2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 10  

I was following a rather interesting thread on social media recently in which the original poster opined that fantasy football is pretty much all about luck. Others were quick to reply, defending the ideals of skill & knowledge. As with most things in life the answer isn’t clear cut black & white. Yes, people who know what they are doing have a better shot at success. Involvement is important…making the right trades, combing the waiver wire, starting or sitting the best players, understanding matchups. However, let’s not pretend that luck doesn’t play a huge role. Would you call owners of Patrick Mahomes and/or Derrick Henry uninformed or inept?? Of course not…but they’re probably not winning their league championship this season. At any rate, slow & steady wins the race, or atleast that’s what I’ve always heard thru the years. Zach & I both went 5-3 last week, continuing our laborious crawl back toward the .500 mark. We’ll get there…maybe. 

My Season: 28-31

Zach’s Season: 27-32

Boise State at Fresno State (-5)

At 4-4 the Broncos aren’t going to make it to the Mountain West title game, and at this point they’re just hoping for bowl eligibility. Conversely, the 7-2 Bulldogs need to keep winning if they want an opportunity to play for the conference championship. I have a feeling this will be a really entertaining game, so it’s too bad I have plans on Saturday evening and won’t be able to watch. Anyway, while I am tempted to pick an upset, The Vibes are telling me that Fresno will win by atleast a touchdown. Zach foresees a fun, high scoring, close game and likes the favorites to cover. 

My Pick: Fresno State 

Z’s Pick: Fresno State 

Tennessee at Kentucky (-2.5)

It’s Jim Beam vs. Jack Daniels!! If y’all don’t understand the reference you need to get out of the house more, but you’re probably healthier than us. At any rate, the Vols are 4-4 and playing for bowl eligibility, while the 6-2 Wildcats are in the midst of a stellar season in which the best they can hope for is a New Year’s bowl game because they play in the same division as the Georgia Bulldogs. Tennessee leads the all time series 81-26 (with nine ties), which combined with the home field should provide plenty of motivation for the favorites. I think they win easily. Zach doesn’t think Tennessee is a terrible team, but believes they’ve faced a brutal schedule that isn’t any easier this week.

My Pick: Kentucky 

Z’s Pick: Kentucky 

LSU at Alabama (-28.5)

As expected the playoff committee not only has Alabama in their Top Four…they ranked them #2, despite having one loss. I’m not surprised, and ultimately it is meaningless anyway because the winner of the SEC Championship between ‘Bama & Georgia is a lock for the playoff, while Alabama would certainly be eliminated with another loss. As for this game, the only reason it’s even appearing here is the points. So many  things factor into the discussion. I don’t care how bad LSU is playing there is no way they’d get beaten by 4+ TDs in Baton Rouge…but this game is in Tuscaloosa. ‘Bama cannot afford another misstep which adds an element of pressure. The Bayou Bengals have to have some pride left though, right?? If they could pull off a monumental upset and put the nail in the coffin of their rival’s championship aspirations it’d make their whole season. Do I think that will happen?? Absolutely not. Do I think the Tide will roll enough to cover the points?? Unfortunately I do. “Style points” are a thing, right?? I would be happy to be wrong though. The points are too much for Zach. He can buy ‘Bama winning by three TDs, but not four.

My Pick: Alabama 

Z’s Pick: LSU

San Jose State at Nevada (-10)

It’s a 10pm kickoff on Fox Sports 2, which is perfect. I’ll be home in time to watch atleast 3/4 of the action. Neither team is winning the conference but both should receive some kind of bowl bid. I am not especially knowledgeable about the Mountain West but as a night owl I’ve enjoyed their games thru the years. The odds are intriguing since the Wolfpack isn’t elite & the Spartans aren’t especially terrible, so ten points is quite a home field bump. The visitors are riding a two game winning streak, while the home team is coming off a beatdown of in-state rival UNLV. I think a touchdown will decide things one way or another, so I’m picking the underdogs to atleast cover. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: San Jose State 

Z’s Pick: San Jose State

Minnesota at Baltimore (-5.5)

The 3-4 Vikings aren’t winning the NFC North like I thought they would and just lost defensive end Danielle Hunter to a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens are in a real battle in their division but had a bye last week. Logic dictates that Baltimore should win rather easily, but I’m not always the most logical person. The points caught my eye, and I really think Minnesota will atleast stay within a field goal. Conversely, Zach believes Baltimore has recovered from a sluggish start and is ready to roll now. 

My Pick: Minnesota 

Z’s Pick:  Baltimore 

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-3)

Not long ago the Battle of Ohio held no interest for anyone outside of the state’s borders, but both teams have emerged as legitimate playoff contenders. I predicted that the Bengals would surprise people and win the AFC North and halfway thru the season they’ve done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. The Browns have not altered my assessment of them, although they’ve played somewhat better than I thought they might. This is where the rubber meets the road though, and if Cincinnati is to lay claim to the division title they have to defend their turf against division rivals. Zach really likes Bengals QB Joe Burrow and thinks he’ll lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: Cincinnati 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Tennessee at LA Rams (-7.5)

Wow, talk about two teams who’ve had an interesting week!! The Titans sit atop the AFC South and looked like they’d run away with the division crown after an overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately it was a costly win as they lost workhouse Derrick Henry…quite possibly the best running back in the NFL right now…to a foot injury. They’ve signed Adrian Peterson as a replacement. Peterson rushed for just over 600 yards in a committee backfield with the Detroit Lions last season, but he’s 36 years old & hasn’t played football in almost a year. Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill now has to kick it up a notch, and fifth year RB Jeremy McNichols will get an opportunity to prove himself. As for the Rams, they’ve put all their chips in the middle of the table, trading for former Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller and adding him to a defense that already had pass rushing beast Aaron Donald & defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The off-season acquisition of 33 year old QB Matthew Stafford has worked out quite well too. Just last week I would have told you that one of these teams is going to the Super Bowl, but it would’ve been the wrong team. Tennessee might still make the playoffs, but the loss of Henry is devastating. The Rams are clearly better right now, and I think they’ll win this one by double digits. Zach likes the home team as well. 

My Pick: LA Rams 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Green Bay at Kansas City (-3)

Well damn…Aaron Rodgers tested positive for The Sickness. That makes this game a lot less interesting than it was just yesterday. KC has the home field too. You know who’s really pissed about this?? Fox. There goes their marquee matchup. To my complete shock & amazement Zach is sticking with his original pick despite the breaking news because “the Chiefs defense sucks”. I suppose we’re about to learn a whole lot about the future of Packers’ backup QB Jordan Love. 

