Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cram Session (Bowl Edition) - Week 3

Happy New Year! Just two weeks are left in the bowl season and over the next week there will be a whopping 19 games. The big bowl games (Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Fiesta) will take place and more importantly to me, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will be in action on New Year's Day in the Gator Bowl. Next Thursday I will post the final Cram Session of the season and predict the winner of the BCS Championship game between the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners.

Humanitarian Bowl - December 30

Maryland (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)

The most interesting thing about this game will be the blue turf that it will be played on. Maryland ducked Navy in the EagleBank Bowl so their cowardliness has been "rewarded" with a trip to Boise. I am almost certain this is the last place any Maryland player wants to be and it will show in their play.

Prediction: Nevada 27, Maryland 20

Texas Bowl - December 30

Western Michigan (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3)

Rice has homefield advantage and has won six in a row. Sounds like a recipe for victory to me.

Prediction: Rice 45, Western Michigan 31

Holiday Bowl - December 30

#13 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. #17 Oregon (9-3)

The Holiday Bowl is usually one of the better non BCS bowl games there is and this year is no exception. The Pac 10 has been laughed at most of the year but a win here could earn the conference some respectability. This should be a high scoring game as both teams are ranked in the top ten in offense.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Oregon 37

Armed Forces Bowl - December 31

Houston (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-4)

The Falcons have to win this game, I mean it's the Armed Forces Bowl.

Prediction: Air Force 33, Houston 23

Sun Bowl - December 31

Oregon State (8-4) vs. #20 Pittsburgh (9-3)

The Beavers were a win away from the Rose Bowl, now they get to play in the Sun Bowl. Two great RB's in this one, the Beavers Jacquizz Rodgers and the Panthers LeSean McCoy.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Oregon State 24

Music City Bowl - December 31

#24 Boston College (9-4) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

The home field advantage will be Vanderbilt's as this game is played in Nashville, Tennessee. However, the Eagles are a much better team and have won 8 straight bowl games.

Prediction: Boston College 35, Vanderbilt 17

Insight Bowl - December 31

Kansas (7-5) vs. Minnesota (7-5)

The Golden Gophers stumbled badly down the stretch, ending the season with a 55-0 home loss to Iowa. Kansas had a disappointing year but salvaged it somewhat by defeating Missouri in their final game.

Prediction: Kansas 48, Minnesota 20

Chick-Fil-A Bowl - December 31

LSU (7-5) vs. #14 Georgia Tech (9-3)

LSU finished the regular season with the most losses ever for a defending national champion, appropriate considering they won the national title with the most losses ever by a national champion. The Yellow Jackets already beat a better SEC team in Georgia, they roll over the Tigers.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 41, LSU 28

Outback Bowl - January 1

South Carolina (7-5) vs. Iowa (8-4)

For the people watching this game at 11 AM it will be the Hangover Bowl. Iowa has won 3 in a row, including spoiling Penn State's season. The once mighty Steve Spurrier continues to fall.

Prediction: Iowa 29, South Carolina 18

Capital One Bowl - January 1

#15 Georgia (9-3) vs. #18 Michigan State (9-3)

Disappointing season for the Bulldogs, who started the year ranked #1. Michigan State has been much better than anyone expected, although when they have faced top level competition they have gotten waxed.

Prediction: Georgia 31, Michigan State 25

Gator Bowl - January 1

Nebraska (8-4) vs. Clemson (7-5)

Each team has won three straight heading into this one. Clemson fired Tommy Bowden halfway through the season and saw the team play much better under new coach Dabo Sweeney. Nebrasaka's Bo Pelini has gotten off to a good start in his first season of trying to erase the stain that was the Bill Callahan era. Huskers QB Joe Ganz will be playing his final game which is a shame as it seems there has been a revolving door at QB for years for Nebraska. The emergence of RB Roy Helu has been key to Nebraska winning 4 of their last 5 and I think he makes the difference in this one.

Prediction: Nebraska 34, Clemson 31

Rose Bowl - January 1

#8 Penn State (11-1) vs. #5 USC (11-1)

The Rose Bowl lucked out with Oregon State's loss to Oregon and avoided a boring Penn State/Oregon State rematch. This game is much more enticing and will be closer than the experts think. USC coach Pete Carroll has whined all year about his team being ignored but when you play in a crappy conference and don't win very impressively why should people care?

Prediction: USC 24, Penn State 14

Orange Bowl - January 1

#12 Cincinnati (11-2) vs. #18 Virginia Tech (9-4)

It's the game no one cares about! Most people tuning into this one will just be finding out that Cincinnati even has a football program. Tech fans haven't truly embraced this team, despite them winning another ACC Championship. The Bearcats are going to be hyped for this one and it will show.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Virginia Tech 13

Cotton Bowl - January 2

#25 Mississippi (8-4) vs. #7 Texas Tech (11-1)

The Cotton Bowl has moved from its usual January 1st date and will be the showcase game in the early afternoon of January 2nd. Houston Nutt has done a great job in his first year with Mississippi while Texas Tech was the forgotten third team in the Big 12 three way tie. I think the Rebels will play the Red Raiders tough but Texas Tech is legit (except when they play Oklahoma).

Prediction: Texas Tech 41, Mississippi 37

Liberty Bowl - January 2

Kentucky (6-6) vs. East Carolina (9-4)

Remember when only the best teams played January 1st and beyond? Now you can be 6-6 and get to play on January 2nd, such a shame. East Carolina started the season hot and appeared to be a potential BCS buster, but then lost three straight in the middle of the season before recovering to win the Conference USA Championship. The Wildcats come into this game losers of three straight.

Prediction: East Carolina 28, Kentucky 20

Sugar Bowl - January 2

#6 Utah (12-0) vs. #4 Alabama (12-1)

Alabama will be without their stud offensive lineman Andre Smith who was suspended for trying to get a jump on his pro career by talking to agents. Utah will be fighting for the little guys of the world and will try to make up for the poor showing Hawaii had last year in the Sugar Bowl. They keep it close for 3 quarters but then the Tide roll.

Prediction: Alabama 28, Utah 13

International Bowl - January 3

Buffalo (8-5) vs. Connecticut (7-5)

Buffalo took the fraudulent UCONN Huskies to the wire in college basketball. Nebraska legend Turner Gill will do one better in football and get the win.

Prediction: Buffalo 24, Connecticut 17

Fiesta Bowl - January 5

#10 Ohio State (10-3) vs. #3 Texas (11-1)

90% of the country is picking Texas to win this one. Many people are just thankful that the Buckeyes weren't able to ruin the national championship game this year. This is a redemption game for the Buckeyes as they try to prove that they are up to not wetting themselves on the big stage. Texas will be an angry team after being snubbed for the national championship game and Colt McCoy will be the better QB on the field over his counterpart Terrelle Pryor.

Prediction: Texas 35, Ohio State 21

GMAC Bowl - January 6

#22 Ball State (12-1) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

Somehow tucked in between all of these big games is the GMAC Bowl. Hasn't been a good last month for Ball State, they lost both their perfect season and the MAC Championship to Buffalo, then saw their coach leave for that "dream job" at San Diego State. Tulsa was undefeated earlier in the year but then came back to earth with losses in 3 of their final 5 games. Ball State alums David Letterman and Jason Whitlock will not be pleased with the result in this one.

Prediction: Tulsa 38, Ball State 20

Bowl Record

Last Week: 8-1
Overall: 10-4

Overall Record (Regular season and bowl record combined)

148-57

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Week That Was

From 1-15 to 11-5 and AFC East Champions. What the Miami Dolphins have accomplished is miraculous. He may not be flashy but Dolphins QB Chad Pennington is the MVP of the league. Without him the Dolphins wouldn't have won more than six games. He provided stability at the most important position on the field, didn't turn the ball over (Dolphins tied with the Giants for fewest turnovers ever in a season), and came up huge in December. Bill Parcells involvement also can't be overlooked. Everywhere he goes, save for the sorry Cowboys, that team has won a division title. He may not be coaching but I guarantee his presence was felt on that team, plus he brought in the right coach, Tony Sparano, gave them perhaps their best pass catching threat, TE Anthony Fasano, and signed Pennington. I hope the Dolphins are still hungry because they can make some noise in the playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings avoided choking away a playoff berth for the second straight year as Ryan Longwell hit a game winning field goal at the buzzer to defeat the Giants and give the Vikings the NFC North crown. The Vikings got off to a 10-0 lead but the Giants, playing mostly with backups came back and scored 19 unanswered points. Vikings WR Bernard Berrian came up with some huge catches at the end of the game to allow the Vikings to have a chance. Tavaris Jackson is still a major weakness at QB but with the best running back in the game the Vikings can also make an impact in the playoffs.

