Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday's 12th Man Report: Week 8

I Was Right…
in my prediction that Seneca Wallace would have a good game in leading the Hawks to victory. Two forced turnovers by the Seahawks, including an INTD, didn’t hurt.
about the Titans, Ravens, Redskins and Browns.

I Was Wrong…
about pretty much everything else. It all seems so silly in hindsight, really.
to pick the Steelers. Just out of principle, that was a major indiscretion.
to think the Bengals could win? Pulleaze… They actually played well for a half, but unfortunately, playing well equaled “only down by eight.” The second half didn’t go so well, as the Texans finally finished a game properly.
to think this year’s London matchup would disappoint. It turned out to be a very entertaining game in which one turnover or one big play could have made for a different outcome.
not to consider Brett Favre the wildcard in any game he plays. There is ALWAYS a possibility that he might just decide to (a) heave it up for grabs off of his back foot once or twice (twice for INTs against the Chiefs on Sunday) and/or (b) throw into double-coverage deep in his opponent’s territory (Chiefs eight-yard-line on Sunday) for an INTD.
to consider the Bills infallible against the Dolphins.
to think the Cowboys wouldn’t learn that they needed to feed the ball to Marion Barber (31 touches).
to give up on the Eagles. Their strong line play on both sides of the ball really impressed me in the first few weeks of the season, which included a win over Pittsburgh and the close loss to Dallas in week two. They looked tough again on Sunday against the Falcons in simply overpowering them.

Eddie’s Observations

With less than a minute remaining in the game, I loved watching Jerry Jones meditating in his booth. Leaning forward in his chair, with his eyes closed and the fingers and thumb of each hand touching one another, he looked as if he were trying to channel down some sort of psychic energy to his team. The Dallas defense eventually stopped the Bucs, so apparently it worked, and maybe we’ll see it again next week.

Matt Ryan and Roddy White are still getting along nicely. White had eight catches for 113 yards and two TDs.

Anyone facing a fantasy team with Brian Westbrook had to be a little disappointed in how he decided to go ahead and score the touchdown at the end of the game, instead of downing the ball and allowing the Eagles to run out the clock, like he did last year in week 15 against the Cowboys.

Shaun Alexander is not lying down on first contact anymore. Unfortunately, he’s not making anyone miss either. He’s just getting lit up and dropped for very short gains (averaged 1.8 yards per carry on Sunday compared to 5.3 for Clinton Portis). Good call Tim Ruskell (Seahawks GM) on letting him go in the off-season. And good call Bengals on signing Cedric Benson instead of Alexander. My bad. Amazingly, however, Mr. Stone Hands actually caught a pass on Sunday. Mad props Shaun.

The Redskins’ time of possession doubled the Lions’ through three quarters—and they were only up six points.

It wouldn’t surprise me if TMQ talks about…
Matt Cassel’s effort with 9:02 remaining in the Rams game on Sunday. With his team down three points, Cassel was standing at the Rams 35 on a third down play. Unable to find anyone open, he had a few options. He could have taken a sack, which would have resulted in a 52-yard field goal attempt. Or, he could have thrown the ball away and gave the kicker a 45-yard field goal attempt. Instead, he managed to escape the pocket and run forward for 4 yards, which resulted in a much more manageable 41-yard field goal attempt which Stephen Gostkowski converted. It certaintly didn't make the highlight reels, but was important nonetheless in a three-point game.
the Ravens sweet play in which Joe Flacco handed the ball off to Troy Smith who then threw a 43-yard pass to…Joe Flacco.

Trent Edwards, who led the league in fourth quarter QB rating (through week 7 anyway), was decidedly un-clutch in giving the ball away three times in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins.

In the second quarter of the Bengals-Texans game, Matt Schaub reminded me of Tecmo superstar Randall Cunningham, errrr….I mean, “QB Eagles.” In Tecmo, you were able to run your QB on one sideline and just before crossing the line of scrimmage, you could magically—in stride, mind you—throw the ball all the way to a receiver on the other sideline. Since he was such a running threat, QB Eagles was a master at this play. Schaub’s play was only half as good, but still nostalgic. He was running in the middle of the field when he stopped suddenly before crossing the line of scrimmage and hit Ahman Green on the right sideline.

Make it Official: In the fourth quarter of the London game, Referee Tony Corrente informed us that there were two penalties on the play, “delay of game on the offense and delay of game on the quarterback for spiking the ball. Only one penalty will be assessed. It will be the delay of game.” So glad you could clarify.

Good Call/Bad Call
Good Call: On fourth-and-short from their own 47-yard-line, the Browns, instead of predictably running the ball straight up the gut, called a play-action pass to tight end Steve Heiden. Result: 50-yard reception for a first-and-goal at the Jaguars three-yard-line.
Bad Call: On third-and-short and fourth-and-short at around the Browns 37-yard-line, the Jaguars called two runs straight up the gut. Guess what the result was? Unless your offensive line is dominating the opponent’s defensive line, I see no reason for this sort of predictable play-calling--especially on two successive plays.

Matt Jones caught 8 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, though he couldn’t come up with the game-winner, which was bobbled and ultimately dropped. In seven games, he’s three receptions shy of his career season-high of 41.

Fullback Leonard Weaver (2 rushes for 13 yards, 4 receptions for 116 yards and 2 TDs) made the 49ers looks silly and slow.

Mike Singletary needs to be fired immediately…so we can all enjoy the Coors Light commercials sure to result from his post-game tirade. On second thought, he’s sure to provide additional material in the coming weeks—let’s give him a few more games.

Pick Performance
Week 8: 5-8-1
Overall: 51-61-3
Eddie in the Money Superpicks
Week 8: 2-3-1
Overall: 18-9-2

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Week 8 Picks

Can you believe it's already week eight? The season is almost half over...which means, of course, that mid-season Eddie Awards ("The Eddies") and my second half preview are on tap. That's right--get excited. For now, here are my picks for week eight:

STEELERS -3 over Giants
I keep telling myself how much I despise the Steelers, yet seeing Hines Ward talk about his jaw-breaking hit last week curiously didn’t add to that hatred. I think these teams are pretty even. Flip a coin. Go with the home team.

Seahawks +5.5 over 49ERS
You know I’ll find a way to rationalize picking the Seahawks. So this pick and my rationalization really mean nothing. However, Seneca Wallace did have a good game two years ago when he started in front of his Sac-Town friends at San Francisco. This year, he’s going to do one better and get the victory. Mike Singletary may become a great coach, but he won’t be blocking for J.T. O’Sullivan, who’s going to be on his back early and often once again versus the Seahawks.

Bengals +9 over TEXANS
First the Texans struggle to win, then they struggle to cover. The Texans are an ok team, but they’re not going to blow anyone out, and last week, that included Detroit. If they can’t blow out Detroit, why should we think they can blow out Cincinnati a week later? The Bengals are not only going to cover—they’re going to come away with their first victory of the year.

TITANS -4 over Colts
Manning laid an egg last week and decides that’s a good time to talk about his staph infection in the preseason. Nice try trying to distract us away from the two INTDs he threw against the beat-up Packers secondary. I hope he’s spent this week thinking of next week’s media distraction, because the Titans defense is going to make him look bad once again.

RAVENS -7.5 over Raiders
Does anyone remember what the Raiders looked like against the Saints two weeks ago? Barely beating the Jet-lagged Jets in an overtime game that no one seemed to want has not convinced me.

Chargers -3 over Saints (in London)
Both teams are going to be equally jet-lagged. So instead of one team playing like crap, you get two teams playing like crap. That’s a recipe for an ugly game. Add in a sloppy wet field meant for soccer and what do you get? A sold-out game barely worth watching.

JETS -14 over Chiefs
Speaking of barely worth watching… The Jets will be much more comfortable this week at home and playing perhaps the worst team in the league. Strike that, the Chiefs ARE the worst team in the league. The Jets, who looked decidedly mediocre in losing to a struggling Raiders team are FOURTEEN-POINT FAVORITES. I previously wrote that no team should be a double-digit favorite, but like the 49ers in New York last week, this is another understandable exception.

Bills -1.5 over DOLPHINS
Where’s the respect? The Bills don’t even need to circle the wagons. They’re circled. The Wildcat has run its course and those wagons will keep it in check.

Bucs +1.5 over COWBOYS
The Cowboys are a mess and picked a bad time to have Tampa Bay coming to town. Hey, but at least they have another Pro-Bowl receiver to steal touches from T.O. That should keep the drama down.

Falcons +9 over EAGLES
The Falcons have me convinced. They are for real. They beat the Bears at home and beat the Packers in Green Bay, so how are they a 9-point underdog in Philly? The Eagles should have no more than the three-point home-field advantage, or less.

PATRIOTS -7.5 over Rams
The Haslett ra-ra has run out. As much as it pains me to pick the Patriots, I think they’re finally figuring things out without Mr. Brady.

Redskins -7.5 over LIONS
The Redskins defense and run game will be too much for the Lions to come back against this week.

