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Archive for the ‘football’ Category

Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 10, 2011

Obviously I’ve been a delinquent when it comes to posting new content lately.  Here goes with an attempt to catch up quickly:

– I really think the NFL and the players union don’t realize the bomb that they are sitting on.  The NFL is unquestionably the best sports league in America by a country mile, yet the owners and players are dangerously close to killing the golden goose.  In an economy where people can’t afford to pay season tickets, the two sides are fighting over a $9 billion pie.  Not exactly a good way to engender goodwill with the fans.

– The NHL has still not recovered from its lockout that erased the 2004-05 season.  It took Major League Baseball three years to erase the damage done by the 1994 players strike, and at that it was only the McGwire-Sosa home run chase that did that.  The NFL and the players are assuming that the fans will come back as soon as a deal is struck, even if games or an entire season are lost.  That may be, but there is no law that says the NFL must remain uber-popular.  If the two sides aren’t careful they may see themselves looking up at some of the other professional sports leagues.

– It is doubly disappointing that the Broncos finally seem to be headed in a very positive direction under John Elway and John Fox, but it may be long time before we see any of these efforts on the field.  Ultimately my money is on football being played in September, but if this thing gets dragged through the courts that is no guarantee and it will get really ugly to boot.

– Congratulations are in order for the Northern Colorado Bears on the first ever NCAA tournament appearance.  Two years ago this team won four games.  That’s a turnaround that’s certainly worthy of a mention.

– It’s awesome to see that there is some good college basketball being played in this state.  The CU Buffs are showing that they might be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament thanks to the play of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.  This team should easily be in the top half of the new Pac-12 next season, especially if Burks returns for another season.

– Of course I will always watch as much college basketball as I can in March, but my hopes aren’t as high for my alma matter.  Missouri has enough talent to be a contender, but for whatever reason they haven’t been able to get it together and have fallen from top 10 team to a club that is very likely to get bounced out of the NCAA tournament in the first round.  At least they’re going to get in, so I shouldn’t complain too much.  Plus this team only has one senior so next year could be very bright.

– While I will always watch college over the NBA, I have found myself to be more interested in the Nuggets now than at any other time this season.  I have found this team to be very refreshing after they chucked out the player who shall not be named.  There is actual effort on defense and much more team play.  The Nuggets are 6-2 since the trade, and might have enough in them to win a playoff series.  The Knicks have lost twice to the Cavaliers.  Just saying.

– As for the Avalanche, it’s hard to find anything positive to say.  The team has won once in the past month.  They traded their best goalie, Craig Anderson, who is now playing much better in Ottawa than he did here.  They also inexplicably traded young star Chris Stewart to St. Louis.  They have been clobbered twice by Edmonton, the worst team in the league, during the past two weeks.  I am one who doesn’t think the NHL doesn’t get enough coverage, but with the Avs there isn’t much to say except the negative right now.

– I am very excited about the Rockies’ prospects this season, provided they can avoid the slow starts that have plagued them in recent seasons.  If they can come out of the gates fast I think winning the NL West is very doable thanks to a solid rotation (yes it is possible in Colorado), and in my opinion the best lineup top to bottom in the division.  Of course nationally no one will give them any credit and ESPN won’t show any of their games.  If Carlos Gonzalez played in New York he would be front and center nationally.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say he could be a legitimate triple crown threat one of these years.

Coming next week: My NCAA tournament picks.  Use with peril when it comes to your office pool.

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Get used to Aaron Rodgers

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 7, 2011

Courtesy Tom Lynn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When people think of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the first names that usually come to mind are Brady, Manning and Brees.  Safe to say after last night and indeed this season, Aaron Rodgers must be included in that group.  Last night the Packers won in large part because Rodgers outplayed his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, and I would say he did so by a wide margin.  Rodgers’ Super Bowl numbers were certainly very good (24-39 304 yards and three touchdowns with no picks) but they would have been even better if not for at least four dropped balls on perfect passes (one of which had a good chance to go for an 80-yard touchdown).  All told Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes in four postseason games, all on the road, with only two interceptions.  Those mirror the touchdown to interception ratio for his career (87 career touchdown passes to 32 picks).  Considering Rodgers has only been a full time starter for three years and is still on the upswing, well, the Packers might produce more of the same for years to come.

If anybody should feel vindicated about Rodgers’ success it’s Packers GM Ted Thompson.  After Brett Favre announced the first of his many retirements following the 2007 season, Thompson made the decision to move forward with Rodgers, who had been chomping at the bit for his chance to take over for Favre.  When Favre said later that summer that he wanted to come back, the Packers found themselves in a very tough position.  Many teams have had trouble replacing their legend quarterbacks.  Miami has still not found a replacement for Dan Marino more than 10 years after his retirement.  Same goes for the Broncos and John Elway, the Bills and Jim Kelly.  The 49ers had Steve Young step in when Joe Montana retired, but they have yet to find even a semi-capable replacement for Young.  There are other teams still that arguably have never had a franchise QB in their history (the Chicago Bears come to mind as a team still looking for their first as Jay Cutler is clearly not it).  Given this, a lot of people, including me, thought the Packers should have allowed Favre to come back in 2008.  The reasoning was simple, legend quarterbacks just don’t get replaced.  Rodgers has proven that theory wrong, and he has done so in such emphatic fashion that it’s fair to ask whether his career won’t end up better than Favre’s.

