Thursday, November 30, 2006

NFL Week 13 Preview

What to Look for in Week 13:

Starting off locally, the WASHINGTON REDSKINS look to build off of a morale-boosting victory over the Panthers last week. Hopefully, we'll see the return of "Joe Gibbs style" football being played--a pounding running game and a tough defense. The 'Skins host Mike "The Finger" Vick, who, after two stellar performances in late October, has made headlines most recently for flipping off his own home crowd. The Falcons have lost 4 straight, including games against the Lions and Browns. . .

The Redskins could also see a fresh leg on the field this weekend--struggling Nick Novak (5 of 10 FGs) has been put on notice by the addition of former Cowboys kicker Shaun Suisham to the practice squad. . .

And speaking of former Cowboys kickers, MIKE VANDERJAGT was cut this week by Dallas. The most accurate kicker in NFL history apparently didn't give good vibes to Bill Parcells, who axed the guy and his $5 million+ salary even though his 13-for-18 performance on the year wasn't that bad. It's a questionable move by Parcells, one I would think has to be motivated partially by personal reasons. That said, I would certainly encourage the Redskins to jump at the opportunity--if you look to the right, you'll see it's not too hard to imagine Vanderjagt in 'Skins colors. . .

The NY GIANTS have lost three in a row, and the Blue Men Group appear to be producing as many turnovers as discontented players. The losing season has seen prickly Jeremy Shockey and normally solid citizen Tiki Barber complaining about coach Tom Coughlin. Last week, big play receiver Plaxico Burress quit on a deep pass from Eli Manning. While it wasn't the first time Plax emulated Randy "40%" Moss, this instance resulted in an interception by the Titans' Pacman Jones, which keyed Tennessee's 24-point fourth quarter comeback win. . .

This week, things don't get easier. Marching into the Meadowlands is Tony Romo and the DALLAS COWBOYS. I think a loss here spells the end of Coughlin's stormy tenure in the Big Apple. A win here could definitely salvage the season though--let's not forget that, recent rough seas aside, the Giants are only a game back in the NFC East. . .

The definite highlight of this week's games is the Thursday night matchup between BALTIMORE and CINCINNATI. On the one hand, you have Baltimore at 9-2, winners of 5 straight, cruising through the season. On the other hand, you have Cincinnati barely at 6-5, struggling for its playoff life. But see the "5 Games to Watch" section below to find out why I think the Orange and Black are the better team. . .

Random thought: is the AFC East the best division in football now? Or at least the one with the most competitive teams? It's the only division in the league that has no team with a record worse than 5-6. [New England (8-3), NY Jets (6-5), Buffalo and Miami (5-6)]. Additionally, all four teams in the division have been playing well as of late--they've won a combined nine game straight. . .

Lastly, the Sunday night matchup between Seattle and Denver should be intriguing. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck returned from a long injury layoff last week, and promptly turned over the ball four times in the first half before settling down and leading his team to a win in the snow. He should be more prepared for this weekend in Mile High. On another note, earlier this week, I had the brilliant idea of exercising by running up and down a flight of stairs over and over. The next day I felt like I could barely walk--so imagine how Shaun Alexander feels after carrying the rock 40 times last week. . .

Mike Vick dealing with finger extension issues.Jay Cutler's in the lab trying to find a winning formula for Denver.

Jay's Top 10 Rankings:

The ten best teams in the league as of right now.

1) NEW ENGLAND (8-3) - This was a surprise to me--the Patriots as a top 5 team sure, but #1? Then I realized that N.E. has given up fewer points (144) than anyone in the NFC except the Bears (137), whom they beat last week. A solid defense combined with the steady hand of Tom Brady down the stretch is what the rest of the league will have to try and overcome.

2) DALLAS (7-4) - Romomentum, Romomania, or Tony Romo's Ribs. Call it whatever you want, it's magic. The Cowboys have won 4 of their last 5, the only loss being the fluke ending at RFK back on November 5. Right now The Kid QB is making aerial poetry with Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens, at least one of the RB duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber has a big game each week, DeMarcus Ware and the pass rush are getting to enemy quarterbacks, and Terence Newman and Roy Williams have made the deep pass against Dallas a no-fly zone. Until some defensive coordinator figures out how to rattle Romo, the Cowboys are going to be unstoppable.

3) SAN DIEGO (9-2) - I get nervous about putting my Chargers up this high, because my every memory of my old hometown team since Super Bowl XXIX involves disappointment. But here's another team where it's hard to find something to dislike. The defense has played hard-nosed, aggressive ball this year--a rarity for a Chargers team--and now Shawne Merriman returns from a 4-game steroids suspension. As far as the offense goes, L.T. is L.T., 'nuff said. Even when first-year starter Rivers hits a speedbump, L.T. throws the TDs to Antonio Gates.

4) INDIANAPOLIS (10-1) - Should a 10-1 team deserve the disrespect of being ranked 4th? I don't know, because it's so hard to get a read on these Colts. Peyton and the aerial game are never anything to complain about, but while Joseph Addai stomped his cleats all over the Eagles last week (170 rushing yards, 4 TDs), I'm more concerned about the running game's lackluster output in the previous week's loss to the Cowboys. When the Colts run up into a tough, physical defense, will they fold? The Colts play solid but unspectacular defense--unlike the Patriots or Bears, it won't win games outright for the team.

5) CINCINNATI (6-5) - Really, a team that might not make the playoffs up here at #5? Yes, because they're finally playing like the breakout team they were supposed to be. The shutout the Bengals defense pitched last week was only against the Browns, but forcing five turnovers was impressive. Much more importantly, the offense is finally clicking. Carson Palmer has thrown for 9 TDs in his past three games (with a whopping avg. QB rating of 126.5), and Ocho Cinco has finally started making big plays. Rudi Johnson's looking better too.

