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September 20, 2008

NFL Scorecard - Week 3 Predictions

So much for getting off on the right foot...

After starting the season with double-digit wins, my luck decided to take a turn for the worse, as I completely tanked last week. Good thing nobody actually uses (or even reads) this for gambling purposes...

Well, I'm getting to this a bit later than usual this week. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I started my grad school orientation this week, which surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, takes up a whole lotta time during the week. But I'm here now, ready to either turn it around... or continue on my downward spiral of awful picks. Again, hopefully nobody's actually putting any weight to these...

Atlanta (-5.5) vs Kansas City - Um, next time, can I please be made aware of the fact that Tyler Thigpen is the backup quarterback on this team? I never thought I'd long for the days of Damon Huard. I'm guessing that makes it me and the entire Chiefs fan base... Well, Thigpen looked awful against Oakland so, good luck on your first start, kid... I'm going with the Falcons.

Buffalo (-9) vs Oakland - Okay, Bills, I'm on board. Now don't let me down. I think it's safe to say that the Raiders will be facing a team that's a bit better than last week. Darren McFadden definitely showed why the Raiders chose him last April, but the Bills have a nice running back of their own, and a lot more on both sides of the ball than Oakland.

Tennessee (-5.5) vs Houston - Am I the only one that feels that the Titans will be better with the constant Vince Young drama/development they've had the last couple years? No? Okay then, we're in agreement. The Texans did essentially have a bye week last week, but I wouldn't say it was a typical bye week where they could use both weeks to game plan against the Titans. So on equal footing, this one goes to Tennessee.

New York Giants (-13) vs Cincinnati - Until Carson Palmer shows himself as a competent quarterback again, I can't go for Cincy under any circumstances. He was once a quarterback with all the talent in the world, lighting the league on fire. Then a freak play tears his ACL and he hasn't been the same. How worried do you think Patriots fans are right now...?

Washington (-3) vs Arizona - This would make five straight favorites for me. That's never a good sign. But the Redskins finally came alive last week in their win over the Saints. Granted, the Saints don't exactly have a stellar defense, but Arizona doesn't exactly have a stellar team either. I still think Washington would win the NFC West, and I guess here's their first test.

Miami (+13) at New England - So let me get this straight... the Patriots scored only 19 points against a team that beat the Dolphins and are now giving 13 points to Miami? I guess Vegas doesn't have a lot of confidence in the Miami offense. Not exactly off-base there, but it still seems like a large spread for a team still trying to find its identity.

Chicago (-3) vs Tampa Bay - The Bears, as I always expect them to do at this point, choked one away against Carolina last week. So why am I going with them this week? Because I'm apparently an idiot... But I'm a loyal idiot, I guess. Just ignore the fact that I've gone against them the last two weeks.

Minnesota (-3) vs Carolina - Speaking of Carolina, can they make it three comebacks in a row? I'm guessing no, but I also thought the Vikings would knock off the Colts last week. And what I've learned is that "close" isn't "correct". I think this might be another situation like the Titans where Gus Frerotte might actually make them play better, not because he's more skilled, but he's more known, and the offense and defense won't be sitting there wondering if they can overcome their quarterback. They'll just go out and play.

St. Louis (+9) at Seattle - Following last week's theory of never going with an NFC West team giving more than 7 points, I'm going with the Rams this week. The Rams are still terrible, and I think they'll lose, but in this division, they all suck...

San Francisco (-4.5) vs Detroit - Speaking of sucking, here's San Francisco and Detroit! Is it just me or are there a lot of horrendous matchups early this season? I guess whenever Detroit is involved, that pretty much screws up the appeal of any matchup... They've fallen behind 21-0 in both games this season, which to those unfamiliar with football, is not a good thing... The 49ers may come from the NFC West, but I think Detroit is an honorary member of that division this season.

New Orleans (+5) at Denver - Every year, there's a team that I always miscalculate but consistently pick thinking that they'll turn it around. And every year, there's a team that I always miscalculate but consistently pick against them thinking that they'll come back to earth. I think those teams might be the Saints and Broncos this year, respectively. And that explains this pick...

