Wednesday, September 29

Pryor Scores 6x, Bucks Look To Conference Play


Ohio St put up a 73 spot last Saturday at The Shoe against the Emus of Eastern Michigan, the most of any Buckeye team in over 60 years. E-Mich was just simply outmatched as they watched Terrelle Pryor score six touchdowns in three different ways. The defense could have done better, giving up one more TD in this game than they did in the first three games combined, but I'm not going to nitpick about a 53-point victory.


Game Recap

OSU wasted no time getting on the board, as Pryor scrambled in the pocket then took off for a 53-yard touchdown run two minutes into the game. Six plays and two minutes later, Pryor was at it again, this time in the air, connecting with Dane Sanzenbacher for a 31-yard score. Eastern Michigan got their first first down of the game then promptly fumbled, which led to a Devin Barclay 42-yard field goal, his longest of the season. The next Buckeye drive was all Dan Herron, as he touched the ball seven times on a 10-play drive, capping it off himself with a TD. The first quarter was allll Bucks, leading 24-0.

The second quarter was where the Ohio St defense was pretty shaky. They were outgained by the Emus and let QB Alex Gillett throw all over them. In defense of the defense, Gillett was throwing some amazing passes right on the money, but I have come to expect perfection from this unit, and this wasn't it. Dwayne Priest put EMU on the board with his TD run, but TP answered right away when he hooked up with Sanzenbacher twice more for touchdowns within a 3 minute period. Gillett threw a TD late in the quarter to make it 38-14 at the break.

The teams continued trading touchdowns at the start of the second half, starting with a FOURTH Pryor-Sanz TD. Gillett came right back and hit Donald Scott for a 32-yard score to cut the lead to 25. On the next possession, Ohio St went three-and-out and punted for the only time in the game. After that, things went back to normal and the last quarter and a half was totally dominated by The Fighting Brutus'.

Still in the game late in the third quarter, Pryor hit the trifecta when he caught a touchdown pass from Jordan Hall on a halfback option. Not really sure how necessary this play was in a 45-20 game. After that score, Pryor and the other first-stringers finally hit the bench. That still didn't stop OSU from scoring, as backup QB Joe Bauserman threw his first TD of the season early in the 4th to Jordan Hall. Later in the quarter, fourth-string running back Jaamal Berry busted one 67 yards to pay dirt. Still not done, Ohio St scored again when 3rd QB Kenny Guiton made it look like Terrelle Pryor was back on the field, running one in from 15 yards out. Mercilessly for Eastern Michigan, this thing finally ended, 73-20.


Game Notes

Game Ball
I really don't just want to make this "The Terrelle Pryor Award," but I mean c'mon, dude had 348 total yards and accounted for six touchdowns. He played mistake-free ball, completing 20 of his 26 passes for 224 yards and 4 TDs without throwing a pick. He was again the game's leading rusher with 7 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown, and he also added the TD catch on the trick play. Dane Sanzenbacher's 9 catches for 108 yards and OSU record-tying 4 touchdowns certainly deserves recognition, but the GB has to go to Pryor.
Game Balls to date: Pryor (3), Moeller

Big Ten
I decided to add this weekly look at what the other schools in the conference did. Of course, this was a bad week to start this, during the Big Ten-MAC challenge. Eight teams took on colleges from the Mid-American conference, six coming up victorious, with Minnesota and Purdue laying eggs against Northern Illinois and Toledo. Wisconsin and Michigan St's competition was actually even worse than MAC teams, as they rolled against DII's Austin Peay and Northern Colorado. The only newsworthy story in the conference this week was the injury to michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who by the way can't tie his own shoes. He left the game and didn't return, but he is cleared to play next week so it doesn't seem too serious.

Running It Up
What the hell happened to Tressel-ball? Not only was Terrelle Pryor in the game late in the third quarter when they were up by 25 points, but he was throwing and running a hurry-up offense. Then to top it off, they run a trick play and have Hall throw it back to TP. What possible purpose does this play serve? They really tipped their hand to other teams if they wanted to try this later against better competition, and if they had no intention of running it again then why run it at all in this scenario? Then when Terrelle finally comes out in the 4th, Bauserman is STILL throwing and running a hurry-up. Personally, I don't really give a care about running up the score, the more points the better. It just didn't seem like a Jim Tressel move.

Quick Hits
- Brandon Saine was once again an afterthought in the run game, getting only three carries. It was the first time he has not made it to the end zone in nine games. The few times he has seen the ball go his way the past few weeks, he certainly has not been making the most of it. Hopefully he becomes more involved and effective when conference play starts.
- OSU actually ran the option a few times this game...twice with Bauserman and twice with Guiton. PLEASE Tressel, I beg you, let Pryor and Saine run this against Big Ten foes.
- Speaking of Kenny Guiton, he impressed me with that late touchdown run. He will most likely be the starter next year, as his ceiling is much higher than Bauserman's. I hope we get to see a little more of him this year.


Up Next: @Illinois, 12:00, Big Ten Network
The Buckeyes go on the road for the first time this season to take on Illinois (2-1). The Fighting Zookers are 113th in the nation in passing and will certainly be looking to keep the ball in the hands of their star running back Mikel Leshoure. Despite being favored by over 40 points the past two weeks, Ohio St is 4-0 ATS this year. Expect that to continue as they come into this one -17.5
Prediction: Ohio St 36 Illinois 10


GET EM

Tuesday, September 28

Ten Points: Browns/Ravens

The glass is half full
To channel Butch Davis for a moment – nobody likes to lose. The players are upset and the fans are upset, but I’d be more upset if they weren’t upset. After giving ourselves a day or two to let cooler heads prevail, let’s not be short-sighted when we look at the 2010 Cleveland Browns.

Yes, the Browns have lost their first three games, and yes, all three games have been very winnable. The positive there is that all three games have been very winnable. Last year the Browns lost their first three games by a combined score of 95-29. This year that margin has only been 57-45.

These losses are difficult to absorb week after week, but with Team Walrus we finally have a regime that seems to know what they’re doing, and as fans we need to be patient and stay the course. The Browns are improving, but anyone who thought this club was playoff-worthy over the summer was downright delusional.

This season isn’t about wins and losses as much as giving this organization a cultural enema, upgrading the collective talent level, and making a decision about the futures of Eric Mangini and his coaching staff. Holmgren and Heckert are just starting to pour the foundation – they haven’t even begun building the house yet.
As difficult as it is to stomach these losses week to week, we need to ride this season out with the knowledge that there is finally a plan in place, and show some (gulp) faith in our new management.


Sticking with Seneca
When the Browns traded for Seneca Wallace this spring, I was comfortable with the idea of starting him. Obviously he wasn’t going to be a long-term solution, but he had given Seattle some quality starts over the last couple of seasons, and his quarterback ratings of 87 and 81.9 in 2008 and 2009, respectively, were higher than any Browns quarterback in the last 10 years (who started a majority of the games), save Derek Anderson’s fluky 82.5 rating in 2007.

With Jake Delhomme sidelined the last two weeks, Wallace has come as advertised; accurate on short passes, mobile, and cautious with the football. Seneca Wallace isn’t ever going to set the world on fire, but he’s a competent NFL quarterback who will complete passes and give you a chance to win. After 10 years struggling to find any kind of consistency at quarterback, I’ll take it. In fact, I think Wallace should be the starter even when Jake Delhomme is healthy.

Wallace definitely has room to improve; he needs to keep those floaters down the sidelines in bounds, and he might be checking down to Peyton Hillis a little too quickly. Running out of bounds to lose five yards instead of throwing the ball away needs to stop, too. But there are plenty of positives with Wallace, and he can be a placeholder quarterback for this season, and probably one or two more if necessary.


The NFL’s other Peyton
You don’t want to read too much into pre-season rushing yardage, but injuries and opportunity have turned Peyton Hillis into a very pleasant surprise. Hillis isn’t a threat to crack off any Barry Sanders-esque highlight runs, but he’s been extremely effective so far, averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season while running mate Jerome Harrison has managed just 3.4 yards per attempt.

Hillis is now the only Brown in franchise history to crack 100 yards rushing against the Ravens, and his touchdown in the second quarter was the first time anyone had found the end zone against Baltimore this season. That has to count for something.
What you have to like about Hillis is how quickly he hits the line, how he rarely gets tripped up for negative yardage, and the yards he generates after contact. The guy is practically reinventing “pushing the pile.” His receiving skills and ability to pick up the blitz are an added bonus. Put Hillis on the field behind Lawrence Vickers, and you’re looking at a 500-pound backfield. Good luck stopping that tandem in a goal line package.

Hillis isn’t dynamic enough to be a featured back, but he can fill in for a few weeks while Jerome Harrison is dinged up, and he’s an ideal candidate to pair with a speedster for the “thunder and lightning” backfield approach. Now we just have to find out if Jerome Harrison is up to the task.


There are receivers on this roster, right?
You could’ve fooled me. Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie (injured against the Ravens) have just five catches in three games. That simply isn’t good enough for starting split ends.

Brian Daboll is at least partially to blame for these issues. The receivers don’t seem to be running any quick hitting slants over the middle that might take advantage of Seneca Wallace’s skill set more than fly patterns on the sidelines. Part of the problem may also be that Seneca Wallace is only 5’ 11” and has trouble seeing the receivers over the middle, but in that case, roll him out more to put some pressure on the defense. We need to see more from Massaquoi in particular, who showed promise at times last season.

Surprisingly, one of the bright spots among the receivers has been Joshua Cribbs, who has 143 yards and a touchdown on the young season. Count me among the skeptics on Cribbs making an impact at receiver, because it just feels like we’ve been waiting for him to develop for too long. But I would love to be proven wrong, and hopefully Cribbs has finally started to make that jump. The Browns could sure use the help.


An obvious goat.
It is almost always hyperbole to say that one player “single-handedly” won or lost any football game, but in Eric Wright’s case, it might be true. Unfortunately for us, he was on the short end of that stick.

Wright was so bad in Baltimore that I would have made him fly home solo. You can’t risk him breathing on his teammates and infecting them without whatever disease he had clearly contracted. Then again, after Sunday’s game I’m not even convinced he can be trusted to catch a flight.

You could see that Wright’s confidence was totally shaken, and to Joe Flacco’s credit, he ravaged him all day long. Wright bit on inside fakes all day and was burned deep, and he was victimized on all three of Joe Flacco’s touchdown passes.
Eric Wright is still an important part of the defense and one of its most talented players, so let’s hope he can use this week of practice to regain his sea legs. It is a safe bet that Carson Palmer will test him early.


The other 10 defenders.
The good news is that as bad as Wright was, the rest of the defense had a pretty solid day. Although Flacco had a great day (largely at the expense of the aforementioned Wright), the defense generally kept the explosive Ray Rice bottled up. For the first time in three weeks, T.J. Ward wasn’t the leading tackler, which means that running backs weren’t reaching the second and third levels with as much frequency.

Speaking of T.J. “Bossman” Ward, he’s making Tom Heckert look awfully intelligent at the moment. Ward, who was considered by many to be a reach at the top of the second round, has been the standout of the new draft class thus far. Ward has been terrific in run support, and his pass coverage hasn’t been bad either. If Ward can stay healthy, he has the potential to be the best Browns safety since Eric Turner was blowing guys up in the early ‘90s.

For the defense as a whole, it’s clear that Rob Ryan will have to get creative if he wants to pressure the quarterback with regularity. Matt Roth and Marcus Benard are decent pass rushers, but there simply aren’t many impact players in the front seven. The Browns will have to use the scheme to earn some sacks and probably play a ton of “bend but don’t break” defense until they can try to infuse that side of the ball with more talent in the off-season.


