The Sports Page

Where I will show love for the Steelers, Pirates, Thundering Herd, & Mountaineers and utter contempt for the Cowboys, Yankees, Jeff Gordon, & Notre Dame.

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 4

I am so mad at myself. Sometimes something is so obviously staring one right in the face that we too easily look past it. Such was the case last week. There was a fantastic opportunity for me to go 5-0, which I think would have been the very first time in three years that has happened. I am far too lazy to research the archives in order to verify that fact. At any rate, instead I ended up going 3-2. Why?? Well, first of all, the Green Bay Packers only beat the NY Jets by 7 points. The spread was 8. That one wasn’t so much my fault as it was a Packers team who basically phoned it in and may have actually lost were it not for the inexplicable ineptitude of the Jets coaching staff. Then there was the major upset…the San Diego Chargers defeating the Seattle Seahawks. I should have seen it coming. There was no way the Seahawks were going to go undefeated. That just doesn’t happen. I am the guy who said in my NFL Preview that “Super Bowl Champions oftentimes slip a little the following season” while predicting a rather pedestrian 10-6 record for Seattle. At the same time I called the Chargers “sneaky good” and also predicted a 10-6 record as well as a playoff berth. The Seahawks had dismantled Green Bay in the opening game of the season while San Diego lost a heartbreaker to the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle-San Diego was a home game for the Chargers & a classic trap game for the Seahawks, and they fell into the trap. I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. The good news for me is that while I went 3-2 Zach went 1-4, which means our season thus far looks like this:

Me = 7-9
Zach = 7-8

********************

Iowa at Pitt (-6.5)
iowaI ranked Iowa 14th in my pre-season Top 25, but after a last second loss to in-state rival Iowa pittSt. they have some work to do if they’re going to fulfill that prophecy. Meanwhile, the hated Pitt Panthers have gotten off to a solid 3-0 start, including a victory at Boston College. Heinz Field isn’t much of a home advantage for the Panthers since there are usually only a few dozen people there on Saturdays, including vendors and homeless people hoping to score some scraps from discarded Primanti Brothers wrappers. Most folks in The ‘Burgh wait to spend their hard earned money on Sunday at the Steelers game. Pitt seems like they may be the real deal, but who knows?? I think this will be a close game and it is undoubtedly pivotal to both teams’ seasons. I’m going to support my own pre-season prediction by going with the Hawkeyes. Using the logic that Boston College beat USC and Pitt beat Boston College so therefore Pitt must be a legitimately good team (which actually does make sense) Zach is picking the Panthers to pound the ball with their rushing attack and win easily.

My Pick = Iowa
Z’s Pick = Pitt

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Florida at Alabama (-14.5)
Where is the love for ‘Bama?? Are we just so use to them being a top team that we don’t even feel the need to discuss themflorida gators image anymore?? Is there a bit of Tide fatigue amongst the masses?? The answer is probably yes on both counts. However, this game should receive a fair amount of attention. Florida isn’t back to its Spurrier/Urban Meyer heyday just yet, but they are 2-0. Yes it took them 3 overtimes to beat Kentucky last week. I think they may have been looking ahead just a bit. Anyway, if this game were at The Swamp it’d be really intriguing, but alas it is in Tuscaloosa. Therefore I believe there is probably not much of a doubt that Alabama will win. The question is by how much?? I am probably going to regret this, but I guess maybe I am one of the doubters. I think the Tide rolls, but by less than 14 ½ points. Zach has a man crush on Nick Saban but agrees with my assessment that this will be a close game.

My Pick = Florida
Z’s Pick = Florida

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Clemson at Florida St. (-20)
There are no shortage of folks who already have had the #1 ranked Seminoles on upset alert. They were less than clemsonimpressive in a season opening victory over Oklahoma St., a game in which the Cowboys narrowed their deficit to within a touchdown with 2 minutes remaining but ran out of time to make anything else happen. Add in the fact that Florida St.’s quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, upstanding citizen, scholar, gentleman, & all around class act Jameis Winston is suspended for the first half of this game because he is a moron. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 1-1 after a season opening loss to Georgia followed by dismantling an overmatched junior high team last week. I honestly don’t know how Clemson is still in anyone’s Top 25. They certainly haven’t earned such accolades. However, that could change with this game. Heck, if the game were being played at Memorial Stadium in South Carolina I might actually give them a puncher’s chance to win. However, it is in Tallahassee. The point spread does concern me just a bit. Florida St. has put up only 37 points in each of its first two contests. I think Clemson will be overmatched but motivated, while I am not sure the apprehension of the doubters has reached enough of a crescendo for Florida St. to pay much attention…yet. Zach not only agrees but is boldly predicting an outright Clemson victory. That boy has a set of brass ones. He gets it from his mother’s side of the family.

My Pick = Clemson
Z’s Pick = Clemson

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Denver at Seattle (-5)
For anyone who may have been hiding out in one of those bomb shelters from the 60’s recently, this is a rematch of last denverseason’s Super Bowl. In that game the Seahawks’ defense made living legend Peyton Manning look like…well…Eli Manning and cruised to a 43-8 victory that was even more underwhelming than Bruno Mars’ halftime show. But the beauty of the NFL is that every season is new and teams can change…both for the good and the not so good…at the drop of a hat. The Broncos made notable improvements to their defense, while Seattle lost a few pieces, although I don’t think it’s had a significant impact so far. Adding intrigue to this game is the fact that the defending champions, as previously mentioned, were upset last week. Could they really lose two games in a row?? Is Denver as good as their 2-0 record indicates?? The revenge factor for the Broncos cannot be overlooked, but neither can the anger of the Seahawks after a tough loss. This is a hard game to figure out, but I’m going to roll the dice on Manning and go with the underdogs. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

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Chicago at NY Jets (-2.5)
Jets-Pin-ProThe Bears spoiled the opening of their brand new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers last chicago-bears-logo13Sunday night and looked pretty good in doing it, especially in the 4th quarter. But let us not forget that they lost their season opener at home in three OTs to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets are 1-1 as well. So basically no one really knows what to expect in this game. New York gets the nominal home field advantage but I’m not sure that means much. This is the story of two quarterbacks. The Bears’ Jay Cutler is, in my opinion, overrated. The Jets’ Geno Smith…a former WV Mountaineer…has potential and occasionally shows flashes but has been disappointing to some. I look for this to be a defensive battle defined by turnovers and lots of smashmouth football. Which QB will make the least mistakes?? Which one will make a blunder at the worst possible time?? Whose running game will dominate?? This is the Monday night game so I suppose I’ll stay up past my bedtime to find out. In a flip of the proverbial coin I’m going with the Jets. Zach disagrees and is picking the Bears.

My Pick = NY Jets
Z’s Picks = Chicago

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2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

Better late than never. Simmer down. No worries. Our first game doesn’t kick off until 10pm EST Saturday night.

There are few things more frustrating than being right and still losing. However, when I began doing these picks I decided that it would be far too prosaic to just do straight win/lose, that the element of the point spread had to be incorporated to increase the complexity of the challenge. Unfortunately, as I am sure hardcore gamblers know all too well, this also means that sometimes the spread can reach up and bite one in the butt. Such was the case last week when the Denver Broncos beat the Indianapolis Colts by 7 points instead of 7 ½ points. Even more infuriating is the fact that at one point the Broncos led the game 24-7. Denver letting their foot off the gas resulted in a loss for me and a win for Zach, making me 2-3 for the week and him 3-2. I am rather competitive so this kind of ticks me off. Thanks a lot Peyton Manning. At any rate I suppose I just need to move on and hope for better things this week. The season thus far shapes up like this:

Me = 4-7
Zach = 6-4

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Nebraska (-10.5) at Fresno St.
The Huskers barely escaped what would have been a devastating loss to 1-AA (I kick it old school) McNeese St. last week. Meanwhile, the normally solid & nebraska-cornhuskersentertaining Bulldogs come into this game 0-2, having been hammered by an average of 35 points. Double digit spreads make me nervous, but I’ll go with the favorites here. Zach thinks Nebraska will win by 4 TDs.

My Pick – Nebraska
Z’s Pick – Nebraska

 

 

Nevada at Arizona (-15.5)
nevadaThe Wolfpack are one of those teams that no one likes to play. They are usually a solid bowl team and seem to play “bigger” teams tough, pulling off the occasionalcollege_arizona_90 upset. They did go 4-8 in 2013, but come into this game 2-0, including an impressive victory over the PAC 12’s Washington St. Cougars last week. The Wildcats….as much as it physically & emotionally hurts me to say it…have been pretty decent under head coach Rich Fraudriguez and come into this game 2-0 as well, although they had a difficult time defeating Texas-San Antonio last week. It is likely that Arizona holds serve on its home field this week, but the large point spread gives me pause. For that reason I’m going to pick Nevada. Zach, apparently unware of Nevada’s 2-0 record, thinks they suck and reluctantly picks Arizona, even though he hates their coach as much as I do.

My Pick – Nevada
Z’s Pick – Arizona

 

 

Miami at Buffalo (even)
Buffalo_Bills_HelmetNo result from the first week of NFL action was as shocking to me as the Dolphins upsetting the New England Patriots. But the Bills pulled off Miami_Dolphins_Helmeta pretty big surprise themselves by beating the Chicago Bears. Now look, let’s be honest…the Patriots are still winning the division. However, both of these teams (as well as the New York Jets) ae looking to make the jump up to a solid wildcard contender that wins 9 or 10 games. This game will tell us a lot about both teams. The folks in Vegas seem to think they are evenly matched, which both simplifies and complicates things. I’m going with Buffalo because of the home field advantage. Zach doesn’t believe that Miami’s victory last week was a fluke and believes they will be a serious playoff contender.

My Pick – Buffalo
Z’s Pick – Miami

 

 

Seattle (-5.5) at San Diego
The defending Super Bowl champions looked quite impressive in their season debut, soundly defeating the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Chargers lost a seattle-seahawks1heartbreaker last week to the Arizona Cardinals. As much as I’d love to go with the underdogs here I just can’t pull the trigger. I thought Seattle might ease off the throttle and fall back just a little bit this season, but so far that prediction looks like it might be wrong. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Seattle
Z’s Pick – Seattle

 

 

NY Jets at Green Bay (-8)
The Packers began the season on the receiving end of the previously mentioned beatdown at the hands of the Seahawks. The Jets took care of the Oakland Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetRaiders. I like Green Bay to rebound here, especially in the friendly confines of the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The points are a bit much for my taste, but if Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are firing on all cylinders it shouldn’t be a problem. Zach agrees.

My Pick – Green Bay
Z’s Pick – Green Bay

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.14

I know that this blog has become very sportscentric lately…again. That always happens during football season and I have apologized on previous occasions. Rest assured that there is other non-sports stuff in the hopper. However, there have been some really interesting things happening in the sports world recently, things that I cannot ignore and must opine about. Unfortunately they are, for the most part, of the off-the-field variety and the kind of subject matter which makes me sometimes wish I was more like some of my friends who are blissfully ignorant of almost everything that the folks on ESPN drone on about for hours every day. But I am who I am…a guy who’d probably rid myself of every other form of entertainment on the planet before being forced to give up my ball games and sports talk shows only if my life was in peril. At any rate, sit back, relax, and indulge your humble Potentate of Profundity as I whine & moan about things that have no direct effect on my life and over which I have no control.

