Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 4

I missed week three while I was out of town, but I had a rough week picking week two.  This NFL season has been full of surprises. What could the odds possibly have been before the season that after three weeks, the only undefeated NFL teams would be Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Chicago.  Astronomical.  Let's try again, totally refreshed and ready for some great picks.


San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons

San Fran has been the biggest disappointment so far this young season.  Obviously they are concerned because they just fired their offensive coordinator.  Meanwhile, Atlanta just knocked off the Super Bowl champs, and hung 41 on Arizona the week before.  Atlanta is definitely the favorite, but desperate teams are usually dangerous.  This is the last week I take the 49ers as an underdog if they don't come through.

San Francisco: 28
Atlanta:            27

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns

Here's something that is not surprising; the Browns are 0-3.  Here's something that is surprising; they've been close in every contest.  The Bengals have won their last two games after getting smoked week one, but their offense has yet to take off.  I think it will be another close battle for Cleveland, and I think they're gonna be on the wrong end again.

Cincinnati: 20
Cleveland: 14

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

The Jets appear to be hitting their stride and the Bills just released their week one starting quarterback.  The Bills were able to get some offense going against New England, but the Jets aren't accustomed to giving up many points, especially not to teams like the Bills.

New York: 27
Buffalo:     13

Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams

Seattle has been an underdog every week of the season and they are currently 2-1.  Before the party begins in Seattle a major obstacle must be hurdled, a road win.  If the Seahawks are for real, they will win in St. Louis.  The Rams have been close in every game this year, but have not played good competition.  In fact, their one win came against the best team they have played this year.  With Steven Jackson ailing, Sam Bradford and the Rams have their work cut out for them, but I'm still not sold on the Seahawks.  Let's roll the Rams dice one more time.

Seattle:     20
St. Louis: 31

Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans

The Broncos are 0-2 on the road this season and have predictably failed to find an offensive spark.  The Titans have been dominant two of three weeks this season, losing only to undefeated Pittsburgh on the road.  This one shouldn't be exciting.

Denver:      17
Tennessee: 35

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Don't look now, but the Lions look just like the Lions.  After getting robbed in week one and losing their quarterback, Detroit is once again winless after three contests.  Although they are desperate, winning in Green Bay is very unlikely.  Especially after the Pack lost an emotional Monday night game where they continuously shot themselves in the foot.  It looks like another 0-4 start for the Lions.

Detroit:      18
Green Bay: 44

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

You might need a mouth piece just to watch this game.  The Ravens have not found an offensive stride despite having playmakers all over the field.  Now Ray Rice is dinged up and they resemble the Ravens of old, winning with defense.  Winning with defense is nothing new for Pittsburgh either, but I don't think anyone outside of Pittsburgh would have believed they would start 3-0 without Ben Roethlisberger.  They're playing at Heinz Field, but I'm still waiting on that first Steelers loss.  I think they'll finally get it, barely.

Baltimore: 14
Pittsburgh: 13

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

The Panthers have been flat out the worst team in the league so far this season.  The Saints are coming off their first loss and playing in New Orleans.  While New Orleans is still trying to find their rhythm, Carolina poses no threat.

Carolina:         13
New Orleans: 38

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Peyton Manning show takes to the road in one of the most friendly road venues in the NFL.  After an early season loss (something the Colts are not accustomed to) I think they will take every game extremely seriously.  All you really have to say about the Jags is they had room on their roster for Trent Edwards, a guy Buffalo ushered out of town.  Ewww.  The Jags will try to get Maurice Jones-Drew going against a defense that was torched on the ground week one, but without a reliable passing attack they are likely to see eight man fronts the entire game.

Indianapolis: 37
Jacksonville: 17

Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders

The Texans thought they had turned the corner but they forgot to tell the 0-2 Cowboys.  A win last week would have put the Texans on the top of most power rankings, but it was not meant to be.  Oakland is poorly coached, very young, and lacking on defense.  The new Texans should bounce back against an inferior opponent.

Houston: 34
Oakland:  21

Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Donovan McNabb's homecoming doesn't look very fun.  The Skins just lost to the Rams, and the Eagles are the best offense in the league through three games.  I really don't believe the struggles in Washington are McNabb's fault, but I also don't expect them to suddenly turn the corner in Philly.  Eagles should take care of business at home.

Washington:    17
Philadelphia: 31

Arizona Cardinals vs. San Diego Chargers

The Cardinals have not looked very good despite their 2-1 record.  Wins include two escape jobs against St. Louis and Oakland.  Although the Chargers have yet to reach their standard 1-3 start, I suspect the Cardinals are one team even the Chargers can beat early in the season.

