Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The 12 Worst Major Award Wins in Recent Years

11. Tied) 2011 NBA MVP (Derrick Rose over LeBron James) & 2012 NFL MVP (Adrian Peterson over Peyton Manning)

These two are kind of tied at the hip to me, both examples of great players having great seasons with good narratives beating two established all time greats having great seasons that had their cases denied. I will say this upfront, both Rose and Peterson have cases. Peterson's is more interesting because it brings up the argument of whether a non-QB should ever win the MVP. In the modern NFL, QBs are almost always the most 'valuable' player on their team. Peyton is more valuable than Peterson. There is no doubt about that. But was he 'better' at his position than Peterson was at his? That is arguable, and the answer is probably not, but they created an award with no positional bias just for those cases: the Offensive Player of the Year Award. Ultimately, Peyton won an MVP where he probably wasn't the best candidate (2009 - Brees & Rivers had as good if not better cases) so it evens out that he doesn't win when he arguably did deserve it. The award, taken at the literal value of the Most Valuable Player, should be a QB every year, but then why have the award? If there ever was a case for a RB, it was this (or Faulk in 2000 - who deservedly won it).

LeBron losing to Rose is more debatable. The thing is, LeBron could win every year. He is the best player in the NBA, with the highest usage rate. Maybe other 3's in the NBA could have that many assists if he was asked to control the ball as much, but none are. The NBA could really give LeBron the award every year, but just they could have given one to Jordan every year in the 90's, award voterss don't like doing that. They did pick the one year of the last five where LeBron was something less than an all-time great performer. In 2010-11, he was merely a very, very good player, instead of the clear best. Rose did have a great season for a Bulls team that surprisingly won more games than the Heat (in the first year of the Big 3), so it is hard to say that he wasn't deserving. But he wasn't the best player in the NBA.

10.) 2006 NBA MVP (Steve Nash over Dirk Nowitzki)

The mid 00's was a strange time where each year had a bunch of good candidates (Duncan, Shaq - though those two mainly in the first half of the decade - Nash, Nowitzki, Kobe), and all of them ended up winning the award at least once, but rarely in the year where they had their best season. I'm fine with Nash winning in 2005, though Shaq had basically the same impact to Miami than Nash had in Phoenix. The weird awards were '06 and '07, where Nash won over Dirk and 2006 and the reverse happened in 2007. They could flip the awards and I would be fine, but the bigger injustice was this one. This was Dirk's best season (career high 26.6 PPG, and 9.0 RPG). Nash had a very good season of his own (18.8 PPG, 10.5 APG), but where the edge goes to Dirk is defensively. That was Dirk's best defensive year of his career. Dirk also owned Nash in advanced metrics, with the NBA lead in Win Shares (and twice as many win shares defensively - win shares, by the way, is the loose NBA version of WAR), while Nash hovered around 5th. Finally, for those who love the whole how many games does a team win, the Suns won 54 in a bad division, while the Mavs won 60 in a great one. Dirk deserved this MVP, far more than he deserved it in 2006-07.

9.) 2002 AL Cy Young (Barry Zito over Pedro Martinez)  

There's one huge reason to not give the award to Pedro Martinez: he didn't pitch 200 innings. Now, that isn't some requirement to get the award, but no starting pitcher has ever won a Cy Young with less than 200 innings pitched. Problem is, apart from that, everything else points to Pedro. Zito's WAR is higher, but that is mainly due to Pedro's abnormally low BABIP (which he had throughout his career, so it wasn't that abnormal) and the innings difference. Pedro had a far better ERA (2.26 vs 2.75), WHIP (0.923 vs. 1.134), Strikeouts (239 vs. 182 - in 30 less innings), and BBs (40 vs. 78). Every per-nine stat favored Pedro. There is no good argument for Zito over Pedro other than the innings factor, and Zito only had 229 (this is why I had this as the bigger inustice for Pedro than 2003, when Halladay won with worse stats than Zito, but threw 80! more innings). Pedro Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball, and there might have been some voting fatigue, but he deserved it over Zito.

8.) 2003 NL Cy Young (Eric Gagne over Jason Schmidt or Mark Prior)

There is a school of thought that the Cy Young should probably never go to a reliever, that to produce enough value in 1-2 innings a night (and ~80 innings in a season) to make up for the innings difference is basically impossible. I don't totally suscribe to that theory, I think it is possible, but there has to be no really good starting pitcher in that league that year. Problem is for Gagne, there were good alternatives. Gagne did have a (later to be found out chemically altered) ridiculous season (137/20 K/BB in 80 innings, WHIP of .692), but both Jason Schmidt and Mark Prior had great seasons. They both had good W-L records (17-5 and 18-6), both had very good ERAs (2.34 and 2.43), had great K/BB numbers (208/46 and 245/50) and great WHIP numbers (0.953/1.103). They had identical ERA+'s of 180. That is a really good figure, would have led many of the seasons to come in one of the two leagues. Prior's WAR is higher mainly because of ballpark differences, but they are a tossup, both good enough to make it really hard to fathom how a reliever is a better pitcher over them. If there is any possible case for a reliever winning Cy Young, it wasn't Gagne, it is higher up the list.

7.) 2007-08 NBA MVP (Kobe Bryant over Chris Paul or Kevin Garnett)
6.) 2007 NL MVP (Jimmy Rollins over a lot of people, but mainly Matt Holliday)

I'm coupling these two because these are cases when the narratives that most MVP voters love don't work, despite those people having just as good statistical cases. Let's be real, just like Dirk's MVP in 2007, Kobe won his only MVP because people felt like he deserved an MVP. This was the same Kobe who was nearly traded to Chicago early in the season, and who's team only took off when they stole Pau Gasol from Memphis. Garnett and Paul both had awesome years and great narrative cases. Garnett became the centerpiece of the NBA's best team, instilled a defensive mindset that pervaded through that team. He had a great year (#2 in the NBA in win shares, pulling down and 18.8/9.2 shooting .536, playing amazingly well defensively). Paul case was even more easy to back. He lead the NBA in win shares, he had a ridiculous 21.1-11.6-4.0-2.7 season (p-a-r-s). That 21.6-11.6 is all-time good. And he did all of this for a team that miraculously finished #2 in the West (just one game worse than LA, who finished #1), for a team that was playing its first season back in New Orleans. He made the Hornets a draw in New Orleans again, making that a basketball town. That was the perfect MVP resume. Kobe was a great player and had a good season, but let's not kid around, this was absolutely a pity MVP to an all-timer who hadn't won the award before, but who honestly never really deserved it before.

Rollins win over Holliday (and Pujols, Wright, Utley) might have been more confusing, actually. Rollins isn't an all-time beloved player like Kobe. Rollins doesn't have giant home run numbers (the MLB version of Points per Game in terms of their gaudiness affecting voters). Actually, nothing about Jimmy Rollins season was that amazing in any way. He didn't have 100 RBIs. He didn't hit .300, he didn't have an OBP above .350. His OPS was below .900. There really are four candidates that had better seasons. David Wright probably had the best season in the NL (Pujols was close, with a lead in WAR, but playing a less premium position for a worse team). Wright had his best offensive season, playing good defense, added 34 steals and hit a .325/.416/.546 slash season. Of course, his team blew a 7 game lead with 17 to play, and despite the fact that Wright played well in that stretch, it eliminated him. Pujols had another great season, with his best defensive season to date, which made up for his worst offensive season to date (.327/.429/.568 slash, and yes, that is the slash-line from his worst offensive season of his first 7). His relatively low power numbers (32 HRs, 103 RBIs) ended his chance. The two strange ones are Chase Utley, who had a better year than Rollins playing an equally important position was overlooked (Utley had a lead in WAR of 1.7 - had a slash line edge of 36 batting points, 66 in OBP and 35 in slug). Finally, there's Holliday who finished in 2nd in a really close vote (353 to 336). Holliday had a better season offensively, worse defensively. He had an equal WAR, but really, voters didn't care about that. They do care about easy numbers, which Holliday had a major edge (43 more RBIs, leads of 44/59/76 in slash). And of course, Holliday's team had one of the best September's ever, which pushed the Rockies into the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. How does that not win over a good player having, let's be honest, merely a more than good season?

5.) 2006 AL MVP (Justin Morneau over Everyone)

This might have been the strangest MVP award race in recent memory, with no single position player in the AL with a WAR above 6.0, leading to a bevy of relatively good candidates. It isn't higher up the list because there was no great candidate that got jobbed, but there were definitely enough deserving of it over Morneau, ironically including one of his own teammates that would have seemed more likely to get some narrative-aided support. First let's tackle the Twins MVP, because Mauer was better. He was a better defensive player, slightly better baserunner, and a better hitter. Mauer beat Morneau by 26 points in batting average, 54 points in OBP, and while Morneau slugged higher, their OPS was equal. Morneau wasn't even the most deserving Twin. Go outside the Twins org., and you get a host of players who had a higher WAR than Morneau's 4.3, including David Ortiz (5.7), Travis Hafner (5.8) and, most amazingly, Derek Jeter (5.5). Hafner and Ortiz are explained away by old biases like 'you have to play for a playoff team' which takes away Hafner (who likely was the best positional player), and 'you can't be a DH' which takes away Ortiz (and Ortiz was a stronger candidate in 2006 than he was in the more publicized 2005 race that he lost to A-Rod). But how did Jeter not get it? This was the most public figure in all of baseball, having a year that actually merited serious MVP consideration, losing to a guy from a small-market who while having a good year, may have been the 3rd best MVP candidate on his own team (Mauer and Johan, who actually led the AL in WAR). Jeter was far, far, far more deserving in 2006 than he was in 2010 when people wanted him to win the award over Mauer who correctly ran away with it.

