Monday, January 24, 2011

Talkin' Carson

I have to weigh in on Carson Palmer threatening to retire if he isn't traded by the Bengals. First, great plan by Palmer and his people. Everything I've read about the matter has mentioned what a soldier Palmer is. How he gave the best years of his life to Cincinnati and he rightfully wants out. They fail to mention how mediocre Palmer has been these last two years. The articles mention how he is the franchise QB and face of the Bengals, which are true but they fail to mention the 20 interceptions he threw this season or the stinker he laid in the playoffs last year. Second, I hope like hell Carson sticks to his guns and literally retires because Mike Brown has already said he won't trade him. Corey Dillon made the same threat, but a second round running back can't afford to make those claims. A former number one overall pick with a 118 million dollar contract extension to his name can. For years guys like Dillon, Carl Pickens, Chad 85 and TO spoke out against the organization but because of their history on/off the field their complaints were looked over. Then guys like Takeo Spikes, Jeff Blake and Jon freakin Kitna talk about the "Bengals atmosphere". Now golden boy Palmer has had enough.

I do think Palmer has something left though. In a league where Jake Delhomme and Derek Anderson started more than enough games this past season, I think Palmer could have a decent year somewhere. Maybe San Fran if they don't want to go through the rookie QB situation again. Maybe Seattle where Hasselbeck is a free agent and his old college coach Pete Carroll resides. Oakland could be a landing spot as new head coach Hue Jackson coached in Cincy during Palmer's best year. Even Minnesota, if they feel they are still close enough to competing to keep the Joe Webb era on ice. Head coach Leslie Frazier was the defensive coordinator in Cincy during Palmer's first couple of seasons. Four teams right there that would probably be willing to give up a reasonable pick for Palmer and yet Mike Brown has already said he won't trade him. I''ve read some reports that Cincy could end up with as high as a second round pick. I'd do that deal in a heartbeat and try to get a Kyle Orton type to play for a season or two. I do fear that this has Vince Young/future Pro Bowler Alex Smith written all over it though, if Brown does cut ties with Palmer.

Let me come to Jay Cutler's defense for a second. I didn't see the game, as I was surrounded by an oversized mouse and several young children that ranged from terrified to excited, but I saw the highlights. I saw Jay Cutler on the sidelines looking the same way he always does. How can people be mad at him for not "looking like he was in to the game", when he's always like that? It's one thing if Tom Brady is out headbutting guys and then sitting sadly on the sidelines after he gets a boo boo. Cutler always looks like that. To be fair though, if I'm Cutler I pay the team doctor a little extra to say that MCL is torn and not sprained. I'm no friend or foe of Cutler, but I do know that he always looks like someone shit in his shoes and to criticize him now for it seems ridiculous.

Am I the only one that thinks the AFC/NFC Championship trophies look better than the actual Super Bowl trophy?

And why do they even advertise conference championship shirts? I can't imagine a scenario where I'd ever buy one. Partly, because my team sucks. But mostly, because if your team wins the Super Bowl then you get that shirt. If your team loses the Super Bowl, you want the occasion stricken from your memory for all of time. Yet they are quick to advertise them after the games conclusion and I've seen people wearing them. I don't get it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One Sunday closer to the Pro Bowl!

I'm watching "The Association" as I write this and I can't help but think about how much better this would be on HBO. They pretty much follow around the Celtics throughout the season, but it's PG because it's on ESPN. The majority of the Celtics seem like dicks, but I would absolutely watch Shaq, KG and Paul Pierce behind the scenes and uncensored. Throw in the outstanding production/editing HBO does for "Hard Knocks" and "24/7" and it'd be phenomenal. I even caught myself watching the "24/7" on the Capitals-Penguins and it was good. The Caps and Pens seem to have reasonably interesting characters, a genuine care about the Winter Classic they were preparing for at the time and again, I can't say enough about the editing HBO does on those things. It'd be worth tracking down, if you haven't already.