Pittsburgh (+3) at Philadelphia - With apologies to my roommate, who is a huge Eagles fan and one of my few consistent readers, I've gotta go with Pittsburgh this week. I like Philadelphia, but there has to be some sort of emotional letdown this weekend, doesn't there? I mean, they just took on their arch rivals in an instant-classic Monday night game, then have to turn it around in six days and take on their intra-state rival, who, by the way, is 2-0? Just seems like a lot to me.

Indianapolis (-6) vs Jacksonville - The Colts showed life last week. The Jaguars continued to struggle. The Colts still own this division until proven otherwise...

Cleveland (+2) at Baltimore - The Browns offense has scored a total of 16 points in two weeks. This is why I didn't touch Derek Anderson during my fantasy draft this year. They were bound to come down from last season, now that they're not a surprise, but there still is too much talent on the offensive side of the ball to not still compete with the lower-level teams in the league. I'm looking at you, Baltimore... It's strength vs. strength in this matchup, with the Browns offense going up against the Ravens defense... and weakness vs. weakness on the other side... Sounds like a close game to me.

Dallas (-3) at Green Bay - I hate when my two fantasy running backs go against each other in a week, like I have with Barber and Grant in this game. Unless the game is ultra close, one team will be throwing by the end, which essentially limits one of the two by mid-third quarter. How does that affect this game? Well, it doesn't, but I just wanted to vent...

New York Jets (+8.5) at San Diego - You know the Chargers are going to turn it on at some point. You just know it. But is it this week? Is it next week? Will they show signs and squeek out a win before starting to blow things open? I don't know the answer to those, but I know this is Favre's first MNF game with the Jets, and against a wobbly Chargers team, that spread is too much for #4.

Last Week: 4-10-1
Overall: 14-16-1

September 12, 2008

NFL Scorecard - Week 2 Predictions

As I was watching Aaron Rodgers jump into the crowd Monday night in Lambeau, I thought back to the weekend of games... Tom Brady going down, Peyton Manning losing at home to the Bears, Shawne Merriman out for the year... It made me realize that this season is wide open to anybody who wants it. My mind continued to ponder the scenarios that may play out until I came to a frightening thought...

What if the Packers play the Jets in the Super Bowl?

Likely? Well, no. But it's safe to say that the Jets' path to the playoffs got a wee bit easier after Week 1, despite a shaky win against a bad Miami team. And it's safe to say that the Packers, with a solid running game and stout defense, will be battling it out for the division. So once both teams are in the playoffs, you never know. Just look at what's happened the last several years.

So getting back to my point... would there ever have been a Super Bowl more annoyingly hyped than a Packers-Jets matchup? Favre's old team against his new team. All the arguments about whether the Packers were right to trade Favre would be analyzed (read: over-analyzed) for two weeks. And you thought you heard too much Favre-talk this off-season... I don't know if I'd be able to handle it, although the networks would be falling all over themselves with stories. And worst of all... one of those teams would have to actually win the game. Okay, let's not think about that for now.

On to the picks...

Kansas City (-3) vs Oakland - The Raiders are even worse off than I thought. They made the Broncos have confidence in themselves to have a good season... now that's pretty bad. The Chiefs may not be good, but they do get to play this one at home, which should be enough to handle Oakland. Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this gem of a game?

Tennessee (+1) at Cincinnati - Vince Young... where to begin. Depending on who you believe, Young either spent the last week contemplating whether he should even be here on Earth, or it was all just a Three's Company-esque misunderstanding. Either way, I don't see the Bengals being able to stop the Titans' running game (that's faster than Joe Flacco, by the way...), and Carson Palmer looked absolutely dreadful last week. I can't believe I'm picking Kerry Collins on the road, but I told you it's a crazy season...

Minnesota (+2) vs Indianapolis - So my AFC final four of Indy, New England, San Diego, and Jacksonville isn't looking too good all of a sudden. If the Colts drop to 0-2, I think everybody within the Pittsburgh area will begin their search for hotel rooms in January. And the way the Colts looked on Sunday night, I think they will fall again. They looked disjointed, which can happen when the focal point of the team missing so much time in the off-season. Minnesota has a better defense than the Bears and a better running game, plus they're at home. Sounds like a winning setup to me.