4.) 2012 AL MVP (Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout)

This MVP award has been debated to death, so I'm not going to spend too much time on it. I will say, the exact same conversation was brought up this past season, but the 2012 MVP was a far bigger injustice than 2013, where Trout had a bad year defensively, and their WAR figures were closer than in 2012. The 2012 MVP was the Great Debate of Old School vs. New School. You had one guy who won the Triple Crown for the first time in decades against a young 20-year old who had the best season of anyone that age ever. You had Trout having a historic WAR season, while Cabrera had the numbers everyone loved. Here's why its an easy answer: defense and baserunning matters. Maybe not as much as some people say, but it does, and Trout was far better in those two than Cabrera (hence, why Trout's WAR was quite a bit higher). Also, Cabrera's triple crown was nice, but it was arguably his worst season of the past three offensively. That isn't a Triple Crown in any other season in recent memory in the AL. The worst were the dumb narratives like "Trout's team didn't make the playoffs," as not only did the 2012 Angels win more games than the 2012 Tigers, but that hasn't stopped voters before (one example of this is still to come). Trout should have won. 

3.) 2005 NFL MVP (Shaun Alexander over Peyton Manning or Steve Smith)
I had the 2012 MVP injustice far higher down the list, but this one has many of the same themes, but it is on the whole just a terrible decision. Shaun Alexander had a great year (1,880 yards, a then-record 28 TDs), but he was on a loaded offense (unlike Peterson, who had very little passing support), and was arguably the third or fourth most valuable player on that offense (behind Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson). Unlike 2006 MVP Tomlinson (or 2000 MVP Faulk) Alexander provided basically no value in the passing game. There are two good alternatives. Peyton had a great season for the league's best team, with a league high 104.1 passer rating, and led the first team in this recent string to make a real run at 16-0. But the real guy who had a really nice case for the award is Steve Smith. Receivers never win MVP, and they likely are never deserving since rarely does a receiver have an MVP caliber season with his QB not having one as well, but Smith was that rare instance. He led the NFL in catches (103), yards (1,563) and TDs (12). His QB that season was Jake Delhomme, who had a good if unspectacular season. In fact, the rest of the Panthers combined had just 166 catches for 1,922 yards and 13 TDs. Steve Smith was close to 40% of their passing offense, which is outrageous. If the NFL wasn't going to give the award to a QB in 2005 (which Manning, or even Carson Palmer had good cases for), then give it to Smith, by far the best player on his offense that carried that offense, and not Alexander, who ran behind the league's best offensive line with two Hall of Famers.

2.) 2006 NL MVP (Ryan Howard over Albert Pujols)

2006 was not a great year for MVP voting, and this was just a terrible, nonsensical choice. In no way, shape or form did Ryan Howard have a better season than Albert Pujols (or even Carlos Beltran, who did it for the league's best team in 2006). The only thing Howard did better was hit 9 more home runs and drive in 12 more runs, which even in old-timey thinking, is pretty negligible when the other guy does everything better. In Howard's best hitting season, Pujols had a higher batting average (.313 to .331), On-Base (.425 to .431), and slugging (.659 to .671). Yes, these are close differences (though Howard does play in a slightly better hitters park), but Pujols still had Howard in all of them. Pujols also played far better defense, is a far better baserunner back then. Oh yeah, Pujols had those counting numbers after playing 16 fewer games (Pujols was having an all-time start to the season before an injury in May). Here's the ultimate kicker, though it shouldn't matter: Howard's team didn't make the playoffs and Pujols's team did. Those same people who claimed Trout didn't deserve the MVP over Cabrera in 2012 better not have voted or supported Howard here. Pujols had a 3 WAR edge for the advanced folks. You can't even cite voting fatigue, because up to this point, Pujols had won just 1 MVP (though he deserved at least one of the three Bonds won from 2002-2004). This really was a more illogical reversal of the 2012 debate, where the not only didn't the winner make the playoffs, but also he didn't have a better season.

1.) 2005 AL Cy Young (Bartolo Colon over Johan Santana)

Nothing beats this. Nothing really comes close. Four years later, the BBWAA gave Cy Youngs to Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke, who won 15 and 16 games. In 2010, they gave one to Felix Hernandez who won 13 games. Somewhere around that the voters started to realize that win loss record was a horrible way to judge pitchers. Now, the cynic would say that there were few candidates in those years that had gaudy enough win numbers to beat those guys. I would argue that in 2010 David Price (19-7) and CC Sabathia (21-7) had good numbers and good win totals, but didn't come close to Felix (same with Wainwright in 2009 - though he did come close to beating Lincecum), and I think this trend is based off of what they did in 2005, giving the Cy Young to Bartolo Colon purely because he had 21 wins.

Now, this was Santana's worst season from 2004-06, but he was still so much better than Bartolo Colon in every way. He pitched more innings, gave up fewer hits, had the far better ERA, struck out 80 more guys while walking just two more,  and had a WHIP lead 0.971 to 1.159. Of course, Johan went just 16-7 (ironically the same record that Brandon Webb would have just a year later when he won the NL Cy Young - though in 2006 that led the NL), while Colon went 21-8. There is absolutely no argument for Colon other than the win total. None. For basically every other one on this list (except maybe Morneau) there are some arguments. Here there are none except that win figure. Of course, the 2005 Angels were far, far better offensively than the 2005 Twins. I have to think voters were scarred by awarding a guy who had a merely good season the Cy Young. This is the worst season by a Cy Young winning pitcher maybe ever. Really, it is. There is nothing remarkable about Colon's season. Roy Halladay has like 8 seasons better than that one, Roy Oswalt had a handful - and Oswalt never won the Cy Young. Honestly, if Santana didn't exist, this was the best case to give a reliever the award, as Mariano Rivera had an awesome year (not quite as good as Gagne's in 2003), and Colon simply a good one (unlike Schmidt and Prior in 2003). How Colon ever won is beyond me, and the worst part is that the vote wasn't even close, with Colon getting 17 first place votes to Santana's 8. I hope nothing ever beats this because I can't imagine an award injustice this bad.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 12 Picks

Bad week last time out, going just 5-9-1, my worst week of the year. Maybe that's because I started off the column saying 'this will be quick'. Well, this might be quick. We'll see.

New Orleans Saints (8-2)  @  Atlanta Falcons (2-8)  (NO -9.5)

This line is too high. Road teams have a tough time covering on Thursday Night, especially against inflated spreads. The Falcons have to show up for this game, and I think they will. The Saints offense is a little banged up, with Jahri Evans expected to miss the game. I just think this is way too high a line to pick to win and cover on a Thursday Night in a major rivalry game where only one side would be too interested in the rivalry aspect of the game (Atlanta), while the other has a far more important game 10 days later (New Orleans).

Saints 27  Falcons 21  (ATL +9.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)  @  Detroit Lions (6-4)  (DET -8)

I also think this line is too high. At least in this game the team favored by a lot are at home, but the Buccaneers, under the Reign of Glennon, have come together to at least play consistently decent football. Detroit is good at home (losing there to just Cincinnati), but after mistakenly trusting them to cover on the road against Pittsburgh, I really don't have much faith here. I think they'll win, and they could easily cover, but I've really lost faith in them last week. And they, much like New Orleans, have a far more important game coming up.

Buccaneers 20  Lions 24  (TB +8)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)  @  Houston Texans (2-8)  (HOU -10)

The Texans were 2-0. That happened. That was real. Now, they could have very easily lost either of those games, but they've lost their last 8 games, and now they are a 10 point favorite. That is how bad the Jacksonville Jaguars are. After their deserved win to allow them to avoid an 0-16 season, they were back to their best losing easily at home to Arizona. I've done pretty badly picking them to cover really high spreads. It hasn't worked. I'm giving up that theory. The Texans are still a far, far more talented team than Jacksonville, and they have to win sooner or later. Sooner happens now, they take out their frustrations.

Jaguars 10  Texans 27  (HOU -10)

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6)  @  Cleveland Browns (4-6)  (CLE -1)

This pathetic Steelers team that is leaking Roethlisberger trade rumors, that has one of the worst hires ever as their Offensive Coordinators, which gave up 55 points 20 days ago, they are just one game back of the #6 seed (and they've beaten the current #6 seeded Jets). This can't be happening. The Browns are a decent team at home, but a checkdown machine like Jason Campbell is the exact wrong QB to take advantage of the problems in the Steelers defense. I think the Steelers win, setting up somehow what will be a really big game on Thanksgiving Night.

Steelers 20  Browns 13  (PIT +1)

Chicago Bears (6-4)  @  St. Louis Rams (6-4)  (STL -1)

This is a really tough game to pick. The low line essentially makes this about picking a winner. There's not one matchup on either side that I really like for either team. The closest to any real advantage is the Bears receivers against a secondary that just lost Cortland Finnegan, and a scheme that can neutralize the Rams pass rush. The other side should allow Zack Stacy to have a nice game against a terrible defense. I think the Bears are a better team, and Josh McCown is playing well, but the Rams are at home coming off of a bye. I really have no idea, but I'll give it to St. Louis, who's own backup QB could succeed against a defense that is more injured than ever.

Bears 20  Rams 23  (STL -1)

Minnesota Vikings (2-8)  @  Green Bay Packers (5-5)  (GB -5.5)

Aaron Rodgers might or might not be back for the Thanksgiving game, and there is a legitimate chance the Packers go 0-5 without Rodgers (Aaron playing one drive of the first game). The Packers were 5-2, cruising to the NFC North with an easy schedule ahead. A 1st-round bye was on the table, and now it is probably more likely than not the Packers aren't in the playoffs. Just sad. Anyway, Christian Ponder is starting once again, as is Scott Tolzein, who didn't look terrible. Considering the backup, this line seems a little high to me. I can easily see the Vikings winning, controlling the clock the same way the Giants did. I'll take the Packers to win, but not cover this number.

Vikings 21  Packers 24  (MIN +5.5)

San Diego Chargers (4-6)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)  (KC -4.5)

After taking way too many favorites last week and getting owned for it, I'm taking way too many underdogs in this week. This is a classic trap game for the Chiefs, combining a little come-down after a big loss, with a massive, massive game coming up next week. The Chargers have much more to play for in this game, as a loss here is so hurtful to their playoff chances. The Chargers quick-throw offense should do well against the Chiefs defense. It's the other side I worry about. I think this line is fine, and ATS, this is a 50/50 prop. I'll go with San Diego, but I don't feel too confident about it.

