Sunday, December 30, 2007

Week 17 Pick 'em

I gained 4 games on Durden last week and we're both looking at seasons above .500, but nothing to really get excited about.

I'd like to preface these picks by saying I don't even know who's actually going to play for most of the teams so to quote the Gin Blossoms, "don't expect too much from me and you might not be let down".

Also, anyone who bets significant money on these games is an idiot, and you're probably the same person that bets on preseason games. But, we have a job to do, so here are our week 17 picks.

New England Patriots
@ New York Giants +13.5
Durden: Regardless of what happens, it’s important that everyone remembers this.
Pick: Patriots -13.5

Mazzone: Please God, let them lose in the playoffs.
Pick: Patriots -13.5

Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles -7.5
Too little, too late, for the Eagles. It’s too bad, because while I fully expect Dallas and Green Bay to meet in the NFC Championship game, I think Philly is playing better than the other NFC playoff teams and would’ve stood the best chance to upset that scenario. Pick: Eagles -7.5

Trent Edwards dedicated last week’s game to Kevin Everett, or at least the first two drives anyway. With that out of the way and much less pressure this week, he should be able to keep it close with the iggles.
Pick: Bills +7.5

Carolina Panthers @
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +2.5
Durden: This game is the first of several this week, where we have to guess if either team is resting its key players and/or is at all motivated. Fortunately, Jon Gruden threw us all a bone this week and made it known he’ll be resting his starters. I’ll take Matt Moore and the rest of the pesky (of late) Panthers.
Pick: Panthers -2.5

Mazzone: Even against the Bucs C-team, I just don’t feel comfortable taking the Panthers and some guy I’ve never actually seen throw an NFL pass.
Pick: Bucs +2.5

Cincinnati Bengals @ Miami Dolphins +3
Durden: Tough game for Joey Porter, a guy whose mouth and style is more suited to 7 on 1, than 11 v 11. He and Levi Jones on the field for the first time since that happened will likely be uneventful, but I’m looking forward to Porter at least talking $hit while he’s “held back.”

In other Dolphin news, Bill Parcells recently had this to say about the kind of players he wants: "If football is not their most important thing to them other than their immediate family, then I'm probably not going to be interested in them," Parcells said Friday. "That's the why I am. And I want people around me that are like that." That’s right, Bill Parcells wants players who are on a mission. Unfortunately for John Beck, it’s not THAT kind of mission.
Pick: Bengals -3

All accounts seem to have Cam Cameron not resting his starters this week, a peculiar decision, but one that should pay off with a win.
Pick: Dolphins +3

San Francisco 49ers @ Cleveland Browns -10
While I would take great pleasure in the Browns not winning a game all year, a close second might have to be them coming this close to the playoffs and having nothing to show for it, but low draft picks. I’ll root happily for them to beat up on the 49ers (who have been forced to play Chris Weinke), as I wait to root like hell for the Titans. Lastly, it appears some people are finally starting to wonder if Derek Anderson actually isn’t the best QB of all time. Good times.
Pick: Browns -10

Mazzone: I’m not going to lie, I think Derek Anderson competing with Kyle Boller in Raven camp next year would make for great tv…or at least youtube. So, I’m rooting for that. Durden’s furious reaction to the signing would just be a bonus.
Pick: Browns -10

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers -4
I’m guessing the Lions starters are better than the Packers’ backups.
Pick: Lions +4

Mazzone: Durden tells me Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre. I’m on board with that. Help get the word out!
Pick: Packers -4

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans -6.5

I hate to pick against the Jags who are playing incredibly well right now, but I think the Texans will end their season on a high note, while Jacksonville could care less about this game.
Pick: Texans -6.5

Mazzone: I said above .500 wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for my semi sleeper Texans. Well, now it is, but 8-8 in the toughest division in football wouldn’t be a bad season for this team. especially when you consider the injuries on offense throughout the year. I think they win here, but the Jags do enough to cover.
Pick: Jags +6.5

New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears +2.5
At this point, I feel good about my prediction that had the Saints narrowly missing the playoffs. They won’t have to worry about outside help, because they won’t even hold up their own end of the task at Chicago.
Pick: Bears +2.5

Mazzone: What if da Bears were all 14 inches tall? What’s your score of today’s game? Ok, another scenario, da Bears – they don’t make it, their plane is delayed, and the only one who shows up is Ditka.
Pick: Mini Kyle Orton +2.5

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons -2.5
Durden: A few weeks ago, I was forced to start rooting for bad teams to win around the league once I realized the Ravens were going to try and see how many games they could lose in a row. The Seahawks are probably going to rest players in this game, but I’m pretty sure the Falcons have been without key players since August, so that could not matter much. Therefore, I’m just going to pick the Falcons, hoping that they slide past Baltimore in the draft order.
Pick: Falcons -2.5

Warrick Dunn has a year left on his contract and will play football next season, recently saying, “I can’t go out like this.” Yet, he hasn’t demanded to be released or traded, so he must be planning on at least two more years.
Pick: Seahawks +2.5

Kansas City Chiefs
@ New York Jets -6
This is my favorite game of the week, as these are two of the few teams that are as bad as the Ravens, and one will be forced to win. It’s not easy to go from 13-3, to a Top 5 draft pick, but the Ravens just might pull it off with a little luck!
Pick: Chiefs +6

Mazzone: Herman Edwards is back in a big time revenge game with all sorts of draft pick implications and he’s getting 6 points! If you are stupid enough to be a lot of money this week, this has to be the lock of the century of the week!
Pick: Chiefs +6

Minnesota Vikings @ Denver Broncos +3

Durden: In spite of the Vikings’ poor performance last week, I still refuse to pick the Broncos, as promised last week.
Pick: Vikings -3

The Broncos were a complete abomination last week, I should have heeded Durden’s advice. Vikes weren’t any better, but they still have a shot at the postseason and can’t possibly let Tarvaris throw it more than 6 times this week with how bad Denver is against the run. Problem is, even 6 times may be too much with Bailey and Bly waiting.
Pick: Vikings -3

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders +8
Durden: Philip Rivers is bad at making friends. Pretty cavalier of him, considering his own RB can’t stand to look at him.

