Thursday, December 31, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 17 Picks

How fitting that my last post of the decade is the one with my picks for the final week of this 2009 NFL season? Also introducing picks with spreads here:

Note: Picks subject to change this week based on changing lines and information about resting starters info from teams as we get closer to game-time.

Colts (+9) at Bills
The Colts are going to start their regulars just to keep their starting streak records in tact and reign them in as soon as they can. Also, they would rather lose this game than be in a situation where they go 1-15 and have a Championship run and have that infamous Jets game as their only loss tarnishing their otherwise perfect season.
Without Spread: Bills
With Spread: Bills (-9)

Jaguars (+1.5) at Browns
The Jaguars will want this game bad to have a strong finish to save their coach's job. The Browns will also want to win this to potentially save Mangini's job.
Without Spread: Jaguars
With Spread: Jaguars (1.5)

Eagles (+3) at Cowboys
This shapes up to be one of those hard fought NFC East rivalry games, only, the stakes are way higher. They may be playing not only for the NFC East Division title, but possibly for the No.2 seed and a first round bye.
Without Spread: Cowboys
With Spread: Eagles (+3)

Bears (-3) at Lions
The Bears will come with a lot of energy into this game following their OT win over Vikings on Monday. If Cutler can avoid throwing to the opponent Jerseys, the Bears can take advantage of the weak Lions' secondary and break this open. With Culpeper the starter for the Lions, the Bears should not have too much of a problem in stopping the Lions offense.
Without Spread: Bears
With Spread: Bears (-3)

Patriots (+8) at Texans
This is an obvious trap game. The Patriots have the No.3 seed at stake here. If they lose and the Bengals win, they will be stuck with the No.4 seed. the Texans may have a potent passing offense, good enough to exploit the Patriots secondary,. But Belichik will play through and hard with his starters, trying to enter the playoffs with a winning streak.
Without Spread: Patriots
With Spread: Patriots (+8)

Steelers (-3) at Dolphins
The Steelers and the Dolphins need to win this game to have any chance of making the playoffs. Plus they will need some extra help, with the Steelers needing lesser help than the fins. Palamalu might start this game for the Steelers, right away making their secondary a strength than the liability it has been the last few weeks.
Without Spread: Steelers
With Spread: Steelers (-3)

Giants (+9) at Vikings
The Giants have been eliminated from playoff contention. But they will want to get some redemption after last weeks no-show. They will play hard, while the Vikes will try passing the heck out of the ball to figure out their offensive identity.
Without Spread: Vikings
With Spread: Giants (+9)

Bengals (+10) at Jets
The NFL scheduled this game to be televised nationally (Sunday Night Football), expecting this to be a hardly fought game for the Jets to fight for their playoff chances (They win, they are in). But, if the Patriots win their game earlier in the game, the Bengals will have nothing to play for, and this game will be nothing more than a sequel to the Jets - Colts game from week 16 - a total charade.
Without Spread: Jets
With Spread: Bengals (+10)

49ers (-7) at Rams
The 49ers will be playing hard to build some momentum they can carry over to next season. the Rams will be in a mood to throw away this game to clinch the No.1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
Without Spread: 49ers
With Spread: 49ers (-7)

Falcons (-2.5) at Bucs
The Falcons have never had consecutive winning seasons ever in the history of their existence. They will face a tough TB team that has won 2 in a row and a coach, Raheem Morris, coaching for his job.
Without Spread: Falcons
With Spread: Bucs (+2.5)

Packers (+3) at Cardinals
This might be a game where both teams may end up not playing their starters beyond the 2nd quarter. First, both teams are not going to gain much with a win here (unless the Cardinals are up for the 2nd seed with Vikes loss and Eagles loss). And if these 2 are going to have a rematch in the playoffs the very next week, they both will not want to show their hands and keep the game plan very vanilla.
Without Spread: Packers (toss up)
With Spread: Packers (+3)

Chiefs (+13) at Broncos
The Broncos are also one of those teams that apart from winning, need some other help too, to make the playoffs. They sure will win, but the Chiefs will play hard and keep it closer than the spread indicates.
Without Spread: Broncos
With Spread: Chiefs (+13)

Ravens (-11) at Raiders
The Ravens, win, they make the cut. And they should be able to make it, given that they play the Raiders. But the guys in Silver and Black have wins over the Steelers and Bengals (other AFC opponents). So expect this to be close.
Without Spread: Ravens
With Spread: Raiders (+11)

Redskins (+4) at Chargers
The Redskins had two bad losses the past two weeks against the Cowboys and Eagles. Don't expect them to inflict much damage even if its going to be against the Chargers second tier team.
Without Spread: Chargers
With Spread: Chargers (+4)

Titans (-4) at Seahawks
People might think both these teams do not have much to play for. While, that might be true for the Seahawks, the Titans will try to let Chris Johnson run amok to try break all possible single season yardage records.
Without Spread: Titans
With Spread: Titans (-4)

Panthers (NL) at Saints
The Saints will play hard in the first couple quarters and try to open up a lead. Even if they don't, they will rest enough starters in the second half.
Without Spread: Saints

Record (without spread)
Last Week: 9-7
Year to date: 166-73

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The National Debt Road Trip

Courtesy of the Daily Bail.

This is a visual / graphical depiction of the way the National Debt has been growing over the years under different Presidents and administrations. Very intriguing!!

Playoff Bound......

It's official!!

The Packers are in the playoffs!

Based on the outcome of their game week 17 (and a couple other games if they lose), it will be decided if they will hold the No.5 or No.6 seed in the NFC. The Packers were able to clinch their playoff spot, after they annihilated the Seahawks at home and thanks to the Panthers for destroying the Giants. In retrospect, if the Packers had managed to hold on to a win against the Steelers (where Big Ben made a clutch last second throw for a TD), added to the Viking's loss to the Bears on MNF, the Packers could have been in contention for the Division and the #2 seed in week 17. The caveat being, they would have needed a lot of help from other teams, including another Vikings loss. Anyways, all of those scenarios are moot at the moment.

In all likelihood, the Packers will end up playing the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. Which would also be a re-match of their week 16 match up. There are a few other possibilities for the Packers too. Here are all the possible scenarios:

1. Vikings bt. Giants, Eagles bt. Cowboys and GB win (or loss): GB plays at ARI in the first round (most likely outcome)
2. Vikings bt. Giants, Cowboys bt. Eagles and GB win (or loss): GB plays at ARI in the first round
3. Giants bt. Vikings, Cowboys bt. Eagles and GB win: GB plays at ARI in the first round
4. Giants bt. Vikings, Cowboys bt. Eagles and GB loss: GB plays at DAL in the first round
5. Giants bt. Vikings, Eagles bt. Cowboys and GB win: GB plays at ARI in the first round
6. Giants bt. Vikings, Eagles bt. Cowboys and GB loss: GB plays at MIN in the first round (most intriguing)


Now that the Packers have their playoff spot clinched, how much do they have to play for week 17? In reality, not a whole lot!! Even though a win would guarantee the No.5 seed for the Packers, there may not be a much of a reward to try earn it. The Packers know that the Cardinals are anyways going to be their most likely opponent either way. The only difference to them between a 5 seed and 6 seed is that the 5 seed will give the Packers a chance to host the NFC Championship game if both the 5 seed and 6 seed make it that far, which rarely happens, if it all it happens.

As a part of their preparation for the playoff push, the Packers have been trying to fix and shore up various parts of their plays. Over the last few weeks, they have been able to protect Aaron Rodgers and suddenly their O line is no more their main liability as it was in the beginning of the season. Also, they are run-blocking really well at the moment, encouraging more run play calls, in the process, giving the offense a good balance. The defense has been steady for the most part of the second half of the season, but some questions popped up after the Steelers game where Big Ben threw for over 500 yards. So they needed to prove to themselves, more than anything, against Seattle that the Steelers game was an aberration. Another area needed fixing was their special team, especially the kicking game.

Play to "win"...... or wait, is it "rest"??

The Colts have been taking a lot of heat for resting their starters against the Jets last week. While it might have been a sensible decision with regard to the health of the team overall, it was a badly conceived decision by the organization in this case just because, the Colts were in pursuit of perfection. If they had lost the first game of the season and had been 13-1 instead of 14-0, even with a 13-0 run at stake, the Colts would not be facing so much of backlash.

In the case of the Packers, they would like to use the first couple quarters of their week 17 game against the Cardinals to tighten up a few loose ends. Against the Seahawks last week, the Packers, even if not by design, managed to let Mason Crosby attempt a 52 yard FG. The successful kick must have been a big confidence booster for the youngster after all his struggles through past weeks. Also, after distancing themselves late in the 3rd quarter, they managed to get their reserve players in to give them some playing time. Look for the Packers to do the same against the Cardinals. This is especially important since the Packers 2nd and 3rd tier players are all young and with very little experience if at all any. Bottom line, the Packers' aim would be to not show too much to the Cardinals (who they will probably play again the next week), and come out of the game healthy so that they can begin an effective playoff push.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 16 Picks


That defines the ending to the Packers- Steelers game last Sunday. The Steelers, although having only an outside shot at making the playoffs, played with a lot of pride. They managed to make some big-plays on offense, building up a 10 point lead (24-14) in the 3rd quarter.