6) CHICAGO (9-2) - Analyzing Da Bears isn't very difficult. The defense is terrific. The offense--ehh. And I don't mean the RB duo of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, who do all they are supposed to. In last week's loss to New England, they combined for 33 carries for 145 yards and a TD. It's safe to say that in any game Rex Grossman doesn't throw three picks, a victory is pretty much guaranteed.

7) BALTIMORE (9-2) - I underestimate the Ravens at my own peril. They're 9-2, having won 5 straight, and they're coming off a convincing shutout of the Steelers. But is the Ravens' lofty record built on a precarious foundation of amazing luck? Nothing I've seen from their offense impresses me--it could be that Steve McNair's passing numbers are so modest, but even his lowly 188 passing yards-per-game is about normal for him. No, it must be Jamal Lewis's pathetic 66 rushing yards-per-game that troubles me.

8) NEW ORLEANS (7-4) - Maybe I still have a soft spot for Drew Brees, late of S.D., but how can you not like the prolific numbers he's putting up? He is on pace to throw for just over 5,000 yards this season, and they're not in vain. Brees (the shoulder's perfectly healthy, thanks for asking) has created a high-octane Saints offense in a position held not so long ago by guys like Heath Shuler, Billy Joe Tolliver, and Chrissy Everett. Also, Deuce McAllister's has quietly put up 8 rushing TDs in a reduced role.

9) SEATTLE (7-4) - The defending NFC champs have had to deal without the services of reigning MVP Shaun Alexander and Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck for most of the season. But all that's over with now. No reason Seattle's Best shouldn't round back into form now.

10) KANSAS CITY (7-4) - This is one team that I think could as easily be ranked #15 as #10, because it's so hard for me to believe the Chiefs are actually 7-4. Despite the early-season injury to Trent Green. Despite riding Damon Huard for so many weeks. Despite Trent Green coming back and looking like--well, looking like he was in yet another situation where the backup would steal his thunder. Larry Johnson (140+ total yards/game), on pace to set a record for most carries in a season, is the Plymouth Rock of this franchise.

5 Games of the Week:

The DSA crew picks the best matchups of Week 13.

1) BALTIMORE at CINCINNATI - Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh again said of the Ravens this week "I think we're better than them. We'll find out." Though he'd be better off keeping his mouth shut, I'm inclined to believe Who's Your Momma.

2) DALLAS at NY GIANTS - The Cowboys are riding a full head of steam and have The Anointed One at QB; the Giants are in a tailspin and their Shaky QB hates his star WR, amongst various in-house problems. But there's no way the Giants come out looking flat in this game--is there?

3) SEATTLE at DENVER - Jay Cutler's the new sheriff in the Mile High City, and if the well-regarded rookie can come close to meeting the high expectations, 7-4 Denver might still be in a playoff chase. How hard can it be to make people forget about Jake Plummer?

4) ATLANTA at WASHINGTON - Jason Campbell and the 'Skins are set to stun the Falcons, like the UCLA cops stunned that kid in the library. Which is to say, Mike Vick will be immobilized.

5) HOUSTON at OAKLAND - Sure, only relatives of the players on these two teams would willingly watch this game, but don't tell me you're not curious to see what dysfunction looks like.

Week 13 Pick 'Ems:

Last week, ANDREW (along with NING and the FAVORITE) took first place, and now trails KEVIN for the season lead by just one game. Meanwhile, yours truly leapfrogged Moose to surge into second-to-last place. Stay tuned for more action...

Baltimore at CincinnatiCINBALBALCINBAL
Atlanta at WashingtonWASWASWASATLWAS
Detroit at New EnglandNENENENENE
Indianapolis at TennesseeINDINDINDINDIND
Kansas City at ClevelandKCKCKCKCKC
Minnesota at ChicagoCHICHICHIMINCHI
San Diego at BuffaloSDSDSDSDSD
San Francisco at New Orleans NONONOSFNO
Jacksonville at MiamiMIAMIAJAXMIAJAX
Tampa Bay at PittsburghTBTBPITPITTB
Carolina at PhiladelphiaCARCARCARCARCAR

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Andrew 12-4, Ning 12-4, Favorite 12-4, Kevin 11-5, Z 11-5, Jay 10-6, Moose 7-9

Kevin 113-63, Andrew 112-64, Favorite 110-66, Z 106-70, Ning 104-72, Jay 98-78, Moose 97-79

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Marcus Harris Flip: The Video

Yesterday I offered a "shiny new donkey" to whoever found me a video clip of Chargers LB Marcus Harris celebrating his sack against the Raiders on Sunday with a cartwheel and backflip. Our good friend Danny G steps up to the task, with the animated .GIF you see below. (Non-broadbandites, it may take a while to load.)

Chargers LB Marcus Harris flip

Ah, but Danny's not completely on the up-and-up here. Notice that in the clip above the Chargers are wearing their throwback powder-blue uniforms. On this past Sunday, when the incident I was referring to took place, the Chargers were wearing their traditional navy uniforms--you can see from the photo of Antonio Gates I posted yesterday.

That said, I did say that Harris had done it before a few times, and it was so cool, I'll give Danny his donkey anyway. As per his request, his reward will be paid over 20 years in a series of installments, beginning with the hooves.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday Observations

A day late, but still plenty to get through. . .

I have to start close to home. Last week, Tom Friend on rocked the DC Metropolitan Area with his expose into dissent and delusion at Redskin Park. It may have been an overhyped story based on one anonymous disgruntled player, but it certainly cast a poor light on the organization. Surprisingly, it wasn't the lackluster offense that took the heat.

