Saturday, December 24, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 16 -- Now or Never for Playoff Contenders

No we didn't expect Indy to upset Houston in Thursday night's game. Houston goes limping into the playoffs for their first post season appearance.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-12 1/2)
The Ravens will work hard to put Sunday night's fiasco behind them, a most embarassing loss balanced off by San Francisco's win over Pittsburgh.
Minnesota @ Washington (-6 1/2)
The Redskins fans should enjoy a rare victory in an otherwise terrible sason.

Arizona @ Cincinnati (-4 1/2)
Cincinnati will fight viciously to keep faint playoff hopes alive.

Denver (-3) @ Buffalo
Tebow magic returns against the vapid Bills.

Miami @ New England (-9 1/2)
New England rolls on guarding their #1 seed.

St. Louis @ Pittsburgh (-14 1/2)
Pittsburgh will rest their chief thug, Roethlisberger but still should beat the week Cardinals.

New York Giants @ New York Jets (-3)
Both New York teams need this win to keep playoff hopes alive essentially having to win out to get a bid. Jets have a very slight edge.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-7 1/2)
Panthers should win against a broken Tampa Bay team.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-7 1/2)
Tennessee should put up a fight having miserably small playoff hopes.

Oakland @ Kansas City (-2 1/2)
The Chiefs will take care of the chaotic Raiders.

San Diego @ Detroit (-2 1/2)
San Diego is on a roll but face a team that is fighting to lock in a playoff berth. This is going to be an all out brawl.

Philadelphia @ Dallas (-1 1/2)
Who doesn't want to see the Cowboy hoopla take a big hit, but Philadelphia is just too unpredictable this year

San Francisco (2 1/2) @ Seattle
The 49er's march on and plan to turn out the lights in Seattle.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-12)
The world now knows Green Bay is not invinsible, but Chicago's too banged up to take advantage of Green Bay's injuries.

Atlanta @ New Orleans (-6 1/2)
Division rivals meet in an important game for the NFC south. The Saints seem to be doing everything right these days and should take care of Atlanta.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 15: Playoffs, Did Somebody Say Playoffs?

Week 14 starts tonight with Atlanta hosting Jacksonville as an 11 point favorite to win. They'd better win. With an 8-5 record, they're in as a Wild Card, but  Chicago and Dallas stand at 7-6 ready to grab their spot. Given coach Jack Del Rio has been fired and Jacksonville only has their Monday night win over the Ravens as bragging rights, it's hard to imagine they'll have much for Atlanta on the road.

Saturday night, Dallas takes a Florida vacation where they must win against Tampa Bay to keep their post season plans in order. When will the jibber-jabber that they're a GREAT team having a few problems stop? The Cowboys suck and they are NOT America's team. That's an insult to all of us Americans who love our hometown teams.

Sunday's games:
Washington @ New York (-7)
New York must win this game and will against the hopelessly confused Redskins. With the Shannahan regime looking as bad or worse as anything during Daniel Snyder's tenure, one has to wonder if Danny Boy will ever field a winning team and get the organization straightened out. Joe Gibbs short return might have been the best they could have ever hoped for and even Gibbs could to little with the new Herndon culture.

Cincinnati (-6) @ St. Louis
The Bengals must win to keep faint playoff hopes alive

Tennessee (-6 1/2) @ Indianapolis
Tennessee needs a solid win to counter last week's loss to keep pace having lost their berth to the Jets with that loss.

Seattle @ Chicago (-3 1/2)
This is a must win for the Bears and Seattle's showing more punch in the second half of the season.

Green Bay (-14) @ Kansas City
No contest. Green Bay rules.

Miami at Buffalo
Take your pick, but Buffalo mailed in this season while MiAami despite their coach being fired still has some fight left in them.

Carolina at Houston (-6 1/2)
Houston moves on toward a top playoff berth even with a #3 QB.

New Orleans (-7) at Minnesota
Minnesota is on vacation. Sorry, they'll be awakened for an ass-whoopin' at noon on Sunday

Detroit (-1) at Oakland
This game is a must win for both teams. Detroit needs the win to maintain their current wild card berth. Oakland is one of three 7-3 teams hoping to get into the Wild Card, but since Denver is 8-5, they're also looking for the division crown if they can overcome Tebow magic.

Cleveland @ Arizona (-6 1/2)
A totally meaningless game except for Arizona who will win this game.

New York Jets @ Philadelphia (-2 1/2)
What are the odds makers thinking. The Eagles are struggling but Rex Ryan's been more bark than bite in 2011. The Jets must win to keep their playoff berth. They should do so.

New England (-6) @ Denver
Tom Brady versus Tim Tebow and Jesus Christ. All rational thought would say Tebow's reign of magic ends against the mighty New Englander's but their defense is weak and can be exploited. Brady will have to put on a QB clinic to win. He probably will.

Baltimore (-2 1/2) at San Diego
The Ravens need a win to keep their homefield status in tact. They should do so keeping in mind that the last two games which ended a San Diego tumble were against weak opponents - Jacksonville and Buffalo.