My Pick: Kansas City 

Z’s Pick: Green Bay 

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

Winning & Musing…Volume 4.17

I am well aware that some citizens of The Manoverse are not sports fans and skip right past posts like these. That’s okay, I understand, and stay tuned for other non-sports goodness coming your way. I also know that I just published the previous edition of W&M less than a week ago. But I’ve got more to say and I just can’t hold it in, so climb on, strap in, & ride the wave!!

 

 

 

 

In offering thoughts about the NFL Draft I neglected to address one significant topic of conversation…running back Joe Mixon. The Cincinnati Bengals chose Mixon in the second round, and the looks of disdain on the faces of the talking heads could not go unnoticed. In 2014…his freshman year at Oklahoma…Mixon pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for punching a woman in a restaurant during the summer before the school year began. The details of the incident aren’t important and I am NOT here to defend Mixon. His actions were appalling…few would dispute that fact. Having said that, I have two issues with how the situation has been handled & reported. First of all, I fervently disagree with anyone who equates Mixon’s circumstances with those of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who you’ll recall was suspended from the NFL in 2014 after punching his fiancée (now wife) in an Atlantic City elevator. Rice hasn’t played a down of football since and probably never will again. The huge difference to me is that Rice was a 27 year old professional who should’ve known better. I have no problem with the fact that he hasn’t gotten another opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s a privilege to do so, not a right. Conversely, Mixon was a barely 18 year old college freshman. He was suspended for a year from the Oklahoma football program and caused no further issues after his return. Yet there were reportedly NFL teams that didn’t have him on their draft boards at all, and after he was drafted guys like ESPN’s Adam Schefter (who I usually like a lot) looked like they might actually cry, vomit, or do both simultaneously. Where’s the mercy?? Holy cow…if we were all held perpetually accountable for the idiotic things we did in high school and/or college I know a plethora of successful people who never would have gotten a job interview. Granted, punching a woman in the face is much more serious than the stupidity that my friends & I engaged in during our youth, but the point still stands. Joe Mixon did something truly awful as an 18 year old kid. He shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of his life. Admittedly it was a bit tone deaf for the Bengals, who’ve had more than their fair share of lawbreaking miscreants don the orange & black in the past decade or two, to choose Mixon, but that’s on them. I assume the young man will be under a zero tolerance policy, and rightfully so. If he even so much as looks angrily at someone he should be waived and forced to get a 9 to 5 job like the rest of us working stiffs, but if he stays on the straight & narrow I think allowing him to pursue a professional football career is proper. The other issue I have with this whole thing is the relatively new idea that professional athletes need to be model citizens. I have opined multiple times over the years that just because an individual can run fast or has superior athletic skill doesn’t mean they are a good person, and it didn’t used to be a requirement. The history of sports is chockful of drunks, junkies, bullies, & criminals of all kinds, from baseball’s Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb to football’s Joe Namath & Lawrence Taylor to basketball’s Dennis Rodman & Allen Iverson and many many other examples from every level of athletics. Some people ultimately ruined their careers while others were just branded as “colorful”, but because they were supremely talented all were given an opportunity…oftentimes numerous opportunities…and no one seemed to mind. However, in the ultra-PC 21st century there are those eager to toss aside someone who made one big mistake when he was barely 18 years old?? Again I ask…where is the mercy??

 

 

Add NFL Hall-of-Famer and favorite Steeler Jerome Bettis to the list of those dismissed in the much discussed ESPN bloodbath. I’m a huge fan of The Bus, but I’m not shedding too many tears for him because I happen to know that he’s involved in various business pursuits and will land on his feet just fine. To be honest he didn’t add all that much to the already copious amount of NFL coverage on The Mothership and likely won’t be missed.

 

 

I wonder if journalist Brian Windhorst gets down on his knees every night and thanks the Good Lord above for Lebron James?? Windhorst has parlayed a local career in his hometown of Akron, OH during which he covered Lebron’s high school games into a gig with the Akron Beacon-Journal, then the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, & now ESPN. He has basically been Lebron’s personal reporter for almost two decades, and now he has written a book that I just finished reading called Return of the King, about Lebron’s homecoming to Cleveland a few years ago and the Cavaliers’ failure then success in pursuit of an NBA title. The book is pretty good if you’re into those kind of books, which I am. Good job Windy!!

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who gutted out a seven game series victory over the Washington Capitals to move on in the NHL playoffs. The Pens will have to take down the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals to earn a shot at defending their Stanley Cup championship.

 

 

 

Some ideas to “fix” the NBA:

*Expansion. It is necessary for my math to work. There are currently 30 teams in the league, but we need 32. Maybe you give Seattle a team back. Ditto for Vancouver. How about Vegas?? The NFL’s Raiders are moving there and the NHL is expanding there as well, so why not?? I’m a little partial to the idea of awarding a team to Pittsburgh. I don’t know…discuss amongst yourselves. All I know is that we need two additional teams.

*32 teams would allow us to reduce each team’s schedule from 82 games to 77. Not much of a decrease, but every little bit helps, right?? I’m tired of all the whining about resting players & such. The league would be split into an Eastern & Western Conference. Divide each conference into North & South divisions if you want…it doesn’t really matter. A team would play everyone else in their conference three times…45 games. They’d play each team in the other conference twice…32 games. 45+32=77.

*I’m not sure how you’d handle scheduling. My vote would be to play as many back-to-back games as possible to reduce travel just as they do in MLB, but basketball players seem to complain a lot about back-to-back games. I’ll leave it up to people smarter than me to figure out logistics.

*Even though we are expanding the league and reducing regular season games we’re still going to go ahead and trim the playoff field from 8 teams in each conference to 6. The top two teams in each conference (you could make these division champs) get a first round bye. Each first round series is just three games, as is each second round series. The conference finals are 5 game series, and the NBA Finals would be the only round with a 7 game series.

*Out of the 26 teams that don’t make the playoffs the BEST five go into the Draft Lottery to see who gets the #1 pick. Well…actually it’d decide the top five picks. If you still want to do the bouncy ball thing then each team’s number of balls would be equal to their number of wins. After that win/loss records would determine the draft order. So the worst team in the league would receive the 6th overall pick. This system would eliminate the ridiculous practice of tanking, which is a stain on the league. Not only would good teams be competing to make the playoffs in the waning days of the regular season, but not so good teams would be competing to get into the lottery rather than purposely losing. It would encourage competitive balance and wise management, because teams that just missed the playoffs are (theoretically) adding the best players, putting playoff teams on notice.