Minor pet peeve: Can people stop claiming Auburn and TCU are co-champions? I've seen a few writers throw it in their article, I'm guessing as a shot at the BCS? I'm not saying the BCS is the best solution to college football's postseason, but it's what we have. Auburn made the BCS title game. They won that game. They are the champions. TCU had a great year, and if Oregon-Auburn made it to the title game with a loss, you could argue they should have been there. That wasn't the case. Oregon and Auburn were the two right teams. Auburn won. They are the champs.

Back to the NBA summer of 2012 briefly, but it's not about Dwight Howard...sort of Apparently, the new collective bargaining agreement might include something like the franchise tag in the NFL. This would allow a team to hold on to a player one more year in an attempt to get him re-signed. Wow. Part of me likes it because you could give it one last try with a guy before letting him go and you could lock him into a deal with the old CBA rules, meaning more years and more cash. Say Orlando comes dangerously close to winning it all in 2012 and want to give it one last go around before Howard bolts and they have to shake things up, then the franchise tag could come in handy. Part of me doesn't like it because of Carmelo-esque situations. Say this was already in place and this season ends. Melo has all but demanded to go to the Knicks apparently. No deal gets done. The Nuggets slap the tag on him, but then have to watch him half ass it for another year. Ultimately the player will get what he want. I've heard estimates Melo could lose as much as 40 million guaranteed by signing a deal under the new CBA, but is that worth it if NY is where he wants to be? I can't imagine a team built around Melo-Amare wins anything significant but they would be entertaining to watch. I'm very interested to see how this plays out.

Your boy Oswalt did a podcast with Simmons and a separate one with Carolla. I know how much you love Oswalt's work, Carolla's comedic chops and Simmon's silky baritone voice.

The Reds recently reached deals with Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto. Big fan of the the Cueto deal. Moderate fan of the Votto deal. Love the 4 year/27 million Cueto deal because it buys out a year of free agency, and it locks up a guy that has went at least 30 starts and 170 innings pitched in each of his first three years. Last year he threw a career high in innings and had a career low in ERA. He turns 25 next month. Love this deal. The Votto deal is 3 years for 38 million. It's not the long term deal I was hoping for. It doesn't buy out any years of free agency and implies Votto is looking for a big contract, maybe one the Reds can't provide. I can't blame him a bit for looking for it, but it would have been nice to buy out at least one year of free agency. Still, it locks Votto in at a set price until he's 30 and combined with the Bruce/Cueto deals, shows that Walt Jocketty means business in trying to build/keep a competitive team in Cincy. I dig it.

Pick time.

Green Bay @ Chicago- I figured all this Packers attention would make you nervous and rightfully so. GB is a good team that hitting it's stride at the right time, but the hype they've been getting since the playoffs began seems a little much. It's the main reason I picked them to lose against Philly. Still, you'd be a fool to bet against Rodgers with the way he has been playing. The city of Atlanta was physically ill all week and hopefully this puts the "Matty Ice" nickname away for.....ever. I keep hearing how this cold weather benefits the Bears, which would hold weight if the Packers didn't reside in Wisconsin. Still not sold on the Bears one bit. Cutler put a couple of passes right in the mitts of the Seahawks and they couldn't hold on to them. Williams/Woodson and crew won't make that mistake. I anticipate lots of Clay Matthews celebrating and even more Jay Cutler brooding. Packers 24, Bears 16

I did not see that Jets performance coming, but I enjoyed it. I'm still on the Rex Ryan bandwagon and frankly I'd enjoy a Jets win just for two weeks of Rex Ryan interviews. Agreed on the feet jokes. "A stunning de-feet!" only works so many times. Like one. One time. I'm willing to bet Rick Reilly is still writing feet jokes for the Jets at this moment. I'm still in a little disbelief that this Steelers team has made it this far. I don't trust Mendenhall and that offensive line is a wreck. Polamalu is banged up and their receivers don't match up well with the Jets secondary. I imagine the Jets let Cromartie run with Mike Wallace and leave Hines Ward to Darrelle Pendergrass. I like both of those match ups for the Jets. Still, I can not trust Mark Sanchez. Can not play with him. Can not win with him. Can not coach with him. Can't do it! I want winners! Roethlisberger is a winner. Steelers 30, Jets 14

