Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Archive for December, 2008

Week Fourteen Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 6, 2008

I’ll admit, the joke is on me.   Clearly I misfired on last night’s game.  Why don’t we just pretend I didn’t make a fool of myself with that pick?  Clearly I should have realized that the Raiders are always too much of a mess to rely on for a pick in any scenario, especially on the road.  I have to admit I really thought the Chargers had essentially given up on the season and that the Raiders had actually been playing well on defense and would be fired up for a division rival.   I really thought San Diego would not be able to throw the ball against them, but the Raiders secondary was not up to the task last night.  Last night’s performance by the Chargers was what we had actually been expecting to see from them all season.  They got an actual good game by LT, a 3 touchdown performance by Philip Rivers and an aggressive effort on defense.  I still think it will be too little too late for the Chargers, who must win out if the Broncos win on Sunday to even have a chance at the division.  San Diego is still an awful 5-8, and they do still have a trip to Tampa Bay, while the Broncos get to host the Chiefs and Bills down the stretch.  It will take a lot for the Chargers to end up as division champs.  Anything is possible in this wacky NFL season, but I just don’t see it.  Let’s forget about last night’s disastrous pick and let’s just move on to the rest:

Last Week:  11-5 (.687)   Season: 119-72-1 (.620)   Season record includes last night’s incorrect pick

– Dolphins over Bills:  Dolphins coach Tony Sparano really needs to need the league office a big thank you gift, because this Bills “home” game will be played in Toronto.  It my personal opinion that this is laying the groundwork for an eventual move of the Bills franchise to Toronto.  The Bills also played a preseason “home” game in Toronto, and are also signed up for two more regular season games there over the next four seasons.  The Bills ownership has long complained that they do not have the revenue to compete, and Ralph Wilson Stadium remains one of the oldest stadiums in the league (never mind that means it is one of the few genuine home field advantages that still exists, but since it doesn’t bring in revenue that doesn’t seem to matter anymore).  The Dolphins benefit big time in that this game will be played indoors instead of out in the wind and snow of Buffalo.  Miami should be able to run the ball, although Ronnie Brown has struggled recently, and the Bills crashed back to Earth last week in an embarrassing home loss to San Francisco.  I think the Dolphins defense will be able to force Trent Edwards into mistakes, and I think Chad Pennington will be able to make enough good decisions to be able to make plays against the Bills defense.  If this game was in actually in Buffalo I would be tempted to go with the Bills, but the neutral location eliminates any advantage whatsoever the Bills would otherwise have in this matchup.  Some Bills fans may travel, but really how many will make the trip in this economy?  Miami wins. 

– Patriots over Seahawks:  New England really shot themselves in the foot last week and is now in a position where they may need to win out to make the playoffs.  They trail the Jets by one game in the division, and also trail the Colts and Ravens in the wild card while being on the wrong end of tiebreakers.  In any case I think it is safe to say that after last week’s game, talk of the Pats keeping Matt Cassel and trading Tom Brady will be significantly cooled.  I still think Cassel has performed admirably this season, but he has not stepped up in a couple of big games.  The Patriots will be helped by a really friendly schedule down the stretch, including this game against a hapless Seattle team.  The Seahawks have looked lost from the word go this season, and Matt Hasselbeck’s return has not helped out the offense in any way.  NBC made a very wise decision to dump this sure blowout in favor of a more competitive game.  New England will roll, especially factoring in that Bill Belichick does not lose back-to-back games. 

– Jets over 49ers: The Jets had a letdown last week after they had won five in a row.  This week they should be able to regroup, although they do have the long trip west.  By the way, I never heard from any Jets fans explaining why they thought it appropriate to boo Broncos injuries last week, so if you’re still out there I’d love to hear from you.  Otherwise I will assume that Jets fans admit there is no justification for such poor and embarrassing behavior.  As for the team, I expect Brett Favre to rebound from one of his worst efforts of the season, and have little trouble picking apart San Francisco’s suspect pass defense.  If Thomas Jones has another big day, the Jets offense will be able to do whatever it wants.  The 49ers did get a surprising win last week in Buffalo, but they will not have the horses to keep up here.  Frank Gore’s numbers have really slipped the past few weeks, and if he doesn’t have a big game, the Niners have no chance.  The Jets withstand an early punch and then pull away for the win. 

