10.29.2005
 
Hockey Picks
    I'm moving the NHL picks to it's own section.
    NHL Picks

    They will get better, and they will probably not be posted until between 6:00pm and 6:30pm each day.

    The coin flip challenge will continue to run for all other sports.

10.28.2005
 
Friday Football (picks edition)
    The Mirl is having some computer related delays in getting the Week 8 picks up, so I've posted mine below. Beach went 13-1 straight up last week, moving back into first place. Normally that means I'll lose 5 or 6 this week.

    When he gets back up and running, the Week 8 compilation will be here. And until then:

    DAL - CHI - CLE - CIN - JAX - NO - CAR - TEN - NYG - KC - DEN - TB - NE - PIT
    Best Bet: Denver (and Jacksonville too)

    Also, my boy keg is 33-11 ATS in college football this season. This week he likes:
    CMU +7.5 Toledo
    Ohio -5 Buffalo
    Colorado -7 KSU
    PSU -15.5 Purdue
    Stanford +7 UCLA

10.27.2005
 
Thursday Football
    I've got something to say here, so just two games for now.
    Maybe more later.

    New Orleans Saints:
    Below, under the stats, I put an asterik next to Ernie Conwell. The stats say he didn't have a catch, but that's because both he and the Saints were absolutely screwed by the NFL's so-called replay policy.

    Dear Socrates:

    "I think that football doesn't need instant replay. It's better off without it."

    "How can you say that? Think about how silly it would be that a game may be decided by a wrong call and in this age of technology and instant everything, we can't use a tv monitor to get the play right."

    "Okay, agreed. So tell me why it is then, that every play isn't reviewable.
    Why are plays 'blown dead'? Why do we need 'challenges' under your arguement? "

    The above story is a dramatization of this:
    -The current use of NFL replay is horrible. Refs purposely let plays go on so that they can be reviewed, but if there isn't enough evidence to overturn, the plays stays the same, despite what that ref may have originally thought. And that only can happen if a team has and chooses to use a challenge.
    The NFL has the best referees in the world.
    Why don't they use them.

    Make every play a reviewable play. Let refs call the game as they see it.
    Make every play a reviewable play.


    Oh, and the Saints aren't playing bad football. They were rolling over the Rams in this game for the first quarter. But they're not playing good football either, or else they would have continued to blow out St Louis.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Stallworth- 11(4)
    Hakim- 9(6)
    Stecker- 7(3)
    Henderson-6(2)
    Smith- 3(2)
    Conwell- 2(0)*
    Hilton- 1(0)
    Karney- 1(1)


    St. Louis Rams:
    If the Saints had any luck at all, it would still be bad luck (or however that saying goes). St Louis trailed this game 7-17 in the fourth quarter, but they could have easily been down by 20 instead of 10. To their credit, the Rams never moved from their game plan, and they steadily pulled their way back into contention. But don't let the final score fool you, this was a game that the Rams could have very easily lost (see above rant).

    St. Louis might have injuries at key positions all over the field, but their offensive line did a real good job in this game allowing Jamie Martin operate the offense.

    Jeff Wilkins missed a 48 yard field goal in the first quarter. It was right down the middle, and about five yards short. He must have had the wind in his face or something.
    TARGETS(catches):
    McDonald- 8(2)
    Faulk- 6(5)
    Curtis- 5(4)
    Looker- 3(3)
    Jackson- 3(2)
    Manumaleuna- 1(1)
    Thompson- 1(1)



    Pittsburgh Steelers
    What can you say. These guys tell you what they are going to do and most of the time, they do it. Run. Stop the run, pressure the quarterback. The recipe on how to beat them is there, but many can't or don't use it. Oh, and look at how many players caught a pass from Ben.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Miller- 6(4)
    Ward- 4(3)
    Wilson- 3(0)
    Randel El- 2(0)

    Cincinnati Bengals
    If you'd ask Charlie Weis how to beat the Steelers defense, he'd probably say stretch the field with 4 and 5 wideouts, and throw short passes. And why did Cincinnati struggle to move the ball in this game? They ran mostly 2 and 3 wide sets and fell victim to what Pittsburgh does best. If you only give them three guys to cover, they'll blitz you from all sides and still be able to play a safe cover 2- under man.