Championship Sunday

Allow me to start off by saying that all this love for Green Bay in the media is making me extremely nervous.  Yes, they dismantled a 13-3 Falcons team in Atlanta.  Yes, Rodgers looked unstoppable.  Yes, they shut down the running game of the Falcons, and generally made life unbearable for the offense.
But still...I'm not used to all this.  The majority of people have picked the Packers to win this game.  The Bears did not look great earlier in the season, but they definitely got better as the season went on.  Their defense, which was pretty good to begin with, seemed to improve.  As did their offense.  A lot of people are overlooking them because they beat a 7-9 Seahawks team, and the final score of that game made it look closer than it was.
I don't like all the hype, and I don't like all the attention.

With that being said, here are my picks:

Green Bay over Chicago
The hype makes me nervous...but I'll still take the Packers.  In fact, I'll take the Packers by 10.  The match-up people keep focusing on is the Packers offense vs. the Bears defense, and I can see why.  The Packers offense, while looking terrific last weekend, has been slowed down by the Bears this season.
But the real match-up, the one that will be the difference in this game, is the Packers defense vs. the Bears offense.  The Packers pass-rush will be able to get to Cutler, and Cutler will, in turn, throw at least two interceptions.
I believe the Packers will be content on taking small-to-medium gains on offense, mainly be a series of short throws.  They'll make one or two big plays, and that's all they'll need.
The only way I can see the Bears winning this is if they get their running game going, get some great special teams plays, and play turnover free on offense.  I don't see all three of those things happening.  Of course, they could also win if the Packers kill themselves...but I don't see that happening.  I could see the final score being something like 20-10.

Pittsburgh over New York Jets
The Jets are an intriguing pick here.  I can't see them beating the Steelers, but I couldn't see them beating the Patriots, either.  The Patriots had a better offense than the Steelers, and the Jets pretty much shut them down. I can see them doing the same thing with Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.
But here's what this game boils down to for me: the Steelers defense is better than the Patriots defense.  We know that Sanchez is going to sail some passes, and I can see the Steelers picking off at least one of those.  Without a strong running game, the bulk of the offense will be on the shoulders of Sanchez...and that's not a good thing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Divisional Round Picks

I say we just stay off the topic of 2012 free agency, for the sake of your sanity.  If you keep thinking about it, you'll be dead before that period even hits.

I'll definitely check out that J. Cole mixtape.  Sounds intriguing.

Before I get to the picks, I want to point out a pet peeve of mine.  Every single article I've read about the Jets has some lame foot joke.  I get it.  I do.  But I have yet to see a joke that was clever or funny or even close to entertaining.  It's usually something along the lines of, "I can see Rex putting his foot in his mouth after this game," or something like that.  If it's not funny or original, then those just need to stop.

Also, I've been checking out the Football Outsiders website on a daily basis.  It's one that I used to visit, but kind of forgot about it.  I don't know how I could ever forget about it.  It's a fantastic site.  They break down games and teams in intelligent, in-depth ways.  It's an excellent site.  If you haven't visited it before, you definitely need to check it out.

Now for the picks:

Pittsburgh over Baltimore
The Ravens looked good last week...but they were playing an overmatched, dysfunctional Chiefs team.  This Steelers team is much better than that.  I'll take the Steelers by 10.
By the way, here's a fun game to play: just watch Ray Lewis on defense.  It's amazing how slow he is, and how many poor angles he takes.

Green Bay over Atlanta
It was a close game the last time around.  Since then, the Falcons offense and defense got worse, while the Packers started to put things together.  The Packers defense is terrific.  The offense is better than the Falcons.  I firmly believe that the only way the Packers lose this game is if they beat themselves.  Turnovers and penalties have plagued them all year.  If they can hold on to the ball, they'll win by at least a touchdown.

Chicago over Seattle
I keep thinking, "If Seattle plays like it did last week, they have a shot."  But there are problems with that.  That was the best game the Seahawks have played in years, and the Bears have a much better defense than the Saints.  The Bears offense is better now than it was earlier in the season.  Do the Seahawks have a shot?  Sure...but it's highly unlikely.