Wacko for Flacco? Not just yet…
This is a huge year for Joe Flacco. The Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin in the off-season, and signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh just days before the season began. They have an outstanding running back in Ray Rice, a solid tight end in Todd Heap, and another quality veteran receiver in Derrick Mason. Ozzie Newsome has worked hard to build a strong offense around Flacco and give him every opportunity to succeed.

Now the onus is on Flacco to develop more consistency and become the leader of the Baltimore offense. This is Flacco’s third year (and also his third year starting), so his youth is becoming less and less of an excuse. Flacco is a guy that I’m comfortable with against mediocre defenses like Cleveland, but I don’t trust him just yet against an elite defense at a crucial point of the game. When the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs the last two years, Flacco turnovers were a big factor.

There is no doubt that Joe Flacco has the big arm and touch on the football necessary to be successful in the NFL, but the light hasn’t totally come on for him yet. This is a big year for him if he’s going to take that next step and start to be mentioned as one of the league’s elite passers.


No turnovers.
For the first time this season, a key pick-six (I’m counting Delhomme’s interception and long return by Ronde Barber as such) didn’t sink the Browns. The Browns didn’t lose any fumbles either. I know it’s just a silver lining, but this week we saw that when the Browns don’t make a crucial turnover, they can hang with a team like the Ravens, who are significantly more talented.

Although there weren’t any turnovers, a key Browns miscue still seemed to take the wind out of the team’s sails when Seneca Wallace and Peyton Hillis got mixed up on a pitch play in the fourth quarter. The Ravens had just scored to take a 21-17 lead, and the Browns needed to answer back. They did just the opposite, and the missed pitch ended up costing them 17 yards, killing any momentum that they had left. That said, if the offense doesn’t make a bigger mistake than that each week, most of us would probably be pleased.


Five reasons why the Ravens suck

a) They are a fake franchise. Why isn’t more attention drawn to the fact that Baltimore screamed bloody murder when their franchise was ripped away from them, and then welcomed another franchise that was improperly relocated with open arms? That is like having your heart broken by a cheating wife, getting remarried to a nice girl, and then fooling around on her with your now ex-wife. We haven’t won much in Cleveland since 1999, but least we brought our team back the right way.

b) They wear purple uniforms with curvy numbers, because nothing screams “FOOTBALL” like excessive amounts of purple. What a bunch of Nancy boys.

c) Their logo looks like a giant winged rat.

d) They have male cheerleaders. As comical as it is to have cheerleaders at all in a chilly climate, having male cheerleaders in pro sports just seems wrong. But it’s the Ravens, and that makes it funny. The Ravens’ male cheerleaders are their answer to Steely McBeam.

e) They endorse manslaughter. I can’t imagine the scene in the Ravens locker room – there must be so many arguments over who has the most confirmed kills. They already had (alleged) murderer Ray Lewis, so when Donte Stallworth became available, they knew he would be a huge addition to the club. Does Leonard Little still play football? Can The Juice come out of retirement? Do members of the Ravens brass have weekly brainstorming meetings trying to figure out how they can make their team less likeable?


Up next: 10/3, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Stadium, 1:00
The Bengals have hardly been impressive in their two victories this year, and I’m slowly being convinced that Carson Palmer is washed up. Cincinnati’s defense has looked solid the last two weeks after being abused by Tom Brady’s Patriots in the opener, so don’t expect the Browns to put up huge numbers. Even if we’re not expecting the Browns to imitate the ’99 Rams, look for a steady diet of Peyton Hillis and more decent quarterback play from Seneca Wallace.

The Bengals look ripe for the picking, and I’m starting to feel that the Browns can hang on by the figurative skin of their collective teeth, get into the win column for the first time this season, and bring the Ochocinco-Owens marriage one weeks closer to collapse. I wonder who’s going to get all of that reality TV money?

I’m probably going to regret this, but…

Prediction: Browns 20, Bengals 17

Friday, September 24

NFL Picks: Week 3

Cheap covers hurt some of us late, as St Louis and Detroit notched TD's that weren't any danger to affect the winning team but shifted the gambling outcome nonetheless. Yuck. Plus we have the continued shenaningans with the Browns and Steelers, which are murdering Nick and Andy in the standings. If I haven't been clear about this in the past, I detest the steelers; it's remarkable that they keep finding ways to enhance my distaste for them. But have no fear! We're back for another week of picks.

Last Week
Andy: 9-6-1
Figgs: 7-8-1
Nick: 6-9-1
Bucko: 8-7-1
Gopo: 8-7-1
Nick's Money Picks ($): 1-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 1-2

Standings (Through 9/20)
Gopo: 19-10-3
Andy: 17-12-3
Figgs: 15-14-3
Bucko: 15-14-3
Nick: 14-15-3

Nick's Money Picks ($): 3-4-1
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 3-3-1

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff


RAVENS (-11) vs Browns
Andy: CAFÉS. I wish there was a way I could put this in more capital letters instead of just conventional all-caps. Also, I was in México this week, so all picks are in español. Bucko, you're one anti-Browns pick away from being disowned.
Figgs: Browns.
Nick: Browns. We're going to beat the spread one of these weeks. Are we convinced the Ravens are that good on offense?
Bucko: Ravens. Their Defense is still great, and I believe this is the week their offense will start rolling.
Gopo: Ravens. I would *love* to be wrong here, and I hate giving that many points to an inept offense, but I just haven't seen anything out of the Browns to believe.

GIANTS (-3) vs Titans
Andy: Short on time here, as I have to go to the Den of the Enemy that lies by the Three Rivers, so I'm mailing this one in. Gigantes.
Figgs: Titans.
Nick: Titans. Giants were my first instinct, but I don't want to overreact to bad performance on offense against the PGH defense like I did last week. Gimme the points.
Bucko: Giants. The Titans got to show me something more before I take them in a situation like this.
Gopo: Titans. Think Johnson get's his groove back this week

BUCS (+2.5) vs Steelers
Andy: Acereros. Co-sign on Nick's comment.
Figgs: Steelers. ($)
Nick: Steelers. People are finally starting to realize that the most indispensable player on this club is Troy Polamalu, not Big Rapist. ($)
Bucko: Steelers. The Bucs should be getting more points in this one.
Gopo: Steelers. Also can't believe this is so low - Steelers should win this one outright.

PANTHERS (+3) vs Bengals
Andy: Tigres de Bengal. Co-sign on Bucko's comment.
Figgs: Bengals. ($)
Nick: Bengals. Carolina looks like one of the league's worst, although I think Claussen's going to be good.
Bucko: Bengals. There goes Nick again with his love affair for Claussen.
Gopo: Bengals. Not enough points for me to take Claussen - this is basically a pick with a homefield +3 thrown in there.

TEXANS (-3) vs Cowboys
Andy: Tejanos.
Figgs: Cowboys.
Nick: How is this only three? The Texans look solid and can score with anyone, and the Cowboys just laid an egg at home to a mediocre Bears team. Go hard against the Boys until Vegas adjusts. ($)
Bucko: Texans. They look for real.
Gopo: Texans. Agree with Nick - don't understand why this is so low.

CHIEVES (+3) vs 49ers
Andy: Jefes. I wouldn't trust Mike Singletary to park my car after that weird TV interview.
Figgs: Niners.
Nick: Niners. Can't see the Chiefs moving the ball, but don't have enough faith to pick SF. Singletary's a badass.
Bucko: 49ers. I still believe they are one of the best in the league this year.
Gopo: Niners. SF isn't very good, but I don't think the Chiefs are either. SF puts just enough together this week.

VIKINGS (-11.5) vs Lions
Andy: Leónes. Is there a decimal place missing in this line?
Figgs: Lions.
Nick: Lions. How are the Vikings giving 11.5 to anyone?
Bucko: Lions. The Viking offense hasn't done anything yet.
Gopo: Lions. I can't wait until the vikings are 1-5 and people are calling for Favre to get pulled.

PATRIOTS (-14.5) vs Buffaloes
Andy: Buffaloes.
Figgs: Pats.
Nick: Pats. The Bills have to prove to me that they can beat one of these big spreads on the road.
Bucko: Pats. The Bills could even be worse than the Browns.
Gopo: Pats. This is such a high line, but after the Bills got owned last week, I'm with Nick - have to prove me wrong first.

SAINTS (-4) vs Falcons
Andy: Santos.
Figgs: Saints.
Nick: Falcons. The Saints have been unimpressive, and I may have undervalued the Falcons after their offense was shut down in Pittsburgh. It turns out that Pgh's defense is just vicious.
Bucko: Saints. Drew Brees finds a way to get it done.
Gopo: Falcons. I think the Falcons are going to bring it and I'm not sure the Saints have found their groove yet.

4 pm kickoff

RAMS (+4) vs Redskins
Andy: Pieles rojos.
Figgs: Skins.
Nick: Skins. Washington has a good defense and I think this could be a week when Bradford struggles.
Bucko: Redskins. The old guys (McNabb & Portis) get it done.
Gopo: Redskins. If this was 6 or 7 I'd consider the Rams.

JAGS (+3) vs Eagles
Andy: Águilas.
Figgs: Eagles.
Nick: Eagles. I'm solidly on the Vick bandwagon - at least against lousy opponents.
Bucko: Eagles. Jones-Drew has to get going before I can pick them.
Gopo: Eagles. I thought the Jaguars would be getting more points here.

CARDINALS (-4) vs Raiders
Andy: Raiders. Nick, not only that, but he starts.
Figgs: Raiders.
Nick: Raiders. Derek Anderson plays quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
Bucko: Raiders.
Gopo: Raiders. The Cardinals are awful. I also like Nick's analysis.

SEAHAWKS (+5.5) vs Chargers
Andy: Halcónes del mar.
Figgs: Chargers.
Nick: Chargers. San Diego seems to be good at covering against weak opponents.
Bucko: Seahawks. I don't have a reason just a feeling I have.
Gopo: Chargers. Home is definitely an advantage for the Seahawks, but I think the Chargers keep rolling here.

BRONCOS (+5.5) vs Colts
Andy: Caballos.
Figgs: Colts.
Nick: Colts. Just not enough points with Moreno out. Learning from picking against Indy last week.
Bucko: Colts. Knowshon is out and Peyton is Da' Man
Gopo: Colts. Not enough points for me to take the Broncos.

Sunday Night Football, 8 pm

DOLPHINS (-2) vs Jets
Andy: Delfines.
Figgs: Jets. ($)
Nick: Fish. The one week I'm playing Brandon Marshall in fantasy and he doesn't have to visit Revis Island? Whatever. Cobra Kai never dies.
Bucko: Dolphins. You're an idiot Braylon
Gopo: Dolphins. I don't know how the Jets beat the pats last week, but no way Sanchez puts two decent games together.

Monday Night Football, 8 pm

BEARS (+3) vs Packers
Andy: Empacadores.
Figgs: Packers.
Nick: Pack. Everybody respects Green Bay, but their lines seem like they've all been off by a field goal. ($)
Bucko: Packers! You can't stop Rodgers.
Gopo: Packers. The GB offense is going to be hard to contain.

A few notes on the Tribe

Loved this article from WFNY which effectively articulates why Paul Hoynes' ridiculous pro-pitcher-wins-as-a-stat article was so bad and really kind of embarrassing to read.


I was somewhat concerned to find out that Indians manager Manny Acta opposes instant replay. That's a fairly indefensible position to take, if it really is his view. He also said something in Cleveland magazine to the effect of, "the less I know, the happier I am," which is a troubling thing to hear from a man whose command of information strongly affects the performance of my favorite baseball team. Ignorance isn't bliss, it's ignorance.


