Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The Fed has a little thing called a counterfeit machine." - Ron Paul

The following is an interview of Congressman Ron Paul, one of the few truly intelligent guys on Capitol Hill. Although he is officially a member of the Republican Party, he is a Libertarian in beliefs. Here he is on the Jon Stewart show to promote his new book. BTW ......looking forward to reading it.

In short, Ron Paul, like most Libertarians, including yours truly, believes in small government. In this interview he clearly articulates how the Federal Reserve is the biggest unidentified problem and how a free market system should actually work, with the government responsible for just what it's supposed to do - "govern" (and not compete in the market place).

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Also note how he handles the question about "evil" corporations vs "small guy" (a popular bogus left wing talking point). As he says, the government should protect people by enforcing the law written by elected politicians rather than those politicians becoming bureaucrats looting money from the people while in bed with corporate lobbyists. Instead, they choose to fool us common people misleading us in a debate about regulation Vs de-regulation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 3 Picks

Here's my review for Week 2

Hopefully order is restored this week after all the upsets last week. Here how I see it going down:

Redskins (-6) at Lions:
For all my talk of wishing no more upsets, my first pick is just that. So this is it, this is where the Lions snap their 572 game losing record (actually only 19 game losing streak - but it feels that long). But seriously, I do not see a better chance for the Lions for a while after this game, when the Redskins are struggling on offense. Matt Stafford has not been too bad despite what his numbers have shown. Most of his picks have been from trying to force things. But that was necessary against the Saints and the Vikings. To beat the Redskins, a more conservative approach should do the job.

My Pick: Lions (they definitely cover the spread)

Packers (-6.5) at Rams:
The Packers have too many problems to fix: their struggling O line, their depleted secondary due to injuries, absence of a running game. What better opponent to clean up those things than the Rams?
My Pick: Packers

49ers (+7.0) at Vikings:
This looks easy on paper, but based on the teams on the field this past 2 weeks, it is a toughie. Both teams like to run the ball more than pass. Vikings are usually good on run defense, but have struggled in that regard the last 2 weeks allowing 100+ yards rushing each game. The niners on the other hand have been stingy against the run allowing only about 58 yards a game. The wild card here is going to be Favre. If Peterson cannot make enough plays, the onus will be on Favre to make some plays downfield. I like the Vikings as of now, but I think the niners will cover the spread.
My pick: Vikings

Falcons (+4) at Patriots:
My money would be on Tom Brady and Bill Belichik coming back with a vengeance to get back to winning ways. But something makes me nervous about this pick.... a trap game??. I am going against my guts and picking against the Patriots here. Even though they have Wes Welker playing this week, which helps, the Pats D has to contain Matt Ryan and Mike Turner. It probably takes a week or 2 more for Brady to shake of his rust and get the Pats on track.
My Pick: Falcons

Titans (+1) at Jets:
The biggest question I have right now is: Are the Jets for real? Their defense sure feels that way. But how long can Mark Sanchez go without throwing his first pick and then some more. The Titans are going to have that extra drive since they find themselves in a 0-2 hole, but there is not a whole lot they can do about it, can they?
My pick: Jets

Chiefs (NL) at Eagles:
McNaab or no McNaab, the Eagles should take this easy. Watch out for Mike Vick on the field though. He is suiting up for the game for sure.
My Pick: Eagles

Giants (-6.5) at Bucs:
Eli and the Giants are comming of an impressive win at Cowboys Stadium. I don't see the Bucs stopping them this week.
My Pick: Giants

Browns (+13) at Ravens:
The Ravens seem scary good after the first 2 weeks. They may want to shore up their defense a little more to prepare for the long haul. But should have no problems against the Browns.
My Pick: Ravens

Jaguars (+3.5) at Texans:
The Jaguars are struggling at all fronts. While the Texans are as fickle as ever. Its anyone's guess which Texan team will show up this week. I think either way they should be able to handle the Jaguars at home.
My Pick: Texans

Saints (-6) at Bills:
For the first time the Saints defense will be tested this season, although Kevin Kolb torched them for some yards, they hung in there last week. I still think Drew Brees is on a roll and should carry the Saints over the Bills.
My Pick: Saints

Bears (-1) at Seahawks:
I wonder why the Bears are favored by only 1 against the Seahawks? It should be easy pickings especially with no Matt Hasselbeck. What is it that I don't know that the guys in Vegas know? Another trap spread??
My Pick: Bears

Steelers (-4) at Bengals:
This one is again not easy to pick as it looks. The Bengals are pretty good and should br 2-0 but for the fluke catch at the end of their game against the Broncos. The Steelers seem to be struggling with their running game and their secondary. But the Steelers have a 8 game winning streak against the Bengals. I am going to pick the snapping of that streak and a Bengals win.
My Pick: Bengals

Broncos (-1) at Raiders:
The Broncos are definitely not as good as their 2-0 record may paint them to be. But they did win 2 games. The Raiders on the other hand beat the Chiefs at Arrow Field (as bad as the Chiefs are, it is a tough thing to do) and almost handed the Chargers a loss in Week 1 but for a game winning drive from Philip Rivers. I think the Raiders running game and defense will be too much for the Broncos to handle.
My Pick: Raiders

Dolphins (+6) at Chargers:
The Dolphins are going to try run and control the clock against the Chargers, but without a potent passing game, you cannot beat a team which can throw the deep strike at anytime, as they learned against the Colts.
My Pick: Chargers

Colts (+1) at Cardinals:
This will be a great match up to watch. Manning and his passing game against Kurt Warner and his. The Cardinals are harder to beat at home and with Boldin, Fitzgerald and Breaston going against the likes of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and....... who??
My Pick: Cardinals

Carolina (+9) at Cowboys:
Both Romo and Delhomme have to prove that they can play without making mistakes that will cost them the game. I think Romo can bounce back sooner than Delhomme, who has hit rock bottom.
My Pick: Cowboys

Last Week: 10-6
Year to date: 23-9

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Real Health Care Reform.......

