Saturday, October 30

Another soccer fanboy!

My famous Ten Reasons Why Soccer Sucks article is still drawing mail on both sides of the fence, even now that we're months removed from the World Cup and everyone should have stopped caring about soccer by now. We recently were treated to this gem from Anonymous over on TFB, and now Kyle has dropped by to express his displeasure via comment. And by "comment" I mean drop four comments, which comprise the original comment plus three subsequent ones that break that comment up into smaller parts, which is always my preferred way of leaving blog commentary.

I'll give soccer fans this: they're tenacious fellows and passionate defenders of their preferred game. That having been said, let's deal with Kyle, a young man with a significant reservoir of rage directed my way:

Nothing like making completely generalized, blanket statements towards a sport and it's players.
Nothing like putting apostrophes where they don't belong and writing in sentence fragments. I wouldn't normally stoop to this level (OK, maybe I would), except that Kyle excoriates me later for using a big word. Tit for tat.

Soccer is subjective, it's not objective like baseball and basketball are.
The winner of a soccer match is determined by which team feels like they played the best, not the final score.

I know you NASCAR loving,
Hold on just a second. NASCAR? Sir, you have me mistaken!

baseball gagging sports fans need your ERA's and batting avg's, but soccer isn't like that.
Because they never score. That was item #5 in my original post. Glad we agree.

And can you completely discount soccer as the beautiful game just because a defender makes a great play on a great build up??
No, not just because of that. I provided several arguments in support of my thesis that soccer is no more "beautiful" or "elegant" than other sports I enjoy. Don't reductionize me, son.

Does that not also happen in basketball, football, and even your beloved baseball? A well designed and executed play in football stopped on the goaline with a swatted ball by the DB or stripped from behind on the goaline, most often leading to the ridiculous touchback rule.
Yes, it does. Sometimes in football, the offense wins too.

And how many times have we seen a nicely anticipated steal with great outlet passes end with Bron Bron swatting the lay up into next week?
I forget the exact number - AC and Fred had a count last year, like thirty-something times? Also, the Cavs didn't battle to any 0-0 ties in those games.

You're challenging the very foundation on which all sports depend.
I am doing no such thing! I'm making fun of soccer for being silly. Do not generalize my argument.

One great play/player beating out another great play/player.
Sentence fragment. And for those of you keeping score, I never argued that soccer is lame for this reason. I enjoy great play/player combinations, as well as big-time play/big-time players.

If Torri Hunter were to snag a homerun over the wall, you'd say that was great
It's spelled "Torii," and: the hell I would! I can't stand that dude. At least I've never seen him fake a shin injury, though.

but a defender in soccer stops a great build up and it's the travesty of the century and it completely negates "the beautiful game" moniker. Very logical.
I'll refrain from correcting grammar for a minute and shift my attention to correcting logical fallacies here. For one, ease up on putting hyperbole in my mouth with "travesty of the century." You keep trying to equivocate single events to one another, equating a defensive play in soccer to a defensive play in football. Yet they aren't analogous; you're ignoring the points I make about defense being disproportionately strong in soccer and how that tends to overvalue fluky scores and penalty kicks.

And here, let me explain the aggregate system that is used in soccer.
Kyle never does get around to this.

Unlike your boring 7-game baseball series,
Disagree on the adjective, but continue...

the Champions League and other tournaments use the aggregate system. Do you not see how everything does not have to be done the way Americans and true patriots of freedom do it?
I do see this. For example, I think the US should switch to 24-hour time and the metric system, and I envy Europe's social services.

How about this years World Series that is going into NOVEMBER!
Oh no! Doesn't soccer season seem to last all year? I feel like I'm ignoring soccer scores on the SportsCenter ticker year-round.

Lord knows it could benefit from a shortened series.
Because...less baseball? I'm confused. Maybe less off-days would be good - is that what you're saying?

The aggregate system places emphasis on tactics and how managers create sides for away and home matches.
The US system places emphasis on winning more games than your opponent.

Home field advantage is far more significant in soccer.
I'm not disputing this, just wondering why it would be true. The game is fluid enough to remove most of the effect fans might have in dead-ball situations, there's too little scoring for much crowd momentum to be established, and there's no inherent home edge built into the rules, like batting last in baseball or last line change in hockey.

You are clearly too closed minded
Everyone do a shot! Can't believe it took you this long!

and used to the way good ole Americans do it to even see how this would be beneficial. Your arguments are based on ignorance. Ignorance towards the game, ignorance toward it's fans and especially toward how the game is played.
This is absolute rubbish. Read my response to Kyle's comrade-in-arms for my rebuttal to that. My position is not one of ignorance, and it is not for a lack of having thought about and watched the game. I've considered both sides, and decided that eliminating a team based on tying them twice and advancing because the score was higher in the away game is less optimal than having to defeat your opponent a specified number of times. I'm not calling you ignorant simply because you disagree with me, and you shouldn't do the same.

Also, do you really want to compare soccer fans attire to say football fans?? Can I interest you in an un-tuck of that huge jersey from your dad jeans?
Remember that SNL sketch that was a fake ad for "Mom Jeans"? Hilarious. I liked the tagline "Because you're not a woman anymore. You're a Mom." I stand by my criticism of jerseys prominently featuring advertisements.

And this is coming from a diehard football family. My dad is a 20 yr high school head football coach.
Mine is a manufacturer's representative. He's an awesome guy.

You don't have to hate sports you don't understand to enjoy the ones you do.
Agreed. They are quite separate feelings. This is not a strong argument in favor of soccer, however.

Nice close minded piece.
Thanks! Oh wait, that was sarcastic - you tricked me! I used to not like hockey until I started watching it and now I'm a big fan. Same with curling. On the other side, I played and watched soccer and still don't like it. I clearly have demonstrated the capacity to learn and enjoy new sports. Is that close-minded to you?

There has to be some sort of drinking game we can build out of soccer fans calling people "close minded" just because we don't like their game. Have you noticed that I don't do this? If someone wrote a piece criticizing football, I wouldn't label them as such - I'd instead provide counterarguments where appropriate.

And finally, if you want to sound all proper and use large words like "festooned,"
I like using "festooned"! I also used "infraction" and "stultifyingly" - did you see? Also, lay off my writing until you figure out how to write a fucking sentence that isn't a run-on or a fragment and learn how to use apostophes. "Its" only has an apostrophe when it's (it is) a contraction, not when it's (it is) possessive. Might I suggest that you're "ignorant" of proper grammar, or perhaps even "close minded" with apostrophe usage? You're throwing some serious rocks in that glass house of yours, genius.

maybe your arguments should be equally as tactful and not so devoid of logic.
This, coming from someone lobbing ad hominem attacks at me in lieu of analysis. Disagree with my conclusions if you must, but let's not suggest that I haven't argued my points. They are most certainly not devoid of logic, except the few instances where I just took potshots to amuse myself.

It will keep you from looking like a jackass like you did in this article.
How come you didn't write "close-minded jackass"? I'm a bit disappointed, frankly. The best would have been had you called me a "close-minded jackas's."

