Free Picks: Super Bowl

Well, I’ve waited long enough and I am feeling pretty good about this one. I was waiting for the Cardinals to woo me, but I’m not so sure that happened. The Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl in Tampa. Yhatzee!

Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) @ Arizona Cardinals: The underdog in the Super Bowl often has an advantage, but this is a different situation. In polls everywhere, the winner is up for grabs, almost a dead on 50/50 split. That puts the public on Arizona when you add in that near touchdown spread. As you know, I don’t let public persuasion do anything to my betting ways, but in this case I am going against the public. I have to admit, when I put my numbers up and they come out against 60% of the people, I do feel a little better about my pick. I’m taking the Steelers because they are the better team. They never played a defense anything like Pittsburgh’s unit, and that will effect them. The Cardinals have a solid defense as well, but Pittsburgh has shown the ability to penetrate into the teeth of any D group, and that will certainly continue against a relatively average bunch in Arizona. I like the Steelers to win by double digits, and my score, if I had to give one, would look something like 38-24 Pittsburgh. I’ll be rooting for magic to happen as the ultimate underdog (an underdog in all 4 playoff games) has a chance to win the Super Bowl. However, my mind and my heart are in different places and my money follows my brain.

2009 NFL Mock Draft: #1

Updated on January 19, 2009

I’m dancing in the streets a little – it’s always nice to see something you never thought would happen, and until Ken Whisenhunt was tricked into coaching the Cardinals, I didn’t think I’d ever see that red jersey and helmet sporting that angry woodpecker in a Super Bowl game. But here we are, a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has won as many championships as any team ever, and an Arizona Cardinals team that looks for a ring for the first time. Awesome. But that pretty much locks up my first full mock draft. I’ll compile the draft as if the Cardinals pull off the huge upset, because, well, they’ve done it 3 times already and I’d be stunned if they did it again – so it will probably happen. The new mock draft is also coming out because the early entry list is locked in and the draft order is basically set. I’m done with my “If I’m making the picks” format because I can really do both predictions and analysis by suggesting what I think the Draft will look like- still, I agree with my ability to judge talent, and a couple teams definitely should call me up for some advice… Haha…  Here goes the goods…

1. Detroit Lions: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama – This pick is exactly what the Lions need, and that’s how I’m doing my first mock draft. This is a team that has gone kookoo over the skill positions and they have been brutal on offensive and defensive lines. I’m sold on the thought that Detroit will get a good football guy to make their personnel decisions and that will lead them away from 1st Round receivers, quarterbacks, or running backs. Andre Smith might not be the guy making the best decisions (getting hooked up with an agent a couple days before his team’s big bowl game) but he is a beast of a man that dominated at the college level. If the Lions want to properly use Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, arguably their best players, they’ll have to get some time to throw and room to run. Matthew Stafford (the consensus pick here) has all the tools, but without a better offensive line the Lions will continue to get destroyed. Do the right thing Detroit, go big here, Smith is your guy.

2. St. Louis Rams – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia – The Rams have lots of problems, no doubt in my mind, they would happily take Smith if he were available here – but he’s not, and nobody wants to trade into the 2nd pick so it’s not like they’ll find a valuable trading partner for the pick. That being said, Matt Stafford is the guy with all the tools that Marc Bulger doesn’t have, end the Marc Bulger experiment…. please.  I personally like Mark Sanchez a little more than Stafford – but the tools Stafford has can’t be taught, and while the Rams need more than a QB in the waiting, the #2 pick is a place where immense talent needs to be selected.

3. Kansas City Chiefs:  Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forrest – I don’t think the Chiefs go quarterback here – it’s stupid, A, and B- Tyler Thigpen played great when he got a chance to do so. Just ride out this guy for a while and hope that you hit the lotto with the kid, weirder things have happened. Plus, with a 30th ranked rushing defense and a 28th ranked passing defense, they might consider getting some dynamic help on that side of the ball first. Still, with Bradford and Stafford on the board it’s tough for me to pass up a chance at a franchise QB, but I’m going to, because I’m smart. Thigpen is good enough right now, he’s got a little something that I like as the guy in charge of my roster, so I’m taking Aaron Curry to be a playmaker on my defense. This guy is one of the surest things in the draft, a football player through and through, and he bleeds intensity. The Chiefs have some speed in their linebacking corps, but they don’t have a guy like this and he’ll immediately come in and make everyone better. This may be a little high for a linebacker, and probably higher than Curry will go, but I’ll take him because I’m looking for the guy that will improve the Chiefs the most, and they need a guy like Aaron.

4. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech  – The Hawks need offensive line help badly. I know Michael Crabtree is out there and every single Hawk fan in the world wants Seattle to go get the big stud receiver from Texas Tech – I love Crabtree, think he’ll be  a great one, but you can only win if you have a good offensive line. Monroe is the smart pick – or maybe Jason Smith, and both should be here for the Seahawks taking – but in the end I just can’t pass up on the chance to get an elite playmaker for the Hawks offense. People (like me) will say that Seattle never makes a pick like this, that they have a smart brass that knows how to pick right, that they wouldn’t go skill position at the top of the draft – but, in the end, history is just that – history. Right now is the now, and with that in mind, and the future in the eyes of the same guy that’s watching Crabtree work out, watching him torch defenses at will – watching him become a version of TO without the assish tendencies, I don’t think the Hawks can pass that up – not with the guys they have. Taking skill position guys at the top of the draft can be a recipe for losses to build. You spend too much money on a receiver and it will hurt you in the end if that player doesn’t become great. But I think the Hawks need to go for it.