If you haven't had a chance to read my previous post about Health Care, here it is. To re-iterate my position, in short, I absolutely believe Health Care Reform is necessary. But my opinion is that changes should be made so that the private sector is cleaned up reducing costs malpractices (Tort and medical), making health care more affordable without sacrificing the current quality of care (which is excellent). And by private sector, I mean operations of Insurance companies and Pharmaceutical companies and NOT government.

In my previous post, I have detailed the reasons why I am skeptical about a public option in health care reform. Which is a Trojan Horse to eventually switch to a single payer system. The video below shows Jacob Hacker, one of the architects of the Obama Health Care plan talking about it. He blatantly admits to the statement just made.

Further reading about the bills and policies proposed thus far, it only reinforces my beliefs. In this post, I am going to concentrate more on the cost - benefit aspects. There are other more serious concerns like health care rationing and decline in quality of care that comes with having a single player system (refer my previous post again).

The status quo

Let's be honest. What is the biggest problem this country faces right now? It is getting out of this economic funk and making those job numbers go up. In the process of doing it, a lot of people's money has already been spent. The national depth is at an all time high, and is ever increasing; with the unnecessary war (debatable of course) and all the necessary and unnecessary stimuli including some very questionable bailouts of Wall Street and Mo-town. In the process, money was borrowed from other countries, but most importantly, the government printing press has been on over-drive printing currency like never before. We are seeing the fall out of that with the drop in the Dollar value, which could spiral down to new lows in the near future. In a situation like this, what is the most sensible thing to do? Cut government spending and try slashing that deficit as soon as you can.

At the same time, you have to steady the domestic ship. Of the many things on the "to do" list for this is health care reform. It is indisputable that health care costs have been exploding and adding to the strain of the economy of the country. This is seen and felt most only at tough times like this. During prosperous times, when most people have jobs, they have insurance and the pinch isn't felt as the common man's pockets aren't emptied. Even when we recover from this economic turmoil, it's inevitable that the economy will take a similar downturn sometime down the line. Essential things have to be fixed before that, and that includes health care reform.

(more) Issues with current proposals

It is universally accepted that health care needs to be fixed. At the same time, common (and economic) sense dictates that the government cannot afford to spend more of the tax payers cash. Now, the White House and some politicians try to twist and parse words indicating that the proposals put forth by them will not add the the federal debt. But, to the contrary, how in the world will it not? The numbers going around after research and analysis by independent firms and organizations is in the order of Trillions of dollars (with a capital T). Just to put things in perspective a Trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 .....that's with 12 zeros. And let's not fool ourselves, has any government program ever ended up sticking to their budgets, let alone spending less than estimated costs?....ever?

One of the most detailed analysis has been done by the reputed CATO Institute. You can look at their complete policy analysis report here. Here are the conclusions they have come up with based on all the policy proposals going around Capitol Hill:
  • Contrary to the Obama administration's repeated assurances, millions of Americans who are happy with their current health insurance will not be able to keep it. As many as 89.5 million people may be dumped into a government-run plan.
  • Some Americans may find themselves forced into a new insurance plan that no longer includes their current doctor.
  • Americans will pay more than $820 billion in additional taxes over the next 10 years, and could see their insurance premiums rise as much as 95 percent.
  • The current health care bills will increase the budget deficit by at least $239 billion over the next 10 years, and far more in the years beyond that. If the new health care entitlement were subject to the same 75-year actuarial standards as Social Security or Medicare, its unfunded liabilities would exceed $9.2 trillion.
  • While the bills contain no direct provisions for rationing care, they nonetheless increase the likelihood of government rationing and interference with how doctors practice medicine.
  • Contrary to assertions of some opponents, the bills contain no provision for euthanasia or mandatory end-of-life counseling. The bills' provisions on abortion coverage are far murkier.
Now aren't these numbers mind-boggling??

Another reputed Institute, The Heritage Foundation, has done some independent analysis of their own. Their study shows how the current health care reform proposals are going to complicate things and create more problems than solution for America. Here are just a few of their findings by their Center for Data Analysis (CDA):
  • Job losses would mount over time as potential high-income earners forgo job-creating endeavors. By 2019, the economy would offer 452,000 fewer jobs than it would have without the reforms.
  • Self-employed individuals as a group would have $16 billion less income in 2019 (nominal dollars).
  • The surtax would impose a deadweight cost of $12.8 billion in lost gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, rising to $68.2 billion by 2019 and costing taxpayers an average of $46.7 billion per year.
  • A typical family of four would have $995 less in disposable income in 2019 -- enough to pay for routine annual checkups for the four individuals.
Their article also suggests how
"True reform would change outdated rules and regulations to give consumers greater choice and autonomy in their health care spending. Such reforms would lead to a more efficient and more effective health care system without harming the economy".

Apart from the cost and other factors that will affect the already ailing economy, there could be more regulation and mandates passed into law which will make things worse. Here's a NY Post article that talks about the impacts of certain mandates and regulations that could back fire and make the system more inefficient and/or drive up costs: coverage of "pre-existing" conditions and mandating preventive procedures in every plan. This article also weighs in on the drawbacks of a "public option" and how it will eventually lead to a "single payer system", which in turn is going to lead to higher taxes, long never ending waiting lists and rationed care.

And when the Obama administration and Democrats try to hoodwink people by saying "It will not add a single penny to the deficit" or "It will not require you to change you existing plan or doctor", it simply is untrue, or to be fair, vague in all legislative language thus far. The following video depicts the difference in language when the President talks to the people and when the law is explained on the house floor. Note the use of the term "requires".

If they are serious about "people keeping their current health plans", why did they vote against legislation that will guarantee it? And the most preposterous mandate of all is that everyone should buy health insurance .....or pay a fine. It is not a usual tax hike where the major burden is carried by the higher income folks (which is not fair by any means anyways). But, this is a tax on every individual in the country. It is funny how the President still tries to twist words to try convince people that it is NOT a tax increase. Read more about this here.

Here's another article by the CATO Institute explaining how mandatory health care is also a form of government take over of the system. Here's another one from the Wall Street Journal about how "ObamaCare is hazardous to your health". This article covers a lot of ground including cost, current system benefits and some very valid suggestions for health care reform.

Red or Blue?? ....Pick your own poison!!

