Week 13 NFL preview

I’m off to a flying 0-3 start picking games this week (sarcasm). My big takeaways from the Thursday games: If the Eagles could play defense like that every week, they’d be almost unstoppable, the 49ers have major issues, and the Bears may have the worst defense I’ve ever seen. Here’s to bettering that 0-3 mark.

Patriots (9-2) at Packers (8-3)-Shockingly, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have never played against each other before. They will Sunday. They are piloting the two hottest teams in football. The Pats continue to impress. They predictably slaughtered a good but overmatched Lions team last week. The Packers got more than they bargained for in Minnesota last week, but prevailed. It has been a long time since either team lost. I love the Pats newfound running game, but winning in Lambeau is next to impossible when Green Bay is playing this well. GB 35 NE 31.

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)-Sadly, this is a huge game for both teams due to the futility of the NFC South. Arizona backup QB Drew Stanton looked totally overmatched against Seattle last week. Atlanta is by no means Seattle, but they are getting better. They just need to finish games. Carson Palmer isn’t walking through the door for Arizona. They also may be without star wideout Larry Fitzgerald. Upset of the week. The NFC South saves some face. Atl 31 Ari 21

Broncos (8-3) at Chiefs (7-4)-Ok folks, you know where my loyalties lie. So, take everything I say here with a grain of salt. The Chiefs play Denver as tough as anyone. Denver ran for almost 200 yards last week in a tight win. That’s certainly the exception not the rule. C.J. Anderson has done a whale of a job, but I don’t buy Denver’s run game becoming a consistent threat. No matter how much I wish. KC is coming off an inexplicable loss to the hapless Raiders. I really fear KC. They are really physical. Denver doesn’t like that. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect here. Denver 21 KC 17

Bengals (7-4) at Bucs (2-9)- Playing to my readers here. After 2 good showings in a row, it is about time the bad Bengals show up. The good news is the bad Bengals are still good enough to beat Tampa. The Bengals will drive their fans nuts, but win an ugly game. Cin 12 TB 10.

Maybe Mike Shanahan is a genius and Thanksgiving Day NFL preview

Before I preview tomorrow’s Thanksgiving NFL games, I need to weigh in on the RGIII drama in Washington. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was benched in favor of backup Colt McCoy last night. McCoy has led Washington to two of their 3 wins this season, Griffin picked up a blowout win early in the year against Jacksonville, while Kirk Cousins went winless starting several games while RGIII was out with an ankle injury. Cousins’ poor play prompted the move to McCoy who was sent back to the bench once RGIII recovered. RGIII was beyond awful in his two starts after the injury taking sack after sack and missing basic throws. Since taking the league by storm in his rookie year and winning the NFC East, RGIII’s career has been in freefall. He tore his ACL in a playoff loss to Seattle, was rushed back to start the 2013 season and was benched after leading the team to a 3-10 record and a falling out with the Mike Shanahan led coaching staff. As detailed above, 2014 has seen no improvement and a late season benching for the 2nd straight year.

The part that really interests me is the Shanahan angle. He had as many losing seasons as he did Super Bowl wins during his 14 year run Denver, 2 each. Despite that, he got the “washed up old hack” label from the media and fans after a largely unsuccessful 4 year run with the Redskins. However, he did turn Washington from last place team to division winner in under 2 years. Under Shanahan in his rookie year, RGII had over 4,000 total combined yards, 32 total TDs, just 7 total turnovers and a 67% completion percentage. The offense was largely based on simple throws and Griffin’s running ability. After the injury in the playoffs, Shanahan was strong armed by ownership to play Griffin at the start of last season. He was clearly not the same player and not healthy. The coaching staff took the fall and everyone was fired after a 3-13 season. Well, now a 2nd coaching staff is failing with RGIII, this one led by Jay Gruden. RGIII is now a fragile QB who has lost his greatest asset, mobility. He hasn’t had rush TD since his rookie year. Lower body injuries have forced Griffin to make more complex throws from the pocket. Something he wasn’t able to do in college and will never be able to do in the NFL. What does it all mean? Maybe Mike Shanahan is not a “washed up old hack” but even more of a genius than his two Super Bowl rings would suggest for winning a division title with a QB who can’t make NFL throws.