5. Cleveland Browns:  Malcom Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – The Browns secondary and overall defense was brutal last season. Weird, they went and spent a bunch of money on high-priced free agents and they still got kicked around pretty good. A lot of that has to do with their offense going 3 and out a lot, and putting the defense in bad situations, but still – tackling and angles were tough to come by in Cleveland and I think Jenkins comes in and starts immediately for the Browns. He’s as sure as a corner back can be in helping the run. He’s got great understanding and recognition, things that plague the Browns secondary.

6. Cincinnati Bengals: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State – The Bengals need a lot of help in a lot of places, weird. But with Stacey Andrews struggling a bit and his knee giving him problem, and a visit with the doctor for re-constructive surgery in mid-January, it might be time to get a young stud to protect their biggest investment, Carson Palmer. Everyone watched what happened to the Bengals without Palmer – protecting him next season might be a good start. Eugene Monroe has proven he can start anywhere. He’s an athletic kid that held down left tackle for Virginia, and he could do the same in Cincinnati. Either way, I think Monroe would be a good pick this high, a need pick and a talent pick and a good use of their money – But lets just say (for the sake of good health and positive thinking) that the Bengals elect to re-sign Andrews (and they very well could because of his youth and possible good news on the diagnosis of his knee surgery) then they might elect to go for a pass rushing specialist like Everett Brown, Brian Orakpo, or Aaron Maybin – going for the health of the young right tackle, Aaron Maybin goes off the board here because his motor and upside are impressive.

7. Oakland Raiders: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri – Rey Maualuga is a machine. The Raiders need a guy like him just about as bad as anything – well, aside from a new coaching staff and a new owner and a guy to bring in talent on draft day that doesn’t base everything on some lifting and speed numbers – so they need a lot of things, but a sure tackler at linebacker, and big time playmaker, a special and California taught local kid like Maualuga – I think they’d have something going if they went here. However, I know the Raiders – and Jeremy Maclin or Crabtree (if he lasts) might get pushed to Oakland. I have this eery feeling that if Maclin is on the board for Oakland that he’ll be wearing black and silver come next season. It’s sad for Jeremy – but it’s probably true.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia – While Michael Oher is a stud, he has shown a lack of focus at times. He’s been beat by lesser defensive ends, and while the talent is obviously there, Oher’s lack of consistency might hurt him in the draft. I have that happening here as Eugene Monroe will get ahead of Oher on draft boards and be the first off the board after Andre Smith. If Maclin is on the board here, the Jaguars might be tempted – they have shown a history of going and reaching for their biggest needs, and they definitely need a playmaker outside. But the Jaguars showed some offensive line (and defensive line for that matter) woes in 2008. Maurice Jones Drew is still phenomenal and David Garrard didn’t have as bad of a season as his numbers insisted, but this team needs some help on their respective lines. Monroe has the ability to get plugged in anywhere he’s needed, and he’ll immediately improve that position. That’s rare in the NFL these days, and even tougher to get in the draft. For a team that needs to reestablish their rushing identity, the Jags could make a great pick right here. Many people expect the Jaguars to go linebacker here, but there’s room to rummage through the next couple rounds to find a playmaker there. The top O-Tackles, while the position is deep, will be gone long before the Jags pick again.

9.  Green Bay Packers: Everett Brown, DE, Florida State – The Packers need to revamp their defensive front. I think Aaron Kampman is a stud, but he needs some help and I think Everett Brown can be a special contributor up front for the Packers. They need help getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. Basically they were a liability on defense. They have plenty of weapons on offense, and while every team could always use help on the line, this pick seems like a no brainer for the Pack – but it could be one of the many defensive end prospects in the draft. I also think that this spot, and this mock, would have the Packers being in a great position with someone who wanted to trade down to get Mark Sanchez – ie the Minnesota Vikings. No trades in my mock though, too tough to figure, so I’ll go with one of the more talent kids out there.

10. San Francisco 49ers:  Mark Sanchez, QB, USC – I like Shaun Hill, like I said in my first mock, but Sanchez is a stud – he has a lightning quick release, great leadership qualities, and a passion for the game that fits perfectly with Mike Singletary’s system. Could the 49ers go in about a million different directions? You bet… Could one of those directions be not re-signing Takeo Spikes and maybe going with Rey Maualuga to form one of the best middle linebacker duos in all of football? Possibly, Rey seems like a Mike kind of guy, but he also seems a lot like Patrick Willis (but could it be bad to have two of him?). Shaun Hill is a solid guy right now, he does enough to keep San Francisco in the game, but Sanchez has tools to be a top pick, and very well could be, but right now I like him going to SF at 10 because that’s a great place to get your future signal caller and not have to play him right off the bat. If Sanchez isn’t their guy, and they love Orakpo, Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech, Maybin or Brown if they are there, don’t be surprised if the Niners snag a pass rusher.

