Wednesday, December 19, 2007

30 Games for Simple Simon

I've read a couple of people's comments on other boards that state something to the effect of "Well, the guy wasn't hurt. Simon should've just gotten two minutes."

Um...not the point, guys.

Whether the player was hurt or not is immaterial. The intent to injure was clearly there. The NHL or Colin Campbell (whom I have been very tough on in this blog, but his actions here go a small way towards earning my respect) cannot just punish the results of violent behavior. If they only dish out two games because the player wasn't hurt, how is that going to deter other acts of violence? If you wait until someone does get seriously hurt, it's a bit like closing the barn door after all the animals have escaped.

There is clearly something wrong with Chris Simon. He not only loses control of himself, he looks to seriously injure an opponent. I was outspoken last season after the Hollweg incident and I will repeat myself here: As a longtime fan of this team, I do not want (nor have I ever wanted) Chris Simon to be an Islander.

As a human being, I hope he gets the psychological help he needs so that he can, one day, be a productive and useful member of society.

As a hockey fan, I never want him to take the ice again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 15

Ok, guys and gals: This is it...Fantasy Playoff Time.

Conventional wisdom states the following: You dance with the one that brought you. In other words, this is not the time to get cute trying to outfox the experts by starting some lower regarded player in the hopes that he busts off a big game and makes you look like a genius. If you have Peyton, you play Peyton. It's just that simple.

But what if you don't have Peyton (or LT or Randy Moss or Antonio Gates)? Well, then it's my job to help steer you to a player on your roster who might help you win. I make no guarantees, but I have sacrificed a virgin goat to the Fantasy Gods in the hopes of covering my bases this week. Try finding a virgin goat sometime....not as easy as it looks. One farmer told me the average goat gets more action than you've had hot dinners.


Start- Matt Hasselbeck- The Seahawks have been living up to their namesake by taking to the air often in recent games. That bodes well for Hasselbeck, who draws the toothless Panthers, the team that allowed David Garrard to hang 249 yards and two scores on them. Matt is getting hot at the right time of the year for his owners. Ride him to the finish line. Forecast- 280 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit- Ben Roethlisberger- It's really not all Big Ben's fault. He has had to deal with numerous roadblocks to Success recently, ranging from poor field conditions to having to face the Patriots. However, the numbers show that he hasn't thrown for more than 200 yards a game for the past four weeks and that's not likely to change against a ravenous Jacksonville defense. You may not have a better option, but use him at your own peril. Forecast- 175 yards, 1 touchdown

Running Back:

Start- Rudi Johnson- Johnson has had an awful, injury-marred season However, he has risen from the dead and is back to producing again. He has scored in each of his last three games and, with Cincy's once-feared passing attack mired in a deep slump, seems primed to run all over the 49er's. Start him with confidence. Forecast- 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Kolby Smith- He came from nowhere to win Fantasy players' hearts and then broke those very same hearts last week in a crucial matchup, delivering only 12 measly yards on the ground. He's also banged up right now and is questionable for the tilt against Tennessee. Want some more evidence against him? The Titans desperately need this game to stay in the playoff hunt, Albert Haynesworth is back and they only give up an average of 101 yards per game on the ground anyway. Forecast- 50 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start- Brandon Marshall- Marshall is the lucky beneficiary of the injuries to Javon Walker and Brandon Stokely. He's become the Main Man in Denver and is coming off a huge effort against KC (115 yards, 2 touchdowns.) Houston, despite spending draft pick after draft pick on defensive players, is still not very good. Look for another fine week from Marshall. Forecast- 8 receptions, 100 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Roddy White- White played okay last week against New Orleans (3 catches for 75 yards), but most of that yardage came on one big pass play. That was before Atlanta was completely thrown into a maelstrom of confusion caused by their head coach resigning on Tuesday. Tampa Bay shut down White the last time they played him. I wouldn't recommend any Falcon this week and, if I did, White certainly wouldn't be the one. Forecast- 4 receptions, 30 yards.

Tight End:

Start- Ben Watson- Though he hasn't been very impressive lately, it is "elementary" to start my dear Watson this week (sorry, couldn't resist.) The Jets will probably concentrate all their efforts on blanketing Moss and Welker (yeah, good luck with that.) The Pats' waterboy may even score in this one. Watson should see a nice uptick in his numbers. Forecast- 5 receptions, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Desmond Clark- Clark has been strong this season, holding off the challenge of young buck Greg Olsen. However, he now faces Minnesota with Kyle Orton as his quarterback. Granted, teams have thrown on the Vikings this year, but I think the whole Chicago air attack gets a downgrade with K.O at the helm. You can likely do better. Forecast- 3 receptions, 30 yards


Start- Seattle- Five sacks and five interceptions last week against Arizona ought to be enough to convince anyone of Seattle's viability against Detroit. For those who still doubt, keep in mind that Seattle allows less than one touchdown per week through the air. Yes, I know Detroit ran well last week, but do you really want to be the guy betting that they can do it two weeks in a row? Didn't think so. Forecast- 4 sacks, 2 interceptions

Sit- Kansas City- This team just looks whipped. They've now lost 6 six games in a row and got pasted by the Broncos 41-7 last week. They can be beaten both in the air and on the ground and seem to have given up the ship. Vince Young and Company should definitely be able to exploit this bunch of Surrender Monkeys. Forecast- 1 interception

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fantasy Hockey: Go Get 'Em

As the football season winds down, we will be concentrating a little bit more on the "Pucks" side of things here.

Here's a list of players who a.) Might be available on your waiver wire or b.) you should possibly target in trades.

You won't find a Crosby or Ovechkin on these lists. They're most likely unattainable anyway (and if you're their lucky owner, you should thank your lucky stars and hang onto them like a life vest in the middle of a shipwreck).


Ray Emery- Emery is proving to be the lesser of two evils in the Ottawa goaltending duo with Martin Gerber. While he's no sure thing and still lets in his share of bad goals, at least the Senators tend to compete harder and have a decent shot of winning when he is in the nets. He can probably be had for a relatively cheap price as well.

Tomas Vokoun- Florida is showing signs of life after a mediocre start to their season. Vokoun will be the beneficiary of the improved play in front of him. He's also started 26 of the Panthers games, never a bad statistic for a fantasy goalie.


Joe Corvo- Continuing with the Ottawa theme, Corvo has been very active lately, recording at least one point in 5 of his last 6 games. A smooth skater with an offensive flair, he is also a +12 on the defensive side of things. With other defensemen currently struggling for the Sens, look for Corvo to get more ice time and to continue his fine season.

Pavel Kubina- Prior to his knee injury which shelved him for 10 games, Kubina was being very productive. Since returning, he has picked up where he left off, recording a point in each of his last 3 games. He has a healthy +9 rating and sees time on the power play also.


RJ Umberger- Last night's 5 point game (including a hat trick) notwithstanding, Umberger has been fairly "Feast or Famine" this season. Though he has recorded points in only 12 of the 26 contests he's played in, 5 of those game were multi-point affairs. If you can withstand a few dry games, you ought to be rewarded with some nice outbursts from him (hopefully at a point when you need it.)

Brendan Morrison- Morrison is not a main weapon on the Canucks, but he does play an important role, one which you can utilize for your fantasy squad. More than half of his points (11 of 20) scored this year have come on the power play. He still needs to shoot more and he's not going to blow anyone away with his overall stats, but he can be a nice compliment to a team who desperately needs depth at the Center position.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 14

Many, many leagues begin their playoffs this's an exciting time of the year for us fantasy geeks.

This column will be a little shorter than usual due to my attention being diverted by a developing situation outside the realm of fantasy sports (gasp...there's a realm outside fantasy sports??) My apologies.


