Thursday, December 31, 2009

The AFC Playoff Mess: Will the Bengals and Patriots "Lay Down?"

As you may have heard, the Steelers LaMarr Woodley believes that the Bengals and the Patriots will not try their hardest to win their games this Sunday in order to prevent the Steelers from making the playoffs.

And to be honest, if I were a member of the Bengal or Patriot organizations I'd encourage that very action.

The AFC playoffs, if the Patriots and Bengals lose on Sunday, mixed with a Ravens win over Oakland, will look like this:

6. Baltimore @ 3. New England
5. New York @ 4. Cincinnati

Obviously New England will lose their game to Houston for two reasons; first off, they don't want to play the Steelers, second, they would much rather play the Jets than the Ravens in the first round.

So essentially, New England will be putting their eggs in the basket of the Bengals attempting to win in order to get the number 3 seed. But the Bengals have the benefit of playing the night game, they'll see what happens before their game, and they will be able to know that if they lose they play the Jets in the first round.

It's not a shot on the Jets as much as it's strategy. Obviously the Jets are a very capable team; they have a great running game, a solid offensive line, and a contending defense. The reasoning is, not to anger the Jets fans out there, that the Jets quarterback is really, really, really, bad (compared to the 11 other Quarterbacks in the playoffs). Why would you want to play the Ravens or the Texans or the Broncos or (heavens forbid) the Steelers, when you could play the Mark Sanchez lead New York Jets.

A lot of people also believe the Colts pursuit (or lack there of) of perfection ended purposely to the Jets for this reason. Bill Polian is no idiot, he got all his numbers and figures in before kickoff with the Jets on Sunday and realized that if things play out the way he expects them to (which seems almost definite now) the Colts would be guaranteed to host either the Ravens, the Bengals, or the Jets in the divisional round.

Since the Tony Dungy era began in 2002, the Colts have played those teams a combined 14 times, and have only one true loss (Sundays game to the Jets does not count) to those teams, a 41-0 2002 Wild Card loss to the Jets. Obviously, if given the opportunity to play one of those three teams or the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers, Polian would know what the correct answer is.

The only thing that's guaranteed in the NFL is that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but what the Colts, Patriots, and Bengals will do in letting the Jets make the playoffs, and keeping the Steelers out, is ensure the easiest route to Miami.

For the Patriots, that route will include (if things stand) Baltimore, San Diego, and Indianapolis consecutively (that's brutal). For the Bengals, their route will include New York, then a trip to Indianapolis, which if they get through they'll likely have to travel back to San Diego. And for the Colts, they sit pretty with a bye, then play either the Ravens, Jets, or Bengals before playing one of their two biggest rivals in the AFC Championship game.

I guess Herm was wrong, you don't always play to win the game.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pro Bowl Rosters are In

It's that time of the year again; PRO BOWL ROSTER TIME!

Usually every year, this date is accompanied by debate over "who should have made it" and who the selected starters are. Basically it serves as the prelude to the All-Pro discussion.

Let's tackle that first question though; Who should have made it?

In terms of AFC Quarterbacks and Running Backs, there isn't much you can complain about. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Philip Rivers are all having sterling seasons, while Chris Johnson, Mo Jo Drew, and Ray Rice are absolutely the right choices. Only Matt Schaub can really complain about getting "snubbed" but considering Peyton, Brady, or Rivers will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this year, odds are Schaub will be in.

Wide Receiver in the AFC is a little trickier. Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, and Andre Johnson were no brainers. Wayne and Johnson can punch their tickets for the next three Pro Bowls as long as they're healthy. For the second year, Wes Welker has gone in over Randy Moss. Personally, I agree, but Moss and Vincent Jackson have every right feel snubbed. Once again, if Wayne or Welker are in the Super Bowl, expect Jackson or Moss to be representing the AFC, or at least get the invitation.

The rest of the AFC is about right; it was good to see Dumervil and Cushing selected over a household name like Merriman.

I hate to Charger bash (how can I bash the same day I put them at #1 in the Power Rankings anyway?), but Nate Kaeding in the Pro Bowl over Rob Bironas? I don't know about that. Kaeding may have made more kicks, but Bironas makes the big kicks, and the long kicks. Even the most homer Charger fan has to know Bironas deserves it, so I'll move on.

The NFC gets a bit touchy.

Favre, Brees, and Rodgers were selected as the quarterbacks which opens the question, what the heck happened to Romo, Warner, Eli, and McNabb?

By default Eli gets the Schaub treatment for not making the playoffs. Favre always gets voted in, even when he doesn't deserve it, and McNabb has been average by McNabb standards.

If Brees makes it to the Super Bowl, expect Rodgers to start, with Romo and McNabb getting the
alternate selections. Potentially Eli or Warner.

The RB's and WR's; A.P, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, Fitz, DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin, and Sidney Rice can't really be argued. I suppose Marques Colston and Steve Smith (NYG) might complain, but c'mon fellas. Only Frank Gore has a real argument, but his (one and then some) game missed probably caused the '9ers work horse from a shot to play in Miami.

The defense looked good but a few obvious names are missing.

When will London Fletcher make it to the Pro Bowl! Vilma over Fletcher? Ugh.

Also, what happened to Will Smith? And no, I don't mean DJ Jazzy Jeff's Will Smith, I mean Saints DE Will Smith. A.K.A the guy with 13 sacks, .5 less than Jared Allen, and not all of which came in one early season game against a putrid offensive line. Yeah, that Will Smith.

Finally, who the hell is Heath Farwell and how did he make the Pro Bowl (as a special teamer) over the Bears LS Patrick Mannelly. Mannelly better get in.

Finally, if you remember back in early November when voting opened I made a list of 11 Players I felt should get selected, my list included Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clark, Steven Jackson, Jairus Byrd, London Fletcher, Matt Schaub, Cedric Benson, Kirk Morrison, Jacoby Jones, Sebastian Janikowski, and James Laurenitis.

Of that list only Clark, S. Jackson, and Byrd were selected. I suppose that's all that should have gotten selected. V. Jackson and Benson may get in as reserves. Fletcher and Schaub should get in as reserves. Jones may replace Cribbs, too.

NFL Week 17 Power Rankings

One week left in the NFL season, and the Saints are finally dethroned from #1 in the NFL.

The Elite

01. San Diego Chargers - For the first time in their history the Chargers have the best team in the NFL. Whether or not they can get to the Super Bowl is a different story. Beating Indy (for real) seems close to impossible this year.

02. Indianapolis Colts - They had their opportunity to be the undeniable best team in the league, not just this year, but ever, and they gave it up for health. An 18-1 with a ring may give them that honor anyway. They have more Hall of Famers than the 85 Bears.

03. New Orleans Saints - Things are looking scary here, but I think it's good for these guys. I still think they'll host the NFC title game. Whether they win it or not is a different story.

04. Philadelphia Eagles - They're getting hot, really hot. McNabb is playing well, but they need a running game to win the NFC. If they can control the clock they may be unbeatable.

The Very Good

05. Arizona Cardinals -They can beat any team in the NFC, and they could probably beat most teams in the AFC, but I'm not sure they can repeat last years miracle run. If they can, then watch out, they may win this time.

06. New England Patriots - They're going to be in the playoffs, and they'll be hot heading in (unless the Texans punch them in the mouth). The question lies in whether or not they beat the Texans to guarantee they get the 3 seed, forcing them to play Baltimore and San Diego, or do they drop the game, take the 4 seed, and force themselves to play the 5 seed and the Colts?

07. Green Bay Packers - I do not believe that this is a contender for the Super Bowl, but in the NFC I wouldn't be shocked. I'm not sure they could beat Indy, San Diego, or New England though.

08. Minnesota Vikings - Brett Favre's team losing down the stretch. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, that's every team he's been on since 2002. And this is coming from a big time Favre apologist.

09. Cincinnati Bengals - No matter who wins the Dallas/Philadelphia game, this will be the worst team with a home game next week. Truth is, they may win that home game, too.

