Thursday, January 03, 2008

NFL Picks: Wild Card Weekend

We are now into the money week of the NFL playoffs. This is when the owners and TV networks cash in on the popularity of the league with an extra week of playoffs. The better teams are off this week on byes. It is a tall order to come out of this round of the playoffs and go on to win the Super Bowl, mainly because a winner this week will go on to play a rested, better team on the road. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl two years ago as a wild card, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Nonetheless, there will be some good games this week.

Last Week: 12-4
Season: 170-78


Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (Saturday): These teams last met in December on a snowy day in Pittsburgh. Jacksonville survived a Pittsburgh comeback to win, 29-22. Now, the Steelers are without star RB Willie Parker, and are stumbling to the finish line. The Jags are good enough to make noise in these playoffs. Pick: Jacksonville

Tennessee at San Diego (Sunday): These teams met in November in Nashville, when the Titans gave up a big lead only to lose to the Chargers in overtime. The Chargers started slowly, but finished with the #3 seed in the playoffs. Norv Turner’s job is safe, after all. The Chargers have a habit of losing home playoff games. They win one this week. Pick: San Diego


Washington at Seattle (Saturday): The Redskins have won their last four games behind backup quarterback Todd Collins, while mourning the death of S Sean Taylor. The Seahawks rolled to another NFC West title. This is the toughest trip in football, with the combination of the Seahawks’ outdoor home field advantage and the long trip to Seattle. Redskins run out of gas. Pick: Seattle

New York Giants at Tampa Bay (Sunday): The Giants gave the mighty Patriots all they wanted for three quarters last week. The Bucs have been in neutral for the last month after clinching the weak NFC South. Tampa Bay puts it together for one game this week, with the return of QB Jeff Garcia. Pick: Tampa Bay

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

If You're Not First..

"If you're not first, you're last!" - Ricky Bobby

That is the sentiment of a large portion of Sooner Nation, after OU lost its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game Wednesday night. The Sooners were pounded by West Virginia, 48-28. The game shouldn't have been that close. In Norman, it's National Championship or Bust. Right now, it's Bowl Win or Bust.

It's a good thing bowl games are meaningless exhibitions.

The real game is Monday night, when Ohio State plays LSU for the crystal football.

On Frozen Pond

While there were bowl games all over the tube on New Year’s Day, NBC presented a treat. The NHL gave us the Amp Energy NHL Winter Classic. It was an outdoor hockey game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, between the Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was good stuff.

The game drew over 71,000 spectators in the cold, sleet, and snow of Buffalo, the largest crowd in the history of the NHL. It was great television. At times during the game, attendants had to go out onto the ice and clear freshly fallen snow and ice. Wind and cold were a factor in the game, just as in football. It was a throwback to when players were growing up playing on frozen ponds and backyards. Oh, yeah, Pittsburgh won the game, 3-2 in a shootout. The NHL's new phenom Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal for the Penguins.

The NHL needs things like this to put it back on the map in this country. Outdoor games won’t work all the time, but one game a year, presented as a big event, would be great for the sport.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Bowl Picks, Part 3

Last set: 7-7 (yikes!)
Bowl picks to date: 10-9 (ouch!)
Overall: 192-103

January brings us more bowls, including the vaunted BCS. Here’s hoping these picks are better than the last set.

AT&T Cotton Bowl at Dallas, Missouri vs. Arkansas: Mizzou was hosed by the BCS. Arkansas got a better bowl as a result of their season-ending upset win over LSU. Since then, Arkansas has entered into a coaching transition, having pawned Houston Nutt off on Ole Miss, and stealing Bobby Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons. Reggie Herring is coaching the bowl game for the Hogs, in preparation for his new gig as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Is that confusing? I thought so. Pick: Missouri

Outback Bowl at Tampa, Tennessee vs. Wisconsin: Tennessee won the SEC East, thanks in part to a win over Georgia in October. This was a slow year in the Big Ten. Nonetheless, there are a lot of cheeseheads in Tampa this week. Go with the SEC in this one. Pick: Tennessee

Capital One Bowl at Orlando, Michigan vs. Florida: Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow leads the mighty Gators against the best of a bunch of Big Ten also-rans in Michigan. Michigan is playing their last game under retiring coach Lloyd Carr. Speed kills. Florida has speed. Pick: Florida

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Texas Tech vs. Virginia: UVa has won a bunch of close games this year to land themselves in a New Year’s Day bowl. They haven’t seen anything close to Tech’s offense, however. Tech will sling it around in this one. Pick: Red Raiders

