Thursday, December 13, 2007
When they decided to go with John Mozeliak and hire in-house, instead of finding someone who had a farm system development (the area the Cardinals are the weakest), I thought maybe it's for the best to have a GM who learned under Walt.
When they decided to not offer a contract to David Eckstein, our shortstop and leadoff man, I thought maybe he's too expensive and they are trying to be able to offer a lot for a big name pitcher, minus the fact that there are not any top pitchers really in the free agent pool.
When they hired Cesar Izturis, a career .259 hitter, to be the replacement at shortstop while Eckstein was still on the market and his list of future employers were getting slimmer, and signing him was getting cheaper, I thought maybe they feel Brendan Ryan is their man of the future and needed a veteran to mentor him for a year with diminished play as they split time and felt Eckstein deserved a chance to play every day.
When they released So Taguchi, a veteran utility man who has been through thick and thin for the Cardinals, I figured, hey we have a really deep outfield, maybe the Cardinals are making room for this top pitcher they keep talking about.
When they drafted Brian Barton in the Rule 5 draft, a minor league outfielder who has never played a game in the big leagues, when we have a plethora of outfielders including good minor league outfielders that would probably make other teams but are in the minors due to a deep Cardinal outfield, I thought maybe they see something in him that we don't (at least I hoped).
When they decided they would shop Scott Rolen, one of the best third basemen of all time, I thought, he's getting old and the riff between him and LaRussa could be a cancer in the clubhouse. Maybe we could use his star power to get a stud pitcher, since we don't exactly have a whole lot in the farm system for trading.
When they didn't do anything in the Winter Meetings, even though there were top pitchers being shopped and a top starter was Mo's top priority, I thought maybe the asking price was too ridiculous. But couldn't they at least make some offers? Couldn't they at least let the Redbird Nation know they were trying?
Yesterday, they got rid of Aaron Miles, the solution to our second base problem as we can't rely on Adam Kennedy to get it done right now.
Now there have been some pretty bad moves by the Cardinals organization this offseason, but this one takes the cake. When our middle infield batted .258 and .219 last year, and we have no leadoff man, how do you expect to contend. And that is ignoring the fact that we still have a rotation consisting of Adam Wainwright, Joel Piniero, Braden Looper, Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson. I like the top three there and we will return Mark Mulder (who the hell knows what we can expect from him), but we need a solid top-three pitcher. And a leadoff man. Oh yeah, and maybe a pair of balls to go out and get someone good and maybe spend a little money.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Only in the BCS Division Football can a team go undefeated and not National Champion. So what if Hawaii plays in a weak conference? What if they really were the best team in the nation? We have no idea until someone beats them. Now they don't have the money of the major conference schools, so you can't blame them for having a weak schedule or being in a weak conference, like I can with Ohio State (come on OSU AD, step up and give some legitimacy to your team's wins!). Hell, I doubt they even thought they would do as well as they have when they came up with this year's schedule.
But should Ohio State and Hawaii being playing for the national title? Should we go to a complete playoff system and bankrupt the bowl system within five years? Is there some even ground here?
- Stewart Mandel writes that Plus-One is the answer. He feels that having a championship game after all of the bowl games would better serve the purpose without taking away from the bowl games. He feels that using the major bowls to provide matchups to decide the final two could give us a better national championship without taking from the bowls.
- Luke Winn writes, "There is only one logical way to decide the national championship in the Season of Endless Upsets, when there were these options available:
* One undefeated team
* Two one-loss teams
* Ten two loss teams
The solution is to grab one of the two-loss teams (LSU) and one of the one-loss teams (Ohio State, which gained status simply by having the final weekend off), and pit them together in a winner-take-all finale. The less-fortunate leftovers can fight for the scraps in consolation bowls, and the country will be content that we've conclusively answered the "Who's No. 1" question. Especially the undefeated team (Hawaii) that didn't even get a chance to play for the title, even though just one year ago, its conference's BCS rep (Boise State) beat one of college football's juggernauts (Oklahoma) in perhaps the greatest BCS game ever. This is all so incredibly satisfying for everyone involved.
The slate of BCS games this January will do nothing but guarantee dissatisfaction among fans. So what if LSU pummels Ohio State in what will be a pseudo-home game for the Tigers? What will that tell us? If Hawaii beats Georgia, an SEC team that didn't win its own division much less its own conference, to go 12-0, how does that further the Warriors' bid for a share of the title? The BCS has worked in the past -- in the years where a clear Nos. 1 and 2 existed -- but we desperately need something that works every year. That's a playoff beyond the plus-one model. Put the 12 BCS-eligible teams into a field with first-round byes for Nos. 1-4, and let them duke it out. I'd much rather be worrying about the trivial controversy over who was excluded at No. 13 than who was left out at No. 3"
- Bill Trocchi writes that there is already a playoff system in place, but we need to expand the field from 2 to 16, and kill off the rest of the bowls.
