Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

That’s a lot of Roman numerals…

Picks for Championship Sunday: 1-1
Playoffs: 4-6
Overall: 169-96-1

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa hosts Sunday’s Super Bowl between the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are contenders every year to appear in this game. The Cardinals had their second winning season since moving to Phoenix 20 years ago.

The Steelers have an efficient offense and a suffocating defense. The Cardinals have possible Hall of Famers on the offensive side of the ball in Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. This is going to be a fun game when the Cardinals have the ball.

I thought the Cardinals would lose their first playoff game, and have picked against them in every playoff game to date. Nothing changes here, though I would love to see the Cardinals close the deal and win a championship. The Steelers have a better defense and are more consistent. Defense wins championships. The Steelers earn a record 6th Super Bowl title. Pick: Pittsburgh

Saturday, January 17, 2009

NFL Picks: Championship Sunday

Last Week: 2-2
Playoffs: 3-5
Overall: 168-95-1

And then there were four. These are especially heady times in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as the area’s three teams all have a chance to go to the Super Bowl, with the Steelers and Ravens playing each other and the Eagles traveling out to Arizona. Did you know that Harrisburg is closer to Baltimore than it is to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia? On to the picks…

Philadelphia at Arizona: Hell has definitely frozen over. The formerly sad-sack Cardinals find themselves hosting their second playoff game in three weeks, after not hosting one since the Truman administration when they played in Chicago. They find themselves hosting the Eagles, who were a mediocre team before coach Andy Reid briefly benched QB Donovan McNabb before putting him back in the starting lineup. The Cardinals have discovered defense in the playoffs, or at least enough to allow Kurt Warner and company to outscore opponents. I love Kurt Warner, and I’d love to see the Cardinals win, but I don’t see it happening. The Eagles are the hot team here. Pick: Philly

Baltimore at Pittsburgh: These two teams despise each other. The Steelers have won two close games over the Ravens this season. Normally, it’s really hard for a team to beat another good team three times in one season. But, the Ravens have been playing for 15 consecutive weeks, since their bye week was moved to Week 2 due to the rescheduling of their game in Houston due to Hurricane Ike. The Ravens should have enough in the tank to make this a good game. However, the Steelers will make one fewer mistake and win a trip to their seventh Super Bowl. Pick: Pittsburgh

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Need For Slight Change

This year’s NFL playoffs have been interesting, to say the least. The visiting team won three of four games this weekend, and has won five of the eight games played to date. Parity in the league has contributed to the lack of home field advantage. However, don’t be surprised to see the league tweak the seeding system for the playoffs in future years.

Cases in point: the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals finished 9-7 and the Chargers finished 8-8. Both teams made the playoffs by winning weak divisions. The NFL rewards division winners with a home game in the first round of the playoffs. So, both teams hosted teams with better records in the first round of the playoffs: the Cardinals hosted 11-5 Atlanta, while the Chargers hosted 12-4 Indianapolis. Both teams won their first round games over teams that had much better regular seasons. It can be argued that the Falcons and Colts were penalized for not winning divisions that happened to have a stronger team in it.

The NFL could very well seed playoff teams based solely on record. If they were to do so, the AFC could have been seeded thusly:
1) Tennessee
2) Indianapolis (tiebreaker, due to their win over Pittsburgh)
3) Pittsburgh
4) Baltimore (tiebreaker, due to their win over Miami)
5) Miami
6) San Diego

In this scenario, the Chargers would have traveled to Pittsburgh for a first round game, while the Dolphins would have traveled to Baltimore. The Colts would not have been penalized for being in the same division with the Titans, but would have been rewarded for winning 12 games.