Pittsburgh at San Francisco
The Vegas boys want no part in picking a favotite and it remains to be seen how hurt Roethlisberger is  -- the most indestructable player since Johnny Unitas. However, thug James Harrison is suspended for head hunting so the filthy dirty Steelers could well meet their match playing San Francisco away from Terrible Towel country. San Francisco should win if their defense can tear up the Steelers early.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 14 -- a Calm Week before the Final Push

In week 14, there are view key matchups between playoff contenders except for Houston at Cincinnati and the New York Giants at Dallas, so this week is one where the established teams cannot afford a letdown and lose ground. Teams looking to secure the most available playoff spots cannot lose and possibly find themselves out of luck.

Let’s look at the picks.

 Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-14)
Pittsburgh’s terrible towels will be wiping up a lot of Brown mess.

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-16)
This would have been a game of great excitement where now the Baltimore fans can only watch in sadistic glee as the Colts will be ground up for glue and dog food.

New England (-8) at Washington
The Patriots will continue their march to the AFC East title.

Tampa Bay at Jacksonville
No odds are posted for this game so flip a coin. We’ll give Tampa the slight edge.

Kansas City at New York Jets (-10 ½)
Rex will be singing his song, but a little humility please. Beating the Chiefs is no major feat at this point in the 2011 season.

Minnesota at Detroit
No odds are published for this game, but even without their mindless beast, Suh, on defense, Detroit should win.

New Orleans (3 ½) at Tennessee
The Saints should use this game as one o start getting in post season shape. They’re truly the top team with little doubt in the NFC South.

Philadelphia at Miami (-3)
This season is over for the Eagles and could mark the end of couch Andy Reid as the Cheesesteak capital of the world will want burnt offerings for such a horrible season.

Oakland at Green Bay (-11)
If Green Bay does not go undefeated, Oakland won’t be the team to stop them.

Atlanta (-2 ½) at Carolina
Atlanta needs to win this game to stay in striking distance of playoff bids

Chicago at Denver (-3 ½)
The bashed up Bears are the next team to get “Tebowed.”

San Francisco (-4) at Arizona
The 49’ers march on in the desert.

Buffalo at San Diego (-7)
Buffalo’s fast start is far behind them while San Diego’s win last week certainly did not reflect them getting back on track. The Chargers will win this game but Norv Turner’s era in San Diego is almost oer.

New York Giants at Dallas (-3 ½)
This is a must win game for the Giants, but as inconsistent as Dallas has been this year, the Giants have been worse. Dallas will win, but that’s not because they’ve become a good team.

St. Louis at Seattle
No odds are posted on this game because both teams stink. The Seahawks seem to have a little more fight in them and their stadium is a tough place to play.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 13: The 3rd Quarter Ends as the Playoff Contenders Step Forward

The 2012 season ends its third quarter with this weekend’s game with the playoff possibilities clearly in sight. Perhaps the biggest story of the season has nothing to do with victories, but instead, failure. Would anyone have foreseen the Indianapolis Colts being winless with five games to go even without Peyton Manning?

Clearly, there are issues at play on that team that are deeper than the leadership afforded by one key player out of action. The Detroit Lions started off as one of the real happy stories of the year winning their first five games but going 2-4 since with the insane conduct of Ndamukong Suh’s out of control nonsense getting most of the attention including stomping on an opponent’s head and then trying to justify his action on a nationally televised Thanksgiving game. That earned him a two game suspension, a fate that could eliminate Detroit not only from its first shot at the playoffs in ages but they’ll have to step it up to avoid yet another losing season.

Could Rex Ryan and his nonstop bloviating be wearing out his welcome in New York? The Jets are not going to make the playoffs without one of the leaders in the AFC North, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or Cincinnati self-destructing. Does anyone believe Norv Turner will return to coach San Diego next year?  San Diego would be the choke tale of the year were it not for the Colts.

Dallas could win the NFC East, but no one should buy into the hype that they are a great team. They have a light schedule for the rest of the year and have looked terrible at times. Why they continue to maintain the America’s team hype defies imagination.

The NFC battle for the Championship looks clear. It will be San Francisco versus New Orleans to attempt to knock off the Green Bay Packers. The AFC seems pointed to Baltimore, but the Ravens have a funny habit of losing to miserable teams after clobbering the big boys. They must show championship caliber play Sunday versus Cleveland while Pittsburgh plays Cincinnati; otherwise, it will probably be a pick between Pittsburgh and New England for AFC supremacy.

The following teams can only at best tie for their division lead. Jacksonville (AFC South), Miami (AFC East), Carolina (NFC South), Arizona (NFC West). These teams are toast: Indianapolis (AFC South), Minnesota (NFC North), St. Louis (NFC West).

Here are the battles for week 13.

Thursday Night:
Philadelphia (-3) @ Seattle
The Eagles are a mess and face playing cross country on a short schedule. Seattle should prevail.

Sunday Afternoon:
 New York Jets (-3) @ Washington
This is a must win for the Jets if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. They should have the edge over the chaotic Redskins.

Oakland @ Miami (-3)
This is the kind of game Oakland needs to win to show themselves a real post season threat not just the lucky team in a bad division.

Denver @ Minnesota (-1 ½)
More Tebow magic? Don’t count the little guy out. They’ll play with enthusiasm something the Vikings sorely lack.

Indianapolis @ New England (-20)
Remember when this matchup of Olympian proportions?  Manning versus Brady, but somehow New England at least held their own when they lost Brady for a season. What’s up with the Colts who will be brutalized on Sunday?

