Friday, October 31, 2008

The College Football Blog: Week 10 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (7-3); Moneyline Upsets (1-2)
Season: Vs. Spread (43-46-1); Moneyline Upsets (9-13)

Week 9 Review: After a couple of bad weeks, I rebounded in week 9, going 7-3 ATS after a 3-7 week 8. Regrettably, I did pick Kentucky to beat the 23-point spread against Florida, but nobody’s perfect.

Week 10 Preview: I’ve got no plan this week because I’m making these selections at the last minute.

Game 1: Auburn (+6.5) @ Mississippi
Pick: Auburn beats the spread.
Comment: I know Auburn is bad; I watched them play the second half against West Virginia. But this is in conference. I think they’ll keep it close.

Game 2: Tulsa (-7) @ Arkansas
Pick: Tulsa covers.
Comment: Ordinarily I’d go with the SEC team at home against any non-BCS school but not this year.

Game 3: Kentucky (+2.5) @ Mississippi State
Pick: Kentucky beats the spread.
Comment: I’m calling for a Wildcat rebound.

Game 4: Missouri(-21) @ Baylor
Pick: Missouri covers.
Comment: The Tigers have done fine against the weak teams on their schedule.

Game 5: Arkansas State (+23.5) @ Alabama
Pick: Alabama covers.
Comment: The #2 team in the country should beat Arkansas State by at least 24 points at home.

Game 6: FSU (+2.5) @ Georgia Tech
Pick: FSU beats the spread.
Comment: I like Tech…and I like ‘em to lose!!! (Buck Belue)

Game 7: Washington (+46) @ USC
Pick: Washington beats the spread.
Comment: Plus 46! I’m pretty sure USC will cover, I just have to pick against them out of principle.

Game 8: Texas (-3.5) @ Texas Tech
Pick: Texas covers.
Comment: I like Texas by way more than 3.5.

Game 9: Tennessee (+5.5) @ South Carolina
Pick: Tennessee beats the spread.
Comment: I think the Vols will stay within a field goal of the Gamecocks.

Game 10: Arizona State (+15.5) @ Oregon State
Pick: Arizona State beats the spread.
Comment: I keep thinking ASU can’t be that bad but maybe they are.

Moneyline Specials

I went 1-2 last week, finally breaking the oh-for streak that had reached 5 straight. This week I’m just picking one moneyline upset.

Pittsburgh over Notre Dame: The Panthers are 4.5 point dogs on the road against the Child Molesters this week and they probably should be. I’d just like to see the Wanstash upset Fat Charlie’s boys.

The College Football Blog: Power Rankings (After Week 9)

Power Rankings After Week 9

1. Texas 8-0 (1st)
2. Penn State 9-0 (2nd)
3. Alabama 8-0 (3rd)
4. Oklahoma 7-1 (4th)
5. USC 6-1 (5th)
6. Florida 6-1 (6th)
7. UGA 7-1 (9th)
8. Oklahoma State 7-1 (10th)
9. Texas Tech 8-0 (11th)
10. Ohio State 7-2 (8th)
11. Missouri 6-2 (NR)
12. LSU 5-2 (7th)

-Previous week’s ranking in parenthesis;

Out: Utah (12th);
Next Three In: Utah, Boise State, TCU.

Explanation: Okay, I realize I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Not surprisingly, the top half of my top 12 stayed the same, as teams ranked 1st-6th in my rankings all won. Texas remains a clear #1 after their 28-24 win over Okie State at home. Penn State got to 9-0 with their most impressive win of the season, beating Ohio State on the road to remain #2. Bama took care of Tennessee on the road to remain unbeaten and stay 3rd in my rankings. Oklahoma stayed at #4 following their 58-35 win over Kansas State on the road. #5 USC hung on to beat Arizona on the road and they stay in the #5 spot. Florida obliterated Kentucky, 63-5, and the Gators are again ranked 6th in my top 12 this week. After that it gets a little strange. My number 7, 8, and 10 teams all lost in week 9 but they all lost to other top 12 teams, therefore none of them fell out of my rankings. For the first time this year there are a couple of 2-loss teams in my top 12. LSU had been my #7 team but they lost to Georgia at home, 52-38, to fall to 5-2 on the season. I considered dropping LSU out of my rankings, seeing as how they have been beaten handedly in both of their big games this season (at Florida and vs. Georgia) and they really haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. I ended up dropping them 5 spots to #12. More on that later. Anyway, I moved the Dawgs up 2 spots from 9th to 7th following their biggest win of the season. Ohio State lost their second game of the season on Saturday, falling at home to PSU, 13-6, so I dropped them 2 spots from 8th to 10th. I think they are a much better team now than they were in early September when they lost at USC and they put up a good fight against my #2 team. Here’s where it gets kind of strange. Oklahoma State had been ranked 10th in my top 12 going into week 9 and they lost at Texas, 28-24. However, I moved them up 2 spots this week to #8 even though they lost. That may sound crazy but they really showed me something hanging in there on the road against the #1 team in the country. And in light of what happened around the country it made sense to move them up. Texas Tech continued to roll with a 63-21 beating of an overrated Kansas squad on the road to stay unbeaten. They moved up 2 spots in my rankings from 11th to 9th. Taking Tech’s place in the number 11 slot this week is Missouri. The Tigers squashed Colorado, 58-0, to get to 6-2 and jump back into my ratings after a one-week hiatus. Any fan of the Cinderella non-BCS boys would be upset with me this week as I dropped #12 Utah out of my rankings despite the fact that they were idle last week. Although 3 teams in my top 12 lost for the second time last week while Utah was off and remained undefeated, Utah was the only team to fall out of my power rankings. It came down to whether I would favor Utah over either Missouri or LSU on a neutral field and I just wouldn’t. So the Utes join fellow non-BCS powers Boise State and TCU among my next 3 in this week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The NBA Blog: Team and Division Rankings and Previews

Division Rankings

1. Southwest: I think this is still easily the best division in the NBA. Dallas took a step back last year and got older with Kidd but they’re still solid. The Spurs are older but they are still the Spurs. The Hornets are the newest force in the NBA. The Rockets were great last year with their stars injured and they’ll be even better this year with Ron Artest joining Yao and T-Mac. The only weak spot is a real weak spot, as Memphis is the worst team in basketball, but they don’t drag the division down enough to take the Southwest out of the top spot.

2. Pacific: After the Southwest things are pretty close. I think the Pacific is the best of the rest because it contains the best team in the West in the Lakers; a still very talented Suns team; and only one bad team in the Kings. The Warriors and Clippers aren’t playoff teams but they might be if they played in the East.

3. Atlantic: Last season the 3 Western divisions would have been in the top 3 spots but I think the best Eastern Conference division is now better than the worst Western Conference division. The Celtics are the top team in the NBA; the 76ers are primed for a breakthrough year following the signing of Elton Brand; and the Raptors were a playoff team last year and they’ve added Jermaine O’Neal. The Knicks and the Nets certainly drag the conference down but not enough to take it out of the top 3.

4. Northwest: My reason for placing the Northwest here rather than 4th is that I don’t think it contains a team capable of reaching the finals and it does contain two of the worst teams in the entire NBA.

5. Southeast: There’s no great team in the Southeast but there are no really bad teams either.

6. Central: The Central used to be the best division in the Eastern Conference but it is now the worst in the NBA. The Pistons are great but the Cavs are just an above average team and I don’t see any other team in the division winning 40 games.

Team Reports and Rankings

(1) Boston Celtics: They should be the best team in the East again and maybe the best team in the Association. They lost James Posey but I don’t think that will hurt them until the postseason. My biggest questions are about hunger and age. Kevin Garnett has his championship; Paul Pierce is a superstar; Ray Allen is another year older. These things have me thinking they won’t win 66 games again because it takes a lot of drive to do that. But there is more than just the Big Three on this team, as we learned in the playoffs, and once they get to the postseason I think they’ll be as motivated as before.

(2) Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are the team that we know is still hungry. Having Pau Gasol for a full season as well as a healthy Andrew Bynum will be huge. By the time the postseason starts the Lakers should have it all together.

(3) New Orleans Hornets: I see the Hornets building on their breakthrough season and challenging for an NBA Title. I’m predicting Chris Paul to win the MVP Award this year. The acquisition of James Posey should pay dividends in the playoffs.

(4) Houston Rockets: I love the paring of Ron Artest with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Shane Battier will now be coming off the bench with Dikembe Mutombo and Brent Barry. This will be one of the best defensive teams in the game this year. I think this is the year that they stay healthy enough to get past the first round.

(5) Detroit Pistons: They’re another year older but perhaps a new coach will reinvigorate them. They still have an excellent starting lineup and a solid supporting cast on the bench.

(6) Utah Jazz: Deron Williams is banged up but he should be back before too long. They should continue to get better. I’m a little concerned about Carlos Boozer. He faded hard down the stretch last season and was an absolute non-factor in the Olympics. But I think he’ll bounce back and this is a well built team with a tremendous home court advantage and a great coach.

(7) San Antonio Spurs: It’s looking like the same story as last year: one year older. They are always dealing with injury and they will start this season with a hobbled Manu Ginobilli. Eventually, however, this great team of champions will get rolling and win 50 games like always.

(8) Dallas Mavericks: I know Jason Kidd has lost a lot off his game but with him in Dallas a full year the Mavs should be a better team. More importantly, they needed to get rid of Avery Johnson and put the choke in the 2007 playoffs behind them and they have. I believe Rich Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the game and I think the Mavs will have another great regular season.

(9) Phoenix Suns: Similar to the Mavs’ situation, while Shaq has lost a lot off his game, I think the Suns will benefit from his being with the team a full year. Steve Nash is getting older too but Amare Stoudemire is a beast and things might work better for the Suns with Shaq in a system other than Mike D'Antoni’s fast pace offense.

(10) Portland Trailblazers: Everyone’s jumping on the Blazers’ bandwagon nowadays but I first got on board in the second half of the 2006-2007 season when they consistently beat the spread as underdogs. A lot of their talent is still young but I am calling for them to take a fairly large step forward this year.

(11) Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard should continue to get even better and he’s already one of the best players in the game. Stan Van Gundy is one of the underrated coaches in the game. They lost Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling from the bench, however, and that has me predicting a drop off.