Favre of course played three seasons after that, one with the Jets and two with the Vikings.  While Favre led the Vikings to an NFC Championship game appearance last year and continued to play at a high level (until this year), Rodgers showed right away why the Packers were so high on him and why they didn’t want him holding any more clipboards on the sideline.  All Rodgers did in his first full season as a starter was throw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.  At age 27, he already has many Super Bowl titles as Favre had in his whole career.  He throws the ball with stunning accuracy, and while he’s mostly a pocket passer, he has proven adept at avoiding the rush when he needs to.  He gives you the good qualities of Favre without the off the field drama or the hair pulling interceptions.  Rodgers is every bit as good as Manning, Brady or Brees.  Perhaps the scariest part for NFC opponents is that the Packers won the Super Bowl this year despite losing a staggering 15 players to injured reserve.  The running backs and receivers are young, and so is the defense.

Recent history has shown that Super Bowl champions are highly unlikely to win a playoff game the next year, let alone repeat as champions.  The last Super Bowl champ to win a playoff game the next year was New England, when the repeated as champions in 2003 and 2004.  That said, the Packers have as good a chance as any to repeat next year, and compete for a good long time.  As long as Rodgers is under center he will have the Packers in prime position  .

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Super Bowl Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 4, 2011

Last Week: 2-0 Playoffs: 6-4

To be perfectly honest, I feel like it’s been so long since the conference championship games that I’m struggling to get in football mode for the Super Bowl on Sunday.  In many ways, it feels like traditional football is over, and we’ve now surrendered to the hype machine that makes the Super Bowl feel like it’s a corporate driven party as opposed to a football game.  Of course this is different if your team is playing in the game, and it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Broncos compete for the Lombardi Trophy.  Nevertheless I will be in front of the television like everyone else Sunday (with plenty of junk food), ready to watch what should be a thoroughly entertaining game between the Packers and Steelers.  If the matchup is as good as it appears to be on paper, this has a chance to continue the trend of thrilling games we’ve seen the past five years or so, as opposed to the blowouts of the 80s and 90s.

While I am seeing many predicting this to be a low scoring, defensive type game, I think we might be in for a shootout.  When these teams met during the 2009 regular season, the teams combined for 73 points, 94 pass attempts and 886 passing yards in a game won by Pittsburgh 37-36.  While I don’t think we’ll see that kind of offensive explosion, I think we’ll see some points put up on the scoreboard.  Let’s not forget this game will be played indoors, and the Packers’ offense in particular has put up terrific numbers in dome games.  While the Packers offense struggled at times during the NFC title game in Chicago, the environment at Cowboys Stadium will be much more conducive to them passing the ball more.  I expect Aaron Rodgers to pass the ball 40 times or so, and I think the Packers’ receivers have the ability to spread the Steelers out and neutralize the physicality of their secondary.  As for the Steelers, people think of them as a power running team, and while they run the ball well, they do have deceptively talented receivers, and as much as I dislike Ben Roethlisberger it’s hard to deny his ability to make plays out of the pocket and extend the play when things break down.  Both teams have outstanding defenses, two of the top ranked units in the league, but I think this is a matchup that will lead to a higher scoring contest.

Before the season started I picked the Packers as my NFC representative in the Super Bowl largely because I thought Rodgers was due for a breakout year.  However, I picked the Steelers to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs partially because I thought they would struggle during Roethlisberger’s suspension at the start of the year (as it turns out they went 3-1 without him), and partially because I thought they had a look of an aging team.  Turns out I was wrong on both counts.  I also had their division rival Baltimore as my Super Bowl pick in the AFC, and as it turns out the Steelers erased a 14-point halftime deficit and rallied for a playoff win against them.  I bring all of this up to emphasize that early season predictions are unreliable and almost never right, but also to point out that as unpredictable as those predictions are, picking the Super Bowl winner can be even harder.  See, the Super Bowl is only one game, and what happened prior to this point in the season is completely irrelevant. 

I think both quarterbacks will have success passing the ball.  I think both sets of receivers have an edge against the other secondary.  I think Pittsburgh has a slight edge running the football only because the Packers are down to roughly their 15th running back due to many injuries.  Pittsburgh also has an edge in experience, having won two of the past five Super Bowls, while this is Green Bay’s first appearance since 1997.  Those two facts alone tells me I should pick Pittsburgh to win, but something tells me that the Packers special teams could be a major factor in this game.  When the Packers played at New England in week 15 (without Aaron Rodgers) they opened the game with a surprise onside kick.  Not saying they’ll do that on Sunday, but we saw one of those from the Saints last year.  I think this will be a close, high scoring game, and my pick, despite the fact I think this might be against my better judgement is:

Packers 27 Steelers 24

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Conference Championship Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 21, 2011