Friday, October 29

NFL Picks: Week 8

We've got a Nick sighting! After a few rough weeks, a 9-5 slate in Week 7 bumped Nick out of the cellar, or at least out of sole occupancy of it. After seven weeks, it's really anyone's game, with only six games separating first and last places. In other news, Figgs is a millionaire.

And so we're on to Week 8, which I really don't care about one bit because the Browns aren't playing. Bye weeks are great for your team to get healthy, not so great for fans of a team coming off of one of the most impressive wins of their past decade of football.

Last Week
Andy: 8-6
Figgs: 7-7
Nick: 9-5
Bucko: 6-8
Gopo: 8-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 4-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-0


Standings
Andy: 52-47-5
Figgs: 51-48-5
Gopo: 50-49-5
Nick: 46-53-5
Bucko: 46-53-5
Nick is listed ahead of Bucko by virtue of picking the Browns.

Nick's Money Picks ($): 12-16-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 14-4-2 (!)

Bye week: BROWNS, Falcons, Giants, Bears, Ravens, Eagles

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff


BENGALS (-1) vs Dolphins
Andy: Bengals. They're home, they keep games close, they really need a W to stay in it, and the weather is getting colder this weekend. Plus, Miami's quarterback has shown he's not particularly adept at beating Ohio teams.
Figgs: Dolphins. I can slightly justify picking a michigan QB if he's going up against one from SC. ($)
Nick: Fish. The Dolphins have proven to be a solid road team (3-0 ATS), and the Bengals have proven to be lousy anywhere. If there's one thing we've learned about the Bengals this season, it's that nobody's better at blowing close games than Carson Palmer. ($)
Bucko: Dolphins. I'm surprised the spread isn't larger. The Bengals still look bad on offense.
Gopo: Dolphins. You might be sensing a theme from me regarding the Bengals: I think they suck. Carson Palmer might actually shit his pants this week while playing.

COWBOYS (-7) vs Jaguars
Andy: Cowboys. A season's worth of frustration unleashed on a hapless Jaguar team. You can win with Jon Kitna, Dallas will rediscover a rushing game, and the 'Boys are for once undervalued because of some tough losses and the absence of Romo.
Figgs: Jax. Garrard is back and Homo is out. I'll take that touchdown.
Nick: Pokes. Everything Andy said - plus, the Jaguars suck at playing football.
Bucko: Cowboys. I have to agree with Andy and Nick. Kitna is a solid backup QB.
Gopo: Jags. If this was 5 or less, I'd take the Cowboys, but I could see the Jags winning this one.

LIONS (-2.5) vs Redskins
Andy: Lions. I'm taking them until they don't cover - why not? After a big road win in Chicago, the yo-yo Redskins should stumble at Ford Field against a bye week-rested Detroit team welcoming back QB Matt Stafford. I needed to add those reasons to justify giving 2.5 points to take a 1-5 team.
Figgs: Skins. I like what the guys said about this game, but I just can't give points for a team like the Lions.
Nick: Lions. I'm not thrilled about having to lay points, but the Lions have been surprisingly frisky considering that they've been quarterbacked by a man who can't even spell his own name correctly (Shaun Hill) for most of the season. The Skins have won 3 of 4 ATS, but all the games have been close, and I think the levee finally breaks this week. Respect the power of the bye week. Bucko has a strange fixation with Ryan Torain.
Bucko: Redskins. I think Stafford will need some time to fully mesh with his receivers again. I also believe Torain will be able to run on the Lions.
Gopo: Redskins. My reasoning is that I was going to pick the Lions and then I decided that I can't see a 1-5 team that has always been getting points winning a game when they are giving points.

CHIEVES (-7.5) vs Buffaloes
Andy: Buffaloes. It's probably time to accept that KC is actually a legitimate club, and they burned me last week by smacking around Jacksonville. But I think Buffalo has renewed confidence with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm and can score enough to keep this close.
Figgs: KC. The Jills gave me a little scare in Baltimore last week as I continue to pick against them in the Eliminator. This week they go back to blowing.
Nick: Chiefs. I was really starting to talk myself into the Bills with the FitzDog at quarterback, but the fact remains that Buffalo has given up point totals in the 30s for 5 straight, they have some key injuries, and they're the inferior team. Plus, KC is 3-0 at home this year winning by totals of 7, 21, and 22.
Bucko: Buffaloes. I really think we might see an upset in this one. The Bills are playing better and desperate for a win. I also agree with Andy about Fitzpatrick.
Gopo: Chiefs. I had picked the Bills first before I learned that the Chiefs average 5 yards a carry and the Bills give up 4.8 yards a carry. Umm... yeah.

RAMS (-3) vs Panthers
Andy: Rams. St Louis is on a three-game winning streak and has played competitively in every game except their debacle in Detroit.
Figgs: Rams. At home, playing well, against a very bad team...what's not to like?
Nick: Rams. St. Louis is now an amazing 5-2 ATS and has become a team that I'm comfortable picking against weak opponents, but will struggle on the road and/or against quality teams. Bradford and Jackson are absolutely the best backfield tandem in the NFC West, and either the Rams or Seahawks will shockingly walk away with the division. ($)
Bucko: Rams. I still think they can get it done without Jackson this week.
Gopo: Rams. Panthers might be one of the three worst teams in the league and the Rams are starting to believe they can compete.

JETS (-6) vs Packers
Andy: Jets. Possibly the best team in the NFL at home against a Green Bay team that hasn't really impressed me that much.
Figgs: Packers. I'm going against my first instinct, which I rarely do, and I don't even have a reason why.
Nick: Jets. The Jetropolitans have won 5 straight (including ATS), plus they're at home, coming off a bye, and the Packers remain banged up. Oh and Bucko, I don't like Jimmy Clausen. I thought he was a good prospect, but he's a dick and I don't care for him personally. Brady Quinn, well, that's different. But he and I are done. ($)
Bucko: Packers. This is a big game for the Jets, and I can see Sanchez choking in this one. Rodgers will find a way to get it done. Yes, I have a man crush on Aaron Rodgers. It's kind of like Nick and his Notre Dame QB's.
Gopo: Jets. The Jets know the Packers can't run, so they'll drop an extra guy into coverage and come out of this game with 3 interceptions.

49ERS (-1) vs Broncos (in London)
Andy: 49ers. I'm generally loath to pick Crazy Mike Singletary's squad, but the combination of the Broncos' recent follies (59 points at home to Oakland, are you serious?) and San Francisco starting Troy Smith has me in their corner this week.
Figgs: Niners. It's not often I get to pick an Ohio St QB in an NFL game. This was a no brainer. ($)
Nick: Niners. Largely because I don't want to pick the Donks. I like how this is supposed to be the game that will make Europe embrace football.
Bucko: 49ers. Why do I keep picking these guys?
Gopo: Broncos. I have no confidence in either the Niners or the NFC. I would like to see them lose on another continent.