(12) Philadelphia 76ers: The signing of Elton Brand made the 76ers one of the better teams in the East automatically. But I don’t think it makes them a great team. I see a bit of karma holding Elton Brand back this season after he screwed the Clippers fans over this off-season.

(13) Cleveland Cavaliers: This team still hasn’t gotten LeBron James any help. James by himself makes the team above average but they aren’t any better than that.

(14) Toronto Raptors: The addition of Jermaine O’Neal looks good on paper but we don’t know what he is capable of anymore. And he’s a punk bitch. The Raptors also lost Carlos Delfino and TJ Ford. I don’t see any major improvement.

(15) Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks will miss Josh Childress and they will continue to be held back by ownership and their head coach. How motivated will Josh Smith be now that he’s paid and still playing for Woodson?

(16) Washington Wizards: Same story here: injury concerns and stat sheet stars without enough guys that help the team win.

(17) Denver Nuggets: It’s the same team except now they don’t have a dominant defensive center with the departure of Marcus Camby. And making matters worse, Camby was the only guy on the team that played any defense at all. But they still have A.I. and Carmelo so they’ll win some games.

(18) Miami Heat: Beasley should help out but a healthy Dwayne Wade will make the biggest difference. His presence alone is worth 15 or 20 wins.

(19) Los Angeles Clippers: I know that Brand left but I think Marcus Camby and Baron Davis offset that loss and they didn’t have Brand last year anyway. I think they’ll be decent.

(20) Golden State Warriors: I see a big step back here. Baron Davis is gone, their budding star Monta Ellis got hurt and lied about it, and they still have a bunch of 3-point heaving thugs on the team.

(21) Chicago Bulls: They were the most disappointing team in the NBA last year but with Scott Skiles gone and Derrick Rose there they should improve and get back to near decency. But why Vinny Del Negro?

(22) Milwaukee Bucks: Getting rid of Yi is addition by subtraction and now Michael Redd has help with fellow top 10 scorer Richard Jefferson on board. And Scott Skiles in his first year with a team is actually a positive.

(23) Charlotte Bobcats: This team showed signs of life at times last year. Larry Brown will make bring improvement in his first year in town as usual.

(24) New York Knicks: The fresh start with D'Antoni should help, along with the acquisition of Chris Duhon.

(25) Indiana Pacers: These guys don’t play any defense at all but at least they have less malcontents and thugs on their team now.

(26) New Jersey Nets: No Kidd or Jefferson. This team’s going nowhere soon.

(27) Minnesota Timberwolves: I think they’ll be a bit better.

(28) Sacramento Kings: How in the world did this team win 38 games last year? They’ve got a great home court advantage but now Artest is gone and they should be downright awful.

(29) Oklahoma City Thunder: The people responsible for bringing the team to Oklahoma will be paid back for screwing over Sonics fans this year by having to watch this team.

(30) Memphis Grizzlies: This team was among the worst in the NBA before trading Pau Gasol away for nothing. I’ll be shocked if they win 20.

The NBA Blog: 2008-2009 Season Predictions

2008-2009 NBA Predictions

o Playoff teams are in bold.
o (#)- denotes predicted finish in conference playoff standings.
o {#}- denotes where team ranks on my list of 1-30 teams in the association.
*note that division champion is automatically one of the top four seeds in the playoffs even if record is not among top four in conference.
*my rankings are based on which team I think is better at full strength and they don't take into consideration health, motivation, schedule, or any other of a myriad of factors that come into play and can affect a team's performance in the regular season or playoffs. As a result, my predictions don't always seem to match my rankings but any inconsistencies are intentional and not mistakes.

Eastern Conference

1. Boston 57-25 (1) {1}
2. Philadelphia 47-35 (4) {12}
3. Toronto 42-40 (6) {14}
4. New York 29-53 (13) {24}
5. New Jersey 28-54 (15) {26}

1. Detroit 51-31 (2) {5}
2. Cleveland 44-38 (5) {13}
3. Chicago 37-45 (10) {21}
4. Milwaukee 33-49 (12) {22}
5. Indiana 29-53 (14) {25}

1. Orlando 49-33 (3) {11}
2. Atlanta 42-40 (7) {15}
3. Washington 41-41 (8) {16}
4. Miami 40-42 (9) {18}
5. Charlotte 36-46 (11) {23}

Western Conference

1. Utah 52-30 (4) {6}
2. Portland 51-31 (6) {10}
3. Denver 42-40 (9) {17}
4. Minnesota 23-59 (12) {27}
5. Oklahoma City 18-64 (14) {29}

1. Los Angeles Lakers 62-20 (1) {2}
2. Phoenix 50-32 (8) {9}
3. Los Angeles Clippers 36-46 (10) {19}
4. Golden State 36-46 (11) {20}
5. Sacramento 22-60 (13) {28}

1. New Orleans 58-24 (2) {3}
2. Houston 57-25 (3) {4}
3. Dallas 52-30 (5) {8}
4. San Antonio 50-32 (7) {7}
5. Memphis 16-66 (15) {30}

Eastern Conference Playoffs
First Round
#1 Boston over #8 Washington (4-0)
#2 Detroit over #7 Atlanta (4-2)
#3 Orlando over #6 Toronto (4-3)
#5 Cleveland over #4 Philadelphia (4-3)
#1 Boston over #5 Cleveland (4-2)
#2 Detroit over #3 Orlando (4-2)
#1 Boston over #2 Detroit (4-2)

Western Conference Playoffs
First Round
#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #8 Phoenix (4-3)
#2 New Orleans #7 San Antonio (4-3)
#3 Houston over #6 Portland (4-1)
#4 Utah over #5 Dallas (4-2)
#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #4 Utah (4-2)
#2 New Orleans over #3 Houston (4-2)
#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #2 New Orleans (4-2)

NBA Finals
#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #1 Boston (4-3)

NBA MVP: Chris Paul
Finals MVP: Kobe Bryant
Defensive Player of the Year: Ron Artest
Sixth Man of the Year: Shane Battier
Most Improved Player: Chris Duhon
Rookie of the Year: Greg Oden
Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan
Executive of the Year: Ed Stefanski

1st Team All NBA
Chris Paul
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Kevin Garnett
Dwight Howard

2nd Team All NBA
Tracy McGrady
Dwyane Wade
Amare Stoudemire
Deron Williams
Paul Pierce

3rd Team All NBA
Yao Ming
Chris Bosh
Steve Nash
Brandon Roy
Carmelo Anthony

1st Team All Defense
Ron Artest
Shane Battier
Kobe Bryant
Dwight Howard
Kevin Garnet

2nd Team All Defense
Chris Paul
Tim Duncan
Marcus Camby
Bruce Bowen
Tayshaun Prince

1st Team All Rookie
Derrick Rose
Greg Oden
Michael Beasley
OJ Mayo
Kevin Love

2nd Team All Rookie
Eric Gordon
Russell Westbrook
Jerryd Bayless
Rudy Fernandez
Brandon Rush

Scoring Leader: Kobe Bryant
Assist Leader: Chris Paul
Rebound Leader: Dwight Howard
Field Goal PCT Leader: Dwight Howard
3-PT Field Goal PCT Leader: Steve Nash
Free Throw PCT Leader: Chauncey Billups
Steals Leader: Ron Artest
Blocks Leader: Marcus Camby

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Bulldawg Blog: Week 8 Review/Week 9 Preview

Last Week’s Game: #10 Georgia vs. #22 Vanderbilt, win, 24-14.

General Comments: Ugh. This is just getting old. It was the same story for the Dawgs last Saturday: another respectable but unimpressive win. I basically spent the entire game in a state of agitation, hoping the Dawgs would take over at some point, but seeing Vandy continue to hang around every time that Georgia appeared on the verge of putting it away. It became clear fairly early on that the Dawgs weren’t going to blow Vandy out. I was fine with that but I really wanted the Dawgs to put the game out of reach at some point. I wanted it to be comfortable in the end. For one thing, I knew that if it was still a game at the end something fluky could happen and lead to disaster. But of course I was also concerned about the final score. The Dawgs were never able to clinch the win, however, until they kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 10 points with just a few minutes to go. And the 24-14 final score wasn’t going to impress anybody.

As a Georgia fan, I was happy with the win and relieved. But again I found it hard to be satisfied with the Dawgs merely winning ugly. I’ve told myself over and over again that I’m going to forget about winning impressively and style points and all of that but I just can’t do it. As long as the Dawgs have a shot at the stupid National Title I guess I’m going to worry about how Georgia looks and not just whether or not they win.

All that being said, at this point I would just like to say that the Dawgs have had a really good year so far. I just thought I needed to go ahead and give Georgia some credit because the Dawgs have gotten nothing but criticism from fans and the media. Look, the Dawgs haven’t been as strong a team as I had hoped they would be but they’re still really good. I try to be reasonable and realistic about things but I know fans are going to be irrational in their expectations. That’s normal, I mean, that’s why they are called fans—short for fanatics—and not supporters. Hell, even the local media has been a bit cuckoo for co-co puffs lately in regards to Georgia. It got to the point this week that Atlanta Journal and Constitution columnist Mark Bradley wrote in an article about how disappointing the Dawgs had been that he wasn’t even sure if they were the best team in the state. Huh? Gosh. If I didn’t know any better I would think Bradley was some disappointed fan lashing out at the team he loves in response to the hurt they have caused him by not living up to his dreams of 14-0 and a National Championship. But no, Bradley is just a journalist who takes pride in being neutral and objective. So there’s really no logical explanation for Bradley’s stunning overreaction. It’s hard to imagine how he could be so in the dark on this one. There should be no confusion here, right? Okay, Georgia isn’t perfect; they got blown out by Bama at home and they have been unable to pull away in games against South Carolina, Vandy, and Tennessee, but stop acting like they’re some average team. I don’t know what the problem is, Mark. You must be misunderstanding things in some way, but there shouldn’t be any question in your mind whether Georgia is the best team in the state. The Dawgs are 6-1 and ranked 9th in the country; their only loss came to an undefeated Bama team ranked 2nd in the country; and they’ve won each of their games by at least 7 points. That other major program in the state—Georgia Tech—is having a fine season, but let’s not get carried away here. The Jackets are 6-1 and ranked 21st in the country, but 2 of their wins have come against FCS teams Jacksonville State and Gardner-Webb; 2 of their wins have come against Mississippi State and Duke; and their best wins are against a couple of average ACC teams in a down year for the conference. If you are truly considering that Tech is on a level with or better than Georgia then you may want to just stick to your Final Four Fiasco or whatever because you’re obviously struggling to grasp the game of football. And that Fiasco thing could use some work anyway.

