Saturday, January 31, 2009

NFL Picks - Super Bowl Edition

We tried to lay low after the perfect round we had during Championship Weekend. That's right, let that settle in for a moment......perfect. Four and oh, thanks to Troy Polamolu's pick six late in the 4th, whihc brings the post-season mark to 12-8.

As promised, we will be selecting not only the game versus the points as well as the over/under, but a selection of prop bets as well in a misguided attempt to bring the season record above the .500 mark. Let's get to it...

First of all, it is refreshing to see a team that has never made it to the game play in the Super Bowl. Cardinal fans, wherever you are, rejoice and enjoy this moment. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is gunning for the a record sixth Super Bowl title, so this is all pretty much old hat for the players and fans in the Steel City.

So what happens Sunday then? The Steeler defense is as formidable a group the Cards have seen all season. Dick LeBeau's group simply cannot be run against, which might not matter since Arizona seems to have littl einterest in runngin the ball anyway. On the flip side, Pittsburgh's offense hasn't really been lighting it up, but could see some success against a Cardinal defense which has suddenly become a swarming bunch of ball hawks. The key could very well be how the "off" units (Pitt's Offense, 'Zona's Defense) perform. Let's look at it from that angle:

Steelers on offense - Big Ben is as tough as they come, and he has that uncanny, immeasurable ability to create something out of nothing, like he did on the long TD toss to Santonio Holmes against the Ravens. He also, however, tends to make some head scratching plays at times. He will have to keep those in his pocket on Sunday night. A less than 100% Hines Ward is still better than nothing at all, but the degree of his effectivemess will go a long way toward determining how successful these guys will be. The running game, normally a Steeler hallamrk, has been as spotty as ever and it's hard to predict what it can provide.

Cardinals on Defense - Eleven turnovers in three playoff games is a staggering total, and is an easy indicator when determining why this team has not only won its way here, but how. Since turnovers are often impossible to predict from game to game, we can't assume the trend will continue. Should the turnovers not come, this unit must force a few three and outs and avoid allowing long drives in the humid Florida night.

The pick:
All things seems to point to the Steelers: the experience, the better defense, the chance to make history. All solid reasons, but we just can't shake one big thing working against them - Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona's coach. As a former Steeler assistant, he kjows the Pittsburgh personnel, has spent countless hours practicing against Dick LeBeau's schemes, and has no doubt seen just about every look LeBeau can give. Toss in the crazy mojo surrounding Kurt Warner, the best ffnsive player on the field in Larry Fitzgerald, and we're going to go ahead and grab the Cardinals to not only cover, but win outright.

Cardinals (+7)
OVER 46.5
Cardinals 27 Steelers 20

On to the Prop Bets!

Since many of these bets involve multiple options (with accompanying odds), we're going to stick with only those involving two choices.

Coin Toss: Tails
Winner of Coin Toss: Steelers
How Many Times will NBC show Brenda Warner during the game: Over 2.5
Which QB will John Madden mention using his full name after kickoff: Ben Roethlisberger
First Score: Touchdown
First to score: Cardinals
Number of songs sung by Bruce Springsteen: Over 3.5
Jersey Number of player to score first TD: Under 38

Enjoy the game everybody.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Chin To KC?

An interesting blog post from Adam Schefter on indicates that Bill Cowher could be the next coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, but not until 2010, based on things said by Boomer Esiason on his WFAN radio show Friday morning. While there is no hard data to back this up, Schefter does list a few points which make sense regarding the former Steelers leader:

  • Boomer works with Cowher, and is familiar with his thinking.
  • Cowher worked in KC as an assistant to Marty Schottenheimer prior to taking the Steeler job.
  • According to Boomer, new Chief GM Scott Pioli is good friends with Cowher.
  • The pool of desired coaches Pioli would have considered (Josh Macdaniels, for one) seems to have dried up.

While most insiders believe incumbent head coach Herm Edwards is a dead man walking, we can see him sticking around at least for one year while the rebuilding process kicks in. Herm is still well liked by his players, and the young guys seem to respond to him. There's also the little matter of the last year of his contract, which will pay him $4 million, and we're sure KC would like to have him earn that dough.

Either way, we Chief fans are looking forward to the Pioli Era.

Friday, January 16, 2009

NFL Picks - Conference Championships

Where was last week's picks column, you're asking yourself? Never posted it, and it's a shame, because we had some good stuff planned. Stuff which turned to crap by around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon (Thanks Eli!).

Despite the lack of a posted picks column, we still had them done, and the results were a rather predictable 3-5 (1-3 on the games, 2-2 on the over/unders). Only the Steelers managed to come through and win at home, which up until this season was pretty much a lock during the divisional round.

So, what now? How can we possibly predict the outcomes of these rather unlikely matchups? More importantly, how can we get back to a 50% success rate with only 6 remaining things from which to pick? Simple - the Super Bowl pick will also involve all the Prop Bets (coin toss, first TD, first FG, etc.), which could result in a spectacular failure, but will be fun nontheless. On to the games at hand.

ARIZONA (+4) over Philadelphia

We understand how home field advantage has taken a bit of a beating this season, but if it does exist, the Cardinlas are a pretty solid example, going 7-2. It's notable how the home crowd responded during the opening round game against Atlanta, though that was against a batch of playoff newbies not accustomed to such things. This Eagle team has no issues travelling, haing already won twice in two pretty hostile environments (Minny and the Meadowlands). The line has been steadily moving in Philly's favor all week, creeping up to 4, and we will not hesitate to grab the points.