– Colts over Bengals: This will be a guaranteed blowout.  I give the Bengals a zero percent chance to win.  Even if the entire Colts offense were forced to exit due to injury, I still give the Bengals no chance to win.  Granted, Indianapolis has been probably the luckiest team in the league this season.  The Colts could have easily lost in Minnesota week two, and in Houston week five if not for boneheaded plays by the opposing quarterbacks.  They also benefited last week from an outstanding game by their defense in a rare case where nobody on offense showed up.  Still, the Colts with Peyton Manning are not a team I would want to see in the playoffs, and that’s exactly where Indianapolis looks headed with their super friendly schedule down the stretch.  The Bengals have been awful all year, and changes have to be coming next season.  If they retain Marvin Lewis as coach, which it sounds like they might, then ownership really needs to get its head examined.  The Colts should have no trouble getting the offense back on track in this one and getting momentum going down the stretch.

– Titans over Browns: Tennessee bounced back in a big way last week against Detroit and is all but sewn up home field advantage in the playoffs.  The Titans sport a two game lead for the top spot in the AFC with four to play, and they kick start the home stretch with what should be a guaranteed win at home against a bad team that is playing out the stretch.  I still fail to see how anyone fancied the Browns as a true contender in the preseason.  To be fair, they have dealt with numerous injuries and will be forced into starting their third string quarterback in this game (Ken Dorsey), but Cleveland never had the look of a contender even in the preseason.  Romeo Crennel will surely be one of several coaches on the firing line at the end of the season, and I just don’t see the Browns being able to put up much of a fight on the road in this one.  Tennessee found its running game again last week, and they will have no trouble piling up yards on the ground against the Browns.  The Titans defense will also be able to force turnovers and control the line of scrimmage.  Tennessee has had 10 days to get ready for this one and this will be a game many viewers will be flipping away from early.  Titans roll. 

– Steelers over Cowboys: This was a really hard game to pick.  Both teams are coming off big wins and both teams will be able to make a lot of noise in the playoffs.  Marion Barber is slightly hobbled for Dallas, and though he will try to play, I think his not being 100 percent will really hurt the Cowboys running game.  This will allow the Pittsburgh defense to put pressure on Tony Romo.  I think the Steelers will also put the clamps on Terrell Owens and really make it hard for Dallas to move the football.   Despite all that, this game could ultimately be decided by how well Pittsburgh can move the ball against the Cowboy defense.  The Heinz Field turf is quickly getting a reputation for being the worst in the league, and it will be interesting to see if that is a factor also.  I do think Pittsburgh will be able to run the ball, and the Steelers seem to usually step up for big games like this.  If Pittsburgh plays as well as they did last week, they will be able to win this one as well.  The good news for Dallas is since this is an interconference game, it will not cripple them for playoff tiebreakers.  Pittsburgh wins. 

– Packers over Texans: Matt Schaub returns to quarterback the Texans, although Sage Rosenfels looked like he was finally getting some rhythm last week.  Houston has the potential to play spoiler for a lot of teams down the stretch, and they do have the talent to win a few games here and there.  I still think if everyone is healthy next season, they really could be a team to watch.  This however will be their first ever trip to Lambeau Field, and that’s usually bad news for opponents.  Green Bay has really been a tough team to figure, although they are still in the NFC North race despite their 5-7 record.  The offense scored 31 points against a good Carolina defense last week, but they still couldn’t figure out a way to win.  Green Bay’s problem all year has been their defense, so they will have an interesting matchup trying to contain Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton.  This pick is really more about a gut feeling than anything else.  I think Houston is more than capable of winning, but Green Bay has more on the line and they will have the elements and the crowd behind them.  I say Aaron Rodgers makes one more play than Schaub to lead the Packers to a win, keeping their slim hopes alive.

