Sunday, October 29, 2006

NFL Week Eight—Sub .500

Last week was my first sub .500 set of picks this season, so I hope I can get back on track this week. I'll have some final World Series thoughts posted in the next few days, followed by a look ahead at what the Cardinals might do next year. In the meantime, with humility and trepidation, here are this week's picks.

Seattle at Kansas City
Larry Johnson and the Arrowhead crowd tips things in favor of the home team.
Chiefs 26, Seahawks 16
Not as much defense as I would have expected.
KC 35, Seattle 28

San Francisco at Chicago
This one oughta get everyone talking about "undefeated season" again, even though it's not going to happen.
Bears 38, 49ers 9
Just brutal. They should have ended this game at halftime for mercy's sake.
Chicago 41, SF 10

Baltimore at New Orleans
Can we compare Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Reggie Bush to Mike Martz, Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk? Are the 2006 Saints following in the footsteps of the 1999 Rams? This game will test their ability to beat a good defense. On the other hand, the Ravens have no offense at all.
Saints 20, Ravens 13
Can someone please tell me who Baltimore is? I can't figure this team out. I'm still not convinced they're for real, but they just keep winning.
Baltimore 35, NO 22

Houston at Tennessee
I'm going with Jeff Fisher over Gary Kubiak.
Titans 28, Texans 20
And that was a good decision.
Tennessee 28, Houston 22

Arizona at Green Bay
I wonder if Brett Favre is who Denny Green thought he was?
Packers 31, Deadbirds 21
Yes, he was.
GB 31, Arizona 14

Tampa Bay at NY Giants
I'm taking Eli and Tiki at home for the rest of the season. These guys are about to emerge as the best team in the NFC East.
Giants 27, Bucanneers 14
The Giants are now listed as the #4 favorite to win the Superbowl by the Vegas Sports Book. Go figure.
NYG 17, TB 3

Atlanta at Cincinnati
Cincy showed me something last week against Carolina, and I think Carolina's better than Atlanta. The Falcons' offense has also proved inconsistent, so I doubt they'll light it up two weeks in a row.
Bengals 20, Falcons 17
he Bengals are like Buffalo for me this year--I never know what they're going to do, but it's always the opposite of what I expect.
Atlanta 29, Cincy 27

Jacksonville at Philadelphia
The Jags are falling to pieces, while I look for the Eagles to put it back together this week at home.
Eagles 24, Jag-wahrs 13
Wrong, wrong, WRONG!!! THE EAGLES SUCK!!!!!
Jax 13, Philly 6

St. Louis at San Diego
The Rams on the road, outside on the West Coast. See the SF game, suckers.
Chargers 31, Rams 17
You'd have to be stupid not to pick this one right.
SD 38, STL 24

Pittsburgh at Oakland
I don't care if Tommy Maddox is recalled to play QB, Cowher's not losing this game.
Steelers 27, Raiders 7
Just shoot me. But shoot Tuck first, 'cause he can't believe how crappy the Steelers have looked this year.
Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 13

Indianapolis at Denver
I don't feel good about this, but I'm sticking with Peyton as long as I can just to piss off the haters. A Denver win won't surprise me, though.
Colts 24, Broncos 23
I can't mock the haters this week, because Superman's about to meet his kryptonite in Foxboro this Sunday.
Indy 34, Denver 31

New York Jets at Cleveland
Why did the NFL give Cleveland another team? Tradition is one thing, but a sucky team is still a sucky team.
Jets 26, Browns 10
Games like this make picking NFL winners such a frustrating enterprise. I'm just grateful the only thing I'm gambling is my credibility.
Cleveland 20, NYJ 13

Dallas at Carolina
I love watching the Dallas franchise fall apart at the seams. It's the most exquisite schadenfreude.
Panthers 30, Cowboys 7
Carolina has reached Buffalo/Cincinnati proportions for me. They're completely unpredictable--or maybe just not that good.
Dallas 35, Carolina 14

New England at Minnesota
Brad Childress has convinced this Vikings team that they are winners. I'm picking them to take an inconsistent and (so far) untested Pats team down on Monday night.
Vikings 24, Patriots 21
Usually somebody calls the cops when they see a beatdown like the one Bradychick put on the Purple last Monday. I felt like puking by the end of the first quarter. Now we have to face the reality of another @%#$^&*@#%$&! Patriots Superbowl win. To quote Bill Simmons, "I will now light myself on fire."
NE 31, Minnesota 7

This week: 7-7
Last week: 6-7
This season: 70-30 (.700)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

NFL Week Seven: The Comeback?