As an individual it is hard for me to trust either party on this issue. The Democrats demonize the insurance companies and are somehow fond of Pharmaceuticals (hmm....wonder if it has to do with all the lobbyists??). And vice-versa with the Republicans whose campaigns are financed with a lot of insurance money. There are a number of shady things going on behind the scenes that needs to be followed to avoid backroom deals detrimental to true health care reform. Like the lobbying blitz of the medical-device makers and the sudden fawning of insurance companies by the Vice-President.

Debunking "for government health care" arguments

The most common argument I hear from people who still want the proposed reforms to take place, knowing all the facts is: "Well something has to be done!". I beg to differ on this. Just because the system is flawed, it doesn't mean you just go ahead and try change something without carefully considering the consequences. There are a number of things that can be done to improve the system and reduce cost without too much government spending. Why don't we start with that. Here are some:
  • Allow people to buy health insurance across state lines.
  • Eliminate mandates from health insurance policies.
  • Allow employees to actually own the policies their employers pay for ... which would mean they could take those policies with them.
  • Tort Reform and Medical Malpractice Reform
Also, in spite of the GOP being pretty much an opponent and detractor to reform than actually proposing changes, they too have some ideas that may work. Not all of them are great, but it is a start to try help the private sector clean itself up and get the health care reform on track, without deepening the pockets of Uncle Sam.

The weakest argument I have come across so far is that "the poor are suffering and cannot afford health care". While I can relate to the state of affairs, I do not quite agree that is a good enough reason for government care. Legislation should always be done with an objective mind, not letting emotions and empathy get in the way. As individuals we can carry out philanthropic deeds for the betterment of the downtrodden. But if you try to include that into health care reform law (or any reform law for that matter), we are eventually going to increase the national debt, reduce the quality of care and make health care as a whole universally suffering for everyone. True progress of society is not about taking from the rich and giving to the poor, making everything sub-standard and strenuous for everyone, but to try make the system as a whole work so that everyone in society can afford to have the same great high quality of health care.

I finish this post with this funny cartoon by Rob Smith Jr.:

George Carlin Video: The Truth About Wall Street And Washington

He's my favorite stand-up performer of all time. Funny and insightful. This is a great bit with some serious thought behind it.

George Carlin - Do You Have Freedom Of Choice? - Amazing videos are here

Makes you think eh?? Too bad he's no more.

'The Present' predicted 50 years ago

Here is a cartoon made about 50 years ago. The creator(s) of this cartoon have predicted the future fairly accurately. It is very relevant to today's state of affairs. Deals with values of freedom, capitalism, labor unions etc., as well as other social / economic dynamics.

Its a must watch!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NFL Week 2 Review: Upsets Galore!!

I usually try put in the previous week's review along with the next week's picks. But this past weekend had too many stories, sub plots and upsets that it warrants a separate post. I still maintain that we need possibly 2 more weeks of football before we can distinguish the pretenders (waddup Broncos??) from the contenders (ahem....wake up Belichik!!).

The Usual Suspects

Some games went down as expected. The New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees took care of the McNaab-less Eagles on the road. Brees already has 9 TD passes in his first 2 weeks. Eagles starter at QB, Kevin Kolb had a ton of yards, but not good enough to append the Saints' explosive offense. After a slow start, Minnesota took care of business at Detroit. You have got to love watching that guy, Adrian "all day" Peterson. His typical day has a sequence of carries like this: 1 Yd run, 3 yd run, 1 yd run and then ....bam..... a 40 yd run..... then back to 1 and 2 yd runs before he breaks open again. He doesn't have too many mid range yardages (5 to 8 yd runs). Brett Favre has not had to go down field or throw into coverage because of Peterson's effectiveness. But once the Vikings end their stretch of cupcake opponents (they played the Browns and the Lions so far), Favre may have to use that 40 yr old arm more often, which is bound to make things interesting for both sides. The Bills took care of business at home against the Bucs. Trent Edwards, the Bills QB (Stanford alum) seems to be well poised and is definitely one of the young arms to watch out for in coming years. He also managed to feed TO a TD towards the end to keep him happy (for the time being). The Bills should also be happy with that RB Fred Jackson. Should be exciting to watch him along with Marshawn Lynch in the Bills backfield, when Lynch eventually returns from his suspension. Frank Gore ran all over the Seahawks, well literally, his two big runs, he was hardly touched, but you get the point. Makes you think if the Niners could be for real? Their swarming hard hitting defense sure seems to be. The "bad" Jake Delhomme did not turn up against the Falcons. Still the Panthers did not have enough the beat out the Falcons. Watch out for the Matt Ryan and Tony Gonazalez connection to be a regular in highlight reels week after week. Kurt Warner had a near perfect outing (92%+ completion percentage- setting an NFL record) against the Jaguars, and the Cardinals, for a change play to potential in the East Coast to carry home a win. Tony Romo was in his end of season form throwing reckless pick after pick to help the Giants win the first game at the new Dallas Stadium.

Side note: The new stadium (above)..... what a spectacle?? Too bad none of the kickers managed to hit the video screen. It would be a fun prop bet to see who hits the video screen first. Now come on, don't we all relish controversies??

The Ravens are probably now the scariest team in the NFL. They have been a dreaded defense for the most part of the last decade, and seem to have carried it over even after the departure of Rex Ryan. The signature defensive play was Ray Lewis' hit on Sproles in the back field to seal the win over the Chargers. The new scary part of the Ravens is their offense. Now that they are capable of participating in offensive shoot outs, it gives more leeway for their defense to be aggressive. The Monday Night Colts - Dolphins matchup was a game of contrasting styles. Peyton Manning and the Colts with their no huddle fast paced offense against the very deliberate run-based play calling of the Dolphins. No wonder the Dolphins had almost 3 times the time of possession on Monday. Yet the Colts win came down to the fact that Peyton and his receivers made plays they needed to, while Ted Ginn Jr. and the Fins were dropping balls all over the field on their final drive. The Colts offense looks real good, but can their no-name new receivers hold their own week after week?

"Ugly" Betty...