Okay, I just had to clear up the confusion. Georgia is still on a different level than Tech, everything’s fine, the sky isn’t falling, don’t worry. The win over Vandy wasn’t overly impressive but it was solid. They didn’t play a complete game but they definitely didn’t play poorly. We assume that Vandy isn’t as good as their record suggests but they aren’t bad and they may actually end up being a team worthy of a top 25 ranking. Either way, beating Vandy isn’t a given anymore and the Dawgs took care of business. They didn’t control the game scoreboard wise but they controlled it in every other way just like they did against Tennessee. It’s been 7 games now and we still don’t know what this team is capable of doing. We still don’t know what kind of a season they’re going to end up having. But there’s still time for this team to blossom. There’s still time for this team to put it all together.

The Good: Well I was going to start by saying the best thing about the last game was that nobody got seriously injured, but then on Thursday the Dawgs suffered a game’s worth of injuries to negate that. Anyway, the Dawgs only won this game by 10 but they never trailed and they were never really in jeopardy. They pretty much controlled the game and if not for a few mistakes they would have won a lot easier. Georgia held Vandy to 245 yards of total offense while putting up 425 yards of offense, outgaining the Dores by 180 yards. UGA had 11 more first downs than Vandy (25-14) and the Dawgs rushed for 231 yards, averaging 5.8 yards a carry. The offensive line did a good job opening holes for the backs and they also protected Matt Stafford. Vandy came into the game leading the SEC with 20 sacks but the young Georgia offensive line held them without a sack. For once this year the Dawgs really did not have a lot of penalties, just 5 for 47 yards. Vandy’s strategy against any of the SEC heavyweights is always to run clock and limit the opposing offense’s chances to score but the Dawgs were still able to control the ball for 5 more minutes than the Dores.

The Bulldawg defense had only intercepted 3 passes all year and Vandy had thrown only 3 INT’s all season but the Dawgs picked off a pair of Vandy passes on Saturday. The Dawgs shut Vandy out for almost the entire first half before Vandy scored with 23 seconds left. And Georgia held Vandy scoreless in the 4th quarter. Knowshon Moreno really got off in this one, rushing for 172 yards and 1 TD on 23 carries, averaging 7.5 yards a carry. He made some sweet plays in this last game. I’m not one to get all excited over amazing athleticism. You won’t find me scouring You Tube for highlight films of some high school prospect. All I care about is that you get the job done; I don’t care how you do it. But Knowshon put a stiff-arm on a Vandy defender in this game that got me pretty fired up. AJ Green had another huge day, catching 7 passes for 132 yards and a TD. Late in the first quarter he hauled in a 49 yard pass to get the Dawgs to the Vandy 17 and then made an impressive catch to bring in a 17 yard TD pass two plays later. In the 3rd quarter, Green caught a ball for 33 yards to take the Dawgs down to the 11, setting up their 3rd score. Brian Mimbs helped the Dawgs out with a couple of punts placed inside the 15, including one that pinned Vandy at their own 6.

For the second week in a row, the Dawgs put the game away with a long, clock eating drive late in the 4th quarter. The only difference this time was that the Dawgs didn’t score on the drive but it was still quite useful. At a point when the Dawgs’ offense was struggling and Vandy trailed by just 7 points, Georgia took over at their own 5 with 8:29 to play. They went 77 yards in 11 plays, taking up 5 minutes and 39 seconds of clock and forcing Vandy to use their second timeout. Had they made the field goal at the end of the drive it would have really put the game away but it still meant that Vandy would have to go 80 yards for a TD in 2 minutes and 50 seconds with only 1 timeout just to tie Georgia.

The Bad: The 3 main negatives about Georgia’s performance last Saturday were turnovers, missed scoring opportunities, and struggles on 3rd down offensively. Those first two problems were repeats from the week before. After taking excellent care of the ball in the first 4 games, Stafford has thrown 5 picks in the last 3 games. Now, you could say that 2 of those picks were really not his fault but the others were bad. His second pick against Vandy came on a tipped ball. Never the less, it did give Vandy the ball at the UGA 36 and set up their second touchdown to cut the Georgia lead to 21-14 in the 3rd quarter. In a way, Stafford’s first interception cost a touchdown as well. The Dawgs had a first and 10 at midfield, leading 7-0 early in the 2nd quarter. Stafford wanted to go deep down the right sideline for AJ Green who had a couple steps on his man and was open for a TD. But Stafford’s technique deserted him again and the ball hung up on him and Vandy’s stud defensive back DJ Moore picked it off at the 2. There are a couple of things to note about the increase in Stafford’s interceptions. First of all, obviously the competition has gotten better. In the first 4 games the Dawgs played an FCS team, a MAC team, a Pac-10 team, and an SEC team. Their last 3 games have been against SEC teams. Another interesting thing is that the last 3 games have come against the teams ranked 1st (Tennessee), 2nd (Vandy), and tied for 3rd (Bama) in the SEC in interceptions. Also, in the Bama and Tennessee games he threw more passes than normal, although against Vandy he threw just 23 times, completing only 13 passes, and throwing 2 picks.

The Dawgs continued to have difficulty cashing in on scoring chances in this game. The offense had problems finishing off drives as usual but what made things worse this time was that Blair Walsh wasn’t on his game on Saturday so the Dawgs couldn’t even get field goals out of it. On Georgia’s first drive of the game, they moved the ball down the field steadily with completions to AJ Green and runs by Knowshon Moreno. They had a first down at the Vandy 26 but then Moreno was stopped after a gain of 1 and Stafford threw for Green incomplete to bring up a 3rd and 9. On 3rd down the Dawgs went with a counter handoff to Caleb King that gained 3 yards to bring up 4th down and 6 from the 22. Now, I have no real idea what the Dawgs’ coaches are trying to do. Maybe they saw something on film that led them to believe they could pick up 9 yards on 3rd down with that play. But to me, even if you do think you might be able to break a long run on 3rd down, you still should throw the ball on 3rd and 9 on the first drive of the game. I mean, if you’re going to get 9 yards on a counter to your second string running back it has to be the absolute perfect play. Even if you catch the defense on its heels they still will probably stop the play after 7 yards or so. It’s just not a very aggressive call and gaining 3 yards doesn’t accomplish much. If your kicker can make from 40 he can probably make from 43. This was all made worse when Walsh just missed from 40 yards out and the Dawgs got nothing from their first drive. The Dawgs then got the ball at the Vandy 30 following an interception and they cashed in that time to go up 7-0. When Stafford under threw Green it wasn’t the end of the world because it did put Vandy near their goal line and the Dawgs ended up getting the ball back at midfield. But they lost 2 yards a piece on their first two plays of the possession and then Stafford threw incomplete on 3rd and 14 and they had to punt. The Dawgs’ defense picked off another pass and the offense started their next drive at the 43 and they scored a TD that time. For most of the second half the Dawgs didn’t have good field position but they finally put together that long drive in the 4th quarter. The drive ended up stalling at the 18 when Stafford threw incomplete on 3rd and 4. That was no big deal because a 37 yard field goal by Walsh would virtually ice the game. But Walsh’s kick hit the upright and Vandy was still alive. The Dawgs stopped Vandy and Georgia took over at the 29. This time they just wanted to kill the clock and Walsh was able to make a 39 yarder to clinch the win and gain some confidence going forward.

Third downs were a major problem for the Bulldawgs against Vandy. Georgia has done well on 3rd down for most of the season but they converted just 1 of 8 into 1st downs on Saturday. Part of the problem was that they were stuck in a lot of 3rd and long situations. Those are always tough to convert but even more so when you have a young, inexperienced line that has to hold off a defense that knows you’re going to pass. But it wasn’t always 3rd and long. Right after Vandy got back within 7 in the 3rd quarter the Dawgs had a 2nd and 2 from their own 29. They ran Brannan Southerland for no gain on 2nd down and then Caleb King lost 4 yards on 3rd and 2. That was one point where the line did not do the job.

There were a few other problem areas in this game. When the Dawgs scored to go ahead 14-0 late in the first half they were in complete control of the game. There was only 2:45 left on the clock and if they could hold Vandy for the rest of the half they would be in good shape, as they would get the ball first in the second half. But the defense allowed Vandy to go 75 yards in just 2:23 for a TD to get right back in the game. The Dawgs were hurt badly by a horrific pass interference call but still it was a let down. It started off badly when Walsh’s kickoff only traveled to the 7 yard line. They only returned it to the 25 but the Dawgs have got to be able to at least get the kickoff to the 5 yard line. Another recurring problem that was back again in this one was a lack of a pass rush for the Dawgs. Vandy QB’s dropped back 37 times and the Dawgs failed to record a single sack in the game. Also, Bryan Evans continued to have issues in the secondary, as he was beaten for both Vandy TD’s. Now, both plays were the result of great passing and catching by Vandy but Evans was still responsible for letting it happen. It’s not totally Evans’ fault a lot of the time, he’s just short. But again we’ve seen that Georgia’s secondary is a bit of a weakness and it can really be exposed when the Dawgs don’t get any pressure on the quarterback.

Next Week: @ #11 LSU

Preview: This Saturday the Dawgs begin a grueling stretch of games with a road trip to LSU for a 3:30 game at Tiger Stadium. For the first time this year the Dawgs will not be the favorites when they kickoff on Saturday. The Dawgs are slight underdogs against the 5-1 Tigers, who won at South Carolina, 24-17, last week. Going into this season I think a lot of people hoped the Dawgs would go into this game undefeated. It looked like this would be a bigger challenge than the Dawgs had faced to this point. I know the Dawgs already have a loss and that Bama turned out to be a much more difficult matchup than nearly anyone predicted but I still think this will be Georgia’s biggest challenge so far. Hopefully they’ll respond better than they did against Bama at home. Honestly, I’m surprised that the line in Vegas has shrunk the way it has during the week. For some reason LSU has been a little bit forgotten since they were blown out at Florida a couple of weeks ago but they are still the defending champs and playing in Baton Rouge is a major factor. Thank Darwin the game stayed in the afternoon slot rather than moving to a nighttime start.