After a monumental 14-0 record in week five, I came back by missing five games before the 3:15 p.m. CDT games even kicked off. Here at The Sandlot, that's just unacceptable. Let's see if the ever-unpredictable NFL decides to realign itself with universal laws of cause and effect.

San Diego at Kansas City
Up-and-coming QB, dominating defense, NFL's best player at RB, meet...the Chefs (no, still not a typo).
Chargers 42, Chefs 9

Jacksonville at Houston
Hey, have I already mentioned how Houston should have drafted Reggie Bush? Somewhere in the world, Sam Bowie is breathing a sigh of relief that he is no longer the stupidest first-round pick in professional sports history (selected over Michael Jordan!). By the way, Chris Berman and the rest of America's pronunciation-challenged announcers: It's "JAG-wahrs," NOT "JAG-wires." (I'm not even going to discuss the pretentious faux-British car commercial announcer who says "JAG-you-are." Ugh!)
JAG-wahrs 31, "Didn't draft Reggie Bush"es, 13

Carolina at Cincinnati
As much as I criticize the Eastcoast Sports Promotion Network for their s0-laughably-obvious-it's-pointless-to-deny East Coast bias in baseball, they also know their stuff rock solid in football (which is less subject to regional bias because of the NFL's competitive balance). The point was made that Cincy's O-line is beat up, which allows defenses to shut down Rudy Johnson in the running game and get pressure on Carson Palmer to disrupt their passing game. They also pointed out the Carolina often starts slow and comes on strong later. In the battle of the big cats, I'll take blue over orange.
Panthers 27, Bengals 17

Detroit at New York Jets
Man, I feel sorry for the regional TV audiences who get stuck watching this dead dog of a game.
Jets 21, Lions 17

Green Bay at Miami
ESPN's "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons writes, "If Brett Favre can't cover a five-point spread against a 1-5 team with Joey Harrington at QB, he needs to retire immediately. And I mean, immediately. Within 10 seconds of the final whistle." I couldn't agree more.
Packers 24, Dolphins 10

New England at Buffalo
Buffalo always does the opposite of what I think they will do, so if I predict them to lose a game they should lose, they usually win. But since I think this is an upset special for Buffalo, then I should pick them to lose. But if I think they will lose, does this mean they will win? I freaking HATE Buffalo for picking purposes!
Patriots 23, Bills 16

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
I'm just not picking a 1-4 team with an unknown QB to beat the Eagles, who are coming off a tough road loss. If I'm wrong, so be it, but I'm sticking with Philly until they give me another reason not to.
Eagles 17, Bucs 13

Pittsburgh at Atlanta
Since no one can run effectively on Pittsburgh's defense, and Atlanta can't do anything offensively other than run, I'm taking the team that's rising upward over the one who's falling back to the pack.
Steelers 23, Falcons 16

Denver at Cleveland
Denver's winning again because they're letting their defense dominate while keeping it simple on offense so Plummer's not put in the position to make his characteristic killer mistakes. This formula will continue to work against a terminally mediocre team like Cleveland.
Broncos 24, Browns 6

Arizona at Oakland
Denny Green's probably threatened to kill and eat raw the entire team if they lose this game. Expect Matt Leinart to have a huge day against the putrid Oakland secondary.
Deadbirds 31, Dead Pirates 21

Minnesota at Seattle
No, I'm not picking against Hasselbeck at home. It doesn't even matter how well the Vikings' defense plays, because this team is incapable of scoring offensive touchdowns. I like Brad Johnson as a backup, but he's not taking this team anywhere except next year's draft.
Seahawks 28, Vikings 9

Washington at Indianapolis
Peyton Manning, haters. Washington is starting TWO backups at cornerback. That ought to be good for at least 4-5 TD passes.
Colts 41, Redskins 17

New York Giants at Dallas
I don't even know what to make of this one. Heads, Dallas; Tails, Giants. (flipping coin) Okay, it was tails.
Giants 24, Dallas 21

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Game Seven Prediction (postgame update)

Sometimes I love it when I'm wrong. The icing on the cake is that the Fox Sports brass is already bemoaning their deflated WS ratings while the "experts" at the Eastcoast Sports Promotion Network are still trying to figure out how Suppan and Weaver beat their beloved Mets.


