2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 5

We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.

My Season: 11-15

Zach’s Season: 10-16

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)

I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Florida International 

Z’s Pick: Florida International

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame 

I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation. 

My Pick: Notre Dame 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)

Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy. 

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)

I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Detroit at Chicago (-3)

Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts. 

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Detroit 

Seattle at San Francisco (-3)

In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Seattle 

Arizona at LA Rams (-6)

Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover. 

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England

It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 15

Another Thursday night, another night making picks while actually watching football. Thank God the Thursday NFL game is usually not one we choose to discuss. That may change though since we’ll be strictly NFL the rest of the way. We both did fairly well picking last week’s conference title games. I was 5-2, while Zach was 4-3. We’ll be posting our annual College Football Bowl-A-Palooza in the coming days (I believe the first bowl game takes place next Friday), but as usual they are a separate entity from these picks. At any rate, I hope The Manoverse is having a pleasant holiday season and doing most of your shopping online. Enjoy.

My Season:     52-37

Zach’s Season:     45-44

 

 

 

 

 

Houston                      at                         Tennessee (-3)

I don’t think many football fans are surprised that the AFC South is up for grabs this late in the season, but there probably aren’t many that thought the Titans would be in the mix. I predicted they’d go 5-11 & finish dead last in the division, which was obviously way off base. Even more curious is the fact that they’re doing it with Ryan Tannehill under center after former first round pick Marcus Mariota was benched. I guess when you have a beast at running back like Derrick Henry that helps a whole lot. Let’s not shortchange the Texans though. At 8-5 they are tied with Tennessee atop the division. This is the first of two meetings in three weeks between these teams, which is peculiar scheduling indeed. Tennessee gets the requisite home field bump, but I’m still not sold on Tannehill. If Houston’s defense can keep Henry in check I think they walk away with a comfortable victory. Zach is a little concerned about Houston in the wake of their shockingly poor performance a week ago against Denver, but he thinks they’ll rebound and score the upset.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

Miami                           at                         NY Giants (-3)

I’m really trying to avoid focusing on the same half dozen teams these last few weeks so this unappealing game makes the cut. Giants’ rookie QB Daniel Jones is probably going to be back after missing last week’s game with a sprained ankle, but whether it is he or Eli Manning under center makes very little difference. The Dolphins are likely going to miss out on the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft, but I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative. Both teams are a mess and might stay that way for the next couple of years. I hope this turns out to be a tight game decided late in the 4th quarter (or overtime)…otherwise it’s basically just a waste of everyone’s time. That being said, The Vibes are telling me to go with Miami. Zach thinks there may be a bit of FitzMagic left for the Dolphins and is also picking the upset.

My Pick:     Miami

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

 

LA Rams                     at                         Dallas (even)

Jerry Jones is almost as bad of an owner as the clown that owns my Pittsburgh Pirates, although in a totally different way. Wherein Pirates’ ownership has neglected the franchise for years & refuses to spend money necessary to compete, Jones actually cares too much and thinks he’s way smarter than he is. The Cowboys would improve dramatically if he’d step down as general manager and let people who know what the hell they are doing run the team. That’s not going to happen though, and head coach Jason Garrett will be the sacrificial lamb. The funny thing is they might still make the playoffs since the entire NFC East is atrocious. The Rams aren’t going to be in the playoffs. On one hand that’s not surprising given the whole Super Bowl Curse thing, but on the other hand it is a dramatic departure from a year ago when head coach Sean McVay & quarterback Jared Goff were celebrated flavors of the month. It’s interesting that the ‘Boys can’t even score the usual three point home advantage…seems like the folks in Vegas have lost faith in them. It’s a tall order for the Rams to head into Texas with nothing to play for and face off against a team fighting for its life & a coach desperate to save his job, but that’ll make it all the more delightful when the visitors get the win. Zach concurs and foresees a blowout.

My Pick:     LA Rams

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

 

Atlanta                         at                         San Francisco (-10.5)

I predicted that the 49ers would make the playoffs, but I had no idea they’d be this good and a legit Super Bowl contender. Conversely, the Falcons are much worse than I expected. Frisco isn’t going to lose at home, but the points are a bit of a concern. Double digit spreads are unusual in the NFL. Having said that, the Niners have won 7 of their 11 victories by ten points or more, so I’ll roll with it. Zach thinks the Falcons are slowly figuring things out, but sees Frisco scoring the victory…just not by ten points.

