The start of football season mandates a prediction of a Super Bowl Champion...so to kill the suspense, I once again my Team of Destiny to be the New Orleans Saints. As one who, as they say, "can't pick his nose," it is not worth calling into your favorite booking establsihment with a mortgage payment based on that prediction, however, I can't be any worse than the legions of so-called experts that picked - now here's a surprise - the Seahawks.
Just to expand on that for a moment, I have to ask what kind of expert do you have to be to pick the Broncos and Seahawks as AFC and NFC champions respectively? The last meaningful data point we have to go on was the last Super Bowl...and last February, those were the best two teams. But things change after the season, players move on, injuries accumulate (both seen and not seen), emotions vary...there are a lot of reasons why teams do not perform to expectations. To me, a real preseason forecast would dig a little deeper to make their picks.
The fact of the matter is that unless there is some momumental change in the way the NFL does things, there will be about a 50% turnover in playoff teams, the last Super Bowl loser will not win a playoff game and the last Super Bowl winner will not repeat. Those are historical facts. The last Super Bowl loser to win the next Super Bowl? The 1972 Miami Dolphins who had to go 17-0 to do it. That puts over 40 years between us and the SB loser claiming the next title...you can add another year to that list as the Broncos will not repeat as AFC champs.
Picking the Seahawks to get back to the Super Bowl is a different subject - they are basically intact, have a young and developing QB, a great defense...what could go wrong? They certainly will be a playoff team. It is hard to imagine them not winning 10 games this season, but they play in a very difficult division. One team of mystery is the Cardinals. They have all the ingredients to be a surprise team and could upset Seattle. One advantage both SF and Seattle have is that young QB's that have not had their "pay day" yet. Once they do - and consume $20 million of cap space - their teams will slowly but surely deteriorate. It is the Rozelle Curse of Parity working long after he retired.
My other big unknown team is my hometown Redskins. We just don't know whether we are going to get Rookie of the Year RGIII or 2013 SpongeBob. The defense looks better but who knows. Playing in the terrible NFC East, winnning 8 games is not impossible and, who knows?, that may be enough! So I have rambled on enough....here are the rest of my picks:
NFC Division Champs: Eagles, Saints, Lions, Seahawks with Packers and Cardinals as wild cards
AFC Division Champs: Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos with Ravens and Chiefs as wild cards
Super Bowl: Saints versus Patriots
Well...at least its different than everyone else - but those are my picks.
The NFL Playoffs get down to real business this weekend as the top teams finally get on the field. A review of Wild Card Weekend is in order...my Fearless Forecast hit 3 out of the 4 games with my only miss being with the Bengals which I thought was a sketchy pick even when I made it. You have to give Luck a lot of credit for rallying the Colts from such a huge deficit. I guess people in KC probably learned a little why the Philly fan did not mind seeing Andy Reid depart. Speaking of Philly, they put up a valiant fight - ?really a surprisingly good season - right up until the Saints, the Team of Destiny, kicked a stake through their hearts as time expired. So all in all, we had 4 good football games...can we see the same quality of game in Playoff Week 2? I say "YES!"