11. Buffalo Bills: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas – The Bills need more help on the defensive line. They started off the year okay, but they don’t make enough plays and they don’t have any one player that poses an elite pass rushing skill set. Okay, Aaron Schobel is a guy that has some good career numbers, but he spent much of 2008 hurt and is on the wrong side of 30 and the small side of 250lbs. I really like Micheal Johnson of Georgia Tech, but Orakpo is probably the more complete of the two, and the Bills could use that.

12. Denver Broncos: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – The Broncos have been brutal at stopping the run for sometime, and it’s very likely that Mike Shannahan’s insistence on grabbing opposing teams leftovers instead of drafting some help up front is what got him fired in the first place. I expect new HC Josh McDaniels to do his damnedest to strengthen the defensive front, and starting with a massive defensive lineman that will free up linebackers while putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is probably a good start. McDaniels is and offensive mind, no doubt about that, but he’s also a smart guy and while assessing team needs he’ll vouch for the teams offensive firepower and express some worry about that line…  Raji’s 6.5 sacks and numerous runs stuffed will certainly help Denver’s front – character issues might hurt Raji’s stock, but in Denver’s move to the 3-4 they’ll need a player of Raji’s strength to hold down the middle.

13. Washington Redskins: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor – The Redskins will be lucky if they get an offensive line prospect like Jason Smith. The kid knows how to play the game and he really does it right. I think he’s a better pass blocker than Andre Smith, and his athleticism is second to none. At 6’5 305lbs, he’s got room to grow into his body a little bit. He’s not super strong, but that will come – his feet are great and his energy and ability to stay on blocks long are two things that he has over any other elite tackle prospect in the draft. A steal at 13.

14. New Orleans Saints: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois – Defense, defense, defense. As much as Jeremy Maclin’s speed has to excite this offensive minded freak of a coach in New Orleans, it’s not offensive deficiencies that keep the Saints from getting into the playoffs. Defensively they are brutal, they don’t have much of an identity except that of a team that allows opposing offenses to do anything they damn well please. That’s not a good thing. Right now, the Saints don’t have corners that get the job done. They don’t tackle all that well, and find themselves in positions to make tackles far too often. As far as talent and confidence go, Davis is a corner that comes second to none. He’s a physical kid that likes to get into opposing receivers. He hasn’t had a ton of interceptions at the college level, but I’m going to go ahead and say that’s because opposing offenses don’t throw his way. He may have been too aggressive in college, being allowed to do too much on the field. He’ll get the little things down, but I like what he does have and think he would start immediately for New Orleans.

15. Houston Texans: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech – How can you play an entire season on the other side of Mario Williams and have absolutely zero sacks to show for it? Weaver is a better run defensive end than a pass rusher, but 0 sacks? Yikes. Johnson might be a little bit of a reach here – but the kid is a freakish pass rusher that could start out helping right away as a pass rush specialist and he has the body to add weight and become a full time guy over time.  The Texans could really use a pass rush option opposite their big dog. With much attention played to their former 1st overall pick, Johnson could find a lot of room to be the playmaker that he is. This would do wonders for the other half of Houston’s defensive line.

16. San Diego Chargers: Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State – If the Chargers are indeed getting rid of LaDainian Tomlinson, for age and contract reasons, I think Wells would be a perfect fit to get half of the carries in a time share with Darren Sproles. I, personally, would just keep Tomlinson for another year, go for some offensive line or defensive help here, and grab a running back in next season’s draft or in the later rounds, but I’m taking the plunge here because of Wells ability. Basically, I don’t like taking skill guys early, but Wells has special size, explosion, and speed – and while Sproles has shown a knack for the big play, there is no way he holds up through a season getting 15-20 carries per game. I make exceptions for special players, and while Wells’ injury problems might scare some teams off, I happen to believe that you go for the talent and if freak injuries happen you just got unlucky. If LT is re-signed, I think the Chargers should make a play on

17. New York Jets: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC- To get a guy that can make a difference like Maualuga is always a draft day blessing. To get him in the middle of the 1st round is even more impressive. Can he be Rex Ryan’s New York Jet version of Ray Lewis? It’s possible. I’m not sure anyone this side of William Wallace has ever had as much passion, toughness, and straight super-hero ability like Ray Lewis, but if there’s a guy in this draft that looks anything like Ray, it’s Rey – and not just for names sake. The Jets need to get better defensively – but they could also make a play on a young running back if their top choice sits here. I think Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are good for now, and I think Ryan will be ready to get a defensive stopper right off the bat.

18. Chicago Bears: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – Nate Davis? Oh, I think this kid could surprise. But I’m not ready to make that jump quite yet – plus, the Bears “are happy with their quarterback situation” – right. The Bears look to be aging a little bit, and that means they could use all types of players. But if the super-talented Oher is still on the board at 18, the Bears snag him up without thinking twice.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Sen’Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn – Marks is a freak. He’s a superior athlete in the body of a defensive tackle. He’s not enormous, but his tenacity and elite quickness and coordination make him a great prospect and could very well allow him to be great at rushing the passer and making plays against the run. If the Bucs have shown me anything during their late slide that saw them go from 9-3 to 9-7 and missing the playoffs, it’s that they need help on the defensive line. Marks might be the best of the bunch and at 19th overall, he’s worth that risk.

