Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 12 Pigskin Predictions

Due to some time and travel constraints, my Week 12 Pigskin Predictions will be an abbreviated version ...

Week 12 Pigskin Predictions

Thanksgiving Day Games
pats 27, LIONS 24
Detroit fights hard for its home fans, but Tom Brady and his troops are too good to top. Brady passes the Patriots by the traditional Turkey Day Lions by a field goal.

RESULT: pats 45, LIONS 24
This game was shaping up to be closely lined up with my prediction as the third quarter ended in a 24-24 tie. However, Brady and his receiving corps took control in the fourth as New England cruised on to a three-touchdown defeat.

saints 31, BOYS 27
Dallas tries to win its third straight game and fourth consecutive on Thanksgiving. However, the Saints roll in as a hot team too, and they're primed to show the national stage that they're contenders to repeat as Super Bowls this winter. I'm seeing Brees easily eclipsing the 300-yard mark and the Saints eking out a four-point win.

RESULT: saints 30, BOYS 27
A game that had a blowout feeling early on (when the Saints jumped out to an early 17-0 lead) became very interesting toward the end of the third quarter. After a fumbled punt return by the Saints’ Reggie Bush, Dallas RB Marion Barber plowed through traffic for a 1-yard TD to get Dallas within three (23-20). The Cowboys then took their first lead when Tashard Choice burst over the pie-line 10 minutes into the fourth. But Brees fought back and hit Lance Moore more a 12-yard scoring strike to regain New Orleans’ lead. Dallas QB Jon Kitna gave the home crowd some late-game hope when he found Roy Williams for a 47-yard completion, however the Saints CB Malcom Jenkins ripped the ball away at the Dallas 11-yard mark to seal his team’s fourth straight win. The 30-27 New Orleans win was only one point off my prediction.

Thursday Night Game
JETS 24, bengals 10
Shonn Greene has the breakout game he's been searching for as the Jets trounce the Bengals by 14.

RESULT: JETS 26, bengals 10
My prediction was very close for this one too. Well, score-wise anyhow. New York cruised by Cincy 26-20 but it was Brad Smith -- not Greene -- who led his team to victory. The Jets’ multi-positioned specialist made, perhaps, the game’s two biggest plays -- a 53-yard TD run and an 89-yard kickoff return TD.

Sunday Noon Games
vikes 21, SKINS 13
Brett Favre shakes off the cobwebs of a dismal performance against his former team last week to rebound with a pleasant performance today. Favre connects with WR Sidney Rice for 5-6 receptions and Rice’s first TD of 2010 as the Purple defeat the Redskins in D.C.

pack 31, FALCONS 27
Green Bay repeats its passing success from last week to post 31 points against Atlanta. Although, unlike last week, the Packers’ opponents fire back with a fair share of points as well. The Falcons are always fierce at home, but Pack QB Aaron Rodgers finds his top target (WR Greg Jennings) several times as Green Bay wins by four.

steel 23, BILLS 13
After an 36-26 home loss to Jacksonville dropped Buffalo to 0-5, the Bills were looked upon as the NFL’s laughingstock. Then, suddenly, a three-pronged Bills attack (QB Ryan Fitzgerald, WR Steven Jackson and RB Fred Jackson) emerged as Buffalo fought hard for three straight 3-point losses. From there, the Bills fought through the heartbreaking frustration and won two straight. That said, Pittsburgh’s steely D halts the Bills resurgence with a 10-point road win.

BROWNS 24, panthers 10
QB Brian St. Pierre leads the 1-9 Panthers into ... ‘Nuff said. Cleveland clobbers Carolina.

GIANTS 20, jags 17
The loss of two key receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith) hurt Eli Manning and the Giants’ passing attack. However, New York’s RB tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs successfully rush the G-Men to a narrow win over the Jaguars.

TEXANS 27, titans 20
Matt Shaub and Andre Johnson revive the Texans’ aerial attack as Houston tips the Titans and put an end to its four-game losing streak.

Sunday Late Games
RAIDERS 16, fins 13
Sebastian Janikowski kicks a key 54-yard field goal to give Oakland its sixth win of the season.

chiefs 24, HAWKS 19
Seattle misses its top wideout (Mike Williams) this week as the Seahawks’ lose by five. Conversely, Kansas City improves to 7-4 and maintains its AFC West lead.

eagles 24, BEARS 17
Ooh ... The Michael Vick show hits the Windy City. Chicago have won three straight as the its defense has been very staunch of late. However, the Bears can’t quite stymie Vick enough to earn a W this week.

rams 23, BRONCOS 17
Upset Special: Rookie QB Chad Bradford leads the Rams to an impressive road win to push St. Louis’ record to 5-6 and keep its playoff hopes alive. Yes, it is possible that a losing team wins the NFL’s most decrepit division -- otherwise known as the NFC West.

