Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NFL 2013: Year in Review

Part 1 - What Each Non-Playoff Team Can Do to Make the Playoffs in 2014

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (4-12  =  247-449)

Nothing. The Jaguars can't really do anything to make the playoffs in 2014. They don't have a really high draft pick. They don't really have enough weapons to ease a rookie QB into a productive position. That said, if they get that QB, in that division, they can be really competitive by 2015.

31.) Washington Redskins  (3-13  =  334-478)

Sort out the RGIII Drama. They took one step in that direction towards that by firing Mike Shanahan, who was not getting along with RGIII. You have to pick the QB. That said, all year there were rumblings about RGIII, him being a prima-donna, him feuding with coaches, faulting teammates. I don't know how much of this is true, but he didn't respond well to adversity in his 2nd season. They need a coach who will get along with RGIII, but who will also hold him accountable.

30.) Oakland Raiders  (4-12  =  322-453)
Stick to the plan. Like Jacksonville, they won't make it in 2014, but they have a plan. Reggie McKenzie is not going anywhere. I don't know if Dennis Allen will, but they have some nice pieces. They have uber-cap space. If they just get a QB, or if Pryor improves on his early-2013 performance, this is an intriguing team come 2015.

29.) Houston Texans  (2-14  =  276-428)

Find a QB. Everything else is there for the Texans. Andre Johnson is turning into a damn good possession receiver, but it DeAndre Hopkins they have a guy who could become a solid #1/#2 receiver. They have the league's best defensive player. There's not too much to fill, despite their 14 losses. Most of them were close. They just need a long-term QB, and none are on that roster.

28.) Cleveland Browns  (4-12  =  308-406)

Fire Mike Lombardi. Seriously, his hire did nothing for that team. Everything Lombardi said or wrote in his time as a pundit was mostly garbage. He spent money in Free Agency, but his first draft sucked. Good on him on getting a 1st round pick for Richardson, but now he fires the coach after one year. Nothing good has ever come with firing a coach through one year.

27.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (4-12  =  288-389)

Hire Lovie Smith. This is the answer for a few teams. It isn't really Lovie Smith, but any coach that can hold players accountable without being a raging asshole like Schiano was. The Buccaneers are so much like the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. They have so many good players on defense at all three levels. They have an offense with a few nice pieces (their line, Vincent Jackson) on offense. This could be a competitive team with just a better coach and nothing else.

26.) Minnesota Vikings  (5-10-1  =  391-480)

Fix the Defense. This is a cloudy answer, but the biggest problem with Minnesota is their lack of personnel on defense. Their good players are mainly older (Allen, Williams, Greenway) and their younger players haven't developed as much as the Vikings would like. The offense, despite being a QB-Carousel, was good enough.

25.) Buffalo Bills  (6-10  =  339-388)

Stay Healthy. It is amazing how the Bills are annually among the more injured teams. Their starters are quite decent, but none of them collectively stay healthy enough to make it all work. This year the main injury was to their QBs. EJ Manuel, when healthy, wasn't terrible, but he never got consistent games to really develop. The talent is there to make a Wild-Card push in a bad AFC, though.

24.) Atlanta Falcons  (4-12  =  353-443)

Don't overreact, just push through. The Falcons are still a good team that had a down rebuilding year that was worse than expected because of a ridiculous amount of injuries. Even if Julio Jones and so many others stayed healthy that wasn't a 12-win team, but a 8-10 win team. This collapse allows the Falcons to recalculate. They can fix that pass rush in an instant in FA and if they get the chance to draft Jedaveon Clowney.

23.) Tennessee Titans (7-9  =  362-381)

Hope Jake Locker is the real deal. Honestly, the Titans are an above-.500 team with Locker healthy right now. They have few holes, but a lot of areas that need some work. If Locker plays like he did in September before his first injury, this is a team that can win a wild card in 2014, or even the division in Indianapolis slips up.

22.) New York Giants  (7-9  =  294-383)

Get Healthy in Body (injuries) and Mind (Eli). The Giants finished the season 7-3. Sure, two of those losses were abject disasters (to San Diego and Seattle), but they finished 7-3. Their defense was quietly good all season long, holding up for an offense that was terrible. I don't know what happened, but that year by Eli Manning might be the worst year by a good QB in the middle of a career ever. Favre had a similar year in 2005, but he was older than Manning is now (Favre was 36-37). Eli can't be that bad again, and if he isn't, they could compete for a division title.

21.) Dallas Cowboys  (8-8  =  439-432)

Jerry Jones firing Jerry Jones. There are a lot of things wrong with the Cowboys, but the biggest issue is that they're consistently mediocre, but good enough for Jerry to think it is working. They're good enough for Jones to keep his lackey Jason Garrett around. Good enough for Jerry to think he can pick his players. When Jones hired Parcells it showed he was willing to give up power when things were really dire. He has to realize they are as bad now.

20.) New York Jets  (8-8  =  290-387)

Get Someone who can Run an Offense. They need someone who can tutor a QB. They need a better offensive coordinator than Marty Mornhinweg, and Marty's the best Offensive Coordinator the Jets have had in the Rex Ryan era. I'm happy Rex didn't lose his job (he's only had one losing season in 5 years), but like Lovie Smith and Tampa-era Tony Dungy before him, at some point you have to fix that offense.

19.) St. Louis Rams  (7-9  =  348-364)

Change Divisions. Honestly, the Rams are a 2nd place team in about three divisions, and a 3rd place team in every division outside the NFC West. Technically they're a game worse this year (7-8-1 last year), but they're better. The defense is gelling even more, and their offensive pieces are starting to align in their roles. They just need Bradford to both be healthy and be good when he is.

18.) Baltimore Ravens  (8-8  =  320-352)

Prove Ozzie can Rebuild without Ray. The Ravens have gone through a slow decline the last three years. They were a very good 12-4 in 2011. They were 10-6 last season, though they had their miracle run to the Super Bowl. They're 8-8 this year. Some of this goes on Harbaugh, but most goes on the aging and drain of defensive talent and leadership. Ozzie needs to overhaul the defensive leaders, and Joe Flacco needs to start earning that contract.

17.) Detroit Lions  (7-9  =  395-376)

Hire Lovie Smith. If I'm Lovie Smith, and the Lions come calling, I answer and say 'Yes' immediately. The Lions right now are better on offense than any Lovie Smith teams in Chicago. The defense has all the pieces that would make Lovie's defense work, including a potentially dominant D-Line. The Lovie-era Bears were at their best with a healthy, powerful Tommie Harris, and Suh can play that role.

16.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (8-8  =  379-370)

Fire Todd Haley. I really hope their late-season push has removed any potential thought of letting Ben Roethlisberger go. He's by far the best part of the Steelers. The other best part is the Steelers can still dominate bad offenses with their defense. But that defense hasn't played well against a good offense in quite some time. That needs to change. So does the mismatch between Haley's scheme and Ben's strength.

15.) Miami Dolphins  (8-8  =  317-335)

Get some O-Lineman. The problems on the O-Line screwed the Dolphins. First, it made them the center of national attention for a few weeks. Then, it ruined their season in the Bills loss and even the Jets loss. Ryan Tannehill's gameplan changed as the line got worse, and it made an OK Dolphins' offense into a dreadful one.

14.) Chicago Bears  (8-8  =  445-478)

Pray that This Wasn't their Best Chance. Everyone is saying how the Lions lost their opportunity to win the NFC North. No, I think the Bears did. The offense is good and will stay that way (quietly, they will finish #2 in the NFL in scoring - just a scant 164 points behind the Broncos), but the defense is bad and getting worse. The Lions should be better in 2014 with a better coach, and the Packers will be better with a healthier Rodgers.

13.) Arizona Cardinals  (10-6  =  379-324)

Keep on Keepin' On. This is a team that, if they get better blocking, can be very, very good in 2014. They have a secondary receiver, finally. They have a RB in Ellington. They have a loaded, young defense that could be even better in 2014. If Carson Palmer plays the way he did the last half of the season, this is a dangerous team in 2014.

Part II - The Real Awards

Offensive Rookie of the Year

2.) Eddie Lacy (RB - GB  =  284 rush, 1,178 yards, 11 TDs, 35 rec)
1.) Keenan Allen  (WR - SD  =  71 rec, 1,046 yards, 8 TDs)

This is really close. In a year with no good rookie QBs, we still have a really fun race for OROTY. I wouldn't be surprised, nor saddened, if Lacy wins over Allen. Both had to pick up some of the slack for injured teammates (for Lacy, it was Rodgers, for Allen, it was being made the #1 receiver after Floyd went down in Week 2) and both did it in spades. I'll go with Allen because rookie WRs having that type of impact are so rare.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

4.) Kiko Alonso (LB - BUF  =  87 tkl, 2.0 scks, 4 ints, 5 pd)
3.) Tyrann Mathieu  (S - ARZ  =  64 tkl, 2 ints, 9 pd)
2.) Star Loutuleilei  (DT - CAR  =  31 tkl, 3.0 scks)
1.) Sheldon Richardson  (DT - NYJ  =  42 tkl, 3.5 scks)

Really good crop of rookie defenders, which is nice since last year was Kuechly and everyone else. Alonso started out the year hot with some excellent high-impact interceptions. He cooled off a bit on highlights, but was still good. Mathieu played really well for a rookie slot-corner/big-nickel, a hard role for even a 5-year veteran. Finally, Lotuleilei and Richardson were both great. I give the nod to Richardson, who had more tackles and half a sack more, and generally had more impact on his line.