Start- Kellen Clemens- True, he might be down a couple of weapons. However, this one will be a shootout due to Cleveland's excellent offense coupled with their awful defense. Kellen will be flinging the rock all day long, never a bad thing. Forecast: 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

Sit- Marc Bulger- Yes, he's been medically cleared from his concussion to play against the Bungles. That doesn't mean he should be in your lineup. One sack could end his day fast. Forecast: 150 yards

Running Back:

Start- Kolby Smith- Running backs going against the Denver Broncos tend to be an automatic start. Smith gained 83 yards last week against an improving San Diego line last week, so he's shown he has the right stuff to succeed. The only cautionary flag is the fact that his o-line is banged up right now. Forecast: 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Willis McGahee- McGahee keeps rearing his head in this column on both sides of the Start/Sit meter. This week, we're going with the Sit option. He did play very well against New England on Monday night, but the Colts have studied that game tape and will focus on stuffing him and making Kyle Boller beat them through the air. Forecast: 65 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start- Bobby Engram- If you own Engram, you've got to be very pleased with his 38 catches and 2 touchdowns since his bye week (October 28). He has taken advantage of the instability involving the Seattle receiving corps and proven himself to be a steady force to be counted on. Start him with confidence against a banged up Arizona defense. Forecast- 8 receptions, 100 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Larry Fitzgerald- Fitz picked the wrong time of year to come down with a groin strain. He is likely a game time decision against Seattle. Even if he goes, he's still not going to be healthy enough to take advantage of Anquan Boldin's absence. Forecast- 4 receptions, 50 yards

Tight End:

Start- Ben Watson- Watson's numbers have been nothing to write home about lately. He also had a couple of crucial drops against the Ravens. However, he makes for a sneaky play against Pittsburgh, who will be concentrating hard on limiting Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Forecast- 4 receptions, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Alge Crumpler- Crumpler did have a big game last week against St Louis. However, he has done little else this season to justify a starting role in your lineup. Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling he doesn't do a lot on Monday night against New Orleans.- Forecast- 3 receptions, 30 yards


Start- San Diego- The Chargers have been pretty hit or miss this season. However, they face a Tennessee team that is banged up and running on fumes these days. The Titans defense won't be able to hold back LT, so their offense is going to have to air it out, which will play right into San Diego's hands. Forecast- 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery

Sit- New York Giants- In the last game they played against the Eagles, their pass rush destroyed Philadelphia and Donovan McNabb. I can't see the Eagles letting that happen again. Besides, this is a statement game for the Iggles at home and I expect them to come out gunning. Forecast- 1 sack, 1 interception

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Not "Raven" about the "Reffin''... and other thoughts from Week 13

I am not a "Conspiracy Theorist" by any means. Nor am I a fan of the Baltimore Ravens. However, I think there might be some slight credence to opinion that is making it's way around the NFL these days: The league is more interested in the Patriots having an undefeated season than it is in fair play.

There were several questionable calls made during Pats-Ravens game Monday night. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, with the Patriots driving and seemingly running out of hope, the calls against the Ravens started to get more bizarre. Granted, the refs didn't force Rex Ryan to take his ill-advised timeout which cost the Ravens the game (the defense had stopped the New England on 4th & 1, only to have the play nullified due to Ryan calling a timeout moments before the ball was snapped.) However, the call on Bart Scott for complaining about a ruling was unjustified. Scott's overreaction in throwing the flag into the stands, costing his team another 15 yards, was his own fault. But the frustration was certainly understandable.

Then comes the "Boy" allegation made by Samari Rolle, contending that one of the officials referred to him in a derogatory manner. The league is investigating this as well. Stay tuned.

Onto the other thoughts:

- I think the Redskins' starting the game with 10 men on the field in tribute to Sean Taylor is one of the noblest gestures I've ever seen. The organization chose to honor one of their leaders in a unique fashion and showed us all that, shockingly, there are more important things in this life than winning a football game.

- I suppose we can all stop worrying about Adrian Peterson's knee now. Not a bad performance by "Hey, I was here first!" Peterson of Chicago either.

- The Jets proved, despite the god-awful ugly uniforms, they are able to beat up on somebody. Memo to Miami: If you can't beat the Jets, you're not beating anybody.

- I think Sidney Rice may turn out to be the steal of the wide receivers in last year's draft. And yes, that includes "Megatron" Calvin Johnson.

- Javon Walker, please stay off the field until you are healthy enough to contribute fantasy-wise. I haven't been teased this badly since the fourth grade, when someone discovered my last name is the same as a very popular corn oil with an annoying jingle.

- Would anyone have ever guessed before the season that Fred Taylor would have more rushing yards than MJD? You go, Triple F! (Formerly Fragile Freddy)

- So, let me get this straight: Chris Redman, the guy who couldn't hold off Kyle Boller in Baltimore, is the latest quarterback savior for the Falcons? Have you no shame at all, Bobby Petrino?

- I guess we can give Randy Moss a mulligan for dropping that pass in the end zone, even though he cost me an undefeated fantasy season in one of my leagues by doing so. However, his fashion sense is atrocious. The pin stripe suit he wore to the post game press conference went all the way to 11, if you know what I mean.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 13

Yes, I'm daring to show my face around here after recommending benching Favre on Thanksgiving. Turns out my crystal ball was one week off. Several readers of this blog will find this funny: C'est la Blackjack!


Start- Jason Campbell- This game is going to be an emotional one for the Redskins after the death of Sean Taylor. Teams in this situation can either rise above the grief and dedicate their efforts to their fallen teammate or they get crushed by the overwhelming sadness. My bet is on Washington to overcome their devastation and for Campbell to lead the way. He has shown enough improvement this year to cautiously place your faith in him. Forecast- 280 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception

Sit- Carson Palmer- God, I am getting tired of recommending Palmer be benched. He's too good for that sort of treatment. Yes, I'm aware he had a great game last week. But going against Pittsburgh at Ketchup Field in potentially poor weather conditions is not my idea of a particularly successful scenario. Forecast- 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions

Running Back:

Start- Justin Fargas- I am finally sold on Huggy Bear Jr. He ran for 139 yards last week against a much improved KC defense. Now he gets Denver, who, while they have been better recently, have not conclusively proven they can stop anyone on the ground yet. HBJ ought to be able to bust the Broncos. Forecast- 110 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Maurice Jones-Drew- Last season must seem like a long time ago to MJD. His average is down a full yard per carry and he has scored half the touchdowns. To make matters worse, Fred Taylor seems to have borrowed Lt. Dan's "Magic Legs" because lately, he's running like a young Gump. The Colts are also somewhat stingy against the run and will stack 8 men in the box, daring David Garrard and his group of no-name receivers to beat them. Forecast- 55 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start- Wes Welker- Does anyone else need to be convinced yet? Any team that is determined to take Randy Moss out of the game is doomed to failure because Wes will torch them like he's wielding a flamethrower. The Baltimore D has fallen on some hard times especially when it comes to defending the pass. Having to face the Patriots is the exact opposite of finding the remedy for what ails them. Forecast- 7 receptions, 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Roy Williams- Roy Boy is not a happy camper in D-town lately. The self-professed "Cheapest Man in the NFL" has found the Lions are being a little stingy themselves in regards to the amount of targets Williams has received (only 7 last week.) The Vikings are coming off their mauling of Eli Manning and the Midgets last week and are hungry for more. It'll be hard for Jon Kitna to target Williams more while he's flat on his back staring at the Metrodome's lights. Forecast- 5 receptions, 60 yards

Tight End:

Start- Tony Scheffler- Scheffler continues to impress recently. He has not caught less than 3 balls in a game since October 7. With the continued injury woes of Javon Walker (and now Brandon Stokely), Jay Cutler needs somebody to throw to. Scheffler could continue to be that guy. Forecast- 5 receptions, 50 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Owen Daniels- Despite my recommendation of sitting him, Daniels remains a decent TE option for the rest of the year. I just think that he won't be very good this particular week. Tennessee should see the return of Albert Haynesworth, a premiere defensive player whose presence they have sorely missed. The Titans look to make a strong stand and that doesn't bode well for any Texan, Daniels included. Forecast- 4 receptions, 40 yards


Start- St. Louis- Whether or not I have lost my mind is certainly up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the Rams have been playing better in recent weeks. They face the Patron Saint of the Brain Freeze, Joey Harrington, this Sunday. Can you say "Enticing Matchup?" Forecast- 3 sacks, 2 interceptions

Sit- New York Giants- The Midgets must be ashamed of themselves this week after the drubbing they took against Minnesota on both sides of the ball. They might be good and revved up to face the Bears this week. However, if they happen to get "Good Rex", they could be in trouble yet again. The secondary in particular is prone to giving up big plays and, when Grossman is "on", he is capable of turning in a couple of those. Forecast- 2 sacks

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Open Letter to Colin Campbell

Mr. Campbell,

As the Discipline Czar for the NHL, it is your job to mete out punishment for infractions that go above and beyond the severity of what a referee can impose during the game. You are entrusted with the sanctity of this sport and play a big role in determining how hockey is viewed by the general public.

