Friday, December 30, 2005

Week 17 in the NFL

Week 17 in the NFL marks the end of the Coin Flip Challenge. Part of me is sad because it made the season more interesting for me and hopefully for you as well. The other part of me is elated because picking NFL games against the spread is so frustrating. Things that should happen end up not happening far too often. I feel fortunate to be one game above .500 entering week 17. It would not surprise me at all if I bombed the last week and finished below .500. My confidence level for week 17 as a whole is next to nothing considering how many meaningless games there are. As far as the Challenge, I am thirteen games ahead of the Coin Flip. We only have nine differences for our week 17 picks. That means the Coin Flip cannot win. I have clinched the Coin Flip Challenge Championship. I have not decided whether or not I’m going to rest my starters during week 17.  I failed miserably in my attempt to get rid of my Jalen Rose jersey. There’s always next year. Anyhow, I think it’s entirely possible that nobody reads this so I’m going to say that I’m really He-Man. I do have a Battle-Cat and I fight Skeletor on a daily basis. Happy New Year!

SD -10 den

Denver has nothing to play for which means Mike Shanahan won’t play anyone good. However, San Diego really has nothing to play for either. They can’t make the playoffs and they can’t keep Denver from making the playoffs. The only thing they can do is keep Kansas City from making the playoffs. If SD hates KC that much, then maybe they’ll come out and play like it’s the Super Bowl. I find that highly unlikely. As a result, I really have no idea how fired up San Diego will be. If San Diego played Denver’s second string in San Diego earlier in the season, they would win by three touchdowns. My guess is that Denver’s back-ups will have a hard time putting points on the board. That should allow SD to cover the spread.

nyg -9.5 oak

Unlike SD and Denver, the Giants have plenty to play for. They have to win to make the playoffs. There will be no shortage of motivation in their match-up with the Raiders. However, it’s important to remember that the Giants and Eli Manning, specifically, are far less potent on the road than they are at home. The Raiders still have the ability to score some points. I would not be shocked if the Raiders lost by more than ten but considering Oakland’s big play capability and the Giants stagnation on the road, I’ll take Oakland to stay within 9.5 points.

IND -7 ari

I found this line kind of strange. The only explanation that I can come up with is that the oddsmakers are convinced that the Colts will try to win this game to avoid entering the playoffs on a three game losing streak. The Colts’ second stringers should not be seven point favorites over Arizona’s first stringers. I think it’s possible that Manning and Co. come out throwing to put this game away early. However, the Colts don’t seem too concerned about the possibility of a three game losing streak. They’re convinced they can turn it on when it matters. This game doesn’t matter so my pick is Arizona to cover.

bal -3.5 CLE

I felt foolish after I returned from Italy and saw the Pittsburgh/Cleveland box score. My brilliant self picked Cleveland to cover a 7.5 point spread against Pittsburgh. Despite the fact that the game was in Cleveland, the Browns lost 41-0. Granted, hindsight is 20/20 but that doesn’t make me feel any better. I am clueless as to what will transpire in this game between Baltimore and Cleveland. The Ravens are starting to play a little better but they don’t have Ray Lewis. Kyle Boller is the Joey Harrington of the AFC.  He only plays well when the team has been eliminated from the playoffs. So, do I go with the team that has a quarterback like Joey Harrington and a defense that’s missing its best player, or do I go with the team that lost last week by 41 points? I’m leaning towards Cleveland. The Redskins lost 36-0 earlier this year to the Giants but bounced back aggressively. It would be embarrassing for the Browns to get blown out two games in a row at home. I’ll take the Browns to cover.

buf -1 NYJ

I understand that anything can happen in the NFL but does anyone really think that the Jets could’ve gone into Cincinnati last week and dominated the Bengals? The Bills did just that. Both teams are far from being good. Both teams started season with high expectations. The Jets are playing at home but I think Buffalo is good enough to beat the Jets by two points. I’ll take the Bills to cover in a game with big-time draft implications.

car -4.5 ATL

Most people would probably expect Carolina to come in with more intensity than Atlanta. In theory, that should probably be the case. However, my guess is that Atlanta doesn’t particularly care for Carolina. At this point in the season, the only thing the Falcons have to play for is the joy of seeing Carolina not make the playoffs. That alone should be enough to keep this game close. I would not be surprised if Atlanta won the game. Carolina has been far from a sure thing on the road. If they underestimate Atlanta, the Panthers will be sitting in front of their televisions come playoff time. I’ll take Atlanta to come out motivated to spoil Carolina’s season.

MIN -4.5 chi

I find it interesting that Mike Tice didn’t get fired when the Vikings were the worst team in the NFL at the beginning of the season with sex parties, whizzinators, and scalping football tickets. However, after he guided the team out of that mess by making a playoff run, he’ll likely be fired. That sounds a little bit like the Bob Huggins fiasco at Cincinnati. Coaches are milked for every last drop and then shown the door with the most ludicrous explanations. At least Matt Millen had the decency to fire Steve Mariucci as soon as it became clear that he didn’t want him around anymore. If you’re going to fire a coach, you should do it as soon as you decide, not when it’s convenient. That’s unfair to everyone involved. I’m not making a case for Tice, rather I’m expressing my distaste for made-up excuses for firing a coach when the coach wasn’t fired for far more convincing reasons earlier in the tenure. Chicago has nothing to play for. A few weeks ago, I thought this game would decide the division. A combination of the Vikings losing and the Bears winning made this game irrelevant. The problem that I’m having with this game is that the Bears second unit might be just as good as its first unit. Kyle Orton is not much of a drop-off, if any, from Rex Grossman. The Vikings turned their season around by feasting on terrible teams. They failed in virtually every match-up with a legitimate team. The Bears, even with their back-ups, are good enough to beat the Vikings. I’ll take Chicago to cover in a meaningless game.

KC -8 cin

I was troubled by the Bengals signing of Carson Palmer through 2014 and it has nothing to do with the contract. I had to do a double take when I saw “2014”. That made me feel incredibly old. I guess I never realized that 2014 was so close that current contracts are now reaching that year. That was a buzzkill. In the interest of keeping everyone feeling young, sports contracts should be limited to three years. As for the game, the Bengals actually have something to play for. They can take the #3 seed in the AFC with a win. If they lose and New England wins, the Patriots would get the #3 seed. My guess is that the Bengals won’t simply hand the victory over to the Chiefs. The Chiefs should win this game but this line is way too high unless the Bengals plan on benching everyone. I’ll take Cincy to keep this game close and cover the spread.

PIT -13 det

The Lions are ridiculous. I bet Joey Harrington was thrilled about beating the Saints. That victory dropped Detroit to the 10th spot in the draft. If it weren’t for the completely unnecessary and counterproductive last minute heroics of Harrington, the Lions would be at #5 with a great chance of moving into the top three. Instead, the Lions have five wins instead of four. Congratulations to the Lions. You stunk and have nothing to show for it except for a meaningless victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Lions would’ve ruined Vince Young’s career anyway. The Steelers should dominate this game. The Lions are bad. They have zero good attributes as a football team. The Steelers will destroy the Lions on both sides of the ball. I’ll take Pittsburgh to win by 1,000 points and cover the spread. On a side note, as I mentioned, I was in Rome for the last week. There were no American channels or English speaking channels with the exception of CNN International. CNN International has a ticker at the bottom of the screen. On the ticker is a “Sports Bar”. The Sports Bar devotes 99% of its information to European sports. If you’re lucky, you might see one tidbit about American sports. For example, the ticker said “Former MLB reliever charged with robbery” and another said, “Monday Night Football ends”. I didn’t find out that Jeff Reardon was the former MLB pitcher, or that the Patriots beat the Jets on MNF until we returned home. Anyhow, I was watching the ticker on Christmas Day and this rolled across the screen “New Orleans 12 Detroit 13”. I was trying with all my might to think of another sport that would pit New Orleans against Detroit. It didn’t specify that it was an NFL game. Then I started thinking that maybe it was a misprint. Slowly, I came to the realization that Detroit had beaten New Orleans. I felt like I was punched in the gut by Joey Harrington 6,000 miles away in Italy. I hate the Lions.

NE -6 mia

Miami always gives Tom Brady problems. I don’t know why this is the case but I do know that it is the case. The Dolphins can’t make the playoffs but they’ve known that for quite some time. That hasn’t stopped them from turning their season around. New England still has something to play for since the #3 seed is up for grabs. If the Bengals can beat the Colts in the playoffs and the Patriots can beat the Broncos, the Pats would much rather have Cincy come to Foxboro than vice versa. The Patriots should win this game but with Miami playing well, it won’t be easy. The Dolphins should cover. Watch out for Miami next season.

TB -13 no

Tampa Bay has a lot to play for. They can clinch a first round home game with a victory. The Saints have nothing to play except to hold on to the #2 pick in the draft that was gift-wrapped to them by the Lions. If the Saints have any sense at all, they will let Tampa blow them out. The Saints would then be guaranteed either Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, or Vince Young. That’s a cause worth losing for. I’ll take Tampa Bay to crush New Orleans.

hou -2 SF

What are the chances that one of these teams tries to lose? Nobody would ever come out and admit it but isn’t the temptation too great to not at least consider it? It wouldn’t take much to lose on purpose. For instance, the Lions could’ve easily dropped the game to the Saints without a heroic last second win and nobody would’ve thought twice about it. If I’m one of these teams, and I have the ball with one minute to go and I’m losing, I would call a conservative drive. People want to make such a big deal about having respect for the game and whatnot. That’s hogwash. There is nothing wrong with trying to get the #1 pick in the draft. There are no rules against losing the game on purpose unless you’re betting on that game. These teams should be doing everything possible to lose this game. It shouldn’t even be a secret. Can you imagine two teams trying to lose? You’d have teams giving themselves safeties time and time again just to lose. The last team with the ball would be the loser because they would give themselves the last safety. It would be great to watch.  Why would any team intentionally try to NOT get Reggie Bush? People make such a big deal about trying to lose a game but it happens all the time. How would that be any different than scores of NFL teams benching their starters in week 17 to rest them for the playoffs? Clearly those teams are not trying to win the game. Yet, that’s a widely accepted practice. Anyhow, intentionally losing will never happen because a). NFL people aren’t smart enough and b). there is a negative stigma attached to it for whatever reasons. The winner of this game will be a big time loser. I’ll take San Francisco to edge out Houston and lose out on the three elite prospects in the 2006 draft. Houston should send SF a nice bouquet of cheeses to show its gratitude.

