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Monday, October 09, 2006

T.O, Yanks Pull Classic Choke Jobs

T.O A No-Show

Terrell Owens may have been the centerpiece to the hype leading up to the Cowboys/Eagles game this weekend, but he sure wasn't the centerpiece during it, catching only 3 balls for 45 yards. Instead of doing his thing on the field, Owens was seen at times marching up and down the sidelines either trying to fire his team up, or ranting about how he wasn't getting the ball. One thing was for certain though, and that's the fact that if the offensive line can't protect Drew Bledsoe better, and Drew can't stop himself from making ill advised throws, then having T.O won't make a bit of difference in Big D. Make no mistake about it, T.O's lack of production isn't the reason the Eagles won that game, but it certainly gave them a morale boost to see that they were shutting up the mouth that split their franchise down the middle last season. I don't think I've heard cheers so loud as when T.O dropped a pass over the middle early in the 2nd half. I'd say that Dallas has much larger problems than T.O not getting the ball (especially their pass protection), but if he's not getting the ball enough, he will make it their biggest problem. If you couldn't see this coming before the season then I'm afraid you're blind. Everyone knew that once the Cowboys started losing, T.O would start pointing the finger square at Bill Parcells and more so Drew Bledsoe. So now the fun begins. Now we get to see all the finger pointing in the clubhouse. Will Owens complain enough to get backup QB Tony Romo into the lineup? Will he instead throw his whole team under the bus and claim that if they threw him the ball more they wouldn't have any problems? Either way, I don't expect Owens to go quietly at all after this embarrassment in Philly. It was T.O's mission to make somebody pay this week, and since he couldn't do it to the Eagles, look for him to take it out on his own team. After all, T.O doesn't stand for Team Obliterator for no reason.

Patriots Update
Last Week: New England Patriots 20 Miami Dolphins 10
Record: 4-1

Next Week: Bye

*Outside of last week @ Cincy, I wouldn't say I've been all that pleased with any of the Patriots games so far this season. Yeah I know it's stupid for me to be cynical while they are out to a 4-1 start and already seem to have the division sewn up, but I can't help but looking at the bigger picture. Tom Brady's numbers have been well below average this season with a career worst 54.3 completion percentage, more than 5 pts below his previous season low. He also is posting a career low in QB rating at 82.6. Now, it's been great this year that the running game has been able to pick him up, but this offense can only go as far as Tom Brady can take them. Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell were brought in and now Jabaar Gaffney has been added, and it's said that it's taking time for Tom to get acclimated with them. Sorry, but I'm just not really buying that as an excuse. Daniel Graham and Ben Watson have both played with Brady before, and the two of them have combined for just 25 catches and about 300 yards in 5 games with only one touchdown. And how about new WR's like Javon Walker in Denver and Donte Stallworth in Philly? They don't seem to need half a season to catch on with their new offenses, so why does it take the guys here so long? Is our scheme really that difficult? Nah, I think there's something wrong with Tom. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to take cheap shots at Tom Brady, but I think he's injured. Think about it. He appears on the injury report every week doesn't he? Well hopefully the bye week will give him some time to heal up if that is the case, but it will at least give them an extra week to get everyone on the same page....finally.

NFL News and Notes
*There is officially a QB controversy in Miami. After Daunte Culpepper went down this week in practice, Joey Harrington emerged to lead a respectable Dolphins passing attack against the New England Patriots. Sure, Harrington's numbers weren't spectacular (26-41, 232 yards 2 INT), but his ability to move the ball up and down the field with some consistency was something that Daunte has yet to offer this season. The two interceptions weren't really his fault, while the reason he couldn't reach the end zone had less to do with him, and more to do with a Patriot defense that held the Dolphin's running game in check to the tune of only 62 yards on 21 carries. Harrington may have been a bum in Detroit, but Nick Saban seems content with sticking with him for now. The trouble is, with a second quality start against the Jets next week, what will Saban do when Daunte comes back healthy? Well, the good thing, it's not that big a problem when you're team is 1-4 and has already all but assured another postseason of watching TV and playing golf.