Because of the Oakland Raiders shocking upset of Tampa Bay the Eagles/Cowboys game became a play in game for the final playoff spot in the NFC. The Eagles came ready to play and trounced the Cowboys 44-6. The Eagles are a hard team to understand but when they play to their best they are one of the better teams in the league. The Cowboys finished the season 9-7 and despite being media darlings won't even be in the playoffs. Tony Romo continues to shrink in December and the Cowboys will add to their 12 year run of being without a playoff victory.

The Redskins and 49ers closed out their seasons in a meaningless game. Both teams played hard but a key Clinton Portis fumble with the Redskins up 17-7 in the 3rd quarter proved to be a huge momentum changer, as the Niners won a last second field goal 27-24. The Niners finished the season 7-9 and did the right thing by removing the interim tag from coach Mike Singletary. Hopefully, the 49ers can truly take the next step, as the last time they finished 7-9 they were made everyone's sleeper team the next season and then fell on their faces to a 5-11 finish. Shaun Hill was definitely better than J.T. O'Sullivan at the QB position but if Matt Cassell becomes available the 49ers should make a run at him. The Skins went 2-6 in the second half of the season after a 6-2 start and need a massive overhaul on the offensive and defensive lines. Jason Campbell will be going into a contract year next year and unless he and the team improves significantly I believe the Redskins should let him walk. The Redskins and the 0-16 Lions were the only teams to never reach 30 points in a game this season.

This is how I see the NFL playoffs shaking out.

NFC

Eagles over Vikings
Falcons over Cardinals

Giants over Eagles
Panthers over Falcons

Panthers over Giants

AFC

Dolphins over Ravens
Colts over Chargers

Colts over Titans
Steelers over Dolphins

Colts over Steelers

Super Bowl

Panthers over Colts

In college football, Notre Dame finally won a bowl game as they destroyed Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl 49-21. QB Jimmy Clausen played an almost perfect game and WRs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd looked fantastic. Charlie Weis has recruited some great, young offensive talent for the Irish. Anything less than a BCS berth next year and Weis should be shown the door.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 17

The 2008 NFL regular season is coming to its conclusion. Most years there might be one or two playoff spots still open and just about everything else has been decided. Not this year, a 3 way tie for the AFC East crown will be decided, the AFC West and a playoff berth will be decided, the NFC North will be decided, and final playoffs spots are up for grabs. It will be a very exciting weekend.

Games I Will Be Watching

New York Giants (12-3) at Minnesota (9-6)

The Giants have nothing to play for as they have clinched the #1 seed and home field advantage in the NFC. A win for the Vikings gives them the NFC North, a loss and they could miss the playoffs altogether. I would love to pick the Vikings but they have developed a habit over the years of choking the big game. However, as you will see later things will turn out alright.

Prediction: New York Giants 21, Minnesota 18

New England (10-5) at Buffalo (7-8)

The Patriots need a win and some help to not only win the AFC East but also even guarantee a playoff spot. The Bills are playing for coach Dick Jauron's job in all likelihood. Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems to always win the big games.

Prediction: New England 24, Buffalo 17

Washington (8-7) at San Francisco (6-9)

Reports came out yesterday that the 49ers will retain Mike Singletary as coach next year and let go of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. I am a little nervous about this. I agree completely with bringing Singletary back but not with letting go of Martz. The offense has shown improvement this year and the last time the 49ers offense showed improvement they let that coach (Norv Turner) walk and the offense fell apart. I hope that doesn't happen this time. The Redskins are looking to have back to back winning seasons for the first time in 16 years!!?!?!?

Prediction: Washington 20, San Francisco 16

Jacksonville (5-10) at Baltimore (10-5)

A win and the Ravens are in the playoffs. Who knows which Jaguars team will show up, the one that played inspired football for the past two weeks, or the team that quit on Monday Night Football against the Texans? I think the less inspired Jags get whooped by the Ravens.

Prediction: Baltimore 31, Jacksonville 10

Denver (8-7) at San Diego (7-8)

The winner of this game captures the AFC West and also a playoff berth. The loser will get neither. There is no love lost between these two teams, plus there was the Ed Hochuli game in Week 2. Hochuli blew a call that pretty much cost the Chargers the game. Denver has been the toughest team to pick all year, and they seem to win when no one expects it. This one will come down to the wire and Norv Turner's Chargers will find a way to screw it up.

Prediction: Denver 27, San Diego 24

The Rest of Week 17

St. Louis (2-13) at Atlanta (10-5)

The Falcons clinched a playoff spot last week and now look to possibly clinch the NFC South. They need a win and a Panthers loss. The win part is guaranteed.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, St. Louis 13

Kansas City (2-13) at Cincinnati (3-11-1)

The Bengals end the year on a 3 game winning streak!

Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Kansas City 19

Detroit (0-15) at Green Bay (5-10)

A lot of losing streaks entering this one. The Lions are looking to avoid becoming the first team to go 0-16. The Lions have to do it at Green Bay where they haven't won since 1991. The Packers are trying to end their own 5 game losing streak. The Lions will definitely be motivated, but anyone that thinks the Packers won't be as motivated not to be the team that loses to the 0-15 Lions, then they are kidding themselves.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Detroit 28

Tennessee (13-2) at Indianapolis (11-4)

Meaningless game for both teams, Titans already have wrapped up home field advantage in the AFC, the Colts are locked in at the 5 spot in the AFC playoffs. Titans backups are greater than Colts backups.

Prediction: Tennessee 17, Indianapolis 14

Carolina (11-4) at New Orleans (8-7)

Saints QB Drew Brees is looking to break Dan Marino's passing yardage in a season record. That means Saints coach Sean Payton will be throwing it frequently in this one. A loss could be potentially devastating for the Panthers. A win and they clinch the NFC South and a first round bye in the playoffs. A loss and a Falcons win and the Panthers will finish 5th in the NFC and be on the road next weekend. The Saints and the NFC South have dominated home games, can't argue with what has seemed to be the case all season.

Prediction: New Orleans 35, Carolina 31

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (11-4)

The Steelers are still looking to earn a first round bye in the playoffs while the Browns are hoping to score their first offensive TD in 5 games. Bruce Gradkowski becomes the Browns 4th starting quarterback this season.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, Cleveland 9

Oakland (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6)

The Bucs are falling apart at the wrong time. They need a win and a Cowboys loss to make the playoffs. They get the win.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, Oakland 10

Chicago (9-6) at Houston (7-8)

The Bears need a win and Vikings loss to clinch the NFC North. The Texans came out flat at Oakland last week and blew their opportunity at a possible first winning season. The Texans are good at home and the Bears are about to run out of miracles.

Prediction: Houston 23, Chicago 14

Miami (10-5) at New York Jets (9-6)

Storylines aplenty in this one. The Dolphins win the AFC East with a victory coming full circle from 1-15 a year ago. The Jets need a win and a Patriots loss to clinch the division. Dolphins QB Chad Pennington plays at New York for the first time since being released by the Jets at the beginning of the season. Jets QB Brett Favre tries to salvage a once promising Jets season. This should be an amazing game. This type of pressure will be new to most of the Dolphins but not to Pennington. The story is too good for it not to happen.

Prediction: Miami 24, New York Jets 21

Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1)

The Cowboys keep stumbling over themselves yet somehow still control their playoff destiny. A win and they are in. The Eagles need to win and get a a Buccaneers loss. The Linc will be jacked up for this one and until the Cowboys and more specifically QB Tony Romo can prove that they can win meaningful games in December I can't pick them.

