Saturday, December 02, 2006

College Football Week 14 Wrap up

An unbelievable final weekend caps an incredible season

The Bruins prayers were answered as it pulled the biggest upset of '06

Where do you go from here? The final weekend of the 2006 college football season had more surprises than a Michael Richards stand up routine. Although we did not get any closure regarding who Ohio State's opponent will be in the BCS title game we did get some of the most thrilling, upsetting, spectacularly dramatic football of the entire season. And the way this season has gone, that's saying a lot.

Scratch USC off the list of potential Buckeye busters because the Trojans got upended by cross-town rival UCLA 13-9 in what was the most shocking upset of this upset-filled year. Add Florida to the (short) list of potential suitors after their impressive 38-28 dismantling of Arkansas in the SEC title game. And let the debate begin about which team- Florida or Michigan- deserves the shot at knocking Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Luckily for all of us with "who will it be?" burnout will only last less than 24 hours until the bowl selection show tomorrow night at 7:30 on FOX. Then we will finally find out who the lucky winner of Willy Wonka's golden ticket to Glendale will be. For now we must sift through the wreckage of what went wrong for all the prognosticators (myself included) who had already penciled in USC/ Ohio State in the championship game.

-Trojans held to lowest point total in 63 games as UCLA literally shocks the world
UCLA 13, USC 9 MY PICK: USC 43-17 (oops)
Immediately following the Bruins epic win over their arch rival and neighbor USC on Saturday afternoon, ESPN on ABC sideline reporter Lisa Salters asked UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell who besides the Bruin players & coaches thought it could pull the upset today. Dorrell answered matter-of-factly "nobody", and he was absolutely correct. The series had been so lopsided for the better part of the last decade, especially last year when the Trojans humiliated UCLA 66-19, that no one in their right mind thought a 6-5 team had a chance to knock off the 2-time national champs. But to paraphrase Herm Edwards, that's why you play the games- to win the games- and UCLA figured that hey, since the game is on the schedule, let's go ahead and play it and see what happens.

What happened was the biggest upset since Britney Spears was photographed wearing panties as the Bruins used a complex, stifling defense to confuse the mighty Trojan offense en route to a mind-blowing 13-9 win. How mind blowing was it? In last year's drubbing the Trojans amassed 679 total yards, 430 on the ground and a staggering 35 first downs. Today it held the still-mighty (despite the loss of Leinart & Bush) Trojans to 329 yards, 55 on the ground, and only 14 first downs. USC did not score in the 1st, 3rd or 4th quarter, and was held to a safety (thanks to an awesome punt that pinned UCLA at their 1 yard line) and a 1-yard TD run by CJ Gable. Meanwhile Bruin starting QB Patrick Cowan, a sophomore who took over the position when regular starter Ben Olsen got hurt in October, keyed an opportunistic Bruin attack with his arm and legs. Cowan threw for only 114 yards with no TDs or INTs, but it was his ability to scramble that made Dorrell give him the nod over a now healthy Olsen and that ability proved to be the difference in the game.

Cowan ran 10 times for 55 yards and led the Bruins to their first score that sent a message to USC that it was not going to be an easy day like last year. Cowan rushed for all of his yards on UCLA's first quarter scoring drive, including a 1-yd TD plunge that made it 7-0 UCLA heading into the 2nd. Although the Trojans would go ahead on the safety & Gable's TD, the damage had been done to the psyche of the perhaps overconfident USC players. After they tacked on two 2nd half field goals and continued to baffle the Trojan offense, USC still had a chance to pull off the win and seal their BCS title ticket. But on the last drive, after USC moved the ball from their 29 to the UCLA 19, John David Booty's (23-39, 274 yards) pass on 3rd & 4 was tipped and intercepted by Eric McNeil and the quest for a 3rd consecutive championship game appearance went out the window for the Trojans.

So USC is left to ponder "what if" for another year before it gets a shot at revenge for this stinging loss. Until then it will have to be content with a Rose Bowl appearance against possibly Michigan, unless the Wolverines get the invite to Glendale that seemed earmarked for the Trojans just a few hours ago. But I'm not so sure that the Trojans want to play on this field again. After all, it is the site of their title game defeat last year at the hands of Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, one of the greatest championship games ever played, and today it was the site of one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Talk about bad karma, hey Petey.

-Gators run it up against the Razorbacks to win SEC Championship
Florida 38, Arkansas 28 MY PICK: Arkansas 27-24 (oops II)

Who said Florida had only won a bunch of dull, close games without scoring hardly any points? Oh yeah, everyone but obnoxious Gator fans and monotone Gator coach Urban Meyer, who had been preaching the Al Davis motto of "just win baby" and everything else would take care of itself. Urbie found out how well that theory works with poll voters last week when he and his team were crucified for scoring "only" 21 points and winning by "only" 7 points in the Gators 21-14 win over arch rival Florida State. So much for old Al's philosophy. The Gators came out tonight and outplayed, out-thought, and outscored the supposedly superior Razorbacks and in doing so had to impress the voters with their highest point total of the season.

Led by exciting freshman Percy Harvin, who had 167 total yards & 2 Tds, the Gators just kept tacking on scores as the befuddled Razorbacks tried vainly to match Florida point for point. UF jumped out to a 17-0 lead courtesy of a FG, a 9-yard TD run by QB Chris Leak (16-30, 189 yards, 1 TD pass, 1 TD rush, 2 INTs) and Harvin's 37 yard TD reception all before halftime. Meanwhile the normally potent Arkansas offense was mainly running in place. Their vaunted "wildcat" offense, where tailback Darren McFadden (102 total yards, 1 TD pass) either lines up behind center or in the slot while the rest of the offense looks for something to do, served to confuse the Hogs more than the Gators. But despite their woes Arkansas managed to get a key score right before halftime on a 48 yard TD pass from QB Casey Dick (10-22, 148, 1TD, 2INTs) to Marcus Monk. When it came out after the break and bookended that score with a 2-yard TD pass by McFadden to make it 17-14, suddenly it was game again. And after a 40 yard interception return for a score made it 21-17 it looked as if the Gators would collapse under the pressure of having to put up more than 30 points, something it hadn't done against a D1 school since October.