RAVENS 34, bucs 13
Tampa Bay (7-3) takes to the road today for a big opportunity to show they are a real playoff contender. The outcome? The Buccaneers fail miserably as Baltimore bludgeons them early and cruise on to a 21-point win.

chargers 27, COLTS 24
Game of the Week: San Diego continues its mid-season run to upend the host Colts for an exciting 3-point W.

niners 21, CARDS 17
In one of the worst Monday Night match-ups of recent memory, the 3-7 San 49ers eke by the 3-7 Cardinals in Arizona.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slick Vick's Impeccable Performance

When watching a football game that quickly becomes a blowout, unless it’s my team (the Minnesota Vikings) and I’m still blindly hopeful for a come back, my interest fades immensely and I turn the station. That was not the case during the Philadelphia Eagles 31-point romp over the Washington Redskins on Monday, Nov.15.

The Monday Night Football match-up that night -- which featured the 5-3 Eagles visiting the 4-4 Redskins -- provided one of the most masterful individual performances ever.

Philly’s quarterback was a man who had been imprisoned for two years before being acquired for a bench role in the 2009 season. Washington’s pigskin passer was an accomplished veteran who, earlier that day, signed a 5-year, $78 million contract.

On that night in the Nation’s capital, it was Eagles QB Michael Vick, not former-Eagle-turned-Redskin Donovan McNabb, who turned in the performance of a lifetime. Vick’s impeccable dominance was so breathtaking that -- despite Philly’s 28-0 lead 13 minutes into the game -- it commanded my jaw-dropping attention all the way to the final tick.

The Eagles went on to win that game 59-28, but the score serves no justice in describing the amazement of Vick’s pinpoint passing and superb slashing ability that night in D.C.

Vick’s record-setting night ended with a stat-line of 20-for-28 with 333 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, along with 8 carries for 80 rush yards and another 2 TDs on the ground. With those numbers, Vick not only brought joy to millions of fantasy football owners across the country, they added up to a remarkable 150.7 (near-perfect) quarterback rating.

But even the incomprehensible numbers cannot serve Vick’s night justice. This game was one of those instant classics with a see-it-to-believe-it feel.

Slick Vick, who’s jersey was immediately shipped off to Canton (for the Pro Football Hall of Fame), shattered several records that night -- both for Monday Night Football games and NFL games all together.

Some statistical anomalies to mention from that night include Vick’s phenomenal beginning of the game (completing all eight of his first-quarter passes for 181 yards and two TDs, and going 10-for-10 before throwing his first incomplete pass), Philadelphia’s yardage advantage in the first half (Eagles, 280, Redskins, 23) and the game’s final score,59-28, the first such score in NFL history.

Here are 10 other records or noteworthy items from last Monday’s game that Vick either made or contributed to:

* Vick became the first quarterback ever to pass for 300 yards, 4 pass TDs, 50 rushing yards and 2 rush TDs in a game.

* Vick’s 88-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson was the longest first play of a game in franchise history. (The play was also the longest TD from scrimmage in both Vick and Jackson’s careers)

* The aforementioned play was also the longest TD pass in a game’s opening minute in 41 years -- when Los Angeles Rams QB Roman Gabriel threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Wendell Tuck in the Rams 41-30 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 9, 1969.

* Vick’s quarterback rating for that game, 150.7, was a personal-best and 7.6 points from a perfect rating (158.3).

* Vick’s 80 rushing yards vaulted him past Hall of Fame QB Steve Young for No. 2 on the list of career rushing yards for an NFL quarterback -- his 4,295 rush yards trail only Randall Cunningham (4,928).

* Vick’s 413 yards from scrimmage immensely contributed to the Eagles’ 592 net total of offensive yards -- a record-high for Philadelphia’s 77-year-old franchise.

* Philadelphia’s 45 points in the first half were the most ever for a half in team history.

* The Eagles’ 59 points were the most the team scored since the 64 points Philadelphia amassed in a 1934 game against the Cincinnati Reds (and, yes, this was a football team not Cincinnati’s renown professional baseball team).

