Saturday, December 09, 2006

...and the winner is....Troy Smith, The Ohio State University

In a decision that surprised absolutely no one, Troy Smith captured the 72nd Heisman Tropy last night.

We now return to waiting for the BCS Championship Game to start.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Collge Football Awards Time

Last night the Home Depot College Football Awards were announced, and no the winners did not receive a gift card to the home improvement super center. It just sounds that way with all the idiotic sponsoring rampant in sports today.

But I digress. The awards were actually the traditional ones that have been handed out in college football for decades. And there was one surprise that left everybody wondering what might happen at the Heisman ceremony tomorrow night.

Here's a rundown of the major awards & the winners:

-Davey O'Brien (Best QB): Troy Smith, Ohio St.
-Doak Walker (RB): Darren McFadden, Arkansas
-Bilitnikoff (WR): Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
-Bednarik (defensive player): Paul Posluszny, Penn St.
-Thorpe (DB) Aaron Ross, Texas
-Butkus (LB) Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
-Maxwell Award (player of the year): Brady Quinn, QB, ND

Did you spot the controversy? That's right, "sure-fire" Heisman winner Smith, who led the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record while amassing 2,740 total yards & 30 touchdown passes, was beat out by Brady Big Game Ghost Quinn.

Sure Quinn had spectacular numbers- 3,278 yards passing & 35 TDs- but who wouldn't against Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Girl Scouts? He gagged in NDs two biggest games-Michigan & USC- yet he's the best offensive player in the country? What a crock. This controversy sets up some actual suspense for tomorrow night at the Heisman ceremony, where Quinn & Smith will be joined by Doak winner Darren McFadden on the dais.

Interesting that McFadden got the invite over other deserving RB candidates (Slaton, Johnson, Rice) after he & his Razorbacks gagged in the SEC title game against the Gators. McFadden managed only 73 yards rushing & 27 yards receiving against the stingy Florida defense, and his only touchdown was on a pass to fellow running back Felix Jones. So much for what have you done for me lately. I assume the nom is due to his multi-threat talent (running, passing, receiving) because I would have taken either of the other 3 runners over him.

Speaking of the trophy, great time to segue into My Heisman Awards. The actual awards contain only 3 candidates again this year (remember when there used to be five ? downsizing I guess), Troy Smith, Brady Quinn & Darren McFadden, but I am going to select my Top 5, 'cause I'm old school like that.

1.) Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State 2,740 total yards, 32 tot TDs, 5 INTs
What more can be said for the kid who has nearly done it all. Let's see what the scintillating senior has accomplished this season: Win all his games? Check. Knock off two #2 teams in one year? Check. Compile amazing stats? Check? Defeat opponents with his arm & legs? Check. Perform weekly feats of incredible athletic prowess that get splashed all over the highlight shows? Check-mate. The only thing Troy has not done yet is win a Heisman and a national championship. But don't worry, he'll be checking those two goals off his list in the next month, starting tomorrow night.

2.) Colt Brennan, QB, Hawai'i 5,341 tot yds, 58 tot TDs, 11 INTs
As long as we're going on stats, Quinn backers, I'm going with Brennan the stat king here. Look at the numbers this junior put up over in paradise while we weren't paying attention; he came withing 1 TD pass of tying the NCAA single-season record and led the nation in passing yards, completion percentage, QB rating and touchdowns. Those numbers are far better than Brady's and tough to ignore, so I'm not gonna.

3.) Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State 1,613 yards, 24 TDs
The slippery sophomore from San Dimas is a big part of the reason the Broncos are only the second team to make a BCS bowl from a non-BCS conference (Urban Meyer's 2004 Utah team is the other.) Not only did Johnson finish 1st in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns and 4th in yards, he played through an excruciating rib injury by wearing a flak jacket in Boise's final game against rival Nevada. How'd he do? 31 carries, 147 yards & 3 TDs as the Broncs rolled, 38-7. Now there's a man's candidate.

4.) Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame 3,278 yards, 35 TDs, 5INTs
Okay so the guy had a decent year, but when you look at his stats compared to some of the others, then factor in the service academy-padded stats and his no-shows in ND's two biggest games, well that just doesn't spell H-E-I-S-M-A-N to me. If he wins it will be another "luck o' the Irish" break.

5.) Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers 311 carries, 1,624 yards, 19 TDs,
The Scarlet Knights would not have had the magical season (10-2) it did without the contributions of this diminutive sophomore. Not only did the 5'9" dynamo lead the nation in carries, he finished 3rd in yards and tied for second in touchdowns by a runner. He was the glue that held a shaky offensive attack together, and the unheralded New Rochelle native had 3 games where he ran for over 200 yards. The fact that he laid an egg in RU's first loss of the year (54 yards @ Cincy on Nov. 18) probably cost the kid a trip to Manhattan.

There you have it. I know I could have included guys like Steve Slaton, Pat White, Garrett Wolfe and Calvin Johnson. But in my estimation Slaton & White cancelled each other out and missed time due to injury, Wolfe played for Northern Illinois (although 1900 yards is 1900 yards)and Johnson came up empty in 2 big games (Clemson & Wake Foresst.)

We'll find out tomortrow night at 8:00 on ESPN. Actaully it's an hour show, so it'll be closer to 8:55 when we hear Smith's name announced.

Coaching Carousel

There have been a number of coaching moves in the past few days, all of them affecting teams heading into bowl games.

-Rich Rodriguez was thought to be leaving West Virginia to take the head job at Alabama. But at the 11th hour Rodriguez, who is a WV native and former Mountaineer player, announced that he would be remaining in Morgantown. Needless to say the brass in Tuscaloosa are quite miffed.
When 'Bama AD Mal Moore offered Rodriguez a deal worth approximate $2 million/year for 6 years it was widely reported that the coach would accept. But whether it was pressure from media reports that his players thought he lied to them after promising he would never leave the Mountaineers or just a negotiating ploy to get a sweeter deal from WVU, by this afternoon Rodriguez backtracked and told everyone he was staying.

It's believed that WVU offered nearly the same base salary as the Tide, which would bump his compensation from just over $1 mil per to just under $2mil annually, and also agreed to pay raises for Rodriguez' assistants and upgrades to the football facilities. Talk about clout. But like his center Dan Mozes said "If you graduated from there and were a coach there, why would you leave? Maybe it's the money." Ah these kids grow up so fast.

Rodriguez will coach the Mountaineers in the Gator Bowl, the 6th straight bowl appearance for Rodriguez. Meanwhile 'Bama goes back to the begging board to look for someone to take the once prestigious position.

-Tom O'Brien rocks the Hill by moving to tobacco country
Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien sent tidal waves of surprise throughout the picturesque Chestnut Hill campus yesterday when it was announced he would be leaving the Eagles to take the head job at NC State. The Wolfpack had been searching for a successor to Chuck Amato, who was canned immediately following the last game, but no one saw this coming.

The man who guided BC to a 75-45 record and 8 straight bowl games leaves after 10 years and becomes only the second coach to move directly from one ACC school to another; the first was Jim Tatum in 1956.

Speculation has already begun surrounding who O'Brien's replacement will be, and much like the Bernie Kosar/Miami rumors, BC icon Doug Flutie's name has been mentioned to guide his Alma mater. I don't know if Dougie can coach, but one thing's for sure, he sure would pack them in at Alumni Stadium.

O'Brien will not coach the Eagles in the Meineke Bowl on December 30th.

-Miami keeps it in the family by hiring defensive coordinator Shannon
The Hurricanes courted & flirted with some high profile names to succeed the dethroned Larry Coker. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano wasn't leaving Piscataway. Texas tech coach Mike Leak was another high-profile candidate mentioned. But when word came out earlier this week that former QB Bernie Kosar was campaigning for the gig the university acted quickly to make sure the position was filled by hiring longtime 'Cane Shannon.