Atlanta (-3) @ Houston
This was supposed to be Houston’s break out year and on paper, a 7-3 record looks great, but that doesn’t reveal they’re now down to a 3rd string quarterback. They won’t beat Atlanta, but should make the first round of the playoffs then be sent home.

Tennessee @ Buffalo (-1 ½)
Buffalo’s lost four straight and are 2-6 since their fast three wins to start the season while Tennessee seeks to stay in the playoff hunt with Houston ahead by two games but damaged. Tennessee should be able to beat Buffalo.

Kansas City @ Chicago (-7)
Chicago should prevail with ease.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-7)
If Pittsburgh loses, their dreaded rival, the Ravens should be in the driver’s seat to win the division and both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would be in line as wild cards. If Pittsburgh wins, then Cincinnati is thrown to the pack of other wild card contenders with Baltimore and Houston ahead on their schedule. This game should belong to the Steelers.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-3)
There are no guarantees in this match up. If Cam Newton is on top of his game, Carolina can win, but Tampa Bay, a most inconsistent team, should win if they play their “A” game.

Dallas (-4 ½) @ Arizona
Okay, the Cowboys will win this. Don’t draw any grand conclusions about this being any kind of triumph.

Baltimore (-7) @ Cleveland
Baltimore has to win this game and not resort to the pattern of losing to losing teams after big wins against tough opponents. Cleveland is a tough spot. The Cleveland fans HATE the Ravens more than any other team believing in their hearts the team dressed in purple and gold should be their gladiators. Get over it and prepare for the wrath of the Ravens.

Green Bay (-7) @ New York Giants
The Giants looked terrible against New Orleans and now they face another even tougher foe. Although Eli Manning is giving the game a fine effort, the Giants’ defense and special teams are so awful, they’d have to pull the upset versus the Packers to have any hope short of a total Dallas collapse for post season play. The Packers should win with ease. The Giants one saving grace is facing Dallas twice before season’s end.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (-13)
Here’s a game for the Giants to feel good after losing the Brother Bowl Thanksgiving night – a nice win against a division opponent.

Sunday Night:
Detroit @ New Orleans (-9)
This will be a painful realization for Detroit, a team that looked so promising starting 5-0, has gone 2-4 since with Ndamukong Suh’s bully antics getting much of the press. New Orleans looks like a team on the ascent with Drew Brees running the Saints’ offense brilliantly. Detroit faces a tough loss on the Sunday night stage.

Monday Night:
San Diego (-2 ½) @ Jacksonville
Jack Del Rio got the ax fulfilling a rumor that has been festering for over two seasons. Meanwhile, San Diego’s horrible play has Norv Turner a dead man walking who perhaps might not make it to the season’s end given their dreadful 4-7 record with star QB Phillip Rivers looking horrible consistently this year. Who will win this game is truly a toss up. They’ve lost six consecutive games but unless the team has mailed it in entirely, they should prevail on their home field.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 12 - Turkeys Attempt to Avoid Slaughter as Playoff Chase Begins

Green Bay (-6.5) @ Detroit   
Finally Detroit plays in a Thanksgiving game, but like back in the 1960’s when they likewise faced the Packers and lost. It’s hard to see them getting beyond Aaron Rodgers.               

Miami  @ Dallas (-7)
Dallas wins a couple against interior teams requiring overtime to do so last weekend against the folded up Redskins. So beating Miami will get the America’s team hype machine screaming. They are at best a very average team.

San Francisco  @ Baltimore ( 3.5)
The big media game of the week, “The Battle of the Brothers,” Jim for the Ravens and John, 15 months younger and a former Raven for San Francisco, this will be one intense game.  Big brother wins.

Minnesota @ Atlanta  (-9.5)
Atlanta must win games like this to continue to have any post season hopes.

Houston (-3.5) @ Jacksonville
Quarterback Matt Schaub is out for the season but Houston should beat Jacksonville in a weak division. Currently tied with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England at 7-3, it will be hard to maintain first round bye status.                     
Tampa Bay @ Tennessee (-3)
Either team could win this one. The Titans get the home field plus.

Arizona @  St. Louis (-3)
Not much at stake here other than avoiding the cellar in the NFC’s dog division.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-7.5 )
After losing to the Steelers and Ravens, the Bengals will gladly maul the Steelers.

Buffalo @ New York Jets (-8.5)
Remember when Buffalo led the AFC East?  Nobody’s figuring much of anything from them now. Rex Ryan’s show is wearing thin. More results and less jabber will keep the Jets in the playoff picture, a must unless Ryan wants the whole Big Apple to turn against him.

Carolina (-3) @ Indianapolis 
If rookie QB Cam Newton falters, if Indy’s putting forth any effort any longer, they could gain their first win, but Carolina still earns the nod.               

Washington @ Seattle            (-4)
The Ravens took the same trip two weeks ago and lost. What would give the Redskins even the slightest chance?

Chicago @ Oakland (-4.5)
Oakland will enjoy widening its lead in the North with a win over the injured Bears.

New England  (-3) @ Philadelphia                
The Eagles don’t have much working right now and the Patriots swarm like sharks when there’s blood in the water.
Denver @ San Diego  (-6.5)
San Diego should finally get a win, one in their division no less. If Tebow wins again, we might conclude his personal relationship with Jesus includes fixing football games.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) @ Kansas City
If the Steelers are a lesser team in 2011, no one will know it this weekend.

