Let me tell you. It's a great time to be alive, and it's a great time to be a sports fan in New England. Every Pats game is a celebration of greatness, and with each pitch of the World Series, the Red Sox come closer to tossing a brick into their own little dynasty construction project. First, here's a breakdown of game's 1 & 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park...
Well, no sooner do I actually get a chance to write about some World Series action then it appears the series might already be over. In game 1, Josh Beckett started off by punching the Fighting John Denver's (look out for those sea gulls) in the mouth by striking out the side, only to have freshly anointed AL Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia effectively end the game with a lead off homer in the first. After that opening shot, the Rocks were down for the count, and many, myself included thought they might not get up. However, much like the ALCS, a blowout in game 1 was followed by a tougher, more hard fought game in game 2. This time, Schilling and the Sox were able to keep the Rockie bats at bay just long enough for Oki and Papa to turn the lights out on 'em. If the series wasn't over when Petey went yard to lead off the first, then it just might have been when Paps caught NL MVP nappin's off of first. Game. Set. Match....
Hey, I know all about how "a series doesn't really start until the road team wins a game," and I get that, but to expect the Rockies to come back and win this thing is expecting a little too much. They are clearly shaken by the big stage, they're clearly at least a little rusty from their 8 day layoff, and they flat out don't have the pitching needed to compete. What did I tell you before the series? The Rocks starters are having trouble accumulating innings, simply because the Red Sox hitters are being so patient and selective. It's not a good mixture for success, and barring a Dice K collapse in game 3, it's looking like this thing could be over in 4. Time to ride the Duck Boats baby! And here's to hoping the next time I talk to you all, the Boston Red Sox are 2007 World Series Champions!!
(I'd say Cowboy Up!, here, except I'm afraid it might get around to Kevin Millar, and he might be even more encouraged to come back to Boston. What the hell is that guy doing at Fenway at rooting for the Red Sox anyway? Is it me, or isn't he on the freaking Orioles? And Bronson Arroyo? Dude, we replaced you with Kyle Snyder. Haven't you seen that "Bizarro" Seinfeld where Elaine says "Sorry, we already have a George." We let you go, man, now it's time for you to let us go. Can you say, restraining order?)
Now, it's on to the official bidness at hand. Get your bank teller and your book maker on hold, people, cuz it's time to chase that paper...
I'm gonna start off this week with a real shocker. I'm taking the Redskins, and the points. this week against the Pats. Ha! And if you believe that, then I got a whole bunch of 2007 New York Yankee World Series tickets to sell ya. While the Redskins probably have the best defense (and no doubt the best defensive secondary) the Pats have seen so far this season, I'm still sticking with my strategy of picking the Pats until they don't cover. Brady and the offense are still rolling, and with the defense doing enough to make every win a rather comfortable one, there's no chance in hell I'm gonna bail on them. At this point, it may sound arrogant, but I'm just expecting them to steamroll absolutely everyone, no matter the talent level. If it so happens there's a week this season they don't cover, then maybe I'll start to re-evaluate my decision, but I honestly don't see that coming any time soon...and yea I know Indy is on the horizon...
Next up on the docket, is the big game this week between the Giants and Dolphins taking place across the pond in merry 'ole England. Pip pip, and cheerio and all that good stuff, but I just don't think this was what the NFL had in mind when they decided to bring the game in for a European showcase. The Giants are good, but not nearly as good as people think they are, while the Dolphins are letting it be known more and more every week just how determined they are to run the table in reverse (0-16). That team flat out stinks. Maybe when the Dolphins had Ronnie Brown (injured), Trent Green (brain damaged) and Chris Chambers (traded) this off season, this may have looked like a big game, but now, it's going to be just about as exciting as the other sport they usually play in Wembley Stadium....you know, the one where all those dirty Euros fall down and get taken off on stretchers, only to reappear seconds later with a mouth full of orange slices to score the winning goal? What a gross and boring game. Anyway, as for the actual game itself, it's real bad news for the Fish. The only "advantage" they had was home field, and now the game is on a neutral site. Eli to Plaxico, Eli to Shockey, Eli to Amani "it's not a" Toomer. Game over. Giants roll big, a lot of Brits smoke a lot of fags, and everyone gets sick from all the gross native cuisine. Make that a large "spotted dick" for Cleo Lemon if you please...
Speaking of stuff that makes you hurl, anyone see David Garrard's backup, Mel Gray, play on Monday night? Personally, I thought Mel Gray was the ill return guy from the Lions that I used to roll with in like Madden '96, but apparently I was wrong. Who knows, maybe this kid can settle down and be a viable fill in until Garrard gets back on the field, but in the meantime I highly recommend picking against the Jags. Garrard's numbers may not have been huge, but he has highly successful at managing the game, and putting his teammates in good positions to make plays. And let's face it, how good would any NFL team be right now without their starting QB anyway? Matt Cassell anyone? Cleo Lemon? The Bucs may not be the best team around, but at home, and against Mel Gray, I'll take my chances...