4 pm kickoff

CHARGERS (-3.5) vs Titans
Andy: Titans. Tricky, tricky pick. I can justify arguments either way; San Diego could well break out of their slump and the Titans might cool off, and the Chargers did play well last week in a loss to New England. But I'm taking Tennessee because they've been playing really strong football while San Diego hasn't. Plus I get 3.5 points.
Figgs: Titans. Vegas has been just begging people to bet against SD and banking on that Charger mid-season rally. I'm just not so sure it's coming this year. ($)
Nick: Chargers in a classic zig-zag pick. The Titans are rolling, and getting more than a field goal against a 2-5 opponent. I might be getting a little too cute, but the Chargers played well last week, and the Titans might be due for a clunker. Rivers proved he could move the ball without Malcom Floyd last week.
Bucko: TIT-ans. Not having Jackson and Floyd really hurts the Chargers in this one.
Gopo: Titans. I'm with Andy - Titans are on a roll, and I don't think the Chargers can just turn it on with the flip of a switch. They might right the ship, but I don't think it happens this week.

CARDINALS (-3) vs Bucs
Andy: Cards. As much as I dislike picking Arizona, they've yet to lose a home game this season and Derek Anderson is no longer slinging INTs all over the field for them. Plus, I refuse to take a team coached by Raheem Morris, who apparently studied film of Mike Singletary in preparation for calling his shaky Bucs the best team in the NFC.
Figgs: Cards. Picking them has hurt me this year, as has picking against the Bucs. Consider lesson: not learned.
Nick: Bucs. The Bucs are kinda good. The Cards are not. Plus in a game that may not feature a ton of great offense, 3 points is significant. ($)
Bucko: Bucs. I think Blunt emerges as the running back in TB this week.
Gopo: Bucs. I don't think the Cardinals are good, and there is no way I can see them being undefeated at home after week 8. So I'm saying this is loss 1.

PATRIOTS (-5.5) vs Vikings
Andy: Patriots. This is equal parts that the Vikings are disorganized and that the Patriots are solid. We will forget that latter part when Boston comes to Cleveland next week and suffers the same fate as their basketball counterparts did.
Figgs: Pats. The Vikings are an absolute mess, going on the road to one of the best teams in football. ($)
Nick: Pats. I really think the Vikings could win games by just never throwing at all. Green Bay moved the ball through the air, so the Pats probably can too, and all of this Favre stuff might be reaching critical mass.
Bucko: Pats. However, Favre will probably end up playing and throw for 350yds and 3 TD's.
Gopo: Patriots. I'm not sure if Favre plays, but I know I can count on a few picks from the Vikings QBs. I was hoping the line would be a little less, but I just have no confidence in the Vikes right now.

RAIDERS (-2.5) vs Seahawks
Andy: Oakland. One of my favorite games on the board - I enjoy this Raider squad as much as I like picking against Seattle in road games. Raiders, Raiders, Raiders.
Figgs: Raiders. Really thought about betting this one, especially after reading Andy's confidence. Then again, it's still the Raiders.
Nick: Raiders. Seattle's on the road. Plus Okung might be out at tackle.
Bucko: Raiders. McFadden looked good last week.
Gopo: Raiders. They could very well shit the bed and do the opposite of what they did last week, but I think this is actually a decent squad.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

SAINTS (-1) vs Steelers
Andy: Saints. For one, that Browns loss HAS to sting New Orleans. NFL players are big on pride and respect, and for the defending Super Bowl Champions to get their clocks cleaned at home to a 1-5 team has to be motivating. They won't lay two eggs like that in a row. Plus, I'm still furious at the steelers last week for their completely undeserving, ridiculously lucky win where they didn't even cover. Fuck that. As a wise droid once said, why I should stick my neck out for you is far beyond my capacity.
Figgs: Saints. ^^
Nick: Steelers. I guess I have to keep riding the best team in football. They still seem undervalued to me. The Saints have only played one game this year that makes them worthy of this much respect, and Pittsburgh's defense has only let a team get into the 20s once. Once. ($)
Bucko: Steelers. I hate to say this, but if they stay healthy they could once again make it to the Super Bowl.
Gopo: Steelers. Losing Aaron Smith is going to hurt a lot. Not to mention having the other end out for this game. Still, I see the Steelers pulling this game out - I'm not sure how New Orleans will stop the Steelers offense, and I think the Steelers D is good enough to keep the Saints out of the end zone a few times at least.

Monday Night Football, 8:20 pm

COLTS (-5.5) vs Texans
Andy: Colts. There are two reasons to take Houston here: 1) their opening-week smackdown of Indy in Houston, and 2) 5.5 points. However, I find the reasons to take Indy more compelling; they're in their oil-dome, they've won two straight games, they're coming off a bye, and their Hall of Fame QB is facing the NFL's worst pass defense. Oh yeah, and Peyton Manning in a night game. Betting Houston here takes some serious stones.
Figgs: Colts. My stones are casual at best.
Nick: Colts. This line seems a couple points high because Indy's become such a public team, but I wonder if we just gave the Texans way too much credit after beating Indy in the opener? Houston gets their LT back this week, so that's a plus, but they're just as banged up as the Colts. Houston's one big edge is in the running game, so if they're smart they just pound away with Foster and Ward, but I don't think they're that smart.
Bucko: Colts. Manning takes advantage of the bye week better than anyone. I don't care how banged up they are. He'll find a way.
Gopo: Colts. I think Indy is pissed that they lost the first game in Houston, and I think they take it out on Houston here. Until I see otherwise, I will also refrain from picking against Manning in a night game.

Thursday, October 28

Opening night magic

What a way to start the season at the Q! The post-#23 Cleveland Cavaliers, picked by pretty much everyone to finish in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, hosting the defending East champion Boston Celtics - the team that eliminated the Cavs in the postseason a year ago, playing without leading scorer Mo Williams...and the Cavs still won 95-87.

We're 1-0. Only 11 more W's until we reach Yahoo! Kelly Dwyer's awesome prediction.

It's a sweet win not just because it vindicates Byron Scott's club, washes away some of the memory of our departed free agent, and shows that the 2010-11 Cavs can play a bit of basketball, but it's also a great measure of revenge against the rival that's kicked us out of the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Though to be fair to Boston, I would be remiss if I didn't thank sincerely the Green Men for taking out #6 and the EgoFriends the night before. I appreciate it, guys.

There'll be bumps along the way, and the Cavaliers aren't true contenders yet, but what a fine start to the season. Hell, with Toronto and Sacramento coming up this week, there's no reason the Caballeros can't start 3-0. Miami, on the other hand, cannot.

One more thing about the Indians before you totally forget about baseball

With the World Series starting, I felt compelled to write an Indians season recap before the baseball season had completely left us. I didn't write a preseason story quite like last year but I did address a few preseason events and had this to say about the Indians:

I don't know about all that but the 2010 Indians are going to be downright better and more fun to watch than the 2009 ever were or could hope to be. 2010 is all sunshine and warm breezes if you ask me.

