90s). The piano intro and outro were excellent, and carried with it a sense of urgency.
4. Love Walks In - This is their attempt at being artistic with the lyrics. It's about a guy finding a girl he loves for the first time rather than just banging chicks. No, it is not about interstellar travel and intergalactic love. This was one of their giant synth songs. You know what I mean... One of those songs you stop and go "wow, check out the synth" when it starts.
3. Why Can't This Be Love - That drum beat in the intro and the crazy synth crashing with the drums get you pumping. Sammy comes in yelling about the first rocking love he had that blows all his previous loves away. Who cannot enjoy a grown man growling about being totally in love?
2. When It's Love - The intro is all slow and sad. Then they kick it up a notch with the intro of the drums, and then you know it is hope, not sadness that they are expressing. Sammy sings about everybody's search for love, and how you really can't define it; you just know when it happens.
1. Dreams - Some casual fans know this as "Higher & Higher". This is one of the greatest cheese songs of all time. This is pure cheese. The intro is so long that most radio stations cut the synth solo part out of the intro. If you listen to this song, you will feel the abandonment of all your fears and reach a higher ground. Once again, this is a hidden love song as we find out that dreams are what love is made of. This might be Sammy's best use of "hey", "yeah", "ow", and "woo" in any song during his long, illustrious career. I think the pacing of the song is excellent. You start off a little slow and then it gets kicked up a notch. There are two extended instrumental parts, showcasing Eddie's talents, which of course are ended by a "yeah". They have occasional slow downs to suck you in and really focus on the lyrics because, baby, you better just spread your wings and get higher & higher.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The miserable Pats/Bills game

I do not care if you are the biggest Pats fan, no one wants to watch this game right now. CBS should switch to one of the many good AFC games they have the rights to show. This is part of the reason I dislike living in New England and not having Direct TV and the Sunday Ticket package.

I trust in Belicheck to make good in-game decisions, but keeping your banged up QB in the game when up by 21 in the 4th is stupid. They had him run a QB sneak for a first down. Are they trying to destroy him? I think it was all so they could get him another TD pass on the next play. They should be resting all of their defensive guys too. This is a stupid move by the coaching staff, and I do not get the point.

I wish that they would switch to the Texans game because it seems that they do not want Reggie Bush and want to win against Tenn.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

NFL Week 14 picks: Offseason moves

Welcome back for more picks this week. I was 10-6 last week, bringing my public picks record up to 36-25-1. I'm sitting at 58%, and really want to crack 60% for all y'all. The Reggie Bush sweepstakes is on, and that brings to mind what teams might do this offseason. If Regie Bush does not win the Heisman & Vince Young wins, the Eastern Media will put on their hypocrite hats and call the Midwest media homers for overlooking Bush. Because their is no Eastern candidate, Bush will carry the big markets in the East and win it. Same thing happened last year, and it benefited Leinart. Besides the amazing draft class we could see in April, what are teams going to do with the restricted and unrestricted free agents out there?

Chicago (+6.5) over PITTSBURGH
At the beginning of the season, I would have picked Pittsburgh and given the Bears 10. The line has moved 2 full points, so there is little faith in this Chicago team, which has beaten quality teams. Chicago will keep this close because they play outstanding defense, and are playing a squad with a banged up QB and a running game which has had problems recently.

Possible Offseason Moves: Bears make decision on QB. Do you had the reins over to
Rex Grossman, or do you trust in Kyle Orton? I think you go back to Grossman, and keep Orton backing him up next year since Grossman has a problem of staying healthy. You can probably trade Orton after next season if Grossman has a solid year. Pittsburgh needs to find the threat to stretch the field to balance their passing attack. I feel they won't resign Antwaan Randle El, and get some kind of compensation for him because he is a restricted free agent.

Cincy (-12.5) over CLEVELAND

Cincy will roll over the Browns and cement their hold over the AFC North. With the Broncos remaining schedule, there is a possibility that they could sneak in as the number 2 seed. Marvin Lewis knows his defensive front needs some rest, and the bye would have them sitting pretty.
Possible Offseason Moves: Cincy add some strength up front to stop the run, Browns need to add depth

TENN (-6.5) over Houston

These teams are both disgusting, and it is too bad that Jeff Fisher is rumored to be on the hot seat. The guy took the Titans to the playoffs for a logn stretch, and even he can't get a full year of breathing room?
Possible Offseason Moves: Tenn has to wait out salary cap hell, and draft for depth. They need to make a decision on who will be the number 1 running back too. I vote for
Chris Brown despite his health issues. Houston needs to make a decision on Leinart w/current talent vs. Carr w/Reggie Bush, maybe squeeze extra picks. Houston needs to keep the phone lines open though because they could swing a boatload of picks for that number 1 and still pick up some quality O-lineman.

Indy (-8.5) over JACKSONVILLE

The Colts are focused more thana I have seen a team in recent memory. They execute so well on offense that it appears they aren't even trying hard.
Possible Offseason Moves: Jags can deal
David Garrard after his audition these last few weeks. If he performs well, and someone dangles picks in front of their eyes, they'd be fools not to trade for them. Indy needs to make decision on the Edge. If they win it all, it might not be far-fetched for them to make the Edge a good offer, and let him go if someone goes nuts for him.

New England (-3.5) over BUFFALO

New England can wrap up the AFC LEast this week. They will get it done, and then rest guys over the next few weeks.
Possible Offseason Moves: New England looks for secondary help and the RB of the future. I think they have to find someone through free agency or the draft to boost their rushing attack. I'd laugh if the Edge went to NE. Buffalo needs to cut Moulds or maybe find someone to trade him to in the offseason.

Oakland (-3) over NY JETS

I saw the Jets last week, they are horrible. They can't put up 10 points, and I guarantee that Oakland is good for 14 this week against their D. The Jets are praying that the Texans beat the 49ers and cause a huge tie at 2-14, which would make the commissioner magically rig the tiebreakers so NY gets the number 1 pick. He did it so the Giants got a 9th home game.
Possible Offseason Moves: Oakland needs to scout QB options. They might grab a Brady Quinn if he's available. NY Jets need to figure out how to win the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. They will trade picks for him, they will work the commish for the number 1 pick, they will do what it takes to get him there. The Jets could use 4 picks to get that number 1 pick like the Giants did 2 years ago.