- Cory McCartney wants to know why we can't all just get along and why if a playoff system has worked for little brother Div I-AA, it won't work for the BCS. He writes that a playoff would be bigger than the basketball equivalent madness.
- Any conference winner that finishes in the top 25 in the BCS Standings receives an automatic bid. Top four with byes must come from this group. This rule would also keep conference winners who are not any good out. There's always the minor bowls (the football version of the NIT)
- The rest of the field is formed by the next highest in the BCS Standings with only two teams from each conference being selected.
- Ohio State (Big Ten Auto)
- LSU (SEC Auto)
- Virginia Tech (ACC Auto)
- Oklahoma (Big 12 Auto)
- Georgia (SEC At-Large)
- Missouri(Big 12 At-Large)
- USC (Pac-10 Auto)
- W. Virginia (Big East Auto)
- Hawaii (WAC Auto)
- Arizona State(Pac-10 At-Large)
- Illinois (Big Ten At Large)
- Boston College (ACC At-Large)
- #12 BC at #5 UGA
- #9 Hawaii at #8 WVU
- #11 Illinois at #6 Missouri
- #10 Arizona St. at #7 USC
- Winner of 1-1 at #4 Oklahoma
- Winner of 1-2 at #1 OSU
- Winner of 1-3 at #3 VT
- Winner of 1-4 at #2 LSU
What do you think, send me your ideas on what could have been done better. I'm not perfect, but anything has to be better than this. Be sure to take into account keeping big revenue from bowls in mind and the such.
Friday, November 30, 2007
With the Major League Baseball offseason in full bloom there is one name on trade blocks that stands out above all other names: two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana. Filling in for Trever Fehrenbach and Dan Greenwell this week is sports editor Bob Prescott and editor in chief Ben Corn.
Corn: The Twins should trade Johan Santana, there is no doubt. He has made it clear he feels like the Twins are not dedicated to winning now and, thus, he wants out. Santana's contract is up after this year, and the Twins need to think about their future. With Francisco Liriano coming back, their rotation will be strong. They need a better lineup.
The Twins' current lineup, which was the team's problem last year even with outfielder Torii Hunter, consists of Joe Mauer, a solid hitter who will need many days off due to the fact that he's a catcher, Justin Morneau, the obvious heavy-hitter of the team and former AL MVP and Michael Cuddyer, a solid outfielder who, on many teams, would be a No. 6 hitter. Besides those three guys, there is no proven hitter.
The Twins just added last year's rookie-of-the-year runner-up outfielder Delmon Young from the Rays along with infielder Brendan Harris and outfielder Jason Pridie for pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett. Although Garza is a bright young player, this is a good trade for the Twins.
Actually, this helps both teams, but that's a story for another time. By adding such a good, young player in Young, the Twins are showing their commitment to improve in the future, and trading Santana can help to progress that.
Prescott: First of all, the Twins rotation is not that strong. It will get much stronger with the addition of Liriano, but losing Santana will be a bigger blow than losing Liriano was in 2006. Santana is a leader on that rotation, and relying on a second-year pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery to be the ace and anchor of your rotation might be asking too much.
Liriano hasn't even lasted a full year in the majors yet, and now he is being counted on to lead the rotation?
It was the strong pitching of the Santana-Liriano combo that led the Twins to the top of the AL Central, now being considered one of the toughest divisions in baseball, in 2006, not the amazing lineup. It was after they lost Liriano that they began to fall out of contention. The same thing will happen if they get rid of Santana.
Corn: I think the Twins have many young guys who need spots in the rotation including Scott Baker, who almost threw a perfect game last season; reliever Pat Neshek has the stamina to be a starter and can handle it; Kevin Slowey posted a decent ERA last season with a winning record; Carlos Silva is a solid middle of the rotation guy; Boof Bonser is still young and can form a decent career, and if they can add another arm, their rotation will be very solid. Liriano should come back in good form; he seems to be really on top of his game and has a good head on his shoulders.
A strong lineup can carry a team to the playoffs, but cannot win in the playoffs, right, Yankees? The Twins have enough of a strong rotation to win in the playoffs with a good bullpen including closer Joe Nathan, setup man Juan Rincon and Neshek if he's not moved as a starter. They need a couple bats to get them there. Jason Kubel is not enough.