JAX -3.5 ten

I’m actually considering just taking the loss on this game without picking a winner. There’s about a 3% chance that I’ll get it right. Neither team has anything to play for. Jacksonville finally broke out last week by crushing Houston at my expense. My completely uneducated and likely incorrect guess is that Jacksonville’s offense will stagnate without its starters allowing Tennessee to stay close. I’ll take the Titans to cover.

GB -3.5 sea

I want to make something clear before I go any further. The Coin Flip Challenge was a contest where I picked every game in the NFL. If I were actually betting on NFL games, I would likely pick the four or five games that I was most confident in each week. Considering that I’m slightly above .500 on the season while picking every game, I think I could fare better if I only picked games that I was confident in. I would never, ever bet on a game like this one between Green Bay and Seattle. I have no clue what’s going to happen. I have no idea how good Seattle’s backups are. I have no idea how motivated Green Bay will be or if that even matters. I will say that it would not surprise me if Brett Favre throws for 400 yards and four touchdowns because it’s a home game against a bunch of back-ups. I like happy endings so I’ll take Green Bay to trounce what amounts to the New Orleans Saints.

WAS -7.0 phi

I can’t believe that Washington and the NY Giants will both make the playoffs. Throw in the fact that the Chicago Bears made the playoffs too and I’m all but convinced that we’ve been transported to 1990. I can honestly say I didn’t see any of that coming. Despite this being a divisional game, I don’t see Philly having the talent to stick with the Redskins on the road. Plus, the Skins have been on a role with just Clinton Portis dressing up in crazy costumes. Now, the whole team dressed up. That’s not a good sign for the Eagles. On a side note, I love the Portis/costume thing. I am most entertained by the names he comes up with. I now find myself being a big Clinton Portis fan. I’ll take Washington to take advantage of the talent differential and cover the spread.

DAL -13 stl

Does St. Louis have a potent offense capable of putting up points, or do they have the worst offense in the league? I have no idea. They have Issac Bruce, Tory Holt, Stephen Jackson, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace just to name a few. Yet, they’ve been awful. This is another game that I’m clueless about. Dallas needs to win so they’ll probably open up the passing game again like they did against Philly earlier in the season. Thirteen points is a big number for Dallas. I’ll take St. Louis to stick around and hopefully lose by 12 points.

My picks:


Coin Flip’s picks:


Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

Since I will be in Italy for the next week, I'll be taking a brief hiatus from posting. For those of you that are looking for some reading material, I'll link my 2005/6 Bowl Extravaganza. It's a long read so it might hold you over for a couple of days. For those of you that have read the whole thing, I apologize for not being able to keep up with you. I appreciate all of the comments that you have left over the last half a year. It has been my pleasure to give you something to read on a semi-regular basis.

Merry Christmas!


NFL Week 16 prognostications

The Coin Flip Challenge is coming to a close with only two weeks to go. The Coin Flip missed out on a chance to pick up some ground this week by duplicating 12 of 16 of my picks. Barring a major catastrophe, I will be holding on to my Jalen Rose jersey. I know that bums a lot of you out and I apologize. I can only imagine your heartbreak week after week as my lead grew over the Coin Flip. If it’s any consolation, at least you had the dream for a good three months that you might be lucky enough to wear a Jalen Rose Denver Nuggets jersey at the beach next summer. Hope is a good thing. Never let go of it. The NFL playoff picture is fairly clear right now. The highlight of this week will undoubtedly be the monumental battle between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. The loser will be rewarded handsomely. Merry Christmas!

CIN -14 buf

The Bills have been putrid on the road this year. They’ve lost road games by; 16, 12, 21, and 38. The Bengals are still playing for a first round bye so they won’t let up on the hapless Bills. If Cincy airs it out like they did against Detroit last week, this game will be a blowout. I am fearful of a repeat of what happened the last time Cincy played a bad team at home. They barely beat Cleveland in come-from-behind fashion. I could go either way on this game but over 60 minutes, Cincy should score at least 14 points more than Buffalo so I’ll go with Cincinnati.

pit -7.5 CLE

Cleveland is a nightmare for gamblers. The Browns have been very good at home this year having only lost one home game by more than six points. Cleveland lost by 12 at Pittsburgh earlier in the season but that was with Trent Dilfer at QB. Charlie Frye has given the Browns a boost in the arm since he took over. Pittsburgh has been playing well lately having beaten Chicago and Minnesota in dominating performances. If Cleveland can get the running game going, they will likely be able to stay within a touchdown. Cleveland’s defense is one of the best in the NFL. I’ll take Cleveland to keep this game close and cover the spread.

KC PK sd

These teams are basically the same. Both teams have great offenses. Both teams play in the same division. Both teams won’t make the playoffs. Both teams are better than teams that will make the playoffs. Both teams have up and down defenses. Both teams have unheralded quarterbacks. Both teams have old, successful coaches. I could probably go on for a few more minutes but you get the idea. When two teams are equal, and one team has an injured starting running back, and is playing on the road, I tend to go with the other team. I’ll take Kansas City to keep their December home winning streak going.

MIA -5.5 ten

Just a few weeks ago, I was wondering how the Lions were going to finish with a worse record than Miami. The Dolphins looked like a shoe-in to finish with a top five draft pick. The old Steve McNair showed up last week against Seattle. The Titans scored 24 straight points against Seattle at one point and barely missed the upset victory. Miami has won three games in a row by a total of seven points. Two of those victories were against Buffalo and the NY Jets. Miami might be playing better but they are barely beating bad teams. Steve McNair should be able to keep Tennessee in this game. I’ll take the Titans to cover.

jax -6.5 HOU

I have no idea who to pick in this game. Jacksonville is the ultimate play-to-the-level-of-its-opponents-team.  The Jags beat the Texans by seven at home earlier in the year. The Texans have played four straight close games. One would think that the Jags will break out offensively one of these games considering how weak their schedule has been. I will hope that the Jags stay in their offensive funk for one more week and go with Houston to cover.

NO -3 det

I’m going with Detroit all the way in this game. Both of these teams are terrible. Both of these teams need to lose. The Lions will be starting Joey Harrington who will be trying as hard as possible to prove he is the future QB in Detroit. The Lions also have a coach, Dick Jauron, who actually likes being the coach of the Detroit Lions. You can bet he’ll be treating this game like the Super Bowl. The Saints got the right idea last week when they handed their season over to Todd Bauman. If that’s not a sign that the Saints are gearing for the best possible draft pick, then I don’t know what is. The Lions will continue their ineptitude by actually winning a game they would be better off losing. I’ll take Detroit to, not only cover but, win.

CAR -5.5 dal

I can’t believe the Cowboys rolled over like that for the Redskins. I never thought I’d see a good team, coached by Bill Parcells, in a must win situation get destroyed like that. The NFC East might be the best division in football. The Giants beat the Redskins 36-0. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 35-7. Dallas beat the Giants 16-13. That tells me that each of those three teams has the ability to be very good. The biggest problem with these teams is consistency. In some games, these teams play like their Super Bowl winning teams from the 90’s. In other instances, they play like the Detroit Lions on a cold, winter day in Philadelphia circa 1995. Carolina got back to smoking teams with a win over New Orleans last week. This is a big game for Carolina who, despite being 10-4, hasn’t even clinched a spot in the playoffs yet. I would be surprised to see a Parcells team roll over two weeks in a row. They will come out fighting and lose a close battle. I’ll take Dallas to cover.

WAS -3 nyg

I’ve said it in this same spot many times before. Washington is a very good football team. They made a bad impression in their 36-0 no-show against the Giants earlier this year but they’ve quietly won three in a row and now find themselves in the playoffs if the season ended today. If Washington wins this game, they will almost certainly make the playoffs since their last game is against a bad Philly team. If someone would’ve told me before the season started that both Washington and the NY Giants were going to make the playoffs, I would’ve called them crazy. In fact, I’m still going to call them crazy. The Giants will win this game and keep Washington out of the playoffs. The Giants cover.

TB -3 atl

I was wrong about a few teams in my WWE-style NFL Preview. I was wrong about Baltimore, Chicago, NY Giants, and the Washington Redskins to name a few. One thing I was right about was the Atlanta Falcons. I didn’t see how Atlanta could make the playoffs this year. Their schedule was just too difficult for them to compete. Another team I was right about was the Tampa Buccaneers. The Bucs are a more complete team than Atlanta. They have a great defense with solid playmakers on offense. Joey Galloway from 1995 somehow made his way ten years into the future. The Bucs are just better than Atlanta. My guess is that TB will drive the final nail into the coffin of Atlanta’s playoff hopes. Tampa Bay should corral Vick and win by more than three.

STL -9.5 sf

This line is a shocker. You could’ve given me eight guesses at what this spread would be and I wouldn’t have come close to saying -9.5. The Rams are a bad, bad team. They’ve lost five of six games. The only victory was a come-from-behind overtime victory over the worst team in the NFL. These two teams played in week one with San Francisco coming away with the victory. How could St. Louis possibly be 9.5 point favorites? I could see a big line if SF had been playing terribly but they only lost by one at Jacksonville last week. I’ll take San Francisco to stay close to a team that isn’t much better than they are. SF covers.

ARI -1 phi

This game should be billed as John Navarre vs. Mike McMahon. If Kurt Warner weren’t out for the rest of the season, I would take Arizona. However, you couldn’t pay me to take John Navarre in an NFL game. He’s a good guy but being a good guy doesn’t mean you can win games in the NFL. I’ll take McMahon and the Eagles to win and move to 7-8. The fact that Philly could finish the season at 8-8 is surprising.