MINNESOTA (-6.5) over St. Louis

St. Louis has an Ivy League QB and a white wide receiver as their hot combo. That's not a good mix in 2005.
Possible Offseason Moves: Minnesota needs to deal with
Culpepper being out until mid-2006. I would trade him to the Arizona Cardinals who have the speed and talent at the WR position to help Daunte. They'll get Arizona's 1st rounder or maybe the 2nd rounder. St. Louis needs to make moves to shore up their D. They have been porous against the run.

CAROLINA (-5.5) over Tampa Bay

Carolina at home against a QB who doesn't throw that well on the road? No problem. The Panthers will stuff the line, blitz the QB on passing downs, and double the star wide out for the Bucs. The Bucs maybe score 10 points.
Possible Offseason Moves: Carolina needs decision on
Deshaun Foster. Is he the future? I say yes. Tampa Bay needs to determine which QB is the future and add youth to the defense.

New York (-9) over PHILLY

Philly's season is over with $29 million in cap space inactive. They are done, and the Giants can seal up the NFC East with a win and Cowboys' loss....well almost.
Possible Offseason Moves: New York needs defensive backs. They really need to add skill and depth in the defensive backfield. Philly needs a WR to replace
TO. They never should have signed that huge extension to Westbrook and could use that money and TO's money for the Edge (among others).

SEATTLE (-16) over San Fran

The 49ers are so close to getting Reggie Bush. If they did, they would reunite high school teammates, Bush and Alex Smith.
Possible Offseason Moves: Seattle needs to make a decision on
Shaun Alexander and grab a WR. Without talent at the WR spot, teams can stack the line, stuff Alexander and force those bad wide outs make plays. San Fran must decide on taking a run at Reggie Bush or adding playmakers to the O-line or defense. I'd go with Bush if I were them.

ARIZONA (+4) over Washington

Arizona is a good home team with the points. Washington also has a problem scoring now, so expect this one to be close. Watch, now that I said that, the Skins will put up 30.
Possible Offseason Moves: Washington might trade
Arrington and what about Brunell vs. Campbell. I keep Brunell in there for 1 more year, and make Mr. 8-on-the-Wonderlic-Test go through another year of studying and development. Arizona needs to make a QB decision. Do they go after Culpepper. Dennis Green liked Culpepper. They need help on defense though, and should use their draft picks for a linebacker.

DENVER (-14) over Baltimore

Denver at home against the Ravens, who barely put the Texans away at home. I can't say anything more.
Possible Offseason Moves: Denver might grab TO. If they can't get to the Super Bowl this year, they will make a run at him. Baltimore needs to make a decision on
Jamal Lewis & Kyle Boller, maybe go for TO. I say scrap both because their is a useful replacement for Lewis on the team, and Boller might be the worst in NFL right now. TO's bad behavior 2 years ago might stop management from going after him.

DALLAS (-2.5) over KC

Desperation and home field advantage will carry the day for Dallas.
Possible Offseason Moves: Dallas might grab TO. I'd be scared of that because he'd fit in well with the egos throughout history in Dallas, but their receiving corps might not want him. They do need to add to the O-line. The game against the Giants showed why. KC needs defensive help. They are old and can't stop anyone.

SAN DIEGO (-13.5) over Miami

San Diego is quietly a win against Denver away from sliding into first place in the AFC West. They put this one in the bank to gear up for the Colts-Broncos games.
Possible Offseason Moves: San Diego will find a suitor for
Phillip Rivers. They will dangle him out there for teams, while working on a contract for Drew Brees. Isn't it amazing what happens to a QB when you give him 3 years to develop? Miami needs a QB: possible home for Rivers. Seriously, why not just trade Rivers to Miami right after the season. He'd walk into a great situation witht he skill players they have in Miami.

Detroit over GREEN BAY (+6)

I can't believe I am going with Detroit on the road, but they beat them in week 1 when Green Bay was completely healthy.
Possible Offseason Moves: Green Bay make move on
Favre add help to defense. I say ask Favre to walk away or find a team to trade him to. They should have done that in the beginning of the year when he had more value. Detroit needs to make QB decision. Who leads the team? Where do they go from here with no coach and an idiot for a GM?

New Orleans (+10.5) over ATLANTA

I hate this, but Atlanta shouldn't be giving 10+ points to a division rival who is just playful enough against them. Doesn't it always seem liek New Orleans plays Atlanta tough?
Possible Offseason Moves: Atlanta maybe go for TO and at least get a WR who can catch. New Orleans needs to make decision on where they will be playing, then a decision at QB. I think this is the perfect spot for Matt Leinart.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Patriots vs. Jets: A Live Recap

I had a chance to see this past Sunday's game between the Patriots and Jets. It was quite possibly the worst game of the week, and definitely the worst game I saw all week. At least the true reason for the Patriots postseason success, Adam Vinatieri, was on hand and made another step towards the Hall of Fame. He became the Patriots' all time kicking points leader. Whoop-tee-doo. The game was so boring that this was the big news of the day.

Since the game was boring, I paid close attention to the lines and the way the two teams ran the ball. The Jets did not open a single hole for anyone running the ball. It was pathetic to watch a pro team not managed to open a crack for their back. Without a running game, they have nothing to help balance their attack and take pressure off of their 4th string back up QB. They gave their QB about 2 seconds to make a decision, and when they gave him more, he was anticipating the hit and released early.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Patriots gave their QB, Tom Brady, plenty of time. On few plays, did Brady have to get the extra second by moving and even fewer times he was hit. This has been another big secret for the last 4 years. The Pats O-line has done a bang up job of keeping Brady on hit feet. Their O-line coach deserves recognition, especially this season with the patchwork line he has. They could not get much going on the ground. Corey Dillon does look slower, and rarely ran like the Corey Dillon of last year. The calf injury is slowing him down and hurting his cuttign ability. He had his first good Dillon run in the 3rd quarter of the game. It was sad because I always respected him and felt sorry for him being stuck on the Bengals. It would not surprise me if he did not come back next year or if he restructured his deal to stay.

The impression I got from watching the game is that the Patriots have enough to get to the playoffs. Maybe even get to the playoffs at 11-5. Playing the good teams will expose the Patriots secondary (which looked soft versus the Jets) will run on their defense (unless that start getting production out of lineman not named Seymour), and will force the Pats to become one dimensional and pass non-stop (which can't work against the playoff teams). The Pats would do well to snap up the division with a win this week and then rest their key members like Brady, Dillon, etc. Secure that 4 spot and just coast. Playing them all 60 minutes is just going to increase the likelihood of injury after a year's worth of hits to Brady.

