Friday, September 17, 2010

NFL Week Two: Let's not get too excited...

There's always a tendency to overreact to both good and bad performances. Friends assume that because the Vikings, Colts and Rams all lost last week that I'm already giving up on the season. Please. Sixteen weeks is a long time, and there are about 1,000 different things that can happen. November and December is much more important than September and October. Most offenses are still not in sync in the first three or four weeks, and injuries are always a factor. So let's take the season one week at a time, and that leads us to Week Two...on with the picks!

Arizona at Atlanta
Atlanta couldn't do much against the Pittsburgh defense, and Arizona's coaching staff comes from Arizona. Neither one of these teams really excites me, but 'Zona played a good road game last week at St. Louis, so I'm sticking with the Gridbirds this week.
Cardinals 24, Falcons 13 WRONG!

Baltimore at Cincinnati
Baltimore's defense is getting older, but they're still nasty-tough. Cincy's offense is getting older and just nasty.
Ravens 17, Bengals 7 WRONG!

Kansas City at Cleveland
Every season, there's one team that moves from the outhouse to the penthouse. Could KC be that team? To be great, you need to crush inferior opponents and win games like these, especially on the road. Even if they're not this season's movers, after Cleveland's performance last week, there's no way I'm picking them.
Chiefs 21, Browns 10 GOT IT!

Chicago at Dallas
Two teams that are vastly overrated, but I can't see Jay Cutler beating Dallas' defense in the Lone Star State.
Cowboys 20, Bears 13 WRONG!

Philadelphia at Detroit
Michael Vick almost came back last week to be Green Bay; Detroit's not nearly as good as Green Bay. Advantage: Philly.
Eagles 27, Lions 17 GOT IT!

Buffalo at Green Bay
There should be a mercy rule on this one. What's the record for most TD passes in one game? (checking...) Seven, done five times, most recently by Joe Kapp of the Vikings in 1969. I'm taking Rodgers for eight, then.
Packers 56, Bills 0 GOT IT!

Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Chris Johnson is just superhuman. And hey, why not award the now-vacated Heisman Trophy to runner-up Vince Young? It's a popularity contest anyway, so let's treat it accordingly.
Titans 24, Steelers 10 WRONG!

Miami at Minnesota
Someone want to explain to me why, other than Brett Favre backlash, so many people like Miami in the Metrodome this Sunday? I mean, Bill Simmons is a freakin' idiot, so his pick didn't surprise me, but this is a no-brainer. The 'Fins only scored 15 against Buffalo, and they're easily the worst team in the league. Let me set you all straight...
Vikings 38, Dolphins 16 WRONG!

Tampa Bay at Carolina
If this were the only game on TV this Sunday, I'd just have to watch golf...or NASCAR...or three hours of cooking gadget informercials. Ugh. I have to pick one? Only because I have to...
Panthers 13, Bucs 9 WRONG!

Seattle at Denver
Last week confirmed what I suspected—Pete Carroll's been waiting a LONG time to have another chance in the NFL, and he's not going to waste it. Plus, Kyle Orton still stinks and Josh McDaniel is overrated, as is Denver in general. However, Denver's still a big home field advantage, and I need to see Seattle win big more than once before I'll believe they're real.
Broncos 27, Seahawks 23 GOT IT!

St. Louis at Oakland
The Rams really should have beaten Arizona last week; except for that dropped fumble return, that's a Rams win. Plus, Oakland is just terrible. I'm still drinking the Bradford Kool-Aid.
Rams 20, Raiders 17 WRONG!

New England at New York Jets
You know someone who talks a lot but never backs it up? Especially when it counts? And then that other guy, the one who almost never says anything because he never needs to because he's too busy kicking so much ass? Well, watch this game and you will.
Patriots 34, Jets 9 WRONG!

Jacksonville at San Diego
This is a classic week one overreaction game. Jax isn't as good as they looked against Denver, and SD's not as bad as they looked in KC. This week you have the Bolts at home and Jax suffering from jet lag.
Chargers 23, Jags 17 GOT IT!

Houston at Washington
Big potential for an giant emotional letdown for Houston this week, but Washington didn't look very good at all last week, and this whole Albert Haynesworth thing is going to wreck their clubhouse soon. Tip for 'Skins defense: tackle the guy with "Foster" on his jersey, if you can.
Texans 30, Skins 10 GOT IT!

New York Giants at Indianapolis
Let's make it simple: Who wins, older brother or younger brother. That's what I thought.
Peyton 33, Eli 21 GOT IT!