10. Dallas Cowboys - Two wins in December was enough to get them to the playoffs. Up next, win their first playoff game post-Aikman/Emmitt. That's where my questions about Romo really lie. I know he can get a team to the playoffs, I don't know if his FCS upbringing can guide him to a playoff win though (not a slam on the FCS, as you know I respect the FCS tremendously).

11. Baltimore Ravens - How much do they thank Ben Roethlisbergers concussed brain for missing that Sunday Night Football game back around Thanksgiving? They're in the playoffs, they have a shot to beat New England, and Michael Oher deserves rookie of the year.

12. New York Jets - This team is likely headed to the playoffs, and they owe the Colts dearly. What can you give them in return? How about a win over Cinci wild card weekend to send your team back to Indy?

Hanging In There

13. Pittsburgh Steelers - They're going to be the best team on the outside of the 2010 playoffs, and that will make the other 12 teams very, very happy.

14. Denver Broncos - Luckily for them the 2009 New York Giants exist to take the heat off of their collapse (like the Mets in 07 taking the heat off of the Padres). Unluckily for them, the Chargers will still exist in 2010, and the Raiders will be better. Oh, and you play the AFC South in head to head competition.

15. Houston Texans - They can still make the playoffs, but talent wise, this team should have already clinched. There's no denying they're more talented than the Jets and Bengals, but there's no denying who the better teams are. Maybe next year for this team (just like we said in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008).

The Dead

16. New York Giants - Are they the biggest disappointment of 2010? I'm not sure. The team gave up, not Eli, and to be honest that's a better sign going into the future. Better to have a great QB on a heartless team, then vice-versa.

17. Carolina Panthers - They started to play better towards the end of the season and that's always the sign of a good team the next year. Consequently, they also started to get good when Jake Delhomme got injured. This team has to make a directional decisions; do they stick with Fox and company, or do they begin to rebuild. I say stick with the players, ditch the coach.

18. Miami Dolphins - This was supposed to be their season to take a fall. If this is a fall, imagine them next year. They're going to be good.

19. Tennessee Titans - They started the season as a Super Bowl contender, then faded to arguably the worst team in the NFL, then they crept into the Top 10, but now they're where they belong. Somewhere in between mediocre and bad. The loss to San Diego was awful.

20. Atlanta Falcons - Super Bowl hopes faded with injuries, but this team will be back in 2010. And 2011. And 2012. And so on.

21. Cleveland Browns - This team has gotten it together. I think all of my Mangini praising has finally caught up to the team. They're truly playing decent football.

22. San Francisco 49ers - I never bought this team as a playoff team, but what a disappointment to those who did. If you don't feel bad for Frank Gore you have no heart. He's one of the best running backs of the decade and has nothing to show for it.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars - Remember when they had to tank to miss the playoffs? They tanked. They are what we always knew they would be; a team in the 20's of Funk Football's weekly power rankings. Nothing more, nothing less.

24. Chicago Bears - The win over the Vikings showed heart. Cutler didn't even look awful. This is a team that can be in the playoffs in 2010 with the right offensive coordinator.

25. Oakland Raiders - The loss to Cleveland hurts their momentum, but they'll be respectable in 2010, and that's something they haven't been in a long time.

26. Seattle Seahawks - What a disappointing year. I predicted these guys in the playoffs. One of only two picks I had wrong preseason in the NFC (I also had the Giants as a Wild Card over Green Bay).

27. Washington Redskins - On the bright side, they're going to be an entirely different season next year. With Mike Shanahan?

28. Buffalo Bills - Brian Brohm looked okay. If by okay you mean barely a professional quarterback. I wouldn't give up on him though, he could be valuable in 2010. You have to give him a full year in the system.

29. Kansas City Chiefs - Simply put, they just have not been good in 2010. They made the wrong decisions at QB and GM and Head Coach, but you need to just let it play out the next two years.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Their wins over New Orleans and Green Bay show just how good the NFL is, and how anyone who thinks the best college team can even compete at the professional level is idiotic.

31. Detroit Lions - The 2010 season was just a warm up for 2011 anyway. Next year is a big year for this franchise. They need to get back to six wins or things could get bad. And yes, things in Detroit can get worse.

32. St. Louis Rams - Anyone who thinks this team should draft a QB in round one doesn't understand how to build an NFL team. Round one: Suh. Round two: you may still be able to get Colt McCoy, and I think he'll be really happy to know he'll never have to go head to head with him again.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cowboys Clinch, Giants Done

When the Giants were 5-0 it looked like they were definitely playoff bound, the only question was "are they the one, two, or three seed?" After their loss to New Orleans, the Giants free-fell to mediocrity, but a win over the Cowboys in early December gave them a 2-0 head to head advantage over Dallas, and positioned the Giants for a playoff push.

Then the Cowboys did what the Giants (and every other team this season up to that point) couldn't do; they beat the Saints.

The win over the Saints by Dallas forced the Giants into a must win over the Panthers this week in the Giants final game at the Meadowlands; their home stadium for three Super Bowl wins and four NFC Championships. The Meadowlands Giants Stadium I farewell game ended with the G-Men getting tossed by the Carolina Panthers, a team that has played the foil to the Giants more than once in the Eli-era.

The Cowboys on the other hand took care of business yet again, quieting critics who said they couldn't win in December.

Now, Dallas are in the playoffs, and they may have a home game if they can beat the Eagles this week. Do I think the Cowboys can go deep in the playoffs? Maybe. All season I've had the Cowboy's as a plus .500 team, but not a great team. That being said, come the playoffs anyone can be great. It's a different game. From the refs, to the coaches, to the kick holders, playoff football is a different sport.

Mark my words, the Cowboys can win Super Bowl XLIV. They can beat the Vikings, Eagles, Cardinals, and Saints. They played San Diego well earlier this season, they beat the SB XLI Champion Colts in 2006, and they can beat the Patriots this year.

But unfortunately for the Cowboys, I don't see it happening. But that means nothing. I definitely didn't see the Giants or Cardinals coming out of the NFC the past two years.

As for the Giants of 2009, it was a disappointing year and changes need to be made. The team missed Derrick Ward, not because of his talent, but because you can never have too many running backs. Brandon Jacobs, like Marion Barber, is at his best when he's not relied on for every carry.

Eli Manning looked better in 2009 and he continues to improve. Giants stadium is a tough stadium to throw in, QB's say it's the toughest in the league, so never expect Eli to have Rivers or Peyton or Brady numbers. We should expect him to get Rivers or Peyton or Brady numbers in wins though, and that's where the 2009 Giants failed.

The defensive line fizzled, the linebacking corps didn't work out, and the team misses Steve Spagnuolo.

Simply put, despite beating them twice, the Giants are not a better team than the Cowboys, and the Cowboys belong in the playoffs.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Curtis Painter: The NFL's New Whipping Boy

You can already hear it. Those nerdy TV Sports hosts making quips at Curtis Painter. Comparing anything poor in sports for the next week to Curtis Painter. Saying that Curtis Painter just won Peyton Manning his 4th MVP award.

Okay, so the last one is sort of funny, and I suppose it's true; the NFL's new whipping boy is going to more than likely be Curtis Painter.

If you thought you heard champagne popping on Sunday after the Jets beat the Colts, it wasn't coming from Perfectville, it was actually coming from the homes of Eric Mangini, JaMarcus Russell, and Kerry Collins. Mangini and Russell because Painter had supplanted them (for the time being) as the joke of the NFL, Collins because, well, that's what Kerry Collins does.

Do I feel bad for Curtis Painter? A little. Does he deserve it? Yes. He looked awful. And the thing was, he was going up against Mark Sanchez, in the same week so many sub-par QB's started (Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brian Brohm). He actually made Sanchez look great.

Many of us remember Curtis Painter from Purdue as the QB who was pretty good as a junior and pretty average as a senior. It looks as though Painter is going to be a pretty bad pro.

The Colts Trade Perfection for Health

The Internet is a storm right now with comments, criticisms, and complaints about the Indianapolis Colts, who were 20 minutes away from 15-0, decision to bench their starters so they can rest up for the playoffs.