Seeing an NFL game live is always entertaining. My seats were 4th from the top and still gave me great sightlines. I love to see how the holes open and close in splits of seconds. I love how a sweep looks like it could go for 15 yards but the back is caught just as he turns the corner. On passing plays, you really see how a cover 2 and cover 3 spread out versus man to man coverage. It has to be close to impossible to cover 3 wideouts man to man unless you are blitzing and can compress the time in the pocket for the QB to 1-2 seconds. One cut frees a WR; that explains the career of Troy Brown. I used to believe that you ran the ball, got the safety to creep up, and then threw the ball. I now think that you need to be able to pass the ball effectively so that teams have to drop into zones and then run at them.

The Gillette experience is awesome. They know how to treat fans right, and the sightlines are fantastic. The weather itself was snowy with temps around 30 degrees. The Stadium and lights made it look like a snow globe toy just for football fans. A problem my friend and I were bothered by was the lack of Welcome to the Jungle plays. They only played that song 6 times. We set the over/under at 12. It's a staple of Gillette, and they played that song 8 times in the first half of the Colts game. I had the people sitting around me waiting anxiously for that song, Crazy Train, Thunderstruck or Rock 'n' Roll Part 1, and laughing whenever they came on over the PA system. Besides the lack of Welcome to the Jungle, it was perfect. I'll be back Friday with picks. I am also going to do a little offseason player placement for Friday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Reggie Bush: My Heisman

I have already written about Reggie Bush's cutting ability and amazing potential in this post. I think he should get the Heisman, but I am worried that Vince Young is going to win the entire Midwest vote and win it. I think that since there is no real Eastern candidate, the East Coast writers should all vote rationally and give it to the most amazing college running back since Marshall Faulk. He didn't win it, but that was one of the worst robberies in the history of Heisman voting (see this article). Bush's vision, moves, and agility are best exemplified by this highlight tape from high school. I have never seen runs like this outside of a Madden video game.

Bush is my Heisman not just for his sick moves and ability. It is because he has played his best football when the Trojans needed him.explosiveness, along with Matt Leinart's arm, give the Trojans the ability to score on any play. This is what saved them int he game against Notre Dame, when Charlie Weis played clock ball and the refs kept ND in the game in the first half. If you look at the three big come from behind wins that the Trojans had this season, Arizona St.-Notre Dame-Fresno St., Bush averages 204 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards, 18 carries, 2.66 receptions, and some outstanding punt/kickoff returns. Something interesting about his stats is that he has one fumble, and that was on a kickoff versus Fresno St. Today and in the BCS, Bush will put his abilities on display for the nation to see what they will get to watch in the NFL for the next 5-10 years.

When it comes to the NFL, I think that Bush is going to have a good career, if he is used like Faulk was used by Vermeil and LT is used right now. Give him 15-25 carries and pass him the ball either out of the backfield or lined in the slot. It will be a fight to get that number 1 or 2 pick to get Bush. If the Texans continue to lose out, they can choose between keeping their no. 1 pick from 4 years ago & drafting Bush or dumping him and taking Leinart. They also could trade their pick for a basket full of picks like the Chargers have done twice and add some talent to their O-line and defense. I predict that the Jets will finish with the 2 or 3 pick. The 49ers might end up with the two pick and get antsy to draft Bush to reunite him with his high school quarterback, Alex Smith. Either team will make the Texans nice offers for that no. 1 pick unless they are assured the Texans are taking Leinart. I'd love to be in the Texans war room that morning. The NFL will be very anxious about putting Bush in a big market, and heaven &earth will be moved to help the Jets get Bush. It's a great fit too because the Jets are decimated this year by injuries and are losing when they have the ability to, when healthy, be a playoff team. The Jets front offie will also have the back page media pressure to make the move and grab Bush. When they announce the trade on draft day, and the Jets make Bush their first selection, the crowd is going to erupt and an NFL media star will be born.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

NFL Week 13 Picks: Division Battles and AFC Outlook

Week 13 has arrived, and I am back from a mini-vacation. My picks for the Thanksgiving Day classics were 1-1, and my idea that 1 home team always covers was smacked by neither team covering. I did not realize the horrible state of the Lions. Matt Millen has done a terrible job of scouting talent, selecting talent, and developing talent. When your team needs help on defense, you do not draft another WR. Dallas saw the kicking game let them down again. I was surprised by how effective their offense was at moving the ball, and how effective their defense was at stopping the run (besides one huge hole in overtime). That is behind us now, and I can devote full attention to a week's worth of games. As a note, I will be attending the Patriots/Jets game and will do some scouting at it.

Week 13 brings with it plenty of rivalry games, with some heavyweights going at it. Atlanta/Carolina - Dallas/NY Giants - Broncos/Chiefs highlight the big time match-ups. Despite the crazy season, some things still hold true like the record of home teams in straight up bets and the Houston Texans ability to lose. I am praying that the Saints trade up to take Leinart with the number 1 pick.

DOLPHINS (-5) over Bills
J.P. Losman on the road in Miami, no way. Miami is going to work their run game, which the Bills will not have much of a chance of stopping. I think that taking the under is a safe bet also because it will be an ugly game. The line on this game has moved 2 full points since opening, and I think that means that no one has a good feeling about the Bills this week. Losman doesn't inspire confidence, and with the Dolphins stuffing the line, it's going to force him to make quick decisions. He pulls the ball down quickly and runs.

Bengals (+3.5) over STEELERS
I think that this is the game where Carson Palmer takes a step up and pulls out the W versus a really good team. His only blemish statistically this year was the horrible game against the Steelers, but he's still missing that big W over a big team. I think Palmer watched the tape from the MNF game, and studied how the Colts took the Steelers apart. They need to run the ball to grind out the defense and open up the deep passing game. The great part about watching the Bengals is seeing them take those shots downfield. So few teams routinely take deep shots, so it is watching Palmer toss the ball 40 yards downfield once a quarter.

CAROLINA (-3) over Atlanta
I'm going witht he home team in this one because I think the NFC South shakeout will find Atlanta on the outside looking in. Carolina's offense has been a problem of late, but I feel that the Panthers will find a way to contain Michael Vick. It's going to come down to creating turnovers, and the Panthers will have watched the Tampa-Atlanta game tape so much the magnetic strip will wear out.