I did want to note that while JaMarcus Russell starting makes it easy to pick the Chargers, I think the Raiders are making the right decision. Maybe Lane Kiffin simply has the job security to do so, but I look at a team like the Eagles and wonder why they don’t just give Kolb a game.
Pick: Chargers -8

Mazzone: The Chargers kinda still need this game as a win allows them to lose to the Colts in the 2nd round, instead of having to fly across country to New England and lose in the cold weather.
Pick: Chargers -8

St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals -6
Durden: As Mazzone might say, “whatever.”
Pick: Cardinals -6

Mazzone: I couldn’t have said it much better myself, except I like the Rams. As much as one could like the Rams anyway. Maybe what I should say is, I don't like the Cards so it's the Rams by default. Ok, moving on...
Pick: Rams +6

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens +4
Durden: Little Ben is smart to sit this one out, as he’s never been able to play a full game vs the Ravens in his career. See Joey Porter? It is possible to be a coward without ganging up and jumping a defenseless man.
Pick: Steelers -4

The Ravens are the new Dolphins.
Pick: Steelers -4

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins -9
Durden: I’ll have a Todd Collins, please.
Pick: Redskins -9

First the Pro Bowl, now the NFL is trying to vote Sean Taylor’s spirit into the postseason. Fortunately, the Cowboys are playing backups by choice and they’re better than the Redskins backups that they are playing because they have to.
Pick: Cowboys +9

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts +6
Durden: Go Titans!!!!!!!!!
Pick: Titans -6

No one really wants the Browns in the playoffs, and Jim Sorgi doesn’t want to be taken seriously, so I expect him to do the right thing. If the booth for this game doesn’t show me Vince Young at Texas and tell me (at least 25 times) how he lives for big games, I’m going to be really disappointed.
Pick: Titans -6

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Week 16 Pick 'em

The Miami Football Dolphins are back! Faith is restored! Believe in football! At least that's what I'm sayin' heading into week 16. Not only that, but I am among those who can now say they were screwed by Jessica Simpson. Like thousands of others, Romo's performance cost me my playoff matchup and I'm now headed to the consolation third place game. The bright side is I've elected to have Cleo Lemon, Greg Camarillo and the Miami Defense lead me into battle, so I'm pretty much assured of a win.

I gained a game on Durden last week, but this competition is all but over as he has a commanding lead
119-95-10 to 107-107-10.

Dallas Cowboys @ Carolina Panthers +10

"The real me is a southern girl with her Levis on and an open heart
Wish I could save the world, like I was super girl
The real me used to laugh all night lyin' in the grass just talking about love
But lately I've been jaded - life got so complicated..."

Pick: Mr. Jessica Simpson -10

Damn, the way everyone’s reacting to this, you’d think TO faked a suicide or a something. Hey, it takes a distraction to know one, right?
Pick: Cowboys -10

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals +3
Mazzone: I feel pretty good about the Browns not finishing 11-5, but they should have no trouble with the Niners at home next week. So, that means the Bengals play the role of mini-spoiler this week and prevent Cleveland from clinching a playoff spot with a win. Regardless of the outcome, let's hope they come close repeating the week two 51-45 offensive explosion.
Pick: Bengals +3

Durden: Not only are the Browns and Steelers almost certainly going to the playoffs, but I can’t even take solace in the fact that they’re almost just as certainly not winning the Super Bowl. This of course, is because the *&!@%&# Patriots are likely to eliminate one or both in January, which takes some of the fun out of it.

I hate to pick the Browns to win Sunday and clinch their playoff berth, but if they don’t vs Cincy, they’ll just do it next week vs San Francisco. The inclement weather they’re expecting will hurt the Browns less than it will the Bengals, and it’s an advantage Cleveland probably won’t even need. In other news, I just realized my favorite teams have temporarily become Indy, Jacksonville and San Diego.
Pick: Browns -3

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears +8
Mazzone: So, I guess at some point I have to believe in the Packers but I'm still rooting strongly against a Green Bay/New England Super Bowl.

If I'm a Bears fan I'm trying to talk myself into this season being the result of injuries on defense, but deep down it'd be tough to ignore my complete lack of faith in the QB and RB positions. The best thing going for the Bears is that they play in the NFC, and it's possible the Packers' and Vikings' seasons were mirages.
Pick: Packers -8

Durden: After watching Kyle Orton’s “performance” (for lack of a better word), I fully expected some internet freak to come out with a “Leave Rex Grossman Alone” tape. As bad as the Sex Cannon has been in the past, he just isn’t as bad as Orton, and that was against the worst pass defense in the league. Kampman, Woodson and company are going to have a field day this Sunday.
Pick: Packers -8

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts -7
Mazzone: If they were in any other division in football the Texans would be looking at a pretty successful season, as it stands they're going to end up in last most likely - which bodes well for next year's schedule outside the division at least.