I get bummed out a bit by Negative Nellies ripping the Tribe while they're down, especially when it's unjustified. Not surprisingly, a frequent Indians-basher over at The Cleveland Fan has taken some more shots at the 2010 Wahoos, and not surprisingly, most of it is ill-informed and unfair. Inspired by this week's FJM reunion, I'm on it.

I was coming home from somewhere really important (because everything I do is really important) on Wednesday or Thursday night and listening to the Tribe game on the radio.

Jayson Nix made his first appearance of the evening at the dish and Tom Hamilton said, "Nix comes to the plate in a 4 for 33 slide."

I said to myself, "That’s not a slide. 4 for 33 is pretty much just Jayson Nix."

4 for 33 is .121. Nix is batting .244 on the season. Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

For me Nix epitomizes the 2010 Tribe season.

That’s because he’s just not very good to the point of being pretty damn bad.

His OPS+ is 100, which is okay to the point of being pretty damn exactly league average. If all our players were as effective at the plate as Nix, we'd have a few more wins.

Even the guys in the lineup that are put on a pedestal like Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo are really just pygmies amongst midgets. They’re not bad ball players but neither are they the guys you’re going to build your club around. I hate to be the most negative man on the planet but look at the numbers for these guys.
I think he actually does enjoy being the most negative man on the planet - otherwise, why keep doing this?

Choo is hitting .294 which is good for 28th in the league. His OPS is .866 which is good for...28th in the league.
Batting average is not a useful indicator of player value - this is well-established by now. It simply does not correlate to scoring runs and winning games. On the OPS tip, note that Choo plays in Progressive Field - when you adjust for park factor and use OPS+, he's seventh in the AL. He's also 8th in offensive WAR (wins above replacement) and second in the entire AL in WAR. Read that again: by WAR, which statistically-oriented people view as the most comprehensive measure of player value, Shin-Soo Choo is the second-best player in the American League in 2010.

He’s hit 19 HRs (65th in the league) and has driven in 80 runs which is tied for 41st in the league.
Come on, we're past using RBI's as a metric, right?

Nice numbers.
Better than nice.

Add in his ability to throw and you’ve got a solid player.
Choo is also second in the AL in defensive WAR, just a shade behind Franklin Gutierrez, meaning that Choo is rated as the top right fielder in the league. Let's not gloss over this.

What you don’t have is a superstar like the midgets around him in the lineup and the fans still following the team might have you believe.
Also, the numbers would have you believe that, if you looked at ones that best reflect player value.

And yes, those midgets in the lineup probably reduce Choo’s numbers across those statistics I gave you about 5%. There aren’t many guys getting on ahead of him or scaring opposing pitching behind him so his numbers would be improved in a better lineup (as would anyone’s numbers).
So you're saying he might be the American League's single most valuable player in 2010 on a better team? Interesting.

Cabrera is even more 'blah'. That’s a .264 hitter with 3 HRs and 24 RBI on the season. His OPS is .649 y'all. That’s damn near Lou Marson. Well, it’s not quite that bad but Sweet Lou has the same number of HRs and a similar number of RBI.
Goodness, please stop using RBI. It's not 1985 anymore. But agreed, Asdrubal has had a poor season at the plate, though let's remember that he OPS+'d 113 a season ago, plays shortstop, suffered a broken arm mid-year, and is only 24 years old.

And it’s not like Cabrera is doing all of his damage by stealing bases and scoring runs. He’s scored five more runs than Marson and has 3 fewer stolen bases than the Tribe’s light hitting catcher.
Runs, the best way to measure player value.

The decomposing corpse of what used to be Travis Hafner
OPS+ of 125.

is leaps and bounds a better offensive player than Asdrubal Cabrera and Hafner is vilified and the butt of many a jokes from Tribe fans.
The criticism of Hafner isn't just because he's less effective than he used to be: he also does not play defense, can't hit every day, and makes literally twenty-six times as much money as does AstroCab.

Why do we elevate the Choos and Cabreras to a status they probably are not worthy of?
Because Cabrera was one of the AL's best shortstops just one year ago and Choo is one of the most valuable players in the American league and they make, combined, less than $1 million? Was that supposed to be a rhetorical question?

Because on a roster loaded with guys like Jayson Nix and Andy Marte they stand out not so much because they rise above others on the major league landscape but more so because the landscape in Cleveland is a couple thousand feet below C-level.
Clearly they are more valuable to the club because of the lack of other talent around them, but especially in the case of Choo, this doesn't mean that they aren't among the game's best players as well.

That’s what this club is facing right now. They’re bad and their best players are mediocre.
Except for Choo and Chris Perez, both of whom are way better than mediocre.

Add in the fact that they don’t even have enough of those mediocre players to force dregs like Jayson Nix out of the lineup and it’s just downright depressing.
Losing Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana for the whole season didn't help either. I feel like this should be mentioned.

I’m trying to look down into the minor leagues and see where the kids are that will pull the Indians out of this death cycle but I can’t find them.
I'd look at the DL first.

They’re going to have to find them if they want to be relevant anytime soon. And it’s clearly not something that can be addressed by this club in free agency.
Agreed on both counts.

Hmm...maybe the Mariners are interested in making another deal?
Marte for Felix Hernandez, straight up. Hey, a guy can dream.

Thursday, September 23

Fire Joe Morgan reunion

In case you missed it, the Fire Joe Morgan crew got back together for a day to destroy bad sportswriting, just like the old days. I haven't laughed out loud at writing this much in a while - I highly recommend checking them out.

Wednesday, September 22

Buckeyes Roll, Fans Yawn

There was a lot to be happy about, but not too much to get excited about, during Ohio St's 43-7 victory over Ohio this past weekend. In the first half, Terrelle Pryor had an Ohio St-record 16 straight completions, but other than that the game was pretty boring to watch. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not complaining - I would love another 11 games just like this this year.

But there were still some concerns, even if we did win by five touchdowns. The defense was exceptional as always, no complaints there. But the running game never really took off as Brandon Saine had his second straight mediocre game, Boom Herron continues to struggle to get yards, and Pryor only added 35 on the ground. Speaking of Pryor, while he had another terrific game, he had two bad interceptions that looked eerily similar to his '09 self. The most glaring weakness was again in the special teams department. The Buckeyes had a punt blocked and gave up a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown that was called back. I said last week I didn't think the special teams was going to be an ongoing problem, but now I'm not so sure. This is something they will really need to work on, in order to avoid costlier mistakes like this against good teams.

Enough bitching about boringness and mistakes, let's get back to the fact that OSU won by 36 points and did just as I asked them to do...go out there and TCB.


Game Recap

As I said, this game was never in doubt and wasn't the most entertaining, so I'll move through this pretty quickly. Just as in the Marshall game, Ohio St forced an immediate turnover and never looked back. Tyler Moeller (did I mention how much I love this guy?) intercepted a pass on the second play of the game and Devin Barclay hit a field goal when the Bucks couldn't cash in. The Buckeye defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs, all leading to points for their offensive mates. The first came on a Brandon Saine 9-yard catch from TP, the next on a Pryor 13-yard run, and the last another Barclay FG. The interesting thing about the last possession was that it was led entirely by the second-string, linemen and all. Jim Tressel knew he had this game, and wanted to give Joe Bauserman and company a chance to play some meaningful minutes, not just at the end of the 4th quarter. I like the call, and while they didn't score a touchdown, they picked up a few first downs and gave Barclay a chip-shot attempt.

To start the second quarter, the Ohio St D thought being on the field for three plays per drive was too long, so they decided to force fumbles after only two plays on the next two possessions. The first was forced by Ross Homan and the second by Moeller. With a short field, the Bucks cashed in both times with TE Jake Stoneburner catching a TD and Boom running one in. After scoring on their first 6 possessions, Pryor made his first big mistake of the season at the end of the half when he threw an awful pass that was intercepted in the end zone. I guess we'd have to settle at only 34-0 going to the locker room.

The third quarter was pretty sloppy for both teams, as each quarterback was intercepted (Homan being the OSU beneficiary this time), Ohio lost a fumble, and Cameron Heyward tackled OU running back Vince Davidson in the end zone for a safety. The drive following the safety ended in another Herron TD run and Ohio St was done scoring for the day at 43.

Boo Jackson replaced the very ineffective Phil Bates at the helm for the Bobcats in the 4th quarter, and I have no idea what took them so long to make this move. Granted, OSU was in cruise control as the point, but Boo went 5/8 for 69 yards and led Ohio to their only points when he hit Terrence McCrae for an 11-yard TD (compare that to Bates' 4/9 for only 13 yards through 3 quarters, ouch). That completed the scoring with the Buckeyes taking home a 43-7 win.


Game Notes

Game Ball
I didn't really want to give this to TP because of his two INT's, but no one else really stood out, so Pryor gets his second consecutive GB. Led by the 16-straight completions, he finished 22/29 for 235 yards with 2 TD's and 2 picks. He didn't do too much on the ground, adding 8 carries for 35 yards. He did a great job spreading the ball around, hitting 10 different targets. Tight end Jake Stoneburner had his best game as a collegiate athlete, grabbing five balls for 61 yards and a TD. The TO's scare me a little, but still another solid game from TP.
Game Balls to date: Pryor (2), Moeller
Not much else to talk about in this one, let's look ahead to next week.


Up Next: vs. Eastern Michigan, 3:30, ABC
There shouldn't be too much to say about this game either. I can't say I know much about the Eagles of EMU (0-3), other than the fact that after just writing that they absolutely should be nicknamed the Emu's. I should start a petition to the NCAA. Anyway, Ohio St will continue to roll along and get ready for conference play.
Prediction: Ohio St 48 Eastern Michigan 0


GET EM

Sunday, September 19

Downtown Report, headed into Autumn

Guess what? I still live in Downtown Cleveland, OH, and I'm still a fan of the local sporting clubs. Thus, you get my über-insightful perspective from what Tom Hamilton might call the corner of Chester and E 12th as we transition into the best months of the year in Northeast Ohio.


Tribe
Yes, they are still playing baseball games here in town, though I admit I haven't been to as many contests at Progressive Field recently as I'd like to. The Wahoos aren't playing terrible ball, having moved out of the AL Central cellar with Friday night's win over Kansas City, even though they're not going to remind anyone of the '01 Mariners. Yeah, people always say "'27 Yankees" in that particular cliché, but I don't know anything about the '27 Yankees and I hate the Yankees. I just looked it up - 2001 Seattle had a better regular-season winning percentage than 1927 New York. Suck it, Yankees. Also, Yankee fans are criminals. Can you believe over a quarter of all MLB merchandise is NYY rubbish? Unreal.

Somehow, this turned into a Yankee-bashing post, which is almost as easy to let happen as a football piece turn into a rip-on-Michigan session, but let's focus on the 2010 Tribe. There's been talk in recent weeks about whether this year's Wahoos can avoid 100 losses; at 61-86, there's little doubt they'll avoid that ignominy. But look further - with 15 games left, they need only go 5-10 to eclipse last year's 65-win campaign. When you consider the incredible run of bad luck endured by this club, the injuries, the fact that Russell Branyan is STILL only one home run out of second place on the club, it's amazing that they will likely manage to better their 2009 season. Hell, maybe they'll even get on a roll with continued good starting pitching from Carrasco, Carmona, Masterson, and the like, and hit 70 wins. Why not?

