Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 9 Picks

Overall, not a great week, but let's get going. I just hope I have power by Sunday, because even though this doesn't seem like the greatest week... It is football. 

Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)  @  San Diego Chargers (3-4)  (SD -7.5)

The last two years they have played memorable night games in Arrowhead. The Chiefs won in Week 1 in 2010 off of two special teams TDs, and last year, Phil Rivers fumbled a snap trying to kneel to set up a game-winning Field Goal. Of course, the location changes. Will the outcome? The Chargers usually aren't operating at their best against the Chiefs even in San Diego, and off a short week I can see them struggling as well, but I can see the Chiefs struggling worse. I would probably buy a point here, but I'll go with the team that at least is kind of good.

Chiefs 13  Chargers 23  (SD -7.5)

Denver Broncos (4-3)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)  (DEN -4)

The only thing I can see going for the Bengals is that they are off of a bye. Other than that, the last time we saw the Bengals they were emasculated at home by the Steelers on primetime. Manning is on a roll that I haven't seen since late 2008 from him. That defense is getting better by the week, which is going really under-the-radar as the offense gets all the headlines. I think this is good value, as winning by 4 isn't all that hard.

Broncos 31  Bengals 20  (CIN -4)

Arizona Cardinals (4-4)  @  Green Bay Packers (5-3)  (GB -11)

I hate picking so many favorites but I see myself thinking about doing it. The matchup here is just awful for the Cardinals. The Packers pass rush has been one of the best in the NFL, and they could easily pick up six sacks in this game. The Cardinals defense could slow down the Packers as despite what Alex Smith and that team did to them, I still think the Cards pass defense is good. This is a high line. I really have no idea. I wouldn't bank on this being right. After being burned last week by the Packers, but I'll go with the Cards to cover.

Cardinals 17  Packers 27  (ARZ +11) 

Miami Dolphins (4-3)  @  Indianapolis Colts (4-3)  (MIA -2.5)

Surprisingly, an argument could be made that this is the most important game of the week, and the second biggest (after PIT @ NYG). The winner is 5-3, is in great position for a Wild Card (or in the Dolphins case, maybe the division). The real prize is the winner gets a head-to-head over the other team. The Colts have been very good at home (a freak 80-yard TD by Cecil Shorts away from 4-0 in the Luke), and they should get the win here against a gimpy Tannehill or a green Matt Moore.

Dolphins 17  Colts 23  (IND +2.5)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)

Baltimore Ravens (5-2)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-5)  (BAL -3.5)

I would but the point and make this Ravens -2.5. I can't see the Browns actually beating the Ravens, but the Browns have kept it close against most teams. Only one actually beat them soundly in Cleveland, and that was the Bills(?). The reason that makes me really likes the Ravens is that they are angry after losing 43-13, and off of the bye, getting time to rest that defense and get Suggs back more. The Browns defense has been playing well of late, but I don't think Weeden and Co. will have enough success.

Ravens 24  Browns 20  (BAL -3.5)

Buffalo Bills (3-4)  @  Houston Texans (6-1)  (HOU -10.5)

I usually hesitate when a line is over 10, but here I barely looked twice. The Texans are that much better. They just had a week off to rest up whatever problems they might have had on the injury front. They have a running game that should exploit a historically bad rush defense. Their offense should swallow up that short passing game. I don't see this as being close.

Bills 10  Texans 31  (HOU -10.5)

Carolina Panthers (1-6)  @  Washington Redskins (3-5)  (WAS -3.5)

Interesting game. Any time people want to anoint RGIII, I immediately point to Cam, who was about as good as a rookie with less around him, and is now struggling with an extremely underachieving team. That could easily be the RGIII story in 2013. Anyway, as of now, I think the Panthers are playing better now, but apparently Vegas thinks so as well because that line is a lot lower than I would have thought. The Redskins will probably play a lot better this week as the Panthers defense isn't good enough to do to them what the Steelers were. I'll take the Redskins, but again, would buy that point.

Panthers 20  Redskins 27  (WAS -3.5)

Detroit Lions (3-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)  (DET -3.5)

This is giving a lot of credit to the Jaguars for not being blowed out by the Packers, because the Lions are definitely more than three points better, even in Jacksonville, which is close to the opposite of Home-Field Advantage. The Lions offense will need to be patient against the Jaguars defense as it did well limiting big plays against the Packers. What really worries me for Jacksonville is their o-line holding up against the Lions d-line. I'll take the Lions.

Lions 27  Jaguars 20  (DET -3.5)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)

Chicago Bears (6-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (3-5)  (CHI -3)

Another line that seems a little low. What is the easiest way to stay competitive with the Bears: limit turnovers (although against the Bears that isn't always in their control) and rush the passer. The Titans are 11th in turnovers, which is good, but with only 11 sacks pretty bad rushing the passer. Of course, the Bears make most d-lines look good, but I don't see anyone really covering Marshall or getting to Cutler too much. Other than Carolina, the Bears have destroyed bad teams, and I can see something similar happening here. The Titans are also coming off an emotional loss that might have ended any realistic shot of making the playoffs.

Bears 27  Titans 13  (CHI -3)

Minnesota Vikings (5-3)  @  Seattle Seahawks (4-4)  (SEA -5)

This is also quite an interesting game. Most assume that the Packers will wind up either catching Chicago or getting a Wild Card spot (pretty safe assumption), these are probably the two most likely teams for that second spot (along with Arizona and Detroit). This is a huge game, especially if Minnesota can pull it off. I just don't think they can. Can they keep it close, though? Probably. They have a defense that can easily get to Russell Wilson, and a defense that will limit his big plays. Their rush defense is good enough to limit Lynch. Also, the Vikings have extra rest in this game. I'll give them a good chance of covering.

Vikings 20  Seahawks 23  (MIN +5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-4)  (OAK -1.5)

This is a bigger game for the Bucs, who can't afford to drop to 3-5 in a more competitive NFC, but the Raiders are on a nice little stretch. Their only loss in the past month was a last-second loss to the undefeated Falcons in Atlanta. They've been playing with fire falling behind against Jacksonville, but took care of KC. The Buccaneers are good. Anyway, I'll go with a random historical fact, that the Raiders are 2-0 against the Bucs since Super Bowl XXXVII, and I'll take them here.

Buccaneers 17  Raiders 24  (OAK -1.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)  @  New York Giants (6-2)  (NYG -3)

The last two matchups of these teams were interesting. In 2004, rookie Eli played his first good game of his career against the eventual 15-1 Steelers. In 2008, the Giants went to Pittsburgh and played 'Man's Football' in a 21-14 win, where the Giants got a safety down 14-12 to tie the game. Anyway, getting back to the present, neither team is more desperate than the other. The Giants defense has looked average, but their pass rush should get to Roethlisberger. On the other side, the Steelers rush defense should shut down the Giants rush offense, but that doesn't matter too much for them. Anyway, I like the Giants here to win another game against a good opponent, their specialty. I don't think the 2012 Giants will fall apart after a good start like the 2007, 2009 and 2011 vintages. They usually save falling apart for December in even years.

Steelers 19  Giants 24  (NYG -3)

Dallas Cowboys (3-4)  @  Atlanta Falcons (7-0)  (ATL -4)

Fun game. The Cowboys have, in the Romo era, twice taken down undefeated teams later in the year than this, beating the 9-0 Colts in 2006 and beating the 13-0 Saints in the Dome in 2009. I guess I can see something similar here. What makes me nervous in taking the Falcons (who have loads of matchup advantages with their good o-line and pass defense) is their flaccid play at home, but their due to break out in a home game, and I don't trust Romo in primetime. I'll take my chances here with another favorite.

Cowboys 20  Falcons 30  (ATL -4)

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)  @  New Orleans Saints (2-5)  (NO -3)

Another interesting game. They haven't played that much through the years. The last time they met was early in 2009, and the Saints rolled against Kevin Kolb. A lot has changed since then. They played a memorable Divisional Game in the Dome back in 2006. Anyway, the Eagles are better than the team that showed up last Sunday, and the Saints just aren't that good. For the first time, their offense even looked lost against Denver. Philly's new defense looked awful on Sunday, but I can see them having some success against everyone except for Jimmy Graham. I like the Eagles in these bigger games, strangely. I'll take them to give the Saints, shockingly, their third home loss.

Eagles 31  Saints 27  (PHI +3)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 9 Power Rankings & The Rest

Hey Ma, no pushes this week!!

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Buccaneers (+5.5)  over  Vikings  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
Rams (+7)  over  Patriots  (WRONG  =  1-1)
Colts (+3.5)  over  Titans  (CORRECT  =  2-1)  (UPSET)
Packers (-15.5)  over  Jaguars  (WRONG  =  2-2)
Chargers (-2.5)  over  Browns  (WRONG  =  2-3)
Eagles (-2.5)  over  Falcons  (WRONG  =  2-4)
Lions (-2.5)  over  Seahawks  (CORRECT  =  3-4)
Jets (-2.5)  over  Dolphins  (WRONG  =  3-5)
Bears  (-7.5)  over  Panthers  (WRONG  =  3-6)
Steelers (-4.5)  over  Redskins  (CORRECT  =  4-6)  (LOCK)
Raiders (+1)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  5-6)
Giants (-2)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  6-6)
Broncos (-6)  over  Saints  (CORRECT  =  7-6)
Cardinals (+7)  over  49ers  (WRONG  =  7-7)

Week 8: 7-7  (LOCK: 1-0;  UPSET: 1-0)

Year-to-Date: 65-50-3  (LOCK: 6-2;  UPSET: 7-1)

Best Picks:

Power Rankings

32.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-6  =  120-209)

So, I guess that whole ridiculous QB controversy meant about nothing, huh? Matt Cassel is back and he looked, dare I say, decent. What was not was giving Jamaal Charles just 5 carries. Other than a weird 9-6 loss to Baltimore, the Chiefs have been absolutely dreadful at home so far this season. They haven't been much good on the road either. Of course... they beat the Saints in the Superdome.

31.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-6  =  103-188)

I'll give them credit for a hard fight in a game that literally no one gave them a shot. I'll also give them credit from bouncing back from a blocked punt TD against them to continue to play well on defense, limiting Aaron Rodgers really well. Blaine Gabbert even played OK, but you saw his limitations on that last drive. I don't think he could run a drive any worse.

30.) Tennessee Titans  (3-5  =  162-257)

That was a really, really bad loss. They had a chance to somehow get back to .500, and really get themselves in the playoff race, but they dropped a home game to a team that had been blowed out in their two road games prior. Matt Hasselbeck just can't sustain drives at a consistent rate anymore, and that defense cannot get enough pressure to cover a suspect back-7. Just not a good team.