But a boneheaded fumble at the goal line by Arkansas on a punt gave Florida an easy TD, and when Harvin scored on a 67 yard run to begin the 4th to give Florida a 31-21 lead, it was all but over and the Gatrors were on their way to a critic-silencing win that could catapult them into the BCS title game. To me, a notorious Gator Hater, the win speaks volumes about the quality of the SEC than the Gators. I mean if that is the best conference in the country then I must be Borat. Two weeks many experts were hailing Arkansas as the best 1-loss team in America. After humiliating losses to LSU and now Florida, it looks like a flash in the pan, a one-trick pony (McFadden) that when the tricks aren't working is a jumbled mess of a team that can't stop the other team from scoring because they're so busy trying to script their next trick play. Whatever. I hope the Gators do get a shot at the Buckeyes because they will get torn limb from limb, and then all us Gator bashers can chomp those guys all the way back to their Swamp.
-Rutgers BCS bowl dreams go up in smoke in thrilling 3OT loss to West Virginia
West Virginia 41, Rutgers 39 MY PICK: WVU 30-24
The Cinderella season of the Scarlet Knights ended up with the darlings of the 2006 season headed to the Texas Bowl instead of a BCS bowl because it could not pull off one more miraculous win. Rutgers gave the Mountaineers a fight to the finish, but in the end could not pull off the 2-point conversion needed to send the game into a 4th OT and continue the magical season the entire college football world had enjoyed. West Virginia started off in a hole when it was learned that stud QB Pat White could not go due to numerous leg & foot ailments, so the call went out to redshirt freshman Jarrett Brown to lead the Mountaineer offense. All the kid did was throw for 244 yards with 1 TD & 1 INT on 14-29 passing, including a beautiful pass in the second OT that kept the Mountaineers in the game as they pulled off the win on a chilly night in Morgantown. Ray Rice ran for 129 yards & 2 TDs for Rutgers, including a couple of huge carries in the overtime periods that gave the Scarlet Knights a chance at the win and the Big East BCS berth that would have went along with it. But on the final play of the night Rice couldn't haul in a tough pass from QB Mike Teel (19-26, 278 yards, 1TD) on the two-point attempt and the hopes and dreams of a fantastic finish to an incredible season went by the wayside for Scarlet Nation. West Virginia running back Steve Slaton (23 carries, 112 yards, 2 TDs) carried the load for the Mountaineers, but it was the poise and precision of Brown that kept WVU from losing this dogfight. So it is a disappointing loss for Greg Schiano and Rutgers, but a 10-win season and bowl berth is nothing to be ashamed about for a team that was the laughingstock of the NCAA for the better part of the past 2 decades. Now the Knights & their fans just have to hope that Schiano doesn't take his rebuilding prowess to another depleted squad- the Miami Hurricanes.
Other scores of note:
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma 21, Nebraska 7
MY PICK: Oklahoma 30-27
The resilient Sooners survived the loss of All America back Adrian Peterson to be crowned the champs of the Big 12 thanks to the stellar play of QB Paul Thompson. Thompson threw for 265 yards & 2 TDs as the Sooners jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and never looked back. Although the Sooners only rushed for 42 yards and allowed 366 yards of offense to the Huskers, their defense forced 5 turnovers, including a fumble on the first play of the game that led to a quick 7-0 lead, and Oklahoma never looked back. Now it appears Oklahoma will be headed to the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska will have to settle for the Cotton.
ACC Championship:Wake Forest 9, Georgia Tech 6
MY PICK: Tech 24-23
Wow was this game ugly. But the Demon Deacons will take it as the win catapults them to their first ACC title since 1970. Wake freshman QB Riley Skinner was effective in going 14-25 for 201 yards and no turnovers, while his counterpart Reggie Ball ended his Yellow Jacket career much the same way he conducted all of it- erratically. Ball was a disappointing 9-28 for 129 yards & 2 picks, capping a horrendous final 2 games of his collegiate career: 15-51, 171 yards, no TDs & 4 INTs. Nice way to go out, Reggie. The game was won when Skinner found receiver Willie Idellette for a 45 yard gain midway thru the 4th, setting up the game-winning 22-yard field goal. Not exactly a thriller, but the Deacons will take an 11-win season ACC Championship -winning season and the BCS bid that goes along with it.
-Oregon State 35, Hawaii 32
MY PICK: Hawaii 50, OSU 33
Rainbow quarterback Colt Brennan needed 4 touchdown passes to surpass the all-time single-season record of 54 set by Houston's David Klingler in 1990. He had to settle for runner-up as he threw 3 touchdowns but Hawaii couldn't overcome an awesome Beaver offense and a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown as it ended its season on a down note in breezy Honolulu. Brennan still put up staggering numbers in June Jones' run-n-gun offense (4990 yards, 53 TDs) but what he really wanted was the all-time mark. Unfortunately the Beavers didn't make the trip to, paradise just to enjoy the sights, and the team that was the only squad to knock off the Trojans before today took it right to the Rainbows and their pass-happy attack. Still, Brennan's eye-popping numbers should earn him a trip to Manhattan for the Heisman ceremony, where he will have to settle for runner-up status yet again.


Friday, December 01, 2006

College Football Week 14 Preview

Say it ain't so! The regular college football season is almost over, and after Saturday we'll have to wait a whole...15 days until the Bowl Season begins.

But have no fear because when that silly season does start chances are you will be able to catch your favorite team one last time, with 32 bowls accommodating an astounding 64 of the NCAA's 119 D-1 teams. Next thing you know they're gonna have a play-in bowl featuring South Wichita State and Coppin State.

But I digress. Although there are a limited number of games to watch on the final weekend, the slate makes up for lack of quantity with plenty of quality (or at least in the case of USC/UCLA, important) matchups. In the spirit of the just-passed Thanksgiving holiday I'm going to give you the full menu of games to sit and digest with your belt unbuckled on the last day of the 2006 season.

12 Noon: UCONN (4-7) @ 6 Louisville (10-1) ESPN
The Cards and their high-powered offense (38PPG, 4th in NCAA) still have a lot to play for when they take on the disappointing Huskies at Papa John's Stadium. A Louisville win combined with a West Virginia loss later against Rutgers would give the Cards the Big East title and the BCS berth that goes along with it. A loss and/or a Scarlet Knight win and the Cards will have the whole winter to think about what could have been- had it been able to beat Rutgers 3 weeks ago they title would be theirs no matter what. But today will be a big day no matter what because it is senior day, and 15 members of coach Bobby Petrino's first recruiting class will take the field at home for the last time. These seniors have had a great run, too, going 21-1 at home with a current NCAA best 17-game winning streak at the Big Pizza Box. Playing the lowly Huskies should prove to be no problem for QB Brian Brohm and his offensive weapons, RBs Kolby Smith and Tampa's Anthony Allen and WRs Mario Urrutia & Harry Douglas. It could get ugly for the Huskies, but with a potential lucrative BCS bid on the line Louisville will show no mercy.
MY PICK: Cards 47, Huskies 13

1PM ABC: ACC Championship Game, Jacksonville
16 Wake Forest (10-2) vs. 23 Georgia Tech (9-3)
If you had said at the beginning of the season that these two squads would be squaring off for the ACC title, I would have told you to lay off the limoncellos. Miami and Florida State, yes. Boston College and Miami- okay. But the Demon Deacons and Yellow Jackets, two teams that combined to go 11-12 last season- no way. But here we are four months later and that is exactly the matchup we get. The Deacons have been the surprise of the 2006 season, as Coach of the Year candidate Jim Grobe has got Wake on the verge of their first league title since 1970 after leading the team to its first 10-win season. ACC Freshman of the Year QB Riley Skinner has been a calm, cool and collected signal caller, leading the team to huge wins against BC, FSU and Maryland and the Deacs run a balanced, no frills offense that gets the job done. The Jackets, meanwhile, are loaded with talent, especially at quarterback, where senior Reggie Ball can either win or lose a game on his own with his electrifying but sometimes erratic play. Ball's favorite target is WR Calvin Johnson, who despite being held without a catch in a loss to Clemson still leads the ACC in receptions (59), yards (899) and TDs(13.)Neither team lights it up on offense, averaging just over 300 yards & around 25 PPG, but these two surprise combatants should give us a solid, if not spectacular, title game.
MY PICK: Jackets 24, Deacons 23

4:30PM EST, ABC: 2 USC (10-1) vs. UCLA (6-5)
This is the most important game of the day, and not because it is the annual intra-city rivalry to see which squad is the king of the City of Angels. Every team, player, and pollster will have their eyes on this LA story because if the Trojans take care of business and defeat their cross-city rivals for the 9th straight time it will most certainly be heading to Glendale to face the Buckeyes in the BCS Title Game on January 8th. As I mentioned this rivalry has been mighty lopsided since the Trojans have ascended to the elite of the NCAA; UCLA has not won since 1998, including absorbing a 66-19 beating last year at the Coliseum. USC should have no problem handling the Bruins this season either, although 2 years ago as it marched to the title game it got a scare from their rivals, pulling out a 29-24 squeaker. That should not be the case today as the Trojans are just too deep and talented to falter to a depleted Bruins squad. QB John David Booty (2,682 yards, 25TDs) has taken the reigns admirably after waiting in the wings behind Heisman winners Carson Palmer & Matt Leinart, and the bevy of offensive weapons (RBs Chauncey Washington & CJ Gable, WRs Dwayne Jarrett & Steve Smith)should be able to put the Bruins away early. Combine all that firepower (32 PPG, nearly 400 YPG) with a speedy, hard-hitting defense (just ask the Irish) and this battle should more resemble the 2005 bludgeoning than the 2004 squeaker. The Trojans will be shouting "Glendale here we come" when this one's all over.
MY PICK: Trojans 43, Bruins 17

6PM, CBS: SEC Championship Game Georgia Dome
8 Arkansas (10-2) vs. 4 Florida (11-1)
A couple of weeks ago this game appeared to have major national title implications. The Gators had been hovering around the top of the polls for most of the season thanks to a cheesy schedule courtesy of the watered-down SEC, and the Razorbacks hadn't lost since their 50-14 thrashing at the hands of the Trojans in the season's opening week. Then Ohio State outlasted Michigan in the most thrilling game of the year and USC whipped Notre Dame, vaulting either the Wolverines or Trojans into potential title game opponents for the Buckeyes, and Arkansas shit the bed by losing at home last weekend to LSU. Now appears that UF have to be content with winning their first league title since 2000, although they still have an outside shot at the BCS championship, and Arkansas will be happy to play in a New Years Day bowl.

