Saturday, September 26, 2009

Week 3 NFL picks

(Home team is in caps.)

Titans (+2.5) over JETS

Are the Titans (0-2) really that bad? And are the Jets (2-0) really that good?

The Titans’ two losses have been by three points each, so it’s not like they’re getting blown out. But they have struggled to stop the pass: They’ve given up 678 passing yards -- worst in the NFL. But they can stop the run: Opponents have gained only 99 yards on 52 rushing attempts -- a 1.9-yard average (best in the NFL). The Titans also have the explosive Chris Johnson, who ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns and caught nine passes for 87 yards and a touchdown in last week’s high-scoring loss to the Texans.

The Jets, meanwhile, have yet to give up 10 points in a game against two strong offensive teams (the Texans and Patriots) and are ranked first in yardage allowed per game (241) and second in points allowed per game (8). Mark Sanchez has also done well in his first two NFL games, throwing for 435 yards and two touchdowns (and one interception).

The Titans are going to force Sanchez to have another strong game and will try to put lots of pressure on the rookie. And the Jets will try to contain Chris Johnson. I think Sanchez is due for a bad game and that the Titans are due for a win. I like the Titans in a close game on the road to get in the win column.

TEXANS (-3.5) over Jaguars

The Texans couldn’t stop Chris Johnson last week, but they still won. This week they face the Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew, who is similar to Johnson. They’d like to stop Jones-Drew, but it’s not really necessary if the Jaguars’ defense can’t stop Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Steve Slaton. I expect another shootout, but the Texans come out with another win.

RAVENS (-13.5) over Browns

The Browns won’t be able to run the ball, so they’ll need Brady Quinn to come through against the Ravens’ defense -- good luck with that.

Giants (-6.5) over BUCCANEERS

The Bucs are really a different team now than they’ve been in the last few years -- and that’s not a good thing. Their defense hasn’t stopped anyone, but they can put some points up on the board. The Giants, on the other hand, have a pretty balanced team. The offense is seventh in points per game (28), and the defense is 21st in points allowed (24), though that number will go down. The defense has also forced six turnovers, converting two of them for touchdowns. Byron Leftwich will need to take care of the ball for the Bucs, but he’ll be under pressure all game from a strong Giants’ defensive line.

EAGLES (-7.5) over Chiefs

The Eagles let the Saints embarrass them at home last week. The high-powered Saints’ offense put up 48 points on a decent Eagles’ defense, but then again, New Orleans is going to score a lot of points on everyone. Still, the Eagles’ defense has to be angry and will be looking to attack Matt Cassel.

Redskins (-6.5) over LIONS

The Redskins have heard criticism from all angles this week. Fans have been jumping off the Jim Zorn bandwagon in droves, and all of this is coming after a win -- granted, an ugly win -- but a win, nonetheless. Now, the offense doesn’t deserve any praise until it starts scoring touchdowns, but the defense has been pretty good -- special teams too. Anyway, more than enough experts (Mike Florio, Michael Wilbon, Don Banks, Peter King, Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Seth Wickersham, Jason Cole, Charles Robinson, Michael Silver, and Bill Simmons (taking the points)) are picking against the Redskins this week, choosing to side with a team that has lost 19 games in a row. I think the Redskins are angry and that they play that way this week -- and finally put a decent amount of points up on a bad defense. With that being said, a loss to the Lions would be really, really bad.

Packers (-6.5) over RAMS

In two weeks, the Packers’ offensive line has allowed 10 sacks. Yes, 10. The Rams, though, have only registered one sack (against Washington). Defensive ends Leonard Little and Chris Long have the potential to get to the quarterback, but neither has done so yet. If the line gives Aaron Rodgers time, he should be able to shred the Rams’ secondary -- but that’s a big if. Still, if I were doing any Online Betting, I'd take the Packers on the road.

49ers (+7.5) over VIKINGS

Just a hunch. The Vikings still win, though.

Falcons (+4.5) over PATRIOTS

The Patriots (1-1) should be 0-2, and if they lose at home to Atlanta this week, they’ll be 1-2 heading into a Week 4 showdown with Baltimore. The Falcons, meanwhile, are 2-0, have forced six turnovers on defense, and have looked solid on both sides of the ball. I’ll take the points.

Bears (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS

Seneca Wallace is 5-7 for his career as a starter and has a career quarterback rating of 83.0. That’s not too bad, but I’ll still take the Bears.

Saints (-6.5) over BILLS

Now is not the time to pick against Drew Brees.

CHARGERS (-6.5) over Dolphins

The Dolphins (0-2) need a win, but I don’t see the Chargers losing two in a row at home.

Steelers (-3.5) over BENGALS

The Steelers haven’t lost to the Bengals under Mike Tomlin, and the games haven’t been close either.

RAIDERS (+2.5) over Broncos

The Broncos have done a pretty good job of stopping the run so far -- 10th in the NFL at 70 yards allowed per game. Their defense has also only allowed 6.5 points per game -- best in the NFL -- though that’s mainly because they’ve played the Bengals and the Browns.