Taking nothing away from the Steelers offense, that clearly had the number of hte Packers defense for most of the game , another reason for their pulling away from the Packers were the numerous drops by Packers receivers, tight ends and running backs, which stalled drives for the Packers offense. But that changed in the second half, when they started making those catches and Rodgers ended the game with a streak of 10+ consecutive completed passes. The Packers offense in the second half was really efficient, just as McCarthy envisioned it to be. The decision by Tomlin to on-side kick when they had the lead is a testament to how the Packers were methodically moving the ball in the second half. This could be another moment in Aaron Rodgers short career that proves to him and his team that he belongs to the big stage and deserves the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Although, the Packers lost this game, it was a remarkable comeback to get into a position to make the Steelers drive about 80 yards in 2 minutes to win the game.

All that lead to the Packers build a 36-30 lead with about 2 minutes left in the half. The Steelers needed a last TD scoring drive to win the game. Also, it was 4 down territory for the Steelers. This is when the clutch decision making of Big Ben hurt the Packers along with the inexperience of the rookie Underwood, who has been getting a lot of playing time since the injury of Al Harris. A penalty on Chillar that negated an INT by Underwood did not help the Packer's cause either. While, one might question the conservative play-calling by Dom Capers in this last Pitt drive, I do not think that was a problem as the Packers were a couple of missed INTs (balls that hit the hands of Packers defenders, but which they could not hold on to) away from sealing that game. Also that last TD throw to Wallace from Ben could not have been more accurate than was executed. Would a little more pressure on Big Ben have helped? Yes, of course, but I do not think we can fault Capers for trusting his team's coverage skills. I do believe that he should trust his LB group more than he does in such critical situations.

Not to mention how much a missed FG by Mason Crosby in the first half, if converted, could have affected the outcome of this game!

Playoff scenario

A quick check on the Packers (9-5) playoff chances after last week's gut wrenching loss to the Steelers:

Week 16: Seahawks
Week 17: at Cardinals

The other teams in the playoff push will be the Giants(8-6), the Cowboys (9-5) and although hard to believe, the Eagles (10-4). Although the Eagles have a one game lead over the Cowboys and the Packers, they still have to play Dallas in Week 17. If Dallas wins that, assuming they beat Washington this week, they might have the tie-break for the NFC East division over the Eagles. So the Eagles enter the wild card fight, in that scenario.

All this makes it imperative that the Packers win both their remaining games to have control of their own destiny. Obviously, if they lose both they are most probably out of the race. Even if they win only one, they will need help with a Dallas or Giants loss. The Packers have a tie-break advantage over Dallas, but they may not enjoy that advantage over the Eagles or the Giants (a tie-breaker with them will come down to Conference record or common games and then to strength of schedule).

From my short analysis of the situation, if the Packers do not win both their games, their season will boil down to 2 games in Week 17: Eagles at Dallas and Giants at Vikings. If either of Dallas or the Giants lose here, the Packers will make it to the playoffs with 10 wins. The caveat here is that Vikings may not play hard, resting their starters for most of the game, giving the Giants a good chance of winning. And Dallas, is hot after beating the Saints, and should handily beat the Redskins this week. Plus the Eagles game is in Jan (not Dec ....darn it!!).

Here's to hoping the Packers can win both their games and control their own destiny to crash the playoff party!

Week 16 Picks:

Chargers (+3) at Titans
Hard to believe the Chargers are 3 point underdogs. Maybe because Vegas thinks the Chargers have pretty much sealed the No.2 seed in the AFC and will not play hard. I still like the Chargers to fight hard and beat the Titans.
My Pick: Chargers

Seahawks (+14) at Packers
Packers need to take care of business here, if they want to be on track for a playoff spot. Also, they would like to give Mason Cosby a few FG chances to boost his confidence which has take na big hit the last few weeks.
My Pick: Packers

Raiders (+3) at Browns
The Raiders after upsetting Denver, are going to start Charlie Frye again. The Browns have Brady Quinn on IR and will start Derek Anderson. If the Raiders can hold off the Browns from running all over them, which the Raiders D is very much capable of doing, they should be pull this one off on the road.
My Pick: Raiders

Chiefs (+13) at Bengals
The Bengals should be able to take care of this at home. But I think KC will cover the spread on this one.
My Pick: Bengals

Bills (+9) at Atlanta
Atlanta has already been eliminated from the playoff race. But they should have enough motivation in them to beat the struggling Bills, even if Turner does not play.
My Pick: Atlanta

Texans (+3) at Miami
The Texans are supposed to have a very good offense, but they struggled to score against the Rams last week, managing to squeak out an ugly win. The Fins are going to have a better defense and the Texans might be hard-pressed to score against them too. Not to mention the fast growth of Chad Henne for the Dolphin
My Pick: Miami

Panthers (+7) at Giants
The Giants are riding a hot wave now. The Panthers offense will not have enough fire power to exploit the Giants secondary. They will just run DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart a ton at the Giants D line. Will be interesting to see how the Giants handle the Panthers defense that tormented Brett Favre last week.
My Pick: Giants

Bucs (+14) at Saints
The Saints are no longer undefeated. But they should be able to handle TB this week.
My Pick: Saints

Jaguars (+8) at Patriots
Home game for the Patriots! Expect them to all but eliminate the Jags from the playoffs.
My Pick: Patriots

Ravens (+3) at Steelers
The Steelers still have a lot of pride left in them, as they showed against the Packers. But can they keep that same level of emotion this week against the Ravens? Expect Micheal Oher to protect the "blind side" of Flacco, while the second-year QB rips apart the Steelers secondary (could not resist not using the Hollywood reference here).
My Pick: Ravens (will definitely cover the 3 points)

Broncos (+7) at Eagles
The Broncos will be playing for their playoff lives this week. Too bad for them the Eagles are red-hot at the moment. Add to that Brian Westbrook is expected to return this week.
My Pick: Eagles

Rams (+14) at Cardinals
The Cardinals are not going to rest their starters this week. But I would expect the Rams to cover the spread.
My Pick: Cardinals

Lions (+12.5) at 49ers
Little known fact: The niners, although out of the playoffs, have never been favored by double digit margin since 2003!! The Lions showed a lot of heart against the Cardinals last week. But with Drew Stanton starting for them, I do not expect them to show up.
My Pick: 49ers

Jets (+5.5) at Colts
The Colts may not play their starters the whole game. Not because they want to rest them, but because the game might be out of Jet's reach real soon.
My Pick: Colts

Cowboys (-6.5) at Redskins
The Redskins may not be able to get over last week's humiliating showing against the Giants. While the Cowboys are soaring after upsetting the Saints last week.
My Pick: Cowboys

Vikings (-7) at Bears
There has been a lot of coverage (in fact, too much coverage) about the rift between Childress and Favre. As much as people want to make a big deal out of it, they are going to kiss and make up and things will be normal between them before you even realize. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if Favre can get back to playing like he did earlier in the season, or will the rest of this year be like the last few weeks for the vikings. This week though, they have the 12th man to help them: Jay Cutler, who is still getting used to spotting the color of his team's Jersey since he was traded to Chicago.
My Pick: Vikings

Last Week: 9-6
Year to date: 157-66

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 15 Picks

Scrappy Packers

The game against the Bears last Sunday was arguably their biggest trap game thus far. They were entering the game with a 4 game win streak. They had to play at Soldier Field, always been a tough place to get a win for the Packers the last few years. Add to it that the cold weather with sub zero wind chills makes it harder for the precision passing attack of the Packers, making them more dependent on their inconsistent running game. Their D line was decimated with injuries entering the game. Although Jolly, Raji and Jenkins played, they were all playing with injuries and Ryan Pickett was not even active for the game. It had all the makings of a perfect storm and a big time let down. But, the Packers were blessed to play a Bears team that simply refused to win, while the Packers simply refused to lose.

On a day when Aaron Rodgers passes for less than 200 yards, you hope that your defense holds off the scoring from the other side. The Packers defense did just that and some more. They shut down Matt Forte. While one might think that the Bears running game is not that formidable a task, in reality, it was Sunday with the banged up D line of the Packers. To counter that, Dom Capers designed and called a few new wrinkles on defense. He introduced "the psycho" which features just one D lineman and 5 linebackers in a nickel formation. Also, the secondary held their own against Jay Cutler and if they held on to a couple more balls, would have ended up with more than the 2 picks they had for the day.

The Packer offense was on the back of Ryan Grant, who had a 150+ yard day. His first touch on the first Packer snap of the day, he broke out a 62 yard TD run. That play was an indication of how much this O line group of the Packers have improved over the last month or so. They also kept Rodgers off the ground for the most part. The special teams too did not blow on any of the kick / punt coverage, which is a good sign. But, again, Mason Crosby missed one from 42 yards. The coaching staff, after the game, still expressed their confidence that Mason will snap out of this slump of missed kicks he has been having. But what else do we expect them to say? It is too late in the season to try replace your spot kicker.

