Saturday, September 29, 2007

NFL Week 4/College Week 5 Predictions

"I should have known better with a girl like you
That I would love everything that you do."


Much more on the impending playoff run for the Sox. Now, let's get right into the predictions (man I wish I had got my South Florida pick in earlier...damn):


Penn St. vs. Illinois: Again, Penn St. screwed me over last week (also, Michigan continues to befuddle me...anyone know what's going on in Ann Arbor?...but hey, at least they're actually playing on the road this week). Please, please, please tell me Penn St. can beat Illinois. If the Illini win this game, I am seriously going to consider never betting on a Big 10 game for the rest of the year. So, with all that said, I'll take the Nittany Lions (W, -3).

Louisville vs. N.C. State: I know the Cardinals have had their struggles the last two weeks, but they still have Brian Brohm, and one of the most high-powered offenses in the entire country. After giving up 42 to Clemson, who actually has less offensively to bring to the table than Louisville. I really have to believe that the Cardinals can't lose three in a row, and have back-to-back losses against really bad teams. I like Louisville (W, -8.5).

Michigan vs. Northwestern: Did I mention Michigan was on the road? Northwestern is apparently...bad? I guess that's the best way to describe that. They got destroyed by the Buckeyes last week, and again, that Duke loss stands out in my head. Still, for whatever reason, I don't think Michigan can cover this spread. I'll take the Wolverines straight up (W), but I'll take Northwestern to cover (+17.5).

Florida Atlantic vs. Kentucky: The Wildcats again impressed me last week, and considering they are back at home against a lesser opponent, I expect them to go lights out against FAU. Andre Woodson continues to march UK higher and higher up the SEC and the national polls, and it won't stop this week. I like Kentucky (W, -24).

Clemson vs. Georgia Tech: Clemson has been running real good so far, going undefeated in their first four decisions. GA Tech has been stumbling ever since their loss to BC in Atlanta. Last week, they lost to UVA at Charlottesville. So now the Ramblin' Reck have a chance at redemption in a big ACC game. For whatever reason, I think they will be able to bounce back and beat the Tigers (W, +3).

Indiana vs. Iowa: Iowa made a game of it last week on the road against Wisconsin, while Indiana lost at home against Illinois in their first conference game. Sure, this has the makings of a trap game, but that doesn't mean I'm going against the Hawkeyes. In fact, I expect them to win big (W, -10.5).

UCLA vs. Oregon St.: This one has disaster written all over it for the Bruins. After getting shalacked two weeks ago on the road against Utah. Oregon St. played the Utes in their home opener and won by 17. This an example of two teams being great at home, and horrendous on the road. I'll take Oregon St. (W, +2).

Michigan St. vs. Wisconsin: Well Spartans, here's a chance to prove your worth as a top 25 team. The only thing that is surprising about MSU's 4-0 start is that people are "surprised" by it. They have played no one in the conference, and for that matter, no one in general. I'm supposed to judge the merits of a team because they beat Pitt at home and Notre Dame on the road? Again, this is another example of a time where, if the outcome goes against me, I'll totally be eating my words. I'll again take the Badgers at home (W, -7), despite losing ATS last week.

California vs. Oregon: For whatever reason, I see this game being absolutely screwy, which means that I'm going to hedge my bets here. Cal beat up on Oregon last year, but it seems as though Oregon is a different team now. The line on this game went up three points this week...interesting. Anyway, I see a shootout, but I like the Ducks to win (W), and the Bears to cover (+6.5).

Mississippi St. vs. USC: Homecoming baby! Carolina didn't look too hot against LSU, and with Brinkley gone for the year, they are vulnerable against the run. The Bulldogs have Anthony Dixon running very well this year, and Miss St. also managed to beat Auburn on the road. Again, it's becoming harder and harder to find an "easy" game to play in the SEC, so the Cocks better be on full alert for this game. With Smelley now the man behind center, I see SC having a big day at Williams Brice. Go Cocks (W, -13.5)!

Last Week: SU: 6-3, ATS: 5-4, O/U: 1-0
Season: SU: 17-9, ATS: 11-12-3


New England vs. Cincinnati:
So looking at the "intelligence report" on this game, here's a question: When did you ever think the Pats would have the advantage in the receiver position? I thought that was interesting (and despite my incredibly huge biasness, probably wrong). In any event, the Pats have the advantage pretty much everywhere else (again, maybe running backs could go to Cincy). For a road game against a perennial playoff team, it's a fairly big spread for the Pats to cover, and for whatever reason, I'm thinking that this game may actually be close...well, at least for a little while. Then, I'm thinking that the Pats will literally run away with this game. The Laurence Maroney "questionable" thing is kind of bothering me, but in any event, the Bengals just don't have the defense to stop the Pats. Remember last year? And speaking of which, why do we play Cincy on the road again? That's kind of whack. Anyway, let the good times roll (W, -7.5).

UPDATE: I just saw Papelbon running around the infield with a Bud Light box on his head drinking champagne...consider him inactive for tonight's game.

Oakland vs. Miami: Please tell me Culpepper is starting this game, because if he is, then this is an easy "revenge" game to pick. Miami's D has been terrible so far, and LaMont Jordan has had a very nice start to his season so far. The Dolphins have been stuck in neutral, and for whatever reason, I think the Raiders will actually be decent for the rest of the year. I'll take the Raiders on the road (W, +4).

Green Bay vs. Minnesota: In the last three years, Green Bay has not been favored on the road, and also, this is the first game that they have been favored in. That's quite an amazing stat. Another one is that the Vikings are 0-4 as a home. Here's my theory on this: Cinderellas do not win when they are picked to do so. Also, Kelly Holcomb is a better QB than Tavaris Jackson, so I like the Vikings (W, +2) at home to finally end the Pack's hot streak.

Houston vs. Atlanta: Joey Harrington is still the quarterback, Matt Schaub has the "revenge" factor going for him also, and even though Andre Johnson's out for Houston, DeAngelo Hall is probably going to miss part of the game after going schitzoid against Carolina last week. Also, the quest to see an 0-16 team pretty much resides on the Falcons, so hopefully, Byron Leftwich never figures this offense out, and they keep him on the bench for the rest of the year. My sleeper on the road (W, -3).

And now, a more abbreviated version of the picks because of Oktoberfest...sorry...

Buffalo vs. New York: Buffalo (W, +4)...they can't really go 0-4 right?

Baltimore vs. Cleveland: Cleveland (W, +4)...the Ravens are horrendous on the road, plus it stands to reason that I have absolutely no chance picking a Browns game right, so why not?

St. Louis vs. Dallas: Dallas (W, -13)...I said it all along, and I'm not going back on it. The Rams have screwed me over so far, so hopefully, picking against them will jump-start the team.

Chicago vs. Detroit: Chicago (W, -3)...Ok, this is still Bears vs. Lions right? Everyone's picking the Lions...I mean I don't get it. Maybe I'm missing something. The Bears got beat up by Dallas, but...I mean...they're still the Bears...let's just say I'm looking for a bounce back.

Seattle vs. San Francisco: San Francisco (W, +2)...when I saw this game, it was basically like getting hit below the belt...oooooohhhh! I have absolutely no idea where to go, so I'll take another home 'dog (maybe Sports Guy has a point).

Tampa Bay vs. Carolina: Tampa Bay (W, +3)...because I am figuring out that Carolina is an entirely different team at home (horrible) than they are on the road (halfway decent)...once again, I just work for the Panthers, definitely not a fan (mostly because all their fans hate the Pats, and if they get blown out, I don't have to sit in traffic after the game because everyone's already gone after the third quarter).

Pittsburgh vs. Arizona: Arizona (W, +6)...the Steelers aren't that good, plus, the whole Baltimore game 'Zona played last week makes me feel like they may have something with Kurt Warner (it turns out all he needed was an All-Pro running back and two All-Pro receivers to look like he did with St. Louis...that's all), why do I feel like the head coaches should be on opposite benches? Whisenhunt should have been the coach of the Steelers, and the fact that he isn't adds further motivation for his team to show up big Sunday.

Kansas City vs. San Diego: San Diego (W), KC (+12)...the Chargers need this one real, real bad; they've looked terrible so far this year...speaking of terrible, here come the Chiefs...

"You play to cover the game!"

Denver vs. Indianapolis: Indianapolis (W, -10)...this is one of those games where I feel like the Colts are just going to pound away in the second half and create a huge lead..."the Broncos corners will have their hands full" is arguably the biggest understatement of the year, but still probably second to "Wes Welker and Randy Moss will make nice additions to this year's team."

Philadelphia vs. New York: New York (W, +3)...last week aside, it's going to be an incredibly tough proposition for me to pick the Giants this year, but I feel like this week will be let-down city for Philly, and that they pretty much scored enough for two weeks against I hate picking the Giants...I really have to root for them? Ugh.

Last Week: SU: 11-5, ATS: 7-6-3
Season: SU: 33-15, ATS: 22-20-6

Wow I suck.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Bruins!

"Good crowd out there tonight, boys, let's really try to win this one."
"You have to hand it to the old bastard, he's highly original."

Oh talk. Yes, I'm fully aware that our owner is a cheap, miserable man (at least he still donates to the Jimmy Fund), but despite that, I'm still a die-hard Bruins fan. Honestly, I love this time of the year. Sure, the Sox are in the playoffs, and the Pats are looking to be unstoppable this year, but some of my focus definitely goes to the ice, especially the Bruins, and maybe even more so, Hockey East. Yes, BC came up short last year in the National Championship game, but still, they had a hell of a run, and it's a new season, meaning that there's definitely a chance New England will get a team back to make a run for a championship. First though, let's talk about the big...err, bad...ummm...let's just talk about the Bruins.

Ok, so the biggest change occured behind the bench, as Claude Julien is taking over for Dave Lewis, whose tenure lasted only one year. Let me just give you a little background on this guy, so I can try to convince you and myself that this was a good hire. Julien started coaching in the NHL with those pesky Candiens, where he went 72-62-17 in three seasons. Then he got fired, but got picked up pretty quickly by the Devils last year, but he gets let go right at the end of the season, because Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello believed his team didn't have the "readiness" to make a run at the Stanley Cup, which is fascinating considering he went 47-24-8 (102 points). I guess Lamoriello has a bit of a reputation of having a quick trigger finger though, as this was the third time he's fired a coach during the regular season, even though Jersey won the Atlantic division and captured the #2 seed in the East (lost to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Senators in the second round). In any event, you have to hope that the B's, who again made a stupid move during the off-season, trading Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau to Calgary for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew, will find some kind of winning formula with Julien.

