Sunday, December 30, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 17

Week 16 Results (10-5) – Overall (135-72-1)

Well, 10-5 is better than 9-6 but not worth bragging about.  Here’s to closing out the regular season on a high note.  All but two playoff spots have been filled, but there will be several games with playoff implications to keep an eye on this Sunday.  On to the next one…

Bucs @ Falcons
With the NFC’s #1 seed in their back pocket, there’s really nothing but divisional pride on the line in this one for the Falcons.  I don’t expect Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez to play much, if at all, in the second half which should be a benefit to the struggling Bucs.  Tampa Bay has lost five straight after winning four in a row and must be able to trade punches with the Falcons long enough to exploit the advantage late, when I’m guessing Luke McCown sees a good bit of action.  Mike Smith won’t want to lose a division game, and he won’t want to give his stars too much off-time with a bye coming next week.  Falcons do enough early on to beat the Bucs.

Jets @ Bills
Mark Sanchez gets yet another chance to add to the blooper reels.  I like CJ Spiller to replicate his week 1 outburst for 194 total yards against the Jets as New York’s season comes to a fitting, ugly win. 

Ravens @ Bengals
Andy Dalton finally beat the Steelers last week.  This week he finally beats the Ravens.  Cincinnati is a late letdown against Dallas from riding a seven game winning streak.  Their defense is one of the best in the game of late, and I like that to continue in a matchup where I’m sure John Harbaugh is trying to escape without injuries as he prepares for next week’s showdown with Andrew Luck and the Colts.  Spoiler alert – the Dolphins aren’t beating the Patriots, so this one will be for division pride rather than playoff seeding.  I think this one means more to the home team who needs to maintain that high heading into next week’s showdown in Foxborough. 

Bears @ Lions
The motivation factor in this one is squarely with the Bears.  If they win, and the Packers beat the Vikings, they clinch the 6th seed.  Chicago has won six of the last seven in this series, and the Lions have nothing to play for other than getting Calvin Johnson 2,000 receiving yards a week after breaking Jerry Rice’s single season yardage record.  I’m calling for the upset here as the Lions don’t end the season on an eight game losing streak. Stefan Logan won’t be returning kicks, so that’s one plus for Detroit.  Johnson gets 176 yards to finish a spectacular year with 2,068 total yards.  Matt Forte’s ankle proves to be a factor as he’s unable to get unleashed.  Detroit does just enough to play spoiler to rival Chicago.

Jaguars @ Titans
Jacksonville is the more competitive of the two teams at the end of the year, as the Jaguars nearly knocked off the Patriots last week, losing by seven.  Meanwhile, the Titans we busy getting their asses handed to them by the Packers 55-7.  I like how the combination of Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon have looked the last few weeks and think week 17 is a fine time for the rookie receiver to post his biggest game and get Jaguar fans excited about next year’s possibilities.  Sad folks those Jags fans. 

Texans @ Colts
Houston needs to win this one to clinch the #1 seed, so expect to see the pedal to the floor early with an aggressive offensive approach by the Texans.  They’ll also want to bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss at home to the Vikings.  I have serious questions about this Texans team, and if they lose this one, I’ll have a tough time considering them serious contenders for the title.  Great teams step up in big situations.  Here’s Houston’s.  I love Andrew Luck and the Chuck Pagano story, but I think the Colts (and specifically Luck) are getting a little tired.  I really like Houston here.

Panthers @ Saints
This one looked a lot better on the schedule in September.  Two of football’s biggest disappointments square off in a season both would rather forget.  As bad as this year has gone for Carolina and New Orleans, they’re both playing good football of late.  I’m going with the Saints because I think they’re, to a man, going to want to finish this Bountygate season on a positive note.  Drew Brees is going to lay it all on the line.  Expect a lot of points and a Saints victory. 

Eagles @ Giants
There’s a whole lotta ugly heading into this one.  The Giants were on top of the mountain in the NFC East, controlling their own destiny with a month to go.  They proceeded to lose three of their next four games, including the last two in embarrassing fashion.  New York lost at Atlanta and Baltimore by a combined 67-14 score, and all 14 of their points came last week at Baltimore.  Still, the Giants make it into the playoffs with a win at Philly and losses by the Bears, Vikings, and Cowboys.  I don’t see these guys flipping a switch this week as they face off against a Philly team that will have Andy Reid and probably Michael Vick as Eagles for the last time.  Vick gets the start for an injured Nick Foles and was under center when the Eagles beat the Giants in week 4.  They’ve only won once since then, but I’m calling for the nice sendoff and ultimate chokejob.  Philly spoils New York’s season as the champs fail to even make the playoffs. 

Browns @ Steelers
The season is over for both of these teams, and while I hate to challenge the professionalism of these athletes, I wonder what kind of effort we’ll see in this one.  Pittsburgh, this season’s biggest disappointment in my opinion, has dropped three straight (two at home) and five of their last six.  What a collapse they’ve had.  You’d like to think a win against the Browns is a given, but they lost in Cleveland a month ago by six.  Can they get it together and avoid a season ending embarrassment?  I sure hope so since Thad Lewis and Montario Hardesty will be replacing Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. 

Chiefs @ Broncos
Chiefs bad.  Broncos good.  Denver loses their #2 seed with a loss.  Ain’t happening. 

