Friday, October 20, 2006

NFL Picks-Week 7

Last Week: 8-5 Season: 60-27

New York Giants at Dallas: This week’s Monday Night extravaganza comes from the future site of the Irving Industrial Park, at the corner of highways 114, 183, and Loop 12, also known as Texas Stadium. Both teams need this one bad. Both are 3-2, and are trying to keep up with the Iggles. Can Drew Bledsoe stave off a quarterback controversy, with the Rib man waiting in the wings? Will T.O. show up? Or, will Tiki Barber torch the Cowboys on their home field? Pick: Dallas, of course.
Jacksonville at Houston: They’re calling it Battle Red Day in Houston. It’s the day the Texans wear red jerseys, and the fans are asked to wear red. They need a gimmick, because they’re still a bad team. The Jaguars have shown signs of greatness, but have still not won a road game. That changes this week. Pick: Jacksonville
Carolina at Cincinnati: The Panthers are hot, having won four in a row after losing their first two games. The Bengals come off a loss at Tampa Bay. The Bengals need this one desperately. Pick: Cincinnati
Detroit at New York Jets: The Lions won their first game last week, while the Jets beat the sorry Dolphins. The Jets continue to beat up on weak sisters. Pick: Jets
Green Bay at Miami: This smells like week-old cheese. Both teams are bad. Miami has switched to Joey Harrington at quarterback. I don’t know if that will help them. Brett Favre can still sling it. Green Bay will outscore the Dolphins. Pick: Green Bay
New England at Buffalo: The Patriots are head and shoulders above the rest of their division, again. The Bills are pretty mediocre. The Patriots go for the sweep. Pick: New England
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay: The Bucs got their first win last week, behind rookie quarterback and ex-Toledo Rocket Bruce Gradkowski (How’d the MAC become the cradle of quarterbacks?). Philly keeps finding ways to win. Pick: Philly
Pittsburgh at Atlanta: The Steelers got a big win last week. The Falcons lost a lead and the game to the Giants. The Steelers are too inconsistent. The Falcons are at home. Pick: Atlanta
San Diego at Kansas City: The Chargers have been impressive with new QB Phillip Rivers and all-world RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Trent Green is still out for the Chiefs, leaving Damon Huard at QB. The Chargers are on a roll. Pick: San Diego
Denver at Cleveland: The Broncos have a great defense, and are struggling on offense. The Browns are struggling, period. As the Broncos return to Cleveland 20 years after “The Drive”, they won’t need magic. They’ll just win. Pick: Denver
Arizona at Oakland: McAfee Coliseum will need a post-game check for toxic waste, due not to a bomb threat, but to the suckiness of the teams involved. Arizona has more talent than the Raiders, but they are snakebitten after the events of the last two weeks. Oakland is a bad team, but this is one of their best chances for a win this year. Pick: Oakland
Minnesota at Seattle: Seattle got a big win in St. Louis last week. The Vikings aren’t bad, but won’t be able to pull this one off in Starbucksville. Pick: Seattle
Washington at Indianapolis: The Redskins are fresh off giving the Titans their first win of the year. Their fortunes won’t change this week. The Colts are rested and ready to go. Pick: Indy

Baseball: It's Not What It Used To Be

Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals used a 9th inning home run from Yadier Molina to defeat the New York Mets in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals now hop on a plane to Detroit, to meet the Tigers in game 1 of the World Series.

This series illustrates how much baseball has changed in my lifetime. When these two teams last met in the World Series, it was 1968, and I was in diapers. Both teams won their leagues in the last year before divisional play. There were no division series or league championship series, but the best team over 162 games won the pennant and went to the World Series.