Browns +7 over JAGUARS
The Browns are trending in the right direction. They beat the world champs and then played a strong game in Washington. This is another line that is just too high. This game will be close.

Week 7: 8-6
Overall: 46-53-2

Eddie in the Money Superpicks (home teams in CAPS)
Atlanta +9 over PHILLY
CAROLINA -4 over Arizona
Buffalo -1.5 over MIAMI
BALTIMORE -7.5 over Oakland
Cincinnati +9.5 over HOUSTON
Cleveland +7 over JACKSONVILLE.

Week 7: 3-2
Overall: 16-6-1

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Read Between the Lines

Rather than talk about his “dream job,” of coaching the 49ers, Mike Holmgren wants to focus on the 1-5 Seahawks…right now, anyway. Speaking on a different subject, Holmgren pointed out that “you can read all sorts of things into everything.”

So, with that in mind, let’s follow coach’s orders and read between his lines from Wednesday’s weekly press conference, and his call with the San Francisco media.

MH: “This is my home.”
Comment: The one in Monterrey? The one you’re building in Scotts Valley (15 minutes inland from Santa Cruz)? The one in Arizona?

MH: “Seattle’s my home.”
Comment: Ahhhh, but what about your dream job? Your team?

MH: “Seattle’s my team. Right Now
Translation: I’ve only got 10 more games left. Ten! But who’s counting?

MH: “…, we’ve got to figure out how to win a game for the Seattle Seahawks. And all the rest of this stuff is, like you said, speculation.”
Comment: Didn’t you say the same thing about the Seahawks job back when you were coaching the Packers in 1998?
MH (totally out of context): “Ya know, I don’t like when he does that..”

MH (responding to the possibility of coaching the 49ers next year): “You are really gonna ask this?”
Translation: Ahhhhshhhhit. Here we go. This would be so much easier if it weren’t election season.

MH: “I’ll tell you what I said last week.”
Mike’s thoughts: Haha! I bet you don’t remember do you?!!

MH: “Right now the plan is to stay with the plan I told you.”
Mike’s thoughts: Just need to stall a little bit…and what exactly did I tell them? Maybe I should start reading the crap these guys write.

MH: “I’m gonna take a year off.”
Translation: I’m taking THIS year off...as in the 2008 Seattle Seahawks season...

MH: “Find out a little bit about myself and uh…”
Mike’s thoughts: I’m 60 freakin’ years old! What else is there to know about me?! If you guys buy that line, you're dumber than you look.

MH: “That’s the plan right now.”
Mike’s thoughts: If I say “right now” enough times, the 49ers should take the hint, right?

MH: “That’s how I’m thinking. And…and…I think I’ve been consistent with that.”
Mike’s thoughts: I THINK—haha! There’s a reason I don’t read your articles—plausible deniability baby!

MH: “You know. Right now, that’s how I’m lookin’ at it.”
Translation: Dear Scotty (McCloughan, 49ers General Manager), in January, after the Seahawks 4-12 season, I’ll be looking at it MUCH differently. [wink, wink]

Actual question from reporter: “If the perfect situation presented itself, would your big boss [wife Kathy] allow you to skip your sabbatical?”
MH: “Right now, she’s doin’ foot care at the Pike Street Clinic…for the homeless.”
Mike’s thoughts: Yeah, throw the charity work at ‘em! That should distract them.

MH: “I’m not gonna burden her with that right now.”
Translation: I’m scared to death to tell her the truth—that I’ll be back coaching again next year.

MH: “It’s something that we talked prior to this season.”
Translation: I’m not looking forward to the talk prior to NEXT season.

MH: “I’ll stick to what I said. I’d rather not deal with hypotheticals right now.”
Translation: Let’s be honest, this is more than hypothetical and we all know it.

MH: “One, Mike Nolan is an acquaintance and a friend of mine and I feel bad for him.”
Mike’s thoughts: Right now, anyway. Tomorrow? Next month? Ehhh, whatever…

MH: “Two, we’re gonna go down and play the 49ers and the important thing is the game with the 49ers.”
Mike’s thoughts: Will it help my cause if I throw the game and let the 49ers win? Haha, what am I thinking?! No need to throw the game—we suck! We have no chance of winning. Ha! This is great!

MH (on his relationship with Scot McCloughan, 49ers General Manager, who was previously the Seahawks Director of College Scouting): “I have a good relationship” with “Scotty … or Scot, I should say now.”
Mike’s thoughts: Key word being NOW. Mike Nolan Hired Scot. Then Scot became General Manager and fired Mike Nolan. Next, Scot will hire me…and guess who’s going to fire Scotty….mmmwahahahaha!

Week 8 Lines
Each week, Eddie Utah (“EU”) tries to predict the Vegas lines for each NFL game upcoming that week. It’s an honor system—I make my predictions before looking at the official lines. One of my favorite columnists, Bill Simmons (“BS”), does the same thing (and yes, in fact, I borrowed the idea from him). Bill even goes so far as to make a podcast about the lines with his friend Cousin Sal ("CS," who recently won an Emmy for his part in helping Sarah Silverman write that special song for ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel). Bill and Sal have a contest on the podcast each week to see whose line predictions come closer to the actual Vegas line for each game. In week 2 of the 2008 NFL season, I decided to give it a try and find out if I could do any better than Bill and Cousin Sal. So far, the answer is a definitive no. Here are the season standings after week 7: CS 42, BS 41, EU 22. Week 8 was one of my poorer performances, with the final tally being BS 8, CS 6, EU 2, bringing the season standings to BS 49, CS 48, EU 24.

However, in spite of my poor performance, I am bringing you a special Eddie Utah first! This week, I’m presenting six (6!) Eddie in the Money Superpicks (16-6-1 on the season), including three underdogs. Here’s who I like (home teams in CAPS): Atlanta +9 over PHILLY, CAROLINA -4 over Arizona, Buffalo -1.5 over MIAMI, BALTIMORE -7 over Oakland, Cincinnati +9.5 over HOUSTON and Cleveland +7 over JACKSONVILLE.

Look for a Week 8 preview tomorrow or Friday. And also…with the start of the NBA regular season on October 28th, I’ll be starting my coverage of the hometown Jazz and we'll see if they can convert me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perspectives on Losing

I skipped my usual NFL wrap-up column for this week. Maybe it’s because I’m a Seahawks fan and my team is 1-5. Growing up, that went with the territory. It was a way of life. But not long after Holmgren showed up, the Seahawks won their first playoff game in 21 years. Next thing you know, they had won their division four years in a row. Now, it looks like Mike Holmgren’s final season is going to be a little like Alzheimer’s—a long goodbye. Watching poor old Mike stand helplessly on the sideline in Tampa last night made me think about all the different ways you can lose and how the feeling of losing can change drastically, depending on how you lose and your role, or perspective, in the loss.

Important Note: It’s been suggested in a couple of personal emails to Eddie Utah that I “borrow” things from Bill Simmons. So just to clarify…if I’m quoting or directly referring to something from Mr. Simmons, I use quotation marks and/or a hyperlink. The same goes for any of the other columnists that I admire, like TMQ or DJ Gallo (check out the links to the right of the page). Now, as I am in the beginning stages of developing my own personal style, I naturally lean on the styles of those I aspire to be like. In fact, you may even notice me making the same observations that Simmons or TMQ make. This actually affords me a small token of pride because I have written all of my Tuesday morning columns before TMQ’s column comes out and before the Simmons/Cousin Sal podcast and before Simmons’ Thursday NFL column. It simply tells me that I am noticing and writing about things that I enjoy reading about that successful writers write about.

Back to this column. I will not be attempting to recycle Simmons’ Levels of Losing, but instead focus on how different people in different roles can have such different feelings about the exact same loss.

Let me provide a simple example that most of us can relate to. Think about how you felt when you played your heart out on the football field or the basketball court, but victory narrowly escaped you. Now compare that with a time when you were sitting on the end of the bench watching your teammates lose. Totally different feeling, right? Suppose, even further, that you were cut from your high school sophomore basketball team. Or perhaps, tragically, you were cut TWICE from that very team. (This obviously didn’t happen to me. And if it did, I totally wouldn’t be bitter and writing about it 17 years later.) How do you think it would feel to watch that team lose? You’d probably enjoy it—thinking all along that you could make a difference. Hell, in that scenario, seeing your own team win probably hurts more than watching them lose.

In approximately 37 days, my brother and I will be watching the Seahawks miraculously beat the Cowboys in the last Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium (with the help of my brother, an ardent Cowboys fan, who happens to be a good-luck charm for the Seahawks). With that big game coming up and in the back of my head, I pondered the thoughts and feelings of those involved in the losses on Sunday for both the Cowboys and the Seahawks.