NEW YORK (-3) over Dallas
I hate going against my boys, but this has tight game written all over it. I trust in Eli Manning more than Drew Bledsoe in the 4th quarter. The difficulty the Cowboys have had recently is dealing with the loss of their top tackles. They are now playing rookies and back ups at the tackle spot, which limits the ability to go downfield and forces Parcells to use moving pocket & max protection schemes. Hopefully, this pick gets jinxed and the Boys pull off the road win and sit int he driver seat in the NFC east.

CHICAGO (-7) over Green Bay
A defense that creates turnovers and is one of the best of the decade is playing against a turnover prone QB. I will take Chicago, and predict that the Bears do crack 20 points because of "short fields" created by their defense. It has been 6 weeks since Brett Favre has not thrown a pick. It will be 7 come Monday.

BALTIMORE (-8) over Houston
Houston could not win versus a team at war with itself that was using an Ivy League QB with a double digit lead. My concern is with the Ravens scoring enough to cover. The Texans are bound to get some garbage time points, so they need to score over 10 to allow for the garbage time FG.

CLEVELAND (+3) over Jacksonville
I don't get the hype surrounding David Garrard. I think Len Pasquarelli has been tooting his horn for 2 years now, and it has corrupted everyone's mind. This will be the loss where the Chargers start to feel better about having to go 4-1 or 5-0 to make the playoffs. The Browns have been playing solid all year, and I don't think the Jags have the explosive ground game to wear the Browns down. It will be a tight game.

Minnesota (-2.5) over DETROIT
At the start of the season, Minnesota was my pick to win the NFC North. I can't believe that this could happen after the start they had. Detroit is a team in chaos, pointing fingers at each other. They just lost their coach, yet no one on the team thinks he deserved to be the one person fired. As much as everyone blames the brainless mannequin for the Lions offensive problems, they were driving on Thanksgiving day when two f-ups by skill players turned the ball over and stopped decent drives.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I think New Orleans made an error last week (what's new) and won the game. They should have lost and put themselves one step closer to getting Matt Leinart. He'd be a great fit for the offensive weapons they have on that team. His decision making ability is a huge step up from Aaron Brooks. With the weapons they have, and the possibility of a new coach, they could finally fulfill their potential.

INDIANAPOLIS (-15) over Titans
I remember when this game would pit two powers, and it was a battle you would hope your local CBS would be getting instead of the lame regional match up. This is the part of the year where Peyton Manning cranks it up and puts the offense on cruise control.

SAN FRAN (+3) over Arizona
I would take the home team in this match up of crappy teams, especially when getting some points. If San Fran gets a top 2 pick, do they take Reggie Bush or trust in the RBs they have now (and signed to a big extension) and pick an offensive lineman? I'd go with Bush.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS
An Ivy Leaguer can throw for 300 yards against the Texans, but not against the Redskins. The Rams have a terrible run defense, and Clinton Portis should have a big game. The Skins will get out to a lead, play sloppy & let the Rams get back into it, but Gibbs will wise up & run out the clock with Portis.

Denver (PK) over KC
One online gambling spot has this a pick 'em game, and I will gladly take the Broncos now that Tatum Bell is back in the lineup. I think last week showed that anyone can run with the Broncos, so a fast slasher should run for big yards. When Ron Dayne and his 50 lb ass can get 50 yard runs by running in a straight line, it's a sign that the system makes the backs.

NY Jets (+10.5) over NEW ENGLAND
The Jets will keep it close with the Pats because I am going to the game. You wonder why I believe that? Every Patriots game I have been to has gone to OT, except for a preseason game which ended in a tie because they don't play OT in preseason games (or at least not then). Seriously, the Pats have played close games all year. Combine that with this being a divisional rivalry, and I predict a game decided by the best kicker in football.

SAN DIEGO (-10) over Oakland
LaDainian Tomlinson will run for 150 yards and score 3 TDs. Marty hates the Raiders and he will punish them with his best weapon. San Diego can smell the playoffs now that the Steelers look vulnerable and the Jags don't have Leftwich for the rest of the regular season. They will get it done and put this W in the bank. Each game they can put away now, makes the Colts and Denver Match ups not look so terrible. They can possibly split those games and get into the playoffs.

Seattle (-3.5) over Philly
Philly plays the run well at home, but the Seahawks now have a game on everyone in the NFC if they win out and tons of tiebreakers (Ws against Dallas and NY). If they win this game and maybe run the table with 1 loss against the Colts, they would have 1 loss against NFC teams. That would give them the tiebreaker versus every NFC team. Hold on, the Bears only have 1 NFC loss. The tiebreaker rules would create a problem for the Bears because the Seahawks/Bears played so few common opponents and ti would revert to the strength of victory. The 'Hawks beating up on all the NFC West teams will come in handy then.

Besides cheering for my Cowboys to make the playoffs, I really hope the Chargers sneak into the AFC playoffs and Bears secure their division. I was dejected after the Cowboys loss (more kicking problems, that's 3 losses now because of missed FGs) not just because it would have put them at 8-3 but it would have put the Broncos at 8-3 and improved the Chargers chances. I think the Chargers have a chance at beating the Colts. I don't trust the Broncos because I don't think they can win a tight, playoff game without asking their QB to step it up. I can see the AFC shaking out as follows......

Colts and Broncos with byes, Cincy vs. Jacksonville & New England vs. San Diego. Can the Chargers win in NE in January with Marty coaching? Suuuuure (this will become firm as the Pats get more beaten down). Can Jacksonville win on the road with Leftwich coming off of an injury? Maaaaaaybe. Regardless, the match ups will be entertaining, and make ABC happy that they have a piece of wild card weekend.

Allen Iverson and the NBA experience

Last night I was invited to go to the TD Banknorth Garden to watch the Philadelphia 76ers play the Boston Celtics. Years ago, this was a rivalry game that was full of All Stars and was always a display of quality basketball. I was lucky enough as a kid to see Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Charles Barkley, Mo Cheeks and a host of other greats play in the old Garden. Last night the only real names of worth were Paul Pierce and Allen Iverson. Of those two players, only Iverson looked to be playing at 100% speed throughout the whole game. Pierce did put on a decent show at times as he was auditioning for other teams, but appeared listless at times. Cliche alert: The NBA has diluted its talent pool by expanding too much and it showed last night. Iverson was probably 90% of the talent at the game, and was a joy to watch.