Prediction: Philadelphia 22, Dallas 16

Seattle (4-11) at Arizona (8-7)

Mike Holmgren coaches his last game for the Seahawks, while the Cardinals stumble into the playoffs.

Prediction: Arizona 35, Seattle 24

So this is how I see the NFC playoffs ending up after this weekend (Giants, Atlanta, Minnesota, Arizona, Carolina, Tampa Bay)

As for the AFC playoffs (Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Miami, Denver, Indianapolis, Baltimore)

Last Week: 7-9
Overall: 121-71-1

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cram Session (Bowl Edition) - Week 2

First off, Merry Christmas everyone! Time for week 2 of college football's bowl season and the quality of games picks up considerably. I will be closely watching Notre Dame take on Hawaii in the appropriately named Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Some other big name teams that will be in action this week include Miami, California, Florida State, Wisconsin, etc. Plus, the best game of the week is tonight in the Poinsettia Bowl as #9 and undefeated Boise State faces their toughest challenge of the season against #11 TCU.

Poinsettia Bowl - December 23

#9 Boise State (12-0) vs. #11 TCU (10-2)

Boise State finished undefeated in the regular season for the second time in three seasons. Two years ago they famously shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. No BCS bowl for the Broncos this time around but a win over a 10 win TCU team would certainly legitimize Boise State as a great team. TCU's losses came to #1 Oklahoma and unbeaten Utah so they will be providing a stern test. Sorry Boise but I don't think you guys are as good as your record indicates, the undefeated dream ends now.

Prediction: TCU 28, Boise State 26

Hawaii Bowl - December 24

Hawaii (7-6) vs. Notre Dame (6-6)

If Notre Dame is ever going to end their bowl losing streak of 15 years this is the time to do it. Notre Dame has usually been outmatched in their bowl games as they have been invited to some bowls that they only really received invitations for because of name recognition. However, this year they are in a lousy bowl and they are playing a team they should certainly be better then. They will be essentially playing a road game but that still will be no excuse for a loss. I'm biased but I believe the streak finally ends here, and I get to experience a Notre Dame bowl win for the first time in 15 years.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Hawaii 20

Motor City Bowl - December 26

Florida Atlantic (6-6) at Central Michigan (8-4)

Florida Atlantic recovered from a 1-5 start to earn bowl eligibility. If these teams don't combine for at least 70 points I will be shocked. The name value may not be much but if you like shootouts this should be a fun game to watch.

Prediction: Central Michigan 48, Florida Atlantic 31

Meineke Car Care Bowl - December 27

West Virginia (8-4) vs. North Carolina (8-4)

This should be another good game. Both teams spent various parts of the season in the Top 25, plus this is Mountaineers QB Pat White's last game. I think White will go out in style.

Prediction: West Virginia 27, North Carolina 19

Champs Sports Bowl - December 27

Wisconsin (7-5) vs. Florida State (8-4)

Wisconsin had Rose Bowl aspirations at the beginning of the year but a poor start squelched those dreams. They recovered at the end of the season and come into this game winners of 3 straight. Apparently the Seminoles kept everything on the up and up this exam year and won't be missing a third of their team like last year. I expect a close one with the Seminoles winning with a late field goal.

Prediction: Florida State 20, Wisconsin 17

Emerald Bowl - December 27

Miami (7-5) vs. California (8-4)

Miami fans sure talked a lot of trash when they were 7-3 and ranked. There was no room on the bandwagon, yada yada yada. Well Miami stinks again and I look forward to them getting stomped by the Golden Bears in this one.

Prediction: California 35, Miami 17

Independence Bowl - December 28

Northern Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (7-5)

The once somewhat mighty Independence Bowl has definitely fallen. Northern Illinois is bowling after winning just 2 games last year., while Louisiana Tech comes into the game having won 4 of their last 5 games.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 35, Northern Illinois 27

Papajohns.com Bowl - December 29

North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Rutgers (7-5)

This game should really be called the Recovery Bowl. NC State was 2-6 but is bowling after winning their final 4 games. Rutgers started 1-5, but has caught fire winning 6 in a row. Something will have to give. I believe in the Scarlet Knights more than I do in the Wolfpack.

Prediction: Rutgers 38, North Carolina State 34

Alamo Bowl - December 29

#21 Missouri (9-4) vs. #23 Northwestern (9-3)

Missouri comes into this game losers of 2 straight to end what has to be considered a disappointing regular season. Northwestern exceeded all expectations and is thrilled to be in this game. I could certainly see the Wildcats winning but I think Tigers QB Chase Daniel is going to will the Tigers to victory.

Prediction: Missouri 41, Northwestern 27

Bowl Record

Last Week: 2-3

Overall Record

140-56

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Week That Was

An absolutely epic, classic game last night between the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers. The game had a playoff feel to it with both teams knowing that a win would secure them home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams had 4 rushing TDs for the second time this season, while for the Giants, Derrick Ward exploded for 215 yards rushing. The Panthers blew a 21-10 lead but still had a chance to win it at the end of regulation. However, kicker John Kasay missed a 50 yarder, taking the game to overtime. Both teams traded possessions and then the Giants rammed it down the Panthers throats, winning 34-28. The Panthers went from being a field goal away from home field advantage to now facing the possibility of starting the playoffs on the road as a wild card team.

In the home field battle in the AFC the Titans clobbered the Steelers in the second half and won 31-14. I don't put too much stock in this one and still consider the Steelers the better team. When these teams meet in the AFC playoffs (calling them now to both make the AFC Championship) Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will have do a much better job of holding on to the ball. The Titans decided to desecrate some Terrible Towels after the game, probably not the best idea.

I attended the Redskins scintillating 10-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. It was good to see the Redskins win and maybe save Jim Zorn's job. The offense is beyond abysmal but the defense was amazing. Jason Taylor should go on the radio and say he stinks more often, as he had 2 sacks and a key forced fumble which led to the Skins only TD. Despite the win the Redskins were eliminated from playoff contention with the Falcons win over the Vikings.

The bowl season kicked off in college football, no huge games, the biggest news was Arizona upsetting #16 BYU.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics continue to roll, now winners of 18 in a row. In a rematch of last year's NBA finals the Celtics travel to LA to face the Lakers. The Lakers have suffered their first losing streak of the season, dropping back to back games at Miami and Orlando in heartbreaking fashion. The Chicago Bulls continue to play .500 ball and sit at 13-14, while the less said about the Washington Wizards the better.

The George Mason Patriots defeated my safety school, Radford at home to improve to 7-2. The Patriots host the Tulane Green Wave tonight. North Carolina continues their unbeaten march, as they destroyed Evansville and Valparaiso this past week.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 16

The Carolina Panthers often go overlooked. Despite making 3 NFC Championships in their 12 year existence, and one Super Bowl, they don't get much mainstream attention. They also have one of the best WR's in the game in the man you see to your right, Steve Smith. That lack of attention will change this weekend. The Panthers are in the marquee Sunday Night game against the New York Giants. The winner will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Panthers can win this game against a strugg a ling Giants team, they will be the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIII.

Games That I Will Be Watching

Indianapolis (10-4) at Jacksonville (5-9)

The Colts continue to streak through the easy part of their schedule and have won 7 in a row. The Jaguars showed they have some life left with a home win over the sliding Packers. The Jags always play the Colts tough and I think they will show up ready to play in this one. It won't be enough.

Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Jacksonville 21

Baltimore (9-5) at Dallas (9-5)

Huge Saturday Night game in what will likely be the last game ever played in Texas Stadium. (A quick tangent, major props to the NFL schedule makers this year as they have created a schedule with a ton of important, meaningful games to close out the year. Sure some of it is luck but foresight has a little bit to do with it) The Ravens are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Steelers, while the Cowboys put all the drama behind them and manhandled the Giants. Both teams are in must win situations if they want to make the playoffs. Much like the Steelers last week, the Cowboys are just a little bit better than the Ravens.

Prediction: Dallas 24, Baltimore 14

Arizona (8-6) at New England (9-5)

Arizona has nothing to play for with the NFC West already clinched, but the Patriots have everything to play for as they are in a 3 team dog fight for the AFC East title. Arizona stinks on the East coast.