Defensive head coach Gregg Williams was savaged for being arrogant and alienating his players, secondary coach Steve Jackson was cast as immature and petulant, and Joe Gibbs was criticized for taking too much of a hands-off, "CEO" approach. Egos and bruised relationships aside, the critical part of the story was the revelation that Williams' defensive schemes have been figured out--they are "high school" to the rest of the league, and that his schemes have sabotaged his own players. Additionally, Jackson's power plays led to the cornerbacks and safeties meeting separately--no wonder the Skins've always been getting beat deep.

Friend, the former Washington Post writer, urged Gibbs to get more hands-on with this team, something I've been crying about for weeks. At least I only though that Gibbs needed to run his power running style of offense again, and get away from the gimmicks. But it looks like the team needs him most to smooth over tensions on the defensive unit, and while Gibbs doesn't need to get involved in the nuts and bolts, surely his goodwill can go a long way. After all, everyone still loves Joe.

Anyway, the article seems to have stirred the Redskins. In Sunday's game against Tampa, the defensive unit played an inspired game. Carlos Rogers, who has been especially awful, really stepped up, as did Sean Taylor. Both were notably featured in the Friend article as being mishandled by Williams. Hopefully this little bit of public drama is the push the 'Skins needed to right their own ship. Again, one anonymous player's grievances don't mean all that much, and Williams seems to have a lot of public support from his team, so I'm sure this latest dissension can be managed in house. Still, it was certainly warranted.

Onto some thoughts on the rest of the league.

DALLAS...Tony Romo threw 5 TDs on Thanksgiving, and has already been annointed as The One. But really, this kid looks terrific. One thing I'll point out that's different between him and other young quarterbacks that have had early success--his team's not winning just because they're getting by with their new QB, they're only winning because of him. Consider the example of Ben Roethlisberger, where the Steelers racked up the W's, but Big Ben really just managed the offense capably, usually throwing for under 200 yards and trying to minimize mistakes. Romo, on the other hand, is putting up gaudy statistics like he's been Peyton Manning for years.

CINCINNATI...Yeah, this team had a horrendous mid-season stretch, but although they're 6-5 right now, they're playing some of the best football in the AFC. I mean really clicking. If they beat Baltimore this coming Thursday, I don't think anyone should find it hard to believe the Bengals will be in the playoffs.

SAN DIEGO...Don't find it odd that they played a close one with the Raiders. I grew up in San Diego, so I know that no matter what kind of year either team is having, these games are always dogfights. Tomlinson throwing another TD was sweet--for his career he's now 7-for-9 with 6 TD passes. That's disgusting. Also, I'll give a shiny new donkey to whoever can find me a video clip of Chargers' LB Marcus Harris celebrating his sack with not just a cartwheel (impressive for such a big man) but then a standing backflip. And it ain't the first time--holy cow. Better than Shawn Jefferson.

NY GIANTS...Are they done? I had this team pegged from the preseason on as the team to beat in the NFC, and for most of the year they haven't done anything to change my mind. Then this three game collapse to increasingly worse teams...what gives? While it doesn't seem rational to think that this slide could continue, the Giants' schedule for the rest of the year is tough. Dallas is my new team to beat in the NFC.

NEW ENGLAND...knocked off the NFC's conventionally wise top dog, Chicago, this weekend. Credit the Pats' Asante Samuel for his 3 INTs in what was a total slugfest. On paper, the Patriots aren't all that, and each week injuries seem to deplete them further (this time, it's Seau to the IR). But the mark of a great team is that they keep finding ways to win, and that's what New England's been doing. Meanwhile, Da Bears seriously have to stop turning the ball over--early-season golden boy Grossman suddenly looks more like Orton. Is he looking over his shoulder at Griese?

Week 12 Pick 'Em results, still in progress, have Andrew and Ning (as well as the Favorites) at 11-4. Kevin, Z, and myself are at 10-5, with Moose rounding out the pack at 7-8. Tonight's MNF matchup between the Packers and Seahawks will prove a determining factor, as a Packers win would put me at tied for first, and the only one to pick the MNF winner. A Seahawks win will leave the status quo intact.

Go Favre!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jermaine's World

The Indiana Pacers have two great big men in Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington. They have a reasonable, if somewhat unstable wing player in Stephen Jackson and a defensive dynamo in Danny Granger.

Why is this team only one game above .500?

The answer, as usual for elite teams, lies with the point guard.

Jamaal Tinsley may be many things, but a consistent outside shooter is not one of those. The lack of a perimeter threat, a role filled by Peja Stojakovic last year, limits the Pacers as an offensive team, as their opponents can limit their effectiveness by simply packing the paint and making Tinsley beat them with his jumper. The alternative, Sarunas Jasikevicius, is a fantastic shooter-but is inexperienced at the NBA game, having come over only last year from Euroleague's Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The Pacers need to address this issue, or else their record will remain inconsistent with their talent.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I'm waiting for the playoffs but...

I think i'm turning a bit Romosexual here...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NFL Week 12 Preview

In the spirit of the holiday, the DSA presents its Five Games to Watch this week with commentary on what the teams involved should be thankful for.

CHICAGO at NEW ENGLAND - Da Bears are thankful for their defense, which, when combined with any game that Rex Grossman doesn't make a half-dozen bonehead turnovers, pretty much guarantees a victory. The Pats' are thankful that Tom Brady's found a way to throw 19 TDs to a cast of no-name receivers, and that the RB duo of Maroney and Dillon averages 109 yards on the ground each game. (Football fans this weekend are thankful that the schedule produced this quasi-Super Bowl matchup!)

NEW ORLEANS at ATLANTA - New Orleans is thankful that Drew Brees's shoulder is healthy--he's on pace to top 4,000 yards this season. The Saints are also thankful for their electric rookie, Reggie Bush Marques Colston. The Falcons should be thankful they're still in their divisional race despite beating only one team all year that currently has a winning record.