Perspective Number 1: The Backup
This week’s backups were Tony Romo and Matt Hasselbeck. Romo made a valiant effort, putting on his uniform, warming up and even letting team Dr. Jerry Jones diagnose his pinky and clear him to play, but finally deciding that he couldn’t help the team. And was he happy he didn’t play? Or was he disappointed? I’m guessing disappointed, based on Brad Johnson’s three picks. Surely Romo could have done better, even sans pinky. Hasselbeck, on the other hand, didn’t even make the trip to Tampa. He stayed in Seattle doing core exercises to strengthen and protect his back. Maybe he even used one of these highly effective core-strengthening chairs. I think that Hasselbeck could have made a difference last night and I’m guessing he felt the same. Would it have been enough for a Seahawks victory? I doubt it. The majority of that team just has terrible body-language. They look like they’re just going through the motions, surprised when good things don’t happen. They’re not hungry. And teams that are not hungry do not win—they go through the motions and lose.

Romo and Hasselbeck may have had good attitudes about their teams' losses, mostly because they were backups only due to injury. They know they could have made a difference and their teams know it too. So while they may have cared and empathized with yesterday’s losses, true backups may not have cared quite as much.

Perspective Number 2: The Coach
Even though both teams were blown out, their coaches looked remarkable different on the sidelines. I think both were hurt and upset, but in different ways. Wade Philips’ team has high expectations and lots of Pro Bowl talent. His facial expressions seemed to say, “How am I supposed to deal with all this drama? Why can’t we hang on to the football and why is Brad throwing so many interceptions? What’s wrong with our defense? And I am soooo fired…” In other words, he was surprised and shocked and just couldn’t understand why his team looked so bad.

Holmgren’s body language was a little different. He seemed to be saying, “What more can I do? Our franchise quarterback is in Seattle. We’ve injured eight different receivers and when the guys playing actually run the right routes, half the time they drop the ball. Our defense is on the field too much and the players don’t seem to care. And I’ll be coaching the 49ers next year anyways.”

The different reactions could also be attributed to the varying expectations. The Seahawks hoped to be competitive and maybe get lucky and come away with a win while the Cowboys expected to blowout the Rams.

Perspective Number 3: The Star
I haven’t read anything that T.O. said after the game, but I’m guessing whatever he did say had something to do with Brad Johnson’s inability to get him the ball. Marion Barber had an ok game, rushing for 100 yards and scoring a touchdown. If I’m him, I really can’t be too disappointed. What more could he have done? Yeah, there’s always something more you could do. But his performance definitely doesn’t make the top five reasons why the Cowboys lost. Not so for all the Pro Bowlers on the Cowboys defense. They should be pointing their fingers right back at themselves. If I’m on that defense, I’m definitely wondering how we let the Rams patchwork offensive line assist Steven Jackson in rushing for 160 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

Do the Seahawks have any offensive stars besides Hasselbeck? Walter Jones, I suppose. So how does he feel when he performs in his usual steady way and his team loses the way it did last night? My guess is that he felt a lot like Coach Holmgren. What else can he do? He can protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running backs, but he can’t block on the right side of the line and the left side. He can’t throw, run or kick the ball. He’s got to feel a little helpless and frustrated, knowing that he needs to be a leader and inspire his mediocre teammates.

I wish I knew how the Pro Bowlers on defense felt. They are really the ones I’m talking about when I say that they’re just going through the motions. I see no enthusiasm from that group; no excitement, no passion. And I don’t think they get it. Someone needs to light a fire in that locker room and get them excited about playing football again. (I’m looking at you, Lofa Tatupu and Patrick Kerney.)

Perspective Number 4: The Fan
A true fan is the eternal optimist—always believing their team to be better than it is, always expecting, or at least hoping for, miraculous plays, always cheering them on, even in 2-14 and 1-15 seasons. True fans identify themselves a little too much with their teams. A victory will make their day, a loss can ruin their week or even year, if their team happens to get screwed out of what may be their only chance for a Super Bowl victory in their lifetime.

I know exactly how my brother felt yesterday and today…and how he’ll probably feel tomorrow and the rest of the week—basically until his team turns things around and starts winning again. It’s frustrating. The media has high expectations for the Cowboys—and the fans’ expectations are always higher. Yeah, we fans try to temper them sometimes to protect ourselves from the disappointment that inevitably comes, absent a Lombardi Trophy, but deep down, we are always hopeful. Yet, in spite of my hopes, if I’m a Cowboys fan, I’m worried—worried about a certain little pinky, worried about T.O. losing touches to the Roy Williams without a broken forearm, worried about the Roy Williams with a broken forearm, worried about the play-calling that should center around a strong running attack, and worried about the whereabouts of Adam Jones. Yesterday’s loss just brings so much uncertainty. The Cowboys have the talent to be a great team, but will they become one?

With the Seahawks at 1-5, even my hopes are sinking fast. Realistically, I’m already looking forward to the draft and hoping the Seahawks can find another Lofa Tatupu or two. Preferably great big ones that play defensive tackle and offensive guard. They ought to be looking for a quarterback to groom as Hasselbeck’s replacement too. But I still want to see them win. I’d like to see reasons for optimism heading into the offseason. And I don’t want the Seahawks to have a high draft pick. A top-five draft pick is a curse these days. Last year’s number one pick, offensive tackle Jake Long, makes more money than any offensive tackle in the whole league. It’s crippling to your team’s salary cap to pay so much money to an unproven rookie. Holmgren is leaving and he appears to be taking the golden age of the Seahawks with him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Week 7 Picks

BUFFALO (pick) over San Diego
Philip Rivers and the Chargers looked solid last week beating the Patriots on Sunday night. And Trent Edwards looked solid sitting on his couch and resting his head. San Diego struggled in their trip to Miami two weeks ago, but could have better luck in Buffalo against a beat-up Bills team that will be missing starting cornerback Terrence McGee. Nevertheless, a long cross-country trip preceding next week’s game in London will be too much for the Chargers to overcome against a quality team in Buffalo.

Indianapolis -1.5 over GREEN BAY
Peyton Manning should have fun with the Packers short-staffed secondary. For a guy who’s been very consistent over an 11-year career, it’s hard not to believe Manning when he says that last week was “really is like the first week of the season for me. All I’ve ever known is taking every rep at every practice and playing in all the preseason games, so I did miss some time there and I’ve been working through that.” If he can perform with a 134.7 QB rating against the Packers, like he did against Baltimore, the NFL’s number one ranked passing defense, this one should be another run-away.

CAROLINA -3 over New Orleans
If the Carolina, as opposed to the Dillon, Panthers show up, this could be a good game. Jake Delhomme, who threw three picks, was surprisingly accountable, saying, “Let's be honest, I was pretty much pathetic." And Coach John Fox claimed that his team didn’t even break a sweat until it was 14-0. The Saints, meanwhile, coasted to an easy 34-3 win over Oakland. They looked good, but the Raiders have a habit of making a lot of teams look good. I expect the Panthers to be more ready this week.
CHICAGO -3 over Minnesota
Sorry Vikings, Kyle Orton, unlike Dan Orlovsky, has actually figured out the dimensions of the end zone. In spite of what should be a strong run-game, the Minnesota offense has not scored a lot of points. Two weeks ago, the Saints turned over the ball four times, helping the Vikings to a close win. And last week, the Minnesota offense struggled to score 10 points against a weak Lions team. Only the Orlovsky gaffe allowed them to leave with a victory. The Bears secondary may be a little beat-up, but it won’t matter. Their superior offense will be enough.
Pittsburgh -9.5 over CINCINNATI
Do the Bengals rise up and play tough against another good team? They played tough against the Giants and Cowboys. But Pittsburgh is not in the NFC East. That may not make a big difference, but it is a divisional game and the Bengals are once again without Carson Palmer (who I think is on his way to a little place called injured reserve).
Tennessee -9 over KANSAS CITY
Without Larry Johnson and with Brodie Croyle starting at quarterback, the Chiefs will have a hard time scoring any points. Tennessee could cover this spread by scoring only 10 points.

MIAMI -3 over Baltimore
It’s hard to say how good or bad Baltimore may be. Their two wins were against Cleveland and Cincinnati. Their three losses were to Indianapolis, Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Miami’s two wins, on the other hand, were over last year’s participants in the AFC championship game (New England and San Diego).
NEW YORK GIANTS -10.5 over San Francisco
In the last two weeks, San Francisco was the one team who couldn’t get a home win against a team coming all the way from the East Coast. This week they buck the double-digit trend and become only the second double-digit dog all season not to cover.
Dallas -7 over ST. LOUIS
“Am I optimistic that we can win without Tony? Yes, truly I am,” linebacker Greg Ellis said. “I’m just disappointed in this organization right now, from the whole deal of it. Things just aren’t going really good.” As long as the Cowboys get Marion Barber the ball, all their drama won’t be enough to derail them against the St. Louis Rams (who haven’t beaten the Cowboys since 1986, when they were in Los Angeles).

HOUSTON -9.5 over Detroit
Jon Kitna’s been keeping tabs on his old team. "Was there reasonable cause to put me on IR?" Kitna asked. "Yeah, because they said there's a bulging disk. But the reality is, most guys have bulging disks. ...” Based on this quote, he’s apparently been listening to Mike Holmgren, who made the same comment about Matt Hasselbeck’s back…back in September. Holmgren claimed that “I have a bulging disc. You have a bulging disc. Everybody does. I think if you play football for a while, and they look at your back, you're going to have a disc that looks funky.”

