Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Week 13 Picks

Holy crap – there’s another Thursday game this week? Damnit… now I have to rush my picks.

I’m building off back-to-back winning weeks (9-7-1, 10-6). I know – shocked the hell out of me too. Let’s see if I can keep getting better – an 11-5 would put be back over .500 for the season…

All lines from and accurate as of 6:45PM on 11/29/06. Home Teams in Caps

Ravens (+3) over BENGALS: The Ravens are the second best team in football right now, and might even be #1. The Bengals are playing in the closest thing to a must win that there could be in Week 13 of the NFL season. One thing to keep an eye on – TJ Houshmanzadeh, who will either be a complete non-factor or have a monster game in retaliation for the blown pass interference call at the end of their first meeting a few weeks back.

Vikings (+9) over BEARS: The Vikes played the Bears as well as any team other than Miami or New England has this year, and came away with a nothing but a tough loss. That ought to be enough to leave a sour taste in their mouths.

STEELERS (-7.5) over Buccaneers: Damnit. If the Steelers keep winning, I have to keep listening to people tell me they’re not eliminated from the playoffs. There is nothing more annoying than announcers refusing to let a bad team die with what little dignity they have left.

RAMS (-6.5) over Cardinals: Well, that will certainly be the last time I voluntarily back the Cardinals for awhile…

Colts (-7.5) over TITANS: If the Colts played in the NFC East, I’d take the Titans in a heartbeat. But just look at this – the first time these teams played, the Colts were 19-point favorites (they didn’t cover). Now the Titans have run off two straight wins against the Eagles and Giants, and suddenly they’re picking up 12 points from the handicappers.

DOLPHINS (-1) over Jaguars: Another week, another Dolphins line that seemed utterly impossible just five weeks ago. And another week where I bite my nails incessantly while thinking about the fact that I’m willingly backing Joey Harrington. At least he’s not on the road this week.

SAINTS (-7) over 49ers: Only because the game is in New Orleans. Honestly, right now, the 49ers are playing some real good football. And the Saints, even though they’re winning games, aren’t really holding opponents down with their defense. The home-field advantage is enough here for me to believe they’ll cover.

Falcons (+1) over REDSKINS: Mike Vick has something to prove this week. If this game were in Atlanta, the Falcons would be three or four point favorites. Of course, if this game were in Atlanta, the Falcons would all be wearing flak-jackets as well…

Chiefs (-5) over BROWNS: Cleveland usually hangs tough in games with the middle-of-the-road teams like Kansas City. Trouble is, the Browns haven’t been able to stop the run for much of this season. I see Larry Johnson going for about 180 and three TDs, and numbers like that should spell a big win for the Chiefs.

Lions (+13.5) over PATRIOTS: This game is going to be closer than people think, but not as close as the final score would suggest. I’m saying Pats by nine, but it will be over twenty until midway through the fourth quarter, right about the time Matt Cassel comes into the game and Vinny Testaverde begins warming on the sidelines…

Chargers (-6) over BILLS: You… you’re kidding with this line, right? 6-points? One of the best teams in the NFL is only giving six freakin’ points to one of the bottom five teams in the conference? This is all because the Raiders played the Chargers tough last week, isn’t it?

Jets (-1) over PACKERS: Well, we’ve now established that Brett Favre is no longer superhuman in snowy games. Now if we could only establish that the Packers are, in fact, not contenders for the final NFC Wild Card spot…

Cowboys (-3.5) over GIANTS: Right now, Dallas is the best team in the NFC. And as if that wasn’t enough, Jeremy Shockey decided to give them a little bulletin board material by saying there was “no way in hell” the Cowboys (or any other NFL team for that matter) could beat the Giants in the Meadowlands if New York played “the way we know we can.” Smart move there Jeremy – nothing like giving a team full of prima donnas even more reason to try and show off… At least there’s no chance of Vanderjagt blowing another game-winner (sorry, had to mention him at least once this week.)

RAIDERS (-3) over Texans: The Raiders are a favorite?!? And I’m actually taking them?!? That’s it – I’ve officially gone insane. Next thing you know, I’ll be doing things like taking the Lions to cover a spread in Foxboro, or the Seahawks over the Broncos in Denver Oh, wait…

Seahawks (+3) over BRONCOS: Seattle’s defense is much, much worse than most people would have you believe. That should ease Jay Cutler’s entrance into the starting role. What won’t help him is that the Broncos’ once stout defense has suddenly become a virtual sieve, and this week they have to face a resurgent Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck. This game should end up pretty close.