The Indians continue to struggle at the plate, with their team 94 OPS+ placing them above only Baltimore, Oakland, and the historically inept Seattle Mariners, currently sitting at an almost unthinkable 79. Yes, that number is even adjusted for spacious Safeco Field. And given all that, BBWAA members might deny Felix Hernandez the Cy Young Award he deserves just because he has the equivalent of an entire roster of Trevor Crowes (OPS+ of 79) scoring 3.2 runs per game for him? Do you realize F-Her's WHIP is below 1.0? But no, he can't be the best pitcher because he's only 12-11, and wins are the most important thing in baseball, isn't that right, Sports Columnist Who Can't Be Bothered to Incorporate Statistics or Logic Into His Thinking? I'm thinking here of Paul Hoynes, who wrote this painfully misguided article recently about how wins are the most important thing and criticizing those who favor statistics that actually indicate how well a pitcher performed. Just because you can't take 30 seconds to understand WHIP doesn't mean it isn't a useful indicator of a pitcher's value.

Well, at least the BBWAA got rid of that horrible neon green website they used to occasionally maintain in favor of a new, less-ugly one that they rarely maintain. Man, I can not stay on topic here.

Alright, back to the Tribe offense, where Hoynes and his ilk would probably reject a stat like WAR even though it's supposed to quantify Wins, which they consistently and helpfully remind us is the most Important Thing in baseball. Here's my question: does anyone realize how good Shin-Soo Choo is? After last night's three-home-run barrage in KC, his WAR of 6.2 currently puts him third among all American Leaguers, trailing only Evan Longoria and Miguel Cabrera. He leads the Indians in OPS+ with a sparkling 140 (trailing only that one fun month of Carlos Santana (142) and with Rusty (126) next on the list), and by WAR, the best outfielder in the AL. Shin-Soo Choo is by far the best player on the Cleveland Indians...and we're paying him $450 000 this year.

The rest of the Indians hitters? Eh. LaPorta's boosted himself up to OPS+ of 84, but never seems to develop real consistency at the plate. Cabrera is still floundering at 83, Nix and Donald have performed well enough to merit serious looks for next year, Luis Valbuena is a personal insult to me, and...I can't do anymore of this. But before I end this discussion, a word on two Indians who have been more productive in recent months.

Travis Hafner
I know, he's a shell of his former self, can't play every day, and his contract is an albatross. Believe me, I know these things. But he's not totally without value as a hitter, as his .913 OPS since the All-Star break will attest.

Michael Brantley
Brantley started the season horribly, but since his August 6 recall, his on-base percentage is .333. He's here to get on base and be fast, and now he's doing these things. His hit streak is nice, but getting on base is the key.

Pitching-wise, we're also still near the bottom of the league at a team ERA+ of 92, edging Baltimore and comfortably ahead of poor Kansas City. The story out of the bullpen continues to be the dominance of Chris Perez, who's lowered his ERA to 1.81 and become a real lockdown closer. Here's how many games since June 27 in which Perez has allowed a run: one.

The rotation has also shown signs of improvement, with youngsters like Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Justin Masterson providing decent starting pitching to support Fausto Carmona, enjoying a bit of a career renaissance this season. In the off-season, maybe JHH and I will look at what the 2011 Tribe will look like. For now, let's see if we can't finish strong and notch 70.


Browns
Last year, during our NFL Playoff Picks, I went on and on every week about how winning and losing in the NFL is all about turnovers. I know this is super-obvious hack broadcaster stuff, but by the same token, it might not be appreciated just how large of a role it plays in comparison to, say, establishing the run, or avoiding penalties.

If it wasn't clear enough, I hope Jake Delhomme's horribly ill-advised pass at the end of the first half in Tampa Bay put things into even greater focus. If that doesn't happen, I really believe the Browns win that game. The back-foot INT he tossed in the second half was pretty bad too, but more the product of bad mechanics than bad decision-making, and the latter concerns me a lot more. Hopefully Seneca Wallace does a better job protecting the football against Kansas City - if he does, the Browns will even their mark at 1-1.

And hopefully Eric Mangini realizes that pulling a quarterback who is visibly injured is not something that leads to a "quarterback controversy." Yes, I know the DA/Brady thing last year was unfortunate, but you can't let that dictate your decisions going forward. If a guy gets hurt, you replace him - that shouldn't be a difficult move to explain to the fans and media.

Buckeyes
You know what I'm looking at right now as I glance over my laptop monitor? A television that is currently powered down, because I shut off the Buckeyes game at halftime with OSU up 34-0. Absolute domination. It really wasn't interesting anymore, but it's good to know that OSU's focus has been sharp this season even against subpar opponents. Well, except for that ghastly interception Terrelle Pryor threw into the end zone at the end of the first half, that is. I see the score is now 43-7; I'm glad Ohio got on the board for the Bobcat players' sake.

Far more exciting, obviously, was last weekend's impressive 36-24 win over 12th-ranked Miami (FL), already recapped by Figgs. I'm not sure everyone sees the game as being as lopsided as I do - Miami scored 24 points, but only via two kick returns for TD's and a late garbage-time score. Ohio State controlled the entire game offensively and defensively, harrassing Miami (FL) into turnover after turnover and moving the ball al day long. Bring on the Big Ten.

The kick return didn't look as bad to me as the punt return, which was totally inexcusable. There were three Buckeyes in position to make the tackle, and all three simply sprinted past the return man as if he'd called for a fair catch. There's no reason that fellow should have gotten more than five yards on that return.

Also, Ohio State defeated Miami in 2 OT in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 National Championship, in case you had forgotten. We also haven't lost to michigan in seven years.

The only other notable part of this contest was this piece of human garbage inhabiting Pacer's, where I went to watch the carnage. Last Saturday was the long-planned Scorchers reunion, getting the old crew back together for some cheap beer, "hot, greasy meat," and weird characters. Check on all three front. There were two losers sitting at the bar watching other, inferior games. One of them had on this ugly michigan jersey, and the other guy next to him a blue-on-blue striped shirt. The latter was rooting aggressively for Miami (FL), almost entirely to be a dick and get attention for himself. Look, loser-boy, you can't just show up at a bar in Ohio and root against the Buckeyes just because you think you're cool without even being a real fan of their opponent. Why would you want to even be that person? He left at halftime - I guess it wasn't as fun when Ohio State went up big and people stopped paying attention to him.

While I'm touching on michigan, allow me a few chuckles at the school up north. Apparently, I'm supposed to think they're really good because they have a fast quarterback who had a good game against Notre Dame and doesn't tie his shoelaces. Yeah, I'll get right on that. I'm shaking. Somehow they've got themselves ranked all the way up to #20, which is going to make it all the more amusing when Ohio State batters them for lucky #7 in a row in the Horseshoe this November.


Cavs
It's kinda sad how news of former Cavalier L. James (I've decided to never use his first name again) still dominates my thinking on the Cavs, but that's the way it is, especially since Cavalier basketball is still a few weeks off, even for the preseason. I was delighted to read about James' precipitous drop in Q Score since The Abomination. He's now the 6th-most unpopular sports figure in the nation, trailing only this select list of gentlemen:

Michael Vick
Tiger Woods
Terrell Owens
Chad Ochocinco
Kobe Bryant

Anyone get a sense of "one of these things is not like the other"? Let's consider the Top 6, shall we? Vick organized dogfights and had some of the dogs killed; Woods banged about 1000 women while married and earned the enmity of every female in America, Owens is a locker-room cancer who destroys every team he goes to, and Bryant was on trial for rape not long ago.

So what has Ochocinco done to merit inclusion here? It's possible he's earned some negative perception from his reality show, but he's never done anything criminal like so many pro athletes, and even when his relationship with the Bungles went sour he mended fences with the team and the city. Weird. I can think of dozens of players who deserve worse Q Scores than Ochocinco - I think the guy's funny and likable - including a certain AFC North murdering linebacker.

Friday, September 17

NFL Picks: Week 2

Solid start for our team of NFL prognosticators in Week 1, led by a stellar showing from Gopo. Looks like someone threw down a serious gauntlet all the way from the West Coast to the Midwest. It also looks like the AFC North makes me want to hurl...again.

Standings (Through 9/13)
Gopo: 11-3-2
Figgs: 8-6-2
Nick: 8-6-2
Andy: 8-6-2
Bucko: 7-7-2

Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-2-1
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-1-1

Sunday games
1 pm starts


BROWNS (-1) vs Chieves
Andy: Browns eliminate the turnovers and even their mark at 1-1. Bucko? More like "Sucko."
Figgs: I'm sorry guys, I watched last week's game, I don't understand how we could possibly be giving points. KC (sad face). ($ +3)
Nick: Browns. I think Seneca Wallace is a better fit for this offense than Jake. Not throwing interceptions really makes you fit.
Bucko: Sorry guys, got to go with the Chieves here.
Gopo: Chiefs. If the Browns couldn't beat Tampa Bay, I can't pick them without getting some points.


TITANS (-5) vs Steelers
Andy: Titans. I like this Tennessee club, almost as much as I like picking against Pittsburgh.
Figgs: I'm sorry guys, I'm not sold on Tennessee yet, not for 5 points anyway. Steelers (sad face).
Nick: Titans. Pittsburgh can't move the football.
Bucko: Steelers. Their defense will keep it close.
Gopo: Steelers. 35 games with only 1 100 yard rusher (Rice). Includes 2 games against C. Johnson. I feel pretty good about trying to let Vince Young win this game.

VIKINGS (-5.5) vs Dolphins
Andy: Dolphins. I'm not down with the 2010 Vikings for some reason.
Figgs: Vikes. The Dolphins do not impress me one bit.
Nick: Fish. Favre has to show me something before I give 5.5 to a good team.
Bucko: Vikings. Peterson has a huge game.
Gopo: Dolphins. I just don't think this offense has anything this year - Percy Harvin might be the offensive version of Bob Sanders.

FALCONS (-6.5) vs Cardinals
Andy: Falcons. I'm going to keep picking against the Cardinals until I see a reason not to. This should be a bounce-back game at home for the Dirty Birds after a tough Week 1 loss in Pittsburgh.
Figgs: ATL. I'm not picking Derek Anderson ever again.
Nick: Birds. Good one, right? Falcons. Derek Anderson plays quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
Bucko: Falcons.
Gopo: Falcons. That's a lot of points, but the Cardinals are not good. Two word version of analysis: Derek Anderson

BENGALS (+1) vs Ravens
Andy: Bengals. They beat Baltimore twice last year, no reason they can't do it again.
Figgs: Ravens. Cincy is a fraud.
Nick: Rats. Wouldn't be shocked to see Cincy bounce back in this one though.
Bucko: Ravens. The best of the AFC North here.
Gopo: Ravens. It's too bad I don't bet on Football games because it's going to be really easy to continue making money until Vegas figures out the Bengals suck. Would love to be wrong on this game though.

COWBOYS (-9) vs Bears
Andy: Bears. I don't think they're any good, but I'm not giving nine to take Dallas.
Figgs: Dallas. 'Boys bounce back in a big way after a sluggish Week 1.
Nick: Bears. I don't think either of these teams are very good, so I'll take 9 points.
Bucko: Bears. The Cowboys are over-rated.
Gopo: Bears. This line is about preseason hype Cowboys, not real-life Cowboys.

LIONS (+4.5) vs Eagles
Andy: Eagles. This one is tough for me, but I think Michael Vick is going to run amok against Detroit.
Figgs: Philly. I'm with Burns, Stafford would make things much more interesting.
Nick: Eagles. Would think long and hard about the Lions if Stafford were healthy.
Bucko: Eagles. It is just scary what Vick can do.
Gopo: Lions. If you can figure out how to keep Vick from running, you win the game. I think Schwartz is up to the task.

PACKERS (-13) vs Buffaloes
Andy: Packers. This is one of those early-season ones where Vegas can't set the line high enough.
Figgs: Pack. I might give 20 in this one.
Nick: Pack. This line gets covered by halftime. ($)
Bucko: Packers. Buffalo will not be able to stop Rodgers.
Gopo: Packers. I really wanted to pick the Bills in this one - the Pack will win easily, but I feel like their weak D will let Buffalo creep back under the points by the end.