Coach of the Year

5.) Sean Payton (NO)
4.) Bruce Arians (ARZ)
3.) Chip Kelly (PHI)
2.) Andy Reid (KC)
1.) Ron Rivera (CAR)

Loaded category this year, with all different types of candidates. There's Payton, who returned to an average team and made them great; and Arians, who took over a bad, but talented team, and made them very good. Of course, the real driver of improvement for New Orleans and success for Arizona were the units that Payton and Arians don't handle too much. Then you have the two guys who took over bad teams and made them into playoff teams. It's odd that Reid is a great COTY candidate, and the guy who replaced him in Philadelphia is as well. Both teams got a lot out of their new playcaller. In the end, I'll give it to the guy who rarely wins, the "coach who was the coach the previous year but just improved a lot" winner. This has happened before, notably to Marvin Lewis in 2009, but Rivera's defense was the league's 2nd best, he openly changed his game-strategy to great results. What more could you ask?

Offensive Player of the Year

5.) Drew Brees  (QB - NO  =  446/650 (68.6%), 5,162 yards (7.9/11.6), 39 TDs/12 INTs, 104.7 pr)
4.) Josh Gordon  (WR - CLE  =  87 rec, 1,646 yards, 9 TDs, 117.6 y/g)
3.) LeSean McCoy  (RB - PHI  =  314 rush, 1,607 yds, 9 TDs, 52 rec, 539 rec yds)
2.) Jamaal Charles  (RB - KC  =  259 rush, 1,287 yds, 12 TDs, 70 rec, 693 yds, 7 rec TDs)
1.) Peyton Manning (QB - DEN  =  450/659 (68.3%), 5,477 yds (8.3/12.2), 55 TDs,/10 INTs, 115.1)

Loaded year once again. I've heard a lot of discussion about people who think that somehow because Peyton will win MVP that he won't win OPOTY. That's not really how it works. Peyton himself won both in 2004. Brady won both in 2007 and 2010. Brees didn't win MVP in 2011, but was a QB who won OPOTY. Manning should get the award, breaking the TD record and passing record. Charles had the most dynamic season, with McCoy right behind. Josh Gordon set the record for yards per game in a 16-game season. Brees quietly broke Marino's old record for a third straight year.

Defensive Player of the Year

5.) JJ Watt (DE - HOU  =  65 tkls, 10.5 scks, 7 pd, 4 ff)
4.) Richard Sherman (CB - SEA  =  38 tkls, 8 ints)
3.) Robert Quinn (DE - STL  =  50 tkls, 19.0 scks, 7 ff)
2.) Robert Mathis  (OLB - IND  =  43 tkls, 19.5 scks, 8 ff)
1.) Luke Kuechly  (MLB - CAR  =  156 tkls, 2.0 scks, 4 ints, 7 pd)

Last year had ridiculous candidates. This year isn't as ridiculous, but has some really good ones. I think Robert Mathis will win the award, and it is hard to say he isn't deserving, but I like Kuechly's candidacy more. Watt gets a mention because he had a ridiculous season once again (double digit sacks), with another amazing 7 passes defended. Sherman is one of like three players ever to have eight or more INTs in back-to-back seasons. Robert Quinn had a monster season, and was better against the run than Mathis. Overall, Luechly led the NFL's 2nd-best defense to a suprising 12-4 record and #2 seed in the NFC. He was a monster in their biggest game, provided excellent coverage on TEs and slot receivers and was awesome against the run. It's been a long time since an inside linebacker won DPOTY, and he deserves it.

Most Valuable Player

5.) Drew Brees  (QB - NO  =  446/650 (68.6%), 5,162 yards (7.9/11.6), 39 TDs/12 INTs, 104.7 pr)
4.) LeSean McCoy  (RB - PHI  =  314 rush, 1,607 yds, 9 TDs, 52 rec, 539 rec yds)
3.) Jamaal Charles  (RB - KC  =  259 rush, 1,287 yds, 12 TDs, 70 rec, 693 yds, 7 rec TDs)
2.) Philip Rivers (QB - SD  =  378/544 (69.5%), 4,478 yds (8.2/11.8), 32 TDs/11 INTs, 105.5 pr)
1.) Peyton Manning (QB - DEN  =  450/659 (68.3%), 5,477 yds (8.3/12.2), 55 TDs,/10 INTs, 115.1)

With his TDs and Yards and team being 13-3, Manning will win the award. Hopefully unanimously. The bigger question is who would be 2nd place. Unlike baseball, the PFWA only votes for 1 person, so we'll never know, but if anyone says it is Tom Brady I'll smack them. Philip Rivers had the exact same problems that Brady had, with a lack of weapons, losing his top two receivers, and an average o-line. He had an amazing year, pushing that Chargers team into the playoffs. Charles, McCoy and Brees are candidates here for the same reason they were for OPOTY. They were really, really good.

Friday, December 27, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 17 Power Rankings

RAMS (-4.5)  over  Buccaneers  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
JETS (-2)  over  Browns  (CORRECT  =  2-0)
JAGUARS (+4.5)  over  Titans  (CORRECT  =  3-0)
TEXANS (+10.5)  over  Broncos  (WRONG  =  3-1)
Dolphins (-3)  over  BILLS  (WRONG  =  3-2)
Cowboys (-3)  over  REDSKINS  (WRONG  =  3-3)
Vikings (+8)  over  BENGALS  (WRONG  =  3-4)
Colts (+7)  over  CHIEFS  (CORRECT  =  4-4)
PANTHERS (-3)  over  Saints  (CORRECT  =  5-4)
Raiders (+10)  over  CHARGERS  (WRONG  =  5-5)
LIONS (-9.5)  over  Giants  (WRONG  =  5-6)
Cardinals (+10.5)  over  SEAHAWKS  (CORRECT  =  6-6)
Steelers (+2)  over  PACKERS  (CORRECT  =  7-6)
Patriots (+2)  over  RAVENS  (CORRECT  =  8-6)
Bears (+3)  over  EAGLES  (WRONG  =  8-7)
49ERS (-14)  over  Falcons  (WRONG  =  8-8)

Week 16: 8-8

Year-to-Date: 117-88-3

Power Rankings


16.) Houston Texans  (2-13  =  266-412)
15.) Oakland Raiders  (4-11  =  308-419)
14.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (4-11  =  237-419)
13.) Cleveland Browns  (4-11  =  301-386)
12.) Tennessee Titans  (6-9  =  346-371)
11.) Buffalo Bills  (6-9  =  319-354)
10.) New York Jets  (7-8  =  270-380)
9.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (7-8  =  359-363)
8.) Miami Dolphins  (8-7  =  310-315)
7.) Baltimore Ravens  (8-7  =  303-318)
6.) San Diego Chargers  (8-7  =  369-324)
5.) Indianapolis Colts  (10-5  =  361-326)
4.) Kansas City Chiefs  (11-4  =  406-278)
3.) New England Patriots  (11-4  =  410-318)
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  (10-5  =  396-288)
1.) Denver Broncos  (12-3  =  572-385)


16.) Washington Redskins  (3-12  =  328-458)
15.) Minnesota Vikings  (4-10-1  =  377-467)
14.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (4-11  =  271-347)
13.) Atlanta Falcons  (4-11  =  333-422)
12.) New York Giants  (6-9  =  274-377)
11.) Dallas Cowboys  (8-7  =  417-408)
10.) Detroit Lions  (7-8  =  382-362)
9.) St. Louis Rams  (7-8  =  339-337)
8.) Chicago Bears  (8-7  =  417-445)
7.) Green Bay Packers  (7-7-1  =  384-400)
6.) Philadelphia Eagles  (9-6  =  418-360)
5.) Arizona Cardinals  (10-5  =  359-301)
4.) New Orleans Saints  (10-5  =  372-287)
3.) San Francisco 49ers  (11-4  =  383-252)
2.) Carolina Panthers  (11-4  =  345-221)
1.) Seattle Seahawks  (12-3  =  390-222)

Playoff Projections


1.) Denver Broncos  =  13-3  (W @OAK)
2.) New England Patriots  =  12-4  (W vs.BUF)
3.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  11-5  (W vs.BAL)
4.) Indianapolis Colts  =  11-5  (W vs.JAX)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  =  11-5  (L @SD) 

6.) Miami Dolphins  =  9-7  (W @NYJ)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  =  13-3  (W vs.STL)
2.) Carolina Panthers  =  12-4  (W @ATL)
3.) Philadelphia Eagles  =  10-6  (W @DAL)
4.) Chicago Bears  =  9-7  (W* vs.GB)
5.) New Orleans Saints  =  11-5  (W vs.TB)
6.) San Francisco 49ers  =  11-5  (L @ARZ)

* - I'm assuming Aaron Rodgers does not play

Award Watch

Coach of the Year

1.) Andy Reid (KC)
2.) Ron Rivera (CAR)3.) Chip Kelly (PHI)
4.) Bruce Arians (ARZ)
5.) Sean Payton (NO)

There's a lot of good candidates this year. Andy Reid basically had this locked up when his Chiefs were 9-0. Well, they've been 2-4 since, and his candidacy has lost its luster. Still, he took over the worst team in the league, constructed an offense around Alex Smith and few outside weapons, and made it work well enough. The bottom two on my list are good candidates, but both are offensive-minded coaches on teams that have risen because of their defense. The Cardinals offense is middling at best, and the Saints offense is arguably worse this year than last. If anyone should win over Reid, it really should be Rivera - a defensive coach who coaches the best defense in the NFL, and who openly changed his strategy midseason to great results.

Offensive Player of the Year

1.) Peyton Manning (QB-DEN)
2.) Jamaal Charles (RB-KC)
3.) LeSean McCoy (RB-PHI)

I've heard many people put up someone other than Peyton Manning, claiming that the award should go to a non-QB. Well, that's bullshit. QBs have won the award, especially during these record setting years. Manning himself won it in 2004. If Peyton breaks the yardage record as well, he should win this award. Charles adn McCoy have each had great years as multi-purpose RBs for teams that center around the run.

