2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 9

I thought I might be distracted tonight by The World Series, but the game is pretty much over in the 7th inning, so it’s on to football. Zach (3-2) bested me (1-4) last weekend and has drawn closer to a .500 record and the season lead. Injuries in the NFL have wreaked havoc on my fantasy teams thus far, so I must admit to waning enthusiasm. Thankfully these picks help me maintain a certain level of interest.

My Season:        27-22

Zach’s Season:  24-25

 

 

 

 

 

 

USC (-13)                     at                         Colorado

I had high hopes for the Trojans, but injuries wrecked any shot they had at playoff contention. However, at 4-3 they still have a decent opportunity to get into the conference title game. Conversely, the Buffs are on a three game losing streak and the schedule looks to be rough the rest of the way. Their goal has to be bowl eligibility at this point, and I’m not sure I’d bet on that happening. Can Colorado muster enough home field mojo to atleast cover the points?? I don’t think so. Conversely, Zach sees USC as inconsistent and does believe Colorado can keep things close in a high scoring game.

My Pick:     Southern Cal

Z’s Pick:     Colorado

 

 

 

Auburn                        at                         LSU (-10)

The Bayou Bengals have visions of a conference championship and a playoff berth on their minds. They’re undefeated and have a huge home field advantage. Will they be looking ahead to a date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa?? I suppose it’s possible, but they do have a bye next week so it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it could be. Auburn is a dangerous Top Ten foe, but it seems like a lot of folks have jumped off that bandwagon after they lost at Florida a couple of weeks ago. I expect a really fun game, and I think LSU will get the victory…however I believe it will be a single digit win. Zach understands the possibility of this being a trap game for LSU, but can’t ignore the excellence of QB Joe Burrow & the dominating defense.

My Pick:     Auburn

Z’s Pick:     LSU

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame                          at                         Michigan (-1)

The Disney TV folks were probably hoping that this would be the big matchup of the week, but the luster has been diminished just a bit. The Irish are somehow in the Top Ten, but the truth is they haven’t played a tough schedule outside of a loss to Georgia. The Wolverines have lost two games, the latest just a week ago to Penn St. Rumors of Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL have already begun. So basically this game is going to save one of these teams’ season. Another loss might knock Michigan completely out of the rankings, while Notre Dame losing would open up the floodgates of the talking heads accusing them of being overrated. I have no idea what to expect, but when in doubt I tend to ride with the home team. Zach was heartbroken by Michigan’s loss to Penn St., but recognized some positives. Having said that, he’s going with the old “expect the worst” philosophy, which is probably smart.

My Pick:     Michigan

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin                            at                         Ohio State (-14)

A week ago this game was going to be epic. It still could be, but thanks to an upset by Illinois that no one saw coming more people have jumped off the Badger bandwagon than the folks that have ditched Auburn. In the legendary words of Ferris Bueller…”life moves pretty fast”. Having said that, there’s still a lot at stake here. The Buckeyes are eyeing a playoff spot, and both teams could meet again in the conference title game. There are a couple of things to consider. First, The Horseshoe in Columbus is a rather significant home field advantage for Ohio St. Secondly, even if one concedes that the home team deserves to be favored those points are…attention grabbing. Was the Illinois game just an anomaly…or did it expose Wisconsin as a fraud?? Is Ohio St. really a Top 5 team, or should we be talking about their relatively weak schedule?? I envision a low-scoring game (the over/under is 50 and I’d take the under)…defense, special teams, field position, ground & pound. The Vibes tell me Ohio St. wins, but not by 14 points. Zach reluctantly admits that the Buckeyes look scary good right now and thinks they’d definitely make the playoff if it began now. However, he leans toward last week being a glitch and looks for Wisconsin to rebound strong.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

 

Carolina                       at                  San Francisco (-5)

The 49ers are undefeated y’all!! It’s been awhile since they had a good football team in ‘Frisco, but anyone who’s been following Jimmy G. isn’t all that shocked. Conversely, the Panthers’ are being led by backup QB Kyle Allen since the injury bug has bitten Cam Newton. That’s not a bad thing though…Carolina is 4-2 and RB Christian McCaffrey is a legit MVP candidate. This is going to be a fun game to watch, and my sense is that turnovers will play a key role. I’m pulling the trigger on an upset because no one goes unbeaten in the NFL and ‘Frisco will eventually win their division easily anyway. Conversely, Zach has no hesitation in predicting a big Niners win.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     San Francisco

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 4

There’s no way to sugarcoat it…we both (2-6) did horrible last week. We are far enough into the football season now that I’ve begun to realize that many of my predictions & prognostications may have been a bit off base. I will need to reevaluate several of my preconceived notions, like not having much faith in a freshman quarterback or assuming certain personnel losses or changes may have a deleterious effect on a team. Perhaps a few of my assumptions will pan out in the long run, but this isn’t the start for which I’d hoped. At any rate, we move forward during a week when the schedule isn’t all that appealing. I do my best not to be repetitive with the teams we pick and try to spread the love, but there is no denying that the most interesting college games are ones pitting top ranked opponents against one another or that out of 32 NFL teams there are about a dozen that stand out as eminently more watchable. We are further limited by our own biases because it is difficult to be objective when it comes to certain teams so we do our best to avoid those games. Having said all that, we’ve done this for several years now and found a way to muddle thru, and so we shall continue.