SEA -10 ind
This game is an example of why picking NFL games against the spread during the last two weeks of the season is such a toss-up. Who knows how long Indy will keep in its starters. Seattle can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win. That’s a big deal. Seattle certainly does not want to play away from home in the playoffs. My guess is that Indy’s starters will stick around for a quarter and then ride the bench. Seattle will likely try to send a message even if it’s against Indy’s second stringers. I’ll take Seattle to pull away in the second half.

DEN -13.5 oak

Denver should dominate the Raiders at home. The Broncos beat the Raiders by 14 in Oakland earlier in the year. However, I thought the same thing would happen just two weeks ago when Baltimore came to Denver. The Broncos barely beat the Ravens by two points. Even though the Broncos have been impressive for the majority of the year, they are still liable to come out flat against any team. Having said that, the Raiders have been deplorable lately. I’ll take Denver to run up the score at home.

chi -7 GB

I’ve been a big Chicago-doubter all year but even I was impressed with their destruction of Michael Vick and the Falcons last week. Soldier Field will be a big advantage for the Bears if they can get a home playoff game. The Bears have beaten Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta this season alone. That is extremely impressive. The Vikings were 0-3 against those three teams. The Lions were 0-3 against those three teams. The Packers were 1-2 against those teams. Despite not being flashy, the Bears are clearly the cream of the NFC North. It’s important to remember that when this season started, Green Bay had a Pro-Bowl running back, a Pro-Bowl wide receiver, and a Pro-Bowl tight end. All three of those players suffered season-ending injuries. If Brett Favre returns next season, he will surely be armed with a more explosive offense and a better team. I don’t know that Green Bay would be good enough to make the playoffs but they would undoubtedly be better than this year’s team. The Packers fate for this season might have been sealed when Green Bay’s GM let Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera leave in free agency. Whoever made that decision should be fired. I’ll take Green Bay to keep this game close. Chicago is a better team but Brett Favre should be sufficiently motivated to bounce back from last week’s miserable performance. The Packers should cover.

BAL -3 min

I didn’t get to see the Monday Night Football game thankfully. However, I did see the highlights. Was it me, or did all of Kyle Boller’s passes seem like ducks? That reminds me of the last few years when Joey Harrington would have a good game. The Detroit media would go crazy with the “Joey is finally coming around talk”. It inevitably only took the next week to debunk that notion. Well, I think Kyle Boller is a clone of Harrington. He may have the occasional good game but he’s not good. In fact, he’s terrible. The year the Boller has two good games in a row is the year that he’s playing in the Arena league. I’ll take Minnesota to win a close, defensive battle.

ne -6 NYJ

The Patriots don’t really have much to play for. They are pretty much locked into the #4 spot in the AFC. I really have no clue how this game will unfold. Will Belichick bench his starters for the second half? I can’t see him playing his starters very long with as many injuries as the Patriots have had this year. They need to be healthy for the playoffs if they have any chance of beating Indy or Denver. I’ll take Belichick to rest his starters and the Jets to cover.

My picks


Coin Flip’s picks

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Random thoughts in my head

-The San Diego Chargers will be one of the best teams to not make the playoffs in NFL history. They will be right there with the ’91 San Francisco 49ers. That Niners team was #3 in the NFL in total offense and #5 in total defense. They lost six games by a total of 26 points. They outscored their opponents 393-239. I don’t believe the Washington Redskins would’ve won the Super Bowl if SF would’ve made the playoffs.

- I think the Big Ten is going to go 3-4 in its bowl games.

-Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson are two of the top ten running backs ever. Alexander has a combination of size and speed that very few other backs in NFL history can match, if any. Tomlinson is a perfect back. They are single handily giving respect to the Chargers and Seahawks. Those two teams had been irrelevant for a long time.

-There is no way that the Lions will lose to the Saints. The Lions are bad but when have they ever done anything right? Well, losing to the Saints would be the right thing to do.

-The Pistons have to keep playing the regular season with playoff-like focus. They have to finish with a better record than the Spurs to get homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Pistons had homecourt last year, they would still be the NBA Champs.

-The #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament will be Duke, Memphis, Connecticut, and the final #1 seed will be between Illinois, Villanova, Gonzaga, and Washington.

-The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) will get three teams into the NCAA tourney.

-The Tigers are still the 4th best team in the Central division. You can thank Mike Illitch for his “show me first” stance. Illitch says he’ll invest money into the team if the team shows him something. Doesn’t 15 years of neglect preclude the team from being able show him something before he puts money in? If Jim Leyland is the greatest manger in MLB history, the Tigers might be in a playoff hunt. If Leyland is merely a good manager, the Tigers will lose 90 games again.

-I’m officially rooting for the Patriots to win another Super Bowl. There isn’t an NFC team that is good enough or deserving enough to win the Super Bowl. The only teams in the AFC that are good enough are the Colts and Broncos. I can’t stand Manning so I won’t root for him. I’m not a big Broncos fan either. So, go Pats!

-I think Ron Artest could put an NBA franchise over the top. If an average NBA team could acquire Artest without hurting their nucleus, there could be a new title contender.

-I think the Michigan basketball team will go 8-8 in the Big Ten and make the NCAA tournament giving the Big Ten seven teams in the Big Dance.

-The Big East will set the all-time record for teams in the NCAA tournament with eight. Only three of those teams will be better than the worst tournament team from the Big Ten or ACC (UCONN, Villanova, and Louisville).

-I think this year’s Stanley Cup winner will be a totally off the wall team. 21 of the 30 NHL teams are above .500.

-I think the Red Sox made the steal of the off-season by acquiring Mark Loretta from the San Diego Padres for Doug Mirabelli. I can’t believe that trade happened. Loretta could possibly be the most underrated player in MLB.

-I don’t think the Red Sox have any idea how to run their team. They let Pedro go after they won the World Series. They got booted from the playoffs this year because they didn’t have pitching. If you’re going to give Pedro the boot, you better have another dominating pitcher in mind to replace him. Then, they let Johnny Damon go to the Yankees. The Red Sox may not make the playoffs this year. That would be amazing considering how good they were two years ago. You can’t let superstar players go without replacing them with equally talented players.

The Vince Young Bowl

The Christmas Eve showdown between the Lions and Saints will be a crucial game for the future of these two franchises. The loser will have a shot at one of the two franchise-altering quarterbacks in the 2006 draft. The winner could very well find themselves out of the top ten. That would be a crude reward for an abysmal season considering how top heavy the draft will be with superstar caliber athletes. This game is not to be confused with the equally important Reggie Bush Bowl that will be played on the last week of the season between Houston and San Francisco.

Here is where the draft order stands entering week 16:

1). Houston
2). San Francisco
3). Green Bay
4). NY Jets
5). New Orleans
6). Arizona
7). Tennessee
8). Buffalo
9). Oakland
10). Detroit

If Detroit loses to New Orleans, they would pass New Orleans. Also, the NY Jets play the Buffalo Bills. The Lions will also pass the winner of that game. The Raiders play against two of the best teams in the NFL which will make their strength of schedule sky-rocket.

That would put the Lions at 7th and the standings would look like this:

1). Houston
2). San Francisco
3). Green Bay
4). NY Jets
5). Arizona
6). Tennessee
7). Detroit

If Arizona, Tennessee, and Detroit lose their remaining games, their strength of schedule will be extremely close.

If you factor in opponent strength of schedule by adding in the records of each team’s two remaining opponents, here is where they stand:

Arizona 113-111
Tennessee 114-110
Detroit 114-110

These teams are so close in SOS that anything could happen with these three teams. All Detroit fans can do is hope that the teams that Detroit has played this year lose. If Detroit can get the tiebreaker over Arizona and Tennessee the Lions would climb to 5th in the draft which might be good enough to land Vince Young.

Here is how the first five picks might unfold under those circumstances:

1). Houston-Reggie Bush
2). San Francisco- D’Brickashaw Furgeson or trade
3). Green Bay- A trade could be likely since GB took a QB in 1st round last year
4). NY Jets- Could take a QB so we’ll go with Leinart
5). Detroit- Vince Young

In my projections so far, I haven’t assumed anything crazy. The only premise that I used was if Detroit loses to New Orleans. If that happens, the Lions could very well get the 5th pick if they can sneak ahead of Tennessee and Arizona in the tie breaker.

Having said that, there are some unexpected events that could help Detroit’s draft position. Here is what you should be rooting for if you’re a Lions fan:

1). The winner of the Houston Texans/San Francisco 49ers game (Reggie Bush Bowl) also wins this week to finish at 4-12. Each team’s SOS would be better than the Lions. The Texans play Jacksonville and the Niners play St. Louis.

2). Tennessee beats Miami this week or Jacksonville next week.

3). Arizona beats Philly this week or Indy’s second string in week 17. (I can guarantee this won’t happen with Kurt Warner out for the season and John Navarre at quarterback)

4). NY Jets beats Buffalo

5). Green Bay beats Chicago or Seattle. Green Bay could very well beat Seattle at home in week 17. The Seahawks will likely rest their starters and Brett Favre may be pumped up to possibly play his last NFL game.


-Houston or SF win their last two games
-Tennessee beats Miami
-Arizona beats Philly or Indy
-NY Jets beat Buffalo
-Green Bay beats Chicago or Seattle
-Buffalo finishes with a higher SOS than Detroit
-Detroit loses to New Orleans.

Then, the Lions would own the 2nd pick in the 2006 NFL draft. It would take a miracle for that to happen. As it stands now, the Lions would have a 1/3 shot at the #5 pick if they simply lose to the New Orleans Saints.