Anyway, I can’t pick a team with a quarterback who hasn’t learned the dimensions of the field.
New York Jets -3 over OAKLAND
The Bay Area: Where East Coast teams go to cover! This is a common sense pick more than anything. The Raiders organization is a joke; Brett Favre has never lost to the Raiders; and the Jets are a much better team—i.e., more than three points better…even on the road.
Cleveland +7.5 over WASHINGTON
The Redskins will play much better than last week, but the Browns will come in with a lot of confidence after playing nearly perfectly (zero punts, zero turnovers) on Monday night against the champs.

Seattle +10.5 over TAMPA BAY
In spite of the Seahawks well-documented trouble on the East Coast, they have never lost in Tampa Bay. Also, only one double-digit favorite has covered all year. The Bucs have played very well all year and have been in each game. Their two losses are by a combined seven points. It’s week seven and time for them to take a week off.

Denver +3 over NEW ENGLAND
The Patriot offense should look a little more competent against the Denver D, which is giving up the third-most yards per game. But I’m guessing Mike Shanahan was paying attention last week when Philip Rivers lit up the Pats defense for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns. Plus, Shanahan is 5-1 against New England since 2001. He may be dismissing that record, but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are licking their chops.
Eddie in the Money Superpicks (home team in CAPS)
BUFFALO (pick) over San Diego, CHICAGO -3 over Minnesota, Indianapolis -1.5 over GREEN BAY, Tennessee -7 over Kansas City, and New York Jets -3 over OAKLAND (13-4-1 on the season)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Week 7 One-Liners

Each week, Eddie Utah (“EU”) tries to predict the Vegas lines for each NFL game upcoming that week. It’s an honor system—I make my predictions before looking at the official lines. One of my favorite columnists, Bill Simmons (“BS”), does the same thing (and yes, in fact, I borrowed the idea from him). Bill even goes so far as to make a podcast about the lines with his friend Cousin Sal ("CS," who recently won an Emmy for his part in helping Sarah Silverman write that special song for ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel). Bill and Sal have a contest on the podcast each week to see whose line predictions come closer to the actual Vegas line for each game. In week 2 of the 2008 NFL season, I decided to give it a try and find out if I could do any better than Bill and Cousin Sal. So far, the answer is a definitive no. Here are the season standings after week 6: CS 37, BS 34, EU 18. On to week 7…

San Diego at Buffalo
Trent Edwards’ head might still hurt after trying to compete with Philip Rivers.
CS: BUF -2, BS: sd -3, EU: BUF -3, Actual: sd -1
Score: CS 0, BS 1, EU 0

New Orleans at Carolina
If the Carolina, as opposed to the Dillon, Panthers show up, this could be a good game.
CS: CAR -5, BS: CAR -4, EU: CAR -3, Actual: CAR -3.5
Score: CS 0, BS 2, EU 1

Minnesota at Chicago
Sorry Vikings, Kyle Orton, unlike Dan Orlovsky, has actually figured out the dimensions of the end zone.
CS: CHI -3, BS: CHI -4, EU: CHI -6, Actual: CHI -3
Score: CS 1, BS 2, EU 1

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Do the Bengals rise up and play tough against another good team?
CS: pit -7, BS: pit -8, EU: pit -7, Actual: pit -9.5
Score: CS 1, BS 3, EU 1

Tennessee at Kansas City
Instead of pushing women, Larry Johnson should try pushing the pile a little harder.
CS: ten -7.5, BS: ten -12.5, EU: ten -9, Actual: ten - 7
Score: CS 2, BS 3, EU 1

Baltimore at Miami
After their three-point showing in week 6, the Ravens should be giving the Wildcat a try.
CS: MIA -1, BS: MIA -1.5, EU: MIA -2, Actual: MIA -3
Score: CS 2, BS 3, EU 2

San Francisco at New York Giants
Angry Giants team versus a 49er team crossing three time zones equals a Giants rout. (But beware of the double-digit favorite.)
CS: NYG -9, BS: NYG -13.5, EU: NYG -11, Actual: NYG -10.5
Score: CS 2, BS 3, EU 3

Dallas at St. Louis
The Cowboys have lost a quarterback and a cornerback, and added a wide-receiver. I think that’s enough for a close win in St. Louis.
CS: dal -6.5, BS: dal -6.5, EU: dal -6, Actual: dal -7
Score: CS 3, BS 4, EU 3

Detroit at Houston
The Texans won’t need any last second heroics this week.
CS: HOU -4.5, BS: HOU -6.5, EU: HOU -4.5, Actual: HOU -9
Score: CS 3, BS 5, EU 3

Indianapolis at Green Bay
Let’s see that again, Indy.
CS: GB -2, BS: ind -1, EU: Pick ‘em, Actual: ind -1
Score: CS 3, BS 6, EU 3

New York Jets at Oakland
Oakland’s a mess. The Jets could fly in from Japan and walk all over Cable and crew.
CS: nyj -5, BS: nyj -6, EU: njy -6, Actual: nyj -3
Score: CS 4, BS 6, EU 3

Cleveland at Washinton
Neither of these teams is going to repeat last week’s performance, are they?
CS: WAS -7.5, BS: WAS -8, EU: WAS -3.5, Actual: WAS -7
Score: CS 5, BS 6, EU 3

Seattle at Tampa Bay
If you watched the Seahawks game on Sunday you know the real reason John Madden is skipping this one. Looking forward to some serious straight talk from Cris Collinsworth though.
CS: TB -16.5, BS: TB -8, EU: TB -10.5, Actual: TB -10.5
Score: CS 5, BS 6, EU 4

Denver at New England
The Patriot offense should look a little more competent against the Denver D.
CS: NE -?, BS: NE -3, EU: NE -3.5, Actual: NE -3
Score: CS 5, BS 7, EU 4

Season Standings: CS 42, BS 41, EU 22

Eddie in the Money Superpicks (home team in CAPS): BUF +1 over sd, CHI -3 over min, ten -7 over KC, and nyj -3 over OAK (13-4-1 on the season)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Tuesday 12th-Man Report

Are You Kidding Me?
With 1:19 left in the game, the Houston Texans faced 2nd-and-17 from the Dolphins 16 yard-line, down five points, 28-23. Fans of the winless Texans were headed to the exits. It was over. Last week, the home team gave up 21 points in 2:10. They were cursed and would just as well move to Detroit to become Lions fans.

The Texans hadn’t given this game away in the same dramatic fashion as last week, but they were doing their best. Since they had outgained Miami 485 to 370 and won the time of possession battle, they must have felt compelled to give up two big plays to Patrick Cobbs (who?) and turn the ball over four times (compared to once for Miami).

And now, with the clock ticking down, surely Matt Schaub would throw up one last charity pick, right? Perhaps even an INTD? Nope. Not yet. A diving catch by Andre Davis gains 19 for the Texans. Next play, Schaub appears to fumble the ball away to Miami as he gets sacked. Game over, right? Nah, these guys want to drag it out. The play is ruled an incomplete pass. One more minute… On third-and-ten, Schaub throws an interception to Andre Goodman. Ok, there we go. What’s that Ed Hochuli? The ball skipped off the ground? Great—ok, one more play.

Fourth-and-ten with 39 seconds to go and the ball on Miami’s 36-yard-line. Situation: still hopeless. And somehow, Andre Johnson makes an amazing 23-yard catch, in between two defenders.

“He was covered pretty good, but he made an unbelievable catch,” Kevin Walter said. “After that I said, ‘We’re gonna win this game.’ We were all confident after that.”

If all of the Texans weren’t confident after the Johnson fourth-down catch, Kevin Walter and Matt Schaub certainly were. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Schaub finds a wide open Walters streaking across the field for a 30-yard gain. And now the Texans face a first-and-ten from the Dolphin 11-yard-line with 23 seconds left. After an eight-yard pass to Andre Johnson, and two incomplete passes, Schaub and the winless Texans have one last shot, facing fourth-and-two from the Dolphin three-yard-line with seven seconds left in the game. Schaub lines up with five wide receivers and an empty backfield. Guess who else has an empty backfield? That’s right, the Miami Dolphins. So Schaub drops back, reads the block of his right guard, jukes left and then goes right, jogging in for the game winning touchdown. And the Texans are on the board in the win column!

I was Wrong…
about most of my picks, including the Panthers, who were routed by the Bucs. Untimely turnovers got them off to a bad start, and the Bucs running game took it from there.
to put so much faith in all that three zone bunk. The Patriots, one of two teams crossing three time zones, failed to cover, as they were routed by the Chargers. The Eagles, on the other hand, had no problem playing on the left coast once the fourth quarter rolled around, erasing a nine-point deficit with 23 fourth-quarter points, scored partly thanks to three turnovers. As for the two time-zone crossing teams, the Raiders and the Cowboys both failed to cover, while the travel posed no problem for Jacksonville or Green Bay, both outright winners. Overall, the long-distance travelers went 3-3 ATS (against the spread).