Panthers (-3) over EAGLES: The Eagles might, might win one more game this season. This ain’t gonna be the one. By the way – as I was typing these picks, this line got pulled off the board. I have no idea why, at least not yet.

RECAP: Ravens / Vikings / STEELERS / RAMS / Colts / DOLPHINS / SAINTS / Falcons / Chiefs / Lions / Chargers / Jets / Cowboys / RAIDERS / Seahawks / Panthers

I’m vaulting back over .500 again this week, I can feel it coming.

And if not, I’ll blame it on the short week.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Week 13 - Rants & Ranks

It’s Week 13 of the NFL season. That means that by now, we have a pretty good idea of the teams that have the best shot to win it all, the ones that have at least a mediocre chance at playoff glory, and those that have no chance.

It also means that by now, I’ve started to figure some stuff out, just in time to make a valiant comeback attempt in my weekly picks. I was 10-6 last week, and if the Giants had any idea how to play a fourth quarter, I would have been 11-5. I‘m 82-87-7 on the year, with 90 more games to be played over the final five weeks. I can go 90-0, right?

Onto this week’s ranks…

1. Indianapolis (1): I’m getting bored with the Colts. Can’t we just start the playoffs now so they can choke and get it over with?

2. Baltimore (3): I’m terrified of this team right now if I’m Indy, New England or San Diego. They’ve got no pressure and low expectations, and the best defense in the game. Scary.

3. San Diego (2): Just not all that impressed with a come from behind seven-point win against the Raiders.

4. New England (5): Statement game of the year last week against the Bears. Of course, the fact that they turned the ball over five times and still beat the Chicago defense means the statement might be “Better lucky than good…”

5. Dallas (6): Still pissed I didn’t get Romo & Glenn into my fantasy lineup in time. Cost myself a win, a weekly league high score, and my sanity for the past five days.

6. Chicago (4): Same six teams atop the ranks this week, just a different order. That’s what happens when five of six win, and the only loss in the group is to one of the five winners.

7. Kansas City (13): Awful big jump in the ranks this week. They beat the pre-season favorite to win the division and make the conference title game, and moved into a Wild Card spot in the process. Maybe Larry Johnson really is that good…

8. Cincinnati (17): Either I had a lot of teams ranked too low last week, or the age of parity in the NFL is the most maddening thing in history. I vote for the latter.

9. Seattle (12): They need to hope Matt Hasslebeck works himself back up to game speed really fast. And that he didn’t break his hand last night. On the plus side, at least now they know they can win in the snow…

10. New Orleans (14): Still not sure what to make of this team. I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll be the first Wild Card in the NFC, but they’ll also lose their first playoff game.

11. Jacksonville (8): Like anybody knows what these guys are capable of right now. Good luck classifying them – they’re a first round playoff blowout waiting to happen. Just not sure which end of the scoreboard they’ll be on.

12. Denver (9): The only reason they didn’t drop further is that they finally figured out that Jake Plummer is not the answer. About damned time Jay Cutler got some snaps. You drafted the kid for a reason.

13. Carolina (7): Jacksonville & Carolina, two teams that entered the league in the same year, currently have the same problem – no one knows which team is going to show up any give Sunday. The one that can dominate both sides of the ball, or the one that plays down to the level of their opponents.

14. Miami (19): I refuse to believe that a team led by Joey Harrington will make the playoffs. But if they keep up the defensive effort, they might prove all those people (like me) who picked them to win a Wild Card spot right. Not to mention proving all those people (like me) who wrote them off after Week Four completely wrong.

15. New York Jets (20): Kind of a package deal – I’m not sure who wins in a game between the Dolphins & Jets right now. By the way; I can only imagine the reaction you’d have gotten from a New Yorker – any New Yorker – if before the season started, you told them the Jets would be the better team after 11 games.

16. St. Louis (22): They won five straight, lost five straight, now they’ve started a new winning streak. By my math, they should end the year at 10-6, and lose their first playoff game. Of course, my math skills suck.

