Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week 16 NFL picks

Here are this week's picks:

(Home team is in caps.)

FALCONS (-9) over Bills

BENGALS (-14) over Chiefs

Raiders (+3) over BROWNS

Seahawks (+14) over PACKERS

DOLPHINS (-2) over Texans

Jaguars (+10) over PATRIOTS

SAINTS (-14) over Buccaneers

GIANTS (-8) over Panthers

STEELERS (-3) over Ravens

CARDINALS (-15) over Rams

49ERS (-14) over Lions

Jets (+4.5) over COLTS

EAGLES (-7) over Broncos

Cowboys (-7) over REDSKINS

Vikings (-7) over BEARS

Last week: 6-9-1
Season: 121-98-5

As always, enjoy the games.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday night NFL pick

Just posting my pick quickly since, you know, it's Christmas Day.

Chargers (+3) over TITANS

Merry Christmas -- and enjoy the game tonight.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Could Suisham be joining the Cowboys?

According to Redskins Insider's Jason Reid, former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham has a tryout scheduled today with the Dallas Cowboys. Normally this wouldn't be much of a story -- kickers switch teams all the time -- but 1) Suisham was just cut a couple weeks ago by the Redskins, and 2) the Cowboys travel to Washington next week to play the Redskins in a big game on Sunday night football.

Honestly, I hope the Cowboys do sign Suisham. Not only does he fold under pressure, but he doesn't exactly have the strongest leg on kickoffs either. But he's still a decent kicker, so he could provide the Cowboys with an upgrade at the position.

Reid also added this:

Although Suisham missed a chip-shot field goal late in the fourth quarter of the 33-30 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago and two field goals -- including a 39-yarder -- in the 7-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 22, he converted 18 of 21 field-goal attempts this season and is the most accurate place kicker in team history among those with at least 100 career field-goal attempts. He also had performed well in executing the designed kickoffs special teams coordinator Danny Smith called.

Suisham was having a pretty good season until missing those two huge kicks against the Cowboys and Saints. It's unfortunate, but Suisham really had to go after missing that kick to seal the Saints game. That point is even more interesting now that Dallas just beat the Saints Saturday night.

If the Cowboys do sign him, it'll just give Redskins fans another reason to boo him.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 15 NFL picks

Time for the rest of my Week 15 picks. Here we go:

Patriots (-7) over BILLS

Cardinals (-14) over LIONS

Dolphins (+5) over TITANS

CHIEFS (-2) over Browns

Texans (-14) over RAMS

JETS (-6) over Falcons

EAGLES (-8) over 49ers

RAVENS (-11) over Bills

BRONCOS (-14) over Raiders

CHARGERS (-7) over Bengals

Packers (+2.5) over STEELERS

SEAHAWKS (-7) over Buccaneers

Vikings (-9) over PANTHERS

Giants (-3) over REDSKINS

Last week: 10-6
Season: 115-89-4

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday night NFL pick

The Colts won on Thursday against the Jaguars to stay undefeated, and now the Saints are looking to do the same at home against the Cowboys. Here's my pick:

SAINTS (-8) over Cowboys

I thought about taking the Cowboys and the points, especially since the Saints have played two close games in a row -- both three-point wins. But the last prime-time game the Saints had at home -- against the Patriots in Week 12 -- was a blow-out, as the Saints went up and down the field at will.

The Cowboys really need to win this game, but it'll be difficult if DeMarcus Ware doesn't play (he's a game-time decision with a neck injury). If Ware is out, will the Cowboys really be able to stop Drew Brees and the Saints' offense? I doubt it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday night NFL pick

One quick Wizards note before making my Thursday pick: When I woke up this morning, I wasn't the least bit surprised to find out that they lost to the Sacramento Kings. Consecutive losses to the Clippers and Kings, while Arenas, Butler, and Jamison all play heavy minutes? Wizards basketball -- where torturing your fans happens!