I was Right…
to change one of my Eddie In the Money Superpicks--I just changed the wrong one. Roddy White showed no ill-effects of the concussion he suffered in practice earlier in the week and Matt Ryan continued to impress in the Falcons big win over the Bears. Obviously, I should have left that pick alone and changed the Ravens pick, as Peyton Manning decided this was the week to start playing.
about the Lions playing tough against an overrated (at least this week) Vikings team. Too bad Dan Orlovsky was playing with some sort of crazy international rules where the big fat white line at the back of the endzone is in. I also learned something. There is no New England Patriot juggernaut in the league this year. Take double-digit favorites at your peril. So far, only one of nine has covered. And you’d never guess who. (Seahawks -10 over Rams). Even nine points was enough to doom the World Champs tonight against the Browns tonight.

The Throw Me in the Mosh Pit Goat of the Week is none other than Pete Kendall, Washington Redskin left guard. With 23 seconds left in the second quarter, Kendall committed the cardinal sin of lineman-ball relationships. First, he tried to catch a batted ball. Second, after catching the ball, he thinks about just falling down on it (the right thing to do), but instead tries to run with it. The Result: A fumble returned for a Rams touchdown.

Isn’t that Special
Josh Brown, St. Louis Rams kicker, booted four field goals, including a 51-yarder off the upright (doink!) and the 49-yard game-winner (his 7th career game-winner). After an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Richie Incognito moved the Rams back 15 yards, they didn’t even try to get closer for Brown, even though they had 35 seconds left. They had such faith in them that they just handed the ball off to Steven Jackson. Perhaps the Rams remembered all too well the two heart-wrenching game-winners that Brown hit against them as a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, including a 54-yarder in St. Louis. The man is clutch.
The Arizona Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys thanks to a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by J.J. Arrington and a blocked punt by Sean Morey that was returned for a touchdown by Monty Beisel.
With 10:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville punter Adam Podlesh was dragged two or three yards by Glenn Martinez, but ultimately hung on and probably saved a Broncos touchdown.

Eddie’s Observations
Mike Holmgren gets this week’s Bill Belichick Injury Disclosure Award for claiming most of last week that Matt Hasselbeck would play. Not only did he not play, but now he’s probably out for next week too.
A Big Welcome Back to Peyton Manning: 19 of 28 (67.9%) for 271 yards, 3 TDs and a QB rating of 134.7 against a tough Ravens defense. Please tell me we can’t count on continued big fantasy days from Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
Expansion Hypothetical: If I was the General Manager of a new expansion team and could pick any player from any team, my first pick would be Drew Brees. I haven’t seen any quarterback throwing the ball more accurately or leading their team with more poise this season.
In regard to Matt Ryan’s throw at the end of the Chicago-Atlanta game: With only six seconds to work with, it really shouldn’t be that hard to stop someone from gaining 20 yards AND getting out of bounds. Right?
Midway through the first quarter, the Jets faced first and goal from the 7, and it only took them EIGHT plays to score a touchdown.
I’m pretty sure Bill Simmons mentioned something about having David Akers attempt 54-yard field goals with his 46-yard leg…and that was BEFORE it happened in the game Sunday. The result: A blocked kick by the 49ers returned it for a touchdown.
The best part of the Seahawks game was seeing Gary Payton in the booth and imagining how he’d look as a 6’4” WR. You know there’s something wrong with your city when the best part of Sunday’s football game was seeing a retired star of an NBA team that no longer exists.
With 6:43 left in the third quarter, I’m fairly certain I caught Romeo Crennel sleeping on the sideline. And not in the usually way, but literally—he was actually nodding off. Maybe that’s what happens when your team’s total combined punts and turnovers for the game is…ZERO.

Announce this Please!
In the Sunday night Patriots-Chargers game, I’m pretty sure (even though I was watching DVR-delayed and skipping everything but the actual plays) that Al Michaels made some Hochuli-related joke about how San Diego doesn’t allow zebras at the zoo. He didn’t even get a courtesy laugh from John Madden. Maybe that's the real reason Madden is skipping next week's Tampa-Seattle game. He just can't take any more of Al Michaels.

Pick Performance (correct picks in bold)
Panthers +1 over BUCCANEERS
TEXANS -3 over Dolphins
SAINTS -7 over Raiders
BRONCOS -3.5 over Jaguars
49ERS +5 over Eagles
CARDINALS +5 over Cowboys
SEAHAWKS OFF over Packers
CHARGERS -5 over Patriots
REDSKINS -13.5 over Rams
Bears -3 over FALCONS
JETS -8.5 over Bengals
Lions +13 over VIKINGS

Ravens +4 over COLTS
Giants -9 over BROWNS

5-9 (38-47-2 overall)

Eddie in the Money Superpicks
Lions +13 over the VIKINGS
Ravens +4 over the COLTS.
JETS -8.5 over Fitzpatrick and the Bengals

2-1 (13-4-1 overall)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Picks for Week Six

Panthers +1 over BUCCANEERS
Regarding who will be playing quarterback for the Bucs on Sunday, coach Jon Gruden said, “We’re going to address the quarterback situation once we get all the facts. Obviously, health is going to be an issue. I thought Jeff did do some good things (Sunday). His health has been an issue, and his return to health is also something that we’re excited about.” Translation: “I hate that scum-sucking, freckle-faced pint-size of a quarterback…but he’s probably better than Brian Griese, so if I have to play him, I will.” Seriously—earlier in the season there were reports that the two were “ready to kill each other.” In spite of their 3-2 record, does this sound like a team destined for long-term success this season? My, what change a year can bring. The Panthers on the other hand, are running the ball well with both DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart, Jake Delhomme has thrown five touchdowns compared to two interceptions, and the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters (or five, if you don’t count the game against Kansas City).

TEXANS -3 over Dolphins
In two weeks, the Dolphins have beaten both participants in last year’s AFC Championship game. And now they’re a little cocky. “The Dolphins are here,” receiver Greg Camarillo said. “We have arrived. Other teams would doubt us before. Now they have to prepare to play a great team. We’re ready to play anybody.” WHOAHbuddy. “A great team?” I know you’ve doubled your win total from last year’s single and all, but a great team? Really? I love the Wildcat and how they’ve played defense, but two wins does not a great team make.

Houston on the other hand, is an overtime field goal and a couple of silly, late fourth-quarter fumbles away from having two consecutive wins of their own. In other words, they’ve had a few bad breaks. They’re the hungrier team right now and desperately need a win to put the heart-wrenching loss to Indy last week behind them.

Three Zone Bunk

I recently pointed out that last Sunday, four out of five NFL teams who traveled across two or more time zones lost. ESPN’s John Clayton has my back. He found that this season, the visiting team has lost 10 out of 12 games when having to travel across three time zones. One of the two winners was Carolina in their last-second win in San Diego in week one.

Hopefully, some diligent Seahawk staffer has pointed this out to Coach Holmgren. It’s an explanation as good as any for the Seahawks fantastic record at home and abysmal record on the East Coast.

This week, three zone bunk is in play for two games, Patriots at CHARGERS (like the Cardinals two weeks ago, the Patriots did not go home this week) and Eagles at 49ERS. The Raiders, Jaguars, Cowboys and Packers all have to travel across two time zones. Is Vegas aware of this “three zone bunk?” Of course they are. But I’m going with the home teams anyways. That includes the Seahawks, who look like they’ll be starting Charlie Frye versus the Packers. Two time zones plus the Ewing Theory (Hasselbeck not playing) = a big win in Seattle.

Picks: SAINTS -7 over Raiders, BRONCOS -3.5 over Jaguars, 49ERS +5 over Eagles, CARDINALS +5 over Cowboys, SEAHAWKS OFF over Packers, and CHARGERS -5 over Patriots.

REDSKINS -13.5 over Rams
With the way the Redskins are running the ball and holding on to it for long drives, they could win 14-0 with two 20-minute drives.
Bears -3 over FALCONS
I’m changing one of my Superpicks. This line has upped to -3 from -1. Part of the reason may be that Lawyer Milloy knocked out teammate and leading Falcons receiver, Roddy White, in practice on Wednesday. Matt Ryan has struggled when Michael Turner isn’t churning up turf. I think Turner will struggle against a strong Bears run defense—which means Matt Ryan will struggle. Add in the fact that Roddy White may not play, and if he does, he may be ineffective, and that’s a recipe for a big win by the Bears.

JETS -8.5 over Bengals
Speaking of moving lines, this one has jumped three points from -5.5 after the Bengals announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick will start over ailing Carson Palmer. I liked the Jets at -5.5 versus Palmer. Fitzpatrick definitely gives the Jets more than three points.
Lions +13 over VIKINGS
This line is just too high. And it hasn’t changed much since the news broke about whether or not Kitna would play because of back spasms. Why is the line too high? The Viking are just not very good. Yes, they’ve got a lot of talented players, but they’re not a very good team. They were lucky Monday night in New Orleans. Two receivers nearly ran into each other they still scored a touchdown on the play. Plus, I don’t trust Gus Frerotte.