With this win, the Packers have the inside track for a spot in the playoffs. Probably one win in their next 3 games should be enough the seal the deal, considering the tough schedule for the Cowboys and the Giants. But in the next 3 weeks, the Packers do have other issues to take care of in preparation for the postseason. They need to get both their offensive and defensive lines healthy. They cannot afford to rest players especially on offense, as that would mess with their chemistry to play together. They could possibly, reduce the snaps for the banged up players the next 2 weeks. Another pressing thing for the Packers is their special teams play. Although they did not have a tough time against the Bears, they should continue that effort through the remainder of the season and take it to the playoffs. They cannot afford any setbacks due to special teams going against playoff-level teams. It may so end up for the Packers that after their Week 17 game against the Cardinals, they might have to go back to Arizona for their first playoffs game the very next week. Rarely does it happen in the NFL, that a team plays back-to-back away games against the same opponent. The Packers might have to do it. If the Cardinals do have something to play for in Week 17, it will be a good test for the Packers to get an idea about where they stand against a playoff team.

Week 15 Picks

Colts (-3) at Jaguars
The Colts are probably going to play full strength and not ease up on their push like in years past. Still they have to contain MJD and the Jaguars running game to pull this one off. Also, if they jump off to quick lead and take off their starters, it wouldn't surprise me if the Jags make a comeback against the Colts 2nd or 3rd tier teams.
My Pick: Colts

UPDATE: 12/18/2009 12:20 PM

Cowboys (+7) at Saints
The "December funk" is getting to the heads of the Cowboys. Reality is how many teams can get through a schedule of facing the Eagles, Chargers and then the Saints without a funk.
My Pick: Saints

Packers (+2) at Steelers
The Packers can clinch a playoff spot with a win here and a little help - a Cowboys loss to the Saints (likely) or a Giants loss or tie to the Redskins (not likely but definitely possible). But the Packers have a tough task at hand try to get a win at Heinz Field against an angry bunch of Steelers. The Steelers might come at their opponents hard, but it still doesn't help fixing their decimated secondary. The cold weather will help in curtailing the passing game of the Packers, but 30 degrees in Pitt is like Spring in Wisconsin. Another aspect of this game that will be intriguing is the similarity in the defenses of the Packers and the Steelers. Capers was the one who instilled the now vaunted 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh in 1992-94. Its also a home-coming feel for McCarthy and some of the other coaching staff of the Packers. Although the Steelers cannot be discounted on their home turf, I still think the Packers will extend their win record over 3-4 defenses this year to 5-0.
My Pick: Packers

Dolphins (+3) at Titans
The Dolphins of late have been moving away from their Wild-Cat offense. Partly because they lost Ronnie Brown for the season and also because they like what they see in Chad Henne as a pocket passer. With Vince Young hobbled by his injury, I think the Dolphins will be able to contain Chris Johnson (by contain I mean less than 150 yards, cos that is how good he is), and pull this road win off, to stay in the race for an AFC wild card spot.
My Pick: Dolphins

Patriots (-7) at Bills
With all the fuss about Randy Moss' "giving up" on plays last week, little focus has been on the Moss Vs TO story this week. Who would have thought this story-line will be so irrelevant at the begining of this season? The bigger story definitely is that the Patriots are still to win in any of their opponent's home field this year.
My Pick: Patriots

Cardinals (-12) at Lions
Angry Kurt Warner against the Lions secondary? Good Luck Lions! I would include this game with any parley I make this week.
My Pick: Cardinals

49ers (+8.5) at Eagles
The Eagles are facing a rather confident 49ers team than what the 49ers record would indicate. But can the 49ers duplicate their effort against the Cardinals on the road?
My Pick: Eagles

Falcons (+5) at Jets
The Jets are now the No.1 defense in the country. Revis will blanket White all day long. And the Falcons won't have it easy whoever plays at QB. The Jets too will not care who starts as their QB, their offense will be on the shoulders of Thomas Jones.
My Pick: Jets

Bears (+11) at Ravens
Snow Storm in Baltimore this weekend. That's the last thing Cutler needs right now, especially with Ed Reed playing Sunday.
My Pick: Ravens

Browns (+2) at Chiefs
The Browns go into this game with lots of momentum after pulling an upset over the Steelers last week and will come out of KC with a win.
My Pick: Browns

Texans (-10.5) at Rams
The Texans should take care of business and pad up their wins, as they usually do after being all but eliminated from the playoffs.
My Pick: Texans

Bengals (+6.5) at Chargers
The Chargers are clear favorites here. But with the sad death of Chris Henry this week, emotions will run high and Bengals might try to dig in deep and pull this one out for their team mate. They already did that once upsetting the Ravens in their first meeting this season after the sudden death of Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer's wife.
My Pick: Chargers

Raiders (+14) at Broncos
Clearly, this is the lowest point in Jamarcus Russel's young career. He was benched to let the 2nd tier team play and now with the injury to Gradkowski, they skip him and let 3rd string Charlie Frye start for the Raiders. Talk about showing confidence on your No.1 pick!
My Pick: Broncos

Bucs (+6.5) at Seahawks
The Seahawks have been inconsistent this season. But if you watched closely, they have a pattern, lose to good teams in a blowout..... or thrash bad teams at home. This game falls on the latter category
My Pick: Seahawks

Vikings (-9) at Panthers
Percy Harvin may not play again. Delhomee ain't playing either. Plus the Vikings are on the road away from their cozy dome and astro turf. So this might end up being a game with heavy doses of runs from both teams.
My Pick: Vikings

Giants (-3) at Redskins
Every game now is a must-win for the Giants. Although this week they only face the Redskins, it is still going to be a tough one for them as all NFC East match-ups are.
My Pick: Giants

Last Week: 13-3
This week: 1-0
Year to date: 149-60

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 14 Picks

MNF Review

Are the Packers (8-4) playoff bound for real? If their Monday Night game against the Ravens was any indication, it does seem likely. However, the ugliness of the win is a reminder that the way they played Monday does not bode well for a deep run into the post-season. At this point of the playoff race, the Packers will gladly take a win though, in whatever form it may come. The Packers did jump to an early 17-0 lead by halftime. But, then the problem of letting opponents back into the game came to bite them again. It cost them the game against the Bucs. The 49ers almost did it too. And the Ravens pulled in within 3 points (17-14). Only this time, it was the Packers offense that turned over the football to aid the Ravens in gaining momentum. The multitudes of Pass Interference calls also didn't help the Packer cause, but they were on both sided and so I think they kind of evened themselves out.

Overall it was a solid performance by the Pack. The most impressive facet of the Packers' game was their Offensive Line ..... it ain't so offensive any more. The run game wasn't so effective, but I would like to think it had something to do with Ngata and the Ravens D line. The pass protection could not have been better, allowing just one sack of Rodgers. Chad Clifton still isn't his self yet, and was responsible for the protection break-down of that one sack and a couple of holding calls. If he cleans that up, the O line for the Packs looks good and dare I say, playoff ready. Rodgers was his efficient self, making plays not only with his arm but also his feet. The more I watch him play, the more I am convinced that the Packers made the right choice in letting No.4 go. Another bright spot for the Packers offense was their second-year TE Jermicheal Finley or as "Mr Monday Night" as some call him, because his 2 best games have been in front of the MNF cameras. If he can be more consistent, he could turn into a potent weapon for Rodgers. Driver and other WRs had some drops, but I am not worried about them, they should shake this off and be ready for the rest of the games.

The defense had a real good game. They regained the position of No.1 defense in the league (in terms of Yards allowed) from the Jets, who had temporarily taken it after their Thursday Night performance against the Bills. Capers called a controlled defensive game, with not a whole lot of blitzes. The D linemen were able to control the line of scrimmage for most parts of the game. Charles Woodson was his spectacular self making tackles all over the place. But to me, the most impressive aspect about this Packers defense is that they are doing with 3 rookie starters - Clay Mathews III, BJ Raji and Brad Jones (and a rookie CB - Underwood who comes on to the field more often after Al Harris was injured). Mathew's performance stood out the most not only on the field, but also on the stat lines. He had 2 sacks and a forced fumble along with a couple of tackles for losses and a bunch of QB rushes / hurries. His performance on MNF even eared him the NFC Defensive Player of the week Award (the big boys' award and not the rookie award). After a slow start to the season, BJ Raji got healthier and is getting better every week. He may not have flashy stat card at the end of the day, but he gets so much pressure off the line that he commands double teams on him, which opens up chances for guys like Mathews to do the damage. Brad Jones, a sixth round pick out of Colorado had to start in place of Aaron Kampman after he was out for the season. Jones, may not have the pass rushing ability of Kampman, but he still is more than serviceable as a pass rusher with his speed and size. His biggest edge is in his athleticism, which allows him to be an upgrade over Kampman in terms of pass coverage. He is more than capable of covering a TE or a RB.

The Packers secondary though had a bunch of penalties called on them, totaling 130+ yards. Tramon Williams had more than 100 of those yards. Obviously the calls went to both sides and by no means were the referees unfair to either team. But I thought the refs were calling even close calls, which they could let go of. After all football is a physical game. Tramon Williams did have his moment of redemption when he picked off Flacco in the end zone a couple of plays after he was called for pass interference and the Ravens' ball was spotted at the Packer 1 yard line. I do like the way Tramon competes, being physical with receivers, but he should avoid showing the arm bar (holding/impeding the receivers hands when in coverage). He should learn to be a little more savvy and be physical without being perceived to be committing a penalty. Maybe Woodson can give him a tip or two on that. If Tramon does not fix that, not only will he picked by opponents more often, but refs will start specifically looking for it when he is in close coverage.

The one thing the Packers need to fix real bad and fast is special teams. Mason Crosby missed a 38 yarder. And the punt coverage allowed a potential momentum shifting 68 yard punt return after a Packer TD in the 2nd half. This is one aspect that could come to hurt the Packers in a close game in the near future.