As long as we're talking about back up QBs, I might as well give props to the Bears Brian Greise, who's come in and done a more than adequate job (86.0 QB rating 8 TD / 6 INT) since replacing Rex Gross-man. Well, if Rex was the problem, then why are the Bears still 3-4? This is gonna sound sacrilege, but you think maybe it's the defense? I know, you think Bears, you think D, but that hasn't even been close to the case this year. They're 25th in yards allowed per game, at 358, and they're giving up almost 24 points per game, good for 23rd best in the league. That's not only bad in respect to where the Bears expect to be, that's just bad period. Maybe the QB was the problem last year, and you could argue (I won't) the reason they didn't win the Super Bowl, but that's not the case this year. Sure, Greise has helped by adding some consistency to the deep passing game, but not to the point where they can be getting in shootouts on a consistent basis and expect to win. That brings me to the Lions. Detroit passes for an average of 244 yards a game, while the Bears defense is 23rd against the pass. That alone gives me enough hope to think that at the very least, Kitna and company can keep this one close. I figure, if the guy is coming back from a concussion in the same game, and talking to Jesus, then he can cover a 5 point spread on the road against a suddenly punchless Bears defense. I did take into account that it's about that week where the Lions start "being the Lions" again, but I'm hoping that can hold out for one more week, and I can just squeak by...
My last pick of the week comes attached with a very interesting note. No QB in the NFL has beaten more than 30 teams in his career. Tom Brady has beaten every team, except the Redskins, and Peyton Manning has beaten every team, except the Panthers. Oh, and did I mention that these two are slated to showdown next Sunday afternoon? The reigning champs, vs the reigning dynasty, both undefeated, and both with the only two QBs in history to beat ever other team in the league. Man, on karma alone I'm taking the Colts, because you know this has to happen. I mean, I can already see all the graphics packages ESPN is putting together! That's not even to mention that I like the Colts in this game anyway. They're far and away the second best team in the league, and they're way too focused to get distracted by their week 9 duel with the Dynasty. I respect the Panthers, and what they've been able to do this season despite injury, but this isn't some NFC chump squad, it's the defending champs. Steve Smith will probably get two scores, but that'll only be enough to match Dallas Clark, never mind the rest if the Indy offensive machine. Colts by like 20 here, and it should never be all that close. Then it's on to the AFC title game preview...
OK OK I lied, I got one more for ya. Seeing as I've been on such a tear, I feel I have to share the one bet I actually feel the strongest about this week. Now, I don't like making a habit of picking over/unders, but I know a lot of you out there like 'em, so make sure you take this one down. Take the over of 45 in the Cleveland/St. Louis game. Only two games this year, have the Browns been in a game under 45 and in those two instances, it was 40 and 41 respectively. Add to that, the Rams are getting healthier on offense with Marc Bulger, Isaac Bruce and Steven Jackson. They may still suck, but at least you can mark them down for a few passing TDs, right? Perfect combination if you ask me. Two weak defenses, and two relatively strong offenses. Either they shoot it out and blow the 45 points away, or one team smacks the other so bad that they basically take care of the number themselves. In that case, it would probably be Cleveland, but no matter how it happens, I really like my chances...
Week 8 Picks
New England Patriots (-16) vs Washington Redskins
New York Giants (-9.5) @ Miami Dolphins (London)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions (+5) @ Chicago Bears
Indianapolis Colts (-7) @ Carolina Panthers
*St. Louis vs Cleveland over 45
Green Bay Packers (+3.5) @ Denver Broncos
*As much as I want to pick Denver here, Green Bay just has too much going for them in this situation for me to pick against them. They're coming off their bye week, Brett Favre is a menace on Monday Night Football, and the Broncos specialize in stopping the run, something the Packers could care less to try and do. I know Mile High is a tough environment for any team to play in, but stuff like that never really seems to bother Favre. The AFC may be the better conference, and the Broncos may be the better team, but I give the edge to Brett and crew because of the amount of time they've had to prepare, and the way the two teams match up stylistically. To get really cute, I like the Pack and the points, but I like the Broncos to win or lose by 1-2 points. Exact enough for ya?
Last Week: 5-1-0
Overall: 23-17-3 (.570)
NCAA Top 25 Picks
(1) Ohio St. (-3.5) @ (24) Penn St.
(5) Oregon (-3) vs (9) USC
(25) Rutgers (+6) vs (6) West Virginia
(7) Arizona St. (-3) vs (18) California
(9) Florida (-8.5) @ (20) Georgia
(11) South Florida (-4) @ UCONN
(12) Kansas (-2.5) @ Texas A&M
Iowa St. (+28.5) @ (13) Missouri
(14) Kentucky (-13.5) vs Mississippi St.
(15) South Carolina (+2.5) @ Tennessee
(16) Hawaii (-27.5) vs New Mexico St.
(17) Texas (-20.5) vs Nebraska
(19) Michigan (-23) vs Minnesota
(21) Virginia (-3) @ N.C. St.
(23) Auburn (-17) vs Mississippi
Last Week: 8-8-0
Overall: 83-68-3 (.549)
*At this point, even I don't trust these picks, so I don't expect you too either. But hey, I say if you have a gut feeling, and I happen to agree with it, then bet the farm man! This week, I basically went back to my strategy of picking teams I like (Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina), taking almost any decent home team that's an underdog (NC St., Rutgers), and going against teams I don't like (Tennessee, Nebraska, UCONN, USC). This was how I built my good record to begin with, so I figure going back to basics can't hurt. Pray for me, please.