Friday, December 30, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 17

Last week wasn’t the train wreck that week 15 was, but it was still sub-.500 and enough to drop my picks for the season under .500. And with this being the final week in the NFL’s regular season, I need at least 9 correct picks to finish the abridged season above the waterline. Can I do it? Probably not, but only one way to find out: channel my inner honey badger and eat the cobra.

NEW ORLEANS (-8) over Carolina
The Saints need this and an impossible Rams win over the 49ers to get a first round bye. If this doesn’t come to pass, they will have their week 8 loss to the same Rams to blame. Despite the fact that St. Louis has no shot at winning their game, Sean Payton will keep Drew Brees in long enough to secure the yardage record at the very least (which may be the entire game), and with this game in the dome, Carolina will not keep pace.

NEW ENGLAND (-10.5) Buffalo
The Patriots need this game because the Ravens and Steelers will not both lose, which means the first seed in the AFC is at risk. The news surrounding Brady’s shoulder is concerning, but last week aside, Buffalo isn’t the same team they were back in week 3, and they will not keep pace with the New England offense.

MINNESOTA (-1.5) over Chicago
Minnesota is coming off of their first win since week 8. Chicago is coming off of their 5th straight loss since starting 7-3 and was officially eliminated from the playoffs after Sunday night. Plus, Chicago’s offense is in tatters and Minnesota does get after the quarterback well.

New York Jets (+2.5) MIAMI
I really want to pick Miami, because I think it would be hilarious watching Rex talk his way around an 8-8 season with a 2-6 road record. But as bad as the Jets D has looked I don’t see Reggie Bush doing any damage to it, and Matt Moore isn’t winning this one by himself.

San Francisco (-10.5) ST. LOUIS
I picked St. Louis last week against the Steelers because the spread was 14 points and Charlie Batch was Pittsburgh’s quarterback. In other words, I expected Pittsburgh to need to score about 20 points to cover that spread and I doubted they’d bother pushing themselves enough on offense to get there. Of course, not only did Pittsburgh score over 20, the Rams scored a big, fat zero. Once again, the Rams have no chance in this one, as the 49ers need to win to keep the 2nd seed and a bye. I’m not going to trust the Rams even if the 49ers continue settling for field goal after field goal.

Detroit (-3.5) over GREEN BAY
The Matt Flynn job audition for next season (he’s a free agent after this one) won’t be a disaster, but he won’t keep up with Detroit’s offense when his team has nothing to play for.

PHILADELPHIA (-8.5) Washington
So let me get this straight, now that Philadelphia has run off 3 straight wins (likely 4 after Sunday) to end the season (at Miami, home vs the Jets - who have been brutal on the road, at Dallas with nothing to play for, and home against Washington) the chatter about Andy Reid’s job security is gone? Really? Because the Eagles finally decided to wake up and play as soon as the pressure was off? Am I missing something here?

Indianapolis (+3.5) JACKSONVILLE
These are two terrible teams, and I actually trust Dan Orlovsky more than Blaine Gabbert right now. That’s shocking. I can’t believe I trust Dan Orlovsky more than any other QB in the league, but he looked like an actual NFL quarterback against Houston last Thursday night while he was piling dirt on my Thursday night picking grave.

HOUSTON (+3) over Tennessee
I expect Houston’s defense to be so sick of hearing how awful they’ve been recently that they come out angry and fired up and make Matt Hasselbeck’s life miserable. I also expect Houston’s postseason stay to be very short.

ARIZONA (-3) over Seattle
Arizona’s beaten significantly better teams at home already this year. With neither team having anything to play for, I think being at home swings this one to the Cardinals.

DENVER (-3) over Kansas City
The ultimate Tebow moment, a comeback in the 4th quarter in the last game of the season (coming off of a thrashing) against a division foe. How does this possibly end with the Broncos on the sidelines for the postseason?

ATLANTA (-11.5) over Tampa Bay
I don’t care if Atlanta decides to rest starters. The Buccaneers have quit.

CINCINNATI (+2) over Baltimore
If anyone can give me a reason to trust Baltimore on the road against a decent team, I’ll change this pick in a hearbeat. Their road wins: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Yes Pittsburgh is a good team, but the Ravens have a massive chip on their shoulder regarding Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh (-7) over CLEVELAND
Even if Roethlisberger doesn’t play. I like Seneca Wallace, but the enduring memory I have of his seasons in Seattle when he had to play quarterback are of him running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage and taking a loss instead of throwing the ball away.

OAKLAND (-3) over San Diego
I fully expect the Chargers to give their best Norv Turner effort in what could be Turner’s final game as their head coach. So prepare to watch a game full of penalties, missed assignments, turnovers, and other sloppy play.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over Dallas
I’d actually feel more comfortable taking the Giants if this game was in Dallas. But Dallas’ empty hole in the backfield behind Tony Romo will be too much of a handicap in this one.

Last Week: 7-9
Overall: 45-46-3

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 16

Current NFL Draft Order
2St. Louis2130.133.5731-100-5
6Tampa Bay4110.267.5473-82-3
11Kansas City690.400.5163-82-3
15San Diego780.467.5166-52-3

The first tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).
After SOS, the next tie-breakers are conference record and division record. After that it comes down to a coin flip.

Remaining Schedules:
Indianapolis: @JAX
St. Louis: SF
Minnesota: CHI
Cleveland: PIT
Jacksonville: IND
Tampa Bay: @ATL
Washington: @PHI
Miami: NYJ
Carolina: @NO
Buffalo: @NE
Kansas City: @DEN
Arizona: SEA
Philadelphia: WAS
Seattle: @ARI
San Diego: @OAK
Chicago: @MIN

Once again I have included all of the eliminated teams, but after last week's dashing of playoff hopes across the league, this week's list is a bit longer than last week's.

It took the Colts 15 weeks to win their first game. Now there's a legitimate chance that they don't get the top pick in the 2012 draft. The Colts face the sliding Jaguars in week 17, while the Rams (also 2-13) get the 49ers who are still playing for a first round bye in the NFC. Translation: the Rams aren't losing. The Colts keep the #1 overall pick if they lose, but will likely lose it if they win. So much for the Rams possibly falling to the 3rd overall pick.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 16

NFC Playoff Picture
1c-Green Bay1410.9335-011-0
2y-San Francisco1230.8004-19-2
3y-New Orleans1230.8004-18-3
4New York Giants870.5332-34-7

c –home field advantage, y – division champion, x – playoff berth

Remaining Schedules:
Green Bay: DET
San Francisco: @STL
New Orleans: CAR
NY Giants: DAL
Detroit: @GB
Atlanta: TB
Dallas: @NYG

Playoff Scenarios:
Packers - They have clinched the #1 seed in the NFC.
49ers - They clinch a first-round bye with a) a win, or b) a Saints loss. They win a tie-breaker with New Orleans thanks to their better conference record.
Saints - They clinch a first round bye with a win AND a 49ers loss. Otherwise they will get the NFC's 3rd seed.
Lions - They have clinched a wild card berth. They get the first wild card berth with a) a win, or b) a Falcons loss.
Falcons - They have clinched a wild card berth. They get the first wild card berth with a win AND a Lions loss. They win a tiebreaker with Detroit because they beat Detroit head-to-head.