Monday Night:                                   
New York Giants @ New Orleans (-7)
The Giants need to pull an upset if they are to remain relevant this year but they won’t and the Saints will keep marching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 36: The Grande Finale - Edwards versus Stewart

In almost showman like precision, the field for the grand finale the race that will determine the 2011 championship is between two racers, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. It would be Edwards' first title, but should Stewart win, he'd join the most elite fraternity of drivers with three or more titles -- Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson,  Jeff Gordon, Lee Petty, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip. On the other hand, would Edwards win, it would make Jack Roush a three time champ as owner, a rare feet in its own right. This is a race for the fans, a battle between two of NASCAR's boldest personalities both of whom have huge followings.

All the signs going into the race favor Edwards. He has won this race in the past two seasons, sits on the pole, and dominated second round practice, while Stewart's wins at Homestead were before the track was redesigned and was racing the older generation car. Stewart only managed 28th fastest in 2nd round practice which might suggest to some he could be sandbagging, but if that were the case, his qualifying efforts are rather lackluster, with a starting spot of 15th. Few drivers are able to communicate and make adjustments as effectively as Tony Stewart with Crew Chief, Darien Grubb's assistance. While the numbers are all in Edward's favor at the start of the race, nothing's chiseled in stone.

Some drivers are hoping that the Ford 400 is not their last horrah. Presently, the #6 team does not have sponsorship to continue, as such David Ragan could be without a ride. David Reutimann was fired from Michael Waltrip racing. While Brian Vickers, who ccertainly has not been making friends given his on track behavior recently, is with the Red Bull Team that is closing up shop unless a buyer an be found, but even if one were,there's no guarantee Vickers would be invited back. The NASCAR field continues to contract. The Roush operation could well be three cars as will Richard Childress racing. However, the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series might have provided a look at who could be joining those teams in the near future. Austin Dillion, Richard Childress's grandson, won the truck championship. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Nationwide title for Roush.

For the first time since 2005, Jimmy Johnson will not be champion. The last champ before him...Tony Stewart. Johnson's five consecutive titles is an unequalled feat in NASCAR blowing away Cale Yarborough's three straight titles. With Johnson's long shadow, it is not obvious that Tony Stewart not only already has hall-of-fame credentials, but a championship tomorrow puts him in the true elite. Edwards, most might think it's about time. He's been one of the sport's most dynamic drivers in the past decade and is one of five who finished second to the Johnson legacy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 11 -- The Last of the Byes

For those who want to run Cam Cameron out of town for Baltimore's embarassing loss to Seattle, how does a team commit three turnovers, two on kickoffs giving the opposition the ball in ideal field position and not lose.That te Ravens' defense only held the Seahawks to field goals minimizes the damage, but from this point forward, EVERY game the Ravens play is a vry important game. If they want some playoff action in Baltimore, no more cheap losses to crappy opponents.

Meanwhile, in the topsy turvy world of Mike Shannahan and "Sonny Boy" it's back to Rex Grossman proving once and for all the team hasn't a real QB nor do they have a real offensive coordinator, sorrry Dad.

How fortunate are the banged up Steelers to have the an unusually late bye? Al teams played last week, and now there's one more week of four teams with byes, Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans, and Indianapolis who really haven't shown up to play all year.

The Broncos are about to host the Jets with their "unique" QB, Tim Tebow aainst the Jets with their underachieving QB Mark Snachez. This is a great media game. So let's look at all the games and who's going to win in Week 11.

New York Jets (-6 1/2) at Denver
There isn't enough Tebow magic to stand up against the nasty Jets defense...end of story.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-7)
No excuses, no mistakes, the Ravens must prevail. Cincinnati's glory run starting the season is now over facing the big boys in the division.

Dallas (-7) at Washington
That the Cowboys will clobber the Skins will get the talk going that they are America's team and really good. Baloney, they're playing a team that sucks.

Carolina at Detroit (-7)
The Lions need to show command that they truly have mastered winning against the talented Cam Newton leading the Panthers' attack.

Tampa Bay at Green Bay (-14)
Green Bay wins the battle of the Bays with ease.

Buffalo at Miami (-2)
Buffalo's hot start is over. Miami's out to prove their horrible start is too. Miami has the slight edge.

Jacksonville at Cleveland (-1)
The home crowd and its collective stench should give Cleveland the edge over Jacksonville.

Tennessee at Atlanta (-6)
Atlanta needs wins like this one to get its season back in ontention for the NFC South's crown or perhaps a wild card.

Oakland (-1 1/2) at Minnesota
Oakland has some real punch in their game despite their many shortcomings while the Vikings are more likely to just roll over.

Seattle at St. Louis (-2 1/2)
These games against two weak teams are tough calls. Figure the Seahawks left their fortune at home having upset the Ravens -- they come east and play indoors.

Arizona at San Francisco (-9 1/2)
The Niners with John Harbaugh's leadership is the 2011 up and coming team that should smash the Cardinals.

San Diego at Chicago (-3.5)
Will the Chargers ever show winning form again in 2011?  The Bears are coming on srong in mid-season, and with their relentles defense should exploit the struggling San Diego offense.

Philadelphia @ New York Giants (-4)
The Eagles horrible season falling way below expectations combined with QB MIchael Vick nrusing cracked ribs makes this game look like the Giants all the way. This game should have been a hot contest, but the Eagles don't have enough fighters to do the job.