    The best way to beat that is to declare off the line of scrimmage 4 or 5 wide and make them put a man on each of them. It's something Indianapolis hasn't been able to do to New England, and it's something Cincinnati didn't do to Pittsburgh.

    The IND/NE comparisons don't stop there for me. This Steelers/Bengals matchup is very similar in so many ways. Cincinnati reminds me a lot of the 2002 or 2003 Colts and I'm afraid they may have just as hard of a time beating the Steelers as the Colts do the Pats.

    And as many expected, the Bengals defense had a hard time stopping the Steelers' run game. They are too undisciplined, and too inexperienced to do what they need to do.

    Chris Henry, you have to catch that first touchdown throw. You just have to. The Bengals scored their first and only touchdown of the game with a minute and fifty seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. I said last Thursday that the Steelers would have been my best bet for the week if I knew on Thursday (when we submit our picks) Ben Burger was playing. He did, and it really was that easy for the Steelers.
    TARGETS(catches):
    TJ- 11(7)
    CJ- 8(4)
    Perry- 5(5)
    RJohnson- 4(2)
    Henry- 3(0)
    Washington- 2(1)
    Kelly- 2(2)
    JJohnson- 1(0)

10.26.2005
 
Wednesday Football
    Watching a lot of hockey and game four of the series tonight, so only two games to add this evening:

    Buffalo Bills
    Here's what the Bills have done on their opening drives this season:
    10 plays, 65 yards, FG
    3 plays, 5 yards, punt
    13 plays, 50 yards, FG
    10 plays, 75 yards, TD
    8 plays, 67 yards, TD
    10 plays, 60 yards, TD
    14 plays, 77 yards, TD

    Okay, so Buffalo has scored 112 total points this year, 34 of them (30%) have come on their opening drives. An interesting stat, and one that probably means that the Bills offense is a well prepared group that doesn't execute as well as they are coached to.

    Buffalo's coaches did made a key mistake in this game, and one that too many teams still do too often. Down by 14 with plenty of time left in the third quarter, the Bills came out trying to throw the ball on every down and they ended up falling further into a hole. Why do teams panic so much with their play calling when there is so much time left?

    I remember the playoff game that Kelly Holcomb played against Pittsburgh a couple of years ago. He was more of a gunslinger back then, but with the Bills now, it's like they've asked him to be just a game manager and it's not suiting him.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Moulds- 6(4)
    Evans- 5(3)
    Reed- 4(4)
    campbell- 3(2)
    McGahee- 3(3)
    Smith- 2(1)
    Williams- 1(1)
    Shelton- 1(1)

    Oakland Raiders
    Having an injured Randy Moss may be the best thing to happen to this offense all year. Turner used to be the kind of coach that would run his RB into the ground, but Jordan hasn't been getting consistent carries this season. Hopefully, they've realized that Lamont is a 25-30 carry guy who can also carry a team.

    It looked like Moss was used mostly near the 30 yard line and in- much like how he was played last year when he had that ankle problem.

    To start this game, the Raiders defensive line went back to standing straight up on the snap of the ball. They certainly do take a lot of plays off. And they definitely took the whole first series off. Oakland did have a nice goalline stand halfway through the second quarter, but I attribute that more on the Bills calling two awful goalline plays on thrid and fourth down. They seem to be able to play good D when they want to, but now that they've lost SS Gibson and FS/CB Woodson, their young secondary will surely be tested. Oakland does not have a good pass rush to help either.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Gabriel- 7(5)
    Moss- 6(3)
    Porter- 6(4)
    Jordan- 4(4)
    Foschi- 2(2)
    Whitted- 1(0)
    Crockett- 1(1)


    Minnesota Vikings
    The Vikings' offense was so bad in the first half, the best play they ran was the hail mary on the last play. The only thing they are doing well right now is completing the short stuff, but they're not doing nearly enough of that. The running game is going well enough to keep them balanced, if they had a passing attack. The Vikings just have to learn to be more patient and finish their drives for touchdowns. It looks like Troy Williamson is getting to do more on offense and he's doing a great job at returning kicks.