PANTHERS (-3.5) vs Bucs
Andy: Tampa Bay, for no particular reason.
Figgs: Panthers. Lock of the week. ($)
Nick: Panthers. Got in early at -2. ($)
Bucko: Panthers. Because the Bucs just suck.
Gopo: Panthers. I can easily see the Bucs losing the rest of their games.


4 pm kickoff

BRONCOS (-3.5) vs Seahawks
Andy: Broncos. Seattle got their fun opening week win, but they're not the same club away from Qwest.
Figgs: Denver. I'd take the home team either way.
Nick: Donks. Seattle's going from one of the biggest home field advantages to one of the toughest road stadiums.
Bucko: Broncos. I'll probably get this one wrong, but we are talking about the Seahawks they can't be as good as they played last week.
Gopo: Broncos. Agree with Andy - home field is huge for the Seahawks.

RAIDERS (-3.5) vs Rams
Andy: Raiders. I actually think they'll win this by a lot.
Figgs: Rams. I think the STL wins some games this year. Oakland is no good. ($)
Nick: Rams. I think Sam Bradford's going to be good.
Bucko: Rams. The Raiders didn't look good at all last week.
Gopo: Raiders. Tossup between two bad teams - I'll take the home club.

REDSKINS (+3) vs Texans
Andy: Texans. I'm not buying the Redskin hype just because Dallas fumbled away a game in DC last week. In Fantasy news, Nick's pickup of Arian Foster pretty much singlehandedly won my game last week. I then dumbly called him "Arian Flores" in a discussion later in the week. Once again, I'm glad Nick handled my draft.
Figgs: Texans. I'm gonna keep riding Houston until they give me a reason not to.
Nick: Texans. Washington's still a tough place to play, but Washington's offense sucks.
Bucko: Redskins. Their defense looked good last week. I think they'll keep Foster in check.
Gopo: Texans. The Redskins are not good - I watched most of that game last week and they looked good because the Cowboys were too busy sucking whale penis.

JETS (+1) vs Patriots
Andy: Jets. Picking New England seems too easy for some reason. Ha! I wrote that before I read what Nick said. Nick, don't forget how cockiness hasn't correlated well with winning percentage for you over the years.
Figgs: Pats. Not as confident as Nick to lay real money.
Nick: Pats. Too easy. ($ -2) Nick's edit: I'm not cocky. I have swagger. Big difference. Clubber Lang was cocky. Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun' had swagger.
Bucko: Jets. Man do I hate both of these teams.
Gopo: Patriots. This isn't even going to be close.

CHARGERS (-8.5) vs Jags
Andy: Jags. I absolutely hate this line, so I'll take the points. Ugh.
Figgs: Jax. This is too high, SD lost to Kansas City.
Nick: Jagoffs. Not sure about these Chargers yet.
Bucko: Jags. This is just a little much for me.
Gopo: Jags. This Chargers team will suck for the first 6 games, then win their awful division. Ah, must be nice to be in the AFC West.

COLTS (-5.5) vs Giants
Andy: Colts. JHH pointed out to me how infrequently the line actually comes into play, and I think Indy bounces back in this one bigtime.
Figgs: Indy. We all know Peyton and Eli are both no Cooper.
Nick: Giants. I would never lay money against the Colts in a night game, but this line is too high.
Bucko: Giants. I'm going to say the big brother wins, but it will be separated by a FG only.
Gopo: Giants. That Colts D just looked awful. Giants can pressure with 4 just as well as anyone and their run game is solid.

Monday Night Football
8:30 kickoff


49ERS (+4.5) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. I'm struggling to understand why this line isn't higher.
Figgs: Saints. 4.5? Really? ($)
Nick: Saints. There aren't many teams that should be under a TD against the Saints, and SF ain't one of 'em. ($)
Bucko: Saints. The 49ers have to show me something better than last week before I give them less than a TD against the Saints.
Gopo: Saints. 49ers didn't look worth of backing last week. Horrible showing against the Seahawks.

Wednesday, September 15

Buckeyes Ride 4 INT's to Victory

Going into this past Saturday's showdown between #2-ranked Ohio ST and #12-ranked Miami (FL) in Columbus, much hype surrounded the two big-play quarterbacks, OSU's Terrelle Pryor and UM's Jacory Harris. Neither threw the ball particularly well, but the game was decided by
Pryor making plays with his legs when nothing was open, and Harris turning the ball over in those same situations. The four interceptions Harris threw can't all be blamed on him, as Hurricane wideouts were repeatedly dropping passes and running wrong routes, but he certainly didn't look like a Heisman candidate (as all of us here at FCF told you before the game). TP, on the other hand, absolutely did. His 12 of 27 passing for 233 yards doesn't look spectacular, but he added a game-high 113 yards rushing and more importantly showed great decision making and ball security that led to zero turnovers and a 36-24 Ohio St victory.


Game Recap

The game's first big play came early on when OSU safety C.J. Barnetttipped a Harris pass and Nathan Williams came up with the pick in Miami territory. When a big run by Dan Herron was called back because of holding, the Bucks settled for three, and Devin Barclay connected on the 24-yarder. Special teams haunted Ohio St for the second week
in a row when Miami's Lamar Miller took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to paydirt to put The U on top. Ohio St's offense stalled with two consecutive three-and-outs and the Hurricanes added a 51-yard Matt Bosher field goal to go up 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Buckeyes were looking for a big play to get the momentum back on their next possession, and that's exactly what they got. Pryor hit DeVier Posey for 68 on the drive's first play, then connected with Brandon Saine for an 18-yard score on the next. Just like that, the game was tied at 10. When OSU got the ball back, Pryor made two great third down plays, running for 10 yards on 3rd and 3 and hitting Dane
Sanzenbacher for 19 on 3rd and 14, setting up another Barclay FG.

Miami began their next drive at their own 20, and Harris was picked off immediately by Chimdi Chekwa. Jacory and his receiver weren't even in the same book on that one and Chekwa was in the right place at the right time. After a Sanz 15-yard catch, Boom scored on a 4-yard run to put the Bucks up 20-10. Each team traded punts, but Miami's Travis Benjamin took The Cannon's punt back 79 yards for a score to put them right back in the game.

Jordan Hall did his best Miami impression and brought the ensuing kick to the Miami 28, but Ohio St couldn't move the ball and Barclay hit another FG to extend OSU's lead to 23-17. Harris experienced deja vu when his first pass on the next drive was again intercepted by Chekwa. This time Harris hit Benjamin right in the hands and he basically tipped it right to the OSU DB. With only 49 seconds left in the half, Pryor took a couple of failed shots to the end zone and Barclay knocked in his fourth field goal of the half. 26-17, Buckeyes lead at the break.

Ohio St's defense went into bend-but-don't-break mode in the third quarter, giving up over 150 yards but no points. On Miami's first drive they got inside the ten yard line, but Cameron Heyward brought in OSU's fourth pick of the day. The big fella rumbled 80 yards with the ball, back to the Hurricane 15. After the game, Ironhead Jr.
said, "They caught me. That shows they didn't give up, and shows I'm not that fast." He was fast enough to set up an easy Buckeye touchdown when Pryor made Miami's defense look silly on a 13-yard run.

Miami's next good drive ended when Devon Torrence blocked a field goal, which set up yet another Devin Barclay kick. He looked like Steve Kerr out there with all those 3-pointers. (Not my best, but I thought it was great when I said it double-digit beers deep at the bar. Live with it.) Miami finally finished their next drive when Harris completed a pass to Chase Ford to make it 36-24. Miami's last-ditch effort ended when they failed to convert a fourth down with 7:30 left in the game. Pryor never gave them another chance, picking up four 1st downs and draining the rest of the clock, preserving the twelve-point win (and another cover, cha-ching!)


Game Notes

Game Ball
As I stated earlier, Terrelle Pryor's passing stats (12/27, 233 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) were pretty ho-hum. I also said last week to expect him to run a lot more in this game, and that he did. TP carried a game-high 20 times for a game-high 113 yards with a game-high one touchdown. If you go back to many of Ohio St's games the past two seasons, you would probably see a rushing stat line very similar to that. To be as impressed as I was about this performance, however, you had to watch how he got those yards. He wasn't just running like a chicken with his head cut off and getting yards just because he's an athletic freak, he looked to pass first and took off only if his
receivers weren't open or the pocket started collapsing. Over the off-season I questioned whether Pryor was actually maturing or not, and I think I got my answer this week. I have never been more impressed with Terrelle than I was watching this game.
Game Balls to date: Terrelle Pryor, Tyler Moeller

(Not So) Special Teams
In the first two games of the season, Ohio St's defense has given up 10 points. Its special teams have given up 21. While this will certainly be a point of focus for Jim Tressel and the coaches in practice and should be something to keep an eye on, I'm not that worried about it. The Marshall score was a blocked kick on a 50+ yard FG attempt, not much you can do there. The kick returns against Miami scare me a little, but they both looked more like flukes than ST blunders. It didn't really look like poor tackling, it just seemed Miami had some good blocking and created a few seams. I don't foresee this as being a big problem as we go on.

No Big Ten Solidarity?
Man, do Penn St fans hate Ohio St. I didn't realize that it was this bad until I went to State College this weekend for a bachelor party. Understandably, my A.J. jersey got a fair amount of boos from passersby throughout the afternoon, but I expected that. What I didn't count on was everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in the bar rooting for Miami. I thought everyone hated The U? Then of course after Penn St lost and more alcohol was consumed, the boos aimed at my jersey turned into shouts and obscenities, but I just laughed it off. On a funny, related side note, when walking home from a bar around 1 a.m. it started pouring, and I mean really raining hard. A girl I was walking with, who was wearing merely a tank top, asked me if she could wear my jersey for the rest of the walk in the rain. Take off AJ? On game day? Being the chivalrous gentleman that I am, I politely took off my undershirt and offered her that, then went the rest of the night with nothing under a football jersey. Even a shot at some trim can't come between me and my Buckeyes.

Quick Hits
- Brandon Saine was largely ineffective, running the ball with 12 carries for a paltry seven yards, which resulted in Herron getting more carries. Saine did, however, add 3 catches for 36 yards and a touch.
- Safety C.J. Barnett injured his knee in the 4th quarter in this game and will miss the rest of the season. Barnett won the starting competition over Orhian Johnson when Johnson was hurt in preseason. Thankfully, Johnson is expected to play this week. We will also see more of last week's star Tyler Moeller.


Up Next: vs. Ohio, 12:00, Big Ten Network
Ohio (1-1) is led by dual threat QB Boo Jackson, whose name should be familiar to Buckeye fans. When these two met in 2008, Ohio St trailed 14-12 going into the 4th quarter before scoring the last 14 points of the game. Jackson came in when the Bobcats' starter went down in the first after a late hit. This year's Ohio St team seems so focused and determined, don't count on them looking too far ahead and expect them to TCB in this one.
Prediction: Ohio St 38 Ohio 6


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Thursday, September 9

NFL Picks: Week 1

We're back!

The NFL season can't get here too soon, as far as the members of FCF are concerned. Naturally, this means it's time for us to start making our weekly picks against the spread. This year, we'll have Bucko and Gopo joining us for a full season, in addition to stalwarts Andy, Nick, and Figgs. Let's take a look at the final results from 2009, where Andy edged out the competitors for the second straight season despite Nick "assur[ing]" FCF's readership that such a thing wouldn't happen again.

Nick's edit: I'd like to note that I was ruler of the playoffs, where we separate the men from the boys. I'd also like to take this opportunity to guarantee victory over Francis in '10-'11.

Andy's reply: You can bet just as much on a regular-season game as a playoff game, and we've seen how valuable your guarantees are.

