Saturday, December 30, 2006

NFL Week 17: One more for weekend of full schedule football

Let me just start out by saying that no matter how badly I did with my games today it was still a great day beacuse the dickhead dictator Saddam Insane was hanged today, ending the life of the leader of one of the most ruthless regimes in modern history. Hip hip hooray!

On to football.

After one solid week and 20 mostly horrendous bowl games I am ready for some football, NFL style.

Don't get me wrong, I love the college game possibly more than pro football, but after the ump- teenth Enter Sponsor's Name Here Bowl, countless quarters of horrendous play, massive blowouts and mind-blowing comebacks, all topped off with Mike Gottfried & Lou Holtz attempting to pronounce Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada's name today, I can't wait to get back to watching football played at a professional level.

You know, like the Yucs.

This desire probably has nothing to do with the fact that after going 1-2 today I sit at 7-13 with virtually no way to salvage any dignity out of this predicting mess. With 12 games left I have to go 9-3 just to break even.

I have officially resigned myself to the fact that I am indeed the World's Worst Gambler, or WWG for short. I am handing the trophy to myself as I sit here and I will wear the title like a badge of dishonor.

Thank you, thank you all for your support.

Although it could be worse- I could be like's The Sports Guy, who is currently losing to his wife in their NFL picks this season.

Okay I feel better now. Let's try to tackle what is going to happen with the playoff spots up for grabs heading into the final day of the 2006 regular season.

Don't worry there will be no predictions here. Read on.

NFC Wild Card spots all but clinched after Giants topple Redskins, 34-28
Finally. That's what they must be saying in Greater Jersey area as the swooning Giants stopped their drunken free fall and virtually wrapped up a wild card with behind Tiki Barber's record day.

Brother of Ronde set a career and team high with 234 yards on 23 carries plus 3 touchdowns as he literally carried New York to the postseason. It was a miraculous performance considering that it should be his final NFL regular season game (unless you have been trapped on Mt Hood you probably know that Tiki is retiring after the season.)

Technically the Giants haven't locked up the final slot yet- there are nine scenarios where the last spot could go to the Packers- but the stars would have to perfectly align, Mel Gibson would have to make an American movie and Lindsay Lohan would have to stop pretending to be sober in order for said scenarios to occur.

So it looks like New York will make the playoffs after losing 6 of its final 8, finishing at 8-8, and with more players sniping at their coach & each other than any team since the 1972 Oakland A's.
Congrats, Tom Coughlin & Co. Enjoy your final week of employment. (BTW Tom, why did it take you until the final game of the season to demote your offensive coordinator? Couldn't you have just told John Hufnagel to run Tiki until he breaks instead of promoting Kevin Gilbride to do it? It's his final season for crying out loud!)

Who will win the AFC Wild Cards?
This could be simple: if the Jets (9-6) beat Oakland in the Meadowlands (a virtual lock) and Denver (9-6) beats San Fran at Mile High, they are in as the Wild Cards.

If either or both should lose, well then it gets dicey; four other teams will have a shot at getting in: Jacksonville, Cincy, Kansas City and Tennessee. They all sit at 8-7 and just hoping for the perfect storm of playoff scenarios to happen that will allow them to play another week of football.

Which team has the best chance at grabbing that final spot ( I think we'll all concede that the Jets will beat the Raiders- any objections? Good.) Let's take a look.

Jacksonville @ Kansas City
I said it before, and of course the WWG was wrong, but the Chiefs don't lose at home in the month of December. That week they went out and lost to Baltimore at Arrowhead, breaking a streak that had spanned 10 years. But the Jekyll & Hyde Jags have lost 2 straight since pounding Peyton & the Mannings and will be primed for the taking in this one.

Expect plenty of hand offs in this one: Jacksonville is ripping of 161 yards on the ground per game, led by potential rookie of the year Maurice Jones-Drew, and Chiefs workhorse Larry Johnson is leading the NFL in carries (383) and is second in yards (1,651) to LT.

The only way either team has a chance of getting in the postseason is to win this game first and then get a lot of help. So this is a de facto playoff game, with the losers making vacation plans and the winners hopping in front of the Pioneer HD PureVision Plasma with fingers crossed and curses ready.

New England @ Tennessee
This one could be the game of the day. The red-hot Titans, winners of six straight, are riding a Tennessee high not seen around the region since the days of the Music City Miracle. Vince Young has got everyone believing he will lead his team to victory in every game, mainly because the confident Texan believes it himself.

It's been said 1000 times the past week but it still bears repeating- all VY knows how to do is win. Awkward motion? Big deal? Low Wonderlic scores? Who cares? Passed over by his hometown Texans? Nah nah nah nah nah nah! Just win baby. Maybe the Raiders should have drafted him.

But even though the Pats have wrapped up the AFC East don't expect them to roll over and let the Vince Young express run right through them. The team is still struggling to find a rhythm and knowing Tom Terrific & The Hooded Genius they will be using this game as a playoff tuneup in order to get the offense clicking on all cylinders heading into the postseason.

Plus there is nothing more than Tom & Hoodie would love to do than knock the Titans out of the playoffs on their own turf. The're like assassins. They live for this.

Pittsburgh @ Cincy
The Bungles might have gagged away their playoff hopes with that botched extra point last week in snowy Denver. If Cincy had won that game, and it had numerous chances to do so even before the last-minute blunder, it would have wrapped up a wild card and not had to sweat playing their arch rivals in a win-or-go-home game.

Alas it appears the only ones having worse luck than the Bengals lately is Tank Johnson. To say the team has had an up & down season this year would be a major understatement. Eight player arrests, streaks of wins (3, 4) and losses (4 of 5) and a player who suffered a serious neck injury are just some of the woes that plagued the fans in the Queen City and tri-county area.

Now it comes to this. The Bengals must beat the hated Steelers and have the Jets lose to make the postseason. Worse yet, Pittsburgh was eliminated last week so all they have to concentrate on is keeping their nasty neighbors to the west out as well. That's motivation enough for the defending champs, who would like nothing better than to end the Bengals bowl dreams just as it did last season on the way to the championship (note to Carson Palmer: watch out for Kimo Von Olhoffen this time.)

One more Steelers note: they are the first defending champs to miss the playoffs the next season since...wait for it... the 2003 Yucs.

What else is up for grabs this week?
Home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC
Simple scenario here: if the Chargers (13-2) knock off the Cards at Quaalcomm then it will have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

If the Chargers lose (which became less likely when it was learned that Arizona QB Matt Leinart will not play due to injury and father time himself Kurt Warner will be back behind center) and the host Ravens (12-3) defeat the Bills then the all-important edge would go to Baltimore.

Needless to say if both win San Diego retains the advantage due to the better record.

NFC East title
Although both Dallas and Philly are already in the playoffs they still have to decide which one goes in as the division winner and which will be the wild card.

If Dallas beats Detroit and Philly loses to the Falcons then the Cowboys would win the division and Philly would be the wild card.

But if Philly wins they will be the division champ regardless of what the Cowboys do based on the Eagles season sweep of the 'Boys.