My Season:        8-10

Z’s Season:        7-11

 

 

 

 

 

Florida (-5)                   at                Tennessee

These days when people gush about the vaunted SEC it’s all about Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and whichever Mississippi school happens to be having a good year, but not that long ago the Gators and the Vols were sitting atop the mountain. Florida won national championships under Steve Spurrier then Urban Meyer in the late 90’s & early 2K’s, but they’ve only won 10+ games three times in the past decade and haven’t won the conference title since 2008. Tennessee hasn’t laid claim to any championships of any kind since the late 90’s when a young man named Peyton Manning was under center in Knoxville, and they haven’t won ten games in a season since 2007. Both teams come into this weekend 2-1, but I’m not sure anything of value can be learned from those games. It is interesting that Florida is favored despite the game being played at the massive Neyland Stadium. I’m sure there will be over 100k in attendance treating this like a playoff game, and I think that may work in Tennessee’s favor. Zach isn’t sure what to think about this game, but he’s rolling the dice on the Gators.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

 

Stanford (-1.5)             at                Oregon

The Ducks snuck into my pre-season poll and I thought there might be a chance they’d get to eight victories and win a couple of games they aren’t supposed to win. So far so good, as they’re 3-0, although this will be their first real test. Stanford is also 3-0, including an impressive win over USC. Heisman hopeful Bryce Love will be toting the rock after missing last week’s game with an apparent concussion. It’s a total vibe game for me, and The Voices are quacking. Zach believes it’ll be a close game for three quarters but Stanford will eventually pull away.

My Pick:     Oregon

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Cincinnati  (-3)              at                Carolina

I predicted that the Bengals would win five games, finish in last place, and head coach Marvin Lewis would be fired. Right now they are 2-0 and atop the AFC North, so I may have been slightly wrong. Conversely, I had Carolina winning 12 games and easily capturing the NFC South. They are 1-1 so that prediction may work out eventually. Anyway, I’m not sure what kind of hurricane damage Charlotte suffered or if the storm’s aftermath will have an effect on attendance, but I do find it interesting that Cincy is favored. The injury bug seems to have bitten the Bengals, including RBs Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard. Even if both are good to go on Sunday that’s enough for me to lean in the other direction. Zach thinks the Bungles will screw things up if/when they make it to the playoffs, but he likes them in this game.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Cincinnati

 

 

LA Chargers                at                LA Rams (-7)

It’s the Battle of Los Angeles, featuring teams that were playing in San Diego & St. Louis just a couple of years ago. I suppose there is no real home field advantage. The Rams are 2-0 while the Chargers are 1-1, but that doesn’t really tell us much. I predicted both would win their division, although it looks like the road may be somewhat tougher for the Chargers. Here’s what I’m thinking: a high scoring game that goes down to the wire (maybe even OT) and is decided by a field goal. If that’s the case the pick has to be the Chargers. Zach thinks the Rams’ offense is just too overwhelming and will lead their team to an easy win.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

 

Dallas                           at                Seattle (-1.5)

Having this game on the docket says more about the lack of exciting games on the schedule than it does my interest in watching. As predicted the 0-2 Seahawks are a shell of their former selves and look to be headed for a dismal season. The Cowboys are 1-1 and I still maintain that they’ll end up with a losing record as well. The home field advantage has to be respected for Seattle, as CenturyLink Field is usually one of the loudest in the NFL. I’m going out on a limb and forecasting QB Russell Wilson to have a big game and lead his team to one of the few victories they’ll have all year. Zach is putting all the pressure on RB Zeke Elliot to lead the Cowboys to victory.

My Pick:     Seattle

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 9

pfootIt wasn’t my intention to do bonus picks again so soon, but both the college & NFL schedules are chockful of intriguing matchups and I just can’t resist. Last week was a rough one for yours truly, as I could only muster a record of 1-4, while Zach fared a little better at 2-3. Obviously neither of us have a bright future in the prognostication arts, but we’ll have fun trying.

My Season:        22-24

Z’s Season:        16-31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California                     at                USC (-15.5)

The Bears come into this game 4-3, but it must be noted that two of those losses were by 5 points or less, and they’ve split the last two games in overtime. Meanwhile,cal the Trojans have an identical 4-3 record but are riding a three game winning streak. This is a Thursday night contest, and while it is a home game for Southern Cal the 2 TD+ spread seems a bit much. I think it’ll be closer and Zach agrees.

My Pick:     California

Z’s Pick:     California

 

 

Michigan (-24)             at                Michigan St.