So who will win this battle of Southeastern Conference titans? The way the Gators have played the past month, or really all season for that matter, is leading most experts to pick the Hogs. The 2-headed QB experiment coach Urban Meyer has employed has been mainly successful, but it still creates confusion on their own sideline as to which QB, wussy senior Chris Leak (2,540 yards, 22 TDs, 11INTs) or tough freshman Tim Tebow (756 combined yards, 11 combo TDs) should be in the game and when. Combine that with the fact that the already run-deficient Gator offense will be without its top running back, DeShawn Wynn (shoulder) and electric freshman Percy Harvin will be playing hurt after suffering a neck stinger in the FSU game. For a team that has trouble running the ball (157YPG, 40th in NCAA) this could spell doom against Arkansas, as the Hogs will be able to key on the Gators passing game.

The Razorbacks are the exact opposite of the Gators as far as offense: they are a run-first team, averaging 236 yards/game, good for 4th in the nation, and they are led by a leading Heisman runner-up contender Darren McFadden. The spectacular sophomore is proving to be a triple threat on offense- he can obviously run the ball (244 carries for 1,485 yards & 14 TDs), but he can also catch (9 recs, 122 yds, 1TD) and throw the rock, as evidenced by his awesome 5-5, 70 yards & 2TD stats as a passer. Oh yeah, he also returns kicks, parks cars, and cleans up the stands at War Memorial Stadium after home games. I'm kidding, but this kid can do it all, and he's going to be tough for the stout Florida defense to contain. QB Mitch Mustain was adequate (853 yards, 10TDs, 8INTs),so he's been replaced by sophomore Casey Dick, but when all you have to do is hand off to an All-Conference back you don't have to really worry about passing too much.
This game should be a classic battle of wills. As in which unit will prevail: Florida's 4th ranked rushing defense, or the Hogs 4th ranked rushing offense. The Gators need to win this game (and pray for USC to lose)to keep their slim hopes of a BCS title alive, and the Razorbacks want to defeat the team that gets all the glory in the SEC and send UF to the bowl they most deserve- the Gator Bowl.
MY PICK: Razorbacks 27, Gators 24

7:45, ESPN: 13 Rutgers(10-1) @ 15 West Virginia (9-2)
This game has a lot riding on it, especially for the Scarlet Knights. Although its longshot chance at the BCS title went out the window after their disheartening loss to Cincy last week, it still can earn a BCS bowl bid by knocking off the Mountaineers and winning the Big East title. West Virginia has a slim shot at the crown, but that would require UConn to knock off Louisville, something that isn't going to happen. West Virginia blew its chance when it choked at home last week against USF, losing an embarrassing 24-19 game, and it will be out for blood against the darlings of college football this year. Coach of the Year lock Greg Schiano has gotten perennial doormat Rutgers to their first 10 win season ever and is a hot candidate to replace the canned Larry Coker at Miami. But the Scarlet Knights have not fared well in Morgantown, losing 14 straight, and WVU has an 11-game overall winning streak against the boys from Piscataway. Rutgers attack is led by RB Ray Rice, a dark horse Heisman candidate who has racked up 1495 yards & 17 TDs this season. FB Brian Leonard has also reemerged as an offensive threat after tallying 106 yards & 2 TDs in a win over Syracuse last week, and sophomore QB Mike Teel (1589 yards, 9TDs, 13 INTs) does just enough to keep the offense moving. But the Rutgers defense will have their hands full with the high-powered Mountaineer offense. West Virginia averages nearly 39 PPG, good for 3rd in the nation, and their rushing attack (312 YPG) is ranked second nationally. That attack is led by twin Heisman hopefuls QB Pat White (1524 yds & 11 TDs passing, 1074 yds & 17 TDs rushing) and Steve Slaton (1621 yards, 14 TDs.) After being shut down last week by a stifling South Florida defense (White & Slaton ran for only 60 yards combined), look for those two to bust out against the solid but unspectacular Scarlet defense. It has been a wonderful season for the State University of New Jersey and a big bowl game will still be a nice reward for this overachieving bunch.
MY PICK: Mountaineers 30, Scarlet Knights 24

8PM, ABC: Big 12 Championship Game
19 Nebraska (9-3)vs. 8 Oklahoma (10-2)
It has been a topsy-turvy year for Coach Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners. It started out 2-0 and RB Adrian Peterson looked like a Heisman candidate with 304 yards in their first 2 wins. Then the wheels started to fall off. The Sooners were robbed of a win by two horrendous officiating calls in a 34-33 heartbreaking loss at Oregon. To make matters worse, Peterson went down with a broken collar bone in a 34-9 win at Iowa State and has been out ever since. But the Sooners have persevered, ripping off 6 wins in a row and rushing for more yards since Peterson went down. A credit to Stoops and his staff that they kept the team on track despite losing a player of Peterson's caliber. Meanwhile the Huskers have been a pleasant surprise this year, coming back from obscurity behind coach Bill Callahan's passing attack, led by Big 12 Player of the Year QB Zac Taylor (2789 yds, 24 TDs.) These two old foes have not met in a title game since 1988, back in the days of the Big 8, so this will be like a trip in the wayback machine for both schools. A trip to the Cotton Bowl is on the rise for the winner, and each school can be proud of overcoming odds to make it back to the Big 12 promised land.
MY PICK: Sooners 30, Huskers 27

12 MID, ESPN: Oregon State (8-4) @ 24 Hawaii (10-2)
A great way to end the day, and the season, with a late night tilt on the West Coast in what should be an offensive showcase. Most people don't get a chance to see the Rainbow Warriors since they play on a 5 hour time difference over there, but tune in tonight to catch one of the premier passers in the NCAA. Colt Brennan continues the Hawaii passing tradition left him by record-setting Timmie Chang as he has racked up 4589 yards and 51 TDs this season. You read that right. This kid is like an arcade game, putting up numbers usually reserved for Arena ball. With 4 more TDs tonight he will break the NCAA record of 54 set by Houston's David Klingler set in 1990 and he has already broken the yardage & touchdown marks set by Chang. Hawaii will have their hands full tonight, though, as OSU is the only team to knock off USC this season. The Beavers are led by precise QB Matt Moore, who hasn't thrown an INT in his last 144 attempts, exciting receiver/kick returner Sammie Straughter (1100yds, 3TDs) and RB Yvenson Bernard (1102 yds, 11 TDs.) Two teams that average over 30 PPG and play an exciting, up-tempo style game. Throw in a possible record-setting performance from Brennan and the beautiful vistas of Honolulu and I can't think of a better way to end the 2006 season.
MY PICK: Warriors 51,Beavers 33


Thursday, November 30, 2006

What's going on? Random updates

Sorry I've been gone so long. I went to see Michael Richards perform at a comedy club in New York and Michael Strahan & Plexiglass Burress bum-rushed him and cut off his reattached arm with a hacksaw. The weird part about it was that Britney Spears & Danny DeVito were in the audience, she was laughing the whole time while her privates flapped in the wind and he was drinking the hot new cocktail "the limoncello" like they were going out of style.

But seriously it has been a crazy couple of days, news-wise, and by crazy I mean all these freaking mind numbingly inane stories have worked to drive me CRAZY! I can't take any more of it. Between Michael Strahan & the Giants, Bare Britney & her new gal pals, and Danny DeVito getting soused and visiting the View I seriously think my brain is fried. Throw in the finale of Prison Break and NBC's Thursday Night Comedy Block and I'm ready to sit down with a good, long book. Anyone read that "DaVinci Code"?