*The Chicago Bears are far and away the best team in the NFL right now. This isn't some knee jerk reaction to their 41-7 blowout of the Bills this weekend, but more so just respect for what they are able to do week in and week out. Everyone already knows about their defense. They already have a +10 turnover ratio, thanks to the pressure put on the inside by DT Tommie Harris and DE's Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye, who have combined for 9 1/2 sacks so far this season, and pressure from the their ball-hawking secondary which already has 7 interceptions on the season. But the real story has been their offense. Sure, their defense was going to win them a lot of games anyway, but the emergence of Rex Grossman and his big play threat Bernard Berrian has complimented the smash mouth running game of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson quite nicely. Grossman has a 10/3 TD/interception ratio already, and Berrian is averaging 21.7 yards per catch with 4 TDs. And don't expect this team to slip up either. They have a bye coming up this week, but games against Arizona, San Fran and Miami should have the Bears 8-0 before a matchup with the Giants at the Meadowlands on November 12th. The new Monsters of the Midway may still lack that crucial post season experience, but right now that's looking like the only thing that could keep them from at least an NFC title game appearance.

*As high as the Bears are riding, I'm not sure there's a team that's feeling the hurt anymore than the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a team that has had nothing but let-downs since winning their first Super Bowl last January under longtime coach Bill Cowher. First, Jerome Bettis, the fan favorite and face of the franchise, retires. Then, prodigal QB Ben Roethlisberger injures himself in a motorcycle accident, only to recover and miss the season opener after an emergency appendectomy. Now, four games into the season, the Steelers are 1-3 and Big Ben has 7 interceptions to go along with zero touchdowns. Not only that, but the only win the defending champs do have, came on opening night, against a vastly disappointing Dolphins team, with Charlie Batch at QB! To sum it up, their offense is flat without Bettis and Randle El, and while their defense is fine, opposing defenses are bringing it more and more each week because of the target on the champs back. Now, with their backs against the wall, we can see what this team is really made of. Nevermind having playoff wins handed to them last year by Indy and Denver, now it's time to show if they are real champions. My guess is they aren't, and the should stumble the rest of the way to maybe a 8-8 finish. The real questions will be after the season if Big Ben continues to struggle. And hopefully one bad season will be enough to push Cowher completely out the door. Although I should be careful what I ask for because I'm sure he'll end up on some pre-game show and I will have to see his stupid chin every week. It's times like this I'm glad I don't have HD TV.