Prescott: The Twins might also be losing Nathan in a trade, according to reports in St. Paul, as he is set to become a free agent after the 2008 season, and the Twins plan to use Neshek or Rincon as their closer. Just ask the Cardinals, how many blows can a pitching staff take and stay competitive?
To be able to make this deal worthwhile to the Twins, they would need to get a decent starter back in the trade, as well as some solid position players. Who's going to make a deal like this?
Keep in mind, Santana has a no-trade clause in his contract. His agent has repeatedly said that for Santana to waive this clause, the team would have to be willing to offer a contract extension that would eclipse the Barry Zito contract of last offseason. So not only does a team have to shell out prime prospects with a decent starter, but they need to shell out $150 million over six years on top of the $13.25 million he will receive next year.
They could do this same deal next year when he hits the open market and save the prospects. Are those prospects worth getting Santana a year early when you could get Santana next year for the money he demands now?
Corn: Santana is worth it if a team wants to win the World Series this year. Some teams this offseason have shown they are going for it all this year by getting good free agents or making trades giving up prospects for big-time players now (Angels, White Sox and Tigers, for example) while others are showing that, although they are close to a World Series title, their prospects are valuable (Indians, Rockies and Diamondbacks, for example).
One of those teams who wants to win now needs to pull this trigger. Giving up a starting pitcher like Phillip Hughes of the Yankees or Jon Lester of the Red Sox to get Santana would be worth it to ensure a spot among the preseason favorites for the championship.
Back to why the Twins should do it, though. The Twins will probably not compete in the AL Central this year with Santana, but the future looks bright as the Tigers and White Sox are getting older and the Indians can't find that piece to fill left field or third base for many years to come.
I've become a big Hughes fan watching his poise with the bright lights of New York on him, he could be a future Cy Young winner, just like Liriano. Why not try to build what could quite possibly become the most dominant one-two-three punch in the AL Central after you're able to add Yankees' reliever Joba Chamberlain to the mix. Chamberlain would do well in Minnesota, too (the Twins play in a dome, so the bugs can't attack him there).
Obviously, I feel the Yankees should be the team the Twins should be talking to because of the pitching prospects they can eke out of them. I know, the Yankees said they wouldn't trade Hughes, Chamberlain or outfielder Melky Cabrera, but with arguably the best pitcher in the game staring you in the face, how can you resist?
Prescott: I could resist by looking towards the future and knowing that the Twins' chances of resigning him are slim, and I could go get him for the same dollars and losing no prospects. Way too much has to be given up by the trading team to make it that worthwhile, especially if you are the Yankees, who know they could outbid anyone.
But back to the Twins, this could be a disastrous move. To lose Hunter, Santana and possibly Nathan all in the same offseason that they open a new stadium that will no doubt have higher ticket prices could cause a big uproar with the fans.
Bud Selig was ready to pull the plug on the Twins a few years back when they couldn't consistently attract a big crowd. They need to keep the fans on their side. Santana may not get them to the playoffs again on his own, but he can put the butts in the seats every fifth game.
However, Santana is not on his own. Liriano will be back, and there are a few decent bats on the hot stove. Even if they can only keep Santana for another year, who better to help Liriano adjust after surgery than possibly the best pitcher in the league?
By simply adding a good bat in the outfield and holding onto the potent 1-2 punch of Santana and Liriano, the Twins could be right back into the playoff mix next year. And who knows, maybe with the extra money Santana will bring in over whoever they would get in a trade, they can resign the best pitcher in the game right now for the money he demands.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Talking to a friend of mine this week who entered ESPN's spread picks contest and correctly picked only four games this week to the national average five, I realized Vegas made a killing this weekend.
Who could have seen Peyton Manning throw six picks, "Automatic Adam" Viniteri miss two vital kicks in the same game, the Rams actually winning a game, "Sexy Rexy" Grossman stepping onto the field to actually lead his team to victory? The only constant of the week was that the Patriots remained undefeated (New England was on a bye week) and Brady threw for three touchdowns (Marcus Brady of the Canadian Football League that is).
Congratulations to Ryan Beard and Cindy Nichols for royally destroying me this week after my dismal 5-9 record last week. Due to Cindy's copy editor position on the Statesman staff, she is inelgible for the drawing and Ryan wins the iTunes gift card by default. Now on to picks:
Tampa Bay travels to three-and-a-half-point underdog Atlanta with a 5-4 record and only one win on the road. However, I am not convinced the Falcons can pull off any more wins than they already have (it surprised me every time they've won). I'll take the Bucs in a close one but covering the spread Bucs 27, Falcons 21.
