A 12-4 week was the kind of week I was hoping for after a couple of so-so weeks previous, aside from a pair of annoying primetime losses to bookend the beginning and end of the week, things went pretty much according to plan. A tossup loss in the Bills-Chiefs game and the Redskins wearing down the Raiders after Bruce Gradkowski was hurt were the only losses on Sunday. The haters laughed at me when I said the Chargers would upset the Pokes, sneered at me when I said the Bengals beating the Vikings was not as sexy a pick as one would think. I thought real hard about picking against the unbeaten teams and was glad I passed the temptation. There are playoff berths to be claimed in the next three weeks and if there are any implications in the game they will be mentioned. NFL Network is having a good chortle at the folks that have turned their nose up at their heretofore boring slate of games as they have not one but both unbeaten teams on their network this week, playing on both Thursday and Saturday this week. The lines are provided by USA Today Sports Weekly and are for entertainment & comparison purposes only. Im broke from Christmas shopping and buying a ham for Christmas dinner so I cant pay any bookies off this week for you if you get took by the lines. The rest of the week’s picks will be posted on Friday or Saturday
NFL SCHEDULE – WEEK 15
Thursday, December 17
Colts (13-0) @ Jaguars (7-6)
Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville 8:20 (NFLN)
Favorite Colts by 4
Fast Fact The Colts have won 12 or more games seven consecutive seasons a NFL record
The Colts are once again unbeaten into December…old news. They seem to be just trying to keep healthy and not lose too much focus in what is three meaningless games. The Colts have been in one close game after another and now after 13 wins are on basically a four week cruise control ride to the divisional playoffs at the Oil Drum next month. The Jags however dropped a tight one to the Dolphins and are just barely on the right side of the playoff fence, but they can ill afford any more losses. Im thinking that the Colts disinterest in achieving a perfect mark plays right into the need of a Jags team of a season saving win. In front of an amped home crowd, the Jags steal one that by all rights they shouldn’t even be in.
Pick-Jacksonville (Upset of the Week)
But wait, wait, wait!!! Like my 8th grade history teacher who used to glare up at us when we tried to bolt for the door at the bell. Then when we were quiet, then dismiss us with a curt "Goodbye" I havent dismissed you yet...more thoughts and info are forthcoming.
Im not one to judge, Ive never been married so I have no idea what goes into making a marriage work. But the stunning revelations of Tiger Woods' infidelities and now imminent breakdown of his marriage can be classified as high up on the stupidity scale. Ive heard people say "Look at his wife, she's beautiful how could he just throw that away?" Like the old Temptations song "Beauty's only skin deep." She might not have been compatible with him in other phases of his life. Im not excusing his actions in any way mind you, but its something to consider. But that goes back to the fact that if he was "cattin' around" he shouldnt have gotten married. Adding to that is that he has two children that will be caught up in what looks to be a messy and painful divorce. I have grown annoyed with the media's fascination with this. It seems that they are pouncing on Tiger like they have been waiting for him to slip up so they could destroy the carefully crafted image that he had meticulously crafted over the past dozen or so years and show it as a corporately created façade. Fast fact, Tiger Woods is human. Im as guilty as others for making fun of Tiger's alleged multiple indiscretions and infidelities. The man isnt changing his name to Cheetah or Adultererick as I have seen in various e-mails and text messages. I have heard talk that him being in an interracial marriage is something that has fueled the vitriol at Woods to an even higher pitch, I can understand the barbs he would get in that matter and it would be difficult to ascertain if that is true but it wouldn't surprise me. Tiger will have to reconcile matters on his own, but being a public figure he will get less and less of the one thing he has all but begging for the past couple weeks. Privacy. He will be scrutinized greatly now and even more so when he comes back onto the PGA tour.
Bigger isnt better
Now that Ive stirred the pot on a college football playoff, lets go to another subject. There is talk of expanding the NCAA Mens Basketball tourney from 65 to 96 teams in essence adding 32 teams and giving 32 teams a first round bye.
I used to have a thing for super-sizing my meals. Im not a real big guy (5'11, 171) so Im not gonna bust any scales but I found that I never quite put it all away. I can do damage at a buffet, but I just cant do big package meals. The NCAA tourney is like that buffet...a smorgasboard of basketball, 3 weekends of basketball at its purest. By and large tons of spirited games. 64 teams in a knockout style tourney. Expanding the tourney would be like that super-sizing...too much
I love the NCAA tournament, it is the purest most joyous time of the sporting year. 3 weekends, win 6 games to win the title. The first four days are the most hectic but most fun in sports. I love the speculation leading to the selection of the teams. The games in itself are priceless and here is where the small teams can rise up and knock off the supposed powerhouses.
