Thursday, December 31, 2009

Week 17 Playoff Scenarios

11 teams are still alive in the AFC, with only four being assured of a spot in the playoffs.  The other seven are basically already in a playoff-of sorts, where if they lose, they're out and if they win, they may still be.  The NFC is more organized.  Barely.  We know which six teams will be playing, but only one of them has their seed wrapped up.  It should be quite a day on Sunday!

The first tie-breaker in any sceanrio is always head-to-head matchups.  Next up is record against conference opponents.  Things are usually settled by that time, but with seven teams within one game of one another and two spots on the line, the AFC tie-breakers could end up going pretty deep.  I've left the possibility of a tie game out of the scenarios because let's face it, there isn't going to be a tie game.  Here's how things shake out through Week 16:

1 Indianapolis Colts 14-1 (AFC South Champs, clinched 1 seed)
2 San Diego Chargers 12-3 (AFC West Champs, clinched 2 seed)
3 Cincinnati Bengals 10-5 (AFC North Champs, clinched hosting first round game)
4 New England Patriots 10-5 (AFC East Champs, clinched hosting first round game)
5 New York Jets 8-7
6 Baltimore Ravens 8-7
7 Denver Broncos 8-7
8 Houston Texans 8-7
9 Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7
10 Miami Dolphins 7-8
11 Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8

Possible Scenarios:
Cincinnati - 3 seed: Bengals win
Cincinnati - 4 seed: Bengals lose + Patriots win
New England - 3 seed: Patriots win + Bengals lose
New England - 4 seed: Patriots and Bengals both win or both lose
New York - 5 seed: Jets win
Baltimore - 5 seed: Ravens win + Jets lose
Baltimore - 6 seed: Ravens and Jets both win
Denver - 5 seed: Broncos win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Texans lose
Denver - 6 seed: Brocnos win + Jets or Ravens lose + Steelers and/or Texans lose, OR Steelers lose + any two losses by the Jets, Ravens and Texans
Houston - 5 seed: Texans win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Broncos lose
Houston - 6 seed: Texans win + and two losses by the Jets, Ravens and Broncos
Pittsburgh - 5 seed: Steelers win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Texans lose
Pittsburgh - 6 seed: Steelers win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Broncos lose + Texans win, OR Steelers win + Texans lose + Jets lose, OR Steelers win + Texans lose + Ravens lose
Miami - 6 seed: Dolphins win +Jets lose + Ravens lose + Broncos lose + Texans lose + Jaguars lose
Jacksonville - 5 seed: Jaguars win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Broncos lose + Texans lose + Steelers lose
Jacksonville - 6 seed: Jaguars win + Jets lose + Ravens lose + Broncos lose + Texans lose + Steelers win, OR Jaguars win + Dolphins win + 3 or more losses by the Jets, Ravens, Broncos and Texans

Indianapolis Colts play at Buffalo
San Diego Chargers host Washington
Cincinnati Bengals play at New York Jets
New England Patriots play at Houston
New York Jets host Cincinnati
Baltimore Ravens host Oakland
Denver Broncos play at Kansas City
Houston Texans play at New England
Pittsburgh Steelers host Miami
Miami Dolphins play at Pittsburgh
Jacksonville Jaguars play at Cleveland

1 New Orleans Saints 13-2 (NFC South Champs, clinched 1 seed)
2 Philadelphia Eagles 11-4*
3 Minnesota Vikings 11-4 (NFC North Champs)
4 Arizona Cardinals 10-5 (NFC West Champs)
5 Green Bay Packers 10-5
6 Dallas Cowboys 10-5*
*-Dallas hosts Philadelphia in Week 17 and the winner is the NFC East champ

Possible Scenarios
Philadelphia - 2 seed: Eagles win
Philadelphia - 5 seed: Eagles lose + Packers lose
Philadelphia - 6 seed: Eagles lose + Packers win
Minnesota - 2 seed: Vikings win + Eagles lose
Minnesota - 3 seed: Vikings win + Eagles win, OR Vikings lose + Eagles win + Cardinals lose
Minnesota - 4 seed: Vikings lose + Eagles win + Cardinals win
Arizona - 2 seed: Cardinals win + Eagles lose + Vikings lose
Arizona - 3 seed: Cardinals win + Eagles win + Vikings lose, OR Cardinals win + Eagles lose + Vikings win
Arizona - 4 seed: Cardinals lose, OR both Eagles and Vikings win
Green Bay - 5 seed: Packers win
Green Bay - 6 seed: Packers lose + Cowboys win
Dallas - 2 seed: Cowboys win + Vikings lose + Cardinals lose
Dallas - 3 seed: Cowboys win + Vikings win + Cardinals lose, OR Cowboys win + Vikings lose + Cardinals win
Dallas - 4 seed: Cowboys win + Vikings win + Cardinals win
Dallas - 6 seed: Cowboys lose

New Orleans Saints play at Carolina
Philadelphia Eagles play at Dallas
Minnesota Vikings host New York Giants
Arizona Cardinals host Green Bay
Green Bay Packers play at Arizona
Dallas Cowboys host Philadelphia

Under most likely scenarios, both the Eagles-Cowboys and Cardinals-Packers games will be rematched in the first round of the playoffs, though the home sites are up for grabs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NFL Week 14 Hangover

The Vikings joined the Colts and Saints as division champs in Week 14, but the Cardinals were unable to do so in the NFC West after they sleep-walked through their game against the 49ers on Monday night.  There were only two notable changes of position in Week 14: the Jaguars lost to Miami and fell out of an AFC Wild Card position (the Ravens took over their vacated spot thanks to holding all the tie-breakers in the 4-way tie at 7-6), and the Cowboys lost to San Diego, swapping playoff positions with Philadelphia.  Both are still in the playoffs, but the Eagles are now leading the NFC East and the Cowboys are the 2nd Wild Card.

AFC - Settled
AFC South Champions - Indianapolis Colts (13-0)
Byes - Indianapolis Colts

AFC - Up For Grabs
Top seed - Indianapolis (13-0) leads the race for the AFC's top seed and playoff homefield advantage by three games with three to play.  San Diego (10-3) is second and is the only team that could catch the Colts.

Byes - The Chargers (10-3) lead the Bengals (9-4) by one game for the second bye.  They play one another in San Diego in Week 15, which will determine who holds the tie-breaker should they finish with the same record.  The Patriots (8-5) are two games back for the final bye and are a long-shot, at best.
AFC North Champions - Cincinnati (9-4) still leads the division by 2 games even after losing in Week 14.  They will clinch the division with one more win or a Ravens' (7-6) loss because they swept the Ravens this season and hold the tie-breaker.  The Steelers (6-7) were eliminated from contention in Week 14.

AFC West Champions - San Diego (10-3) is two games ahead of Denver (8-5), who lost to Indianapolis in Week 14. The two split the season series and the Chargers have one more conference win than do the Broncos, so they would win should the Broncos pull off a miracle and end the season tied with San Diego.

AFC East Champions - New England (8-5) held onto its one game lead over both New York and Miami (7-6) for the division crown in Week 14. The tie-breakers are complicated at this point. Miami would currently win a 3-way tie because they have the best record in games among the three (split with New England and swept New York).  New England has tie-breakers over both Miami and New York individually, and Miami has the tie-breaker over New York. 

AFC Wild Cards - The Broncos (8-5) were a near lock last week for a spot, but their loss, along with wins by Baltimore, Miami, and the Jets, makes the AFC Wild Cards a mess.  Denver is one game ahead of a 4-team log-jam at 7-6 and the Ravens currently hold the tie-breakers for the final spot.  Pittsburgh (6-7) is still alive, but has to pass four teams and has a brutal remaining schedule. Baltimore has the easiest remaining schedule of those teams in contention.  The Jets have, by far, the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL.

AFC - Projections and Opponents' Combined Records
1. Indianapolis Colts (16-0). Remaining: at Jacksonville (W), New York Jets (W), at Buffalo (W) - 19-20
2. San Diego Chargers (13-3). Remaining: Cincinnati (W), at Tennessee (W), Washington (W) - 19-20
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5). Remaining: at San Diego (L), Kansas City (W), at New York Jets (W) - 20-19
4. New England Patriots (10-6). Remaining: at Buffalo (W), Jacksonville (W), at Houston (L) - 18-21
5. Denver Broncos (10-6). Remaining: Oakland (W), at Philadelphia (L), Kansas City (W) - 16-23
6. Miami Dolphins (9-7). Remaining: at Tennessee (L), Houston (W), Pittsburgh (W) - 18-21
- - -
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-7). Remaining: Chicago (W), at Pittsburgh (L), at Oakland (W) - 15-24
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7). Remaining: Indianapolis (L), at New England (L), at Cleveland (W) - 23-16
9. New York Jets (8-8). Remaining: Atlanta (W), at Indianapolis (L), Cincinnati (L) - 28-11
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8). Remaining: Green Bay (W), Baltimore (W), at Miami (L) - 23-16

Baltimore and Miami finish tied at 9-7, with Miami advancing to the playoffs because of a better strength of victory number (they are tied after the first 3 tie-breakers - head-to-head, conference winning percentage, record in common games).  Miami will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals, with the winner traveling to San Diego. Denver heads to New England to play the Patriots, with the winner playing at Indianapolis.

