"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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

NFL WEEK 17 PICKS

With the holidays and a bunch of meaningless games for both teams, I'm just going with an abbreviated picks post this week, just going with a projected final score. The final week is such a difficult one to predict, with so many factors contributing to the outcomes. but here's my best shot at it. Happy New Year!

Cleveland (7 - 8) 13 @ Baltimore  (9 - 6) 24

Dallas (11 - 4) 27 @ Washington (4 - 11) 23

Indianapolis (10 - 5) 24 @ Tennessee (2 - 13) 13

San Diego (9 - 6) 17 @ Kansas City (8 - 7) 20

New York Jets (3 - 12) 16 @ Miami (8 - 7) 27

Chicago (5 - 10) 24 @ Minnesota (6 - 9) 28

Buffalo (8 - 7) 20 @ New England (12 - 3) 24

New Orleans (6 - 9) 27 @ Tampa Bay (2 - 13) 20

Jacksonville  (3 - 12) 14 @ Houston (8 - 7)  24

Carolina (6 - 8 - 1) 21 @ Atlanta (6 - 9) 20

Oakland (3 - 12) 13 @ Denver (11 - 4) 30 

Detroit (11 - 4) 24 @ Green Bay (11 - 4) 30

Arizona (11 - 4) 17 @ San Francisco (7 - 8) 14

St. Louis (6 - 9) 13 @ Seattle (11 - 4) 24

Cincinnati (10 - 4 - 1) 19 @ Pittsburgh (10 - 5) 24


Saturday, December 20, 2014

NFL WEEK 16 PICKS

Believe it or not, there are a few scenarios where the playoff lineups could be locked up after this weekend. That's unlikely, but still a possibility. There a few 8 - 6 teams in the AFC that are hanging on by the slimmest of statistical threads, but it's in the NFC where things are really strange, primarily due to the awful performance of the NFC South. It's possible for the Dallas Cowboys to finish as well as 11 - 5 and still miss the playoffs. They control their own destiny, but have the tougher road than their closest division pursuer, the Eagles. Both teams travel to Washington, but Dallas hosts Indianapolis this week, while Philadelphia travels, if you can call it that, up I-95 to close the season against the Giants.

Meanwhile, in the aforementioned NFC South, only Carolina among the contenders does not control it's own destiny. New Orleans could actually clinch the division with a win over Atlanta and a Carolina loss to Cleveland. Or the games could go the other way and all three would still be alive going into the final day of the season. All of this drama to pick a team that will finish 8 - 8 at best.

In addition, the NFC North, AFC North and NFC West are all still up for grabs. Taking the NFC North first, Detroit can clinch division with a win and a Packers loss. Any other combination of results and the two teams will play for the title in Lambeau Field next week. As for the wildcard, Detroit wins and they grab one of the spots. After that, it becomes a little more complicated, with a number of possible outcomes. In the AFC North, Cincinnati is the only team in a position to clinch the title with a win over Denver and losses by Pittsburgh and Baltimore. If all three win, Baltimore will be eliminated by virtue of the tiebreaking process. And finally, the game of the week could decide the NFC West and even homefield in the conference. An Arizona win over Seattle, as unlikely as that might be with the Cardinals on quarterback 3A, would clinch it all for the Cardinals as they own wins over Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia, plus the conference tiebreaker over the Packers. Of course, if Seattle wins, there isn't enough room in this post to list all of the possibilities.

Thursday:

Tennessee (2 - 12) 17 @ Jacksonville (2 - 12) 20 (from an earlier post): The season is winding down for most teams, but it's been over for a while for the Jaguars and Titan, who meet tonight with identically terrible records. They are also pretty close in their stats, with both giving up over 70 yards per game than they gain. That's really no way to win football games. There hasn't been a game this late in the season with teams with a combined record this bad since the Colts met the Buccaneers in 1991. If it wasn't for gambling and fantasy leagues, this game would probably go largely unnoticed, and for good reason. The only thing these two teams are fighting for is a top draft pick. I could suggest that the Jags are playing to stay in Jacksonville, but I think that ship has sailed. When you have to resort to installing a glass walled swimming pool to divert fans' attention from the calamity taking place on the field, the I believe it's time to consider that inevitable move to Los Angeles. Of course L.A. hasn't lost just one team in the past, but two franchises over the years. But the NFL is adamant about putting a team there, and with expansion out of the question, then it puts Jacksonville on a very short list of candidates. If it appears that I'm writing about anything but the actual game tonight, then I'm guilty as charged. I mean, who really cares?

Saturday:

Philadelphia (9 - 5) 27 @ Washington (3 - 11) 20: The Eagles need to win this game or their playoff hopes are over. The Redskins, well, you know, like, maybe...Oh, forget it. RGIII will again be starting for Washington, which has lost seven in a row behind three different QB's. The 'Skins took the Eagles to the wire in a 37 - 34 loss in week three. This is not a particularly good matchup for Phialdelphia, facing a decent Washington run defense. But when it's all said and done, I just don't see the Eagles letting this one get away.

San Diego (8 - 6) 23 @ San Francisco (7 - 7) 17: In their last five games, the 'Niners are 2 -3 and averaging an anemic 11.2 points per game on offense. In a pass-happy, high scoring league, that's pathetic. I can understand two of those games, as they came against Seattle. But in wins over the now 5 - 9 Giants and 3 - 11 Redskins, they managed only 16 and 17 points respectively. With all of the turmoil surrounding coach Jim Harbaugh and add in the "week after the Seahawks" effect and I have to favor the Chargers.

Sunday:

Minnesota (6 - 8) 19 @ Miami (7 - 7) 24: The Dolphins, currently in the 11th spot in the AFC, need a lot to fall their way to qualify for the postseason. But no matter what, they need to win to stay alive and they face a decent team that has been eliminated from playoff consideration. Statistically, the Vikings and Dolphins are pretty close, but I'll give the nod to the home team.

Baltimore (9 - 5) 24 @ Houston (7 - 7) 17: The Ravens appear to be getting on one of their late-season defensive rolls heading into a possible playoff game. But to get there, they need to keep winning. The Texans are still alive, but like Miami, there isn't much margin for error as they enter the game in the 10th spot. Houston, now on their third starter at QB, likes to run the ball, but should have some problems against Baltimore's third rated rushing defense. This just isn't a good match-up for the home team.

Detroit (10 - 4) 27 @ Chicago (5 - 9) 19: I doubt many fans give Chicago much of a chance to derail the Lions as Jimmy Clausen replaces Jay Cutler as starting QB. In the first meeting in Detroit on Thanksgiving, the Bears were never in the game, eventually losing 34 - 17. Teams usually try to protect new or untested QB's by running the ball, but the Lions have league's top rushing defense. Also, a Lions' win puts them in the playoffs and could possibly give them the NFC North crown if the Bucs can pull a major upset over the Packers.

Cleveland (7 - 7) 16 @ Carolina (5 - 8 -1)  24:The Browns, despite a terrible effort in last week's first start by Johnny Manziel, are still hanging onto the slimmest of playoff hopes. Carolina will have to focus on the field instead of the scoreboard as a loss could eliminate them from the division race. Win, and they're still alive. If the Falcons beat the Saints as well, then the Panthers will travel to Atlanta to play for the title in the NFC South. On the field, the Panthers have rebounded from a seven game winless streak to put together back to back victories and stay in the division hunt. They expect to start still healing QB Cam Newton. I don't like the Browns' vibe right now.