The Bayou Bengals started the year by blowing out 3-time defending I-AA champion Appalachian State. Their second game was scheduled for September 6th against Troy at home but the hurricanes forced the game to be rescheduled for later this year. After whipping North Texas, the Tigers opened SEC play with a come from behind win in Auburn. They got by Miss State at home after that and then had a bye week prior to the trip to Gainesville but it didn’t help. They got torched 51-21. Last week’s game with South Carolina was very competitive but they finally put it away in the 4th quarter, winning 24-17. They’re now 3-1 in conference this year and 3-0 at home. It seems kind of strange to think that the Tigers have now lost 3 of their last 10 conference games considering that they’re the defending national champs and they’re currently ranked 11th in the country. I guess that speaks to the wackiness of last season and the respect people currently have for the SEC.

Georgia’s recent history with LSU is fresh in the minds of most of us. The Dawgs lost twice to LSU during the Tigers’ first National Championship season of the decade back in 2003. That year the two teams hooked up in the 4th week of the season with the Dawgs 3-0 and ranked 7th in the country and a slight underdog against the 3-0, 11th ranked Tigers. It was a classic defensive struggle that saw the Dawgs tie it late, only to see LSU take the lead back on a long touchdown pass. The Tigers ended up winning 17-10. The two teams met again at the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship. Georgia entered the game 10-2 and ranked 5th in the country, while the Tigers were 11-1 and the #3 team in the country. LSU was only favored by 3 points but they ended up routing the Dawgs, 34-13 to take the conference title. The Tigers went on to beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to claim the BCS National Championship. I’ve got a couple more quick comments about this. Looking back, isn’t it ridiculous the way that LSU’s championship was essentially almost invalidated and was completely pushed aside by the national media because of the fact that they beat Oklahoma and not USC? Maybe the Trojans would have beaten LSU but they didn’t make it to the championship game and the rules say that the winner of that game is the champion. This is the same media that completely ignored an undefeated Auburn team when USC won the NC the next season. Anyway, I always thought that was unfair to LSU. I mean, it wasn’t just a split National Championship; the media took LSU’s title and gave it to USC. But regardless of what the uninformed media wants to think, there was no split NC, LSU won the title, not USC. So USC has won 1 National Championship under Pete Carroll. That’s it. Sorry, had to get that out of my system. I have one other interesting note. The only team to beat LSU in 2003 and the only team other than LSU to beat Georgia that year was the Florida Gators who finished the season 8-5. The Dawgs would get revenge on the Tigers in 2004. The next season the Dawgs got to host LSU in the fourth game of the year. LSU was 2-1 and ranked 13th while the Dawgs were 3-0 and ranked #3 in the country but Georgia was only a 2 point favorite going in. This turned out to be the high point of Georgia’s season as the Dawgs laid it on LSU, winning 45-16. Nick Saban left for the NFL after that season but the Tigers made it to the SEC Championship Game the next season where they played Georgia for the second time in 3 years. Georgia came in 9-2 and ranked 13th while the Tigers were 10-1 and the #3 team in the country. LSU was a slight favorite but the Dawgs completed their payback of the Tigers, blowing Les Miles’ team out, 34-14, to win the SEC Title. That has been LSU’s only game against Georgia under Miles, while the Dawgs are 2-2 against LSU under Mark Richt and 0-1 on the road.

After Georgia’s win over Vandy last Saturday one of the most positive things for Dawg fans to think about was the fact that no further injuries had surfaced and it looked like the Dawgs were starting to get a tad bit healthier heading into this tough stretch beginning at LSU. That sentiment has been obliterated by more injuries this week as well as off the field problems. Hours after Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt last Saturday, sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Wood was spotted driving without his lights on and wound up getting a DUI. Now, let me say first that I’ve done numerous things that are so much stupider than that you wouldn’t believe it. So I understand. I’m just saying, that’s retarded. If you’re a Georgia football player what the hell are you doing driving after drinking at all? Anyway, Wood has 10 tackles this season, a half sack, and some QB hurries but it’s not his stats that you should be concerned with. Wood had played in every game this season and he’s just another body that will be missing from that defensive front this weekend. Big Jeff Owens’ injury really hurt this defensive line and Kade Weston’s health problems have also been an issue. Weston has played in only 4 games this season but coaches are hopeful he’ll be up for this one. Even if he’s limited in what he can do, just having him available to be in the game for a couple of snaps would be big. During this past week the Dawgs also lost sophomore linebacker Akeem Hebron to a season ending ankle injury. Again, it’s not missing Hebron’s ability that will hurt as much as it is just not having him available to provide depth. He had played in 6 of 7 games this season but is now gone for the remainder. The Dawgs really need senior middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe back for this game and it looks like he might be ready. Still, he won’t be anything like 100%. Everyone knows about the problems Georgia has had on the offensive line but injuries have also hit the tight end corps. Senior Tripp Chandler missed last game with an injury and is questionable for this game. Sophomore Bruce Figgins put off surgery to help with the situation and tackle Kiante Tripp had been moved to tight end but had to move back when the line was further decimated. Things got worse this week when redshirt freshman Aron White was lost indefinitely with an injury. Junior WR Kris Durham has missed a number of games and may not be back for Saturday’s game. The injuries for Georgia have piled up to a higher point than any time in recent memory and that ain’t good heading into this very challenging stretch of games.

I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty worried. For one thing, the Dawgs are going on the road to play a very good team in a very hostile environment. That’s hard enough when you have an experienced offensive line. It’s going to be an enormous challenge for a very inexperienced and now very thin offensive line. And what makes it worse is that they’ll be going up against a very talented, very experienced, and very deep defensive line. If Stafford had time to throw, the Dawgs would be able to take shots downfield to their great receivers AJ Green and Mohamed Massaquoi against a secondary susceptible to giving up big plays. But the Dawgs will probably have trouble protecting Stafford long enough to play that kind of offense. Keeping guys back and max protecting seems like a must but that takes away the advantages Georgia might have against the secondary. It helps LSU’s cover guys out a lot. But the offensive line is going to find it a challenge to run block too. As tough as it was for Georgia to run against Alabama, it could be that tough again on Saturday. The Georgia offense will have to use the horizontal and screen passing game to perfection this week. On the other side of the ball we also have some major issues. The defensive line has been unable to get pressure on the quarterback all year and now it will be going up against one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the SEC. With the lack of depth in the D-line it could get worse as the game goes on and if the linebackers are having to deal with a lot of traffic it will take away the biggest strength of the defense. If the Dawgs have to blitz a lot in an effort to get pressure it will leave Georgia’s biggest weakness—the secondary—vulnerable against a very talented receiver core. The one thing that helps the Dawgs is the inexperience of LSU’s quarterbacks but the Dawgs defense must make big plays and cause mistakes when they have the chance. Namely, dropping interceptions probably won’t get it done this week. Unfortunately, I see problems for the Dawgs on special teams as well. Freshman kicker Blair Walsh had been 10 of 12 on FG’s and 8 of 8 from less than 50 yards going into last week but he missed on 2 of 3 field goal tries, failing to connect on kicks of 37 and 40 yards. I thought it was huge for Richt to get Walsh another chance to kick a field goal there at the end and take some confidence going into this week. You just have to hope it was a one game thing. LSU has an excellent and experienced kicker in senior Colt David. The other big problem the Dawgs have been having is on kickoffs. To me, it would almost be worth it for the Dawgs to try some squib kicks at this point. They have not been able to get the ball to the end zone more than once a game and that will be dangerous this week with Trindon Holliday and others returning kicks. It would be huge for the Dawgs to get some kind of big play from their return teams in this game. Unfortunately, the Dawgs have been average returning kickoffs and the Tigers have one of the best kick coverage teams in the country. LSU has allowed some punt return yards this season and perhaps Georgia can break off a good return there.

In the last few weeks the Dawgs have really controlled the action on the field but have been unable to take complete control on the scoreboard due to mistakes and an inability to maximize opportunities. Obviously, that won’t be good enough this week. The Dawgs need to get in the end zone when they have good field position and when they have field goal chances they must make them. Matt Stafford has got to be careful with the ball this week. Turnovers play a big role in every game but it’s more important this Saturday because the Dawgs will be on the road. And the Dawgs need to repeat last week’s effort in regard to staying away from killer penalties.

I think this is a tough matchup for the Bulldawgs. I’m not real confident to be honest. The only things that make me feel a little positive are Georgia’s 27-4 record on the road under Mark Richt and the fact that confidences don’t seem to be overly high on the LSU side either. But it’s confidence that I’m a little concerned with. It just seems like the Dawgs have lost their confidence and swagger since the Bama game. In the last two seasons the Dawgs have struggled to play with emotion and attitude early on and then found themselves late in the year. That really needs to happen again. A couple of years ago there was talk of the Dawgs looking for leaders to step up during the early part of the season and I wonder if this team isn’t having that same problem. I’ve usually felt that the off the field problems and the penalty issues were overblown but I’m starting to rethink my stance on those things. I mean, how did 2 Georgia players get arrested for different driving violations last Saturday night? I’d like to give Vince Vance the benefit of the doubt for driving with an expired license or whatever but I can’t because he’s fucked up before. I hope I’m wrong about these things and that the Dawgs do play with attitude and confidence on Saturday. And I hope that there are leaders on this team and that most of the players look out for each other and try not to hurt the team by being stupid. I guess we’ll find out in the next month or so. As for Saturday, I think the Dawgs need to play by far their best game of the season to win. They can’t make any mistakes and they must force LSU to make mistakes. They can’t allow any big plays and they have to make a few big plays. They can not fall behind early.