NFC - Settled
NFC South Champions - New Orleans Saints (13-0)
NFC Playoffs - Minnesota Vikings (11-2)

NFC - Up For Grabs
Top seed - New Orleans leads the race for the NFC's top seed and playoff homefield advantage by two games over Minnesota with three games to play. No other team can take this spot.

Byes - New Orleans clinched a first round bye with their win in Week 14. Minnesota (11-2) has a two game lead for the second bye over Phildelphia (9-4) and Green Bay (9-4), but no other team could take the spot.

NFC North Champions - Minnesota (11-2) swept the season series against Green Bay (9-4) and can clinch the division crown with a win or a Packers loss.

NFC West Champions - Arizona (8-5) failed to clinch in their head-to-head matchup with San Francisco (6-7) on Monday night, and also lost to the 49ers in Week 1.  The Cardinals still hold a two game lead though and can clinch the division with a combination of two Cardinal wins and 49er losses in the final three weeks. Arizona has the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.

NFC East Champions - Philadelphia (9-4) assumed control of the division with a win over the Giants (7-6), narrowly avoiding a three-way tie for the division lead after Dallas (8-4) lost in Week 14 as well.  Dallas beat Philadelphia head-to-head already and they face off again in Week 17.

NFC Wild Cards - Green Bay (9-4) is now nearly a lock for a Wild Card, with a two-game lead over the Giants (7-6).  Dallas (8-5) is currently in the final playoff spot, but they only have a one-game lead over New York, and were swept by the Giants in the season series. Atlanta (6-7) is still alive and has a very easy remaining schedule, but they would need a lot of help from the Giants and Cowboys to sneak in.

NFC - Projections and Opponents' Combined Records
1. New Orleans Saints (16-0). Remaining: Dallas, (W), Tampa Bay (W), at Carolina (W) - 14-25
2. Minnesota Vikings (14-2). Remaining: at Carolina (W), at Chicago (W), New York Giants (W) - 17-22
3. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5). Remaining: San Francisco (W), Denver (W), at Dallas (L) - 22-17
4. Arizona Cardinals (10-6). Remaining: at Detroit (W), St. Louis (W), Green Bay (L) - 12-27
5. Green Bay Packers (11-5). Remaining: at Pittsburgh (L), Seattle (W), at Arizona (W) - 19-20
6. New York Giants (9-7). Remaining: at Washington (W), Carolina (W), at Minnesota (L) - 20-19
- - -
7. Dallas Cowboys (9-7). Remaining: at New Orleans (L), at Washington (L), Philadelphia (W) - 25-13
8 Atlanta Falcons (8-8). Remaining: at New York Jets (L), Buffalo (W), at Tampa Bay (W) - 13-26

New York wins the tie for the final NFC Wild Card thanks to their season sweep of the Cowboys. The Giants play at Philadelphia, with the winner heading to Minnesota to play the Vikings. Green Bay plays at the Cardinals, with the winner playing in New Orleans against the top-seeded Saints.

Points of Note
- Potentially only the Eagles-Giants game will see any bad weather among NFC playoff games. The other games will all be played in either Arizona or in a dome if the seeds hold.
- The AFC playoffs will see similar conditions as first round games will be in New England and Cincinnati, but if the seeds hold, the rest of the games will either be in San Diego or a dome.
- The Giants and Eagles would meet in the opening round for the second consecutive season. Philadelphia won that game and swept the series this season.  They have a four-game winning streak against the Giants.
- Dallas has the toughest schedule among all contenders in the NFC (opponents are 25-13), while the Jets have the worst schedule in the AFC (28-11).
- The Jets play Indianapolis in Week 16 and Cincinnati in Week 17.  Both of those teams' seedings may be set by that time, so the Jets may wind up with one of the easiest schedules.  The Giants schedule could get a lot easier if Minnesota sits their starters in Week 17 as well, which is likely given that their seeding may be determined by then. 
- The Eagles' tough schedule gets even tougher when you consider that San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas will all still be fighting for a playoff spot when they face Philly.
- Denver's schedule is easy on paper, but with two games against division rivals Oakland and Kansas City, nothing is certain.  They should win that one and perhaps lose at Philadelphia, but it isn't too far of a stretch to see them losing all three and missing the playoffs entirely.
- Arizona has the easiest schedule in the NFC (opponents are 12-27). Baltimore has the easiest in the AFC (15-24).
- Dallas has two tough games remaining (at New Orleans and home against Philadelphia), but their third game is in Washington.  This is an easy win on paper, but they are bitter rivals and Washington held the Cowboys scoreless for over 58 minutes before surrendering a touchdown and losing 7-6 last month in Dallas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NFL Week 13 Hangover

Two NFL divisions are officially over after Week 13.  Three more are unofficially over, and that leaves three other divisions and seven playoff spots in total turmoil.  Here's a look at what's settled and what's still up for grabs.

AFC - Settled
AFC South Champions - Indianapolis Colts (12-0)

AFC - Up For Grabs
Top seed - Indianapolis leads the race for the AFC's top seed by three games with four to play.
Byes - Indianapolis can clinch a first round bye with any Colts win and any loss by San Diego or Cincinnati.  The Chargers and Bengals are tied for the second bye (9-3), and the Chargers hold the tie-breaker based on record against AFC opponents, but the two square off in San Diego in Week 15.
Playoff Home Field - Indianapolis can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with any win and any loss by both San Diego and Cincinnati.
AFC North Champions - Cincinnati (9-3) swept the season series against Pittsburgh (6-6) and Baltimore (6-6) and will clinch the division with any Bengals win or any loss by both the Steelers and Ravens.
AFC West Champions - San Diego (9-3) is one game ahead of Denver (8-4) for the division crown.  The two split the season series and the Chargers have one more conference win than do the Broncos.
AFC East Champions - New England (7-5) is one game ahead of both New York and Miami (6-6) for the division crown.  The Patriots split the season series with both teams, but the Dolphins swept the Jets. 
AFC Wild Cards - The Broncos (8-4) sit in good position, one game ahead of Jacksonville (7-5), and two games ahead of the four-way log-jam at 6-6 between the Ravens, Dolphins, Jets, and Steelers (who sit in that order based on tie-breakers).

AFC -  Projections
1. Indianapolis Colts (16-0). Remaining: Denver (W), at Jacksonville (W), New York Jets (W), at Buffalo (W).
2. San Diego Chargers (12-4). Remaining: at Dallas (L), Cincinnati (W), at Tennessee (W), Washington (W)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5). Remaining: at Minnesota (L), at San Diego (L), Kansas City (W), at New York Jets (W)
4. New England Patriots (10-6). Remaining: Carolina (W), at Buffalo (W), Jacksonville (W), at Houston (L)
5. Denver Broncos (10-6). Remaining: at Indianapolis (L), Oakland (W), at Philadelphia (L), Kansas City (W)
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7). Remaining: Miami (W), Indianapolis (L), at New England (L), at Cleveland (W)

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-7). Remaining: Detroit (W), Chicago (W), at Pittsburgh (L), at Oakland (W)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7). Remaining: at Cleveland (W), Green Bay (W), Baltimore (W), at Miami (L)
9. Miami Dolphins (8-8). Remaining: at Jacksonville (L), at Tennessee (L), Houston (W), Pittsburgh (W)
10. New York Jets (8-8). Remaining: at Tampa Bay (W), Atlanta (W), at Indianapolis (L), Cincinnati (L)

Jacksonville advances to the playoffs based on an 8-4 AFC record.  Baltimore will be 8-5.  Pittsburgh will be 6-6.  They will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals, with the winner traveling to San Diego.  Denver heads to New England to play the Patriots, with the winner playing at Indianapolis.

NFC - Settled
NFC South Champions - New Orleans Saints (12-0)

NFC - Up For Grabs
Top seed - New Orleans leads the race for the NFC's top seed by 2 games over Minnesota.
Byes - New Orleans can clinch a first round bye with a win. Minnesota (10-2) has a two game lead for the second bye over Arizona (8-4), Dallas (8-4), Philadelphia (8-4), and Green Bay (8-4).
Playoff Home Field - New Orleans can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with any combination of 3 of their wins and Minnesota losses.
NFC North Champions - Minnesota (10-2) swept the season series against Green Bay (8-4) and can clinch the division crown with any combination of two Vikings wins and Packers losses.
NFC West Champions - Arizona (8-4) is three games ahead of San Francisco (5-7) but lost to the 49ers in Week 1.  They can clinch the division with a win over the 49ers in Week 14, otherwise they would need some combination of two Cardinal wins and 49er losses in the final three weeks.
NFC East Champions - Dallas (8-4) and Philadelphia (8-4) are tied for the division lead, but Dallas already won in Philadelphia and they meet in Dallas in Week 17. New York (7-5) is one game back, having already swept Dallas and lost in Philadelphia.  The Giants host the Eagles in Week 14.  The tie-breaker in a 3-way tie for a division is record in games among those involved, and currently the Giants are 2-1, the Cowboys are 1-2, and the Eagles are 1-1.
NFC Wild Cards - The Eagles (8-4) and Green Bay (8-4) are currently in Wild Card position, with a one game lead over the Giants (7-5), and two game lead over Atlanta (6-6).  The Eagles hold the tie-breaker with the Giants currently based on their head-to-head win, but the two face eachother in New York in Week 14.  Even with a Giants win, the Eagles would maintain their Wild Card lead over the Giants by virtue of their 7-3 NFC record vs. the Giants' 6-3 NFC record.  The Packers can hold their spot with a Week 14 win in Chicago, but would reliquish it to the Giants should the Packers lose and Giants win (6-4 and 6-3 in the NFC, respectively).

