Monday, November 14, 2005

NFL Quick Hits

Green Bay's victory over Atlanta yesterday was a much needed win. They should get credit for going out and executing on the road. Atlanta, on the other hand, should be ashamed of themselves for losing this one. It is safe to say that they were outcoached in that game, and that gave the Packers a distinct advantage. Anyone watching Green Bay the last few weeks has seen that if you double Driver, their passing game is almost non-existent, yet he was running free on single coverage all day. Atlanta's secondary is not good, so it is on the coaching staff that they had the single coverage on him. Secondly, Atlanta did not appear motivated to play hard. Vick seemed like he wanted to prove to everyone he can be a pocket passer. Problem is, he can't. He should just stick to what he does best and help his team win any way he can.

Don't be fooled by Joey Harrington's big game against Arizona yesterday. First, it was against Arizona. Second, it was at home. Third, every quarterback in the NFL is capable of having one or two big games each season, and this was Harrington's. Expect him to throw at least two interceptions next week against Dallas.

Pittsburgh continues to roll without Big Ben. I know the Colts are undefeated and will have the home field advantage in the playoffs, but I'm beginning to think that the Steelers are the best team in the league. If they are entirely healthy, they can flat out dominate the line of scrimmage against anybody. Indy's defense is about speed, and I think the Steelers can just pound them all day and beat them. It reminds me of the late 1990's Wisconsin Badgers teams with Ron Dayne. They weren't very quick, but thier offensive line was always three yards down field before Dayne met them, and they just beat teams up.

Minnesota's victory over the Giants may have been the strangest victory I have seen. They had no drives longer than 5 plays until their field goal drive in the fourth quarter, yet the score was tied 21-21. Most times, if you win two out of the three facets of a game, you will win (offense, defense, and special teams). Yesterday, they arguably only won the special teams battle, yet they so dominated in that aspect that 150 yards of total offesne is all they needed to pull out a victory. If they Giants want to be a Super Bowl threat, they must win games like that. I wonder if this could be like their home loss to Chicago last year that wiped out a promising start and led to their subsequent poor finish.

Speaking of Chicago, I think the highlight of the year came from that game. No, not the 108 yard missed field goal return, but rather Chicago's missed field goal in the first quarter. I've never seen a football go that far right on a field goal attempt in my life. It was comical, and borderline hysterical, watching that football get pushed right. I wish I had Tivo to save that.

New England gutted out a win versus Miami. The Colts and Steelers are better teams (the Chargers and Broncos are better than them as well) but I will not count this team out until they are officially done. Any team with Brady at quarterback will be a threat to win, regardless of how many people are out for them.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Trade Jenkins?

I heard on the radio this morning a rumor that the Brewers are exploring a Geoff Jenkins trade. Doug Melvin has denied any rumors, however it wouldn't surprise me if this were being discussed behind the scenes. After a horrible start, Jenkins had a fabulous second half of the season and his trade value right now is pretty good. On top of that, he doesn't really make that much money compared to others at his position. I'm not sure where he would go, however. The Cubs need a right fielder, however I can't see the Brewers trading Jenkins in the division. While this trade might be explored, I really can't see it happening. The Brewers aren't going to want to let go of a veteran for prospects. Their time is now, and they can't afford to lose veteran leadership and try to spend another 3 years developing prospects. They need the leadership in the locker room to help the young players they already have.

Weekend Picks

My top play for this weekend is Oklahoma -13 over Texas A&M. Oklahoma is coming off a bye and is rested, with Adrian Peterson at full strength. That will be a problems for A&M, as their defense averages giving up 140 rushing yards per game on the road. On top of that, Oklahoma averages about 190 rushing yards per game at home. A&M's defense is giving up almost 500 yards on the road, and they haven't even played Texas yet, and they are coming off a 56-17 loss at Texas Tech. The last three matchups between these teams at Oklahoma have been 77-0, 31-10, and 51-6, all in Oklahoma's favor. Lay the 13 points at home for Oklahoma.