Packers @ Vikings
Here’s my favorite matchup of the week.  Aside from the Sunday Night Football finale, you won’t find two teams with more to play for this week.  Green Bay clinches the #2 seed and a bye with a win, and Minnesota clinches the #6 seed with a win.  Minnesota can still get in with a loss if the Cowboys, Giants, and Bears lose, but they surely won’t be relying on that.  Expect to see a lot of Adrian Peterson in this one as he’s their only chance to get the win, and he’s 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record.  Peterson ran for 210 against these Packers just a few weeks ago, but 130 of them came on two carries.  When it comes down to it, there’s no doubt which QB I trust more in this one – Rodgers by a mile.  He knows the importance of this game, and he’s money in a dome.  Randall Cobb’s ailment aside, the Packers are getting healthy.  Clay Matthews is back, and that’s trouble for Christian Ponder.  I see a lot of long yardage situations for Minnesota, and that’s not where they way to be. 

Dolphins @ Patriots
You think New England will be focused for this one?  After nearly losing to the laughingstock Jaguars last week, the Patriots need to win this week to avoid losing the #3 seed in the AFC.  Miami is going to bear the brunt of last week’s crapshow.  Belichick looks to make a statement and get back any of his team’s lost confidence. Patriots big. 

Raiders @ Chargers
Win one for the Norver!  The Norv Turner era will end at roughly 7:45 Sunday, but they’d have to really mail it in to lose to these Raiders.  Terrelle Pryor gets the start after Greg Hardy lit up Carson Palmer last week.  San Diego won their first two games and will win their last two games.  Unfortunately, they went just 3-9 in the rest of them. 

Cardinals @ 49ers
If the 49ers can’t beat Brian Hoyer and the Cardinals at home they should give up their spot in the playoffs.  Aldon Smith is three sacks behind Michael Strahan’s single season record of 22.5 sacks, and he could get that in the first quarter. 

Rams @ Seahawks
Barring losses by both Green Bay and San Francisco, this game is meaningless.  Seattle is putting up insane points of late, outscoring their opponents 150-30 in their last three games.  The Rams have won four of five, but does anyone really see this Seahawks team losing at home right not, let alone to the Rams?   

Cowboys @ Redskins
The most important game of the week gets the SNF timeslot.  If the Redskins win, they clinch the NFC East and the #4 seed.  They can still get the #6 seed if they lose if Chicago and Minnesota lose too.  For the Cowboys it’s simple.  Win and you get the NFC East title and #4 seed.  Lose and you go home.  Washington is riding a remarkable six game winning streak and looks to take down Dallas for the second time this season.  Dallas has been playing good football in the second half of the season, winning five of seven, but they lost last week at home to the Saints and have played six straight close, emotional contests.  Do they have enough to take down the rolling Redskins at RFK?  I believe in Tony Romo.  He has a 13-3 TD to INT ratio over the last five games, and there’s not a hotter receiver in football right now than Dez Bryant.  I think Romo and Bryant do their part, but I think the Redskins defense will end up making more stops than the Cowboys.  Redskins win a high scoring regular season capper.

If these go according to plan (ha ha), here’s how the playoffs shape up –

AFC                                        NFC
1) Texans                                 1) Falcons
2) Broncos                               2) Packers
3) Patriots                                3) 49ers
4) Ravens                                4) Redskins
5) Colts                                    5) Seahawks
6) Bengals                                6) Vikings

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Know Your Role, Jabroni!

I haven’t done this before, but TPE had such a great response to my picks from last week that I’m going to take someone’s comments and make them the basis of an article.  Seasons greetings TPE!  I hope Santa was good to you.  Enjoy those quiet hours alone.  I do on those rare occasions I get them. 

TPE classified the NFL’s starting QBs into three categories:
A. Jabroni
B. Better Than Nothing
C. The Real

Here are his classifications of each QB (in italics) followed by my take on each player and TPE’s groupings:

Tom Brady: The Real
Absolutely, no comment necessary.

Ryan Tannehill: On his way to The Real
I tend to agree with that.  I don’t think it’s going to be a quick process and that he’s going to have to log quite a few more games and go through quite a few more rough stretches before we see consistent superstar signs. 

Mark Sanchez: Jabroni
You need another group for this guy.  As much as I rag him and as bad as he’s looked, I truly believe Sanchez could be a much better Jabroni with improved coaching and professional talent at receiver.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Jabroni

Andy Dalton: Better Than Nothing
I think he’s going to have a similar career to Matt Schaub, which is a compliment given my affinity for the Texans’ passer. 

Ben Rothleisberger: The Real
Despite quite the disappointing season, absolutely yes.

Joe Flacco: Better Than Nothing to reasonable fans. The Real to Jeff Cameron.
It’s looking like this is all that Flacco will ever be.  You never know which guy is going to show up, and you don’t say that about guys who are “Real”. 

Brandon Wheeden: Better Than Nothing
Probably the best application of this term.

Matt Schaub: Better Than Nothing disguised as The Real
Nice classification.  Schaub isn’t going to ever be considered an “e-word” QB, but I’d put him near the top of the next set of passers.  Unlike Flacco, I know what I’m getting with Schaub.

Andrew Luck: The Real
If we’re using “The Real” as the equivalent to the “e-word”, I’d put Luck in the top of the class in which TPE lists Tannehill.  Luck is my offensive ROY

Blaine Gabbert: Jabroni
Big pile of Jabroni.

