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.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Guest Column: College Football Picks by William Jones

Well, now that the wedding bells have stopped ringing, our Blogmeister,Frank, can get back to work and I can get my picks out to the starving masses after a couple of weeks off. New rule: no fluff picks...I know most fans are looking for as many picks as possible, but we're going to focus on quality, not quantity.With that, let's look at Week 9 of the NCAA.

Middle Tennessee State -12.5 visiting North Texas - The fact that North Texas is arguably the worst team in D-1 isn't really what put us on this pick. Dwight Dasher, the QB for the MTSU, is what you'd get if you could combine Michael Vick at Virginia Tech and Kordell Stewart at Colorado...and you put him against Sun Belt Conference caliber defenses. North Texas is used to losing by 30+ points and MTSU, while the overall record is deceiving, look at them since they played LSU and inserted Dasher and they have dominated on Offense, giving the D more chances to make plays. This team will play in a minor bowl, no question. Take MTSU in a laugher.

Oregon -3 vs. USC - Living in SoCal, I have been hearing all the USC fans gush about it matters not who the QB is against the Ducks since either one of them will walk away with a victory...not so fast! The USC line has been obliterated with injuries and they actually had a student walk out of biology class and onto the practice field just because he had size...forget that he hadn't played football since high school and never played O-Line! USC hasn't played anyone impressive. They will have lots of first year players who have never played in an environment as hostile as Autzen Stadium or against an offense as deceptive as OU. This will be a matter of how the Trojan's offense plays against the decent OU defense and, with the lack of continuity of the O-Line, Sanchez starting in that noise bowl and the lack of big playmakers at the wideout position will cause the offense to sputter. Look for the O-Line to take offsides and holding calls all day. I'm going with the Ducks.

Kansas -3 at Texas A&M - Look at this for the upset of the week. Kansas is 7-0, the bulk of those wins coming against weak opponents. A&M needs a win desperately before going on a rough stretch facing Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas...if they come away with one win out of those three, I'll be shocked. Kansas is fairly full of themselves and this is the first real tough road-test, after playing K-State (had to believe Kansas had fans travel for that) and Colorado in away games. A&M has a 260 lbs RB who is unstoppable...this may be a clock-eating affair... let's go with A&M!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 8


Start: Brian Griese- How can you not love this matchup? Griese has to be brimming with confidence after last week's stunning comeback against the Bears. Also, he has thrown for 300 yards a game and 8 touchdowns over the last 4 games. Detroit may be able to garner a couple of turnovers, but they will not stop Bernard Berrian and friends from finding the end zone. Forecast: 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

Sit: Eli Manning- You must be saying "He's gotta be kidding me. Manning is an automatic start against the Dolphins!" Let me explain: Manning will do very well early on against the hapless Fins and therein lies the problem. There will be no need to throw the ball after the second quarter since the Giants will completely dominate Miami with the ground game. In Fantasy Football, it's sometimes better to start a lesser QB who will be slinging the ball all game. Forecast: 150 yards, 1 touchdown

Running Back:

Start: Fred Taylor- Jacksonville lost David Garrard last week to injury and, if you watched Quinn Gray take the reins, they also lost their entire passing game in the process. Jacksonville's only hope is to run the ball 30 or more times. With MJD hampered with a slightly sprained knee, Taylor will get the lion's share of the carries. The Bucs can be run on. Forecast: 105 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Steven Jackson- He seems like he's raring to go, but I don't imagine the Rams will just throw him in there and let him carry 25 times after missing 4 weeks with an injured groin. Scott Linehan may have a losing ball club, but he's no dummy. Jackson will be worked in slowly, thereby limiting his fantasy potential. I know the matchup is tempting, but stay away. Forecast: 45 yards, 2 receptions, 15 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start: Jerricho Cotchery- The Jets are reeling and need this game like a drowning man craves air. Chad Pennington will be anxious to prove that Coach Mangini made the correct decision in sticking with him. Cotchery often goes under the radar as opposing defenses focus on Laveranues Coles and that is to his benefit. Look for the Jets to attack through the air and for JC to be the prime beneficiary. Forecast: 7 receptions, 100 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Santonio Holmes- Those who choose to start Holmes may suffer a similar fate to Eli Manning owners: Their man just may not be utilized very much. While the Cincinnati defense is horrible, the Pittsburgh defense is not and they will control the game. This means that the Steelers, who would like to define themselves as a power running team, will probably run the ball upwards of 35 times during the game, so passing opportunities could be few and far between. They will be content to let the Bengals make the mistakes through the air. Forecast: 4 receptions, 65 yards.

