North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘football

NFL Week 14 Picks

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Ugh.

I’m not impressed with my showing last week. Or with the Steelers showing, either. It was a weird week with more then a couple upsets and some odd finishes.

Who would have thought the Raiders would have three touchdowns against Pittsburgh – in the fourth quarter? That officials in Washington would overturn a call – after a timeout was called to give the replay booth a chance to review said call – in overtime with sketchy (at best) evidence? Or that Indianapolis could get held to three points in the second half – and still win by double-digits?

Let’s put it this way. It was a weird week last week. I went an ugly 7 and 8. Not impressed.

Still, it could be worse. I could be Army’s offense, which seemed to have two or three plays today against Navy, all of them involving a lob pass to a Alejandro Villanueva, regardless of the triple coverage that surrounded him at all times. Like them, I’m plunging ahead with my week 14 picks, with no remorse. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

December 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Sick Picks – NFL Week 7

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I’ve been sick most of this week, so I didn’t get to write serious in-depth profiles for the games, so here’s an abbreviated version of my picks for week seven.

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Written by M.

October 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Getting back on the NFL wagon – Week five picks

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Again, I kind of fell off the wagon. I didn’t watch much football last week, only the Denver/Dallas game and a little tiny bit of the Sunday nighter.

I’m kind of a busy guy, one who has to work on Sundays, usually in the afternoon. It sucks, but I’m not going to bitch about it. Especially when I made out pretty good on my picks last week.

Of my marquee picks, the ones I separated and put up top, I nailed one of three. And I was wildly off one, when I said Oakland would upset Houston. I stand by that and feel that if Oakland had any other quarterback in the NFL (including practice roster players) they might have won… but I’ll own up to being off there.

I did correctly call Denver beating Dallas and was right in that to even have a chance, Romo would have to air the ball out (he did, throwing for over 200 yards).  And while I was off on Baltimore, they did test the Patriots: it was a close match where Brady worked some magic.

But as Jerry Brown once said, that was then and this is now. Let’s get to it.

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Written by M.

October 9, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Breaking down how and why the Cardinals are the NFC Champions

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If nothing else, this certainly wasn’t expected.

By beating the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals earned a trip to Super Bowl XLIII, the first time the team has ever been to one

It wasn’t exactly the easiest of routes, for sure.

By winning the tepid NFC East, where no other team finished above .500, the Cards barely made the playoffs; they were seeded fourth but lost more games then Philadelphia, the sixth seed. In the first round, they weren’t given much of a chance against the Atlanta Falcons, a young and surging team led by Matt Ryan.

In a shootout, the Cards held on to win, 24-30. Their suddenly strong defence limited Ryan to under 200 yards and picked him off twice. Kurt Warner looked years younger, throwing for over 270 yards, 100 of them to Larry Fitzgerald. Remember that name.

Next week, the Cards went on the road to face Carolina, a team who won 12 games – and four of their last five. The Panthers, a six point favourite on ESPN, were blown out, 33-13. Why? Again, the mix of a defence that was coming together and an offence that was dynamic. Again, Warner threw for two majors and for over 200 yards. Again, the defence forced turnovers – five interceptions and a fumble. Again, a convincing win.

All of a sudden, these Cards looked like a threat.

But there was a pattern beginning to form. The Cards were a team that liked to throw the ball, early and often. They liked to score as soon as they could, and they usually did. In the first half, they had 14 against Atlanta, 27 points against Carolina. And as the game wound down, they usually did too: they only scored five points combined in both of those games’ fourth quarters.

This was their weakness. If a team kept running the ball early, controlling the clock, and wound down the defence early, there seemed to be a good chance they could stage a comeback late; they just had to keep the score from getting out of hand.

On to the NFC Championship, against Philadelphia, where the same script seemed to unfold. Throughout the first half, the Cards dominated – three touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald. Two field goals. A 24-6 lead at the half.

But the Eagles kept pounding away. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb capped off a 90-yard drive with a 6-yard pass for a major. Shortly after, he completed four of five passes to move 60 yards, and made it a one-possession game after three.