Finally, the winner of Sunday night's game between the Giants and the Cowboys wins the NFC East and receives the 4th seed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 16

Note: I edited this post because I messed up the scenarios that would see Tennessee making the playoffs. See italicized text below:

AFC Playoff Picture
1z-New England1230.8004-19-2
-New York Jets870.5333-26-5

z – first round bye, y – division champion, x – playoff berth

Remaining Schedules:
New England: BUF
Baltimore: @CIN
Houston: TEN
Denver: KC
Pittsburgh: @CLE
Cincinnati: BAL
Oakland: SD
Tennessee: @HOU
NY Jets: @MIA

Playoff Scenarios:
Patriots - They have clinched a first-round bye. They get the #1 seed with a) a win, or b) losses by Pittsburgh AND Baltimore.
They would lose a tiebreaker to Baltimore on account of Baltimore's better strength-of-victory, and they would lose a tie-breaker to Pittsburgh because the Steelers beat them head-to-head.
Ravens - They get the #1 seed if they win AND New England loses. They get a first round bye if a) they win, or b) Pittsburgh loses. If Baltimore loses and Pittsburgh wins, Baltimore falls to the 5th seed. They win a tie-breaker with the Steelers thanks to their 2-0 record against Pittsburgh head-to-head.
Texans - They are locked in to the 3rd seed, thanks to their head-to-head loss to Baltimore.
Broncos - They win the West with a) a win, or b) an Oakland loss. They would win a tiebreaker with Oakland thanks to a better record versus common opponents.
Steelers - The Steelers can obtain the #1 seed with a win AND losses by New England and Baltimore. They can obtain a first-round bye with a win AND a Baltimore loss. Any other combination sticks them with the 5th seed.
Bengals - They clinch a wild card spot with a) a win, or b) losses by the New York Jets, and either Oakland OR Denver.
Raiders - They win the West with a win AND a Denver loss. They clinch a wild card berth with a win AND a Denver win AND a Cincinnati loss AND and a Tennessee loss.
Titans - They clinch a wild card berth with a win AND a Cincinnati loss AND a Jets win OR both a Raiders win AND a Broncos win. Essentially, the Titans need the Bengals to lose AND some other team to also finish 9-7 so there is a 3-way tie. If the tie is only between Cincinnati and Tennessee, the Bengals advance due to their head-to-head win. If there are 3 teams, Cincinnati is eliminated first due to their worse conference record than the other two teams, and Tennessee has tiebreakers over anyone else that could also finish 9-7.
Jets - They clinch a wild card berth with a win AND a Cincinnati loss AND a Tennesee loss AND a loss by either Denver OR Oakland.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 16

Wow last week's effort was abysmal. I got caught putting too much stock in the favorites taking care of business, and instead the lesser teams rose up and smacked most of the better teams in the mouth. This week may not be any better, as 15 of the 16 games have some form of playoff implications (the exception being the Minnesota vs Washington game.

Despite my descent into picking record hell, I figured that, since Sunday is Christmas (that means most of the games are SATURDAY), I should take a look at each game and determine what we should be thankful for, as NFL fans.

KANSAS CITY (-2.5) over Oakland
What we are thankful for: That despite the death of Al Davis, the Raiders are still providing comedic fodder for the rest of the league. For the last 7-9 years, the Raiders have made questionable move after questionable move, and most of them were ascribed to the senility of Al Davis (it helped that he looked like the crypt keeper for the last few years). After Al passed, there was concern that the Raiders might become a normal team...then they traded a first rounder in 2012 and a second rounder in 2013 for Carson Palmer.

Jacksonville (+7.5) over TENNESSEE
What we are thankful for: That we root for a team in a better location and situation than Jacksonville*

*note: Does not include Jacksonville fans, luckily there are only about 2574 of them.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Miami
What we are thankful for: The consistency of the Patriots. Even when you take away Brady, they are what they are: a flawed team who will nevertheless take care of business during the regular season and continue their mastery of their division. If you're a fan, it's great. If you're not, they're always there to root against.

CINCINNATI (-4) over Arizona
What we are thankful for: Arizona's showing us how not to go about settling on a quarterback. To recap: Don't trade for an Andy Reid backup quarterback (also see Feeley, AJ). Don't immediately sign him to a lucrative extension. And don't forget that throwing passes up to Larry Fitzgerald doesn't necessarily take much.

Denver (-3) over BUFFALO
What we are thankful for: Watching NFL pundit after NFL pundit bite through their tongues while they praise Tim Tebow through clenched teeth during his 7-2 run as a starter this season, while waiting for the chance to deconstruct his unseemly throwing motion and declare that the Tebowne offense cannot work in today's NFL.

St. Louis (+14) over PITTSBURGH
What we are thankful for: That something game related has finally felled Roethlisberger. We all saw what happened with the last guy who couldn't be knocked out of a game (hint, he wears Wranglers).

New York Giants (+3) over NEW YORK JETS
What we are thankful for: Rex Ryan getting taken down a foot or two.

Minnesota (+6.5) over WASHINGTON
What we are thankful for: That quarterback guru Mike Shanahan has been forced to trot out the decrepit Donovan McNabb, the mad bomber Rex Grossman, and the unthreatening John Beck at the most important position during his Redskins tenure. Remember when your mother used to say, "Stop making that face before it sticks that way"? It's true, watch Mike Shanahan's permanently furrowed brow while he's coaching.

CAROLINA (-7.5) over Tampa Bay
What we are thankful for: Carolina proving that even football movies made for the 9-13 year old demographic can sometimes inspire NFL plays that lead to touchdowns.

BALTIMORE (-12.5) over Cleveland
What we are thankful for: That we're not Cleveland Browns fans.

San Diego (+2) over DETROIT
What we are thankful for: That we don't have Norv Turner as our head coach*

*note: Don't fret Chargers fans, this will apply to you too once week 17 is over.

DALLAS (-1.5) over Philadelphia
What we are thankful for: That even when it's not the Redskins doing it, buying a championship in March and April (or in this case, July) simply doesn't work, especially when you entrust your defense to your offensive line coach. Sorry Eagles.

SEATTLE (+2.5) over San Francisco
What we are thankful for: That Seattle is still playing meaningful games in December. Well, at least I'm thankful for it. Most of you don't care.

Chicago (+12) over GREEN BAY
What we are thankful for: What we are thankful for: Getting to watch Aaron Rodgers work. Guy is operating on a different planet right now. It's a lot of fun to watch.

NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) over Atlanta
What we are thankful for: That a guy like Drew Brees can go to a place like New Orleans to a team like the Saints, with their history, and turn them around into a perennial power to the league. Oh, and also for Beastquake last year.

And finally, we are thankful that these picks don't have any money behind them. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

This week: 0-1

Last week: 5-10-1
Overall: 38-37-3

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 15

Current NFL Draft Order
2St. Louis2120.143.5661-100-5
6Tampa Bay4100.286.5513-72-2

The first tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).
After SOS, the next tie-breakers are conference record and division record. After that it comes down to a coin flip.
*-indicates 2 teams who require a coin flip to determine the order of their 1st round picks

Remaining Schedules:
Indianapolis: HOU, @JAX
St. Louis: @PIT, SF
Minnesota: @WAS, CHI
Cleveland: @BAL, PIT
Jacksonville: @TEN, IND
Tampa Bay: @CAR, @ATL
Miami: @NE, NYJ
Washington: MIN, @PHI
Buffalo: DEN, @NE
Carolina: TB, @NO

I was going to start showing all 20 non-playoff teams in the Suck for Luck update, but that was too much work, so instead I included all eliminated teams, which is a much shorter list as you can see.

A couple of notes:
- Miami and Washington require a coin flip to separate them in the 1st round and Buffalo and Carolina also require one. In each case, it is a coin flip between 2 teams, not all 4 of them.

- St. Louis could easily fall into third place even if they don't win another game. Tehir final two opponents have a combined 21 wins right now, while Minnesota's have a combined 12.

- While Andrew Luck is the grand prize, the consolation prize just got a whole lot less shiny. Today, Matt Barkley decided to bypass the 2012 NFL Draft and return to USC for his senior season. Now the quarterback needy teams who miss out on Luck (and there are quite a few, as has been mentioned here over the last few weeks) have Robert Griffin III (is he a pro-style fit?), Landry Jones (same question, plus his stock took a hit this season, plus he might not come out), and lesser options like Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins (EDIT: oops, not Drew Stanton, he's already in the NFL) to choose from.

Bottom line, if Indy is considering hanging on to Peyton Manning and trading the Luck pick (bad idea), that pick just got even more valuable.