Defensive Player of the Year

1.) Luke Kuechly (MLB-CAR)
2.) Robert Quinn (DE-STL)
3.) Robert Mathis (OLB-IND)

So often we look for big numbers when deciding this award. Sacks, interceptions, touchdowns. Well, that really makes it hard for guys like normal run-tackling and pass-coverage linebackers to win the award. The last one that fit that bill was Brian Urlacher in 2005. Of course, he was the 4th winner in 6 years that was that type of player (Ray Lewis in 2000 & 2003, and Derrick Brooks in 2002). Well, Luke Kuechly fits those credentials. He's the best player on the best defense in the NFL, something that those three guys were as well. He was amazing against New Orleans on Sunday, doing everything he can so well. Quinn is having an amazing year and will probably win the award, but I really think Kuechly deserves it as much.


1.) Peyton Manning (QB-DEN)
2.) Philip Rivers (QB-SD)
3.) Jamaal Charles (RB-KC)
4.) Drew Brees (QB-NO)
5.) Nick Foles (QB-PHI)

Manning locked up the award with that win and setting the record. He probably should have locked it up weeks ago. Rivers kept the Chargers competitive all season long despite missing his #1 and #2 receiver, and he's had the 2nd best season of any QB in the NFL. Charles is the centerpiece of his offense, the most valuable RB in the NFL. In the end, Manning should win. He will win, and he should win. The question will be if he wins unanimously. He should, but I'm sure some ridiculous guy will vote for a Brady or Brees for no reason.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

16.) Houston Texans (2-13)  @  Tennessee Titans (6-9)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) Detroit Lions (7-8)  @  Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
14.) Washington Redskins (3-12)  @  New York Giants (6-9)  (1:00 - FOX)
13.) Carolina Panthers (11-4)  @  Atlanta Falcons (4-11)  (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Denver Broncos (12-3)  @  Oakland Raiders (4-11)  (4:25 - CBS)
11.) Buffalo Bills (6-9)  @  New England Patriots (11-4)  (4:25 - CBS)
10.) Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)  @  San Diego Chargers (8-7)  (4:25 - CBS)
9.) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11)  @  Indianapolis Colts (10-5)  (1:00 - CBS)
8.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)  @  New Orleans Saints (10-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
7.) St. Louis Rams (7-8)  @  Seattle Seahawks (12-3)  (4:25 - CBS)
6.) Cleveland Browns (4-11)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)  (1:00 - CBS)
5.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4)  @  Arizona Cardinals (10-5)  (4:25 - FOX)
4.) Miami Dolphins (8-7)  @  New York Jets (7-8)  (1:00 - CBS)
3.) Baltimore Ravens (8-7)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)  (1:00 - CBS)
2.) Philadelphia Eagles (9-6)  @  Dallas Cowboys (8-7)  (SNF - NBC)
1.) Green Bay Packers (7-7-1)  @  Chicago Bears (8-7)  (4:25 - FOX)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 16 Picks

Year-to-Date: 109-80-3 (didn't pick Week 13/15)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)  @  St. Louis Rams (6-8)  (STL -4.5)

These are similar teams, but the Rams are better, have more talent, and are at home. Also, because of the awesomeness of the RGIII trade for them, the Rams don't eve have to worry about wins giving them a worse draft pick. I'm surprised this line is so low, really. The Rams have shown an ability to blow teams away, especially at home. Mike Glennon might get a rude awakening to life in the NFL in this one.

Buccaneers 13  Rams 23  (STL -4.5)

Cleveland Browns (4-10)  @  New York Jets (6-8)  (NYJ -2)

Who cares about this game, but how exactly are the Jets not favored by more. Their offense has shown some signs of life the last two weeks after Kerley came back, and their defense is every bit as good as the underrated Browns one. This line essentially means Vegas thinks the Browns are slightly better on a neutral field, which feels just wrong. The hidden story for the Jets over their final two games is a late two-game winning streak will pretty much ensure Rex Ryan keeps his job. I think the Jets finish Step #1 of that plan, and with the low line, they're a value favorite.

Browns 16  Jets 24  (NYJ -2)

Tennessee Titans (5-9)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)  (TEN -4.5)

Despite their 4-2 record over the last six games (best in the AFC South, by the way), the Jaguars are getting no respect from Vegas. I get that they really don't have a home field advantage, but this is a staggering level of disrespect for a team that, with Chad Henne, has been as good as the Titans with Ryan Fitzpatrick. There's really nothing to break down here, as these teams are slightly even right now. I'll go with the Jaguars, an extremely valuable home team at this number.

Titans 20  Jaguars 27  (JAX +4.5)

Denver Broncos (11-3)  @  Houston Texans (2-12)  (DEN -10.5)

The Broncos should win this game by double digits. They are better, they match up well with Houston, as the strength of their O-Line will go up against JJ Watt. The Texans might get a boost with the return of Schaub, but I find that unlikely. The Texans have played mostly close games, but they all but gave up last week and there is really nothing for them to go for at this point, as it seems unlikely even with a shock two-game win streak that Wade Philips will get hired full time. Then again, I've gone against double-digit lines all season, and I'm not stopping now.

Broncos 31  Texans 23  (HOU +10.5)

Miami Dolphins (8-6)  @  Buffalo Bills (5-9)  (MIA -3)

Not a lot of value here for Miami, who hasn't really shown the ability to win games comfortably on the road. The nadir of their season probably was their home loss to the Bills. However, since the Dolphins are playing a lot better and the Bills worse. Obviously, the Dolphins have far more to play for, and I think that could carry them. I would love if this line was closer to a pick, but life doesn't work that way. The Bills offense, with injury and Manuel hitting a rookie wall, has struggled in recent weeks, and the Dolphins defense is playing really well right now.

Dolphins 27  Bills 20  (MIA -3)

Dallas Cowboys (7-7)  @  Washington Redskins (3-11)  (DAL -3)

The Cowboys have to win this game. The Redskins are in disarray, have nothing to play for (though have nothing to play for on their pick since they're giving it away to St. Louis. The Cowboys, though, are in similar disarray, with infighting between coaches and Romo, and Jerrald. It is so fun that these two powerful, monied franchises just screw up constantly. Anyway, as for this game, my Theory of 'How Badly Do You Need It' points to Dallas, but they are just so up and down. I do think they win, but I won't be in the least bit surprised if they screw it up, again.

Cowboys 34  Redskins 24  (DAL -3)

Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)  (CIN -8)

The Vikings, just like they were in 2010, are a competitive team without a good QB situation that can be a great spoiler. They were in a scarily similar spot that season, with a Week 16 game in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that had, at that point, the inside track at a bye. They beat the Eagles 26-14, really starting the beginning of the end of the Michael Vick era. The Andy Dalton era is just beginning, but this is a big game for Cincinnati. Now, with a win here and a loss to Baltimore next week, they're out of the playoffs if Miami wins out, but I can't see both of those things happening. The Bengals still have a shot at a #2 seed, and I think they win here, I just don't know if they can cover. Few teams have beaten the Vikings by a TD in a while. I like the Bengals to win, but not by that much.

Vikings 17  Bengals 24  (MIN +8)

Indianapolis Colts (9-5)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)  (KC -7)

High line, but the Colts recent performance against similar teams indicates that this line might be too low. The Colts defense is not very good, but they've done a good job against RBs in the passing game, which should help a lot against a Chiefs offense that is driven by Jamaal Charles. The Colts themselves are catching the Chiefs as the KC defense is falling, so that helps them. Their O-Line has been better in recent weeks. I can't really see the Colts winning this game, but I think this line slightly undervalues them, and so I'll hesitantly take the Colts to cover.

Colts 23  Chiefs 27  (IND +7)

New Orleans Saints (10-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (10-4)  (CAR -3)

Oh, what a game. I'm so glad the Rams beat the Saints. Partly because it now gives Carolina the inside track at the #2 seed, which will make the NFC playoffs 10x better than had the Divisional Round been two teams getting blown out in Seattle and New England. The other reason is because this game is now damn meaningful, like some of the great Week 16 games of old. Statistically, the Saints road woes are still in a 'Small Sample Size' bucket, but let's be real; The woes are real. The Saints receivers don't run as well outdoors. The line doesn't block nearly as well (probably the biggest issue). The defense doesn't play as well. The Saints have lost road games to teams built like Carolina but worse (Jets, Rams), and I think they lose this one as well.

Saints 20  Panthers 26  (CAR -3)

Oakland Raiders (4-10)  @  San Diego Chargers (7-7)  (SD -10)

The Raiders are totally in their try-out stage. There are reports that the Raiders could look to sign Jon Gruden, and I hope it doesn't happen. I'll talk more about it in my Week 17 Power Rankings. The Raiders defense has fallen off a cliff, which is not a good thing when going up against the league's 2nd best offense (per DVOA). The Chargers haven't gotten this much respect from Vegas all year (winning comfortably in Denver will do that to you) and I don't really know if they should. The Chargers like to minimize games, reduce possessions, which leads to lower scoring games. On talent and desire, they should probably win this game by double digits, but I don't know if I can bet them that way.

Raiders 19  Chargers 27  (OAK +10)

New York Giants (5-9)  @  Detroit Lions (7-7)  (DET -9.5)

I have a theory about which teams fold late in seasons and which teams aspire to be good spoilers. The teams that fold late in seasons are the ones that were supposed to be good, but fell off. Their players expected to be playing meaningful games this late in the season, and can't handle playing meaningless ones. The teams that wear their spoiler label with pride are the ones that weren't supposed to be great anyway. The Giants, like the Falcons or Texans, are in that first group that folds, and they have. The Lions need this game far more. I also like the fact that the Lions are playing this simultaneously with the Packers, as had the Packers won early, I would question the Lions motivation. Instead, I'm going to do something rare, and pick a near double digit favorite to cover, as one last slap in the face of my preseason NFC Super Bowl pick.