A year ago the Spartans escaped with a thrilling last second victory after a touchdown on a fumbled punt. But that team was undefeated and would go on to play in the national Michigan_State_Spartansplayoff semifinal. In 2016 the tables have been turned. The Wolverines are undefeated and ranked #2 in the country while State has lost five straight to stand at 2-5. I am not quite sure what has happened in East Lansing outside of the normal ebb & flow of players graduating & new ones stepping up take those spots, but obviously things have taken a bad turn. Conversely, Jim Harbaugh has coached his alma mater back to relevancy much quicker than I anticipated, although few are really shocked that they have been successful. I’d be surprised if the favorites lost, but I’d be almost as surprised if Sparty didn’t show some pride in defending their home field. Zach is a big Michigan fan but he agrees.

My Pick:     Michigan St.

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Baylor (-3)          at                Texas

I thought that it’d be Baylor having a rough year given their…eventful…offseason, while Texas would show some life with Charlie Strong’s job on the line. However the bayloropposite has happened thus far. The Bears are 6-0 and have barely been tested. The Longhorns are 3-4 and probably already have a list of candidates to replace Strong. I’d LOVE to pick the upset…but I just can’t pull the trigger, even with the game being played in Austin. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Baylor

Z’s Pick:     Baylor

 

 

Washington (-10)       at                Utah

utah2The Huskies are a very quiet 7-0, ranked 4th in the polls, & look like a solid playoff team unless they stumble down the stretch. Could that washington2misstep come against the 7-1 Utes in Salt Lake City?? I think it is possible. At the very least I am uncomfortable with a double digit point spread.  Zach has no issues with the spread. He thinks it’ll be close for three quarters but Washington will take over in the end.

My Pick:     Utah

Z’s Pick:     Washington

 

 

Nebraska           at                Wisconsin (-8.5)

nebraskaThis is the prime time game on ESPN Saturday night. The Huskers have rather quietly amassed a perfect 7-0 record, while the Badgers have lost WisconsinBadgerstwice…to Michigan & Ohio St….nothing to be ashamed about. Wisconsin gets the home field bump, which is understandable. But are the points too much?? I think they might be. Zach thinks Nebraska is overrated and he likes Wisconsin’s defense.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Clemson (-4.5)            at                Florida St.

Florida_State_SeminolesBefore the season began this game looked like it could decide a playoff spot. Unfortunately the Seminoles have dropped a couple of games and clemsonare unlikely to re-enter the playoff conversation. However the Tigers, despite a few close shaves, remain undefeated and very much in the playoff hunt. As much as I’d love to stick with my pre-season choice and pick Clemson The Vibes are reminding me that this game is in Tallahassee, that Florida St. is still a very good team, & that Clemson has been on the cusp of losing a couple of times and their luck can’t run on forever. Zach believes the Seminoles will put up a good fight but Clemson will be too much in the 4th quarter.

My Pick:     Florida St.

Z’s Pick:     Clemson

 

 

Kansas City (-2.5)      at                Indianapolis

The Chiefs were one of my pre-season Super Bowl picks, but thus far they are an underwhelming 4-2 and trailing both the Raiders & Broncos in the AFC West. The kc-chiefs-logoColts aren’t much better. At 3-4 they still have a chance to win their division as I predicted only because the Texans aren’t very good. It is interesting that Indy is a home underdog. If the folks in Vegas aren’t going to respect them why should I?? Zach likes the Chiefs to outcoach the opponent and snag a victory.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

Oakland             at                Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The Raiders have been fairly impressive in what seems to be the culmination of a decade long rebuild, leading their division at 5-2. The Bucs have been…alright. They raidersare 3-3 and occasionally show flashes of…something. Whatever it is they aren’t there yet and Oakland is ahead of their progress by a country mile. Zach notes that Tampa has suffered some key injuries and thinks the Raiders will be a playoff team.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

Arizona               at                Carolina (-2.5)

Many pundits thought the Cards were a Super Bowl favorite this season, but so far they’ve looked rather mediocre. The Panthers have been even worse, following in the footsteps of other Super Bowl losers of the past by stinking up the joint the following year. I have no idea what the problem is, but it is irrefutable that a problem exists.nflarizonacardinals Carolina is probably already out of playoff contention, but Arizona can still recover and win their division. This looks like a tossup on paper, but I’m gonna go with the visiting underdogs. Zach agrees. He likes the Cardinals’ defense to lead them to victory.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Arizona

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 7

cfoot2As I sit here writing this there is an NFL game, hockey’s opening night, the MLB playoffs, & a college football game all on at the same time. It’s the most stimulating experience I’ve had in many moons. At any rate, bonus picks didn’t really work out so well for either one of us last week, but I’m nothing if not persistent so we’re going to try again. Zach was 3-5, while I broke even at 4-4. We picked LSU/Florida, but they didn’t play because of Hurricane Matthew. That game has been rescheduled for mid-November. As of right now Alabama, Clemson, Washington, & the winner of Ohio St./Michigan look like the favorites to get into the NCAA playoff, while the NFL is being dominated by the Vikings, Cowboys, Broncos, & Falcons. Of course the cool thing about sports is that all of that could change in a single day.

