Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 12

NFC Playoff Picture
1Green Bay11001.0004-09-0
2San Francisco920.8182-07-1
3New Orleans830.7273-15-3
-New York Giants650.5451-23-5

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

A slightly different story here. Green Bay's chances of going undefeated look pretty good a) if they go for it and b) if they get past the Giants. The same Giants team who just got obliterated by New Orleans? That's right, that team has a habit of showing up when you least expect it.

San Francisco has one tough game on the schedule, the rest of their games are against the rest of their dvision, and there isn't a threat in there.

New Orleans has games against Detroit and Atlanta, but the rets of their slate doesn't look too bad. Atlanta has games against Houston (with the 3rd stringer leading them), New Orleans, and the sometimes frisky Tampa Bay team. The week 16 game in New Orleans should decide things.

Chicago has Green Bay and Denver on their schedule, the rest of their games don't look too bad, but they have Caleb Hanie or Josh McCown leading them, which throws a monkey wrench into things. Detroit's got New Orleans, and Green Bay, but they play the Packers in week 17, and Green Bay should have everything wrapped up by then. Will they play hard (Patriots 2007) or take their foot off the gas (Indy 2009)?

The Giants may have to sweep their 2 games versus the Cowboys, because the rest of their schedule (Green Bay, Washington, and the Jets) is a murderer's row compared to what Dallas will face (Arizona, Tampa Bay, Philly).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 12

AFC Playoff Picture
2New England830.7273-16-2
-New York Jets650.5453-25-5

Remaining Schedules:
Houston: ATL, @CIN, CAR, @IND, TEN
New England: IND, @WAS, @DEN, MIA, BUF
Baltimore: @CLE, IND, @SD, CLE, @CIN
Oakland: @MIA, @GB, DET, @KC, SD
Pittsburgh: CIN, CLE, @SF, STL, @CLE
Cincinnati: @PIT, HOU, @STL, ARI, BAL
Denver: @MIN, CHI, NE, @BUF, KC
New York Jets: @WAS, KC, @PHI, NYG, @MIA
Tennessee: @BUF, NO, @IND, JAX, @HOU
Buffalo: TEN, @SD, MIA, DEN, @NE

There are a lot of easy schedules among the conference leaders. Houston may be starting a 3rd string quarterback (or Jake Delhomme) the rest of the way, but they should get 2 wins (Carolina and Indy), which means Tennessee would have to win all of their games to set up a week 17 showdown for the division.

New England doesn't have to worry about the division, their sights are firmly set on the #1 seed. And unless they fall victim to their Mile High curse, they could easily go 5-0 the rest of the way.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh each play Cleveland twice and Cincy once. Baltimore has two pushovers (Indy and San Diego) while Pittsburgh has one pushover (St. Louis), and one tough test (at San Francisco). As long as Baltimore takes care of business, they should finally get a home playoff game in the Harbaugh era.

Cincinnati has the toughest schedule of the current top-6, with Baltimore, Houston, and Pittsburgh on the schedule. Of all the teams chasing them, the Jets look like the biggest threat, schedule-wise.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Urban Meyer stressed out by family, retires from spending more time with them to coach Ohio State


Or, perhaps, his family got sick of him squeezing every last drop out of their family gatherings with his innovative ideas.

Whatever the case may be, I think two things are pretty clear:

1) Ohio State has landed on its feet less than a year after Tressel was forced out in disgrace. They secured a heck of a college football coach, and this has to indicate the sanctions that are coming won't be too bad (Lane Kiffin might have to suffer through some lean years to get a high profile job, Urban Meyer does not).

2) Meyer is going to be dogged by questions about his health and desire, and fairly so. That will all go away if/when he wins like he has at every other stop, but until that time, you better enjoy the ride, because it could end at any time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 12

Well this experiment did not go down in flames in week one, as I ended the week at .500. I can only hope that doesn't end up as my high-water mark. My history with March Madness, though, portends doom.

Home teams in CAPS

Houston (-6.5) over JACKSONVILLE
You see this game, and you immediately think about Matt Leinart. He's a party boy quarterback who doesn't treat his job with the respect it's due (allegedly, though Ken Whisenhunt sure believes it). Jacksonville's defense is legitimately good. They're at home. You have successfully talked yourself into the upset...and then you remember Blaine Gabbert is the other quarterback. And Wade Phillips has Houston's D playing well. It's not going to happen.

NY JETS (-9.5) Buffalo
The Jets are coming off of a terrible game against the Broncos, where Mark Sanchez handed the Broncos their only chance at staying in that game. However, the Bills are coming off of an atrocious month, including a 27-point loss to the Dolphins last week. This team is going down in flames, yet thanks to the most recent memory of Sanchez, the line isn't double digits. Thanks Mark!

CINCINNATI (-7) Cleveland
A real defense versus Colt McCoy? Yes please. I'd take two if I could. Can I? Please?

ATLANTA (-9.5) Minnesota
Like I said in the Thanksgiving pick post, going with the chalk too often makes me uneasy. If it were that simple, the betters would have the huge houses and millions, instead of the bookies. But this game features a team who desperately needs it to keep pace, and another team with a rookie QB and without it's best player. If Peterson were healthy, Minnesota has looked surprisingly frisky with Ponder under center. Without him, I just don't see it.