New Orleans at San Francisco
You know what? This week, I WILL wear the "Who Dat?!" cape. Remember, I hate the 49ers!
Saints 31, Niners 14 GOT IT!

This week: 8-8
Last week: 11-5

This season: 19-13 (.594)

Friday, September 10, 2010

NFL? I'm just not feelin' it.../TUESDAY APOLOGY

I mean, how would you feel in my place? My three favorite teams are Minnesota, Indianapolis and St. Louis. 1-15, lost the NFC Championship they should have won, lost the Superbowl they should have won. On top of that, we have the Sword-of-Damocles-like prospect of a work stoppage due to labor strife next season, a pre-season expert consensus of Green Bay vs. New York Jets in the Superbowl (and I won't even watch the commercials for THAT one), and a preseason prediction pileup so baffling that I can't even venture a guess on who will even make the playoffs, much less conference championships or the Superbowl. I suppose after this week I'll pick eight teams from each conference who I think have a chance at the playoffs. Until then, I will continue the weekly Sandlot tradition of game-by-game picks. I'm not excited about the football season, but at least it means that baseball is almost over. As always, these are my official picks entered in the "Pigskin Pick'em" contest at

Minnesota at New Orleans
Already picked the Saints to win last night, which they did. Go ahead and kick me when I'm down. I can't believe I have to listen this craptastic Katrina redemption championship story for the next five months.
Saints 14, Vikings 9 (final)

Miami at Buffalo
Buffalo still has a team? Really? Huh...
Dolphins 31, Bills 6 [MIA 15 BUF 10]
I feel sorry for anyone who actually had to watch this game.

Detroit at Chicago
I'm so old, I remember when this was a game to look forward to.
Bears 13, Lions 9 [CHI 19 DET 14]
Don't care what the stupid rules say; Detroit got totally hosed on this one. Oh yeah, and Jay Cutler still sucks.

Oakland at Tennessee
If I owned a football team, I'd pay Jeff Fisher whatever he wanted to be my head coach.
Titans 24, Raiders 14 [TEN 38 OAK 13]
This was just too easy...

Cincinnati at New England
Brady's had a year to rehab his knee, so he should be good to go, which is bad news for everyone else in the league.
Patriots 31, Bengals 27 [NE 38 CIN 24]

Carolina at NY Giants
I hate Carolina. I don't know why, but I just hate everything about this franchise.
Giants 23, Panthers 13 [NYG 31 CAR 18]
Well, at least one of the Mannings won; that's something I guess...

Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Steelers fans, are you really excited about Dennis Dixon? Let me repeat that: Dennis Dixon? I didn't think so.
Falcons 24, Steelers 17 [PIT 15 ATL 9]
Will someone please remind me not to go against the Steelers at home against the NFC again?

Cleveland at Tampa Bay
Yeah, I know it's Jake Delhomigod he just threw another pick, but Tampa is just cover-your-eyes awful, and did they add anyone at all in the offseason?
Browns 13, Bucs 10 [TB 17 CLE 14]
Oh wait, you meant CLEVELAND, didn't you? Ugh...

Denver at Jacksonville
Flip a coin with either of these teams, but I think this whole Tebow thing is going to make good things happen for Denver, even if it's just his enthusiasm rubbing off on the rest of the team. I also have a hard time seeing Jax shake off the malaise of an utterly disinterested fan base.
Broncos 17, Jags 13 [JAX 24 DEN 17]
Why, oh why do I ever believe in Denver?

Indy at Houston
Someday Houston has to be able to hold a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter against the Colts, right? Well, I'm counting this as the official Superbowl hangover letdown game...unless all it did was piss off Peyton so much he's determined to take them back again...see why I can't get a handle on this season?
Texans 33, Colts 31 [HOU 34 IND 24]
Sometimes I just hate it when I'm right.

San Francisco at Seattle
Just because I freaking HATE San Fran; always have, always will. I had a hard time cheering for Joe Montana when he came over to KC just because I spent so many years hating him in SF. Did I mention that I HATE SAN FRANCISCO?!?!?!?
Seahawks 49, 49ers 0 [SEA 31 KC 6]
Nelson Muntz: "HAA-HA!!!"

Green Bay at Philadelphia
Aaron Rogers is Jesus Christ and the Packers will win the Superbowl. Happy? Can you just leave me alone now?!?!?!?!?!!!
Packers 38, Eagles 24 [GB 27 PHI 20]
Now we know why Philly didn't trade away Mike Vick.

