Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for October, 2008

Week Five Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 3, 2008

One quick follow up on the Raiders mess before we get into the picks this week.  It is clearer than ever that Al Davis needs to go.  There has never been an owner in sports who has messed up an organization worse than he has.  Check out what former Raider Warren Sapp had to say about his time playing for the Raiders.  I’ll let that speak for itself.  We now have proof that Davis actually calls plays sometimes during games.  Al Davis needs to go.  He is bad for the game, and he is an embarrassment in every way. 

Last week: 8-5 (.615)  Season: 38-22 (.633)

– Cardinals over Bills: This pick may seem strange considering the Bills are one of just three undefeated teams coming into this week.  They have seized the opportunity Tom Brady’s injury has given them in the AFC East.  They have given two spectacular fourth quarter performances in the last two games, so they should continue to roll right?  The flip side says they have trailed the Raiders and Rams entering the fourth quarter the past two games.  Arizona is hungry, returning home after a two game east coast skid.  In spite of their defensive struggles last week, the offense is really lighting it up though putting up big numbers.  Both offenses should put up big numbers making this game a fantasy players’ dream.  The Cardinals are tough at home, and that will prove the difference as Arizona wins in a mini-upset. 

– Chargers over Dolphins: The Chargers overcame a slow start to beat the Raiders last week, and seem to be hitting their stride offensively.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins have had two weeks to congratulate themselves for killing the Patriots.  On the surface this seems like a recipe for a trap game.  The Dolphins seem like they should be dangerous at home, but it’s easy to forget how awful Miami looked against Arizona the week before their big game in New England.  San Diego is two plays away from being 4-0, and they feel like they have something to prove.  Miami will keep it close early, but a hunch says the Chargers pull away late.

– 49ers over Patriots: This is a very intriguing game.  We’re still not sure what the Patriots really have with Matt Cassel at quarterback, but they have now had a bye week to figure it out.  What we know is that Bill Belichick decided not to bring anyone else in, so he is sticking with Cassel for better or worse.  New England also has had two weeks to stew over the loss to Miami.  Meanwhile, the 49ers have been up and down the first four games, but will have a charged atmosphere at home.  The crowd will be in a particular frenzy because the Niners are retiring Steve Young’s number.  I’m definitely going against the grain on this one, but I have a feeling J.T. O’Sullivan and company will have offensive success at home, and that will be enough to bump off a Patriots team that doesn’t come close to resembling the one that threatened history last season. 

– Cowboys over Bengals: The line on this game is 17, which no doubt ranks it among the biggest lines in recent memory.  Dallas is angry after a home loss to Washington last week, and the offense should break out against Cincinnati’s more than porous defense.  Carson Palmer should be back under center for the Bengals, but will it really matter?  Then you have Chad Johnson’s latest antics.  Everything points to Dallas winning this game so easily it will be over before the first quarter is half over.  Then again, it seems like every time I say a game is going to be a mismatch it ends up being competitive.  Still, I can’t come up with any scenario where Dallas doesn’t win this game by at least two touchdowns.

– Ravens over Titans: Another surprise pick, and another undefeated team going down.  Tennessee has been terrific defensively its first four games, but Baltimore’s defense has been very stingy as well.  I will honestly be surprised if either offense is able to move the ball much in this one, so field position and turnovers will decide this game.  Baltimore has already won two home games they weren’t supposed to win (both of which I picked correctly, but that’s beside the point), so a hunch says they make it a perfect three for three at home in this one.  There is no question the Ravens at 3-1 would have to rank among the top surprises of the NFL season in the early going. 

– Colts over Texans: This is a must win game for both teams.  Indianapolis is 1-2 heading in and is already looking up at both Tennessee and Jacksonville in the division.  The Colts have not looked like themselves in the early going, but they also are coming off the bye week.  Houston gave a gutsy performance in a tough road loss to Jacksonville, and now finally gets to host its first game of the season (the first was wiped out due to Hurricane Ike).  This is a really hard game to figure.  Will the Colts be back to their form from the past several years?  Which Houston offense will show up, the one from the first two games, or the one from last week against the Jaguars?  I go with the Colts only because I would be very surprised if they continued to slump that badly after the bye week, especially with Peyton Manning under center. 

– Broncos over Buccaneers: This should be a great game with both teams coming in 3-1.  Brian Griese gets to go against Denver for the first time, and he will no doubt be motivated to give a good showing after getting run out of Mile High following the 2002 season.  Tampa Bay is coming off a big win against Green Bay, and is looking to keep pace in the NFC South.  The Broncos are also motivated after last week’s embarrassing performance at Arrowhead, and the offense will look to get back to putting 30 points on the board.  A tough chore against the Tampa D for sure, but keep in mind that Jay Cutler actually threw for a career high 361 yards last week in Kansas City, with both Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal going over 100 yards.  Home field advantage will be enough to lift the Broncos in a close game.  It’s doesn’t hurt for the Broncos that Mike Shanahan is 8-1 lifetime against Jon Gruden. 