Last week: 2-2  Playoffs: 4-4

In many ways, this playoff year is a microcosm of the regular season.  We’ve seen both number one seeds lose in rather emphatic fashion on their home field, while both six seeds are alive and well. I knew all along that my goal of a perfect 11-0 record in the playoffs was a longshot, but I didn’t expect it blow up in the first game with a win by the 7-9 Seahawks.  No one picked that game correctly, and I don’t know of anyone who actually picked the Patriots to lose at home with a straight face.  The fact that the Pats had beat the Jets 45-3 in the regular season only to lose to them a month later and look very bad doing it, well that has to rank up there with one of the biggest playoff upsets in history.  What will we see this weekend?  I wish I could tell I know for sure, but here is my best guess:

AFC Championship: Steelers over Jets – In many ways I feel like the Jets keep winning just to spite me.  All season long I’ve felt they are the most overrated team in the league.  I think if they played in say, St. Louis and not New York, they wouldn’t get near the coverage that they do and wouldn’t be the media’s darlings.  I think the Jets were lucky in at least four of their wins during the year.  They only won in Denver thanks to a horrible pass interference call on fourth down.  They needed overtime to win in Cleveland. They only won at Detroit thanks to a bizarre Ndamokong Suh missed extra point and poor clock management by the Lions.  They only won against Houston because of a poor use of prevent defense by the Texans.  You get the idea, the Jets have several wins based strictly on luck and luck alone.  I will admit they have a lot of talent on their team, and they carry themselves with such confidence that they feel they can beat anyone.  In their two playoff games, they managed to shut down offenses led by two of the best of all-time, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  The Jets also managed to shut down Ben Roethlisberger in their regular season meeting, one of the Jets’ legit wins, at Heinz Field no less.

So why do I think the Jets won’t win at Heinz Field again?  Well, I just don’t trust them ultimately.  I think the Jets will play with confidence, I think the defense will be effective, and I think Santonio Holmes will have a good game against his former club.  I also however think the Steelers are not quite getting the credit they deserve.  They managed to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit against Baltimore last week.  No one does that.  I think the Steelers defense will force at least two turnovers against Mark Sanchez.  I also think the Jets running game has very little chance to be effective against one of the best run defenses in the league.  I also think the Steelers know how to win.  Most of the roster was around for at least one if not both of their recent Super Bowl victories.  I think this will be a low scoring competitive game, but I think Roethlisberger will be better than Sanchez and that will be the difference.  Pittsburgh 20 Jets 17.

NFC Championship Game: Packers over Bears – It should tell you all you need to know that the Packers are favored even though they’re on the road.  Green Bay has the look of a team that is playing so well at the right time that no one in their right mind should want to get in their way.  Aaron Rodgers is playing perfect football, making every perfect decision while making tough throws.  The Packers’ defense has been nothing short of dominant against Michael Vick and Matt Ryan.  The Packers also are a team that is not afraid to play on the road, and has proven an ability to win in any kind of weather.  As for the Bears, they have had a fine season, winning the division.  In their win against the Seahawks, they showed their defense is among the best in the league and they also showed they can run the ball with effectiveness.  Jay Cutler even lost his head and played a very good game, actually making smart decisions while not turning the ball over.  This shapes up for an epic conference title matchup on paper.

In actuality, I think this will be a mismatch.  I think the Bears were nothing short of lucky to get to beat up on the under .500 Seahawks last week, and I think their victory is more a reflection of how bad Seattle is than how good Chicago might be.  When that game was 7-0, Cutler threw a pass to a wide open Jordan Babineaux of Seattle, who promptly dropped the sure interception.  Had he picked Cutler off, he would have had a sure touchdown for there was nothing in front of him.  Had Babineaux taken that to the house, the game might have turned out very differently.  Green Bay played a complete game in destroying the top seed Falcons in the Georgia Dome.  I think even though this is at Solder Field, the home field edge will be negligible because the Packers are obviously used to cold weather.  I think Aaron Rodgers is playing so well that he will be good for at least three touchdown passes.  I also think the Bears offense could be in for a long day, particularly if Green Bay jumps to an early lead.  The bottom line is I trust Rodgers way more than I do Cutler.  I think the Bears are here because of their defense and running game, but as well as the Packers are playing on both sides of the ball, I don’t think it will matter much what Chicago does.  I really don’t think this is going to be close.  Green Bay 31 Chicago 17.

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Broncos Hire John Fox

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 13, 2011

John Elway just announced a few minutes ago that former Panthers coach John Fox has been hired as the new coach for the Denver Broncos.  Fox beat out four other candidates for the job, including longtime Bronco player and assistant Rick Dennison, who was considered to be the favorite. 

My gut reaction to this choice is that I love it.  I know Carolina had a horrible year this year, but Fox had built a team there that sustained great success for a number of years.  The Panthers were 1-15 in 2001 the year before Fox took over, and in 2003 they were in the Super Bowl, and only an Adam Vinatieri field goal prevented them from winning the thing.  That’s not to say the Broncos will be in the Super Bowl in 2012, but Fox has turned teams around before, so that gives me confidence that he’s capable of turning around the mess that’s surfaced in Denver. 

The other reason I like the choice is that Fox is an excellent defensive mind.  The Broncos have dealt with serious defecencies on defense for the past five seasons, and Fox is exactly the type of guy the Broncos need to generate improvement on that side of the ball.  He is an experienced coach, which the Broncos need because the roster is a mess.  I think it will take time to turn this team around, but I like this choice.  Now the Broncos can begin the process of rebuilding trust with the fan base and moving forward.

