Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Arizona: *Finally* Super!

It's been 43 seasons in the making, but the Arizona Cardinals are finally in the big dance!

It's great to finally see the once-moribund Cardinals play in the Super Bowl. I've always looked at that team as "the poor Cardinals." From the day the Phoenix area hosted its first Super Bowl (XXX, played 13 years ago), I thought "Wow, poor Cardinals, they'll host all these Super Bowls and never make it to one."

Finally, they have arrived. How? Well, it took some amazing performances by Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and all those defensive players who intercepted the ball. Turnovers were key in their ride to the Super Bowl.

But no matter what happens, the Cards have had their dream season. Now let's take a look at the teams who are still waiting for their Super Bowl.

Browns -- This might not count since the original Browns already won it all 8 seasons ago.
Lions -- hah! Good luck ever making it in my lifetime. It may take a lot.
Texans -- They show positive signs of success, so I could see them in the big game soon enough.
Jaguars -- There were several good runs at it, but still no luck. I'm still surprised to this day how badly they played in 2008!
Saints -- They have the QB, Brees; they have the RBs, Thomas and Bush; they have the WRs, Colston, Moore, and Henderson. If they could get a defense, why not?

In today's NFL I get the feeling most of these teams will eventually make it. After Super Bowl XXXVIII, I said "if the Panthers can make it, *anybody* can make it!"

More to come, as we get closer to the big game!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

And the winner for "Biggest Shocker of the Weekend" Goes to...

Wowie! What another week of surprises.

First, the Ravens went out and bounced the Number One seeded Titans. Great performance by the Ravens defense, once again, and another instance of Flacco getting it done and not turning the ball over.


Next, how about the Cardinals STORMING the Carolina Panthers in the "Shocker in Charlotte?" Nothing says winning like SIX, count 'em, SIX Jake Delhomme turnovers. No wonder the Cardinals won the game, they had the ball inside the 40 to start several possessions.


Do you believe it? The Miracle Eagles are at it again, going into the Meadownlands to upset the New York Football Giants. I figured it'd be a runaway, but certainly not in Philly's favor! The Giants were flat out abyssmal yesterday, and Eli Manning was a big reason why. He had some awful passes, wind or no wind.


More Steeler domination. Most surprising is 1) The Steelers stayed with the run the whole game, 2) Parker was very effective, to the tune of 2 touchdowns and 146 yards, and 3) Roethlisberger avoided the turnover and helped the Steelers dominate time of possession. The Chargers had the ball for only 17 seconds in the 3rd Quarter!

The Cardinals game had to be the most shocking development of the weekend. Even with my prediction, I didn't anticipate the Cardinals to run away with it. But that's the NFC for you: hardly anyone in the conference is good, so you get all sorts of silliness. Even in the Ravens/Titans game, many folks figured Baltimore was good enough to at least compete for a Super Bowl.

Just when I thought the NFC was decent again... they SUCK me back out. Oof for that. More to come on LOCKS of the Week soon, including a Championship Round LOCK of the Week (as a general rule, I don't pick games involving my own team, the Steelers).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dave's DIVISIONAL LOCKS of the Week

Here it comes again....

Dave's (clomp!)
of the Week (FWAK!)

Dave's LOCKS of the Week
NFL Divisional Playoff Round

Big time games this weekend, but an abbreviated LOCKS this week... here we go!

First, off to the Music City in Tennessee. All signs point to a tough, close game, and surely the signs point to a tight game between the Ravens and Titans. I like the Ravens defense in this brouhaha and they'll cover the (+3) for da' win! Ravens go out and upset the Titans!

Next, to Sweet Carolina (bum bum bum)... is it just me or do the Cardinals pose more matchup problems for the Panthers than anyone else? Arizona, the same team that got slammed in the Northeast, went out to Charlotte and gave the Panthers all it could handle. Earlier this year, the Cards lost 27-23. The Cards are a SURE cover at (+9). Take the Cards and look for a possible upset.

