NFL Week 6 Picks

No time for much commentary this week. Last week I was 9-4. Not my best week, but not an embarrassment. This Sunday is a day I have no confidence in my picks. I’m going to take the Eagles over the Redskins because the Eagles have too much talent to keep losing. If they do lose this week, I’m not sure I’ll pick them again. As much as I am a believer in the Bills, I’m taking the Giants over them. Because the Giants motto seems to be “fuck predictability” and after losing to the Seahawks I don’t think many are taking them over the Bills. I’m also taking the 49ers over the Lions. The Lions are going to lose eventually, and the 49ers have been really good so far.

Panthers at Falcons: Falcons
Colts at Bengals: Colts
49ers at Lions: 49ers
Rams at Packers: Packers
Bills at Giants: Giants
Jaguars at Steelers: Steelers
Eagles at Redskins: Eagles
Browns at Raiders: Raiders
Texans at Ravens: Ravens
Cowboys at Patriots: Patriots
Saints at Buccaneers: Saints
Vikings at Bears: Bears
Dolphins at Jets: Jets

Last Week: 9-4

Season: 53-24

NFL Week 5 Picks

I guess I was right about last week being an easy week to pick. I went 13-3. I missed the KC/Min game, but that one was a complete toss-up. I expected the Eagles to rebound after a couple of tough losses, but they blew it. And while I expected Buffalo to falter sooner or later, I didn’t think the Bengals had enough bite to beat them. Other than those three I was on the money.

Fantasy Football took a turn for the better last week as well. I won in 2 of my leagues and tied in the other. Which was the first FF tie I’ve ever seen; it occurred mostly because that leagues scoring system it straight up stupid. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

This week coming up looks like one to give me fits. Lots of good teams playing good teams and bad teams playing bad teams. Some games that look interesting to me are Oakland at Houston, Kansas City as Indianapolis and the Monday Night game Chicago at Detroit. The Raider and Texans both have pretensions of being playoff teams. The Raiders especially need this game, and with Andre Johnson out I think they win it. Did the Chiefs turn a corner last week or did they beat a woeful Vikings team? The Colts have given two good teams a run the last couple week, I think they take the Chiefs at home. Even without Manning they can’t lose them all. Chicago really needs to beat Detroit to keep from falling into a big hole. Detroit has tried to give the last two games away. I don’t think Detroit has another comeback in them this week, but I’m not sure they’ll need it.

Philadelphia at Buffalo: Philadelphia
Kansas City at Indianapolis: Indianapolis
Arizona at Minnesota: Minnesota
Seattle at New York G: New York G
Tennessee at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh
New Orleans at Carolina: New Orleans
Cincinnati at Jacksonville: Jacksonville
Oakland at Houston: Oakland
Tampa Bay at San Francisco: San Francisco
San Diego at Denver: San Diego
New York J at New England: New England
Green Bay at Atlanta: Green Bay
Chicago at Detroit: Detroit

Last Week: 13-3

Season 44-20

My NFL Predictions Week 2

Ouch! So not only did I go only 8-8 on my week one picks, but the day after I predicted the Colts would play a home Super Bowl with Peyton missing a month or less, Peyton has neck surgery that is guaranteed to keep him off the field for at least half of the season. I believe I am well within my made up predicting rights to change my Super Bowl pick, but that is the path of pansies. I’m sticking with the Colts and a second half Peyton miracle. Why not? (Also, I’m changing my AFC Super Bowl pick to the Jets, in complete reversal of my previous thoughts.)