NFC - Projections
1. New Orleans Saints (16-0). Remaining: at Atlanta (W), Dallas, (W), Tampa Bay (W), at Carolina (W)
2. Minnesota Vikings (14-2). Remaining: Cincinnati (W), at Carolina (W), at Chicago (W), New York Giants (W)
3. Arizona Cardinals (11-5). Remaining: at San Francisco (W), at Detroit (W), St. Louis (W), Green Bay (L)
4. New York Giants (10-6). Remaining: Philadelphia (W), at Washington (W), Carolina (W), at Minnesota (L)
5. Green Bay Packers (11-5). Remaining: at Chicago (W), at Pittsburgh (L), Seattle (W), at Arizona (W)
6. Dallas Cowboys (10-6). Remaining: San Diego (W), at New Orleans (L), at Washington (L), Philadelphia (W)

7. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6). Remaining: at New York Giants (L), San Francisco (W), Denver (W), at Dallas (L)
8 Atlanta Falcons (8-8). Remaining: New Orleans (L), at New York Jets (L), Buffalo (W), at Tampa Bay (W)

New York wins the 3-way tie atop the NFC East thanks to their 3-1 record against the Eagles and Cowboys (Dallas is 2-2 against the others, and Philly is 1-3).  Dallas will play at Arizona, with the winner heading to Minnesota to play the Vikings.  Green Bay plays at the Giants with the winner playing in New Orleans against the top-seeded Saints.

Points of Note
- Potentially only the Packers-Giants game will see any bad weather among NFC playoff games. The other games will all be played in either Arizona or in a dome unless Dallas upsets Arizona and Minnesota, and the Giants or Packers upset New Orleans.
- The AFC playoffs will see similar conditions as first round games will be in New England and Cincinnati, but if the seeds hold, the rest of the games will either be in San Diego or a dome.
- Dallas has the toughest schedule among all contenders (opponents are 32-16).
- Arizona has the easiest schedule among all contenders (opponents are 16-32).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NFL Week 12 Hangover

We know the Colts, Saints, and Vikings are in the playoffs, with only seeding yet to be determined.  The Colts already clinched the AFC South with five game remaining, but the Saints are still a game away from doing so in the NFC South.  The Vikings can wrap up the NFC North with a win and a Packers loss in Week 13.  But every other playoff spot is up for grabs - six teams are still within striking distance for the remaining four spots in the NFC, and seven AFC teams still have good shot at claiming one of the remaining five spots in that conference. 

Here's how they lay out currently along with where they'll be playing in January.
1. Colts (11-0) - AFC South Champions.  Remaining games: Home vs. Tennessee, Denver, and New York Jets. At Jacksonville and Buffalo. Predicted finish: 16-0, #1 seed.
t2. Chargers (8-3) - Lead AFC West by 1 game.  Remaining games: Home vs. Cincinnati and Washington.  At Cleveland, Dallas, and Tennessee. Predicted finish: 12-4, #4 seed.
t2. Bengals (8-3) - Lead AFC North by 2 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Detroit and Kansas City. At Minnesota, San Diego, and New York Jets. Predicted finish: 12-4, #2 seed.
4. Patriots (7-4) - Lead AFC East by 2 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Carolina and Jacksonville.  At Miami, Buffalo, and Texas. Predicted finish: 12-4, #3 seed.
5. Broncos (7-4) - 2nd in AFC West by 1 game. Remaining games: Home vs. Oakland. At Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Kansas City. Predicted finish: 10-6, #6 seed.
t6. Ravens (6-5) - 2nd in AFC North by 2 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Detroit and Chicago. At Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Oakland. Predicted finish: 9-7, #8 (out).
t6. Jaguars (6-5) - 2nd in AFC South by 5 games.  Remaining games: Home vs. Houston, Miami, and Indianapolis. At New England and Cleveland. Predicted finish: 9-7, #7 (out).
t6. Steelers (6-5) - 3rd in AFC North by 2 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Oakland, Green Bay, and Baltimore. At Cleveland and Miami. Predicted finish: 10-6, #5 seed (win tie-breaker over Denver based on head-to-head win).

Miami (5-6), New York Jets (5-6), Houston (5-6), and Tennessee (5-6) are all still in contention but need a lot of help to make the playoffs.

The Colts (bye) would host the winner of the Steelers at the Chargers.
The Bengals (bye) would host the winner of the Broncos at the Patriots.

1. Saints (11-0) - Lead NFC South by 5 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Dallas and Tampa Bay. At Washington, Atlanta, and Carolina. Predicted finish: 16-0, #1 seed.
2. Vikings (10-1) - Lead NFC North by 3 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Cincinnati and New York Giants. At Arizona, Carolina, and Chicago. Predicted finish: 15-1, #2 seed.
3. Cowboys (8-3) - Lead NFC East by 1 game. Remaining games: Home vs. San Diego and Philadelphia. At New York Giants, New Orleans, and Washington. Predicted finish: 10-6, #6 seed.
4. Cardinals (7-4) - Lead NFC West by 2 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Minnesota, St. Louis, and Green Bay. At San Francisco and Detroit. Predicted finish: 11-5, #3 seed.
5. Eagles (7-4) 2nd in NFC East by 1 game. Remaining games: Home vs. San Francisco and Denver. At Atlanta, New York Giants, and Dallas. Predicted finish: 9-7, #8 (out).
t5. Packers (7-4) - 2nd in NFC North by 3 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Baltimore and Seattle. At Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Arizona. Predicted finish: 11-5, #5 seed.
t7. Giants (6-5) - 3rd in NFC East by 2 games. Remaining games: Home. vs. Dallas, Philadelphia, and Carolina. At Washington and Minnesota. Predicted finish: 10-6, #4 seed (win tie-breaker over Dallas based on two head-to-head wins).
t7. Falcons (6-5) - 2nd in NFC South by 5 games. Remaining games: Home vs. Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Buffalo. At New York Jets and Tampa Bay. Predicted finish: 10-6, #7 (out - lose tie-breakers to NYG and Dallas based on head-to-head losses).

San Francisco (5-6) is still in contention but needs a lot of help to make the playoffs.

The Saints (bye) would host the winner of the Packers at the Giants.
The Vikings (bye) would host the winner of the Cowboys at the Cardinals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NFL Week 10 Hangover

With Week 10 behind us, all 32 teams have had a bye week and are even in games played.  As the weather turns cold (in other places, not so much here in Southern California), the playoff races will start to heat up.  Here's a look at where they stand today and, in brackets, a prediction of where they'll be next week:

AFC 1: Indianapolis Colts (9-0) [1]
AFC 2: Cincinnati Bengals (7-2) [2]
AFC 3: Denver Broncos (6-3) [6]
AFC 4: New England Patriots (6-3) [3]
AFC 5: San Diego Chargers (6-3) [4]
AFC 6: Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4) [5]

The Colts have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first round bye because they hold the best record.  The Bengals have home field advantage throughout the playoffs aginst everyone but the Colts, and a first round bye because they hold the second best record.  Denver wins the tie-breaker over San Diego because of their head-to-head win, so they get the division champ-spot, and they beat New England head-to-head, so they win that tie breaker and get the 3 seed.  They host Jacksonville and the winner plays at Cincinnati.  New England hosts San Diego with the winner playing at Indianapolis. Jacksonville wins the tie-breaker with Houston because of a head-to-head win.  They win the tie-breaker with Baltimore because their winning percentage against AFC opponents is better.

NFC 1: New Oleans Saints (9-0) [1]
NFC 2: Minnesota Vikings (8-1) [2]
NFC 3: Dallas Cowboys (6-3) [3]
NFC 4: Arizona Cardinals (6-3) [4]
NFC 5: Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) [-]
NFC 6: Green Bay Packers (5-4) [5]

The Saints have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first round bye because they hold the best record. The Vikings have home field advantage throughout the playoffs aginst everyone but the Saints, and a first round bye because they hold the second best record. Dallas wins the tie-breaker over Arizona because they have a better record against NFC opponents and gets the 3 seed. They host Green Bay and the winner plays at Minnesota. Arizona hosts Philadelphia with the winner playing at New Orleans. Philadelphia wins the tie-breaker the Giants because of a head-to-head win, and they also win the tie-breaker with the Packers and Falcons because of a better record against NFC opponents.  The Packers win the tie-breaker with the Giants because of a better record against NFC opponents, and they also win the tie-breaker with Atlanta because of a better record against common opponents.