My Season:        16-18

Z’s Season:        11-24

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama (-13)              at      Tennessee

tennessee_volunteers_football_iphone_wallpaperThe Tide hasn’t really been challenged much this season, winning every game by atleast 19 points with the exception of a 5 AlabamaCrimsonTide2point thriller against Ole Miss. The Vols were on a roll until they ran up against Texas A&M last weekend. Perhaps they were looking ahead to this game. When revealing my pre-season Top 25 I opined that “it would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated”. Of course I also had Oklahoma & LSU in my Top 5, so what do I know?? As a fan I am hoping for a great game, and that would necessitate something closer than 13 points. I’m not all that confident about it, but that’s the direction I’ll go. Conversely, Zach has faith in ‘Bama’s defense and believes they’ll win by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Northwestern              at      Michigan St. (-4.5)

Northwestern_WildcatsNeither team is going to win the Big Ten (which has 14 teams), but with identical 2-3 records this is a game that could swing Michigan_State_Spartansthe momentum one way or the other and lead to a season to either feel alright about or flush completely from the memory. I’m no psychologist, but I assume that the rocky start isn’t a shock for the Wildcats, and a win here would be a giant boost to their morale. Conversely, the Spartans have been very successful in recent years, especially last season when they were in the playoffs. Recent events have to be rather disconcerting to them. I think Northwestern comes into this contest hyped up and ready to turn things around, while Michigan St.’s spirit may have already been broken. Zach thinks Northwestern is too inconsistent and believes Michigan St.’s defense will get the job done.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Z’s Pick:     Michigan St.

 

 

Stanford                       at      Notre Dame (-3)

photo.stanfordtreeUsually this is an important game between two highly ranked teams. This year…not so much. The Irish lost half their team to NotreDame1the NFL and are currently 2-4. Stanford has seen the Heisman buzz for RB/WR Christian McCaffrey virtually disappear in the throes of a two game losing streak that has them at 3-2. Part of me believes that Notre Dame HAS to win this game, since pride & defending their home turf are about the only worthy goals remaining, but I can’t fight this feeling that Stanford…atleast for this season…is the better team. Zach likes Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer and thinks he’ll lead the Irish to victory.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Notre Dame

 

 

Ohio St. (-10)               at      Wisconsin

I didn’t have the Badgers anywhere near my pre-season Top 25. I just didn’t see any room for them to succeed in the loaded Big Ten. However, they WisconsinBadgersare capably filling the Top 10 spot I thought would be held by the faltering Iowa Hawkeyes. Of course no one is surprised by the 5-0 Buckeyes, who’ve barely broken a sweat thus far. That’ll change this week. I’d be surprised if Ohio St. lost, but I don’t think they’ll win by double digits on the road. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Z’s Pick:     Wisconsin

 

 

Philadelphia (-2.5)      at      Washington

Washington_Redskins_logoThe NFC East might be the best, most competitive division in the NFL. Dallas is better than I thought they’d be, and the NY philadelphia_eagles-3715Giants are hanging around. This is an important game for Philly & the Redskins since the winner would stay on pace with the Cowboys. Rookie QB Carson Wentz has been impressive for the 3-1 Eagles, while the 3-2 Redskins don’t have much of a running attack and have relied completely on QB Kirk Cousins. It’s interesting that Washington isn’t getting the usual home field bump. The oddsmakers clearly have an opinion on which is the better team, but I’m going to go against the grain and pick the upset. Zach literally flipped a coin…I think…and is going with the favorites.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Carolina (-3)                 at      New Orleans

New-Orleans-Saints-Logo-244x300In my NFL Preview I stated that I didn’t think the Panthers would fall prey the usual foibles of Super Bowl losers. That assessment CarolinaPanthersmay have been wrong. Not only is Carolina 1-4, but QB Cam Newton has been concussed and missed last week’s game. It looks like he’ll be back this week, and fortunately for he & his struggling team they face the equally dismal 1-3 Saints. Or is it fortunate?? The Superdome will be rockin’, and what better way to right the ship then for Drew Brees to lead his troops past the defending NFC champs?? I’m not sure either team can catch the Atlanta Falcons in the division, but a win here could conceivably catapult the victor into wildcard contention. Zach is looking for a high scoring game and thinks Newton will lead his team to a win.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

Dallas                           at      Green Bay (-4.5)

Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetThis should be a really good game. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has been better than Cowboys fans could have ever expected in thedallas-cowboys-logo2 absence of Tony Romo, and fellow rookie Zeke Elliot might be the best running back in the NFL at the moment. I am not among those that think that Romo has already lost his starting gig, but I’m sure he’ll be on a short leash upon his return. For the powers-that-be in Dallas it’s a nice problem to have. Meanwhile, the Packers seem like a forgotten team, lost in the shadow of division foe Minnesota. If Prescott can go into the unfriendly environment of The Frozen Tundra and snag a victory I’ll be more than impressed…but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Cowboys’ offensive line a lot and thinks they are a legit title contender.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

Winning & Musing: Post-Super Bowl 50 Thoughts

Greetings sports fans. Let me first apologize for an abrupt & unforeseen ending to our Pigskin Picks of Profundity. Your humble Potentate of Profundity had two surgeries in November and spent a couple of months in the hospital, so things here in The Manoverse were unfortunately but necessarily backburnered. But now I’m back and ready to talk some sports. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 
manningCongratulations to the Denver Broncos, winners of Super Bowl 50. I had my doubts going into the game, but was pleasantly surprised. It is nice to see Peyton Manning go out on top. Most athletes don’t get that opportunity. I realize that he hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The Broncos have Brock Osweiler waiting in the wings and I can’t see any other team signing Manning, who is half the QB he used to be. There isn’t any upside to playing another year, especially when he has the opportunity to retire as a Super Bowl Champion.