I know what you’re saying. All the trends point towards another Lions loss. They haven’t won all season; they’ve scored a total of three points in four first quarters this year; they have lost ten straight at the Metrodome; and their defense hasn’t intercepted a pass all season. That all changes Sunday. You can only keep them down for so long. And the Lions are surprisingly optimistic, With Rod Marinelli taking offense to a reporter’s suggestion of the team quitting and Roy Williams talking about the possibilities of making the playoffs: “It happened before. It happened with the ‘92 Chargers. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.” Mix all this together, add 13 points, and what results is a Lion win or a close loss.
Ravens +4 over COLTS
Indianapolis struggled to beat both the Vikings and the Texans, neither of which is a great team. Only Sage Rosenfels’ impersonation of Homer Simpson playing quarterback allowed the Colts to win last week. The Ravens, on the other hand, lost a close game to one of the league’s best teams—the Tennessee Titans. Throw out the questionable roughing the passer call and the result may have been different.
Giants -9 over BROWNS
I think this line jumped from -7 to -9 based solely on the strength of the Giants versus the weakness of the Browns. Do you really think a bye week is going to help the Browns look better than they did two weeks ago versus Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bengals? I say no.
Eddie Utah Superpicks
I changed my Superpicks in Week One and it came back to bite me. But the Bears rush defense scares me too much versus the Falcons. Their defense could score a touchdown or two on Sunday. But I still like the Lions +13 over the VIKINGS and the Ravens +4 over the COLTS. And my replacement Superpick this week will be the JETS -8.5 over Fitzpatrick and the Bengals. Last week: 3-1-1, Season: 11-3-1
Season standings
Eddie Utah--Last Week: 5-7-2, Season: 33-38-2
Bill Simmons--Last Week: 6-6-2, Season: 37-34-3
Sports Gal--Last Week: 6-6-2 Season: 37-34-3

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Let's Do Some Lines (Week 6)

Each week, Eddie Utah (“EU”) tries to predict the Vegas lines for each NFL game upcoming that week. It’s an honor system—I make my predictions before looking at the official lines. One of my favorite columnists, Bill Simmons (“BS”), does the same thing (and yes, in fact, I borrowed the idea from him). Bill even goes so far as to make a podcast about the lines with his friend Cousin Sal ("CS," who recently won an Emmy for his part in helping Sarah Silverman write that special song for ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel). Bill and Sal have a contest on the podcast each week to see whose line predictions come closer to the actual Vegas line for each game. In week 2 of the 2008 NFL season, I decided to give it a try and find out if I could do any better than Bill and Cousin Sal.

So far, the answer is a definitive no. Here are the season standings after week 5: CS 30, BS 28, EU 15. On to week 6…

St. Louis at Washington
Is this the let-down game for the ‘skins? Nooooo…..
CS: WAS -13, BS: WAS -15, EU: WAS -11.5, Actual: WAS -13.5
Score: CS 1, BS 0, EU 0

Chicago at Atlanta
After Atlanta’s big win last week, this becomes a good game all of a sudden.
CS: Chi -3, BS: ATL -2.5, EU: ATL -3, Actual: chi -1
Score: CS 2, BS 0, EU 0

Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets
Do the Bengals go back to playing awful against a mediocre Jets team?
CS: JETS -6, BS: JETS -8.5, EU: JETS -6, Actual: JETS -6.5
Score: CS 3, BS 0, EU 1

Oakland at New Orleans
And the Saints have the formula to beat most teams (including the Raiders)—i.e., don’t turn the ball over five times.
CS: NO -9, BS: NO -7.5, EU: NO -9, Actual: NO -7.5
Score: CS 3, BS 1, EU 1

Detroit at Minnesota
After Monday night, Minnesota has the perfect formula for beating Detroit—just wait for them to turn the ball over five times.
CS: MIN -10, BS: MIN -9.5, EU: MIN -8.5, Actual: MIN -13.5
Score: CS 4, BS 1, EU 1

Baltimore at Indianapolis
The Colts won’t be so lucky this week.
CS: IND -7, BS: IND -3.5, EU: bal -2, Actual: IND -4.5
Score: CS 4, BS 2, EU 1

Carolina at Tampa Bay
Flip a coin (or a penalty flag) for this one. I see it coming down to one play or one call, sort of like the Ravens-Titans game last week.
CS: TB -1.5, BS: car -1, EU: TB -1, Actual: TB -1
Score: CS 4, BS 2, EU 2

Miami at Houston
Will the Texans be ready for the Wildcat? Miami has beat the two participants of last year’s AFC championship…but can they beat the 0-4 Texans?
CS: HOU -3.5, BS: pick, EU: HOU -3, Actual: HOU -3
Score: CS 4, BS 2, EU 3

Jacksonville at Denver
I think Jacksonville is close to putting it all together for a full game. Can they do it in Denver?
CS: ?, BS: DEN -3.5, EU: DEN -4.5, Actual: DEN -3.5
Score: CS 4, BS 3, EU 3

Philadelphia at San Francisco
Three Zone Bunk alert! It didn’t stop the Patriots from beating the 49ers. Will it stop the Eagles?
CS: phi -3, BS: phi -4, EU: SF -3, Actual: phi -6
Score: CS 4, BS 4, EU 3

Dallas at Arizona
Over/under on percentage of Cowboys fans = 40. Over/under on points scored = 50. (Actual over/under is 50. Look at me.)
CS: dal -7, BS: dal -4.5 , EU: dal -3, Actual: dal -5
Score: CS 4, BS 5, EU 3

Green Bay at Seattle
Hey Seahawks: In case you’re wondering, yes the preseason’s over.
CS: SEA -4.5, BS: SEA -1.5 , EU: gb -3, Actual: SEA -3
Score: CS 5, BS 6, EU 3

New England at San Diego
The Patriots are spending the week on the West Coast. Apparently they didn’t pay attention to what happened to the Cardinals two weeks ago. Six touchdown passes for Philip Rivers?
CS: SD -5, BS: SD -3, EU: SD -3, Actual: SD -5
Score: CS 6, BS 6, EU 3

N.Y. Giants at Cleveland
I agree with Sal—it stinks that Eli Manning is good.
CS: gia -8, BS: gia -7.5, EU: gia -7.5, Actual: gia -9
Score: CS 7, BS 6, EU 3

Season Standings: CS 37, BS 34, EU 18

Eddie Utah Superpicks (home team in CAPS): ATL +1 over chi, det +13.5 over MIN, and bal +4.5 over IND (11-3-1 on the season)

Eddie Utah Tuesday Edition

Eddie Was Right
that the Lions are still incompetent and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Mediocre Accuracy by Kitna + dropped passes + ineffective running game = 31-0 halfway through the third quarter.
about my Superpicks (again). If not for Sage Rosenfels, my picks would have been undefeated. Instead, they went 3-1-1. (11-3-1 on the season)
to assume the Chiefs couldn’t win two weeks in a row. Larry Johnson followed up a 198-yard effort last week with a whopping two (2!) yards on seven carries. On the bright side, he’s averaging an even 100 yards over the last two weeks.
to rank the Titans as one of the top contenders in the league. Even though they held the ball for less time and had fewer yards than the Ravens, they gained yards and turned them into points when it mattered most. A key characteristic of a quality team is pulling out a clutch win in an ugly—21 combines penalties for 169 yards—game.

Eddie Was Wrong
about the Falcons being overvalued. After a quality win in the home stadium of a legitimate opponent, they definitely earned some respect.
to assume the Redskins would be in major letdown mode after their big win last week in Dallas. Jim Zorn is working magic on that whole team, not just the quarterbacks.

to think (or hope) that Seattle could compete with the World Champions. The Seahawks defense, which is largely unchanged from their highly ranked unit of a year ago, looks more like a mid-‘90s Seahawk defense. Koren Robinson wasn’t even active, yet the wide receivers still dropped the ball just as well as K-Rob and crew did circa 2004.
to assume the Bengals would lay down in Big D. They’ve played their two best games against quality opponents (Giants and Cowboys).
to doubt the Dolphins single-wing juggernaut. Respect the Wildcat!

Conversation Probably Heard in the Cowboys Locker Room
T.O.: Yo, Tony, what’s up with throwin’ it to Witten on that second quarter touchdown play? I was open man!
Romo: Uhhh…I don’t know Terrell. There were three guys on you. I just don’t trust my accuracy THAT much.
T.O.: What?! Trust your accuracy?! You don’t need to trust that, just trust me. I’ll make the play!
Romo: I know, it’s just that…
T.O.: Just what?
Romo: Witten was so wide-open, he had time to jump up and down and waive his arms for a full three seconds. He even took off a shoe and threw it at me.
T.O.: Oh, and you’re afraid of a shoe? Throw it to him again in the red-zone and see what I throw at you!
Romo [sobbing]: Terrell, I’m s-s-sorry.
T.O.: You know this means Jessica’s staying at my house tonight, right?Romo [sniffling]: Yeah…I know…

Throw Me in the Mosh-Pit” Goat of the Week
On four successive plays with 3:54 left in the game and a 10-point lead, Sage Rosenfels had two fumbles that resulted in 14 Colts points.