20. Detroit Lions (via Dallas Cowboys):  James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State – The Lions need guys like this to do things like win a football game. James is a sure thing. You know what you’re getting, a great tackler, great team guy with the ability to stop the run, read blocks, get his teammates behind him and make everyone better. A great offensive lineman and a great linebacker to be a team leader on defense, that would be a great draft for a team that doesn’t know much about great drafts. The Lions need to stop taking chances and picking skill position players – teams are built on  guys that can block up front and get off blocks and tackle on defense – Andre and James are a good start.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – Brian Westbrook #2? After seeing what Brian Westbrook has become since the Eagles drafted the undersized back in the 3rd round years ago, I wouldn’t be stunned if they tried to get him. I know they aren’t a team that usually guns for the skill positions early, but Moreno is special and despite being a little undersized, could be a great option in making the transition to the days without Mr. Westbrook. The Eagles have seen Westy have injury troubles, day to day issues just about every other week, and his age is becoming a little bit of an issue. The Eagles have a bevy of vets, and they surely need to get younger on the offensive line and all over on defense, but this kid is an elite playmaker that you aren’t able to snag in Round 2.

22. Minnesota Vikings: Sean Smith, CB, Utah – Sean Smith played a little under the radar at Utah, but he was a great part of one of the best defenses in college football. He helped shut down the Alabama passing attack, and played good football against the run as well. Smith is an elite player from a small school. The Vikings would help improve their semi-shaky pass defense by adding the Utes ball hawk. Smith has unreal size for a corner, and has shown a knack for making big plays by either intercepting 5 passes or leading his team in passes broken up. Smith could shoot up draft boards after the combine.

23. New England Patriots: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest – The Patriots find themselves in an interesting place here, and free agency will definitely help decide where they go here. I know Smith is a great playmaker with lots of upside and the personality it takes to be good at the next level. I’m not sure if he fits perfectly into the Patriots system, but he definitely fits a need as almost every corner in New England will see free agency over the off-season. Smith does lots of good things, he’s got solid speed and breaks well on the ball.

24. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State – The Falcons might not need Brandon Pettigrew to make life easier on Matt Ryan, but they could sure use him. He’s a good blocker and an even better pass catcher, but the bottom line is he does it all. He may not be a big play guy like Kellen Winslow or Jason Witten, but he’s a great blocker, probably the best blocking tight end in the class. He also has great hands and very good ball skills. He does it all. This guy is just the type of guy Atlanta (or any team in the league) needs.

25. Miami Dolphins: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt – The Dolphins need help in the secondary, and maybe all over their defense to be honest. They played better than they were early in the year in ’08, but fell apart a little toward the end and, in my opinion, better exemplified exactly what their biggest problems are. In an offensive heavy draft class, the Dolphins need to build defensively. Moore is a very talented player that shut down #1 receivers all season for Vanderbilt. He’s an opportunistic player with a playmaking ability that could help the Dolphins create turnovers defensively.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland – While many people would like to point to Bey as being inconsistent and an underachiever in college, I would like to point to the poor quarterbacking in Maryland this last season. Bey is super talented and could definitely turn into a great pro. I like him more than most. I think he’d fit in in Baltimore, and be a big target that the Ravens need to pit with Mark Clayton and the aging Derrick Mason.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (via Carolina): Ebbin Britton, OT, Arizona – The Eagles need to get younger at lots of different places. Arizona’s offense was underrated this season, being stuck in the Pac-10, where even I admit was underrated. Britton has been road-grading paths for running backs over the last two seasons, and the Wildcats have been better than you’d think in that area. Britton is a big boy with some good quickness and a very football savvy demeanor. I think the Eagels would be bright to grab him before they really need an offensive tackle. Prep him for next season when age finally catches up with the green machine.

28. Indianapolis Colts: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – The Colts really struggled to stop the run, with or without Bob Sanders, and if you can’t stop the run with that heat seeking missile aimed right at the hearts of running backs, then you have to do something a little different. Peria Jerry is a very good defensive tackle that plays with the intensity and knowhow needed to excel in the Colts system. They need to start filling holes if they want to return to the Super Bowl.

29. New York Giants: Percy Harvin, WR/RB, Florida – The Giants need more playmakers. Percy Harvin might be the shiniest playmaker in this draft of offensive firepower. Getting him at 29 would be great. The Giants need them some Percy Harvin just like Flordia does.

30. Tennessee Titans: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina – He doesn’t have as much upside as Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Nicks might be the better receiver in the NFL. Nicks runs solid routes, his hands or enforced with a special unique stick-em produced only by his body. That catch that everyone saw during the bowl season, that was amazing, but no way was that his only amazing catch. This kid is always open, and I think his game translates well to the next level. He would also make the 5th receiver selected in the first round, which seems like an unreal ammount – but with the lack of underclassmen coming out, and the overall mediocre feeling of this talent pool, matched with the heavy set of receivers and apt running backs, this could be a weird first round with receivers off early.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU – Beast. He may not be the “new” defensive end with the pass rushing forte and the speed and the basketball body, but Tyson is a run-stuffing fiend. A kid that is nearly 6’5″ and 300+ – he’s a beast. The Steelers could use a guy like that inside in their 3-4. They have pass rushers galore, and Tyson has above average talent for his size – that’s digable planet business right there.