The 40-year-old former linebacker has been an assistant with 'Da U' twice since 1991 after playing on its 1989 championship team and brings a youthful energy, knowledge of the system and ability to relate to the players and recruits, one of Coker's downfalls.

Shannon becomes the 1st African-American coach in Miami's history and the 6th active black coach in D-1. But as he puts it, no one is going to say "hey, there's Randy, the minority." "They'll just say 'hey Randy.'" Good luck to a good guy; he's got a lot of work to do to turn his Alma mater around.

That's all I got. Enjoy the Heisman ceremony tomorrow night and don't forget to watch Rudolph tonight at 8:00 on ABC.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sports break- time for other news

I've been so immersed in baseball chatter for 2 straight days that I almost forget today is a national holiday- Larry Legend's 50th birthday! Great picture on the front of to commemorate this historic event:

It seems like just few years ago that Bird only looked 50 as he ran up and down the Garden court, porn moustache and manperm flailing in the breeze that was coming from all the cracks and broken doors in the place, hitting long threes and whipping passes down low to Chief and McHale.

Now the Legend actually is a quarter century old, and still going strong. He is a front office exec with his home state Pacers and will probably take over as team president when Donnie Walsh retires.

I know I speak for all fans of the Green that we hope & pray he will forget about his "hick from French Lick" roots and take over our beloved but beleaguered C's. Alas this looks like a pipe dream, but Celtics fans have a hard time letting our icons go. Especially to another team.

So know I know what I am going to watch tonight, no matter what: my copy of Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend" DVD. Can't go wrong with taking a stroll down memory lane, when basketball players played for the love of the game and could get away with wearing nut huggers. Ah, good times, good times...

I'm going to watch that disc tonight because I'm ticked off with the 2nd week of NBC's new Must See TV Thursday Block; the anchor of the lineup, my beloved The Office, is not on. WTF? Instead we get a 1-hour My Name is Earl, as Earl & Randy travel to Mexico to get Catalina back into the country. This will be the second two-parter this season including the premiere, and not only is this one in 2 parts, it spans a total of 1 hour & 1/2. The show is testing the patience of its loyal viewers, but I'll tune in anyway just to see guest star John Leguizamo, and whether or not Catalina wears her stripper outfit again.

As I said The Office is on pre-holiday hiatus so earl will lead into Scrubs at 9:00 and 30 Rock at 9:30. I'm still test driving Scrubs so I'll check that out, an I love 30 Rock and its new time slot, so that's a go as well.

-In other entertainment news there has been a follow-up report on the Lane Garrison DUI crash that killed a teenage boy. Turns out that Garrison, who played Tweener on Prison Break, didn't have the proverbial "just one drink" at the party he went to with three teens. In fact he brought a bottle of the Goose, downed a number of shots and held the bottle out to the rest of the party goers (presumably all teenagers) for them to share in his fun. Later, after the booze was all consumed, Garrison and the three kids, 17-year-old Vahagn Setien and two 15-year-old girls, went out in the 26-year-old actor's Land Rover more Goose! This contradicts earlier reports that he was headed to his apartment to meet his girlfriend and the teens were just tagging along when the accident occurred. On the way to reload Garrison lost control of the SUV and it jumped a median and struck a pole, killing Setien.

This story is disturbing on so many fronts. First he met the kids at a gas station (not a supermarket as earlier reported), they invited him to a party, and the well-known semi-celeb actually went. As I mentioned in my earlier post it's like the episode of Entourage from last season when Vince & the boys met some kids on the street shortly after Aquaman came out. They "oooh'd & aaah'd" then asked Vince to their party; he accepted and soon the "biggest movie start on the planet" was chugging brews with a house full of underage fans. Except in the show Vince ended up giving the nerds his Maserati, not laying them out on in chalk lines on the street. I guess Garrison didn't see that part of the show.
Then the fact that he would act that way (shitfaced) in front of the kids, offering them shots and volunteer to drive out to get more liquor in that condition really sets a nice example, doesn't it? This was the definition of an accident waiting to happen, and unfortunately it did.

Now it looks like Lane's life may be imitating art again. If he was indeed blitzed at the time of the crash (and that looks like a definite) I'm no lawyer but I would think a charge of DUI manslaughter would be forthcoming, which could land the man in prison. Ironic, yes, but more sad than anything. He will have to live with a lifetime of pain knowing how one foolish mistake led to a young man's death and changed so many people's lives forever. From the looks of this picture posted on TMZ today of Garrison exiting a church this afternoon, that reality is starting to hit him.

-Fugitive Snipes snatched in Orlando
Wesley Snipes, star of such films as the Blade Trilogy, White Men Can't Jump, and numerous crappy "B" direct to video flicks , was arrested at the Orlando International Airport on charges of tax evasion & fraud. The 44-year-old actor has been charged with not paying taxes on his income from 1999 until this year, and filing fraudulent claims in 1996 & '97. All told Nino Brown owes a cool $12 mil to the real Cash Money Brothers, the IRS. Snipes had been shooting his latest DTV piece of crap in Namibia and refused to rush home to face the charges, which he of course denies. But as soon as the schlock shoot wrapped and he returned to the states he was nailed and jailed. Looks like Nino will have to do a ton of those cheesy "B's to pay off this nut or he's going to be spending some personal time with Richard Hatch.

-One other piece of "celebrity" news caught my eye today. Aspiring wrestler and all-around knuckle-headed offspring of Hulk Hogan, 16-year old son Nick, decided he thought it would be cool to peel out in his new Viper outside of Hollywood eatery The Ivy on Wednesday afternoon. Mom Linda, a.k.a. The Battle ax, hops into their red Suburban she had when I worked for her back in 1999 and in the meantime Nick guns the high-powered sports car into the street, nearly tagging the car in front of him. Nick , it wasn't all that long ago that you totalled The Hulkster's Lambo in Miami- I don't think you want to add a Viper to your mangled collection too, do you? Give this kid an Aspire already, Terry.

And last but not least, my talented future brother-in-law Paul Starke, producer of the Glenn Beck Show, seen nightly on CNN Headline News, has helped create a special called "Puppet Planet: Christmas in New York", which airs Sunday night at 8:00 on the Travel Channel. He describes the "offbeat" holiday special as "extremely bizarre, and not in a good way." But if I know Paul's humor, which is much like mine & my sister's, I'm sure it will be hilarious. He informs that the one-hour special features Bulgarian circus performers, two light sabre duels, a Turkish bathhouse scene and special guest appearances by Adam Batman West & Catherine Daisy Duke Bach, as well as a cameo from Paul himself as a proprietor of a Brooklyn halfway house.

Please tune in to this unique special Sunday night. Who knows, my sister may end up getting married to a Hollywood player, which would allow me to reap the benefits of being the brother of the wife of a Hollywood player. I smell a possible HBO show: Entourage II: The Italian Jew Crew.


Hot Stove boiling over: Lilly, Schmidt, Piazza sign

With the winter meetings winding down today the action heated up last night as no less than 5 big signings were announced.

Three of the best available pitchers found homes, along with an aging catcher and aging outfielder- no, not Bonds- he's still soliciting anyone to give him a job & a fat contract. He's starting to become uncannily Sosa-esque.

-Jason Schmidt has $47 million reasons why he loves being a Dodger
The second best FA pitcher available, Jason Schmidt, moved down the California coastline, leaving the Giants after agreeing to a 3 year, $47 million dollar deal to wear Dodger Blue. The 33-year-old right hander went just 11-9 last year with a 3.59 ERA but was an All Star and the guy is a pure horse. He's a strikeout pitcher (career high 16 in a game June 6th), an innings-eater (200+ 3 of last 4 years), and he guarantees you more than 10 wins per season (9 out of the last 10 years.) He will join a rotation that includes Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Randy Wolfe, but one that lost crafty vet Greg Maddux. Not exactly the 1970 Orioles staff but Schmidt will give the Dodgers a front line starter should it make it back to the postseason. All for a mere $19 mil/year.

