Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bowl picks: 1-5 and barely alive

These freaking bowls are @#!^%&!!@&%$#?! meaningless anyway.

In a cruel twist of fate I won the one bowl game involving my heart and lost the two that I had no clue/care about.

My conclusion: it's impossible to bet objectively on teams that you know nothing/could care less about.

The one game I did have something of a vested interest in, the USF/ECU Bowl, I got right. The vested interest being that I've eaten a lot of Papa John's pizza in my day (you know, back when it was the king of delivery pizza before everyone wisely went back to traditional Italian pies.)

Let's summarize the carnage.

Bowl #4 Bowl
USF 24, ECU 7
USF 24-14
LINE: USF -5 1/2
MY REC: 1-3

Hard to go wrong with this one even though it could have been classified as a 'heart bet' (local team.) But heart or not it didn't take a genius to realize that the Bulls were the better team, had the better players, and should have handily prevailed in the inaugural bowl in Birmingham.

Freshman sensation QB Matt Grothe did all his damage in the first half when he went 6-10 for 81 yards and a TD plus 7 rushes for 15 yards. But when he left the game late in the 1st half with a shin injury, Pat Julmiste played mistake-free ball the rest of the game and the Bulls held on for its first ever bowl victory.

Although USF allowed 317 yards of total offense as compared to its 286 the Bulls held star WR Aundrae Allison to 24 yards on 3 catches and had him befuddled & combative the whole game. A fumble by ECU QB James Pinkney on the second play of the game led to a USF score just a minute in and set the tempo for the day.

It was a great day for the USF program and annual 'hot coaching candidate' Jim Leavitt, and also a great moment for the World's Worst Gambler as I recorded my first victory of the silly season.

However the sweet taste of victory would not last long...

Bowl #5
New Mexico Bowl
San Jose St. 20, New Mexico 12
MY PICK: New Mexico 24-21
LINE: Utah -1 1/2
MY REC: 1-4

A world-class case of Clouded Logic bet. I went with New Mexico just for the mere fact that it was playing at home despite the Spartans having the better team.

I hope you people are learning something here.

Bowl # 6
Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl
Utah 25, Tulsa 13
MY PICK: Tulsa 30-17
LINE: Utah -1 1/2
MY REC: 1-5

Another clear case of Clouded Logic. Utah had won 5 straight bowl games and is used to the postseason spotlight. Tulsa- just happy to be there.

The Utes got 405 yards of offense thanks to QB Brent Ratliffe's 23-34, 240 yard day and 165 yards on the ground; the Utes now have the nation's longest active bowl game winning streak at 6 straight games.

And if not for USF I would now have the nation's longest bowl losing streak at 6 straight games. Ah thank you Matt Grothe and USF- you guys saved me from another ignoble title- at least for another day.

It might be time to exercise another strategy for the next round.

I may have to go into Wife & Secretary Mode- you know where you pick the team based on uniform, geographical location, or cuddly animal logo.

Wish me luck.


Bowl picks: Free to be 0-for-3

R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Troy 41, Rice 17
LINE: Rice - 5 1/2
MY PICK: Rice 34-17
My Rec: 0-3

Okay I've already won a trophy at Chicago Bob's 1st Annual Memorial Golf Tournament for being The Worst Golfer this year.

Give me one reason I shouldn't be trying to add a statue for World's Worst Gambler to my mantle?

I am now oh-for-the-love-of-Pete-for-3 and my teams have gotten absolutely waxed by a combined score...are you ready for it...



To be fair I had predicted a way that the Owls could lose last night, and that prediction did come true. Let me refresh: "Troy QB Omar Haugabook...will have to be spectacular in order for the Trojans to have a chance."

Does 309 total yards and 5 combined TDs qualify as spectacular? I thought so. The elusive junior, who was the Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year, completely befuddled the clueless Rice defense, either passing over (14-28, 217 yds, 4 TDs) or running around & through (14 rushes, 92 yds, TD) the helpless unit. The Trojans were extra strong last night, and I hope they were ribbed for pleasure because the Owls certainly blog, never mind.

Troy came in averaging 21 points per game and had been allowing 345 yards of offense against it, but the rejuvenated Trojan defense held Rice down until it was garbage time and kept the nation's leading receiver in touchdowns, Jarrett Dillard, to just 9 catches for 91 yards and 1 (late) TD.

Talk about your Christmas miracle.

So my prediction went down in a ball of Haugabook, but sometimes you can't account for 1 player stepping up and carrying his team on his back while another team shits the bed worse than a patient at Shady Acres nursing home.

But I've got a chance to redeem myself today as there are three games on the schedule. Time to even my record right before the post-holiday bowl onslaught begins.

Bowl #4: 1PM ESPN 2 Bowl in Birmingham, Al.
South Florida (8-4) vs. East Carolina (7-5)
LINE: USF -5 1/2

Need to Know:
Conference newcomer USF knocked off perennial Big East power #7 West Virginia in Morgantown in the final game of the season, 24-19. Although the Bulls were in the middle of the pack offensively in the conference (23 PPG), it allowed the third lowest points against in the league (213.)

East Carolina is led by Skip Son of Lou Holtz and had a bounceback season after going 12-34 the past 4 years, including a 1-11 debacle in 2003. Not since the glory days of bombin' Jeff Blake have the Pirates enjoyed so much success.

Players to watch:
USF is led by the Big East offensive Freshman of the Year, quarterback Matt Grothe. The athletic kid from Lakeland came into the season as a backup behind incumbent Pat Julmiste but quickly took the reigns of the offense and compiled some impressive stats (3,102 total yards, 23 total TDs.) His favorite targets are speedy freshman receiver Ean Randolph (479 yds, 4TDs) and Taurus Johnson (489 yds, 5 total TDs.)

ECU's offense is fueled by the trio of QB senior QB James Pinkney (2,658 yds, 11TDs), RB Brandon Fractious (675yds, 4TDs) and WR Aundrae Allison (684 yards, 4TDs.)

Ironically both teams average exactly 22.8 PPG, 69th in the NCAA.

This is USF's second bowl appearance in its history. The Bulls lost 14-0 to NC State in last year's Meineike Car Care Bowl. ECU also lost its last bowl game- a 64-60 double OT thriller against Marshall in the 2001 GMAC Bowl.

I'm not going with my heart here just because USF is the local team down here in the Tampa Bay area. No, I'd go with the Bulls because it played the tougher schedule, has a better QB, and has been in enough big games now, including a bowl game, to know what it takes to win one like this.

But who knows, I've been wrong before.
USF 24, ECU 14

Bowl # 5 4:30P ESPN
New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico (6-6) vs. San Jose St. (8-4)
LINE: New Mexico -3

Need to Know:
The Spartans may have the better record but the Lobos have the advantage of playing in its home stadium.

Players to watch:
Lobo RB Rodney Ferguson led the Mountain West in rushing with 1132 yards and 7 TDs. The receiving tandem of Marcus Smith and Travis Brown combined for 1,571 yards and 12 TDs.

San Jose QB Adam Tafralis threw for 2975 yards and 18 TDs. His favorite target were James Jones and John Brussard, who combined for 1,525 yards and 15 TDs.

