Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Midseason Awards

Here are my midseason picks for end of year award winners. 

MVP – Peyton Manning
Big brother wins again.  Peyton had that bad first half against the Falcons, but other than that, the guy has been money.  He trumps the rest of his peers in just about every statistical category AND is coming off major injury/surgery.  Color me impressed.  No, he doesn’t have the best stats at his position.  No, his team doesn’t have the best record in the sport.  Yes, he’s still prone to the “what the hell was that” mistakes, but no one is more clutch than Eli with the game on the line.  As far as I’m concerned little bro is firmly entrenched in the class of elite QBs (Rodgers, Peyton, Brady, Brees, Eli, Big Ben).  Aaron Rodgers deserves consideration as well, but I’ve got to go with Peyton based on what I’ve seen from the two teams so far this season.

Offensive POY – Victor Cruz
For me this one came down to three players – Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Victor Cruz.  Ryan is the leader of the undefeated Falcons and has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 17 TDs so far.  I don’t have him as an elite passer yet, but he’s doing everything you can ask of a QB.  I’m having trouble getting that awful performance against the Raiders out of my head though.  If we can take the spotlight off the QB position for a moment, how can you ignore what Victor Cruz has done this year?  After his breakout campaign, you know this guy has a large target on his back.  All he’s done is set a pace to destroy last year’s reception and TD numbers.  He’s the #1 offensive weapon on arguably the league’s best team. 

Defensive POY – JJ Watt
There’s no debating this one.  If Watt isn’t sacking the QB (7.5) he’s batting down his passes (10) at the line of scrimmage.  I named Watt as my breakout player of the year for the Texans and the AFC North this preseason, and he’s far exceeded expectations.  He’s been the best player on the conference’s best team at the midway point and shows no sign of slowing down.

Offensive ROY – Robert Griffin III
I have this one as a closer contest than I’m sure most do.  It’s hard to ignore the athleticism and big play ability that is RGIII, but you’ve got to be impressed with what Andrew Luck is doing with a team that won two games last year.  Things may change before the end of week 17, but you’ve got to give it to RGIII at this point. 

Defensive ROY – Chandler Jones
This one was the hardest to pick.  I have three solid candidates, and I think one of these guys is going to end up the winner at season’s end.  Harrison Smith is a big reason why the Vikings are enjoying success this season.  He’s been quite the force in a secondary considered a huge question mark at the start of the season.  Bruce Irvin has earned his debated draft position this season, notching 4.5 sacks on one of the league’s best defenses.  The guy leading the way so far though is Chandler Jones, the Patriots defensive lineman who leads all rookies in sacks with 6.  He and Dont’a Hightower are proving to be quite the combination up front for the Patriots.  Watch out for Casey Hayward to have a big second half for the Packers. 

Comeback POY – Peyton Manning
I hate doubling up on players when it comes to awards, but there’s no question that Peyton is the league’s comeback player so far.  Jamaal Charles was my preseason prediction, but he’s far off Peyton’s pace. 

Coach of the Year – Joe Philbin
Mike Smith and Gary Kubiak might be popular votes based on their teams’ records, but I think Joe Philbin has done the best job so far given preseason expectations.  The Dolphins entered the new year with David Garrard as their starting QB, Chad Johnson as their #1 receiver, and Vontae Davis as their top cover man, and now all three are former Phins.  Miami is 4-3 with two of those losses coming in back-to-back OT defeats, and they’re fresh off a thrashing of the Jets on the road.  Yo Joe!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 8

Week 7 Results (8-4) – Overall (62-35)

Fared pretty well last week in what I thought was a card littered with tough matchups.  It wasn’t a highlight week for one of my projected Top Performers as MJD went down with a foot injury that will sideline him for a while.  On a positive note RGIII shined in a loss to the Giants, and Jared Allen sacked John Skelton twice.  On to the next one…

Panthers @ Bears
Things aren’t looking good for the Panthers.  Cam’s a head case, and they have no offensive identity.  They’re reportedly going back to featuring the power running game with James Stewart, but I’m not sure this is the best week to rely on that.  

Chargers @ Browns
The Chargers have a couple of things going against them this week.  First, they’re heading east, which is often difficult, but they also have had two weeks to think about that MNF collapse against the Broncos.  This looks like Cleveland’s best chance at a win for a while, and I think their defense comes up big in the victory. 

Seahawks @ Lions
I’ve got to go with the more disciplined football team in this one.  Detroit has problems in multiple areas, and Seattle isn’t a defense you try to get back on track against.  Look for Matt Stafford to struggle in this one and Marshawn Lynch to control things for Seattle.