Chargers 23  Chiefs 20  (SD +4.5)

New York Jets (4-6)  @  Baltimore Ravens (4-6)  (BAL -3.5)

Ravens. Two years ago, Mark Sanchez took a 2-1 Jets team to Baltimore in Week 4. The Jets got slaughtered 34-17 (in a game where each team had two Defense or Special Teams TDs). Mark Sanchez was never really the same again. Geno Smith, honestly, has worse stats than Mark Sanchez did in his rookie season. He's had better games than Mark did, but also, and this is hard to believe, has had worse ones. The Jets are entering a buzz-saw, to me, right now. They'll finally break their win-one-lose-one streak in the worse of the two ways.

Jets 14  Ravens 24  (BAL -3.5)

Carolina Panthers (7-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (5-5)  (CAR -5)

This line scares me. The Panthers are a very good team, but there's some trends going against them. First, they're playing off of a short week. Then, they're playing a team playing its 2nd straight home game (teams cover a 2nd straight home game more often than not). The Dolphins quietly, are still in the thick of the Wild Card race, and they need this game. The Panthers do to, needing to keep pace with New Orleans. I'll go with the Panthers, a team I've ridden the past six weeks, where they're 6-0 straight up and ATS, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Dolphins win this. What decides it for me, though, is the Panthers front seven, and D-Line in particular (which will be without Charles Johnson) against that mess of an O-Line for Miami.

Panthers 26  Dolphins 13  (CAR -5)

Tennessee Titans (4-6)  @  Oakland Raiders (4-6)  (TEN -1)

Why are the Titans the favorite here? Both teams are starting a backup QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to win a game. The Raiders have won with McGloin as a starter. The Raiders defense has held up outside of one terrible performance against Philadelphia. The Raiders offense is missing McFadden but not like that has stopped them from being frisky before. The only thing Tennessee has going for it is they're coming off a Thursday Night Game. I think the Raiders will get way more of the public action, and that is why I'm taking Tennessee.

Titans 30  Raiders 20  (TEN -1)

Indianapolis Colts (7-3)  @  Arizona Cardinals (6-4)  (ARZ -3)

After claiming I was taking too many underdogs, I took three straight favorites, and I love the Cardinals here. What do we know about Indianapolis? They start slow. Even in the games the high profile games they've won, they have started slow (12-0 to Seattle, 7-0 to Denver). The Cardinals are good enough defensively that they won't let the Colts comeback from down by too much. Bruce Arians is playing his former team here. And, the Colts have far less to play for here, as yes, they still have to play to win a first-round bye, but a loss to an NFC team is the loss you can live with. The Cardinals need to keep pace with the other 6-4 teams in the wild card race (Chicago/Detroit, San Francisco). They can't afford to lose these winnable games. So... I think they will. I like the Colts, who's defense should do really well against this marginal offense.

Colts 24  Cardinals 20  (IND +3)

Dallas Cowboys (5-5)  @  New York Giants (4-6)  (NYG -2.5)

This line is dumb. It should be higher. Dallas is not very good. They're defense is really injured, and the Giants are finding some form offensively. The Giants offense has been good for a month now, and the Cowboys offense has been average for about as long. The Giants are at home, with more to play for, and they rarely get swept by the Cowboys (hasn't happened since 2007 - when of course they won the 3rd game between the two teams). The Giants should be favored by more, and I think they win and cover this low spread.

Cowboys 20  Giants 28  (NYG -2.5)

Denver Broncos (9-1)  @  New England Patriots (7-3)  (NE -2.5)
I listen to the Grantland NFL Podcast, and one of their co-hosts, Bill Barnwell, asked a really good question: "What do the Patriots do better than Denver?". In reality, because of injuries up front to Wilfork, Kelly and Mayo, and a banged-up secondary, the answer, really, is nothing. They have a better coaching staff, probably. They have a better special teams, but Denver's isn't bad. Denver's passing offense is better. It's rush offense is basically the same (DVOA has Denver's better). Their rush defense is better, and since the return of Von Miller, their pass defense and New England's have gone in opposite directions. That all said, this game is way, way, way more important for New England. A loss here, really, means nothing for Denver if they can beat Kansas City next week. That game is far more important. They can lose this game, and still be in full control of getting the #1 seed. The Patriots don't have that luxury. I don't think the Broncos are overlooking New England. But I think the Patriots are a good team, and they're desperate. This is going against the historical trend of the rivalry (which is, outside of 2008 when Brady wasn't there, the better record going into the game wins - held in 2003-4 playoffs, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, it was tied the other years), but I think desperation matters.

Broncos 27  Patriots 30  (NE -2.5)

San Francisco 49ers (6-4)  @  Washington Redskins (3-7)  (SF -6)

I feel a lot about this game that I feel about the Saints vs. Falcons game, where the underdog will be throwing everything at this game. The one difference is the Saints may have misplaced focus, with a clearly bigger game coming next. The 49ers don't have that. They have to stop this losing streak and win. In many ways, there a ton of similarities between this game and the 49ers @ Rams game back in Week 4, when the 49ers were coming off of two straight losses and had to play a road primetime game. They slaughtered the Rams. If the 49ers have shown anything, it is that they can beat up on bad teams. The Redskins are a bad team, and the 49ers should beat them badly enough.

49ers 34  Redskins 17  (SF -6)

Enjoy the Games!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The End of the Ultra Long Haul: Goodbye to Flight SQ21-22

A significant event in Aviation History is happening tomorrow. Some people know about it, but those people are generally ones like me, who care about random facts and developments in civil commercial aviation. Most people don’t know about it. Most people will not be in the least way effected by what is happening tomorrow, but it still is significant. It is a chapter in The Book of Aviation that is ending. Tomorrow, November 23rd, 2013, Singapore Airlines is ending their non-stop Singapore-Newark-Singapore flight.

Flight # SQ 21-22, for the past nine years since it was installed, was the world’s longest flight. In fact, Singapore Airlines also, for almost that entire period, ran the world’s 2nd longest flight, a non-stop flight from Singapore to Los Angeles and back. That flight ended about a month ago, and now this one is about to fly its final flight – chances are the final one from Singapore to Newark is in the air right now. This flight is flown by an Airbus A340-500. That particular plane, probably unknown to most, is as important as the flight route that is ending, the final vestige of a period in aviation where to fly as far as possible reigned supreme.
Most commercial aviation fanatics (the type of people that populate the Airliners.net forum – which I frequent but don’t post on due to their fee they charge) love this plane to an unhealthy level. In honesty, it is an absolutely stunning bird. A magnificent plane, the most beautiful plane in the sky. However, it is also a nightmare to run. Airlines have been getting rid of this plane prematurely for years now. Singapore Airlines held onto them for far longer than some of their competitors, running two legacy routes, but finally the costs didn’t justify the means of flying the two longest flights in the world.

30 Years ago, the longest flight in the world was from Los Angeles to Tokyo. 15 years ago, that grew to Chicago to Hong Kong. Between that time and even for a few years after, one of the biggest goals for Boeing and Airbus was to develop planes that could increasingly connect further and further city pairs. The Airbus A340-500 was supposed to end that fight and make Airbus the winner. Airbus A340 directly competed with Boeing’s 777, and the fact that the A340 had four engines gave it a huge leg up. First, it gave the plane slightly more power, and the fact that it had four engines allowed it to travel shorter routes that went over oceans, because back then there were severe restrictions placed on two-engine aircraft as to how far away from a potential emergency landing airport a plane could fly.

Over time, as Boeing developed sturdier, reliable two-engine aircraft, those restrictions loosened, and two-engine aircraft could start running the same routes that the four-engine aircraft could run. That leads to the 2nd development that made Boeing’s 777 the ultimate winner: fuel prices.

Rising fuel prices in the 21st Century made running four-engine aircraft increasingly less profitable. Now that two-engine aircraft could run the same routes (think any route from the US to Tokyo/China/Korea, or routes from the US to the Middle East/India), there was no need for a four-engine aircraft. But the A340-500 was different. It could go further than any two-engine plane. It could run routes that no 777 could run. That is what Airbus was betting on, and they lost – or more directly, the airlines that believed them lost.
Ultra-Long Haul (ULH) travel is what those two flights were deemed, as were a few other. And in the end what matters more than anything is if people want to fly those flights. Are there enough people to fly from New York to Singapore? In the end, not really. Singapore Airlines decided then to cut that supply by making their A340-500 planes business class only, and while they filled the plane, it still wasn’t profitable enough to hold onto these unsellable planes. In the end, what killed ULH travel wasn’t as much fuel prices as that people don’t really need to fly these routes.

There is a big debate going on at airliners.net (and other related aviation blogs) as to whether these types of routes will be brought back in the future, as Boeing and Airbus are developing planes that could fly these routes. All of them are two-engine and more fuel-efficient than the planes that came before them. The Boeing 787-9 can fly Singapore to Newark, and that plane should be out late in 2014. The Airbus A350-900R and yet to be manufactured but planned Boeing 777-9X could both potentially fly that and similar routes and they’ll be out near the end of the decade or beginning of the 2020s. So, the capability will be there, but will those routes return?

Probably not. The demand just isn’t there. The demand for New York to Singapore isn’t big enough to support a direct flight (there is a flight that connects those two cities, but stops in Frankfurt – and as someone who flew that flight the other way, very few people who came on board with me in Singapore flew all the way to New York). There isn’t nearly enough demand to support a direct flight from New York to Bangkok. Thai Airways, using an A340-500, once flew that route. At the time, it was the 3rd longest in the world behind the two Singapore Airlines’ ones. They had far less patience, cutting it back in 2008.

The only ULH route that really has demand is Sydney to London. That is the ultimate goal, to create a plane that could fly that route, and none of these new planes can. In fact, most of the ‘next generation’ of aircraft (Boeing 787, Airbus A350 families of planes) have less range than the previous. Efficiency is replacing range, as airlines, due to rising fuel costs and lack of demand, have decided that getting people from place to place more efficiently is far more important than getting them as far as possible. For years and years and years, getting people further and further was the fight that both the airlines and the manufacturers were fighting. Airbus won the manufacturer battle, and Singapore Airlines won it for airlines, but both ultimately realized it wasn’t a flight really worth winning.