Arizona travels to three-and-a-half-point favorite Cincinnati. The Bengals may have controlled the Ravens last week, but this season, that isn't saying much. The Cardinals stopped a strong rolling Lions team with a lot of momentum. With the up-and-down type play I've seen out of the Bengals, my expectations aren't too high right now. I'll take the Cardinals outright, Cardinals 38, Bengals 20.
The New York Giants travel to the three-and-a-half-point underdog Detroit Lions. Each team has something to prove after last week's loss. The Giants are still a very solid team, although they do not match up well in the secondary.
Expect the Lions to exploit that as the Cowboys did. Eli Manning will have his work cut out for him this week, and with the underrated Detroit defense I don't think he will be able to keep up with the Lions. I'll take Detroit outright at Lions 24, Giants 21.
The Carolina Panthers take on the strong nine-and-a-half-point favorite Green Bay Packers. Anyone who questioned whether the Packers were legit or not got his or her answer last week in the form of a Viking massacre. The Panthers are so hit or miss and even when they are on, I'm not sure they can keep the game within 10. I'll take the Packers at home with a score of Packers 34, Panthers 21.
Kansas City travels to the vengeful 14-and-a-half-point favorite Indianapolis Colts. I don't care who you are, after the loss to the Chargers, I would hate to take on the Colts. While a two-touchdown lead is pretty large, the Chiefs are coming off a 16-point loss to mediocre Broncos team. The Colts, even as beat up as they are, are twice the team the Broncos are. I'll take the Colts and it won't even be close, Colts 38, Chiefs 10.
Oakland travels to five-and-a-half-point favorite Minnesota. Even though the Vikes are without their star Adrian Peterson, they still have Chester Taylor. Especially after an ugly loss to the Bears, I doubt the Raiders can stop the Vikings right now. I'll take the Vikings to cover the spread, Vikings 24, Raiders 10.
Miami travels to 10-and-a-half-point favorite Philadelphia and will most likely be blown out by even more. Miami is sure to pull off a win this season, but it won't be this week. Don't worry, Miami, the Jets are still on your schedule. I'll take the Eagles in a landslide, Eagles 27, Miami 6.
San Diego left Indianapolis looking pretty bad in its win and travel to three-and-a-half-point favorite Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have looked stronger each week, as Quinton Gray grows in confidence. I don't see them stopping now. I'll take the Jaguars to more than cover the spread, Jaguars 30, Chargers 17.
Cleveland travels to three-and-a-half-point underdog Baltimore Ravens. The Browns have only continued to impress me, even in a loss to the Steelers, while the Ravens continue to spiral downward. This pick is an easy one. The Browns cover the spread, Browns 28, Ravens 9.
The New Orleans Saints will attempt to pick themselves back up after an embarrassing loss to the once winless Rams and travel to the one-and-a-half-point favorite Houston Texans. I am still not convinced that the Saints have truly turned the page after a horrendous start. I'll stick with the Texans by a field goal, Texans 20, Saints 17.
The Steelers travel to the nine-and-a-half-point underdog New York Jets. The Steelers are the best non-Colts and Patriots team in the AFC and the Jets are the second-worst to only the Dolphins. And the Steelers are only favored by nine-and-a-half? I'll take the Steelers by three possessions…by the third quarter, Steelers 42, Jets 10.
The Washington Redskins travel to the NFC-best 10-and-a-half-point favorite Dallas Cowboys. This is still a strong rivalry even though the Cowboys have consistently had the better team. The Cowboys will win convincingly, well in control the entire game, but by more than 10? I think so, but not until the fourth quarter. I'll take the Cowboys covering the spread Cowboys 35, Redskins 24.
The St. Louis Rams, coming off their first win of the season, face a weak and embarrassed two-and-a-half-point underdog San Francisco 49ers. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the 49ers are lucky to have the two wins they do. The Rams take their second win of the season and even cover the spread, Rams 24, 49ers 17.
Chicago travels to five-and-a-half-point favorite Seattle Seahawks with Rex Grossman at the helm. This is a situation that could be potentially embarrassing for the Bears. The Seahawks were dominant on Monday Night Football and they won't be slowed much by this Bears team. I'll take the Seahawks covering the spread, Seahawks 24, Bears 13.
The New England Patriots come off the bye week and travel to division foe and 15-and-a-half-point underdog Buffalo Bills. While I think the Bills might be that dark horse to upset the Patriots with home field advantage, I just can't ignore what the Patriots have done this year. While I don't think the Patriots need to intimidate any more after beating the Colts, I also wouldn't be surprised if they still ran up the score to put an exclamation point on a ridiculous year. History says the Patriots will destroy and I'll go with it. Patriots cover the spread, Patriots 38, Bills 13.