Iverson has been written about for his basketball skills, his relationships with coaches, his relationship with his wife, and his love of the game & Philly. I can't top what has been written but I can report on his game from last night. It is obvious on the court that he gives it his 100% all of the time. What is not obvious on TV but striking in person is his speed. His cuts, anticipation, and slashing ability are amazing. He can truly take anyone off the ball unless they are grabbing his jersey to slow him down. Iverson's dribbling skills allow him to have a step on any defender, as his dribbling looks like such a natural movement. One thing that he does which is hidden from TV cameras is make contact when he crashes through the lane, and then extends his arm to push a bit off of the defender to create space so he can finish his drives and/or get the foul. Boston was helpless and could only slow him down when they put 2 or 3 men on him. Even at that point, he was finding the open man. The problem was that his teammates could not finish anything. He had 7 assists yet could have ended with 12+ if his teammates could shoot. I am not counting Chris Webber because he is a jump-shooting stiff with one good leg collecting $19 million this year. If you live outside the lane and take 20 shots a game, you will score 20 points. That is Webber now. Iverson's draw of the double team creates a ton of opportunities for his teammates and it is up to them to hit their shots to allow him some breathing room.

Besides Iverson's artistry and intensity, I witnessed the reality of the new NBA experience. I had last seen a game live in 1995. So much has changed with how they put on a 'show'. You used to go to a game to watch the game, and seats were set up in a steeper angle so you were closer to the floor. Games sold out or were near capacity because seats were priced from outrageous to affordable. Nowadays, all seats have a high price attached to them, and the layouts are generic wide bottomed pits, which put you far away from the action. The paper said that 14,000 people attended the game; they were lucky if 10,000 showed up. At almost every stoppage of play there was a stupid shirt tossing, parachute drop, contest, quiz, etc. to keep people 'entertained'. I found it annoying and irritating. The crowd needed instruction from the Jumbotron to get pumped up and loud. Repeat, the Garden crowd needed instruction on how to cheer. The crowd was dead. A half full place, and the half that went were made up mostly fo the people who don't get loud at games: a golf crowd. The people who would go to a lot of games, regardless of being Celtics fans or not, would buy tickets if decent seats were $10-20 a piece. Nosebleeds that are along the sides of the court (not behind the backboards) are $25-50 depending on how close to the balcony edge you want to sit. It is a shame what has happened to the game as far as making it affordable for fans to enjoy, and to build a real home court advantage.

A lot of my friends love the college game because of the style, the crowds and March Madness. I enjoy it more than the NBA, but still have a soft spot in my heart for my Sixers and the hopes that players cna do the unbelievable and amazing on a nightly basis. I'll still watch the NBA and follow the games passionately in the playoffs. Sadly, I am one of the few left who the NBA can count on for loyalty, and my loyalty to the NBA is much lower than it is to the NFL and MLB. Please, David Stern, please stop expanding and shore up the quality of play.

Monday, November 28, 2005

NFL: Are special teams and success correlated?

In the NFL, you hear analysts and coaches scream about the importance of special teams. Some folks feel that special teams are just as important as defense and offense. While special teams are an important facet of the game, they do not equal the need to stop other teams from scoring and to sustain scoring drives over the course of a game. Game can turn on a special teams play, but for the most part, being just average is not a bad thing.

If you look at Football Outsiders stats for special teams, you will see some teams at the top who are in the playoff hunt. Maybe special teams do matter. Of course, this is just week 12, and the season is still 4 weeks from being closed and final analysis can be done. If we look back on the last few years and see the number of top 10 rated special teams out of the number of playoff teams, then we can see if there is a correlation. Listed are the top ten units for special teams in the NFL and in bold are the playoff teams.

Special Teams

2004 Top Ten (1-10): Buffalo, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Cincy.
2003 Top Ten: Baltimore, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Houston, Oakland, Chicago, Miami, Pittsburgh, Detroit, NY Jets.
2002 Top Ten: New Orleans, NY Jets, Detroit, Philadelphia, New England, Atlanta, Houston, Tampa Bay, Miami, Cleveland.
2001 Top Ten: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago, Miami, New England, Tampa Bay, NY Jets, Denver, Detroit.

Now 42.5% of the teams that made the top ten for special teams made the playoffs. That is a pretty high percentage. It is odd that some of the very worst teams in the league are in the top 10 for special teams. It might be the focus of a particular coach or system. One could say that the Patriots special teams of 2001 won them the Super Bowl, and if you look at their statistics for that season, special teams gave them points & field posession their offense could not put up without. One could argue that the punt returning capabilities of Troy Brown got the Pats to the playoffs and a Super Bowl win.

Does special teams correlate more than the other pieces like offense and defense? As with the special teams, top ten units will be listed with the playoff teams in bold. If one were to say that success in special teams means that one will have success in wins/losses, one would expect roughly the same percentage of teams in the top ten for special teams to make the playoffs as with offense/defense.


2004 Top Ten: Buffalo, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Denver, New England, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami, Carolina.
2003 Top Ten: Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New England, Miami, Dallas, St. Louis, Buffalo, Denver, Green Bay, Tennessee.
2002 Top Ten: Tampa Bay, Miami, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Oakland, Carolina, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, New England.
2001 Top Ten: Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Miami, San Diego, NY Jets, Washington, Chicago.


2004 Top Ten: Indianapolis, KC, Minnesota, New England, NY Jets, Philly, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Green Bay, Denver.
2003 Top Ten: KC, Indy, Seattle, Minnesota, Tennessee, Philly, San Fran, Green Bay, NY Jets, Cincy.
2002 Top Ten: KC, Oakland, San Fran, NY Jets, Atlanta, Denver, Tennessee, Jacksonville, NY Giants, New Orleans.

2001 Top Ten: St. Louis, San Fran, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Indy, KC, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Tennessee, Arizona.

The stats show that 52.5% of the teams that were in the top 10 on defense made the playoffs, and 60% of top ten offenses made the playoffs. Special teams had only 42.5% of the top ten teams make the playoffs. It is fair to say that teams that have top ten defenses/offenses are more likely to make the playoffs. If making the playoffs is the definition of success, then no, special teams are not as important as offense/defense. Because fewer than half of the top ten teams make the playoffs, which field 12 spots per conference, success and special teams are not correlated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NFL Picks for Thanksgiving: Special Homefield Advantage

This week I am not doing a full schedule of picks because I am going to be out of computer reach for the next few days. I also will be diverted from keeping track of every single injury report, practice and press conference this week. My record last week was 9-7, and the loss that bothered me the most last week was jacksonville allowing a late TD to not cover against the Titans. I blame myself for trusting in the quarterback for the Packers, who I will not name, because he is not the same person he was 5 years ago. Stupid stupid me.