Prediction: New England 28, Arizona 17

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2)

The AFC also has a game between teams vying for home field advantage. If the Titans win they clinch home field, if the Steelers win they would just have to beat the sorry Browns next week to clinch home field. The Titans are banged up on defense where they will be missing Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vandenbosch (Go Huskers!). The Steelers are my Super Bowl favorites right now, the schedule they have played against this year has been absolutely brutal and they have been up to the challenge. They do it again here.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 16, Tennessee 10

Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)

I must be a sucker for punishment as I will be attending this one. The game is nothing more than a pride game for the Skins, following their horrendous loss to the Bengals that I fortunately missed. The Eagles were left for dead 3 weeks ago but now are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. I believe the Skins will come ready to play, but the offense is atrocious and the Eagles are the better team right now. Hard to believe it wasn't long ago that Skins fans were excited that they were getting their last 3 division games at home. Looks like they will finish that string 0-3.

Prediction: Philadelphia 20, Washington 17

Carolina (11-3) at New York Giants (11-3)

So maybe Plaxico Burress was a little more important than everyone else thought? The Giants have looked like garbage on offense the last 2 weeks while the Panthers are playing excellent football. I have come around on Carolina and I think they will pull off the road upset.

Prediction: Carolina 24, New York Giants 20

Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6)

I hate the Packers. As a Niners fan the Packers were the cause of many horrible memories for me in the 90s. Shame on me for picking them the past 4 weeks and them losing every single one of those games. Unfortunately, I will be cheering for them to win this one, as the Vikings need a Bears loss. I'm picking you to lose Packers, do what you have been doing so well this year, underwhelm.

Prediction: Chicago 28, Green Bay 24

Rest of Week 16

Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10)

Awful, awful game.

Prediction: Cincinnati 3, Cleveland 2

New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)

This could be a game I regret not having the guts to pick the upset, kinda like last week's Houston/Tennessee game.

Prediction: New Orleans 31, Detroit 28

Miami (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)

Sure the Dolphins schedule the past month has been ridiculously easy, but to win 9 games after winning 1 the year before is miraculous.

Prediction: Miami 19, Kansas City 15

San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)

7-9 is a distinct possibility for the Niners which to me should ensure Mike Singletary gets the interim tag removed from his label. Hey Chris Berman, should the Rams still make Jim Haslett their coach? That 2-8 record is amazing.

Prediction: San Francisco 21, St. Louis 13

San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)

This game was deemed unworthyy of its original prime time slot but still has huge playoff implications. The Chargers are clinging to hopes of winning the AFC West, while the Bucs need to stop a 2 game slide to ensure they will make the playoffs.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, San Diego 14

New York Jets (9-5) at Seattle (3-11)

The Jets have been awful on the West coast this year, and the Seahawks are still playing hard for lame duck coach Mike Holmgren so signs point to a Seattle upset. I think the Jets break the conventional wisdom here.

Prediction: New York Jets 20, Seattle 17

Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)

The Texans are getting hot at the end of the season and living up to the team I expected them to be. The goal now is to have their first over .500 season in franchise history.

Prediction: Houston 31, Oakland 19

Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)

This is the type of game Denver could blow but the Bills have been so bad recently I will give the Broncos the benefit of the doubt in this one.

Prediction: Denver 29, Buffalo 24

Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)

Tavaris Jackson shocked everyone with his 4 TD performance at Arizona. It is still unknown whether he will start this one. This will be a tough one, especially with Pat Williams out with an injury, which might allow Michael Turner to run all over the Vikings. I think the Metrodome atmosphere will affect the seemingly unflappable Matt Ryan and allow the Vikings to avoid another late season collapse.

Prediction: Minnesota 18, Atlanta 14

The next Hail Mary will be posted on Friday, December 26.

Last Week: 11-5
Overall: 114-62-1

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cram Session (Bowl Edition) - Week 1

The importance of bowl season has certainly diminished over the years. Not only with the creation of the BCS, which finally allowed #1 to play #2 basically making only one game truly matter, but also because what once was a somewhat exclusive club of teams that were invited to bowls has ballooned to almost any school getting an invitation. However, some of the games that are created by the bowls are intriguing and games you won't ever see normally. That really isn't the case with the games I will be previewing this week but as the weeks move on the games will start to get better and better.

I will not be including sponsor names in the titles of the bowls. Firstly, they aren't giving me any money so why should I give them free advertising? Secondly, I think it is silly and miss the days of it just being the Fiesta Bowl rather than the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Some bowls have no regular names and are just corporate names so my hands will be tied on those unfortunately.

Eaglebank Bowl - December 20

Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)

This is the first ever Eaglebank Bowl and it will be played at RFK Stadium. Bowls usually try to avoid rematches but Navy was pretty much guaranteed a spot in this bowl as far back as October and with the way the ACC played out the Eaglebank Bowl had no choice but to take Wake Forest. Navy upset Wake Forest in the first meeting at Wake Forest, winning 24-17. Wake Forest began the season with aspirations of winning the ACC, rather than playing in the first bowl game of the season. All signs point to Navy in this one, but beating a team twice in one year is tough and that will give the Demon Deacons the edge.

Prediction: Wake Forest 34, Navy 31

New Mexico Bowl - December 20

Colorado State (6-6) vs. Fresno State (7-5)

The Rams won their last two games of the season to earn bowl eligibility while the Bulldogs of Fresno State started the year in the Top 25 and faded in WAC play.

Prediction: Fresno State 41, Colorado State 24

St. Petersburg Bowl - December 20

Memphis (6-6) vs. South Florida (7-5)

Memphis recovered from an 0-3 start to earn bowl eligibilty while the Bulls come into this bowl losers of 4 of their last 5 games. South Florida was embarrassed in the Sun Bowl last year, and in order to avoid that feeling again I believe they will be motivated in this one.

Prediction: South Florida 28, Memphis 17

Las Vegas Bowl - December 20

#16 BYU (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)

Arizona coach Mike Stoops finally got Arizona to a bowl game, their first since the 1998 season. Unfortunately they have to play BYU from the Mountain West Conference. The Mountain West owned the Pac-10 throughout the regular season and that trend will conntinue in Sin City.

Prediction: BYU 45, Arizona 28

New Orleans Bowl - December 21

Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs. Troy (8-4)

Some of you may be wondering who the heck is Troy? Troy is actually pretty good. They led LSU 31-3 in Baton Rouge before completely collapsing and losing 40-31. Southern Mississippi was 2-6 but won their last 4 games to sneak into a bowl. They are a hot team coming into this one but Troy is better.

Prediction: Troy 35, Southern Mississippi 28

Last Week: 3-3
Overall: 138-53

The next Cram Session will be posted December 23rd where I will have predictions for all of the bowl games for that week. See you then.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 15

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens have produced quite the rivalry since the Ravens inception in the mid 90's. The Ravens previous incarnation, the original Cleveland Browns, had a huge rivalry with the Steelers and despite moving states, and changing their name the rivalry has stuck. Not only will personal pride be at stake in their meeting in Baltimore this weekend but also the AFC North title. If the Steelers win they clinch the AFC North and would be on the fast track to a first round bye. However, if the Ravens win then the two teams will be tied for first with 2 games to go.

There are a ton of good games this weekend, let's get into it.

Games That I Will Be Watching

New Orleans (7-6) at Chicago (7-6)

Huge Thursday night game. The Bears need a win to stay in the NFC North race and keep their outside wild card chances alive. The Saints need a win to keep their wild card chances alive. New Orleans won at home against Atlanta to get themselves back in the playoff mix, but winning on the road has been a challenge for them. Bad weather in Chicago, means Bears win.

Prediction: Chicago 24, New Orleans 17

Washington (7-6) at Cincinnati (1-11-1)

The Redskins must run the table to make the playoffs. They had to do the same thing in the 2005 and 2007 seasons. Who knows if this current version has it in them or not but they should certainly beat the Bengals. The Skins are hurting on the offensive line, the team is in turmoil with Clinton Portis butting heads with Jim Zorn, but come on, it's the Bengals they're playing.