2009 Regular Season
Andy: 133-119-4
Figgs: 128-124-4
Nick: 129-123-4
Bucko: 42-36-2
Gopo: 33-28-3
Nick's Money Picks ($): 33-27

2009 Playoffs
Andy: 3-8
Figgs: 4-7
Nick: 6-5
Bucko: 4-7
Gopo: 4-7
Nick's Money Picks ($): 6-4


Thursday game

SAINTS (-4.5) vs Vikings
Andy: I found this one at -4.5, but this line is OK too. I'm taking the Saints. They'll be fired up, that home crowd is tremendous, they still have the look of being the class of the NFC, and I'm not sold on the Vikings being able to score enough with Favre having not played much and their receiving corps a question mark.
Figgs: Saints. I like the defending champs to start strong at home, but wouldn't touch this game with real money.
Nick: Saints. The champs usually win this game, so I'm going with the Saints at less than a touchdown. I'm not wild about it, but I'm going with it.
Bucko: Saints. Because of what the wise Francis said.
Gopo: Saints. Andy's analysis was pretty good, so I won't add too much color. Instead, let me just say that I hate Favre more than any non-Raven and I hope his ankle snaps off during the game.


Sunday games

BUCS (-3) vs Browns
Andy: BROWNS. We've won precisely one opener out of ten since returning to the NFL, and it's time to right that ship against a sloppy Tampa Bay team. No reason this Cleveland club can't ride last year's late-season success to a fast 2-0 start. Plus, I can't believe I'm getting a field goal to make this pick. Man, I'm ready for some NFL!
Figgs: BROWNS! ($ - straight up)
Nick: Love us in this game, can't believe this line has actually moved up in the last month or two. Lock of the week. LET'S GO BROWNS! ($)
Bucko: Browns. It's going to be a good game. However, if the line was more than 3 I might have to go with the Bucs.
Gopo: Browns. The Bucs are a mess all over the place - can't think of a single thing they do well.

GIANTS (-6.5) vs Panthers
Andy: Giants. Ha, I was all excited about getting back into NFL picks, until I remembered how diabolical the bookmakers are with these point spreads. My interest in taking the Panthers with 6.5 is way, way lower than it would have been if I was getting a TD, so I'm backing NY.
Figgs: Carolina keeps it close.
Nick: Giants. Saturday night switch for me. I'm just not convinced the Panthers can run on NYG, and that means Matt Moore has to win the game. Not sold.
Bucko: Giants. The spread is a half point too low for me. I also think the Giants are going to be a great team this year.
Gopo: Giants. I think the Panthers will be decent this year, but the g-men should win this by a TD.

STEELERS (+1.5) vs Falcons
Andy: Falcons. If I'm not mistaken, injuries to the League's Most Outstanding Gentleman and Byron Sandwich have left former Maryland basketball standout Juan Dixon to start at QB for Pittsburgh, and that doesn't bode well. Plus, honestly, I'll take any excuse to pick against the Steelers. Hey Gopo, remember the time you went to your first NFL game ever, and it was Steelers vs Falcons at Heinz Field?
Figgs: Falcons.
Nick: Falcons. I think people are overrating what Dennis Dixon did in one game for Pittsburgh last year. What he did was avoid fu*&$#@ up too badly. I'll take my chances with the Falcons, who should at least be able to move the ball sporadically.
Bucko: Falcons. I just don't think they can do it without Ben. I also think the Falcons will have a much improved defense this year.
Gopo: Steelers. Andy - thanks for reminding me; that game sucked - fucking ties. Double D will step up and win the home opener.

JAGS (-2) vs Broncos
Andy: Jags. I don't think either of these teams are particularly good, but the Broncos seem more liable to go on the road and play lousy. One of my least favorite games on the board.
Figgs: Jax. Not a fan of either team, I'll go with the home team.
Nick: Jags. The Broncos could really be awful this year, so I'll bank on that plus a home game for JAX. Like Andy said, no way would I ever bet this game.
Bucko: Broncos. Tebow! Tebow!, just joking on that one, at least for now. I'm wondering if Jones-Drew is really healthy enough.
Gopo: Jags. I have no idea on this one since I think both of these teams suck, but I'm leaning towards the home team here.

TEXANS (+1) vs Colts
Andy: Colts. This game always, always seems to be close, and Houston never, never seems to win it.
Figgs: Colts.
Nick: Colts. Houston may win this one, but don't you think that Indy wins it 7 or 8 times out of 10? I'll play it safe.
Bucko: Colts. Peyton will pull out a last second TD to win the game.
Gopo: Colts. Can't believe this line is so low - thought the Texans would be getting more than one.

BUFFALOES (+3) vs Dolphins
Andy: Dolphins. The NFL's schedule-making robot didn't do the Buffaloes any favor by giving them a September home game against a warm-weather club. Play this in December and I might give you a different answer. Bucko, are you aware that Henne is on my fantasy team? Can't say I'm too excited about that.
Figgs: Dolphins. ($)
Nick: Friend of FCF Sean informs me that the Fish haven't won at The Ralph since 2003. Time to reset the counter. ($)
Bucko: Dolphins. Andy's favorite QB (Henne) will have a big game.
Gopo: Dolphins. I don't think the Bills can score on anyone and the Dolphins actually have a pretty good defense.

BEARS (-7) vs Lions
Andy: Lions. I just don't think the Bears are good this year, and I don't quite know why. I do know that I don't feel comfortable taking Jay Cutler and giving seven points against anyone.
Figgs: Lions. ($)
Nick: Lions. The Bears could be really awful this season.
Bucko: Bears. This is hard one for me to pick. I think the Lions will be much improved, but need more time.
Gopo: Lions. If it was 5 or less I would have taken the Bears, but this one is just too high for me.

TITANS (-6) vs Raiders
Andy: Titans. I look for the Raiders to be an improved team this year...just not in Week 1. Explain to me how they're going to stop Crispus Johnson and we can discuss the Raiders' chances. That's what I thought.
Figgs: Titans.
Nick: Titans, though not quite enough to bet on them. With a spread like this, I need to see them control the clock and add on before I'm totally sold on the fighting Vinces.
Bucko: TIT-ans. Enough said.
Gopo: Titans. Improved D or not, the Titties are going to run all over the Raiders.

PATS (-4.5) vs Bengals
Andy: Bengals. This might be the most interesting matchup of the weekend, especially to see if T.O. and Randy Moss ovulate simultaneously. Speaking of whiny wideouts, how about Antonio Bryant filing a grievance for $3.1 million against the Bengals, the team who paid him $8 million guaranteed and who never played a down for the club? Unreal.
Figgs: Pats.
Nick: Bengals also, although I'd believe just about any outcome in this one.
Bucko: Bengals. The Pats D is just not there anymore.
Gopo: Pats. I think people are underestimating how good the Pats are and overestimating how good the Bengals are.

RAMS (+4) vs Cardinals
Andy: Rams. I feel like I've seen this before - new kid comes in, leads downtrodden team to unexpected victory over hyped opponent, opponents features starting quarterback Derek Anderson, fans and media get excited over team's rebirth, team finishes 3-13.
Figgs: Cards.
Nick: Cards. The Cardinals are too far ahead of the Rams in talent, and as much as I hate D.A., I think he can be competent with a decent running game and Larry Fitzgerald making circus catches.
Bucko: Rams. Cardinals are going to take a big step back this year. Wells appears to be hurt and the QB's name is Anderson.
Gopo: Rams. I think the Cardinals are going to blow this year. Derek Anderson? Really?

SEAHAWKS (+3) vs 49ers
Andy: 49ers. Wow, what a dog of a game. Originally I had the Seahawks, writing "without any strong feelings other than a general desire not to have to watch this game, I suppose I'll take the home team and the points." Since then I've reevaluated and am backing San Fran, a team that won me a lot of close covers last season.
Figgs: Niners.
Nick: Niners. Basically, if you believe in the Niners, you bet this game. I'm not totally sold, but I'm close. The Hawks are possibly the worst team in the league. ($)
Bucko: 49ers. I don't think this will even be close. Welcome to the NFL Pete!
Gopo: Niners. I don't think I can name more than 3 Seahawks, and I'm including their coach - this team is going to be bad.

EAGLES (+3) vs Packers
Andy: Pack. I think they've got a really strong club up there in Green Bay, and I'm still frightened by what I saw Rodgers do to my Brownies in the preseason.
Figgs: Packers.
Nick: For the reasons others have outlined, it's tough not to love the Pack. I really couldn't have a bigger fantasy football mancrush on Jermichael Finley this year. ($)
Bucko: Packers! Kevin Kolb's first game, and against Aaron Rodgers = Not A Chance.
Gopo: Packers. Kolb will struggle out of the gates - it's going to be hard to play catchup to the Packers all day.

REDSKINS (+3.5) vs Cowboys
Andy: Cowboys. Count me OUT on the Redskins this year.
Figgs: Cowboys.
Nick: Cowboys. I want to pick the Skins so badly, but I'd need a touchdown.
Bucko: Cowboys. There has been too much drama going on in D.C.
Gopo: Redskins. There is going to be one upset opening weekend and I think this is it.


Monday Night Games

JETS (-1.5) vs Ravens
Andy: Ravens, and I hope I'm wrong. Even without Ed Reed, the Ravens D might well feast on the INT-prone Mark Sanchez. Hey, I've been calling the J-E-T-S overrated all off-season, so I may as well take this opportunity to pick against them and grab a point and a half.
Figgs: Ravens.
Nick: Ravens. I really have no idea what's going to happen in this one, but I trust Flacco way more than Sanchez.
Bucko: Ravens. I agree with Francis, the Jets are overrated, and I feel the Ravens are underrated.
Gopo: Ravens. Remind me why people think the Dirty Sanchez is going to be any good? That's right, you can't. Why is everyone so high on a team that went 9-7 last year?

CHIEVES (+4.5) vs Chargers
Andy: Chargers. I really only have to give 4.5? Honestly, is there something that people aren't telling me about the 2010 KC Chieves? It's not funny to pull pranks on people, you know. Did we make Rivers the all-time QB for both teams this game? Does San Diego have to play a man short? I'm confused.
Figgs: Chargers ($)
Nick: Chargers. This line would be 9 if it wasn't week 1. I flip-flopped on betting this game, but decided to do so after I went 2-1-1 in the earlier games, and figured that I might not get a game this good next week. Worst case is I push for the week. ($)
Bucko: Chieves. I think the Chargers will only edge out a win by a FG.
Gopo: Chargers. No confidence in the Chiefs at all.

Wednesday, September 8

Mr. Marshall, Meet Mr. Woodshed

While the only thing on the mind of any Ohio St player, coach or fan right now is the Miami Hurricanes, I'd like to take a few minutes to enjoy the 45-7 pounding that the Buckeyes gave Marshall this past Thursday. I am well aware that Marshall is a pretty talentless team that won't even contend in the lowly Conference USA, but boy was this game ever fun to watch. Terrelle Pryor was in Rose Bowl form, the running game was completely unstoppable, and the defense was more shutdown than Drake at the mall.


Game Recap

The game was essentially over when Marshall's Andre Booker fumbled the opening kickoff. After that it took Ohio St only 10 plays and three and a half minutes to put up two touchdowns. The first was a six-yard toss from Pryor to a wide-open DeVier Posey, the second a Brandon Saine 4-yard run after the Herd's quick three-and-out and a 40 yard run by Saine. Right there you could tell how overmatched Marshall was and how ugly this was going to be.

Later in the first quarter, the Thundering Herd got on the board by blocking a field goal for a touchdown. While Devin Barclay will be OSU's kicker the majority of the time, freshman backup punter Drew Basil will attempt some long FG's. He tried this one from 53 yards, and kicked it too low, right into the Marshall rush. Basil also kicked off the whole game and did relatively well.