-Strahan calls out teammate, then drills reporter for asking about it
Only in New York. Actually only in this age of media overexposing every iota of movement of celebrities & athletes can a non-story such as this turn into what appears to be the news story of the century. In summary, injured Giants DE Michael Strahan went on WFAN and called out teammate Plexiglass Burress for giving up on a ball in their crushing loss to the Titans on Sunday. Every person in the country who watched the game or the highlights knows this to be true. As the ball sailed over his head and into the arms of the Titans defender, Burress' body language said "man I wish I was sitting on South Beach sucking down limoncellos right now", and the Giants went on to make 45 more boneheaded plays as they blew a 21-point 4th quarter lead and lost the game. So Strahan was just being honest when he said , ah forget it, I can't even bring myself to dredge it back up. Basically he called Burress a lazy ass who gave up on his team, and when ESPN's Kelly Naqi asked Strahan if he had talked to Burress about it, Strahan proceed to go on a sandwich-faced tirade against Naqi and the media in general. Rule #1 in the athlete handbook: when something goes wrong, always blame the media. But wasn't it the media that Strahan used to get his initial message across? After all, FAN is a radio station, correct. Now the entire Giants team is in spin control while their season spirals out of control as they head into their biggest game of the season Sunday against their arch rivals, the Cowboys. You see why this story, beaten to DEATH by - who else?- the media has given me a triple migraine. I can't talk about it any more or my

-Britney Spears shows her wild side, her underside, and her whoreish side
This is another story that has been beaten like an old rug (pun intended.) The soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Kevin Federline (tee hee) has found some new pals to help her through her post-marital misery, and they are none other than Paris Hilton & Lindsey Lohan. Excuse me? And what have these lovely ladies of decorum been advising Brit to do during this tough time? Party her friggin' ass off, that's what. The omnipresent Hilton was first spied with Spears last week some time, and the pair have been hitting the party scene hard every night since. But there have been some disturbing sightings while the two twits table dance their way thorough Tinseltown, and I don't mean Brit flicking a lit cig out of Paris' car window. No, I'm referring to the fact that every person in the world found out that Ms. Spears apparently doesn't believe in underwear. The Bare Brit spread her legs and showed everybody where little Sean Preston & K-Fed Jr. came from, and unfortunately I'm talking about her C-section scar. Yep, the silly hillbilly decided that the best way to recover from the agony of a failed marriage is to let the entire planet get a look at her baby maker. Nice. And the other disturbing fact is that she did it not once but TWICE, first Monday night getting into Paris' ride and then Tuesday at an LA area gas station. Does anyone not see this talentless chick's career going into the toilet and her living the rest of her life in her Tennessee mansion drinking herself into a coma? I don't know what's worse here, that Spears looks up to Paris as "her idol", that Paris appears to be the one with more common sense, or that in the last few months Spears and buddy Lohan have both showed the world 2 places you absolutely do not want to be?

-So Danny DeVito was a little liquored up on The View yesterday, so what?
Still trying to decide which is the bigger non-story, the Strahan situation or this little gem. In case you've been under a rock for the past few days, evidently little Louie DePalma visited the seahags of The View on Wednesday and he confessed that he wasn't feeling quite up to par. Why? Well apparently Louie was out the night before with none other than George Clooney himself, and the two tied one on pretty good. So good, in fact, that Lil Louie confessed to the "ladies" that he was still out that morning and in fact had not been to bed yet as of 10:00am. Hmm, nothing wrong there. One of the ugliest celebs in the world and one of the hunkiest pounding down a few cocktails until the wee hours of the morning, Louie telling Georgie how he wishes he had his looks and George telling Louie that he wished he had his gift for comedy, yadda, yadda, yadda. The reason it got so much pub is that all of a sudden Louie went into this extended, expletive-laced "Three Stooges" schtick about "President Numbnuts" and then proceeded to tell everyone about the time he and wife Rhea Perlma christened the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House. Now that's an image we could do without. You can view the "controversial" clip here. Now all the news outlets are eating this alive, saying Louie appeared drunk and he embarrassed himself and he embarrassed Barbara Walters and blah, blah, blah. As Glenn Beck said on his show last night (great show, by the way, and I'm not just saying that because my future brother-in-law Paul is a producer. Okay I am): "what kind of world do we live in when you're on national TV and you're not supposed to be drunk!?" Amen, Glenn. I mean give me an actual story, will ya. Clooney & DeVito's night out drinking limoncellos is a better story that DeVito appearing drunk on the hagfest that is the View. As Beck's guest so eloquently put it, "I have to be fairly drunk just to watch The View." Amen to that, too.

-Prison Break has 'mid-season finale'
I guess in this day & age of staggered starting schedules, shorter season lengths and drawn out drama we have to add that phrase to the TV vernacular now. Because that is what the nets are doing- give us half a seasons worth of shows, take a 2 month break to try and launch another crappy pilot, then come back in late January and act like it never left. Weird.
Anyway, the first half of Season 2 was starting to drag- how many times can we see Linc & Michael "barely escape" from a pursuing Agent Mahone (Bill Fichtner) and "accidentally" meet up with fellow cons Sucre, C-Note and T-Bag? The show was starting to stretch the laws of believability so thin Nicole Ritchie was trying to fatten it up. But in the 'mid-season finale' (let's call it the MSF for short) they got back some of my interest by throwing in a twist I didn't see coming (SPOILER ALERT): they turned the "love to hate him" Agent Kellerman against the Agency and onto the brothers' side when he shot Mahone and aided Michael & Linc's latest escape. How did that happen? Kellerman was deemed agent non-grata by the superbly slimy Agent Kim & his superiors when he failed to kill Dr. Tancredi, who escaped certain death & dismemberment in a motel bathtub by branding Kellerman's chest with a hot iron and jumping out of the window, falling 2 stories down onto a car windshield.

Meanwhile Mahone tracked the brothers to New Mexico where they were supposed to get on the plane headed to Panama. But after Mahone shot and killed they boys' father, and he told them with his last dying breath that Sara held the answers to unlocking (hint hint) the conspiracy surrounding Linc's trumped up murder charge, they had a change of heart and decided to stay stateside. Sucre got on the plane, which was chased down by a fighter jet and he had to parachute to safety.

Long story short the Border Patrol (nice work, George W.) caught the boys just as Mahone was about to put bullets in their heads, they end up being transferred back to Fox River (dumb plot point #427), Mahone & Kellerman conspire to take them out. But since Kellerman has been erased from the Agency's database he decides to take out Mahone, shooting him and telling the brothers to trust him if they want to get back at the President for the whole mess. Kellerman is now a rouge agent intent on helping the "enemy", or so we think.

Like I said, and the wife put it best, if they didn't come up with something good for the finale we wouldn't be picking it back up when it re-premieres (another new term) on January 22nd. I'm not sure if I like Agent Evil turning into the good guy, and I know I don't want Mahone to be dead, but I do know that they hooked me enough to tune back in after the hiatus. Because there are a number of questions I want answers to:

1.) Is Mahone dead? (Smart money bets on kevlar.)

2.) Where is Sara and how will the boys "conveniently" find her?

3.) Can Kellerman be trusted, or is he just trying to get to Sara?

4.) When & how will the brothers meet up with T-Bag & the money?

5.) Will T-Bag slaughter his ex?

6.) What happens to Sucre & C-Note?

7.) Who is the mystery man instructing Agent Kim?

8.) Is Sgt. Bellick going to have his salad tossed now that he's locked up in Fox River?

-NBC has a new Thursday night block of Must See TV
It might not be the juggernaut that was Friends/Will & Grace/Seinfield/Frasier but NBC's new experiment of 4 straight comedies on Thursday night is winning rave reviews so far, and I after watching tonight I would have to agree.

The programming geniuses at the Peacock Network have piled the comedy high and come up with 2 hours of "get away from reality & laugh television", and after all the craziness of the past few days I found it was just what the doctor ordered. Not all the shows will be liked by everyone, but they all offer something different in the comedy genre:

8PM: My Name is Earl
The quirky show has lost some of its luster (and laughs) in its sophomore season but still cranks out at 4-5 riotous moments per show. Like tonight when Joy (Jaime Pressley) started cracking up when her deaf lawyer, played by Marlee Matlin, starts talking and she says "I love it when you use your deaf accent", or Earl feeds his gambling jones by betting on where chickens will take a crap on a numbered board. Did you catch the cameo by Kadeem Hardison there? Diff'rent World indeed. This show is an acquired taste (the wife HATES it), but one thing is for sure: it's original. So it's got that going for it .