Then on Sunday, Sunday, Sunday...

We go to the Meadowlands again! Eagles/Giants. The Giants have been on TV more than I Love Lucy Re-Runs... Meanwhile I see the Eagles as playing in over their heads. Certainly, you'd expect a close game, but towards the end I see the Giants covering the paltry (-4) points SOLID.

Finally to the Keystone State we go and the Steel City. The Steelers will face the Chargers in a matchup of teams that met in the regular season. The first game ended 11-10. This game won't be nearly as close. The Steelers ought to man-handle the Chargers without Tomlinson, or even *with* him. After all, the Steelers run defense is among the best in the NFL. Steelers in a blowout, covering (-6.0). Easy money.

And that will do it for

Dave's (fwoosh!)
of the Week (flash!)

Enjoy the big NFL Divisional Round, everyone!

Recap: Ravens (+3) cover at Titans; Cards (+9.5) cover at Panthers; Giants (-4) cover at home; Steelers (-6) cover at home

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I *knew* the Colts weren't that good!

In life and in football, perseverence is key. I can't believe how many people jumped on the Colts bandwagon. Then about three weeks ago, I raised the possibility that their schedule made them look better than they were.

Dave on December 19, 2008:
My feeling is, the Colts have been getting well on bad teams, including the Jaguars and Lions, and I am still not convinced.

Then last night, in the big AFC Wild Card game of the Week, Darren Sproles piled up 328 all purpose yards on the Colts "hot-streak" defense. How about that? Maybe the Colts aren't so hot when they play a team above .500. The Steelers game was a good performance for the Colts, but everybody else... meh... Let's break down the 9 games they won going into last night's game.

New England (11-5)
at Pittsburgh (12-4)

These two games were legitimately strong wins. The Patriots, although out of the playoffs, were one of the better teams in the NFL. The Steelers, of course, had the best defense in the NFL *and* a psychological edge that went back to the 60's.

then they beat

San Diego (although SD had them by the throat and let them out of it)
Tennessee with none of their starters

Not exactly a "battle tested" schedule, is it? Imagine now the Dolphins going into today's game against the Ravens. I see almost the same pattern... build up a lofty record with wins against lots of lousy teams, only to be exposed in the playoffs. The only thing stopping Baltimore is their lack of knack for getting into the end zone... and perhaps a rookie QB.

In any event sometimes one has to call a spade a spade... you had two mediocre teams playing each other in San Diego last night, and it was a great game! But going forward, it's clear that San Diego was the better team this time around.

Now what? The Colts look old, overmatched, and outwitted. They stayed pat to make one more big run at the prize to go with their Super Bowl from 2006, but it might be time to break up the band now...

Friday, January 2, 2009

The BIG Wild Card Weekend Preview

Here it comes! From select NFL stadiums all across America, it's the FABULOUS 48 hour NFL WILD CARD ROUND...!

Arizona Cardinals, COME ON DOWN!!!

The Cardinals will play their first home playoff game since 1947. They didn't finish the regular season strong, going 1-2, including a 47-7 loss at New England. Lots of high flying receivers (Boldin, Fitzgerald and the rest) led by a born-again Kurt Warner (no pun intended). They'll face the...

Atlanta Falcons, COME ON DOWN!!!

The Falcons have made a huge return to glory, finishing 11-5 after going 4-12 the year before. By the way, Dave will toot his horn and let EVERYBODY know he picked the Falcons to win 10+ games this season. Sure, it was a long shot, but I'm proud to say I'm the only guy that got it right :-)

Ok anyway, the Falcons are 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game led by Michael Turner who really took off after leaving the San Diego Chargers. Let's not forget Matt Ryan, who's exceeding everyone's expectations in his rookie season. Ryan has thrown for 3,440 yards along with 16 TDs and 11 interceptions.

So the Falcons play at Arizona at 4:30 ET Saturday afternoon. This game ought to be fairly close but I wouldn't be surprised if either team won. Should be fun!