On to this week, in which I should see an improvement in my percentage. The first week is always a toss up; no one really knows who has it in any given year. Who saw the Chiefs playing that badly against the Bills? Or the Steelers terrible performance against the Ravens? Week 1 was weird, but it should give us some idea of what will happen in week 2. Here are my predictions:

  • Raiders v Bills:  Bills 27-20
  • Chiefs v Lions: Lions 31-21
  • Ravens v Titans: Ravens 31-13
  • Browns v Colts:  Colts 17-13
  • Buccaneers v Vikings: Vikings 24-21
  • Bears v Saints: Saints 34-31
  • Jaguars v Jets: Jets 24-7
  • Seahawks v Steelers: Steelers 28-14
  • Cardinals v Redskins: Cardinals 31-28
  • Packers v Panthers: Packers 35-13
  • Cowboys v 49ers: Cowboys 24-20
  • Bengals v Broncos: Broncos 23-17
  • Texans v Dolphins: Texans 34-27
  • Chargers v Patriots: Patriots 31-24
  • Eagles v Falcons: Falcons 28-24
  • Rams v Giants: Giants 28-24
Last week: 8-8.
Total 8-8

The Best to Never

Anyone remember when I wrote last year that the Heat would not win the championship this year. I’m breathing a sigh of relief that my taking the field turned out to be right. While I started the playoffs rooting for the Celtics, and I would still like to see them get another ring, I am glad the Mavericks won it. Not just because it wasn’t the Heat, whom I don’t actually hate, or the Lakers, who I absolutely hate, but also because it is great to see outstanding players like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd get a ring. Now they won’t end up on the list of greats without rings.

That is a terrible list to be on, no matter the sport. John Stockton and Karl Malone got close several times in Utah but they never won it, neither did Charles Barkley. Dan Marino probably leads the list in the NFL, along with the Jazz-like Bills greats of the early nineties. Or the greatest running back of all time Barry Sanders (yeah, I take Barry over Brown. And I’m right). In MLB, there’s Ken Griffey Jr., Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. It is sad that some of the best players of all time never got to win it all. Being on the greatest to never list is often a reason for commentators to claim that they weren’t actually that good to begin with. And that is pure bullshit.

Basketball, Football, Baseball. These are all team sports. Measuring individual accomplishments primarily by team success is asinine. A great player is a great player even if he never wins a championship. Dan Marino may be the best quarterback of all time, and the fact that he never won it all shouldn’t make a difference. Same for Ted Williams and Ty Cobb. John Stockton is the best point guard of all-time, he doesn’t lose that because the number 2 (Jason Kidd) won a ring.

That is not to say that team success has no bearing at all. If a player spends his whole career playing for bad teams then it should affect his legacy. If Archie Manning had played for the Steelers, maybe his name would come up more. But he didn’t. He played for the cellar dwelling Saints. He was still a very good player, but he is only remembered today because his sons are successful.

Anyway, congrats Dirk and Jason and Jason and the rest of the Mavs. They deserve it. Dirk was absolutely unstoppable in crunch time. And the naysaying about LeBron will reach a ridiculous crescendo, but I have no doubt he will win a championship sooner rather than later.

Post Draft Thoughts

The Panthers have their man, and they deserve him. I do not expect much out of Cam Newton. Supposedly, the people running the Panthers know more than me, but we’ll see. As far as other first round quarterbacks go, the three pick from 8 to 12 in the first round were interesting. The Titans picked Jake Locker a little too high, but he might be the best QB in the draft. I would say he and Gabbert are close, but my personal bias leads me to give the edge to Gabbert. Locker would have been a top five pick had he come out last year, and I still think he could be a very successful Pro. I like him a lot. Washington was not a very good team while he was there, but he made them better. A year behind Kerry Collins and Locker should be ready to go.

I think the Jaguars picked Gabbert at about the right spot. He should have went somewhere between 10and 15. The importance of the position and the fact that he is likely the best at the position in the class had people projecting him too high, and to a team that flat-out said it did not intend to pick a QB in Arizona. People thought the Bills or Cards would take him, but I think the Bills made the right decision because Ryan Fitzpatrick was actually pretty good last year. Even if he is not the long-term answer, he is serviceable enough that they could use the draft to fix more glaring flaws, like their run defense. And the Cardinals have already proved they do not know jack crap about QBs. I know the luster had worn off Leinart, but was Derek Anderson really a better option last year. Anderson, outside of his fluke Pro-Bowl year, was a proven failure. Matt Leinart barely got a chance to fail. I think the Jaguars taking Gabbert is a good choice. They are going nowhere with Garrard at the helm. They made a mistake cutting Leftwich a few years ago. Now they can try to stay near .500 again on the strength of Jones-Drew’s running and hopefully find a competent receiver for Gabbert next year in the draft.