Colts (-3) over JAGUARS

The Colts (13-0) have already clinched their division and home-field advantage, but they claim that they’re not going to rest all of their players just yet. Interestingly enough, the Colts listed 29 players on their injury report, with 20 of them listed as probable. The other nine are RB Donald Brown (out), DT Eric Foster (questionable), DB Aaron Francisco (out), DE Dwight Freeney (questionable), WR Anthony Gonzalez (out), OT Charlie Johnson (questionable), DE Robert Mathis (questionable), DB Jerraud Powers (out), and K Adam Vinatieri (out). Still, if the Colts don’t plan on resting the starters in the second half, they should be just fine.

The Jaguars (7-6), meanwhile, could really use a win in this game after falling back to the pack after a disappointing 14-10 loss to the Dolphins at home last week. My question, though, is: How good are the Jaguars? They’ve played some close games, but their seven wins are against the Texans (twice), Titans, Rams, Chiefs, Jets, and Bills. The Texans and Jets are decent, but even the win against Tennessee isn’t all that impressive now because they won when the Titans were still playing Kerry Collins and looking pretty bad. With Vince Young under center, the Titans beat the Jaguars easily, 30-13, a few weeks later in Week 8.

Their offense is ranked 23rd in the NFL in points per game (18.1), 18th in passing yards per game (213.5), and eighth in rushing yards per game (127.8). So, obviously, the best thing the Jaguars do is run the ball, which makes sense because they have Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the most exciting and explosive players in the league.

On defense, the Jaguars allow 22.1 points per game (ranked 20th), 239.5 passing yards per game (ranked 26th), and 107 rushing yards per game (14th) -- not particularly good numbers. But the Jaguars are +3 in turnover margin, so that’s good.

Anyway, Jones-Drew hasn’t rushed for over 76 yards in more than a month. In these two teams’ first matchup, the Colts shut down the Jaguars’ offense in a 14-12 win. Jacksonville only had 228 yards of total offense, but Jones-Drew accounted for 123 of those yards. That wasn’t enough then, and I don’t think it’ll be enough now. I’ll take the Colts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zorn talks about the punt return situation

Are you confused as to why Antwaan Randle El continues to get the opportunity to return punts? Most Redskins fans are.

For the most part, Randle El has been a terrible punt returner this season. He almost never breaks a decent return -- his longest return is just 15 yards -- and he's also fumbled the ball away twice, which is obviously a big no-no on special teams.

In Washington's 34-13 win over Oakland on Sunday, Randle El had two punt return opportunites, and he fumbled on the second attempt in the fourth quarter. His fumble this week didn't hurt since the Redskins were comfortably ahead (oddly enough), but the fumble earlier in the season in the team's first game against the Eagles did hurt, as it led to an Eagles field goal.

It wasn't surprising to see Randle El in the second time against the Raiders, just because of the fact that, for some reason, he hasn't officially been replaced as the main returner. Here's Jim Zorn explaining the situation in his usual stumbling and bumbling -- but honest -- approach:

"I told Danny [Smith] I want Antwaan in there, because of the sure catch. And he just misjudged it. It hit him right up underneath the upper part of the shoulder pad, and he was taking off at the same time he was catching it....

"There was no [disagreement], I just said Hey, I want to make sure I've got Antwaan in here, and that decision obviously failed at that point. But we're gonna make some adjustments and things like that. It doesn't mean that Antwaan is gonna be totally sitting on the bench the whole time, but we're gonna try to get other guys involved. Truly, we just haven't had [options] besides Santana [Moss], with DeAngelo [Hall] going down. That was the guy we were trying to gear up.

"We're a little bit in a situation that we're gonna try to get Devin [Thomas] more involved now, Santana will be more involved, we'll see what happens as we go along with DeAngelo, just try to get him back there as well. That'll just be another guy in the mix. [Justin Tryon] hasn't shown yet that I would trust him and go Yeah, let's get him in right now. He hasn't worked at it from that standpoint of decision making, sure catching. Now, he should be working at it, which he is, but we haven't felt the comfort level.