8:30PM: The Office
Most of you already know my opinion on this one- it's the best comedy on television, hands down. Steve Carell as daffy boss Michael Scott is the engine that keeps the show moving, but it the terrific ensemble of supporting players that give the show heart. The office romance between Pam & Jim is on hold while Jim dates the new hottie from the Stamford branch, but you know it's only a matter of time before those two hook up again (like the season finale.) Dwight is one of the most neurotic, moronic jerks ever portrayed on the small screen but he may have a terrific foil in the hilarious Andy (Ed Helms), another Stamford transplant (and Daily Show vet, like Carell.) And the rest of the dimwits (Kevin, Kelly) and weirdos (Angela, Meredith) round out the cast perfectly. If you've ever worked in an office this show truly is must-see TV.

9PM: Scrubs
I never got into this show before, but I've seen it a few times and it is quite funny. Quirky, like Earl, but funny. It has a bunch of surreal situations and wacky humor which reminds me of Boston Legal, but this show perfected the formula first. Zach Braff plays JD, the center of the hospital-based funhouse, but the other characters, like the hilarious Chris Turk (Faison Love) and the riotous Dr. Cox (John McGinley) really carry the weight of the comedy. Great line tonight when Dr. Cox is called in by his interns for an "emergency"; he's decked out in a sweaty, slobby cutoff sweatshirt and hideous Zubaz sweatpants and says "do you know where I just came from" and one of them replies "a Joe Piscapo look-alike contest?" He makes them run laps around the ward, even the one with asthma. Quirky, funny, well-cast and original. They should run this one back-to-back with Earl for a double dose of surreality.

9:30: 30 Rock
This show is freakin' awesome. And I'm not just saying that becasue my sis Meliss works at 30 Rock, otherwise known as 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NBC's New York headquarters. How can a show that has Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski be bad? Evidently it can't because this show about the inside workings of a TV show, produced & created by Fey & SNL creator Lorne Michaels, is a winner. Balwin is terrific as cocky head honcho Jack Donaghy, Fey is superb as the put-upon head writer Liz Lemon, Morgan channels Martin Lawrence schtick as a black movie star with a complex, and Krakowski is great as the self-conscious fading starlet. Great bit tonight about Liz' loser boyfriend who sells beepers (Jack: "wait a minute, I'm expecting a call from 1984".) Hopefully this show will get a new life in this new block, and my guess is that if it sticks around it will be up for a few Emmys.

Well that's about all I got. I'm gonna go make a pitcher of limoncellos and watch The View. I'll leave you with a picture of the plaza where the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is located, courtesy of my sis.

Actual footage from an office window at 30 Rock (thanks sis!)


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NFL Week 12 News & Notes

A wacky week 12 ended with a wild game in snowy, slushy Seattle last night as the Seahawks and Packers combined for 58 points, 8 turnovers and nearly 700 combined total yards as the Hawks prevailed, 34-24.
It was a fitting end to a week that saw wild plays (is a flip a fumble or a pass?), monumental collapses (Giants? more like Lilliputians) and record-setting performances (rookie Joseph Addai's 4TDs, Tony Romo tossing 5 TDs on Turkey Day, Mike Vick flipping not one but two

Let's take a look back at the week that was Week 12 2006.

-Seahawks survive 4 Hasselbeck TOs, beat Pack on strength of Alexander's 200-yard night

When the weather outside is makes for great pigskin viewing!

It was the kind of night made for NFL football: cold & blustery with a snowy/slushy mix flying through the air in all directions, covering the field in a blanket of white that evokes memories of great snow bowl games gone by (The Tuck Rule Game being my personal favorite.) Green Bay QB Brett Favre seems like he was born to play games like this, and for about 2 1/2 quarters it sure looked like it. Seattle got their injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck back (that sounded pretty odd right there), and for the first half it looked like he was still hurt. At the very least he was hurting his team with 3 horrible interceptions in the first 15:15 of the contest. But the question is raised: why was Walrus Holmgren calling all those pass plays in the snow with a quarterback who is just returning from missing 4 games due to a knee injury? Plus they had MVP running back Shawn Alexander back for the second week, so wouldn't it make more sense to run him all night in those conditions rather than put the burden of the entire offense on Hasselbeck?

By the time Holmgren realized this it was 21-12 Packers just a few minutes into the second half. Favre (22-36, 266yds, 1TD, 3INTs), coming off an ulnar nerve (i.e. funny bone) injury a week earlier against the Pats, made his 252nd consecutive start, a record for any position, let alone quarterback, had control of the game & the conditions and looked well on his way to another MNF win. But then it dawned on Walrus to pound Alexander, who had been carrying the ball well and showed no signs of the foot injury that sidelined him for 6 weeks, and pound him he did. Alexander compiled 201 yards on a franchise record 40 carries, and after the Pack went up by that 21-12 score Seattle ripped of 3 touchdowns from 8:45 of the third to 8:47 of the fourth to seize control of the game. Hasselbeck (17-36, 157yds, 3TDs, 3INTs, 1 fumble)bounced back from his miserable first half to throw 3 touchdown passes, and by that time Favre started doing what he has done best these past few awful seasons- throw wild interceptions in hopes that a miracle will happen and someone will pop onto the field and catch them- and Seattle had a huge victory that could have been a disastrous defeat. Instead they sit at 7-4 with a two game lead over St. Louis & San Fran, and the have both of their offensive leaders back for the final 5 games.

Hopefully more of them will take place in the white stuff. (By the way, they spent all that money on that new stadium- why no retractable dome? Just curious.)

-Cowboys cut "liquored-up kicker" Vanderjagt
Mike Vanderjagt, the man who former teammate Peyton Manning once labeled as "our idiot kicker" at the Pro Bowl one year, was cut loose by coach Bill Parcells yesterday. Tuna had evidently finally tired of Vander-jagoff's diva-like ways, including missing part of training camp with a groin injury, balking at handling kickoff duties (little miss priss prefers to only kick when points are involved, cause it's hard to turn kickoff length into dollars) and failing to make even the most basic of field goals. The career leader in field goal percentage (230-266, 86.5%) was only 13-18 this season and missed 1 attempt from under 30 yards, 1 from under 40 and 4 from the all-important 40-49 yard range, where kickers earn their jack. And this guy earned plenty of jack, signing a 3-year, $5.4 million contract with Dallas in the off season with a $2.5 million signing bonus. But now he's kicked to the curb for Martin Grammatica of all people, a guy who has kicked exactly 1 field goal since 2004 and was booted off the Bucs, Colts & Pats in that time. Nice. And you want to know how bad Tuna wants the Idiot Kicker's name expunged from the Cowboy records? When you click on his name in the story and pull up Vanderjagt's bio, check out the pix at the bottom. Priceless!


-Pats lose LB Seau for rest of the season; career over?
The defense of the New England Patriots suffered yet another big loss when it was learned that off season free agent signee Junior Seau will not play again this year due to the broken arm he suffered in New England's 17-10 victory over the Bears Sunday. His departure is a huge blow for a unit already depleted with the injuries to S Rodney Harrison, CB Randall Gay, S Tebucky Jones, S Eugene Wilson and CB Chad Scott. Seau, the 37-year old former Charger great was persuaded to forgo retirement less than 24 hours in by his old Charger buddy Harrison. He was 4th on the Pats in tackles and made many big stops this season. The question now is will he ever put on a uniform again? He clearly was still playing well and his loss will be felt by the Pats, who will use a pre-planned rotation of Mike Vrable, Tully Banta-Cain & Rosie Colvin to get them through the rest of the season. But hopefully Junior comes back next year for one last go 'round.

- Hard-hitting Steelers safety Troy Palumalu is out for Sunday's contest at Heinz Field against the lowly Bucs. after spraining the MCL in his left knee during last week's loss to Baltimore. The Big-Haired One will need to rest the injury for at least a week, but the Steelers breathed a sigh of relief when the original, more serious diagnosis proved to be wrong and he will not need season-ending surgery. Palumalu, who has 67 tackles and 3 interceptions this year, has not missed a game due to injury in his 4+ year career.
Pittsburgh will also be without their top offensive threat as WR Hines Ward will be forced to sit out this week and possibly the next game as he recovers from knee surgery. The operation was necessary because of bone fragments that were causing discomfort for the star receiver, and his loss will be a big blow to an already staggering offense.
Oh yeah, they're playing the Bucs. Never mind.