Then the Vikings reached out of their minds for Ponder at pick 12. I’m not a fan of Ponder. I think he was probably the 6th or 7th best QB in the draft, and would have been picked too high as the 12th pick of the 2nd round. The Vikings need a QB, but I do not think that Ponder was the right choice.

All four first round QBs have one thing going for them: the teams that picked them have good to great running games. The Panthers was terrible last year, but so were the Panthers in general. But the Vikings, Jaguars and Titans have maybe the three best running backs in the League.

As far as my team, the Colts had a solid draft, but it is very hard to get excited about Offensive Linemen. I say this as a former O-lineman. There is no duller position in any sport. But it should provide an immediate impact for the Colts offense. They’ve been good the last few (12) years, but the running game has disappeared. With a better O-line the stretch run might come back.

I also liked the 49ers and the Bengals. Again, with the Mizzou bias, I think Aldon Smith will be a star. He is big, athletic, and fast. He should be great. And Colin Kaepernick is interesting if anything but a sure thing. With Palmer and Chad Johnson on the way out in Cincy, it seems like they effectively replaced both. Andy Dalton is not exciting, but he seems dependable. And A.J. Green is exciting. While I’m sure the Bengals still want to keep Carson Palmer, I’m not sure if he can ever be as good as he was before his knee surgery. He was close last year though, and he looked much better without Ochocinco and Owens in the line-up.

Of course, it will all be for naught if the lockout doesn’t end. I hope that the Owner’s appeal fails and the lockout is lifted. Goodell’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece shows just how scattered the Owner’s stance is. NFL players already have the worst deal among the Major sports, why should their position get weaker. It is blind, corrupt greed on the part of the league. I hope the players win.

NCAA Tourney Thoughts

What an NCAA tournament it’s been so far, huh?  With the Final 4 set, my bracket in complete shambles and Mizzou’s season ending as badly as it possibly could, I guess I have some college basketball to talk about.

First Mizzou.  After a very promising start to the season, the Tigers went into a tailspin, going from 17-4 to 23-11.  Their season ended by being bounced easily from both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.  Then Coach Mike Anderson bolted for his old stomping grounds at Arkansas.  While Anderson leaving is no big surprise, he has entertained offers each of the last 2 years and Arkansas is his home, the way it happened was one.  Anderson said he was staying; then a few weeks later, he was gone.  I, naïvely to be sure, thought that Anderson was a stand-up enough guy to at least make his intentions known.  But no, he went from expected to sign an extension to new coach at Arkansas basically overnight.  His departure clouds his whole tenure at Mizzou, leaving nothing but hurt feelings.

Also, people are now incredibly pessimistic about Missouri’s chances next year.  This year ended with disappointment, but MU is losing one player to graduation (and possible a few to transfers).  Plus, the core team is not bad.  Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Lawrence Bowers are all very good players.  Mike Dixon is pretty good and Ricardo Ratliff and Steve Moore can give quality minutes.  Sure, they need a few good recruits, and to play much better than they did down the stretch, but this team is definitely good enough to make a tourney run.  Mizzou just needs to find a good coach who actually wants to be there.

The Final 4 includes both an 8 and an 11 seed.  That is great.  While I am very grateful to VCU for knocking off Kansas, (I cannot think of a more disgusting end to the season than the Morris thugs cutting the nets) I think I’m rooting for Butler.  I want to see them finish what they started last year. Either way, I’m going to be rooting for the winner of the Butler/VCU game in the final.  I don’t really have anything against Kentucky or UConn, but I don’t like either one enough to root for them over the underdog.