The only other major pitcher yet to sign is Oakland's Barry Zito (other than Houston's bobsey twins Clemens & Pettitte.) Texas is leading the race for the lefty's services but many experts (Sir Peter) seem to think he is going to sign with the Mets. Whomever it is he is guaranteed to make a lot more than Schmidt ($100 million range.)

As for the best of the rest:

-Ted Lilly gets 4 years and $40 mil from free-spending Cubbies
Believe it or not this was one of the deals everyone was waiting to go down because Lilly's signing would set the market for the second tier of pitchers available. The Cubbies had already comitted $136 million to Alfonso Soriano, $75 million to Aramis Ramirez and $10 million to manager Lou Pinella. Now Lilly, 30, an 8-year vet who has pitched for Montreal, the Stanks, Oakland and recently Toronto, joins the North Siders in their quest to break their championship curse. He was 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA last season and has mediocre career numbers of 59-58 with a 4.60 ERA. But he is a skilled lefty who possesses a devastating curve that freezes many major league batters, and he has had some of the best outings of his career against the Sox. He has suffered from some nagging injuries that have prevented him from pitching up to his capabilities, and he also can get into trouble with the long ball. In 160 career starts he has allowed 144 homers, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that's almost 1 for every start. Some of those are meaningless solo shots that do no damage, but other times it's a 3-run bomb to the upper reaches of a stadium that can be a pure game-killer. Bonds, Manny & Papi have all had memorable such shots off of him.

I've stated in the past that Teddy is a good friend of my good friend Butchie. I e-mailed Butch and said "how does it feel to be buddies with a man making $10 million a year?!" I met Teddy once and have seen him pitch many times, both in spring training and from his seats at the Trop, and my son & I own autographed baseballs he gave us, so I am a little biased towards the guy. He's a really nice kid, very laid back but he is a dedicated & determined player and when he's on he has no-hitter stuff. Many people will remember him for the blowup he had on the mound last August with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Let me tell you Gibbons and pitching coach Brad Arnsparger had been a thorn in Teddy's side for 2 years. They tried everything to disrupt his pitching motion, which had been fine until they started tinkering with it. In fact he had the highest ERA of his career last year (5.56) when they did start messing with it. And Gibbons is the same guy who challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight, so he has to be glad to be leaving that asylum. I'm just glad he's not going back to the Stankees or the AL so now I can root for him again. Butchie, get some good seats ready for us for next summer- I've always wanted to go to Wrigley.
Now I'm really praying for a Cubs/Sox World Series.

-Meche follows suit by signing with...the Royals?
Gil Meche was running neck & neck with Teddy as far as the second tier guys go. You knew as soon as one signed the other was going to quickly get a deal done as well. It's pretty surprising that the small market Royals stepped up and got the deal done, though. Lilly and Meche are similar in age (30 -28), and record (Meche is slightly better at 55-44), and their career ERAs are close as well (Meche's is 4.60.) He is a #3 or #4 type guy on most teams, but with the Royals he could very well end up being their #1. He was 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA last season with Seattle which earned the righty a 5 year, $55 mil on pact with Kansas City. Not. too. shabby.

-Piazza agrees to become a DH, leaves SoCal for NoCal
Veteran catcher and career NL player Mike Piazza signed a 1-year, $8.5 million contract to DH for the A's. The 38-year-old holds the all-time record for home runs by a catcher (396) but it doesn't appear that he will add to that total much by the Bay, where he will be the third-stringer behind Jason 'Footloose' Kendall and Adam Melhuse. The 14-year vet still has some pop in his bat-last year he smacked 22 homers in 126 games with the Padres and batted .283 with 68 ribbies- and Oakland is hoping he will be able to offset the loss of production from the departure of Frank Thomas.

-Little Luis Gonzalez heads to Los Angeles , too
The Dodgers had a busy day yesterday. On top of the Schmidt signing they inked Tampa's Luis Gonzalez to a 1-year, deal worth $7 mil. Gonzalez, a 16 year vet of 5 teams, is best known for his winning hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series that knocked off the Evil Empire (one of the best sports memories of my life), and also for the way he ballooned from a banjo hitter who had 164 home runs in 11 seasons before mashing 57 dingers in 2001. Which caused many a baseball fan to go "hmmmm, guess he's the next Brady Anderson." 'Roids aside it is a well known fact that Little Louie is one of the nicest men in the sport who routinely takes care of everyone from bench warmers to clubhouse attendants and has endless energy & enthusiasm despite the fact that he is the father of triplets! The 39-year old Gonzalez will play left while promising youngster Andre Eithier moves to JD Drew's spot in right. This is a good pickup for the Dodgers; Gonzo will bring his leadership, confidence, a career .284 average and postseason experience to the club and also plenty of spending money to the LA clubhouse minions and valets.

LA also signed Mike Lieberthal to a deal to be their backup catcher, which obviously signifies the end of Toby Hall's brief career in Dodgerland. Hall had been miffed at his treatment ever since he was shipped to LA in the Julio Lugo deal and made no secret of the fact that he didn't want to sit around and play second fiddle to rising stud catcher Russell Martin. Good moves by LA, especially after the departures of Maddux & Drew.

In other news: the Chisox sent Freddy Garcia to the Phillies for former #1 pick P Gavin Floyd... the D-Rays lost former can't miss prospect but current recovering drug addict Josh Hamilton to the Cubbies (who then traded him to the Reds) in the Rule V draft; Hamilton could return to the team that has stuck with him through more than 6 years of unfulfilled promise due to numerous addictions if he does not remain on Cincy's major league roster for the entire 2007 season...6-time Gold Glover and all-around good guy J.T. Snow announced his retirement and will become an instructer/ambassador for the San Francisco Giants. Snow, son of NFL legend Jack Snow, finished his stellar career in Boston last year, but the writing was on the wall that his time was up when he could hardly make get onto the field despite his terrific fielding ability...and speaking of San Fran, Barry Bonds continues to push for a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years/$40 mil, and his big-headedness (pun intended) reminds me of what happened to Sammy Sosa a couple of years ago. Both are prolific sluggers tainted with steroid questions who thinks his value is greater than it actually is. No one in their right mind is going to give him that kind of money, just as Slammin' Sammy found out, and he may just end up playing nowhere in 2007, just like Sosa did(n't) last year. I doubt that will happen, but if BB keeps asking for that kind of cash it could.

Pretty busy day all around, and we'll see what happens on the final day today.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reaction to Drew & Lugo deals swift & severe

I've spent the last 24 hours trying to get a read on the pulse of Red Sox Nation regarding the twin mega-signings of JD Drew & Julio Lugo.

The reactions from commentators, experts and posters to Sox sites range from "Theo is an idiot" to "give the deals a chance before you slam them."

Unfortunately that last school of thought was mostly shared by me and me alone. Everyone & their brother seems to be of the mindset that Drew is a pansy malcontent who is going to take his money and immediately head to the disabled list while Lugo is too pricey an upgrade and too flawed defensively to justify getting rid of Alex Gonzalez.

Typical knee-jerk reaction by members of RSN. Last year everyone thought the Beckett signing was a great coup for Boston and that taking Mike Lowell and his $9 million salary was an inconvenient pill that had to be swallowed to land the hard throwing righty.

Well look how that turned out. Beckett nearly got whiplash from giving up so many gopher balls and Lowell turned out to be the savior in the deal, providing an offensive spark and clubhouse leadership that was invaluable to Boston jumping out to the AL East lead for 3 months.

Meanwhile the guys Boston gave up for the pair, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, finished 1 & 4 in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and Sanchez threw a no-no in September. Good call on that deal, huh?

My thing with the Drew signing is this: give the guy at least a half a season to prove what he can do before you ride him out of town. If he fits in in the clubhouse, plays in the majority of games and is on pace for a .300/25/100 season, lay off. If on the other hand he is injured, hits below his weight and is not producing runs, then it's time to pile on that idiot Theo for making yet another bad deal.