Tight End:

Start: Donald Lee- Bubba Franks is out for this game and Brett Favre has been known to throw the ball a time or two. Lee makes for a sneaky play here against Denver's formerly formidable pass defense. Pittsburgh threw 3 touchdowns to their TE's last week, so the Broncos clearly can be had while focusing on the opposing WR's. Forecast: 4 catches, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Chris Cooley- Cooley and the Redskins play New England this weekend and the TE position's production will be on Belichick's radar as one of the key areas to limit. Expect the Pats to throw a variety of blitzes at Jason Campbell, who will likely not be able to handle the pressure. This will certainly hinder Cooley's numbers. There should be better options available this week. Forecast: 3 catches, 30 yards.


Start: Tampa Bay- As noted earlier in this column, Jacksonville will have trouble passing the ball. The Bucs will be able to focus almost exclusively on stopping the run and should be at least marginally successful. On the rare occasion that the Jaguars do throw the ball, Tampa's ball-hawking defensive backfield ought to be able to snag a few turnovers. Forecast: 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.

Sit: San Francisco- Drew Brees and Co. have turned a corner and are once again becoming a fantasy force to be reckoned with. The problem with Niners is not that their defense is terrible...their offense is. The D will spend way too much time on the field and will be gassed by late in the 3rd quarter. Forecast: 1 sack, 1 interception.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Loves me some Zetterberg and other NHL thoughts

It's a complete mystery to me why some are surprised that Henrik Zetterberg is having such a fine season (7g, 11a, +6). He's the starting LW for a powerful offensive team and has been chock full of potential since he entered the league. He has also demonstrated an ability to come through in the clutch as evidenced by his 25 career GW goals. I think Zetterberg somehow gets overlooked when the conversation turns to Great Left Wings in the game today...but he won't be for long.

Other thoughts:

- It only a matter of time before Tim Thomas takes over the starting goaltender job in Boston, sending big ticket Free Agency item Manny Fernandez scurrying to the bench. They've each started 4 games. Goals against? Fernandez-16, Thomas-5. Not to mention, the Bruins seem to play with more confidence with TT in the net.

- Speaking of goalies, Martin Gerber is also making a serious run at staying the Senator's top choice. Ray Emery may be back from wrist surgery, but in his absence, the Senators didn't lose a step with Marty G backstopping them. He has accumulated 6 wins against one loss this season. Look for Gerber to either take the starting spot outright or be traded to goalie starved L.A as his value is extremely high right now.

- Mr. Consistency Mats Sundin is playing up to his usual standards. He's second in the league in scoring. Nik Antropov and Jason Blake's contributions notwithstanding, Sundin is once again carrying the Leafs with very little help. He can be a scary presence on the ice and I'm not just talking about his uncanny resemblance to Skeletor.

- What's up with the Rangers? That seems to be the million dollar question around the league. Many Islander fans are reveling in the Blueshirts' current troubles. To them, I say this: Enjoy it while you can. This Ranger team is not like the previous incarnations ( a place where over the hill veterans came to cash in on their former glory for one last paycheck...Valeri Kamensky, I'm talking to you.). Their issues right now boil down to injury woes and chemistry. The former is a roll of the dice and will happen to every team at some point this season and the latter takes more time to develop. When it does, I believe the Rangers will go on a tear that will have people losing their breath....and my fellow Isles fans crying in their beer.