Did I mention that New Mexico was playing in its home stadium?

MY PICK: New Mexico 24, San Jose 21

Bowl # 6: 8PM ESPN
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Utah (7-5) vs. Tulsa (8-4)
LINE: Utah -1 1/2

Need to Know:
Tulsa led C-USA in defense. It also has one of the best nicknames in the NCAA, the Golden Hurricanes. That's all I got on this one.

Players to watch:
Tulsa all-purpose man Idris Moss was a multi-faceted threat who averaged 116 YPG as a receiver but also returned kicks and ran the ball on occasion. The solid defense is anchored by FS Bobby Blackshire (3 INTs) and DE Robert Latu.

The Utes (excuse me, did you say utes?) were led by senior QB Brent Ratliff (2256 yards, 22 TDs.) Receivers Derrek Richards & Brent Casteel combined for 1190 yards and 15 TDs.

The Utes used to be coached by Gator head honcho Urban Meyer.

MY PICK: Tulsa 30, Utah 17


Friday, December 22, 2006

Bowl scoreboard: 0-2 and getting worse

Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl
BYU 38, Oregon 8
MY PICK: BYU 33-31
MY REC: 0-2

This is how bad of a gambler I would be:

Two bowl games are in the books and my picks, both of which I said would keep the games close, have lost by a combined score of 75-15.

Yep, can I pick 'em or what?!

Last night it was the Mormans vs. the Ducks in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl in Sin City. I know, those freakin' Mormons love their slots. I knew BYU was the superior team, but much like with my heart bet, this time I went with my 'clouded logic' bet.

The clouded logic bet consists of me trying to rationalize why the superior team is not going to win the game even though I believe it is going to win.. In this case all signs pointed to a big BYU win- better offense, better defense, 9 game-winning streak- yet I chose Oregon to keep it close despite the fact that it gave up 100 more points than the Cougars in the regular season.

BYU proceeded to tear the Ducks a new airhole in a 30-point win that wasn't even that close. QB John Beck (28-46, 375 yds, 2TDs, 2 INTs) sliced up the porous Oregon D, and the Ducks couldn't get anything going on offense (260 tot yards compared to BYU's 548) despite rotating quarterbacks and having two solid running backs.

My theory? This loss can be solely blamed on these atrocious new duck lids Oregon was wearing for the game. Even the players were reluctant about sporting something on their head that looked like a Halo helmet pimped by the Need For Speed graphics department. (look closely for the flames.)

Anyway I fell to 0-2 in two games that I should have absolutely nailed. Can I make it an o-fer-3? I'm going to abide by the lessons learned that I already know but pay no attention to:

1.) don't bet with my heart

2.)don't use clouded logic- go with the team that looks like it should win.

Let's see how I do with tonight's game.

Bowl # 3
R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Rice (7-5) vs. Troy (7-5)
LINE: Rice -5 1/2

Need to Know:
Rice rebounded from years of futility to qualify for its first bowl game in 45 years under energetic coach Todd Graham. The Owls lost its first four games but is currently in the midst of a 6-game winning streak.

Troy has only been a 1-A school since 2001 and although it is located in a tiny southern Alabama town it led the Sunbelt Conference in attendance. The Trojans bounced back from a 1-4 start to
win 6 of its last 7 games.

Players to watch:
The Owls are led by the trio of QB Chase Clement (1,707 yards, 21 TDs, 5 INTs), senior RB Quinton Smith (1,092 yards rushing, 10 TDs) and WR Jarrett Dillard (1176 yards, 20 TDs.) Dillard led the nation in TD receptions and has a great chemistry with fellow San Antonio native Clement.

Troy gets its spark from QB Omar Haugabook, a junior who had 2,184 yards passing, 217 yards rushing and 21 combined TDs. But the Troy offense was ranked 80th nationally in total yards/game and 64th in points scored, so he will have to be spectacular in order for the Trojans to have a chance.

TRIVIA: The Owls had a player (freshman CB Dale Lloyd) collapse and die this season the day after it lost to Florida State 55-7 on Sept 23rd. Since then it has gone 7-1 and has averaged 34 PPG.

MY PICK: All the experts and all logic points to a Rice win. It has the better talent, a better winning streak and more reasons to win this one. Plus Troy, is, well, Troy.
Rice 34, Troy 17

NFL: Green Bay 9, Minny 7 , fans 0
MY PICK: Packers 35-11

So much for Favre breaking the touchdown record against a horrible pass defense. The NFL Net presented yet another mind-numbing Thursday Night Yawner that fortunately nobody in the country got to see.

For the record in the five Thursday games that have aired on the network so far a grand total of 137 points scored have been scored, for an average final score of 14-13. Oh if only the games had been that exciting.

The latest snoozefest featured a feeble Packer offense unable to generate any scoring chances against one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Not to mention the fact that the Vikes started undrafted rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson, who put forth a stellar 10-20, 50 yard, 1 INT effort.

Too bad Old Man Favre and his "best team ever" could only amass 7 points despite rolling up 273 yards in the air and 319 total yards. How bad was this game (for those unfortunate enough to see it)? Minnesota had only 104 total yards and 3 first downs yet led 7-6 going into the 4th quarter. Yikes.

If this was Favre's last game in Lambeau, boy did he go out smelling like Limburger.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday Night viewing: NFL & Bowl games, holiday Office & college hoops

For those of you dreaming of a white Christmas I suggest you go to Denver, that is as soon as you can get in.

As a brutal blizzard bears down on the Mile High City, paralyzing last minute shoppers and preventing the Nuggets newly acquired headache Allen Iverson from joining the team (omen or what?) I would like to give a shout-out to my good friend from back home Bill and his wife Jamie on their newborn son Finn.

Little Finn is barely a couple of weeks old and already he is experiencing life as a fan of New England sports.

Good to see that Daddy is raising the boy right, preparing him for a life of heartbreak; all of us in the Nation welcome one of its newest, and tiniest, members.

As for the blizzard, Bill sent me some up close & personal pix of the coverage.

Over 30 inches of snow has fallen in the past 48 hours, blanketing the greater Denver area, so I hope you guys got your Christmas shopping done.

Oh and Finn, make sure you take care of mommy & daddy and tell them not to let you wander off into the white stuff.

Too bad the bowl game tonight is not being played in the Denver area- a nice snow bowl would have been cool to watch, especially for us down here in the unseasonably warm Tampa Bay area.

But bowl junkies and degenerate gamblers will have to settle for...wait for it...

The Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl.

Ah just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

Bowl #2, The Las Vegas Bowl , where dreams come true and family men lose their mortgages.

Tonight's game should be a good match up with plenty of offense.
#22 BYU (10-2) vs. Oregon (7-5)
BYU: -3
O/U: 62 pts
Need to know:
The Cougars are hot, having ripped off 9 wins in a row, and have one of the most high-powered offenses in the country (37 PPG, 5th in NCAA.) The Ducks have a decent offense as well, scoring 31 points per game, and played a much tougher schedule.