How sweet would it be if the Eagles just swoop right in and steal the division crown right out from under the noses of the pompous Cowboys and their cranky coach, wannabe-a-star quarterback, and locker room-poisoning wide receiver. Personally it would make my holiday season just to watch Tuna's post game press conference if the 'Boys get knocked out.

Assorted byes and home games
The jockeying for home games and bye weeks goes on as the rest of the pieces fall into place. The certainties are:
-San Diego clinched a first-round bye
-Chicago has clinched home field throughout the NFC playoffs
-New Orleans has clinched a first-round bye
Everything else is up in the air. And frankly, as long as I know the Pats are in I don't really give a flying fig as to who plays whom where and when. Just get the 12 teams figured out, line 'em up against each other and let 'em play postseason football.

Other things to watch for this on Sunday include:
Rushing title: LT holds a 98 yard advantage over LJ (1,749-1,651.) Figuring that LJ is going to get about 35 carries and Herm Edwards is going to ride him into the ground, and LT will probably play a half just to try and keep the rushing title and pad his touchdown record, well LJ has a chance to swipe this one. But I wouldn't bet against LT this year. Look for him to make just a big enough sp[lash in his brief appearance to lock up both the rushing crown and MVP.

Sack title: Steroid Shawne Merriman sits a half a sack ahead of Green Bay's Aaron Kampman (16- 15.5) going into Sunday. With the Chargers playing Arizona andthe Packers facing Chicago on Sunday Night it looks good for Merriman to get the title to go along with his Pro Bowl nod. Nothing like rewarding guys who get busted for 'roids. But god forbid a guy wears a pair of flashy shoes or does a touchdown celebration. Nice image, NFL.

Rookie of the Year: One of the most crowded field in recent memory has no fewer than 5 legit candidates for the honor.
Reggie Bush
Marques Colston
Maurice Jones Drew
Vince Young

Bottom line is there is still a lot to be decided on the final day of the season. Just enjoy it while it lasts.


Bowl Recap: 1-6 and getting worse

By this point in the bowl binge if I had been actually wagering money on my picks I would be in one of two unpleasant situations:

1.) heading to divorce court

2.) heading for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Yes my run for the title of World's Worst Gambler is going strong after a horrendous 1-5 effort today that brought my 17 game tally to 6-11. Yikes.

In all fairness these games have been as hard to predict as what day Britney Spears is going to flash her babymaker again. If I'm not mistaken there has been absolutely zero defense played in any of the 17 bowl games thus far.

In fact here is a look at the scores of the winning teams: 37, 38, 41, 24, 20, 25, 41, 31, 44, 34, 45, 37, 28, 39, 44, 44, 24.

If that isn't crazy enough, check out some of the numbers put up by the losers in these games: 24, 27, 31, 38, 36, 41.

Today three teams scored over 35 points and lost.

It's like these teams are playing arena ball, or some kind of juiced up all star game. Players are just running up & down the field, guys are wide open, nobody can make a tackle, ball carriers are trailing bodies behind them like beer cans off a wedding limo...

The ugliness reached a new high (low) today when the Minnesota Golden Gophers failed to hold a 31-point 2nd half lead and lost 44-41 in OT to Texas Tech. I mean how the hell do you predict that?

Unfortunately no one saw that contest because it was on NFL Net. But the games we were able to view left a lot to be desired. I'm so fed up with the predictions and reviews of this garbage that I am cutting all these recaps to one sentence.

Music City Bowl
Kentucky 28, Clemson 20
Line: Clemson -10
MY PICK: Clemson 38-24
MY REC: 5-8
This game was one of the sorriest excuses for football in recent memory: 6 turnovers (4 on consecutive plays in the 2nd quarter!), 13 penalties, 5 replay reviews, 3 missed field goals, 1 missed extra point and one failed 2-pt conversion. Ug-ly.

Brut Sun Bowl
Oregon State 39, Mizzou 38
Line: OSU -3 1/2
MY PICK: OSU 31-27
MY REC: 5-9
Mizzou blew a 38-24 fourth quarter lead and lost it when Oregon St. coach Mike Riley decided to go for two-and the win-on a late touchdown.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
South Carolina 44, Houston 36
Line: S. Car - 5 1/2
MY PICK: Houston 34-31
MY REC: 5-10
With the score 30-28 USC and Houston driving at the Gamecocks' 8 an errant snap eluded Cougar QB Kevin Kolb; as the ball flew behind him he chased it down and tried to fall on it but he decided to kick it out of bounds, forcing the first ever 4th & goal punt from the 50 in football history.

Insight Bowl
Texas Tech 44, Minny 41
Line: TTU -7
MY PICK: TTU 37-28
MY REC: 5-11
Minnesota took a 38-7 lead midway thru the 3rd quarter only to fall asleep and allow the Red Raiders to score 31 points in 20 minutes to send it to OT, where the Gophers would get a field goal only to lose on a touchdown. Wow.

Champs Sports Bowl
Maryland 24, Purdue 7
Line: Purdue -1
MY PICK: Maryland 27-24
MY REC: 6-11
Funny how my only win came in the game I cared nothing about and didn't watch a minute of.

And that is the thing about gambling- it's is impossible to actually enjoy the event you are watching when you've got something riding on it. For some people that is the only thrill of watching sports, to have some vested interest in the outcome makes it a more personal experience.

But for me, a diehard sports fan who could watch a meaningless bowl game just for the heck of it, it makes it much harder to watch knowing that each play affects how I will enjoy it.

Bottom line is I'm terrible at picking sports, but I love watching them. So I'm just going to rattle off the score of the next few bowl games, but I'm not going to worry about the picks or over-analyze why I am picking each team.

Maybe then I'll get to enjoy it when a team gags a 31 point lead instead of shouting "WHO CARES IF YOU CAME BACK FROM 31 DOWN YOU STILL DIDN'T F***ING COVER, A-HOLES!!"

Saturday Bowls:

Meineke Car Care Bowl
Boston College vs. Navy
Line: BC -7
MY PICK: Boston College 28-24

Alamo Bowl
Texas vs. Iowa
Line: Texas -9
MY PICK: Texas 44, Iowa 23

Chic-fil-a Bowl
Georgia vs. Virginia Tech
Line: VA Tech -3
MY PICK: Va Tech 24-16

Sunday game:

MPC Computers Bowl
Miami vs. Nevada
Line: Miami - 3 1/2
MY PICK: Nevada 30, Miami 27


Friday, December 29, 2006

Big day of Bowling: 5 games on tap

In light of the new & improved leaf I am turning over, starting today I am going to a new format for the rest of the bowl season.

No more long-winded soliloquies for marginal teams playing in meaningless bowls; it's going to be quick hits using my first instincts and don't think too much about the consequences. Kind of like speed dating for degenerates.

McConaughey eat your heart out.

Ready, begin:

Bowl #13
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Clemson (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
: Clemson -10

Need to Know:
Clemson was one of the best teams in the country until 3 losses in the last 4 games brought the Tigers crashing back to earth. Still it possesses one of the best offenses in the country: 9th in scoring (34 PPG) and 15th in yards (418/game.)