New England over New York Jets
The Jets will win if they play shutdown defense, Sanchez is accurate, and they can get their running game going.  Their defense hasn't been as good this year as it was last year and Sanchez was sailing passes last week like the ball was filled with helium.  They may be able to get the running game going, but I think they'll be down early, so they won't be running as much.  I can see Sanchez throwing two picks in the first half.

Playoffs and Summer 2012

I guess I knew it was coming, but I had no idea it would happen so soon. That's right: the whispers of Summer 2012 in the NBA have already begun. The likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Brook Lopez can all potentially hit the market. Oh yea, and Dwight Howard. The rumors have already started that Dwight Howard has his eye on Los Angeles or New York. He'd apparently like to follow Shaq's path in entertainment and is surprisingly, a close friend of Kobe Bryant. Aw geeze. I can actually understand it on Shaq's part because when he bolted for LA in 1996, Al Gore was just laying the foundation for the internet. Twitter/Facebook were nonexistent. If you wanted to be seen, a big market could do wonders. I guess it still can, but with commercials, Twitter, YouTube, etc., Howard can be seen whenever he pleases. Ideally, Howard does the recruiting and convinces Deron Williams to take his talents to Central Florida. I'll try not to think too much into it, just because I know it will be ran into the ground until Summer 2012 much like LeDecision was. I said it for LeBron and the same holds true for Dwight: I can never fault a guy for playing out his contract and leaving. That's his business. But it's the guys that hold a team hostage or complain that they have no talent around them after signing a max deal (read: Anthony, Carmelo and Bryant, Kobe) that irk me. This will not be fun.

Randall Cobb went pro as expected, and I can't blame him one bit. Derrick Locke, Mike Hartline and Chris Matthews are leaving an offense that already left something to be desired. I can't imagine that defense will shore up much and Cobb was coming off his best year. What a pleasure it was to watch Cobb for 3 years. It really was like watching a high school game with the way he'd return the opening kickoff, break a 15 yard run, throw for a first down and then take a screen pass into the end zone on the same drive. I'm really hoping he goes to a team that knows how to utilize his talent. Best of luck, Randall.

Again, I know you're not a fan of mixtapes but I'd be remiss if I didn't plug J. Cole's Friday Night Lights. Outstanding stuff. So much so that I, a man that honestly can't remember the last time I bought a CD, am seriously considering purchasing his CD when it comes out. That's the biggest compliment I can pay to an artist. He's unlike anyone else I hear out right now. He's more than cash/clothes/hoes as a lyricist. For so long there were good producers that could rap well enough, a la Kanye, RZA or rappers that called what they did producing, like Eminem. J. Cole is a rapper that is a legitimate producer. The beat below is one of my favorites in recent memory. I highly recommend giving him a listen.



Time for these picks.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh- This should be a great game but neither team really jumps off the page at me. Pittsburgh has had a week off and is tough at home, but something hasn't looked quite right about them. Still, it may not matter if Polamalu is healthy and Ben gets enough time to throw the ball. Neither of those things are certainties. Flacco is still a question mark but it seems that Baltimore team has really rallied around Ed Reed as he deals with his brother's disappearance. I'll go with my man E. Reed and the Ravens. Baltimore 21, Pittsburgh 17.

Green Bay @ Atlanta- What a game this should be. I'll be honest: the city of Atlanta is not taking Green Bay very seriously. They've already penciled the Falcons into the Super Bowl, as I do think the winner of this game makes it there. The Packers are getting an awful lot of love from everyone else though. I think Green Bay is a better team is playing better right now, but can James Starks duplicate last week's performance against Atlanta's top 10 rushing defense? Will Atlanta send the house at Rodgers almost every down the way they did at Drew Brees until they got conservative at the end? I honestly have no idea what happens in this game. I'll go with your boys and expect an outstanding game. Green Bay 31, Atlanta 23

Seattle @ Chicago- Talk about that doesn't appeal to me whatsoever. I'm still not remotely sold on the Bears and they aren't that entertaining to watch. Seattle played a great game last week and Lynch tossing Porter to the ground on that run never gets old, but I can't imagine they repeat that performance. They might not have to though as I don't think the Bears are as good as the Saints. Still, I think the homefield will come into play as the stands should be rocking for their best team since....the Grossman era. Chicago 34, Seattle 17