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Wild Card Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 7, 2011

Regular Season record: 150-105

I’m going to venture a guess that I wasn’t the only one who got swamped in the last two weeks of December, hence why you have to go hunting for my picks from the last two regular season weeks.  We ended up with a 58 percent success rate on picking games this season, which was well short of the 67 percent from the 2009 season.  The plus side for me is that I lasted until week 16 in the eliminator pool this year, finally getting done in by San Diego’s pitiful performance in Cincinnati.  With the playoffs starts a new slate and the goal is to go through a playoff year 11-0 once in my lifetime.  I have never done it, and will probably never be able to successfully do it, but it’s a goal nonetheless.  Here we go with the picks for the four wild card games:

– Saints over Seahawks: If this were a regular season game, I wouldn’t waste my breath writing about it.  This is a complete mismatch, so much so that the host Seahawks are 10 and a half point underdogs.  Seattle is in the playoffs with a losing record thanks to winning the worst division in NFL history.  I mean really, is anyone in Seattle proud to be wearing a Seahawks NFC West champions shirt after a 7-9 season?  The Saints destroyed the Seattle at the Superdome in week 11, with 34-19 final score not an indicator of how much a blowout it was due to a late Seattle touchdown in the closing seconds.  Even though the Saints are without running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, they won’t need them.  Drew Brees should have a field day as he always does, and the Seahawks offense will likely struggle to move the football against the Saints, just like they have struggled offensively in pretty much every game this season.  This game is example A for why the playoff format is for the birds.  We really don’t want to see the 7-9 Seahawks when a pair of 10-6 NFC teams (the Giants and Buccaneers) are stuck at home.  The Saints will win this by at least two touchdowns

– Colts over Jets: Indianapolis wasn’t themselves this season, and that was clear thanks to their numerous injuries and a down year for Peyton Manning, but the Colts still managed to win four in a row to end the regular season, and if the league doesn’t look out they might just be primed for a playoff run.  I make this pick based partially on the fact that I do think the Colts could be about to get hot, but I also think that the Jets are the luckiest and most overrated team in the league this season.  The Jets got exposed in December with bad losses to the Patriots, Dolphins and Bears, and during the season they needed fluke late circumstances to beat the Broncos, Lions, Browns and Texans.  That’s a lot of wins that I think were strictly luck for the Jets.  They do have a lot of savvy veterans, but so do the Colts.  Indy is also going to be highly motivated since they’re a perceived underdog on their home field.  Besides, I’ll take Peyton Manning over Mark Sanchez every time. 

– Ravens over Chiefs: Baltimore was my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, and I am going to stick with them.  The Ravens finished 12-4 during the regular season and appear to have all the pieces in place to potentially make a run.  Baltimore has won three road playoff games in the past three seasons under John Harbaugh, so they know what it takes to win in January.  For that reason, Arrowhead Stadium won’t be a problem for them, particularly since Arrowhead isn’t what it used to be thanks to the new club seating and the Chiefs misfortunes of the past decade.  The Chiefs have had a nice bounce back season thanks to a strong running game, but it will be interesting to see if Jamaal Charles can make any headway against one of the best run defenses in the league.  I like the Ravens’ ability to have offensive balance in this game, but I also like their ability to toughen up defensively and slow down the Chiefs.  I think this could be close early, but in the end I think the Ravens win without too much difficulty. 

– Packers over Eagles: This should be the most entertaining game of the weekend.  Green Bay was my preseason Super Bowl pick out of the NFC, and I think they do have the tools to make a playoff run.  The Eagles are everyone’s sexy playoff pick because of Michael Vick, but he has really struggled in his last two appearances against the Giants and Vikings.  I know the Eagles came back and won in New York, but they were down 31-10 in the fourth quarter.  Against the Vikings, Vick had no answer for any of Minnesota’s blitzes, and I think the Packers will employ many of the same tactics, which they used successfully against Jay Cutler in week 17.  I also think Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game could be poised for a big afternoon against the Eagles’ secondary.  This will be close, but a hunch says the Packers will win, and I think that will mean three of the four visiting teams will win this weekend.

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Week 15 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 17, 2010

By now you surely have realized I never got around to recapping the latest Broncos disaster in Arizona.  Frankly that was largely because I am so disgusted with the Broncos right now that I have decided to wait until after the season to even attempt to analyze them further.  That performance in the desert was so embarrassing that there frankly aren’t any words that can adequately describe it.  This is a new low for the Broncos, and it’s without question the worst they’ve been in my lifetime.  It doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.

Let’s just move on to the picks.  The quickie style is going so well that we’ll keep it going (25-8 over the last two weeks).  The week started with the Chargers slaughtering San Francisco tonight, and that frankly wasn’t a surprise.  The only reason I didn’t go with the Chargers in the eliminator pool (still alive and kicking!) is because I want to use them for another sure slam dunk next week against the Bungles.

Last Week: 13-3   Season: 121-87

– Bills over Dolphins: Upset alert.  The Dolphins should just ask the NFL to let them play every game on the road, since they’re a lot more successful away from Sun Life Stadium.  The Bills won last week and I still think they’ve got an upset in them before the year is out.  A hunch says this it.   Bills fans are still upset because it might cost them a shot at Andrew Luck in the draft.