Big Winners In Week 10
Cincinnati Bengals - For those who still said that the Bengals weren't for real even after sweeping the Ravens and beating the Steelers once en route to an AFC North lead (and there were many), they did a lot to silence them with yet another win over the Steelers, this time in Pittsburgh.
New York Giants - The Giants had played themselves out of a first round bye and into missing the playoffs with four straight losses.  Then in Week 10 they pulled into a tie with Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Green Bay for a Wild Card spot, and are just one game behind Dallas (who they beat in Dallas already) for the NFC East lead.  And they did it all while resting their injured players and getting a starting cornerback and a starting linebacker back during a bye week.
Anti-Patriots Fans - Whether it is because they cheated, or because they've dominated, or because coach Belichick is not exactly lovable, a lot of people do not like the Patriots, and those people got an early Christmas present when the Greatest Mind in Football made a boneheaded play call that would have been dumb on Madden to cost the Pats the game and hand the Colts their 9th win against 0 losses this season.
Indianapolis Colts - See above
LaDainian Tomlinson - Two touchdowns, nearly 100 yards rushing, and one pregnant wife say that LDT is not done delivering the goods quite yet.
Tennessee Titans - Just pretend that the first six weeks didn't count and Vince Young was the starter all along...then you're undefeated!

Big Losers in Week 10
Maurice Jones-Drew Fantasy Owners - MJD actually apologized after the game for taking a knee on the 2-yard line rather than scoring late in the game against the Jets.  Crazy as the play was considering he was losing at the time, it set up the game-winning field goal and bled off too much time for the Jets to come back.
Bills Fans - A loss, Terrell Owens blew up and blamed everyone for it (except himself despite that it was a pass that went through his hands that got picked off and returned for a touchdown, startign the late romp), an 86-year-old man made headlines for taunting you over the loss, and Dick Jauron got fired.
Belichick Apologizers - Folks, I don't care if it is JaMarcus Russell on the other sideline.  You don't risk giving anyone over 2 minutes to go only 28 yards for a win.  Bad decision to go for it, bad play selection, bad, bad, bad.
New York Jets - Stopping Maurice Jones-Drew is not easy, but the Jets got torched on a last minute drive to lose a game that they had just won with a late drive of their own.  They've lost 5 of 6 and still could have been just a game out of the playoffs if they could have held the very average Jags down late.
NFL Network - Nice season opener on Thursday between the 49ers and the Bears.  Despite the marquee time slot, it might have been the worst game of the year...until Monday night's snoozer.  Maybe Time Warner customers are the lucky ones since they didn't have to watch that 49ers-Bears game.
Denver Broncos - 6-0 start...poof! Huge division lead...poof!  First round bye...poof!  Self-respect...poof!  Losing three in-a-row is bad, but losing to the Redskins?  It's gotta be hard to look in the mirror right now.
JaMarcus Russell - 8 for 23, 64 yards.  Those are bad numbers.  Getting benched because you're losing to the Chiefs?  Wow.  Russell, the worst draft pick in the history of the NFL, has two touchdowns on the season, despite having started nine games.
Cleveland Browns - The Browns ran on the Ravens' half of the field all night.  And it was an interception returned for a touchdown.  Who's the third string quarterback?

Front Seven
1 Indianapolis Colts (9-0)
2 New Orleans Saints (9-0)
3 Minnesota Vikings (8-1)
4 Cincinnati Bengals (7-2)
5 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
6 New England Patriots (6-3)
7 Arizona Cardinals (6-3)

Friday, November 13, 2009

NFL Week 10 Preview

Week 10 started off early as the Bears traveled to Candlestick to the take on the 49ers on Thursday night, and that game wound up being a microcosm of what the rest of the week looks like it may shape up to be: almost completely unwatchable football.  Besides the two games of the week, both of which could be fantastic, there is really nothing else worth watching.  So without further ado, here is your Week 10 lineup, featuring anything I could think of that might make that game worth watching.

Game of the Week I: Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) 10 AM - CBS
We, in the L.A. area, were thisclose to getting stuck watching the Raiders-Chiefs game, but someone mercifully scheduled this game to air instead.  Divisional rivals.  The home team hasn't lost at home.  The road team hasn't lost on the road.  #5 vs. #6 in scoring defense.  First place on the line.  A first round by on the line (maybe).  The two biggest "no one gives us any respect" teams in the league this year.  Cincy scored 14 unanswered in the 4th quarter to win by 3 in Week 3.  Superstars all over the place.  Don't miss this game.  Prediction: Steelers win and cover (-6.5)

Game of the Week II: New England Patriots (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (8-0) 5:20 - NBC
The Colts were unable to spoil New England's run at a perfect season two years ago and now they get a chance at a little revenge by extending their own such run at the Patriots' expense.  There isn't a whole lot of hype needed for this one.  Brady vs. Peyton.  Indy is thin in the secondary, but this game is on turf so Indy wins.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-2.5)

Lock of the Week: Detroit Lions (1-7) at Minnesota Vikings (7-1) 10 AM - Fox
It is always a mystery how they decide which games air in which cities.  This game will be on pretty much everywhere besides in other teams' home markets. But then the Central Coast of California and most of New England will get Atlanta at Carolina.  San Diego County will get New Orleans at Seattle.  West Virginia will get Tampa Bay at Miami.  Then everyone else is basically regional.  I find this all odd.  Why write about it here?  Because this game has the largest point spread of the season, larger than many BCS schools' preseason points spreads, and it just isn't worth researching.  Prediction: Vikings win and cover (-16.5)

Buffalo Bills (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-6) 10 AM
Vince Young is 2-0 as a starter for Tennessee this season. Terrell Owens drops the ball a lot. That's pretty much it.  Prediction: Titans win, Bills cover (+6.5)

New Orleans Saints (8-0) at St. Louis Rams (1-7) 10 AM
The question here is if the Saints will score more points than Steven Jackson has rushing yards.  And both numbers might be in triple digits. Prediction: Saints win and cover (-13.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (3-5) 10 AM
Tampa showed some signs of life last week with new rookie quarterback Josh Freeman behind center when they shocked Green Bay.  But the battle of Florida has about the same luster that the college version of it between Miami and Florida State has had for the past few years.  Prediction: Dolphins win, Buccaneers cover (+9.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) at New York Jets (4-4) 10 AM
Not only is both teams' main color green, which is unusual, but they are the only two major American sports franchises that start with a "J".  So that's interesting.  There's also the USC (Mark Sanchez) vs. UCLA (Maurice Jones-Drew) angle.  Prediction: Jets win and cover (-6.5)

Denver Broncos (6-2) at Washington Redskins (2-6) 10 AM
After starting out 6-0 thanks to a few miracles, the Broncos have been hammered the last two games to bring their new coach and new quarterback back to earth.  Luckily they play the Redskins this week, who are only barely an actual NFL team, and that should get them back on track.  And even with those two losses in-a-row, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who regrets dumping Jay Cutler on the Bears.  Prediction: Broncos win and cover (-4.5)

Atlanta Falcons (5-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-5) 10 AM
This is actually a sneaky-good game.  Carolina's running game is helping to keep the ball out of Jake Delhomme's hands (and therefore out of the hands of their opponents' defensive backs, as well).  They just beat up Arizona and then gave New Orleans a scare.  And Atlanta has only lost to the Saints, Patriots, and Cowboys, all on the road.  Prediction: Falcons win and cover (-1.5)

Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) at Oakland Raiders (2-6) 1:05 PM
Not even the fact that this is a divisional rivalry game can save it from being one of the worst games ever.  But it is always interesting to see what will be higher: the other team's point total or JaMarcus Russell's quarterback rating.  Prediction: Chiefs win and cover (+1.5)

Dallas Cowboys (6-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-4) 4:15 PM - Fox
It is November and Dallas doesn't lose in November.  Also it is the NFL, and the Packers don't really beat anyone in the NFL (four wins this year: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis...combined 7-26 this season).  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-2.5)

Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Arizona Cardinals (5-3) 4:15 PM
Two weeks ago Kurt Warner threw 5 picks and lost a fumble.  Last week he threw 5 touchdowns.  Guess which one they won and which they lost.  Did you know?  Seattle is still in league.  Prediction: Cardinals win and cover (-8.5)

Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-3) 4:15 PM
While it is easier coming west than it is going east, it is tough traveling 3 time zones to play a game so San Diego has a huge advantage in this one.  If you like passing and bad clock management, this is the game for you.  The Eagles wouldn't run if they were an extra in a Godzilla movie, and LaDainian Tomlinson has aged faster than a bowl of guacamole left in the sun. And I don't have any snappy turns of phrase for how badly Andy Reid is at clock management, but let's just say if it's within a touchdown either way in the last 3 minutes, San Diego will win.  Prediction: Chargers win and cover (-2.5)

Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (1-7) Monday 5:30 PM - ESPN
People in Cleveland would probably still be bitter that the Ravens left (and the way they left) even if the new Browns hadn't been such a disaster since coming into the league, but it can't have helped.  It is nice to see Eric Mangini sticking to his guns to help turn the franchise around though.  First he said there would be a preseason quarterback competition.  Then Brady Quinn won the job and was his man.  Until Quinn got benched, reportedly dangled in trade taks, and Derek Anderson was installed as the starting quarterback.  Until he was benched this week and Quinn was put back in at starter.  But at least their best receiver was traded away, their second best receiver and big free agent signee was thrown in jail for killing a pedestrian, their star runningback is publicly criticizing their new coach, their star tight end was traded away, and their #5 draft pick was traded away and is now a starting quarterback for the Jets.  Oh wait, all those things are bad.  Prediction: Ravens win and cover (-10.5)

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only (subject to change).  Check this site for more.