Do I think it's a travesty? Sort of. I know that's a cheap answer, but if the Colts are energetic, healthy, and well rested come playoff time, then what is there to complain about?

Before we go ahead and kill Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian for not giving us something to write about, let's look at the bigger picture;

We know Peyton Manning wanted to go for it, as did Reggie Wayne, and every other Colt we got a close up of. They played their asses off all year, every game, to get to 14-0. Now they're 14-1. But if they win the Super Bowl, they'll still likely be considered amidst the greatest teams of all time: joining the 84 49ers, the 85 Bears, and of course the 71 Dolphins on a very short list.

In 2005 the Colts went for it until they lost to the Chargers and fell to 13-1. From that point on they went all out in resting players and were iced on both sides of the ball in the first half of the AFC Divisional round against the Steelers. The rustiness lead to the Colts being in a hole they couldn't dig themselves out of.

The 2007 and 2008 Colts won 13 and 12 games respectively, but due to injuries couldn't beat a (healthier) San Diego Chargers team. The last thing the 2009 Colts can afford is to lose Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, or Joseph Addai like the 2007 and 2008 Colts.

We learned tonight how great Peyton Manning really is, and how much he really does mean to his team. That Manning vs Brady debate? Brady supporters just got another huge kick to the face tonight. That Matt what's his name kid from 2008 did pretty well filling in for (what every uneducated person north of the Long Island sound refers to as) "the best QB ever" if I recall.

We also learned that Curtis Painter is awful, and the Colts defense is better than people think. They dominated the Jets offensive line, and shut down the Jets #1 ranked rushing attack.

I know it stinks that the regular season winning streak ends on a fluke, I know it stinks that the perfect season is lost. This was the Colts front office and head coaching decision though.

If the Colts are rusty in three weeks in the first half, or fall apart in the second half because of conditioning, then we'll look back on this game.

If the Colts win the Super Bowl, then we'll look back on this game.

Either way, whichever outcome prevails, tonight's game will shape the way teams prepare for the playoffs for years to come.

USC Take Care of Boston College, Win The Emerald Bowl

USC entered the Emerald Bowl letting everyone know that "this wasn't the last game of 2009, it was the first game of 2010."

If that's the case, then the Trojans QB and defensive woes of 2009 will be cured in the 2010 season.

Freshman QB Matt Barkley decided to cash in on the Freshman-Crazed QB performances thus far by adding 350 of his own passing yards to the mix. Though he also had two interceptions, Barkley's performance should give him more confidence heading into 2010, where the Trojans will expect to compete for a national championship, yet again.

Personally, I think the Trojans won't even be in the national title discussion by November of next year. I think that they will improve in 2010, but a Pac 10 conference championship may be all that's in their cards. I can't see them competing with Alabama next year.

As for Boston College, the loss caps off a season that may have exceeded many peoples expectations. I don't expect the Eagles to compete realistically in the ACC next year. I think it's Miami's conference to lose heading in to 2010.

And thus, the Emerald Bowl is in the books; USC 24, Boston College 13. A closer game than some anticipated.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Urban Meyer to Step Down

In our first story that will carry us with speculation through the offseason, and continue into seasons to come, Urban Meyer will step down from his current position as Head Coach of the University of Florida Gators in order to deal with medical issues relating to the heart.

Okay, not that the informative bologna is off the table, let's enter the fun part.

Immediately I raise the question, how much does this have to do with the dissolution of the defense, and the departure of Tim Tebow?

Not that Meyer is faking a serious ailment or condition or anything. I'm just saying his coaching stock to go pro isn't going to get any higher than it is now. The Gators are only going to get worse these next two seasons, especially with Tennessee, Alabama, and LSU looking to be really, really, good next year.

It's hard to stay on top in college football. Look at USC, Michigan, and Oklahoma this season. Look at Tennessee and Ohio State last season. It's a roller coaster, a revolving door, a carousel, whatever amusement park ride you want to call it.

So is Urban Meyer getting himself out of Florida to position himself for a shot in the NFL? Will that shot be wherever Tim Tebow ends up? Will that spot be a state like Massachusetts where the two can legally wed like Massachusetts?

I'm not saying that Urban Meyer doesn't really have health issues to deal with here. I totally believe that something is wrong with his heart.

I just think it's a broken heart.

Another Great Bowl Game in the Books: Pitt 19 UNC 17

Big East vs ACC, Dave Wannstedt vs Butch Davis, Pitt vs North Carolina; Those were some of the things we referred to the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl before the game.

Now we'll refer to it as a classic.

Saving you from the boring game recap (that's what ESPN and Yahoo are for, duh) this game fit right in with the rest of the 2009 Bowl Season. It was great.

I've got a feeling this is going to be a great Bowl Season, don't you?

This game sets Pitt up perfectly as the front runners in the Big East heading into 2010. Wannstedt may have been an oft-criticized professional head coach, but he's done a really admirable job with Pitt. His recruitment of Dion Lewis has every other coach East of the Mississippi smacking themselves upside the head. Especially after tonight.

UNC's contention in this game also helped further solidify the Tar-Heels as a legitimate College Football program. They may not be the men's basketball team at Chapel Hill, but they're not a joke anymore either.

This win puts the Big East at 2-0 thus far in Bowl Games. The conference will be tested when UConn takes on South Carolina, West Virginia takes on Florida State, and of course when Cincinnati take on the Florida Gators.

Conference USA Move to 2-1 in Bowl Games

The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was one of the more neglected bowl games of the season, serving as the opener on the day-after-Christmas; which has traditionally served as an opener to the big Bowl games.

Though neglected, I'm sure those who tuned into the game on ESPN today were satisfied. In a very tight game, Marshall were able to win 21-17 after leading 21-0 at one point. The second half was all Ohio, but too many mistakes and miscues wrote Ohio's demise.

The bowl win is Marshall's first since the 2002 GMAC Bowl, when Byron Leftwich had his breakout game, and the programs first since moving to Conference USA.

The win also opens the door for Marshall, who begin the Doc Holliday as head coach era in 2010, to compete for their first Conference USA title; a conference that is looking to be really tough in 2010.

For those of you wondering if C-USA's wins over the MAC and WAC thus far should open discussion for why C-USA has zero top 25 teams and the MAC and WAC have one each, look no further than the Hawaii and Little Caesar Bowl's for your answer. SMU, the seasons biggest underdog, and Marshall, playing without their head coach, defeated WAC #2 and MAC #2. In other words, Conference USA is a much deeper, more competitive conference (Though Southern Miss' upset at the hands of Middle Tennessee did the conference little for it's argument).

Is Conference USA ready to start competing for BCS automatic qualification? Absolutely not! But let me put it out there that, although the conference doesn't get too much attention, it's second to only the Mountain West in terms of the best Non-Automatic Qualifying conferences.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chargers Wrap Up a First Round Bye

The game's not over yet but the Chargers are mauling the Titans 42-10 in the 4th quarter. The loss will ensure that the Titans remain dead for the decade, and the Chargers will host a game in the 19th week of the NFL season.

The 2009 Chargers are considered by themselves to be the best Chargers team of the decade. Considering the 04, 07, and 08 Chargers didn't get byes, I'd agree. The 2006 Chargers on the other hand had what the 2009 Chargers lack, and will likely need in the playoffs; a defense and running game.

If things hold out the way we assume they will, the Chargers are going to host the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Though it's hard to argue the Patriots are more talented than the Chargers, it's also hard to argue that the Chargers are more talented than the Patriots. In other words, these two teams aren't that far apart.

One thing the Patriots can do that a lot of the teams on the Chargers '09 schedule could not is produce touchdowns. In 2006 we saw a (much weaker than now) Patriots offense move the ball against a (much better than now) Chargers defense that was considered one of the best in the league. The Chargers lost that game because of youthful mistakes, the Patriots dominated the Chargers in the 2007 regular season, and again outplayed them for 60 minutes in the 07 playoffs. The Chargers finally got the better of the Patriots in 2008 when Matt Cassell filled in for an injured Tom Brady.