Mets. (wrong!)


If you've learned anything from my blog, it's this:

My team always loses. (except for tonight!)

Go Detroit! (Go down in flames!)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NFL Week Six Picks (and what we learned)

Houston at Dallas
This ought to put off the “yank Drew Bledsoe” chatter off of sports radio for at least another week. Houston is just a terrible team.
Cowboys 33, Texans 9
Cowboys 34, Texans 6--we learned that Dallas can beat up a bad team.

Philadelphia at New Orleans
I expect the Saints to play another tough game at home, but Philly’s just got too much on both sides of the ball.
Eagles 27, Saints 17
Saints 27, Eagles 24--we learned that the Saints are for real, and that Philly doesn't have enough playmakers to be a championship team.

Seattle at St. Louis
No Shawn Alexander? Look for a steady diet of blitzes on Matt Hasselbeck, as well as a good day for Marc Bulger and the Rams receivers at home. If Scott Linehan can figure out how to consistently get the ball into the end zone, watch out for the Rams to start scoring lots of points.
Rams 24, Seahawks 20
Seahawks 30, Rams 28--we learned that Josh Brown could probably kick a 65-yard FG indoors, that Matt Hasselbeck doesn't need a running game, that the Rams pass defense sucks and that the Rams are still second-class citizens in the NFL for right now.

New York Giants at Atlanta
I like Vick and Dunn at home better than Eli and Tiki on the road, but I’m not real confident about the pick. This game could easily go either way.
Falcons 20, Giants 17
Giants 27, Atlanta 14--we learned how to stop Atlanta's running game and that Eli's going to be an elite QB very soon.

Tennessee at Washington
Jeff Fisher deserves a better team than the one he has; Joe Gibbs should have done a lot more with the team he has.
Redskins 30, Titans 14
Titans 25, Redskins 22--we learned that Jeff Fisher is a better coach than Joe Gibbs, and maybe the Titans weren't wrong to draft Vince Young.

Buffalo at Detroit
I should pick Buffalo, but the Bills never do what I pick, so I’m going to hope the Lions finally get it together on both sides of the ball this week (but don’t count on it).
Lions 27, Bills 24
Lions 20, Bills 17--we learned that I can pick a correct point spread from time to time.

Carolina at Baltimore
Both teams have good defenses, and Baltimore’s is probably a bit better, but Carolina’s offense is miles better than the Ravens, so I’m going blue over black-and-blue.
Panthers 17, Ravens 10
Panthers 23, Ravens 21--we learned that maybe Kyle Boller wasn't the problem with the Baltimore offense, and that Carolina's the most dangerous team in the NFC.

Cincinnati at Tampa Bay
I look for Cincy to bounce back big after a tough loss and a bye week to put together a game plan.
Bengals 31, Bucs 20
Bucs 14, Bengals 13--We learned that Cincy was overrated from the start this year, and maybe Carson Palmer came back too soon from his knee injury.

San Diego at San Francisco
Well, this doesn’t hardly seem fair, now, does it?
Chargers 38, 49ers 7
Chargers 48, 49ers 19--we learned that Phillip Rivers is a potential star, and SD is the one team no one wants to play.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh
I don’t like KC on the road with a backup QB against a defending championship team that will be nothing short of desperate for a win this week.
Steelers 23, Chiefs 13
Steelers 45, Chefs 7 (not a typo!)--we learned that Big Ben's not dead yet.

Miami at New York Jets
Man, do I feel stupid for picking Miami to win the AFC East. I’m not sure they can win four games this season.
Jets 28, Dolphins 6
Jets 20, Dolphins 17--we learned that the Jets suck only slightly less than Miami.

Oakland at Denver
All the pejoratives have been exhausted to describe this putrid Raiders team.
Broncos 27, Raiders 3
Broncos 13, Raiders 3--we learned that the Broncos don't have enough offense to go to the Superbowl this year, regardless of how well their defense plays.

Chicago at Arizona
Oh, the cruelties of the NFL scheduling system…
Bears 49, Cardinals 0
Bears 24, Cardinals 23--we learned to stop comparing this Bears team to 1985, and we were reminded that Bill Bidwell's Deadbirds will always find a way to lose. They don't just need change of ownership; they need an exorcism.