Giants 16  Lions 28  (DET -9.5)

Arizona Cardinals (9-5)  @  Seattle Seahawks (12-2)  (SEA -10.5)

By know, I've made my stance on 10+ point favorites known, and I'm not stopping now, especially when Arizona is far too good to be a 10 point underdog to anyone. Since these teams last met in a game that was closer than the final score, the Cardinals have picked it up offensively, and the Seahawks have since essentially clinched everything. There is some degree of motivation for the Seahakws to finish off the division and the #1 seed today, but they have that same ability next week against a worse team also at home. The Cardinals have no real shot, but they're a team that isn't going to give up .

Cardinals 20  Seahawks 24  (ARZ +10.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)  @  Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)  (GB -2)

This is the line with Flynn starting for Rodgers. It's not really surprising Green Bay is favored, but this brief playoff renaissance has been built off of two one-point wins against a bad team and an average one. The Steelers are an average one as well, but they have good matchups here, especially if there is weather involved which there is. I like the Steelers to win here, ruining a potentially awesome Week 17 game (Rodgers returns for a winner-take-all Packers @ Bears game - although I don't think Rodgers is playing again this year). This is too big of a QB mismatch the way Ben is playing for the Packers to pull it off to me.

Steelers 27  Packers 20  (PIT +2)

New England Patriots (10-4)  @  Baltimore Ravens (8-6)  (BAL -2)

I don't have much time (writing this past 12:00 on Sunday), so I'll finish these last three quickly. The Patriots are not a great team right now, but they can beat one-dimenstional teams, which the Ravens are. The Ravens run offense is historically bad. Their pass offense relies on DPI as a real method of gaining yards. The Ravens defense is good, and will keep them in the game most likely, but I just can't see them pulling it off.

Patriots 20  Ravens 16  (NE +2)

Chicago Bears (8-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)  (PHI -3)

This game can be meaningless for each team. If the Cowboys win, this game is meaningless for the Eagles. If the Lions lose and Packers win, this game is meaningless for the Bears. That's the worst case scenario for NBC, as I think if both teams have nothing to play for (except a potential 3/4 tiebreaker), both play really vanilla. I'm breaking this down in the different scenarios:

If game is only meaningful for Bears:  Bears 30  Eagles 20  (CHI +3)

If game is only meaningful for Eagles:  Bears 20  Eagles 30  (PHI -3)

If game is meaningless for both:  Bears 24  Eagles 21  (CHI +3)

If game is meaningful for both:  Bears 31  Eagles 27  (CHI +3)

That last scenario is NBC's dream. It happens if the Cowboys, Lions and Packers all lose, as the winner of this game will clinch their division, and the loser is put into a do-or-die Week 17 game for the division. I think the Bears are slightly better overall, so I'm giving them the win in most scenarios.

Atlanta Falcons (4-10)  @  San Francisco 49ers (10-4)  (SF -14)

This is the final game in Candlestick Park, and if I get time, I'll write something about that on Monday. The line is really high, but the 49ers do blow the doors of bad teams. I think Matt Ryan could have some success, but the emotions of primetime, and the last game in Candlestick Park the 49ers should roll in this game.

Falcons 17  49ers 34  (SF -14)

Enjoy the Games!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 16 Power Rankings & The Rest

Once again, no picks. Once again, I feel like I would have gone 13-3 and made all of the money. So, in lieu of recapping picks that didn't happen, I'm going to give a little awards recap with two weeks to go.

Power Rankings


The "We'll still be a team in 2030, so let's win by then" Quintro

16.) Houston Texans  (2-12  =  253-375)
15.) Oakland Raiders  (4-10  =  295-393)
14.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (4-10  =  221-399)
13.) Buffalo Bills  (5-9  =  300-354)
12.) Cleveland Browns  (4-10  =  288-362)

Including the Texans, who had the briefest Super Bowl window ever, these five teams have made the playoffs a combined 6 times since the 2002 realignment. That's impossibly ridiculous. How can they stay bad year after year is amazing. The Jaguars and Texans had brief flirtations with relevancy and well run franchises, but the season after their best year both ended in disaster (2008 for Jacksonville, 2013 for Houston). The Browns one playoff appearance was in 2002 and while they have a 10 win season since (something the Raiders and Bills don't) ten, they've really never been good in their current incarnation. They all seem to be stuck in never-ending cycles of losing, but it can't last forever. The Patriots were once one of these teams. The Colts in their run in Indianapolis were even more one of these teams. It will get better.

The "Thanks for Competing, but Thanks for Leaving before January" Trio

11.) Tennessee Titans  (5-9  =  326-355)
10.) New York Jets  (6-8  =  246-367)
9.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (6-8  =  321-332)

All these three teams had their moments this season. The Titans started 3-1 and were looking like the 1999 Titans all over again before Jake Locker got hurt. The Jets were once 5-4 with wins over the then two loss Patriots and Saints, before Geno Smith became worse than even Mark Sanchez was as a rookie. The Steelers were never really in it, but have gone 4-2 since their 2-6 start and will once again most likely avoid losing 10 games, something they haven't done since 2003. Honestly, in the current iteration of the AFC, all of these teams have legitimate claims that they could make a run next year. The Steelers still have an elite QB. The Titans have a young QB who showed promise and a defense that is getting better. And the Jets just need a QB and a WR or two. None are that far away in this conference.

The "Token Division Winner who will be an Underdog in Round 1" Uno

6.) Indianapolis Colts  (9-5  =  338-319)

The Colts are an interesting team. They started 6-2, so a potentially 10-6 finish is disappointing in one regard, but on the other hand they are an unquestionably better team this year. Last season, the Colts were the first team ever to win 11 games with a negative point differential. This year, they will likely finish with a positive point differential. They have scored more points and allowed fewer. Those are good things. They won't go anywhere in the playoffs without Reggie Wayne or Dwayne Allen, but the plan is there (stupid Trent Richardson trade notwithstanding). The Luck era may have to wait for a 2nd coach to take flight (like Peyton did), but they have the best chance to be the Colts or Patriots of 2015-2025.

The "Dangerous 6-seed" Trio

7.) San Diego Chargers  (7-7  =  343-311)
6.) Baltimore Ravens  (8-6  =  296-277)
5.) Miami Dolphins  (8-6  =  310-296)

One of these three teams will go to either Indianapolis, Cincinnati or New England in Round 1. They will most likely be underdogs in each place, but my guess is the betting public will be behind one of them (unless they are playing New England). All three chance to be entering hot. The Ravens are the only team that can really afford a loss (as they would win tiebkreakers at 9-7 against both). The Dolphins can't, but they have the easiest schedule. The Dolphins could enter the playoffs with a five game win streak, all coming after the Incognito-Martin mess. If they win both of their remaining games, they're in, but they have so little margin for error. It's a crazy situation in the AFC. The Chargers need both Miami and Baltimore to lose out, so they have no realistic hope, but credit them for not going away. That team has a bright future.

The "Hardest Team in the NFL to Judge" Uno

4.) New England Patriots  (10-4  =  369-311)

Who are the New England Patriots? All year long they've played close games. They've won just three games by more than a field goal. The first was a 20-3 win over Tampa in the middle of Tampa's 0-8 start. The 2nd was their best game of the season, a 55-31 thrashing of Pittsburgh where for one night everything seemed right with their offense. The third was a 27-17 win over Miami, which they were down 17-3 at halftime. The others were all close games. They could be 14-0, they could be 7-7. 10-4 is about right for a team that's played so many close games. They don't have the offense to score 35 a game. Their defense which held up early has fallen apart to some degree, at a level where they seem to either decide to stop the run or the pass on any Sunday, but rarely both. Still, they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. This game against Baltimore is so meaningful. They've never reached the Super Bowl without a 1st round bye, and given their current situation, this doesn't seem like the year where it will happen.

The 'If One of Us Don't Make the Super Bowl, Call it January Madness" Trio

3.) Kansas City Chiefs  (11-3  =  399-255)

Yup, I'm including the Chiefs in this. They've been a strange team where apart from Weeks 1-4, their offense and defense have never been great at the same time, but their offense has had a great run of late and their defense still has all the players that made them the best defense in the NFL in Weeks 1-9. The Chiefs are boring at this stage, but 12-4 (or even 13-3!) wild-card teams are rare. They'll most likely be favorites in Round 1, but if they're not, they should be. This team is better than the one that lost three straight games.

2.) Cincinnati Bengals  (9-5  =  354-274)

That was a bad loss, but if that screwup on the punt doesn't happen early, who knows what happens. The Bengals still have a shot at a wild card, but that would mean them winning that Week 17 game at home against Baltimore, a game that could have make or break playoff implications for both teams. The Bengals are the 2nd most talented team, with current healthy players, in the AFC. They haven't lost at home. They need that #2 seed, but even at #3, they are dangerous. Of course, they could miss the playoffs at 10-6 if Maimi wins out. Who knows? Who knows.

1.) Denver Broncos  (11-3  =  535-372)

They're still the best team in the AFC, but that was a stunning loss. I really didn't see it coming. I thought they had a chance to lose in San Diego, and I guess the Chargers were the more desperate team in this one, but that was shocking to some degree. They have a serious problem on defense, but other than San Diego, who is a longshot to make the playoffs, there is no offense in AFC good enough to really take advantage of it.


The "Worst Teams in a Really Good Conference" Quintro

16.) Washington Redskins  (3-11  =  305-434)
15.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (4-10  =  258-324)
14.) Atlanta Falcons  (4-10  =  309-388)
13.) New York Giants  (5-9  =  251-357)
12.) Minnesota Vikings  (4-9-1  =  363-425)

The NFC is really good this year. It isn't as good as the AFC in, say, 2004, when it had four teams at 12-4 or better, but it is deeper. The worst NFC team is Washington, who won its division last year. The Buccaneers are 4-2 in their last six. The Falcons were the #1 seed last year. The Giants are still talented, but actually might have the bleakest future of any NFC team, and this team won a Super Bowl two years ago. The NFC is ridiculous right now, and these five teams are the losers in that fight.