Impressive Power Play
With 12:00 left in third quarter, Karlos Dansby made a huge hit on Marshaun Lynch that stopped him for a loss. The Bills did not pick up another first down on the drive and settled for a field goal. This hit definitively set the tone for the rest of the game and gave the momentum permanently to Arizona, after both teams had been battling to establish physical dominance at the start of the second half.

Eddie’s Observations
Roddy White is lighting it up and Matt Ryan is looking his way on just about every passing play. If he’s available in your fantasy league, grab him.
At least they did this right: With 1:20 left in the third quarter and the Seahawks down 37-6, Coach Holmgren put Seneca Wallace into the game at quarterback and sat Matt Hasselbeck safely on the bench.
Aaron Rodgers has really been paying attention these last few years. On Sunday, he (1) played hurt, (2) threw deep to a guy in double-coverage for a touchdown, and (3) looked tough and accurate on a fourth quarter, 80-yard touchdown drive.
I was skeptical at first, but Michael Turner looks like the real deal. I love the way he pushed the pile and picked up first downs to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Cedric Benson actually looked respectable.
Terrell Owens showed some serious speed and hustle in racing forty yards to the end zone after a 17-yard catch.
Raise your hand if you thought the Redskins were going to win after the Eagles went ahead 14-0 with 7:47 left in the first quarter. (Thank you Coach Zorn and the rest of the Redskin team—you can put your hands down now.)
Hog Hunting: With 7:18 left in the fourth quarter, the Redskins ran the ball on eight out of ten plays and then knelt on it to run out the clock.
If Matt Schaub was so sick, then why was he suited up and active for the game. There’s got to be something more to this story.
Rodney Harrison, with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter, knocked the ball out of Arnaz Battle’s hands on a throw that would have been a first down and kept San Francisco alive to cover the point spread. That had to be the first time I ever cheered for Harrison.
Babe Ruth Moment: With 0:41 left in the second quarter, Ronnie Brown smiled and waived to the defense with a “come and get me” gesture. They didn’t. He ran in the direct snap for a five-yard touchdown.
I love the way Miami is using their two running backs—both a threat on most plays.
I’m not sure that anything makes me happier than to see Ben Roethlisberger get sacked and throw an INTD on successive plays. Seeing Hines Ward’s pouty face is right up there too. And I loved the montage of Rashean Mathis interceptions off of Roethlisberger. Tonight’s INT was his fifth in three years off of “Ben.” At least two of them were INTDs.
Gus Frerotte looks like he’s still the nerdy but athletic high-schooler who isn’t quite comfortable with all the attention of being the starting quarterback. In spite of the Vikings win on Monday night, I don’t trust this guy with a playoff game on the line. (But he’s definitely a better option than the inaccurate Tavaris Jackson.)
Ed Hochuli isn’t quite as buff as he used to be back in my high-school days…but then again, neither am I…
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. With 7:10 left in the fourth quarter, Viking wide-receivers Bernard Berrian and Aundrae Allison both mistakenly ran post routes (I’m assuming it wasn’t by design, as suggested by Ron Jaworski). Berrian still somehow came down with the ball for a touchdown.

Eddie Wonders
What’s with all the Dolphin defenders pretending to kick field goals after they make a tackle for a loss?
if you knew the halftime yardage of the Chargers-Dolphins game would be 220-91, would you guess correctly which team had the most yards?
why there were so many empty seats in Miami?
why we always have to see some sort of food preparation on Madden broadcasts?

Isn’t that Special?
Shaun Suisham and Neil Rackers both made field goals that doinked off one of the uprights.
Two Matts in the Tampa at Denver game combined for five field goals and 23 fantasy points.
With 14:01 left in the fourth quarter, down one point to Dallas, Shane Graham did a great job in selling the deep kick and then showing some toughness as he took a shot trying to recover the onside kick.
With 1:54 left in the third quarter, Jo-Lonn Dunbar experienced the absolute best feeling in football when he blindsided Erin Henderson and sprung Reggie Bush for the first of two punt-return touchdowns.
Monday Night’s game was the first game in NFL history with a blocked field-goal returned for a touchdown, a touchdown pass by a non-quarterback, two punt return touchdowns, and two 50+ yard field-goals.

Crazy Stats
Kyle Orton’s last two games: 42/68 533 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs. Yeah, ok, so one game was against Detroit, but still…
Total combined first quarter yards by the Chief and Lions on Sunday: -4.
First Half Time of Possession: Panthers: 21:00, Chiefs: 9:00.
New England won for the first time ever at San Francisco on Sunday.
Big Easy Turnover: The Saints had four turnovers, not including the field-goal that was blocked and returned for a touchdown, yet still could have won the game had Martin Gramatica made the 46-yard field goal with two minutes remaining.

Announcement of the Week
Chris Myers has a catchy field-goal call: “It’s up there. It’s out there. It’s good!”

Email to Michael Silver
Since Mr. Silver likes to correct the spelling and grammar of his readers’ emails, I thought this question was appropriate for him. He printed a past email of mine in his column, so perhaps he’ll find it appropriate to post this one too:

To Your Highness King of Grammar:

Can you please explain to me the following phrases used by Al Michaels during the Sunday Night Football broadcast?

“They had a long drive, did Pittsburgh”
“They had the ball, did the Steelers”
“He was down, was Garrard”

How are any of those phrases grammatically correct? Are they even sentences? And more importantly, do they make any sense to you? In each situation, the context of the play made identification of the pronoun obvious and without need of any clarification. I understand that a live broadcast will oftentimes not follow the formal rules of written grammar, since live description and analysis of a game should be conversational in tone without the majority of grammatical restrictions. But why ignore the rules of grammar to say something that (1) makes little sense, (2) you would never say in normal conversation, and (3) sounds ridiculous? What can we do to get Michaels, and other announcers, to stop this practice immediately?

Eddie Wants to Read TMQ’s Take On
why the Jaguars lost in spite of the professionalism of their cheerleaders. I believe they changed their outfits to even skimpier (i.e., more professional) in the second half.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Three Zone "Bunk"

Mike Holmgren was a little irritated with the three time-zone excuse that comes up every time the Seahawks play on the East Coast: “it’s mentioned every time we go to the East Coast if we lose the football game,” Holmgren said. “The simple fact is, it has not a single thing to do with sleep levels or anything. Nothing. Anybody that gets too concerned with your biorhythms and the seat on the airplane and all that stuff, it’s a bunch of bunk.

“You lose a football game for the same reason you lose a football game at home, on the road, a two-hour time change, when we go to Arizona, San Francisco—you lose because you played lousy. You fumbled the ball, and you threw interceptions, and you missed tackles. Period. I don’t want to hear it.”

Well, Coach Holmgren might be interest to know that five teams (Seahawks, Bills, Patriots, Buccaneers, and Chargers) traveled across 2 or more time zones on Sunday…and four of them lost. Only the Patriots, playing in San Francisco, came away with a victory.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

EU Quarterly Report

With the closing of the NFL’s 2008 first quarter, I present to you an audited report of the league and a ranking of all 32 teams.

Begging for a Bailout
32. Cincinnatti Bengals 0-4
31. St. Louis Rams 0-4
30. Detroit Lions 0-3

These teams have serious ownership problems. Mike Brown of the Bengals is unwilling to make the necessary investment in his team and has engaged in some serious double-speak when it comes to the organization’s attitude toward the troubling off-field behavior of its players. The new Rams owners are feeling their way and the team may still end up back in L.A. The Ford family is finally on the right track after firing Matt Millen, but how long will it take to correct years of incompetence?

29. Oakland Raiders 1-3
28. Kansas City Chiefs 1-3
27. Houston Texans 0-3
26. Miami Dolphins 1-2
25. Cleveland Browns 1-3
24. Minnesota Vikings 1-3

These teams all have potential, especially the Vikings, with their strong defense and running game. They, especially, have no excuse for their poor play. The Texans may be the best of this group and have shown the most improvement, notwithstanding their 0-3 record.

23. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ two wins were against Detroit and Kansas City. The organization is improved from last year and appears to be on the upswing, but I don’t expect them to finish the season above .500.

Trying to Turn the Corner
22. Indianapolis Colts 1-2
21. Seattle Seahawks 1-2
20. Arizona Cardinals 2-2
19. San Francisco 49ers 2-2

Is the Colts’ reign as an elite team over? Can the Seahawks turn this 0-2 start into another Super Bowl appearance? Will the Cardinals fade as the season progresses (and tradition dictates)? Can Mike Martz turn J.T. O’Sullivan into Marc Bulger, or even Jon Kitna?