My other play for the weekend is BYU -4.5 over Wyoming. BYU is 4-1 in their last 5 games, and the loss was at Notre Dame. They are also off back to back wins where they have scored at least 55 points in each game. Wyoming, on the other hand, is on a four game losing streak and have given up 39 and 43 in their last two. BYU is rolling, and should be able to cover in this game on the road.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Brewers extend Melvin

This weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers extended Doug Melvin's contract through 2009. This is a great move for the franchise. Melvin has made some good moves since he's been in Milwaukee, and he deserves the opportunity to be with the franchise to see if the players he has acquired get this team to the playoffs. With a limited budget, he was able to put together a winning team full of young talent that has the potential to develop into a playoff contender. With this extension, he'll be able to continue building this team and then sign the free agents necessary to establish depth to round out the core of this team. The nucleus is there and began to show good things in the second half of the season. If he can get better depth on the bench and add an arm in the rotation, this team will improve on its 2005 season. Lets just pray that he doesn't get "comfortable;" he maintain his drive to make this team a contender.

Quick NFL thoughts

It was nice to see Michael Vick have a good game in the pocket. He can still make plays with his feet, but he is eventually going to have to be an accurate passer for Atlanta to compete for a Super Bowl. He has a great winning percentage, and this blog rates a QB's winning percentage above all other statistics (which is why we would take Brady over Manning without thinking twice), but he is not yet accurate enough to win the Super Bowl. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction, however after 5 years, you would think by this point he either has it or he doesn't.

Brad Johnson filled in well for the injured Daunte Culpepper. He didn't make any mistakes and only threw one questionable ball, which didn't matter because it was a free play. If he can have this type of efficiency, Minnesota might not be done in the NFC North.

Joey Harrington is awful; I won't be surprised if he is out of the league when his contract is up. Look for Detroit to possibly trade one of their receivers and a draft pick to San Diego for Phillip Rivers.

San Diego needs to be better in the fourth quarter to go anywhere in the playoffs. Going back to the game against the Jets in last years playoffs, they have led in the fourth quarter in every game, yet their record is 5-5. Marty needs to grow some kiwis and hammer the ball at people. You wonder if his tentative coaching goes back to Earnest Byner's fumble in the 1987 AFC championship game against the Broncos when he was at Cleveland.

Favre has taken alot of heat for the fumble yesterday, but they never should have been in that position. The two false starts were inexcusable. Penalties and turnovers have been killing GB this year, and some of the blame for that must fall on the coaches. Penalties are a result of a lack of mental toughness and preparation. The only team that the Packers had an edge on in this department was NO. The turnovers are a lack of focus (especially Favre's interception). How many times does one player have to commit a penalty or turnover before the coaches will insert someone else? At least they took out Rashard Lee after his fumble, but many players continue to show a lack of focus during the games, and that is what separates teams when the score is close like it was yesterday.

Eli Manning got his first road win yesterday. Granted, it was against the 49ers, but now he is over that mental hurdle. I've posted before that I think Eli will be a star in this league, and yesterday was another step in his career progression.

Will the Seahawks finally give Shawn Alexander a contract extension? The knock on him is that he doesn't get the tough yards when they need them (I'll have post about that topic another day). I'll buy that argument, however he consistently piles up yards and touchdowns. He's good in the locker room and fits well in Seattle's community. He shouldn't be the highest paid RB, but he definitely should be resigned long term. I think a 7-10 million dollar bonus on a 4-5 year deal is adequate.

For Wisconsin fans, Brooks Bollinger played well in relief yesterday with the Jets. He'll never be a number 1 quarterback, but he is proving to be a solid backup and could have a long career in the league in that capacity.

For those who watch Monday Morning Quarterback on ESPN, do you ever notice how Ditka can't finish a sentence without starting the next one? He is always ending a sentence a word or two short. I like his analyses, but I often find myself not paying attention to what he's saying because I'm so focused on counting how many times he cuts himself off.

Lavar Arrington played well for the Redskins last night. The coaching staff there has to keep him on the field for them to have playoff hopes. If not, I think they'll fall short.