NFL Picks, Week 16 Thursday Game

Houston (-7) over INDIANAPOLIS

I was hoping this line would be lower as people overreacted to Houston’s deflating performance against Carolina and Indy’s frisky showing against Tennessee.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if too many were snookered. That being said, Houston ran into a dynamic player in Cam Newton last week. Dan Orlovsky has been a passable quarterback for the Colts, but he isn’t dynamic. Houston’s defense will do its job, and as long as TJ Yates doesn’t turn the ball over a couple of times, Houston should win and cover.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 15

NFC Playoff Picture
1y-Green Bay1310.9294-010-0
2y-San Francisco1130.7863-18-2
3x-New Orleans1130.7693-17-3
-New York Giants770.5002-34-7

y – division champion, x – playoff berth

Remaining Schedules:
Green Bay: CHI, DET
San Francisco: @SEA, @STL
New Orleans: ATL, CAR
Dallas: PHI, @NYG
Atlanta: @NO, TB
Detroit: SD, @GB
Seattle: SF, @ARI
Chicago: @GB, @MIN
NY Giants: @NYJ, DAL
Arizona: @CIN, SEA
Philadelphia: @DAL, WAS

Green Bay needs to beat Josh McCown-led Chicago and they clinch home field advantage. Or they could beat Detroit, but much more likely, the Pack will have nothing to play for against the Lions (bad news for all of the 7-7 teams hoping for a chance).

San Francisco needs to equal New Orleans' win total in the final 2 games and they get the other 1st round bye. It really comes down to this weekend: the 49ers play at Seattle and the Saints host Atlanta on Monday Night. In week 17? San Francisco draws the hopeless Rams and the Saints get Carolina, so if they're tied after Monday night, hand the bye to the 49ers.

Atlanta and Detroit each have the same road: win one out of two and they're in the playoffs. Atlanta has New Orleans this weekend, then Tampa Bay, so they're probably in. Detroit has San Diego and a Green Bay team with likely nothing to play for, so they have a slightly harder road, but who knows what Green Bay will do.

Dallas either needs to beat Philly this weekend and have the Giants lose to the Jets, or they need to beat the Giants in New York in week 17.

The Giants need to win out. Philly needs to win out AND for the Giants to lose to the Jets, as in a 3-way 8-8 tie, Philly wins the division thanks to their 5-1 divisional record.

The teams on the outside looking up at the wild card spots need to win out and get quite a bit of help (at least one of Atlanta/Detroit needs to lose out, and even that would not be enough in all cases).

Potential AFC games that could be flexed to Sunday Night Football in week 17:
Note: The NFL prefers to have a playoff spot riding on the outcome of the final game of the season. Two years ago this game was Jets-Bengals, where the Jets had to win to get in. Last year St. Louis and Seattle squared off for the NFC West. This would have been the NFL's dream, except the division winner was going to have a paltry 7 or 8 wins. The flex decision will happen next Tuesday.

Detroit at Green Bay - This could be a Detroit wins and they're in and/or Green Bay wins and they get the #1 seed. But it's much more likely to mean nothing, especially with Green Bay no longer in play for 16-0. Odds: 2%

Seattle at Arizona - Could be a play in game for the #6 spot. Would require Detroit losing twice (including in week 17). Or Atlanta losing twice (then it would only be a play in game for Arizona). Odds: 5%

Dallas at New York Giants - Unless Dallas wins AND the Giants lose this weekend, this will at least be a win-and-you're-in game for Dallas. If the Giants win this weekend, then this game will be flexed as it will be a play-in game for the NFC's 4th seed. Odds: 60%

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 15

AFC Playoff Picture
1y-New England1130.7863-18-2
6New York Jets860.5713-26-5
-San Diego770.5002-36-5
-Kansas City680.4292-23-7

y – division champion, x – playoff berth

Remaining Schedules:
New England: MIA, BUF
Baltimore: CLE, @CIN
Houston: @IND, TEN
Denver: @BUF, KC
Pittsburgh: STL, @CLE
NY Jets: NYG, @MIA
Cincinnati: ARI, BAL
Tennessee: JAX, @HOU
Oakland: @KC, SD
San Diego: @DET, @OAK
Kansas City: OAK, @DEN

The Patriots received a tremendous early Christmas gift last weekend: everyone else vying for the #1 seed lost. Now the Patriots have home games against Miami and Buffalo, and if they win both, they get the #1 seed. If they drop one (likely to be Miami if it happens) and their competition wins out, they would be behind Houston and Pittsburgh (if Pitt wins the division), and Baltimore would come down to strength of victory (which currently favors Baltimore).

Baltimore breathed a huge sigh of relief after Monday night, as even with a hobbled Roethlisberger, the Steelers aren't likely to lose to either the Rams or the Browns. The Ravens, however, have the Bengals in Cincinnati looming in week 17, which could be tricky, given Baltimore's problems away from home.

Houston is hoping Baltimore does stumble, as they win a tiebreaker vs Pittsburgh but lose vs Baltimore, so the winner of that division likely decides whether or not the Texans get a first round bye.

The Jets are in good shape. If Cincinnati loses to Baltimore, the Jets can drop one fo their remaining two games and still get the 6th spot. Tennessee, Oakland, and San Diego have to win out and hope the Jets lose to Miami, and the Bengals lose either game.

Then we have the AFC West. You may notice that all 4 AFC West teams are listed above, because all 4 are still alive. Kansas City barely so, but hey, they did just beat the Packers, so who knows?

Potential AFC games that could be flexed to Sunday Night Football in week 17:
Note: The NFL prefers to have a playoff spot riding on the outcome of the final game of the season. Two years ago this game was Jets-Bengals, where the Jets had to win to get in. Last year St. Louis and Seattle squared off for the NFC West. This would have been the NFL's dream, except the division winner was going to have a paltry 7 or 8 wins. The flex decision will happen next Tuesday.

Kansas City at Denver - Could be for the AFC West (would require Denver losing to Buffalo and KC beating Oakland this week) Odds: 10%
San Diego at Oakland - ditto (would require Denver losing both games, as they hold tiebreaker edges over both these teams) Odds: 0.2%
Baltimore at Cincinnati - Cincy could be facing "win and they're in" (requires the Jets to lose to the Giants this week) Odds: 33%
Tennessee at Houston - Titans could have a "win and they're in" scenario (would require Jets to lose to Giants and Bengals to lose to Browns this week) Odds: 15%

If that flex game comes from the AFC, I'd wager on it being the Baltimore vs Cincinnati game.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Pieces of News I Had to Share

- The Montreal Canadiens fired their coach yesterday and promoted an assistant coach to take his place. The citizens, and government of Montreal and Quebec are up in arms over the new head coach. Is he clearly unqualified? Well, in their eyes, yes, but not for reasons you would think. It's because he doesn't speak French. And in Quebec, not speaking French is a bigger affront to their sensibilities than actually invading Paris.

Right. It's not important whether the guy can actually coach, reach players, teach schemes, etc. As long as he can speak French he's qualified for the job, and anyone who can't? Sorry, you can't hire him. Brilliant.

- Read this story dealing with a graduate-student college basketball player being held hostage by his former coach with an ax to grind.

All I can say after reading this is I hope the St. Joseph's basketball program a) comes to its senses quickly, and b) achieves no NCAA tournament success until current coach Phil Martelli is gone from the program.

Weekend Wrap: Football

- You can tell Houston just clinched their first playoff spot ever. A team that has beaten team after team just allowed Carolina to demolish them, including a play taken from the movie Little Giants. I hadn't realized until yesterday that Houston is honorarily part of Puerto Rico.

- I'm not sure which New York team is less deserving of a playoff spot, the Jets (lost 45-19 at Philly) or the Giants (lost 23-10 to the Redskins at home). I'm going to say the Jets are less deserving (best wins are Dallas and San Diego), but the Giants are infinitely more disappointing (3-4 at home, including losses to Seattle, VY-led Philly, and now Washington). On the plus side, Eli gave us the full-fledged Peyton Manning hysterics after his red zone pick to Josh Wilson.