But that's next year, this game seems easy as I don't expect either team to repeat last weeks performance where the Texans handled Denver easily and the Colts struggled mightily to move the ball in Oakland.
Pick: Colts -7

Disclaimer: the only thing you should take from us on this game is that Mazzone and I have almost always disagreed on the Texans this year, and he’s almost always been right. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to predict the Colts to let up because they’re locked into the 2 seed, but I don’t see it happening.
Pick: Colts -7

Kansas City Chiefs @ Detroit Lions -4.5
Mazzone: If you're forced to watch this one, at least you can compare Dwayne Bowe to Calvin Johnson. Johnson has been far less a factor than I thought he'd be and his inconsistency is disappointing, but I still expect him to develop into a superb wide receiver before all is said and done. Bowe on the other hand has surprised me and he looks like he could be a legit number 1 receiver as well. This one's tough to pick, but the Chiefs have the best player playing in this game (Jared Allen) and we know Herman Edwards plays to win the game, so there's that. Also, God has clearly given up on Jon Kitna and the Lions so...
Pick: Chiefs +4.5

It’s almost Christmas, but seeing as how God didn’t give the Lions the 10 wins Kitna asked for, is there any hope for the rest of us to get what we asked for? I’m skeptical, but Herm Edwards has a message for us: Get over it!
Pick: Chiefs +4.5

New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills +2.5
Mazzone: Geez, Eli and the Giants look downright pitiful nowadays. I thought the opposite would happen and they'd gel into an NFC championship contender as the season went on. Even so, I've never thought much of the Bills, and their loss in the blizzard last week leaves them with nothing to play for whereas the Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win.
Pick: Giants -2.5

Unless the Giants are planning on beating the Patriots next week, they need to beat Buffalo in rainy conditions to control their own playoff destiny. However, they won’t just be up against the rain, as there will be a miracle man in the house. Kevin Everett returns to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time since his spinal cord injury, giving new meaning to walking on water.
Pick: Bills +2.5

Oakland Raiders @ Jacksonville Jaguars -13
Mazzone: Count me among the many that were impressed by the Jags convincing win last week. Save for a bad Garrard INT (he's entitled to one) the game was pretty much all Jaguars. Fred Taylor is putting together a solid season which will continue to go unnoticed by the vast majority of fans - even Reggie Williams has shown up at times. The loss of Marcus Stroud hurts their long term playoff chances, but they should have few problems with the Fargas-less Raiders this week.
Pick: Jaguars -13

Durden: This line seems high, but the Jags have been incredibly impressive since losing to the Saints in Week 9. While it doesn’t seem as if the Raiders have quit on their season, I don’t see the mixing and matching of QBs and RBs working out for them very well on the road this Sunday. I did want to point out a (very) little known fact though. Did you know that Justin Fargas is Huggy Bear’s son?? I can’t believe we don’t hear more about that.
Pick: Jaguars -13

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints -3.5

Mazzone: Great matchup for the Eagles, there is no way McNabb doesn't have a huge game against this secondary and you know Andy Reid is going to put the ball in the air.
Pick: Eagles+3.5

Durden: The Eagles are another team that I have just not been able to figure out this year. Therefore, I’m just going to stick to my beliefs from earlier this season, which were that any success the Saints had would be a function of their schedule and that they’d tease people into thinking they were for real, before missing the playoffs.
Pick: Eagles +3.5

Atlanta Falcons @ Arizona Cardinals -10
Mazzone: Whatever.
Pick: Cardinals -10

It’s funny that the Cardinals are giving anybody 10 points, but that’s what it’s come to for the Falcons. It’s also funny that the biggest loser of the Bobby Petrino Saga may have been Brian Brohm, who is surely less likely to be drafted by the Falcons now. Of course, this might then make me the biggest loser if he falls to the Ravens and they draft him.
Pick: Cardinals -10

Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks -10
Mazzone: Durden may win the pick 'em war, but I won the battle! His Ravens lost TPS Bowl I in a thriller, but you can't blame them for not being able to stop Cleo Lemon and Greg Camarillo. Cam Cam had worked with both of them in San Diego and it was only a matter of time before that ex-Charger triad put it all together.

The Ravens seem to have really given up after the loss to the Patriots, and now Troy Smith gets the start which should help them improve upon their draft position.
Pick: Seahawks -10

While I’ve been quick to point out the Ravens’ injuries and lack of depth, they’ve also clearly given up on their season once the Patriot game didn’t go their way. This was evident for everyone to see as they rolled over against the Dolphins in TPS Bowl I and mailed in another embarrassing performance. Brian Billick may PLAY TO TIE THE GAME, but he won’t be given the chance on Sunday. Thanks guys.
Pick: Seahawks -10

New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans -8.5
Mazzone: The Titans need this win, and they're fortunate to have the Jets on the schedule since Vince Young and company have only beaten one team with a record above .500 (Jax in week 1, 13-10). Even though the Jets are terrible, have nothing to play for, and three of the eight Titans' wins this season are by more than 8 points (Chiefs by 9 last week, the Panthers by 13 in week 8, and the Saints by 17 in week 3), 8.5 still seems a little high to me as I haven't been overly impressed with TN the past couple weeks.
Pick: Jets +8.5

Durden: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Albert Haynesworth sometimes just wins football games!
Pick: Titans -8.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers +6

