Saturday, December 19, 2009

...Let's Go Bowling

December 19, 2009
New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6)

Who else would lead off this bowl season? Whoops. It's actually the second game, I missed the first one.

Prediction: Not knowing much about these two outside of their schedule and "tradition," I have to imagine Fresno handles Wyoming.

Fresno State: 34 Wyoming: 24

December 19, 2009
St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O'Brady's
Rutgers (8-4) vs. University of Central Florida (8-4)

The name alone is proof enough that we have way too many bowl games, weakening the argument that having a playoff system would kill the sacred bowl season. Once we have a bowl with Beef O'Brady as a name sponsor, it's gone too far. Almost as bad as having your football stadium renamed Gaylord.

Prediciton: Big East is better than Conference USA...Dat's all I know...

Rutgers: 38 UCF: 17

December 20, 2009
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee (9-3)

MTSU made a bowl game. No kidding.

Prediction: No one will care what the outcome is unless they have money on this game. MTSU in a HUGE upset!

Mid Tenn: 28 So. Miss: 27

December 22, 2009
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon State (8-4) vs. Brigham Young University (10-2)

The first decent bowl of the season. For some reason I am not fond of BYU.

Prediction: Three straight bowl losses becomes four for BYU. With an average team age of 26, at least they will be mature enough to handle it...or...Nothing three wives can't take care of.

Oregon State: 34 BYU: 21

December 23, 2009
San Diego County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl
Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4)

No matter how you pronounce it, the Pointsettia Bowl traditionally has good match ups, although Jahvid Best will not play in this one. Last year was TCU vs. Boise State.

Prediction: Vegas has Cal by 3 1/2 without Best. I disagree.

Utah: 27 Cal: 17

December 24, 2009
Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl
Southern Methodist (7-5) vs. Nevada (8-4)

June Jones goes back to Hawaii with SMU, their first bowl game since the death penalty in 1984.

Prediction: Hope you enjoyed the beach, this game is a stinker.

Nevada: 52 SMU: 31

December 26, 2009
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4)

If you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is here to save the day!

Prediction: No one will watch this game.

Ohio: 27 Marshall: 20

December 26, 2009
Meineke Car Care Bowl
North Carolina (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (9-3)

Funny that North Carolina is the visitor considering this game is played in Charlotte.

Prediction: With the home field advantage, this should be a competitive game. I think Pitt is probably better, but I predict UNC will come away with the upset.

North Carolina: 28 Pitt: 27

December 26, 2009
Emerald Bowl
Boston College (8-4) vs. Southern California (8-4)

I wonder why they don't call it the Emerald Nuts Bowl?

Prediction: It's not the Rose Bowl for USC, but they are young enough to take this one seriously. USC has to win this one, right?

USC: 34 Boston College: 13

December 27, 2009
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Clemson (8-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

Wow! There are Gaylords all over college football, and I'm not just talking about Colt McCoy. Why are people named Gaylord so insistent on getting their name out there? And why are there so many rich people named Gaylord? Is that the payoff for having to put up with the ridicule in middle school?

Prediction: Clemson has C.J. Spiller, Kentucky is hardened in the SEC, making this one good until the fourth quarter.

Clemson: 38 Kentucky: 24

December 28, 2009
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)

This makes me long for the days when this game was the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.

Prediction: A&M snuck some good offensive performances in while playing on TV, but they are pretty weak, especially away from Kyle Field. Georgia has a similar type team, potentially explosive offense, not much defense.

Georgia: 37 Texas A&M: 31

December 29, 2009
EagleBank Bowl
Temple (9-3) vs. UCLA (6-6)

Another familiar favorite. This one's been going since 2008, and with match ups like this one, I see 2010 in EagleBank's future.

Prediction: This one will put you to sleep.

UCLA: 29 Temple: 17

December 29, 2009
Champs Sports Bowl
Miami (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)

Here's a shocker, Miami is playing a bowl game in Florida. Luckily, Wisconsin is just a stone's throw away, seems fair. Is anyone else sick that ESPN has been glorifying Miami's thug days?

Prediction: I will watch this one until Miami takes control. Go Badgers.

Miami: 42 Wisconsin: 31

December 30, 2009
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Bowling Green (7-5) vs. Idaho (7-5)

Get ready to drink and drive, it's the Roady's Bowl!

Prediction: Idaho almost gets a home game playing on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium, but it doesn't help. Bowling Green has Biletnikoff award finalist, Freddie Barnes. He makes the game winning catch.