Players to Watch:
The BYU offense revolves around senior quarterback John Beck, who compiled over 35oo yards passing with 30 TDs. His favorite target is Johnny Harline, a 6'4" senior who had 700+ yards receiving and 11 TDs.

For Oregon they are led by quarterback Brady Leaf, who replaced the mobile but-ineffective Dennis Dixon 3 games ago and has played well, although the Ducks have lost all three. The stout running attack is anchored by the duo of Jonathan Stewart(960 yds, 10TDs) and Jeremiah Johnson (603 yds, 10TDs.)


BYU has lost its last 4 bowl games while Oregon has failed to win its last 3; rename this the Something's Gotta Give Bowl or what? Plus Oregon sports some of the most hideous Nike-created unis in the history of man.

Everyone is predicting BYU top win a high-scoring shootout. One of my other bad rules of gambling is I like to go the opposite way that everyone is thinking. I still believe it will be pretty high-scoring, but I like the Ducks to keep it close thanks to that tough Pac-10 schedule it played (USC, Cal and also Oklahoma were all ranked.) If it can get a special teams or defensive score it could even pull an upset.
BYU 33, Oregon 31

8PM NFL Network: Vikings (6-8) @ Packers (6-8)
The NFL Network is airing its Thursday Night Game That No One Can watch, a thrilling matchup between the backpedaling Minnesota Vikinks at apathetic Green Bay. The entire story surrounding this game has to do with the fact that this could be Favre's last home game ever.

Yeah right, like he's gonna go out without nailing the touchdown record (he's 8 away from Marino's 420) and on a lousy NFL Net game aganst a crappy Vikings team. He didn't come back this season to go out like that.

But just in case he is you can be sure he will be throwing the ball so much tonight that his arm will operate in a windwmill-like motion for the next 4 months. He might get the record tonight; too bad no one outside of Dairyland will be able to witness it.

I like the Pack to destroy the free-falling Vikes, especially now that it has pulled out the white flag by giving the starting QB spot to undrafted rookie Tarvaris Jackson. Is he older or younger that Tito?

Packers 35, Vikes 11

Other viewing options include a repeat of The Office holiday show from last week at 9:00, Earl at a special time-10:00, and Scrubs following at 10:30 (hey, I guess NBC heard me about playing those two off beat comedies back-to-back.)

Hoop fans will want to check out LeBron James taking on the Detroit Pistons at 8:00 on TNT followed by the Wizards and scoring machine Gilbert Arenas taking on the Kings at 10:30.

College hoop aficionados will want to catch a marquee match up at the Garden tonight as well. Duke takes on Gonzaga at 9 on ESPN in a battle of ranked teams that may have lost a little luster (i.e. marquee players such as JJ Redick & Adam Morrison) from seasons past, but both are still playing great basketball with exciting new casts.

Watch for Morrison replacement Josh Heytfelt, a 6'11" sophomore who is also a world class volleyball player; he's got slick moves to the basket and also knows how to block shots (it's just like spiking.) Also point guard Derek Raivio is an explosive shooter and ball handler who knows how to make the Zags offense go.

The Dukies are led by rising sophomore Josh McRoberts, who is leading the team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks, and his running mate Greg Paulus, who is still recovering from preseason hand surgery; a gaggle of freshmen including Gerald Henderson, Jr., Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek round out the young Devils.

A great night of viewing. And if I want to see snow I can just turn on CNN.

Best of luck, Finn!


Bowl Scoreboard: I'm 0-1

The reason I am such a terrible gambler is because I am 100% a 'heart better'.

You degenerates know what I'm talking about, a guy who bets with his head, not with his heart.
My philosophy is that I'm too into sports to look at them analytically for the purpose of making money off of them.

Which explains my monumental tank job for Bowl #1 of the gloriously nauseating 32 game Bowl Season, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

TCU was favored by 12 1/2 and possesses one of the stingiest defenses in the country. NIU has the top running back in the nation, Garrett Wolfe, but he's like 4'9" and gained all of his yards against scrub MAC competition.

So who do I go with? In case you forgot, here's an excerpt from my prediction: "Wolfe will be the first back to break the century barrier against the Frogs... it may not be enough to defeat the tougher TCU squad, but at least he should help keep the score respectable."

MY PICK: TCU 30-24
Final Score: TCU 37-7
Total Yards by NIU: 60 (-20 rushing)
Total Rush yards for Wolfe: 28 yards on 20 carries

All heart, baby. You see I wanted the Little Runner That Could to defeat the nasty Horned Frogs defense and prevail against all odds in the final game of his career, before he goes on to be a 5th round draft pick and sits on an NFL bench somewhere as a 3rd string kick returner. Therefore I went with my heart and called for a close game.

Missed it by that..............................................................................much.

Now if I was like my buddy Michael, a no-nonsense pure numbers gambler, all I would have done is looked at that number, looked at the feeble teams NIU had played this year (Buffalo, Indiana St., Temple) and taken TCU in a heartbeat.

Funny thing is I always think of this stuff like 5 minutes after the game starts.

Anyway, I'm 0-1 with 31 games to go, and at the very least I will be providing quality comedic material for my readers, which is the most important thing anyway .

As I was trying to watch that massacre last night my attention diverted to one of my favorite channels on the cable dial, MSNBC. You know, the one with the liberal commentators, To Catch a Predator specials and a bunch of prison documentaries.

By there is a new series that has really caught my eye. It's called Crime & Punishment and it's like a real life Law & Order done by the creator of that series, Dick Wolf.
This show focuses on one actual court case and takes you through the most harrowing parts of the trial, like 9-1-1 tapes and teary witness accounts, from the perspective of the prosecutor.
It makes for truly gripping television, like L&O without the fancy sets, expensive wardrobes and Jerry Orbach.

A couple of other shows off the beaten path that I have gotten into are Mythbusters & Extreme Engineering on Discovery Channel.

Mythbusters is already gaining a cult following due to its wacky hosts and reality-based premise. Two nerdy scientists, Jamie & Adam, who do stunt work for Hollywood set out to disprove common held myths about things in everyday life.

Sounds boring but these guys really get into their work, and some of the stuff they do is pretty awesome, such as putting a ginourmous woofer in a car to see if the decibels would tear the vehicle apart and finding any excuse to blow something to smithereens.

Other stuff are the type of things that make you go hmmm, such as the fact that a raw egg can plug a radiator leak or you actually do save money by turning out the lights whenever you exit a room.

Oh and they also love to do the "Mentos in the Coke bottle" trick quite a lot.

It's silly, it's fun, it's informative and it's entertaining. Meets my criteria for a good show.

Extreme Engineering is hosted by a goofy everyman who travels to all parts of the globe to invade incredible construction sites. Some episodes have included the building of the beautiful new stadium for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals (fact: the mammoth sliding roof panels travel along actual railroad tracks welded atop the structure) and an amazing look at the restoration of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

See how the University of Phoenix Stadium got to look like this on EE
If you like seeing how things work, or finding out just how massive structures like underground tunnels in Kuala Lumpur are made, then this show is for you. And I know what you're thinking but the wife liked it too, so it's not just a guy show. Mainly it is, but not just.