Adding 32 teams would ruin that.
The networks of course are salivating over this possibility, more money can be made. The larger schools are of course nodding at this too. More margin for error before the tourney and they are trying to convince the smaller schools that it would work, with a paternal like arm around the smaller schools they say “You’ll have more of a chance to get in, there will be more cinderellas.” or “You can have that win in the tourney to brag about instead of being a one and done.”
Don’t you believe it.
The selection committees will see this as an excuse to invite more middling big name teams and shunt the smaller lesser known teams in to a first round where the “lower creatures will fend for themselves. Wearing themselves out to face a rested middling big boy school. Coach K is an advocate of this, he sees the Drakes, Sienas and Santa Claras as dangers that need to be squashed. He loathes the thought of drawing a dangerous so-called mid-major in a 5-12 or 4-13 game. With a 96 team tourney that 12 or 13 will have been worn out a bit and an easy kill for a rested big boy. An expansion if any should be an extra 3 teams to make play-ins for the 16 seed, and make it a full day of games in Dayton. (That’s personal greediness on my part, I live about a 30 minute drive from UD arena and as a basketball junkie would love to see that)
The NCAA would be better served on this leaving well enough alone.
Finally, I was saddened to hear of the death of Chris Henry, the oft-troubled yet highly talented WR of the Cincinnati Bengals who was killed after falling out of a pickup truck after a reported domestic dispute with his fiancee. Henry looked as if he was finally getting his mind right and was putting the knuckleheadedness behind him. Henry was the focus of a story earlier in the season in the Cincinnati Enquirer about how his fiancee had helped straighten his life out. Henry was on IR after breaking his arm, and was in Charlotte about to be married. Henry's run-ins with the law were well documented and need not be repeated here, but its a sad, sad coda to a star-crossed life.
Cheers from the Cheap Seats fellow sports fans!...and a little brew poured out on the curb for C. Henry...
WASHINGTON — The head of the Washington Redskins front office resigned Thursday, taking the fall for a 4-9 season that even a tight friendship with the owner couldn't overcome.
Executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, owner Dan Snyder's right-hand man for much of the last decade, quit with three games remaining in a season in which his personnel choices again came under heavy scrutiny.
In a statement released by the team, Cerrato said he has had numerous conversations with Snyder over the last few weeks regarding the team's future.
"We agreed that the franchise needs someone different in this position," Cerrato said. "I'm thankful to Dan Snyder and other members of his ownership team for the opportunities I've been given over the years. Of course, I am disappointed with this year's results, but I strongly believe that with outstanding draft picks and encouraging performance by our younger players, we have laid a strong foundation for the franchise."
Cerrato added that he has "had the pleasure of working with some great coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherman Lewis" — notably leaving out the current coach, Jim Zorn, whose job status is also tenuous.
No successor was named, but Cerrato's resignation is expected to clear the way for a major offseason shakeup. Snyder is now free to hire a high-profile coach who would demand control over personnel decisions. Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has been frequently mentioned as a candidate to succeed Zorn.
In the Redskins' statement, Snyder praised Cerrato for his work.
"He is my friend, and he has always been there for me and the Redskins," Snyder said. "He's the consummate optimist and has always made decisions based on what would be the best for the team."
Cerrato has been a favorite punching bag for fans in recent years, receiving criticism often in tandem with Snyder. One fan infamously used a pair of signs to refer to the pair as "Dumb" and "Dumber" at a game this season.
Cerrato was one of the first major hires after Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999. He was fired in 2001 by coah Marty Schottenheimer after Schottenheimer was given control of football operations. A year later, Snyder fired Schottenheimer and rehired Cerrato.
Although Cerrato's title changed over the years, he remained a significant front office voice in player decisions. The results have been far from encouraging: The Redskins have won only one playoff game since 2000.
Cerrato's power within the organization increased after coach Joe Gibbs' resignation two years ago, and there have been plenty of hits and misses among his player choices.