Spending 18 hours and 30 minutes is not appealing to most people. It’s really not appealing to any person except for crazy ones like me. I have come close to that, with my longest flight being the soon to be 11th-longest in the world, a South African Airways flight between New York and Johannesburg. That was about 15.5 hours. That was one of my most enjoyable flights in my life, giving me enough time to get a good sleep and enjoy the plane flight itself. Those flights are the ones I wanted to take. On my recent trip, I took four flights that exceeded 10 hours (that one, Johannesburg-Bangkok, Melbourne-Bangkok, Singapore-Frankfurt), but that was the only one that would be classified as ULH, and I loved it.

I always wanted to take the flight from Newark to Singapore.  I wanted to be on that plane for that long. My Dad took it once, years ago back in the route’s infancy, before it became an all business class flight, before Singapore Airlines realized it was fighting a losing battle. I’ll never get to take it unless Singapore Airlines brings it back, but it won’t be on an Airbus A340-500. It won’t be on the world’s most beautiful plane. It may never come back, and I feel like if it ever does, it will be after a plane is built that could get from Sydney to London, this making the Newark to Singapore flight not the longest in the world.

I’ve been an aviation fanatic since I was a kid. I loved airplanes, airlines and airports. My first real love of an airport was JFK airport in New York. I was devastated when I was about 6 when my Uncle in Chicago told me that O’Hare Airport was busier than JFK (and it wasn’t close back then, it is somewhat closer now that many airlines have pulled out of Newark and relocated to JFK, couple with the rise of JetBlue). I was mystified when I found out that somehow, bizarrely Atlanta Hartsfield Airport was the busiest in the world, and it has been for more than a decade now. I was excited when I learned how to tell the difference between a Boeing 777-200 and a Boeing 777-300, and moreover the difference between a B777-300 and a Boeing 777-300ER (the –ER has bigger, GE made engines). But nothing in aviation made me prouder than when the airport closest to my home, little Newark Airport, that international airlines were constantly pulling out of, making it more and more a United-only airport, had the distinction of having the longest flight.

That will end tomorrow. That flight is gone. What is replacing it as the world’s longest flight? A flight between Sydney and Dallas (oddly, my family in Melbourne are taking this flight in three days, just getting it after it becomes the longest in the world). That seems less fun. Singapore to Newark just seems longer when you look at a globe. Singapore is so far, the quickest way is to fly directly North from Newark, cross over the North Pole, and fly directly South over Russia=>China=>Thailand and finally down into Singapore. They don’t fly that way because of wind currents and other stuff that is too complicated for even me to realize, but that is how the route should be done.

The world is far bigger than most people understand, and to think man made a device that could transport someone from two parts of the world so vastly apart is staggering. Aviation came so far in 100 years (about the time from the Wright Brother’s first flight to Singapore’s first flight to Newark). Because of fuel prices, the world will probably never go further in connecting itself until, in all honesty, some new technology is developed (that Sydney-London flight is not even on the table for planes that won’t be released until the mid-2020s). Flight# SQ 21-22 represented something amazing in aviation, as did the plane that flew it. It represented everything that was alluring about aviation, the longest flight in the world on the world’s most beautiful plane.-

The first flight - Picture taken on June 28, 2004.

All Credit to Airliners.net for the photos.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 12 Power Rankings & The Rest

Every now and then a gambler has these types of weeks, where everything goes wrong, where nothing goes right, where all the bets are wrong. This was a Holy Shit type of weekend for me, my worst in a long, long time. It's weekends like this that reminds you that no one knows anything.

Looking Back at Last Week's Pick

Colts (-2.5)  over  TITANS  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
TEXANS (-9)  over  Raiders  (WRONG  =  1-1)
JAGUARS (+9)  over  Cardinals  (WRONG  =  1-2)
Falcons (-1)  over  BUCCANEERS  (WRONG  =  1-3)
BENGALS (-6.5)  over  Browns  (CORRECT  =  2-3)
Jets (-2)  over  BILLS  (WRONG  =  2-4)
Lions (-3)  over  STEELERS  (WRONG  =  2-5)
Redskins (+4)  over  EAGLES  (WRONG  =  2-6)
Ravens (+3)  over  BEARS  (PUSH  =  2-6-1)
DOLPHINS (+2.5)  over  Chargers  (CORRECT  =  3-6-1)
Vikings (+12.5)  over  SEAHAWKS  (WRONG  =  3-7-1)
GIANTS (-4.5)  over  Packers  (CORRECT  =  4-7-1)
SAINTS (-3.5)  over  49ers  (WRONG  =  4-8-1)
BRONCOS (-7.5)  over  Chiefs  (CORRECT  =  5-8-1)
Patriots (+1.5)  over  PANTHERS  (WRONG  =  5-9-1)

Week 11: 5-9-1

Year-to-Date: 89-70-3

Power Rankings

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-9  =  129-318)

Welcome back, terrible Jaguars!!! Their one week trip to Disneyworld with a win over Tennessee put firmly in the rear-view mirror, they went back out and continued their march to the #1 overall pick. They made Carson Palmer look like a good QB, and their offense has returned to horrible levels. Glad to have you back.

31.) Atlanta Falcons  (2-8  =  214-292)

I find it amazing how far the Falcons have come. Matt Ryan is still a good player, and this could easily be just one terrible year in a great run. There is no way this team is in a vacuum a 2-8 team. There are two teams that are in great position to do next year what the Chiefs did this year. One is the Falcons, who can't be this injured again.

30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-8  =  187-237)

The other is Tampa. Despite this little renaissance the last two weeks, I think Schaino still gets fired. This team is loaded with talent on defense (David, Revis, McCoy, Bowers), has a Top-10 WR in Vincent Jackson, a decent O-Line, and an intriguing QB prospect. That is actually more than what KC had last year. Lovie Smith should take over this team, and go 12-4 next year.

29.) Houston Texans  (2-8  =  193-276)

I guess Houston could do the same. It is amazing that there are five teams that have less than three wins through 10 games, and two of them went a combined 25-7 last year (and a 3rd was a playoff team). Is there a better representation of how crazy the NFL is than this? It repeats saying, but JJ Watt is a monster. He's from another planet. He's having one of the Greatest starts to a career ever. Ever.

28.) Washington Redskins  (3-7  =  246-311)

What a terrible performance in Washington. The offense didn't do a thing until they were down big. Yes, they made a game effort at coming back, but then that ends with one of the worst throws I've seen RGIII make. It is somewhat surprising how inaccurate RGIII has been this season. I hope for his sake it is just a matter of him getting confidence and strength in his plant leg.

27.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-8  =  240-320)

I picked the Vikings to cover, and then saw them tied at 10-10 midway through the 2nd quarter. That didn't last long, as the Seahawks went on a 31-3 run. The Vikings have to stick with a QB, and I still think their best option is Ponder. He's just more calm and consistent than the other two. He might have less upside, but the chances of Freeman or Cassel hitting that upside are really, really low.

26.) Tennessee Titans (4-6  =  227-226)

The Titans begin a string of teams that are either 4-6, 4-7 or 5-5. The NFL is more mediocre than ever with their teams this year, and in the AFC, that is a great thing. There are only two AFC teams more than one game behind the current #6 seed Jets the Jags and Texans). The Titans are the only one of those 5-5/4-6 AFC Teams with a positive point differential, but they are also one missing their starting QB for the year, and with a relatively tough schedule left.

25.) Oakland Raiders  (4-6  =  194-246)

I'll get to this more in the preview of next week's games, but the Raiders have a huge game coming up against the Titans. The Raiders are 4-6, but they could easily end 5-11 or 6-10. McGloin played well, I guess, but I feel like he'll be exposed as more teams get a look at him. The Raiders have a solid future, but somehow, someway, they could be the #6 seed, as wins over both Pittsburgh and, potentially, Tennessee could help.

24.) Cleveland Browns  (4-6  =  192-238)

They had to protect a 13-point lead for 45 minutes, and they would essentially be leading the AFC North. Instead, they couldn't protect it for 5 minutes, and were down 31-13 by halftime. Just a stunning collapse. Hard to believe they could hold Andy Dalton to under 100 yards, and lose by 21 and give up 41 points. Just another example of how overrated yards allowed is. Jason Campbell returned to being Captain Checkdown in full in that game also.

23.) St. Louis Rams  (4-6  =  224-234)

The Rams are basically slightly worse than what they were a year ago (while the Cardinals are slightly better than what they were a year ago). Kellen Clemens is a decent QB and knows that system, but they'll be playing against a lot of teams that have way more to play for than themselves (Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago). The season could end really badly.

22.) Buffalo Bills  (4-7  =  236-273)

A nice win for the Bills, but they probably weren't as impressive as the score indicates since they took advantage of one of the worst QB performances I have ever seen. EJ Manuel was alright, and Marquise Goodwin is a find, but I think tehy need more from their supposedly good running game and they need Stevie Johnson back to have any real chance, which I don't think they do.

21.) New York Jets  (5-5  =  183-268)

Out of all the 4-6/5-5 teams in the AFC race for the #6 seed, the Jets have been outscored the most, but they also have the best wins, with games over the Patriots and Saints. The Jets have a relatively easy schedule, but they have to figure out a way to win back-to-back games, and figure out a way to play on the road, and that starts this week against the Ravens, one of the team of 9 (SD, MIA, PIT, BAL, BUF, CLE, OAK, TEN, NYJ). There are a lot of head-to-head games between these teams, and really those will decide everything.

20.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (4-6  =  216-245)

The Steelers lost 31-55, and have now won their last two games, both at home. I have no idea what to think of this team. All I know is I don't want them to be the #6 seed. In this crazy season, if there has to be an AFC Wild-Card team at 8-8, let it be new blood, not a blue-blood team having a bad season. I still think there are massive underlying problems with the Steelers, but there are with all of these teams in the Gang of 9.

19.) Miami Dolphins  (5-5  =  213-225)

Big win by Miami, who's pass rush is continuing to keep them in all of their games. Just imagine if their pass rush could go up against the Dolphins depleted-due-to-bullying O-Line in a real game. Tannehill might be ruined forever. The Dolphins are still in this, with two games against the current #6 seed Jets left, and haven't gotten squat from Mike Wallace. I have to think he makes in impact on this race sooner or later.

