Monday, January 29, 2007

Miss Cleo's Fearless Super Bowl XLII Predictions

Miss Cleo Knows Football, Mon!

That's right, folks. While the rest of the sports world is busy boring us to tears by breaking down Sunday's big game for the 1,826th time, I'm here to summon my inner-Miss Cleo in an attempt to provide you, the reader, with the only original content you're likely to read all week. So today, we're ignoring the media day hype and fast-forwarding to Super Bowl XLII. And if you just can't live without my in-depth breakdown of Bears-Colts, don't worry be happy, mon. My crystal ball will focus on that match-up later this week.

Now, before we look forward, let's take a glance at the past. Namely, what does Super Bowl history tell us about the teams likely to be facing off for the Lombardi trophy in 2008? At first glance, not much. The 80's and early 90's were dominated by the NFC East and San Francisco. Then John Elways finally grabbed his rings before all heck broke loose around the turn of the millennium. That's when teams like the Rams, Ravens and Patriots came out of nowhere to claim the crown. But lately, a certain amount of order seems to have been restored. Take a look at the last five Super Bowl showdowns:

Colts vs. Bears
Steelers over Seahawks
Patriots over Eagles
Patriots over Panthers
Buccaneers over Raiders

Is there a single team on that list that was a shocking Super Bowl participant? Not at all. Carolina probably comes closest, but everyone knew the Panthers were an up-an-coming team before the 2003 season started.

Maybe the Y2K bug, though impotent throughout the rest of world, somehow affected the NFL for a few years. Because it's looking increasingly likely that the Rams-Ravens-Pats trifecta was a bit of a football fluke. Yes, the free agency era still produces Cinderellas, but they don't often get to dance in the ball. So the lesson? Don't go crazy with your picks. Remember, the Super Bowl isn't March Madness (although the date seems to be getting closer every year). So fans in Oakland and Detroit, don't get your hopes up. You're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Let's start our search in the AFC and begin by taking out the trash. Oakland, Cleveland and Houston; keep focusing on your goals of fielding competitive teams in 2020. Kansas City and Miami are too old, Tennessee is too young (but I already LOVE them in 2009... good things happen in year 3 of the VY era, just ask Texas), Buffalo, Baltimore and Jacksonville need quarterbacks and Cincinnati needs a parole officer (and a defense).

So that leaves New England, Indy, New York, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Denver. I like what the Jets are doing, but I'm dismissing them out of principle. There's just no way you'll ever get me to predict great things for "Noodles" Pennington. Sorry, Jet fans, but you're cut. San Diego, you retained Marty Schottenheimer. Have fun with that. You're eliminated too. I really like Jay Cutler, but there's just something about Denver that leaves me feeling blah. So long, Broncos. As for Pittsburgh, you just don't see many first year, first time head coaches leading their clubs to the promised land and I refuse to bestow any future glory upon the Steelers until they apprehend the guy who keeps sticking pins into his Ben Roethlisberger voodoo doll. So I'm afraid we're bidding adieu to the Steel City as well.

Which leaves us with... the familiar faces of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. I'm sorry. I know you're sick of them and I know it's boring. Just take solace in the fact that there's a 99.9% chance I'm going to be wrong, okay? Anyway, no matter what happens this Sunday, I don't expect the Colts to be back next year. It's just too hard to repeat and, let's face it, despite what we've witnessed over the course of the last three weeks, that defense is decidedly mediocre. So welcome back to the big game, New England.

Sorry, Folks. The Hoodie is Still a Force of Nature

But this isn't a mere process of elimination pick. The future looks extremely bright for the AFC runner-ups. For starters, Tom Brady is back. The Pats D-Line is excellent and they're solid in the trenches offensively as well. Laurence Maroney should be a beast in his second year and I keep waiting for Ben Watson to become Antonio Gates Part II. Yes, they could use a playmaker at WR, but if Tom Brady can make Jabar Gaffney look like Marvin Harrison, I'm pretty sure the Pats will get by. Don't forget, first-rounder Chad Jackson should develop too.

New England's two primary weak spots are an aging linebacker corps and a suspect secondary. But guess what? The Pats will probably apply the franchise tag to Asante Samuel and have two first round selections to inject youth and athleticism into their 3-4 scheme. Face it. The Pats are still going to be a force. And don't discount how hungry Brady and co. will be after swallowing that bitter pill in the RCA Dome.

As usual, things are much more interesting (read: screwed up) over in the NFC. How on earth do you make sense of this mumbo jumbo? Which teams can you absolutely, positively reject? Detroit, perhaps? And that's about it. So let's just go team-by-team.

Philadelphia: Too much drama with Mama McNabb and the Chunky Soup mafia.

Dallas: Too much Norv Turner or Wade Phillips (although did you see the news today? Out of nowhere, the Cowboys are interviewing Mike Singletary! Hmmm, where did they come up with that idea? There's only one explanation: Jerry Jones reads the Clutch City Chronicles (go to the end of that column)! Thanks, Jerry. Now go eat some Meow Mix).

Anybody Know Where I Can Find Some Meow-Mix and a Litter Box?


NY Giants: Too much Tom Coughlin and WAY too much Errant Eli

Washington: Too much Daniel Snyder

Green Bay: Sorry, I'm not buying the Brett Favre fairy-tale ending.

Minnesota: No quarterback and the Vikings hates their coach. Great run defense though.

Chicago: A force, to be sure. But since I'm picking the Bears to fall this week, they're automatically eliminated since the Super Bowl loser tends to suffer a drop-off.

New Orleans: Intriguing. But a lot of things went right for them this year. Very few injuries and a favorable schedule. I like this team, but they need a lot of help defensively and I still think Tom Benson is just waiting for the perfect time to move his club to L.A. Oh yeah, and Sean Payton is Mini Mike Martz. That's not a good thing.

Tampa Bay: Getting old and Texas fans know all about hitching their ride to Chris Simms. Have fun with that, Tampa.

Carolina: A HUGE disappointment this year. The pieces are still in place to make a run in 2008. But there's no way I'm riding that wagon after suffering through the experience this season.

Atlanta: Hmmm. We'll come back to them later.

Seattle: Also intriguing.

Arizona: Ditto.

San Francisco: Yawn. And don't be surprised if Frank Gore's comeback story ends with another torn ACL. Hey, it happens.

St. Louis: Mike Martz's presence is still felt. I just can't trust these guys anymore.

So now we're left with Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona. Seattle drops out because I don't think the NFL would allow a Pats-Seahawks Super Bowl to take place. Who would you get to perform at half-time of that snoozefest? James Blunt? Boring.

To tell you the truth, I was all set to send Matt Leinart to XLII to face his pretty boy arch-nemesis, Tom Brady. Think of the possibilities. We could have a Royal Rumble before the game featuring Paris Hilton, Bridget Moynahan and every other hot female celeb (I'm not saying Paris is hot, mind you... personally, she makes me want to wretch) ever linked to those two. And besides, it's not that outrageous. The Cards' defense is decent enough to play the supporting role beside Arizona's potentially explosive offense. Yes, the Cards have a big problem with their O-line, but they can go a long way toward shoring that up if they're fortunate enough to nab OT Joe Thomas with their number one pick.

A Brady-Leinart Super Bowl is Sounding Pretty Good Now, Isn't It?

But you know what killed my Arizona dream? It dies when I realized Super Bowl XLII will be played in Arizona. You're telling me one of the league's more cursed clubs is going to be the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl at its home stadium? Sorry, that just isn't happening.

So I guess that means Atlanta is the pick. And that also means Mike Vick is getting hurt next year. No, not because I just cursed him and his team. But because the only way the Falcons are making the Super Bowl is with Matt Schaub at quarterback. I'm not kidding.