 

 

 

Ray Rice. Oh where to begin?? Halfhearted kudos to the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL for dismissing Rice from the team and suspending him indefinitely from the league. However, I find it strange that all of this occurred months after the initial incident happened and only after TMZ released video footage from inside the elevator where Rice knocked out his girlfriend/wife. Originally the only video we saw was Rice dragging the woman’s unconscious body out of the elevator and into a hallway. But what did people think happened inside that elevator?? Why all of this fresh fury and long overdue action from the Ravens & the NFL?? Now granted…actually watching the video is disturbing, yet I can’t help but wonder why intelligent people couldn’t use reason & logic to assess the situation in the first place and also be a bit flummoxed at folks who act like the this new video riceprovides some kind of revelatory information. We all knew that Ray Rice was a punk who hit a woman. Why is anyone surprised by what is on that video?? Rice’s release by the Ravens and laughable suspension by the NFL (which is kind of like putting a bullet in a guy that’s already dead) are too little too late and simply a PR move by people who got caught being neglectful of their duties in the first place. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell…already an assclown of epic proportions…has embarrassed himself and the league by his woefully inept handling of the situation in which he originally suspended Rice for only two games and then instituted a domestic violence policy after the fact and only because there was such public outrage about his stupidity. Allow me to join the chorus calling for Goodell’s ouster. He has already ruined the game of football with all of his silly rules in an effort to make a violent collision sport safer. Now he has made it clear that he believes it is a far more heinous offense to smoke weed or tackle a quarterback a little too hard than to smack the snot out of a female, and he has also proven to be one of those inept wimpy types that makes bad decisions and then backtracks on them after people call him out on his incompetence. That’s not leadership. I don’t know who this moron slept with or paid off to get his job, but he needs to go…not next year or next month or next week – immediately. Roger Goodell might be the single most embarrassing human being to ever draw breath. He’s disgusting.

 

Let’s talk about Janay Palmer Rice. She is Ray Rice’s wife…the one who he knocked out in that elevator. Now I’m venturing out on a very sensitive rice-wifelimb here. I do not blame the victim. A man should never strike a woman no matter what the circumstance may be, and the newly released video makes it clear that she did not hit Mr. Rice first or at all so not even that argument can be utilized. However, what I cannot wrap my mind around is the fact that this woman MARRIED Ray Rice a few weeks AFTER the incident in which he knocked her out. I cannot fathom that. I am not an expert on domestic violence and God knows I’d never claim to know all that much about women, but it saddens me to think that a person would have such a lack of self-respect, such a dearth of self-worth, & such low self-esteem that she’d marry a man after he abused her. I can, on an intellectual level, understand how a wife would stay with a husband who has become abusive. Maybe she feels trapped. Maybe she has nowhere to go. Maybe she is tied to her husband financially. Maybe she stays for the kids. All are poor excuses to remain in an abusive relationship but atleast they are reasons that kind of make sense in some way. But to make the conscious decision to go forward into a marriage where the guy is abusive before you’ve walked down the aisle?? I don’t get it. So no…I don’t think it is right to blame Janay Palmer Rice for Ray Rice’s abuse. However, I think it is fair to question her judgment & intelligence for choosing to not only continue with the relationship but to take it to the next level by marrying an abusive man.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder, in the midst of all of this Ray Rice controversy, what Pete Rose may be thinking. A strange thought?? Comparing apples to oranges?? Maybe. But here is a guy that is a legit baseball Hall-of-Famer but who has been banished from the game for over 25 years (with no end in sight) and for what?? Yes he gambled. He gambled on baseball. He gambled on his own team. He lied about it for years. Pete Rose is no saint. But pete-rose1there is no evidence that he ever bet against his team and purposefully tanked any games. Yet he is treated worse than guys who took drugs therefore indirectly affecting the outcome of games and altering baseball’s sacred record book. He is treated worse than players who are allegedly responsible for other peoples’ deaths. And until now he was treated worse than a scumbag who punched a woman in an elevator. Heck, Ray Rice may still end up getting a better deal than Rose. It would not surprise me at all if, in a year or two, Rice does some sort of teary-eyed interview (probably with Oprah) claiming to be a changed man and some NFL team (probably the Raiders or Cowboys) signs him. And when that day comes Pete Rose will likely still be waiting for his second chance.

 

What is the deal with this dude who owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks?? Bruce Levenson, who has been the Hawks majority owner for a decade, “self-reported” a “racially insensitive” email he sent TWO YEARS AGO and has decided to sell his stake in the team. There is a fine line between honorable and insane and I think maybe this situation skews toward the latter. Levenson stated “If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself, too. It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.” This guy has apparently been watching way too much MSNBC and probably likes The View. The email in question was a discussion about attracting more fans for the team and Levenson wondered if “the black crowd school_debatescared away the whites” in racially diverse Atlanta and theorized that “there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.” He further noted that the typical arena crowd was “70% black, the cheerleaders are black, the music is hip hop, the bars are 90% black, there are few fathers and sons at the games, & we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel” and indicated that “I want some white cheerleaders and the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy”. Look, are Levenson’s concerns awkwardly articulated?? Of course. But are they legitimate concerns of an owner trying to make his business as successful as possible?? I think so. The sad thing is that he will sell the team, make a boatload of cash, & go away quietly while the NBA tries to sweep all of this under the rug. However, I can’t help but think that this is a textbook opportunity for an honest discussion of cultural issues. Are white folks really that turned off by black culture, i.e. hip-hop, rap, etc.?? And if so why?? Are those feelings valid?? If I don’t like that kind of thing and choose to spend my entertainment dollars elsewhere does that make me racist?? Whenever I go into any kind of office setting where there is music playing it is almost always the all-everything pop/rock station that plays hits from the past 4 or 5 decades. It isn’t a rap station. It isn’t a country station. It isn’t a station playing classical, big band, or heavy metal. The audiences for those genres are varying degrees of narrow, so the doctor’s office or whatever kind of business it is plays music that has wider appeal and probably won’t be offensive or unpleasant to any of its employees or patrons. It seems to me that that is what Bruce Levenson, in a rather clunky manner, was trying to do. But we live in a hypersensitive society where the Thought Police are becoming more powerful every day, so instead of having an intelligent debate on the merit of these issues we’ll just make the troublemaker shut up & go away.

 

I can admit when I am wrong and I was wrong about NFL rookie defensive lineman Michael Sam. I was absolutely convinced that he’d make the St.samgarrett Louis Rams’ roster or atleast their practice squad. Mega kudos to the Rams for having the courage to cut Sam loose and face the public backlash. But of course that wasn’t the end of the saga. The suits in the NFL office (that damn Goodell again) and the liberal media just can’t seem to accept the exceedingly simple fact that maybe Michael Sam just isn’t good enough to play in the NFL. It isn’t all that unusual for a great college athlete’s talent to not transition well to the NFL or NBA. It happens all the time. Heisman Trophy winners like Matt Leinart, Jason White, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Ron Dayne, Danny Wuerffel, Gino Torretta, & Andre Ware were all failures at the pro level. Naismith Award winners Jimmer Fredette, Andrew Bogut, Jameer Nelson, TJ Ford, Elton Brand, Calbert Cheaney, & Johnny Dawkins were all underwhelming in the NBA. It happens. But apparently it isn’t allowed to happen to openly gay Michael Sam!! NFL officials reportedly called teams in an effort to persuade them to sign Sam after he was released by the Rams. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that his team’s decision to sign Sam had nothing to do with pressure from the league. Maybe he’s telling the truth. Maybe he’s a filthy liar. Either way, the idea that the NFL tried to coerce teams into signing a player who probably doesn’t have the skill or talent level to play professional football because they are more concerned with their sociopolitical ideas than the integrity of the game is reprehensible.

 

So I guess it is back to business as usual at Penn St. The NCAA handed down a stiff penalty a couple of years ago in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation debacle, including a 4 year bowl ban and a significant limiting of football scholarships for four years. Now, halfway thru that penalty the NCAA has basically said “Ehhh…never mind”. Many are applauding the decision. There are those that feel that Sandusky is in prison, legendary coach Joe Paterno is dead and stricken from the record books, & others associated with the scandal are long gone from Happy Valley, and that it is psuunfair to punish current players, coaches, & fans for sins they didn’t commit. I understand but disagree. The problem at Penn St. was systemic. The football program became bigger than everything else and protecting it became more important than protecting innocent children from a sexual predator. Fans surely didn’t molest those children and neither did they participate in the cover-up. However, they were complicit in making Penn St. football & Joe Paterno into a bigger-than-life entity whose importance in relation to other aspects of life became completely cock-eyed. I thought the program was fortunate to escape the dreaded “death penalty” and that the bowl ban and loss of scholarships (which can cripple a football team for years) was entirely reasonable and a great way to make the folks at Penn St. get their priorities in order. Players who chose to matriculate there would be going in with their eyes open and with no right to complain about not having an opportunity to play in the post-season. But now all of that is out the window. Penn St. football is back. And once again Pete Rose…who simply bet on baseball and did not molest any children…still waits for his second chance.

2014 NFL Preview & Prognostications

laces-football-grassAllow me to be bluntly honest. Not that I am usually dishonest, but I am rarely blunt. At any rate, I’m not as excited as usual to do goodevil-copythis preview. The NFL is becoming harder & harder to watch thanks to that moron Fidel Goodell. I look at professional football suits, including the league office and team front offices, kind of like I do the government. I believe they should interfere with the game as little as possible. Unfortunately nowadays, with Goodell’s “personal conduct policy” and the pathological need to make a violent collision sport “safe”, all the talking heads ever yap about (whenever they aren’t slobbering all over rookie defensive end Michael Sam, indulging Browns “backup” QB Johnny Manziel, or being offended by the Washington Redskins name) are penalties and suspensions. Defense used to win championships, but the NFL has neutered defenses to the point that they might as well not even take the field. I sincerely believe we are only a few years away from flag football. Goodell is a succubus that has almost singlehandedly ruined what was once the greatest sport and the best pro league in the world. Thanks a lot jackass. So anyway, I suppose I will move forward with this preview and I’ll watch the games. I might even enjoy myself on occasion. But it’s not the same. It never will be unless Goodell is run out office and is replaced by someone with the cahonas to reverse nearly every bad decision that has been made in the past 8 years.

 

 

 

NFC

East
Philadelphia Eagles
(10-6) 14-2
Dallas Cowboys
(8-8) 7-9
NY Giants
(7-9) 6-10
Washington Redskins
(3-13) 6-10
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn’t have quite the growing pains in his rookie season that I expected, and I believe Philly will be even better this year. The rest of eaglesthis division is mediocre at best. The Cowboys defense isn’t any better than it was in 2013. The Tom Coughlin era in New York will likely end in the next couple of seasons with a whimper instead of a bang. And the Redskins backup quarterback may be better than their vastly overrated starter.

 

 

North
Green Bay Packers
(8-7-1) 13-3
Detroit Lions
(7-9) 8-8
Chicago Bears
(8-8) 7-9
Minnesota Vikings
(5-10-1) 7-9
Another mediocre division. The Packers, despite losing defensive tackle BJ Raji (to injury not free agency), should run away with the crown behind QB Aaron Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetRogers and RB Eddie Lacy. The Lions may show some improvement but aren’t ready to break thru just yet. Bears QB Jay Cutler is even more overrated that RGIII in Washington. And Minnesota won’t contend until they decide to let Teddy Bridgewater take the reigns as the franchise signal caller he was drafted to be and stop pussyfooting around with Matt Cassel.

