"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NEW YEAR'S EVE COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL PREDICTIONS

AdvoCare V100 Bowl:

Arizona (7 - 5) 30 vs. Boston College (7 - 5) 26: I'm not too sure what an AdvoCare is, but I do know that this is previously the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl. This is one of those games that no one really cares about, outside of the teams involved. It's a showdown between the ACC and the Pac-12, one of two on today's schedule. Both teams have and All-American at running back, so we'll see a lot of action on the ground. Arizona had big win over Oregon, then lost to rival Arizona State in a romp to end the season. BC had won four in a row before losing a close one to Syracuse in their last game. This is a tossup for me. I'll take Arizona because of their defense.

Hyundai Sun Bowl:

Virginia Tech (8 - 4) 24 vs. (17) UCLA (9 - 3) 21: Although Virginia Tech is playing in their twenty-first consecutive bowl game, it's their first Sun Bowl since 1947. This is a compelling matchup, primarily because of the Virginia Tech's defense and inconsistent offense. The Bruins can put a lot of points on the board, but both Oregon and Stanford were able to shut them down. I look for the Hokies to do the same thing today.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl:

Rice (10 - 3) 27 vs. Mississippi State (6 - 6) 24: Rice won the Conference USA title, but posted most of their wins against a sub-par schedule. Mississippi State played a far tougher slate, but wasn't particularly impressive, relying on overtime wins in their last two game to get bowl eligible. I'm taking Rice, because they have a lot to prove and the Bulldogs haven't been very impressive.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl:


(24) Duke (11- 2)30  vs. (21) Texas A&M (8 - 4) 37: Duke had its most successful season in history, while the Aggies were a little disappointed with theirs. The Blue Devils won the Coastal Division of the ACC, but avoided playing Florida State or Clemson in the regular season, then got shellacked by the 'Noles in the conference championship game.  I don't think Duke can stop Johnnie Manziel, but they may be able to score a bunch of points against the Aggies. This one will be a lot closer than  some people think, but I still believe A&M will find a way to win what may be Manziel's last college performance.

Monday, December 30, 2013

DECEMBER 30 COLLEGE BOWL PICKS

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl:

Middle Tennessee (8 - 4) 30 vs. Navy (8 - 4) 31: Well, just the name of this bowl itself indicates that the Midshipmen should win, so that's what I'll go with. Actually, Navy is a pretty decent team that plays a competitive schedule. Middle Tennessee has won its last five games by an average of over 20 points per game. That streak began with a win over Marshall, already a winner in their bowl game. But I'll stick with the service academy to win a close one.  

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl:

Ole Miss (7 - 5) 28 vs. Georgia Tech (7 - 5) 27: This game will probably hinge on how well Ole Miss can defend the run option that Georgia Tech runs so effectively. In addition, the Rebels will need to figure out how to get their offense back in gear after finishing the season with just 20 points in their last two games. I think they will, handing the Yellow Jackets a close loss.

Valero Alamo Bowl:

(10) Oregon (10 - 2) 34 vs. Texas (8 - 4) 27: This will be Mack Brown's final game at Texas and will be played in the Longhorns' home state. Oregon will be trying to put a positive end on an otherwise disappointing season, despite getting ten wins. Texas rebounded nicely from a tough start, but I think Oregon has too much speed for them, much like Oklahoma State did. I'll take the Ducks to get their eleventh win and send Mack Brown out with a disappointing loss.

National University Holiday Bowl:


(14) Arizona State 37 vs. Texas Tech (7 - 5) 26: I see this one as somewhat of mismatch, with Texas Tech coming off consecutive losses to the top five teams in the Big 12. I would put Arizona State in a class at least as good as most of those teams, so if this one goes as it should, the Sun Devils should have an easy time with the Red Raiders.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

NFL WEEK 17 PICKS

The regular season comes to an end today, with a few playoff spots still up for grabs. In the AFC, four teams are playing for the last entry into the postseason, while the number one seed is still in doubt. The NFC has three teams in the playoffs, but no one has clinched their division or even a first round bye. There are two winner take all games and several more that have playoff implications. The only thing for certain at this point is that by midnight, it will all be set. 

Last Week:          10 - 6

Overall:                163 - 94 - 1

Carolina (11 - 4) 27 @ Atlanta (4 - 11) 21: The Panthers wrap up the NFC South and a first round bye with a win. They can also clinch home field throughout the playoffs by beating the Falcons and getting a Seattle loss to St. Louis and a San Francisco victory over Arizona. Cam Newton and his team are on a roll, winners of ten of their last eleven games. Atlanta has had a very disappointing season and can go out with a little bit of satisfaction by keeping the Panthers form a division crown. I don't think that's happening, though.

Baltimore (8 - 7) 17 @ Cincinnati (10 - 5) 23: Cincinnati has already clinched the AFC North title, but needs a win and a loss by New England to get a first round bye. The Ravens will advance to the playoffs with a win and by getting some help.  They can still get in with a loss if the other three teams in the hunt for the sixth playoff spot also lose. With both teams having something to play for, I'll take the Bengal defense to shut down the Ravens and leave them in contention for a bye.

Houston (2 - 13) 20 @ Tennessee (6 - 9) 27: The Texans are looking for a new coach and the Titans are trying to avoid double digit losses. Not much to play on either side, but I'll take the home team in this one.

Jacksonville (4 - 11) 13 @ Indianapolis (10 - 5) 28: The Colts can still get a first round bye, but they need to win and hope for losses by New England and Cincinnati. Not much chance there, but they also want to continue momentum from last week's big win over Kansas City. The Jags are done and I'll be surprised if they give Indy much of a game.

New York Jets (7 - 8)  17 @ Miami (8 - 7) 23: The Jets are eliminated from the playoffs, but they may still be playing to save coach Rex Ryan's job. Miami advances to the playoffs with a win and any scenario other than a San Diego loss and a Baltimore win, in which case they lose the head to head tiebreaker with the Ravens. In their first meeting, the Dolphins dominated in a 23 - 3 win. I have to think this one will be very similar.

Detroit (7 - 8) 24 @ Minnesota (4 - 10 - 1) 27: The Lions really let this season get away from them and the Vikes will be saying goodbye to the Metrodome. I'll take Minnesota over what will probably be a very uninspired Detroit squad in a meaningless game.

Washington (3 - 12) 24 @ New York Giants (6 - 9) 30: After two consecutive one-point losses, the Redskins may be ripe for a blowout. The Giants shocked the Lions last week and knocked them out of the playoff race. Neither of these teams has much to play for, so I'll stay with the Giants at home.

Cleveland (4 - 11) 17 @ Pittsburgh (7 - 8) 27: The Steelers will still have a playoff pulse at kickoff, needing a win and losses by the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers . They got help last week to stay alive, so who knows?

Green Bay (7 - 7 - 1) 24 @ Chicago (8 - 7) 27: This is a winner take all game for the NFC North crown and the a home playoff game next week. The Packers expect to have QB Aaron Rodgers back in action for the first time in almost two months. The Bears were blown out in Philadelphia last week and need to regroup against their long-time rival. This one will probably hinge on how sharp Rodgers is in his return from a collarbone injury. I'm taking the Bears.

Denver (12 - 3) 37 @ Oakland (4 - 11) 24: The Broncos need to take care of business in Oakland to secure the number one seed in the AFC. They've laid a couple of eggs during the season, but I think they'll drill the Raiders to stay ahead in the AFC playoff picture.

Buffalo (6  - 9) 20 @ New England (11 - 4) 31: The Patriots need a win to clinch a first round bye unless the Bengals and Colts lose. I doubt that will happen, so Tom Brady and company will need to avoid a big upset at home. Although the Bills have played well at times, this one means way too much to New England 

Tampa Bay (4 - 11) 17 @ New Orleans (10 - 5) 27: The Saints were flying high after defeating the Panthers three weeks ago, but two road defeats have resulted in New Orleans needing a win today to make the playoffs. The Buccaneers started the season with eight straight losses, putting coach Greg Schiano's job in jeopardy. They will need to pull a big surprise to finish with a win.

San Francisco (11 - 4) 24 @ Arizona (10 - 5) 27: The Cardinals need to win and then hope New Orleans stumbles at home against Tampa Bay. The Niners are in the postseason, but can improve their position with a win and a loss by the Seahawks. They can even get home field advantage if the Panthers also lose. Arizona has been playing extremely well, including an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle. I'll take the home team, even if the win will be futile as far as the playoffs are concerned.

Kansas City (11 - 4) 27 @ San Diego (8 - 7) 30: The Chiefs can't improve their playoff position today, so they might use the opportunity to rest some starters today. San Diego will know at kickoff whether they still have a shot at continuing their season. Miami and Baltimore both have to lose to give the Chargers any hope of making the playoffs. This is a tough pick, because it could end up that neither team has much to play for. I'll stick with the Chargers to expose weaknesses in the Chief defense.

St. Louis (7 - 8) 19 @ Seattle (12 - 3) 24: The Rams have been giant killers down the stretch, but the Seahawks were given a wakeup call in their home loss to the Cardinals last week. They still need to win to secure the number one seed in the NFC, which should provide plenty of incentive for them to get the bad taste of last week's game out of their mouth. I would tend to think they won't lose two in a row at home.