Atlanta (5 - 9) 27 @ New Orleans (6 - 8) 30: Both of these teams control their own destinies in the worst division in football in recent memory. I think the Saints will try to come out and throw deep on the league's worst pass defense, hoping to end their four game home losing streak. The Falcons can eliminate the home team with win coupled with a Panthers' victory over the Browns. I've been burned by the Saints all season, but I'm a glutton for punishment.

Green Bay (10 - 4) 27 @ Tampa Bay (2 - 12) 17: The Packers are in the thick of the NFC playoff picture, needing a win to set up an NFC North title game against Detroit in Lambeau Field next week. But as good as the Packers have been at home, they've been just as sluggish on the road, including last week in a 21 - 13 loss at Buffalo. The Bucs are winless at home, but despite a 2 - 12 record can still play a significant role in a couple of division races, including their own. Unlike the Bills, however, their pass defense isn't in the top ten, or even the top twenty. I expect Aaron Rodgers to lead the Pack to a big late-season win.

Kansas City (8 - 6) 23 @ Pittsburgh (9 - 5) 28: The playoff picture, at least for this week, is pretty simple for these teams. Pittsburgh wins and they're in, the Chiefs lose and they're out. However, if the Chiefs win, they stay very alive, currently holding the seventh seed, just behind the three AFC North teams. The key to this game is most likely the ability of the Chiefs to stop the Steelers' decent running offense, something KC has had trouble doing in their losses. Pittsburgh is vulnerable through the air, but the Chiefs have had trouble moving the ball through the air.

New England (11 - 3) 27 @ New York Jets (3 - 11) 19:Over the years, Rex Ryan has been successful in giving the Patriots fits. Earlier in the season, the Jets lost a close one in Foxboro, but that was before New England started to really hit their stride. A Pats win and they get at least a first round bye and a home game in the playoffs. Combine that with a Denver loss, and New England would secure home field in the AFC. That's a lot more motivation than the Jets can muster.

New York Giants (5 - 9) 20 @ St. Louis (6 - 8) 28: This is one of the few games this week that has no impact on the playoffs. Despite their losing record, St. Louis is a pretty good football team and is looking to the future with considerable hope. The Giants, on the other hand, won't be making any late runs to a Super Bowl anytime soon. Two teams headed in different directions.

Buffalo (8 - 6) 23 @ Oakland (2 - 12) 20: By the time this game kicks off, there's a chance that the Bills, currently seeded ninth in the AFC playoff race, will have already been eliminated from postseason consideration. But after last week's big win over the Packers, I think Buffalo will look to build on that victory with a close win over an improving Raider team.

Indianapolis (10 - 4) 27 @ Dallas (10 - 4) 30: Although Dallas leads the NFC East and is currently seeded third, they are not in a good position in tiebreakers against other NFC teams and can't really afford a loss. The Colts have clinched their division, but can still grab a first round bye if they keep winning and have some help from Denver or New England. Indianapolis leads the league in passing yardage, while Dallas is third in rushing the ball. Can Indianapolis stop the Cowboy running game and can Dallas slow down the Colts passing game, preferably by keeping Andrew Luck off the field? I guess we'll see.

Seattle (10 - 4) 14 @ Arizona (11 - 3) 16: The Arizona Cardinals are the Florida State Seminoles of the NFL. It doesn't look like they should win, but they find a way to do it. Undefeated at home, but now playing with quarterback 3A, they can clinch the division and home field in the NFC with a win over favored Seattle. The Seahawks are unbelievable nine point favorites, primarily due to the QB situation for Arizona. Conventional wisdom would dictate that the outcome of this one won't be much different than Seattle's 19 - 3 win a month ago. I just think there's a destiny aspect to this Cardinals team, so here I go with a huge upset pick.

Denver (11 - 3) 27 @ Cincinnati (9 - 4 - 1) 24:Peyton Manning has looked fairly pedestrian on the road, but now he leads the Broncos into Cincinnati to play the Jeckyll and Hyde Bengals. Cincinnati likes to run the ball to take pressure off QB Andy Dalton, but Denver does a great job of stopping the run. I look for the Bengals to have some problems getting enough points to win, especially if the Broncos jump out to a quick lead.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL BREAKING NEWS: IS THERE MORE BEHIND THE CUTLER BENCHING?

In the wake of the Chicago Bears' announcement that backup QB Jimmy Clausen would replace long-time starter Jay Cutler for Sunday's game against the Lions, it made me wonder what was really behind the move. Although the real reason is probably pretty straight forward, something like wanting him to remain healthy so they could trade him and his league-high contract after the season, it's possible there are more subtle reasons.

  • After starting his career in Denver, it has become clear that orange just isn't his color. Of course that rules out a number of teams for a trade, including Miami, Cleveland and Cincinnati. But we know that there's one color he's very fond of, and that's green...lots of it. Go Jets!
  • Maybe they didn't bench him, but instead Cutler is sitting out until the offensive coordinator offers a more sincere apology for criticizing Cutler's ability to check to different plays at the line of scrimmage. I agree with the O.C. I mean come on, can't he pick a play where he gets sacked by only one guy in four seconds as opposed to three guys as soon as he takes the snap? Really now!
  • The Bears have simply gotten tired of having to justify keeping Cutler in the game after the long line of great quarterbacks they've had in Chicago. After all, it was that future first ballot Hall of Famer Rex Grossman who led them to a Super Bowl appearance. Okay, decent...no, tolerable..well, uh, maybe not.
  • Perhaps Cutler is a pacifist and playing in Soldier Field offends his beliefs. It might just be a rumor, but there's talk that if Knicks GM Phil Jackson flames out in New York, he'll play the home games and Cutler will start on the road.
  • The Bears finally realized that Vanderbilt fans don't travel well, so Clausen's Notre Dame roots will help fill the tomb of a stadium built on the shores of windy lake Michigan. After all, Notre Dame's last national championship was way more recent than Da Bears' Super Bowl win, so the Irish fans can bring a more positive, winning attitude to the stadium. 
  • The Chicago front office is concerned that Cutler's lack of enthusiasm will hurt their seeding in the College Football Playoff rankings.
 Okay, so maybe they're a little farfetched, but how much more than less than a year after agreeing to the NFL's highest valued contract, he's now considered a bum? Cutler's not an all-time great, but he's pretty good and in the right scheme with an offensive line that can block and a defense that can cover, he could find more success. Correction, will find more success, just not in the Windy City.

THURSDAY NFL GAME PICK

The college bowl season kicks off in a couple of days, so we're left with one game tonight. Not a great one, not even a good one, but a game nonetheless. I'm hoping it's warm enough in Jacksonville so they show a lot of shots of the swimming pool in the end zone seats.