The point is none of these deals look very good right now. The salary structure is so out of whack that mediocre pitchers are getting $10 mil/year, and offensive players are garnering huge deals.

I have to believe that Drew knows what he is getting into coming to the Hub. How can he not? Every yahoo with a computer and talk radio show is already calling for his head on a platter so you would think he's aware of the cauldron he's about to enter. If he didn't want to get vilified for his perceived lackadaisical attitude he could have stayed in LA. Why come to Boston, just for a little extra cash? Doesn't make sense.

Plus the whole thing hinges on Manny. If he stays put, which according to Sir Peter & Jayson Stark he is, the 3-4-5 combo of Papi, ManRam & Drew could be the best in the game. If Manny departs, which I still believe will happen (but who am I? just some idiot with a computer), and Drew becomes Papi's primary protection then we could have a problem.

Everyone wanted the Sox brass to do something this off season to upgrade the club, then when they do they get ripped from the Left Coast to Bangor.
Once again I must paraphrase the immortal Sgt. Hulka from Stripes:
Lighten up, Nation.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spending spree: Sox sign Drew, Lugo for combined $106 mil

Former blue Dodgers J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo sign lucrative deals to wear Red Sox

It's days like this that remind me why I want my son to become a major league ballplayer.

Outfielder J.D. Drew, a former Dodger, Cardinal and Brave, has reportedly agreed to a 5 year contract with Boston worth $70 million dollars.

In what must have been a "two-fer Tuesday" special the club also came to terms with former Dodger, Devil Ray and Astros shortstop Julio Lugo on a 4 year, $36 million dollar pact.

Both deals have been circulating through the rumor mill for weeks now, and it took just one day into the winter meetings in Orlando to get the deals done. Both players must pass physicals before the contracts are finalized, but that is expected to be a mere formality.

So what do these moves mean for the club? Well for starters the Drew deal almost certainly means that Manny Ramirez will be dealt, if not before the end of the week then sometime before the start of the season. It is hard to believe that the team would have two outfielders making $14+ million each next season, especially with the amount of cash it is going to take to land Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. It also signifies the end of the line for RSN favorite Trot Nixon. The oft-injured free agent outfielder has been the odd man out this off season, and reports have the Pirates ready to offer him a pretty hefty contract.

The Lugo deal is no surprise whatsoever. The Sox have coveted the offensive-minded infielder for a couple of seasons now, and made a push for him before the last 2 trade deadlines. But the Rays dealt him to the Dodgers last July where he was immediately unhappy with having to play second base and also with not playing every day. Lugo's offensive numbers are steady- he's a career .277 hitter who averages about 12 home runs and 60 RBIs per season, can steal some bases and doesn't strike out a whole lot- but his defense is shaky at best. He made 19 total errors last season and his 14 errors in just 73 games (328 chances, .957%) at SS for Tampa Bay last year was one of the reasons they were willing to part with him. To put it in perspective the man Lugo will replace at short in Boston, Alex Gonzalez, made just 7 errors in 110 games (475 chances) for a .985 fielding percentage. Didn't Boston get rid of Nomah because they feared his lack of defense at the position would hinder their pursuit of a championship? I guess now that they've got a title it's okay to go back to an all-bat, no-glove shortstop. Evidently .270 hitters who make quite a few errors are worth $8 mil/year in this overinflated market right now. Lugo will be Boston's 5th shortstop since 2004.

Drew is an intriguing player, and by that I mean he could end up being a .300/25/100 guy who plays 140+ games and a stellar right field, or he could end up a broken down, apathetic head case who divides the locker room and draws the ire of the Nation. Really it could go either way. His career already has. The 31-year old has been criticised ever since he came out of FSU as a stud draft prospect. He infamously snubbed the Phillies when they selected him 2nd in the '97 draft, and when he went to the Cards with the 5th pick a year later he was booed, ridiculed and harassed for his selfish, greedy behavior. Recent reports from former teammates and personnel say his boorish attitude has not diminished; stories about him not playing hurt, turning minor injuries into major ones, and having a passive/indifferent attitude towards the game have plagued him for years, and his frail frame earned him the nickname "Nancy" (Drew) according to one Dodger player. He also walked away from $33 mil in guaranteed Dodger money to become a free agent. Not exactly qualities that will go over well in blue collar Beantown, where the previous right fielder (Trot) was respected for his hustle, willingness to play through pain and general hard-nosed attitude. Something tells me Drew won't be wearing a pine tar-stained lid anytime soon.

But Drew's abilities as a player have never been in question. As I said he was a major stud at Florida State and he has performed well at the major league level whenever he was healthy. His career averages are solid- .286 BA, 27 HRs, 86 RBIs, 89BBs, 116 Ks, .905 OPS, .512 SLG% - but they don't come close to ManRam's, the man he will actually be replacing when Theo finally unloads him. The injuries (wrist, back, shoulder, knees) have to be the main concern for Boston, as Drew has averaged only 118 games played since his first full season in 1999. He did make it into a career high 146 games last season, but played in a career low 72 the year before.

Still the addition of Drew & Lugo and whoever else they may bring in (they need a 2B unless they stick with Pedroia) does make for a potent lineup, and let's face it you are never going to replace Manny's production with equal value. Something tells me that playing in a hardcore baseball environment will spark Drew to give 100% every day and he will try to acclimate to his surroundings quickly. There are already plenty of leaders in the clubhouse (Papi, Schill, Tek) so all he has to do is show up for work every day, play hard, and produce. This team & city is a lot different than laid back L.A., forgiving St. Louis and indifferent Atlanta. I would hope that he is smart enough to know what he is getting into, what kind of player he is replacing, and what will happen to him if he pulls any Manknee-like shenanigans.

Better players than him have been ridden out of the Hub on a rail. And we know the Sox are more than willing to eat salary to unload a non-Boston type player (see: Renteria, Edgar.)


NFL Week 13 Review

The week wrapped up with an entertaining contest between two lackluster teams, with the Eagles getting the best of the perplexing Panthers.

Let's take a look at that game and review what else happened in a wild Week 13.

-Philly 27, Carolina 24
Philly 17-14
Wrong score but right team as I was one of the few people who called it like I saw it: Carolina is a mess and wasn't about to go on the road to hostile Philly and knock of the Eagles no matter who was lining up at quarterback. Jeff Garcia survived some hard hits and boos from the fickle Philly fans to throw for 312 yards & 3 touchdowns in his 2nd start in place of injured Donovan McNabb and the Eagles (6-6) held off the fading Panthers(6-6.) Carolina continued its stretch of horrible play, losing 4 of its last 6 to drop into a tie with 6 other teams, including Philly, for a shot at a wild card. This from a team that was a surefire Super Bowl contender at the beginning of the season.

Garcia found Reggie Brown for a 40-yard TD early in the 4th to tie the game at 24, then led a short drive after a Jake Delhomme (22-37, 269 yards, 2TDs, 3INTs) interception that culminated in David Akers' game-winning 25-yard field goal. The game was iced when Lito Sheppard intercepted Delhomme in the end zone with 25 seconds left to seal Carolina's 5th loss after holding a 4th quarter lead. The Panthers have also lost 4 games by 4 points or less this season. Not exactly Super Bowl material. Meanwhile the Eagles have come back from the depths of oblivion to be right in the thick of the WC chase thanks to a former 3-time Pro Bowl backup QB who was booed despite leading his team to a win. And they wonder why everyone hates Philly fans.

MY WEEKLY TOTAL: 9-7 Hey, with the kind of week it was I'll take a record over .500.