NY Jets @ New England- I'll be honest: I can't imagine any scenario here where the Jets win. New England's defense is less than stellar, but Sanchez looked bad even for him last week. All the talking by the Jets is right up Belichicks alley. Revis is rendered almost obsolete here as the Pats have no real #1 guy and Brady spreads the ball around too much. I see Brady looking to embarrass Antonio Cromartie for his comments, which shouldn't be hard as he is still Antonio Cromartie. New England 38, NY Jets 14

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Playoff time

I'll certainly consider your Packers if I pledge allegiance to a new team. I've always enjoyed them and I think it goes back to like Madden 96. The Pack always had a dynamite squad. The likes of Favre, Levens, Brooks and Chmura were tough to beat. I'll be honest though: if I do pick a new squad, it will probably be the Eagles or wherever Mike Vick goes. He and Ed Reed are probably my favorite players, but I don't think I could bring myself to root for the Ravens. You get Ed Reed to the Packers though, and you may have yourself a fan. Bringing back Marvin Lewis may have pushed me over the edge. It's nothing personal against Marvin Lewis. I'll always have a respect for him due to him leading us out of the Dark Ages and into semi-respectability. Still, the guy has a 60-67-1 record with no playoff wins. His contract was up. Thank him for the memories and move on. You don't re-sign that guy. Has any other coach in the league been with a team 8 seasons, failed to get a playoff victory and still got a new contract? I can't think of one. It's nonsense. Cedric Benson allegedly threatened to leave if offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was retained. I do think the incompetent Bratkowski will be let go, but only so he can be wrongfully blamed for all the struggles of this past years team.

Agreed on your point of the Colts having a running game, but neglecting to use it. Everyone talks about how the running game came alive in their four game win streak to close the season. Look at the attempts: 32, 24,39 and 25. Look at the rushing attempts in their three consecutive losses prior to that game: 20, 17 and 13. Apparently the more rushes you attempt, the more yards you pick up! Brilliant!

I think the NFL means well with the Rooney Rule, but most of the time it seems to end up patronizing the minority candidate when the team has already decided who will get the job. Ray Sherman had to sit in the lobby reading the newspaper about how close Jerry Jones is to making Jason Garrett the head coach, and then go interview for the very same position. Has it ever worked as intended? Has there ever been a time where, using the Cowboys example, Sherman's interview went so well that Jerry Jones hired him on the spot even after guaranteeing Garrett the job? I can't imagine there has been one.

Tough day for UK sports. UK was thrashed by a Pittsburgh team in disarray. It's one thing to lose a bowl game, but it's another thing to look unprepared for a game that you've had 6 weeks to prepare for. The Morgan Newton era leaves me less than excited, especially if Randall Cobb decides to go pro. At this point, I'd imagine he would as next season doesn't look very promising. The basketball Cats then dropped one to UGA. I don't know if I've ever seen a team miss as many shots in the paint as UK did. Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb showed up, but that's about it. That won't cut it on a team that only goes 6 deep. I don't know why people are so surprised that Enes Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible. It's obvious the NCAA hates Kentucky and is plotting to keep this historic program down. They saw that Elite Eight run last year and got jealous. Our last championship, 12 seasons ago, has them downright green with envy! Yea....yea that's why they wouldn't let Enes play. It has nothing to do with the fact that he took money to play basketball professionally thereby eliminating his eligibility. Haters gon hate.

Pick time.

The Seahawks-Saints game just ended and I'm honestly not surprised Seattle won. It's easy to say that after the game, but the second I heard that Julius Jones was going to be the Saints running back, I started considering Seattle. Since I saw a special about Julius Jones that mentioned that he's a smoker, I haven't been able to trust him to do anything. The man is a NFL running back that smokes cigarettes. Add in the fact that Seattle has a legitimate homefield advantage, they were coming off a must win game and they are upgrading from Whitehurst to Hasselbeck. That and Julius Jones smokes cigarettes.