– Bears over Jaguars: This is a game matching two struggling teams.  Jacksonville has clearly given up on coach Jack Del Rio, and I wouldn’t be shocked at this point if they failed to win another game.  Del Rio is clearly on the chopping block at the end after his team was picked by many (including me) to have a really good year and possibly represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  Now, the Jaguars are in such a mess that David Garrard can’t even drop back to pass without tripping over one of his own linemen.  Fred Taylor has reportedly made comments that it’s the worst team he’s ever played on, and the chemistry is non-existent.  The Bears should roll in Soldier Field against this mess of a team, except for the fact that Kyle Orton hasn’t exactly performed well in recent weeks.  The good news for Chicago is they do have talented rookie Matt Forte in the backfield, and he should have no trouble running for more than enough yards to make up the difference.  The Bears defense certainly has its faults, but forcing turnovers isn’t one of them.  They’ll get a couple here and win comfortably against the fading Jags, keeping their NFC North hopes alive in the process.

– Broncos over Chiefs: Denver suffered an extremely embarrassing loss to the Chiefs in week four, and will clearly be looking for revenge.  The Broncos are certainly a hard team to figure because they seem to play to their competition, but if they lose this game it will be even more of an embarrassment than the week four loss.  The Broncos allowed Larry Johnson to rush for 198 yards in the first meeting, the most they’ve ever allowed to the Chiefs, but they have really made an effort to shore up their run defense since then.  The Broncos defense has been banged up, and may or may not get some of their injured players back, but they managed to force Brett Favre into one of his worst games of the year last week, and they will come after Tyler Thigpen.  Denver’s offense is clicking again now that Tony Scheffler is finally healthy.  The Chiefs will not be able to cover all of Denver’s receivers, and if the Broncos avoid turnovers they will be fine.  After the horrendous home loss to Oakland two weeks ago, Mike Shanahan will make sure his team is focused and ready for this one and will ensure the Broncos don’t take the Chiefs lightly.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the game was close owing to the nature of the rivalry and Denver’s propensity for letdowns this season, but I don’t see any way the Broncos lose this game and allow themselves to get swept by one of the worst teams in the league.  Denver wins. 

– Giants over Eagles:  I pick the Giants even in the wake of the Plaxico Burress debacle for a couple of reasons.  One, they are the best team in the league by far, so if there is any team that can overcome this kind of distraction, it’s the Giants.  Second, Tom Coughlin is the kind of coach that can keep his team focused in any situation.  It does remain to be seen what will happen with Antonio Pierce and his potential involvement, but I expect a big game from him Sunday as he welcomes the distraction of being back on the field.  Third, The Giants are playing a Philadelphia team that once again does not appear to have Brian Westbrook at 100 percent (despite his four touchdowns last week) and is still inconsistent.  I think the Giants defense will harass Donovan McNabb, and the Giants’ offense will run the ball effectively as usual.  I think the Giants will win, and it could well be by a lot. 

– Vikings over Lions: I thought about picking Detroit to end their winless slide here, but I just don’t see it.  Kevin and Pat Williams will play for the Vikings after their suspensions have been blocked in court, so Minnesota will have no trouble stopping the Lions’ running game.  Detroit looked so bad last week in every area, that I do not see how they will possibly be able to have any kind of offense against the Vikings.  Minnesota has Adrian Peterson and that will be more than enough offense for them.  This does seem like a trap game for the Vikings in light of their big win against the Bears last week and their division lead, but I think Minnesota will do just enough to win this one and keep their lead.

– Saints over Falcons: Atlanta won the first meeting at the Georgia Dome big, and I think the Saints will return the favor in the Superdome.  Drew Brees and company are much more effective at home than on the road, and the Saints do have Reggie Bush back after he had one game last week to get back in the swing of things.  I think the Saints will cause trouble for teams even though their playoffs hopes are about done because they have so much talent on offense.  Atlanta has proved it is for real with a road win in San Diego last week, and I think they will put points up in this game too.  Michael Turner scored four touchdowns in the first meeting, so the Saints will be sure to key on him, but a  hunch says that while the Falcons will score points, New Orleans will get a few more.  This will be an entertaining shootout and a good reason to have DirecTV.  I say the Saints win one of the higher scoring games of the year.