Philadelphia (9 - 6) 31 @ Dallas (8 - 7) 21: The NFL regular season will end with this winner-take-all battle in Dallas. The Cowboys will be without starting QB Tony Romo, who will be replaced by backup Kyle Orton. The Eagles are coming off a dismantling of the Bears and have some momentum in their favor. Nick Foles has played well and the Dallas defense is vulnerable, especially against the run. So this one is pretty easy, but since it's a big rivalry game, anything could happen, especially since Orton is a bit of a wild card.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

SATURDAY'S COLLEGE BOWL PICKS

New Era Pinstripe Bowl:

Rutgers (6 - 6) 20 vs. Notre Dame (8 - 4) 31: Rutgers, while showing flashes of potential this season, really shouldn't be able to stay with an Irish team that played a pretty tough schedule. I'm usually not a Notre Dame fan, but they beat Arizona State, Michigan State and BYU. For the Spartans, it was their only loss on the way to a Big Ten title. Rutgers defeated Arkansas out of the SEC, but the Razorbacks were winless the rest of the season, somewhat diminishing the accomplishment.
Belk Bowl:

Cincinnati (9 - 3)  24 vs. North Carolina (6 - 6) 27: North Carolina was picked by many to win the Coastal Division of the ACC, but suffered through some injuries and a disappointing season. Cincinnati cruised through what was a fairly soft schedule which didn't include a game against eventual league champion UCF. The Tar Heels, after starting 1 - 4, righted the ship and reeled off five consecutive wins before barely losing to Duke in the finale. These records are deceiving, so I'll take the Heels to prevail in a game where they can make a statement going into next season.

Russell Athletic Bowl:

Miami, FL (9 - 3) 27 vs. (18) Louisville (11 - 1) 30: The Hurricanes can put up some points, but it was their defense that let them down in consecutive games against Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke. They won their last two games, but still gave up a total of 57 points in the process. Meanwhile, even though the focus of the Cardinals was on QB Teddy Bridgewater, it was their defense that led them within one win of an undefeated season. Even though I would like to stick with the ACC and Miami, I think the Louisville defense will be the difference in this one.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl:

Michigan (7 - 5) 27 vs. Kansas State (7 - 5) 28: Michigan began the season with a lot of promise, running their record to 5 - 0 before a four overtime loss at Penn State. They ended the season with losses in four of their final five games, including the finale against Ohio State when they decided to go for two instead of a game-tying extra point after a late touchdown. Kansas State lost to all of the top teams in the Big 12, including consecutive losses to Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The big question here is how Michigan comes out and plays after the disappointment against arch-rival Ohio State. Physically, I like the Wolverines, but I have a hard time going against long-time Wildcat coach Bill Snyder, especially against a team that will be forced to turn to its backup quarterback.

Friday, December 27, 2013

EARLY FRIDAY BOWL PICK

Military Bowl - Presented by Northrup Grumman


Marshall (9 - 4) 27 vs. Maryland (7  - 5) 28

Marshall had a good season in Conference USA, while Maryland played very inconsistently after a 4 - 0 start. They had one common opponent in Virginia Tech, who both teams took to overtime. The Terps managed a win, while Marshall wasn't so fortunate. This is a particularly tough pick, but I'll take Maryland for two reasons: 1) the game is in Annapolis, Maryland, just a short drive from the Terps' campus in College Park and 2) in close games I tend to take the team from the stronger conference. In addition, Maryland has had plenty time to prepare for this game. I was at the game in Blacksburg when Maryland upset Virginia Tech and I was impressed with the Terp offense.

Texas Bowl:

Syracuse (6 - 6)  17 vs. Minnesota (8 - 4) 30: The Golden Gophers should have no problem with Syracuse, who probably has no business playing in a bowl game. I'm not even sure how this matchup came about. It looks like a mismatch on paper. Many of these games are tough to predict, but I can't see how the Orangemen can take Minnesota. But of course, this is the unpredictable bowl season so anything can happen. Still, I look for Syracuse to struggle.

Fight Hunger Bowl:


BYU (8 - 4) 31 vs. Washington (8 - 4) 27: I really like this game. BYU, after losing to Virginia early in the the season, played pretty well in beating teams from a number of conferences. They beat Texas, Boise State, Utah State, Georgia Tech and Houston. Competitive losses to Utah, Notre Dame and Wisconsin are nothing to be embarrassed about. Meanwhile, after a good season, Washington is between coaches with an interim calling the shots for this game. I like the Cougars in this one, even though it goes against my rule of taking a team from a tougher conference in a close call. BYU is an independent, which throws a monkey wrench into to the logic. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

COLLEGE BOWL PICKS FOR TODAY

Little Caesar's Bowl:

Pittsburgh (6 - 6) 20 vs. Bowling Green (10 -3) 27: Pittsburgh has been pretty inconsistent this season, while Bowling Green won their last five games, including an upset over previously unbeaten Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. It's an example of how little respect the MAC gets that their champion ends up in this bowl game, where they should be able to defeat the Panthers. However, if Pitt comes up big defensively, they could surprise the Falcons, who gave up just 17 points in their final four regular season games.


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl:


Utah State (8 - 5) 30 vs. Northern Illinois (12 - 1) 29: The other participant in the MAC championship, Northern Illinois, will be looking to make amends for last year's bowl blowout loss to Florida State. Utah State is a worthy opponent, winners of five straight before losing a close one to Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game. This is a tough pick, because Utah State's other four losses came against Utah, USC, BYU and Boise State. The Huskies schedule doesn't compare with that lineup. I'm going to go with an upset here, considering what a good Bowling Green defense was able to do to slow down Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch.

Monday, December 23, 2013

TODAY'S NFL AND COLLEGE BOWL PICKS

NFL

Atlanta (4 - 10) 21 @ San Francisco (10 - 4) 27: The Falcons have the unfortunate task of taking on a 'Niners team that will be playing its last game in Candlestick Park, the oldest existing stadium in the NFL that hasn't undergone significant renovations. In addition, San Francisco still needs to win, especially in light of the Cardinals' victory over the Seahawks yesterday. I don't see Atlanta able to muster enough to pull out the win.  

COLLEGE

Monday, December 23:

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl:

East Carolina (9 - 3) 30 vs. Ohio (7 - 5) 24: ECU can really put up points and Ohio, while bowl eligible, probably won't be able to stay with the Pirates. I've liked the MAC all season, but this is just one of those games that I think could get out of hand in ECU's favor.

Tuesday, December 24:

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl:


Boise State (8 - 4) 27 vs. Oregon State (6 - 6) 31: Oregon State started strongly, then floundered against tough competition. Boise is going through a coaching transition with the loss of highly successful Chris Peterson. My picks so far in the bowl season have been a train wreck, so why change now? I'll take the Pac-12 team in this one, despite Boise's phenomenal bowl record over the past several years.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

NFL WEEK 16 PICKS


The teams still in the playoff picture are dwindling, but there are also some tight division races which can get sorted out this week. Depending on the early games, some teams will still have something to play for and others will see their hopes for the postseason either diminished or dashed. I'm coming off a couple of decent weeks

Overall:  153 - 88 - 1

Miami (8 - 6) 23 @ Buffalo (5 - 9) 20: Miami hits the road in a must-win game as they try to come down from the big victory over New England. Weather could play a factor, but right now the Dolphins are the better team and should be able to pull this one out. They can clinch a playoff berth with a win and if some other games go their way.

Minnesota (4 - 9 -1) 21 @ Cincinnati (9 - 5) 27: The Vikings shocked the Eagles last week despite missing Adrian Peterson. This time they have to travel to Cincinnati, with the Bengals trying to bounce back from a loss at Pittsburgh that kept them from taking a big step toward a division title. Now, a loss to Minnesota and a Baltimore win over New England sets up a potential winner take all meeting against the Ravens to end the season. That's not a scenario the Bengals envisioned a week ago. Of course, a win and a Ravens loss results in a division title. I like the Bengals defense to step up this week and give them the win.

Indianapolis (9 - 5) 20 @ Kansas City (11 - 3) 37: This is one of five games this weekend where both teams still have plenty to play for. The Colts, by virtue of their win over Denver earlier this season, still has a remote chance at the number one seed in the AFC. Of course, they need to win out and get a lot of help. The Chiefs are in better position, but still need a Bronco loss because of their two defeats by Denver. The Colts aren't really clicking on offense, not a good thing heading against KC, whose offense is starting to put up big numbers. In what could be a preview of a first round playoff game, I'm going with the Chiefs in a romp.

Tampa Bay (4 - 10) 24 @ St. Louis (6 - 8) 31: I think a .500 season for the Rams would be a pretty good accomplishment, and I'm sure that coach Jeff Fisher is using that as motivation for a team coming off a big win over the Saints. The Buccaneers have rebounded nicely from a dismal start, but they seem to be wearing out.

Cleveland (4 - 10) 17 @ New York Jets (6 - 8) 21: Neither team can make the playoffs, but just like the Rams, a .500 season would be pretty good for the Jets, who back in August was given no chance at any kind of success in 2013. I can't figure these guys out, but Cleveland is only 1 - 5 on the road this season. I'll go with the home team to find a way to win.

Dallas (7 - 7) 27 @ Washington (3 - 11) 30: Last season the Redskins finished off a 7 - 0 run by beating the Cowboys in week 17 to win the NFC East. This year, Washington is in total disarray, but it's still a rivalry game with Dallas on the ropes after letting last week's game get away from them in the second half. Will Dallas come back and play to their ability, or will the 'Skins step up and end the Cowboys' postseason hopes? Good question.

New Orleans (10 - 4) 20 @ Carolina (10 - 4) 28: Oh my, what a big game. Both teams control their own destinies for the NFC South crown and a second seed in conference that brings with it a week off and home game in the playoffs. The Saints have the upper hand by virtue of its win over the Panthers a couple of weeks ago. They clinch it all with a win, while the Panthers would still need to get by the Falcons next week or get some help along the way. New Orleans has been vulnerable out of the Superdome and I expect Carolina to continue that trend this week.

Tennessee (5 - 9) 24 @ Jacksonville (4 - 10) 27: I don't really care about this one, but both teams have shown they can win at times this season. The Titans have lost five of six, while the Jags have managed to win four of six since starting 0 - 8. That first win was against, you guessed it, Tennessee in week 10. Same result in this one.

Denver (11 - 3) 41 @ Houston (2 - 12) 20: This one could be very ugly. Warm weather or maybe even indoors for Peyton Manning, coming off a bad loss against the Chargers. The Texans, well, what can you say?

