Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Night Pick

You should take my Thursday pick with a grain of salt. I just looked back and noticed I have not hit on any of my Thursday picks in November, including an 0-for-3 on Thanksgiving. The Falcons defense isn't as gruesome as the Niners defense and even though the Saints are on the road, this is probably the last chance for the Saints to make the playoffs (thanks to the losses by the Vikings and Seahawks). I have the Saints with the upset 37-27.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Congrats Toronto!

Last night, the Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup 35-22 over the Calgary Stampeders at the Rogers Centre. All told, this was a great Grey Cup that the city of Toronto gave everyone involved (despite the presence of Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, though Mariana's Trench ended up being the worst of the performances). Since I'm not the most well versed person with regards to Canadian football, I will refer you to my good friend Andrew Bucholtz for his post on the Argos win.

The Argos have been the only Toronto-based profession team to win a title since 1993, with this title their first since the 2004 Grey Cup. I joked that this game was the most important game for Torontonians since Game 6 of the Leafs-Flyers series in 2004, though they did win the Grey Cup six months later (during another NHL lockout no less). It's been a roller coaster ride of emotion for Toronto since then as the Leafs have been awful throughout, the Raptors lost both Vince Carter and Chris Bosh in that time and are abysmal as a result, the Blue Jays have had Roy Halladay and Jose Baustita (and little else) and they are subjected to Buffalo Bills football once a year. The Argos were also poorly-run and an afterthought in the city. Now, the Jays are making huge moves and the Argos are the darlings of Ontario's capital.

In more great news, Rob Ford has been ousted as Toronto's mayor. Of course, we will never forget moments like this. Congrats Toronto.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week 12 Picks

This year's Thanksgiving games basically had the good (RGIII's great day in Dallas), the bad (how the Lions gave up their game with the Texans) and the ugly (anything the Jets did that night). Now that we've finished our turkey and what not, there's some more NFL to digest today, including some monster matchups.

Minnesota (+6) over CHICAGO

I know Jay Cutler is playing today, but who knows how he'll play coming off that concussion. Let's just hope that we don't see much Christian Ponder in this one.

CINCINNATI (-8) over Oakland

Raiders playing at 10 AM PST start is never a good thing, plus they still are without Darren McFadden (probably won't play again this year, based on his history). Only worry is that this would precisely be the game that the Bengals would lose.

CLEVELAND (+2) over Pittsburgh

If there's ever a chance for the Browns to beat the Steelers, it's today. Charlie Batch is starting. No Antonio Brown again for Pittsburgh as well.

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Buffalo

It's tough to go into New England for the first time ever and win as a rookie. It's also tough for the Bills to win back-to-back games in the second half to inspire hope for your fanbase.

JACKSONVILLE (+3.5) over Tennessee

Might the Jaguars not be as bad as their record indicates? Yes, they were blown out by the Colts a couple weeks ago, but with Chad Henne at QB, the Jags are somewhat competent. And shouldn't a somewhat competent team be able to win against the Titans? I say yes.

KANSAS CITY (+10) over Denver

I was probably going to pick the Broncos, but then I read this article this morning. Manning has trouble with Crennel, plus no Willis McGahee equals take the points.

MIAMI (+3) over Seattle

I know the Dolphins have floundered a bit lately and the Seahawks are coming off a bye, yet I don't like them in the longest road trip of the season. Add the 10AM PST start time and the Dolphins win a close one.

TAMPA BAY (+1.5) over Atlanta

Last year, I had a bet on the Bucs winning the NFC. I probably should have done the same this year. At least it's a better chance this time around (on second thought, Greg Schiano-coached teams find ways to lose at the worst moments, so no). Still will win today.

Baltimore (Pick'em) over SAN DIEGO

I'm convinced this is the Norv Turner death march. Too many teams have coaches in death march mode right now, and this will hit San Diego like the Arab Spring.

St. Louis (+1.5) over ARIZONA

If only the Cardinals had a QB (even Kevin Kolb would suffice), they would be a playoff team. Good defense, good special teams, two great players (Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson). Have to take the Rams here.

NEW ORLEANS (+1.5) over San Francisco

Probably the game that will dictate whether or not the Saints can complete this comeback of a season to make the playoffs. Helps that they have the Niners at home in the dome.

Green Bay (+3) over GIANTS

I'm not sure why the Giants seem to have a lot of people on them today. Aaron Rodgers will feast off their defense and the Giants normally play weaker at home. Very pessimistic about this one.

Carolina (+3) over PHILADELPHIA

This is the Death March Bowl. We know both Andy Reid and Ron Rivera are through after this year. Looks like a good night to return to watching wrestling.

This week: 0-3
Season: 81-77-4

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Picks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! Here's my picks for today's games.

Houston (-3.5) over DETROIT- Texans overlooked the Jags last Sunday. I'm thinking it's because of the Bears win and this game in Detroit. JJ Watt has an LT-like game today.

DALLAS (-3) over Washington- This is the only spotlight game that Tony Romo never loses. Don't see it happening today against RGIII and company.

JETS (+7) over New England- Losing Gronk, plus a short week will keep the Jets in this one. Must say, this is the Jets last chance to make the playoffs; don't want to be 4-7 needing to win out.

Last week: 7-6-1
Season: 81-74-4

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week 11 Picks

We've reached the final week where fantasy owners have to worry about bye weeks (also couldn't come at a better time for the Giants). For those who are playing, the playoff picture will continue to clear up and become more convoluted at the same time.

Miami (+2.5) over BUFFALO

I got this game wrong but never posted a piece previewing the game Thursday. Let's just say that the Bills get to stay in the fringe of the AFC playoff race, and dragged the Dolphins with them.

Arizona (+9.5) over ATLANTA

Something about playing at home makes for close games for the Falcons. Plus, this game has great late-cover potential by the Cards. Have to grab the points.

Tampa Bay (-1) over CAROLINA

Yes, the Panthers aren't awful and have played a lot of close games, but the Bucs have done the same and have figured out how to win games in the last few weeks. Their offense is outstanding with Doug Martin (who in my eyes is the Offensive Rookie of the Year at this point) and Vincent Jackson has helped make the passing game more dangerous.

DALLAS (-8) over Cleveland

November is generally the Cowboys time of year where they play their best. I can't see a team coached by Pat Shurmur challenge them.

Green Bay (-3) over DETROIT

This is probably the season for the Lions. It's too bad that they must face Aaron Rodgers and Co today. Rodgers has had the Packers on a mission since the loss in Indianapolis. Lions only chance to win is to hope the bye week cooled off the team.

Jacksonville (+14.5) over HOUSTON

The Texans will win, but they could be looking ahead to the Lions on Thanksgiving. Plus, the Jaguars play better on the road than at home.

Cincinnati (+3) over KANSAS CITY

Oh Chiefs, that was as good a chance as they were going to have for a win last week (plus it would have made the AFC playoff race completely wide open). Bengals just gave the Giants a whooping last week, if they want back in the playoffs, they can't take a step back here today.

ST LOUIS (-3.5) over Jets

Steven Jackson came off his best game of the season in that awful tie. Meanwhile, what hasn't been said about the Jets this week. If the Jets had a better team, I could buy into them coming together and winning this one. Too bad they aren't.

WASHINGTON (-3.5) over Philadelphia

Too many people started getting down on RGIII for their losing streak (unfair, I might add). A bye week probably does them good, and getting the Eagles, who seem to be playing out the string and with a QB who's more likely to get teed off because of that offensive line, also helps.

OAKLAND (+5.5) over New Orleans

This one will be close; the Saints aren't in the dome and the Raiders are a better home team. Carson Palmer should play well (likely will commit some turnover to lose it in the end though).

Indianapolis (+9.5) over NEW ENGLAND

I have no idea how to pick Pats games. Their defense is so easy to throw against and Andrew Luck has been hot. One thing you can be sure of: bet the over. This will be a shootout.

San Diego (+7.5) over DENVER

Are the Broncos really going to finish this year 13-3, winning their last 11 in a row? My instinct says no. This is more about the Chargers looking to show if they have anything left for Norv Turner.

Baltimore (-3) over PITTSBURGH

The Ravens have reasserted themselves as they adjusted to life without Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb. The Steelers probably could do the same without Ben Roethlisberger, but it won't happen the first week he's out.

Chicago (+4.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Now this is a classic MNF matchup! Defense and lots of it is the order. With Jay Cutler out and Alex Smith likely shelved as well, you will see some ugly QB play by Jason Campbell and Colin Kaepernick. Taking the points here mainly because I expect a touchdown by the Bears defense more so than the Niners.

Last week: 7-7
This week: 0-1
Season: 74-69-3

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Week 10 Picks

We're going right to picks, here they are for Week 10:

BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Oakland
CAROLINA (+3.5) over Denver
Giants (-4.5) over CINCINNATI
MIAMI (-7) over Tennessee
MINNESOTA (+3) over Detroit
Buffalo (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Atlanta (-1.5) over NEW ORLEANS
TAMPA BAY (-3) over San Diego
SEATTLE (-5.5) over Jets
Dallas (+1.5) over PHILADELPHIA
SAN FRANCISCO (-13) over St. Louis
Houston (+1.5) over CHICAGO
PITTSBURGH (-12.5) over Kansas City

Last week: 8-6
This week: 0-1
Season: 67-62-3

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Night Pick

Tonight's Thursday night game is a battle of two teams going different directions. The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the midst of another poor season, lost Maurice Jones-Drew and might be looking at QB in the draft even though this is Blaine Gabbert's second year and he was a first round pick. Meanwhile, the Colts are looking like their awful year last year is a one year dip, as Andrew Luck is proving to everyone why Indianapolis picked him at number one. The Colts offense is surprisingly good, and their defense hasn't been as hurtful as fear.

Does this mean that the Colts continue their playoff push tonight? Well, we have a team who isn't good at home in Jacksonville facing a team who isn't good on the road in the Colts. I also think that every time there's a Thursday game with a team that comes into it with momentum a plenty, they usually lose in the short week (see: Arizona @STL, Pittsburgh @Tenn, Minnesota vs. TB). The Colts are giving three. I might hate backing Gabbert, but he is 3-0 against the Colts in his young career. Finally, it won't be that easy for Indy to make the playoffs the following year. Thus, the Jaguars will win 23-20.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week 9 Picks

There's been a lack of writing on this site, aside from Travis' soccer posts this week. The reason for this is that my apartment was flooded because of Hurricane Sandy and I've had to focus on fixing things here. It cost me writing a Thursday Night pick, but I'd rather not talk about my picking the Chiefs to cover.

Anyway, we've reached Week 9 in the NFL season, the true midpoint as we begin to start the stretch run for the playoffs. Here are some facts about this season before I begin to make my picks for the week:

1. NFC is start markedly better than the AFC. Right now, the AFC has Houston, New England, Denver and a whole lot of nothing. Baltimore's too hurt to be a real threat, Pittsburgh's only just getting out of being hurt (the AFC's lone sleeper I'd say) and then you have a bunch of mediocre teams as best punctuated by the Miami-Indianapolis game being a playoff battle.

2. If a defensive player is ever going to win MVP, this is the best chance. I'm referring to J.J. Watt, the best player on the Texans, who will likely end up with the best record in the AFC. Watt leads the league in sacks thus far with 9.5 and Houston has the second best defense in the league. Also, no QB is really grabbing the award unless the Falcons remain unbeaten (meaning Matt Ryan would win by default) or the Redskins make the playoffs (ROTY and MVP for RGIII!).

3. Fortunately, the decision by the replacement refs in the Seattle-Green Bay game won't end up costing the Packers the playoffs. It might be a question of seeding for Green Bay, but just remember, they won the Super Bowl as a sixth seed in 2010, then lost in the first round as a 1. I, for one, am glad the Packers turned their year around to avoid the replacement refs making an impact against a team. Now, the Seahawks might still make the playoffs, but I'm not quite sure that'll be because of the replacements. Only time will tell.

Without further adieu, here are the picks.

Denver (-3.5) over CINCINNATI

Everything is breaking right for the Broncos, being blessed by the schedule gods. The first blessing is a trip to Cincinnati, where the Bengals are falling apart. I know the AFC is weak, but if the Bengals have any chance to make the playoffs, these two home games against the Mannings will need at least a split.

Baltimore (-3.5) over CLEVELAND

This will be the game that determined how much the injuries the Ravens have dealt with will impact their season. It's one thing to lose to the Texans a week after losing Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb; it's another to lose to the Browns coming off a bye and more time to adjust. Let's not act like the Browns played well last week, the Ravens better come to play.

GREEN BAY (-10) over Arizona

They can't make this line high enough. The Cardinals are in free fall, looked awful against Alex Smith and the Niners at home on Monday night, and now have to go to Green Bay on a short week and have Aaron Rodgers pick them apart. Who knew that Kevin Kolb was that important to this team.

HOUSTON (-10) over Buffalo

I'm a little more worried about a late cover by the Bills, since they aren't completely inept offensively. Yet, the Texans home wins were by 20, 24 and 30 points. Two of those win are against possible playoff teams (Miami and Baltimore). Yes, the Packers beat them at home, but the Bills aren't the Packers and Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Aaron Rodgers.

INDIANAPOLIS (+2) over Miami

This is truly a pick'em. I love how Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have had all the attention, yet the third rookie QB in the top 10 Ryan Tannehill might go the furthest this year. Even a better chance of that happening if the Dolphins win. Unfortunately, the Colts are better at home and while I know the Dolphins will run well today, they don't score enough and I'd rather not play close games with the Colts.

JACKSONVILLE (+5.5) over Detroit

Calvin Johnson is hurt, and might only play on third downs today. I know that the Lions are in a must-win mode, but I'm not confident they can do so. Meanwhile, the Jags have been spirited in the last couple weeks on the road, losing in OT to the Raiders and even having the Packers worry for a second. I think they surprise today.

TENNESSEE (+3.5) over Chicago

Even since Matt Hasselbeck became the starter again for the Titans, they are finally a functioning football team. Chris Johnson has also began to run better. Yes, the Bears defense will give them trouble, but the Bears offense is struggling right now and I figure they loss they avoided last week only delayed the inevitable. Better for a bad loss to come here against an AFC team.

WASHINGTON (-3) over Carolina

Yes, RGIII over Cam. More importantly a Redskins win makes for very good news for President Obama.  If you don't know why, read this story. This is among my favorite random stats in all of sports (side note: any politics talk on the comments will be deleted; oh wait, I forgot, no one comments on my blog).

OAKLAND (-1.5) over Tampa Bay

I don't think the Bucs win over the Vikings made them a good team. Meanwhile, the Raiders lately have been a good football team. It doesn't hurt that this is the best Carson Palmer has looked in about six years.

SEATTLE (-4) over Minnesota

Reality can be brutal, especially if you're a Vikings fan. After the great start, a terrible home loss to the Bucs now has the team staring at a difficult second half schedule, starting today in Seattle, where the Seahawks never lose. Seahawks don't really have wiggle room from their road games, so they must win out at home to make the playoffs.

Pittsburgh (+3) over GIANTS

If this game was in Pittsburgh, I'd take the Giants. While the Giants were able to build a nice NFC East lead, the Steelers have been battling all year to get to 4-3. November isn't the kindest of months for the Giants, and I think Big Ben gets revenge on Eli from 2008.

Dallas (+3.5) over ATLANTA

I'd like to think that last week's loss to the Giants was the last we'll hear from Dallas this year, but I think there's too much talent on both sides of the ball for this to be true. Also, the Falcons are going to drop a game; they aren't this good to be able to stay unbeaten.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Philadelphia

Unlike Dallas, Philly seems like they are playing out the string and ready for a new era. This might be a shootout, but in New Orleans on primetime, I'll always take Drew Brees over anyone.

Last week: 7-7
This week: 0-1
Season: 59-56-3

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Mark Clattenburg Situation

Racism and football (soccer for those that prefer that term) have not been able to separate themselves from each other in recent times. The most noted cases of late were those involving Evra-Suarez and Ferdinand-Terry. I find it shocking that Rio Ferdinand got away with calling Ashley Cole a racially pejorative term between black Englishmen. I have followed English football since early in 2006 and this flurry of racism cases has been as shocking as it is unsettling. Yet, the most unsettling has been the reaction to Chelsea's formal complaint against Mark Clattenburg. Chelsea have pursued one of two initial complaints, they dropped the case involving, presumably, Juan Mata and have pushed forward with the case involving John Obi Mikel. What has followed has exposed the English game's complete lack of conviction for eliminating racism from the game.

Mark Clattenburg, as of right now, is an innocent man. All of the information that any media outlets have access to consists of speculation. Chelsea have chosen to pursue a formal complaint that one of their players was racially abused by him. Their is a long, drawn out process involving these cases. Have we already forgotten how long the Ferdinand-Terry case took to resolve? Before this game and incident, I had always thought Mr. Clattenburg to be one of the bright, new referees in English football and thought he was always fair in the majority of his officiating decisions. Have English referees made bad calls against Chelsea? Quite a few. A blown game by a referee does not end in racist accusations; referees are human and make bad calls sometimes. However, the accusation of a referee racially abusing a player is a very serious claim.

The issue that worries me is that the media, as a whole, has almost exclusively branded Chelsea as going on a witch hunt for losing the game and as retribution for the ban and fine imposed on club captain, John Terry. Where does this cynicism originate? For years, many have looked at Chelsea as having bought their success by foreign money. Many cited that Roman Abramovich did not care about club image and was out for blood in this case. A man so hell-bent on playing beautiful football and having a worldwide brand does not care about club image? There are no voices defending Mikel; who has been nothing but a quiet, consummate professional throughout his career.

The FA and many organizations in England and involved with UEFA are for eradicating racism from the game but where are these voices defending Mikel during this time? Why are people calling for Chelsea's head if the complaint cannot be proven to be true? The media coverage of this case is filled with vitriol towards Chelsea's audacity at lodging such a complaint against a referee.

All sides are currently innocent. Let this case flow through the proper channels and reserve our judgement until the story develops further. These are very serious accusations and they needed to be treated with objectivity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Premier League Points : Week 9

Week 9 saw Chelsea stay top but their lead cut to just one point above both Manchester clubs. Many of this past weekend's games were rather boring but the officiating in two key games has to be the biggest story for this week.

Chelsea faced Manchester United at home and would be a pivotal game in the title race. If Chelsea were to win, they would put themselves seven points clear of Manchester United in October. It would not have been an insurmountable gap but rather a substantial boost to Chelsea's title-contender credentials. Manchester United easily exposed Chelsea's flaws in it's new system with counterattacks down the flanks at pace. One such attack led to Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic being shown a straight red card. It can easily be argued that Ashley Young went to ground without being fouled, as some angles show, but it could have just as easily gone the other way and it did. What followed was tragic; Mark Clattenburg single-handedly killed a cracking match. Fernando Torres was sent off for being fouled by Johnny Evans. I understand that referees are trying to crack down on diving but this was an egregious error. Yet, at nine men, Chelsea still bossed the game and looked to win if it were not for the dreaded offside goal that was allowed. Javier Hernandez was not called offside, nine times out of nine he would have been, and scored the match winner. Dreadful officiating in one of the biggest games of the season. Fergie will be happy that Clattenburg insured that United got all three points. The allegations and formal complaint filed after the match against Clattenburg will be addressed separately.

The Liverpool derby. This game is only rivaled, in my opinion, by the Liverpool-Manchester United derby game in terms of intensity and hatred between the two teams. What was shocking, besides the bad officiating, was the complete lack of any defensive cohesion by either team. I guess both coaches told their defenses to take the first half off. Liverpool looked the better team over the course of the second half and are still having problems in front of goal. The glaring error came at the death and Luis Suarez's game winner was shockingly called offside. It, in essence, was the opposite of the Chicharito goal against Chelsea. How it was disallowed must be infuriating to the red side of the Mersey.

And now for something completely different...Southampton did not look completely terrible against Tottenham.