Kentucky had a bounceback year after going 9-25 the past three seasons, but it is still a far cry from an excellent football team. The Wildcats were one of the worst defenses in the country, ranking 118th out of 119 D1 schools. Gulp.

Star Power:
The Tigers boast one of the best running back tandems in the nation: dazzling freshman CJ Spiller (914 yards, 10 TDs) and powerful sophomore James Davis (1,134 yards, 17 TDs.) QB Will Proctor is serviceable, and he has a nice target to look for downfield, WR Chansi Stuckey.
Kentucky's offense begins and ends with QB Andre Woodson (3216 yards, 28 TDs) one of the better quarterbacks nobody's heard of. His favorite target is junior WR Keenan Burton (1,006 yds, 12 TDs)

What should happen:
Plenty of scoring but more from the Tigers. I can't forget the game against Georgia Tech when Spiller (116 yards) and Davis (216 yards) ran roughshod over the helpless Jackets en route to a 31-7 beatdown. With Kentucky's porous defense there should be more of the same. UK will score some points as well, but Clemson will prevail.
MY PICK: Clemson 38, Kentucky 24

Bowl #14
Brut Sun Bowl
Oregon State (9-4) vs. Missouri (8-4)
: OSU -3 1/2

Need to Know:
Mizzou started strong this year, jumping out to a 7-1 start. But a late swoon (dropped 3 of 4) crashed the Tiger bandwagon and sent them to old El Paso.

OSU meanwhile had the opposite season. The Beavers won 7 of its last 8 including victories over USC, arch rival Oregon and at Hawaii.

Star Power:
The Beavers are kind of like Cal-like. Quarterback Matt Moore can run the offense capably (2666 yards, 14 TDs6 INTs), RB Yvenson Bernard has an odd name but a great game (1210 yards, 12 TDs) and WR Sammie Stroughter is like DeSean Jackson-lite, a dangerous receiver (1206 yards, 4TDs) and kick returner (3 TDs); ask the Trojans about his 70 yard punt return TD in the Beavers 33-312 win in late October.

Mizzou is led by sophomore QB Chase Daniel. His 3,197 yards and 26 TDs were both good for 10th in the nation. His favorite receiver is Will Franklin (829 yards, 6TDs) but Daniel spreads it around in the Tigers' spread offense.

What should happen:
OSU ended the season on a high note with an upset of Hawaii when it denied QB Colt Brennan the all-time single-season touchdown record. The wins over USC and Oregon also proved that this team is a force to be reckoned with.
My instincts tell me that Mizzou will put up a good fight but it will not be able to contain all of the Beavers' potent weapons (please, no dirty jokes here.)
MY PICK: Oregon State 31, Mizzou 27

Bowl #15
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Houston (10-3) vs. South Carolina (7-5)
: So Carolina -5 1/2

Need to Know:
Spurrier's Gamecocks had a decent season but they still can't win the big game, as losses to Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia attest to. Sure they almost beat the Gators, but last time I checked they weren't playing horseshoes, so almost doesn't count.

Meanwhile the Cougars had a terrific season; the won Conference USA and have a great quarterback leading a high-scoring offense.

Star Power:
Houston QB Kevin Kolb brought back memories of a couple of former Cougar signal callers, David Klingler & Andre Ware. The senior threw for 3,423 yards and 27 touchdowns with only 3 INTs helping the Houston offense score 33 PPG, 11th in the NCAA.

His favorite targets are Donnie Avery ( 780 yds, 5 TDs) and Vincent Marshall (778 yds, 6 TDs.)

The Cocks are led by QB Blake Mitchell, who had a great target in receiver Sidney Rice (951 yards, 9 TDs.) South Carolina also likes to run the ball with RB Cory Boyd (729 yards, 6TDs.)

What should happen:
Houston has a great passing offense, So Car has a great pass defense (10 TD passes allowed), so once again, something's gotta give. I just don't think the Gamecocks are that strong, something about them makes them fold under pressure. Maybe it's the fact that they have a gigantic asshole coaching them.
Look for a lot of scoring, but I like the Cougars to defeat the Cocks.
MY PICK: Houston 34, So. Carolina 31

Bowl #16
Insight Bowl
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
: Tech -7

Need to know:
Tech has the 3rd ranked passing offense in the nation, Minny has the nation's 115th pass defense. Uh-oh.

Star Power:
The latest in a long line of great Red Raider passers is Graham Harrell. He only threw for 4, 110 yards and 36 TDs. His two favorite receivers, Joel Filani and Robert Johnson, combined for 1,912 yards and 22 TDs.

Minny likes to run and the featured back in their attack is Amir Pinnix (great name) Pinnix had 1,093 yards and 9 TDs, and his backup Alex Daniels also chipped in with 5 TDs.

What should happen:
Minny will run, Tech will throw. Which will be more effective? I always like the aerial attack team, so I'm going with the high-flying Red Raiders in this one.
MY PICK: Texas Tech 37, Minny 28

Bowl #17
Champs Sports Bowl
Purdue (8-5) vs. Maryland (8-4)
: Purdue -1

Need to Know:
This is one of the more unattractive bowl games out there. No star power, no great coaches, no one cares.

Star Power:
The QBs are the keys to both offenses. Purdue is led by soph Curtis Painter, who had 3,721 yards and 21 TDs but also 18 INTs.

Maryland has erratic senior Scott Hollenbach at the helm. He was good for 2,148 yards, but his 11TD, 10 INT ratio is not something to write home about.

What should happen:
If everyone can stay awake for this one there should be some points scored, although I truthfully have no opinion or idea about who will win. I'm going to go with Tubby Friedgen's Terps, only because I've seen them more and really know nothing about the Boilermakers (I know, McConaughey's character would NEVER admit to such blasphemy.)
MY PICK: Maryland 27, Purdue 24


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bowl Roundup: Looks like Meat Loaf for me

I didn't pull off the sweep like I had hoped but as that great singer/thespian Meat Loaf so eloquently put it, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Unless the one loss was so lopsided that it made you want to turn off the TV and go outside in the yard and scream "HOW CAN I BE SO F-ING STUPID?!" at the top of my lungs.

Good thing I didn't have any money on it.

Let's review:

Bowl #11
Independence Bowl
Oklahoma St. 34, Bama 31
: Ok St -2 1/2
MY PICK: Ok St. 27-21 (winner)
MY REC: 4-6

The game was much closer than it should have been, as the Cowboys dominated the Tide (total yards: 419-276) and took a commanding 14-point lead early in the 4th quarter but then had to scrape by on a last-second field goal.

The turnaround was not due to Bama's underwhelming offense but a couple of big plays that went the Tide's way.

OSU had jumped out to a 31-17 lead early in the 4th quarter on the strength of a balanced attack (212 yds passing, 208 yds rushing) and the power running of Dantrell Savage (19 carries, 112 yards, TD.) While the Cowboys were scoring at will the Tide was doing its usual thing on offense- practically nothing. But the game became a nail-biting classic with one big play on special teams.

After the 10-yard TD from Bobby Reid to Adarius Bowman made the score 31-17 with a minute gone in the 4th, Bama's Javier Arenas fielded a punt after OSU's next drive stalled and raced 86 yards for the score to make it 31-24. Needless to say it was a big momentum play for the Tide.