Jake Locker: Jabroni disgused as Better Than Mothing
TPE did a great job with this one.  I confess I was a Locker believer, but I don’t like the progression (or lack there of) that I’ve seen.  He still needs a lot of work.

Peyton Manning: The Real
The E.F. Hutton of the NFL.

Philip Rivers: The Real that became Better than Nothing because he plays with Jabronis
Another solid job.  Rivers is at a bit of a crossroads this offseason, and who the Chargers hire as HC and GM is going to go a long way in determining whether or not we’re ever talking about Rivers as a “Real” QB again.  Next year will be his 10th as a pro, and he’s thrown 35 of his career 93 INTs in just the last two seasons.  Rivers and the new Chargers staff is going to be one of the key stories to watch this offseason.

Carson Palmer: Better Than Nothing
He’s walking the BTN/Jabroni line like a tightrope. 

Matt Cassell: Ultimate Jabroni
Jabroni with extra pickles. 

Tony Romo: The Real until playoffs…then Jabroni
Seriously, when I read Tony Romo’s name, I automatically shake my head every time.  I loathe the Cowboys, but I like rooting for Romo.  To me he’s top notch Better Than Nothing who epitomizes the old adage of a QB getting too much credit for the good and too much blame for the bad.  I’d take him as the Bucs’ QB in a heartbeat if given the chance. 

RG3: The Real
He’s standing in the same line as Andrew Luck but sharing a spot behind him with two other guys (more later).

Eli Manning: The Real
But damn has he looked like a Jabroni at times this year.  He’s the Bobby Bacala to Peyton’s Tony Soprano. 

Michael Vick: Jabroni, who has herpes

Aaron Rodgers: The Realest
My favorite football player by far.

Jay Cutler: Jeffbroni George
Ouch!  TPE is not a Cutler fan.  Cutler is a solid “Better Than Nothing” to me.  He’s not going to win any popularity contests (I kind of like that), but he’s still a QB I trust with talent around him. 

Christian Ponder: Sadly, Jabroni
Definitely, sadly.

Matt Stafford: made The Real by Calvin Johnson
I’m not as high on Senor Stafford.  He throws for a ton of yards, but so would a lot of QBs if they had the game’s best receiver to throw to.  He’s a “Better Than Nothing” behind Schaub, Romo, and Cutler at a minimum.  Yes, Cutler too.  Put Stafford on those Bears teams from the past few years, and those yardage and TDs totals are nowhere near what he’s done as a Lion. 

Drew Brees: The Real

Matt Ryan: The Real
Ryan stepped up to the big boy table this year in Dirk Koetter’s offense.  I put him with Eli on the outskirts of the group that consists of Rodgers, Brady, Peyton, Roethlisberger, and Brees. 

Josh Freeman: Better Than Nothing
And I don’t think he’s ever going to be anything but Better Than Nothing.  Will that be enough to keep him around much longer in Tampa?  A QB has to be a leader and grab his team by the reigns at times and get things done on his own.  Freeman hasn’t graduated to that class yet.  He goes as the team goes rather than having the team go as he goes. 

Cam Newton: Better Than Nothing but inquiring about a move to Jabroniville
He’s certainly looked like he was in need of a one way ticket to Jabroniville at times this year, but he’s shown a few flashes of last year’s promise. 

Sam Bradford: The Real, even I am the only one that thinks so
I definitely don’t share the same opinion about Bradford as does TPE.  He’s “Better Than Nothing” based only on promise in my opinion.  He hasn’t had a ton to work with so far as a pro other than a poor man’s Wes Welker, but he’s not a Jabroni.  I don’t think he’ll ever be the “e-word” but can develop into a solid BTN. 

Russell Wilson: The Real
He’s one of the guys I think is right there with RGIII in line behind Luck as the best of the up-and-comers. 

Alex Smith: Better Than Nothing
I’m not a huge Alex Smith fan, but given the sorry state of starting QBs on a lot of teams, he’ll be starting somewhere next year.  Yes, he’s consistent, but unless I’ve got a top notch run game and defense, he doesn’t do anything for me. 

I put Colin Kapernick, the Niners starter in that Luck-RGIII-Wilson group. 

John Skelton: Jabroni
They’re working on a straight Jabroni flush out there with Kolb, Skelton, Lindley, and Hoyer. 

Here’s my top 10:
1) Aaron Rodgers
2) Peyton Manning
3) Tom Brady
4) Drew Brees
5) Ben Roethlisberger
6) Eli Manning
7) Matt Ryan
8) Matt Schaub
9) Tony Romo
10) Andrew Luck

Thanks for the idea TPE, and Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 16

Week 15 Results (9-6) – Overall (124-67-1)

Went 9-6 for the third straight week.  Got to do better this week.  Zero time, so no writeups, just picks. 

Saints @ Cowboys
Titans @ Packers
Colts @ Chiefs – Upset alert!
Bills @ Dolphins
Chargers @ Jets
Redskins @ Eagles
Bengals @ Steelers
Rams @ Bucs
Raiders @ Panthers
Patriots @ Jaguars
Vikings @ Texans
Browns @ Broncos
Bears @ Cardinals
Giants @ Ravens
49ers @ Seahawks

Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 15

Week 14 Results (9-6) – Overall (124-67-1)

Another 9-6 week where I win the games I should and lose the ones I’m not completely sold on.  The Bucs collapse to pitiful Philly was a head shaker, especially considering they were honoring the ’02 champs in that one, and Baltimore’s flop at Washington creates more questions about a team no one was sold on anyways.  How real are the Colts?  Are the Packers really coming on?  Can the Texans rebound from that MNF whooping?  Can I put together a strong card for the first time since week 12?  We shall see.  On to the next one…

Giants @ Falcons
Atlanta looked awful last week at Carolina and hasn’t dominated an opponent since week 8 at Philly.  They needed a bit of good fortune to beat the Raiders and Cardinals, two teams that are a combined 0-11 since week 8.  The Giants are doing the up and down routine but typically show up for big time road games.  Look for Eli and the passing game to make several big plays against the Falcons secondary that should be without Williams Moore. 