"Ugly" would be an understatement to describe the slug fest between the Raiders and the Chiefs. Chiefs fan's must be kicking themselves for paying Matt Cassel so much, at least till (and if) he proves himself in the next few weeks. And then there is this guy in Silver and Black, Jamarcus Russell. The only thing I can possibly say positive about him is, his throws are way off, that it even misses the opposite colored Jerseys (except in the stands) and that keeps his INT chances low. But the Raiders may be a team you do not want to play with their defense and down hill running style getting things done. I am glad I did not catch any part of that Redskins - Rams game. Must have been a snoozer looking at the end of game stats, but the Redskins managed to scrape through with a W. Who would have thought after 2 weeks the Broncos would be 2-0? They managed to beat out the Browns, who do not look all that different under Mangini than under Romeo Crennel.

We can't all be Rocky Balboa....or can we??

What a week for upsets? least according to the Vegas spreads. The Packers, whose offense seemed unstoppable during pre-season, had a tough time keeping Aaron Rodgers standing. The Titans could not hold off Matt Schaub and the Texans in their own house. The Steelers can't seem to get their running game work, and to make things worse, Jeff Reed can't seem to make FGs from reasonable distances.

But the biggest upset of all was the Jets getting to the Patriots. The magnitude of this upset is huge not only because the Patriots have won 8 straight against the Jets in New Jersey, but because Rex Ryan and some of the Jets' players (hello Kerry Rhodes!!) called it with some spicy bulletin board material. Rex Ryan has clearly transformed the Jets D into a dominant force to reckon with. And rookie Mark Sanchez doesn't seem to be playing like a rookie. Still, Ryan had the stones to call out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick before a game which usually is plain old suicidal. Must be a great feeling for the Jets to walk the walk after all that talk. I am sure the Patriots will come back to winning ways in the upcoming weeks. But it definitely is a call for concern that Brady and Belichik evidently did not have that "me against the world" drive that they usually have when openly challenged.

The Packers have problems of their own. Their Offensive line is AWOL and their new 3-4 defense can't seem to stop the run. What more proof do you need when Antwan Odom (heard of him before?.... me neither) has 5 sacks in a game all by himself and the ex-Bear cast-away Cedric Benson burns you for 140+ yards on the ground? To make things worse, they lost Chad Clifton (OT) and Nick Collins (safety) during the game (both doubtful for next game), making their depth on O line and secondary very thin. So thin that they are trying to sign new players for those positions this week. The fact that they were within a snap of taking a shot at the endzone to tie the game is a miracle based on the way they played against the Bengals. And they had to witness Chad Ocho Cinco do a lambeu leap (below), as promised, after a TD catch.

Suffice to say, if things go on the same way on O line, it will soon be panic time in Green Bay.

In other upsets, Jay Cutler has given hope to Bears fan again, that he is their savior, leading Chicago to a game winning Field Goal drive to beat the Steelers. And the Titans lost to the Texans at home, starting 0-2 for the season.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What is a tax increase??

This is an interesting exchange between George Stephanopoulos and President Obama debating "Is Health Care Mandate a Tax increase?". This interview took place on Sunday 9/21/2009.

It is a no-brainer to me that it counts as a tax increase. While it may be a responsibility of a model citizen to buy insurance that covers himself / herself, the mandate part of it makes it a tax. It essentially says: Spend money on insurance, or pay the fine. So one way or the other the government is making you spend money. There's no choice. Not calling it a "tax" or spinning it as "responsibility" does not make this an exception. For that matter, any tax that is paid is supposedly a "responsibility", for the betterment of society as a whole. In the clip, the part where Stephanopoulos quotes from Webster's dictionary, although weird to pull off in an interview, is interesting.

It's one of the few times the President has been challenged (in the mildest of ways possible)by the main-stream media and rightly so. I am sure not many people with a thoughtful mind will fall for the President's spin on the issue. And towards the end, just as usual, the moment he gets a chance to blame others, he blames his critics for "mis-representing" his views and policies.....good strategy: when cornered, blame it on others.

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal about this issue.

Looks like he did not have a great day like he hoped to in his media blitz on Sunday. Here's a review of all the five shows he was on Sunday. Yup, you heard that right......5 shows in a day by a President. Do I hear "desperate" and "over exposed"??

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 2 Picks

Summary of Week 1:

Not a bad week for my predictions. And a great first week of football with so many close games and nail-biting finishes. In the first week of NFL, nothing should come as a surprise. Till then, only speculation dictates who is "supposed" to be good or bad. Still, we definitely had a few oddities this first week.

Surprises: Who would have expected that tipped catch and TD run by Shockley to steal the game for the Broncos from the Bengals in the waning moments of the game? What about Jake Delhomme maintaining his playoff form of last season with 7 turnovers? The Packers-Bears offensive game: miserable O line for Packers, topped only by Jay Cutler's recklessness with the ball with 4 INTs. The Ravens offense seems to be for real. To end the week, the Patriots and the Chargers got off to cold and slow starts to begin their season against the Bills and lowly Raiders. Oh and do I need to mention the Raiders' showing up against the Chargers?

Not-so-much-a-surprise: Big Ben taking the Steelers on a game- winning scoring drive....again. Drew Brees throwing 6 TDs against the Lions. Adrian Peterson running all over the Browns. Indy and Peyton taking care of business as usual. Rex Ryan carrying over his exotic defensive schemes to the Jets. Ray Lewis leads the Ravens on D anyways without Rex Ryan. the Rams struggle to score. No sophomore slump for Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco (at least not yet). And Brady is back to his winning ways at end of games. Finally, the Bills lose in dramatic fashion against all odds on Monday Night Football allowing 12 points in last 2 minutes (Note that this last one is not in my "surprise" list because the Bills have made a habit of doing such things on Monday Night Football these last few years.)

Madden Curse update: One half of the Madden Curse has already come true with Troy Palamalu's injury, making him miss 4-6 weeks. The watch is still on monitoring Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals. But, this is the first time the Madden cover had 2 players. So will be interesting to see how the curse pans out this time around.

My Week 2 Picks:

This week on, I am going to include the spread for each match up too. The line may change by game-time, as it constantly does. The ones here are at the time when I write this post. But note, I am not doing my picks taking the spread into account. My picks are just for win-loss category, but for some picks am going to give my over/under prediction (not gonna keep track of it though) too just to keep things interesting.