JaMarcus Russell has been awful so far (46.6 quarterback rating, 35.2 percent completion percentage), so the Raiders don’t have much of a choice other than to focus on the running game with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.

I think the Raiders will be able to run the ball, so I’ll go with them. However, this is certainly an important game for the Broncos, who have a chance to go 3-0 before their schedule starts to get much more difficult.

Colts (+2.5) over CARDINALS

The Colts have beaten the Jaguars and Dolphins by a combined six points. They can’t really run the ball, and their defense hasn’t looked that great either. But Peyton Manning has been the best quarterback in the league not named Drew Brees through the first two weeks, and doing any Monday Night Football Betting against him would be very difficult. He usually shines in prime time, especially last week against the Dolphins.

Panthers (+8.5) over COWBOYS

Surprisingly, the Cowboys’ defense has yet to force a turnover or pick up a sack. Then again, facing Jake Delhomme should change that. Anyway, expect a lot of points and a competitive game.

Last week: 9-7
Season: 19-13

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Redskins notes for Rams game

The Redskins are favorites heading into today's home game against the St. Louis Rams, and many, if not most, fans consider it to be a must-win game. Here are some notes and storylines for the game:
  • Defensive coordinator Greg Blache on Albert Haynesworth: "He's 'not Superman'":

    Blache said Haynesworth played well in the Week 1 loss to the New York Giants, and acknowledged the Pro Bowler is a "very, very, good player," but he seemed downright offended by the suggestion Haynesworth might actually help to make the players around him better. Middle linebacker London Fletcher was credited with a team-high 18 tackles in the 23-17 loss at Giants Stadium, prompting one reporter to theorize Fletcher had more freedom to race to the ball because Haynesworth often occupied two offensive linemen while being double-teamed.

    Well, that's a stupid theory, Blache said in effect, pointing out the Redskins had defensive tackles last season, too. Haynesworth and Fletcher each performed their duties well, Blache said, but Haynesworth was not responsible for Fletcher's success, or any other player's success. "Albert's a good player, but let's not make him King Kong," Blache said. He's "not Superman."

    I kind of understand what Blache is trying to say, but if Haynesworth is only just as good as the rest of the Redskins' defensive tackles, a lot of fans are going to be disappointed. [Redskins Insider]

  • Matt Mosley explains his negative take on Haynesworth's debut:

    I may be holding Haynesworth to a ridiculous standard ($41 mil guaranteed), but what I focused on was that he looked completely worn down at the most important juncture of the game. When the Skins were actually hanging around in the third quarter, Haynesworth had to keep making his way to the sideline to catch his breath. Yes, he made some plays in the game. But when Washington truly needed to clog the middle, Haynesworth was sucking wind. Was I too hard on him? Maybe so.

    Maybe he should have written that in the first place. [NFC East Blog]

  • Fred Smoot is questionable with a rib injury. [ESPN]

  • Everyone on ESPN's NFL experts' panel is predicting a Redskins' win. [ESPN]

  • The Redskins need to stop Steven Jackson. [Redskins Insider]

  • Clinton Portis says the offense needs to stay on the field longer and be more efficient:

    "Having 40-some plays, it ain't gonna get everybody the ball. We have 40-some plays. I touched the ball 18 times, so you've got 30 more plays to get everybody else the ball. That's not gonna be enough to win. We've got to go out and have 60 or 70 plays a game; therefore, everybody can touch the ball, everybody can contribute."

    He's right. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • Haynesworth actually played pretty well against the Giants:

    Haynesworth played more than 70 percent of Washington's defense's snaps in the opener against the Giants, so it's hard to say that he was begging out of playing time. And when he was in there, he gave a good effort. Especially when it comes to pass rushing, it's pretty easy to tell when a player is out of gas and giving no effort. They can just stand at the line, move their feet a little bit and get in a stalemate with the offensive linemen.

    In watching Haynesworth's every snap against the Giants, I saw only one pass play where he took the play off and just stood up at the line. There was also one running play the other way where Haynesworth jogged in pursuit, instead of running at full speed. That's two snaps out of 45 plays. That's two more than you want to see, but it's not a bad effort for a 350-pounder.

    Good job, Haynesworth. [FanHouse]

  • A Seahawks' blogger gives his take on the Rams and their struggles in Week 1 at Seattle. [Hogs Haven]

  • Thomas Boswell says it's time to open up the offense. "But if not now, with the Rams and the Lions on deck, when?" he asks. Good point. [Washington Post]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week 2 NFL picks

(Home team is in caps.)

Panthers (+6) over FALCONS

What exactly is going on with Jake Delhomme? Last week in a blowout loss to Philadelphia, he completed seven passes to his own team (for 73 yards) -- and four to the Eagles. He also lost a fumble and was sacked three times before being pulled from the game. Anyway, the best thing about this game for Delhomme is that it’s not at home, so Panther fans can’t immediately boo him once the team’s offense takes the field. I think he plays better -- I mean, he has to, right? -- and the Panthers keep it close with a strong rushing attack, but the Falcons still pull out the win.