This year, Cerrato gave Zorn an offensive line without a single reserve who played in the NFL last year — even though two starters were coming off significant injuries. Both of those starters soon were out for the season, and the resulting scramble for a starting five hampered the development of the offense.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The week that just passed has seen much angst for your humble scribe, seeing my alma maters football coach bolt for a school that I detest. My Vikings getting blasted by Arizona and having to hear about it from Princess Katie’s mom in spades about it. And it got real cold in Hoodwood all of a sudden. 10 wins last week was not the type of progress that I was looking for, but Im not really complaining much. The usual drill applies to the this weeks odds which are provided by USA Today Sports Weekly and are provided for comparison entertainment purposes only. People ask me why I say this every week, because if the week I don’t I have someone calling me telling me that they spent the Warm Weather vacation money on the line and the family is ready to string them up.
Sunday, December 13
Bills (4-8 ) @ Chiefs (3-9)
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City 1:00 (CBS)
Fast Fact Bills WR needs six catches to become the 6th player in the 1000 catch club
A real snoozer leads off the docket, neither team has a real offense to speak of. I really don’t have a passion for this game, Im thinking that the aforementioned TO doesn’t have one for the Bills as his lack of production is more attributed to the putrid offense the Bills have than any malaise or drop in skills. The Chiefs while showing some improvement has gotten hammered in their two past games by clearly superior opposition, the Bills don’t present that kind of challenge, so Im giving it to the home team
Panthers (5-7) @ Patriots (7-5)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Patriots by 13
Fast Fact This is the Panthers first trip to Gillette Stadium (Their other trip to New England was a win in old Foxboro Stadium in 1995)
Both teams are looking for answers as they have both won only one of their last three, The Panthers have more questions than a belligerent town hall meeting. Matt Moore gets the start this week again as the Panthers try to keep It the Pats at least have a solid defen…uh they have given away leads in 3 of their last four and got picked apart by Chad Henne (C’mon man!!!). At least their running game has…umm they are still searching for that powerhouse back. Well at least Tom Brady is health…ahhh. The Pats QB is nursing a bum digit and rumored bad irbs. Does this add up to an upset win by the visitors? Nah, but they game will be a lot closer than most think. But the Pats will pull it out
Bengals (9-3) @ Vikings (10-2)
Mall of America Field @ HHH Metrodome, Minneapolis 1:00 CBS
Favorite Vikings by 6½
Fast Fact The Bengals are winless in the Twin Cities (0-4) but this is their first visit since 1998
Playoff Implications The Bengals clinch the AFC North outright with a win, Vikings clinch playoff berth with win.
The Bengals have quietly steamed into the December with a pound it out style that had made them quite the formidable foe. The Vikes took a humbling primetime beating and the whispers have returned if Pappy Favre is about to make another late season breakdown. Im thinking that AP is way way way overdue for a breakout game, and yes I know that the Bengals have a good defense but Im not sold on them stopping a solid runner, quick name me a great running game that the AFC North leaders have faced. You cant and I think the Vikes find their scoring touch and the Bengals cant keep up.
Broncos (8-4) @ Colts (12-0)
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Colts by 7½
Fast Fact Broncos WR Brandon Marshall has at least 3 receptions in every game for the Broncos this year.
This game intrigues me, The Broncos looked like that they were fading from the palyoff picture but have woken from their midseason slump with a pair of eye-popping routs. The Colts are just winning games, not flashy or high powered as in years past, but getting the job done week in and week out. Peyton Manning is too good for any meager description and the Colts know how to hold leads or rally from deficits. That said, if ever there was a game that I could being an upset its this one…if it was in Denver.
Too bad its in the Oil can where the Colts are relentlessly good.
Lions (2-10) @ Ravens (6-6)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Ravens by 12
Fast Fact The Lions have lost 18 consecutive road games
Still on the playoff fringes and cowed by the Steelers humbling loss to a weak Browns team. The Lions are playing teams by and large tough, but they aren’t balanced enough on either side of the ball to keep up with a Ravens team that still has designs on making the playoffs.
Packers (8-4) @ Bears (5-7)
Soldier Field, Chicago 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Packers by 3
Fast Fact Jay Cutler has thrown for under 200 yards in three straight games
It’s a throwback to the days of the black and blue division, as these ancient rivals get together. The Bears looked pretty bland in an absolutely boring win over the Rams. The Packers looked pretty crisp in manhandling the Ravens. The Bears can beat weaker teams but trying to contain Aaron Rodgers is a total other matter. The Packers still have an eye on making the playoffs and know a loss to the Bears would be most crippling to that end.
Dolphins (6-6) @ Jaguars (7-5)
Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Jaguars by 2½
Fast Fact These Florida teams have only met four times with the Jags winning 3
This is quite the puzzling matchup to call, both these teams are borderline playoff teams, Miami has the pedigree but Jacksonville has the better record and specializes in winning ugly. Both teams run very well but Im thinking that the Jags running game led by Maurice Jones-Drew will have trouble with the stout Miami defense and the Dolphins pull out a close one.