17. Buffalo (23): Just a week or two ago, I was calling the AFC East the worst division in the NFL. Not that I think Miami, Buffalo or the Jets have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this year, but they’ve got to be better than any NFC division, right?

18. New York Giants (10): I stand by my comment for the Giants from last week

19. Atlanta (16): It’s a sad day when a star quarterback gets criticized for throwing for under 100 yards, no touchdowns, and the flipping the bird to the fans in his home stadium… Don’t star QB’s get a free pass for life? Like Drew Bledsoe, Jake Plummer, or Daunte Culpepper?

20. San Francisco (15): OK, so their stay in the top-half of the rankings was short lived. So was their stay in the world of the “Not Below-.500 Teams”. It’s the memories that count.

21. Philadelphia (11): Boy this team is in trouble. Jeff Garcia is not going to get it done. Welcome back AJ Feeley…

22. Tennessee (25): Yup, the Titans officially own the NFC East. They’ve got four wins this year - @ Washington, Houston, @ Philly, and the Giants game last week.

23. Pittsburgh (18): Are they mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet? I cannot take another week of listening to Chris Berman say “You never know… a few breaks here and there…”

24. Cleveland (21): Another one of these teams that seems to be in every game until the final few minutes. Except last week. They never really had a shot in that one. It was over shortly after kickoff.

25. Minnesota (29): At this point, jumping four spots in the ranks really means very little. I guess it’s a moral victory.

26. Washington (30): Remember how I said Jason Campbell can’t win games? Well, he proved me wrong, at least for now. I’m sure my words acted as some serious bulletin board material for him – he’s probably a dedicated reader.

27. Oakland (26): I know – they hung tough with one of the top three teams before losing (and really, they got screwed by the refs), and yet I’m only raising them one spot. Very simple – I hate the Raiders.

28. Green Bay (24): Ah… there’s the Brett Favre we’ve all come to know, love, and expect to see every week. Back to forcing passes into triple coverage, then acting surprised when they get intercepted. It’s almost like Eli Manning is watching Packers’ game tapes, saying things like “Someday, maybe they’ll call me one of the greatest of all-time too…”

29. Arizona (31): It physically pains me to raise the Cardinals this high, but I think they could easily beat any of the other three teams on a neutral field. That’s not saying much, but at least it’s something.

30. Houston (27): The Jets are not a powerhouse team, Houston. You really ought to have been able to at least stay competitive with them…

31. Tampa Bay (28): This is a bad, bad team right now. And even though I think the Lions could beat them outright…

32. Detroit (32): I cannot bring myself to reward Detroit for the shit they pulled (#3… bottom of the page) with Joey Harrington and the Dolphins in town on Thanksgiving. You stay classy, Detroit


Trade Manny? Why?

As I’ve written before on this page, I am a fan of Manny Ramirez. I like his undeniable ability at the plate. I like how hard he hits a baseball. I like his antics in the dugout, his laissez-faire attitude towards life, and most of his “Manny being Manny” moments. If it were up to me, the guy would retire wearing a Boston uniform.

Of course, it’s not up to me. I don’t sign his sizeable paychecks.

There has been a lot of talk over the past few days that the Red Sox are actively shopping Manny to as many as six different teams, with the Giants, Padres, Rangers and Dodgers being the most likely suitors. With the arrival of Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Theo Epstein’s blind obsession with the likes of J.D. Drew & Julio Lugo, Manny’s “albatross” contract needs to be moved, or the 2007 payroll will balloon to well over $150 Million.

The question is, why?

I understand he has an erratic personality. He often decides whether or not he wants to play on the day of a game, using anything from a sore hamstring to an illness befalling one of his twenty-seven aunts, uncles, grandmothers, etc. as an excuse for sitting when he simply doesn’t want to play.

I understand that, like it or not, he is an extremely streaky hitter. When he’s on, there is no one better in the Major Leagues. Not Pujols, not Papi, not A-Rod, not Bonds, nobody. But when he’s off, he’s a 6-4-3 waiting to happen.

I understand that he’s, at best, a defensive liability for 81 road games a year. And he’s not exactly a Gold Glove candidate for the 81 games in Fenway, either.

I also understand that there are, at best, a handful of deals out there that would make trading Manny the right thing to do. And as a Red Sox fan, very few make sense to me. Why trade away a great player just for the sake of trading him? Especially when it is a widely held belief that there is not worldly way to get even value in return for Manny – he’s certainly one of a kind.