Vikings (-9.5) over LIONS

Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson, and more Adrian Peterson. Maybe some Brett Favre. Maybe.

PACKERS (-9) over Bengals

Is Carson Palmer completely healthy or is he just a little rusty after missing most of last season? He threw for 247 yards last week, but he had two interceptions, no touchdowns, and led the Bengals’ offense on only one scoring drive -- although that drive did come late in the fourth quarter and seemed to seal the game before the crazy Brandon Stokley play. Still, scoring just seven points against a mediocre Broncos’ defense isn’t very good.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is making many Packers’ fans forget about Brett Favre. After a great first full season last year, Rodgers got off to a good start by leading a game-winning touchdown drive (a 50-year TD pass to Greg Jennings) to beat the Bears. The defense wasn’t too shabby either, forcing four Jay Cutler interceptions, collecting two sacks, and holding Matt Forte to 55 yards on 25 carries.

Cutler is a little more mobile than Palmer, who basically stays in the pocket. If the Bengals’ offensive line can’t protect him, it’ll be another long day for Cincinnati.

Texans (+6.5) over TITANS

The Texans haven’t won in Tennessee since 2004, but in that span, the games have been pretty competitive (except for last year’s matchup, which the Titans won 31-12). This game should be pretty close throughout, but I don’t see the Titans starting the season 0-2.

Raiders (+3) over CHIEFS

Both teams looked pretty good last week against strong opponents. The Chargers needed a late touchdown drive to get past Oakland, and Kansas City put a little scare into the Ravens by hanging around for so long. (How did the Ravens let Brodie Croyle throw two touchdown passes last week?) But bad teams find ways to lose winnable games. Anyway, the Raiders have the better rushing attack with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, and the defense doesn’t look too bad either. I’ll take the Raiders on the road.

JETS (+4) over Patriots

Rex Ryan is really giving this team a new identity, isn’t he? The Jets don’t seem intimidated by the Patriots at all, and they appear to be ready after shutting down the Texans last week. The Patriots, meanwhile, should have lost to the Bills on Monday night. Tom Brady looked great in the second half, but their offense seems pretty one-dimensional -- they can’t run the ball. The Jets, though, can run the ball, and rookie Mark Sanchez seems competent enough to give his team a chance to win. I’m not sure if the Patriots are as average as they looked last week or if the Jets are as strong as they looked, but expect a close and competitive game.

Saints (+1) over EAGLES

Kevin Kolb’s career stats: 24 of 45 for 167 yards, zero touchdowns, four interceptions, and two fumbles lost. Obviously that’s in limited playing time, but exactly how confident can he be going into this game, even if it is against the Saints’ defense?

Jake Delhomme isn’t here to turn the ball over five times, so the Eagles are going to need to rely heavily on Brian Westbrook. Can he step up and have a huge game?

REDSKINS (-10) over Rams

I could write a few pages about the Redskins and this game after listening to sports talk radio all week, but I’ll just say this: I expect the Redskins to win by at least two touchdowns.

JAGUARS (-3.5) over Cardinals

In regular season games on the East Coast last year, the Cardinals were 0-5 and were outscored 202-102. Expect a big day from Maurice Jones-Drew.

Seahawks (-1.5) over 49ERS

If the Seahawks can stop Frank Gore, they should be fine.

Buccaneers (+5) over BILLS

Seriously, who knows? Cadillac Williams and Fred Jackson looked pretty good in Week 1, though, didn’t they?

Steelers (-3) over BEARS

I could see the Steelers losing this game; after all, in Week 2 last year they only beat the Browns 10-6 and then looked pretty bad in a 15-6 loss to the Eagles in Week 3. The loss of Troy Polamalu hurts, but the Bears losing Brian Urlacher for the season at least cancels that out. I don’t think Jay Cutler will throw four interceptions again, but he’ll make a few mistakes against the strong Steelers’ defense.

Ravens (+3) over CHARGERS

Random note: The Ravens didn’t play a single game on the West Coast last year.

The Chargers are going to be without LaDainian Tomlinson, but he didn’t really look all that special in Week 1 against the Raiders. Plus, having Darren Sproles on the field gives the Chargers a little more versatility. The Ravens’ offense looked pretty strong last week, but it was against the Chiefs. I’m expecting a well-played game that comes down the wire.

BRONCOS (-3) over Browns

Neither team is really that good, but I’m not taking Brady Quinn on the road.

Giants (+3) over COWBOYS

Lost in the Cowboys’ win over the Bucs was that the Dallas defense allowed 450 yards, forced zero turnovers, and didn’t record a sack. Byron Leftwich threw for 276 yards and a touchdown, and Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward combined for 159 yards on the ground. The Cowboys’ offense was impressive, but how are they going to stop the Giants?

Colts (-3) over DOLPHINS

Who’s going to cover Reggie Wayne?