The "Two Division Races, and a Wild Spoiler" Sexto

11.) Dallas Cowboys  (7-7  =  393-385)

I feel so bad for Tony Romo. Not too bad, since he's married to a gorgeous woman, makes a ton of money, and is a QB in the NFL, but he can't help himself into falling deeper into this misinformed narrative. I will say that one was on Tony, who reportedly changed run calls to passes, and threw two bad interceptions. That might cost his team a chance at a playoff win, but could as easily not. Beat the Redskins in Washington, and the Cowboys get their shot at a third straight do-or-die Week 17 game for the NFC East, but the first at home.

10.) Green Bay Packers  (7-6-1  =  353-362)

It's hard to believe the Packers are still alive, mainly because they've gone just 2-4-1 without Aaron Rodgers, and both their wins are by one point. Just basing this on the words I've heard from Rodgers, McCarthy and the rest of the Packers brass, I don't see Rodgers coming back this season, and I firmly believe the other five playoff teams agree with me. If Rodgers does come back and they win this division, there might be no scarier sub-10-win playoff team ever.

9.) Chicago Bears  (8-6  = 406-391)

The Bears are an offense first team. It is a testament to coaching philosophy to see how quickly the Bears have changed course. They were the best defense in the NFL last season. Their defense is pretty much garbage this year (most of that due to a humorous amount of injuries). Their offense? It's the 2nd highest scoring unit in the NFL, despite missing Cutler for 6 games. That's not a typo. They are #2 in the NFL in scoring offense. Marc Trestman is a coaching savant on offense. I love to watch their offense. Their season will come down to Trestman doing something Lovie Smith never did: beat Green Bay in a game that matters.

8.) St. Louis Rams  (6-8  =  316-324)

It says a lot to how dominant their D-Line can be, and how good a coach Jeff Fisher is that I wasn't the least bit surprised the Rams won that game. They need a QB. Maybe Sam Bradford is that guy, but who knows. They'll have to make that decision though. This is a mighty tough division, but they aren't that far off in all honesty. I just like that 15 years later, Jeff Fisher's plan still works. They have a D-Line that can dominate, and on offense that at their best can look great, but their best shows up one game in three. Sounds like way too many of their Titans teams.

7.) Detroit Lions  (7-7  =  362-339)

The Lions have the most talent of any team in this group apart from possibly a Rodgers-healthy Packers team. The Lions have also shot themselves in the foot. This offseasn will be so important. If they blow this division, does Schwartz get fired? Is it a good idea if he does? He's still had better results than the previous three Lions coaches (quick, name them?). It's a complicated scenario for them to make the playoffs, but if they get there they could be dangerous.

6.) Philadelphia Eagles  (8-6  =  364-349)

Tough loss for the Eagles, but this is still not a very good team, but a merely good one. They can get hot and win some games, but that team has some severe issues with their defensive personnel that isn't exactly going to go away suddenly. They have a clear path to winning the division, but I fear for them in Week 17 in Dallas. There's an interesting situation regarding next week's game that I'll go into later, but all I'll say is I think Chip Kelly is a smart enough coach to sit his team if the Cowboys win during the day, even if it means rendering a SNF game unwatchable.

The "Team that picked a bad year to have a good year" Uno

5.) Arizona Cardinals  (9-5  = 342-291)

The Cardinals could end up being the 2010 Buccaneers all over again. That team somehow went 10-6 with a good defense and a timely offense. These Cardinals could go 10-6 with a great defense and a passable offense. Given the cores of the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams, this might be the best chance they have of making the playoffs. Assuming Bradford is league average, the Cardinals will have the worst QB situation of any NFC West team. That defense is still so fun to watch, though.

The "Team That can Only WIn at Home that Needs to Win on the Road to Avoid Having to Win Away From Home" Uno

4.) New Orleans Saints  (10-4  =  359-270)

Ranking the Saints is so hard. They are probably the best team at home in the NFL, but away from home they are legimitately mediocre. Well, to ensure they won't have to win three road games to win the Super Bowl, they have to win a road game. In a way I'm so happy they lost to the Rams because that makes this game against Carolina so big. The Saints better show it on the road this week because the chances of them doing so come January is slim.

The 'If One of us Three Doesn't Win the NFC, Call it January Madness" Trio

3.) San Francisco 49ers  (10-4  =  349-228)

I didn't get many things right when I predicted every 2nd half game back before Week 10, but the one thing I did get right was about the 49ers. I said they would, just like they did in the first 8, start slow and then go on a roll against bad teams. They'll likely win their last two games (assuming they try to beat Arizona) and have just one win in that span against a team with a record above .500. I still don;t know how good they are, but with Crabtree back, they might have a chance to beat the teams they couldn't in their 6-4 start.

2.) Carolina Panthers  (10-4  =  328-208)

The Panthers are really good, and now if they beat the Saints and the Falcons, they'll get the #2 seed. This is after a 1-3 start (where they blew their 2nd loss) and came out of that four game stretch with a soulless 22-6 loss to Arizona. The Panthers had the #2 seed at 12-4 in 2008 and that didn't go well, but I think this one won't end with a 5-interception performance by Cam Newton. Let's hope, at least.

1.) Seattle Seahawks  (12-2  =  380-205)

The Seahawks are really good. End of story.

Playoff Projections


1.) Denver Broncos  =  13-3  (W @HOU; W @OAK)
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  11-5  (W vs.MIN; W vs.BAL)
3.) Indianapolis Colts  =  11-5  (W @KC; W vs.JAX)
4.) New England Patriots  =  11-5  (L @BAL; W vs.BUF)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  =  11-5  (L vs.IND; L @SD)
6.) Miami Dolphins  =  10-6  (W @BUF; W vs.NYJ)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  =  13-3  (W vs.ARZ; L vs.STL)
2.) Carolina Panthers  =  12-4  (W vs.NO; W @ATL)
3.) Chicago Bears  =  10-6  (W @PHI; W vs.GB)
4.) Philadelphia Eagles  =  9-7  (L vs.CHI; W @DAL)
5.) New Orleans Saints  =  11-5  (L @CAR; W vs.TB)
6.) San Francisco 49ers  =  11-5  (W vs.ATL; L @ARZ)

Award Watch


1.) Peyton Manning (QB-DEN)
2.) Philip Rivers (QB-SD)
3.) Jamaal Charles (RB-KC)
4.) Russell Wilson (QB-SEA)
5.) Drew Brees (QB-NO)

Thankfully, the Patriots lost, because if Peyton Manning lost the MVP to Tom Brady when Brady had his, like, 9th best season, I may have gave up on football. Peyton Manning is the MVP. He's been so good that despite his relatively average performance over the past 8 games, he's put up stats in that period that would be the best in the NFL in that span aside from the fluke that is Nick Foles. Rivers should get serious consideration as he's having the 2nd best year of any QB without his top two receivers from preseason. After that are the best offensive players from good teams.

Offensive Player of the Year

1.) Peyton Manning (QB-DEN)
2.) Josh Gordon (WR-CLE)
3.) LeSean McCOy (RB-PHI)

I think the only way Manning gets this is if he breaks Brady's TD record, but I think he will. Gordon is having a historic per-game season that should be rewarded with at least a 1st-team All-Pro nod. McCoy is having the best season of any RB, but Jamaal Charles is close. If Charles does get to 10 TDs receiving and rushing, I can see him winning the entire award, though, as that would be historic. Of course, Manning throwing 51 or more TDs would be historic as well, but who cares about Manning winning yet another award?

Defensive Player of the Year

1.) Robert Mathis (OLB-IND)
2.) Robert QUinn (DE-STL)
3.) JJ Watt (DE-HOU)

This is honestly a hard award this year, as the best defenses have no clear candidate, and the three superstars either had to miss games because of alcoholism or suspension, and Watt has been slightly worse than he was last year. Mathis gets my nod right now for having the most sacks in the NFL on a defense that has few other big pieces. People should be concentarting on him, but he's still made plays. Quinn has been about as good as Mathis while being better against the run. Watt has probably been the best defensive player in the NFL this season, but he'll never get the award because he wasn't as good as last year, when he had arguably the best defensive season ever.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

1.) Keenan Allen (WR-SD)
2.) Eddie Lacy (RB-GB)
3.) EJ Manuel (QB-BUF)

Eddie Lacy likely wins this award because the mass media will give him the credit for keeping the Packers playoff hopes alive without Rodgers, but what Allen has given the Chargers is more important. The San Diego Chargers have had the 2nd best passing game this season, and that is without their #1 and #2 receivers on their depth chart from July. Denarrio Alexander was lost for the season before the regular season, and Malcolm Floyd was lost on a scary neck injury in Week 2. The Chargers have needed guys to step-up, and while the continual success of Danny Woodhead is a large part of it, so is the rise of Keenan Allen. As for Manuel, I have no idea who to put at #3. He's been the best rookie QB outside of Mike Glennon. In fact, I probably should've put Glennon, but its too late now.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

1.) Sheldon Richardson (DT-NYJ)
2.) Tyrann Mathieu (CB-ARZ)
3.) Star Louteleilei (DT-CAR)

This ranking isn't based on who will win, because apart from Ndamukong Suh, who led all Defensive Tackles in sacks in 2010, interior D-Lineman never win the award. I don't know who will win, but Sheldon Richardson should. He's been as good against the run as Muhammad Wilkerson. He's been a monster in the heart of that defense, and a 3-down D-Tackle as a rookie, which is exceptional. Mathieu was really good for a 3rd round safety, and his improvement over the course of the season is commendable. I really hope he recovers from his ACL/MCL tear. Louteleilei has been 80% as good as Richardson, which is saying a lot about both players.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

16.) Cleveland Browns (4-10)  @  New York Jets (6-8)  (1:00 - CBS)
15.) Tennessee Titans (5-9)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)  @  St. Louis Rams (6-8)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "These Games Don't Matter" Sunday, as these are the three games that have no playoff implications. Of course the NFL couldn't have predicted this, but they did a good job of getting a host of playoff important matchups this late in the season. These games are all pretty unwatchable, and alas, I won't be watching them,

13.) New York Giants (5-9)  @  Detroit Lions (7-7)  (4:05 - FOX)
12.) Denver Broncos (11-3)  @  Houston Texans (2-12)  (1:00 - CBS)
11.) Miami Dolphins (8-6)  @  Buffalo Bills (5-9)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Dallas Cowboys (7-7)  @  Washington Redskins (3-11)  (1:00- FOX)
9.) Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
8.) Oakland Raiders (4-10)  @  San Diego Chargers (7-7)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "One Teams is Playing for Something, One Team Isn't; Is it This Obvious?" Sunday, as all six of these games have won team fighting for a playoff spot against one team who isn't. Some of these are woefully one-sided, like Denver's trip to Houston that the NFL probably wished was far more important, or the Raiders going to San Diego. Some are just boring, like the Giants trip to Detroit in a potentially irrelevant game, and the Cowboys trip to Washington, a rare NFC East game this late in the season that shouldn't warrant more than three minutes of time on Sportscenter.