Would I trade Manny straight up for Albert Pujols? Absolutely. Without even blinking. Pujols is just as good, if not better. He’s younger, cheaper, and less streaky. Even plays some defense occasionally. But the Cardinals aren’t making that trade, unless they are trying to cause a full-scale riot.

What about A-Rod? He’s younger, though more expensive. His production is on par with Manny’s, and he’s still in his prime, whereas Manny seems to be starting a decline. Of course, if Ramirez leaves Boston this off-season, watch out. He’d be worthy of a #1 overall fantasy pick in his first year out of the Big City. But I digress…

What doesn’t make sense is what the Sox are apparently trying to do – replace Manny with the ever-potent combination of J.D. Drew and Wily Mo Pena. Let me ask you – does that sound like the 4-5 combo in your 2007 Red Sox starting lineup that is going to win a division title, A.L. pennant, and World Series? Didn’t think so.

So, with an eye toward the possible moves out there, what can the Sox do? Well, for starters, they can not trade Manny Ramirez. They’ve spent the past six seasons waiting for his contract to become more palatable to their “Moneyball” philosophy. Now that it finally is (2007 salary - $18M with $4M deferred. 2008 salary - $20M with $4M deferred. ‘09/’10 Team options at $20M per season), they are suddenly trying to shop him around.

So, for $14M in 2007 and $16M in 2008, the Red Sox could keep one of the three best hitters of the past fifteen years, the best possible protection in their lineup for David Ortiz. Or they can spend $15M per season over the next four years for a 32-year old J.D. Drew.

Just for the record, Manny is 34, turning 35 in May of next season. And his contract averages out to $15M a year for the next two seasons - $30M guaranteed instead of $60M, for two players that will both be 36 when their deals run out. Just thought you might be interested.

But the Sox seem hell-bent on getting him out of their clubhouse, meaning that he must really have worn out his welcome with the team. So of the four teams being mentioned the most (Giants, Padres, Rangers and Dodgers) and one team not getting mentioned a lot (Baltimore), the Red Sox have a few options.

Supposedly, they are looking for help in the bullpen, preferably at closer, and they are also looking for a shortstop, just in case Julio Lugo doesn’t turn out to be the savior that Epstein is convinced he will be.

San Francisco is rumored to be the front runner, but they don’t have the pieces that Boston wants. In order to put Manny in The Bay Area, presumably as a replacement for Barry Bonds (because I cannot see Manny & Bonds co-existing in one locker room, not to mention there’s no way either of them could play right field in that ballpark) the Giants are going to have to involve a third team. Three team trades usually get tricky and ugly, so personally, I don’t see it happening.

San Diego has a couple interesting options. They’ve got a deep farm system (though not as good as the Dodgers’ – we’ll get to them in a second). Plus, they have a relief pitcher that just about every team in both leagues has inquired about over the past year in Scott Linebrink. They might match up with Boston, but I cannot imagine the backlash if the centerpiece of a trade for the best hitter of the last decade in Boston is a 30-year old relief pitcher and some prospects. The fans would ride Theo out of here on a rail. Unless there is some serious hitting prospect, as well as at least one “can’t miss” pitcher coming back to Boston, this would never happen.

The Rangers have two position players that Boston covets in shortstop Michael Young and first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Rangers are apparently listening to offers on Big Tex, but Young is completely untouchable. Not to mention, the Sox and Rangers had a pretty big trade worked out about two years ago, also involving Manny Ramirez. But those negotiations got blown out into the media, and the word being passed around afterwards was that Rangers owner Tom Hicks was so pissed at how Larry Lucchino gave the story to the media that he vowed never to do business with the Red Sox again. So unless the Rangers make Young available and don’t talk their owner, I don’t see Manny ending up in Texas. At least not directly from Boston.

That leaves the Dodgers. L.A. has enough prospects, both in pitchers and position players, to make Theo Epstein drool. Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Takashi Saito, and a handful of others could all serve as parts to a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that Epstein is trying to solve.

Let’s not forget – Manny has 10/5 rights, so he can decide where he ends up.