Jaguars @ Packers
Charles Woodson has been lost for at least a month with a broken collarbone, and Greg Jennings is still sidelined with a groin injury.  I don’t think the Jags could beat them even with a full roster, and not having MJD makes the upset all the more unlikely. 

Colts @ Titans
The key to this game will be how well the Colts can corral Chris Johnson.  I don’t think they prove to be successful in that area.  The Titans have scored 44, 26, and 35 in their three wins, and I’ll say they tally 31 against the Colts. 

Patriots @ Rams
Aaron Hernandez didn’t make the trip to London for this one, which shorts the somewhat shaky Patriots offensively.  Yes they’re winning, but something is missing.  I think the Patriots win, but watch out for Chris Givens.  The Patriots are susceptible to the deep ball, and that’s Givens’ specialty.

Dolphins @ Jets
Yeah I’m taking the road team in this one.  This is a matchup of two crap teams, but I expect Reggie Bush set the tone for the Dolphins.  Mark Sanchez will be forced to throw, and I don’t think he’ll have enough bullets in his gun. 

Falcons @ Eagles
The Falcons, a traditionally (recently) strong home team has won three games on their turf by a combined 11 points.  Their three road wins were by a total of 47 points.  I still think the Eagles are a fraud, and I expect the Falcons to leave town with their spotless record intact. 

Redskins @ Steelers
Each of Washington’s four road games has been close, entertaining contests.  I don’t expect that to be any different this week as they head to Pittsburgh.  The Steelers are 31st in the league in 3rd down defense, and that’s a recipe for disaster against the electric RGIII.  Pittsburgh drops below .500. 

Raiders @ Chiefs
Something’s got to give in this one.  The Raiders are 0-3 on the road, and the Chiefs are 0-3 at home.  Brady Quinn isn’t much of an upgrade over Matt Cassel, if at all, but Jamaal Charles will be the key in this one.  Kansas City will stifle Darren McFadden and do just enough offensively to get their first home win of the year.

Giants @ Cowboys
Eli Manning has a tough matchup against an improved Dallas defense, but they took a pretty big hit when LB Sean Lee was placed on IR this week.  Look for the Giants to pick on his replacement, Dan Connor in the intermediate area with TE Martellus Bennett and RB Ahmad Bradshaw. 

Saints @ Broncos
There should be no shortage of points in this one with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning slinging the ball around the field all night.  Brees was on fire last week at Tampa, and while I expect him to do his part, Manning will get to attack one of the league’s worst defenses.  The Broncos win an entertaining game at home and score 40 for the first time this season. 

49ers @ Cardinals
I think the 49ers keep this one simple.  They’ll force John Skelton to beat them with his arm, and when that doesn’t work out too well for the Cardinals, expect to see a lot of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.  This probably won’t be the most entertaining MNF game of the season as the Niners look to reassert their position as the class of the division. 

Biggest winners (highest margin to lowest) –
1) Packers
2) 49ers
3) Giants
4) Broncos
5) Titans

Closest calls (lowest margin to highest) –
1) Falcons
2) Dolphins
3) Chiefs
4) Redskins
5) Seahawks

Top Performers –
QB – Peyton Manning v. Saints
RB – Jamaal Charles v. Raiders
WR – Roddy White @ Eagles
Defense – Chandler Jones v. Rams

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 7

Week 6 Results (8-5) – Overall (54-31)

Got out to a nice start with the early games (6-1) but went 2-4 the rest of the way.  My Top Performers were duds.  Matt Ryan three 3 INTs, Ray Rice scored twice but tallied only 63 rushing yards, and Demaryius Thomas scored but caught only 2 passes.  Mario Williams was the only bright spot with 2 sacks.  On to the next one…

My favorite matchups of the week –
Redskins @ Giants – Washington win puts the Skins in first place
Ravens @ Texans – the only two AFC teams over .500 hook up
Jets @ Patriots – pissed off Patriots against nothing to lose Jets
Steelers @ Bengals – to stay in shouting distance of the Ravens
Lions @ Bears – Stafford and Johnson against the tough Bears defense

Titans @ Bills
I’m going with the better run game in this one.  Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller push the Bills back over .500.

Browns at Colts
Can Andrew Luck do enough damage against this defense to mitigate what Trent Richardson does against Indy’s weak run defense?  Reggie Wayne v. Joe Haden will be the key matchup in this one.  The Colts win by 1. 

Packers @ Rams
This game would be my sneaky upset pick of the week if I didn’t think the Packers figured it out a bit last week.  I see no letdown here.  It’s close, but Green Bay wins. 

Cardinals @ Vikings
The key to this one will be how often the Vikings pass rush gets to John Skelton.  I think they’ll limit the big plays and lean on Adrian Peterson against a subpar rush defense. 