Arizona (+2.5) over ST. LOUIS
As of this post, Kevin Kolb hasn't been declared fit to play. I'm not sure it matters. The Rams are down to their 5th and 6th cornerbacks. John Skelton is perfectly capable of chucking the ball up to Larry Fitzgerald, and it's going to be hard for the Rams to stop it all game long. On the other side of the ball, the Rams will likely be missing both tackles, which doesn't do Steven Jackson any favors (kind of like his entire career).

Carolina (-3.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
After this weekend, Indy plays at New England, at Baltimore, home against Tennessee and Houston, and finally at Jacksonville. This is probably their best shot at a win, at best they have one more shot afterwards. So, it really comes down to how beaten down Carolina and Cam Newton are. It says here that they're not too beaten down to beat on a team that's as hapless as Indy.

Tampa Bay (+3) over TENNESSEE
I have no idea what to make of Tampa Bay. They beat New Orleans, they get throttled by San Francisco. They have young talent, they stayed close-ish with Green Bay, but they seem to take two steps back after every step forward. Then again, their running back is actually trying (type 'LeGarrett Blount' into youtube if you don't believe me).

OAKLAND (-4) over Chicago
Caleb Hanie on the road? Only getting 4 points? No thanks.

SEATTLE (-3.5) over Washington
The Rex Cannon against the 12th man, after Seattle's run defense has put the clamps on his running game? Nah. Better question, what running back will Mike Shanahan inexplicably sit on his bench, simply to score another win over his sworn enemies, the fantasy football owners of America?

Denver (+6) over SAN DIEGO
So, if kneeling down as if in prayer in random places is "Tebowing", is throwing a ball at said person, but having it sail 15 yards past him and hitting a poor old lady instead, be considered "Riversing"?

New England (-3.5) over PHILADELPHIA
The Patriots pass defense can barely stop anyone. They stopped Tyler Palko though, and they'll contain Vince Young.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) over KANSAS CITY
I take back what I said about having 2 helpings of the Bengals over McCoy. In the spirit of large Thanksgiving meals, I'll take six helpings of Pittsburgh's defense against Tyler Palko instead. New England held Palko to 3 points. That means Pittsburgh should hold him to -23 points.

New York Giants (+7) over NEW ORLEANS
Can't give a good reason for this one, just that, as soon as you think the Giants are done and buried, they emerge with a vengeance. Of course, once you think they have it made, they fall flat on their faces. They're coming off of 2 losses (including one to Vince Young), and few people will believe in them in New Orleans, so watch them win.

Last week: 6-6-2
This week: 2-1

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 11

Current NFL Draft Order
3St. Louis280.200.5401-70-2
9Kansas City460.400.4303-52-2
12San Diego*460.400.5303-42-2

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.
* designates two teams who would determine the higher pick between them via a coin flip.

Well, nothing's changed at the top of this list. Indy is still terrible. What is interesting is what's happened directly behind Indy.

For a long time, Miami was directly behind (or even with) the Colts, and Miami desperately needs a quarterback (sorry Matt Moore, but even you know it's true). But now, the next three teams are Carolina, St. Louis, and Minnesota, all of whom took a quarterback in the top half of the first round in 2010 or 2011. So perhaps this should be renamed the Matt Barkley/Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, as with these 3 teams in slots 2-4, anyone has a shot at them.

Next week we'll take a look at schedules and start assessing who's likely to end up where. In the meantime, I hope your Thanksgivings were everything you hoped they would be, and enjoy this Ravens-49ers defensive struggle as a second dessert.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 12 (Thanksgiving Edition)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are able to share Thanksgiving with family and friends, and that you have plenty in your lives to be thankful for.

Home teams in CAPS

Green Bay (-6.5) over DETROIT:
Detroit has been pretty hot at home, only the 49ers have emerged from Ford Field victorious this season. And Detroit matches up well with the Packers, as they are vulnerable to the run in order to wreak havoc on their opponent's passing game. Green Bay doesn't run, so that shouldn't hurt them. Green Bay will race out early, but even if Detroit can't keep up initially, they've already come back from 3 separate 17+ point 2nd half deficits. However, unless I'm given a good reason to, I can't go against Aaron Rodgers the way he is playing right now. It may look a lot like the opening night game against New Orleans, but that was good enough.

DALLAS (-7) over Miami:
For all the good Matt Moore has done these last 3 weeks, the Dolphins have given him good support in averaging over 101 yards rushing per game during their 3 game winning streak. They won't get there against Dallas, and Moore is not winning this game by himself. If he has to, you'll see why he lost his job to Jimmy Clausen last season.

BALTIMORE (-3) over San Francisco:
Honestly, I hate going with the chalk in all 3 of these games, because there's always one where something weird happens and the game ends up closer than it has any right to be. I was going to say Miami kept things tight, but I couldn't take Matt Moore against a decent defense on the road. That leaves Baltimore, and I could see San Francisco not letting Alex Smith do much of anything, keep the game close with their defense, and hope Smith outduels Flacco down the stretch. But this will be an emotional game, and the Ravens tend to get up for the emotional games.

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 11

NFC Playoff Picture
1Green Bay10001.0003-08-0
2San Francisco910.9002-07-1
3New Orleans730.7003-14-3
-New York Giants640.6001-23-4
-Tampa Bay460.4002-13-5

Last week Houston, coming off of a win, took over the top seed in the AFC, and promptly lost Matt Schaub for the season, leaving their season in the hands of Matt Leinart. This week, Chicago comes off of a good win over the Chargers to keep pace with the Lions...and lose Jay Cutler for probably the rest of the regular season, leaving their season in the hands of Caleb Hanie or Josh McCown. Yeesh.

