So this week was basically the exact same as last week's performance in the picks. Oh man. First, the Atlanta/Minnesota game had me nervous ever since I picked I typed the phrase "Minnesota (-3.5)." Of course, it didn't work out...Minnesota literally fumbled the game away. Here are some other things from this past weekend:
- Call me crazy, but isn't it kind of a faux pas to allow two 75+ yard rushing TDs in back-to-back plays from scrimmage? Apparently, Dallas didn't get that memo, and was the first in a fairly long line of teams to have gigantic letdowns when they absolutely needed a win. Fortunately for Dallas, most of said "letdowns" occurred with teams vying for the same wild card spot as the Cowboys are penciled in at. So somehow, Dallas continues to hold their own destiny in their hands, and a win at Philly next week gets them in. And here's yet another thing: If Dallas does in fact make it in, they're either playing Chicago/Minnesota or Arizona in the first round. How lucky can you get? Again, I missed the letdown factor for Dallas, and completely missed the bounce-back that Baltimore got. Old habits are hard to break, and I need to retrain myself all over again because I keep missing these obvious trends and it's affecting my record in a big way. In any event, good for the Ravens. They deserve to get in the playoffs. How scary is this team to play in the first round? They will get Miami/New England if they win in Jacksonville next week. It's a winnable game, but since when has the NFL been even close to predictable this year?
- New England picked the absolute best time to get Arizona it seems. I mean I thought 'Zona would be pumped to play a playoff-caliber team like the Pats as a way to prove some people wrong about them laying down after clinching the NFC West...guess I was wrong there. The Pats just poured it on, while the defense kept Kurt Warner to just 30 yards passing all game. True, Anquan Boldin did not play, but I'm pretty sure that was not the difference in this game. I respect Ken Whisenhunt a lot, but seriously, he has got to get to his team and make it clear that they cannot simply turn everything off before the playoffs, then expect to somehow put it back at the pace they were at when they were moving the ball on everyone. The offensive line simply didn't look interested in playing. I've watched the Pats play all year, and we haven't had pressure on the QB like we did in that game. It's not as though the Pats were doing anything different schematically, but the defensive front was getting a tremendous push up front, leading to three sacks on the day. What was interesting was that Arizona came out and attempted to establish a running game. I guess the strategy there was to attempt to prove to everyone that they could run the ball multiple plays in a row in order to make teams respect their ground game...that...that did not go over too well. 44 yards rushing for the game for the Cards. This team is wobbling down the stretch, and they are at a point where they have to play all their starters for the majority of the game against Seattle next week because they need some kind of momentum to build on for the opening round. The Pats looked amazing, obviously. I am absolutely loving the running game, which I have deemed "Smash, Smash, and Dash." Getting Morris and Jordan healthy again is critical for this team. Imagine if they had Maroney too? Cassel was throwing all over the 'Zona secondary, and it was nice to see Jabar Gaffney have a big game. He was critical two years ago, and had to take a back seat last year when the Pats added Donte Stallworth, but now, he needs to step it up to take some of the heat off of Moss and Welker. Speaking of Welker, which I do all the time (thanks for noticing), Wes is now leading the NFL in receptions with one game to go! After going 13 games with just one TD, Welker has a score in each of his last two games. Side note: How do you give a guy 15 yards for a snow angel? Really? You know what was interesting is that someone on ESPN brought up the whole argument of a "premeditated celebration," and how the "Lambeau Leap" apparently does not qualify as such...and that's pretty much the most premeditated celebration of all time. If you're on the Packers, and you score a touchdown...you're jumping. I don't know, I thought it was an interesting point. In any event, Cassel will need to step it up even more against Buffalo, because Buffalo would like nothing more than to stop New England in its tracks on their quest to make the postseason. After their win on the road against Denver, this team has found some confidence that they seemed to be building against the Jets until Dick Jauron decided to stop coaching. Also, keep in mind the licking the Pats gave the Bills last season at the Ralph. You can never underestimate the power of revenge in sports.