2009: 65-97 Pythagorean 73-89 Attendance: 1,766,242
2010: 69-93 Pythagorean 70-92 Attendance: 1,391,644

While I can't be anything but happy about the way the season turned out in the win-loss department, that attendance figure is worrisome. I wonder what the attendance would have been if you only counted Indians fans. Probably under a million. Getting back to the overall record, though, any Indians fan will likely point out that losing Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubal Cabrera to injuries for extended periods - in the case of Grady all year - didn't help this Indians team. Still I'm OK about how this season played out. However it would have been better without those previous injuries and Carlos Santana's too. This particular blogger thought the Indians might finish the season 57-105. I commend FCF writer Nick for coming closest on predicting the Indians record with a "bold" prediction of 71-91.

Following the All-Star break, the Indians did a lot of what might considered a best-case scenario for the organization. Things like making the correct trades (Kerry Wood, Austin Kearns, but not Slider) and beating teams that were of comparable talent (that sweep of the Tigers was especially sweet, and thanks for the revenue Tigers fans).

What 2010 taught us was Chris Perez is good - really good. Choo is easily one of the best outfielders in baseball. Carlos Santana is for real. Some of these young starters aren't bad.

I'm optimistic about 2011 already. A cynical fan might point to the gaps in the infield and lack of a team ace as shortcomings. 2011 isn't going to be about dominating the AL Central, but much more about seeing if these young players improve or regress. Is Jayson Nix as serviceable as he sometimes appears? Will Carlos Santana's injury slow his progression? Who on the rotation follows Carmona? Will Chris Perez cut his hair? Is Matt LaPorta worthy of FCF sponsorship?

Don't expect this winter or early spring to be too exciting. Maybe we might sign Russell Oles Branyan again, or at least someone we can flip at the deadline. Expect a few minor league deals for names you might recognize, but the Indians only go after the Kerry Woods of the free agency market when they really expect to compete, and 2011 isn't that sort of year. Still I expect an interesting year and maybe Manny Acta's best record as a manager yet.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Wednesday, October 27

Payback

Ohio St came into last week's game against Purdue pissed off. Pissed off about the awful loss that they suffered at the hands of the Boilermakers last season, and pissed off about Wisconsin ruining their perfect season and title hopes last week. Unfortunately for Purdue, they were on the receiving end of OSU’s frustration in a 49-0 massacre that would put 50 Cent to shame.


Game Recap

Aided by the opening kickoff going out of bounds and a Purdue 15-yard facemask penalty, Boom Herron carried the ball all five times on Ohio St’s opening drive and scored from 10 yards out to put the Bucks up early. To save time, we won’t talk about Purdue’s first five series, as they all ended in punts. OSU went three-and-out on their second possession, but return man Chris Carlino muffed (snicker, snicker) The Cannon’s punt, and Ohio St continued its drive. A big pass from Terrelle Pryor to DeVier Posey set up another Herron TD run.

Jordan Hall was the featured back on the next series, not running particularly well (1.6 ypc) but moving the ball and scoring a touchdown of his own. It was Brandon Saine’s turn next, and he had the Buckeyes moving the ball efficiently until Pryor threw an awful interception. TP responded well, however, making some good throws on the following two drives, including a 22-yard TD to Posey, a 56-yarder to Dane Sanzenbacher, and a 7-yard touchdown to Sanz, to make it 35-0. Thinking his punter needed a break, Boilermaker QB Rob Henry threw an interception to Orhian Johnson on the first play of the next series, setting up a Pryor-Corey Brown touchdown pass. The half ended with Ohio St in complete control, up 42-0.

The second half was awfully boring, which is starting to become a theme for this year’s Buckeyes, due to their sheer awesomeness. Terrelle Pryor threw his second INT of the game halfway through a scoreless third quarter, which prompted Coach Tressel to send in the subs. The thing that worries me about Pryor’s interceptions is that they are such terribly thrown balls.

Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde ran pretty well in the 4th quarter (a combined 11 carries for 48 yards), setting up the half’s lone score - a Joe Bauserman to third-string, Juco-transfer tight end Spencer Smith. (Who?) Hoping to avoid the shutout, Purdue attempted at 56-yard field goal with under 30 seconds to go, and missed. Ohio St wins more comfortably than Loonette and Molly’s couch, 49-0.


Game Notes

Game Ball
No one defensive player really stood out in this one, because they were all so great, so the GB goes to the entire defensive unit. The Boilermakers came into this game leading the Big Ten in rushing, racking up over 200 yards on the ground in each of its last five games. In this one? 30. Yes, that is the right amount of zeros on that number. Purdue only made it across the OSU 45 one time in this game, in the final minute where they missed the FG. Oh yeah, and all this coming from a defense without captain and leading tackler Ross Homan. I haven’t heard about Homan’s status for the upcoming weeks, but I believe that he was listed as day-to-day when his missed this game, so I would hope he would be ready for the next contest.
Game balls to date: Pryor (4), Defense, Herron, Moeller

Big Ten
I mentioned last week that each Michigan St and Wisconsin need to lose at least one more time this season for Ohio St to be solely atop the Big Ten. Both teams came very close to defeat this past week, but both squeaked by. The Spartans needed a late comeback to beat Northwestern, and Wisconsin narrowly escaped Iowa, 31-30, largely due to the Hawkeyes’ inept kicking game.

I still see Michigan St losing this year. They are a good team, but certainly no National Title contender. Their toughest remaining foe comes this week at Iowa. Wisconsin on the other hand, should win out, with the hardest one left for them being at michigan - and I mean, c’mon, it’s michigan. The good thing here is that it is much more important for MSU to lose, so we can grab a share of a sixth-straight conference title.

Duron Who?
Freshman wideout Corey Brown is really starting to come along at the mid-point of the season. With the loss of Duron Carter before the season started, Ohio St has been looking for someone to step up and be a another threat along with Posey and Sanzenbacher, and it looks like they may have found him. Brown had three catches for 38 yards in this one, including a nice touchdown grab and an 18-yard reverse play. I think it is a sign of things to come that Tressel decided to give it to Brown on that reverse, when he has such dangerous weapons in Posey and Sanz. Expect to see some more of him as the season moves on.

The Second Coming?
Chimdi Chekwa is really starting to remind me a lot of Malcolm Jenkins. What I always used to say about Jenkins, one of my all-time favorite Buckeyes, was that he was underrated because you didn’t hear his name all that much during the game for interceptions, tackles or pass break ups (although he still managed his share of INTs), so people assumed he wasn’t anything special. However, the reason you didn’t hear his name was simple - teams just didn’t throw his way. While Chekwa doesn’t possess nearly the overall talent that Jenks had, the same thing is happening to him. He completely shuts down the other team’s top receiver, and rarely gets noticed for it.