Monday, December 19, 2005

2005-06 Bowl Extravaganza

The bowl season coincides with my favorite time of the year. I'm sure the bowl season itself plays a big part in my affinity for this time of year but December has always been the pinnacle of the year for me for various reasons. As if December wasn't good enough already with long school breaks, Christmas and New Year's eve, the sports world is in full force. The NBA and NHL are in full swing. College basketball is ripe with marquee non-conference match-ups. The NFL is steamrolling towards the playoffs. December is a sports fans mecca. With the overload of sports, it's not easy to keep up with everything. My gift to you is a Bowl season preview/guide/commentary/whatever you want to call that takes a look at all 28 Bowl games. It is my hope that this provides you with joy throughout the holiday season and maybe even through January if you're lucky. With no further delay, I present to you my 2005/6 Bowl Extravaganza:

New Orleans Bowl
Southern Miss (6-5) vs. Arkansas State (6-5) Lafayette, La.

Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ESPN

Southern Mississippi needed a win in their season finale against Tulane to become bowl eligible. However, I assure you that they aren’t that bad. All five of their losses came against bowl teams including a nine point loss at Alabama and a four point loss at NC State. They lost to Houston and Memphis by two and three points respectively. S. Mississippi isn’t a top 25 football team by any means but they’ve proven they can play with a fairly difficult schedule. Arkansas State, on the other hand, was far less impressive with a much easier schedule. Arkansas St. was dominated by Army 38-10 but that wasn’t even their worst loss of the season. They lost to Middle Tennessee St. (who finished 4-7) by a score of 45-7! This game looks even on paper with both teams coming from weak conferences and having identical records. Don’t let that fool you. Southern Mississippi should take care of business.

UTEP (8-3) vs. Toledo (8-3) Mobile, Ala.

Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ESPN

If you don’t have a problem watching no-namers play football, this could be an entertaining match-up. Mike Price has rebounded nicely from his mysterious escapade with a stripper down in Alabama. He’s guided UTEP to two straight winning seasons. Price has definitely taken advantage of UTEP’s weak schedule. The Miners most impressive win was over an 8-4 Tulsa team. After that, it’s hard to distinguish because their schedule was so bad. Basically, if UTEP did any worse than 8-3 with that schedule, some people might question Price’s coaching ability. It was that bad. Despite going 8-3, Toledo just wasn’t as good as they have been in the last few years. They lost by 30 to Fresno St. in a nationally televised game on ESPN. They also lost to Central Michigan for the first time since 1994.. Toledo only beat two D-1 teams with winning records; Western Michigan and Bowling Green. These two teams have similar resumes but I have more respect for Toledo. UTEP comes in having lost its last two games to UAB and SMU. Plus, UTEP barely beat Rice. Rice finished 1-10. Toledo should pull out a squeaker.

Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl
BYU (6-5) vs. California (7-4) Las Vegas, Nev.
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ESPN

With Aaron Rodgers off to the NFL, Jeff Tedford put his season on the shoulders of Joseph Ayoob. Let’s just say that experiment didn’t go over too well. Cal started the season 5-0 but that was a bit misleading considering the opponents that led to the five wins. None of the five wins came against a bowl team and the combined record of those teams is 9-47. Cal went 2-4 in its next six games but did finish the season on a high note by winning 27-3 at Stanford. One side note, Stanford would’ve been bowl eligible had they only beaten Div 1-AA UC Davis. That has to sting. That loss is the gift that keeps on giving. BYU’s bowl participation is a direct result of its schedule strength. The Cougars six wins came against a group of teams consisting of; Eastern Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado St., Air Force, UNLV, and Wyoming. BYU did manage to put up 50 points in a one point loss to TCU. I have no idea how that happened considering TCU has one of the best defenses in football. Cal replaced Ayoob with its backup fullback from last season. That makes me a little nervous. However, Cal’s defense should overwhelm BYU and lead to a narrow victory.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Colorado State (6-5) vs. Navy (7-4) San Diego, Calif.
Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. ESPN2

As I was watching the first half of the Army/Navy game, I swore that I would not pick Navy to win its bowl game no matter who it played. Navy came out and laid the smackdown in the second half which made me rethink my stance a little but I was still pretty sure I would not pick Navy. Then, it was announced that Navy would play Colorado St. and I all but abandoned my stance of not picking Navy. Colorado St. has generally been a solid team but they, like BYU, became bowl eligible this season by beating up a bunch of Mountain West lightweights. Their marquee win was a three touchdown victory over Nevada. Nevada, remember, pounded Fresno St. last week so that counts for something I guess. Navy has rebuilt its image entirely on scheduling the worst possible opponents. I thought this was a brilliant plan by Navy coach Paul Johnson. It was so brilliant, in fact, that Bobby Ross pulled Army out of Conference USA so he could do the same thing. Why play in a conference when you can schedule the worst teams from multiple conferences? I’m not being facetious here; Navy is no longer considered a joke. They’ve made three straight bowl games and have regained some national prominence. Look for Army to do the same fairly soon. Having said that, beating Duke, Air Force, Kent St., Rice, Tulane, Temple, and Army doesn’t go far in making me think Navy will beat Colorado St. This game could go either way but Navy lost to every decent team on its schedule. I’ll take CSU.

Fort Worth Bowl
Kansas (6-5) vs. Houston (6-5) Fort Worth, Texas
Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ESPN

I don’t know if I could sit down and watch this game from start to finish without turning the channel even if somebody paid me. My first thoughts are that this Houston team is probably better than the David Klingler led Houston team that was proclaimed pre-season #1 by Sports Illustrated back in 1991. My second thought is that I would be more willing to watch this match-up if halftime featured an eating contest between coaches. Mark Mangino might be a good coach but I bet he’s even a better eater. I want to see the man pull off a Tony Stewart 2-in-1-day feat. Anyhow, Kansas’s six wins can be broken down into two distinct categories; extremely unimpressive and slightly impressive. The first three victories came against Florida Atlantic, Appalachian St. and Louisiana Tech. The next three victories came against Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa St. In fact, Kansas was probably the best team in the Big XII North at the end of the season. Houston, on the other hand, was one of six Conference USA teams to become bowl eligible. Something tells me that the teams in Conference USA have figured out the secret to becoming bowl eligible. The secret formula pretty much consists of everyone beating Rice and Tulane, and beating a D-1AA opponent. That leaves each team needing three wins in their remaining eight games. That plan works so well that C-USA was very close to getting nine teams to be bowl eligible. Anyhow, as much respect as I have for beating Rice and Tulane, I think Kansas keeps on a roll and takes down Houston even without David Klinger.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Nevada (8-3) vs. UCF (8-4) Honolulu, Hawaii
Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

There’s a C-USA theme to these early bowl games. As I said earlier, kudos to them for figuring out how to maximize bowl bids. UCF finished two games ahead of everyone else in the conference which doesn’t say much considering a). C-USA is terrible and b). they didn’t have to play UTEP. Throw in the fact that they lost by 21 to S. Miss and by 17 to Tulsa and I get the feeling that UCF is really no different than the other bowl eligible teams from the conference. Nevada seems like a dangerous team considering they just pulled off an upset over Fresno St. However, I do think that upset was more about Fresno St. being uninspired after barely losing to #1 USC. A quick glance at Nevada’s resume confirms that the victory over Fresno probably had more to do with Fresno than it did with Nevada. The Wolf Pack lost by 34 to Washington St., by 21 to Colorado St., and by 35 to Boise St. This game could go either way but if forced to choose, I’ll take George O’Leary and his fraudulent resume to beat Nevada.

Motor City Bowl
Memphis (6-5) vs. Akron (7-5) Detroit, Mich.
Dec. 26, 4 p.m. ESPN

Let me just start off by saying that Akron is the worst bowl team in college football history. There is no question in my mind that this is the case. Just to prove my point, Akron lost to Army 20-0. It has been thirteen years since Army shut out a team. That team, coincidentally enough, was also Akron. It’s been 24 years since Army shut out a D-1 team that wasn’t Akron. That was Princeton who promptly moved to D-1AA the next season. In short, getting shutout by Army is about as bad as it gets. If that wasn’t bad enough, until Army’s 20 point victory over Akron this season, the Black Knights hadn’t beaten any team by twenty points since 1999. That victory came against the memorable 0-11 Ball St. team. So, before I even get in to Memphis, it’s safe to say that I don’t have a lot of confidence in Akron. Somehow, someway, they managed to beat N. Illinois twice this season. Does that make N. Illinois the worst bowl team ever? That’s a good question. As for Memphis, they beat three of the other five bowl teams from C-USA. They also just missed beating Tennessee which, despite Tennessee not making a bowl, would’ve been extremely impressive. As enticing as it is for me to pick the team that I think is the worst bowl team ever, I’ll pass and take Memphis to rush for 400 yards and win.

Champs Sports Bowl
Clemson (7-4) vs. Colorado (7-5) Orlando, Fla.
Dec. 27, 5 p.m. ESPN

I bet the Champs Sports Bowl executives (are you serious?) were overjoyed at getting a Colorado team that just lost by 67 points. This bowl might sound new but it has been around since 1990 in some form or another. Here is a brief history of this bowl:

Blockbuster Bowl (1990-1993)
Carquest Bowl (1994-1997)
MicronPC Bowl (1998-1999) Bowl (2000)
Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl (2001)
Mazda Tangerine Bowl (2002-2003)
Champ Sports Bowl (2004-present)

Back when this bowl was the Blockbuster Bowl, it was one of my favorite games to watch. The inaugural Blockbuster Bowl pit Joe Paterno and Penn St. against Bobby Bowden and Florida St. which happens to be this year’s Orange Bowl. I want to take a minute to express my dissatisfaction for Texas and Mack Brown. I have never seen a team score 90 points in my life. Texas had 70 points with 11:00 left in the THIRD quarter. All they needed was three touchdowns in, what essentially comes down to, a half. Instead, they scored zero points the rest of the way. Ugh. A lot of times you can pick the winner of a bowl game by studying how each team finished the season. So, let’s take a look. Colorado finished the season on a three game losing streak. The last two losses were by a combined score of 100-6. In slightly more impressive fashion, Clemson finished the season by beating Florida St. and S. Carolina. Hmmm, I wonder who’s going to win. Before Gary Barnett was fired/dismissed/resigned, I thought that this bowl game could be the venue for the first ever “loser leaves town” match. Since neither the Colorado faithful, nor the Clemson faithful liked their coach, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try something new. If Clemson lost, Tommy Bowden would lose his job as Clemson’s head coach and vice versa. My guess is that neither school would’ve signed the contract for a “loser leaves town” match so we’re forced to watch Clemson vs. Colorado with nothing on the line. If Tommy Bowden loses to Colorado, he shouldn’t be allowed to coach so maybe it will turn into an informal “loser leaves town” match. As much as I’m tempted to take Colorado to bounce back from a 67 point loss, I’ll go with Clemson.