Turn the clock to 2006. The Tigers led the American League Central Division for almost the entire season, until the final weekend. They had a series at home against the Kansas City Royals, the team with the worst record in baseball. Detroit needed to win only one game to clinch the division. The Royals swept three games from the Tigers, including a comeback from a 6-0 deficit in the final game. What did it cost the Tigers? They got to be the wild card team, and had to play the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, instead of hosting Oakland. In the old days, they would have stayed home, with 95 wins. Instead, they got hot, winning the last three games against the Yankees, and sweeping four games from the Athletics.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, led the weak National League Central division for the entire season. With two weeks to play, they had an 8 ½ game lead over the Houston Astros. They lost 8 games in a row, and the lead shrunk to ½ game, before they split a four-game series with Milwaukee to salvage a division championship. They advanced to the post-season with a record of 83-78. They would have finished 13 1/2 games out of first place in their old division, the National League East. They were given up for dead in the post-season, but beat San Diego 3 games to 1, then beat the Mets in a 7 game series to advance to the World Series.

What does this prove? Baseball has changed, especially with the addition of the extra division and the wild card. The best team in the regular season does not always win at the end, especially in the convoluted post-season. Anything can happen in a best-of-5 or best-of-7 series, and usually does. It’s all about timely hitting and pitching.

I’ve bombed one prediction already, as I picked the Yankees to beat San Diego in the World Series. I’ll take a do-over on that one. Detroit in 5.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

College Picks-Weekend of October 22

College Picks-Weekend of October 22

Last Week: 12-8 Season: 99-41

Improved a little on the picks, but there is still room for improvement…

Here it goes for this week:

Colorado at Oklahoma: Colorado is coming off of their first win. Oklahoma is missing franchise RB Adrian Peterson. This won’t be a total blowout, but OU wins.
Texas at Nebraska: The Huskers are not quite ready for prime time. Texas has won in their two previous trips to Lincoln in Big XII play. Make this a third. Pick: Texas
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State: Ag Bowl II. OSU is probably more of an agricultural school than Texas A&M these days. However, this isn’t fertilizer science or agronomy, it’s football. Both teams won last week. It comes down to the A&M offense vs. the OSU defense. A&M milks the clock and wins the game. Pick: A&M
Texas Tech at Iowa State: Last week, Tech became the first team to lose to Colorado. Iowa State has gotten through a murderer’s row of a schedule, with Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks. They obviously do not have friends in the conference office. Tech continues to struggle. Pick: Iowa State
Kansas State at Missouri: Missouri returns home after suffering their first loss. Tigers bounce back here. Pick: Mizzou
Kansas at Baylor: KU is now in a free fall, having lost their first three conference games. Baylor improves every week. I hate Dr. Pepper, but I think Baylor will win this week. Pick: Baylor
UCLA at Notre Dame: Notre Dame gets the other guys from Los Angeles. UCLA can’t keep up with the Irish. Pick: Notre Dame
Alabama at Tennessee: No longer played on the Third Saturday in October, but a huge game, no matter the records. Tennessee is very good this year. Bama is a disappointment. Pick: Tennessee
Georgia Tech at Clemson: Possible preview of ACC championship game. Ramblin’ Wreck have not lost since opening game against Notre Dame. Clemson has not lost since a week 2 hiccup to Boston College. The game is in Death Valley, giving Clemson the advantage in a close one. Pick: Climpson
Rutgers at Pittsburgh: Scarlet Knights take their unbeaten record to the Ketchup Bowl to take on once-beaten Pittsburgh. Pitt is the best team Rutgers has faced to date. Both teams leave this one with one loss. Pick: Pittsburgh
West Virginia at Connecticut: Mountaineers on a collision course with Louisville. They should handle UConn. Pick: West Virginia
Wisconsin at Purdue: Wisconsin only has one loss. Purdue will wind up in a bowl somewhere. Wiscy is a little better than the Boilermakers. Pick: Wisconsin
TCU at Army: TCU has been beaten up bad the last two games by the two teams from Utah. After the week off, they venture to the banks of the Hudson River. Army will give TCU all they want, but TCU has too much talent. Pick: TCU
Washington at California: Washington is much improved. Cal has bounced back well after their opening loss to the Vols. Pick: Cal
Boston College at Florida State: The Eagles are ranked 22nd, and the Seminoles are not ranked. How the mighty have fallen. FSU has pride, and pride will carry them this week. Speaking of pride, the Seminoles will be wearing black uniforms, in honor of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Pick: FSU
UTEP at Houston: Speaking of free fall, that describes the Cougars. After barely losing to the U in Miami, Houston has since lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Miss. UTEP is talented and well-coached. The game is in Houston, but that won’t matter. Pick: UTEP
South Carolina at Vanderbilt: Vandy is coming off an upset of Georgia, the first time they have defeated a ranked opponent in 58 games. The ‘Cocks aren’t as good as Georgia. The ‘Dores continue to improve. Pick: Vandy
Louisville at Syracuse: Louisville is rolling along, and has a big game next week at the Pizza Box against West Virginia. The ‘Cuse has improved a lot as they have changed to the old-school uniforms. This one is in the dome, and the Ville better be ready. Pick: Syracuse
Miami (or what’s left of them) vs. Duke: Not quite half of Miami’s team were suspended as a result of last week’s fight with Florida International. Duke hasn’t won a game all year. Miami is down, but their mix of starters and reserves should still be able to handle the Dukies. Pick: Miami
Blackburn (Ill.) at Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Wis.): Maranatha has won three games, and Blackburn has won two. Maranatha has the home-field advantage. Pick: Maranatha