Mazzone: The Niners win last week could prove to be detrimental to New England's draft position. I'm sure Belichick put in a phone call and persuaded Shaun Hill to stop trying to play hero.
Pick: Bucs -6

Really Vegas? The 49ers are getting less than a touch? I know you should avoid betting against Shaun Hill at home, at all costs, but I’m going to roll the dice here.
Pick: Buccaneers -6

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots -22
Mazzone: As if close calls against AJ Feeley, Kyle Boller, and Chad Pennington weren't enough, we can officially put all the talk to rest about the Patriots being the greatest ever when Cleo Lemon rolls into town and beats them on their own turf.
Pick: Dolphins +22

As Mazzone wrote in his latest entry, he’s excited. First, his Dolphins finally won their first game in over a year, capped off by a play that rocked Fantasy Playoffs all across the country: Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo for 64 yards. Now, they’ve hired Bill Parcells to shop for someone else’s groceries, and I really can’t blame him for being far more excited about the Dolphins than he was a week ago.

However, Mazzone’s not one to stay satisfied for long and he’s fully expecting a win on Sunday, at New England. I couldn’t disagree more, considering that the Pats have been relatively dormant for several weeks now, and we all saw what happened in the first meeting. I don’t think Belichick’s forgotten Don Shula’s comments earlier this year and the Patriots are gonna “wake up” in a big way on Sunday, assuming the weather cooperates.

Finally, I’ll leave you with Vonnie Holliday’s recap of last Sunday’s epic play: "It was like watching one of those plays in slow motion, and it's the Super Bowl and the miraculous catch and all those things," Holliday said. "It was up there like that for us. Maybe not for everybody else, but for us it was up there with all those great catches -- Dwight Clark and all those guys."

Pick: Patriots -22

**Editors Note: Suck it!

Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings -6.5
Mazzone: It's certainly tragic that his life was cut short, but I don't care what anyone says - Sean Taylor's spirit being voted to the Pro Bowl is freakin' lame.

Adrian Peterson continues to make his case to be the number 1 overall fantasy pick next season - let's just hope Madden keeps him off the cover.
Pick: Vikings +6.5

Unfortunately, it takes an event like this to remind us how important it is to tell our friends and family how much we care about them…before they go to a football game.
Pick: Vikings -6.5

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers -8.5
Mazzone: Regardless of the score, I could see this being a short night for a lot of the Charger starters, with the Division already wrapped up and Merriman/Rivers/Turner already nursing injuries.
Pick: Broncos +8.5

Not much to say here, except that after last week, I refuse to take the Broncos for the rest of the season.
Pick: Chargers -8.5

Welcome Bill Parcells!

I'm not saying Bill Parcells is a bandwagoner, but come on. He joins a team that hasn't lost since December 9th, had Jason Taylor named to the pro bowl this week, and Cleo Lemon named the AFC offensive player of the week - not to mention they have an easy game coming up against one of his former teams, the lowly Patriots. Now he's going to try and take credit for all the upcoming success!

In all seriousness though, this is a pretty huge move and I couldn't be more thrilled. Parcells has had success everywhere he's gone, he even made people take the pathetic Jets seriously for a few years.

We've heard about the coaching tree including Belichick, Sean Payton, and Tom Coughlin, but more importantly wherever he's gone he's had an incredible eye for talent and turned some awful teams into Super Bowl contenders extremely quickly.
I was overly optomistic when Saban was brought to town but I hope this is different given Parcells' history and proven success at the NFL level.

A lot of people have been down on Wayne Huizenga for the last several years and most recently for his brief consideration of selling the Dolphins, but I've always been a fan of his as an owner - and his acquisition of Parcells is a great example of why.

For the most part, Huizenga stays out of the way and has little problem throwing money into the team. As evident with Parcells, and Saban previously, he's going to make a strong push to surround himself with the best football execs/coaches available. It hasn't worked out as we'd hoped over the past few years, but unlike other owners he knows he's not a knowledgable football guy and he's simply there to shell out money for the team, pursue the top football execs, and stay in the background otherwise.

Regardless of the outcome of the hiring, as a fan you have to be excited. There was seemingly very little hope for the next several seasons. Sure, you could reach and say the number 1 pick this year, combined with the development of Ginn, Beck, and the health of Ronnie Brown could theoretically help turn the team around fast, but deep down you know that's a long shot at best and likely going to take more than a couple seasons for it all to come together - if it does.

But with Parcells, someone who seemingly wasn't even on the radar and expected to go to the Falcons, all of the sudden signing and having a history of turning around awful teams and making them competitors in no more than a season or two, there's legitimate reason for hope.

I expect him to pretty much start from scratch and bring in his own coaching staff. As much as I like to see people given a chance to succeed, I also won't have any issues with Cam Cam and the rest of the coaches being shown the door considering the results this season and my desire to let Parcells do his thing.

With Parcells in charge there's at least legitimate reason for hope, and that's about as good a Christmas present as a 1-13 team and it's fans could get right now, so I'll take it.

Here's our pick for the Thursday game, rest of the games should be up tomorrow.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ St. Louis Rams +8

I’m guaranteeing that the Steelers will not cover this spread. Hopefully Mazzone doesn’t bench me if I’m wrong.
Pick: Rams +8

Has a player's career ever ended because of a false prediction? I don't know if Anthony Smith has been this bad all year, but people are certainly taking notice now. He was terrible for the second week in a row during the Steelers loss to the Jags and has thus been benched.