Panthers (+6.5) at Falcons:
Will Jake rebound after his miserable outing at Philly? At least the fans booing are not gonna be his home crowd. I think he is not going to be so bad, but not good enough to beat Matt Ryan and the Falcons, who are yet to unleash Micheal "the burner" Turner.
My Pick: Falcons

Vikings (-10) at Lions:
Last week the Lions D struggled to contain Brees. This week they will struggle to contain Adrian Peterson. And Favre will get to his milestone of 271 consecutive starts breaking the record held by some former Vikings DE.
My Pick: Vikings

Bengals (+9.5) at Packers:
The Packers have spent the entire week trying to clean up their offensive line protection problems, which broke down their offense last week against the Bears. I am sure there will be an improvement, but I do not expect the pre-season like display from them. It will be interesting to see how last week's tragic (for the bengals at least) last minute TD by the Broncos will affect them. Will they be devastated or fired up. We know how the Packers are preparing.
My Pick: Packers

Texans (+6.5) at Titans:
The Texans can possibly never play upto their potential. Definitely not against the Titans on the road. They might cover the spread though.
My Pick: Titans

Raiders (+3.0) at Chiefs:
I like the Chiefs' chances against the Raiders if Matt Cassel plays. But if he does not, which is likely, I do not see Brodie Croyle beating the men in Silver and Black.

Looks like Cassel is indeed likely to play, so I change my pick to the Chiefs
My Pick: Chiefs

Patriots (-3.5) at Jets:
Have the Patriots offense shaken off the early rust through the first 58 minutes of the Bills game? Even if they have, its going to be a tougher task to move up and down the field against the Rex Ryan scripted defense. But I think Belichik, even though he has a young an inexperienced defense personnel, will come up with enough schemes to rattle the young Mark Sanchez.
My Pick: Patriots

Saints (+1) at Eagles:
Interesting matchup for Brees against the Eagles secondary. Its not going to be as easy as against the Lions. But Brees would not have to score a whole lot, especially with McNaab probbaly not starting for the Eagles.
My Pick: Saints

Rams (+10) at Redskins:
The Redskins offense may be anemic. But it should score enough to beat the Rams. Not sure if they cover the 10 pts though.
My Pick: Redskins

Cardinals (+3) at Jaguars:
The Jaguars seem inept at offense (from last week's showing against the Colts). If Warner can take care of the football I see the Cardinals coming out of Jacksonville with a win.
My Pick: Cardinals

Bucs (+5) at Bills:
Trent Edwards should be able to score enough against the Bucs D, maybe involving TO a little more to avoid his tantrums rather early in the season.
My Pick: Bills

Seahawks (+1) at 49ers:
Seahawks looked good last week. But that was against the Rams.....does not count for much. This again is a NFC West rivalry that is closely fought the last few years. I see the 49ers winning this at home.
My Pick: 49ers

Steelers (-3) at Bears:
The Steelers should take care of business at Soldier Field. Jay Cutler is facing a more complex and better version of the 3-4 scheme defense than he faced against the Packers and we know how well that went. The Steelers, meanwhile, will try get their running game going. They might have a chance with Urlacher out.
My Pick: Steelers

Browns (+3) at Broncos:
This could end up like the Broncos - Bengals game last week. With hardly any offense on both sides and maybe a mistake here or there (or some tough luck) could decide the game. Toss up for me, but am picking the home team.
My pick: Broncos

Ravens (+3) at Chargers:
The Chargers managed to salvage a win last week. But with Tomlinson not his usual self, the onus will be on Philip Rivers to carry their offense. Sproles might have a burst here and there, but will be shut down by Ray Lewis and the Ravens D for the most part of the game. The key matchup in my opinion is if the Chargers D can shut down the Ravens offense, which has found new life this year.
My pick: Ravens

Giants (+3) at Cowboys:
This is going to be a tough one as it always is between these two teams. But I think Dallas is going to have that little more energy to pull through in their first regular season game in their new stadium.
My pick: Cowboys

Colts (-3) at Dolphins
If the Colts can stop the Miami run and their Wild Cat sets, they should comfortably take care of business and head out of South Florida. If not, its going to be a long night for Indy, because Miami can very easily keep Peyton out on the sidelines by running the clock with their ground game.
My pick: Colts

Last Week: 13 - 3
Year to date: 13 - 3

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Handling the Bengals and Ocho Cinco.....

This is a video posted on twitter by Nick Barnett (Line backer of the Packers), talking about how he and the packers are preparing to (man)handle Chad Ocho Cinco and the Bengals this weekend...

Ain't that dedication ....... hillarious!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

US Open Mens Finals

Well only 2 of my predicted Semi-Finalists made it to the final four. But, with such depth in men's tennis these days, the only safe bets to predict the last four standing are Federer and Nadal. And that may not be for long. The Men's Finals is about to start in a couple of hours. It did not turn out to be the glamorous Fed-Rafaa finals matchup as many predicted. Its gonna be Federer vying for his record 6th consecutive US Open title against the kid from Argentina, Juan Martin Del Potro.

No doubt Federer is going to be prepared for the big game, as he always is. It will be interesting to see how ready will Del Potro be in his first ever grand slam finals. As I had already mentioned in one of my previous posts, I had high hopes for Del Potro, barely 20 yrs of age, in this tournament and with Murray out of the way, he made his way through Cilic and then the injured Rafaa to reach here. Now that Rafa is not in the finals, I am rooting for the Argentine to unseat the champ out of his throne. His fitness issues may not be a hindrance because of all the rain delays and the short match against Rafa, giving Juan enough rest for the biggest game of his life yet.

Juan has bursted out to the forefront ahead of schedule. His already exciting game has been improving all along, with a better serve now than a few months ago, and his already killer forehand is touted to have an upside (hard to imagine eh?). Even if he fails to beat Roger today, we will see a newer version of Del Potro next season, who will be a legit contender right from the start. So watch out you guys at the top, there's a new threat in the horizon in men's tennis. Its well known he has the talent to beat anyone in men's tennis, but today is his first test of mental strength. Ability is one thing, but to actually execute against Roger at the big stage is another thing. Hope he has a little bit of the Rafa fight inside him.