-The "WTF?!" Award of the Week
This award has to go to the moronic dictator, errr coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin. The thought occurred to me, as it probably did to 45 million other football viewing Americans, as I watched the lowlights of the Giants 21-point collapse to the Titans: why were the G-Men forcing Eli Manning to throw the ball when they held a 21-point lead in the 4th quarter and they have one of the best running backs in the NFL on their team? I mean it doesn't take an offensive genius to figure out that when up by 21 points with 13:00 to play, which then became 14, which then turned into 7, that you might want to run the ball to use as much time possible to prevent just such a miraculous comeback from occurring.'s Gregg Easterbrook, otherwise known as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, went into great depth about this, and other coaching gaffes, in his excellent & comprehensive column this week (I thought my posts were wordy.) I knew about Manning throwing the final pass that PacMan Jones intercepted with :32 left that led to Tennessee's game-winning kick. What I did not realize is that when the Giants held those other leads Coughlin was still calling pass plays that were stopping the clock and tempting turnovers throughout the Titans comeback. "From the point at which the Giants had a 21-0 lead and possession of the ball with 13 minutes remaining, Coughlin and his staff called seven passing plays -- which is seven too many" Easterbrook writes. Exactly. And then he goes out and blames his QB. Time to get the resume ready again, Tommy. You're act has grown thin in the Big Apple.

With so many teams alternating huge wins with critical losses it's time to take a look at my latest rankings. This time I'm including a special bonus list. You'll have to read to see what it is.


-Indianapolis Mannings (10-1) The demolition of the Eagles was just what the critics ordered for a team that had been searching for an identity after the departure of RB Edge James. They found it, and thy name is Joseph Addai. It's amazing what the presence of a running game will do for an offense- the Mannings had their highest point total (44) & rushing yard total (237, 171 by Addai) of the season. They'll still fold in the playoffs like origami, but right now they're at the top.

-San Diego Chargers (9-2) The Chargers keep finding ways to win, coming from behind again to hold off the rival Raiders. But any team that has the league's MVP- and have no doubt LaDanian Tomlinson will win the award- always has a chance to win. With QB Phillip Rivers playing well, too, this team reminds me of last year's NFC Champion Seahawks. Plus they get suspended LB Shawne Merriman back this week. Uh-oh.

-New England Patriots (8-3) I know Baltimore's defense has gotten all the attention, but what if I told you that the Pats' battered defense has given up fewer points (144-147) than that vaunted Ravens unit? Would you be interested in that stat? Or that the Ravens wins, other than against the Chargers, have come against teams with a combined 43-56 record, while the Pats have beaten teams with a combined record of 45-43 (although they only play 1 team with a winning record the rest of the way.) I'm just sayin'....

-Baltimore Ravens (9-2) ...that I'm still not totally convinced that this Baltimore team is for real. They are one injury to McNair away from reliving the Kyle Boller Era, which will send shudders down any Ravens' fan's spine. And that crap from RayLew about this defense being better than the 2000 SB winning-squad? See my comments just above. Let's just say there are a lot of citizens in Miami who are fearful of Lewis & his posse coming to town in February.

-Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) As the blustery weather approaches Kansas City is finally charging full steam ahead. After dispatching with previous AFC West leader Denver on Turkey Day they get their chance to knock off current leader San Diego in 3 weeks. But first they get to play the Brownies, and then get Baltimore at home. Repeat after me: TEAMS DO NOT WIN IN ARROWHEAD IN DECEMBER. Especially with LJ rushing for 150+ per game.


-New Orleans Saints (7-4) After stumbling a bit-losing 3 out of 4 after winning 5 of their first 6- America's New Team got back on track by whipping up on Mike Vick & his Dirty Birds. I still think they have the best overall talent in the NFC: Drew Brees is having a Pro-Bowl year (5 straight games over 300 yards passing); Marques Colston (869yds, 7 TDs) should be a lock for Rookie Of the Year; and hometown hero Devery Henderson is emerging as a big-play receiver as well (438 receiving yards in his last 3 games with a catch). If they ever get anything besides 5 yard receptions from Reggie Bust, they will be a playoff force to be reckoned with.

-Dallas Cowboys (7-4) The Cowboys are the hottest fad on the block right now, like next-gen Elmo, iPods and Borat all rolled into one. Quarterback/heartthrob Tony Romo is taking Big D by storm, with rumors that he is dating Jessica Simpson floating everywhere and requests for his goofy mug to appear on everything from the Today Show to Jimmy Kimmell Live. Tuna loathes one player-especially a quarterback- having so much notoriety, so this star treatment has to be getting under his skin. My guess is that the bloom comes of the Romo soon, maybe in New York this week where the wounded Giants will be ready to tear into their archrival & the newbie QB.

-Chicago Bears(9-2) How is it that a team this has a 9-2 record is only 3rd on the list? Because they start a former Gator quarterback at quarterback, that's how! My god is this Grossman experiment a disaster or what? It's like he & Eli Manning are having a race to see who can exit the league first. Both hold (or held) the reigns to division-leading teams, and both appear to want to give it away like candy to trick-or-treaters. Rex the Blunder Dog has tossed 11 interceptions in his last 6 games and is quickly becoming the Jake Plummer of the North Side. Is 692 times too much to vote Rex out as QB? Nope.

-Seattle Seahawks (7-4) We'll just chalk up Matt Hasselbeck's 4 turnovers last night to the weather and his return from a 1 month layoff. We'd rather focus on freshly-healed running back Shawn Alexander's 200 yard rushing performance. If the reigning MVP continues to look like he did last season and Hasselbeck rounds back into form this team will be tough to face in December & January. Especially at QuestField where despite wretched conditions of late it continues to be the most raucous stadium in the league. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow-covered field will stop the 12th Man from screaming its brains out.

-Mike Vick & his Dirty Birds (5-6) I know they are in the midst of a horrid stretch, losers of 4 in a row and embroiled in controversies over Coach Mora Sr.'s comments and the Vick Two- Fingered salute. But this team was just running over people when they started the season 5-2, and even in that disastrous defeat to the Saints Vick ran for 166 yards and the team rushed for 281. Once all the hoopla dies down and things start to play itself out this team is capable of running off a winning streak that will catapult itself into the playoffs. C'mon, it's the NFC- we know a mediocre team is going to the postseason, and who ya gonna pick right now, the Giants?

BRADY QUINN/TROY SMITH BEST BETS:(a.k.a. Race for the #1 Draft Pick)

-Detroit Lions (2-9) Obviously these clowns are in the driver's seat after their Thanksgiving Day debacle. Real classy, announcing Joey Harrington's name with the defense just to give disgruntled fans a chance to boo someone NOT wearing a Lions uniform. Up next: Hello, 2-10 (@ Pats.)

- Arizona Cardinals(2-9) It's a race to the finish line to see what comes first: Denny Green loses his job or the Cards win another game. Looking at their remaining schedule (@STL, SEA, DEN, @SF, @SD), I will choose the former. It's gonna be tough to knock these guys out of the race; they'll be there right till the end.

-Oakland Raiders (2-9) They fell a spot because they almost did the unthinkable last week- won a game. Luckily the Chargers woke up in time to foil that plan. Art Shell is on the Denny Green timetable, and judging by Oakland's remaining games (HOU, @CIN, STL, KC, @NYJ) Green might beat him.

-Tampa Bay Bucs (3-8) The Bucs have an excellent shot at winning this because their remaining schedule is BRU-TAL: @PITT, ATL, @CHI, @CLE, SEA. Now would be a good time to mention that the Bucs record is 2-22 when the temp in under 40 degrees. I wonder what the temps will be in Chicago & Cleveland in late December? C'mon Bucs, you guys can take this thing, I know it!

-Cleveland Browns (3-8) The Brownies had been playing well recently until they got blitzed by the Bengals last week. Still, they've got not 1 but 2 egomaniacs (Braylon Dirt on Your Shoulder Edwards & Sgt. Kellen Winslow) lining up to not catch passes from Charlie Frye and implode the team from within. Did I mention they also have Charlie Frye?

-Houston Texans (3-8) Think this team would want to draft Troy Smith after passing on Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart this year? Well they're sure playing like it. Texas even benched QB David Carr this season in favor of the immortal Sage Rosenfels. 'Nuff said.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Hot Stove, Bosox: ManRam gone, Matsuzaka not coming?