Bowling Green: 35 Idaho: 27

December 30, 2009
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Nebraska (9-4) vs. Arizona (8-4)

Mike Stoops against the Big XII. Nebraska might have three more wins if they would have played Suh at QB this year. A dominating defense matches an inept offense. Arizona is coming off two nice wins to end the season including USC. They almost beat Oregon. Stoops has a lot more on the line than Pelini.

Prediction: Both coaches are familiar with each other, especially on defense. Look for another patented Nebraska low scoring, hard fought, defensive battle. Nebraska is 1-0 in bowls with Pelini, but I think the lack of offense will be too much for the defense to overcome. Nebraska gets 13 points directly related to their defense, but the offense gives Arizona field position allowing them to punch in two TDs.

Arizona: 17 Nebraska: 16

December 31, 2009
Bell Helicoptor Armed Forces Bowl
Houston (10-3) vs. Air Force (7-5)

Houston QB Case Keenum was mentioned with the Heisman several times throughout the year. Considering he plays for Houston, just getting mentioned is impressive, although Houston has put out good QBs before (remember Kevin Kolb?). Air Force would like to win the Armed Forces Bowl, and only lost by three to TCU.

Prediction: This one should be wild with Houston boasting a great pass offense and Air Force running the option. Houston's Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has done an amazing job with his team, but they don't defend the run well. Against Air Force, that could be a problem.

Air Force: 42 Houston: 38

December 31, 2009
Brut Sun Bowl
Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)

OU needed a break from the BCS. After making a case for underclassmen to leave early for the NFL, Sam Bradford and OU spent a season shuffling players around to fill holes left by injuries. There is no doubt that OU talent is far greater than their record shows. Stanford overachieved all year thanks to the efforts of Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart.

Prediction: OU has a great defense and the once inexperienced offense, including freshman QB Landry Jones, goes into the bowl game with a full season of experience. I think OU ends their bowl skid and remembers what it feels like to win after the Big XII title game.

OU: 38 Stanford: 20

December 31, 2009
Texas Bowl
Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)

Who needs a title sponsor? This is Gawd damn Texas, y'all. How a Texas team is not in this bowl game blows me away. Missouri had a nice second half of the season against some sub par Big XII teams. They also lost to Baylor. Yes, Baylor. Navy beat Notre Dame and lost to Hawaii.

Prediction: Vegas has Missouri the favorite here. If Navy is in the game in the fourth quarter, I think they will win. Missouri could blow them out if they get out to a fast start. Navy's secondary will be the key to this game. I like Navy in the minor upset.

Navy: 24 Missouri: 21

December 31, 2009
Insight Bowl
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)

I can't believe these teams are playing in a bowl game. I can't believe this game wasn't played last week. Who would watch this?

Prediction: No one cares what my prediction is.

Minnesota: 27 Iowa State: 21

December 31, 2009
Chick-fil-A Bowl
Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)

I love Chick-fil-A. The only fast food establishment that might rival them is Rubio's, which isn't available to most who read this blog. Chick-fil-A has the good condiments and delicious waffle fries to go along with their chicken sandwich. Man, good stuff. They also have fast, friendly service, and they offer cherry coke and real lemonade. I think I'll get some for lunch.

Prediction: These two seem evenly matched. Tennessee played tough defense against teams that were better than them all year and made games interesting. I expect that to happen again in this one.

Virginia Tech: 20 Tenn: 17

January 1, 2010
Outback Bowl
Auburn (7-5) vs. Northwestern (8-4)

This one just doesn't interest me at all. Auburn was one of the worst teams in the SEC this year, and Northwestern is, well, Northwestern. NU hasn't won a bowl game since 1948, and that makes a six game losing streak. Seriously. 0-6 over the last 51 years. Gene Chizik left Texas to become the head coach in Iowa State where he continued their fine tradition going 5-19 in two years. Auburn snapped him up and he has led the Tigers to last in their division of the SEC and a trip to the Outback Bowl. Why couldn't Texas hold on to that guy?

Prediction: Chizik better win this game.

Auburn: 31 Northwestern: 23

January 1, 2010
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Florida State (6-6) vs. West Virginia (9-3)

Bobby Bowden begged to play his last game in Florida, and his wish was granted. I hope he doesn't blow it.

Prediction: West Virginia will remind everyone why Bowden is retiring. Scenario two is Bowden loses with a last second field goal that sails wide right.