If not for Cutler's injury, I'd say the wild card race is down to 3 teams: Detroit, Chicago, and Atlanta. But with Chicago unlikely to keep their same pace up, the 2nd place NFC East team might have a chance at a wild card berth. Those teams are going to clobber each other though, bringing down the records of all involved.

Key Games this week:
Green Bay at Detroit - Who knew this Thanksgiving Day game was allowed to mean something? A Green Bay win here essentially clinches the division for them, but thanks to San Francisco, there will still be pressure on Green Bay to keep winning for HFA purposes.
New York Giants at New Orleans - The Giants need to keep pace with Dallas, while New Orleans wants to stay ahead of Atlanta. Plus, this could be a huge tiebreaker boost for the winner if both of these teams end up fighting for wild card positions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 11

AFC Playoff Picture
3New England730.7003-16-2
-New York Jets550.5002-24-5
-San Diego460.4002-23-4
-Kansas City460.4002-23-5

Baltimore comes through with a big win over the Bengals, and with that takes control of the AFC for now.

Tennessee's loss to Atlanta gives Matt Leinart a 2-game cushion for the division, even if Leinart has learned nothing since being banished from Arizona, Houston's not losing that cushion.

I still like New England's chances to end up with the #1 overall seed. At their best, they're maybe 3rd best in the conference, but their lapses aren't as bad as those of Baltimore.

The AFC West will be interesting, 2 teams set to duke it out, and neither of them is San Diego? Even with Norv Turner as the coach, that's still surprising.

The Wild Card looks like it's down to 3 teams: the 2 in the AFC North that don't win the division, and the Jets. Sure the Bills and Titans are a game out as well, but neither has given any indication they can run with the big boys in the last month. And the reason I include the Jets is Cincy still has games against Pittsburgh, Houston, and Baltimore left.

Key Games this week:
Buffalo at New York Jets - With Cincinnati playing Cleveland this week, odds are the loser of this game drops 2 games back of the final AFC playoff spot. Both teams are coming off of very down weeks, but Buffalo is stuck in a month-long funk at this point.
Denver at San Diego - The magic and good feelings of Tebow go up against the mess that is Phillip Rivers. A San Diego win could keep the AFC West race a tight mess. A San Diego loss could put them on the precipice, as they's be at least 2 back of both Denver and Oakland, fall to 2-3 in the division, and 3-5 in the conference.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City - Tyler Palko managed 3 whole points against the worst pass defense in the league. Now he gets Pittsburgh. And guess what, it's in prime time again (this time Sunday night). Hooray for terrible blowouts!.

NFL, Week 11

It was a busy weekend, so I was able to watch even less of the NFL than has become the norm in this new baby-filled frontier. So here are some quick hits:

- While Thursday's game will certainly add to the legend of Tebow, my biggest takeaway was how terribly Mark Sanchez played, and how little he needed to do for the Jets to win that game, and he still couldn't do it. Sanchez has made a habit of defying expectations (be those high or low ones), so we'll see how he bounces back from this low point.

- Oklahoma State sent the college football world into chaos thanks to their inexplicable loss to Iowa State (they of the 6-4 overall record). This loss put us one step closer to a thoroughly unappealing rematch option of LSU-Alabama. Luckily, both Oregon and Oklahoma had a chance to a) keep us from having to watch those two atrocious offenses go up against NFL-quality defenses again, and b) keep us from having a team who not only didn't even win their conference, they wouldn't even get the chance to play for their conference title, play in the national title game.

Unluckily, both failed. At this point, I don't see a way for us to avoid an SEC-West rematch for the national title.

- Granted they don't have to be great, but Green Bay's defense giving up 26 points to maddeningly inconsistent Tampa Bay (including LeGarrett Blount's Beast Mode impersonation) is a huge concern going forward.

- So Detroit's offense is capable of coming back from almost any deficit, and Green Bay's defense has been less than impressive all season. How big of a lead do the Packers need to get for me to feel safe turning off the TV at halftime. 50 points?

- Buyer's remorse much, Buffalo? Ryan Fitzpatrick seems like a good guy from afar, so maybe this will work out, but the immediate returns have been terrible. 0 touchdowns against Miami?

- Is it just me, or does Dan Patrick narrate a highlight of Redskins kicker Graham Gano missing a high leverage field goal every other week on Sunday Night Football's pregame show? Maybe an upgrade is in order?

- In the last 13 games between the two teams, Seattle has beaten St. Louis 12 times. The lone exception? Last year in St. Louis, also known as the only one of these 13 games that I attended. Screw you St. Louis, I'm glad you're a total train-wreck.

- I'd make a comment about the Chicago-San Diego game, but my friend Steveo summarized that game perfectly: "Is Phillip Rivers trying to get Norv Turner fired?" I'll let you guess which Rivers throw prompted this question.

- Of course, if that were the case, could you blame Rivers?