The B's did just add Cam Neely as vice president. I'm not sure about a lot of things, but what I do know is this: Cam Neely will be good at anything he does because that's the kind of guy he is. First with his amazing play on the ice, then his off-ice success with the Neely Foundation. This guy just knows what to do to get the job done. I'm so happy they got him back in the Bruins organization for so many reasons, but the first of which has to be that there's finally a guy you can root for in the front office

In terms of what we have and what we got, the B's are looking incredibly shallow on D, thanks in large part to the Stuart trade. Zdeno Chara, the captain for whatever reason (he's been with the team for a year...I don't get it), returns in attempt to make good on the gigantic contract the B's gave him last year...the only problem he's going to have to be the second or third coming of either #4 or #77, which isn't going to happen, so we're screwed there. I do like Andrew Alberts though. The guy's a bruiser for sure...I mean he had a career-high in points last year with 10, so that should give you some indication that he's not a finesse kind of guy. This has got to be the weakest spot on this team. For a team from "The Orginal Six," this is inexcusbale. This is a team that is supposed to be stocked behind the blue line, and now, they're basically playing with spare parts...George is getting upset!

The forwards are a slight improvement over the D, which is saying so little, but it's something positive at least. Of course, Patrice Bergeron sticks out like a sore thumb on this roster. The guy has been one of the highest-touted prospects not only in recent Bruins' history, but in recent NHL history as well. Bergeron is going to be called upon to be one the leaders of the scoring lines, especially with Glen Murray questionable for the beginning portion of the schedule. Marc Savard was actually a tremendous signing, so there is still hope for this front office for the future. Savard finished with 96 points last year (22 G, 74 A), and will once again center the first line. Marco Strum and P.J. Axelsson are the best wingers on the team, and of course they're both left wingers, while Murray is right. Again, the whole "addition by subtraction" thing just has killed this team the last few years, and now they have very little to show for the moves they made. On a brighter note, Phil Kessel will center the third line. Kessel made a nice contribution last year after his future was in question when he was diagnosed with cancer. So, again, in looking for some positives, there's another one.

In goal will be Manny Fernandez, who made a name for himself back in '03 when the Wild made their run into the Western Conference finals. Now this is actually the best part of this team, which is hard to fathom considering that there hasn't been a consistent net-minder in Boston since Andy Moog. The Fernandez trade was crucial because it was obvious Tim Thomas, who is now the back-up, could not handle the responsibilities of being "the guy" in net. I definitely like Fernandez being able to pick up some of the slack, but with that defense, he might be up against 35-40 shots a night...seriously. So, it may be a tough first year for Manny, but overall, I think he will show signs that he is a top-class goalie, and that will likely keep the fan(s) curious as to what he could do with a decent defense.

Overall...look, I'm not expecting to get to the Finals. I'm being completely realistic in saying that if the B's make the playoffs, I will be ecstatic. The fact remains that the B's are one or two moves away from being a legitamate contender in the East. I expect Fernandez will be challenged often, but I also think that he's good enough to have around a 2.5-2.6 GAA and garner some Vezina Trophy really, the guy could be that good. However, those wins are going to be hard to come by...I'm hoping for a .500 record. That would be a nine game improvement from last year. I also like Julien coaching this team. I think he's definitely going to go out there with something to prove after being axed from the second best team in the East last year.

Ok, now, something that I know will peak somebody's interest (that somebody does not disclude me, so I'm at least at an audience of one on this) hockey. I can't honestly believe it, but Notre Dame finished the regular season last year #1 in the polls. They of course lost to the eventual champions in Michigan St. in the second round, and are picked third in the CCHA. Despite being the defending champions, Michigan St. was picked second in the CCHA polls. Jeff Lerg was a unanimous pick to the first team. Despite a somewhat small stature, Lerg plays in the net like a true warrior, and was an inspirational leader for the Spartans in their title run. Lerg's cousin, Bryan Lerg, was an honorable mention The RedHawks of Miami, who have three first-team, pre-season selections, Ryan Jones, Alec Martinez, and Nathan Davis, who was a Hobey Baker finalist last year, are tops in the conference. Rounding out the top five are Michigan and Ohio St.

The Fighting Sioux from North Dakota enter the year has the favorite to win it all, and after last year's trip to the Frozen Four, along with three pre-season All-Conference players (Ryan Duncan, last year's Hobey Baker winner, T.J. Oshie, and Taylor Chorney), they are almost a lock to at least repeat last year's performance. In staying with the WCHA, Minnesota also looks to have a very strong team after finishing #2 in the polls last year, and don't sleep on the Badgers from Wisconsin, who now have the services of Kyle Turris. The freshman was drafted #3 overall by the Phoenix Coyotes, and is the overwhelming favorite for conference rookie of the year.

In the ECAC, Clarkson enters the season favored to recapture the title crown. The Golden Knights are led by Ryan Dodge, a second-team All-American last year, and David Leggio, the league's returning goaltender of the year. After getting upset by UMass in the first round of the tourney, Clarkson looks to be as strong, if not stronger than they were last year. Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, and Cornell all finished within 12 points of the #1 spot, so this league will be a hotly-contested one.

Last but not least is the Hockey East. Last season, the league sent five teams to the tournament. BC once again is on top despite losing their starting goalie (Cory Schenider) and two All-Americans (Bryan Boyle and Joe Rooney). This marks the eighth time in ten seasons that the Eagles have either been alone, or at least shared the top spot in the conference. UNH shares the top spot. The Wildcats were the regular season Big East champions. In addition to returning most of their players from last year, UNH will also be welcoming James van Riemsdyk, who was the #2 pick by Philadelphia in the draft. The Black Bears from Maine are going to have to fix their holes in a hurry, as their entire first scoring line is gone. BU was also a victim to Michigan St. last year in the tournament, but they did manage to once again win the Beanpot, their 28th in school history. The Terriers are also going to need to fix a major hole right off the bat, as John Curry, last year's Hockey East player of the year, graduated. Curry also was one of the reasons BU bowed out so early in the tourney, as an injury he sustained late in the season caused him to miss that game. UMass rounds on the top five, and once again could be a sleeper as the season progresses.

Football picks and predictions are coming. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading. Peace.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When Tempers Flare, Disaster Ensues

"Somebody's cold one is giving me chills."

Oh what's up. Outside of all the football that went on over the weekend, I felt the need to conjure up some more feelings on the other random occurances that went on.

Ok, the Milton Bradley saga has to be one of the funniest things ever. Funny because a.) he got hurt while arguing with an umpire over a call that was made two innings before that and b.) he's just not that great of a guy. Bradley has always been a complainer and a guy who demands attention because he believes he's "just that good." Well, his latest incident is almost Bill Gramatica-like in terms of how a guy doing something that's completely out of the realm of the situation, manages to hurt himself and is done for the year (if you may recall, the reason I bring Gramatica up is because he tore his ACL while celebrating a kick he made in the first quarter of a game). What's even more bizarre is that it was the actions of Bradley's manager who caused him to tear his ACL. As Bud Black tried to keep his player back, he accidentally caused Bradley to go down in a heap while restraining him. This is one of the biggest doses of karma you may ever see in sports, or in life in general. Bradley is notorious for making a big scene when things do not go his way, and now, he just got put in his place for his actions. I know that it's not at all a "horrible" thing to do when someone argues with an umpire, but when someone does it non-stop, and goes out and taunts fellow players and fans, then this is "just desserts." I know that this will not be the last time Bradley will get into an argument with an ump, a coach, a player, or even a fan, but the fact that he suffered a severe leg injury should put a lot of prespective into exactly why it is that Bradley chooses to do what he does.

Gregg Easterbrook of recently put up an article about the whole camera-gate/"oh they cheated, boo-hoo" fiasco. I promise that this will be the last time I'm going to comment on this issue, that is unless someone else comes out and attempts to compare what happened with the Patriots with the evidence of Tom Donaghy's connections with the mob and him throwing the games he was refereeing. Umm...ok, I know that it was a reader who threw that comparison in there, but the fact that it was included in the article makes me believe that Easterbrook is in an agreement with what this guy was saying. First, it was obviously a stupid maneuver by the Patriots and their staff for even having a camera on the sidelines after they were told that doing so was "against the rules and subject to penalty." However, to me, the reason the tapes and documents were destroyed by the league so quickly was because a.) it was a besmeerchment on the league if they allowed the whole issue to linger, leading to questions about the integrity of the NFL, and b.) to really believe that those tapes, in any way, shape, or form, really helped New England to win all those games and three Super Bowls, is laughable. Sorry, I know that there are so many people out there that hate the Patriots because "we win too much" and "we're that damn good," (ok, that one was me), but what people tend to overlook is that the game is won on the field. Do we know if any other teams have done anything like what the Pats did? No, because, instead, we'll focus on the team that wins all the time, and let the other 31 teams go on their merry way without any kind of investigation. Oh by the way, do you know who came out looking really bad in this situation? It wasn't Bill Belichick, but rather, it was the accuser, Eric Mangini, who is coming out looking like a snitch and a total "Milton Bradley" (seamless comparison). So when the Patriots go to the 'Lands and win by 24 points, something must have been up. Ok, well what about last year when the Jets seemingly knew every single play we were calling on offense and won 17-14 at Foxboro? Considering we beat them twice that year, I demand an investigation as to why the Jets looked so good against us in that second game. Does that make me a little crazy? Sure it does, but honestly, what does everyone think they are going to find out by seeing all the videos the Pats handed over? Wouldn't it be kind of the same thing as a guy standing on the sidelines and noting the different signs a co-ordinator is giving to his team? Don't they already cover their mouths and do everything humanly possible to disguise what they are trying to relay to their players? I'm not going to sit here and say that I didn't think it was exactly "noble" of the Pats to be doing this, but in the same token, I don't really understand what is with all the outrage? If a guy steals a sign in baseball, is there media coverage on ESPNews and other sports stations calling him a cheater ("Beli-cheat" was used in the article)? Absolutely not. Yes it was wrong of the Pats to use video on the sidelines, but at least to me, this whole thing was overblown in terms of thinking that the Pats won their Super Bowls and a truckload of games over this decade because of a simple video camera on the sidelines. I may sound biased, and I am to the utmost degree, but in all honesty, can we start to get over it? They're good, they're going to win a lot, let's just leave it at that.

Thank God for Brian Griese! Finally, the Bears are putting Rex Grossman out of his misery and starting Griese for Chicago's next game against the Lions at Ford Field. Look, I realize that the Bears haven't had a good QB since, *cough* Jim McMahon *cough*, but really, how did Grossman even last this long? To me, I think it was those very rare games when Grossman would play mistake-free football and lead his team to victory, then all of a sudden, Bears' fans had some hope. "Hey, maybe this guy is not so bad after all." Let me just be perfectly honest: There hasn't been a good NFL QB to come out of Florida...well...ever. Grossman was basically handed the starting job last year, and pretty much pulled a "Roethlisberger" by not "messing" it up (keeping it PG-rated) to the point that his team couldn't recover. Yes, Grossman did throw for over 3,000 yards last year, but let's not forget that he was 10th in the league in attempts (480). Another notable "great" also threw for 3,000 yards last year with less attempts (J.P. Losman, 429). So, the hook on Grossman was inevitable, especially after the start he's had this year, throwing for only 500 yards in three games, a 52.8% completion rate, and a 45.2 QB rating (only Tavaris Jackson trails him). So, now the job goes back to Brian Griese, who is now in his second year with the Bears. Oh by the way, this guy actaully isn't all that bad. The last time he played in ten or more games was three years ago with Tampa. In just eleven games, Griese threw for 2,632 yards, 20TDs, 12 picks, and a 97.5 passer rating. If you expand those averages to sixteen games, Griese would have thrown for 3,828 yards, 29 TDs, and 17 INTs. Now, he has a running game, and capable receivers in Bernard Berrian, Mushin Muhammad, and Desmond Clark, and with Greg Olsen also healthy, I expect the Bears to really bounce back from the mire Grossman left them in and resurface some point in the middle of the year as one of the teams to beat in the NFC.