PITTSBURGH at BALTIMORE - The Ravens are thanking their incredible luck, which has them at 8-2, and atop the AFC North. This despite a sub-par year from Steve McNair (yes, really: 11 TDs to 9 INTs) and Jamal Lewis averaging a negligible 67 yards a game. The defending champion Steelers are thankful they might salvage a winning record this year (Cowher's last?) after a 2-6 start. (Fact: Big Ben has thrown 17 picks already.)

DENVER at KANSAS CITY - Jake Plummer should be thankful for Matt Leinart, the only thing that prevents him from having the lowest QB rating of any starter in the NFL right now. Then again, there's still several weeks left to play. For the Chiefs, two letters: L.J.

SAN FRANCISCO at ST. LOUIS - The Niners are thankful that if they win this game, amazingly enough, they will be in first place in the cesspool that is the NFC West. The Rams, losers of 5 straight after a 4-1 start, should at least hope their fans have diminished expectations for the season.

* * *
Week 12 Pick 'Ems:

Denver at Kansas CityDENDENDENKCKC
Pittsburgh at BaltimorePITPITBALBALBAL
New Orleans at AtlantaNONONOATLNO
Jacksonville at BuffaloBUFJAXJAXJAXJAX
Cincinnati at ClevelandCINCINCINCINCIN
Carolina at WashingtonCARCARCARCARCAR
Arizona at Minnesota ARIARIMINMINMIN
San Francisco at St. LouisSFSFSTLSTLSTL
Oakland at San DiegoSDSDSDSDSD
Chicago at New EnglandNECHINENECHI
Philadelphia at IndianapolisINDINDINDINDIND
Green Bay at SeattleGBGBSEASEASEA

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Jay 11-5, Andrew 10-6, Favorite 10-6, Kevin 9-7, Ning 9-7, Z 8-8, Moose 7-9

Kevin 102-58, Andrew 100-60, Favorite 98-62, Z 95-65, Ning 92-68, Moose 90-70, Jay 88-72

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Observations

It was an absolutely wild Sunday which featured A-list matchups, big comebacks, huge individual performances, and some crucial injuries. With regards to the last note, perhaps the biggest headline from Sunday is that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb tore his ACL and will be gone for the year. McNabb was having probably the best season of his career, and this blow is devastating not just for him but for the Eagles, who at 5-5 now, can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Other boldface names to suffer injuries this week include Brett Favre and LaMont Jordan, the latter of whom also had his season ended today. Jordan can at least be thankful he gets to escape the wreckage of the Raiders' awful year, but B. Favre (who apparently should be fine for next week) will have to soldier through the Pack's mediocre season. (Interestingly enough, because the NFC North is so dismal aside from Da Bears, the Packers remain in 2nd place, even though at least 9 other teams in the NFC at large have better records.

Injuries created headlines for sure, but Week 11 also saw the return of some key players from injuries. Shaun Alexander, Trent Green, and Aaron Brooks rewarded long-suffering fantasy owners by returning from their respective ailments. (Haha, who am I kidding, which fantasy owner lost sleep over Brooks?) All three had quiet games, but Green at least engineered the Chiefs' game-winning drive against Oakland.

The Colts are no longer undefeated. Astute readers of Da Sports Authority may recall that yours truly called that one. Dallas has a tough remaining schedule, but right now, I think they're playing the best football in the NFC. I remain very impressed by the play of Tony Romo, and when Dallas gets it Jones-Barber RB duo clicking, and the defense plays like it did today, the Cowboys look well-nigh unstoppable.

In another marquee matchup this week, Cincinnati topped slumping New Orleans by pulling away with 21 points in the 4th quarter. Carson Palmer to Ocho-Cinco produced 3 TDs, proving that the 260 yards and 2 TDs they produced last weekend was a harbinger of two things to come. For the Saints, Drew Brees' 510 yards weren't enough. Of more concern to the 6-4 Saints, losers of 3 of their last 4, was that Rookie of the Year (Marques Colston) suffered an ankle injury. He better be all right.

Last week, 49ers RB Frank Gore galloped for, what, 150 yards or so in the first half, but suffered a concussion in the second half and did not return. As his fantasy owner, I spent all week wondering whether he'd play today, and what kind of impact he'd make. Well, how's this for impact: Gore, buck wild, again. 24 carries for 212 yards (an 8.8 average), so I can even overlook the fact that he fumbles almost as prolifically as he racks up the yards.

We interrupt this Football Themed broadcast with a little baseball news: MLB sources are reporting that Alfonso Soriano signed with the Cubs. The best thing inside RFK Field has inevitably reneged on his professed desire to stay in D.C., and has jumped ship for Lou Piniella, Wrigley Field, and 8 years/$136 million. "Suffice it to say a contract like that simply doesn't fit in with trying to build a team from where we are," Nationals president Stan Kasten said. "We wish Alfonso well. We have been expecting it, and we're ready to move on." Ugh.

With regards to more disappointments from the local sports team, here's one exception. First-time starter Jason Campbell looked good. He didn't do anything extraordinary, but he certainly looked like a competent quarterback who can help his team win games. Right from his very first snap, in which he effortlessly bombed a deep pass to Brandon Lloyd (who couldn't catch up to it), Campbell showed that all that talk about his arm strength was justified. He also seemed to see the field well and was comfortable in the pocket. His final line was respectable: 19-for-34, 196 yards, sacked twice, 2 TDs.