– Cardinals over Rams: Arizona is dominant at home.  The Rams stink on the road.  The Cardinals won the first meeting 34-13 and will win this one by at least that.  Nothing more needs to be said.   Arizona will have no trouble bouncing back from their loss in Philadelphia.  The Cardinals win the NFC West with a victory, meaning they will host a playoff game for the first time in their entire lifespan in Phoenix.  The apocalypse must be near. 

– Ravens over Redskins: This will be a better Sunday night offering than the originally scheduled Patriots-Seahawks blowout, although this could easily be a blowout as well.  The Redskins are quickly fading, and Clinton Portis really does appear to be hobbling now.  That is bad news when you hit the road to face the Ravens’ ballhawking defense.  Baltimore is quickly closing in on the Steelers, and while there may be slight concern about looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Pittsburgh, this one is for regional bragging rights in the Beltway.  Baltimore has an offense to go with their defense in this one, and I think the Ravens will stomp Washington from the word go and blow the Redskins right out of M&T Bank Stadium.  Baltimore is for real, and I would not want to see them in the playoffs. 

– Panthers over Buccaneers: This could well be the game of the week on Monday night.  Tampa Bay won the first meeting emphatically 27-3, but the Panthers are at home this time.  It will be critical for Jake Delhomme to not make mistakes because the Tampa defense will make him pay if he does.  Delhomme threw three picks in the first meeting and that was the difference.  I envision a strong run game plan from John Fox, as the Panthers will use both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  The Panthers defense may not be as talented as the Bucs, but they can cause trouble for Jeff Garcia.  If the Panthers running game gets going, it will be tough for the Buccaneers to be able to keep up.  Both teams will make the playoffs, but the winner of this game could get a first round playoff bye which would be huge.  This will be a great game, and I think the Panthers will be able to pull it out.

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Thursday Night Football Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 4, 2008

We’ve run into a busy week in the Fischer household, so we’ll have a quick pick here on tonight’s game, and the rest of the games will be selected tomorrow, we promise. 

Needless to say this is a big game in the AFC West.  The Broncos will certainly be watching closely because they will all but clinch the division if the Raiders pull the upset tonight, needing only a win Sunday against the hapless Chiefs in that case.  San Diego has got to rank as one of the biggest disappointments in the league at a seemingly unbelievable 4-8 (I still say Jacksonville is a bigger disappointment, but not by much).  The Chargers have won just one game since Oct. 12, and that was a one point win over Kansas City thanks to a Chiefs missed two point conversion at the end of the game.  Strangely enough, the Raiders actually have more wins in that span than the Chargers, having beaten the Jets on Oct. 19 and the Broncos two weeks ago. 

What is most surprising about the Chargers has been the down play of LaDainian Tomlinson, who clearly has not been the best back in football this season.  Granted, the troubles on the O-line have something to do with that, but the Chargers offense has not been near as explosive as in past years.  Likewise, their defense has struggled without Shawne Merriman.  Their loss to Atlanta last week was nowhere near as close as the score indicated.  If not for a defensive TD, the Chargers would have been blown out.  The Falcons dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and had a dominant edge in every stat category.  The Raiders are also coming off a loss to Kansas City in which the score seems close but in which the Raiders didn’t play up to their potential.  JaMarcus Russell has really struggled at the quarterback position, and the running game has also been non existent most games.  The Raiders defense however has actually played very well most games, and they do seem to step up and play to the level of their competition.

Two weeks ago against Denver, the Raiders completely shut down the Broncos passing game and were able to force turnovers.  Two weeks before that, the Raiders held Jake Delhomme to just 7 of 27 and forced him into four picks.  Call me crazy, but I think Philip Rivers is about to have a very long night.  If the Raiders can shut down San Diego’s running game, which is possible with LT not being himself, and if Rivers is forced to win the game for San Diego, he won’t be able to.  The Oakland secondary is very underrated and is actually among the best in the league, especially Nnamdi Asoumgua, who should absolutely be a Pro Bowler.  If the Raiders can force turnovers, their offense might just be able to take advantage of them and put up some points against the Chargers.