And hey, the Falcons aren't that far-fetched as far as picks are concerned. Jerious Norwood is a stud who can thrive in the Falcons' potent running attack. They have playmakers on defense, especially if they can ever get John Abraham to stay healthy for an entire season (a massive "if", I know). And if you're a Bill Simmons' reader, you know their Ewing Theory potential would be off the charts if Vick were to go down.

So now that the match-up is set, who comes out on top? Do you even have to ask? Miss Cleo might be a phony, but she ain't dumb.

Pats 27 - Falcons 24. You heard it here first.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why You Should Cheer for the Colts and an Open Plea to Jerry Jones

The Karma Police are Coming for You, Chicago

Way to stay classy, Chicago. Look, I know every city has their fair share of idiot fans, but these guys have to take the cake, don't they? I just hope they'll be able to drive their shaggin' wagon down to Miami (where I hear the beer flows like wine) in time for the big game. Wouldn't you love to sit between these two while they serenade you with a stirring rendition of "Mockingbird"? Heck, you might be able to hitch a ride home with the Hawaiian Tropic bikini team. Seriously, this pair needs their own reality show. Now.

Hire This Guy, Jerry. I Dare You

I'm not one to beg. And I'm certainly not one to initiate a dialogue with Jerry Jones. But I'm willing to bend the rules during desperate times. And trust me, I'm desperate now. On behalf of all fans of the Houston Texans, Jerry, I'm begging you to hire Wade Phillips. I've seen the perplexed look on his face in crunch time. I've witnessed his hard-core devotion to 9-7 football.

Phillips says, "I'm going to go on my record," and I think you should do the same. As an owner who has presided over a decade of mediocrity, you won't find anyone more in line with maintaining the status quo. In his 5 years as a head coach, Bum's son delivered a 48-39 record to go along with an 0-3 mark in the postseason. Hard to resist those numbers, isn't it?

Look, Jerry, I'll be honest with you. Two years ago I said the Houston Texans would win a Super Bowl before your Cowboys. A brazen statement, to be sure, but I dutifully stood by my beliefs. Then, as I witnessed Dallas assemble what appeared to be a championship-caliber team, my faith began to wane. And it looked bleaker, still, after last April's draft day debacle.

But now you possess the power to completely resurrect my conviction. So do the right thing, Jerry. Hire Wade. And then this 4th of July, we can sit back arm-and-arm and enjoy the T.O. fireworks, together. Quite frankly, your cosmetically-altered cat-face aside, I can't imagine anything more beautiful.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Super Bowl Scene Stealers

Name two below-the-radar guys (from each team) who could be difference-makers in Super Bowl XLI.

No problem at all. Let's start with Chicago.

Offensively, I think Desmond Clark has the potential to come up big for the Bears. Clark turned in his best season in 5 years, grabbing 45 balls for 626 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now, those aren't huge numbers by any means, but they were good enough to rank him third on the team in receptions. More importantly, he developed an obvious chemistry with Rex Grossman and there's no question Sexy can use all the security blankets he can find these days.

Desmond Clark: Sexy Security Blanket

But here's the biggest thing: Indianapolis does not give up big plays. The Colts' cover 2 forces you to be patient and take the underneath routes. And while that will probably nullify Bears' deep threat, Bernard Berrian, it should mean plenty of work for Clark and Muhsin Muhammed over the middle.

On the defensive side, Ricky Manning Jr. has a knack for coming up big when the stakes are raised (remember his post-season with Carolina the year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl?). And since the Colts love to spread the field, expect Manning to see plenty of action. He's a gambler in the mold of Terrell Buckley. And if you remember, T-Buck, you know that can mean either very good or very bad things for his team.

As far as Indy is concerned, Cato June is a guy who always seems to be in the middle of the action, defensively. He's very quick, but undersized as a linebacker; meaning he's above-average playing the pass in that Cover 2, but also a potential liability against the run. But you know what? You can say that about pretty much every player on the Colts' defense. When you look at the height and weight of the Indianapolis front seven, it's obvious why this team got shredded on the ground during the regular season. Give Tony Dungy and co. credit. Because, for the life of me, I can't figure out how the Colts managed to turn this aspect of their game around.

On offense, simply watch out for Aaron Moorehead. And if you have to ask why, just re-read this.

Are You Scared Yet, Chicago? You Should Be

On Tap for Today...

Great story from Wright Thompson today. Worth every second of your time. Stories like this are the reason journalism came into existence (for better or worse). Check it out.

And if, after reading that, you need a bit of a pick me up, this should do the trick. Back in a few hours with the Super Bowl thought of the day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Biggest X-Factor of Them All

First of all, if you haven't already done so, do me a favor and check out ESPN.com's ranking of all 80 Super Bowl teams. Not only is it fun from a nostalgia standpoint, but it also forced me to let Rex Grossman off the hook. That's right, Sexy, I'm man enough to admit it: No matter what happens in Miami, you're not likely to go down as the worst quarterback in Super Bowl history. Vince Ferragamo? David Woodley? Tony Eason? What in Pete Sampras is going on here? How on earth did those guys lead their respective teams to the title game?

20 Years Ago, the Bears Made Sure Rex Would Never be the Worst Super Bowl QB

A lot of it comes down to luck, my friends, which is something to keep in mind when you're placing a friendly wager on XLI. Look, there's a reason the prediction game is a 50/50 proposition (And, no, I'm not trying to make excuses for my only-slightly-above-average picks so far) and it has a lot less to do with parity than you might think. There's just no way to account for funny bounces and twists of fate; you know, those half-dozen plays which occur every contest that can swing the game either way.

To wit, take a look at the Colts' path to this year's Super Bowl. Before the playoffs even started, they received a HUGE break (in my opinion). In the fourth quarter of a tight game, Vince Young and the Titans suffered a complete collapse against the Patriots, ultimately costing Tennessee the AFC's final playoff bid and a first round match-up against Indy. Keep in mind, the Titans had played Indianapolis very tough in both regular season meetings, splitting the series one game apiece. Now sure, it's a stretch to assume the Titans would have gone into the RCA Dome and emerged victorious, but I guarantee they would have given the Colts a better game than Kansas City. And, of course, Indy was the beneficiary of multiple breaks in their games against Baltimore (Ray Lewis's deflections, anyone?) and New England (what if Troy Brown runs to the right spot, makes the catch and gives the Pats a clinching first down?).

Look, I'm not trying to rain on Indy's parade. You can play the "Ifs and buts" game with nearly every Super Bowl winner. The fact is, Indy and Chicago earned their shots and are deserving title game representatives. Just remember two things about the way luck effects this game (and the entire sports universe): 1.) The luck element means the best team doesn't always win. 2.) Luck's looming shadow means players, coaches and fans always need to appreciate the opportunity in front of them. Because no matter how stacked your team might be, you never know when they'll get this chance again. There are just too many things that can go wrong, especially in a league as brutal as the NFL.

Looks Like Someone Just Got Dumped by Lady Luck

Finally, it's time to introduce a special segment I'll creatively call the "Super Bowl Question of the Day". In truth, this idea was presented to me by my buddy, K-Knight, so I can't even take credit for the concept. Anyway, if you have any interesting football thoughts, questions or concerns, feel free to toss them my way. As the title suggests, I'd like to hit one every day until XLI arrives. By the way, I know I keep promising this, but I promise I'll get to basketball season soon. Anyway, on to today's question:

How would you rank the 4 RB's in the Superbowl?