- Speaking of being on a tear, the Minnesota Wild has been...um...running wild (couldn't resist) as of late. They are 7-1 despite not having a single player in double digits in scoring. Some of this success can be attributed to the superb play of goalie Nicklas Backstrom, but this is a team which is truly more impressive as a sum of it's parts as opposed to having players that garner individual accolades.

- finally, raise your hand if you thought that the Flyers would have a better record than the Penguins at this point in the season? Yup, that's what I thought.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ask not for whom the bell tolls......

...it tolls for thee, Chad Pennington.

While the season-long struggles of the Jets can be more attributed to an indescribably horrific defensive showing, it can no longer be ignored that, though Pennington is a warrior who will go through a wall each every week in an attempt to win, the winds of change are blowing in Hempstead. It is time to see if Kellen Clemmens can shoulder the load. His stronger arm will lead to more downfield chances and will give the Jets a chance to compete in the shootouts that will inevitably ensue due to the aforementioned lack of defense. It may not be the definitive answer, but clearly something must be done before the Jets end up with the #2 pick behind the Dolphins (come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad thing).

More thoughts from Week 7:

- Tom Brady throws six more td passes, giving him 27 for the season (or, to put it another way, 1 more than all of last season.) Are you kidding me? We all knew his receiving corps would be improved over last season, but let's look closer: I feel the credit must go to an outstanding offensive line. They clearly keep Brady upright and give him the time to dissect the defense.

- Tough news for Ronnie Brown. The league's leading rusher one day, candidate for ACL surgery the next. The Dolphins certainly weren't going anywhere this year anyway, but now they are the obvious frontrunners in the Draft Day sweepstakes.

- Great news for Titans fans. Your team never needs to score another touchdown again. Just let Rob Bironas kick 8 field goals every single week. Who would've guessed that anyone, let alone a kicker, would've stolen Brady's thunder on Sunday?

- You really have to feel for Frank Gore these days. The guy is such a competitor, he played the entire second half "purely on Adrenalin" according to a source while battling an ankle sprain. There was no way the Niners were going to win that game and no one would've faulted Gore for sitting and trying to remain healthy for the rest of the schedule. The San Francisco coaching staff should've stepped in and made him take a seat.

- Ye Gods, a Running Back by Committee situation in Indy? Is nothing sacred? All Joseph Addai owners, if they haven't already, need to lay their hands on Kenton Keith asap. You may even consider breaking one of Fantasy Football's most highly touted Commandments: Thou shalt never, under any circumstance, play two RB's from the same backfield. With the Colts passing game the way it is, Indy can easily play Ball Control in the second half of most games. If they are going to continue to alternate carries between the two, you could probably do worse for your RB scoring.

- I think that, if I'm a Larry Fitzgerald owner, I'm wondering if Fitz did something bad to Kurt Warner (perhaps had an affair with his wife, then left her stranded in the desert with no gas) that makes God Boy ignore him in the Red Zone. Warner seems to look for everybody else (Anquan Boldin, Leonard Pope, the waterboy, Laura Bush) but Larry when it comes time to score.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen.....

....go out in the mid-day sun." I know this to be true, having just spent 11 days on the beautiful island of Tobago for my honeymoon, watching pale vacationers park themselves on beach chairs in the unrelenting heat for hours at a time, crisping their delicate skin to a fiery reddish tone.

For those not in the know, Tobago is a small island near the eastern coast of South America. It is influenced tremendously by the British and therefore 90% of the resort was occupied by Her Majesty's citizens. This was not, for the most part, a bad thing. I tend to find my fellow Americans on vacation to sometimes be a tad embarrassing and loud. The few American Scuba Divers at the hotel certainly didn't disappoint in this regard, (even doing the unthinkable...The Electric Slide.....during the evening's entertainment down on the patio while my wife and I desperately attempted to distance ourselves by appearing as European as possible.)

Though the English may be reserved, they are far from boring as evidenced by the characters we witnessed on this trip. First up was an old gentleman we nicknamed "Brother" for his charming habit of referring to every male he encountered as his brethren. I moved out of his way at the buffet line and received a cheery "Thank you, Brother!" for my consideration. Easily 60+ years old, Brother was the unquestioned Big Man on Campus (or Resort as it were). He and his wife were on their tenth trip to the hotel and seemed to know every staff member by name.