But when Ok St's Grant Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Bama recovered at the 26, six plays later John Parker Wilson found Andrae Smith on a lateral for the game-tying score, and what looked like a laugher turned out to be a bettor's nightmare.

Ah the old late field goal cover on a 2 1/2 point spread. Love it when that happens.

Bowl #12
Texas Bowl
Rutgers 37, Kansas St 10
: RU -8 1/2
MY PICK: Rutgers 35-23 (winner)
MY REC: 5-7

They may not be the national champs.

They may not be the champs of the Big east.

But the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are champions of the Texas Bowl and that's good enough for them.

Rutgers capped a magical season by pummelling Kansas State and in doing so became the first team in the school's 137 year history to win a bowl game. Congrats to the Scarlet Knights and all of its loyal and long-suffering fans, including my good buddies Ira & Butchie.

Of course for Rutgers to beat someone like that so convincingly one man had to be behind the offensive success: Ray Rice. The superb soph gained 170 yards on 24 carries and it was his 46-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that made it 31-10 and sent the Wildcats fans scrambling for the keggers in the parking lot.

Seldom used senior Tim Brown (no, not the one who ended his career by disgracing himself with the Yucs) chipped in two TDs, Jeremy Ito kicked 3 field goals and the RU defense did the rest. The Scarlet Knights held the Wildcats to just 162 yards (31 yards rushing) & 6 first downs and also forced 3 turnovers in what was a dominating effort from an underrated unit.

By contrast RU rolled up 479 yards of offense, 211 on the ground, 21 first downs and looked like the team that ran out to a 9-0 record and finally got national attention from the fans & media after decades of futility. Remember, this team went 1-11 four years ago.

So kudos to the Knights for a terrific season. Let's hope for 2 things for RU in 2007:
1.) Ray Rice comes back
2.) They get to play in a bowl game the whole country can watch!

Bowl #12
PacLife Holiday Bowl
Cal 45, Texas A&M 10
: Cal -3
MY PICK: Cal 30-28 (loser)
MY REC: 5-7

This is where things started to get a little squirrelly. In my defense the score definitely shouldn't have been as high as the final. How do I know? Because Cal coach Jeff Tedford admitted that the late TD by Bryan Schutte should have been a kneel down as Tedford didn't want to run up the score on Dennis Franchione & the Aggies.

So it really should have been 37-10.

Marshawn Lynch (111 yards, 2TDs) and Justin Forsett (124 yards, TD) keyed a punishing ground attack for Cal, QB Nate Longshore threw for 235 yards and a score and the Bears held the Aggies & power running back Jorvorskie Love his Name Lane (36 yards) in check. By the way, does Lane remind anyone else of a young Jerome Bettis or is it just me?

But this game irked me because I made yet another fatal gambler error: I went away from my first instinct that the loaded Bears would slaughter the punch less Aggies. I remembered back to the way A&M pounded Texas in the season finale, and the way Cal nearly choked to lowly Stanford in its finale, and I logicized (hey if Stu Scott can make up words like 'ridicufied' then I can too) myself into thinking the Aggies would keep it close.

Boy when I'm wrong I'm really wrong. Except I would have been right on the money had I gone with my initial instinct. Which is my third cardinal rule of gambling.

1.) Never bet with your heart

2.) Don't use clouded logic

3.) Go with your first instinct

Okay #2 and #3 kind of tie in together but you get my drift. Beginning with tomorrow's slate I am going to obey all my rules and rattle off a winning streak that will make Matthew McConaughey's character in Two For the Money look like, well, the old me!


Bowl bonanza: 3 more today,chance to even my record

I must admit that after last night's game I was seriously considering taking the rest of the bowl season off.

I mean does it get any lower than seeing one of my favorite teams (FSU) knock the snot out of high & mighty UCLA but not really cheering for it because I hadn't been brave enough to pick the Noles to upset, or at least stay close, to the overrated Bruins?

But in the light of a new day I see things in a different perspective: with three games on tap I look at it as a chance to get my record back to .500 with one fell swoop.

Spoken like a true degenerate gambler, huh?

So without further ado I present my
Patented Sure-Fire Can't Miss 3-Pack of Picks
(warning: picks are not guaranteed to come true or win you any money. tampabaybostonian not responsible for any mortgage payments or digits lost)

Bowl # 10
PetroSun Independence Bowl
Oklahoma St. (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6)
Shreveport, La.
LINE: Ok St. -2 1/2

Need to Know:
One of the best offenses in the country (OSU averaged 35 PPG, 8th in the NCAA) meets one of the stingiest defensive teams in the land ('Bama allowed 18 PPG, ironically good for 18th in the nation.)

On the flipside the Cowboys are horrible defensively (25 PPG allowed, 95th in the nation in total defense), yet the Crimson Tide is equally abysmal on offense, scoring just 22 points/game (75th in the NCAA.)

To further highlight the ying/yang effect in this game Alabama's offensive line is extremely sieve-like, giving up 26 sacks on the year, while OSU's defenders have registered 36 sacks on the season, good for 11th in the country.

Thus I've coined a new name for this game: The Something's Gotta Give Bowl II

Players to Watch:
The Cowboys offense is spearheaded by 5 big-play players: QB Bobby Reid (2,054 yards, 23 TDs); running backs Dantrell Savage & Keith Totson combined for 1,281 yards & 11 TDs; and receivers Adarius Bowman (1,131, 11 TDs) & D'Juan Woods (621 yards, 5 TDs) formed a potent running tandem. The 'Boys also have 2 other RBs who combined for 1,000 yards & 9 TDs, helping OSU average 208 yards on the ground, 8th in the NCAA.

The sack-prone defense is anchored by DEs Victor DeGrate & Nathan Peterson, who tallied 16 1/2 sack between them.

For Bama the offense is run by sporadic sophomore John Parker Wilson (2,539 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs), who can make a big play over the course of a game- for either team. The non-existent running game is led by senior Kenneth Darby, who despite 200 carries & 820 yards has yet to find the end zone this season. Receiver D.J. Hall (1,014 yards, 5 TDs)is Wilson's primary target, but Keith Brown will also give Wilson another option downfield.

The defense is headed by line backing duo Prince Hall and Juwan Simpson, helping the unit achieve a top-30 mark in total and scoring defense.

This is the second bowl to feature an interim head coach taking the reigns in place of a departed head man.

But unlike Brian Kelly's departure from Central Michigan, Mike Shula was forced out by influential boosters irate at the teams' regression to a 6-6 season. Didn't matter that Shula the Younger had led the team to a 10-2 record including a win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl last season.

My Pick:
So what will give this afternoon in Shreveport? In my eyes I always like a potent offense to overpower a decent defense, especially if said defensive team is anemic on offense. I watched a couple of Bama games this season- not pretty. The inability to generate any offense cost the team shots to beat SEC powers Florida, LSU, Auburn & Tennessee; it managed only 55 points in those 4 games. And their kickers are terrible (combined 20-29.)