Back to disappointing: Everything else about the 'Skins--the running game, the defense, the droopy old coaches on the sideline--looked terrible. Betts and Duckett combined for 12 carries for 34 yards, making me think that even Clinton Portis with a broken hand, separated shoulder, and bullets through both kneecaps could do better. The defense gave up 181 yards on the ground, meaning that Cadillac Williams had his first worthwhile game in a year, and that I heard Mike Alstott's name for the first time in ages--I assumed he'd retired. The pass defense was, per usual, awful. I'm never sure whether I'm watching a replay of Carlos Rogers getting toasted over and over again, or whether it just keeps happening.

On the bright side, my former home team, the Chargers, remain near and dear to my heart. In Sunday's other Game of the Day (the other being Colts-Cowboys), San Diego staged yet another second-half rally to come back from 17 points down. You can never count the Chargers ou...these guys are like the Bush administration--they don't care about deficits!

L.T. racked up another 4 TDs, for the second straight week, and for the second straight week, he's my Sunday Stud. Tonight he crossed the 100 TD plateau, having reached that mark faster than any player in NFL history. Don't forget he has a staggering 19 TDs in his past 6 games, and is going to shatter the single-season scoring record this year. Not that I had any doubt about it before, but read Charles Robinson on putting L.T. into the "all-time greats" list.

A final note: watching NBC's coverage of the game, I was gratified to recall just how good John Madden and Al Michaels are as a commentating team. These are two guys who know the game, know how and what to explain, and just consistently make watching the game a better experience. Virtually every other analyst on TV needs to take a cue from this duo.

NFL Week 11 Preview

Plenty of action to follow here in Week 11. The home team's got a new man behind center--Jason Campbell finally takes over for Mark Brunell. While the season is already lost, finding out whether Campbell is the Future of the Franchise gives purpose to the remaining games.

Looking around the horn, it seems like every single game this weekend should be competitive. Five that the DSA crew highlighted:

SAN DIEGO at DENVER - The two 7-2 AFC West juggernauts in their first meeting of the year.
INDIANAPOLIS at DALLAS - Indy's undefeated, but Dallas has the O and the D to cause problems.
CINCINNATI at NEW ORLEANS - Both of these teams need to bust out of their recent slumps.
CHICAGO at NY JETS - Gang Green slew the Pats this week; will the Bears meet the same fate?
ATLANTA at BALTIMORE - Vick struggled against the lowly Lions and Browns; maybe what he needs is a challenge.

* * *

Last week Kevin picked up the win, opening up a 3-game season lead over Andrew. This week's Pick 'Ems feature a healthy amount of diversity, so it should be a wide open weekend.

Cincinnati at New OrleansCINNOCINNONONONO
New England at Green BayNENENENENENENE
Oakland at Kansas CityKCOAKKCKCKCKCKC
Tennessee at Philadelphia PHITENPHIPHIPHIPHIPHI
Washington at Tampa BayWASTBTBTBWASWASTB

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Kevin 10-6, Favorite 9-7, Moose 8-8, Ning 8-8, Z 8-8, Andrew 7-9, Jay 7-9

Kevin 93-51, Andrew 90-54, Favorite 88-56, Z 87-57, Moose 83-61, Ning 83-61, Jay 77-67

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Warriors's Davis Lite

Baron Davis is quickly reestablishing himself as one of the most successful point guards in the NBA. His keynote performance of the season so far has to be his 11 assists in a single quarter last week against Sacramento, an effort which concluded as a 36 point, 18 assist masterpiece for the lither, fitter Davis. While Davis has been knocked for his inconsistency in his checkered past with both the Hornets and the Warriors, he seems to have rededicated himself into playing at a higher level this season. That, combined with the still developing talents of Jason Richardson and Mickael Pietrus on the wing, makes the Warriors a very difficult team to tangle with in this early part of the season.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Emmitt Smith wins Dancing with the Stars

Apparently Sweetness isn't the only one who likes to dance.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why I don't believe in the Utah Jazz

The Jazz are currently 7-1, and are beating their opponents by more than 10 points per game. They have a burgeoning star in Deron Williams, a perennial All-Star talent in Andrei Kirilenko, and a strong and deep frontcourt with Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, and Jarrod Collins.

I am betting that this team finishes no better than 7th in the West, and gets beaten in the first round of the playoffs.

The reason for this prediction is the reason that the Jazz are never predicted to finish anymore: the injury bug.

Already, Kirilenko has gone down for an unspecified period of time, hurting himself once again playing the reckless style of basketball that fills up both the stat sheets and the infirmaries. Carlos Boozer is their primary rebounder and is playing fantastic right now, but there is little guarantee that his somewhat smaller stature (even at 6'9", 258) will allow him to play the physical inside game that he was so proficient at at Duke. Boozer has missed 31 and 49 games the last two seasons, and is probably due to go down again to one injury or another this year because of his size and style of play. Okur is not a true inside force; he prefers to play the role of a perimeter big man. Jarrod Collins is too green to play effectively with starter's minutes in the NBA, and Paul Millsap is still a rookie. If Boozer is out, this team reverts to a perimeter shooting team, and perimeter shooting teams can be beaten, particularly with the uncertain situation this team faces at shooting guard. At the end of the game, when it's down to the wire, this team will not be able to beat the inevitable top six combination of Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles (Clippers), the Hornets, and Denver, all of whom have proven players who take-and make-the last shot, and have balanced inside and outside scoring. As such, the Jazz will fall off towards the end of the season, and will limp into the playoffs with walking wounded.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Observations

A live thread of ongoing thoughts from the action today, updated throughout the day. Latest posted on top, oldest at the bottom...

- Earlier today (see below) I mentioned how 9 of the 10 early afternoon winners won by 1 score or less. 3 of the 4 late afternoon games fit that category too, meaning an impressive 12 of 14 games this Sunday were engaging television. And with Giants-Bears playing out just now, we could see another close finish--a Grossman pass had Chi-town down 13-10 just before the half.