"As a coach, you've just got to have the comfort level. That's why I had Antwaan in there. You know, I had a comfort level, and it proved to be a little of a backfire, but that doesn't' mean he's not gonna catch the next 10 in a row. It's just at that particular moment, it was a bad deal."

Again, the main problem isn't that Randle El fumbled; no one could really see that coming. The problem is that Randle El is still returning punts in the first place. It doesn't matter if the Redskins rotate punt return duties or give someone the full-time job -- Randle El should not be returning punts ever again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week 14 NFL picks and a quick note

Big week in the NFL this week. A few playoff spots are still up for grabs, and the Saints and Colts are both looking to go 13-0 on the season.

Here are my picks for the games this week:

(Home team is in caps.)

Steelers (-10.5) over BROWNS

Already picked this game here. Whoops. The worst thing about this game for the Steelers isn't so much that they lost, but that they were outplayed in every facet of the game by the Browns. If you thought that was going to happen in a must-win game, well, congrats to you. Seriously though, Steelers' offensive line, eight sacks? Come on.

Saints (-10.5) over FALCONS

Packers (-4) over BEARS

COLTS (-7) over Broncos

CHIEFS (+1.5) over Bills

Bengals (+7) over VIKINGS

Panthers (+13) over PATRIOTS

BUCCANEERS (+4) over Jets

Dolphins (+3) over JAGUARS

RAVENS (-14) over Lions

TEXANS (-7) over Seahawks

TITANS (-13) over Rams

Redskins (-1) over RAIDERS

Chargers (+3) over COWBOYS

Eagles (-1) over GIANTS

Cardinals (-4) over 49ERS

Last week: 8-8
Season: 105-83-4

Enjoy the games.


Not sure if you've seen this yet, but Buck Martinez is leaving MASN to work for the Blue Jays' TV crew. This move came as a surprise to me, but Martinez played and coached in Toronto, so it's not a huge shock that he'd want to go back and call Blue Jay games. And while I don't mind Jim Palmer that much during the 80 or so games that he announces, Martinez is probably the better analyst of the two in the booth. As of right now MASN hasn't named a replacement. But there is one obvious thing to be thankful for no matter who takes over for Martinez: There's no way that any combination of Orioles' announcers will be as bad as Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Herm Edwards on Tiger Woods

Surprisingly, this is actually worth watching:

Millwood trade reactions

In their first major move of the offseason, the Orioles traded for veteran starter Kevin Millwood. The Orioles sent Chris Ray and a player to be named later to the Rangers in exchange for Millwood and $3 million. Millwood will probably be the Orioles' opening day starter in front of Jeremy Guthrie.

So is the trade a good one or a bad one? Personally, I don't have a problem with the deal for the Orioles. The's O's needed a veteran starter to pitch alongside Guthrie to help protect some of the younger starters from pitching too many innings. Millwood may not have been the best pitcher the O's could have brought in, but he has pitched at least 168 innings in each season in the last five years, so that should help a relatively young rotation. A higher risk-or-reward guy, like Rich Harden or Ben Sheets, may have made more since if the Orioles were on the verge of competing, but they're not quite there yet.

The Orioles have to pay Millwood $12 million ($9 million when you factor in the cash from the Rangers), but he's also a free agent after this season, so there's no long-term commitment for the O's.

Still it hurts a little to lose Ray, who figures to have a better season two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

Here are some reactions to the trade:
  • The Schmuck Stops Here:

    "No, he's not Roy Halladay, but he's a solid veteran who was a good influence on the young players in the Texas Rangers clubhouse last season, and he's the guy who is going to take the monkey off Jeremy Guthrie's back in 2010. . . .

    The trade is just as important from a public relations and marketing standpoint because it sends a signal that the Orioles are serious about improving the team for 2010. MacPhail has to follow up with several more acquisitions over the next couple of months, but he has made good on a key priority with plenty of time left to concentrate on upgrading the corner infield positions and the bullpen."

