Thursday, September 27, 2012

Replacement Ref Thoughts

The most important thing about tonight's game between the Ravens and the Browns is that the regular NFL officials are back. After a travesty of a weekend of officiating by the scabs, it probably took the final play of the Packers-Seahawks game to get the NFL and the refs to make a deal and quickly so that they could be in Baltimore for tonight's game because one more game couldn't be played with the replacements anymore.

We see that there is a chink in the NFL's armor after this episode. Roger Goodell and the 32 owners took a well-deserved beating on how they handled this situation with the officials. Right now, Goodell is hated more for having replacement refs than Gary Bettman is for shutting down his league once again, seven years ever he shut the doors for a full season. He's more hated than David Stern, who also shut his league's doors for a couple months, then interfered with a trade just days after the agreement was made. Which makes Bud Selig the least hated commissioner in all of sports, a statement which if you were to tell me that this would happen back in 2002, I'd probably laugh or punch you in the face for being so dumb.

I guess the most important thing is that NFL games are now truly legitimate. It's too bad that three weeks was wasted on nonsense and it could for all we know cost the Green Bay Packers a playoff spot (or reward Seattle with one).

As for tonight, I think the Browns keep it close with Baltimore in the short week for both teams, plus a letdown for the Ravens after that gutty win over the Pats. Ravens win, but Browns cover the 13 points.

Last week: 8-7-1
Season: 26-20-2

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 3 Picks

Today I'm stuck at work for most of the Week 3 games, which also means that I must write a quick preview with just my picks. Here they are:

CHICAGO (-7) over St. Louis
Buffalo (-3) over CLEVELAND
Tampa Bay (+8) over DALLAS
Detroit (-4) over TENNESSEE
INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Jacksonville
NY Jets (-3) over MIAMI
San Francisco (-7.5) over MINNESOTA
Kansas City (+9) over NEW ORLEANS
Cincinnati (+3) over WASHINGTON
ARIZONA (+3.5) over Philadelphia
SAN DIEGO (-3) over Atlanta
Houston (-3) over DENVER
Pittsburgh (-4.5) over OAKLAND
BALTIMORE (-3) over New England
SEATTLE (+3.5) over Green Bay

Last week: 13-2-1
This week: 0-1
Season: 18-14-1

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mistake From MLB

Melky Cabrera today asked to not win the batting title and Major League Baseball granted the request. The gesture by Melky is a fine one, it's too bad it fails simple math and opens a can of worms that MLB should have never opened.

When Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, Commissioner Ford Frick put an asterisk on the achievement because he played more games than Babe Ruth when he hit 60. It was a dubious claim at best and one that ended up becoming rescinded. Since then, no matter the scandal, MLB never disputed a record or achievement, at least officially. Until today.

Now that Melky Cabrera won't win the batting title, one could play revisionist history on anyone who broke cardinal sins of baseball (and using PED's basically constitutes this). Barry Bonds could surely lose HR titles, MVP awards and his amount as the all-time HR king. Roger Clemens can lose Cy Young awards. Yes, I know the court of public opinion will likely not recognize some records and Hall of Fame voters have penalized players who've tested positive for PED's, but MLB can't be in the business to legislate its records and awards. It's bad enough when the NCAA does it, we don't need another sports body doing the same.

The funny thing about this; the batting title isn't that important in the first place. Yet, we see Jose Reyes bunt for a single and sit out his last Mets game after the 1st inning to win it and now Melky decides that he doesn't to win something who's only formula of winning is math. Yet, MLB will make a decision about this, yet they won't add more replay when we know that the umpires are going to make a bad call in these playoffs (now if you want to play revisionist history, give Armando Galarraga his perfect game). MLB really needs to get it's priorities in order.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday Night Pick

One of the aspects you will see this season now that Thursday Night Football is season-long is that you will see teams sit players out who might play if it was a Sunday/Monday game. Tonight is a great example for the New York Giants, who are without RB Ahmad Bradshaw, OL David Diehl and WR Hakeem Nicks. The loss of Bradshaw and Diehl hurt the Giants, but Andre Brown proved a capable backup and the offensive line play isn't to be overlooked as a reason he played so well. Losing Nicks, on the other hand, makes Eli Manning's assignment a much more difficult one. Lucky for him, the Carolina Panthers defense hasn't made a marked improvement from last year's effort (though there is some improvement).