Do you want to guess how many Final 4 teams I got in my bracket?  None.  How many eventual Final 4 teams did I have in the Sweet 16?  None.  How many of my Final 4 picks made the Sweet 16? 2.  This year’s tournament was particularly wild, but I still picked the worst bracket I’ve ever filled out.  It was embarrassingly bad.  I think the two biggest problems are that there really were not any great teams this year and that the committee did an absolute terrible job seeding.  Like K-State as a 5 seed and Texas A&M as a 7.  They played in the same conference and Texas A&M actually had a better record, but they got a lower seed.  It made no sense.  I attempted to address these mistakes with my picks, but they did not pan out.  And picking between most of those mediocre teams, which was every seed 4 and down, was a complete guessing game.  Honestly though, I’m okay with my bracket being in ruins since the tournament has been so damn entertaining.  I just wish TruTV got fewer games, because I did not get to watch any of them.

NFL Labor Talks

So that NFL Lockout seems to be a sure thing now, huh?  As football fans we can only hope that it doesn’t last long enough to derail the season, but I wouldn’t bet on that.  Maybe the change to the status quo with the NFLPA decertifying and the CBA expiring will shake things up enough that a deal will be done.  I do not have that much faith in sense of the NFL owners.  The owners’ greed doesn’t seem to have limits and the players seem to be rightfully refusing to budge.  What the owners want is not good for the game, it is good for their pocketbooks.

A friend of mine recently told me he sided with the owners.  I was confused.  How could any outside party side with the people who are screwing things up?  While the Owners do have some points, this conflict is motivated purely by greed.  This isn’t the hockey lockout of 2004-05.  Those owners had legitimate complaint, because the NHL was losing money paying the players much more than they could afford.  Changes had to be made and while I’m not sure how long it will take them to recover from losing a season, the league is better off now.  But the NFL is making money, its making money hand over fist.  The contracts of NFL players are not outrageous; they are fair based on the income of the league.  The exception to this is rookies.  A rookie wage scale is a good idea.  There is no reason Sam Bradford should be making as much money as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  I know Bradford has already shown he is the real deal, but I do not think it is good for the game to tie so much money into unproven players.  Ideally, the lost rookie pay would then go to veterans, proven contributors.  NFL salaries look like, and are, a lot of money, but most players last less than 5 years.  They do not have many years of raking in that dough.  The owners make money every year, and not a single NFL owner is hurting for cash.

From what I understand, the NFL makes about 9 billion dollars a year.  The owners get 1 billion off the top.  The remaining 8 billion dollars is split 60/40 between the players and owners.  Which means that the players get 4.8 billion dollars and the owners get 3.2, plus the 1 for 4.2.  It works out to roughly 53% to the players and 47% to the owners.  What the owners want it to take 2 billion off the top, and then split the rest 60/40.  That would flip the money each side is making, giving the player 4.2 billion and the owners 4.8.  The players counter proposal I heard, and this may not actually be true, was a straight 50/50 split, which the owners, of course, rejected.  The players have shown willingness to compromise, to give up some of what they have, just not the amount the greedy owners want.  The owners seem to be banking on the league losing popularity.  If revenue goes up, eventually the players will be making more again with that 60/40 split.  But if revenue falls, then the owners automatic 2 billion swings the split in their favor.

To go along with reducing the players pay, the owners also want to add 2 more games to the regular season.  So the players get to destroy their bodies more and make less money.  The thought of more football sounds good, but think of the injuries the players would face.  Teams already end the years with upwards of 15 players on injured reserve, how many more would be added by two more games.  I know the owners want to do away with extraneous pre-season games, but a longer regular season should mean the players get more money, not less.

It’s hard to care about the financial troubles of people making as much as both the players and owners in the NFL do.  To me it comes down to who is driving this lockout.  It is the owners.  They want more.  Always more, and the players are right to do their best to deny them.  Fans who are with the owners, please answer these questions for me: What the hell?  Really?  Why?    I just hope everyone involved comes to their senses before games are lost.