Game 1. Saints - Seahawks (-8)
First off, I cannot pick against my Team of Destiny, the Saints who I selected as my Super Bowl Pick back in September. I stand by my forecast to the bitter end...and if this game were in the Superdome, I probably would feel better considering the Saints were 8-0 at home this year...but they are in the House of Horrors in Seattle with their 12th Man and maniac stadium environment. The last visit was no contest and the Saints said "No Mas" before halftime. If the Saints can score early and get Brees in a rhythm early, they have a shot...he is a far superior to Russell Wilson as a former SB MVP and second only to Manning in passing this year. The Seahawks have had everything go their way this season and their defense is Championship - Grade. If they weren't playing my Team of Destiny, I would have a hard time picking against them being the NFC Champions this year. PICK: SAINTS
Game 2. Colts - Patriots (-7)
As I noted above, Luck has the special element that turns losses into wins, but going into New England against Tom Brady it is hard to see him being able to pull it off one more time. Not only do the Pats have a huge edge at the QB position, they have the edge in scheme as we can expect Belichek to take away Luck's best weapon in Hilton. The Patriots are 8-0 at home and weather will be less than ideal, a negative for a dome team like the Colts...at least it won't be snowing! There is no way you cannot expect New England to win and win big. If the Colts win, it will really start to build the Luck Legend. PICK: PATRIOTS
Game 3. 49ers - Panthers (Pick 'em)
This is the premier game of the weekend - two excellent teams with teams that will be competitive for years to come. In this game, both teams come in red hot - the Panthers 9-1 in their last ten compared with SF at 8-2. The head to head game this season tipped to Carolina at 10-9. The QB's are comparable with relatively identical passing yard results for the season. The teams have depended on denominating defense to offset occasionally spotty play on the offense side of the ball. It will be a war of attrition in a game that could easily be decided by an end of the game score. Enjoy it...a pick with some hesitation but my choice nonetheless... PICK: PANTHERS
Game 4. Chargers - Broncos (-10)
Nobody is giving the Chargers much credit to be in this game which may be a mistake...these are not Norv Turner's Chargers. Phillip Rivers has it in him to go toe to toe with Peyton Manning, especially the Playoff Edition PM. I think this game will be competitive and will show some more intensity than the casual fan may expect. These teams know each other well, so there will be no surprises and let's face it, the Broncos defense stinks. Can Peyton start to build on his 1 Super Bowl and 12 other playoff flameout legacy? The Broncos were my second pre-season Super Bowl pick, so I have to stand by my selection, but do not be surprised if the Chargers make a game of it. PICK: BRONCOS
OTHER SPORTS NEWS THIS WEEK OF INTEREST (TO ME AT LEAST)
The Hall of Fame added 3 great picks this year in Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. All well-deserving and all PED free careers. There will continue to be a lot of debate each year about what to do with Bonds, Clemens and that group...and really it should now become their personal hell, especially voting week. The point of the HOF is that is it an HONOR to be elected not a right. Why tarnish the accomplishments of so many greats from Babe Ruth to Ted Williams to Willie Mays and Hank Aaron with the likes of these cheaters? Let them twist in winds of baseball history.
A-Roid will learn his fate any day now and there is word that "he is willing to accept some suspension." Really? Is there anyone out there that thinks this guy has one shred of personal integrity? His is so repulsive as a ball player and so it seems, a person, that it is hard to believe anyone stands by him unless they are in it for the money. (His legal bill is supposedly reaching $10 mil...that might make him give up the fight). A-Rod, please go away for everyone's benefit.
Tanaka is on the market...where will he land? I hope the Cubs nab him...it is time for the Cubs to be relevant again. It has only been 110 years. The question I have is whether he will be good, great or the next coming of Sandy Koufax.
Winds of rule changes in the NFL are coming as the times they are a changin'.
San Fran (13-4) was able to go to the Tundra and beat Green Bay (8-8-1) on a last second Field goal by a score of 23-20.
The 49 ers should have hosted the game.
A re-seeding rule needs to be implemented next season. My take is that after the two teams earning the bye with the best records overall the rest of the field should be re shuffled. Conference record being the main tie breaker for the remaining four. The wining of a division by default like GB did this year shouldn’t earn you a home game.
The next issue is Pass Interference. Any PI call on a play gaining more than 20 yards or inside the red zone should be reviewable. The coaches should be able to challenge the non call as well and take the heave it up and hope I get a flag play out of the game. I was happy to see the officials keeping the flags in their pockets this past wildcard weekend.