- I want to personally thank Herm Edwards for losing another close game and putting the Dolphins in the driver's seat for the AFC East crown. How can a team just totally vanish from one half to the next? They had everything you could have possibly wanted going for them in that game. First, the wind chill was 10 below zero. When you add that factor into the other overwhelming factor which was playing at Arrowhead in December, which the Chiefs have notoriously been great in, this should have been a slam dunk. KC scored three points in the second half and gained 18 yards in the entire fourth quarter. And it's not like this is the first time that the Chiefs have laid an egg in the second half this year. It's just so frustrating to me...especially because of what the implications would have been if the Chiefs had won. I know that New England had plenty of opportunities to not find themselves in this predicament of needing either Miami or Baltimore to lose next week, but still, here we are, and for the second week in a row, a team has given away a game to a team that is ahead of the Pats (Buffalo last week against the Jets). Just so frustrating. I have to give credit to Miami though...that's a tough team right there. When you have a guy like Chad Pennington who does not make the big mistakes, you are going to be in those close games to the end, and more than likely, come out on top. Despite a 1-8 record last year, Pennington owns a 42-34 career record and has completed 66% of his passes for his career. What kind of baffles me is why he is not being mentioned as an MVP candidate? It's not like his numbers are bad either. 3,500 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs, 67% completions...that is pretty good for an NFL QB. Also, I hate to get into this again, but you would be taking the "V" out of the award if you gave it to the guy with the best numbers and have that be the only criterion.
- Seattle did help the Pats immensely though in beating the Jets. Brett Favre is a shadow of his first half self. I was saying all along that he was the MVP because this offense couldn't function last year, but at the start of this season, they were throwing up a ton of points. In hindsight, you may want to give credit to a fairly easy schedule for that. Even still, what happened? Favre has thrown one TD in his last four games. They may have given it all away after the two-game stretch against the Pats and the Titans because they have looked beyond flat ever since. They definitely need to start running Thomas Jones and Leon Washington more. That's such a great duo and yet they are not getting the kind of reps that they deserve...especially Washington. Three rushes?...That's it? Washington is explosive out of the backfield, and he is also great at catching passes out of the backfield, and he didn't have a catch on Sunday. The loss at Seattle sets up a gigantic double-edged sword for the Jets next week. Here's what will happen: If the Jets win, then the hated New England Patriots, with a win against Buffalo (and again, I have to mention Buffalo because all of these scenarios are moot if the Pats don't beat the Bills, which apparently everyone in the general public has forgot about...remember the New England mantra..."one game at a time"), will win the AFC East. If they lose, then they let Chad Pennington, a guy who was run out of town in favor of Brett Favre, will lead Miami from being a one-win team to 11-5 and a first round home game (which hopefully, in that scenario, will be against the Pats...I'm hopeful).
- Why am I feeling like if the Steelers/Titans and Panthers/Giants game were played again, that the loser from this week will win? Call me crazy, but after watching those two games, I absolutely can see both Pittsburgh and Carolina going on the road and winning in their respective championship games. Pittsburgh really could not have played worse, and they were in that game for three quarters. One of the better observations I had picking games last week was the fact that Pittsburgh just kept playing tough games, and eventually, even the great teams become susceptible after a while (see last year's Patriots). Tennessee caught the Steelers at the right time, but I have no faith in them getting to the Super Bowl despite the fact that they're playing at home throughout AFC playoffs. Another thing: I am not a Steeler fan in any way, but LenDale White and Keith Bulluck...you can't do that to the towel...you just can't. If Tennessee plays the Steelers again, I put the Steelers as three point favorites strictly due to the bad karma that those two just brought to the Titans. I'm telling you right now, the Titans are not beating Pittsburgh again. Another thing that I have to say is that I didn't think having home-field for Pittsburgh was crucial at all...in fact, I thought it would be a detriment to that team if they played at home. Despite losing on the road this week, the Steelers are way better off playing away from Heinz Field and the slop of that field. You have the fastest defense in the league, but on that surface, they are slowed down, and if they go up against Peyton or yes, even Matt Cassel, they could be in trouble. This is why I hated when the Pats took out the grass at Gillette and put in the field turf. When did the Pats ever have an explosive pass rush? They are much better off playing on a field where everyone is slipping and sliding around. The Steelers, on the other hand, are much better off playing on a fast track. Again, if Pittsburgh wins their game, and the Titans get by in theirs, I don't see Pittsburgh losing that one.