Indianapolis over NY Jets- That Colts rushing game is finally turning it up! Manning is playing with high school kids out there and still finding success! He's never looked better. The Fountain of Youth resides in Indianapolis! I think exactly what you said will happen: the Jets will put the game in Sanchez's hands and he won't deliver.

Baltimore over Kansas City- Baltimore stops the run which means the game is in Matt Cassel's hands. That means he's going to put at least one into Ed Reeds hands.

Philadelphia over Green Bay- Only because I keep hearing about how Green Bay is still on the fast track to the Super Bowl. I think a week off did Vick some good and the Eagles seem to be getting slept on. Either way, this should be a fantastic game.

Playoffs!

The playoffs are here, and I couldn't be happier.  Two games today, two games tomorrow.  But before I get into my picks, allow me to talk a little about this past season.
It was a good season.  It was a frustrating season.  The Packers finished 10-6 and barely made the playoffs, but they easily could've finished 14-2 (The losses to the Bears, Dolphins, Lions and Redskins were all extremely winnable games).  The other two losses were a 3 point loss to the Falcons (another winnable game), and a 4 point loss to the Patriots.  I'm not happy about them, but I'll take those losses.  14-2 wouldn't have been a bad season.
As it was, 10-6 was not a bad season.  I say "not a bad season" because we made the playoffs.  Had we missed the playoffs, I would not be a happy camper right now.  "If only Jennings would've caught that touchdown pass in the Lions game."  "If only the refs didn't call 18 penalties against the Packers in that Bears game."  And on it would go.  But now I don't have to do that, because we're in the playoffs.  We go up against the Eagles on Sunday for what should be a terrific game.

Sorry about your Bengals.  I haven't heard much about the Lewis deal, but I'm hoping that it includes more power for him (it's less about the power for him and more about the power he would be taking away from Mike Brown).  Hopefully they'll realize what they did wrong, and they'll return to their run-oriented offense for next year.

But, if the frustration is too great to bear, I would like to make an argument for you to join the legions of Packers fans.
The Packers are one of the oldest teams in the country (joining the APFA - a precursor to the NFL - in 1921).  They are the only fan-owned team in the country.  They have not retired many numbers, but the one's they have are Hall of Famers, and rank among the greatest to ever play football: Tony Canadeo, Don Hutson (you know the love I have for Hutson), Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, and Reggie White.  They play in Lambeau Field, where they have played since 1957.  The stadium has undergone renovations since then, but it's the same stadium, and the name actually means something to the team.  And, with the way the ownership works, it is highly unlikely that their stadium will ever be renamed.  You will never see the Packers playing a home game at Sony Field.
The Packers were coached to five world championships in seven years under Vince Lombardi...including the first two Super Bowls.  As you well know, Lombardi is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, and the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.
I could go on and on, but I won't.  Suffice it to say that the Packers have a ton of history.  They also have a ton of talent, and are competitive pretty much every year.  They don't overpay for free agents, opting instead to build through the draft and making sure to sign the players that perform well.
So, if you're tired of the Bengals, try considering the Packers for your next team.

Now, onto the picks:

New Orleans over Seattle
I know that the Saints have a lot of injuries.  But I also watched the Seahawks play this past week.  To win this game, the Seahawks are going to have to play a perfect game, while forcing at least 3 Saints turnovers.  They might be able to force the turnovers, but there's no way they play a perfect game.  If it's any indication, I plan on cleaning the house while this game is on.

New York Jets over Indianapolis
Just a feeling I have.  I know that the Jets defense isn't what it was last year...but I also know that this Colts offense isn't what it was last year, either.  I make this pick on one condition: if the Jets decide to abandon their running game early and put their hopes on Sanchez, then the Colts will win.

Baltimore over Kansas City
I thought about taking the Chiefs here...but I just can't.  They had something to play for last week, yet they came out and got murdered by the Raiders.  They made the playoffs on the back of their creampuff schedule. I'm not a big Ravens fan, but they'll win here.