The 2009 Patriots haven't done well on the road, but traditionally San Diego hasn't been as daunting of a place to play as Indianapolis, the Meadowlands, Denver, or New Orleans; places New England have lost in 2009.

If the well rested Chargers can get past the Patriots they'll likely have to travel to Indianapolis to play the team they've ejected from the playoffs the past two seasons; the Colts.

Before you automatically qualify the Chargers for the Super Bowl based on this match up remember a few things; the Colts and Chargers games have never been decided before the five minutes of the game;

In the 2007 regular season, Manning lead the Colts back (playing without Clark, Harrison, Addai, amidst others) from a 21 point deficit and put the Colts in position to win on the road in San Diego before Vinatieri missed a go ahead chip shot.

In the 2007 playoffs, mistakes by Marvin Harrison and Kenton Keith (players no longer on the Colts) allowed the Chargers, lead by Billy Volek and Michael Turner (players no longer on the team) to score a game winning drive (which featured a Dwight Freeney-less opposing pass rush).

In the 2008 regular season, Adam Vinatieri made up for his 2007 mistake by hitting a game winning field goal in the 4th quarter against the Chargers in San Diego. The Colts would win the game en route to a 12-4 record, but because of the leagues playoff set up they'd have to travel to 8-8 San Diego come playoff time.

In the 2008 playoffs, the game was decided by a great punting game by San Diego, and a poor rush defense from Indianapolis. In 2009 the Chargers punting game has dropped back to the pack, the Colts rush defense has caught up to the pack, and the Chargers rushing attack has fell drastically to the middle of the pack.

What else is different between these two teams? How about a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator in Indianapolis?

In other words, these are two different teams. The 2007-2008 Indianapolis Colts aren't the 2009 Colts. Unlike the Patriots and Chargers (who have kept most of their coaching and player personnel from the 2007 season) the Colts are an entirely different, much younger, team then they were before that.

I'm not saying the Colts win the game, I'm just saying it's not going to be as easy for the Chargers as the media are making it out to be.

But what matters now is the Chargers have gotten back to the divisional round of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. No other team in the NFL can say that.

Not even the Patriots or the Colts.

Tebow and McCoy Preparing for Final College Games

It's going to get hard to get used to seeing (or not seeing) Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy in different uniforms this upcoming season. It's also going to be really difficult to imagine an NCAA without either of the two quarterbacks. But we've gotten over greats of the collegiate level moving on before, and I'm sure a year from now Tebow and McCoy will be old news.

Or maybe they'll be winding down successful rookie seasons in the NFL. Who knows?

There's no denying that Tim Tebow was the best college football player of the decade. I'm sorry if you disagree, but there isn't really an argument to be had against it. It's arguable that no player has transcended college football more than Tim Tebow, but it's undeniable that he's the best college football player of the 00's.

Unfortunately for Tebow, he's not going to get a chance on top as he and the defending national champion Florida Gators prepare for the undefeated Big East champion Cincinnati Bearcats. Even had Cinci head coach Brian Kelly not left for Notre Dame, Tebow and the Gators were going to win this game. Probably by a lot. It'll be the upset of the year if the Bearcats can win, and it would shake the BCS upside down.

Unlike Tebow, Colt McCoy doesn't have a Heisman or a National Championship, but he has a chance to get the latter against Alabama this year. An impressive performance in the title game could also catapult McCoy up draft boards.

Though I personally feel confident that Alabama will beat Texas, at least Colt McCoy has a chance to give the Longhorns their second national title of the 2000's.

And here we are now, in 2009, with both McCoy and Tebow playing in BCS games, not against one another, but they're there. These two will compared to one another, along with Sam Bradford, for the entirety of their playing careers. Who do I personally give the edge to?

I wouldn't be shocked if Bradford has the best pro career of the three, and I'd take Tebow over McCoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SMU Roll 45-10 over Nevada in Hawaii Bowl

If you've followed Funk Football for the past few months, you'll know how big of an SMU supporter I am. I like June Jones, I want to see the Mustangs succeed, and when the bowl schedule came out they were given no chance (+21) in the Hawaii Bowl against Nevada.

Well tonight "no chance" translated into a 45-10 win for the Mustangs who went from 1-11 in 2008 to 8-5 in 2009. June Jones' homecoming to Hawaii couldn't have been better, the once-proud Mustangs are back in the national spotlight, and things continue to free-fall for the WAC.

Heading into the game there was a lot of question marks surrounding Kyle Padron and the 2010 starting role for the Mustangs. After breaking a school record for passing yards, nonetheless doing it in a bowl game, it's going to be hard not to give him the nod.

I'll put it out there now. The Mustangs are going to contend for a Top 25 spot in 2010. Houston almost pulled it off this year as a Conference USA team, and SMU's schedule (which always includes rival TCU) will be tough enough to earn them a Top 25 spot.

Jones has recruited well in Texas, Padron looked Brennan-esque(460 yards passing), and if SMU can get some defense going in Dallas next year, expect them to be in the Liberty Bowl next year, representing Conference USA.

Week 16 Picks

Last week I went 11-5, picking the weekend games early. This week I don't need time to ponder the weekend game. Considering the holiday, I figured I'd just make it all one post.

I'm loving the home teams this week.

San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans
- This is going to be a tough game for the Chargers but I think they'll pull it off. The Titans are good, and their strong running game could easily be the kryptonite necessary to slow San Diego down. I'm not sure San Diego want to wait until week 17 to lock down a first round bye.

I'm taking the Chargers on the Road.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints - The Bucs picked up their second win of the 2009 season last week, while the Saints picked up their first loss of the 2009 season. Expect the Saints to pick up their 14th win, while the Bucs pick up their 13th loss. Easy pick.

I'm taking the Saints at Home.

Buffalo Bills @ Atlanta Falcons
- The Bills have been tough the past few weeks, but the Falcons have more to prove. They definitely don't care about draft day positioning, and Matt Ryan has to be upset with the fact that he's been passed by in QB rankings by about six passers this week. He hasn't looked all that impressive in 2009, but he has a shot to set up a nice 2010 this week.

I'm taking the Falcons at Home.

Houston Texas @ Miami Dolphins - This is a tough game to call. The Dolphins have had headaches in the past at the hands of the Texans, but the Texans have to be the most disappointing team of the second half of the NFL season. Both teams need the win to stay alive, and I think the home team is going to benefit most.

I'm taking the Dolphins at Home.

Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers - For a while in the middle of the decade these two had a nice rivalry going. Holmgren and Hasselbeck were products of the Packers, Ahman Green was a product of the Seahawks. They met twice in the playoffs, the Packers won both times. They'll win again this time. The Seahawks may have spoiled the Jets 2008 this time last year, but they're too inconsistent this year to pick.

I'm taking the Packers at Home.

Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants
- The Giants came out and dominated the Redskins on Monday Night, while the Panthers pulled off a nice upset against Minnesota. Neither team has been consistent lately, so winning two in a row seems out of reach for both. In a game like this you have to pick the more desperate team, especially when they're playing at home.

I'm taking the Giants at Home.

Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns
- This is Mangini's best shot to get to four wins for 2009, and a three game win streak to end the season may be what it takes to save his job. The Raiders have gotten it together lately, and this is a tough one to call. I'm going to go with the team that has the better QB situation. Wait, it's going to be Derek Anderson vs Charlie Frye? God forbid it's Anderson vs Russell. Um. If Losman plays I'm going with the Raiders. If not, it's the Browns.

I'm taking the Browns at Home.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots - Depending on what happens on Friday Night, this could be a huge game for the Patriots. A win with a Chargers loss and they'll be right in the hunt for an AFC first round bye. If they can get in contention for that Christmas gift, they'll take care of this one easily. If not, then it could be a little closer. The Jaguars can still make the playoffs, but the game is in New England.