In terms of playoffs hopes, the Packers did themselves some real good with this current 4 game win streak. Their next 4 opponents are: at the Bears, at Steelers, Seahawks and at the Cardinals. Of these they should take care of business against he Seahawks at home and the Cardinals will probably not be playing for much Week 17, resting most off their main players and could be an easy W. The Bears game is a very winnable one, but the Packers haven't done their best against the Bears at Soldier field of late. The Steelers aren't so hot either, but they will be playing for their lives in 2 weeks and being at their home, it's going to be a long shot to get that win. Two wins off these four games will make it very likely for the Packs to clinch a playoff spot. It also helps that the other playoff hopefuls, the Cowboys (8-4), Eagles(8-4) and the Giants (7-5) all play each other and should help the Packers' cause. Ideally, Packer fans will want the Eagles to win out their division, leaving the Cowboys and Giants to compete with the Packs for 2 spots. The Packers have a head-to-head tie break advantage over the Cowboys and a better conference record against the Giants, to salvage one of the wild card spots.

Another potential road block for the Packers is that 3 of the next 4 games (at Bears, at Steelers and Seattle at GB) are going to be cold weather games. How will this young team fare in such conditions is to be seen.

But there is still a quarter of the season left to play before we can talk about playoffs..... ask Jim Mora:

Week 14 Picks:

Steelers (-10) at Browns
Steelers coach Tomlin told after the Ravens loss that he would unleash hell. Turned out they were in the receiving end of that gut-wrenching loss to the Raiders last week. They cannot let that happen to them against the Browns. Doesn't help that the Browns are playing better the last couple of weeks, with Brady Quin really showing he belongs in the pro league.
My Pick: Steelers (Browns will cover)

Broncos (+7) at Colts
The Broncos will try to hand the Colts their first loss of the year. Sadly, they may not accomplish that.
My Pick: Colts

Bengals (+7) at Vikings
The Bengals have an impressive 9-3 record mainly due to their stout defense. They need to be able to score a little more easily to challenge teams like the Vikings that can score at relative ease.
My Pick: Vikings

Jets (-3) at Bucs
Mark Sanchez is not playing this week, meaning Kellen Clemens will be in charge. But the Jet's game plan should be to run more than pass, so he should be alright in the game-manager roll.
My Pick: Jets

Bills (-1) at Chiefs
This is probably going to be the most boring game of the week.
My Pick: Bills

Packers (-3) at Bears
Packers of late struggle at Soldier Field. The line of just (-3) says it all about how close the game will be. I still think the Rodgers and the Packers will take advantage of the injuries on hte Bears secondary to salvage a win.
My Pick: Packers

Saints (-10) at Falcons
Saints will hope last week's redskins game was the only let down they will have in their quest for perfection.
My Pick: Saints

Lions (+13) at Ravens
Stafford is not going to play. Does anybody see Culpeper leading the Lions past the Ravens?
My Pick: Ravens (Lions will cover)

Dolphins (+3) at Jaguars
the Dolphins manage to beat the Patriots at home. But without Ronnie Brown, their wild cat is not very effective. Moreover, the Jaguars will think this game is a must-win for their playoff hopes to be alive as they then play the Colts and the Patriots in following weeks. Plus MJD is due a big game.
My Pick: Jaguars

Panthers (+13.5) at Patriots
Panthers are going to stick with Moore at QB. This helps them as they are forced to run a lot, which is what they should be doing in the first place. Unfortunately for them, they are going against a pissed off Bill Belichik's team, who have lost 2 in a row for the first time since 2006 and have not lost 3 in a row since 2002.
My Pick: Patriots

Seahawks (+6) at Texans
the Seahawks are competetive at home. Not so much on the road.
My Pick: Texans

Rams (+13) at Titans
The Titans' loss to the Colts pretty much shut out all their playoff hopes. But they will still play for pride.
My Pick: Titans

Redskins (-1) at Raiders
The Redskins will be kicking themselves for letting the Saints off the hook last week. They will be all the more focused against the Raiders. I do not think Bruce Gradowski has any more magic left in him.
My Pick: Redskins

Chargers (+3) at Cowboys
The Chargers never lose in December. Ask Philip Rivers who is career 12-0 in December games. And they play the December!
My Pick: Chargers

Eagles (+1) at Giants
This NFC East showdown could go either way. The Giants proved that they are still more than breathing in the playoffs race with their win over Dallas last week. The Eagles will want to win this to consolidate their playoffs chances. It could go either way.
My Pick: Eagles

Cardinals (-3.5) at 49ers
The Cardinals will want to avenge their Week 1 loss to the niners at home. And with their offense clicking like it is, all odds are on that happening.
My Pick: Cardinals

Last Week: 10-6
Year to date: 135-57

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Shopping!!

Started your Holiday Shopping??

You will find good deals here:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 13 Picks

Being hard-pressed for time this week, going straight to this week's Picks:

Jets (-3) at Bills
The kid from Harvard, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a great game and seems to be feeding TO his due to shut him up. But this week TO goes against Derrell Revis. If the Bills cannot stop the Jets run and as long as Sanchez of the Jets plays relatively mistake-free, Jets should take care of business.
My Pick: Jets

Rams (+9.5) at Bears
The Rams do not have Mark Bulger this week. With Boller at QB, Stephen Jackson has to carry this team on his shoulders. Not going to happen against the Bears run defense. And Cutler is due one INT-free game.
My Pick: Bears

Lions (+13) at Bengals
The Bengals have swept their division 6-0 and are going to the playoffs as long as they take care of business like this week against the Lions. No more Raiders-like slip ups for them.
My Pick: Bengals

Titans (+6.5) at Colts
The Colts might be 11-0, but there is no team coming into Week 13 hotter than the Vince Young led Titans. Both of them are on an incredible streak: The Colts are potentially looking at a possible undefeated season, while the Titans have not lost a game since starting the season 0-6. Something's got to give and I think the Titans will finally hold the Colts from coming back from that 4th quarter deficit. (The Colts have had a 4th Quarter deficit in their last 5 games)
My Pick: Titans

Broncos (-4.5) at Chiefs
The Broncos managed to get off their losing skid on Thanksgiving day and now face the Chiefs to get them on a win streak, even if its only 2 games.
My Pick: Broncos

Patriots (-5) at Dolphins
The Patriots were handed a beat down by the Saints and we know how they are going to respond. And its against their division rivals, if they needed more motivation.
My Pick: Patriots

Saints (-9.5) at Redskins
If at all there was any question about the 11-0 record of the Saints being legit, their whacking of the Pats just proved it. They have to be careful not to have a let down game this next couple of weeks, which happens a lot after such an emphatic win.
My Pick: Saints

Bucs (+6.5) at Panthers
The Panthers just don't learn from their mistakes. They are built to run and they still end up letting Jake Delhomme throw a whole bunch every game and he responds throwing a bunch of picks everytime. The Bucs have good corners and the Panthers need to run more than they throw to win this.
My Pick: Panthers

Texans (+1) at Jaguars
Can the Texans recover from that devastating meltdown to the Colts last week?
My Pick: Jaguars

Chargers (-13) at Browns
The Bolts are having a win streak of their own going on and the Browns are not going to do much to affect that.
My Pick: Chargers

Cowboys (-1) at Giants
The Cowboys may have lost only one game in their last six, but nothing about them seems to instill confidence in them. And its December, time for their yearly slide? I think not this year.
My Pick: Cowboys

49ers (+1) at Seahawks
The 49ers need a win here to stay alive for a chance to make the playoffs. Keeping Alex Smith in more spread formations will help.
My Pick: 49ers

Eagles (-5.5) at Atlanta
The Eagles may not have Westbrook and DeShawn Jackson this week. Falcons may not play Micheal Turner either. In spite of the injuries, the Eagles are a tough one to pull an upset over.
My Pick: Eagles

Raiders (+14.5) at Steelers
Steelers will probably have Big Ben back. And the Steelers defense will want to bounce back after their loss to the Ravens that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
My Pick: Steelers

Vikings (-5.5) at Cardinals
The Cardinals will have Kurt Warner back. But that does not give them enough to pull out one from the hat against these Vikings.
My Pick: Vikings

Ravens (+3) at Packers
The Ravens have a lot of weapons on offense, but their defense, although filled with big names, seems to be aging. Playing at Lambeau I like the Packers' chances to pull off a win here. But the Packers have to do the following to make it happen: (1) Don't get beat on special teams (2) Stop Ray Rice and the Ravens other running backs, which the Packers are most capable of (3) Pick up Blitzes, as the Ravens Blitz on typically abt 50% of the time.
My Pick: Packers

Last Week: 12-4
Year to date: 125-51

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 12 Picks

The Packers had a nice win against the 49ers last Sunday. But it was one heck of a costly win. They lost two of their defensive stalwarts in Aaron Kampman and Al Harris for the season. The weird part of their injuries was that both of them had torn their ACLs (knee) and the injuries happened not through contact, which makes it all the more frustrating. Brings to question the physical conditioning staff of the Packers, but that is a whole different story.