Saints (12-0) @ Falcons (6-6)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Saints by 9½
Fast Fact The Saints are looking to tie a franchise record for wins in a season
The Saints are living a charmed life, having tried their best to give the game away to the Redskins last week only to see a chip shot FG miss and give them new life. The win clinched the NFC South for the Saints. Meanwhile the Falcons weak playoff hopes took a damaging hit when the Eagles just poleaxed them all over the place last week. They might be again missing key players Matt Ryan and Michael Turner with injuries So, whats to prevent a much better Saints squad from doing the same thing? Not much.
NY Jets (6-6) @ Buccaneers (1-11)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa 1:00 (CBS)
Favorite Jets by 3½
Fast Fact Of the Jets 6 wins 5 of them have come against teams that had a losing record when the Jets faced them.
With all the bad play that the J-E-T-S (Jets, Jets, Jets) have pulled off the past few weeks, they are still very much in the hunt for not only a playoff spot but the AFC East title. They are catching a massive break in their schedule with the lowly Bucs who while staying competitive in most games are getting worn out and beat down. Josh Freeman is giving it the heave ho, but hoo-boy all those interceptions. With Kellen Clemens getting the start he should be able to get the time he needs to move the Jets down the field and with the Bucs having a virtually non-existant run defense, Thomas Jones will have a field day.
Pick-New York Jets
Seahawks (5-7) @ Texans (5-7)
Reliant Stadium, Houston 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite Texans by 3
Fast Fact This is the Seahawks first ever visit to Reliant Stadium, their last visit to Houston was 1994 playing the then Houston Oilers
Two teams that are just so hard to figure out square off here. You can never be sure which Seahawks team will take the field. They have looked decent in their last two divisional games and have even won one on the road. The Texans were talking playoffs after a 5-2 start but 4 painful losses in a row by a combined total of 19 points has put the kibosh on that talk. If Matt Schaub is able to go, he gives the home team a decided edge. If not, the Texans turn to Rex (Wreck) Grossman (Is he still in this league???) and that bodes better for the visitors. Im gonna take a chance that either Schaub or Grossman can make do against a weak Seahawks secondary and that in spite of the return of Julius Jones and the emergence of Justin Forsett, can pull out a tight win.
Rams (1-11) @ Titans (5-7)
LP Field, Nashville 4:05 (FOX)
Favorite Titans by 13
Fast Fact This is the Rams first visit to Nashville since their Super Bowl winning season of 1999
The Titans got a big time reality check by the Colts which checked their meteoric rise from the winless ashes but make no mistake the Titans are coming together nicely. It might be too late for a real playoff threat but they are playing light years better than they did for the first six weeks of the season. The Rams are easier to figure out than elementary math, get a lead and know that their lone offensive weapon RB Steven Jackson grind out running will not be a factor.
Pick-Tennessee (Lock of the Week)
Redskins (3-9) @ Raiders (4-8 )
Alameda County Stadium, Oakland 4:05 (FOX)
Fast Fact The Raiders have yet to score more than 20 points at home
The Raiders have looked a little more crisp behind the fearless play of Bruce Gradkowski, who rallied to win a shocker in Pittsburgh. The Redskins blew chance after chance to hand the Saints their first loss and look like a team ready to go home. Im thinking that the surging Raiders play hard and despite the much improved play of Jason Campbell send a road weary Skins team that much closer to a tee time.
Chargers (9-3) @ Cowboys (8-4)
Cowboys Stadium; Arlington, TX 4:15 (CBS)
Favorite Cowboys by 3
Fast Fact Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson has 150 career touchdowns in 137 games, the quickest to the milestone
The media wants the Pokes to be a dominant team, much like Notre Dame. The problem with both is that they are living on their name alone. The Chargers are juice on the loose electric wire hot, Having won 7 straight and quietly moving into the #2 slot in the AFC. The sexy pick is Romo and the Pokes finding their stroke but Im not sold. LT has been playing better and will be a fine compliment to the air attack that Philip Rivers is directing masterfully. I call this an upset only because every thinks the Cowboys are the better team and I know better.
Pick-San Diego (Upset of the Week)
Eagles (8-4) @ NY Giants (7-5)
Giants Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ 8:20 (NBC)
Favorite Giants by 1
Fast Fact The Eagles have a +15 turnover margin in their 8 wins and -3 margin in their 4 losses.