On Monday Night Football, the Tennessee Titans travel to two-and-a-half-point favorite Denver Broncos. The Broncos may have made a statement against the Chiefs, but then again, it was the Chiefs. The Titans play in the toughest division in the AFC and will come to this game ready. Quarterback Vince Young loves the spotlight and shines on the national stage. I expect a big game and finally a MNF game worth watching. Titans upset the Broncos, Titans 27, Broncos 21.
So those are my picks. Send me yours. Unless, that is, you don't have what it takes.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Week nine was a crazy week in the NFL with the Lions looking like giants and the Broncos like mice, the Vikings looking like contenders as the Chargers look like lost children, and the Steelers are a force to be reckoned with while the Ravens should be lucky to stand at 4-4. However, the biggest game of the season told us absolutely nothing new: the Patriots and Colts are the top two teams in the game, it's near impossible to stop the Patriots, and if both teams are at full health, we still won't know who will win it.
Congratulations to Dustin Hall for his 9-5 mark on the week, defeating me by a single game. My 8-6 record moves me above .500 against the spread at 15-13. Let's see if we can improve that even more.
We will begin with the six-and-a-half-point favorite Green Bay Packers hosting the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay is very much the team to beat in the NFC North, although, despite their 3-5 record, the Vikings are not far behind.
Adrian Peterson has given this team the spark it needs for playoff hopes. The Packers may beat the surging Vikings, but I think the Vikings will keep it within a possession. In fact, I'll take it one step further and take the Vikings outright with a score of Vikings 28, Packers 24.
The Jacksonville Jaguars travel to the half-point favorite Tennessee Titans after a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints. I expect a big divisional clash in this game, as it marks the second-place team behind the Colts. With a healthy Vince Young, the Titans are the team to beat, although Quinton Gray is making Jacksonville ask, "David Garrard who?" Being at home, I'll take the Titans, but only by a field goal at Titans 23, Jaguars 20.
The Denver Broncos, after looking absolutely lost against the Lions, travel to the half-point favorite Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos come into this game with a lot to prove and had high expectations coming into this year. Not that Larry Johnson hasn't been largely a major letdown, but the Chiefs have been turning things around while the Broncos continue to plummet. I'll take the Chiefs, but not by much, at Chiefs 22, Broncos 20.
The Buffalo Bills have been a pleasant surprise this season and travel to the complete disappointment and threeand- a-half-point favorite Miami Dolphins. If I were a member of the Bills team, I would probably be insulted by this spread. To ever be favored by less than a touchdown to the Dolphins or Rams this season means Vegas does not think highly of you. I'll take the Bills easily in a landslide of Bills 30, Dolphins 6.
Speaking of the St. Louis Rams, they travel to the resurging New Orleans Saints, who are favored by a big 11- and-a-half-point margin. The Saints may be looking better and at home, but I really don't see them pulling away from the Rams, who are coming off a bye week, by more than a possession. The Saints will pull off the win, but (and I can't believe the words are coming out of my mouth) I'll take the Rams in the spread at Saints 23, Rams 17.
The Cleveland Browns travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers as nine and-a-halfpoint underdogs. With the game the Steelers played Monday night against the Ravens, I have no doubt in my mind that the Steelers will come out on top, but I really think the Browns can keep this game close. I'll take the Browns in the spread with a score of Steelers 24, Browns 20.
The Baltimore Ravens play host the five-and-a-half-point underdog Cincinnati Bengals. After being completely and utterly embarrassed by the Steelers on Monday Night Football, I am honestly surprised to see them as favorites. But the again, the Bengals have looked like total flops this year, and with the loss of Chad Johnson last week, they will struggle to win many more games this year.
The Ravens may pull off a win, but only by a field goal. I can't believe I am writing this, but I'll take the Bengals in the spread at Ravens 23, Bengals 20.
The Philadelphia Eagles face-off with division rival and three-and-a-half-point favorite Washington Redskins in our nation's capitol. With two teams that didn't look very convincing last week, it's hard to tell which team is going to show up to play this week. The Redskins should have destroyed the Jets, but it took an overtime drive to win and the Eagles were destroyed at home by the best of the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys.
Until Donovan McNabb turns a corner, I really don't see the Eagles beating a team with a winning record. I'll take the Redskins covering the spread at Redskins 27, Eagles 17. The Atlanta Falcons, who are 0-4 on the road this year, travels to the four-and-ahalf- point favorite Carolina Panthers, who are 0-3 at home this year. There will be a first in this game, as someone has to win. The Falcons may have won last week, but that was at home and against the 49ers. I'll take the Panthers by a touchdown, Panthers 17, Falcons 10.