Either way, this game will definitely be ugly.  Personally I might just watch more of the Texas-UCLA college basketball showdown as ugly as this game could get.  Something just doesn’t seem right about San Diego.  The Chargers have been in desperation mode for a month and have not figured out how to win.  If it didn’t kick in by now, it probably won’t.  When these teams played in week four, Oakland had a 15-3 fourth quarter lead, and that was before the Al Davis-Lane Kiffin divorce.  I smell something fishy here.  I think the Chargers are done, and Norv Turner should be as well at the end of the season.  San Diego never should have fired Marty Schottenheimer, and their mistake is quickly coming home to roost.

The pick: Oakland pulls the upset.  Raiders 17-13

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We Need Playoffs in College Football!!!

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 3, 2008

I have so much to say on this topic that I’m not sure where to begin.  The current college football system to determine a champion is so absurd that no words I can use to describe it would do it justice.  Imagine for a moment if the NFL has a BCS type of system instead of its current playoff setup.  Each of the past three seasons would have turned out radically different if you had simply selected the top two teams and automatically advanced them to the Super Bowl without a playoff tournament.  Here what would have resulted with a “BCS” type system and what actually transpired:

2005: hypothetical “BCS” matchup: Indianapolis (No. 1 AFC) vs. Seattle (No. 1 NFC)                

          reality: Pittsburgh (No. 6 AFC) vs. Seattle

2006:  hypothetical “BCS” matchup: San Diego (No. 1 AFC) vs. Chicago (No. 1. NFC)

           reality: Indianapolis (No. 3 AFC) vs. Chicago

2007:  hypothetical “BCS” matchup: New England (No. 1 AFC) vs. Dallas (No. 1 NFC)

           reality: New England vs. NY Giants (No. 5 NFC)

The point of this is to illustrate that the Super Bowl hardly ever ends up actually matching the top two teams from each conference during the regular season, so why should it be assumed that the BCS Championship game wouldn’t be different after a playoff?  This year’s setup for starters has all kinds of red flags, not the least of which is Oklahoma leapfrogging Texas for a spot in the Big 12 title game on Saturday, and thus an inside track to the title game.  Of course, the other absurdity here is that Texas could end up benefiting by not playing if Mizzou upsets the Sooners, which is possible but not likely.  That argument aside, Texas Tech deserves to gripe as well, being that they beat Texas and sport the same record as Texas and OU at 11-1.  How about the other one loss teams?  Florida is considered the front runner if they beat undefeated Alabama on Saturday, but why should the Tide necessarily fall behind say Texas or OU?  What about USC?  Or Penn State?   Those teams have one loss too.  This doesn’t even take into account Utah and Boise State, both of whom are undefeated, and in Utah’s case having beaten several quality opponents.  Because these teams were ranked low to start the season and don’t play in power conferences, they are automatically ineligible for a national title.  In basketball, every team can win the national championship.  Granted it’s unlikely, but last year Davidson was one shot away from making the Final Four, and of course George Mason made the Final Four a few years ago.  The mid-majors have a chance in basketball, but are given no chance in football.  For me the biggest BCS farce of all-time was in 2004, when Auburn went undefeated, beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and still didn’t get a shot at the national title because USC also went undefeated.  Or how about 2001, when a one loss Oregon team was left out of the title game in favor of one loss Nebraska, who didn’t win its own conference or even make it to the Big 12 title game? 

The current system essentially rewards team for losing early in the season, which is why Oklahoma and Florida are in the driver’s seat so to speak.  Because Texas Tech lost recently (granted by a lot) they slipped too far in the BCS standings to catch up.   A championship game matchup shouldn’t strictly be based on who is hot at the end of the season.  Sure, that can allow a team to run through a playoff, but at least then they are earning it on the field, not getting rewarded by voters or computers.  I realize playoff proposals are the rage these days, and we know that ESPN has signed up for the tv rights for the BCS until 2014.  Knowing this, it appears we are stuck with this system until at least that time.  Let’s also be frank here, money has been the driving factor for the college presidents wanting to keep the status quo.  They also don’t want to wreck the tradition of the bowls, but haven’t they already done that by playing the national title game on Jan. 8?  Or playing the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5 instead of New Year’s Day? 