    It's almost like Michael Bennett has a polar force attracting him consistently into the nearest defensive lineman.

    Minnesota's defense is finally improving. They came out fired up after halftime and held GB to just 3 points. Pat Williams was a force for all 60 minutes.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Wiggins- 7(6)
    Moore- 6(4)
    MRobinson- 5(3)
    Taylor- 3(3)
    Burleson- 3(3)
    Williamson- 2(1)
    KRobinson- 2(2)
    Kleinsasser- 2(1)

    Green Bay Packers
    This team had just no rhythm in the second half. Losing Green and Ferguson definitely hurt them. But they did put something together to tie the game 20-20 inside two minutes. Still, down to their third RB and fourth WR, things are not getting any better in Green Bay.

    Robert Ferguson's injury was a turf casualty. This new rubber stuff still doesn't give enough and Ferguson hyperextended his knee by just landing on his left leg while it was extended.

    I wouldn't expect much from Tony Fisher. Antonio Chatman, however, will benefit from the increase in playing time.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Driver- 11(8)
    Chatman- 7(5)
    Martin- 3(2)
    Franks- 3(3)
    Lee- 3(3)
    Green- 3(2)
    Ferguson- 2(2)
    Henderson- 2(2)
    Fisher- 2(2)

 
Puck Periodic
    Looking at some of tonight's matchups:

    Capitals at Sabres
  • The Caps' defense is struggling. Check out this line from Washington's last opponent:
    "Olie let in four goals and I think he should have been the star (of the game),'' Carolina's Ray Whitney said. "The stops he made, the plays he made, they were simply amazing.''
  • Washington is 0-3 after a win, and 2-3 after a loss this year, and they have been outshot in every game so far.
  • Buffalo leads the league in shots on goal
  • The Sabres' 6-2-0 start is their best since winning eight straight to open the 1975-76 season.

  • Predators at Blue Jackets
  • The Preds are, as we know, undefeated in eight games. They've been outshot in six of them.
  • If you haven't picked up defenseman Dan Hamhuis in your hockey league, do it before you're too late.
  • This will probably be a battle of backups. I suspect that Nashville will start backup Chris Mason in goal tonight. He last appeared in their 5-4 OT win in Phoenix on the 13th. Martin Prusek will go for Columbus

  • Lightning at Devils
  • Tampa swept this season series last year, 4-0.
  • The Devils are 3-1 at home this year. And both teams are coming into tonight's game off a loss. NJ is 2-1 after a L, and TB is 1-0-1.
  • Torts, on what is ailing the Lightning:
    After watching tape of Friday's loss to Ottawa, Tortorella said it was evident what is lacking in the Lightning's game.
    "To me, after I coach the [Ottawa] game and then I looked at the tape, it was a wake-up call for me on how we are just not detail-oriented right now," he said. "After watching the tape, it is so evident in all parts of our game. Now we've seen it, they've talked about it, we've looked at it … now we have to solve it. There's no sense in belly-aching about it now, now we just have to solve the problem."
  • Sharks at Stars
  • San Jose will play their fifth game of a six game road trip tonight. They are 0-4-1 so far.
  • The Sharks are 0-5-1 in their last six in Dallas.
  • SJ GM Doug Wilson:
    "Like the rest of us, I'm frustrated by the results,'' Wilson said. "But I'm not disappointed by how we're playing 90 percent of the time.''
    This is a team that is still one of the league's best, so don't be surprised if they start winning more often.
  • PJ from SharksPage has more on where SJ ranks and where others think they should be ranked.

10.25.2005
 
Tuesday Football
    San Diego Chargers
    The Chargers put themselves in a position to lose this game because of penalties, plain and simple. They had 9 for 72 yards, but every one was huge. The Eagles picked up 4 first downs via a SD penalty.

    Both teams looked real sloppy, but San Diego was especially bad.

    Caldwell was having a nice game until he fumbled on the 18 yard line with a 1:30 left in the game.