What is of more concern for the Giants tonight is to slow down Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. We saw Josh Freeman at times completely torch the Giants secondary and the Giants pass rush has been hot and cold all season long. If the Giants are to contain them, their improved linebackers are going to have to support the pass rushers, particular when Carolina is running the ball (and they will do that a lot, I'm sure). It still won't matter if the secondary is still an abomination that it has been the first two games.

All in all, this looks like a tough one for the Giants. Losing Nicks is a killer and though a short week means the Panthers can't really study Andre Brown, they at least are aware of his presence on the field now. I say short week goes to the home team and the Panthers will win.

Panthers (-3) over the Giants: 31-27

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RIP Steve Sabol

As a kid, sports was often the backdrop to my daily routines and fondest memories. One of those routines was watching anything that had was a production of NFL Films. The main shows would be NFL Yearbook, NFL Films Presents and Super Bowl Memories, and as I became an adult, the series America's Game. Particularly with NFL Films Presents and Super Bowl Memories, Steve Sabol would always appear in the forefront, never taking away from the action, but adding substance to what we were about to watch or had just finished seeing. Of course, as a kid, I didn't realize how much more of an impact Sabol had on NFL Films and the way I viewed sports in general.

Today, Sabol lost his fight with brain cancer and died at the age of 69. He was more than a visionary in terms of how sports are televised in this country, he is probably the main reason the NFL is as big a sport as it is today. And I don't think it's hyperbolic for me to make this claim, or just an emotional reaction to his tragic passing. The main reason I believe this to be true: it's because if anyone who loves football is like me, then he's the reason why we love it.

Anytime you watch a random football game, you notice all the problems with any particular game. Every false start, every illegal contact, every incomplete pass, every injury (which has one thinking the worst as TV goes to commercial, then the player is back in two plays) and every undeserved flag (a lot that happened last night). Whenever you watch NFL Films, all that is gone and what you're left with is what makes the NFL great. Yes, I know that a lot of the violent hits in the past isn't something to be celebrated with the same zeal as in years past, but the cinematography of each production tends to have you overlook the worst elements and draws you into their world and bask in the glory of victories and allows one to feel regret when one loses.

Steve Sabol is the one who created that cinematography. He's the one that knew which music should be played during a particular play or sequence of plays. He's the one who knew what needed to be said to tell the story that he's trying to tell. So much about sports these days is about trying to create false narratives about the games we love. Sabol didn't do that. A narrative of an NFL Films piece always seemed like something that told us something that we don't know and/or something that was distinctly true.

It's too bad that Sabol was taken from us so soon. We still need to learn from him on how to put to film why a sport should be loved by the masses. However, just as we never forgot the Voice of God John Facenda, as we never forgot the Autumn Wind, we will never forget the impact of Steve Sabol to take his father Ed Sabol's idea of creating NFL Films and made it into a model for everyone else to copy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week 2 Picks

A lot usually gets made after Week 1, which teams who win are basically are heading to the playoffs and those who lose are about to completely fall apart. Well, clearly this can never be true since that doesn't account for the four teams extra who win over the amount of playoff berths. So the key as you move on from week-to-week is to see which victories were ones that just happened to be a perfect day last week and which ones are those that are more a lasting effect. The same goes with losing results and it makes one careful about how think of these teams as they move on. We'll try to do the same today.

BUFFALO (-3) over Kansas City

I want to see the Bills at home before I was to believe that last week's loss to the Jets is indicative to another bad season. The Chiefs had a tough loss at home last week, which was expected in my eyes with no Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers. A loss here for Kansas City doesn't doom them.

CINCINNATI (-7) over Cleveland

Not particularly impressed with the Bengals last week, but they get to play against Brandon Weeden. While the Browns look to have a good defense, a win on the road for Weeden is too much to ask.

INDIANAPOLIS (+3) over Minnesota

Get Andrew Luck in the comfort of home, take Christian Ponder out of his comfort zone and I see both teams reverse from last week.