WVU: 41 FSU: 28

January 1, 2010
Capital One Bowl
Penn State (10-2) vs. Louisiana State (9-3)

Les Miles is an idiot. The Big Ten needs this win. Seems like the right time and wrong place as LSU should show better than PSU in Florida.

Prediction: Les Miles does something stupid at the end of the game, blows another one for LSU.

PSU: 14 LSU: 13

January 1, 2010
Rose Bowl presented by Citi
Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2)

OSU is the only team that needs a break from the BCS worse than Oklahoma. They finally don't have to play USC, but Oregon brings a hot offense into the contest.

Prediction: Ohio State slows down Oregon but doesn't stop them. LeGerrette Blount decides to knock someone out anyway after the game. "Watch out for the right hand, fool."

Oregon: 35 OSU: 17

January 1, 2010
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Cincinatti (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)

Tebow got a rip in his superman panty hose, and the Gators are not playing for a national championship. Cincy just lost their coach to Notre Dame, and they are not happy. Florida is a heavy favorite. Is it just me or does this seem a bit like OU vs. WVU in the Fiesta Bowl after Rich Rodriguez left WVU for Michigan?

Prediction: Cincy is a team on a mission facing a program much bigger than they are. A win against UF would complete a perfect season for the Big East Bearcats. How do you bet against Urban Meyer in a bowl game? Should be a good game. Mardy Gilyard is the difference maker again as Cincy wins in an upset. We see more tears from Tebow. Happy New Year.

Cincy: 31 UF: 27

January 2, 2010
International Bowl
South Florida (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5)

Are you serious? A bowl in Toronto?

Prediction: USF will be very unhappy in Canada in January, because of the weather, not the game.

USF: 27 NIU: 14

January 2, 2010 Bowl
Connecticut (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5)

Steve Spurrier could use this bowl win. UConn had a nice season for a team that I still can't imagine being good.

Prediction: Better ingredients, better pizza...

UConn: 28 South Carolina: 23

January 2, 2010
AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4)

OSU could use a good win, and most will be looking at this game as a measuring stick between the Big XII and SEC. Both of these teams looked bad in their final game of the year.

Prediction: OSU disappoints the conference and themselves once again. Those guys are losers, plain and simple.

Ole Miss: 24 OSU: 21

January 2, 2010
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)

This might be an interesting game with ECU having one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, and the ability to score on offense. The problem might be that ECU doesn't fare well against major conference opponents.

Prediction: Arkansas wins this one.

Ark: 42 ECU: 27

January 2, 2010
Valero Alamo Bowl
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4)

Tech gets a home game against a Big Ten team without an impressive win.

Prediction: Tech puts up a lot of points.

Tech: 49 MSU: 24

January 4, 2010
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Boise State (13-0) vs. Texas Christian (12-0)

This one should be renamed the Cop Out Bowl. How can anyone defend a system that would put this game together. What a joke. Let these two play teams from power conferences and let's see what they can do. Total waste of a BCS game.

Prediction: Boise State is going to lose for the second consecutive year to TCU. There will be no cheerleader proposals this Fiesta Bowl for Boise.

TCU: 30 BSU: 24

January 5, 2010
FedEx Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. Iowa (10-2)

I really can't say I'm excited about this one. Iowa bores me to death and Georgia Tech doesn't play much defense. Both teams have a bowl losing streak to defend.

Prediction: The option that Tech runs will be interesting to watch for two posessions. I'll probably end up flipping around during this one.

Tech: 21 Iowa: 20

January 6, 2010
Central Michigan (11-2) vs. Troy (9-3)

This makes no sense to play this game January 6, and push back the BCS title game.

Prediction: Neither team will figure out why they had to wait until January to play such a trivial bowl game.

Cent. Mich: 48 Troy: 38

January 7, 2010
BCS National Championship Game
Alabama (13-0) vs. Texas (13-0)

Alabama should be happy they are playing Texas and not TCU, Cincy, Boise or Oregon. Colt and the Longhorns offense was exposed by Nebraska and Alabama throttled Florida in the SEC championship. The Heisman jinx is passed to Alabama through Mark Ingram.

Prediction: Alabama gets up early. The deficit for Texas should be worse at half based on the way they play. Texas comes back in the second half and makes it interesting. Alabama never trails, and holds off Texas' attempts at a comeback.