Arizona at St. Louis
I'm drinking the Sam Bradford Kool-Aid. I'm not just sipping it. I'm not just drinking a big glass of it. I'm sticking my head right down into the cooler and swallowing gigantic gulps of its cold, fruity goodness. Sam Bradford, Boomer Sooner, the savior of St. Louis football. Hey, after 1-15 and watching my big boys fall, I want the Kool-Aid. I need the Kool-Aid. Let me drink my Kool-Aid in peace, my friends.
Rams 28, Cardinals 24 [ARZ 17 STL 13]
For God's sake, Rams, trade for or sign a big-time receiver, right now!

Dallas at Washington
Why the 'Skins? Because of Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan. And because I won't ever jump on the Dallas bandwagon. I wouldn't do it in 1978, and I'm sure not going to do it now.
'Skins 20, Cowboys 17 [WSH 13 DAL 7]
What a boring game—virtually unwatchable

Baltimore at NY Jets
I missed the game in my predictions, but I picked it right in the pool.
Ravens 10, Jets 9

San Diego at Kansas City
Are we still sure that Phillip Rivers is God and Norv Turner really can take a team far into the playoffs? Because I keep hearing the tune but I never get to see the dance. Meh, it's still the Chefs, tho, so I guess this seems like a safe pick.
Chargers 24, Chefs 10 [KC 21 SD 14]
Way to go, KC. I hate the Chargers, too.

This season: 11-5 (.688)
Last season: On suicide watch through the end of March

Friday, September 03, 2010

...and fight for old Mizzou!

This is as close as it gets to a college football preview for me, because without a playoff system, there's no legitimate championship. The BCS system is like major league baseball saying that the only teams who get to play in the world series are the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies or Dodgers; no one else even gets a chance, regardless of their record. Sorry, Alabama, but you didn't win a national championship—you just won a bowl game, like everyone else.

Having said that, Mizzou is completely off the national radar this year, which I think is just excellent. After several years of hype, one glorious week at number one, and a lifetime of utter futility against Oklahoma, no one is paying attention to Missouri's football program. As far as the national press is concerned, the only team in the Big 12 North is Nebraska, and they're moving to the Big 10 (?!) next year. (Hate to see you go, don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, hope to never see you again, blank you very much.)

The problem with Missouri has always been expectations, and although this hold true for basketball as well as football, at least the basketball team has had some legitimately great teams. The same can't be said for football, even during Chase Daniel's glorious career. The team that beat Kansas and spent a week at #1 in the polls didn't play Oklahoma during the regular season, and they got stomped by the Sooners the very next week in the Big 12 (?!) championship.

The hard, cold reality that Mizzou fans have to accept is that we are a mid-major program, which explains our recent success with mid-major coach Gary Pinkel. Missouri is never, ever, ever going to be the kind of football program that can compete with Oklahoma or Texas, never mind Florida, Alabama, LSU, USC or Ohio State. It's simply a matter of reality. Some things just are the way they are. Winona Ryder's cute, but she's not ever going to have Julia Roberts' career. Life's not fair, and neither is football.

Once we accept that as reality, we can enjoy what should be a very nice season. I'm excited to see what Blane Gabbert can do with a year's experience under his chinstrap and two healthy ankles. After tomorrow's game in St. Louis against Illinois, we have three home games against mid-majors followed by the Big 12 (?!) opener against Pac-10 defectors Colorado. I think that game should be an opportunity to take out some serious conference realignment frustrations on the Buffaloes, who should still be awful this season. So we're looking realistically at a 5-0 start, 4-1 at the worst.

The next four weeks are just brutal. At Texas A&M, always a difficult road game for anyone. (I dated a girl in college who lived in Austin and hated the Aggies; she called their pre-game student activities "Hitler Youth Rallies.") Then its back to Columbia for the annual beatdown at the hands of the Sooners, off to Lincoln for another humiliation at the hands of the most smug, insufferable, repulsive fans in any sport, then back to Texas to watch our defense get spun like a piƱata by Texas Tech's indefensible spread offense. Going 2-2 in that stretch would be a miracle, and that's only if we can win two road games in Texas. 0-4 is more likely.

The back half of the schedule is favorable; K-State, Iowa State, Kansas. I think we can expect at least 7-8 wins and a modest bowl appearance, which we'll lose to an inferior opponent, just like we usually do. That's Mizzou football, folks. But I was in Columbia from 1986 through 1992 and suffered through 1-11, 2-10, 3-9 seasons. Seven or eight wins and a bowl game is great. This is like Christmas; don't complain about rankings or BCS. That's for the big boys. For us, good enough is good enough.