So those were some editorial issues I thought I would just get out there. Tonight, the Sox are facing the A's, pitting Schill against Chad Gaudin, who has a 2.03 ERA in eleven career appearances against the Sox. Also, tonight marks the return of Manny Ramirez, who has been sidelined for the last 24 games with a strained left oblique. Manny will bat second in the order, but yet, J.D. Drew is still in the lineup, which kind of takes some of the fun out of this. If only the Sox would finally start Ellsbury in right, Coco in center, and Manny in left, then I might be somewhat happy. The Sox were only 12-12 without Manny in the lineup. Not trying to dumb down his comeback, but bare in mind that Youk also missed a significant chunk of that time as well, so while Manny's return will be more than welcomed to a inconsistent lineup, this team needs Youk to also get healthy before October starts (we're actually in the playoffs now, so I can say that with a lot more confidence). Anyway, I will be keeping my eye on the action all week, and again, I hope to be updating you a bunch as this week rolls on. Take care everyone. Peace.


The Final Week

"I'm just mad about saffron."

Giggidy. So that was good to get the call from Pats Insider. I'm hoping this becomes a weekly kind of thing, and yes, again, hopefully this becomes a career kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, I love writing, but if I could knock out some bills while doing it, that would really be the ultimate. In any event, here's a recap of the weekend:

Well, Saturday didn't go quite the way I wanted it to in Baton Rouge. The LSU running game was clearly the difference, running for almost 300 yards against the Cocks. A big reason why they were so successful was due to the fact that Jasper Brinkley, the preseason first-team All-SEC linebacker, suffered a right knee sprain early on in the game, which took him out for the remainder of the contest, and as it was determined later, the rest of the season. One has to wonder how the Gamecock defense will fare down the road without Brinkley, especially going up against high-powered offenses like Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson. USC loooked great on D through its first three games, but after the exploitation of the run defense, and the injury to Brinkley, I have to believe that they won't be nearly as effective as they were against Georgia, but at the same time, I don't see another team putting up the kinds of eye-popping stats that the Tigers did.

I also found it curious that Spurrier switched horses mid-stream, going with Chris Smelley in the second half and benching Blake Mitchell, who has fallen out of favor with...well, everyone. Spurrier noted after the game that Smelley would be getting more opportunities as the season goes along. Smelley did ok for himself, throwing for 174 yards, but that was on 12 of 26 attempts and included a pick. The running game also helped pad Smelley's stats, as they were completely ineffective all game long. Glenn Dorsey, the LSU defensive tackle, basically lived up to everything that had been built up about him, having a monstrous game, disrupting the Gamecock offense all day long. Up next for the #16 Gamecocks is a visit from Mississippi St., and hopefully, a rebound from last weekend. The injury to Brinkley is going to be huge, and any kind of aspiration of making the SEC Championship game likely went out the window...that's how good this guy is and was to this team.

I'm not even going to talk about the fake field goal...

In other news, there were a few surprises on Saturday. First, the Orange(men) of Syracuse went down to Louisville and beat up on them for three quarters until the Cardinals decided to show up at the end of the game, but it was too late, and now, after starting off the year as a national title contender, Louisville has lost two in a row, and have fallen out of the top 25.

Kentucky, who handed Louisville their first loss of the year last year, continued to impress after another huge victory for the program. This time, the Wildcats went on the road and beat Arkansas, who, despite being unranked, went into the game as touchdown favorites against UK. Sure, I took the favorite, but after watching Andre Woodson and the rest of the Kentucky offense hang a 42-spot on the Razorbacks, I'm convinced that this team is the real deal. Georgia also had a huge SEC road victory, knocking off Alabama at Tuscaloosa in overtime. Ole Miss nearly pulled a shocker at The Grove, but Florida was able to sneak by, continuing their quest for back-to-back championships (I'm pretty sure it would be the first occurance of back-to-backs in both basketball and football...correct me if you know anything different though).

In terms of the other predictions, it went fairly well. Wisconsin surprised me by not dominating Iowa at home, so I lost that one. A trap game I should have seen coming came in the Penn St./Michigan game, where I stupidly took Penn St., who were only favored by two and a half. Michigan is 1-0 in the conference, meaning that they still have a shot at getting to the Rose Bowl...seriously. Michigan St. dominated the Irish, putting them in the top 25, but still, they have yet to play a conference opponent, so who knows how good this team really is when they travel to Madison and play the Badgers next week. Notre Dame is 0-4 for the first time...ever. How many more years of Charlie Weis do they have left? Real good call there, especially considering, for whatever reason, his name has been floated to be in the running for Tom Coughlin's job whenever they fire him. Oklahoma St. was able to pull of a victory in a wild game against Texas Tech, but only won by 4, so that was a victory for me. South Florida continues to march on, crushing the helpless Tar Heels at home. Clemson was impressive on the road against N.C. State, and continue to be the one road block for Boston College's hopes to reach the ACC Championship game. Overall, again, not a very impressive week for me.

Last night, the Saints officially hit the wall, as they were unable to get anything going in their first home game in front of a national audience, falling to 0-3 for the season. Again, Vince Young is totally unpredictable as to what he can do on the football field. Last night, he was relying more on his arm than on his legs, tossing two TDs in the win. Vince Young 2, Reggie Bush 0 (he did score twice though).

Going back to Sunday, of course, you know how the Patriots did. They have clearly established that they are the best team in the NFL, even though those pesky Colts continued to stay unbeaten, outlasting the Texans on the road. The Andre Johnson injury proved to be the difference in the game, as Indy only won by six. San Diego continues to be completely unimpressive, losing again on the road to the Packers, who are on quite the opposite scale as the Bolts, improving to 3-0 on the season. St. Louis is pretty much done, as they got whooped on the road against the Bucs, who had their second consecutive impressive conference win at home. The Eagles were sporting arguably the ugliest throwbacks of all-time, but that didn't stop them from throwing up 56 on Detroit. Two of the best QBs by the numbers, Jon Kitna (446 yards, 2 TDs) and Carson Palmer (342 yards, 1 TD) lost. The Bengals, who play the Pats next week on Monday night, lost a heart-breaker in Seattle. After giving up a late TD, the Bungles fumbled the ensuing kickoff, costing them an opportunity to tie, or even win the game. If you look at the results from this week, the 1:00 home teams made out extremely well (8-1), and after that, it completely flip-flopped (2-5). It's not really a trend, just something I thought I would point out. I'm so disappointed Atlanta picked up Byron Leftwich. I mean they really had a chance to go winless, and now they're blowing it...way to go. Dallas is now the best team in the NFC after going to Soldier Field and tearing the Bears apart on the road. They get the Rams at home. I'm pretty sure that will be around a 12-13 point spread, so I don't anticipate the Rams getting back on track, especially considering Steven Jackson will be out for the game.

The Sox' magic number is now five after the Yankees finally lost yesterday to Toronto. The Blue Jays kept themselves busy over the weekend blowing every single game they had a lead in...thanks a bunch. The Sox were unable to pull off the sweep against the Rays, falling short on Sunday despite some rare heroics from Alex Cora. The Sox have six games left. Two against Oakland, and four against Minnesota. The Yankees are on the road for the rest of the year...but play Tampa and I'm not so sure about this. The Sox did clinch a playoff spot...woo-hoo. We've been leading the division since the sweep of the Yankees in April. Anything short of a division title would be a huge disappointment. Also, the Sox have had claim to the best record in the majors for almost as long, and that too is slipping away. With both Cleveland and Anaheim clinching their divisions, it will be interesting to see how they play the last week of the season. Will they go after home-field, or put it in neutral and rest their starters? I'm leaning towards the first option, meaning the Sox will need to really make a push and go at least .500 in their last six to have a shot. If they go 4-2, it would almost assure them a division title at least, and would draw either the Tribe or the Halos in round one.

Again, because this is the last week of the season, I will try to be updating this as much as possible. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Peace.


Monday, September 24, 2007

We've Created A Monster

"The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It's strange what desire will make foolish people do."

So Patriots Insider wants me to do a little bit of a wrap on today's game. Again, I apologize in advance for attempting to sound literate and professional. This is just a small hitch, and I'll be back to more of my shenanigans next time, but for now, I hope you enjoy:

Pats Blowout Buffalo In Yet Another Statement Game

"After you've worked with a man a certain length of time, you come to know his habits, his come to know him." ~Chinatown

The Patriots have been the best team of this decade, and judging from their first three games, their stranglehold on that title is only going to get stronger.

After Sunday's beatdown of the Bills 38-7, the Pats have clearly sent a message to the league, with that being "it will take an extraordinary effort by anybody to beat this team." Once again, New England was running on all cylinders. The offense put up five touchdowns, the defense was as stingy as ever, and even the special teams looked like they got back on track this week, most notably Wes Welker, who is quickly becoming one of the popular Patriot players because of his work ethic and his ability to make big plays.

Tom Brady seemingly cannot be stopped. After a wild off-season filled with move after move on offense, it has not taken too long to see the reward start to come in. Randy Moss has been nothing short of outstanding. Moss hinted during the start of training camp that he was "rejuvanated," but because he did not play any during the pre-season, no one had any idea of the kind of impact he might have, and even if they thought it was a sound addition, it would be almost impossible to have predicted Moss would revert back to his early Minnesota days, and once again become one of the most dominant possession receivers in the game. With yet another hundred-yard receiving game, Moss became the first player in NFL history to record 100 yards receiving in his first three games after being traded the year before. After going the '06 season without a go-to receiver, it's clear that Moss has become the #1 guy in this offense, which is such an advantage for other receivers like Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Benjamin Watson. While defenses are sometimes using up to three guys to cover Moss, it opens up those other receivers, allowing them to make big plays of their own.