Alabama: 34 Texas: 27

Monday, December 14, 2009

NFL Power Rankings Week 15

1. Indianapolis Colts: 13-0

What? Did you think it was the Saints? Comparing the quality of football played week to week, especially lately, favors the Colts as the best undefeated team in the NFL. Peyton Manning defies logic with his consistency and no team is better prepared each week. The Colts are never the prettiest team to watch, but they are effective and consistent. 22 straight regular season wins speaks for itself. Indy has Jacksonville, the Jets, and Buffalo standing in their way of a perfect season. Jax might be tough as they are fighting for a playoff spot, and Indy has already captured home field advantage.

2. New Orleans Saints: 13-0

Undefeated. Not much else to say. They should have lost to Washington a week ago, and they played a nail biter against Atlanta this week. They have played better when faced with something to play for other than a flawless mark. The offense is the best in football when clicking, and they have been clicking more than not this season. The Saints have Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina standing in the way of a perfect regular season. Looks like three wins to me. I don't expect December Dallas to compete on the road.

3. Minnesota Vikings: 11-2

Beat Cincinnati 30-10 after losing last week to Arizona. Adrian Peterson looked like his old self and ran violently, scoring two TDs. Brett Favre did throw another pick after throwing two against Arizona, but he led his team to victory with overall solid play. He hasn't fallen apart yet as some expected. The Vikings D got pressure to Carson Palmer the whole game.

4. San Diego Chargers: 10-3

San Diego looks like the team they were supposed to be this year. The Chargers have an eight game winning streak on the season, and have won their last 16 games in December. Norv Turner returned to Dallas last week and coached one of his best games as San Diego's head coach, leading the Chargers past a desperate group of Cowboys. SDs defense has steadily improved and turned in a clutch performance capped by a four down goal line stand starting at the four yard line. Phillip Rivers continued an MVP caliber season, with WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates on pace for Pro Bowl selections. The O line even opened up some holes for Ladainian Tomlinson to get through. Another big game for the Bolts next week against Cincinnati.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: 9-4

Cincy edges two teams with identical records after getting handled this week by Minnesota. The biggest note on their play against Minnesota was Chad Ocho Cinco scored a TD without getting fined. Cincy should only have three losses because of the fluke loss to Denver in week one. Their resume of wins is far superior to the number six and seven teams in this poll, but their schedule doesn't let up as they go to San Diego next week. The Bengals need to find their offensive rhythm which was non existent this week.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: 9-4

Philly put up 45 against the Giants this week to sweep the season series (they also gave up 38). They are currently on a four game winning streak and in first place in the NFC East, but they play three motivated teams to close the regular season. Philly's best wins have both come against the Giants. The Eagles will reveal their true self being tested against San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas. Emphasis on defense and consistency running the ball (and health of ball carriers) will undoubtedly be the areas Philly will address this week in practice.

7. Green Bay Packers: 9-4

It's hard to believe the team that gave Tampa Bay their only win of the year is 9-4. That loss is the only reason I have the Eagles ahead of Green Bay on these rankings. The Packers have won five in a row and are playing with a lot of confidence on both sides of the ball. They seem to have tightened up the offensive line that was so inconsistent early on, and the defense is playing better than they have all year. Aaron Rodgers continues to impress. If it weren't for Brett Favre, he'd be the best QB in the division. Ryan Grant just went over the 1000 yard mark again and has been solid most of the year. The Pack have tough games against Pittsburgh and Arizona left to play.

8. Arizona Cardinals: 8-5

Arizona just turned in one of their worst performances of the year, turning the ball over seven times to San Francisco. This just one week removed from a huge win against Minnesota. Arizona is footballs version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They have two gimmes and then play Green Bay the last game of the year.

9. Baltimore Ravens: 7-6

Baltimore has struggled all year to get momentum on their side but have come up short, playing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Their losses include the undefeated Colts, two to division leading Cincinnati, division leading Minnesota, division leading New England, and nine win Green Bay. QB Joe Flacco has experienced a bit of a sophomore slump, but their run game has really improved with the emergence of Ray Rice. Their D is maybe not as good as in years past, but they're still not fun to play. Baltimore finishes the year with three games that should all be wins: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Oakland. If they are a team that can compete, they will prove it against wounded Pittsburgh.

10. New England Patriots: 8-5

Another rough week for the Pats even though they beat Carolina. It was not too impressive and there are more grumblings about Randy Moss quitting on the team. Admittedly, New England is under the microscope because of their recent success, but they don't look very strong, even in winning. They have lost three of their last five games. Still, it would be a mistake to count them out since they play three games that should all be wins en route to winning the AFC East. That momentum might be what they need for a successful playoff run.