Ohio St got those seven points back immediately when Pryor hit Dane Sanzenbacher for a 65 yard TD strike. Marshall couldn't even come close to keeping up with OSU's speed all game. This was the case midway through the second when Saine took off on the outside again, this time scoring from 45 yards out. The very next play from scrimmage was an intercepted pass by...you guessed it, Brian Rolle. Rolle took it back to the house to put Ohio St up 35-7 at the half.

The starters played more than I expected them to in the second half, but I guess that makes sense considering it was the first game and they wanted to make sure everything was on point for Miami. On point they were, as Posey caught his second touchdown on the first possession of the half. Marshall actually followed that up with a good drive, but fumbled inside the OSU ten, securing my bet on the 28.5-point cover. The second and third-strings took care of the rest, and Barclay added an unnecessary field goal to finish the scoring at 45-7.


Game Notes

Game Ball
There were too many Ohio St offensive stars that put up huge numbers (Pryor went 17/25 for 247 and 3 TDs, Saine ran for 103 yards and two scores, Posey caught two touchdowns, and Sanzenbacher had 113 yards receiving) so I decided to go with someone on the defensive side of the ball - Tyler Moeller. I mentioned Moeller in my preview article. He was a linebacker that played occasionally in 2008, was out all of last season, and came back this year as a safety. Moeller was a beast on Thursday night, recording six tackles, two for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble, earning himself Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. If he can play at this level on a defense that was going to be top-notch without him, look out. I'm not saying he's going to be the next Kurt Coleman, but he certainly looks like a more than viable replacement right now.

Running It Like Chris Brown
Ohio St just ran all over the Herd in this game, to the tune of 280 yards and 6.8 yards a pop. 6.8 ypc is just stupid good. The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for these numbers. They were opening holes Peter North wouldn't have trouble getting through. Brandon Saine actually got the ball. Wait, let me type that again with caps lock on to emphasize my surprise and delight. BRANDON SAINE ACTUALLY GOT THE BALL!! And I would say he delivered pretty well, carrying nine times for 103 yards (11.4 per carry!) and two touchdowns. Hey coaches, this guy is good, scary good. With him getting the start and the bulk of the first half carries, it finally looks like this guy is option #1.

That doesn't mean Dan Herron will be completely forgotten. He still had seven carries for 44 yards in this contest, and will continue to be the short yardage and goal line back. Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry looked very good once the game was already decided, getting seven carries for 80 yards, matching Saine's 11.4 ypc. Look for him to get more and more meaningful touches as the year progresses. Jordan Hall also added 5 for 32, and true fresh Carlos Hyde got one carry. I don't know the exact rules about redshirting players, whether it's how many games you get in, how many snaps you're on the field for, how many touches you get or what, but that will be something to watch for with Hyde as the season goes on. With the talent we have in the backfield already, I see no reason to give up a year of his eligibility.

Terrelle Pryor, Pocket Passer
You may have noticed one person I didn't mention at all when talking about the running game - Terrelle Pryor. He did run eight times, which is still high for a QB, but only gained 17 yards and just seemed to be looking to throw first. There are several possibilities for the reasoning behind this - he is maturing and becoming more comfortable in the pocket, the rest of the offensive was playing so well there was less pressure on him to make the big play, or Ohio St did not want Miami to get any looks at different packages and play calls in a meaningless blowout. I think (and hope) that it was a combination of all three. While I'm all for Pryor making safer, smarter choices with the ball, the thing that makes him most dangerous is his ability to get out of the pocket and make something happen. Expect to see him doing a lot of that next week.

The apple fell far from the tree
You may have noticed that Duron Carter was not on the field against Marshall. The only way to watch him play football this year will be to travel to Kansas, unless ESPN plans on picking up a few Coffeyville Community College games. Apparently Carter couldn't cut it in the college life, and transferred to CCC to try and get his grades up and his act together while still playing football. Since he is a transfer student, he no longer has any commitment to Ohio St, and could re-open the door to a whole new recruiting war next year, although he said recently, "I'm a Buckeye in my blood. I'm a Buckeye all the time."

Shoelace
I'm sure we all saw new michigan QB Denard Robinson last weekend. I will say this, he definitely looked good and is a prototype Dick Rod QB, but UConn's defense looked really slow, so hopefully he won't be that good every week. But I'm not here to talk about his game, I want to talk about how he is a grown man and does not know how to tie his shoes! Being a scum quarterback, I was destined to hate this guy to begin with, but I hate him so much more because of this, and even more so because these michigan morons are actually EMBRACING this fact. Idiots had t-shirts that actually said "Shoelace 16" on them. Are you kidding me?! I'll tell you what D-Rob, before next week's game I'll send some of my kindergartners over to lace 'em up for you, that way you don't have to worry about it.


Up Next: Miami, 3:40, ESPN
The Buckeyes will look to avoid having their title hopes end on the second week of the season at the hands of a big-time program, as it did the past two seasons. Miami (1-0) comes into The Shoe after a tune-up of their own last week, beating FAMU 45-0. The Hurricanes have been looking for revenge ever since the '02 BCS Championship when OSU ended their 34-game winning streak in double overtime. Ohio St's main concern will be stopping QB Jacory Harris, just as The U will look to contain TP. The 10-point spread is a little high for me, but I expect Ohio St to get the non-conference monkey off their back and continue their road to a National Title.
Prediction: Ohio St 32 Miami 24


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Browns season preview: Onion-style

Classic stuff, even though we cut Engram.

Strength: N/A

Weakness: Okay, where to begin? Let's see, Jake Delhomme is their starting quarterback. Bobby Engram, their 37-year-old starting wide receiver, caught 5 passes last year. Running back Jamal Lewis was cut in the off-season. Man, this is fun and easy! What else? Okay! They're in a constant state of rebuilding and have no team identity, the future of the franchise is Colt McCoy, and their biggest asset is team president and non-football-player Mike Holmgren.

Strength: Oh, just thought of one: dog faces

Player to Watch: To see Colt McCoy become a starter too early, get extremely flustered, and have a terrible rookie season could be quite delightful.

Biggest Question: How soon will fans bust out the paper bags?

Tuesday, September 7

Vegas and the Cleveland Browns

You know what we don't do enough of on Forest City Fanatics? Talk about gambling odds. It's a problem, we're working on it. In the meantime, how about a few Browns-related lines, courtesy of the one and only Jimmy Shapiro from bodog.com? I'll offer some comments as well, which I think makes this count as "content."

Early Super Bowl Line
AFC Pick
NFC Pick

This is my absolute favorite line I've ever seen in the history of gambling. Why the hell would you bet this? It's actually kind of comical to me - it would have been funny had one conference been favored. I think Vegas uses this line to identify problem gamblers, like if you walk up to the window and put down a few bucks on a conference in the Super Bowl five months ahead of time, then you go on a list and they dispatch a counselor to talk with you. I'm taking the AFC.


Browns team odds

Super Bowl XLV
100/1

2010 AFC Championship
50/1

AFC North
11/1

Playoffs
Yes +500
No -800


Um...no thanks on any of these. I love the Brownies, but I feel like we should be getting 20/1 in the North. These aren't good, plus what's up with that huge disparity between Yes and No?


Jake Delhomme
Total Passing Yards in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 2500

We threw like 30 passes in the last four games last year. I'm rocking the under here.

Total TD Passes in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 12.5

You know what, I'm going Over here, using the reverse logic from last time. Hell, Brady and DA tossed 11.

Colt McCoy
Total Starts at QB in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 0.5

Under.

Jerome Harrison
Total Rushing Yards the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 800

I wonder if they set this before Hardesty went down. I'm going over.

Total TD’s in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 5.5

Under. Hillis will be the man getting the ball into the end zone for this club.

Mohamed Massaquoi
Total Receiving Yards in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 650

He had 624 last year and took off like half of our games. Over.

Brian Robiskie
Total Receiving Yards in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 400

Over. Someone has to catch the ball, right?

Josh Cribbs
Total Receiving Yards in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 375

Under. Cribbs just isn't a wideout, though he did look a lot better in the preseason than I've seen him before.

Total Rushing Yards the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 250

Over. He almost had 400 last year, and that was without much of an alternative offense to keep opposing defense off-balance.

Total TD’s in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Over/Under 3.5

Over, though the reason it's so low is probably no one's going to kick to him anymore. Kansas City sure as hell isn't.

Will Eric Mangini be the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns for Game 1 of the 2011 NFL Regular Season?
Yes +160
No -200

I think he will be. Is this bet refunded if there is no first game of the 2011 season?

Monday, September 6

Over/Under NFL Win Totals

It's no secret that we here at FCF enjoy a little sports gambling. Well, recreational sports gambling - after all, betting on sports is illegal in this country...

With that in mind, we'll get ready for NFL kickoff by taking a look at all the NFL win totals, and making an over/under pick.

Note: Because there are odds on these win totals, we'll pretend that we're putting $100 on each pretend bet, and I'll calculate totals at the end of the season.


Arizona Cardinals -- 7.5 wins
Over -140, Under +110
Andy: Under. I can't take the over on a team actually conducting a quarterback competition between Leinart and Anderson.
Figgs: Over. I'm kinda banking on them keeping Leinart here and not starting DA, but they're still in a poor division and have lots of talent.
Nick: Under. Arizona has a solid club, but they're too spooky at QB for me to give -140 here.
gopo: Under. I can't take the over on a team that feels Derek Anderson won a QB competition.


Atlanta Falcons -- 9.5 wins
Over -115, Under -115
Andy: Over. I think the Dirty Birds can touch 10.
Figgs: Under. That's right where I would have put the line, I see them at 9 or 10 wins. Touche Vegas.
Nick: Under. I like the ATL this year, but this seems like 1/2 or 1 win too high.
gopo: Under. I think they'll end up at 9 wins - too many ifs for me to go over: Ryan taking a leap, Turner staying healthy, players starting to refer to themselves as Dirty Birds again...

Baltimore Ravens -- 10 wins
Over -120, Under -110
Andy: Over. [Grimaces.] Am I the only one tired of these fuckers being good every year?
Figgs: Over.
Nick: Over. Unfortunately I have a tough time seeing the Ravens winning fewer than 10 games.
gopo: Under. Fuck Baltimore - plus, I think our division is better this year than most people are giving us credit for.

Buffalo Bills -- 5 wins
Over -120, Under -110
Andy: Under. The memory of that 6-3 Browns "victory" is still in my mind. Plus, I was recently alerted to just how ugly Marshawn Lynch truly is.
Figgs: Under. They are really bad.
Nick: Under. Buffalo is the worst team in the AFC, and maybe in all of football.
gopo: Under. If they weren't in the AFC east I'd say over, but I can't see them winning a single division game.

Carolina Panthers -- 7.5 wins
Over +120, Under -150
Andy: Under. Too much competition in the NFC South.
Figgs: Over. I'm right on the fence with 7.5, so I'll take the +120 instead of giving the -150.
Nick: Over. I'd feel better about this at 7, but the bottom line is that I'd have trouble giving -150 to take the under.
gopo: Under. Agree with Andy's assessment of the NFC South; I also don't like putting too much stock in a QB who hasn't played a full season.

Chicago Bears -- 8 wins
Over -115, Under -115
Andy: Under. Hell no. I think they could finish dead last this year. As much as I respect Nick's football acumen and appreciate him running my fantasy draft, I feel the same way about him picking Cutler as our QB as Frank Costanza did about Steinbrenner trading Jay Buhner.
Figgs: Under. Not a fan of Cutler.
Nick: Under. I don't have a good feel for these Bears, but everybody seems to think their O-line is lousy.
gopo: Under. But it's the Mike Martz offense! He's unbelievable! Umm... actually, he was just unbelievable once - with the Rams, and maybe that didn't have much to do with him...