Kansas City at New England (-15)
Wharever problems have dogged New England this year will be well disguised plaing an opponent who should make them look like the might Patriots.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 35 - Brand New Phoenix Rising

Four drivers compete for the Sprint Cup with two races remaining in the 2011 Chase. Points leader, Carl Edwards starts 9th with second place driver, Tony Stewart, three points behind starts in 8th. Kevin Harvick in 3rd 33 points back did not help his prospects to leap into the thick of competition with a distant 27th starting position. Matt Kenseth, in 4th in the standings, 33 points back, the only other driver within reach of the title improved his prospects winning the pole for tomorrow’s Kobalt Tools 500.

Other drivers of note include both Richard Petty entries with A.J. Allmendinger in the #43 Ford starting 2nd and Marcos Ambrose starting 3rd in the #9 Ford. Michael Waltrip racing, an enterprise that has struggled in 2011finds Martin Truex starting his #56 Toyota in 5th while discarded driver, David Reutimann starts the 00 Toyota in 7th hoping to catch the attention of an owner with an open seat for a driver for 2012. Disgraced driver, Kyle Busch returns to the track stripped of his M&M sponsorship for the last two races lining u a distant 34th place after his shameful conduct destroying Ron Hornaday’s KHI Chevrolet during caution last week in Texas.

Looking at past success might not be a good indicator for who will drive well tomorrow since the Phoenix track is not only repaved but also redesigned with new banking and reengineered curves. Some Nationwide series drivers suggested similarities to Iowa, a track where Sprint Cup does not run. The Nationwide race proved the track to be most race worthy providing competitive conditions for great competition.

While a strong case could be made for either Edwards or Stewart to win the championship most fans and pundits agree that their positions should remain very close at the end of competition tomorrow leading for a tight margin going into the series grand finale.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 10 - Add Thursday Nights!!!

Week 10

Here it is! The start of Thursday Night Football the cash cow for the NFL Network which assures a groggy workforce three mornings a week, Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Note to employers – make sure most important tasks are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.  Regarding the Ravens dramatic final seconds win Sunday night, fans can continue to celebrate right up through kickoff on Sunday, but the team had better be working as if Sunday in Seattle were the Super Bowl. The Ravens cannot afford to lay another egg after a major victory if they want some playoff action in crab town. The Pittsburgh/Cincinnati game will be hugely interesting and prove if the Bengals are for real this year. Pittsburgh pretty much looks like the Steelers of old except for their two losses to Baltimore, so what do the fellows downstream have for them?

The games:
Oakland @ San Diego (-7)
San Diego cannot continue to putz about and beat division foes. They still should be the top team in the AFC West but must prove it against the Raiders who stand to get stronger as Carson Palmer gets integrated into their game plan.

Washington @ Miami (-4)
This is a game to prove just how bad the Redskins or Dolphins truly are. A smart, conservative game plan and some heads up defense should send the quarterbackless Skins back to DC in tatters.

Jacksonville (-3) @ Indianapolis
Will the Colts play another game that they don’t mail it in this year? They are playing some of the most pathetic football seen by what should be a hurting quality team in ages. It’s impossible to pick the Colts in any game until they show some fight. Suppose they are playing for Luck and little more.

Denver @ Kansas City (-3)
Let’s bet on this game starting up the Tim Tebow jokes again. KC is recovering nicely from a tough start.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Cincinnati
This is reality check for both teams. If the Bengals are good, this is a game to prove it. They face Pittsburgh and Baltimore in four of their last eight games and have to win two games of the four to be a true contender.

Buffalo @ Dallas (-5 ½)
Picking Dallas to win this game assumes Buffalo’s fast start was a fluke and that playing in the great palace of decadence will be too much for them. Dallas is not a good team that got off to a bad start. They are the most over-hyped team in the game. The real key to the game is Dallas’s defense playing up to par. If they do, the Cowboys win.

New Orleans @ Atlanta
The odds makers want no part of this game and that’s understandable. The Saints have floundered recently. Atlanta has been underachieving this year but is starting to pull things together. The Saints have the extra win since they have not had their bye. We’ll give Atlanta a very slight edge.

St. Louis @ Cleveland (-2 ½)
Here’s what you get when two weak teams collide. Cleveland’s a little more aggressive and has their horde of drunks cheering them on – slight edge.

Houston (-3) @ Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay shows flashes of brilliance but Houston is the stronger team. Houston has no margin for underachievement which has dogged them too often this year to pull this game out.

Tennessee @ Carolina (-3)
Carolina is making strides to once again be a successful team with young QB Cam Newton. Tennessee has lost its early season pop – slight edge to the Panthers.

Arizona @ Philadelphia
Philadelphia is one of the most frustrating teams in the game. They can and should win this game.

Detroit @ Chicago (-2 ½)
This is a great game for either team to prove they are for real. Chicago took care of Philadelphia Monday night, but if Detroit is truly a real winner, this is an important game to win on the road if they are playoff bound.

Baltimore (-6 ½) @ Seattle
It’s noisy, it’s the west coast, the Ravens must be on top of their game against this must lesser team.

New York Giants @ San Francisco (-3 ½)
Here’s another chance for Jim Harbaugh to prove his “Niners” are for real against a team they could well face in the post season.