11. Denver Broncos: 8-5

It looks like Denver should be able to win a wild card spot in the AFC, and that is more than anyone expected out of them this year. I don't think an NFL team can make the Super Bowl with Kyle Orton at QB, even with Brandon Marshall making 21 receptions a game. Denver is a scrappy team with a lot of heart, but lacks enough talent to make a splash in the playoffs. Denver plays Oakland, Philadelphia, and Kansas City to finish out the year. The game against Philly might tell us what we can expect from Denver in the playoffs.

12. Dallas Cowboys: 8-5

Another December collapse is well under way in Dallas. If the Boys lose out and miss a wild card spot, there will be riots in Arlington. Regardless of who's to blame, the Cowboys can't get it done in December. Even though Terrell Owens is gone, the spotlight is big & bright in Dallas, and the truth is they have never been as good as everyone thought they were. Dallas can't win this December because they are playing teams better than they are. December for Dallas includes the Giants, San Diego, New Orleans, Washington, and Philadelphia. They already have lost to the Giants and Chargers, they will lose to New Orleans, and with their confidence shattered they will play much improved Washington and Philly. The only thing going for the Cowboys is they will probably have to lose every game to miss a wild card spot.

13. Miami Dolphins: 7-6

The Dolphins have been the most resilient team in the NFL. They started the season losing three straight games and starting QB Chad Pennington. Then they lose RB (and QB) Ronnie Brown who is really their offensive catalyst. Despite this, they have a winning record, and have logged nice consecutive wins against New England and Jacksonville. They are still fighting for a Wild Card spot, but will have to earn it by playing resurgent Tennessee, unpredictable Houston, and reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. Miami will most likely miss the playoffs this year, but management should be proud of the effort of the team.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-6

After losing to Miami this week, the Jags are probably going to fall short of the playoffs. Much like the Dolphins, Jax plays two tough opponents in their final three games, and one of them is Indianapolis. With Baltimore likely to take care of business the last three games, Maurice Jones-Drew and co. will have a long off season. I wonder where they'll be playing next year?

15. New York Giants: 7-6

The Giants have watched a 5-0 start dissolve into 7-6. They cannot control their own destiny to the playoffs and instead will rely on the Cowboys to collapse. Not a bad plan, the problem is the Giants have to figure out how to win themselves. They play a rivalry game in Washington next week and must win to keep playoff hopes alive. I think Washington will win that one, and the Giants will lose the season finale against Minnesota unless the Vikings rest all their players. There are big concerns at defense for the Giants also, having given up more than 30 points to opponents five different times this season.

16. San Francisco 49ers: 6-7

San Fran took a huge step forward after beating Arizona again, Monday. If it weren't for a bad loss to Seattle two weeks ago, their playoff hopes would really be bright. San Fran's best win against an opponent outside the division is Jacksonville. They play Philadelphia next week in Philly for a huge NFC match up. If they can somehow find a way to win, they are rewarded by playing Detroit and St. Louis the final two weeks of the season. If Dallas can once again fulfill their December prophecy, San Fran could sneak into the playoffs. They will also need help from the struggling Giants. San Fran has not played well on the road, but did look good at home this week. If the passing game can find some consistency and open some lanes for Frank Gore, the defense will turn in a better effort against Philly than the Giants did.

17. Atlanta Falcons: 6-7

After a successful season last year and several key off season acquisitions, Atlanta had high hopes going into the season. Unfortunately, they were bit by the injury bug, and most currently have been playing without QB Matt Ryan or RB Michael Turner. Both players may be back next week against the Jets, but Turner is more likely than Ryan. Atlanta still has a great chance to win out their last three games against the Jets, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay. With a little help from the NFC East, Atlanta could still make the playoffs, but injuries will likely prevent this from happening.

18. Houston Texans: 6-7

Can Houston ever catch a break? If so, now would be the time to cash in. Houston is in a similar situation as San Fran. They need some help from other teams, but they have a sure win next week against St. Louis, then play a huge game against Miami. If they can win both of those, they might control their own destiny against New England in the season finale. Houston is known for being inconsistent on both sides of the ball, at times showing great promise. If they can catch fire down the stretch they may back door into the playoffs. No one wants to face Andre Johnson in the post season. Still, it would take slightly less than a miracle for Houston to get in to the playoffs.