MIAMI (+3) over Oakland

I didn't think I'd take Miami this year, but then I saw the Raiders play on Monday and they have a potential to be very bad as well. So yes, I'll take the points at home.

NEW ENGLAND (-14) over Arizona

No chance Kevin Kolb walks into Foxboro and keeps the Cardinals close with the Pats. This New England schedule is just embarrassingly easy.

Tampa Bay (+8) over NY GIANTS

Giants might very well win, but the Bucs look good and the Giants tend to take for granted teams who they expect to win.

Baltimore (+3) over PHILADELPHIA

Why are the Eagles favored by 3? I'm sorry I doubted the Ravens, they look scary good. Philly, on the other hand, look ordinary and even though Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson will play, they are hurt and you don't want to be hurt against the Ravens defense.

CAROLINA (+3) over New Orleans

Can't say I was surprised by the Saints losing last week. One thing I do expect is a better Cam Newton from last week.

Houston (-7) over JACKSONVILLE

We saw last week what the Texans are capable of, especially at the end of the first half when they scored three times inside the two minute warning. Jacksonville did some good things in Minnesota, but Houston's a different animal.

Washington (-3.5) over ST. LOUIS

Loved what I saw from Robert Griffin III last week and even though the Rams nearly won in Detroit, it was more Matt Stafford playing awful than the Rams playing great. Mike Shanahan might be able to reclaim the label "genius" if RGIII continues this way.

SEATTLE (-3) over Dallas

We do tend to forget how Seattle has the best home-field advantage in the league (especially after the Saints loss last week) and it would be Dallas like to drop this game as everyone became excited after the Opening Night win over the Giants.

PITTSBURGH (-5) over Jets

No Revis=No Chance. Jets DB's will have plenty of trouble with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and their own chance is to pound Ben Roethlisberger all day long. And I'm not counting on Mark Sanchez to play as well as last week against the Steelers defense, who should be healthier today.

SAN DIEGO (-6) over Tennessee

While the Raiders looked bad, the Chargers controlled the game for the most part, but have to figure out how to score more touchdowns. Today's a good start against a very ordinary Titans team, who have a 6-10, 7-9 feel to them.

SAN FRANCISCO (-7) over Detroit

Handshake Game today and the sad thing for the Lions is that if Stafford was going to have trouble at home against the Rams defense, how will he fare against the Niners defense? San Francisco looks to be scary good.

ATLANTA (-3) over Denver

It's one thing for Peyton to win at home against a banged up Steelers team, but now you have the Broncos going to Atlanta, facing a team that has Super Bowl as they only goal. Expect a rough night for the Denver defense in the Georgia Dome.

Last week 5-11
Season: 6-11

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Night Pick

With the NFL making Thursday night football games a season long event, this means there will be a blog post every Thursday to preview that night's game. It beings tonight with the Chicago Bears going to Green Bay to take on their archrival Packers. The Bears are coming off a win over the Colts, which saw the Bears offense show everything that they are capable of doing this year. Jay Cutler was 21/35 for 333 yards with two touchdowns. He found Brandon Marshall a lot, in the tune of nine catches and 119 yards and one touchdown. And they utilized a two-headed running attack with Matt Forte and Michael Bush, combining for 122 yards and three touchdowns. As for the defense, they had more of a bend, but don't break mentality; yet they still forced five turnovers in the decisive win.

The Packers, on the other hand, had a rude wakeup call to begin their 2012 campaign. San Francisco came into Lambeau and ran all over Green Bay with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Last year, the Packers had the worst defense in the league, and the Niners took advantage of that. Alex Smith was superb, going 20-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers didn't play bad, but the Packers were frustrated all day by the San Francisco defense. And let's not talk about the Packers running game, because they didn't have one.

So what to make of these two teams tonight? One thing, the Bears have to be licking their chops when watching video of the Green Bay defense. We all know the Packers fans are known as cheeseheads, but cheese you think of after last week was Swiss and the Bears suddenly potent offense should be able to put some points on them. However, instead of playing a rookie QB like last week, the Bears will be facing the best QB in football and a desperate Packers team who will try to avoid an 0-2 start, especially with both games at home. I'm expecting a shootout, but a very good game Clay Matthews (one of the rare Packers to show up on defense last week) and a better performance by the Green Bay defensive line to make the difference. And if they don't, then the Packers are in real trouble.