-Bengals wide reciever arrested for resisting arrest
Another week, another Bengals player arrested. This time it was rookie receiver Reggie McNeal, who was busted for resisting arrest after being denied entry to a Houston area club Saturday night. McNeal is a former Texas A&M quarterback who holds numerous Aggie records but he has been used sparingly in his first season as an NFL wide receiver, getting into two games but registering no stats. Which makes it interesting that he would have a case of beer balls and pull a "do you know who I am" when he was not allowed in the club The Red Door late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. McNeal was arrested after elbowing an officer in the chest when he was not allowed into the club, making him the 7th Bengal arrested this season. But he's got a long way to go to catch up to teammate Chris Henry, who tops the Busted Bengals charts with 5 separate arrests. Something tells me that if Cincy fails to make the playoffs on top of all the character issues with these players coach Marvin Lewis, a supposed high-character guy, will be on the hot seat in the off season. How 'bout a Gruden/Lewis swap?

-Former Bronco Braxton faces numerous charges after drug arrest
Former Denver Bronco defensive back Tyrone Braxton, who won 2 Super Bowls in Denver during the late '90s, was arrested after being busted with small amounts of coke & pot in his car in the suburban Denver town of Aurora. Reports also state the 41-year-old 1996 Pro Bowler was at a home in a gated community where sex was being arranged for him with a 21-year old woman by a 29-year old man. Braxton is married with 2 kids. Way to stay classy, Tyrone.

-Rams rookie tight end busted for assault after bar fight
When will these kids learn? St. Louis police report that Rams rookie tight end Dominique Byrd was arrested Monday after striking a bar patron in the face with a glass. Byrd was released after posting a $25,000 bond and faces charges of second & third degree assault and armed criminal action. Byrd is a 3rd round pick out of USC who has played in only 3 games with no receptions this season. Maybe he and McNeal can get a 2-for-1 rate on anger management classes & AA counseling.

-Strahan unapologetic for tirade against ESPN reporter
Injured Giants DE Michael Strahan showed his true colors when he refused to apologize for berating ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi after she inquired about his remarks regarding teammate Plexiglass Burress last week. The gap-toothed pitchman ripped Naqi when she asked Strahan if he had spoken with Burress after he questioned the receiver's lack of effort on an interception in the Giants humiliating loss to the Titans on Nov. 26th. "Am I going to apologize? No," Strahan told a New York radio station. "I don't think there's a reason for me to apologize. And if anybody's waiting for me to apologize and they're holding their breath, then I suggest they call a paramedic because it's not going to happen." How about apologizing for your team going in the tank or those idiotic Right Guard & Chunky Soup commercials you a-hole.

-Huizenga gives Saban the dreaded "vote of confidence"
Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga gave head coach Nick the Dic-tator Saban a vote of confidence that the tiny tyrant will be back for his 3rd year as Dolphins coach. Despite lofty predictions that Miami was about to knock the Pats from the top of the AFC East (hahahaha) the 'Fins have floundered to a 5-7 record, virtually assuring the team will not make the playoffs for the 5th straight season. Perhaps the only reason Saban's job is secure is that it was not him that signed gimpy QB Duante Culpepper, who has been a complete bust, playing in only 4 games and undergoing more surgery on his reconstructed right knee. But I give him one more season in South Florida before the former LSU & Michigan State boss retreats back to the cozy confines of college ball, where he can scream & bully young kids into doing what he wants them to do.


-Pats S Eugene Wilson placed on IR
The already paper-thin Pats secondary just got even skinnier when safety Eugene Wilson was place on injured reserve, ending his season. Although Wilson has only played in 4 games this season, one since Week 3, New England was hoping his recurring hamstring injury would heal enough to allow him to return for the stretch drive & playoffs. But his loss depletes the secondary of the 3-time champs for the third straight season, with S Rodney Harrison and DBs Randall Gay, Tebucky Jones and Mel Mitchell already on the shelf. To help offset the loss New England signed veteran CB Ray Mickens in hopes that an experienced player can come in and provide immediate help in these crucial final weeks of the season. But since the former Texas A&M standout has not played in the league this year it will be interesting to see what kind of contributions the 33-year-old can make.

-Bucs WR Clayton done for the year
Slippery-fingered receiver Michael Clayton's season is over after he suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of Tampa Bay's loss to Pittsburgh. Clayton has had 2 miserable, injury-filled seasons following his brilliant rookie campaign, and this year he has been plagued by dropped balls, bravado comments about being a top receiver in the league, and disappointing stats. Take a look at the numbers over the past 2 years combined compared to his first year in the league:
- 2004: 8o recs, 1193 yards, 7 TDs, longest catch- 75 yards
- '05 & '06: 58 recs, 728 yards, 1 TD, longest catch- 41 yards
Throw in the fact that he has about 26 drops this season, the latest on a sure touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter Sunday that would have made the score 10-7 Steelers, and the #15 pick in the 2004 draft has failed to live up to his lofty standards. The question here in the Bay area is how can a guy who looked like an All-Pro receiver in his rookie year regress to the point that he cannot even catch the most basic passes and seems to have turned into a prima dona head case? Answer: Chucky Gruden. For more evidence of the Chucky Effect look to 2005 Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams.

-Broncos lose FB Sapp for year, but LB Wilson should play Sunday
Denver's loss to Seattle Sunday cost it more than just playoff positioning. Fullback Cecil Sapp, and outstanding special teams player and spark plug on offense, broke his leg in the 4th quarter and will be out for the rest of the year. Sapp, in his 4th year out of Colorado State, hurt the leg after returning a kickoff with 3:00 minutes to go in Denver's 23-20 loss. But the Broncs got good news when it learned standout linebacker Al Wilson has been cleared to practice following a scary neck injury suffered in a scrum for a fumble late in the game. Wilson lay motionless for 10 minutes and had to be carted off the field, but he has since had feeling return and was cleared by doctors to resume practicing despite lingering numbness in his upper arms & shoulders.

-Bills' LB Crowell also lost due to broken leg
Angelo Crowell, the Bills 2nd leading tackler, was lost for the remainder of the season when he suffered a broken leg while tackling LaDanian Tomlinson on the Charger's first possession of the game Sunday. Crowell is a 4th year player out of Virginia who took over for linebacker Takeo Spikes when Spikes tore his Achilles in Week 3 last season. Crowell had started all 12 games this year and registered 95 tackles.
Okay enough about players who can't hold their booze or will be spending the rest of the season watching games from their mansions. It's time to run down the Best & the Worst in my weekly look at the best bets for the Super Bowl & the #1 draft pick.



1.)San Diego Chargers (10-2)
Clearly the Chargers have proven themselves to be the class of the AFC after its 6th consecutive victory Sunday. Whether its coming from behind or braving the elements this team is focused and on track for possible home field advantage throughout the postseason. Anyone who wants to say the Mannings are better might want to take a look at Indy's sieve-like run defense and then imagine what MVP-to-be LaDanian Tomlinson (1,324 yards & 23 TDs rushing) would do to it in a playoff game. Yikes.

2.) Indianapolis Mannings (10-2)
The porous rushing defense cannot be overlooked now that it gave up 219 yards on the ground in the Titans come-from-behind victory Sunday. The Mannings are now dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (160YPG)
and with the emphasis placed on the run in the playoffs it will be hard pressed to find a cure for that fault in the next 4 weeks. Which begs the question: why the hell did Belichick stop running the ball in the second half of the Pats 27-20 loss to Indy back in early November?!

3.) The Pats (9-3)
Although it has been turning the ball over more frequently than Britney Spears has been spotted without panties New England is still finding ways to win and still possesses the best QB in the world. Despite a banged-up secondary and questionable play- calling from the Hooded Genius (see above) New England is still in the driver's seat for the AFC East crown and a home playoff game. Did I mention it also has the best QB on the planet?

4.) Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
The Ravens came back to earth a bit after losing to the Bengals 13-7 Thursday night, and that game exposed a weakness in the armor: the team has trouble scoring. It ranks 8th in the AFC in points scored, behind lesser teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Jacksonville. That could be a problem in the postseason, especially if the notoriously tough defense doesn't live up to its own lofty standards. But considering Baltimore is currently the top-rated defensive team in the conference that shouldn't be a problem.