Risky Propositions
18. New England Patriots 2-1
17. New York Jets 2-2
16. Baltimore Ravens 2-1
15. Green Bay Packers 2-2
14. Chicago Bears 2-2
13. Denver Broncos 3-1

The Pats, Ravens, Packers and Bears all have questions at quarterback while the Jets and Broncos have serious defensive issues. Can Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to the playoffs? Can the rookie Joe Flacco keep playing like a seasoned veteran? Can Aaron Rodgers stay healthy? Will Kyle Orton throw three touchdown passes every week? Will the Jets and Broncos give up 35 and 33 points every week?

Strong Buys
12. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-2
11. New Orleans Saints 2-2
10. San Diego Chargers 2-2
9. Philadelphia Eagles 2-2
8. Pittsburgh Steelers 3-1
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-1
6. Washington Redskins 3-1

The potential of each of these teams offsets the question marks that could doom their season. If the Jaguars can get their offensive line to gel, they could be a very balanced team. The Saints have an explosive offense and their defense isn’t quite as bad as the Broncos.

Large Cap Contenders
5. Dallas Cowboys 3-1
4. Carolina Panthers 3-1
3. Tennessee Titans 4-0
2. Buffalo Bills 4-0
1. New York Giants 3-0

Each of these teams has the two things generally necessary to win a Super Bowl: a good quarterback and a strong defense. Trent Edwards and Tony Romo still have a lot to prove—namely, winning a playoff game—but the potential for greatness is there. Kerry Collins may not be a great quarterback, but he has been to a Super Bowl. Plus, with the strength of the Tennessee defense, this team, like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, could one of the exceptions to the general rule.

Week 5 Picks (Home Team in CAPS): TEXANS +3 over Colts, Titans -3 over RAVENS, Chargers -6.5 over DOLPHINS, PANTHERS -9.5 over Chiefs, EAGLES -6 over Redskins, Bears -3.5 over LIONS, PACKERS -3.5 over Falcons, Seahawks +7 over GIANTS, BRONCOS -3 over Buccaneers, Patriots -3 over 49ERS, CARDINALS -1.5 over Bills, COWBOYS -16 over Bengals, Steelers +4.5 over JAGUARS, SAINTS -3 over Vikings (Last week: 7-6, Season 28-31)

Eddie IN THE MONEY Superpicks: Bears -3.5 over LIONS, TEXANS +3 over Colts, CARDINALS -1.5 over Bills, Titans -3 over RAVENS, and Patriots -3 over 49ERS (Last week: 3-1, Season, 8-2)

Bill Simmons: Last Week: 8-5, Season: 31-28-1
Sports Gal: Last Week: 6-7, Season: 30-29-1

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who are you and what have you done with Brian Johnson?

I am not a Utah Ute fan and, in fact, this season I have only watched one other Utah football game before tonight. So keep in mind that the theory of this column is based solely on my observations of tonight’s game.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was horrific. In the first half, he completed only 5 of 11 passes for 80 yards. One of his 6 incompletions went straight to Al Afalava who returned it 26 yards for a Beaver touchdown. Yeah, he threw a touchdown, but Freddie Brown was so wide open he wasn’t even moving. Seriously—he was just standing there when he caught the ball. My sister could have thrown that pass.

The second half was even worse. Again, he completed 5 of 11 passes but only for 30 yards this time. And he turned the ball over in Beaver territory once again, which led to another Oregon State touchdown. Pathetic. I was rooting for the home team but quickly losing hope. The team looked ok, but the quarterback was inaccurate, hesitant to throw to open receivers, and unable to hold on to the football. No way could this guy lead his team back from eight down, late in the fourth quarter.

And he didn’t. With 2:11 remaining in the game and Utah down 28-20, Brian Johnson was abducted by aliens and replaced by a quarterback who was decisive, accurate and clutch. I see no other explanation. This guy completed four straight passes for 60 yards and a touchdown that brought the Utes to within two points. He (or perhaps it) followed that up by running for the two-point conversion that tied the game. After an Oregon State punt, the Utes got the ball back and this Brian Johnson look-alike completed 3 of 4 passes for 32 yards to put the offense within Louie Sakoda’s field goal range.

After the game, Sakoda was hailed as the game’s hero for kicking the winning field goal. Number 3 was nowhere to be found. I find it curious that whoever or whatever was wearing number 3 for the last 2:11 of the game made sure to avoid the cameras and any interview requests. This mysterious clutch quarterback has vanished for the time being. For Utah’s sake, let’s hope he reappears when need next arises.

Week 5 Lines

It took me three weeks to beat Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal in my weekly effort to predict the lines for the week’s upcoming NFL games. Can I make it two weeks in a row? Here's the season standings: CS 24, BS 23, EU 12.

Chiefs at PANTHERS
Nice work last week L.J. Unfortunately for you and the Chiefs offense, the Panthers defense is a little better than the Broncos.
BS: CAR -10.5 CS: CAR -9 EU: CAR -7.5 Actual: CAR -10
Score: BS 1, CS 0, EU 0

Chargers at DOLPHINS
Will the Chargers be ready for the single wing, or will they have L.T. show Ronnie Brown how it’s really done?
BS: SD -9 CS: SD -8.5 EU: SD -8.5 Actual: SD -7
Score: BS 1, CS 1, EU 1

Bears at LIONS
The absence of Matt Millen has to be worth at least 3 points, right?
BS: Chi -6 CS: Chi -2 EU: Chi -10.5 Actual: Chi -3.5
Score: BS 1, CS 2, EU 1

Seahawks at GIANTS
Giants, minus one receiver; Seahawks, plus two equals Seahawks win? Pretty please….
BS: NY -7.5 CS: NY -6 EU: NY -6 Actual: NY -7
Score: BS 2, CS 2, EU 1
Ok guys, now remember--catch the ball with your hands...

Falcons at PACKERS
The Packers success could hinge on the health of Rodgers’ shoulder.
BS: GB -8 CS: GB -8 EU: GB -4.5 Actual: OFF
Score: BS 2, CS 2, EU 1

Redskins at EAGLES
Letdown alert! Letdown alert! With the Eagles upset about their loss on Sunday night and the Redskins a little complacent after their big win in Dallas, guess who wins this game?
BS: PHI -4.5 CS: PHI -6.5 EU: PHI -2.5 Actual: PHI -5.5
Score: BS 3, CS 3, EU 1

Titans at RAVENS
I like that rookie quarterback…but the Titans defense is too strong.
BS: Ten -3.5 CS: Ten -3 EU: Ten -2 Actual: Ten -3
Score: BS 3, CS 4, EU 1

Colts at TEXANS
Will the Texans finally break through with a win, or will the Colts finally start playing like the old Colts?
BS: Ind -3 CS: Ind -7 EU: TEX -2.5 Actual: Ind -3
Score: BS 4, CS 4, EU 1

The Broncos offense will have a tough time with the Bucs defense. And the Bucs will wish they could play the Broncos defense every week. The only question is who will look like the all-pro—Brian Griese or Earnest Graham?
BS: DEN -4 CS: DEN -7 EU: DEN -3 Actual: DEN -3
Score: BS 4, CS 4, EU 2

Patriots at FORTY-NINERS
Will the Patriots try to win the game or just try to steal one or two of the 49ers players?
BS: NE -6 CS: NE -4 EU: Pick’em Actual: NE -3
Score: BS 4, CS 5, EU 2

Bengals at COWBOYS
As if the Cowboys aren’t upset enough without Chaz Cinco razzing them. If I’m the Bengals, I’m not looking forward to this game.
BS: DAL-14 CS: DAL -15.5 EU: DAL -14.5 Actual: OFF
Score: BS 4, CS 5, EU 2

The Cardinals are happy to spend this week in Arizona and the Bills won’t be able to come back this time against Kurt Warner and the gang.
BS: Buf -1.5 CS: AZ -3 EU: AZ -2 Actual: AZ -1
Score: BS 4, CS 5, EU 3

Warner will need to spend more time on his feet to beat the Bills.

Steelers at JAGUARS
That Ben Roethlisberger is one slippery dude. In spite of last week’s close win, the Steelers have playoff vengeance on their minds this week. Look out Jags.
BS: JAX -5 CS: JAX -5.5 EU: JAX -1.5 Actual: JAX -4
Score: BS 5, CS 5, EU 3

Vikings at SAINTS
Why are the Vikings so bad? Their defense is pretty good. Their offensive line is great and their running back’s an all-pro. Is a quarterback really that important? Or is the coaching really that bad?
BS: NO –3 CS: NO - EU: NO -6.5 Actual: NO -3
Score: BS 5, CS 6, EU 3
Season Standings after week 5: CS 30, BS 28, EU 15

CS Teaser: SD (even) over MIA and JAX +3 over Pit
BS Parlay: NE (Money Line) over SF and HOU (Money Line) over Ind

Eddie IN THE MONEY Superpicks: Chi-3.5 over DET, HOU +3 over Ind, AZ -1 over Buf, Ten -3 over BAL, and NE -3 over SF (Last week: 3-1, Season, 8-2)