Arizona:     22
San Diego: 28

Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants

The Bears are 3-0 coming off a win at home against Green Bay.  The Giants have basically stunk, their only win coming against Carolina.  It seems like a no-brainer, but on further review, I am inclined to pick the Giants in an upset.  The Bears have to go on the road on a short week after a draining win. The Giants season is over if they lose.  I'll take the upset here.

Chicago:    20
New York: 21

New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins

New England has been all over the map this season.  They won at home against a decent team, got dominated against a good team, and won unconvincingly against a bad team.  Miami just took a tough loss at home to the Jets.  I believe the Dolphins are a more complete team, but they will need a great effort by their defense to keep Tom Brady in check.  This should be another good Monday night matchup.

New England: 24
Miami:            32

Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Let's buckle up and get ready for another tremendous Red River Rivalry game.  The Sooners should be favored especially after the Longhorns took an embarrassing loss at home to UCLA.  One thing I have learned from attending this game my entire life is that you can pretty much throw out the records when these two line up.  The Sooners have concerns of their own with only one impressive win in four games.  The defense has been porous and the offense inconsistent.  Turnovers will undoubtedly play an enormous factor, and this game usually includes at least one big special teams play.  The eyes of Texas are all over the Longhorns for a bounce back.  For the Sooners, losers of four of the last five RRRs, this should be their bowl game.  A win is necessary to regain momentum in a series that looked like it would cost Mack Brown his job early in the Bob Stoops era.  Boomer Sooner baby!

Texas:          27
Oklahoma: 31

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 2

As I said in my last pick 'em post, week one is the most challenging week to pick games.  That being said, I went 9-6 which is decent, but there were a few shockers.  Week two becomes extremely important for teams that dropped their openers.  There is nothing worse than waiting all off-season, working hard through training camp, setting all types of expectations, buying into the hype, only to start slow and ruin your season before it starts. Here are my picks for week two:

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans

Both teams played well and won their first game.  Pittsburgh had the benefit of playing at home.  The Titans torched Oakland which may or may not mean anything, but last time I checked they have Chris Johnson.  I like the Titans.

Pittsburgh:  16
Tennessee: 17

Miami Dolphins vs. Minnesota Vikings

This game will be telling for both organizations.  Miami won in Buffalo but didn't put up great offensive numbers.  Minnesota also struggled on offense but played New Orleans tough in their house.  I liked the way Minnesota played defense, and I would expect them to have a strong performance at home.

Miami:       13
Minnesota: 20

Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons

If the Falcons are going to be competitive, they will win this home opener.  Arizona barely won in St. Louis and the Falcons lost in Pittsburgh.  The Falcons are the more dynamic team playing at home.

Arizona: 10
Atlanta: 24

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals swept this series last year en route to an AFC North championship.  The Ravens are reloaded and coming off an emotional victory against the Jets.  Cincy had a tough week one in New England.  Cincinnati better win this game if they want to keep T.O. under control.  I don't see it happening.

Baltimore: 27
Cincinnati: 17

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns

Can Kansas City build on their week one surprise victory?  Can Cleveland play better at home than they did in Tampa?  Neither is certain.  I have more faith in K.C. than I do Cleveland, but I'm not sure about this one.  It's actually a pretty important game for Eric Mangini and the Browns organization.  A bad start could see a coaching change in Cleveland.  I think the Browns will pull it together.

Kansas City: 19
Cleveland:   23

Chicago Bears vs. Dallas Cowboys

Chicago won at home from the benefit of a terrible rule.  The Cowboys were embarrassed by their play in front of a national audience in Washington.  The Cowboys are the better team, playing at home, and have something to prove.  Recipe for a win.

Chicago: 20
Dallas:    38

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Detroit Lions

The Eagles are unsure about Kevin Kolb's status for this game, but it looks like he will sit at least one week.  That might be the best news Eagles fans can get.  Michael Vick looked electric in the second half against Green Bay.  The Lions are coming home after a tough loss, but also lost their starting quarterback leaving Shaun Hill the starter.  I like Philly's backup better, but the Eagles did suffer several injuries in week one.

Philadelphia: 23
Detroit:           17

Buffalo Bills vs. Green Bay Packers

The Bills defense did a pretty good job keeping the score manageable last week, but their offense was inept.  Green Bay just lost Ryan Grant for the year, but that shouldn't keep them from beating Buffalo at home.

Buffalo:        6
Green Bay: 31

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers

Tampa Bay got a win at home in their opener, but like most things the Bucs do, it wasn't very impressive.  Carolina turned the ball over five times and Matt Moore got banged up at the end of the game leaving some fans the hope of Jimmy Clausen starting.  No matter who gets the start, you're sure to see a lot more running from the Panthers who barely used Jonathan Stewart in week one.