GREEN BAY (-5) over Chicago: 38-31

The Wacky NL Wild Card

The AL Wild Cards are starting to see separation. The A's, Orioles and the Yankees are slowly pulling away from the Rays, Angels and Tigers/White Sox. Too early to call those four teams as out (especially Tampa), but the beginnings of the AL playoff picture are taking shape. Despite being swept, the Braves still hold a commanding lead on their spot in the NL Wild Card. Unless they are to repeat last year's collapse, Atlanta will see October baseball in Chipper's last year. The Rangers appear secure in getting to the playoffs, while the Reds and Nationals are all but certain to win their divisions (with the Giants very close to being able to say that same thing).

That just leaves the NL's 2nd Wild Card, which has a battle between three teams who seem to have no desire to win it (Cardinals, Pirates and Dodgers) and two teams furiously charging for that spot (Phillies and Brewers). What amazing about the Phillies and Brewers is that both teams were sellers at the trade deadline with the Brewers trading away Zack Greinke and the Phillies unloading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. After reaching their low point of 54-66 on August 19th, Milwaukee has gone 18-5 to put themselves three games behind the Cardinals for that second Wild Card. The Phillies you can look at from when they made their trades.  On the morning of July 31st, Philadelphia was 47-59; since then, they've been 25-12, including a seven game winning streak as of now. Meanwhile, the Pirates since August 6th have gone 10-24, yet still only trail by 2.5 games. The Dodgers have been streaky all year; now coming back to the pack since August 19th with a 7-14 record. As for the Cards, they have won four of their last eleven.

So how good a chance do the Phillies and Brewers have. Well, the Phillies get to play the Astros and Mets in back-to-back series and many games with a Nats team who's likely in the playoffs by then and might be setting up for the playoffs. The Brewers also have series' with the Mets and Astros and a final one with the Pirates, who they've absolutely owned in the second half this year. The series that could be telling is this upcoming four game set between the Cards and the Dodgers. If one of them wins decisively, perhaps that's a springboard to a playoff berth. Especially if it's the Cardinals, who play their next nine games against the Cubs and Astros (though we saw the Pirates get swept at home by the Cubs, so it's no gimme). As for the Pirates, if there's any fight left in them (as well as a realization that they have played so bad for so long and still are right there for the wild card), the 14 games against the Cubs, Brewers, Astros and Mets will be the test for this young Pittsburgh team.

86 wins should clinch that second wild card, that's the goal everyone should be playing toward. Will the Phillies finish this comeback? Will the Brewers? Will the Cardinals beginning playing in September like they did last year, which took them to a World Series? Will all the big moves the Dodgers have made this year (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett) finally translate to wins and a return to the playoffs? And will the Pirates be able to exercise the ghosts of Francisco Cabrera and Sid Bream of 1992, whether they make the playoffs, or at the very least finish over .500? It's not fair to call this a great race, since all these teams are flawed, but after the Cardinals from last year (among many other wild card teams), who knows if the next World Series winner is one of these teams (okay, it's probably not the Pirates).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This is what I wrote about September 11th back in the first year of this blog in 2009. Since I attached football picks to my post, I reposting this without them.  Always remember to Never Forget.

Before I do my weekly picks, allow me to write about 9/11. I still remember it like it was yesterday, I was in high school and heard rumblings about something happening to the World Trade Center. It wasn't until I left when I realized the horror of what happened. While I was fortunate not to lose any family in the tragedy, one of my father's friends who was a cop was lost trying to do all he can to save lives. If you live in New York and you get a chance, look for the beam of light and take the time to remember anyone you may have lost.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 1 Picks

The first edition of my weekly 2012 NFL picks post is finally here. My thoughts for Week 1:

Atlanta (-2.5) over KANSAS CITY

This was probably the pick, but now Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs best CB, is out for the game. Expect a huge day for Julio Jones as a result.

Philadelphia (-10) over CLEVELAND

The Eagles will try to make the disappointment of last year's "Dream Team" just a memory. Too much offense for the Eagles here.