Green Bay over Philadelphia
Should be a terrific game.  Vick has a hard time picking up the blitz.  The Packers like to blitz.  Plus, we have one of the best blitzing corners in Charles Woodson.  If you thought Winfield made some noise, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Picks

Right there with you on the "high-fiving after an incomplete pass" thing.  Sure, if you broke up the pass, have at it.  But if you blew the coverage and the QB simply overthrew the receiver?  You have absolutely no room to celebrate.
Same goes for penalties.  In the Packers/Bears game earlier this year, Cutler threw what should have been a game-ending interception...but a ticky-tack roughing the passer penalty was called, which gave the Bears a first down.  Cutler was on the ground celebrating, like he has just thrown the game-winning touchdown.

Congrats to Florida for beating Penn State yesterday, and sending Urban Meyer out a winner.  It wasn't a pretty game, and Adazzio showed (yet again) why I hate him so very, very much (have fun with that next year, Temple).  I'm excited for Muschamp next year, and I think the Charlie Weis hire is terrific.  The bowl season isn't even over yet and I'm already looking forward to next year.

One question before I hit the picks: where do you stand on the Rooney Rule?  Garrett has done a good job coaching the Cowboys, and he seems to be the likely candidate for that job.  But Jones has to interview a minority candidate before offering the job to Garrett (from what I understand, he already interviewed Ray Sherman, and is set to announce Garrett as the head coach).  I understand what the rule is there for...but doesn't it seem like it's unnecessary now?  In a situation like Dallas, for instance.  Jason Garrett looked good. If he were a black coach, Jones could've just offered him a job whenever he wanted to.  But, since he is white, Jones was forced to interview a minority candidate (who likely went into the interview knowing they had no shot at the job, but had to be interviewed because of this rule) before offering Garrett the job.

This is it.  Week 17.  While most of the playoff spots are set, there are a couple that could go either way.  With a simple win, the Packers can lock up the last NFC spot.

Atlanta over Carolina
If the Falcons win this game, they can lock-up home field advantage through the playoffs.  Luckily, they can have the game in hand and still sit most of their starters in the second half.

Pittsburgh over Cleveland
I want to take the Browns here...but the Steelers actually have something to play for, and I just can't see the Browns beating a very motivated Steelers team.  Actually, I can...but not here.

Detroit over Minnesota
The talk has already started: "With a win here, the Lions end the season on a four-game win streak, and gain some momentum going into next season."  They have looked good, and I can see them being better next year...but those comments always end the same way.  "Think of how good they would be with a healthy Stafford."  How many games did Stafford play in this four-game win streak?  Zero, you say?  Surely that can't be possible...he's an elite quarterback.
I've said it before, and I'll say it many more times in the future: Stafford is not a good quarterback.  He wasn't great in college, and he hasn't looked good (barring a couple of games) in the NFL.  There's a possibility he could be good...but he hasn't shown anything yet.  Let's not anoint him the next big quarterback until he actually shows some promise.  Deal?

Oakland over Kansas City
With this win, the Raiders go 6-0 in their division...and 2-8 against everyone else.  Still, an 8-8 season is nothing to be ashamed of.  They looked pretty good this year, and I'm excited to see what they do next year.

New England over Miami
The Pats have nothing to play for...but neither do the Dolphins.  With the way Henne has looked recently, I'll take the combo of Brady & Hoyer over him right now.

New Orleans over Tampa Bay
The Bucs performed way above expectations this year, and that's to be applauded.  But they still haven't beat a team with a winning record this year, and I don't think it starts now.

Buffalo over New York Jets
Yet another game featuring two teams with nothing to play for.  I'll take the Bills, who have shown flashes of competence this season.  They have a quarterback who seems to do well for them, a couple big play receivers, a good running back, and a decent defense.  It's not a stretch to say they could be contenders in a couple years.

Cincinnati over Baltimore
The Bengals go out on another winning streak, prompting Mike Brown to say, "Yeah...we could win with Lewis and Palmer.  Let's try another year."  Regardless of what he thinks, I do think the Bengals need to grab another quarterback next year, whether through free agency or the draft.  Because, no matter how bad Carson plays, there's no way that Jordan is a viable option for them.

Jacksonville over Houston
Trent Edwards against the Texans defense?  You know, it wasn't that long ago that Edwards was seen as a promising, up-and-coming quarterback.  I think he'll show that promise again in this game, and keep the pressure on Indy.