 

 

I said about a month ago that I would postpone offering an opinion on my Pittsburgh Pirates until a little further into the season. Well, we are more than 30 games in and the Pirates are dead last in their division and painful to watch. We Pirates fans endured two decades of losing until a few years ago, then had a couple of years when the team actually made the playoffs as a wildcard. But now it feels like we are right back to square one. I’ve never believed that pitcher Gerrit Cole is a true ace, but he’s the best they’ve got and there is chatter about him being traded. Outfielder Starling Marte screwed the pooch by getting suspended for most of the season for PED use, but I’m not sure his presence would make that much of a difference. There has been talk of trading all-star outfielder Andrew McCutchen as far back as last season, but even if they keep him it feels like his prime years are being wasted. I watch games and don’t even know who some of these guys are!! I am tempted to say that it’s time for manager Clint Hurdle to go, that he is too passive and the players aren’t listening to him anymore. That may be true, but I don’t think changing managers would help that much either. The problem with the Pirates is ownership. The business is profitable and fans continue to fill the ballpark because that’s just how dedicated & loyal Pittsburghers and fans from surrounding areas are. It’s in their DNA. Winning would be a nice bonus, but it doesn’t seem necessary to the powers-that-be. I don’t have any answers. I wish I did.

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

I have to be honest. Choosing which games we are going to pick has become difficult. College football is, of course, over. The NFL is down to the nitty gritty. We have a good idea of which teams are definitely in the playoffs and which teams certainly will not be playoff bound. The real interest lies in the handful of teams who are fighting for just a couple of playoff spots. However, I don’t want to just keep talking about the same half dozen teams every week. That’s redundant & tedious for both myself and The Manoverse. Ah well…there are worse problems, right?? At any rate, last week Zach went 2-3, while I went 3-2. Zach’s faith in Johnny Football proved to be misguided, while we both underestimated how far the San Francisco 49ers have gone off the rails. That brings my season record to 50-41, while Zach is currently 46-45. I think it’s pretty cool that both of us are still above .500. Hey ESPN…call me!!

*

Buffalo (-5.5) at Oakland
raidersNeither team is going to the playoffs. The Bills aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they are definitely fighting an uphill battle. To be fair Buffalo_Bills_Helmetthough they have shown improvement. It looks like they don’t believe QB EJ Manuel is the answer, so they’ll likely have to address that issue in the offseason. Conversely, even though they seem like they have their quarterback of the present & future with Derek Carr, the Raiders are a mess. They’ll be looking to hire a big time coach in the offseason. As far as this game goes I am going to go with the upset. Call it a gut feeling. Zach thinks Buffalo will win easily.

My Pick = Oakland
Z’s Pick = Buffalo

Detroit (-8) at Chicago
The big sports news this week is that the Bears are benching QB Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen. It’d be shocking if that is a long term answer. Will Cutler Detroit_Lions_Helmetbe with the Bears next season?? Can head coach Marc Trestman keep his job?? I have no idea. Meanwhile, the Lions are in a dogfight for both their division lead and a wildcard spot. They have a lot riding on this game and I don’t think they’ll mess it up. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Detroit
Z’s Pick = Detroit

Indianapolis at Dallas (-3)
The Colts have already clinched their division. The Cowboys lead their division and need to win atleast one more game. This is going to be a shootout. I expect the Indianapolis_Colts_HelmetPalace in Dallas to have a playoff atmosphere. However, I also expect Andrew Luck to have more bullets in his gun than Tony Romo. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Indianapolis
Z’s Pick = Indianapolis

Seattle (-7.5) at Arizona
ss1The defending champion Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt, but the Cardinals have clinched the division title. However, the Cards are azcdown to 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley. I have no doubt that Arizona will put forth their best effort, and eliminating Seattle from playoff contention would be sweet for them (and every other NFC playoff contender). I just don’t believe that a Seattle team with everything on the line will go down easily. Zach, on the other hand, is all in on the Cardinals despite their shaky quarterback situation.

My Pick = Seattle
Z’s Pick = Arizona

Denver (-3) at Cincinnati
The Bengals took care of business last week by knocking that arrogant jackass Manziel down a peg or two, but now it’s time for them to lose. Cincy is just a half denvergame in front of Pittsburgh & Baltimore in the AFC North, and both of those teams have very winnable games this week. The Broncos have already clinched their division and I suppose it’s not out of the question that they could take their foot off the gas these last couple of weeks. I hope they wait until next week versus Oakland to do that. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 16

College football is over except for bowl games and of course the playoff. We’ll deal with that post-season in a few days, but as far as these picks go it’ll be three straight weeks of the NFL. Last week Zach went 3-4, while I went 5-2. That takes my season record to 47-39, while Zach stands at 44-42. These next few weeks will be really interesting though, as I have always found pro football to be much more unpredictable than their collegiate counterparts.

 

 

 

 

 

Miami at New England (-7.5)
The Patriots hold a commanding 3 game lead in the AFC East and would wrap up the division title with a victory. The Dolphins are in the midst of a logjam battling New_England_Patriots_Helmetfor a wildcard playoff spot. They are a skosh better than I thought they’d be, but the Belichick/Brady train just keeps on rolling, which is what I think will happen in this game. Zach concurs.

My Pick = New England
Z’s Pick = New England

 

 

Cincinnati at Cleveland (even)
Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetThe buzz around this game is all about the debut of Johnny Football as an NFL starting quarterback. I am faced with a conundrum. It wouldCleveland_Browns_Helmet certainly help my Steelers for Cincinnati to lose, but a Cleveland victory would produce ceaseless fawning over Manziel as the second coming of Manning/Marino/Elway/Unitas, which would be intolerable. The last thing that dude needs is his ego stroked. The folks in Vegas obviously have very little respect for the Browns since the pick ‘em odds mean they are getting no home field advantage whatsoever. The Bengals could win this week and then lose their final two games to Denver and Pittsburgh, a plan that sounds peachy to me. Conversely, Zach has bought into the Manziel myth and is rooting for the Browns.

My Pick = Cincinnati
Z’s Pick = Cleveland

 

 

Denver (-4) at San Diego
The Broncos and Peyton Manning have looked a little more…human…this season but are still probably going to win the AFC West and atleast get close to the 13-3 denverrecord they posted in 2013. The Chargers are in the aforementioned wildcard gridlock, and a victory here would be huge. Once again the oddsmakers aren’t giving any love to the home team. I like San Diego, but I think Denver is actually a better team now than a year ago when they went to the Super Bowl. Manning has to know that the window for him to snag another ring won’t stay open much longer, and opposing defenses should look out from now thru January. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

 

 

San Francisco at Seattle (-10)
Most “experts” seem to believe that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is on his way out the door and I have no reason to doubt those reports. The defending champion San-Francisco-49ersSeahawks haven’t been as dominant this year as last and aren’t going to win their division. However, they are in a four way battle with Dallas, Philadelphia, & Detroit for two wildcard spots and a win against their archrivals would certainly boost those prospects. Having said that, I think San Francisco might have one last gasp of respectability remaining. I’m not sure they can pull off a victory, but a 10 point spread is just too much. Zach thinks the Seahawks will win but not cover the 10 points.