– Steelers over Jets: I’ve said all the year the Jets are the league’s most overrated team.  They have proven it with two dreadful performances in a row.  They are not a Super Bowl contender.  Pittsburgh is.  I think this may not be that close at Heinz Field.

– Browns over Bengals: Terrell Owens has now started blaming the coaches and says he can’t throw to himself.  It would also help if he didn’t stand there watching last week when Troy Polamalu stepped in front of him for a pick six.  Even though the game is in Cincy, I can’t call this an upset.

– Saints over Ravens: This is a great game and I think most of the country should be pissed that it’s not getting it.  I’ll be curious to see the Ravens defense against Drew Brees.  Given the way Matt Schaub sliced them up on Monday night, I’ll take Brees.  I still think Baltimore is capable of making a Super Bowl run, but their D needs to do much better against the pass.

– Texans over Titans: Houston showed a lot of heart on Monday night.  I think they can carry it over against a team they’ve already destroyed once this year.  The Titans have zero confidence and I can’t see them winning the rest of the year.

– Jaguars over Colts: Upset alert, but is it really? The game is in Indy, but it’s not like the Colts have been themselves this year even at home.  The good news for them is Peyton Manning finally showed up last week.  He’ll need to be on again because Maurice Jones-Drew figures to be in line for a huge day.  I think the Jags have proven over the past month that they deserve to win the AFC South.

– Raiders over Broncos: I’m so embarrassed by the Broncos that I am going with the Raiders as my eliminator selection this week.  I am not confident about the run defense against Darren McFadden.  I am less confident in the offense because Kyle Orton is banged up and that means we might see Tim Tebow.  I am now among those who thinks Tebow should get some snaps, but the Black Hole will be ugly for him.  Oakland won 59-14 in the first meeting.  This one could be a blowout as well.

– Rams over Chiefs: I make this pick regardless of whether Matt Cassel plays or not.  I do think Jamaal Charles could have a big day on the fast turf, but the Rams have played exceptionally well at home this year.  Besides, the NFC West champion HAS to finish better than 7-9, don’t they?  Please?

– Cowboys over Redskins: It seems like a long ago when Washington won the first meeting.  That was back in week one.  A lot has changed since then.  The Redskins are dreadful, and the Cowboys are surging.  Can we smell blowout in Big D?

– Eagles over Giants: This should be a great game as well.  Philly won the first meeting despite three dropped passes in the end zone by their receivers.  Michael Vick has shown that playing on the road doesn’t affect him, and I think the Eagles defense can have success against the Giants’ running game.  This could be closest game of the week, and might decide the NFC East.  I think the Eagles take this one on the road.

– Buccaneers over Lions: Tampa Bay is 8-0 against sub .500 teams and 0-5 against teams over .500.  They will have the opportunity to feast on the Lions Sunday and they also have another game against Carolina.  Their playoff chances are still very much alive if they take care of business.

– Falcons over Seahawks: Atlanta can wrap up the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss.  Seattle has proven to be mediocre at home this year, so the Falcons should roll on paper.  The only reason this game might be close is because it’s Atlanta’s third road game in a row.

– Panthers over Cardinals: This is a really horrible matchup and honestly I don’t know who will win.  I just think the Broncos are the only team that can possibly make John Skelton look serviceable.

– Patriots over Packers: The Sunday night game was supposed to be one of the best of the year, but with Aaron Rodgers’ concussion, this will be a major mismatch.  Johnny Flynn looked like he didn’t belong anywhere near the NFL last week.  Now he goes against Tom Brady.  I think we’ve all seen this move before.  Green Bay’s playoff chances could be in big trouble.

– Bears over Vikings: I am anxious to see an outdoor game in Minnesota.  The Metrodome isn’t usable, so the game will be at the University of Minnesota.  I think the cold temps could make the game very compelling.  That might be about all that’s compelling, because the Bears are much better right now and I see them winning easily.  That is assuming Jay Cutler doesn’t screw it up.

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Week 14 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 10, 2010

Last Week: 13-3   Season: 108-84

Last night the Colts got week 14 started with a resurgence from Peyton Manning (naturally it didn’t come soon enough to save my fantasy team).  If the Colts can win out, and their schedule is friendly enough that they have a chance, they might end up in the playoffs after all.  I think they still have lots of work to do and next week at Jacksonville is certainly no gimmie, but they’re not out of it yet.  As for Tennessee, they played with effort for the first time in weeks, but that was still not enough.  I’ll ask the strange question: is Jeff Fisher in trouble?  After all, he’s been coaching the team since they were the Houston Oilers.  In any case, Randy Moss is so useless these days he can’t even get on the field.  I think his career might well be over.

As for the rest of the games, doing the picks faster and just going with my gut seems to be working.  With that theme in mind, here we go.

– Bills over Browns: Cleveland has been a major surprise, but unless they win three of their final four, or perhaps all four, Eric Mangini might still be out.  The Bills stunk last week but have actually played well otherwise.  They’ll win a squeaker at home in terrible weather.

– Jets over Dolphins: Miami couldn’t get it done in this matchup at home, so why would they have a chance to do it on the road?  While I think the Jets embarrassed themselves last week, they’ll rebound on their own field against the inconsistent Dolphins.