Packers @ Bears
Green Bay looks to be getting its footing while the Bears have dropped four of five.  Jay Cutler has always struggled against Dom Capers’ Packers defense and will play with a knee injury suffered last week at Minnesota.  Brian Urlacher is out again, as is Tim Jennings, and I think the latter’s absence is a bigger key in this matchup.  The Packers look to be developing some semblance of a run game, and with Adrian Peterson dropping 154 yards on Chicago last week, I like their chances of at least keeping the Bears defense honest.  The only thing I don’t like is that the Packers opened up as a seemingly short three point favorite, and the line has dropped ½ a point in Chicago’s favor.  Hmmmmm.  Still, I’ve got to think Green Bay realizes the importance of this matchup.  If they win, they clinch the North and can keep their sites on a first round bye.  Oh, and Clay Matthews is back.

Redskins @ Browns
RGIII will not be playing in this one.  The red hot Redskins are coming off three straight wins, but they’ve all been physically and emotionally draining contests.  They now head to Cleveland to take on a Browns team that’s riding a three game good streak of their own.  I leaned Cleveland even with RGIII playing, so I’m definitely on the dog pound with him out. 

Vikings @ Rams
Will Adrian Peterson reach his goal of eclipsing Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record?  He currently sits at 1,600 yards and needs another 506 over the next three weeks to break the record.  The Vikings are barely mathematically still in it, so they’re going to ride their horse all the way to the finish line.  I think they’ll be up for this game more than the Rams, considering the effort St. Louis has had to put forth over the last two weeks to win two three point games.  Peterson rushes for 163 yards and scores twice.   

Jaguars @ Dolphins
Jacksonville is craptastic, but I’m not loving the Dolphins in this one.  Since showing some promise near the midway mark, Miami has lost five of six.  On a positive note, four of those losses have come against teams that will be in the playoffs – Indy, Seattle, New England, and San Fran.  Has Miami folded, or will they show some pride and put it all on the line to keep former Dolphin Chad Henne from beating them?  As long as they keep Cecil Shorts in check, Miami should win this one rather easily. 

Bucs @ Saints
After looking like a team that was going to make a surprise playoff push, the Bucs have dropped three straight, including a deflating defeat on the last play of the game to Nick Foles and the Eagles last Sunday.  The Saints have dropped three straight themselves, including a 25 point loss at the Giants last week.  Bountygate is nearly settled, but I don’t think this week’s events will have any impact on what’s turned out to be a lost season for the Saints.  The Bucs have beaten the Saints at least once a year since 2007, and I believe Tampa has more give-a-shit in them at this point.  The streak continues.

Broncos @ Ravens
This one looks similar to the GB-CHI matchup to me.  The road team is playing good football, and the home team is fading down the stretch.  Throw in the fact that Baltimore is going to be without quite a few defensive starters, and I think this one tips even more in Denver’s favor.  Knowshon Moreno has been a huge late season boost and is coming off a 167 total yard performance against the Raiders.  Having played last Thursday, I think the longer layoff will work in Denver’s favor as well. 

Colts @ Texans
I love what the Colts have done this year, but I get the same feeling about this one that I did when Indy played the Patriots.  I smelled a blowout and got one.  The Texans have to be fuming after getting smoked on national television and want to prove without a shadow of a doubt who is the best team in the AFC South.  When they got rolled by the Packers on Sunday Night Football in week 6 they came back the next Sunday and routed the Ravens 43-13.  Similar result here. 

Seahawks @ Bills
Seattle is making a strong playoff push and can still win the division.  As much love as Marshawn Lynch, rookie QB Russell Wilson, and that defense are getting, this is a team with a 2-5 road record.  Unless you’re a #1 seed, that kind of road record doesn’t bode well for a deep playoff run.  Well, while this isn’t a home game for the Hawks, it’s not a true away game either since it’s being held in TorontoBuffalo is without Fred Jackson, so look for a lot of CJ Spiller.  He’ll get his yards, but I expect Richard Sherman to neutralize Stevie Johnson and for the linebackers to contain Ryan Fitzpatrick’s go-to guy, Scott Chandler.  Seattle wins a close one and puts more pressure on the Niners. 

Lions @ Cardinals
This one is a matchup of 4-9 teams in freefall.  Detroit is an undisciplined mess on a five game slide, while Arizona has laughably dropped nine in a row after winning their first four games of the season.  The Cardinals’ QB situation is a well documented disaster, and they’re coming off an embarrassing 58-0 drubbing by the Seahawks.  They’ve scored just two TDs in their last three games.  Still, I really wanted to take the Cardinals.  The Lions have given up and are losing pass catchers on a weekly basis.  My taking Detroit is based on trusting Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson to outproduce the garbage on Zona’s offense.