Despite the score line last week, the Steelers were manhandled for the second game in a row. This time at home, in the snow, by a warm weather team without one of their best players (Marcus Stroud). The Steelers are getting cold at the wrong time and it's definitely reason for concern, but I think the Rams will be a nice remedy for them.
Pick: Steelers -8

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Week 15 Pick 'em

Fresh off my successful Vegas trip (despite a brutal start) and both Durden and I coming off a 10-6 week, here are the week 15 picks.

We both lost with the Bengals last night.

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints -4

Mazzone: Saints -4
Durden: Saints -4

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers -13.5
Mazzone: Bucs - 13.5
Durden: Buccaneers -13.5

Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins +3.5
Mazzone: Dolphins +3.5
Durden: Ravens -3.5

Buffalo Bills @ Cleveland Browns -5.5
Mazzone: Browns -5.5
Durden: Browns -5.5

Green Bay Packers @ St. Louis Rams +10
Mazzone: Packers -10
Durden: Packers -10

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5
Mazzone: Steelers -3.5
Durden: Jaguars +3.5

New York Jets @ New England Patriots -23.5
Mazzone: Jets +23.5
Durden: The Weather +23.5

Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers +7
Mazzone: Seahawks -7
Durden: Seahawks -7

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs +4
Mazzone: Titans -4
Durden: Titans -4

Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders +10.5
Mazzone: Colts -10.5
Durden: Colts -10.5

Detroit Lions @ San Diego Chargers -10
Mazzone: Lions +10
Durden: Chargers -10

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys -10.5
Mazzone: Cowboys -10.5
Durden: Cowboys -10.5

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants -5
Mazzone: Giants -5
Durden: Giants -5

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings -10
Mazzone: Bears +10
Durden: Vikings -10

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Picks

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans +1
Durden: Mike Shanahan may have his criticisms, but he not only groomed Gary Kubiak as his protégé, he then lobbied for him to get a head coaching job. Moreover, he let Kubiak take Mike’s own son to Houston for his coaching staff and most importantly, has yet to videotape Kubiak doing anything without his permission. Just further proof that it is possible to be a coach in the NFL, without being a colossal jerk.
Broncos -1

I'm off to Vegas, so let's try my luck with the Texans, if that works out it should be a nice weekend. I'll mail in the rest of my picks in time for the Sat/Sun games, but no commentary from me this week.
Pick: Texans +1

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Week 14 Picks

Carolina Panthers @ Jacksonville Jaguars -10.5
Last week’s game against the Colts wasn’t as close as the score indicates, and though they’re a really good football team, the Jags still have a little ways to go before being considered with the best. It’s difficult to take the Panthers, but I think 10.5 is tough with a trip to Pittsburgh looming for Jax next week.
Pick: Panthers +10.5

Before beating up the hapless 49ers last week, the Panthers had ripped off 5 straight losses. I expect them to revert back to form and lose not only on Sunday, but for the remainder of the season. Jacksonville should bounce back big after last week’s loss to Indy, and getting back Marcus Stroud certainly won’t hurt.
Pick: Jaguars -10.5

Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions +10.5
Mazzone: A week ago, I gave the Lions one last chance, but they look like a team that’s done and now they’re without Roy Williams. Dallas is rolling and it seems like only they can keep themselves from representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Pick: Cowboys -10.5

Durden: While Detroit is well on its way to a 6 or 7 win season, they did a hell of a job of tricking a lot of us into thinking that they may have been for real. Still, it means Kitna will be wrong about his team winning 10 games this year. Unfortunately for him, that may be nothing compared to the trouble that awaits him this Sunday, as a result of him opening his big mouth.
Pick: Cowboys -10.5

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills -7
Another easy win for the Dolphins. I just hope they don’t fall into the trap of looking two weeks ahead to the highly anticipated matchup with the Patriots.
Pick: Dolphins +7

Durden: Before last week’s game, Dolphins DT Vonnie Holliday shouted to Jets LB David Bowens, "Today's gonna be our day!" To which Bowens responded, "I bet you felt like that about 11 other teams" Fortunately for Miami, they’re expecting snow in Buffalo on Sunday. Bad weather has already helped slow down Miami’s opponent in games this year, and Buffalo is certainly worse than the Giants or Steelers.
Pick: Dolphins +7

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles -3
Donovan McNabb is BACK! That should lead to quite a bit of my brother’s favorite play in football - Donovan McNabb getting sacked. It’s going to be sad when he’s playing elsewhere next year. Since Kevin Kolb is white, it’s going to take longer for people to turn on him.
Pick: Giants +3

Durden: This game might be the toughest pick of the week. Their first game this season isn’t much help, as the Eagles will have William Thomas, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook this time around, while the Giants will likely be starting Reuben Droughns. Of course, that may not matter as it’s impossible to know which Eagle team will show up this season, but the Giants just haven’t been the same since their loss against the Cowboys. I’ll take the Eagles at home, splitting the season series against the Giants.
Pick: Eagles -3

Oakland Raiders @ Green Bay Packers -10.5
It was actually smart of Favre to leave the Cowboys game early with an injury. Now, if they meet again in the playoffs the team will still have hope. “We played them pretty close without Brett!” Whereas if he had stayed in and continued to play like he was, they would have been blown out and morale would have been low heading into a playoff rematch. That’s why he’s one of the greatest. Raiders have won 2 in a row, they’re due to play like the Raiders again.
Pick: Packers -10.5

The half point was just what I needed to pick the Raiders and against the Packers, which is always my preference. Plus, with Aaron Rodgers recently getting hurt, Green Bay is down to their 3rd stringer if Favre really is banged up and gets injured again. Would it kill him to throw back some painkillers?
Pick: Raiders +10.5