Just when you’re about to write off the G-Men the rise up and dominate a supposedly superior opponent. Showing a resilency that I didn’t think that they had anymore, they woke up echoes of their 2007 Super Bowl run with a bounce back win over the Pokes. The Eagles on the other hand have looked like a tougher and tougher out as the weather has gotten colder, they spanked the Falcons last week and look like the team to beat in the NFC East. Though this game is New York/New Jersey Im still liking the Eagles and do not trust Eli Manning to be consistent.
Monday, December 14
Cardinals (8-4) @ 49ers (5-7)
Candlestick Park, San Francisco 8:30 (ESPN)
Favorite Cardinals by 1½
Fast Fact Niners TE Vernon Davis 10 TD catches are a team record at that position
Playoff Implications: Cardinals clinch NFC West outright with win.
Shame on those (like your humble scribe) that have slept on the Cardinals. They have served notice that they will be a force to reckon with in the NFC playoffs, with a primetime beatdown of the high-flying Vikings in a game that was not as close as the 30-17 score would indicate. They get back into their clear domination of the NFC West with another primetime tilt. The Niners took another painful road loss last week. The Cards are the better team and with the trivial business of securing their second straight divisional title. They will avenge the opening week loss.
Last Week: 10-6 (Lock Correct, Upset Incorrect)
Overall: 134-58 (.698)
Upsets: 7-6 (Lost 4)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - An Illinois insurance executive agreed to plead guilty to interstate stalking after secretly making nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, according to court documents filed Thursday and first obtained by The Associated Press.
Michael Barrett, 48, of Westmont, Ill., will plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney's office.
Barrett is suspected of renting hotel rooms adjacent to Andrews in three cities last year, altering the peepholes and shooting videos of Andrews in two of the locations — in Columbus, Ohio, in February 2008 and in Nashville, Tenn., seven months later. He adjusted a hotel peephole in Milwaukee, Wis., in July 2008 and called 14 hotels to find out where Andrews was staying, prosecutors said.
Barrett is accused of uploading the videos to the Internet and trying to sell them to the Los Angeles-based celebrity gossip site TMZ this year. Several TV networks and newspapers aired or published images of Andrews taken from the videos.
"Mr. Barrett accepts full responsibility for his conduct," said Barrett's attorney David Willingham. "He apologizes to Ms. Andrews, and expresses his deep regret for his conduct that caused her so much pain. It is his sincere hope that these events can now become an opportunity to make positive changes in his life."
Barrett could face up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. But as long as he accepts his responsibility for his actions, shows remorse and stays out of trouble, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 27 months in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Hsu.
Barrett will have to pay full restitution to Andrews, according to the terms of the plea agreement, but the amount is unclear. He also would be subject to a three-year protective order that would bar him from contacting or coming within 100 yards of Andrews and her family.
An e-mail message left with attorney Marshall Grossman, who represents Andrews, was not immediately returned Thursday.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have agreed not to pursue further charges against Barrett. However, he could face criminal action in other states stemming from other videos he allegedly shot of unsuspecting nude women through peepholes.
Hsu said dozens of videos were later posted on the Internet, including one of a naked woman, entitled "Hot Blonde Out of Shower," that FBI agents sought to have Yahoo Inc. turn over after serving a search warrant at the tech giant's Northern California offices last week.
The video was posted in June to Flickr.com by a user believed to be Barrett. The video, which appeared to be taken through a hotel room peephole, was viewed nearly 3,000 times before it was taken down. Flickr is owned by Yahoo.
Federal agents also wanted additional information pertaining to Andrews from Google Inc. Hsu wouldn't say whether the items have been given to authorities yet. Both Yahoo and Google have declined comment.
Im gonna just post tonights pick...and rant more later in the week.
Thursday, December 10
Steelers (6-6) @ Browns (1-11)
Browns Stadium, Cleveland 8:20 (NFLN)
Favorite Steelers by 10
Fast Fact The Browns have lost 12 straight to the Steelers
The Steelers are fading fast, a humiliating home loss to the Raiders in fall from ahead fashion being resounding sign of that diagnosis is more fact than theory. The Browns however are just plain bad, though they have shown sign of improvement and Brady Quinn might be the long term answer at QB. The Steelers are looking for someone to beat on, and the Browns are in their sights. Im still trying to figure out how the Browns got as many primetime dates, being a 4-12 team last year. They better enjoy this last one as they might not be on under the regular season primetime lights anytime in the foreseeable future.
The Rest of the Picks will post here likely tomorrow or Saturday