  • Camden Chat:

    "It's clear the Rangers needed to dump salary and this is how they chose to do so. It's clear the Orioles wanted to pick up a veteran starter and this his how they chose to do so.

    In 2009 the Orioles desperately needed a pitcher who could pitch deep into games, and it's likely Millwood will give them that in 2010. In 31 starts in 2009, Millwood went at least 5 innings in all but two starts, one of which was due to a rain delay. He pitched at least 6 innings in 23 of his starts. In his 13 year career Millwood has averaged 178 innings/year and has that includes his rookie year in 1997 when he threw 51 innings over 12 starts. For his career he averages 6.133 innings/game."

  • Jack Moore of FanGraphs:

    "In 200 innings, the value of a 4.80 FIP comes out to 2.4 wins. So Millwood was a productive pitcher last year and he certainly can be a productive pitcher in the future. There aren’t very many 2.4 win players out there, and Millwood may be due for a better year, as his 2007 and 2008 years were better than his 2009. On the other hand, Millwood is aging, and it’s possible that he’s entered his decline phase and his innings may slip and his peripherals may fall farther. . . .

    For the Orioles, they receive a roughly average starting pitcher. As a one year commitment, 9 million dollars isn’t egregious. It will be probably be near his market value. With the Orioles not in a position to compete, taking on that kind of salary doesn’t really make sense. This kind of money could be much better spent on international signings, draft picks, or other developmental type of projects. He will give them decent production, but is the marginal value of his 2-3 wins above replacement really worth 9 million dollars to them? I’m not sure."

  • Camden Crazies:

    "That said, I would have much rather seen the Orioles spend $8 M on locking up Rich Harden, who has signed with the Rangers for $7.5 M (using the money they saved on Millwood). Way higher upside, and the downside is probably closer than one would think. Millwood offers only innings, which could just as easily be given to Jason Berken. The results would be worse, but the cost is much (much) lower and at least there’d be some chance of improvement. The best I can do is say that it’s not a bad move, and could be OK if Millwood can be spun of at the trade deadline for something useful."

Thursday night NFL pick

(Home team is in caps.)

Steelers (-10.5) over BROWNS

The Steelers (6-6) have lost four games in a row and haven’t looked very good since a dominating Week 9 win in Denver in early November. And even though any team can go through a bad stretch of football, the Steelers have struggled against rather mediocre teams. Of Pittsburgh’s six losses, only two of them have come against what many would call a "very good" team: the Bengals (9-3). The other four losses are to the Bears (5-7), Chiefs (3-9), Ravens (6-6), and Raiders (4-8). The Steelers usually put those teams away handily, but this season they've lost each one of those games by three points.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Browns (1-11) are one of the worst teams in the NFL and don’t have much to play for -- other than to keep losing to secure getting the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. As of right now, Hines Ward is "very questionable" and Troy Polamalu is out for the game and may not play again this season. But against Cleveland, Pittsburgh should be fine without those two and can attack the Browns’ 27th-ranked defense (25.8 points per game).

The Steelers aren't out of the playoff picture just yet, but they can't afford to lose again this season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Skins play well enough to win -- but still lose

For as bad as they've looked this season, the Redskins had a golden opportunity to make up for some of their disappointing performances and embarrassing miscues by beating an undefeated Saints team.

Leading 30-23 with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter, Jason Campbell and the Redskins took over on their own 41 yard line. The offense then proceeded to do something they had done so few times this season: They drove the ball down the field (to the four yard line), forced New Orleans to use their final two timeouts, and were in perfect position to take a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

And then it happened. Shaun Suisham lined up for a 23-year field goal, and he missed it to the right. The snap was good, the hold was good -- and yet he still missed. So instead of putting the game away with an extra-point-like kick, Suisham (and the Redskins) gave Drew Brees and the Saints another chance. Big mistake.