My Pick = San Francisco
Z’s Pick = San Francisco

 

 

Dallas at Philadelphia (-3)
These two teams are currently tied atop the NFC East. One team will win the division, but the other still has a decent opportunity to make the playoffs as a wildcard. eaglesThe Eagles get the nominal home field advantage and smoked the Cowboys by three TDs at the Palace in Dallas on Thanksgiving night. I see no reason to expect anything different this time. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Philadelphia
Z’s Pick = Philadelphia

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

This is going to be short & sweet. I am an odd mix of somewhat busy and extremely unmotivated. Why?? I don’t know exactly, although I believe it has something to do with my diet and the fact that I have fallen completely off the wagon with my weight loss effort. I may enjoy eating pasta & candy more than salad & oatmeal, but the truth is I feel much more energetic and healthy when I eat the right things. Anyway, that is a subject for another day. We’re here to talk about football, right?? Last week I had what I think is my best week ever with these picks, going 4-1. Only the Chicago Bears stood between me & perfection. Meanwhile, Zach went 2-3. The Cincinnati Bengals let him down just like they did me, plus he chose South Carolina and the Atlanta Falcons who both lost. So that makes our season record as follows:

Your Humble Potentate of Profundity      =             6-4

Zach             =             5-5

This week we are NFL heavy. I just didn’t see a lot of college football that really revved my engine. With all NCAA teams now playing 12 games it means that many are still going up against cupcakes in the third week before their conference schedule begins. Fortunately I think that’ll change next week. In the meantime…..

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Alabama (-8)     at            Texas A&M

Well okay…there is one intriguing college football game. My question is “Will it be all that interesting??”. The Tide dominated Virginia Tech in their opener and then AlabamaCrimsonTide2had last week off. Think about that…they’ve had 2 weeks to prepare for this game. The Aggies are 2-0 after beating down two inferior foes, but no one has really been talking about their football team. For months now it’s been the Johnny Manziel show in College Station, TX. He’s the anti-Tebow…a good quarterback who can actually throw the ball, but seemingly not a very good person. To be honest I’m sick to death of hearing about Johnny Football. The NCAA totally wussed out by suspending him for one half of one game for allegedly getting paid to autograph memorabilia, which sent a totally wrong message. I am normally an underdog kind of guy, but I find myself hoping ‘Bama teaches this petulant, spoiled, arrogant punk a lesson Saturday…and I think that just might actually happen. Zach loves Johnny Football (kids…what’re ya gonna do??) but thinks The Tide will roll.

My Pick:               Alabama

Z’s Pick:                Alabama

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Miami                   at                            Indianapolis (-3)

Why do so many NFL games have a 3 point spread?? It’s kind of a gutless call by the oddsmakers. I understand that giving the home team a 3 point advantage is a Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetbaseline. And I certainly get that parody is a big thing in pro football. But sometimes one team is clearly better. The Colts began their season with a solid yet unimpressive win over the Raiders. Conversely, Miami handled the lowly Browns pretty easily. I think QB Andrew Luck has a big game this week, and I look for Ahmad Bradshaw to seize the running back job. Zach concurs.

My Pick:               Indianapolis

Z’s Pick:                Indianapolis

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Dallas                    at                            Kansas City (-2.5)

The Cowboys began their season with a nice win over their division rival NY Giants. The Chiefs had no problems at all against the horrible Jacksonville Jaguars. Evenkc-chiefs-logo considering the home field I am a bit surprised that KC is favored in this one. I really like QB Alex Smith and think he landed in a pretty good spot after being pushed out of San Francisco. And let us not overlook the fact that Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid is very familiar with Dallas since he faced them many many times as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m going to go with the favorites here since…all other things being equal…the oddsmakers seems to know something the rest of us don’t.

My Pick:               Kansas City

Z’s Pick:                Kansas City

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Detroit                  at                            Arizona

You might be saying to yourself…”Where are the odds??”. Well…this is the rare game that is being called as even. The poor Cardinals can’t even get the nominal nodDetroit_Lions_Helmet for the home field. Both of these teams have been trying to dig themselves out from the hole of mediocrity for what seems like decades. Oh there was that one magical Super Bowl season for Arizona back in 2008, but other than that they’ve only had one additional winning season from 1998 til now. The Lions have shown sporadic signs of success but can’t ever seem to get over the hump. They had ten straight losing seasons until last year when they made the playoffs. The Cardinals seem to have a solid defense, and the quarterback situation has been patched up…for now…with Carson Palmer. But I think the Lions are a more complete team right now. Zach has no doubt that Detroit wins this one.

My Pick:               Detroit

Z’s Pick:                Detroit

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Denver  (-5.5)     at                            NY Giants

You may have heard about Peyton Manning and how he began his 2013 season…7 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards against the defending Super Bowl champions. broncos-4759The Giants narrowly lost their opener to the Cowboys. The Giants’ starting RB can’t stop fumbling and injuries are beginning to take their toll already. If this wasn’t “The Manning Bowl” no one would care about a game that really isn’t in question.

My Pick:               Denver

Z’s Pick:                Denver

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

I am a day or two later on these picks than I intended to be but it’s all good. I knew we weren’t picking any Thursday night or even Friday games so as long as we do what needs to be done by Friday night we’re all set. The season didn’t get off to as great a start as I’d hoped last week, as I went 2-3 and Zach went 3-2. LSU & Oklahoma St. took care of business, while Nevada & Boise St. did not. I really didn’t see that Boise St. loss coming. And in the big game…the one contest that Zach & I split on…he came out ahead as Clemson beat Georgia. This week the NFL starts which adds a whole new layer of intrigue because there’s always a couple of surprise teams on both ends of the spectrum.

 

South Carolina                  at            Georgia (-3)

georgiaI don’t usually like to pick games involving teams that just appeared here last week, but this one is just too good to pass up. The Gamecocks took care of business last week, though the victory wasn’t quite as impressive as I would have thought it’d be. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs came up short at Clemson. The point spread is interesting and tells me two things. First is of course the all-important home field advantage. But secondly it says to me that there are others beside myself that weren’t all that overwhelmed by South Carolina’s ho-hum win over North Carolina. I’m a little bit torn on this one because I pegged South Carolina as a Top 5 team in my pre-season poll, but I had Georgia at #11 andGamecocks if they start the season 0-2 they are pretty much done, especially with games against LSU and Florida still remaining. For the second week in a row I am going with Georgia, simply because going 0-2 would be catastrophic. And for the second week in a row Zach is going in the other direction. He isn’t impressed with Georgia QB Aaron Murray and feels as though he caves under pressure. He is somewhat concerned with South Carolina’s endurance but thinks that Jadeveon Clowney will get 3 sacks en route to a close Gamecocks victory.