- Andy Reid finally allowed the Eagles to run almost as much as they threw the ball on Sunday, and somehow Philly beat the Giants behind Vince Young. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the two are related.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NFL Picks, Week 11

When I was little, I’d always read the NFL picks column in the Boston Globe. I’m not sure why I attached any importance to these columns, but I’d usually get bent out of shape when I saw them picking against the Seahawks (not only were they never that great while I was growing up, they were awful against the spread). As I got older and the internet began cannibalizing newspapers, I’d get my NFL picks reading fix from Bill Simmons on Finally, I figured, why not give it a shot? So, in the 11th week of the 2011 NFL season, I begin my quest to not totally embarrass myself.

Home teams in CAPS:

GREEN BAY (-14) over Tampa Bay
Aaron Rodgers is putting up 30 points in his sleep. Tampa Bay really hasn’t ever gotten going this season. Their first New Orleans game was a big win for them, but last year’s team was 10-6 and just missed the playoffs. This year’s team is running in place. In my fantasy draft, my wife picked Joe Flacco as her QB. I immediately made faces, having had Flacco as my fantasy QB the previous season (and weathered the trip between decent and terrible week-to-week). I advised her to get a second QB quickly. That was good advice. I then tossed out Josh Freeman’s name. Not such a good call. It’s like double Flacco. No one likes double Flacco, even Mrs. Flacco.

Carolina (+7) over DETROIT
I don’t think Detroit is a fraud, but I’m worried about how they’ve stumbled after their 5-0 start. Stafford has a broken finger, and was horribly inaccurate against the Bears. Unfortunately, Detroit can’t run the ball at all, so it’s all on Stafford. Also a problem, Detroit has trouble with teams who run the ball at them a bunch, and I can’t imagine Carolina not trying that with Williams and Stewart. I think Carolina keeps it close, and adds a late score to cover, but not threaten the Lions.

Jacksonville (+1) over CLEVELAND
I watched more of the Seattle-Cleveland debacle than was healthy for me. Cleveland is a terrible team. Seattle was worse that day, but if they could have run the ball at all, they would have won. All Jacksonville can do is run and play defense. There’s no danger of Cleveland running out to a big lead and forcing Gabbert to play catch-up, and if allowed to play their conservative game plan, Jacksonville actually does that pretty well. The only sure thing, you don’t want to watch this game. Even looking at the play-by-play may be hazardous to your health.

Oakland (PK) over Minnesota
I’m not really sure I want to buy into the Carson Palmer experience, but Oakland cannot afford to lose this game, given the schedule they have coming up. Thus year, when Oakland’s needed a win, they’ve usually gotten it.

Buffalo (+2) over MIAMI
Yes, Miami has shown admirable guts these last two weeks (are you watching, Indy?), but this is a terrible matchup for them. Buffalo is reeling after starting 4-1, but Miami is very vulnerable to Buffalo’s spread-em out and chuck it game. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick can shake off the rough patch and not have a 3-4 INT game, Buffalo will stay relevant for at least another week.

Dallas (-7) WASHINGTON
Since it’s a home game, the Redskins should hold the following promotion at halftime: Mike Shanahan has to stand at midfield, and a Washington quarterback gets to stand 15 yards away and attempt to hit him with a football. However, Shanahan gets to decide which QB gets to attempt the throw, and then the other quarterback gets to start for the rest of the season. Would Shanahan choose the Sex Cannon, where he’s have a 75% chance of blacking out from the pain and a 25% chance of getting away scott-free, or would he choose Beck, where he’d have a 95% chance of getting hit, and a 15% chance of actually feeling the hit? That pretty much sums up Washington’s season.

Cincinnati (+7) over BALTIMORE
Oh boy, that’s a tough line. Good Baltimore would make mincemeat of a rookie quarterback, and Good Flacco would put up a 250 yard, 1-2 TD day against a Cincinnati defense keying on Ray Rice. Bad Baltimore wouldn’t let Rice get more than 15 touches, and instead let Flacco sling it 45 times, completing maybe 25 of those. Good Baltimore wins by 17. Bad Baltimore probably loses this one. Given Cincinatti’s hex over Baltimore the last 2 seasons (3-1), I’m guessing bad Baltimore shows up again, and CIncy wins outright.

BYE (-12) over Indianapolis
I know, I know, this line is way too low.

SAN FRANCISCO (-9.5) over Arizona
A team that can’t run versus a rush defense that has allowed 0 rushing touchdowns on the season. Oh yeah, and John Skelton will be quarterbacking the Cardinals too. Larry Fitzgerald will get his catches, but it won’t be nearly enough.

Seattle (+3) over ST. LOUIS
The last time the Seahawks had an impressive victory, they followed it up with the ugly 6-3 loss in Cleveland. I just don’t see an encore here (and I’m a terrific pessimist when it comes to the Seahawks). Seattle can’t defend the pass, but St. Louis can’t throw it. St. Louis has Steven Jackson, but Seattle has a very good run defense. Seattle can’t throw either, but the Rams might actually be worse at defending the pass than the Seahawks. It won’t be pretty, but Seattle will come out of this one with a win thanks to Marshawn Lynch. Beastquake!

ATLANTA (-6) over Tennessee
I trust Atlanta’s offense over Tennessee’s with Chris Johnson stuck in neutral and Matt Hasselbeck having no one to throw to.