In the NFC, a similar scenario exists. By applying this proposal, the NFC would have been seeded thusly:
1) New York Giants
2) Carolina
3) Atlanta
4) Minnesota
5) Philadelphia
6) Arizona

The Cardinals would have still played the Falcons, only in Atlanta. The Eagles would still have traveled to Minnesota. In addition, a situation like what happened with the Cardinals could have been avoided. Arizona clinched the awful NFC West with three games to play, and had very little chance to move up in the seedings, but were guaranteed a home game. Thus, they played lethargically in their last three games, including an annihilation in the snow at New England. The Cardinals would have been forced to continue to try to earn a home game in addition to the division title they had already won. This would have improved competition in the final weeks of the season. Plus, under this seeding plan, the Eagles would host the upcoming NFC championship game since they have a better record than the Cardinals.

Another argument is made by fans of the New England Patriots, who sat at home with an 11-5 record: why not let the teams with the best records in the playoffs, period? That is a valid point. However, with the divisional schedule, it is best to reward the winner of a division with at least a trip to the playoffs. A home game is icing on the cake, but the division winner must be rewarded in order to bring some integrity to divisional play, especially with unbalanced schedules. Otherwise, divisions are only means for scheduling and nothing else.

At least the NFC East can’t cut a deal for its third place team to meet the fourth place team from the AFC West in a meaningless bowl game in Birmingham or Shreveport..

Friday, January 09, 2009

Some Sanity, Please

In the aftermath of a loss in any big game in any sport, fans of that team come unglued. In this country, nowhere is that more apparent than in college football. Millions of fans buy tickets, travel long distances, and donate large sums of money to support the school of their choice. Coaches reap a lot of the benefit of that interest, with six and seven figure contracts to coach young men on their way to the NFL and/or college degrees. With the steep increase in pay comes a steep increase in expectations. While some of those expectations are warranted, some fans have outrageous demands that they place on coaches, much more than they experience in their everyday lives at their own jobs or with their own families.

I was reminded of this Thursday night, as my Oklahoma Sooners lost yet another national championship game, 24-14 to the Florida Gators. The sentiment I am about to explain is not limited to OU fans, but also applies to fans of Ohio State, Texas, Florida, or any other big-time college program you can name. Combined with the anonymity of the Internet, anyone with a computer and a Web connection can get behind a keyboard and post some hot but absolutely stupid opinions about any subject, including a great football coach.

OU has now lost five BCS bowl games in a row. It would be just as easy to insert Ohio State and Jim Tressel in this conversation, as they have lost three BCS bowl games in a row.

After Thursday night’s game, I visited a leading OU fan message board. There were some OU fans calling for the resignation of Bob Stoops. How asinine! Somebody was drinking too much. In the last ten years, Stoops has only won six conference championships, won one national championship, and played for three others. In addition, his teams’ success has resulted in unprecedented financial success for the OU athletic department. Yet for some, that’s not enough. Especially when said team has lost five BCS bowls in a row. Some fans expect a national championship every year, or their self-importance is wounded. Many of these are the same type of fans that jump on the bandwagon of whatever team happens to be good at the time. There is a good chance these people were nowhere to be seen when John Blake was leading the Sooners to records of 3-8 and 5-6, and Oklahoma had little hope of a return to national relevance. Many are derisively referred to by Oklahoma State fans as “Wal-Mart” Sooner fans, or fans that have never set foot on the campus but bought a shirt at Wal-Mart and adopted the team because they live there and the team is successful. Some of these types of fans, on the other hand, are actually graduates of the school. I cannot properly explain how silly this is. A newspaper writer in Oklahoma in the 1950’s explained it to his editor much better, though in a very politically incorrect way: “How much rice can a Chinaman eat?

There should be reasonable expectations for a highly paid coach. Coaches like Bob Stoops, Texas’ Mack Brown, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, and others like them are expected to contend for conference and national championships every year. That is reasonable when a coach is making upwards of 2 and 3 million dollars per year. At that level, consistent and consecutive seasons of 8-4, 7-5 or even worse are unacceptable. Just ask former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, among others. However, it is totally unreasonable and outrageous to expect a coach to win a national championship every year. It takes some good fortune on top of talent and strategy to actually win a national championship.