But the Packers need not lose hope, just as yet. They need to make sure they come off with a win from Detroit on Thanksgiving after the short week. And then they have 5 weeks of tough games to play, of which only the Seahawks game is an expected win. They would like to win the games against the Bears, Seahawks and Cardinals, which will not only take them to 10-6 (provided they beat the Lions too), but will also be wins against their division / conference, which will help in wild card tie-break rules, if it comes down to that at the end of the regular season. The Ravens at home is a winnable game too (on Monday Night Football) with the Ravens not so hot after a blazing start to their season. The Steelers game at Heinz Field is going to be a tough one. So the route to the end of the season is no gimme by any means (like the schedule remaining for the Falcons), but it is not hard to contemplate going 4-2r 3-3 the rest of the way.

It also helps that the Packers are playing some inspired football the past couple of weeks (Dallas and SF). On offense, finally there is some semblance of a run game. Pair that with some short and quick passes on screens and on the flat, it is an effective way to counter any opposing pass rush. The O line by itself is healthier and are playing way better. They have to sustain their level and, if possible take it up a notch in coming weeks. On defense, Capers has been dialing up some pressure looks and blitzes. It definitely is a blow to lose Kampman and Harris, but there is a silver lining to this loss. Kampman has anyway not looked too comfortable in the new 3-4 scheme. His replacement, a rookie, Brad Jones, played the game against Dallas in place of Kampman (out due to concussion) and more than held his own. There was already talk about this kid in training camp and pre-season about how he was a quick learner and the coaches having high hopes on him. So it is probably not a bad thing for Brad Jones to play in place of Kampman. Only that it shortens the depth of the team and the Veteran presence in big games. Tramon Williams was anyway being groomed to be the replacement of Harris and he is ready to take over. But, as much as Harris had moments in games where he would be beat, we will probably see more of that from Tramon as he too likes to play attacking and go for INTs. He did a more than decent job last year in 4 games he started in Al's place when Al had that ruptured spleen.

Also, the special teams has shown some improvement. McCarthy, against the 49ers, wisely chose to punt than let Crosby try a 50 yarder. And, except for that 74 yard return by Josh Morgan, the coverage team played fairly well. Although these improvements don't push the Packer's special team's play to a elite level, these are signs of improvement that bodes well for weeks to come. Even Kapinos had a good day punting. And he can definitely play better from the way he punts in practice. Now he's got to do the same on game-day. I am ready to give the kid more time to show what he's got.

Quickly on to my picks for this week:

Packers (-10.5) at Lions
The Lions and Stafford had a great game last week. But no Stafford this week and Calvin Johnson is doubtful. Plus the Lions have lost 8 consecutive games against the Packers.
My Pick: Packers

Raiders (+13.5) at Cowboys
The Cowboys have had a tough time scoring the last 2 weeks. They could salvage just a TD at garbage time against the Packers and then a last minute TD against the Redskins last week. The Raiders pass defense is pretty good. Dallas should be able to run against them though. And I don't see the Raiders pulling out 2 upsets in a row.
My Pick: Cowboys (but Raiders will cover)

Giants (-7) at Broncos
The Giants just snapped out of their 4 game losing streak. And the Broncos are on their way to a 4 game losing street after this game. But the Broncos called for a players only meeting this week, and we all know that that could pump up the players to a play at a high level. If that happens, it could make this game interesting.
My Pick: Giants

Bucs (+11.5) at Falcons
Turner is gonna be back and Matt Ryan had a decent game after a streak of sub-par games.
My Pick: Falcons

Dolphins (-3) at Bills
Ricky Williams has taken over reins from the injured Ronny Brown. The Wild cat should be good enough enough to beat the Bills.
My Pick: Dolphins

Browns (+14) at Bengals
The loss to the Raiders must have been a timely wake-up call for the Bengals. Will be no such surprises this week.
My Pick: Bengals

Seahawks (-3) at Rams
The Rams have been playing hard the last two weeks, but with Marc Bulger out for the next 2-3 weeks, their offensive efficiency is bound to slump.
My Pick: Seahawks

Panthers (+3) at Jets
The Jets have been relegated to the bottom feeder group of NFL teams of late and rightly so. Mark Sanchez is ever so close to be benched. The Panthers never seem to learn, they have to run to win, which they stayed away from against the Dolphins and we all know what happened.
My Pick: Panthers

Redskins (+9) at Eagles
Will be a hard fought NFC East show down, except that the Redskins might just fold after hanging tight their last 2 games.
My Pick: Eagles

Colts (-3.5) at Texans
I am not willing to pick against Peyton Manning. But the Texans are no push-overs anymore, could be a trap game for the undefeated Colts.
My Pick: Colts

Chiefs (+13.5) at Chargers
The Chargers Defense seems to be improving every week.
My Pick: Chargers

Jaguars (+3) at 49ers
The niners are due for a win. The Jaguars are not happy travellers out west.
My Pick: 49ers

Cardinals (NL) at Titans
Kurt Warner suffered a concussion last week and although he is expected to play, if he is slightly off his game, the Cardinals offense will stutter. The surging titans will be more than happy to take advantage of that.
My Pick: Titans

Bears (+10.5) at Vikings
Favre for MVP??
My Pick: Vikings

Steelers (NL) at Ravens
Big Ben suffered a concussion too. He is expected to play, and if he does not, the Steelers' chances fall real fast.
My Pick: Steelers (on condition that Ben plays)

Patriots (+3) at Saints
If the Saints are going to lose a game this season, it would be to these pesky Patriots. Bill Belichik will have a plan to deal with the Saints explosive offense.
My Pick: Patriots

Last Week: 12-4
Year to date: 113-47

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 11 Picks

Dolphins (+3) at Panthers
With Ronnie Brown out for the season, the Dolphins will have a tough time running the wild cat through Ricky Williams. Maybe try out Pat White too. The Panthers meanwhile are surging, thanks to their two headed running attack of Williams and Stewart, and of course with Jake evading INTs.
My Pick: Panthers

Redskins (+11) at Cowboys
The Cowboys had their 4 game-win streak snapped at Lambeau. They possibly could start another win-streak with the Redskins and the Raiders coming up the next 2 weeks. But then comes December, which of late has been a tough time for the Cowboys to stack up wins.
My Pick: Cowboys

Browns (+3.5) at Lions
The QB situation of the Browns is ironically such a mess that you cannot call it a controversy. A controversy is when you are not sure which QB gives you the best chance to win. With the Browns, it is: who will be the less likely to cause a loss?
My Pick: Lions

Steelers (-10) at Chiefs
Palamalu is likely out this week. Still, the Steelers defense sans-Troy should be good enough to hold up the Chiefs offense.
My Pick: Steelers

Seahawks (+11) at Vikings
The Seahawks just added Julius Jones to their long injury list. While, unexpectedly, Favre seems to be showing no signs of slowing down as we go deeper into the season.
My Pick: Vikings

Falcons (+6.5) at Giants
Matt Ryan seems to be slumping a bit. The only other person who could have shared his load, Micheal "the burner" Turner is doubtful for this game with a high ankle sprain. The Giants must have used the bye to prepare for snapping this 4 game losing streak they are in. The word out is that they are practicing with a 6'6" rookie for red zone snaps to try re-create that Eli-Plax connection.
My Pick: Giants

Saints (-11.5) at Bucs
The Saints let the Rams get too close for comfort last week. If complacency had anything to do with it, which I think did, there will be none this week against the Bucs after last week's wake-up call.
My Pick: Saints

Bills (+9) at Jaguars
The Jaguars are one-dimensional on offense. But that is good enough against a team that just had its head coach fired. Add to it that they are going to start Fitzpatrick over Trent Edwards! What is the over/under in number of weeks before which TO's mouth causes the Bills to cut him? I say 3 weeks.
My Pick: Jaguars

Colts (-1) at Ravens
The Colts have had 3 weeks of football that they could have easily lost: but for the TD throw by Joseph Adai against the 49ers, the missed FG by the Texans at the waning seconds, and a failed 4th and 2 by the Patriots giving the Colts a short field to work with. In spite of the close games, its testament to Manning and the Colts' experience that they manage to pull it off. And that should continue against a slowing down Ravens team whose number the Colts have had of late.
My Pick: Colts

Cardinals (-9.5) at Rams
The Cardinals will be in trouble if they do not show that sense of urgency they sometimes lack, against these Rams, who gave the Saints a run for their money last week.
My Pick: Cardinals

Chargers (NL) at Broncos
It's official: The Broncos are slumping! And this week, with Orton likely out, they have a huge mountain to climb to try hold off the Chargers. This game could be the division-clincher for either team.
My Pick: Chargers

Bengals (-9.5) at Raiders
Benson is hurt? No problem, let's sign Larry Johnson. And the march continues.....
My Pick: Bengals

Jets (+10) at Patriots
I pity the Jets. All their thrash talking might come back to bite them this week. The Patriots are angry!! angry at the Jets for beating the m earlier this season. Angry at the world because they failed a 4th and 2 conversion to let the Colts win last week. Do not under-estimate Bill Belichik's ability to motivate his team with the "we against the world" routine.
My Pick: Patriots

Eagles (-3) at Bears
The Eagles have a potentially explosive offense that will be aided by the ailing Bears secondary. Also, this game is on prime-time (Sunday Night), where Cutler seems to try do too much throwing 11 of his 17 INTs in 3 prime-time games this year.
My Pick: Eagles

Titans (+4.5) at Texans
The Texans offense is definitely hampered by the absence of Owen Daniels. Still, they have a good enough defense to hold Chris Johnson and VY within reach. And of course there is Andre Johnson.
My Pick: Texans

49ers (+6.5) at Packers
We will see two similarly built 3-4 defenses face each other. On the offensive side, the story of the game will be the 2 2005 first round draft picks, Alex Smith (No1 overall) and Aaron Rodgers (No.24 overall) face each other for the first time. At the time of the draft, Rodgers felt he must have gone first overall, but at the moment, he finds himself in a better position than Alex Smith.
My Pick: Packers

Last Week: 10-5
Year to date: 101-43

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid-season NFL Power Rankings

Here's how I see the teams stack out just after the mid-way point this season. This is just my opinion of how teams stack up against each other. Apart from their W-L records, these rankings take into consideration the current state of each team at the moment.