19. New York Jets: 7-6

The Jets' season is over. They lost both games to Miami this year, all but securing third in the AFC East. Mathematically they are still in it, but they finish the year with Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. They will lose at least two of these games and finish 8-8. Rex Ryan's defense is the real deal, but they are still searching for an identity on offense. They have won their last three games, but the wins came against bottom feeders. The city of New York should set up the Consolation Bowl for the Jets and Giants since both will be at home come playoff time.

20. Tennessee Titans: 6-7

After starting the year 0-6, Tennessee made some adjustments and have gone on to win six of the last seven games. For any chance at the playoffs, Tennessee will have to win games at home against motivated Miami, red hot San Diego, and then against Seattle on the road. A valiant comeback by the Titans will fall short this season.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-7

You know things are bad in Pittsburgh when the last place team in the AFC south is better than them. Pittsburgh has lost their last five games including this week's to (gulp) Cleveland. The reigning Super Bowl champs have completely lost their running identity, and the loss of Troy Polamalu effected the entire defense. Like the rest of the league's 6-7 teams, Pitt has a chance to make the playoffs but their road is one of the bleakest. Besides needing several teams to lose, Pittsburgh must win against Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami. A loss next week to Green Bay will cap off a very disappointing title defense.

22. Washington Redskins: 4-9

Shown improvement later in year, especially QB Jason Campbell. Still too inconsistent to rely on as starter. Good defense. Should have beat New Orleans two weeks ago. Portis injury hurt already weak run offense. Bad ownership.

23. Chicago Bears: 5-8

Interception Cutler! Bad coaching. Players unhappy with management. Urlacher injury.

24. Seattle Seahawks: 5-8

And Hasselbeck is down! Inconsistent run attack. Struggling secondary. Weak offensive line. Injuries. More injuries.

25. Buffalo Bills: 5-8

Trent Edwards is starting QB and hurt. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick getting playing time. Dick Jauron fired mid year.

26. Carolina Panthers: 5-8

Interception Delhomme! Matt Moore starting QB.

27. Oakland Raiders: 4-9

Jamarcus Russell. Al Davis. Tom Cable. Darius Heyward-Bey. Jamarcus Russell. Bruce Gradkowski steps in and gives this team a nice lift, then gets hurt. It's the Raiders. I'm guessing karma doesn't favor their organization. Jamarcus Russell.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: 3-10

New coaching staff (Todd Haley), new players (Matt Cassel), old players traded (Tony Gonzalez), former pro bowlers getting booted (Larry Johnson).

29. Detroit Lions: 2-11

At least they have some players that are fun to watch (Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith). No defense. Rookie QB can't stay healthy.

30. Cleveland Browns: 2-11

They just beat Pittsburgh. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, Eric Mangini, lots of recent player turn over.

31. St. Louis Rams: 1-12


32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-12


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fall of Ego

The ground is still shaking beneath the feet of the sports world from the impact of it's mightiest star falling to Earth in Tiger Woods. The man who seemingly had everything personified the "harder they fall" cliche for the whole world to witness. Luckily for the New England Patriots, the whole world is still witnessing the Woods debacle and most have not noticed that the NFL's best franchise of the decade is also crumbling. The turmoil in Boston is enough to make any Patriots hater smile as all the infallible, super-human, geniuses that work in Foxborough are scrutinized like never before.

It all started on fourth and two...sort of. It probably started when the Patriots turned over a generation of defensive dynasty staples, losing names like: Bruschi, Vrabel, Hobbs and Harrison. Then, in an attempt to be more youthful, the Pats traded their best defensive player, Richard Seymour, who was a dominating force in all three Super Bowl wins of the Belichick era.

The Patriot nation was full of hopeful expectations to start the season, "In Belichick and Brady we trust." But fans were humbled early when the Jets, led by a rookie quarterback fresh off a GQ spread (see Brady) beat the Pats, holding their unstoppable offense to nine points. The loss was shrugged off as rust collected last year when Tom Brady was injured.

Then there was the loss to Belichick protege, Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos. Just when you thought the hubris of Belichick couldn't possibly escalate, he had the audacity to act happy for McDaniels. Belichick is known for his cold post game hand shakes and his complete disregard for opposing coaches, especially those that once considered him a mentor (see Mangini). His sudden change of heart for McDaniels was nothing more than his ego crediting himself for the Broncos success.