- Do you think Scott Pioli is hoping the Chiefs lose their next 2 games, so he's not pressured into giving Romeo Crennel the head coaching job full time? I mean, just look at his tenure in Cleveland for a host of reasons why that's a bad idea. But the man is a tremendous defensive coordinator, and the players absolutely respond to him. And how can Todd Haley get a job after this? He wouldn't play Kyle Orton over Tyler freaking Palko, and the players would not play anywhere near this hard for him. Add in him chasing away an offensive coordinator a year and his generally terrible and immature demeanor and I don't see how he comes back from this.

- Poor Matthew Hasselbeck. I am genuinely sorry to see him struggle. He did so much for the Seahawks organization, but he's just a shell of himself these days. Seattle absolutely made the right decision to move on from him this offseason, as he wanted a multiple year commitment and they wouldn't give it to him. But playing so poorly as to be benched against the hapless (well, not anymore) Colts? Ouch.

- You think the Oakland coaches might make more of an effort to cover Calvin Johnson next time Detroit needs a 98-yard touchdown drive in the final 2 minutes? Between catches and a pass interference penalty, Johnson accounted for 92 yards on the game-winning drive.

- Caleb Hanie, by all accounts, acquitted himself quite well when pressed into emergency duty in the NFC Championship game back in January. So when Mike Martz was quietly complaining this offseason that he wanted a veteran brought in, people didn't give it much credence. Well, 4 games into the Caleb Hanie Experiment: The Remix, Martz may have been on to something: Hanie is 0-4 with 3 TDs and 9 INTs since replacing Jay Cutler. Of course, Martz is the same guy who brought in Todd Collins as his veteran last season, and also the guy who won't change his offense at all to account for things like a backup QB, a backup, braindead RB, and a terrible offensive line, so let's not give him too much credit.

- Well the Tebow magic thudded back to earth for a week. Really, Denver fell victim to what they've been doing to other teams during the 7-1 stretch. See, Denver was putting pressure on teams as they got into their winning stretch, as teams were afraid to give Tebow a chance to beat them late, so you have teams doing silly things like running out of bounds fighting for first down yardage (Marion Barber in the Chicago game). Well, in the second quarter against New England, Denver committed those type of brain cramps as the New England offensive engine started churning: Tebow committed a costly fumble on a read option play, Denver didn't run out the clock down 24-16, giving the Patriot offense another crack, and then Quan Cosby tried to field a punt with <15 seconds left in the half, and muffed it, handing the Pats a free field goal. Other teams had been making these mistakes and the Broncos had been taking advantage. This time, the Broncos made the mistakes and felt the pressure, and the Patriots were able to put the game out of reach before the 4th quarter.

- Finally, I'm not a Baltimore Ravens fan, but I'm disgusted at the uneven efforts the Ravens have put forth against teams they should handle easily (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and now San Diego). Much has been made of the fact that the Ravens haven't played 1 home playoff game in John Harbaugh's tenure, and this is why. They blow games they should win, and other teams (like Pittsburgh) take care of their business and thus get the home playoff games. If I were a Ravens fan I would be a raving mess after yet another no-show on the road against an inferior opponent.

- Finally, I'm not sure who looks worse right now on Monday Night: Ben Roethlisberger, or the power grid supplying the 49ers' stadium.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 15

Dallas (-7) over TAMPA BAY
Tampa has given up on the season, there’s just no other rational explanation for giving up 41 points to the Jaguars. Dallas has had their struggles, but if the Bucs never get within two scores in the 4th quarter, it will counter Dallas’ biggest weakness: blowing 4th quarter leads.

HOUSTON (-6.5) over Carolina
I'm on the TJ Yates is a poor man's Tim Tebow bandwagon.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) over Washington
I can't see the Giants laying an egg in this one. That means Rex Grossman will lose the will to live somewhere around the 3rd quarter, after Jason Pierre-Paul sacks him for the 3rd time.

Miami (PK) over BUFFALO
One of these teams just fired its coach. The other has lost 6 straight. And you wonder why Vegas couldn't decide who to favor.

CHICAGO (-3.5) over Seattle
One offensive play will be enough to win this one, and though Tarvaris Jackson is the better quarterback, Chicago's defense is also better, and I think the Bears make the one play they need. Unless Marion Barber decides to brainfart all over his teammates again multiple times.

New Orleans (-6.5) over MINNESOTA
The only way Minnesota covers is if their dome collapses again and force this game to be played outside. Even then it’s kind of a long shot, but the Saints were built for dome games. Which is what makes that midseason loss to the Rams so inexplicable.

Cincinnati (-6.5) over ST. LOUIS
Cincinnati is playing for their playoff lives, and St. Louis, well, it really doesn’t matter what St. Louis is playing for. Sam Bradford looked atrocious on Monday Night, and Cincy will limit the damage Steven Jackson can do. I might be somewhat worried about rookie QB Andy Dalton on the road if St. Louis weren’t down to their 10th and 11th cornerbacks.

Tennessee (-6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
It looks like Hasselbeck is going to start this game, so Indy will march on to 0-14.

Green Bay (-13.5) over KANSAS CITY
Maybe, maybe with Todd Haley gone someone other than Tyler Palko will get a shot at running Kansas City’s offense. Because if Palko is back there, you could double this spread and I’d still take Green Bay.

Detroit (-1) over OAKLAND
Combined Penalties + Turnovers (+7) over Combined Points

Oakland remains the most penalized team in the NFL (coaches change, Al Davis dies, and still, the Raiders can't stop taking penalties). Detroit tends to meltdown in a barrage of stupid decisions when things go against them. Add in Ndamokung Suh's return from stomping a Packer, and well, the officials will be busy.

DENVER (+6.5) over New England
New England's defense will keep the Broncos in it by allowing Tim Tebow to complete more than 3 passes before the 4th quarter. People are making a big deal over how Belichick will attaclk and thwart the Tebow offense, but those people are forgetting that Belichick has no talent on his defense. He's starting 2 wide receivers in his secondary, for Tim's sake.

New York Jets (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
I'm already shocked at how few carries Andy Reid is going to give LeSean McCoy considering the Jets have so much talent in their secondary, but are vulnerable to the running game.

ARIZONA (-6.5) over Cleveland
In both cases, the starting quarterback is out with a concussion. In both cases, I'm not sure the backup is any of a downgrade. That's not because I think the backups are any great shakes.

Baltimore (-2.5) over SAN DIEGO
The San Diego coming on like gangbusters in December story is in full swing, but with Rivers being replaced by Captain Turnover this season (save the past 2 games), I just don't see how this ends well going against Baltimore's defense.

SAN FRANCISCO (-3) over Pittsburgh
I don't believe in Charlie Batch, especially when his running game is taken away from him (like the 49ers have done to everyone this season).

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 8-8
Overall: 33-27-2

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 14

Current NFL Draft Order
2St. Louis2110.154.5561-100-5
9Tampa Bay490.308.5503-62-2
10Kansas City580.385.4793-72-2
15San Diego670.462.5095-52-3

The first tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).
After SOS, the next tie-breakers are conference record and division record. After that it comes down to a coin flip.

Remaining Schedules:
Indianapolis: TEN, HOU, @JAX
St. Louis: CIN, @PIT, SF
Minnesota: NO, @WAS, CHI
Carolina: @HOU, TB, @NO
Washington: @NYG, MIN, @PHI
Cleveland: @ARI, @BAL, PIT
Miami: @BUF, @NE, NYJ
Jacksonville: @ATL, @TEN, IND
Tampa Bay: DAL, @CAR, @ATL
Kansas City: GB, OAK, @DEN
Philadelphia: NYJ, @DAL, WAS
Buffalo: MIA, DEN, @NE
Arizona: CLE, @CIN, SEA
Seattle: @CHI, SF, @ARI
San Diego: BAL, @DET, @OAK

The suspense has been largely removed from the top of the draft, as the top 3 spots are unlikely to change.