There have been a rash of violent incidents recently in NHL games that have warranted your attention. The Steve Downie incident, the Jesse Boulerice incident, the Patrice Bergeron incident, the Mattias Ohlund incident and now the Scott Hartnell incident. All of these situations required the injured player to be helped from the ice. With all due respect, sir, the punishments you gave to these players for their deeds were ridiculously light.

I will qualify that statement somewhat: The suspension you gave to Steve Downie was severe, but not severe enough. He was docked his salary for 20 games, which I'm certain put a crimp in his finances. However, his crime deserved much more. His intent to injure Dean MacAmmond was clear.

You gave the following rulings on the other aforementioned incidents: Boulerice -25 games for cross checking another player in the face, Randy Jones - 2 games for ramming a defenseless player from behind into the glass, Mattias Ohlund- 4 games for winding up and viciously slashing another player in the leg and Hartnell- 2 games for ramming a player who was on his knees into the boards.


What sort of punishment is 2 games? That is a mere slap on the wrist and sends the message to every player that this sort of heinous behavior will continue to be tolerated. You have punished the result of the crime, not the intent behind it. If any of those injured players had their careers ended due to their offending action, would you have denied any of the criminals the privilege of playing in the league? Apparently not, as evidenced by the fact that players such as Todd Bertuzzi still don a uniform on a nightly basis.

Obviously, hockey is a violent game and injuries are to be expected. I have been a fan of the sport for over 30 years and have seen many players injured as the result of simply playing. However, you have allowed the sport to spiral out of control. Players no longer fear any repercussions from their behavior. It is your fault that unskilled players attempting to make a name for themselves are allowed to perpetrate felonious assault and can get away with it. The pain and suffering of victims like Steve Moore is on your head.

You need to adjust your casual attitude 180 degrees and make an example of the very next offender. If you don't, the sport we love will forever be linked with this type of thuggery. The respect and approval that we crave from the general public will be withheld...and rightfully so. The beauty of a game played by some of the finest athletes in the world will be irrevocably marred because you fiddled while Rome burned.

Change your ways, Mr. Campbell. You have been given a huge responsibility and have failed miserably at carrying it out. I challenge you to prove you are not just an impotent figurehead, but a man worthy of respect.

Otherwise, the next person who should receive a lifetime ban is you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"HELLO CLEVELAND!".....and other thoughts from Week 12

Don't look now, but the perennial NFL door-mats Browns are making a mad dash for the playoffs. They are 7-4 and have a very friendly schedule for the rest of the season.

Cleveland still has issues on the defensive side of the ball, but their offense is proving that, when it's in the groove, they can compete with anyone in the league except perhaps the Patriots or Cowboys. Derek Anderson has gone from an after-thought to a top 5 quarterback. Braylon Edwards has emerged as a top-flight WR. Jamal Lewis, whose career was thought to be on the downside (to put it kindly), has run with a passion that he hasn't exhibited in years. I'm reminded of a Shakespearean quote to describe him: "Who knew the old man had so much blood in him?" (It seems only appropriate to use the Bard's words in connection with a team coached by a man named Romeo.)

As Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap said, " I mean, people should be envying us, you know?"

Trust me, of other teams already do.

On to the other thoughts:

- I'd say the recent performance of Huggy Bear Jr., Justin Fargas, makes it a little easier for Oakland to give Lamont Jordan his walking papers, wouldn't you?

- You really need to be awful in order to make Tavaris Jackson stand out in a game. Congratulations, Eli achieved the improbable.

- Not too complain too much, but with all the weeks he hasn't scored, I think Chad Johnson could've come up with something a little more original than grabbing the camera for his end zone celebration.

- With a weapon like Devin Hester, I'd think it wouldn't matter that Chicago's once fearsome defense is now porous and their backfield will now be comprised of "The Other" Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe. And why on earth do teams continue to kick to this guy? They're not playing with fire...they're jumping right into the inferno.

- Big time kudos to the Philadelphia Eagles, who came thisclose to beating the mighty Patriots. New England has such an aura of winning about them right now that I'd say teams expect to lose to them. The Eagles, backup quarterback and all, didn't fall prey to that negative line of thinking and left it all out on the field. Belichick and Co. are going to need to be at their best the rest of the season or someone just as unlikely will knock them off.

- Welcome back, Frank Gore....Here's a guy you really root for....a superior player on a bargain-basement team who fights the overwhelming odds and achieves success...kind of like Kelly Leake from The Bad News Bears.

- Boy, even with a fistful of gold, those Rams just can't buy a break this year.

Sean Taylor 1983-2007

The NFL is reeling today after the sudden, violent death of one of it's superstars, Washington safety Sean Taylor, who was shot over the weekend.

Taylor was an outstanding player on the field. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams called him the best natural athlete he'd ever coached. His physical style of play intimidated opposing receivers and he was having a Pro Bowl season.

His off the field behavior was far from exemplary. He had numerous brushes with the law including an arrest for driving under the influence and a felony assault and battery, the incident which many speculate the circumstances of death may have stemmed from.

Those close to Taylor claim that he was in the process of turning his life around. He recently became a father and many in the Redskins' organization saw a change in him that reflected a new found maturity.

Whatever the situation, the violent death of any 24 year old should be considered a tragic event. I cannot judge Sean Taylor or his previous actions because I don't know enough about the background of his life. If his death resulted from his criminal behavior, will this be a wake-up call to the rest of the NFL to clean up their acts, lest they suffer the same fate? Probably not. We will likely have to read about more young men cut down in the prime of their lives...individuals who, despite their riches and fame, could not leave their rough childhoods in the past and who continue to associate with those who secretly wish them harm. That is the real tragedy here.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Guest Column: Against the Spread Picks Week 12 by William Jones

Many thanks to Frank for covering the picks last week for me. I only wish he had done a better job (just kidding).

Green Bay (-3.5) @ Detroit - It's all about turnovers and while both teams are at +5 takeaway/giveaway (TA/GA) this season, Detroit has coughed up the ball NINE times in the past two weeks! Ouch! Green Bay has been winning with a stifling Defense and no running game. Detroit is really gonna miss Dre Bly this week. Favre gives his wife a Thanksgiving treat with at least 4 TD passes as GB wins big. Take the Packers and give up the 3.5

New England (-22) vs. Philadelphia - Not only is the Pats' Offense unstoppable, not only do they have a +17 TA/GA advantage, the D out thinks everyone. Coach BB goes for it on 4th and 1 at the opposing 7 with a four TD lead. Now McNabb is out, too? Wow...this one should get ugly quick. Is-22 too big a deficit for ANYONE to overcome? Not this crew. Take the Pats and give up the 22

Upset Special of the Week!Cleveland (-3.5) vs. Houston - Cleveland can put up a lot of points against marginal teams but Houston showed up with it's two big weapons in Schaub and Johnson returning last week. Look for this to be a high scoring game but I see the Houston defense coming up with some key stops and turnovers to make the difference. The Texans will win the thing outright, +3.5

Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Guest Column: College Football Picks by William Jones

Sorry I missed you last week...just to make it up, I'll deliver the goods with these three winners:

Texas (-6) @ Texas A&M - If not for a "look ahead" loss to Kansas State and a nailbiter loss in the aforementioned look ahead game against Oklahoma,the Longhorns have played solid football this season. While they cut it close in many games (winning two of the last three each by 3 points), they are poised to bury A&M, a program in shambles. Coach Fran has on foot out the door, the players don't even have pride to play for and UT needs a big win just in case Oklahoma slips up vs. Okie State and they can backdoor their way into the Big 12 Title game. Every A&M loss has been by at least 8 points with them losing to Miami (FL) by 17 and lowly Nebraska by 22. This one has massacre written all over it. Take Texas -6