Then there was fourth and two. The Belichick Ego swallowed what was once a human being and became a pulsating mass of self serving brain matter with a headset. After having a lead against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts on the road, the "smartest man in football" made a coaching call that defied a century of football logic (see Landry). The Pats went for a fourth and two on their own 28 yard line with two minutes left in a game they had a six point lead. Four weeks later the Colts are still undefeated and the Patriots are 7-5, fighting to keep the playoff spot that used to be handed to them.

The Pats have not won a true road game this season, winning only in London against Tampa Bay. Good for a 1-5 road record. The Pats are still undefeated at home but have lost the perception of invincibility in December (see Brees). They have also lost three of their last four games, making a deep playoff run look very bleak.

Unaccustomed to struggles, the strain on the Pats is beginning to show. After losing to Miami last week, Brady made comments in the media calling out the work ethic of his teammates. Immediately these comments were deciphered as being directed towards all world receiver Randy Moss. The marriage which seemed to be a perfect match two years ago is apparently on the rocks (see Mcnabb and Owens).

Brady should not be beyond reproach at this point in the season either. He has taken to calling out teammates, but he has a QB rating of 60 in the second half of road games. But Brady is one illegitimate child away from sainthood (see Lebron), so Belichick naturally had his back.

Directly after the uncharacteristic public criticism, Belichick put the hammer down and suspended four players who showed up late for the morning meeting, Wednesday. Among the four players were (surprise, surprise) Moss and former all pro Adalius Thomas. New England was hit with an ice storm the night before and each player was less than 10 minutes late, but the line in the sand was drawn.

Thomas and Belichick have not seen eye to eye since his arrival in New England and Moss is not known to be open to criticism (see Culpepper). He is a model citizen when things are going great, but when challenged Moss has a past of responding negatively and acting out in a way that alienates him from organizations (see Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders). His talent has never been questioned, but his maturity has been questioned since high school (see Notre Dame, Florida State).

Belichick's actions look like those of a desperate coach who is struggling to control a team in transition. His past success granted him immunity in his behavior, demeanor, and coaching strategies (see Spygate), but those days seem to be over. Should the Pats somehow miss out on the playoffs, we will all be witnesses to the falling of a dynasty. Coaches can act in whatever manner they wish while their team is winning, but once the losses start mounting, and successes become fleeting, the personality of a coach will be put under the microscope (see Mangino). The only person less equipped to deal with that type of scrutiny is the aforementioned Tiger Woods.

So what will the fallout be? In the last four weeks the Pats play three teams with losing records. They still have two road games to contend with, but their toughest opponent is Jacksonville at home. If the Pats cannot win all four of these games they are in danger of getting knocked out of first in the AFC East.

A playoff win will probably keep their legacy in tact with the expectation they will improve next year, but if Belichick's motivational tactics don't hit their desired mark the Pats could implode.

That's what I'll be rooting for. I have already seen Tebow cry this year. It would be a cherry on top to watch Belichick and the Pats face the same scenario. Like watching the inevitable fall of Brittney Spears, it would help me restore some faith that everyone eventually gets what they deserve (see Woods).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Suhprise Heisman Winner?

It's Heisman Trophy time again, and this year (unlike most years) the honor has the opportunity to go to the nation's most outstanding football player, rather than the nation's best quarterback. Don't get me wrong, the voters got it right last year when the award was given to Sam Bradford, quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, but it really seems like you have to be a running back or quarterback to be considered for the Heisman.

An award for most outstanding football player has been given out annually since 1935, and in that time only five non QB/RBs have won the award. Only two of those won without returning punts and kicks, but both played iron man football (offense and defense).

So why call it the nation's best player when the award doesn't give a fair chance to players who only play defense or a less glamorous offensive position. Clearly the best players all aren't QB/RBs. 26 players have been taken first overall in the NFL draft that did not play QB/RB since the Heisman has been awarded. I realize the two don't directly correlate, but I also know that 26 is a lot more than five.

The voters of the Heisman Award are in a unique position this year to actually make history and vote Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, a defensive tackle, as the nation's best player. The stars have aligned for Suh. If there was ever a year a defensive player could, and should win the Heisman, this is it (for any of you who are saying, 'hey what about Charles Woodson,' I am disqualifying him as a defensive winner because he also played wide receiver and special teams).