I do have two quick picks in honor of the Thanksgiving NFL special holiday match-ups. In case you were wondering, the old format was that one team played a divisional rival while the other played an AFC opponent so that the AFC carrier could get a game on national TV with big ratings. They did away with that last year as the Lions faced the Colts while the Cowboys played the Bears. This season neither team plays a divisional rival (Dallas hosts Denver; Detroits hosts Atlanta), but the same magic will apply, one team will cover if not win. Go ahead, look back through to 2001, in each year at least 1 team covered. Dallas has covered in 3 of the last 4 games, winning as an underdog once. Detroit covered 2 of 4 games and was a home dog winner once.

The Thanksgiving game is such an advantage to home teams besides the obvious home field advantage because of the short week. Think about the travel involved and lack of rest, and compress those advantages by 3 more days. The short week with travel works to the Lions and Cowboys advantage, especially if either team wants to employ a ground game to wear down an opposing defense. This year one team will cover, and I predict they will win outright.

DETROIT (+3) over Atlanta
I don't trust Atlanta at home against quality teams, and I will not for the rest of the year. They've given up serious points to back to back marginal offenses on the road. While the Lions are waffling on their QB, I feel whomever they put in will manage the game enough to beat the Falcons. The Lions defense is better than people think, and this will give the Falcons problems on the road after 3 days rest & 700 miles in the air.

Denver (-2) over DALLAS
Dallas is coming off of 3 straight victories, and will be playing their third game in 11 days. They also are playing the number 2 team in the league right now. Do they have the horses to stuff the Broncos rushing attack and force Jake Plummer to throw the ball? Despite great defensive line depth, I don't think they do. I also think that the Broncos defense is good enough to stuff the line, then blitz Drew Bledsoe to hell. The Broncos secondary is good enough to go one on one with the Cowboys receivers, if they all play and are 100%. I hate going against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but the Broncos have a great approach to the game this year. Rather than ask Plummer to throw the ball a lot and put the pressure of sustaining drives on him, they are playing ball control football and limiting his pass attempts. Look at his stats, he has thrown over 30 attempts 3 times this year. They combine ball control with great defense, and only ask Plummer to make a few throws. It is a winning formula. I know it is because it is what Bill Parcells used in 2003 when he had Quincy Carter as his QB. It got the Cowboys to 10-6 and a playoff spot with not as much talent as this year's Broncos team.

With the way the NFL is this year, watch the Broncos go out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and lose to the Cowboys in the last minute, 20-17 on a long field goal.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all of you flying and driving for Thanksgiving meals.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Is Brett Favre the true modern Marino?

In the last few years, Peyton Manning has hit roadblocks in the postseason: the Patriots. Because of his inability to beat the Patriots, he has been branded as this generations big numbers/no big victories QB. Brett Favre is beloved by everyone, and gets a free pass on telecasts because he won a Super Bowl, and "loves the game". Favre is most likely retiring this year, and he will retire as one of the best QBs of all time. (I have a top 3 list for all time: 1. Johnny Unitas 2. John Elway 3. Joe Montana. If I dig deeper, the list could change.) Lingering on with the Packers, Favre has tainted his legacy a bit. It's not like he is throwing more INTs now than he did in the past, it's when he throws them. The timing absolutely murders his team. In last year's Jacksonville game at Lambeau, Favre threw multiple INTs in the red zone. In the playoffs, Favre was picked 4 times by the Vikings at Lambeau. He has made bone-head decisions that have cost his team points and, in some cases, victories. One could argue that his career's path has been like a former QB now on CBS' studio show.

The INTs are a product of his God given arm strength and athletic ability. He suffers from having a cannon of an arm and thinking that he can fit any ball into any window of space at anytime. Another current QB who suffers from this is Drew Bledsoe. In NFL history, another QB suffered from this Big Arm syndrome who has extremely similar numbers in the playoffs: Dan Marino. Manning gets the Marino label, but his INTs are not from forcing throws; it's usually pressure induced and great plays by the secondary. He doesn't make the bone head plays that Favre makes which feel like late career Marino INTs. Late in his career, in tight games, Marino would want to make the big play and force balls that 10 years earlier could squeeze through, but time and injuries took a little zip off the ball and secondaries pounced. This is the exact same thing that has happened to Favre. Teams stuff the run to put the game in Favre's hands and make him throw into coverage. Look at Favre's and Marino's playoff stats; they are creepy in their similarity. They both had early career success in the playoffs followed by truly horrible performances. The career regular season stats are similar as well: TD/INT ratios of 1.63 (F) vs. 1.66 (M), 7.1 ypa (F) vs. 7.3 ypa (M), and completion percentages of 61.7% (F) vs. 59.4% (M). Favre's career has the one thing that eluded Marino, a Super Bowl win. Maybe this is why he escapes the Marino comparisons but Manning receives them.

Tonight he suits up against the Vikings on a national stage for probably the last time. Maybe he can turn it around and have the Packers end the year on a high note. For the good of the league, Green Bay and Favre, I hope that it does happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Reggie Bush: Heisman Contender and Human Highlight Reel

I hope that you stayed up late last night because Reggie Bush put on a show when his team absolutely needed someone to step up. To start with, here are tow quick links for reference a great article about his performance last night, which you can read the details of here. The performance was on the ground, through the air and on returns. USC faced a stiff defense from Fresno St., and needed a ground game to put points on the board. Last night's nationally televised game on the Fox Sports Network combined with his thrilling game against Notre Dame should solidify him as the front runner and deserving winner of the Heisman Trophy.

The arguments for Bush's Heisman case are better put forth by professionals, but I want to discuss the speed, the cuts and th epower he brings to the game. USC faced a defense which is known for their slogan "Shut up and hit somebody". They are a physical defense, which forced the Trojans to try to run to the edge and throw. Fresno St. did not blitz often and dropped as many as 8 men back to stifle the Trojans' ability to go deep. This meant that Bush had to give the Trojans big yards on the ground. Bush delivered with an exclamation point.