New Orleans (pk) at Washington - Having Colston out hurts both the Saints and my fantasy team, as Brees will need to find his yards and touchdowns elsewhere for a while. I don't think he'll have any trouble finding them against Washington, however, as they looked rather scattered against the Giants on opening night. Granted, they've had over a week to prepare, but Jason Campbell has had over several years to prepare and that hasn't really seemed to help him too much at this point either...

Green Bay (-3) at Detroit - So... the team that handled a popular preseason pick on Monday night against a team that got blown out by a team starting a rookie quarterback and a running back carrying the load for the first time... Yeah, I wonder how this one is going to turn out. The Packers looked as good as I expected, while the Lions looked even worse (somehow). This one shouldn't even be close. Ryan Grant, my fantasy team thanks you ahead of time...

Carolina (-3) vs Chicago - I have no reason to go against the Bears this week other than I'm not letting myself buy into the hype until we're well into the season. So the Bears are on a high after beating a premier AFC team on the road? Um, Chicago? I'd like to introduce you to Carolina. Yeah, they did the same thing last week...

New York Giants (-8) at St. Louis - Well, so much for my "the Rams are dangerous when healthy" theory. That's pretty much shot. I still don't trust Eli, but the Giants defense will run over the Rams offensive line and Plaxico and the 14 running backs on New York will all get their numbers in this one.

Jacksonville (-5.5) vs Buffalo - Welcome back to the AFC, Buffalo. This is no longer the NFC West, and I think the Bills will find that out this week. I'm hoping the Jaguars' failure in Week 1 was more the product of never playing the Titans well. Although if I'm wrong (and there's a high probability of that), then my AFC finalist list is going to need a much-needed updating.

Atlanta (+7.5) at Tampa Bay - Brian Griese is back! I'm so excited... It can't be a good thing when I trust a quarterback with 60 minutes of experience under his belt more so than a veteran with 60 years. What's that? Brian Griese is only 33? I don't believe you... Well, whether he's 33 or 83, I still wouldn't want him under center for my team, especially after losing to one divisional opponent already and desperately needing a win to avoid an 0-2 start. So much for the Bucs' quarterback depth, huh?

San Francisco (+7) at Seattle - No team from the NFC West should ever, ever be giving 7 points. Ever. This game may turn out to be a blowout, but you tell me who's going to blow out whom. A couple turnovers either way and one of these teams could be coasting to easy victory. But couldn't you see either of these teams racking up the giveaways on any given day? Yeah, me too.

Miami (+6.5) at Arizona - So 6 1/2 isn't 7, but it's close enough for me to apply the rule from above here. Did Miami look bad last week? Yes. Is Chad Pennington still Chad Pennington? Unfortunately for him, yes. But is Arizona still Arizona? I'm sticking with yes again. I think Arizona will most likely win, but the Dolphins kept it close against the Jets last week, and I would pick the Jets over the Cardinals in a heartbeat. Screwed up logic? Once again, yes.

New York Jets (-2) vs New England - Okay, I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to talk myself into one side or another here. On the Patriots side, they have a better team up and down the roster, except for the fact that Tom Brady is injured. On the Jets side, Tom Brady is injured. Aren't you glad you come here for this thorough analysis? Making his home debut against a team that will need some time to find its new identity, I'm going with Favre and the Jets in this one.

San Diego (-1) at Denver - The Broncos are coming off a short week after a road game. That usually doesn't bode well the following week. Plus, they're playing the Chargers, who have got to be furious about the outcome of their game last week. And I'm sure they'll want to prove that they're more than just Shawne Merriman and company on defense. (Why this theory doesn't apply to the Pats above: You can replace some of the production of a Pro-bowler on the defensive line with depth at the position, but you can't replace the production of the reigning MVP at the most important position on the field.)