Cincinnati Bengals -- 8 wins
Over -135, Under +105
Andy: Over. These guys ran the division last year (6-0) and added some weapons. They play solid D, stay in games, and should be a little more explosive in 2010.
Figgs: Over. This is a playoff caliber team.
Nick: Over. I've done a 180 on the Bengals in the last few weeks. They fell apart late last year, but they have 2-3 key defensive starters getting healthy. They'll make a strong run at a Wild Card.
gopo: Under. Don't think these guys are as good as everyone thinks - Palmer is washed up. I think this will be a push, but since I have to pick one, I'll keep my "not picking any Overs" streak going.

Cleveland Browns -- 5.5 wins
Over -125, Under -105
Andy: OVER. Go Browns. Figgs, I want you to sit down with Calico Jack until you've reconsidered this shameful excuse for a pick.
Figgs: Under. No comment.
Nick: Over. I can't see us winning fewer than 5 games, and I could see us winning as many as 8 or 9 with some breaks.
gopo: Over. Ok, had to pick one over - I think they'll struggle in the division, but will surprise some people. This is assuming Cribbs touches the ball like 700 times a game and Delhomme isn't the disaster he was last season. Wait, those are two BIG ifs... maybe I should change this to under. I might have to revisit this.

Dallas Cowboys -- 10 wins
Over -110, Under -120
Andy: Over. Dallas is a tremendous regular-season team.
Figgs: Over. I'm not thinking Super Bowl like many people are, but 11 or 12 wins is very realistic.
Nick: Under. Everything fell into place for Dallas last year and they have a tough schedule this season.
gopo: Under. Think this will be a push as well, but agree with Nick - a lot of things went right for them last year.

Denver Broncos -- 7.5 wins
Over +105, Under -135
Andy: Under. Denver was lucky to get eight last year. "Denver sucks ass."
Figgs: Under. They could finish last in an awful AFC West.
Nick: Under. Denver feels like a solid 6-7 win team.
gopo: Under. I only pick Unders except for the Browns.

Detroit Lions -- 5 wins
Over -130, Under is even
Andy: Over. Hard to pick this many wins for a club that averaged a 15-point loss every time out last year, but I'm doing it anyway.
Figgs: Over. I think Stafford is gonna have a real good year.
Nick: Over. The Lions are going to score some points. I wouldn't be shocked if they finished ahead of the Bears.
gopo: Over. I think this team will be a lot better - I believe in Best and Suh and as long as Stafford is ok, they should crack 5.

Green Bay Packers -- 10 wins
Over -130, Under is even
Andy: Over. I thought this was going to be 11 or 11.5. Easy choice.
Figgs: Over. Tough call for me here, but I'm on the Aaron Rodgers bandwagon, and they have A.J. Hawk.
Nick: Over. Pack and Saints look neck and neck as early NFC Super Bowl contenders.
gopo: Over. These guys are an offensive powerhouse - only a few teams in the league can score with them and even fewer who can matchup on D to stop them.

Houston Texans -- 8.5 wins
Over -110, Under -120
Andy: Under. Regular FCF pick readers have to know how happy I am about this, as the perennial 8-win Texans are headed for 8-8 once again. I cannot believe they got nine last year, but order will be restored this year.
Figgs: Over. I've picked Houston to finally get over the .500 hump and make the playoffs the past two years and I'm still waiting. This is your last chance, Texans.
Nick: Under. Here's a really close one, but Indy and Tennessee will be tough, at almost even odds my money's on Houston to win 8 games, not 9.
gopo: Over. This is the year Houston makes the division interesting.

Indianapolis Colts -- 11 wins
Over -125, Under -105
Andy: Over. They won 14 last year and their division isn't appreciably better. I can't see a Manning team not winning 11 this season.
Figgs: Over. I'm not betting against Peyton Manning until he gives me a reason to.
Nick: Over. I have trouble seeing the Colts winning fewer than 11 games. You have to pick them to win 12 or 13 games until they stop doing it.
gopo: Over. Agreed - these guys are going to be good again, unfortunately.

Jacksonville Jaguars -- 6.5 wins
Over -115, Under -115
Andy: Under. I would never bet this in real life.
Figgs: Under. They'll be lucky to get one divisional win.
Nick: Under. Tough division, and very little upside. Enjoy Tyson Alualu.
gopo: Under. If Jones-Drew isn't 100% healthy, these guys are screwed. Garrard is a fantastic backup Fantasy QB, though. So they have that going for them... which is nice.

Kansas City Chiefs -- 7 wins
Over -115, Under -115
Andy: Under. SEVEN? Are the Chieves playing some games against college squads that I'm not aware of? Weirdest line on the whole board.
Figgs: Under. They'll be better, but I don't see them as a .500 team yet.
Nick: Under. I have a tough time seeing these guys getting to .500, even in the soft AFC West.
gopo: Under. They can't even get their shit together to start the best running back on their team - doesn't give me a huge amount of confidence picking this club.

Miami Dolphins -- 8.5 wins
Over -135, Under +105
Andy: Over. I like the Fish this year, despite their loser quarterback, who Nick inexplicably added to our fantasy team. Any time you can stock the QB position with a guy who no one likes, looks like he's drunk, and threw 26 interceptions a year ago, you gotta back him up with a guy who went to michigan.
Figgs: Under. Suck it, Chad Henne.
Nick: Under. I could easily see them winning this division, but there aren't many holes in that schedule, so I'll take the extra juice.
gopo: Under. Tough division, I just don't see them pulling out 9 wins.

Minnesota Vikings -- 9.5 wins
Over is even, Under -130
Andy: Under. Too bad they can't play the Bears three times.
Figgs: Over. The Pack probably win this division, but I like the Vikes as a 10-6 wild card team.
Nick: Under. An improved division, serious health concerns, and it's a year after everything went right.
gopo: Under. I don't think Favre has the season he did last year, and I don't even think he makes it all the way through this one.

New England Patriots -- 9.5 wins
Over -145, Under +115
Andy: Over. A healthy Brady will get them to double digits.
Figgs: Over. I never thought I would say this, but I think people are underestimating Brady and Belichick.
Nick: Over. See Colts, Indianapolis.
gopo: Over. Dammit, I hate it when the Patriots are good. They will, of course, be Super Bowl contenders by November.

New Orleans Saints -- 10.5 wins
Over is even, Under -130
Andy: Over. I still like this team.
Figgs: Over. This is still the best team in the NFC.
Nick: Over. The Super Bowl hangover has been pretty bulletproof, but the Saints look tough and their division isn't very good.
gopo: Under. I don't think their defense will be as good, and I have a hard time seeing everything falling their way again. Sign me up as a believer in the Super Bowl hangover.

New York Giants -- 8.5 wins
Over -125, Under -105
Andy: Over. They'll switch places with Philly behind Dallas. I agree with Figgs that nothing jumps out at me here. The NFC East is hard for me to handicap.
Figgs: Under. This is the toughest one on the board for me. Gun to my head, I say they go 8-8.
Nick: Over. I'm starting to feel like these cats bounce back and win the NFC East.
gopo: Under. I'm with Figgs - think they end up at 0.500.

New York Jets -- 9.5 wins
Over -110, Under -120
Andy: Under. OVER-RATED (clap clap clap-clap-clap)
Figgs: Over. I'm not drinking the Jets Super Bowl kool-aid, but don't see why they can't go 10-6.
Nick: Under. I need to see it from Sanchize before I believe. This was a 7-7 team until the Colts and Bengals laid down for them, and if karma is at all real there are some jerks on this team ready for their comeuppance.
gopo: Under. +1 on Andy - think these guys are completely over rated. No way Dirty Sanchez steps up and get's that offense in gear.

Oakland Raiders -- 6.5 wins
Over -115, Under -115
Andy: Over. Why the hell not? I can't pick everyone in the AFC West to lose 12 games, and not having JaMarcus Russell around can only help.
Figgs: Under. Campbell is a huge upgrade at QB, but they're still the Raiders.
Nick: Over. Basically a coin flip. I wish this was either 6 or 7.
gopo: Under. Until proven otherwise, I will continue to assume the Radiers will win no more than 5 games every year.

Philadelphia Eagles -- 8.5 wins
Over +110, Under -140
Andy: Under. The first year of the Kolb era will be inconsistent, and like I said, I see the G-Men supplanting them.
Figgs: Over. I predict 8-8 for them, but not confidently enough to lay the -140.
Nick: Over...but barely. If not for the -140, I'd take the under.
gopo: Under. I don't think they come together very well this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers -- 8.5 wins
Over -140, Under +110
Andy: Under. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-6 the last time the two teams met.
Figgs: Under. Suck it, Pittsburgh.
Nick: Under. Another close one, but the Steelers' line hasn't improved enough, and Troy Polamalu can still get hurt.
gopo: Over. I think we come out of the Rapistberger suspension 2-2 with plenty of opportunities to hit 9 games.

San Diego Chargers -- 10.5 wins
Over is even, Under -130
Andy: Over. Why on earth isn't this higher? They won 13 a year ago and play in football's worst division.
Figgs: Over. Not enough competition within the West.
Nick: Over. I'd love to take the under, but with such a soft schedule and some Ewing Theory action, I'll take the even odds.
gopo: Over. Their division sucks too much for me to see anyone else winning games.

San Francisco 49ers -- 8.5 wins
Over -125, Under -105
Andy: Under. Singletary will wear these guys out.
Figgs: Under. I'm not sold on these guys and still like the Cards to take the West.
Nick: Over. Starting to look like the default division winner.
gopo: Under. I think they are a year away from being counted on for 9 wins.

Seattle Seahawks -- 7.5 wins
Over +110, Under -140
Andy: Over. This is my sleeper team, based on no analysis whatsoever.
Figgs: Under. Not sure why this is so high, I would take the under at 5.5.
Nick: Under. How is their total so high? Seattle and Buffalo are probably the two most talentless teams in the league.
gopo: Under. They do have the best bald QB in the league, so it's tough to pick against that. But he also has horrible lower back issues, and that might be the only thing that scares me more than turf toe.

St. Louis Rams -- 5 wins
Over +105, Under -135
Andy: Under. They've won six the past three years combined.
Figgs: Under. I wanted to take the odds, but just can't picture them winning six games.
Nick: Over. I have trouble seeing them win 6, but they could easily steal a few games in a lousy division, so I'll take the better odds.
gopo: Under. Unless Bradford is amazing this year, they don't have a chance at 5.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- 6 wins
Over is even, Under -130
Andy: Under. No.
Figgs: Under. Possibly the worst team in the league.
Nick: Under. Not a good football team, and certainly not a 7-win team.
gopo: Under. These guys suck, and so does their head coach. Not a good combination.

Tennessee Titans -- 8.5 wins
Over +105, Under -135
Andy: Over. The Titties never stay down for long, and they somehow won eight last year. Vince Young wins football games.
Figgs: Under. I don't see them and Houston hitting 9+ wins, and I already took the over on the Texans.
Nick: Over. Another close call, but they somehow managed to win 8 last year, and I love me some Jeff Fisher.
gopo: Over. I don't think they'll be that good, but 9 wins seems reasonable with that running game.

Washington Redskins -- 8 wins
Over -105, Under -125
Andy: Under. Ha! Albert Haynesworth is a fat, selfish jerk. These guys might win three.
Figgs: Under. 8-8 is the best I could see them doing.
Nick: Under. Donovan's banged up already? Goodnight, sweet prince.
gopo: Under. Their offense will be better with McNabb, but their D is going to suck.