Sunday, January 27, 2013

NFL Picks: Pro Bowl

The NFL Pro Bowl is finally upon us! I'm so excited for this game, it's the best game of the year. Everyone dreams of playing in this game, which is why so many players salivate at the opportunity to go every year. Seeing the best players on the field at the same time is truly amazing.

(Realizing that the Pro Bowl is not the Super Bowl)

Okay so that first paragraph was obviously a joke, because the Pro Bowl is a joke itself. Players beg out of the game, forcing their doctors to cite "injuries." As a result, the original rosters are just a skeleton at this point. This is also because the Super Bowl teams cannot send players to Honolulu, and they usually have a lot of All-Stars because naturally, a lot of All-Stars leads to a Super Bowl berth.

The replacement players are still very good, so I can't complain that much. The biggest problem with the game, is the effort by the players. No one cares to play hard and the defense is atrocious. Have you ever seen a hard tackle in a Pro Bowl?


Still waiting...

No answer? Because you haven't seen one yet.

How can you fix the Pro Bowl?

First of all, bring back the skills competition on Saturday. This is something that the NBA and NHL excel at, with the All-Star Saturday probably being more interesting than the All-Star Game itself. The MLB only has one skills competition in the Home Run Derby but it too is exciting. The NFL eliminated all the events that they used to have because someone got injured during one. Whatever, freak injury, it happens. The quarterback skills competition would be very good right about now. But of course, I need to go on NFL Network just to see Drew Bledsoe vs. Brett Favre in the deep ball contest. I liked seeing Darrell Green at the age of 50 outrun everybody. Other things can be added, just as the hardest hit, in which a machine measures the force of a hit. Something creative. It would add some luster to what is now a silly event in Hawaii every year.

The NFL also need to get rid of the rules about not blitzing and not being able to rush kickers and punters. This makes the Pro Bowl into a touch football game. The players can still protect themselves from injury, like they would in any other game.

My pick for this game: Watching Paint Dry (+3) over PRO BOWL

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NFL Picks: Conference Championship Round

After last week's amazing slate of games, the winners have moved on to play for their respective conference championships. The Atlanta Falcons won last week in a very good game to get the monkey off of their backs and prove that they can in fact win in the playoffs. I still think that the Seahawks are the better team, and they showed to the world why "icing the kicker" is the dumbest thing in the world.

Offensively, everyone knows about Roddy White, JULIO! Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan in the passing game. What people don't realize, is that the inability of Michael Turner to get anything going in the running game is the most important factor in the team's success or lack thereof. Turner has not been very good this year, and Jacquizz Rodgers hasn't done much either. This will be an even more glaring issue when they go up against the strong 49ers defense.

There almost isn't any use in breaking down the Falcons defense, because they will not stop Colin Kaepernick. The running defense isn't good enough to corral the read option, especially seeing what Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have both done to them this year. The secondary is very good, especially with the ball-hawking Thomas DeCoud back there waiting to pick off all passes, but Kaepernick is too smart. Also, his running will draw in the safeties and he'll attack them over the top.

Now for my love affair with Kaepernick to continue. I think we can all agree that I was right; he is much better than Alex Smith ever was or ever will be. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, this record-breaking QB leads his team into Atlanta and I'm all in. I've been driving this bandwagon since he dropped to the second round in the 2011 Draft, and I haven't given up the keys since then. The biggest question about him was always his accuracy. He's quieted those doubters. He has all the physical talent to be the best player in the NFL. He's smart, he's big, he's fast, and his arm is a cannon. I think he's going to put it all together, and I say that he has more potential that Russell Wilson, RGIII, and Andrew Luck. Same with Cam Newton, the question is if they have the intelligence to break down defenses on the fly like an Aaron Rodgers. Just mark my words, this Kaepernick kid is not a flash in the pan, you'll be hearing his name for years to come, and if you're not a fan of the 49ers, he'll be haunting you in your sleep.