New England @ New York Jets (-1 ½)
New England handled the Jets in their first meeting in week 5 when the Jets were in their third of a difficult road stretch. Since then, the Jets have pulled things together as the New England Patriots are looking mighty weak on defense. The Jets would appear to have the slight edge here.

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-13 ½)
Send in the clowns, this is Green Bay’s all the way. Minnesota is simply too weak to call this a great rivalry game this year.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 34 -- Three to Go

And now there are three, and Texas Motor Speedway is one tough destination for Sunday’s AAA 500. Carl Edwards and especially Tony Stewart (-8) are talking championship trash after Martinsville’s demolition derby. However, they are not the only contenders with three races remaining. Kevin Harvick is only -21 out of first while Brad Keselowski sits back -27. We’re keeping Matt Kenseth in the picture, who’d need to make up 12 points a race to be in the championship picture at the end. Jimmie Johnson has a full field’s worth of points to overcome, -43; however, can we really rule out the defending five consecutive champ.

Here are where our contenders line up.

1-      Carl Edwards, #99, Ford, starts 7th
2-      Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet, starts 5th
3-      Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet, starts 21st
4-      Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge, starts 8th
5-      Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford, starts 3rd
6-      Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet, starts 11th

Given the top two contenders such elite starting positions adds to the intrigue as they will be fighting hard to maintain track position and execute flawless pit stops as an eight point lead can vanish quickly.

Weather should be ideal with temperatures in the low 70’s under partly cloudy skies.

NFL 2011: Week 9 - Halfway There

All teams will have reached the halfway point in the 2011 season and aside from the Green Bay Packers, every top team has shown weaknesses having at least one embarassing loss to their credit. Aside from the undefeated Packers, only the surprising San Francisco 49er's under first year coach, John Harbaugh's leadership, has one loss albeit in perhaps the weakest division in the NFL.

Take note of the NFC East where the New York Giants lead with a 5-2 record, the other three teams have a 3-4 record. The Redskins are dropping like a stone. Dallas has proven again they aren't a top tier team and who can still believe Tony Tomo is a capable quarterback. Meanwhile, Philadelphia appears to be the team on the rise after their dreadful start.

Three teams stand at 4-3 in the AFC West, San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland. San Diego would be the pick but they looked pitiful in Monday's slaughter at the hand of Kansas City as Oakland tries to put things together behind QB Carson Palmer who had been "retired" before last week.

Indianapolis and Miami remain winless. The loss of Peyton Manning must be seen as only one factor in the Colts demise at this point. While Manning is a sure hall-of-fame QB, for a team that has been a consistent winner to flop so badly without him signals bigger problems. It's hard to imagine what that clubhouse will be in December.

The following teams have byes this week: Detroit, Carolina, Jacksonville, Minnesota

The Games:

San Francisco (-4) @ Washington
Landover, MD should be prepared for a slaughter. Since the QB controversy surfaced, it's clear that the Redskins have neither a quarterback or an offensive coordinator who has a clue what's going on. Too bad he's the head coach's little boy.

Miami @ Kansas City (-4)
Kansas City is no place for Miami to gain its first win. A four point spread favoring the Chiefs seems harsh to KC.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-8)
The Saints will be looking to show they are indeed a top NFC team with this home game against an increasingly stronger division rival. The Saints should win, but don't be surprisedif the Bucs beat the spread.

Seattle @ Dallas (-11.5)
Don't let this game fool anybody. The Cowboys will look like a great team this Sunday, but look who they're playing.

New York Jets @ Buffalo (-2.5)
Here's Buffalo's chance to prove they are truly a playoff contender. It would be best for Rex Ryan to concentrate on action not words as they will likely lose in the home of the one NFL team that plays in the State of New York.

Cleveland @ Houston (-10.5)
Houston can make this a blowout if they play on top of their game but they've had lapses they can't afford against the Browns.

Atlanta (-7) @ Indianapolis
Poor Colts ... another loss.

Cincinnati @ Tennessee (-3)
Here are two teams playing better than expected so far this season. We'll give the Titans the choice with a slight home field advantage.

Denver @ Oakland (-7)
Poor Tim Tebow, a nice kid playing a big man's game will be a sad sight as he gets pancaked, pounded, and pasted as the Tebow jokes will keep getting louder. The NFL is not the SEC.

New York Giants @ New England (-9)
Playing at home, the Patriots will surely be ready to lay a whipping on the Giants.

Green Bay (-5.5) @ San Diego
San Diego and QB Phil Rivers just don't seem to be programmed to win. Green Bay is. Norv Turner will be even more reviled after this loss.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-2.5)
This game's a tough call. Both are teams on the rebuild. We give the Cardinals the home team edge.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3)
The war moves from the shores of the Patapsco to the Three Rivers confluence. Can the Ravens rise up and whack the Stealers again who surely resent what happened in week one. The Ravens just might come home with the win this time in the city that eats french fries on their sandwiches.

Chicago @ Philadelphia (-7.5)
Philadelphia will look like the team they were supposed to be with all the presason bragging. They'll be at the break even point with this win.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011, Race 33

Rain cancelled practicing in Martinsville for the 7th stop on the 2011 Sprint Cup Case. Being a half mile flat track poses unique challenges requiring far more specialized driving than succeeding on the larger tracks. Thus Martinsville like Talladega a week ago becomes something of an elimination race where those who fare poorly might loose their chance at the championship.

