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Archive for December, 2011

NFL – Week Seventeen Predictions

30 Dec

The NFL’s 2011 regular season winds up this week, with all 16 games being played on Sunday. I’m assuming the schedule was set up this way – no Thursday, Saturday or Monday games – so as not to give any unfair advantage (or disadvantage) to teams that qualify for the playoffs. Last week I picked 10 winners out of the 16 games, leaving the season record at a very well rounded 150 correct and 90 wrong. Here are my picks for the final round of regular season games:

Buffalo at New England – supposedly Tom Brady may have an injured non-throwing shoulder, which could limit his playing time. He’ll probably play, but you have to question how much his heart will be in it. To me, the Patriots without Brady are just like the Colts without Peyton Manning, very average. I’ll take the Bills to close the season with a win.

Detroit at Green Bay – the Packers have the NFC’s top playoff seed wrapped up, and the Lions will be playing to not get anyone hurt also. This shapes up like a preseason game, which makes it hard to pick. I’ll go with the home field and pick Green Bay to win.

Tennessee at Houston – the Texans clinched the first playoff berth in their history a few weeks ago, then basically shut it down. The Titans need to win to stay alive, so I’ll pick them to win on the road.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville – if the Colts win, they could blow their shot at drafting Andrew Luck, but the Jaguars have incentive to not win also, as they would be allowing a division rival to get the best player in the draft. This game should be a real mess. On paper the Colts are the better team, and I’ll pick them to show some pride and win.

New York Jets at Miami – the Jets need to win, then must get a ton of help to make the playoffs. I don’t think they’re good enough this season to even accomplish the first “must”. Miami pulls the upset at home.

Chicago at Minnesota – both teams have had disappointing seasons, but the Bears still have slim hopes so I’ll pick them to win this game.

Carolina at New Orleans – the Saints could get the second seed and a first round bye if they win and the 49ers lose to the Rams, but that won’t happen. New Orleans has a post-Drew Brees record letdown, and the Panthers get the win.

Washington at Philadelphia – both of these teams have played great football since they’ve been out of the playoff race, a tribute to veteran coaches Mike Shanahan and Andy Reid. I’ll go with the Eagles, who are by far more talented.

San Francisco at St. Louis – Jim Harbaugh has done an amazing job turning the Niners around this year, and they can clinch a playoff bye with a win over arguably the NFL’s worst team. It says here they’ll get it done, then be a legitimate playoff threat.

Seattle at Arizona – both of these teams made late runs to give their fans hope for next year, but the Seahawks have a chance to salvage a winning record so I’ll take them to win on the road.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta – the Buccaneers have been running for the bus for weeks, probably getting their coach, Raheem Morris, fired after this game. The Falcons win in a blowout.

Baltimore at Cincinnati –  the Ravens will know the result of the Patriots/Bills game by the time this game is played at 4 PM, so their effort in trying to win is subject to change. The Bengals almost surely need to win to get in, and I’ll go with them at home to pull it off.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland – with or without the banged-up  Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will methodically wear down the Browns  and win.

Kansas City at Denver – although the Tebow Train has been derailed the last 2 weeks, and the Chiefs are resurgent under interim coach Romeo Crennell, I still think the Broncos, at home, will muster up a good enough effort and win this game to sneak into the playoffs.

San Diego at Oakland – Charger coach Norv Turner is on the verge of being fired, and his team’s effort will reflect that. Oakland wins at home to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Dallas at New York Giants – this is a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title, a perfect end to the season as it’s the Sunday night prime time game. Both teams have been dominant at times this year, and both have been awful also. Because they’re playing at home and have players with more big game experience, I’ll pick the Giants to win.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

30 Dec

Logo of a football team that played in the old United States Football League, the Washington Federals. The club played the first 2 seasons of the league’s existence, 1983 and ’84, in Washington’s RFK Stadium before relocating to Orlando, Florida for the 1985 season. Like most teams in that league, the Federals’ roster included former and future NFL players, including Craig James, Coy Bacon, Reggie Collier, Joe Gilliam and Stan Rome.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

30 Dec

1982 Topps football card of former NFL player Ted Hendricks, who had an amazing 15 season pro career with 3 different teams – the Colts, Packers and Raiders. Nicknamed “The Mad Stork” because of his tall, thin frame, Hendricks was an 8 time Pro Bowler, a member of both the All Decade Team for the 1970s and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All Time team. He was one of those unique players whose teams always won when he played for them, as he played for 4 Super Bowl winning clubs. He was a defensive playmaker, and also had a knack for blocking kicks, with 25 for his career. Hendricks was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

 
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NFL – Bills’ Game Review

26 Dec

The Buffalo Bills, after suffering through a seven game losing streak in which they hadn’t won a game since late October, turned the calendar back to September with an effort that looked like one of their early season games, beating the Denver Broncos 40-14 on Saturday in their home finale for 2011. Played on Christmas Eve, the win was a great Christmas present for the home fans, as all 3 phases – offense, defense and special teams – made contributions. The offense didn’t play a spectacular game, but played well enough to win. Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t light it up, but did 2 things that he has to continue to do in 2012 if he is to lead the team to a winning season – he didn’t turn the ball over, and he used his legs to pick up a couple first downs and keep drives alive. That’s an important part of his game that’s been missing during the losing streak. C.J. Spiller had his best day as a pro running the ball, gaining over 100 yards and showing that he’ll be an important weapon in both the running and passing game next year.