Last week: 10-6

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Redskins fall to Giants in opener

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. (And during football season, the links will be pretty Redskins-heavy.) If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • Boswell sums up another disappointing performance by the Redskins' offense: "Essentially, the Redskins' offense didn't arrive in Giants Stadium until there were only three minutes left. So, the Giants built a massive edge in time of possession and had a 350-200 superiority in yards before the Redskins drove 72 yards against a loose defense to score with 1 minute 37 seconds left." [Thomas Boswell]

  • What was up with the horrible play-calling yesterday? Was it too much to ask for the offense to open things up yesterday by sticking Jason Campbell in the shotgun for a series or two while the running game wasn't working? [Mike Wise]

  • Campbell's late-game pass to Chris Cooley resulted in the offense's only touchdown of the game. [Redskins Insider]

  • Brandon Jacobs on LaRon Landry: "The Redskins as a whole is a pretty clean team, they just have one guy over there that was a little salty from 12 months ago. . . . [Landry] just kept at me, you know, hitting me out of bounds, got a stupid penalty, dumb fine that he shouldn't have had. He should have been smarter, you know, but it comes with experience." [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • The Redskins missed too many tackles. Seriously, Mario Manningham? [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • ESPN's Matt Mosley on the Redskins' quarterback: "Campbell also was upset with himself that he checked into a running play on a third-and-8 in the second half. He said he lost track of how many yards the Redskins needed and that he should have checked into a pass play." Way to stay focused out there. [NFC East Blog]

  • The season's underway, but here's Richard Deitsch's 2009 NFL broadcasting guide. [Sports Illustrated]

  • Tim Dierkes gives his offseason outlook for the Orioles:

    For 2010, Wigginton could take either infield corner and Scott could be an option at first base. Brandon Snyder and Michael Aubrey may also merit consideration. The O's added their third baseman of the future in Josh Bell with the George Sherrill trade. With the corners and DH spot in flux next year, it may make sense for the Orioles to add a free agent. Players such as Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson, and Adrian Beltre are interesting on one-year deals, if the price is right.

    The rotation is suddenly deep enough where Uehara is being considered for a bullpen role. Matusz and Tillman are the team's aces of the future, with both getting a look this year. Arrieta isn't far behind. I wouldn't be looking to spend much on a free agent pitcher this winter.

    Certain players could be trade bait if Andy MacPhail doesn't consider them part of the next good Orioles club. Scott and Guthrie, both under team control through 2012, jump out as candidates. Guthrie's seen a dip in his strikeout and groundball rates this season, but he's potentially above-average in the NL.

    No arguments here. [MLB Trade Rumors]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week 1 NFL picks

(Home team is in caps.)

FALCONS (-4) over Dolphins

This game may be the toughest one of the week to pick. Was either team for real last year? Is Matt Ryan really this good? Can Chad Pennington hold up for another season? Will Joey Porter do (or say) something crazy? I’m not really sure, but I’ll go with Atlanta at home.

BENGALS (-4) over Broncos

Last year the Broncos’ defense was 30th in points allowed (28.0), 27th in rushing yards allowed per game (146.1), and 26th in passing yards allowed per game (228.5). Basically, they didn’t stop anyone. So this offseason, the Broncos signed safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Andra Davis, and defensive tackle Darrell Reid; they also drafted four defensive players with their first six picks in the NFL Draft. So at least they’re trying to rebuild the defense.

The Bengals, on the other hand, return a middle-of-the-pack defense (t-19th in points allowed), but they finally have a somewhat healthy Carson Palmer back, which is all they really care about. The Bengals may not be great, but they should have enough weapons to put up some points on that still-porous Broncos’ defense.

Vikings (-4) over BROWNS

Not only will the Vikings’ defense shut down Brady Quinn and Jamal Lewis, but Adrian Peterson shouldn’t have any problem finding the end zone a couple of times.

Jaguars (+7) over COLTS

The Jaguars haven’t lost to the Colts on the road by more than seven points since 2003. In fact, going back to that season, Jacksonville has won by two, lost by three, lost by seven, lost by seven, and won by three when playing in Indianapolis. Maurice Jones-Drew also loves playing against the Colts: In six games, Jones-Drew has rushed for 571 yards and five touchdowns while also catching 20 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. The Colts will win, but recent history says it’ll be a tight one, for whatever that’s worth (probably nothing).

SAINTS (-13) over Lions

The Lions’ defense just isn’t good enough to stop Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense.

Cowboys (-6) over BUCCANEERS

Terrell Owens is gone, but the Cowboys still have plenty of offensive firepower with Tony Romo, a strong trio of running backs, Jason Witten, and Roy Williams. The Bucs, however, boast weapons such as Byron Leftwich, Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams, Antonio Bryant, and Kellen Winslow, which seems to be an improvement over last year’s offense. But it won’t be enough to keep up this week.