 

 

 

Lady Gaga has got some pipes, a fact that I recognized long ago. When she drops the outrageous act and just sings it can be quite gagaenjoyable, so I was cool with her singing the national anthem. However, I must point out that her stylist did her no favors. Was that look supposed to be some kind of tribute to David Bowie??

 

 

 

bdfThe old adage is that “defense wins championships”, and no game in recent memory proved that more than Super Bowl 50. Let’s be honest…Manning had very little to do with his team’s victory. Neither offense was impressive. It was the Broncos’ relentless pursuit of Carolina QB Cam Newton that secured the victory. It wasn’t the most exciting game to watch for sure, but kudos to Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for conceiving a plan that worked to perfection. Phillips has been a mediocre head coach more than once and is the perfect example that sometimes knowing one’s role and understanding your limitations isn’t a bad thing.

 

 

 

Speaking of Newton…
Okay, I know that a Denver player was being interviewed (rather loudly) during Newton’s abbreviated post-game press conference and that player bragging about how they’d stymied the Panthers’ offense may have upset Newton. But that’s still not a good enough excuse to pout like a kindergartner whose Mommy didn’t buy the toy he wanted and then end the press conference after a couple of questions. Cam Newton has a track record of being an immature sore loser, and that behavior reared its ugly camhead again on football’s biggest stage. Dozens of star players & coaches have lost the Super Bowl and had to do interviews after the loss, but I can’t ever remember any of them acting so childishly. I know losing sucks, and I can’t imagine how much of a kick in the ‘nads it is to lose The Super Bowl. However, Cam Newton is going to have to learn to suck it up and be a man. My understanding is that he is a good-hearted & charitable guy who does a lot for his community, especially kids. That being said, it took about five minutes on Sunday for him to lose a lot of the respect people had for him, and he’s going to have to earn it back. I suspect that the Carolina Panthers are going to be a good football team for the next several years and may find themselves in this spotlight again eventually. If that happens I hope that Cam Newton…win or lose…will show us all a better version of himself.

 

 

 

A few random thoughts about Super Bowl 50’s commercials:
• Is it really a good idea for The Incredible Hulk to get all caffeined up on Coca-Cola??
• I’ll probably never drink a Mountain Dew Kickstart (whatever that is), but I’m totally on board with PuppyMonkeyBabies, which I find much less creepy than Super Bowl Babies.
• Peyton Manning’s random plug for Budweiser during his post-game interview was much more memorable than the commercials that they probably paid an arm & a leg for.
• Dachsunds (aka weiner dogs) selling Heinz ketchup?? Okay…I guess.
• I don’t care how hard they sell the notion…a Prius will never be cool. An Audi, on the other hand, is very cool.
• I still don’t understand what an Amazon Echo is.
• Jeff Goldblum singing the theme song from The Jeffersons is mildly amusing, even if I don’t recall which company the ad was for.
• I don’t know which is more entertaining…the fact that there was a Super Bowl commercial for Mexican avocadoes, the comforting thought that Scott Baio is alive and earning a paycheck, or that the producers of the spot were obviously fans of The Last Starfighter (or maybe the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars).

 

 

 

Introducing all previous Super Bowl MVP’s was a nice touch. Kudos NFL.

 

 
halftimeI only half paid attention to the halftime show, so I wasn’t immediately offended by the alleged political message within Beyonce’s performance. I was more offended that the powers-that-be made Coldplay the stars of the show and then at some stage in the process realized that if one looks up the term mediocrity in the rock n’ roll dictionary there is a picture of Coldplay, alongside about a half dozen other random acts that look & sound the same. The producers were then forced to bring in Beyonce & Bruno Mars, two of the more popular halftime acts from recent Super Bowls. It smelled of pure desperation. On top of that the performance was average at best. I don’t really care about the political rhetoric because I doubt if 95% of the audience even understood the point.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 6.11

“Show me a good and gracious loser, and I’ll show you a failure.” – Knute Rockne

 

Dear ESPN First Take: It is not necessary to shoehorn Skip Bayless into nearly every segment. The normally enjoyable show’s increasing focus on Bayless would only be slightly annoying if it weren’t for the fact that the man is quite possibly the worst talking head in the business. The fact that he is almost 100% categorically wrong about nearly everything on which he espouses an opinion takes the emphasis on his BS from merely irritating to downright embarrassing.