I’m not happy that OU is not currently successful in big-time bowls. However, I’m not willing to throw this group of coaches off the bridge because they had the audacity to lose big games.

Bob Stoops isn’t going anywhere. If he does, it’ll be on his own terms. To expect OU to force him out is a totally ridiculous idea, and isn’t going to happen.

Note: I didn’t go to OU. However, I have a college education, and have been on the OU campus more times than I can count, sometimes for academic reasons. I even went to games when John Blake was the head coach and the team often couldn’t line up properly. I’m not a Wal-Mart Sooner fan.

NFL Picks, Divisional Round

NFL Picks, Divisional Playoff Round

Last Week: 1-3
Playoffs: 1-3
Overall: 166-93-1

Just like that, we’re down to eight teams in the NFL playoffs. That number will be cut in half after this weekend’s games. Here are yet more picks, for entertainment purposes only:

Baltimore at Tennessee: The Titans are the top seed in the playoffs, but have the unenviable task of playing the stout Ravens. It is usually safe to pick one visiting team in this round of the playoffs, and the Ravens are the best road team this week. Pick: Baltimore

San Diego at Pittsburgh: Five weeks ago, the Chargers were 4-8. Now, they find themselves still alive in the playoffs after a stunning overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts. When these teams met last, the Steelers won a tight 11-10 contest over the Chargers. Between nagging injuries, cold weather, and the Steelers’ bye last week, the Chargers don’t stand a chance. They’ve made a great run, though. Pick: Pittsburgh

Arizona at Carolina: How did this become the Saturday night game? The Cardinals have had their best season in eons, but, like the Cardinals, their good fortune runs out this weekend. The trip is too far east, and the Panthers are too good. Pick: Carolina

Philadelphia at New York Giants: Once again, the service areas on the New Jersey Turnpike aren’t safe with these teams running loose. Philly has made a great run in the last month. The Giants appear to have peaked, but have a week’s rest and home field. Giants gain some energy back this week. Pick: New York

Friday, January 02, 2009

NFL Picks, Wild Card Weekend

Last Week: 13-3
Regular Season Total: 165-90-1

32 NFL teams have narrowed themselves down to 12. Eight teams play this weekend in the first round of the NFL playoffs. This means there are only four games to pick. Two of the last three Super Bowl winners came out of this round, so it is not a given that this week’s survivors will be plastered next week. This is the NFL, so anything can happen. The better games are definitely in the AFC. The NFC games will be good for naps or chores.

Indianapolis at San Diego: The two hottest teams in the league meet in a rematch of last year’s divisional round game won by the Chargers. The Colts have won eight in a row to finish 12-4. The Chargers were once 4-8, but got hot in December to finish 8-8 and win the AFC West. The way both teams have been playing, it’s too bad someone has to lose this game. The Colts are way too good. Pick: Colts

Baltimore at Miami: Last year, both teams stunk. Miami really stunk, going 1-15, with their only win coming over the Ravens in overtime. Turn the clock to this year, where both teams have impressed many by making the playoffs. The Dolphins were especially impressive, going from 1-15 to 11-5. The Ravens have already won once in Miami this season. The Dolphins have had a great run, but it ends Sunday in Miami. Pick: Baltimore

Atlanta at Arizona: The Falcons went from zeroes to heroes this season by going 11-5 behind rookie QB Matt Ryan. The Cardinals are hosting their first playoff game since they were known as the Chicago Cardinals. They won the awful NFC West almost by default. The Falcons are a better team than the Cardinals, especially after the Cardinals cruised after clinching the division early. Pick: Atlanta

Philadelphia at Minnesota: The Eagles embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys last week, bringing great joy to Cowboy haters everywhere by knocking them out of the playoffs in grand style. The Vikings are a dangerous team at home. Can they make the home dome advantage work for them? Sure. Pick: Minnesota

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bowl Picks, Part 3

Bowls To Date: 12-10
Season: 231-93

The bowl season drags on and on. Next up is New Year’s Day. Once upon a time, New Year’s Day was a celebration of college football. You had the Cotton Bowl when it was a big game. You had the Rose Bowl, when it was an excuse to prepare for the really important game that night. Then, you had the Orange Bowl, which usually featured a Big 8 team and/or Miami playing for a national championship. Ok, not every year, but it sure seemed like it. Now, there is a glut of meaningless games on New Year’s Day and spreading to the days after. There is only one game that counts, and it is on January 8.