I'm taking the Patriots at Home.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals
- The Bengals have looked bad lately, not awful, but all things considered they've dropped out of the first round bye race. A loss to the Chiefs and they may be in danger of losing their division. Fortunately for them, I think the Bengals will win this one. Hopefully their fan base gets to see it.

I'm taking the Bengals at Home.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- This is going to be a huge game. The Ravens have been hot and cold in their pursuit of the playoffs. The Steelers have been cold as ice, yet somehow got back into the playoff race by beating the Packers at home last week. Last time these two teams played the Ravens beat the Ben-less Steelers. We saw the kind of impact Roethlisberger makes on his team last week, and he'll be playing this week.

I'm taking the Steelers at Home.

St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
- The Cardinals are going to end this one before half time. Anyone disagree?

I'm taking the Cardinals at Home.

Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers - Granted the Lions aren't the worst team in the NFL, they're not far from it. The 49ers have won games like this most of the year, and they're going to do it again. The 9ers need to make progress next year. They're too talented to linger around mediocrity another year.

I'm taking the 49ers at Home.

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts - For the second week in a row I think the Colts are going to go all out. It's too early before the playoffs for them to start resting the important players. Expect them to take it easy on Joseph Addai, but Peyton still needs to make sure that Collie and Garcon are in rhythm, especially now that Anthony Gonzalez has been placed on IR. Peyton wants MVP #4 too. We saw that last week.

I'm taking the Colts at Home.

Denver Broncos @ Philadelphia Eagles
- It's been quite a journey for both teams in 2009, and both are poised to make the playoffs this year. The Eagles are already in the playoffs, and the Broncos are in contention. An Eagles win can set them up for a home game, a Broncos win can essentially put them in the playoffs. I can't see the Broncos winning this one on the road though.

I'm taking the Eagles at Home.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
- This is harder than it looks. The Redskins just got killed by the Giants, and the Cowboys just had a big win. I still like the Cowboys though. They're the better team and they want to be in the playoffs.

I'm taking the Cowboys on the Road.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
- This year nothing has been more remedial than beating the Bears. The Vikings are unlikely to lose two in a row and force themselves into a hole week 17. I think they'll get this one done. I'm not sold on Favre in a high pressure game come January though.

I'm taking the Vikings on the Road.

Mountain West Move to 3-0 In Bowl Games

With last nights victory over Cal, Utah moved to 9-0 in their last nine bowl games, and helped the Mountain West Conference move to 3-0 in 2009.

With both Oregon State, and perennial Pac 10 contender Cal falling to Mountain West teams, it raises the question; how are the Mountain West not automatic qualifiers in the BCS.

Last year Utah beat Alabama and TCU beat Boise State in bowl games. This year, if TCU beat Boise State again, the Mountain West will make a strong case as the second best conference in the NCAA.

I'm not saying that the Mountain West will always be better than the Pac 10, Big East, Big 10, and Big 12, but right now it's hard to argue against it; And if BYU could have avoided getting smashed by Florida State earlier in the season, we'd be talking about the Mountain West in the same sentence as the SEC.

So let's embrace it. The Mountain West has arrived, and NCAA Football is better for it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Mountain West Win Again

It's hard to figure out what to make of bowl ones, but one thing I can asses thus far from the 2009 Bowl season is that the Mountain West are looking pretty legit.

First Wyoming upset Fresno State, now more impressively, BYU dominated Pac 10 #3, and BCS #18 Oregon State. At this point Utah and Air Force still need to win their Bowl games, but there's a great chance that the Mountain West comes out of the 2009 Bowl season 5-0.

If the Mountain West teams pull that off, capped by a TCU victory over Boise State, it's going to be hard not to consider the Mountain West a major conference; Making it even harder to repel the conference from an automatic BCS bid every season.

I would definitely agree with anyone who said that the Mountain West from top to bottom really isn't that great, and you need a few somewhat bigger universities to step in and replace schools like San Diego State, New Mexico, and Colorado State. Those teams would do well in Conference USA or the WAC. If you could replace them with Boise State (who are looking to move conferences), SMU (who have the money, and are rivals with TCU), and maybe even a program like San Jose State, you'd have a conference that you could at least say from top to bottom has the tools necessary to compete with the major conferences.

I suppose we'll have to let the Bowl series play out before we can make any further judgement. But at least BYU's big win over Oregon State washes away the stain of their thrashing at the hands of Florida State earlier in the season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NFL Week 16 Power Rankings

15 weeks in, this is when the Power Rankings are both easiest and hardest to make at the same time. I know that sounds a little off, but trust me, it is.

For example, how much do weight New Orleans loss? Does one loss really make them slip out of the top spot after they beat up on so many other playoff caliber teams all year?

Although Indianapolis are undefeated, should they really be placed above San Diego and New Orleans? Furthermore, why is it that when the Colts win a close game "they're walking a thin line," but when the Chargers or Saints win a close game "they're resilient, and destined?" Last I checked the Colts are the ones who have done it before, while the other two have yet to make it past the conference championship game.

How the heck are we supposed to rank the 8 teams playing for the two wild card positions in the AFC?

See what I mean? Let the debate begin.

The Elite

01. New Orleans Saints - The loss to Dallas was bad, and they were outplayed. Still, it says a lot that despite being outplayed all game, they had every opportunity to win the game in the end. They're going to have home field advantage in the NFC, and they're allowed to have one slip and remain the #1 team in the NFL. At least by my standards.

02. Indianapolis Colts - They're 14-0 and with the Jets and Bills as the final two games on their schedule, you have to believe that even if they don't go all out they'll be the second 16-0 team in three years. The question is, Can they be the first 19-0? It's starting to look that way, especially if Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown can come back and make an impact. With Wayne, Collie, Garcon, Gonzalez, Addai, Brown, Mike Hart, and Dallas Clark this may be the deepest offense in NFL history.

03. San Diego Chargers - Right now they may be the best team in the NFL, but the injuries keep piling up. I think a part of that organization really regrets the slow start right now. They're going to have to be 100% to beat Indianapolis or New Orleans when it matters.

The Very Good

04. Minnesota Vikings
- Vikings fans are starting to get scared. All season I (along with many others familiar with Favre's 2008 season) warned people about Favre's age, his health, his durability, etc. All of those warnings are beginning to come to fruition and this years #2 seed in the NFC are beginning to look vulnerable. They're a loss away from panic mode.

05. Arizona Cardinals
- Their follow up to 2008 is a second consecutive division championship. It's going to take three great wins to get back to the Super Bowl, but if any 3-6 seed in the NFL can do it, you gotta take Arizona.They have a lot of weapons, some good defensive players, and a head coach who knows what he wants to do.

06. Philadelphia Eagles - Are they starting to look dangerous or is it just me? They're the Chargers of the NFC in my opinion; A lot of weapons, a lot of depth, but a big question mark of "can they actually win a game with mild to above average adversity?" We'll find out.

07. New England Patriots - They won another ugly game. Brady looked average, Moss looked good. We know the deal with team, in order for them to win the Super Bowl they're going to have to learn to win games against good teams on the road (and maybe get about three years younger on average).

08. Cincinnati Bengals - The loss to the Chargers hurts, and they've fallen from potential #2 seed to probably #4 seed. Carson Palmer hasn't looked great, but they still played San Diego well in San Diego. Can they beat the Colts, Chargers, or Patriots when it matters though?

09. Dallas Cowboys
- The win against the Saints saved their season, and brought some respect back to the Cowboys locker room. Now it's time for the Cowboys to finish and win at
Washington this week. This is a team no one wants to be in the playoffs, the question is can they get there?

10. Baltimore Ravens - They're back in the top 10, and they look like a playoff team. I really like Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. This team always finds a way to get it done in the draft. They've become a model franchise.

11. Green Bay Packers - A tough, tough loss to the Steelers. The defense can't play like that if they intend on winning in the playoffs (especially against Arizona or Philly). It looks like they're going to be in the playoffs, but I can't really see them doing any damage when they get there. Based on the recent history of the NFC playoffs, that would mean this team is headed to Miami.