29.) Carolina Panthers  (1-6  =  128-167)

I'll give them credit for a hard fight, but that was another tough loss. Cam threw a bad pick to give up the lead (admittedly, Steve Smith slipped which made the pass look worse than it really was), but then had a nice drive to regain it. That was a perfect pass to Steve Smith that should've been a game winning TD. He'll get over-analyzed a ton the rest of the year, but Cam Newton is not the problem.

28.) Buffalo Bills  (3-4  =  171-227)

A nice bye week might help people forget that the last time we saw the Bills they were blowing a late lead at home to the Tennessee Titans. I have nothing really to say about the Bills as a team. They aren't very good. Their overpriced defense is being run into the ground by Dave Wannstedt, who is living off what he did 20 years ago. 

27.) Cleveland Browns  (2-6  =  154-186)

I said three weeks ago that the Browns, much like the '10 Bills and '11 Dolphins, were better than a few other teams despite then being the last winless team. I'm not right too much, but I was there. The Browns stunned me with that win. Some of it has to do with pathetically believing in the Chargers, but that was an impressive defensive performance. I love Joe Haden as a player.

26.) Cincinnati Bengals  (3-4  =  166-187)

What to say about a team that easily could've been 5-1 heading into that SNF showdown. Then, they start 14-3 up against the Steelers. After that, they did nothing, and now they get the Broncos. I like Marvin Lewis, and I feel like he'll keep his job because this is still a young team, but they might end up with a worse record than the Browns. Seriously.

25.) St. Louis Rams  (3-5  =  137-186)

What happened to that defense? I realize they've had to play offenses QBed by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady the last two games, but they looked lost defensively. Cortland Finnegan did a decent job on Welker, but they seemed to have no plan for Gronk. Containing Gronkowski is hard, sure, but teams have done better on him this year. The Rams seemed like they didn't realize he was on the field.

24.) New York Jets  (3-4  =  168-200)

I'm back to no longer liking the Jets. I actually feel that much like the Giants, they would play better on the road. Things just steamroll for the Jets at home. Having Mark Sanchez throw 54 times in never a path that leads to success. And to make it worse they had to go out and injure Ryan Tannehill. Way to go, Jets.

23.) New Orleans Saints  (2-5  =  190-216)

Another sullen loss, but the worst part was the Saints offense being totally flustered by the Broncos pass rush and coverage. That was one of the worst games for the Saints offense in the Brees era. Until garbage time, Brees was completing less than 50% of his passes for under 200 yards. Nothing worked. Just an awful performance in Game 1 of the new-Interim Head Coach.

22.) San Diego Chargers  (3-4  =  154-144)

6 points? SIX POINTS??? Weirdest part, I don't even think it is Rivers fault, and in some ways, it isn't even Norv's fault. It is AJ Smith's fault. The once "Most Talented Team in the NFL" has been gutted.

21.) Oakland Raiders  (3-4  =  139-187)

If the Raiders didn't lose a long-snapper in Week 1, or had finished off the Falcons two weeks ago, this is a 5-2 team. Anyway, they aren't, but they are in the playoff mix. They have a head-to-head win over a Wild Card competitor in Pittsburgh, and still have one more against KC and San Diego. They have a shot.

20.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-4  =  120-155)

Apparently, the Nick Foles era is beginning. Though I think this is an overreaction, this makes more sense than firing Juan Castillo after the defense had been playing decent. The defense looked awful against Atlanta, just awful. Their pass rush has completely disappeared. Their are major problems in Philadelphia, and I think the Reid era is ending this offseason.

19.) Washington Redskins  (3-5  =  213-227)

RGIII played the most complex defense he had seen, and he looked like a rookie. The Steelers shut down that running game, and the Redskins finally had to come to terms with the fact that their pistol-heavy offense wasn't going to always work. Still, they are the best team that is two or more games under .500. 

18.) Indianapolis Colts  (4-3  =  136-171)

RGIII might have the pretty stats, but while the Redskins are two games under .500, the Andrew Luck led Colts are a game over. Can this team actually make the playoffs? Yes, in a weak AFC, they can. Their defense is playing a lot better in that 3-4 now, and the run game has looked good three of the last four games. Reggie Wayne is still playing, and that is huge as well.

17.) Dallas Cowboys  (3-4  =  137-162)

 Tough loss. I'll give them credit for making that comeback. That certainly wasn't easy, and they could have easily given up down 23-0 to the Giants. Jason Witten played a hell of a game. That all said, the fact that they were down 23-0 says a lot. They were unprepared. Romo was careless. Dez was Dez in a bad way. I don't know what the true Cowboys are, but I do know that they are 3-4.

16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (3-4  =  184-153)

I guess I'll get off my high horse and actually give the Buccaneers some credit. Greg Schiano's group has really shored up their run defense (although it wasn't great against Minnesota), and that passing game is quite dynamic. This has been a good bounce back year from Josh Freeman, and double so from Mike Williams who basically disappeared last season. 

15.) Miami Dolphins  (4-3  =  150-126)

I don't think the dropoff to Matt Moore will be too much, as Moore has proven capable in limited starts. Their defense has continued to perform near their level from 2011, and their offense continues to put up yards despite having no true weapons at WR. Reggie Bush is their most important offensive player after Jake Long; he's really had a nice second career in Miami.

14.) Minnesota Vikings  (5-3  =  184-167)

That was a bad loss, and with two losses in the last three games, it might be time to start to wonder if this team was the 2012 version of the 2011 Bills, a team with a quick start that fell back to reality. The NFC Wild-Card picture doesn't have too many teams in it, but their schedule gets really tough in the coming weeks. They need to tread water over the next 6 games. Beating the Packers once would really help their chances.

13.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-4  =  127-142)

OK, maybe they aren't any good, but they played an angry, good team last night. That was a brilliant performance by Alex Smith, but the Cardinals defense looked a step slow. They got pressure, but their coverage has fallen off from their early-season success.

12.) Detroit Lions  (3-4  =  161-174)

They've blown chances in previous games, losing to the Titans and Vikings because of 5 return TDs, but it was good to see the Lions play well in a close game against a really good defense. That was a big game for Stafford who played well even though Calvin was controlled most of the night. The Lions are still in the race as well, and would do well to beat the Packers once.

11.) Seattle Seahawks  (4-4  =  140-134)

Tough loss for the Seahawks, who can't afford to drop too many winnable games. For the first time in a Seahawks loss, Russell Wilson wasn't the problem, as he continues to improve in his consistency throw to throw. He is also developing better chemistry with Sidney Rice. The defense played well, but they  weren't able to hold down the Lions secondary weapons, which was surprising.

10.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (4-3  =  167-144)

The Steelers are alive. Their defense still isn't rushing the passer nearly as well as they used to, and I don't trust them to shut down a top offense, but with their own offense, they might not need to. The Steelers offense is still playing really well behind Roethlisberger who is quietly having a great year even with an up-and-down Mike Wallace. 

9.) Green Bay Packers  (5-3  =  208-170)

Really? Needing a lucky awful DPI just to ice the Jaguars. Really? The Packers offense looked much like the offense from Weeks 1-5 in that game, limited to short throw after short throw. The worst part is the Jaguars defense really isn't all that good, but they did really well against the Packers offense. The Packers defense did play well, however, but the loss of Charles Woodson looked like it had an impact.

8.) Baltimore Ravens  (5-2  =  174-161)

After a week off, I'm going back on what I said a week ago. Some of this has to do with great perfomances by the Patriots and Broncos, but the Ravens are in a tough space. That division, seemingly theirs a couple weeks ago, is really up in the air with both Ravens vs. Steelers matchups yet to come. 

7.) New England Patriots  (4-3  =  262-170)

The Pats do this every year, even when they aren't great. In 2009, they went to London and drilled the Bucs 35-7, and that was a week after beating the Fisher-led Titans 59-0. That team couldn't close out close games and lost on the road a lot. There are some similarities. Anyway, I hate Gronk. I think he's a punk. That said, that first TD celebration was quite good.

6.) San Francisco 49ers  (6-2  =  189-103)

Hello, San Fran. This is probably too low, but I have a hard time ranking these top six. The 49ers o-line didn't look very good, but Alex Smith looked incredible. Good to see Randy Moss doing something again, and good to see that pass rush showing up, but it would be better if they did so against a team that doesn't have the worst o-line in the NFL in decades.

5.) Denver Broncos  (4-3  =  204-152)

Forget the offense. Manning played great, but everyone does against the Saints. Anyway, as for the Broncos, how about that defense, limiting the Saints offense to less than 5 yards per play, limiting Brees to barely over 50% completing, forcing Brees into tons of low-percentage throws. Just a great job by a defense that has played mostly well this season. This team is going on a run.

4.) New York Giants  (6-2  =  234-161)

That barely feels like a win for them, but they beat the Cowboys again in Dallas, putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC East. For the 3rd straight year, and fifth time in six years, the Giants have started 6-2 (7-1 in 2008). Now, last year they immediately lost their next four, but me thinks it will be different this time,

3.) Chicago Bears  (6-1  =  185-100)

Good teams win games where they don't play well. The Bears did that. They came back with a fury late to steal that game, and that was, in reality, a good thing. They got their scare. They might have overlooked the Panthers. Who knows. But that was a good win and the defense is still playing out of its mind.

2.) Atlanta Falcons  (7-0  =  201-130)

I still don't think they are nearly as good as the last three teams to reach 7-0 ('11 Packers and '09 Colts & Saints), but they are a very good team that at their best is great. The strangest part of the Falcons 7-0 start is how great they have been on the road, compared to mostly pedestrian performances in the Dome. That is a great sign for a team that usually struggles outside of Atlanta.

1.) Houston Texans  (6-1  =  216-128)

Hopefully they rested up during their bye. They get a nice game next week with the Bills before a showdown on SNF in two weeks with the Bears. It could be a 7-1 vs. 7-1 matchup. That should be a great game. Anyway, as I said, hopefully Andre Johnson rested up. They'll need him the rest of the season. I should mention, at least consider switching full time to the Red Jerseys.

Rankings this Upcoming Week's Games

No time to really go through these. A pretty bad week anyway.