Irony, Thy Name Is Diet Pepsi

In Week 9, Eagles' tight end Brent Celek scored a touchdown and promptly went into what looks a lot like the "Captain Morgan"-pose.  Celek denies that it was intentional, but unless this photo was taken as he was mid-way into a sumo-stomp, I can't really imagine what else he was doing. 

So the NFL of course is going to fine Celek for the stunt, if you'd call that mild display a stunt.  I say "of course" because they haven't announced the fine yet, but this is the same league that fined Chad Ochocinco $5,000 for wearing the wrong colored chinstrap.  So yeah, Celek is getting a fine.

In the NFL's defense though, they do have an official policy that such a display as Celek's is illegal.  NFL spokesman Greg Aiello was quoted as saying, "The issue is that players are specifically prohibited under our policies from wearing, displaying, promoting or otherwise conveying their support of a commercially identified product during a game while they’re on the field."

And you can see how such a policy would be a good idea.  While I think fining Ochocinco that much for being "out of uniform" is a little exorbitant, they have to draw lines somewhere.  And players wearing "" stickers on their helmets might cross a few lines.  Overly invasive product advertising is annoying, so good for the NFL for curbing it.  Nevermind the brand logos on league-mandated uniform pieces like cleats, gloves, jerseys, helmets, pads, and pants.

The irony of the story comes in when you read the next part of Aiello's quote and look more closely at the above, offending photograph.  “Whether it’s rum or soft drinks or any other commercial product, that type of promotion is prohibited.”  And what's that in 3-storey letters hanging behind Celek inside the stadium?  A soft drink ad.  Aiello did not go on to say, "We will take money from anyone and everyone, and place ads anywhere and everywhere, just like any other league and team would do, but by God if our players do it, we will make the amount Mark Cuban gets fined each year look as insignificant as it is to Mark Cuban," but he may as well have.

And on purpose or not, fine or not, it looks like a nice chunk of change will be changing hands regardless.  It seems that Captain Morgan is reportedly donating $10,000 to the Gridiron Greats Assitance Fund (helping retired NFL players) for each instance in the regular season that a player is caught in the company's signature pose.  Then $25,000 for the playoffs, and $100,000 in the Super Bowl. 

So the NFL is just mad that they and whoever is airing the games will be missing out on ad revenue because Captain Morgan will be getting advertising without paying for commercials or stadium banners (which they do anyway).  The funny thing is that if the NFL hadn't made a stink about Celek doing this, no one would have noticed it, no one would have heard about the donation campaign, and Captain Morgan wouldn't have really gotten any free adverstising from it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NFL Week 9 Preview

Game of the Week I: Dallas Cowboys (5-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) 5:20 PM - NBC
You never know what you're going to get with either of these two teams, but if both play as they did last week, this could be a classic.  They're similar is many other ways as well, both with red-hot quarterbacks, play-making young wide receivers, and defenses that could just as easily give up 30 points as pitch a shutout with 5 or 6 sacks and 3 take-aways.  The main difference is in the running game.  Both teams are relatively average in run defense, but Dallas is averaging 30 more yards per game and almost a whole yard per carry than Philly.  If the Cowboys can contain Philly's big plays (a tall task for the league's 8th worst pass defense), they will run the Eagles into the ground.  Prediction: Eagles win and cover (-3.5)

Game of the Week II: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Denver Broncos (6-1) Monday 5:30 PM - ESPN
If the Broncos felt they weren't getting enough respect as they jumped out to that 6-0 start, they quickly got a chance to prove their mettle in Baltimore.  And they got hammered.  Now they play host the Pittsburgh who had won 4-in-a-row (including over the then-undefeated Vikings) before their bye last week.  Rashard Mendenhall will test the Broncos excellent run defense, but more importanly, the Steelers defense will likely harrass Kyle Orton and the Broncos' offense just like the Ravens did last week.  Prediction: Steelers win and cover (-3.5)

Washington Redskins (2-5) at Atlanta Falcons (4-3) 10 AM
Generally speaking the way to pull off an upset is by controlling the clock with a solid running game and winning the turnover battle.  Of course, if the underdog could do those things consistantly, they probably wouldn't be underdogs.  The 'Skins are 26th in the league in rushing yards per game and 30th in turnover margin.  And the Falcons are just too balanced on offense for Washington to stop them.  Prediction: Falcons win and cover (-10.5)

Arizona Cardinals (4-3) at Chicago Bears (4-3) 10 AM - Fox
Arizona's once-league-leading run defense dropped to 9th after last week when they got shredded by Carolina.  So if the grossly-underperforming Matt Forte did his homework and watched that tape, he may be able to dominate this one for the Bears.  Forte won't likely be able to have a breakout game though, so Jay Cutler just needs to avoid interceptions and the Bears will wear down the Cards.  Prediction: Bears win and cover (-3.5)

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) 10 AM
The Bengals probably feel like they haven't gotten enough respect after beating the Ravens and Packers on the road, as well as the Steelers in Cincy, and only losing to the Broncos on a miracle-tipped pass for a touchdown to end the game.  But outside of Week 7's blowout of Chicago, they barely won the other 4 this season.  So are they good enough to get it done, or very, very lucky?  They ran all over the Ravens in Baltimore last month and that won't happen again.  Prediction: Ravens win and cover (-2.5)

Houston Texans (5-3) at Indianapolis Colts (7-0) 10 AM
Steve Slaton lost his job due to a fumbling problem and while Ryan Moats had a huge game last week, the Colts will have had time to watch tape of him and diagnose how to slow him down.  Matt Schaub and the Texans' passing game is good enough to hang with Peyton Manning and the Colts' if they stay away from turnovers, but Indy is +6 in turnover margin.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-9.5)

Miami Dolphins (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2) 10 AM - CBS
The last time the Dolphins were in Foxboro, they unveiled the Wildcat offense and in the weeks since then we have seen it catch like wildfire throughout the NFL.  But we have also seen this season that though the Dolphins can run the ball very well and dominate the clock, they just aren't a very good team.  They held the ball for twice as long as Indy did earlier this year and still lost because they gave up big play after big play.  Last I checked, New England had some "big-play-ability." Prediction: Patriots win and cover (-10.5)

Green Bay Packers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) 10 AM
The Bucs will have a new quarterback this week and may have a slightly different feel to them, having had a bye week to remake their struggling offense.  But let's face it, rookie Josh Freeman (the new starting quarterback) was third on the depth chart to start the season behind two guys that stunk it up.  However the Bucs are at home and there is the possibility that the Packers will be looking past the dismal Buccaneers at the Cowboys next week.  There is also the possibility that Aaron Rodgers (the league's passer rating leader) throws for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Prediction: Packers win and cover (-10.5)

Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) 10 AM
Detroit Lions (1-6) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5) 1:05 PM
Tennessee Titans (1-6) at San Francisco 49ers (3-4) 1:15 PM
I got a cortisone shot in my wrist yesterday and don't feel like these games are worth the effort or pain of typing about them.  Prediction: Jaguars, Seahawks, and 49ers win and cover (-6.5, -10.5, and -4.5, respectively)

Lock of the Week: Carolina Panthers (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (7-0) 1:05 PM
Jake Delhomme didn't throw a pick last week, but he only threw the ball 15 times, while Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams piled up 270 rushing yards.  They won't run like that against New Orleans and Delhomme will have to make plays with his arm...that's not a recipe for success lately.  Carolina has to be perfect just to stay with New Orleans, and they won't be.  The Saints weren't able to put Atlanta away last week, but they'll get another double digit win this week, making it 4 out of 5 at home this season.  Prediction: Saints win and cover (-14.5)

San Diego Chargers (4-3) at New York Giants (5-3) 1:15 PM - CBS
Enough time has passed that this is no longer a grudge match for the Chargers who may have felt slighted when Eli Manning said he'd rather play in New York.  More importantly for both teams, it is a must-win game to stay in the playoff race.  The Chargers stumbled out of the gate as the Broncos bolted to a huge lead, and the Giants have stumbled lately, letting the Cowboys and Eagles pass them by.  Neither star runningback is performing this season, so the game will rest on the shoulders of their backups (Darren Sproles and Ahmad Bradshaw) the defenses.  Once again, if the Giants' pass rush can get to Phillip Rivers, the Giants will roll at home.  If he stays upright in the pocket, he will torch them like the last three pass-first offenses the Giants have faced.  Prediction: Giants win, Chargers cover (+4.5)

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only (subject to change). Check this site for more.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NFL Week 8 Preview

Week 8 features five fantastic games: divisional rivalry games, battles between playoff favorites, bad blood.  And then there are the rest: likely blowups, bad teams playing bad teams, likely naps.  Sadly, Fox and CBS are sticking L.A. viewers with probably the worst two games Saturday morning.  Fox chose the potential blowout that is San Francisco at Indianapolis over a playoff rematch that also happens to be a division rivalry with bad blood, which also happens to feature the same two cities that are meeting in the World Series later that day (Giants at Eagles). CBS is sticking us with the potential blowout that is Oakland at San Diego rather than either Denver at Baltimore, or Miami at the Jets.  So as if you needed a reason to go to a sports bar on Sunday, watching the good games on satellite should give you all the reason you need.

Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) 1:15 PM - Fox
Apparently at some point, the Vikings quarterback used to be in the Packers' franchise, so this is a sort homecoming for home or whatever.  We'll see if that story get any media attention, but perhaps a more important story is that fact that the Vikings stranglehold on this division will wither considerably with a loss to the Packers.  The teams are both very good and very evenly matched, and weather should not play a significant rolle, so the game will likely swing on who takes care of the ball.  Green Bay's turnover margin is +10 this season, while Minnesota's is +7.  So no solid hints there either.  When in doubt, go with the home team.  Prediction: Packers win , Vikings cover (+3.5)

Miami Dolphins (2-4) at New York Jets (4-3) 10 AM
Rex Ryan's aggressive, blitzing defense had huge problems with the Dolphins' wildcat offense in their earlier matchup this season in Miami.  The Dolphins ran all over the Jets.  But they still were only able to scrape together a 3-point win in their own building.  You can expect Ryan to have made a few changes to the Jets' defensive attack, and you can expect the Jets to split the season series with Miami with a win in New Jersey.  Prediction: Jets win and cover (-3.5)

Denver Broncos (6-0) at Baltimore Ravens (3-3) 10 AM
A few weeks ago, both of these teams were undefeated and this game looked like it might surprisingly play an early role in the AFC playoff home field chase.  Baltimore has been snake-bitten since, but the Broncos' luck hasn't changed yet.  The Ravens' Ray Rice will be pitted against the league's best run defense and he may have to win this one on his own.  Denver's Kyle Orton has been nearly perfect this season (just 1 interception) and while he is a fine quarterback, you would have to expect that his and the team's luck has to end sometime.  When?  Against this defense is as good a guess as any.  Prediction: Ravens win, Broncos cover (+3.5)

New York Giants (5-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) 10 AM
The Giants beat up on their weak, early season opponents, but have lost two in-a-row to perhaps the Conference's two best teams.  This week they fight to remain on top in the NFC East against the team that ended their Super Bowl defense in the playoffs last season.  The Eagles have been quite inconsistent this season and there is no telling which team will show up.  Injuries plague both teams, but if the Giants can run and ball and put pressure on Donovan McNabb (which are supposedly this team's strengths), they will get revenge on the road.  Prediction: Giants win and cover (+2.5)

Atlanta Falcons (4-2) at New Orleans Saints (6-0) Monday 5:30 PM
Atlanta allows teams to move the ball all over the field - they're in the bottom 10 in yards allowed.  But they are in the top 10 in points allowed.  So the question Monday night is, how far can the Falcons bend before Drew Brees breaks them?  And keep in mind that the Saints have tended to make just about everyone break this year.  In fact, they have punted the second fewest times in all of football this year.  So if they get the ball, they're gonna score.  It will be up to Atlanta's Michael Turner to make sure the ball is in his hands, and not Brees.'  Prediction: Saints win and cover (-9.5)

Houston Texans (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-4) 10 AM
The story here is the Bills' defense.  They have picked off 9 passes in their last two games, but they are also 32nd against the run.  So the game will probably be put into Steve Slaton's hands, and lately that has been a good thing for Houston.  Buffalo's offense is a complete mess, with their quarterback spot wide open, thus wasting Lee Evans fine work at receiver.  And they also have some other receiver leading the league in drops, which isn't helping the quarterback stability.  Prediction: Texans win, Bills cover (+3.5)

Cleveland Browns (1-6) at Chicago Bears (3-3) 10 AM
This week's sign that parity is dead in the NFL: The Bears are 3-3 and favored by 2 touchdowns...and that's not the biggest spread this week!  Matt Forte has been terrible running the ball for Chicago this year, but fanstasy owners across the nation can rejoice as he gets to face the Brown's defense this week (2nd worst against the run).  As long as Jay Cutler is only throwing to the guys in the same colored shirt as him, the Bears will roll.  Unfortunately, he's thrown to the others guys the second most in the league this year (10).  Prediction: Bears win, Browns cover (+13.5)

Seattle Seahawks (2-4) at Dallas Cowboys (4-2) 10 AM
If you think the Cowboys have played at home every week this season, you're wrong.  They also had a bye.  Actually they've split home and away this year, but with all the talk about the Bigger-In-Texas Dome, it just seems like it they're there every week.  They are in Week 8 and allegedly so will the Seahawks.  But the Seahawks haven't shown up for most of their games this year so as long as the Cowboys run the ball a lot and keep it out of Tony Romo's skilled but somewhat turnover-prone hands, they will win.  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-9.5)

St. Louis Rams (0-7) at Detroit Lions (1-5) 10 AM
Suppose for a moment that you were playing a team that was 0-16 last year.  And they've only won once this year.  And their starting quarterback and franchise wide receiver are likely out.  You'd figure you were a favorite, right?  Nope.  No matter what Steven Jackson does, the Rams cannot find the endzone and the Rams look like serious contenders for worst team in NFL history (5-34 in last 39 games, 17 straight losses).  So again, when you can't tell the difference between two teams, pick the home team.  Prediction: Lions win, Rams cover (+3.5)

Lock of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-0) 10 AM - Fox
Former franchise player/new starter Alex Smith took over at quarterback last week and seemed to begin to turn the ship around (though he ran out of time in Atlanta to win that one).  It would be a much nicer story if he could take them out and win this week, but the scheduling gods dumped a Giants pile of Peyton Manning on his doorstep.  The only way San Francisco keeps this close is if everything goes their way.  Manning needs to be off his game, Smith needs to be on his.  Frank Gore needs to dominate on the ground, and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis need to dominate downfield.  Don't hold your breath for any of those five things.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-9.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (0-6) 1:05 PM
This game is further proof that the teams will play every game on their schedules, whether anyone cares or comes to the games or not.  Vince Young is back at quarterback for the Titans, and really it can't get worse than losing every game, so why not?  Despite their record, Tennessee is actually top 10 in run defense (and you figure they see a lot of running since they're always trailing), so if they can stand up and stop Maurice Jones-Drew, they could get up off the mat finally.  It's not good when you are the underdog to a team that is 0-6, but David Garrard will manage this one just well enough to pull off the massive upset.  Prediction: Jaguars win and cover (+2.5)

Oakland Raiders (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (3-3) 1:05 PM - CBS
The Chargers opened the season by scraping together a narrow win in Week 1 in Oakland.  A loss at home to the Raiders in Week 8 could basically end their season, but with this being the largest point-spread of the season thus far, that shouldn't happen.  The Chargers are 3 games behind Denver and already lost at home to the Broncos, and play five potention playoff teams in their final 8 games.  Oakland's pass defense is decent but they are awful against the run (30th: 169.7 yards per game), so if LaDainian Tomlinson can find some of his old magic, he may keep the Chargers alive in the AFC West race for at least one more week. Prediction: Chargers win, Raiders cover (+16.5)

Carolina Panthers (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2) 1:15 PM
Arizona hosts a bad team that they should crush, sandwiched between an impressive win at Giants Stadium and another huge test at Soldier Field next week.  That officially labels this one as a trap game for the almost-champs, but then when you run the ball as badly as the Cardinals do, they're all trap games.  Jake Delhomme's recent bout of interception-itis (13 this season in 6 games) began last year in a playoff loss to the Cardinals.  Carolina's defense seems ready to take on the Cards' passing game - they allow the fewest yards per game of anyone.  But they've also faced the fewest passing attempts and are one of the worst in completion percentage allowed.  Kurt Warner will test them, likely throwing close to 40 times, and he is certainly known for his efficiency.  Prediction: Cardinals win and cover (-9.5)

All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only. See this website for what's airing in your area.