– Patriots over Bears: If New England repeats what they did last week they aren’t losing to anyone.  The Bears were fortunate to squeak past a pesky Lions club last week.  This will be close, but I think Tom Brady outplays Jay Cutler and that will be the difference.

– Steelers over Bengals: As I’m still alive in the eliminator pool and haven’t used Pittsburgh yet, I’m taking this as a sure fire slam dunk.  The Steelers made a huge statement last week in Baltimore, while the Bungles lived up to their nickname late last week against the Saints.

– Jaguars over Raiders: Jacksonville needs a win to keep their lead in the AFC South (how strange is that?), and I think they’ll get it against a Raiders team that will be much less motivated against a non-division opponent.

– Broncos over Cardinals: Call it the interim coach theory.  The Vikings and Cowboys are 5-1 under interim bosses, and I think the Broncos will play very hard for Eric Studesville on Sunday.  Besides, Arizona is down to their third quarterback, a guy I’ve never heard of named John Skelton.  Dud game of the week for sure.

– Chargers over Chiefs: Even if Matt Cassel plays, I’m not sure how effective he’ll be off his appendectomy.  The Chargers are sure to be desperate now after the egg they laid last week.  San Diego has no margin for error and needs the game a lot more.

– Vikings over Giants: Upset alert.  I think the Giants have not shown the necessary consistency in recent weeks.  I think they’ll play well in this game, but it’s obvious that Minnesota players are glad Brad Childress is gone.  Since this is at Metrodome, I’m going with the upset.

– Buccaneers over Redskins: The Bucs have had hard luck losses against great teams the past two weeks, but they have shown they can compete.  Washington is getting to be beyond dreadful.  Good thing Mike Shanahan will have more than one year to right that ship.

– Lions over Packers: Upset alert #2.  Look, Green Bay has a very good team, they were my preseason Super Bowl pick out of the NFC.  I think they’ll still playoff quality, but I also think the Lions have played very hard every game and they’re bound to see results sooner or later.  Call it a gut feeling.

– Falcons over Panthers: Atlanta rolls by so much this isn’t worth talking about.  I’m saving Atlanta in the eliminator pool for the Georgia Dome rematch in two weeks.

– Saints over Rams: If this was in St. Louis this could be interesting, but as such I think New Orleans will roll very easily at home.  This sets up a terrific NFC South race down the stretch.  This also once again means the NFC West leader will be under .500 because….

– 49ers over Seahawks: I just don’t think Seattle is very good.  San Francisco is talent that is not reflected by their poor record, but I think at home San Francisco finds a way to win this one and perhaps save Mike Singletary’s job.

– Eagles over Cowboys: This should be an entertaining Sunday night game since the Cowboys are much improved, but I think Michael Vick is playing so well that I’m not sure if I would pick the Eagles to lose to any team these days.  Philly wins a thriller on the road.

– Ravens over Texans: Baltimore needs to rebound from last week’s tough loss to the Steelers.  They will against the league’s biggest underachievers.

 

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Josh McDaniels Fired

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 7, 2010

A number of Broncos fans think this is a great day.  I do not think this is a great day.

The Josh McDaniels firing was unexpected that’s for sure.  Today was supposed to be about the CU Buffs and their new coaching hire, Jon Embree.  I really bad for Embree, who accepted his dream job today, and found himself relegated to the back page.  From I what I saw today meeting him for the first time, I think he will be very successful as CU coach, and he’s not the type of guy who cares about whether he is in the spotlight or not.  I just think he should get his due.

Now, to the other matter at hand.  I know many Broncos are doing cartwheels today.  I’m not one of them.  Of course I am upset that the Broncos are 5-17 in their last 22 games dating back to last season.  Of course I’m not happy that the Broncos have been associated with Spygate II or whatever the official term is for the videotaping incident.  Of course I’m not thrilled about some of the personnel moves that have been made.  Despite all that, I find the timing of the Josh McDaniels firing to be puzzling in a number of ways.  Why now?  Why not wait to see what happens in the last four games?  Better yet, why not give him a chance to see what happens next year with a healthy roster?  As I said last week, by making this move at this time, when McDaniels has coached just 29 NFL games, you’re basically saying you’re going to start over again.

I’m certainly not saying that I don’t understand the Broncos’ point of view here.  I know Pat Bowlen looked at the sea of empty seats at the last home game against St. Louis and was fearful of the attendance numbers at the final two home games.  I know Bowlen was embarrassed to have the Broncos be associated with a cheating scandal, however remotely.  I’m sure Bowlen is also very aware of fan feedback, and the fact is most fans wanted McDaniels fired.  In fact, most Broncos fans hated him from the word go.  People say the Broncos have fallen from the elite and that they aren’t one of the league’s prime teams anymore.  That all is true, but they were headed that direction before McDaniels came on board.  Remember, they missed the playoffs in six of Mike Shanahan’s last 10 seasons, and every time they made it in those ten seasons they got blown out by vastly superior teams.  Given that, you certainly can’t blame the Broncos for making a coaching change.