Washington over New York Giants
With this loss, the Giants collapse will be complete, Coughlin will be fired, and Shanahan will guarantee himself another year in Washington.  With Grossman as his quarterback.  The entire DC area just got a little sad.

Dallas over Philadelphia
Garrett really wants this job, and the players seem to like him.  They'll play hard here.  The Eagles, on the other hand, will be sitting most of their playmakers, and have nothing to play for.  Cowboys by 10.

San Francisco over Arizona
Who is starting for the Niners today?  I want to say Alex Smith, but I'm not sure.  Regardless, they'll beat the Cardinals.
By the way....how is that "Alex Smith for Pro Bowl" pick looking right now?

Green Bay over Chicago
With this win, the Packers avenge a painful loss this year, and lock up a playoff spot.  And that's trouble for the rest of the NFC.

Tennessee over Indianapolis
With a win here, the Titans knock the Colts out of the playoffs.  I know the Titans haven't looked great recently, but they are capable of a big offensive day (especially with a healthy Britt...and with Chris Johnson against this Colts defense), and the Titans defense can force some mistakes by Manning.
And let's focus on Manning for a second.  He has not looked great this year, yet people are still saying how great he has been this season.  Like this article, for instance, which says "If Manning gets it done, it could be argued this was his greatest individual performance, ever."
Wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong.
There are a few common misconceptions about Manning.
One: "He has no running game."  That's true, if you look at the numbers.  The Colts don't rush very often.  Why?  Because Manning calls the plays at the line.  They're not running much because Manning chooses not to run very much.  The fact is, they have a handful of talented running backs that can get the job done if they ran more often.  They don't run, so people automatically start saying that Manning wins without a running game.  When, in reality, there is no running game because Manning decides that there is no running game.
Two: "He wins, even though there are injuries all around him."  First of all, all teams have injuries.  It's part of the game.  One of the injuries people kept talking about this year was Addai...which completely goes against the first misconception.  People say Addai isn't great anyway, because he doesn't rush for many yards.  If that's the case, then his absence shouldn't hurt them very much.  The other two injuries talked about this year are Collie and Clark.  Let's get this clear: those guys are injured because Manning led them right into a safety. That's it.  He didn't get the ball low so they could go down.  He threw the ball in a place that left the player wide-open for a terrible hit immediately after catching the ball.  Collie has had three concussions this year, and every single one of those is on Manning.  And yet I have yet to read an article that says that.
Lastly, Manning has definitely declined in accuracy this year.  I have seen him miss wide open receivers on more than one occasion.  He's getting older.  It happens.  Let's not pretend that Manning has been his usual self this year.  Is he good?  Yes...but he's not as good as everyone seems to think he is.  He has weaknesses. He has injured players.  If you want to sing his praises, you also have to talk about his shortcomings.  This year more than ever.

Denver over San Diego
We've talked about Tebow before...how he would need to be in a Roethlisberger type situation (good defense, good running game) to win.  Well, as it turns out, he might be a better passer than we realized.  And he looks a little faster than I thought he would.  I hope he wins here, and that he is considered for the starting job next year.

Seattle over St. Louis
For one reason, and one reason alone: seeing a 7-9 playoff team is beyond ridiculous.  Of course, I reserve the right to get extremely angry about this if the Packers miss out on the playoffs.
Which leads me to this point:
I know the NFC West is terrible.  They have been for a little while now.  But take a look at the two teams that are on the cusp of the playoffs and would miss out (assuming the Packers win today...which they will):
The Giants started off strong, but faded down the stretch.  If they beat the Packers last week, they would have locked-up a playoff spot.  That motivation led to a 45-17 loss.  Not exactly what you would call a playoff-caliber performance.
The Bucs have not beat a team with a winning record all year.  Sure, they took some teams to the brink (they came very close to winning the Falcons game), but they just couldn't do it.  I know you think they could cause some problems in the playoffs, but I'm skeptical.
So, are the Rams or Seahawks really a worse option than the Giants or Bucs?  Probably...but I doubt the Giants or Bucs would make it out of the first round, anyway.