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't Count Your Cardinals Before They Hatch

As I wrote last night, the Arizona Cardinals had a 23-3 lead over the Bears in the 3rd quarter. The Bears made a rendezvous with destiny, as they scored two defensive touchdowns, then went ahead on a Devin Hester punt return. The Cardinals gave Neil Rackers a chance to win the game with a 40-yard field goal, but he missed.

That game defined the term "finding a way to lose". This is the second week in a row the Cardinals have blown a 14-0 lead to lose a game. The Curse of Bidwill lives on. No matter the city: Chicago, St. Louis, Tempe, or Glendale, the Cardinals still stink.

The Bears are pretty good, though. The road to the Super Bowl goes through Chicago.

Monday, October 16, 2006

NFL Week In Review-Week 6

Another trip down the road known as the National Football League…

The first half of yesterday’s Cowboys-Texans game was one of the ugliest displays of football I’ve seen in a while. The Cowboys played to the Texans’ level and trailed 6-3 at the half. Big Bill must have said something at halftime, because the Cowboys crushed them in the second half to win 34-6. Terrell Owens caught three touchdown passes, including the first TD pass by Tony “Ribs” Romo. Texas Stadium-A Place For Ribs?

The Tennessee Titans got their first win of the season, going into Washington and defeating the Redskins. What is up with the Redskins? The Titans are improving in a hurry, with Vince Young at QB.

There was a barn-burner in St. Louis yesterday, as the Seattle Seahawks kicked a field goal at the end of the game to defeat the Rams. Torry Holt made an awesome juggling catch at full speed for the go-ahead TD, but the Seahawks had the ball last and won the game on an FG.

How about the Saints!?! Break them up! They’re 5-1. They have a very good QB in Drew Brees, a healthy Deuce McAllister, and two good rookies on offense in Reggie Bush and Marques Colston. They’re the real deal. Big win over the Eagles on Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers won their fourth game in a row, over the Ravens in Baltimore. They are starting to live up to pre-season hype.

Congrats to the Detroit Lions, on their first win of the season. The Tigers’ mojo did make it across the street to Ford Field for yesterday’s game.

Congrats also to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also won their first game, over the tiger-striped guys from Cincinnati.

The New York Football Giants saved their season yesterday, with a comeback win over the Atlanta Michael Vicks.

The Jets sucked less than the Dolphins yesterday. Enough said.