    The Chargers only pass rushed 4 players for most of game. Sometimes, they'd send a 5th, but for the most part it seemed they were protecting their secondary. And the Eagles offensive line is one of the best pass blocking units in the league. They had no trouble with the Chargers' rush.

    Don't worry about Tomlinson. The Eagles did not so much stop LT as they stopped Marty-ball.

    In the second half, San Diego found ways to move the ball by using Brees on more short drops with quicker throws. They also began to vary their formations and sets, often lining up Gates in places where they could dictate his matchups. Welcome to the modern day NFL Marty. Guess what, everyone does this from the opening kickoff- not after halftime.

    Attention san diego playoff chances, Nate Kaeding is scary. His kicks are still real ugly.
    TARGETS(cathces):
    Gates- 12(8)
    MCCardell- 8(5)
    Caldwell- 7(4)
    Tomlinson- 6(4)
    Parker- 2(0)
    Peelle- 2(1)
    Osgood- 1(0)
    Neal- 1(1)

    Philadelphia Eagles
    I don't know why some thought after the Eagles' week 5 loss to Dallas, that they could not stop the run. In fact, I've seen them play extremely well against their opponents' rushing attack this season and this game against San Diego was further proof of that. The middle of the DL did a good job of collapsing the interior of SD's offensive line into the backfield.

    And Washington should take note, those power right and power left plays that Marty and Gibbs like to run aren't going to work against Philly.

    L.J. Smith looked healthy and showed no ill effects from his ankle injury a couple of weeks ago.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Westbrook- 13(10)
    Smith- 11(6)
    OWens- 10(7)
    Lewis- 6(4)
    Gordon- 5(3)
    Spach- 4(1)
    Parry- 3(2)
    Brown- 1(1)
    McMullen- 1(1)


    Indianapolis Colts
    Why does anyone ever blitz the Colts?

    Don't look at the score, this game was never close.
    Indianapolis was flat for the entire game, and still it was an easy win for them.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Harrison- 9(7)
    Wayne- 9(9)
    Stokely- 5(1)
    Clark- 5(3)
    James- 1(1)

    Houston Texans
    The Texans' offense didn't really get back on track with their 20 points in this game, but they did show a little life. Houston played a smart first half by giving the ball to Dominick Davis over and over and over again. But there is still just nothing going in the passing game and this team will continue to strike out on third downs. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but Houston's only chance to produce points on offense is if they move more towards a similar offensive philosophy to what Mike Shannahan has going in Denver. Houston is the perfect fit for a one cut running game and bootleg quarterback. The only plays they are making this year are just that. David Carr threw just 9 passes all game.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Gaffney- 5(4)
    Bradford- 1(0)
    Mathis- 1(0)
    Davis- 1(1)
    Rivers- 1(1)


    Kansas City Chiefs
    The Chiefs came out again with a number of three wide receivers sets. And they're able to run the ball out of those sets often and effectively. With Sammy Parker out with an injury, Marc Boerigter had a busy night. Tony Gonzalez picked up 7 more catches on the night, but a majority of those came in the fourth quarter when KC had a comfortable lead. The Chiefs held the ball for 41:40 of this game.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Gonzalez- 9(7)
    Boerigter- 7(2)
    Hall- 4(3)
    Kennison- 4(2)
    Holmes- 3(1)
    Horn- 2(1)
    Dunn- 2(2)
    Richardson- 1(1)
    Johnson- 1(1)

    Miami Dolphins
    Gus Frerotte played a terrible game. He was highly inaccurate throughout the contest, until he was pulled late in the fourth. It seems to me like he's forcing too many deep throws and passing up some of the shorter options. And again, his accuracy was just awful. Gus should have had two touchdown passes in the first half (which would have made it a 14-14 game) but he twice missed open receivers in the end zone on third down.

    The Chiefs' aggressive defense gave Miami's line trouble. They had just 17 rushing yards in the first half. And other than Ronnie Brown's impressive 65 yard TD run, the Dolphins' running game was empty (13 carries for 29 yards).

    All Wes Welker does is make plays. He deserves more chances.