Here's how I have them:
1. Thomas Jones
2. Joseph Addai
3. Cedric Benson
4. Dominic Rhodes

TJ, to me, is just a very solid all-around back. Addai and Benson are very close, but I'm giving the nod to the Colts' RB because he has an edge in versatility and also happens to be playing in the perfect system for him. Benson has the biggest upside of the three, but I can't rank him ahead of Addai right now. I do think he can be an excellent sledge-hammer back capable of some big seasons, but I need to see it first and I still have questions about his attitude. I know similar things were once said about Larry Johnson, but LJ had (and still has) more top-end, breakaway speed than Benson ever will. Rhodes is just a nice back-up. That's it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Great Googly-Moogly

Wow. What a day for the NFL. The Bears are back in the Super Bowl, Peyton has (temporarily) removed the monkey from his back and Bill Parcells is no longer head coach of the Cowboys. So here are my quick-hit thoughts on the last 24 hours in football:

  • I realize this is far and away the least important thing to come out of yesterday's games, but will somebody please tell Phil Simms that the Patriots' big-play cornerback is Asante Samuel, not Asante Samuels. Seriously, the guy was only the MVP of the first quarter and a half of that game and will likely be one of the most sought-after players in free agency this off-season. How can you not know his last name? And this wasn't a one-time mistake either. Simms must have butchered it half a dozen times at least. So until he gets it right, Phil Simms is now Phil Simm. And what do you know, Phil Simm will be announcing this year's Super Bowl. Fantastic. Hopefully Brian Urlachers and Marvin Harrisons will step up and seize their moment in the spotlight.
You Might Want to Learn This Guy's Name, Phil
  • Classic Madden jinx moment during the Pats-Colts game. New England had just gone up 21-3 when I received a text message from a Patriot super-fan. She wanted me to title this morning's entry "Quintessential Colts choke". Five minutes later, the Pats received back-to-back penalties, nullifying a first down inside the Indy 20 and costing New England a shot at a field goal. You all know the story from there. Let this warning be heard throughout the entire sports universe: The Madden jinx is real. So real, in fact, that you don't even have to be playing Madden for it to strike. Just do me a favor from here on out. Don't start talking trash until the clock reads 00:00. It will save us all a bunch of pain and heartache.
  • Speaking of Pats' penalties, how about New England getting whistled for having 12 men in the huddle as they were getting ready to begin what could have been their salt-it-away drive? I know the Pats were beat up and I know their personnel losses over the years seem to have caught up to them. But you just don't see a Bill Belichick team make those kinds of dumb plays when it's crunch time. As much as Indianapolis won that game, New England choked it away. And don't even get me started on Reche "don't call me Gollum" Caldwell. How'd you like to run into him in a dark alley someday? Wouldn't surprise me if he's trying to catch some fishes as we speak. Of course, that would mean he'd actually have to catch something.
Even Gollum thinks your eyes are freaky, Reche

  • Don't want to take anything away from what Indianapolis did, though. They had every opportunity to roll over and die, yet they never flinched. Heck, I thought they were done as soon as the Pats caught the break of the year by recovering that fumble in the endzone. Manning made a ton of big plays and did what he had to do. But how about that Colts' defense? Yes, they gave up 27 points (they can't be blamed for the pick-6 Peyton threw) but they didn't allow New England to hammer the ball down their throats when the Pats were playing with a lead. In fact, for the third straight game Indy help an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing... after not accomplishing it ONCE during the regular season. Unbelievable.
  • Did anyone else feel that game resembled the Texas-USC Rose Bowl classic? Although no one stepped forward to deliver a truly sublime VY-esque performance, there were plenty of similarities which produced, for me at least, the same sort of chills and shout-out-loud moments that defined 2006's Game of the Year.
  • I'm sure we'll hear a lot of talk in the next couple weeks about how Peyton finally has removed the choker label. Poppycock. If the Colts lose to the Bears (currently, a 7 point underdog), the A-Rod comparisons will ring louder than ever. Fair or not, the pressure is still firmly on the artist formerly (for now) known as Mr. Peepee.
"Sometimes when I get nervous, I put my fingers under my arms..."

  • Speaking of the Bears, they were who we thought they were! A swarming play-making defense and a ball-control offense that can put a surprising number of points on the board. Honestly, I was stunned at how many people picked the Saints to win this weekend. The Bears obviously heard the hype and came out ready to prove a point of their own. So I imagine Chicago fans have to be thrilled knowing they're heavy underdogs in Miami as well. And that will only be compounded by the fact Peyton is going to receive at least 75% of the Super Bowl coverage. Ugh. I hate Super Bowl hype.
  • As for those aforementioned Bears' fans, they keep giving me grief because I said they had "no chance" to win it all. Allow me to clarify (without backtracking). In a one game setting, ANY team can beat another. I mean, this is the NFL. Crazy things happen every week. You think I don't know this? One month ago, the TEXANS beat the Colts. So of course Chicago can win. Having said that, I completely believe they won't and I wanted to emphasize that fact. Keep in mind, I did predict them to beat New Orleans. But I didn't think they could beat Indy or New England and I still don't. Why? I'm glad you asked.
  • Of course, it's all about Grossman. Check the stats. The guy has not played three consecutive good games all year. What makes you think he's capable of that now (not to say these last two games have been "good" for Grossman, but you know what I mean)? Now, I will say this: Chicago has proven they can make up for Rexy's mistakes and win anyway. But they're not playing the Cardinals here. This is the Super Bowl. You can't hide your quarterback. At some point, Rex will be asked to make plays and I don't see him having much success in that department. But hey, I'll be the first to admit I've been wrong before. Especially when it comes to players with ties to the University of Florida.
  • You know what scares me about Grossman (besides everything)? He had one good drive yesterday. This, despite the fact New Orleans sold out to stop the run the entire second half. What happens when you sell out like that? It leaves your secondary matched-up one-on-one. But it still took Rex a full quarter to move the football and make some plays. And did you happen to see what Rex did on that drive? He immediately locked onto his target and never looked away. It worked out for him, sure. But that's the kind of rookie mistake that has gotten him into trouble this season. And as Phil Simm told us about one hundred times yesterday, the Colts' secondary LOVES to read the quarterback's eyes. Just throwing that out there.
How Have I Made It This Far with This Guy at QB?
  • Lest I come across as merely a Bears-basher, I do think Chicago will give Indy all it can handle (unless Rex duplicates his Arizona game and I don't foresee the coaches allowing that to happen). I think Devin Hester is almost a lock to produce a big play (especially when you consider what Ellis Hobbs did to the Colts' special teams) and Chicago's D should be able to force some turnovers too. This match-up definitely resembles the New England-St. Louis shocker from 2002. And like that game, I think Adam Vinatieri will provide the winning points.
  • As for the Saints, my worst fears became a reality. Sean Payton completed his transformation into Mike Martz and decided he had no use for running the football, despite a solid O-line that cleared Rose O'Donnell-sized holes for Reggie Bush and Deuce McCallister the week before. Look, I know the Bears are susceptible to the pass, but you at least have to make them respect the run a little. Sometimes I think offensive-minded coaches (like Payton) can out-smart themselves when they have too many weapons at their disposal.
With Holes This Large, Why Not Run the Ball?