Season Predictions: 55-48 against the spread, 69-34 straight up
Last Week: 7-6 against the spread, 10-3 straight up

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NFL Week 7 Hangover

Week 7 Scores
Arizona Cardinals 24 - New York Giants 17
Houston Texans 24 - San Francisco 49ers 21
Green Bay Packers 31 - Cleveland Browns 3
San Diego Chargers 37 - Kansas City Chiefs 7
Indianapolis Colts 42 - St. Louis Rams 6
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 - Minnesota Vikings 17
New England Patriots 35 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
New York Jets 38 - Oakland Raiders 0
Buffalo Bills 20 - Carolina Panthers 9
Cincinnati Bengals 45 - Chicago Bears 10
Dallas Cowboys 37 - Atlanta Falcons 21
New Orleans Saints 46 - Miami Dolphins 34
Philadelphia Eagles 27 - Washington Redskins 17

Big Winners
-The Arizona Cardinals (4-2) won their final regular season game at Giants Stadium, where they'd been 2-15 in history, and now sit alone atop the NFC West thanks to San Francisco's loss.
-Odd-on favorites went 11-2 (the Giants and Panthers lost), and covered the spread in 10 of 13 games (Houston won but didn't cover the spread).
-Fans of blowouts must have been thrilled in Week 7 as only two games were decided by under 10 points, and six were decided by 28 or more!
-The Steelers' defense held the previously undefeated Vikings to just 17 points, scored two touchdowns, and held NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson under 70 yards.
-NFL fans have not had to see or hear much from Terrell Owens since he was banished to Buffalo.  Owens had three catches for 27 yaaaawwwn.
-All teams with higher draft picks than the Panthers can expect some trade offers before Draft Day as Carolina will likely want to trade up and get a quarterback. The Panthers current quarterback, Jake Delhomme, has thrown 4 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season.
-Bengals runningback Cedric Benson felt that the Bears had mistreated him during his time in Chicago.  So he took it out on them by out-rushing Chicago's new star runningback by 165 yards (Carson Palmer's 5 touchdowns didn't hurt either).
-The New Orleans Saints were down 21 points on the road in a city where they've never won.  But that just gave Drew Brees an excuse to stop pretending to want to use the running game.  New Orleans won thanks in part to a 22-0 fourth quarter.

Big Losers
-The Oakland Raiders (2-5) followed up a shocking upset of Philadelphia by getting shut out at home by a team that had been struggling to stay afloat for their last three games (the Jets). 
-Top Fantasy Runningbacks have generally been a disappointment this season, and that held true in Week 7.  The top 8 in most drafts this year averaged 3.6 yards per carry and combined for only three touchdowns and one concussion (Peterson, Turner, Jones-Drew, Forte, Westbrook, Williams, Tomlinson, and Gore). 
-49ers quarterback Shaun Hill lost his starting job after starting out 6 for 11 and guiding the 49ers to a 21-0 halftime deficit.  Backup and former #1 over all pick Alex Smith then entered the game and led the team to three touchdowns in four possessions. 
-Chiefs runningback Larry Johnson has another dismal performance on the field (16 carries for 49 yards), and then followed it up by badmouthing his coach and using a homosexual slur to refer to a fan on Twitter.  Johnson apologized Monday afternoon, but not before referring to members of the media with the same slur Monday morning.  But I'm sure the apology was sincere.
-The State of Missouri is 1-13 on the season and has been outscored by 16.2 points per game (KC and St. Louis).
-The United Kingdom had to endure watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up close in the NFL's misguided third annual trip to Wembley Stadium.

Fantasy Studs - The 10 Most Valuable Players of Week 7
1 - Miles Austin (WR-Dal) 171 yards recieving, 2 touchdowns, and was probably still available last week
2 - Vernon Davis (TE-SF) 93 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns
3 - Ricky Williams (RB-Mia) 80 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns, and was probably still available as well
4 - Shonn Greene (RB-NYJ) 144 yard rushing, 2 touchdowns, and was definately still available
5 - DeSean Jackson (WR-Phi) 67 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 69 yards receiving, 1 touchdown)
6 - Carson Palmer (QB-Cin) 233 yards passing, 5 touchdowns
7 - Cedric Benson (RB-Cin) 189 yards rushing, 1 touchdown
8 - Chad Ochocinco (WR-Cin) 118 yards, 2 touchdowns
9 - Tony Romo (QB-Dal) 311 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 31 yards rushing
10 - Ryan Grant (RB-GB) 148 yards rushing, 1 touchdown

Fantasy Thuds - High Expectations...Dismal Results
1 - Frank Gore (RB-SF) 32 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving
2 - Pierre Thomas (RB-NO) 30 yards rushing, 14 yards receiving
3 - Jonathan Stewart (RB-Car) 25 yards rushing, 20 yards receiving
4 - Marion Barber (RB-Dal) 47 yards rushing, 1 yard receiving
5 - Matt Forte (RB-Chi) 24 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving
6 - Tony Gonzalez (TE-Atl) 37 yards receiving
7 - Brett Favre (QB-Min) 334 yards passing, 1 interception, 1 fumble
8 - Donovan McNabb (QB-Phi) 156 yards passing, 1 touchdown
9 - Andre Johnson (WR-Hou) 62 yards receiving
10 - Eli Manning (QB-NYG) 243 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions

The Front Seven - The NFL's 7 best teams through Week 7
1 - New Orleans Saints (6-0, 1st NFC South) Total Offense: 1st (427.3), Total Defense: 11th (306.7), +18.5 ppg
2 - Indianapolis Colts (6-0, 1st AFC South) Total Offense 4th (402.5), Total Defense: 9th (291.7), +17.0 ppg
3 - New England Patriots (5-2, 1st AFC East) Total Offense: 3rd (406.0), Total Defense: 6th (285.7), +14.3 ppg
4 - Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2, T-1st AFC North) Total Offense: 7th (383.0), Total Defense: 8th (291.0), +5.4 ppg
5 - Denver Broncos (6-0, 1st AFC West) Total Offense: 9th (368.7), Total Defense: 2nd (262.5), +11.2 ppg
6 - Minnesota Vikings (6-1, 1st NFC North) Total Offense: 12th (353.6), Total Defense: 17th (330.0), +8.3 ppg
7 - New York Giants (5-2, 1st NFC East) Total Offense: 6th (391.3), Total Defense: 1st (262.0), +7.4 ppg
Also published on  Check back Friday for a look ahead at Week 8.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NFL Week 7 Preview

Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) 10 AM - Fox
The Steelers have been pretty unstoppable in the air, and the Vikings are ranked 24th against the pass, so Ben Roethlisberger may have a huge day.  Rashard Mendenhall has been banged up in practice this week, meaning Pittsburgh's run game will be even weaker than usual.  If Brett Favre is careful with the ball and Adrian Peterson keeps Roethlisberger off the field, the Vikings will stay undefeated.  Prediction: Steelers win, Vikings cover (+4.5)

San Diego Chargers (2-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) 10 AM - CBS
LaDainian Tomlinson has been terrible this season and he had the flu early in the week - like he needs an excuse to mope around on the sideline all game long.  But the Chargers don't need any kind of running game to beat the Chiefs; they just need Philip Rivers to have time to find the many, many open receivers there will be.  If the Chiefs get to Rivers, they can win.  Prediction: Chargers win and cover (-4.5)
Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-5) 10 AM
You know parity is completely absent in the NFL when a slightly-better-than-average team like the Packers is an absolule lock to win on the road.  Cleveland has no idea who to put at quarterback and that may be their deepest position.  But the good news for Browns fans is that the players reportedly have no confidence in head coach Eric Mangini.  Oh wait, that's bad.  Prediction: Packers win and cover (-7.5)