    Chris Chambers' first catch of the game came with about 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter. And his second catch, the big touchdown score, came from Sage Rosenfelds with two and a half minutes left in the game.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Chambers- 11(2)
    Booker- 6(2)
    McMichael- 6(3)
    welker- 4(2)
    Brown- 2(2)
    Williams- 1(0)
    Evans- 1(1)


    Denver Broncos
    Despite their early season success, I still don't see how this Broncos' team can go far with Plummer as their quarterback. What he does well is just too limiting. And on a couple of key throws in the third quarter that could have shifted momentum and stick the Giants behind by 17 points, Plummer had time to throw but missed open receivers on back to back plays.
    Opposing defenses really have to take into consideration Denver's FB Kyle Johnson. This guy has some moves and he can really get open.

    Denver's secondary has a lot of talent, but I think the Broncos' put them in plays with single coverage and little help. Far too often they have to play 10 yards off the line of scrimmage and make things happen on their own.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Putzier- 6(3)
    Lelie- 6(5)
    Smith- 4(3)
    Alexander- 4(3)
    Bell- 4(2)
    Johnson- 2(2)
    Jackson- 1(0)

    New York Giants
    Tiki Barber's fumble in this game came as his body was nearly horizontal, trying to keep his balance. It had nothing to do with his past fumbling problems and should not be of any concern.

    The Giants did a great job at containing the Jake Plummer bootleg while still holding their own against the run.

    And I don't think New York's secondary will suffer without longtime veterans Will Allen and Will Peterson. Both Deloatch and Webster are good, young corners and they have the potential to be solid starters. In fact, this Giants defense has young talent at all three levels.

    The crossing routes to Shockey are really working well for this team right now. Opponents are going to have to make that a point of focus for their defenses.
    I don't know why only now people are saying that Eli Manning is a good quarterback. Was that ever up for debate, really? He did spend too much of this game making throws off his back foot. He's got to learn to stand in the pocket a little better or he runs the risk of turning into Joey Harrington.

    Despite his great numbers this season, Plaxico Burress is still not a consistent receiver. With five minutes to go and down by 6, he dogged it on a post pattern and allowed Champ Bailey a chance to make a great interception. The Broncos got the ball on their own 40 and could have closed the game out right there.

    This was a great game on both sides, much like last week's KC/WAS match. Both teams are playing good football right now.
    TARGETS(catches):
    Burress- 13(6)
    Toomer- 13(8)
    Shockey- 7(3)
    Barber- 7(6)
    Carter- 2(0)

10.24.2005
 
Puck Periodic
    Still trying out new ideas for this space...

    One site I'll surely be checking daily is Hockey Analysis. Lots of good stuff going on there.

    Ottawa at Carolina
  • The Senators are 8-1-3 against the Hurricanes in the past 12 meetings, and their last road loss came on Nov. 12, 2000. Since then, they're 5-0-2 in Raleigh.
  • Tonight's game will be just their third in 10 days. And after tonight, they have to wait until Thursday to play again. The Lightning started with a similarly slow schedule last season and I think it really helped them get off to a good start.
  • Carolina's good start has been a surprise to some. They've gotten a point in each of their last four games. And they've only had two home matches so far.
  • Eric Staal has 10 points and 24 shots in his last 5 games.
  • Goalie Cam Ward, who left Saturday's game after less than four minutes with a left elbow injury, underwent an MRI exam on Sunday. The Canes likely will wait until today to decide on his status. Expect Martin Gerber to be in net tonight against Hasek.

    Detroit at Columbus
  • Mike Babcock reiterated that Manny Legace is the team's #1 goalie. Chris Osgood is back with the team, and he's backing up Legace.
  • Steve Yzerman is schedule to miss tonight's game, and make his return on Thursday.
  • Detroit ranks first in the league, with 36 goals.
  • Both of the Jackets' wins this season have come after a loss.
  • Columbus' penalty kill is 7th in the league. They will be facing the league's 3rd best power play.

 
Monday Football
  • Again, many key injuries: Ahman Green, Robert Ferguson, Charles Woodson, Kevin Johnson, Gary Baxter, Bob Sanders, Terrance McGee, Brandon Jones and Billy Volek, Dre Bly, Shaun Rogers, Derrick Gibson Tebucky Jones.