PANTHERS (-3) over Eagles

Last year, the Panthers were third in rushing yards per game (153.3), while the Eagles’ defense was fourth-best at stopping the run (92.3 yards per game). Jonathan Stewart’s reps will likely be limited because he’s a little banged up, so DeAngelo Williams will have to carry the load, which he is more than capable of doing (1,515 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns in 2009). On offense, the Eagles will be without two potential starting offensive linemen in right tackle Shawn Andrews and left guard Todd Herremans. The Panthers, though, are pretty healthy to start the season except for safety Chris Harris, who is out.

Two important questions this season for the Eagles: How much will the defense miss defensive coordinator Jim Johnson (RIP) and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley? And will the offensive line be able to hold up?

This game should be extremely competitive, but I like the Panthers at home.

RAVENS (-13) over Chiefs

This game may come down to whether Matt Cassel is healthy or not. Just kidding. The Ravens win handily.

Jets (+5) over TEXANS

Both teams seem to be popular sleeper picks this season. The Texans have a formidable offense with Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton. The Jets have a potentially solid rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, along with new head coach Rex Ryan, who should help the Jets’ defense. Sanchez may struggle on the road, but the Jets can run the football -- something Ryan loves to do anyway. Houston should still win, but it may come down to the wire -- and be close throughout.

Redskins (+7) over GIANTS

This matchup could end up being very similar to the Titans-Steelers game. Two solid defenses should make this a low-scoring contest that stays close throughout. The Redskins’ offensive line will have their hands full.

CARDINALS (-6) over 49ers

In 12 career games against the 49ers, Kurt Warner has a 100.8 quarterback rating with 3,341 passing yards and 23 touchdowns (and 10 interceptions) -- nearly 279 passing yards and two touchdowns per game. Even if the Cardinals’ defense can’t stop Frank Gore and the 49ers very often, Warner should find Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin enough to keep this game out of reach.

SEAHAWKS (-8) over Rams

The Rams haven’t won in Seattle since 2004, when St. Louis finished only 8-8. But that team was still led by Marc Bulger (3,964 passing yards, 21 touchdowns), Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson (who combined for 1,447 rushing yards and seven touchdowns), and Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce (who combined for 183 catches, 2,664 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns). Bulger is still the starting quarterback, but Faulk, Holt, and Bruce are all long gone; Jackson is the team’s main weapon, but he doesn’t have much help around him. If Jackson doesn’t have a huge game and Bulger’s injured right pinky prevents him from getting the ball to promising wide receiver Donnie Avery, the Seahawks will cruise to an easy win.

Bears (+4) over PACKERS

Are the Bears, with Jay Cutler at quarterback now, for real? Are the Packers, with their new and improved 3-4 defensive scheme, legit contenders? Who knows? It should be an interesting game, though.

PATRIOTS (-11) over Bills

The Bills just fired their offensive coordinator. Terrell Owens says he doesn’t like the team’s new no-huddle scheme. Arguably the team’s best offensive player, running back Marshawn Lynch, is suspended for the first three games of the season. Oh, and they open up on the road, on Monday night, against a team looking for revenge after losing Tom Brady and missing the playoffs with a 11-5 record last season. Anything less than a blowout would be surprising.

Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS

See the last sentence above. Though, hey, the Raiders are at home. So that’s something.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When is $100 million not $100 million?

Earlier today while listening to ESPN 980, after hearing about Albert Haynesworth's $100 million dollar contract for what seemed like the millionth time since he signed with the Redskins in February, my frustration has boiled over. I know it's easy to focus on the $100 million number. It's a lot of money. It's a shiny, eye-catching figure.

Most of the comments about Haynesworth and his contract over the last few months have been something like, "Daniel Snyder paid $100 million to a defensive tackle in his eighth season? He'll never earn that much money!" or "Haynesworth hasn't played in a full season since 2002. He's not worth $100 million!" Those criticisms would at least be reasonable if not for the fact that too many people are focusing on the dollar figure. Why is that unreasonable? Because he's not going to make $100 million.

I hate to re-post information that was covered a while ago, but too many fans, writers, and commentators seem to forget the specifics of Haynesworth's deal:

League sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that a $29 million "poison pill" in the fifth year of Haynesworth's contract effectively makes it a four-year deal worth $48 million. The Redskins would owe Haynesworth a lump sum of $29 million in salary and bonuses in 2013, the fifth year of the deal. It is unlikely the team will pay the full commitment of $100 million over seven years unless the contract is re-negotiated. Haynesworth will receive $41 million in guaranteed money.

A four-year deal worth $48 million with $41 million in guaranteed money -- still a ton of money, but not nearly $100 million. The only way Haynesworth makes anything close to $100 million is if he completely dominates every season he's in Washington and helps to transform the Redskins into Super Bowl contenders every season, which isn't likely.

And if he somehow does that, he'll be worth a lot more than $100 million.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Experts' 2009 Redskins predictions (updated)

This post is more or less something to return to at the end of the season to see which NFL writers got things right and which ones didn't. But it's also intriguing just to see how many really do think the Redskins are going to have a pretty bad season. But let's get to it.