New York Giants (5 - 9) 20 @ Detroit (7 - 7) 31: The Lions literally got kicked in the stomach last week from 61 yards out in a loss to the Ravens. Now they face an uphill battle to get back in the NFC North race. If the Packers and Bears both win Sunday, Detroit is done, no matter what they do against the Giants. But those games won't be decided when this game kicks off, so all the Lions can do is try to win, which I think they will against a defeated Giants team.

Arizona (9 - 5) 20 @ Seattle (12 - 2) 27:  Someone eventually has to beat the Seahawks at home, right? Could it be the Cardinals this week? Possibly, because this is the NFL. Unfortunately for Arizona, Seattle probably has too much for them today.

Pittsburgh (6 - 8) 23 @ Green Bay (7 - 6 - 1) 20: The Packers will again be playing without starting QB Aaron Rodgers. They squeaked out a win at Dallas last week, while the Steelers looked very good against division leading Cincinnati to barely stay alive in the playoff chase. This is a very tough game to pick, but I'll stay with the Steelers in the upset.

Oakland (4 - 10) 24 @ San Diego (7 - 7) 34: Can the Chargers find some consistency and build off last week's upset over Denver? The season is winding down and they have a lot more to play for, or they still might by the time the game is played. The Raiders are, well, they're the Raiders.

New England (10 - 4) 27 @ Baltimore (8 - 6) 24: This is one of the big games of the week that will have an effect on at least three races in the AFC.  The Ravens are getting their mojo back, but QB Joe Flacco and the offense is still struggling. I like the Pats' QB Tom Brady to rebound from last week's disappointment at Miami.

Chicago (8 - 6) 24 @ Philadelphia (8 - 6) 27: The Bears have a chance to clinch the NFC North and the Eagles may be in a position to clinch the East, depending on Sunday's action. Neither team is particularly terrific right now, especially the Eagles, who laid a fourth quarter egg against the Vikings last week. However, the Bears are vulnerable to the run, and Philadelphia has RB Shady McCoy. Go Eagles!

Friday, December 20, 2013

SATURDAY COLLEGE BOWL GAME PICKS

Bowl games are a difficult proposition at best, with outcomes depending on which teams prepare for their opponents or just use the extra practice time to get ready for the following season. Teams from lesser conferences figure they have something to prove and can pull a few surprises this time of year. If this sounds like a disclaimer, it certainly is. But I'll be giving it my best shot anyway.

Season: 210 - 72

Saturday, Dec. 21

Gildan New Mexico Bowl:

Washington State (6 - 6)  34  vs. Colorado State (7 - 6) 30: These teams had comparable records, but their schedules were vastly different. Washington State plays in the northern division of  the Pac-12, while Colorado State is a member of the Mountain West. The Cougars beat the teams they were supposed to, but the Rams can put up points in a bundle. This is one of those games that could be a blowout either way, depending on who shows up to play. I'll take the Pac-12 team here.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl:

(20) Fresno State (11 - 1) 31 vs. (25) USC (9 - 4) 28: The bowl season gets off to a great start with this very compelling game on the first day. USC will be coached by offensive coordinator Clay Helton after interim coach Ed Orgeron resigned when athletic director Pat Haden went with Washington coach and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian. If you've been reading this blog all season, then you know I'm clearly not a big buyer of Fresno State, but they should be up for this game. The big question is how much the Trojans will miss the presence of Orgeron, who led his team to six wins in eight games. I want to take USC here, but I just think there have been too many distractions for them against a very motivated team with a great quarterback.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:

Buffalo (8 - 4) 37 vs. San Diego State (7  - 5) 26: No matter how you like your potatoes: mashed, fried, baked or whatever, they'll play this game in Boise on a blue field. Somehow eating potatoes with anything blue seems a bit unappetizing if you ask me. Both teams are travelling and I like the MAC better than the Mountain West, so I have to lean toward Buffalo, a team that's fairly new to the bowl scene with its only previous appearance a loss in the International Bowl in 2009. There should be plenty of points in this one, but Buffalo has a better defense and should prevail.

R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl:


Tulane (7 - 5) 27 vs. Louisiana - Lafayette (8 - 4) 35: For total football junkies, this one actually offers a pretty good finish to the day of bowl games. Both teams hail from Louisiana, so the chance to play in this game is a nice reward, although Tulane will only have to travel a matter of blocks. Neither ULL's Sun Belt conference or Tulane's Conference USA are mistaken for SEC, but I would have to give Tulane the conference nod. However, Louisiana -Lafayette lost to  Arkansas and Kansas State to start the season, then ran off eight straight victories before book-ending their year with two consecutive losses. I'll take them to outscore the Green Wave.

WEEK 15 NFL RECAP

I thought I would either excel or tank this past week, but as it turned out, I did neither.  Some of the big upsets went my way, while some others came as a big surprise, including the Chargers' win over the Broncos in Denver.

This Week:  9 - 7
Overall:  153 - 88 - 1

Thursday:

San Diego (6 - 7) 20 @ Denver (11 - 2) 31: San Diego stayed alive in the playoff chase, but just barely. Another loss and they're out due to a loss to Miami and a poor conference record. Stranger things have happened, so they just need to win out and see if that's enough. No. 27 - 20.

Sunday:

Washington (3 - 10) 24 @ Atlanta (3 - 10) 30: Really, Mike? You get a late score to stay alive and then go for two? I'm referring, of course, to Washington head coach Mike Shanahan. He looks like a guy that's really trying to get fired. Correct. 26 - 27.

Chicago (7 - 6) 27 @ Cleveland (4 - 9) 21: Chicago recovered from two Browns' defensive touchdowns to take a slim edge in the NFC North. Cutler shook off some early rust and ended up throwing for 365 yards against a pretty good defense. Correct. 38 - 31.

Houston (2 - 11) 23 @ Indianapolis (8 - 5) 31: The Texans played like a team that has very little to play for, except the end of the season and the golf course. The Colts are trying to round into playoff form. It's tough to say if they are because Texas didn't put up much of a challenge. Correct. 3 - 25.

New England (10 - 3) 24 @ Miami (7 - 6) 27: This time Tom Brady wasn't able to work a miracle after the Dolphins pulled ahead, leaving the future hall of famer over a minute on the clock. In the process, Miami stayed in playoff contention.  Correct. 20 - 24.

Philadelphia (8 - 5) 27 @ Minnesota (3 - 9 - 1) 24: This had to be one of the more baffling games of the season. The Eagles were in position to get a stranglehold on the NFC East and the Vikes were missing their top two running backs. Instead, with the game still in the balance, Philadelphia allowed Minnesota to steamroll them in the fourth quarter.  No. 30 - 48.

Seattle (11 - 2) 31 @ New York Giants (5 - 8) 20: The Giants looked like a team that already has an offseason cruise booked and the Seahawks looked like a team that's planning on being back in the Big Apple in February. Correct. 0 - 23.

San Francisco (9 - 4) 20 @ Tampa Bay (4 - 9) 24: This was easily my worst pick of the week. The Niners are getting back in form and even though the Bucs have played well recently, they didn't have enough for San Francisco.  No.  33 - 14.

Buffalo (4 - 9) 21 @ Jacksonville (4 - 9) 27: As I said in my pick, who really cares?  No. 27 - 20.

Kansas City (10 - 3) 23 @ Oakland (4 - 9) 24: Second worst pick of the week. What can I say?  No. 56 - 31.

New York Jets (6 - 7) 20 @ Carolina (9 - 4) 27: The Jets won't make the playoffs and the Panthers are getting ready for a huge game this week as they host the Saints for the NFC South lead. Correct. 20 - 30.

Green Bay (6 - 6 - 1) 27 @ Dallas (7 - 6) 31: If Jerry Jones doesn't clean house on the coaching staff after this debacle, he never will. The Cowboys already knew that the Eagles had lost, thus pulling even in the NFC East with a win.  Then after taking a 26 - 3 lead into the locker room at halftime, they inexplicably abandoned the running game.  No. 37 - 36.

Arizona (8 - 5) 28 @ Tennessee (5 - 8) 17: Although the Cardinals are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs, we learned a lot about their toughness in this one. Now they get to head to Seattle and then host the 'Niners to end the season and possibly get into the postseason, but it will be difficult as none of the important tiebreakers go their way at the moment.  A huge task. Correct. 37 - 34 OT.

New Orleans (10 -3) 27 @ St. Louis (5 - 8) 30: The Rams made the Saints look ordinary, so I'm pretty sure Carolina's defensive staff will be taking a good look at the game film in preparation for their big showdown this week. Correct.  16 - 27.

Cincinnati (9 - 4) 20 @ Pittsburgh (5 - 8) 23: This may have been my best pick of the week. Cincinatti could have just about wrapped things up in the AFC North, but now they could be in trouble. Correct. 20 - 30.


Baltimore (7 - 6) 17 @ Detroit (7 - 6) 27: Oh, come on, a 61 yarder? Judging from that Raven defense, I wouldn't count out another deep playoff run, but only if QB Flacco gets back on target.  No. 18 - 16.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

WEEK 15 NFL PICKS

There are a lot of games with head to head match-ups that have playoff implications for both teams involved. In the AFC, a number of squads are hanging by a thread, with the Chiefs and Patriots just a victory away from clinching berths in the postseason, joining Denver and Indianapolis in the party. The NFC only has one team in so far, but the top six look good to continue their drive to the playoffs, with only Arizona a possible spoiler.  Even though Detroit leads the NFC North by virtue of a tiebreaker, the race is still wide open with Chicago and Green Bay giving chase. I've taken some real chances with my picks this week, so I'll either go 12 -4 or tank with something like  7 - 9 or 6 - 10.

Thursday:

San Diego (6 - 7) 20 @ Denver (11 - 2) 31: The Chargers are still alive in the playoff picture, but it's a long shot. Having to go into Denver on a Thursday night to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos won't make the job any easier. San Diego has been inconsistent all season, so maybe they'll give Denver a good tussle. But in the end, the Broncos should win this one.