14.) Buffalo Bills (3-4)  @  Houston Texans (6-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
13.) Detroit Lions (3-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)  (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-4)  (4:05 - FOX)
11.) Chicago Bears (6-1)  @  Tennessee Titans (3-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
10.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-6)  @  San Diego Chargers (3-4)  (TNF - NFLN)
9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
8.) Denver Broncos (4-3)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)  (1:00 - CBS)
7.) Carolina Panthers (1-6)  @  Washington Redskins (3-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
6.) Minnesota Vikings (5-3)  @  Seattle Seahawks (4-4)  (4:05 - FOX)
5.) Arizona Cardinals (X-X)  @  Green Bay Packers (5-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)  @  New Orleans Saints (2-5)  (MNF - ESPN)
3.) Dallas Cowboys (3-4)  @  Atlanta Falcons (7-0)  (SNF - NBC)
2.) Miami Dolphins (4-3)  @  Indianapolis Colts (4-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
1.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)  @  New York Giants (6-2)  (4:25 - CBS)

Postseason Projections


1.) Houston Texans (13-3)
2.) Denver Broncos (12-4)
3.) Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
4.) New England Patriots (11-5)
5.) Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
6.) Indianapolis Colts (9-7)


1.) Atlanta Falcons (14-2)
2.) Chicago Bears (13-3)
3.) XXX
4.) XXX
5.) Green Bay Packers (10-6)
6.) Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 8 Picks

Let's see if I can come out of my mediocre phase. Maybe, much like the Broncos will, I can start a 2nd half run. Let's go.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (5-2)  (MIN -5.5)

I've spoken out before about how I don't like the Buccaneers, and I actually have come to like the Vikings, but I don't much like this matchup from their perspective. The Buccaneers are awful stopping the pass. Historically awful. They are also quietly been dominant against the run. That perfectly works here because they can slow down Peterson and make Ponder beat them. Ponder probably can, but I don't trust him yet. The only thing going for the Vikings, really, is that this is a TNF game at home, so I'll pick them to win, but not cover a high line against a team that's been blown out zero times.

Buccaneers 20  Vikings 24  (TB +5.5)

New England Patriots (4-3)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-4)  (NE -7)

I'm going on a run of favorites later on, but I like the Rams to keep this close. They have a defense that can limit New England. They're better suited to stop the Patriots offense than they were the Packers, as Brady doesn't like throwing to the tight windows that Rodgers, when on his game, feasts on. The pass rush should also get to Brady. If this was in St. Louis, I might have even picked the Rams, but I still think they are better than 7 points worse than New England.

Patriots 30  Rams 24  (STL +7)

Indianapolis Colts (3-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (3-4)  (TEN -3.5)

I have no idea how the Titans have won two straight games. They came from behind to beat the Steelers and Bills. Not exactly two great teams, but they don't really get a great team here either.The Colts have yet to come within 20 on the road, but I feel like they'll get up for a division game, especially the vets like Freeney and Wayne. The Titans don't have a pass rush to fluster Luck. The biggest issue here is if the Colts can stop the volatile CJ1K, who currently is on an upswing. Just looking historically, the Colts have done well against Johnson when Johnson was running for 2,000 yards. Quite a bit of this is homerish, but I'll go with the Colts to pull the upset. I can't imagine the Titans actually on a three game win streak.

Colts 23  Titans 20  (IND +3.5)  (UPSET OF THE WEEK)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)  @  Green Bay Packers (4-3)  (GB -15.5)

I hate laying a line this high. Man, that is high. But I can't even think of a case where the Jaguars keep this close. The Jags can't rush the passer, which is the only real way to slow down the Packers offense (that or be the Bears defense). The Jags will be missing their only good offensive weapon in MJD and is still employing Blaine Gabbert. Again, if I was a true gamblin' man, I probably wouldn't bet this game because that is usually a good move when it's a line this high and it seems this easy.

Jaguars 14  Packers 34  (GB -15.5)

San Diego Chargers (3-3)  @  Cleveland Browns (1-6)  (SD -2.5)

I have to believe the Chargers have fixed some of their issues over the bye, mostly the lack of communication between Rivers and his receivers. This team still has a very large Wild Card chance with the schedule they have coming up, but for that to happen they have to beat the Browns. Anyway, this is a good value line. The Chargers, while hated, are quite a bit better than the Browns, and with this low of a line, the Chargers are the easy, safe pick, and one I can get behind.

Chargers 27  Browns 20  (SD -2.5)

Atlanta Falcons (6-0)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)  (PHI -2.5)

The Eagles, with Andy Reid as head coach, have never lost off of a bye. The only exception is Super Bowl XXXIX. Every regular season bye has been followed by an Eagles' win. How meaningful is that? Not sure, but I don't think this is a huge mismatch anyway. The Eagles defense is still mostly good, and their corners should be able to contain White and Jones. The Falcons haven't had any success playing the Eagles during the Matt Ryan era. I think the Eagles keep that streak going one more year, and end the hopes of the last unbeaten team.

Falcons 17  Eagles 23  (PHI -2.5)

Seattle Seahawks (4-3)  @  Detroit Lions (2-4)  (DET -2.5)

I get the idea that the Seahawks haven't really played well on the road, but I'm surprised the Lions are comfortably favored. The Lions are off of a short week, while the Seahawks are off a long week. I would do research to see if that means anything, but I'm lazy. Anyway, the Seahawks have the talent in their DBs to limit Calvin the way the Bears did. Their offense shouldn't have too much trouble against the Lions offense that isn't great against the run. That said, the Seahawks really haven't shown much on the road, and the Lions are really desperate. I can see that winning out against a team that doesn't really need this game all that badly.

Seahawks 20  Lions 27  (DET -2.5)

Miami Dolphins (3-3)  @  New York Jets (3-4)  (NYJ -2.5)

This is the fourth straight game with a line of -2.5, which I love. The Jets beat the Dolphins four weeks ago by 3 in OT in Miami. That was almost a lifetime ago for both teams. Both are playing better now than they were back then. The Jets have figured out to play without Revis and Sanchez has played well the last two weeks. I'm not as sold on the Dolphins right now, and I can't see Ryan Tannehill having a good game in New York. The Jets also need this game badly, with trips to Seattle and St. Louis approaching after the bye.

Dolphins 16  Jets 24  (NYJ -2.5)

Carolina Panthers (1-5)  @  Chicago Bears (6-1)  (CHI -7.5)

Just like the Packers, sometimes it is easy because it is that easy. The Panthers are a mess right now. Their defense can't really rush the passer and has lost Gamble and Beason in the last weeks. That said, the one point of contention is the Bears aren't great against the run (at least relatively compared to the pass) and the Panthers could wake up. I just don't see. The Bears are playing at a really confident level right now.

Panthers 13  Bears 27  (CHI -7.5)

Washington Redskins (3-4)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)  (PIT -4.5)

If this was the 2011 Steelers, I would write a long screed about this being RGIII's first true test against a great defense. Alas, the Steelers defense isn't quite close to what it was a year ago. I still think that they match up well with the Redskins offense. Their rush defense is still good, and I feel like this is the type of team that can contain RGIII. Their offense is good enough to capitalize against a Redskins secondary that can't cover deep against Wallace and Co. The Steelers are still money at home.

Redskins 20  Steelers 27  (PIT -4.5)  (LOCK OF THE WEEK)

Oakland Raiders (2-4)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)  (KC -1)

I realize the Raiders needed a 14-point second half comeback to beat the Jaguars at home, but the last time we saw the Chiefs, they lost 38-10 to the Buccaneers. The Chiefs have been lousy at home except against the Ravens. The Raiders rush defense has actually been good so I don't see Jamaal Charles going off, and that is really the Chiefs only reliable piece of their offense. The Raider offense is still decent, and that is enough to win this game.

Raiders 24  Chiefs 17  (OAK +1)

New York Giants (5-2)  @  Dallas Cowboys (3-3)  (NYG -2)

The Giants have not lost in the new Cowboys Stadium. Two of the games have been epic shootouts (2009, 2011), and this game could be that way as well. But I see a more lower-scoring type game, but I still see the Giants coming out on top. They are getting love before the game (the Giants are favorites) but I still say we get the mad Giants coming to Dallas after Dallas beat them in week 1. The Cowboys are still with a gimpy Dez and without Murray. That is not a recipe for success against a defense that is susceptible to the run. Also really like the value here, as it's almost like picking straight up here. 

Giants 27  Cowboys 23  (NYG -2)

New Orleans Saints (2-4)  @  Denver Broncos (3-3)  (DEN -6)

Despite my inclination to think the Broncos go on a nice run coming up, I am deathly scared of this game. Drew Brees woke up last week, but that was against the league's worst pass defense. The Broncos are actually a decent pass defense, and can get pressure on Brees, which he's been effected by more than usual. Also, that Saints offense is awful. The Broncos offense is very good when they don't fumble. They can't keep fumbling, and if they don't they should score 30 easy. I love the Broncos here, and as a long-time Manning and Colts supporter, that scares me more than anything.

Saints 24  Broncos 34  (DEN -6)

San Francisco 49ers (5-2)  @  Arizona Cardinals (4-3)  (SF -7)

This game looked a lot better a couple weeks ago, when the Cards were 4-1, but the Cards aren't as bad as the team that lost to Minnesota last week. They dominated much of that game except for Special Teams and, once again, their inability to block. Both of those things can be huge problems in this game as well, but the Cards usually play better at home. This is a big game, their first prime-time game in the post-Warner era, I believe. Sign me up. I think the 49ers still pull this out, but they aren't that much better than the Cards in their building.

49ers 20  Cardinals 17  (ARZ +7)

Enjoy the Games!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

World Series Pick

So, I was kind of wrong in my DS picks, getting just one right (the Tigers over the A's). Still, it has been a good postseason. That was probably the best collection of four DSes ever, and the CS round saw the fall of the Yankees, and a weird 7-game series where the most important player was either Marco Scutaro or Barry Zito, and the Giants came back from 3-1 down, but absolutely dominated the last three games. This sets us up for a nice World Series. The Final 4 teams contained the last three World Series winners (Cards, Giants, Yankees), and while the Giants are still in the mix for a second title in three years, the Tigers can join the club. They don't even get the team that ruined their dream in 2006. Anyway, on to the breakdown:

San Francisco Giants (94-68)  vs  Detroit Tigers  (88-74)

The Giants had the better regular season. Statistically, they are the better team. Yes, they were in the easier conference, but the Tigers were in the worst division in baseball. Both have looked good in the playoffs. The Tigers were more dominant in their CS, obviously, sweeping the Yankees, but the Giants outscored the Cards 20-1 in the last three games. Looking at the matchup, in a weird way, I actually like the Giants hitting more. Cabrera and Fielder are great, obviously, but outside of Austin Jackson, that lineup isn't very deep. The Giants lineup has their big bat in Posey (who admittedly has been bad in the playoffs), plus a nice rebound season from Sandoval, but their lesser players are far greater than those on the Giants. They can throw Pagan, Scutaro, Pence (who played better late in that series) and Belt against the Tigers who respond with the carcass of Infante, a strikeout waiting to happen in Delmon Young, and a 19-year old in Avasail Garcia.

On the other side, the Tigers starting pitching is better, and maybe by a lot. If Lincecum was the 2008 Lincecum, this would be much closer, but with him in shambles, and Zito unlikely to come close to repeating what he did in Game 5 against the Cards, the Giants have two plus starters against four. Cain and Vogelsong are very good, but Verlander and Scherzer are better. The one caveat on the pitching side is the Giants have a, well, Giant, edge in the bullpen. Their closer is actually a person in Sergio Romo, as the Tigers haven't really formally made Phil Coke their closer, and they probably shouldn't be too hasty in doing so given the Tigers right-handed heavy lineup. The Giants also have Bumgarner to throw out there if need-be.