Prediction: Washington 21, Cincinnati 14

Buffalo (6-7) at New York Jets (8-5)

Not sure if Trent Edwards or JP Losman is starting for the Bills in this one but it doesn't really matter, the Bills stink. Jets are in a dogfight with the Patriots and Dolphins for the AFC East and have to win this game.

Prediction: New York Jets 31, Buffalo 14

Pittsburgh (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4)

The Steelers have struggled in Baltimore, losing there for five straight years. I think this year will be different because the Steelers defense will make life pretty miserable for Joe Flacco. The Steelers are just a little better and that will show on Sunday.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 10

New York Giants (11-2) at Dallas (8-5)

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses last week, although the Giants still clinched the NFC East. The Cowboys are clinging to the final playoff spot but have a brutal December schedule. I have gone back and forth on this one but I believe the Giants simply had an off week against the Eagles and will be back to the team we have seen pretty much all year.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, Dallas 23

Cleveland (4-9) at Philadelphia (7-5-1)

Left for dead by everyone, including their fans, back to back impressive wins have the Eagles back in the playoff race. The Eagles get one last easy one before they finish off the year against the Redskins and Cowboys.

Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Cleveland 14

Rest of Week 15

Tampa Bay (9-4) at Atlanta (8-5)

Another huge game takes place in the NFC South. Both home teams won the intra-division games last week and taught me to stick with the home team.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 17

Seattle (2-11) at St. Louis (2-11)

The loser will have sole possession of last place in the NFC West. Feel the excitement!

Prediction: Seattle 21, St. Louis 19

San Francisco (5-8) at Miami (8-5)

This will be a tough one for me to follow. Mike Singletary is doing a fantastic job in San Francisco and while the Niners should see how the team finishes up these last 3 weeks all signs are showing that Singletary is the right man for the job. The Dolphins control their own destiny, if they win out they win the AFC East, which would be an amazing turnaround from 1-15 a season ago.

Prediction: Miami 19, San Francisco 17

Detroit (0-13) at Indianapolis (9-4)

Detroit's best chance for a win went away last week. 0-16 is looking probable.

Prediction: Indianapolis 38, Detroit 17

San Diego (5-8) at Kansas City (2-11)

The Chiefs are 2-11 but they have been competitive all year. 3 of the Chargers 5 wins have come against the Chiefs and Raiders.

Prediction: San Diego 27, Kansas City 24

Green Bay (5-8) at Jacksonville (4-9)

Two very disappointing teams. I keep picking Green Bay, they keep losing. I will go with them here just because it seems obvious that the Jaguars have quit on Jack Del Rio.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Jacksonville 27

Tennessee (12-1) at Houston (6-7)

Houston has won 3 in a row and this will definitely be a tough one for the Titans. I'm too much of a wuss to pick the upset.

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Houston 31

Minnesota (8-5) at Arizona (8-5)

It sounds like the Vikings will be without QB Gus Frerotte for this one, meaning outcast Tavaris Jackson will get the start. I didn't like the Vikings chances in this one even with the possibility of Frerotte starting, like them even less with Jackson.

Prediction: Arizona 27, Minnesota 14

Denver (8-5) at Carolina (10-3)

Hey, I finally got a Denver prediction right! However, I have missed on the Panthers two weeks in a row. This is the kind of game Denver has been apt to win this year but I think the Panthers finish off an undefeated season at home.

Prediction: Carolina 28, Denver 22

New England (8-5) at Oakland (3-10)

There is a slight chance New England QB Matt Cassel won't play after the death of his father. However, if he were to play, the Raiders are the team to do it against (think Brett Favre).

Prediction: New England 24, Oakland 12

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 103-57-1

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Week That Was

I was wrong, the media actually got one right and the Florida Gators, even without dual threat Percy Harvin defeated Alabama for the SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS Championship game. They will meet the #1 Oklahoma Sooners, who for the fifth straight game put up over 60 points. Some may say that the system is flawed but what can't be denied is that the championship game should be a high scoring, entertaining affair. Unless of course Oklahoma chokes on the big stage as they have been known to do in recent years.

The other bowl games were announced last night. Notre Dame will have a chance to end their 15 year bowl losing streak when they travel to Hawaii on Christmas Eve to take on Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl (I probably just set the record for use of Hawaii in one sentence). Hawaii finished 7-6 and although it will be a road game for the Irish there is no reason why they shouldn't end the streak this year.

Nebraska will play on January 1st in the Gator Bowl against Clemson. Happy that they drew the Tigers rather than Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, whose offense I thought could torch the Huskers. I think Nebraska can definitely beat Clemson and cap Bo Pelini's first year off in style.

As for Cram Session, I will be picking every bowl game. The first Bowl edition of Cram Session will be posted on Wednesday, December 17, then another the 23rd, the 30th, and the last Cram Session will be January 7th where I will predict the national championship game.

The Redskins lost to the Ravens and fell to 7-6. For the Redskins to make the playoffs they have to win their last 3 games, then hope for the Falcons, Cowboys, and Eagles to all stumble. Not looking too good. People in Washington all want to jump off a bridge, the same people who 2 months ago were printing Super Bowl tickets. The Redskins are a decent team, nothing more, nothing less, wish people in DC would get some perspective.

The Tar Heels of North Carolina are still undefeated after giving sorry Michigan State another ACC beatdown. I really believe this team can go undefeated. George Mason went 1-1 this week, winning their first conference game on the road at Drexel Saturday. They are currently 6-2 and get two weeks off for exams.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 14

Two storied franchises meet head to head in the game of the week as the Dallas Cowboys travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The result of this game will have huge implications on the playoff races in both conferences no matter who wins or loses. Are the Cowboys really back to their early season dominance or have they feasted on poor competition? Are the Steelers truly an elite team, that will take care of business at home? We find out Sunday.

I will be lucky enough to be at my Dad's on Sunday so I will get a chance to have a look at every game with the NFL Sunday Ticket.

Games That I Will Be Watching

Oakland (3-9) at San Diego (4-8)

A game like this won't convince anyone that they are missing out on what is one of the best networks on TV, the NFL Network. Won't watch this from beginning to end but will check in on it. The Chargers are bad, but for Norv Turner's sake they better not be bad enough to lose at home to the Raiders.

Prediction: San Diego 24, Oakland 13

Jacksonville (4-8) at Chicago (6-6)

From what little I saw of Jacksvonille's Monday night game at Houston showed me how pathetic the Jags are this year. They have mailed it in, and the Bears have been handed a gift by the NFL, with their suspension of Kevin and Pat Williams of the Vikings.

Prediction: Chicago 27, Jacksonville 20

Minnesota (7-5) at Detroit (0-12)

This game makes me nervous. Not only because the Williams' will likely not play (as of this writing they are appealing their suspensions through the courts) but also because the last time the Lions started 0-12 they ended their futility at home against the Vikings. It won't and can't happen this time.

Prediction: Minnesota 24, Detroit 19

Houston (5-7) at Green Bay (5-7)

The Packers pretty much have to run the table to have any chance of making the playoffs. The Texans playoff hopes are done but they have won 5 of 8 since an 0-4 start. They make a game out of it, but I will go with the Pack.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Houston 28

Cleveland (4-8) at Tennessee (11-1)

Cleveland is down to third string QB Ken Dorsey. This has blowout written all over it.

Prediction: Tennessee 28, Cleveland 7

Cincinnati (1-10-1) at Indianapolis (8-4)

The Colts have a real shot of heading into the playoffs on a 9 game winning streak.

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Cincinnati 14

Atlanta (8-4) at New Orleans (6-6)

Cowboys and Redskins fans will have a close eye on this one. The Saints were also hit with suspensions due to this illegal diuretic incident, hampering what already wasn't a very good defense.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, New Orleans 24

Philadelphia (6-5-1) at New York Giants (11-1)

Philadelphia's one week love affair with Donovan McNabb will end after a poor performance for him at the Meadowlands. The Giants have proven they don't need Plaxico Burress and that they can handle any and all distractions.