  • Lots going on in PFW's the Way We Hear It today:
    • BUF- We hear that the Bills will stay with Kelly Holcomb as the starting quarterback as long as the team remains in contention in the weakened AFC East.

    • MIA- Though QB Gus Frerotte has strong leadership qualities and makes good decisions, we hear that there are questions about his passing accuracy and ability to make all the throws required of him by the Dolphins’ offense.... The subpar performance at the QB position has head coach Nick Saban leaving open the possibility of starting backup Sage Rosenfels in Sunday’s game vs. the Saints.

    • BAL- As an organizational philosophy, the Ravens prefer bigger backs to small, shiftier ones. That’s why Jamal Lewis is going to keep getting opportunities to turn his season around. Lewis remains the starter in Baltimore, even though reserve Chester Taylor played well in a part-time role.... Both Lewis and head coach Brian Billick believe Lewis has struggled facing defenses geared to stop him, while Taylor has benefited somewhat from being regarded as the team’s back in passing situations.

    • CLE- There’s a feeling Carthon was impressed with QB Trent Dilfer’s nice start to the season and decided to make the passing game the focal point of the offense. RB Reuben Droughns’ workload bears watching in the weeks to come, with some team observers believing he finally will start to get more carries.

    • IND- “People have played us trying to take away the deep pass,” head coach Tony Dungy said. “We’re seeing a lot of two safeties deep.” And as long as that continues, Moore says, opponents can expect to see more and more of RB Edgerrin James, wholed the NFL in rushing after seven weeks.

    • NYG- One interesting development following Giants RB Brandon Jacobs’ critical goal-line fumble in the Week Six loss to the Cowboys was the fact that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said that Jacobs should get the ball more.

    • GB- Team observers believe the Packers’ OL woes have been slightly overstated.

    • MIN- Without DE Kenechi Udeze and given the poor play of rookie Erasmus James, the Vikings might stick with the 3-4 out of necessity until Spencer Johnson (knee) is back to full speed. But if the results prove positive, given Minnesota’s depth at linebacker, Cottrell said he might not bring the 4-3 front back full time.

    • TB- Sources close to the Bucs have indicated that Simms, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and Rattay are already auditioning for next season.

    • ATL- Michael Vick’s passing numbers are suffering again this season, and a weak receiving corps seems to be the culprit. But a solution may be coming. As of this writing, we hear the Falcons are ready to bench starter Dez White. His job was in jeopardy in training camp, but he managed to hang on to it, which is something he has failed to do with the ball. White has only two catches this season. He will be replaced by veteran Brian Finneran

    • STL- There’s a remote chance QB Marc Bulger, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the Rams’ Week Six loss to the Colts, could be available for this Sunday’s game vs. Jacksonville. But it remains much more likely Bulger will remain sidelined until the Rams’ Nov. 13 game in Seattle (they are on bye in Week Nine).

  • And a few highlights from PFW's Whispers:
    • It’s bad enough that Cardinals rookie RB J.J. Arrington has oftentimes looked clueless on the field this season. Making matters worse, we hear, is the second-round pick’s apparent lack of hunger. Our sources tell us Arrington is surprisingly nonchalant, especially compared to fellow RB Marcel Shipp, who couldn’t be more driven.
    • We hear the Packers are smitten with practice-squad RB Samkon Gado, a 5-10, 226-pounder claimed from the Chiefs last week. One scout said Gado, who attended Liberty, runs a 4.43 40-yard dash, 4.13-second short shuttle and has serious upside, and he even called Gado the next Willie Parker.
    • Our sources in St. Louis tell us it wouldn’t be a surprise if WR Isaac Bruce, who continues to be bothered by a nagging turf-toe injury, remains on the sideline until after the Rams’ Week Nine bye.
    • With teams increasing their focus on defending the run, expect to see the Broncos open up their previously conservative offense a little more in the coming weeks and take more shots downfield to WRs Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith.


ON THE BEACH
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09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004
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