I haven't even talked about the Niners defense. Justin Smith was less effective last week with his one arm (Smith and Ray Lewis make this the week of ultra important one-armed defensive players), which could affect this game. Aldon Smith had to work much harder to get pressure on the quarterback, as did the rest of the defensive front. They'll find a way. Though I believe that the secondary is slightly overrated, they'll challenge the wideouts of Atlanta.

I'm very comfortable with this pick, the Falcons have no chance to beat Colin Kaepernick and the Niners. They will waltz into the Super Bowl.

49ers (-3.5) over FALCONS.

The Ravens are coming off one of the greatest games in NFL history, a double overtime upset victory in Denver over the G.O.A.T. and Rahim Moore.

Quick tangent here: Peyton Manning's playoff record isn't indicative of his talent. He put his team in position to win last week, as he had many times in the playoffs. He's seemingly the master of terrible playoff luck. I'm not buying into the "Peyton Manning isn't clutch" argument. Last week's loss wasn't on him. Also, if you dare to use the argument that Tim Tebow has more playoff wins as a Bronco than Peyton Manning, please stop watching football.

End rant.

While, Ray Lewis's impending retirement is the major topic with this team, I feel that the real story has been Joe Flacco. Before the season, I picked the Ravens in the Super Bowl, and I said that Joe Flacco would have to carry them there. Not to toot my own horn, but I picked the Ravens over Patriots in the conference title game, but that's beside the point. Flacco has the strongest arm in the NFL, and his deep passes will open up the ground game for Ray Rice. Speaking of Rice, Jim Caldwell has done a much better job at utilizing Rice than Cam Cameron ever did. As a Ray Rice fantasy owner, I have a strong feeling that Cameron has a personal vendetta against his star running back. They didn't give him the ball enough. That has changed, and so has Flacco. His decision making has improved and he's fully utilizing his arm strength.

In terms of the defense, they are going to play physical, and pressure Tom Brady. Then of course, there's the one armed man, Ray Lewis, who's a great leader and will provide some emotional lift. During the season, the Ravens defense was wildly overrated, getting recognition based solely on past history, but not on current performance. That has shifted in the playoffs, going back to their old form and imposing their will on the game. That's the key to this game.

The New England Patriots are fresh off of a coast to coast victory over the overmatched Texans. The most important part of that game, the loss of Rob Gronkowski. The whole Patriots offense is built around him and taking away the middle of the field, setting up big plays for Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Josh McDaniels will definitely rebuild their gameplan and find a new random guy to come up big, but Gronk provided a matchup problem that doesn't exist anymore.

I still don't trust the Patriots secondary, even with Aqib Talib back there. He's not the greatest cover corner, and chasing Torrey Smith around the field will be a big job for him. The front seven is very good, and could possibly keep Ray Rice and Joe Flacco bottled up for a good amount of the game. I'm worried about that, but I'm putting my trust in the Ravens.

I think that the Ravens will win this rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game. Even if they don't this line is completely ridiculous and they'll cover.

Ravens (+9) over PATRIOTS.

Last Week: 4-0
Playoffs: 7-1
Season: 125-133-4*

Saturday, January 12, 2013

NFL Picks: Divisional Round

A great slate of games this week as the playoffs, with some very interesting lines. I can definitely go 0-4 or 4-0 with these picks. I was 3-1 last week with my only loss coming when the Bengals failed to cover in Houston, who were playing like the walking dead last week (and spoiler alert: will be finally killed off come Sunday). Let's get on with this week's picks:
Ravens (+9) over BRONCOS. The Broncos will definitely win this game, but by how much... I don't expect the Ravens to get blown out, and there's a lot of potential for a backdoor cover. In fact, I think that this will be a fairly close game. I'm breaking one of my own rules here, don't bet against the G.O.A.T. at home in a playoff game.
49ERS (-2.5) over Packers. The Niners are a better overall team because defensively the Packers are highly overrated. But then again, I'm not supposed to be betting against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, so I'm very nervous about this one. The one thing that swung my pick in favor of San Fran is that I think Colin Kaepernick can attack the Packer's defense. They're also playing at home, which always helps.
Seahawks (+3) over FALCONS. I'm breaking four rules here: never bet against Matt Ryan at home, never bet on a West Coast team playing a 1 PM game on the East Coast, never bet on a West Coast team playing a 1 PM game on the East Coast for the second straight week, and never bet on a West Coast team playing a 1PM game on the East Coast for the second straight week in the playoffs. The reason why I'm choosing the Seahawks, they are better than the Falcons, and it is that simple. The injury to Chris Clemons could be the deciding factor in swinging this game towards Atlanta because he has been a monstorous pass rusher this year, but with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner locking down on the receivers, it will be very hard for Matt Ryan to throw the ball.
PATRIOTS (-9.5) over Texans. The Texans have been free-falling for a while and barely squeaked by a Bengals team last week who was in full on "ignore our best  offensive player (A.J. Green) mode." Not much to say here really.