- Steelers-Saints engaged in a late-afternoon scorefest of their own. Pittsburgh prevailed 38-31, mostly on the legs of Willie Parker. He's one of my nominations for Sunday Stud; this week, all of the candidates come from two games. There's Bengals QB Carson Palmer, putting up gonzo fantasy #s (440 yards, 3 TDs), and his opposing number, Chargers QB Philip Rivers (337 yards, 3 TDs). Palmer's main look today was Chad Johnson, who finally had an explosive game--and then some (260 yards, 2 TDs). But no one can deny LaDainian Tomlinson, who played the pivotal role in the Chargers' 42-point second half today--he finished with 158 total yards and 4 TDs.

- If, before the Chargers-Bengals game, someone told you the over/under for combined points was 89, how many of you would have taken over? Final score: San Diego 49, Cincinnati 41.

- It was a bad week to be my fantasy running back--both of the guys I started this week left their game with an injury. As discussed below, Portis broke his hand. Frank Gore, who was ripping up the Lions D, had a concussion in the second half and exited. David Carr also left the Texans victory over Jacksonville with a shoulder injury.

- Of the 10 games at 1:00, 9 of them were decided by 1 score or less. The Ravens and Colts won by 1 point; Houston, Miami, and the Jets by 3; Cleveland by 4; Green Bay and S.F. by 4; and the Chargers by 8--the Bengals couldn't get the potentially-tying TD/2PT in the Chargers' red zone in the final seconds. The only game that wasn't close was the 'Skins flopping to the Eagles, 27-3.

- Halftime Hardware: you have to credit several teams for putting up tough fights today. Cleveland up on a suddenly-cold Atlanta, Buffalo hanging near Indy, Houston up on Jacksonville, Jets on Patriots, Cincinnati punishing San Diego, and Miami--looking like it learned something last week against Chicago--blanking K.C. But the game that's providing the most thrills is the absolute dogfight between the Once and Future Titans...Tennessee under Young is up 26-17 on McNair and the Ravens, and while both the Old Man and The Kid are playing well, the difference here is Jamal Lewis' 9 yards compared to Travis Henry's 86 on the ground.

- Frank Gore is going Buck Nasty on the Lions. 150 or so yards and a score so far, and the 'Niners are blanking Detroit. FOX showed Roy Williams before the game, cracking about how, based on the 'Niners defense, he and Kevin Jones would combine for 5 TDs. Well, about now, I bet even one would be nice.

- Although the Eagles are up 17-3 at halftime against the Redskins, it's interesting to note that McNabb is only 4-for-16, that Washington had something like a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage, and they drove into Eagles territory 5 times. Reminds me of yesterday's Maryland-Miami game, except then my team was the one that had nothing but a couple big plays and the lead...

- Clinton Portis suffered a broken hand in the first half today. This guy's shaky season has become something of a nightmare--and the same could be said about the 'Skins.

- Redskins-Cowboys has to be the best rivalry in football, but I think that Packers-Vikings has to come second. These two teams always play a damn good game, and I don't expect today to be any different. One of the best NFL games I ever saw was the Monday Night matchup between these two teams in which Antonio Freeman made that miraculous catch off of a defender's helmet in OT to cap a brilliant comeback by the Pack.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NFL Week 10 Preview

Way back in the preseason, the DSA crew had weighed in with their predictions for each of the division winners, wild cards, and Super Bowl matchup. Some calls look genius--me picking N.O. in the NFC South, for example. Others prognostications are head scratchers--why did so many of us think Pittsburgh and Miami were playoff teams?

This week, we provide a midseason update to our predictions, hopefully giving us a chance to correct any errors we may have made. I think the changes say some interesting things about which way the teams have trended--while the Ravens apparently has secured the AFC North, our experts remain divided over the Seahawks' and Rams' chances in the NFC South. Check it out (crossed-out teams are the original preseason pick, if a change has been made):

AFC East:New EnglandNew EnglandNew EnglandNew England
New England
AFC North:Baltimore
AFC South:IndianapolisIndianapolisIndianapolisIndianapolisIndianapolis
AFC West:San DiegoDenverDenverSan Diego
AFC Wild Cards:Denver
San Diego
Kansas City
San Diego
New England
San Diego
New England

NFC East:NY GiantsNY Giants
NY GiantsNY Giants
NY Giants
NFC North:ChicagoChicago
NFC South:New OrleansNew Orleans
CarolinaNew Orleans
New Orleans
NFC West:St. Louis
SeattleSeattleSeattleSt. Louis
NFC Wild Cards:Philadelphia
Tampa Bay
NY Giants
Tampa Bay
St. Louis
NY Giants
Tampa Bay

Super Bowl:NY Giants def. IndianapolisDallas def. Indianapolis
Dallas def. Denver
Denver def. Chicago
Denver def. Seattle
Indianapolis def. Chicago
Cincinnati def. Carolina
Indianapolis def. NY Giants
Carolina def. Cincinnati

* * *
Five games to watch in Week 10:

CHICAGO at NY GIANTS - The best in the NFC. One loss has the Bears looking mortal; the Giants have reeled off 5 straight. This is your game of the week right here.

ST. LOUIS at SEATTLE - Will someone please step up in the NFC South? The Rams were once 4-1; the 'Hawks are biding time till they get their stars back--but this game is today.

WASHINGTON at PHILADELPHIA - Can last week's wild finish help the 'Skins turn their season around? Can the Iggles, once 4-1, forget about that 62-yard FG and halt their 3-game skid?

SAN DIEGO at CINCINNATI - Sure, S.D. is good, but they're going to have to be better in a division that also has Denver and K.C. Cincinnati is better than 4-4.