Redskins @ Giants
The Giants play when they want to, and they better want to this Sunday.  This smells of a letdown after that huge win in San Francisco, but I think the Giants will pull this one out late after trailing at the half. 

Saints @ Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has beaten New Orleans at least once every year since ’07.  They keep that streak rolling here.  The Saints continue to slide. 

Cowboys @ Panthers
If I’m Jerry Jones I make Jason Garrett wear a Flavor Flav clock in this one.  They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but I think the Cowboys are better than the Panthers on both sides of the ball. 

Ravens @ Texans
Baltimore lost their defensive leader (Ray Lewis) and best cover man (Lardarius Webb) for the year last week.  Getting Terrell Suggs back will help, but this unit was leaky prior to those losses.  I look for Houston to bounce back and win a slugfest at home to establish themselves as the top team in the conference.

Jaguars @ Raiders
I’m going with a hunch and predicting a big road win for the Jaguars.  That’s hard to do with an inept QB, but I expect MJD to take care of business against the Raiders.

Jets @ Patriots
Don’t hit the panic button just yet.  Yes, the Patriots are 3-3, but their total margin of loss in those game is 4 points.  Look for them to get the lead early in this one putting a zero dimensional offense in an inescapable hole. 

Steelers @ Bengals
Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back losses against inferior teams, but I think they’ll get the job done at home on SNF.  Look for a lot of points in this one as the Bengals stay ahead of the Steelers.   

Lions @ Bears
Chicago keeps rolling in this one.  They get in Matt Stafford’s head early and keep Calvin Johnson fairly in check (only one TD).  Matt Forte controls the game on the ground as the first place Bears get the MNF win to move to 5-1. 

Biggest winners (highest margin to lowest) –
1) Patriots
2) Buccaneers
3) Bears
4) Cowboys
5) Jaguars

Closest calls (lowest margin to highest) –
1) Colts
2) Bills
3) Giants
4) Bengals
5) Vikings

Top Performers –
QB – Robert Griffin III @ Giants
RB – Maurice Jones Drew @ Raiders
WR – Reggie Wayne v. Browns
Defense – Jared Allen v. Cardinals

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 6

Week 5 Results (11-2) – Overall (46-26)

Now that’s a good week!  Those five matchups I liked all turned out to be entertaining affairs too.  In top performers I was spot on with Drew Brees (29/45-370-4-1), but Adrian Peterson was contained (17-88-0).  I think I get a passing grade for Julio Jones too (10-94-1), but Navorro Bowman (4 tackles) was an F.  On to the next one…

My favorite matchups of the week:

Cowboys @ Ravens – Can Baltimore avoid the slip up and keep up with Houston?
Patriots @ Seahawks – Do the birds finally go down at home?
Giants @ 49ers – Do the Giants get revenge, or does history repeat itself?
Packers @ Texans – Are the Packers really headed for their fourth loss in six games?
Broncos @ Chargers – Are the Broncos losing to good teams, or are they just not that good?

Raiders @ Falcons
I can’t find an angle where Oakland pulls off the upset.  Their ground game would be the one hope, but Darren McFadden has broken 35 rushing yards just once this year.  Falcons roll.

Bengals @ Browns
I like Cleveland to win a game where both teams score in the 20s.  Joe Haden coming back to match up with AJ Green is the difference in this one. 

Rams @ Dolphins
These are two pretty even teams in my opinion, and I look for this to be a well played, low scoring contest with both defenses bettering the opposing offense.  I’ve got this coming down to a FG, and the Rams rookie kicker, is a perfect 13 for 13 on the year.  I’ll take the Rams to pull off the road upset. 

Colts @ Jets
The Jets blow, but I think the Colts are going to get the best of whatever NY has left this week as their upcoming schedule looks brutal.  I’m not sure how they’ll score, but I’ll take the bums to win. 

Lions @ Eagles
Detroit is 1-3 and coming off a bye and has to be feeling a sense of urgency with the way Chicago and Minnesota have started the season.  Even at home, I don’t think this Philly squad is one that scares a lot of teams.  Detroit gets the upset and win #2. 

Chiefs @ Buccaneers
Kansas City is going on the road without their starting QB.  Yes, Matt Cassel is horrible, but if he’s their starter, how bad is Brady Quinn?  The Bucs put 15 in the box to stop Jamaal Charles and get enough Connor Barth FGs to win for the first time since week one.

Cowboys @ Ravens
I could see this as a spot where Baltimore loses with Houston looming on deck, but I think they do enough to sweat out a victory.  Ray Rice scores twice. 