The Packers should not go after TO

I was listened to AM 1250 on the way to work this morning and they were arguing that the Packers should pick up TO. If they are smart, they will stay as far away from him as possible. TO is all about TO. If Favre has a bad game, TO will be on the sideline fuming, and after the game will go on about how they would have won if Brady was their quarterback. On the field, if Favre throws for 300 yards but TO only has 1 catch for 10 yards, he will be in Favre's ear. TO is more concerned about his stats than winning. If you caught his press conference after the Super Bowl, you would have noticed that not once did he mention any anger at not winning the game. He used it as a platform to proclaim that he performed a miracle by coming back from his broken leg and playing well, and then threw fire at McNabb by inferring that the reason they lost was that McNabb was tired at the end of the game. Everything there was said to make himself look good and to blame everyone else for the loss.

Chemistry matters in football. With TO, you lose that chemistry. When was the last time you saw a Super Bowl team win when there was dissention in the locker room? The entire New England team is together, and it's no coincidence that they have won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls (as a sidebar, I think one of the worst proclamations by an analyst was when Tom Jackson on ESPN declared that the entire Patriots locker room was against Belichick after he got rid of Lawyer Malloy and they had the opening loss to Buffalo in 2003. They finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl against the Panthers). When Green Bay won in 1997, the two leaders of the team were Favre and Reggie White, and they were on the same page with Holmgren to lead them to victory. Even when the Ravens won, they trusted Dilfer not to screw up, and he didn't. He played within the system and let the defense dominate other teams. Sure, there are going to be people on a team that don't like each other; however when Sunday comes around, the championship teams function as one unit, with each player trusting the others to make plays they should make. That cannot happen with TO on your team. You know each time McNabb exits a huddle, in the back of his mind he is wondering what the reaction will be if he misses TO on an open route. The same is said if the team decides to run all day and abandon a passing game. The teams will all have to worry about TO. If you paid attention, the two playoff games that Philly won last year without TO were the ultimate team performances, with both sides of the ball dominating. I think Philly made the right move today by suspending TO for the season, and if the Packers are smart, they will stay as far away from TO as possible. Let the Vikings sign him; they seem to be OK with negative publicity directed their way.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Weekend Picks

I'll give my college picks here at this time. My first bet was a 6 point teaser with Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Missouri. I don't know too much about Central Michigan, however a popular gaming publication has gone 9-0 this year in their weekly top play and Central Michigan is their top play this week. That was enough for me to tease that one. I think the Notre Dame game will be closer than people think, but with the teaser I was able to get it down to 3 points. Straight up, I would expect Tennessee to keep this one closer than the 9 point spread. ONe concern I have is that the road team has WON the last 4 meetings between these teams. Missouri was getting 11.5 against Colorado, so with the teaser I was able to get 17.5. I like the hook there; 17 is a popular number in football and that half point may come in handy. Missouri is a better team than people realize and should be able to keep in Colorado's reach.

I also played two straight up games this weekend. I played Central Michigan, for the reasons stated above. I also played Nevada over Hawaii. One trend that led me to this pick is that Hawaii hasn't covered their last road game of the season in the past 5 years. This one opened at 6.5, but I was able to get Nevada -5. These seem to be the money makers this week.

Other picks that I considered but didn't pull the trigger on are Michigan State -4 against Purdue and Wisconisn +12 against Penn State. The only reason I didn't play the Wisconsin game is I have a rule to not bet for or against the Badgers. As for Michigan State, this might be a good play. Purdue has yet to cover a spread this year (0-7-1) and are in turmoil. The chemistry on that team is awful and Joe Tiller might be on his way out the door at seasons end. Michigan State has an explosive passing game and Purdue's pass defense is not good. Michigan State should be able to cover the 4, however I don't trust them enough on the road, so I layed off that one.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bucks Opener

Anyone who saw the Bucks open last night in Philly saw that this has the potential to be a very exciting team. TJ Ford is unbelievable, and if he stays healthy there is no way the Bucks won't make the playoffs. He singlehandedly changes the flow of the game; I can't picture anyone in the NBA who is quicker with the ball than he is (including AI). Bobby Simmons fit in well with the team, as did Magloire. It was nice to see Bogut get minutes as well. He finished with 37 minutes and put up 13 and 9, and he only had 1 foul. This team will compete in the East this year, and while they may not be there quite yet, this team could get home court advantage for one round of the playoffs.