Nothing about the Eagles offense has impressed thus far. Think about it, the one screen pass Westbrook busted against the Vikes was pretty much the only big play they've pulled off in two games. What has them here is the defense, and we expect Jim Johnosn to have some new looks ready to throw at Kurt Warner. The X factor is Warner's ability to hang on to the ball, which he can often have issues doing. Keep an eye on Asante Samuel, who loves to go for the big play and jumps routes all the time - miscalcualting that here against the physical receiving corps of Boldin and Fitzgerald could result in big gainers for the Redbirds.

Throw out the Turkey Day debacle - Arizona had to travel cross country on a short week, while the Eagles stayed home with a pissed off Donovan McNabb ready to prove Andy Reid wrong for benching him three days earlier. Though that game jump started Philly's playoff push, it bears no relevance here other than to add more fuel to the Cardinal "nobody repects us" fire.

The pick: we like the Cardinals to continue the improbable ride, and prepare ourselves for 2 weeks of feel good stories about Kurt Warner.

Cardinals 27 Eagles 23

PITTSBURGH (-6) over Baltimore

Beating a team three times in one year can often be a chore, but the feeling here is that Pittsburgh is one team the Ravens are incapable of intimidating. Big Ben seems to get knocked around every week, but opicks himself up and manages to make just enough plays. throw in the fact that the Steelers offensive line finally showed signs of playing like a real cohesive unit last week, and that spells trouble for the Ravens. Joe Flacco has been a great story, and to call him a rookie seems improper by now - he's a "first year player" who has shown himself to be unflappable in big spots. He manages to make at least one big throw each week and will likely do so here as well.

Two significant injuries for Baltimore, Suggs and Rolle, will have an impact as well. A resurgent Steeler ground game will help chew up the clock and wear down the resilient defense. We see the Steelers gettign a lead and forcing Baltimore out of their game, which could make the game a bit more high scoring than most expect.

The pick: Pittsburgh returns to the Super Bowl in a game that might be closer than the final score indicates.

Steelers 23 Ravens 13

Last Week: 3-5
Playoff Totals: 8-8

Season Overall: 131-140 (48.3%)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Great Acceptance Speech, or Greatest Acceptance Speech?

The results are in, and congratulations are in order for Rickey Henderson and, finally, Jim Rice, on making the Baseball Hall of Fame. Henderson got the call on his first year of eligibility, while Rice made it on his last non-veterans committee chance.

We suppose this ends any chance of another Rickey comeback, though perhaps the rules will allow him to be the only active HOF member ever. This will be especially fun if he signs with, say, the Bridgeport Bluefish.

The months ahead will undoubtedly feature a debate on which hat Rickey will wear, which can't be an easy decision since he played for 9 teams over his 25 seasons. We're guessing Oakland, but one never knows with Rickey.

That mystery will pale in comarision, though, to the The Speech. As touched upon in the headline, this should be one for the ages. If you thought Phil Rizzuto's gem from a few years back was good, we're betting Rickey's will be much more entertaining, with plenty of "Rickey played hard", "Rickey just loved the game", and if we're lucky, "Today, Rickey is the greatest of All-Time", etc. Should be awesome.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NFL Picks - Wild Card Weekend Edition

Back to the picks after a brief, near suicidal hiatus. This has been an awful year for us, and we now look to the post season as the last chance for some kind of redemption. Toward that end, we'll be playing the over/unders as well as the point spreads from here on out. Let's get this underway with the Saturday games:

Atlanta (-2.5) over ARIZONA
OVER 50.5
Love the way the Dirty Birds can run the ball, and by doing so keep the potent aerial show of Kurt Warner and Co. off the field. Also, have to like the Atlanta pass rush to put some big time heat on the immobile Warner all afternoon. Look for the Cards to post a late run to make it interesting
before the Falcons move on.

Falcons 27 Cardinals 24

Indianapolis (-1/2) over SAN DIEGO
Newly crowned MVP Peyton Manning leads the red hot Colts into SD against a Charger group which has absolutely nothing to lose. Normally, a dangerous team playing at home would be a slam dunk, but this team has plenty of flaws, all of which will be exposed by a Dungy defense and a patient Manning. All that, plus Norv Turner, equals a confident pick for the road team.

Colts 27 Chargers 21

Baltimore over MIAMI
UNDER 37.5
Dolphins are easily the story of the year, and give off a "glad to be here" vibe. Pennington and Co. overcame numerous mistakes (dropped passes, turnovers, bad penalties) to grab the AFC East and get here, but can't afford that kind of effort against the Ravens. Look for ball hawk extraordinaire Ed Reed to be on Chad's throws all afternoon, and the Joe Flacco led Baltimore offense to score just enough to get out of here with a victory.

Ravens 19 Dolphins 10

Philadelphia (-3) over MINNESOTA
Wow, four road teams picked? Really? Either we're geniuses or idiots.
Love what Philly can do in this matchup, namely, have a QB who is nimble enough to elude a solid pass rush, and have a guy like Westbrook who can give even the best LB's fits. Fired up Eagle defense will give Action Jackson all kinds of trouble, allowing the City of Brotherly Love to keep it's dream of another championship alive for at least another week.

Eagles 30 Vikings 21