5.) Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
There is currently a log-jam of 5 teams sitting at 7-5 , making it difficult to determine which will come out of the pack. But I like the Chiefs for 2 reasons: 1. RB Larry Johnson (1313 yards, 2nd in NFL, 13 TDs); 2.) with games remaining against Baltimore & San Diego it has a chance to improve its standings without relying on help from others. Plus like I've said before, KC does not lose at home in December. So it's got that going for it.


1.) Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
The Romo Express is chugging full speed ahead and the 'Boys are riding his poise & popularity all the way to the post-season. Left for dead when a loss to Washington dropped it to 4-4 Dallas has ripped off 4 in a row behind the newest Dallas folk hero. Will it last? Who knows, but even though Romo-mania is reaching dangerously obnoxious levels it's better than hearing about T.O.D. every week.

2.) Chicago Bears (10-2)
As I said in my wrap up yesterday this has to be the worst 10-2 team in the history of the league. The list of faults with the NFC North champs begins and ends with QB Rex Gross-man, as the former Gator keeps a long tradition alive of not being able to cut it as an NFL signal caller. Rex the Blunder Dog threw for 34 yards & 3 more interceptions in Sunday's win over Minny, bringing his season tally to 17, and if there has ever been a QB who had a more 'deer in the headlights' look I want to see him. Not the recipe for postseason success to be sure.

3.) New Orleans Saints (8-4)
The Saints are coming all right, finding the groove again after a mid-season swoon. After losing 3 out of 4 New Orleans has won 2 in a row, scoring more than 30 points in both games. But the best news of all might be that #2 pick Reggie Bush finally had his breakout game Sunday (168 total yards, 4 TDs.) Plus it recorded both wins with rookie receiver Marques Colston on the sidelines nursing a dreaded high ankle sprain. Sunday night's date at Dallas will go a long way to proving which team is a true contender in the weak NFC.

4.) Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
The big guns (Shaun Alexander & Matt Hasselbeck) are back and Seattle is peaking at the right time. With a cake schedule remaining (other than San Diego the 'Hawks will face Arizona, San Fran and the Yucs) a playoff berth is a near certainty, as long as those superstars remain healthy. And they don't throw the ball to Jerramy Dropsies Stevens.

5.) Atlanta Falcons (6-6)
I went with Vick & his Dirty Birds last week after the QB gave the fans the two-fingered salute and I'm sticking with them. There are currently 42 teams in the NFC at 6-6 or 5-7 (okay so it's only 7) but as I said last week with the potent running attack that Atlanta possesses it will be tough to keep it out of the postseason. Unless Vick goes postal and decides to run every play because his receivers can't catch.

Troy Smith/Brady Quinn Sweepstakes:

1.) Oakland Raiders (2-10) The Raiders actually had a chance to escape the basement when it faced the Texans Sunday. Instead it secured its place as the worst team in the league by losing to a team which had -5 yards passing. With 4 losable games left (@CIN, STL, KC, @ NYJ) it's going to be tough to knock this team out of the race.

2.) Detroit Lions (2-10) If any team can give Oakland a run for the money it's this sad franchise. Despite taking the Pats to the brink in a 28-21 loss Detroit secured a tie for the top (bottom?) spot. With dates against Minny, Chicago & Dallas remaining Oakland is going to have tough competition for #1.

3.) Tampa Bay Yucs (3-9) Tampa Bay got a lot of help when its stiffest competition (Houston & Cleveland) won this past week. And the remaining schedule (ATL, @CHI, @CLE, SEA) ensures it will stay in the hunt for the next draft pick Gruden can screw up (if he's still here.)

4.) Arizona Cardinals (3-9) What were they thinking? The Cards are trying to blow it by winning games, knocking off St. Louis this week. Damn that Matt Leinart. Then again Arizona doesn't need a top QB so obviously Leinart is doing his part to sabotage the pick. The schedule (SEA, DEN, @ SF, @SD) may keep the Cards in it 'til the end, though.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Celebs gone wild

It was quite the weekend for Hollywood's movers & shakers. Well in Rip Torn's case, former Hollywood mover & shaker.

Let's take a look at what kind of crazy shit was going down while us normal folk were at home minding our own business.

-Prison Break's Lane Garrison involved in fatal car crash
File this one under 'truth is stranger than fiction'. Lane Garrison, club-hopping co-star of the FOX hit nighttime soap Prison Break, was driving his Land Rover through Beverly Hills Saturday night when it jumped a median and struck a tree, killing a passenger and sending Garrison and two other occupants to the hospital.

But the story gets crazier from there. Apparently the passengers were teenagers whom Garrison encountered at a local supermarket; when they recognized the 26-year old, who played the sleazy snitch Tweener on the program until his character was killed off earlier this season, they asked him to accompany them to a party. In a move eerily reminiscent of a scene from an Entourage episode, Tweener obliged the 15 year-old male and his two 17-year old female companions and they all piled into the actor's truck. As they made their way around the LA area Garrison lost control of the vehicle and the accident occurred. The 15-year old was pronounced dead at the scene while Garrison & the females were rushed to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

As details slowly begin to emerge we have learned that Garrison claims to have attended the party, where he had one drink (yeah right), and the actor also admits to drinking one margarita earlier that evening at a restaurant. After leaving the party he & the kids were headed back to Garrison's apartment, where he was supposed to meet up with his girlfriend. Police reports state that he displayed "symptoms of alcohol intoxication" and that numerous alcoholic beverage containers were removed from the vehicle after the crash. Garrison claims to have no recollection of the accident because he was rendered unconscious by the impact, and his high-powered attorney states that the vehicle has had alignment & brake problems recently. Hmmm. To make things even more interesting it appears Garrison was involved in a minor crash back in October when he was leaving the exclusive Hollywood hot spot Hyde, a place he has frequently been spotted at since he rose to fame due to the popularity of the show.

So let's get this straight- a (semi) famous celebrity who likes to party goes with 3 teens to a kegger, then invites the kids back to his pad (for what reason? draw your own conclusions, but my guess is that nose candy was involved) and on the way ends up rolling his truck and killing one of the passengers.

Sounds like Tweener is going to need Michael Scofield's help to get him out of this mess. Talk about life imitating art.

- Rip Torn busted for DWI- again
Legendary Tinseltown actor Rip Torn was arrested after an accident in Salem, New York for suspicion of drunk driving. Judging by that glorious mugshot I would say the suspicions are well-founded.

Torn was driving during the day when he crashed his vehicle and police arrived at the scene. I'm sure that after witnessing the 75-year-old actor in this state of confusion they immediately came to the conclusion that the actor, best known for his roles in Men In Black, Dodgeball, and HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, was obviously shitfaced.

Like Mr. Garrison this was not Torn's first encounter with the wrong side of the wheel. He was arrested in January 2004 after an alleged DWI when he crashed into a NYC taxicab, but the charges incredibly were dropped despite the cranky actor unleashing an expletive-laced tirade on the officers after his arrest. You can view that piece of priceless footage here.

For that previous indiscretion and this terrifically awful mug shot, Patches O'Houlihan is hereby entered into the Drunken Actors Hall of Shame.

-Britney finally dons britches but still flashes her booty
And last but not least what would a celeb update be without a glimpse of Britney Spears' private parts. The gum-chewing goober celebrated her 25th birthday at trendy Hollywood eatery Mr. Chow Saturday night, and wouldn't you know the "singer" was actually wearing panties for the first time in weeks.

How do we know this? Because the classless hillbilly was intent on showing everybody that she does in fact wear bloomers, even if they don't completely cover her ample ass.

To summarize Ms. Spears' behavior in recent weeks, she has befriended Hollywood heathens Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Brandon Davis, been photographed sans underwear at least 3 times, thrown a lit cigarette out of Paris' car (a violation of California law punishable by a $1000 fine) and now flashed her tushie for the whole world to see while wearing a dress apparently designed for a midget.