Tampa Bay: 13
Carolina:    27

Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos

Mile-High is probably a good way to describe the Seahawks fan base after their dominating week one victory.  The Broncos lost a close one in Jacksonville.  I think the Broncos probably showed who they were, but the jury is still out on the Seahawks.  This one is a coin toss, but I'll give Seattle the benefit of the doubt this week.

Seattle:  17
Denver:  16

St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders

I took Bradford to upset the Cardinals last week, and he came pretty close.  The good news is they are playing a porous run defense in Oakland.  The Raiders were humiliated against Tennessee week one, so they are probably placing a lot of importance on this matchup.  If the Raiders are going to be competitive this year, this is a game they have to win.  It's up to Steven Jackson and the Rams coaches if they are going to let them.

St. Louis: 24
Oakland:   21

Houston Texans vs. Washington Redskins

The Texans had the most impressive week one win.  The Redskins knocked off their division rival in a game that lacked offense.  Despite the victory, the Texans were susceptible to the pass.  If Donovan McNabb can get off to a fast start, they'll have a chance.  They certainly will defend the run better than Indy.  I believe the Skins will improve steadily under Mike Shanahan, but they aren't there yet.

Houston:     21
Washington: 20

New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

This should be a fantastic game.  The Pats were dominant on offense week one, and actually pretty good on defense until they had a big lead.  The Jets were dominant on defense, but couldn't move the ball against the Ravens.  It's strength against strength in a game that is going to be huge for the Jets, and could tell us some valuable information about New England.  Can the Jets really drop their first two home games?  I think they might.

New England: 24
New York:        13

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. San Diego Chargers

The Jags are 1-0 after holding serve against the Broncos last week.  The Chargers are coming off a predictable week one road loss.  The Chargers struggle to defend the run and they face Maurice Jones-Drew.  If they can keep MJD under control, they should win.

Jacksonville: 23
San Diego :  31

New York Giants vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Giants didn't look good in their victory against Carolina.  Indy was torched by the ground game of Houston.  I really don't see Peyton Manning losing two weeks in a row, especially at home against his little brother.  I like the Colts here.

New York:      21
Indianapolis: 33

New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Saints got a nice long rest after playing their opener.  The Niners come off an embarrassing loss and have a lot to prove to themselves and their fans.  The Saints are a tough draw for a reclamation game.  I think the Niners will play better, but not good enough to knock off the champs.

New Orleans: 34
San Francisco: 26

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

The first week of the NFL has come and gone.  Isn't it incredible how the reality of week one can dissipate the pre-season excitement in a flash?  As fans we forget every year that it's just one game.  But we do have a clearer picture of what each team is capable of.  Here's my rankings:

1. New Orleans Saints

The Super Bowl champs are 1-0, and beat a good team in week one.  They say repeating is the hardest feat in sports, so it's sure to be a tough road ahead.  But, until someone knocks them down a peg, they're the team to beat.

2. Green Bay Packers
The Pack got it done in Philly without playing their A game.  They are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and were playing defense shorthanded.  Green Bay lost Ryan Grant for the year which certainly doesn't help their chances to stay at the top of this list.

3. Baltimore Ravens
If you're concerned with the Ravens offense after their Monday night performance, you're forgetting they played the league's best defense on the road.  The Ravens played some defense of their own and they were without Ed Reed.  I am a little concerned with Joe Flacco, but the Ravens have the most complete roster in the NFL.

4. Houston Texans
If anyone says they saw Arian Foster and the Texans beating Indianapolis, they're lying.  I liked Houston before the season, but I wasn't sold on their running game.  Considering Foster beat Indianapolis by himself, I'm sold.

5. New York Jets
It's not time to panic if you're a Jets fan.  But it might be time for a reality check.  If you bought into the hype of the Jets, you might have forgotten they are putting their hopes on Mark Sanchez who has yet to be a productive pro.  Rex Ryan and the rest of the team might be writing checks Sanchez can't cash. 

6. Indianapolis Colts
Well, it's a good news/bad news scenario for the defending AFC champs.  Good news: Peyton Manning threw for tons of yards and three touchdowns.  Bad news: The hyped up Indianapolis defense can't slow down the run.  It will be interesting to see if the Colts defense is that bad, or if Arian Foster is that good.  The Colts need a nice bounce back or they will plummet on this list.

7. New England Patriots
The AFC playoff picture will get really cloudy if the Patriots are as good as they looked Sunday.  You knew the offense would be productive, but the defense was the surprise.  Although they ended up giving up 24 points to Cincy, the game was out of reach before the Bengals started scoring.  The Pats might be back.  Let's hope not.

8. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings defense played fantastic against the Saints in New Orleans.  The offense, however, worries me.  I don't believe Brett Favre is ready to play this year.  More concerning than Favre is Minnesota's inability to run block or find ways to get Adrian Peterson in space.  Talent can only take you so far, at some point you need coaching to impact the team.  Ask the Chargers.

9. Tennessee Titans
I will always be surprised that a team starting Vince Young has any success.  Of course, it does help that the Titans have the best runner in the league who didn't disappoint week one.  If the Titans defense fixed their problems from last year, this is a dangerous team.   There's not a lot of room in their division if the Texans are for real.

10. Miami Dolphins
I'm not quite as certain about the Dolphins after week one.  I will be looking forward to the Pats game to see where they measure up within their division.  They didn't have much offense in Buffalo, then again, it's not an easy place to play.  The Dolphins defense looked good, but played against a very pedestrian offense.

11. Dallas Cowboys
It's not time to panic in Dallas, but it is time to find a replacement for Alex Barron.  When's the last time you saw an offensive lineman literally lose a game?  I didn't like the play calling for Dallas' offense against the Skins.  They clearly tried to force the ball early to Dez Bryant and were inconsistent running the ball.  The Cowboys will rebound, but they do need help on the O-line.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Defense and running the ball are not new ideas in Pittsburgh.  Most people forgot that they are two years removed as Super Bowl champs.  I don't see the Steelers making the playoffs, but they can still win games with their formula of football.  The biggest mistake this franchise can make is to allow Roethlisberger to return and start throwing the ball around like they did last year.

13. Washington Redskins
The Redskins have improved as a team with the addition of Mike Shannahan and Donovan McNabb.  They didn't show it too much Sunday, but I think they will be able to score some points.  They are old at running back, but have lots of veteran leaders on the team.  Hopefully they can get some equity when they are forced to trade Albert Haynesworth.

14. Cincinnati Bengals
This team's season could be over if they don't win early.  With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco feeding off each other, Marvin Lewis will have the toughest coaching position in football.  The defense looked like a disaster against New England, but they were playing one of the league's best offenses in their house.  I'll wait another week before writing off the Bengals.  Maybe two weeks since they host the Ravens this weekend.

15. New York Giants 
The Giants were underwhelming in their victory over Carolina.  They turned the ball over four times, but they got five from Carolina.  Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning appear to have developed some chemistry.  They have a ways to go if they want to compete in the NFC East.

16. San Diego Chargers
Slow starts are nothing new for this bunch.  It looks like San Diego will probably find themselves in the playoffs again this year since the AFC West will clearly be the weakest division in the AFC.  San Diego will have to find a way to run the ball more effectively, while tightening up their run defense.

17. Philadelphia Eagles
It is going to be a challenging year for the Eagles with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.  Especially when he is getting booed by fans that want Michael Vick in the game.  The funny part about the soon-to-be quarterback controversy is that fans booed when Vick entered the game in the first half, then booed Kolb when he was ineffective, then cheered after Kolb was knocked out with a concussion and Vick moved the offense.  Now Andy Reid is going to have to explain every week why Kolb is his quarterback.  The Eagles are talented, but they would be much more ready to win if they still had McNabb under center.

18. Atlanta Falcons
When Matt Ryan was a rookie, he exceeded expectations but had the benefit of Michael Turner's MVP caliber season.  Turner was ineffective last year, and started off this season against Pittsburgh.  The fate of this team relies on how Turner is able to move the chains.  I don't see the Falcons in the playoffs playing in the same division as the Saints.

19. San Francisco 49ers
Without question, the biggest disappointment of week one.  Seattle is never an easy place to play, especially the first game of the season.  That being said, if Alex Smith is the same 'ol Alex Smith, and Michael Crabtree continues to have attitude problems, the 49ers could have another disappointing season.  The good news is it's just one game, but there's no magic pill for good quarterback play.  A bounce back victory next week would help improve team chemistry which seems to be lacking. But that's a tall order against the reigning Super Bowl champs.

20. Seattle Seahawks
Is there any chance this team is for real?  They certainly surprised the football world with a lopsided week one victory, but it's just one game.  They lack talent, have a fragile, veteran quarterback, and a suspect running game.  They should be a losing team by the end of the season.

21. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs won a huge game for the franchise Monday night, and were the only team in the AFC West that came away with a week one victory.  The Chiefs have an interesting mix of young and veteran players, but I wouldn't get too excited about their chances.  Maybe if they played every game at home.  They do enjoy one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.