32. Arizona Cardinals: Brian Cushing, LB, USC – This kid didn’t have great numbers on an impressive USC defense, but he is damn good at just about everything. He can turn in run in coverage, as he was often asked to do, and he can make big plays all over the field. He’s had some durability issues, but the Cardinals would make a good move grabbing a kid with Cushing’s upside – winning the Super Bowl gives you a chance to go with upside like Brian’s.

Free NFL Playoff Picks: Conference Championships

While many love the Super Bowl and all they hype it brings – and others love the 4 game format of Week 2’s NFL Playoffs – the Conference Championships are my absolute favorite time of the year in the NFL. Don’t take that as to mean that I have the perfect drop on games in Week 3 of the NFL Playoffs, but take it from me, there is no better time to sit down and watch football then AFC/NFC Championship Sunday. There are 2 games instead of 1, and while the Super Bowl often disappoints or is a blowout (though not recently) – these games are often tight and full of fireworks. Plus, there’s something about the right to go to the Super Bowl – that’s what these guys are fighting for. That’s the difference between Week 2 and Week 3 – Week 3’s winners face off in the final game – so 4 teams are playing for the Super Bowl – just one win away. It’s as good as it gets. Anyway, that’s enough about that – I rocked it up last week, finishing a Giants win away from a perfect week. But 3-1 will have to do as my playoff record moves to 5-3 overall. Here are my picks for this Sunday’s NFL action.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3) @ Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have been awesome. They beat a very good Atlanta Falcons team that everybody (including myself) thought would oust Arizona from post-season play. Then the Cardinals walked into Carolina, where the over-hyped and overrated Panthers hadn’t lost a game all season long, and Arizona won easily in a landslide over the Panthers. Now Arizona hosts the Eagles as the two worst records in the NFC Playoffs face-off for a chance to meet the AFC’s best in the Super Bowl. Brilliant. The Eagles ousted the run-heavy Vikings in an ugly game. Then they stepped onto New York’s home-field for the second time this season and made it two of two against the defending champs, this game meaning more than the last. And now they are headed to Arizona trying for their 3rd straight road playoff win in as many chances. I have to admit, I didn’t think either of these teams would make it past Week 1. And I also have to admit, I think the road team wins again on Sunday. The Eagles haven’t had much trouble with teams that don’t run effectively, and I don’t think Arizona will do much running against the Eagles. With a very good secondary that has really come together, Philadelphia feasts on drop back passers and they make plays on balls in the air. Edge has been better and Hightower has some power and speed, but the Eagles won’t have much to worry about in the run department from the Cardinals, and that gives this game to Philly.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5): Unlike the first game on Sunday, these are the two teams I expected to be around this late. I liked Baltimore to trounce the Dolphins (and they did) and I liked them to pull out a tight one against the Titans (and they did). I also liked the Steelers to dominate the Chargers (and if they did anything, they dominated). So if you can add, “One and one and one is three” I’m feeling pretty smart if you know what I mean! Okay, enough butchering great music – back to business. If you’re one of my trusty followers, you know exactly how I feel about betting against teams that should have lost last week and won. I love to go against those clubs. The Ravens are a prime example of that. If it weren’t for some freak fumbles, a missed field goal, and a poorly thrown pick in the red-zone, the Titans would have taken this game easily. I know the Ravens are a turnover causing group – but Tennessee played a majority of the game in Baltimore’s territory. The leading passer was Kerry Collins, – he had 281 yards to Flacco’s 161. The leading rusher was Chris Johnson (and he only played for 2 quarters) with 72 yards, and LenDale White’s 45 yards was only 5 yards less than Baltimore’s entire rushing output on Sunday. The Ravens found a way to win – they obviously have the will to do so, but it will catch up with them this week. They’ve played 17 straight weeks heading into this weekend’s contest. The Steelers have had the benefit of two bye weeks during that time. The Steelers defense is at least as good as Baltimore’s group, they are more fresh, playing at home, and privy to a better offense to help them out. I like the Steelers in this one, despite the big spread.

Good luck this week my loyal readers! And Enjoy the BEST SUNDAY IN FOOTBALL!

Sam Bradford's PERFECT Choice

Sam Bradford just made the best decision of his career – unless of course lightening strikes (or some enormous defensive tackle, either or) and his knee takes a Carson Palmer blast – but lets ignore lightening and freak accidents and lets just look at this strictly from a football point of view.

If he had entered the draft the best case scenario for the ultra talented signal caller from Oklahoma would be that he wowed the scouts in tryouts (like I assume he would), jumped to the top of the quarterback rankings even though his arm strength is somewhere behind Matt Stafford (which I think he would do), and gets touted as the next star quarterback. That’s a best case scenario. Sure, the money is there, and sure, the Lions could go in another direction – but if all of those other ifs happened, the Lions would be stupid not to go for the gusto and add Bradford. A college kids dream; the returning Hesiman quarterback of one of the Nation’s best teams, with all his offensive weapons returning, with all the girls with cute accents falling all over him like he’s freaking Brad Pitt… Or the freaking Lions… The first 0-16 team ever. The team with more holes than a damned whiffle ball. The team that’s been run into the ground by donkeys and clowns alike.

Did Sam make the right choice? You bet. It’s not all about money – sometimes it’s about staying the hell away from Detroit. Sometimes it’s about happiness, having a good time, and spending another year with some of your best friends living it up and making another run at a National Championship. Some might say he’s stupid for “passing up millions of dollars” – and I’m not saying I’d be cool enough to make that decision – I’m just saying he made the right decision – a decision with his heart. If the majority of people could only be so right.