Tennessee (2 - 12) 17 @ Jacksonville (2 - 12) 20: The season is winding down for most teams, but it's been over for a while for the Jaguars and Titan, who meet tonight with identically terrible records. They are also pretty close in their stats, with both giving up over 70 yards per game than they gain. That's really no way to win football games. There hasn't been a game this late in the season with teams with a combined record this bad since the Colts met the Buccaneers in 1991. If it wasn't for gambling and fantasy leagues, this game would probably go largely unnoticed, and for good reason. The only thing these two teams are fighting for is a top draft pick. I could suggest that the Jags are playing to stay in Jacksonville, but I think that ship has sailed. When you have to resort to installing a glass walled swimming pool to divert fans' attention from the calamity taking place on the field, the I believe it's time to consider that inevitable move to Los Angeles. Of course L.A. hasn't lost just one team in the past, but two franchises over the years. But the NFL is adamant about putting a team there, and with expansion out of the question, then it puts Jacksonville on a very short list of candidates. If it appears that I'm writing about anything but the actual game tonight, then I'm guilty as charged. I mean, who really cares?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NFL WEEK 15 PICKS UPDATE

Not a bad week, going 14 - 2 after a frustrating 8 - 8 the week before. I wanted to go with the Bills, but just couldn't make myself count on their offense to produce points. Of course, had Jordy Nelson been able to hold on to a sure touchdown catch, the result might have been different. Without any real upsets, several teams were able to clinch playoff berths, but home field is still up for grabs in both conferences, as well as a number of divisions. Perhaps the most compelling race, despite the lousy records of the teams involved, in the NFC South, where 6 - 8 New Orleans sits on top. But 5 - 8 - 1 Carolina and 5 - 9 Atlanta are still in contention. It's just a shame that a deserving team will get left out of the playoffs while a bad team will be hosting a game. The other three team race is in the AFC North, where Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are in a dogfight that will most likely go down to the wire.

Last Week:           14 - 2        .875
Overall:            145 - 79 - 1  .647

Arizona (10 - 3) 16 @ St. Louis (6 - 7) 23No. The Cardinals are really doing it with mirrors, at least offensively. they're down to a third stringer, and still maintaining the top spot in the NFC. Next up, Seattle. How do say BIG GAME? Arizona 12 - 6.

Pittsburgh (8 - 5) 37 @ Atlanta (5 - 8) 31: Correct. Atlanta fell to 5 - 9, yet still control their own destiny in the NFC South.  Pittsburgh 27 - 20.

Washington (3 - 10) 21 @ New York Giants (4 - 9) 31: Correct.  There's way to much dysfunction in Washington. Now RGIII is back at the helm, as ineffective as ever.  New York Giants 24 - 13.

Miami (7 - 6) 24 @ New England (10 - 3) 27: Correct. The Pats solidified themselves as the class of the AFC, but still need to keep winning to make sure the playoffs go through Gillette Stadium. New England 41 - 13.

Oakland (2 - 11) 20 @ Kansas City (7 - 6) 23: Correct. The Chiefs kept their very slim playoff hopes alive, while Oakland, well, whatever... Kansas City 31 - 13.

Houston (7 - 6) 24 @ Indianapolis (9 - 4) 30: Correct. The Colts defense had to step up, and they did.  Indianapolis 17 - 10.

Jacksonville (2 - 11) 16 @ Baltimore (8 - 5) 27:Correct. Jacksonville could be a darkhorse for the future. As bad as their record is, it's a young team that will only get better with experience. Baltimore 20 - 12.

Green Bay (10 - 3) 24 @ Buffalo (7 - 6) 21: No. In back to back weeks the Bills took on Manning and Rodgers and didn't allow a TD pass from either of them. Buffalo probably won't make the playoffs, but if they do happen to make it in, watch out.  Buffalo 21 - 13.

Tampa Bay (2 - 11) 20 @ Carolina (4 - 8 -1) 21: Correct. The Panthers don't control their own destiny in the terrible, woeful, pathetic, bad (pick your own adjective), but two more wins could put them over the top. Carolina 19 -17.

Cincinnati (8 - 4 - 1) 27 @ Cleveland (7 - 6) 24: Correct. Well, Johnny, welcome to the NFL. The Bengals made Manziel look just like what he is: a one dimensional rookie QB in way over his head. What was Cleveland thinking? Cincinnati 30 - 0.

New York Jets (2 - 11) 23 @ Tennessee (2 - 11) 20: Correct. I doubt anyone really cares about this one. The Jets have had some tough losses, so I think they either win big or get blown out. I'll take the blowout. New York Jets 16 - 11,

Denver (10 - 3) 28 @ San Diego (8 - 5) 27: Correct. Can it be that Denver has a different formula for making it to the Super Bowl this season? Could it be that Peyton Manning doesn't have to do everything? It's possible, especially if the Pats get upset in the next couple of weeks and the Broncos secure home field. Denver 22 - 10.

Minnesota (6 - 7) 13 @ Detroit (9 - 4) 27 : Correct. This is one of those games the Lions would have lost in past years, diminishing their playoff hopes. But maybe, just maybe this season is different in the Motor City. We're likely to find out in Lambeau on the last day of the season.  Detroit 16 - 14.

San Francisco (7 - 6)  14 @ Seattle (9 - 4) 20: Correct. Can the Seahawks manhandle a team led by their third string QB to eke out a division title and maybe home field in the NFC? With that defense, anything is possible. Seattle 17 - 7.

Dallas (9 - 4) 30 @ Philadelphia (9 - 4) 28: Correct. Don't look now, but the 'Boys are poised for a playoff run. No team has ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Could Jerry Jones be working some historical magic in North Texas?  Dallas 38 - 27.

New Orleans (5 - 8) 34 @ Chicago (5 - 8) 30: Correct. I actually wasted the time to watch this game, albeit in sped up mode on my DVR. Jay Cutler is taking the heat for a lot of other problems with the Bears. New Orleans 31 - 15.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

NFL WEEK 15 PICKS

Three games left and only the New England Patriots look like a lock to win their division. We also have a race where the best record in the NFC South can only be 8 - 8, but in all likelihood won't be. When in week 15 we have a 4 - 8 - 1 Carolina team still in contention is strange, if not unprecedented. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Johnny Manziel gets his first NFL start with his Browns probably needing a win to stay alive for a playoff spot, one of several 7 - 6 teams that face the same challenge.

Pittsburgh (8 - 5) 37 @ Atlanta (5 - 8) 31: The Falcons have won three of their last five games to vault into control of the woeful NFC South. Meanwhile, the Steelers have prevailed in five of their last seven and possess the second most prolific passing game in the league. For the second week in a row, Atlanta has to take on an elite QB and hope they can make up for their league worst pass defense. They came surprisingly close to taking out the Packers last week, and this being the NFL, anything is possible.

Washington (3 - 10) 21 @ New York Giants (4 - 9) 31: I'm a Washington fan, at least as much of one as possible given their lousy couple of decades, and I really have no interest in this game. The RGIII thing has gotten old and a bit nasty in the process. My discontent with owner Daniel Snyder has been well documented on this site. As far as the game goes, believe it or not, the Giants were once 3 - 2 following three straight wins and actually looked like they could contend for the division, or at least a playoff spot. Then came 7 consecutive losses. In the first meeting between these teams, the Redskins were dominated in a 45 - 14 loss. I'd like to think this time will be different, but I doubt it will.

Miami (7 - 6) 24 @ New England (10 - 3) 27: After the Dolphins defeated the Pats in week one, I don't think many people would have thought that the teams would be in the positions they are in heading into the rematch. As the season winds down, it's hard to envision New England failing to advance to at least the AFC Championship. For the Dolphins, they are a game behind three teams at 8 - 5 and tied with four others at 7 - 6, so a win is just about a must if they want to continue to cling to any playoff hopes. It's not looking good for them, but this is also a difficult match-up for the Pats. Without a real running game and going against Miami's third rated pass defense, New England QB Brady will need to find a way to get some points on the board.

Oakland (2 - 11) 20 @ Kansas City (7 - 6) 23: Oakland's running game is terrible while the Chiefs stop the pass as well as anyone in the league. It's all about match-ups, and this one doesn't go in Oakland's favor, even though the Raiders did get their first win at the Chiefs' expense three weeks ago. But that was following a win against Seattle, when most teams struggle to recover physically. Even though Kansas City hasn't won since that Seahawks game, I like them in this one.