22. Chicago Bears

I can't buy into these guys.  They had some big plays on offense but were far from consistent.  If it weren't for a terrible rule that disallows common sense, they would have lost at home to the Lions.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags picked up an exciting week one victory without MJD finding the end zone.  If I had to describe the Jags in one word I would say, "plucky."  Plucky gets you six wins in the NFL.

24. Arizona Cardinals

These guys will struggle this season with Derek Anderson at quarterback.  They still have pride and a good coach which will maximize their win total, but they won't score a lot of points.

25. Detroit Lions

These guys have terrible luck.  A week one victory would have energized the dormant fan base in Detroit.  If you catch the ball in the end zone, possess the ball, get two feet down, get a butt down, hold the ball up, and set the ball down to celebrate your touchdown, IT'S A TOUCHDOWN!!!!! The people that defend the rule are ridiculous.  We have watched football our whole lives, and know what a touchdown is.  Why don't the officials?

26. Denver Broncos

Eight more losses until Tebow gets a start.  Start the countdown.

27. Oakland Raiders

After one week, I am ready to give up on these guys I so boldly proclaimed would be improved.  There is still plenty of time for them to be competitive, but something about their week one performance was very reminiscent of the 2009 Raiders.

28. St. Louis Rams

A team with Steven Jackson should never force their quarterback to throw the ball 55 times.  Especially when that quarterback is playing in his first NFL game as a rookie.  It will be another long season for the Rams if they don't run the ball.  Bradford will re-energize the fans, but won't win many games without a balanced offense.  His receivers need to help out by catching the ball.  Drops hurt the Rams against Arizona.

29. Buffalo Bills

They played some nice defense in a home loss.  Trent Edwards will take them no where.  How are the CJ Spiller fantasy owners doing today?

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Did somebody say the undefeated Tampa Bay Bucs?  The high point of the season has already come and gone for Tampa.

31. Cleveland Browns

Let's play, "Guess...That...Quarterback!!!"  (*game show music*)

I'll give you the stats, you tell me the QB.  Okay, let's go...

227 passing yards...

1 touchdown...

2 interceptions...

59 QB rating...

1 embarrassing loss...

Okay, now tell me...Who's...That...Quarterback?!? (*countdown timer*)

If you guessed Jake Delhomme, you're correct!  Always above 200 yards, always more picks than TD's, and usually on the losing end.

32. Carolina Panthers

Matt Moore threw three picks in the end zone.  Carolina actually had plenty of chances to beat the Giants on the road, but decided to give it right back.  Two good running backs are useless if your quarterback is terrible.  They should probably be higher on this list, but I watched nearly every snap of their game and it was embarrassing.  I would play Jimmy Clausen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

OU Channels Moses Malone

It's a beautiful morning for Sooners fans everywhere!  Have you ever seen a team rebound like Oklahoma did after their shaky week one performance?

I was downright nervous before kickoff of the Florida State game.  I just didn't know what to expect.  I realized OU was talented and capable of a big rebound, but I was concerned that FSU was equally talented.  To hear the experts tell it, Heisman trophy contender Christian Ponder was going to walk into Norman and tear apart OU's inexperienced secondary.  If the Sooners could barely get it done against lowly Utah State, how could they ever match the athleticism of the Seminoles?

Well, as it turned out, OU might have held a bit back in their week one victory.  The Sooners dominated FSU in every facet of the game.  Especially on offense where Bob Stoops' baby brother Mark and the Seminoles defense became sacrificial lambs for the highly motivated Sooners.

Landry Jones was spectacular throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.  If it weren't for the ball slipping out of Jones' hand on a pass attempt, and one bad snap, the Sooners probably would have put up 48 points (assuming the extra points would have been good) before half.

FSU couldn't even slow down the Sooners.  Jones got several receivers involved in the game, completing passes to 12 different players.  It was great to see so many players get a chance to contribute on a big stage.  Receiver depth was considered a strength for the Sooners, but it was conspicuously missing last week.  Jones made sure that wasn't the case again.

Ryan Broyles had another dominant performance. The short passing game was effective in picking up first down yardage and converting third downs.  Swing passes kept the Seminoles pass rush ineffective and opened running lanes for Demarco Murray and Mossis Madu.  It also provided downfield opportunities that Jones took advantage of.

Madu saw his first action of the season after being suspended last week.  He was very effective and helped keep Murray fresh.  Madu was a forgotten man at running back, but it appears the coaches plan on using him as the second option this season.  Judging from his performance yesterday, Madu is primed for a terrific senior year.

The offensive line was excellent and kept pressure off Jones the entire game.  Blocking was a total team effort, Saturday.  OU receivers were asked to block early and often, and were instrumental in maximizing yardage.