Bills @ Cardinals
Buffalo has been outscored 97-31 in their last two, yes two, games, so of course they’re the pick here.  I think this will be the ugliest game of the week. 

Patriots @ Seahawks
Seattle doesn’t lose at home right?  They beat Dallas, who I believe they’re better than, and were given the Packer win.  They’re not as fortunate this Sunday.  I think the Patriots will be as focused as possible in this one with a long stretch of likely wins following their trip west.   

Giants @ 49ers
Think San Fran has revenge on their minds?  Eli and company give the Niners a stiff test at home, but the Niners stake their claim as the conference’s top team.

Vikings @ Redskins
This should be a pretty even matchup.  The Vikings look fairly for real, and the Redskins have been able to get some things done themselves this year.  RGIII looks like he’ll suit up, but I’ll take the team that’s playing really fundamentally sound football.  Minnesota moves to 5-1.

Packers @ Texans
With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are always in the game, but I think the Texans are going to grind it out throughout on the ground against an inferior defense. 

Broncos @ Chargers
The Broncos have played a much tougher schedule than the Chargers so far and show themselves to be the better team on MNF. 

Biggest winners (highest margin to lowest) –
1) Falcons
2) Broncos
3) 49ers
4) Lions
5) Browns

Closest calls (lowest margin to highest) –
1) Rams
2) Jets
3) Bills
4) Bucs
5) 49ers

Top Performers –
QB – Matt Ryan v. Raiders
RB – Ray Rice v. Cowboys
WR – Demaryius Thomas @ Chargers
Defense – Mario Williams @ Cardinals

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Talbuc's Take - Week 5


Anyone else sense that?  It’s the Patriots about to go on a big run.  In doing whatever they wanted to on offense against the Denver Broncos, the Patriots moved back above .500, and I’d be willing to wager they don’t slip below it again.  Tom Brady and the passing game has been this team’s story for years, but look out NFL because these guys can now run the ball whenever they want to as well.  Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are a solid 1-2 combo and keep the offense flowing really well when they’re in the mix.  Suddenly Wes Welker isn’t worth benching anymore either.  Go figure.  Loved hearing him take a jab at Belichick in a postgame interview.  And don’t look now, but they’re probably getting Aaron Hernandez back too.  I think these guys just won the first game of a what will be a long winning streak.

Houston continues to roll, although that MNF game against the semi-pro team from New York was too close for comfort.  They were expected to roll the Jets, but played that one defensively, knowing that if they get out to a bit of a lead they can manage the game the rest of the way since the Jets are probably the least dangerous come from behind team in the league this year.  They did have a huge loss in the game though.  Brian Cushing took a hit to the knee and is out for the year with a torn ACL.  This has been a dominant defense thus far, but no team loses a guy like Cushing and just continues rolling like nothing has happened.  They have two huge tests in Green Bay and Baltimore before their week 8 bye.  As great at that 5-0 start is, how they play these next two weeks should tell you more about this team than the perfect start. 

The Jaguars are doing an awesome job at confirming my belief that they’re the worst team in the league.  They’re better than no one at passing the football, and that says a lot when Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez are starting for two of the other 31 teams.  They can’t stop anyone either, be it on the ground or through the air.  After the seemingly fluke win at Indy, they’ve been outscored 68-13 in their last two games, both at home.  Being on a bye this week, they shouldn’t lose again, but never underestimate the powers of the pathetic. 

The Bengals aren’t ready for prime time.  When you’re 3-1 in a year when the AFC North looks more “winnable” for you than it has in any other year, you don’t lose at home to the Miami Dolphins.  Now they head to Cleveland to face the Browns for the second time this year already, and the Browns are getting back Joe Haden.  There’s a big difference between 4-2 and 3-3. 

Are you paying attention Bengals, because the Ravens showed you how to win the ugly ones?  Even when they couldn’t find the endzone one single time, Baltimore found a way to win on the road at KC.  They’re sitting at 4-1 and are the clear #1 team in the division in my opinion.  Avoiding a slip up at home this week against the Cowboys will be huge with the Texans on deck before a week 8 bye.  These next two games are extremely important for the Ravens from a postseason positioning perspective.

Kansas City is the team who would benefit most from an upgrade at QB.  A team with Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe on offense shouldn’t be 24th in the league in points scored. 

The Steelers got the win in that game against the Eagles to even their record at 2-2, but are they really any good?  They’ve beaten the Jets and Eagles at home and lost on the road at Denver and Oakland.  This week’s game at Tennessee might be the best indicator of this team’s worth.  They got Rashard Mendenhall back, but that offensive line is still struggling to create holes in the run game.  On defense, Troy Polamalu came back for last week’s game, but he’s already been ruled out against the Titans.  This has the looks of an 8-8 club sure to have its ups and downs the rest of the way.