There were other notable individuals as well: "Dumpster" (a stout, boisterous, linebacker of a woman who wouldn't seem out of place in a Sumo ring), "Snarky Snarkerson" ( a 12 year old boy whose face appeared to be frozen in a permanent sneer...my favorite memory involving him occurred when his own parents, tired of the boy's constant bellyaching, dumped him off the kayak they were all riding in and paddled away as the impudent lad flipped them off) and the Cholesterol Brothers (a portly duo straight out of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". The fatter one could've easily won a Wet T-Shirt contest had one been held. However, their veins were also full of a genuine love of fun and they provided many hours of beach side antics.)

Coco Reef Resort and Hotel has the most tranquil and beautiful lagoon I have ever had the pleasure to come across in the Caribbean. The newly-minted Mrs. P&P and I snorkeled to our heart's content by the amazing reef and found ourselves up to the neck in Sergeant Majors and Clownfish. We also brought down bread rolls from breakfast and lunch and stood in the waist high clear water, literally feeding these same fish by hand. An unparalleled experience, I assure you.

If it sounds like we were clutched tightly against Mother Nature's breast, well....we were. At no time was this more evidenced than the occasion when we were sitting in the open air patio area, enjoying a nice breeze and some shade. I glanced to my left and saw a 2 1/2 foot snake slither into the area. Anyone who knows me knows that, by all I find Holy, I do NOT do snakes. Exhibiting a cowardice which shames me as I write this, I dashed off to the Front Desk for help, leaving Mrs. P&P (who, for the record, is much braver than her husband) behind with the viper (ok, so it was most likely some sort of non venomous garden snake...but I wasn't taking any chances). The serpent went away unharmed and peace reigned once more, leaving me only slightly shaken and a little worse for wear.

Overall, a wonderful journey to a place not many of my fellow countrymen know about. However, I missed football and hockey and missed writing for all of you. I'm back and raring to go.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Revenge: Sweet for some, bitter for others...thoughts from Week 4

Week 4 saw a number of "Revenge" games in the NFL....players that suited up against their recent former teams. There were a number of good performances turned in, but who could top Daunte Culpepper's thrashing of the Dolphins? DC basically told the Fins "How you like Joey Harrington over me now?"

Jamal Lewis scored a touchdown against the Ravens and their defense which, according to Ray Lewis, "has no weaknesses". I guess there might have been ONE weakness, eh, Ray? I mean, considering the fact that your team lost and all.

Matt Schaub played well, but couldn't pull out a win against Atlanta and Darrell Jackson barely made Seattle notice he was on the field. Just remember, guys: Revenge is a dish best served cold. The Count of Monte Cristo waited over a decade for his revenge. Your time will come much sooner.

On to the thoughts:

- Anyone who cannot share in the joy of Brett Favre breaking the record for touchdown passes thrown is not a real football fan. I have written before of how refreshing it is to see Favre's true love of the game on display every week, but nothing could exceed the euphoria a true fan must have felt when he saw Brett sprint down the field after the historic throw. One question, though: Do you think Green Bay management has a collective heart attack every time Favre picks one of these guys up on his shoulders and runs around with them? The possibility of straining something important would be high, I feel.

- A disgusting situation in Cincinnati occurred (and I'm not talking about the Bengals performance) when New England's Mike Vrabel, having just caught a touchdown pass, ran to the stands, offered a Bengals fan the ball, then snatched it away from him. It was a surprisingly classless move by a normally upstanding individual. The fans pay your salary, Mike...remember that the next time you diss one on national television.

- Was anyone else impressed by Green Bay punter John Ryan ducking and weaving for a first down on the fake punt attempt? I haven't seen such movement from Ryan since he took down Sean Miller in the movie "Patriot Games". Oh wait, that was Jack Ryan. My apologies.