I'll leave with just one other semi-review. I've just started watching the Showtime serial killer drama Dexter. I've been hearing so much about it, especially with the finale garnering awesome ratings for the network that has long been considered the ugly stepsister to bigger, badder HBO, that I decided to cue it up on SHOD (that's Showtime On Demand for the technologically deficient) and start watching from Ep 1.

If you're not familiar with the show it's about a Miami forensic detective named Dexter Morgan who is actually a serial killer himself. But Dexter isn't your run-of-the-mill psycho, he is a vigilante of sorts, slaying those who may elude the long arm of the law but not the dark heart of vengeance.

The title role is played brilliantly by Michael C. Hall, who was in another offbeat cult hit on that badder net, Six Feet Under. Hall was just nominated for a Golden Globe for his role, so I'm sure he will be on the fast track after this show runs its course.

Dexter narrates each episode and makes no bones about being a heartless killing machine with an insatiable thirst for blood. His mementos (all serial killers have them, you know that by now) are blood spots from each victim he keeps on glass slides in a box hidden in his air conditioner.

Other characters include his sister Debra, who is also a cop; his girlfriend Rita, who is basically a front for Dexter to appear "normal"; his boss,Lt. Laguerta, who has the hots for Dex; and a tough sergeant named Doakes who doesn't like Dexter at all and goes out of his way to let him know it.

Also the always-excellent James Remar plays the part of Dexter's dad in flashbacks, a former cop who apparently paved the way for little Dex' life of killing.

It's a very unique show, like a cross between CSI, the movie The Star Chamber with Michael Douglas and Silence of the Lambs. Showtime can get away with a lot more than CBS, so some scenes are horror movie disturbing, but as the wife pointed out they never actually show the killings, just the gruesome after-effects.

I'm only 2 eps in so I can't give a full review. But after I watch the rest of the season in like the next 3 days (ah the beauty of On Demand viewing) I will give a full review of this intriguing show.

Next entry I will have my Bowl Pick #2 for the Pioneer Purevision Las Vegas Bowl.

Get your bookie's phone number handy.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NFL Week 15 Wrap up

There is still 9:00 minutes to go in the third quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl and already my picks are getting trashed like Britney Spears at a birthday party.

TCU is up 30-0, but I hold out hope that NIU will rip off 24 unanswered points and hold the Horned Frogs scoreless the rest of the way to make my prediction come true.

So I thought it would be a good time to do my reveiw of the week that was in the NFL.

But first I have a couple of issues I need to address. First, Miss America Tara Conner will keep her crown after all but will enter rehab to help curb her enthusiastic partying. Perhaps The Donald felt bad for stringing her along for weeks, but that would imply that The Donald has a heart, which we all know to be impossible. No my guess is that Mr. America decided to give poor Tara another chance because he sees the value in her exploits (snorting coke, sleeping with C-listers and drinking like a fish) and wants to exploit her for himself as soon as her reign is over in April.

Therefore Conner was given a reprieve, forced to enter rehab to help her curtail her habit of shoving marching powder up her nose and gallons of Grey Goose down her gullet. As she gave a teary speech thanking His Hairness for giving her a second chance (at what I'm not sure) you can't help but envision this girl starring in the newest version of Taradise on E!

Second, the Denver Nuggets pulled the trigger on a deal for disgruntled 76er Allen Iverson this afternoon. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that the deal finally went down, after Philly haggled for over a week to find the right trade partner, the day after Nugget- headed Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games for his part in the MSG brawl.

What better way to replace the immature, trouble-seeking leading scorer in the NBA than with the trouble-seeking, ball-hogging 2nd leading scorer in the league?

In my opinion this deal is going to blow up in Denver's face. Everything will seem hunky dory while Melo sits out his 15 games as AI takes up some of the scoring slack from the loss of Anthony and Denver's second leading scorer JR Smith, who will sit out 10 games. But as soon as the two of those spotlight hogs try to take the court together....

...well let's just say maybe David Stern will let Anthony use the new ball and Iverson the old, that way there will be enough to go around.

Okay, let's get to the No Fun League report.

-Indy mauls Bengals on MNF to get back on winning track
Indy 34, Cincy 16 MY PICK: Indy 37-35
The Mannings held up their end of the bargain in this supposed sequel to last season's high-scoring shootout. Unfortunately for Cincy and its fans the Bengals didn't come close.

Indy's much-maligned defense held the potent Cincy offense to just 278 total yards and one touchdown and Peyton Manning carved up the improved Bengal defense with a 29-36/282/4TD performance. The victory stopped a 2 game slide for the Regular Season Wonders and ended a run of 4 consecutive wins for the Bengals.

Three of Peyton's four TDs went to his favorite target Marvin Harrison. Harrison (8recs, 86yds) just destroyed the clueless Cincy defenders at the goal line, corralling scores of 5, 3, and 1 yard, while Carson Palmer (14-28, 176 yds) could get nothing going through the air.

To make matters worse the Bengals couldn't even gash the ghastly Indy rush defense despite a game plan that seemed designed to go after the worst unit in the league. Cincy did gain 133 yards on the ground and Rudi Johnson was effective early, but the Bengals were forced to abandon the run after getting down 31-13.

(Side note: it takes a supremely smarmy jackass like Joe Theismann to say Cincy "made a mistake by coming out and running the football" against the worst rush defense in the league. Where's the logic in that logic, Joe?)

With the win the perennial AFC South Division Champs (11-3) kept hope alive of snagging a first round bye while the Bengals (8-6) fell into the middle of the wild card pack with Denver, Jacksonville and the Jets. But while Indy may have stopped the bleeding regarding its defense, all it will take is a guy like LaDanian Tomlinson to rip open those bandages and derail the manning Express in January yet again.

San Diego (9) and Chicago (7) lead the way; Tom Terrific notably snubbed
The NFL's annual Mai tai-laced luau team was announced today and to no one's surprise the teams with the best records in the league sent the most players to the party.

The NFC leading Bears have seven selections, most on defense (of course Urlacher) and phenomenal return man Devin Hester, while the 12-2 San Diego Chargers will send nine men to the Feb. 10th event including the obvious (Tomlinson), the curious (LB Shawne Merriman, fresh off a 4 game 'roid suspension) and the downright ridiculous (QB Phillip Rivers.)

Look, Rivers is a nice young quarterback who has had a decent season. But when you put his numbers next to Tom Brady's, well...

Rivers: 255-406 (63%), 2,976 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INTs
Tommy Boy: 276-453 (61%), 3,055 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs

Very similar numbers, Brady with more yards & TDs but also slightly more INTs and lower completion percentage. But there is one big factor being left out: Rivers is a first year starter on a dominant running team while Brady is a 2-time Super Bowl MVP, 3-time champion and dater of starlets. Perhaps that last part is why the coaches and players kept the guy who was second in the fan balloting off the roster. Jealous bastards!

Other major AFC selections include Chad Johnson, Harrison, Wayne and Texas' Andre Johnson at receiver; Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates at tight end; Larry Johnson & Willie Parker backing up LT at running back; and Carson Palmer along with Rivers backing up Peyton.