I still don’t think the Chargers are any good, and losing to the, at the time, winless Saints isn’t changing my opinion.  Where the hell is Antonio Gates?  The guy has been on the field for every game but one and is tied for third on the team in receptions with Ryan Mathews, the RB who missed the first two games of the season. 

Stay hot Jets.  Far be it for me to defend these guys, but they have played possibly the league’s two best defenses over the last two weeks.  Still, they simply don’t have enough talent to be competitive on a weekly basis.  ‘Defense wins championships’ is a popular saying, but as I like to say, you can’t win if you don’t score.  My feelings on Mark Sanchez are well documented, but the guy has absolutely nothing to work with.  Shonn Green is a terrible NFL running back, and Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, Chaz Schilens, Clyde Gates, and Jason Hill might be the most pathetic set of pass catchers this league has seen in years.  Even Baby Jesus can’t save this team.  I think they’re easily the worst 2-3 team in football, and yes, that includes the Bills and Dolphins.  Both of those teams have at least a little promise. 


Congrats Drew Brees on breaking Johnny U’s TD record and leading the Saints to their first win of the season.  As great as that had to feel, the Saints are still just 1-4 on the year and are getting their bye week at, likely, an undesirable time.  I’m sure they want to get back out there this week after getting that first win, but they’ll have to wait a week before traveling to Tampa in search of win #2.  With the way they’re playing what they’re calling defense, that second win might prove to be as elusive as the first. 

In case anyone still doubted them, the Falcons are for real.  Going on the road to face the Redskins after a dramatic comeback win against the Panthers could have been the spot for Atlanta to lose their first game, but they rallied for three fourth quarter scores to get their fifth win in five tries.  If they can avoid a letdown at home against the Raiders, they’ll cruise into their bye at a rock solid 6-0.  If I have a concern about this team it’s their run defense, but their dynamic offense’s ability to put teams in a hole quickly, that weakness gets concealed quite a bit.  Fortunately for the Falcons, there’s not a team on their schedule that presents much of a threat in this area until the Panthers and Giants in December.

Time to hit the panic button.  Green Bay is in trouble.  This obviously isn’t the same team that went 15-1 last season.  After the FSU-like collapse at Indy, the Packers are sitting at 2-3 on the year with a trip to undefeated Houston on the agenda this week.  They’re completely out of rhythm on offense, and it’s not because Greg Jennings is out of the lineup.  The offensive line’s play has been putrid and will get ransacked by the Texans this Sunday night unless they make some major changes in play. 

Minnesota just keeps taking care of business.  They run the football on offense, stop the run defensively, and have a QB who doesn’t turn the ball over.  They’re tied with the Bears for the lead in the North, and while I’m not ready to print playoff tickets in Minnesota, they’re entering a stretch of winnable games.  If they lose the road games at Washington and Seattle but take care of things at home against Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Detroit, they’ll be a happy 7-3 heading into their week 11 bye.  Percy Harvin is quietly putting together an MVP resume this year.  He’s a threat to score literally every time he has the ball in his hands.  Stay tuned.

RGIII has gotten the hype this year, but Andrew Luck is the guy I’d take if choosing between the two.  I love the control he shows over the offense in his rookie year, and he’s doing it with a very veteran Reggie Wayne as his only established receiving threat.  Luck and the Colts travel to the Jets this week in what should be another good test for the rookie.  The Jets are starting to panic at 2-3 and are going to pull out all the stops to keep from falling to 2-4 at the hands of a rookie QB. 

Can we quit paying attention to the Cardinals yet?  Sure they’re 4-1 and tied for first in the NFC West with the 49ers, but if any team’s fast start can be called fraudulent, it’s Arizona’s.  Kevin Kolb got thrown around by the Rams, and with the way that offensive line is playing, neither Kolb nor John Skelton is going to be spending a lot of time on his feet.  They’re horrible at pass protecting and opening running lanes, and losing the talented Ryan Williams for the year with a shoulder injury isn’t going to help things.  Don’t be surprised if Buffalo gives them their second straight loss.  It gets ugly after that with games against the Vikings, Niners, Packers, and Falcons.  Sell sell sell!!!

The Giants avoided the letdown at home against the Browns, but it wasn’t promising after falling behind 14-0 early on.  The Giants offense ended up dominating the Browns defense both on the ground and through the air to put the game out of reach, but with the way their defense has come out flat in three (DAL, TB, CLE) of their first five games, it should give their fans pause.  Injuries are mounting up early, and their schedule isn’t getting any easier.  They travel to San Fran this week and then play division rivals Washington and Dallas before taking on the Steelers.  Keep an eye on this team.  Eli may need to put even more of it on his shoulders.