Where it will get interesting is in the 4-10 spots, as there will be a bunch of teams finishing with 4 or 5 wins. Much has been made of the haul Indy could get for Luck if they decide to bet the next 3-5 years of their franchise on Peyton Manning's neck (hint: don't do it). But depending on where teams like Miami, Washington, and Cleveland fall, the Rams and Vikings could find themselves in a position to get a bundle for their picks, so other teams desperate for quarterbacks can secure Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III.

As a fan of the Seahawks, I am concerned they won't get their quarterback of the future in this draft, which was clearly the plan. They were supposedly high on Andy Dalton, and they had their chance to get him, but they chose to go in a different direciton. They shored up their OLine, and used free agency to bring in weapons...and then they signed Tarvaris Jackson to a short, cheap deal to bridge the gap from Matthew Hasselbeck to the next guy. Everything was set up to grab that guy in the 2012 draft. Then they won a couple games they had no business winning, and all of a sudden, that plan is in jeopardy*. I think they'll still get their man though, but it will take more creativity than was expected.

*And for the record, I'm thrilled they won those games and thus torpedoed their chances of easily obtaining their QB of the future. Tanking games to improve draft position only breeds bad things, culture-wise.

NFL Picks, Week 15 Thursday Game

Jacksonville (+13.5) over ATLANTA
Look, Atlanta is a playoff team unless something absolutely crazy happens in these last 3 weeks of the season. Jacksonville is 4-9, and the game is in Atlanta.

But Atlanta has not pulled away and stayed away from a team since week 9 against Indianapolis. Their opponents during that stretch? New Orleans (L), Tennessee (who lost starting QB Matt Hasselbeck for much of the game), Minnesota, Houston (starting 3rd stringer TJ Yates – L), and Carolina. That isn’t a murderer’s row of teams, I’d say New Orleans is the only game the Falcons “should have” lost.

Meanwhile Jacksonville has had exactly 3 of their 13 games decided by more than 10 points, and that includes their 41-14 win over the Tampa Bay Givenups last week. Add in Flacons head coach Mike Smith’s health scare on Sunday and the fact that this game is on a short week, and I just can’t see Atlanta bucking recent history and putting away a team that has no business hanging around with them for 60 minutes.

I believe Atlanta will win this game on their way to the playoffs. I also believe this spread is way too high considering how uneven their offensive play has been over the last month plus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 14

NFC Playoff Picture
1y-Green Bay13001.0004-010-0
2y-San Francisco1030.7693-18-2
3x-New Orleans1030.7693-16-3
4New York Giants760.5382-24-6

y – division champion, x – playoff berth

Remaining Schedules:
Green Bay: @KC, CHI, DET
San Francisco: PIT, @SEA, @STL
New Orleans: @MIN, ATL, CAR
NY Giants: WAS, @NYJ, DAL
Atlanta: JAX, @NO, TB
Detroit: @OAK, SD, @GB
Chicago: SEA, @GB, @MIN
Dallas: @TB, PHI, @NYG
Seattle: @CHI, SF, @ARI
Arizona: CLE, @CIN, SEA

There's an extra tier here in the NFC, thanks to the 13-0 Packers, who are getting the #1 overall seed. If they can beat Kansas City, or Caleb Hanie-led Chicago, or Detroit in week 17, they wrap up home field advantage through the Super Bowl.

The race for the 2 seed is more interesting, as San Francisco has the edge, thanks to their 2 conference losses versus the Saints' 3. However, New Orelans has 2 easy games and 1 touhg one left, while the 49ers have 1 tough game (PIT), 1 easy game (STL), and 1 who the heck knows, Tarvaris Jackson is prominently involved, game (SEA). If the Saints lose to Atlanta, the 49ers will likely get the second bye, as they would only have to beat Pittsburgh OR Seattle to accomplish that. I don't see the 49ers going 3-0 the rest of the way, and with Atlanta looking very vulnerable against bad teams, it says here that New Orleans gets the 2 seed.

The NFC East likely comes down to Week 17, and for the second year in a row, the battle for the NFC's 4th seed will likely play out on NBC as the final game of the regular season.

That leaves the 2 wild card spots. It will take a 9-7 record to nab a wild card spot, and with the Falcons likely to get to 10 wins, I feel pretty confident they get the 5-spot.

The 6th and final spot is more interesting. Detroit has a tough-looking schedule these last 3 weeks, as the Raiders and Chargers are fighting for their playoff lives while the Pack will (maybe) be going for 16-0, and the game is in Wisconsin. 2 losses opens the door for
- The NFC East loser, who cannot be better than 9-7 (as they play each other again). With Dallas playing Philly and the Giants facing the Jets as well, this team might be at 8-8, especially with the Cowboys lack of running back options outside of Felix Jones.
- Chicago, who we could take seriously, if, you know, Caleb Hanie didn't hold their fate in his hands (well, until he throws it away to the other team). Their game against Seattle this week will effectively eliminate one of these teams from the race.
- Seattle, who is riding a 4-1 record in the season's second half (and the 1 was a now very important come from ahead loss to the Redskins at home). The Seahawks actually have 2 elimination games in their last 3, the Bears game mentioned above, and a week 17 tilt against...
- Arizona, who has shockingly come back from 1-6 to have a seat at the table. As much as I would love for the Seattle-Arizona game to decide a playoff berth, I don't see either of these teams being consistent enough to win their last 3 in a row to make things interesting.

The only team I see threatening the Lions is potentially the Giants, and the Giants would lose a tiebreaker to the Lions thanks to New York's sub-.500 conference record in this scenario.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 14

AFC Playoff Picture
3New England1030.7693-17-2
6New York Jets850.6153-26-5
-San Diego670.4622-35-5

y – division champion

Remaining Schedules:
Houston: CAR, @IND, TEN
Baltimore: @SD, CLE, @CIN
New England: @DEN, MIA, BUF
Denver: NE, @BUF, KC
Pittsburgh: @SF, STL, @CLE
NY Jets: @PHI, NYG, @MIA
Tennessee: @IND, JAX, @HOU
Cincinnati: @STL, ARI, BAL
Oakland: DET, @KC, SD
San Diego: BAL, @DET, @OAK

SO the AFC divides pretty neatly into 2 tiers:
Vying for the 1st seed: Houston, Baltimore, New England, Pitsburgh.
Vying for the 4th and 6th seeds: Denver, NY Jets, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Oakland, San Diego

Baltimore is in the best position to win the tiebreakers, assuming they beat San Diego (H2H over Houston and Pittsburgh, better record in common games than New England if they beat SD). But Houston has the easiest schedule (just by a hair over the Patriots). New England needs the other teams to all lose once to have a shot at the top seed in the conference.

If Denver takes care of Buffalo and Kansas City, they should take the division as they're in position to have a better record in common games than Oakland.

As for the #6 spot: Tennessee and Cincinnati are in good position to at least get to 9-7, but a much tougher road to get to 10-6. The Jets (with 8 wins already) have Philly, the Giants, and Miami left. You have to think they'll get 1 win in those three, but getting 2 wins could be tough. We could see a 3-way tie at 9-7, which isn't good for Cincinnati, as they're the only ones likely to have 6 conference losses.

Monday Night Football Notes, Plus other stuff

- Wow the Rams are terrible.

- All the good feelings Seattle built up during their Thursday Night Football win over the Eagles a week and a half ago, toss those out the window after last night. To call that play uninspired seems about right.

Look, the offense was poor, but at least there are excuses on that side of the ball. The offensive line is missing 3/5 starters. The top receiver (Sidney Rice) is on IR. The quarterback, well, let's give old Tarvaris his own bullet point.

- Tarvaris Jackson has done the needed job of managing the last two wins (over Philly and St. Louis), letting the running game and the defense do most of the heavy lifting. But having watched every snap of the past two games on TV, two things are readily apparent about T-Jack the quarterback:
1) He isn't stepping into any throw. Every throw is off his back foot, or "on the run", even if he's just stepping up in the pocket. This may have something to do with his pectoral injury he's been nursing for weeks, but I'm not willing to ascribe all of these throws to injury.
2) He isn't hitting anyone in stride. #1 certainly doesn't help this, but aside from bubble screens (quick passes to a receiver behind the line of scrimmage), the receiver is having to turn his body to receive the pass. That hurts the receiver's ability to get yards after the catch.