– Panthers over Chiefs: I sense a big letdown for Kansas City after their first win in almost a year last week.  Yes, the Chiefs offense did break out last week, but something tells me John Fox has had his team focused on stopping Larry Johnson all week.  Carolina does have two offensive linemen out, which could cause some protection problems for Jake Delhomme, but the Panthers should still be able to move the ball very effectively, especially at home.  Carolina has quietly been one of the more impressive teams in the first quarter of the season, particularly with the return of Steve Smith.  This should be a relatively easy win for the Panthers.

– Giants over Seahawks: Seattle is starting to get some its receivers healthy, which is good news for Matt Hasselbeck, but going into Giants Stadium these days is still a difficult chore for any team, let alone with one that has as many flaws as the Seahawks.  The Giants are without Plaxico Burress, who is serving a one game suspension, but they still have enough weapons to move the ball effectively against Seattle’s defense.  A win here could potentially leave the Giants as the only undefeated team in the league.  Anyone else think Tom Coughlin would be privately chuckling at all the “experts” who predicted the Giants would miss the playoffs this year?  I still laugh when I think about how anyone could possibly have come to that conclusion about the defending champs, especially considering their less than difficult early season schedule. 

– Eagles over Redskins: This is the game of the week, if nothing else because there is no question the NFC East is the best division in football.  Philadelphia suffered a tough road loss at Chicago last week, and returns home to play a Washington team that stunned the Cowboys.  Washington has had an impressive turnaround after their sloppy season opening loss to the Giants.  It will be very tough for Washington to win two straight division road games, so Philadelphia gets the nod here, but it won’t be easy.  The health of Brian Westbrook is extremely important for the Eagles, for they will need him as the season wears on to stay efficient on offense. 

– Bears over Lions: Detroit fans have to be happy that Matt Millen finally got dismissed after seven years of ineptitude.  I’m not sure though that the firing of the embattled GM will really have any effect though until the offseason.  It’s not like a coaching change where players sometimes get fired up.  Chicago meanwhile is arguably two plays away from being 4-0, and their defense did enough to beat an excellent Philly team last week.  The Bears shouldn’t have much trouble winning this one at Ford Field.   

– Packers over Falcons: Aaron Rodgers’ injured shoulder could be a potential issue here for Green Bay, but it seems as though he’s going to play.  The Packers struggled last week against Tampa Bay’s tough defense, but they still had chances to win the game.  The Packers have lost two straight, but those losses have come against two of the better teams in the NFC.  Atlanta has yet to prove it can play well on the road, and the hunch is that trend will continue at Lambeau Field.  That being said, the Falcons gave a better than expected performance in the loss to Carolina last week, and they should continue to improve as the season goes along. 

– Jaguars over Steelers: The Sunday night game should be another smashmouth game where running and defense will carry the day.  Jacksonville has finally gotten its running game together, thanks in part to David Garrard’s ability to scramble when needed.  The Steelers suffered a big blow last week with the season ending injury to Rashard Mendenhall, so they will have to find other ways to move the ball against the Jaguars’ defense.  Jacksonville will get a lift playing at home, and that will be enough to lift them to victory in this playoff rematch.  Keep in mind the Jags actually beat Pittsburgh twice last year, and both wins came on the road. 

– Saints over Vikings: This should be an entertaining Monday nighter.  The Vikings schedule really eases up after this game, so if they could pull a surprise at the Superdome they could easily get back on track.  Thing is, this is also a big game for New Orleans.  The Saints offense has been among the best in the league in the early going, and that trend should continue with Deuce McAllister easing back into the offense.  The Saints know they need to win this game to keep pace in the NFC South, and the home crowd will give the Saints a life to win this game. 

BYE: Jets, Browns, Raiders, Rams

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Days of Our Lives in the NFL, plus Baseball Playoff Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 1, 2008

I realize I am stating the obvious that the Oakland Raiders have been the NFL’s official soap opera for at least the last five years.  Is it possible to feel sympathy for a loathed division rival?  Is it possible the Raiders have become so bad and so embarrassing that it’s impossible to hate them anymore?  It’s certainly not possible to feel that way for Al Davis, who clearly doesn’t have the faintest clue how to run a team anymore.  As long he’s in charge, the Raiders will never again be even remotely good.  The almost comical part is how Davis deflects blame onto everyone but himself, and always has. 

Yesterday Davis dismissed Lane Kiffin, who it is very easy to feel sorry for after reading this letter Al Davis sent to him before their week two game in Kansas City.  Everyone knows Al Davis is an owner who is intimately involved in EVERY personnel decision, so it seems very hypocritical of him to pin the botched signings of Javon Walker and D’Angelo Hall on Kiffin, when everyone knows Davis pulled the trigger on the signings.  Especially in the case of Walker, it was obvious that was destined to fail.  He didn’t come to camp in shape, his personal life is a mess, and he’s coming off a second knee surgery in three years.  Yet, they guaranteed him $16 million.  How is that Kiffin’s fault?  That’s strictly on the owner.  It is equally comical that Davis is critical of Kiffin for not wanting to draft JaMarcus Russell, who has been anything but spectacular in his limited action this year and last.  (Anyone else think Davis misfired by not taking Adrian Peterson last year instead?  Yes, they got a good back in Darren McFadden this year, but that wouldn’t have been needed had they taken Peterson).  The point is, Al Davis has always made the final call on personnel decisions in Oakland, so it is very difficult to believe Davis that he has nothing to do with the organization being in the dumps. 