Saturday night features the best matchup of the weekend:

San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts, COME ON DOWN!!!

Hard to fathom an 8-8 team being much of a threat to anybody in the playoffs, but the Chargers present some mystifying matchup issues for the Colts and have been for the last five years. Remember how the Colts faded against these Chargers in last year's Divisional Round? That may have been an even bigger upset than the Giants beating Dallas.

So many big names make this matchup a good watch: On one side there's Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Addai, Rhodes, Sanders, and Clark (ok Jeff Saturday should make the list too). On the other side there's Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates, Chambers, Cromartie, and Jackson. While last year's playoff duel was in Indy, this year's fracas takes place in beautiful San Diego. For all we know, this game could be a blowout, but on paper, it appears to come down to a last second field goal.

After a pretty good Saturday slate of Wild Card games, we move on to the Sunday Surprises.

MInnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, COME ON DOWN!!!

Both teams were picked by many to make the playoffs during training camp, but they started off 2008 so badly, one feels like they're relieved to make the big playoff tourney. By week 8, we figured they'd be lucky to make the playoffs. The Vikings, just like last year, are in the top 5 in rushing and defense against the run. Unfortunately, they also have lousy QB play and turnovers will make the difference.

The Eagles? I can't figure them out. Phily loses a game they had to win at Washington two weeks ago, 10-3, and still sneaks into the playoffs. How? First, Tampa Bay does the unthinkable and loses at home to Oakland. Next, the Eagles take a weak-minded Cowboys team and clobber them 44-6.

The Eagles remind me of another "hard to figure out" team, the 2000 New York Giants. Nobody knew what they really had, yet somehow they were good enough for a 1 seed and they completely destroyed the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Then they were manhandled by the Ravens 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV. Granted, the Ravens forced many of Collins' 4 interceptions, but in the end, the Giants were outcoached and outplayed from start to finish. The Giants' only score was a fluke kickoff return for 97 yards.... which was answered by a Baltimore kickoff return TD of their own!

But enough about 2000, the Eagles and Vikings look like two teams made for each other. I'm willing to bet the game will be within 8 points and Vegas agrees. The Eagles, on the road, are favored by -3 despite having a mostly uneven season. On the other hand, the Vikings have looked really meager against the dregs of the NFL. For example, the Vikes played the Lions twice and beat them by a combined 6 points. Oof. This game could get ugly, but it'll be interesting to start.

Now to the real Sunday Surprises...

Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, COME ON DOWN!!!

For a rookie, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has done remarkably well. His QB rating is ranked middle of the pack for the NFL. The Ravens also feature one of the fiercer defenses in the NFL. After years of experts, myself included, counting the old gang out, the Ravens defense has held up for another season. They look good! Reed, Suggs, Lewis, and all the rest continue to harass opposing QBs.

Then there's the Dolphins, who made a big turnaround, having gone from 1-15 to 11-5. It's been a good season for Miami, but they've also struggled to win many of their games. They're only +28 in point differential which means they've been in a lot of close games. The problem is, these close games have been against bottom feeders such as San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, and so on.

But nobody expected either of these two teams to be NEAR the NFL playoff race, let alone in them. It's great to see the NFL's beacon of hope at work. Neither team can come from behind. Neither team has a QB that can throw the ball down the field. However, seeing the strength of schedule for the Ravens (playing Dallas, Pittsburgh, NYG, and Tennessee) as opposed to the Dolphins, I'd figure Baltimore is a clear favorite, despite being on the road.

All 8 teams, you are the first contestants on the SUPER BOWL is Right!! Who's going to be the big Double Showcase Winner and advance to Tampa? It all starts this weekend!

Vacation, Vacation...

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the long absence, everyone. It's been a wild and busy last month or so for me, and as a result, my contributions to LOCKS of the Week have been sparse. I have been on vacation over the last two weeks, and hope to return to full time posting on Monday, January 5th.

Wishing all of you a wonderful, Happy New Year! Here's to a year that's better than ever!