Sunday:

Washington (3 - 10) 24 @ Atlanta (3 - 10) 30: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has apparently benched RGIII for the rest of the season to save him further injury. With Washington eliminated from the playoffs and after they seemed to quit on Sunday, Shanahan's own job is clearly in jeopardy. Even if he's around to coach the last season of his contract, I'm pretty sure there will be a number of changes in the Redskins organization in the offseason. As for this game, neither of these teams has come close to preseason expectations. Backup Washington QB Kirk Cousins can definitely lead the 'Skins, but I don't think the defense can stop a Falcons team that wants to show its home fans that it can still win.

Chicago (7 - 6) 27 @ Cleveland (4 - 9) 21: The Bears put a big hurting on Dallas last week and the Browns have dropped seven of their last eight games. Chicago seems to be getting some offensive momentum behind backup QB Josh McCown. Starter Jay Cutler is recovering from an injury and may start Sunday, but either way, I think the Bears can stop the Browns.

Houston (2 - 11) 23 @ Indianapolis (8 - 5) 31: The Texans haven't had much of a season, and after last week's game, head coach Gary Kubiak was fired. The Colts have clinched the AFC South title, not a great feat considering the weakness of the division. I doubt Houston has the ability to go into Indianapolis and defeat the Colts.

New England (10 - 3) 24 @ Miami (7 - 6) 27: The Patriots are still in the running for top seed in the AFC and are one victory away from clinching the AFC East. But Miami has shown the ability to play tough and it's probably time for Tom Brady's good fortune to run out.

Philadelphia (8 - 5) 27 @ Minnesota (3 - 9 - 1) 24: The Eagles are winners of five straight and are in command of the NFC East. Minnesota suffered a brutal loss at Baltimore on Sunday and will be trying to rebound against Philadelphia. Adrian Peterson looks like he'll play this week, but I'm not sure the Vikes will be able to stop LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Eagle offense.

Seattle (11 - 2) 31 @ New York Giants (5 - 8) 20: Seattle lost a tough one at San Francisco Sunday and now has to head east to face the Giants, who are now eliminated from playoff consideration. Although the Seahawks are not as good away from home, they're still very good wherever they play. This would be a huge upset for the Giants, but I just don't see it happening.

San Francisco (9 - 4) 20 @ Tampa Bay (4 - 9) 24: After starting 0 - 8, the Bucs have gone 4 - 1, probably saving coach Greg Schiano's job in the process. Now the 'Niners come to town still trying to lock down a playoff spot. Despite their victory over the Seahawks last week, I'm not sold on the strength of San Francisco, especially on the road. Tampa Bay has a lot to play for, despite their record and being eliminated from playoff consideration. I like the Bucs here, with no real logic to back it up.

Buffalo (4 - 9) 21 @ Jacksonville (4 - 9) 27: Okay, this is one of those late season "who cares" games featuring two teams out of the playoff running. But at last check, they haven't cancelled the game, so I have to make a pick. I'll take the home squad in a coin flip. Like who's paying attention anyway, right?

Kansas City (10 - 3) 23 @ Oakland (4 - 9) 24: This is one of those old rivalries borne out of the AFL. These two teams just plain hate each other, even though the players on the rosters today probably have no idea of the history. The Chiefs dusted the 'Skins last week, but I just have a feeling this one is a trap game for them. I have no football reason for this one, except the NFL is full of surprises.

New York Jets (6 - 7) 20 @ Carolina (9 - 4) 27: Which Geno Smith will show up in Charlotte on Sunday? Will it be bad Geno, in which case Carolina runs away with the game, or will it be good Geno, in which case the Jets' defense plays inspired defense and stops Cam Newton on their way to a Jets victory? This is a much tougher pick than it appears, but I have to stay with the home team to make enough plays on both sides of the ball to get the win.

Green Bay (6 - 6 - 1) 27 @ Dallas (7 - 6) 31: The Cowboys really stunk it up in cold weather in Chicago Monday night. The Packers are probably still without QB Aaron Rodgers and Dallas returns home looking to stay in the NFC East race. I'll reluctantly go with the 'Boys to hold serve in their own stadium.

Arizona (8 - 5) 28 @ Tennessee (5 - 8) 17: The Cardinals still have a lot to play for, while the reeling Titans have lost four of their last five.  Arizona still controls their own destiny in the playoff hunt, despite being on the outside looking in at the moment.  At this time of year, I'll stay with the teams that still have something to play for.

New Orleans (10 -3) 27 @ St. Louis (5 - 8) 30: The Saints aren't a particularly good road team, and the Rams have shown they can play well at home. I'm going to make another outrageous pick here and go with the home team to shock New Orleans and put their division title hopes in jeopardy.

Cincinnati (9 - 4) 20 @ Pittsburgh (5 - 8) 23: The Steelers were within a couple of inches of still being relevant in the playoff race, but now they're on life support. This is a division rivalry, and although I like the Bengals, I can't help but think the Steelers have some surprises for the team that will in all likelihood win the AFC North.


Baltimore (7 - 6) 17 @ Detroit (7 - 6) 27: This is a big Monday night game for both teams. The Lions are trying to stay out in front in the NFC North, while the Ravens are attempting to gain control of the last wild card spot in the AFC. That Baltimore defense has been stifling, even though the offense hasn't been able to make much happen. Something tells me Baltimore just can't keep winning without some offensive output.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WEEK 14 NFL RECAP

After a couple of rough weeks where I was victimized by last second heroics while going one game under .500, I was able to return to form with one of my best weeks this season. Those same types of finishes worked to my advantage this week.


This Week:               12 - 4
Overall:                144 - 81 - 1

Houston (2 -10) 27 @ Jacksonville (3 - 9) 20:  Right score, wrong teams.  Tough season for Gary Kubiak, as he was fired following this loss. In a very classy act, however, he took out an ad in the Houston paper thanking the fans and the Texans organization for their support during his tenure. No. 20 - 27.

Indianapolis (8 - 4) 21 @ Cincinnati (8 - 4) 24: The Bengals appear to be for real, while the Colts will probably win their division, but better start playing at a higher lever if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs.  Correct. 28 - 42.

Atlanta (3 - 9) 20 @ Green Bay (5 - 6 - 1) 23 : This was one of many wild finishes in bad weather, but the Pack stayed alive in the NFC North, especially with a loss by the Lions in Philadelphia. They'll probably  need to get QB  Aaron Rodgers back, though, if they want to contend.  Correct. 21 - 22.

Cleveland (4 - 8) 17 @ New England (9 - 3) 28: Another stunning comeback for QB Tom Brady and the Patriots. This one looked like it would go to the Browns, but the future Hall of Famer had other ideas, keeping his team in the running for top seed in the AFC.  Correct.  26 - 27.

Oakland (4 - 8) 19 @ New York Jets (5 - 7) 20: Geno Smith showed up big-time on Sunday, leading the Jets to victory and keeping New York alive for the last playoff spot in the AFC. Correct. 27 - 37.

Detroit (7 - 5) 24 @ Philadelphia (7 - 5) 31: I can't remember watching a game that looked more like an event in the Winter Olympics.  The snow was piling up, and so was the yardage for the Eagles' LeSean McCoy as they remained in the lead in the NFC East. Correct.  20 - 34.

Miami (6 - 6) 21 @ Pittsburgh (5 - 7) 27: This game was within a couple of inches from going the Steelers' way. Instead, Miami is still alive for the final playoff spot in the AFC and the Steelers are all but eliminated.  No. 34 - 28.

Buffalo (4 - 8) 20 @ Tampa Bay (3 - 9) 28:  The Bucs have made a great recovery this season, probably saving the job of coach Greg Schiano. Correct. 6 - 27.

Kansas City (9 - 3) 23 @ Washington (3 - 9) 20: The 'Skins looked like a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs and doesn't like playing in the snow. Now coach Mike Shanahan says he's considering starting backup QB Kirk Cousins in place of RGIII. Really?  Correct. 45 - 10.

Minnesota (3 - 9) 17 @ Baltimore (6 - 6) 21: This was an unbelievable finish, with a great catch by Marion Brown with four seconds left giving the Ravens the win and a leg up in the race for the final AFC playoff spot. Correct. 26 - 29.

Tennessee (5 - 7) 24 @ Denver (10 - 2) 34: So the temperature's 18 at kickoff, so it makes sense to figure the Broncos' offense is in for a long day, right? Uh, wrong. QB Peyton Manning looked like he was back in a dome, taking apart his old rivals from the AFC South. Correct. 28 - 51.

St. Louis (5 - 7) 24 @ Arizona (7 - 5) 27: This one wasn't nearly as close as I thought it would be, but at least the Cardinals prevailed. San Francisco's in over Seattle makes it a bit more difficult for Arizona to advance to the playoffs, especially given that they need to go to Seattle in week 16 and host San Francisco to end the season.  Correct. 10 - 30.

New York Giants (5 - 7) 27 @ San Diego Chargers (5 - 7) 24: I really whiffed on this one, but with the inconsistency of both of these teams, it's not really much of a surprise.  No.  14 - 37.

Seattle (11 - 1) 30 @ San Francisco (8 - 4) 27: The 'Niners played a terrific game to take out the Seahawks.  Seattle has clinched a playoff berth but still needs another win or two to wrap up the division.  It's not over yet for the rest of the NFC, but if Seattle gets home field advantage then it might be. No. 17 - 19.

Carolina (9 - 3) 27 @ New Orleans (9 - 3) 30: The Saints returned to home building form against the Panthers. The two New Orleans' scores at the end of the second quarter sealed Carolina's fate. Correct. 13 - 31.