CHICAGO (-3.5) over San Diego
Yes, Chicago has looked outstanding the last two weeks. I’m a little concerned that some of that is who they were playing: Philly is clearly not who we thought they were, and Detroit isn’t as good as their 5-0 start would have you believe. Not to say Chicago’s D isn’t good, but they may not be world-beaters. In the past few seasons, that distinction might have mattered, as back then San Diego was a truly good offense. They would have given up 3 touchdowns to Devin Hester, but their offense would have put up points. This year? Well, they won’t give up more than 1 touchdown to Hester. And they won’t fare much better than Philly or Detroit against this defense.

Philadelphia (+6) over NY GIANTS
Philadelphia needs to go 7-0 to make the playoffs. I don’t think they get there, but I do think they come out fighting with their backs against the wall. That’s enough this week. I’m assuming Vick plays, but like I said, Philly must win this game, plus their next 6. Vince Young isn’t getting that done.

NEW ENGLAND (-15) over Kansas City
Two words: Tyler Palko. I don’t care how bad the Patriots pass defense is, they can contain Tyler Palko.

This week: 0-1

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 10

Current NFL Draft Order
4St. Louis270.222.549.526

For those of you who don't know, the tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).

And with the first pick in the 2012 draft, the Indianapolis Colts select...I'm going with Andrew Luck. Peyton Manning could throw a wrench into the works and attempt to push the Colts to trade the Luck pick for a package of picks and maybe a couple players, but if I'm the Colts, I'm not willing to hitch my wagon to Manning considering his age and the fact that he's coming off of a serious neck injury. I don't see them passing on Luck.

After them, Miami is taking the best of the rest of the QBs. Their fans will riot if they don't (and they should).

But then? Carolina (just took Newton #1 overall) won't. St. Louis (took Bradford #1 overall in '09) won't. Minnesota (Ponder #12 overall in '10) won't. Arizona (just paid Kevin Kolb a LOT of money) probably won't. Yes paying Kolb looks like a terrible decision right now, but without a shot at Luck, I don't see them going QB.

Washington will absolutely grab a quarterback. Cleveland probably will. I don't see noted QB guru Mike Holmgren going into another season with Colt McCoy as his only option. That leaves Seattle out in the cold in this scenario, as they would be picking without Luck, Barkley, Jones, and Griffin III on the board. For a team that a) desperately needs a quarterback and b) spent this past offseason trying to shore up every other position in preparation for grabbing their quarterback in this draft, that's not a good scenario.

Luckily for the Seahawks, there are 6 games left, so things could shake out very differently by the end of the season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 10

NFC Playoff Picture
1Green Bay9001.0003-07-0
2San Francisco810.8891-06-1
3New Orleans Saints730.7003-14-3
4New York Giants630.6671-13-3
-Tampa Bay450.4442-13-4

The NFC has to be worried that the Packers defense showed up on Monday night. If the Pack have even a competent defense, everyone else is in trouble. The 49ers are for real too. Their defense is legit (no rushing touchdowns allowed this season).

The Saints are a force, but they look like a poor man's Green Bay from where I'm sitting. They can knock off most anyone else in the NFC though.

But the team to fear right now is Chicago. If their defense is as good as they've looked these last 2 weeks, look out. They might be the one team who can stop the Packers.

Key Games this week:
Tampa Bay at Green Bay - Maybe last year's Tampa team could have challenged Green Bay, but this team is way too inconsistent. Josh Freeman has not taken that extra leap forward in year 3.
Philadelphia at New York Giants - Okay, I'm stretching on this one, as Philly isn't in the playoff picture at the present moment. But I think 10-6 will get a wild card spot in the NFC, but that would require Philly to win out. Given their performance to date, there is no reason to expect that sort of consistency out of them, but if we're going to see it, it will have to start this Sunday night. The Giants have other things to worry about, namely keeping up with the other division leaders, and Dallas, only a game behind them in the East.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 10

AFC Playoff Picture
3New England630.6673-15-2
-New York Jets540.5562-24-4
-San Diego450.4442-23-4
-Kansas City450.4442-23-4

Houston has never made the playoffs in their existence (2002). Today they sit in the top spot in the AFC, and they have done it predominantly without their best offensive (Andre Johnson) or defensive (Mario Williams - on IR) players. However, they also just lost their quarterback, Matt Schaub, and now their season rests on the shoulders of one Matt Leinart. The same Matt Leinart who so completely lost the faith of his head coach in Arizona, that said head coach went into a season with Max Hall, John Skelton, and Derek Anderson at quarterback, rather than carry Mr. Leinart. I don't see Houston losing the division (only Tennesee's within striking distance, and 2 games back with 6 to play is tough), but there's no way Leinart leads them to a bye. Not with the Patriots and the AFC North teams all looming.

Who has the best odds of nabbing that #1 seed? Would you believe the Patriots? Here are the quarterbacks they very well could face through the end of the regular season: Tyler Palko, Vince Young (if Mike Vick's broken ribs don't heal enough in 1.5 weeks), Curtis Painter/Dan Orlovsky (it doesn't matter), Rex Grossman/John Beck, Tim Tebow (singularly ill-equipped to take advantage of what the Patriots defense cannot do well), Matt Moore, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. At best, there are 2 real quarterbacks on their schedule, and who knows what state Buffalo will be in come week 17.

A year after the Seahawks won their division with a 7-9 record, could history repeat itself a year later? In the AFC West, it's possible. Kansas City is done, given that they will start Tyler Palko in their final 6 games. One would think Denver will eventually fall off as teams get more and more tape on the wishTebowne offense. San Diego is a mess (whither Phillip Rivers), and that leaves Oakland, and the random Carson Palmer drive generator. I think Oakland gets at least to .500 (they have games against Minnesota, Miami, and Kansas City left), but I also believe their week 17 game with San Diego will decide this division.