Pittsburgh (-6) vs Cleveland - Last season, I had a thing where I would never pick the favorites on intra-divisional games when giving 6 or more points. I'm dropping that this season because, well, I don't know how well that worked out, and the Browns have given me another rule for picking games this year: Don't pick the Browns. That one's easier to follow...

Dallas (-7) vs Philadelphia - Donovan McNabb looked great against a bad defense last week. That sounds about right. I don't think he'll do as well against a solid defense this week. That also sounds about right... The Cowboys, from top to bottom, are still a better team than the Eagles and playing at home against their rivals, I don't think they'll take their foot off the gas at all this game. With their offense, that could get interesting quickly.

Houston (-4) vs Baltimore - I don't think the Ravens are as good as they showed last week. I think that had more to do with an awful, awful Bengals team. And I don't think the Texans are as bad as they showed. The Steelers just appear to be the class of the conference in the early season. I realize that the people in Houston have more pressing issues on their mind right now than this game, but when all is said and done, I think the Texans will give their fans at least something to cheer about.

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 10-6

September 03, 2008

NFL Scorecard - Week 1 Predictions

Year 1 of the great predicting experiment yielded mixed results for me. What started out as a strong display of intelligence quickly devolved into a pathetic few weeks of a complete lack of football aptitude. In the end, the regular season turned out how you would expect, with a regular season record just under .500. The playoffs saved me somewhat, resulting in a final showing of 128-125-14 (.506).

When I started this last season, I wrote "[s]tastically speaking, I should bat around .500, as that's essentially the purpose of the point spread." And while that is true, it was somewhat disheartening to do so well for nearly the entire season, only to collapse in the 4th quarter of the season. I would compare myself to the Detroit Lions at this point, but at least I made it to Week 15 before starting my demise...

Despite no additional reason for optimism beyond simply the start of the season, I find myself stepping back onto the field of play to try to improve upon last year's results. I have not improved in any way and will most likely use the same techniques I utilized before and somehow hope for better results. I guess in that respect, I'm more like the Chicago Bears than I would have hoped...

As always, spreads can be found here.

New York Giants (-4) vs Washington - The defending Super Bowl champions kick off the new season on Thursday, which really messes up my schedule on writing this post. Nevertheless, the NFL has decided to move forward in spite of me, and I feel the Giants will do the same in spite of the Redskins. New York is missing some key guys on its defensive line, but their depth, and a completely raucous crowd, should easily handle a Washington team that's shown nothing in the preseason thus far.

Cincinnati (-1) at Baltimore - If Joe Flacco is going to start his career against somebody, the Bengals defense is probably a good place to start. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that he's still a rookie that's making the jump from Delaware to the NFL. That takes some getting used to, and even though Cincinnati may not be championship material, they do still have enough weapons to start the season off right.

New York Jets (-3) at Miami - Brett Favre Bowl I kicks off on Sunday, with the second quickly following on Monday Night Football. It's hard to believe that Favre has really adapted to the Jets, or that they've adapted to him, but a motivated Favre and a rebuilding Dolphins team can pretty much turn out one way here. Thomas Jones should get on track against a defense missing Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, which will ease the load on the aging quarterback as well.

New England (-16.5) vs Kansas City - I'm torn on this game. After last season, you would think that the Patriots would want to come out and tear apart a lessor opponent in the Chiefs. However, the run-it-up Pats didn't exactly turn out so well. And they didn't exactly come together in the preseason. And Tom Brady isn't exactly healthy. Last season, I would have bet New England and given 30 points. This year, I think a more conservative and balanced team will still flex their muscles enough to dominate the Chiefs.

Pittsburgh (-7) vs Houston - I admit, I haven't followed the preseason enough to know how the Willie Parker/Rashard Mendenhall situation is going to play out, but with three solid receivers, two game-breaking running backs, and a Super Bowl quarterback, I think it's safe to say that the Steelers are pretty much set on offense. That's more than can be said for Houston, which has pieces but has yet to put them together. Ahman Green is somehow still the starting running back, which is not a positive. If Andre Johnson can stay healthy for the entire game, they may keep it close... but not close enough.