Hanging In There

12. New York Giants - They put a spanking on a Redskins team that was playing good lately. Their remaining schedule is tough (Carolina, @ Minnesota), but it may actually be more favorable than Dallas' (@ Washington, Philadelphia). If they want to make it to the playoffs they're going to have to win back to back games.

13. Denver Broncos - Yes, they lost to the Raiders. Yes, they're still in control of their own playoff fate. If they can beat the Chiefs they'll secure it. The real question is, does this team belong in the playoffs?

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - A big win and just like that the Steelers are back in it. Now if only they didn't lose to the Raiders and Browns. If this team gets in the playoffs, expect the Chargers more than anyone else to be afraid of seeing them. This team can beat any team in the league.

15. Tennessee Titans
- After an 0-6 start they have effectively gotten themselves to .500. And there's still time to get to 9-7. Unfortunately for them they have head to head losses with a bunch of the contending teams, and therefore will likely be watching the playoffs. If they get in, expect Belichick and Brady to [poop] bricks all week. Remember that snow game where New England ran up the score? Payback would be a [female dog].

16. Miami Dolphins - Their season was defined by the loss to the Titans. The word heart comes to mind. They're close to being a really good team, but they're not there yet. The AFC East is going to be a division to watch in the next decade, and the Dolphins are going to contend for a while.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars - You can't blame a team for playing their hearts out and losing. Luckily for the Jaguars, the Jets, Dolphins, and Broncos all lost. If the Jaguars can win out, they'll probably be in the playoffs. Do they belong in the playoffs? That's a different question. And besides, do we really need another Jacksonville @ New England game? We've gotten two forgettable playoff contests with the name since 2005.

18. New York Jets - The loss to the Falcons was brutal. Mark Sanchez looked awful. It's alarming how bad he's looked since the beginning of the regular season. The name Ryan Leaf comes to mind as a parallel (in terms of rookie performances). If Roethlisberger, Young, Flacco, and Ryan wrote the book on why you should start a rookie, Mark Sanchez is effectively doing everything possible to re-write it. He could have used that extra year at USC, no doubt about it.

19. Houston Texans - It's important to note that at the moment they rank 8th of the 8 teams vying for two playoff spots in terms of tie-breaker. They lost too many close ones, and a lot of games they should have won, hence they'll probably be watching the playoffs. They're hanging in there, though. You have to respect that.

The Dead

20. Carolina Panthers
- They dominated the Vikings in the second half. I really don't want to see Steve Smith or Julius Peppers in different uniforms in 2010, but there's a great chance at least one of them will be. They're both elite players at their positions.

21. Atlanta Falcons
- They're still trying. You have to love that. The win against the Jets was exactly what the Falcons needed to prepare themselves for 2010. A lot of question marks surround this team though, and to be honest, even before his injury, Matt Ryan didn't look much better than he was in 2008.

22. San Francisco 49ers - You feel bad calling them the 22nd best team in the NFL, but it's really all they are. They're not good enough to beat teams like Philly or Indy yet. They can play them close, but they can't beat them.

23. Buffalo Bills
- Give them credit, they're playing hard. They're still going to tear down the roster and front office, but at least they're not pathetic.

24. Oakland Raiders
- Don't look now but the Raiders are getting hot to end the season. Usually teams that end their season hot carry it over to the next season. If they can get a QB (Jason Campbell maybe?) they're going to contend in the AFC in 2010. The defense is very good, the running backs are very good, the wide receivers can be very good. This team isn't as far from getting back to the Super Bowl as you would think.

25. Washington Redskins
- When you finally thought they were showing signs of heart they go out and pull off a loss like that to the Giants. That was disgusting to watch from a Redskins standpoint. The Hunter Smith fake field goal is easily the worst play of the year. Arguably all time.

26. Chicago Bears - Arguably the most mundane 2009 of any team. They came in with a lot of expectations, a new QB, and a stout defense. The defense has looked bad, and the QB looks worse. There's a lot to figure out in Chicago, and I think it's time for a new head coach.

27. Cleveland Browns - They put together back to back wins and they're starting to gain some respect around the league. It'll still be a little while longer before this team contends again, but I think you need to give Mangini another year.

28. Seattle Seahawks - Thing are worse in Seattle than they would like you to believe. There is a reason Holmgren chose Cleveland over Seattle.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - What is there to really say about this team? Nothing of note, really. I'd guess they start over (again) in 2010. Josh Freeman will stay.

30. Kansas City Chiefs - This team is falling fast. Suddenly I'm starting to believe they made the wrong coaching, GM, and QB decisions. Wait, like most football fans, I believed that back in the Spring. This team should do all they can to keep Brodie Croyle in town because Matt Cassell Cinderella story is ending fast.

31. Detroit Lions
- Judging by how bad Mark Sanchez has looked behind a great offensive line, with an elite defense, and solid skill position players, I think the Lions made the right choice. Even if Stafford turns out to be the next Marc Bulger, Sanchez looks like he's going to be the next Cade McNown. Harsh? Needless to say the 2009 Lions were never supposed to be higher than #30 in the power rankings.

32. St. Louis Rams
- Steven Jackson has been a trooper all year. They should reward him with either a lofty contract extension, or a trade to an AFC team. New England, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans all make a lot of sense. He's worth a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Ndamakong Suh jerseys will be on sale in April. I know a few Rams fans who will invest in those.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rankings for Awards

I'll make it quick and give you just the lists. They're pretty self explanatory and open to discussion. There is still plenty of football left to be played, and all of these awards are still up for grabs.

NFL MVP Rankings:

01. Peyton Manning, QB Indianapolis Colts
02. Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints
03. Chris Johnson, RB Tennessee Titans
04. Brett Favre, QB Minnesota Vikings
05. Philip Rivers, QB San Diego Chargers

NFL Offensive Player of the Year Rankings:

01. Chris Johnson, RB Tennessee Titans
02. Peyton Manning, QB Indianapolis Colts
03. Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints
04. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jacksonville Jaguars
05. Dallas Clark, TE Indianapolis Colts

NFL Defensive Player of the Year Rankings:

01. Charles Woodson, DB Green Bay Packers
02. Darren Sharper, DB New Orleans Saints
03. Elvis Dumervil, LB/DE Denver Broncos
04. Jared Allen, DE Minnesota Vikings
05. Patrick Willis, LB San Francisco 49ers
06. Jon Beason, LB Carolina Panthers

Offensive Rookie of the Year Rankings:

01. Michael Oher, OT Baltimore Ravens
02. Percy Harvin, WR Minnesota Vikings
03. Knowshon Moreno, RB Denver Broncos
04. Mark Sanchez, QB New York Jets
05. Austin Collie, WR Indianapolis Colts
06. Beanie Wells, RB Arizona Cardinals
07. Michael Crabtree, WR San Francisco 49ers

Defensive Rookie of the Year Rankings:

01. Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay Packers
02. Brian Orakpo, LB Washington Redskins
03. Brian Cushing, LB Houston Texans
04. Jairus Byrd, DB Buffalo Bulls

NFL Comeback Player of the Year Rankings:

01. Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
02. Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
03. Alex Smith, QB San Francisco 49ers
04. Nate Burleson, WR Seattle Seahawks
05. Cedric Benson, RB Cincinatti Bengals

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wyoming Top Fresno State: Mountain West 1, WAC 0

In the precursor to the Fiesta Bowl, Wyoming and Fresno State went to double overtime in the New Mexico Bowl.

If you watched the game, you had to be impressed by Wyoming's true freshman Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.

Though the game was, on paper, one of the least interesting of the 34 Bowl Games, it will likely go down as one of the 10 best this Bowl series.

It also poses the question of how good is the WAC? Fresno State were 6-2 in conference, and 2-3 (including the loss to Wyoming) out of conference for the 2009 season. Their losses were to Wyoming, Cincinnati and Wisconsin; Their wins came against Cal-Davis and Illinois.