 

I am not normally one that embraces the cry of racism as an excuse for anything. Those that constantly accuse conservatives of being racists because they cannot wrap their pea brains around the concept that it is possible to dislike President Obama due to his policies and not because he is black aggravate me tremendously. However, I think the continuing love/hate for Philadelphia Eagles’ QB Michael Vick is often divided among racial lines. White people will never completely let go of Vick’s checkered past and don’t embrace the fact that he paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance as much as the next guy. Conversely, the black community concentrates on Vick’s incredible athletic skill and wants to conveniently sweep his dog fighting thug days under the rug.

 

So Danica Patrick is coming to Nascar full time. Looks like Dale Jr. is going to have some stiff weekly competition for 35th place.

Baseball’s regular season is winding down, and I am betting that the post-season will be anti-climactic. While the Yankees and Red Sox get all the attention I’ll be shocked if the Philadelphia Phillies don’t cruise to a World Series title. The Phillies have been relegated to second banana even within their own city, as the NFL’s Eagles have been hogging the spotlight since the lockout ended. However, ever so quietly they have amassed nearly 90 wins with about 30 games to go. I don’t think the all-time wins record (116…set in 1906 by the Chicago Cubs & repeated in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners) is in jeopardy, but I also don’t think we’ll see a repeat of 2010 when the heavily favored Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS and failed to make it to the World Series.

 

For the record, I assign virtually no validity to the outcomes of NFL preseason games.

 

It’s funny how football fans move forward so quickly. Just a few years ago the idea of having tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen on the same team would have had the masses foaming at the mouth. Now both are in fact members of the Carolina Panthers and no one seems to have noticed. Maybe it’s because they are on the Carolina Panthers.

 

Did you know that there is actually a Brent Musberger drinking game?? Look it up online…it’s hysterical. If only I were still 19 years old and a wild & crazy frat boy I’d have a whole new reason for getting completely schnockered every Saturday during the college football season. Alas I’m pretty much a skim milk, iced tea, and bottled water kind of guy these days. Oh to be young again.

 

Another small complaint for the folks in Bristol. I love watching Mike & Mike in the Morning and Pardon the Interruption. But come on…how much vacation do these guys get?? Between the four hosts of the shows…Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic for the former, Tony Kornheiser & Michael Wilbon for the latter…it seems like one of them is constantly off. If we common folks took that much time off from work we’d be fired within 6 months. If I had a great job like hosting one of those shows and getting paid to talk about sports I’m not sure I’d ever need a day off. Both shows are entertaining enough even with guest hosts, but I’d still prefer to see the first string on air atleast  95% of the year.

2009 NFL Preview – NFC

The word for this year’s NFL season is parity. Yes…..I realize that’s not an original thought. You hear it dozens of times from all the talking heads on ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC…..your friendly neighborhood purveyors of NFL action. But honest to God I really believe it to be the case this year. There are a few teams (Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit) that continue to wallow in the land of dreadful despite all the usual machinations such as new coaches and noteworthy free agent signings or trades. And there are a few elite teams (Pittsburgh and the New York Giants for example) that continue to ride the tasty wave of success with no signs of decline. But the vast majority of the league seems to be atop a high wire, where a key injury or bad move by the coach will dictate the fickle difference between 7-9 and 11-5 but no amount of tinkering will make them neither elite nor awful. It’s one of the reasons we love the NFL…..it’s unpredictable and somewhat random. That being said, here’s my take on how we might see the season unfold. As always…please, no wagering. I don’t claim to actually be good at this.

We’ve already dissected the AFC…now it’s the NFC’s turn:

NFC EAST

New York Giants                 13-3

The Plaxico Burress debacle dominated the Giants off season. As unfortunate as that situation was, I believe that the loss of Burress and the other starting WR Amani Toomer will actually benefit the team, as the replacements…some combination of Domenick Hixon, Steve Smith, rookie Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Sinorice Moss…have the potential to be a significant upgrade (and far less of a headache than Plax). Some may say the running game suffers a bit by the departure of Derrick Ward to Tampa, but personally I think it provides clarity. I’ve seen the NFL evolve from running back tandems in my childhood to the era of one feature back and back around to tandems the past few years, but I’ve never thought a three back system is a good thing. It’s just too muddled and confusing. There’s no way to get three running backs involved successfully and keep them all happy, especially if all three really are talented enough to be the primary runner. In New York it is now clear that Brandon Jacobs is the #1 option  and Ahmad Bradshaw is his backup, albeit one who’ll see his fair share of action. That will be helpful to the offense. On the defensive side of the ball the return of defensive end Osi Umenyiora can only make an already strong defense even more imposing.