Virginia Tech (-3.5) @ Virginia - I blindly called this game VT -12, and, upon further review, it will be more lopsided. VT, since losing to LSU in Week 2, has pummelled opponents, winning their last five by a combined 195 -75, scoring in the forties 4 times. Virginia has gotten by through the grace of God...three of their last four wins were each by 1 point! They lost to a so-so NC State team and beat up on a disorganized Miami Hurricane team. The last ranked team they beat was 'tweener Wake Forest, hardly on anyone's National Championship list. This game will decide who wins the ACC Coastal. VT needs this to help get over the horrible tragedy, they would love to beat their in-state "rival" to continue to win the recruiting war going on down there and they would have a chance to vindicate themselves against the Boston College team that won in the rain. VT wants this and we're going with them -3.5

And the Upset Special of the Week

Hawaii (-4) vs. Boise State - It's hard to beat Hawaii at just doesn't happen. It's a nightmare roadtrip... flying kids to the most isolated place on earth. It's going to take it's toll at gametime. That being said, Hawaii's schedule was a cakewalk until they brought a determined Fresno State team to Oahu where the Bulldogs knocked out (literally) gunslinging QB Colt Brennan just one TD pass short of the NCAA record. Folks, I saw the hit Colt took and I would be more than surprised if he plays this weekend. It's a huge game and I know he will be game, but starting Colt after such a violent hit that had him on his back for at least 5 minutes, will hurt Hawaii more than help. With a healthy Brennan, I'd say this game was too close to call. However, I'd have to say there's no way he's ready to go and, if he does start, Boise's Defense will look to confuse him enough to make at least two huge mistakes. From there, the Boise offense will grind out points and kill the clock. Without Brennan, I thought the game would be Boise (-8) so I'm going with the Broncos at +4!

Start/Sit: Week 12


Start- Matt Schaub- Anybody else think that Schaub is excited to have Andre Johnson back and healthy? Schaub recently got over his own injury woes and is poised to have an excellent second half. He gets the Cleveland Browns this week whose defensive backfield is hurting. Given the uncertainty of Houston's running game and the fact that this will most likely be a shootout, look for Matt to air it out early and often. Forecast- 300 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception

Sit- Brett Favre- In light of how he's been playing, how on earth can I suggest sitting Brett Favre? Well, I do so with a qualifier: Only sit him if you have another top ten option. I just don't think Brett will have an extraordinary game here. When you play the Lions at the Silverdome on Thanksgiving, they always seem to come up with that extra defensive effort that turns immortals back into mere men. Forecast- 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception

Running Back:

Start- Cedric Benson- I must remind people that the purpose of this column is point out players who may do better than expected, not just endorse everyone else's Top Ten list. This is why I'm truly going out on a limb with Benson, a disappointment if there ever was one. However, Benson has been such a bust this year that garnering anything over 25 yards would seem like he's overachieved his expectations. I say Ced puts things together against an atrocious Denver Run D and is a somewhat pleasant surprise this week. Forecast- 85 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Willis McGahee- McGahee made us look smart last week by producing when we called his name. This week, however, we see a different scenario unfolding. The Chargers play at home, they are desperate for a win and know that McGahee represents the Ravens' best (and probably only option) to put points on the board. I can see them putting 8 or 9 in the box and daring Kyle Boller to beat them with his arm. Forecast- 70 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start- D.J Hackett- As Marv Albert might intone, "Hackett is ON FIRE!". Since returning from his injury, Hackett has posted 6, 8 and 9 receptions in his last three games. The news out of Seattle is they plan to keep throwing the majority of the time and they face a St. Louis defense who has given up 322 yards per game though the air. As matchups go, your Aunt Hilda's giblet gravy couldn't possibly be any tastier. Forecast- 8 receptions, 120 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit- Anquan Boldin- Boldin caught 22 passes in three weeks prior to his hip injury, then 18 passes in the four weeks since he returned. See where we're going with this? The time share between he and Larry Fitzgerald is in full effect and will limit the scoring opportunities for both of them. Besides, who really needs to throw on San Francisco anyway? Forecast- 4 receptions, 50 yards

Tight End:

Start- Ben Watson- Watson has been somewhat quiet this season, but a little known statistic about him is that he is scoring on 25% of his catches. Every now and then, some team gets it into their heads that if they can shut down Randy Moss, they can contain the Patriots. Sorry to disappoint people, but New England just finds new ways to kill you if you do that, including throwing red zone touchdowns to guys like Watson. I foresee a productive game for him against Philadelphia. Forecast- 4 receptions, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Tony Gonzalez- I just don't like Tony with Brodie Croyle throwing the ball to him. He's still the same superstar player, but I don't see it doing him a lot of good until Croyle goes through his growing pains. Besides, if there's one thing the Oakland Raiders are halfway decent at, it's defending the pass. I'd resist the temptation. Forecast- 3 receptions, 35 yards


Start- Jacksonville- Though they've been far from the automatic start they used to be, I like the Jaguars matchup this week. They're at home, they're facing a Buffalo team minus Marshawn Lynch and they're in the playoff race at 7-3. I can't see Jack Del Rio letting his squad lose a winnable game at this point. Forecast- 3 sacks, 2 interceptions

Sit- Baltimore- Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Remember when just the mention of the name "Ravens" brought fear to the hearts of opposing fantasy owners? Decimated by injury and ravaged by age, the Ravens are getting by mainly on reputation these days and that just won't be good enough against an on-the-ledge San Diego team. Forecast- 1 sack, 1 interception

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Kellen We Trust and other thoughts from Week 11

Jets-19 Steelers-16.....I believe this qualifies as "Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part II."

The Jets are a completely different team with Kellen Clemens at the helm. He's got all the intangibles of Pennington (intelligence, guts, a belief in himself and the team) and all the physical characteristics that Chad lacks (strong arm and the ability to scramble). No, he doesn't blow anyone away with his numbers, but the Steelers defense played well for the most part and are considered to be one of the top D's in the league. Clemens didn't panic when he led the Jets on the game tying drive and made several key plays (his toss to Chris Baker was huge, as was his scramble for a first down.) Give him another year to get completely used to the speed of the pro game and to develop the ability to read the defense better....He will be a special quarterback in this league someday.

On to the other thoughts:

- We now enter Week 2 of the Search for Adam Vinatieri. Federal Marshalls swarmed Area 51, but apparently the aliens who have kidnapped the Colts kicker were able to elude them. The search is now rumored to include every outhouse and hen house as well. The dragnet is also being widened in the hopes of discovering what happened to the entire Indianapolis offense.

- Boy, how much lower can Byron Leftwich's career sink? You know things are going badly when Falcon fans are rooting for Joey Harrington, Patron Saint of the Brain Freeze, to take over.

- I'm guessing that I, at age 37, out of shape and woefully inadequate in most athletic endeavors, could get 40 yards running behind the Minnesota O-line. Chester Taylor doesn't seem like such a bad backup plan now.

- The Pats hung more points on some poor foe, Moss scores four more touchdowns (unwilling to be bested by the other #81, T.O) and Brady continues to prove the existence of God's effect on mankind. Ho hum.

- Would someone mind telling me which Arizona defense is for real, the one we saw from last weekend or the one that allowed St. Louis to torch them for 31 points in Week 5? If the answer is the former, I'm guessing they're probably available on your league's Waiver Wire and and worthy of deep consideration.

- Donald Lee has quietly become a fantasy force this season.

- Very strange Phil Dawson field goal....The Ravens must be consulting every Feng Shui expert in the country in an attempt to dispel this black cloud that has been hanging over them lately.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Against the Spread Picks- Week 11

Bill Jones is a little swamped this week, so I'll be covering him with the picks. For those of you who depend on Bill's advice each week,'re stuck with me. I'll try not to let you down.

Green Bay -9 1/2 over Carolina- This is some roll that Brett Favre and the boys are on, eh? Now they get the Panthers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Carolina hasn't been awful on defense this year, giving up only 215 yards per game through the air. But they are surrendering 113 yards and a touchdown per game on the ground. Look for the Packers to establish the run early, for Brett to throw a touchdown or two and for the stifling Green Bay defense to shut down whoever gets the nod in Carolina's revolving door quarterback situation.

New England -16 over Buffalo- How can we endorse a 16 point spread in the NFL?'s the Pats after all. They have run roughshod over just about everyone and the Bills will be no different. The Belichick Crew have had an extra week off to rest their injuries and come up with new ways to get the ball in the endzone. This week, it might be Steve Grogan coming out of retirement to throw a lineman-eligible touchdown to John Hannah. Boy, won't Mike Vrabel be steamed about that one?