Insight Bowl
Arizona State (6-5) vs. Rutgers (7-4) Phoenix, Ariz.
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Can any other team in college football match Arizona St.’s propensity to fall apart as the season moves along? Well, maybe Minnesota but I’ll have more to say about that when I talk about the Music City bowl. Anyhow, since 2000, ASU is 18-6 in games before October 1. In games on or after October 1, ASU is 20-28. Clearly, the record before October 1 is a bit skewed due to some easy non-conference games but there is no reason for Arizona St. to finish below .500 (games after October 1 are generally Pac-Ten games) in the conference over a five year stretch. This season was no different. After dismantling Temple, Northwestern, and Oregon St., and barely losing to LSU, ASU went into the tank. Losing Sam Keller for the rest of the season was a big blow but freshmen Rudy Carpenter filled in admirably. In eight games, Carpenter threw 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He completed close to 70% of his passes and had a ridiculous quarterback rating of 167.7. All of those numbers were better than Keller’s before the injury. Rutgers finally made it to a bowl game after a 27 year drought. The Scarlet Knights are a mystery as evidenced by their ten point win over Navy and their 51 point loss to Louisville. Those are the two defining games for Rutgers this season. The rest of their resume is a big pile of meaningless wins and losses with the exception of one game. Rutgers lost to Illinois. I’m going to apply the much used and extremely underappreciated transitive property here. Arizona St. beat Northwestern by 31 points. Northwestern beat Illinois by 17 points. Illinois beat Rutgers by 3. So, Arizona St. wins.

MPC Computers Bowl
Boise State (9-3) vs. Boston College (8-3) Boise, Idaho
Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ESPN

Amazingly, after all the dust of the season settled, Boise St. ended up right back on top of the WAC. Boise St. entered the season with much fanfare and a huge non-conference battle with Georgia. The Blue Turf Boys promptly lost their first two games of the season as well as their conference showdown with Fresno St. Fresno seemed to have the conference title wrapped up until they choked against Nevada and Louisiana Tech in the last two games of the season. Boise St. hammered Nevada and La. Tech which ended up being the key to the title. Boston College didn’t beat any marquee teams this season but having said that, their resume is filled with victories over decent teams. They beat BYU, Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia, North Carolina St. and Maryland. If this game were being played anywhere other than Idaho, I’d take Boston College. However, when Boise St. plays on the blue turf, they’re like Smurfs jacked up on speed. I’ll take Boise St. in a mild upset.

MasterCard Alamo Bowl
Michigan (7-4) vs. Nebraska (7-4) San Antonio, Texas
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ESPN

If Michigan fans would’ve known before the season started that the Wolverines would be playing Nebraska in the bowl game, the sell-out streak at the Big House might have been in jeopardy. Nebraska is easily Michigan’s worst bowl opponent since the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl against North Carolina St. As a college football semi-traditionalist, I hate seeing Nebraska as a pass-happy team. It seems a bit silly to me that they abandoned the option. Nobody ever really managed to stop it. I think the Nebraska AD dropped the ball on that one. Nebraska’s history aside, Bill Callahan will have the Cornhuskers in the top ten very soon. I guess it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win. Lloyd Carr will likely end the season on a positive note with a victory which will allow him to proclaim the season a success. I wonder if Lloyd remembers that Michigan started the season ranked #4.

Emerald Bowl
Georgia Tech (7-4) vs. Utah (6-5) San Francisco
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ESPN

If the NCAA had any brains and adopted a football playoff like the basketball tournament, Georgia Tech would be one of those teams seeded high despite a less than impressive won/loss record. Nobody in college football can match Ga. Tech’s marquee wins over Auburn and Miami. Throw in a victory over Clemson and you have a rock solid resume. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, there were nine other games on the schedule. To its credit, Ga. Tech didn’t have a bad loss this season which makes this year a success by any measure. If this Utah team played last year’s Utah team, last year’s Utah team would win by seven touchdowns. Utah is just like any other bowl eligible team from the Mountain West Conference with the exception of TCU. There are four teams from the MWC that finished 6-5 and they all stink. If Ga. Tech’s victories over Miami and Auburn mean anything, the Yellow Jackets should pound Utah.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Oregon (10-1) vs. Oklahoma (7-4) San Diego
Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ESPN

Oklahoma played four good teams this year and they went 0-4 in those games. The Sooners did manage to finish 5-1 in their last six games. The loss was a two point defeat at Texas Tech. After starting the season 2-3, Bob Stoops couldn’t have hoped for a better ending to the season. Despite a somewhat salvaged season, Oklahoma was poor on both sides of the ball when compared to the Sooners normal standards. Oregon tried to complain its way into a BCS game despite having beaten a big pile of nobodies. If the BCS has to exist, I’m at least thankful that teams are not solely selected for the BCS games based on won/loss record. Ohio St and Auburn both deserved a BCS nod over Oregon. Having said that, Oklahoma lost every game in which they were tested this year. This game sounds like a test to me so I’ll take Oregon to come out motivated and win much like UCLA did against Oklahoma earlier in the season.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Minnesota (7-4) vs. Virginia (6-5) Nashville, Tenn.
Dec. 30, Noon ESPN

In the last three seasons, Minnesota has started a combined 15-0 before losing. The Gophers followed that up by going 10-13 the rest of the way. Despite pulling an Arizona St. and tanking the second half of each season, Minnesota has managed to go 3-0 in its bowl games. The Gophers beat Arkansas, Oregon, and Alabama to end each season on a high note. Virginia seems to fit right in with that group of teams. Virginia comes from a respected conference with little knowledge of Minnesota’s running game. I don’t think other conferences really understand how well Minnesota runs the ball. The blocking schemes are top notch. Combine that with talented runners like Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell and it makes for a lethal combination. Virginia has a good defense but could be biting off more than it can chew against the Golden Glen Mason’s. Minnesota should win this one in a very close game.

Vitalis Sun Bowl
Northwestern (7-4) vs. UCLA (9-2) El Paso, Texas
Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CBS

There are certain games that scream “transitive property” and this is one of them. UCLA beat Arizona St. by ten. Arizona St. beat Northwestern by 31. It seems like this game should be a blowout. The one caveat for Northwestern is that UCLA has possibly the worst defense in D-1 football. The Bruins allowed 457 yards per game. Coincidentally, Northwestern’s strength is gaining yards. The Wildcats average 492 yards on offense. If there’s a 9-2 team that Northwestern can beat, UCLA is that team. A victory over UCLA would be huge, not only for Northwestern, but for the Big Ten since this seems like a mismatch. Both teams should score in the 30’s but only one team will score in the 40’s and that should be UCLA. For a historical perspective, Northwestern is 0-4 in its last four bowl games and hasn’t won a bowl game since 1948. UCLA will come out on top.

Independence Bowl
South Carolina (7-4) vs. Missouri (6-5) Shreveport, La.
Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. ESPN

Brad Smith rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns for Missouri. For those of you that don’t know, Smith is Missouri’s quarterback. Unfortunately for Smith and Missouri, he isn’t anywhere near as good of a thrower as he is a runner. Other than David Klinger, Smith might have put up the most impressive numbers in the least impressive fashion in recent memory. Missouri barely managed a 6-5 record with losses to New Mexico, Kansas, and Kansas St. Smith was a waste of talent in the same way Antwan Randal El was for Indiana. S. Carolina enters the bowl game having passed all pre-season expectations except for Lou Holtz’s of course. Holtz apparently told everyone before the season that S. Carolina was the best team in the SEC. Did I mention that Holtz recruited just about every player on the Gamecock’s roster? Anyhow, Steve Spurrier put S. Carolina on the map this season by beating Tennessee and Florida. S. Carolina hadn’t beaten either team since 1992 and hadn’t beaten both teams in the same season ever. The best football, week in and week out is played in the SEC. S. Carolina should corral Smith and beat Missouri in a close game.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Miami (9-2) vs. LSU (10-2) Atlanta
Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m. ESPN

If these two teams switched jerseys before the game and then played, I doubt anyone would ever know except for the slight change in skin complexion of the respective quarterbacks. These two teams couldn’t be more evenly matched. Both teams struggle on offense far too often. Both teams are extremely aggressive and often dominating on defense. LSU definitely has the more impressive resume with victories over Arizona St., Auburn, Alabama, and Florida. Miami beat Clemson, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. I’m a bit concerned by LSU’s lopsided loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Miami’s defense is every bit as good as Georgia’s. LSU’s conservative approach will cost them in a close battle with the ‘Canes. Miami should pull it out.

Meineke Car Care Bowl
South Florida (6-5) vs. NC State (6-5) Charlotte, N.C.
Dec. 31, 11 a.m. ESPN2

I can’t say I’m all that impressed with either team. S. Florida made some waves by hammering Louisville which goes down in my book as one of the all-time fluke wins in college football history. I would bet that if those two teams played ten times, Louisville would win nine of them. S. Florida did lose to some very good teams in Miami, Penn St., and West Virginia. However, they also lost to Connecticut which might not sound that bad until you remember that Dan Orlovsky doesn’t play for the Huskies anymore. They also lost to Pittsburgh which is not a good thing. NC State is a mystery. They beat Florida St. and Ga. Tech and barely lost to Va. Tech. Their losses weren’t to bad teams but losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina don’t sound very impressive. In a game like this, I generally go with the team from the better conference. NC State should smack S. Florida and make Chuck Amato lose his voice in joy. If Chuck Amato loses his voice and everyone is around to see it, would anyone notice?