Two plays against Buffalo in particular stood out in terms of Moss' impact on the passing game. The first came with about six and a half minutes left in the third quarter. New England was up 10, and it was absolutely imperative that the Pats put the ball in the end zone to erase any hopes the Bills may have had in terms of a comeback. After already catching a 45-yard pass earlier in the drive, it seemed as though Moss, who also had caught a short TD earlier on in the game, was going to be the guy Brady would be targeting. The left side of the Bills' defense, cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas, starting for the injured Terrance McGee, and safety Bryan Scott, clearly had their focus on Moss as the Pats broke the huddle on the third and goal play from the Buffalo 4-yard line. As Moss broke to the back of the end zone, the corner and safety followed him, leaving Jabar Gaffney, who broke to the outside, all by himself in the end zone, resulting in an easy touchdown. Moss' presence alone was one of the main factors to why Gaffney was so wide open.

The second play came towards the early stages of the fourth quarter. With the game seemingly well in hand at 31-7, it appeared as though the Pats would not be putting up any more fireworks in this game...then again, we've never seen Tom Brady and Randy Moss together on the same field. On a second and one play from just inside Buffalo territory, Brady stepped back to pass, pump-faked to his short receiver, then aired it out down the right sideline. Jabari Greer, the other Bills' starting corner, was covering Moss just about as well as it could possibly be done. Still, Brady was able to get the ball just over Greer's shoulder, but the ball was almost thrown a little too hard. Somehow, Moss was able to reel it in with his long arms and score yet another touchdown for the Patriots, which ended up being the final score of the game by either team. This was a catch that would have been nearly impossible to make for any of the Patriot receivers last year, which is what explains why there was such an emphasis put on stocking up at the receiver position. Anytime the #1 receiver from the year before is so low on the depth chart that he gets cut in the following year, it's obvious that there was a lot of shakeups from the previous year.

The running game was again solid, and even more effective than they were in the first three games, which is hard to imagine considering Brady threw for over 300 yards and 4 TDs. Laurence Maroney is learning to run more "downhill" than he did last year and the previous two games, and it showed on Sunday. Maroney finished the day with his first 100 yard game of the season, earning a 5.4 average per carry. In addition to the emergence of Maroney becoming more and more an outstanding offensive weapon, his other running mates have also stepped it up. Earlier this year, I wrote how this year, it would pretty much be all Maroney, and that the other backs on the team would contribute on an irregular basis. So far, Sammy Morris has emerged as a above-average, change-of-pace back. Morris has shown the ability to come in not only in short-yardage situations, but also as a back the Pats can bring in to give Maroney a rest when he needs a breather. This is a huge bonus for the Pats, as at first, it was unknown whether or not the running game would be effective this year given the unknown health of Maroney and the question marks behind him. But after running for 177 yards, giving the team 455 for the year, good enough for fourth in the league, it's clear that this unit will be one to fear as the season wears on.

The defense was again on their game. Entering the season, there were question marks surrounding this side of the ball. First with the disappearance, then re-emergence of Asante Samuel, the suspension of Rodney Harrison, the knee injury to Richard Seymour that will sideline him for at least the first six weeks, and the "aging" linebacking core, it seemed like the Pats, at least according to some "experts," were going to have a tough go of it for at least the first handful of games. Now, the Pats are #1 in total defense, allowing a meager 207 yards a game. In the first quarter against the Bills, the Pats came out firing on D, forcing a J.P. Losman fumble on the third play of the game (Losman was also hurt on the play). After a New England field goal resulted, it seemed as though new Buffalo QB Trent Edwards had the Pats' front seven figured out. Behind the running of Marshawn Lynch, and a couple of key third down receptions, Edwards and the Bills marched 80 yards in 6:42, with Lynch capping the drive with an eight-yard touchdown. After that though, the Pats stepped up to the challenge of having to figure out Edwards and proceeded to confuse the rookie QB the rest of the game. Edwards finished the day 10/20 for 97 yards, including a late pick thrown to the aforementioned Asante Samuel, who nearly returned it for a score. Samuel and Ellis Hobbs obviously deserve a ton of credit for the ineffectiveness of the passing game, especially for continuing the struggles of Lee Evans, who, after becoming one of the biggest deep-threat receivers in all the league since his rookie season, was again kept in check, only catching one pass for seven yards. If there would be anything that was in any way discouraging, it was probably the way the Bills came out firing on the ground with Lynch. While the run defense was fantastic for most of the game, it's those early pushes that are important to stop.

Two guys have really stood out on defense so far. One was expected to make an immediate impact, and the other, who has been a back-up since joining the Pats, has become almost as reliable as the guy he is replacing. Adalius Thomas is one of the few guys in the history of the Scott Pioli/Bill Belichick era to make the front office spend as much money as needed to get him on this team. After all the dollars shelled out for the former Pro-Bowler, Thomas was asked to add a spark to a linebacking core that was already one of the best in the league. After having arguably one of the most impressive touchdown returns in Patriots' history, Thomas had another solid game, amassing seven more tackles, giving him 17 for the season, good enough for second on the team. Thomas has a rare combination of dynamic speed, size, and play-making ability for a linebacker, and looks to have a huge first season in New England.

Jarvis Green entered the '07 season in a role that he has come to embrace. In his sixth season in the league, Green has been third on the DE depth chart since right around his rookie season. However, in the times when he has been called upon, he has excelled with his knack of beating tackles with his speed off the end, and his nose for the ball. However, with Seymour sidelined for the forseeable future, the weight was squarely on Green's shoulders to fill the enormous shoes left by Seymour. Once again on Sunday, Green was doing what he had done in his first two games as a starter: making plays. On the first series of the game, Ellis Hobbs came in on a corner blitz, sacking Losman and forcing a fumble which Green recovered. Then, Green recorded his third sack of the season in the third quarter, which puts him in a tie for fifth amongst the league leaders.

All and all, it was another complete victory for New England, who now get an extra day to prepare for their upcoming Monday night game at Cincinnati (1-2). The Pats' secondary will be put to the test, but from all indications, it seems like they will be up for the challenge.

I'll be recapping the rest of the week, as well as share some last tidbits of the roller coaster ride that has been the Boston Red Sox. Groovy. Take care. Peace.


Friday, September 21, 2007

NFL Week 3/College Week 4 Predictions

"Listen, let me tell you something with absolute honesty and concern for your well-being...Tom Brady would kick your ass."

I'm not going to lie, I just picked up "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" on DVD, and it's basically been running my life for the past couple of days. So, the updates have been slow to come. So, why beat around the bush. Let's get right into it:


South Carolina vs. LSU:
Gamecock fans, we have been waiting for something like this to come around for a long, long time, and now, it's actually here. With USC on the cusp of a top-10 ranking, they face easily their biggest challenge of the year, on the road, against the second-ranked Bayou Bengals at Baton Rouge. Vegas doesn't like our chances (+17.5), and I guess they have fairly good reason not to. The Tigers have trounced everyone they've played so far, winning their opening three, and not winning by less than 41 in those contests. Their defense is ungodly, and definitely the best in the country right now. Now my head says one thing, and my heart says another, and it's extremely tough to really have an unbiased opinion on this game. So, I'm going to chicken out and take the under (46).


And now, games I will actually predict:

North Carolina vs. South Florida: Ok, the Bulls have convinced me that their run last year has definitely carried over to this season, and after a win at Auburn two weeks ago, the Bulls find themselves in the top 25 for the first time this year. As far as UNC goes...well...they're horrible. They lost to East Carolina on the road and lost to UVA last week at home on a last second field goal. Now, they go to South Florida, and I have to give less than 2 TD's...I like it. I'll take USF (W, -13.5).

Clemson vs. North Carolina St.: I hate to pick on my state of residency too much, but the 'Pack are pretty terrible too, basically because of the lack of talent they could keep healthy. Seemingly, everyone kept going down on the offensive side of the ball, and that has led the way to State getting blind-sided by Central Florida at home the first week of the season. After somehow surviving Wofford last week, they now host Clemson. While I hate...hate...hate the Tigers, there's no way I can pass up on this spread. N.C. State is giving up 216 yards a game on the ground, and despite the early troubles of C.J. Spiller, it's just a matter of time before he gets it going. Plus, with James Davis back there as well, I see the Tigers (W, -7) beating up on N.C. State.

GO COCKS!!!...

Northwestern vs. Ohio St.: Ok, so after I picked the Wildcats to beat Duke at home...and they failed, there stands a chance that I will never pick Northwestern ever, ever...ever again. The Buckeyes, who I picked against last week...and also lost, look like they are coming around to form after their halftime scare against Akron. Given the events of last week, I have to say the Buckeyes (W, -23.5) will cover at the Horseshoe.

Michigan St. vs. Notre Dame: Am I really going to be alive to see Notre Dame go 0-4? Is this not the biggest dose of reality ever delivered to a program (wait, that school in Ann Arbor got a bit of a wake-up call this year)? Ok, I'm going to run some numbers...I hope you're sitting down because you may laugh so hard that you'll throw your back out. The Irish are averaging -4.7 yards a game rushing...-4.7!...Seriously, that is a minus sign on the front...In three games, they are averaging negative rushing yards. Also, I think Charlie Weis is signed until I'm like 40, so have fun with all that. In addition to the horrendousness of Notre Dame, Michigan St. comes into this game in search of a little revenge after last year's devastating loss at home to the Irish. The Spartans are looking to get into the top 25 for the first time this year, as well as getting off to a 4-0 start (are they playing Big 10 opponents anytime this year by the way?). Go Green (W, -10.5)

Iowa vs. Wisconsin: So why is it that Vegas overlooks the Badgers like every single year? This is a perfect example. The Badgers have been running pretty well this year, getting through a land-mine game against UNLV two weeks ago, and beat Washington St. in their home opener by 21. Iowa went on the road last week against Iowa St. and lost by 2. So why is Wisconsin only favored by a TD at home? Maybe I'm missing something, but to me, this is about the easiest line you will ever see on a board. Badgers (W, -7).

Penn St. vs. Michigan: Is it just me, or is there a lot of Big 10 in the predictions this week? Anyway, Michigan apparently isn't playing on the road this year, as they play their fourth consecutive home game in a row. Again, maybe it's something I'm overlooking here, but Penn St. is favored by less than a field goal. The one thing Michigan does well, run, is what Penn St. does exceptionally well, and that's stopping the run. As evident by last week's GA Tech/BC game, a really good run defense will break down a really good running game, which is why I like the Nittany Lions (W, -2.5).

Florida vs. Mississippi: I'm picking a lot of favorites this week, and I realize that this is not exactly the strongest bunch of moves I've ever made...and with that being said, I think Florida will win this game by about 40. Ole Miss is giving up 466 yards of offense a game, which puts them a solid 220th in the country. The Rebs are Gator bait (W, -23), but don't expect all those road games to be this easy, especially the one on November 10th (oh like you even have to look that up to know who they're playing)...

GO COCKS!!!...

Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma St.: Considering what happened last week against Troy, I don't have a considerable amount of faith in the Cowboys right now. The Red Raiders come into this game with the second ranked passing attack in the country, while Okla St. is 201st against it. Also, I'm sick of picking favorites, so let's switch it up and go for a road 'dog. I'll take the Red Raiders (+6).