Houston (7 - 6) 24 @ Indianapolis (9 - 4) 30: J.J. Watt not withstanding, the Houston defense isn't statistically good and the Indy offense is, at least through the air. In their first game this season, the Colts won 33 - 28 in Houston. I don't see this one going much differently as QB Andrew Luck still has his Indianapolis team in position to contend for home field advantage.

Jacksonville (2 - 11) 16 @ Baltimore (8 - 5) 27:With the exception of a late game meltdown against the Chargers, the Ravens would be on a pretty good roll. Jacksonville is in the bottom five against the run and Baltimore has a top five rushing attack. End of story.

Green Bay (10 - 3) 24 @ Buffalo (7 - 6) 21: The Packers, as I've stressed previously, are a very different team on the road, averaging about half the number of points they do at home. The Bills did a good job of making Peyton Manning look average for much of the game last week but couldn't generate enough offense to capitalize on the effort. My concern this week is the same for Buffalo against a team that will probably be able to put up at least 24 points. As much as I would like to go with the home team, I'm just not feeling it.

Tampa Bay (2 - 11) 20 @ Carolina (4 - 8 -1) 21: Ordinarily two teams with these records would be playing out the string, but not so this season. The Panthers are only half a game out of the lead in the NFC South, perhaps the worst division in the history of the NFL. With Atlanta hosting Pittsburgh and New Orleans traveling to Chicago, it's possible that even without Cam Newton, Carolina could be leading the division come Sunday night.

Cincinnati (8 - 4 - 1) 27 @ Cleveland (7 - 6) 24: We have Johnny Football's first professional start, a fierce intrastate rivalry and the division lead on the line for the Bengals. In the first meeting in Cincinnati, the Browns held the Bengals to a field goal in the 24 - 3 win. Cincinnati is not as good statistically as their record would indicate, so Manziel will probably have some chances to make plays. The matchup problem for the Browns will be defending the run, something the Bengals do pretty well.

New York Jets (2 - 11) 23 @ Tennessee (2 - 11) 20: I doubt anyone really cares about this one. The Jets have had some tough losses, so I think they either win big or get blown out. I'll take the blowout.

Denver (10 - 3) 28 @ San Diego (8 - 5) 27: The Broncos haven't been as dominant this season, but a 10 - 3 record against their schedule is still fairly impressive. San Diego is 8th against the pass, so they'll challenge Peyton Manning, but a Bronco win is critical and I think they have an edge.

Minnesota (6 - 7) 13 @ Detroit (9 - 4) 27 : The Lions have the best running defense in the league, and that is the strength of the Vikings. The first time around, Detroit held the Vikes to three points in Minnesota. I don't expect anything much different this time.

San Francisco (7 - 6)  14 @ Seattle (9 - 4) 20: Unless the 'Niners can show some offense they haven't generated in almost two months, they have very little chance against their division rivals. Seattle's defense has given up less than two touchdowns a game while winning six of their last seven, many in dominating fashion. The only saving grace for San Francisco is their own tough defense, but it will probably only serve to keep the game competitive.

Dallas (9 - 4) 30 @ Philadelphia (9 - 4) 28: On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys failed to show up against the Eagles and suffered an embarrassing 33 - 10 defeat. They bounced back to beat the Bears last week, while the Eagles got beaten up by Seattle. As much as I like Philadelphia, Dallas got an extra few days to prepare and recover. In the last couple of years, teams have had some difficulty coming back after physical games against the Seahawks.

New Orleans (5 - 8) 34 @ Chicago (5 - 8) 30: The focus seems to be on QB Jay Cutler in Chicago, but when your defense is ranked 30th against the pass, there is almost no way to be successful in a passing league. New Orleans is only one spot better, but I think they'll exploit that woeful Bear secondary and keep their division title hopes alive. But that Chicago offense has some fire power and could put the Saints' postseason chances in jeopardy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THURSDAY NIGHT NFL PICK

Arizona (10 - 3) 16 @ St. Louis (6 - 7) 23: The St. Louis defense has recorded consecutive shutouts over Oakland and Washington. Not exactly Denver and New England, except they held the Broncos high flying offense to seven points. It's a short week for the Cardinals, who had a tough win against the Chiefs on Sunday. Jeff Fisher has the Rams playing great football, and even though they are out of the playoff hunt, they'll have a lot of input into the race. The offensive and defensive rankings for these teams are deceiving, since the Cardinals racked up good passing stats behind now injured Carson Palmer, and it took some time for the Rams to gt their act together on both sides of the ball. But you can't ignore a combined 76 - 0 tally in St. Louis' last two games, no matter who they were playing. Arizona managed just 17 last week at home with a full week of preparation. I think we may be seeing a glimpse of next year's break out team in the Rams tonight.

WEEK 14 NFL PICKS RECAP

I didn't have a good feeling for last week's games, and it showed in my performance. There are three weeks left to improve, though.

Last week:       8 - 8         .500
Overall:       131 - 77 - 1  .629

Dallas (8 - 4) 30 @ Chicago (5 - 7) 24: Correct. I predicted this would be a bad matchup for the Bears, and it was. Dallas 41 - 28.

Pittsburgh (7 - 5) 27 @ Cincinnati (8 - 3 - 1) 24: Correct. I also didn't think the Bengals were on the good end of this one, and they weren't.  42 - 21.

St. Louis (5 - 7) 23 @ Washington (3 - 9) 28: No. Jeff Fisher has the Rams playing at a high level and Jay Gruden has the Redskins, well, not so much. St. Louis 24 - 0.

New York Giants (3 - 9) 31 @ Tennessee (2 - 10) 27: Correct. The Titans are just not very good.New York Giants 36 - 7.

Carolina (3 - 8 - 1) 27 @ New Orleans (5 - 7) 35: No. The Saints have now lost four in a row in the Superdome, yet at 5 - 8 are still tied for the division lead. The Panthers, at 4 - 8 -1, are only a half-game out. Unbelievable. Carolina 41 - 10.

New York Jets (2 - 10) 23 @ Minnesota (5 - 7) 20: No. The Jets are not as bad as their 2 - 11 record would indicate. Minnesota 30 - 24 OT

Baltimore (7 - 5) 20 @ Miami (7 - 5) 24: No. When the Ravens show up on defense, they are very hard to beat. They showed up on Sunday. Baltimore 28 - 13.

Indianapolis (8 - 4) 30 @ Cleveland (7 - 5) 28: Correct. A close loss by the Browns put their playofff hopes on  life support. So now they will turn to Johnny Football to try and save the day. Good luck with that. Indianapolis 25 - 24.

Tampa Bay (2 - 10) 17 @ Detroit (8 - 4) 34: Correct. I picked this score on the button. Hey, even a blind squirrel and all that. The Lions were able to stay a game behind the Packers in the division and even with Seattle,  Philadelphia and Dallas in the wild card. Detroit 34 - 17.

Houston (6 - 6) 27 @ Jacksonville (2 -10) 16: Correct. No surprises in this one.  Houston 27 - 13.

Buffalo (7 - 5) 21 @ Denver (9 - 3) 30: Correct. That Bill defense was stout against the Broncos' passing attack, but they need more firepower on offense. Denver 24 - 17.

Kansas City (7 - 5) 23 @ Arizona (9 - 3) 20: No. The Chiefs got a questionable call on their way to the brink of playoff elimination.  Arizona 17 - 14.

Seattle (8 - 4) 26 @ Philadelphia (9 - 3) 27: No. The Seahawks are looking a lot like the team that won it all last season. Pretty impressive shutting down the Eagles in Philly. Seattle 24 - 14.