1. Colts (9-0) : Two words to describe this team - Peyton Manning. It is hard to imagine how they would fare if he has an off day. Lucky them, does days are a rarity of late.

2. Saints (9-0): I would have given them rank 1b, as they have been dominant and resilient at times. Some may argue that other than QB play, they are better at all other facets of the game than the Colts. I still put them second to the Colts because they are an untested team as far as playoffs are concerned. Moreover, if I had to pick between these two to go undefeated, the Colts are the obvious choice.

3. Bengals (7-2): I bumped them over the Vikings because of the quality of schedule they faced which includes playing the Steelers and Ravens twice each. Add to it the fluky loss to "the miracle play" by the Broncos in Week 1. They more than deserve to be in the top 3.

4. Vikings (8-1): You will be hard pressed to find a team that is capable of beating you in as many ways as these Vikings. Running, Passing, Defense, Special Teams, you name it and they have quick strike potential in every aspect of the game. The only wild card being the health of Favre towards the end of the season.

5. Patriots (6-3): Just when the Patriots seemed to be getting in stride exuding glimpses of their dominant 2007 self, they failed to convert that 4th and 2 to fall victim to the Colts. But knowing the Patriots, that probably did more good than if they had won that game, given their coach's motivational, riling up tendencies. Watch out for these guys in the playoffs!

6. Steelers (6-3): The gritty Steelers, got out-gritted by the Bengals this weekend. With the loss of Palamalu this week, it only gets harder for them to defend their title.

7. Cardinals (6-3): How can a team be this inconsistent? They seem to turn on and off at their own will. But that is good enough for their pathetic NFC West division

8. Chargers (6-3): Its become their way of life: slow start to the season only to finish very strong. Only this time, they were in a big hole with the Broncos 6-0 a few weeks ago and the Chargers got hot ahead of schedule to catch up with the Broncos at 6-3.

9. Broncos (6-3): Have seen highs of being 6-0 and seen lows of losing to the Redskins. Could a team have a more loftier season? The bigger question: Are Josh McDaniel's Broncos for real?

10. Ravens (5-4): They had a strong start to go 4-0 and then had 3 heart breaking last minute losses. The last 2 weeks, they seem to have slowed down even more. If this continues, they'd slip down these rankings real fast.

11. Cowboys (6-3): Their 4 game winning streak just got snapped at Lambeau Field. They will try to get as many wins as they can in November, because, come December, their chances of a win, based on their recent history, will be hard to come by.

12. Eagles (5-4): The Eagles are another of those flaky teams. Their offense can be explosive when they are on a roll with DeShaun Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and some days they can fall to the Raiders. This season, eerily, somehow traces the path of McNaab's career.

13. Texans (5-4): I do not think the Texans have ever been over .500 this late into the season. Too bad they are in the AFC South division and have to play the Colts twice a year, or they could easily be challenging for their division in a year like this.

14. Packers (5-4): The Packers are the youngest team in the league and are trying to find their identity. Once they are comfortable with who they are, they will get to be more consistent. But that is no excuse to lose to a winless Bucs team 2 weeks ago.

15. Giants (5-4): A fast 5-0 start to the season, and now a 4 game losing streak. They are hoping that is not a pattern. Eli seems to be struggling without a big body receiver like Plaxico Burress. Could be a long season for them if they do not win a few games soon.

16. Falcons (5-4): The Falcons seem to be sliding of late, mirroring the play of Matt Ryan. And now with Micheal turner injured, could be a hard couple of weeks for the sophomore QB.

17. Panthers (4-5): The Panthers, after a slow 0-3 start, suddenly have turned the corner. They suddenly realized their strength is to run (duh!!) and Jake has been avoiding opponent Jerseys when he throws. If they put on a run, they could be in play for one of the wild card spots.

18. Jaguars (5-4): Their offense: Maurice Jones-Drew. But how far can this one guy take them?

19. 49ers (4-5): Adding Crabtree should have made them better. But since then, they have lost all their games, except the one where the opponent QB (Cutler) threw 5 picks (and the 49ers barely won). Head-scratcher??

20. Bears (4-5): They have a lot of issues to take care of. On offense: better play calling, better O line, more patient play from Cutler, find him a legit receiver, better rushing. Defense: get healthy and improve secondary. Biggest problem: Coaching!

21. Dolphins (4-5): The wild cat offense will take you only so far. They are going no where without playing some classic regular football (and being good at it)

22. Jets (4-5): Of late, the Jets have been all talk and no-show. Will not be surprised if that continues.

23. Titans (3-6): They start the season 0-6, change QBs to Vince Young, all of a sudden a 3 game win streak? I am hard-pressed to believe that VY is the reason for this change of tide. I bet Chris Johnson has something to say about this.

24. Seahawks (3-6): Plagued by injuries.

25. Bills (3-6): Never a good sign when you fire your coach mid-way through the season.

26. Rams (1-8): Stephen Jackson must be thinking: "How in the world am I stuck with this team?"

27. Redskins (2-7): If I had to guess one coach who would be fired mid-way through the season, I would have bet it would be Jim Zorn. The win over the Broncos probably gave him some breathing time.

28. Raiders (2-7): Is there a more dysfunctional sports franchise in the history of sports? Maybe the Warriors would give them a run? (who co-incidentally are residents of the same city - Oakland)

29. Lions (1-8): They have 1 more win than they did this time last year!

30 Chiefs (2-7): A rebuilding stage for their team.

31. Bucs (1-8): Their record does not surprise me, given they fired their offensive co-ordinator days before the season started.

32. Browns (1-8): They are probably going to fire Mangini after the season. And Mangini traded away some of the best players on the team this season (Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow etc). Talk about having a mess to clean up!!

NFL: 2009: Week 10 Review

Quite a weekend of football.... again. I am just going to give my thoughts about the ending to the Colts - Patriots game and a short review of the Packers-Cowboys game here.

The most (in)famous '4th & 2' ...... ever

The biggest question coming out of last week's games: "Did Bill just do that??". Yup, I am talking about Belichik's gutsy call to try convert the 4th and 2 from their own 28 yard line with only a little over 2 minutes to go. The failed attempt that let Peyton and the Colts drive just 30 yards in for the game-winning TD.

I got to admit I asked that very question when I saw Tom Brady and the Patriots offense going back onto the field to try convert that 4th and 2. But mulling over it for a while, it is obvious that Bill was just playing the percentages. We are so used to seeing coaches punt the ball when in doubt to play it safe. If a coach goes aggressive and makes a call like Bill did, he would of course get all the praise in the world if it worked. But if he failed, the coach will take so much of blame for that one call rather than all the other reasons for the loss. What more proof than the heat Bill is facing the last couple of days for that one call. That's why coaches stray away from making such aggressive calls and we are so used to thinking a punt call is automatic in such situations.

Let's get a perspective of the actual game situation at that time. The Colts just drove 70+ yards in less than 2 minutes to score a TD. The Patriots defense, which had contained Manning, was not as effective in the 4th Quarter as it had been the first 3 quarters. Obviously, Manning had the NE defense figured out and made necessary adjustments. Belichik was smart enough to realize this. If he punted, how long was it going to take Manning to cover that 40 yards (fair assumption for nett punt distance) to get to the 30 yard line of NE, where the ball would be placed if the conversion failed? With the clock at 2:08, that was plenty of time. Meanwhile the Pats offense had gained an avg of 6+ yards per offensive snap. So the odds of them converting the 4th and 2 was pretty good. The only downside to failing to convert was that 20-30 seconds (fair estimation of time on game clock needed for Peyton to drive through the punt yardage) extra Peyton has as compared to if they had punted. In short, the odds of Peyton scoring from the NE 30 yard line was not all that more than the odds of him driving for a TD from the Colts 30-35 yard line. On the bright side, if they successfully converted the 4th down, the game was all but over with the Colts having just one time out to stop the clock. One way of looking at the decision is: what would your opponents want you to do in that situation? Simple answer, the Colts would rather have the Patriots punt than attempt a 4th and 2 that would seal the outcome of the game. The decision to go for it on 4th down was smart. But the execution or the play call to go 5 wide with an empty backfield on that play was not so smart (and a whole new debate).

Packers Outlook

The Packers Defense finally showed up against Romo and the Cowboys. This probably had more to do with Dom Capers dialing up the blitzes than improvement in the players. Of course, all the defensive players of the Packers seemed invigorated and showed a lot of emotion and energy on the field, more than in past games. The 300+ pound front D-linemen of the Packers, especially, where hustling and running around making plays in the back field. Also, how could you not mention Charles Woodson for his best performance of this season yet (1 INT and 2 forced fumbles).