Kentucky vs. Arkansas: Here's why this a TD spread for Arkansas. First, it's likely that Kentucky will be unable to win two monumental games in a row, and second, Arkansas, after losing a heart-breaker to 'Bama, will come out with a ton to play for. Arkansas was down twice last week by 21 to the Tide, rallied back, and then lost anyway. Kentucky won arguably the biggest game in school history last week against Louisville. Still, I'm siding with Vegas in saying that, in what is likely going to be a scoring-palooza, the Wildcats will not be able to contain Arkansas' offense, and while the 'Cats bring a lot of offense to the table as well, the Razorbacks are a little more two-dimensional than Kentucky, which is why I see Arkansas (W, -7) bouncing back at home.

Last Week: SU: 6-4, ATS: 3-5-2
Season: SU: 11-6, ATS: 6-8-3

Onto the pros:

Buffalo vs. New England:
Hey, it's a big spread...and it totally deserves to be. Why even explain it? Pats (W, -16.5)

And now, games I will put more than three seconds of thought into:

Miami vs. New York: Despite the whole Oregon QB syndrome hanging over Kellen Clemens, I think he will be able to snap that curse, much like Vince Young will likely do with the Madden curse this year. The 'Fins will be without Zach Thomas, and, oh by the way, they suck to begin with. Jets (W, -3) in a big division win.

Detroit vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles totally burned me last week at the Linc. I don't know what team is showing up here. Also, quite simply put, Detroit finally has a terrific offense under Mike Martz, and their defense isn't all that bad either. Philly is 0-2, and Detroit is 2-0...what a weird, twisted world we live in. I'll take the Lions (W, +6)

San Francisco vs. Pittsburgh: The Steelers have had two blowout wins against two really bad teams. This week, they have an actual test against the Niners, who have miraculously won two close divisional games. The Steelers have cut through their first two teams like a hot knife, and frankly, I don't expect them to stop, even though the Niners will put up a bit of a fight. I'll take the Steelers (W, -9)

St. Louis vs. Tampa Bay: This is hard to believe, but the Bucs have a better average offensive ranking (18.5) than the Rams (19.3). This was not quite the offensive juggernaut that I had envisioned. Yet, I will once again pick the Rams simply because one, I am sinking with this ship, and two, the Rams actually play against the pass well, and the Bucs have had a little bit of a problem covering wide receivers, which is not the best problem when you play the Rams. Plus, no way Steven Jackson has another terrible game. Once again, I'll take the Rams (W, +4).

Arizona vs. Baltimore: I like the Cardinals...I do, but so far, their passing attack, which is supposedly their strength, has been just ehhh. With news that Steve McNair will play this week for the Ravens, and at home, they have been almost unbeatable since '05 (14-3) and as a favorite at the BB&T (12-1). I like the Ravens (W, -7.5).

Indianapolis vs. Houston: The Texans went on the road against the Panthers and beat the crap out of them last week. Now, they face Indy in a battle of 2-0 AFC South teams. For whatever reason, this spread hasn't really moved despite the fact that Andre Johnson will not play for Houston. Johnson is the biggest component of this offense, and without him, I'm not so sure the Texans will be able to match the Colts' onslaught. Again, I love Houston, but I'm taking the Colts (W, -6).

San Diego vs. Green Bay: All the trends, and common sense, have the Chargers having absolutely no chance of not winning this game. Personally, I really don't care. I love the Packers, and after the beatdown they put on the Giants last week (despite the G-Men having Eli The Great at QB), I think that the combination of a slowed Charger offense, mediocre defense, and bad coach, coupled with the Pack's dynamic offense, and their breakout ability, I'll take the Pack (W, +6).

Minnesota vs. Kansas City: The Vikings D' has been tough all year, but Tavaris Jackson is listed as doubtful, meaning Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger will likely be taking over at QB. The Vikings are also both bad as an underdog and bad on the road, so for whatever reason, I'll take the Chiefs (W, -2.5).

Cleveland vs. Oakland: The Browns have dominated the recent head-to-head matchups against the Raiders, and after last week, there stands to reason that the Browns have a fairly good offense. Given what happened against the Lions in Week 1, the Raiders' D is not exactly what everyone had pictured before the season. I'll take the point guard and the points (W, +3).

Jacksonville vs. Denver: The Jags couldn't even cover against Atlanta, and considering the Broncos have been winning really tight games, and also going 0-2 ATS, this could be a tough one to call. However, here's what I'm thinking: Jacksonville has been amazing as a 'dog since '05 (9-2) and the Broncos, while looking good at home SU (13-4) have been bad ATS (6-10). I'll try my luck with the Jags (W, +3.5), and hope Jones-Drew will make some kind of impact on this game.

Cincinnati vs. Seattle: The Seahawks are 14-1 SU when they are favored between 3.5 and 9.5 since '05, and are 14-3 at home. The Bengals allowed 51 points on the road last week to the Browns, and I don't expect the defense to show up this week either. Despite having a really good offense, I think Seattle will take this game (W, -3).

New York vs. Washington: Frankly, I owe it to Washington to pick them this week. I didn't have faith in them last week, and they proved me wrong, putting themselves atop the NFC East with Dallas. The G-Men have looked horrendous this year, and on my never-ending crusade to get Tom Coughlin fired, let's go 'Skins (W, -3.5).

Carolina vs. Atlanta: Wow, this is actually tough. The Panthers showed who they really are last week, and Atlanta is still in the Joey Harrington era. Fear not though Falcons fans, as Byron Leftwich is going to takeover as soon as next week. The Panthers are great on the fast track, and despite the monumental matchup between Steve Smith and Deangelo Hall, I like the Panthers (W, -4).

Dallas vs. Chicago: The Cowboys have put up over 35 points in both of their first two games. However, this is the Bears...not the Giants or the Dolphins. Given how well the Bears play at home, and their outstanding track record in close games (4-0 ATS when favored by three or less) and their ability to win as a favorite at home (12-2 SU), I'll take the Bears (W, -3).

Tennessee vs. New Orleans: interest has been peaked. The Titans lost a tough one against the Colts last week, and beat the Jags in Week 1. The Saints have looked like they did in the Archie Manning-era, losing their first two games, including a near-blowout at Tampa last week. The Titans actually can stop the run, and because of VY's unpredictability, I'm going with the Titans (W, +4).

Last Week: SU: 10-6, ATS: 6-9-1
Season: SU: 22-10, ATS: 15-14-3

Good luck everyone, and of course...

GO COCKS!!!...



Monday, September 17, 2007

We Kept The Lens Cap On This Time

"And she ain't got no trust in you."

What a week to be from New England.

So the Sox were a let down again, losing two of three at home, and the two losses were absolute gut-wrenchers. On Friday, they blew a seemingly insurmountable five run lead, especially considering Okajima and Papelbon were brought on to "close out the game." Well, they did anything but that. Okajima has been in a bit of a rut since the All-Star break. His ERA has gone from 0.79 to 2.28 over that stretch. To me, I think it has to do with two things. First, for his first year, he has been overused. He's appeared in 64 games. Now that's not an all-time record by any means, but it seems that Francona has thrown Okie into games when he wasn't really needed. The guy went from a lefty specialist to the eighth inning man in a pretty quick span. Plus, as with anyone, once you get a scouting report on a guy, he becomes a little less effective. Dice is obviously going through the exact same thing. It's late in the season, and in addition, you have other guys in the 'pen who can fill those innings. The leash on Gagne has been way too short. Yes, he blew some games at the start, but there's no way that he is going to be like that every time out. He's allowed one run in his last seven outings. This was the whole reason the Sox traded for him: To take the pressure off both Okie and Papelbon. In addition to Gagne, you have Buchholz, Tavarez, Delcarmen, and Bryan Corey, who hasn't allowed a run in the four innings he's pitched. So, perhaps a break is what the guy needs, or whatever the case may be, hopefully it is fixable before October.

Then on Sunday, in what was brewing up to be a classic (and it might be considered one to people outside of Red Sox Nation), Curt Schilling was absolutely cruising. Considering that Schill had only thrown around 80 pitches leading up to the 8th, and the aforementioned bullpen struggles, it was only natural to keep Schilling in the game. He had only given up a solo homer to Robinson Cano, and other than that, was in no major jams up until his breaking point. Schill had retired ten straight leading up to Minky's single. Then, everything happened pretty quick. Giambi pinch hits, then gets to second on the throw back from Ellsbury (a rare mistake there), Damon grounds out, and then boom, Jeter hits a hanging splitter over the Monster, and all of a sudden, they have a three-run defecit with two innings to go. While this wasn't as disasterous as Friday night, it seemed like the wind had been completely taken out of the team. Sure, sometimes, you get lucky and are able to bounce back, like what happened on Mother's Day against Baltimore. However, it is a rare occasion that you get lucky against the Yankees. The Sox did cut it down to a one run game with the Lowell homer (my pick to get royally screwed in the MVP balloting...I bet he ends up around seventh when he should be easily in the top three) and the Lugo RBI double. So, there was hope, but face facts. The Sox had the absolute perfect situation in the bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded with Papi up. If he gets a bloop single, or basically anything out of the infield, the game is over, especially with Jacoby on at second, but Ortiz could not produce against Rivera. The guy has had more clutch hits in the last three years than entire franchises have had in their history, but still, it was absolutely deflating to watch him pop up harmlessly to, of all people, Jeter, and then that's it. I was riding high after the Pats game (more on that later), but I have to say, a lot of the euphoric feeling was sucked away by that Sox game. It was almost like we had drifted back to the franchise that would build you up to let you down. That is not a state you want your team to be towards the end of a playoff push. People keep talking about lining up the rotation for the division series, but we still haven't wrapped up anything yet. We keep letting the Yankees hang around, and, especially after taking two of three at Fenway, they once again have hope. I'm not at my breaking point yet by any means, but there's definitely an air of concern I'm feeling.

Well, that series is over. Now, it's onto Toronto. It's tough to try and take anything positive from the past few times we've played the Yankees. Sure, things could have gone better, but think about it, things could have been a lot worse. Anyone happen to recall the five game series towards the end of the year last season (you know what...don't even attempt to remember that...too horrible to express in words)? So, yes, the lead is down from 12 1/2 to 4 1/2. Oh, by the way, this team is still 30 games above .500! If we stay on that pace, we win 96 games this year. Considering we finished third in the division last year, I'm pretty happy about where this team will likely end up, and that's on top. However, there is no time to become complacent and simply be satisfied with a division title. Yes, it would be the first one in quite some time ('95), but this team is one of the best in baseball, and it's almost like being a Pats fan, and being happy with just winning the AFC East. No, we want the whole thing. I remember '04 like it was Friday (I can't say Saturday or yesterday because I really have very little recollection of either of those days). So as I watch this team, all I can think about is that we really have a shot to make it all the way. Don't get me wrong, things will definitely have to bounce our way again to make that happen, but who knows what lies ahead in October. In '04, after getting run by the Yankees in the final series of the regular season, then three straight in the LCS, things didn't look so hot either. So the team may have some struggles now, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have one more big run left in them. Remember, you just have to be good for three series. So, if this team can get hot at the right time, anything is possible.