Dallas (7 - 5) 23 @ Chicago (6 - 6) 24: Once again, the Cowboys fell flat when they had a chance to keep pace with Philadelphia. Even though the offense shredded the Bears' defense on the ground, the Dallas defense couldn't stop the Bears, not exactly an offensive juggernaut.  Arguably highest profile franchise just can't seem to get it going, despite a large and loyal fan base, deep pockets and the ability to attract the best coaches and free agents.  It has to be time for change in Big D. Correct.  28 - 45.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 15 RECAP

My worst week of the season began on a bad note, as I missed the Thursday and Friday night games. The highlight was my pick for Michigan State to get in the way of Ohio State's national championship trek. I've been a Spartan fan all year, so at least that faith was vindicated. Next up is the crazy bowl season, always tough to pick.

Last week:             5 - 5
Overall:                210 - 72


(19) Louisville (10 - 1) 21 @ Cincinnati (9 - 2) 23: Well, it took overtime for me to lose this one. Louisville pulled it out to go 11 - 1. Now they get to take on Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which should be a pretty good game. No. 31 - 24 OT.
MAC Championship Game, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan: Bowling Green (9 - 3)  20 vs. (14) Northern Illinois (12 - 0) 24: I was tempted to take Bowling Green in this game, but Northern Illinois had found a way to win all season. Well, not this time. No. 27 - 47.
 (20) Duke (10 - 2) 20 vs. (1) Florida State (12 - 0) 34, ACC Championship Game, Charlotte, NC: No surprise in this one as the 'Noles prepared for the BCS championship game by drilling the over-matched Blue Devils.  Auburn's offense won't be so easy to stop in the Rose Bowl on January 6, but I don't see the Tigers being able to slow down Florida State's explosive offense much. We'll get to that pick when  I do my bowl predictions. Correct. 45 - 7.

(2) Ohio State (12 - 0) 24 vs. (10) Michigan State (11 - 1) 27, Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis, IN: Michigan State's fourth quarter comeback ended the Buckeyes' 24 game winning streak and their hopes at a national championship.  The Spartans' defense played up to form, sending them to the Rose Bowl. Correct. 24 - 34.

(5) Missouri (11 - 1) 30 vs. (3) Auburn (11 - 1) 27, SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, GA: Missouri's defense, which I thought could contain Auburn, seemed to be overwhelmed by the Auburn offensive  onslaught. For three quarters this was an incredible game, but then Missouri was unable to sustain their offensive momentum. It may be a different story for Auburn  in Pasadena come January. No. 42 - 59.

(17) Oklahoma (9 - 2) 24 at (6) Oklahoma State (10 - 1) 30: Baylor can't seem to overcome Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State can't seem to overcome Oklahoma, but Baylor is the Big 12 winner. OSU had a lot to gain by winning on Saturday, but just couldn't get it done against the Sooners.  No. 33 - 24.

(7) Stanford  (10 - 2)  27 at (11) Arizona State (10 - 2) 31, Stanford flexed its defensive muscle in Tempe against the Sun Devils and found an offense that had been missing for much of the season to make it to the Rose Bowl against Michigan State, another team with defensive muscle. No. 38 - 14.

(25) Texas (8 - 3) 37 at (9) Baylor (10 - 1) 42: The Bears took care of Texas and will take on UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns, who fell to 8 - 4, will take on Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The fate of Texas coach Mack Brown is still unknown, even though Texas can buy him out for a paltry $2.75 million by the end of 2014. My guess is he gets one more season, then the graciously resigns. The new AD gets no points with future coaches if he cans the second most tenured coach in FBS after they finished within one game of a Big 12 title and BCS bowl game.  Correct. 10 - 30.

(16) UCF (10 - 1) 27 at SMU (5 - 6) 17: UCF wasn't impressive, but they'll face Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, a pretty good matchup in the desert. The Knights finished off an impressive season, but they'll have a lot to handle with Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Correct. 17 - 14.


Utah State (8 - 4) 31 at (23) Fresno State (10 - 1) 38, Mountain West Championship Game:  I picked the spread in this game, but figured there would be more scoring before it was over.  Now, for the first time all season, Fresno State will have to play a top, BCS conference team in USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. Good luck with that. Correct. 24 - 17.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

WEEK 14 NFL PICKS

The haves are beginning to separate from the have nots, with playoff berths up for grabs and positioning for home field advantage in full swing. There are a number of teams hanging onto playoff hopes, with a loss probably ending their chances.  As far as my picks go, I'm trying to recover from consecutive weeks at or below .500. There are a number of close games this week, so my chances of improving aren't very good.  But all I can do is keep plugging away as the regular season winds down.

Overall:                133 - 77 - 1

Indianapolis (8 - 4) 21 @ Cincinnati (8 - 4) 24: Both of these teams have a two game lead in their division, but one of them has to lose Sunday. The Colts have played pretty well away from home this season, but the Bengals are 5 - 0 at home. This one probably comes down to how well the Colts can move the ball against the Bengals defense, which plays well against both the run and pass. If the Colts can defend against the Bengals offense, which is decent, but not great by NFL standards, then they have a chance to win a close one. I like Cincinnati's balance, which should be enough to get the win at home.

Atlanta (3 - 9) 20 @ Green Bay (5 - 6 - 1) 23 : Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will not play against the Falcons, making this a tough pick. Green Bay is 0 - 4 - 1 since he went down, including an embarrassing 40 - 10 loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving. They've had ten days to lick their wounds and get ready for Atlanta, who went into Buffalo last week and won. These teams are a combined 1 - 8 - 1 in their last five games, with neither one really looking very good in the process. The Falcons are a dome team and the weather will be brutally cold at Lambeau Field. In addition, Atlanta doesn't run or defend the run very well, two critical elements in a cold weather game. I'm tempted to go with Atlanta, but the weather has me staying with the home team.

Cleveland (4 - 8) 17 @ New England (9 - 3) 28: Tom Brady just keeps rolling along, no matter what personnel he's forced to play with. Injuries, suspensions and trades don't seem to bother the future Hall of Famer, as he just finds ways to utilize the players he has on the field. The Browns appeared to be poised to make a playoff run a few weeks ago, but that's no longer a possibility. The Patriots are still in the mix for the top seed in the AFC. This one shouldn't be all that close.

Oakland (4 - 8) 19 @ New York Jets (5 - 7) 20: Inexplicably, Jets coach Rex Ryan is staying with Geno Smith at QB this week. There really isn't an adjective strong enough to explain, by NFL standards, how bad this guy is playing. In a league whose rules are designed to result in good QB performances, Smith hasn't thrown a TD pass in his last five games with six interceptions in the last three. Really? I would think there's probably a season ticket holder sitting in MetLife Stadium that could do better than that. The Jets could start Matt Simms, who has shown flashes of brilliance, and would probably have a great chance of beating the Raiders. By starting Smith, it makes this a very difficult pick. At home, in bad weather, I'll stick with the Jets, thinking that by some point in the second quarter we'll see Simms in the game.

Detroit (7 - 5) 24 @ Philadelphia (7 - 5) 31: This battle of division leaders has a lot more significance for the Eagles than for the Lions. Philly is trying to stay even with the Cowboys and has won four in a row after scoring only ten points in consecutive games at the end of October.  The Lions lead the Bears by a game and own the tiebreaker over Chicago by virtue of two wins over their NFC North rivals. Detroit has been inconsistent this season, while the Eagles seem to be buying into the system of first year head coach Chip Kelly. Eagle QB Nick Foles is accurate and just mobile enough to be effective with all of the other weapons around him. Even though Philadelphia is only 2 - 4 at home, I think they'll get it done this week.

Miami (6 - 6) 21 @ Pittsburgh (5 - 7) 27: Both of these teams are still in the playoff picture in the AFC, as there are six teams battling for one spot. They're still mathematically in contention in their divisions, but the chances of that are slim. A Miami win over the Steelers would all but eliminate Pittsburgh. The Steelers had a chance to beat Baltimore last week to help their chances, but lost 22 - 20. Coach Mike Tomlin lost even more, getting fined by the league for $100,000 for interfering with a play. It looked like something out of "Friday Night Lights".  Come on, Mike, really? Anyway, about the game, the Dolphins have rebounded nicely after all of the controversy surrounding Richie Incognito and the disruption on the offensive line. But the Steelers have also come back after an awful start. In this December weather in Pittsburgh, I have to like the Steelers to run the ball and play good enough defense to win.

Buffalo (4 - 8) 20 @ Tampa Bay (3 - 9) 28: At least the Bills get couple of days in the warm weather, or at least warmer than what they have at home. The Buccaneers have won three of their last four and the game before that was an overtime loss at Seattle. Buffalo is going in the wrong direction, so I look for the Bucs defense to pretty much shut them down in Tampa.

Kansas City (9 - 3) 23 @ Washington (3 - 9) 20: The Redskins have been eliminated from playoff contention and the Chiefs enter the weekend on a three game losing streak, two of those to division rival Denver, making it difficult to see them contending for the AFC West title. Kansas City went 8 - 0 to start the season against a weak schedule, but they probably have enough on the defensive side of the ball to disrupt an inept Redskin squad. The 'Skins will be playing for pride and in some cases, their jobs. Coach Mike Shanahan has not been effective and this will be the third time in his four seasons that his team failed to make the playoffs. Bye, Bye, Mike.

Minnesota (3 - 9) 17 @ Baltimore (6 - 6) 21: Somehow, the Ravens are still in the playoff picture and the Vikings are not. If Joe Flacco can somehow find his form from last season, Baltimore thinks they can catch fire like they did last season. Actually, Flacco just has to be good, not great, because of the way the Raven defense is playing. I look for more of the same this week and for Baltimore to win a close one. Of course, for the Ravens, they're all close, because the offense just isn't clicking.

Tennessee (5 - 7) 24 @ Denver (10 - 2) 34: A month ago, the Titans find themselves at 4 - 4, in the playoff hunt and hosting winless Jacksonville. No problem, right? With two games coming up against a struggling Indianapolis team, they controlled their own destiny in the AFC South. Guess what? They turn it over four times against the Jags in a loss, then fail to beat the Colts in two tries, and now face a must win game at Denver. Not much chance in this one, as the Broncos have more than enough to take down the Titans at home.