My biggest beef with the NFL or more correctly, the networks is…Ads for ED products or female hyjinks products…they should not… should not be advertised during NFL games. Let’s face it, If you don’t suffer with ED you don’t want to think about it and if you do suffer with it you don’t want to hear about it or think about it during a football game. I understand that there are guys that suffer with this and that it might just be a matter of blood flow…but 99% of guys do not want their football game dotted with these ads.
Also adult diapers and slip and fall attorneys should be banned from doing ads during football games.
Beer ads, car ads (as annoying as they can be) are allowable, travel ads are all right, mayhem and the like are fine, what's better faster or slower and bigger and smaller ads make us laugh…and while I’m at it
but you don't want to be the local fisherman known as old fatty face.
And I think the NFL should bring back that old favorite known as second level pushing, forget the rule that was put in place to be called exactly ONCE all season…you Pats fans know what I’m talking about.
NOW on to the
The Divisional games
The Saints (12-5)and Drew Brees going back to Seattle (13-3) on Saturday afternoon will set the tone.
I still see the Seahawks winning but in a closer 24-21 type of game. Brees had problems on the road all season and although they did beat Philly, Seattle’s defense is far better than the Eagles
Saturday night will feature the New England Patriots (12-4) hosting the Indy Colts (12-5) with Andrew Luck fresh off a big comeback win vs Kansas City. The Pats will be with out another key defensive player, leading tackler Brandon Spikes
for the rest of the post season with that knee injury that will require off season surgery. The Colts are weak at WR and went so far as to sign Dionne Branch, former SB MVP to fill the gap. Branch hasn’t played in the NFL since last December and posted a very pedestrian 16 catches 141 yards no TD’s last year with old friend Tom Brady throwing him the ball. Look for Talib to take TY Hilton out of the game and the Patriots, rested and at home with rain in the forecast should once again ride Le Garrett Blount and Stevan Ridley and take this in the 34-24 range.
The thawing 49ers (13-4) will travel to Carolina (12-4) for the early game on Sunday. Kapernick used arm and legs to beat Green Bay last week but this is a much better defense than the Packers… I think the home town team led by Cam Newton should advance to the NFC Championship game by a score of 27-21
The AFC late game is the third match between Philip Rivers Chargers(10-7)and Peyton Manning’s Broncos (13-3) this season…you haven’t heard that before, right? This is the game that has Peyton with all of the pressure to win and advance to the AFC Championship and Rivers playing with house money. The Fact that San Diego plays Defense and Denver opts not too is the deciding factor in this one with the San Diego Super Chargers (NFL Teams should not have songs)
pulling out an improbable win by a score of 31-28 and another year of Peyton being one and done.
I managed to go 4-0 this past week so you can take these picks to the bank if you so choose to use a bank…I personally just stuff this currency in my mattress.
Happy to be back at the gab this week and it was great to see our old friend B Dub back in towne
Have a great day, thanks for your visit and comments.
Don't forget to check out Boston buddy Lanz right over there---->
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. It truly is hard to believe that we are in the final month of 2013. December is a very festive time of year. It is impossible to get too far into the month before the lights of the season begin to adorn neighborhoods. I have not put up lights yet, but will probably begin the process next weekend. Somehow, I always miss the warm days and end up on a ladder battling a raw December cold front. Frequently, as I struggle to string the lights, I wonder why I go through the same routine each year. I realize that it is because it is a tradition. The tree, lights and the music are all part of what is December for many of us. I also recognize that I would do nothing to change this part of the holiday season. Tradition is a very powerful thing. Families, towns, states and even countries have established traditions that are difficult to change. As much as we may gripe about certain aspects of what happens during Christmas, it is what we do that defines family memories. This is the time of year that many families reunite. It has been accurately said that Christmas is for children, but there is more to it than that. It is a time for families to make memories. As I think back over my life, I am left with wonderful memories of Christmas. Of course I remember the excitement and anticipation that Christmas brought to being a kid…I think the happiness of watching my kids enjoy the season is much more rewarding. So, when you complain about the music and the routine of the season, remember that there are eyes and ears that are witnessing this for the first time. It is what puts me on the cold ladder stringing those lights.