NEW ORLEANS at PITTSBURGH - In the standings, this may not mean much, but we have to find out if the Saints are as good as 6-2 suggests, and the Steelers as bad as 2-6 suggests.

* * *

And of course, your Week 10 Pick 'Ems:

Kansas City at MiamiKCKCKCKCKCKCKC
San Diego at CincinnatiSDSDCINSDSDSDSD
Washington at Philadelphia WASWASWASPHIWASPHIPHI
New Orleans at PittsburghNONOPITNONOPITPIT

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last week:
Z 10-4, Ning 8-6, Andrew 7-7, Favorite 7-7, Jay 7-7, Kevin 6-8, Moose 6-8

Kevin 83-45, Andrew 83-45, Favorite 79-49, Z 79-49, Moose 75-53, Ning 75-53, Jay 70-58

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A New Bryant?

I must be dreaming, because I swear I saw Kobe Bryant passing up shots the other night. Passing to Luke Walton and Ronny Turiaf, no less.

Kobe has 7 assists per game so far this year. That is only two and a half more than his average last year, but you could have fooled me. Apparently gone is the Bryant hoisting up shots from anywhere on the court, seemingly daring Phil Jackson to criticize him for bad shot selection-and it shows amongst his teammates.

Turiaf and Bynum are becoming a potent frontline, especially when put next to the nightly triple double threat Lamar Odom. Bryant can still light it up from anywhere he chooses, and the Lakers can look forward to the return of Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm to boost an already potent frontcourt.

The future looks bright for this young Laker's squad four games into the season. Let's see if they (read: Bryant) can keep it up for another 78 games.

Monday, November 06, 2006

AP Top 25: Week 11

NCAA Football rankings thru 11/5/06:

1. Ohio State (10-0)
2. Michigan (10-0)
3. Louisville (8-0)
4. Texas (9-1)
5. Auburn (9-1)
6. Florida (8-1)
7. USC (7-1)
8. California (8-1)
9. Notre Dame (8-1)
10. West Virginia (7-1)
11. Arkansas (8-1)
12. LSU (7-2)
13. Tennessee (7-2)
14. Boise State (9-0)
15. Rutgers (8-0)
16. Wisconsin (9-1)
17. Oklahoma (7-2)
18. Wake Forest (8-1)
19. Georgia Tech (7-2)
20. Virginia Tech (7-2)
21. Oregon (7-2)
22. Boston College (7-2)
23. Maryland (7-2)
24. Texas A&M (8-2)
25. Brigham Young (7-2)

And to think that includes a narrow loss to #19 Georgia Tech, where the Terps had 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down and goal in the final minute, and couldn't score...

(How about that ACC--taking spots 18, 19, 20, 22, and 23?)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Observations / NFL Week 9

- Yesterday, I watched the Maryland football team win a nail-biting 13-12 victory over #19 Clemson. This win was all the more impressive considering that Clemson hadn't lost at home ("Death Valley") in over 2 years, and came into the game with a high-octane offense that averaged 38 points a game. The Terps held 'em without a TD!

Additionally, the Terps showed resilience after a poor decision on a replay overturned a safety, followed by a 70+ yard Clemson pass on the next play. Yet the defense held tough, gave up only the FG, and it was Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach to whom props are owed--he looked terrific in leading the Terps down the field in the final minute, right down to his spike with a few seconds left on the clock to set up Dan Ennis' game-winner.

This was a statement game, and I'm damn proud of Maryland for pulling this one off.

- If I thought that was a heart-stopper, nothing prepared for me today's Redskins-Cowboys game, which I attended live at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The 'Skins wild 22-19 win could very well be a season saver if the team rides the momentum of today's crazy last minute. By now you've probably heard the story: kicker Nick Novak misses a potential game-winner with 31 seconds left, and the Cowboys drive down to the Redskins 17 to line up for Vanderjagt's easy game winner. His kick, as time expires, is blocked by new Redskin Troy Vincent and scooped up by Sean Taylor, who bobs and weaves his way down field.

Finally tackled all the way down in Cowboys territory, the game should be over, but a facemask penalty is called on the Cowboys on the play. Since the game can't end on a penalty, the Redskins get to try one play with no time on the clock. Ex-Terp Novak trots back out to try and redeem himself from about the same distance he just missed from, and came as close to missing it again as he possibly could have, but the kick was good. Ensure fandemonium.

- Since I was at the stadium, I wasn't around to follow the week's games, but these results made me scratch my head. Detroit defeats Atlanta? Miami over Chicago? Houston also fought the Giants close, and San Fran beat Minnesota 9-3 in what must have been the most boring game ever.

- Nominations for today's Sunday stud include Drew Brees (314 yards, 3 TDs), LaDainian Tomlinson (192 yards, 2 TDs), Phil Dawson (6-for-6 FGs, and an XP to boot). Unless a hero emerges from the evening Colts-Pats game (which so far, at 7-7, is looking tight), my nod goes to Denver WR Javon Walker, who caught 6 balls for 134 yards and 2 TDs, and had a 72 yard rushing TD on a reverse against Pittsburgh this afternoon.

- I didn't get a chance to post Week 9 Pick 'Ems earlier, so they are listed below. Congratulations to Ning on winning last week, but notice that for the first time all season, Andrew has been displaced as the overall leader. New top dog: Kevin.

New Orleans at Tampa BayNONONOTBNONONO
Tennessee at JacksonvilleTENTENJAXJAXTENJAXJAX
Cleveland at San DiegoSDSDSDSDSDSDSD
Indianapolis at New EnglandINDINDNEINDINDINDNE

Favorites are the betting pick to win.

Last Week:
Ning 9-5, Favorite 8-6, Kevin 8-6, Z 8-6, Jay 7-7, Andrew 5-9, Moose 5-9

Kevin 77-37, Andrew 76-38, Favorite 72-42, Moose 69-45, Z 69-45, Ning 67-47, Jay 63-51

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thoughts about the week.