- I mean, gee whiz, the Rams are pretty terrible.

- I'm most disappointed in Seattle's defense. The Rams had one weapon last night: Steven Jackson. That the Rams scored 13 points should be an embarrassment to Seattle's defense. The Rams had 3 big plays all game long, and none of them should have happened:
1) The 50-yard screen pass vs an all-out blitz on 3rd and long. Really? You needed an all-out blitz to prevent a team with a gimpy, rusty quarterback from converting 3rd and 13?
2) The Richard Sherman PI. Sherman actually recovered very well against this route/pass, but he didn't trust his ability to deflect the pass and pulled on Brandon Lloyd's shoulder while breaking up the pass.
3) The Richard Sherman taunting penalty that took 4th and goal from the 1 and made it 1st and goal from the 1/2 yard line. Moron.

- The Rams had 7 plays from the Seattle 1 or closer. On one of those plays (the seventh) they handed the ball to Steven Jackson out of a normal goal line formation and they scored a touchdown. Here's what they did on the other 6:
1) Steven Jackson takes the snap in a wildcat formation and tries to run it in. Result: Stopped for no gain - Defensible call
2) Sam Bradford fakes the handoff to Jackson and tries to bootleg out. Result: Called for intentional grounding as he flings the ball away in panic before being obliterated by a defender - Indefensible call. Bradford had a severe high ankle sprain that was preventing him from planting properly on his throws, and you try a naked bootleg with no pass options on that side of the field???
3) Cadillac Williams run. Result: No gain - I mean, really? It may have been Cadillac's series, but why let him run?
4) Bradford attempts a throw into the end zone. Result: Bradford misfires badly and the pass is incomplete - Why is Steven Jackson still on the sideline?
5) Bradford attempts a throw to the back of the end zone, it's a little high and goes off his receiver's hands. St. Louis is awarded a 1st down when Richard Sherman is flagged for taunting. - Defensible call (aside from not using Jackson), but Bradford looked shaky all night, why put this is his hands?
6) Bradford tries a quick fade route. Result: Seattle's tall corner bats the ball away - I don't get this one either. Seattle's corners are both at least 6'3" and you try a fade?
Let's just say the shine continues to wear off of Josh McDaniels, offensive genius.

- Finally, the Rams are really bad. I'm not sure Spagnoulo survives with so many stinkers this season.

- Speaking of firings, Todd Haley (Chiefs) and Tony Sparano (Dolphins) were both axed, joining Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville) as in-season firings.

I'm not sure you can say much positive about Haley, who never met a fight he didn't want to pick. The guy ran off 2 capable offensive coordinators (Chan Gailey and Charlie Weis), and without them his offenses have looked subpar.

Sparano fell victim to his initial success in a tough division, never getting back close to the 2008-09 division title. He had to deal with his owner's public dalliance with Jim Harbaugh this offseason, then had to hear reports of how he was set to be fired at the end of this season. I wouldn't be surprised if he came into work yesterday and said, "Commit to me for next year or fire me now." And honestly, I wouldn't blame him one bit. Not that he was any great shakes, but it's not fair to a guy to openly look at other candidates while he's still your coach.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 14

In lieu of a witty introduction or clever theme (even though I honey badgered my way to my best week yet), I’m instead going to use this space to comment quickly on a couple of major stories from the past couple of days:

Pujols, Wilson signs with Angels, but mostly Pujols – Shocking, in that it seemed like Pujols was all set to return to the Cardinals for too much money and too many years. You have to think that Pujols got ticked off when St. Louis didn’t get this done last year, and then with the World Series win and LaRussa retiring, it gave him a chance to make a clean break. Will Pujols be worth it 10 years from now, or even 6 years from now? No. But the Angels took on the worst contract in MLB last season (Vernon Wells), and it crippled them so much they went out and signed the best hitter and pitcher on the market.

Chris Paul traded to the Lakers – Well, this was unexpected. It’s unfortunate that the lockout happened and the first thing that happens after the season opens is an established star forces his way out of town, given that was kind of one of the things this lockout was supposed to deal with

Hornets owner rejects deal agreed to by GM, nixes trade – This is an interesting story in and of iteself, that a GM and two other teams agree to a deal, then the owner comes in and Jerry Joneses everything up. But it’s a travesty in this case because the owner of the Hornets is the NBA itself. The other 29 (well, ostensibly 27 of the other 29) owners balked at a team they all had an equal stake in (until a buyer is found) shipping off its main asset to one of the few “haves” in the NBA, so they pressured Stern to nix the deal, which he shockingly did. There was no collusion in the initial deal (but plenty of it in the vetoing of it), so there is no “best interests of the game” reason to cancel the trade. It’s like in a fantasy league, vetoes should only be used in cases of clear collusion. Just because you think it’s a bad trade, or it hurts your team’s chances, doesn’t mean it is deserving of a veto. Now the GM of the Hornets either has to take a lesser deal and ship Paul off somewhere he doesn’t want to go (and thus will leave at the end of the season), or has to watch Paul leave in free agency next year and get nothing in return. What a disaster.

On to the picks:

NEW YORK JETS (-10.5) over Kansas City
Okay. We’ve determined that Tyler Palko > Caleb Hanie. That is absolutely the only thing Tyler Palko can hang his hat on, except for maybe the fact that his coach believes (incorrectly) that Palko is better than Kyle Orton.

Tampa Bay (-2) over JACKSONVILLE
During Tampa’s recent 6-game losing streak, they have scored 17.5 points per game. In Jacksonville’s entire season of 12 games, they have scored 18 points or more exactly once (and they lost that game). Tampa’s defense isn’t very good, but they’re good enough to limit one player.

WASHINGTON (+8) over New England
This may be an overreaction to New England’s defense’s stopping playing with 10 minutes to go and allowing Dan Orlovsky to close the gap to 7 (albeit without ever really threatening the Patriots), but Grossman has done well when facing poor secondaries the past few weeks, and New England’s is the poorest of the poor. That sound you hear when Rex throws his 3rd pick as Bill Belichick shows the hint of a smile will be me kicking myself.

Atlanta (-3) over CAROLINA
Carolina’s defense isn’t good enough to fluster Matt Ryan, while the Falcons defense is good enough to limit the damage Cam Newton does.

Indianapolis (+16.5) over BALTIMORE
No I don’t think Indy threatens to steal this game, but Baltimore’s offense won’t bother themselves too much to try and win this one. They’ll be content to run Ray Rice 35 times and let the defense control things. The only way Baltimore covers this one is if the defense gives the offense a lot of short fields or even some points. I just don’t see the defense getting up emotionally for this game, so it won’t happen.

MIAMI (-3) over Philadelphia
A trying Vince Young and LeSean McCoy weren’t enough. A trying Michael Vick (albeit with hurt ribs) and LeSean McCoy? It’s possible. I’d feel better if I thought their defensive coordinator would bother to make adjustments after being embarrassed in another game. I trusted a team who has mostly quit last week (still with something to play for), I’m not doing it again this week.

DETROIT (-10) over Minnesota
You remember that play where Minnesota didn’t bother to cover a Broncos receiver running a deep route, and then he scored a touchdown? Oh, I’m sorry. You see, where I said “play” I really meant “game”. I don’t care how broken Stafford’s finger might be, you cover his receivers that poorly, and he is putting up points.

TENNESSEE (+3.5) over New Orleans
New Orleans has looked incredible the past two weeks, but that’s been at home. On the road they’ve been an entirely different animal. With Chris Johnson back, and noted Saints-killer Matthew Hasselbeck at quarterback, I think we see a bit of a letdown from the Saints, and Tennesee steals one.