 

 

South
New Orleans Saints
(11-5) 10-6
Carolina Panthers
(12-4) 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(4-12) 9-7
Atlanta Falcons
(4-12) 7-9
Now we’re starting to have some fun. Until Drew Brees shows that he just can’t do it anymore he has to be considered one of the few elite quarterbacks in the 10_new_orleans_saintsleague. I’d feel a little bit better if the Saints had a franchise RB (no…Mark Ingram, Khiri Robinson, & Pierre Thomas don’t count), but as long as TE Jimmie Graham is around to catch touchdowns from Brees and the defense is atleast solid the Saints must be considered the favorites. Carolina probably takes a bit of a step back this year since their all new receiving corps consists of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, & rookie Kelvin Benjamin and they lost cornerstone left tackle Jordan Gross. I look for Benjamin to grow into a big time receiver, but let’s not rush things. The brief Greg Schiano era is over in Tampa and Lovie Smith…inexplicably canned by the Chicago Bears a couple of years ago…takes over a team with a solid defense, a potentially very good receiving corps, and a decent running game. I understand why the Bucs are receiving a lot of buzz. But neither Josh McCown nor Mike Glennon inspire much confidence in the quarterback position, so until they remedy that issue Tampa can’t be considered serious contenders. I look for the Falcons to bounce back a little bit from an abysmal 2013, but this is such a tough division that I still think they draw the short straw.

 

 

West
Seattle Seahawks
(13-3) 10-6
San Francisco 49ers
(12-4) 10-6
Arizona Cardinals
(10-6) 9-7
St. Louis Rams
(7-9) 3-13
Super Bowl Champions oftentimes slip a little the following season. They have a huge target on their back, spend a little too much of the offseason in celebration seattle-seahawks1mode, and tend to lose a few players to free agency who are understandably cashing in on the team’s success. Seattle is no different. However, luckily for the Seahawks their main rivals…the 49ers…are having a rough offseason with the 9 game suspension of troubled defensive tackle Aldon Smith as well as not having the services of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who tore up his knee in the NFC championship game. I like the Cardinals a lot but I’m not ready to say they are better than Seattle & ‘Frisco just yet. I might regret not venturing out on that particular limb. The Rams’ season was probably going to be forgettable anyway, but with the loss QB Sam Bradford…again…to another knee injury they are likely looking at a top 5 pick in the 2015 draft (which they’ll probably use on a quarterback to replace the disappointing Bradford).

 

 

Playoff Teams: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco
NFC Championship: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers

 

 

 

AFC

East
New England Patriots
(12-4) 13-3
Buffalo Bills
(6-10) 8-8
NY Jets
(8-8) 8-8
Miami Dolphins
(8-8) 7-9
Good Lord when will the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era end?? Ateast the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in awhile. But they shouldn’t have any problem winning New_England_Patriots_Helmetthis division. I think the Bills are headed in the right direction and we’ll find out this season if QB EJ Manuel is the real deal. The addition of rookie WR Sammy Watkins will help. Jets coach Rex Ryan did enough last year to keep his job, but I don’t believe we’ll see any improvement this year. I am sure the Geno Smith/Michael Vick battle at QB will be the dominant story all season in The Big Apple. The Dolphins are likely to remain insignificant. Don’t be surprised if head coach Joe Philbin finds himself on the hot seat by the end of the year.

 

 

North
Cincinnati Bengals
(11-5) 10-6
Baltimore Ravens
(8-8) 9-7
Pittsburgh Steelers
(8-8) 7-9
Cleveland Browns
(4-12) 6-10
As much as it breaks my heart I have to admit that I don’t have much confidence in my Pittsburgh Steelers. A quarter of their draft picks didn’t even make the team. Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetClearly something is amiss in the Steelers front office. I don’t think the Bengals will get very far in the playoffs but they should win the division. The Ravens are no longer a serious Super Bowl contender but they’ll be competitive. The quarterback situation in Cleveland is murky at best and I’m not at all impressed with new head coach Mike Pettine who seems ill prepared for the job.

 

 

South
Indianapolis Colts
(11-5) 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars
(4-12) 8-8
Tennessee Titans
(7-9) 8-8
Houston Texans
(2-14) 6-10
Is Andrew Luck just an above average quarterback or is he an elite transcendent talent on par with Manning (you know which one), Brady, & Brees?? I think we’ll beIndianapolis_Colts_Helmet better equipped to ponder that question after this season. I like the direction the Jags are headed, but they need to stop this Chad Henne silliness and make rookie Blake Bortles the starting QB. Sure he’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll also grow & learn and do some good things that Henne just doesn’t have the talent to achieve. Tennessee and Houston are treading water, although if the Texans make newly acquired QB Ryan Mallet the starter sooner rather than later they might have some potential.

 

 

West
Denver Broncos
(13-3) 11-5
San Diego Chargers
(9-7) 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs
(11-5) 7-9
Oakland Raiders
(4-12) 8-8
This is probably it for Peyton Manning. The window is closing fast. The Broncos upgraded their defense a lot this offseason and the offense should be as good or broncos-4759better than 2014, so anything less than a Lombardi Trophy would be a huge disappointment. The Chargers are sneaky good and could be a scary team to face in the playoffs. I think the Chiefs fall back a bit from their surprisingly successful season of last year. The Raiders will run like the wind with Maurice Jones-Drew but it won’t be enough. Look for rookie QB Derek Carr to emerge as the starter, but head coach Dennis Allen might be the first to lose his job this year.

 

 

Playoff Teams: New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver, Baltimore, San Diego
AFC Championship: Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

 

 

 

 

Denver Broncos 31 sbGB Packers 28

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2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

Football is back!! It kind of snuck up on me. I have been watching NFL pre-season games, but had no idea that real football_goalcollege games that actually count started tonight. Then when I found out that information a few days ago I wasn’t feeling well. So I am kind of under the gun here and will make this quick & dirty. That’s okay because I am still not quite up to par.

This is the third season for these picks and the second where I am going head-to-head with my nephew Zach. In 2013 I went 45-46, while Zach was 41-49 in his inaugural campaign. I am sure both of us will do better this season. We pick 5 games each week and use point spreads just to make it challenging. I do NOT condone gambling. I don’t think it is the epitome of evil or anything like that, I just believe that there are many many many other things…better things…on which folks should spend their hard earned money. These picks are just a fun way for two diehard fans to entertain ourselves and hopefully others as well. So…onto the picks. Y’all get a bonus pick this week since I am so excited for the return of football and there happens to be an unusual amount of intriguing games for the first week of the college season.

 

 

 

 
Texas A&M at South Carolina (-10.5)
gamecocks-logoThe Aggies begin life without Johnny Football. He’s the Cleveland Browns’ problem now. A&M suffered other losses as well that leaves them texas_am_01in rebuilding mode. The Gamecocks will be starting a new quarterback, but I expect big things from them under the leadership of head coach Steve Spurrier as he enters his 10th year at the helm in Columbia. Zach thinks replacing Jadeveon Clowney will be atleast as difficult for South Carolina as replacing Manziel will be for A&M. He is predicting a very close South Carolina win…close enough for A&M to cover the points.

My Pick: South Carolina
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-16.5) vs. Navy
I have no doubt that the Buckeyes will win this game. Until recently they were thought to be legit national title contenders, but the loss of QB Braxton Miller to a navyshoulder injury has cooled that talk. Meanwhile I think the Midshipmen are a solid team that can hang tough and cover the spread. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Navy
Z’s Pick: Navy

 

 

 

Clemson at Georgia (-7.5)
georgiaThese look like two solid 7-9 win teams that will hang around the lower tier of the Top 25 most of the season but won’t be in the national titleclemson conversation. Georgia has the home field and their defense is probably a little bit better. Zach likes Clemson’s speed & passing game. He’s predicting big things for the Tigers.

My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Clemson

 

 

 

Florida St. (-17.5) at Oklahoma St.
The Seminoles are the pre-season #1 in most polls and return Heisman winning QB Jameis Winston. I have no doubt that Oklahoma St. will be athletic, fast, andFlorida_State_Seminoles prolific on offense…but they aren’t beating Florida St. However the point spread gives me pause. Can the defending national champions cover the points?? If they don’t will people begin to doubt them?? Zach apparently has so little interest in this game that he doesn’t even care to make a pick *lol*.

My Pick: Florida St.
Z’s Pick: none

 

 

 

Ole Miss (-10.5) vs Boise St.
boise-state1The Rebels are getting some pre-season attention. I am sure there are legitimate reasons for that, though I am far too lazy to find out what theyole miss are. I just think the SEC is too stacked for a team that has finished 21-29 over the course of the past four seasons to all the sudden be title contenders. Meanwhile everyone seems to have forgotten about Boise St. after they won “only” 8 games last season and head coach Chris Petersen left for the Washington Huskies. My vibes…unreliable as they may be…are telling me that Boise St. is better than people think and Ole Miss won’t live up to expectations. Zach isn’t at all excited about this game but thinks Ole Miss will use defense to win easily.

My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Ole Miss

 

 

 

LSU (-4.5) at Wisconsin
I fully expect this to be one of the best games of the opening weekend. The Tigers are nominal favorites despite Wisconsin having the home field. That surprises WisconsinBadgersme. I just think that LSU having to break in a new QB is enough of a disadvantage that the Badgers’ brand of smashmouth football will prevail. It may not be pretty but it can be effective. Look for RB Melvin Gordon to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 yards and atleast a couple of touchdowns. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Wisconsin
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin

 

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2014 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

football-introducing-the-science_1The time has finally come!! After decades of mythical national champions and BCS (emphasis on the BS) silliness college football finally gets a playoff. Is the system perfect?? I don’t know…probably not. But I will reserve judgment until I see exactly how it works out. One thing we know for sure…there is no longer a race to be #1 or even the runner-up. Four teams will earn an opportunity to be in the playoff mix, so as long as a team is amongst those final four they’ll get their shot. Any “controversy” will be a debate as to which team deserves that 4th spot, and I am sure there will be a few teams staking a claim. But at the end of the day my vibe is that the argument will be rather muted & somewhat trivial and that fans will be mostly satisfied with the outcome.

 

 

 

1 Florida State
Last Season: 14-0
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Oklahoma St., 9/20 vs. Clemson, 10/18 vs. Notre Dame
Defending national champions. Returning Heisman winning quarterback. Former wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say “To be the man you have to beat the man”FloridaStateSeminoles1 and until a team comes along and knocks the Seminoles off their perch I think they have to be given this top spot. Two out-of-conference games against Oklahoma St. & Notre Dame as well as the always entertaining ACC clash against Clemson are all in Tallahassee. I’d be stunned if this team isn’t in that final four.

 

 

2 Oregon
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 9/6 vs. Michigan St., 10/11 at UCLA, 11/1 vs. Stanford
Quarterback Marcus Mariotta likely could have been a first round pick in the NFL Draft but chose to return to Eugene for a shot at the national title and a run at the Oregon-DucksHeisman Trophy. I think he has a strong chance to snag both. Head coach Mark Helfrich didn’t miss a beat after taking the helm last season when Chip Kelly moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles. The PAC 12 is one of the toughest conferences in the land, but I think we’ll see the Ducks overcome both UCLA and Stanford to once again be in the national championship conversation.

 

 

3 Alabama
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 at LSU, 11/29 vs. Auburn
Let’s be clear…the inaugural 4 team playoff will, come hell or high water, include the Crimson Tide. The major players in the SEC are probably going to spend the AlabamaCrimsonTide2season beating up on each other, but that’ll just endear them all to the lapdog media even more. ‘Bama must replace quarterback AJ McCarron who is now patiently awaiting the inevitable implosion of fellow signal caller Andy Dalton as a Cincinnati Bengal. I don’t think it matters who ends up with the job for the Tide. Their calling card is a tenacious defense and a virtually unstoppable running game.