Up Next: @Minnesota (1-7, 0-4), 8:00, ABC
I’m really not sure why this is ABC’s primetime game, as Minnesota is probably the conference’s worst team. The Gophers are coming off seven straight loses and a firing of their head coach. However, QB Adam Webber is fifth among the Big Ten’s career passing leaders (I know, I was shocked to hear that, too). I don’t expect him to move up much on the list this week. I see Ohio St rolling into their bye week in a big way.
Prediction: Ohio St: 45 Minnesota: 9


GET EM

Monday, October 25

Now THAT was a game

OK, so I wrote this last week:
We're not winning in New Orleans next Sunday, so we'll probably go into the bye week (most hacky sportswriters would have said "limp into the bye week" but I'm a special hack) at 1-6.

I'm regretting my word choice here a bit after the Browns' stunning 30-17 trouncing of the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, on the road and with our third-string QB, though I did hedge a bit with the "probably" I threw in there. I never give up on the Browns, though I should've been more positive here than I was. But hear me out.

The week before, I told Nick on the phone that I thought we could sneak one out from the steelers. Crazy things happen in football - I referenced a game from several years ago where Pittsburgh outgained the Houston Texans like 400 yards to 20 but lost by like 30 points because of defensive and special teams touchdowns. I thought, hey, maybe the undermanned Browns could get some big, weird plays and edge out a clearly more talented Pittsburgh squad. Turns out I had the right concept, just a week early, as the Browns used a punt return throwback, a fake punt, a running back-to-quarterback pass, and some bizarre defensive alignments to confuse the Saints all day and produce a rather comfortable win.

I should have maintained that perspective for this week, and in my mind I did, though I expressed it poorly here on FCF. Consider also what I wrote about the Browns' post-bye schedule:

Four of them look damn tough: Boston, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Hard to imagine we win any of those. But I bet we do anyway.

Had I had the benefit of an editor, he likely would have suggested I lump New Orleans into the "Hard to imagine we win, but I bet we do anyway" category. I knew the Browns had an improbable victory in them this year, and there's no reason it couldn't have come this past Sunday, as it indeed did.

Also: I took us (+13) because I was confident we'd at least keep it close. Bucko did not take us +13.

But my goodness, what a game. It was fantastic to hear on the radio - I joked that it seemed more like Donovan and Dieken were playing a game of Madden and announcing that instead of a real Browns game. I love that the Browns pulled out everything they had to win, including the aforementioned special plays. It reminded me of an MNF game from 1990 where Bernie Kosar and the Browns pulled an upset in Denver for one of just three wins they claimed that season. I know it's a worn-out cliche, but the Browns really did play this one to win and not "not to lose." The calls were bold, but the situations were conducive to what they were doing - they clearly saw that the Saints don't guard the backside on punt coverage, leave gigantic holes in the middle on punt returns, and would overpursue Peyton Hillis on his pass to Colt McCoy. You can call them gambles, but they weren't; they were plays that in fact had high percentages for success but were unconventional. I would have applauded any of them even had they not worked, because the logic was sound. They had the right personnel to execute, and each time caught the opponent (and this fan) off-guard, which gives your club a hige advantage.

The best play, by far, was Reggie Hodges' ridiculous fake punt run. Now, I like fake kicks more than probably anyone in the world. I love them. In my mind, they always work - maybe not always, but don't you think they have a high success rate? I pulled into a gas station on I-80 right before the play, and I was actually thinking that I really wanted the Browns to try a fake punt. You know they have one, and this was a game they completely should sell out to win. But knowing how risk-averse NFL coaches are, I never thought they'd do it from their own 23. And that's why it was so brilliant! Fake kicks work because the opponent isn't expecting it, and wow were the Saints ever not expecting that, or either of the lateral plays. Again, I love how well the plays worked, but the real key for me is how well thought out they were and how effectively the coaching staff maximized Cleveland's chance to win the game.

One last thought. A number of commentators talked about how the NFL's game would suffer in light of the increased enforcement on helmet-to-helmet hits. Guess what happened in Week 8? The games were every bit as exciting and competitive, and no one got a concussion. I want everyone who opposed the rule emphasis to admit they were wrong. Too bad the NFL waited so long.

Friday, October 22

NFL Picks: Week 7

News flash: picking NFL games is hard! Through six weeks of pro action, the FCF crew is a collective five games below .500, with no one scoring above 53% on the season. Gone, apparently, are the halcyon days of 2008, when Andy rolled to a magical 59-41 start early in the year and cruised to a solid season, or even 2009, when Bucko and Gopo burst on the scene with 54% mini-seasons.

But that's OK! Because the point of this whole exercise is to keep on top of the NFL, have a good time, compete a little bit, hate on the steelers, and above all: make jokes about the other players.


Last Week
Andy: 8-4-2
Figgs: 6-6-2
Nick: 5-7-2
Bucko: 6-6-2
Gopo: 6-6-2

Nick's Money Picks ($): 3-1-2
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-0-1


Standings
Andy: 44-41-5
Figgs: 44-41-5
Gopo: 42-43-5
Bucko: 40-45-5
Nick: 37-48-5

Nick's Money Picks ($): 8-13-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 12-4-2


Bye week: Lions, Colts, Jets, Texans

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff


SAINTS (-13.5) vs Browns
Andy: BROWNS. There are few things I enjoy more about this competition each week than picking the Clevelanders regardless of opponent or spread. Someone will probably write something about how this not being (-14) is a "big half-point," but we're going to win outright, so no it isn't.
Figgs: Browns.
Nick: Browns. 2-5 heading into the bye? I can live with that.
Bucko: Saints. This was a hard one. I actually had to think about it for quite some time.
Gopo: Browns. I don't think the Saints D is very good, and I think McCoy will find some garbage time points at the end of the game.

FALCONS (-3.5) vs Bengals
Andy: Bengals. What a surprise that Figgs is taking them! (-8.5) is absurd - I can't even tell if that was supposed to be serious. My guess was -4.5. Anyway, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm down with what Bucko is saying here.
Figgs: ATL. I had this at 8.5. The Falcons are a much better team. ($)
Nick: Birds. The Falcons are a much more complete team, and they're a very good home team. Dome, sweet dome. ($)
Bucko: Bengals. The Bengals are coming in healthy, and had some extra time to work on their offense because of the bye last week.
Gopo: Falcons. I'm confused what the line is - the title says (-3.5), but Andy and Nick's comments suggest (-8.5). I have no idea what's going on with this line, but I do know that the Bengals aren't very good. The Falcons should roll easily.

BEARS (-3) vs Redskins
Andy: Redskins. I was really low on Chicago early in the season, then they managed to win a couple, and now I'm back where I started.
Figgs: Skins. I was originally thinking Chicago being at home, but I just can't put any faith in Jay Cutler.
Nick: Skins. A little disappointed I'm not getting more than 3, but the Skins are probably a better team.
Bucko: Redskins. Get an umbrella because it is about TORAIN. I really like how the Skins are playing lately.
Gopo: Bears. I can't put any faith in either of these teams. Both of them are such hit and miss squads, that it's probably just going to come down to some random special teams or defensive play. For no reason other than they are home, I'll take the Bears.