Bush showed off his speed with his 65 yard run, where he hit the hole quickly bounced outside and streaked down the sidelines. Bush has the speed to outrun linebackers and even defensive backs. On top of this speed, his body control is amazing. He stops on a dime when he needs to cut and can move quickyl enough to bring his shoulders square to tacklers. Bush makes cuts that are on par with the talented back in San Diego right now. The amazing part about Bush is that he makes defenders miss, but fights off arm tackles to get considerable yards after contact. On one of his 25+ yard rushes, Bush had a defensive back lined up for a tackle and he bounced 2 yards to his left and then accelerated right past the defender. His legs are surprisingly powerful despite his smaller frame. That leads to the other great feature of his running: power. While Bush is known as the slashing back for the Trojans, he is not afraid fo contact. Bush will lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to a defender when needed. His legs keep churning and when the size matchup is even, Bush drives through defensive backs easily.

So many of his plays last night were highlight reel worthy, and this game should be front in center when the Heisman committee votes. Bush can catch out of the backfield and has great game awareness. The sad part about his outstanding play this year is that he most likely will be drafted by a terrible team. One can hope that he might be drafted by a team that is having a bad year due to injuries or external oddities and has talent like the NY Jets, the Saints or the Vikings. No matter what he does n the pros, his performance this year should put him in the hall of greatest college running backs of all time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

NFL Picks Week 11

Welcome back for NFL week 11 picks. This is my 3rd week of putting my picks online for all the internet to see. I have cruised through different blogs, and it appears that websites take 1 of 3 routes for delivering picks:
1. A "strong feeling" handful. It is a list of 3-5 games that the person feels are sure bets.
2. The analyst route: this is a more technical approach with an eye on the bigger NFL picture.
3. The funny guy route: this is a rip off of Page 2's Sports Guy. People make up their own named games like his "Kitchen Sink" games, and they try to be witty. This can work on 1 out of 10 sites I have visited that employ this technique.

I like the first route because it shows the confidence someone has in a pick, which can be made to shame a person if that pick is wrong. The analyst route helps people the most, and is wonderful to use as a later reference point if a game mirrors another game from earlier in the season. Open to the public, I have gone 16-11-1. My tie came from using the worst line for the Panthers/Lions game. The Chiefs' no cover was because of a bad line, and the Falcons crapping the bed last week hurt my goal of being at 66%+. This week does not have the intriguing matchups of last week, but it does have one whopper of a game: the Colts vs the Bengals. When we get to the Bengals/Colts matchup, I will retell my favorite gambling moment with the Bengals.

Jacksonville (-4) over TITANS
Last week, Jacksonville kicked off the second half of the season by laying an elbow on the Ravens. Their easy 2nd half of the schedule continues with a matchup against the Titans. The Titans are throwing to no names, and they have no runnng game despite a talented backfield. The Titans defense is also hurting this year, which goes against Jeff Fisher's philosophy. I guess the salary cap catches up with everybody eventually. Jacksonville will beat the Titans, and I would take the under with this game. In the last ten games, the under is 8-2, and Jacksonville isn't going to give up big plays to the rag tag receiver corps of the Titans.

CLEVELAND (-2) over Miami
I changed this pick 3 times. I can't fathom how the Dolphins are going to win on the road and in the cold with Gus Frerotte at the helm. I also wonder how the Dolphins haven't called up Jeff George. I know he is a punchline to so many QB jokes, but he has to be better than Gus. I think with the talent that the Dolphins have at the WR, TE and RB positions, they have to be considering George. Miami is in a poor position right now offensively because they had an oustanding running back, Ricky Williams, who for a few years masked the inadequate QBs the Dolphins fielded. The QBs were bad enough to lose some games for you, but never good enough to win them.

New Orleans (+10) over NEW ENGLAND
New England is 0-3 against the spread in their last 3 home games, and these are the Saints who rely on their WRs now that Deuce is gone. No matter who the Pats have on their injury list, it does not put them at risk to lose outright to the Saints. My biggest concern is the passing game for the Saints. They have the receivers who could exploit the Pats secondary, and make this a track meet. They also have a QB incapable of making good decisions on a consistent basis, Aaron Brooks. The Pats lost their starting center, and we saw last Monday how that affected the Eagles. I'd wager on the Over in this game because the Pats can easily put up 20+, and the Saints should put up numbers on the Pats secondary.

WASHINGTON (-5.5) over Oakland
I like Randy Moss. I think he is a unique talent that could go down in history as one of the top 3 receivers to ever play. I think he also looks better this year with the dysfunction on the Vikings team, and the TO saga in Philly. Imagine if the Eagles had traded for Moss instead of TO? Despite my respect for Moss, the Raiders do not have a shot against the Redskins thsi week on the road. This is a cross country game, and the Redskins are in a great position for a playoff run. They are 5-4, have an easy schedule coming up, have everyone healthy, play an Eagles team without their no. 1 WR or QB, and have the Giants and Cowboys at home. Their next 3 division games are all easier than their first three were. I think Gibbs will get the Skins focused this week after last week's 4th quarter gag job.

NEW YORK (-7) over the Eagles
Philly is 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games and that was with McNabb. The Giants are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 home games. Add to that the quarterback situation with the Eagles and the downward trajectory of their season. The starting QB for the Eagles was released from the Lions because they wanted to keep Joey Harrington. That is frightening and a sign to bet against him on the road. The Eagles don't have a receiver who can catch and explode anymore. While I think the Eagles will bring the heat on Eli Manning, the Giants have a healthy, effective running back to take the pressure off of him. Eli cannot have back to back games bad games, and if he does, it might be a warning for the road to the playoffs.

Tampa Bay (+6) over FALCONS
The Falcons had an easy home game last week and self destructed. Turnovers killed them, and they were playing a depleted team with no names at the skill positions. I think that Tampa Bay will stuff the line and force Vick to make throws and work on his 'pocket passing' game. That is not a good thing because he has no one besides his tight end to throw to. The Falcon receivers have to be the worst "healthy" unit of WRs in the NFL. Look at Vick's efficient game from last week; 8 of his 20 completions were to RBs. The Tampa defense is suited to controlling Vick with their speed, and I think Tampa will score on the Dirty Birds. The Falcons defense has not been good this year, and looked awful against the Packers ground game, which died in the offseason. If Simms can hit the deep balls he threw last week, it could be a romp. This game will start the shake out of the NFC South. As the Falcons play both the Bucs/Panthers 4 times in the next 7 weeks.