- A rather impressive defensive effort by the Giants, no? You would've figured that, eventually, The Eagles could have given Winston Justice some help in defending against Osi Umenyiora when the Nigerian Nightmare recorded his 5th sack of the night. What were they thinking? The sixth time would be the charm? If I'm Donovan McNabb (and I'm glad I'm not), I'm pretty peeved right now with Andy Reid.

- Where have you gone, Rex Grossman? A Bears Nation turns it's lonely eyes to you...boo hoo hoo.

All right, people: Pigskins and Pucks will be going on hiatus until late October, owing to the fact that I'm marrying Mrs. Pigskins&Pucks this Sunday and going on our honeymoon to Tobago.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Preview of the NHL Season-Southeast Division

Carolina Hurricanes:

Strengths: Though Eric Staal had a down year last season, he should bounce back to once again produce upwards of 90 points....Rod Brind'Amour's veteran leadership is essential to this team's success. There's few better at providing such an asset....The Hurricanes should have a healthy Cory Stillman back in their lineup. He missed a large portion of last season with a shoulder injury.

Weaknesses: The health of the defensive corps is a huge concern. Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley all missed significant time last year....Cam Ward will have to play better in goal this season for Carolina to reasonably expect to do well. The depth behind him is too weak to provide any relief....The team as a whole must bounce back from last year's disappointing finish.

Prediction: 1st in Southeast Division

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Strengths: It would be hard to count out any team that boasts Vincent LeCavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards in their lineup....The Lightning added bulk and toughness to their defense in the off-season....They also added Michel Ouellet and expect him to boost the power play.

Weaknesses: Dan Boyle's freak injury puts a pall on the early season for the Bolts. Boyle was expected to be the number one defense from the beginning and will now miss considerable time....Though they added toughness to the d-line, the loss of Corey Sarich in free agency will hurt....Goaltending is a major issue. If neither John Holmqvist or Marc Denis can handle the job, Tampa Bay will not achieve it's potential.

Prediction: 2nd in Southeast Division

Washington Capitals:

Strengths: Washington made a big splash in the free agent market this past summer, obtaining Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti. These additions should produce immediate dividends....Alex Ovechkin, already an All Star, now has a better cast around him and should produce even results....The Capitals expect Niklas Backstrom to contribute this year as well, making them very deep at the center position.

Weaknesses: Washington hopes they addresses their special teams' woes with the new additions. Their Penalty Kill was especially weak last year....The defense also suffered last season. The Caps found themselves on the wrong end of way too many late game losses....Washington has to hope that Olaf Kolzig can still stand the rigors of the game at his age. If not, there's not a good answer behind him.

Prediction: 3rd in Southeast Division

Atlanta Thrashers:

Strengths: Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk form a strong tandem that drives the Atlanta offense....The Thrashers are strong in goal. Either Kari Lehtonen or Johan Hedberg could emerge as the starter.....Slava Kozlov had a career season last year and is a veteran presence in the locker room.

Weaknesses: The team as a whole must put the meltdown they experienced in the playoffs behind them. It will be easier said than done....The Thrashers lost Andy Sutton in free agency to the Islanders. Sutton, though slow and at times plodding, provided a toughness and snarl on the blueline that they will have to replace....The defense is a bit on the old side and lacks playmakers.

Prediction: 4th in Southeastern Division

Florida Panthers:

Strengths: Olli Jokinen is a superstar presence whose consistent play will once again anchor the offense....Florida added some very good veteran talent in the offseason to compliment their youth. Tomas Vokoun, Ville Peltonen and Josef Stumpel will greatly aid Jokinen in putting the puck in the net....Vokoun should bring stability to the Panther's goaltending situation. He's the best they've had since the horrific Roberto Luongo trade.

Weaknesses: If Vokoun is not the answer in nets, it will be a very long season in Miami as there is no one behind him capable of shouldering the load....The young players on the team need to continue their forward progress in their development....The Panthers have to hope that Mike Van Ryn's surgery on both wrists has corrected the problems he had last year.

Prediction: 5th in Southeast Division