Speaking of suck, the 49ers continue to define the word. No NFL team should give up 48 points to anybody, though the Chargers are a good team.

Any discussion of 40+ point games this week is incomplete without mention of Pittsburgh’s 45-7 rout of Kansas City. I don’t know if the Steelers will be back in the Super Bowl, but I know the Chiefs won’t be there.

The worst team in the league continues to be the Oakland Raiders, 13-3 losers to Denver. Al Davis needs to have mercy on all of us and sell the team. Commitment to Excellence? Just Win, Baby? Puhleeze. This is a joke.

The sorry Cardinals are taking the undefeated Bears to the woodshed as I write. There is hope in the desert. Isn’t it unstable, though, that they play in a stadium named for a university without a football team (University of Phoenix Stadium)?

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Rumblings from the weekend in college football…

As I expected, Auburn bounced back from their unexpected loss to Arkansas to take care of business against the Florida Gators. This leaves one unbeaten team in SEC play: the Arkansas Razorbacks. It also leaves five undefeated teams in BCS conferences: Ohio State, Michigan, USC, West Virginia, and Louisville. USC has two tough games remaining, against Cal and Oregon. Ohio State and Michigan play each other at the end of the season, and West Virginia and Louisville play each other next Thursday night.

There were two upsets of significance in the Top 25 yesterday. The Vanderbilt Commodores went between the hedges and defeated the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 24-22. Vandy had lost 58 games in a row to ranked opponents before yesterday. The Bulldogs are struggling in a huge way. In Bloomington, Indiana, the Indiana Hoosiers shocked the #15 Iowa Hawkeyes, 31-28. Indiana is now 4-3. There are two non-conference losses the Hoosiers would like to have back, as they lost consecutive games to Connecticut and Southern Illinois while coach Terry Hoeppner was absent due to emergency brain surgery. If the Hoosiers can win two of their three games with Michigan State, Minnesota, or Purdue, they can make it to a bowl game for the first time since the Lincoln administration.

Down in Little Havana, there was a fight at the Orange Bowl, during last night’s game between Miami and Florida International. The video is here. The fight was instigated by a FIU player when he tackled the holder after an extra point was made. Chaos ensued. On the video, former Cane and color analyst Lamar Thomas represents The U with class, stating on the air that he’d like to get on the elevator, go down on the field, and take care of business, and that they ought to continue this in the tunnel after the game. Same old Miami we all know and love. Word for FIU: If you can’t beat them on the field, beat them off of it.

My Sooners beat Iowa State, 34-9, but it felt like a loss, as Adrian Peterson suffered a broken collarbone as a result of diving into the end zone, and is out for the season. If he is smart, he will declare for the NFL draft, and become an instant millionaire. The Sooners now have four dangerous road games in the Big XII, with trips to Missouri, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State. At this point, an 8-4 finish and trip to the Alamo Bowl looks like a successful season. What was once a successful 2003 recruiting class, featuring Peterson and Rhett Bomar, has disintegrated. These are not the best of times in Norman, Oklahoma.

Big XII rankings for this week:

1. Texas: Bevo rolls on. Next stop: Nebraska
2. Nebraska: Are they ready for Bevo?
3. Oklahoma: Currently here by default. Their season is radically changed with AD’s injury.
4. Texas A&M: What a difference two weeks make. Strong win to knock Mizzou from the ranks of the unbeaten.
5. Missouri: All good things must come to an end.
6. Baylor: Yes, they gave up 63 to Texas. However, they are better than the teams below them this week.
7. Iowa State: Has completed the toughest part of their schedule.
8. Texas Tech: Lost to Colorado. Enough said.
9. Oklahoma State: Big win at KU. Need two more wins for a bowl.
10. Kansas: Slipping fast at 3-4. Didn’t need yesterday’s loss.
11. Colorado: Finally gets a win. Will be hard to deal with the rest of the way.
12. Kansas State: Someone has to be in the basement, and this week is their turn.