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots -11
This has all the makings of one of those games where everyone finally starts to doubt the dominant team and they revert back to the machine they were earlier in the year. But at the same time, it’s so easy to hate the Patriots and drum up reasons why they could/should lose. Also, I mentioned a few weeks ago in this column how I thought the Steelers matched up alright and had a shot against the juggernaut. The deciding factor is…how can you possibly go against an Anthony Scott guarantee?!
Pick: Steelers +11

After close games against the Eagles and Ravens, I think it’s fair to start asking the question. Did the Patriots not have tape on Baltimore and Philly?? However, what they lack in videotape on their opponents, they clearly make up for in help from the officiating. Look for New England to “bounce back” and stick it to Pittsburgh.
Pick: Patriots -11

San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans -1
This is one of the few games I’m really looking forward to watching this week. Haynesworth is back and winning football games for the Titans while Vince Young’s almost looked like a real QB the past few weeks.

At the same time LDT is coming off a huge game and the Chargers are on a roll with the defense flying all over the field. In the end, I’m going with the Titans for a couple reasons: 1) they’re home 2) Philip Rivers, even in his good statistical games, hasn’t looked that impressive and I always feel like he’s going to cost them the game against good defenses.
Pick: Titans -1

RIP “Albert Haynesworth just wins football games”
Pick: Chargers +1

St. Louis Rams @ Cincinnati Bengals -6.5
Mazzone: I don’t care how bad the Bengals have been, or that the Rams are on a bit of a roll, there is absolutely no way I’m betting on Brock Berlin.
Pick: Bengals -6.5

Quick, name a DB or two on the Rams. If you couldn’t come up with anything, then I won’t bother asking you to name ones that are actually healthy. Anyways, those are the guys covering Houshmazilli and the Chad this week. I don’t see how the Rams can keep this one close, and that’s before taking into account that the Rams will be without both Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte. Brock Berlin, enjoy your first career NFL start.
Pick: Bengals -6.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Houston Texans +3
Mazzone: Gotta continue to give credit to Gruden with this Bucs team. I thought they were going to be pretty awful and then when some key injuries set in I really thought it was going to go downhill. But they’ve beaten everyone they’re supposed to beat (4 losses to – Indy, Seattle, Jax, Detroit when they were decent). There isn’t a team the Bucs shouldn’t beat left on their schedule (@Hou, Atl, @SF, Car) but if they do that, they’ll finish 12-4 with 8 consecutive wins, and I can’t see that happening. I think Houston at home has the best chance of any of the remaining teams to knock off the Bucs.
Pick: Texans +3

Durden: While Sage Rosenfels proved to be serviceable earlier this year, he did so behind an offensive line that was fully intact. This time around, it’s down to at least one third-stringer and the Bucs come into this one on a roll. The Saints gave away the game last week, but I think they’ll take care of this one on their own.
Pick: Buccaneers -3

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks -7
The Cards are running out of weapons and the Seahawks are playing like we thought they would earlier in the year. Regardless of the outcome of this one, with NO, ATL, and STL left on Arizona’s schedule, they’ll likely be in the playoff hunt ‘til the end in the woeful NFC.
Pick: Seahawks -7

Durden: I have to admit, I’m incredibly wary of picking Seattle in a game which could seem them all but clinch the division, on their own. However, it does appear that they’ve been taking care of business on their field this season, while the Cards continue to lose guys on both sides of the ball to injury.
Pick: Seahawks -7

Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers +8.5
There’s a lot of talk about Tim Tebow potentially getting snubbed from the Heisman (which he undoubtedly deserves, as much as I like McFadden) because he’s a sophomore. It’ll be a shame if it happens, but certainly not the first time. Adrian Peterson should have won it as a FRESHMAN in ’04. He’s been that much better than everyone else his whole life, no one should be surprised by his NFL success, which will continue against the ‘Niners. In other news, Tarvaris Jackson might not be half bad, to be continued…
Pick: Vikings -8.5

Durden: The 49ers go into games with Frank Gore as their only hope to stay in games. The Vikings’ top rated run defense should remove that hope easily, allowing their suddenly hot offense to take care of the rest.
Pick: Vikings -8.5

Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets +3.5

Mazzone: I’m really pumped for everything about the return of American Gladiators this January. To the point where I don’t think I’d mind in the least if the commercials for it were played more than Frank TV promos and “this is our country” combined.
Pick: Browns -3.5


This is an all-new kind of trap game. It’s the “our minds won’t be on the Browns because the beating of a lifetime awaits us next week” game.
Pick: Browns -3.5

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos -7
I haven’t been able to figure out Denver all season. Coming in, I thought they were rated too highly by the experts, but I also didn’t think they were as terrible as they looked their first 5 games. KC on the other hand is still bad, but slightly better than I thought they’d be as I had them winning about 3 games or so for the whole season (they’re at 4 with some winnable games left). They’re getting something out of this Kolby Smith character, Tony Gonzalez is still really good and Dwayne Bowe’s legit. I think they’ll at least keep it close enough to make it worth taking the points.
Pick: Chiefs +7

If Denver wins, it’ll be their first win in three weeks. If Kansas City wins, it’ll be Brodie Croyle’s first win in…ever.
Pick: Broncos -7