My Pick:                               Georgia              

Z’s Pick:                                South Carolina

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Notre Dame                       at            Michigan (-3.5)

The Fighting Irish & the Wolverines both began their season like so many others…beating up on a team far beneath their skill level, meaning we don’t know much more aboutmichigan-wolverines-fan-gear them than we did a week ago. The spread tells us nothing either other than Michigan is getting a slight home field advantage. However, maybe that advantage isn’t so slight. Coach Brady Hoke is now 15-0 at The Big House. That’s good enough for me. Zach agrees but in all honestly he’s a huge Michigan fan and is picking with his heart.

My Pick:                               Michigan              

Z’s Pick:                                Michigan

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Cincinnati                            at            Chicago (-3)

Our first NFL pick of 2013 and it’s a dandy. Both teams are coming off of a 10-6 season last year. In Cincinnati that was cause for an optimistic outlook for the future. In Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetChicago it was a reason to fire the coach. In retrospect those may have been appropriate reactions. I think the Bengals are moving forward while I am predicting the Bears to take a nominal step back this season. Zach…a fellow Steelers fan…looks for the Bengals to dominate the AFC North, isn’t a believer in Bears QB Jay Cutler, and thinks Cincinnati wins this game easily. I concur.

My Pick:                               Cincinnati              

Z’s Pick:                                Cincinnati

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Atlanta                                 at            New Orleans (-3)

new_orleans_saints-3737What a great game to start the season!! A lot of pundits are picking the Falcons to have another great year and finally take that last step toward The falconsSuper Bowl. In my pre-season prognostications I predicted that the Saints would win the division and the Falcons would settle for a wildcard. This game will be a huge indicator as to whether or not I am a genius or an idiot. Conversely, Zach is all in on the Falcons and isn’t buying that the Saints are back just because head coach Sean Payton has returned to the sidelines. He thinks Falcons QB Matt Ryan will have a big game and RB Steven Jackson will be a difference maker.

My Pick:                               New Orleans              

Z’s Pick:                                Atlanta

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Green Bay                           at            San Francisco (-5)           

Let’s hop in the ol’ DeLorean and go back in time just a bit. On Saturday January 12, 2013 the Packers traveled to ‘Frisco for a big playoff game. It was a tremendous battle,San-Francisco-49ers but in the end the 49ers gained a solid 45-31 victory and eventually made it to The Super Bowl. The question one must ask is “Has anything changed in the past 8 months??” Well…yes…but not a whole lot. Green Bay drafted stud running back Eddie Lacy so now they have a rushing attack. And San Francisco added WR Anquan Boldin to offset the loss of Michael Crabtree due to an achille’s tendon injury. One thing to remember about that playoff game is that it was QB Colin Kaepernick’s first post-season game and he did pretty darn well…he set the NFL single game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 181. I feel rather confident in saying that he won’t do that again, but still think San Francisco pulls this game out and covers the points. Zach believes that the 49ers have more weapons and thinks Kaepernick’s legs will be the difference.

My Pick:                               San Francisco              

Z’s Pick:                                San Francisco

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Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.12

The first W&M of 2012 finds us ever so close to the annual sports “dead zone”, when football will be over, Nascar not quite back yet, baseball still several weeks away, and only college basketball (which isn’t all that exciting until March Madness) and the NBA (completely useless until the playoffs begin) to keep us company. And no, I have no interest in hockey in case you are wondering. Take heart sports fans…it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading, hone your culinary skills, and of course become Manotized!!

 

 

 

I must admit that I did not watch one second of the NCAA championship game between LSU & Alabama, and from what I have heard I didn’t miss anything as it wasn’t that much more interesting than the first time the two teams met a couple months ago. Come on NCAA…it’s time for a playoff!! One argument that I have heard ad nauseum by opponents of a playoff system is the ol’ “College football’s regular season IS a playoff every week…lose and you’re out!!”. Well…not quite. LSU did what it was supposed to do by defeating Alabama in the regular season and were still forced into a rematch, which of course they lost. So that “logic” has now officially gone down in flames. The regular season game between the two meant zero, zilch, nada. I have absolutely no clue why we can’t have a 4 team playoff (which this season would have included ‘Bama, LSU, Oklahoma State, and most likely Oregon) and still maintain a thriving, robust bowl system. There’s just no reason for not doing it.

 

Speaking of the bowl games…

I am usually not one to boast, but I have to give myself a bit of a public pat on the back. I picked 28 of the 35 post-season games correctly, which is an 80% winning clip and by far the best I have ever done in forecasting those slate of contests. Go Me!!

 

Conversely, my NFL predictions were mediocre at best. My two Super Bowl teams were San Diego & Tampa Bay. They finished a combined 12-20 and didn’t make the playoffs. Oops. I owe a huge apology to the Cincinnati Bengals, who I picked to go 1-15 and have the top pick in the draft. Instead they went 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wildcard. Mad kudos to Bengals’ rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who exceeded all expectations and in my universe would be a slam dunk choice for Rookie of the Year. Sadly for him that honor will instead go to Carolina Panthers’ signal caller Cam Newton. I was also way wrong on the NY Giants, who I predicted to go 5-12…far from the division winning 9-7 record with which they ended up. I totally whiffed on the Philadelphia Eagles, but everyone else did too so I don’t feel so bad. I nailed the AFC North race by saying that the Steelers & Ravens would tie, with Baltimore winning the division in a tiebreaker and Pittsburgh being a wildcard team. That is exactly what happened. I pretty much had the AFC East & NFC North pegged right on as well. I did not see the utter implosion of the Indianapolis Colts coming, but then again no one did because the extent of Peyton Manning’s injury wasn’t made known until after the season began. I got 2 of the NFC’s 6 playoff teams right, while in the AFC I chose 4 of 6 correctly.

 

NY Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez needs a change of scenery. He has obviously lost the confidence of his coach, his teammates, and the fans. That’s tough enough anywhere, but in New York I just don’t think it’s something from which he can recover.

 

If I am in charge of the Indianapolis Colts I trade the #1 overall choice they “earned” (with a dreadful 2-14 record) for everything it’s worth, which should be atleast a half dozen picks including a slightly lower first rounder. Andrew Luck, as much potential as he has, is overhyped. There will be a next “greatest prospect ever” coming ‘round the bend in a few years (maybe even next year, when Matt Barkley finishes up at USC). Assuming his neck heals Peyton Manning has probably 3 or 4 years left, but he needs a better team around him.

