Sunday, February 8, 2009

NFL season closure

Well, I predicted a few ago before the playoffs started the Steelers would get to the big game, but I also predicted the Giants, not the Cardinals would be in there with them. Who knew? I have to be honest, I thought this year was a little bland, but the last 5 minutes of the Super Bowl put a nice finishing touch on it.

Biggest surprises:
Arizona Cardinals- We knew they could win the weak NFC West, but who knew they could get to the big game...defense and running game got them there.

Baltimore Ravens- A rookie coach, a rookie quarterback and they still get to the AFC championship! Not bad! Joe Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans- Not with Vince Young, but Kerry Collins they have the best regular season record and get the #1 seed in the playoffs.

Miami Dolphins- With Chad Pennington at the helm! They won playing mistake free, fundamental football.

Atlanta Falcons- Another rookie coach and quarterback combo. Strong running game and Matt Ryan appears to be the real deal.

The firing of Mike Shanahan- Bronco fans thought Shanahan would retire as the Broncos coach, then he gets the boot! A change was needed in Denver.

The firing of Jon Gruden- another shocker. Apparently not well liked among his players...he inherited Tony Dungy's team to win the Super Bowl, but then again, he created the Oakland Raiders team that played Tampa in that year's Super Bowl.

Biggest Disappointments: There were many, but we'll stick with the obvious ones.
San Diego Chargers- 8-8 with so much talent, but it was still good enough to win the AFC West.

Jacksonville Jaguars- big, physical team with strong running game and good defense, but they underachieved badly this year.

Dallas Cowboys- Wow! The most underachieving team in the league year. A change is needed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Preview

The unofficial holiday is here. Two weeks removed from the Conference championships and I don't believe I've watched any news pertaining to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh in white jerseys and Arizona in red jerseys. The AFC and NFC switch off every year in regards to which team gets to wear the home jersey. Not a lot of story lines here...two newer coaches, two previous Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, two teams that relatively flew under the radar this year. For the Steelers, this season was business as usual, inconsistent offense that has big play potential and bone crushing, physical, yet speedy defense. For Arizona, finally a division championship in the NFC West, then unbelievable run in the playoffs that shocked the world. What's interesting is the Cardinals have gone this far with the running game and defense. We always knew they could throw, but we didn't know they could play D and run the ball too!

The obvious interesting matchup is the Cardinals offense against the Steelers defense. I don't believe the Steelers secondary matches up all that well against the Cards receivers...then again what secondary does? The key for the Steelers defense is going to be pressuring Kurt Warner and stuffing the run, and keeping the Cards receivers in front of them...don't give up the big play! The key for the Cardinals offense will be balance and picking up the Steelers blitzing. The Steelers don't rely on their defensive line to get pressure, they rely heavily on their speedy outside linebackers, James Harrison and Lamar Woodley to apply pressure. The Cardinals must keep pressure off of Warner! Everyone thinks Troy Palomalu is the key to the Steelers defense. Though he is a play maker, the real key to the defense is the 4 linebackers. Harrison and Woodley on the outside and Farrior and Foote on the inside.

The Steelers offense has at times been inconsistent. The offensive line was awful early in the year but has since stepped it up and jelled well. The Steelers are going to attempt to play ball control, run, run, run, short pass...then, boom! down the field to Santonio Holmes! The Cardinals have a young but talented defense that has stepped it up in the playoffs. No team has been able to consistently run the ball on the Cardinals in the playoffs. Run defense and taking away the deep threat is the key for the Cards defense, while ball control and pass protection will be the key for the Steelers offense.

My heart says Arizona but my head says Pittsburgh. The Cardinals were hot but the two week lay off puts an end to that. The Steelers are more battle tested, the game is on the east coast (not typically a good thing for Zona, plus Steeler fans travel well). I think the big game experience, plus Pittsburgh's defense are the advantages in favor of the Steelers, in fact, I think Pittsburgh will more than cover the spread.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

College Re-cap final...what I got right and wrong

Now that the college football season is over and the NFL season is about over, I want to look back at my pre-season college football picks. I had some pretty good picks and of course the mis-steps. Let's take a look.

Picks I got wrong-

BYU to win the Mountain West- just about everyone got this wrong. Utah basically came out of nowhere. BYU looked good early on, even went through a phase of holding teams scoreless, but it all came crashing down with the blowout loss to TCU.

Missouri to win the Big 12- I thought it was Chase Daniels Mizzou Tigers year to finally win the Big 12 and play in the Fiesta Bowl. We'll they did win the Big 12 North but they did not live up to expectations this year.

