Saturday Juice

First, the Pick around: ESPN - Bill Simmons - Peter King - PFBW - Yahoo - CBS - Vinny Iyer - Gil Brandt.

I'm live from New York this weekend, so this will come by piece mail. That said, I have a feeling that this is the week everything goes wrong for everyone picking favorites.

  • Pittsburgh -10 at New York Giants - I've been impressed with how well the Steelers pass defense has played this year. That area has been their one weakness on defense over the last few seasons but it looks like this team is pulling everything together for this season's playoff run. It's interesting that no one is really saying that they don't have a chance because they are starting a rookie quarterback. Ben can thank Tom Brady for removing that burden from his weekly schedule. So while I'm looking at a lot of underdogs this week, this one just seems easy. I think the Giants do show up for this one and manage to get some points on the board, so maybe the over (34.5) is a safer pick. The weather in NY isn't too bad today, and word coming from the Giants is that they've finally decided to reduce the playbook for Eli. Hello? Still, I don't see how New York will be able to run the ball today, so even though I think Manning will be relatively (!!) impressive, the Steelers win. Yahoo

  • Washington -4 at San Francisco - A tricky game and one I've considered staying away from. But I've been touting the Redskins impending late season offensive surge for a while now so I'm gonna stay with it. I do like the over (37) in this one as well. Of course Washington's defense is among the league leaders, but last week Ken Dorsey showed everyone that the time off he got in between starts helped him refocus. I think he'll manage okay. Plus, Shawn Springs will miss this game so there may be a cheap touchdown or two waiting in the Redskin secondary. If the Niners can get to 13 points, this game will go over because I think Portis and Ramsey should both have pretty nice days. Yahoo
Current Beach 2004 ATS record: 23-15 in college, 33-23 in pro, 56-38 overall (22-10 over last four weeks) and eagerly waiting the possibility of hockey's return. Today's picks are in bold.

UPDATE: To my surprise, the line on these games is falling in my favor. I see Washington now a -6.5 and Pittsburgh at -10.5. So I suggest a 6 point tease of Pitt -4.5, Was minus .5, over 31 in Was/SF, and over 28.5 in Pit/NY. It pays 3 to 1 at my market.

UPDATE UPDATE: Well, the Giants did indeed show up to play and they made quite a game of it. By watching the fourth quarter of this one in a West Village sports bar, you really get to hear some interesting comments from the New York fans. Nonetheless, save the decision to go with the -10, everything else went as I expected today. It gives me some confidence to go into Sunday's games with all the underdogs I think will come through. 2-1 on the day to be at 35-24 in pro and 58-39 overall.

Champs Sports Bowl Preview

Tuesday, 21 December 2004 - 7:45pm
Orlando, Florida

Georgia Tech (6-5) versus Syracuse (6-5)

The Orangemen finished their season very strong, winning three of their last four games to finish with a record of 6-5. They were especially good inside the Carrier Dome, losing only one game all year and that was a near miss against FSU on October 9th. A month later, Syracuse rallied to beat Pitt in double OT.

Their best win of the season, however, came in their finale against Boston College. Syracuse played a strong game on the road against a BC team that could have taken the Big East's BCS birth with a win. Instead, the Orangemen earned their first bowl appearance since 2001 there and may have also saved the job of their head coach, Paul Pasqualoni.

One of the reasons their coach's job was on the hot-seat all year is because this Syracuse team has shown it can play with teams like FSU, BC, and Pitt but can also lose to a 2-9 Temple team, can fall to West Virginia by a score of 6-27, and can get blown out by Purdue 0-51.

Their strength is on offense where they have the size on their line to compete with anyone. The Orangemen also have great depth at running back, but their quarterback is a sophomore and Syracuse plays to protect the ball. Defensively, they look for turnovers and mistakes to change field position in their favor. They're not a team that can play catchup, so getting ahead early will be an important to their success.

Georgia Tech has struggled to find consistency this season as well. Like Syracuse, the Yellow Jackets are a team that struggles when they fall behind early. Tech has fallen to all four of the ranked teams they've played this season, but did defeat Clemson when the Tigers were ranked #20, and Maryland when the Terps were ranked #23. Both of those games were on the road, too. But after they became bowl eligible in mid-November, the Yellow Jackets finished their season with back to back loses to Virginia and Georgia.

So we've basically got two bipolar teams here in an early week bowl game. Syracuse did not play a match south of Virginia this season and will be traveling to central Florida for this one. That shouldn't matter too much since the weather in Orlando this time of year is usually in the upper 60s and sunny. I imagine both teams' fans will travel well for this game as well.

The Orangemen didn't have much of a defense this season, even when things were going well for them, but they did create key turnovers in their big wins. Yellow Jacket QB Reggie Ball may be auditioning for the GT 2005 QB job, and a lot of his success in this game and into next season will depend on his ability to make good choices with the football. Ball has a lot of heart and a great deal of talent, but he hasn't really put things together in his head yet.

This is really a battle between a bigger, more physical Syracuse team against a muck quicker, defense-first Georgia Tech squad. The consequences of turnovers and penalties will be magnified in this game since neither side has a true game-breaker on offense.

The line is currently at -5 and the over/under at 44. The Beach views this as a close game, but likes Georgia Tech in the end. Instead of giving away points, we're going with a 6 point tease with GT and the over. So make it GT +1 and over 38.

College Football News Preview
ESPN Preview
ESPN Scouts' View
CBS Edge
Fox Sports Stats

UPDATE: 51 - 14 Georgia Tech
Beach Bowl Picks are 1-1.

Wednesday Football
  • Added a link called 'Yahoo News' in the football section over to the right. I've been using this page more and more for tracking player news as the season stretches on. Also changed the 'Football Guys' link to go directly to their news aggregate page. Those two sources together make for the best and quickest way to scan headlines from numerous sources.

Hockey News

Great job by Eric at Off Wing keeping today's NHL CBA news to a manageable serving portion. Thank you.

Tuesday Football
  • There's nothing more American than this: Facing the pressure of having to actually compete for customers in the football simulation market, EA Sports has used it's wealth and influence to strike an exclusive deal with the NFL and NFLPA to earn the sole rights of player names, team names, and stadiums. That pretty much means that ESPN's 2005 NFL video game will feature QB #16 and SS #22 on teams such as the Ninja Blacksox, American Dreams, and if we're lucky, the Lovely Ladies.

    Read plenty of user commentary on Fark . Most of them hate the deal. In fact, I can't find anyone (1, 2, 3) who's happy about this.

  • So much for TJ Duckett's increased playing time. A smart move for the Falcons' playoff hopes. A bad move for fantasy playoff hopes.
  • The Broncos are waiting on the results of Reuben Droughns' MRI. Meanwhile, Tatum Bell is saying he may be able to play again soon. Whomever comes out of all this alive with be looking at three good weeks of running the football.
  • Duce Staley still not 100%. May not be at all this season.
  • Jimmy Smith should be okay for this week.
  • Vinny's still starting. My guess is that this is his last week doing so.
  • There seems to be a bit of traffic coming here in search for Matt Leinart info (or Matt Leinhart, as some people are spelling it in their search queries). For that, may I direct you to his blog.

New Orleans Bowl Preview

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - 7:30pm

Will North Texas come prepared even though they are in the same bowl game for the fourth year in a row? And will the extended time off benefit or hurt them? How will the lack of time off affect Southern Miss? Going into the first bowl game of the 2004 season, there are indeed many questions to be answered.

UNT started the season 0-4, but by far their biggest loss came during the preseason when junior quarterback Andrew Smith died in an auto accident. North Texas then lost their first game of the season 0-65 to Texas, and dropped their home opener to Florida Atlantic 13-20. Defeats in Colorado and Baylor piled on to the end of a terrible month of September for this group that calls itself the Mean Green.

October brought better fortune for North Texas. They began their current string of seven straight wins on 10/2 with a 30-21 win over Middle Tennessee State. A month and a half later, they wrapped up their fourth straight Sun Belt Conference Championship with a win against Arkansas State.

So here they are in New Orleans again. But if you believe what they're saying, that's definitely a good thing.

"New Orleans is such a fun city to have a bowl game, we really look forward to this every year," North Texas receiver T.J. Culberson said.

Mean Green coach Darrell Dickey has some further encouraging thoughts.

It's great to be back in New Orleans. This is a great reward for this team... We probably had more adversity to overcome this year than in any of the other years,.. To these kids' credit, we just did what we needed to do and we're fortunate to be back in New Orleans.

So here they are. And while North Texas has had almost a month to prepare for this one, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles were in action just last weekend.

USM faced off against Southern Cal on December 4th in a game that had been originally scheduled for mid-September. So while most bowl teams get at least two weeks off to get ready, the Golden Eagles are playing this like any regular week. There is, however, one small wrinkle to that. Following this game, USM will travel back to their campus so they can make the school's exam schedule that begins on Wendesday. North Texas' experience with the New Orleans bowl allowed them to anticipate this conflict, and before the semester they rescheduled their exams.

"It's been a whirlwind for us as coaches, with recruiting and preparation, and our players with exams," USM Coach Jeff Bower said. "There's been a lot going on. We haven't experienced a bowl preparation like this. We're excited about being in a bowl game, with another chance to play."

So even though North Texas may come into the game with a little rust, in comparison to their opposition, the Mean Green should be fresh and prepared. UNT features a strong running attack with freshman Jamario Thomas (1709 yards, 17 TDs) and an experienced offensive line that was able to lead backup RB James Mitchell to 166 yards in the regular season finale.

The New Orleans Bowl is the reward for the Sun Belt Conference champs, so it's not like North Texas was planning on being anywhere else. There is nothing disappointing about a free week in New Orleans. But if you're Southern Miss, you've got to be a little upset that all the benefits of bowl week (especially bowl week in the Big Easy) are unavailable because exams and the short turnaround.

North Texas +4.5

Official New Orleans Bowl Site
ESPN Preview
ESPN Scouts' View (insider)
CBS Preview Page
Covers.com Preview


Congrats to Southern Miss. I knew they had a good defense, but the group that came to play on Tuesday night was a very well coached, very motivated squad. North Texas tried every different formation, play call, and personel they had and still couldn't put together one good drive the entire game. It was a dominant performance. Now have fun on those exams, boys.

Monday Football
  • I can't remember seeing so many poorly prepared teams in one day like I saw yesterday. That Vikings/Seahawks game was brutal from a coaching point of view (and not just because Randy Moss threw that INT in the red zone).

    The Chargers won their third straight sloppy game. They are due for a real whipping soon if they don't get cut down on their mistakes. The Bucs killed their possessions with turnovers and penalties and still were in a position to win that game.

    The Giants/Ravens, 49ers/Cards, and Cowboys/Saints games featured just horrible execution throughout.

    Cincinnati had some great moments to build upon but had some real moments to forget too. I don't think the Pats brought their whole game, and were lucky to get that win.

    The teams that impressed me most yesterday were the Dolphins, the Bills, the Panthers, and the Redskins. And there's a good chance that none of those teams will be in the playoffs.

  • Peter King uses the feature story of his weekly take to discuss Bill Parcells. The story was given the name, Don't read retirement into coach's surprisingly calm behavior and King has some interesting thoughts about Parcells. But this Jerry Jones quote sums it up:
    "This year has drained him,'' Jones told me before the game. "He had much higher expectations, as we all did. And as he's been drained, it's taken away some of what he does best off the field, which is his bluster. He's just pulled back a little. The other day, I saw some of that bluster again after our back-to-back wins."
  • Len Pasquarelli has his usual column up. One thing that I was going to otherwise note on:
    One of your other scouts made mention of (Bengals wide receiver T.J.) Houshmandzadeh last week, and, wow, that guy is making himself some money in the free agency market. He had 12 catches (for 145 yards) on Sunday and that's 26 catches for 395 yards in the last three games. Teams looking for an intermediate-range possession guy are taking note of him, believe me. They might not be able to pronounce his name but they know who he is.
  • Clark Judge is throwing fire on top of the already existing flames in New York by pointing out the 2005 first round pick the Chargers got in the Eli trade is becoming a better and better pick with every Giants loss.
  • John Clayton has some background to yesterday's Bettis TD pass play here.
  • Jimmy Johnson has a couple of interesting notes about the Colts:
    I was serious on the pregame show about Edgerrin James being the most valuable player on this team. If you don't have a running game, then every defense in the league would be playing pure pass defense against Manning. But because they have Edge, and he does make a ton of yards, the Colts go against the norm, controlling the flow of the game with their passing offense.

    They have so much talent on offense. They are so good at every skilled position. I personally have never seen an offensive team this good in all my years in football. Only two things will stop the Colts — their questionable defense and the weather. The weather will come closer to slowing that offense than any defense in the league.
    Pretty much everyone has noted now that Indy will most likely have to go through New England and Pittsburgh to get to the super bowl. I'd like to see an article on The Onion about fans in Indianapolis burning coal in their front yards so that they can speed up the effects of global warming.

  • I can't post all the good notes from this week's PFBW Whispers, but it is interesting to note that the possibility of Jim Mora, Jr leaving the pros to coach in the college game has come up twice today (as a result of the U of Washington opening).
  • Charlie Weis' press conference today reminded me a lot of Jack Del Rio's when he took the Jaguars job. I expect Weis will be very successful at Notre Dame.
  • Some player notes to follow this week:

    Carson Palmer did not return to Sunday's game after he strained his knee following a Richard Seymour hit. The play was a bit awkward looking, but it didn't look like Carson was hurt too bad.

    Jeff Garcia is probably out for the season after injuring his knee yesterday.

    Jamal Lewis was limited and I don't think he played at all in the second half. The game log doesn't have him down for anything.

    Tatum Bell is probably gone for the season after he separated his shoulder. He looked real good running the ball, but shaky in all other aspects.

    Marshall Faulk didn't get any chances yesterday and Steven Jackson was inactive. It was all Arlen Harris yesterday.

    Keenan McCardell left the game against the Bucs in the first half after sustaining a hamstring injury. He later came out in street clothes to watch.

    Maurice Hicks started in place of Kevan Barlow but Hicks had to play through a rib injury. The Niners play Saturday.

    The Falcons have suffered a major blow as FB Justin Griffith is out for the year. I would speculate that the Falcons will try to see what TJ Duckett can do in the FB role, ala Mike Alstott.

    Eli Manning is still starting.

    Brian Ulracher injured his hamstring yesterday. The rest of his season is in doubt.

    David Givens was inactive on Sunday for an unknown reason.

  • Steve Mariucci looked absolutely morbid in his press conference.
  • Finally, I like the Titans at home tonight. I think the line has gone to even. Billy Volek has been starting long enough now that I don't consider that as a knock against Tennessee. I know Trent Green is playing tonight, but I'm basically going with the better defense here because I think it'll be a rather high scoring game.

Sunday Juice

It's not so safe to rely on NE and Indy to make your 10 point teaser work this week. But I still like the idea of teasing these massive line downs. So my first 10 point lock is taking Buffalo at -1.5. Lee Suggs is out and William Green is in the doghouse. And I think the feels like temp in Buffalo is like 15 degrees. For game number two, give me the Ravens at even. No explanation really needed. So with those two locks of the day, it's time to start picking other games and hoping that the Ravens and Bills both win. Broncos -1.5, Bucs +15, Atlanta +2, Bears +17, and the Colts -0.5.

I also don't really see how both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville are going to win their games today. After that brutal Sunday Night game they played. They each have a tough matchup regardless of the Sunday Night thing.

UPDATE: Some late game action: The 10 point system is working again today. The fourth quarter is beginning in most games and Indy is in a dog fight at Houston, while the Bengals are mounting a comeback in New England. But for the 4:00pm games, they don't need to give me 10 points. 6 will do.

Packers to -2.5 with the Bucs +10 with the Panthers -1 with the Jets +10.5 pays exactly 3 to 1 where I shop.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: That's a rough way to go 4-2 on the day. The Bears missed their cover by a stupid safety they gave up and Jerry Azumah ran out of bounds near the Jags' 20 yard line after he picked off Leftwich with two mintues left in the fourth. Meanwhile, my four team pick missed by a half of a Jets' point. That's what I get for saying that either the Jags or the Steelers would lose on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens, Bills, Falcons, and Panthers all won without the aid of a reduced spread. But I needed the points on the Colts, Bucs, Broncos, and Packers. Likewise, the Pats and Eagles didn't cover their large number. On the day overall, underdogs went 8-7 ATS and won outright on only three occasions. But I would imagine with the Colts and the Pats failing to cover, the bookkeepers did okay today. I'll take my 4-2 and get ready for the first bowl game of the season, Tuesday Night.

Current Beach 2004 ATS record: 23-14 in college, 29-21 in pro, 52-35 overall (18-8 over last three weeks) and eagerly awaiting the possibility of hockey's return.


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