  • Regarding Reggie Bush, what can you say? Sure, he looked breathtaking on that 88 yard catch and run. So what? A real athlete like Mario Williams would have run over Brian Urlacher instead of pointing at him and then finished off the score with a triple salchow as opposed to a little fruity flip. Reggie sucks. Mario rules.
Flips are for Pansies

  • Finally, the Big Tuna. No surprise here. You could see the writing on the wall as soon as his name was linked to the Giants then-vacant GM job. Sure, Parcells vehemently denied his interest, but are we really supposed to believe coaches these days? What was he supposed to say? As for possible replacements, big names like Bob Stoops and Jeff Fisher have been mentioned and I suspect Jerry Jones will want to make a splash with whomever he chooses. As for dark horses, how about Mike Singletary? I know he won't even get a sniff, but I'd love to see him coaching my team some day.
Week 3 picks:

Straight up: 2-0

Against the Spread: 2-0

Aggregate:

Straight up: 7-3
Against the Spread: 6-4

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why I Control the Sports Universe

News flash: We live in a very selfish, self-absorbed world. Sure, we pay lip service to high-minded ideals such as human rights and world peace, but at the end of the day all we really want are our Hummers and High-def TVs. No, it's not something to be proud of, but it is the truth. However, there's no reason to beat yourself up about it. Because as bad as you may be, I'm here to tell you that I'm even worse. Want proof? Try this on for size: I am so egotistical and self-absorbed that I fervently believe my predictions and picks can alter the sports universe. How else to explain Peyton Manning's presence in this year's AFC championship game?

As I've touched on in previous posts, I believed Manning and the Colts would be Super Bowl champs in years past. In fact, I'm pretty sure I predicted a title for Indianapolis every year since 2003. But after Mr. Peepee (Playoff Peyton) and the idiot kicker conspired to sabotage last year's postseason game against Pittsburgh, I promised myself I was off the Colts' bandwagon for good. And now here I am, one year later, incredulously watching Indy defy football logic by advancing to within 60 minutes of the NFL's biggest stage.

How did this happen? In practically every respect, this Colts' team is inferior to the one that started last season 13-0. Their defense is worse. Peyton has played poorly (again) in the playoffs. Joseph Addai is a very solid running back, but you can't honestly tell me he's better than Edgerrin James. Now, Indy did replace Vanderchump with Adam Vinatieri, so that's obviously a major upgrade. But Adam hasn't been a true difference maker... yet. So what brought about this cosmic shift in the NFL universe? There's only one logical conclusion: I stopped predicting victory parades in downtown Indianapolis.

Well get ready, Colt fans, because I'm ready to put my self-absorbed theory to the ultimate test. That's right, I'm back on the bandwagon, baby! The Colts have homefield advantage, favorable match-ups and me riding shotgun. Can you handle that sort of pressure, Peyton? Let's see how good you really are, you 6' 5'', 235 pound, laser-rocket armed stud.

Uh oh. Peyton just heard Jason's back on the Indy bandwagon

COLTS (-3) over Pats

Seriously. How on earth can the Colts possibly lose this game? They've beaten the Pats twice in a row (in the regular season, to be fair) so that monkey should at least be somewhat dislodged from their backs. Their defense is playing out of its mind (although Indy's playoff wins came against a pair of rather inept offenses). And New England's secondary appears ripe for the picking (once again) thanks to a rash of injuries at the safety position. Sure, Brady and Belichick are as menacing as a pissed-off Jack Bauer, but even Jack lets the bad guys win at least a round or two, just to make things interesting. So think of this as Indy's opportunity to unleash a nuke before the Pats return to kick-ass and set things straight down the line (i.e. next season).

Having said that, this thought still sticks in my craw: When the Colts and Pats faced-off earlier this season, I fully expected Indy to win because I figured New England would hide its best cards, knowing a rematch in the playoffs was imminent. Sure enough, the Patriots displayed a rather plain-vanilla gameplan and produced a half-hearted effort which led to a not-nearly-as-close-as-the-score-indicated 27-20 defeat. This time around, I expect the Pats to really make an effort to pound the football with Maroney and Dillon, knowing full well they don't have the firepower to win a high-scoring game with the Colts. Defensively, I'm sure we'll see plenty of zone-blitz schemes from Belichick and co. in order to test Mr. Peepee's patience and to (hopefully) pound him into submission.

But will it work? Certainly, it can... especially if the Patriots jump out to an early lead and really apply the pressure (to Manning, Dungy and the entire RCA Dome). But I just don't see that happening this week. Believe it or not, I actually think Peyton is going to carve up the Pats and enjoy a HUGE day emotionally and statistically. After all, this might be his final opportunity to summon the sports-spirit of MJ and overcome his nemesis New England the same way Jordan punished the Pistons for making him wait his turn atop the NBA mountain. But just remember two things: 1.) Mr. Peepee is involved. 2.) I'm backing him (again). What can I say? Some people never learn.

Colts 31 - Pats 17

Damn it, Chloe, why are you still on my show?!?


BEARS (-2 1/2) over Saints

I'm going to apologize in advance for giving the NFC the short end of the content stick here. Trust me, it's not from lack of interest on my part. Because the truth is, while the AFC title game provides the week's marquee match-up, I'm actually more emotionally invested in the Saints-Bears tilt. Like most Americans whose clubs have already been eliminated from Super Bowl contention, I've designated New Orleans as my interim team of choice. Plus, Reggie Bush's siren song still tugs at my heart strings when I think about his name on the back of a Texans' jersey.

Nonetheless, I find myself at a loss for words when it comes time to breakdown this match-up. Yes, the Bears' defense needs to return to form for Chicago to send the fans home happy. Yes, New Orleans needs to do everything within its power to keep Fred Thomas far away from Bears' deep-threat, Bernard Berrian. And, yes, Rex Grossman needs to summon his inner Trent Dilfer and just stay the hell out of the way.

But to me, this pick 'em game comes down to one thing: Sean Payton's transformation into Mike Martz. Watching the Saints' game last week, I was shocked at how Payton seemed disinclined to hammer the Eagles' defense with Deuce McCallister, despite the fact Deuce was devouring Philly, 7 yard chunks at a time. I know the Saints have thrived thanks to Payton's aggressive play-calling, but maybe he's let the "offensive genius" label go to his head (ala Mike Martz). Hey, I'm all for sophisticated, cutting-edge passing attacks, but sometimes you just have to line up and punish the guys in front of you. Does Payton possess the discipline to know when to go medieval on the Bears' collective posteriors? We should find out this Sunday. Frankly, I'm more than a wee bit skeptical.

Mini-Martz, stop humping the laser

It comes down to this: As good as Drew Brees has been this year, I think New Orleans has to win this game on the ground, not through the air. The Bears are vulnerable up the middle. But I just have this sneaky suspicion that Payton is going to outsmart himself and cost his team a trip to Miami. After all, there's no way we can have two Mr. Peepees (Peyton and Payton) in the Super Bowl, can we? I just don't think the world is ready for that.

Bears 20 - Saints 17

By the way, yes, I realize the Saints were my Super Bowl pick before the playoffs began. But, hey, as long as I'm cursing Peyton and the Colts by jumping back on their bandwagon, I figured I might as well reverse-jinx my adopted team, New Orleans, and give them a puncher's chance. Whatever happens, I win. What else could the world's most selfish, self-absorbed person ask for?

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Morning After

Stream of consciousness thoughts on this weekend's action:

Indy-Baltimore: What can I say? I can't believe I fell for the Ravens' act. All year long, I've bashed them as pretenders. I've railed against Steve McNair and that offense, saying their come-from-behind wins usually masked 3 and a half quarters of piss-poor effort. But that's just the venom of a spurned prognosticator. Here are the facts: Baltimore won this year thanks to a first-class defense, an opportunistic offense and a little luck (Just as they did in 2001). Let's face it, for the most part, their D came though on Saturday. They kept the Colts out of the endzone and picked Peyton twice. But they didn't get the offense and they REALLY didn't receive any luck. By my count, the Ravens cost themselves three more forced turnovers. We all know about Ray Lewis deflecting two sure interceptions, but how about Joseph Addai's fumble that saw two Ravens fight over the ball, only to boot it away from each other and into the hands of an Indy player. Even with a no-show from the offense, Baltimore could have won that game.