I guess what upsets me so much is I don’t feel that anyone even gave McDaniels a chance.  He was roasted universally for his handling of Jay Cutler, yet Kyle Orton has proven to be better (Besides, Pat Bowlen is the one who ordered that Cutler be traded).  He was roasted for his handling of Brandon Marshall, yet the Broncos don’t miss him either because Brandon Lloyd has been outstanding.  I agree that the Peyton Hillis trade was bad, and some of his other personnel moves were bad, but Mike Shanahan made his series of horrible moves too.  Dale Carter.  Travis Henry.  Benching Jake Plummer (who I still say got a really bad rap and deserves a lot more credit for the work he did here).  First round busts Marcus Nash, George Foster and Jarvis Moss.  Maurice Clarett in the third round when every other team agreed he shouldn’t have been drafted at all.  I could go on but you get the idea.  The point is that McDaniels isn’t alone in making personnel errors.  I will also point out that Shanahan is 5-7 in his first season with the Redskins and I think they are clearly worse than they were last season, so the grass isn’t always necessarily greener on the other side.

Frankly I am pretty certain that things are not going to get better overnight for the Broncos.  In fact, they might get worse before they get better.  I think the new coach could well come in and decide he needs to start over.  For starters, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Tebow.  McDaniels made him the face of the franchise and the future, but most teams weren’t so high on him.  Many teams had him rated as a fourth round pick or below.  It stands to reason another coach may not think he is the answer and then there would be another wasted draft pick.  In any case, I think it will take a long time to turn this around with a new coach.  I’m not saying McDaniels would have taken them to the playoffs next year, but as I said last week I think he deserved a chance to see if things could work with a healthy roster next season.

Since the Broncos will likely be paying three coaches next season (unless they fire McDaniels for cause because of the videotaping incident), it is unlikely they will be able to afford a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.  Our trustworthy insider Adam Schefter mentioned two names: Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun.  The first one I think is unlikely because I think Minnesota will want to retain him.  The second I think could be a real possibility because Calhoun was a Broncos assistant once upon a time.  I’ll also throw out Gary Kubiak, who will likely be fired by the Texans at the end of the year unless they turn it around.  Regardless of who it is, that person will have a big chore ahead of them returning the Broncos to prominence.

I just have one plea for my fellow Broncos fans: give this next coach a chance.  Don’t roast him from the moment he walks in the door.  I’m not going to say McDaniels did a great job, but you don’t know how next year would have turned out.  With a healthy roster next year, who knows they might have been a playoff team.  In fact, I guarantee McDaniels will someday be an outstanding coach with another team (It’s happened before, look at Bill Belichick now after he was run out of Cleveland in the mid 90s).

Unlike most Broncos fans, I do not find this to be a great day.

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Week 13 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 3, 2010

Last Week: 11-5 Season: 95-81

The last couple of weeks have been much better for yours truly in the picking department.  Two weeks ago, I sat four games under .500 for the season.  Now, two weeks of success have turned that around (If you missed my selections last week I did them on Twitter, with the Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that I spent it in Nebraska with the Buffs there was just no time).

A quick note on last night’s game: Michael Vick certainly deserves to be in contention for MVP.  The way he is playing, I’m not sure any NFC team wants to see the Eagles in the playoffs.  As for Houston, they continue to stumble and let winnable games get away.  I can’t see any way that Gary Kubiak isn’t in trouble at the end of the season.  At any rate, on to this week’s selections, as we go for several upset specials:

– Bills over Vikings: Upset pick #1.  Look, I know the Vikings won last week, but it wasn’t as if they jumped off the stat sheet against the Redskins.  I do think they are playing harder for Leslie Frazier than they did for Brad Childress, but this team still doesn’t feel right from Brett Favre all the way to the defensive side of the ball.  I pick the upset because the Bills are rapidly improving and no one seems to be noticing.  They would have beaten the Steelers last week if not for a dropped ball in the end zone.  The Metrodome is always loud, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play well and the Bills defense can slow down Adrian Peterson, I think they have more than a puncher’s chance.  I’m going with the upset.

– Browns over Dolphins: Upset pick #2.  Miami played very well last week in Oakland, but they certainly have not been consistent, especially on their home field.  They have just struggled to put back to back solid performances together.  The Browns continue to be among the surprise teams in the league, and I think Peyton Hillis could be in line for another huge day.  Frankly I don’t think this is much of a stretch, I only call it an upset because a vast majority of folks are picking Miami.

– Saints over Bengals: The complete mismatch of the week. a classic case of Super Bowl contender vs league doormat/soap opera.  If I hadn’t already used New Orleans in my eliminator pool, I would do so here without hesitation.  The sad part is the Bengals’ diva receivers probably don’t even regret the disastrous T-Ocho Show.

– Cowboys over Colts: Upset pick #3.  The Colts are simply not the Colts right now.  Injuries have played their part for sure, especially Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai.  Peyton Manning is trying his best to keep it together, but even he is not having a Manning-esque season.  The Cowboys meanwhile look like a new team under Jason Garrett.  Frankly this doesn’t look right because I have a hard time picturing the Colts under .500 and not in the playoffs, but that is rapidly where they are heading.  This is more of a hunch than anything, but I think Dallas wins on the road.