 

 

4 South Carolina
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 8/28 vs. Texas A&M, 9/13 vs. Georgia, 10/25 at Auburn, 11/29 at Clemson
Do not be surprised if the powers-that-be contort themselves into a pretzel trying to get two SEC teams into the playoff. How does that happen?? Simple. First of all,Gamecocks the Gamecocks don’t play Alabama during the regular season. It is entirely conceivable that both teams go into the SEC title game undefeated. Maybe ‘Bama is #1 and South Carolina is a Top 10 team. South Carolina wins a close game and rightfully ascends into the top 4. The collective hard-on the masses have for Alabama means they tumble…but not much. It’s possible. You heard it here first.

 

 

5 UCLA
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 10/11 vs. Oregon, 11/22 vs. USC, 11/28 vs. Stanford
I really like the PAC 12, but in the scenario described above it could be their runner-up that gets left out in the cold. Let’s imagine this. Oregon beats the Bruins in the ucla_bruins2season opener and goes undefeated. UCLA overcomes the loss and doesn’t lose the rest of the regular season. The two meet again in the conference title game and the Ducks prevail in an epic contest. There is no way that UCLA beats out the SEC runner-up to get into the playoff.

 

 

6 Oklahoma
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 vs. Baylor, 12/6 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Big 12 only has ten teams and no championship game. That really hurts their chances of having a playoff team. It doesn’t help that the conference is relatively weak. oklahomaEntertaining?? Sure. But the Sooners defeating the likes of TCU, Iowa St., West Virginia, & Kansas by three or more touchdowns won’t impress anybody. It is more than possible that Oklahoma could run the table and still not even be in the playoff discussion. If they drop a game to Baylor or in-state rival Oklahoma St. then they’re toast.

 

 

7 Wisconsin
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 8/30 vs. LSU, 11/15 vs. Nebraska
Other pundits may be picking a different Big Ten (which now has 14 teams) team to prevail, but I think the Badgers will pound their way to the conference WisconsinBadgerschampionship behind 6ft.1 207lb. junior running back Melvin Gordon. Whether or not they win their season opening out-of-conference matchup with the LSU Tigers is irrelevant, although that game being in Madison certainly helps. A mid-November clash with Nebraska is also at home and will likely decide who represents the division in the conference title game.

 

 

8 Baylor
Last Season: 11-2
Key Games: 11/8 at Oklahoma
Senior quarterback Bryce Petty returns to lead what was a prolific and dominating offense in 2013. The Bears have the same issue as any other Big 12 contender inbaylor that they are unlikely to receive as much respect on a national scale as teams from the SEC or PAC 12. An out-of-conference schedule that includes SMU, Northwestern St., & Buffalo isn’t going to help. Basically the whole season comes down to an early November clash with the Sooners in Norman. The winner of that game probably plays in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. The loser will end up in something depressing like the Advocare Texas Bowl.

 

 

9 Boise State
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 8/28 vs. Ole Miss, 10/24 vs. BYU
They’re baaaccckkk. The Broncos have long been college football’s Little Engine That Could. They have consistently been a double digit win team over the past 15 boise-state-logoyears. After a lot of rumors and flirting with other gigs in the past decade former head coach Chris Petersen moved on to Washington and has been replaced in Boise by Bryan Harsin, a former Broncos offensive coordinator who also spent some time coaching under Mack Brown at Texas. After going 8-5 in 2013 no one is really talking about Boise St., which will make it all the sweeter when they win 10 or 11 games. Their season opener is an out-of-conference contest against an Ole Miss team that seems to be getting much love this pre-season despite the fact that they play a murderous SEC schedule. I’m betting people will remember Boise St. is still around afterward.

 

 

10 Michigan State
Last Season: 13-1
Key Games: 9/6 at Oregon, 10/4 vs. Nebraska, 11/8 vs. Ohio St.
The Spartans all too often get lost in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) shuffle. But if you look at their success over the past few seasons they have been remarkablyMichigan_State_Spartans consistent, winning 11+ games three out of the past four years. This is another team that wins with good old-fashioned smashmouth football and a tough defense. Even if they lose 2 out of 3 key games and finish 10-2 they could have a legitimate opportunity to be in the conference title mix.

 

 

11 Ohio State
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 11/8 at Michigan St.
Losing QB Braxton Miller for the season virtually eliminates the Buckeyes from the championship picture. They have an unimpressive & weak schedule with neither Ohio_State_BuckeyesNebraska nor Wisconsin anywhere in sight. All it will take is a loss to Michigan St. to end the dream. And let’s be honest…if they were to somehow make it to the playoff they’d get beaten like a government mule.

 

 

12 Nebraska
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 10/4 at Michigan St., 11/15 at Wisconsin
I fully expect a logjam at the top of the Big Ten (which has 14 teams). There will probably be 3 or 4 teams finishing somewhere around the 9-3/10-2 mark. The nebraskaCornhuskers’ out-of-conference schedule, which includes Miami, FL & Fresno St., isn’t bad. If they can split their two key games they will almost certainly be a solid Top 25 team.

 

 

13 Marshall
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: all of them and none of them
Marshall is my alma mater. I know that expectations are high in my old stomping grounds in Huntington, WV. Here is what I expect. I expect an undefeated season. I herdexpect QB Rakeem Cato to be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony though he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Arizona of actually winning. I expect that undefeated season to mean diddly squat as far as the national playoff. And I expect that if…if…the Herd screws the pooch in any game…including a C-USA championship game…they will tumble very quickly from the rankings.

 

 

14 Iowa
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 11/22 vs. Wisconsin, 11/28 vs. Nebraska
The Hawkeyes are another team that can always be dangerous even in a down year. Head coach Kirk Ferentz is one of those names that always gets mentioned iowafor “better” jobs, whether in the NFL or elsewhere in college. At age 59 and going into his 16th year at the helm in Iowa City it looks less & less likely that he will ever actually make the jump and will instead be one of those lifers like Bobby Bowden or Frank Beamer that sticks around for three decades. Having said that, a close examination of Iowa’s “success” under Ferentz shows that they’ve only had four double digit win seasons during his tenure. If they can split the two key games above…both of which are at home…they could add another in 2014.

 

 

15 Bowling Green
Last Season: 10-4
Key Games: I have no idea
Someone’s got to win the MAC, right?? Actually I like watching MAC football. Their games are usually quite entertaining. The problem is that they are all kind of just bowling greenrandom teams from Ohio (and a couple of other midwestern states). It reminds me of eating at McDonald’s…you know there are better options available and you aren’t quite sure exactly what you’re consuming, but in the moment it is sort of tasty and mostly satisfying. At any rate, the Falcons won the conference title game in 2013, upsetting a Northern Illinois team that was ranked in the Top 20. They seem to be getting some “others receiving votes” love in other polls, and since the entire Top 25 can’t be SEC, PAC 12, & Big Ten (which has 14 teams) I’ll give this team a fighting chance to win 10 or 11 games (they’ll get mauled at Wisconsin), win the conference, and earn this spot.

 

 

16 LSU
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Wisconsin, 10/4 at Auburn, 11/8 vs. Alabama, 11/27 at Texas A&M
The Bayou Bengals seem to be one of those teams that just reload and have tremendous success year after year. However, I am a bit nervous about their chances lsu_logo-9547in 2014. First of all they have to replace a quarterback, running back, & wide receiver (as well as about a half dozen other players) that were all taken in the NFL Draft. Secondly their out-of-conference schedule includes the season opener…a neutral site clash against Wisconsin. And of course the biggest issue…they play in the SEC. I realize that the wet dream of the powers-that-be is probably an all-SEC four team playoff for the national title, but that ain’t gonna happen. Someone will be on the outside looking in. If LSU can overcome all of that and still have a Top 20 team it will be a remarkable feat.

 

 

17 Stanford
Last Season: 11-3
Key Games: 9/6 vs. USC, 10/4 at Notre Dame, 11/1 at Oregon, 11/28 at UCLA
Stanford has the same issue as LSU. They play in a tough conference where the law of averages dictates that not everybody can be a Top 10 national photo.stanfordtreechampionship contender. The schedule is brutal. If this team can somehow get to 9 wins they will deserve a solid ranking.

 

 

18 Navy
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Ohio St., 11/1 vs. Notre Dame
Call me crazy, but I think the Midshipmen have a puncher’s chance in their season opening neutral site game against Ohio St. Okay okay…I’m not going to rush to navyVegas or Atlantic City and actually put money on that, but the rest of the season looks pretty decent. There is a November contest against Notre Dame that is also winnable. But even if Navy loses those two games they could still end up in this spot by going 10-2 and being very competitive (within two TDs) against the Buckeyes and Irish.

 

 

19 Oklahoma State
Last Season: 10-3
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Florida St., 11/22 at Baylor, 12/6 at Oklahoma
The Cowboys open their season at the Palace in Dallas against #1 Florida St. Ouch. If they pull the upset it’ll turn college football on its collective ear on the very firstoklahoma_state_cowboys_iphone_wallpaper weekend of the season. However, even though that is unlikely, the truth is that the whole season comes down to the final two games against Baylor and Oklahoma. Split those two games and this ranking looks golden. But even if Oklahoma St. loses all three of their key games they can still get here by being very competitive in those games and beating their other nine opponents into oblivion.

 

 

20 Central Florida
Last Season: 12-1
Key Games: 8/30 at Penn St., 9/13 at Missouri
Quick…tell me what conference UCF plays in. Now tell me three other teams in that conference. Give up?? The American Athletic Conference is the very definition 2007-UCF-Knight-headof mediocrity, comprised of refugees from C-USA and the old Big East that just didn’t have enough to offer for a more well-respected conference to invite them to play with the big boys. It is somewhat surprising that UCF finds itself in such a hot mess given that they are the 2nd largest university in the country. Let that sink in for a minute. UCF is bigger than Florida, Florida St., & Miami, FL…all of whom have had tremendous success on the gridiron. Will such success eventually occur for the Knights?? Maybe. Until that happens though they will be satisfied to win their conference and be a solid Top 20 team. I am a bit concerned that they must replace QB Blake Bortles who is now plying his trade in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But at the end of the day I think this is a team that will overcome adversity, win 9 or 10 games, and secure another conference title.

 

 

21 Arizona
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 10/2 at Oregon, 10/11 vs. USC, 11/1 at UCLA,
There are a handful of other PAC 12 teams that get all the love, but don’t forget about the Wildcats. Head coach Rich Fraudriguez seems to be much more college_arizona_90comfortable in Tucson than he ever was in Ann Arbor, MI. I think lower expectations and staying off the beaten path suits him well. If Arizona can pull off just one big upset and win 9 or 10 games they are a solid choice to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

22 Notre Dame
Last Season: 9-4
Key Games: 10/4 vs. Stanford, 10/18 at Florida St., 11/29 at USC
The Fighting Irish can’t cheat as much on the football field as they apparently do in the classroom because…well…television cameras. The question is can theyNotreDameFightingIrish recover from the loss of atleast 4 players (and who knows what other shoes may drop) and meet always lofty expectations?? I assume they’ll hang around and be good enough to be a solid 8/9 win bowl team. Brian Kelly is a good coach and QB Everett Golson returns from his 2013…hiatus…which means the offense should be decent. Pulling an upset in any one of the three key games would almost assure sneaking into the final rankings.

 

 

23 Virginia Tech
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 9/6 at Ohio St., 10/4 at North Carolina, 10/23 vs. Miami, FL
Florida St. will win the ACC. But who will win the other division and be chum for the Seminoles in the conference title game?? Most “experts” are picking North Virginia_Tech_Hokies2Carolina or Miami to fill that role. I’m playing a hunch and going against the grain. Head coach Frank Beamer has a ton of experience and his team plays in a relatively mediocre conference. I don’t think they’ll beat Ohio St., but that isn’t where the focus should be anyway. It’s a three horse race for the Coastal Division and it’ll all come down to October contests against the Tar Heels and Hurricanes.