This game is very big for both teams. While the winner doesn’t necessarily jump into contention for the National Championship right away, the loser is absolutely, positively out of the NC picture for good. While Georgia would still be okay as far as the SEC East title is concerned if they should lose, LSU really needs to win if they want a shot at the SEC West title. I’m going on pure hope in this one. My biggest fear is that we will be blown out again. I just think this is a tough, tough matchup for our Dawgs. What’s scary is that we’re going to find out a lot about what this season is going to turn out to be on Saturday. If they lose it’s not like the season is over but they will have to readjust their goals. If the Dawgs win, on the other hand, then things get a whole lot more interesting.

The NFL Blog: Week 8 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (9-5); Straight Up (10-4)
Season: Vs. Spread (48-50-4); Straight Up (65-37)

Week 7 Review: After a dreadful week 6 during which I predicted only half of the winners correctly, I had one of my best weeks of the year in week 7. I flipped my record against the spread around from 5-9 to 9-5 and picked 10 of 14 winners correctly. I will say that I’m quite irritated about the Jets not winning in OT so that I would have at least pushed and gotten the winner right in that game. But I was more annoyed with the Seahawks scoring a late bullshit touchdown to beat the spread by a half point.

Week 8 Preview: I think week 8 is one of the hardest weeks to predict so far this season. For one, everybody’s all confused now after the heartstoppingly close games in week 6 were followed by a week made up almost entirely of one-sided affairs. But it’s also just the paring of some of the more confusing teams in the League in week 8. I don’t know; I’m just hoping for .500 against the spread and another 10 spot picking the winners.

Sunday’s Early Games

Oakland (+7) @ Baltimore
Pick: Ravens cover.
Comment: This is an interesting spread. The Herd was talking about this on the radio and saying that Vegas had made a mistake and the spread was too small. He might be right. Baltimore has been competitive every game of this season other than week 6 at Indy when they gave up a couple of big plays very quickly and had to scrap their game plan and throw every down. Each of Baltimore’s 3 wins have been by at least 7 points. They are 2-1 at home this year with a 3 point loss to the Titans and they are 48-19 at home this decade in the regular season. Oakland is 1-2 on the road this year and 7-36 on the road since the start of the 2003 season. I’ll take the Ravens to win by a couple of touchdowns.

Arizona (+4) @ Carolina
Pick: Panthers cover.
Comment: The Cardinals are 14-53 on the road this decade. That’s pretty ridiculous. They’re coming off a bye week but in the last two seasons they’ve lost the week after their bye and lost ATS. The Panthers don’t normally have a big homefield advantage but this year the Panthers are 4-0 at home. 4 points means the Cardinals could lose by a field goal and still beat the spread but their 2 losses so far have been by a TD or more and the Panthers’ last 3 wins have been by 15 or more. Arizona might keep it within 6 or so but I’ll take Carolina to win by more than 4.

Tampa Bay (+1) @ Dallas
Pick: Bucs pull off the upset.
Comment: The only reason to pick the Cowboys to win this game is that it’s in Dallas. Otherwise everything points to the Bucs having the advantage. Tampa is a great defense and the Cowboys will be starting Brad Johnson again. The OL for the Boys has underperformed this year and that will be especially bad with the immobile Johnson under center. Tampa is 1-2 on the road this season but they’ve still played well in their 2 losses and the Boys lost to Washington at home earlier this season and they’re 0-3 ATS this year at home. I’ll take the Bucs to keep the Dallas slide going.

Washington (-9) @ Detroit
Pick: Redskins win but Lions beat the spread.
Comment: Since averaging 25.5 points a game over a 4 game win streak the Skins have lost to the Rams at home scoring 17 points and failed to cover the spread against the Browns at home while scoring 14 points. Now they go on the road to play another bad team in the Lions but Detroit has covered in their last two games. I think the Skins will win but they’ll allow the Lions to keep it close.

Buffalo (-1) @ Miami
Pick: Bills cover.
Comment: This must be a trap. The Bills should definitely win this game. Everybody’s seen tape on the “Wildcat” formation by now. The Phins just lost to the Ravens by 14 at home and the Bills won at Jacksonville earlier this year. I like the Bills to win this one easily.

St. Louis (+7) @ New England
Pick: Patriots win but Rams cover.
Comment: Whether or not it’s a fluke, you’ve got to admit that what the Rams did the last two weeks was impressive. New England was able to run on Denver and that was huge because you don’t want Cassel throwing a lot. I think they can do it against the Rams too but I don’t think St. Louis will be intimidated by the Pats. I think the Pats will win but the Rams will make it close.

San Diego (-3) @ New Orleans
Pick: Chargers cover.
Comment: Why the hell are the Saints going to England for one of their home games? Can’t some team that doesn’t play in New Orleans lose one of its home games? Both of these teams have disappointed and both are banged up. But the Saints don’t have Reggie Bush and I think Phillip Rivers will play better this week. Then again, Drew Brees should play better as well, but I think the Chargers are the better team overall. I think the Chargers will win and it’s a field goal spread so I’ll just pick the winner to cover.

Kansas City (+13) @ New York Jets
Pick: Jets cover.
Comment: Wow. What do you think the spread would be if the Chiefs were on the road playing the 2007 Patriots this week? Plus 35.5? The Chiefs have no QB and no LJ. The Jets aren’t very good but even they can probably blow out KC at home. I’ll take the Jets to win by a couple TD’s or more.

Atlanta (+9) @ Philadelphia
Pick: Eagles cover.
Comment: I wish I could pick the Falcons in this one but I just can’t. When I looked at the schedule this season I thought this was the Falcons 2nd most unwinnable game behind a trip to San Diego, and at this point I’d say it’s probably their most unwinnable. The Eagles will have Brian Westbrook back and some of their receivers. Both teams are coming off a bye but the Eagles needed it much more. Jim Johnson is going to send all sorts of stuff at Matt Ryan and the O-line and it just doesn’t seem like a good matchup for the young Falcons. The Falcons have not fared well in Philly over the years and I think they’ll have a hard time keeping it close. I expect the Eagles to win by double digits.

Sunday’s Late Games

Cleveland (+7) @ Jacksonville
Pick: Jags win but Browns beat the spread.
Comment: Cleveland’s offense looked horrific again last week and they’re just 4-10 in their last 14 games on the road. However, they’ve beaten the spread in 4 of their last 5 games. Meanwhile, the Jags played their best game of the year two weeks ago and they’re coming off a bye, but they’re only 2-4 ATS this year so I’ll take the Jags to win by less than a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+9.5) @ Houston
Pick: Texans win but Bengals cover.
Comment: The Texans are usually a decent team at home and the Bengals have to play without Carson Palmer again. But the Texans are 1-5 against the spread this year and 0-2 ATS as favorites. Cincinnati has been competitive most of the time this year. I don’t think the Bengals get their first win this week but I don’t think Houston will win by double digits.

New York Giants (+3) @ Pittsburgh
Pick: Steelers cover.
Comment: I know the Giants are the road kings but the Steelers have won 9 of 10 at home in the regular season. Plus Pittsburgh gets Willie Parker back this week. The only major worry I have for the Steelers is about protection but I think they’ll be okay. I think the Steelers will win and it’s a 3 point spread so I’ll just take the winner to cover.

Seattle (+5) @ San Francisco
Pick: 49ers cover.
Comment: Seattle is horrible, especially without Matt Hasselbeck. They’ve lost 8 of 11 on the road and earlier this year they lost to SF at home. The Niners will be playing hard for Mike Singletary. I see San Fran winning easily.

Monday Night’s Game

Indianapolis (+4) @ Tennessee
Pick: Titans cover.
Comment: I think the Colts are in trouble. They’re going to have a hard time running or passing against the Tennessee defense and the Titans should be able to have success running the ball against the Colts defense. I think the Titans will win by a touchdown at least.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The NFL Blog: Power Rankings (After Week 7)

Power Rankings After Week 7

1. Tennessee 6-0 (1st)
2. Buffalo 5-1 (2nd)
3. Pittsburgh 5-1 (3rd )
4. Washington 5-2 (4th)
5. New York Giants 5-1 (5th)
6. Tampa Bay 5-2 (NR)
7. Carolina 5-2 (NR)
8. San Diego 3-4 (7th)

-Previous week’s ranking in parenthesis;

Out: Indianapolis (6th); Dallas (8th);

Explanation: Following the blowout week of week 7 my power rankings were more stable than they have been in weeks. The top 5 spots in my top 8 remained the same, as all 5 times won in week 7. Tennessee remained the League’s only unbeaten team, blowing out Kansas City to get to 6-0. Since jumping to my #1 spot from off the board following week 4, the Titans have been the top team in my rankings for the last 4 weeks. Buffalo stayed in the number 2 spot in my rankings after beating San Diego at home to get to 5-1. They’ve been ranked in my top 3 for 4 weeks straight now since jumping to the #2 spot from off the board after week 4. They’ve been ranked 2nd in 3 of the last 4 weeks. Pittsburgh hammered the Bengals on the road to get to 5-1 on the season and I kept them at #3 in my top 8. The Redskins sneaked by the Browns at home to get to 5-2 and I kept them 4th in my rankings. Since jumping to #3 in my rankings from off the board after week 4, the Redskins have been in my top 4 for the last 4 weeks. The Giants rebounded from their loss to Cleveland with an easy win over the Niners at home to go to 5-1 on the season. They are again ranked 5th in my top 8 and since moving to 6th in my rankings after week 4, the Giants have been in my top 6 for each of the last 4 weeks. So as you can see, the top 5 teams in my rankings have stayed basically at the top for a month. But beyond that it’s been a little scattered and unsure. The Colts had been 6th in my rankings going into week 7 but they were soundly beaten by the Packers and fell out of my top 8 this week. Moving into my top 8 and taking the Colts’ place in the #6 spot this week are the Bucs, who beat Seattle on Sunday night to go to 5-2 on the season. Fellow 5-2 NFC South team Carolina climbed back into my top 8 this week. I have the Panthers ranked 7th in my top 8 after their blowout win over the Saints in week 7. In my week 6 power rankings the two final teams in my top 8 were the Chargers at #7 and the Cowboys at #8. The Cowboys were blown out by the Rams and lost for the 3rd time in 4 games on Sunday and they will be without Tony Romo until mid-November. Thus they fell out of my power rankings this week. I moved the Chargers out of the #7 spot but I ended up keeping them in my rankings in the 8th and final spot. SD really got the final spot by default. To me there is a big drop off right now after Carolina and Tampa. I thought it didn’t make much sense to have a 3-4 team ranked ahead of teams that were 4-2 but I base these rankings on who I think would win a head to head matchup on a neutral field and I just favored the Chargers over all the other teams. The Patriots blew out the Broncos in week 7 to get to 4-2 but after seeing what the Chargers did to them in week 6 I can’t rank them ahead of San Diego. I would favor the Chargers over the Falcons or Cardinals as well. And I would favor them over any of the other half way decent teams in the League such as the Bears, the Packers, and the Eagles. And while they’ve been a major disappointment so far, the Chargers are still a very dangerous team and at this point that’s about as good as my #8 team is going to be. There just aren’t that many truly great teams in the League.