BUCS (-3) vs Rams
Andy: Bucs. Last time the Rams went on the road, they lost by like 70 to Detroit. Yes, they're playing better, but TB can handle shaky teams. And who screwed with all the lines? This one was (-2.5).
Figgs: Rams. The Bucs really aren't good, right?
Nick: Rams. My first instinct was Bucs, but the Rams look like they have a better quarterback, and Steven Jackson is the best player on both sides of the ball. The Bucs are smoke and mirrors.
Bucko: Bucs. Just a guess here. Both of these teams are very unpredictable.
Gopo: Rams. The Rams are sneaky - this team could end up at 0.500 at the end of the year, but it's going to come down to wins against teams like this. Entirely winnable game.

PANTHERS (+3) vs 49ers
Andy: Panthers. I just don't like this 49ers team, and I'm certainly not giving points to take them in the eastern time zone at 1 pm.
Figgs: Niners. I still don't like them at all, but Carolina is looking Bills-bad so far this year.
Nick: Niners. Sigh. You have to go against the Panthers getting under a field goal against anyone, right? ($)
Bucko: 49ers. I still believe in the 49ers, and Carolina has QB issues. Someone please make sure Nick is doing okay with the announcement of the Clausen benching.
Gopo: Panthers. I watched the Raiders-Niners game last week and I still don't know how the Niners won. They really look awful. I'm probably making this pick simply because I haven't watched more than 3 snaps of any Panthers game this year and I have no idea how bad they really are.

RAVENS (-13) vs Buffaloes
Andy: Ravens. Again, I think Bucko is on the money here, except for how he called it "the Buffalo."
Figgs: Ravens. I was going to take them regardless of the line.
Nick: Rats. I'm not totally sold on the Ravens scoring enough to cover this number, but the Bills' D has given up totals of 34, 38, 38, and 36 in their last four games. I'll take my chances.
Bucko: Ravens. The birds are pissed about their OT loss last week, and they'll take it out on the Buffalo.
Gopo: Ravens. No point trying to outsmart myself. I do think the Bills can put up garbage time points with the best of them, but I have a hard time taking them in this game. Though if they were home with the same line, I would have taken the Bills.

TITANS (-3) vs Eagles
Andy: Titans. Same logic as Figgs, different club.
Figgs: Philly. No idea on this one, I've just been rolling with the Eagles lately and it's been working.
Nick: Titans. Serious injuries on both sides of this one, but I think Desean Jackson might be more important to the Eagles offense than VY is to the Titans'. Still, nothing would surprise me here.
Bucko: TIT-ans. This will be a good game, but I'm going with the home team as well.
Gopo: Titans. This is kind of a pick-em as far as I'm concerned. Apparently the oddsmakers feel the same way - I'll go with the home team.

CHIEVES (-9.5) vs Jaguars
Andy: Jaguars. They're bad, but the Chiefs and I aren't at the stage in our relationship where I can give 9.5 to take KC.
Figgs: Jax. I don't know if KC is good enough to give that many to anyone. OK, other then the Bills.
Nick: Chiefs. Todd. Bouman. ($ -9)
Bucko: Jaguars. Jones-Drew gets it going in this one.
Gopo: Jaguars. I believe the Jaguars are a team that does well against mediocre and below average opponents. I believe the Chiefs to be mediocre, regardless of what their record says.

DOLPHINS (+3) vs Steelers
Andy: I'm not picking the Dolphins - I'm taking their opponent, whose name I refuse to type. This is one of those rare instances where I want to be wrong. If they win by 1, I'm going to blow up their stadium on my way home from Eastern PA.
Figgs: Steelers. Unless James Harrison retires.
Nick: Evil. This should be higher. Pittsburgh has the look of an early Super Bowl contender, and the Dolphins' offense is only averaging 17.8 ppg. ($)
Bucko: Steelers. I hate them, but damn they look good.
Gopo: Steelers. I think Silverback is going to have a huge game on Sunday with a couple more monster hits. The retirement statement was an overreaction - Steelers D should be able to shut down Brown/Williams and force Henne to beat them. I don't think Henne can look good playing QB for 4 consecutive quarters.


4 pm kickoff

SEAHAWKS (-5.5) vs Cardinals
Andy: Seahawks. There's no way for me to feel good about having Arizona among my picks, and it's not worth the stress.
Figgs: Cards. Really don't have a reason here.
Nick: Hawks. I continue to go with them at home, against them on the road. ($ -4.5)
Bucko: Seahawks. I'm finally going to pick them this week, but it will probably bite me in the ass.
Gopo: Seahawks. This pick is solely based on the fact that the Seahawks are playing at home.

CHARGERS (-2.5) vs Patriots
Andy: Patriots, though Nick having bet on them gives me pause.
Figgs: Pats. I'm with Allburn big time here. How are the Patriots underdogs? ($)
Nick: Pats. I know that the Bolts have been good at home and lousy on the road, but when you get right down to it their two wins are against Jacksonville and Arizona. They strike me as a classic "crush lousy teams, lose to good teams" type. The Patriots look like a good team, plus Gates and Floyd will probably be out. I'll bite. ($)
Bucko: Patriots. The Chargers are banged up and just an all around mess right now.
Gopo: Patriots. I don't see any way the Chargers win this game. They might be good at home, but like Nick pointed out, the quality of those home wins leaves a lot to be desired. The Patriots are a really solid club this year that wont beat themselves on D and can put up points on O.

BRONCOS (-8) vs Raiders
Andy: Raiders. This line was (-9), but I don't think it'll matter.
Figgs: Broncos. I can't believe I'm giving this many points with a team this bad.
Nick: Broncos. I hate giving 8 with the Donks, but at least they're at home, and have proven they can score points. We might have a Kyle Boller sighting for Oakland this Sunday.
Bucko: Broncos. Knoshow finally steps it up.
Gopo: Broncos. I'm with Nick - lots of points, but they are home and the Raiders O just doesn't look like it knows what the hell is going on.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

PACKERS (-2.5) vs Vikings
Andy: Vikings. Again, I'm extremely nervous about the fact that Nick has money on this game, but I think their confidence is renewed after last week's win and they'll spring the upset.
Figgs: Pack. I feel like this has been an exceptionally hard week.
Nick: Vikes. The Packers are banged up on both sides of the ball, and I think Peterson runs all over them this week. ($)
Bucko: Packers. Sticking with my boy Rodgers.
Gopo: Vikings. I'm not sure you guys know this, but I hate Brett Favre. I hate picking his team to win this game, but the Packers are just hurting too much right now. Really hope I'm wrong about this one.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 pm

COWBOYS (-3) vs Giants
Andy: Giants. What are the Cowpokes even playing for at this point? Want to hear something funny? When I changed their name to "Cowpokes," I then thought it'd be funny to call them "Cowgirls" then even funnier yet, the "Reverse Cowgirls." I think I'm going to call them that from now on. Nick, if the Giants are far more trustworthy, does that mean you're far too trusting?
Figgs: Giants. Couldn't have said it better myself Burns.
Nick: Giants. I'll continue to pick against Dallas until I have a reason not to do so. The Giants seem to have righted their ship after stumbling in a couple of early games. I wouldn't be surprised if Dallas wins this one here, but the Giants are far more trustworthy at this point.
Bucko: Giants. Doggie Style.
Gopo: Giants. The G-men have been coming on strong the last few weeks, and I think they abuse the Cowboys O-line to the point that Romo just starts throwing balls randomly towards his receivers by the 3rd quarter. This is going to be one of those 3 pick games for the Giants D.