Tennessee (+3) vs Jacksonville - I like the Jaguars this season, I really do. But for some reason, I just feel like an early-season, divisional road game will be a tough play, especially with everything going on around the Jaguars in the last week or so. I could see them winning this one, but I think the Titans keep it close, if not win it outright. (Side note: I feel like I'm going to be regretting this pick in about 96 hours...)

Detroit (-3) at Atlanta - Oh, a hotbed for football fans! The Falcons! The Lions! Could it get any better?! Well, the Lions just signed a washed up Rudi Johnson, so they got that going for them. The Falcons counter with Matt Ryan's first NFL game and Michael Turner's first start as "the Man". Kitna and Co. may not be glamorous, but they've been together for a while and will be able to run around the Falcons for the win.

Buffalo (pk) vs Seattle - I really don't like the Seahawks this year. I don't know why, but I have no faith at all in them. Luckily, I have (apparently) negative faith in the rest of their teams in the division since I still have them winning it, but in this matchup, against a Bills team at home, I'll go with the team without two of its top receivers injured.

New Orleans (-3) vs Tampa Bay - It's the season for redemption for the Saints, as many thought they were about to turn the corner last season, only to fall flat. They have plenty of offensive pieces, especially after adding Jeremy Shockey in the offseason. It's only a matter the defense that worries me about this team. The Bucs could exploit this, but in the emotional Superdome, I think the Saints give New Orleans something to cheer about.

St Louis (+7) at Philadelphia - Yes, Brian Westbrook will probably have a huge game. But who is Donovan McNabb going to throw the ball to? And right now, the Rams are all healthy, which makes them more dangerous than they'll probably be in a few weeks. By the end of the season, the Eagles will definitely be better off the the Rams, but Week 1... Going with the Rams for the upset.

Dallas (-5) at Cleveland - The top team in the NFC takes on the surprise team of the AFC last year, but the Browns won't be sneaking up on people this year, while the Cowboys have no problem in making themselves known as well. Both teams have plenty of offensive firepower (even though I still don't trust Derek Anderson), but when it comes to defense, Dallas has the obvious edge. The Cowboys are looking for a Super Bowl title this season. They won't get tripped up this early.

San Diego (-9.5) vs Carolina - The Panthers without Steve Smith is not exactly the type of team that can travel into San Diego and take on a popular Super Bowl pick. Shawne Merriman's injury may be the story of the day, but Carolina won't have the weapons to do anything about it. On the other side of the ball, well, there's Tomlinson... Not sure what more you need to say about that.

Arizona (-2.5) at San Francisco - Another thrilling matchup on the same level as the Lions-Falcons tilt mentioned above. I really don't have anything to say about either of these teams that's worth mentioning, but I'm rooting for Anquan Boldin for fantasy purposes, and the Cardinals have a quarterback who's done something, so let's go with them this time around.

Indianapolis (-9.5) vs Chicago - Peyton Manning vs Kyle Orton. Let that sink in for a second... Okay. Do I need to mention anything else? How about the fact the Colts want to erase the abrupt end to their season last winter and what better way to do that than destroying a bad team that can't tackle in prime time? Okay, let's just move on before I get sick...

Green Bay (-3) vs Minnesota - It's Brett Favre Bowl II. I have the Vikings winning the division, but right off the bat, I think the Packers, at home, take care of business against Minnesota. No matter what you think of Tarvaris Jackson, when your starting quarterback is taking the field at less than 100% against a good defense, that's not a good thing. Adrian Peterson will get his yards, although he'll have to earn them, while Aaron Rodgers will (he hopes) get on Green Bay fans' good side.

Denver (-3) at Oakland - It concerns me that I've taken almost all favorites in what always turns out to be one of the most unpredictable weeks of the season. But I don't know which game I would switch in this list. I was tempted to pick Oakland here at home, but with young players at several key positions, it might be too early to have come together enough to knock off the Broncos. Add in how much Mike Shanahan loves beating the Raiders, especially on Monday Night Football, and you've got yourself a Broncos victory.

Last Season: 128-125-14