Defensive selections include Miami DE Jason Taylor, CB Champ Bailey & S John Lynch from Denver; LBs Terrell Suggs & Adaelius Thomas, CB Chris McAlister and S Ed Reed from the Ravens; and little-known DE Aaron Schobel from the Bills gets to make the trip to paradise.

The NFC offensive roster includes Anquan Boldin, Donald Driver, Steve Smith and Torry Holt at receiver; Tiki Barber, Stephen Jackson and Frank Gore at running back; Shockey & Crumpler at tight end; and ...drum roll please.... Drew Brees, Marc Bulger and TONY ROMO at QB.

That's right the man that the Tuna said had no shot at heading to Hawaii made the grade after languishing on the bench for 3+ seasons and playing in only 30 games in his entire career. Can you say "league darling" please.

The good news is that Romo's expectorating teammate Terrell Owens did not make the cut despite being third in the fan balloting. Perhaps this is due to the fact that he just got fined $35,000 for spitting in the face of Falcons cornerback D'Angelo Hall on Saturday, and the fact the he's a total a-hole.

Ironically, or hilariously, Hall made the team.

NFC defensive selections include DE Julius Peppers and DT Kris Jenkins of the Panthers; Julian Peterson & DeMarcus Ware at LB; Brian Dawkins and Roy Williams at safety; and Lito Sheppard and Ronde Barber join Hall at cornerback.

Aside from Brady & Owens other notable snubs were Raiders DT Warren Sapp, who despite 8 sacks and leading the fan voting wasn't even selected as a top three alternate (talk about a bad reputation amongst your peers); Raven linebacker Ray Lewis, who despite some drop off is still the leader of the fierce Baltimore D; and my man Assante Samuel.

I posted the other day that the Patriot cornerback needs more pub, and this would have been the perfect time to give it to him. But instead of selecting the man tied for the league lead in interceptions (8, with Bailey) they took McAlister; Samuel has 19 more tackles and 3 more INTs than McAlister, yet he gets the snub. Go figure.

Anyway, enough about the annual popularity contest that most players try to avoid like Roger Clemens does the first half of the baseball season. The funny thing is the league is talking about moving the game to other locations out of the country. Good luck trying to get spoiled players to fly halfway around the wortld to play in a glorified scrimmage.



North: Baltimore (11-3)
South: Indy (11-3)
East: New England (10-4)
West: San Diego (12-2)

Wild Cards: Jacksonville (8-6); Cincy (8-6); NY Jets (8-6); Denver (8-6); 4 tied at 7-7

The Ravens, Mannings & Chargers have wrapped up their divisions while the Pats still need to win and hope the Jets lose in order to wrap up the East.

That will be no easy task as New England travels to play the Jekyll & Hyde Jags then finish at the surging Titans. The Manginis meanwhile only have to defeat the fading 'Fins in Miami and then the hapless Raiders in Jersey to keep hopes of a division crown alive.

As far as the wild cards go Jacksonville, which also must play at KC after the Pats leave town, and Cincy (@DEN, PITT) have the worst chance of making it based on the schedule.

With Denver playing the Niners at Mile High after the Bengals, and the aforementioned Jets schedule, those two teams would appear to have the inside track on playing postseason ball.

But this being the No Freakin Logic league even the four 7-7 squads (PITT, TEN, KC, BUF) still have outside shots at playoff spots.


North: Chicago (12-2)
South: New Orleans (9-5)
East: Dallas (9-5)
West: Seattle (9-5)

Wild Cards: Philly (8-6); NY Giants (7-7); Atlanta (7-7)

The Bears, Saints and Cowboys have wrapped the divisions up, and Seattle could win the West with a victory over the Chargers this week. Anyway, the Hawks play the Yucs the following week, so it should be okay.

As for the WCs the Eagles are in position to not only steal a playoff spot but possibly win the East, but it would have to start with a win at Dallas on Christmas day. The way Jeff Garcia is guiding this team right now anything is possible, but it might have to settle for a wild card instead.

The G-Little Men really hurt its postseason dreams with that horrid loss to the Eagles last Sunday. Now it must play a superior Saints team at the Meadowlands and then travel to hostile DC for the last game of the season; Eli Manning is sure to meltdown in that New Years Eve tilt.

Atlanta has been my wild card pick all along before they shit the bed by going 2-5 down the stretch. But a date with the reeling Panthers should keep the Falcons' hopes alive until the finale in Philly, and right now to me it looks like Philly & the Falcons will be the Dirty Bird Dynamic Duo in the postseason.

Last thought: Why couldn't the league let Chad Johnson wear his special mural-encrusted cleats? Why must the league try to legislate all the fun out of this game we all love so much?

Just wondering.


Hooray- the Bowl Season starts today!

Ladies & gentlemen starts your endless array of meaningless bowl games!

Tonight we get the first of the 32 such contests to be played this season when the Huskies of Northern Illinois take on the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University in beautiful San Diego.

I will do an individiual capsule, along with my pick WITH THE SPREAD for every single one of these games, just to help everyone get familiar with little known schools and the bowls they play in. And to try and help my degenerate gambler friends.
You're Welcome.

Bowl #1:
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Northern Illinois (7-5) @ #25 TCU (10-2)
TCU: -12 1/2 pts

Need to Know: NIU is the home of the nation's leading rusher, little-known little (5'7") guy Garrett Wolfe. The diminutive dynamo rushed for 1900 yards and 18 touchdowns and was a one-man wrecking crew for the Huskies.
Unfortunately for him & NIU the Horned Frogs boast the NCAA's 4th toughest run defense, allowing a mere 67 yards per game, and the unit has not had an opposing running back go over 100 yards on them all year.

It's the old irresistible force vs. immovable object theory, or chicken & the egg analogy. What comes first, a potent little runner who has had 3 games of more than 200 yards this season, or the team that is designed to stop someone just like him?

Players to Watch: For NIU its obviously Wolfe. TCU is led by sophomore running back Aaron Brown (749 yards, 9TDs), senior QB Jeff Ballard (2299yds, 12 TDs) and that terrific D.

TRIVIA: It's ironic that this game is being played at Quallcomm Stadium, home of the NFL's Chargers. Charger running backs and school alums LaDanian Tomlinson (TCU) and Michael Turner (NIU) will be present at the game and have a friendly wager on the outcome.
MVP-to-be LT could get more face time than any player other than Wolfe.

MY PICK: Inspired by the presence of such ground-gaining greatness in his final college game Wolfe will be the first back to break the century barrier against the Frog's Fortress of Double Digit Running Backs. It may not be enough to defeat the tougher TCU squad, but at least he should help keep the score respectable.

TCU 30, NIU 24


What's going on outside of the NFL?

I have been so immersed in football that I had to take a timeout from the pigskin posts to blog about some other happenings making news now.

Also the Monday Night game was so lopsided I had to get my mind off of it.

-One hiker found dead & two still missing on Mt. Hood
This story is gripping the nation right now, mainly because it's the kind of heart string-tugging emotional event that wolves like Nancy Graceless and Fox News can pounce all over.