Wednesday, October 20

Buckeyes' Title Hopes Flushed

In hindsight, I feel as if I may have put this Ohio St team on too much of a pedestal. After last Saturday's 31-18 loss to Wisconsin, it certainly feels that way. I thought their defense was invincible and Terrelle Pryor reached the next level as a quarterback. While this defense is still very good, John Clay and James White certainly showed that they can be beaten. And while Pryor has made great strides from his first two seasons, he still struggles when forced to pass against good defenses.


Game Recap

In each of Ohio St's first six games, they put pressure on the other team by scoring within the first few minutes. The tables were turned in this game, when Wisconsin's David Gilreath took back the opening kickoff for six. OSU held the ball for less than four minutes in the first quarter, punting twice, whereas the Badgers had two long drives, both of which ended in John Clay TD runs. Before you could let out a string of 4-letter words, it was 21-0.

The Buckeyes came back with a nice, long drive of their own to start the 2nd, but stalled inside the five after three consecutive questionable play calls. Devin Barclay put the Bucks on the board, but when you're down three touchdowns, you're really looking to punch that one in. Andrew Sweat picked off Scott Tolzien, giving Ohio St another chance before half, but they again didn't capitalize, this time not scoring at all when Barclay missed a 45-yarder. OSU headed into halftime looking to regroup, trailing 21-3.

And regroup they did. The third quarter was very similar to the first, with the roles reversed. Dan Herron led the Bucks right down the field and capped it off by scoring from 13 yards out. After a quick Wisconsin punt, Pryor went 5-for-5 on a 19-play, 94 yard drive that took 10 minutes off of the clock. Herron reached the endzone for the second consecutive drive, and after a Pryor to Reid Fragel two-point conversion, the lead was cut to 21-18. At this point, I was supremely confident that Ohio St was coming back to win this, and I'm sure the 100,000+ Badger fans in attendance were awfully worried.

Apparently they had nothing to worry about, as Tolzien took Wisconsin right down to the red zone, and James White did the rest. White took the rock three straight times, picking up 23 yards and getting into the end zone. Down by two scores with 7 minutes to play, this is where we needed the mature TP to get those seven points right back. Instead he threw three incompletions and gave the ball right back to Wisconsin, essentially ending the game. Obviously, I'm not putting this all on Pryor, I just thought that that could be a situation where he could lead an epic comeback and propel himself to legendary status. Not so much.


Game Notes

Game Ball
I refuse to give the GB to an opposing player, and no one from Ohio St deserved it, so I let Uncle Rico throw it over the mountains.

Big Ten
In an attempt to cheer me up after an awful football weekend, Andy accurately pointed out that michigan still sucks. A-freaking-men. michigan played Iowa, its second good opponent of the year, and received its second loss. Can't-Tie ran for over 100 yards, but again struggled throwing the ball before getting injured. T. Forcier came in and put up 21 fourth-quarter points, but his comeback attempt fell short as the wolves dropped to 1-2 in Big Ten play. Did The Force create QB controversy in Whoreville? That would be fantastic. Elsewhere, Michigan St rode a very strong second half against Illinois to remain unbeaten, and Minnesota really blows, losing to Purdue by 11.

Hope
Yes, it really sucks that because of FBS' lack of a playoff that Ohio St's chance at a National Title is gone. It especially sucks since that dream seemed so possible, even likely, just a few days ago. But all is not lost. The opportunity to make the Rose Bowl and share of a stupid-good, sixth-straight Big Ten title is still very reasonable. Obviously, the Bucks have to win the rest of their games. One of those wins would be against Iowa, so that would put us ahead of them. That would leave Wisconsin and Michigan St, who would each have to lose. They both still play Iowa, and never rule out an MSU collapse, which seems to happen annually.

Up Next: vs. Purdue (4-2, 2-0), 12:00, BTN
Ohio St fans have certainly not forgotten last year's embarrassing loss to the Boilermakers, and neither has Terrelle Pryor. I don't know much about this Purdue team, other than they haven't played a good team all year (Notre Dame is the only respectable one, if you consider the Irish respectable). Ohio St is pissed off about last year's and last week's loss - expect no mercy in this one.
Prediction: Ohio St 34 Purdue 9


GET EM

What have you done for me lately?

Couldn't help but notice this piece of inanity in this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback by Gregg Easterbrook:

Joe Hadsall of Joplin, Mo., blames a different villain [for the Saints' struggles at long passing in 2010]: the Saints' pregame chant. "Last year, Brees's chant of WIN! AGAIN! WIN! AGAIN! was a huge hit. Saints fans such as me got chills just hearing it. This year, the chant is some off-rhythm back and forth of Who dat? We dat! Last year's chant put the focus on winning. This year's chant put the focus on unearned, presumed greatness."

Unearned? Presumed? I mean...they're the Super Bowl Champions, right? I'm 99% sure they earned that. Weird criticism. Joe Hasdall of Joplin, Mo., what have you ever done?

Tuesday, October 19

Clarification

NFL Rule 12, 2, 7g bans "using any part of a player's helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/hairline parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily," and also states, "violent or unnecessary use of the helmet is impermissible against any opponent."

Hope that clears things up.

While we're here, I've had enough of people trying to equivocate this with TJ Ward's far less dangerous hit on Jordan Shipley a couple of weeks ago. The key differences: Ward didn't lead with his hat, and his was at least a reasonable attempt to disrupt a pass completion.


h/t to TMQ for the photo and rulebook text.

Downtown report

Ive written here occasionally about some of the local minor league and college sporting events I've attended here in Northeast Ohio, and I have to say that they really add a great deal to my enjoyment of athletics as a spectator. Two notable ballpark experiences for me are those of the Class A Lake County Captains in Eastlake and the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters right downtown at the Q. The Cap'ns are a solid value and a fun evening, particularly if you only attend on $1 beer Mondays, as I do. It's hard to beat $8 seats and $1 drafts to sit in the sun at beautiful Classic Park and watch Lake County take home the Midwest League title. Even if they did lose every game I went to, except for the title game.

The Monsters are also a boon to hockey fans like me living in Cleveland, which has historically not been much of a hockey town. As I've written before, hockey appreciates greatly when watched in person, and Lake Erie provides fans the opportunity to watch players just a step removed from the bright lights of the NHL. In this fan's case, that opportunity is just a short walk from one's apartment, making it all the better, as construction on State Route 91 is probably the chief drawback to attending Captains contests. The Monsters haven't been much to write about on the ice (though they did win an exciting come-from-behind 3-2 decision against Syracuse in the opener, which I attended), but the fan support is tremendous (I've been to sellouts) and lively. I still don't understand why they yell "what official?" whenever the PA guy announces an official timeout, but that's OK.