The pace of the game was clearly more than FSU was ready for.  After giving up touchdowns to the Sooners on their first three drives the Seminoles were lackadaisical.  OU took the opportunity to run their up-tempo offense resulting in back to back completions capped by a 46 yard touchdown to James Hanna.  When the Sooners added another touchdown before halftime, the game was over.

Hanna and Trent Ratterree  both caught their first career touchdown, Saturday.  Ratterree missed an opportunity early, but made up for it later.  Both players made terrific runs after the catch to get in the end zone.  Hanna's agility looked particularly impressive.  He reminded me of Jermaine Gresham catching the ball in stride and gliding for the touchdown.  Hanna did have the benefit of a flawless pass and a nice downfield block by Cameron Kenney.

The Sooners defense, considered a serious problem area after giving up several big plays in week one, shut down Ponder and the FSU offense.  After an opening drive that resulted in a touchdown for the Noles, FSU didn't get back in the end zone until the last play of the game.

The scrutinized Sooners secondary (alliteration) was in position and made plays on the ball all afternoon.  OU brought significantly more pressure than they did the previous week.  They dialed up several different blitz packages and didn't allow Ponder to find a rhythm, keeping the Heisman hopeful to 113 yards passing with two interceptions.

Many new names contributed to the effort, and the energy level by the defense was exciting to see.  I was surprised Ronnell Lewis didn't take more snaps, but everyone that played looked great.  Jamell Fleming and Jonathan Nelson rebounded nicely after struggling last week.

OU was tuly impressive.  The offense was reminiscent of the record breaking 2008 season.  If you have to pick on something, there still seems to be an opportunity in the kicking game.  It could pose a problem when the Sooners play close games later this season.

Faith has been restored in Norman and suddenly the season seems full of possibilities.  As a fan, I have to remind myself that one game doesn't make or break a season, including this one.  But, one game can be a great way for a team to gain momentum and confidence.  The Sooners have both and will look to keep it going next week against Air Force.  Another tough non-conference opponent, but one that OU should take care of easily at home.

I am a happy Sooner today.

Other college football notes:

Utah State's offense is pretty damn good!  Diondre Borel is an excellent athlete, and he will give defenses fits this year.  I am actually excited about their chance to knock off Boise State at the end of the year.  USU took care of Idaho State 38-17 this week and the game wasn't as close as the score indicates.  Idaho State put 14 points up in the fourth quarter after the game was out of reach. Watch out for the Aggies.

If anyone watched Georgia vs. South Carolina you might have seen the next superstar in college football.  True freshman Marcus Lattimore put on an absolute show against Georgia.  He carried the ball 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns, but the stats alone don't come close to explaining how dominant he was.  When is the last time you heard of a true freshman carrying the ball 37 times?  More impressive was his tackle breaking ability and balance.  He got most of the yards himself breaking several tackles on every carry.  South Carolina had no confidence in their quarterback and just kept feeding Lattimore the rock.  Georgia knew it was coming but still couldn't stop him.  Best of all, he got better as the game went on.  When Georgia needed to stop the clock, Lattimore kept pounding through defenders.  The last player I saw that wowed me like Lattimore had Peterson stitched to the back of his jersey.

So maybe Boise State isn't as good as we thought.  Virginia Tech, the one tough opponent the Broncos face this year, just got beat by James Madison.  They don't even play in the same league.  That is a game that Tech should be embarrassed to have on the schedule.  Then to lose...unacceptable.  Boise needs to pray that the loss was just a hangover from last week's loss.  If Tech doesn't get significantly better, you can kiss Boise's national championship opportunity goodbye.  By the way, it happened in Blacksburg.  HA!  I told you Virginia Tech was always overrated.

Final note, the ACC is a terrible conference.  For all the pre-season chatter about the "much improved" ACC, they sure didn't do themselves any favors yesterday.  Among the losing teams are: Florida State, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech (against Kansas!).  Considering North Carolina's troubles with the NCAA, the ACC seems to be their old mediocre self.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Take Your Pick: NFL Picks Week 1 Minus One

The NFL kicked off the new season Thursday with a rematch of the NFC championship game in New Orleans.  Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre (in that order) and the Vikings against Drew Brees and the Super Bowl champion Saints.  What could be better?

The NFL is back and didn't waste time giving us an entertaining matchup.  Favre and the Vikings actually performed better than I thought they would.  I wasn't sure Favre would make it out of week one alive, especially considering the beating he took against the Saints in the NFC championship last year.  The absence of Sidney Rice was present as was Favre's lack of repetitions from missing training camp.

Peterson ran hard and made some nice plays, but the Saints defense was able to contain him, and held him to 87 yards. More importantly they held him to only 19 carries.  For the Vikings to be competitive they need to run well enough to get Peterson 25-30 carries a game.