San Francisco (7 - 5) 27 @ Oakland (1 - 11) 16: No. I only have one word for the 'Niners...ugly. There can be very little doubt that Jim Harbough has worn out his welcome in San Francisco. Oakland 24 -13.

New England (9 - 3) 27 @ San Diego (8 - 4) 28: No. The Pats solidified their place atop the AFC standings with an impressive showing in San Diego. New England 23 - 14.

Atlanta (5 - 7) 20 @ Green Bay (9 - 3) 34: Correct. The Falcons made this one close, but they still fell to 5 - 8 where they retain their division lead. As for the Packers, their defense will need to play better as they head to the playoffs.  Green Bay 43 - 37.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

COLLEGE WEEK 15 PICKS - CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND RECAP

I'm limping into the playoffs, having to overcome a dismal 6 - 6 week to end the regular season. It's hard to believe that the top six teams in the College Football Playoffs rankings all won, yet the committee saw fit to make significant changes in the rankings, moving Ohio State ahead of TCU. A four team format, while an improvement over the BCS two-team championship model, is awkward in that it almost guarantees that four conferences get represented and one gets left out. Come on guys, let's move to eight teams.

Last Week:     6 - 6     .500
Overall:       238 -92   .708

Thursday:

UCF (8 - 3) 27 @ East Carolina (8 - 3) 31: No. ECU made a great comeback, scoring 21 straight points to take a late lead, only to have the Knights steal it from them and claim part of a three way tie for the American Athletic Conference title. My pick would have looked pretty good if the Pirates had held onto their 30 - 26 lead. Oh well... UCF 32 - 30

Friday:

Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara, CA

(7) Arizona (10 - 2) 30 vs. (2) Oregon (11 - 1) 41:Correct. The Ducks made this one look surprisingly easy, smacking down the only team to defeat them this season. They now head into their playoff match-up with number 3 Florida State on a roll. Oregon 51 - 13.

MAC Championship in Detroit, MI

N. Illinois (10 - 2) 42 vs. Bowling Green (7 - 5) 24: Correct. I didn't expect this one to be close and it definitely wasn't.  Northern Illinois 51 - 17.


Saturday:

Conference USA Championship

La. Tech (8 - 4) 45 @ Marshall (11 - 1) 42: No. Another late loss by a team I'd picked to win. Even with the victory, the Thundering Herd definitely have no place in anyone's top 25. Marshall 26 - 23.

SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA

(1) Alabama (11 - 1) 27 vs. (16) Missouri (10 - 2) 17: Correct. This one went pretty much as expected, except the Tide was able to score more points than I thought they would. They'll have their hands full with a red-hot Ohio State team in the playoffs.

ACC Championship in Charlotte, NC

(4) Florida State (12 - 0) 27 vs. (11) Ga. Tech (10 - 2) 31: No. Why would week 15 be any different than the rest of the season? The 'Noles held on for a win and a playoff spot. Can they afford to get behind to Oregon and still survive in the national semifinal? I would think not, but no one has stopped them in over two years,, so who's to say they can't do it again? Florida State

Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, IN

(13) Wisconsin (10 -2) 27 vs. (5) Ohio State (11 - 1) 24: No. Man did I ever whiff on this one. Of course, I was hardly alone. I'm just wondering how the Buckeyes light up the Badgers' supposed staunch defense for 59 points AND stifle the nation's leading rusher. To say I'm skeptical would be an understatement. Ohio State 59 - 0.

Mountain West Conference Championship:

Fresno State (6 - 6) 23 @ Boise State (10 - 2) 34: Correct. Boise played their way into a major bowl game, once again playing in all blue uniforms on a blue playing surface. There just seems to be an unfair advantage to that. Boise State 28 - 14.

(9) Kansas State (9 - 2) 37 @ (6) Baylor (10 - 1) 31: No. I have to give Baylor credit. They had a terrific season and were just a win at West Virginia away from a probable number one or two seed and a spot in the playoffs. Baylor 38 - 27.

Iowa State (2 - 9) 17 @ (3) TCU (10 - 1) 52: Correct. Not much of game, no remarkable upset, unless you count TCU getting jumped in the rankings by Ohio State. TCU 55 - 3.

Oklahoma State (5 - 6) 24 @ (20) Oklahoma (8 - 3) 35: No. Bedlam is a good word for this rivalry. No one can say for sure that this game didn't help Florida State's cause, with three non-conference wins over bowl eligible teams. Oklahoma State 38 -35 OT.

Houston (7 - 4) 20 @ Cincinnati (8 - 3) 23: Correct. This game was a little higher scoring than I thought, but the Bearcats were still able to secure a share of the American Athletic Conference crown.  Cincinnati 38 - 31.




Sunday, December 7, 2014

NFL WEEK 14 PICKS

I don't have a good feeling for the games today. Looking at the numbers, it equates to some very tough picks. Is that a disclaimer? It sure is. Whatever happens today, I really don't care too much. I'll just come back and keep at it next week.

Pittsburgh (7 - 5) 27 @ Cincinnati (8 - 3 - 1) 24: When I look the numbers on these teams, it doesn't look like a great matchup for the Bengals. But then I look at how poorly the Steelers played at home last week, and I have to look more closely. Upon further review, I'm still going with Pittsburgh.

St. Louis (5 - 7) 23 @ Washington (3 - 9) 28: The Rams are on fire and the Redskins, well...not so much. What's interesting is that Washington moves the ball and plays pretty good defense, not necessarily the attributes of a 3 - 9 team. I've made no secret about my Washington allegiance, so this might look like a homer pick, but it's about time for the Redskins to step up, play a good game and win one.

New York Giants (3 - 9) 31 @ Tennessee (2 - 10) 27: These two teams are just playing out the string, hoping to retain some pride in the process. The difference here is that the Giant offense, at least on paper, has an edge, even on the road, over the Titans.

Carolina (3 - 8 - 1) 27 @ New Orleans (5 - 7) 35: The Saints are big favorites in this game and I have no doubt that they'll win. I just think it will be a little closer than the spread due to the Saints' porous defense.

New York Jets (2 - 10) 23 @ Minnesota (5 - 7) 20: I tend to agree with Jets' coach Rex Ryan that his team is better than their record. In fact, this is a really bad match-up for the Vikes, so I believe the Jets will be able to get a late-season road win in Minneapolis.

Baltimore (7 - 5) 20 @ Miami (7 - 5) 24: The strength of Dolphins is pass defense, but Baltimore is strong on the ground. However, this is a passing league and Miami should be able to move the ball enough to win at home.

Indianapolis (8 - 4) 30 @ Cleveland (7 - 5) 28: The Colts scorched Washington at home last week, but now they go on the road to face a very tough pass defense. I can also understand why the Browns are going to start QB Brian Hoyer, since Indy doesn't possess a particularly stellar pass defense, giving him a chance to make some plays and pull out a win.

Tampa Bay (2 - 10) 17 @ Detroit (8 - 4) 34: The Lions have a great opportunity to win their next three games to set up a season-ending contest in Green Bay against the Packers that could be for the division title. Tampa Bay is just awful, but strange things can happen in the NFL.

Houston (6 - 6) 27 @ Jacksonville (2 -10) 16: Houston runs the ball very well, and the Jags don't defend the rush, or for that matter, the pass with much effectiveness. The Texans are still hanging around the playoff hunt, but can't afford another loss. Jacksonville is continuing to audition for the future London / Los Angeles franchise.