My plan involves  the best of both worlds, involving a 16-team playoff while preserving the bowls, sort of.  Here’s how it works:

1. Shorten the regular season: I say let’s eliminate one of the four non-conference games at the start of the season, which all they are is a power team beating up on little sisters of the poor in a no tv game.  Dropping the regular season back to 11 games from 12 would counter the argument that the season would be too long with a playoff.  If that really is their reasoning for not having a playoff, why did they add a 12th regular season game and drag out the bowls past New Years Day?  It makes no sense. 

2. Eliminate the conference championship games: I realize this will never happen because it is too much of a moneymaker, but if a playoff is to be possible, cutting out these games and staging the first round of the playoffs in the first weekend of December would make sense.  That way a full playoff could be staged, but it wouldn’t completely drag out the season.  Conference tournaments are easier to stage in basketball while preserving a tournament because they play so many more games anyway.  As far as the money argument goes, I argue that the tvcontract and ticket revenue streams from a playoff would more than make up for lost revenue from eliminating the conference championships.  Down the road, if there is a way to preserve these games while still going through with a playoff, I’m all for that, but that wouldn’t be realistic.

3. Play the round of 16 in the first weekend of December at home sites:

Start with automatic bids for the champions of the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big East, Pac 10 and Mountain West conferences.  That leaves nine available at-large spots, leaving room for the Boise State’s of the world and other top teams.  Since Notre Dame is not in a conference, they would fall in the at-large category.  In the round of 16, the top 8 would have home field advantage.  I would suggest using a committee similar to basketball to decide the at-large teams and to seed everyone, but another option would be to use the BCS to seed the teams.  Using that, here’s how the round 16 could potentially look this year:

      – No. 16 Georgia at No. 1 Alabama 

      – No. 15 Georgia Tech  at No. 2 Oklahoma

      – No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Texas

      – No. 13 Cincinnati at No. 4 Florida

      – No. 12 Ball State at No. 5 USC

      – No. 11 TCU at No. 6 Utah

      – No. 10 Ohio State at No. 7 Texas Tech

      – No. 9 Boise State at No. 8 Penn State

Obviously this is a very rough outline, and these pairings result in a lot of conference rematches, but that could be cleaned up by the committee similar to they way they do it in basketball.  In this setup, undefeated Utah, Boise State, and Ball State would have a chance to join the fray.  Think of the excitement a Utah home game against say, Ohio State, would generate.  A school like Boise State finishes unbeaten, let’s see how they do in Happy Valley.  The conference breakdown in this setup of eligible teams is much better than the current setup:

        – Big 12: 4 teams

        – SEC: 3 teams

        – Big 10: 2 teams

        – Mountain West: 2 teams

        – ACC, Big East, Pac 10, MAC, WAC: 1 team each

In some years, the Big 10 may have 4 teams and the Big 12 two teams, or whatever the breakdown would be in most years.  This year, the SEC and Big 12 are by far the best conferences, so they would get more teams in the party this year.  The point is each of these teams (especially Utah and Boise State) would have a shot at a national title, which they are essentially not eligible for right now.

4. Play the quarterfinals, semifinals, and title game as part of the existing bowls:

For arguments sake of this year, let’s say the higher seeded teams in our first round example were to advance.  I say let’s pick some of the best bowl games and incorporate them into our tournament, starting with the quarterfinals.  These bowls would benefit because their games would become meaningful again, and fans might actually be more inclined to watch.  You could have in the quarterfinals in the second weekend of December looking this way:

        – Gator Bowl: Alabama vs. Penn State

        – Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

        – Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Utah

        – Holiday Bowl: Florida vs. USC

Your semifinals could be matched in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls on Dec. 20, and then stage your national title game on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl.   I picked the Rose Bowl to host the national title game because that way it could stay on New Year’s Day.  I think it’s safe to say the Rose Bowl still is the one with most tradition left, and it seems like the perfect annual host for the national title game.  I thought about rotating the national title game, but the Rose Bowl seems perfect for the national title game.  Imagine 100,000 people in one of the most special places in sports actually seeing a national champion crowned the right way in college football.   Sure beats teams running up scores to impress pollsters doesn’t it?