Outback Bowl, January 1, Tampa: Iowa vs. South Carolina: Slow Big Ten team plays underachieving SEC team. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was once quarterback for an NFL team in Tampa. They went 0-14. He’ll do better on New Year’s Day. Pick: SC

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, January 1, Jacksonville: Nebraska vs. Clemson: Middle of the road Big 12 team meets middle of the road ACC team. It won’t be great TV, but they’ll sell plenty of tickets and fill plenty of hotel rooms. Pick: Clemson

Capital One Bowl, January 1, Orlando: Georgia vs. Michigan State: See Outback Bowl-slow Big Ten team plays underachieving SEC team. That’s right, the Bulldogs underachieved, having lost to both rivals in Florida and Georgia Tech. Still, they should be able to handle the Spartans. Pick: Jawja

Rose Bowl presented by Citi, January 1, Pasadena, California: USC vs. Penn State: Once again, USC is in the Rose Bowl, and once again, a Big Ten team loses the Rose Bowl. Penn State should be able to keep it close, but SC’s defense should keep Penn State’s offense out of the end zone for most of the game. Pick: USC

FedEx Orange Bowl, January 1, Miami: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech: This really is a BCS bowl game. None of the other BCS bowls wanted either of these teams, but the Orange Bowl gets the national championship game this year, so they’re stuck with this matchup. VT came out of a gaggle of evenly balanced teams in the ACC. Cincinnati dominated the Big East this year. Pick: Cincy

AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 2, Dallas: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech: Ole Miss surprised the SEC and the world this season in their first year under Houston Nutt. Tech has won 11 games for the first time in the history of man. Make that 12. Pick: Tech

Liberty Bowl, January 2, Memphis: Kentucky vs. East Carolina: Zzzz. Did you know this is Kentucky’s third bowl in a row? So-so SEC team vs. champion of Conference USA. Give me the SEC. Pick: Kentucky

Sugar Bowl, January 2, New Orleans: Alabama vs. Utah: Bama has to be disappointed after running the table in the regular season before losing to Florida in the SEC championship game. The Utes had an awesome year, going undefeated to represent the non-BCS world in one of the $17 million BCS bowl. This won’t be as bad as Hawaii’s game last year against Georgia, but don’t look for the ’06 Boise State team to show up, either. Pick: Alabama

International Bowl, January 3, Toronto: Buffalo vs. Connecticut: Somebody has to go to Toronto in January for a bowl game. It may as well be two snowbound schools. At least the game is indoors. Buffalo won the MAC in Turner Gill’s third year as coach. UConn is becoming a bowl regular. The Bulls have had a great run, but UConn knows what they’re doing here. Pick: UConn

Fiesta Bowl, January 5, Glendale, Arizona: Texas vs. Ohio State: The Longhorns are really, really mad that they came out on the wrong end of the Big 12’s three-way tiebreaker for the South division championship. They really do have a case to be in the national championship game. On the other side of this matchup is Ohio State, winners of 10 games and a regular to this game in the desert. The Buckeyes had a nice season in the Big Ten, but they’re no match for Texas. Pick: Texas

GMAC Bowl, January 6, Mobile, Alabama: Tulsa vs. Ball State: Ball State had a great season, going 12-0 before being upset by Buffalo in the MAC championship game. Since then, head coach Brady Hoke has flown the coop for the warmer climes at San Diego State. Tulsa had a great year, as well, winning 10 games. Tulsa has faded a bit at the end of the season, losing three of their last five games. Pick: Ball State