**NOTE** I never mentioned my Week 17 or full season records, so I'll add them here:

Week 17: 10-6
Season: 125-133-4*
Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs: 3-1

Sunday, January 6, 2013

NFL Power Rankings

I meant to do a power rankings article after Week 9 when all teams had played at least 8 games, but that the week that Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast and my power was out for a week. So now at the end of the season, with 12 teams headed to the playoffs, 20 of them sitting at home crying, and 7 coaches waiting for an unemployment check (I'm sorry Norv, I'll miss you), I will rank every team in the league, from 1-32. Let me know what you agree or disagree with. First look at my overall season predictions. In some cases, I was just about correct on a team, while other times (yes, I'm looking at you Chiefs and Vikings) I was dead wrong. I got 7 out of 12 playoff teams correct, but I would love to give myself credit for the Giants and Bears who lost out on the playoffs on the final day of the season and bungled away great chances at the postseason. Let's get on with the rankings:

  1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
  4. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
  5. New England Patriots (12-4)
  6. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
  8. Houston Texans (12-4)
  9. Chicago Bears (10-6)
  10. Washington Redskins (10-6)
  11. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
  12. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
  13. New York Giants (9-7)
  14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
  15. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
  16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
  17. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
  18. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
  19. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
  20. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1)
  21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
  22. San Diego Chargers (7-9)
  23. Detroit Lions (4-12)
  24. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
  25. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
  26. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
  27. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
  28. New York Jets (6-10)
  29. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12)
  30. Oakland Raiders (4-12)
  31. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012 NFL Playoff Preview and Wild Card Picks

The second season is upon us and as you all know, I only predicted 58.3% (7 out of the 12) of the teams correctly. Here are my revised predictions for the playoffs:
Bengals (+4) over TEXANS. The Texans have been free-falling and they'll drop this one to the Bengals who are frankly a better team.
PACKERS (-7.5) over Vikings. The weather in Lambeau tonight is going to be terrible, and I'm laying the points because Christian Ponder is a bad quarterback who plays in a domed stadium, playing in bad-weather Lambeau. Also, that Aaron Rodgers is decent.
RAVENS (-6.5) over Colts. The Colts are in the playoffs because of a lot of smoke and mirrors, and while the Ravens aren't a juggernaut, they'll get it done at home.
Seahawks (-2.5) over REDSKINS. Seattle is playing in Washington, and they have a very good kick returner named Leon Washington. Ignore the confusing geography here, the Seahags defense will slow down RGIII enough to win this game.

Divisional Round
BRONCOS over Bengals.
PATRIOTS over Ravens.
Seahawks over FALCONS.
49ERS over Packers.

Conference Championships
BRONCOS over Patriots. Manning-Brady once again! I'm already anxiously awaiting this game.
Seahawks over 49ERS. The Seahawks are a  better team, but I do believe in Colin Kaepernick.

Super Bowl
Broncos over Seahawks. The Broncos will end the Seahawks' run here. As you will see in my power rankings later, I have the Broncos as the overall better team, and I say that mostly because of one man. The G.O.A.T, Peyton Manning. He'll slash the Seattle defense like no one else has this year.