Key Games this week:
NY Jets at Denver - The Jets haven't been stout against the run this season, and on a short week it will be hard to have them ready for the wishTebowne offense.
Cincinnati at Baltimore - Cincy has had Baltimore's number the past 2 seasons. It really depends on which Baltimore, and more specifically, which Joe Flacco shows up.
Kansas City at New England - Tyler Palko is starting. I don't care how bad New England's pass defense is, this game will be over by halftime.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NFL, Week 10

Thoughts on week 10 as I (hopefully) oversee a fantasy football victory over my wife:

- Kansas City, you have been Tebowed. And this was a complete Tebowing, unlike the previous couple of wins. Two completions. For the entire game! And not only did the Broncos win, they never trailed in the game. I know the single wing offense is unusual in the NFL, especially today's NFL, where passing is king, but if there's absolutely no threat of the pass consistently beating you, how can you let a team beat you like this?

- Maybe Mike Vick did break 2 ribs a couple of plays into the game on Sunday. And yes, he was without his top 2 wideouts for most of the game. But that is still no excuse for being outplayed by Fordham's own John Skelton. On its surface, the fact that Philly fans are always calling for the head of their coach, Andy Reid is easy to dismiss (after all, they are Philly fans, who hate everyone). Reid has had much success (aside from a Super Bowl title), but a) his clock management skills are non-existnet, and b) he refuses to use his running backs, even when they're very talented. LeSean McCoy has scored a touchdown in 8 straight games, he touched the ball 17 times in the game. Considering how badly Vick played, this is criminal underuse of one of his top assets. But perhaps his biggest sin this season, taking his OL coach and making him his defensive coordinator. Perhaps a real DC would have covered Larry Fitzgerald with one of his top CBs, and not a rookie safety on a critical play in the 4th quarter.

- And in week 10, the Indianapolis Colts officially were eliminated from the AFC South divisional race. How many times a game do you think Peyton Manning makes the Peyton Manning face while watching the current squad flail about helplessly?

- The biggest story of the day had to be Atlanta coach Mike Smith going for it on 4th and inches from his own 30 in overtime against the Saints. They ran a handoff to Michael Turner who lost yardage on the play and New Orelans kicked the winning field goal a few plays later.

First off, comparing this to Belichick's 4th and 2-gate a few years back isn't a good comparison. In that case, the Patriots win the game if they make it. In this case, making it would have left the Falcons 35-40 yards from a field goal attempt. Not the same thing.

My problem with this call is less about the call to go for it and more the play call. On a regular hand-off play, the hand-off typically occurs 5-7 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That means you're requiring the back to cover 5-7 yards to convert 4th and inches. If you want to go for this, why not sneak it? The more variables you add into these plays, the more things can go wrong. A QB sneak minimizes the potential for errors on the play. If you don't think you can pick it up on a sneak (maybe your QB is a wuss, or you don't trust your OLine to get the needed push, or you're scared of your QB getting hurt) then punt it. Either that, or go play action and try to get a big play out of the defense selling out on stopping the run. But a straight hand-off going for the middle of the field? Unimaginative and very risky for very little payoff. All in all, bad decision Mike Smith.

- I've often wondered why so many coaches try to keep their players on an even keel and keep them from getting too emotional. Sure it keeps things more consistent, but tapping into that emotion should allow players to reach heights they otherwise wouldn't. Well, the Baltimore Ravens are a perfect example of why not to feed off of emotion as a rule. Sometimes it works in the big matchups. But more often, it either leads to mistakes in big moments, or the team is totally flat when they can't get keyed up for the game. Baltimore didn't feel challenged by the Seahawks (and they shouldn't have been, the Seahawks are not good), and they ended the day -3 in turnovers, allowed Marshawn Lynch to get 100+ yards on the ground, and lost to Seattle 22-17. Consider, this team has swept Pittsburgh and beaten 7-3 Houston. They've also lost to Jacksonville and Seattle.

- The shine is officially off of Buffalo. There's no shame in losing to Dallas, but 44-7? Yikes.

- Finally, the Jets came up terribly short in their measuring stick game against the Patriots. New England has a terrible defense. Their mantra is to give up yards and hold the other team to field goals and let their offense outscore the other team. In losing to Pittsburgh and the Giants, they ran into teams that could throw it all over the field and attack New England's biggest weakness: pass defense, and do so in a way to limit Tom Brady's chances on offense. The Jets can't control the ball throwing it 40+ times a game. Mark Sanchez isn't that player (he was way overdrafted at 5 overall). When they fell behind by 14 in the second half, they were done. They're not going to come back against good teams with their "Ground 'n Pound" offense. In order to win like that, their defense has to be outstanding. Like 2000 Ravens outstanding. Or 2011 Packers offense outstanding. Short of that, it's not going to work. For the record, this is the problem the 2010-11 Patriots run into, only reversed).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Suck for Luck Picture, Week 9

Current NFL Draft Order
3St. Louis170.125.585.667

For those of you who don't know, the tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule (lower SOS gets the higher pick in round 1).