Here’s the line up.

1-      Carl Edwards #99, Ford
2-      Matt Kenseth #17, Ford, -14
3-      Brad Keselowski #2, Dodge, -18
4-      Tony Stewart #14, Chevrolet, -19
5-      Kevin Harvick #29, Chevrolet, -26
6-      Kyle Busch #18, Toyota, -40
7-      Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet, -50

Saturday, October 29, 2011

NFL 2011: Week 8 - Almost Halfway

Week 8

Teams who have not had their bye week hit the halfway point in the 2011 season as the true competitors for the season continue to emerge. A week ago, the Baltimore Ravens were toasted as the top team in the AFC. They might still well be, but after an embarrassing loss where the team did not gain one first down until the second half raises concerns about the offense particularly the hobbled offensive line who assured a miserable game for QB Joe Flacco.  The NFC East presents an interesting picture as the expected leader, Philadelphia, has failed miserably and is just beginning to flex its muscle while the Redskins who surprised fans with their fast start have plunged into the mediocrity that embarrassed the team a year ago. The Dallas Cowboys never live up to the hype that follows them, while the Giants are squarely in the picture. Perhaps the most asked question is: Can anyone stop the Green Bay Packers?

The games:
Arizona @ Baltimore (-13)
The Ravens hopefully got their poor play out of their system and won’t be looking ahead to their trip to Pittsburgh as they should easily handle Arizona.

New Orleans (-13 ½) @ St. Louis
For St. Louis sports fans who are serious Rams fans, Sunday’s game will be a cruel end to their World Series’ celebration.

Jacksonville @ Houston (-9 ½)
This might be one to mark for an upset if Jacksonville gained confidence from Monday’s victory and Houston coughs up probable wins in the second half, but Houston should prevail in this divisional game.

Minnesota @ Carolina (-3 ½)
There’s not much to hope for in Minnesota as a bigger glimpse of Carolina’s future with rookie QB Cam Newton should provide much to cheer in Charlotte.

Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-8)
Okay, the Colts are missing superstar QB Peyton Manning, but their play in 2011 defies explanation. They are a true embarrassment.

Miami @ New York Giants (-9 ½)
Miami’s struggles will continue as the Giants should have little trouble winning one for the home fans.

Detroit (-3) @ Denver
After a brilliant start, the Lions now have a two game losing streak as they attempt to smash Tebow magic in Denver. Injuries are taking a toll.

Washington @ Buffalo (-4 ½)
Buffalo needs a win to live up to early season promise as the Washington QB situation can only yield disaster for the ‘Skins.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Seattle
The Bengals are beginning to work their way into playoff conversations given their record being right there with the mighty Ravens and Steelers. They should win in Seattle and could be in 2nd place if Pittsburgh loses to the Patriots.

New England (-3) @ Pittsburgh
If Pittsburgh is a championship team, they must prove it against the constantly improving Patriots. Pittsburgh’s season could hinge on their next two games meeting Baltimore at home next week. The Pats just look stronger.

Cleveland @ San Francisco (-9)
Playing Cleveland should be an easy payday for the 49er’s at home.

Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3)
If Dallas is so hot, prove it in Philadelphia. That probably won’t happen as the Eagles are putting things together though a far cry from the super team they were hyped to be in August.

San Diego (-3 ½) @ Kansas City
The Bolts need to play well to show themselves as a top tier team. Their strength is the weakness of their division.

Green Bay
New York Jets
Tampa Bay

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 7 -- Some prosper, some rest, some die...

The bye weeks continue as six more teams recover. Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, the New York Giants, Philadelphia, and San Francisco enjoy a week off.  Only the Green Bay Packers remain undefeated at 6-0 with Detroit, 5-1 in the field of teams with one loss. All the others lead their divisions, Baltimore, New England, San Diego, and San Francisco. Indianapolis, Miami and St. Louis are the two winless teams so far where talk has already sprouted concerning the sweepstakes for the coveted #1 draft choice next spring presumably for Stanford QB, Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, two high visibility teams expected to be contenders are increasingly under pressure to start making a strong showing before the top teams in their division develop more separation, The New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets aren’t as great as their coach boasts them to be while the Cowboys don’t live up to the media’s hype when many see them as a mediocre team led by an overrated quarterback.

Clearly, the Green Bay Packers are the choice of the field so far, but there is much rumbling about the Baltimore Ravens who suddenly are playing the kind of absolutely earth-shaking defense that earned them their Super Bowl victory after the 2000 season. If their game on offense solidifies, they could become unstoppable in the AFC.

Here are our right-minded predictions for week seven.

Washington @ Carolina (-2 ½)
Washington got off to a strong 3-1 start but disassembled last week playing the desperate Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx field last week. The sore spot appeared to be horrible play of QB Ken Grossman who lost control of his game tossing up interceptions as freely as t-shirts from the t-shirt guns. John Beck takes over at QB while Cam Newton is poised for another win as his game improves with Carolina.

San Diego (-1) @ New York Jets
San Diego faces the problem of flying cross country to play in a hostile environment but of all the West Coast teams seems to be the team that’s able to overcome that the best. The Jets have to step up their game on all fronts to beat the toast of the AFC West to keep their playoff hopes alive. San Diego should have the edge.