My NFL Picks
Last Week: 5-0-1

Overall:
16-11-4

*Around here we like to act like we expected to win. So instead of celebrating, I'm just going to plan on doing the same thing next week. You gotta love that confidence....it's gangsta.
STUMBLE IN THE BRONX
To say there is trouble in Yankee land would be a vast understatement. Fact of the matter is, the New York Yankees are in for what might be their most tumultuous off-season in their storied history. With the latest 3-1 series loss in the ALDS to the Detroit Tigers after winning game one, the heads of both Alex Rodriguez and Joe Torre appear to be on the chopping block. A-Rod pulled out another vintage playoff performance, going 1-14 or something like that while Torre moved him from 6th all the way down to 8th in the lineup. Yea Joe, great idea, give a guy with confidence issues more reason to doubt himself. Don't get me wrong, I believe A-Rod is one of the biggest chokers in modern sports playoff history, but after having a very solid September (.358, 8 HR, 25 RBI) Torre decided history was too much and decided Rodriguez would cost them games if he remained high in the lineup. And that's part of the reason Joe is getting fired, at least reportedly fired. Torre, along with his captain Derek Jeter, never once tried to pick A-Rod up. Never did you hear them say something like "he's our guy, we will work through it", or "he's a Yankee, we are 100% behind him". No. They just sat their and let the media rip the guy until his confidence was all but gone. So now what? Well now George Steinbrenner has to sit there for the 6th straight season without a World Series, and the second straight year where the highest payroll in baseball failed to make the ALCS. Changes have to be made, and I agree. As great of a manager as Joe Torre has been for the Yanks the past decade, it's time for a change. When Joe came in, it was to calm everyone down and start getting them to focus on every game one at a time. Now, with all the superstars in the lineup, it's become less about the team and more about individuals. That's really not Torre's thing and it's starting to show. The clubhouse is way too laid back, not the laid back of the past with an air of confidence, but more like the laid back attitude a millionaire has when he knows that nobody can tell him what to do. And that's a problem. Steinbrenner has wanted to fire Torre for years, but his beloved status has kept him just out of reach. Now, even some of the fans are starting to see things Georgie's way, so Joe might be out. Who should replace him? Well Lou Piniella has been mentioned, but I don't know about that. The Boss may think what his team needs is someone to fire them up, which Lou would certainly do, but what he really needs is just another Torre, a different Torre. Someone too fiery could hurt the clubhouse, what they need is someone to help them refocus and start playing up to their potential. As far as A-Rod goes, the rumor is the Yanks want him out ASAP, but to where and for what price? I don't have those answers, but like I said, these issues should set the table for an off-season of fireworks in the Bronx, and I for one can't wait to see what happens.

League Championship Series Preview
Oakland A's vs Detroit Tigers
*OK, so maybe I predicted that this would be the Yankees and Twins, so sue me. But both Oakland and Detroit took care of business in the first round and will now battle it out in what I'm sure MLB is hoping will be a ratings extravaganza. I'm sure Detroit has a lot of fans, but I don't know how many Oakland A's fans will be watching, considering they still have trouble filling their stadium on a nightly basis. No matter who is actually watching, it should still be an exciting series. Both teams proved in the first round that they have plenty of pitching and clutch hitting to survive in the playoffs, but now the question becomes who can do it over a 7 game series. Neither of these teams has any experience in this round of the playoffs, so the first one to blink might be the first one to lose. But if the first round is any indicator, both will have enough to stretch this thing to the full seven games, meaning we should be in for an entertaining ALCS, even if we don't care who actually wins.
prediction: Detroit in 7

St. Louis Cardinals vs New York Mets
*I may have also picked against both of these teams last week, but if you look back before the season started this was the matchup I predicted. So give it up for me, or don't. Basically, both of these teams stayed atop the NL for the entire season, and both rolled over their weaker NL West foes in the first round. So, now onto the serious business. Neither team had to prove that much in the first round, and that could come back to haunt them here. The Mets were able to scrape by with so-so pitching, so I have to give the edge to St. Louis. New York may have the better lineup by far top to bottom, but we all know it's pitching that gets it done in October. But do the Cardinals have enough of it either? Aces Marquis and Carpenter really struggled down the stretch, and their young bullpen has essentially no experience in the postseason. Look for this series to be an unusually high scoring one for the NLCS, in which case you have to like the Mets with Delgado, Wright, Reyes and Beltran pounding out the hits. The Mets have been the best team in baseball for most of the season, so anything short of a World Series appearance would be a huge disappointment, and look for them to get there on the strength of their lineup. Basically, both of the pitching staff's are sub-par at best, so the Mets should prevail in a slug-fest.
prediction: Mets in 6
*Surprise, surprise. The Florida Gators may have emerged as National title contenders after their victory this week over LSU, but they will need to keep up the strong effort this week as they travel to Auburn. There success has been in no small part to the addition of freshmen QB Tim Tebow, who relieves Chris Leak for 10-15 snaps a game. The best part is, every play Tebow is in for, the Gators basically use him to pound the ball down the opposing team's throat, and it's been working beautifully. On the other side of the National title hunt, Michigan and Ohio St. remain on a crash course to meet up on November 18th for a monster game. I know these two have a storied rivalry, but should they both continue their winning ways, that game could be on of the most intense in recent memory, even for their standards. As for the rest of the country, there are still a lot of mystery teams out there. Is USC as good as their pedigree and undefeated record or are they prime to be knocked off in the Pac 10? And what's the story with Louisville and West Virginia? Everyone is talking about Florida, OSU and Michigan, but if one of them loses, the Big East champ is going to have a big say in the BCS picture. As usual, these things tend to sort themselves out, but it's always fun to watch it happen, so let's keep on watchin'...*