Michael Vick sucks.  Does anyone make any more inopportune turnovers than this guy?  They’re a lucky 3-2 and host a disappointing Lions team this week.  Should Vick not fumble away another one, they’ll get a week off before hosting Atlanta.  Everyone talks about him not making it through the season because of the physical pounding, but it’s the dumbass decisions that could have Andy Reid turning to rookie Nick Foles before too long.  Is Reid going to let Vick determine his Philly fate? 

Is it too early to panic about Cam Newton?  The Panthers are bad, and so is he.  He’s showing zero control over the offense, and many of his passes have you wondering if he was even looking where he was throwing it.  They’re on a bye this week but face the Cowboys, Bears, Redskins, and Broncos in their next four games.  How much uglier will things get before that Broncos game?  You don’t get a lot lower than 1-4 through five games, but I don’t see them or him turning it around any time soon.  This looks like an easy 10 loss season for a team that many (not me) expected to challenge for the playoffs. 

Quick Thoughts

1) JJ Watt has my vote for Defensive POY, and it isn’t even close. 

2) With another loss, look for the Geno Smith draft talk to heat up with the Jets.

3) If I had a vote for MVP after 5 weeks, my top three would be Matt Ryan, Arian Foster, and Tom Brady.

4) The NFC North will end up being the most competitive division in football this year.

5) The NFC wild cards will end up coming from the North and West, not the East as everyone expects. 

6) Arizona will end up finishing last in the NFC West.

7) 0-5 Cleveland will win two of their next three games against the Bengals, Colts, and Chargers.

Best and Worst

Elite Eight
1 – San Francisco 49ers (1)
Two straight thrashings earn them the jump over Houston who let the Jets stay too close.

2 – Houston Texans (1)
3 – Atlanta Falcons (3)
4 – Baltimore Ravens (4)
5 – New England Patriots (6)
6 – New York Giants (7)
7 – Chicago Bears (NR)
8 – Minnesota Vikings (NR)

Out – Green Bay Packers (5), Arizona Cardinals (8)

Funk Bunch
1 – Jacksonville Jaguars (1)
2 – Oakland Raiders (3)
3 – New York Jets (5)
4 – Cleveland Browns (2)
5 – Kansas City Chiefs (6)
6 – Tennessee Titans (7)
7 – Carolina Panthers (NR)
8 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NR)

Out – Indianapolis Colts (4), Miami Dolphins (8)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 5

Week 4 Results (9-5) – Overall (35-24)

Another good week of picks but just so-so in the Top Performer picks.  Aaron Rodgers tied for the league lead with 4 TDs on the week.  Arian Foster (86 yards; 3.6 ypc) and Larry Fitzgerald (8-64-1) put up respectable numbers but weren’t near the top of the weekly leaders.  Julius Peppers (2 tackles) was nearly invisible on the stat sheet in the MNF game.  On to the next one…

My favorite matchups of the week:
1) Broncos/Patriots – Peyton v. Brady – How many more of these will we have?
2) Falcons/Redskins – Ryan v. RGIII – Who scores more?
3) Eagles/Steelers – Vick on the road against a hungry Pittsburgh team
4) Chargers/Saints – Gonna be explosive one way or the other
4) Packers/Colts – Rodgers v. Luck – Best v. Next?

Dolphins @ Bengals
Holy Hartline Batman!  Dude just keeps catching passes.  The Dolphins receiver gets his stats, but the Bengals get the win. 

Packers @ Colts
This one will be closer than the experts think, but the Packers leave town with a well-earned victory.  Jordy Nelson scores twice. 

Ravens @ Chiefs
Baltimore goes on the road and shows why they’re one of the league’s better teams.  The Ravens avoid a conference road trap and send the Chiefs to 1-4. 

Browns @ Giants
This one will be ugly with the home team doing just enough to hold the Browns at bay.

Eagles @ Steelers
Pittsburgh is getting key players back on the field this week and forces more bad decisions from the Eagles QB.  Pittsburgh rolls.

Falcons @ Redskins
The Falcons pass yet another test as Matt Ryan feasts on a weak secondary. 

Seahawks @ Panthers
Cam struggles against one of the league’s best secondaries.  Marshawn Lynch has a huge game for Seattle..

Bears @ Jaguars
This one is close for a half, but the Bears and Matt Forte score 20 points in the third quarter to put it away.

Titans @ Vikings
This one has a bit of a home upset look to it, but the Vikings continue to be smart with the football.  Adrian Peterson scores twice as Minnesota wins by 10. 