Buffalo (7 - 5) 21 @ Denver (9 - 3) 30: The Bills have the league's fifth ranked pass defense, and it'll be tested this week by Peyton Manning in his house. The Broncos haven't looked as invincible as they did last year, but they should be able to get past Buffalo.

Kansas City (7 - 5) 23 @ Arizona (9 - 3) 20: The strength of the Cardinals' team is its rushing defense. The Chiefs rely primarily on running the ball to win games. But Kansas City leads the league in passing defense, so even with an injured Larry Fitzgerald back in the lineup, is it possible for Arizona to pull out a win? I think so, but they're gong to have to run the ball to do it.

Seattle (8 - 4) 26 @ Philadelphia (9 - 3) 27: This is a potential preview of the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks have held their last two opponents to a field goal. If they do that in Philadelphia today, I'll definitely pencil them in as a Super Bowl team. But the Eagles will present a lot more challenges than the Cardinals and the Forty-Niners.

San Francisco (7 - 5) 27 @ Oakland (1 - 11) 16: I'm not sure how the bay area feels about this match-up and whether there's any kind of rivalry. What I do know is that the Raiders offense is not very good and the San Francisco defense is.

New England (9 - 3) 27 @ San Diego (8 - 4) 28: The Chargers match up pretty well with New England. The Patriots went straight from Green Bay to the west coast, so it wasn't a traditional routine for the Tom Brady and Company. This is a tossup for me.

Atlanta (5 - 7) 20 @ Green Bay (9 - 3) 34: Unless the Packers somehow experience some kind of decrease in ability, they should feast on the league's worse pass defense in a very difficult place for even the best teams to win.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

COLLEGE WEEK 15 PICKS - CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND

Even with the abbreviated schedule on the final weekend of the season (with the exception of Army - Navy on December 13), there are still a number of games that will impact the playoffs. Most notably is the Pac-12 championship game, where unlike other games, both teams may still have a chance to make the playoffs. Sure, Arizona is a long shot, but you just never know.

As for the other championship games, Florida State is definitely vulnerable in the ACC while Ohio State will have to go with an untested backup against a very tough Wisconsin squad. The Big 12 doesn't have a title game, but the Kansas State - Baylor game is as close as you could get, other than the TCU - Baylor shootout earlier in the season.

My picks might seem a little outside the box, but history has shown that Championship Saturday (and in this case Friday night, too) can prove to be very unpredictable.

Friday:

Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara, CA

(7) Arizona (10 - 2) 30 vs. (2) Oregon (11 - 1) 41: The only team to defeat Oregon, the Wildcats don't have to fight the Ducks' home crowd this time around. Conversely, Oregon needs to find a way to do what they couldn't do in the first game, and that's to beat Arizona. On paper, it looks like Oregon should dominate Arizona, but that didn't happen the first time around, as the Ducks were held below 38 points for the only time all season. I think this one will be more of a shootout than the first meeting, with Oregon scoring closer to their season average. Arizona State put up 35 on the Wildcats in last week's loss, so I expect the Ducks to be able to score that much or more.

MAC Championship in Detroit, MI
N. Illinois (10 - 2) 42 vs. Bowling Green (7 - 5) 24: Northern Illinois ended the season on a roll while Bowling Green is limping into the title game following two consecutive losses and is giving up more points than it scores. I don't expect this one to be close.


Saturday:

Conference USA Championship
La. Tech (8 - 4) 45 @ Marshall (11 - 1) 42: Marshall lost their first game last week where the score looked more like the result in a basketball game: 67 - 66 in four overtimes. The Thundering Herd is second in the nation in scoring, but it was against what had to be one of the softest schedules in all of the FBS. Sure, Louisiana Tech is 8 - 4, but two of those losses were to Auburn and Oklahoma, a caliber of opponent Marshall didn't even come close to playing. I think the Bulldogs will expose Marshall's weaknesses and win the game in a barn burner.

SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA
(1) Alabama (11 - 1) 27 vs. (16) Missouri (10 - 2) 17: Missouri barely escaped an Arkansas team that didn't pull their injured QB late in the game, Now they head to Atlanta to face what many believe to be the most complete team in the nation. But the Tigers have found a way to win, except when they were shut out by Georgia. I like what Gary Pinkel has put together at Missouri, but it's Nick Saban time now and I don't see the Tide giving the Tigers much room to score.

ACC Championship in Charlotte, NC
(4) Florida State (12 - 0) 27 vs. (11) Ga. Tech (10 - 2) 31: This may be the most difficult game of the week to predict. Florida State has looked anemic of late, but still has found ways to stay undefeated. Georgia Tech has won their last five, including their finale against heavily favored Georgia (not by me, I picked the Yellow Jackets). The combined record of their last three opponents is 25 - 11. Florida State, against schools with a combined 19 -16 record, have won by a total of 12 points. A lethargic start this week and Florida State could be down by three touchdowns against a team that can flat out eat clock when it has to. As much as I would like to see an ACC team in the playoff, I think the Seminole gig is up. And not only that, but the win will vault Georgia Tech into the playoffs. Really.

Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, IN
(13) Wisconsin (10 -2) 27 vs. (5) Ohio State (11 - 1) 24: I don't know much about Ohio State's third string QB, but I thought they were going to be hard pressed to defeat Wisconsin even with a healthy JT Barrett on a neutral field, especially an indoor stadium with perfect footing for RB Melvin Gordon. The Badgers have a tenacious defense and I look for them to neutralize the Buckeyes' offense and control the ball to get the victory. Why don't the Badgers jump Georgia Tech for the playoff spot? Because Georgia Tech is already ahead of Wisconsin and the Yellow Jackets' OT win over Georgia trumps Wisconsin's close loss to LSU.

Mountain West Conference Championship:
Fresno State (6 - 6) 23 @ Boise State (10 - 2) 34: I don't see how this game can be close. A win will put Boise State into a major bowl by virtue of being the top ranked champion of a non-power five FBS conference.

(9) Kansas State (9 - 2) 37 @ (6) Baylor (10 - 1) 31: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has Baylor just where he wants them. All of the talk is about whether the committee will consider the Bears' win over TCU when deciding who to include in the final four. It can't help but be a distraction for Baylor, while there is no such talk about Kansas State. The Wildcats have had a tough draw, having to travel to Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia in the Big 12. Not to mention a close loss to Auburn early in the season when the Tigers were playing much better defense. With Baylor QB Bryce Petty coming off a concussion, I see this as a great opportunity for K-State to roll to a big victory.

Iowa State (2 - 9) 17 @ (3) TCU (10 - 1) 52: This should be very ugly. The Horned Frogs want to prove they belong in the playoffs and the Cyclones just have the horses to compete with TCU in their house. The main drama will come Sunday afternoon when the final four are announced.

Oklahoma State (5 - 6) 24 @ (20) Oklahoma (8 - 3) 35: The Cowboys travel south to Norman needing a win to get bowl eligible. Oklahoma just wants to secure a Bedlam victory to get a head start on next season. Both teams had disappointing 2014 campaigns and a season-ending win over their arch-rivals would go a long way to soothe the fan bases. Sometimes you can throw the records out the window in these games, but Oklahoma State hasn't shown anything that would lead me to believe they have what it takes to pull the upset.

Houston (7 - 4) 20 @ Cincinnati (8 - 3) 23: Cincinnati has a chance at a getting a share of the American Athletic Conference title, but needs to beat a Cougar team that plays solid defense. I like the home team's chances of grabbing the win.