My Pick:     San Francisco

Z’s Pick:     Atlanta

 

 

 

Indianapolis                         at                         New Orleans (-9)

Indianapolis should title their 2019 highlight video “What If?”. What if Andrew Luck would have stuck around?? What if receiver TY Hilton hadn’t missed half the season with a calf injury?? What if RB Marlon Mack wasn’t so injury prone?? They are a better team than their record shows, but much like my Pittsburgh Steelers the deck has been stacked against them all season long and they just can’t catch a break. On the flip side the Saints have already clinched their division and have to be kicking themselves for that last second loss to San Francisco that’s going to cost them home field in the presumed NFC Championship (although anything can happen). I like Indy. They have potential and will probably be back in the playoff conversation next year, but it’s just not meant to be right now and they’re going up against a well-oiled machine. The points give me brief pause, but I like the Saints to get the job done on Monday night. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

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

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 10

football-introducing-the-science_1Sorry folks…running behind so this is going to be quick & dirty. Lots going on in my world. I’m not used to so much activity. Last week I was 6-3, while Zach was 3-6. More than most weeks in recent memory we had several games decided by the point spread…teams winning but not covering. That’s exactly why we have that added layer of strategery. It makes things that much more interesting. The college football schedule is kind of prosaic this week, so we’re leaning a little more on the NFL. I try my best not to be repetitive by choosing games involving the same teams every week, although it is undeniable that some teams are just more interesting and play better opponents than others.

 My Season:     28-27

Z’s Season:     19-37

 

 

 

 

Alabama (-7.5)             at      LSU

Zach & I both agree that the Tide are on another level. Actually they have almost become boring since they tend to bulldoze opposing teams with the outcome never alabamatidereally in doubt. I don’t anticipate anything different even with this game being in Baton Rouge. I wouldn’t mind being wrong.

My Pick:     Alabama

Z’s Pick:     Alabama

 

 

Nebraska            at      Ohio St. (-17.5)

This is another point spread situation. I don’t think the Buckeyes lose at The Horseshoe. However, as Penn St. proved, Ohio St. isn’t infallible. Nebraska is coming off of nebraska-cornhuskersa tough overtime loss, but they still have a lot to fight for, including a spot in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game. At the very least I expect a spirited effort from the Cornhuskers and a fairly close game. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Nebraska

Z’s Pick:     Nebraska

 

 

NY Jets               at      Miami (-3.5)

Jets-Pin-ProNeither team has any chance whatsoever to overtake New England in the AFC East, and the playoffs are a pipe dream. Both teams would be MiamiDolphinslucky to finish with a winning record. But somehow Jets/Dolphins games always seem to be exciting & fun to watch, going all the way back to my childhood. I’m going to roll the dice on an upset just for the hell of it. Conversely, Zach likes the Dolphins’ rushing attack, which is actually better without recently retired Arian Foster.

My Pick:     NY Jets

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

New Orleans (-3.5)     at      San Francisco

Neither of these teams are going to the playoffs either. The Saints have a chance to finish around the .500 mark, but with Atlanta running away with their division that’s new_orleans_saints-3737just not good enough. The Niners are probably in the conversation for the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft, a choice one would assume they’d use on a quarterback. ‘Frisco doesn’t even get the respect of the obligatory home field bump from the oddsmakers…probably because they don’t deserve it. Zach has concerns about N’awleans’ inconsistency, but even less faith that ‘Frisco can field a competent professional football team.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

Denver                at      Oakland (-1)

QB Derek Carr has the Raiders riding high, topping their division deep into the season for the first time in several years. But the Broncos are right there with them. This raidersis the Sunday night game on NBC, and it’s a big one for both teams, with the winner sitting in the post-season driver’s seat and the loser in a wildcard spot and facing a possible playoff game at New England. I like the Broncos’ defense, but I think Carr figures out a way to keep it close to set up a Sebastian Janikowski game winning field goal. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

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

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 – 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.