If you've watched enough Redskins games, you knew the defense simply wasn't going to stop the Saints on that final drive. The Redskins' defense is pretty good -- they're especially strong in the red zone -- but in crucial situations, they've routinely underperformed this season. It also doesn't help when LaRon Landry keeps jumping routes on double moves and letting receivers get behind him.

But this post isn't about defensive shortcomings. Brees got his, and the pass rush wasn't particularly effective (one sack), but the Saints only gained 55 rushing yards and the Redskins did pick off a pass (though it didn't end well -- more on that later). The point is that the defense played fine and gave the Redskins a chance to win. You can't ask for much more than that against the league's best offense.

No, this game was about a familiar topic: finding ways to lose. The Redskins have found ways to lose three extremely winnable games in a row. The Redskins held Dallas to seven points -- in Dallas! -- and still lost. Last week, the Redskins were leading the Eagles late in the fourth quarter and didn't put them away. And today, Washington let a great moment in an otherwise awful season slip away. It's great to be competitive -- fans don't want to see their teams get blown out -- but there is still (obviously) plenty wrong with this team. It's not just coaching, or the offensive line, or overrated and overpaid talent on both sides of the ball. It's all of the above, and hopefully a few close losses don't discourage an already misguided front office into thinking that only a few minor changes need to be made to fix this franchise.

Anyway, now I'm rambling. Here are some other notes/thoughts from today's game:

- The offensive line was sensational today. The line didn't open up huge holes for running backs to run through -- the Redskins ran for 88 yards -- but Jason Campbell wasn't sacked and usually had enough time to throw. That was a big reason why Campbell threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

- Campbell was solid. He didn't have to run much, if at all, today, but he showed a solid pocket presence and was able to move around enough to find receivers streaking across the field for big chunks of yardage. Granted, the Saints were dealing with some defensive injuries, but it would be interesting to see how Campbell could play if the line blocked that well every week.

- Nice game for the receiving corps. Campbell spread the ball around to nine different receivers. Devin Thomas had seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Antwaan Randle El had four catches for 73 yards, and Santana Moss and Fred Davis each had five catches for 68 yards and 53 yards, respectively. It was nice to see receivers getting open, and it was even better to see the Redskins attacking the Saints' secondary down the field. More of this, please.

- Normally I'd say the Redskins are unlucky, but embarrassing and ill-timed plays seemingly happen to them every week. Two examples: Kareem Moore's interception and fumble for a touchdown and the punt that hit Kevin Barnes. The Moore was really, really weird. He made a great interception, and then all of a sudden he just had the ball taken from him. Stuff like that just doesn't happen to good football teams. You could say the same for the Barnes play, but that seemed a little more random.

- I really don't understand Landry. OK, I get it, he's out of position at the free safety; he's really a strong safety. Sometimes he looks great and it's easy to see he possesses a lot of talent, but other times he just looks completely lost. He recorded 12 tackles, a great sack on a safety blitz, and had three passes defensed. How exactly do the Redskins keep letting receivers get behind them for easy touchdowns?

Do you have anything to add? Feel free to chime in.

Week 13 NFL picks

For some reason, I'm taking a lot of road teams this week. Could be a mistake, but let's see what happens.

BILLS (+3) over Jets

I missed this pick on Thursday. Did you know the Bills’ offense was held to just 194 total yards? Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 9-23 for 98 yards and an interception. And despite being locked down by Darrelle Revis, Terrell Owens still caught more passes (three for 31 yards) than Lee Evans (one for 38 yards).