Ohio St. to win the Big 10- They came in second and still played in a BCS bowl, but the early season blowout loss to USC really turned this team on it's ear. They later lost a close one to the eventual conference champion Penn St. These were their only regular season losses, but they really didn't beat anyone of consequence this year. Penn St. came out of nowhere here too.

West Virginia to win the Big East- The early season losses to East Carolina and Colorado exposed this team and they never really recovered. After the big Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma the year the before, I thought W. Virgina would carry the momentum and win a fairly weak conference.

Clemson to win the ACC- I've basically decided this is Virginia Tech's conference until further notice. No one really looked good in this conference, but Clemson was absolutely miserable...led to the firing of Tommy Bowden. This is a program that is perpetually talented and perpetually underachieves.

Auburn to win the SEC West- Auburn collapsed this year! Alabama came out of nowhere. I thought Auburn's defense and weak offense would be just enough to win this division...wrong!

Picks I got right-

USC to win the Pac 10- Easiest pick in the world! 'Nuff said.

Boise St. to win the WAC- Everyone was on the Fresno St. bandwagon pre-season. I wasn't buyin' it! Too tough of a schedule and they had to go to Boise at the end.

Oklahoma to win the Big 12 South- Not only that, I had Texas and Texas Tech right after them and I mentioned I thought about putting Tech ahead of Texas...then Tech beats Texas! Not bad!

Florida to win the SEC and the BCS National Championship! Everyone was on the Georgia bandwagon pre-season, but their schedule was too murderous! I had the Gators in the SEC and then playing USC in the big game. I picked Florida to win the big game this year. Definitely my proudest pick!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

NFL Conference Championship Preview

These are typically very good games...a lot of times better than the Super Bowl itself. We'll see what happens this weekend. We could have an all birds Super Bowl or an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl...the possibilities are endless.

AFC Championship- Ravens @ Steelers
Defense! Defense! Defense! Add that to the fact that these two are in the same division, and it's in Pittsburgh you have the makings of one ugly game! This game pits the top two defenses in the league. The Steelers won both of the regular season matchups- 23-20 in OT @ Pittsburgh and 13-9 in Baltimore. Two young head coaches, two top notch defenses, one Super Bowl winning QB vs. a rookie QB. I give the Steelers the edge in this one for the following reasons: The Steelers have a Super Bowl winning QB while the Ravens have a rookie QB, the Ravens are banged up and were out played last week by the Titans...turnovers kept the Ravens in the game and gave them the chance to win. It's tough for a team to beat another team three times in a season, but there are just too many red flags for Baltimore right now.

NFC Championship- Eagles @ Cardinals
Who would've thought the NFC championship would've been played in Arizona this year! This is Philly's 3rd straight game on the road! Arizona was supposed to lose last week at's amazing this matchup is even happening! They did play each other this season, in Philly. The Eagles blew out the Cards 48-20 in week 13. These circumstances make this game tough to pick! Let's look at matchups- Head Coach- Philly has the eccentric Andy Reid who has had much success in Philly, but just can't seem to get the Eagles over the hump. Zona has Ken Whisenhunt, not as experienced, but he did win the Super Bowl as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator a few years ago. QB- both teams have veteran QB's with Super Bowl experience, though Warner won one, McNabb has not. Offense- Zona has one of the most explosive offenses in the league right now with probably the best receiving group out there. Philly relies heavily on one Mr. Westbrook and not much else, thought DeSean Jackson has big play capability. Neither team likes to run much, they are both enamored with the pass, though Zona has run more in the playoffs than expected. Defense- Philly has one of the best defenses in the league that specializes in pass defense. It is a defense predicated on pressure from the front seven and quality play from the secondary...and the defense has played very well this postseason. Zona's defense was mediocre during the regular season, but has stepped up tremendously in the postseason, especially with turnovers. The Cards have the following advantages: It's in Arizona, Philly is a little banged up and it's tough winning three in a row on the road! And, Arizona is just really hot right now! However, I give the Eagles the edge for the following reasons: Defense, pass rush, secondary and they are hot too! Plus, they don't make many mistakes. It is hard to win three road playoff games in a row, but Pittsburgh did it a few years ago. It is possible. Plus the Eagles demolished the Cards during the regular season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This weeks NFL playoff preview

The Divisional playoffs start this week! I went 3-1 last week. If the Colts hadn't choked away the game in San Diego, I would've been 4-0. We have some good matchups this week! The AFC pits the Chargers at Steelers and the Ravens at Titans, while the NFC has the Eagles at Giants and the Cardinals at Panthers. Here are my thoughts.