Is Manny finally headed out of the Hub?

The stove is really heating up amidst rampant reports that mercurial Red Sox leftfielder Manny Ramirez will finally be traded from the team, potentially as soon as this weekend.

Possible suitors who are trying to work out deals include the San Francisco Giants (which would almost certainly signify the departure of Bonds), San Diego Padres and Dodgers. The Texas Rangers, L.A. of Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Indians have reportedly also expressed interest but have backed out because they couldn't come up with the right package to land the star slugger.

So far the deals have been said to include top prospects and moderate major league talent, but perhaps most important to Boston, some of their unwieldy contracts (besides ManRam's) could be included in any deal, including $10 million dollar dud Matt Clement. (Red Sox Nation: "Hooray!")

What does all of this mean for the Sox as they enter this offseason in need of a complete overhaul but risk losing the core of their lineup by dealing Ramirez? You not only remove Manny's .300/40+/120+ production, but you render Big Papi nearly powerless by taking away the protective bat that has allowed him to become one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball these past four years. No one plugged into that hole, save for Phat Albert or Ryan Howard, is capable of making pitchers pitch to Papi out of fear of having to face Ramirez, one of the most prolific RBI men of all time. I would have liked to have seen Carlos Lee in that spot, but he just signed a ginourmous ($100 million for 6 years) deal with the Astros. Now the talk is centering around JD Drew, ironically a high-priced head case whose desire to play while hurt has been questioned by several sources and who will probably get eaten alive in Beantown unless he puts up Manny-type numbers, which ain't gonna happen.

But the Sox will have to make due because it has become abundantly clear after ManRam's latest "I don't feel like playing" stint in September and his 4,237th request to be traded that the time is now to part ways, and the time has never been more ripe to do so. With the market for his contract opened up now thanks to the mega-deals of Soriano, Lee and others Boston must realize that they need to act now or head into next season with the dark cloud of Manny's behavior and/or willingness to play hanging over them like a cloud. If they really want to start fresh in '07 and put the painful memories of 2006 behind them, what better way to clean the slate than by eliminating the man who gave up on his team down the stretch and became too much of a distraction for his own good?

Thanks for the memories, Manny. Time to take the sideshow known as Manny Being Manny to another town.

-Matsuzaka, Red Sox far apart in contract negotiations
Another story making its way around the wires today has the Sox & Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsazaka, whom Boston has $51.1 million reasons to want in a Red Sox uniform, far apart in their time-restricted contract talks. Gee, what a surprise seeing as notoriously hardheaded agent Scott Boras represents the 26-year-old Asian phenom.

According to a column by Tony Massarotti in today's Boston Herald the sides remain worlds apart in agreeing on how much money their man should make, and also for how long. Like, not even halfway to the numbers far apart. With three weeks left to seal the deal it's not panic time- yet. But with the sides so far apart, does that show that this deal may actually never get done, which would throw the Sox' restoration plans into a tizzy?

I've said all along that the Sox brass would not lay out that kind of cash just to talk with the kid, get the Nation into a frenzy over the thought of adding a frontline starter to a rotation that already will include Schilling, Beckett & Papelbon, and then not get him signed. I still subscribe to that theory. It would be a monumental PR, not to mention business, blunder to let the kid walk back to his old team, especially if they trade Manny Ramirez soon as is being reported. Boston would be left with a gaping hole in their lineup, rotation & reputation, with their future Hall of Fame rightfielder playing for another team and a $51.1 million dollar refund check in their hand with no one to spend it on.

Get the deal done, Theo. Period. With all the crazy money being thrown around to average players right now even $100 million isn't too much to pay. We need this kid more than ever, because it looks like the face of the franchise is taking his act to another city and now is the time for a young star to step into the void and become the next Boston icon.


Monday Morning Kick Returns: Week 12

The biggest game of the week (Bears/Pats) certainly didn't live up to the hype, but there was so much drama around the league yesterday that no one really noticed.

Last-second wins, monumental collapses and incredible individual performances highlight a surprising Week 12, but at this point is anything really surprising any more in the parity-dominated league? (hint:no)

-Pats survive 5 turnover performance to defeat Bears, 17-3
MY PICK: Pats 23-17
It sure wasn't pretty. But in this league, as they say, a win is a win is a win, and at this point New England isn't about to be picky about style points. They're like the Florida Gators of the NFL- win the games and let everything else take care of itself; hell they have about 17 former Gators on the roster anyway. The Pats (8-3) tore up their new FieldTurf and out-lasted the Bears in a 9-turnover horror show that had both teams playing "can you top this?" to see who cough up the ball more. Fortunately for the Pats Chicago (9-2) gagged last when Assante Samuel picked Rex Grossman for the 3rd time in the game late in the 4th; this came after Corey Dillon had fumbled the ball back to Chicago in the waning minutes while New England was trying to put the game away.

It was that kind of game for the top 2 defensive teams in the league, a battle of attrition. Although both teams put up over 300 yards of offense on the other, the turnovers & penalties (9 each) made it a jumbled, uneven mess of a game. The highlight of the day came on New England's game-winning drive midway thru the 4th quarter. With the score tied at 10, the Pats moved the ball from their 27 to the Chicago 25 thanks to a 40-yard reception from Tom Terrific to emerging star TE Ben Watson (recs, 89yds,TD) and faced a 3rd & 9. Brady took the snap and looked deep, but then he did something amazing: he saw everyone covered, tucked the ball away, and headed towards the marker like Mike Vick. The only thing in his way was fearsome Bears LB Brian Urlacher. Uh-oh. As Pats Nation gulped, fearing their franchise was about to be splattered on the new turf like a gnat on a windshield,

Brady zigged to the right, then zagged to the left, and juked Urlacher out of his jock to pick up 11 yards for a critical 1st down. Brady picked up another 1st down when he ran on 3rd & 3, then three plays later he found Watson for a 2-yd score that put the Pats ahead, 17-10, with 8:00 to play. The Bears added a field goal on their next drive, and when it looked like New England was about to seal the deal, driving all the way to Chicago's 25 again with just under 2 minutes to play, Dillon (11 carries, 40yds) coughed it up and gave the Bears one last chance. But Grossman (15-34, 176yds, 3INTs), who did nothing to silence the critics who are calling for Brian Griese to take the helm, did what he has done a lot recently, throw a pick, and the Pats had the ugly-but-vital win sewn up.

The win was costly for the Pats, though: linebacker Junior Seau was lost for the rest of the season when he went out with an apparent broken arm in the second quarter. But if this was a potential Super Bowl preview as many had suggested, then we'd better get ready for an ugly, defensive, low-scoring Bowl. But at least we can watch Brady fake out Urlacher again.

-Vick flips fans the Dirty Bird(s) as Falcons crumble to Saints, 31-13
MY PICK: Falcons 31-28
Remember a few weeks ago when Mike Vick looked like the second coming of Dan Marino after he tossed 7 TD passes with 523 yards passing in consecutive wins against the Steelers & Bengals? Turns out that player was just a mirage, and the passing-inept Falcons may have just been fooling themselves into thinking they could turn Vick into something he is not- a good quarterback. The is, was, and always has been a sideshow, a runner first who thought he could revolutionize the position the way Randall Cunningham did decades earlier. But the difference was Randall could throw, where Vick relies solely on his legs to get the job done.

Well lo & behold that formula doesn't work because Vick rushed for 166 yards against New Orleans yesterday, 7 off his QB rushing record, but only had 52 yards passing and his Falcons (5-6) got waxed by the resurgent Saints(7-4) in their own building.

But the worst part about this game for Atlanta wasn't that they allowed Saints QB Drew Brees (21-30, 349yds, 2TDs) to rip them to pieces despite playing without top receiver Marques Colston, or that they allowed 427 total yards of offense. No the worst part came after the game. As Vick was exiting the field he was filmed flipping the bird to fans who were heckling him from the end zone. Not one bird, the double bird. Nice. A guy who at one point was the face of the future of the league is now a beleaguered banjo QB who resorts to flipping obscene gestures to paying fans who find him & his ball-dropping teammates obscene. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Coach killer? How about team killer, as it is now apparent that the Falcons will NEVER win another significant game with Vick under center. My guess is the Falcons go for a QB in the draft, unload Vick & his bloated salary & sense of self-worth, and bring in a team player who can ACTUALLY THROW THE BALL. As for Ron Mexico, well there's always the Arena League to showcase his running talents.