* Philadelphia’s point total (59) was also the most scored in a game in Monday Night Football’s 40-year existence.

* The Eagles’ 28-0 lead after the first quarter marked the biggest first-quarter lead for a road team in the NFL since 1950.

On top of those statistical gems, how about this oddly coincidental tidbit of trivia:

The 332 passing yards and 260 rushing yards Philadelphia tallied that night marked only the second time in the last 30 seasons that an NFL team recorded at least 300 pass yards and 250 rush yards in a single game. The other? Coincidentally, it was a game on Oct. 30, 2005 between the Eagles and Denver Broncos featuring (guess who?) the same head coaches involved in Monday’s game -- Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and Denver’s Mike Shanahan (who now coaches the Redskins).

Another interesting note regarding the game is that Vick’s dominance outshined McNabb, who coincidentally was the primary reason Philadelphia acquired Vick last season.

After spending his first six seasons in Atlanta, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for operating an illegal dogfighting ring. Upon his release, the ex-Falcons QB hoped to attain another opportunity with an NFL team. However, at this point Atlanta had turned over a new leaf with its 2008 1st round pick (3rd overall), Matt Ryan. Outside of Atlanta, several other teams had their reservations about Vick as well. However, McNabb, Philadelphia’s quarterback at the time, was a friend of Vick’s and suggested that the Eagles acquire him. Sure enough, they signed Vick before the 2009 season as Philly’s 3rd-string quarterback (behind McNabb and Kevin Kolb).

A year later, after an injury to Kolb in the Eagles week one game versus Green Bay, Vick was inserted into the game and showed signs of the brilliance that made him a star in Atlanta. Three weeks later -- after Vick led the Eagles to wins over Detroit and Jacksonville -- in his team’s Oct. 3 home game versus Washington, Vick suffered a hip injury and had to leave the game early.

The 30-year-old would miss four weeks, then successfully return from his injury on Nov. 7. On that day, Vick led his Eagles past Peyton Manning and the reigning AFC champion Colts (completing 17-of-29 passes for 218 yards and 1 TD, while rushing for 74 yards and another touchdown). Then he followed up that performance with his near-flawless gem Monday night.

So, what will Vick and the Eagles do for an encore? Football fans will soon find out as the Philadelphia (6-3) hosts NFC East rival New York (also 6-3) in a battle for division supremacy. As with last week’s game, this game will also be under the national spotlight as the Eagles and Giants are the featured Sunday night game of the week. Kickoff is set for 7:20pm (CT) on NBC.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week 11 Pigskin Predictions

**I enjoy writing and also enjoy football (especially the NFL) -- I'm in an NFL Weekly Picks league and do fantasy football as well. I've been writing my own weekly "Pigskin Predictions" segment and have been posting it on my fantasy league's message board since Week 8. So, I figure why not post it here as well. While I do plan to continue doing this every week, this Week 11 post is by far the longest. So, don't expect one quite this long for Weeks 12-17. Hope you enjoy the read!

Week 11 Pigskin Predictions

Thursday game
FINS 20, bears 17
Miami’s little-known QB rises from obscurity to earn his team a key win to extend the Dolphins playoff hopes. Tyler Thigpen (a 7th-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2007) threads his throws through Chicago’s mediocre pass D – finding prime target Brandon Marshall several times – in leading the Fins (5-4) past the Bears (6-3) in a closely fought Thursday night match-up.

RESULT: bears 16, FINS 0
So much for the ol’ Vikes draftee, Thigpen was pretty ineffective last night as Miami was squelched by a stifling Bears defense last night. Thigpen definitely should not take all the blame, however, as his O-Line was horrific (protection-wise) and the Fins coaching was awful as well (not establishing a running game at all and hardly trying to -- Miami called only our running plays in the first half despite trailing by 6 or fewer points). I’ve got to say, though, the Bears are much better than I’ve thought they are and that doesn’t bode well for Minnesota’s long-shot playoff hopes.

Sunday Noon Games
VIKES 27, pack 24
To say this game is a must-win for the Vikings would be an extreme understatement. Minnesota needs this game for two reasons: (1) Narrowly keeping its playoff hopes alive and (2) Pride (the thought of being swept by the Pack is sickening). Brett Favre has had a mostly miserable season, despite displaying his greatness in a couple of contests. The good Gun Slinger shows up for this one as Favre’s ol’ buddy Mr. (Sidney) Rice returns to action and those two -- along with Adrian Peterson -- lead the Purple past the Pack ... Hey, the Vikes might not make the playoffs, but at least this win would give them something to hang their hat on.