CHICAGO (-9.5) over Indianapolis

If it wasn't the Bears and that pass rush, I'd think the Colts stood a chance. However, Julius Peppers will get to meet Andrew Luck and Cutler-to-Marshall will reignite from their days in Denver.

New England (-5.5) over TENNESSEE

Why are the Pats only giving five and a half? I know the Titans are home, but the Pats should be better defensively and they still have Tom Brady. Figure a two touchdown win.

Washington (+9) over NEW ORLEANS

You're not seeing all the teams with big spreads winning. The RGIII Era starts with a bang as the Redskins will beat the Saints under their interim interim coach.

MINNESOTA (-3.5) over Jacksonville

Vikings are home and Adrian Peterson's active. That's enough for me to pick them today.

Buffalo (+3) over JETS

Everyone's prepared for the Sanchez/Tebow partnership to fall on its face. The Bills seem to be thought of as bad, then a suprise playoff team to overrated. Bills show us that they are a potential playoff team today.

DETROIT (-9) over St. Louis

Jeff Fisher won't change the culture in one game. Student beats teacher as Jim Schwartz should be victorious. Can't wait for plenty of touchdowns by Megatron

HOUSTON (-13) over Miami

I think the Texans are the team to beat in the AFC, especially if Matt Schaub is healthy again. This Texans defense will love to see Ryan Tannehill and that Dolphins offense on the field.

Seattle (-2.5) over ARIZONA

Everyone seems to love Russell Wilson. I don't love the John Skelton/Kevin Kolb QB tandem with the Cardinals. Sorry, Larry Fitzgerald

Carolina (-1) over  TAMPA BAY

I'll buy more into Cam Newton starting again like he did last year, only this time, the Panthers get the W. I still think Greg Schiano will flame out at some point. Time for him to prove me wrong

GREEN BAY (-5) over San Francisco

So Alex Smith, the guy the 49ers chose vs Aaron Rodgers, the guy the 49ers passed on in the 2005 NFL Draft. I see the Packers defense today come up huge and show they are an improved outfit for this season.

Pittsburgh (+1) over DENVER

Are we really supposed to believe that Peyton Manning in his first game back in almost 20 months can beat the Steelers, even if this Pittsburgh side isn't as good as others in years past? Especially when the Broncos aren't that good in other areas.

Cincinnati (+7) over BALTIMORE

Second biggest upset this weekend. Just enough A.J. Green and too many people anointing Joe Flacco as ready to make a leap allows for a surprise opener.

OAKLAND (-1) over San Diego

I really don't know what to think of either team. Chargers always start slow, Raiders are capable of anything. Going with the home team.

Season Record: 0-1

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quick NFL Preview

The NFL season starts later tonight, as the Super Bowl champion New York Giants will host the Dallas Cowboys. With the season only hours away, it's time to get some quick NFL thoughts for the upcoming year.

-Andrew Luck will have a rookie year like Peyton Manning's (maybe a little better), though still a 5-11 team. Robert Griffith III won't play like Cam Newton last year (not a bad thing, though).

-Tim Tebow will become the Jets starting QB at some point this year. In the event of that, you'll know the Jets are missing the playoffs.

-The Dolphins will be the worst team in football. Nothing from Hard Knocks tells me any different. Jacksonville and Minnesota will be close behind them.

-Trent Richardson will be Offensive Rookie of the Year, running behind Joe Thomas. Browns will be 7-9, benefitting from a year-after Bengals team and an aging and banded-up Ravens (yes, both miss the playoffs).

-If there's any doubt left on which conference is better, the NFC will shatter that this year. Too many top-flight QB's than in the AFC (Brady, Roethlisberger and Rivers are the only ones who match the NFC's best, unless Peyton comes back strong)

-Aaron Rodgers wins back-to-back MVP's and Offensive Player of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year will be Jason Pierre-Paul.

Playoff teams:

AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Chiefs
AFC Wild Cards: Bills and Broncos
AFC Championship: Texans over Steelers

NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Falcons
NFC West: Seahawks
NFC Wild Card: Bears and 49ers
NFC Championship Game: Packers over Bears

Super Bowl XLVII: Packers over Texans

Also: my first NFL weekly pick this year is Giants (-4.5) over the Cowboys.