Ok. St. may be erratic, losing to Texas, Tex A&M and K. St. and beating only Nebraska as far as major D1 schools go, but the explosive offense will pose problems for the Bama defense. Plus I think Bama is mediocre at best.
Cowboys 27, Tide 21

Bowl # 11
PacLife Holiday Bowl
Cal (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
San Diego
LINE: Cal - 3

Need to Know:
This is another game that feature a high-powered offense vs. a stout defense; Something's Gotta Give III?

The Bears averaged 418 yards and 32 points per game, while the Aggies gave up just 18 PPG.

Players to Watch:
Cal has a myriad of talented skill players that make the offense click. Quarterback Nate Longshore threw for 2,786 yards & 23 TDs, while his primary target, DeSean Jackson not only can burn you with his receptions (54 recs, 974 yards, 9 TDs) but he's a deadly kick returner as well.

Meanwhile the running game is keyed by scintillating junior Marshawn Lynch. He ran for 1,245 yards and 9 scores and will probably head to the NFL after this game. He is electrifying and can be a game-breaker, as can Jackson.

A&M has a ground game that is a perfect compliment to Dennis Franchione's defense. The Aggies love to pound it on the ground, as it averaged 210 yards, 7th in the country. The attack is headed by Jovorskie Lane, who only had 689 yards but tallied 19 TDs (2nd in NCAA.) Mike Goodson is the other back, and he had 785 yards & 4 scores.

When the Aggies do pass, QB Stephen McGee looks for Chad Schroeder and Martellus Bennet; the pair combined for 1,067 yards & 6 TDs.

The A&M defense is led by DE Chris Harrington and LB Justin Warren. Cal's defense was a disappointment this season, ranked 90th nationally, and it tends to get burned by big plays quite a bit.

Franchione was the coach at TCU when LaDanian Tomlinson was there and the coach had the NFL MVP-to-be address the team yesterday. Not sure if it will help, but it certainly can't hurt.

Just like I said about the above game I like offense over defense-normally. After witnessing A&M shut down the vaunted Texas Longhorn offense in a season-ending 13-7 win, and knock Longhorn QB Colt McCoy out of the game with an array of punishing hits, I'm not sure if offense will win out in this one.

Cal has underachieved, looking bad in losing to Tennessee, Arizona and USC, and the defense scares me. I still like the Bears, but not by much.
Cal 30, Aggies 28

Bowl #12
Texas Bowl
Rutgers (10-2) Kansas St. (7-5)
8:00PM NFL Net
LINE: Rutgers - 8 1/2

Need to Know:
No team fell harder, farther and faster than the poor Scarlet Knights.

After knocking off then #3 Louisville Rutgers was 9-0 and staring down the barrel of a BCS bowl game an possible even a shot at the national championship.

Then it shit the bed and lost to lowly Cincinnati. Championship dream over.

But it still had a shot at the Big East title and the BCS bid that came with it.

Then it lost to West Virginia in a 41-39 2OT thriller that not only kept the Knights out of the BCS but landed them square in the purgatory known as the Texas Bowl.

To add insult to injury the game is being broadcast on the dreaded NFL Network, a channel that is not carried in the greater New York/New Jersey area. Ugh. (Mercifully the cable provider & NFL Net came to an agreement to allow the game to be seen for free, squelching rumors that say cable giants are unfeeling corporate monoliths.)

Players to Watch:
The Knights have one of the best running backs in the country in sophomore Ray Rice. The little (5'9") guy from New Rochelle burst on the college football scene this season with 1,624 yards (3rd in NCAA) and 19 TDs (T-2nd.) He single-handedly carried the Rutgers offense in many games, ands went over 200 yards rushing in a game 3 times.

Fullback Brian Leonard took a back seat with the emergence of Rice but he played a key role in the Louisville upset and is a bruising, hard-nosed runner; NFL scouts are salivating over this guy. Sophomore QB Mike Teel has his moments but canb't be counted on to move the offense consistently without help from Rice & Leonard.

Rutgers is also solid on defense, allowing only 15 PPG. The unit is anchored by DT Rameel Meekins, an excellent pass rusher and interior defender.

K. St. has neither a spectacular offense nor a great defense. It has won only 1 game against a bowl-bound D1 school, an upset of Texas as the Longhorns skidded down the stretch. But it lost to Nebraska, lost to Louisville and lost to Mizzou, so it wasn't exactly a national powerhouse.

RB Leon Patton led the team with 595 yards & 6 TDs and freshman QB Josh Freeman is a raw but talented signal caller, as his 6 TDs-13 INTs will attest to.

This could be another first in a year of many for the Scarlet Knights: first bowl victory in its long history; the Knights are 0-2 lifetime in bowl games. Last years' Insight Bowl bowl loss was the first time it had gone bowling since the Scarlet Fever days of 1976.

My Pick:
Everything had been storybook and fairy tales for RU up to the Cincy game. Head coach Greg Schiano was being touted as the Coach of the Year and a possible replacement for Larry Coker in Miami (he lost COY to Wake's Jim Grobe and won't be headed to Coral Gables.) Rice was being touted as a Heisman candidate (especially by yours truly) before his 54 yard effort vs. Cincy derailed that hope. And a Big East titler would have erased decades of futility and embarrassment for the once-proud program.

Still something tells me that Schiano will have his team ready to finish out the season the right way. Pride and positivity are hallmarks of Schiano's regime, and this game will be no different.
Rutgers will come out strong and finish strong, and in the end this Rutgers team will be able to call itself something no other team in the 100+ years of the school will be able to:
Texas Bowl Champion
(even if no one will be able to see it)
Scarlet Knights 35, Wildcats 23


2006 Emerald Bowl:Extremely N-tertaining

The 2006 Emerald Bowl
Florida State 44, UCLA 27
MY REC: 3-6

We won the trophy! The Diamond Walnuts Emerald Bowl Champion Trophy!

Reason # 4,598 why I don't gamble: it sucks to bet against a team you like. You begin to root for your team to lose just because you have a vested intert in the outcome. Even if that interest is a meaningless prediction on a blog.

But I can't feel too badly about this one because I don't believe there was a pro prognosticator in the country who could have foreseen what would happen at the 5th Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The Bruins and Seminoles hooked up for the first time in each schools' storied history, and boy did they play a memorable one.

Not only did the Seminoles score the most points it had in 2 1/2 months, since a 55-24 drubbing of lowly Duke on October 14th, but it did so against one of the stingiest teams in the nation; UCLA had only been allowing 18 points/game.

The two offensively-challenged teams combined for 867 yards and 71 points in a game that featured a 300-yard passer (FSU's Drew Weatherford, 325), a 100-yard rusher (UCLA's Chris Markey, 144) and a 100-yard receiver (FSU's Lorenzo Booker, 117.)

The 40,000+ fans at the sold-out contest also saw a 78-yard touchdown bomb (UCLA's Pat Cowan to Brandon Breazell), an 85-yard interception return for a TD by FSU's Tony Carter, and the Seminoles score 21 unanswered points in a span of 11 minutes of the 4th quarter.

So much for the defensive struggle.