Bills 24, BENGALS 20
Upset Special: Want a surprise pick? Her’s my Upset Special for Week 11: Buffalo defeats the Bengals in Cincinnati. Overall, Cincy easily has more talent, but their chemistry appears to be awful this season. The Bills come in to this game with a dreadful rush defense but Cincy’s RB Cedric Benson has been fairly disappointing himself. Also, while the Bengals passing attack has been the team’s strength, the Bills pass D is better than most people would think -- Buffalo ranks 3rd in the AFC in passing yards allowed.

BOYS 30, lions 24
Two teams with combined records of 4-14 meet in Big D this Sunday afternoon. I firmly believe both are better than what their records present (especially Dallas) and that this will be an entertaining game. The change at head coach -- Jason Garret in, Wade Phillips out -- fared well for the Cowboys last week in New York, but after starting the season 1-7 can they make it two in a row? Yes. They can and they will. The Lions are tougher than they’ve been in recent years past and if they had a healthy Matthew Stafford for this game I’d say it’s a toss-up. However, without their young stud QB (Stafford -- out to due shoulder injury), Detroit’s respectable back-up (Shaun Hill) and star wideout (Calvin Johnson) come up on the losing end this week.

TITANS 23, skins 20
The Redskins? How about the Dreadskins? Yuck. The Burgundy and Gold were a bloody mess on Monday. However, with its 4-5 record Washington is not done yet and has the talent to fight back. This week the Redskins hit the road for a midday clash with the Titans tomorrow. Tennessee, who is 5-4 after losing at Miami last week, is in dire need of a win as well. Expect Washington to play well, but for Titans All-Pro RB Chris Johnson to collect his 6th 100-plus rushing yard game of the season en route to his team’s Titanic 3-point win over the Skins.

CHIEFS 34, cards 17
Remember Kansas City’s incredible Cassel-to-Bowe combo last week? (if not, I’ll remind you -- QB Matt Cassel: 33-for-53 for 469 passing yards and 4 TDs, WR Dwayne Bowe:13 receptions for 186 yards and 2 TDs) That was in a losing cause at Denver, this week the Chiefs will welcome the woeful Arizona Cardinals to KC’s Arrowhead Stadium. With AZ’s weak pass D it’s very possible for those two to put up big numbers again, only this time their performances will pay off victoriously as the playoff-hopeful Chiefs pound the clueless Cards by 17.

JETS 23, Texans 17
Houston’s pass defense is so pathetic that they’ll manage to make Mark Sanchez look Pro Bowl-worthy. While Sanchez lead the Jets offense tomorrow, prized cornerback Darrelle Revis puts the clamps on Texans WR Andre Johnson as Gang Green comes away with the home W.

STEEL 23, raiders 10
Following Pittsburgh’s ugly home loss to the Patriots on Sunday night last week, coach Mike Tomlin had his teams in full pads for practice this week. Meanwhile, Oakland comes of its bye with serious thoughts of -- wait for it -- the playoffs!?!? The Raiders, in the playoffs? Well, I must say it seems like a valid possibility as Oakland has a 5-4 record and competes in arguably the AFC’s worst division (the AFC West). An interesting match-up will be Oakland’s 2nd-ranked running offense versus Pittsburgh’s top-ranked run defense. The Raiders run hard but Darren McFadden and company fall short tomorrow. Tomlin’s tough tactics pay off fas Pittsburgh wins comfortably.

Ravens 27, PANTHERS 13
By tomorrow’s game in Charlotte (NC), Baltimore will have had 10 days to think about its primetime loss to Atlanta last Thursday. This is not good news for the Panthers, a team that’s struggled enough already this season and (due to injuries) will feature the NFL starting debut of 30-year-old QB Brian St. Pierre tomorrow. Eke! Barring a miracle, the Ravens will rip up those hapless Cats of Carolina and win the game handily.

JAGS 27, browns 14
Was last week’s Hail Mary miracle grab by Jaguars WR Mike Thomas an omen? Is Jacksonville, perhaps, a team of destiny? Not too many pundits picked Jack Del Rio’s Jags as a playoff team this year, but a home win against the Browns would push their record a respectable 6-4 mark. However, Cleveland’s rookie QB (Colt McCoy) and stunning young RB (Peyton Hillis) hope to earn another win and restore Brownie pride. Well, not tomorrow guys. Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard and Jacksonville’s WR tandem of Mikes (Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker) battle through Cleveland’s 24th-ranked defense and lead the Jags to victory.