Panthers @ Chargers
In a matchup of poor teams I look to see who’s playing better ball right now.  The Chargers are coming a off a huge upset of the Steelers, but aside from that victory and their two against the Chiefs, the NFL’s doormat, the Chargers haven’t won since week 2 against the Titans.  Carolina on the other hand has been in nearly every game they’ve played this year.  They too are coming off a huge upset and did recently lose to those doormat Chiefs, but I like how Carolina has shown on the road.  The Panthers win by 7.

Steelers @ Cowboys
Really Pittsburgh?  After the huge upset at Baltimore with Charlie Batch under center, everyone had the Steelers pegged for a big win against the Chargers with Ben Roethlisberger returning from his injuries.  How’d that turn out?  Dallas made a statement with a comeback win at Cincinnati last week and can still make the playoffs.  How much of a factor will Dez Bryant be with that busted finger?  He’ll need to be more than a decoy if Dallas is going to beat the NFL’s top passing defense.  Pittsburgh wins the turnover battle and sets up a huge home game against the Bengals next week. 

Chiefs @ Raiders
Not wasting much time on this one.  KC was dominated last week at Cleveland, and Oakland nearly beat the Browns a couple of weeks ago.  Flawless logic says the Raiders get their fourth and final win of the year. 

49ers @ Patriots
If there was a team that could hope to slow down the Patriots right now, it’s the 49ers.  I’d be shocked if New England was able to drop another 42 this week, but I don’t see the Niners shutting them down either.  Tom Brady is showing why he’s still the best in the business, and I simply don’t think San Fran will put up enough points to win it.  The Patriots are solid against the run and are improving against the pass.  I love Colin Kaepernick, but this looks like a matchup he’ll struggle with.  It should be a fabulous matchup and potential Super Bowl preview, but I expect Brady and Belichick to prevail.

Jets @ Titans
Think the schedule makers would like to shift this one to a Sunday 1:00 start?  “Jets” and “playoffs” have no business being mentioned in the same sentence, so as long as the football gods aren’t asleep at the wheel, I look for the Titans to win an ugly one and mercifully end any hopes the Jets had of reaching the postseason. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Who's Headed to New Orleans?

This has been an incredibly entertaining NFL season, and with just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is still quite foggy.  Here’s what we know:

1) The Texans, Patriots, Broncos, and Falcons have clinched spots in the playoffs . 

2) The Chiefs, Jaguars, and Raiders will be battling for the first pick in the draft.  The Chiefs play at Raiders, v. Colts, and at Broncos to close out the season.  There’s a more than decent chance they lose all three, and if that happens, they’ll clinch the #1 overall selection.  All three teams need a QB terribly, but does anyone think Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, or Tyler Wilson is wise use of a top three pick?  What a bad year to be in need of a QB.

3) The Packers, Colts, Cowboys and Redskins have a pulse, but the Bears, Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers may be losing theirs.  With a ton of competitive games on this week’s slate, no one is getting a free pass to the postseason. 

4) The Colts, the team that picked #1 overall in this past draft, is one victory away from clinching a playoff spot.  They play the Texans in two of the next three weeks, and even if they lose both of those, they can get that golden ticket by beating the Chiefs in KC. 

5) I think we’ll have to wait at least another week to find out who’s winning the NFC West.  The Niners are up on the Seahawks by essentially 1 ½ games but travel to New England while the Seahawks play the Bills on a neutral site.  If both games go as Vegas believes they will, next week’s SF/SEA matchup at CenturyLink Field could decide it.

6) Green Bay clinches the NFC North with a win at Chicago.

7) Baltimore is in with a loss by either the Bengals or Steelers. 

What do I think will happen?

Atlanta won’t collapse and thus will be the conference’s #1 seed.  I expect the Packers to put the Bears in panic mode by beating them at Soldier Field and then take care of business against the Titans and Vikings to close out the regular season.  The Bears win just one of their two remaining games (at Arizona and Detroit) and end up missing the playoffs.  I think the Giants beat the Eagles in week 17 which means they’ll need to beat either the Falcons this week or the Ravens next week to clinch the East, regardless of what Washington does.  San Francisco falls at New England and Seattle and ends up going from a first round bye to the #5 seed.  With RGIII out this week, I’m leaning towards the surging Browns in that one.  If Washington loses at Cleveland, they’ll need to beat both the Eagles and Cowboys in the last two weeks and have Chicago go 1-2 the rest of the way.  It happens.

1) Atlanta
2) Green Bay
3) Seattle
4) NY Giants
5) San Francisco
6) Washington

The Patriots win out, and the Texans lose one game, which will give New England the #1 seed.  Houston doesn’t fall far, as they get the #2 seed over Denver based on head-to-head win tiebreaker.  Baltimore is limping to the finish line and needs one more win to clinch the North.  That’s not a given considering the way they’re playing and that those last three games are v. Denver, v. NYG, and at Cincinnati.  With Indy looking like the #5 seed, the 6th and final spot will likely come down to the Steelers and Bengals.  I like the way the Bengals are playing on defense, but I worry that their offense will struggle to put up points against their remaining two opponents – Pittsburgh and Baltimore – considering they were outscored 68-30 by those two teams in their matchups earlier this season.  I’m going with history and the Steelers.