Austin has a tradition of lighting the tree in Zilker Park for Christmas. It really is very cool…
View of the tree and downtown...
The view from under the tree. You have to stand under the tree and spin at least once to be an Austinite...
This was shared by a fiend on Facebook that I thought was worth showing here. Thanks Mitch...
Although the season says football, there are big changes happening in MLB each day. I was shocked to learn that the Astros finally made a move that I think will immediately improve their team. Dexter Fowler was acquired from the Rockies for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles. I am scratching my head on why the Rockies would make this deal, but I guess it was about reducing payroll. Lord knows that the Astros have plenty of room to add Fowler’s 7.5 million dollar salary. I would make a joke about doubling the Astros payroll…but it is too close to the truth to be funny. I have been talking about the Tigers needing a closer since last year and it looks like they have finally grabbed a good one. It is being reported that Joe Nathan is headed to Detroit. I think this is a great sign for the Tigers and suddenly makes the Tigers a very tough team. I am scratching my head a bit over the Tigers trading Doug Fister for Steve Lombardozi, Ian Kroll, and minor league left hander Robbie Ray. With the improved middle infield of the Tigers, I was surprised that the Tigers would allow the ground ball machine that is Fister to get away. I know that they have Smyly to plug into this spot...it still was a bit curious for me. I think this was a great trade for the Nationals, but I guess only time will tell if this was a good or bad move for Detroit.
Of course the signing that grabbed the most attention on Tuesday was Jacoby Ellsbury going to the Yankees. Naturally, Red Sox fans won’t like this and I was sad to see Ellsbury leave the Red Sox. I can’t disagree with the Red Sox not paying big for Ellsbury, but they will miss his wheels at the top of their order. The big if in the Yankee’s grabbing Jacoby is health. When Ellsbury stays healthy, he is great…but he is not always healthy. With the short left field porch at Yankee Stadium, chances are good that Ellsbury power numbers are very good next year. Another player leaving Boston is Jarod Saltalamacchia. The Sox are apparently going with A. J. Pierzynski over Salty. As good as Salty was for Boston last year, I really like what A. J. brings to the Red Sox. I don’t think that the Sox will miss a beat in this exchange.
Robinson Cano remains unsigned, but the Yankee dollars are getting less with each player they sign. From what I have read, the Seattle Mariners are making a play for Cano, but I have to really wonder if Cano would trade playing in New York for Seattle. I do know that Cano’s power numbers would take a huge hit if he signs a long term deal with the Mariners. I remain skeptical that Cano signs with Seattle, but maybe it really is about the money for Robinson. Baseball winter meetings are next week and I have read that the Reds plan to dump Brandon Phillips. If Cano continues to play hard ball, the Yankees might make a play for Phillips. I suspect that if the Yankees keep Cano that something happens before next week.
The Oakland Athletics have been a terrific team the past couple of years. Is there any doubt that they do more with less? Billy Beane has been busy this week and I think the moves make Oakland a serious threat to continue their playoff ways. Beane added Jim Johnson to fill the void of departing closer Grant Balfour. He also strengthened the bullpen by adding Luke Gregerson and Josh Lindbolm. There is no doubt that adding these relievers will make the As better. Beane also grabbed outfielder Craig Gentry and starting pitcher Scott Kazmir. I really liked Gentry as a Ranger and I am sad to see him leave. He does not have much power, but could plays great defense and is a very good top of the lineup guy. The Rangers got Jemile Weeks and a very good minor league OF in Michael Choice. Weeks has impressive speed, but as we know…you can’t steal first base. Perhaps a change of scenery will help Weeks. Choice has shown promise and could be a very big addition down the road. The acquisition of Kazmir puzzles me a bit. Although he seemed to regain some of his mojo last year…a 10 and 9 record will not replace what Colon gave to the As last year. But hey…who am I to question Billy Beane?