International Bowl at Toronto, Rutgers vs. Ball State: This will be played on Saturday. Ball State was the third MAC team eligible for a bowl game. Rutgers has had a disappointing season. Who would have ever thought a disappointing season would still end in a bowl game for Rutgers? Pick: Scarlet Knights

GMAC Bowl at Mobile, AL, Tulsa vs. Bowling Green: Bowling Green has a lot of tickets to sell to this thing, so they are trying to market tickets to Ohio State fans in nearby New Orleans for the BCS national championship game. On the field, Tulsa should be able to handle the Falcons. Pick: Tulsa

Rose Bowl at Pasadena, CA, USC vs. Illinois: The biggest farce of a matchup in all of bowldom this season. Illinois is a nice team, but they’re no USC. The Illini was the only Big Ten team outside Ohio State that qualified for a BCS bowl. Therefore, the Rose Bowl took them, because the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten are engaged in an evil plot to control college football. Maybe not evil, but pretty close to it. USC is healthy once again, and looks ready to beat anyone who chooses to mess with them. Trojans win the Sugar Bowl pre-game show. Pick: USC

Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, Georgia vs. Hawaii: OU vs. Boise State, Part II. The upstart underdog from the WAC meets the hottest team in the SEC. Going out on a limb here, but I’m picking the team from the islands. Pick: Hawaii

Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, AZ, Oklahoma vs. West Virginia: Two teams that had a chance to play in the BCS championship game, but lost some inexplicable games among the way. OU sent a player home (Demarcus Granger) for shoplifting, while WVU has been in the midst of a contentious coaching search after Rich Rodriguez bolted for Meatchicken. I’m a homer. This blog always picks the Sooners. Pick: OU

Orange Bowl at Miami, Virginia Tech vs. Kansas: KU has had a great year. Problem is, they only played one good team all year, and lost to Missouri. This big bowl thing is new to them. Tech bounced back from a 41-point whipping by LSU and a gag job against Boston College to win the ACC. Tech represents the ACC well in this one. Pick: Virginia Tech

BCS National Championship Game at New Orleans, Ohio State vs. LSU: Ohio State is the beneficiary of a weak Big Ten, getting through the regular season with only one loss. LSU is the best of a bunch of two-loss teams. Both of the Tigers’ losses were in multiple overtime. Throw in the virtual homefield in the Superdome, and it will be hard for the Buckeyes to get out alive. Plus, it’s the SEC vs. the Big Ten. Pick: LSU

Just Another Night In San Antonio

This Texas A&M fan was caught eating boogers on national TV at the Alamo Bowl last Saturday night. Enjoy...

NFL Highway, Week 17

We are near the end of the highway. Actually, we’ve reached the suburbs, as the playoffs are here, and Super Bowl XLII is the destination.

This week’s trip down NFL Highway:

The Dallas Cowboys appeared Sunday in Washington. Well, sort of. QB Tony Romo only played for a half, and the Cowboys went through the motions as they were pounded by the Washington Redskins, 27-6. The Redskins thus qualify for the playoffs, and get to go to Seattle for a playoff game on Saturday.

The other playoff spot in doubt was in the AFC, where the Tennessee Titans needed to win in Indianapolis to make the playoffs. The Colts had nothing to play for, as their playoff position was locked. Indy benched Peyton Manning in the second quarter, and Vince Young was injured in the second half for the Titans. Kerry Collins came off the bench for the Titans and led them to three second half field goals.

Some other notable NFL happenings:

The Cleveland Browns won on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and finished 10-6. They missed the playoffs, however, on a tiebreaker with the Titans. The Browns blew their chance for control of their own destiny last week in Cincinnati. Still, it was an unexpected big season on the North Coast of Ohio. Now, the Browns must decide whether to keep this season’s star QB Derek Anderson, or this year’s #1 draft pick Brady Quinn.

The Houston Texans earned their franchise record 8th win on Sunday with a 42-28 victory over playoff-bound Jacksonville. This was in spite of a rash of injuries that placed almost 20 players on the injured list. The Texans demonstrated the strength of the AFC South by finishing in last place with an 8-8 record. They were the only team in the division to not make the playoffs.

Also finishing in last place with an 8-8 record are the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-9 winners over Buffalo. With Washington’s win, the Eagles are the only NFC East team to not make the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins finished an awful season at 1-15. They are guaranteed the top pick in April’s draft. Bill Parcells has been hired to blow up the entire football operation and to rebuild it.

More NFL rumblings later…