I know you possibly cannot pick against King Roger. But I'm willing to go out on a limb and pick Del Potro for the upset. The way I see it, Juan is not going to be an underdog for long. I am not gonna miss the chance to pick him as an underdog. But one thing I can be sure of, we are about to witness some fine artistry on the court by Federer and some sweet shot making from Del Potro.

My call: Del Potro beats Roger in 4 sets.

END OF GAME UPDATE:(6:20 pm PST) Well, I was off by a set ....... but i'll take credit. But seriously, what a display of strokes as well as mental resurgence from both players. I was more so impressed by Del Potro considering it was the biggest stage of his life yet and he was clearly shook up and stream-rolled by Federer till the middle of the 2nd set. And it was against Roger.....not too many people can come back from a deficit to beat him especially in a grand slam final. Rafa is the only one to beat Roger in a Grand Slam event the last 4-5 years. Welcome to the Big Boy's club of men's tennis Juan. And
Andy Murray needs take a lesson or two from Del Potro on composure at the big stage.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 1 Picks

Here are my picks for week 1. This week I had to post it early because of the season kick-off game on Thursday. So some of my picks for the weekend game may be off because of the lack of injury reports as of now. Moreover, in the NFL, the true strengths and make-up of team will be known only after they play a couple of weeks of meaningful football. Still, I'll get the ball rolling:

Titans at Steelers:
I think it is a toss up. I pick the Steelers as they are at home. An interesting facade to the game is the terrible towel incident of last season, when Keith Bullock and a couple of other Titans stomped on the terrible towel in front of all those Steelers fans. Hope to see an extra physical game because of the sub-plot.
My pick: Steelers

Dolphins at Falcons:
Arguably, the two most surprising teams of last season are at it in Week 1. I think the Falcons have the edge here mainly because of the potentially better QB play of Matt Ryan.
My pick: Falcons

Broncos at Bengals:
This is a tough one to call.... for all the wrong reasons. Both these teams will be trying to get out of the bracket of bottom feeders this season. The upside being Bengals have Carson Palmer at the helm and Josh McDaniels is bringing his successful offensive system from the Patriots to the Broncos. Kyle Orton may be questionable for the game because of his finger injury.
My pick: Bengals

Vikings at Browns:
Brett Favre's debut with the Vikings. I am sure most of the country is going to tune into this one. Love him or hate him ..... Favre makes people watch football. And he opens their season against the lowly Browns.
My pick: Vikings

Jaguars at Colts:
If at all the Colts are gonna stumble, I predict it is this year. And when I say stumble, its just not making the playoffs (they still may end up with a winning record). Peyton has to work his offense under a new head coach and the undersized (yet speedy) Colts defense is always a suspect factor until we actually see them play. The Jaguars would love to bounce back after a losing season last year.
My pick: Jaguars (upset special 1)

Lions at Saints:
Drew Brees vs Lions D. Enough said.
My pick: Saints

Cowboys at Buccaneers:
I am guessing the Cowboys are gonna start on the fast lane as they have the last few years. It is only towards the end that they falter. The Bucs have a new head coach and a new Offensive Coordinator (only days into the job)
My pick: Cowboys

Eagles at Panthers:
No Vick for the first 2 weeks. So Donovan McNaab can play at peace without looking over his shoulders. Jake Delhomme is probably playing for his career with the Panthers this year.
My pick: Eagles

Chiefs at Ravens:
Todd Haley brings his pass-based offense to the Chiefs from the Super bowl runner ups of last year. But Matt Cassel is probably going to miss a week or two. Back to the Croyle-Thigpen days to kick off their season? And I think Joe "the unflappable" Flacco will dodge his sophomore slump to carry the Ravens on offense this year.
My pick: Ravens

Jets at Texans:
The Jets are gonna have a scathing defense that plays as physical as possible under Rex Ryan. But they probably can't go too far with a rookie QB, Mark Sanchez, who started only a year in college, albeit it was at USC. On the other hand, the Texans finally seem to have a team good enough to post a winning season. the caveat being the health of Matt Schaub.
My pick: Texans

Redskins at Giants:
The Giants will walk all over the anaemic Redskins offense. And Eli will try to prove that he is worth that monster contract he signed. No Plexico.... No problemo!!
My pick: Giants

49ers at Cardinals:
This matchup inthe NFC west has always been close the last couple of years in spite of the fact that the 49ers were awful. Now that they are on their way up under Mike Singletary, I predict an upset here. And the Cardinals are going to have that super bowl runner-up hangover that has haunted many a teams.
My pick: 49ers (upset special 2)

Rams at Seahawks:
The Seahawks finally have their QB Matt Hasselback healthy. They finally have their receivers healthy (no more playing with receivers picked up from the streets because receivers no.1 to no.5 are injured at the same time like last year). Saying that the Rams are rebuilding is an understatement. I challenge anyone to name a Rams player not named Stephen Jackson.
My pick: Seahawks

Bills at Patriots:
Brady is let the fireworks at Foxboro begin. The Bills may start off with a loss, but I have high hopes for the Stanford kid Trent Edwards, now that he has TO to stretch the field. Not happening this week though.
My pick: Patriots

Chargers at Raiders:
The Chargers are loaded with players to make a strong push for a championship, but their window is closing this may be their last legit chance for a shot. They hope they don't dig themselves a hole off the gates like last season. The Raiders are a whole different kind. Nobody knows what happens in the black hole. But I like a coach who is ready to get down and dirty leaving behind black eyes (literally).
My pick: Chargers

Bears at Packers:
Now for my game of the week. The typical slug fest that it used to be is about to turn into some areal showcase with Jay Cutler for the Bears and Aaron Rodgers in a pass friendly Packers offense. Do I need to mention this is the oldest .....oldest period..... rivalry in football. I am predicting it takes Cutler a few more weeks to get used to his new offense and teammates, while Aaron has a field day against the aging Bears D.
My pick: Packers (of course)

Season Score: 0-0
Last Week: n/a

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Packers 2009 Season Preview

Finally, the 2009 NFL regular season is upon us. In a few days time, on a high energy Thursday night, the NFL season will kick off with the defending champions Steelers taking on the Titans. To be honest I really don't care about the outcome of this game. The season for me starts Sunday evening, Sep 13th, when the Bears kick off against the Packers at Lambeau field. Now that's the Packer homer in me talking.