I honestly feel this is an extremely close series. I have no idea where to go, but in the four main parts of a team (hitting, starting pitching, bullpen and defense) the Giants have an edge in three in my mind. That, combined with a great home field, is enough for me.

Giants in 7

NFL 2012: Week 8 Power Rankings and the Rest

Another so-so week for me. It seems that my 10-5 performance in Week 4 is to my prognastication 2012 season what the Patriots two straight 240+ rushing yards games were to theirs. Also, screw pushes.

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

49ers (-7)  over  Seahawks  (PUSH  =  0-0-1)
Bills (-3)  over  Titans  (WRONG  =  0-1-1)
Vikings (-6)  over  Cardinals  (CORRECT  =  1-1-1)
Colts (-2.5)  over  Browns  (CORRECT  =  2-1-1)
Texans (-6.5)  over  Ravens  (CORRECT  =  3-1-1)  (LOCK)
Rams (+5.5)  over  Packers  (WRONG  =  3-2-1)
Panthers (+2)  over  Cowboys  (WRONG  =  3-3-1)  (UPSET)
Giants (-5.5)  over  Redskins  (WRONG  =  3-4-1)
Saints (-3)  over  Buccaneers  (CORRECT  =  4-4-1)
Raiders (-4)  over  Jaguars  (WRONG  =  4-5-1)
Jets (+10.5)  over  Patriots  (CORRECT  =  5-5-1)
Steelers (-1.5)  over  Bengals  (CORRECT  =  6-5-1)
Bears (-6)  over  Lions  (PUSH  =  6-5-2)

Week 7: 6-5-2  (LOCK: 1-0;  UPSET: 0-1)

Year-to-Date: 58-43-3  (LOCK: 5-2;  UPSET: 6-1)

Best Picks: Probably the worst week in terms of nothing being that close. My closest would either be picking the Steelers 23-20 (they won 24-17) and giving the Giants an extra field goal while taking one away from Washington, picking the Giants 30-20 (they won 27-23). I guess my Jets/Pats pick was in the realm of what the real score was, picking them 28-20 (they won 29-26).

Power Rankings

32.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-5  =  104-183)

Someone has to be last. Many of last week's bottom feeders played competitively this week, and the Chiefs were off. The last time we saw them they lost 10-38 to the Bucs, so here we are. The Chiefs still have a laughable QB competition right now, and have a coach who I think no one trusts to get the most out of his team. 

31.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-6  =  88-164)

I'm stunned but after Blaine Gabbert got hurt, the Jaguars offense got, amazingly, worse. Losing MJD doesn't help either. Jaguars fans must feel like they are in a constant state of irrelevance with this team. At least this year they were important because they had the worst QB in the NFL, but even now that distinction is gone.

30.) Buffalo Bills  (3-4  =  171-227)

The Bills had a chance to be leaders in the AFC Wild Card race, had a chance to win a key game at home, and they gave up a 4th quarter lead to Matt Hasselbeck. I think it is painfully obvious that the Bills rush defense is historically awful as even Chris Johnson had a good game against them.

29.) Tennessee Titans  (3-4  =  149-238)

On the other hand, how about the Titans, my worst team through five games, who are now on a two-game win streak. Interesting decision coming up for Mike Munchak, as Jake Locker is about ready to return possibly for Hasselbeck. The defense is still garbage, but that offense can move the ball, mostly because Chris Johnson seems to be alive again.

28.) Cleveland Browns  (1-6  =  147-180)

Another tough, competitive loss for the Browns. The Browns are probably going to go like 3-13, but they have a better future than a lot of these teams around them back here. I still like Brandon Weeden, and the supplemental draft pick of Josh Gordon might have been a better use of their 2013 2nd round pick that whatever could've come in next April.

27.) Carolina Panthers  (1-5  =  106-144)

I'm not blaming Cam. I saw a staggering stat, that the Panthers are 0-12 when Cam throws an interception. That isn't on Cam, but the rest of that team. There is no margin for error. Ron Rivera, despite inheriting a decent defense from the Fox era, and being a defensive minded coach, has seen that defense regress so much under his watch. The GM is gone, and this is a lost year in Carolina.

26.) Oakland Raiders  (2-4  =  113-171)

Huge gut-check win for the Raiders, who played awful early in that game, but were incredibly poised in that late comeback. Their season would've been over at 1-5, but now it is just most likely over. I still think Carson Palmer isn't the problem. The problem, this year, is the switch to a zone-blocking o-line, which hasn't worked with McFadden at all.

25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-4  =  148-136)

If this was the 2011 Bucs losing 35-28 to the 2011 Saints, it would've been a moral victory. Instead, since this is 2012, it is a tough loss in a winnable game. The Buccaneers pass defense continues to be historically bad, but that offense is quickly becoming the new Cowboys, a team that can pile up yards on anybody but can't score. In Vincent Jackson's case, literally so. 

24.) Cincinnati Bengals  (3-4  =  166-187)

Just a sullen, awful loss for a team that really needs to reset itself this season. They were 3-1, with the Dolphins and Browns coming up. 5-1 was there for the taking. The blew those games, and now lost to the Steelers, letting the Steelers off the mat and putting them on it instead. They had an 80-yard drive to make it 14-3. They had just 107 yards the rest of the game. Pathetic.

23.) Indianapolis Colts  (3-3  =  117-158)

Hey, a win is a win, right? If not for a ridiculous Cecil Shorts 80-yard TD, the Colts could easily be 4-0 at home, but they are 0-2 on the road, losing by a combined 76-30. That is an issue that needs to be fixed. Andrew Luck has looked plain bad on the road. They have a chance to turn that around this week against the porous Titans. Can they?

22.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-3  =  103-125)

I don't know why I chose to drop them this much during their bye, but I just don't like the Eagles. They easily, and I mean easily, could be 0-6 right now. If that Browns LB just catches the pick, if Lawrence Tynes just hits a field goal and if the replacements don't call a really questionable OPI on Jacoby Jones, there we are. And firing Juan Castillo is not the answer. It isn't Castillo's defense that has turned over the ball 17 times.

21.) New Orleans Saints  (2-4  =  176-182)

The good news: The offense hummed, with Brees throwing for 315 yards and 4 TDs in the first half. The bad news: The defense sucks, giving up 500 yards to the Buccaneers, and Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan (twice) led offenses still to come. They saved their season with this win, but with that defense, it probably wasn't worth saving.

20.) New York Jets  (3-4  =  159-170)

Dare I say it, I like this Jets team. They remind me of a worse version of the 2009 team. All those big names are gone like Santonio, and Bart Scott (who in performance, is more than gone). I like Kerley, Keller, McKnight. I like Cromartie, who's risen his game since the Revis injury. Rex Ryan is still good at scheming up that defense. But Holy Lord, can you not throw and 3rd and 1 and pound Tebow?

19.) Detroit Lions  (2-4  =  133-150)

Detroit isn't dead, but they better win at least one against the Packers. That wasn't even that bad of a performance. I can't believe it but the Lions are actually more consistent on their defense than their offense. Teams have been able to, to a point, take away Calvin Johnson, but that defense stays pretty consistent. They do what they do, rush four, and it works quite well. It has to work better, though, if that offense stays inconsistent.

18.) St. Louis Rams  (3-4  =  130-141)

That was a tough performance. Aaron Rodgers is unstoppable when he's on, and he was in that game. They still got pressure, and the offense moved the ball. I like this Givens guy at WR, and I think Sam Bradford is having a nice season. What I'm saying, mainly, is that I already like them to cover whatever high line there is for their London matchup with the Patriots.

17.) Dallas Cowboys  (3-3  =  113-133)

Nice win. I like that they switched it up on me. Instead of scoring few points with a lot of yards, this time they still scored few points, but decided to not put up a lot of yards. I kid, mostly. The Cowboys are still alive, and have a big shot to establish themselves this week. Still, I don't trust that team. Without Murray, the run game is stagnant, and they just can't consistently score points.

16.) Miami Dolphins  (3-3  =  120-117)

The bye week treated the Dolphins well. They jump to sole possession of 2nd in the division, and the Pats are looking human right now. Hopefully, in the bye, the Dolphins worked on their secondary play. That will be huge going forward if they want to contain New England in what could be bigger games than anyone could have thought coming into the season.

15.) San Diego Chargers  (3-3  =  148-137)

Well, Norv wasn't fired over the bye, but maybe that is because the Chargers are looking for what the 2007-2009 Norv iterations did: get hot late. The problem this time is Rivers was good early in those seasons, which is far from the case this year. They really need to establish Eddie Royal. The loss of Vincent Jackson is looming really large right now.

14.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-3  =  124-118)

I'll keep them in the top half because I still like the team. The defense is still great. They still have Larry Fitzgerald, and Larod Stephens-Howling gave the run game a lift, but can they even try blocking? I'm now quite happy Peyton didn't go to Arizona because he might have gotten killed. The Cardinals did go into a tough environment, but if they want to make a playoff push they have to play better than that.

13.) Washington Redskins  (3-4  =  201-200)

Tough loss for the Redskins. They played well enough to win in that game, but how can you just let Victor Cruz run by you like that? That was almost as bad as the Patriots letting Sidney Rice get behind them last week. Also, RGIII is great, but seeing the Cam Show in 2012, let's wait until at least 2013 to start sizing his sleeves for his HOF jacket.

12.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (3-3  =  140-132)

The defense didn't get a sack, but did get turnovers and did limit the Bengals with tight coverage. What was more impressive is the play of Roethlisberger. With a bad o-line, and Mike Wallace having the most drop-happy game of his career, Roethlibserger converted many third downs. He's quietly having a great year while the rest of that team is slowly waking up. Seeing Baltimore last week, that division race might not quite be over.

11.) Seattle Seahawks  (4-3  =  116-106)

Tough loss for the Seahawks, but it was nice to see the real Russell Wilson return to action. The Patriots defense doesn't come along too many times, Russel, huh? The Seahawks defense continued to be dominant, and now they get a nice little trip to Detroit coming up. The Seahawks are still in good position to nab a wild card spot. I'm really rooting for the Simultaneous Catch game to be the tie-breaker.

10.) Minnesota Vikings  (5-2  =  167-131)

Another odd win for the Vikings, as they were outgained by about 150 yards, but got a return TD and got another win. The Vikings aren't a great team, and their schedule gets a lot tougher, but if they hold serve at home against the Bucs, they will be 6-2 without even playing to their potential. Adrian Peterson is looking more and more healthy each week, as is that d-line. They have a chance to go into the playoffs, which is truly amazing.