We all know the story by now: 3 experienced hikers set out to scale the dangerous north face of Oregon's Mt. Hood, only to be snowed in after a sudden vicious storm swept through the region.

The men had been missing since last weekend before one was discovered deceased yesterday in an ice cave near the summit, some 11,000 feet above the ground.

Military personnel and volunteers have searched feverishly for over a week to find the missing men, but the discovery of Kelly James body apart from the other two was not what anybody had expected.

Now experts believe that the other two men fell from the point they were anchored just near one of two ice caves where James body was found and perished in the snow below. Ugh.

Being an earth bound guy who never in a million years would climb a mountain like that I sit back fascinated at what makes people try to temp fate and defy nature by doing things like this.

Do I feel sorry for these men? Yes. But time & time again when people decide to take their life in their hands, either sky diving or base climbing, cave diving or mountain climbing, people are so quick to act like it's a national tragedy.

It isn't. It's an unfortunate turn of events that is a result of someone's desire to push the envelope, live life on the edge, and dare to do something that is extremely dangerous.

And for all the people who say "yeah, but you could get hit by a bus tomorrow", I say I'd rather be splattered by a bus than freeze to death in an ice cave at 11,000 feet.

Did they ask or deserve to die during this trip? Of course not. But they knew that could be a possibility. No risk, no reward as they say.

I say no risk, no gruesome death.

-NBA commish lays down the law for Fight Night at the Garden
Carmelo Anthony won a national championship in his one year at Syracuse, then went on to be picked 3rd overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets, 2 spots behind LeBron James and 2 ahead of Dwyane Wade.

Ironically ever since then he has been smack dab in the middle of one controversy after another, and while his draft contemporaries have enjoyed the success that comes with being an NBA champion (Wade) and money-making global phenomenon (James), 'Melo has soiled his reputation forever after yet another careless act.

Commissioner David Stern suspended Anthony, the league's leading scorer at 31 PPG, for 15 games for his part in the brawl at Madison Square Garden at the end of the Nuggets win over the Knicks. Six other players were also suspended, two from Denver and four Knicks.

Anthony has been making national news programs for his sucker punch that caught New York's Mardy Collins square in the jaw; Collins, who instigated the whole thing by clotheslining J.R. Smith on a layup attempt, was suspended for 6 games. Smith will sit out 10 games, meaning Denver will be without its top 2 scorers for the near future.

But Carmelo's future could be even cloudier. Although he has finally burst out of the shadows of his buddies by leading the NBA in scoring, controversy has followed him like a cloud since he came into the league.

First it was an incident at the airport where he was found with pot in his bag. He avoided trouble when one of his lackeys, errr posse members, took the fall and said the stash was his (wink wink.) Then came his appearance in a bootleg street video from his home town of Baltimore talking about how snitches end up in ditches in the 'hood they all come from. Not exactly the image Mr. Stern wants to project for his multitude of millionaires.

He's also had numerous on-court flare ups, including walking off the court before the end of a game, tossing his headband and getting ejected in the season opener and stripping to his skivvies while on the way to the locker room after a loss in Atlanta.

And now this. Not only did he throw the punch while Collins was being held, he ran like a chicken bleep after he dished it out. Real street of you 'Melo. All very immature acts from a guy who is supposed to be a leader both on and off the court, someone the Nuggets have invested a ton of cash in to be the face of the franchise.

Time to grow up and mellow out Anthony.

-File under 'strange but true': runner DQ'd for failing gender test
I'm pretty jaded, being from Boston and a hardcore sports fan all my life, so I thought I had pretty much seen it all, or at least nothing could surprise me.

Then came this story. An Indian runner who won the women's 800 meter race in the Asian Games has been stripped of his/her medal after failing a post-race gender test.

Excuse me, a what? You mean a drug test, piss test?

No I mean a test to see how he/she pissed. And evidently the answer was standing up.

This story is disturbing on so many levels, not the least of which is WHY THE HELL SHOULD ANYONE OUTSIDE OF A RED LIGHT DISTRICT HAVE TO DO A GENDER TEST?

And how did they test him/her? Certainly not by bringing in Danny Bonnaduce or Eddie Murphy, I can guarantee that.

I need to move on before I throw up.

-Let's end on a positive note: Miss America may be so bad she's good
Nobody knew the name Tara Conner before last week. But today everyone in the country will know her name and face because she is going to be plastered on every tabloid rag and program for the foreseeable future.

Miss Conner is the artist formerly known as Miss America 2006. But in true Trump style she has decided to become her own entity. How? By embroiling herself in a drug/sex scandal so juicy it makes Lindsey & Britney look like former Mousketeers by comparison. Wait a minute...

Anyway, it appears that ever since the gorgeous Miss Kentucky was crowned in April she has been hitting the nightlife hard and fast, breaking about 75 of the pageant no-nos including underage drinking, coke use, dating sleazy actors and even shacking up with Miss Teen USA Katie Blair.

Reeeaalllyyyy now?

And they also share a place with Miss Universe.

Pinch me please.

The best part about the whole thing is that Trump, owner of the pageant (along with almost everything else) let the situation simmer for a few weeks, according to TMZ, in order to let it generate enough buzz for the Donald and his many properties, including his new edition of The Apprentice.

But my bet is that it succeeds in gaining Tara a boatload of instant fame and notoriety, the kind that will get her a Penthouse spread (already offered) and a free ticket into Hollywood hot spot Hyde (sure to be coming to TMZ soon.)

And let's hope the Donald's Apprentice: L.A. tanks and he decides to make a reality show out of the three beauty queens living together. Maybe contestants can vie for the right to have a sleepover with the girls. Can you imagine the ratings that would get? It would blow Hef's Girls Next Door out of the water.

I've even got the perfect title:

Pick Me
(kidding honey)


Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday Night matchup should be a wild one

Cincinnati (8-5) @ Indy (11-2)

I am looking forward to the game tonight if for no other reason than these two teams played one of the most entertaining games ever last season.

The Mannings prevailed 45-37 in a shootout in the Queen City as Peyton Manning threw for 365 yards and 3 TDs and the two teams compiled 943 total yards of offense.

Carson Palmer also threw for over 330 yards and three receivers went over 100 yards (Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison) in an aerial attack that hearkened back to the old Air Coryell days.

This game should feature more of the same. Although Manning & his offense isn't as explosive as they have been in the past and the team has lost 3 of the past 4 games, they still manage to score 26 PPG, good for 4th in the league.

Cincy has been revitalized the past month, ripping off 4 straight wins behind the energetic Johnson (765 receiving yards in the last 5 games), and it is the 7th highest scoring team in the league at 24 PPG.

Defense is neither teams' forte either. Indy was gashed for 375 yards on the ground in Jacksonville last week and allows more yards rushing per game (176) than any other team.
Cincy is 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (347) but only 11th in points allowed, shoring up that area since the 49-41 debacle against the Chargers.