The NFL Blog: Week 7 Review

Blowout Week in the NFL

After reaching its competitive peak in a wild week 6, the NFL saw a slew of blowouts and uncompetitive games in week 7. There were some interesting developments and exciting games but there weren’t a lot of nail biters. The main thing about week 7 was that the teams that had been inconsistent all season remained that way. At the same time teams that had been consistently good or bad for most of the season continued that pattern as well.

The unquestioned theme of week 7 was blowouts. There were a number of routs and very few games went down to the wire. Even the more competitive games in week 7 didn’t end up that close on the scoreboard. Of the 14 games in week 7, only 2 were decided by less than a touchdown, and both of those were decided by 3 points, one in overtime. 10 of the 14 games were decided by more than one score, 9 of those by double digits. Half of the games in week 7 were decided by at least 2 touchdowns and 6 of the 14 games were decided by 20 points or more.

But by no means was this a week where the strong picked on the weak and the top teams cruised. There was some of that but there were also some surprises. And the underdogs were doing some of the routing too. Plus a few games that were expected to be very close ended up being one-sided. One fairly remarkable result of week 7 was that in a week where 10 of the 14 games were decided by 9 points, the favorites were only 6-8 against the spread.

The thing that caught everybody’s attention on Sunday and that has dominated the talk since was St. Louis’ stunning blowout of the Dallas Cowboys. After losing in overtime on a blocked punt in Arizona in week 6, the Cowboys went into St. Louis without QB Tony Romo and got their ass handed to them. The Rams were coming off a shocking win at Washington the week before and on Sunday they looked nothing like the team that started the year 0-4. They out-played, out-hit, out-coached, and out-ran Dallas, making the Cowboys look overmatched. To understand how bad a beating this was, you really had to see it with your own eyes. Even then you could have sworn that Scott Linehan’s Rams were dressed up like the Dallas Cowboys and getting their asses kicked by Jim Haslett’s Rams.

The Cowboys are the glamour team of the League and their situation is always overblown and overanalyzed by the media. This year it’s been worse than ever. Like most people, I get way too much Cowboys coverage, but the situation really has become worthy of constant attention lately. Coming into the season Dallas was hyped as the team to beat in the NFC. With 19 starters returning from a 13-3 team--including 13 Pro Bowlers--and the additions of Zach Thomas, Adam “Pac Man” Jones, and 1st round draft picks Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins the Cowboys definitely appeared to have the strongest roster in the NFC. People weren’t even talking about the regular season, all the talk was about the Cowboys recent futility in the playoffs and whether or not Romo and Wade Phillips could get over the hump.

All that has changed in the last month. It started with a loss to Washington at home in week 4 after a 3-0 start to the season. It took only 1 loss for T.O. to start running off at the mouth about not getting the ball enough. At around the same time the secondary took a hit with the injuries to strong safety Roy Williams and top cover corner Terence Newman. A few days after a sloppy win over winless Cincinnati at home Pac Man Jones got himself into trouble again. He just couldn’t control himself. Give the Cowboys credit for trying. The team had provided him with an apartment and placed him under the care of 4 bodyguards. It didn’t matter. In fact, it was one of Pac’s bodyguards that he got into a drunken brawl with in the bathroom of a Dallas hotel. The Cowboys said it was no big deal and declined to punish Jones but you had a feeling the Commish might have a different take. Then came the game at Arizona two weeks ago. It was a disastrous game for the Boys. They trailed for most of the game and looked dead in the water, down 10 with 3 minutes to go, but they rallied late to send the game into overtime. That’s when it turned disastrous. They had already lost kick returner and #2 running back Felix Jones to a partially torn hamstring early in the game. Then after getting the ball first in overtime, Tony Romo was hit hard and broke his pinkie. The Cowboys went 3 and out and had to punt but they couldn’t even do that. Mat McBriar’s leg broke in several places as his punt was blocked and taken into the end zone by the Cardinals for a game winning touchdown. McBriar—one of the better punters in the League—was lost for the season and Romo was announced out for a number of weeks. The heartbreaking loss and the handful of key injuries were tough to take and things didn’t get better in the days to come. That Tuesday, Commissioner Goodell suspended Pac Man Jones indefinitely. It was announced that he would miss a minimum of 4 games. Jones has since checked into rehab. On the same day that Jones was suspended, Jerry Jones pushed the panic button, trading 3 draft picks to Detroit for disgruntled wide receiver Roy Williams. Things got really weird late in the week when “Jeera” began telling the media that Tony Romo might actually play that week, saying that he had gone to practice and played catch with Romo and that his velocity was fine. Things were getting a little silly in Big D.

But Romo wouldn’t end up playing on Sunday. Instead the Cowboys would be led by 17 year veteran Brad Johnson. It was okay; nobody thought Dallas would need Romo against the Rams. Sure, St. Louis had pulled off a stunning upset of Washington on the road the week before for their first win of the season. But that was a fluke. Someone must not have informed the Rams because they sure thought they could beat the Cowboys. Actually, they punked the Cowboys like they were a bunch of scrubs. The 9 point home underdogs fell behind 7-0 just like they had a week before. Once again they would come back but this time it was a little different, as they scored the next 34 points. They scored 3 touchdowns in 6 minutes to take a 21-7 lead in the 1st quarter and they led 24-7 at the half. A 56 yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson midway through the 3rd quarter put the game out of reach and Dallas didn’t score again until after the 2 minute warning in the 4th quarter. Jackson rushed for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns against a Dallas defense that was embarrassed on Sunday. The bewildered Cowboy offense was no better. The first day with Johnson at the helm did not go well. The Rams intercepted Johnson 3 times and sacked him 3 times. He completed just 17 of his 34 pass attempts. T.O. caught just 2 passes for 31 yards and no touchdowns. Roy Williams, the receiver traded for during the week to give the offense a boost, was held without a catch. The other Roy Williams, the strong safety, played his first game since week 3. He was in long enough to get burned a couple of times before breaking his forearm. He’s done for the year.

After the game coach Wade Phillips addressed the media looking like a puppy that had been beating for going on the rug. The tone of his voice was like that of a mentally ill person while under harsh interrogation by police. Jerry Jones has been adamant that Phillips’ job is not in jeopardy and has even said that there is no chance of him not finishing the season as head coach. But Phillips better hope the Cowboys start winning again just to be sure. The trouble is, there are reasons for their 1-3 slide after the 3-0 start. This is a talented team, yes, but there are now some major doubts about whether or not this team has the mental toughness to be successful.

The Cowboys have now lost as many games in the last 4 weeks as they lost all of last season. Dallas started last season 5-0 and didn’t lose their second game until week 15. They were 13-2 before resting all of their starters in a meaningless season finale that they lost to the Redskins, so in reality, the Cowboys only lost 2 games last year that they tried their best to win. But really you do have to go back to last season to find what seems to be the start of the Cowboys slide back down from elite to mediocre. After 4 years under the harsh whip of Bill Parcells, the Cowboys said they were ready for a different approach from the head coach. Some people said Wade Phillips was just what the team needed to get inspired again after Parcells’ discipline had become overkill. It looked like Phillips was a perfect guy to lead the team, as the Cowboys got off to their best start since the days of the Triplets. But there is only so far that a team like the Cowboys can go without someone holding them accountable and keeping them grounded. Through 11 games Dallas had bested every team in their path other than the undefeated New England Patriots. In week 13 they hosted Green Bay in a battle of 10-1 teams that would decide homefield advantage in the NFC. The Cowboys won 37-27 and stood on top of the NFC with 4 games to go until the playoffs. Naturally, the Boys felt good about themselves and with no taskmaster to keep them focused they seemed to get a little complacent. The following week they needed a late comeback to escape with a 1 point win over the Lions. The next game was when things really started to go downhill. With Jessica Simpson in attendance and wearing a hot pink Tony Romo jersey, the Cowboys were held to 6 points and upset at home by the Eagles. They beat the Panthers the next week to wrap up the #1 seed and then lost to the Redskins in the final tune up. While they didn’t need that last game, there was something troubling about their performance. This late season trouble foreshadowed what was to come as they lost to the Giants at home in the divisional playoffs. Since beating the Lions to get to 12-1 last December, the Cowboys are 5-6 (including the playoffs). Take this for what you will, but through the Green Bay game last season the Cowboys had gone 9-3 against the spread on the season, 8-2 against the spread as favorites. Since then they are 2-10 ATS, 2-9 ATS as favorites.

And it isn’t only attitude, focus, and mental toughness issues that are plaguing the Cowboys. They have some major issues in the secondary. With Pac Man gone, Williams out for the season, and Newman still on the shelf they are thin and much weaker in the secondary. The Cowboys play in the NFC East and they have to get this thing turned around now if they want to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, the easy part of their schedule is over and some tough games are ahead. It looks like they will have to play a few more of them without Romo. Their next two games are against Tampa and at the Giants. If they don’t at least split those games they will be in serious trouble heading into a bye in week 10.