- In the NFC, the Giants made a valiant comeback to win last night (of course going for the TD in overtime instead of just kicking a field goal, thus winning by seven...hey, guess who didn't cover?). Not enough can be said about having Brandon Jacobs in the lineup. I will go ahead and completely overlook Derrick Ward going for 200+ yards last year because I still doubt that would have happened without Jacobs starting the game. You need him to soften the defense up, and then the others just explode on a worn out defense. I mean it takes a huge effort by anyone, no matter how big they are, to bring Jacobs down, and after that, they're so winded that Ward and Bradshaw just blow right by them. However, if you're the Panthers, you really have to look at the positives from last night more so than the down-points, which was obviously giving up the TD and two-point conversion in regulation, then let the Giants run all over them in the extra frame. Okay...positives: Carolina was scoring right with the Giants all the way to the end. They were a John Kasay field goal away from actually winning that game. If the NFC Championship is played in Jersey, unless it's snowing or raining, the conditions couldn't be worse than they were on Sunday. It was ten degrees, windy, playing on a wet turf. Also, the offense was able to move on the Giants' D, which is a feat in itself. Williams had 108 yards and 4 TDs, Delhomme was 11/19 for 185 yards. This showed me that Carolina can get points on anyone. Sure, they have been doing fantastic this year, but the defenses they've gone up against...not so hot. Outside of Minnesota in Week 3 (a game they lost by the way), they really haven't played a defense like the one the Giants bring to the table, and to get 28 points on them makes me pretty confident that they will be able to get similar production if they should play again. However, it is going to be so, so tough to beat a Brandon Jacobs-led Giants team (Jacobs definitely leads that offense; notice Eli Manning all of a sudden sucking without Jacobs, and then, suddenly returning to form with him back...just a side note: I love this whole Peyton vs. Eli debate and how a ton of people are taking Eli's side on that...really? I know Peyton has had more to work with than Eli, but despite Marvin Harrison being a shadow of his former self due to injuries, and the Colts having no running game to speak of (31st in the league), Manning has thrown for almost 4,000 yards and 26 TDs, and Indy is in the playoffs...again. If Eli lost his running game like Peyton did, he would be sca-rewd.)
- Philly, Minnesota, and Tampa completely blew opportunities to position themselves for the playoffs. Minnesota, despite playing a real good team in Atlanta (congrats to them by the way, that rivals Miami for biggest turnaround of the year), blew so many opportunities that they found themselves down two touchdowns late in the game. Tarvaris Jackson had a monster game too (233 yards, 2 TDs, 76 rushing yards), and again is at least attempting to prove me and everyone else wrong when we scoffed at him having any chance to keep this offense going. Here's something to note: Any time Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson have the same amount of yards on the ground, that should be an immediate red flag. Again, my thoughts about Minnesota being able to survive without Pat Williams were right. Atlanta was held to just 222 yards, but the turnovers were critical, and the Falcons got ten points off of them. Tampa had an even better shot at getting into the #6 spot, considering the NFC South's home dominance, but I did not count on something. About three weeks ago, it became apparent that Denver wanted absolutely nothing to do with the playoffs, and San Diego, despite getting off to an awful start, was determined not to let their AFC West crown be taken away. So, San Diego's been hot, and Denver has been terrible, which has lead to a showdown next week in San Diego for the division championship. Not to get off of Tampa, but this San Diego/Denver matchup could be an incredibly lopsided affair considering a win will get either in the postseason. I've been looking around, and all that I'm hearing is that not only will San Diego win, but they'll win by at least two scores. I haven't looked at this game yet, but as of right now, there's very little to go against that thinking. Back to Tampa. The defense is finally showing some wear after the last two games where they've been demolished. This is a fascinating time for Tampa, who have made a name for themselves by playing suffocating defense with Monte Kiffin's "Tampa 2." Now, Kiffin might be going to the Vols, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber are decent, but not like they once were...where do they go from here? I like Jeff Garcia a lot because if you put him in the right situation (SF, Philly, and Tampa), he excels. Considering the Bucs lost Earnest Graham for the year, the offense has actually played well. Going into next year, Tampa will definitely have to upgrade the D, especially the D-Line. Lastly, Philly was up against a Washington team that was on the ropes, and managed just three points. The offense was stagnant all game...eight punts. My reasoning goes back to the Pro Bowl snub of London Fletcher. He is obviously not only the captain of the D, but the focal point as well, and I'm feeling like when he got snubbed, the entire defense got snubbed. That was my one fear when I picked Philly, and it happened. Am I the only one who thinks that maybe the 'Skins should go after a running back in the first round? Javon Walker? Knowshon Moreno or LeSean McCoy (if they declare)? Something tells me that if they get a guy to come in and take some carries so they can preserve Clinton Portis' health. That has been basically the reason for Washington's downslide in the second half of the season. They have Portis out there when he's not 100%, and Ladell Betts was unable to make it happen, which was kind of surprising considering he went for 1150 yards in nine starts just two years ago. I don't know. I guess I'm just thinking aloud, but it seems like the two-back system is just the way to go these days.
- Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
- Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
- DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina
- Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona
- Chad Pennington, QB, Miami
Here are my theories about what's going on with Marl Teixeira:
- Washington has the biggest offer on the table, and they know it. The problem with Washington, at least in Teixeira's eyes, is that they are not ready to contend...yet. I mean this may change in the bat of an eye. Look at what Tampa did this year. Not to say the Nats will go all Devil Rays on us this year, but it could conceivably happen. However, as of right now, the Nats are a last place team, and now Teixeira will be torn between money or winning.
- He wants to go to Boston, but he's feeling heat from both Boras and the player's union in terms of his ability to get as much money as humanly possible. The thing about doing this is that it doesn't sit well with many people. Teammates, the media, most importantly, me. I don't really know much about the guy off the field. All I really know is what he's done on the field, which has been great, and what is going on this off-season, which is not so great. I'm sure Teixeira is a nice guy, but the perception everyone has of him now is one of greed. Am I wrong? Tell me if you think I'm wrong.
- Again, this is my opinion on this (and the Sports Guy's), but the reason a deal was not initially done when the Sox were the highest bidder (this was when the offer was eight years, $160-170 million, whereas now, it is eight years, $175-180 million from Washington) was because Boras was pushing for Varitek to be part of the package. Boras knows full well that no one is going to give 'Tek anywhere near the money he is looking for, so Boras is reverting back to the Dice-K/J.D. Drew strategy of trying to make the Tex/'Tek signings a combo deal. He agreed to go lower on Dice's contract if the Sox would grossly overpay for Drew. Varitek is similar to Drew in that the Sox are the only team that was in both their markets. The only problem is that once again, the Sox are learning from their mistakes, and I don't think they will do it again, which is why John Henry came out and said they are not a factor. The Sox want Teixeira, but they're not about to overpay for Varitek to get him.
- The Sox also can't pull the trigger on this deal because, in order to get Teixeira, they are going to have to move Mike Lowell, who now has basically no trade value. Again, unless this is some kind of career-threatening injury, which from what I've read, it isn't, then I can't see why the Sox can't just get something temporary. I've mentioned Adam Dunn, but the more I think about it, the Sox will be looking for even less of a commitment if they don't get Teixeira. Okay, so what are our other options? Well, Kevin Millar? I'm not even joking. If the Sox thought that Lowell would need to sit out for a couple months, why not? He's already proven he can do it at Fenway, he's still got some pop (20 homers last year), he's good in the clubhouse, he obviously loved playing here (he threw out the first pitch at Fenway when he was playing with the O's for God sakes), why not? If it's only going to be temporary, what's the harm in that. Also, maybe Joe Crede? The only thing about Crede is that I think he will be looking for a longer deal than just one year, so it will be tough to sell him on not only one year, but most likely platooning with Lowell as well.
- Another big hang-up is Lars Anderson, the Sox' #1 prospect at the moment, who, surprise, happens to play first as well. You have to think that the Sox have had meetings to discuss Anderson's role in the future of this team. With two years left on Lowell's deal, it will be the perfect amount of time to allow Anderson to develop, then take over at first, and move Youk back to third. One thing you have to give the Sox credit for is that they've made a commitment to their farm system, which will start to bring the payroll back down, which will bring down ticket prices (I am a dreamer).