So what does that all mean for tonight? Palmer & Manning should both go over 300 yards again. CJ, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Wayne & Harrison should all go over 100 yards receiving, and Bengals RB Rudi Johnson should rush for about 130 yards and 2 scores. The Colts will only run for 66 yards but Manning and his acrobatic receivers should still prevail in what has become a must-win game for the suddenly struggling Mannings.

MY PICK: Indy 37, Bengals 35


Week 15: Monday Morning Kick Returns

Another week and we're that much closer to the end of the regular season (sniff, sniff.)

And another week of records set, playoff spots locked up, and teams going in the tank.

Ah such is life in the NFL, where parity reigns supreme so teams under .500 can have a playoff pulse.

In a minute I'll review. But first I must cover a few things I missed while I was carousing with the Crime Dog

-Another ugly brawl scars the NBA As far as I know the on-court melee between the Nuggets and Knicks was not over the new ball vs. the old ball.

No this one was firmly stoked by one team (Denver) rubbing it in (up by 19 with under 2:00 to go & 4 starters on the court) to a smarmy coach (Princess Isiah) and his crappy band of thugs (Mardy Collins, Nate the Gnat Robinson, et al.)

Two years after the Brawl at The Palace changed the sport and its brawlers forever, ten players were ejected at MSG including the NBA's leading scorer and frequent finder of trouble Carmelo It's My Friend's Pot Anthony. 'Melo was anything but after throwing a sucker punch that decked Collins, the fool who ignited the whole mess by horse collaring JR Smith on a last-minute layup.

You can view a clip of the insanity here.

The NBA brass figure to come down hard on all those involved as a way to punish the players for bringing back the painful memories of the Brawl. The league is still trying to re polish its image in the wake of that affair. But the real story should be that Princess Isiah probably instigated the whole thing.

Thomas was seen mouthing to Anthony "don't take the ball to the basket" before the foul on Smith. Was the biggest pussy to ever play the game pulling a John Cheaney by ordering his goons to make an on-court hit on an opposing player? Obviously. Ironically Collins played for the legendary ornery coach at Temple. Hmmmm. But Isiah is an absolute joke as a leader of a franchise and hopefully this classless act that led to this embarrassing incident causes him to lose his job.

I mean he's already lost his team.

-Drew has yet to pass physical due to shoulder woes
All together now members of RSN: "We told you so!" The $70 million deal to bring oft-injured outfielder J.D. Drew to Boston has hit a snag due to an apparent shoulder injury.

Although the extent of the injury is not known and it doesn't appear that the issue will void the deal, it could allow the Sox to rewrite some of it. Drew has had numerous injuries in his career, including past shoulder trouble, and his penchant for finding the DL has had fans & media alike lambasting the Sox for giving him so much cash.

At least if they can redo the contract, by making more of the money based on incentives than guaranteed and/or shortening the length, then at least the deal won't look as bad when it blows up in Theo's face.

Or has it already?

Also the Sox picked up relievers Brandon Donnelly and JC Romero (good signings) and re-signed Tim Wakefield's caddy Doug Mirabelli. Not sure if they used a police escort when 'Belli came in to sign his deal.

On to the NFL.
San Diego 20, Kansas City 9 MY PICK:
Chargers 28-17
Can we please stop all the 'Drew Brees IS the league MVP' talk now?
LaDanian Tomlinson locked up the award last night in style: on national TV with a 200 yard, 2 TD performance against arch rival Kansas City and (former) NFL leading rusher Larry Johnson. In the process he set the single season record for points scored (186) and rushing touchdowns (28), added to his single-season touchdown record (31) and made about 25 members of the Chiefs defense look silly.

Okay he only had 199 yards but who's gonna deny the guy a yard when he made so many people miss him last night it was like he was playing in a parallel universe. He averaged 8 yards per carry and ripped off side-stepping run after side-stepping run that made it look as if he was playing against Pop Warner players.

LT started his night by sidestepping defenders en route to a 15-yard touchdown that made it 7-o with 5:00 to go in the first quarter.

But he saved his best for later in the half. Both defenses tightened up to the point of choking the quarterbacks into miserable performances, but an odd & rare play turned the tide of the game. As the Chargers punted from their 13 the kick was blocked by Kansas City(7-7.) Problem was a Chief then touched the ball but let it roll, making it live, and the Chargers pounced on the loose rock.

Chargers ball at their own 15 after they punted from their own 13.

Chalk that up to "never seen that one before."

The game was over one play later when LT took a hand off, picked up some blocks and raced untouched 85 yards to the opposite end zone for the soul-crushing, MVP-sealing score.

The Bolts (12-2) remain on track for home field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Chiefs fell into a tie with Buffalo, Tennessee & Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot. The red- hot Chargers have now won 8 straight since the Chiefs last beat them and KC's Tamba Hali called them "a finesse team."

What they are is the best team in the NFL, with the best player in the NFL carrying them to the promised land.

-Bears defense allows 31 points & 357 yards in victory over the Yucs
Chicago 34, Yucs 31 MY PICK: Bears 24-6
This is the vaunted Chicago Bears defense? I'm sorry but any team that allows those kind of numbers to the Yucs, a team that was second to last in the entire league in offense, is not a Super Bowl caliber club.

I've said it a hundred times, but here's 101: this is the worst 12-2 team I have ever seen in my life. I mean seriously which 12-win team would you take in a playoff game right now, San Diego or Chicago? Thank You.

The most embarrassing aspect of the near debacle by Lake Michigan was that Urlacher & Co. allowed the damage to be inflicted by seldom-used backup Tim Rattay, who had only played in one game this season and 4 last year. The poised vet replaced the regressing Bruce Gradkowski (5-11, 37 yards) in the 2nd quarter and led the Bucs on 4 scoring drives including three 4th quarter touchdowns that stunned the Bears, who were cruising along with a 24-3 lead near the end of the 3rd quarter.

By the time the Bears woke up and realized what happened the Bucs' Alex Smith committed a crucial fumble that cost them a shot at a winning score and the Bears got a miraculous catch (or was it) by Rasheid Davis that set up the winning 25-yard FG by Robbie Gould with just over three minutes to go in the overtime.

And just like that the Bears avoided what would have been the biggest upset of this wacky season. And it locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Miracle of all miracles Chucky has declared Rattay the starter for here on out. Guess he finally realizes that Gradkowski is not an NFL QB. Welcome to the club. What the hell took you so long to realize this, jackass?

-Pats destroy Texans to regain some swagger
New England 40, Houston 7 MY PICK: Pats 26-13
Okay so it was only Houston. But a week after it was shut out by a fading Dolphins squad in one of the worst performances, well since the last game in South Florida, the Pats sure needed a game like this.

Like what, you ask? Like having a 27-0 lead at halftime, its biggest since 2003, then answering the Texans score to start the 3rd quarter with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ellis Hobbs. Like missing key players on both sides of the ball (RB Lawrence Maroney, TE Ben Watson, NT Vince Wilfork) and totalling only 230 yards but still winning by 33.