BCS National Championship Game, January 8, Miami: Oklahoma vs. Florida: Get ready to stay up all night for this one, as there will be lots of offense here. Both teams have Heisman trophy winners. Both teams won premier conferences. Bob Stoops has national championship rings from both schools. As a Sooner fan, I cannot review this game objectively. Sooners win national championship number 8. Pick: OU

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bowl Picks, Part 2

Bowls to date: 6-6
Season: 219-83 Bowl at Birmingham, December 29: N.C. State vs. Rutgers. I think I’ll be doing other things Monday afternoon. Besides, I prefer Pizza Hut or Domino’s to Papa John’s. When we last saw Rutgers, they were hanging 63 on Louisville. Pick: Rutgers

Valero Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, December 29: Missouri vs. Northwestern. Tigers have to be disappointed with this season. They managed to win the Big 12 North, but that’s about like winning District 1-5A in Texas high school football. Missouri expected a lot more from this season. Northwestern rang up a lot of points in the Big Ten this year. Expect a lot of scoring in this one. Pick: Northwestern

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl at Boise, Idaho, December 30: Maryland vs. Nevada. Somebody has to go to this bowl, played on Boise State’s blue turf. Pick: Maryland

Texas Bowl at Houston, December 30: Rice vs. Western Michigan. Another bowl slot that the Big 12 could not fill due to lack of teams. Neither of these teams have a sexy name, but both are actually pretty good. Plenty of good seats available. Pick: Rice

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at San Diego, December 30: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon. This bowl is known for high-scoring shootouts, and this promises to live up to that reputation. OSU has three losses, all to teams ranked in the top 8 in the nation. Oregon has already beaten one orange-clad OSU: their archrival Oregon State. Pick: OSU

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, December 31: Houston vs. Air Force. Rematch of a game played earlier this season, won by Air Force and played in Dallas due to Hurricane Ike. Cougars hope to have a less stressful trip to the Town of the Cow. It’s hard to beat a team twice. Pick: Houston

Brut Sun Bowl at El Paso, December 31: Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State. I wonder if my wife would like it if I bought some Brut? Oregon State had a great run in the Pac-10, including an upset win over USC. Pitt is coming around. Pick: Oregon State

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at Nashville, December 31: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt. Vandy is in its first bowl game since the Reagan administration, and only has to travel across town to get to it. Boston College has made a living in minor bowl games, winning eight consecutive bowls while never making it to the BCS. Vandy better enjoy the trip to the Opryland hotel, because the game won’t be much fun for them. Pick: BC

Insight Bowl at Tempe, Arizona, December 31: Kansas vs. Minnesota. The Glen Mason Bowl. Mason formerly coached at both schools. This year, KU survived numerous injuries and a murderous Big 12 schedule to qualify for a bowl game. Minnesota won 7 of their first 8 games before collapsing down the stretch. Pick: KU

Chick-Fil-A Bowl at Atlanta, December 31: Georgia Tech vs. LSU: I like chicken. I like Chick-Fil-A. Tigers went 7-5 one year after winning a national championship. Yellow Jackets won 9 games in their first season under Paul Johnson, including a win over archrival Georgia. One team is headed up, the other is headed down. Pick: Ramblin’ Wreck

Friday, December 26, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 17

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 152-87-1

It’s the most fun week of the season. While a handful of teams know their post-season destiny and are resting starters accordingly, a whole bunch of teams are slugging it out for their playoff lives this week. It’s shape up or turn in the pads for a lot of NFL teams. Plus, a team has a date with infamy on Sunday unless something really strange and positive happens for them.