To me, the most logical place for Manny to end up is in L.A. It’s a big market, where he can be a star. But it’s also a market that literally has 50,000 other “stars” making headlines everyday, where sports isn’t a dominant focus of all local media, and where Manny could be a headliner and blend into the background simultaneously.

The question is, would Epstein drag a third team into a trade? Like I said above, three-team deals usually get ugly, and often break down because they get too complex. But let’s look at one that I mulled over for about 30 seconds before deciding it made sense for all three teams involved:

The Dodgers ship Billingsley & Kemp to Baltimore.

The Orioles send Miguel Tejada to Boston

The Red Sox send Manny Ramirez to L.A. and Manny del Carmen to Baltimore.

Now, this trade does not fix Boston’s gaping hole at the back end of their bullpen. (Hey, I’m a realist – ideally, the Dodgers would send Saito to Boston as well to become the Red Sox’ new closer and serve as someone to ease Matsuzaka’s transition to the Major Leagues…)

What it does do is give the Dodgers the power threat they need, as well as put yet one more former Red Sox player in L.A. It gives Boston the best possible protection in the lineup for David Ortiz, as well as fill-in the shortstop position. And it allows Baltimore to restock the farm system and cut payroll, two things Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos loves to do.

The Orioles were hot on the heels of both Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, and missed out on both. They might decide that with no marquis free agents left to realistically pursue, and not much of a bumper crop next year, they might need to fill-up on prospects for potential trades, or even more cost cutting in the future.

All three prospects that Baltimore gets spent most of last season in the majors. And while I’m sure the Orioles would rather take Jonathan Papelbon from Boston, he’s not going anywhere. As for Boston’s two other highly regarded pitching prospects, Jon Lester and Craig Hansen, they are both semi-untradable. Lester was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer last season, and Hansen, though young and talented, would come with a Major League contract, so he is hardly a bargain.

That’s the deal I make if I’m Boston, L.A., or Baltimore. I’m sure there are reasons this wouldn’t work, just like I’m sure there are reasons that it would be perfect.

Of course, I’m not a Major League GM. Maybe that’s a good thing, though I can’t see how…

I’ll be back in a few hours with the weekly ranks.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Week 12 Picks

Short and sweet on the picks today everybody. I played a game of pick-up football yesterday, and today my body is revolting. I figure, since I can’t actually stand up from my chair, I might as well grab the ‘ol laptop and start typing…

Went 2-1 on the Thanksgiving Day, missing only the Cowboys/Bucs game. Also, as a side note, Troy Aikman has now vaulted into the top five on my “Announcers that I Hate the Most” list. Here’s the deal: Wednesday night, I had planned to rebuild my laptop because it was so bogged down with crap that it was just about useless. I spent about six hours loading, unloading, and reloading software to get the system back up and running.

When I went to bed, I intended to wake up and check all my fantasy teams before kickoff. I got up and checked my league. I had Jake Delhomme (vs. Washington) and Chris Chambers (vs. Detroit) in my starting lineup, and Tony Romo & Terry Glenn on the bench. I wrestled with the decision for about twenty minutes, not wanting to go against my gut instinct of Delhomme & Chambers against two of the four worst passing defenses in the league.

In the end, I decided to change to Romo & Glenn… only by that time, it was too late and my lineup was locked. I hadn’t refreshed the page in time, and Romo & Glenn got stuck on my bench…

Along with their 62 combined fantasy points and seven combined touchdowns. But at least Chris Chambers had two catches for 23 yards. I need Jake Delhomme to put up eight touchdowns and 500+ passing yards (without an interception) for this to have been a good idea.

As for Troy Aikman… well, you’ll read more about him later.

All Lines from and current as of 5:30PM on 11/25/06. Home team in CAPS.

Jaguars (-3) over BILLS: This is a tough pick, right off the bat. Jacksonville is ridiculously inconsistent, and Buffalo never loses at home. Well, almost never. But the Jaguars have the better all around team, and even if I do think that this game is going to come down to who has the ball last, I’m taking them and giving the points.

JETS (-5) over Texans: This is the game Chad Pennington needs to get healthy in a hurry. He should explode against a very suspect Houston secondary. Not to mention that teams from the South don’t exactly have a stellar track record playing up North in late November…

RAVENS (-3) over Steelers: I will not get sucked into the Steelers’ late season run… I will not get sucked into the Steelers’ late season run… I will not get sucked into the Steelers’ late season run…

Bengals (-3) over BROWNS: Tough loss against Pittsburgh for Cleveland. But I suppose that after Ohio State held on against Michigan, the football fans of greater Ohio had used up all their karma for one weekend. And since the Buckeyes aren’t playing this weekend, at least one part of Ohio is allowed to be happy on Sunday.