 

To the Penn St. alumni & former players who have been critical of the hiring of new head coach Bill O’Brien…what is your freakin’ problem?? I fully understand the penchant of college sports teams to hire “within the family”, aka a former player or assistant coach who understands the tradition & history of the program. However, in this case, does it shock a-n-y-o-n-e with a brain that the powers-that-be in Happy Valley want to make a completely fresh start and decided to go with a guy with absolutely no ties to the school, the team, and especially any connection whatsoever to Joe Paterno or his former coaching staff?? Sure in a perfect world interim head coach and long-time Paterno assistant Tom Bradley would have gotten the gig as a reward for all his years of loyalty. But in this case that simply was NOT going to happen. They HAD to have a 100% clean break from the past. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the issues the school faces and the unseemly reputation they must now fight an uphill battle to overcome, but it is a step in the right direction and was the only choice that could be made.

 

I will address this issue once & only once, and then I will never speak of it again and erase the abomination from my memory. If the debacle that was the Denver Broncos’ shocking overtime victory over my Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL playoffs taught us anything, it is that, despite their ranking as the league’s #1 pass defense, the Steelers’ secondary is atrocious. They somehow managed to make quite possibly the worst “quarterback” in pro football history look like the love child of Dan Fouts & Dan Marino. When April’s draft rolls around the Steelers simply MUST spend atleast 2 or 3 picks…including their 1st rounder…on new cornerbacks. If there are any talented corners available in free agency they need to sign one or two of them as well. Ike Taylor, their supposed top CB, would be no better than a dime package backup on most other teams. And guys like Bryant McFadden, Anthony Madison, and the atrocious William Gay need to be given their walking papers. This has been an issue for several years that has not been properly addressed by the team’s braintrust. Well gentlemen…the time is now. It may also be time to begin grooming a successor for 74 year old defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau. Undoubtedly he has been very successful, but he’s not getting any younger and in two consecutive seasons post-season opponents…the Broncos this year and the Packers in last year’s Super Bowl…have outcoached him and played his defense like a fiddle.

 

Some things never change. Even after the death of nutjob owner Al Davis the Oakland Raiders are as dysfunctional as ever. The new regime just fired head coach Hue Jackson after ONE season…a season in which they went 8-8, tied for the division lead, and fell one tiebreaker short of making the playoffs. Really?? Do the suits there think they’ll be able to lure a big name coach that’ll do any better?? Maybe…maybe…twenty years ago. But not now. When will people learn that organizational stability is the cornerstone of success in sports?? Certainly they haven’t learned that lesson in Tampa, where the Bucs also foolishly fired a coach after one bad season. Raheem Morris was in his third year as head coach and had lead a 7 game turnaround, finishing 10-6 in 2010, a vast improvement over their 3-13 record in his first go round in 2009. In 2011 the team admittedly took a step backward, going 4-12. However, based on the success of the 2010 season I feel like Morris should have been given one more chance. Unfortunately I don’t own an NFL franchise.

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 8.11

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals for grinding through the l-o-n-g baseball season and making it to The World Series. To be honest I was pulling for the Detroit Tigers because I have always been a big fan of manager Jim Leyland, who I believe to be one of the genuine good guys in sports, but as long as the NY Yankees are sitting at home instead of still playing then it’s all good.

 

“Be careful what you wish for” is timeless advice that just might apply to quarterback Carson Palmer these days. Palmer won his months long pissing contest against Cincinnati Bengals’ management, only to be traded to the Oakland Raiders, a franchise not entirely unfamiliar with dysfunction. Let’s check back in a year or two and see who really came out ahead.

 

As usual I am rooting for complete chaos in college football when it comes to the flawed BCS system, but somehow things always seem to work out and end up with a legit #1 vs. #2 title game. Right now it is theoretically possible that as many as a half dozen teams could finish undefeated, which would wreak the desired havoc quite sufficiently. However, I am not holding my breath.

 

Three things I would do to improve baseball:

Shorten the season to 138 games. Each team would play the other 3 teams in their division 24 times (6 four game series) and the remaining 8 teams in their league 12 times (4 three game series). Each division would meet their counterparts in another division in the other league for one 3 game series. The season would begin in early April and be over by the first week of October.

Constriction. Reduce the league from 30 to 24 teams. The Washington Nationals would be absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Florida Marlins would fold into the Tampa Rays. The Oakland A’s & San Francisco Giants would be combined into one franchise. The California Angels would be absorbed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Houston Astros would absorb the Colorado Rockies. The Kansas City Royals would fold into the St. Louis Cardinals.

The post-season see each league’s 2nd & 3rd rated division winners match up in a Best-of-3 series. The winner would then face the top division winner in that league in a Best-of-5 League Championship Series. Then of course we’d have the traditional Best-of-7 World Series.

 

Rush Limbaugh was right and we’re seeing the proof right now. Quarterback Donovan McNabb has always been overrated, and now to complicate matters he is washed up. The 35 year old signal caller is about to lose his starting gig in Minnesota to rookie Christian Ponder after “leading” the Vikings to a dismal 1-5 start. But hey, the flaming liberals in the sports media can now turn their attention to anointing Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton as their new Chosen One. Atleast he has genuine talent.

 

The NBA has already cancelled the first two weeks of the season and seems to be on the verge of eliminating games through December. I am actually a little bit excited about these developments because I am sincerely hoping that in place of games normally broadcast on Christmas Day ABC might treat us to a couple of classic holiday films like Miracle on 34th St., The Polar Express, The Santa Clause, or one of the bazillion adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

 

I am not a huge fan of open wheel racing except for the requisite impure thoughts about driver Danica Patrick and the annual tradition of watching The Indianapolis 500. There are just too many road courses and foreign influences for my tastes. But the recent death of driver Dan Wheldon was a tragic event and a reminder of just how dangerous auto sports can be. Since the accident that claimed the life of the legendary Dale Earnhardt a decade ago Nascar has taken huge leaps in safety, but I am not so sure the folks in charge of Indy cars can do the same. The machines themselves are just so small, and there is no roof on them at all. If there is a unanimous calling for reduced speeds that may help a little I guess.

 

Halfway through the college football season here is who I would invite to New York for the presentation of The Heisman Trophy:         Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Alabama RB Trent Richardson, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, and Oklahoma St. WR Justin Blackmon.

 

The recent brouhaha involving San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was laughable and a bit pathetic. Both men share equal blame…Harbaugh for being a disrespectful jackass to the person whose team he’d just defeated, and Schwartz for reacting like a pre-teen drama queen.  Grow up gentlemen.