CINCINNATI (-3) over Houston
You can either chalk this one up to, “The more desperate team late in the season tends to pull these games out” or, “The team that isn’t starting TJ Yates at quarterback tends to pull these games out.”

DENVER (-3.5) over Chicago
This is the quintessential Tebow game. For three quarters, don’t turn the ball over, keep things close and tight, and pound at the defense with run after run after run. Just get to the 4th quarter within a score. Then, attack. Conjure up whatever talent, magic, and/or luck you have at your disposal, and eke out a win. If Jay Cutler were playing, Denver might be in trouble, as early two-score deficits tend to snowball (see the Detroit game), but with Caleb Hanie under center?

San Francisco (-4) ARIZONA
I know Patrick Willis is out, and I know Arizona just stunned the Cowboys, but I can’t take Kevin Kolb against a legitimate defense.

SAN DIEGO (-7) Buffalo
Pure elimination game. Loser falls to 5-8, and the final playoff spot will rest with a team who is 8-5. Not that the winner will be in great shape either, but at least they’ll still have a chance. Buffalo ran off to their hot start thanks to turnovers, so this game comes down to which Philip Rivers we get: the turnover machine, or the guy who finally started taking care of the football two weeks ago? The Bills have precisely 1 win way from home this season (week 1 vs the Chiefs), so I’m going with the Rivers roller coaster this week.

GREEN BAY (-11.5) Oakland
Green Bay’s defense isn’t good on the surface, but they will attack you and try to create turnovers. If you give them turnovers, you’re done, because Aaron Rodgers is on another level right now. Carson Palmer will oblige with his share (maybe more) of turnovers.

New York Giants (+3.5) over DALLAS
The Giants and Cowboys seem to be trending in opposite directions in their last 3 games, despite the Cowboys’ superior record (2-1 vs 0-3) during that period. With Garrett securely under the microscope, I think Dallas plays this game on edge, and combine that with New York needing the game more, and I think Eli outduels Romo on Sunday night.

SEATTLE (-6.5) over St. Louis
The Rams are an absolute mess, and now Sam Bradford may not be playing? And Tom Brandstater may get the start? At Qw…err, CLink? And I’m supposed to give this a second thought? This is Tarvaris Jackson’s dream, he’s not the worst quarterback on the field!

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 25-19-2

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 13

Current NFL Draft Order
2St. Louis2100.167.5561-90-4
10Tampa Bay480.333.5763-62-2
12Kansas City570.417.4653-62-2
15San Diego570.417.5214-52-3

The first tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).
After SOS, the next tie-breakers are conference record and division record. After that it comes down to a coin flip.
* designates two teams who would determine the higher pick between them via a coin flip.

Remaining Schedules:
Indianapolis: @BAL, TEN, HOU, @JAX
St. Louis: @SEA, CIN, @PIT, SF
Minnesota: @DET, NO, @WAS, CHI
Jacksonville: TB, @ATL, @TEN, IND
Washington: NE, @NYG, MIN, @PHI
Carolina: ATL, @HOU, TB, @NO
Cleveland: @PIT, @ARI, @BAL, PIT
Philadelphia: @MIA, NYJ, @DAL, WAS
Miami: PHI, @BUF, @NE, NYJ
Tampa Bay: @JAX, DAL, @CAR, @ATL
Arizona: SF, CLE, @CIN, SEA
Kansas City: @NYJ, GB, OAK, @DEN
Buffalo: @SD, MIA, DEN, @NE
Seattle: STL, @CHI, SF, @ARI
San Diego: BUF, BAL, @DET, @OAK

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 13

NFC Playoff Picture
1y-Green Bay12001.0004-010-0
2y-San Francisco1020.8333-08-1
3New Orleans930.7503-16-3
-New York Giants660.5001-23-6

y – division champion

Remaining Schedules:
Green Bay: OAK, @KC, CHI, DET
San Francisco: @ARI, PIT, @SEA, @STL
New Orleans: @TEN, @MIN, ATL, CAR
Dallas: NYG, @TB, PHI, @NYG
Chicago: @DEN, SEA, @GB, @MIN
Atlanta: @CAR, JAX, @NO, TB
Detroit: MIN, @OAK, SD, @GB
NY Giants: @DAL, WAS, @NYJ, DAL
Seattle: STL, @CHI, SF, @ARI
Arizona: SF, CLE, @CIN, SEA

Teams who have to like their odds:
1) Green Bay - not just to lock up the #1 seed, but to go undefeated if they want it
2) San Francisco - unless New Orleans wins out (and even if NO does sweep the last 4), the Harbaughs should earn themselves a bye
3) Detroit - As rouhg as the Lions have looked, they look golden next to the Falcons and Bears

Teams who look okay, but are worrying:
1) Dallas - That loss to Arizona really hurts, and essentially leaves the Cowboys with no room to slip up with 2 games against the Giants in the next 4 weeks.
2) Chicago - The Bears looked like a dangerous team no one wanted to play...until Caleb Hanie was handed the reins to the offense.

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 13

AFC Playoff Picture
1New England930.7503-17-2
-New York Jets750.5833-25-5
-Kansas City570.4172-23-6
-San Diego570.4172-34-5

Remaining Schedules:
New England: @WAS, @DEN, MIA, BUF
Baltimore: IND, @SD, CLE, @CIN
Houston: @CIN, CAR, @IND, TEN
Denver: CHI, NE, @BUF, KC
Pittsburgh: CLE, @SF, STL, @CLE
Cincinnati: HOU, @STL, ARI, BAL
Tennessee: NO, @IND, JAX, @HOU
Oakland: @GB, DET, @KC, SD
NY Jets: KC, @PHI, NYG, @MIA
Buffalo: @SD, MIA, DEN, @NE
Kansas City: @NYJ, GB, OAK, @DEN
San Diego: BUF, BAL, @DET, @OAK

Teams who have to like their odds:
1) New England - only Tebow stands in the way of the #1 overall seed in the AFC.
2) Houston - Unless Tennessee springs the upset against New Orleans, they have their first ever playoff berth all but wrapped up
3) Denver - Only the Patriots seem threatening, and 3-1 down the stretch will take the division

Teams who look okay, but are worrying:
1) Cincinnati - 5 teams sit at 7-5 for 2 spots (West winner, Wildcard #2). Cincy has Houston and Baltimore left, and 2-2 probably won't get it done.
2) Oakland - Only KC looks like a sure W right now, and that would leave them out in the cold.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How college football got it wrong...again

On Sunday, the BCS announced which two teams would play for the national title. They chose LSU (only undefeated team, won the SEC) and Alabama (one loss, it was to LSU, didn't win their conference, didn't win their division) over Oklahoma State (one loss, it was to 6-6 Iowa State, won their conference).

This was another bad decision in a loooooong line of bad decisions.

The BCS is extremely unpopular with college football fans all over the country. Fans want to see a playoff. Proponents of the BCS argue that a playoff would devalue the regular season, and the BCS should stay because that way, "Every game counts."

Well, the decision to put Alabama in the title game flies in the face of the mantra, "every game counts". Instead, it should say, "every loss counts". Because if you look at every game (all 12 of them), Oklahoma State should be going. It's only if you look at one single game for each team (the loss) that Alabama deserves the berth.

Here are the Top-25 teams Alabama played this season: #1 (LSU-loss), #6 (Arkansas-win), #22 (Penn State-win), #25 (Auburn-win)
Here are the Top-25 teams Oklahoma State played this season: #8 (Kansas State-win), #12 (Baylor-win), #14 (Oklahoma-win) #24 (Texas-win)

The perception is, "Alabama played in the SEC, so they must have had the toughest road,so they must be the most deserving 1-loss team." Actually, the Big-12 was tougher. Alabama might have had an argument if they had played #9 South Carolina and #16 Georgia, but they didn't play either one.