Miami plays Washington this week, a team that is absolutely reeling. If the Dolphins win that game, then I don't see any way Indianapolis doesn't get the Luck pick, because St. Louis has too many games against the NFC West to not win at least one more.

When you leave your season in the hands of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, you can't really be surprised with any level of futility, even historic ones. But really, this season goes to show one thing above all: Bill Polian (respected NFL front office exec) has butchered this team, and only Peyton Manning was able to hide the many flaws. That Manning would be the difference between a 10-win season and a 4 win season. But 0 wins?

Incidentally, with all the talk about Manning wanting to come back and play this season, Indy could become the first team in NFL history to give up on both a perfect season (2 years ago, when they brought in Curtis Painter in the second half of game 15 against the Jets) and a winless one (if they allow Manning to play in December, they'll win at least one).

It doesn't affect draft position, but the Cardinals and the Browns are even worse than they look on paper, their strengths of victory are atrocious. As a Seahawks fan, that's quite embarrassing, given the Seahawks are 1/3 of that awful SOV for the Browns, having lost to them 6-3. The game was even worse to watch than you think. Believe me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pitiful State University

It's not enough.

The AD has been forced out. The VP has been forced out. The president is being given the ultimatum (resign or be terminated) and will be gone shortly. All three failed as human beings, and as part of the education system when they failed to inform the authorities back in 2002 about Sandusky. All three deserve to be terminated for their failures.

Joe Paterno has agreed to retire effective at the end of the season.

That's. Not. Good. Enough.

Paterno hasn't held onto his head coaching duties for 46 years by not asserting control over the entire program. If you ask someone who knows PSU athletics, they'll tell you nothing happens there without Paterno's knowledge and blessing. That makes him all the more culpable in his failure to report Sandusky when his graduate assistant told him what he saw Sandusky doing in PSU's facilities. Paterno chose his kingdom over an innocent child.

And by doing so, he chose his kingdom over many more innocent children - all of the ones Sandusky has abused since 2002. Their ruined childhoods, their innocence, their abilities to lead normal lives. All of these PSU power brokers have that on their hands.

There are many bad things Paterno could have covered up where you could see both sides of the coin. Where he would still be wrong, but one could understand his thought process. In those cases, letting him finish out the season and then stumble off into the sunset would be fine. But this is about children. Protecting children. From monsters. Paterno has kids. He has grandkids. And he has spent his whole life around young adults trying to help mold them into men. That makes his silence and circling of the wagons all the more unforgivable. Whether they can touch him legally or not is irrelevant. Paterno failed morally. He failed as a human being.

By not terminating Paterno immeidately, the school is continuing to circle the wagons. To think about their turf, their empire, over the victims of this horrible situation. They're thinking of BCS bowl berths, and the program, over innocents who fell victim to a true monster. By letting Paterno ride off into the sunset, career NCAA victory record in hand, they're giving him his golden parachute. He doesn't deserve that. Every day PSU lets him continue dictating the terms is another day of failing their students, their alumni, their neighbors.

Take a stand, Penn State. Clean house. Focus on healing those who were wronged. Worry not about yourselves, but be an example of doing what is right, even at cost to yourself.

Give Joe Paterno the same choice you gave your president. Resign, Joe, or be fired.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NFC Playoff Picture, Week 9

NFC Playoff Picture
1Green Bay8001.0002-06-0
2San Francisco710.8751-05-1
3New York Giants620.7501-13-2
4New Orleans630.6672-13-3
-Tampa Bay440.5002-13-4

Lots of teams look like powerhouses when you take a look at the NFC Playoff Picture, but look a little closer, and cracks start to appear.

Green Bay has no defense. San Francisco still starts Alex Smith at quarterback (though their ability to go to the eastern time zone and get wins is impressive). The Giants are still maddeningly inconsistent (they lost to Seattle at home, yeah, that Seattle team, starting Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback). New Orleans lost to the Rams. Detroit can't run or stop the run (less important than anyone over 50 would have you believe, but they are really bad at both. And Chicago's OLine is (cue Charles Barkley) TURRRRR-IBLE, just TURRRR-IBLE.

When any of these teams are on, they look legitimately unbeatable. But each has an obvious weakness that could easily trip them up in the single game elimination that is the NFL playoffs.

If you're looking for the next Green Bay (the 2010 version, the one that is flirting with missing the postseason altogether but no one wants to see them make it), right now I'd look hard at Atlanta. Julio Jones is finally making everyone look at that draft day trade a little more closely, and the offense is finding its rhythm. It won't be anything like the Green Bay offense when it gets untracked, but unlike last year, where Atlanta was simply consistent, and wore down teams on their way to the #1 seed, this year they look capable of playing B+/A- ball, instead of solid B ball. Not as well equipped for the 16 game season, but better able to ride a hot streak through the postseason.

Key games this week:
New Orleans at Atlanta - Which Saints team shows up? The one that lost to Tampa and the Rams? Or the one that ran up 40+ on Houston and 60+ on the Whiteflags...err, the Colts. If Atlanta can get out to a lead off the bat, they will give the Saints serious problems with their running game and ability to keep the defense honest through the air.
New York Giants at San Francisco - This smells like a classic Giants letdown game. They just had a huge comeback win over the Patriots, and they have to be feeling pretty good about themselves. That's usually the time when they get complacent and submit a stinker. Two things may save them: 1) It's an away game (they seem less likely to take a game for granted away from home, and 2) The 49ers are 7-1, which should get the G-men's attention.
Detroit at Chicago - No idea what to make of this game. Detroit was riding high the last time these two teams played. In the midst of their undefeated start and first Motown MNF game in 26 years (give or take, I don't feel like looking it up). Now they're still 6-2, but the momentum is gone. The Bears are riding the wave now. Either Detroit has patched the holes in its run defense, or I see the Bears winning easy, and some shreds of panic starting to creep into the minds of the Detroit faithful.