9.) New England Patriots  (4-3  =  217-163)

I thought this in the middle of the game, when the Patriots had to face many third downs; are the Patriots really all that great? Brady is older, as is Welker. The two TEs are gimpy. Lloyd and Brady have little chemistry. The defense is still awful, and the pass rush is worse from a year ago. The Patriots were a soft AFC Champion last year, and they seem worse to me. They could go on a run, but I don't see it.

8.) Denver Broncos  (3-3  =  170-138)

Nice bye for the Broncos. The Ravens fall back a game, and the Patriots look mortal. With the schedule that they have coming up, the Broncos can go on a run. A bye isn't out of the question (especially if they beat Baltimore). First thing, though, is beat New Orleans. Don't look ahead. I have no idea why I'm lecturing an NFL team right now.

7.) Green Bay Packers  (4-3  =  184-155)

Aaron Rodgers quietly, I guess, has the best passer rating in the NFL (even more quietly, Peytao - which is what I'll be calling him until I feel bored of doing it - is #2). He's on an epic roll right now, and just torched a good Rams defense. That offense will calm down, but for now, sit back and enjoy the ride. The news of Woodson's injury hurts, but it isn't season-ending, and with that offense, who cares?

6.) Baltimore Ravens  (5-2  =  174-161)

Every team has an awful game. The Ravens are unlucky because their was a huge game that had major seeding implications. Suggs looks fine, but they really need him to step up to close to his 2012 level with Webb out and Ngata hobbling. The Ravens offense also has to remember they have the best running back in the NFL. They really do. Use him, dammit.

5.) New York Giants  (5-2  =  205-137)

The Giants nearly blew that one. Part of it was Manning's two costly picks. Part of it was a total unpreparedness to stop the Redskins running game. That said, they didn't even blink after RGIII hit that pass to Santana Moss. Coolly and calmly, Eli Manning did what he does, and Victor Cruz did what he does. I'm surprised that Victor Cruz hasn't dropped off at all really from his 2011 numbers.

4.) Atlanta Falcons  (6-0  =  171-113)

I'm trying to think of the other recent teams to make it to 6-0 that people were completely discounting in terms of finishing 16-0. The one that immediate comes to mind is the 2008 Titans, who went all the way to 10-0. The other was the 2006 Colts, which is actually a good comp. The 2006 Colts were coming off of a 13-0 start to the 2005 team, won a bunch of close games early. They eventually started 9-0 but finished 3-4. Of course they won teh Super Bowl. What does it mean? Nothing really. I have little to say about teams off of byes.

3.) San Francisco 49ers  (5-2  =  165-100)

Big win for them. They looked like they were sleep-walking in the first half, gashed repeatedly by Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks running game, but whatever Harbaugh told that team at halftime really worked. They came out and just dominated. If not for a ridiculously bad decision by Smith inside the 10 yard line, that game doesn't end closely at all (and the 49ers cover). Anyway, on to the next game for them.

2.) Chicago Bears  (5-1  =  162-78)

That defense is so much fun to watch. It's not like watching the Ravens when Rex was their coordinatoor, or the Steelers, but more like revisiting the '02 Bucs, the greatest defense I have ever seen. They aren't that good or fast, but this team doesn't rely on Tampa-2 as much as that team did, so it is slightly more interesting. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are both playing at insane levels giving their age, and I'm sorry, New York, but the Bears have the best D-Line in the NFL right now.

1.) Houston Texans  (6-1  =  216-128)

That was an important blowout. They were embarrassed on Sunday Night by the Packers, getting abused by Aaron Rodgers in all his powers, but the Texans came to play on Sunday. Maybe's its the red uniforms. Honestly, too many teams have red, white and blue as their colors with blue as the main color (Bills, Giants, Patriots). The Texans need to distinguish themselves more, and I think they should switch to the 'Battle Red' uniforms full-time. Oh yeah, and JJ Watt is really good.

Looking Ahead to This Week's Games

14.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)  @  Green Bay Packers (4-3)  (1:00 - CBS)

Not too many bad games this week. This has the biggest blowout potential, with a mediocre defense against the Packers machine, while MJD is out. Oh boy.

13.) San Diego Chargers (3-3)  @  Cleveland Browns (1-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Oakland Raiders (2-4)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)  (4:05 - CBS)
11.) Indianapolis Colts (3-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (3-4)  (1:00 - CBS)

Because of how watered-down the AFC middle is right now, there are a few of these types of games each week. Here we have a bunch of teams in that area where they are contenders or right at the edge. The last of them is the most important, as the Colts can go above .500, finally make a statement on the road, and get to 2nd in the division.

10.) Carolina Panthers (1-5)  @  Chicago Bears (5-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) Seattle Seahawks (4-3)  @  Detroit Lions (2-4)  (1:00 - FOX)
8.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (5-2)  (TNF)

Hey, it is the NFC version of Wild-Card-o-Rama. Actually, that first game is not, but seeing Cam trying to solve the Bears defense the way it is looks like a nice exercise in disaster tourism.

7.) Washington Redskins (3-4)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)  (1:00 - FOX)

Fun game, huh? The Steelers offense is playing really well right now, and this is another test for both the Redskins offense and the Steelers defense that is close to healthy. The Steelers have been good at home, and this might be the largest stage for RGIII yet.

6.) Miami Dolphins (3-3)  @  New York Jets (3-4)  (1:00 - CBS)
5.) New England Patriots (4-3)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-4)  (1:00 - CBS)

If the Jets or Rams want to potentially be relevant in December, they need to win these games. Unfortunately, the Rams have to play theirs in London. The Dolphins and Jets played an OT game three weeks ago that was as ugly as any game I have ever seen. Here's hoping it is a little cleaner. Also, here's hoping this game in London is closer than the last time the Pats went to Old England.

4.) San Francisco 49ers (5-2)  @  Arizona Cardinals (4-3)  (MNF)

Huge division game. The Cards try to avoid a 4-game losing streak and finally get a win again. They also look to hold serve at home. If they do win, they pull even with the 49ers in the NFC West with a head-to-head win. The Cards usually play well at home, and they get a MNF stage to do it in as well.

3.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)  (1:00 - FOX)

These teams have met each of the last two seasons, and they meet again. There's obviously a lot going on here. For the Falcons, they can make a statement by beating a good team on the road, and also keep their drive for perfection alive. For the Eagles, it is the first game in the post-Castillo era, and we get to see if the Andy Reid undefeated after a bye streak can continue.

2.) New Orleans Saints (2-4)  @  Denver Broncos (3-3)  (SNF)

There really could be like 900 yards passing in this game. Denver is better as they have something that resembles a defense, but I'm terrified of this game. Manning gets to face the Saints for the first time since the game I'll never rewatch. Never bet against Peyton in a night game, and especially a home game. The Denver crowd should be off the walls. A little weather could help their chances as well.

1.) New York Giants (5-2)  @  Dallas Cowboys (3-3)  (4:25 - FOX)

The Giants look to avenge their Week 1 loss and open up a 2 game lead on the Cowboys. The Giants need to make sure that the NFC East is over by December to focus on seeding. They also have never lost a game in Cowboys Stadium. This is the first time the game isn't in primetime, so maybe that makes a difference. The Cowboys can make a big statement that they are back, but even then, would you really believe it?

Postseason Projections


1.) Houston Texans (13-3)
2.) Denver Broncos (12-4)
3.) Baltimore Ravens (11-5  - h2h win over NE)
4.) New England Patriots  (11-5)
5.) Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
6.) San Diego Chargers (9-7)


1.) Chicago Bears (13-3)
2.) New York Giants (12-4)
3.) Atlanta Falcons (12-4)
4.) San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
5.) Green Bay Packers (11-5)
6.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paradise Lost

On October 17th, 2003, a few minutes after midnight, Aaron Boone lofted a Tim Wakefield pitch deep into the left field corner of (the one and only true) Yankee Stadium. Three innings before, the Yankees were down 5-2 in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, against the Boston Red Sox, who were going on 85 years without a title. A spirited rally, put together through equal parts Yankee mystique and "clutch" hitting and Grady Little making a mess of things, allowed the Yankees to tie the game at 5, and in the 11th inning, Aaron Boone, a midseason acquisition from Cincinnati, hit the first knuckleball he saw, and hit it a long way. It was the latest exercise in misery for the Red Sox, and the latest verse in the latest Chapter of the history that is the New York Yankees. They were slated to face the Florida Marlins, with their team of mostly unknowns. They were four (seemingly guaranteed) wins away from a 5th title in 8 years, and just one disastrous half inning kept them from adding a 6th.

Nine years and one day later, on October 18th, 2012, Miguel Cabrera, once a 20-year phenom on the 2003 Marlins, lofted a CC Sabathia pitch deep into the left field seats in Comerica Park. The Yankees were now down 4-0 to the Detroit Tigers, a team that coincidentally set an AL record with 119 losses in 2003. The Yankees had a shot at turning the rout into a game again, in the 7th inning, when trailing 6-1, they had two men on and the highest paid player in the game, Alex Rodriguez, up to the plate. Rodriguez, who replaced Aaron Boone after Boone tore his ACL playing basketball in the 2003 offseason, couldn't deliver, and he and the rest of the Yankees flailed away meekly into the Detroit night, swept for the first time in over 30 years. Aaron Boone's home run was the last great moment of a Yankee dynasty, and Miguel Cabrera's home run was the last moment of the Yankees underachieving run of success. The Paradise that was gained in 1996, that lasted in full through 2003 is now over. The Yankees attempted to restore it many times using the skill of their checkbook, but that Paradise is now lost, and all that is left is old, overpriced, players playing in a new, overpriced stadium, with the ghosts of mystique and aura dying in the parking lot where the House that Ruth Built once stood.


OK, that was my attempt to be an author for a minute. Chances are, the Yankees will once again be a playoff team next year. That is far more likely than the Yankees of 2013 emulating the Red Sox of 2012. They still have a lot of skilled players, and have flexibility to spend more. But the game the Yankees are playing has changed, the landscape isn't the same that they used to grow the 2001-2012 sustained run of excellence. It is harder today to use that checkbook, partly because the MLB is imposing stricter luxury taxes that have the same effect as a soft-cap, and partly because other teams are becoming smarter in locking up their young starters to affordable contracts in their arbitration years, making great players enter into Free Agency, and partly because of regional TV deals becoming more and more valuable that there now are more teams the Yankees have to compete with who can spend somewhat as much, and partly because the use of PEDs is less widespread so players age normally, making a group of 30 year-olds a dicier plan than it was in 2002. These four factors have combined to make the Yankees a less stable stock than it was a decade ago, and like most things, it really does start with A-Rod.