Why anyone would want to coach the Raiders is absolutely beyond me.  Kiffin is now the fourth coach fired by Davis since 2003.  That’s four coaches in four seasons (plus four games).  Um, anyone else think there is a pattern here that something is really wrong there besides the head coach?  The Raiders have no coaching stability since Jon Gruden left for Tampa before the 2002 season (is it coincidence his Buccaneers torched the Raiders in the Super Bowl the next year?).  Bill Callahan lasted two seasons, with the Raiders going absolutely in the tank in 2003 after the Super Bowl loss.  Norv Turner coached for two seasons before getting fired in 2005 after an awful 9-23 stretch over two seasons.  Then Art Shell lasted one year, finished a woeful 2-14, before Kiffin finished 4-12 last year and got fired after a 1-3 start this year.  The fact is Al Davis doesn’t allow his coaches to coach, despite what his letter to Kiffin may indicate.  There is a clear pattern here that his pressence is the problem in the Raiders organization. 

Now, this is not to say that game day coaching hasn’t been a factor in the Raiders’ slow start this year.  They blew a big fourth quarter lead in a loss at Buffalo, and then had a 15-0 lead against San Diego late in the first half before this sequence.  The resulting poor clock management resulted in a 76 YARD FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT.  Obviously, that’s insane that such a thing would even be attempted for several reasons, but that’s not really the point.  The point is the Raiders had a chance to extend their lead and didn’t, and ended up blowing a fourth quarter lead to the Chargers.  That being said, the pressure as head coach of the Raiders, and more specifically working for Davis, has to be stressful beyond belief.  The fact that something as crazy as a 76 yard field goal was even attempted is a reflection of the soap opera nature of the Raiders organization, and not specifically on Kiffin’s head coaching ability. 

There is some irony here, considering Davis fired Mike Shanahan as head coach four games into the 1989 season.  It is interesting to note that Shanahan lasted exactly as long as Raiders coach as Lane Kiffin: 16 games.  Davis is trying to say he fired Kiffin for cause so he doesn’t have to pay him, which is not surprising considering Davis still owes Mike Shanahan $250,000 that he has not paid to this day.  Shanahan has made Davis pay by routinely beating the Raiders during his tenure as coach of the Broncos, yet Davis has still not seemed to learn his lesson.  I am reasonably convinced that Kiffin will latch on somewhere in the league, probably not as a head coach right away, but he will get another opportunity to prove himself in the league.  It is quite clear that Kiffin being fired is not in any way a reflection of his head coaching ability.  The coach of the Raiders is essentially a yes man to Al Davis, who in spite of what he says, no doubt has his hand in the till in regards to key organization decisions, possibly right down to game plans.  As I say, why anyone would want to coach the Raiders is absolutely beyond me.  Anyone who takes that job is automatically destined to fail because Davis is running a joke of an organization.

As a side note, the Rams are not near as much of a soap opera as the Raiders, but their coaching change does not lack drama.  Scott Linehan angrily yanked Marc Bulger from the starting quarterback slot and gave it to Trent Green before the Buffalo game last week.  The Rams played hard, and actually had a lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Bills ended up pulling away.  Players said later they were upset with the Bulger benching, and it seemed like no one was on the same page.  Now, Jim Haslett has been installed as the interim head coach after Linehan was dismissed.  This despite Haslett being in charge of a defense that has surrendered 30 points every game so far this season.  Haslett has already re-instated Bulger as the starting QB, so it will be interesting to see if the drama continues in St. Louis.  Will either of these coaching changes make a difference?  Maybe, maybe not, but I am sure that Kiffin and Linehan will not be the last coaches to be fired this season. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

In spite of the fact that my Colorado Rockies reverted to their form prior to last year and flamed out well before September, I offer my picks for the baseball playoffs that begin today:

ALDS: Angels over Red Sox in five: The Angels were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and had everything clinched several weeks before the end of the season.  The Red Sox are not healthy. 

Rays over White Sox in four: Chicago has momentum, but they will have a letdown at Tropicana Field.  Tampa Bay’s surprise story continues, thanks in part to Carl Crawford’s return.

NLDS: Brewers over Phillies in five: C.C. Sabathia is the difference for Milwaukee as the Brewers bats outslug Philly in a high scoring series.

Cubs over Dodgers in four: The Dodgers benefited from the Manny Ramirez trade, but the Cubs have the pitching and the emotion of Wrigley in the first two games.

ALCS: Angels over Rays in seven: The Angels are deep, have a solid lineup, a terrific rotation, and a shut down bullpen.  Their experience is the difference against the young Rays.

NLCS: Cubs over Brewers in six: The Cubs owned the Brewers during the regular season, and that continues in the playoffs.

World Series: Cubs over Angels in seven: This would be one the best World Series matchups in a number of years.  The Cubs get it done because a 100 year drought seems long enough, and why not end it on a nice round number?

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