SI's Don Banks:

Last place: Washington (5-11) -- With a tenacious defense that will keep them in most games, the Redskins won't look like a last-place team for much of the season. But that's where they'll end up because offensively they scare almost no one. Even winless Detroit scored more than Washington's 265 points last season, and only a quantum leap from fifth-year quarterback Jason Campbell changes that dynamic. And that's if a shaky Redskins offensive line can give him enough time to survive in the pocket.

SI's Peter King: 6-10 (team scouting report by Adam Duerson here)

Fox Sports's Peter Schrager: No record prediction, but he doesn't have them in the playoffs or above 9-7.

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski: Last in the NFC East:

If 2009 Albert Haynesworth plays as hard as 2008 Albert Haynesworth, then the Redskins will cause problems for lots of teams. Causing problems doesn't necessarily translate into wins, though. Six of their final seven games are toughies: at Dallas, at Philly, New Orleans, New York Giants, Dallas, at San Diego.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic: Both have Washington finishing at 8-8.

Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver: No record given, but he does predict a playoff berth:

Last year, they were 6-2 at midseason and looked like a legitimate contender. Though that record was reversed in the second half, they did beat the NFC championship game-bound Eagles in their second-to-last game when it meant possible playoff elimination for Philly. These guys have a postseason push in them, and with Jason Campbell giving off that you-shouldn’t-have-underestimated-me vibe, I’m sensing another fast start and a second-place finish behind the 'Boys.

FanHouse's Matt Snyder uses a strange 50-point scale (where "intagibles" rates just as important as offense, defense, special teams, and coaching) to rate the Redskins:

Total Heat Index: 32/50
Using our scale, 27.5 would be exactly right in the middle of the scale, so I feel like this is an accurate rating. This is an above average team, but not a great one -- at least not yet. Campbell has potential, but we need to see it on a consistent basis, and he hasn't yet shown the ability to do so. I expect them to remain very competitive in arguably the toughest division in football and challenge for a playoff berth. A lot hinges on Campbell, thus, it's fitting it is his make-or-break year.

ESPN's Colin Cowherd: 8-8

PFT's Gregg Rosenthal places the Redskins at No. 22 in their preseason power rankings:

Even if Campbell takes a big step forward, would we really be able to tell? Campbell will be under constant pressure and his wide receiver group is below average, as youngsters Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have yet to show consistency. Running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts form a solid duo, but the offense as a whole is lacking explosive playmakers.

Put it all together, and you have a blah offense paired with a slightly better than average starting defense that is more vulnerable to injuries than most because the bottom third of their roster is sub-par.

This type of team could possibly make the playoffs out West, but they are stuck in a division with the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys.

And if Washington finishes in the cellar again, we suspect the Redskins will go right back to making headlines again on the coaching front.

Sporting News's staff predictions:

Washington Redskins: 5-11

SN's bottom line: Jason Campbell might not be the answer at QB, and the big spending on Albert Haynesworth won't be enough to allow the Redskins to jump over anyone in the division standings.

That's all I can find for now. I'm probably leaving some out, but as more 2009 season predictions pop up, I'll add them to this list.

It's worth nothing that out of these 11 predictions, only one (Silver) predicts the Redskins to finish above .500 and get into the playoffs, and only one more (Snyder) believes that they'll challenge for a playoff spot.


Update: Found a few more predictions:

PFT's Mike Florio:

Our best guess as of right now is that the Redskins and the Steelers will face off in February, and that the Steelers will win their third title in five years.

A lot of careful thought went into that. Specifically, the guys at WSSP in Milwaukee put me on the spot Wednesday morning, and so I blurted out the picks my cousin Josh had e-mailed to me the day before.

But I'll go with that. I've been saying for months that the Redskins could be the surprise team of the NFC, and the Steelers are bringing back too much talent and have too good of a coach to not be considered the favorites to return to the championship game.

Can't say I saw that coming. Not only does Florio have the Redskins winning the NFC East, but he has them in the Super Bowl. Wow.

ESPN's Bill Simmons predicts a 10-6 season for the Redskins and has them earning the second wild card spot in the NFC. He also thinks Washington's defense will have a breakout year.

ESPN's panel of experts: 16 NFL analysts/writers give their playoff predictions, and no one thinks the Redskins will make the playoffs.

Shutdown Corner's MJD has the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles all in the playoffs.

Seven more SI predictions: I've already listed the picks by Peter King and Don Banks, but seven more writers give their playoff brackets -- no one has the Redskins in the postseason.

Updated tally: Out of 37 predictions, exactly three pick the Redskins to make the playoffs.

Titans, Steelers set to open 2009 season

Tonight at 8:30, the 2009-2010 NFL season will begin with the Titans visiting the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. Lots of analysts are predicting another trip to the Super Bowl for the Steelers; I'm not one of them. I think they'll still be solid and make the playoffs, but I don't see them getting all the way back to the Super Bowl, let alone repeating as champions. I have my reasons, but I'll get to those another time.