The Saints offense was pretty much kept in check by the Vikings defense which should be an encouraging sign in Minnesota.  The 14-9 score was much lower than expected, but the Saints coming away with a home win was an easy call.

What aren't easy calls is the rest of the schedule week one.  Week one games are the hardest to pick because you really never know what teams are going to look like coming out of an off-season.  There are questions that can't be answered until you actually see a team play.  Here are my thoughts on the rest of the week one schedule:

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants

Carolina will be starting their first season in several years without Jake Delhomme at QB which is definitely a good thing if you are a Panthers fan.  Still, they will be starting Matt Moore who has yet to prove he can lead an NFL team.  Carolina had one of the best rushing offenses last year with Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but it's a quarterbacks league.  I never like picking the Giants, but you have to go with the home team on this one.  Giants will break in their new stadium with a W.

Carolina 20
Giants   24

Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers

As a rule in my pick em league, I never take a visiting team playing at Heinz Field.  Circumstances are a little different in this opener.  Dennis Dixon will take the snaps with Ben Roethlisberger serving his suspension.  Rashard Mendenhall will need to carry Pittsburgh while they wait for Roethlisberger's return.  The Falcons bring in a nice looking offense with a lot of weapons, but it is traditionally tough to score in Pittsburgh.  The loss of Roethlisberger will make the difference.  Matt Ryan and crew get it done on the road.

Pittsburgh 13
Falcons    23

Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Battle of the bottom feeders.  Who knows what will come of this one?  A team led by Jake Delhomme is a scary concept, and I don't see how he is an improvement over the mediocre quarterback play Cleveland fans have become accustomed to.  Tampa Bay is one of the few teams capable of making the Browns look good.  The Buccaneers hope Josh Freeman grows up fast without his favorite receiver from last year's awful team.  I guess I like the home team here.  Perhaps Gerald McCoy will have an immediate impact on Tampa's defense.

Cleveland 13
Tampa     14

Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars

The quarterback edge surprisingly goes in the Broncos favor in this matchup.  That won't happen too often this season.  Kyle Orton and David Garrard are similarly unspectacular.  Neither team has an elite receiver on the roster after the departure of Brandon Marshall from Denver.  The Jags have Maurice Jones-Drew who is good for points every week.  The Broncos hope last year's first round draft pick Knowshon Moreno will find his inner Jones-Drew and become a difference maker in the offense.  The Broncos have a better pedigree, but I have to take the home team in this evenly matched game.

Denver          16
Jacksonville 20

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Peyton Manning is a machine and he has yet to show any signs of slowing down.  As long as he is under center, the Colts will be a winning franchise.  The Colts are also very excited about their defense.  Houston hopes to put the pieces together this season.  They have tons of individual talent on both sides of the ball.  There are still some question marks at running back, but they have a prolific QB with Matt Schaub (when he is healthy) and the world's baddest receiver in Andre Johnson.  I believe Houston will put it together this year, but Indy is a tough draw for week one.  You know Manning will be prepared.  He's been through a few week one's in his career.

Indianapolis 28
Houston        17

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

This game is my lock of the week.  Did the Bills get any better with the addition of CJ Spiller?  Maybe. He might be a phenom. But the Bills failed to address any of their needs.  They already had Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.  I'm not saying I don't love Spiller, but they had greater needs.  The Dolphins did get better, acquiring Brandon Marshall.  With Chad Henne more experienced, and two running backs capable a rushing for over 1,000 yards, the Dolphins future looks bright.

Dolphins 31
Bills        13

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Call me crazy, but I like the Lions this year.  If Jahvid Best works out, and Matthew Stafford develops some chemistry with Calvin Johnson, they could surprise some teams.  They have high draft picks littered all over the field, especially at defense adding Ndamukong Suh.  The Bears have been excited this off-season about the relationship of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Jay Cutler, and are hoping for a bounce back season after last year's mess.  They added Julius Peppers to an under performing defense that still has lots of big names. Chicago fans will help give da Bears a proper home field advantage.

Detroit   21
Chicago 28

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

Oakland is another team that I believe will be good this year.  Jason Campbell walks into a beautiful situation with young talent all around him.  Leadership is a big reason I believe Campbell will have a positive impact on the Raiders, who also have play makers on defense.  The Raiders struggled to defend the run last year and face Chris Johnson in week one.  I never like to pick a team with Vince Young at QB, but he sparked the offense and helped the Titans finish last year in a positive manner after a horrendous start.