Prediction: New York Giants 24, Philadelphia 10

Kansas City (2-10) at Denver (7-5)

I should just give up on trying to predict Broncos games. They never go the way I think they will. I think they will win this one so most likely they will play like garbage at home again.

Prediction: Denver 28, Kansas City 22

Miami (7-5) at Buffalo (6-6)

Miami gets to avoid frigid Buffalo and instead play in a dome in Canada. The Bills may have to start the pathetic JP Losman, the Dolphins miracle season will continue to get better and better.

Prediction: Miami 20, Buffalo 13

New York Jets (8-4) at San Francisco (4-8)

The 49ers are still mathematically alive in the NFC West race! Unfortunately, that will end after this week.

Prediction: New York Jets 27, San Francisco 21

New England (7-5) at Seattle (2-10)

Originally the Sunday Night game, this was flexed out by Washington at Baltimore. Thank goodness.

Prediction: New England 34, Seattle 17

St. Louis (2-10) at Arizona (7-5)

RB Tim Hightower has had one good game since replacing Edgerrin James as the starter. It was against the Rams.

Prediction: Arizona 37, St. Louis 20

Dallas (8-4) at Pittsburgh (9-3)

This is a really hard game to predict. Homefield advantage isn't what it used to be in the NFL so throw that out. I believe the Steelers will get pressure on Tony Romo but that he will be able to evade it enough to avoid getting injured. Dallas get's the ball last and wins.

Prediction: Dallas 20, Pittsburgh 19

Washington (7-5) at Baltimore (8-4)

A must win game for the Redskins and it couldn't be a worse matchup for them. Their offense has stunk for about a month and now they get to play one of the best defenses in the game. The Giants showed that the Ravens can be run on, but the Giants are also much better than the Skins. Clinton Portis is banged up and will be held in check. The Redskins only hope is their defense can blitz the heck out of Joe Flacco and force turnovers. This isn't your father's Ravens though, as they now have a capable offense to match that defense. Ravens win.

Prediction: Baltimore 21, Washington 15

Tampa Bay (9-3) at Carolina (9-3)

First place in the NFC South is on the line in this Monday Night game. One of my readers, Matt Pinto, is a huge Carolina fan and was distraught at me labeling the Panthers as frauds. Credit to Carolina, they went into Green Bay and won. Matt, you should probably stop reading at this point though. The Panthers benefited from playing a team with a defense that is going downhill fast. The Bucs defense will magnify the struggles that Jake Delhomme has been having lately and contain RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Carolina 23

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 93-51-1

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cram Session - Week 15

It is the final week of the college football regular season and it isn't the Big 12 with the game that everyone is talking about. The Big 12 Championship will be important in determining who plays in the BCS Championship but it is the SEC that takes center stage. #1 Alabama looks to remain undefeated as they take on #4 Florida. Despite being #1 and undefeated Alabama is a 9.5 point underdog. The media and apparently Vegas have fallen in love with the Gators and seem to see this game as a mere speed bump on their path to the national championship. I don't often go out of my way to watch college football like I do the NFL but for this game I will be planted on my couch.

Top 25

SEC Championship: #1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. #4 Florida (11-1, 7-1)

People love the Gators and with good reason I suppose. They have blown everyone away since that home loss to Ole Miss, but style points don't always mean you are a better team. Just ask Miami from 1993 which was heavily favored against Alabama and lost. Or the Hurricanes team from 2001 that was heavily favored and lost to Ohio State. I just have that sort of feeling about this game. Alabama has been hearing for weeks how the media has anointed Florida the SEC champion. Nick Saban is a fantastic college coach and the Crimson Tide will play their best game of the year and defeat the Gators.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Florida 27

Big 12 Championship: #2 Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1) vs. #20 Missouri (9-3, 5-3)

I would love for an upset to happen here as it should be Texas in this game instead of Oklahoma but the Sooners are on a roll and the Tigers just lost to sorry Kansas. Sooners put up 60 again.

Prediction: Oklahoma 62, Missouri 31

#5 USC (10-1, 7-1) at UCLA (4-7, 3-5)

The big story in this one is how USC coach Pete Carroll wants USC to wear their home red's despite being on the road. Unless the NCAA changes their mind then Carroll will be docked one timeout per half for breaking the rule that a road team must wear white. Shows you how concerned he is with this game.

Prediction: USC 34, UCLA 10

MAC Championship: #12 Ball State (12-0, 8-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5, 5-3)

I think only Jason Whitlock will be watching this one. Buffalo coach Turner Gill is a Nebraska legend and has done a nice job with the Bulls. I would like to see him win this one but you can't always get what you want.

Prediction: Ball State 28, Buffalo 17

#13 Cincinnati (10-2) at Hawaii (7-5)

This is a tough trip for the Big East champion Bearcats to make. I kept picking against them and they kept winning. Have to go with them here.

Prediction: Cincinnati 38, Hawaii 34

ACC Championship: #17 Boston College (9-3, 5-3) vs. #25 Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3)

When the ACC became a 12 team super conference I don't think they planned on this being the ACC Championship game in Florida for two straight years. Boston College took the regular season game and will avenge their ACC Championship loss to the Hokies from last year, setting up an Orange Bowl meeting with Cincinnati.

Prediction: Boston College 24, Virginia Tech 14

I am still not exactly sure how Cram Session will work once Bowl season starts. I think I will just predict the bowl games on a weekly basis, will let all of my loyal readers know as soon as I know.

Last Week: 10-3 (That's more like it)
Overall: 135-50

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Week That Was

Hi, I am Plaxico Burress and I accidentally shot myself. I am likely done with the New York Giants as they have proven they don't need me. I played my butt off last year to get a contract extension, earned that extension and now have pissed it all away because I am an idiot.

The Giants decimated the Washington Redskins yesterday, like they have done to just about everyone save for the Cleveland Browns (what!?!??!). They are clearly the best team in football. It is funny listening to the talk in Washington the day after. People seem legitimately surprised that the Skins got the beat down. Maybe I expected them to put up a better fight but I never expected them to win this game. The only way the Giants won't repeat as Super Bowl champions is if Eli Manning morphs into bad Eli come playoff time. The Skins now face a must win game at Baltimore on Sunday night. They will have to create some turnovers on defense because I don't see the offense generating much on its own against the stout Ravens D.

The Minnesota Vikings crushed the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football to take sole possession of first place in the NFC North. RB Adrian Peterson shined bright in front of a national television audience. The biggest sequence in the game was the Vikings goal line stand when they trailed 7-3. Immediately after that QB Gus Frerotte hit WR Bernard Berrian for a 99 yard TD pass which proved to be a dagger. The Vikings face possible 4 game suspensions for Defensive Tackles Pat and Kevin Williams that could be handed down this week. That would be a huge blow for the Vikings so hopefully the NFL rules in favor of their appeal.

The Oklahoma Sooners leapfrogged the Texas Longhorns despite losing to them head to head and are now a win away from making the national championship game. The Longhorns got hosed but I am still not a proponent of a playoff in college football. I would be in favor of a plus one model where the top 4 teams as rated by the BCS would meet in bowl games and then the winners would play in the BCS Championship. There will be a de facto national semifinal game in the SEC Championship on Saturday when #1 Alabama meets # 4 Florida. There is a chance that Florida wouldn't jump Texas with a win but it isn't likely. Really looking forward to watching that game and I am not quite as sure as everyone else that Florida will beat the Crimson Tide.

Nebraska earned a tough, come from behind win against Colorado to finish the regular season 8-4 and in all likelihood earned themselves a Gator Bowl berth on New Year's Day. They may face Georgia Tech which could be downright scary, as the Yellow Jackets offense would probably shred the Cornhuskers defense. Notre Dame embarrassed themselves even further at USC, as they were unable to get a 1st down until the end of the 3rd quarter. They are looking at playing in the prestigious Sun Bowl or Texas Bowl, hopefully with an interim coach.

The #1 North Carolina Tar Heels won the Maui Invitational in convincing fashion and look like a team that could possibly go undefeated. They face Michigan State this week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but Michigan State already got the beat down from sorry Maryland so that game doesn't look it will be the test for the Tar Heels that everyone was expecting. George Mason won both their games this week to improve to 5-1, a much better start for the team than I had envisioned.