I know this proposal is not perfect by any means, but is playing the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 20 in a national semifinal any worse than playing it on Jan. 5 when it is completely meaningless?  I argue that playing it in a semifinal context is infinitely better in every way.  Sure, in a 16-team playoff there would still be teams that feel they would be left out, such as Missouri, BYU, Boston College, Oregon, and Michigan State this season.  That argument would exist no matter how many teams you allowed in, and to me 16 seems like the perfect number.  In the short term, I would settle for 8 or even 4, for even that would be better than the current system.  Hell, in the short term I’d even settle for a plus 1 after the bowl games.  As for the rest of the bowls, such as the extremely prestigious papajohns.com Bowl, let’s keep those and allow teams that didn’t make the playoffs to compete there a la the NIT in basketball.  Regardless of what it would ultimately look like, a playoff system of some kind in college football is obviously long overdue, and it seems like the only people who can’t see that are the ones in charge.  I have not met a single person who actually thinks the current setup is a good idea, so let’s get on with it and get it changed. 

I welcome your feedback and suggestions for a playoff as well.  Any idea is a good one that would bounce the farce that is the BCS and get a playoff system going.  In the meantime, just about every team will have an argument that they should be in the title game, while having no true way to settle this.

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What a Puzzling Team

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 1, 2008

Here’s all you need to know about the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the 2008 Denver Broncos: my record predicting their games this season is 4-8, and I have misfired on seven in a row.  When it looks like the Broncos should win, they lose.  When it looks like they have no hope, they figure out a way to win.  Such is the nature of the NFL these days, where every game is unpredictable.  How can anyone try to predict games in a league where home teams went just 2-10 today?  Think about that for a second.  Home field advantage is clearly not as important as it used to be (for starters these newer stadiums are not near as intimidating for opposing teams), but that’s only part of it.  The league is getting more and more unpredictable because there are fewer dominant teams and more parity.  

This Broncos team in particular is just downright baffling.  Fresh off a 31-10 home loss to one of the worst teams in the league, the Broncos went on the road to Giants Stadium in the rain, to a place where they have never played well against either the Jets or Giants, and beat maybe the hottest team in the AFC 34-17.  The Jets had won five in a row and were coming off road victories against the Patriots and Titans.  

For all of the injuries the Broncos have sustained this season, 7-5 is a heck of an achievement.  The Broncos are down to their fifth running back, yet Peyton Hillis ran for 129 yards against a Jets defense that completely shut down the Titans vaunted running game last week.  You’ve got Eddie Royal, who was doubtful with a toe injury that has been nagging him for six weeks, making a terrific first quarter catch and turning it into a 59-yard touchdown while tiptoeing down the sideline and managing to stay in bounds.  He finished with five catches for 84 yards.  You’ve got linebackers dropping like flies, but here is Mario Haggan, signed off the practice squad just two weeks ago, contributing a key sack of Brett Favre in the third quarter to force a Jets field goal attempt in the red zone when New York was threatening to climb back in it.  Or how many guys nationally have heard of Vernon Fox, who had all of three tackles this season coming into today.  Fox jump started the Broncos’ momentum in the first quarter by alertly scooping up a Jets fumble and returning it 23 yards for a touchdown.  (Side note: why were the Jets trying trick plays, in this case a reverse, when it is pouring rain and the ball is slick?)