Anyway, here's a little site news: I'm going to post a picks write-up each week. It won't present the most in-depth or knowledgeable football information that anyone has ever read, but it will give some insight into how I view certain matchups and what I think of various teams. It should at least be interesting, especially when my picks end up being completely wrong.

But back to the Titans-Steelers game; here's my pick (home team is in caps):

Titans (+6) over STEELERS

When these two teams faced each other last year in Tennessee, the Titans won 31-17 and forced the Steelers to make plenty of mistakes. The Titans collected five sacks -- three and a half of them by rookie defensive lineman Jason Jones, who started in place of the injured Albert Haynesworth. Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions (one was returned for a touchdown), and he fumbled four times and lost two of them. The Titans, on the other hand, didn't commit any turnovers, and they moved the ball relatively well against the Pittsburgh defense.

But that was just one game, and it certainly didn't stop the Steelers from winning the Super Bowl. The Steelers defense looks to be just as good as it was last season, and Willie Parker is apparently healthy and ready to carry a full workload in the backfield. But the Titans return plenty of talent as well. If not for an injury to Chris Johnson and some mistakes of their own in a disappointing playoff loss to the Ravens, the Titans and Steelers would have faced each other in the playoffs. But, hey, that's how things go -- it's all about making plays at the right time.

If the Steelers win the turnover battle and protect Roethlisberger, they should be able to pull out a victory at home over a good team. But it will be close.

Steelers 20, Titans 17


I'll post the rest of my picks on either Friday or Saturday. Enjoy the game.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Citi Field, Andre Woodson, Guthrie

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • Thomas Boswell on the Orioles:

    After years of meddling, owner Peter Angelos has gotten out of the way. Now, if the front office spots a David Ortiz released by the Twins, his signing won't be nixed so David Segui can stay at first base. If the Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell trade is offered to the O's with Larry Bigbie the biggest piece Florida would get in return, no one will kill the idea and let the Red Sox jump on it.

    Now MacPhail decides. But how much can he spend? No one knows yet.

    "We need a big bopper in the middle of the order and a veteran starter to stabilize all our young pitchers," said one veteran Oriole.

    "Grow pitching. Buy bats," responded MacPhail.

    He also talks about how difficult it is for the O's to compete in the AL East. It's nothing new or surprising, but it's still a good read. [Washington Post]

  • Citi Field, the Mets' stadium that hasn't even been open for a full season yet, is apparently falling apart. That's not good. [Bugs & Cranks]

  • Here's what happened after Prince Fielder's game-winning home run against the Giants yesterday in the bottom of the 12th:

    I wouldn't be surprised if his teammates weren't acting -- Fielder may actually be that powerful. [Larry Brown Sports]

  • John Feinstein on Daniel Snyder amid the whole "ticket scandal" thing:

    All of that said, a lot of people in this town have gotten pretty tired of Dan Snyder’s act. He’s owned the team for 10 years and, like any owner, would be forgiven pretty much anything if the team was winning. But after being a truly great franchise from 1982 to 1992, the Redskins have won two playoff games since Snyder bought the team. Every year he spends huge money on free agents because he loves having his picture taken with them and bragging about how rich he is to other owners and then, because all the team’s cap money is spent on a half-dozen players, the Redskins usually fold somewhere along the way when the inevitable injuries that hit every team hit them because they have no depth. Hearing Joe Gibbs talk about injuries during his four year return as coach almost moved people to tears. The Redskins, it appeared, were the only NFL team that EVER had an injured player.

    While Snyder has spent big money on big names, he has done everything in his power to make every possible dollar. Some call this good business; others call this ripping off a public that adores the team. He’s jammed more seats—many of them obstructed—into the stadium, upped prices every chance he gets, charged outrageous ($35) prices for parking and tried a few years ago to more or less blackmail club seat holders into renewing with years left on their contract at twice the price by threatening to raise prices even more if one didn’t renew instantly. A lot of people—I was one of them—didn’t take him up on it.

    At the same time that Snyder was paying $107 million for Albert Haynesworth this winter, he was laying off office employees. Again, fans will forgive that if Haynesworth produces and the Redskins win. Winning will get you forgiven for just about anything.