After all the hubbub about Chris Paul teaming with new weapons Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler, through two games, David West is still the primary scoring option on that team. That says something about the talent of the young Mr. West, for while Tyson Chandler has never had much of an offensive game, Peja is an all-star caliber shooter.

In a early season meeting of two trade partners, both TJ Ford and Charlie Villanueva flourished in their new settings, with TJ getting a double double with 11 points and 13 assists and Charlie getting his with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Toronto beat Milwaukee by 17, but the most disturbing stat for the Bucks has got to be the fact that Michael Redd had fewer shot attempts than both Villanueva and their point guard Maurice Williams, who only had two assists on the day.

Detroit is missing its interior defense in Ben Wallace, but it is getting the expected offensive boost from Nazr Mohammed, who is averaging 11 and 10 through two games. Not superstar numbers, I know, but at least Mohammed has to be guarded on the offensive end of the floor. I think the Pistons will be fine once Rasheed adjusts back into being a more traditional post up power forward and they figure out what to do on the defensive end.

The Bulls demolished the Heat on opening night. Everything the Bulls did worked, and the champions showed their age in chasing the younger, faster Bulls around the court. Miami is a team desperately in need of a third offensive scoring option who is not named "Antoine Walker for 3" to complement Wade, who can't do everything and the aging Shaq. Dorell Wright, perhaps?

The Isaiah Thomas Experience with the Knicks started with a triple overtime squeaker that saw both Francis and Marbury foul out of the game against a team missing its offensive centerpiece in the Grizzlies. On day two, they get beaten by the lowly Hawks as neither Francis nor Marbury manage to reach double digits. I don't know where this team is going, but I do know with Isaiah in charge it will be an interesting ride. At least Eddy Curry and Renaldo Balkman look good in blue.

Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy both look good in their first few games of NBA action, particularly Morrison's fire when he plays the game. This is a guy who really loves to play and loves to win even more, and should be a pleasure to watch for years to come.

KG's new look T-Wolves beat a game Kings team by nine, and now are within strinking range of the Nuggets in their second game. This is a team that could surprise some people, particularly if Randy Foye becomes the player that everyone seems to think he is on his way to becoming.

That's all I've got for now; I'll post more if I see anything interesting in the games that I think you should watch for.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wizards' Deja Vu

"Meet the new boss...same as the old boss." We're referring here to LeBron James, who in leading the Cavaliers to yet another razor-thin victory over the Wizards last night, has officially become their daddy. Fans are forgiven for pinching themselves last night, thinking they were watching a replay from last May. Another close-fought game, another dominating LeBron performance, another improbable Wizards comeback, another chance to seal the deal, and finally, another letdown. Final score: Cleveland 97, Washington 94.

I don't want to be like every other sports commentator this morning who is over-analyzing the result of one game, so I'll focus on what I saw, much of it good. I, for one, think it's good that Gilbert Arenas (2-for-12, 7 pts., scoreless in the first half) had a rough night--knowing the kind of guy he is, this is sure to motivate him. Besides, this was surely just a case of nerves; Arenas admitted before the game he had slept only 1.5 hours, and had spent all night dribbling a basketball because he was so excited. Well, it's done now, and good ol' Gil should be ready to go from here on out.

There was much more concrete good news to like from the Wizards. Two words: Caron Butler. While Arenas is famously underappreciated, the same case could be made for Butler, who is tough and aggresive on both sides of the ball and always consistent. Butler had 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, had 6 rebounds, and impressively, 3 steals. What's not reflected in the box score was the way he managed to keep LeBron in check in the first half.

The other member of Washington's Big Three, Antawn Jamison, had a typical Jamison night (9-of-17, 17 pts). I just wish he'd shoot for a higher percentage--in fact, the Wizards as a whole shot 2-for-13 for 3-pt. range, compared to the Cavs' 8-for-19 from downtown. That kind of thing decides a game between two teams that are so even.

I was quite impressed with the play of new starter Etan Thomas. Promoted to the lineup for the first time, replacing Brendan Haywood, Thomas made good with 7-of-7 shooting and 2 blocks, but more importantly, playing tough in the middle. Yet the Wizards lack of a real dominant big--a decade-long weakness--was again evident. The Cavs outrebounded the Wizards 50-33, including 16-9 on the offensive glass.

One of these days, you have to think, a halfway-decent big man will fall into the Wizards' lap, and all our problems will be solved. Until then...well, like I said above, I don't want to extrapolate from the first game of the season. What should be on the Wizards minds right now is Saturday against Boston.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Agent Zero vs. The Boy King -- Redux

Back in May, I watched every minute of the thrilling Wizards-Cavaliers playoff series, which was really just a mano a mano battle between the Wizards' Gilbert Arenas (34 ppg) and the Cavs' LeBron James (35.7 ppg). You want hearstopping? Try three games decided by a point, including two in overtime.

You want stars? I watched LeBron shine (but win at least one game with his blatant traveling). I saw Gil hit a 3-pointer from a mile away to send that unforgettable Game 6 into overtime, and I saw what I thought was a Wizards victory. Then I saw the 89% free-throw shooter Arenas get rattled by LeBron into missing two freebies in the final seconds, and I saw Damon Jones take a pass from LeBron and bury the season-winning three. The Wizards season was over. I was crushed.

I've had tonight's game circled on my calendar for several weeks. Last night may have been the official NBA opener, with Miami getting stomped on by Chicago, but tonight is the night I've been waiting for. 8PM. Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Wizards versus Cavaliers. It's a whole new ballgame. Here's to a great new NBA season.

Let's go Wizards!