Dallas at Philadelphia: The Cowboys suffered a bone-headed loss last week to the Ravens, and find themselves going into a den of wolves as they play the Eagles in Philly. There is no bigger game in Philadelphia than the Cowboys’ yearly visit. Combine that with the Eagles’ slight playoff chances and the Cowboys’ must-win situation, and the Philly fans will be loaded for bear, especially with a late game. As inconsistent as the Cowboys have been this season, they have played their best with their backs against the wall. Pick: Dallas

St. Louis at Atlanta: The Falcons have been the surprise of the year. They still have a chance at a division title and a #2 seed in the NFC playoffs, with a win and a Carolina loss. They should have little problem against a putrid Rams team. Pick: Atlanta

New England at Buffalo: The Pats can win a division title with a win against Buffalo. The Bills had been in hibernation for several weeks before upsetting the Broncos in Denver last week. Can the Bills ruin another team’s season this week? No. Pick: New England

Kansas City at Cincinnati: The Mega Suck Bowl. The Bengals have shown signs of life in recent weeks, and play a bad Kansas City team to close out the season. Pick: Cincy

Detroit at Green Bay: The Lions, with a loss, will finish 0-16. A loss would make them one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in NFL history. The Packers let one slip away Monday night in Chicago. They won’t allow themselves to lose to the awful Lions. Pick: Green Bay

Chicago at Houston: The Bears have used defense and special teams to win the last three games in a row and to place themselves within spitting distance of a division title. The Texans laid an egg in Oakland last week, but have recovered well from an 0-4 start. Texans ruin the Bears’ playoff hopes. Pick: Houston

Tennessee at Indianapolis: This is a great matchup that will have the look and feel of a pre-season game. Neither team can improve their playoff position with a win. Which team has better scrubs? Pick: Tennessee

New York Giants at Minnesota: The Giants clinched home field advantage in the NFC playoffs last week with a comeback win over the Panthers. The Vikings need a win to clinch the NFC North division title. The Giants will play to win, but the Vikes need it more. Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at New Orleans: Panthers blew a big lead last week in New York, and need to come up big against the Saints in order to win the NFC South. Look for lots of points here. Pick: Carolina

Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Yuck. Browns have not scored a touchdown in over a month. Steelers should roll. Pick: Pittsburgh.

Oakland at Tampa Bay: A few years ago, these teams met in a Super Bowl. Not this year. The Raiders have a surprising four wins. The Bucs need a win plus some help to make the playoffs. The Bucs will do their part. Pick: Tampa Bay

Jacksonville at Baltimore: Ravens need a win to make the playoffs. Jaguars have their bags packed for the off-season. Pick: Baltimore

Miami at New York Jets: Big, big game in the AFC East. Depending on the Patriots’ result in the early game, this will either be for a division title or a mere wild-card berth. There is also a chance that neither team will make the playoffs. Can the Dolphins win a big game in cold weather? The trends favor them. Pick: Miami

Seattle at Arizona: Mike Holmgren’s last game as coach of the Seahawks. Cardinals play their third game in a row with nothing to gain. Ugly game in the making. Pick: Arizona

Washington at San Francisco: What was once a promising season for the Redskins has melted down. Still, the Redskins beat the Eagles last week and severely damaged their playoff chances. The 49ers have a chance to win their 7th game of the regular season. Pick: 49ers

Denver at San Diego: What goes around, comes around. Denver beat the Chargers in the first game of the season, with a questionable call enabling the Broncos to hold on for a victory. The Broncos have now lost two games in a row with a chance to clinch the AFC West title. Make that a third. The Chargers finish 8-8 and win the division in spite of themselves. Pick: San Diego

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bowl Picks, Part 1

Week of December 6: 5-5
Season: 213-77

There are 34 bowls this year. This means that every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a winning record made it to a bowl game. If rewarding excellence is the purpose of bowl games, then some of these games are an absolute joke. What these games provide are a way to fill some hotel rooms and to give some cities some publicity on national TV. And, they provide programming for ESPN. Some of these games are glorified exhibitions between mediocre teams. Others are great matchups.