Sunday Late Games
falcons 20, RAMS 17 (in OT)
Atlanta flies into St. Louis on a high -- having won seven of its past eight games -- but they’ll be taking on an improved 4-5 Rams team that’s collected all four of its wins at home. Rookie QB Sam Bradford and the Rams’ always-dangerous RB, Steven Jackson, will be a tough task for the Falcons. This game promises to be a tight tilt. Both teams have good RBs (St. Louis’ Jackson and Atlanta’s Michael Turner) but the Rams and Falcons’ staunch run defenses (ranking 6th and 7th in the NFL, respectively) will neutralize that factor. I’m seeing this game going to overtime with the League’s most prominent QB-WR connection (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to Roddy White) providing the difference as the Falcons triumph by a field goal.

SAINTS 31, hawks 20
Nine games into its 2010 season, Seattle’s victory total (5) ties its total win tally from last season. Can the Seahawks (5-4) ride its momentum into New Orleans and bolster its hopes of a playoff appearance? No. Not this week. The Seahawks have improved, but the team’s record might be a bit deceiving (Seattle’s four losses combine for a 125-27 point differential). The Saints, conversely, have appeared to rebound from their home loss to Cleveland in week 8 (defeating the Steelers by 10 and the Panthers by 31). While these 6-3 Saints don’t quite have the feel of last year’s Championship team, they are good enough for an 11-point home W over the Hawks tomorrow.

NINERS 27, bucs 17
The surprisingly 6-3 Buccaneers travel coast-to-coast to face the 49ers tomorrow. Host San Francisco had been a bit surprising too (in a bad way) as the team began its season 0-5. However, a switch at the QB position -- Troy Smith replacing Alex Smith -- has seemed to make a difference as the Niners haves won three of its last four games, giving them post-season potential in a weak NFC West division. Smith, RB Frank Gore and the Niners continue its playoff surge by beating the Bucs by 10.

PATS 31, colts 24
The annual battle of these two AFC powerhouses takes place at New England’s Gillette Stadium tomorrow afternoon. Since 2003, the Patriots and Colts have clashed 10 times (seven times in the regular season, three in the playoffs). Of those 10 games, this epic series is appropriately even at five wins each. This year’s battle looks as tantalizing as ever with both teams leading their respective divisions (6-3 Indianapolis leading the AFC South and 7-2 New England atop the AFC East) and the team’s QBs -- Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- both producing MVP-worthy seasons thus far. As always, this game will likely be a shootout, but Brady and New England’s 13-game regular season home winning streak stays intact as the Pats win by a touchdown.

EAGLES 31, giants 27
Game of the Week: It’s hard to pick a featured “Game of the Week” this week. Normally, any time a Patriots-Colts battle is taking place that would be the most intriguing tilt. However, after Michael Vick’s performance Monday night and with his 6-3 Eagles battling the 6-3 Giants in New York for tomorrow night’s spotlight, I’m giving the nod to this match-up. Vick will square off with opposing QB Eli Manning and a Giants team that ranks 1st in NFC both offensively and defensively. This game’s sure to be a must-see, with Vick and Manning exchanging blows. At game’s end Vick survives New York’s vicious sack attack and Philadelphia fights off the G-Men by four.

CHARGERS 34, broncos 20
San Diego enters week 11 recharged after its bye while division rival Denver comes off its impressive 49-29 blowout of the Chiefs last week. There has been much talk about Chargers QB Phillip Rivers passing yardage pace giving him a feasible chance to pass up Dolphins legend Dan Marino’s single-season passing record. Rivers current pass yards per game is 327.11 while Marino’s record-setting pace in 1984 was 317.75 (en route to his 5,084-yard passing total that season). Through nine games, Rivers has thrown for 2,994 yards. But what about the Chargers’ opposing QB this week? While Rivers’ passing yardage mark leads the NFL, Denver’s Kyle Orton ranks 2nd in the League with 2,806 yards. Rivers almost assuredly is the better quarterback and this week’s Monday Night game will go to the better team -- San Diego; however, due to the Broncos’ lack of running game and propensity to fall behind quickly, don’t be surprised if toward the end of the season it’s Orton (not Rivers) who will be the QB in better position to challenge Marino’s longstanding record.