Some other thoughts from today’s game:

– It seems as though how Jay Cutler goes, so go the Broncos.  Last week against the Raiders Cutler completed just 43 percent of his throws and finished with an awful 49.8 quarterback rating in a blowout loss.  Today, Cutler completed 63 percent of his passes, throwing for 357 yards and finishing a rating of 94.8.  Sure, the quarterback’s fate dictates the outcome of games for most teams, but it seems particularly true for Cutler

– The Broncos were able to win the turnover battle again today (2-1).  This is not rocket science: the Broncos are now 6-0 when they win the turnover battle and 1-7 when the lose it.  This is not shocking, and is a reflection that the Broncos won today in part because they took care of the ball and didn’t make dumb mistakes

– I remember now why I can’t stand New York teams.  Jets fans actually had the audacity to boo when the Broncos defense suffered injuries on three straight plays in the third quarter (Spencer Larsen, Ebenezer Ekuban and Dre’ Bly).  Ironically, all three plays were catches and runs by Leon Washington, and that drive culminated in a Jets field goal after they stalled in the red zone.  Jets fans apparently thought the Broncos were faking injuries to stop Favre’s momentum on that drive.  Ridiculous.  Does any Jets fan out there want to answer me how arrogant a fan base must be to actually believe a team would fake injury in any case? Seriously I want to hear from a Jets fan why booing an injury was thought to be appropriate here.  The Broncos have been pulling guys off the street to play a variety of positions for the past six weeks.  The entire starting linebacking core was already out coming into this game. They were so banged up two weeks ago against Atlanta they needed Larsen to play both ways.  Mike Shanahan was wondering if he had anyone left to play defense in the fourth quarter.  You really think the Broncos actually wanted to lose key defenders while the Jets were going in for a score?  Especially when they already came into the game missing several key guys?  Please, grow up Jets fans.  At least Broncos fans aren’t dumb enough or immature enough to boo opposing team injuries.  For the record, Larsen didn’t return after his injury.  

– I am more and more convinced that Tony Scheffler’s presence is vital to the success of Denver’s passing game.  His ability to stretch defenses was sorely missed during his three game absence due to a groin injury, all losses.  The Broncos have won three of four since his return, and there are more opportunities for Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.  The Broncos haven’t had a tight end to stretch the defense like this since Shannon Sharpe.  

– Kudos to the offensive line, and that’s not just for today but all season.  I really believe Ryan Clady should get consideration for rookie of the year.  He has not allowed a sack and has only been called for one penalty all season, absolutely incredible for any left tackle, not just a rookie.  The Broncos’ other tackle, Ryan Harris, is also in his first year after missing his rookie season last year due to injury.  The line as a whole has allowed just seven sacks and has been vital to holding the running game together in the wake of all the injuries at running back.   

This might just be the best coaching job of Mike Shanahan’s career.  He has an extremely young team, which partially explains the up and down nature of their season, yet he has the Broncos in the division lead by three games with just four to play.  Next week the Broncos get Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams back on defense, and Selvin Young should also return to help the running game, although Hillis has done great in Young’s absence.  The good news is the Broncos’ win today just about guarantees the AFC West champion will not be 7-9.   The Broncos and Chargers both have a game remaining against hapless Kansas City, plus they still have to play each other.  The Broncos are home to the Chiefs next week, and Denver’s humiliating week four loss at Arrowhead ought to be enough motivation for the Broncos to roll.  Then again, based on the unpredictable nature of their season, another letdown might not be out of the question.

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BCS = Not Fair

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 1, 2008

One quick note about the BCS standings released today.  I am unable to express my true feelings on Oklahoma jumping Texas for the number two spot, and with it a trip to the Big 12 Championship game, because, well, this is a family column.  Let’s just say that if you took one letter out of BCS you might get what it really is.  Does head to head not matter at all?  Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field in October.  Both teams have the same record.  How does that make Oklahoma more deserving of a spot in the conference title game, and by extension an inside track to the national championship game?  Sure, the Sooners have scored a boatload of points, but it shouldn’t matter how hot they’ve been the past two games.  The final standings should reflect the entire body of work for the season.  The BCS essentially rewards teams for losing early in the season, and that is simply not fair.  No doubt Texas fans will be rooting for Missouri to upset OU on Saturday night at Arrowhead.  This situation is exactly why the BCS needs to be dumped. It is ridiculous to suggest that Oklahoma is any more deserving than Texas (or any other one loss team) for the number two spot.  Unfortunately money seems to get the way of common sense here. I’ll say it again, this year screams for a playoff more than ever. My proposal for a playoff is coming this week, so stay tuned for that.

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