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4) Chicago is up to their hot and cold ways winning 2 in a row, granted is was just the Vikings and Bucs. The offense was always there and the defense is improving. Detroit looks headed for another late season collapse after losing two blowout losses and losing the NFC North lead to surging Green Bay. The offense hasn’t scored a TD in 2 games. I’ve seen this movie before and will take the upset. The Bears have life. Chi 27 Det 20

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3)-The NFC East lead in on the here. However, this is a fairly simple one Dallas is healthier, at home, and has a top 10 rushing and passing offense. I like balance. Philly is terrible on defense. Despite being great everywhere else, that will be too much for them to overcome here. Dal 38 Phi 24.

Seattle (7-4) and San Francisco (7-4)-.This will be a fist fight. Two defensive based teams that hate each other. Colin Kaepernick has been more consistent following the upset loss to St. Louis 3 weeks ago. Seattle is very good, but the defense is just not as dominant as last year. The winner of this game has a real shot at running down Arizona in the NFC West. The loser will have to scrap to make the playoffs. There’s not much between these teams. So, I’ll take the home team. SF 17 Sea 14. Happy Turkey Day everyone! Look for my regular NFL preview post Friday.

Week 12 NFL preview

What a snoozer Saturday of college football. Anyway, week 12 of the NFL started with the NFL’s version of hell freezing over. The Oakland Raiders won a football game for the first time in 369 days. This snapped a 16 game losing streak dating back to last season. Even more shocking was the fact that a team as solid as Kansas City would let themselves lose a game like this. Even though Kansas City had a short week and had to travel, losing to a 0-10 team is inexcusable, especially when you are competing with a team like Denver in the division. I still think they are a real threat, but this is going to be a tough one to forget. The Raiders are terrible, but it looks like they may have found their QB of the future in Derek Carr. He’s started every game and has over 2200 yards, 14 TDs and 9 INTs. For a rookie on a 1-10 team, that is really impressive. As for the rest of the big games this week, I’ll start close to home.

Cincinnati (6-3-1) at Houston (5-5)-Which Bengals team will show up this week? The short answer is I have no idea. If you do, please let me know. I do know that I really liked what I saw from Houston last week in Cleveland. The defense was always solid let by J.J. Watt, but give them some decent QB play like they got last week from new starter Ryan Mallet, and they become really tough to deal with. Also, Cincinnati’s last two trips to this building were blowout playoff losses. Houston gets into the thick of the playoff race with a win here. Hou 24 Cin 20

Cleveland (6-4) at Atlanta (4-6)-Cleveland is 6-4 and in last place in their division and Atlanta is 4-6 and leads theirs, for whatever that is worth. Atlanta is tough at home. They have no defense, but can score with anybody. I’m just not sure Cleveland’s offensive personnel led by QB Brian Hoyer is good enough to exploit Atlanta’s defensive woes. Yes, WR Josh Gordon is back from suspension, but don’t expect him to do much in his first game back. If I’m right about these top 2 results, the AFC north becomes a huge mess. Atl 35 Cle 24

Miami (6-4) at Denver (7-3)-My Broncos are banged up and have no running game right now. Peyton Manning’s favorite target in big spots this year has been Emmanuel Sanders. He’s been dealing with a concussion all week, but should be a go. TE Julius Thomas is likely a no go with a bum ankle. The top 2 RBs Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are already ruled out. Denver has had all week to prepare for the impact of these injuries, and I don’t expect them to waste Oakland’s favor from Thursday. Miami is going to try to keep Peyton on the sidelines by running the ball, the problem is that run defense is Denver’s strength. Denver will have to grind here, but I’m confident. Den 28 Mia 16

Detroit (7-3) @ New England (8-2)-I’ll finish this week with the shortest preview I’ll ever do. New England knows how to win big games. The Lions know how to lose big games. The Packers take control of the NFC north. NE 34 Det 17

I’ll also take Seattle to send Arizona crashing back to earth and the Giants to upset the Cowboys on Sunday night. Look for a weekend wrap-up and Thanksgiving Day preview Tuesday.