The defense returned to their form of the early part of 2011, picking Tim Tebow off 4 times with Jairus Byrd and Spencer Johnson returning theirs for touchdowns to put the game away. They also did a good job of shutting down the Bronco running game and for the most part did a pretty good job of getting off the field on third downs. Byrd and Johnson, besides having the pick-sixes, were among the team leaders in tackles for the day, as was rookie cornerback Aaron Williams, who gets better with each game of experience he gets. Williams and fellow rookie Justin Rogers had the other 2 of the 4 picks the defense got. The star of the day for the D, however, was Chris Kelsay. Lined up for most of the game against a rookie tackle, Kelsay played the game of his career, leading the team with 9 tackles and recording 2 sacks on Tebow, one of the toughest QBs to bring down in the league.

 As for special teams, Rogers was again good on kickoff returns, while Leodis McKelvin had a career day returning punts, including an 80 yard TD return. Kicker Dave Rayner had a rough day, missing a chip shot field goal for the second straight week. He did, however, kick 4 field goals in 6 attempts to give the Bills a big enough lead to allow the pass rush to tee off on Tebow in the fourth quarter and create the game-deciding turnovers.

The Bills get one last chance to go into the off-season with a good feeling with a game at New England this week. It’s a tall task and there certainly will be no expectations, but if the players keep a “nothing to lose” attitude and just play hard, who knows what they can do?

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

26 Dec

Logo of a team that once played in the Canadian Football League, the Ottawa Rough Riders. The franchise, one of the oldest sports teams in North America, was founded in 1876 and played until folding after the 1996 season. The logo above was used in the 1960s, when the Riders won 3 of the 9 Grey Cup championships in their history.  Some notable players from this era are CFL legends Russ Jackson, Ron Stewart and Margene Adkins. One of the signs that the franchise was in trouble, just prior to folding, came when the club drafted a player named Derrell Robertson in 1995. He was a decent player – the problem was he had died in a car accident the previous December.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

26 Dec

From www.CheckOutMyCards.com , a 1962 Topps football card of former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer, who had a long career in the league that was quite a roller coaster ride. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1961 but in his second season, he fell asleep while driving his 1957 Chevy and drove it off the Bayshore Freeway into the San Francisco Bay, suffering a broken leg that was so severe he missed the entire next season. He never produced much for the 49ers, and was picked up by the New Orleans Saints in the 1967 expansion draft, where he labored with that losing organization until he got his break and was traded to the Washington Redskins, joining coach George Allen’s “Over-the-Hill Gang” of old, recycled veterans. Kilmer led the ‘Skins to the Super Bowl in 1972, where they lost to the unbeaten Miami Dolphins. Kilmer played well enough that year that he was voted to the Pro Bowl, the only time he received that honor in his 18 year career.

 
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NFL – Week Sixteen Predictions

21 Dec

I barely broke the .500 mark last week in my game predictions, picking 9 winners and 7 losers. That takes the total season tally to 140 correct and 84 wrong. Here are the picks for week 16:

Houston at Indianapolis – as I expected, the Texans, after clinching the first playoff berth in their history, relaxed and were upset by Carolina. This week Houston will get back on track and defeat the Colts, who finally won a game last week.

Cleveland at Baltimore – the Ravens got roasted in San Diego on Sunday night, then caught a break when the Steelers were beaten in San Francisco on Monday night. They’ll take control here and beat the Browns at home to stay atop the AFC North.

Denver at Buffalo – I can’t see Buffalo’s robotic defense having any idea how to handle the unconventional Tim Tebow offense of Denver. Add to that the fact that the Broncos’ physical defense will probably manhandle the Bills’ offense, and you get a Denver victory that will keep their division title hopes alive.

Tampa Bay at Carolina – Tampa’s coach, Raheem Morris, was being heralded as a bright young coach last year, but now is clearly on a head coaching death watch. The Panthers, who beat the Texans last week and are playing well, win at home.

Arizona at Cincinnati –  both of these teams have slim playoff hopes, but I have to lean toward the Bengals’ defense, and the fact that they’re playing at home, to pick them over the Cardinals.

Oakland at Kansas City – one of pro football’s best rivalries, these 2 teams still can win the AFC West. In fact, all 4 teams in the division are still alive. After stunning Green Bay, I have to believe the Chiefs, under interim coach Romeo Crennell, will be riding high and will win again over the up-and-down Raiders.

Miami at New England – the Dolphins, another team playing under an interim coach, will keep this game competitive, but at this time of year the Patriots don’t fool around. New England wins.