A-Rod was the Yankees first real luxury buy in the new era. Sure, they did acquire Giambi for a boat-load in 2002, but he filled a need, as did Hedeki Matsui. The Yankees already spent the most entering 2004, but A-Rod was more about the Yankees just, on a whim, deciding to go out and acquire the best player in baseball because their already good 3rd baseman decided to play a little pick-up (one of the greatest 'What If?'s in sports in the 21st Century is what happens if Aaron Boone doesn't tear his ACL). A-Rod came in the same year the Yankees signed an aging but still-excellent Gary Sheffield and over the next year, the Yankees brought in a bevy of pitchers that were all hyped and well-compensated, but for the most part, were lousy investments (Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown). Those Yankee teams were incredible on offense. 1-9, they had plate discipline and power and mixed the two in a combination that was downright deadly. Those teams didn't have much in the way of pitching, though, and also didn't have much in the way of success come October. It started in 2002, with a surprise four-game loss to the Anaheim Angels, and was more apparent after a larger surprise six-game loss to the Marlins in the 2003 World Series, which was capped off by a 6-hit shutout by Josh Beckett. However, it really started in 2004, when the Yankees became the first baseball team ever to blow a 3-0 lead, and they did it to the Red Sox.

The misery in 2004 begat three straight devastating first-round losses to the Angels, Tigers and Indians. None of those teams won the world series (unlike the teams that bested hte Yankees from 2001-2004). In all of those series, the Yankees great bats fell silent, headed by Alex Rodriguez who hit .133, .071 and .267 in those three series, and hit just one HR and a solo-shot at that. The Yankees from 2001-2004 could at least say that they were the best team in baseball through that period, still making two World Series and needing an epic comeback to keep them from another, but from 2005-2007, the Yankees were, incredibly, just an ordinary run-of-the-mill playoff team like the Twins that the Yankees loved to beat on. They were beat by teams with better pitching, and although unquantifiable, better 'clutch' hitting. They were beat by teams that were built much like the 1996-2000 Yankees. It was a weird time. It was impossible to say that the Yankees plan of outspending everyone was not working. They had made the playoffs in each of those three seasons. In contrast, the three teams they lost to made the playoffs just once in their combined six other opportunities (Angels in 2007). They gave themselves a chance, but they choked it away. In 2008, this wasn't even a problem, as the Yankees simply missed the playoffs, overtaken in the division by the Red Sox and the Rays a team that embodied everything the Yankees didn't.

Instead of trying to at least look into building the way the Rays did (or maybe they tried, but they best the Yankees could come up with was Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Betances and Banuelos who have done nothing), they decided to one-up themselves from 2004 and go on the biggest spending spree in baseball history, landing three of the four largest free agents on the market in Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Despite Burnett being awful, it worked as a silently dominant Yankees team in 2009 won 105 games and won the World Series. It was a return to normal, a promise finally reached. The Yankees had finally won their elusive 26th Title. Alex Rodrigeuz finally hit, setting a record for RBI in one postseason. The core-four got their fifth title. It was Camelot, Paradise re-found. The Yankees were loaded with talent and had seemingly overcome what ailed them from 2002-2007 in the postseason.

Three years later, here we are. What changed? Nothing. It is becoming more and more clear that 2009 was simply an anomaly. The Yankees had a dream set-up with meeting the Twins (their playoff punching-bag), then admittedly beating a good Angels team in a very good series, and then the weakest Phillies team in their four year run of success (how weak: their #2 starter was Pedro Martinez). They got a once-in-a-lifetime postseason from A-Rod, and a once-in-a-lifetime clutch hit from Mark Teixeira. It all worked. But that magic quickly went away the past three seasons. The Yankees still managed to win the division twice (Wild Card in 2010), and reach two ALCS's, but lost to the Rangers in 2010, and the Tigers in 2011 and 2012. The Yankees still spent more than everyone, but the signs that their way of operating was slimming were apparent. In this time, the Yankees could really only bring in one premier player in Curtis Granderson, and they had to give up quite a bit for him (including the younger, cheaper and better Austin Jackson). Their postseason losses mirrored, in many ways, the losses in 2002-2007, except there were two large problems. First, there was a real argument that they were losing to plain better teams (at least in 2010 and 2012) and secondly, that age was no longer just a number but an obstacle they were nearing.

The Yankees in 2012 are old. Alex Rodriguez has played about 210 of a possible 320 games the last two seasons. Derek Jeter played great in 2012, but showed signs of slipping in 2010-2011. Mark Teixeira has lost power. Curtis Granderson regressed into a black Adam Dunn (good OBP, great power, strikes out a lot), and CC Sabathia became fatter but no better (no worse, really, I guess). Mariano Rivera proved to be human (not as a pitcher, but as an athlete). The Yankees are aging, and there is little out there to remedy it.

In the middle of the 2000s, the Yankees were comically outspending the rest of the MLB, and teams had to adapt. Sadly, for the Yankees, they mostly have. Some chose to pony up the cash and join the Yankees, as many more teams found ways to increase revenue to give them the capital to spend on big acquisitions (look at Detroit, who knocked out the Yanks in 2010-2011 with Cabrera and Fielder). The others turned to locking up young stars to team-friendly long term deals in hopes that they would become players worth having under increased team control (Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, David Wright). The last reason that the Yankees competitive advantage has disapperaed is that PED use in baseball has declined so much that players are returning to aging normally. The Yankees plan of signing 30-year-olds to 7-10 year deals works well when the player will still be productive after 36. That is mostly no longer the case. The Yankees will have to reevaluate their standard operating procedure going forward if they want to remain very competitive in an increasingly rich and savvy AL.

That said, the Yankees shouldn't overreact to the way 2012 ended. Yes, the team set a record for the worst batting average in a single postseason, collectively batting .188. Yes, the Yankees scored 6 runs total in the ALCS, four of which came in one inning against the Tigers embattled closer. Yes, A-Rod, after being unceremoniously pinch-hit for in his last start of the season, decided to search for his nightly lay during the game. Yes, Curtis Granderson struck out an unholy number of times. Yes, Mark Teixeira continued his power outage with just one extra-base hit all postseason. Yes, the Yankees only good regular under 33 had an 0-26 streak in the middle of the playoffs. And yes, Derek Jeter had an age-defying season at 39 broke his ankle, but that doesn't mean the Yankees are garbage. It just means that the Yankees are in a position they haven't been since the pre-Torre days: a team without a solid plan. Just the fact that A-Rod could very well be leaving town signals one sad fact, that the paradise the Yankees gained in the mid-90's, that they carried through Aaron Boone, that kept them competitive in the mid-00's culminating with a win in 2009, has been lost. Now it time to find it again.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 7 Picks

I'm sure this happens every year, but we get a nice weekend with a ton of important division games (SEA @ SF, WAS @ NYG, NYJ @ NE, PIT @ CIN, DET @ CHI) and no AFC vs. NFC matchups at all. Also, because of the baseball playoffs, only two late afternoon games. Strange, but still interesting, much like every weekend.

Seattle Seahawks (4-2)  @  San Francisco 49ers (4-2)  (SF -7)

I really like the NFC West. I was a little disappointed by the Cardinals @ Rams TNF game two weeks ago, but that was more about the inability of the Cards to block. This game should be fun for someone who likes defense, who likes seeing QBs not easily throw for 300 yards. The 49ers will not let the Seahawks go deep on them like the Patriots did. The Seahawks are 3-0 at home, but 0-2 on the road, both at their more inferior division rivals. The 49ers have got to play with incredible passion after they were stripped of their manhood last weekend. I think the Seahawks won't give up too many points, but the 49ers are still better, at home on Thursday, and looking for blood.

Seahawks 10  49ers 20  (SF -7)

Tennessee Titans (2-4)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-3)  (BUF -3)

I was very wrong about both teams last week as they both won games I expected them to lose. The Bills are back in this. They were embarrassed two weeks in a row, but playing a bad offense ails bad defenses. It will be interesting to see if CJ1K can run against a porous rush defense. The Bills offense should have success against the Titans, as most offenses do against them. I just think the Bills are better and at home, and other than the run game, which is extremely volatile for Tennessee anyway, have no discernable disadvantage against the Titans.

Titans 17  Bills 27  (BUF -3)

Arizona Cardinals (4-2)  @  Minnesota Vikings (4-2)  (MIN -6)

Can you say overreaction? The Vikings are not that much better than the Cardinals. The Cardinals blocked better, and have clutch QB extraordinaire John Skelton back in the fold. The Vikings probably won't get much going offensively against a Cardinals team that still played great defense through their two losses. The Cardinals should be able to rush Ponder in a way that the Redskins couldn't, and the Vikings don't have anyone to take out Fitzgerald. I think the Vikings win, as they are at home and playing the backup (and make no mistake, Kolb is better).

Cardinals 13  Vikings 20  (MIN -6)

Cleveland Browns (1-5)  @  Indianapolis Colts (2-3)  (IND -2.5)

I was right thinking the Browns could get their first win last week against the Bengals, but I don't think they get a second win here. The Colts have been better at home so far this season (not a huge statement to make given their two road games were 41-21 and 35-9 losses), as Luck gets better protection at home. Their defense is much better against the pass which works well against the Browns who despite drafting Richardson still have a middling run game. I think the Browns are better than their record, and keep it close, but getting a line under a field goal is great value.

Browns 24  Colts 27  (IND -2.5)

Baltimore Ravens (5-1)  @  Houston Texans (5-1)  (HOU -6.5)

I guess I'm not surprised that a game between two 5-1 teams is not getting much publicity, despite them not only being the top two teams by record in the AFC as well as both two games clear of the rest of the AFC (still a ridiculous stat just six weeks in). A lot of it has to do with the waxing the Texans took on SNF and the fact that Ray Lewis and Webb are gone. Anyway, back to this game, the Texans are a better team right now with the Ravens hurt. Their run game should do well against what has been a bad run defense recently. Without Webb, the Ravens lost their best option to pit against Andre. Their pass rush is still not there without Suggs (even if he does play, it will undoubtedly be limited). Right now, this points to Houston.

Ravens 20  Texans 27  (HOU -6.5)

Green Bay Packers (3-3)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-3)  (GB -5.5)

Let's get this out of way: I'm picking the Rams to cover. OK, now that you are done laughing at me, I'll explain why. There is really just one reason - the Rams are a very good pass defense that matches up well against the Packers, with press corners in Finnegan and a game Janoris Jenkins, as well as an at-times dominant pass rush with Chris Long and Robert Quinn leading the way. On the other side, the Rams offense plays quite a bit better at home, and the Rams also have a huge special teams edge. I'm not insane enough to pick the Rams to win, but to cover, I'll go for it.

Packers 27  Rams 24  (STL +5.5)

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-4)  (DAL -2)

This is a strange line at first, but considering the Cowboys are a strong public team, and really put up the numberzz last week, I can see many overrating them after their near loss. That said, with Morris Claiborne out, I can see the Panthers offense finally breaking out. The Panthers had two weeks to prepare for this game, and really need a win. They are the more desperate team, and with the Cowboys pass rush a little muted so far, a bad matchup for the Cowboys. The line just makes it easier. The Panthers get their second win.