Even on offense, the Packers did some new things that helped the O line. The number of running plays did not necessarily increase, but they called a few screens and hitches (which are played by the defense like running plays), that helped slow down the vaunted Dallas pass-rush. Rodgers did not have a big game in terms of stats, but he had a monster game in terms of "growing up". As good as a QB as you may be, you have to play according to your offensive groups strengths, or rahter, stay away from their weaknesses; which is exactly what Rodgers was made to do. He was not holding on to the ball too long, as he was doing in previous games, and played more of a game-manager than try be a creator of big plays. Hopefully, he realized that, more often than not, you have to slug it out and win, when you have a porous offensive line, rather than try engaging yourself in a potential shoot out. Now, will this play-calling continue? Will McCarthy stay away from his pass-wacky tendencies and build on this game? We'll know in a few days.

As far as special teams was concerned, I would like to think that we were lucky that the Cowboys never broke open a big return on any of the numerous punts that were kicked. The kick/punt return for the Packers will improve this week with Jordy Nelson returning to his kick return duties. It was encouraging to see that post-game McCarthy acknowledged that the punting and kicking could be better. Sometimes, most of your problems are solved when you identify your weaknesses and play accordingly. By that I mean, try punting instead of letting Crosby try 50 yard field goals. Punt to the sidelines or higher, when you are deep in your territory, instead of kicking deep and flat, giving an opportunity for a big run back.

With the win, and some other favorable results, the wild card picture has opened up a bit for the Packers. Fighting for the 2 wild card spots are: Packers (5-4), Eagles (5-4), Falcons (5-4), Giants (5-4), Bears (4-5), Panthers and 49ers (4-5). Moreover, based on my forecast of the remainder of the Packers' season, the Dallas game was not even supposed to be a win. Not that the Packers can afford to lose another winnable game, but even if they have one mis-step, this win against the Cowboys kind of makes up for that in advance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 10 picks

Bears (+3) at 49ers:
A short week for both the Bears and the 49ers playing the first thursday night game of hte season after opening night. Biggest storyline: Mike Singletary against the team he played for!! The Niners are on a 4 game losing streak. While the Bears are struggling on defense, especially their secondary. Good for them, the niners are not an explosive passing team. So they will be able to hang in the game in spite of Frank Gore. Also, the return of Tommy Harris (lucky not to be suspended by the league) will help shore up the Bears run defense. Still, I think its about time the niners won their first game since they signed Micheal Crabtree.
My Pick: 49ers

Bills (+6.5) at Titans
Trent Edwards will be back to start for the Bills. But TO is sidelined with a hip injury and is questionable for the game. The Titans, meanwhile, have had good play calling suitable for Vince Young to survive. Will their first round pick from 2006 sustain this level of play? Chris Johnson will more than help doing just that.
My Pick: Titans

Saints (-13.5) at Rams
The Saints would love to continue their win streak and the Rams will help more than hamper that trend.
My Pick: Saints

Bucs (+10) at Dolphins
The Bucs got their first win of the season. But no more Josh Freeman surprises up their sleeve to pull off another upset in a row. The Dolphins will play hard to try add some wins to try make the wild card.
My Pick: Dolphins

Lions (+16.5) at Vikings
Favre and the Vikings continue their bye week(s) playing the Lions at home.
My Pick: Vikings

Jaguars (+7) at Jets
The Jaguars have a bruiser in Maurice Jones Drew and need David Gerard to make just a few plays to keep themselves in games. But somehow, Gerard falls short more times than not. The Jets would love to take advantage of that and beat the Jaguars with the help of a power running game.
My Pick: Jets

Bengals (+7) at Steelers
The Steelers are playing very good football right now. And so are the Bengals. This AFC North rivalry game will be fierce and I think the home field advantage will tip this game in the favor of the Steelers.
My Pick: Steelers

Broncos (-3.5) at Redskins
The Broncos have fallen down to the ground. But with the Redskins this week, they have a respite.
My Pick: Broncos

Falcons (-1) at Panthers
The Falcons are running the ball great with Micheal Turner taking a lot of pressure off Matt Ryan. The Panthers too have discovered, what they should have known from the beginning, that they are a team built to run the ball. But, DeAngelo Williams is injured this week and with Jonathan Stewart already limited in play, the run game for the Panthers may be in jeopardy. I pick the Falcons as of now, but will change my pick if both Williams and Stewart are good to go at game time.
My Pick: Falcons (subject to change)

Chiefs (+1) at Raiders
My Pick: Raiders

Seahawks (+9) at Cardinals
The Cardinals are 4-0 on the road, and not so good at home. They get a NFC West rival at home this week, but the Seahawks have their own injury issues to deal with and shoudn't bother the Cardinals too much.
My Pick: Cardinals

Eagles (+1) at Chargers
The Eagles lost a close one to Dallas last week. And travel all the way across country to play the Chargers. And the Chargers beat the Giants last week with a last minute TD to win. Both teams will wantto improve their game execution from last week. But the second half of the season is when the Chargers always find their mojo.
My Pick: Chargers

Patriots (+3) at Colts
Easily the game of the week. Two of the most successful teams this decade pitted against one another. The Patriots are finding their feet just around now. While after a dominating start to the season, the Colts just scraped through their last 2 games. The game will boil down to the patriots defense, if they can contain Peyton and his offense. The Colts have all their money on Peyton, with not much support from a running game, nor a stout defense. Bill Belichik would have made note of this simple fact and put his mind on to a suitable game-plan.
My Pick: Patriots

Ravens (+10.5) at Browns
The Ravens are at 4-4, and look like a much better team than that. They shouldn't fall below .500 with a game against the Browns this week.
My Pick: Ravens

Cowboys (-3) at Packers
The Cowboys ascertained their supremacy in the NFC East with a win at Philly last week. Quite the opposite happened to the Packers. They dug themselves an even bigger hole for themselves in the wild card race, which is now definitely out of their hands. They will have to not only take care of business to stay in the race, but also hope for other teams to falter and help them. This game against the Cowboys is not a win or go-home thing, but it doesn't get much closer than this to a must-win situation. And the players understand it. In fact, Daryn Colledge of the Packers called for an offense players-only meeting this week and the guys spoke to each other about the current state of things and how they can work together to improve things. In short, they seem to have that sense of urgency, which was lacking against the Bucs last week. With the help of some better play-calling, the Packers might just pull off an upset here.
My Pick: Packers

Last Week: 10-3
Year to date: 91-38

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Kobe - Phil off-season conversation.....

I found this made-up conversation in one of Bill Simmon's (of ESPN) NBA pre-season articles. It is simply hilarious if you know about Kobe's killer instinct and Phil's exploits on trying to keep him motivated without ego clashes. Enjoy!!

(begin excerpt)

(Kobe enters Phil Jackson's office. Brian Shaw is sitting to Phil's right.)

Phil: Kobe, thanks for stopping by.

Kobe: No problem. I got five minutes. Artest is taking me to Hollywood Boulevard; he wants to introduce me to the guys dressed up like Superman and Batman. He thinks they're the actual superheroes. I haven't had the heart to tell him they're homeless guys.

Phil: Well, don't tell him differently. Let him think that.

Kobe: I will.

Phil: Look, I really want to get Bynum more involved in our offense in November and December. It's a good thing, Kobe. Just trust me. We run everything through him for 42 minutes. You take over for the last six.

Kobe: C'mon, we did this last season. Then he got hurt, I took over and our team took off. Why go through the charade again?

Phil: Because you're still two titles behind MJ?

Kobe: That's your big motivational move with me now, huh?

Phil: Hey, he told me himself -- "Tell Kobe to call me when he gets to six."

Kobe (eyes narrowing): He said that?

Phil: Yup. He said he can't even take you seriously until you win two more.

Kobe: Really?

Phil: Yup. That's why we need Bynum right now. The Pechonkamappadosa tribe has a phrase for this called, "Kakaboomaka." It means, "To share the credit without giving up credit with those who matter." I just want to build his confidence up and save your legs. We put a ton of miles on those babies these past two years -- 208 games. This is good for you.

Kobe: Lemme think about it.

(Kobe leaves. Phil turns to Shaw.)

Phil: This is too easy.

(end excerpt)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Is the Packers' season over?

On the heels of a devastating road loss to the Bucs, there are a number of questions up in the air about the Packers and their season. None more compelling than "Is the season over?". After the loss to the Vikings at home, I still was optimistic about the Packer's chances this season. It took them less than a week to throw that all into the thrash can. Over the 12 hours after Sunday's game, I was mulling over the legitimacy of the Packers as a contender this season. Who are the real Packers?

No Parley with the Buccaneers

One might ask, how could you lose to the 0-7 Bucs? To put things in perspective, the Packers are no Juggernauts, after all they have no wins this season yet against a team with a winning record. The Bucs are bad, the low life of the league this year; the last team left without a win before they played the Packers. But historically, the Packs have had a tough time at Tampa. They had won only 1 game out of the last 7 games they played down there. Plus, the Bucs were starting their rookie Josh Freeman for the first time, and a little spark from him would be a big morale boost for the team, which they got from their 21 year old 1st round pick. And as much as the coaches and players deny it, throw in some amount of complacency / looking beyond this game factor by the packers while preparing for this win less team (especially the game plan which I will talk about soon).