How sad is it that this girl may have actually been better off with legendary loser K-Fed?


Monday Morning Kick Returns

Okay, so it's Monday afternoon. I'm not going to change the name of my weekly post due to a technicality.

As usual it was another wild day in the No Freakin' Logic league. How wild? Three games were decided on last-second kicks, one a 60-yarder and one by the artist formerly known as Martin Gramatica. The Colts lost to the Titans and the Chiefs lost to the Brownies. And the Bears and Texans won despite their quarterbacks passing for 34 & 32 yards respectively. Wow.

Yup it's the NFL 2006. Motto: It May Not be Pretty, but it Rakes in the Dough.

Bears 23, Vikes 13
MY PICK: Bears 28-17
Being without DirecTv and with the Bucs not playing until 4:00 my son and I were forced to digest this horrible piece of crap of a game. How bad was it? The Bears (10-2) fumbled the opening kick. Minny QB Bad Johnson (11-26, 73 yds, 4INTs-whatever happened to the king of accuracy?) threw his first interception on the Vikes (5-7) 2nd series, but Bears QB Rex the Blunder Dog (6-19, 34yds, 3INTs) returned the favor 3 plays later. On and on it went. Granted it was a balmy 18 degrees in the Windy City, but what did those guys have, brain freezes? By the time the horror show ended you had 10 turnovers, 6-28 3rd down conversions, and the winning team had 107 total yards. And then the Bears had the nerve to wear NFC North Champions caps after the "game" was over while coach Lovie Smith reiterated over & over that Grossman will remain at quarterback. That's good news for the rest of the NFC. Because as long as that interception in the making (he now has 17 INTs on the season, 10 in the last 5 games) remains behind center, even the lowliest team in the conference has a chance to knock off these regular season wonders. I said it yesterday and I'll say it again, this is the worst 10-2 team in the history of the NFL.

Cleveland 31, Kansas City 28 (OT)
: Chiefs 27-13
Here's one of those WTF? games. A week ago the Browns(4-8) were imploding on the field & on the sidelines in an ugly 30-0 home loss to the Bengals. This week it played like a playoff team, knocking off the streaking Chiefs(7-5) thanks to 2 touchdown passes by backup QB Derek Anderson (who?) in the last half of the 4th quarter and a game winning 33-yard field goal in overtime. This despite the fact that KC QB Trent Green threw for nearly 300 yards & 4 TDs, RB Larry Johnson rushed for 110 yards, and Cleveland lost starting QB Charlie Frye to an undisclosed injury on the first series of the game. Anderson is an unheralded 2nd year guy from Oregon State who had never thrown a pass in the NFL before yesterday. Ah, parity.

San Diego 24, Buffalo 21
Bills 19-17
Well you can't blame me for going for the upset here. With temperatures in the teens and a gusty wind swirling around Ralph Wilson Stadium the warm-weather Chargers (10-2) could have easily packed it in and headed for nicer climes. Instead running back LaDanian Tomlinson continued his assault on the NFL single-season touchdown record with 2 more touchdowns yesterday, bringing his season total to 26 which leaves him 2 away from Shaun Alexander's mark with 4 games to play. Hmmm, wonder if he'll get that? With 178 yards rushing bringing his total to 1,324 on the season he became the second player to rush for over 1200 yards in each of his first 6 seasons, joining Eric Dickerson. Plus he admitted that he always wanted to play in the cold weather, saying he looks forward to games like this because "they don't happen too much." Memo to self: don't go against LT, even in Ice Bowl games.

Tennessee 20, Indy 17
Mannings 31-24
If you recall yesterday I said that in my friendly competition with my son I took the Titans in the upset. Too bad I didn't have the guts to put my money where my mouth was because something told me that the Mannings (10-2) were going to gag this game. Sure enough the Regular Season Wonders did just that, blowing a 14-0 second quarter lead en route to becoming the second straight Manning-led team to fall to the Titans (5-7) and blossoming QB Vince Young. Young (15-25, 163 yards, 2TDs, 2INTs; 9 carries for 78 yards) continued his ascension to winning NFL QB by guiding 2 scoring drives in the 2nd & 4th quarters, the last one resulting in a 60-yard game-winning field goal by Rod Bironas. After shocking the Giants and Brother Eli last week with a 21-point 4th quarter comeback Young the gunslinger added another Manning notch to his belt. Is younger brother Cooper still playing?

NY J-E-T-S 38, Green Bay 10
Packers 23-20
Boy when I'm wrong I am really wrong. Not only did the Packers lose this game they were an embarrassment to the tradition-rich history of the franchise. The first half was a house of horrors for the Packers in the normally friendly confines of the frozen Lambeau tundra: New York (7-5) compiled 340 yards of offense, 22 first downs and scored on every possession on its way to a 31-0 lead at the break; needless to say Favre (24-47, 214 yards, 1TD, 2INTs) & co. were booed off the field. Although the Pack (4-8) made it interesting for a bit in the third when it scored 10 points and recovered an onsides kick, the ensuing 3 & out and subsequent Jets touchdown to begin the 4th brought any hopes of a Favre miracle comeback to a halt. Now the Jets find themselves in the playoff hunt, while Green Bay awaits another long off season filled with "will he or won't he return" questions about their legendary quarterback.

Atlanta 24, Washington 14
MY PICK: Falcons 30-19
The Dirty Birds got back on the winning track after a slow start against the 'Skins (4-8.) Mike Vick kept his birds holstered long enough to throw 2 touchdowns out of his 8 pass completions and the Falcons did what it does best: run the ball. Atlanta (6-6) amassed 256 yards on the ground to offset Washington's 177 and the Falcons got back on track after losing 4 games in a row. And wouldn't you know the Falcons get just what it needs to start a winning streak heading into the home stretch: a date with the Yucs at RayJay next week.

New England 28, Detroit 21
Pats 45-3
Once again my picking prowess reaches new lows. I, like most other observers, figured a date with the pitiful Lions (2-10) would provide a springboard for the shaky Pats (9-3) to get back on the right path offensively & defensively to prepare for another Super Bowl run. Wrong. Instead the suddenly turnover-prone Pats struggled to defeat a team that had been humiliated on national TV on Turkey Day in their own building by the mediocre Dolphins. New England committed 3 more giveaways (a fumble & INT by Tom Terrific and a fumble by Corey Dillon) but the defense forced 5 Lion miscues and the Pats got a late touchdown run from Dillon (9 carries, 25 yards, 3TDs) to break a 21-all tie and take the win. With 18 turnovers in its last 7 games New England trails only Pittsburgh and Rex Grossman for most giveaways in that stretch. Correct me if I'm wrong but those numbers don't equate to a Super Bowl-quality club, do they? Sure Brady had a solid day (27-38, 305 yards, no TDs, 1 INT), but New England still relies on the pass too much (it only rushed for 79 yards on 24 carries) to be successful in big games. How on earth does Dillon only get 9 carries and the suddenly invisible Maroney only 4 is beyond me. Is the Hooded Genius trying to prove something? It makes no sense. He has gradually abandoned the running game on a weekly basis and forces Brady to throw 35-50 times a game. Hopefully this scare will force him to come to his senses, especially with a date with the defensively sound Dolphins up next.

Arizona 34, St. Louis 20
Cards 21-20
Woohoo, I got an upset right. And boy were the Rams upset. Arizona (3-9) recorded its first road win of the season and it came at the expense of the floundering Rams. St. Louis, which started the season 4-1, fell to 5-7 after its 6th loss in its last 7 games, prompting quarterback Marc Bulger (27-45, 314 yards, 2TDs, 3INTs) to rip into his teammates following the game. "There's more than one guy in this locker room that could care less that we're losing, or thinks it's OK to make mistakes," he said. "When we get embarrassed and you think it's OK and keep making the same mistakes, it's not OK." Ah Marc that may be true, but it is never a good idea to finger point, especially when the team is still in the playoff hunt and you yourself committed 3 of those mistakes you spoke about. Throw in 126 yards worth of penalties and what you have is a team on the brink of disaster. Meanwhile the Cards continue to improve every week, with QB Matt Leinart (15-24, 186 yards, 1TD) steadily guiding the offense and providing plenty of poise & leadership for a rookie quarterback. It's a shame coach Denny Green won't be around to see how many wins that maturity amounts to next season for this team.