It was that kind of day at the Giant Razor Blade, they kind of day for a team that was shell shocked by a humiliating loss to get back on track and refocus heading into the postseason. Although Tom Brady didn't have a spectacular performance (16-23, 109 yards, 2 TDs) the Pats played turnover-free football for the first time in a month and was able to win despite the loss of productive players.
Perhaps Tommy Boy is in a funk after the breakup with actress Bridget Moynahan. Nah, I always thought he could do much better than her. Tom is an 'A-lister', and Bridget is strictly 'C-list' material.

On the other side of the ball the Patriots excelled on defense even without Wilfork & S Rodney Harrison. The unit held the Texans to 198 total yards and destroyed embattled QB David Carr, sacking him four times and intercepting him four times.

Which reminds me: when the hell are people going to start talking about Assante Samuel? The hard-hitting cornerback had his league-leading 8th interception in the game, and no one outside of the Commonwealth even knows the guy exists. Calling all sports 'experts': GIVE ASSANTE SOME PUB. (Trivia: Samuel is a 4-year vet who played college ball at UCF, otherwise known as the University of Central Florida, located in glorious downtown Orlando.)

The Pats (10-4) didn't clinch the East because the Jets won also, but it did get back some of its mojo heading into the final 2 games.

Cowboys trounce Falcons as T.O.D. commits another offensive act
Dallas 38, Atlanta 28 MY PICK: Cowboys 35-24
Here's something else I missed while dancing the night away. Just as I called it the Falcons completely went in the tank after its classless coach all but bailed on his team with a stupid comment about leaving for his alma mater, the University of Washington.

But the fact that Dallas rebounded from the spanking administered by New Orleans the week prior and clinched a playoff berth while nearly burying the Falcons hopes was lost after it was learned that colossal pain in the ass Terrell Owens has flung himself into the spotlight for a negative reason yet again.
Early in the game Owens apparently had already gotten sick of the mouthful of trash-talking that yippy CB D'Angelo Hall had been giving him. So what did the mental defective do? He hauled off and spit in the guy's face. Spitting is right next to talking about a man's mother in the athlete's "don't even go there" handbook, and although the incident wasn't captured on film since Owens apologized for it after the game we have to assume it's true.

Ah nothing like a good T.O.D. event to rekindle everybody's hatred for him. Can't wait to see him in my living room on Christmas Day. God bless the schedule makers!

-Eagles keep on winning despite loss of McNabb
Philly 36, NY Giants 22 MY PICK: Giants 23-20
Oh what a wild season this has been, especially for these two NFC East rivals. Philly (7-7) was left for dead when team leader Donovan McNabb went out for the season with an ACL injury a month ago and the Eagles record at 4-4. New York (7-7) looked like the class of the NFC when it ran its record to 6-2 on the same week.

Here we are 6 weeks later and the Eagles are flying high behind former Pro Bowl QB Jeff Garcia, a castoff from Detroit and Cleveland who has led Philly to 3 wins in 4 games to climb back into the playoff picture. Meanwhile the backbiting, underachieving Giants have lost 5 of 6 to edge closer to the brink of a non-playoff campaign.

The Giants appeared to have this game won when it went ahead 22-21 midway through the 4th quarter on a touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs. But Garcia (19-28, 237 yards, 1TD, 1 INT) marched the team to the go ahead score and then Eli Don't Call Me Payton Manning gift-wrapped the affair by throwing an interception that Trent Cole returned 19 yards for an incing on the cake touchdown.

Believe it or not if the Eagles win the next 2 games it will be the champs of the East. But the next game- Christmas Day in Dallas- will be no easy contest.

I don't know about you but I sure am looking forward to Gracia's reunion with old buddy Terrell the Spitter. Once again, thanks schedule makers!
The rest of the action in a nutshell:

Buffalo 21, Miami 0
MY PICK: Bills 21-17
JP Losman led the upstart Bills (7-7) to another win and into a tie for the final wild card spot. The Fins (6-8) hopes are dashed, losing by the same score it beat New England by a week ago. Ah karma!

NY Jets 26, Vikes 13
MY PICK: Jets 27-19
How bad is it in Minny? Brad Johnson was booed off the field and his replacement- an undrafted rookie from Alabama State named Tarvaris Jackson- was roundly cheered when he took over. 'Nuff said. Oh yeah, Jets (8-6) stay in the lead for 1st WC spot.

Green Bay 17, Lions 9
MY PICK: Packers 28-6
Brett Favre eclipsed Dan Marino's record for most career completions (4,968) but this game was so hideous (7 turnovers, 15 penalties, no TD passes) that I'm not sure if anyone will even remember it.

Tennessee 24, Jax'ville 17
MY PICK: Titans 23-20
Vince Young keeps winning and the Titans (7-7) are really benefiting. Tennessee's fifth straight victory has put it in a position to make the playoffs thanks to the efforts of the rookie QB, who is now 7-4 as a starter. Meanwhile the Jekyll & Hyde Jags (8-6) ran for another 200 yards but couldn't overcome 4 David Garrard turnovers, 3 of which were returned for scores.

Baltimore 27, Cleveland 17
MY PICK: Ravens 26-9
The Ravens locked up a playoff spot and can clinch the AFC North title with a Bengal loss tonight in Indy. But they also lost starting QB Steve McNair to a hand injury early in the game. Not sure if it's a good sign or not that it still won with displaced signal caller Kyle Boller at the helm, but B'More better hope McNair recovers quickly just in case.

Washington 16, New Orleans 10
MY PICK: Saints 31-20
The Saints took the classic "back door" into the playoffs even though it lost to the overachieving Redskins(6-8.) QB Jason Campbell and RB Ladell Betts continue to produce for Washington while the defense forced the Saints into its lowest point total of the season. But New Orleans (9-5) still got in to the postseason when the Falcons & Panthers lost this weekend.

Pittsburgh 37, Carolina 3
MY PICK: Panthers 17-14
What was I thinking? Chris Weinke fell to 1-16 as an NFL starter and the rejuvenated Steelers (7-7) threw themselves into the playoff picture with a dominating win over the disappointing Panthers (6-8.) Shades of the Steelers 7 game stretch run winning streak of last season? Doubt it. But at least it has righted a ship that was sinking fast, whereas the Panthers look like a team about to mutiny on its clueless coach.

Denver 37, Arizona 20
MY PICK: Cards 21-20
What Was I Thinking II? Oh yeah, I was thinking that the Cards (4-10) & Matt Leinart would continue to play like they had been for the past 4 games (very well) and Jay Cutler would play like he had been for his first 2 (extremely poorly.) Wrong. Cutler, the 11th pick in the draft, one spot behind Leinart had his coming out party while Mike Shanahan let out a massive sigh of relief that this experiment hasn't blown up in his face-yet. The Broncs (8-6) remain in the thick of the AFC WC chase.

St. Louis 20, Oakland 0
MY PICK: Rams 17-12
Congrats Raiders, you remain in the lead for the # pick (sonsofbitches!)

So my record is a highly respectable 11-4 heading into tonight's CIN/IND Monday Night match up.

Too bad I don't partake in an office pool anymore.

Two more weeks to go before the real (short) season starts, so enjoy every last game. Well no one could enjoy Green Bay/Detroit or St. Louis/Oakland, but you know what I mean.