1) New England
2) Houston
3) Denver
4) Baltimore
5) Indianapolis
6) Pittsburgh

Wild Card
Seahawks v. Redskins – RGIII runs into a defense he can’t exploit; Hawks advance.
Giants v. 49ers – Third time is the charm; Niners put a beating on the champs.
Broncos v. Steelers – Rematch of last year’s shocker; Broncos win again.
Ravens v. Colts – Ravens advance as Jim Caldwell calls plays against his former team.

Falcons v. 49ers – The #1 seed and home team Falcons pull off the upset
Packers v. Seahawks – The world course corrects; Packers get rightful revenge.
Patriots v. Ravens – It’s not close this time; Patriots host championship.
Texans v. Broncos – Denver wins on the road, avenges week 3 home loss.

Conf Champ
Falcons v. Packers – Packers playing better ball at this point; Falcons fall short again.
Patriots v. Broncos – Patriots beat Broncos again and advance to Super Bowl…again..

Super Bowl
Patriots v. Packers – Repeat of Super Bowl XXXI
Same teams…Same place…Different outcome
Brady and Rodgers light up the Superdome
Patriots 37-31

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dodger Dolla Bill Y'all

Ah, it’s nice to be a Dodger fan again. 

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the boys in blue are spending straight cash homey.  The new ownership group opened up the vault and acquired Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Brandon League among others during the season and have agreed to a deal with this offseason’s #1 pitching target – Zack Greinke. 

As if Greinke wasn’t enough, the next day they agreed to terms Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-Jin.  Haters hate away!  Hyun-Jin is likely penciled in as the #4 starter behind Beckett, the veteran who had a 2.93 ERA in 7 starts with the Dodgers.  Clayton Kershaw had to be smiling after getting news of Greinke’s signing and for multiple reasons.  First, he’ll be followed by a fellow ace which may alleviate any pressure to be “the” guy that Kershaw may feel.  Second, this just sets the bar higher for when the Dodgers and Kershaw’s agent sit down to hammer out an extension.  The southpaw will soon be baseball’s highest paid hurler. 

Kershaw and Greinke would be one hell of a 1-2 playoff combo, but they’ve got to win a few ballgames before we drift too far into postseason fantasyland.  Behind those four starters are four guys vying for the last spot in the rotation – Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang.  Billingsley and Lilly are coming off injuries, so the timing of any trades involving Capuano or Harang will tell us what the Dodgers know about their recoveries. 

You can never have enough pitching, but I’d look to deal from strength to address other weaknesses.  What do they need?  I’m fine with them heading into the season with Cruz at third and Hanley at short.  Assuming the Ellises return at second and catcher, your lineup is set.  What needs attention?  The bullpen and the bench.  Well, if I’m setting priorities, the bullpen leads by a mile.  What do we have to work with?

When I look at the bullpen, here’s what I see –
Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert (L)
Javy Guerra
Matt Guerrier

I see three really nice 8th inning arms, a solid lefty, and a couple of 7th inning righties.  From the current roster, League or Jansen looks to be the closer, but if I could put a cherry on this offseason, I’d look to move some of that starting pitching depth for a proven closer.  Who’s available?  One in particular happens to be Pittsburgh’s stopper, Joel Hanrahan.  The Pirates closer struggled at times this past season, but I like his arm and fit in the 9th inning role.  If I could package my 6th or 7th starter with someone from the farm for Hanrahan, I’d sign off on the deal right now. 

I’m anxious to see what a lineup with Hanley, Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier, and Crawford can do together for a full season, and it looks like they’ll backed by an equally talented pitching staff.  I’m not printing World Series tickets yet, but the skies are looking Dodger blue again baby!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 14

Week 13 Results (9-6) – Overall (115-61-1)

It wasn’t 6-7, but that felt like another negative week.  I could use an 11-2 right now.  On to the next one…

Rams @ Bills
The first time the Rams played the Niners, they laid an egg the next week, getting pounded by the Jets 27-13.  Well, it’s post-Niners week again, and this time they head to Buffalo to face a Bills team that has been known to put up some points.  I look for Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to set the tempo on the ground and for the Rams to lose again after getting up big the previous week for San Francisco

Cowboys @ Bengals
Another week, another NFL tragedy.  Backup defensive lineman Josh Brent killed his teammate, Jerry Brown, in an early Saturday morning drunk driving accident, making it two weeks in a row that an NFL player has killed someone (and almost himself again in this one).  Dallas is undisciplined, and Cincinnati is playing solid football.  I think Jermaine Gresham will make the big plays in this one as the Bengals win their fifth straight.

Chiefs @ Browns
Kansas City snapped an eight game losing streak with a heavy hearted victory over the Panthers.  This week they head to Cleveland to face a hot Browns team that has won their last two and are an OT loss in Dallas from being 4-1 in their last five.  I expect a huge day from Trent Richardson as the Browns look to close out the ’12 campaign on an upswing.

Titans @ Colts
Quick, who has the 5th best record in the AFC behind division leaders New England, Baltimore, Houston, and DenverPittsburgh?  Nope.  Cincinnati?  Nope.  The Jets?  Ha!  Yep, rookie stud Andrew Luck will try to take care of business at home against a 4-8 Tennessee team and keep a tight grip on the 5th seed in the AFC.  I’ll take the Colts to win by a field goal. 