7.) Chicago Bears (8-6)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "NBC banked on something great but could get Something Awful" Sunday, as the Bears and Eagles play a game that could be meainingless for the Eagles. If the Cowboys win earlier in the day (a likelihood, given their playing against the falling apart Redskins), this game will be meaningless for the Eagles. Win or lose, they need to beat an 8-7 Dallas to win the NFC East. Of course, for the Bears it will be really meaningful. This is an underrated rivalry, as these two played some memorable games in the mid-00s' ('07, '08, '10 all had good ones), but it could be meainingless.

6.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)  @  Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)  (4:25 - CBS)
5.) Arizona Cardinals (9-5)  @  Seattle Seahawks (12-2)  (4:05 - FOX)

I call it "One tangentially in it team Tries to Spoil Shit" as the Steelers and Seahawks are basically locked into not being in the playoffs and being the #1 seed respectively. Neither game is really meaningful for those teams. For the other, it is incredibly so. A loss here ends the season for the Cardinals. A loss here basically ends the season for the Packers. I still feel like Matt Flynn will start once again, allowing the Steelers to get some nice revenge for Super Bowl XLV. Has a Super Bowl revenge game ever been so depressing so quickly?

4.) Atlanta Falcons (4-10)  @  San Francisco 49ers (10-4)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "The Meaningful, Meaningless Game", as the 49ers are basically locked into a Wild Card with nothing to play for, but of course this is the final game, in all likelihood, at Candlestick Park. That stadium has seen more history than every current NFL stadium apart from Lambaeu Field. That field hosted the NFC Championship Game in 1981, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2011. It's held countless other playoff games and scores of Hall of Famers played on that field. It should get a grand exit from the NFL stage. It is one of the few hallowed grounds left. Sure, Candlestick is outdated, but as someone who is too young to have been a fan during the dynastic 49ers, even I felt a chill watching the 2011 NFC Championship Game at Candlestick. I'll miss it.

3.) Indianapolis Colts (9-5)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Do You Want To Show Too Much" Sunday, as the great likelihood is that these two teams will meet in two weeks in Indianapolis in the #5 vs. #4 matchup. Of course, each team has something to play for, as the Chiefs can get the #1 seed if the Broncos slip up again, and the Colts can get the #2 seed if the Bengals and Patriots slip up again. How much do they show, knowing that each of their goals is unlikely? Also, after being the NFL's giant killer in September and October (and early November), can the Colts even be competitive against a good team?

2.) New England Patriots (10-4)  @  Baltimore Ravens (8-6)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "Of Course This Game Means Something" Sunday, as a game that had little to offer aside from the rivalry aspect three weeks ago is offering a hell of a lot. A Patriots loss here gives the Pats a likely game to play in Wild Card Weekend (they lose tiebreakers to both the Bengals and Colts if they end up with the same record). A Ravens loss hurts their playoff chances considerably, and a Ravens win makes the Week 17 game in Cincinnati a game for the AFC North Title (no matter what happens with Cincinnati). These teams also don't like each other. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may be gone, but Terrell Suggs is still there, and so is that Baltimore crowd. Great, great game. 

1.) New Orleans Saints (10-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (10-4)  (1:00 - FOX)\

Two weeks ago I lamented that their first matchup in New Orleans might be meaningless, as even with a split the Saints would win the division. Well, the one case in which that didn't hold was if the Saints were knocked off, and they were. Now, this game is as meaningful as any. It harkens back to old classic Week 16 games that were de-facto playoff games. The best we had was in 2008, where both conferences #1 and #2 seeds played each other with the winner having the inside track at the #1 seed. The Titans blew out the Steelers in Tennessee, and the Giants beat Carolina in New York in an OT thriller. I hope this game is as good as that Panthers @ Giants game. The Panthers have a chance to get the inside track at a bye, and ensure that a 3rd meeting between these two teams is not in the dome.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Weird Life of the Pitcher

**Note, I wrote this the day after Roy Halladay retired a week ago, so that's why I refer to Halladay retiring 'one day' ago.**


One day after Roy Halladay announced his retirement, two past Top-10 picks were traded and Mark Mulder announced he was going to try and make a comeback. Roy Halladay is 36, the same age as Mark Mulder. Tyler Skaggs is 22, born two months after I was. Drew Pomeranz is 25. Both of those two youngsters are now on their third team. Halladay retired before he was forced to pitch for a 3rd team, and if Mulder comes back, he'll be on his third team. This is the life of an MLB pitcher. The phenoms, the Hall of Famers, the guys who lost it so quickly.

Roy Halladay is the best pitcher of his generation, the best pitcher of the last 10 years. He was a throwback, someone who could throw 250 innings in an era where pitchers were more babied than ever. He led his league in complete games 7 times, including five straight years. He won a Cy Young in both leagues, winning seven years apart, and finished 2nd two other times. Back and shoulder injuries ruined his 2012 season and he came back as a shell of himself in 2013, and just like that, it was all gone. Roy Halladay signed a 1-day contract and retired as a Blue Jay.

Pitcher's are probably the biggest risk proposition in modern sports. There are just so many things that can go wrong. Start with the basic physics: pitching is an violent, unnatural act. People aren't meant to contort their arm and body like that to throw a ball 75-100 MPH, with the tradeoff for slightly more human velocity with less human torque and arm action. Pitching is a fool's errand, a job with a constant ticking clock. At some point it will be over, and it will be over more quickly than any other position in sports.

Roy Halladay was supposed to be the safest bet. Here was someone built like an ox, 6'6", 240 lbs. He could pitch 200+ innings easily, doing so year after year after year. He had only one real bout with arm issues and that was back in 2004. His only real injury in the following seven years would be when he broke his leg on a line drive in 2005 (which ended a likely Cy Young season - he was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA and 185 ERA+ at the time). Since then, he had thrown 220, 225, 246, 239, 252 and 233 innings in each season. He was a monster, the sturdiest pitcher of his generation. And then like that, it was gone.

It wasn't Tommy John surgery, with his arm giving way. It was his shoulder, an injury that on the whole is probably worse for a pitcher. There is no Tommy John surgery for shoulders. There is no easy fix. It ends careers. Halladay was merely league average in 2012 and then awful in his brief attempt to come back in 2013, and then he called it quits instead of trying to fight a most certainly losing battle. The greatest pitcher of our generation, gone just like that.

Pitcher's are never safe bets, and that is why I'm always amazed why so much is invested in them. A can't-miss-pitching prospect is far more likely to fail, in no fault of his own, than a hitting prospect, but they are seen as having so much more upside. Both Tyler Skaggs and Drew Pomeranz were recent draft picks, both in the 1st round of their draft, offering so much hope and promise. They were both major parts of a big trade, with Skaggs being the main prospect in a trade that brought Dan Haren (another good example for how quickly it can go) to the Angels and Skaggs to Arizona. Three disappointing years later he was traded back to Anaheim in a three-team deal.

Drew Pomeranz was even more highly regarded, the 5th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, the second pitcher taken in that draft. One year later he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. Two years later, he was traded again, this time to Oakland. What makes it worse is Pomeranz was the 2nd pitcher in his draft, with the 3rd pitcher being Matt Harvey and the 4th being Chris Sale.

The players taken after Pomeranz also highlight just how much of a lottery taking a pitcher is. Matt Harvey was having an amazing year this season, coming somewhat close to doing what Clayton Kershaw did, and then it all ended in a flash with the dreaded ‘elbow soreness’ that gave way to having to undergo Tommy John surgery. Chris Sale, on the other side, has one of the most violent deliveries in baseball, an action that many predicted would lead to him blowing out his elbow, and quickly, if he was extended to 200 innings. Of course, he’s thrown without repute for two years now and survived one minor issue with tiredness in the arm, and is still healthy and throwing flaming fastballs. You just never know with a pitcher. Stephen Strasburg was supposed to have a great arm delivery, one that didn’t put too much stress on the elbow, and he blew it out within a year.

One famous baseball mind once came up with a theory that a pitcher is a like a gun with a limited amount of bullets, that each arm has a finite amount of throws in them. That a team should just get the most out of how many throws he has until it is all over. Hopefully, that number will be like Halladay, where he can pitch for 15 years with only a few hiccups before it ends, but there’s the other side, where it becomes like Mark Mulder.