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens +9.5
The Ravens followed the Eagles blueprint for almost beating the Patriots to a T, right down to finding a way to give the game away in the fourth quarter. Devastating loss, and it will be interesting to see if they have anything left to give for this one. I’m guessing no, and I can’t really blame them.
Pick: Colts -9.5

Durden: While I really feel the officiating cost the Ravens all game, they also failed to win the game on their own. It’s easy as a fan to complain about that and be miserable over it, but it’s difficult watching your team do the same during and after the game. There’s really no way to predict how the Ravens will come out for this game, but after last weeks’ performance, I gotta keep the faith.
Pick: Ravens +9.5

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons +4
Something tells me this wasn’t what the NFL had in mind when they set up a rematch of last season’s Katrina game. Michael Vick is in jail, Deuce McAllister is hurt, Reggie Bush is likely out “with a knee, a shin and a rib”, but hey, I’ve always wanted to root for Chris Redman in prime time.
Pick: Falcons +4

Somewhere, Inmate #85067 wants to know: Who let the dogs out?!?!?
Pick: Saints -4

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NFL Thursday

Chicago Bears @ Washington Redskins -3
At least this Thursday, it's a game no one really cares to see anyway.

I thought it was a nice gesture on Gibbs' part to honor Sean Taylor by inventing a new way to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but that probably wasn't the best time for it. Gibbs' alzheimers aside, I'm still picking the Redskins this week. I don't really have a good reason other than I don't think much of either of these two teams, so let's go with the home team.
Pick: 'Skins -3

Durden: Sometimes, tragic events seem to inspire a team, but the Redskins don’t appear to be one of those teams who will be able to use the situation as a positive impetus for their season. The Washington Redskins appear to have been a disjointed organization since Daniel Synder bought them, and never was that more evident than last week, when Joe Gibbs was the last man in the country to know about the “10 man tribute.” It hasn’t been pretty, but the Bears have been in games all season, and they seem to be figuring out things on offense with Grossman and Peterson. I expect the Redskins’ season to continue its downward spiral and their losing streak to reach 5 games.
Pick: Bears +3

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Breakdown of the Mets/Nats Trade

If you’re a Mets fan, you probably fall into one of two classes right now.

1) The trade is an abomination (Kazmir/Zambrano part II) and the organization is clueless.

2) The trade might not, kinda sorta, be all that terrible, depending on how you look at it and let’s wait until Minaya is done with all moves to judge him.

One thing's for sure, I haven’t heard a single person outside of the Mets organization truly lauding the trade from the Mets' perspective, and that should speak volumes right there.

Before giving my personal final assessment I’m going to play both sides of the coin and first spin it as a positive, then look at the negatives.

The Pros:

Starting with Church–
All things considered, Ryan Church should be comparable, if not better, offensively and certainly an upgrade defensively over Lastings Milledge… for next season at least. Church was 35th in the NL in OPS and SLG. Of the Mets regulars who had enough plate appearances to qualify, that’s good enough to place Church behind only Carlos Beltran and David Wright, despite playing in RFK, a worse hitters park than Shea and with far worse talent around him in the batting order.

Also, while Church had an unfortunate incident regarding religious beliefs, Milledge has had quite a few more incidents and personality conflicts with his teammates/management while attempting to grow up in the New York City spotlight. So in that regard, I think clubhouse/chemistry wise Church and Schneider will probably turn out to be an upgrade over L-Millz.

As for Brian Schneider -
Aside from expecting a decline as he ages, it’s tough to argue against the defensive abilities of Schneider. Even if he declines, he’s a significant upgrade over anything the Mets have had in recent history. Over the past four seasons here are Schneider’s caught stealing percentages and where he ranks in all of baseball:
2007 - 31.2% caught stealing/7th in MLB
2006 - 30.2%/12th
2005 - 40.0%/5th
2004 – 50%/ 1st

He also hasn’t had a fielding percentage worse than 99.2% since his rookie season. So, in theory, the improved defense and ability to throw runners out should help the pitching staff.

As far as his hitting goes, it’s certainly not pretty, but over the past three seasons, his OPS and SLG are significantly better against right-handed pitchers than lefties. Over the same period of time, Ramon Castro has had a propensity to mash left-handed pitching, so it might not be that terrible of a one-two punch from the 8 spot in the lineup. Furthermore, Schneider’s RBI and HR per at bat numbers are better than those of Paul Lo Duca over the past three seasons. Besides, it’s not like huge offensive production out of the 8 spot/catcher position is a necessity in order to be successful.

So, to close out the positive spin in the most drastic of ways:
In Milledge, the Mets gave up a young player with potential, but also an unproven prospect with character issues. They lost a player with questionable defensive ability, who’s struggled mightily to hit right-handed pitching, or anything not going fast and straight, to be honest. His trade value had seemingly plummeted because other teams noticed these flaws before the Mets did.

In return, they received a significant defensive upgrade at catcher (younger than their previous starter), and an upgrade both defensively and offensively in the OF for the current season.

Prospects are suspects until proven otherwise (just ask the Alex’s – Escobar and Ochoa to name a couple), and if the goal is to win now, to win this season, then this trade clearly is a good move, unless…

You Think The Glass Is Half Empty:
As bad as Milledge currently is against right-handed pitching, Church is even worse against left-handed pitching. It’s to the point where you really can’t even play him.

Last season, he batted .229 with .339 SLG and .655 OPS, compared to his numbers against righties of .287/.506/.866. The big difference between the two is that Milledge is 22, with the potential to improve drastically. At age 29, barring some unforeseen breakout season, we’re probably looking at marginal improvements for Church, at best.