Having said that, if you expect to be a playoff team, this was a game you had to take care of without much fuss. Especially the defense should have been licking their chops on the thought of defending a rookie on his NFL debut, rather than licking your injuries after the humiliating loss. More so after the loss to the Vikings, it was imperative to take care of business and give yourself a chance to put on a win streak. Well, in short, the Packers faltered.

'Run' for your lives!!

Mike Mccarthy does the offensive play calling for the Packers. First of all, the game-planning by itself has been sub-par this season. The creativity and strategy thought out (at least one that is called Sundays) leaves a lot to be yearned for. The coaches seem to be game-planning to the strengths of the Packers, their passing game, which is not a bad thing in itself. But then, football is the ultimate team game. You might think your forte is the long ball and deep strike ability with a strong armed QB and great receiving core, but this is the frickin NFL. Even bad teams are talented enough to stop something that they know is coming. Especially, if you do not have an Offensive line that can protect you long enough for big plays. So opposing defenses, rush just 3-4 players on passing plays and play a lot of nickel packages, where there is an extra corner back or safety to protect the secondary. When you face such a defense, you need a precision offense like Peyton Manning's, or lot of time in the pocket like Big Ben to beat the extra man in coverage. When you cannot do both these (Rodgers is no Peyton Manning, and the O line of the Packers is horrible), you have to game-plan to cover these weaknesses. Look at the Patriots: they use repeated screen passes and draw plays to slow down the rush, helping their offensive line and also execute some quick passes to Wes Welker to keep the defensive backs from playing too deep, making the sudden deep strike very effective.

These have been issues all through the year. Another area where they need to improve, which was a glaring hole in the Bucs game, is calling enough running plays. In earlier games, the running game hardly produced anything (with the exception of the Browns game). So it was somewhat understandable when McCarthy went away from the run game back then. For the record, I think even that was a mistake. You need to maintain that balance between pass and run plays to be an effective offense. Or back to screen passes which are equivalent to run plays in terms of how defenses play the screen. Even if it is a run for no gain, you have to hand it off ever so often to keep the defense play honest and that will invariably open up long pass plays. Mix in a few play action fakes, and you have a potent offensive plan.

Dumb and Dumber ....

Not calling run plays against the Bucs was plain dumb and inexcusable. First, the Bucs never lead the game until late in the 4th quarter. So there was no need to move away from the run. Second, Grant and Green were successful running the ball. Just looking at stats, you will find they averaged over 5 yards a carry the entire game. Moreover, when you actually saw the game, they were breaking runs up the middle of the Bucs defense and once you establish that in a game, you have to be retarded to just not pound it every time (3rd and long will be the only exception).

Watching Mike McCarthy's play calling just drove me crazy. I almost threw the remote on to my TV once in the 3rd quarter. The sequence went like this: The Packers had the lead by 7 and Grant broke 3 runs in a row to get 2 consecutive first downs. What would a sane play-caller do next on first down? .....duh?!! But the genius mind of McCarthy thought he will pull a rabbit out of his hat and lined up his offense in shotgun with an empty back field. What happens next, incomplete, sack, incomplete....tada ..... time to punt.

That was not the only brilliant sequence master-minded by McCarthy. When the Packers got the ball in Bucs territory after a punt (need I say tremendous field position with a lead already in hand), the calls: pass deep (incomplete), pass to flat (incomplete), 3rd and long intermediate pass (incomplete). Bring on the punt unit!! This happened twice in Bucs territory in the first half. This is the NFL and you are playing pro-level competition (even if its the team with the worst record). Sub-standard play calling will not cut it. How in the world would you call just 27 rush plays (not counting QB sacks and scrambles) when it averages 5.2 yards a carry and throw a whopping 35 times (a meager 6.7 yards a pass attempt at less than 50% completion rate). Obviously, there are going to be games when your QB, as good as he may be, has a rough day. But its a crime when you make him throw 1.4 times more than you run when your running backs average 5+ yards a rush. This is just beyond any explanation..... beyond and spec of sanity.

Other correctable offenses

The Packers were not flawless in other facets of their game either. We have been through some of them time and again the past few weeks: the horrible O line, Aaron Rodgers holding on to the ball way too long. Another flaw which isn't talked about a lot is the special teams. The punt coverage has been bad, especially the last 2 weeks. Against the Bucs, after the Packs scored a TD in the 4th to go up 28-17, the kickoff coverage unit let the Bucs returner bring the ball back 83 yards, well into the Packers red-zone. That one play helped the Bucs grab all the momentum that the Packers just had. Talking about flaws in special teams, how can I not mention the mediocre punting efforts by Kapinos. Not to mention the punt formation team that let a Bucs player untouched to block a Kapinos punt, that was returned for a TD.

Other issues the Packers have to look into to improve long term are:
  • Aaron Kampman simply cannot play in coverage. Period. I am surprised why people don't just throw towards him when he is in coverage. They have to play him as a pass-rusher to use him effectively. If not, he is more a liability when in coverage. To be fair to him, it is not his fault. He is built to be a DE and not a LB where the Packers are playing him.
  • Let Al Harris and Charles Woodson do what they do best: play in press coverage. What this does is not only put them in positions they are most comfortable doing, but also makes available some extra bodies to stop the run or extra blitz-ers.
  • You have got to protect Aaron better: Either improved O line play, which is hard with current personnel or, I cannot say this enough, do more screen and draw plays to slow down the pass rush helping your O line.
  • Flexibility in game-plan!! Obviously the game plan for the Bucs was to throw, throw and then throw some more. But once you see you are able to run down their throat with ease, you should be able to adapt and change your game plan on the fly.
  • Get some injured bodies back. This, though, is out of the control of Packers. But some of those injured people: Jordy Nelson (WR), Jermicheal Finley (TE), Brandon Chillar (LB), Jason Spitz (C) and Derick Ward (S). At least 3 of these are potential starters and most of them are very much needed extra bodies for punt / kick return coverage. Also, evidently, Clifton and Tauscher are not recovered enough to play in games yet. Add Aaron Kampman to that list this week after the concussion he suffered during the Bucs game. Don't get me wrong, injuries are no excuses. All teams face these problems. But getting back some of these guys in coming weeks will help out the Packers a whole lot.
  • It is too early to call BJ Raji a bust. But his play at nose tackle has been poor. It again may be due to his leg injury, but almost all NFL players play when they are dinged up. Raji has to prove he was worth the 9th overall pick in the draft and worth all the money he was signed for. To add to the pressure, Clay Mathews Jr., the 27th overall pick has been a revelation at LB the last 3-4 weeks.
  • Mason Crosby cannot miss any more under 50 yard FGs. He did not against the Bucs, but has missed a whole bunch this season. At the NFL level , up to a 50 yard FG should be a gimme early in the season before the winter and cold winds set in.
  • The defensive play calling too can be better. Dom Capers seems to be reluctant in unleashing zone blitzes, a staple of his 3-4 defense, that can confuse opposing QBs. Especially against a rookie, you have to show him new looks and make him feel overwhelmed. It definitely is a risk, as you can be burned blitzing too many people, but you cannot be a dominant 3-4 defense without doing so.
Homers never lose hope

As hard it may be to fathom the Packers making the playoffs, I just cannot write them off. At least not yet. No doubt, there is no way they are going to make it the way they are playing. But with a few lucky breaks and a string of good fortune, they just may grab a wild card spot. Here is the rest of the Packers (4-4) schedule:
  • Nov 15th Dallas at home: winnable game, not if the Packers play like they have the last 2 weeks though. Marking it a loss for now
  • Nov 22nd: SF at home: very winnable especially since the 49ers are in shambles. Win
  • Nov 26th: at Detroit: Thanksgiving game, its fair to write it down as a win (but you never know after witnessing last week)
  • Dec 7th: Baltimore at home: This is a real tough one. The 2 things that might be working for the Packs for this game are the Ravens although potent have a .500 record, so who knows what their mindset will be in 4 weeks. And the game is at home, which is always an advantage. I am going to write this down as a loss for now. But the Packers do have a chance.
  • Dec 13th at Chicago: Again, a lot depends on how the Bears do the next few weeks. If they are in the running for the playoffs like the Packers, they will play hard. Still, I think the Packers will win unless the Bears secondary suddenly improves.
  • Dec 20th at Pittsburgh: Nothing more to be said. Loss.
  • Dec 27th Seattle at home: Should beat the seahawks who will not be in playoff reckoning. Win
  • Jan 3rd at Arizona: The Cardinals would have clinched their playoff spot and will be resting most of their starters. Packers should get a cheap win here.
So a fair prediction of the end of season record, as of today, is: 9-7. This could be enough to get the last wild card spot. Here is how I see the wild card spot get filled:

NFC wild card 1: The NFC East have the Eagles and Cowboys who are pretty good. If one of them wins that division, I assume the other will take the first wild card spot.

NFC wild card 2: The competition at the moment is between: Giants (5-4), Falcons (5-3), Packers (4-4), Bears (4-4) and a 3 teams at 3-5 (Seattle, SF and Carolina)

By no way do the Packers have the inside track to earn a playoff spot. But it is not out of hand, just yet. Even if they lose to the Cowboys this coming weekend. The falling off of the Giants and a few Falcon stumblings will help the cause. Hopefully the Packers can pull off a 2007 Giants (make the playoffs with a 10-6 record and go deep)!!