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Tulsa (8-4) vs. Fresno State (8-4) Memphis, Tenn.
Dec. 31, 1 p.m. ESPN

Conference USA continues its assault on the bowl season with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane lost its first two games of the season to Minnesota and Oklahoma. After that, Tulsa finished 8-2 with victories over a bunch of nobodies. They did beat three of the C-USA’s other five bowl teams but that means about as much as Stanford beating UC Davis oh wait, never mind. Fresno St. was having a dream season as late as November 19. They entered the game against #1 USC at 8-1 with a shot at a BCS game and a top ten ranking. They barely lost to the Trojans and then tanked the rest of the season to finish 8-4. Fresno beat one good team all year and that was at home against Boise St. The difference between Boise St. at home and Boise St. on the road is like the difference between He-Man and Prince Adam. There’s just no comparison. This game would be a good game to watch if you’re suffering from a serious bout of the flu and experiencing delusions of grandeur. Other than that, scan the channels for some figure skating. If Fresno has any self respect whatsoever, they should win this game easily. Houston Bowl
TCU (10-1) vs. Iowa State (7-4) Houston, Texas
Dec. 31, 2:30 p.m. ESPN2

Transitive property time. TCU beat Oklahoma 17-10. Oklahoma beat Baylor 37-30. Baylor beat Iowa St. 23-13. This proof also works with Nebraska and Kansas. If TCU can beat Oklahoma at Oklahoma, then they should have no problem beating Iowa St. The problem with Iowa St. is that they’re a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team. They dominated Iowa but lost to Baylor and barely beat Army. I don’t think too fondly of teams that barely beat Army so I’m going to go with TCU.

AT&T Cotton Bowl
Texas Tech (9-2) vs. Alabama (9-2) Dallas, Texas
Jan. 2, 11 a.m. Fox

This is the kind of match-up that bowl games are all about. Texas Tech’s vaunted passing game and matador defense against Alabama’s ferocious defense and non-existent offense. I like what Mike Leach has done with the Texas Tech program. He’s turned the Red Raiders into a winning program with a “gimmick”-type offense. In order to consistently win at a school like Texas Tech, you need to do something very well. Leach has that in his passing game. The problem is that without the top caliber athletes, Texas Tech won’t ever be able to compete on a national basis. Here is the list of teams Texas Tech beat this year (stop me when I get to a good team); Florida International, Sam Houston St., Indiana St., Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas St., Baylor, Texas A & M, and Oklahoma. The victory over an average Oklahoma team was the marquee win of the year. Alabama’s season was derailed by the injury to Tyrone Prothro. After Prothro went down, Bama’s offense went thirteen straight quarters without an offensive touchdown. Bama’s big win this season came at home against Florida. Other than that, they really didn’t accomplish anything special in terms of quality wins. Bama’s defense only gave up 248 yards per game which is phenomenal. This game should be an entertaining clash of vastly different styles. My guess is that Alabama won’t be able to score enough points to beat Texas Tech.

Outback Bowl
Iowa (7-4) vs. Florida (8-3) Tampa, Fla.
Jan. 2, 11 a.m. ESPN

This is a battle of two underachieving teams. Both Iowa and Florida started the season in the top ten with BCS aspirations. Iowa’s season ended quickly with an embarrassing blowout loss to Iowa St. Florida started off 5-0 before getting pummeled by Alabama. Both teams responded to early adversity by putting together a nice run to end the season. Iowa lost to Michigan and Northwestern by a combined four points and finished the season with impressive victories over Wisconsin and Minnesota. Florida beat Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida St. in the same season for the first time since 1996. Each team will be looking to end the season on a high note with a win. Iowa played Florida in the Outback just two years ago and won by 20. I look for Florida to return the favor in a close game. Both of these teams should be top ten teams next season.

Toyota Gator Bowl
Louisville (9-2) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2) Jacksonville, Fla.
Jan. 2, 12:30 p.m. NBC

Va. Tech dodged a bullet when Louisville announced that Brian Brohm would be out for the rest of the season. The Cardinals are one of the most devastating teams in college football. They play offense with machine-like efficiency. They won eight of nine games by ten points or more. They beat Oregon St. by 36, Rutgers by 51 and N. Carolina by 55. I don’t think most people understand how impressive those win margins are especially the N. Carolina game. The Tar Heels beat Utah, North Carolina St., Virginia, and Boston College (all bowl teams). They also played Ga. Tech and Wisconsin (bowl teams) in which they only lost by nine and six points respectively. I still can’t believe that Louisville beat N. Carolina by 55 points. It has to be the most impressive win of the season for any team. Louisville was dominating W. Virginia (24-7) before the Mountaineers made a remarkable comeback to force overtime. W. Virginia eventually won on a failed two-point conversion by Louisville. Given the way Louisville controlled most of the game and the fact that that the game was in Morgantown, I have to think that Louisville would clearly be the better team on just about any other night. Louisville’s loss to S. Florida was an anomaly but it happened nonetheless. Without Brohm, the Cardinals could be in trouble against Va. Tech’s defense. The Hokies were benefactors of the hype-machine early in the season before being put in their place by a couple of ACC teams that you may have heard about (Miami and Florida St.). Va. Tech is still a good team but nowhere near as good as some believed early in the season. I was looking forward to seeing Louisville jump all over some unsuspecting victim in its bowl game but without Brohm, it’s not going to happen. Louisville does have the most devastating defensive player in college football in Elvis Dumervil. He’s almost an exact replica of Dwight Freeney. Whoever drafts Dumervil will have a dominating sack-artist for the foreseeable future. Despite Dumervil’s brilliance, the Cardinals will miss Brohm and Va. Tech should win this game in a defensive affair.

Capital One Bowl
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Auburn (9-2) Orlando, Fla.
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ABC

I feel sorry for Barry Alvarez and the Wisconsin faithful. Two years ago they were matched up against Auburn in the Music City Bowl. Auburn was coming off of a disappointing season but that team was about to go on a 15 game win streak. Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams, and Ronnie Brown were just finding their groove. Wisconsin had no chance. Last year, Wisconsin played Georgia in the Outback bowl. Georgia was a dominating team that had as much talent as any team in college football. Wisconsin had no chance. This year, Wisconsin gets teamed up with the most underrated team in college football. Auburn has been killing people ever since losing its first game of the season to Ga. Tech. Eight of Auburn’s nine wins this year came by ten points or more. Seven of Auburn’s nine wins came by 17 points or more. Auburn finished the season by beating two top ten teams in Georgia and Alabama. Auburn is certainly not the kind of team that you want to play in a bowl game especially if you’re Wisconsin. The Badgers season was basically made by beating Michigan. If it weren’t for the victory over Michigan, Wisconsin would’ve finished 8-4 with no marquee wins. Even with the Michigan win, Wiscy’s resume includes wins over Bowling Green, Temple, N. Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Hawaii. This game could get ugly as Wisconsin gets blasted by an SEC team for the third consecutive year.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Notre Dame (9-2) vs. Ohio State (9-2) Tempe, Ariz.
Jan. 2, 4:30 p.m. ABC

Aside from Texas/USC, this is the game of the bowl season. In my opinion, the top four teams in college football right now are USC, Texas, Ohio St. and Notre Dame. Penn St. certainly has every right to be ranked higher but there’s no way that Penn St. is better than Notre Dame or Ohio St (And yes, I realize that Penn St. beat Ohio St. but good teams are supposed to win at home). Ohio St. enters just about every game with an advantage in game-planning on special teams. This game will be the rare occasion when Ohio St. might be at a disadvantage in the coaching match-up. Notre Dame came within one 4th and 9 stop from dethroning USC from the top of the mountain. The Irish scored at least 31 points in each of its last nine games. Brady Quinn had one of the greatest seasons in Notre Dame’s history. For the first time in recent memory, Notre Dame has playmakers on both sides of the ball. Ten years from now, you will likely see at least a dozen players from this game in the NFL. The talent on this field will be reminiscent of the talent on the field when Miami played Notre Dame in the early 90’s. Ohio St. clearly has the better defense. I have never seen a better linebacker corps in my 20 years of watching college football. A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter should both be first round draft picks. Anthony Schlegel might not be in their class but he’s a top notch player. Notre Dame won’t be able to run the ball so it all falls on Quinn’s shoulders. Ohio St.’s secondary gets overlooked but they are an above average unit despite giving up a million yards passing to Minnesota’s Brian Cupito. I have all the confidence in the world that if Jim Tressel doesn’t screw up the game by limiting the offensive game-plan, that Ohio St. should beat everyone. Tressel single handidly lost the Texas game by calling a game so conservatively that it made Lloyd Carr look like Mike Martz. Tressel generally has his team playing its best football in the bowl game so I expect this year to be no different. Ohio St. should win this game but it would not surprise me if Tressel over-coaches Ohio St. to a loss.

Nokia Sugar Bowl
West Virginia (10-1) vs. Georgia (10-2) Atlanta
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ABC

Am I the only person that has noticed the dramatic decline in the quality of bowl games since the BCS took over? The automatic bids and conference tie-ins often lead to sub-par bowl match-ups that nobody wants to see. This year’s Sugar bowl is an example of what I’m talking about. W. Virginia is 10-1 coming out of the Big East conference which isn’t saying much. They are going to get annihilated by Georgia but because of the BCS, there is no way around this game. Back in the days when bowls executives were allowed to hand out bids to whoever they want, the quality of the bowl game was directly dependent on the ability of the bowl to put together a good game. Now, the quality of a bowl depends on the pre-determined set of teams that a bowl is allowed to choose from. In some cases, conference tie-ins decide the match-up all together with little to no input from the bowl organizers. The BCS stinks because it is a ridiculous way of determining a National Champion but it also stinks because it has led to watered-down bowl games. I’ll have more to say about bowl games when I talk about the Orange Bowl. W. Virginia did manage to beat Louisville but, like I mentioned above, the Mountaineers needed a miraculous comeback just to send the game to overtime. If Louisville played W. Virginia the next week, I would’ve bet $50 that Louisville would win by at least seven points. The rest of the W. Virginia schedule is a joke. Georgia is undefeated this year with D.J. Shockley in the lineup. It’s a shame he had to get injured because there was a very good possibility that Georgia would’ve finished the season undefeated and ruin the BCS love-fest. W. Virginia is no stranger to getting blown out in a bowl game after skating through a cream-puff regular season schedule. Since 1988, W. Virginia is 1-11 in bowl games. Six of those losses were by 12 points or more. I’m surprised that a bigger deal hasn’t been made of W. Virginia’s bowl record. I can’t imagine another team being worse than 1-11 since 1988. Georgia should dominate W. Virginia in an ugly way.