The first of three installments of bowl picks:

EagleBank Bowl, Dec. 20, Washington, D.C. Navy vs. Wake Forest. This amounts to a home game for Navy against a team that the Midshipmen upset earlier in the year. My question is: who wants to go to a bowl game at RFK Stadium in D.C. in December? That’s not exactly a garden spot. Wake Forest gets revenge. Pick: Demon Deacons

New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 20, Albuquerque. Fresno State vs. Colorado State. The first edition of this bowl that does not feature the hometown Lobos. Fresno State has been to bowl games before, while the Rams have made a major improvement this year. Pick: Fresno State

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, Dec. 20, St. Petersburg. Memphis vs. South Florida. The latest bowl to be played in a baseball stadium, this new bowl is sponsored by a tool that allows you to plug your phone into a computer. Ok, at least it’s not sponsored by LoJack. Who wants to watch a bowl game between Memphis and USF? Ugh. Pick: USF

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 20, Las Vegas. Arizona vs. BYU. Did you know Las Vegas got three inches of snow yesterday? This is BYU’s fourth consecutive trip to this bowl. I wonder how this bowl would do without BYU in it. Zona finally gets to a bowl in Mike Stoops’ fifth year. The Mountain West has had its way against the Pac-10 this year. That won’t change in this game. Pick: BYU

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 21, New Orleans. Southern Miss vs. Troy. Southern Miss makes a bowl game in a rebuilding year. The men of Troy, Alabama once again won the Sun Belt conference. Troy is a little better than Southern Miss. Pick: Troy

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 23, San Diego. TCU vs. Boise State. There’s something wrong when a matchup between the 8th and 11th ranked teams in the nation occurs two days before Christmas in a bowl named for a credit union. At least it’s in San Diego. This game has greatness written all over it. Can the Broncos go 13-0? I don’t know. Pick: TCU

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, Honolulu. Notre Dame vs. Hawaii. It’s pretty sad when Notre Dame can royally suck and still get a trip to Hawaii. Problem is, they’re playing Hawaii on their home field. It’ll feel just like a BCS bowl in one way for the Irish: they’ll lose. Pick: Hawaii.

Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26, Detroit. Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan. Yuck. There are some bad bowls out there, and this is one of them. Florida Atlantic went 6-6, played in the worst conference in college football, and still made it to a bowl. There’s something wrong with this picture. Central Michigan had it going this year in the MAC before losing to Ball State and Eastern Michigan. Pick: Central Michigan

Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 27, Charlotte. West Virginia vs. North Carolina. Good matchup bound to sell lots of tickets in Charlotte. Tar Heels were one of the better teams in a dreadfully balanced ACC. West Virginia was favored to win the Big East, but ended up here. Pick: North Carolina

Champs Sports Bowl, Dec. 27, Orlando. Wisconsin vs. Florida State. Badgers nearly lost their last game to Cal Poly. Seminoles showed signs of improvement this year, but aren’t quite where they want to be. Pick: FSU

Emerald Bowl, Dec. 27, San Francisco. Miami vs. California. Canes visit the City by the Bay. Hopefully, they’ll have a good sightseeing trip, because there’s no way they’ll beat Cal out there. Pick: Cal

Independence Bowl, Dec. 28, Shreveport. Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech. How did the 6-6 Huskies get into this bowl? The former executive director of the bowl now works for NIU. This is a really lame matchup, brought about because the Big 12 and SEC each sent two teams to the BCS and didn’t have enough teams left for the Indy Bowl to pick. Somebody has to win this game. Pick: Tech

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 16

Here are more picks from 30,000 feet. Once again, Thursday night’s game will start before I post. However, that game has an overwhelming favorite, so this week’s picks will not be adversely affected.