Bears @ Vikings
Last week Major Wright dropped Sidney Rice, but fortunately for Seahawks fans, the receiver fell into the endzone with the winning OT score.  With that loss, Chicago has dropped three of the last four and may end up being a team whose record overstates its true worth.  Now they’re without Brian Urlacher for at least the next two critical games.  If the Vikings have any hopes of making the playoffs, they must win this one.  Expect Minnesota to put forth its greatest effort, even without Percy Harvin.  Adrian Peterson dominates on the ground as the Vikings win a low scoring affair.

Chargers @ Steelers
He’s baaaaaaack!  After three long weeks of Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, the Steelers get their MVP back.  New England, Houston, and Denver are getting all the hype, but with Ben Roethlisberger under center and the way their defense is playing, Pittsburgh may be the team to beat come the postseason in the AFC.  I see no way the Chargers pull off the road upset, especially with as mentally messed up Philip Rivers has been.  The Steelers make a statement in this one. 

Eagles @ Bucs
One of these teams is still playing for something, and it’s not the Eagles.  Losers of eight straight, Philly has all but packed their backs on the 2012 season.  Nick Foles looked good last week against the Cowboys, and backup rusher Bryce Brown has been absolutely tremendous in LeSean McCoy’s absence, totaling 347 rushing yards and four TDs over the last two games.  Brown gets his toughest test this week when he faces Tampa’s #1 ranked rush defense.  They’ll need another big game from Foles, but I think the Bucs will be too much on offense.  I like Doug Martin to get back on track after two subpar games and for Josh Freeman to continue growing this offense.  Bucs by 10. 

Ravens @ Redskins
Baltimore got beat at home by Charlie Batch, and RGIII shined brightly in the MNF spotlight in a win against the Giants.  Redskins roll right?  Not so fast my friend.  Yes, the Ravens struggle on the road and will be without Terrell Suggs (torn biceps), but I’m expecting them to play like veterans this week.  With games against the Broncos, Giants, and Bengals on deck and a tightening AFC North, Baltimore really needs this one.  The Ravens are the better team, and I think they get a hard fought win.

Falcons @ Panthers
The Atlanta Dangerfields head to Carolina with their NFC leading 11-1 record.  Despite just one mulligan (a four point loss in New Orleans) on the year, the Falcons don’t get no respect.  No, they’re not the 2010 Packers, but 11-1 is still 11-1.  They’re already wrapped up the division, but expecting a letdown would be unwise in my opinion.  Mike Smith wants to win every division game, and by doing so, get one step closer to clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Michael Turner scores twice, giving him five TDs in his last four games. 

Jets @ Jaguars
Wake me up when this one is over.  How hilarious is that Jets QB situation?  Mark Sanchez continues to shit the bed and was replaced last week by Greg McElroy in that 7-6 snoozefest against the Cardinals last week.  So who starts this week at Jacksonville?  Gotta be Baby Jesus right?  Ha!  The owner wants McElroy, and the coaching staff wants Sanchez.  As pathetic as he’s played, Sanchez gets the start.  I couldn’t have asked for that scenario to play out any “better”.  The Jets win the field position battle and the game because Jacksonville is even more pathetic than they are.

Dolphins @ 49ers
I mentioned what happened to the Rams after their first encounter with the 49ers.  What did San Francisco do the following week?  They stomped the Bears at home 32-7 in Colin Kaepernick’s coming out party.  Expect to see more of the same this week when Miami comes to town.  A focused Niners squad gets back on track in a game that shouldn’t be close.

Cardinals @ Seahawks
Speaking of games that shouldn’t be close, the Cardinals take their eight game winning streak to, possibly, the toughest place in the league to play.  If that wasn’t enough, they’ve got a horrid QB situation that makes the Jets look like the Montana-Young-Bono Niners.  Russell Wilson is playing really good football and is doing a fine job of complimenting a strong run game and stout defense.  The pieces are starting to come together at the right time.  Seattle rolls.

Saints @ Giants
After back-to-back losses the Saints hype has subsided, and if they are to have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to run the table.  The Giants have been playing some ugly football around that trouncing of the Packers, but it’s getting to be that time of year again.  You know, when the Giants go on a run and dominate everyone in the playoffs.  The NFC East has become a tight race, and after this one, the Giants travel to Atlanta and Baltimore the next two weeks.  They take care of business Sunday and maintain their division lead.

Lions @ Packers
The last time these two teams squared off the Packers won a pretty boring game by four points.  The Packers treated that contest like a preseason matchup, focusing heavily on establishing a run game.  Well with James Starks now joining Cedric Benson on the sidelines, the Packers were forced to bring back veteran Ryan Grant to back up Alex Green.  Jordy Nelson is going to miss this one with a hamstring injury, so Detroit gets a bit of help in trying to end their five game losing streak.  During that stretch the Lions have surrendered an average of 32 points per game.  Aaron Rodgers, smelling blood in the water, throws for four scores and runs in another. 

