Happy Friday! Playoff baseball is in full swing: The Boston Red Sox are in ALCS (mad cheering from the New England contingent of YouGabSports)....Oakland and Detroit battle it out for the final spot in the American League Championship Series...St. Louis and Los Angeles get ready to duke it out in the National League Championship Series.
The NFL is on, the NHL is back, and the NBA has started their preseason games as every fan hope and wishes that LeBron James and the annoying Miami Heat take a nosedive this season. It’s great to have hockey back, and it’s especially nice when there is no lockout of bologna delaying the start of the season. Those readers who hate soccer have no worries about reading anything about Everton as I’ve completely blocked out last weekend’s beatdown by ManCity. Fortunately, they have a week off to get their defense straightened out and get ready for Hull City (a much easier matchup).
College Football Saturday Preview:
Here’s what I see as my big three games:
First off, Penn State vs Michigan. That game is not going to be the draw it was in years past, but these are two famous (or lately Penn State seems infamous) programs. Michigan needs to run the ball to win, and I’m interested to see tight end Devin Funchess as he seems to be a potential NFL player. Penn State runs out freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, so if he is able to get in rhythm, it could be a tough day for the spotty Michigan secondary.
Second big game, Oregon vs Washington. The Ducks are five and zero and this Huskies team could be their first real competition of the season. The Huskies played a heck of a game against Stanford, and need the win this week. They’re at home, and need all the help they can with Oregon having defeated them nine straight games. The Huskies have an up-tempo offense, but Oregon runs plays at warp speed. Washington will want to control tempo with back Bishop Sankey, who has been playing well. A big game for Sankey could put him in Heisman discussions. For the Ducks, quarterback Marcus Mariota has 14 touchdowns and zero picks in five games. If running back De’Anthony Thomas if finally fully healthy from his ankle problem, a couple big plays could quiet the crowd in a hurry.
Third, Texas vs Oklahoma. Usually, this game is guaranteed to be two top-ten squads facing off at the Cotton Bowl. This year, the Longhorns are about two touchdown dogs in the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma has won three years in a row (Texas fans don’t want to acknowledge last year). To have a prayer for the upset, the Longhorns need to do things: get pressure on Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell. No pressure equals no chance. On offense, the ‘Horns would have to have a huge game from running back Johnathan Gray. If he gets going (and Oklahoma is missing top linebacker Corey Nelson, so the opportunity is there. I’d love to see a close game, and am rooting for the Longhorns, but think that Bell is going to be abusing the Texas secondary all morning.
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For the record (I know this was touched upon earlier in the week), I love that the NFL is going to decide which team has cameras shoved down their throat over the summer for the HBO Hard Knocks series. I love Hard Knocks, and am giddy in anticipation of the league eventually forcing the HBO crew on Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots (technically it can’t happen if the team has made the playoffs in consecutive season, as New England had done, but let me run with this thought anyway). The “A Football Life” episode by NFL Films on Belichick was a tour de force, with him in the meetings behind the scenes, on the sidelines, his reaction returning to Meadowlands one last time...it was fantastic. Also, former columnist and current talking head (what a decline in credibility) Michael Holley was given unprecedented access for the 2002 season in Patriot Reign, another insanely fascinating look into the world of Bill Belichick.
In those cases, Belichick (for whatever reason) was onboard with the project. I know that with “A Football Life” he had come out and stated how he has respect for the NFL Films and especially the Sabol family. With Michael Holley, who knows. Maybe he wanted to chronicle the season as an experiment. But the idea of the league forcing it upon him without his consent is just a magical idea. I read a piece by a local blogger that such a season of Hard Knocks would be boring beyond belief, but I could not disagree more. Imagine the dirty looks at the camera, the condescending statements, the disdain! Oh, it would be the best and most entertaining television since “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ended (Larry David starring as Bill Belichick...what a great tv show that would be...quick, some major network hire me to pitch tv pilot ideas). Entertaining television is all about conflict...and that would be the best conflict ever!
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Thursday Night Special:
Prediction: NY Giants 18 vs Chicago Bears 38:
Oh, you know how I’d pick here. Zero and six? More Eli interceptions. Still bitter about those two Super Bowls? You know it! I’m posting this before kickoff, so I leave myself open for ridicule in the comments (lucky me, no one on Monday hauls out my picks for a good laugh!)