Check back Wednesday for Cram Session and Thursday for The Hail Mary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 13

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope that you have a great day and enjoy lots of Turkey. One of the best things about Thanksgiving, besides the food, is that there is football. However, the games are pretty lousy this year, except for Philadelphia/Arizona, which unfortunately for me is on NFL Network and not on my Granddad's cable lineup. I won't let this deter me from having a terrific Thanksgiving.

Games That I Will Be Watching

Tennessee (10-1) at Detroit (0-11)

The Titans couldn't hold up their end of the bargain last week and win which would have made this the first ever 11-0 vs. 0-11 game. Instead it will just be one really good team stuffing one really bad team.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, Detroit 13

Seattle (2-9) at Dallas (7-4)

Seattle will cover the 13 point spread but Dallas unfortunately will streak to 8-4.

Prediction: Dallas 28, Seattle 20

New York Giants (10-1) at Washington (7-4)

The big, bad Giants come to Washington. Just about no one is giving the Redskins a chance in this one, which is acceptable since the Giants are obviously a much better team than the Redskins. However, the Skins will be honoring the late, great Sean Taylor by adding him to the Ring of Fame before the game. The Skins will be pumped up to the gills for this one and will hang tough but.... the Giants are just too good.

Prediction: New York Giants 20, Washington 17

Pittsburgh (8-3) at New England (7-4)

Patriots QB Matt Cassel coming off two consecutive 400 yard passing games has me salivating at the thought that maybe the 49ers can sign him next year. I like the Patriots in this one.

Prediction: New England 24, Pittsburgh 20

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (6-5)

Huge Sunday Night Football game as the winner will take sole possession of 1st place in the NFC North. If the Bears win they will essentially have a two game lead over the Vikings based on them having the tiebreaker as that would complete a sweep of the season series. The Metrodome will be bumping and Adrian Peterson will literally carry the Vikings to first place.

Prediction: Minnesota 28, Chicago 23

Jacksonville (4-7) at Houston (4-7)

Lousy Monday Night game but it will be on so I will likely at least give it a cursory glance.

Prediction: Jacksonville 19, Houston 15

Rest of Week 13

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (5-5-1)

Donovan McNabb was benched due to poor performance for the first time in his career. With the Eagles not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet coach Andy Reid has decided to stick with McNabb as the starter for this one. I expect McNabb to play like a man trying to save his job and take advantage of a weak Cardinals secondary. Plus, Arizona has been awful coming East and this time they had to do it on a extremely short week.

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Arizona 24

San Francisco (3-8) at Buffalo (6-5)

Chris Berman's favorites do battle in Buffalo. The Bills win over Kansas City doesn't mean they aren't frauds anymore, as either will this win over the Niners.

Prediction: Buffalo 27, San Francisco 14

Baltimore (7-4) at Cincinnati (1-9-1)

The Ravens get one last cupcake before the schedule becomes ridiculously hard the last 4 weeks.

Prediction: Baltimore 28, Cincinnati 10

Indianapolis (7-4) at Cleveland (4-7)

Despite all the injuries the Colts got through the murderous part of their schedule at 7-4, now it eases up quite a bit, making the Colts a playoff lock. The Browns have lost QB Brady Quinn for the year, so will begrudgingly go back to Derek Anderson to play out the string.

Prediction: Indianapolis 31, Cleveland 17

Carolina (8-3) at Green Bay (5-6)

The Panthers are a fraudulent 8-3, while the Packers are the NFC version of the Chargers, underachievers that everyone still believes in. I'll take the underachievers at home against the frauds.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Carolina 20

Miami (6-5) at St. Louis (2-9)

Dolphins lost a tough one at home to the Patriots, they can't afford to lose this one if they want to keep alive their playoff hopes.

Prediction: Miami 27, St. Louis 23

New Orleans (6-5) at Tampa Bay (8-3)

The NFC South is all about the home teams. Won't be any different in this one as the Bucs will take control of the South.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 26, New Orleans 13

Atlanta (7-4) at San Diego (4-7)

Hard to believe that a team that has Philip Rivers, LaDainion Thomlinson and Antonio Gates is 4-7 but that is the case with the Chargers. Not to mention that despite being 4-7, they still have a legitimate chance at the AFC West. They let me down Sunday but I think they will edge out the Falcons at home in this MUST win game.

Prediction: San Diego 24, Atlanta 16

Denver (6-5) at New York Jets (8-3)

The Jets recent roll has the media talking a New York/New York Super Bowl. The Broncos are unpredictable as they come, they win the games they should lose and lose the games they should win. I worry about the Jets buying into their hype and coming out flat in this one but I think Brett Favre will keep them focused.

Prediction: New York Jets 35, Denver 24

Kansas City (1-10) at Oakland (3-8)

Could the Raiders get on a winning streak!?!?!? I think so.

Prediction: Oakland 21, Kansas City 14

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 84-44-1

Cram Session - Week 14

I feel like a broken record but it seems to be the story almost every college football weekend. The Big 12 will take center stage once again this weekend. #3 Oklahoma is coming off a statement making win over #7 Texas Tech. However, it doesn't get any easier as this week they travel to Stillwater, OK for the Bedlam Bowl against #12 Oklahoma State.

Games That Matter to Me That May Not Matter to You

Colorado (5-6, 2-5) at Nebraska (7-4, 4-3)

A lot on the line in this one despite what the records might indicate. Colorado needs a win to become bowl eligible, while the Cornhuskers will likely play in a New Year's Day bowl with a win and also finish in 2nd in the Big 12 North, which would be quite impressive for Coach Pelini in his first season. I think the Huskers come ready to beat their rivals.

Prediction: Nebraska 30, Colorado 24

Top 25

Auburn (5-6, 2-5) at #1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0)

The Auburn Tigers have owned the Iron Bowl for the last six years but that is expected to change this year. Alabama won't look ahead to Florida in the SEC Championship because of the desire to break that losing string against a down Tigers team.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Auburn 14

Texas A & M (4-7, 2-5) at #2 Texas (10-1, 6-1)

These two meet on Thanksgiving night, with the Longhorns trying to end a 2 year losing streak. The Aggies of A & M are pretty atrocious this year, which could help Texas get the style points they will need.

Prediction: Texas 48, Texas A & M 21

#3 Oklahoma (10-1, 6-1) at #12 Oklahoma State (9-2, 5-2)

The Cowboys have given the Sooners fits in the past in Stillwater. The Sooners will be feeling real good about themselves after thrashing Texas Tech, which will prove to be their downfall.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35

#4 Florida (10-1) at #20 Florida State (8-3)

This is the biggest this rivalry game has been in a while. The Seminoles will keep it interesting for about 3 quarters, then the Gators pull away.

Prediction: Florida 42, Florida State 24

Notre Dame (6-5) at USC (9-1)

Things have gotten downright embarrassing for the Irish and they figure to get worse in So Cal. A crazy part of me thinks they can make this a game, but then the logical side wins out.

Prediction: USC 35, Notre Dame 13

Baylor (4-7, 2-5) at #7 Texas Tech (10-1, 6-1)

The Red Raiders will still be smarting from their loss come Saturday, bad news for the Baylor Bears.

Prediction: Texas Tech 53, Baylor 20

Fresno State (7-4, 4-3) at #9 Boise State (11-0, 7-0)

Boise State might still get shut out of the BCS even if they finish 12-0, as Utah is above them, but 12-0 is still impressive.

Prediction: Boise State 28, Fresno State 17

#22 Georgia Tech (8-3) at #11 Georgia (9-2)

Former Navy coach Paul Johnson has done a great job at Georgia Tech in his first season while the Bulldogs have had a somewhat disappointing year. Home field will win out in this one.

Prediction: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27

Kansas (6-5, 3-4) at #13 Missouri (9-2, 5-2)

This game has 0% of the hype surrounding it that it had last year, mostly because Kansas has gone back to being a completely irrelevant football program. Missouri wins.

Prediction: Missouri 41, Kanasas 31

Syracuse (3-8, 1-5) at #16 Cincinnati (9-2, 5-1)

The Bearcats can secure a BCS bowl bid with a win here. I keep picking against them and they keep winning. Syracuse while terrible is apparently > than Notre Dame.