Tuesday evening quarterback: Week 11 edition

Week 12 in the NFL was one of those weeks where everyone realizes that as much as we would all like to think so, no one knows anything about the NFL week to week. As usual, I was right about some things and dead wrong about others. Here are the major things I took from Sunday’s action.

In a league full of uncertainty, one thing is certain. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL right now- This could always and likely will change, but right now there is no argument. Since getting crushed in Kansas City and dropping to .500, they haven’t lost and they have notched convincing wins over the Bengals, Broncos, Colts, and a Bears team that has as much talent as any team out there. No other team in the league boasts a portfolio this impressive. I know Arizona has one more win, but who would you rather have at quarterback, Drew Stanton or Tom Brady? The Pats are even more lethal at the moment because they have been given a running game. The completely unknown Jonas Gray came from nowhere Sunday night to rush for 201 yards and 4 TDs. If the Pats get half this production on the ground going forward, good luck to the rest of the NFL.

Join me, start paying attention to the Chiefs- I’ve been on this since late September. They pulled out a narrow home win against world champion Seattle Sunday, as I predicted. They are well coached, have a great running game, a great defense, and their QB is better than most think. What’s not to like? Also, with Denver banged up and coming off a humbling loss in St. Louis, the two rivals are now tied atop the AFC West. Their Sunday night game on November 30th is massive. There are still questions about Alex Smith outdueling a Manning or Brady type, and rightly so, but this team is really good, not flashy, but really good.

The Bengals are the NFL’s bipolar team of the year- I cannot figure this team out to save my life. They started out 3-0. Only for that to eventually be part of a long and confusing season that has included ugly losses to Indy and Cleveland and an ill-faded tie with Carolina. Then, they go on the road to New Orleans and dominate the Saints like we haven’t seen them dominated in the Drew Brees era. That tie is actually helping them keep the rest of the AFC North at bay for now. I still tab the Steelers for this division, but a large part of who wins it will come down to which Bengal team shows up when. Next up for them is a Houston squad that looked refreshed under new QB Ryan Mallet Sunday.

A really bad NFL team is going to host a home playoff game- The NFC South is bad, really bad. The Falcons lead it at 4-6 by virtue of a head to head tiebreaker over the Saints, Carolina is just a game back at 3-7-1 and God awful Tampa is in the mix at 2-8. If Tampa makes the playoffs, the NFL should disband. None of these teams can play defense. I like the NFL’s playoff system rewarding division winners, but this can happen from time to time (See the 2010 NFC West won by the 7-9 Seahawks). A quick note on the blog itself, I hope to add some college football related content in the coming weeks.

NFL week 11 preview

Week 11 in the NFL started with the Dolphins taking care of the Bills on Thursday in a 22-9 home win. This game was hard to watch at times, as both teams can struggle offensively. Miami improves to 6-4 and currently holds the last wild-card spot in the AFC. Buffalo drops to 5-5. It is clear Miami still has limitations everywhere, but they are beating the teams they should beat. Buffalo continues to struggle in the red zone. A lot of people are calling for veteran Kyle Orton to head back to the bench and youngster EJ Manuel to step in. I think the Bills have a few problems, none of them involve the QB. The offensive line can’t handle a pass rush, and they have no running game due to injuries.