Sleeper Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at Houston Texans (3-3) 10 AM
The 49ers are coming off a bye week which forced them to think about that 1000 point loss at home to Atlanta two weeks ago (or at least it probably felt that way), so they'll be motivated.  They had better be because Matt Schaub and the Texans are 3rd in the NFL in passing yards per game.  Both defenses are middle-of-the-pack against the run and pass.  Frank Gore has to have a huge game to keep the Texans' offense off of the field, so basically it comes down to Gore vs. Schaub/Andre Johnson.  Prediction: Houston wins and covers (-3.5)
Lock of the Week: Indianapolis Colts (5-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-6) 10 AM
Give Peyton Manning two weeks to prepare for just about anyone and he's gonna win.  Against the 0-6 Rams?  Yes.  Manning is averaging over 300 yards per game this season, so as long as he doesn't turn the ball over and give the Rams free-chances and short fields, the Colts will roll.  Prediction: Colts win and cover (-13.5)
Lock of the Week, Vol. II: New England Patriots (4-2) "at" Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) 10 AM
The only real question in this one is if the scoreboard at Wimbley Stadium (normally a soccer stadium) will have enough space for whatever score the Patriots put up.  The crowd could play a small factor in this one, seeing as the British people probably won't be very fond of a team called the "Patriots," and also since the Bucs are owned by the owner of Manchester United.  But the fans don't understand the game enough to know what difference they might make.  And it wouldn't matter anyway.  Prediction: Patriots win and cover (-14.5)
Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-3) 1:05 PM
Jake Delhomme is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10 and the Bills picked off 6 balls last week.  That doesn't bode well for Carolina, except that he may never be called on to throw a ball.  Despite that impressive defensive show, the Bills also gave up 318 rushing yards to the Jets last week as well.  And while Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are very good, the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are better. Prediction: Panthers win, Bills covers (+7.5)
New York Jets (3-3) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) 1:05 PM
Mark Sanchez inexplicably threw five interceptions last week, despite that the Jets running game completely embarrassed the Bills.  Sanchez seemed to struggle with the windy, cold conditions at the Meadowlands (get use to that!), and will likely find it easier to take care of the ball in sunny, warm Oakland.  Especially since the Raiders are averaging less than a pick per game, and 220 yards passing allowed per game.  If Rex Ryan's defense can stop the Raiders' running game, the Jets win because JaMarcus Russell isn't beating anyone with his arm.  Prediction: Jets win, Raiders cover (+6.5)
Chicago Bears (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) 1:15 PM
Jay Cutler may be able to celebrate his new contract extension with a huge day since Cincinnati will be without Antwan Odom for the rest of the season.  That will hurt the Bengals' pass-rush considerably.  Cincy's Cedric Benson (4th in the NFL in yards per game: 88.5) would probably like nothing more than to have a huge game as well, in order to stick it to the Bears for dumping him in favor of Matt Forte (23rd: 55.8). Prediction: Bears win and cover (+1.5)
Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-2) 1:15 PM - Fox
The team whose running game controls the clock wins.  Dallas seems to be viewing this game as a statement game to show what they're all about, but they seem to have those games every few weeks, which means they clearly don't know the answer.  At this point it seems clear that Tony Romo is simply not Troy Aikman and the Cowboys need to get the ball out of Romo's hands, commit to being a running team so Flozell Adams can stop getting beaten by pass rushers every play, and ride Marian Barber and Tashard Choice into the playoffs.  Prediction: Cowboys win and cover (-3.5)
New Orleans Saints (5-0) at Miami Dolphins (2-3) 1:15 PM
The Saints have never won in Miami.  But there's a first time for everything.  Both teams allow around only 80 yards rushing per game, so don't expect much on the ground in this one.  The difference is that if the Dolphins are forced to throw it, they're not really playing to their strengths.  If New Orleans is forced to throw, they could score 100.  Prediction: Saints win, Dolphins cover (+6.5)
Game of the Week, Vol. II: Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at New York Giants (5-1) 5:20 - NBC
Arizona is the best in the league at stopping the run, which is what the Giants like to do most on offense.  New York is the best in the league at stopping the pass, which is what the Cardinals like to do most on offense.  So unless one strength wears down the other, the question may end up being: whose second option is better?  Do you like Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells against the Giants' front 7 or Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham against the Cardinals' secondary?  Prediction: Giants win and cover (-7.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Washington Redskins (2-4) Monday 5:30 - ESPN
Not only is Philly fighting to stay in contact with the Giants in the NFC East, but they're also out to show that last week's embarrassing loss to the Raiders was an anomaly.  Last week Eagles' coach Andy Reid chose not to test one of the worst pass-defenses in football, and called passing plays on just 20% of the snaps.  Imagine how lopsided the play-calling will be this week against the league's third best pass-defense in Washington!  Speaking of play-calling, the Redskins took that duty away from head coach Jim Zorn and hired a new coach out of retirement to take over 5 days before a divisional game.  That can't end badly, right?  Prediction: Eagles win and cover (-7.5)
All times are Pacific and TV airing info is for the Los Angeles area only. See this website for what's airing in your area.

Season Predictions: 48-42 against the spread, 59-31 straight up

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aikman Awards For Sports-Journalistic Incompetence

This is probably a post that could be written daily, but as you watch and listen to sports, read about it, and listen to sports-talk, you stumble across spectacularly stupid people.  And I'm not talking about Troy Aikman's command of the English language.  Well, I am.  But not only that.

--Listening to local L.A. guys on ESPN radio on Sunday just before Cliff Lee took the mound for the Phillies against the Dodgers in Game 3 of their NLCS in Philadelphia, they were all arguing the same point that the Dodgers may actually have an advantage over the Phillies in the fact that they do not have an ace.  The argument was that if you reply on an ace and he loses, it is a great psychological blow.  But if you have no ace, you can't ever experience that let-down.

This is a ground-breaking concept that can be applied universally!  Why keep your body in good condition?  Rather, we should all get a little pudgy and try to eat fatty foods so that if we have a heart attack someday, we will not be disappointed because we knew it was likely.  Don't study or work hard because if you do not reach a career goal, you will have seen it coming. 

So GM's out there: don't go after the best players possible.  Sure guys like Cliff Lee will win 18-20 games a year and keep their ERA's under 3.0.  But think of the psychological impact in those 4-5 games a year that they don't win!  Always aim for mediocrity so you won't be surprised when you get it.

Incidentally, Lee threw 8 shutout innings and allowed 3 hits and no walks in that game.  The Phillies won 11-0.  The Dodgers threw two non-"ace" starters onto the mound that night and they combined to allow 8 earned runs in 4.2 innings.  What's the psychological impact of that?

--These same radio guys went on to debate what has wrong with Manny Ramirez since he had "returned."  They delicately avoided the elephant in the room, deciding that his problem was one of three things:
1) He is not confident in his game plan.  Despite his aloof image, Manny had always been a well-studied hitter and always had a plan when he stepped into the box.  "Something" has affected his belief that his plan will work.
2) He has lost his swagger.  "Something" has made it so pitchers are not intimidated by him anymore.  They are attacking him more.
3) He is getting fooled.  "Something" has changed and he is no longer guessing right on pitches.  He is often not getting the pitches he expects in certain spots.

Not once did they mention what it was that he had returned from - a performance enhancing drug suspension.  Not once did they even mention performance enhancing drugs at all.  Manny is the poster-child for what happens after you stop using.  It is one thing to be a fan of a team and be blind to your heroes' faults.  But these guys are journalists.  You can be a fan and a journalist, but when you are working, put down the foam finger and tell it like it is!  As they say, "no cheering from the pressbox!"

--I heard earlier this week that Sasha Vujacic cut his hair short and had an interesting, non-fashion-related reason.  Vujacic believes that as a rookie (with short hair), he did not get calls from refs because he was too baby-faced.  So he grew his hair longer and grew out some stubble for a few seasons so that he would look a little older.  Now that he is a more established player, he feels that he will get more calls even if he is still pretty baby-faced with his new short-haircut. 

There is some logic in that.  Vujacic did look older with his grubby-look and does look very young again now.  The problem is that he is failing to see that the reason that refs may have treated him like a rookie was that he was one.  And the reason that he will likely get some veteran treatment by refs now is because he is one.  All that hair really did as make him look like an idiot for a couple of years. 

--When the Phillies beat the Dodgers on a walk-off triple in Game 4, Chip Caray gave a great "exciting-game-ending-play-at-the-plate" call.  The trouble was, there was no play and Caray was basically just reading from a script.  Jimmy Rollins hit the ball to the game and Carey went right into the script including the obligatory "Ruiz rounds third; here's the throw to the's not in time!  Phillies win!"  There was no throw.  The ball was cut off and Rafael Furcal was actually shown carrying it with him off the field. 

This is just a week after Caray blew the biggest call in the Twins-Tigers playoff game.  Bottom of the 10th inning, 1 out, runners on first and third.  Here is Caray's call: "Line drive, base hit...caught out there.  Runner tags; here he comes.  Throw to the plate...on target and in tiiiiiime. A double play ends the 10th.  Rayburn evens the ledger."

Here's what happened: Nick Punto lined out to left fielder Ryan Rayburn.  And it wasn't a diving play or anything.  Rayburn just kinda stood there and the ball was hit right to him.  The runner from third tagged up and Rayburn threw home.  The throw was way right, but the catcher caught it and dove back at the plate to get the out at home.

So the call was dead on except that it wasn't a base hit (which, by definition, couldn't have been caught anyway), the throw wasn't close to the target, and Rayburn didn't "even the ledger" because the game was already tied. 

So he's blown the call on the biggest moment of two of the last 10 games he's worked.  Not to mention a million other gaffs along the way.  He gives incorrect stats.  He calls line-drive outs "base hits" somewhat regularly.  He is a chronic exaggerator.  He seems surprised and impressed by the most obvious common knowledge "trivia."  He makes factual and game-play errors constantly.  And if I have to hear him say again that Sandy Alomar, Sr. used to say that you don't "watch" the game, you should "observe" it, I am going to lose it.  He says it every game, usually out of context.  In Game 4 of the NLCS he said it after Ron Darling pointed out that pitchers in the bullpen way out in center field have a hard time seeing the exact edges of an ump's strike zone. 

From USA Today:
"This was heard from Caray during [a] Twins-New York Yankees American League Division Series game: 'A quality at-bat for (Minnesota shortstop) Orlando Cabrera.'
"But Cabrera struck out with two men on, his team down 6-2 to end the top of the seventh inning and batting champion Joe Mauer on deck."
So not only is he incompetent, but he is he a grown man who wants people to call him "Chip" even though his name is Harry.  But I'm sure he's paid really well and has lots of people who tell him how good he is.  (There was a fantastic fake-Chip Caray account on Twitter that got taken down after being highlighted in a post on Deadspin.  So you can't see the Twitter anymore, but see some highlights here.)

Perhaps this post should be the Aikman-Caray Awards?

--And finally, I am not sure if I blame ESPN and Joe Schad for reporting this story, or if I blame the high school coach for being a moron more.  But Terrelle Pryor's high school football coach thinks Jim Tressel isn't using Pryor properly.  I'm sure Tressel (and most Div. I college coaches) love taking strategic advice from high school coaches.  I'm sure Tressel will take it to heart and change his system because a guy who used on know one of his players thinks he's doing it wrong.  Pryor's kindergarten teacher reportedly thinks he should be allowed to nap during defensive series because Pryor often looks cranky on the sidelines.