18.) Dallas Cowboys  (5-5  =  274-258)

I hope the Cowboys looked internally on that defense during their bye. There are injury issues that won't get fixed, but the Giants offense had its best game of the year last week against Green Bay, and now can get some revenge on that Week 1 loss to Dallas. The Cowboys offense hopefully got some time to rest and get Miles Austin healthy as well. With their 3-0 division record, they still have many tiebreaker advantages, but for a team that looked so bad, it may not matter.

17.) San Diego Chargers  (4-6  =  228-222)

I lied when I said the Titans were the only one of the Gang of 9 that had a positive points differential. The Chargers have one as well. The Chargers lost a few really close games early, and are now just losing games they should win. Their season really resides in this game this weekend. Are they good enough to beat Kansas City? Yes. Will they? I have my doubts, as the Chargers really have just one good road performance this year, their Week 2 win in Philadelphia.

16.) New York Giants  (4-6  =  192-256)

Four in a row, and now they get to put the loss that sent them in their death spiral behind them and beat the Cowboys. Let's go back to Week 1, when the Giants, my preseason pick to win the NFC, mostly dominated the Cowboys, but turned it over six times, including a pick six when driving down 30-24 with a chance to win. The Giants are a much better team today, especially defensively, than they were then. The Giants are in this, but they'll need help from someone with Philadelphia.

15.) Baltimore Ravens  (4-6  =  208-212)

The Ravens have had a really bad case of the Super Bowl Hangover. They've lost major offensive contributors for long stretches. Joe Flacco hasn't done too much to actually earn that ridiculous contract he was given. Ray Rice has about one good name. Yet, here they are, just one game back of the #6 seed, with the chance to beat the Jets next weekend. They might just squeak in as a #6 seed, and automatically become the most dangerous #6 seed in a while.

14.) Green Bay Packers  (5-5  =  258-239)

If the Packers were in the AFC, they could have survived another two weeks without Rodgers and still been alive for a Wild Card. Alas, they're in the NFC, and are now a full game behind Chicago, San Francisco and Arizona (the first two they've lost to). The Packers have played decently without Rodgers, but it is amazing how less scary those position players are without Rodgers throwing filthy passes to them.

13.) Philadelphia Eagles  (6-5  =  276-260)

Are the Eagles actually good? Nick Foles ridiculous streak without a pick will end, and maybe spectacularily so (see David Garrard, 2007, or Damon Huard, 2006), but he's a decent QB, and that defense is playing so much better than it was early in the season. The team reminds me a lot of the 2012 Redskins, an offense people haven't totally figured out yet, and a defense that is playing better than its personnel dictates it should. That might be good enough for a division title, but no way near enough for Carolina/New Orleans in Round 1.

12.) Arizona Cardinals  (6-4  =  214-212)

I said it weeks ago, that this time was going to quietly make a playoff push, and they still could. I also said a few weeks ago that ending with @SEA/vs.SF will kill their chances, but what if that Week 17 game is for the #6 seed. The game is in Arizona. Sure, the Bears/Lions loser and Packers are still in that Wild Card picture, but the Cardinals have an easier schedule until those last two games. It would be really fun to see that defense that should be getting more national attention play a playoff game, or at least a Week 17 play-in game.

11.) Chicago Bears  (6-4  =  282-267)

I've read a few people state that maybe Josh McCown is just better than Jay Cutler, but I have to vehemently disagree. McCown has faced just one defense that is even above average (Baltimore), and didn't play all that well against them. He's a good QB, but I put that more on Marshall/Jefferey/Bennett and Marc Trestman. Cutler will be fine long term, and should (and will) reclaim his starting QB job when he gets healthy, but unlike in 2011 down the stretch, the Bears have a more than capable backup. More importantly, they have a more than competent offensive system.

10.) Detroit Lions (6-4  =  265-253)

Oh, what a terrible loss. They had a shot at a bye (and I guess still do). They had a shot to put the hammer down on their division. They had a chance to give the Steelers more misery than they've felt in decades. They probably could have done many of these things. I haven't seen much of this game, but I can't understand how the Steeers defense suddenly found out how to play defense again in that 2nd half. The Lions defense is better than they showed, but that defense can't travel at all.

9.) San Francisco 49ers  (6-4  =  247-178)

The 49ers are what we all thought the Panthers were, the team that can beat the living shit out of bad teams, but will struggle to beat any good team. They've played four teams with a winning, and have lost to all of them. They've scored 3, 7, 9 and 20 points in those games, and the 20 points came mostly off of short fields on various turnovers. Colin Kaepernick is part of the problem, but the bigger one is that the league has more or less figured out the passing game run in that pistol offense, and the O-Line just isn't where it was even last year.

8.) Indianapolis Colts  (7-3  =  252-220)

The Colts have to stop falling behind by 14. If they do it against Arizona, there is little chance of them coming back against that defense. Andrew Luck hasn't really risen to the occasion since Wayne's injury, but his WRs are even further behind in rising to the occasion. DHB has been a bust, and TY Hilton can only do so much. The Colts defense does one thing good, though, in that they make great adjustments at halftime. Their 2nd half defense is so much better than in the 1st half.

7.) Cincinnati Bengals  (7-4  =  275-206)

Since they really didn't deserve to win  the Ravens game, I can't say they've been unlucky to lose two games in OT, but if you give them one of those as wins, they would be the current #2 seed, and be the overall favorites to get there if they beat the Colts. They still have a shot since they have a chance at having the head-to-head win over both Indianapolis and New England, but it will be tough. I give a ton of credit to the Bengals for continuing to play excellent defense even after the Geno Atkins injury.

6.) Kansas City Chiefs  (9-1  =  232-138)

Honestly, my opinion of Kansas City barely changed after that game. I still don't think their offense is good enough to score 30 points if they ever need to. I think their defense is very good. If I have any concern, it is that maybe their pass rush was slightly overrated with that sacks number. 10 of the 36 sacks came in one game, and they now have just 1 sack in the last three games combined. The bigger game for them was always the 2nd Broncos game in Arrowhead, but just like the Broncos, they have a tricky game coming up with San Diego. They can't afford to overlook them.

5.) New England Patriots  (7-3  =  254-199)

OK, about the no-call. I was fine with it. First, if the back judge never throws the flag, this is not even a story. He did, but the referees conferred, and two other referees said they strongly believed the ball was uncatchable. That is how the process is supposed to work. The process worked correctly. They just ended up choosing a judgement (on a completely judgement call) that went against what most people believed to be the correct judgement. As for the game, it's odd to see the Patriots play rather well, and still lose. The last time I remember this happening in earnest was against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Generally, when the Patriots lose, they don't play very well. Here, not much to complain about their play, but maybe they just aren't as good as Carolina right now.

4.) Carolina Panthers  (7-3  =  238-135)

Speaking of which, I want Steve Smith to appear once a year on MNF for the next 20 years just so he can come up with a great put down line. First, it was introducing 'that young'n' to the 'rules and regulations of the game' in a 2009 MNF win over Minnesota, and now it was 'Ice Up, Son!' towards Aqib Talib (who Steve Smith dominated, physically and mentally). I love Steve Smith, but I loved the calmness of the Pantheres more. They never panicked in that game. They never seemed to think they had to play out of their head. They never went down after going 3-and-out after the Patriots tied in at 17. The Panthers played a really good game, and most people will forget that in the wake of the call.

3.) New Orleans Saints  (8-2  =  288-183)

Did the Saints deserve to win that game? Honestly, yes. They were play-by-play, the better team, but turned over the ball too many times. If the 49ers did prove one thing, it is that the Saints are not invincible at home, and that good defenses can contain them. Still, that was a huge win, made even bigger due to Carolina also winning. They need to enter their two-in-three-week showdown with Carolina a game up. They have some landmines left in that schedule, but their defense hasn't slowed down all year.

2.) Seattle Seahawks  (10-1  =  306-179)

The Seattle Seahawks are a really good team. They are doing exactly what they did a year ago, go on a run and dominate their opponents late in the season. I don't think they can dominate the Saints in two weeks, (or the 49ers in San Francisco), but the Seahawks are a great team right now, and the NFC should have taken games off of them when they could. Unless the Saints can shock them in Seattle, the Seahawks should be the #1 seed, and as they showed with a slightly less talented team in 2005, Seattle with a #1 seed is bad news for the NFC.

1.) Denver Broncos  (9-1  =  398-255)

The good news is Peyton Manning did not look the least bit hobbled in that game, and they were able to move the ball and never really be challenged against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The bad news, they have the ultra-important 2nd meeting the week after the most hyped game of the season. The greatest news for Denver is that with New England's loss, they go back to controlling their destiny for the #1 seed even if they lose to New England. In a way, they can put the Patriots game on the side and really focus on the game in Arrowhead. They won't do that (I hope), but they can, and that is excellent news.

Playoff Projections


1.) Denver Broncos  (14-2)
2.) New England Patriots  (12-4)
3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (11-5)
4.) Indianapolis Colts  (11-5)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  (12-4)
6.) Who the hell knows  (9-7)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  (14-2)
2.) New Orleans Saints  (12-4)
3.) Detroit Lions  (10-6)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles  (9-7)
5.) Carolina Panthers  (12-4)
6.) Chicago Bears  (10-6)

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

14.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)  @  Houston Texans (2-8)  (1:00 - CBS)
13.) Minnesota Vikings (2-8)  @  Green Bay Packers (5-6)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Yes, these teams still have to play this season" Sunday, as the Jaguars, Texans and Vikings all have to continue playing football. If the Packers can't beat the Vikings in a must-win game without Aaron Rodgers, then Ted Thompson should be questioned about the build of that team. Scott Tolzein isn't much worse than any of the three potential Vikings' QBs.

12.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)  @  Detroit Lions (6-4)  (1:00 - FOX)
11.) New Orleans Saints (8-2)  @  Atlanta Falcons (2-8)  (TNF - NFLN)
10.) San Francisco 49ers (6-4)  @  Washington Redskins (3-7)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "Upset Watch in the NFC" Sunday, as three NFC teams that are playoff teams if the playoffs started today (I believe the 49ers would be the #6 seed today) play three bad teams. Two have to go on the road in primetime, which is a great spot for a shock upset (Washington is probably more likely, but Atlanta might show a pulse this week).