This win will bode well for the Mountain West, where Wyoming were ranked #5 and pulled off the win over the WAC's #3. Wyoming were 3-2 (including the win over Fresno State) out of conference in 2009. Their wins came against Fresno State, Weber State, and Florida Atlantic; Their losses were to Texas and Colorado.

As we know, Boise State and TCU will ultimately settle the Mountain West vs WAC score.

Are There Too Many Bowl Games?

Last week I essentially defended the Bowl system by arguing that a playoff wouldn't do justice to the regular season.

Today I'm raising the question, are there too many Bowl games? And if so, how do we change to Bowl system to make every game (or at least 75% of them) more valuable.

This year there are 34 Bowl Games. Like every year, there are about 10 games you won't miss, another 5 you'll want to catch, and another 5 that will be worth watching. After that we're left with about 14 games that are awful, about half of which include teams that you want to see against awful opposition.

Bowl games are supposed to be a reward for teams that played good to great football in a particular season. The following teams played very mediocre football and have made it to bowl games in 2009; UCLA (6-6, 3-6 in Pac 10), Wyoming (6-6, 4-4 in Mountain West), Marshall (6-6, 4-4 in C-USA), Texas A&M (6-6, 3-5 Big 12), Minnesota (6-6, 3-5 Big 10), Iowa State (6-6, 3-5 Big 12).

That's 6 teams right off the bat that shouldn't be playing in post-season games. In my opinion, if a bowl loss would put you below .500 on a season, you shouldn't be eligible for a bowl game. That should be a rule. To make matters worse, Minnesota and Iowa State are playing each other in the Insight Bowl on New Years Eve. A game I know the entire nation is looking forward to.

On top of those six .500 teams, there are a few pretty desperately mediocre teams who shouldn't be playing in a post season game. Middle Tennessee State, 2nd place in the Sun Belt, are going to play (and likely lose to) C-USA #5 Southern Mississippi. I'm all for the Sun Belt sending a second team to a Bowl, it legitimizes the conference, but C-USA #5? The 7-5 Golden Eagles were about as mediocre as a team could be all season long.

With a 3-5 conference record, Kentucky are going to play a pretty good Clemson team in the Music City Bowl. And WAC #4 Idaho are going to play MAC #4 Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Finally there's UConn, USF, and Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois are the MAC #5, and though they were able to beat Purdue early in the regular season, it's hard to argue for five teams from the MAC being bowl eligible.

NIU's opponent, USF, are a similar story. At 7-5, 3-5 in the Big East, it's hard to make a case for this team being Bowl eligible, especially considering they've gotten blown out in four of their five losses. UConn on the other hand, had four losses to ranked teams at the moment, three of which remain ranked. The biggest issue lies in that none of their wins (outside of a win over the aforementioned USF) comes against a participating Bowl team.

UConn's opponent in the Papa John' bowl with be the South Carolina Gamecocks; a 7-5 team, with a 3-5 conference record, making them SEC #7. I know the SEC is the premiere conference of the FBS, but c'mon, seven teams? That's a little too hefty. Even for the SEC.

So far we've eliminated UConn, USF, NIU, South Carolina, UCLA, Wyoming, Southern Miss, Marshall, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kentucky, Idaho, and Bowling Green from Bowl games.

I know I've omitted FSU from this elimination, and I suppose at 6-6 they shouldn't be eligible, but Bobby Bowden has earned a chance to go out on a positive note. Let's give him a rare break in this situation.

That's 14 teams, in other words 7 games. Enough to take our Bowl season from 34 games to 27.

27 games would be perfect, wouldn't it? With the leftover teams who were stuck against poor opponents we'd get games like Fresno State vs Temple and Clemson vs Georgia. Not wonderful games, but better than what we have.

Truth be told. as good a 27 game Bowl Series would be, it probably won't happen. The profitability of the Bowl system for the NCAA, the universities, and the cities which host the games, is too high for the NCAA to start cutting back on Bowl games. And with the Yankee Stadium Bowl coming next year, the better odds would be with that number growing to 40 by 2015.

Hopefully, for the competitive sake of the sport, it won't.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Week 15 Picks

Last week I went 12-4 leading me to change when I make my picks for the week. In case you're wondering I picked the Colts and the Saints this week in the Pre-Sunday Games.

Miami Dolphins @ Tennessee Titans
- The Jaguars loss to the Colts on Thursday makes this the early game to watch. Both teams have been hot the past month or so, and the winner of this one is going to be whichever team can make the fewest turnovers. If Ronnie Brown was healthy I'd take the Dolphins all the way in a game like this, but winning on the road in Tennessee is a tall order.

I'm taking the Titans at Home.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
- The Browns had a long week to come down from the high of beating the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. The Chiefs meanwhile had a normal length week to get over being booed by their home crowd. With jobs on the line across the board in Cleveland, I think this one means more to the Browns.

I'm taking the Browns on the Road.

Houston Texans @ St. Louis Rams
- Considering that the Jaguars already lost, and either the Titans or Dolphins are guaranteed to lose, Houston have a good opportunity here to jump back into the wild card race. Their best case scenario: Dolphins, Jets, and Ravens losses, mixed with a clean win over the Rams.

I'm taking the Texans on the Road.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
- By now you've heard all there is to hear about the Patriots not being able to win on the road. I'm not saying that's going to go away after Sunday, but I am saying they'll beat the Bills in Buffalo. Expect Randy Moss to turn it around, too. He and T.O always step up their games against each other.

I'm taking the Patriots on the Road.

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions
- The Cardinals lost in a bad way to the 49ers on Monday Night. No better remedy than playing a Lions team that allowed Joe Flacco to look like Johnny Unitas and Troy Smith to look like Randall Cunningham last week. The Cardinals will win this one big.

I'm taking the Cardinals on the Road.

Atlanta Falcons @ New York Jets - The Jets need to step up in this one to secure their playoff hopes. The Falcons know the playoffs are likely out of the picture for their 2009 season. That doesn't mean the Falcons are going to take Sunday off. Matt Ryan will be back this week and you have to believe he wants nothing more than to prevent Mark Sanchez from becoming the third QB in two years to take his team to the playoffs as a rookie. It's going to come down to the Jets powerful running attack against a Falcons run defense that is far from adequate.

I'm taking the Jets at Home.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles - The 49ers had their biggest win of the season on Monday against the Cardinals. Unfortunately, their season was over by kickoff. The Eagles had their biggest win of the season on Sunday night against the Giants, and they look like they're getting hot at the right time. The 49ers are getting better, but this is the type of game that they're bound to lose.

I'm taking the Eagles at Home.

Chicago Bears @ Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens may not have done themselves justice by dominating the Lions so badly last week. Hopefully they realize that the NFL does consist of some real teams. The Bears aren't a good team, but they are a real team, and they'll be a lot harder to beat than the Lions were last week. Watch out for this game as a surprise hit of the weekend.

I'm taking the Ravens at Home.

Cincinnati Bengals @ San Diego Chargers
- The undisputed game of the week; I'm not sure it's going to play out that way though. I'm not convinced the Bengals are a real contender, and I'm totally convinced the Chargers are a real contender. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chris Henry tragedy gave the Bengals some motivation, but I can't see them winning this road game. The Chargers are due for a loss, but probably not here.

I'm taking the Chargers at Home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Seattle Seahawks - In this weeks "who gives a crap" game of the week, the Buccaneers travel to Seattle. The Seahawks aren't exactly a "good" team by any stretch, but the Bucs are probably the worst team in the NFL.

I'm taking the Seahawks at Home.

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
- The Broncos are headed to the playoffs and they're probably going to be the five seed. A win against the Raiders this week can pretty much assure that, and with Charlie Frye starting at QB for the Raiders it's probably not going to be hard.

I'm taking the Broncos at Home.

Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Steelers have had a long, long, time to get over that loss against the Browns. It feels like it was a season ago doesn't it? The Packers are due for a loss soon, and the Green Bay franchise has lost their last three trips to Pittsburgh. Considering the circumstances around this game, I'd bet on that number growing to four.