Eagles (-5) over FALCONS

Rams (+9) over BEARS

Lions (+13.5) over BENGALS

Titans (+7) over COLTS

Broncos (-6.5) over CHIEFS

Patriots (-4) over DOLPHINS

Raiders (+15) over STEELERS

Saints (-10) over REDSKINS

PANTHERS (-5) over Buccaneers

JAGUARS (+2) over Texans

Chargers (-14) over BROWNS

Cowboys (-1.5) over GIANTS

49ers (-1) over SEAHAWKS

Vikings (-3.5) over CARDINALS

PACKERS (-3.5) over Ravens

Last week: 10-5-1
Season: 97-75-4

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wizards hold on to defeat Bucks

Playing in the second game of a back-to-back, the Wizards survived some solid performances from unlikely players on the Bucks and held on late for a 104-102 win at home.

Despite holding Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut to 25 points and a combined (and inefficient) 11-35 from the field, the Wizards allowed starter Charlie Bell and bench players Hakim Warrick and Luke Ridnour to almost score at will. Bell finished with 15 points on 6-11 shooting, while Warrick and Ridnour each had 20 points -- Warrick's on 6-9 shooting (and an 8-8 mark from the free throw line) and Ridnour's on 9-16 shooting. If that wasn't enough, the Wizards also turned the ball over 17 times; the Bucks only had nine turnovers.

Three things saved Washington in this game: strong rebounding, good shooting, and an ability to get to the free throw line more than Milwaukee.

Rebounding: The Wizards outrebounded the Bucks 42-36, and Brendan Haywood led the team with 14 boards. Haywood also managed to keep Bogut off the glass -- he only had seven rebounds in 39 minutes.

Shooting: The Bucks made nine three-pointers, six more than the Wizards, but Washington shot better from the field -- 54.3 percent to 44.2 percent. Gilbert Arenas had a team-high 22 points, but he only made 10 of 24 shots. Nick Young was right behind him with 21 (on 7-12 shooting). Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler each chipped in 15 points.

Free throws: While the Bucks shot just 12 free throws, the Wizards shot 34, though they only made 25 of them. Butler and Earl Boykins each got to the line 10 times.

Some leftover thoughts/concerns on this game:

- I'm impressed with Young. He turned the ball over five times last night, which is too much, but he shot well from the field and seems to play well with the other starters. I wasn't sure if he'd be able to bounce back from not playing much to start the season, but he worked hard and is certainly contributing right now. I'm not sure if Randy Foye is completely healthy or not, but Young's recent play and the presence of Earl Boykins have really cut into Foye's minutes. Last night, Foye played only five minutes and didn't score a point.

- Speaking of Boykins, why exactly is he the one making plays in crunch time? Don't get me wrong, that late-game pass to Haywood for a dunk and his pump fake to get fouled with only a second or so left to win the game were both great plays, but where is Arenas in those situations? Even though things worked out this time, it's frustrating to see Arenas in the game without the ball in his hands. I never thought I'd see a crucial play late in a game where a healthy Arenas isn't the one with the ball. Arenas seems to have no problem deferring to Boykins -- but in the long run, is that a good thing?

- What was Flip Saunders's (or the rest of the coaching staff's) reasoning behind not making Boykins miss that final free throw? With that made free throw, the Bucks were able to move the ball all the way up the court and at least have a chance to win the game. Obviously the Bucks missed the shot, so it's not a big deal, but the Wizards haven't exactly been awesome when it comes to stopping plays like that. Just an odd move.

Anyway, the Wizards get a win and move to 7-10 on the season. Next up: Toronto at home on Friday.

Thursday night NFL pick

Here is my pick for tonight's game on NFL Network:

BILLS (+3) over Jets

After an awful first eight weeks, Terrell Owens is trying to salvage his season. Owens has posted three strong games in a row, catching 17 passes for a combined 378 yards and two touchdowns. Shockingly, over the first eight weeks, Owens only had a total of 281 receiving yards.

Unfortunately for Owens, tonight he'll probably matchup against shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis, so other receivers will have to get open for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played average at best -- 63.8 quarterback rating, four touchdowns, seven interceptions -- though he has played better in the last two games since taking over for Trent Edwards. The Jets should also expect a full dose of running back Fred Jackson, who has seemingly returned to his role as lead back since head coach Dick Jauron was fired.