Philadelphia Eagles            10-6

I’m not a big Donovan McNabb fan. He may be one of the most overrated football players in the past half century. That being said, this is always a top level team and one that’s a legitimate threat to win every single game. The defense had a rough offseason, losing safety Brian Dawkins and CB Lito Shepperd and also enduring the sad death of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Offensively Jeremy Maclin was drafted to be a bookend WR with last year’s pleasant surprise DeSean Jackson, and some additions were made to bolster the offensive line. The Eagles made headlines of their own by signing QB Michael Vick, who is looking for a fresh start after spending the past couple of years…..away. I’m not too concerned about the defense…..Philly just seems to be one of those teams, like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, that is perennially strong on the defensive side of the ball, with age and free agency and other factors never seeming to have a significant negative impact. And the offense will be better as more weapons have been added. But for some strange reason this is a team that has a hard time reaching the pinnacle, getting to the Super Bowl only twice in the past 30 years despite making the playoffs in over half of those seasons. I see no reason why 2009 will be much different…..they will have a successful season, make the playoffs, and then fall short of the goal.

Dallas Cowboys                  10-6

One word springs to mind…..overrated. The Cowboys are the professional equal of Notre Dame, living off an overblown reputation largely earned decades ago and having a bloated sense of self worth. I’m not saying this isn’t a good team, it’s just not a great team. Jerry Jones hasn’t become the complete joke that Al Davis has, but give it a few more years and I’m sure it will happen. The Cowboys have a shiny new billion dollar stadium that has puffed up the egos of Cowboy Nation even further, but that ain’t gonna win ball games. Much like the Eagles, the Cowboys will have a solid season and then fall apart at some point in the playoffs. The offseason departures of Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, and Jessica Simpson will be addition by subtraction, but it still won’t be enough.

Washington Redskins        7-9

There seems to be an undeniable correlation between ownership and success, or lack thereof, on the field. Jerry Jones and Al Davis are wack jobs and their teams are either God awful or heading in the wrong direction. The Rooney Family are held up as model citizens and owners, and the Steelers have won two Super Bowls in the past few years. Coincidence?? Of course not. That brings us to Daniel Snyder, a self made billionaire who epitomizes the fact that just because you have the ability to make money doesn’t mean you know diddly squat about football. He’s another one of these owners that, instead of hiring knowledgeable football gurus to run his team, thinks it’s his right and privilege to make all the decisions himself. I suppose it is technically his right and privilege, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. He has continuously tried to buy success by signing aging free agents to big money contracts, only to have those moves not pay much of a dividend on the field. 2009 does have the potential to be different, as most would agree that DE Albert Haynesworth was a quality signing. But the jury is still out on QB Jason Campbell, head coach Jim Zorn, and a receiving corps that is unimpressive to say the least. The division is super tough, and I just don’t see this team being able to get over the hump quite yet.


NFC SOUTH

New Orleans Saints           9-7

I’m not sure if the NFC South is mediocre or just the quintessential embodiment of the aforementioned parity. Picking this division really is like pinning the tail on the donkey. There is no right or wrong answer. I really like Drew Brees though, so the Saints get the nod in a virtual coin flip.

Carolina Panthers              9-7

I don’t like QB Jake Delhomme nearly as much as I like Drew Brees. That’s it, that’s the x factor, the tie breaker. The defense is always strong, and most pundits seem to not believe this team will be much different than the one who won 12 games last season. But I see that they have tough out-of-conference games against Miami, New England, and the Jets, plus they start the season against Philly, Dallas, and Atlanta. That may be 6 losses right there.

Atlanta Falcons                   8-8

One step forward, two steps back. Everyone fell in love with rookie QB Matt Ryan last season, with good reason. He was impressive. No significant changes were made in the offseason with the exception of adding future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez, and that’s what bothers me. This feels like a team to me that believes they’ve arrived, that believes last season erases a track record of mediocrity, that no further changes need to be made. But history proves otherwise. In 1998 the Falcons went 14-2 en route to the Super Bowl before falling to the Broncos…..the next season they went 5-11. In 2002 they were a playoff team…..the following season: 5-11. In 2004 the Falcons won 11 games and made it to the NFC title game where they lost to the Eagles…..the next year they were a .500 team. Achieving success isn’t foreign to the Atlanta Falcons, but sustaining success seems to be an issue.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers    8-8

There’s a new sheriff in town for the Bucs. There’s also a new QB. Pretty much everything is new. It’s rebuilding time in Tampa. The division is a tossup so maybe this team will surprise some folks, but on paper it doesn’t look promising.


NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings             12-4

The Vikings acquired a new QB recently, some guy whose name escapes me right now. But whoever he is, a lot of people expect him to be the final piece of the puzzle for a team who has had an above average defense for awhile now and last year added Adrian Peterson who quickly established himself as one of the top running backs in the league. I concur.

Green Bay Packers             10-6

Last season was a tumultuous one for the folks in Titletown. This offseason has been rather uneventful in comparison. Aaron Rodgers is firmly ensconced as the QB, and in 2008 he acquitted himself quite nicely. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t be even better this year. The biggest question I have is RB Ryan Grant. Is he a one year wonder?? If he proves to be legit then The Pack will be a formidable force. 3 of their first 5 opponents are Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, so there is potential for a hot start. There are tough non-divisional games against Baltimore, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Arizona. If Green Bay can manage to win 3 of those then it’s on, it’s on like Donkey Kong baby. And then of course there is the division…..6 games against Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit. We can safely assume 2 wins against the hapless Lions, so if they can split the other 4 games that’d possibly get them to 10 wins which may be good enough for a wild card playoff appearance.