Coaching Changes….

There have been some coaching changes in the NFL – and even though the Super Bowl isn’t set, coaching positions will continue to fill in as time passes. So far, there have been a few changes that will surely effect the direction in which these new offenses will move. So far, these are the changes….

Jim Mora taking over for Mike Holmgren in Seattle while Greg Knapp takes over the offense…

Josh McDaniels taking over in Denver…

Jim Caldwell taking over for Tony Dungy in Indianapolis…

Eric Mangini taking over in Cleveland…

Mike Martz out as offensive coordinator in San Francisco as Mike Singletary takes the HC job full time….

Now everything doesn’t depend on coaching, and nothing is for sure, but right off the bat their has to be some things that look good and others that look bad, based not only on a long history but a new start or some old habits that I think will follow each coach to his new position.

Since Jim Mora and Jim Caldwell, since both have been groomed for their new positions, basically waiting in the shadows for their former coaches to call it quits so they could take over. Both coaches inherit teams that have done a lot of winning under their former coaches (Holmgren and Dungy respectively) but Mora’s situation is a little different than Caldwell’s because of each teams success, or in the Seahawks case; lack of success, over the past season.

Jim will start off his tenure in Seattle after the Hawks come off one of their worst seasons in recent memory. The Hawks went through a rash of injuries and close losses to finish as the 4th worst team in the NFL this year. That means they get the 4th pick in the NFL Draft this April. But that’s a long way away, and I just want to talk briefly about Jim Mora’s history and his success in the run-game, and if that will follow him to Seattle. I expect Mora to take more chances than Holmgren did, and I expect the running game to be better than it was last year, but Matt Hasselbeck isn’t quite the type of quarterback that Michael Vick was, and honestly, neither is Senecca Wallace. It will be interesting to see what happens with Matt and his back problems, but I would imagine that the Hawks don’t turn into one of the league’s best rushing teams right off the bat. Michael Vick had to be accounted for at all times, and that opened up a lot of holes for TJ Duckett, and more impressively, Warrick Dunn. But, there weren’t a lot of defenses worried about Vick’s throwing prowess, so things could open up in the run game because of that in Seattle as well. All things being said, I think the 3rd down and 9 draw plays are likely out of the play book – the stop routes might not find a place in Jim’s heart, and history would tell you that Seattle receivers won’t be great options at your next fantasy draft either. All things being said, this personnel is much different than it was in Atlanta, so Mora’s plan of attack may be different as well.

Jim Caldwell’s team is good. They have an on-the-field coach in Peyton Manning and some great pieces. I imagine Marvin Harrison will be gone (mainly because of contract issues), but that just opens things up for Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzo likely moves to Marvin’s spot, and unless the Colts do something to add another receiver, it will open up a lot of things for Dominic Rhodes out of the backfield and Dallas Clark as well. Without a 3rd solid receiver, the Colts would rely more on their 3rd down back and Manning’s solid tight end. Caldwell has been with the Colts for some time, and I seriously doubt much will change in terms of fantasy value amongst those players. Tony Dungy always did a good job of coaching coaches, and allowing those coaches to coach their respective positions and do their jobs – I imagine Caldwell follows that way of work.

Eric Mangini takes over in Cleveland, and there’s no doubt that this guy has a quality offensive mind, it’s just that his play calling is brutal. I’m sure things will get better offensively for the stars in Cleveland, well everyone besides back-up running backs. Time will only tell if Jamal Lewis will be back, but if he is, you can bet that Harrison won’t get much time to show what he’s got. Mangini didn’t give Leon Washington the ball nearly enough in New York, and in all honesty, he didn’t give Thomas Jones the ball enough either. Still, the yards per carry and the originality of the offense will improve. I think Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards are both built for Mangini’s ariel assault, the short timing throws, and their athleticism should up their value heading into 2009’s fantasy season. Still, the play calling from Mangini hasn’t impressed me, and the ups and downs will surely frustrate fantasy owners of Browns – but then again, the frustration couldn’t even get close to last season’s debacle – so move all Browns up a little bit if you ask me.

Josh McDaniels gets praised for his work by Bill Belichick – that’s enough for me. The Patriots get more out of their players than any other team in the league, and McDaniels had  a first hand look at how great teams are supposed to go about their business, attack opposing teams, and prepare for all kinds of situations. McDaniels seems to be a brilliant offensive mind, but there are still some things to be seen from him as a head coach. Will he  be as frustrating as Mike Shanahan was? I doubt it. Mike’s running back carousel probably won’t be something McDaniels goes with, but he did coach in New England, and Belichick used his backs pretty randomly as well – so you never know. One thing I do know is that McDaniels is going to throw the rock, and Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Eddie Royal all moved up a little bit in my book. But one thing you have to remember is that Josh doesn’t have a background of being a head coach, and not all assistants coach just like the guy they coached under – still, with the offensive success under Brady and then Cassel – I seriously doubt that McDaniels has an even based passing and rushing attack. Will he run? You bet – but the pass is going to be what this new offensive mind attacks with, and maybe even more prolifically than Shanny did with the Broncos in ’08.