Prediction: Cincinnati 38, Syracuse 17

#23 Oregon (8-3, 6-2) at #17 Oregon State (8-3, 7-1)

The Civil War is once again a big deal this year as a Rose Bowl bid is on the line for the Oregon State Beavers. They will more than likely be without star RB Jacquizz Rodgers and I just can't see them overcoming that.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Oregon State 23

Maryland (7-4, 4-3) at #21 Boston College (8-3, 4-3)

The Eagles are just a win away from returning to the ACC Championship game despite losing stud QB Matt Ryan. I think Maryland will play one of their better road games of the season but it won't be enough.

Prediction: Boston College 31, Maryland 24

Last Week: 8-7 (ouch)
Overall: 125-47

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Week That Was


Fire Charlie Weis. That is the only option. I have defended him, given him breaks after last year's embarrassing 3-9 campaign and after an embarrassing loss to Boston College. I draw the line at losing to a 2-8 team at home, when you have a 13 point lead in the 4th quarter. Notre Dame is bound to get destroyed at USC on Saturday and then will probably continue their string of bowl losses so 6-7 is looking pretty likely. It is unacceptable, Notre Dame should beat a crappy Syracuse team at home. They have superior talent, which leads it all to coaching. Ty Willingham sucked as coach but he didn't lose to 2-8 teams at home. Charlie has to go.

The Washington Redskins gutted out a road win over the Seattle Seahawks. Despite Ladell Betts trying to fumble the game away as he likes to do, Seahawks QB Matt Hasslebeck decided that the Seahawks have stunk all year so why change now. It was a must win game for the Skins, as they were staring at a 2 game deficit in the wild card standings, as they host the seemingly unstoppable Giants Sunday, while the Cowboys get to beat up on the Seahawks on Thanksgiving. Jason Campbell and Clinton Portis carried the team, and the defense finally created some turnovers.

The Washington Wizards are now 1-10 and fired head coach Eddie Jordan this morning. Jordan basically blamed management in his recent comments when he intimated he didn't have much to work with. Surefire way to get canned when your team blows is questioning management. Jordan did get the Wizards to the playoffs which had been an impossibility for a long time but he had hit his ceiling as coach. The team is going nowhere this year, heck, maybe Gilbert should take another year off and collect the "discount" he so graciously gave us.

College basketball season tipped off, exciting me as it is my second favorite sport behind the NFL. My Alma mater, the George Mason Patriots (2006 Final Four), got off to a 3-1 start, which is good considering they lost their two top scorers in Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas. The road loss to Hampton was disappointing but they followed that up with a win at East Carolina on Saturday. They host Mt. St. Mary's on Tuesday night. My other favorite team, the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels, destroyed the pathetic Kentucky Wildcats, and outlasted the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara on the road Friday night.

Due to Thanksgiving on Thursday there will be a double helping of football on the blog on Wednesday as I will post a new Cram Session and Hail Mary.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hail Mary - Week 12

The Washington Redskins head to Seattle on Sunday in what has to be their biggest game of the season so far. Win, and they still control their playoff destiny, lose and what was once a promising season will officially turn into a nightmare.

The other big story in this game is the return of Redskins coach Jim Zorn to Seattle where he played as a QB and was a QB's coach. Zorn can prove the Seahawks were foolish for not anointing him the heir to Mike Holmgren, instead of Jim Mora Jr.

Games That I Will Be Watching

Cincinnati (1-8-1) at Pittsburgh (7-3)

May not watch all of this one but it's NFL and it's on TV so it will gain some of my attention. I think the Bengals will keep this closer than people think, they have played hard the last few weeks. I expect the Steelers to sack Bengals QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at least 7 times.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 20

New York Jets (7-3) at Tennessee (10-0)

The Jets, a year after finishing 4-12, now sit alone in first place in the AFC East. I am sure that has nothing to do with their new QB Brett Favre, right Favre haters? The Titans came back from a 11 point halftime deficit on the road against Jacksonville and did it behind the arm of QB Kerry Collins. This team is legit and will stay undefeated.

Prediction: Tennessee 23, New York Jets 20

Philadelphia (5-4-1) at Baltimore (6-4)

I will be checking in on this one between commercial breaks in the Jets/Titans game. The Eagles had an embarrassing tie with the Bengals, where QB Donovan McNabb played like crap and then sounded dumb as crap afterwards when he admitted he didn't know an NFL game could end in a tie. The Ravens were absolutely destroyed by the Giants, showing that while they are definitely better than last year, they still have a ways to go. These teams are pretty evenly matched, I give the edge to the Ravens because of the crowd at M & T Bank Stadium.

Prediction: Baltimore 19, Philadelphia 14

Washington (6-4) at Seattle (2-8)

The Seahawks got QB Matt Hasslebeck back but it wasn't enough for them to overcome the Cardinals. The Seahawks are the healthiest they have been all year and Washington can't expect this game to be a cake walk. The Redskins have proven to always play better with their backs against the wall, and they will do that here.

Prediction: Washington 24, Seattle 20

Indianapolis (6-4) at San Diego (4-6)

The Chargers will be playing for their season on Sunday Night Football. A loss and they can pretty much kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. The Colts are on a 3 game winning streak which has coincided with them getting healthy. I think the Chargers come up big when they need to and eke out a victory.

Prediction: San Diego 27, Indianapolis 24

Green Bay (5-5) at New Orleans (5-5)

Good Monday night game with major playoff implications for both teams. The Saints hope to have RB Reggie Bush back for this one. The Saints have proven they can beat the lousy teams but not the average to good teams, Pack take this one.

Prediction: Green Bay 33, New Orleans 26

Rest of Week 12

Houston (3-7) at Cleveland (4-6)

It's my sleeper team versus the media's sleeper team. Guess we were both wrong.

Prediction: Cleveland 22, Houston 14

San Francisco (3-7) at Dallas (6-4)

The best rivalry in the 90's has become meaningless to a new generation. I think the Niners can hang with the Boys, but unfortunately Dallas will prevail.

Prediction: Dallas 28, San Francisco 21

Tampa Bay (7-3) at Detroit (0-10)

Detroit will lose, setting up a 1st in NFL history on Thanksgiving. An 11-0 Titans team against an 0-11 Lions team.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 28, Detroit 13

Buffalo (5-5) at Kansas City (1-9)

The Chiefs have come so close to winning in recent weeks that they have to break through sometime right? The frauds from Buffalo are the perfect team for them to face.

Prediction: Kansas City 21, Buffalo 18

Chicago (5-5) at St. Louis (2-8)

So Marc Bulger, you and your teammates want Jim Haslett to remain the coach? How about you stop losing by 20+ points every week.

Prediction: Chicago 30, St. Louis 12

New England (6-4) at Miami (6-4)

The Dolphins made it way too interesting against the Raiders, which made me lean toward the Patriots initially. Then I remembered how awful the Patriots usually play in Miami. Go Dolphins.

Prediction: Miami 24, New England 23

Minnesota (5-5) at Jacksonville (4-6)

Two underachieving teams meet in this one. Minnesota isn't a good road team but the only thing that the Jaguars can somewhat do well is run the ball, you ain't running against the Vikings.

Prediction: Minnesota 19, Jacksonville 17

Oakland (2-8) at Denver (6-4)

Broncos WR Eddie Royal became an NFL and fantasy football star when these teams met in Week 1. He won't have DeAngelo Hall to embarrass this time, but it won't matter.

Prediction: Denver 28, Oakland 17

Carolina (8-2) at Atlanta (6-4)

If the Falcons want to keep any chance of winning the NFC South they have to win this game. The home team seems to rule in NFC South games.

Prediction: Atlanta 17, Carolina 13

New York Giants (9-1) at Arizona (7-3)

Arizona can potentially clinch the NFC West with a win. Their coronation will have to wait a week, Giants are road warriors.

Prediction: New York Giants 28, Arizona 21

Last Week: 12-3-1 (Yes Donovan, there are ties in picks too!)
Overall: 75-37-1