This post is more of a preview of the upcoming season for the Packers.

The Offense

Coach McCarthy's offensive philosophy is based on the West Coast Offense. It's a system that works best when you have an efficient QB at the helm, who works the ball down the field methodically without too many risks. That's exactly who the Packers have under center, Aaron Rodgers. Last season was Aaron's first full season as a starter. He had a great year statistically, but it did no't really show up in the wins column for the team, which is what ultimately counts. There were a number of reasons for that, the least critical of which was probably Aaron. The knock on him was that he was not able to complete last minute drives to score, losing 5 games by 4 points or less. But to be fair, the porous defense last year let the other team score in the final minutes forcing Aaron to try score one over that in the final seconds. It was probably a tall order for a first year QB. This year he has a better hang of the offense, working a lot even during the off-season.

Talking about the off-season, almost all the core Packers' players were present for OTAs and mini-camps. Its hard to believe but they had a attendance of 97% this off-season, which is unbelievable for a team in a league full of prima donna millionaire players. This had helped the core players to get a better hang of the playbook and they should be ready to play come crunch time.

Aaron also has a bunch of excellent receivers with the veteran Donald Driver and the young phenom Greg Jennings being a formidable 1-2 punch with more than enough support from James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Aaron also has a couple of TEs to throw to, especially Jermicheal Finley. Finley is touted by many to have a break out year in his sophomore season. He's reported to have shown enormous promise during practice and is a big target in goal line and red zone situations. Also on the offensive front, the O line seems stabilized for now. Barring any injuries, they should be able to get even better as the season goes on, with solid protection for Aaron and good run blocking for Ryan Grant and other RBs. And Grant expects himself to be better than last year. He had a 1200+ rushing season last year, but his yards per carry was significantly lesser than the year before. Unlike last year, when he missed the entire off-season / training camp and most of the pre-season due to contract issues, this year he has been a full part of the off-season and pre-season training schedule. So you can expect him to be at an elite level this season, providing a solid ground game in support of the Rodgers areal attack.

The Defense

Coming into this season, the defense had the most question marks about it. The defense as a whole had a bad season last year, which triggered the firing of pretty much the entire defensive coaching staff. After thorough and diligent groundwork, Dom Capers was brought in as the Defensive Coach to install the new 3-4 defensive scheme. This being the first year would probably have a mixture of the new 3-4 scheme and some old 4-3 formations thrown in to ease the transition. Will be interesting to see how they fare in the transition year. If the pre-season performance is any indication (which more often than not is not always the case), the defense could be very dominating with plenty of takeaways for the offing. Apart from the change in the scheme, a few notable changes are that Aaron Kampman, the best DE of the Packers will now play at LB. And Safety play becomes more important in the new scheme, meaning Nick Collins is expected to be the Troy Palamalu of the Packers defense.

The Defensive Line should be deep enough given that the base defense only requires 3 linemen. But Justin Harrell in the IR means one less available body for the position, also re-enforcing the fact that the 2007 first round pick has a long way to come off the bust list. Although, 2009 First round pick, BJ Raji started late because of his hold-out before signing, the Packers would not mind a slow time-table to get him upto speed at Nose Tackle, especially with Ryan Pickett starting at Nose Tackle. Raji can be groomed for coming years at NT. The Linebacker core is pretty deep, but lacks a true superstar status player. Kampman was great at DE, but the jury will be out to grade him at outside LB. AJ Hawk hasn't panned out as the Packers would have liked at LB, but they still say that he is a mainstay of the Defense. We can only hope they mean it, especially with guys like Brandon Chillar, Desmond Bishop and 2009 First Round Draft Pick Clay Mathews Jr. But, I guess that should be a good problem to have with so many guys knocking at the door to start at LB.

The secondary in the defense is key for the 3-4 scheme to work. Given that Capers likes to use a lot of zone blitzing schemes, where very often a DB or Safety is sent out to rush the passer. The Packers have two elite Cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Typically, Woodson would cover the No.1 Receiver of the opponent, while Al Harris gets to work on the No.2 receiver. They are arguably the best CB tandem in the league. But reputation does not win you games. They must prove it week-in and week-out on the field. Will Blackmon, Tramon Willams and Jarett Bush have shown enough promise to be considered serious candidates for CB when facing 4 or 5 receiver formations. The Safety spot has Nick Collins at the helm. He could be assisted by Atari Bigby or Aaron Rouse. (The real surprise being Anthony Smith didn't make the team).

Special Teams

Although Special teams is a important piece for any good football team. I am going to undermine them just as people usually do. But I have to point out that the Place Kicker, Mason Crosby has to be more consistent than the pre-season has shown us. Some of the reserves on LB, CB and Safety are good special teams coverage guys, including 2 of the 3 fullbacks on the roster, Kuhn and Hall.

Note: Here's a look at the Packers depth chart after the final cuts.

Season Preview

Predicting anything in the NFL before the season starts is a dare, which I am not quite ready to indulge in. So I am just going to stick to a preview of the season as a whole, stopping with just analysis and letting the season play out to see who stands where in the end.

I would love to have the Packers go under the radar. But some of their 1st team dominance in pre-season has not gone unnoticed. The NFC North is going to be a tough one this year. Ironically, the traditional Black and Blue division has 4 Quarterbacks who can showcase an areal spectacle on their day. With Cutler under Center for the Bears and Favre stating for the Vikings, its going to be a race between the 3 teams for the division title. It would not surprise me if any of the 3 teams take the Division and even if all 3 make it to the playoffs.