So who bares the blame for this decision? The pollsters and the BCS itself.
The pollsters had their chance to issue an end-of-regular season correction, as they did in 2006. That was the year Ohio State and Michigan played int he second-to-last week of the season when they were ranked #1 and #2. Ohio State won a thriller, and Michigan stayed at #2 after the loss. However, the following week, Florida won the SEC Championship over then BCS #9 Arkansas, and the pollsters decided to jump Florida over Michigan, avoiding a rematch in the BCS Championship game. In that case, the voters had another deserving option, and (rightly) chose the top conference champion to take on the undisputed #1 team, rather than let a team who didn't win its conference AND had already lost to the other title game participant take the other spot. This year, the pollsters had the same chance to make the same correction, and Oklahoma State also made a last-week statement by thrashing then-#10 Oklahoma 44-10 while Alabama was idle. This time the pollsters declined to make the move.

And the BCS? They should have fixed things after 2001. Back then, Nebraska was the consensus #2 until their last game of the regular season, when they lost to Colorado 62-36. And despite having 2 worthy conference winners (Colorado and Oregon) available to play #1 Miami, Nebraska got the other title game berth. At that point, the BCS should have enacted a rule requiring teams to win their conferences to play for the title game. But they didn't, and the system failed in 2005 (Oklahoma over USC) and again this year.

Well done, BCS, congratulations on another illegitimate title game matchup.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 13

One of the internet memes du jour is that of the honey badger. The sensation was born from a 2011 Youtube video entitled "The Crazy Nasty*** Honey Badger", and it centered around how the honey badger "don't care" as it fights jackals, bees, whatever to get what it wants, while a ridiculous voice named Randall narrates. It crossed over into the sports world thanks to LSU cornerback/punt returner Tyrann Mathieu, whose nickname is honey badger.

What does this have to do with the picks this week? Well, a big danger when picking NFL games is to not put too much importance on what you just saw. The NFL is such a week-to-week league, you have to be careful not to put too much weight on what happened last week when you look at the current week's slate. Just because something took you by surprise one week, doesn't make it a trend, and you shouldn't let that one week outweigh what you've learned about a team over the course of the whole season. Sometimes you need to adopt the "don't care" attitude and let last week wash away before you're ready to make your picks.

I didn't do this for my Thursday pick (Philly over Seattle), and it cost me. I let my consternation at Seattle blowing a 2-score 4th quarter lead at home to the Redskins in week 12 cloud my judgement, and I overlooked things like Philly had quit, they were making a cross country flight on 3 days, and Andy Reid is the ultimate honey badger. Andy don't care what the matchup dictates, or who his QB is, he's going to throw it 70% of the time and that's it.

Carolina (+3) over TAMPA BAY
Why this isn't a good idea: Carolina hasn't beaten anyone other than Indy in a month.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Josh Freeman is hurt. Tampa runs so hot and cold game-to-game there's no telling which team will show up, but with Josh Johnson at the helm, it's not going to be their best.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over Cincinnati
Why this isn't a good idea: You mean the Pittsburgh that scored 13 points against Kansas City last week? That Pittsburgh?
Why Honey Badger don't care: The Steelers knew they simply had to not hand Kansas City the game and they'd win, so why press things? It makes for ugly football, but it got them the win. They've played Cincy already and they know Andy Dalton isn't going to get rattled just from walking into Heinz Field (like Tyler Palko would). They'll be ready with something much closer to their A game. Pittsburgh has lost to Baltimore and Houston so far this season. That's it. They take care of business when they should win.

Atlanta (-2.5) over HOUSTON
Why this isn't a good idea: Houston hasn't lost in a month and a half.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Really? TJ Yates: Houston Quarterback isn't enough? I'm sure the Falcons defense won't get turnovers (like every other game), but they will hold down TJ Yates enough to win.

New York Jets (-3) over WASHINGTON
Why this isn't a good idea: The Redskins have looked surprisingly frisky these last 2 weeks since going back to Rex Grossman. And Mark Sanchez has looked awful for 3 weeks.
Why Honey Badger don't care: The Rex Cannon against the Jets secondary. He has 3 picks in those last 2 games against Dallas and Seattle.

NEW ENGLAND (-20.5) over Indianapolis
Why this isn't a good idea: It's a 20.5 point spread.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Here is Bill Belichick's chance to stick it to the Polians, who forced the illegal contact rule through after the Pats humiliated their receivers in 2003. They kept Belichick from a Super Bowl win in 2006 (what, the Bears would have beaten them? No.) And they're the franchise the Pats are compared to above all else. When Brady went down, Belichick led his team to an 11-5 season. When Manning went down? Carnage. And you think Belichick won't go for the throat here? He drinks your milkshake Jim Caldwell, he drinks it up!

MIAMI (-3) over Oakland
Why this is a bad idea: Oakland's 7-4 and coming off of a win over the Bears, Miami's 3-8.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Miami's last 6 games: 3 wins by 66 points, 3 losses by 7 points. That's total. Oakland needed 6 field goals to beat the Caleb Hanie-led Chicago Bears.

Denver (+1.5) over MINNESOTA
Why this is a bad idea: Christian Ponder is quietly looking pretty good for the Vikings.
Why Honey Badger don't care: TEBOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tennessee (+2) over BUFFALO
Why this is a bad idea: Buffalo looked legitimately frisky against the Jets D last week, they seem to have come out of their funk. Tennesee has gotten 1 game all year from CJ870.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Tennessee is limited, but more consistent than Buffalo. Also, Buffalo's D relies on turnovers to be decent. If Hasselbeck takes care of the ball and Chris Johnson gives them anything, Buffalo will struggle to get stops.

CHICAGO (-7) over Kansas City
Why this is a bad idea: To quote my wife last week, "Caleb Hanie doesn't look like a Chicago Bear, he looks like a San Diego Charger." That's not a compliment.
Why Honey Badger don't care: They're starting Tyler Palko against the Chicago defense. They're starting TYLER PALKO against the CHICAGO DEFENSE!!!!

Baltimore (-6.5) over CLEVELAND
Why this is a bad idea: Every time Baltimore has won a big, emotional game this season, they've had a terrible letdown loss the next week. Beat Pittsburgh, lose to Tennessee. Beat Houston, lose to Jacksonville. Beat Pittsburgh again, lose to Seattle. Last week they won the Harbaugh bowl.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Baltimore knows the stakes. They drop a winnable game in these last 5 weeks, Pittsburgh will steal the division. I'd make a joke about Colt McCoy here, but Blaine Gabbert's already beaten the Ravens this season.

Dallas (-4.5) over ARIZONA
Why this is a bad idea: Dallas doesn't win in Arizona, plus they're coming off of a 1 point win over Miami at home.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Beanie Wells isn't running for 200+ yards again, and Patrick Peterson isn't going to take one to the house this week. So how does John Skelton or Kevin Kolb provide enough offense for Arizona to win as D'Marco Murray runs the ball down their throat?

Green Bay (-6.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Why this is a bad idea: The Giants have mastered the "Just when you think they're out of it, they'll rip off an amazing win." Unfortunately, they've also mastered, "Just when you think they have it made, they'll lose a horrible game". No one's giving them a chance against Green Bay, so danger ahead!
Why Honey Badger don't care: It would be one thing if the New Orleans debacle was one game, but it's a 3-game losing streak, and the Giants have given no indication they can hang with a prolific offense, so hanging with Green Bay is out of the question.

SAN FRANCISCO (-13.5) over St. Louis
Why this is a bad idea: I can't give you a reason.
Why Honey Badger don't care: *Snort*

NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Detroit
Why this is a bad idea: Detroit has the offense to stay with New Orleans, so they could certainly make a game of this. And where Detroit's defense is most vulnerable (gashing runs up the middle), New Orleans isn't well equipped to beat them with it.
Why Honey Badger don't care: Suh is out and Stafford looks shaky with the broken finger. Brees in a breeze.

San Diego (-3) over JACKSONVILLE
Why this is a bad idea: The Philly rationale (if a team has given up, it doesn't matter how much talent they have), Norv Turner is involved.
Why Honey Badger don't care: How is Jacksonville going to score points?

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 15-13-2