St. Louis (5 - 7) 24 @ Arizona (7 - 5) 27: The Rams got knocked around pretty well in San Francisco, while the Cardinals lost a close one to Philadelphia on the road to snap a four game winning streak. St. Louis is a tough team that plays a very physical brand of football.  Arizona has weapons on offense and probably has a little bit of an edge at home. I'll take them in a tight one.

New York Giants (5 - 7) 27 @ San Diego Chargers (5 - 7) 24: After starting the season 0 - 6, the Giants have won five of their last six games, but mostly against inferior competition with the exception of their win over the Eagles. San Diego has been up and down much of the season, but mostly down the last month, as they've dropped four of their last five. Neither team has been eliminated from the playoffs, but they can't afford a loss in this one. It's hard to figure how the Chargers can lose to Washington, score sixteen in a loss to Miami and then beat Kansas City by scoring 41. Really? How do you figure this team? I've been going with the home teams this week, but I like the Giants to continue their late season resurgence.

Seattle (11 - 1) 30 @ San Francisco (8 - 4) 27: Earlier in the season, everyone thought this game would be for the NFC West title, but Seattle has already wrapped that up. Now, the 'Niners are trying to stay in the playoff hunt.  They are in the sixth and final spot, but a loss could change all of that with the Cardinals and Eagles right on their heels. Even though the Seahawks aren't the same team on the road, they're still 5 - 1 away from home.  I just don't think San Francisco is playing at the same level they did a year ago and Pete Carroll has his Seattle team hitting on all cylinders. I'll take the visitors to cause some real concern for San Francisco's season.

Carolina (9 - 3) 27 @ New Orleans (9 - 3) 30: This is a terrific game for Sunday night. The winner takes the lead in the NFC West, but they play again in two weeks in Charlotte. The schedule probably favors the Panthers, as they host the Giants and travel to Atlanta in their other two games. The Saints have to travel to St. Louis next week then close out the season at the Superdome against resurgent Tampa Bay. After getting totally dismantled last week in Seattle, the Saints will be looking to return home to make amends. The Panthers have won eight in a row, including wins over San Francisco and New England. As much as I like what Carolina has done, New Orleans is close to unbeatable at home, so I'll need to stay with them this week. When they play in Charlotte, it should be an entirely different matter.


Dallas (7 - 5) 23 @ Chicago (6 - 6) 24: Can the Cowboys put some games together in December to win the NFC East over the Eagles? If they are, then it's going to have to start in a frigid Soldier Field against the inconsistent Bears, losers of three of their last four, the last one in overtime to the Vikings. Dallas has won three of four, but the loss was a blowout at New Orleans. Although Chicago's defense is weak against the run, that's not a real big part of the Dallas offense, as they're averaging only 85 yards a game on the ground. I'm going to pick Chicago in this one, primarily because Dallas has yet to demonstrate the ability to put three wins in a row in the books, especially not on the road in lousy weather.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 15 PICKS

After a long season, we come down to this, the final weekend. There are official championship games, and there are games that could end up being championship match-ups. But one thing is for sure, when the dust settles, we'll have our two participants in the BCS title game.

Last week:            15 - 8
Overall:                205 - 67


(20) Duke (10 - 2) 20 vs. (1) Florida State (12 - 0) 34, ACC Championship Game, Charlotte, NC: All the pressure is on Florida State, and if Duke drew better, they might have a bit of a home field advantage. But despite having a great season due in part to a favorable schedule, the Blue Devils haven't faced anyone close to what the Seminoles will throw at them tonight. Duke was held to 13 points by Virginia Tech, the closest talent on defense that they faced. The Blue Devils gave up 30 to Miami and 25 to North Carolina down the stretch. Otherwise, after giving up big totals to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh in their two losses, Duke had played very good defense. But Florida State brings an entirely different challenge. Given that a spot in the BCS championship is on the line for the 'Noles, they may start out a little tight, giving Duke a chance. But in the end, talent should win out here.

(2) Ohio State (12 - 0) 24 vs. (10) Michigan State (11 - 1) 27, Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis, IN: Ohio State owns the longest winning streak in the country at 24, but Michigan State has the nation's fourth ranked defense and an eight consecutive wins of their own. I've liked Michigan State all season, and I believe the Buckeyes' weak schedule will hurt them in this game. The Spartans are physical and capable of moving Ohio State around.  Coach Urban Meyer's team's two biggest wins of the season have since been minimized, as Northwestern finished below .500 and Wisconsin finished a disappointing 9 - 3. My upset picks haven't been panning out recently, but I've liked Michigan State all year and I like them tonight to throw the BCS into one-loss team chaos.

(5) Missouri (11 - 1) 30 vs. (3) Auburn (11 - 1) 27, SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, GA: Auburn needs to come down from the exhilarating victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl last week. Missouri needs to continue its fine play that left them four points from a perfect season. For me, this game's a tossup and will come down to whether Missouri's defense can contain Auburn's potent offensive attack. Both teams will benefit from playing inside at the Georgia Dome. I've made the mistake of picking against Missouri and have continually paid the price. I believe the magic may run out for Auburn this afternoon, so I'm picking tails and going with Missouri.

(17) Oklahoma (9 - 2) 24 at (6) Oklahoma State (10 - 1) 30: This bedlam game probably doesn't have any national championship implications, but it certainly does for the Big 12 title. A win by Oklahoma State gives them the crown, while a loss eliminates them from the race, turning the Baylor - Texas game into a de facto championship game. Oklahoma just gets to play the spoiler in the whole thing, which should be just a little more motivation for a big intra-state rivalry game. With the exception of the West Virginia game, the Cowboys have played like potential national champions. If they'd taken care of the Mountaineers like they should have, a win today would probably put them in the BCS championship game against Florida State. For now, though, they'll need to be satisfied with beating the Sooners and going to a BCS bowl game.

(7) Stanford  (10 - 2)  27 at (11) Arizona State (10 - 2) 31, Pac-12 Championship Game: Arizona State may be the hottest team in the nation and are looking for some revenge against Stanford. This time the Cardinal will have to travel to the desert because of the Sun Devils' better conference record. With the exception of their 63 points against an overmatched Cal team, Stanford has had to rely on their defense to win. I don't think Stanford will be able to keep up with Arizona State on the scoreboard, especially if the home team gets up early.

(25) Texas (8 - 3) 37 at (9) Baylor (10 - 1) 42: By the time these two teams kickoff, they may know what the stakes are for this game.  If the Sooners win up in Stillwater, this game is for all of the marbles in the Big 12. If not, then it'll just be another Texas grudge match in the Big 12. Baylor was flying high until getting shot down at Oklahoma State. Texas had a similar game against the Cowboys. Otherwise, the Longhorns have played tough defense since replacing their defensive coordinator after losses to BYU and Ole Miss.  I like Baylor in a shootout, but the Bear offense needs to click, or Texas will leave Waco with a big win.

(16) UCF (10 - 1) 27 at SMU (5 - 6) 17: UCF, by virtue of Louisville's win over Cincinnati, has clinched the American Athletic Conference crown and will be making its first appearance in a BCS bowl game.  Therefore, this game doesn't matter in the conference race. In addition, Northern Illinois' loss to Bowling Green takes any additional BCS implications from this game. So, back to the game. SMU can cause UCF some trouble, but the Knights should prevail, even with nothing to play for but another win. Their pride is on the line in this game, plus the opportunity to perhaps finish with a 12 - 1 record after playing and beating a quality team in a BCS bowl.


Utah State (8 - 4) 31 at (23) Fresno State (10 - 1) 38, Mountain West Championship Game:  Fresno State's porous defense finally resulted in a loss last week, ending any chance for a BCS bowl game. Utah State, despite a loss to Boise State, still managed to get into this game. Since that loss, they've allowed just over ten points a game. No one's been able to slow down Fresno State's attack, but the Aggies have a chance. Unfortunately, I don't see them scoring enough to beat the Bulldogs.

Thursday Night:

(19) Louisville (10 - 1) 21 @ Cincinnati (9 - 2) 23:

A scheduling quirk had American Athletic Conference leader UCF as the only team in the conference that Cincinnati didn't play this season. If the Bearcats win over Louisville, it will make for an interesting tiebreaker, but only if UCF stumbles against SMU on Saturday. In that case, Cincinnati would need to finish higher than UCF in the final BCS rankings, no guarantee given the strong season the Knights have had. But getting back to the game, both teams have tough defenses, with Louisville sporting the second rated defense in the FBS. Cincinnati has won six in a row after a disappointing and inexplicable loss to South Florida, a team Louisville handled easily. However, the Cardinals have struggled a little bit offensively the last couple of games. Heisman trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater, in what could be his last regular season game, will need to click in order for his team to prevail. I like Cincinnati to pull the mild upset, then wait to see if SMU can pull one of their own.

Friday Night

MAC Championship Game, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan: Bowling Green (9 - 3)  20 vs. (14) Northern Illinois (12 - 0) 24:
Northern Illinois has been led by senior QB Jordan Lynch, who wants his team to make amends for last year's 31 - 10 drubbing by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The MAC Championship game is the next step in the process to do that. But Bowling Green stands in the way and poses a stout challenge. The Falcons have held their last four opponents to a total of 17 points and have not given up more than 14 points in any of their last seven wins. Their main weakness on defense is against the rush, and Northern Illinois can certainly run the football, especially Lynch, who leads the MAC in rushing with over 1,700 yards. If the Huskies don't get the running game going, however, Bowling Green will win this game. I'm a fan of the MAC, and despite Northern Illionois' loss to FSU last year, they play a pretty good brand of football in the conference. If I still have power, I'll definitely tune in to the game, which I think will be close. This is a tough pick given Bowling Green's recent performance, but I've watched Jordan Lynch make plays all season to keep NIU unbeaten. I'll take the Huskies. 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 14 RECAP

In a weekend that had more than its share of big games, I didn't do such a great job at picking the winners in some key match-ups, including the Miracle at Auburn. But I still got my share correct as I stagger to the end of the season. One more week to go, and hopefully I can improve somewhat with the conference championship games and the season ending tussles in the Big 12.