And right at the beginning of the fourth, the Eagles took the lead on a huge, 62-yard score by McNabb to DeSean Jackson. The two-point failed, but still, the Eagles led 25-24.

This is how it was going to be lost for the Cards, right? This is right about when the wheels were supposed to fall off. When Kurt Warner drops back, forces a throw to Fitzgerald who’s in triple coverage, gets picked off and the game ends. That’s what we expect, isn’t it?

But instead, Warner went short, making quick passes that got the first downs, while using their running backs to keep clock moving. If you get a chance, look at the drive: 14 plays, 72 yards and almost eight minutes eaten off the clock. It wasn’t dynamic, it wasn’t a flashy show of exhibition.

But it was smart. It kept them going, kept the Eagles off the field and make the clock the Eagles enemy. Philly ended up burning their second timeout, just to keep some time left to retaliate.

They tried, too. McNabb threw throughout the next series, and after a couple first downs had a quick three-and-out. That was pretty much it for the Eagles.

Basically, in this win, the Cardinals proved themselves, if that makes sense. Out of all their playoff games, nobody tested them as hard as the Eagles did. The Cards got out early with a great passing game, but nearly lost it all when their defence began to lapse. But intead of sticking to what was working – but would have been the wrong choice – they went back to basics, driving the ball up the middle.

This change threw off the Eagles, who were so keyed in to Warner’s arm that it cost them the game. When they began to adapt to the running game, Warner began to throw quick short passes that kept the drive alive. After testing the secondary with bombs all throughout the first, this seemed to work.

All in all, it was a well deserved win.

Written by M.

January 19, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Early NFL Playoff Picks

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So, it’s week 16 now. The NFL is pretty much set, but not 100%. So, here are some pretty much blind (only a look at the standings and schedule) pick of the playoff teams.

AFC playoff teams – New England (East), Pittsburgh (North), Tennessee (South), Denver (West), Baltimore (Wild Card), Indianapolis (Wild Card)

After nearly losing a home game to the Bills, the Jets are looking shaky. And with a tough end to their schedule, a home game to the Dolphins, I don’t know if they can pull it out. It feels too much like their season will come down to that game. But the Patriots are looking better as the season goes on, and they have a tepid schedule – a home game against Arizona and an away game in Buffalo. I like their odds more then I like the Jets.

Denver’s lead over San Diego seems to be enough for me, especially after the Chargers nearly lost to Kansas City. Even if the Broncos somehow let them back into the race, they’ll meet on the last day of the season, and they beat the Chargers once already.

Given the AFC East’s tightness, I don’t think any team will have a good enough record to emerge for the Wild Card since Indianapolis already has 10 wins. That leaves Baltimore as the other Wild Card, but they have a tough schedule – Dallas and Jacksonville. It’ll either be them or the Jets, but think the Ravens defence will carry them to the playoffs.

Pittsburgh and Tennessee have already clinched.

NFC playoff teams – New York Giants (East), Chicago (North), Carolina (South), Arizona, (West), Dallas (Wild Card), Atlanta (Wild Card)

Why Chicago? Minnesota has won four in a row, but I still don’t trust them. They play Atlanta, who seem to still be coming on, and the Giants, who are looking great so far. However, the Bears have an easier schedule: Green Bay and Houston. I like them to win the North by a game.

Carolina has a two-game lead in the NFC South, and although they haven’t clinched, they would need to drop their next two (Giants and Saints) and have either Tampa Bay or Atlanta win their next two, just to force a tie break. So, I like their odds.

Dallas is coming on strong as the season progresses, but their locker room drama could scuttle their season. They have two tough games coming up (Baltimore and Philly). I expect they’ll win at least one of those and sneak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record, just beating out Minnesota.

Atlanta is a sentimental pick. I like Matt Ryan and they have an easy schedule: Minnesota and St. Louis. If they beat the Vikings, I like them to make the playoffs. If they lose that, though, they’re finished, and Minnesota might even win the NFC North, pushing the Bears to the other Wild Card (or even Tampa Bay, if they can stop their free fall).