 

 

2009 NFL Preview – AFC

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’ll take a look at the AFC first, and then I will post a look at the NFC in a few days:

AFC EAST

Miami Dolphins 11-5

Bill Parcells is large and in charge. And his head coach Tony Sparano seems like a true disciple. That’s a good thing. There’s a sense of stability in Miami that hasn’t been present for awhile, and in the NFL stability is usually a positive trait. The big question will be whether or not The Wildcat offense is something the rest of the league has figured out, or if the Dolphins can add enough new twists to keep it  fresh.

New York Jets                      10-6

The Jets are on the right path. I have a good feeling about rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Sure he’ll have some growing pains, but he can’t be any worse than what the departed Bret Favre was the second half of last season. New coach Rex Ryan is a defensive guru, so that side of the ball should see improvement.

New England Patriots       10-6

I can’t explain it, but I just sense the magic slipping away in Foxboro. I’m not convinced that Tom Brady is as healthy as desired, and a running attack featuring a three headed monster of Laurence Maroney, BenJarvis Green, and Fred Taylor just isn’t that overwhelming. I’m not saying New England will be a bad team, but I think they are in for much more of a dogfight in their division than most folks seem to believe.

Buffalo Bills                          4-12

No, I do not think that Terrell Owens is the savior this team needs. Though he’s been quiet thus far it is likely only a matter of time before he becomes the divisive force he’s been everywhere he’s played. Unfortunately for the Bills they are not in a position of strength where they can withstand such distractions. Dallas and Philadelphia thrived despite T.O.’s antics. Buffalo will not. Plus, this division is just too tough. The Bills may be looking at 6 losses just within their own division, and then they have games against Tennessee, Atlanta, and Indianapolis. Dick Jauron is a decent coach with the misfortune of being hired by subpar teams. Time to update the resume again Dick.


AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts               10-6

The Colts, much like the Patriots, have been the cream of the crop for a long time. Did you realize that Peyton Manning is 33 years old and a veteran of 11 years?? Chinks in the armor have slowly developed over the past couple of years, but they have merely downgraded Indy from elite status to extremely good. And some of these emerging concerns aren’t so much a function of this team getting worse, but a recognition of other teams’ improvement. This division used to be Indy’s for the taking, but it has gotten quite competitive. The Colts have a new coach and Marvin Harrison isn’t around for Manning to throw to anymore. However, at the end of the day I still feel like no one is up to the task of dethroning the kings just yet…..until they get to the playoffs of course.

Tennessee Titans                10-6

Speaking of dethroning, Tennessee did do exactly that last year to the Colts. But I don’t believe they can pull off another 13-3 season. The defense is always above average, but the loss of DT Albert Haynesworth in free agency will have an impact. On offense the question is whether Kerry Collins, who up until last season had the aura of career backup, can continue his magic carpet ride. And what about Vince Young?? He all the sudden became a headcase in 2008 which is what allowed Collins to emerge as a star. The running attack is solid with the fleet of foot Chris Johnson and the bruising (and apparently sober) Lendale White. Whomever ends up being the QB has a few folks to throw to now thanks to the additions of free agent WR Nate Washington and first round choice Kenny Britt.

Houston Texans                  9-7

I keep waiting on the Texans to break through, but they continue to be just so-so with occasional flashes of potential. I’m not sure Matt Schaub is the answer at QB, and another receiver is needed so defenses can’t just key on Andre Johnson. Steve Slaton proved all the talking heads who said he wasn’t feature back material wrong, but I do believe the running game would benefit from adding a big battering ram for goal line and short yardage situations. Defensively this team just seems to be missing a piece or two. Being in the same division as Indianapolis and Tennessee doesn’t help matters, but that’s out of anyone’s control. The best game plan in Houston might be to sit tight and continue to improve one player at a time until that inevitable day when Peyton Manning retires.

Jacksonville Jaguars           7-9

I think the Jags will be slightly better than last season, but not much. The team took significant steps to improve the offensive line, and I’m of the opinion that that is the vital foundation of any good football team. RB Fred Taylor absconded to New England in a desperate attempt to win a ring, so Maurice Jones-Drew (some people call him The Space Cowboy, some call him The Gangster of Love) is the man now, and that’s probably a good thing. Veteran wideout Torry Holt will bolster the receiving corps along with a seemingly rejuvenated Troy Williamson who is determined to shed the “bust” label with which he has been saddled. There are two threads on which Jacksonville’s season hangs. The first is the defense. They are usually among the league’s best, but dropped off noticeably in 2008. The other is QB David Garrard. Once upon a time Garrard had a Randall Cunningham vibe. Last year it was more like Richie Cunningham. Nothing has happened this offseason to make me believe a momentous turnaround is on the horizon.


AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers                        11-5

Full disclosure…..I am a lifelong diehard Steeler fanatic. Admittedly it is hard for me to be completely objective when talking about my team. But I’m going to give it the old college try and leave it up to the reader’s discretion as to whether I’m on point or completely delusional. The Steelers are the defending Super Bowl Champions…..but let’s look deeper. They won last year despite having what was almost unanimously regarded as the league’s toughest schedule. They won despite both star RB Willie Parker and first round draft choice Rashard Mendenhall having major injuries and having to rely on third string RB Mewelde Moore. They won despite having an offensive line that no one was expecting to be very solid. So, extrapolating some logic from those statements, one could possibly surmise that with an easier schedule, both top runners healthy, and an offensive line that gelled better than anyone expected and now has an extra year of experience the Steelers might be even better in 2009. But not even I am willing to go that far. Defending Super Bowl champions haven’t had much luck the past decade or so, and this team did suffer some personnel losses. Will Limas Sweed validate being a high draft choice last year by stepping into the 3rd receiver role vacated by Nate Washington?? Will free agent signee Keiwan Ratliff be a suitable replacement for departed cornerback Bryant McFadden?? I’m not sure about the answers to those questions right now. Plus, the target is bigger than ever and one team in particular, the hated Ravens, will be gunning for the champs. But I get the sense that Mike Tomlin won’t let his team become unfocused, so to be honest I’m not all that concerned. I am predicting another banner year for the black n’ gold.

Baltimore Ravens                           10-6

The Ravens were oh-so-close last year. It’s rare when an 11-5 record doesn’t lock up a division title. QB Joe Flacco had a surprisingly proficient rookie season and the defense was as intimidating as everyone has come to expect. I don’t expect much of a drop off this year. It will be interesting to see how the departure of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan (the new head coach of the New York Jets) affects the chemistry. My guess is not much, atleast not in any measurable dynamic. I suppose a sophomore slump is possible for Flacco, but it is unlikely. Ray Lewis isn’t getting any younger, but he’s still got a couple great years in the tank. In almost any other division in the league Baltimore would be a runaway choice to come out on top. They just have the misfortune of playing in the same division with the only defense better than theirs.