This week: 8-5
Last week: 14-0
Season: 64-23 (.736)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

NFL Week Five Picks: Home Cookin'

Almost nothing but home teams on my pick list except for the two Missouri teams, both of whom are playing bad 1-3 teams on the road. I went with a bunch of road winners in week one, so maybe this set will do as well. Frankly, it's hard to pick against the home teams this week due to the matchups. On with the picks...

St. Louis at Green Bay
I went back and forth on this one. If the Rams offense reverts back to form and Favre has a big day against the Rams' secondary, the Pack could take this one. On the other hand, Favre is hurt, his O-line stinks, and their defense is really, really bad. I think either way you look at it, the odds are in St. Louis' favor. Hopefully last week's scoring binge blew the cobwebs out of the passing game. Note to Jim Haslett: Blitz early, blitz often.
Rams 29, Packers 17

Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Even with an expected loss at Carolina, the Saints didn't show as much of a letdown as most people expected, and if a couple of breaks go their way, they beat Carolina and sit at 4-0. As it stands, they should be able to beat a Tampa team with no proven QB and the rest of its parts in disarray.
Saints 24, Bucs 10

Tennessee at Indianapolis
The only thing of interest in this game is the over-under on Colts points.
Colts 42, Titans 6

Detroit at Minnesota
Another game I can't decide without the flip of a coin. The Vikings offense has been nonexistent so far, but their defense has been solid, so I think they'll run on the Lions' D, control the clock and grind out another low-scoring win. I like Brad Johnson, but he's got to lead this team into the end zone if they want to be relevant this year.
Vikings 17, Lions 13

Buffalo at Chicago
They should institute a mercy-rule clause for this one.
Bears 38, Bills 0

Washington at New York Giants
Brunell and Portis looked good last week beating Jacksonville, but I'm also beginning to wonder if Jax's first few games weren't an aberration caused by the fact that offenses usually start much slower in the early weeks of the season. I think Coughlin, Eli and Tiki all right the Giants' ship this week with a tough victory in a close game.
Giants 27, Redskins 24

Cleveland at Carolina
How come Carolina gets to play a schedule that looks like the first few weeks of the D-1 college football schedule? How about some freakin' competition already? Cleveland! Sheesh!
Panthers 31, Browns 13

Miami at New England
This game is simply cruel and unfair. Oh, well.
Patriots 35, Dolphins 3

Oakland at San Francisco
The Niners looked really bad on the road against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs were coming off a bye week and still pissed about the Cincy game. Frisco's played pretty good at home, and the Raiders are on the verge of total disintegration.
49ers 37, Raiders 14

Kansas City at Arizona
Matt Leinert will get his first start at the Pink Taco, but Herm Edwards should have the KC defense thirsty for rookie blood. As long as they can tackle Edge James, they should be able to bust through that terrible Arizona O-line and make Matt's day just miserable. Damon Huard looked more than competent as Trent Green's placeholder last week.
Chiefs 30, Cardinals 16

New York Jets at Jacksonville
The Jags have one more game--this one--to prove to me I wasn't right about them in the first place with my preseason preview. I don't believe they'll lose a third straight, though, any more than I believe the Jets can have two quality road games in a row. I'm not confident about this pick, but I'm less confident in the Jets' ability to win in the Jags' house.
Jaguars 23, Jets 19

Dallas at Philadelphia
This is such a grudge match, it feels like it should be on Pay-Per-View. I don't think the real story here is T.O. I think it's about how an aggressive Philly defense will be able to stop the Dallas run and pressure immobile Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe into taking costly sacks and making ill-advised passes that get picked off. This will be a low-scoring defensive struggle that will ultimately come down to turnovers, and I see Philly on the plus side.
Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Pittsburgh at San Diego
Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week, which should be good for Big Ben at QB, but they're playing in San Diego, who should be doubly-motivated after a stupid, unnecessary loss last week against the Ravens. Look for another low-scoring defensive gem, but the Chargers just have more offensive weapons at this point--as long as Rivers doesn't throw untimely picks again.
Chargers 20, Steelers 13

Baltimore at Denver
I still don't think Baltimore is for real, but they get their chance to prove it at Mile High this Monday night. If Shanahan could figure out the N.E. defense, I think he can beat these guys, too.
Broncos 20, Ravens 13

Last week: 9-5
Season 42-18 (.700)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

NFL, end of First Quarter

Lots of people like to do power polls for the NFL. Why bother? What matters is the standings and who gets into the playoffs. After the first four weeks, here's what we have to work with:

1) Chicago Bears (4-0, lead North)
2) Seattle Seahawks (3-1, lead West)
3) New Orleans Saints (3-1, lead South)
4) Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, lead East)
5) Atlanta Falcons (3-1, 2nd in South)
6) St. Louis Rams (3-1, 2nd in West)

The Bears are the overwhelming favorite to secure home field advantage, and in a few weeks, people will start comparing them (wrongly) to the 1985 team (the best football team ever in the history of the NFL, and we will NOT discuss it) and start asking the inevitable 1972 Dolphins question. Seattle will need to show that they can win on the road without Shawn Alexander. The Saints will fall back behind Carolina (who's getting healthy) and Atlanta. The Eagles can consolidate power in the East by beating the now doubly-hated Cowboys (as if they needed further reason to hate anything in Philly). The Falcons will compete with Carolina for the South title. The Rams have to prove that they can win on the road and that their offense can produce like it did against a bad Lions defense when it faces better competition. Right now, I can only designate Chicago and Seattle as sure-fire playoff locks; Philly and Atlanta look good; I don't see New Orleans or St. Louis staying in playoff contention.

1) Indianapolis Colts (4-0, leading South)
2) Baltimore Ravens (4-0, leading North)
3) New England Patriots (3-1, leading East)
4) Denver Broncos (2-1, leading West)
5) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1, 2nd in North)
6) San Diego Chargers (2-1, 2nd in West)

Indy's a lead-pipe cinch to clinch home-field advantage for the entire playoffs; I don't see them losing more than 2 or 3 games all season. They have already shown a toughness and resiliency in the past two weeks that we haven't seen in the past. The Ravens can't be for real, can they? Sure, their defense is great again, but can they really limit opponents to less than 16 points each week? I'm still not convinced. New England is Jason Voorhees, Mike Myers and Freddy Kruger all rolled up in one. Just when you think they're dead, they jump back up and kill you. They'll win that crummy division because of the crummy competition. The Broncos won't win more than 9 games with Plummer at QB, so they'll fall back. Cincy got cocky and got knocked in the dirt against N.E.; we'll see if it helps them grow up or throw up. I still think the Chargers will win the West. All six teams have a legit shot to make the playoffs, with Indy and N.E. locks, Cincy and S.D. better than 75% chance, Baltimore and Denver less than 50% chance. We'll take another look at the state of the league after halftime--week 8.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cards-Padres, game one review

Message to the Eastcoast Sports Promotion Network:

CHRIS CARPENTER! What, sucker?!

ALBERT PUJOLS, beeyotch!!!

Eat it, you Connecticut wussies!

Monday, October 02, 2006

MLB Division Series Preview

American League
Detroit at New York Yankees
Jim Leyland should get manager of the decade for the job he’s done with this previously moribund franchise, but they’ve been running on fumes for more than a month now. It took everything they had just to hold on to their playoff spot, and they ended up dropping the division title in the end. Detroit has youth and talent, but the Yankees have veteran experience, and that counts for so much more in the playoffs than the regular season.
Yankees in four games

Oakland at Minnesota
I know Minnesota’s got Johann Santana and have been on an epic tear, but I have to think that Oakland has been lurking under the radar and will give the Twins more than they can handle. However, I have to stop short of picking the A’s to win the series because of Santana and the Twins’ pernicious (and stupid) home field advantage. I hate the freaking Metrodome as both a Vikings fan (1998 NFC Championship) and a Twins hater (1987 World Series).
Twins in five games

National League
Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets
I like the Dodgers in this series because the Mets remind me of the Cardinals of the past two years—clinched early, didn’t do much the last few weeks, short on starting pitching and relying on hitters who may or may not come through. I like the Dodgers’ pitching much better, and I like their veteran leadership better than the Mets youngsters.
Dodgers in four games

St. Louis at San Diego
Okay, so the Cardinals squeaked in; at least they got in. But it would be foolish to think they are going to get on a roll now when they haven’t been on any sort of roll since before the All-Star break. Can the Cards steal this series? It is possible, but only if Chris Carpenter wins both his starts and Albert hits like Babe Ruth while getting some timely support from Edmonds and Rolen. The Cardinals have had good luck against San Diego in past playoffs, but I can’t believe that the Birds have anything to offer after the last horrendous month. On the other hand, since the “experts” at the Eastcoast Sports Promotion Network don’t even think the Cardinals deserve to be here, there’s nothing I’d like to see more than a Redbird upset…but I’m not predicting it here.
Padres in four games