ST. LOUIS (-9.5) over Arizona
As I stated last week, Arizona is 1-9 as road dogs. They are without their no. 1 WR, and the rushing attack is the worst in the league. The Cardinals have a decent defensive line, but their defense overall is terrible. They will not be able to keep up with the Rams, and the Rams have to be feeling desperate after last week's loss. I think the question becomes, who do the Cardinals pick with their high draft pick? They have depth at WR, a decent RB, they have a good defensive line that is young, but they have a terrible offensive line. Do they pass up one of USC's Goldenboys and go for an offensive lineman? They have to unless they want to wait for another QB to develop. I think they will end up with a top 5 pick, and can grab a blue chip O-Lineman.

Carolina (-3) over CHICAGO
The Bears are having a wonderful season after hopes were lost with the injury to their starting QB and the holdout of their top draft pick. Similar to 2001, the Bears are winning with the NFL's best defense (which is incredibly young), a decent running game, and few mistakes from their passing game. They are getting good production out of their TEs, and around the goalline they are putting up 7 points rather than 3. Despite all of this, I think that Carolina will win because they are the best team in the NFC. Carolina has an excellent defense, a more potent offense, and has beaten much tougher competition. A concern I have is that the Bears will be able to stuff the Panthers run, and it will force the Panthers to be one dimensional. That one dimension is still excellent when it's Steve Smith. Forcing them to throw can create 3 & outs, the Bears could control the clock with their run game and keep it close. Chicago has run up their 6-3 record against a collection of ragtag teams, and their win streak will come to an end Sunday.

DALLAS (-7.5) over Detroit
After last Monday's exciting win, Parcells will have the Cowboys focused on winning this game, setting themselves up for the home stretch with the Thanksgiving game next week. They were outplayed for most of the game, but pulled it out with an efficient 2 minute drill and a stellar play from no. 31. The Lions are on the road, have an injured alien-looking man to lead them or a brainless mannequin. Harrington did have a good game last week, but it was against the Cardinals, who he has lit up the last 3 times he has played them. My hint to triple cover Roy Williams was overlooked by the Cardinals. Dallas's defense will bring the blitzes at Harrington and force him to make quick reads. Since he reads defenses poorly, he will probably throw instinctively to Roy and not the "Hot Route" leading to incompletions/interceptions. Julius Jones is supposedly feeling better after another week of rest and practice. They need him to start producing to take pressure off of the passing game if they want to get to go deep in the playoffs.

BALTIMORE (+3.5) over Pittsburgh
The Steelers are down to possibly using Slash the Sequel as a QB, and are missing key pieces to their rushing attack and defense. This is one of those road division games that trip up a divison leader. While the Steelers do have an outstanding rush defense, I am worried about their ability to put up points. I just have a bad feeling about this game for the Steelers.

Seattle (-12) over SAN FRANCISCO
This is one of those games where Shaun Alexander puts up 175 yards, 3 TDs and still has to wait until the offseason for a big contract. The Seahawks are in prime position to end up even better than I expected and get home field advantage in the playoffs. I think that the 49ers should just throw the rest of the season and look to get some help for their offensive line or defense. I don't know if Reggie Bush would be a great pick up for the 49ers because they already have two decent backs. I think the more pressing need is on their offensive line or defensive backfield.

SAN DIEGO (-10) over Buffalo
I would take Buffalo and the points at home, but ther eis no reason to trust J.P. Losman on the road. The Chargers are in a difficult position of needing to win out or go 6-1 to make the playoffs, and they still have to play the Broncos and at Indy and KC. These are the games (Buffalo, Miami, Oakland, etc.) that they will cruise through because of the difficult road ahead (KC, Indy, Denver).

DENVER (-13) over NY Jets
This has to be the year from hell for Jets fans. Their offense has been terrible with the QB carousel and the rapid decline of Curtis Martin. The defense has played well, but because their offense cannot sustain drives, they get worn out late in games. NY is 0-5 on the road this year, and will have just come off a humiliating defeat in Carolina. Denver at home is always a good bet; they are 5-0 at home this year and 3-1 ATS in their last 4 home games. I think the 2 headed monster rushing attack of Denver is going to destroy NY's rush defense which is one of the worst in the league.

CINCY (+6) over Indianapolis
Favorite Cincy Gambling Moment: I was in Vegas for the weekend the Bengals hosted the undefeated Chiefs in 2003. I had Chad Johnson & Jon Kitna on my fantasy team and had seen them light teams up throughout the season. The Bengals were getting a decent line, and the Moneyline was paying well also. The Bengals were not intimidated by the Chiefs undefeated record (neither was I). No matter what people say about the Colts being a soft undefeated team, they have smoked their opponents. The Chiefs that year were squeaking by teams every week. The Bengals beat them, helping the Son of Brock Landers salvage a rough weekend in Vegas.

The Bengals have a similar attitude about the Colts this week. I think they have the horses to run with them and at them. The Bengals rushing attack can control the clock, and wear down that defense. The two teams mirror each other in that they have good pass defenses, bad run defenses, great offenses and have played easy schedules. The Colts will carry the day, but the Bengals will keep it close. I think 30-27 or 28-24 will be the final score.

Chiefs (-6.5) over HOUSTON
KC should take out their anger and frustration against the bad Texans defense. The Texans are done for the year, and they have all the offensive skill pieces in place for an offensive guru to come in and turn them around. In April, Houston needs help on defense, but they also have to look for someone to plug up their offensive line. They can't move the ball, and this stems from their inability to win battles at the line.

GREEN BAY (-4) over Minnesota
Minnesota is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games. This is Monday Night Football and a chance for Brett Favre to shine. Minnesota won in NY last week with every single break going their way. Green Bay can get some momentum from their win in Atlanta, and they will pound at the Vikings. The Vikings just do not play well on the road or the cold, and their rush defense is weak enough for the Packers to exploit. This is Favre's last big stage game, and I think he will deliver. The Packers run as division champs and a perennial playoff team is over. Last offseason, the Pack lost their two outstanding guards, and were in denial about their overall situation when they chose to draft a QB rather than plug any of their defensive holes. It's over; they should have realized it then. No one really knows if Ahman Green will be back next year, and with Favre possibly retiring, the Pack will have to replace all of their skill positions and seriously tweak their defense. That isn't reloading, it's rebuilding.