AFC Playoff Picture, Week 9

AFC Playoff Picture
3New England530.6252-14-2
4Kansas City440.5002-13-3
-New York Jets530.6252-14-3
-San Diego440.5002-13-3

Okay, so what do we have here? If the season ended today, Cincinnati and Houston would have first round byes in the AFC. I'm going to be honest, I'm buying up all the Houston stock I can get. They have navigated an almost 6-game stretch without top receiver Andre Johnson and won 4 of those games (including a win over the Steelers). And their defense is no longer a complete joke. Say what you will about Wade Phillips as a head coach (and I have), but the man is a legit defensive coordinator.

Cincy, I'm not too sure about. I'd feel better about them if they had played Pittsburgh or Baltimore once at this point. But they haven't. And they have a rookie quarterback. He's doing a heck of a job, but he's still a rookie. Their defense is also legit, but I'm concerned that their offense will stall as their schedule gets tricky.

The AFC East is very interesting, with 3 teams at 5-3. New England desperately needs to pull out of their funk and soon, because if they drop this week's game to the Jets, the tiebreakers are going to start going against the men of Belichick.

For all the accolades Baltimore is getting for sweeping the Steelers, they're only a half game ahead of them right now. That's what losing to Jacksonville and Tennessee will do to you. On the plus side, they have quite a few H2H tiebreakers (Pittsburgh, Houston, Jets) should it come to that.

And congratulations, AFC West, your division leader just handed Miami its first win in a 31-3 disaster.

Key games this week:
Oakland at San Diego (Thurs) - Oakland can ill-afford another division loss. San Diego can ill-afford to have Philip Rivers continue playing like Ryan Leaf.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - A win here, and we can all start taking the Bengals for real.
New England at New York Jets - Honestly, I think the Patriots need this one more. New England has distanced themselves from the pack the past couple of years by taking care of business outside of the division better than anyone else. But this year, they're faltering there, which means their usual cushion is gone. In a true divisional dogfight, I'm not sure the Pats are as well equipped to handle his as the Jets, even with New England's enormous advantage at the quarterback position.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NFL, Week 9

As much as I do love the NFL, it's hard keeping track of what's going on with a baby in the house. Rather than carve out a half or a full day for watching various football games, I'm instead paying half attention to one game a day (usually the Pats game), keeping tabs on the Seahawks game (until they fall apart and the game gets out of hand), and watching the first half of the Sunday/Monday night game before going to bed so I can be ready if the little guy wakes up at 5:00 AM the next morning. Is it a jarring difference from past years? Absolutely. Would I go back? Heck no. So I'm still going to give NFL commentary, but I simply won't get to cover nearly as many games as in the past.

Buffalo has to be hoping the clock hasn't struck midnight on their Ivy League quarterback sensation, especially since they just handed him a fat extension. The fact of the matter is Fitzpatrick is limited, and great defenses (which the Jets can be) are going to give him trouble. But if he puts up his numbers against the mediocre defenses, that might be good enough to get the Bills a playoff spot. And that would be enormous progress in Buffalo/Toronto.

You watch the Saints when they're on, and you wonder how the heck they aren't right up there record-wise with the Packers. Then you remember they lost to these Bucs a few weeks back, and lost to the Rams (!) last week.

Oops, Miami. That win is going to cost you. Indy isn't even putting up a fight anymore. Hope for your sake Barkley comes out too. If I'm Kansas City, I'm not showing my face until next weekend's game after that disaster.

Carson Palmer, you have been Tebowed. When the Raiders traded for him, do you think anyone bothered to watch any film from the past 2-3 seasons? Was this trade mandated in Al Davis' will? Because it's right in his wheelhouse from the past decade, and not in the wheelhouse of anything approaching a savvy front office executive.

Eli Manning is being hailed as an elite quarterback. Not to take away from his SBXLIII-like 4th quarter, but he's still the quarterback that was shut out by the Pats' defense in the first half. The Pats defense couldn't shut out Boston College for a half right now.

Aaron Rodgers is amazing, but Phillip Rivers looks off somehow out there. In recent years, you knew San Diego would let you down in the end, but Rivers would always, ALWAYS put up his numbers. Even when he was without Jackson, Gates, Floyd, whoever, it didn't matter. Rivers produced. This year? He's holding them back.

The Ravens may be ready for a seat at the big boys table. They have always found a way to lose when confronted with the possibility of true success. This year, Joe Flacco and mates stepped up when Pittsburgh made its run, and the result is a season sweep of their hated rivals. They still have plenty of work to do to finally get a home playoff game in the Harbaugh era, and I'd worry that they consider their work done too soon. There's half a season left, and they only have a 1.5 game lead over Pittsburgh, and are tied with Cincinnati.

And finally, the Rams got 2 safeties in a quarter against the Cardinals, but scored no touchdowns and lost on a 99-yard punt return in overtime. That game simpy defies rational explanation, and any reason to have watched it.