-Giants implode in 4th quarter, lose 24-21 to Titans
MY PICK: Giants 21-16
Does it get any worse in New York? A week after the G-Men got smoked by the Bears in the second half in their own joint, causing Tiki Barber to question coach Tom Coughlin's play calling, the Giants plumbed new depths in their rapidly disintegrating season. Vince Young had his NFL coming out-party, orchestrating the largest 4th quarter comeback ever by a rookie QB when he rallied his team from a 21-0 deficit in the final frame for the miraculous 24-21 win. Young tossed 2 TDs in the 4th, ran for another, and kept the game-winning drive alive when he eluded would-be New York sacker Mathia Kiwanuka on 4th & 10 after Kiwanuka gave up on the sack which would have ended the Tians hopes. Instead Young got the Titans in field goal position and Rod Bironas won it with a clutch 49-yard field goal as time ran out.

The Giants made so many mistakes in this one it is hard to find out who really is too blame. Eli Manning (18-28, 143yds, 1TD, 2INTs) continues to regress, and his poor interception near the end of the 4th led to the Titans winning drive. Plexiglass Burress gave up on a pass route that turned in to Manning's other interception, and the Kiwanuka gaffe that all but put the icing on the cake. In his defense he said he thought Young had gotten rid of the ball and he did not want to be called fort a late hit. Fair enough. But the real issue in the Big Apple has to be with the coach, Tom the Terrible. he called out Tiki for airing the team's laundry in the media last week, then he goes into his presser & basically calls out Manning for his stupid decision making. All signs point to the dictator being thrown off this ship. He's like Parcells, Knight, Saban and all the other hard-ass coaches in sports. The drill sergeant tactic works for a while, but eventually it is the leader that gets replaced, not the soldiers.

-Cincy wins battle of Ohio, crushes Browns 30-0
MY PICK: Cleveland 24-21
Wow, when I miss I really miss, huh? The Bengals continued their march back to respectability with a shutout of their cross-state rivals, Cincy's first shutout since 1989. In two games this year the Bengals (6-5) have slayed the Brownies (3-8) to the tune of 64-17. Ouch. Chad Johnson continued his march back to relevance with another great performance (7 catches, 123 yards, 573 yds last 3 weeks) and Carson Palmer threw for 275 yards & 3 TDs. The Browns meanwhile looked like a team in turmoil; WR Braylon Edwards was caught screaming and grabbing the jersey of QB Charlie Frye on the sideline late in the game, and who can blame the ego maniacal receiver- Fry had his worst day as a pro with a putrid 18-29, 186yd, 4INT performance. Romeo, Romeo, where for art did thy team go? In the toilet is where, while the Bengals jumped right back in the playoff race at the expense of their fellow Ohioans.

-Chargers stay hot, hold off pesky Raiders 21-14
MY PICK: Chargers 41-13
The Raiders nearly pulled off the monumental upset when they took a 14-7 lead into the 4th quarter. Then the Chargers woke up. MVP-to-be LaDanian Tomlinson continued his assault on the record books with another 3 touchdowns, 2 rushing & 1 passing, and the Chargers survived QB Phillip Rivers' worst day as a pro ( 14-31, 133yds, INT) to defeat the hapless Raiders(2-9.) Tomlinson has been like a man possessed the last few weeks, compiling 17 total touchdowns in his last 5 games all wins, while gaining over 100 yards in each game. When it looked as though the Chargers(9-2) were going to fall into the "oh, it's only the Raiders" trap, LT bailed them out again. His 19-yard TD pass to Antonio Gates came 4 plays after a wacky sequence when the Chargers were penalized 5 yards after receiver Vincent Jackson flipped the ball forward after a catch. The refs ruled that Vincent was not touched down, therefore the ball was still live, and because the ball was flipped forward the play was called an illegal forward pass. After a 10 minute discussion, Tomlinson broke the Raiders backs with his 5th career TD pass that tied the game at 14, then he ran one in from 10 yards out to seal the deal. So the Chargers remain in the drivers' seat in the AFC West, and will LT playing like an MVP, there appears to be no stopping the Lightning Bolts right now.

-Cards outperform Vikes in all aspects except the scoreboard, 31-26
MY PICK: Vikes 19-7
Q: How does a team have a 400-yard passer (Matt Leinart,405yds), (2) 140+ yard receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, 174yds; Anquan Boldin, 140yds), a 99-yard kick return for a TD and a 99-yard fumble return for a TD and still lose? A: When that team also has 5 turnovers, and said team is the inept Arizona Cardinals. The Cards (2-9) did almost everything right in Coach Denny Green's return to Minny, where he coached for 11 years, except they couldn't win the game as Brad Johnson threw 3 touchdown passes for the first time in a year to help the Vikes (5-6) snap their 4 game skid.
Leinart had his first 400-yard game as a pro, but his 2 interceptions cost the Cards a chance to take control of the game. Chester Taylor ran for 136 yards against Arizona, while their running game was non-existent: 17 total yards rushing, 15 by off-season bust Edge James. Yikes. James now has 695 yards rushing, or roughly 300 yards fewer than his previous season low, 985, in 2002 with 5 games to play. Denny might wish he was back in Minny, but he sure as hell ain't gonna be back in Arizona after this miserable season.
-Mannings throttle McNabb-less Eagles 45-21 behind rookie RB's record day
MY PICK: Mannings 26-12
James's replacement in Indy, rookie Joseph Addai out of LSU, continues to make Indy fans forget about the dreadlocked one. Addai ripped off 171 yards on 24 carries and racked up a franchise & NFL rookie record-tying 4 touchdowns as the Mannings bounced back from their only loss of the season to demolish the staggering Eagles(5-6.) For the first time this season Indy(10-1) did not have to rely on the spastic exploits of their horse-faced pitchman extraordinaire, as they finally mounting a rushing attack that had been lacking since James' off-season departure for the desert. Addai had been getting better every week, and this was his "welcome to the NFL' game that put him on the map as far as running backs are concerned, rookie or otherwise. Want some comparisons? Addai has more rushing yards (789) than James (695), former 2000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis (735) and highly-touted #2 draft pick Reggie Bust (331.) Not bad for a guy that was an afterthought when he took James' place in the lineup, especially when he struggled early, gaining just 123 yards in his first 3 games combined. Meanwhile the Eagles continue their slide into nothingness, losing their first game since their leader McNabb went out for the season with an ACL injury and 5th time in the last 6 games. Season over in Philly, but the question is, will the injury-prone McNabb's Eagle career be over as well?

Other games:
-Buffalo 27, Jags 24
MY PICK: Bills 17-14
Jeckyll & Hyde Jags continue to sabotage their playoff hopes
-Ravens 27-, Steelers 0
MY PICK: Ravens 27-17
How ugly can it get for Pittsburgh? Roethlisberger sacked 9 times in second shutout this season
-Washington 17, Carolina 13
MY PICK: Carolina 22-3
See Jacksonvillle
-Jets 26, Texans 11
MY PICK: Jets 13-6
These two offensive powerhouses combined for a whopping 52 yard rushing. 'Nuff said.
-St. Louis 20, San Fran 17
MY PICK: Rams 34-21
Rams needed a last-second TD to defeat the surging Niners & end 6 game slide

Tonight's game:
Green Bay (4-6) @ Seattle (6-4) 8:30PM, ESPN Monday Night Football
Too bad ESPN doesn't have the benefit of Flex scheduling. The Packers will have Brett Favre behind center tonight when they travel to potentially snowy Seattle to take on the fully loaded Seahawks. Reigning MVP Shaun Alexander came back last week after missing 6 games with a broken foot, and tonight QB Matt Hasselbeck returns after a 4 game absence with a knee sprain. Even with Favre playing, which was in doubt after he injured his elbow in the their 35-0 throttling at the hands of the Pats last week, Green Bay is horrible. Seattle needs this game to stay ahead in the NFC West, and with all their weapons back at full strength, it could be an ugly night for the Pack in the Pac N'West.
MY PICK: Seahawks 33- 17