Meanwhile the Rams have made a remarkable turnaround under Jim Haslett in the last few weeks. Nobody expected things to be any different after Scott Linehan was fired. The Rams had been historically bad in their first 4 games, going 0-4 while being outscored 147-43, losing by an average score of 37-11. They hadn’t scored more than 14 points in any game and had allowed at least 31 points in every game. They’d lost each game by at least 17 points. Linehan was canned during their bye week in week 5. In 2 games since then the Rams have won at Washington and beaten the Cowboys by 20 at home. Again, the Rams scored 43 total points in their first 4 games; they’ve scored 53 over the last 2 games. The Rams allowed 31 points in each of their first 4 games; they’ve allowed 31 total points over the last 2 games. I actually predicted the Rams would be decent this year, assuming that they wouldn’t have the injuries problems that leveled their season last year. With the NFC West looking as weak as ever, I had the Rams going 9-7 this year. For a while there I thought I might have predicted one of the worst teams in NFL history would have a winning record but they’ve shown something in the last two weeks. Amazingly, the Rams are very much alive in the playoff race. At 2-4, they are in 2nd place in their division and just 2 games back of the 1st place Cardinals. They’ve got some winnable games remaining on the schedule, including home games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Seahawks, and Niners; as well as road games against the Jets, Niners, and Falcons. If they do come back and make the playoffs it will be one of the more remarkable and unpredictable in-season turnarounds in the history of football.

The Rams blowout of the Cowboys was the most surprising game of week 7 and it was part of an early game slate on Sunday that was nothing but blowouts. All 9 of the one o’clock games in week 7 were decided by at least 7 points; 6 were decided by double digits; and 4 games were decided by 20 points or more. Perhaps the least surprising outcome of any of the games in week 7 was Tennessee’s stampeding of the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Titans came into the game as the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL and they would still be undefeated when the game was over, as they ran roughshod through the KC defense on the way to a 34-10 win. Chris Johnson ran for 168 yards on 18 carries and scored on a 66 yard TD run, while Lendale White rushed for 149 yards on 17 carries and scored 3 touchdowns, including one of 80 yards. The Titans racked up 332 yards on the ground while holding KC to just 58, out-rushing them by a cool 274 yards. The Titans kept the Chiefs scoreless until KC got 10 points in the final 5 minutes of the game to make things a little less embarrassing.

With the victory the Titans moved to 6-0 on the season. Not everyone is convinced that Tennessee is really all that good. Some have questioned the validity of their success as it has come against a fairly light schedule. Make no mistake: the Titans are for real. They have a super defense, a stellar ground game, and they have one of the best coaches in the NFL. They haven’t played the most difficult schedule in the League but there are no automatic wins in the NFL. They’ve taken care of business each and every week and no other team in football can say that.

If people are still on the fence about Tennessee now they may be more convinced one way or the other after week 8. Monday Night Football goes to Nashville this week where the undefeated Titans will host the Indianapolis Colts in an absolutely huge game. The Titans will be looking not only to prove themselves to the nation and to the rest of the League but for something more tangible as well. A win over the Colts on Monday would just about bury the 5 time defending AFC South champions in the division.

The matchup became almost a must win for the Colts in terms of their hopes for winning the division following their 34-14 loss to the Packers at Lambeau during the late portion of Sunday’s schedule. After going a very shaky 2-2 in their first 4 games, with both of their wins coming in near miracle fashion, the Colts appeared to have put things together in week 6 with a 31-3 domination of a Ravens team that had been competitive in every game up until that point. But on Sunday the Colts offense broke down again against a defense missing a pair of starting defensive backs, while the Indy defense allowed 116 yards rushing to a team that had shown almost no ability to run the ball before. After taking a 7-3 lead with 5 minutes to go in the 1st quarter, the Colts were outscored 27-0 before scoring a meaningless TD with less than 2 minutes to play in the game. The Pack led 17-7 at the half and returned 2 Peyton Manning interceptions for touchdowns in the second half to build a 34-7 lead. The loss dropped the Colts to 3-3, and with the passing game struggling like never before and Joseph Addai and Bob Sanders injured, the Colts seem closer to mediocrity than they have this decade. And they are going to have to face some tough teams while dealing with those injuries, including the game at Tennessee this Monday, a Sunday night game against the Patriots at home the following week, and a trip to Pittsburgh the week after that. There are more tough games later in the season. A Sunday night game in San Diego looms in week 12 and they finish the season with games at Jacksonville and against the Titans at home. Everyone’s been waiting for Manning and the Colts to get it together and it looked like they had a couple of weeks ago, but after last Sunday’s game people are really starting to wonder if the run is over.

As for the Packers, they really needed a performance like they had on Sunday after the injuries and the 3 game losing streak they endured earlier in the year. The Packers have now won 2 straight to get back over .500 at 4-3 as they head into their bye week. This was a big win for their confidence which had to have been shaken during that rough stretch. The Packers were not favored in this game (Indy was a 1 point favorite) and to get the win was key because falling to 3-4 would have been tough, especially with games at Tennessee, at Minnesota, and against Chicago coming up immediately after the bye week.

Green Bay’s blowout of the Colts was a continuation of the lopsided action that had been taking place all day. During the early portion of Sunday’s schedule a pair of intradivision games had gotten ugly. The game between the Bengals and Steelers wasn’t expected to be that close and Pittsburgh wound up turning it into a blowout late, winning 38-10 in Cincinnati. The game was typical of this nasty rivalry. Early in the game Hines Ward caught Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers unaware and issued a crunching block that resulted in a broken jaw for Rivers and the end of his season. The Steelers led 10-0 early but a Chad Johnson TD with 36 seconds left in the 2nd quarter cut the deficit to 10-7 at the half. It was only 17-10 Pittsburgh going to the 4th quarter but the Steelers dominated the final period, outscoring Cinci 21-0 to put the game away. The Bengals had managed to be somewhat competitive with Ryan Fitzpatrick as quarterback but eventually the Steelers defense took over, finishing the day with 7 sacks and 1 INT.

With the win the Steelers improved to 5-1 on the season, tied for the 2nd best record in the AFC, and they are 2 games up in 1st place in the AFC North. Pittsburgh has weathered the storm of injuries well for now and they are in pretty good shape but their schedule looks extremely difficult from here on out. They host the Giants this week and play at Washington the following week on Monday night. After that comes back to back home games against the Colts and the Chargers. Later in the year they play at New England, at Tennessee, and against the Cowboys at home. We will see if the Steelers can hold up despite the health issues but obviously getting off to this great start was huge.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Bengals are 1 of only 2 teams still without a win and they are the only team in the League that is 0-7. The Bengals were supposed to have a bye this week, but because of the way the schedule had to be manipulated due to the hurricane, they are playing the Texans this week and won’t have a bye until week 10. Despite the injury to Palmer the Bengals have been fairly competitive compared to some of the other teams at the bottom of the League but if they don’t win at Houston this week they could stay winless for a while. Palmer is out again this Sunday and with all previous team goals virtually down the drain at this point, it’s unlikely that the Bengals will rush their franchise quarterback back from injury. Following their game against the Texans this week the Bengals host the Jags. After their week 10 bye they play the Eagles at home and then play at Pittsburgh. Games at Indy and against the Redskins at home lie further ahead.

The other intradivision game that got out of hand last Sunday was supposed to be close. The Panthers were installed as a 3 point favorite over the Saints in their home game in week 7. Early on the game was competitive. The Saints scored early in the 2nd quarter to take a 7-3 lead but a fumble by Jeremy Shockey turned the game around. The Panthers would take a 13-7 lead into halftime and outscore New Orleans 17-0 in the second half on their way to a 30-7 win. The Panthers outscored the Saints 23-0 following Shockey’s fumble. The defense sacked Drew Brees and intercepted him, holding the League’s leading passer to just 231 yards and no TD’s.

For Carolina, this was about as good a rebound performance as one could have asked for coming off their 27-3 loss to the Bucs in week 6. At 5-2 they are tied with Tampa for 1st place in the NFC South and they have a very manageable schedule over the next month or so. They host Arizona in week 8 before their bye in week 9. They play at Oakland in week 10 and then host the Lions the following week. After that the schedule gets tougher again but one would have to think they have a decent shot at being 8-2 going into the final stretch run.

This was an extremely costly and disheartening loss for the New Orleans Saints, who fell to 3-4 on the year. The Saints had scored at least 24 points in each of their previous 6 games this year before being held to just 7 points on Sunday. The defense has allowed 29 points or more in 4 of their 7 games. Making matters much worse, Reggie Bush suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for a month or more. The Saints messed around and lost games early in the year that they should have won and now they may pay the price. They blew a 4th quarter lead against the Redskins in week 2, missed a short field goal to lose to the Broncos in week 3, and in week 5 they gave away a game to the Vikings. Now they are 3-4 in the very competitive NFC South, Bush is hurt, and they have to go to England this week to play the Chargers. No doubt injuries have played a role in the Saints disappointing start but their own mistakes have been just as detrimental. If they fail to turn it around and make the playoffs the games they gave away early will haunt them.

The wildest game of week 7 was one that you would normally expect to be pretty boring. Old rivals Minnesota and Chicago played for the one millionth time this Sunday but it had never been like this before. The Bears were 3 point favorites over the Vikings at home but the over/under line for the game had been set at 38 points. Both teams would eclipse that point total on their own. In what became a silly game, the two teams combined for 89 points, with the Bears winning in the end, 48-41. The Vikings amassed 439 yards of offense but they turned the ball over 5 times, with Gus Frerotte throwing 4 picks. The Bears recovered a Minnesota fumble for a TD and also returned a blocked punt for a TD. The scoring frenzy started early and lasted throughout the game. Minnesota scored first, the Bears answered with a TD, and then the Vikings special teams imploded again. Punter Chris Kluwe dropped a perfect snap, picked it up and tried to punt it again and whiffed, and then instead of trying to fall on the ball, attempted to kick it off the ground like a soccer ball. It was one of the worst plays by an NFL player you will ever see. The Bears returned it for a TD to take the lead. Minnesota scored to tie the game right before the end of a 28 point 1st quarter. The two teams traded field goals and then the Vikings special teams did it again. With 5 minutes to go in the half, the Vikings forced a punt and Charles Gordon drifted back to his five yard line to return it. At the last moment he decided to let it go and he stepped up to block a Chicago coverage man. As he did so the ball bounced up and hit him in the back and the Bears recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. This was almost as bad as Kluwe’s play. The Vikings scored with 22 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 24 but the Bears were able to add a field goal with no time left on the clock to take a 27-24 lead into halftime. Early in the 3rd quarter Desmond Clark caught a pass and raced to the end zone for what looked like a 36 yard touchdown, but he fumbled at the goal line and the ball rolled into the end zone. However, Rashied Davis was there to recover it for a Chicago touchdown to give the Bears a 10 point lead. The Vikings struck back on a 54 yard TD run by Adrian Peterson but the Bears came right back with a 51 yard TD bomb from Kyle Orton to Marty Booker. Chicago scored a TD on the first play of the 4th quarter to go up 48-31 and the Bears seemed to have the game in hand but Minnesota made a late push. The Vikings scored 10 points to cut the lead to 7 with 3 minutes to play and got the ball back with a minute left before the Bears defense finally shut the door with their 4th interception of the day.