 

 

24 Auburn
Last Season: 12-2
Key Games: 10/4 vs. LSU, 10/25 vs. South Carolina, 11/8 vs. Texas A&M, 11/5 at Georgia, 11/29 at Alabama
An old saying tells us that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Tigers were very very very lucky last season. Oh they were good too…but being lucky auburntook them from going 9-3 and playing in the Cotton Bowl to going 12-1 and coming up short in the national championship. They won’t be as fortunate this season. I’m not concerned about players lost to the NFL. Teams like Auburn just reload, and QB Nick Marshall returns for his senior year as a viable Heisman candidate. But the schedule is ridiculously difficult and I don’t think this team will win more than a couple of the key games noted above.

 

 

25 Georgia
Last Season: 8-5
Key Games: 8/30 vs. Clemson, 9/13 at South Carolina
A 8/9 win season and a Top 25 ranking might not seem good enough for an upper echelon SEC team, but I say it’d be a pretty decent finish all things considered.georgia The Bulldogs must replace QB Aaron Murray, but they still have junior RB Todd Gurley, a 6ft.1 232lb. brute with 4.2/40 speed. He’ll be a legitimate Heisman candidate, but the defense will have to step up and new signal caller Hutson Mason…a senior who has sat behind Murray for four years…will have to become comfortable really quickly. I won’t be a bit surprised if 4 or 5 SEC teams end the season ranked, but logic dictates that they all can’t finish in the Top 10.

The Prodigal Player Brings His Talents Back to the Mistake By the Lake

The Bible tells a story about The Prodigal Son, a young man who decides to take his inheritance and leave home only to come crawling back when he has blown his fortune. Prodigal is word derived from the Latin term prodigus, meaning “to drive away or squander”. Instead of telling his offspring “I told you so” the boy’s father instead welcomes his child back into the family with open arms. It is a story of forgiveness. It is a story of redemption. It is a story of humility. It is a story of grace.

 

Few people outside of the city of Cleveland, OH have been as hard on NBA superstar LeBron James as myself. I am not nearly as passionate in my lb1fandom of professional basketball as I am when it comes to other sports and have never really had a favorite team. I preferred the Lakers over the Celtics in the 80’s (more about that some other time), loved Dr. J., and like most young men of my generation thought Michael Jordan was the greatest player to ever dribble & dunk (I still do). I am a sucker for the underdog, so when James was drafted #1 overall straight out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 I thought it was a nice story. It helped that the hapless Cavs hadn’t been much more than mediocre for most of their three decades of existence before James’ arrival. Unlike so many “franchise saviors” whose hype far exceeds tangible results LeBron James was everything he was said to be and more, carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers almost singlehandedly on his back to 5 playoff runs in 7 years, including a trip to the Finals in 2007.

 

But then he tossed it all away in 2010. He “took his talents to South Beach”, forming a “Big Three” alongside Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat. And I hated it. I hated the way players were now conspiring to form super teams instead of allowing coaches & general managers to build teams organically the old fashioned way. I hated the TV spectacle that was The Decision. I hated the pep rally in Miami where this new Big Three promised “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five…” NBA titles. I hated seeing a guy spit in the face of his home town in just about the most obnoxious way possible. I hated the fact that Cleveland was pretty much screwed because let’s face it…big time free agents, no matter what sport is involved, are almost always going to choose sexier destinations like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, & Dallas.

 

lb2Over the next four seasons I delighted not in cheering for any particular NBA team but in rooting against the evil Miami Heat. I was ecstatic in 2011 & 2014 when they lost the championship series (to the Dallas Mavericks & San Antonio Spurs respectively), and was bitterly disappointed in 2012 & 2013 when the Heat won back-to-back titles. Most people would probably be kind and say that The Big Three fulfilled their mission, but I gleefully opine that they missed the mark and severely underachieved. Yes four NBA Finals in four years and two championships in that time is impressive, but I would submit to you that it is the bare minimum of what was expected, potential that was elevated to a virtual fever pitch of entitled assumption by the PR machine and the powers-that-be in Miami.

 

In the course of those four years a few things have occurred. First, after nearly four decades of the NBA focusing its marketing on individual stars…Bird, Magic, Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, ‘Melo…there seems to have been an awakening that basketball is a team game and none of those players achieved success on an island. The San Antonio Spurs certainly have their stars, but they were able to win the title this year and damn near won it in 2013 because they had an overall better, deeper team than the Heat. An NBA roster has 13 players. Your top 2 or 3 guys might be better than mine, but if my bench is far superior than I’ve got a fighting chance. Secondly, there are some factors that cannot be defeated by any team no matter how talented they may be. No one has ever beaten Father Time (except maybe Tim Duncan). In sports players & teams can decline quickly…almost overnight…due to injury & age. Miami’s Big Three didn’t seem nearly as intimidating in 2014 as they did four years earlier. And LeBron James himself seems to have changed, which is really the crux of my whole point here today.

 

We see celebrities every day. We see them on TV & in movies, download their music, read about them on The Internet, and watch their games in the case of professional athletes. We like to think that we know them. We form opinions about whether someone is a nice guy, a vapid airhead, or a total jerk. In many cases we are likely on the right track, but sometimes we may misjudge.

 

I, along with many people, was disgusted with the way LeBron James handled his departure from Cleveland four years ago. What we didn’t realize lb3until now was that James himself at some point looked back in disgust as well. Like The Prodigal Son he has been humbled. No he isn’t crawling back to Cleveland broken & destitute. Far from it. But he seems to have realized that in the long run winning championships in Miami wasn’t all that much easier than attempting to do so in Cleveland. He seemingly understands that following the money to New York or Los Angeles or even adding another couple of rings in Miami wasn’t going to be nearly as satisfying as being able to put together a championship team in his home town. LeBron James has matured. He has gained perspective. He has grown in wisdom. Do I sound surprised?? Yes I suppose I do.

 

Rather than repeat The Decision James instead opted to announce his return to Cleveland via a rather classy & well-written essay on the Sports Illustrated website. He speaks wistfully about his childhood in Akron, OH, but what really caught my attention was what he says about Miami, and I feel stupid for never having considered the point before. You see, LeBron James was drafted into the NBA from high school, a practice that is now forbidden by league rules. LeBron went from high school in Akron to pro basketball in Cleveland…less than an hour away. He never went to college. Sure that was his choice and a smart move financially. However, for me college was the best four years of my life. I didn’t venture too far away from home (about 3 hours), but I got far enough away that I was able to do some stupid things, meet some awesome people, learn how to be independent, and figure out life from a slightly different angle. The four years LeBron James spent in Miami were his college years, the difference being that he didn’t have to take math classes he’ll never use, he probably never had to stand outside at 3am on a cold January night after some drunken jackass thought it’d be funny to pull the fire alarm in the dorm, and I am quite sure he has no student loan debt. He had his fun. He has two championship rings and probably had his share of good times in South Florida. But now he has graduated to the next phase just like the rest of us. For me that means drinking skim milk instead of Jagermeister and it means that if I am up past midnight I’m either reading a book or writing a piece for The Manofesto rather than hanging out at a bar playing darts and listening to Brown-Eyed Girl. For LeBron James it means that winning another ring for himself isn’t as meaningful as winning for his family, friends, and the place where he “walked, ran, cried, & bled” throughout his life.

 

lb4The story of The Prodigal Son has a few layers. There is the son who discovers that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and humbly comes home. There is the father who not only welcomes the son back but celebrates his return. And there is the older brother, a killjoy who is understandably a bit resentful. There will be those who will transfer their hatred of the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers simply because they decided 4 years ago that LeBron James is a prick and they aren’t changing their mind. So be it. I can appreciate the sentiment. But I choose…for whatever little it is worth in the grand scheme of life…to be merciful & gracious. Plus I am just glad that imbecile Johnny Manziel has been knocked off the sports page headlines for atleast a few days.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.14

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, & lawns are being mowed throughout the land. It is springtime in America!! And one thing that means is a variety of sports stories about which I…as usual…have some thoughts. Sit a spell and join me…you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

A few post-NFL Draft contemplations:
• The NFL Network provides much better coverage than ESPN. I watched ESPN’s coverage of the first round because…well…it’s just been such a tradition for so long. Chris Berman & Mel Kiper Jr. are like the Jerry Lewis of football…you only see them once a year so you sure do look forward to that occasion (sadly of course Lewis’ MDA Telethon…once a Labor Day Weekend staple of Americana…has now quietly faded away). However, they have now introduced Jon Gruden, Todd McShay, & Ray Lewis into the mix (and apparently eased out Tom Jackson), and I found Gruden & “Shooter” Lewis to be rather grating. They love the sound of their own voices and seem far too pleased with their alleged expertise. By the 3rd round the guys on ESPN weren’t even paying attention to the announcement of the draft choices anymore, so I flipped over to NFL Network and found their coverage to be much more focused, cerebral, & low-key. Maybe next year I’ll cut the ESPN cord completely on draft weekend.
• The Cleveland Browns did the right thing by not taking QB Johnny Manziel at the #4 spot and instead grabbing him with the 22nd choice in the first round. I still think manzielit’s 50/50 as to whether he’ll be a superstar or a complete bust. He’s too small and I’m not a fan of his selfish & arrogant demeanor. I am not at all sure that he can withstand the pounding of NFL defenses. But if he does fail miserably atleast it’ll be in Cleveland, and I will laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh…lol.
• During the 2nd round of the draft Commissioner Fidel Goodell introduces legends/Hall-of-Famers from each franchise to announce their team’s draft pick: Marvin Harrison for the Colts, Chad Pennington for the Jets, Aeneas Williams for the Cardinals, Mike Singletary for the Bears, Herman Moore for the Lions, etc. were some of this year’s guests. Anyway, I have an idea. Next year they should let the biggest disappointment/embarrassment for each team make the pick: Jamarcus Russell for the Raiders, Rae Carruth (live from prison) for the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Leaf for the Chargers, Tony Mandarich for the Packers, former coach Bobby Petrino for the Falcons, Akili Smith & KiJana Carter together for the Bengals, Art Schlichter for the Colts (also from prison), Lawrence Phillips for the Rams (he’s in prison too!!). OJ Simpson (from prison…of course) could announce picks for both the Buffalo Bills & San Francisco 49ers. This would be a ratings bonanza. Make it happen NFL.
• After 41 years on this planet and nearly as long as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan I finally had an epiphany about The Steeler Way during the draft. Whereas most teams Steelers-Logoassign a particular value to individual players the Steelers focus on the value of each position, and obviously they believe that the most valuable position is linebacker. For the second year in a row the Steelers spent their 1st round draft pick on a linebacker. In 2013 it was Jarvis Jones from Georgia and this year it was Ryan Shazier from Ohio St. I don’t have a huge problem with the Shazier pick…I just didn’t think it was necessary with Jones, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, & a few other young guys in the mix already. The vast majority of Steeler fans were expecting them to choose a much needed cornerback in one of the first couple of rounds, but instead they waited until the 5th round to pick CB Shaquille Richardson from Arizona. What that tells me is that the suits in The ‘Burgh don’t think there is that big of a difference between a 1st round corner and a 5th round corner. A few years ago I would have just went along with that logic and assumed the powers-that-be knew what they were doing…but these days I’m not so sure.
• Some possible steals: QB Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech to the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th round, RB Lache Seastrunk from Baylor to the Washington Redskins in the 6th round, RB Ka’Deem Carey from Arizona to the Chicago Bears in the 4th round, QB AJ McCarron from Alabama to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 5th round, QB Zach Mettenberger from LSU to the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round, CB Keith McGill from Utah to the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round, & G David Yankey from Stanford to the Minnesota Vikings in the 5th round.

 

 
If there is one thing that we have learned from the Donald Sterling scandal it is that NBA owners do not really own their team. They are actually owners of 3.33% of the league, and if the other 96.67% of ownership decides to turn on a fellow owner it’s all over. I don’t necessarily have an issue with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Donald Sterling for life, and I won’t disagree when the rest of the owners vote to make him sell the team. It is what is best for business. In reality the man is 82 years old & obviously not well, so it was probably a matter of time before the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with new ownership anyway. And let us not shed a tear for Sterling or his family, all of whom will become even wealthier when the team purchased for $12 million sterlingin 1981 is sold for a half billion. Having said that, recent events do concern me just a little. Look…very few people would even try to defend the inane racist ramblings of a guy like Sterling. He’s an old kook who seems to have lost a few too many of his marbles. But imagine if the bank could come and repo your car or evict you from your house…not for being delinquent in your payments but because they disagree with your sociopolitical opinions. That’s not the America that I know & love…it’s fascism. I understand that a professional sports league is a unique entity. As an owner Donald Sterling, to a degree, represents the team, the league, & the city of Los Angeles. I understand that his belief system is not deemed appropriate by most anyone with a lick of sense. However it is also my understanding that Donald Sterling did not commit a crime. Actually the fact is that Sterling’s racist tendencies have been well known for many years and there have been instances in the past where he probably did commit crimes by way of housing discrimination and the NBA turned a blind eye. But now, when the actual crime committed was by the “girlfriend” who secretly taped Sterling’s conversations, the NBA decides to take drastic action to cover their rear ends in the midst of a public relations nightmare. As I said, hardly anyone would even attempt to support Donald Sterling’s idiocy, but what if losing everything you own because a person you trusted clandestinely recorded your deepest personal thoughts becomes commonplace?? What if just about everybody in the country was cheering your demise?? It is easy to revel in Donald Sterling’s implosion because he is just about the least sympathetic character imaginable…but what if it happened to you?? It’s a slippery slope…one that we must be aware of and concerned about in 21st century America.

 

 
I have watched only a couple Pittsburgh Pirates games in the past month. As I feared last season’s “breakthrough” and the end of two decades of losing pittsburghpirateswas just a mirage. This team isn’t there yet and I’m beginning to doubt whether they ever will be. They lack a killer instinct. They lack the will to win. The pitching isn’t nearly as dominant as it should be after concentrating on that aspect of the game with the draft & the farm system over the past several years. And there is very little offense. They are averaging 3.91 runs/game. The division leading Milwaukee Brewers are averaging 4.02 runs/game. The Detroit Tigers & San Francisco Giants…currently the two best teams in baseball…are scoring 4.85 and 4.18 runs/game respectively. These may seem like miniscule statistical differences, but baseball is a game of statistics. If Player A gets 150 hits in 500 at bats during a season that’s .93 hits/game and a .300 batting average, which probably means he’s an All-Star and over the course of an entire career possibly a Hall-of-Famer. Meanwhile, if Player B gets just 130 hits in 500 at bats it is .80 hits/game, a .260 batting average, and over the course of a career would be looked at as quite prosaic. Twenty hits less in the span of 162 games and look at the difference in perception. It’s the difference between winning two World Series in the past decade…like the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, & St. Louis Cardinals have all done…and the Pirates.

 

 
I suppose I need to comment on this whole Michael Sam thing…..
Essentially what everything boils down to is that ESPN and others in the media deserve nearly all of the blame for any negativity that has landed at the feet sam1of Michael Sam. For those who may have been off the grid in the past week Sam was a defensive end for the Missouri Tigers. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2013, but due to his small stature and other pedestrian measurables was deemed a fringe NFL prospect. In February he “came out” publically in an interview (not surprisingly on ESPN) because announcing to the whole world that you are gay has become a rite of passage for all level of celebrities in 21st century America, which is my main problem with the whole thing. I am physically disabled and have spent my entire life trying to just fit in. I don’t like calling attention to myself. I just want to be treated normally…like everyone else. That quest has been a defining aspect of everything I have ever done. The “LBGT community” will say that what they want is equality & fairness, but it seems like what they truly desire is to be celebrated and treated like trailblazing heroes. ESPN’s coverage of Michael Sam has been somewhat disconcerting. A lot of folks were kvetching about Sam kissing his boyfriend when he was drafted, but my question is why were there cameras there in the first place?? I watch the NFL Draft every year. By the 4th round talking heads like Mel Kiper Jr. & Todd McShay have completely lost interest in keeping up with sam2the picks as they are announced and are still yapping on & on about top guys like Johnny Manziel & Jadeveon Clowney. I can’t ever remember them having cameras on a 7th round draft choice as he receives the phone call from the team selecting him. So why does Michael Sam get that kind of coverage?? Because he is gay?? That’s not equality…that’s putting someone up on a pedestal they haven’t earned. And then people wonder why there is anger & frustration. It must be nice for Michael Sam to know that he is a virtual lock to make the St. Louis Rams, and make no mistake…he will be on the team when the season starts. The NFL, ESPN, and the entire leftist media have too much invested at this point for Sam to fail. Good for him. I wish him well. He is a good football player. Most of them are at that level. I just hope for his sake that someday his playing skills will be the center of attention and not his sexual preference…something that should have never become an issue in the first place.

2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

We are now only a few days away from the real deal…the 2014 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, aka The Draft. I knew when I did my initial mock draft back in February that a lot of things would change over the course of time. Free agency has significantly altered the landscape, as it tends to do each year. Several teams filled some holes, while others have new needs that we weren’t sure they’d have a couple of months ago. The Combine and various pro days have raised the profile of some players, while cooling the enthusiasm for others. We now have a much clearer picture of the direction many teams may or atleast should go. Once again let me remind you that this is a three round mock, and I do throw in a few trades. Real trades that are already in place will say “via/X Team” in parentheses, while trades that are purely my own creation will say “trade w/X Team”. So without any further ado let’s look into the ol’ crystal ball and see what we might expect from this year’s draft.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Houston Texans
DE Jadeveon Clowney (Clemson)
At one point I was firmly convinced that the Texans would be able to trade out of this spot and amass a boatload of picks. However, as things have progressed that has houston-texans-mobile-wallpaperbecome a far less likely scenario. No one seems completely sold on this year’s crop of quarterbacks, so teams will be mostly content to stay where they are and let a signal caller fall to them. Clowney is a rare prospect who I believe will put the pedal to the medal when it counts. The combination of Clowney & JJ Watt instantly makes Houston’s defense one of the most feared in the NFL. They can snag a quarterback later.

 

2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
The Rams are in a tough position. They’d probably jump at the opportunity to trade down, but the lukewarm affection for the quarterbacks makes it St_Louis_Ramsdoubtful that anyone will offer much to move up to this spot. Mack has been getting a lot of love and has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller.

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Watkins is far & away the best skill player in this year’s draft. The Jags are losing receiver Justin Blackmon due to an indefinite suspension for substance abuse, and to Jacksonville_Jaguarsbe honest Blackmon had been a bit of a disappointment anyway. If he comes back and pans out…great. But if not Watkins is a fantastic replacement. Jacksonville too can get their quarterback later.

 

4 Baltimore Ravens (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
T Greg Robinson (Auburn)
What to do?? The Browns had their eye on Watkins but he is off the board. It is probably too early to pull the trigger on one of the quarterbacks in this spot. With MitchellBaltimore_Ravens2 Schwartz and All-Pro Joe Thomas manning the tackle spots there is no need for the Browns to spend this pick on that position. However, though no one is likely to trade up for a QB there may be a few suitors looking for a franchise tackle. The Ravens lost Michael Oher (you remember The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, right??) in free agency but did re-sign Eugene Monroe. I don’t think it really matters who plays left and who plays right. With guys like Robinson & Monroe Baltimore’s offensive line once again looks formidable.

 

5 Oakland Raiders
T Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
With Robinson off the board the Raiders are forced to go with option B. They don’t need a quarterback after signing Matt Schaub this offseason, and Matthews should raidersbe a solid franchise tackle for the next decade.

 

6 Atlanta Falcons
LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)
Barr is the best pass rusher available and might be a steal even at this spot. There could be some buzz about the Vikings & Bucs looking to movefalcons up to get the quarterback they want, but at the end of the day I think both will stand pat.

 

7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
There’s a new regime in Tampa. There will be a new quarterback because not even the old regime was completely sold on Mike Glennon. BortlesTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet has prototype size & measurables. The only knock against him is the fact that he played at a C-USA school instead of an SEC, Big 10, or Pac 12 school. It should also help that Bortles will be well known to the Tampa crowd since Central Florida is just down the road.
8 New York Giants (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)
WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
The Vikings need a quarterback as well, but it’s still too early. The Giants need a receiver to replace the departed Hakeem Nicks. It’s a win/win for both teams.Giants Logo

 

9 Buffalo Bills
T Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
The Bills won’t waste any time turning in their draft card when they see the only remaining tackle worthy of a Top 10 pick still on the board.Buffalo_Bills_Helmet

 

10 Detroit Lions
CB Darquez Dennard (Michigan St.)
The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great Detroit_Lions_Helmetsecondary can be.

 

11 Tennessee Titans
DT Aaron Donald
Do the Titans need a quarterback?? Or will the Jake Locker era be given a one year reprieve?? EitherTennessee_Titans_Helmet way Tennessee passes on a signal caller here and goes for the highest rated defensive lineman on the board.

 

12 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)
The Vikings get the quarterback of the future. Atleast until next year. Two strikes against Carr: small school, and the fact that his older brothervikingshelmet1 David is one of the more notable busts in recent memory. Fair?? Probably not. Only time will tell.

 

13 St. Louis Rams
S Hasean Clinton-Dix
With their second 1st round pick the Rams continue to upgrade a defense that ranked 15th in the league in 2013. Not bad…but not great either.St_Louis_Rams

 

14 Chicago Bears
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)
The Bears had their eye on Clinton-Dix, but have other needs as well. Gilbert is a significant upgrade for a defense that ranked 30th out of 32 chicago-bears-logo13teams last season.

 

15 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Pittsburgh Steelers)
QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The Browns are spooked by rumors that the Cowboys may be interested in Manziel. The rumors are probably poppycock, Cleveland_Browns_Helmetbut then again Jerry Jones is nuttier than a damn fruitcake so who knows?? At any rate, Johnny Football is one of the most polarizing prospects I’ve ever seen. Is he more like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher?? Is he Drew Brees or Drew Stanton?? Can he be tamed just enough to become a good NFL quarterback without losing the improv skills that make him special?? Is he sturdy enough to make it thru an NFL season?? Getting two people to agree on Manziel is like trying to find a bipartisan political candidate that everyone likes. Only time will tell, but in the meantime the Browns pretty much have to pull the trigger here.

 

16 Dallas Cowboys
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)
DeMarcus Ware signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason so the Cowboys have to rebuild the defense. Shazier is smaller than Ware and is much more dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024comparable to guys like former NFL stars Sam Mills or Zach Thomas. He’s fast & can get to the quarterback, or he can drop back in coverage.