THURSDAY NIGHT NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS

College:

UCF (8 - 3) 27 @ East Carolina (8 - 3) 31: The American Conference faces a very unusual situation in that UCF can claim a portion of the conference title, possibly creating a three-way tie, with a win over East Carolina. What's unusual is that the Knights haven't played either of the other teams that they could be tied with: Memphis and Cincinnati. Memphis is already guaranteed at least a share, having completed their season with a 7 - 1 conference record including a win over Cincinnati, who hosts Houston Saturday. According to the conference's website, a tie at the top produces co-champs, with no tie-breaker provision, so the lack of head-to-head games between UCF and the other two doesn't matter. What does matter is whether UCF's fifth-ranked defense in points allowed can slow down an ECU team that can put a lot of points on the board, putting them 14th in the country in that category. A 10 point total in a turnover marred meltdown against Temple keeps them from a much higher ranking. UCF has only given up a total of 17 points in its last three games, all wins, but they did allow 37 in a loss at Connecticut that preceded their current streak. I've seen games in which the Pirates appeared to be unstoppable, so I'm going to give them the nod in what could be a very entertaining game.

NFL:

Dallas (8 - 4) 30 @ Chicago (5 - 7) 24: Can Dallas avoid another late season swoon that costs them a playoff spot? If so, they'll need to play better in Chicago than they did at home on Thanksgiving. The same can  be said for the Bears, who looked like they'd feasted on too much turkey and dressing prior to their loss in Detroit. The key to this game is whether Dallas will be able to do what they like, which is run the football. So far this season, the Bears have been statistically decent against the run, but that's most likely because their pass defense is so easy to throw on. That will be sorely tested tonight and it looks like a bad match-up for the Bears, even though the Cowboys' defense hasn't been particularly stellar. If Romo takes care of the ball, I think Chicago will have a tough time stopping both the pass and the run, probably getting outscored by a bundle in the process. On the other hand, if Chicago can force  two or three turnovers, they can most likely stay in the game.

WEEK 13 NFL PICKS RECAP

 The playoff picture is beginning to come  into focus, but the division races are tightening a bit. Even with two losses in a row, the Cardinals still lead the NFC  West, with Seattle closing fast at the quarter pole...Oops, wrong sport. Anyway, you get the idea.

Last Week:     10 - 6          .625
Overall:     123 - 69 - 1     .642

Chicago (5 - 6) 16 @ Detroit (7 - 4) 24: Correct. The Lions feasted on the Bears for a big Thanksgiving Day win to keep Detroit in the hunt for the playoffs, if not the NFC North title. Detroit 34 - 17.

Philadelphia (8 - 3) 34 @ Dallas (8 - 3) 28: Correct. The Cowboys, as usual, blew a good chance to get a leg up in the NFC East. Instead, it's now the Eagles on top. Philadelphia 33 - 10.

Seattle (7 - 4) 24 @ San Francisco (7 - 4) 17: Correct. I mentioned when I picked this game that the Seahawks are rounding into form. Their defense definitely is, and if that's the case, it won't matter too much if the offense keeps pace. Seattle 19 - 3.

Washington (3 - 8) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: No. The Redskins are just awful. As a fan, I just wish Daniel Snyder would sell the team and take his millions elsewhere. What a disaster! Indianapolis 49 - 27.

Tennessee (2 - 9) 16 @ Houston (5 - 6) 23: Correct. Houston needs to keep winning if they hope to be in the playoff hunt. But games against Indianapolis and Baltimore sandwiched between two contests with Jacksonville might make that difficult. Houston 45 - 21.

Cleveland (7 - 4) 27 @ Buffalo (6 - 5) 20: No. Brian Hoyer is still the Browns' starting QB, but that leash has to be one of the shortest in history, with Johnny Football waiting in the wings. Buffalo 26 - 10.

San Diego (7 - 4) 20 @ Baltimore (7 - 4) 27: No. I watched this meltdown by the Ravens and I still don't believe it. This could end up being a crucial loss for Baltimore as well as big one for the Chargers. San Diego 34 - 33.

New York Giants (3 - 8) 30 @ Jacksonville (1 - 10) 17: No. Nothing the Giant does surprises me, but letting this one get away from them came close. Jacksonville 25 - 24.

Cincinnati (7 - 3 - 1) 34 @ Tampa Bay (2 - 9) 21: Correct. If anyone wonders why Tampa Bay is 2 - 10, this game should provide a great example. Inside the red zone with chance to win the game and, well,...nothing. Cincinnati 14 - 13.

Oakland (1 - 10) 16 @ St. Louis (4 - 7) 24: Correct. Are the Rams that good right now or are the Raiders that bad? At 1 - 11, my money is on the Raiders. St. Louis 52 - 0.

New Orleans (4 - 7) 26 @ Pittsburgh (7 - 4) 28: No. I thought Big Ben looked lost against a Saints defense that really isn't all that great. An injury to his hand may have contributed, but he looked pretty bad before he got hurt. New Orleans 35 - 32.

Carolina (3 - 7 - 1) 19 @ Minnesota (4 - 7) 27: Correct. This may have finally ended any playoff hopes for Carolina. They fell a game and a half behind both Atlanta and New Orleans. Minnesota 31 - 13.

Arizona (9 - 2) 17 @ Atlanta (4 - 7) 27: Correct. I always say "you're only as good as your backup quarterback". And guess what? The Cardinals' second stringer isn't playing very well.  Atlanta 29 - 18.

New England (9 - 2) 30 @ Green Bay (8 - 3) 34: Correct. This was just a terrific football game. Aaron Rodgers, who many consider the best QB in the game, didn't disappoint. Will we see this match-up again in February? I wouldn't bet against it. Green Bay 26 - 21.

Denver (8 - 3) 27 @ Kansas City (7 - 4) 30: No. The Chiefs just couldn't recover after Manning got the Broncos out to a fast start. Denver put some distance between them and Kansas City, but San Diego's last minute win kept the pressure on the Broncos in the AFC West.  Denver 29 - 16.

Miami (6 - 5) 27 @ New York Jets (2 - 9) 14: Correct. When you're 2 - 9, you lose games like the Jets did Monday night. The Dolphins came back to remain in the playoff discussion for at least another week. Miami 16 - 13.

COLLEGE WEEK 14 PICKS RECAP

It was a little topsy turvy this past weekend, with three top ten teams losing, knocking them all out of playoff consideration. I don't quite understand how the committee justified moving TCU ahead of an unbeaten Florida State team, who despite struggling a bit, still got by rival Florida. But if Alabama and Oregon are justified in being ahead of the Seminoles, then I guess it's possible to shuffle them down below the Horned Frogs.

The more interesting discussion is what happens if the current top six all win this weekend. Does the committee keep everyone the same, meaning Big 12 co-champ Baylor gets passed over, even though they defeated TCU? And where does that put Ohio State, who will have won with what is essentially their third string QB against a very good Wisconsin team? Of course, this is all mere speculation, as we'll need to wait to see what transpires on the field before making any further determination of the final four.

What we do know is that Mississippi State, UCLA and Georgia are all out of the mix, raising the question of what happens if Arizona defeats Oregon for the second time this season. Uh oh, there's that speculation again. My opinion is that you really can't have a true playoff system when a power conference champ is left out. The BCS was meant to create a championship matchup, which it did fairly well during its tenure. Now the landscape has changed significantly and the playoff system needs to evolve in order to adapt effectively.