One factor which can shape this race is something that cannot be anticipated. That is injury. A couple of injuries to key players or players at key positions can ruin the season for the entire team. I hope nothing happens in this division, so that we have a close race going down to the wire with the clinching taking place closer to the final week of the regular season than earlier. The following is the Packers' schedule for 2009:

1Sun, Sep 13Chicago 8:20 PM
2Sun, Sep 20Cincinnati 1:00 PM
3Sun, Sep 27at St. Louis 1:00 PM
4Mon, Oct 5at Minnesota 8:30 PM
6Sun, Oct 18Detroit 1:00 PM
7Sun, Oct 25at Cleveland 1:00 PM
8Sun, Nov 1Minnesota 1:00 PM
9Sun, Nov 8at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
10Sun, Nov 15Dallas 4:15 PM
11Sun, Nov 22San Francisco 1:00 PM
12Thu, Nov 26at Detroit 12:30 PM
13Mon, Dec 7Baltimore 8:30 PM
14Sun, Dec 13at Chicago 1:00 PM
15Sun, Dec 20at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
16Sun, Dec 27Seattle 1:00 PM
17Sun, Jan 3at Arizona 4:15 PM

As you may have noticed, it is by no means an easy schedule. With 2 games each against the Vikings and the Bears. Other potential tough ones are Dallas, Baltimore, at Pittsburgh and the regular season Finale at Arizona. The Seattle and Tampa Bay games are no gimmes either.

Here's hoping for an exciting season.......... Go Packers!!

Note: Here on, every Friday or Saturday, I will try post my predictions for the games that weekend. Hope to do that for the rest of the season.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Left-Speech Translator!!

Here's a video of one of the many media hacks (Linda Douglas, formerly of ABC news and currently a WH spokesperson) trying to justify one of Obama's double talks. Someone has taken the time to edit the video adding "translation" in the form of captioned text. Only that the "translation" tells the truth of the whole ordeal rather than the spin the WH spokesperson is trying to hoodwink people with. Check it out:

Doesn't it just crack you up???

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

US Open 2009 Preview

Not in the last few years has the men's field of grand slam tennis been so deep. You can pick a handful of players (or maybe more) who have a legitimate claim to the Championships at Flushing Meadows this year. Here's a preview of the top contenders (my pick for the 4 semi-finalists) and my predictions of the second week of the tourney.

Roger Federer

Roger is the No.1 seed and the de facto favorite to win the whole thing. It is hard to imagine that only earlier this year up till a couple months after the Australian Open, he seemed to have lost his mojo and was written of by almost everyone to win at the big stage again. Then came Roland Garros and a few lucky breaks (like no Nadal waiting for him at the finals) and he finds himself trying to win his third major in a row. What a turn of events for the 15 time Grand Slam Champion. He and many others must like his chances to pad up that Grand Slam count to untouchable realms (maybe it already is). His quarter in the draw should be no threat for him, with Davydenko or Sordeling being his potential Quarter Fianl opponent. And his Semi-Final opponent will come from Andy Roddick / Djokovic quarter of the draw.

Andy Murray

The No.2 seed this year is the Scott. He has had a good hard court season this year leading up to the US Open, bagging a couple of Masters' trophies en route. He was the runner-up last year, the finals no-show of 2008 probably being due to the first time finalist nervous jitters. But this year he seems to be ready for his big day. He should have smooth sailing through to his quarters, where he might have to face Del Potro or Giles Simon. And a potential Semi Final with Nadal. Murray is my pick to go all the way. But, he may have a few roadblocks to take care of to win the first major of his young career. This kid has what it takes.

Rafa Nadal

Rafa is trying to make his comeback after his rather long injury / rehab break due to his knee tendenitis. He is not yet up to the mark he would want to be, but I would never write him off. This guy is a warrior on court. It is never over till its over with him. If he manages to take the title this year, he would be the second player to complete the career grand slam in 2009 after Roger took the French earlier this year. How historic would that be? But it's a long way before we can think of that. He is the No.3 seed and has a bunch of dark horses in his quarter of the draw - Gasquet, Tsonga, Monfils to name a few. And has a potential semi-final matchup with Murray (who is my favorite to win the whole thing).

Andy Roddick

Roddick is the No. 5 seed this year. But he has a whole lot of momentum flowing with him while attempting to win his 2nd US Open title. His epic Wimbledon finals with Roger is still fresh in the minds of many of us. Never has a grand slam final loss been a good thing for a player before it happened to Andy. He took a lot from his valiant effort at Wimbledon and had a good efficient summer of tennis. If nothing else, he has become a better stronger player after the Wimbledon classic. He is in probably his best physical condition in a long time and has the ability to go deep this time at the US Open. His quarter of the draw has Djokovic, with a potential clash of the 2 in the quarters. If he and I would expect him to get through that, he would have a semi-final matchup with Roger. And wouldn't that be a potential classic; a rematch of their epic final weeks ago?

The above 4 are my picks to make it to the Semi's as of now. The dark horses in my opinion are:

Juan Martin Del Potro

Seeded No.6, this is the new kid on the block. He could be the Andy Murray of last year going deep into the 2nd week, ahead of schedule in his career. He has improved his serve and has tremendous upside to his already flashy game. His forehand is unreal and with a little adjustment can be the best in the game, which is a lot to say with so many big forehands already in the tennis circuit ala Roger, Gonza, Nadal etc. His biggest problem is his fitness, which has improved over the last year, but may not be good enough to last through two entire weeks of grand slam tennis. Moreover, he would have to beat Murray in the Quarters to go deep, which would be a tall ask, but is not out of his reach pending the fitness aspect.

Novak Djokovic

Novak has had a strong hard court summer, but not successful enough to be a threat at the Open. He will bring his usual solid game match after match, but I do not think he has that little extra to topple the other big guns. I do not expect him to come out of his quarter if he meets Roddick in the Quarter-Final as the seeding would draw them.

My Sleepers: Jo Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, Gael Monfils, Tommy Haas, Fernando Gonzales, James Blake

Quarter-Final Predictions

Quarter-Final 1: Roger Fedrer beats Mikhail Youzhny
Quarter-Final 2: Andy Roddick beats Novak Djokovic
Quarter-Final 3: Rafa Nadal beats Fernando Gonazales
Quarter-Final 4: Andy Murray beats Juan Martin Del Potro

Will update or write up a new post come semi-finals time.