Seattle @ Cleveland (-3)
Cleveland needs to play mistake free and solid getting a good game from Colt McCoy and if they do, Seattle will be put away and sent home miserably.

Atlanta @ Detroit (-3 ½)
Atlanta would have to find something they’ve not shown in what’s been a very disappointing 2011 season. Detroit will be anxious to push behind their loss to San Francisco last week to demonstrate they are a true contender this year. Too bad for them, they’re in the same division as Green Bay.

Chicago (-1) @ Tampa Bay
While Vegas gives Chicago a one point lead, playing at home and being more intense should give Tampa Bay the win over the hard-to-predict, inconsistent Bears.

Denver at Miami (-1)
Miami is favored by one point largely for the home field markup, but Tim Tebow is starting and no matter how much pundits are quick to point out his limitations, he brings a level of intensity and determination that the erratic and confused Dolphins cannot master. What would make this game the one where Miami finally rallies and tries to salvage something of this season. They’re not there yet.

Houston @ Tennessee (-3)
Houston still cannot pull all parts of their game together and having a lot of aching players further complicated by being flattened in the 2nd half by the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee should have enough of an advantage to sustain their lead in the AFC South and drop Houston two games out. Houston will be falling further out of the possible playoff pack without rolling out some victories soon, but tomorrow is not likely.

Pittsburgh (-4) @ Arizona
Pittsburgh is playing in a soft part of their schedule now which masks speculation if the 2011 team simply isn’t up to the championship potential the team has shown for the last several years. Their win tomorrow will still keep the questions open until they play tougher competition like New England next week leading to their home showdown against the Ravens on November 5th.

Kansas City @ Oakland (-4 ½)
Oakland installs QB Carson Palmer as they attempt to march on and challenge San Diego for the AFC West title. KC must find the magic they had just one year ago that took them to round one of the playoffs.

Green Bay (-9 ½) @ Minnesota
It wasn’t long ago when this match up was a hot rivalry, but this year it marks the doom of another aged quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who will be carrying the clipboard as the Vikings continue their losing ways moving the Packers to 7-0.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-13)
Dallas will look like a brilliant, championship time team, and folks could marvel at what a Hollywood QB Tony Romo is living up to the hype that follows this team through out the media world, but like Hollywood, this victory is all but staged playing the hapless (but improving) Rams.

Indianapolis @ New Orleans (-13 ½)
Even those who hate the Colts almost have to feel sorry for what’s going to happen Sunday night as they go to 0-7 in the noisy Superdome. Drew Brees and company should have a blast branding the hobbled ponies who are little more than dog food without their leader, Peyton Manning.

Baltimore (-8) at Jacksonville
The Ravens take a cheap Monday Night Florida vacation as they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, the least supported team in the NFL. Jack Del Rio, former Ravens coach, fighting to hang on to his job might gaze nostalgically across the field remembering when he helped pilot the wicked purple and gold beasts who should have their way with the Jags.

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 32 -- Talladega, the Big Bad Blender

Be careful which driver you're in love with, this race is bound to break your heart.

If Sprint Cup fans thought Jimmie Johnson’s collision with the wall and subsequent DNF eliminated him from the Championship Chase, Johnson did exactly what he needed to do to give himself a fighting chance sitting on the outside poll aside teammate Mark Martin for tomorrow’s Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega, and how about that, as fate would have it he has his drafting partner there too. Adding to the strategic possibilities  or limitations, Jack Roush mandated that all Roush-Yates powered cars, in other words the entire Ford fleet, must partner with other Fords, giving his two title contenders Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth a whole lot of buddies on the field including the two Richard Petty rides that have been riding strong recently and Trevor Bayne, the young Daytona 500 star racing for the “legendary” Wood Brothers who starts 4th.  For this week’s consideration of possible championship contenders, the driver must be with one race’s point total to still be considered viable with five races including Talladega in consideration.

Here are the possible contenders in rank order and where they start tomorrow.

1-      Carl Edwards, #17, Ford, starts 9th
2-      Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet, starts 13th (-5)
3-      Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford, starts 11th (-7)
4-      Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota, starts 34th (-18)
5-      Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet, starts 12th (-24)
6-      Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge, starts 16th (-25)
7-      Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge, starts 14th (-27)
8-      Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet, starts 2nd (-35)

Talladega is what’s considered a blender race as teams can take a tremendous dive in the standings made far worse on a restrictor plate race where a car can run well all day, not wreck, but wind up out of the draft and in the wrong pack at the end of the race. This conversely gives some teams the opportunity to advance, but given we’re discussing the top eight teams, downward mobility is more likely than noteworthy moves upward, however, the top 3 are extremely tight. Kyle Busch begins the next group of competitors between -17 and -25, an nine point spread between 4th and 7th. While making up 27 points is not unthinkable for Kurt Busch, overcoming six drivers ahead of him would be the greater challenge. For right now, it would appear three teams are fighting to stay in top contention range while five drivers are fighting to give them some company. It’s worth noting that though Roush has two cars in great shape, they are not strong restrictor plate contenders even though Kenseth has a Daytona 500 win.  Of course who knows where Carl Edwards would have finished in spring 2010 if it weren’t for the horrifying homestretch crash that gave Brad Keselowski the Cinderella win.

The scramble continues next week at Martinsville, the diametric opposite of Talladega, but equally a blender race after which the shootout for the trophy will be lined up for the last three dates in the southern latitudes.