9.) San Diego Chargers (4-6)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
8.) Tennessee Titans (4-6)  @  Oakland Raiders (4-6)  (4:05 - CBS)
7.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6)  @  Cleveland Browns (4-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
6.) New York Jets (5-5)  @  Baltimore Ravens (4-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
5.) Carolina Panthers (7-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (5-5)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Don't You Love the Gang of 9!" Sunday, as 8 of the 9 members of the Gang play in games that could really help pare out some teams as we head towards December. The Bills (4-7) are the only team not playing, which is nice since they are the longest shot with their already 7 losses. Three are games featuring two of The Gang, and they are all somewhat interesting. The Chargers get to play the Chiefs for the first time in a must-win game and a huge trap game for the Chiefs. The Panthers get to take their six game win streak into Miami to play a team that quietly is right back in the playoff picture.

4.) Chicago Bears (6-4)  @  St. Louis Rams (4-6)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "A Good Old Fashioned Game" Sunday, that is saved by the presence of two backups that have looked far better than anticipated. The Rams D-Line is a nice test of the Bears O-Line. The Bears definitely need this game more, and it will fun to watch their WRs go up against the Rams defense play after play.

3.) Indianapolis Colts (7-3)  @  Arizona Cardinals (6-4)  (4:05 - CBS)

I call it "The Best Inter-Conference Game Money Can Buy" Sunday, as Bruce Arians, a nice candidate for Coach of the Year, matches wits against the coach he replaced on an interim basis. The Colts can't afford a slow start in this one, as the Cardinals defense is far better than those that let the Colts off the hook. The Colts have to be up for this game, as the Cardinals have knocked off similar or better teams at home this season.

2.) Dallas Cowboys (5-5)  @  New York Giants (4-6)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it "The First of Too Many Mediocre NFC East vs. NFC East Matchups" Sunday, as the Cowboys and Giants play a big game. If the Giants win, the NFC East is basically a beautiful three team race of mediocre teams. If the Cowboys win, we can almost pencil in that Week 17 game between the Eagles and Cowboys in Dallas as the game for the division. Fun game, really.

1.) Denver Broncos (9-1)  @  New England Patriots (7-3)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "The War of 18/12" Sunday, as the league gets what they've gotten every year since 2013 (save for 2008 and 2011, where one of the two main players was gone - of course, the matchup still happened). Brady is 9-4 overall, but that is 4-3 for Manning since 2005. Also, in primetime, Manning is 4-1, winning in 2005, 2006, 2009 and in the 2006 AFC Championship. Also, the team with the better record entering the game has won each of the last five matchups. Should be awesome, as per usual.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 11 Picks

Week 10: 9-4-1

Year-to-Date: 84-61-2

This will be a quicker version than normal, so let's go:

Indianapolis Colts (6-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (4-5)  (IND -3)

The Colts can't possibly be that bad again. They have a tendency to play down to mediocre teams, but I have to think the Colts will respond to being embarrased at home. The Titans don't really match up well with the Colts either, with an average run defense and no one that can really cover Coby Fleener. Anyway, this is good value for an Indianapolis team that is far better than the one that presented itself on Sunday.

Colts 27  Titans 17  (IND -3)

Oakland Raiders (3-6)  @  Houston Texans (2-7)  (HOU -9)

Mike McGloin is expected to start, which cannot possibly go well against a team that still has a bunch of talent defensively. JJ Watt is having another dominant season, and he should absolutely abuse the soft interior of the Raiders o-line. I can see the Raiders defense having a bad game, playing down to an average offense. The Texans are far better than their record, and this line proves that.

Raiders 13  Texans 27  (HOU -9)

Arizona Cardinals (5-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)  (ARZ -9)
This line seems high, but I can't see the Jaguars really doing anything offensively against one of the league's best defenses. Bruce Arians had a habit of playing bad teams way too close, which gives me pause about them covering nine points, and I like way too many favorites this week overall. Some of the underdogs have to cover, right? Why not pick one of those against a team favored by more than ever on the road.

Cardinals 23  Jaguars 17  (JAX +9)

Atlanta Falcons (2-7)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)  (ATL -1)

There is some support for the Buccaneers in this game, off of their first win, but I really don't see it. The Buccaneers did win their first game, but that was against a team in total disarray, and they blew a 15-0 lead in that game before recovering last minute to win. The Falcons are also more talented than their record, and this is a perfect situation to pick up a win with a tough remaining schedule to come.

Falcons 27  Buccaneers 23  (ATL -1)

Cleveland Browns (4-5)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)  (CIN -6.5)

High line, considering the Browns won their first matchup against the Bengals 17-6 in Cleveland. The Bengals are undefeated at home, and have covered all four games. They are just a much better team at home, especially defensively, and they have the good linebackers and tacklers to stop the Browns short passing game with Jason Campbell.

Browns 13  Bengals 23  (CIN -6.5)

New York Jets (5-4)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-7)  (NYJ -2)

I hate that I like basically all the favorites. It burns me terribly to keep picking them, but I just have to. The Jets defense is good enough to stop this Bills offense that has looked a little lifeless since EJ Manuel's first injury. Steve Johnson is out against the Jets, and their rush defense should neutralize Jackson/Spiller. The Jets are just a better team, and off of a bye I would have to think their offense should have some nice plays against Buffalo.

Jets 20  Bills 13  (NYJ -2)

Detroit Lions (6-3)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)  (DET -3)

If the Lions really want to win the division, and compete potentially for the #2 seed, they have to win these winnable games, and there are a lot of them left. A lot of people don't expect the Lions to win a game like this because, well, they are the Lions. I'm sure their fans are completely skeptical, but last week they went on the road against a better team and won. This is a new Lions team, and this is a new, worse than in years, Steelers team.

Lions 30  Steelers 20  (DET -3)

Washington Redskins (3-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)  (PHI -4)

Hey look! I'm going to pick an underdog to win outright. The Redskins are coming off a TNF game, and teams cover a lot after playing on Thursday Night, with the extra days to prepare. The Eagles are getting a little too much love right now, and the Eagles are 0-5 at home this season. I would love to see the Redskins win and tighten this ridiculous NFC East race even further.

Redskins 31  Eagles 27  (WAS +4)

Baltimore Ravens (4-5)  @  Chicago Bears (5-4)  (CHI -3)

I'm doing it again!! This is too much!! The Ravens are playing a backup QB and they are playing damn good defense ever since the Manning 7-TD game in Week 1. The Bears could get by with Josh McCown against the Packers, but the Ravens defense is a bigger story. The Ravens might also get their run game going a little bit against one of the worst run defenses in the league. I can also see an emotional letdown for the Bears after losing last week's tough game to Detroit.

Ravens 23  Bears 20  (BAL +3)

San Diego Chargers (4-5)  @  Miami Dolphins (4-5)  (SD -2.5)

This is a tough spot for the Chargers, but a crucial one. After blowing the Redskins game, and losing at home to Denver, the Chargers are back in a tough spot, and have a game at Arrowhead next week. They need this game. The Dolphins can survive even with a loss here with two games left against the Jets. The Dolphins are still in disarray a bit, but that is obviously being factored into the line. With the line less than a field goal, there is still some good value with the Chargers.

Chargers 27  Dolphins 24  (SD -2.5)

Minnesota Vikings (2-7)  @  Seattle Seahawks (9-1)  (SEA -12.5)

This line is high, and I've gone with the underdog covering all double digit lines, and I'm not stopping now, especially for a Seahawks team that hasn't been great against the run against a team they might overlook, just like they did against Tampa Bay two years.

Vikings 20  Seahawks 31  (MIN +12.5)

Green Bay Packers (5-4)  @  New York Giants (3-6)  (NYG -4.5)

Scott Tolzein on the road against a defense that is better than people think? Seems pretty easy. The Packers have also been horrible at creating turnovers this season, which is bad against a QB so willing to throw pick-sixes. The Giants have a great matchup here, and they've matched up well in the past against a Rodgers-led Packers offense.

Packers 17  Giants 26  (NYG -4.5)

San Francisco 49ers (6-3)  @  New Orleans Saints (7-2)  (NO -3.5)

I would love to pick the 49ers here, a team with linebackers good enough in coverage to maybe slow down Jimmy Graham, and a physical pass rush that can get to Brees, who's been far more susceptible to pass rush this year than in the past, with a sack percentage of 5.5%, the highest of his career at New Orleans. However, the Saints are just so much better at home, and the 49ers don't really have a good enough offense to make up for that. I could easily be wrong, but my head and heart tells me that the Saints cover a game with a line low enough that they might be undervalued.

49ers 23  49ers 28  (NO -3.5)

Kansas City Chiefs (9-0)  @  Denver Broncos (8-1)  (DEN -7.5)

So many opinions on this game. First, I don't think Manning's ankle injury will impact him more than normal. People are also way overestimating the amount of hits Manning has taken. Yes, he's been slightly injured, but that doesn't really mean he's getting hit more than usual. His sack percentage is actually lower this year than last year. Also, the Chiefs may have a league-leading 36 sacks, but only one has occured in the last two games. The Chiefs offense, really, is just not good enough in my mind to keep up with the Broncos, even if their defense limits the Broncos to like 27 points. The bigger matchup is the one in two weeks.

Chiefs 17  Broncos 27  (DEN -7.5)

New England Patriots (7-2)  @  Carolina Panthers (6-3)  (CAR -1.5)

The Panthers actually matchup pretty well with New England, with a run offense that can play well against a porous rush defense, controlling the clock, and a pass rush that can get pressure on Brady with just their front four, but there are so many reasons to take New England. First, they're coming off of a bye, while the Panthers had to fly cross-country after a really physical game. Then, the Patriots are still the Patriots, and are generally really good in primetime. Finally, I think the Panthers might be a little too high right now, their fans making a little too much of their team in advance of this game.