Oakland    21
Tennessee 27

Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots

The Bengals are coming off a great regular season, and added some weapons on offense.  Terrell Owens is always tremendously conditioned and physical which will keep him productive as he ages.  Playing alongside Chad Ochocinco won't have the impact the duo thinks, but they will still give Carson Palmer options.  They also drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham who could be a weapon with most of the attention going to the wideouts.  If Cedric Benson is productive, the Bengals should have a great offense.  The Patriots are coming off a disappointing playoff loss with contract negotiations capturing most of the headlines this off-season.  Tom Brady should be fully recovered from knee surgery and there's no reason to think he won't be productive. The Patriots will put up big points, but I expect them to give up big points also.  With Wes Welker coming off of surgery, and no run game to speak of, New England will probably have severe highs and lows this season.

Cincinnati        27
New England  28

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

These are two teams going in opposite directions.  The Cardinals were a wonderful story with Kurt Warner.  But Warner's gone.  So is Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby.  Warner's replacement is Browns castoff Derek Anderson.  Yep.  Browns castoff.  The success of Arizona lies with their ability to run the ball and set up the play action to Larry Fitzgerald.  Defensively the Cardinals have lots of questions with a rebuilt lineup.

The arrival of Sam Bradford in St. Louis has given the fan base reason to be positive after toiling as one of the worst franchises in the NFL the last several years.  Steven Jackson needs a lot of help from Bradford to make his prime years meaningful.  As a long time interested observer of Bradford, I believe he is capable of walking out to the field and helping his team immediately.  The Rams have a long way to go, but they're going in the right direction.  I like Bradford the Rams in the upset.

Arizona   17
St. Louis 24

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers are the popular pick (and mine) to win the NFC West this season.  It's been a long time out of the spotlight, but the Niners are loaded on offense, and tough defensively.  Lots of reasons to believe they are ready to return to their winning ways.  But, there is one lingering question.  What kind of season is Alex Smith capable of?  As we all know, poor QB play can make a great team average.  Hopefully for San Francisco this season will be a breakout for Alex Smith.  There's really nothing to say about the Seahawks other than they're playing at home in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.  Perhaps Matt Hasselbeck will be able to have another bounce back year, but it would be optimistic to think he will last ten games this season.  Even if he does stay healthy, he has no one to throw it to, and a weak rush attack to support him.  Don't expect much from the Seahawks this season.  SF in a laugher.

San Francisco 30
Seattle              10

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles

The Packers are a Super Bowl favorite of mine and many others.  Aaron Rodgers has given every indication that he will be tremendous this season.  Offensively the Packers are stacked and they should be able to score on anyone.  The Eagles are more of a mystery starting the season with a QB not named McNabb.  Although Kevin Kolb excited Eagles fans last year with his play in relief of Donovan McNabb, he is starting his first year as "the man" which is a much different challenge, especially in Philadelphia.  Kolb will have the pressure of getting out to a fast start on a team that was very good offensively last year with McNabb.  I believe Kolb will struggle a bit, but he gets the Packers at a good time with both starting cornerbacks hurt.  Playing in Philadelphia is always a challenge for visitors (and fans), but Green Bay is too strong.

Green Bay   34
Philadelphia 27

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

A rivalry game in week one.  You have to love this matchup.  Dallas swept the rivalry last year and look to be better this year.  The health of the Cowboys offensive line is a concern entering the season, but Dallas is another team loaded with offensive weapons.  Defensively, the Cowboys should be able to pressure the quarterback, but might give up more yardage than they want.  The Redskins are not terribly good, but there is some excitement with the arrival of Donovan McNabb.  The problem I have with the Redskins is their age in skill positions.  This will hurt them all year.

Dallas          31
Washington 17

Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets

I love the Ravens this year.  They made excellent off-season personnel moves to bolster their already impressive roster.  All the offensive players are primed for great years, and even though the Ravens defense isn't what it once was, it will help win games.  The Jets are now America's most talked about team with their brash head coach and big name roster.  I don't have a lot of confidence in Mark Sanchez yet, and the collective team ego might be a lot to manage if the season doesn't go exactly as planned.  The Jets want to tell you that they're going to win the Super Bowl.  The Ravens will show them why that won't happen.

Baltimore 20
Jets           10

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego is not a complete team currently.  Holdouts from two key offensive players will keep the Chargers from playing at full strength.   They should improve in the running game with rookie Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.  Phillip Rivers will face his most challenging year without his favorite target Vincent Jackson and his best offensive lineman Marcus McNeil.  Kansas City is a work in progress and haven't been much of a threat in recent years.  Chiefs  fans are excited about recent coaching hires, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel.  They do play at home with a crazy fan base.  The house will be rocking, and it should be a great game.  San Diego has a history of struggling in KC and starting the season slow.  My inner fan won't allow me to pick against the Chargers.

San Diego   17
Kansas City 14


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