Texans @ Patriots
Grab the popcorn folks.  This should be entertaining television.  Two of the top teams in the game square off in this week’s finale, a game that I think sets up nicely for the home team.  I expect the Patriots to try and make this a high scoring contest and put a lot of pressure on Matt Schaub and the road Texans to keep up.  They’ll stack the box against Arian Foster and take their chances that Schaub won’t be able to match TDs with Brady.  New England gets a win and inches a bit closer to the conferences #1 seed with three weeks of regular season action remaining.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NFL Picks - Week 13

Week 12 Results (6-7) – Overall (106-55-1)

Wow that was pathetic.  I guess it could be worse.  I could be an offensive lineman for the Packers.  Those dudes suck out loud.  The playoff race is starting to shape up, and with most division winners pretty much decided at this point, several teams are fighting for wild cards.  This will be a big week for teams like the Cowboys, Bucs, Seahawks, Bengals, Steelers, Colts, and those Packers.  Expect to see some physical football and, hopefully, more wins from me this weekend.  Last week is in the past.  On to the next one…

Jaguars @ Bills
The weather is supposed to be sloppy in this one, and that’s fitting given the two teams that will be taking the field.  Chad Henne has assumed the reigns of Jacksonville’s offense after an impressive showing against Tennessee, but I don’t like the matchup in this one.  I believe Jacksonville will struggle to get anything going on the ground, forcing Henne to make plays he really can’t.  Bills win. 

Vikings @ Packers
Seahawks @ Bears
I’m grouping these two games together because I see a lot of similarities.  The home teams are the better teams.  The road teams are physical teams with tough defenses.  The home teams are heavily reliant on their starting QBs and are having tremendous troubles protecting them.  The road teams are on the playoff bubble and are nearing must-win territory the rest of the way.  The road teams rely heavily on their run games to support young QBs.  Chicago has the best defense of the four, but if they don’t show up today and the Bears OL doesn’t protect Jay Cutler, Seattle will get the upset win.  If the Packers can’t keep Aaron Rodgers comfortable or at least upright and they struggle to contain Adrian Peterson, Minnesota will get the upset win.  I’m counting on the veteran QBs prevailing in tough circumstances, but these games will be decided by less than ten points combined. 

Colts @ Lions
Not taking anything away from the success of the Colts, but their wins aren’t coming against the top teams in the game.  Detroit has lost three straight but is playing much better competition.  This is also Detroit’s third straight home game.  Will they lose all three?  I think not. 

Texans @ Titans
Don’t overthink this one.  Houston scores a lot of points, and Tennessee gives up a lot.  The only way I see the Texans losing this one is if they completely overlook the Titans for next week’s game against the Patriots.  Texans big.

Panthers @ Chiefs
This one will understandably have a somber tone after Saturday’s murder-suicide.  I liked the Panthers before the incident, and I don’t see a reason to change that. 

49ers @ Rams
Given the chance, I think Jim Harbaugh is going to want to make this as big a win as possible.  It’s a division game against a team that punked them into a tie a few weeks ago, and you know Harbaugh wants to make his Kaepernick decision look genius.  The Rams don’t pull off the upset or even near-upset this time.

Patriots @ Dolphins
To me, this one is just as simple as the Texans-Titans game.  Here, the Patriots score whenever they want, and the Dolphins don’t score much at all.  Will Tom Brady and company overlook Miami for Houston?  No way.  Patriots big.

Cardinals @ Jets
The Jets were humorously inept on Thanksgiving night against the Patriots.  “Butt Fumble” will live forever in infamy.  That said, the cure for any struggling team’s ails nowadays seems to be the Cardinals.  After their 4-0 start the Cardinals have dropped 7 straight.  The streak goes to 8 Sunday. 

Bucs @ Broncos
I’m proud of these Bucs, but I think they’ll be in a bit over their heads in Denver.  The Bucs stop the run better than anyone, so while Knowshon Moreno might not duplicate his Chiefs’ game success, Peyton Manning should feast on the game’s worst pass defense.  Demaryius Thomas scores twice in a high scoring affair.

Browns @ Raiders
The Raiders are a really really bad football team.  They’ve lost four straight and look worse each time out.  This week they get an improving Browns team that is playing with confidence.  This one looks easy to me.  Trent Richardson has a huge day. 

Bengals @ Chargers
The Chargers couldn’t beat the Ravens in what looked like a bad spot for the road team last week.  This one shapes up similarly in that the Bengals come in on a winning streak and may be overlooking the Chargers for a home game against the Cowboys next week.  I really like the way Andy Dalton and this defense is playing.  San Diego’s struggles in this forgettable season continue. 

Steelers @ Ravens
I don’t care how good this Steelers defense is.  No Ben equals no chance in my opinion.  Charlie Batch is playing in slow motion, so it’s unlikely that the Steelers do significant damage on the scoreboard.  Baltimore plays a hell of a lot better at home than on the road, and this Sunday they’ll gave a chance to effectively bury that Steelers.  I expect them to rise to the occasion.  

Eagles v. Cowboys
The Eagles have all but thrown in the towel on this season, and the Cowboys are fighting for a playoff spot.  This one shouldn’t be close right?  Well, don’t forget these are the Dallas Cowboys; the team notorious for playing down to its competition, no matter how bad.  Still, I think Tony Romo has a lot of success in this one as the nails continue to be pounded into the coffin that is the Eagles nightmare season. 

Giants @ Redskins
The last time these two met, we were treated to quite the contest.  RGIII shined but had a couple of costly turnovers, while Eli Manning had another one of his legendary late comebacks.  Which New York team shows up – the one that stomped a mudhole in the Packers last week or the one that couldn’t get anything going against the Steelers or Bengals?  Two things stand out for me – Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are far better defensively than Green Bay, and New York always plays better on the road.  This one should be a bit more captivating than last week’s Carolina/Philly snoozer.  I expect a solid effort from the Redskins, but I’m backing the Giants because I believe the veteran team knows how important getting this win is considering their remaining schedule – New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Philadelphia