Chicago Bears                      8-8

Move on, there’s nothing to see here. Everyone is making a big deal out of the fact that the Bears significantly upgraded the QB position. Okay, I will submit to that fact. They swindled the Broncos in acquiring Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler for the ill fated Kyle Orton, and I missed exactly how this happened but somehow Rex Grossman ended up in Houston doing exactly what he was destined to do, ride the pine. But quite honestly I’m not buying the Cutler hype. He acted like a complete jackass in whining his way out of Denver, which I know has nothing much to do with his on the field ability but it still makes me question his leadership skills and mental & emotional makeup, something that is vital for the quarterback position. Bret Favre has been around long enough and achieved at a level that somewhat justifies his diva attitude. Jay Cutler hasn’t proven himself worthy of carrying Favre’s luggage, atleast not yet. And even if people a bit less neurotic than me can put all that aside, there’s still that issue that Cutler has no one to throw to in Chicago. When the Bears add a couple of meaningful pieces to the receiving corps then maybe I’ll become a believer. Until then they have an awesome defense, an above average running back in Matt Forte, an overrated QB with an attitude problem, and no one to catch the ball. I believe in the axiom that defense wins championships…..Baltimore and Pittsburgh have proven that. But Minnesota’s defense is just as good if not better than Chicago’s, and offensively there’s just no comparison. Non division games against the Steelers, the Cardinals, and the Ravens will be super tough.

Detroit Lions                        4-12

Hey, atleast they’ll not go winless again this year. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so no one expects a quick turnaround in Motown. If QB Matthew Stafford proves to be the real deal and they continue to add pieces to the offense and the defense then maybe we can expect something approaching respectability for the Lions in about 3 or 4 years. I suspect by then there will be yet another new coach and a bunch of new players, but that’s a long way away. In 2009 winning 4 games will be a welcome improvement.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals               10-6

A year ago at this time no one was picking the Cardinals to go to the Super Bowl. Not only did they go but they darn near won the thing. Ohio State’s Beanie Wells replaces the departed Edgerrin James at running back, a risky move considering Wells’ injury history. I also don’t believe Kurt Warner is the long term answer at quarterback. Matt Leinart needs to shape up or ship out. But for now, in 2009, there is a belief that Warner can atleast keep things moving in a positive direction. Do I think the Cards will make it back to the Super Bowl?? No, I don’t. But they should be able to maintain dominance in their division and make the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks               9-7

I’ve always believed that Seattle was better on paper than in reality, but they aren’t as bad as they played last year. The injury bug bit and bit hard in 2008. If they can avoid that this season they instantly become better. Jim Mora Jr. takes over as head coach after Mike Holmgren decided not to return, so that should freshen things up a bit. Receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh finally escaped Cincinnati and will be hungry to prove he is a legitimate #1 WR as well as see what it’s like to actually be part of a winner. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary running back, Julius Jones or the newly signed Edgerrin James. Even if they run a tandem it’s not a bad duo. A couple of additions were made on the defensive side of the ball, and how quickly that group gels could decide on which side of .500 the Seahawks finish. I’m optimistic they will rebound from last year’s aberration and once again be in the playoff hunt.

San Francisco 49ers          6-10

Deciding between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill in the starting quarterback competition is like going to a restaurant and having the choice of beef broth or unsalted crackers…..uninspiring, uninteresting, unappetizing, and not fulfilling in any way. After establishing themselves as one of the all time elite franchises during the glory years of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh, and George Seifert the 49ers have now slipped into Bengals/Browns/Lions territory, which I find sad. They drafted WR phenom Michael Crabtree with their 1st round pick and he has subsequently held out all summer and may hold out all year and go back into the draft next year. No matter how it shakes out long term, within the framework of this season it’s a wasted choice and eerily reminiscent of something that might happen to Cincinnati and not to great teams like Pittsburgh, New England, or Indianapolis. I like Mike Singletary as a coach just as I fondly recall his fierce talent as a player, but I think the problems in San Francisco start upstairs and until those issues are resolved the coaches and players are just pawns in a perpetually losing situation.

St. Louis Rams                     5-11

Wow…what has happened to the Rams?? It wasn’t that long ago that The Greatest Show On Turf was appearing weekly at a stadium near you, but the Dick Vermeil/Kurt Warner/Torry Holt era is over and done. Even offensive tackle Orlando Pace is gone. I’m a big fan of QB Marc Bulger, who is a former West Virginia Mountaineer, and I think Steven Jackson is among the league’s best running backs when he is healthy. But beyond those two the cupboard is pretty bare and the Rams are in full on rebuild mode. Nothing happened in the offseason to give anyone any reason to believe a dramatic turnaround is imminent after last season’s 2-14 epic failure. I suspect more turnover…..perhaps a new QB or even a very quick and sudden end to Steve Spagnolo’s short tenure as coach..…will occur before this team begins to show signs of a full recovery.