As for the Colts, I'm in shock. Two mediocre efforts from Mr. Peepee and yet Indianapolis is still alive and looking like the favorite to win it all. I'm speechless. Yes, the Indy defense is showing signs of life, but let's remember they've only managed to slow down two rather pedestrian offenses. However, I will give full marks to the Colts' offensive line. I thought they did a remarkable job of giving Peyton time and creating running room (especially down the stretch). I really expected Manning to take a beating in this game, but he managed to come away from it fairly unscathed... which makes his sub-par performance even more perplexing (until I remember his January alter-ego, of course).

Where are you hiding that other horseshoe, Peyton?

Saints-Eagles

To me, there was one MAJOR development to come out of this game: That is, Sean Payton's metamorphosis into Mike Martz. Look, I'm all for aggressive play-calling. I love it. But did anyone else get Martz flashbacks when Payton seemingly forgot Deuce McCallister was murdering the Eagles' defense? And how about that fumbled option-pitch to Reggie Bush? I think the Saints have all the ingredients necessary to win it all. I mean, sure they have weaknesses defensively, but what team doesn't right now? But I'm positively petrified that we could see the birth of another Mr. Peepee in the coming weeks.

Mr. Peepee version 2.0?

Bears-Seahawks

Here's what would really concern me if I were a Bears' fan right now: That defense is NOTHING like it was the first half of the season. I gave them the benefit of the doubt during the final month because I felt like this team was on cruise control. But Seattle, whose running game had been below average all season, found some gaping holes in the second half. What will Deuce do with those this week?

As for Sexy, I figured he'd play well and he did. But at some point, be it this week or in the Super Bowl, he's going to drop a deuce on the field. And if the Bears' D doesn't come around, I'm afraid there's just no way Chicago can hoist the Lombardi trophy. In fact, in this wide-open final four, I'd say Chicago is the ONLY team out of the group I can't see winning it all... which is probably the best news the Windy City has heard in ages.

Good news, guys. Jason says you don't have a prayer

Pats-Chargers

Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever trust a Marty Schottenheimer-coached team in the playoffs. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING favored San Diego in that game. Now, I'm not saying Marty gagged it singlehandedly. But how many times has he had the superior team AND homefield in the post-season and come away empty-handed?

New England had no business winning this game. Tom Brady was HORRIBLE except for the drives he orchestrated at the end of the first and second halves. And I guess that's what makes him great. Just a stunning turn of events... until I remember Marty was prominently involved and it somehow all makes sense.

Week 2 picks:

Straight up: 2-2
Against the spread: 1-3

Aggregate:

Straight up: 5-3
Against the spread: 4-4

Thursday, January 11, 2007

NFL Playoff Preview and Predictions (Round Two)


We've all heard about the Madden cover curse. Its list of victims has been well documented. But today I'm here to discuss something much less-publicized, yet perhaps more problematic, simply because it affects far more people. You see, the only person who suffers from the Madden Curse is the ill-fated player whose image appears on the case (well, and his teammates, coaches and fans, but just work with me here). But the problem I'm going to reveal negatively impacts every single person who plays the game. My friends call it the Madden Jinx (admittedly, not our most creative moniker, to be sure) . It won't cause you to inexplicably tear your ACL, but it will cause unjust misery and frustration.

Here's how I first learned about this malevolent phenomenon: I was sitting down to play a friendly game of Madden. The sun was shining, the ducks were quacking, life couldn't be better. I can't recall my team, but I do remember my opponent was Indianapolis. Tough match-up, considering the Colts' offensive arsenal and Peyton's enormous cone. But you know who I wasn't afraid of? Some dude named Aaron Moorehead. I brazenly told my friend as much. And that was when I unknowingly brought the Madden Jinx into play. No, it didn't manifest itself immediately. The Madden Jinx is far too tricksy for that. It waited until it could really inflict some serious damage; like on 3rd and 18 with the game hanging in the balance. Do I even need to tell you who caught the ball for 19 yards, picked up a first down and triggered a tantrum the likes of which I haven't thrown since I was two?

Even Gollum thinks Aaron Moorehead is too tricksy for his own good

I HATE Aaron Moorehead. Never met the guy, probably couldn't pick him out of a police lineup. But if I ever ran into him on the street (and actually recognized him), I'd immediately ask him, "What's the capital of Thailand?" and proceed to unleash 3 years of fury and frustration. Yes, I have deep-seeded issues. But that's not the point. The Madden Jinx is real. The list of players I've been burned by is endless; Reggie Williams, Wes Welker and Bethel Johnson come to mind. I'm sure you have your own list.

So why do I bring this up? For two reasons. One, I' might have casually mentioned how the Fez Theory was going to change the world in 2007 while playing a game of Madden just hours before the national championship game Monday night. We all know how that turned out. And two, despite all the star power on display this weekend, don't underestimate the unknown little guy. You never know when they might steal the show. Except for that good-for-nothing, Aaron Moorehead. That punk's going down.

Anyway, on with the picks:

RAVENS (-4) over Colts

If you've been reading this blog at all, you know how I feel about the Colts' chances in January. And no, it has nothing to do with Aaron Morehead. But it does have EVERYTHING to do with Mr. Peepee. We got a good glimpse of Playoff Peyton last week and I suspect we're going to get a close-up view this time around. By now, I'm sure you've heard about Manning's struggles with the 3-4 defense. And I'm sure you know that Indy's D can't exactly be counted on to bail him out if he delivers a sub-par performance. This one is just so obvious that it almost scares me. Then I remember that Peepee, Indy's run D and Tony Dungy (not exactly known for his playoff acumen either) are involved and I'm able to relax, kick-back and confidently sip my mojito. Just kidding. I only drink manly drinks. Like french vanilla hazelnut lattes.

Baltimore 23 - Indy 7


SAINTS (-5) over Eagles

Here's where my confidence starts to waver. So let's lay out the facts:

Fact: The Superdome will be the site of the NFL's best home crowd of the season this Saturday.
Fact: The Saints never amount to anything in the playoffs.
Fact: The Eagles specialize in getting their fans' hopes up, only to viciously crush them at the most inopportune time.
Fact: The Saints won the first meeting between these two clubs, 27-24 in week 6.
Fact: 75% of the teams which appear in the Superbowl finished the regular season either 5-1 or 6-0 (which favors Philly, obviously)

That's about it. That's all we really know for sure. We know Jeff Garcia is prominently involved, but we don't know for sure when his Kurt Warner-esque deal with the devil expires. We know both defenses can force turnovers, but are also susceptible to the big play.

Here's my thing: I definitely think the Saints are going to win. I believe the sure-to-be-insane home crowd is worth at least a touchdown. I believe Deuce and Reggie should be able to gash the Eagles front seven and that Drew Brees is good for a couple scores. If New Orleans gets up by two TDs, look out; the crowd and the Saints' defense will turn into a feeding frenzy. Screw it, I'm a believer (which is probably the worst thing I could do to New Orleans right now).

Saints 31 - Philadelphia 17


BEARS (-8 1/2) over Seahawks

You want to know why my picks are doomed this week? Because in the year of the underdog, I'm hammering the favorites. But I can't help it. Honestly, I don't see how Seattle keeps this game anywhere close to respectable. Yes, on paper they have the weapons necessary to not only compete, but to win. And yes, Sexy Rexy is always capable of posting another 0.0 QB rating. But here's the thing: I said it last week and I'll say it again. Seattle hasn't been in sync since day one. Why on earth would it all come together now? I just don't see it.