Chargers @ Steelers. These two faced each other on 11/16 in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 11-10. The Steelers brag the NFL's top ranked defense. The Chargers defense is ranked 25th but they have played better than that as of late...especially last week against the Colts. The Steelers are not only ranked 1st in total defense, they also rank 2nd in run defense and 1st in pass defense. The Chargers have been fairly solid against the run but weak against the pass. The Chargers match up well with the Colts and always play them tough. This week's matchup is different. The Chargers are without LDT and the Steelers are playing Roethlisberger with a slight concussion. On the offensive side, the Chargers are ranked 11th in total offense while the Steelers are ranked 22nd. I'm giving the Steelers the edge in a close one that will be low scoring for the following reasons: home field advantage, championship defense, and they are one of the most physical teams in football.

Ravens @ Titans. These two faced each other on 10/5 in Baltimore. The Titans won 13-10. At the time, the Ravens were starting a rookie qb who was still getting his feet wet in Joe Flacco...he's since gained some confidence and experience. Offense will be a non-factor in this one, as the Ravens rank 18th and the Titans rank 21st in total defense respectively. So let's look at defense. The Ravens rank 2nd in total defense and the Titans rank 7th. Both are nasty, stingy, big, physical defenses. The Titans boast the league's best D line currently with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Albert Haynesworth and Jevon Kearse. They also have a great play-making LB in Keith Bulluck (the best LB nobody's heard of!) And, a physical secondary that likes to intimidate. The Ravens have the league's best defensive playmaker in Ed Reed, a great D Line of their own and Ray Lewis. Lewis isn't the playmaker he once was, but he's still a great leader. I give the Ravens the slight edge for the following reasons: Ed Reed, The Ravens are hot right now and the Titans are a little banged up. Kevin Mawae is out and Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth are questionable but should play. I don't like picking a team with a rookie qb in the playoffs, but the Ravens just seem like the right pick here.

Cardinals @ Panthers. These two faced each other 10/26 in Carolina. The Panthers won 27-23. The Panthers are ranked 10th in total offense and 18th in total defense. The defense is better than the ranking indicates, however, they have been inconsistent at times during the season. The offense is anchored by the running game, ranked 2nd only behind the Giants. The Cardinals are ranked 4th in total offense and 19th in total defense. The offense is anchored by the passing game which ranks 2nd in the league. This is an interesting matchup in that the Cardinals seem to have the better run defense and the Panthers seem to have the better pass defense, so it could be strength vs. strength. I give the Panthers the edge for the following reasons: The Cardinals have been awful on the road (especially in the east coast), the Panthers are the bigger, more physical team and will get pressure on Kurt Warner and force mistakes.

Eagles @ Giants. These two are divisional opponents who know each other well. This season, the road teams won each matchup. Both are ranked in the top ten in both offense and defense. The Giants are 7th in total offense and the Eagles are 9th. The Giants have the top ranked rushing offense, while the Eagles are a passing offense. Defensively, the Eagles are ranked 3rd in total defense while the Giants are 5th...but you can throw all that out the window because these are evenly matched division rivals! I give the Giants the slight edge for the following reasons: the game is in the wind tunnel Giants Stadium, so passing may be an after thought- advantage Giants. I also trust Eli more so than McNabb. The Eagles are one-dimensional offensively, Westbrook running and Westbrook catching dump offs. Also, the Eagles seemed to struggle against the Vikings running game last week, now they have to face the top ranked rushing offense in the league? Advantage Giants.

Thoughts on the Bowl Season

Congrats to the Florida Gators for winning the BCS National Championship. They beat a good Oklahoma team that was prepared. OU's defense played surprisingly well and their O line did a pretty good job protecting Bradford. OU was able to run with effectiveness but the two first half turnovers in the red zone turned out to be too much to overcome. Tebow was awful in the first half but came alive in the second half after having some opportunities to run. An SEC team has now won the national championship 3 straight years! Here are the winners and losers from this years bowl season:

- SEC- other than South Carolina and Alabama laying two gigantic crimson turds, the SEC had a good bowl season. Vandy, Kentucky, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss and most especially Florida had good victories...who would've thought Ole Miss would beat Texas Tech?

- Utah- Great win against the Crimson Turd! They played faster, with more intensity and preparation than Bama. Utah spent the off time preparing while Bama spent the time sittin' around playin' with their tits!

- Pac 10- Undefeated in the bowl season! Not bad for a conference everyone thought was weak this year! USC, Oregon St., Oregon, Arizona, and Cal all had bowl victories. Congrats to Arizona for pulling off the victory against those BYU Whiteys!