Cowboys 23  Panthers 31  (CAR +2)

Washington Redskins (3-3)  @  New York Giants (4-2)  (NYG -5.5)

What an interesting game. First, we have the idea that the Giants won't get up for the Redskins at home because they never get up for the Redskins at home (see their losses to the Redskins at home in 2007 and 2011). That said, it is different this time. The Redskins are getting a lot of buzz after their dramatic, insane win over the Vikings. RGIII is playing great. That said, you know who is playing better: Eli Manning. Eli Manning also gets to go against a flaccid pass rush and an overall awful defense in Washington. They'll get up for a divisional game against a team that swept them last year. The Redskins are good enough to require the Giants full effort.

Redskins 20  Giants 30  (NYG -5.5)

New Orleans Saints (1-4)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)  (NO -3)

I see a lot of people picking the underdog home Bucs to cover or even win. I guess a lot of people like the Buccaneers a lot more than I do, and I guess that is fair. My distaste for the Bucs is more about what they will become. Anyway, back to this game, the Saints have had tough losses in Tampa before, including a stunning 28-20 loss last year which was the game where Sean Payton tore his ACL. The Saints had a week to prepare for this and should come out better, and I don't think the Buccaneers defense can really stop Drew Brees and that offense unless Brees makes a lot of mistakes. I guess that is possible, but if the Saints want to even dream of wild card, they can't drop this with the Broncos, 49ers, Giants still on the schedule, plus the Falcons twice.

Saints 28  Buccaneers 24  (NO -3)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)  @  Oakland Raiders (1-4)  (OAK -4)

Only two late afternoon games this weekend due to NLCS Game 6 if it actually happens.

*Quick Sidebar*

This is a slap in the face to the NL. Last year, when FOX had the AL, they put this game at 8:00 at promoted a sports triple-header. The Giants and Cardinals, the two defending champs, should get that billing, plus FOX lost the opportunity to air a football game at 4:05.

*End Sidebar*

I'll go through this one quickly. The Raiders are better than Jacksonville. Their biggest weakness is the secondary, but Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars pass offense is awful. The Jags weakness on defense is mostly everything, which should not work too well against a good Raiders offense. Because of how pitiful much of the AFC is, if they win, they really are back in the race. They will win, and cover what seems to be a slightly low line.

Jaguars 16  Raiders 27  (OAK -4)

New York Jets (3-3)  @  New England Patriots (3-3)  (NE -10.5)

I have two thoughts about this game. First is that when the Patriots are on, they have looked great, trouncing the Titans and Bills and beating a good Broncos team. When they've looked bad they looked OK, but unable to put teams away. What has stunned me was the Patriots rolling out this ultra-fast no-huddle has almost perfectly coincided with the defense returning to absolute garbage. The Patriots have many advantages here and will almost assuredly win, but are they really that much better? I say no, at least for this game. The Jets are nowhere near as their worst performance (loss to San Fran), and their passing game has been better against much better pass defenses the last two weeks. They'll keep it relatively close and that is enough to cover a high, high line.

Jets 20  Patriots 28  (NYJ +10.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)  (PIT -1.5)

Despite both teams being disappointing (the Bengals especially, dropping consecutive games to Miami and Cleveland when they could've been 5-1) this is a fun game. They are similar teams now, with explosive but inconsistent offenses and average defenses. Over the years, they have played quite a few primetime games, and while the Steelers have won most they've usually been considerably better. I don't think they are this time. This is a good chance for Cincinnati to really show America that they are for real, that they can make it back to the playoffs, for Andy Dalton to show that he can step up. I just don't see it. I can't see the Steelers at 2-4. I said the same thing last week with the Packers, but picked the Texans anyway. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Steelers 23  Bengals 20  (PIT -1.5)

Detroit Lions (2-3)  @  Chicago Bears (4-1)  (CHI -6)

Another division game to round ourselves off. Last year's meeting in Chicago was a huge 37-13 win for the Bears where they picked off Stafford three times. The Bears defense is even more pick-happy this year, playing at a level that I really haven't seen since the 2002 Bucs (of course, it has only been five games, let's see them do it for 11 more). The Lions are not the team to beat them, as they won't be able to get deep on the Bears Cover-2, and can't really attack the Bears relative weakness in their run defense. The Bears should have success moving the ball, and unless Cutler has a turnover-filled day they should win.

Lions 17  Bears 31  (CHI -6)

Enjoy the Games!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 7 Power Rankings & The Rest

Another so-so week of picks

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

Steelers (-5.5)  over  Titans  (WRONG  =  0-1)
Browns (+1)  over  Bengals  (CORRECT  =  1-1)
Colts (+3)  over  Jets  (WRONG  =  1-2)
Buccaneers (-3.5)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  2-2)
Raiders (+8.5)  over  Falcons  (CORRECT  =  3-2)
Ravens (-3.5)  over  Cowboys  (WRONG  =  3-3)
Lions (+4.5)  over  Eagles  (CORRECT  =  4-3)
Rams (+3.5)  over  Dolphins  (CORRECT  =  5-3)
Patriots (-3.5)  over  Seahawks  (WRONG  =  5-4)
Cardinals (-4.5)  over  Bills  (WRONG  =  5-5)  (LOCK)
Redskins (-2)  over  Vikings  (CORRECT  =  6-5)
Giants (+5)  over  49ers  (CORRECT  =  7-5)
Texans (-3.5)  over  Packers  (WRONG  =  7-6)
Broncos (-2)  over  Chargers  (CORRECT  =  8-6)   (UPSET)

Week 7:  8-6  (LOCK: 0-1;  UPSET: 1-0)

Year-to-Date:  52-38-1  (5-1;  6-0)

Best Picks: Closest pick was the Lions beating the Eagles 27-24, when they won 23-20. The other two were the Browns over the Bengals 27-24 (they won 34-24) and the Broncos over the Chargers 31-24 (they won 35-24).

Power Rankings

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-4  =  65-138)

That bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Jaguars. People can forget about their sad performance through 5 games, with an inept offense and a mediocre defense. They now get a winnable game and can put themselves in the mix in a messed-up and watered-down AFC, but even that wouldn't make anyone forget that their QB is Blaine Gabbert.

31.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-5  =  104-183)

Tampa Bay is not a great team. In fact, they are not even a good team, yet the Chiefs lost to them by 28 and never looked close to competitive in that game. Brady Quinn is no better than Matt Cassel, and Matt Cassel is not very good. The Chiefs were a really trendy pick in the preseason. I've been wrong about quite a few things this year (Hello, Pittsburgh!!) but not the Chiefs.

30.) Tennessee Titans  (2-4  =  114-204)

Nice win. Nice performance by Chris Johnson against something other than the Lions defense. Nice game by Hasselbeck, who is Jeff Garcia, five years later. That said, that game to me said more about Pittsburgh. The Titans are a bad team, but the Steelers aren't much better. That is why the Titans get a deserved, TNF win.

29.) Cleveland  Browns  (1-5  =  134-163)

Nice win, and that offense continues to play well. Brandon Weeden was horrific in Week 1, and since has been quite manageable as an NFL caliber starting QB. The Browns absolutely deserved that game, and have still yet to truly been blown out. Their schedule gets tough, but this is still about a 4-5 win team in terms of talent.

28.) Carolina Panthers  (1-4  =  92-125)

Another team that really needed that bye week. The Panthers need to figure out how to readjust to the fact that the NFL has mostly adjusted to their offense that was so dynamic last year. They still have the pieces (losing Ryan Kalil hurts, though), but this year should be about figuring out what the next evolution of the offense is.

27.) Oakland Raiders  (1-4  =  87-148)

Tough loss for a game Raiders team that played the Falcons well. The Raiders came out on a 1PM game and played about as well as they could. Carson Palmer still doesn't have his complement of weapons and McFadden hasn't gotten going yet in earnest, but the team is still playing tough. The schedule does get easier and if they can capitalize the next couple weeks, they can get into the Wild Card picture.

26.) Indianapolis Colts  (2-3  =  110-145)

That was a tough loss, but I should have seen it coming. It was a huge letdown to go on the road to a team that doesn't inspire much emotion after that incredible win. Hopefully it is a fluke, because the next four games are still winnable. If they can win them, they'll be in the thick of the Wild Card race, but they have to shore up that run defense. Just awful. That said, #CHUCKSTRONG

25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-3  =  120-101)

Nice performance, but the Chiefs are just awful. If they can have a similar game against the Saints (not exactly a great team either), then I'll take them a little more seriously. I still don't buy that offense or defense against a real team. 

24.) Buffalo Bills  (3-3  =  137-192)

Hello, Buffalo. Welcome back to the NFL. That was a really nice performance. The Cardinals might not be as good as I thought, but they still fought and clawed their way to a win. The Bills finally showed some mettle defensively, again albeit against an awful offense in almost ever way (btw, want to point out that that previous sentence had 9 straight words start with vowels. That's why I'm not a professional writer).

23.) New York Jets  (3-3  =  133-141)

That was the Jets at their best. The defense schemed their way to putting some pressure on Luck and dominating the run game, while the offense grounded and pounded their way to 200 rushing yards of their won. Sanchez had to do little, but when he did throw he was accurate and quick with his decisions. If this Jets team plays the rest of the season, they can, and I know how crazy this sounds, make the playoffs.

22.) New Orleans Saints  (1-4  =  141-154)

The Saints better win in Tampa this week because that schedule is not easy going forward with Denver, Atlanta (2), San Fran and the Giants in the next eight weeks. The Saints still have problems. They still have to fix that bad defense. There were signs of improvement in the pass rush, but their coverage is still just awful.

21.) Cincinnati Bengals  (3-3  =  149-163)

Another tough loss. This team, if they took care of business, could have been 5-1. Seriously. They blew their chance to do what they did last year. Actually, luckily for them the AFC is a mess so they are still in it. That offense is dynamic, but they turn over the ball too much and their run game needs to improve. 

20.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-3  =  103-125)

The Eagles have, how you say, fallen back to earth, haven't they. That was just a colossal collapse. People will talk more about New England, but the Eagles blew a 10 point lead with 5 minutes to go. Vick was bad, but so was Stafford. The real key to the game was Andy Reid going away from the run for the umpteenth time in his tenure.

19.) Miami Dolphins  (3-3  =  120-117)

Another win for the Dolphins, but how exactly did they win. I haven't watched the game, but they were outgained 440-190. They only won the turnover battle by 1. I see that Greg the Leg missed three field goals, but still, the Dolphins were really lucky to finish that off with a win. I like this team, and I like Tannehill, but I don't think they can seriously make the playoffs.

18.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (2-3  =   116-115)

It may be time to just realize that the Steelers aren't that good, and won't be for 2012. Now, I've seen teams start out 2-3 or 3-3 before and still have a great season (Chargers 2009) and with the injuries in Baltimore it certainly could happen, but the Steelers can't get healthy on defense losing Troy again and now LaMarr is gimpy. That offense is fine, but the defense is a problem for the first time since 2002.