San Diego +3 over Jacksonville- Jacksonville's formerly tough defense gives up 261 ypg through the air. While Phillip Rivers has been no one's idea of a Pro Bowl quarterback this season, he's proven he can get the ball to Antonio Gates, whom the Jaguars have no answer for. Week 9's meltdown against the Vikings notwithstanding, the Chargers defense has been very active the past three weeks, producing 4 sacks and 10 interceptions. Look for them to batter Quinn Gray (or David doesn't matter) and to bottle up Jones-Drew and Taylor.

Take it to the Bank pick:

Pittsburgh -9 1/2 over New York Jets- You could probably make this a 19 1/2 point spread and it would make no difference. Pittsburgh has been simply dominant on the defensive side of the ball this season except for a couple of out of character games. Meanwhile, the Jets offense has an extreme inability to run the football. The passing offense doesn't exactly keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night either. Pittsburgh will dominate with their own running game and a few Ben Roethlisberger touchdowns thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 11


Start- Kurt Warner- Warner is one of those boom or bust players that sometimes are worth taking a chance on. He threw for 3 touchdowns last week and seems to be getting into a rhythm with the offense. Of course, he's always one sack away from an injury, but he's benefited from improved play by the defense and no longer feels like he has to win the game by himself. It doesn't hurt that he's playing the Bengals, whom your grandmother could throw on for 180 yards (at least). Forecast: 225 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.

Sit- Carson Palmer- Palmer just hasn't looked like himself this year. Much of his trouble can be attributed to an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries. There is cause for hope for him, though, with the return of Chris Henry. I just think you might have a better option this week. Forecast: 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 sacks

Running Back:

Start- Willis McGahee- Every time this column has predicted a big game for McGahee, he has inevitably come up short. We're hoping this time might be the charm. Baltimore is fighting for it's season right now, has the woeful Browns defense at home and will need to establish a strong running game to compensate for it's putrid passing offense. If he can't get it done this week, he won't get it done any week. Forecast- 125 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit- Reggie Bush- Bush has been banged up recently and is showing the effects of being the main man in the backfield for the Saints, a role which he has not convinced many people that he is suitable for. He left last week's game with an injury and may not be 100% for this contest. Also, look for the Saints to start expanding the roles of Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker to keep Bush fresh. All this adds up to a sub-par day for Reggie. Forecast- 65 yards, 1 touchdown

Wide Receiver:

Start- Santonio Holmes- Holmes has caught 6 receptions in a game twice this season and now faces a tasty matchup against the woeful Jets. Pittsburgh is annoyed with a perceived lack of respect (with the rest of the league in love with the Patriots). Look for them to make a statement with this game. Expect Holmes to be a big part of that. Forecast- 7 receptions, 110 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Plaxico Burress- Burress has not been healthy for nearly the whole season, but at least had been able to play through the pain. However, his ankle appears to be getting worse and it is now starting to affect his game. He came up small last week against Dallas and, with his inability to push off and leap like he normally would, he will be invisible again versus Detroit. I know it's tough to swallow, but go with a healthier option on your roster. Forecast- 3 receptions, 40 yards.

Tight End:

Start- Owen Daniels- One would think that Daniels would've benefited the most from Andre Johnson's injury, but the opposite has been true. Defenses have focused on him and his numbers have suffered. Johnson returns this week and Daniels ought to be able to shake free to make some key catches across the middle. He's a bit of a forgotten man in Fantasy circles and may even be available on your waiver wire. Forecast- 5 receptions, 45 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit- Vernon Davis- It's gotten tough to recommend any 49er this year, but Davis has been singled out a couple of times because his potential. However, San Francisco's problems appear to simply be getting worse. Davis is being forced to stay in and block due to the 49er's porous offensive line, a task for which he is not suited and which frustrates him greatly. You really don't want any part of this trainwreck. Forecast- 3 receptions, 30 yards


Start- Dallas- The Cowboys are coming off a big win against the Giants and are looking to maintain their momentum against another division foe. They are also only giving up 87 yards per game against the rush, meaning it could be a long day for Clinton Portis. They will dare young Jason Campbell to beat them through the air. Campbell is getting better, but he will not be able to handle the variety of blitzes that Wade Phillips will throw at him. Forecast- 3 sacks, 2 interceptions

Sit- Jacksonville- Jacksonville has just not been the same rapacious defense they've been in past seasons. Part of the problem has been an ineffective offense which has kept the D on field for too much of the season. They are giving 102 yards on the ground per game, not a terrible number. However, LT comes to town this week and the Charger's gameplan will be to run him all day long and the Jaguars will not be able to keep up. Forecast- 1 sack, 1 interception.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vinatieri replaced by an alien...and other thoughts from Week 10

What a weird game Sunday night....Who would've possibly imagined that Peyton Manning would throw six interceptions, Adam Vinatieri would miss two field goals and the Colts STILL had a chance to win?

Vinatieri, I cannot fathom. Here is one of the greatest clutch kickers in the history of the league and he blows THAT chip-shot? Clearly, he was kidnapped prior to the game and an extra-terrestrial was put out in his place. Bad field or not, it was a shame because of how desperately the Colts battled to get back into that game. However, the injuries are mounting on both sides of the ball now with Dwight Freeney expected to miss several weeks. Still, I wouldn't worry about a complete Indianapolis free-fall about to occur, with games coming up against Atlanta, Oakland and Houston. Let's face it: If they lose to those teams, even with their current injury woes, they won't deserve a chance to defend their title.

On to the other thoughts from the week:

- Here's a question about the Cardinals-Lions game: Since he's so close with both Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna, which QB did God want to win? Obviously Warner.

- Speaking of Grocery Boy, it was nice to see him finally realize that Larry Fitzgerald can be thrown to in the Red Zone. You may recall I took him to task for this a couple of weeks ago. Too bad it took Anquan Boldin being majorly hobbled with a bad hip for Kurt to look elsewhere.

- Fine, I'll be the one to say it: Brett Favre for MVP. I know the entire football world is on the Tom Brady bandwagon, but I say this: There is no one player more important to his team than Favre is to the Packers. Without his play, the Packers are a .500 squad at best. Isn't this really the definition of Most Valuable Player? The Patriots would still be a good squad without Brady at the helm. Not anywhere near as good as they are now, but good enough to compete.

-Another Favre-like thought: I've heard many people say that Jay Cutler reminds them of a young Favre. I say, if you're going to give anyone with that honor, you have to give it to Big Ben Roethlisberger. Tough as nails, scrambles well when he needs to, competes until the final whistle and always gives his team a chance to win with his arm. Sounds like Brett to me.

-Was that an Alge Crumpler sighting this past weekend? Great gumdrops, it was!

- Kind of a heartbreaking moment to see AP get injured after the amazing rookie campaign he's had so far. I'm glad it doesn't look like it will end his season. But I have one question: Did Peterson not being able to run the ball somehow contribute to the decline of Minnesota's ability to stop other teams from rushing against them? What the Sam Hill happened to the league's second best rushing defense? Ryan Grant galloped all day like a modern Red Grange against them.

- When will Brian Westbrook get the honor he deserves as being one of the top 5 running backs in the game right now? He has 54 receptions out of the backfield, say nothing about 700 yards rushing and 9 total touchdowns. The Eagles are an impotent offense when he's not in the lineup. How does he keep getting ignored? He'd be #2 in my MVP argument behind Favre.

-The Giants looked much tougher against the Dolphins in London. I guess that's what happens when you go up against a team that has a quarterback named Cleo Lemon (I still can't stop laughing when I say his name. Do you realize he throws to a TE named Justin PEELLE? " Peelle...Espresso! I mean, touchdown!")

- How happy is Rex Grossman right now?

Monday, November 12, 2007

No party for Marty

Martin Brodeur, arguably the finest goalie to ever play hockey, had a chance to win his 500th game Saturday night, an incredible feat that will be feted by the hockey community when it does happen (and rightfully so).

However, no team wants to make history as being the losing side in such an historic game and the New York Islanders were no exception.

The Islanders played a tight, focused contest (achieving the remarkable accomplishment of not recording ANY penalties) and held off the Devils 2-1. Miroslav Satan recorded his third straight game winning goal. He's as hot as the sun right now.