Last Week:   19 - 5    .792
Overall:     232 - 86   .730

My final four pick is based on how I think it will turn out at 12:30 on Dec. 7. You;ll need to check out my picks blog on Friday to see how I think the teams below will end up making the final cut:

  1. Alabama (11- 1)
  2. Oregon (11 - 1)
  3. TCU (10 - 1)
  4. Georgia Tech (10 - 2)
Now for the recap:

(5) TCU (9 - 1) 30 @ Texas (6 - 5) 27: Correct. The Horned Frogs didn't do anything but improve their own resume by spanking the Longhorns on the road. It was good enough to move them to nuber three in the playoff rankings. It should be interesting if the favorites win on Saturday, but that rarely happens at this time of year. TCU 48 - 10.

LSU (7 - 4) 26 @ Texas A&M (7 - 4) 31: No. LSU's defense came to play and ended the Aggies season on a very disappointing note. LSU 23 - 17.

Stanford (6 - 5) 17 @ (8) UCLA (9 - 2) 24: No.  I can't really explain what happened in this game, except maybe Brett Hundley read too many of his press clippings (I know that's a very dated reference). Okay, maybe blogs, tweets, posts, podcasts, whatever. Either way, he and the rest of the UCLA offense was made to look average by a good Stanford defense. Stanford 31 - 10.

(13) Arizona St. (9 - 2) 28 @ (11) Arizona (9 - 2) 30: Correct. Both of these teams knew what was at stake by the time they played. As expected, they played a spirited game in which the Wildcats emerged to get another crack at Oregon, this time on a neutral field. Another Arizona win would really shake up the committee's top 4. Arizona 42 - 35.

Arkansas (6 - 5) 20 @ (17) Missouri (9 - 2) 6: No. There were a lot of questions as to why Arkansas handled the end of this game the way they did, but at the end of the day, Missouri successfully advanced to the SEC title game for the second consecutive year. I don't think they can stay with Alabama, but I didn't think they'd win the SEC East either. Missouri 21 - 14.

Western Kentucky (6 - 5) 17 @ (24) Marshall (11 - 0) 37: No. Thank goodness the pretenders were exposed. Nothing against the Thundering Herd, but their schedule was ridiculously easy and the committee saw some reason to put them in the rankings, probably because of their undefeated record. yet Florida State beats some quality opponents, stays undefeated and they're on the brink of playoff elimination. Really? Western Kentucky 67 - 66 OT.

Virginia (5 - 6) 13 @ Virginia Tech (5 - 6) 16: Correct. So the Hokies stay in contention for a 22nd consecutive bowl game. It's a young team with a lot of injuries. Beamer better turn it around next season. Virginia Tech 24 - 20.

Nebraska (8 - 3) 27 @ Iowa (7 - 4) 24: Correct.  I thought a win might be enough for Bo Pelini to keep his job. I was wrong. I guess a Big Ten title is all that will please 'Husker nation. Nebraska 37 - 34 OT.

(15) Auburn (8 - 3) 17 @ (1) Alabama (10 - 1) 27: Correct. What a terrific game. If Alabama meets Oregon in the playoffs, this is likely to be what it will be like. The Tide can slug out a 14 - 13 win at Arkansas, yet win a shootout with Auburn. No other team in the country can consistently win both ways. Alabama 55 - 44.

(2) Oregon (10 - 1) 38 @ Oregon State (5 - 6) 20: Correct. The Ducks get another crack at Arizona, but this time it's on a neutral field and to stay in the playoff race. Oregon 47 - 19.

Florida (6 - 4) 24 @ (3) Florida State (11 - 0) 28: Correct. The Seminoles continue to look unimpressive. Another lackluster performance and they could find themselves getting run out of the stadium by Georgia Tech. Florida State 24 - 19.

(4) Mississippi State (10 - 1) 23 @ (19) Ole Miss (8 - 3) 20: No. Although I didn't pick this one, I expected it since I haven't had Mississippi State in my top four the last couple of weeks. That SEC West is one tough division, especially when you consider that the team in the basement is Arkansas, who shut out both LSU and Ole Miss. Ole Miss 31 - 17.

Michigan (5 - 6) 17 @ (6) Ohio State (10 - 1) 28: Correct. This game was tight into the fourth quarter, but Brady Hoke wasn't able to get the win he needed to have a chance at remaining at the helm of the Wolverines. Now the Buckeyes have to find a way to defeat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game without QB and Heisman Trophy candidate JT Barrett.  Ohio State 42 - 28.

(7) Baylor (9 - 1) 45 @ Texas Tech (4 - 7) 24: Correct. A lot of supposed experts maintain that the Baylor and TCU resumes are almost identical, assuming the Bears defeat Kansas State Saturday night. But Baylor's win over Buffalo, a 5 - 6 MAC team doesn't compare favorably with TCU's defeat of 8 - 4 Minnesota. Couple that with the fact that TCU lit up Texas Tech in an 82 - 27 victory and I would argue that there is some disparity between the two records. Baylor 48 - 46.

(16) Georgia Tech (9 - 2) 34 @ (9) Georgia (9 - 2) 31: Correct. This was one of four games between teams from the ACC and the SEC. The supposed lesser conference won them all. Of course, they all involved SEC East teams, not ones from the far stronger West. But still, an impressive day for the ACC. Now the Yellow Jackets take on Florida State in Charlotte on Saturday to see if they can unseat the defending conference and national champions. Georgia Tech 30 - 24 OT.

(10) Michigan State (9 - 2) 27 @ Penn State (6 - 5) 13: Correct.The Spartans ended their season on a high note. Their only two losses came to top 5 teams Oregon and Ohio State. Michigan State 34 - 10.

Kansas (3 - 8) 17 @ (12) Kansas State (8 - 2) 37: Correct. Kansas State tuned up for their big game at Baylor with an easy win over their in-state rivals. Kansas State 51 - 13.

(18) Minnesota (8 - 3) 24 @ (14) Wisconsin (9 - 2) 27:  Correct. Minnesota looked good early, but just didn't have enough to stay with the Badgers, who advanced to play Ohio State in Indianapolis for the Big Ten crown. Wisconsin 34 - 24.

South Carolina (6 - 5) 24 @ (21) Clemson (8 - 3) 30 : Correct. Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier says he'll be back in Columbia next season. If it's another one like this one, he may not have a choice for 2016. The Tigers used the win against their rivals, the first in five years, to climb back into the top 20. Clemson 35 - 17.

Kentucky (5 - 6) 27 @ (22) Louisville (8 - 3) 34: Correct. Kentucky won't go bowling, a disappointment for coach Mark Stoops and his team. Bobby Petrino finished his first year back at Louisville with nine wins and most likely a pretty good bowl berth. Louisville 44 - 40.

Utah State (9 - 3) 27 @ (23) Boise State (9 - 2) 31: Correct. It must be that blue turf...Boise State.    50 - 19.

(25) Utah (7 - 4) 30 @ Colorado (2 - 9) 21: Correct. Colorado went winless in their conference for the first time in almost 100 years...yes, that would be 99 years. Granted, they play in what is probably the second strongest division college football, the Pac-12 South and didn't get a shot at the worst team in the North. Utah 38 - 34.

West Virginia (6 - 5) 35 @ Iowa State (2 - 8) 24: Correct. The Mountaineers might be the best 7 - 5 team I've seen this season and took care of business by ending their season with an easy one against the Cyclones. West Virginia  37 - 24.

Notre Dame (7 - 4) 34 @ USC (7 - 4) 37: Correct. It's hard to say what happened to the Notre Dame defense down the stretch, but it's easy to figure out the coach Brian Kelly has some work to do on that side of the ball if the Irish are going to contend for anything next season. USC 49 - 14.