Broncos @ Patriots
Peyton throws for more TDs, but Brady gets the win.  Stevan Ridley scores the winning TD with 3 minutes left in the game.

Bills @ 49ers
Do the Bills really have a chance in this one?  The Niners control the game on the ground, and Ryan Fitzpatrick throws 2 more INTs. 

Chargers @ Saints
New Orleans finally breaks into the win column in a game that shouldn’t have a shortage of points scored. 

Texans @ Jets
Can Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense possibly look any worse?  Yep, and it happens on the national stage on MNF.  Texans by 27. 

Biggest winners (highest margin to lowest) –
1) Texans
2) 49ers
3) Steelers
4) Bears
5) Ravens

Closest calls (lowest margin to highest) –
1) Patriots
2) Giants
3) Packers
4) Seahawks
5) Falcons

Top Performers –
QB – Drew Brees v. Chargers
RB – Adrian Peterson v. Titans
WR – Julio Jones v. Redskins
Defense – NaVorro Bowman v. Bills

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talbuc's Take - Week 4

The Texans are the real deal.  They run the football whenever they want and have several standouts on a defense led by one of the better defensive minds in the game in Wade Phillips.  The Jets shouldn’t put up much of a challenge this week, as most of the focus in this one will undoubtedly be on how awful Mark Sanchez looks against the Texans defense.  Houston’s best tests come in weeks six and seven when they host the Packers and Ravens.  Those should be great games.

I think Baltimore is the second best team in the conference.  They just went through a brutal four games in eighteen days stretch and went 3-1.  They’ll go to KC this week and host the Cowboys next week before traveling to Houston for that huge week seven matchup.  That one could go a long way in determining playoff seeding for the conference.  You’ve got to be happy for Torrey Smith.  He followed up his emotional 127 yard and 2 score MNF game against the Patriots with another TD and nearly 100 yards against the Browns.  Joe Flacco really trusts him.

Don’t piss off Tom Brady.  After getting behind 21-7 to the Bills early in the third quarter, it looked like the Patriots were going to drop to an unspeakable 1-3.  Mr. Brady wasn’t having any of that.  He led the Patriots on six straight TD drives, including an amazing 35-0 run.  I don’t think this team is perfect (especially without Hernandez), but they got too much heat for being 1-2 (prior to blowing out Buffalo).  They lost by two to the undefeated Cardinals in a game that doesn’t look nearly as bad now, and they lost on to Baltimore by one point on that questionable game ending FG.  They host the Broncos this week, and I think this one might end up a one sided affair for the home team. 

I think the Steelers come out and have something for the Eagles this Sunday.  Pittsburgh had the early bye, but it worked out a bit in their favor with them getting back both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu for this one.  I like Pittsburgh to roll Philly this week.

Kansas City is probably the team that has disappointed me most so far.  Yes, Matt Cassel sucks, but we can’t change that.  It’s the defense that’s been the bigger disappointment.  Far be it for me to defend Cassel, but in the Chiefs three losses, they have scored 24, 17, and 20 points.  You should win two maybe all three of those games if you give your defense that many points.  They conceded 40, 35, and 37 in those losses.  Yes, Cassel turns it over like it’s his job (7 INTs, 4 fumbles), but a good defense has to pick up a bad offense. 

Back to the Jets for a moment.  They’re awful, and they haven’t reached rock bottom yet.  I see things getting a lot worse, regardless of who’s under center the rest of the way.  The Tebow trickeration isn’t going to work on this team.  They have absolutely nothing besides a raw rookie Stephen Hill at receiver now with Santonio Holmes out, and their running backs are minor league caliber.  The defense was declining and has to play the rest of the year without Darrelle Revis.  They’re 2-2 and barely beat Miami in OT.  After they lose to Houston this week they still have to play at New England, Seattle, and St. Louis and host New England, Arizona, and San Diego.  Maybe they get lucky, but that’s another six losses which has them looking at 8-8 at best this year.  They’ll probably lose half of those remaining games which would have them at 5-11, which I think is a pretty accurate projection at this point.  I’ll watch it play out with a smile.

I really like what’s going on in the NFC.  It’s still early, but this has the looks of a great playoff race. 

Teams that have special seasons have several special moments along the way.  Atlanta may have had their first this past Sunday in that dramatic comeback win against the rival Panthers.  Carolina brought everything they had for the Falcons, and Atlanta took it on the chin, fought back repeatedly, and emerged with a memorable win.  Can they keep it up?  The thing I find really odd is their schedule.  They alternate home and away games from the first week of the season through the seventeenth.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen another team’s schedule play out like that.  Will not getting comfortable at home be a good thing or a bad thing for this team?  They’re playing at a high level and still have an incomplete defense.  There’s room for this team to get even better.