Cincinnati Bengals                          8-8

A lot of folks derisively call them The Bungles, and it is a richly deserved bad reputation. They’ve had a lot of issues both on and off the field. Carson Palmer is theoretically healthy and fully recovered from past injuries which should help tremendously. Still, questions…and doubts…abound. I personally don’t believe that Laverneous Coles is an upgrade or even an even swap for departed receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh, and when your team is relying on underachieving Cedric Benson to carry the rushing load that’s a bad sign. The team drafted an OT with the 6th overall pick in the draft, but first he held out until late in the pre-season and then he broke his foot in practice, so there goes that idea. Long removed from the Super Bowl hay days of Boomer Esiason, Chris Collinsworth, and  Icky Woods, the modern day Bengals just seem snakebitten. I really like coach Marvin Lewis, who had much success as a defensive coach in Pittsburgh, Washington, and most notably Baltimore.  But I’m not sure even the re-animated corpses of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry combined could polish this turd. It’s a testament to the talent of Palmer (and having Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland – twice, on the schedule) that I’m even predicting a .500 finish.

Cleveland Browns                          6-10

I’m a Steelers fan so I hate the Browns, but I missed them when they were gone from the league for a few years. I was glad when they were reborn. But holy cow have they been dreadful since that triumphant return. They just can’t seem to find even a glimmer of hope, a small buoy in a raging sea of mediocrity. Atleast the Bengals have Palmer. The Browns pinned all their hopes a couple years ago on Notre Dame alumnus Brady Quinn. I never thought Quinn was that good even in college, and he hasn’t been good enough to seize the reins for the Browns. If you aren’t good enough to be the clear cut starting QB for such a bad team then you aren’t good enough period. New head coach Eric Mangini is a Bill Belichick disciple, which has been proven to mean diddly squat. Former Browns coach Romeo Crennel was a Belichick guy too, and that didn’t work well at all. Mangini himself was run out of New York, although I think maybe the Jets pulled the trigger a bit prematurely. Maybe some guys are meant to be really well respected coordinators and aren’t necessarily head coach material. Being in the same division with the Steelers and Ravens is just brutal.


AFC WEST

San Diego Chargers           14-2

Predicting the best record in the NFL for San Diego is as much about the atrocious division they play in than anything else. There are probably even a handful of college teams that could beat the three other teams in this division this season. San Diego has been a rather good team the past few seasons, and I don’t expect that to change. Yes, Ladainian Tomlinson has lost a step. But that’s like saying it’d take Mike Tyson 5 rounds to knock out Michael Spinks rather than the 1 round it took him 20 years ago. So what?? Shawne Merriman should be fully healthy now, so the defense will be better than it was in 2008. Philip Rivers just signed a fat contract, which might make him lazier but instead I believe it’ll make him relaxed and more effective. Vincent Jackson needs to step up and be the go to receiver many have thought him capable of being, and big time TE Antonio Gates needs to stay healthy. I truly believe that last year’s 8-8 season was a mirage, a one time off year that can be attributed to injuries to a few key players. That is unlikely to happen two straight seasons.

Denver Broncos                  8-8

The Josh McDaniels era hasn’t exactly gotten off to a rousing start…..and they haven’t even played a game yet. McDaniels is another of the aformentioned branches on the Belichick coaching tree, one that hasn’t proven very fruitful thus far. I don’t think this guy is going to change that fact. The whole Jay Cutler debacle was an inauspicious launch for the new regime, and even though Cutler undoubtedly acted like a petulant child the blame must be shared by coach McDaniels. I understand wanting “your guy” as a new coach. I get it. But it wasn’t as if Cutler was a bad quarterback. It’s not even like the Broncos were a bad team. They were 8-5 last year and then lost the final 3 games. If they would have won the last game they would have been in the playoffs. The biggest issue was the defense, which ranked near the bottom in most categories. The coach obviously miscalculated what bringing in QB Matt Cassel, whom he had worked with in New England, would do to Cutler’s psyche. Cassel didn’t even end up with the Broncos, but that didn’t matter. The damage was done and Cutler whined his way out of Denver and into a pretty decent gig with Chicago. The Broncos?? Well…they ended up with Kyle Orton. It’s akin to having Russell Crowe lined up to star in your new movie but he drops out and you end up with Keanu Reeves. This will not end well. They did draft what most considered the top RB in the draft in Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, and he’ll be backed up by Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan. Not a flashy running attack but it should be effective. I atleast like this trifecta more than New England’s. Some pieces were added on defense thru the draft and free agency, but I don’t see any real difference makers. In 2008 the Broncos finished with a .500 record, and I’m generously predicting the same record in 2009, which begs the question…why exactly did they fire Mike Shanahan??

Oakland Raiders                 5-11

Al Davis is still alive and kicking, and that is bad news for the once mighty Raiders. Seriously, what has happened to this team?? It is one of the premiere franchises in the NFL…..infamous, successful, bold. But the aging and apparently crazy Davis has turned them into a laughing stock. The man is 80 years old. Someone needs to make him retire. I’m just not impressed by anything the Raiders have to offer. They have a new coach. Whatever. They have Jamarcus Russell as the QB of the future and brought in Jeff Garcia to be a mentor and capable backup. Sorry…..still doesn’t stir anything within my soul. Even Darren McFadden is an overhyped RB who’ll get you 2 yards but just look flashier doing it than most other backs. They didn’t draft anyone inspiring either. It’s just more of the same from a team that seems to have no direction.

Kansas City Chiefs              3-13

Speaking of no direction, that brings us to the Chiefs. All you need to know about this team is that their new head coach is apparently going to attempt to be the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator too. The man is clearly a control freak and in over his head. The jury is still out on Matt Cassel, the newly acquired starting QB. Cassel wasn’t even a starter in college at USC, where he backed up both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Last season he got his opportunity with the Patriots after Tom Brady went down with a knee injury. I get the fact that almost anyone is an upgrade over Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen, but the fact is that we are talking about a guy who shined for only one season and that happened to be with one of the best supporting casts in football. The road to hell is paved with the short lived careers of football players who were really good for a year or two. Running back Larry Johnson has seen his production dramatically curtailed the past two seasons, and he is on the threshold of 30, the age when rushers traditionally begin a steep decline. Perennial all-pro tight end Tony Gonzalez got tired of losing and demanded a trade, so he’s now in Atlanta with the Falcons. There just isn’t much good news for the Chiefs. If Cassel proves himself more than just a one year wonder, and if Johnson has a career renaissance or possibly Jamaal Charles steps into that spot and breaks out, then maybe this team can do better than last season. But my gut instinct is that improvement will not manifest itself until next season.