17.) Dallas Cowboys  (2-3  =  94-119)

Tough loss for a game Cowboys team that finally converted yards into points. They still are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NFL, but that offense played quite well. Dez Bryant still has problems with drops, but I think a bigger issue is the Cowboys defense is just not that good. They aren't good enough to hide an inconsistent offense.

16.) Washington Redskins  (3-3  =  178-173)

Man, RGIII is exciting. I still like Luck more long term, because RGIII could have Cam-like issues in Year 2, but he really makes that offense go. But so does Alfred Morris, who continues to play really well. The real surprise to me, though, was the Redskins defense which continues to play splendid defense in the red zone. The NFC is a lot tougher than the AFC, but a Wild-Card spot is definitely possible.

15.) Detroit Lions  (2-3  =  126-137)

The Lions could easily be 4-1 had they not have suffered five crazy TDs against them in two close losses to the Titans and Vikings, but really, they haven't played 4-1 good. Matt Stafford has been so erratic, and that defense is still not capable of stopping anyone if they don't get consistent pressure. The Lions overall still have a shot at the playoffs if they can win against the Pack directly, but Stafford has to get better.

14.) St. Louis Rams  (3-3  =  110-111)

I still like the Rams, and racking up 440 yards against a good defense makes me like them even more. Sure, they somehow just scored 14 points, but that was good offensive production for a QB that hasn't had much help from his receivers. The Rams defense is still very good. They have two massive games coming up with the Packers and Patriots coming to town. I doubt they win either, but I think they show up for both.

13.) San Diego Chargers  (3-3  =  148-137)

That is just an awful loss, obviously, and what makes it worse is the circumstances that surrounded that game. Despite not really being a very good team, the Chargers could have gone up two games in the division over the Broncos with a head-to-head win. Instead, they are tied, with a head-to-head loss and a trip to Denver coming later in the year. Philip Rivers continues to throw way, way too many picks. He's not getting help from his receivers, but that was the low point of his career, truthfully.

12.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-2  =  110-97)

I might start eating crow, but I still think the Cardinals are a good team. They were due to lose a close game that either team could have won for once. They had won too many of those over the years. The Cardinals are still a good team. Their defense is still good. Their passing game can still move the ball, but the Cardinals need to get back to efficient, turnover-free football.

11.) Minnesota Vikings  (4-2  =  146-117)

That was a return to reality for a defense that has been playing really well so far. The Vikings aren't a talent-laden team, but they still have a good scheme and mostly play it really well. Christian Ponder's limitations showed as they were forced into three early short field goals in red-zone situations. I still like them going forward, but they can't drop winnable games with four games to come with the Bears and Packers.

10.) Seattle Seahawks  (4-2  =  110-93) 

That was an impressive performance on both fronts. Sure, the Patriots had 480 yards of offense, but only had 5.7 yards per play. The Seahawks bottled up the team that has reinvented how to run the football, while locking down Gronk (who seems to be the player defenses have keyed on so far over Welker). The didn't get much pressure on Brady, but stiffened in the red zone. The could have had more picks as well. They limited the Patriots to 23 points and deserved to. That said, Russell Wilson will go back to playing real NFL defenses next week.

8.) Denver Broncos  (3-3  =  170-138)

It was heavily reported that Manning tied Marino's record for most Game Winning Drives. Of course, more importantly he broke Marino's record with his 37th 4th Quarter Comeback, and it was the biggest of his career. Manning was really fine in the first half (the pick was definitely not his fault), and became vintage Peytao in the 2nd half. That defense finally woke up, as did the Broncos inability to finally recover fumbles (through 5.5 games, they had recovered 2 of 16). Good win for a team that can now enter the bye leading their division with a tissue soft schedule ahead.

9.) New England Patriots  (3-3  =  188-137)

Tough loss. Sure, they could easily be 6-0 if we change some things, but I see a lot of what I saw from the 2009 Patriots from this team. When they are on, they are unstoppable (that team won 59-0 against the Titans). When they aren't, they can't close games they start out well. That was the issue in the 2009 Patriots losses to the Jets, Broncos and Dolphins, and even the Colts. Their 4-minute offense has never been all that good, but now it is more apparent because the defense is unable to cover for it.

7.) Green Bay Packers  (3-3  =  154-135)

That was an awesome performance by Rodgers. He was inhuman, but for once he really got a lot of help from his receivers. That second James Jones TD was just a great catch from a guy that drops the ball a lot. The defense, though, continued to look impressive in 2012. It still isn't close to the level from 2010 when they won the Super Bowl but unlike the Patriots who haven't gotten too much better from their abhorrent 2011 numbers, the Packers have.

6.) San Francisco 49ers  (4-2  =  152-94)

Tough loss, as for the first time the 49ers under Harbaugh just got beat up. Actually, the Ravens did it to them last year on Thanksgiving as well, but there the defense played better. Here, the 49ers couldn't pressure Eli Manning too much, letting him have all day. More importantly, they let Ahmad Bradshaw, of all people, run for 116 yards. That was a sad performance at home.

5.) Baltimore Ravens  (5-1  =  161-118)

Another close win where the Ravens defense doesn't play too well, but still, the Ravens won and are now 5-1, two games better than any AFC team outside of Houston. The Ravens, though, are in flux because of injuries. Losing Lewis might not hurt too much (they played well without him in 2011 and he wasn't playing that good anyway) but losing Lardarius Webb is huge. The Ravens have schemed around secondary problems in the past, but unless Suggs comes back in full force, that will be more difficult.

4.) New York Giants  (4-2  =  178-114)

The Giants, when they want to, are the best team in the NFL. I am trying to come up with a comparable team in another sport that has done what the 2007-2012 GIants have done, where they can lose to bad teams, but will dominate good teams. The closest I came up with is the St. Louis Cardinals, as they have become the MLB's Giants in the playoffs. But really, what they do is unprecedented, and a lot of fun to watch.

3.) Houston Texans  (5-1  =  173-115)

Hard to really fault them. Every team has a bad game. They just had their at home in prime-time. In the grand scheme of things, no team could've stopped the Packers the way they were playing last night, especially Rodgers. What is more worrying is the run game still hasn't really gotten going in 2012, and Foster is being really overrused.

2.) Atlanta Falcons  (6-0  =  171-113)

Another close game, but another win. So far, the Falcons have played three home games, where they are usually dominant, and have won each in close, tight fashion. They need to lay the hammer down every now and then. The Falcons still have the schedule to get that #1 seed, but the way they've slept through home games, maybe they might do better going away in January.

1.) Chicago Bears  (4-1  =  149-71)

Other than having the Packers wake up, the Bears had everything go for them. The Vikings lost. The 49ers lost. The Falcons still won, but they don't play them anyway. The Bears are the most dominant team through 6 games. Now, the co-most dominant teams prior to last week just lost 68-27, so that might not mean much, but the Bears have four dominant wins to pair with a strange, TNF induced loss.

Ranking the Upcoming Week's Games

13.) Tennessee Titans (2-4)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-3)
12.) Cleveland Browns (1-5)  @  Indianapolis Colts (2-3)
11.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)  @  Oakland Raiders (1-4)

Bad teams on parade!!! These are six teams in that mess of an AFC where every team other than Cleveland and Jacksonville (and probably Oakland) is alive for that potential #6 seed. The Bills look to continue to turn around, and the Colts could bounce back with a win. The Raiders deserve to be better than 1-4, and they should be after this week.

10.) Green Bay Packers (3-3)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-3)
9.) New Orleans Saints (1-4)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

The Packers looked absolutely dominant against a good defense yesterday. Well, they get a very good defense this weekend in another dome. The Saints go to a place where they haven't always had that much success (witness what happened last year n TB). The Packers and Saints should fly, but chances are one gets tested heavily.

8.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3)  @  Carolina Panthers (1-4)

This has to be the most fun matchup of two sub-.500 teams this year. Both teams have explosive offenses that have been unable to put together consistent games. The Panthers desperately need a win, but the Cowboys do as well as they are looking up at everyone in the NFC East with five division games still to play.

7.) Arizona Cardinals (4-2)  @  Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

Yes, both teams are 4-2 and both teams have been surprising, but this could be something of an elimination game. Neither team is going to fall too far behind the pack, but they are both coming off bad losses, and in the Cardinals case, they haven't had a great game since Week 3. It's time for them to show up again.

6.) New York Jets (3-3)  @  New England Patriots (3-3)
5.) Detroit Lions (2-3)  @  Chicago Bears (4-1)4.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)

Three divisional games, two of them of the night variety, get the next billing. Odd that five of the six teams are .500 or worse (while the Bears are the most dominant team in the NFL through six weeks). The Jets have a real chance to put the 34-0 laugher behind them. If they can go into Foxboro and give the Patriots another loss, then, well, prepare for the world to end in December. The Lions are a fiesty 2-3 and could give the Bears problems. The other game is another separation game in the tight AFC Wild Card race.

3.) Washington Redskins (3-3)  @  New York Giants (4-2)

This divisional game is a step-up from those three (as is the next one), and features the most exciting offense in the NFL against a defense that is starting to hum. The Giants were dominant against the 49ers. They need to be motivated for this game. They have to pretend no one is once again giving them any respect. If they do that, they'll be fine. Two notes to consider, the Redskins swept the Giants last year, and the Giants are 0-2 in division so far.

2.) Seattle Seahawks (4-2)  @  San Francisco 49ers  (4-2)

Another division game, and in all honesty, the TNF slate is turning out much better than it looked. The Seahawks are the team with all the momentum, but they have to leave their friendly confines, and the 49ers are at home on Thursday. They'll be stark-raving mad after being de-pantsed against the Giants. I can see a bounce back for them and a letdown for the Seahawks.

1.) Baltimore Ravens (5-1)  @  Houston Texans (5-1)

Yeah, this game looked a lot bigger a week ago, before the Texans fell victim to Aaron Rodgers at his best, and before the Ravens lost Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis. That said, it still does feature the two best teams in the AFC, and the only AFC teams with fewer than three losses (how incredibly pathetic is that for the rest of the AFC?). The winner gets a one game and head-to-head lead on the other, and a two game lead on everyone else. Scary.

Playoff Projections


1.) Houston Texans (13-3)
2.) Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
3.) Denver Broncos (12-4)
4.) New England Patriots (11-5)
5.) San Diego Chargers (10-6)
6.) Who Knows and Who Cares, because New England will Kill Them (9-7)


1.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
2.) Chicago Bears (13-3)
3.) New York Giants (12-4)
4.) San Francisco 49ers (12-4) //Quick tangent, if this happens, that is the strongest set of division winners in the NFC since realignment.
5.) Green Bay Packers (11-5)
6.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) 

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.