After the game, Brodeur exhibited a bad case of Sour Grapes, claiming "I don't think they beat us. Look at the two goals they got." Ok,'s a way to look at "the two goals they got": No matter how they happened, they both ended up in the net behind closed...end of story. Funny how he didn't mention that the Devils lone goal was accidentally knocked into the net by Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt.

Clearly, Brodeur was agitated and disappointed that he didn't reach his milestone on this particular night, but making such statements is beneath him. He knows better than anyone that all goals count the same, whether they were created by a beautiful, Bobby Orr-like, End to End rush or they barely trickle across the plane of the goalmouth. Matteau's series winning goal that clinched the game for the Rangers in 1994 against Brodeur was no beauty, either. But, boy, did it ever count.

Next time, Marty, try closing your mouth (as well as your legs) and you'll let fewer goals in...and fewer stupid remarks out.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Guest Column- Against The Spread picks Week 10 by William Jones

Upset Special
Arizona (-1) vs. Detroit - How this is nearly a "pick 'em" is beyond me. Detroit coming off 3 straight wins while Arizona has the exact opposite trend losing 3 in a row (including last week after a bye.) Both teams give up a ton of passing yards but the Lions are 17 turnovers better and that is huge underdog margin. Look for this to be a high scoring affair with the Lions coming out ahead. Pick - Detroit +1.

Buffalo (-3) vs. Miami - Again, this is nuts. Buffalo coming off 3 straight wins vs. Miami coming off 8 losses. Despite having a bye week, Miami has found no solutions for any of ails them and with Buffalo coming to town, they won't find any this week. Losman is in a groove and Lee Evans has woken up. Add in the rookie RB Lynch and we'll have a laugher. Pick - Buffalo -3.

Only 2 plays this week. There doesn't seem to be many clear cut opportunities so we'll take what we can get and not try to force the plays.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Guest Column: College Football Picks by William Jones

Kansas State (-7.5) @ Nebraska - OK, KState totally laid an egg last week, losing to (gulp) Iowa State, but this week they are giving almost 9 fewer points to a Nebraska team which has a -14 takeaway/giveaway margin to KState's +6...that's a difference of 20 turnovers. KState usually wins by 13.5 whereas Nebbie loses by 8. While we're always a bit nervous about the old "7.5", if KState can get at least 2 turnovers, they win by two scores easily. Go with K-State -6.

East Carolina (-7) @ Marshall - Same story as above with the takeaway/giveaway margin - it's E. Carolina with a 26 turnover advantage,so we expect at least 3 turnovers going EC's way. Marshall usually loses games by 14 points and most recently lost to second place UCF by 34 points. UCF's only conference loss is to, you guessed it, first place East Carolina by 14. Our resident Vegas Insider, Pete-Diddy, believes this game is a trap, since the line should be much higher, but, then again, he also believes in UFOs. Go with EC -7.

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK North Texas (+15.5) vs. Navy - How on earth can I pick NT, the worst team in I-A football, the team with a former (as in last year) high school coach running the program, the team I've consistently picked against and won?!?! Well, Navy is coming off the emotional, historic triple overtime win over ND. Navy is the one team who may have a more shallow defense than NT. Plus Navy runs the ball while NT has gotten quite adept at passing with Freshman QB Giovanni Vizza (remember that name...ok, don't remember that name...) gaining lots of experience this season. Navy will win the game, but for them to win by 16, it will take more of a vertical offense than they have. Take NT +15.5.

Don't forget to thank a Veteran this weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 10


Start: J.P Losman- Some people consider threatening a man's job will give him the proper motivation. Whether or not it's the correct course of action to take, it certainly seems to have worked wonders with J.P. Just when it seemed as though Trent Edwards would be the future for the Bills, an injury re-opened the door for Losman and he has played well enough to keep the rookie at bay for now. Losman gets the woeful Dolphins D this week and should put his rediscovered connection with Lee Evans to good use. Forecast: 225 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit: Kurt Warner- It's not really Kurt's fault...he's just not very reliable at this stage in his career. He was stuck in that Foodtown in Dubuque (or wherever) during what should have been some very productive years. In any case, playing against the surging Lions defense will not help him further his career this week. Unless you don't have other options, I'd steer clear of Grocery Boy. Forecast: 190 yards, 1 touchdown (to Anquan Boldin, of course), 2 interceptions, 2 sacks

Running Back:

Start: Kevin Jones- KJ has been somewhat enigmatic this season. He rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, but turns in only 71 yards against the Sieves, I mean The Broncos. Weird, wacky stuff, but look for him to have another good matchup in the offing here against an Arizona club that's been giving up 125 yards per game on the ground. He ought to be especially useful late in the game, eating up the clock. Forecast: 110 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Shaun Alexander- Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Only two years removed from an 1,800+ yard rushing season, Alexander managed 32 yards against Cleveland, a team your Aunt Delia could hit the rushing century mark against (provided that she uses one cut and hits the hole with authority). He hasn't been healthy the entire year and continues to make fantasy owners miserable who drafted him based on his name alone. Even with an enticing matchup against the 49'ers, he should be planted firmly on your bench. Forecast: 40 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start: David Patten- "The Little General" has averaged 90 receiving yards in his last two games and is proving to be a useful cog in the great New Orleans Comeback Story. He gets the winless Rams at the Superdome this week, which is understandably a good situation. Drew Brees has been on fire and will certainly take to the air, a pretty good thing for Patten, who has carved out an 11 year career for himself despite the fact he wasn't even drafted. He does another famous Patton (George S.) proud, who once remarked: " If a man does his best, what else is there?" Forecast- 5 receptions, 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Steve Smith- We really hate to keep harping on poor Steve, but his season has been a complete disaster since Jake Delhomme retreated to the bayou to heal his arm. He's trying his hardest, but he has 5 catches for a combined 33 yards over the last two games. I'll grant you that the Falcons are hardly an imposing defensive squad, but with either "Has-Been Vinny" or "Never-Was Carr" throwing the ball, any defense can look spectacular. Until he shows some signs of life, I'd say put Steve on the "Do Not Resuscitate" list. Forecast- 4 catches, 40 yards

Tight End:

Start: Donald Lee- It looks like Bubba Franks' time in Green Bay has come to an end and Lee becomes his worthy replacement. He just signed a 4 year, 12 million dollar contract extension and will be in the mood to show the Packers how grateful he is. The Packers play the Vikings this week, who can defend the run like no one's business but can be thrown on all day long. Even though Brett Favre spreads the ball around, Lee will still get his share and be useful. Forecast- 4 receptions, 60 yards

Sit: Vernon Davis- "Super Freak" has been on a nice little run the past two weeks, averaging 74 yards per game to go with 6 catches. However, the 49'ers play Seattle at Qwest Field this Monday night, which is where the run will end. It's not so much that the Seahawks have linebackers who can cover Davis. It's really more an issue of just how many sacks and interceptions they will force QB Alex Smith into. Forecast: 3 receptions, 40 yards


Start: Oakland- The Raiders have been pretty average when it comes to overall defense this year, but they are particularly good at garnering interceptions. Enter Brian Griese, who is pretty good at throwing them. It really shouldn't be much of a stretch to figure out what should happen here. With defenses like Tampa Bay on a bye week, Oakland makes for a nice fill in. Forecast- 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown

Sit: Baltimore- Can I possibly be suggesting sitting the Mighty Ravens at home? If you watched Monday Night's game against the Steelers, you'd know why. It's not that I think the Ravens are bad. It's just that I think that, with both starting cornerbacks injured, they are ripe to be had by a desperate Bengals team who will throwing the ball like it's going out of style. Forecast- 2 sacks

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Big Ben Weathers the Storm and other thoughts from Week 9

Every football writer in the country is probably leading off their column by covering the mini-Super Bowl that occurred between the Patriots and the Colts on Sunday. I will definitely get to that later. However, I would like to call attention to last night's game between the Steelers and the Ravens first.

When I first tuned in to the game and saw the sheets of rain pelting the stadium in Pittsburgh, I figured we were in for a low scoring, defensive battle. After all, the footing was terrible, the visibility was virtually nil and the ball was as slick as it would've been had it been covered in grease. Therefore, I was truly impressed to see Ben Roethlisberger turn in a Brady-like performance by throwing FIVE first-half touchdowns. Big Ben has quietly performed at an elite level this season and often goes unnoticed when the discussion about who is among the Top Ten quarterbacks in the game is held. Like Glenn Close's psycho character in Fatal Attraction, he "will not be be ignored" for much longer.