Detroit (7-2) at Arizona (8-1)-I have had a rough time picking games since I started the blog. I will start my attempt at a turnaround with the biggest game of the weekend. Arizona keeps winning via defense, a running game, and no mistakes. Their staying power will really be tested without QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the year. He had been playing his best football in years. Drew Stanton will take over. He has started several games before, including a few this year. Arizona is not a contender to go deep in the playoffs without Palmer, but losing him is not a death sentence to their season.   Detroit continues walking the tight rope. They have trailed at the 2:00 warning for 3 straight games, and won them all. Their defense is really good, but they are still too pass happy and may be without Reggie Bush. Also, they are on pace to shatter the record for missed field goals. I just don’t quite buy into them still. Ari 24 Det 20

Seattle (6-3) at Kansas City (6-3)-This is the toughest pick of the week for me. I really like what Kansas City is doing right now. Justin Houston would be getting defensive MVP hype if not for J.J. Watt. The run game led by Jamal Charles is lethal. KC has won 4 in a row and is quietly becoming a real threat to my Broncos in the AFC West. The world champs are in form as well after running all over the Giants at home last week, but this game isn’t in Seattle. The Seahawks will still be a factor to defend their title, but I’ll take KC in a fist fight here. KC 20 Sea 14.

Philadelphia (7-2) at Green Bay (6-3)-The Eagles are actually underdogs here. They went turnover free last week vs. Carolina. Mark Sanchez looked rejuvenated. As I said last week, I think they are better off with him at QB as opposed to the injured Nick Foles. Green Bay is playing good ball too. They dished out at 55-14 drubbing to the Bears last week, in a game that I picked the Bears to win. I think that performance had more to do with the Bears than the Packers. So, I’ll take the Eagles to pull what the bookmakers would call an upset in a shootout. Phi 35 GB 32.

New England (7-2) at Indianapolis (6-3)-Ever since getting killed by KC on Monday Night Football, the Pats have been destroying everyone in their path, expect this Sunday night to be no different. Indy is great at home, but Andrew Luck has started to take a beating lately, even in the convincing win over the Giants in their most recent game weeks ago. The defense was shredded by both New York and Pittsburgh in recent weeks. Indy has their division well in hand, but I don’t like the way their trending right now. Enjoy what should be a great Sunday of football. NE 35 Ind 20.

NFL week 10 preview

Week 10 in the NFL started Thursday with an impressive showing by the Browns defeating Cincinnati 24-3 on the road to claim victory in the battle of Ohio. The Bengals have some serious soul-searching to do after another prime time defeat and a road trip to New Orleans looming. It’s early November and the Browns are in the thick of the playoff hunt. As I said all year long, the Steelers will win this division. However, the Browns have a real shot at a wildcard, as does the rest of the division. It will be interesting to see how Cleveland handles prosperity this late in the season. Here are my thoughts on the rest of the NFL’s biggest week 10 games.

Miami at Detroit- Who would’ve thought this would be arguably the biggest game of week 10? Miami sure did shut me up last week throttling San Diego at home. Detroit is coming off a bye and should get Calvin Johnson back. Detroit has statistically the best defense in the league. However, their offense remains turnover prone and at times too reliant on the pass. They have gotten lots of help and crazy bounces to win their last two games against New Orleans and Atlanta. In recent years, every time the Lions have had an opportunity to be I put a stranglehold on playoff spot or division title, they have screwed it up. I still think Miami is limited offensively, but I think they are the more predictable and consistent team. I’ll take them to pull the small upset. Mia 24 Det 20.

Steelers at Jets- The Steelers keep winning and the Jets keep losing. However, this game is not a walk over for Pittsburgh. The Jets defense may be the best the Steelers have played all year. Also, the Jets looked like a real NFL offense with Mike Vick at the helm last week. I think the Steelers have too much firepower, but they will have to earn it. The Steelers move to 7-3. Pit 27 NYJ 17

Kansas City at Buffalo- This is the sneakiest good game of the week. Both teams are 5-3 and need this one to stay in the thick of the playoff race. Kansas City is doing what it usually does, winning games with great coaching, a solid running game and defense, and the steady hand of QB Alex Smith. Buffalo is doing things much the same with veteran Kyle Orton calling the signals. However, Buffalo’s backfield remains banged up with injuries to CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. For that reason, I’ll take the road team. KC 20 Buf 14.