Believe it or not, I actually think Rex will play well and the Bears' defense and special teams will take care of the rest. For this week, at least.

Bears 24 - Seahawks 3

Better to take a dump during the press conference than during the game, Rex


Patriots (+4 1/2) over CHARGERS

Well, here it is. Quite possibly the game of the season. Way too many subplots to go into here and besides, you're probably already sick of hearing about them since the hype machine seems to have started a couple weeks early this year.

Like a blockbuster movie I'm anxiously anticipating, I don't want to ruin this one by overwhelming myself with spoilers and endless talk. I want to approach it on my own terms with an empty slate so I can enjoy it for what it is: a great match-up.

So I'll keep it simple. I love Tom Brady and LaDainian Tomlinson. I think Marty Schottenheimer is a choker and Bill Belichick is a genius. I believe Shawn Merriman is a force of nature and Mike Vrabel is a warrior.

The general public seems to side with the Pats. I don't blame them. But I'm picking the Chargers to win, just not to cover. Which is beyond stupid, because I'm not sure how anyone can trust Marty in a close game against Brady and Belichick. But hey, I'm dumb. And, yes, I made that last statement hoping beyond hope that the Madden Jinx works in reverse.

San Diego 24 - New England 21

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2007 NFL Mock Draft (1st Edition)

Sure it's only January and the playoffs are just getting underway, but it's never too early to start talking about the NFL draft (especially if you're one of the poor, unfortunate souls who considers yourself a Texans' fan). Besides, what other non-sporting sports event receives this much attention? Football fans just can't get enough when it comes to the draft. So without further adieu, here is my foray into this April's fun-fest. Keep in mind, with the combine, individual workouts and all-star games things are bound to change a great deal in the coming months. As for underclassmen, I'm including those who have already declared as well as those whom I think will be throwing their names in the hat any day now.

x -- still to be determined by coin flip
y -- still to be determined by playoffs
+ -- underclassman

Are you sure you want to come out this year, JaMarcus?

1. Oakland Raiders (2-14)
+ JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU


This one seems like a no-brainer. True, Russell was blessed when he got to showcase his prodigious arm against Notre Dame's powder-puff defense. And there's no question he struggled at times against the more stout defenses of the SEC. But he possesses the highest upside of any quarterback in this draft and we all know how much the Raiders love big-armed QBs. The question is, will Oakland ruin Russell's career before it even begins?

2. Detroit Lions (3-13)
Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame

Another slam-dunk. Funny, that Detroit took some heat for winning its final game of the season and seemingly blowing its shot to draft Quinn. But thanks to the Sugar Bowl, they're going to get him anyway. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think Quinn has bust written all over him. That's just me. And wouldn't it be funny if, after years of selecting first round wide receivers, the Lions pass on this year's stud, Calvin Johnson, and he ends up making them regret it in the end?

3. x-Cleveland Browns (4-12)
+ Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma

This is where things start getting a little dicey. The Browns have all kinds of needs, like pretty much every 4-12 team in the history of the NFL. They want a QB (do you trust Chaz Frye?), but there isn't one available here. This could be Johnson, a D-lineman or OT Joe Thomas. But, for now, I think Peterson's mix of size and speed will be too hard to pass up. One thing to watch out for with regards to Peterson: There are whispers circulating that his body might have more wear and tear than originally thought. If so, his stock would obviously fall.

4. x-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin

Johnson will be very tempting here, but Tampa's O-line is a disgrace and has been for years. Thomas is clearly the cream of the crop and there would be a LONG list of suitors if the Bucs decide they want to trade down.

5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
Alan Branch, DT, Michigan

Johnson is clearly the best player left on the board but the Cardinals can't possibly take him with Fitzgerald and Boldin already on board. The guy they really need, Thomas, is already gone so this is a prime trade down spot. But if they keep the pick, they could do a lot worse than a 330 pound playmaker like Alan Branch.

6. Washington Redskins (5-11)
+ Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech

Johnson is the obvious pick here. After spending way too much money to resurrect the Smurfs in D.C., Joe Gibbs and co. wise up and select this 6' 5'', 235 pound stud from Georgia Tech.

7. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
+ Gaines Adams, DE, Georgia

So if running the ball and stopping the run are the keys to success in the NFL, how come the Vikings, who did both, finished 6-10? For one thing, they couldn't rush the passer and Adams would certainly help in that regard. Of course, Minnesota needs help at the WR and safety positions too, so Dwayne Jarrett, Sidney Rice and LaRon Landry are also possibilities here.

8. Houston Texans (6-10)
+ Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Hey, I've got an idea! Why don't the Texans draft a D-lineman in the first round for the fourth year in a row! Get excited, fans! Seriously though, Houston still needs help in the trenches and Dorsey is a beast who would clog up the middle and help DeMeco Ryans become even more of a playmaker at MLB. Obviously, the Texans need O-line help, but there just isn't anyone here worth grabbing. the aforementioned Landry is also a possibility. Oh, and I should add that many mock drafts have Adrian Peterson falling to the Texans. It's possible, when you consider how few of the top 7 teams need RB help, but I'm not buying it... yet.

Another D-lineman in the 1st round! Yay!

9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
LaRon Landry, S, LSU

We've mentioned him twice already, so might as well slide Landry into the 9 slot. Say what you will about Nick Saban, but he obviously saw the writing on the wall with this aging group and got the heck out of dodge before the poop really hit the fan. The Fish need a boatload of help.

10. Atlanta (7-9)
+ Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC

I know they've already invested so much in the WR position, but at some point they have to get Mike Vick someone who can actually hold onto the ball. Dwayne Jarrett should fit the bill as long as he doesn't go on the Mike Williams diet plan upon entering the league.


11. San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville

The 'Niners need help on defense, so why not add a 19 year old building block? That's right, this kid has already graduated and won't turn 20 until June. One of the best stories going right now.


12. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Leon Hall, CB, Michigan

Hall would help form a very nice Big Ten CB pair with the already established Nate Clements (who's an Ohio St. grad). Wait a second... A Big 10 pair? In the secondary? Maybe that's not such a great thing after all.

13. St. Louis Rams (8-8)
+ Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas

Very possible Anderson is off the board already by this point. But if he's still here, the Rams would love to put him opposite Leonard Little.

14. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

Levi Brown, OT, Penn State

Brown is a bit of a reach here, but the Panthers really need to solidify their offensive line.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska

A quick and powerful 290 pound defensive end, Carriker can help breathe some life back to the Steelers' pass rush.

16. Green Bay Packers (8-8)
+ Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal

Hard to believe Ahman Green has much more left in the tank. So why not bring in Lynch, and do what New England did with Maroney and Dillon this year?

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
+ Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State

Considering the NFL's infatuation with speed, it's hard to imagine Ginn slipping this far. But he's not a great route runner (yet), so he still has much to prove when it comes to showing he can be a legitimate number one WR at the pro level.

Try to avoid those nasty endzone celebrations okay, Teddy?

18. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
Quentin Moses, DE/OLB, Georgia

Who knows whether Odell Thurman will return to the Bengals, so why not replace him with another, more well-behaved Georgia grad?


19. Tennessee Titans (8-8)
+ Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina

It's time to get VY some help on the edge and Rice would be a nice fit. If Jarrett slips (a definite possibility), he's another option here.

20. New York Giants (8-8)

+ Darrell Revis, CB, Pittsburgh

The Giants' secondary is a mess and it's time to retool. Revis would be a solid start.