An interesting development has happened in regards to the "Summer of 2010," which refers to perhaps the greatest free agent class in NBA history, and not a post-apocalyptic thriller, as LeBron James is now considering signing an extension to stay on with the Cavs after his contract runs out in '09. The Cavs are rolling right now with a 22-4 record. I have to give a ton of credit to Mo Williams, perhaps one of the most underrated free agent signings in the last decade. With a true point guard on board, it is making James' decision a little more complex. Also, he literally owns Cleveland, and while he may have the same effect with a team like the Knicks and New York City, he already has it in Cleveland. Another thing I don't understand is how people think LeBron stands so much to gain by going to a big market team. Why? He's already in Tiger Woods' territory in terms of endorsements. Cleveland will likely be willing to commit 30-35% of their cap to him, he's from Ohio, he can already do whatever he wants...why is it so necessary to move on? Hey, he might end up leaving, but right now, the best situation for him is staying in Cleveland.
Well, I'm going to be bringing in the holidays this week. However, do not despair. I am working on Part II of the Bowl Preview (man I hope it came out as good as the first one...I was totally freaking out when I first saw it..."Mom, come check this out...this is so bad ass!"), and watching some games from the past week to maybe figure out what the hell is going to happen in the last week of the season. Sunday is shaping up to be amazing. I personally would like to thank the NFL for flexing both the Baltimore and Jets game to 4:00. That should be fun (but, again, we have got to beat Buffalo for any of this to matter). Here's what to watch for this week:
- Bruins vs. Devils; 7:00, VS.
- Sixers vs. Celtics; 7:30, CSN New England
- Poinsettia Bowl: (9) Boise State vs. (11) TCU; 8:00, ESPN
- Lakers vs. Hornets; 8:00, NBA TV
- (8) Texas vs. Wisconsin; 9:30, ESPN2
- Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Notre Dame; 8:00, ESPN
- Hornets vs. Magic; 12:00, ESPN
- Spurs vs. Suns; 2:30, ABC
- Celtics vs. Lakers; 5:00, ABC
- Wizards vs. Cavaliers; 8:00, TNT
- Mavericks vs. Trailblazers; 10:30, TNT
- Motor City Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan; 7:30, ESPN
- Celtics vs. Warriors; 10:30, CSN New England/NBA TV
- Meineke Car Care Bowl: West Virginia vs. North Carolina; 1:00, ESPN
- Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Florida State; 4:30, ESPN
- Bruins vs. Hurricanes; 7:00, NESN
- Emerald Bowl: Miami vs. California; 8:00, ESPN
- Jazz vs. Rockets; 8:30, NBA TV
- Patriots vs. Bills; 1:00, CBS
- Giants vs. Vikings; 1:00, FOX
- Lions vs. Packers; 1:00, FOX
- Bears vs. Texans; 1:00, FOX
- Jaguars vs. Ravens; 4:15, CBS
- Dolphins vs. Jets; 4:15, CBS
- Cowboys vs. Eagles; 4:15, FOX
- Bruins vs. Thrashers; 5:00, NESN
- Broncos vs. Chargers; 8:15, NBC
- Independence Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech; 8:15, ESPN
- Celtics vs. Kings; 9:00, CSN New England
- Papajohns.com Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Rutgers; 3:00, ESPN
- (9) Georgetown vs. (2) UConn; 7:00, ESPN
- Alamo Bowl: (21) Missouri vs. (23) Northwestern; 8:00, ESPN
- Cincinnati vs. (24) Memphis; 9:00, ESPN2
- Humanitarian Bowl: Maryland vs. Nevada; 4:30, ESPN
- (20) Clemson vs. South Carolina; 7:00, ESPN360.com
- Illinois vs. (15) Purdue; 7:00, ESPN2
- Bruins vs. Penguins; 7:30, NESN
- Texas Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Rice; 8:00, NFL Network
- Holiday Bowl: (13) Oklahoma State vs. (17) Oregon; 8:00, ESPN
- Celtics vs. Trailblazers; 10:00, CSN New England