I'm taking the Steelers at Home.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers - This isn't going to be as easy as you would think for the Vikings. The Panthers are headed nowhere this year, but they've played a lot of close games. No Jake Delhomme makes no difference for the Panthers (as opposed to 2007), but I still think the Vikings defense and run game will do enough to help the Vikings secure a victory. Brett Favre will be given all the credit though.

I'm taking the Vikings on the Road.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins - The Giants lost a heart breaker at home on Sunday night and we'll see the impact it has on them on Monday. If the Saints take care of the Cowboys, the Giants will go into this one knowing that they control the NFC Wild Card with a win. The Redskins finally picked up a win last week, but I can't see them putting up back to back.

I'm taking the Giants on the Road.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick Thoughts on Chris Henry

As you probably know, Chris Henry died this morning after struggling on life support for over 12 hours. I'm sure a lot of people are taking this news as fuel for discussion as to why the NFL has become; The Thug League.

Whenever the media mentions Chris Henry's death, they'll mention the arrests, the fights, the classic Odell Thurman incident. They'll even occasionally mention Henry as a player with a lot of potential to become a good receiver in the NFL.

I'd like to look at it through a different perspective. Chris Henry died at age 26. Think about that? How many of my readers are in Henry's age group? Probably all of them.

Instead of using Chris Henry's death as a means to make fun of the guy, think about it as a second chance for all of us. Not that Henry died for us, but that his death can teach us how youth doesn't translate into a force field. We're all human, we have a limited time here, we need to be careful and protect our health, our well being, and ourselves.

Henry's death is likely due to a heat of passion moment where he jumped in the back of the truck, and the truck's driver (Henry's wife) was also in a moment of passion. This could happen to any of us. We all get in fights with our significant others. Let's learn from this.

I think we can all take a step back from this story and examine our own lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saturday Night Football Preview

Similar to how I posted my picks for tomorrow night's game between the Colts and Jaguars early, I figured I'd post my prediction for Saturday night's game between the Saints and Cowboys as well.

In case you're wondering, the NFL made this schedule a long time ago. It's only a coincidence that both the Colts and Saints are 13-0 right now and making a run at history.

On to the game.

The Cowboys have dropped their last two games, at New York Giants and home to the Chargers, in close fashion. Though the media has made a big deal about Dallas starting December off 0-2, little attention has been given to how close the Cowboys have come to being 2-0.

Meanwhile, the Saints are 2-0 so far in December, with very close victories over the Redskins and Falcons, two below average teams. It take overtime and a referee's challenge for the Saints to beat the Redskins, and a Matt Ryan/Michael Turner-less Falcons were down a field goal inside the two minute warning.

Could this be the week where the Saints fortune finally runs out and the Cowboys finally catch a break?

Not so fast.

A quick look at the Saints 2009 schedule shows a team that beat the Eagles 48-22, the Giants 48-27, the Dolphins 46-34, and the Patriots 38-17. Those are the playoff teams on their schedule. The same schedule shows the Saints having close ones; 28-23 over the Rams, and the two aforementioned road wins against the Falcons and the Redskins.

In other words, the 2009 Saints have stepped up in the big games, and played down to inferior teams. In other words, the Saints play to their opponent.

Does this mean that the Saints are going to lose? After all, that would be playing to the Cowboys level in December, wouldn't it?

The Saints are going to win this game. They're at home, home field is still up for grabs in the NFC playoffs, and the Cowboys are going to have a tough time putting any pressure on Drew Brees (if DeMarcus Ware isn't ready to go).

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, that means they're a Giants win at Washington on Sunday away from falling to #7 in the NFC playoff depth chart. A.K.A they'll need help.

It's going to be a crazy three weeks.

I'm taking the Saints at Home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Losman Signs With Raiders, Opens the Door For Jim Fassel?

At one point in time, Jim Fassel wrote a letter to Al Davis expressing interest in being the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Ultimately, the Raiders stuck with Tom Cable.

Since then, Cable has kept the Raiders in contention for the a top five draft pick, punched one of his coaches in the face, and helped in the digression of the development of former first round draft pick JaMarcus Russell.

Fassel on the other hand lead the Las Vegas Locomotives to an improbable win in the UFL's inaugural championship game; arguably the most underrated football game of 2009. During the season and into the championship game, Fassel helped develop another former first round draft pick, J.P Losman. In the inaugural UFL season, Losman completed 62.1% of his passes for 1,386 yards, 9 touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Losman's development also earned him a one year contract with the Raiders. With Tom Cable heading out the door, and JaMarcus Russell certainly looking like a bust, one has to wonder whether or not the Losman signing opens the door for Al Davis accepting Jim Fassel's request to coach the Raiders.

Though his stint as Ravens offensive coordinator was atrocious, Fassel still has a pretty good resume as a head coach, and he helped Kerry Collins, a first round QB considered by many to be a bust when he signed with the Giants in 1999, develop into a star NFL QB. Now that Fassel has helped revitalize the career by winning a championship in the UFL and revitalizing the career of J.P Losman, one has to wonder whether or not he's earned the chance to help bring the Raiders back.

Let's face it, no top tier coaches are going to take this job, and a lot of prized coordinators will likely wait out the market rather than take on the "suicide" job of coaching the Raiders. Fassel works well with veterans, and who knows, maybe he can turn JaMarcus Russell into something other than the laughing stock of the NFL.

I don't think it's a long shot, I think this signing is the first step in bringing Jim Fassel to the Oakland Raiders for the 2010 season.

Thursday Night Football Preview: Undefeated Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I'm fed up with picking an entire week of NFL games right after Monday Night Football so I decided to do a write up of the Thursday Night Game each week. The rest of my predictions (if you even care) will be up later in the week (probably Thursday or Friday).

The Colts are heading into Jacksonville 13-0, and for the second time season 2005 the Colts are attempting to get to 14-0. The last time the Colts tried, they lost a close one to Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers. A few days later Tony Dungy would lose his son to suicide, the Colts would finish 14-2, and lose their first playoff game to eventual Super Bowl XL champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Since 2006, the Jaguars have beaten the Colts twice, once in '06, and once in '08. However, that could be a little misleading. More intriguing would be the fact that since 2006, 5 of the 7 games the two teams have played have been decided by one score or less.

In other words, odds are this game is going to be close.

Jacksonville enter the game 7-6 and in control of their own wild card destiny. Currently, the Jaguars win a tiebreaker with the Ravens, Jets, and Dolphins, and if the Jaguars can win out, they'll likely be in the AFC playoffs.

The Colts enter the game 13-0, with an xyz next to their name in newspapers, meaning they've locked up a playoff berth, first round bye, and home field advantage.They have little to gain in this game, but everything to gain at the same time. Coach Jim Caldwell already proclaimed the starters are going to play, and Indianapolis are going to try for 14-0.

Think about it; you're telling me that Peyton Manning doesn't want to go for the most elusive record in NFL history? 19-0? The thing that Brady and Belichick couldn't pull off? The thing that Elway and Montana couldn't pull off? Peyton knows he needs ring #2 to be in the conversation for best ever, but he also knows that if he gets a perfect season he's #1 all time, and still writing his own legacy.

On top of that, what about Reggie Wayne, Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis, and Dwight Freeney? They were all there for the last Super Bowl run, most of them were there in 2005, they know that a championship is all that matters, and they also know how important it is to be hot and healthy. That means playing the season through.

The key to this game is going to be the Colts pass offense getting in rhythm in staying in rhythm. If the Colts can do that they'll probably win this one.

The other key to this game, and maybe the bigger key, is going to be the Colts run defense. Traditionally, they've struggled with the Jaguars, in particular Maurice Jones-Drew. The Colts don't need to shut Jones-Drew down to win, they just can't let him control the clock and put up 6's.

This may be the last difficult game on the Colts schedule, but the Jaguars have been living on bought time all season. They're good, but not a playoff team. Similar to how the Colts buried fellow AFC South foes Houston and Tennessee in the past three weeks, I expect the Colts to take care of the Jaguars and end their 2009 playoff hopes.

I'm taking the Colts on the Road.