Cardinals (+6.5) over VIKINGS: Wow, did I get a concussion or something yesterday? I mean, how else can you explain this pick? Oh, that’s right – the Vikings are abominable right now. Plus, the Cardinals main offensive weapon – the passing game – is also the Vikings biggest defensive weakness.

49ers (+5) over RAMS: Is anybody else pulling for the Niners to make the playoffs, just so we could have the first ever 30-point playoff spread?

Saints (+3) over FALCONS: I’m officially off the Falcons’ bandwagon as my “Sleeper Team” of 2006. I’m going to stick with my original pick of New England and Carolina in the Super Bowl, and cross my fingers. At least until one of them is ousted from the playoffs.

Panthers (-4) over REDSKINS: Personally, I think Delhomme could pull off the 500+ and 8TDs I need out of him… I mean, the Skins are pretty bad right now.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Bears: Two things worry me about this game – first, this is the first time the Pats have played on the field-turf at home, so it might be a slight adjustment. Second, New England punter Josh Miller is out for the year with a shoulder injury, meaning that the Pats just resigned old friend Ken Walter. You know, the guy who hasn’t played pro football in two years, and when he last played, he sported a nifty 32ish yards per kick average. Yeah, that guy.

Giants (-3) over TITANS: Even with all of the Giants injuries, and even with the inspired football that Tennessee has bee playing lately, there’s no way New York should lose this game. Period.

CHARGERS (-13.5) over Raiders: Remember when I said I wasn’t going to take a double-digit favorite again this season unless the game involved Arizona or Detroit? Well, add Tampa Bay and Oakland to that list as well.

COLTS (-9) over Eagles: Who do you think had the worse feeling in their stomach last weekend when Donovan McNabb was lost for the year – Eagles fans as a whole, or the NBC executive who chose this game over Chicago/New England for the weekly flex scheduling during November Sweeps?

SEAHAWKS (-8.5) over Packers: Even though I think Brett Favre does his “superhuman return from injury” thing this week, just so all the national sports guys can gush some more man love about him on Tuesday morning…

RECAP: Jaguars / JETS / RAVENS / Bengals / Cardinals / 49ers / Saints / Panthers / PATRIOTS / Giants / CHARGERS / COLTS / SEAHAWKS

Now, the reason behind my newfound hatred for Troy Aikman.

Quote of the Week (I):

Late in the game against Tampa Bay on Thanksgiving, Aikman took a second to remind me just how much I hate being wrong.

"Well, if you have Tony Romo on your fantasy team, you're probably having a pretty good Thanksgiving. Even more, if you have Terry Glenn too."

Fuck you Troy. Why don't you go ram your head into a wall and try for another concussion?

And now a quick one to make me feel better about myself.

Quote of the Week (II):

From yesterday’s pick-up football game. I spent most of the afternoon on defense playing either one on the line or dropping back into pass coverage as a “shadow” linebacker. Every so often on the line, we did our best to surprise the offense by pushing the blocks to the right and having me stunt around to the left. Worked pretty well when we used it.

So, a new kid showed up on the line (he had been playing at receiver most of the day), and we figured it would be a perfect time to run a stunt and surprise him.

My buddies Tim and Jay were on the left side of the line and at nose tackle, respectively, and I was outside on the right. At the snap, Tim (in his “Superman Returns” T-shirt) pushed to the center, and Jay pushed right. I came around the outside and got right up on the QB, forcing a horrible pass and nearly a pick.

Walking back to the huddle, I heard the new kid muttering to the center:

“Damnit – I had Superman all locked up over there, and then this fucking train came around the outside on a stunt and I got all messed up…”

Yeah, I like that. Maybe now I’ll go around as the “D-Train” rather than Big D.

On second thought, uh, no.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Week 12 Rants, Ranks, and Early Picks

There is nothing more terrifying for someone ranking the NFL teams than seeing things like Week 11’s final scoreboard.

Indianapolis – lost to a 6-4 team.