On to the other thoughts:

- The Pats and Colts certainly fought an entertaining battle, didn't they? I believe that a healthy Marvin Harrison would've made the difference for the Colts. Reggie Wayne was the only elite receiver the Colts had ( he really should've made that catch though....that drop was a killer) and they still stayed stride for stride with Mighty New England for nearly the whole game. As for the Patriots, what more can one say? They have to be considered the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl and have an excellent chance to go undefeated.

- My friend had this to say about Bill Belichick: "He's the kind of guy you want something bad to happen to." While I wouldn't go as far as to say that, I do find it rich that he accused the Colts of piping in stadium noise to disrupt his team. I can't believe he would find a sympathetic ear in the entire league who would listen to him. Your behavior has caused nearly everybody to hate you, Bill. Justified or not, you have made your own bed here. Have a nice nap.

- Adrian Peterson just continues to exceed the already-lofty expectations for his rookie year. Breaking the single game rushing yardage record is yet another bit of icing on the Rookie of the Year cake. He is truly the most talented RB in the league not nicknamed "LT."

- I think the Jets have cause for a little optimism. Yes, they are still horrible and probably will finish is the bottom three in the league. But Kellen Clemens is going to be a very good quarterback in this league. His ability to squeeze the ball into tight spaces with velocity and accuracy is a huge improvement over Chad Pennington's feeble tosses. I'm not blaming Chad...he never had a strong arm to begin with and he certainly deserves respect for coming back after two major shoulder injuries. But having a QB who can gun the ball downfield is going to eventually make the Jets harder to play against. Now if they could just do something about all those horrific drops by the receivers.

- You could have timed Shaun Rogers' touchdown run with a calendar. I still can't believe they didn't need to perform CPR on the big man in the end zone.

- Do you get the feeling that someone kidnapped Drew Brees in the beginning of the season, shoved him a root cellar somewhere and replaced him with a doppelganger out on the field? He must have have escaped his shackles during the bye week because he looks like a completely different quarterback out there.

- You know what, T.O? There's less "love" in those boos that you hear at Lincoln Field than you think. You may want to look into purchasing a bullet-proof vest for your next visit.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Celebrating Arbour Day

Al Arbour returned for a one game stint to coach the Islanders against the Penguins last Saturday night and the organization sure put on one hell of show during and after the game.

As a fan of the Islanders since 1976, I well remember Radar and the Cup winning teams he coached. Critics will scoff that he had a ridiculously talented team to work with during his tenure. I won't argue that the players on his teams had talent, to put it mildly (Potvin, Bossy, Trottier, Billy Smith and Clark Gillies spring to mind.) But I don't think those same critics give Al enough credit for getting the very best out of those players.

Having talent is one thing...there are plenty of special players, both today and in the history of the sport. These players can dazzle you with their brilliance on a nightly basis, pulling off feats of athleticism that the fan can only dream about. They can impress you with their ability to fight against adversity. They can amaze you with their mental toughness and stamina, staring down pressure filled games without batting an eyelash.

But how many of those hundreds of skilled players in the history of the league have won multiple Stanley Cups with the same teams? How many of them were able to harness their immense gifts to not only provide entertainment, but to fit within a system so that they were part of a bigger picture? I'll tell you who they were...the guys who had great coaches.

Arbour took a team of stars and got them to perform every night as a unit. Egos were checked at the door. Mike Bossy busted his butt as much as Billy Carroll, a fourth line center who barely got any ice time. Bryan Trottier put in as much work as Duane Sutter did. Al Arbour was noted during his playing time as a hard worker who never took a shift off. He passed that same work ethic onto his players.

It has been said about those Cup winning teams from the early 80's that they could beat you in any style you wanted to play them. You want to outmuscle them? Good luck. You're going to confound them with your speed? Nice try. Beat them with a suffocating defense? Go ahead and give it your best shot.

So, how does that happen? How does a team become so proficient in every area of the game that they can adjust to the style of every opponent?

Coaching....which is what Al Arbour did as well as any who have ever submitted a lineup card and stood behind a bench.

The Islanders deserve the league's respect for celebrating this man's unique accomplishments and giving him one final moment in the spotlight. It was a night full of class from top to bottom.

Oh, by the way, the Islanders won the game with a gritty, third period comeback against a very talented Pittsburgh team with a couple of current superstars you may have heard of. They simply outworked the Pens, sacrificing the body and refusing to give in to the ready-made excuse that their star goaltender was knocked out of the game by an accidental high stick.

Sounds like the playing career of a certain coach.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 9


Start- Matt Hasselbeck- Hasselbeck and the Seahawks play Cleveland this week and that translates to only one thing: Fantasy Gold. He's coming off a bye week and battling a strained oblique muscle, but he does get promising WR D.J Hackett back this week. He'll have to air it out all day to keep up with the Browns' explosive offense. Forecast: 280 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Sit- Kurt Warner- Brenda, I mean KURT, Warner draws a tough Jacksonville unit who are only allowing an average of 235 yards a game to opposing passers. They know that they'll have to win with defense due to their offensive situation and will be primed for the task. Warner is about as mobile as the Statue of Liberty and the Jaguars' fearsome pass rush should encounter few problems reaching him. Forecast: 185 yards, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown.

Running Back:

Start- Marshawn Lynch- Lynch takes on the woeful Bungles Defense this week and is probably tickled pink about it. He ran for 84 yards and a touchdown in Week 7 against Baltimore, who is roughly three times as good as Cincy's D is. With quarterback J.P Losman back and raring to go, Marshawn will have more room to run and should take advantage. Forecast: 125 yards, 1 touchdown.

Sit- Frank Gore- It's been a really trying season for Gore. He lost his mother, he has been dealing with an ankle injury and his offensive line cannot open a hole for him if their lives depended on it. Though, on paper, a matchup against Atlanta seems tasty, I think Gore is more hurt than he's letting on and will struggle even against the Falcons. Don't give up entirely on him yet, but you probably have a better option on your bench. Forecast- 50 yards, 2 receptions, 15 yards.

Wide Receiver:

Start- Brandon Stokley- Stokley makes for a sneaky start against Detroit this week. He has proven to be one of QB Jay Cutler's favorite targets in recent weeks (He caught a combined ten balls for 141 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks.) With Javon Walker out for several more weeks, look for this trend to continue. Forecast: 5 receptions, 70 yards, 1 touchdown.

Sit- Steve Smith- To say that Smith has had a rough season thus far would be a ridiculous understatement. Things don't get much better this week against a resurgent Tennessee defense. David Carr, never one of football's most accurate quarterbacks, will likely having flashbacks to his Texans' days and will be running for his life. Sadly, Smith will probably be open as he is still one of the WR's out there, but he will produce another lousy performance for his owners. Forecast- 3 receptions, 30 yards

Tight End:

Start- Vernon Davis- Davis is a superstar whose career is still waiting to take off. He's been hampered by injuries and truly bad quarterback play. However, with San Francisco's main weapon, Frank Gore, hobbling around on one good ankle and WR Darrell Jackson doing his usual "You paid me a lot of money, but I'll be constantly injured" routine, someone has to step up and that man is V.D (ouch...unfortunate initials.) Forecast- 6 receptions, 50 yards, 1 touchdown.

Sit- Eric Johnson- It seems like everyone else on New Orleans has gotten in on Drew Brees' Rise from the dead except Johnson. He came up short last week with just two catches for 12 measly yards on a day when Drew threw for 4 touchdowns. Johnson is, at the best of times, an safety outlet for a struggling quarterback and is often an afterthought in the game plan. There ought to be at least two TE's who have a better situation this week. Forecast- 3 receptions, 20 yards


Start- Washington- The Redskins are mad as hell and won't be taking it anymore. They got destroyed by the Patriots last week and are looking for a team to take their frustrations out on. Along comes the Jets with their anemic offense, patchwork offensive line and newbie quarterback. The Redskins really couldn't ask for a better matchup than this one. Forecast- 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.