Last week:            15 - 8
Overall:                205 - 67

(1) Alabama (11 - 0) 30 @ (4) Auburn (10 - 1) 24: No. 28 - 34. What a game and what an ending?  Despite being wrong on the pick, it was easily the most exciting game of this stature I may have ever seen, and I've seen a lot of big games.

(2) Florida State (11 - 0) 37 @ Florida (4 - 7) 16: Correct. 37 - 7. It took a while, but the Seminoles finally turned on the jets to overwhelm Florida.

(3) Ohio State (11 - 0) 31 @ Michigan (7 - 4) 23: Correct. 42 - 41. I was a little surprised at Brady Hoke's decision to go for two in regulation, but the way the game was going, he would probably have to do it eventually.

(21) Texas A&M (8 - 3) 35 @ (5) Missouri (10 -1) 30: No. 21 - 28. Johnnie Football looked human in what will probably be his last two regular season games with the Aggies. I think he's a great college QB, but he looks too small to be successful at that position in the NFL. I would think if he put some weight on, he could be a Wes Welker type slot receiver.

(6) Clemson (10 - 1) 34 @ (10) South Carolina (9 - 2) 31: No. 17 - 31. I know South Carolina is a good team with a tough defense, but they shouldn't have been able to go 4 - 0 against Tajh Boyd.

(25) Notre Dame (8 - 3) 23  @ (8) Stanford (9 -2) 27: Correct. 20 -27. What can I say? This one went pretty much as expected. 

(9) Baylor (9 - 1) 31 @ TCU (4 -7) 20: Correct. 41 -- 38. The Bears stayed alive in the Big 12 race, but just barely. It sets up a big game with Texas that will matter only if Oklahoma takes out Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game.

Minnesota (8 - 3) 13 @ (11) Michigan State (10 -1) 24: Correct. 3 - 14. Was Michigan State looking ahead a little bit to Ohio State? Perhaps, but their defense still showed up in a big way.  The Buckeyes better forget about Auburn, and focus instead on finding a way to penetrate the Spartans' defense.

Arizona (7 - 4) 26 @ (12) Arizona State (9 - 2) 35 : Correct. 21 - 58. The team playing the best offense in the country right now might be the Sun Devils, who get to test their explosiveness against Stanford this week. The win allows them to host the Pac-12 championship game in the desert.

Penn State (6 -5) 17 @ (15) Wisconsin (9 - 2) 27: No. 31 - 24. I have to give the Nittany Lions a lot of credit for not just competing , but winning despite the stringent NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

(22) UCLA (8 - 3) 24 @ (23) USC (9 - 3) 28: No. 35 - 14. Did this game keep Ed Orgeron from getting the nod as USC head coach? Probably not, but hopefully he'll land somewhere as a head coach. As for UCLA, they finished well despite a season that was little bit disappointing.

(24) Duke (9 - 2) 27 @ UNC (6 - 4) 30: No. 27 - 25. Duke found a way to pull this one out of the fire to get their first ten win season in program history and a spot opposite Florida State in the ACC championship game.

Virginia Tech (7 - 4) 27 @ Virginia (2 - 9) 14: Correct. 16 - 6. This one was ugly, as the Hokies still continue to struggle offensively. But 8 - 4 and a nice bowl game still isn't so bad for Frank Beamer's squad. A successor to Logan Thomas and an improved running game could put Tech back at the top of the ACC Coastal next year.

Georgia (7 - 4)  31 @ Georgia Tech (7 - 4) 26: Correct. 41 - 34 OT. The Bulldogs ended a tough regular season with a close win over their rivals to get their eighth win and possibly a Chic-Fil-A bowl berth in Atlanta.

Games Played Earlier in the Week:

Texas Tech (7 - 4) 27 @ Texas (7 - 3) 35: Correct. 16 - 41. Texas stayed alive in the Big 12 with this smack down win. An Oklahoma State loss would give the winner of the Texas - Baylor game the conference crown and a BCS bowl berth.

Western Michigan (1 - 10) 13 @ (14) Northern Illinois (11-0) 34: Correct. 14 - 33. I came pretty close to getting this one right on the money. Now the Huskies need to beat Bowling Green to advance to their second consecutive BCS bowl game.

Oregon State (6 - 4) 21@ (13) Oregon (9 - 2) 40: Correct. 35 - 36. Oregon didn't look like the same dominant team down the stretch. Is this the beginning of the end in Eugene?

(16) Fresno State (10 - 0) 37 @ San Diego State (5 - 6) 26: No. 52 - 62. Finally, Fresno State's FCS caliber defense was exposed by a sub-.500 FCS foe. They still managed to stay in the top 25 despite a ridiculously weak schedule.

Arkansas (3 - 8) 17 @ (17) LSU (8 - 3) 27: Correct. 27 - 31. The Hogs had this one for the taking, but couldn't keep the Tigers from going 99 yards on their last possession.  Bret Bielema better make some big changes in the offseason, including making sure he has a QB capable of leading a team in the SEC.

South Florida (2 - 8) 14 @ (19) UCF (9 - 1) 34: Correct. 20 -23. UCF escaped with a victory that ended up, because of Louisville's OT win at Cincinnati Thursday night, to win the American Athletic Conference crown and advance to a BCS bowl game for the first time.

Washington State (6 - 5)  27 @ Washington (7 - 4) 31: Correct. 17 - 27. The win by the Huskies will be the last at Washington for head coach Steve Sarkisian, who is headed to USC to replace Lane Kiffen. Washington will have long-time Boise State coach Chris Peterson as a replacement, a well deserved step for him.

Ole Miss (7 - 4) 30 @ Mississippi State (5 - 6) 21: No.  10 - 17. Ole Miss couldn't complete what would have been a terrific season, instead lost the Egg Bowl to their intra-state rival. I'll take mine poached over toast...


Miami (8 - 3) 24 @ Pittsburgh (6-5) 21:  Correct.  41 - 31. The Hurricanes had a high ranking and even higher aspirations for this season, but their defense seemed to let down late in the year. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY NIGHT PICKS

NFL:

Houston (2 -10) 27 @ Jacksonville (3 - 9) 20:
The Jaguars have suddenly started playing good football, winning three of their last four games. The Texans have been through a difficult season and gave the Patriots all they could handle last week. Houston has lost nine games in a row, the last six by just 20 points. I think they're due for a win, despite having to go on the road on a short week. The Jags gave up over 400 yards against the Browns last week and still found a way to win. I believe the Texans offense will show up tonight and expose Jacksonville for what they are, basically an opportunistic team that eventually will give up too many points to overcome.

College:

Thursday Night

(19) Louisville (10 - 1) 21 @ Cincinnati (9 - 2) 23:
A scheduling quirk had American Athletic Conference leader UCF as the only team in the conference that Cincinnati didn't play this season. If the Bearcats win over Louisville, it will make for an interesting tiebreaker, but only if UCF stumbles against SMU on Saturday. In that case, Cincinnati would need to finish higher than UCF in the final BCS rankings, no guarantee given the strong season the Knights have had. But getting back to the game, both teams have tough defenses, with Louisville sporting the second rated defense in the FBS. Cincinnati has won six in a row after a disappointing and inexplicable loss to South Florida, a team Louisville handled easily. However, the Cardinals have struggled a little bit offensively the last couple of games. Heisman trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater, in what could be his last regular season game, will need to click in order for his team to prevail. I like Cincinnati to pull the mild upset, then wait to see if SMU can pull one of their own.

Friday Night

MAC Championship Game, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan: Bowling Green (9 - 3)  20 vs. (14) Northern Illinois (12 - 0) 24:


Northern Illinois has been led by senior QB Jordan Lynch, who wants his team to make amends for last year's 31 - 10 drubbing by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The MAC Championship game is the next step in the process to do that. But Bowling Green stands in the way and poses a stout challenge. The Falcons have held their last four opponents to a total of 17 points and have not given up more than 14 points in any of their last seven wins. Their main weakness on defense is against the rush, and Northern Illinois can certainly run the football, especially Lynch, who leads the MAC in rushing with over 1,700 yards. If the Huskies don't get the running game going, however, Bowling Green will win this game. I'm a fan of the MAC, and despite Northern Illionois' loss to FSU last year, they play a pretty good brand of football in the conference. If I still have power, I'll definitely tune in to the game, which I think will be close. This is a tough pick given Bowling Green's recent performance, but I've watched Jordan Lynch make plays all season to keep NIU unbeaten. I'll take the Huskies.

WEEK 13 NFL RECAP

I was able to maintain a .500 record last week, but suffered a brutal stretch in the early games on Sunday.  The unpredictability of the NFL was very evident, as the Jaguars made it three out of four by winning at Cleveland and the Vikings got up off the mat to get a close win over the Bears. You also would have thought I'd had enough of picking the 'Skins, as they found a way to lose a game they really should have won.

Last Week:           8 - 8
Overall:                113 - 77 - 1


Green Bay (5 - 5 - 1) 27 @ Detroit (6 - 5) 30: Correct. 10 - 40. The Thanksgiving feast started out well, as the Packers just aren't the same without Aaron Rodgers. And from the looks of Thursday's game, they may not be the same with  him, either.

Oakland (4 - 7) 24 @ Dallas (6 -5) 27: Correct. 24 - 31. Tony Romo seems to be getting better, but from the looks of things on Monday night, nothing will help anyone get through Seattle in January.

Pittsburgh (5 - 6) 23 @ Baltimore (5 - 6) 17: No. 20 - 22. But then things started to go south on my picks in a hurry. And it wasn't much better for Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who is $100,000 lighter for his sideline stunt.