Last week: 9-7
Season: 142-81-1

Baltimore at Dallas (Saturday): The NFL Network brings us the last game ever at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys kissed and made up with each other, at least for one week, while beating the Giants in an ugly 20-8 game. The Ravens, on the other hand, lost a heartbreaker to the Steelers last week in Baltimore. The Cowboys have also lost a heartbreaker late in the game to Pittsburgh. The Ravens are good, but it would be totally wrong for the Cowboys to lose the last game at the Stadium With The Hole In The Roof. Pick: Dallas

Indianapolis at Jacksonville (Thursday): The Colts are the hottest team in the league. The Jaguars have given up the season. Irresistible force meets movable object. Gee, I wonder who’s going to win this game? Pick: Indy

Pittsburgh at Tennessee: Possible preview of the AFC championship game. The Titans were stunned last week by the Texans. The Steelers have pulled two exciting wins out the hat in recent weeks, over Dallas and Baltimore. Go with the home team. Pick: Titans

Miami at Kansas City: The Chiefs found another way to lose on Sunday, giving up two touchdowns to the Chargers in 82 seconds before missing a long desperation field goal try. Now, the Dolphins visit Kansas City with a chance to make the playoffs. Can the Chiefs finish someone off? Don’t bet on it. Pick: Miami

Arizona at New England: The Cardinals were atrocious last week in a 35-14 loss to Minnesota. They now face another week with nothing to gain. That’s the result of winning the awful NFC West by default. The Patriots keep plugging along and still have a chance to win the AFC East. This pick is so easy. Pick: New England

Cincinnati at Cleveland: The Mega Suck Bowl. The only way this game could be worse is if Detroit were involved. Both teams have stunk up the joint this year, though the Bengals got a win last week over the Redskins. The Browns haven’t scored a touchdown in a month, and have lost both parts of their two-headed quarterback monster. Does someone have to win this game? Do Browns’ season ticket holders have to sit in the cold to watch this game? Do they have to play this game? Do I have to pick a winner? The answer to those questions is yes. Pick: Cincy

Philadelphia at Washington: One team is going up, the other is going down. Pick: Philly

San Francisco at St. Louis: The Suck Bowl. This is not quite to the level of Mega Suck, but almost. The Rams lost last week at home to the Seattle Seabags. Ugh. The 49ers are headed nowhere as well. Pick: San Francisco

Atlanta at Minnesota: These teams could see each other again in two weeks in the first round of the playoffs. The injury bug is starting to hit the Vikings, but they’re at home. Pick: Minnesota

New Orleans at Detroit: The Saints are playing out the string, but face a test on Sunday: keeping from becoming the first team to lose to Detroit this season. The Lions are 0-14, but aren’t as bad as their record indicates. I’m going to go out on a limb here. There will be no 0-16 team in the NFL this year. Pick: Detroit

Carolina at New York Giants: The Giants have been hammered hard by injury and have lost their last two games. The Panthers have played as well as anyone in the league. This game is for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants get well at home on a cold December Sunday night. Pick: Giants

New York Jets at Seattle: The Jets face a classic trap game as they go to the Northwest to play a bad team with nothing to lose. New York is 0-3 this year in previous trips to the West Coast, including losses to the putrid 49ers and Raiders. The Jets have everything to lose, as the AFC East division title is in sight. The Jets revert to form this week and become the same old Jets. They’ll find a way to lose this game. Pick: Seattle

Houston at Oakland: The Texans have come out of nowhere to win four in a row. They now head to Oakland to play the sad-sack Raiders. Make that five in a row. Pick: Houston

Buffalo at Denver: It would be fitting if Denver got a snowstorm this weekend with the Bills in town. The Bills threw a game away last week, and can’t wait for this season to be over. The Broncos have another chance to clinch the AFC West this week. They get the job done. Pick: Denver

Tampa Bay at San Diego: The Bucs lost a heartbreaking overtime game last week in Atlanta, severely impairing their playoff chances. They now have to head to the West Coast to play a mercurial Chargers team. Will the men in pewter have anything left? Who knows? Pick: San Diego

Green Bay at Chicago (Monday): Monday Night Football returns to the shore of Lake Michigan for the resumption of one of the league’s great rivalries. The Packers have nothing left to play for but pride. The Bears are trying to keep pace with the Vikings for the NFC North crown. It’ll be really cold in Chicago on Monday night. Pick: Bears