– Jaguars over Titans: Tennessee destroyed the Jags in the first meeting, but a lot has changed since then.  For starters, David Garrard is healthy and Maurice Jones-Drew has looked much more like his old self in recent weeks.  For the Titans, you know things are bad when their best hope is that Kerry Collins MIGHT be healthy enough to start on Sunday.  Chris Johnson was so ineffective last week he was held to five yards, and the Jaguars have a much better rush defense than Houston.  I think Jacksonville wins, and it may not be particularly close.

– Chiefs over Broncos: I gave my in depth assessment of the Broncos earlier in the week.  Frankly, this game is going to get ugly for them.  Arrowhead Stadium has never been kind to Denver (the Broncos are just 2-16 there in December all-time), plus the Chiefs are going to be highly motivated to avenge the 49-29 defeat a few weeks ago.  Kansas City is the best rushing team in the league, and while the Broncos contained Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in the first meeting, they won’t be able to do it twice.  Kansas City rolls, and perhaps Todd Haley will actually shake Josh McDaniels’ hand this time.

– Chargers over Raiders: San Diego lost the first meeting because of very poor special teams play.  This time, Philip Rivers will have such a good game it won’t come down to special teams.  The Chargers are hitting the gas pedal hard for their annual December run (Philip Rivers has never lost in the month if you can believe that), and they have both momentum and revenge on their side here.  The Raiders went back to looking lost and confused last week against Miami, and this is simply put a bad matchup for them.  The Chargers win this easily.

– Giants over Redskins: Another mismatch on tap.  The G-men had a nice bounce back victory last week and look to get back in the race for the best record in the NFC.  Washington continues to really be a mixed bag, and this just doesn’t bode well for them heading on the road, especially since Mike Shanahan can’t seem to find a healthy running back right now.  I think the Giants win easily behind their strong running game and defense.

– Bears over Lions: This is my eliminator selection for this week (the first time I’ve taken one of these things into December).  When I found out the Lions are starting third string quarterback Drew Stanton, that’s all I need to know.  Shaun Hill was actually doing a capable job leading the offense, but Stanton doesn’t stand a chance against a Julius Peppers-led pass rush that was able to disrupt Michael Vick last week.  The other key for the Bears is Mike Martz has finally discovered his running game.  I think Matt Forte will be more than effective, and the Bears defense will completely shut down Stanton.

– Packers over 49ers: The 49ers are still in playoff contention only because they have the fortune to be part of the worst division in NFL history.  I am genuinely fearful we’ll see a 7-9 champion come out of that division.  The fact that San Francisco is just one game out at 4-7 is downright disturbing.  Despite their playoff chances, I don’t think they have much of a shot at Lambeau Field.   The Packers suffered a tough road loss in Atlanta last week, but they are still very much in play for a division title themselves in a legitimate race.  Green Bay should get this one without too much difficulty.

– Falcons over Buccaneers: It’s hard to believe that is a legitimate big game in the NFC South.  Atlanta won the first meeting at home. but it was much closer than expected.  Tampa Bay is clearly the league’s biggest surprise, but I’m sure they are wishing they were part of the NFC West this year.  New Orleans and Atlanta are both sure playoff teams, so the Buccaneers still have a large hill to climb.  I think this should be a great game, and while I do give Tampa Bay a chance, I think the Falcons are the best team in the NFC right now.  I am starting to think they might be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

– Seahawks over Panthers: This game could be the dud of the week.  Carolina did nearly pull the upset last week in Cleveland, and that is one reason I shied away from Seattle for my eliminator pick this week.  The other reason is the Seahawks have been flat awful in recent weeks, especially last week at home against the Chiefs.  The only reason I’m not going with an upset here is because Seattle is tied for the division lead despite their sub.500 record.  Therefore, they have something tangible to play for when Carolina does not.  A Carolina win wouldn’t shock me, but if Seattle has any pride at all they’ll win this one at home.

– Rams over Cardinals: Arizona hit a new low last week when they got clobbered at home on Monday night against San Francisco.  Derek Anderson’s postgame tirade made things worse.  If Arizona continues to be that inept offensively, they may not win another game all season.  St. Louis continues to show improvement, for Sam Bradford had his first 300-yard game in Denver last week.  St. Louis might be the least bad so to speak of the awful NFC West teams.  I think they will win this one rather comfortably.

– Ravens over Steelers: For once the night games are the two best games of the week.  Baltimore won the first meeting between these two teams in Pittsburgh, but that was without Ben Roethlisberger.  Speaking of the Steelers quarterback, he’s trying to debunk rumors of a broken foot this week.  I still stand behind the Ravens as my preseason Super Bowl pick because of their defense and balanced offensive attack.  One thing you can bank on with this matchup is it will be decided by a field goal or less.  I still go with the Ravens on their home field, especially after Pittsburgh’s near miss in Buffalo last week.

– Patriots over Jets: The winner of this game will very likely win the AFC East.  Regardless, it looks like both teams are headed to the playoffs.  The Jets won the first meeting, but the Patriots have been retooled since then, subtracting Randy Moss and adding Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead.  I like New England here for two reasons.  One, they are at home, where they rarely if ever lose especially in a big game.  Second, I still think the Jets can owe a large part of their record to luck.  At some point that is going to run out on them.

 

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