FedEx Orange Bowl
Penn State (10-1) vs. Florida State (8-4) Miami, Fla.
Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ABC

Another problem with the bowl season is the fact that the Conference Champion gets an automatic bid to a BCS game. That doesn’t sound too bad in theory but the Conference Champion isn’t the regular season winner, rather it’s the winner of the Conference Championship game. As a result, a team like Florida St. is now playing in the Orange Bowl when just a few weeks ago, the demise of the Florida St. football program was being mapped out all over the country. FSU hasn’t gotten any better since then. In fact, they’ve only played one game which happened to be an upset over Va. Tech. Now, a team that lost to Virginia, North Carolina St., and Clemson is playing the #3 ranked team in college football. Does that make sense? Is that really what people want to see? I don’t have too much of an issue with automatic bids to the best team from each conference. That seems fair. But, if there are going to be automatic bids for each BCS conference, the bids should go to the best teams. Miami and Va. Tech, despite both losing to Florida St this year, were the marquee teams in the Big East. Instead of having can’t-miss bowl games, the BCS is riddled with mediocre match-ups with little public interest. Just like a playoff wouldn’t be hard to pull off (since EVERY other sports league has a playoff), making more favorable bowl games would not be difficult either. I’ll put together a mock list of bowl games that I find interesting and you tell me if you’d rather watch those games, or the actual bowl games.

Penn St./LSU
Notre Dame Ohio St.
Florida St./Alabama
Iowa/Va. Tech
Boise St./UCLA
Louisville/Texas Tech
Florida/Boston College
Cal/S. Carolina
W. Virginia. Ga. Tech
Northwestern/Fresno St.

I would watch all 17 of those games. With the current bowl schedule, there are only 11 games that I have some interest in and most of those games are just because a Big Ten team is involved and not necessarily because it’s a good match-up. There are 22 teams that I didn’t use. The same process that I used for creating these 17 games could be used to pair the remaining bowl eligible teams. Simply, make the best possible match-ups with the available teams. The NCAA has proven that they care very little about college football fans. They’ve done everything to maximize profits and very little to maximize fan interest. If the NCAA was truly concerned with pleasing college football fans, it would design a committee, much like the NCAA basketball committee, to make sure the bowl games are as interesting as possible. Bowl games have become watered-down corporate events with little emphasis on the best possible games. If the NCAA isn’t going to give fans what they want in a playoff, they should, at the very least, make sure the alternative is as good as possible. Bowl season has turned into a joke.

As for the game, this game should be a toss-up. I applaud Penn St. for putting together a successful season. However, Penn St. has to be the worst third ranked team entering the bowl season in college football in a long time. Penn St. could lose to anyone. Here is a list of some of the powerhouse schools that PSU beat this year; S. Florida, Cincinnati, C. Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan St. Penn St. did beat Ohio St. which was an impressive feat. There’s no doubt in my mind that PSU is a good team. However, there are 20 teams in college football that could’ve gone 10-1 with a schedule as easy as Penn St.’s. Penn St. probably deserves to be ranked third by using the pollster’s conventional wisdom. However, based on body-of-work, I would not rate Penn St. in the top five. USC and Texas are obviously number one and two. Notre Dame, Auburn, and Ohio St. would’ve all finished at least 10-1 with Penn St. schedule. In fact, I would go as far as saying that two of those teams would’ve finished undefeated. Florida St. has Disassociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). They beat Miami and Va. Tech which rivals any of the best two wins by one team in college football this year. However, they also lost to Virginia, NC State, Clemson and Florida. Florida St. doesn’t do anything well. This is the least known and cared about FSU team since I started following college football. I used to know 75% of the starters on FSU just because it was Florida St. Taking away the players that I remember from recruiting, I’ve heard of six players on the entire FSU team. Penn St. should win this game. If PSU’s offense struggles, then FSU has a good chance. Va. Tech and Penn St. are essentially the same team. FSU proved they could beat a team like Penn St. in the ACC Championship game. However, Penn St.’s defense should be enough to pull this one out.

The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi
USC (12-0) vs. Texas (12-0) Pasadena, Calif.
Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ABC

I would be looking forward to this game with more enthusiasm if it didn’t signify the hopelessness for any sort of playoff in the near future. This is the type of game that BCS officials and BSC-supporting Presidents will be referring to for the next ten years when defending the merits of the BCS. The game speaks for itself. I don’t need to add any hyperbole to the mix to convey how exciting this game could be. All three Heisman finalists will be in the game. The top two picks in the draft will likely be in the game as well. Texas has a 19 game unbeaten streak. USC has a 34-game unbeaten streak. USC is also 48-3 since 2002. USC has two different games. They have their “untouchable” game and their “skate through” game. USC played an “untouchable” game against Oklahoma last year in the Orange Bowl. They played their “skate through” game against Notre Dame and Fresno St. this season. They even managed to play both styles in the same game against Oregon. The key to this game is whether USC comes out firing. If they do, Texas will be another blowout victim. If Matt Leinart looks “off” early on, then USC will be beatable. I was surprised with the early seven point spread for USC. It would not shock me if Texas won but given USC’s recent history in bowl games, I have to think USC will come out ready to play from the opening kickoff. Vince Young will likely put up big numbers both on the ground and in the year. In fact, he very well could account for 500 total yards. However, most of those yards will probably come with Texas trying to catch up. USC should win by three.

Friday, December 16, 2005

NFL Week 15 forecast

Last week helped clear a lot of things up in the NFL. As I unfortunately foresaw a few weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers will not make the playoffs. It was clear that Pittsburgh and Jacksonville had the easiest paths to the playoffs. The Chiefs and the Chargers are still mathematically alive but they are essentially done. There are two underlying issues for the last three weeks of the season. The first issue is whether or not the Colts will go undefeated. The second issue is the muddled NFC playoff picture. It is likely that neither issue will be worked out until the last week of the season. This week’s spreads are not gambler-friendly by any means. There are six road teams favored. There are nine games with spreads of -4 or less. Hopefully, I can live to fight another week. I’m 95-90-7 on the season but it only takes one bad week to be on the wrong side of .500.

NE -4.5 tb

I think the New England Patriots have the Colts right where they want them. Nobody is talking about the Pats. They’ve been banged up all year. The running game was virtually non-existent throughout the first half of the season which made the Patriots look worse than they really were. Injuries to Daniel Graham, Corey Dillon, Teddy Bruschi, and Richard Seymour have kept the Pats from playing at full strength. The Patriots were dominating in their last two games. They are slowly getting everyone back and will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs. The Pats will still have an uphill battle since they would have to play at Indy but the Patriots will be much better in January than they were in October. They might not have played like it throughout the season but come the playoffs, the Pats will likely be the second best team in the NFL behind the Colts. The four point line in this game is driving me mad. New England often plays in close games and Tampa Bay has the defense to keep things close. That combination leads me to believe that this game will likely be close in the end. If that’s the case, Tampa Bay should cover. On a side note, the Patriots have had seven different players lead the team in receiving yards this year. That pretty much means that any offensive skill player that has suited up for New England has led the team in yards in at least one game. That sort of patchwork will likely not be necessary once this team is healthy in the playoffs.

NYG -2.5 kc

I like the Chiefs. They are one of my favorite teams. I think the main reason why I like the Chiefs so much is that I had Priest Holmes three years in a row on my fantasy football team. Although I am appreciative of Priest’s fantasy contributions, I think the real spark for my affinity for the Chiefs was when Joe Montana became their quarterback. Montana was not what he once was. He was older and his skills were diminishing. He didn’t have the most talented roster to work with either. For the first time, Joe Montana was an underdog. I loved rooting for the Chiefs even though they never accomplished anything with Montana. It wasn’t always that way though. I remember hating the Chiefs when they had the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye and Barry Word. Okoye was challenging Barry Sanders for the rushing title and I hated him for that. Anyhow, part of that was a bit of a personal reveal and the other part was to explain why the Chiefs are so frustrating for me to watch. I don’t care if most NFL teams lay an egg but when Kansas City stinks it up (as they do quite often), it’s frustrating. They have a mammoth offensive line with one of the best running backs in the league. They have great special teams and an average defense. It seems like they’re always playing from behind. Kansas City games are notoriously hard to pick against the spread. I never know which team is going to show up. The Chiefs haven’t beaten a good team on the road this year. On top of that, they haven’t even come close to beating a good team on the road. The Giants are good so I’ll go with them. If the Chiefs erupt for 40 points this week, I might start hating them again.

den -9.5 BUF

I know Buffalo is bad but +9.5 at home? That’s an awfully big spread. Denver just barely squeaked by an awful Baltimore team in Denver. The Broncos have been a huge surprise this season. There might have been three or four people in the world that thought bringing the entire Browns 2005 defensive line to Denver was a good thing. It makes me wonder what Romeo Crenell would’ve been able to do with those players. Crenell is a great defensive coach and may have been able to turn the Browns into a dominating defensive team with those players. Buffalo is bad. They have no chance of winning this game. However, they are 4-3 at home and have only lost by more than eight points at home once this season. Denver doesn’t have the offense to go on the road and blow out Buffalo. If they do, then I’m going to get this game wrong. I’ll take Buffalo to stick around for a while.

pit -3 MIN

The Vikings have had a remarkable turnaround but, for the purposes of this game, it’s important to look at who the Vikings have beaten since during their unbeaten streak. Since week seven, Minnesota has beaten Detroit (2), Green Bay (2), Cleveland, and St. Louis. They did manage to beat the Giants without scoring an offensive touchdown which speaks more to how bad the Giants played rather than how good Minnesota played. Pittsburgh will likely be the best team the Vikings have played all season. Big Ben got into a bit of a rhythm last week as the Steelers re-emphasized the running game. Brad Johnson has done a marvelous job of bring stability to the Vikings but I think Pittsburgh will come to Minnesota with urgency and play physical football. Pittsburgh should be good enough to win by more than three.

