Thursday, December 31, 2009

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 17 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (7-8-1); Straight Up (10-6).
Season: Vs. Spread (111-123-5); Straight Up (155-84).

Week 16 Review: It’s just hard to beat the spread consistently. I thought I was headed for a great week, as I was 2-0 going into Sunday. I still had a winning record at the end of the early games but I was just 2-4 the rest of the way ATS.

Week 17 Preview: Week 17 just might be the most difficult week of the season to predict. You don’t know what to expect from the teams that have already clinched playoff births and may rest their starters. Some teams will be playing to get into the playoffs, while other teams will be focused solely on not getting anyone hurt. Teams may clinch playoff births or be eliminated minutes before kickoff. And for the teams with no shot at the playoffs you never know which teams will show up and which ones are already on vacation. It’s really one of the weaker parts of the NFL season if you ask me. I need to go 14-2 ATS to end the regular season at .500.

Sunday’s Early Games

Indianapolis (+7) @ Buffalo
Pick: Bills win but Colts beat the spread
Comment: I think it’s safe to assume that the Colts’ starters will play even less this week than they did last week. If they play a full quarter they may still be able to go up 7 to 10 points on Buffalo. But as we saw last week, Indy’s backups aren’t very good. They may still be able to hang with the injury riddled Bills however. You have to think that the Colts are going to have a hard time getting motivated and focused for this game. The Bills should have Ryan Fitzpatrick back playing QB this week and that will make their offense much more capable. I think the Colts will lose their final 2 game but it will be close.

New Orleans (+2.5) @ Carolina
Pick: Panthers cover
Comment: The Saints have wrapped up the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs and will most likely give their starters significant rest in the finale. New Orleans is just 2-7 in their last 9 ATS. Carolina lost Steve Smith to a broken arm in the last game but the Panthers are coming off a couple of big wins and looking to end the season on a high note. They have won 3 of 4 and 4 straight ATS. In week 9, the Panthers were 12 point dogs on the road, and they ended up losing 30-20 to the Saints at the Superdome. Carolina will most likely not have DeAngelo Williams again this week but they are running well without him and the Saints can’t stop the run at all. So with Delhomme unable to derail things with turnovers, the Panthers should win their 3 straight to end the year.

Jacksonville (+1) @ Cleveland
Pick: Browns cover
Comment: The Jags need a ton of help to get into the playoffs so they may not be all that inspired. Jax is 2-9 ATS over the last 11. The Browns have suddenly won 3 straight and they have won 6 straight ATS. I like the Browns to end the year on a 4 game win streak and the Jags to end the year on a 4 game losing streak.

Chicago (-3) @ Detroit
Pick: Bears cover
Comment: The Bears had one of their best showings of the season last Monday night at home but there’s no guarantee they’ll show the same fire at Detroit in the season finale. The Bears are just 5-10 ATS and 1-6 on the road (1-6 ATS on the road). In week 4, the Bears hosted the Lions as 9.5 point favorites and won 48-24. The Lions are not saying whether they will go again with Drew Stanton or start Daunte Cullpepper. It doesn’t matter all that much, as both are horrible. The Lions have lost 11 of 12 and they are just 4-9-2 ATS this season. The Lions have been destroyed by injuries this year. The Bears really need to win this game in order to end the season on an upbeat note and avoid a 10 loss season.

New England (+9) @ Houston
Pick: Texans cover
Comment: Part of me thinks the Patriots will keep this game close and give a good effort as they have won 3 straight and Belichick may want to keep things rolling. But they will most likely give a lot of rest to the starters. Houston has won 3 straight but I don’t trust them. The Texans are 3-4 at home (2-4-1 ATS at home) this year after going 6-2 at home in each of the last 2 seasons. The Texans have a lot to play for this weekend; the Patriots can only be the #3 or #4 seed. The Texans don’t control their own destiny but they have a decent chance if they can win this game. The Patriots are just 2-5 on the road this season (2-4-1 ATS on the road). Reluctantly, I’ll take the Texans by double digits.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Miami
Pick: Steelers cover
Comment: The Steelers need a lot of help but they have no pressure because a lot of people buried them weeks ago. The Steelers are just 4-10-1 ATS this season, 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7, and 2-5 straight up on the road (4-3 ATS on the road). Willie Parker is unlikely to play and it doesn’t appear that Troy Polamalu will be able to return for the final game. The Dolphins need a lot more help than Pittsburgh. The Fins may struggle to get up for this game but they seem to be competitive no matter what. Miami is 3-1 ATS in the last 4. Ricky Williams should be able to go in the season finale. This should be a tight game but I’ll take the Steelers to win on a late Big Ben TD pass.

New York Giants (+9) @ Minnesota
Pick: Vikings win but Giants beat the spread
Comment: A couple of years ago the Giants peaked late in the year, going on a historic run to the championship with road victories and upsets. Last year the G-Men spent most of the season looking like the dominant force in the NFC but they flamed out early in the playoffs. This year the Giants again spent the early part of the year looking like a powerhouse but things deteriorated quickly and have continued to do so. Last week was rock bottom. New York is 3-7 in their last 10 (2-8 ATS over the last 10). It’s hard to imagine the Giants being all that into this match up. They were still alive for the playoffs heading into last week’s final home game at Giants Stadium, and they were coming off of a dominating win over the Redskins. It ended in disaster. The G-Men will not have Brandon Jacobs this week. Minnesota has their own problems. The Vikes can still finish as the #2 seed but they’ll need help. Fortunately for the Vikings, they are at the Metrodome this week and they are 7-0 at home this year. Still, the Vikes are just 1-3 in their last 4 games (1-3 ATS in last 4) after starting out 10-1. I don’t think the Vikings will be able to blow this one out but I do think they’ll win.

San Francisco (-7) @ St. Louis
Pick: Niners cover
Comment: The problem with this game is that the Niners are 1-6 on the road this year (losing their last 6) and they haven’t won back to back games since starting the year 2-0. San Fran is 8-4-3 ATS this year (3-2-2 ATS on the road) but just 4-4-3 ATS in their last 11. Isaac Bruce is playing this week but the Niners won’t have kicker Joe Nedney. The Rams’ injury problems are in another galaxy. The Lams desperately need Steven Jackson to play in this game and it’s possible that he will. Donnie Avery will be back for this game. If those 2 play the Rams will it least have a couple of recognizable players on the offense. Unfortunately, Keith Null is still going to be their QB. They are 0-7 at home this year (3-4 ATS at home) and 1-14 overall. In week 4, the Rams were 9.5 point dogs at home and the Niners dominated them 35-0. They’ve lost their last 7 games but they are 6-4 ATS over their last 10. The Niners haven’t been able to win this sort of game yet but if they want to take the next step they need to get it done and win easily.

Atlanta (-1) @ Tampa Bay
Pick: Falcons cover
Comment: I’m pretty anxious to get this game on and finally end the streak of not having consecutive winning seasons. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be much more excited for this game if the Falcons were still alive for the playoffs. I would be if the Falcons were healthy but they’re not and they wouldn’t have much of a chance to do any damage in the postseason. This is bigger than being lucky enough to have the right tiebreakers in order to get into the playoffs as a wild card team. This streak has to end before the Falcons can ever be taken seriously. I’m excited but I’m also terrified. It’s never easy to win in Tampa and obviously the Bucs have been playing much better of late. In Atlanta back in week 12, the Falcons were 12 point favorites but they lost Matt Ryan and Michael Turner during the game and could easily have lost. The Bucs played their hearts out but the Birds found a way to win it, 20-17. The Falcons are 10-5 ATS this year and they’ve won their last 3 ATS but they’re just 2-5 on the road straight up this season (4-3 ATS on the road).

Amazingly, if the Falcons win this game they will end the year on a season best 3 game win streak. The Bucs will also be trying to win a 3rd straight game, as they have posted back to back road upsets. The Bucs are 6-9 ATS on the year and just 1-6 at home (1-6 ATS at home). The Falcons have had horrible luck with injuries this year and it will last even into the final game of the season. Michael Turner still has not been ruled out of this game but it would be a bit of a surprise if he played, in my opinion, because he has already attempted to come back in 2 previous games, and in both instances he was re-injured early on. Turner’s status isn’t even the most crucial of week 17. Even without the Burner, the Falcons should be able to run against Tampa’s horrid rush defense using Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling. The guy whose absence could literally mean the difference between snapping the streak or choking again is Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons’ tight end came out of last week’s game with a calf injury and did not return. It would be a huge blow to not have Gonzalez for this one. Matt Bryant’s status could also be huge. As of right now it doesn’t look like the Falcons will have Bryant for this game. Instead of Bryant (who has been solid in place of Jason Elam) it may be Steve Hauschka attempting a big kick for the Falcons and that’s pretty scary. This one could easily go down to the wire but I just have to believe that this team will find a way to get it done and bury that awful thing hanging over the franchise’s head.

Sunday’s Late Games

Green Bay (+3.5) @ Arizona
Pick: Cardinals win but Packers beat the spread
Comment: While the Packers don’t have much to gain this week, the Cards could potentially earn the #2 seed in the NFC. If the Vikings win their game earlier in the day the Cards wont have a shot at the #2 seed and that could obviously have a major impact on how Arizona plays this game. Green Bay is 10-4-1 ATS this season and 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 games. The Packers have won 6 of 7 and they are 5-2 ATS on the road this year. But it seems likely that the Packers will play it safe in this game. Arizona may end up benching their starters as well, unless they still have a chance at the bye week. The Cards are 9-6 ATS on the year and they’ve won 3 of their last 4 straight up. The Cards are 4-3 ATS at home this year. One Card who is unlikely to play regardless of the playoff situation is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Neil Rackers will likely be able to kick for Arizona if they need him. I think Arizona will probably end up playing the starters for only part of the game but I think they will pull out a close win.

Kansas City (+13) @ Denver
Pick: Broncos win but Chiefs beat the spread
Comment: Back in week 13, the Broncos were favored by 6 in KC and ended up winning 44-13. The Chiefs have lost 8 straight in Denver. The Broncos playoff chances won’t be any worse by game time than they are right now so they should be ready to play. Brandon Marshall gave everybody a scare when he injured his ankle in practice earlier this week but he will be ready to go on Sunday. Denver is 9-6 ATS this year but they have lost their last 3 games and are just 2-7 in their last 9 games. They are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10. KC is 6-9 ATS this year and just 1-4 ATS in their last 5. The Chiefs are 2-5 this year on the road. They have lost 5 in a row. I think they’ll hang around in this one but I think the Broncos will pull out the win in the end.

Baltimore (-10.5) @ Oakland
Pick: Ravens win but Raiders beat the spread
Comment: All the Ravens have to do is worry about winning their game in order to get into the playoffs. The Ravens are just 2-5 on the road this year but the Raiders are only 2-5 at home. Ed Reed will try to play in the finale. I think Oakland will put up a fight and stay within single digits.

Washington (+4) @ San Diego
Pick: Chargers cover
Comment: The Chargers will obviously play with backups most of the game but I still think they will beat the Skins at home. The Redskins are 2-9 in their last 11 games and only 1-6 on the road this year (though 4-2-1 ATS on the road). The Chargers are 5-2 at home (3-4 ATS at home) and have won 10 games in a row, going 6-2 ATS in their last 8. I think San Diego can still beat the Skins by a TD without most of their first teamers.

Tennessee (-4) @ Seattle
Pick: Titans cover
Comment: This is easily the most surprising line of the week for me. Yes, I realize the Titans got blown out last Friday and are eliminated from the playoffs but they still have a chance to finish .500 and you know they want to get Chris Johnson as many yards as they can. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are currently the worst team in the NFL. Their home field advantage is gone. The Titans are only 2-5 on the road (3-4 ATS on the road) and they have lost 4 of 5 ATS. But the Seahawks are coming off of losses by 27, 17, and 38 points respectively. The Seahawks are 4-3 at home (4-3 ATS). The Titans should hand them a 4th straight blowout loss.

Philadelphia (+3) @ Dallas
Pick: Cowboys win but Eagles beat the spread
Comment: This game will determine the winner of the NFC East. It should be a classic. The Eagles have won 6 in a row, 3 of 4 ATS, and they are 5-2 on the road this season (5-2 ATS on the road) but Dallas is 5-2 at home (4-3 ATS at home) and the Cowboys won at Philly in week 9 as 3 point dogs, 20-16. I don’t know who is going to win this one but I’ll take the Cowboys in a tight one because they have the home field advantage.

Sunday Night’s Game

Cincinnati (+10) @ New York Jets
Pick: Jets win but Bengals beat the spread
Comment: The Jets need only to win this game to get into the playoffs, while the Bengals stand to gain little by winning this game and may opt to rest players rather than attempt to get some momentum going into the playoffs. The Bengals are just 1-5 in their last 6 ATS and they are 4-3 on the road this year (4-3 ATS on the road). The Jets are only 3-4 at home (3-4 ATS at home) but they’ve won 4 of their last 5 straight up (4-1 ATS in their last 5). Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much of a chance of the Jets losing this thing, but I do think the Bengals will stay within single digits.

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 16 Power Rankings

Power Rankings After Week 16

1. San Diego 12-3 (4th)
2. Indianapolis 14-1 (1st)
3. Philadelphia 11-4 (5th)
4. Minnesota 11-4 (3rd)
5. New Orleans 13-2 (2nd)
6. Dallas 10-5 (9th)
7. New England 10-5 (10th)
8. Cincinnati 10-5 (6th)
9. Baltimore 8-7 (7th)
10. Arizona 10-5 (11th)
11. Green Bay 10-5 (13th)
12. Tennessee 7-8 (8th)
13. Denver 8-7 (14th)
14. Atlanta 8-7 (15th)
15. Houston 8-7 (17th)
16. Pittsburgh 8-7 (21st)
17. New York Jets 8-7 (18th)
18. Miami 7-8 (16th)
19. Carolina 7-8 (22nd)
20. San Francisco 7-8 (20th)
21. New York Giants 8-7 (12th)
22. Jacksonville 7-8 (19th)
23. Cleveland 4-11 (26th)
24. Tampa Bay 3-12 (27th)
25. Chicago 6-9 (31st)
26. Oakland 5-10 (25th)
27. Washington 4-11 (23rd)
28. Buffalo 5-10 (24th)
29. Kansas City 3-12 (28th)
30. St. Louis 1-14 (29th)
31. Detroit 2-13 (30th)
32. Seattle 5-10 (32nd)

-Previous week’s ranking in parenthesis;

Explaining Week 15’s Strange and Static Rankings: Last week I was short for time and was unable to explain my rankings, which were pretty strange. My top 9 spots stayed the same and 21 of the top 22 either stayed in the same spot or moved only 1 space up or down. I just didn’t see much that made me change my opinion of most of the teams. Was I more apt to keep things the same because I was feeling rushed when I made the list? Maybe a little bit. But I don’t think that was a big factor because there were some major changes to the bottom 10 spots in my rankings. 9 of the final 10 spots in my rankings changed last week, with 7 of the bottom 10 teams moving up or down more than 1 space. This contrast of almost no movement in the top two thirds of my rankings and significant movement in the bottom third was a bit odd. But it wasn’t without reason. I guess I just found the play of the bottom feeders (whether good or bad) to be more telling than that of the rest of the NFL.

Last Week’s Risers and Fallers: Still, only 4 teams moved 3 or more spots up or down in my rankings last week. Only 1 team moved up more than 2 spots and that was the Bucs, who moved up 3 spots from 30th to 27th after embarrassing the Seahawks on the road. 3 teams had significant drops in my rankings last week. The Broncos were the only team amongst my top 22 that moved up or down more than 1 spot. I dropped the Broncos 4 spots from 10th to 14th after their stunning loss to the Raiders at home. The teams in the last two spots in my power rankings were perhaps a bit surprising, as both teams had 5-9 records, while the 5 teams ranked directly above them had combined for 11 wins. But the Bears lost for the 8th time in 10 games, getting routed by the Ravens, and they appeared to have quit on their coach and on the season. I dropped Chicago 4 spots last week from 27th to 31st. But the most stunning loss of week 15 was Seattle’s 24-7 defeat at home against the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs. It was the 8th time that the Seahawks had lost by double digits, and again, it seemed like the team had quit on its coach and quit on the season. The Seahawks plummeted 7 spots in my rankings from 25th to dead last at 32nd.

Explaining Week 16’s Radical Rankings: If my week 15 power rankings were the most stagnate of the year, this week’s rankings might be the most radically changed of the year. 30 of the 32 teams moved at least 1 spot up or down this week, including 14 teams that moved at least 3 places. Why so much change? Well, part of it was probably a bit of unconscious overcorrecting on my part in reaction to last week’s static rankings. But having more time to do my rankings this week wasn’t the main reason things got shaken up so much. There were simply a number of surprising outcomes in week 16: San Diego blowing out Tennessee on the road; Indianapolis forfeiting; New England demolishing a Jacksonville team fighting for its life; Baltimore self destructing; Carolina violating the Giants in their final home game at Giants Stadium; the Bears beating the Vikings; and (of course) Tampa Bay coming from behind to beat the Saints in OT at the Superdome. Also, some patterns began to show in week 16, after so many of the events of week 15 could be dismissed as flukes or stand-alone occurrences. The Vikings lost for the 3rd time in 4 games; the Saints lost their 2nd straight game, again at home; rising teams continued to rise and falling teams continued to fall; the Panthers and Bucs had surprising wins for the second straight week; and the Redskins and Seahawks had despicable performances for the second week in a row.

Risers and Fallers: There were 14 teams that rose or fell 3 or more spots in my rankings this week. 8 teams climbed at least 3 spots; 6 teams fell at least 3 spots. I moved the Chargers 3 spots up from 4th to the #1 spot in my rankings after their blowout win of a red hot Tennessee team in Nashville. It was San Diego’s 10th straight win. The Cowboys won their 2nd straight road game in December and I moved them up 3 spots from 9th to 6th. New England crushed the Jags for their 3rd straight win and climbed 3 spots in my rankings from 10th to 7th. After soundly beating the Vikings in week 15, the Panthers closed out Giants Stadium with a stunning blowout win over the G-Men, who were trying to make a run at the playoffs. The Panthers moved up 3 spots from 22nd to 19th. The Browns beat the Raiders by 14 points for their 3rd straight victory and all of the sudden they have the same record as the Redskins. I moved Cleveland up 3 spots this week from 26th to 23rd. Tampa Bay pulled out a stunning overtime win over the Saints, winning on the road for a second straight week. The Bucs climbed 3 spots this week from 27th to 24th. While their win was not one of the week’s most impressive or surprising victories, the Steelers pulled out a nail biter over a solid opponent for the second week in a row to stay alive. That was enough to shoot up 5 spots in my rankings, going from 21st to 16th. The team making the biggest move up my rankings this week was the Bears. It may have been an overreaction on my part to drop the Bears 4 spots in week 15, and their gutty win over Favre and the Vikings in OT on Monday Night led me to bring them up 6 places in my this week from 31st to 25th.

While 6 of the 8 teams that rose more than 2 spots this week climbed exactly 3 spots, only 2 of the 6 teams that fell more than 2 spots dropped exactly 3 spots. The Saints lost their 2nd straight game, again at home, this time choking away a big lead and falling in OT to a Tampa Bay team that had won only 1 more game than the Saints had lost coming in. The Saints fell 3 spots in my rankings from 2nd to 5th. The Jags were crushed by the Patriots for their 4th loss in 5 games and I dropped them 3 spots from 19th to 22nd. The Titans were buried by the Chargers at home, looking like a team that had run out of gas. I moved them down 4 spots from 8th to 12th. The Redskins were absolutely pathetic in front of their loyal fans and a nation wide audience for the 2nd straight week, this time getting shutout by Dallas no less. Washington dropped 4 spots from 23rd to 27th. The Buffalo Bills gave a great effort and tried the best they could to put up a fight in Atlanta last week but they just don’t have enough to compete right now. I moved the Bills 4 spots down from 24th to 28th. Finally, the team making by far the biggest move up or down my rankings this week was the New York Football Giants. Their 41-9 loss to the Panthers in the final game at Giants Stadium, with so much at stake, was a jaw dropper. It was inexplicable and inexcusable. New York slid 9 spots in my rankings this week from 12th to 21st.

The Colts Forfeit the Game and the Top Spot: If the Colts had “played to win the game” and had their perfect season come to an end in a loss at home to the Jets, it’s possible that I would not have moved them out of the #1 spot. The Chargers look like the best team in the game right now, but even if San Diego had lost to Tennessee on Friday, after what the Colts did on Sunday I would have figured out some way to move Indy out of the top spot in my rankings, perhaps making them ineligible for the rankings this week. Their actions in the 2nd half of the game against the Jets were appalling. For the first 30 minutes or so of that ridiculous charade I simply could not believe what they were doing. When I finally began to accept that they were really going to go through with it I was overcome with a mixture of anger and disgust. The fact that there are people out there trying to defend their actions is disturbing. The only bright spot in one of the darkest moments in NFL history was the behavior of the crowd. I spent 3 years of this decade living in Indianapolis and I got a good sense of the relationship between the team and the city while I was there. It felt like they were an expansion team, and really they were, as they were moved from Baltimore to a place that had never had pro football before in 1984. Honestly I don’t think the Colts became that area of the country’s team until the Colts beat the Bears in the Super Bowl. There were a lot of Bears/Colts fans in that area and that game would have forced people to choose one side or the other and probably for good. I never wanted the Colts to win a championship because I didn’t like how they had left Baltimore. But those fans earned my respect on Sunday. They booed the team’s actions from the start to the finish.

I honestly believe that this is going to come back to bite the Colts. It showed me that they are really still the same team they were under Tony Dungy. They are a team that plays like a machine. That works in the regular season, but you have to play with fire and with fearlessness in the playoffs. They’ve been the favorite or co-favorite to win the Super Bowl almost every season since Dungy arrived and they’ve won it once. Most of the time they choke and I believe they will again because they don’t care enough about winning. Plus, San Diego has their number and is not at all scared. I believe this will start to effect the Colts mentally and emotionally and they will not recover. Had they gone for the win and lost it would have been disappointing but it would also have taken all the pressure off of them. Instead, they gave up the chance at perfection and they put more pressure on themselves than they would have had if they were 18-0 going into the Super Bowl. If they do not get to the Super Bowl it will be blamed on their actions against the Jets and it will be a stain on the franchise. And I tell you this: Even if they do win the Super Bowl they will not escape the shame of what they did and people will always look at them as the team that gave up the chance at history. Strangely, if they get to the Super Bowl and lose it will be a bit different because it will probably not be blamed on what they did against the Jets. They will have obviously rebounded and regrouped enough to win 2 playoff games and they will be able to tell everybody that their goal was to win the Super Bowl. At the same time, it will end a lot of those “what if” questions because you could say that they wouldn’t have had an undefeated season anyway. However, they will still have the shame of being the team that gave up a chance at a perfect season, and they wouldn’t even get a ring out of the deal.

NFC Powerhouses Losing Steam: Aside from the travesty in Indianapolis, the most upsetting development of the last few weeks has to be the decline of the two teams that have been the cream of the crop in the NFC the entire season. Just a few weeks ago it seemed like an epic NFC Championship Game between the unstoppable (and perhaps undefeated) New Orleans Saints and Brett Favre’s Vikings seemed not only likely but damn near inevitable. But things have deteriorated rapidly in the last few weeks. At this point I would have to say it would be somewhat surprising if that match up ends up taking place in the conference championship game. It’s starting to feel like the NFC is going to be wide open again. It could be Arizona and Philly again in the NFC Championship Game. Dallas could finally break through. Amazingly, at this point I think the Favre-less Green Bay Packers have as good a chance of making the Super Bowl as the Favre-led Vikings.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 15 Power Rankings

Power Rankings After Week 15

1. Indianapolis 14-0 (1st)
2. New Orleans 13-1 (2nd)
3. Minnesota 11-3 (3rd)
4. San Diego 11-3 (4th)
5. Philadelphia 10-4 (5th)
6. Cincinnati 9-5 (6th)
7. Baltimore 8-6 (7th)
8. Tennessee 7-7 (8th)
9. Dallas 9-5 (9th)
10. New England 9-5 (11th)
11. Arizona 9-5 (12th)
12. New York Giants 8-6 (13th)
13. Green Bay 9-5 (14th)
14. Denver 8-6 (10th)
15. Atlanta 7-7 (15th)
16. Miami 7-7 (16th)
17. Houston 7-7 (18th)
18. New York Jets 7-7 (17th)
19. Jacksonville 7-7 (19th)
20. San Francisco 6-8 (20th)
21. Pittsburgh 7-7 (22nd)
22. Carolina 6-8 (23rd)
23. Washington 4-10 (21st)
24. Buffalo 5-9 (24th)
25. Oakland 5-9 (26th)
26. Cleveland 3-11 (28th)
27. Tampa Bay 2-12 (30th)
28. Kansas City 3-11 (29th)
29. St. Louis 1-13 (31st)
30. Detroit 2-12 (32nd)
31. Chicago 5-9 (27th)
32. Seattle 5-9 (25th)

-Previous week’s ranking in parenthesis;

Comment: No time for comments this week.

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 16 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (4-9-3); Straight Up (9-7).
Season: Vs. Spread (104-115-4); Straight Up (145-78).

Week 15 Review: What a weird week in the NFL. There were a number of upsets, great finishes, and hardly any big favorites covering. It was a strange week for me as well. Going into last week I had pushed exactly once all year. Last week I pushed in 3 games. It could have been worse. But I wasn’t really able to comprehend what was going on anyway because I was dealing with trying to get home from New York City and then out to Montana during a blizzard. Honestly, with how crazy last week was, I really wasn’t all that disappointed with my record ATS or straight up.

Week 16 Preview: It’s been a crazy week for me and these picks are a bit rushed to say the least. I’m not feeling much pressure because I’ve kind of given up on the idea of going .500 ATS after last week’s problems. I’d have to go 22-10 over the final 2 weeks and that seems unlikely. Anyway, the last couple weeks are always hard because of all the extra factors you have to add in like motivation and playing time and everything else. So here are my slightly hurried week 16 picks.

Friday’s Game

San Diego (+3) @ Tennessee
Pick: Titans win but Chargers beat the spread
Comment: Maybe I’m forgetting something obvious but I can’t remember the last time there was an NFL game on a Friday night. I’m hedging a bit here because I’m really torn on this one. However, it’s not really a hedge because this could easily end up being a 1 or 2 point game. Both of these teams are red hot but the Chargers have been a bit hotter. San Diego has won 9 straight; the Titans have won 7 of 8. The Chargers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7; Tennessee is just 1-3 ATS in the last 4 games. San Diego is 6-1 on the road (4-3 ATS on the road); the Titans are 5-2 at home (3-4 ATS at home). If you figure that both teams are very good and both are playing very well at the moment, you might give a slight edge to the Titans due to home field advantage. But the Titans suffered a couple of injuries that I don’t think are being looked at enough. Tennessee lost linebackers David Thornton and Keith Bulluck last week, both for the season. That could be huge. Then again, San Diego has the #2 seed pretty well sewn up and has no shot at the #1 seed, while the Titans are playing for their playoff lives, so the motivation factor would seem to point towards Tennessee. Also, back in 2007 when Vince Young playing QB for the Titans, San Diego beat the Titans in OT in December and then knocked them out of the playoffs a few weeks later. San Diego should be motivated as well, however, as there is bad blood in this series and a win would allow the Chargers to have a virtual bye week in week 17. Thus, my hedging. It should be a close one.

Sunday’s Early Games

Buffalo (+9) @ Atlanta
Pick: Falcons cover
Comment: I think the Falcons should definitely beat the Bills at home by double digits but the Bills have only lost 4 games by double digits this year and the Falcons have only won 3 games by double digits this season. Also, Buffalo is actually 3-4 on the road this season and 5-2 ATS on the road. The Falcons are 5-2 at home (5-2 ATS) but they’ve lost their last 2 at the Georgia Dome and could easily be on a 3 game home losing skid. The Falcons figure to be the more motivated team, as a winning record seems to be important to the team. It’s certainly important to us Falcons fans. The Falcons have their QB back now and that makes them a much more formidable opponent, especially against a team like Buffalo with little offense to speak of. Terrell Owens always seems to hurt the Falcons but hopefully this time he’ll be held in check. Ryan Fitzgerald has been playing QB for the Bills but his status for this game is up in the air. If Fitzgerald can’t play the Bills will be in some trouble because Trent Edwards is out for the year. Fitzgerald is hardly a solid starting QB but I have to think the Bills will be better off with him than Brian Brohm. The Falcons should win fairly easily.

Kansas City (+13.5) @ Cincinnati
Pick: Bengals win but Chiefs beat the spread
Comment: KC seems to have quit on the season a bit, having lost 4 straight (0-4 ATS). Clearly the Bengals have all the motivation on their side, needing only a win to clinch a rare playoff birth, and with the recent death of teammate Chris Henry still on the mind. It would seem logical to think the Bengals would blow this one out but Cinci is 0-6 ATS as a favorite this season! Kansas City is 2-4 on the road (3-3 ATS) while the Bengals are 5-2 at home but just 3-4 ATS at home. Cinci is 1-4 ATS over the last 5 games. I think the Bengals will win easily but I’m guessing the final spread will be more like 10 points.

Oakland (+3) @ Cleveland
Pick: Browns win but Raiders beat the spread
Comment: This is another tough one and once again I’m hedging a bit. The QB situation is a bit fuzzy for both teams. Cleveland will be going with Derek Anderson now that Brady Quinn is out for the season. Oakland could go with any of three QB’s. The Browns have now won back-to-back games and have beaten the spread in 5 straight weeks. The Raiders are 3-3 in their last 6 games. Oakland is traveling but the Raiders are actually 3-4 on the road this year and 4-3 ATS on the road. The Browns are just 1-5 at home (3-3 ATS). I’ll take the Browns to win a nail biter.

Seattle (+14) @ Green Bay
Pick: Packers cover
Comment: The Packers need to keep winning to sew things up and they are coming off of a heartbreaking one-point loss at Pittsburgh. They should be fired up. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are banged up (as always) and seem to have found rock bottom. They were blown out at home by the Bucs last week and they are now just 5-9 ATS this season. They are 1-6 on the road (1-6 ATS). Green Bay has won 5 of 6 (5-0-1 ATS) and is one play away from a 6 game win streak. The Packers are 9-4-1 ATS this season and 5-2 at home (4-2-1 ATS). Green Bay should roll.

Houston (+3) @ Miami
Pick: Dolphins cover
Comment: I don’t know how the Fins keep hanging in there but they do. The Texans are just lucky they still have a shot. Houston is 1-4 ATS over the last 5; Miami is 4-1 ATS over the last 5. I can’t believe I’m giving Miami this much credit but I think they’ll win by 8 or 9.

Carolina (+7) @ New York Giants
Pick: Giants win but Panthers beat the spread.
Comment: Both teams are coming off of blowout wins. The G-Men are fighting for the playoffs; the Panthers are not. New York is just 4-3 at home this season and only 2-4-1 ATS at home. Carolina is just 2-5 on the road but 4-3 ATS on the road. The Panthers seem to be better off without Jake Delhomme. They won’t have DeAngelo Williams this week but as we know they have another great running back to lean on. I like the Giants to win by less than a TD.

Jacksonville (+9) @ New England
Pick: Patriots win but Jags beat the spread
Comment: The Jags are fighting for their playoff lives but the Patriots have to keep winning as well. The weather could be a factor but I’m not even sure who that favors. Jacksonville is 2-4 on the road this season, while the Pats are 7-0 at home, but New England has not been blowing teams out lately. The Patriots are 2-4-1 in their last 7 ATS. The Jags are even worse. For the season, the Jags are 5-9 ATS. They have lost 3 of 4 straight up and 8 of 10 ATS. Still, I just don’t think they’ll lose by 10 to the Patriots.

Tampa Bay (+14) @ New Orleans
Pick: Saints cover
Comment: The Bucs are coming off of their best game of the season and their first road victory. The Saints are coming off of their first loss of the season and it came at home. But New Orleans still has work to do to clinch the #1 seed. The Saints are only 2-6 ATS in their last 8 but I think they’ll win this one big.

Baltimore (+3) @ Pittsburgh
Pick: Steelers win but Ravens beat the spread
Comment: Another hedge. Baltimore is 2-4 on the road this year while the Steelers are 5-2 at home. Pittsburgh is just 4-10 ATS this season. The Steelers have had the upper hand in this rivalry in recent years. They nearly won in Baltimore with a backup QB earlier this year. Big Ben kept the Steelers breathing with a last second TD pass last week and both of these teams are desperate. It should be a hard hitting, violent classic, and both teams could run out of players by game’s end.

Sunday’s Late Games

St. Louis (+14) @ Arizona
Pick: Cardinals cover
Comment: We don’t know how motivated the Cards will be but St. Louis is horrible and decimated by injury.

Detroit (+13) @ San Francisco
Pick: Niners cover
Comment: The Lions are starting Drew Stanton at QB and the Niners are at home. San Fran should win big.

Denver (+7) @ Philadelphia
Pick: Eagles cover
Comment: Denver choked hardcore at home last week against the Raiders and for a decent team the Broncos have been beaten badly a lot this season.

New York Jets (+5.5) @ Indianapolis
Pick: Colts cover
Comment: The Colts injury report is a joke this week but I’ve got to think they will be going after the perfect season. I mean if Tony Dungy were coaching I’d expect the starters to sit the entire game but with Dungy gone I expect them to show some heart and some balls.

Sunday Night’s Game

Dallas (-7) @ Washington
Pick: Cowboys win but Skins beat the spread
Comment: Last week’s performance was a disgrace but I don’t think Washington will play that badly on national TV, at home, against a division rival two weeks in a row. And this is the Cowboys, Wade Phillips, Tony Romo and December we’re talking about.

Monday Night’s Game

Minnesota (-7) @ Chicago
Pick: Vikings cover
Comment: The Vikes are starting to crack and this one is going to be played in ugly weather. I’m concerned about that but the Vikings should beat Chicago by at least two TD’s without Favre ever having to throw a pass. The Bears are pathetic.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The College Football Blog: 2009 Bowl Season Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (0-0-1); Moneyline Upsets (0-0)
Season: Vs. Spread (58-96-5); Moneyline Upsets (14-29)

Week 15 Review: How fitting is it that I pushed last week?

Bowl Season Preview: The bowl matchups are unsatisfying, lacking in meaning, and generally boring, but it’s still hard to predict the outcome, especially against the spread. I think I said something quite similar last year. There’s not much pressure on me because regardless of what happens in the bowl season there’s no way I can do enough to make my season respectable. Like last year I’m going to pick against the spread and pick the winners in the bowl games.

December 19th

New Mexico Bowl: Wyoming (+10.5) vs. Fresno State
Pick: Fresno State covers
Comment: Wow. The bowl season really starts off with a bang. Both of these teams have been good ATS this season. On paper it seems like the Bulldogs should win big but the turnover numbers suggest that Wyoming will stay in the game. The Cowboys are +7 in turnover margin this year, while the Bulldogs are -9. Still, Wyoming has a -10.3 averaging scoring margin this season. Wyoming’s offense is absolutely pitiful. Ryan Matthews should be ready to go for Fresno State and Wyoming’s defense isn’t good enough to contain him. Fresno State should run all over Wyoming and win going away.

St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida (+3) vs. Rutgers
Pick: Rutgers wins but Central Florida beats the spread
Comment: I’m hedging a bit here but honestly it could come down to a missed extra point or something like that. CF should have a decent advantage playing in Florida but there are plenty of New Yorkers who have moved to Florida and there will surely be many more willing to make this trip in the middle of December. While Rutgers is just 6-6 ATS this year, CF is 9-2. I’m thinking this will be a defensive battle and I give Rutgers a slight edge because they are the more talented team.

December 20th

New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee State (+3.5) vs. Southern Mississippi
Pick: Southern Mississippi wins but Middle Tennessee State beats the spread
Comment: The surprising Blue Raiders are 9-3 ATS this year and they have beaten the spread in their last 6 games. The Eagles are just 6-5 ATS this year but they have beaten the spread in 5 of their last 6 games. Southern Miss will be playing in the New Orleans Bowl for the 4th time in 6 years and they are 3-0 to this point. MTS should be fired up to be playing in any bowl, however, and I think they’ll make it really close.

December 22nd

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU (+2.5) vs. Oregon State
Pick: Oregon State covers
Comment: Okay, at what point does the Las Vegas Bowl need to think about going in another direction? For the 5th consecutive season, BYU will be playing a Pac-10 team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Oregon State is the better team and I think they’ll win convincingly.

December 23rd

Poinsettia Bowl: Utah (+3.5) vs. California
Pick: Cal wins but Utah beats the spread
Comment: This is a tough one to call. Neither team is above .500 ATS this season. Cal will not have RB Jahvid Best but the game is in California. I think this one will go down to the wire but I’ll give Cal a slight edge because they are the more talented team.

December 24th

Hawaii Bowl: SMU (+15) vs. Nevada
Pick: Nevada wins but SMU beats the spread
Comment: June Jones is headed back to the island. His Mustangs should put up a hell of a fight against Nevada but I think the Wolfpack will win in the end.

December 26th

Little Caesars Bowl: Ohio (-2.5) vs. Marshall
Pick: Ohio covers
Comment: Which is worse: the name of the bowl or the matchup? Marshall is simply not a very good team and they will not have a head coach for this game. The Herd has a -3.1 average scoring margin this year and has lost 3 straight ATS. Ohio has won 4 straight ATS and is 9-4 ATS this season. I think the Bobcats will win fairly easily.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: North Carolina (+2.5) vs. Pittsburgh
Pick: North Carolina pulls off the upset
Comment: The Heels are playing close to home again, this time against a Pittsburgh team that appeared to be headed for a BCS game before collapsing and choking against Cincinnati in the season finale. With the location and the motivation in UNC’s favor, I think the Heels win this one.

Emerald Bowl: Boston College (+9.5) vs. USC
Pick: USC wins but Boston College beats the spread
Comment: USC has an advantage playing relatively close to home, especially compared to the Eagles. However, you have to wonder how psyched the Trojans will be to play this game. USC is just 3-9 ATS this season. I think the Trojans will win but not by double digits.

December 27th

Music City Bowl: Kentucky (+7.5) vs. Clemson
Pick: Kentucky pulls off the upset
Comment: The Wildcats will be playing in this game for the 3rd time in 4 years. Back in 2006, Kentucky was an 11.5 point underdog against Clemson in this game and won it 28-20. Clemson can’t be all that excited about winding up in Nashville. I think Kentucky will sneak up and beat Clemson.

December 28th

Independence Bowl: Texas A&M (+7) vs. Georgia
Pick: Georgia wins but A&M beats the spread
Comment: Both teams should feel pretty good about playing in this game. A&M will most likely have success throwing the ball against the UGA defense but it will be interesting to see how things go after 3 defensive coaches were let go by the Dawgs a few weeks ago. The Dawgs are just 4-8 ATS this season but they should be able to win this one.

December 29th

EagleBank Bowl: UCLA (-4.5) vs. Temple
Pick: Temple pulls off the upset
Comment: Are we even sure who’s playing in this game yet? UCLA has a +0.1 average scoring margin this year. The Owls are 8-3 ATS and will have Bernard Pierce carrying the ball. I like Temple to win its first bowl game since 1979.

Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin (+3) vs. Miami
Pick: Miami covers
Comment: This is a tough one. It should be a very close game but I’ll give Miami the edge based on location.

December 30th

Humanitarian Bowl: Bowling Green (-2) vs. Idaho
Pick: Idaho pulls off the upset.
Comment: A pair of very surprising teams. One difference between these two teams is that while BG has continued to play better than expected throughout the season, Idaho has really struggled down the stretch. The Vandals have lost 5 straight ATS and their average scoring margin is -3.7. Bowling Green has covered in 4 straight and I would probably be picking BG if this game wasn’t in the state of Idaho. But it is in Idaho and so I’m going to call for the Vandals to win a very close ball game.

Holiday Bowl: Nebraska (+2) vs. Arizona
Pick: Arizona covers
Comment: This is actually an interesting matchup. Arizona’s DC is leaving but they won’t have to be all that prepared to stop Nebraska’s offense. The Wildcats are only 6-6 ATS this season but I think they are the better all around team. I like Arizona to win a close ball game.

December 31st

Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force (+4) vs. Houston
Pick: Houston covers
Comment: This another game that seems to have no problem picking the same teams every year. Air Force will be playing in this game for the 3rd straight year, having lost the previous 2 games. This is an exact rematch of last year’s Armed Forces Bowl (Houston won 34-28) and the two teams played in Dallas in September of last season as well (AF won 31-28). Clearly this is a battle between Houston’s offense and AF’s defense. I think the Cougars will win pretty easily.

Sun Bowl: Stanford (+8) vs. Oklahoma
Pick: Oklahoma wins but Stanford beats the spread
Comment: On paper this is a matchup of Oklahoma’s defense vs. Stanford’s rushing attack. But this one is really more about things like motivation and attitude. Stanford will be without starting QB Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart isn’t even considering returning for his senior season. I have to wonder how Gerhart is going to play, having already moved on at least in his own mind, and with nothing really to gain and a whole lot to lose. Oklahoma was supposed to be playing in a BCS bowl and the Sooners have had trouble showing up for any bowl game lately. I’m going to pick Oklahoma to stop their bowl game losing streak at 3 but I think Stanford will stay within a TD.

Texas Bowl: Navy (+6.5) vs. Missouri
Pick: Missouri covers
Comment: Navy is just 6-7 ATS this season and has lost 3 in a row ATS. Missouri is only 5-7 ATS but the Tigers are the more talented squad and they should be fired up to be playing in any bowl this year. It will come down to Navy’s rushing attack against Mizzu’s rush defense. My guess is that Missouri will be able to slow the ground game down and Navy will not be able to adjust.

Insight Bowl: Iowa State (+2.5) vs. Minnesota
Pick: Iowa State pulls off the upset
Comment: Okay, there is nothing remotely interesting about this matchup. Iowa State has a -1.5 average scoring margin; Minnesota’s average scoring margin is -3. The Gophers have won 3 of their last 4 ATS but they are without their play making receiver Decker in this one. Minnesota lost this game last year to Kansas by 21 points. The Gophers suffered a historic collapse in a loss to Texas Tech in this game in 2006. I think the Cyclones will be fired up for this game and will come up with the win.

Chick-fil-a Bowl: Tennessee (+4.5) vs. Virginia Tech
Pick: Virginia Tech wins but Tennessee beats the spread
Comment: Neither team has had all that much luck in the Georgia Dome. The Vols will be missing a number of players due to injuries and suspensions. Tennessee could really use a win to take the attention away from the off the field issues but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

January 1st

Outback Bowl: Northwestern (+7) vs. Auburn
Pick: Auburn wins but Northwestern beats the spread
Comment: The Wildcats should be able to keep it close but Auburn is the more talented team and will end up winning.

Gator Bowl: Florida State (+2.5) vs. West Virginia
Pick: West Virginia covers
Comment: This is a joke. I hope West Virginia blows FSU out and sends Bobby Bowden and all of the Seminoles fans home devastated.

Capital One Bowl: LSU (+2.5) vs. Penn State
Pick: Penn State covers
Comment: The Tigers are just 5-7 ATS this season and 1-3 ATS in their last 4 games. LSU has some coaching issues and they are really banged up at the RB position. Penn State has been much better on both sides of the ball this season and I can’t bet against them in this game.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State (+3.5) vs. Oregon
Pick: Oregon covers
Comment: Oregon was the hottest team in the country before the loss to Stanford. The Ducks are just 1-3 in their last 4 ATS. Ohio State is 9-3 ATS this season and 4-1 in their last 5 ATS but the Buckeyes will be missing several players for this one. Plus, they will be coming off of a long layoff and there is a mental thing the Buckeyes have to overcome as well. The Ducks are the better team anyway and they should win.

Sugar Bowl: Cincinnati (+11) vs. Florida
Pick: Florida wins but Cincinnati beats the spread.
Comment: No team will be affected by coaching change as much as Cincinnati. However, the team might just be inspired enough to make this a great game. Remember, the Gators ace DC has been hired away and Florida is coming off the huge letdown in the SEC Championship Game. I don’t think the Gators will repeat Bama’s mistakes of last year. It should be a game but I like the Gators to win in the end.

January 2nd

International Bowl: Northern Illinois (+6.5) vs. South Florida
Pick: South Florida wins but Northern Illinois beats the spread.
Comment: Nice bowl game. It doesn’t get much better than a middling MAC team going up against a disappointing Big East team in Canada. NIU has lost 3 straight ATS; USF is 2-5 in its last 7 ATS. The Bulls are dealing with some distractions but they should still be able to pull out the win.

Papa Johns Bowl: Connecticut (+4.5) vs. South Carolina
Pick: Connecticut pulls off the upset
Comment: The Huskies are 10-2 ATS this season and they should be the more inspired team in this ball game.

Cotton Bowl: Mississippi (-3) vs. Oklahoma State
Pick: Mississippi covers
Comment: A couple of teams who had bigger dreams than playing in the Cotton Bowl. It should be a decent game. Okie State is just 5-5-1 ATS this season; Mississippi is 6-6 ATS and just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games. I’ll take Mississippi to win it by 4.

Liberty Bowl: Arkansas (-7.5) vs. East Carolina
Pick: Arkansas wins but East Carolina beats the spread
Comment: Arkansas has won 4 straight ATS. ECU is 6-6 ATS on the season but the Pirates have won 5 of 7 ATS. ECU is banged up and I think the Razorbacks will have a big day throwing the ball.

Alamo Bowl: Michigan State (+8) vs. Texas Tech
Pick: Texas Tech covers
Comment: Michigan State is 4-6-1 ATS this season, 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 games, and they only have like 6 or 7 players who aren’t out with injuries, suspended, or in jail. Texas Tech is better on both sides of the ball anyway.

January 4th

Fiesta Bowl: Boise State (+7) vs. TCU
Pick: TCU wins but Boise State beats the spread.
Comment: This matchup is a subversive fuck you to the non-BCS conferences and everyone who hates the bowl system. Two great teams who will not get a chance to prove themselves against the big boys. Last year TCU beat the Broncos by a point in the Poinsettia Bowl. I think it will be close again this year in Arizona but I like the Frogs to win once again.

January 5th

Orange Bowl: Iowa (+4) vs. Georgia Tech
Pick: Iowa pulls off the upset
Comment: While rust may have a negative effect on the Hawkeyes, I don’t think any team is hurt more by a long layoff than Georgia Tech.

January 6th

GMAC Bowl: Troy (+3.5) vs. Central Michigan
Pick: Central Michigan wins but Troy beats the spread.
Comment: Central Michigan is losing its coach to Cincinnati again and the location should favor Troy. However, CM is the better team and they should win a competitive ball game. By the way, why is this game being played a day after the Orange Bowl and a day before the National Championship Game?

January 7th

BCS Championship: Texas (+5) vs. Alabama
Pick: Alabama covers.
Comment: This should be a great game. Both teams are excellent but in my opinion Alabama has already blown out a team that was better than Texas. I think the Tide will win it convincingly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 15 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (10-6); Straight Up (11-5)
Season: Vs. Spread (100-106-1); Straight Up (136-71)

Week 14 Review: A solid week for me. I’m in position to get back to .500 if I can finish the season strong.

Week 15 Preview: The end of the season is always tricky but for some reason this week seems very tough. Usually there are at least a couple or three games that I feel very strongly about right off the bat each week. That’s not the case this week. There’s not one game that jumps out at me as a slam dunk this week. I’m going with quite a few heavy favorites and quite a few road teams. That could potentially spell disaster. On the positive side, Saturday games are upon us. That means things are about to get really serious.

Thursday’s Game

Indianapolis (-3) @ Jacksonville
Pick: Colts cover
Comment: Is it just me or do we see this exact matchup every single year? Indy is 9-3-1 ATS this year, while the Jags are just 5-8. The Colts are 6-0 on the road (6-0 ATS) and they’ve won 4 straight ATS. Jacksonville is 5-2 at home but just 2-5 ATS in those games. The Jags are also just 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games. This will actually be the first home game shown locally in Jacksonville this season. Back in week 1, the Colts were 6.5 point favorites at home against the Jags, but they had to eke out a 14-12 win. Indy has won its last 2 trips to Jacksonville. Last season in week 16 the two teams met on a Thursday night in Jacksonville. The Colts were 6 point favorites but the Jags led for most of the game. Eventually, however, the Colts came back and won it 31-24. I’ve thought the Jags have been much weaker than their record suggested all season. I think the Colts will keep rolling towards perfection this Thursday and it’s not a big spread. I like Indy to win by 6 or 7.

Saturday’s Game

Dallas (+7) New Orleans
Pick: Saints cover
Comment: Like the Colts, the Saints are looking to go 14-0 against a team fighting to make the playoffs. But the Saints will be playing at home. The Cowboys are now just 6-7 ATS on the season, while the Saints are 8-5. Dallas is 3-3 on the road (2-4 ATS); the Saints are of course 6-0 at the Superdome this year (4-2 ATS). Neither one of these teams has been lighting it up lately. The Cowboys are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games, while the Saints are just 2-5 ATS in their last 7. If the Cowboys are without DeMarcus Ware for this game they are going to be in trouble. The crowd should be electric and the Cowboys have so far been unable to clear the mental hurdles that wreck them each winter. I think the Saints will pull away and win by double digits.

Sunday’s Early Games

Chicago (+11) @ Baltimore
Pick: Ravens cover
Comment: Man, I hoped with all my heart that Jay Cutler’s first season in Chicago would go poorly, but I never dared to dream that it would go this badly. The Bears are 4-9 ATS and they’ve lost 6 straight ATS. Chicago is 1-5 on the road this year (1-5 ATS) and has been outscored by 12 points a game on the road. The Ravens are 5-2 at home (4-3 ATS) and have a +15.8 average scoring margin at home. Baltimore is just 1-3 ATS in its last 4 but the Bears are awful. I think the Ravens will continue the push for the playoffs and win by at least 2 TD’s.

New England (-7) @ Buffalo
Pick: Patriots cover
Comment: The Patriots are now just 5-7-1 ATS and they are 1-5 on the road this season (1-4-1 ATS), with that 1 road win coming against the Bucs in London. Remember the first meeting between these two teams this year back in week 1? Think how much hotter the water would be for the Patriots if the Bills hadn’t given that game away. The miraculous 25-24 win was the 12th straight won by New England in this series. The Bills are 2-3 at home this year (2-3 ATS) but they are 3-1 ATS in their last 4 games overall, while the Patriots have lost 3 in a row ATS. This is not that big of a spread. The Patriots have to win this game and I think they’ll do so by 8 or 9.

Arizona (-12.5) @ Detroit
Pick: Cardinals cover
Comment: Arizona’s performance against the Niners on Monday night was pathetic but the turnovers can be eliminated or at the very least cut down to 2 or 3 instead of a million. Detroit is just about cashed. The Lions don’t have much talent to begin with and they have been crushed by injuries. Daunte Culpepper is likely starting at QB for the Lions in this one. Culpepper was 16 for 34 for 135 yards, 0 TD, and 2 INT in last week’s blowout loss to the Ravens. Kevin Smith, the Lions leading rusher and 2nd leading receiver, is out for the season. The Lions are 3-9-1 ATS this year, 2-4 at home (2-4 ATS), and just 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 games. The Cards are still 8-5 ATS and they are 5-2 on the road this year (5-2 ATS). Arizona is also still 7-3 in its last 10 games ATS. I think they will rebound with a blowout of Detroit.

Cleveland (+1) @ Kansas City
Pick: Chiefs cover
Comment: I’m really torn over this hideous game. The trends say that I should go with the Browns, but the Chiefs are at home and they will have Dwayne Bowe back. The Browns are actually 7-6 ATS this year, while the Chiefs are 5-8. Cleveland is 1-6 on the road but 4-3 ATS on the road. KC is an embarrassing 1-6 at Arrowhead this year, 2-5 ATS. The Chiefs have lost 3 straight ATS, while the Browns have beaten the spread in 4 straight games. Everything is pointing towards the Browns but I’m going to take the Chiefs to win by a field goal.

Atlanta (+6) @ New York Jets
Pick: Falcons pull off the upset
Comment: I don’t have much here other than a strong belief that the Falcons will get the job done this Sunday. The Falcons are 8-5 ATS this season. The Falcons have gone just 1-5 on the road this year but they are 3-3 ATS in those games. The Jets are just 3-3 at home this season (3-3 ATS) but they have won 3 straight ATS. Obviously injuries are a big story in this matchup. It looks like Marc Sanchez will be able to play for the home team. The Falcons injuries are less clear. Matt Ryan may or may not play. Michael Turner may or may not play. I don’t have any inside information; I just have a feeling that both players will be in action on Sunday. The Falcons have lost 6 of 8 but they still have a chance to finish the season with a winning record for a 2nd consecutive season and finally rid the franchise of that awful little fact about never putting together back to back winning seasons. I like the Falcons to pull off the upset at the Meadowlands.

San Francisco (+9) @ Philadelphia
Pick: Eagles win but Niners beat the spread
Comment: While I was impressed with the Niners performance on Monday night, they did benefit from about 35 turnovers. Still, I think they can hang around with the Eagles. The Niners are 8-3-2 ATS this season; the Eagles are 8-5 ATS. San Fran is just 1-5 on the road but 3-1-2 ATS in those games. The Eagles are 4-2 at home (3-3 ATS). Philly is 3-1 ATS in their last 4 games. The Eagles are getting healthier but they still will likely be without Jeremy Maclin and Brian Westbrook. I like the Eagles to win by 7 or 8.

Houston (-11.5) @ St. Louis
Pick: Texans cover
Comment: The Rams are either going to have Kyle Boller or Keith Null at quarterback. Houston is actually 3-3 on the road this year (4-2 ATS), although they are just 1-3 ATS in their last 4 games. The Rams are winless in 6 home games so far this season (2-4 ATS at home). The Texans are without Steve Slaton but they can’t afford to lose any more games and they will be going up against a terrible St. Louis team. They should be able to win by at least 2 TD’s.

Miami (+3) @ Tennessee
Pick: Titans win but Dolphins beat the spread
Comment: This may be the toughest game of the week to pick, with both teams coming into the game hot and with no margin for error. The Dolphins are 3-4 on the road so far this season (4-3 ATS), having been outscored by an average of 4.7 points per game in away contests. The Titans are 4-2 at home (3-3 ATS) and have an average scoring margin of +9.9 at home. Vince Young’s hamstring is obviously a major issue but I believe he’ll play through it. I like the Titans to win by a point or two in an extremely close game.

Sunday’s Late Games

Oakland (+14) @ Denver
Pick: Broncos win but Raiders beat the spread
Comment: This could be a tricky little game for the Broncos. Oakland is 2-4 on the road this season (3-3 ATS), while the Broncos are 4-2 at home (4-2 ATS). In week 3, the Broncos went to Oakland favored by just a point and came away with a 23-3 victory. This time they will most likely not have Cory Buckhalter but Oakland will be led by Charlie Frye. I think the Broncos will win this one by 10.

Cincinnati (+6.5) @ San Diego
Pick: Chargers cover
Comment: The Cowboys and Bengals sure have been playing some teams lately. Cincinnati could be playing this game with a heavy heart, depending on what happens with Chris Henry over the next few days. The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won 8 straight (6-2 ATS in those games), while the Bengals have now lost 4 straight ATS. Cincinnati is 4-2 on the road this season (3-3 ATS), while the Chargers are 4-2 at home (3-3 ATS). This doesn’t seem like too big of a spread. I like the Chargers to win by at least a TD.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) @ Seattle
Pick: Seahawks cover
Comment: Neither team is very good but the Seahawks are still decent at home. The Bucs are 4-9 ATS this season and winless in 6 road games (3-3 ATS on the road). Tampa is just 1-3 in its last 4 ATS. Seattle is just 5-8 ATS this season, but the Seahawks are 4-2 at home (4-2 ATS) and they have outscored opponents by an average of 9 points a game at home. Nate Burleson is unlikely to play for Seattle but they should have enough to win this one by double digits.

Green Bay (+1) @ Pittsburgh
Pick: Packers pull off the upset
Comment: I have doubted Green Bay most of this season but they continue to get the job done. The Steelers are a total mystery. You keep thinking that they can’t possibly lose another game in a row and yet at some point you have to start thinking that it’s not an accident. GB is 8-4-1 ATS in 2009, 4-2 on the road (4-2 ATS), and has won 5 in a row (4-0-1 ATS over those last 5 games). The Steelers are just 4-9 ATS this year, and while they are 4-2 at home, they’re just 2-4 ATS at home. Pittsburgh has lost 5 straight, going 1-4 ATS during that stretch. I think this will be another close game but I think the Packers will come out victorious and put Pittsburgh’s slim postseason hopes to rest.

Sunday Night’s Game

Minnesota (-9) @ Carolina
Pick: Vikings cover
Comment: This could be a tricky game but the spread isn’t too large. Carolina will have Matt Moore under center again. Carolina is just 3-3 at home this season (2-4 ATS) after going undefeated at home last year. The Vikings are 4-2 on the road (4-2 ATS). Minnesota is 3-1 in its last 4 ATS. Carolina has nothing to play for, while the Vikings still have a chance to improve their playoff position. I’ll take the Vikes to win by double digits.

Monday Night’s Game

New York Giants (-3) @ Washington
Pick: Skins pull off the upset
Comment: I’ve thought all along that the Redskins would have some effect on the way things end up in the NFC East. The Giants are no longer an elite defensive team, while the Skins are quietly improving on offense. New York is now just 1-7 ATS over its last 8 games; Washington has beaten the spread in 5 straight. I like the Skins to give their fans a thrill and deal the G-Men a major blow with an upset win at home.

The NFL Blog: 2009 Week 14 Power Rankings

Power Rankings After Week 14

1. Indianapolis 13-0 (1st)
2. New Orleans 13-0 (2nd)
3. Minnesota 11-2 (3rd)
4. San Diego 10-3 (4th)
5. Philadelphia 9-4 (6th)
6. Cincinnati 9-4 (5th)
7. Baltimore 7-6 (7th)
8. Tennessee 6-7 (9th)
9. Dallas 8-5 (8th)
10. Denver 8-5 (11th)
11. New England 8-5 (12th)
12. Arizona 8-5 (10th)
13. New York Giants 7-6 (13th)
14. Green Bay 9-4 (15th)
15. Atlanta 6-7 (16th)
16. Miami 7-6 (18th)
17. New York Jets 7-6 (17th)
18. Houston 6-7 (20th)
19. Jacksonville 7-6 (19th)
20. San Francisco 6-7 (21st)
21. Washington 4-9 (22nd)
22. Pittsburgh 6-7 (14th)
23. Carolina 5-8 (23rd)
24. Buffalo 5-8 (24th)
25. Seattle 5-8 (25th)
26. Oakland 4-9 (26th)
27. Chicago 5-8 (27th)
28. Cleveland 2-11 (30th)
29. Kansas City 3-10 (28th)
30. Tampa Bay 1-12 (31st)
31. St. Louis 1-12 (29th)
32. Detroit 2-11 (32nd)

-Previous week’s ranking in parenthesis;

Big 3 Still Strong: The top 3 teams continued to separate themselves from the rest of the NFL in week 14. The Colts won fairly easily against a good Denver team to go to 13-0. The Saints survived a gutty effort by the hamstrung Falcons in Atlanta, winning 26-23 to run their record to 13-0. And the Vikings rebounded from the loss to Arizona by putting the Bengals away, 30-10. There’s no doubt that these are the top 3 teams in the NFL but the Chargers and Eagles seem to be making a case for inclusion into the top segment of the league.

Moving Up: This was not a big week for teams moving up my rankings. In fact, no team gained more than 2 spots in my power rankings this week.

Going Down: This wasn’t a big week for teams moving down my rankings either…except for the Steelers. The only team to fall more than 2 spots in my power rankings this week was Pittsburgh, who suffered yet another unthinkable loss last week, this time falling to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. The Steelers have lost 5 games in a row and 3 of those losses have come against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns. Pittsburgh took a plunge in my rankings this week, dropping 8 spots from 14th to 22nd.

The Divide: While there is a clear elite class and a clear bottom class, there is still plenty of parity or close competition or whatever you want to call it in between. There are currently 14 teams who have between 6 and 8 wins on the season.

The College Football Blog: 2009 Season Awards

2009 College Football Season Awards

This is the first time I’ve given out college football awards and it was more difficult than I expected. I predict the award winners before the season but that’s different. In that situation I’m making picks based on what I think will happen and how I think the voters will act. Now I’m actually giving out my own awards and it was not easy.

Instead of giving out the traditional awards (Heisman, Lombardi, Thorpe, etc.) I just made up some basic player of the year type of awards. Let me say that my picks are going to be different from the mainstream. I’ve always thought that “preseason All-America” teams and “preseason All-Conference” teams were given too much importance. But college football is a large and difficult to cover sport. Often times it seems like postseason awards are little more than preseason awards with a different name. Performance sometimes takes a backseat to hype, name recognition, potential, etc.

With my awards I tried to avoid this. Certainly part of the criteria was choosing the best player but I also focused on the actual on-field performance this season. Particularly with the player of the year awards and position awards I tried to look at who had the best season and not just who is the best player. I also created my own version of the Heisman Trophy. It’s called the Brent Musburger Most Outstanding Football Player Award. This award is about who the best player is but it’s also about winning.

I also made up an All-American type team which I’m calling the All-Horse Collar Team. For this I will admit that I focused more on who the best player is and a little less on which player had the best year. It’s always hard to do offensive line awards because you pretty much have to watch film in order to know what’s really going on. I decided to have an All-American (or All-Horse Collar) offensive line rather than two guards, a center, and two tackles.

One final note about these awards: I did try hard not to be overly biased against teams from smaller conferences. Of course there is no way to give out awards in football without taking team success or failure into account. You can do that in some sports but not football. It’s the ultimate team game. I did give out some team awards as well just for fun. Finally, I ranked some of the best and worst moments of the season.

Conference Awards


Offensive Player of the Year: CJ Spiller-RB/KR-Clemson
Runner Up: Ryan Williams-RB-Virginia Tech

Defensive Player of the Year: DeAndre McDaniel-SS-Clemson
Runner Up: Robert Quinn-DE-UNC

Coach of the Year: Paul Johnson-Georgia Tech
Runner Up: David Cutcliffe-Duke

Most Surprising Team: Georgia Tech
Runner Up: Duke

Most Disappointing Team: NC State
Runner Up: Virginia Tech

Best Moment: September 7th. Miami and Florida State stage a high-scoring thriller in primetime on Monday night to close out the first weekend of the season with a bang. The conference’s two most important programs look explosive on offense again after the rivalry had been characterized by boring, ugly “defensive” struggles in recent years. The return of this rivalry game to relevance comes when the conference is badly in need of a shot in the arm, at the close of the disastrous opening week of the season.

Worst Moment: The first and last weeks of the regular season. It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one moment in a season of low lights. The season couldn’t have started much worse for the ACC. ACC teams went just 1-4 in 5 week 1 games against FBS opponents from outside the conference…and just 3-2 against FCS teams. Duke and Virginia lost decisively at home to Richmond and William and Mary respectively. Maryland got demolished by Cal; Baylor won at Wake to snap a 9 game road losing streak; NC State and star QB Russell Wilson managed just 3 points in a home loss to South Carolina. And once again, the team picked to win the ACC and challenge for a spot in the BCS Title Game lost the kickoff classic to Bama in the Dome, with Virginia Tech going down this time. Then months later, in the final week of the regular season, the ACC went 0-3 against the SEC, with Florida State getting humiliated by Florida; Atlantic Division champ Clemson losing by 17 to a South Carolina team that came into the game 6-5; and Costal Division champ Georgia Tech getting run over at home by a Georgia team that came into the game 6-5.
Best Game: Tie. Week 1: Miami @ FSU. See above. Canes win 38-34 on Monday night. Game ends when Miami defenders break up a pass in the end zone on 4th down and goal.
ACC Championship Game: Georgia Tech vs. Clemson. The rematch proves to be even better than the 30-27 roller coaster in the regular season. Clemson comes from behind to take the lead in the 4th but the Tiger defense can’t stop GT from answering with the game winning score, as the Jackets win the title with a 39-34 victory.

Comments: Spiller is a pretty obvious choice for offensive player of the year, although VT running back Ryan Williams was also super. Spiller is often slowed by injury but when he’s able to play he is spectacular. He can hurt you in so many ways. Spiller scored 20 TD’s: 11 rushing, 4 receiving, 4 on kick returns, and 1 on a punt return; and he also scored a 2-point conversion and threw a TD pass. He ran 201 times for 1145 yards (88.08 per game); caught 33 passes for 445 yards (34.2 yards per game); completed 1 of 2 pass attempts for a 17 yard TD; returned 9 punts for 208 yards (average of 23.11); and returned 21 kickoffs for 714 yards (average of 34.00). Spiller racked up a total of 2512 all purpose yards (1st in the ACC), averaging 193.2 yards per game (1st in the ACC), and averaged 122.3 yards from scrimmage per game (2nd in the ACC). Spiller was the leading scorer in the conference with 122 points, averaging 9.6 points per game (2nd in the conference). And you have to remember that Spiller was constantly hampered by injuries. In some ways you have to take downgrade him because of that but it’s also impressive that he was still able to put up all those numbers, despite missing a lot of time, and not really taking advantage of a few games against weak competition. Spiller had just 2 of his 20 TD’s against the 2 weak opponents on Clemson’s schedule—Coastal Carolina and Middle Tennessee State (if you can really consider MTS weak)—with only 39 rushing yards and 0 receptions.

Choosing a defensive player of the year is much harder than choosing the offensive player of the year. I went with McDaniel, as he led the conference with 8 picks, racking up 128 yards in returns and taking 1 back to the house. He made 52 solo tackles, 85 total tackles, recorded a pair of sacks for -11 yards, had 5 TFL (tackle for loss) for -17 yards, and forced a fumble. McDaniel made 2 INT’s against GT and he was enormous in the Miami game, intercepting 2 passes and returning them for 105 yards and a score in the Tigers’ OT win on the road.

Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech were easy choices for coach of the year and biggest surprise. Tech was good last year but I don’t think anybody thought they would go 11-2 and win the conference title. Duke was much more competitive than most people expected, winning 3 conference games.

NC State was also an easy choice for the most disappointing team. With Tom O’Brien in his 3rd year in Raleigh, 7 starters back on both sides of the ball, and Russell Wilson returning for his sophomore season, the Wolfpack was supposed to improve upon last year’s 6-7 record. They had won the last 4 games of the regular season last year before losing to Rutgers in the bowl when Russell got injured. But NC State took a step back this season, going 5-7 with a 21 point loss to Duke at home. Even though Virginia Tech had a very good season, you still kind of have to call it a disappointing season considering the expectations, and the fact that they didn’t even reach the conference championship game.


Offensive Player of the Year: Danario Alexander-WR-Missouri
Runner Up: Jordan Shipley-WR-Texas

Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh-DT-Nebraska
Runner Up: Brandon Sharpe-DE-Texas Tech

Coach of the Year: Gary Pinkel-Missouri
Runner Up: Paul Rhoads-Iowa State

Most Surprising Team: Iowa State
Runner Up: Missouri

Most Disappointing Team: Oklahoma
Runner Up: Colorado

Best Moment: September 5th (the early part of the day). Oklahoma State takes care of Georgia for one of the biggest wins in the program’s history. Baylor comes of age with a win on the road at Wake Forrest. Missouri—expected to be starting a rebuilding year—thrashes Illinois for the 3rd year in a row in St. Louis. What a start to the year for the up and coming Big XII!

Worst Moment: September 5th (evening). A dream turns into a nightmare for the Big XII Conference, as Oklahoma—picked by many to win the conference and return to the National Championship Game—loses Heisman winning QB Sam Bradford to injury and suffers a 1-point loss to BYU in Dallas. This would be just the first of a continuous flow of problems for the conference in a very disappointing and trying year for the Big XII.

Best Game: Week 13: Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City. Kansas 41, Missouri 39. The Tigers snatch the game away from the Jayhawks in the final moments, dealing their hated rivals a crushing loss--their 7th straight to finish off a nightmarish season--and sending Fat Mangino out a loser. A really, really big loser.

Comments: I’m sure I would get killed for picking Alexander as the offensive player of the year but the guy’s numbers speak for themselves: 107 catches; 1644 yards; 137 Y/G; 13 TD—all high marks in the conference. I know the obvious question is “where the hell is Colt McCoy?” But to be honest, folks, I don’t think McCoy had a great season. He’s a good QB and he runs one of the best offensives in college football but he regressed this season. Last year McCoy completed 77% of his passes for 3859 yards and 34 TD against just 8 picks. This season he completed 70% of his passes for 3512 yards and 27 TD against 12 picks. Last year he ran for 561 yards and 11 TD; this year he ran for 348 yards and 3 TD. He has been sacked 30 times this year. McCoy did not play very well against Texas and he straight up choked in the Big XII Championship.

By now, everybody knows about Ndamukong Suh. He’s been will known to many college football fans for a long time but it was remarkable to see the reputation and recognition of a defensive tackle explode over the course of a week or so. Suh was the most dominant player in football this year. More on him later.

For me, Missouri was the big surprise for the conference this year. The Tigers aren’t going anywhere as long as Gary Pinkel is around. The Mizzu lost 12 starters and slew of star players but the Tigers still found a way to win 8 games. Iowa State was also much better than expected in Paul Rhoads’ first season.

On the other hand, Oklahoma’s season was an absolute disaster. Just about every key player was injured at some point during the season. They lost a number of stars to injury, including the defending Heisman Trophy winner. Still, the Sooners went into the season expecting to lose 1 game at the most, and quite possibly going undefeated on the way to the BCS Title Game, yet they somehow wound up going just 7-5. Meanwhile, Colorado continues to fall short of even the most modest of expectations.

Big East

Offensive Player of the Year: Mardy Gilyard-WR/KR-Cincinnati
Runner Up: Dion Lewis-RB-Pittsburgh

Defensive Player of the Year: Lawrence Wilson-LB-Connecticut
Runner Up: Doug Hogue-DE-Syracuse

Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly-Cincinnati
Runner Up: Randy Edsall-Connecticut

Most Surprising Team: Cincinnati
Runner Up: Connecticut

Most Disappointing Team: Rutgers
Runner Up: Louisville

Best Moment: November 21st. Those gutsy Huskies from Connecticut pull out a 33-30 win over the Fighting Irish on the road in double overtime, finally winning their first game in the memory of falling teammate Jasper Howard after 3 consecutive heartbreaking defeats.

Worst Moment: December 10th. Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly deserts his undefeated team before their Sugar Bowl matchup with Florida, deciding to take the money and the fame at Notre Dame. It is the 2nd time in 3 years that the head coach of the Big East champion has abandoned the team before their BCS game in order to take another job (Rich Rodriguez left West Virginia for Michigan a couple of years ago prior to the Fiesta Bowl with Oklahoma).

Best Game: Week 13: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh. Cincinnati 45, Pittsburgh 44. The Bearcats storm back from a 21 point deficit to tie the game at 38 in the 4th quarter. The Panthers go back on top with 1:36 to play but a missed extra point leaves the door open for Cinci. Tony Pike fires a TD pass to Armon Binns with to tie the game with 33 seconds left and the extra point puts the Bearcats ahead for the first time in the game. Cincinnati hangs on to win it by a point, finishing the season 12-0 and winning the Big East.

Comments: I gave Gilyard the nod for offensive player of the year over the freshman Lewis because he was the guy who came up with the big plays over and over for the undefeated Bearcats. The diminutive Lewis was a workhorse for Pitt, carrying 297 times and rushing for 1640 yards and 16 TD’s. Gilyard was a multi-purpose, big play, clutch performer for the best team in the conference. Gilyard caught 80 passes for 1150 yards (95.8 per game) and 11 TD, all 1st in the Big East. He also scored a rushing TD and a 2-pt conversion. Mardy returned 16 punts for 202 yards (averaging 12.63) and a TD and also returned 34 kickoffs for 1074 yards (31.59 per return) and 2 TD. Gilyard scored 15 TD’s and accounted for 92 points, 7.7 per game. He led the Big East with 2442 all-purpose yards, 203.5 a game.

Lawrence Wilson didn’t have a dominant season but he led the conference with 76 solo tackles and 136 total tackles. Wilson recorded 4 sacks, 10 TFL, and forced 3 fumbles. Doug Hague may be one of the more obscure players mentioned in this blog, but he recorded 9.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL, intercepted a pass, forced 2 fumbles, and had 4 pass breakups and 5 hurries for the Orange.

Brian Kelly was the obvious choice for coach of the year, although Randy Edsel has been very impressive at UConn as well. Cinci and UConn were the two surprise teams in the Big East this year. Meanwhile, Louisville has not recovered from Bobby Petrino’s exit, and Rutgers could manage only an 8-4 record out of one of the easiest schedules any BCS conference team has faced in recent memory.

Big Ten

Offensive Player of the Year: John Clay-RB-Wisconsin
Runner Up: Keith Smith-WR-Purdue

Defensive Player of the Year: Greg Jones-LB-Michigan State
Runner Up: Brandon Graham-DE-Michigan

Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz-Iowa
Runner Up: Pat Fitzgerald-Northwestern

Most Surprising Team: Northwestern
Runner Up: Indiana

Most Disappointing Team: Illinois
Runner Up: Michigan

Best Moment: September 12th (the early part of the day). Freshman QB Tate Forcier fires a last second TD pass to give Michigan a 38-34 victory over Notre Dame. For the moment, Michigan appears to be back, and Ohio State has USC at home later that night. It looks like it could be a huge day for the conference.

Worst Moment: November 7th. Undefeated Iowa is struggling early in their contest with Northwestern at home, when QB Ricky Stanzi is pummeled in the end zone. The result of the play is a defensive touchdown and it is the last play Stanzi will be involved in during the regular season. The Hawkeyes now find themselves behind, with an inexperienced QB in the game, and they never fully recover, losing 17-10 to see their undefeated season and any hopes of playing for a national title go down the drain. And the game everyone was looking forward to—Iowa at Ohio State the following week—loses most of its sizzle.

Best Game: Week 11: Iowa @ Ohio State. Ohio State 27, Iowa 24 (OT). Despite losing some of its national importance, the game between the two best teams in the Big Ten turns out to be a classic. Iowa hangs in the game despite playing with a very inexperienced QB. The game goes to OT where the Buckeyes win on a field goal to clinch the conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Comments: The Big Ten is lucky that it had John Clay this season. Other wise they would really be hurting for offensive player of the year candidates. Clay ran for 1396 yards and 16 TD, easily leading the conference. In fact, no other player scored double digit touchdowns this year in the Big Ten. The top passer in the conference threw 13 picks. Keith Smith was the closest thing to an offensive standout after Clay, and Smith only scored 6 TD’s.

Greg Jones was rock solid at linebacker for the Spartans. Jones led the conference with 141 total tackles and was 2nd with 62 solo tackles. He made 9 sacks, 13.5 TFL, forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble. Jones also had 8 hurries and knocked down a pass. A lot of people probably would have gone with Brandon Graham as the defensive player of the year. Graham had 9.5 sacks and led the conference with 25 TFL for -103 yards. He forced 2 fumbles, blocked 2 kicks, and scored a defensive touchdown. However, Graham was the best player on an awful team, while Jones was the best player on a team that went 6-6 with 5 losses by 8 points or less, including 3 losses by 3 points or less.

Iowa and Northwestern were the surprise teams for the conference this year and the obvious choices for any coaching awards. Particularly NW’s success was a major surprise. Iowa was expected to have a good season and they ended up having a great season, especially considering that they were undefeated before they lost their senior QB to an injury. While Indiana didn’t win many games this year, they were in almost every game, and if the Hoosiers don’t take a step up in the next few years under Bill Lynch it certainly won’t be due to a lack of fire, grit, determination, and intensity.

Illinois and Michigan were two of the biggest disappointments in all of college football this year. Ron Zook is very fortunate to still have his job after winning only 3 games this year on the heels of a 5-7 campaign last year. Coach Rodriguez will almost certainly not survive a 3rd straight losing season in Ann Arbor.


Offensive Player of the Year: Toby Gerhart-RB-Stanford
Runner Up: Jacquizz Rogers-RB-Oregon State

Defensive Player of the Year: Rahim Moore-FS-UCLA
Runner Up: Brian Price-DT-UCLA

Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly-Oregon
Runner Up: Jim Harbaugh-Stanford

Most Surprising Team: Oregon
Runner Up: Stanford

Most Disappointing Team: USC
Runner Up: California

Best Moment: September 12th. The young and unproven Trojans go into Columbus and come away with an 18-15 win over Ohio State, going on a long drive for the winning score late in the 4th. It looks like perhaps it will be business as usual for USC.

Worst Moment: September 3rd. The Oregon Ducks see their season teetering at the edge of a cliff just one game into Chip Kelly’s first campaign in Eugene. After being shutdown by Boise State on the blue turf in a 19-8 loss in the opener, star running back LeGarrette Blount throws a punch at a Boise State player and has to be restrained from going into the stands after some fans. Initially Blount is ruled done for the rest of the year. It doesn’t look like it will matter much at this point, as Oregon looks headed for a rebuilding year anyway.

Best Game: Week 6. Arizona @ Washington. Washington 36, Arizona 33. There were a lot of great games in every conference this year and there wasn’t anything particularly special about this game through the first 57 minutes or so. But then the single craziest play of 2009 college football season occurred. Because it was a fairly meaningless game, and because it was a late-night, west coast game, the play got almost no coverage, and many people don’t even know what actually happened. I am convinced, however, that if the same such play had occurred in a national title game, a conference title game, a rivalry game, or even a big regular season matchup between ranked teams in the SEC or Big XII, the play would have been as memorable and as well recognized as the other classic moments (Flutie hail Mary; band on the field; Colorado’s miracle against Michigan; etc, etc). The play has to be seen to be understood, but essentially, a safe pass behind a wide open receiver turned into a pick 6 that gave the Huskies a miracle win, 36-33.

Comments: Obviously Gerhart was the offensive player of the year (1736 rushing yards, 26 TD, 160 points) but Jacquizz Rogers would have been the best player in the Pac-10 in almost any other season. Rogers ran for 1377 yards and 20 TD, caught 74 passes for 509 yards and a TD, and also threw a TD pass.

It may surprise that a crap team like UCLA has both the defensive player of the year and the runner up. But both Rahim Moore and Brian Price had outstanding years. Moore led the country with 9 picks and he had a sack, 4 TFL, a forced fumble, and 7 pass breakups. Price led the Pac-10 with 22.5 TFL for -94 yards and he also had 7 sacks, a pass breakup, hurry, and 2 forced fumbles.

Chip Kelly did a fantastic job with Oregon this year, as did Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. I actually thought Oregon was going to go through a significant rebuilding year this season and I felt pretty good about my prediction after the Ducks problems in Idaho. But they turned things around and had a dream season. Stanford was the only other team that managed to beat Oregon this year.

Both Oregon and Stanford blew out USC this season, as the Trojans were easily the most disappointing team in the Pac-10. Cal was disappointing but there’s nothing unusual about that.


Offensive Player of the Year: Mark Ingram-RB-Alabama
Runner Up-Tim Tebow-QB-Florida

Defensive Player of the Year: Javier Arenas-CB/KR-Alabama
Runner Up: Rolando McClain-LB-Alabama

Coach of the Year: Rich Brooks-Kentucky
Runner Up: Nick Saban-Alabama

Most Surprising Team: Kentucky
Runner Up: Mississippi State

Most Disappointing Team: Mississippi
Runner Up: Georgia

Best Moment: December 5th. For the 2nd year in a row, #1 faces #2 in the SEC Championship with a trip to the BCS Title Game on the line.

Worst Moment: September 12th. For the 8th consecutive season Tennessee makes the rest of the conference look bad with a hideous performance against a non-conference opponent. This time the Vols lose 19-15 at home to UCLA as double digit favorites. In 2008 they lost the opener at UCLA as 7.5 point favorites and later in the season lost at home to Wyoming as 27 point favorites. In 2007 the Vols surrendered 45 points to Cal in a 14 point loss. In 2006 the Vols were 4.5 point favorites over Penn State in the Outback Bowl but they lost 20-10. In 2005 they gave up 41 points to Notre Dame in a 20 point loss. The year before they lost at home to ND as a 7 point favorite. In 2003 they were 4.5 point favorites against Clemson in the Peach Bowl and they were beaten by 13. Just a year before the Vols had been in the Peach Bowl and had had their asses handed to them by Maryland of all teams, 30-3.

Best Game: Week 13. The Iron Bowl. Alabama @ Auburn. Alabama 26, Auburn 21. The Tide comes back from an early 14 point deficit to take the lead on a clutch drive late in the 4th and then hangs on for the win to finish the regular season 12-0 for a second straight year.

Comments: Ingram’s stats don’t wow you but he’s the most important offensive player on the best team in the country.

A lot of people probably question why I think so much of Javier Arenas. The main thing is that Arenas makes as many plays as any defender in the game. Arenas made 65 total tackles in 2009, 42 solo tackles. He recorded 5 sacks for -53 yards and 11 TFL for -75 yards. Arenas intercepted 3 passes and had 4 pass break ups. He also had 4 QB hurries. And the fact that Arenas is both the main punt returner and the main kick returner for Bama puts him into another category. Arenas returned 19 kickoffs for 551 yards, averaging 29 per return. He returned 29 punts for 474 yards and a TD, averaging 16.34 per return. Arenas had 1047 all-purpose yards. If you didn’t go with Arenas you would still most likely end up choosing an Alabama defender, whether it’s LB Rolando McClain or safety Mark Barron.

Rich Brooks has done something pretty impressive in Lexington. The Wildcats will be playing in a bowl game for their 4th straight year. There really was no team in the SEC that was all that surprising. But Mississippi failed to live up to expectations and Georgia suffered through much more of a down season than most anticipated.

Conference USA

Offensive Player of the Year: Case Keenum-QB-Houston
Runner Up: Donald Buckram-RB-UTEP

Defensive Player of the Year: Bruce Miller-DE-Central Florida
Runner Up: Van Eskridge-FS-ECU

Coach of the Year: Kevin Sumlin-Houston
Runner Up: June Jones-SMU

Most Surprising Team: Houston
Runner Up: SMU

Most Disappointing Team: UTEP
Runner Up: Tulsa

Best Moment: September 26th. Houston ekes out a 29-28 win over Texas Tech for a second consecutive win over a Big XII opponent, having shocked Oklahoma State in Stillwater in the previous game. At that moment the dream of a BCS buster coming out of Conference-USA is very much alive.

Worst Moment: October 3rd. After back to back wins over Big XII powers, Houston goes on the road to face a UTEP team that has already lost to Buffalo at home, to Kansas at home by 27 and to Texas by 57. Somehow, the Cougs give up 58 points to the Miners and lose by 17. The dream of a BCS game for C-USA dies.

Best Game: Conference USA Title Game: Houston @ ECU. ECU 38, Houston 32. The league’s two best teams battle it out until the final gun in the best title game yet in the young conference’s history.

Comments: Keenum’s numbers are astounding regardless of the conference he plays in. He threw over 650 passes and completed over 70%. He fired 43 TD with only 9 picks and also scored 4 touchdowns on the ground. And he led Houston to the conference title game and wins over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State.

Bruce Miller had 11 sacks for Central Florida, also recording 15.5 TFL for -107 yards. Eskridge would also have been a good choice, as he had 93 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 6 INT, and 7 pass breakups.

June Jones has resurrected the SMU program that was literally dead. But Kevin Sumlin had Houston ranked in the top 15 at one point. Houston and SMU were both surprising teams in the C-USA this year. Tulsa and UTEP were a couple of major disappointments. It may be time for Mike Price to be let go in El Paso.


Offensive Player of the Year: Freddie Barnes-WR-Bowling Green
Runner Up: Dan LeFevour-QB-Central Michigan

Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Wagner-LB-Akron
Runner Up: Adrian Robinson-DE-Temple

Coach of the Year: Al Golden-Temple
Runner Up: Dave Clawson-Bowling Green

Most Surprising Team: Bowling Green
Runner Up: Temple

Most Disappointing Team: Akron
Runner Up: Toledo

Best Moment: September 12th. Dan LeFevour leads the Chippewas to a miracle win over Michigan State on the road, 29-27, with help from the officials and an onsides kick along the way.

Worst Moment: November 21st. Temple’s star running back Bernard Pierce is injured and is knocked out of next week’s showdown with Ohio which will decide who wins the MAC East.

Best Game: Week 6. Bowling Green @ Kent State. BG 36, Kent State 35. The Falcons and Flashes go at it in a barn burner that features several scores in the final minutes.

Comments: While I think the Dan LeFeavor is the best player in the MAC, you really can’t deny the season Freddie Barnes put together. There’s something distinctly video gamish about a guy catching 138 passes for 1551 yards and 16 TD’s. Wagner was top notch for Akron at linebacker, making 72 solo tackles and 132 total tackles, recording a sack and 7 TFL, intercepting 2 passes and returning 1 for a score, notching 3 pass breakups and 2 hurries, and forcing 2 fumbles.

While Temple was a great surprise, Bowling Green was the biggest surprise for me. I did not see the Falcons winning a single game this year. Akron and Toledo did not play as well as expected.


Offensive Player of the Year: Max Hall-QB-BYU
Runner Up: Andy Dalton-QB-TCU

Defensive Player of the Year: Carmen Messina-LB-New Mexico
Runner Up: John Fletcher-DT-Wyoming

Coach of the Year: Gary Paterson-TCU
Runner Up: Kyle Whittingham-Utah

Most Surprising Team: Wyoming
Runner Up: Air Force

Most Disappointing Team: Colorado State
Runner Up: BYU

Best Moment: September 5th. BYU stuns Oklahoma, 14-13, at new Texas Stadium. A BCS bowl appears almost a lock at this point, as the Cougars have all of their tough games at home and figure to be favored in each contest the rest of the way.

Worst Moment: September 19th. Just 2 weeks after upsetting the Sooners, the Cougars are inexplicably obliterated by FSU, 54-28, in Provo.

Best Game: Week 13: Utah @ BYU. BYU 26, Utah 23 (OT). The two rivals battle into OT before Max Hall fires a TD that gives the Cougars the walk-off win.

Comments: Both quarterbacks were excellent this year. If you want to go with the leader of the best team, you take Dalton. If you want to take the guy who has done more statistically, you take Hall. Carmen Messina is a machine and seemingly the only decent player on the New Mexico roster. This guy registered 163 total tackles! There really was no surprising team in the MWC this year, although Colorado State was certainly a disappointment, as they basically lost for 3 months straight following a decent start.


Offensive Player of the Year: Levi Brown-QB-Troy
Runner Up: Lance Dunbar-RB-North Texas

Defensive Player of the Year: Danny Carmichael-LB-Middle Tennessee State
Runner Up: Chris McCoy-DE-Middle Tennessee State

Coach of the Year: Larry Blakeney-Troy
Runner Up: Rick Stockstill-Middle Tennessee State

Most Surprising Team: Middle Tennessee State
Runner Up: Louisiana-Lafayette

Most Disappointing Team: Florida Atlantic
Runner Up: Arkansas State

Best Moment: September 19th. Middle Tennessee State nips Maryland, 32-31, in College Park, as the Blue Raiders defeat the Terps for the 2nd consecutive year.

Worst Moment: December 3rd. Western Kentucky blows a 20-3 lead against Arkansas State and loses its 20th straight game, 24-20, to finish the season 0-12.

Best Game: Week 7: FAU @ North Texas. FAU 44, North Texas 40. Looking for their first win, the Owls fall behind 19-7 to the Mean Green before reeling off 30 answered points to take a 37-19 lead early in the 2nd half. NT then goes on a run, scoring 21 straight to retake the lead, 40-37. But FAU responds with a TD with less than 5 to play and the Owls hang on for the 44-40 win, extending NT’s SBC losing streak to 14 games.

Comments: Levi Brown was on a different level than his fellow QB’s in the SBC this season. Brown threw for 3868 yards this year, which was 1241 yards more than anyone else in the Sun Belt. Brown had 22 TD’s against 9 picks. Defensively, Carmichael recorded 12 TFL, 6.5 sacks, and forced 6 fumbles for the upstart Raiders. There are always a couple of disappointing Sun Belt teams. This year the two biggest disappointments were Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State.


Offensive Player of the Year: Kellen Moore-QB-Boise State
Runner Up: Ryan Matthews-RB-Fresno State

Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Winterswyk-DE-Boise State
Runner Up: Deon Young-SS-Louisiana Tech

Coach of the Year: Robb Akey-Idaho
Runner Up: Chris Petersen-Boise State

Most Surprising Team: Idaho
Runner Up: Fresno State

Most Disappointing Team: Louisiana Tech
Runner Up: San Jose State

Best Moment: September 3rd. Boise State stifles Oregon in the season opener, winning 19-8, clearing the way for another run at a perfect season and a BCS bowl.

Worst Moment: December 6th. Boise State gets shafted again, as the Bowl dictators match the Broncos up against TCU for the 2nd straight season.

Best Game: Week 13: Utah State @ Idaho. Utah State 52, Idaho 49. In a classic WAC shootout to close the season, the Aggies end the year on a positive note, hanging on for a 3 point win over the Vandals. Utah State jumped out to a 31-7 lead but the Vandals turned the game around, scoring 28 straight, and Idaho had a 35-31 lead going to the 4th quarter. The lead changed hands twice more before Utah State put 2 scores together to take a 52-42 lead late in the 4th. Idaho cut the deficit to a field goal with less than 2 minutes to go but the Aggies recovered the onsides kick to seal the deal.

Comments: Ryan Matthews had an incredible season, rushing for 1664 yards and 17 TD in 11 games. However, whenever there’s a QB in your conference who throws 39 TD and only 3 interceptions, it’s going to be tough to win any offensive player of the year awards. There aren’t a lot of great options for the defensive awards in the WAC. They really don’t play that much defense in this conference.

Clearly the most surprising team in the conference was Idaho. The Vandals were among the most surprising teams in the entire FBS. Louisiana Tech had some tough luck but they still disappointed in not being able to gain eligibility. San Jose State disappointed in that they were much more awful than expected. No one thought they’d get to .500 but they fell off the cliff this year, losing 6 games by at least 20 points.

National Awards

The Brent Musburger Most Outstanding Football Player Award

Winner: Ndamukong Suh-DT-Nebraska

Runner Up: Toby Gerhart-RB-Stanford

Third Place: Tim Tebow-QB-Florida

Fourth Place: Mark Ingram-RB-Alabama

Fifth Place: CJ Spiller-RB/KR-Clemson

Sixth Place: Mardy Gilyard-WR-Cincinnati

Seventh Place: Colt McCoy-QB-Texas

Eighth Place: Case Keenum-QB-Houston

Ninth Place: Kellen Moore-QB-Boise State

Tenth Place: Andy Dalton-QB-TCU

Eleventh Place: Jacquizz Rogers-RB-Oregon State

Twelfth Place: Javier Arenas-CB/KR-Alabama

Offensive Player of the Year: Toby Gerhart-RB-Stanford
Runner Up: Case Keenum-QB-Houston

Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh-DT-Nebraska
Runner Up: Javier Arenas-CB/KR-Alabama

Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly-Oregon
Runner Up: Brian Kelly-Cincinnati

Freshman Player of the Year: Dion Lewis-RB-Pittsburgh
Runner Up: Ryan Williams-RB-Virginia Tech

Quarterback of the Year: Case Keenum-Houston
Runner Up: Kellen Moore-Boise State

Running Back of the Year: Toby Gerhart-Stanford
Runner Up: Mark Ingram-Alabama

Wide Receiver of the Year: Golden Tate-Notre Dame
Runner Up: Danario Alexander-Missouri

Tight End of the Year: Dennis Pitta-BYU
Runner Up: Aaron Hernandez-Florida

Defensive Lineman of the Year: Ndamukong Suh-DT-Nebraska
Runner Up: Robert Quinn-DE-UNC

Linebacker of the Year: Greg Jones-Michigan State
Runner Up: Rolando McClain-Alabama

Defensive Back of the Year: Javier Arenas-Alabama
Runner Up: DeAndre McDaniel-Clemson

Place Kicker of the Year: Blair Walsh-Georgia
Runner Up: Grant Ressel-Missouri

Punter of the Year: Drew Butler-Georgia
Runner Up: Zoltan Mesko-Michigan

Most Surprising Team: Cincinnati
Runner Up: Oregon

Most Disappointing Team: Oklahoma
Runner Up: USC

2009 All-Horse Collar Team

First Team


QB: Tim Tebow-Florida
RB: Toby Gerhardt-Stanford
RB: Mark Ingram-Alabama
WR: Danario Alexander-Missouri
WR: Golden Tate-Notre Dame
WR: Freddie Barnes-Bowling Green
TE: Aaron Hernandez-Florida
Offensive Line: Stanford
K: Blair Walsh-Georgia
KR: CJ Spiller-Clemson


DE: Robert Quinn-UNC
DE: Brandon Sharpe-Texas Tech
DT: Ndamukong Suh-Nebraska
DT: Brian Price-UCLA
LB: Greg Jones-Michigan State
LB: Sean Weatherspooon-Missouri
LB: Rolando McClain-Alabama
CB: Joe Haden-Florida
CB: Javier Arenas-Alabama
SS: DeAndre McDaniel-Clemson
FS: Rahim Moore-UCLA
P: Drew Butler-UGA
PR: Javier Arenas-Alabama

Second Team


QB: Case Keenum-Houston
RB: Ryan Matthews-Fresno State
RB: CJ Spiller-Clemson
RB: Dion Lewis-Pittsburgh
WR: Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati
WR: Jordan Shipley-Texas
TE: Dennis Pitta-BYU
Offensive Line: Alabama
K: Grant Ressel-Missouri
KR: Chris Owusu-Stanford


DE: Brandon Graham-Michigan
DE: Jeremy Beal-Oklahoma
DT: John Fletcher-Wyoming
DT: Allen Bailey-Miami
LB: Carmen Messina-New Mexico
LB: Von Miller-Texas A&M
LB: Sam Maxwell-Kentucky
CB: Perrish Cox-Oklahoma State
CB: Alterraun Verner-UCLA
SS: Earl Thomas-Texas
FS: Mark Barron-Alabama
P: Zoltan Mesko-Michigan
PR: Ryan Bryoles-Oklahoma