    Feinstein's right -- if the Redskins win, no one will care about the owner. However, it is getting a little tough to stomach his act of nickel-and-diming fans at every turn. [Feinstein on the Brink]

  • Clinton Portis and John Riggins just can't get along. [Hogs Haven]

  • A remote-control airplane interrupted a Diamondbacks-Dodgers game last Tuesday night. Matt Kemp on the airshow/distraction: "That was tight, I liked that." [Big League Stew]

  • Dan Steinberg presents a rational assessment of the Redskins ticket controversy. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • Chase Daniel opted to join the New Orleans Saints' practice squad, so the Redskins have signed former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson. [Redskins Insider]

  • Kelly Dwyer thinks that Gilbert Arenas is the top second-round draft pick of the last decade. [Ball Don't Lie]

  • Jeremy Guthrie has been pretty good lately, and his performance yesterday -- seven shutout innings -- was no different. [Camden Crazies]

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Redskins announce cuts, final roster

Courtesy of Redskins Insider's Jason Reid, here are the players who fell short of making the Redskins' 53-man roster:

Robbie Agnone, Anthony Alridge, Jeremy Bridges, Scott Burley, Alex Buzbee, Chase Daniel, Antonio Dixon, Dominique Dorsey, Doug Dutch, Keith Eloi, Cody Glenn, D.J. Hackett, Lendy Holmes, Rob Jackson, Dave Rayner, Rueben Riley, Trent Shelton, J.D. Skolnitsky, Robert Thomas, Eddie Williams, and Darrel Young.

And Cindy Boren provides a list of the 53 players on the roster (not a depth chart):

The Offense

Quarterbacks (2)
Jason Campbell, Todd Collins

Running Backs (4)
Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, Marcus Mason

Fullback (1)
Mike Sellers

Tight Ends (3)
Chris Cooley, Todd Yoder, Fred Davis

Wide Receivers (5)
Santana Moss, Malcolm Kelly, Antwaan Randle El, Devin Thomas, Marko Mitchell

Linemen (10)
Chris Samuels, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas, Stephon Heyer, Mike Williams, Chad Rinehart, Will Montgomery, Edwin Williams, D'Anthony Batiste

The Defense

Linebackers (6)
London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Rocky McIntosh, H.B. Blades, Chris Wilson, Robert Henson

Defensive Backs (10)
LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty, Kareem Moore, Chris Horton (safeties); DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Justin Tryon, Fred Smoot, Kevin Barnes, Byron Westbrook (cornerbacks)

Linemen (9)
Phillip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin, Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Jeremy Jarmon, Renaldo Wynn, Anthony Montgomery, Kedric Golston, Lorenzo Alexander

Special Teams (3)

Place Kicker
Shaun Suisham

Hunter Smith

Long Snapper
Ethan Albright

A few quick thoughts:

1) Carrying two quarterbacks on the roster, at least for the time being, is a little risky, but it makes sense. Barring injury, Campbell is the No. 1 guy this season. If something happens to either Campbell or Collins, the Redskins can find a free agent quarterback somewhere or just promote Daniel from the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers. Carrying two quarterbacks also allows the Redskins to carry an extra cornerback (Westbrook), which provides some flexibility if Rogers can't get healthy.

2) I think it's great that Mason made the team, but I don't really understand what his role will be. Sure, he's just a third- or fourth-string running back and won't play much unless injuries occur, but what's his upside? He can't play on third downs because he can't block, and he's not a change-of-pace back. I'll admit that I don't know much about Mason or Alridge because of their limited time on the field, but at least Alridge seemed to have some different talents that the Redskins could have utilized better. But anyway, if Portis and Betts are both fine, it won't really matter.

3) Mitchell obviously deserved a spot on the team, and he may end up on the field more than Thomas.

4) I'm surprised that Wynn made the team, but still, the depth on the defensive line is very solid.

5) Suisham's days are numbered. It's great that he beat out Rayner by making a few kicks in the preseason, but he needs to improve dramatically -- immediately -- or he should be booted out of town. The Bucs released Matt Bryant today, and if he's healthy, the Redskins should consider giving him a shot. After all, he was 32-38 (84.2 percent) on field goals last year; Suisham was 26-36 (72.2 percent).

Brennan placed on IR; Daniel may join practice squad

Earlier today, Jason Reid of Redskins Insider reported that possible third-string quarterback Colt Brennan will be placed on injured reserve after suffering a few injuries in the Redskins' final preseason game against the Jaguars.

According to Reid:

Brennan aggravated a hamstring injury and also injured his knee while being sacked late in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 24-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville. Afterward, Brennan said the injuries were not considered serious.

In examining Brennan's left knee and hamstring, however, Redskins medical personnel apparently expressed further concern about a left hip injury that occurred Aug. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. In April 2008, Brennan had surgery to repair a slightly torn labrum in his right hip.

Reid then made the logical assumption that with Brennan out for the season, Chase Daniel would take his place on the 53-man roster. But that doesn't appear to be the case, as the Redskins, according to ESPN, have decided to keep just two quarterbacks on the roster.

Daniel says that even though he won't make the Redskins' final roster, the Redskins have told him that if he clears waivers he will be named to the team's practice squad.

As for my take, if the Redskins do decide to keep two quarterbacks on the roster for the time being, I don't mind that at all. It's very rare that a team uses all three quarterbacks during one game, so if something happens to Jason Campbell or Todd Collins, the team could promote Daniel if he is named to the practice squad. Or, if further injuries occur, the team could pursue another quarterback option elsewhere. Also, one less quarterback on the roster means the team can carry another player at another position.

Update: According to Reid, Brennan had been hampered by a left hip injury since the team's first preseason game against the Ravens.