Patriots 27  Panthers 21  (NE +1.5)

Enjoy the Games!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 11 Power Rankings

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

VIKINGS (+1.5)  over  Redskins  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
Jaguars (+13)  over  TITANS  (CORRECT  =  2-0)

PACKERS (-1.5)  over  Eagles  (WRONG  =  2-1)
Bills (+3)  over  STEELERS  (WRONG  =  2-2)
Seahawks (-4.5)  over  FALCONS  (CORRECT  =  3-2)
GIANTS (-7.5)  over  Raiders  (WRONG  =  3-3)
Rams (+9.5)  over  COLTS  (CORRECT  =  4-3)
Bengals (-1.5)  over  RAVENS  (WRONG  =  4-4)
Lions (-1)  over  BEARS  (CORRECT  =  5-4)
CARDINALS (-3)  over  Texans  (PUSH  =  5-4-1)
Panthers (+6.5)  over  49ERS  (CORRECT  =  6-4-1)
Broncos (-7)  over  CHARGERS  (CORRECT  =  7-4-1)
SAINTS (-7)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  8-4-1)
BUCCANEERS (+2.5)  over  Dolphins  (CORRECT  =  9-4-1)

Week 10: 9-4-1

Year-to-Date: 84-61-2

Power Rankings

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-8  =  111-295)

I'm happy they got a win, no team deserves to go 0-16. It worked out OK for the Lions, who three years later were in the playoffs and five years later are in great position to win their division, but who knows if Teddy Bridgewater is a Matthew Stafford type player. Anyway, the Jaguars got their win. Now they can go back to being a historically bad team.

31.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (1-8  =  146-209)

I'm happy they got a win, no team deserves to go 0-16. Of course, it didn't work out OK for the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who wouldn't make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for another 20 years. Also, the Buccaneers will probably still fire their coach and start all over again. However, they should go out and hire Lovie Smith, and do what the Chiefs are doing this year in 2014.

30.) Atlanta Falcons  (2-7  =  186-251)

The Falcons were 9-0 through nine games last year. Now they're 2-7. I hate to do this, but what would the reaction be if the same fate happens to the Chiefs next year? Would it be shock? Surprise? I don't think it would be as surprising as what has happened to Atlanta. Julio Jones meant a lot to that team, but so did so many of their pieces on defense. Matt Ryan deserves better than this, but chances are this is a one-year lag, not a long-term swim in mediocrity, like what could easily happen in Pittsburgh.

29.) Oakland Raiders  (3-6  =  166-223)

Ever since I, and so many other people, gave Terrelle Pryor so much love after a good game against Pittsburgh, with the Raiders at 3-4, Pryor has been bad, and the Raiders worse. Now, their defense played a lot better last week than it did against Philadelphia, but the offense isn't good enough yet. The future is bright with Oakland, as Pryor is still developing and Reggie McKenzie has a solid plan, but this is still a team devoid of a lot of talent.

28.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-7  =  220-279)

That was a good win for Minnesota. They didn't blink when falling down 27-10, scoring the last 24 points of the game. Ponder is expected to play in Seattle, and that is great news, because he's actually been very competent since regaining the starting job against Green Bay three weeks ago. The Vikings have intriguing pieces on offense (I won't lie, I forgot they had Greg Jennings). The defense is still terrible, but they can play a huge role in deciding the fate of the NFC North.

27.) Washington Redskins  (3-6  =  230-287)

As good as a win as that was for Minnesota, it was that bad a loss for Washington. They could have been tied in the loss column with the Eagles and Cowboys. Instead, they are tied with the Giants. Many people will point to the Redskins being 3-6 last year through 10 games and coming back to win the division, but winning 7 straight games to end a season from 3-6 is pretty much unprecedented. They won't need to go 10-6 to win the division, but even a 6-1 finish seems really unlikely with games against all of their NFC East foes still to come, and games against the 49ers and Chiefs.

26.) Houston Texans  (2-7  =  170-248)

The Falcons are shocking, but the Texans being 2-7, especially after a 2-0 start, is equally, if not more, shocking. The weird part is the team is actually playing pretty well. Andre Johnson is having another stellar year. The defense is playing decently well, and JJ Watt has staved off natural regression better than anyone could imagine. What is different? They've been extremely unlucky in giving up defensive TDs, and their kicking has been awful. They could be a massive late season spoiler.

25.) Tennessee Titans  (4-5  =  200-196)

The Titans will rue that loss. They have tiebreak wins over the Jets and Chargers, but that might not matter. Their schedule is tough coming up (Colts twice, Broncos still to come), and they can't just give away games to one of the worst teams ever. I feel bad for Jake Locker. At this point, he's basically proven injury-prone. I wish I could see him play a full season, but that may not ever happen. Still, I think he's easily the best of the three overdrafted QBs from the 2011 draft (Locker, Gabbert, Ponder).

24.) Buffalo Bills  (3-7  =  199-259)

That was a terrible performance in Pittsburgh. I get it, Dick LeBeau's defense has been amazing against rookies. But this is the worst Dick LeBeau defense in eons. The Bills had a chance to stay somewhat relevant in the Wild Card race and just blew it with a lifeless performance. They have spoiler potential coming up, but I can't imagine them doing too much with games like that. I still like the Doug Marrone hiring long term, but this might be a bad finish to an otherwise good season.

23.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (3-6  =  179-218)

The Steelers might fall into the trap of focusing on their good games and forgetting about the bad ones. Who are the real Steelers? The team that beat the Jets in New York 19-6, and beat the Bills 23-10, or the team that lost to a Matt Cassel-led Vikings team in London and were waxed by New England 55-31? I honestly think they're closer to the latter. The Steelers just don't have good enough personnel on defense, and I think that won't change until the leadership does. One thing I do know is that the answer is not trading away Ben Roethlisberger. This isn't baseball. One Great QB is worth more than two 1st-round picks.

22.) Miami Dolphins  (4-5  =  193-209)

I'll credit the Dolphins for coming back after starting out miserably against Tampa Bay. That showed some ability to look past the ridiculous stuff going on in Miami right now. I don't want to comment on that situation, and because no one cares what I would say, I won't. The Dolphins, as a team, are still built well, but their O-Line is so bad, and Ryan Tannehill's pocket presence so equally bad, that it won't matter. They are still in the Wild Card hunt, but they need to turn this around, now.

21.) Cleveland Browns  (4-5  =  172-197)

The Browns are somehow just a game back in the wild card race. I still can't imagine them getting there just because of their remaining schedule (4 road games, all against decent teams, if not better, home game against Chicago), but the Browns are definitely in the race. I don't know what this team is long term, because they still don't have a QB, and it never worked for Mike Lombardi before, but I'll give the man some credit. They've played well.

20.) Baltimore Ravens  (4-5  =  188-189)

They overcame the Hail Mary going against them, and that takes a lot. They basically produced their only offensive drive of note since the 1st quarter in OT to steal the win. I really wanted them to lose just so Ravens' fans can come close to realizing what pain it was for Denver (and Manning) fans when the Ravens got their Hail Mary last year in the playoffs. That Ravens defense is really good, and if they do sneak into the playoffs, well, we've seen it before.

19.) St. Louis Rams  (4-6  =  224-234)

Well, that was surprising. That was just shocking. That was the ideal Jeff Fisher game. Get some huge plays, play solid defense, not have to do too much on offense in terms of consistent drives, and just stop teams drive after drive. Jeff Fisher didn't get many chances to do that to the Colts in his tenure in Tennessee, but he took it all out on them. Nice to see Tavon Austin have a breakout game. He can be special, but they have to find ways to consistently get him the ball outside of playing the Colts defense.

18.) Dallas Cowboys  (5-5  =  274-258)

The Cowboys just had one of the most embarrassing performances I have ever seen. Their defense was so unrepetently bad it goes beyond words. I can't imagine that defense holding up, with the ridiculous amount of injuries, but here they are, tied for 1st place in the division, with their 2nd game against the Eagles in Dallas. They have to throw Dez the ball more than twice. It honestly seemed like they just gave up.

17.) New York Giants  (3-6  =  165-243)

Somehow, the Giants have a legitimate top-10 defense right now. The points allowed total doesn't match, mainly because of early season results, and special teams, and Eli pick-sixes, but the defense itself has been really good for a while now. The D-Line is slowly getting back to form, and the secondary has been really good for most of the season. Prince Amukamara is having a really nice season, and Antrel Rolle continues to quietly be one of the league's best safeties.

16.) Green Bay Packers  (5-4  =  245-212)

This ranking is still going off the idea that Aaron Rodgers is not coming back until after the Thanksgiving Game in Detroit. Honestly, I'm more pessimistic than before, because unless the backup is going to be a long term good player, backups generally play well in their first start and then become worse as teams get more tape on those teams. The Packers didn't look that great against Philadelphia, and while their schedule is still easy coming up, they can't really afford to lose two more games, as they lose the tiebreaker to San Francisco (the current #6 seed).

15.) San Diego Chargers  (4-5  =  212-202)

Well, the Chargers are still in it because no one is running away with that #6 seed, but they might have to win two of their remaining three games against the Chiefs and Broncos, which will be really hard. They have a chance to get a tiebreaker over Miami this week, but losses like Washington and Tennessee will keep this team out of the playoffs just like strange losses kept them out in 2010 and almost did in 2008, despite similarly good seasons by Philip Rivers.

14.) Philadelphia Eagles  (5-5  =  252-244)

It's almost like the Eagles are somehow under the radar now. After they put up 10 points combined in two home game losses, people just assumed they were dead. Well, they are now tied for first place, with an easier schedule ahead than Dallas. Their division record is worse (as in 2-2 vs. 3-0), but all they really have to do is start being able to win home games. One last quibble, Nick Foles might be the Greatest QB EVARR!!, but he was terrible in the two-thirds of the game he played against Dallas.

13.) New York Jets  (5-4  =  169-231)

That must have been a nice bye week for the Jets, who in not playing, gained sole possession of the #6 seed in the AFC. It is in their hands. It is right there for the taking. The Titans, who have a tiebreaker over them, lost. The Chargers lost. They have a chance to effectively end this themselves, since they have 5-loss Baltimore, Cleveland and Miami (twice) still on the schedule.

12.) Arizona Cardinals  (5-4  =  187-198)

I said this three weeks ago, that the Cardinals have a quietly cushy schedule ahead of them, and could make a silent playoff push. They probably won't get there, since playing both Seattle and San Francisco in Weeks 16-17 is not a good recipe to make it, but how much fun would a Week 17 game between the 49ers and Cardinals in Arizona for the #6 seed. I really want that to happen. I'll give the Cardinals fans never-ending credit for continuing to be a really good home fanbase after the Warner era ended.