- Big 10- Did any Big 10 team even win a bowl game this year??? Oh yeah, Iowa beat South Carolina...that's it! Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan St., Ohio St., and Penn St. were all pathetic losers! How the mighty have fallen!

- WAC- Let's see...Hawaii? Lost...Fresno St.? Lost...undefeated Boise St.? Lost...Nevada? Lost...Oh, but Lousiana Tech won!

- ACC- what a bad year for the ACC! First, the whole conference is mediocre, then most of the conference somehow gets invited to bowl games and they lose most of them. Boston College, North Carolina, NC St., Georgia Tech, Miami, Clemson all lost. But hey, Florida St. won! And Virginia Tech won the Orange Bowl! Oh yeah, Maryland won too! And...Wake Forest barely beats Navy!

- Big 12- The most overhyped conference this year didn't do much in the bowl season. Kansas and Nebraska each got victories. Missouri barely won, Texas struggled to beat an inferior Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma St. lost, then Texas Tech goes down to Ole Miss! Wow! Then of course Oklahoma goes down in the big game.

Friday, January 2, 2009

NFL playoff preview

Wild card weekend kicks off the 2008 playoffs and we have some good matchups. Each one of the wild card teams is capable of beating the division champions they are playing. Let's start with the NFC wild cards.

Atlanta @ Arizona- Good matchup. These two did not play each other this year. You have the rookie qb vs. the really old qb. Good coaches too. Mike Smith has done wonders with the Falcons and Ken Whisenhunt is making a contender out of an underachieving Cardinals team. There shouldn't be much defense in this one. The Falcons have the 24th ranked d and the Cards have the 19th. With the defenses being a wash, both teams have talented offenses that can light it up. For Arizona, Kurt Warner has had an MVP type season...of course throwing to Fitzgerald and Boldin can give anybody MVP type numbers. Atlanta focuses more on the running game with the talented duo of Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. I give the edge to Arizona for the following reasons: home field, more experienced, Super Bowl winning qb, as opposed to rookie qb, and slightly better defense...slightly. It's been a good run for the cinderella Falcons but it ends this weekend.

Philadelphia @ Minnesota- Another good matchup but for opposite reasons. These two did not play each other during the regular season. These two teams play great defense...the Eagles rank 3rd in total d and the Vikings rank 6th. Philly has a better pass defense while Minnesota plays better against the run. The keys to this game are going to be the running backs of each team. Philly has "do-it-all" Brian Westbrook and the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, quite possibly the best young back in the league who by the way, led the league in rushing this year. The Eagles will have to rely on McNabb to Westbrook passing while the Vikings will have to rely on Peterson because Tarvaris Jackson is not going to beat this defense! I give the edge to Philly for the following reasons: playoff/Super Bowl experience, their offense matches up better with Minnesota's defense than Minnesota's offense matching up against the Eagles defense. If Philly gets any kind of a lead it's over in that the Vikings aren't equipped to come back. The only X-factor for the Vikings is Bernard Berrian, he is a great deep threat. Philly has no deep threat.

Baltimore @ Miami- This is going to be a low scoring slug fest! They played on 10/19 in Miami and the Ravens won 27-13. The Ravens have the 2nd ranked defense in the league, a defense that is big, nasty, physical and makes plays. They have a rookie qb in Joe Flacco who has a cannon of an arm and the offense has been better recently. The Dolphins have the 15th ranked defense and aren't spectacular on offense either, but they are fundamental and don't make mistakes, they find ways to win. I don't see the wild cat formation working in this one either. I give the Ravens the edge for the following reasons: Defense, Defense, Defense! It's been a great story Miami, but it's over this weekend. Baltimore advances for one more week.

Indianapolis @ San Diego- These two played on 11/23 in San Diego with the Colts winning 23-20. You would think the Chargers had the higher ranked defense but that's not true, the Colts rank 11th while the Chargers rank 25th. However, the Chargers play better run defense, while the Colts are better against the pass. The Chargers have had the Colts number in the playoffs in recent years and they do match up well against the Colts. Both teams and both qb's are hot right now. I think the Colts are going to try and expose San Diego's pass defense, while the Chargers will try to expose the Colts weak run defense. I believe Bob Sanders was hurt the last time these two played and his presence adds a lot to Indy's d. I give the Colts the slight edge for the following reasons: Manning will pick apart San Diego's secondary and the Colts defense will try to shut down LT and force Rivers to beat them, which I don't think he can.

We'll see what happens!