 

17 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns)
CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Steelers are disappointed that both Dennard & Gilbert are off the board, along with the top tackles. They could use a receiver to replace thediamond-steelers departed Emanuel Sanders & Jerricho Cotchery, but after signing Lance Moore & Darrius Heyward-Bey it’s not as big of an issue, especially with the top two wideouts off the board. The best player available that fits a need is Fuller, who can get his feet wet this season and then take over for Ike Taylor in 2015.

 

18 New York Jets
TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
The signing of free agent receiver Eric Decker doesn’t completely eliminate the need to draft a wideout, but it makes it less of a priority. The valueJets-Pin-Pro at this spot is tight end. In the past few years a big athletic tight end has become a huge weapon in the NFL…almost a necessity. And right now the Jets tight ends are Jeff Cumberand, Zach Sudfeld, & Chris Pantale, which sounds more like the accounting faculty at a junior college.

 

19 Miami Dolphins
G Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
The Dolphins solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal. Nearly everyMiami_Dolphins_Helmet mock draft I have seen has Martin going to the Dolphins, so who am I to rock the boat??

 

 

20 Carolina Panthers (trade w/Arizona Cardinals)
T Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)
The Panthers need to replace the retired Jordan Gross on the offensive line. Yes wide receiver is also a priority, but they can carolina_panthers_logo-14336address that need in later rounds. A franchise left tackle is more important. It’s worth the price to move up.

 

 

21 Green Bay Packers
S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
The Packers have long been considered one of the NFL’s best teams but the truth is that the offense…lead by QB Aaron Rogers and a plethora ofGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet good receivers…has covered for some weaknesses on the defense. They can’t pass on a hard-nosed athletic safety that can play centerfield for the next decade.

 

22 Philadelphia Eagles
LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)
Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player philadelphia_eagles-3715with tremendous leadership skills.

 

23 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Marqise Lee (USC)
The Chiefs need another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith. With this move WR Dwayne Bowe will see less double teams and the Chiefs might not implode late in the kc-chiefs-logoseason like they did last year.

 

24 Cincinnati Bengals
DE Dee Ford (Auburn)
The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a bit for a pass rusher with a big upside. This pick might look like pure genius Cincinnati_Bengals_Helmetin 3 or 4 years.

 

25 San Diego Chargers
G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)
The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potentialSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3 so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

 

26 Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts)
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)
The Browns have addressed the quarterback issue by drafting Johnny Football and also signing free agents Vince Young & Tyler Thigpen (and don’t forget Brian Hoyer Cleveland_Browns_Helmetis still around recovering from a torn ACL). They also signed free agent RB Ben Tate who is ready to be a feature back after backing up Arian Foster in Houston for the past few years. There are certainly opportunities to trade out of this spot, but instead the Browns get Manziel a speedy slot receiver.

 

27 Houston Texans (trade w/New Orleans Saints)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
The Texans trade back into the first round due to concern that the Arizona Cardinals may be looking for a quarterback as well. Bridgewater was once considered a houston texans logo2potential #1 overall pick but questions have arisen…as they always do. Much like Manziel it is a 50/50 proposition as to whether Bridgewater will be a competent NFL quarterback or a complete bust, but with a QB depth chart that includes Case Keenum, TJ Yates, & Ryan Fitzpatrick Houston has to make this move.

 

28 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
The Cards will be mildly disappointed that the top tier quarterbacks are all gone, but not terribly so. They can get another year or two out of 34 year old Carson Palmer nflarizonacardinalsand still may be able to snag a pretty good signal caller in a later round that they can develop slowly. Ward joins a stellar defensive backfield that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Petersen, & Antonio Cromartie.

 

29 New England Patriots
TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
The Patriots need to move on from the Aaron Hernandez mess and of course we all know that Rob Gronkowski has become unreliable on a variety of levels. Tom BradyNew_England_Patriots_Helmet is just plain better when he has a big dependable target that can go up and get the ball.

 

30 San Francisco 49ers
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)
The 49ers are still amongst the top teams in the NFL, but they must be vigilant in not letting the team get old. Roby should improve the secondary,San-Francisco-49ers and if the Seattle Seahawks proved anything it’s that an awesome secondary can be a key to a championship.

 

31 Denver Broncos
G Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
I have really been impressed with what the Broncos have done in the offseason. They let the ancient Champ Bailey move on to New Orleans and broncos-4759replaced him with Aqib Talib. They further upgraded the secondary with safety TJ Ward, who fled Cleveland like a Ukrainian refugee. They signed receiver Emmanuel Sanders away from the Steelers. Sanders isn’t a top flight wideout but he’s a reliable third or fourth option which is all Peyton Manning really needs and I think he can be every bit as productive as the departed Eric Decker. And DeMarcus Ware left the dysfunctional Cowboys and will now be sacking opposing quarterbacks for Denver. I think the focus now becomes protecting Manning. A team can never have enough solid offensive linemen.

 

32 Seattle Seahawks
T Morgan Moses (Virginia)
The defending Super Bowl Champions would be the odds on favorite to repeat without adding a single player to their roster. However, they did suffer some losses this seattle-seahawks1offseason. Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini is now with the NY Jets. Defensive end Red Bryant signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also signed another Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. Receiver Golden Tate departed to the Detroit Lions. Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are both back and reportedly healthy, so I don’t think receiver is a top priority. The signing of Michael Bennett eases the pain of the loss of Clemons & Bryant. Moses solidifies an offensive line that absolutely must protect QB Russell Wilson and create holes for RB Marshawn Lynch for Seattle to have the same level of success in 2014 as they had last year.

 

 

Round 2

33 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
CB Jason Verrett (TCU)
There are a few intriguing receivers on the board, but the secondary is a bigger need. Verrett can spend a year learning from 112 year old Champ Bailey and then take his starting spot next season when Bailey is at home yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn.

 

34 Washington Redskins
DT Rashede Hageman (Minnesota)
The Redskins didn’t have a first round choice after trading it away a couple years ago in the draft day deal that brought them quarterback RGIII. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

 

35 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)
The Steelers were a lot more active in free agency than usual, plugging holes at nose tackle (Cam Thomas, formerly of the Chargers), safety (Mike Mitchell, formerly of the Panthers), and wide receiver (Lance Moore, formerly of the Saints, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, formerly of the Colts). I think that’s more offseason additions than Pittsburgh has made in the previous 5 seasons combined. However, they are still a bit thin at defensive end even if former first round pick Cameron Heyward develops into what he needs to become.

 

36 Oakland Raiders
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)
After missing out on Sammy Watkins in Round 1 the Raiders will be pleased to see Beckham still on the board. He should immediately challenge Rod Streeter & Denarius Moore for a starting spot.

 

37 Atlanta Falcons
DE Demarcus Lawrence (Boise St.)
The Falcons continue to upgrade their pass rush. Tyson Jackson came over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason but Jonathan Babineux is 32 years old. Lawrence can be added into the rotation gradually.

 

38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
T JaWuan James (Tennessee)
Whether Bortles seizes the starting QB job immediately or Josh McCown mans the position for awhile it is vitally important to provide either guy with as much protection as possible. James would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

 

39 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Tom Savage (Pitt)
Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, & Carr are all off the board, but the Jags have their pick of the second tier QBs, some of whom have been rising up draft boards and may end up being just as good or better as the first wave. Savage has been getting a lot of love in the past few weeks and has drawn comparisons to Drew Bledsoe. If absolutely necessary Jacksonville can start Chad Henne this season and let Savage develop.

 

40 Minnesota Vikings
LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)
With Derek Carr in the fold the Vikings can now concentrate on other needs. Attaochu would likely become an immediate starter in Minnesota’s 3-4 scheme alongside veteran Chad Greenway.

 

41 Buffalo Bills
WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)
Buffalo’s receiving corps is solid but uninspiring. Reuniting quarterback EJ Manuel with former college teammate Benjamin would be a stroke of genius on the part of the Bills.
42 Tennessee Titans
CB Keith McGill (Utah)
The Titans once again pass on a quarterback (Jake Locker lives to see another day!!), not to mention a franchise running back to replace the departed Chris Johnson. Instead they choose to replace All-Pro corner Alterraun Verner, who is now plying his trade for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

43 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)
The Vikings get an extra pick after moving down in the first round. They take the opportunity to address the offensive line and get a much needed upgrade on the inside.

 

44 St. Louis Rams
T Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)
Richardson is a massive tackle that should provide plenty of protection for QB Sam Bradford as well as open up holes for whoever totes the rock for St. Louis. Richardson, Jake Long, & Rodger Saffold would comprise a rather impressive line.

 

45 Detroit Lions
S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)
The Lions continue to upgrade their secondary. Bucannon should step right into the starting lineup.

 

46 Pittsburgh Steelers
T Billy Turner (North Dakota St.)
There’s a lot of value left on the board at this spot. After addressing some key needs in free agency the Steelers decide to use this pick to add depth to the offensive line, where injuries have been an issue the past couple of seasons.

 

47 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Baltimore Ravens)
CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)
The Browns have their quarterback and also added an outstanding receiver that should be comfortable in the slot. Now they add a cornerback that will be a nice bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden.

 

48 Dallas Cowboys
S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)
The secondary has been a significant issue for Dallas for awhile. Brooks should immediately crack the starting lineup.

 

49 New York Jets
NT Louis Nix III
Jets head coach Rex Ryan just might wet himself when he sees Nix available in this spot. Nix plugging the middle with Sheldon Richardson & Muhammed Wilkerson on either side would certainly make a formidable defensive line.

 

50 Miami Dolphins
G Dakota Dozier (Furman)
First round selection Zack Martin can actually slide over to the tackle position opposite free agent signee Branden Albert and Dozier can step into a starting guard slot. Add in starting center Mike Pouncey and all the sudden the Dolphins’ offensive line woes begin to look a bit smaller in the rear view mirror.

 

51 Chicago Bears
DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)
The Bears added free agents Lamarr Houston & Jared Allen on the defensive line, which certainly helps make up for the loss of Julius Peppers & Henry Melton. But adding another piece…especially since Allen is 32 years old…isn’t the worst idea in the world. Jernigan is a first round talent that falls simply because a lot of teams had more pressing needs. He is a steal here.

 

52 Arizona Cardinals
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo got peoples’ attention in post-season collegiate all-star games. He has the least amount of pressure of any of the quarterbacks chosen thus far because there is no chance he’ll be the starter in Arizona in 2014 or maybe even the following season. He can spend his first couple of seasons learning from Carson Palmer before taking command when Palmer decides to hang ‘em up.

 

53 Green Bay Packers
TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)
The Packers need to replace Jermichael Finley. Jenkins isn’t quite the freakish athlete that other tight ends like New Orleans’ Jimmie Graham or San Diego’s Antonio Gates are, but at 6ft.6 and 252 lbs. he is an imposing red zone target.

 

54 Philadelphia Eagles
WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)
DeSean Jackson was released by the Eagles and is now catching balls for the Washington Redskins. The Eagles need a replacement. Robinson has tremendous value at this spot.

 

55 Cincinnati Bengals
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
The Bengals need some youth at the corner position. It doesn’t hurt that the young man is 6ft3.

 

56 San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)
C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)
‘Frisco has an outstanding offensive line, but they won’t pass up an opportunity to make it even better.

 

57 San Diego Chargers
CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)
The Chargers have depth at corner but not a lot of big time talent. Roberson should be able to secure a lot of playing time as a rookie and maybe even grab a starting spot.

 

58 New Orleans Saints
WR Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Lance Moore left via free agency and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Marques Colston & Robert Meacham are both around 30-ish. Not old by any means, but probably old enough that adding a fresh talent to the mix isn’t a bad idea.