Anyone think San Fran is going soft?  Jets fans?  Yeah didn’t think so.  The Niners responded to the week three upset at Minnesota with a 34-0 whooping of the Jets.  They ran the ball (245 yards) and prevented the Jets from doing so (45 yards).  They should beat Buffalo this week in a game that I see resembling the 27-19 week two game against the Lions that wasn’t really as close as the score suggests.  I’m already looking forward to next week’s conference championship rematch against the Giants. 

Ok, the Packers won, but should we feel any better about them now?  They’re in a similar boat as the Patriots in my opinion.  The panicking is for naught, because, where are they really trying to come back from?  They lost by eight to what might be the best team in football and were victims of the Seattle screwjob.  Still, they didn’t look great against the Saints; couldn’t close the game out and needed a penalty and missed FG to escape with a win.  Their offense is out of rhythm, and they’re allowing large chunks of yardage on the ground.  I just said I’m not worried about them, but I am concerned about this week in particular at Indy.  This will be the first of a three game road stretch; a game that precedes a marquee matchup with the Texans. 

Arizona is the feel good team so far.  No one, including Ken Whisenhunt, thought this team would be undefeated after four weeks.  They’ve beaten three quality teams and had a nice come from behind win last week against the Dolphins.  How much longer can they run this thing out?  Their next three games aren’t the toughest on their schedule.  They go to the Rams, host Buffalo, and head to Minnesota.  Now I’ll be surprised if they emerge from that stretch unscathed, but if they do, they’ll be 7-0 when they host the Niners in what would be the franchise’s biggest game since Super Bowl XLIII. 

I think the Eagles are a bit of a fraud.  If Ramses Barden doesn’t mug Nnamdi and Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride scrap that crap last drive play calling the Eagles are 2-2 and four points from being 0-4.  As I mentioned previously, I think they lose convincingly this week at Pittsburgh and return home for a key game against a beatable Lions team.  If Philly loses this week and then slips up at home against Detroit, they’ll be 3-3 heading into matchups with Atlanta a nothing-to-lose Saints team, and division matchups with Dallas and Washington.  I’m more concerned about how they perform in that Detroit game than this one at Pittsburgh.  Like Baltimore, this team is at its best when it’s featuring their feature back.  LeSean McCoy is the glue of this offense, and I think they’re most dangerous when they consistently run the read option with him and Vick.  In my opinion, making that the staple of their offense would be the best thing they could do to establish consistency on this side of the ball.

I like what Minnesota is doing.  Christian Ponder isn’t making mistakes with the football, Percy Harvin continues to show why he’s one of the most dangerous offensive talents in the game, Adrian Peterson continues to prove he’s superhuman, and the defense has been solid.  I’m especially impressed that they got up for a game at Detroit a week after knocking off the Niners.  I’m still not sure they’re any better than the third best team in the division, but they’ve already matched last year’s three game win total.  Watch out for these guys.  They start a very winnable stretch of games here against the Titans, Redskins, Cardinals, Bucs, Seahawks, and Lions.  If we’re still talking about them at that point, they’ll be enjoying a much needed by week before taking on the Bears, Packers, and Texans in four of their last five games of the season. 

New Orleans will win this week.  They showed a lot of guts last week in the loss at Green Bay, and I don’t think they roll over after the way that one ended.  Drew Brees put the team on his back and racks up some numbers against the Chargers on SNF.  The Saints obviously aren’t going to be one of football’s elite teams this year, but their four losses are by a combined 20 points.  They could have legitimately won the first two games against Washington and Carolina if a couple (and I mean a couple) of calls go their way.  They blew the huge lead against the Chiefs and lost by one on a last second missed FG.  I’m not saying they go on a run here because they have one seriously brutal schedule, but these guys aren’t quitting. 

Best and Worst

Elite Eight
1 – Houston Texans (1)
2 – San Francisco 49ers (2)
3 – Atlanta Falcons (3)
4 – Baltimore Ravens (4)
5 – Green Bay Packers (5)
6 – New England Patriots (7)
7 – New York Giants (6)
8 – Arizona Cardinals (NR)

Out – Seattle Seahawks (8)

Funk Bunch
1 – Jacksonville Jaguars (1)
2 – Cleveland Browns (2)
3 – Oakland Raiders (3)
4 – Indianapolis Colts (5)
5 – New York Jets (NR)
6 – Kansas City Chiefs (NR)
7 – Tennessee Titans (NR)
8 – Miami Dolphins (4)

Out – St. Louis Rams (6)