New York Giants at New York Jets – in an amazing turn of events, these 2 teams, who share the same stadium, will be playing in a game in which the loser may be out of the playoffs. It’s technically a Jet home game, but I’ll take the Giants to win since they really need it more to try and stay within reach of the Cowboys in the NFC East.

St.Louis at Pittsburgh – the Steelers and their hobbled QB, Ben Roethlisberger, looked pretty bad on Monday night in losing to San Francisco, and they’ll be loaded for bear in this game. So who comes to town to take the brunt of this? Yikes, it’s the lowly Rams. This is clearly a one-sided Pittsburgh win.

Jacksonville at Tennessee – the Titans’ playoff hopes took a hit last week when they were upset by the lowly Colts, so they’ll take no prisoners here against the Jaguars, whose offensive attack is basically Maurice Jones-Drew against the world. Tennessee wins at home.

Minnesota at Washington – kudos to the Redskins for stepping up and throttling the Giants last week despite being out of the playoffs. They should keep up their positive momentum by beating the Vikings at home.

San Diego at Detroit – the Chargers are in the middle of their annual December roll, and are playing their best football of the season. They have the veteran players to go on the road and win a huge game for both teams’ playoff hopes, and will get it done.

Philadelphia at Dallas – this season has been a disaster for the Eagles, but beleaguered coach Andy Reid, who is a real pro, has them playing great football now even though they’re not going to make the playoffs. With Michael Vick back at the helm, Philly will roll into Jerry’s house and beat the Cowboys.

San Francisco at Seattle – the NFC West was a weak division last season, but at this point this season both of these teams are playing well, and this is a pretty good matchup. The 49ers have the division title wrapped up, so I’ll go with the Seahawks at home to play desperate and pull out a win.

Chicago at Green Bay – the Bears are circling the drain, and having to go to the Frozen Tundra and face a Packer team smarting from being upset by the Chiefs is not what they needed. Green Bay wins in a rout.

Atlanta at New Orleans – this should be a great matchup, and I’ll give the advantage to the home team and pick the Saints to win a very close game.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

21 Dec

Logo of a football team that played in the old United States Football League in the 1980s, the Michigan Panthers. The Panthers played 2 seasons in the league before it folded, winning its’ inaugural championship in 1983 and losing the title game in ’84 in overtime. The team’s top players included Bobby Hebert, Anthony Carter, Ray Bentley, Ray Pinney and Cleo Miller.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

21 Dec

1966 Topps football card of former Oakland Raider receiver Fred Biletnikoff. Remembered for wearing his uniform shirt sleeves cut short and for using heavy amounts of “stickum” on his hands, he was an all-time great with the Raiders, playing 14 seasons. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, a member of the All Time American Football League team, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XI, which Oakland won. Biletnikoff was a long-time receivers coach for the Raiders after retiring, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. The award for the annual outstanding receiver in college football is named for him.

 
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NFL – Bills’ Game Review

19 Dec

After the Miami Dolphins blew out the Buffalo Bills, 35-8, earlier in the season, some of the Miami players accused the Bills of “laying down”. The Bills got their chance to respond to those accusations this Sunday, but that response was to lay another egg, as they played an uninspired game marred by turnovers, penalties and blown assignments on defense. The mistake-filled effort led to the Bills’ seventh consecutive defeat in what has turned out to be an extremely disappointing season. The final score was a respectable 30-23, as the Bills made a late charge to make it look closer than it really was. Buffalo’s defense didn’t play a bad game, but gave up 3 touchdowns on big plays that appeared to include major breakdowns. The first was a Matt Moore to Anthony Fasano pass on a play that found the Dolphins’ big tight end wide open as Bills’ safeties George Wilson and Bryan Scott looked at each other bewildered. The second was a Moore to Brandon Marshall bomb that burned veteran Drayton Florence, who in recent weeks looks like he is playing his way out of the team’s 2012 plans. The final one was a 76 yard run by Reggie Bush, who had 200+ yards on the ground for the game. Still, the defense wasn’t the major culprit this time. Buffalo’s offense was terrible, ruining drives with costly penalties all day long and turning the ball over with 3 Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions. The special teams made their weekly negative contribution also, giving up long punt returns all day long and getting a missed chip shot field goal attempt by Dave Rayner.

Rather than dwell on the many negatives the Bills provided again in this game, it may be better to just list the few bright spots from the game. They include, on offense, the play of C.J. Spiller, who had the best game of his young career, and the play of both Stevie Johnson and David Nelson. They both are consistent in what they provide to the attack each week, and on a team that sorely lacks depth, it’s critical that the Bills sign Johnson to a long-term contract if they want to show their fan base that they’re serious about building a winning organization. On defense, the play of 3 rookies – Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard and Marcel Dareus – was encouraging. Williams led the team with 6 tackles and had a forced fumble, while Dareus got a sack, which has been an extreme rarity with this defense this season. Another plus was the kickoff return effort by another rookie, Justin Rogers. He averaged 33 yards per return on 4 returns, with his best being a 54 yarder.

 
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