 

59 Indianapolis Colts
WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
The Colts didn’t have a first round pick so this choice has to have some impact. While it is true that they signed Hakeem Nicks in free agency and have TY Hilton, it is also true that perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne is 35 years old. Matthews is too good to pass up at this spot.

 

60 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
LB Carl Bradford (Arizona St.)
I’ve been calling the Cardinals the Pittsburgh Steelers of the west for awhile. A lot of former Steelers seem to end up in Arizona. Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt (now the head coach for the Tennessee Titans) was a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein is now an assistant line coach in Arizona. Former Steelers defensive tackle Brenston Bucker is now the Cardinals defensive line coach. If you want to go back in time a bit Steelers Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene spent a season coaching the Cardinals defensive line in 2003. It seems as if The Steeler Way has kind of been transmitted to Arizona thru osmosis, with one of those philosophies being fast athletic linebackers who can get to the quarterback. John Abraham is 36 years old and it is time to fine his successor.
61 San Francisco 49ers
WR Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
The 49ers are up again and this time choose to add to their deep yet prosaic receiving corps. Anquan Boldin is 33 years old and there’s really no one behind him that’d scare defenses at all.

 

62 New England Patriots
DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Vince Wilfork is 32 years old. Here is his replacement in a year or two.

 

63 Denver Broncos
WR Jarvis Landry (LSU)
Peyton Manning still has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, & tight end Julius Thomas to throw to, as well as free agent signee Emmanuel Sanders. But Welker is 33 years old so adding some depth at the position is probably a good call.

 

64 Seattle Seahawks
WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)
Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are back for the defending Super Bowl Champions, but there is little else at the position after the departure of Golden Tate. Adams is a suitable replacement for Tate.

 

 

 

Round 3

65 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
T Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)
The Saints have to upgrade their offensive line.

 

66 Washington Redskins
S Dion Bailey (USC)
Washington’s secondary is led by DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Meriweather, & free agent signee Ryan Clark, who are all north of 30. A youth movement is in order.

 

67 Oakland Raiders
QB Zach Mettenberger
This might be the biggest steal of the draft. Sure the Raiders have Matt Schaub. But let us not forget that Matt Schaub was about as good a quarterback last season as the one-armed man from The Fugitive. It’d be amazing if Mettenberger dropped this far. At 6ft5 and 224lbs. he has prototypical size. The fact that he is coming off of a torn ACL likely explains his second tier status amongst the quarterbacks.

 

68 Atlanta Falcons
TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
14 time Pro Bowler and surefire future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez has retired. It’ll be difficult to replace him, but someone has to try.

 

69 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
G David Yankey (Stanford)
Don’t be surprised if the Bucs double down on offensive line depth.

 

70 Jacksonville Jaguars
T Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Back-to-back Stanford linemen find NFL homes. Fleming and 2013 first round pick Luke Joeckel would form quite the impressive tandem on the Jags offensive line.

 

71 Cleveland Browns
G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
Richardson is a massive guard that takes the interior of the Browns line from impressive to potentially magnificent.

 

72 Minnesota Vikings
CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)
Depth in the secondary is important, especially when the Vikings face the Detroit Lions and All Pro Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson twice a year.

 

73 San Francisco 49ers (trade w/Buffalo Bills)
DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)
Justin Smith is 34 years old. It’s time to find his successor and the 49ers have enough ammunition to move up and get a who has dropped a bit lower than he had been projected.

 

74 New York Giants
RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)
Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

 

75 St. Louis Rams
T James Hurst (North Carolina)
Hurst has seen his draft stock plummet after breaking his leg in the 2013 Belk Bowl. However, the Rams can afford to roll the dice even if they have to stash the young man on the PUP list for awhile. He can work his way into a starting spot in a year or two.

 

76 Detroit Lions
C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
When you have a star quarterback like Matthew Stafford it makes sense to invest in protection for him. Dominic Raiola is 35 years old. The youngster can learn his craft for a year before taking over in 2015.

 

77 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers via Tennessee Titans)
LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)
The Bills don’t necessarily need a linebacker, but the value here is too good to pass up.

 

78 Baltimore Ravens
S Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
Vereen probably has a good chance at cracking the starting lineup and pairing up with safety and 2013 first round pick Matt Elam.

 

79 Dallas Cowboys
DE Marcus Smith (Louisville)
The Cowboys would be thrilled to find Smith still available at this spot. All the sudden the loss of DeMarcus Ware doesn’t seem all that horrible.

 

80 New York Jets
WR Cody Latimer (Indiana)
I don’t know a whole lot about Latimer, but draftniks like Kiper & McShay seem high on him so that’s good enough for me. The Jets need weapons for whomever wins the quarterback battle between Geno Smith & Michael Vick.

 

81 Miami Dolphins
RB Jeremy Hill (LSU)
With their offensive line woes alleviated the Dolphins can now move forward with other pressing concerns. They don’t seem to be enamored with any of Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, or Mike Gillislee. They signed Knowshon Moreno in free agency, but he’s just about as pedestrian as those other guys. Hill has been getting a lot of love from the talking heads and could form a decent 1-2 punch with Moreno.

 

82 Chicago Bears
LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Lance Briggs & DJ Williams are both north of 30. It can’t hurt to add some youth to the linebacking corps.

 

83 Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)
RB D’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Ben Tate will be the every down back in Cleveland, but Thomas adds a dimension to the offense that the Browns have been lacking since…well…always. Imagine being a defensive coordinator and having to prepare for Johnny Manziel AND D’Anthony Thomas.

 

84 Arizona Cardinals
DT Dominique Easley (Florida)
Darnell Dockett is 32 years old. Easley can learn from him before eventually taking his place.

 

85 Green Bay Packers
WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)
James Jones left Green Bay in free agency and is now an Oakland Raider. The Packers won’t miss a beat with this rookie replacement playing alongside mainstays Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb.

 

86 Philadelphia Eagles
S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
The Eagles have a need at safety. Problem solved.

 

87 Kansas City Chiefs
QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)
Rumors have been circulating that the Chefs may be in the market for a quarterback. Many believe that Alex Smith played way beyond his talent level in 2013 and are just waiting for him to come crashing to Earth. That may happen. Or he could be a solid starter for the next couple of years and then fade away after a decent decade long career. Either way McCarron is an intriguing addition. He is probably best served by being a reliable backup for 2 or 3 years before being handed the reins.

 

88 Cincinnati Bengals
WR Dri Archer (Kent St.)
The Bengals receiving corps looks rather prosaic when you get past AJ Green. This pick could add a little excitement.

 

89 San Diego Chargers
QB Aaron Murray (Georgia)
The Chargers jump on the quarterback train and get themselves what they hope will be Phillip Rivers’ successor in a few years.

 

90 Indianapolis Colts
C Marcus Martin (USC)
With a valuable commodity like Andrew Luck offensive line depth is an enormous consideration.

 

91 New Orleans Saints
LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
The talking heads have been giving some love to Borland. I’ve heard him compared to Zach Thomas & Chris Spielman, which in my mind means that what he may lack in natural athleticism he makes up for with solid work ethic, and it’s never a bad thing to have a guy like that on your team.

 

92 Carolina Panthers
WR Devin Street (Pitt)
Right now Jerricho Cotchery & Jason Avant are the starting wideouts for the Panthers. That may get you thru the season, but adding another receiver is essential. Street is probably a bit of a reach at this spot but Carolina has no choice.

 

93 New England Patriots
T Michael Schofield (Michigan)
Tom Brady might have 3 or 4 more years left to grab one more Lombardi Trophy, but if that is to happen offensive line depth is of the utmost importance.

 

94 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers)
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Personally I am a big fan of Bills tight end Scott Chandler, another Iowa Hawkeye. I think he’s a decent red zone target. However, he only caught 2 touchdowns in 2013, which was down from 6 in 2012 and why a lot of folks seem to think that the Bills need an upgrade. A two tight end package could become an effective weapon for Buffalo.
95 Denver Broncos
CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)
For anyone that may be curious Lindenwood is a Division II school in Missouri. The Broncos need to some depth in the secondary and I like cornerbacks that are 6 foot +.

 

96 Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)
RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)
A few things. First of all backup running back Toby Gerhart fled Minnesota and grabbed the opportunity to become the feature back in Jacksonville. One can hardly blame him. Secondly All-Universe RB Adrian Peterson is 29 years old and has an injury history. Having a solid backup is crucial for the Vikings. And while Peterson is pretty much a straight ahead bulldozer Sims specializes in catching the ball out of the backfield, which will be a nice option for whomever is behind center in Minnesota.

 

97 Pittsburgh Steelers (compensatory pick)
WR Brandon Coleman (Rutgers)
The Steelers offset losses to the receiving corps with a couple of free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t add another piece in the draft. Coleman is the type of big body that Ben Roethlisberger has coveted for years. He’s raw and may need a year or two to develop, but the upside is there.

 

98 Green Bay Packers (compensatory pick)
LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)
Newly signed linebacker Julius Peppers is 34 years old, so even with the presence of AJ Hawk & Clay Matthews it wouldn’t hurt to have one eye on the future and add some depth.

 

99 Baltimore Ravens (compensatory pick)
WR L’Damian Washington (Missouri)
Steve Smith came to Baltimore from the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but he is 35 years old. The Ravens need to add a big body to complement speedster Torrey Smith. Joe Flacco seemed like a lot better quarterback a couple of years ago when he had Anquan Boldin as a security blanket.

 

100 San Francisco 49ers (compensatory pick)
LB Shane Skov (Stanford)
We all witnessed the horrific knee injury to linebacker Navorro Bowman in the NFC Championship. I’m not sure where he stands in the recovery process, but I think it is unlikely that he’d be able to play at a high level in 2014…if at all. The Niners need to find a replacement.

I’m Gonna Win A Billion Dollars!!

Well okay…maybe not. But I am atleast glad I finally found some way to insert my NCAA March Madness brackets into an entry here at The Manofesto.It’s not exactly perfect, but it’ll do.

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As you can see, my Final Four consists of Florida, Virginia, Duke, & Oklahoma St., with the Gators eventually upending the Cowboys for the national championship. This looks like one of the more wide open & competitive tournaments in recent years, and alot of talking heads seem to be predicting a plethora of upsets. Some are even saying that none of the #1 seeds might make it to The Final Four. I don’t buy that. More often than not chalk ultimately rules the day. Oh sure there will be a few upsets. That’s what keeps things interesting. But I don’t think it’s wise to get crazy…even when the “experts” keep talking about parity and teams being “mis-seeded”. That committee is made up of folks who know what they’re doing. They certainly know more than most of us.

I don’t consider a 9 over and 8 or even a 10 over a 7 to be all that big of an upset, so in this year’s first round (yes I still call it the first round no matter how much they try to shove their fuzzy math down our throats), I am forecasting eight real upsets, with nearly half of them occurring in the South region. To be honest that is probably too many, but I suppose we’ll see.

Beyond the first round there are just a few teams I really like as “Cinderellas”…Tulsa, Oklahoma St., Oregon, & Nebraska. I have the Cowboys ending up in the title game and going down to Florida.

I think alot of folks are expecting early exits from traditional powers like Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Syracuse, & Arizona, but I have all of them getting by their first round opponents and all but Arizona getting to atleast the Sweet 16. The most overrated teams in the tournament for me are Ohio St. & UCLA, both of whom I have being defeated in the first round.

So there you have it. The next couple of weekends should be alot of fun. I encourage y’all to enjoy The Madness. Fill out brackets. Enter office pools. Compete with friends. But don’t expect to walk away with Warren Buffet’s billion dollars…that prize shall be mine. But if you’re really really nice maybe…just maybe…I’ll share.