Bears – held to 10 points by a 5-5 team.

Philadelphia – lost to a 3-7 team, and lost their quarterback for the season.

Seattle – lost to a 5-5 team.

Arizona – Won? That can’t be right…

Weeks like this past one just drive me absolutely insane. It makes it exponentially harder to decide which teams are better than others. This is what the age of parity has led us to.

There’s a good chance that the 49ers, yes - those 49ers – are one of the top 15 teams in the NFL.

My head hurts.

This week’s ranks, followed by picks for the three Thanksgiving Day games:

1. Indianapolis (1): I don’t believe that loss was indicative of a late season collapse. And even though their rushing defense more closely resembles a soup strainer than it does an NFL defense, I don’t think that any other team in the league could stop them long enough to win. Even moreso – I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Colts “gave this one away”. It was a non-conference game, on the road, against a vastly underachieving team. No one would fault them for losing it, and now the 16-0 pressure is off them for the final six weeks of the year. Conspiracy theory? Absolutely. Plausible… well, you tell me.

2. San Diego (3): They’ve won back to back games, on the road, after trailing in each by at least 17 points. And once their defense is back to full strength, I’ll consider ranking them #1. Assuming they keep winning.

3. Baltimore (4): Cannot deny the fact that they are the #2 seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today. If they keep running the ball the way they did last week, pencil them into the AFC Championship Game.

4. Chicago (2): Hard to drop a team after a win, especially a team that is so firmly in control of their entire conference (do you realize that right now, five NFC teams are tied at 6-4, for the second through sixth playoff spots? And Chicago sits at 9-1, having almost clinched the #1 seed already…) But the win in the Meadowlands was not especially pretty, and this week they travel again to face…

5. New England (7): Well, that’s one way to shut up all the critics – blow out the Packers, in Green Bay, by 35. By the way – this year, the Pats are 2-3 at home (?!?!) and 5-0 on the road, and the last four wins have been by an average of 26.5 points. Does that make sense to anyone? No, don’t blame the Gillette Stadium turf…

6. Dallas (8): I know it’s looking ahead a little too much, but can you imagine the hype-machine at ESPN if the Patriots and Cowboys meet in Super Bowl XLI?

7. Carolina (12): They’re quietly climbing up the NFC ladder, and if the Saints continue their downward spiral, the NFC South will be completely up for grabs.

8. Jacksonville (15): This will be short lived, but of the remaining teams in the Top-15 from last week’s ranks, none won their games in Week 11. That’s enough for me to push the Jags up seven spots…

9. Denver (6): Let’s see… they coughed up a 17-point lead at home, their quarterback is collapsing like his last name is Manning, and they have to play on an extremely short week. This has all the makings of the Broncos landing at about #17 next week.

10. New York Giants (8): Oh crap – their quarterback’s last name actually is Manning…

11. Philadelphia (5): They’ve gone from 11 to 5 to 11 in the span of two weeks. Guess that’s what happens when your star quarterback blows out an ACL, and you lose to a 2-win team… By the way – look at their remaining schedule (@Indy, Carolina, @Washington, @Giants, @Dallas, Atlanta). Good luck finishing any better than 1-5…

12. Seattle (10): I just don’t have a good feeling about this team right now. They need to get back in gear fast, or else they could be looking at a January spent on the golf course rather than the football field.

13. Kansas City (16): I know it was Trent Green’s first game back, but if you want to be considered among the playoff contenders in the NFL, you need to destroy teams like Oakland.

14. New Orleans (9): Sadly, this is what we all expected out of the Saints in the preseason – plenty of offense (510 yards passing? Glad to see Drew Brees’ shoulder is fully healed) but absolutely no defense. That unit needs help, fast.

15. San Francisco (20): Just cannot deny the fact that the 49ers are a .500 team 10-weeks into the season, and have one of the most dynamic young offenses in the league. I don’t think anybody saw that coming.

16. Atlanta (14): OK, Mike Vick disproved my “Only plays well against good teams” theory. 127 yards passing against the Ravens kinda blew that idea out of the water.

17. Cincinnati (17): Yes, they won. No, I’m not rewarding them for it yet. They’re still a 5-5 team when a lot of people thought they’d be about 8-2 or 7-3 by now.