21. Denver Broncos (9-7)
+ Reggie Nelson, S, Florida

Nelson is one of the biggest defensive playmakers in this draft. You better believe the Cowboys would love to get him, so don't be surprised if they make a play to move up and ensure his services.

22. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Tank Tyler, DT, North Carolina State

You can never have too many stout defensive linemen. Just look what happened to Dallas when Greg Ellis got hurt.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
Deymeion Hughes, CB, Cal

The Chiefs desperately need to upgrade their talent at WR. But the only remaining wide-out who fits here would be Notre Dame's Jeff Samardzija. Just one problem; he wants to play baseball and football. Are you really going to use the 23rd pick him then? I'm guessing no, but K.C. might go ahead and roll the dice.

24. y- New England Patriots (from Seattle)
+ Jarvis Moss, DE/OLB, Florida

Just a perfect fit for the Pats' 3-4. Would be a great addition, especially with Bruschi and Vrabel aging.

25. New York Jets (10-6)
Kenny Irons, RB, Auburn

Jets have got to enlist some help in the backfield. I'm not crazy about Irons, but he's the top-rated RB available at this point.

26. y- New Orleans Saints (10-6)
Patrick Willis, ILB, Ole Miss

Saints offense is loaded so now it's time to take care of the D. Willis is the best LB in a weak class.

27. y- Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno State

Eagles always love to stock up on good corners.

28. y- New England Patriots (12-4)
LaMarr Woodley, DE/OLB, Michigan

If the Patriots get Moss AND Woodley in this draft, look out.

29. y- Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
+ Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida State

Timmons can run like the wind and we all know how much Tony Dungy values speed on defense.

30. y- Chicago Bears (13-3)
Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State

Bears don't really have a lot of holes (except for their QB). Since they can't replace Sexy (unless they want a statue like Brian Brohm), they might as well give him another target. One other thing: I originally had Samardzija's slide ending here, but since the Cubs' own his baseball rights, that just seemed too weird. But who knows, it might actually work.

31. y- Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
Justin Blalock, OT/OG, Texas

Another team that can truly take the "best available". Good chance to solidify the offensive line or find Jamal Lewis's replacement if there's an RB they like.


32. y- San Diego Chargers (14-2)
Jeff Samardzija, WR, Notre Dame

Chargers need help at WR and in the secondary. If Samardzija is still on the board, his slide ends here.

Lots more draft stuff to come in the near future. Also, weeks 2 playoff predictions and analysis will be posted by Friday morning. Feel free to post your own thoughts and comments. And finally, I promise there will be plenty of basketball and baseball columns at some point. But it's football time right now, ya know?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Live Journal of the BS Title Game

7:35 PM

Welcome to the first-ever C.C.C. live journal! Dare I say, I told you so? Obviously, it's way too early to declare the Buckeyes national champs, but what a start! Ted Ginn looks like he wants to be a top ten pick this April (although did anyone else see Aaron Gant's hold on Reggie Nelson?). And layoffs??? Are we talking layoffs??? Doesn't look like it hurt OSU too much, did it?

7:49 PM

Nice answer from Florida. Gotta give it up the Gators on that drive. A three-and-out on their opening drive would have been killer. Do we have a game on our hands? For my credibility (and that of the Fez theory), I sure hope not.

8:01

Deja vu. One year after replay failed to overturn a Vince Young touchdown (when his knee was clearly down), the refs blow it again on Percy Harvin's 4 yard plunge. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably insignificant, but you can't help but wonder how these mistakes are made on the biggest stage. 14-7, Florida. Time for Troy Smith to step up. His draft status (and subsequent millions) depend upon it.

8:21 PM

21-7, Florida, one play into the 2nd quarter. The difference so far: Chris Leak has all day to throw while Troy Smith is getting harassed and looking like Vinny Testeverde. To top it all off, Ohio State is looking like a plodding Big 10 team (it doesn't help that Ted Ginn is injured)... just like Michigan against USC. The Buckeyes need to answer NOW.

We're all lamenting the quick death of the Fez theory

8:27 PM

OSU comes through right on cue. I've been waiting for their running game to get going and Antonio Pittman delivered. Be interesting to see how he rates come draft day. We need some help here in Houston, Tony. Although don't bother if Adrian Peterson falls into our laps (not likely). 21-14, Gators.

8:41

The Buckeyes finally apply some pressure to Leak and what do you know? The Gators punt for the first time. It's become pretty clear OSU will lose this game if they don't get in Leak's face. Of course, you have to worry about Harvin breaking a big play if Ohio State is forced to constantly blitz. One other thing: Why weren't the Gators called for delay of game on that drive? And why weren't the announcers all over this? That's two obvious calls they've missed now.

8:46

I never would have picked OSU to win if I knew Jason White was going to be their starting quarterback.

8:56

Ohio State apparently learned nothing from USC's weak 4th and 1 call last year. I think I'm about to kill Fez and I imagine Ohio State backers everywhere will be more than happy to bury him too at this point. The only possible salvation I see at this point for the Buckeyes is if Chris Leak remember who he is. When rotten field goal kickers are drilling 43 yarders, you know you're in BIG trouble. Check that, when rotten field goal kickers are drilling two from 40+, you know you're pretty much finished. Do you think Tony Romo watched those two kicks, buried his head into Carrie Underwood's bosom and dissolved into a canal of tears?

Hope you've got plenty of Kleenex handy, Carrie

9:09

Troy Smith fumbles. It's over, folks. This could get USC-Oklahoma circa 2005 ugly.

10:09

Sorry for the break. I can't remember whether I fell asleep, fell into a coma or fell into the grave I'm digging for Fez. What a disaster. Just a horrible game and a pathetic performance from the entire Buckeye team from the moment Ginn crossed the goal line.

As for Troy Smith, he went from being a possible top ten pick (with a sterling performance) to rounds 2 or 3. At least he still has this recommendation from a New York stripper on his resume:

"He will be a great pro. He's got it. He's a natural leader. I can tell."

Think they'll give Troy his third round signing bonus in singles?

10:19

Get ready to hear a lot about the so-called "Gator Slam". Florida now holds the national title in football and basketball. Wow. And how about Urban Meyer? Just an incredible offensive gameplan, especially when you consider how inconsistent this Gator team was on offense all year.

Last but not least, like 99% of every football game you'll see, this contest was won in the trenches. The Florida D-line dominated and their offensive linemen did a tremendous job keeping Chris Leak clean.

10:31

Final word goes to my man, K-Knight. "Here is the problem with the Fez theory: hot girls continue to bang Fez, even though they know what he's about. And right now, I think he could nail Troy Smith."




Monday Musings: Will They Ever Learn?

Do you ever catch yourself wondering how professional sports owners actually became millionaires? I mean, surely they're a business-savvy lot who achieved success thanks to a boatload of clever, cunning decisions, right? So why on earth do they repeatedly make fools of themselves in the sports arena with bone-headed moves that show no sign of learning from past mistakes?

The latest example comes courtesy of Atlanta Falcons owner, Arthur Blank. Just days after kicking Jim Mora Jr. to the curb, Blank brought in former Louisville head coach, Bobby Petrino, to lead his team. An offensive specialist, Petrino will be asked not only to turn the Falcons around, but to rescue the career of Michael Vick as well, since he appears destined to go down as the game's all-time biggest tease at this point.

Sounds reasonable enough, so what's the problem? Well, if Blank bothered to look about 650 miles to the South last week, he'd know. Of course, that's when Miami got screwed over by Suzie-Lies-A-Lot, better known as Nick Saban. You see, like Saban, Petrino has made a habit of demanding loyalty and then showing none in return. His dalliances with Auburn and back room scheming at Louisville are well documented.