Saturday I decided to go to Atlanta to check out the tailgating scene for the BC/GA Tech game. I have to say I was beyond disappointed by the absolute lack of places to go if you're an out-of-towner looking to park and set up shop. There are two pay lots in all of the GA Tech area that allow you to park and booze...two! So, after growing up on Chestnut Hill and the SC State Fairgrounds, this was a bit of a letdown. I will say that the campus is located right by downtown, so space is a bit of an issue. Still, I'll give the whole thing a D+, and the only reason I'm that generous is that there happened to be cornhole and horse balls games going on next to our scene (met up with a couple other BC people...very cool...also, horse balls is known as ladder golf...I did not know that...I think it's almost like the beirut/beer pong thing...just kind of where you're at determines what you call the game). Anyway, to the game itself, Matt Ryan (who also apparently goes by "Matty Ice") is definitely making it known that he is going to do everything in his power to get himself a free trip to New York when the season's over (by the way, the Eagles have not had a post-season award winner since 1985). After throwing for a career high 435 yards against the Jackets, Ryan, in my mind, is in the top 3 in terms of the best quarterbacks in all the land (Andre Woodson, Colt Brennan). The Eagles were the only team in the entire country to start the year with three consecutive conference games, and they have won them all, placing them in the top 15, a very impressive feat considering they have a first-time head coach in Jeff Jagodzinski. Now the talk is about what the potential ceiling is for this team. I know that people are going to hate me for this, but I cannot see BC in the national title game this year. I'm sorry, I know that is upsetting, and I hate for it to be like that, but the Eagles are going to have to run the tables, and yes, they're next three are at home against Army (thanks for covering by the way...unbelievable), UMass, and Bowling Green. However, after that, I see a bunch of potential "land mine" games, including at VA Tech, at Maryland, and at Clemson. Personally, I hope they prove me wrong and win out, but history has shown that is a very difficult task to achieve. Last year, only one team made it all the way through without suffering a loss, and it took possibly the greatest two offensive plays in BCS game history to make that happen (Boise St.). Plus, there are four teams right now that are light years ahead of everyone else (Southern Cal, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida). I know BC does not have to win every game to get to a BCS game, and hopefully they have shaken the Tom O'Brien "let's do really well all throughout the regular season, tank the last game, then win a inconsequential bowl against a weak opponent" approach, and they end up in the ACC title game, where they would likely have a rematch between VA Tech or GA Tech.

In other news, I am horrendous at picking games.

Well, the season is young, but so far, I just haven't had the touch to really nail any of these games. First of all, I should have been in on that Florida game. I have no idea why I missed that. I talked about it a few days before the picks, then neglected it, instead opting to pick underdogs in Nebraska and Washington when I could have stuck with a sure-fire favorite. Also, Utah absolutely blew out UCLA, and that's embarrassing when you pick a team that's favored by
two touchdowns and they lose by 38 points. That's never a good thing. Northwestern got beat at home by know what, I am not going to feel bad about that game. Excuse me for going against a team that has lost 22 straight games, then they suddenly beat a Big 10 team on the road (this also speaks to how bad the Big 10 is...of course, the big story has been Michigan, but really, the whole conference has not looked so hot this year...Iowa lost to Iowa St., Minnesota got beat by Florida Atlantic; yes, Ohio St. had a big road win, but the only teams that I can deem "Big 10 worthy" right now are Wisconsin and Penn St., and other than that, it's a total crapshoot). The good news is that I had a couple of good ones in there, including BC, and yes, Florida International. Hopefully, I'll get on the good foot this week...God knows I need it.

On Sunday, it was pretty much the same song and dance. I'll give myself a gigantic pat on the back for basically drawing out everything that was about to happen in the Pats game. Tomlinson got absolutely crushed for the second week in a row (for the first time ever, I'm sort of happy I didn't get the #1 pick in any fantasy league), and again, he had it coming. He just couldn't shut up about the Patriots, and he was still crying from last year. The guy is the best running back in the game, but you cannot call the Patriots out...because you will lose. It has been tried numerous times over the Brady era, and no one has come out on top when they question if the Pats will show up. Again, the Chargers are overrated because they have no secondary and their coach is Norv Turner. Let's see, how to we replace coaching incompetency in the playoffs? I know, let's get a guy with even less experience, a horrible coaching record, and give him a ton of money. Yeah, because that always works. Anyway, the Pats again dominated, and I'm pretty sure Adalius Thomas could outrun like 98% of that team (at least we know he's faster than the receivers). I remember someone before the season commenting about how when Adalius played safety for the Ravens, they used to always target him because he was not that who was the guy I saw blazing down the sidelines on Sunday night. Seriously, how does a guy that big move that fast? He is such an animal, it's ridiculous. Anyway, I have to say that Belichick's legacy, while not completely back to 100%, went from completely tarnished one day, to a "well, I guess this guy could have possibly won all those games" viewpoint the next. The Pats beat a better team than the one they were accused of "spying" against, and had the eyes of the entire country on them to look and see that they were playing everything by the book. So is this going to stop now? I mean, haven't we proved that this team is just that good? Next week, the Pats play host to the Bills, and I am thinking that if you don't like the Pats, you may not want to watch that game, because it's going to get pretty ugly for Buffalo.

And now, the other games that weren't as easy to predict:

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2007 Carolina Panthers!

Yes, they finally proved my point. Sure, I picked them, but I was happy to be totally vindicated for bashing this team for the last month and a half. Houston just took it to them, and luckily Steve Smith had a career day, or it could have been much worse. I am now finding out that St. Louis is just that bad, as they went down again at home, meaning that Panthers win was simply a case of a bad team knocking off a bad team that lost their Pro Bowl left tackle, and has no secondary to boot. Sure, I picked the Rams to win the west, and I'll sink with that ship. I have no problem admitting when I am wrong. Just look at that Cleveland/Cincy game. I am having to eat my words for betting against a point guard who threw for five TDs and a "worn-out" running back who gained over 200 yards on the ground. Green Bay is looking great, meaning that prediction is actually working out. Tom Coughlin is clearly in the driver's seat in the "coach who will be fired before the season gets out" race. How does he still have a job? Seriously, I question this every week, and I'm sorry for the repetitiveness, but it simply shocking that they are keeping Coughlin around. Tampa definitely came through for me, and that made me look pretty good. The Bears and Colts games both went oddly how I thought they would. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there were a lot of people giving 12 points and taking the Bears at Soldier Field, so that was another nice call. Overall, I'm not happy, but I'm not completely in the dumps. Again, hopefully another week of gathering information will help me out...or it could just confuse me even more and I'll end up being even worse.

I know there will be someone out there to appreciate this:

The Redskins are for real!...I'm sorry!

So, to cap it all, I had a great weekend. Going to Atlanta for the BC game, watching the Sox/Yanks (even though they lost) and Pats/Chargers at the same time was amazing. I got to see my Houston Texans blow the doors off the Panthers, which was good because I didn't have to wait in traffic after the game...all very good things. This week, I'm going to try and get some NASCAR in here, as it's obviously been lacking for a while (this is what happens when Denny Hamlin goes through a cold stretch), and, of course, a preview of the game of the week going down at Baton Rouge on Saturday (Gamecock fans: I know that this is going to be an absolute fight to win, but let's cherish this right now; we are #12 in the country, we beat UGA for the first time since '01; and we have a chance this weekend to shock a nation and potentially throw ourselves in the national title race...that would have been absolute crazy talk two years ago...let's enjoy the limelight). In addition, I will be white-knuckling it all the way to the end with the Sox (who gave up three dingers to Frank Thomas tonight, and the lead is now 3 1/2). This is what you get for anointing them division winners before it was locked up. Dan Shaughnessy should be fired, forced into quitting, or simply barred from ever talking about the Sox again if they lose this division. He's been saying that they have had the division won since June. I hate when people just jump the gun like that. Do you know what team this is? Just because we won in '04, that doesn't mean this team isn't still called the Boston Red Sox, and even though it was only three years ago that we won, we're still carrying a bunch of baggage that has existed in that short period of time (most of it in the form of J.D. Drew...oh come on, how can I not go an article without bashing J.D. Drew; it's almost as easy as predicting what he's going to do with a guy on first and less than two outs, or when he's in a two-strike count...anyone know if Rickey Henderson wants another go around in Boston?). So, don't count your chickens before they hatch...or something like that. Anyway, there's going to be the usual banter leading up to the weekend, so you have that to look forward to. See you next time. Peace.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

NFL Week 2/College Week 3 Predictions

"This guy is a freak. All he does is work out and pick winners."

Before I get into this week's picks...a little review session shall we?

College: Ehhh...not so hot. Oklahoma is for real. Just want to give you a heads up on that in case you were not aware. Michigan got hammered at home, and Auburn lost as well. Don't worry, there's still time left for me to get better...or worse, you never know

Overall: SU: 5-2, ATS: 3-3-1, O/U: 1-0

Pro: Baltimore did everything in their collective powers to lose that game. I was watching it at work, and I was completely dumbfounded by how awful they played, and still, they were in the game until the very end. So, when Cincy did eventually win, I didn't really bat an eye, because I knew who the better team was in that game. Anytime a team turns the ball over six times, they're probably going to be on the hook for the loss. In any event, for the first week, it didn't go too, too bad.

Overall: SU: 12-4, ATS: 9-5-2

Ok, so you made a little bit of money there. A parlay here, a teaser get the picture. Ok, so here's what I'm thinking: I have to predict more college games, because I think I can pad my record a little more. Hey, that's what the big schools do. Pick on lesser teams to help their record out, and being a big school guy myself, I should definitely follow suit. Unfortunately, the USC game is off the board this week, so I have to look other places to get those "sure" wins. This week, and for future weeks, I'll do the entire NFL card, as well as 10 college games. So now that I have a format in place, let's see if I can improve this week.

West Virginia vs. Maryland: Ok I have to start with this game, because it has "revenge factor" written all over it. Last year, the Terps were "embarrassed" by WVU 45-27 at Morgantown (embarrassed in quotes because it's tough to be embarrassed when you lose to a then top-5 team). Again, there's a very small sampling size to try and compare the two, so I have to go on last year as well. WVU obviously runs the ball extremely well with their three-headed monster (Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine), and Maryland has had some success stopping the run this year. The thing about playing the Mountaineers is that, to beat them, you need to be able to make the big plays. Right now, I don't see the big play potential coming from Maryland. With that being said, I like West Virginia (W) to take the game, but Maryland (+17) to scrap enough to make it about a 10-14 point game.