18. Pittsburgh (22): They’re 4-6 right now. If they make the playoffs, there’s a decent chance that I’ll just snap and go on some type of spree.

19. Miami (23): Ditto for the Dolphins.

20. New York Jets (13): The onside kick was a stupid call, but it didn’t cost them the game. However, the fact that they were able to hold the Bears scoreless in the first half (and keep the game close for all four quarters) gives me a lot of hope for the Patriots this week.

21. Cleveland (21): They had that game sewn up against the Steelers last week. Then their defense decided to pack it in a little early, maybe try to beat the traffic out of the stadium. Not going to protect many leads playing defense the way they did on the Steelers’ final drive.

22. St Louis (18): Wow, was it really that long ago that people were picking the Rams as a serious threat in the NFC? This is a team on the decline – it might be a few years before they recover from this. They’re only two games ahead of the Cardinals right now. The Cardinals! Of course, they’re only two games out of first in the division too.

23. Buffalo (24): Nice win for the Bills over Houston last week. Not the type of game they would normally win – you know, one where the quarterback is actually competent.

24. Green Bay (19): The bright side of last week’s game? Now we won’t have to spend the final six weeks listening to “pundits” carping for Brett Favre to sit down so the team can get a look at Aaron Rogers…

25. Tennessee (27): Nice job holding the Eagles down after McNabb’s injury. And since I will never, ever write a kind word about a jackass like Pac-Man Jones, let’s just leave it at that.

26. Oakland (30): Holy crap – the Raiders are out of the Bottom Three. I’m not sure how to react – should we throw a parade? Should we force Al Davis to sell the team? I’m perplexed.

27. Houston (26): They’re a team on the rise, even if they fell one spot this week. I really do think they will improve dramatically over the next year or two, though they might have a hard time winning more than two games out of their final six.

28. Tampa Bay (31): Only because they won last week, and the final four teams all lost. The Bucs have lost Simeon Rice for the year, weakening an already shoddy defense.

29. Minnesota (25): Four weeks ago, they were being mentioned with Chicago, Dallas and The Giants as a legitimate NFC contender for the Super Bowl. Yikes.

30. Washington (29): Well, at least now we know what Jason Campbell can do. Apparently, it isn’t “win games”, though it would help if they had an actual running game. Didn’t they trade for TJ Duckett earlier this year? What happened to him?

31. Arizona (32): From last week’s ranks: “The Cardinals lease on the basement apartment runs through 2013.” Oops. Luckily, they beat the only team that could even be considered on the same level of sucktitude…

32. Detroit (28): You lost to the worst franchise in professional sports. Enjoy your stay at the bottom of the pile.

Now, for the “early” picks.

There are three NFL games tomorrow, along with countless High School, College, and backyard games around the country. While I’m not going to pick the lines for the Annual Touch-Football debacle at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, I will pick the lines for the Lions/Dolphins, Broncos/Chiefs and Cowboys/Bucs.

I was 9-6-1 last week (I know – I’m as shocked as you are at a winning week), and I was 10-6-1 if you count the Michigan (+7) pick over Ohio State. I’m not fully recovered from that game, at least not enough to discuss it. So for now, let’s just pick three pro games, and I’ll come back Friday with the rest…

All lines from and current as of 11/22/06 at 4:30PM. Home teams in CAPS

Dolphins (-2.5) over LIONS: I cannot imagine a sweeter Thanksgiving Day experience for Joey Harrington than to march into Ford Field and destroy his old team. Of course, he might just revert back to his Detroit days and throw 5 INTs.

Buccaneers (+11) over COWBOYS: I’m not giving up more than ten points again this season unless the Lions or Cardinals are involved. Even Tampa can keep this one moderately close.

CHIEFS (Even) over Broncos: Let’s see… toughest road stadium in the NFL, coming off the Sunday Night game just four days ago… and still starting Jake Plummer at QB? Oh – and they just lost their starting safety for the year? Yeah, don’t think I’ll be taking the Broncos in this one…

RECAP: Dolphins / Bucs / CHIEFS

That’s it. I’m off to prepare for a long day of eating, sleeping, and eating some more tomorrow. I fully expect to be comatose by 4PM.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be back on Friday with 13 more picks for the weekend.

Aw crap – did I just say “Friday” and “13” in the same sentence? Damn – I’m screwed this week.