Mike Martz leaves San Francisco and I’m really, really sad to see him go. Poor play calls, getting his quarterbacks killed, having mediocre QBs throw 35 times a game, basically begging them to fail – yeah, I’m willing to say that Martz is one of the most ridiculously praised offensive gurus in the league. I’m not sure about how the new OC in San Francisco will attack things, but I’m willing to bet that Frank Gore has more runs (around 20-26 per game) and catches less passes next season. Now Frank has always been a great pass catcher, but he’ll be used a lot out of the backfield, because that’s what Mike Singletary wants. I also think that Gore will be better because of this. And so will the 49ers. Will Shaun Hill (or whomever the QB in San Francisco is) be drafted in all leagues? No, because Mike Martz isn’t here and the new offensive coordinator will be smart enough to realize that throwing the ball 76% of the time isn’t smart. So upgrade the run in SF and downgrade the passing game – this is no longer a Martz influenced unit…

Free NFL Playoff Picks: Week 2

Alright, Week 1 was a push, but being the stubborn personality that I am, I still think I had the right side on the Eagles/Vikings game. Both teams played like garbage, and the score should have been tighter. Basically I’m saying that they played evenly terrible. As for the Falcons, I don’t know, Matt Ryan played great in the first half but didn’t get much help from his offensive mates, and thus they squandered some opportunities to get points. That hurt some confidence and there it was. Also, Arizona had Atlanta’s snap on key, and their jump off the ball, more than any other reason, was why Atlanta’s rushing game was held down. I honestly think that if the Cards didn’t have that hint, it would be Atlanta headed to round two. But, it is what it is, and Arizona finishes as the right side there. But on to Week 2! Gotta get back in the swing of things.

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Tennessee Titans: That whole “a can’t believe we’re not heavily favored, we’re the #1 seed in the league” garbage can only work so many times. Tennessee wasted that excitement a couple times earlier this year. Another thing that has me riding Baltimore’s hot streak into an upset here is the fact that it’s really hard to beat a good team twice in the same season. One more thing you ask? Well, these teams are eerily similar in talent and game plan. Both run the ball a lot. Neither has a prolific passer. One QB hasn’t reached his prime and one is past his prime, but both are about the same level. Both play great defense and bring the physical nature of football to another level. Both have solid kicking games and both won their fair share of close games. I would say Tennessee’s rushing game (and offense) is a little better than Baltimore’s, but I would say the Ravens have a little bit better defense. But neither difference is that great. Both teams have mediocre passing attacks with solid running games and good defenses. But Baltimore just has that playoff winning swagger – and while I know that no rookie quarterback has won two playoff games in his rookie season, I think records are meant to be broken, and that will happen this week in Tennessee.

Arizona Cardinals (+10) @ Carolina Panthers: I think Carolina wins this game, but 10 is too much, especially for a Carolina team that is a little overrated in my opinion, and an Arizona team that showed some defensive excitement last week. Earlier in the year, Arizona was tough to run against. They got after the run and the quarterback, and while they gave up big plays, the didn’t give away free rushing yards. If they come out like that, and in their biggest game in a million years – I think they will, they will be close in this game. They are a tough match-up for the Panthers, even in Carolina where the Panthers have yet to lose a game this season. Double digits is just too much for me. Carolina may have won 4 of their last 5, 3 out of 4 were a play away from a different outcome. They barely snuck by New Orleans in Week 17, lost to the Giants late in Week 16, beat the Broncos (but who didn’t down the stretch), rushed for a gazillion yards against Tampa Bay, but still had to convert a late 3rd and 5 to keep Tampa’s offense off the field in a game that was a touchdown away, and they barely beat the Packers after losing to the Falcons 28-45 in Atlanta and playing an amazingly tight one against the 0-16 Lions, same goes for their two game prior to that against the Raiders and these Cardinals. I’m not saying they are a bad team, but 10 point favorites in the playoffs? I don’t think that has any value at all. I’ll take the Cards.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants (-4): Just wait, Andy Reid will let Eagle backers down with poor play calling sooner or later, I’ll bet sooner. The Eagles will stop running, start throwing three yard stop patterns on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 7, and that’s when the frustration on blogs and message boards will hit an all time high. Nobody is playing better than the Eagles right now, and why not, look at all that talent on that team. Young and veteran players alike, new Eagles and old Eagles – this team certainly has the talent to make an unlikely trip to the Big Show. But, that play calling – the “not to lose” attitude that seems to ward off momentum like the Bills and Super Bowl Trophies – that will get the Eagles in the end. The Giants have already lost once to the Eagles, and got a tight win earlier in the year as well – these teams know each other, that’s for sure. But Brandon Jacobs seems fully healthy and back, and he’s a battering ram weapon that New York didn’t have last time these two went at it – not in full health anyway – but even then, his 10 carries for 52 yards might have been a precursor of what is to come when he gets 20 or more totes this weekend. This is a tough one for me, because the Eagles are so up and down and this game is huge. But the Giants aren’t so up and down, they are just flat out good and play to win the game every time out. I’ll take my chances with them.