Prediction: Green Bay 48 vs Baltimore 24:
Neither of these teams seem up to last year’s strong play. Aaron Rodgers should be able to torch the weakened Baltimore defense (He’s not Tannehill, who got pummelled last week). The Ravens are giving up big passing plays...Jordy Nelson fantasy football owners are salivating. Joe Flacco may not throw five interceptions this week, but he is not winning these games like he would have last year.
Prediction: Detroit 10 vs Cleveland 13
No Calvin Johnson? That means stop Reggie Bush and unleash Barkevious Mingo at Matthew Stafford. Cleveland is not running the ball, so they have to try to stop the Detroit pass rush. Not sure there turns out to be much scoring, but Cleveland is a team of destiny. Of course, if Megatron plays, change the 10 to 24 and Detroit wins...
Prediction: St Louis 10 vs Houston 24
Expect Houston to run the ball early and often. I have no faith in Sam Bradford, especially with J.J. Watt in his grill. All anyone wants to see really is if Matt Schaub throws another pick-six. I say yes.
Prediction: Oakland 20 vs Kansas City 24
Why not. Kansas City could be 6-0? Hey, I want KC vs Denver to be two undefeated teams when they matchup. Oakland has played pretty well on defense, but their offense is inconsistent still. Close, but no cigar, for the Raiders.
Prediction: Carolina 24 vs Minnesota 21
Two marquee stars: Cam Newton and Adrian Peterson. Neither has been breaking out with a big game. Why should this week be any different?
Prediction: Pittsburgh 21 vs New York Jets 20
God, the Jets can’t be 4-2! Was Atlanta really as bad as they looked on Monday night versus the Jets. The Jets couldn’t have been that good, right? That said, the Steelers can’t be this bad, are they? OK, maybe they are...but they can beat the Jets, right?
Prediction: Philadelphia 31 vs Tampa Bay 20
Nick Foles should be an upgrade for Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay is out-of-sync and hardly looking capable of pulling out a win. Will Tampa get all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis on his island again instead of dropping into zones? That’s like asking Babe Ruth to bunt, or have Jerry Rice stay in and block on every play. Let him play his game and make life easier for the defense, rather than force him into a role that limits his effectiveness. That’s the crap that gets a coach fired.
Prediction: Jacksonville 21 vs Denver 20
Nah, I’m joking. Jacksonville 13 vs Denver 42 looks right.
Prediction: Tennessee 9 vs Seattle 27
Chris Johnson could have run against this defense...five years ago. If Tennessee had anyone but Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, they’d have at least a shot at a win. Fitz sucks. Seattle is angry after losing last week. Sorry, Titans. Not a good spot to be in.
Prediction: New Orleans 27 vs New England 34
I’m not ready to go all in on the New Orleans defense. It’s improved, but not that great. I think safety Devin McCourty is key in keeping Drew Brees from completing those deep passes over the top. I’d feel better with any safety other than Steve “Wow, look at that receiver run past me” Gregory out there as well, but I expect Bill Belichick to pull out a trick or two on defense.
Prediction: Arizona 16 vs San Francisco 34
San Francisco needed a game to get back on track...hey it’s Arizona! Carson Palmer versus Colin Kaepernick? That matchup is like a battle of Neanderthals versus the US Marines.
Prediction: Washington 24 vs Dallas 27
RGIII has the bye week to get his knee just a bit better. Washington should have copied New England with Rob Gronkowski and kept RGIII under wraps until he REALLY ready to play. Dallas has to be so down after last week. That said, they should be able to get up for this one. Sunday night, and--hey NBC--bring back Faith Hill already. My Buddy G and my 12 year old son are all upset about this. There’s some free marketing feedback for you, NBC.
Prediction: Indianapolis 27 vs San Diego 24
San Diego is much better than anticipated, but can Philip Rivers outduel Andrew Luck? Will I be awake on Monday night when this game comes to a dramatic conclusion in the fourth quarter? (Hint: Probably not.) Either way, expect Indy to have just enough.
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OK, Gabbers, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great fall weekend! Thanks as always for reading!