Milledge may have lacked maturity and focus while struggling defensively, but at the age of 22 it should have been expected that he wouldn’t be completely polished when they threw him into the fire. Last I checked, Jose Reyes and countless others had their fair share of growing pains on the way to stardom. Is Church really going to give you THAT much more than Milledge this year? How bout for the next 5 years?

Then there’s Brian Schneider. He’s a really nice guy, like David Eckstein, but like Eckstein, he isn’t much of a ballplayer.

Saying he can’t hit is a gross understatement. He’s practically an automatic out coming off a season where he hit (cringe) .235 with an OPS of .662 and a SLG of .377. Sure, his defensive numbers were spectacular… in ’04 and ’05. The past two seasons, while still solid, he’s dropped off a bit.

Johnny Estrada on the other hand brings a much better bat to the table, and his throwing numbers weren’t terrible in ‘05/’06 (between 29-31%). In 2007, Estrada was terrible throwing guys out, but if you look at his career numbers it seems to be a mirage and the offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his throwing elbow should get him back to where he was. Is Estrada a bit more of a risk defensively? Absolutely. Is he a phenomenal all around catcher? Of course not, but he’s probably a comparable stop gap, and did I mention the Mets acquired him for virtually nothing (Guillermo Mota)?

Lastly, let’s talk about the myth that Schneider is great at handling pitchers and calling a game. Not only have we heard from a Washington Nationals blogger on the topic, but let’s look at his CERA (Catcher's earned-run average. Earned-run average of club's pitchers with a particular catcher behind the plate).

In ’04 and ’05 he had some success with CERA’s of 3.83 and 3.88 but again, in his past two seasons we see a drastic drop off. In 2006, he was second to last among qualified catchers with a CERA of 5.28 and in 2007 he was 4th worst with a CERA of 4.79. Naturally, there are a lot of other factors that go into handling a pitching staff and their performance (like talent for example), so I’m not going to kill him on those numbers, but to say Schneider is significantly better than the next guy isn’t really fair either. By comparison, here are Estrada and Lo Duca’s CERA’s over the past four seasons .
Estrada 04-07: 3.77, 3.92, 4.43, 4.45
Lo Duca 04-07: 3.83, 3.79, 4.31, 4.12

So, to close the case for the glass half empty folks:
The Mets gave up one of their most hyped prospects who could have filled a need position for the next several seasons (or at least been traded for something better at some point). Milledge’s quick bat and pure athleticism seemed to have him primed to develop into a premier player – one that would fit perfectly in the lineup with the other young Mets’ studs and provide a great foundation for years to come.

Even if his value had declined, it couldn’t have possibly declined to the point where the return is an aging defensive catcher who can’t hit for anything and a 29 year-old outfielder that you essentially have to platoon because - against lefties - he too is an automatic out. If we ever saw Church-Schneider-Pitcher against a lefty, we may as well concede the inning and save the energy of running in and out of the dugout, as that trio would translate into Rey Ordonez batting three consecutive times. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

Did I forget to touch on the fact that the Mets will have to face Milledge 18 times a year for the next 5-10 years?

Final Assessment:
My biggest problem isn’t necessarily the value of the pieces being exchanged in this particular trade, but the apparent thought process behind it (or lack thereof) and as Keith Law said in a recent chat “the mismanagement of assets” by the Mets.

Clearly the Mets’ biggest need is pitching, so the question is why do you make this move before you sort out the rotation and the bullpen? If they fail to land a front line starter, and/or improve the bullpen are they really serious contenders for a World Series title? Probably not, especially if Johan Santana heads to the Red Sox, or the Phillies and Braves improve.

So, why not give Milledge a full season to see what he’s capable of – especially if his trade value had dropped off THAT much (which I find hard to believe considering he’s only 22, showed signs of improvement, and his value was sky high just 12-18 months ago). It would make more sense to give him a shot to prove himself instead of selling low now with all the other question marks surrounding the team.

Also, rumors are that this trade had been discussed for quite some time, with Minaya reluctant to pull the trigger and part with Milledge, so what made now the right time? I doubt teams were banging down the door for Schneider and Church.

They sold low on Milledge and bought high on Church and Schneider (who the Nats overvalued). Let’s say for a second that the Mets have significant reason to believe Milledge isn’t going to pan out. Keep in mind, they’ve already told us that other teams had lost interest in him.

To me, that’s a poor reflection on the Mets organization, the past two seasons we wouldn’t trade Milledge for a high end pitcher (which we are now desperate for) and all of the sudden he’s not even a significant trading chip to keep around while we look at the various options, or consider him for the starting spot in RF? How come other teams realized this before the people watching him day in and day out? Disappointing to say the least.

After the last two seasons, it wouldn’t be fair to totally disregard the pressure the Wilpon’s and Minaya are under to win now, and I think this move clearly illustrates that line of thought.

I’m going to reserve complete judgment until the rest of the moves are made, because acquiring a legit starter or two and improving the bullpen would make this team a serious contender and thus this trade could be more justified as well. I’m more upset with how/when it happened and how it makes me worry about the front office, than the fact that Milledge may have been undervalued a bit (but not nearly as much as most of the die-hard Mets fans would have you believe – this is not Kazmir for Zambrano)

In the meantime, I’m disappointed to see Thrilledge go as I hoped he’d mature into a perfect fit for this Mets team and become a fan favorite for years to come. But, so is the game…good Luck in Washington, I’ll be rooting for you – at least for 144 games of the year or so.