The Chicago Bears come off a bye week and face a very beatable and three-and-ahalf- point underdog Oakland Raiders. Brian Griese can breathe a sigh of relief and know he has one more week before he has to worry about losing his job back to "Sexy Rexy." I'll take the Bears to cover the spread with a score of Bears 32, Raiders 23.
The Dallas Cowboys travel to the one-and-a-half-point underdog New York Giants to battle out the division lead in the toughest division in football. The Giants have yet to lose after falling to 0-2, but I really don't see them taking the Cowboys, but it will be a close game to the end. I'll take the Cowboys with a field goal as the clock hits zero, Cowboys 24, Giants 21.
The Detroit Lions destroyed the Broncos last week and yet are still one and-a-halfpoint underdogs to the 3-5 Arizona Cardinals. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Cardinals are a lot better than their record shows, but the Lions are a solid team this year and eat teams like the Cardinals for breakfast (ask Jay Cutler). The Lions will win it outright, Lions 30, Cardinals 17.
The 8-1 Indianapolis Colts are suffering the worst start to a season in the last three years (the Colts started 2005 13-0 and 2006 9-0), but travel to the San Diego Chargers as three-and- a-half-point favorites. The Chargers couldn't touch Adrian Peterson and I don't see it changing with Joseph Addai. Look for a big running game from the Colts and a strong and message sending win by the Colts. I'll take the Colts covering the spread with a score of Colts 35, Chargers 13. For Monday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers travel to 10-and-a-half-point favorite Seattle Seahawks.
With such a large spread, I am tempted to take the underdog, but it is after all the 49ers, which lost convincingly to the Falcons. I rest my case. I'll take the Seahawks covering the spread at Seahawks 38, 49ers 17. So there you have it. Those are my picks. Give me what you've got.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
After going 7-7 last week, I learned exactly why those guys in Vegas make so much money. Picking against the spread is very difficult, although Indiana State student Ryan Beard pulled off a 9-5 mark. So congratulations to Beard in the Statesman Picker contest. Now, on to the picks:
We begin with the San Francisco 49ers traveling to the three-point favorite Atlanta Falcons. Now honestly, I am simply surprised that the Falcons are a favorite against anyone except maybe the Rams or Dolphins, and they are on a bye this week. The 49ers have lost their last five after going 2-0 for the first two weeks, but I really don't see the Falcons beating them, even at home. I'll take the 49ers winning outright, 49ers 20, Falcons 10.
The Cincinnati Bengals are half-point underdogs at the Buffalo Bills. Cincinnati has yet to win a game away from home this year, but the Bills have not looked that spectacular either. I keep thinking the Bengals are a lot better than their record implies, but how many times can they lose before they obviously are as their record shows? Well fool me once, shame on you, fool me for the last four weeks … well, I'll take the Bills with a score of Bills 24, Bengals 17.
The Denver Broncos, after a heart-breaking loss in overtime to the conference leading Green Bay Packers, travel to the three-point favorite Detroit Lions. Though the Lions have continued to get it done this year, beating the Raiders, Vikings, Bears (twice), and Bucs, they have yet to beat an opponent as good as the Broncos, losing to both the Eagles and Redskins. I'll take the Broncos outright with a score of Broncos 30, Lions 21.
Carolina travels to play four-point favorite Tennessee. With the return of Vince Young and the confusion from Carolina last week against the Colts, you would think this to be an easy pick. However, a 4-3 Carolina Panthers team is 4-0 on the road this year. However this brings more to question, "Why can't they win a game at home?" but that is a topic for another column. Titans win it, but only by a field goal. I'll take Carolina in the spread at Titans 20, Panthers 17.
Green Bay travels to Kansas City as two-and-a-half-point underdogs, wondering what they have to do to get some respect in this league. They beat the Broncos on Monday night and sit on top of their division. Brett Favre is looking like the quarterback that led the Packers to two consecutive Super Bowls, while Kansas City has yet to wow me. This one is a no-brainer to me. I'll take the Packers outright with a score of Green Bay 27, Kansas City 13.
The San Diego Chargers travel to the seven-and-a-half-point underdog Minnesota Vikings, after showing the Texans how much they have turned a page since their 1-3 start to the season. The Vikings have really looked a lot better these last three weeks as well, despite losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, beating the Bears and keeping the game with 10 to Cowboys and with a single possession with the Eagles. The Vikings are not a playoff team yet, but they are showing signs of improvement. The Chargers will win, but I think the Vikings will keep it within a possession. I'll take the Vikings in the spread at Chargers 24, Vikings 17.
Jacksonville proved last week they could win without David Garrard, and travel to New Orleans as three-and-a-half-point underdogs. The Saints still have a ways to go before they are playoff ready, and the Jaguars are simply getting it done. I'll take the Jags to win it outright with a score of Jaguars 21, Saints 16.