11.) Chicago Bears  (5-4  =  259-247)

Tough loss in what was a really good game. Yes, Jay Cutler looked rusty, but I think it is unfair to criticize Marc Trestman for bringing him back too soon. First, it is totally hypocritical to do this since Cutler caught a stupid amount of shit for not coming back too soon in the NFC Championship Game three years ago. But mostly, because his new injury is a different one. They weren't related. And while he wasn't playing well, he wasn't exactly playing badly either. They just lost a hard-fought game to a good team. It happens.

10.) Indianapolis Colts  (6-3  =  222-193)

Well, that was a disaster. If they lose on Thursday, this could be the real first time Irsay/Grigson/Pagano are questioned since the start of last season. I don't think they will, but the Colts had a shot at a bye, and they still do, but they can't fail to show up this often. Usually, they are able to keep it close enough and figure it out, but that never happened. I'm not afraid to say it: Andrew Luck is being overrated. He's a very good player. He's the 3rd best QB in the AFC based purely on play in 2013, but that says a lot more about the state of the AFC than it does about Luck. I'm fearful of Colts fans who I respect starting to use the same defenses Patriots fans used to use for Brady in defending and praising Luck. Luck will be great. I believe he could be a Top-3 QB legitimately by 2015. He's not there yet, and the team around him isn't good enough to make up for when he plays badly.

9.) Kansas City Chiefs  (9-0  =  215-111)

Ryan Fitzpatrick. Terrelle Pryor. Case Keenum. Jason Campbell. Jeff Tuel. Those were the last five QBs the Kansas City Chiefs have faced. They won those games by 9, 17, 1, 6, 10. That period is over. The rest of the QBs go: Manning, Rivers, Manning, Griffin, Pryor, Luck, Rivers. Only one less than good QB in that bunch, and four elite ones. I think the Chiefs get slightly exposed. They're not a bad team, but they're not a 9-0 team either.

8.) Cincinnati Bengals  (6-4  =  234-186)

Before people start freaking out about the Bengals, the last two losses were both against decent, desperate teams on the road and both in OT. The Bengals are still a good team, clearly the best in the AFC North when you look at their larger performance metrics. They should still win that division, and a win this weekend in Cleveland goes a long way to ending it. The Bengals problem, oddly, wasn't on defense without Atkins, but offense, but that offense plays well at home, and if they win all their remaining home games, they'll be fine. If the Patriots fall back a bit, they still have an outside shot at the #2 seed with the head-to-head win.

7.) San Francisco 49ers  (6-3  =  227-155)

I don't want to make too much of one game, but Kaepernick looks totally lost. I never thought he was the most accurate thrower in coverage, and with a scheme that has been somewhat figured out, reducing confusion, and receivers who don't get separation as much, he has to throw in traffic. It isn't working. He's only crossed 200 yards once since his 412 yard performance in Week 1. That's unconscionable. The 49eres are starting to get their guys back, so there still could be life, but to me, they seem a little but like the Chiefs of the NFC, but a team with a more realistic record.

6.) Detroit Lions  (6-3  =  238-216)

Big win. Huge win. Season defining win. It should be all of those things, and if the Lions play as well as they should, it will be all of those things. They have the league's easiest schedule going forward, with their toughest remaining game by record being at home, on a short week, against a team that could easily be starting its backup QB. The Lions, in all seriousness, could easily get the #1 seed. What has come of this world?

5.) New England Patriots  (7-2  =  234-175)

The Patriots never looked good early. Were one first down away from losing to Buffalo in Week 1, and one stupid offensive series by New Orleans away from losing to the Saints, and while those bad performance might be a sign of a team that is worse than its record, it could also be a sign to the NFL that people should have taken advantage when they could. The most interesting thing for New England will be to see if their offense can carry on what they did against Pittsburgh, or was that a one-game mirage in a lifeless season, like their 59-0 thumping of Tennessee was in 2009.

4.) Carolina Panthers  (6-3  =  214-115)

No matter what happens the rest of the season, Ron Rivera should be the long term coach for this team. He's got a team that is playing better defense than anyone else in the NFL, and that is with a still average secondary. He's learned from his 4th-down mistakes and is now as aggressive as anyone in the NFL. They have another statement game coming up, this time at home. It can really go one of two ways. It can be like an infamous Patriots MNF game around this time of the year in 2009, when the Saints had their National Coronation in a 38-17 win, or it can be like what happened to Houston in what was supposed to be their National coming out party in last year on MNF in Foxboro. I have a bad feeling the Panthers might be a little too pumped in this game at home.

3.) New Orleans Saints  (7-2  =  265-163)

Drew Brees had put up great stats in their home games so far, but that was the first time the Saints offense really resembled what they were at home in 2011, when they average 40+ points and nearly 450 yards in their home games. 60 first downs is absurd. 242 yards rushing when you also throw for 380 is absurd. The defense holding Dallas, in that same game, to under 200 yards is more absurd. That might have been the single best performance this year. The problem for New Orleans is they haven't been nearly as good on the road, and they'll most likely have to win a certain game on the road to avoid having to win games on the road in the playoffs.

2.) Seattle Seahawks  (9-1  =  265-159)

The Seahawks finally came out and put the hammer down after a few questionable performances against St. Louis and Tampa Bay. In a way, why was anyone surprised? Despite Atlanta's record and position this year, that was a revenge game for Seattle after they lost in Atlanta in the playoffs last year. The Seahawks are getting Sidney Rice back, and I think there are two big goals for them in the rest of the regular season: 1 - lock down home field; 2 - get Sidney Rice acclimated to this offense.

1.) Denver Broncos  (8-1  =  371-238)

These three weeks will define the Broncos season (unless Peyton Manning wants to win a Super Bowl in the most un-Manning way and win some road playoff games), so of course this is when Manning's health will be at its most questionable. I honestly think Manning is overplaying this. He won't tell the media that he's getting an MRI if it was serious. He looked fine against San Diego, and if not for some drops, they tack on some more points in the 2nd half. His deep throws also looked like they had more life against San Diego than they did before. The best news for Denver, though, was that their defense continues to get better each week and resemble the dynamic unit they had last year. Quietly, Shaun Phillips has replaced Elvis Dumervil rather well.

Playoff Projections

1.) Denver Broncos  (14-2)
2.) New England Patriots  (12-4)
3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (11-5)
4.) Indianapolis Colts  (11-5)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  (12-4)
6.) New York Jets  (9-7)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  (13-3)
2.) Carolina Panthers  (12-4)
3.) Detroit Lions  (12-4)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles  (9-7)
5.) San Francisco 49ers  (12-4)
6.) New Orleans Saints  (11-5)

Looking Forward to Next Weeks Games

Byes: Dallas (5-5), St. louis (4-6)

14.) Atlanta Falcons (2-7)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)  (1:00 - FOX)

13.) Arizona Cardinals (5-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)  (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Oakland Raiders (3-6)  @  Houston Texans (2-7)  (1:00 - CBS)
11.) Minnesota Vikings (2-7)  @  Seattle Seahawks (9-1)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it the "There's still some bad games in a good weekend" Sunday, as these four games are the ones every can just look past. Luckily, none of them will be broadcast in the NYC & Philly TV markets, which makes me happy. None of them have any real storylines, unless the Cardinals/Jaguars game gets close, as the Cardinals are the only real bubble-team in this mix.

10.) Green Bay Packers (5-4)  @  New York Giants (3-6)  (4:25 - FOX)
9.) Detroit Lions (6-3)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Can My Preseason Black Marks Make Me Happy" Sunday, as the 3-6 Giants and 3-6 Steelers, two teams I predicted to go 12-4 before the season, try to continue to claw out of their early season terribleness and save their seasons. The Steelers are only two games back of the Jets (and they beat the Jets), and the Giants are only one game back in the loss column of Philly and Dallas. The Packers will also try to keep pace with the Lions, or maybe tie them up if the Lions lose early.

8.) New York Jets (5-4)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-7)  (1:00 - CBS)
7.) Washington Redskins (3-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
6.) Indianapolis Colts (6-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (4-5)  (TNF - NFLN)
5.) Cleveland Browns (4-5)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "The Underrated Division Rivalry" Sunday, as these are four division games that all have some interesting playoff implications, but are overshadowed by the four go come. The most interesting is Browns @ Bengals, as the Browns can essentially take the lead on Cincinnati with a win (season sweep). The Titans can also close the game. The Redskins can also tie the Eagles in the loss column, but let's be real, I hate that NFC East race, and finally, the Jets can basically eliminate the Bills and can get a huge win to stay in pole position for the #6 seed.

4.) San Diego Chargers (4-5)  @  Miami Dolphins (4-5)  (4:05 - CBS)

I call it "Bubble-Watch" Sunday, as the Chargers and Dolphins, both with five losses, get to fight to claim the spot as the likeliest team to overtake the Jets. The Chargers need this game more, considering the Dolphins still get to play the Jets twice head-to-head. This is also the Dolphins first home game after all that madness started in full.

3.) San Francisco 49ers (6-3)  @  New Orleans Saints (7-2)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it "Can Anyone Kill the Saints at Home Myth?" Sunday, as the 49ers return to the place of Colin Kaepernick's first real triumph (locking down the starting job in a 31-21 win over New Orleans last year), and his lowest moment (Super Bowl loss). The Saints have been untouchable at home (ironically, the Falcons are the only team that came close to beating them there), but the 49ers are a team good enough to give the Saints a load of problems at home.

2.) New England Patriots (7-2)  @  Carolina Panthers (6-3)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "Finally a Good MNF Game" Monday, as ESPN gets their money's worth. Actually, ESPN is getting their money's worth for most of the rest of the season, but it starts here. After Tirico & Gruden having to pump up shitty games, they get a great one. The #2 team in the AFC vs. the hottest team in the NFL. Can it get better?

1.) Kansas City Chiefs (9-0)  @  Denver Broncos (8-1)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "Big Game, but the Game 2 Weeks Fromm Now is Bigger" Sunday, and yes, this is better. The Chiefs get their first real test since early in the season. The Broncos get a chance to make up for their SNF loss to the Colts and regain control of the division. Of course, everyone should remember that the return leg in Arrowhead is in just two weeks, and whoever wins this game could give their edge right back in two weeks.

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.