Jacksonville (2 - 8) 20 @ Cleveland (4 - 7) 23:  No. 32 - 28. How does a team look almost uncompetitive for eight weeks, then pull off three wins, the last one on the road against a pretty decent team.

Tennessee (6 - 5) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: No. 14 - 22. Just when I thought the Colts were on their way down, they defended their home field to keep control of the weak AFC South.

Chicago (6 - 5) 28 @ Minnesota (2 - 8 - 1) 24: No. 20 - 23. It wasn't their own defense that stopped the Bears, it was Minnesota's.

Miami (5 - 6) 20 @ New York Jets (5 - 6) 21: No. 23 - 3. I can't understand why the Jets even bothered to start Geno Smigh at QB in a game that could end up deciding a playoff spot. Until New York finds their offense, I think I'l l stay away from picking them.

Arizona (7 - 4) 27 @ Philadelphia (6 - 5) 26: No. 21 - 24. I guess I need to accept the fact that the Eagles are for real. This should be a good race between them and the Cowboys for the NFC East.

Tampa Bay (3 - 8) 20 @ Carolina (8 - 3) 28: Correct. 6 - 27. If the Saints stumble, watch out for the Panthers in the NFC South. Their offense behind Cam Newton can score and the defense can stop people.

New England (8 - 3) 30 @ Houston (2 - 9) 21: Correct.  34 - 31. The Patriots, as they have all season, found a way to win. Another Broncos loss and New England finds themselves in control of the top seed in the AFC.

Atlanta (2 - 9) 24 @ Buffalo (4 - 7) 28: No. 34 - 31 OT. What can I say? It's the NFL.

St. Louis (5 -6) 23 @ San Francisco (7 - 4) 27: Correct. 13 - 23. The Rams are on the rise, but a trip to San Francisco can disrupt anyone's season. The 'Niners host the Seahawks in a key game to stay in front in  the NFC wildcard race.

Denver (9 - 2) 27 @ Kansas City (9 - 2) 20: Correct. 35 - 28. The Broncos exerted their superiority over the Chiefs and took control of the AFC West, now owning two wins over Kansas City.

Cincinnati (7 - 4) 31 @ San Diego (5 - 6) 27: Correct. 17 - 10. The Bengals are looking better and better in the AFC North, now that the Steelers are probably out of the picture. But they still have to watch out for a late run from the Ravens, who they play to end the season.

New York Giants (4 - 7) 21 @ Washington (3 - 8) 24 : No. 24 - 17. Okay, I'm done with the Redskins. It looks like they are too. The big question is how long owner Dan Snyder sticks with coach Mike Shanahan. In three and three quarters seasons, Shanahan has one decent seven game run that got the 'Skins into the playoffs. Then he plays RGIII with an injury, jeopardizing the franchise's long term well being. Of course, the real problem lies with Snyder himself, but he's the owner, and until he sells the team, we "Skins fans are stuck with him.


New Orleans (9 - 2) 27 @ Seattle (10 -1) 28: Correct. 7 - 34. No surprise, except that the Saints were overwhelmed in a very hostile environment in a huge game in the NFC playoff picture. The Seahawks appear to marching toward the top seed in the NFC, but still have some work to do, beginning this week at the Forty-Niners.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

WEEK 13 NFL PICKS

Byes are over, so we have a full slate of games this week, which is highlighted by two big ones: Denver at Kansas City and New Orleans travelling to Seattle in what may end up deciding which teams secure home field advantages in the playoffs. My picks last week were, well, terrible. Let's see what I think will happen  this week. I've included my picks for the Thanksgiving games, which were posted in a previous blog.

Last Week:           6 - 7 - 1
Overall:                105 - 69 - 1


Jacksonville (2 - 9) 20 @ Cleveland (4 - 7) 23:  This game probably isn't relevant in terms of the playoffs, but the Jaguars have pulled themselves up from the mat to win a couple of games. Cleveland has played pretty well, but has had trouble getting wins lately.  I think the Browns defense is tough to get them a win at home.

Tennessee (6 - 5) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: It was highly improbable a few weeks ago that this game would be for the lead in the AFC South. The Colts were beating everyone and the Titans were struggling. Now, the tables have turned and Indianapolis is playing bad enough to keep owner Jim Irsay off Twitter.  I've made mistakes by picking against the Titans. I think Indianapolis is beaten up and will just get beaten today.

Chicago (6 - 5) 28 @ Minnesota (2 - 8 - 1) 24: The Bears are a mess, but so is the entire NFC North. The Vikings are out of the playoff hunt and need to make a statement for next season.  I look for the Bears to regroup and continue Minnesota's woes.

Miami (5 - 6) 20 @ New York Jets (5 - 6) 21: If the Jets don't get better QB play, they'll end up squandering any chance at making the playoffs. One of the teams competing for the same postseason spot in Miami, who let a close one get away last week. I'll take the Jets to bounce back.

Arizona (7 - 4) 27 @ Philadelphia (6 - 5) 26: This is one of the marquis games of the week. Both teams are playing well, especially Arizona. The Cardinals have gone largely unnoticed, playing away from the east coast and in the same division as San Francisco and Seattle. I'll go with the visitors in a mild upset.

Tampa Bay (3 - 8) 20 @ Carolina (8 - 3) 28: Cam Newton has finally figured out how to win close games. The Bucs arrive in Charlotte on a three game winning streak and a new swagger that is inconsistent with a 3 - 8 record. The Panthers are tough to beat, and I'll take them to step up in this one.

New England (8 - 3) 30 @ Houston (2 - 9) 21: The Texans are a huge disappointment this season and will have a tough time taking on a Patriots team that has a good shot at home field advantage in the AFC. I look for Brady and company to prevail on the road.

Atlanta (2 - 9) 24 @ Buffalo (4 - 7) 28: The Falcons are barely competitive at home, so I don't see much chance for this banged up squad to top a Bills team that's probably better than their record would indicate.

St. Louis (5 -6) 23 @ San Francisco (7 - 4) 27: The 'Niners got a much needed win against a bad Washington team last week. The Rams have found some offense to win their last two after dropping three in a row. I'd like to take the Rams here, but San Francisco is getting healthy and should be able to  make enough stops to frustrate St. Louis.

Denver (9 - 2) 27 @ Kansas City (9 - 2) 20: Two weeks ago, the Broncos beat the Chiefs in Denver. Both teams are coming off road losses, with Denver's being particularly devastating. I think Denver's the better team, even on the road. I'll take Manning to get ahead and keep his foot on the pedal this time.

Cincinnati (7 - 4) 31 @ San Diego (5 - 6) 27: The Chargers have struggled to get any consistency this year. Cincinnati is coming off their bye week, heading west to try to maintain control of the AFC North. The teams that have given the Bengals fits this season have tough, physical defenses. That really isn't what the Chargers are all about.

New York Giants (4 - 7) 21 @ Washington (3 - 8) 24 : With Dallas' win on Thanksgiving, neither of these teams really has  much of a chance in the NFC East. It's a rivalry game and I look for RGIII to play better than he did a week ago.

New Orleans (9 - 2) 27 @ Seattle (10 -1) 28: Seattle is almost unbeatable at home. Add in some bad weather and the Saints are clearly in for a big challenge Monday night. I'd like to go with New Orleans in a game that could decide home field advantage in the NFC, but I'll stick with the Seahawks to get the win at home.

Green Bay (5 - 5 - 1) 27 @ Detroit (6 - 5) 30: Matt Flynn will start at QB for the Packers as they try to surpass the Lions in the NFC North, where every team is struggling. Flynn is serviceable in the absence of Aaron Rodgers, but Green Bay is not even close to what they are when Rodgers is in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Lions have succeeded in losing their last two games, both of which they should have and could have won. Instead, they find themselves in a dogfight with the Packers and the Bears for the division lead, one that will probably go down to the final weekend of the season. The Lions just have too much talent offensively to have fallen the last couple of weeks. And Green Bay has gone 0 - 3 - 1 since Rodgers went down. In the first game between these two, the Pack dominated in a 22 - 9 win at Lambeau Field. This time, however, they have to travel to Detroit on a short week without their Pro Bowl QB. Something has to give, as neither of these teams has a win in its last two games. I'll go with the home team on Thanksgiving, but only because someone has to win...or do they?

Oakland (4 - 7) 24 @ Dallas (6 -5) 27: The Cowboys are difficult to predict, as are the Raiders. But Dallas has more talent and generally plays well through November. But Oakland runs the ball very well, McFadden will be in the Raider lineup and Terrell Pryor can also run on the Cowboys. It has pretty much come down to a race between Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East, so Dallas knows this is its best chance in a while to win the division. Although I think they're perfectly capable of stubbing their toe today, it's unlikely as they play Thanksgiving host to Oakland on a short week. The keys to the game will be for Dallas QB Tony Romo to keep from turning the ball over and for their defense to at least contain, if not stop, the Raider running game. If the Cowboys get behind and Romo is forced to make plays, they could be in trouble since Oakland has the ability to control the ball and shorten the game. In the end, I'll take Dallas to hold off the Raiders.


Pittsburgh (5 - 6) 23 @ Baltimore (5 - 6) 17: After falling to 2 - 6 and seemingly out of the playoff race, the Steelers have rebounded with three victories in a row, putting themselves into position to challenge for the AFC North title. The Ravens have relied totally on their defense in an up and down season following their Super Bowl title. QB Joe Flacco has been abysmal, completing less than 60% of his passes while throwing for 14 TD's and the same number of interceptions. I think the Steelers are rounding into form, while the Ravens continue to sputter on offense. In their previous meeting, Pittsburgh eeked out a 19 - 16 win. Since then, Pittsburgh has raised their game to another level, while the Ravens have stayed about the same. Even on the road in a short week, I'll take the Steelers to prevail in a dogfight.