New Orleans 34, San Fran 10
Saints 35-14
Hey ho, whaddaya know, I got 2 in a row. Not that this one was tough to call. Although I am breaking my arm patting myself on the back for this gem of a prediction: "they (Saints) also have 1st round pick Reggie Bust; maybe this will be his breakout game." If you are someone who believes that a 168 total yard, 4 touchdown performance qualifies as a breakout game, then I must be a genius. Bust shook off the bust label with a dominating performance in a game that was laced with memories of his past. Niner QB Alex Smith was his high school quarterback, his dad was in the stands to watch him play for the first time as a pro, and Bush & Smith's high school coach was in the stands as well. Toss in the fact that Bush said he was motivated by anger over his Trojans losing to UCLA the day before and it all added up to the kind of day that people envisioned he would have every week when he was selected with the #2 overall pick in the draft. He still did not light it up as far as rushing, as he only compiled 37 yards on the ground, but his pass catching prowess and ability to turn a short throw into a long gain (see his 71-yard TD catch that was about 5 yard pass, 66 yard run) was the kind of razzle-dazzle the Saints (8-4) had been hoping to see more of up to this point. But with phenom receiver Marques Colston still out with a high ankle sprain and WR Joe Horn going down with a groin injury in the first quarter it was the perfect time for Reggie Bush to get back to being Reggie Bush.

Houston 23, Oakland 14
Raiders 3-2
This one is almost as painful to write about as it must have been to watch. Wait a minute, scratch that. Watching a game where the winning team passed for minus-5 yards and had 10 first downs and the two squads combined for 7 turnovers could be the new form of torture in the next Bond movie. But somehow the Texans (4-8) prevailed despite QB David Carr throwing for 32 yards and compiling 124 total yards on the day. But a week ago Carr completed an NFL record-tying 22 straight passes and lost, so I guess this balances that out. But that's how bad the Raiders (2-10) are as a season of misery continues to slide into suicide watch territory for the inhabitants of the Black Hole.

Jax'ville 24, Miami 10
Dolphins 17-15
Another one of the "who woulda thunk it?" specials. Miami (5-7) had been making a late playoff push after ripping off 4 straight wins, while the Jags (7-5) were going backwards after losing to Buffalo and the Texans twice in the past 6 games. So much for logic in this league as the up & down Jags and QB David Garrard (16-22, 229 yards, 2TDs) put together a solid game and defeated their intra-state rivals. The Fins solid running attack was nearly nonexistent with the absence of leading rusher Roinnie Brown and the fading playoff hopes might be extinguished next week when the Pats come to South Florida.

Dallas 23, NY Giants 20
Giants 27-24
Well I was almost right on this one. New York had a good chance to knock off the Tony Romo express as it came within a 46-yard field goal by newly-signed Gramatica of taking this division tilt to OT. Unfortunately for the reeling G-Men, losers of 4 in a row to fall to 6-6, the Tuna made his second brilliant coaching decision this season, and both came at the expense of the Giants. The first move was when he replaced a struggling Drew Bledsoe with Tony Romo at halftime of their first Dallas/New York game; Romo (20-34, 257 yards, 2 INTs) went on to win that game and has now won 4 of his 5 starts since then. The second great move was cutting crybaby kicker Mike Vanderjagoff after last weeks' game and replacing him with the former Buccaneer standout Gramatica. All little Martin-y did was nail 3 of 4 attempts including the game winner with :01 left as the Cowboys (8-4) seized a two game lead in the NFC East. Although Eli Manning (24-36, 270 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs) had a much better performance than last week's stink bomb in Tennessee and the Giants had DE Osi Uminyora return after missing 5 games, the defense could not stop the Cowboys or running back Marion Barber III, who ran for 76 yards & 2 scores. Now the Ginats will have to scrap & claw to pull out a wild card spot, while Tuna and his minions can cruise into the home stretch knowing that every move they appear to make turns to gold.

Seattle 23, Denver 20
Seahawks 23-17
Memo to Broncos coach Mike Shanahan: you might not want to replace a shaky but experienced quarterback with a shaky but inexperienced one 13 weeks into the season. Especially with a playoff berth slipping away. But that's just what the Bronco (7-5) head honcho did, and the results were predictably not pretty. Jay Cutler went 10-21 for 143 yards with 2 TDs & 2 picks but 71 of those yards came on a short pass to rookie Brandon Marshall that the former UCF star turned into a long score thanks to some shoddy Seattle (8-4) tackling. In between he threw a horrendous pass as he was being bent backward on a sack that was intercepted and returned 25 yards for a touchdown by Darryl Tapp and generally looked like what he is- a raw rookie starting his first pro game in a contest with huge playoff implications. By the time kicker Josh Brown nailed his 4th game-winning field goal, a 50-yarder as time expired after the 'Hawks drove the field with just over 2 minutes to go, Shanahan was left to wonder if he made the right decision; after all, Cutler's stat line looked an awful lot like that of his predecessor, Jake the Snake.

Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 3
Steelers 16-13
Boy did I overvalue the importance of Bruce Gradkowski returning to his hometown. I thought that bit of adrenaline rush would be good for at least 1 touchdown from the Pittsburgh native. Oh yeah, he would've had at least one if Butterfingers Clayton didn't drop a perfect pass laid into his hands at the 10 yard line late in the 3rd quarter. That was just one of the many miscues by the Bad News Bucs as it continues its slide back to the bottom of the NFL barrel and hopefully accelerates the removal of Chucky Gruden as coach. Gruden drew the ire of Steelers coach Bill Cowher when he had Matt Bryant kick a field goal with no time left in the game just to make sure his sad sack squad didn't register a goose egg. Nice move, bozo. With a team that has more screw ups in a week than Britney Spears (Gradkowski threw 3 interceptions, was 5 sacked times and had at least 4 balls dropped) you would think that a measly field goal would be the least of its worries. "I'm sure I'll be criticized for that," Gruden said. "I just wanted our quarterback to leave Pittsburgh with something. We left Pittsburgh with a field goal." Too bad you couldn't leave with any dignity.

So my record was a less-than-impressive 8-7 counting the Thursday night game and I blame it all on the No Freakin Logic League. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not a degenerate gambler, or I might be living in a van down by the river right now. There is still one game to go, tonight's thrilling Monday Night Matchup. Maybe I can go out on a high note.

Carolina (6-5) @ Philly (5-6)
This is a battle of two teams that are struggling to find an identity. Actually Philly isn't struggling to find an identity- it's on the shelf as QB Donovan McNabb recovers from knee surgery. But Carolina is one of the biggest enigmas of this wacky season. Almost all the pundits had it pegged for a Super Bowl run after last year's impressive 11-5 campaign that led to an NFC Championship game appearance. Well so far the Panthers have been erratic, baffling, and anything but impressive. Caretaker QB Jake Delhomme has been below average, throwing only 12 TDs with 9 INTs despite the presence of 2 quality receivers, Steve Smith & Meshawn Johnson. Their problem has been a lack of a rushing attack; Carolina ranks 18th in the NFL in rushing (106 YPG), but it will be facing on of the worst rush defenses in the league. Jeff Garcia will start his 2nd game since McNabb went down, and the vet could provide the stability this team needs during these tough times. Philly has lost 5 of the last 6 games to fall down but not out of the playoff picture. It will be a chilly night at the Linc, and it will also be interesting to see which Panther team shows up and how the Eagles will handle the challenge of finishing the season without its field general.
MY PICK: Eagles 17, Panthers 14