Cincinnati vs. Miami (OH): This Cincinnati team...I don't know about these guys. I'm thinking that they may catch some people off guard down the road. After dismantling Oregon St. last week at home (34-3), I think that this team shouldn't have any problems going on the road and beating up on the Red Hawks. Don't look now, but there are seven Big East teams that are 2-0. There are a bunch of sleepers that I think could make some noise in this conference. I like the Bearcats (W, -8.5)

Florida International vs. Miami: So in the midst of a QB controversy in Miami, the rehatching of one of the ugliest incidents in college football history will commence. Florida International has actually been doing recruiting, so they do have talent, even though it hasn't shown in their 0-2 start. Still, this is a lot of points, and considering what happened last year, I don't expect FIU to not go down without a fight (no helmet stomping this time please). Can they App St. them (small school beating a big school in a defining moment of glory)? Well, that could be stretching it a little. Miami wins (W), but I like FIU to cover the massive spread (+33).

Army vs. Wake Forest: I know this one is kind of out of left field, but anytime Army has a road game where they're not 'dogged by more than 30, I'm all over it. Wake barely lost to Nebraska at home last week, and now they play the Black Knights of the Hudson...kind of a drop-off in talent. I like a demolition at Winston-Salem, with the Deacons (W, -19.5) to have a resurgence this week.

UCLA vs. Utah: This caught my eye because the spread jumped three points this week, meaning that the money is being dropped on the Bruins like it's nobody's business...and don't expect me to stop that trend. The Bruins have had defensive struggles this year, but they're up against a team that has no offense, so I like my chances. I'll take UCLA (W, -14).

Duke vs. Northwestern: A great mix of running (44th in the nation) and passing (43rd), couple with the fact that it's Duke, really makes me think I could be onto something here. With a manageable spread to boot, I'll try my luck with the Wildcats (W, -16.5).

And now, games you may actually care about:

Ohio St. vs. Washington: You know, I've been rattling a few games in my head. This one is a game where I can see Washington winning the game. This would be a massive victory for the Huskies if they pull it off. I've been back and forth a hundred times with this. Ohio St. is looking to rebound, and the Huskies are coming off their first victory against a ranked team since 2003. I love U-Dub's D to fluster freshman QB Todd Boeckman, who looked out of place last week. Now, going on the road in an extremely hostile environment, I like my chances with Washington, especially after only giving up 14 to Boise St. last week. Huskies (W, +4.5) to pull off the upset...good for Tyrone!

Boston College vs. Georgia Tech: This should be a thriller in Atlanta. ACC supremacy will be on the line when the Eagles play the Jackets. Both teams are in the top 25, and both do different things exceptionally well. The Eagles have impressed so far, beating Wake and NC State (although NC State is reeling after some key injuries) at home, and GA Tech shalacked Notre Dame at South Bend by 30 in the first week, and decimated Samford last week. GA Tech has done the job through their run game, which, surprise surprise, is exactly what BC does well against. The key to the game will be how well GA Tech can handle Matt Ryan and the rest of the Eagle offense. Andre Calendar has had a big year as well, which means this team is multi-dimensional on offense, something the Jackets do not have (no passing TDs this year). Another key will be turnovers. The team that can limit the amount of fumbles, INTs, etc., will have a decisive advantage (fairly common knowledge there, almost McCarver-like words of wisdom, but when you have two opportunistic defenses, it has to be stressed even more). The Eagles are 5-3 against ranked opponents on the road since '02. If possible, try and tease this game to go over 7 in favor of BC. I think it will be close, but you always want to give yourself some breathing room. In any event, I'll take the Eagles SU (W) and ATS (+7).

Arkansas vs. Alabama: Last year, this one went to OT, with Arkansas winning by a point. This year, a lot has changed. First, Mitch Mustain, the guy with the golden arm that just won games, is in Southern California, and also, Nick Saban is coaching the Tide. There hasn't been this kind of buzz about Alabama football in quite some time (maybe the Shaun Alexander days?). Arkansas is also coming off of a layoff after playing Troy in Week 1. I really think that could factor into the equation, not so much for their freshness, but for their lack of game experience. McFadden will have a decent game, but it won't be a 200-yard breakout performance going up against an stingy Tide D. I'll take 'Bama (W, -3) to turn it around from last year's devastating loss, which they never seemed to shake the rest of the year.

Southern Cal vs. Nebraska: First of all, I have to say I love the spread in this game. Southern Cal is also coming off a week layoff after playing the Vandals from Idaho (great nickname...great stuff). Nebraska has it going on from both sides of the ball. What's fascinating is that Nebraska has yet to record a sack in two games. Everyone talks about Booty winning the Heisman...I'm really not sold on that whole notion quite yet. For Nebraska to have a chance, they are going to have to clamp down on their running defense, which gave up 235 yards rushing to Wake last week. Here's another thing: It's possible for another failed NFL experiment to hit it big in college right? Pete Carroll is the shining example of this, and from the way things have been heading in Lincoln, Bill Callahan could be next in line. If Nebraska doesn't win, it won't be because of a lack of crowd support. Last year, the Huskers hung in with Texas in one of the best games of the year (22-20 Texas), and this year, Nebraska will have goal-post tearing fever. Plus, I just don't like Southern Cal in general, so it will be easy to root for the Huskers (W, +10.5) throwing a giant road block in the way of the Trojans' national title aspirations.


San Diego vs. New England: Ok America, give us your best shot, because we probably deserve it. Actually I was kind of happy Sports Guy referenced Nixon in talking about the Pats's scandal. Kind of makes me feel good that someone accredited is on the same page as me. Let's just hope they don't get fined like McLaren did in their case. I don't even think Kraft could cover that tab. Anyway, back to the game itself. If LaDanian Tomlinson's objective was to make himself look like a cry-baby and have everyone in New England despise him, he's definitely put himself on the fast track to doing so. Again, he speaks out against the Pats, saying "if they're not cheating, they're not trying." Oh haha. That's just a barrel full of laughs. Hey, how about you tell that outside linebacker the same thing, and maybe we'll call it even. Yikes. In any event, here's how I see the game shaking down: The Pats' offense will wear out this secondary. They did it to a fairly similar crew in Jersey, so I don't see why this week will be any different. The Charger D looked good last week, but it's the's Grossman! The Colts looked like the Purple People Eaters against Grossman in the Super Bowl last year. This is TFB, this is Moss, Stallworth, Welker, Gaffney, Maroney, Watson, and whoever else you want to throw into that mix. So, the Chargers will be tested even more than they did in last year's playoff game. In terms of the Pats' D against the Chargers' O, there's definitely going to be some mismatches. Remember that Asante has a full week of practice under him now, meaning that he'll be a lot more prepared than he was last week. Gates...well you can't really cover him, but only hope to contain him. LT is not going to have anything close to the kind of numbers he normally does, and it's basically all his doing because of all the bulletin board material he provided us. Thanks buddy. Again, Phillip Rivers is good, but still can buckle under pressure, so a key will be to really get in his face. Also, let Junior Seau just run wild against his former team. You know he was itching to get out there last time, so just let him go nuts. Pats in a big win (W, -3)

And now, the rest:

San Francisco vs. St. Louis: I totally had a Charlie Brown moment when Orlando Pace went down for the year...ARRRGGHHH!!!...Damn it! I had this team going to the Divisional Playoffs! This is like losing a Final Four team in Round Two of the tournament. Seriously, the guy went to the Pro Bowl seven times...he's literally and figuratively "kind of a big deal." In any event, the Rams looked terrible last week. Steven Jackson had two fumbles, and Bulger did not spread the ball around nearly enough. He definitely needs to start relying on Jackson (I know it's tough to say a guy should be relied on after just getting through saying he fumbled twice, but that was a bit abnormal wouldn't you say?) and Randy McMichael a lot more, as he was 22/42 and averaged 4.0 yards per completion. The Niners just got done with a dogfight at Candlestick against the Cards, pulling it off after losing for the majority of the game. The Niners were terrible on third downs (3 for 12) and only had 22 rushing attempts for 92 yards, despite having one of the best rushers in the game (Frank Gore). That was basically just an ugly game all-around. I expect the Niners to open it up a little more, especially to their wideouts, as that seems to be the Rams' big weakness (the lesson once again is that's what happens when you draft guys from Clemson in the first round (Tye Hill)...I think Justin Miller's head is still turning from last week). Patrick Willis looked great, but I pretty much saw that coming (he is who I thought he would be!). Still, I like my chances against the Niners. They couldn't stop the pass rush against the Cardinals, so imagine what it will be like against Leonard Little (yes, he still gets to play football...I know, you're outraged, and if you're not, here you I kind of hope you're a little outraged) and Adam Carriker, who also looked good in his debut. I'm sticking with the Rams (W, -3).

Green Bay vs. New York (G-Men): It's tough to get worse than Eli Manning at QB if you're the Giants...luckily, they're the Giants, and have figured it out for me...Jared Lorenzen! I can't believe the words "I hope Eli comes back" are being uttered right now, but they probably should be. Hey, the guy as a few good games every now and again. I mean you need the patience of a saint to wait for them. More like waiting for an eclipse than Halley's Comet though. Also, Jacobs and Umenyiora were lost in the same game. Tom Coughlin, look at me...this is your future. I'll keep the spot in the unemployment line warm for you. Favre had a "dismal" outing last week, and yet, the Pack still won. The Giants don't have a good defense, and they definitely don't have a good offense. Unless the Pack are so loose that they fall asleep, I see no reason they can't pick up a road victory. Packers (W, +1)

Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh: This is an intriguing game. Buffalo lost on a last second Denver field goal last week at home, and Pittsburgh is coming off a rout at Cleveland. The game will be played at Heinz Field, which is definitely a factor in terms of the crowd and the bizarre way the wind blows there (seriously). However, there's a lot of points up there for the Steelers to cover. Lee Evans was completely ineffective last week, but look who was covering him (Champ Bailey). So to say he won't have a big day could be a little naive. The Bills' secondary apparently all decided to get hurt in one shot, so that is never good. I've been reading a lot about how the Steelers will be using four receiver sets against the they even have four receivers? I got Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Cedrick Wilson, so I don't know how far that's going to get them. I understand that Steeler fans have to be loving life right now, but also realize the quality of the opponent you wiped the floor with last week. Here's something very telling: Pittsburgh is 4-8 since '05 after scoring 25 or more points, meaning that they seem to be spent after a blowout. They do play well as a favorite, going 11-4 over the same stretch. In Buffalo's last 15, they are 10-5 ATS. I smell a close game, meaning I like the Bills (+10). In terms of straight up, look, it's never good when a team gives up the dreaded 300/100/100 line (QB throws for 300, RB rushes for 100, and a WR receives for 100...I'm going to be using that a lot this season), which is exactly what Buffalo did last week (Cutler/Henry/Walker), and despite that, they only lost by a point. I'm going to take the Steelers (W), and I expect the stats from Pittsburgh's O to be up there, but for the outcome to not show that at all.