College Football Top 10
1. Ohio St. (6-0) 1
2. West Virginia (5-0) 3
3. Florida (6-0) 4
4. Michigan (6-0) 6
5. USC (5-0) 5
6. Notre Dame (5-1) 8
7. Auburn (5-1) 2
8. Texas (5-1) 10
9. Louisville (5-0) NR
10. Georgia Tech (5-1) NR

just missed: Tennessee, California, Iowa, Boise St.
dropped: (7) Georgia; (9) LSU

Games to Watch this Week
Florida @ Auburn
*These two teams essentially swapped places since last week with Florida beating up on LSU and Auburn falling to Arkansas. Now we get to see which team is the real beast of the SEC. If the Gators can win, pencil them in for a spot in the National Title game with Ohio St. barring a major setback for either squad.

Michigan @ Penn St.
*Rumor has it that Michigan stud WR Mario Manningham may be out for this one, which could make things interesting. Michigan wants to continue to steamroll before their inevitable matchup with Ohio St., which no doubt will have major BCS ramifications. Chad Henne, Mike Hart and CO. need to stay focused and make sure they roll the Lions in Happy Valley.

Virginia Tech @ Boston College
*The ACC seems to be full of surprises this season, so don't count out Boston College. Virginia Tech looked dreadful against Georgia Tech on national television, so maybe they still have a bruised ego. A win here by either squad will keep them right in the hunt for an ACC conference title, the loser will have some serious ground to make up.

Missouri @ Texas A&M
*The Aggies can't afford another conference loss if they want a shot at the Big XII South, and the Tigers look to remain undefeated. A&M has had serious challenges both from Texas Tech and Kansas, so Mizzou looks to have the edge, but just one slip up on the road could cost them their top 25 ranking.

NHL Season Opens With Whimper
In case you didn't notice, the NHL season started this week. And when I said "in case you didn't notice", what I really meant was "hey obviously you didn't notice because hockey does such a piss poor job of marketing itself". I mean when baseball, basketball, or football season begins, you know about it weeks in advance with all kinds of promotional events and commercials every three minutes. With hockey, between the staggered starts for most teams, and the poor national TV coverage, it's going to be the All-Star break before most of the free world remembers that they aren't still in the middle of a lock out. It's blatantly obvious now that the NHL doesn't need rule changes to help bring fans back to their game, they need to let the fans know that their sport has already started and it's actually on TV! I mean for crying out loud, the season already appears lost from a media standpoint, so why even bother playing it out? Expect this to be my last words on the NHL for quite some time, unless another betting scandal turns up, or maybe a drug scandal. That at least would give more entertainment value than a bunch of Europeans nobody knows playing on a bunch of networks that nobody can find on their TV dial.

Fantasy Update
Week 5: Open Back Door 45 HeHateMe 58
Record: 2-3-0, 9th place

Next Week vs Hay 4 Sale (1-4-0)

*The bye for Mike Vick and Warrick Dunn really cost me this week. Even with low points from them, they still would have done better than the -4 points and 0 points that Steve McNair and Doug Gabriel respectively got in their place. Hey, I was hoping that McNair could pull it out on Monday Night, but I was also realistic that Denver's defense would be tough. Once I saw that it was raining and cold, I essentially gave up all hope. Oh well, next week it is, and I can still see a playoff spot in my sights so the news isn't all bad.

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