After an embarrassing loss to the Patriots last week, the Redskins have something to prove as they travel to the three-and-a-half-point underdog New York Jets. The Jets returned Chad Pennington recently and are not even sure if that is a good thing, as they benched Pennington in the fourth quarter last week and threw Kellen Clemens in. It's hard to win with such uncertainty around the quarterback position, and the Redskins are furious. I'll take the Redskins in a landslide of Redskins 45, Jets 10.
Arizona travels to three-and-a-half-point favorite Tampa Bay after an extra week to prepare. That extra week also means more time to get key players healthy such as Kurt Warner. The Cardinals kept it close against the Redskins, and with Warner healthier, I think the Cardinals have a good chance. I'll take the Cardinals outright with a score of Cardinals 27, Buccaneers 21.
Seattle travels to one-point favorite Cleveland in a game where both have something to prove. Seattle is expected to do a lot better than they have and the Browns are just starting to earn some respect. Derek Anderson has looked great this year and has been a large part of the big difference this year. Seattle could win this game, but not in the "Dawg Pound." I'll take the Browns covering the spread at Browns 28, Seahawks 17.
Houston travels to Oakland, who is favored to win by a field goal, and will attempt to erase an embarrassing loss in San Diego. The Raiders may be better than last year, but so are the Texans and I think Houston will be ready for them. I'll take the Texans outright at Texans 20, Raiders 17.
Dallas travels to division rival Philadelphia as three-point favorites. The Cowboys and Eagles play in one of the toughest divisions in football. This game won't be a cakewalk for the Cowboys, but with a couple of weeks to prepare, I see Dallas taking it in a big game. I'll take the Cowboys covering the spread with a score of Cowboys 32, Eagles 17.
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football as nine-point underdogs and even then I think Vegas might be giving the unable-to-score Ravens more credit than they deserve. The Ravens have only won a single game on the road this year and I don't see the Steelers giving them another. Can the Ravens keep the game within a possession and a field goal? I highly doubt it. I'll take the Steelers covering the spread at Steelers 27, Ravens 6.
I saved the biggest game for last, even though it's not a Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football game. That's right, what the media has billed Manning versus Brady, Dungy versus Belichick, Good versus Evil, and even Super Bowl 41.5, is as big as they say.
This game has huge implications, bigger for the Colts than the Patriots. This game not only leaves only one team undefeated, but likely will give one team home-field advantage should they meet again in the playoffs, which is bigger for the Colts as they have more trouble at New England than the Patriots do in Indy.
So what team is the best in the league? We will find out this week and the Colts are billed as five-and-a-half-point underdogs in their own dome, something that has not happened in years. With the Patriots such heavy favorites, the Colts can relish that underdog role as they love to do and come out and take it. The Colts had the Patriots' number the last three meetings, and I see this Colts team, a better team than the one that won the Super Bowl, taking the game outright at a score of Colts 27, Patriots 23.
So there you have it. Think you can pick better against the spread? Well bring it, and maybe there's an iTunes gift card with your name on it.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Last week proved me to be way off base on a couple of games, and my upset calls were completely off. I completely underestimated the Rams' ability to lose a game. I will not do that again. For some reason I figured the returns of Marc Bulger and Isaac Bruce might actually make a difference. I was wrong and will learn from my mistakes. I doubt I will take the Rams again this season.
Congratulations to Dustin Hall for winning the Statesman NFL Picker. This was the first week that we had more than one student who beat me and therefore the first actual drawing, so a special shout out goes to Ryan Beard and Michael Disher who also beat me, but lost the drawing.
I finished last week with an 8-6 mark, moving to a 59-44 season record. It was suggested to me that any monkey could pick many of the winners in the NFL, but you really have to know the teams to pick against the spread. So we are going to try picking against the spread this week. We'll see how it goes.
Now on to my picks: Detroit travels to Chicago this week as five-point underdogs. The Bears are beginning to look better after last week against the Eagles, and Detroit, although they had been digressing recently, looked in control against Tampa Bay. Bears quarterback Brian Griese is looking better each week, but I still have my doubts about him at the helm. Being at home, the Bears may pull off the win, but I doubt it will be by five. I'll take the Lions in the spread with a final score of Bears 24, Lions 21.
Pittsburgh travels to Cincinnati as three-and-a-half-point favorites. The Steelers looked rather confused against the Broncos last week, but I fully expect Pittsburgh to bounce back. The Steelers will learn from that game and use it to improve. And the Bengals, even though they defeated the lowly Jets, have yet to look that great this year. I expect to see the Steelers do what they do best and simply pound the ball at the Bengals. I'll take the Steelers covering the spread at Steelers 27, Bengals 17.