IND -7.5 sd

I picked Indianapolis last week to beat Jacksonville by more than eight points. Midway through the fourth quarter with the Colts up 26-3, I broke out the champagne. Five minutes later, the Jags had scored two touchdowns with two two-point conversions to come within eight points. I had to shove the cork back into the champagne bottle. Believe me; you don’t want to have to do that. Anyhow, the Chargers are a better team than the Jags despite their records. San Diego has an offense that can match the Colts. The Chargers don’t have the defense to stop Manning and Co. but they should be able to keep this game close. The Chargers do have a shot at the playoffs so they will come out motivated. If the Chargers are 8 point dogs to the Colts, then there isn’t a team in the NFL that would be any closer than +7 against Indy. I’ll take a big risk and take the Chargers to cover.

JAX -16.5 sf

Out of Jacksonville’s nine victories this season, only two have been by more than seven points. That includes games against Cleveland, Arizona, Tennessee, Houston and the Jets. If the Jags can’t beat any of those teams by more than seven points, then how are they supposed to beat the 49ers by more than 16? I know San Francisco is bad. They’ve been blasted by 38 points or more three times this year. However, Jacksonville has only scored more than 26 points in a game twice this year. San Francisco should be good enough to keep this game within 16 points. Losing by 16 to Jacksonville is like losing by 40 to anyone else. I’ll take San Francisco to cover which is clear proof that I’m crazy. On a different note, the Jaguars are the benefactors of what could possibly be the easiest schedule in NFL history. If you go simply by opponent winning percentage, the Jags actually have the sixth most difficult schedule in the league. But, that includes the two games against the Colts which adds a 26-0 record to the equation. If the two games against the Colts are taken away, the Jags are actually the ninth worst team in the NFL and that doesn’t include the last three games against San Francisco, Houston, and Tennessee. The Jags were virtually handed a playoff spot when these schedules came out. Here is a list of the absurdity that is the Jags schedule; NY Jets, St. Louis, Houston (2), Tennessee (2), Arizona, Cleveland, and San Francisco. If Kansas City or San Diego had that schedule, they would’ve easily made the playoffs.

sea -7 TEN

The Seahawks still have something to play for despite being 11-2. Because of that, I think they’ll come to Tennessee and play hard. Shaun Alexander should be too much for Tennessee to handle. The Titans are just a bad team. They have very few good players. I feel for Jeff Fisher and Steve McNair because Tennessee used to be the place to be in the NFL. The Titans have fallen a long way in just a few years. After their meeting in the Super Bowl, it looked like the Titans and Rams would be the premier teams in the league for the next decade. Now, these teams are fighting it out for a good draft pick. Steve McNair might have something left in the tank for this game but I’m not betting on it. I’ll take Seattle to cover.

ari -1 HOU

I like picking games that involve Arizona against bad teams. For some reason, the odds makers don’t understand that Arizona is just bad enough to lose to every good team but they are just good enough to beat all the bad teams. The Cardinals have beaten San Francisco (2), Tennessee, and St. Louis. In their nine losses, the Cardinals have only lost to two bad teams; St. Louis and Detroit. An Arizona victory in this game is, by no means, a guarantee. The Cardinals aren’t a good team. Kurt Warner still makes gamblers shake in their boots when he’s on the road. Houston has exactly been playing badly either. The Texans have lost their last three games in which one went to overtime, another was a three point defeat and the last was a one point defeat. All three of those games were against garbage teams so Houston can compete against bad teams. However, I expect the Cardinals to win this game. Since the spread is only -1, I’ll go with Arizona.

MIA -8 nyj

I know the Jets are bad but is this line a typo? Miami by nine? Miami could definitely blow out the Jets but a spread this high is surprising. Most people have probably forgotten this but Miami beat Denver 34-10 in week one. That just goes to show that the first week of the season means nothing. Here are some other week one scores that may have given the wrong impression to NFL fans; New Orleans 23 Carolina 20, Jacksonville 26 Seattle 14, and Washington 9 Chicago 7. I remember watching the ‘Skins/Bears game and thinking they were easily two of the worst teams in the league. I guess the moral of the story is that week 1 means about as much as the pre-season. OK, back to the game. As a mentioned, this line seems a little high. However, I just looked at how the Jets have performed in road games this year and they’ve lost every game by at least ten points. As a result, I’m going to take an extreme leap of faith and go with Miami to win by ten.

car -9.5 NO

This line is going to give me nightmares on Saturday night. The Saints are terrible. They have no business staying within ten points of Carolina especially with Todd Bouman at quarterback. However, Carolina only has one road victory of more than four points on the season. That includes games against sub-par teams like Miami, Detroit, Arizona and Buffalo. My guess is that the Saints will throw from the first snap until the last snap. It’s tough to be a passing team by nine because they usually score meaningless touchdowns when they’re getting blown out. That leads me to believe that the Saints can stay within nine points. I’ll take the Saints to cover.

WAS -3 dal

Washington is just a solid football team. They’ve only lost one game all year by more than seven points. They’ve managed a 7-6 record against the fifth most difficult schedule in the NFL. I have to admit that they’ve surpassed any expectations that I had of them before the season. They won’t be making the playoffs but they are better than at least two of the teams that will make the playoffs out of the NFC. The Cowboys might not be better than the ‘Skins but they were blessed with a much easier schedule. If they can beat Washington this week, the Cowboys would likely finish 10-6 at the worst. That should be good enough to win the Wild Card. My guess is that Dallas keeps this game close and pulls out a close victory. That means Dallas covers the spread.

cin -7.5 DET

On paper, this game is a home game for Detroit. In reality, this game is a home game for Cincinnati. Lions fans are planning an “orange-out” in protest of the franchise’s consistent incompetence. I was actually comforted by the site of fans with brown paper bags on their heads. That makes me a little nostalgic. When I first started following the Lions (two years before Barry’s arrival), brown paper bags were staples at the Silverdome. The Bengals had an off week last week which does not bode well for the Lions. Also, the fact that the Lions are terrible does not bode well for them either. The Bengals should score 40 points against a weak Lions team. As a Lions fan, I definitely think I hate them. Cincy should win big and cover.

OAK -3 cle

This game could go either way but this is the kind of spread that a knowledgeable NFL fan can get an upper hand on. The Raiders and Browns are both bad teams but each team is going in a different direction. The Browns almost beat the Bengals on the road last week. They have at least some excitement on offense with the emergence of Charlie Frye. The Browns are a solid defensive team and generally play well against bad teams. The Raiders, on the other hand, are struggling mightily in all phases of the game. Marques Tuiasosopo looked terrible last week against a bad Jets team. The Browns are better than the Jets. It would be a bit of an upset, in my mind, if the Raiders beat Cleveland. So, I’ll take the Browns to cover.

STL -3.5 phi

I am 1-5 in the last six St. Louis games. As I normally do when I have such a bad streak for one team, I’m going to look for a trend. The Rams have lost four of their last five games by at least ten points. The only game they won in that span was an overtime victory over the worst team in the league (Texans) in which they were down by 21 points at one point. One of the losses was by ten points at home to Arizona. The trend that I’ve found is that the Rams are terrible no matter where they play and who they play against. That leads me to believe that the Eagles can keep this game close. Despite Philly’s slide, they’ve managed to stay competitive in most games. The Eagles should cover. I know I’m going to get this game wrong. I hate the Rams.

CHI -3.5 atl

The Bears are a lot like the Jags (and Vikings for that matter). They’ve managed to essentially clinch a playoff bid against a laughable schedule. There are only two teams in the league that have a worse strength of schedule than Chicago. Amazingly, those two teams are the Colts and Seahawks. They have a combined record of 24-2. Anyhow, the Bears are 2-3 against “good” teams. Michael Vick will not be at 100% but who is at this point in the season? The Bears have proven that they can stay in games against good teams but I would be surprised if they blew out the Falcons. Atlanta has one of the league’s best running games and a pretty good defense. Atlanta should cover.

BAL -3.5 gb

Neither of these teams have any reason to win this game. If Green Bay wins this game, they will be in the midst of an unproductive winning streak. I know NFL teams can’t tank the season because it isn’t in the best interest of the NFL. That would damage the integrity of the game and football would probably be taken as seriously as the WWE. However, coaches should do whatever they can to “help” the team attain the highest draft pick possible. By “help” I mean giving rookies a chance to show what they can do. Coaches would really be “hitting two birds with one stone”. But, I don’t think anyone ever really cares about the draft pick during the season. So, we’re left with two teams fighting hard for nothing. I feel bad for Brett Favre. It’s obvious that he has a lot left in the tank. His refusal to play for another team will end up making his exit from the NFL an uneventful one. If Baltimore loses this game, they will be right in the middle of the Vince Young-arms race. If Green Bay loses this game, they will be in the middle of the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. Either way, the team that loses this game will likely have a brighter future than the team that wins. There are two or three franchise-changing players in this draft. One of these teams might be lucky enough to get one. I’ll go with my tried and true pick of going with Brett Favre to at least keep the game close. Green Bay should cover over an offensively challenged Baltimore team.

My picks


Coin Flip’s picks


Coin Flip---77-108-7

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