New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay: Ok, imagine this was last you think the Saints would only be favored by a field goal? That's just crazy talk in '06, but in 2007, it's a reality. The Saints were demoralized at Indy last Thursday, while the Bucs got dominated up in Seattle. So the Saints defense bent...I mean broke against Indy. That's not the first or the last time that will ever happen. I said New Orleans would not be as great as they were last year, and it all comes down to how well they utilize their running game in order to give Drew Brees some options. If you have Bush and McAllister in the backfield, only giving them the ball for 22 carries is inexcusable. Brees would love to target his favorite receiver, Marques Colston, this week, but unfortunately, he'll be covered by Ronde Barber, who, at last check, was still really good. So, I expect Eric Johnson, who quietly put up a pretty good game last week, to have a bit of a repeat performance this week. The reason the line is so close, in my opinion, has everything to do with the unpredictableness of Jeff Garcia to will his teams to victory. What has to be encouraging for the Bucs is the play of their linebackers last week, who combined for 34 tackles against Seattle. The bad news was that they gave up 4.1 a carry, and the running combo they're going against this week is just as tough. The Saints are 1-4 ATS since 2001 playing the Bucs as a favorite. Interesting. Despite likely going against my better judgment (which sucks anyway...I had Texas is the Final Four!), I'll take Tampa (W, +3.5).

Houston vs. Carolina: Now this one I'm particularly interested in, because a.) I'll be there (and getting paid), and b.) Houston is my "other" team this year (they wear red, white, and blue...can't argue with that). So again, I was flabber-gasted at Carolina's performance at St. Louis last week. The running attack was great, going off for 186 yards and a 4.9 average. Very impressive. Also, it's good to see DeShaun getting the majority of the workload, because right now, he is the better back. Maybe in the long run, Williams will have a better career (hopefully he stays healthy, which is probably the weakest part of Foster's game), but right now, DeShaun is the man. Houston had a great showing last week against KC, dominating them at Reliant 20-3. Schaub looked good in his Texan debut, with an efficient 16/22, 225 yard performance. Schaub quickly figure out Andre Johnson was a pretty good guy to have on your team, and hooked up with him seven times for 142 yards and a score. Also, they held Larry Johnson to under 50 yards, but considering he only had 10 carries, don't look to far into that, and in addition, it's Damon Huard people. So the Texans' D really did not get tested last week. Don't get me wrong, I am big on Houston, but I like them to really close out the year on a big run once the team gets together. I like what I've seen so far, but I think Carolina makes it happen. So I'm taking the Panthers (W, -6.5), and now you can't say I've never shown them love.

Atlanta vs. Jacksonville: I love that, despite losing at home last week, the Jags are back to being double-digit favorites. That's how bad Atlanta is. I was hearing it all last week: Tavaris Jackson this, and Tavaris Jackson that, and he can't get it done, and they have no receivers. Well, look at you now. 24-3 Vikings. Are you convinced yet? Jacksonville contained Vince Young, but it was the rest of the offense that killed them, allowing 282 yards rushing...282! Even with a good running attack with Dunn and Norwood, expect the Jags to have a bit of a bounce back performance, as they won't have to worry about a quarterback that runs around a lot, and wins all the time. In the last three years, the Jags are 6-2 against the NFC. That's a lot of points, and yet I say there's no way Jacksonville doesn't bounce back from losing their first home game. I'm gambling (figuratively of course) on the Jags (W, -10).

Cincinnati vs. Cleveland: So...Brady Quinn now, or Brady Quinn later, how do you like your losing seasons done? The Browns weren't good last week, and they won't be any good this week. Cincy miraculously got through Baltimore...I still have no clue how they won that game. So, I guess I have to give you some stats. First, I'm loving how I can get less than a TD spread for Cincy in this game. That's good stuff. You know, if the Browns throw it back in my face, I'll be more than happy to except it and be put in my place. I'm not going to bet on a guy who should be playing basketball right now starting at quarterback. The last meeting between these two didn't exactly go to well for the Brownies...30-0 Cincy. Ouch. And that was at Cleveland! Wow. Well, the difference between then and now is fairly negligible. In the last three years, Cincy is 11-4 ATS on the road. Yikes. This is just piling it on now. I will say this: Cleveland is 7-2 ATS in the last three seasons after giving up 25+ points...just a little dab of optimism there. Give me my Bungles under a TD (W, -6.5), and we will have no problems.

Indianapolis vs. Tennessee: So I have to assume this spread has gone down two points this week due to two factors: a.) Vince Young, and b.) Last season. None of this really surprises me. The fact that Indy is barely over .500 ATS in the last three years when favored (16-14) also doesn't shock me. That tends to happen when everytime you play, you're favored by two touchdowns. So, both games last year were decided by three points or less, with both teams winning their home games. So obviously, there has to be some concern for the favorites. Why keep betting against Vince Young? He can have the worst team out there and they'll still cover (unless they're playing you know who...and we'll be cheating of course!). So, I'm not even going to break this game down, because it will have me betting against Vince Young...again. Nope, can't do it again. Indy wins it straight up (W), with the Titans covering (+8).

Seattle vs. Arizona: Very interesting. Arizona did hang tough against the upstart Niners, and playing in 'Zona this time of year is no picnic. The Seahawks looked dominant in their win against Tampa. I love how in ESPN's little projection analysis, they have Seattle winning by 16, and yet all of the offensive leaders are Cardinals. Exactly what sense does that make? Seattle is 5-11 ATS on the road the last three seasons. I love the new stadium the Cards have, and I love how the fans are finally getting a team that they can cheer about. I think this will almost be like last week, in how Chicago felt completely out of place playing in San Diego. Seattle will be like that I think, plus, they did lose last year when they played the Cards on the road as the favorite. Give me the Cards (W, +3.5).

Minnesota vs. Detroit: Arguably the most evenly matched game of the week. Give Detroit credit. They went on the road and put up 36 points on a tough Oakland D. Well, you want a tougher D, you got it! Minnesota's D looked, I don't know, amazing last week, but that should be a common trend against the Falcons this year. So I'm really indecisive about who to pick here. The great defense, or the offense that has so much promise (yeah, who has Kitna backing up Brady on all four fantasy teams?...oh yeah). So, let's play it by the numbers. In the last three years, Detroit is 0-7 coming off a win (let me just slow it down to recognize that Matt Millen is probably getting right around $4 million to be the GM, and whatever other title they're giving him...I think way back, I compared him to Martin Lawrence, in that they're both so bad, people feel compelled to pay them money to keep them working so they can die slow, painful professional deaths...I believe I will stand by my decision). Another thing: Minnesota has absolutely dominated this series. This is almost reminiscent of the strangle-hold the Pats had on the Jets (because we were cheating!). I'm looking at the head-to-heads from 2001 on, and the Vikings won them all...but all were by 10 or less. Hmmm...also, Josh McCown did throw for over 300 yards last week, and they allowed a 4.0 average on the ground (by the way, if you keep that number around 3.0, somewhere in that neighborhood, that's about average...sorry, didn't want to lose the two people I haven't lost yet). Kitna and his receivers will have their chances, but still, the 'Dre Bly trade is going to haunt them all year long, especially when Kevin Jones returns to full health (two to three weeks), and him and Tatum Bell will be in a runner-by-committee system (anyone notice how Denver groomed two running backs, traded them at the pinnacle of their careers, and got back two shut-down corners?...Shanahan...he's a schemer). Minnesota is also 9-3 ATS vs. the NFC North since '04. Give me some of that Adrian Peterson action! (arguably one of the quickest inevitable turnovers ever...I knew Peterson was better than Chester Taylor, but I was figuring around Week 8 or 9, Peterson would start getting the bulk of the carries...nope, that takeover took only about 10 minutes) Vikings (W, +3).

Dallas vs. Miami: So I'm sure there's a reason why Dallas is only favored by a field goal. My theory on this is that there is faith out there for Trent Green and the Dolphins. I don't blame them. Considering they went up to RFK last weekend and almost beat the 'Skins, putting the game into OT. Not going to lie, the numbers for the Cowboys do not look too good...but the Dolphins look worse. However, with all that being said, I'm going to hope the Dolphins can pull this one out. They have good numbers against the NFC in the last three seasons (5-3 ATS). Also, they are convincingly better as a home 'dog (3-1 ATS) than Big D is as road favorite (3-6 ATS). So, I hope the 'Fins can pull this one out for me. Dolphins (W, +4)

New York (Jets) vs. Baltimore: What the numbers cannot tell you is how well an unseasoned QB will fare against the Ravens D. To me, it seems like a lot of points the Jets are getting for this game, but you do have to consider that Kellen Clemens, who is the confirmed starter on Sunday, is being thrown into the lion's den right off the bat in his first NFL start. Also, after Joey Harrington, A.J. Feeley, and Akili Smith, I don't have too much faith in Oregon QBs. In games when Baltimore has been favored by ten or more, Baltimore is 2-0, and as a home favorite since '05, they are 9-3 ATS and 11-1 SU. While it is a lot of points, I'll take my chances with Baltimore (W, -10).

Kansas City vs. Chicago: Why do I feel like this is a trap game? Remember last year when the Dolphins and Bucs both beat the Bears at Soldier Field? Chicago is bad against the AFC (3-6 SU), but Kansas City is worse as a road 'dog (2-10 SU), and when it all comes down to it, it's still Damon Huard lining up behind center for the Chiefs. To say I have no faith in that guy is an understatement. Both teams will be looking to rebound from last week's double-digit losses. The Bears will win their home opener (W), but for some reason, I can't get it out of my head that the Chiefs will find a way to cover the spread (+13).

Oakland vs. Denver: Well, just when you think the Raiders' D is going to keep this team afloat, they get killed at home. Denver has won their last two meetings against Oakland at Mile High by double-digits. Straight up since '05, Oakland is 1-13 on the road as a 'dog. It also does not bode well for the Raiders that the Broncos will be looking to make a statement against a division opponent after barely sneaking by last week. I like Denver big time here (W, -9.5).

Washington vs. Philadelphia: Man I hate the NFC East. Not because of the teams, but just the fact that these teams are so up-and-down that I can never get a read on any of them. Anyway, here's my thinking: I just can't throw all of my backing into the Redskins right now. Yes, they had a nice victory last week. If they get a win at Philly, trust me, I'll change my tune real quick. Until that day comes, I like Philly taking it on both ends (W, -6.5).

Alright, fifteen more weeks of this...I like it. Hey, I'll write eight pages for you guys as long as I get the time and the juices are flowing like they are right now. Football season is in the air, and honestly, the crystal ball isn't nearly as hazy as it's always been. I think now, I'm really taking a step back, and trying to be as open-minded as possible...except the Pats, who will go 19-0 this year on this page. Have a great weekend everyone. Sox/Yankees, the last series between the two this year...or is it? We'll find out soon enough. Take care. Peace.