The 48-41 win was pretty big for the Bears considering that they were coming off the heart breaking loss in Atlanta in week 6. It was scary for Bears fans there at the end. The Bears had blown late leads in losses to Carolina, Tampa Bay, and then to the Falcons but they hung on at the end this time. The win got the Bears back over .500 at 4-3 and kept them tied with Green Bay for the lead in the NFC North

As for Minnesota, they came into the season with high expectations but they are 3-4 after 7 games, and to be honest they are really fortunate to have as good a record as they do. They gave away a game to the Colts and tried to give the game away to the Saints a few weeks ago and wound up winning. In week 6 the refs gave them a win when they should have fallen to the lowly Lions. The off week comes at the right time for Minnesota because they need to just start over and decide to play intelligent football for the rest of the year. They ought to spend at least half of their off week working on special teams, as they have allowed 5 special teams touchdowns in 7 games. After the bye week they have winnable home games against the Texans and Packers and they really need to win both. After that it’s back to back games in Florida against the Jags and Bucs and they’ll be really lucky if they split those games before a Sunday night game against the Bears at home in week 13. If they are 6-6 heading into December it will be a miracle but that’s what they’ll have to be if they want any shot at the playoffs.

One of the more intriguing matchups of week 7 was the game between San Diego and the Bills in Buffalo. With people still unsure of what to make of Buffalo’s good start, the Chargers came into town as slight favorites. A power outage at the stadium caused the first half to be played without the use of electronic devices. Much of the first half couldn’t be seen on TV. The Chargers led 13-7 at the half and eventually during the 3rd quarter everything was back to normal. The Chargers scored midway through the 3rd to take a 1 point lead but the Bills came back and scored right before the end of the quarter to take a 20-14 lead to the 4th. The Chargers stayed in the game and despite being outplayed they appeared to be headed into the end zone for the go-ahead score midway through the 4th until Phillip Rivers threw a horrible pick that was intercepted by Kawika Mitchell. The Bills drove down and kicked a field goal to make it a 2 score game with 3:17 left and the defense held on from there as Buffalo beat the Chargers 23-14. The star of the game was Trent Edwards, who came back from a concussion to go 25 for 30 for 261 yards and a TD. This was a back and forth game but the Bills clearly outplayed San Diego, outgaining the Chargers by 107 yards, 370-263; achieving 7 more first downs (22-15); winning the turnover battle 3-0; and controlling the ball for 11 more minutes than San Diego. The Bills defense held San Diego to just 72 yards rushing.

Buffalo is now 5-1 and alone in 1st place in the AFC East. Regardless of what detractors want to say, the Bills keep winning and doing enough to get the job done. They haven’t played the toughest schedule in the League by any stretch of the imagination but they have won convincingly over some weak teams and beaten a couple of quality opponents. And the thing is, their schedule never gets very tough. Right now the Bills would be favored in 6 of their next 7 games, with road contests at Miami and KC, and home games with the Jets, Browns, Niners, and Dolphins. The only game they would be an underdog in right now is a week 10 matchup at New England, and considering how up and down the Pats have been without Brady, the Bills might even win that game. They are in the AFC East race for good and the 3 teams chasing them are all flawed to varying degrees.

San Diego is competing with a handful of other teams across the League for the title of Most Disappointing Team in the NFL. They started last season 1-3, got to 5-5, and then won their final 6 games to win the West. They then upset Indy on the road in the divisional playoffs but they were to banged up to mount a serious challenge in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. They would have had some momentum going into this year but injuries have held them down. They lost Shawne Merriman early in the season, LT is not himself, Antonio Gates has been slowed, and lately they have been without Chris Chambers. Still, the injuries don’t explain the 3-4 record. Twice in the last three games they have scored 14 points or less. After their domination of the Jets on MNF in week 3, it looked like the Chargers were finally going to hit their stride, but they needed a lot of help from the Raiders to get a come from behind win the following week and then they lost to Miami in week 5. After their blowout win over the Patriots on Sunday night in week 6 people again thought the Chargers had finally gotten things together. Then they played a sloppy game and lost at Buffalo last week. Now they must go to London to play fellow disappointment New Orleans. The good news is that nobody in the AFC West has gotten off to a great start and the only team that has any chance of winning the division other than SD is Denver and they’re only a game ahead. Also, while the Chargers do have to play at Pittsburgh and against Indy in November and then at Tampa in week 16, the rest of their schedule is very manageable. They have home games against KC, Atlanta, and Oakland, as well as a road game against the Chiefs. They finish the year at home against Denver and the way things look right now there is a good chance that game will mean something in the AFC West.

The two closest games of the week occurred during the afternoon portion of week 7’s Sunday schedule. While both games were decided by just 3 points, neither was really what you would call a classic. Brett Favre’s Jets were favored on the road against the Raiders but they had to come from behind just to force overtime before finally losing an ugly game, 16-13. The two teams combined to commit 21 penalties for 145 yards and they went just 9 for 33 on 3rd down. The Jets gave the game away with 3 turnovers while Oakland didn’t give it away once. The game was 3-3 at the half and Oakland led 10-3 going to the 4th but the Jets tied the score midway through the final period. The Raiders went back on top with a FG with just under 3 minutes to play, but the Jets marched down field and got in position for a field goal with just seconds on the clock. Jay Feely lined up for a 52 yard FG and missed it but the Raiders are the Raiders for a reason and it turned out that new coach Tom Cable had called a timeout just before the snap to freeze the kicker. Instead, Feely split the uprights on the second attempt to tie the game and send it to OT. The Jets got it first in overtime but this game would not be quickly decided. Finally with only 2 and a half minutes remaining in the overtime period, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 57 yard field, the longest in Raider history, to give Oakland a 16-13 win.

While the win will most likely do very little for Oakland, the loss seemed devastating for a Jets team that needs to win all of their winnable games to have a shot at the postseason. After back to back wins and with a home game against the Chiefs coming up in week 8, the Jets had a golden opportunity to put together a 4 game win streak and get to 5-2 heading into a matchup with the Bills in Buffalo on November 2nd. Obviously that’s no longer a possibility and you have to wonder whether things won’t get worse from here for Favre and the Jets.

The other ugly 3 point late game was between the Browns and Redskins in Washington. After the Browns’ big victory over the Giants on MNF in week 6 and the Skins’ shocking loss to the Rams at home, many believed that the Skins would come out focused and ready to get back on track with a solid win against Cleveland in week 7. Not quite. This game went to the half scoreless and there was no score on the board until Clinton Portis got in the end zone for Washington with 7:30 to go in the 3rd. The Redskins led 7-3 going to the 4th and Santana Moss scored on an 18 yard TD pass from Jason Campbell to make it a 14-3 game with 12 and a half minutes to play in the game. The Browns managed to trim the lead to 3, scoring a TD and 2-pt conversion to make it a 14-11 game with 2:44 to play. Cleveland got the ball back and drove into Washington territory, setting up a 54 yard FG try for Phil Dawson with 25 seconds left. Dawson missed wide right and the Redskins escaped to get to 5-2, though clearly they do not seem to be the elite team that many felt they were after they beat the Saints, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Eagles in consecutive weeks earlier this year.

The Detroit Lions remained winless in week 7, losing 28-21 to the Texans in Houston. Houston jumped out to a 21-0 lead and led 28-10 going to the 4th quarter. Detroit scored 11 points in the 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 3 with over 4 minutes left in the game but they didn’t get the ball back until there was just 20 seconds to go and Houston was able to hang on. The loss dropped the Lions to 0-6 on the season. In their last two games, the Lions have made things close on the road against teams that could at least be described as not that bad. This makes you think that they won’t go winless for that much longer. On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of games on their schedule that stand out as ones they might win. One positive is that they have only 4 more road games left but they don’t have a single bad team left on their schedule. The combined record of the teams left on their schedule is 41-26. Their home games are against Washington, Jacksonville, Tampa, Tennessee, Minnesota, and New Orleans. Their road games are at Chicago, Carolina, Indianapolis, and Green Bay. The dream of an 0-16 season is alive and well in Detroit.

Fittingly, the final game of week 7 was expected to be highly competitive but turned out to be one-sided. The Denver Broncos went to Foxboro to play the Patriots on Monday Night Football in week 7 with the Pats favored by 3. The combination of the Patriots playing well and the Broncos playing poorly resulted in New England winning 41-7. It was a big win for the Pats and a big loss for Denver but it’s still hard to know what to make of either team. As big a story as the score was, injuries sustained by both teams during the game was just as huge. Jay Cutler hurt the index finger on his throwing hand on the first play of the game and it seemed to affect him off and on all night. Going forward Cutler should be fine, but the same can not be said for the Brothers Bailey. Older brother Champ, one of the finer corner backs in the history of the game, injured his groin and is expected to be out 4 to 6 weeks. Younger brother Boss, one of Denver’s starting linebackers, suffered a terrible knee injury that will wipe out his season and require micro fracture surgery to be repaired. These are huge blows for an already vulnerable defense. New England suffered serious injuries as well. The Patriots had announced earlier in the day that RB Laurence Maroney was out for the season due to a shoulder injury. This announcement came pretty much out of the blue. Sammy Morris made everyone feel better on Monday night when he ran for 138 yards on just 16 carries in the first half. But Morris injured his knee and missed the entire second half. The injury is not thought to be too serious. If only the same could be said of the injury sustained by long time Patriots leader and strong safety Rodney Harrison. Harrison was carted off the field during the second half of Monday’s game after tearing a quad muscle. The injury was gruesome but it was not nearly as tough as seeing Harrison carted off the field, thus bringing to an end his season, and quite possibly his career. Harrison’s presence will be dearly missed by the Patriots.