I suppose that makes Atlanta / Minnesota the game to watch next week. The NFC playoff picture kind of hinges on it. Still, I’m taking the Falcons. Their offense is looking dynamic and they’ve just come off a gutty win over the Buccaneers.

Written by M.

December 16, 2008 at 8:47 pm

The decline and fall of Torry Holt – Tuesday NFL Notebook

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The decline and fall of Torry Holt as a top tier fantasy player and other NFL notes

One friend of mine summed it up best: What happened?

The Dallas Cowboys, who had resided in the top ten of nearly everybody’s power polls, rankings and charts were beaten – soundly, at that – by the Rams, the hapless St. Louis Rams.

A monster day for Stephen Jackson (Three touchdowns, 160 yards) and a big day for Donnie Avery (65 yards, one touchdown) and a solid day from Marc Bulger (14/19, 173 yards).

But another tepid day for Torry Holt.

Once one of the most dynamite receivers in the league, and almost always a early-round fantasy pick, Holt has been quiet all season and looks to going downhill fast. At least on fantasy boards.

Only once this season has Holt caught a touchdown, and only once has he had more then 75 yards receiving. And according to ESPN’s stats, he’s on pace for just under 700 yards this season and only three touchdowns. This from the guy who just two years ago had 10 majors and 1,100 yards. What happened?

The double team and the collapse of the Rams offense happened.

With Isaac Bruce having left this offseason and the emergence of Stephen Jackson, the Rams offense has shifted from the long threat, the “Greatest show on turf” from the early part of this decade, to that of a running (and making short passes when needed) based set.

This fits the skill sets for most of the team: Marc Bulger is only throwing 20 or so passes a game now, often short, quick throws, and has found his groove. Stephen Jackson is running with success, especially against Dallas, and gives the team it’s scoring spark.

This leaves Holt as it’s major downfield threat. Thus the double team: for the most part, defences have been keying in and shutting down Holt with two defenders and haven’t had to worry about the rest of the receiving corps.

But this could change soon.

Donny Avery has emerged in the past little while as a threat. His numbers reflect his status as a number two wideout (at least), but he’s picking up solid yards and maybe some coverage. It’s not Bruce and Holt, for sure, but doesn’t Avery and Torry have a better ring to it?

Speaking of rings (or at least missing rings), I saw a show on the Buffalo Bills 1990 team the other day. Ahh, the glory days of Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, when the Bills were a great team to watch and played maybe the greatest Super Bowl of all time.

Right now in Buffalo, 1990 is suddenly back on a lot of peoples minds, I’m sure: the Bills have their best team since that season.

They’re five and one, lead a messed-up AFC East and are already the favourites to win the division. No longer are they posting comebacks – they handedly beat San Deigo on Sunday, 23-14.

Trent Edwards is throwing often and accurately: 25 of 30 for over 260 yards on Sunday. Marshawn Lynch is looking solid in the backfield and both Lee Evans and Josh Reed are downfield threats. They’re picking apart good defence while elevating theirs: on Sunday they shut down the Chargers: while Phillip Rivers threw for two scores, Ledanian Thomlinson was held to just 41 yards on 14 carries.

This wasn’t a fluke game for the Bills. They’re 10th in yards allowed right now, with just under 300 a game – a lower number then Dallas, Chicago or New England. Against the pass, they’re even better: eighth in the league: better then the Giants, Redskins or Buccaneers. The have the best point differential in their division

As we approach the halfway point of the season, the Bills are looking more and more like a contender: if not for the AFC East, then surely for the wild card. It’s not as if the competition is stiff: The Jets are floundering and the Dolphins have dropped their last two (so much for them being a sleeper).

Other notes: Tennessee is unbeaten and over-reported. I’m not sold on them yet: they haven’t beaten anybody that’s sitting over .500 after week seven. But next Monday’s game, at home against Indianapolis, will be their first big test… If the NFC South is the best division in the NFL (and it is), it’ll be neat to see who comes out of it: Tampa and Carolina are sitting on top, but don’t count out Atlanta yet: they’re young, feisty and they don’t have the same pressure the other teams do… Has there been a season where both Green Bay and Chicago are this good?

Written by M.

October 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm