9.10.2005
 
College Football Saturday
    Here are the games I'm looking at today:

    Notre Dame at Michigan
  • It's hard not to like the over here. But 57.5 is a ton of points. In 2004, Michigan when following an ATS loss, played in games with totals of: 45, 47, 49, 49, 30, 62, and 75.
    In 2003, those numbers were: 48, 57, and 73.
    The average total of those ten games is 53.5.
  • And now with Pitt losing to Ohio on Friday night, you have to think that this Notre Dame team isn't quite yet as good as they appeared last week. Michigan's offense should fare better against the ND defense and since the total is so high, this is a good opportunity for a point tease.
  • Despite being just 2-4 ATS at home last year, the Wolverines were 6-0 SU. Their last home loss was in 2002 against Iowa. They've gone 15-0 SU and 9-6 ATS at home since then.

  • Clemson at Maryland
  • For some reason, I do like Maryland to beat Clemson today. Like last year, I think it'll be a low scoring affair and that's probably the better bet.
  • The Terps' last four home games in '04 all went under. And in the last three years combined, Maryland home games- when there has been a total posted- have gone under 12 out of 14 times.
  • And I also look to last year, when Clemson upset Miami in Miami. The following week they went on the road and lost to Duke. Duke! The Devils won two games all of last season, against Citadel and against Clemson.
  • Finally, here's a note that says the Terps are 24-3 SU and 17-7 ATS in their last 27 home games.

  • Army at Boston College
  • I really like BC this year. I think they'll have one of those ATS runs that will leave them with 9 or 10 ATS wins on the season. But this is a game I'm wary of. Last week at BYU, the Eagles gave up 330 yards on 60 passing attempts. But BYU only ran the ball nine times. Regardless, BC's defense is one of the best in the ACC and probably among the top 10 in the nation. They've got Florida State next week (who they will beat) and they don't have the kind of offense that is explosive enough to put up 50 points. At home, as 27 point favorites, and with FSU next week, I just don't see the Eagles covering here. They were just 1-3 ATS last year when favored by double digits.

  • Stanford at Navy
  • I don't really have much on this one other than to say that of Stanford's two best players on defense, one plays DT and the other plays MLB. The Cardinal defense is strong up the middle and that's where Navy gains most of its yards. Stanford plays a 3-4 defense, they are deep at linebacker, and their weakness is in defending the pass. They should matchup well against Navy.

  • Colorado State at Minnesota
  • Hard to see how CSU's defense will stop Laurence Maroney and this Gopher rushing attack. This is from CFB News:
    Here's all you need to know about the 2004 Ram defense; the top five tacklers were defensive backs. O.K., so leading tackler Adam Lancisero moved from defensive back to linebacker for most of last year, but it still goes to show how horrible the front seven was against the run. Just about everyone returns with the hope that the injuries and inconsistencies of last year are gone. This isn't a big defense, but it's a fast and athletic one.
    These two teams met last year and Minnesota put up 360 rushing yards on 52 carries. That was in Colorado. Today they are in Minnesota and with FAU next on the Gophers' schedule, all eyes should be focused on today's match.

  • Wake Forest at Nebraska
  • This is probably the best underdog of the day. Wake has a good chance to win this one outright. On this game, ESPN's Rich Podolsky writes:
    The Nebraska horror show is far from over. Beating Maine 25-7 at home has to be a low light for the Cornhuskers under Bill Callahan. The defense looks fine, but the offense continues to struggle. Against I-AA Maine, new QB Zac Taylor went 15-of-36 for 192 yards, with two interceptions. Things haven't changed much. Wake Forest lost a tough one to Vanderbilt in the opener, but don't underrate Vandy, which played a tough SEC schedule last year. Wake coach Jim Grobe knows how to get a team ready for a big game, and the Wake running game is one of the best in the ACC.
  • Rice at UCLA
  • The Owls are running more of a spread offense these days but they are still at their best when running the football. And that's where UCLA struggles on defense. Last week at San Diego St, the Bruins gave up 156 on the ground to the Aztecs. UCLA's offense is stacked, and while I can't corroborate these stats, one of the sites I went to earlier in the week lists the Owls 7-1 ATS in their last eight as a road dog and the over 22-6 in UCLA games coming off a win by 17+ points.

  • Texas at Ohio State
  • The game of the day. There's plenty of analysis around on this one, but to me there are two greater factors at hand. 1) Ohio State's defense is among the top three in the nation. They are skilled enough at linebacker to mix up their defenses and still have Vince Young covered. 2) This is still a night game in Columbus and the Buckeyes are just a one point favorite? I can see how it's easy to overthink all the stories going into this game, but I like the Buckeyes.
Picks posted by 11:30am EST.

UPDATE: Added the 10 point tease of the day.

UPDATE2: Tough night. But other than the Wake game, we weren't too far off the map. Adding the Iowa tease was too impetuous. We'll pick it back up next week. And on Sunday.

9.09.2005
 
Friday Football
  • Anyone with Jamal Lewis in their lineup for week one should be concerned about this:
    Ravens coach Brian Billick said starting running back Jamal Lewis and backup Chester Taylor will split time throughout the game, estimating their carries could be "fairly equitable."

    Lewis, whose only preseason action was six carries in the finale, doesn't have the leg strength yet after recovering all offseason from ankle surgery.

    "I don't think it's realistic to think that he should carry the ball 35 times right now," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "The great thing is we have a very capable football player in Chester Taylor.
  • Look for Michael Pittman to share some carries with Carnell Williams for at least this week, maybe a few more.

  • With Antonio Gates out, Drew Brees says he has total confidence in TE Justin Peelle

  • Seahawks TE Itula Mili is doubtful for Sunday after being hospitalized with blockage in his intestine. Jerramy Stevens will start.

  • Nick Saban, talking about what kind of action we should expect Ronnie Brown to see on Sunday:
    “He's going to have to carry a little more than maybe he's ready for,'' Saban said. “We're very pleased with his development, but in the absence of Ricky, we're going to lean on him a little more than we would like to."
  • On the flipside, Cedric Benson probably won't see much time at all, if any.

  • The Chiefs brought in former Broncos RB Quentin Griffin to work out on Friday.

  • It's interesting to see that Bill Parcels has given the play calling duties over to Sean Payton.

  • The Colts will most likely be without rookie Marlin Jackson on Sunday night. They also expect Corey Simon to play only around 20-30 snaps.


9.08.2005
 
Thursday Football Extra (Oakland at New England)
  • The Patriots are 15-3-2 ATS in their last 20 home games.

  • I mentioned earlier today that the Raiders' recent streak of woes in road openers.
    They are 2-4-1 ATS in those seven games.

  • Throw out last year's numbers about Oakland's defense. I heard Mike Mayock describing on NFL Network how the personel is the same in Oakland, but he still completely missed the biggest change coming into this season. Last year, the Raiders used a 3-4 style defense with 4-3 style players. Now that they are back to the 4-3, they should at least be average. As noted in my previous post, Oakland finished this preseason with the #3 ranked defense and covers notes that they gave up an average of 15.8 points per game this preseason, as opposed to the 22.8 ppg they surrendered last preseason.

  • Also, oddsmakers seem to be tough to convince that Oakland's defense will be better:
    “In some ways, the Raiders are being like the Colts - explosive on offense, dreadful on defense,” adds [Covers Expert Dave] Malinsky. “Obviously their offense isn’t as good, but good offense and bad defense.”
    As we know, the Pats know how to play some defense, but you have to think that their offense will probably not put up 30 points in their first game without Charlie Weis. The above are among the reasons why I'm teasing the under in all ways in today's Coin Flip Challenge.

  • Last year the Pats were 4-3 ATS when favored by 7-11 points. They were 13-4-2 overall. So three of their four ATS losses last year were when they were favored by 7-11 points.

  • In 2003, New England was 14-4-1 ATS but they were only favored by 7-11 points just twice (1-1).

UPDATE: OK, so the Pats did put up 30 afterall, but it still wasn't enough to go over the adjusted total. NE did come out with spread formations for a good part of the game, so at least we got that right. Friday's stuff will be on later in the afternoon.

UPDATE: Make that the morning. But there is a pick for tonight. Nevada looks good too, but I'm going with Pitt again.

 
Thursday Football
  • From Wednesday's roundup:
    • The Colts feel Corey Simon will play on Sunday night.
    • Ray Rhodes will miss Sunday's game after being hospitalized earlier this week. Linebackers coach John Marshall will fill in.
    • David Terrell has signed with the Broncos.
    • Nate Clements didn't practice again, but he said he expects to play Sunday.
    • Roddy White did practice yesterday, and will play

  • From PFW's week one matchups, the Raiders will have problems with the Patriots' depth at WR and TE. New England can use their standard personel (2WR, TE, FB, RB) and go four and five wide with them. Oakland will struggle to cover guys like Watson, Graham, and Pass.

  • The Raiders have a recent history of road openers, and it's not good:
    Seven times in the last nine years, the Raiders have had to pack luggage to begin their season. They did win once, in Kansas City in 2001.

    The other six were losses:

    1996—Baltimore 19, Raiders 14;
    1997—Tennessee 24, Raiders 21;
    1998—Kansas City 28, Raiders 8;
    1999—Green Bay 28, Raiders 24;
    2003—Tennessee 25, Raiders 20;
    2004—Pittsburgh 24, Raiders 21.
  • Nice interview with Bill Cowher on the Titans' official site.

  • Lee Suggs is doubtful for their opener.

  • Gil Brandt has a nice preseason column that has a lot of good notes. Here are some:
    [Atlanta] ranked 28th overall on defense -- No. 1 against the run and dead last against the pass.

    The Bills allowed only one passing TD in the 2005 preseason. New starter J.P. Losman completed 54.3 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions.

    Chris Perry averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt and led the team in receptions.

    In a definite turnaround, [Cleveland] ranked 13th overall on defense (18th against the run; 14th vs. the pass). It was a balanced offensive attack with 121 passes and 125 rushes. Antonio Bryant averaged 21 yards a reception. William Green was a surprise running and catching the ball.

    Jacksonville's leading rusher in the preseason was Alvin Pearman, who also is a top receiver.

    Keep an eye on David Boston -- he might be a surprise.

    [Minnesota] ranked seventh overall on defense (17th against the run; ninth vs. the pass).

    The [Giants] ranked No. 1 overall on defense (16th against the run; first vs. the pass). David Tyree (22.1 yards per reception) had an outstanding preseason. Rookie Brandon Jacobs was the leading rusher. The Giants held opponents to a .488 completion percentage and a 42.3 passer rating.

    The Jets passed 85 times; ran 117. New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger likes to go for big plays in the passing game.

    The [Raiders] ranked No. 3 overall on defense (12th against the run; fourth vs. the pass). One reason is because the offense had the ball for an average of 32:21.

    Steven Jackson (6.7 yards per carry) was outstanding. Kevin Curtis scored three touchdowns and gained 21.3 yards per catch.

    [San Diego] backup running back Michael Turner was impressive in the preseason. Rookie Darren Sproles adds to the return game and led the receivers in the preseason.

    [San Francisco] ranked No. 32 overall on defense (31st against the run; 31st vs. the pass).

    The [Titans] has three good rookie wide receivers -- Courtney Roby, Roydell Williams and Brandon Jones (a Hines Ward look-alike).

    Clinton Portis should get more than 300 carries, and second-year tight end Chris Cooley could see a lot of passes come his way.
    I have just one note to add, if Brandon Jones is a Ward look-alike, then I'd have to say Courtney Roby is a Deion Branch clone. Roby looked very quick, and showed very good balls skills in the games I saw him in. The Titans have a nice young group of receivers to rebuild with.

  • UPDATE: The Mirl's NFL preview and also their collection of week one picks are up. I look to go 20-0 this week.

9.07.2005
 
Wednesday Football
  • Football Outsiders has their DVOA projections out for 2005. One surprise is that they have Atlanta finishing at the bottom of the NFC West.

  • The Steelers have picked up WR Quincy Morgan.

  • Duce Staley is improving but I think if he does dress for week one, his playing time will be minimal. Cowher has already named Willie Parker the starter for week one. Bettis is officially out.

  • Eli Manning took part in his first full practice since suffering that elbow sprain against the Panthers. He should be ready to go.

  • Fred Taylor says he's ready to go.

  • Brandon Stokely also feels he's recovered and ready to play in week one.

  • Mike Holbrook of PFW has a list of 10 things he's learned this preseason. Pretty standard stuff, but he's got some good comments troughout.

  • Chris Brown will be the Titans starter for week one.

  • Twin Cities has some thoughts about the Koren Robinson signing:
    The signing of Koren Robinson tells me that Tice is either not satisified with Marcus Robinson (and, frankly, he didn't have that great of a preseason, dropping several balls he should have caught) or that Troy Williamson's development is not nearly to the point where the team would like or both.

    We don't know the terms of the deal yet, but I imagine we got Robinson on the cheap, so it's probably worth the risk because if the guy can clean up his act, we could possibly have pretty decent receiver on our hands
  • UPDATE: John Clayton reports that Robinson signed a 2 year, $1.75 million dollar deal. That contract includes the lowest possible salary for Robinson this year ($540k)

  • David Givens is listed as questionable for Thursday's game. Daniel Graham looks like a good play there.

  • Jerry Porter is questionable, but he expects to play.

  • Bills corner Nate Clements has a shoulder injury and he may be forced out of action this Sunday against the Texans.

9.05.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Washington Redskins
INDEX

Joe Gibbs
-entering 2nd season with the Redskins (Head Coach)
Joe Bugel
-entering 2nd season with the Redskins (Asst HC - Offense)
Jack Burns
--entering 2nd season with the Redskins (Offensive Assistant)
Don Breaux
-entering 2nd season with the Redskins (Offensive Coordinator)
    Now that the Redskins have traded for Santana Moss, traded away Rod Gardener, signed David Patten, and cut Darnerien McCants, those who remember the 'Skins glory days are conjuring up visions of Washington's 1991 championship season. That year, Joe Gibbs had Mark Rypien throwing to the trio of Gary Clark (5'11), Art Monk (6'3), and Ricky Sanders (5'11). It's true that Coach Gibbs feels that there are more important things in a receiver than his height:
    Asked about the impact that smaller receivers would have on the offense, Gibbs said: "We've had Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Alvin Garrett, some very explosive smaller guys. What I've found in our receivers is that explosiveness and the ability to make things happen on the field has less to do with size."
    David Patten, who has come to Washington from New England, knows a little about winning with smallish receivers too.
    "We were just a bunch of small guys that got a lot of production on the field," said Patten, New England's number two receiver for most of its championship run. "Everybody always focused on our size. A lot of time, we got overlooked as a corps. We felt like we had one of the best corps in the league. And you saw the end result."
    I agree that the NFL's reinforcement of illegal contact rules should help receivers who rely on their quickness more than their size. But even last year's Patriots focused on their taller targets inside the red zone. The TE combo of Grahame, Fauria, Vrabel, Weaver, Watson resulted in 24 red zone targets in 2004. WRs Branch, Patten, Brown, Johnson, combined for 20 targets inside the 20. Givens, the tallest of the Pats receivers last year, took in 14 targets alone. So when it comes to fantasy WRs, you have to be immediately concerned about the TD potential for any of the Redskins' receivers.

    Patten is a complete player, he should get at least 1000 yards and if there's one guy I had to take, it would be him. Tight end Chris Cooley surprised many last year with 6 touchdown catches. He was the 7th most targeted tight end in the red zone last year, and with Gardener and McCants gone, you have to believe that he'll be looked at even more this season.

    And then there's Patrick Ramsey, who has yet to play an entire NFL season. In 30 career games, Ramsey has just 33 TD passes and his 28 career interceptions are equally troubling. It does not appear that Ramsey has the talent to become a top-tier NFL quarterback. Sure, he's tough, and he's got a strong arm, but the decision making and accuracy he's shown has been just average.

    Now in their second year with this offense, it would be a bad assumption to think that the team has a handle on what it is they're doing with the ball. As this Post article points out:
    Washington's starting offense produced just two touchdowns in nearly seven preseason quarters, and Ramsey failed to curtail talk of an impending quarterback controversy by throwing just two touchdowns and four interceptions, while veteran backup Mark Brunell shined in all four games. The revamped receiving corps -- smaller and faster -- got downfield and caught some deep passes to improve on that part of the game, yet the Redskins still failed to regularly get in the end zone.

    And through it all, untimely and unnecessary penalties and miscues were a concern. Several potentially fruitful drives were derailed by the elementary procedural penalties that plagued the Redskins in 2004, Washington failed to protect the football (a minus-8 turnover differential, worst in the NFC), had occasional time-management issues and again lost replay challenges. Thursday's 15 penalties for 118 yards had much to do with the number of reserves on the field, but the Redskins still averaged over eight penalties per game in the preseason after committing 1,047 yards worth of penalties last season.
    Part of their recent struggles could be attributed to a slight redesign that occurred this off-season in order to take advantage of Clinton Portis' running style. His 3.8 yards per carry average last season was 1.7 yards under his career average going into 2004. One should expect Portis to finish this season closer to his career numbers. But one should also be concerned about the number of carries he's getting in Washington. Portis is not the type of back that Gibbs was used to during his reign in the 80s and the 343 carries Portis received in 15 games last season is troubling. His previous career high was 290. So while I expect Portis' yards per game to increase this year, I question whether or not he'll be able to play in all 16 games. If he misses time, look for Ladell Betts to become one of those impact running backs that someone picks up midseason and rides to victory for a few weeks.

 
Monday Football
  • The Eagles claimed Lamar Gordon off of waivers. At 6'1, 228 lbs, I'd say that Ryan Moats' role on this team was just downgraded. Gordon will probably need some time to learn the offense, as this is his first WCO experience, but since Moats run more like Brian Westbrook and less like Correll Buckhalter, I'd expect to see Gordon getting the tough carries by at the latest, week 4.

  • And the Browns' signing of Billy Miller is also significant. They have had injury problems at TE and Miller is athletic for his size. Cleveland may ask him to do a few things that they had in mind for Kellen Winslow. In 2003, with the Texans, Miller caught 51 balls for 613 yards and 3 TDs.

  • Update on the Vikings' running backs and Koren Robinson:
    Right now, the Vikings have only four running backs on the roster, but Tice said Michael Bennett, Moore, Moe Williams and rookie Ciatrick Fason are all healthy and available for next Sunday's season opener against Tampa Bay.

    Minnesota might be in the market for another receiver. Koren Robinson, who checked himself into a 28-day alcohol rehabilitation program last month, was in town for a visit. The Seahawks released Robinson in June after he was charged with drunk driving, the latest in a series of problems for the ninth overall pick in the 2001 draft who has never performed up to his ability. Tice said nothing was imminent, as far as signing Robinson.
  • Football Outsiders in linking to an article from Protrade that discusses "10 Players on the Verge of Stardom in 2005." By the looks of it, they're gonna hit at about 50%. I don't know when the thing was written, but it looks like Bobby Engram is not gonna be the sole #2 in Seattle, Andre Davis is going to need a little time to adjust, Lee Evans will have to wait until 2006, and Antwaan Randle El will not only be challenged by starting at a new position, but he'll also have to work through Ben Rothliesburger's struggles as well.

  • Dan Arkush, of PFW, has his 2005 predictions up as well. He, like SI's Dr. Z, has the Panthers going all the way. Arkush also calls on Daunte Culpepper and Julius Peppers as they league's MVP. I like both of those picks.

  • Finally, I hope the Saints pick Baton Rouge, or someplace nearby, to be their home in 2005. It doesn't really matter too much right now, but in six weeks, the New Orleans area could probably use something like a Saints game to temporarily take their mind off of things. And as we saw after 9/11 with October baseball and Jets games, sports can really bring people together like few other events.


9.04.2005
 
Sunday Football
  • A week before most of the teams get to kickoff, we have cut down day.
    Here's a complete list.

  • The most notable names:
    RB Quentin Griffin
    RB Jamel White
    QB B.J. Symons
    WR Reggie Swinton
    RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala
    LB Nate Wayne
    RB Lamar Gordon
    K Aaron Elling
    WR P.K. Sam
    WR David Terrell
    RB Mike Cloud
    QB Jesse Palmer
    LB Jay Foreman
    TE Teyo Johnson
    DE Hugh Douglas
    FB Jon Ritchie
    WR Jerome Pathon
    RB Jarrett Payton
    WR Kevin Dyson
  • Perhaps more important than the cuts, is what some of these moves mean to players still with their teams:
    Paul Edinger is Minnesota's kicker.
    The Broncos have kept Ron Dayne.
    With Raiders releasing Johnson and Dudley, Courtney Anderson and Zeron Flemister are at the top of the TE spot on Oakland's depth chart.
    The Pats wide receivers are: Branch, Givens, Brown, Davis, Johnson, and Dwight.
    The Doplhins, perhaps feeling they did not have enough speed at running back, signed former Charger Jesse Chatman.
    Jerry Rice still has a job, although it seems he's been demoted.
  • The Panthers put Eric Shelton on the IR, and they have named Stephen Davis their opening day starter.

  • Peerless Price is a Cowboy. And Blogging the Boys has quotes.

  • The Jags are worried about Jimmy Smith's drops.

  • The Raiders kept their impressive kick returner, Chris Carr, on their roster. Carr probably won't see much time one defense, he's more of an Allen Rossum type who can break off a 40 or 50 yard return every game.

  • Pac Man Jones has been struggling ever since he was drafted. The Titans announced that newly signed Troy Edwards will take over the punt return duties for the time being.


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