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5): I feel as good about this game as I did about the Ravens last week – I think the Steelers cover easily, winning by double digits. Now, that’s not their style, I understand – but that’s the way I see it. This same Steelers team came in and stomped the Chargers in Pittsburgh earlier this year – well, physically stomped them anyway, the score was an improbable 11-10 and a Charger cover for sure. But it was an unlikely set of circumstances that finished with the Steelers needing a late field goal to win it. LT was held to 57 yards on 18 carries while the highest rated quarterback this season, Philip Rivers, was eaten up by Pittsburgh’s defense, completing 15 of 26 tosses for just 159 yards 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions; easily his worst game of the season. On the other hand, Willie Parker had 115 rushing yards, and Big Ben threw for over 300 yards as well. The Steelers just couldn’t get it in the end zone. I doubt it if the same story is played out this week. Big Ben, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and a defense full of absolute beasts that have been here before – I give them the advantage in this one, and advantage I don’t see them wasting against an inferior Chargers team.

Free NFL Playoff Picks: Week 1

After a solid season that saw me finish 20+ games up, I figure I might as well give you my playoff picks as well- you know it’s been a weird season when not a single first round playoff game gives you a favored home team. Craziness!!! But I don’t see the favorites winning all four in Round 1 of the NFL Playoffs – oh no – I have two road winners and two home team victories – which is which is for you to find out… Good luck with your playoff bets!!!

Atlanta Falcons (-1) @ Arizona Cardinals: The Falcons have trouble with prolific passing teams. New Orleans, Denver, and Philadelphia combined to give Atlanta each of their three losses over the last 10 games of the season. Am I saying they can’t beat a passing team? Nope – they ousted the Packers, Saints, and Chargers already this season, so they have it in them, they just have more trouble with pass happy teams. And it doesn’t seem to be the passing game that kills them, but the threat of the pass that seems to really open up the run. The Saints, and Eagles both had big time rushing days against the Falcons, but I don’t see the Cardinals doing that. Even with the awesome production of Edgerrin James last week against the Seahawks, Arizona’s run game still doesn’t scare me much. I also don’t like how the Cardinals gave up just as many points per game as they scored this season, that kind of football rarely gets you wins in January. What else has me going against the home team in this one? How about Arizona’s wins over the last 10 weeks of the regular season? Seattle twice, St. Louis twice, and San Francisco – just barely. Something about that doesn’t excite me. I know Seattle was playing better down the stretch, but the best team in that group is San Francisco, and the Niners weren’t really jelling 8 weeks ago. Atlanta has been tested, and they’ve passed. The Cardinals have to prove to me that they can beat a good team before I go putting money on them to win, even as a home dog.

Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers (+2): The Chargers have always been a tough match-up for the Colts, and San Diego plays well in the playoffs. I know that the Colts have a pretty tough pass defense, but with Rivers out to prove a little something, I have a feeling he has a nice day for the Chargers despite the Colts success at stopping the pass this season. I’m not sure if LT will be 100%, but then again, has he been at the top of his game yet this season? This is a tough one – there probable isn’t anyone in the league playing better than the Colts have over the past 8-9 weeks – but the Chargers have done a little turn around of their own. The Chargers always seem to play their best football against the best teams, and that has me thinking that they are built for the playoffs. They needed one hell of a run to get in, but now they are in, and that can’t be exciting for the rest of the AFC. The Chargers may have won just 8 games, and they had to take all of their final four to get to 8 – but they’ve played plenty of close games, and very well could be 11-5, or 12-4 just like the Colts. The talent is there. The last part of this that really pushes me towards San Diego – it’s hard to beat a good team twice, and it’s even harder to go on the road and beat a good team twice. If the Colts want to make it to the 2nd Round, they have to beat the Chargers in San Diego for the 2nd time this season. I’m betting that doesn’t happen.

Baltimore Ravens (-3) @ Miami Dolphins: Can Baltimore really come in and beat the Dolphins for the second time this season? In Miami? I think so, but only because the Ravens are such a terrible match-up for the run-happy Dolphins. I know Miami has been throwing more, and successfully with Chad, but the Ravens defense doesn’t give up anything for free – and I think it stays that way. In the last 10 games, the Ravens have only lost to the Steelers and Giants. 8 wins, 2 losses, and the 2 losses were to a couple of the best teams in the league. Miami is solid, but the toughest win they’ve had in the last 10 weeks was last week against a flailing Jets club that had lost any identity they had. Both teams are solid – the Ravens are tougher – they may be a tough call as a road favorite here, but their toughness should overcome, and Joe Flacco is playing as good as he’s played all year.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings (+3.5): This one is really more of a toss up to me, but I still like the Vikings side more. I know the Eagles have played pretty well in 4 of their last 5 games, but I think they’ve been inconsistent enough to be a tough bet as a 3 point favorite on the road against a physical running team. The Eagles have no run-game anyway and the Vikings have been better against the past since their tough start to the season. The Eagles play much better at home than on the road, and so do the Vikings for that matter- but this game is in Minnesota. Everyone is loving Philadelphia here, but I’m not sure I can buy it. Look at the teams Philly has lost to lately, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati (tie), and the Giants (Those are the Eagles last 4 losses) – all of these teams have something in common; no matter what they are going to run the ball. Not all of them were super successful running against the Eagles, but all of them ran the ball a lot. Philly has a tendency to break down a bit in games that are physical like that. After coming off that huge party-win against the Cowboys to get in, it will be interesting to see how they come out. Either way, I think +3.5 at home for the Vikes is a solid bet.