Mark Mulder is also 6’6” and sturdy, a big guy who was the nominal ace of the A’s Big-3 of Mulder, Hudson and Zito that dominated the AL from 2000-2002. Mulder wasn’t as good as Hudson or Zito (in Zito’s case, what he was from 2000-2003), but he was successful, a consistently good pitcher who rarely got hurt. He too was traded, but this time he was the main attraction. The Cardinals, coming off of their 2004 World Series loss, wanted an ace in case Chris Carpenter got hurt again (he didn’t, he won the Cy Young in 2005), and they emptied the cupboards for Mulder. The Cardinals gave up Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton. The second and third of those were decent players, but Haren became a star in Oakland and then Arizona (and for a year in Anaheim). Haren was multiples of what Mulder was post-trade, but the Cardinals banked on the steadiness of Mulder.

That last one year. Mark Mulder had a good 2005 season, giving the Cardinals 32 starts and 200 innings of 116 ERA+ ball. By 2006, his ERA had risen to 7.14. By 2007, he pitched just three games, allowing 22 hits and 15 runs in 11 innings, and it was over. Now he’s attempting a comeback. Mulder is maybe the saddest story of all of them, the guy who just loves pitching who just lost it once again due to shoulder issues. Like Halladay’s problems, it started slow but worked quick, and soon Mark Mulder was just not even merely a bad starting pitcher, but an abhorrent one.

In the 2005 season, Mar Mulder was the Cardinals #2 starting pitcher and twice went up against Roy Oswalt in the NLCS. Twice he lost. Oswalt pitched brilliantly in that series, 14 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 12 strikeouts. He would have pitched more if not for the dominant Houston bullpen (Brad Lidge excluded). Roy Oswalt was a great pitcher, never better than he was in those 2005 playoffs. Roy Oswalt won 20 games twice, 19 games another time, led the NL in ERA in 2006, and led the NL pitchers in WAR in 2007. He was a very good pitcher for a long, long time. He was also my favorite pitcher, my favorite baseball player.

Roy Oswalt was not built like Halladay and Mulder. He was just 5’11”, and that was generous. He had a violent motion, but he was able to stay away from getting hurt. Then 2008 came, and he had his fist extended DL stint because of shoulder issues. The shoulder would never escape him. Even during his 2010 season, when he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA (234 ERA+) in his 12 starts with the Phillies after being traded, and led the NL in WHIP for the season, there were lingering questions of how long he’ll be able to keep up. The answer was less than a year. An injury-plagued decent season in 2011 followed, and then two terrible seasons that will most likely end his career this same way it ended Halladay’s.

Baseball pitchers come and go. They can be amazing one year and hanging on by a thread two years later. Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball from 2004-2007. By 2011, he was in a long-term fight to pitch again without pain. The Roys seemed untouchable in the mid decade and late decade, and are both likely done in their careers. On the other side, top draft picks fail to make any impact, and are always at risk to blow their elbow out at any time.

There is no bigger risk than being a pitcher. It is a dangerous job, one with little security and long term prospect. Even if you pass the first few challenges inscathed, shoulder issues are inevitable. Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs in 2010. He was basically a Triple AAA level player in 2012. It’s that unforgiving. Matt Harvey was a beyond dominant pitcher at 21 this year. A month later, he was out until most likely 2015. Everyone should admire what a pitcher does and value the moments he gives you when they happen, because in a blink of an eye, they can be signing celebratory one-day contracts and announcing their retirement.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 15 Power Rankings

Looking Back at Last Week's Picks

JAGUARS (+2.5)  over  Texans  (CORRECT  =  1-0)
Chiefs (-3)  over  REDSKINS  (CORRECT  =  2-0)
RAVENS (-6)  over  Vikings  (WRONG  =  2-1)
JETS (-2.5)  over  Raiders  (CORRECT  =  3-1)
Bills (+3)  over  BUCCANEERS  (WRONG  =  3-2)
Falcons (+3)  over  PACKERS  (CORRECT  =  4-2)
PATRIOTS (-11.5)  over  Browns  (WRONG  =  4-3)
BENGALS (-6.5)  over  Colts  (CORRECT  =  5-3)
Lions (+3)  over  EAGLES  (WRONG  =  5-4)
Dolphins (+3.5)  over  STEELERS  (CORRECT  =  6-4)
BRONCOS (-13)  over  Titans  (CORRECT  =  7-4)
CARDINALS (-6)  over  Rams  (CORRECT  =  8-4)
CHARGERS (-3.5)  over  Giants  (CORRECT  =  9-4)
49ERS (-2.5)  over  Seahawks  (WRONG  =  9-5)
Panthers (+3.5)  over  SAINTS  (WRONG  =  9-6)
BEARS (+1.5)  over  Cowboys  (CORRECT  =  10-6)

Week 14: 10-6

Year-to-Date: 109-80-3

Power Rankings


The "See you in 2014" Quintro

16.) Houston Texans  (2-11  =  250-350)
15.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (4-9  =  201-372)
14.) Oakland Raiders  (4-9  =  264-337)
13.) Buffalo Bills  (4-9  =  273-334)
12.) Cleveland Browns  (4-9  =  257-324)

The Browns gave a good effort this week, the Texans gave a good effort last week, the Raiders have given good efforts about half the time, the Bills the same, and the Jaguars are an (tied for) NFL best 4-1 in their last five games. Basically, the NFL is really bereft of a horrible team this year. Washington is probably the worst overall. If the Texans end the season on a 14 game losing streak, they might be close, but they still have so much talent that they join Tampa Bay as a potential Top-5 pick with the obvious ability to win 10 games in 2014 and make the playoffs.

The "Everyone Wants to Play You in the #3 vs #6 game" Duo

11.) Tennessee Titans  (5-8  =  292-318)
10.) New York Jets  (6-7  =  226-337)

These two teams are in it, although saying that about Tennessee is quite a stretch. Still, the Titans don't merit being included in that last group. They might have been a playoff team had Jake Locker stayed healthy all year. They have a major decision coming up next offseason with Jake Locker, so for the Titans sake I hope he stays healthy next year so they can make a sound decision instead of basing it on 'what-may-be's'. The Jets also have a tough decision on whether they should keep Rex Ryan. Frankly, when the return of a supremely-petulant Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley represents a 'major' upgrade in a teams skill position group, it is pretty obvious that the Jets cobbling together six wins is quite a feat. Rex Ryan deserves another year, as this team is far more steady than the groups from 2011-12.

The "No One, except for New England, Wants to Play You in the #3 vs #6 game" Uno

9.) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8  =  291-312)

Am I the only one who thought Ben Roethlisberger's lateral to Antonio Brown before Brown almost scored was forwards? Since Brown stepped out of bounds (honestly, credit to the ref for actually seeing that live and not subconciously getting caught up in what was going on) it became moot, but I think Ben's forward momentum pushed the ball forward. Anyway, that step out of bounds cost the Steelers all hope of a playoff spot unless like 20 things go their way. However, I'm sure Indianapolis and Cincinnati hope those things don't go Pittsburgh's way. Cincinnati gets the chance to take care of the Steelers themselves in Pittsburgh on SNF next week.

The "One of These Teams will enter the playoffs to a Deluge of 'They're Coming In Hot' Stories" Trio

8.) Miami Dolphins  (7-6  =  286-276)
7.) Baltimore Ravens  (7-6  =  278-261)
6.) San Diego Chargers  (6-7  =  316-291)

Seriously, the chance of one of these three teams winning out is reasonable. More likely the Ravens get in at 9-7 (with the head-to-head over Baltimore), but if one of them does run the table to win the wild card (especially if it is miraculously San Diego) we're going to get bombarded with "This team is peaking at the right time" talk heading into the playoffs. Honestly, if it's the Ravens, considering what they did last year, we may get it even if they back in at 9-7. The tiebreakers get pretty easy if the Broncos take care of business against San Diego, making the Dolphins vs. Ravens race pretty simple. In the end, it probably comes down to whether one of the two teams can beat New England at home the next two weeks, and I really give them equal chances.

The "If One of these teams wins the Super Bowl, it's Worse than January Madness" Duo

5.) Indianapolis Colts  (8-5  =  313-316)

Despite them being in basically every way a better version of last year's 11-5 team, they seem worse. After starting the year with three wins in their biggest games, they've been blown out in their last two 'big games', both on the road. In honesty, they have one good road performance all year, and they'll need to win two road games to make the Super Bowl. The good news for us Colts fans: Andrew Luck's only in his 2nd year, so when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are gone, he'll still be there. Of course, hopefully Trent Ricahrdson won't be.

4.) Kansas City Chiefs  (10-3  =  343-224)

The Chiefs did just win 45-10, so it begats the question once again: "who are the real Chiefs". Are they the team that started 4-0 with a good point differential to show for it? Are they team who then went 5-0 with close wins against mediocre teams? Are they the team who lost three straight against the two best QBs they'll face all year long? Or is it the team that resembled the one that started 4-0 in their dominant win in Washington? Who knows. All I know is they have a shot in a playoff game with their defense and an offense that is probably underrated at this point, but they probably can't win three road games in a row.

The "If One of these teams doesn't win the AFC, it's January Madness" Trio

3.) New England Patriots  (10-3  =  349-287)

With the loss of Gronk and another ridiculous win, the Pats fall below Cincinnati for me. The race for the #2 seed should get really interesting over the next two weeks. The Pats have two tough road games back to back (Miami & Baltimore) and I would be both stunned and impressed if they came away 2-0 in those games. Pats fans want to compare this team to the 2003 unit that had some crazy wins as well, but that Patriots team never trailed over their final six regular season games and first two playoff games. This team isn't that. Having to make big comebacks against bad teams is concerning.

2.) Cincinnati Bengals  (9-4  =  334-244)

What the Bengals have done without Geno Atkins and Leon Hall is so commendable. They really haven't missed a beat. Their one loss since then was in OT in Baltimore, not exactly an easy place to play. With their win over the Patriots, they are in decent position to steal the #2 seed, but they have some landmines. First is this trip to Pittsburgh, but the bigger one may be in Week 17 against the Ravens, who may need that game to make it to the playoffs. What is really nice to see is Andy Dalton having a fantastic game once again. If Marvin Jones continues his good play they really could be dangerous in the playoffs, and only better in 2014 when Hall and Atkins are back.