Obviously Seattle is a very good team at home. If the Seahawks played each game as they did against San Francisco earlier in the year and New Orleans last Monday night…they would be undefeated. As I look at the NFC…I really only see one team that might have a chance to go to Seattle and win…the San Francisco 49ers. The only way to beat Seattle is to play great defense and run the football. The secondary of Seattle is probably the strength of their team. Damn, they are really good. I don’t think there are two better home teams than New Orleans and Seattle. There is just something really different about how they play at home. It looks more each week like the NFC road to the Super Bowl will travel through Seattle. The 49ers have a rematch this week with the Seahawks and have opened as a slight favorite (1.5). I have been saying for weeks that I like the 49ers to win this game and I don’t think it will be that close. I really believe that this will be the 9ers best game of the year and think they win by at least 6. The 49ers defense is completely different with Aldon Smith back in the fold. With that front 7, I think that Russell Wilson will be in for a long game.
Call me crazy, but as I look at the Cowboy schedule…I can see them winning out. The Bears defense is not what it has been and although it is a road game, I like the Cowboy’s chances to outscore the Bears. It also helps that Sean Lee will be back for this game. The remaining schedule for Dallas is…at Chicago, Packers, at Redskins, Eagles. Tony Romo has been known as a great November QB and a terrible QB in December. This year, I think he changes this mold. Of course I am a Dallas fan, but I do try to leave my rose colored glasses on the table when I look at my team. Then again…it is hard to have faith when disappointment has been the Cowboys trademark of late.
I know that Patriot fan was happy with their win over Denver…honestly, I see trouble ahead. As I look back on the big win over the Broncos, all I keep remembering is Knowshon Moreno running all over the Patriot defense. Although my Pat friends don’t want to hear this, Peyton Manning did not lose that game. With the terrible first half and numerous fumbles, Denver was able to pile up points without Manning ever getting going. With Montee Ball’s fumble, the momentum tumbled the Patriots way, only to be iced by the late fumbled punt. Hey…the Pats did what good teams do; they won when they did not play their best. My only point is that championship teams stop the run and I see this as a big problem for the Pats. Case in point…Ben Tate had his first 100 yard day since 2011 against the Patriots last Sunday. Losing the big man in the middle has really impacted New England's defense. While I am on that game…I thought it was ludicrous that Antonio Smith was suspicious that the Patriots were somehow cheating because they made great adjustments. Dude…have you even watched New England before? Bill Bellichick is as good as any coach in the history of the NFL at making adjustments. When it has been two months since your team has won a game...just keep your mouth shut.
The Texas Longhorns have a huge game this Saturday in Waco against the Baylor Bears. For much of the year, I did not think that the Horns had a chance to beat Baylor. Playing in Waco is never easy and I just did not think that the Texas defense would be able to slow down the Bears. Texas will need the game to go just right for them, but I am more hopeful now that at any time this year. I think it is less likely that Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State…which is what Texas needs to have a chance to win the Big 12. I would be very satisfied if Texas can just take care of their business on Saturday. Considering where they have come from since early in the year, it would be a very big deal. It is supposed to be wet and cold on Saturday in Waco..,a good thing if you are a running team...just saying.
Have you heard about operation mouse drop? Apparently there is a really bad problem with tree snakes in Guam...they are parachuting 2000 mice pumped full of acetaminophen to poison the snakes. Cost of this is reportedly $8 million. Check it out...
I know most people don’t talk about NFL Realignment since the teams haven’t changed in a while, but I just think it would make sense. I think there are a lot of fans who end up watching weird games because many of the divisions don’t fit well on the map. I don’t think anyone will listen to me, but I thought it was nice to think about. Let me just start out with a map of how I think it should look, and I’ll have some discussion below.
Each division has its own color, except both of the East divisions are included in the (darker) blue area.