How did this happen? The Energized Noles suddenly found the offense it had been looking for all season- if it had played like this every week they would have been playing on or near New Years Day and Jeff Bowden would be getting paid to coach next year, not be the official schmoozer at FSU booster functions.

The main reason behind the sudden offensive explosion was Booker. Playing in his final game in Garnet & Gold and before roughly 130 family & friends who made the trip from Booker's hometown of Oxnard, the senior running back was unstoppable whether he was taking a handoff (22 carries, 92 yards, 2 TDs) or receiving the ball and running with it (5 receptions, 117 yards.) The man who was touted as possibly the best back in the nation coming out of high school saved his best for last.

My question: What the hell took you so long, Lo? Did the Executive Noles need to schedule every game in Cali just so you could play in front of an audience of friends & family? Fitting the game was played in AT&T Park, maybe Lo can get the Family Plan offered by the communications giant.

Another reason for the points parade: Drew Weatherford shook off early rust to guide the offense efficiently and effectively in the 2nd half.

The Enthusiastic Noles hung tough in the first half, bouncing back from a 20-10 deficit to take a 23-20 lead early in the third. That lead came courtesy of a blocked punt that was picked up and returned 25 yards by star linebacker Lawrence Timmons for a touchdown, and the defensive score seemed to spark the offense.

Weatherford (21-43, 325yards, 1TD, 1INT) directed all three scoring drives in the 4th, compiling 126 of his 325 passing yards in the frame, and his 30-yard TD pass to Greg Carr (4 recs, 88yds, TD) on 4th & 9 proved to be the game winner, making it 30-27 at the time. The sophomore redeemed many of his poor efforts from this season and gave hope for the offense heading into next year.

So despite allowing a 100 yard rusher for the first time this season, and giving up 434 yards of offense the Ecstatic Noles found themselves a huge victory out in the City by the Bay. So it wasn't a major bowl, and it was played on the opposite side of the country.

But it prevented the Eager Noles from having its first losing season under Bowden since his first year in Tally (1976) and moved the underclassmen-dominated Seminoles (17 true freshmen saw playing time this year) one step closer to returning to dominance.

Side Note: The bowl certainly wasn't widely regarded as far as the networks go. ESPN Nutcases sent its C-team of Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, and Jack Arute; these guys had about as much passion calling the game as Ben Stein. Also the officials were pretty bad (from the "USA Conference" as Fouts put it.)

Oh, and the sponsor ads for Emerald Nuts were Enormously Nausiating.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bowl Recap: Back on the Winning Track

Motor City Bowl
Central Michigan
31, Middle Tennessee 14
LINE: CMU -8 1/2
MY PICK: CMU 31-17

MY REC: 3-5

Crawling back towards the .500 mark, one bowl at a time.

That's my motto.

As I predicted yesterday the Chippewas had no trouble defeating the Blue Raiders of MTSU in the Motor City Bowl. Interestingly enough it was the first time a team from Michigan played in the game.

Although sensational CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour did not have his best game (16-26, 162 yards, 1TD; 15 carries, 69 yds, TD) he did enough on the Chippewas' first couple of drives to set the tempo for the game.

Central Michigan scored the first TD just 4 minutes into the game after a 9 play, 69-yard drive, then added another score on a 4 play, 78-yard drive culminating in a 29-yard TD pass from LeFevour to Ontario Sneed that took just :51 seconds and CMU took a 21-7 lead into halftime.

Any thoughts of a comeback were squelched when Central Michigan's Doug Kress intercepted MTSU QB Clint Marks on the first drive of the second half and returned the pick 56 yards for a touchdown, bulging the lead to 28-7 and it was all over but the partying around Ford Field.

I have now crept back to within 2 games of being even with the heart of the season just beginning.

There is only one bowl tonight (Emerald Bowl), but after that there will be a veritable plethora of games from here on out- 3 tomorrow, 5 Friday, 3 Saturday, one on Sunday (NFL takes priority) and then the 6 game New Years Day extravaganza.

Time to focus and redeem myself, so I can avoid earning the title of World's Worst Gambler for yet another year (we won't mention my horrendous NFL picks this week.)

Tonight's Game: Bowl #9
Emerald Bowl
FSU (6-6) vs. UCLA (7-5)
San Francisco, 8PM ESPN

Need to Know:
Although only one game separates these two storied teams they are on opposite sides of the spectrum as far as direction is concerned.

UCLA ended the season with 3 consecutive wins culminating in the world-shocking upset of then #2 USC on the final Saturday of the regular season. The victory knocked the bitter crosstown rival out of the national championship game and cemented the fact that coach Karl Dorrell's rebuilding effort at "the other L.A.-area" school is working.

Florida State meanwhile is staring down the barrel of Bobby Bowden's first losing season in his 30 years at the school. Despite playing in its 25th consecutive bowl game the school is more accustomed to playing on or around New Year's Day, not 5 days prior.

This game marks the earliest bowl the team has played in since the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl.

A lackluster offense, something the traditionally explosive 'Noles are not used to, is to blame for the fall from grace and resulted in offensive coordinator/Bobby's son/fan whipping boy Jeff Bowden to relieve himself of his duties following this game.

The numbers don't lie: FSU is ranked 80th nationally in yards/game (332), 39th in passing yards (236) and a staggering 103rd in rushing YPG (95); it is also averaging a mere 26 PPG, only good for 47th in the country. It's a far cry from the numbers posted by high-scoring Noles offenses of yesteryear.

But those squads had signal callers like Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and yes even Chris Rix running the offense. This team has had the two-headed sophomore tandem of immobile Drew Weatherford (1829 yds, 11TDs, 10 INTs) and mobile-but-less-accurate Xavier Lee (885 yards, 7TDs, 5INTs.) Neither one has been able to find the spark that could light a fire in the offense.

UCLA's offense isn't any better than FSU's (22 PPG, 71st in NCAA), but recently inserted starting QB Patrick Cowan has provided a spark, especially with his ability to run, and his performance vs. USC (12-21, 114 yards; 10 rushes, 55 yards, TD) was the difference in the game.

It will be the defense that rules this contest, and both teams boast solid, star-studded units.

Players to Watch:
The Bruins defense is anchored by a pair of fierce defensive ends, Justin Hickman & Bruce Davis, who are tied for 2nd in the country with 12.5 sacks each. The pair were also 1-2 in tackles for loss in the Pac-10, Davis with 17 and Hickman with 18.5. Expect to see these boys in the NFL real soon.

The 12th ranked run defense is led by SS Chris Horton and LB Christian Taylor. In other words, don't expect the 'Noles' feeble rushing attack to come alive vs. this unit.

The Florida State defense was the highlight of the miserable season. Ranked 15th in the nation in total defense, the group is loaded with talent: LBs Buster Davis & Lawrence Timmons, DB's Myron Rolle & Tony Carter, and NFL-bound DT Andre Fluellen.

In the kicking game the Bruins boast one of the top kickers in the nation, Justin Medlock, who has misses only 4 field goals all year (26-40); he's money from inside 40 yards (2021) and can hit 'em from beyond midfield as well (2-2.)