Tennessee will host Oakland this Sunday and is a seven-and-a-half-point favorite. Vince Young will be back for this game and can be a full 10-point difference for the Titans. In front of a raucous home crowd and against a far inferior opponent, I'll take the Titans covering the spread at Titans 21, Raiders 10.
Cleveland travels to St. Louis this weekend and is a mere three-point favorite. Anyone who would pick either the Rams to win or to lose by less than a field goal to the 3-3 Browns might need a drug test before applying for any government job. I'll take the Browns in a no-brainer, Browns 38, Rams 13.
The New York Giants have been climbing in the ever-tough NFC East over the last five weeks, racking up five consecutive wins. Make that six as they travel to London, in a "Let's bring American football to the world effort," to face the even-worse-than-the-Rams, Miami Dolphins. The Giants are nine-and-a-half-point favorites, and with the loss of running back Ronnie Brown, it should be more than enough. I'll take the Giants with a score of Giants 38, Dolphins 17.
Philadelphia travels to Minnesota as one-point favorites, and I am not even sure if they should be favored in this matchup. The Eagles didn't look that stellar against a weak Bears team and Minnesota put up quite the fight against the Cowboys. Tarvaris Jackson still has a ways to go, and I don't expect the Vikings to be a big playoff threat, but Adrian Peterson has caused the league to take them seriously. I'll take the Vikings in a close game at home at Vikings 24, Eagles 23.
Indianapolis takes on Carolina on the road as seven-point favorites. The Panthers are 4-2 on the year but have yet to win a single game in front of their home crowd with their two losses at home. I am not sure what is the cause of this oddity, but the Colts have been in control of every game they have played this year and I don't see that changing. The real question becomes whether or not the Panthers can keep the game within a single possession. I think they will for most of the game, but the Colts will pull away with some breathing room in the fourth quarter for a Colts win at Colts 31, Panthers 21.
The New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills as favorites by a field goal, and honestly I wouldn't pick them outright. Chad Pennington did return this last week and he looked like a quarterback in control, but one man can't win the game. I see the Bills stealing this cross-state game with a score of Bills 24, Jets 19.
Houston travels to Phoenix this weekend to face the San Diego Chargers. (Wait, don't you mean Arizona Cardinals?) Nope, with the wildfires in southern California this week, it looks like the Chargers will not be able to host the game this Sunday. The Chargers are named as nine-and-a-half-point favorites, and I doubt they can surmount a sizeable lead. I think they will pull off a win but only by a single possession. I'll take the Texans against the spread at Chargers 27, Texans 23.
After a tough loss to the Colts and an even tougher loss of quarterback David Garrard, the Jaguars travel to Tampa Bay after the Bucs suffered an embarrassing loss to the Lions with a turnover ratio of +2.
The loss of Garrard to the Jags was possibly the largest loss the organization could take, as the Jags have entered panic mode, searching for a veteran quarterback to take over the reins. Such little confidence in backup Quinn Gray tells me that Tampa Bay will have no problem taking Jacksonville at home. I'll take the Buccaneers with a score of Bucs 27, Jags 13.
Washington travels to seemingly unstoppable New England as 16.5 point underdogs. I agree with the Redskins being underdogs, but disagree with the number. I realize the Patriots have won by over 17 points in every game this season, but I see the Redskins breaking that barrier and holding some ground. I don't doubt the Patriots will climb to 8-0, but I'll take the Redskins against the spread at Patriots 32, Redskins 21.
New Orleans faces the three-point underdog 49ers in San Francisco this Sunday and receives the luxury of playing another sub-par team after narrowly defeating the Falcons. The 49ers, after jumping to a 2-0 start and hopes of contending again, have lost the last four games. The 49ers just never seem to have the answers and I don't see it changing. I'll take the Saints with a score of Saints 20, 49ers 13.
In the Monday Night Football game, the 5-1 Green Bay Packers travel to a tough 3-3 Denver Broncos. Even though the Packers have a full two-game advantage in record, the three-point favorite Broncos are looking to keep their momentum going after taking a bite out of the Steelers last Sunday. Green Bay has had a full two weeks to prepare for this game and has looked great this year. This will be the biggest test for the Packers, and if they can pull off the win in Denver, they become the team to beat in the NFC along with Dallas. I think they will. I'll take the Packers in a nail-biter at Packers 27, Broncos 24.
So there are my picks against the spread, let's see what you think. Send me your picks at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are no easy picks this week, since we are picking against the spread. Think you can beat me? Bring it.