Sit- Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings have been...well, "Vikings"...when it comes to defending the rush this year. However, they haven't yet had to play a guy named LaDainian yet, who is kryptonite to opposing defenses. San Diego's Phillip Rivers is also managing the game better, making key throws when he needs to compliment the hurricane force of Tomlinson's running. Oh yeah, they also have some guy named Gates who's supposed to be pretty good at catching footballs. Forecast- 1 sack

Guest Column: Against the Spread picks- Week 9 by William Jones

Ok kids.....I'm back with the picks for the NFL Week 9. A quick reminder that these picks are for entertainment purposes only. Don't put your hard earned money on players who get paid regardless of the outcome. And, if you do, there is one key element to pay attention to: Don't let your wife find out.

Cincinnati -1 @ Buffalo - This may be the lock of the century. Ocho Cinco is not pleased with his recent lack of opportunities to showcase his entertaining end zone antics and will look to rectify the situation post-haste. He needs the ball and shall receive it this week. I have no idea who is running the ball for the Tiger-Cats, but with their air attack, who cares? The Cinci Offense outpaces the suspect Bills O and wins by a landslide!

Washington - 3.5 @ NYJ - OK, the Jets are my boys and I hate picking against them but their best player (L. Coles) is out. Gunslinger QB Kellen C. gets a shot and that should spell turnovers all day for Jersey's second team. The Redskins' D will be itching to erase last week's embarrassment against the Pats. Washington runs the ball all day, Los Jets can't stop the run...any questions?


Green Bay +2 @ Kansas City-Yeah, I know they had a short week, a tough overtime win at Mile High and Arrowhead is an impossible place to visit and win but you can't count the Pack out...I love the D and Favre is having the time of his life. LJ is nice, but I can't see the QB situation in KC overcoming that fierce D. So much against them and Green Bay gets the win anyway!

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Do you believe in miracles?" Part Two

Ok, so perhaps it wasn't nearly as impressive as Team USA's Olympic stunner over the ridiculously talented Soviet squad in 1980. However, the Islanders did manage to defeat a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team for the first time in two years last night.

The Lightning have always had some sort of mystical hold on the Isles. Even the dreadful Tampa Bay clubs of the past have managed to stomp all over New York. Recently, the Lightning have just outright dominated the series. Martin St. Louis, in particular, has used these games to pump up his stats.

However, a corner may have been turned. New York turned in an inspired performance, outplaying the struggling Lightning in most facets of the game. True, they needed an outstanding Rick Dipietro in goal (as well as a couple of lucky goalposts) to do it, but shutting out Tampa Bay requires an entire team effort.

What was the reason for such a gritty, on-the-same-page response? Was it the occasion of Mike Sillinger's 1,000th contest and the team wanted to play well? Was it the upcoming one game return to coaching of Al Arbour that had them "jacked up"? Or were they simply tired of always losing to Vinny LeCavalier & Company and decided to take a stand?

Whatever the reason, the Islanders demonstrated that, when they're firing on all cylinders, they are a competitive team to be reckoned with. It is coach Ted Nolan's job to make sure that efforts like last night's are the norm and not just an anomaly.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Guest Column: College Football Picks by William Jones

This week looks to pick up where we left off last week when we went 2-1 (Texas A&M went down the tubes, taking their coach with them!) with a three-play of picks.

Kansas State (-14) @ Iowa State - The numbers indicate K-State to be a 34.5 point favorite in this one with I-State giving up an average of 32 points per game. Since upsetting rival Iowa in week 3, I-State has lost all their conference games. K-State, coming off a last second loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, drubbed Baylor by 38 this past Saturday, a Baylor team that beat it's I-AA opponent while I-State lost to theirs. K-State covers no problem vs. a team with nothing left to win.

LSU(-7) @ Alabama - OK, we know LSU is, most likely, the best team in the country. But this game will hinge on one thing and one thing only...Saban gets to play his first game against LSU after leaving them to go to the Dolphins in 2005. This will be the first and only time some of his former recruits (class of 2009) at LSU will get a chance to show up the man who promised them the moon and then left for Miami. I'm sure, given a do-over, each and every one of the players he recruited would still have picked LSU but they have to feel some level of betrayal. Interestingly, media pieces quoting Alabama players discussing the LSU game have been plentiful, but LSU player quotes are in scarce supply. Hmmmm. Last time I saw this in a rivalry game, UCLA upset USC last year, killing any shot the Trojans had of getting to the Championship Game. Take the grudge, LSU's battle to regain a BCS championship berth and the fact that they are a statistical 11 point favorite and the Tigers will get their revenge on Saban. Go with LSU.

The UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK!!! Georgia Tech (-2.5) v. Virginia Tech (Thursday Nov.1) - Both teams have been going up and down the polls this year for different reasons. GT had a storybook season last year, but lost superstar WR Calvin Johnson to the NFL. VT, a perennial ACC favorite, entered the season reeling from the tragedy that occurred there. Both teams have adjusted nicely, with GT leaning on stud RB Tashard Choice and VT easing into a groove after a bad early loss to LSU. Both teams are near equals statistically, with the math working GT out to be a true 2.5 point favorite. The x-factor to this game will be Choice and his #1 backup sitting out this game with injuries. The third option has a better yard per rush average and as many TD's as Choice, but we'll see if he can carry the load. After thumping their last two opponents (Clemson and Duke) by 18+ points each, VT was ready to prove they were emotionally ready to take hold of the ACC. They went up to play BC in the rain and let their guard down in the final two minutes after dominating a sloppy, run oriented game. They won't take their foot off GT's throat this week. VT wins outright!

We've been 2-1 but this week's slate had so many generous games, I'm thinking we should go 3-0.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse and other thoughts from Week 9

Another week, another blowout by the Brady Bunch. So what makes this one so noteworthy? Try 52 points scored against a formerly decent Redskins defense. As one of the football-crazed British folks who watched the Giants-Dolphins game on Sunday might say, "What's Belichick playing at, eh?"

Are all these games Billy's revenge against the league for punishing him over Spygate? Is he not only going for a perfect season, but one so dominant that it leaves no question in anyone's mind as to who the greatest coach who ever lived is? Whatever his reasons, he did show a lack of class in continuing to keep the pedal to the metal throughout the 4th quarter. Mark my words: An injury will occur at some point if he continues to leave his starters on the field that late in blowouts and he will have no one but himself to blame. He should also remember that, if the Pats ever find themselves in a similar situation as the teams they've beaten up so badly, those same teams will not hesitate to dunk their heads in the toilet the way New England has done to them. Paybacks could be a you-know-what.

On the the Week's thoughts:

- I've written plenty over the course of the season about Brett Favre's joie de vivre and how great it is to see the enthusiasm he displays on a weekly basis, so I won't bore you with more of it here. Instead, let's talk about the way that Brett can still sling the pigskin at his age. That scoring strike to Greg Jennings that ended last night's overtime thriller was a thing a beauty to behold.

- Boy, Jeff Garcia sure made up for lost time this week, didn't he? He hadn't thrown an interception all season long, then puts three picks up on Sunday.

- Speaking of rare occurrences, did we have a Matt Jones sighting this week? You bet your booty we did. Fantastic play by the invisible Jags WR. We look forward to his next catch sometime in the 2009 season.

- Guess the rumors of the death of Joseph Addai's Fantasy Value were greatly exaggerated, eh?

- Of all the ways the Pats humiliated the Redskins this week, the greatest was the fake spike turned in by Brady to Moss. Criss Angel doesn't sell illusions any better than Tom Terrific.

- I can't imagine the London game captured the imagination of too many new fans across the pond. An Englishman who plays in my fantasy league remarked that pretty much everyone in the UK who is interested in American football was in attendance. 90,000 out of 60 million? Not great, but still a much better ratio than Americans who care about the NHL.

- Is everyone buying Drew Brees' resurgence now? I am.

- Lastly, the San Diego Chargers deserve credit for the heartfelt tribute they gave to the firefighters of the area who battled the horrible blazes. There was much talk about how distracted the players would be and how they were ripe for an upset, but I likened this game to the Saints return to the Superdome. There was no way this team was going to let down the fans of their hometown that had suffered so much recently. Does a win make up for losing your house? No, of course not. But Sports are supposed to give the fans an outlet to forget their problems and the Chargers responded brilliantly.