I also made an alternate version that puts the Texas teams in the same division with the Saints and Falcons while placing the Missouri teams in the NFC West: http://i.imgur.com/QysTKW0.gif
The Saints and Falcons, rivals since the Saints’ first season in 1967 (which was the Falcons’ second season), stay together. It makes a lot of sense to break up the current AFC South. A division stretching from Jacksonville to Houston to Indianapolis for the sake of keeping everyone in the same conference was silly. If it’s not immediately obvious, I’ll explain why the Dolphins were left out below, but I thought at least two of the Florida teams should stay together. Tampa Bay has already been playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans.
I know the first three teams are used to playing the Cowboys, but I think they’ll get over it. It just makes too much sense in my opinion to have Baltimore playing Washington and Philadelphia in particular.
I can only really talk about my own experiences as a Saints fan in how I look at such changes. I did have a bit of nostalgia for the regular 49ers games over the weekend, but it just didn’t have much to it beyond football. Atlanta, on the other hand, goes a lot deeper. If you’re in New Orleans, you probably know people in Atlanta or from Atlanta. There is a lot of overlap of the two fan bases, not only in moving from one city to the other but also in places like Alabama. When the Rams moved to St. Louis, that instantly added a lot of fuel to the rivalry because even though it’s not as close as East Coast cities, St. Louis is still considered a nearby big city and there was a lot of interplay between Rams fans and Saints fans.
Anyway, you get over playing an opponent just because you’re used to it. I think with the logical passions that would develop in the actual geographic area, the Cowboys would be forgotten fairly easily.
As for the Ravens, I think the fact that Cleveland and Cincinnati were not natural rivals added to the intensity of the rivalry with the Steelers. But if you remember, that developed fairly quickly. It hasn’t even been 20 years since football returned to Baltimore.
The NFC North (Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit) should remain the same.
A lot of people in Texas don’t seem to have noticed they have another team yet. Maybe by having the Texans play the Cowboys, people will realize this. I thought it was a really good fit to combine the two Texas teams with the two Mountain time zone teams. The Cardinals are technically in the Mountain time zone all year, but I do realize they’re two hours off for the first couple of months of the season since most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Other than habit, I don’t see how it makes sense to have two teams in Texas and insist they play in two different conferences and also to have two teams in Missouri and insist they play in two different conferences. Since Texas makes a lot more sense with Arizona, I decided to put that pair in this division.
Basically, you have the two Ohio teams, and then you add a team from either side of the state. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have been playing one another as long as I remember. I clearly remember the Houston Oilers being in that division. Other than trying to break up the AFC East or NFC North, there is no other place that makes sense for the Colts.
I just mentioned the old AFC Central (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston), but I couldn’t think of a better name for this one. St. Louis and Kansas City are naturals, and Tennessee and Carolina are more leftovers, but that could be a good rivalry too. Tennessee does border North Carolina. I also toyed with trying to put everyone but Kansas City in some kind of Southern division, but ultimately either the AFC North or one of the Eastern divisions was going to need a Southeastern team, so I went with the Dolphins since they’re already in the AFC East. They’re all in the in-between zone between the North/Midwest and the Deep South.
Like the NFC North, this one remains the same. I already explained why I decided to leave Miami here. It’s the only spot on the map that doesn’t make any sense, but I couldn’t see any logical way to change this.
The 49ers preceded the AFL by only about 10 years, and the rest were all AFL teams. I know the 49ers have been in the NFC the whole time, but Seattle would be back where they belong, in my opinion. The 49ers and Seahawks are already familiar with each other from recent years, and I think it would be fun seeing the rivalry between the Seahawks and Raiders renewed. Chargers/Seahawks won’t get anyone excited, but San Diego will still be playing Oakland, and San Francisco would be an added bonus. I think that would make up for the loss of Denver (a good ways away from San Diego anyway), and Kansas City was never the best fit with the West Coast teams.