1.) Denver Broncos  (11-2  =  515-345)

Twice now, the Broncos have found themselves down 10+ at home with less than half the 2nd quarter remaining. First it was 21-7 to Washington (and that was in the 3rd quarter), and then the Titans down 21-10. They finished those two games outscoring their opponent 79-7. They have a level no one else in the AFC can match. Manning also dispelled those "he can't throw in the cold" arguments. Honestly, I think what really was hampering him in New England was his ankle. The last two weeks, whether it was cold or hot, he's deep ball has looked better than it has since like 2007. He's starting to look like he did early in the season, but he's also now taking advantage of corners playing up to stop the screen game by hitting stuff over the top. This is getting scary.


The "Hey, we were Playoff Teams Last Year" Trio

16.) Washington Redskins  (3-10  =  279-407)
15.) Atlanta Falcons  (3-10  =  282-362)
14.) Minnesota Vikings  (3-9-1  =  315-395)

None of them played each other last season in the playoffs, so the comparison isn't directly fun, but all of these teams were playoff teams the previous year. The Falcons even started 10-0 and went 13-2 in games they tried to win in the regular season. Yes, they've been decimated by injuries, but Matt Ryan is having a decent season. The blame lies on that defense. The Redskins are just a mess right now, especially more so given the recent reports out of Washington regarding Shanahan's best efforts to get himself out of there. It is amazing how quickly the Redskins have ruined their two division titles in the Snyder era. Both years they were coming off 10-6 seasons and their head coach was fired (I'm assuming Shanahan is gone), as Norv Turner was shown the door in 2000. The Vikings actually have played decently well in recent weeks, but their never-ending carousel of QBs will never allow them to do anything much.

The "We are Spoilers, But We'll Probably All Fail" Trio

13.) New York Giants  (5-8  =  251-334)
12.) St. Louis Rams  (5-8  =  289-308)
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9  =  244-291)

These three teams are good enough to ruin someone's playoff plans, but will they? They each have one good opportunity to ruin someone's shit. The Giants play Detroit in Detroit in two weeks, and if they beat the Lions they can really open up that NFC North for the Bears or Packers. The Rams host the Saints next week. The last time they played the Saints, the Rams beat them 31-21 in a game that was not flukey in the slightest. They sacked Brees six times, picked him off twice and held the Saints, who set a record for yards gained in a season, to 283 yards. The Buccaneers have two chances, with them hosting the 49ers in this week and a trip to New Orleans in Week 17. The more interesting one is the 49ers game, as if they beat the 49ers that can open up the race for the #6 seed to Arizona (and come closer to giving me the win-and-your-in scenario in Week 17 in Arizona). Chances any of these teams actually pull these off: close to zero.

The "Muddled Mess of the NFC, All of Whom are Substantially Better than the #6 seed in the AFC" Sexto

10.) Dallas Cowboys  (7-6  =  357-348)

It is sad to see a Monte Kiffin defense so absolutely powerless to do anything. It is clear he lost it sometime around the Buccaneers four-game losing streak to end 2008 (where they started 9-3, but missed the playoffs) and really never refound it. He should just retire before people remember this stint in Dallas. However, for all the people who are saying "I bet they would love to have Rob Ryan back!", well the Cowboys defense was quite bad last year as well.

9.) Green Bay Packers  (6-6-1  =  316-326)

The Packers are somehow in this, with arguably the easiest closing schedule of the three teams. Of course, it seems more and more likely that Aaron Rodgers won't play this Sunday against Dallas, and while I wouldn't put it past the Cowboys to lose to Matt Flynn when fighting for their playoff life, it's more realistic that they can't. The Rodgers injury really killed this season, and it has been a while since a midseason injury has done this to a potential Super Bowl team. The Packers were 5-2 with Rodgers playing, facing a seemingly easy schedule (the fact the Packers have lost most of their games since doesn't change the fact that they were all winnable with Rodgers). That's all gone, a wasted year in a career that already had three in the beginning.

8.) Detroit Lions  (7-6  =  346-321)

I hate this Lions team. They have all the talent in the world, but so little fight. They threw away that game by fumbling early and seemingly not realizing that the Eagles started to play once the snow finally calmed down. I don't know if they thought a 14-0 lead was insurmountable, or just that their D-Line couldn't get moving in the snow to stop Shady McCoy. Anyway, they have tough possibly-tough home games ahead, but they know that if they win out, they'll win the division.

7.) Philadelphia Eagles  (8-5  =  334-301)

The Eagles may just be good and I'm giving them a hard time. I wonder if it hurts Andy Reid's Coach of the Year campaign when the man who replaced him in Philadelphia is the likely runner-up. Nick Foles finally threw an interception and didn't react well to the show, but if they can run it like that it may not mater. They have an easy game next, but a crucial one with Chicago in two weeks. The division is there's but it would be a lot easier if they wouldn't have to win in Week 17 to get it.

6.) Arizona Cardinals  (8-5  =  305-257)

It is such a shame that this fun Cardinals team with their crazy defense will not make the playoffs. So many things broke right for them, and they can't keep this nucleus of defensive players around forever. 10-win seasons without a playoff appearance are never a good thing. The 2010 Giants reacted well, but the 2011 Buccaneers did not. Considering how tough that division is, and how the Rams could end up with a Top-5 pick from Washington (if not #1 overall), it might just get harder for them to ever win 10 games again with Carson Palmer.

5.) Chicago Bears  (7-6  =  368-360)

I don't know how much better they would have been had Jay Cutler not gotten hurt, but they wouldn't be any worse. The idea that McCown is better than Cutler is laughable, but the idea that Marc Trestman, who was the QB Coach and then Offensive Coordinator for a similar mid-30's journeyman-turned-star in Rich Gannon, is making McCown into a good player is very real. He was also making Cutler into a good one. It is hard to think of the Bears this way, but they are a legitimately very good offensive team, and if they make it into the playoffs, they might be the as scary as the Panthers or 49ers, just in the opposite way. Basically, what I am saying is I would love to see their receivers go up against Sherman and the Seahawks defense.

The "Screwed Wild Cards" Duo

4.) San Francisco 49ers  (9-4  =  316-214)
3.) Carolina Panthers  (9-4  =  298-188)

I'm keeping these two teams together because they are quite similar. Both have very good to great defenses. Both have mobile QBs, and with his weapons, the Kaepernick led passing attack isn't too much worse than the one led by Cam. Both teams want to have their run game work and dominate TOP. Both teams also had one big road game against a divisional rival and got blasted (26-3 in Seattle for San Francsico and 31-13 in Carolina for New Orleans). Even when they played, it was a one-point game won by the Panthers. The Panthers are the likely #5 seed, while the 49ers are the likely #6, though I have a feeling each would like to switch. The Panthers are probably more likely to go to Seattle and win than go into New Orleans again and win, and I feel like the 49ers are more likely to win in New Orleans (where they should have won this year) than in Seattle. If they stay #5/#6 for the Panthers and 49ers, they'll be slated to play the wrong team (assuming both win), which would be far less interesting. So, for that, I hope the Panthers get swept by the Saints, and the 49ers win out.

The "If One of Us Doesn't Make the Super Bowl, Not Only is the Playoffs January Madness, but Home Field Advantage Might Be Dead"

2.) New Orleans Saints  (10-3  =  343-243)
1.) Seattle Seahawks  (11-2  =  357-205)

These teams are so good at home, and the Saints so average on the road, that the rest of the season in the NFC seems way too boring right now. Some combination of Panthers/49ers/Eagles/Bears/Lions/Cowboys/Packers is going to go to both New Orleans and Seattle and get housed, and then the Saints are going to go to Seattle themselves and get housed themselves. There have been seemingly predictible postseasons before, but these may be the two most dominant home teams in some time, outside of those that reside in New England. Of course, the 2007 postseason was supposed to be incredibly boring, but ended up surprising us all with the Chargers pulling off the miracle win in Indianapolis to avoid giving us all Super Bowl 41-and-three-quarters. It is more likely that one of these two don't make it to the NFC Championship Game than both of them making it, but it really doesn't seem that way. Let's hope that whoever plays New England in round 2 puts up a fight, or this could be a boring playoffs.

Playoff Projections


1.) Denver Broncos  =  14-2  (W vs.SD; W @HOU; W @OAK)
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  12-4  (W @PIT; W vs.MIN; W vs.BAL)
3.) New England Patriots  =  11-5  (L @MIA; W @BAL; W vs.BUF)
4.) Indianapolis Colts  =  10-6  (W vs.HOU; L @KC; W vs.JAX)
5.) Kansas City Chiefs  =  12-4  (W @OAK; W vs.IND; L @SD)
6.) Miami Dolphins  =  9-7  (W vs.NE; L @BUF; W vs.NYJ)


1.) Seattle Seahawks  =  14-2  (W @NYG; W vs.ARZ; W vs.STL)
2.) New Orleans Saints  =  12-4  (W @STL; L @CAR; W vs.TB)
3.) Philadelphia Eagles  =  10-6  (W @MIN; L vs.CHI; W @DAL)
4.) Detroit Lions  =  10-6  (W vs.BAL; W vs.NYG; W @MIN)
5.) Carolina Panthers  =  12-4  (W vs.NYJ; W vs.NO; W @ATL)
6.) San Francisco 49ers  =  11-5  (W @TB; W vs.ATL; L @ARZ)

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

5.) San Diego Chargers (7-6)
4.) New Orleans Saints (10-3)  @  St. Louis Rams (5-8)  (4:25 - FOX)
3.) Green Bay Packers (6-6-1)  @  Dallas Cowboys (7-6)  (4:25 - FOX)
2.) New England Patriots (10-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (7-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
1.) Baltimore Ravens (7-6)  @  Detroit Lions (7-6)  (MNF - ESPN)

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.