Now, I'll admit, coaches lying to players, faculty and the media is nothing new. And I don't begrudge anyone their right to earn a living and climb to the top of their chosen mountain. But if you dance with snakes, you're bound to get bit. And I'll go on record and tell you right now: In three years or less, after riding the Ron Mexico roller-coaster, Petrino will slither back to the college game, content with a fat check, blue-chip prospects and a brand-new messiah mask. Gotta hide those nostril-slits and that forked tongue somehow.

Is this man Lord Voldemort?

One other thought for the day: Predictably, I'm getting a little worried about choosing Baltimore to make a Super Bowl run. It seems their bandwagon is getting pretty crowded these days, which is never a good sign. On the plus side, I have absolutely no doubt they'll dispatch the Colts on Saturday. I'm just not sure the Ravens have what it takes to tackle New England, IF the Pats get past San Diego. And, while I haven't yet made up my mind, I do think Marty is completely capable of choking that game away. Whatever happens, Chargers/Pats should be one of the year's best match-ups. I can't wait.

Introducing the Fez Theory

Your deal with the devil is about to expire, Wilmer

Alright, we all know the BS system is a crock and that college football continues to drop the ball with its decision to ignore the immense potential of a true playoff. But by now, we've witnessed the argument from every side imaginable, so there's no reason to further discuss it here. Instead, I'd like to tackle a sports phenomenon more mind-boggling than Wilmer Valderrama's ability to woo teenage Hollywood starlets. In fact, let's just go ahead and call it "The Fez theory". Basically, the Fez Theory occurs when a large percentage of the public talks themselves into taking the inferior team due to the interminable wait between the end of the college football regular season and the title game (and then again during the two week break before the Super Bowl). In essence, it happens whenever the general population has way too much time to analyze the possible outcomes for a behemoth sporting event.

And right on cue, we're watching the Fez theory weave its magic as the Fiesta Bowl approaches. It seems like everyone is talking themselves into picking a Florida upset. But why? All season long, Ohio State was (rightfully) recognized as the best team in the country. They displayed consistency, dominance and dispatched all comers with relative ease (take away Michigan's meaningless last second TD and you'd have another double digit victory). As for the Gators, sure, they played in college football's best conference, but their national title hopes weren't even taken seriously until USC threw away its invitation after gagging in the season finale.

The fact is, Florida does indeed have a great defense but its offense proved inconsistent against top-flight competition. I mean, have you seen Chris Leak play these last two years? You're really going to trust him to come through in the biggest game of the season? Even in Florida's BS-clinching victory over Arkansas, Leak did his best to throw the game away. Yet, now, the Gator-backers point to SEC superiority (overrated; the last three national champions came from the Big 12 and Pac-10, two conferences possessing nowhere near the depth of the SEC), Ohio State's ridiculously long layoff (also overrated; since both teams have been off for more than a month, do you really think the Buckeyes' extra 2 weeks makes that much of a difference?) and Florida's ability to match Ohio State's team speed (well, yeah, but that still doesn't account for the Buckeyes being a better club, overall).

Look, there are exceptions to the Fez theory. Just one year ago, Texas stunned seemingly unbeatable USC. And in 2002, New England shocked the football world by knocking off the high-powered Rams in Super Bowl 36. But take a look at the exceptions and here's what you'll find: Either a superstar player capable of winning a game by himself (i.e. Vince Young) or a serious coaching mismatch (Bill Belichick vs. Mike Martz. Ouch). So does Florida fit the bill? Certainly not at the superstar level. And last I checked, Jim Tressel takes a back seat to no one when it comes to coaching (and possibly cheating, too, but that's a story for another time).

You deserved so much more, Mandy

So when you're preparing to make your pick for tonight's big game, just think of our good buddy, Fez. Don't let the long layoff fool you into thinking Florida's better than it actually is. Chances are, Mandy Moore made the same mistake with Wilmer. She'd been out of the dating scene for awhile, heard a growing buzz about some over-hyped, B-list celeb, and the next thing you know tales of her virgin experiences were being blabbed over the airwaves. Stay away, my friends. Stay far away.

Ohio State 27 Florida 10

NFL Playoffs: Week 1 Wrap

Well, we're down to the NFL's elite 8 and there weren't too many surprises along the way. Tom Brady was Tom Brady, Eli was Eli and Chad Pennington delighted everyone (or, me, at least) with one final "Noodles" cameo before calling it a season.

One thing I would like to add: If you're a NFL fan and have even the slightest interest in the Cowboys (good or bad), you owe it to yourself to spend at least 30 minutes surfing this website. It's absolutely brilliant from a comedic standpoint and while I'm thrilled the Cowboys' season is over, I'm sad to see it means the end of the best blog on the internet.

Don't be sad, Tony. You inspired the best blog on the internet.

My week 2 playoff breakdown will arrive later this week. In the meantime, check-in regularly for more musings.

Week 1 picks:
Straight up: 3-1
Against the Spread: 3-1

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Return of Mr. Peepee

Mr. Peepee continues his campaign to make Ty Law a HOFer

Isn't it great to know that in today's wild, wacky and wholly unpredictable NFL, there are still some things you can count on? Imagine, then, how giddy I was today when Mr. Peepee (Playoff Peyton) arrived on the scene for his annual January choke-fest. True, the Colts survived Peyton's 3 horrendous picks, but is there anyone left on the planet who still believes Indy has a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl appearance this year? Hell, does anyone actually think they can beat the Ravens (in Baltimore) next week? Honestly, I'll be shocked if the Colts put up more than 14 points and Mr. Peepee doesn't add at least two more interceptions to his playoff portfolio.

Now, for those of you who think I'm just another Manning-hater, let me fill you in on a little secret: I used to defend Peyton all the time. At one point, I picked the Colts to win the Super Bowl 3 years in a row. And when they fell short, I always blamed his lackluster defense or a superior opponent with homefield advantage (aka, New England). I truly believed Peepee was better than Tom Brady. Check that, not just better, but head and shoulders above the Patriots' signal-caller. And then Peyton and company gagged at home against Pittsburgh last year and I swore up and down that I'd never trust Peyton in the playoffs again. I finally saw the light.

The sad thing is (if you're a Colts' fan, that is) that Peyton's title window might have closed already. Indy's veteran squad means a big cap number, thus severely limiting the Colts ability to make big moves via free agency in the future. Remember the Tennessee Titans circa 2001? They were coming off a Super Bowl appearance and followed that up by posting the league's best record. But instead of hoisting the Lombardi trophy, they ran into the Ravens' juggernaut and never got close to the big game again. A few years later, they had to blow the whole thing up and start over because their veteran club descended into salary cap hell.

The ironic thing is that one of the biggest problems facing the Colts in the future is the rise of those same Tennessee Titans. Vince Young has become a full-fledged force much more quickly than anyone expected and the Titans now have plenty of draft choices and money to burn once again. Then when you consider how nicely situated arch-nemesis, New England, seems to be (2 first round draft picks, cap space, Tom Brady and young stud, Laurence Maroney), it quickly becomes apparent that Indianapolis faces a steep uphill climb to remain among the AFC elite. Yes, time moves that quickly in today' NFL.

It's not whether you win or lose, but how much fun you have right, Brett?

But look on the bright side, Indy fan. I'm sure the Packers' faithful immensely enjoyed watching their own legend repeatedly lead Green Bay to the second round of the playoffs during the 2nd half of his career. And as for the rest of us, we'll take comfort in knowing we get to see Mr. Peepee again next week... and for many more Januaries to come.