Meanwhile Gary Cismesia has kept alive a long tradition of FSU kickers who fail in the clutch. Despite hitting a game-winner vs. Miami, he has missed 4 straight kicks and made only 11 of 17 all year. And don't ask him to make one from 40-49 yards- he's a miserable 2 for 7 from that range.

The game is being played at the San Francisco Giants stadium, AT&T Park, forcing both teams to occupy the same sidelines, a rarity in college football.

As I said this should be a defensive battle, one that is heavy on (attempting) to run with a few occasional passes thrown in for good measure.

Since the Noles absolutely cannot run the football (former RB phenom Lorenzo Booker had a mere 525 yards rushing and 2 TDs) the advantage goes to UCLA, whose capable running attack is led by junior Chris Markey (963 yards, 2TDs) and Cowan.

There should be plenty of hard hits to please the "jacked-up" crowd and my guess is somehow a field goal comes into play in this one. Being a bowl game look for Bobby to pull out a trick play or two.

But something tells me the Noles aren't going to be too pumped up to travel 3000 miles to play on a baseball diamond in a game named after the Diamond Walnuts product.
UCLA 17, FSU 13


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Back to Bowling: Motor City Madness

Motor City Bowl
Western Michigan
(9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State (7-5)
7: 30 PM ESPN
LINE: CMU - 8 1/2
MY REC: 2-5

Capitol One Bowl Week begins tonight and I feel this is my chance to make a move, get back to .500 and redeem myself for my pre-holiday debacle.

It all starts tonight with the Motor City Bowl, presumable to be played in Detroit (it would be pretty awkward if it weren't.)

Need to Know: Central Michigan won the MAC Championship game this year and averages nearly 30 PPG, good for 26th in the nation.

Middle Tennessee State has one of the worst names for a school- anything with 'middle' in the title just sounds low-rent. The Blue Raiders were a miserable 105th nationally in yards/game (295) and just 50th in scoring (25PPG.)

Players to Watch:
CMU is led by quarterback Dan LeFevour, a freshman who threw for 2,869 yards & 25 TDs.

MTSU is a run-based offense that relies on senior back Eugene Gross ( 845 yards, 10 TDs) and junior Demarco McNair (563 yards, 6 TDs.)

Trivia: CMU coach Brian Kelly left to be the head coach at Cincinatti before this game. Former offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn takes over for the Chippewas.

MY PICK: The Chippewas have a better offense, are playing in its home state, and will want to win for Quinn and in spite of Kelly.

Plus it's playing MTSU for crying out loud.
Central Mich. 31, MTSU 17


NFL Week 16 Wrap up

It was a bittersweet holiday weekend for many reasons.

1. A few teams desperate for wins came up short when it really mattered most

2. Yours truly was so bad picking teams I decided that next week will be my final week of doing it (so what if the season's over.)

3. The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, passed away on Christmas Day, leaving behind a legacy of legendary music ("I Feel Good") and legitimate lunacy (drug busts, domestic violence.)

Not only did the man develop an entire new style of music, he gave life to a new generation of aspiring rappers choosing to sample their way to lucrative careers.

In honor of the flamboyant funkmaster I am going to use his song titles to describe the fortunes of the teams fighting for playoff survival in Week 16.

Give it Up or Turnit Loose
In must-win situations the Giants and Falcons come up woefully short
Hop into the wayback machine with me for a second here, and let's skip all the way back to Week 7.

The Giants squashed the Cowboys 36-22 to run its record to 4-2, Eli Manning was finally looking like he was actually related to Payton, and after two more (unimpressive) wins the G-Men sat at 6-2 atop the NFC East.

The Falcons had just survived a 41-38 OT thriller against the Steelers to run its record to 4-2, and with Mike Vick passing like Dan Marino and with a league-leading rushing attack it looked as if the Dirty Birds would soar back into thew postseason.

Back to the future and these two teams are in free-falls that is rivaling K-Fed's in its embarrassing scope.

Both teams have had players sniping at the head coach; Vick gave his infamous two-fingered salute to the fickle fans at the Georgia Dome; Michael Strahan proved he is really an a-hole behind that goofy gap-toothed grin when he berated an ESPN reporter for asking a valid question; and Falcon coach Jim Moron Jr went on a radio program and practically begged to be the head coach at his alma mater, Washington.

After suffering losses in 5 of 6 games the Giants knew it couldn't afford another slip up when it travelled to New Orleans, where the Saints had already clinched a playoff spot. So what happened? New York (7-8) managed 142 yards of offense, committed 3 turnovers and allowed 359 yards in a soul-crushing 30-7 defeat.

At least they gave it their all.

Meanwhile the Birds (7-8) went out and laid a really rotten egg at home against the putrid Panthers(7-8.) Chris 1-17 Weinke turned into 2-17 Weinke with an awesome 4-7, 32 yard performance and the Falcons could only manage a field goal in a humiliating 10-3 home loss.

Vick set a record for rushing yards by a quarterback, but at this rate he could have every QB rushing record, but what he may never get another one of is a postseason victory. At least not with Atlanta.

Although each team technically remains alive for a wild card spot, their pitiful play is sure to sink their hopes next week, along with a couple of coaches jobs as well.

I Got the Feeling
Tennessee, Green Bay & the Jets take care of bizness and remain in the hunt
Yes you read that correctly: the Titans and Packers are in the race with one game left in the season.

Read it again and let it sink in, because it is an awfully overwhelming fact to digest.

Thanks to a thrilling come-from-behind (of course) 30-29 win over Buffalo Sunday the Tennessee Titans now stand at 8-7 and still alive in the AFC wild card picture.

What they have done is nothing short of Music City Miraculous; the Titans began the season 1-5 and went to 2-7 before ripping off this 6 game winning streak, all of the wins coming as a direct result of the improved play of ROY candidate Vince Young.

Against the Bills VY passed for two TDs and ran for another; in the 4th quarter he threw for one score and led the game-winning 75 yard drive that drive culminated in a field goal which knocked Buffalo out of the picture, but kept the Titans improbable hopes alive for one more week.

New York (9-6) played another exciting game against the Fins on Monday Night, winning a 13-10 squeaker thanks to a late 64-yard catch & run by former FSU star Little Leon Washington that led to a last-minute game-winning field goal.

The J-E-T-S can wrap up a wild card berth with a victory next week over the Raiders.
So they're in.

And somebody get me a doctor cuz the freakin' Packers (7-8) have clawed their way into the playoff hunt as well. Left for dead three weeks ago at 4-8 a three game winning-streak has propelled the Pack into the wild NFC race.

Wouldn't it be funny if Favre led them to the Bowl when everyone else was already deciding on his Metamucil dosage and how he was going to spend his presumably imminent retirement.

I'm Real
Saints march to home field advantage, Eagles in position to win the NFC East
Okay it's time to realize that these two teams are the real deal- not just playoff participants but legitimate Bowl contenders.

The Saints looked impressive in dispatching of the woeful Giants and in doing so secured a first-round bye in the postseason. This team started out as a warm & fuzzy feel good story- the little team that could overcome obstacles and have a decent season in the wake of the Katrina tragedy and subsequent nomadic season it had to endure last year.