Let's take a look at this year's finalists:

1. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. Colt led his team to the national championship game after the referees cheated to let a Big XII team advance to the title game. McCoy was absolutely shut down on the biggest stage and Texas should have been beat by a team that barely eclipsed the century mark in offense. He had less than 200 yards passing, three interceptions, and was tossed around like a rag doll by fellow finalist, Suh, to the tune of four and a half sacks. That alone should disqualify him. If it's not enough for you, take a look at how he fared against Oklahoma this year and combine the two games.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Tebow already won the award two years ago. This was his least impressive year as a starter and he did not lead his team to an SEC championship like last year. I assume he was invited to pay respect to his overall collegiate resume, and because the media loves him like a newborn baby. Speaking of baby, let's hope he can keep it together while the cameras are on him at the ceremony. Those were some big crocodile tears he was shedding after getting pummeled by Alabama in the SEC championship game.

3. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Bama is the number one team in the country and he is the best offensive player on the team, usually. He has had a great year, and picked up steam in the Heisman talks when Colt and Tebow refused to take the lead mid way through the season. He rushed for over 1500 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. If I look for negatives on Ingram I would say his team can win without him. He is also just a sophomore, his stats aren't as impressive as the other running back finalist, and he did not seem to grab much buzz that is usually required to win.

4. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford. Gerhart put together what is the best statistical year of all the offensive finalists. He ran for over 1700 yards, but more impressive, scored 26 times. Stanford also has buzz from their wins against Southern California, Oregon, and Notre Dame. Gerhart ran for over 200 yards and scored four touchdowns against Notre Dame. His team did lose games to Wake Forest, California, Arizona and Oregon State, and Stanford was not in contention for the PAC 10 title.

5. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska. Suh was the most impactful defensive player in the country. He has already won the Nagurski award for most outstanding defensive player earlier this week. He showed up the biggest in the biggest games. Suh's impact is hard to quantify - 82 tackles (50 solo), 12 sacks, one interception, 10 pass deflections, three blocked kicks - but it was his dominating line presence every play which made him a finalist. His line disruption and the attention he received with blockers made every defensive player around him better. Nebraska almost won the Big XII with the 11th best offense in conference, averaging 317 yards per game.

Most years a defensive player is a finalist for the Heisman there is no chance he can overcome the statistical power of his fellow offensive finalists. This year should be different. There was no clear front runner the entire year. The media desperately wanted Colt or Tebow to take the trophy home, but I don't think even a PR juggernaut like ESPN can erase the images from both their conference championship games. Neither running back attracted significant attention beyond their regions, and if they had a so called "Heisman moment" that most winners have, I don't remember seeing it on any highlight shows.

If I take Suh out of the equation and analyze the four offensive choices, I immediately scratch the QBs. As for the RBs, Gerhart had the much better year statistically, but Ingram plays for a much better team.

The problem with Ingram is I can't say he led his team to the national championship game. He had a weak game in which he was injured against Auburn, and then wasn't the MVP of the SEC championship game. I got the feeling when I watched Bama play that they could win without him, and did.

Gerhart, on the other hand, was invaluable to his team, but lost four games. In the end, Gerhart was more consistent, and I would have to give him the nod. I have read that he didn't have a bad game all year by more than one analyst. I can't claim to be an avid follower of Stanford football (although I will watch every play of the Sun Bowl). I do know that Gerhart put up great numbers and PAC 10 opponents didn't like tackling the 235 pounder when he was at full steam. His conference has also received praise for being one of the best conferences in NCAA football with five ranked teams, most of any conference.

So now let's compare the canidacies of Gerhart and Suh. When I look at the two resumes the first thing that jumps out is both played for teams with unimpressive records. Comparing stats between an offensive and defensive player is useless, which is what you would normally do next. QB/RBs generally win the Heisman because they play positions that allow them to effect the game in a quantitative way. Offense and defense both contribute to the outcome of the game, but you have to score points to win.

Suh was a force strong enough to get himself Heisman recognition at a position that very rarely gets put in that category. The success of Nebraska's defense can be directly related to his presence, whether it was making the play himself, taking on blockers to help a teammate make a play, harassing the QB, pushing back the line or getting his hands on the ball. Suh was unstoppable all year.

As a defensive player he should receive a handicap in the voting. Was Gerhart's impact play after play as big as Suh's? I don't think so. I believe the edge should go to Suh for this reason. What a great way to acknowledge a special defensive player in a year that has no offensive it guy.

This opportunity will not come around again soon and voters would be wise to recognize that and make the right choice for this particular year. I predict Gerhart will win with Suh finishing second, but it would be nice to have the Heisman actually be about the nation's most outstanding football player. I would like to see Suh win the award for all the players on the wrong side of the ball that were deserving but never considered.


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