San Francisco at New Orleans- My last preview of the week contains two teams with identical records, but in completely different spots. The Saints are finally rounding into form with consecutive wins over Green Bay and Carolina. Despite, their 4-4 record, they lead their division. San Francisco is fading fast. After an ugly loss to the Rams last week, a trip to New Orleans is the last thing this group needs. New Orleans could become a really dangerous team. Expect them to throw San Francisco’s season off a cliff in a big way. No 35 SF 17.

Enjoy your Sunday a football everyone, but before I sign off, an extra pick for you. I like Chicago to go in to Green Bay and save their season by upsetting the Packers. I will continue to trying to post on a more consistent basis.

London Calling: 2014 ATP World Tour Finals preview

London becomes the epicenter of the tennis world tomorrow morning. As the worlds’ top 8 men gather for the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals. It should be a gripping season finale. The only man missing is world number 3 Rafa Nadal who is recovering from an appendectomy.

The format here is different from any other event. The players are split into 2 groups of 4. They engage in round-robin play for the first 5 days of the event, each player plays everyone in their group. The top two players from each group advance to the semifinals where traditional single elimination decides a champion. Here are my predictions.

Group A- For me, this is easily the weaker of the two groups. It is headed by World number 1 Novak Djokovic. He is joined by Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, powerful Czech Thomas Berdych, and surprise U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. Djokovic has maintained strong form since winning Wimbledon in July. The changes of marriage and fatherhood had seemingly no negative effect on his game. He defended a big title at the Paris Indoors last week His return game and movement remain unmatched. He also enjoys a considerable head-to-head edge over the rest of the group. What happens with the rest of this group is anyone’s guess. Cilic had played sparingly since claiming victory at the U.S. Open in September. He is Nadal’s replacement. His only taste of success this fall has been winning a small indoor event in Moscow. Berdych possesses a powerful game that can cause anyone problems. However, he can be erratic and tends to struggle against the other top guys. He’s been a mainstay in the top 10 for many years now, but titles at big events remain hard to come by. He does his damage by beating everyone he is supposed to beat. Wawrinka started the year by surprising everyone in Australia. However, since winning the Monte Carlo Masters in late spring, he is under .500. However, he’s capable of hitting winners with every shot and can get hot at any time.

Semifinalists- Djokovic and Wawrinka

Group B- This group is led by Swiss master Roger Federer. His adversaries include former Wimbledon champion and hometown favorite Andy Murray, rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori, and big serving Canadian youngster Milos Raonic. After narrowly missing out on an eighth Wimbledon title, Roger continued to show that age is just a number reaching the semis at the U.S. Open, winning titles in Shanghai and his hometown of Basel, and the quarterfinals of Paris last week. The three other men all possess relatively recent wins over Federer, but he is the favorite in this group. I think his net game will be the difference. Murray spent much of the first half of 2014 trying to find his form again after missing the latter part of last year with a back injury, and he struggle to do so, but added to his schedule in the fall picking up three titles during five consecutive weeks of play. If he has gas left in the tank, to run down every ball like he normally does, he has a shot here. The home crowd could also do him some favors. Raonic and Nishikori have each had fantastic years, but both come in w/ nagging injuries and have abysmal records against Federer and Murray. Raonic could get to the semis on his massive serve and not much else. That’s the only shot either one of these two has in this group.

Semifinalists- Federer and Murray

Semifinals- Federer d. Wawrinka, Djokovic d. Murray

Final- Federer d. Djokovic

The tournament will be televised on Tennis Channel every morning starting Nov. 9 at 7 a.m. ESPN3 will have live streaming online throughout the tournament as well. I encourage you all to watch.