But thanks to an exciting & explosive offense, a solid defense and great coaching

The Eagles secured a playoff spot with an emphatic 23-7 drubbing of the Cowboys on Christmas evening, sweeping the season series with its archenemy, and it can lock up an incredible run to the NFC East title by defeating sliding Atlanta next week. All of this has come with retread Jeff Garcia at the helm, who giggled and jumped like a school girl every time Philly scored yesterday. Take that, Terrell.

Get Up (Get on up)
Dallas, Seattle, Cincy all scuffling down the stretch
It's official: Romo-ania is dead. Unless you happen to be a B-level songstress.

The bandwagon has finally careened into a wall in Big D after yesterday's performance against Philly. Romo passed for only 142 yards with 1 TD & 2 INTs and his receivers were grumbling about the offense after the loss.

Although Dallas is still assured of a playoff spot, the way it is dropping through the standings and could lose the East title after the Eagles sweep is most definitely not the way the Tuna wants to enter the postseason.

Speaking of free-falling & back dooring the Seahawks (8-7) now own the dubious distinction of clinching a division the day it lost its third consecutive game.

Seattle had a good shot at stopping the Chargers 8 game winning streak thanks to a 140 yard effort from RB Shaun Alexander (think the reigning MVP & former TD record holder had something to prove against LT?)

But the defense allowed Phillip Rivers, who had been having a terrible day, beat them with a late touchdown pass and Seattle had officially backed into the NFC West crown by virtue of San Fran's loss to Arizona.

Once again, not exactly the way you want to enter the playoffs.

And pity poor Cincy. After a late 4 game winning streak put the Bengals square back in the Bowl picture, 2 straight losses have them on the verge of elimination.

The way it lost this week was tortuous for all Cincy fans to witness: a botched extra point would have tied the game at 24 and then a botched on-sides kick cost them another shot at victory. Instead it suffered a devastating 24-23 defeat to Denver, and it must get a lot of help in order to make it to the playoffs.

It's a Man's Man's Man's World
San Diego, New England and Baltimore cruising into the playoffs
No signs of slowing down for theses division-leading juggernauts as they gear up for what each hopes to be a Bowl-winning run.

San Diego (13-2) won for the 9th straight time despite getting an average game from LT (123 yards, no touchdowns for the first time in 2 months) and a terrible game, again, from QB Phillip Rivers (10-30, 181 yards, TDs.)

Rivers will have to step it up if San Diego wants to win it all, but as long as this team has LT, that nasty D, and home field throughout it will remain the leading contender for the championship.

The Ravens (12-3) continue to amaze and so does their rejuvenated quarterback Steve McNair. After departing the last game with a hand injury, Air McNair returned to throw for 256 yards & 3 TDs, leading the Ravens to an impressive 31-7 victory over Pittsburgh.

The loss knocked the defending champs out of the playoff race, but it only served to further fuel the notion that this Ravens squad can win another championship no just because of its great defense but thanks to a capable veteran leading the offense.

New England (11-4) is starting to gel at the right time, wrapping up its 4th consecutive AFC East title with a gritty 24-21 win over Jacksonville.

The victory was the Pats' 5th in the last 6 games, and for the second straight game it did not commit a turnover. This comes on the hells of an 11 turnover in 3 game stretch that left many fans wondering aloud if this team had what it takes to win another title.

But Tom Terrific (28-39, 249 yds, TD) has once again put the team on his back, making a hero of seldom-used tight end David Thomas (5 recs, 83 yards, TD) and benefitting from the return of RB Lawrence Maroney (7 rushes, 48 yds, TD.)

The defense also got a big lift from the return of hard hitting safety Rodney Harrison, who laid a few vicious licks in the game just to prove there are no ill effects from the broken scapula that sidelined him for 6 games.

How good are things going for New England right now? Tommy Boy ran for a career-high 31 yards on an astounding 10 carries.

Move over Mike Vick.

Please Please Please
Chicago and Indy may have good records but they have bad problems
The Bears and Mannings are both good teams, divison winners, but they look like possible first-round casualties thanks to their shoddy play of late.

Therfore they need to do some pleading, or calling out of teammates, in order to right the ship.

Indy (11-4) once again was victimized by its inability to stop the run in an awful 27-24 loss to the lowly Texans (5-10.) Ron Great Dane -remember him?- rushed for 153 yards & 2 TDS and Houston racked up 191 on the ground against the sieve-like Colts D.

This lack of effort forced Manning to call out his defense, saying he can't control what happens when he's not on the field.

No but he can control a 205 yard passing performance, and the fact that in losing 4 of the past 6 games he has thrown 6 TDs and 5 INTs in those losses. Guess the defense can't be on the field all the time, huh Payton?

Indy is sure to be one & done if and when it faces a team with a great runner in the postseason.

Chicago is contiunuing to prove my saying that they are the worst 13-2 team I have ever seen in my life.

The latest example came courtesy of a close 26-21 win over hapless Detroit(2-13.) The Bears (13-2) gave up 327 yards to a team that can't get out of its own way and had to rally with 3 fourth quarter field goals to pull out the win.

The once feared defense now gets run over regularly (hell the Yucs put up 31 on them!) and the offense is lackluster at best and ineffective at worst.

Another first round choke job waiting to happen.

All in all it was a mixed bag for the teams fighting for survival this week.

Some will taste the glory of postseason success.

Others will be left with disappointment and heartbreak.

One week to go.


Monday, December 25, 2006

A Merry X-Mas and a couple NFL picks

I'm not supposed to be posting today but while the wife is preparing the turkey feast I had to get a quick one in regarding the double dip of NFL action today.

Philly (8-6) @ Dallas (9-5)
This is a must win for Philly to keep its playoff hopes alive and a need-to-win for The Boys in order to keep its hold on a first-round bye. This heated division rivalry should be a great Christmas treat.
Jeff Garcia has had a magical run replacing Donovan McNabb, and today he will be facing the team that is home to his old nemesis, Terrible Owens. That alone will be reason enough to give Garcia a little extra incentive to win, but a possible division title should be motivation enough.

Unfortunately the Garcia run stops in Big D. Dallas has too much that Philly doesn't, namely a better D, better running backs and better receivers. Plus the Romo Express loves to play on holidays (remember his 5 TD extravaganza vs. the Yucs on Turkey Day?)

MY PICK: Cowboys 34, Eagles 27

NY Jets (8-6) @ Miami (6-8)
Miami is out of it. Jets need to win to stay in it. This is a rematch of the incredible Monday Nighter in 2000 when New York came back from a 30-7 4th quarter deficit to pull off a miraculous 40-37 OT win.

Let's just hope this Christmas Night offering is even half as entertaining as that classic.
MY PICK: Miami 23-20

Okay, I'm already getting yelled at. Full Week 16 wrap up with be forthcoming at 12:01 AM.

Oh yeah, I got back on the winning track, bowl-wise, as Hawaii pounded Arizona State 41-24 in the Hawaii Bowl. Colt Brennan set the TD record with 5 more in the game, bringing his season total to 58, and the 'Bows pulled away with a 17-point 4th quarter. My record is now 2-5 (yipee!)

Merry Christmas!