Considering that all three of our major-league teams are pretty far away from any sort of serious contention, it's nice to have some low-pressure minor-league action to enjoy now and again. But those top-level clubs are the ones we really sink ourselves into, and thus it's time to address the raisons d'etre of FCF.


Tribe
By any metrics other than "performance of Chris Perez and Shin-Soo Choo" and "not being the Kansas City Royals," 2010 was an unsuccessful season for the Erie Warriors, as the club finished 4th in the AL Central with a 69-94 mark. I spent some time a while back describing the exploits of those two special talents, so the major thing left to evaluate is: how bad were the 2010 Indians, actually?

First off, the good news: better than the 2009 club (and 2003!), despite an improbable run of injuries and bad luck that had 100 losses in play headed into September. Also: better than six other teams (counting Washington, who technically had the same number of wins and losses but play in the NL, which sucks). Also: better than Pittsburgh, who posted 105 losses and a mind-boggling SRS (-1.8). For some perspective, that means the Buccos sucked about three times as bad as Cleveland, and only a little better than the ghastly 43-119 Detroit Tigers of 2003 (-2.1). Bad.

So Cleveland wasn't especially good, but they weren't hopeless either - just not quite as good as their opponents night in and night out. The chief culprit was Cleveland's inopportune offense and starting rotation. The Cleveland bats hit to the tune of a 97 OPS+, yet netted the third-fewest runs in the AL, owing partially to playing in Progressive Field but also to frequently minimizing quality scoring chances despite a weird prowess at plating two-out runs. The pitching was a little easier to understand: none of our starters except for Fausto Carmona (102) managed to top the 90 mark in ERA+, which is no kind of way to win baseball games. Despite some generally strong bullpen work, the Wahoos still ended up next-to-last in ERA+. I have to regard the Tribe's starting rotation as the biggest question mark heading into 2011 and beyond.

As has been well-documented, part of the reason why it's going to be difficult for Cleveland to quickly regain the position they held among baseball's top clubs as recently as 2007 is the game's financial structure. MLB apologists have become a bit of a cottage industry of late, with pundits suggesting that the system is indeed somehow fair and citing the evidence that teams can, at times, overcome the ridiculous financial inequalities between MLB's haves and have-nots and secure playoff berths. Bert Blyleven wrote a column on ESPN to this effect, and Terry Pluto authored a similar piece in the PD about how the Indians can as well. But pointing out that a team like, say, Minnesota has achieved success despite having the deck stacked against them misses the larger point made crystal clear in the graphic below, which you simply must see. (New York Times, David Leonhardt and Amanda Cox)


Yes, teams can put it all together for a season or two, but on balance, payroll is an extremely good predictor of a franchise's success. One simply cannot look at this graphic, which averages wins over the past 10 years and plots them against average player payroll, and conclude that MLB's economics are in any way fair. If I had to summarize this graphic, I would do so as follows:

Yankees suck.


Browns
Blargh, so we lost to the steelers again. We'll get there in a minute. I thought I should clear up the quarterback situation real quick. First off, Jake Delhomme doesn't play again this year, under any circumstance. That's all there is to it. I'm sure he's a nice fellow, and I greatly enjoy the t-shirt featuring him that I photographed at a local CVS that somehow disappeared off my DROID, but no, you don't get to play quarterback anymore.

If Colt McCoy continues to play as well as he did against Pittsburgh this past Sunday, which is not unreasonable since Pittsburgh has one of the league's dirtiest best defenses, then he keeps playing. I thought Seneca Wallace played admirably, but there is zero chance that he is a future long-term option behind center for the Cleveland Browns. Unless McCoy shows that he's truly not ready, he stays.

What's that mean for the rest of the season? Well, let's look at this rationally. We're not winning in New Orleans next Sunday, so we'll probably go into the bye week (most hacky sportswriters would have said "limp into the bye week" but I'm a special hack) at 1-6. Not what you wanted to see, especially since they've led every game except last week's at some point in the second half. Let's look at the nine games awaiting us after Halloween:

Patriots
Jets
@ Jags
Panthers
@ Dolphins
@ Bills
@ Bengals
Ravens
Steelers

Three of those are definite winnables: Jacksonville, Carolina, and Buffalo. Let's say we win two of those.

Two more of those are against somewhat mediocre clubs: Cincy and Miami. Let's say we grab one of those too.

Four of them look damn tough: Boston, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Hard to imagine we win any of those. But I bet we do anyway.

That's a 4-5 post-bye slate, tending a bit optimistic on my part. Using my most reasonable powers of analysis, I think we'll probably notch three, including one unexpected one. 4-12 seems like the most probable finish for these 2010 Brownies, but hey, we've kept almost every game close so far, so maybe they'll outperform even that. On the flipside, though, they've shown an inability to close games, so let's keep it there for now.

Driving home from Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon, I had the distinct misfortune of listening to the end of the Browns game on the other team's radio station. In addition to the lead broadcaster, the group of hillbillies they have manning the booth consists of guys who call each other "Tunch" and "Wolfie" and who have the collective IQ of a chair. You could give the steelers' three stupidest fans headsets and not notice much of a difference, and that's saying a lot considering the fan base we're dealing with.

Anyway, as the steelers were on their way to one of the most annoying covers in sports history, Tunch and Wolfie decided that the play of the game was not the deep TD pass from sexual assault expert and quarterback #7 to wide receiver #17, but rather a play where linebacker/headhunter/psycho #92 delivered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland's Josh Cribbs. Typical. What sort of professional celebrates a brain-scrambling injury like that? Absolutely no class, just like the team they broadcast. Read #92's embarrassingly stupid comments about his performance if you don't believe me. Can you imagine Jim Donovan, Bernie Kosar, or Doug Dieken glorifying a serious injury to an opponent like that? Of course you can't.

But whatever, that's entirely representative of the kind of organization and fan base that welcomes back rapist quarterback #7 with adulation and handmade signs, posts moronic foolishness like "Zero Tolerance" at their field, and actually thinks those monstrosities the players were wearing in place of jerseys were fashionable. The only saving grace of Sunday was that #43 and #86 were non-factors, so I didn't have to hear the announcers gush about how great they were. I'm throwing my support, such as it is, behind the Baltimore Ravens if it indeed comes down to those two clubs in the AFC North. I've learned, at last, to never underestimate how much I can dislike the pittsburgh steelers. Go jump in a river.


Buckeyes
I really don't want to spend a whole lot of time rehashing what happened in Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday night. Ohio State got beaten up front all night long and were outplayed by a really solid-looking Badger team. That's about it.

But let's not forget: the Big 10 is still in play. The only real test Ohio State has remaining is at Iowa in November; the Bucks should be able to handle Purdue and Penn State at home and Minnesota on the road. Take down the Hawkeyes on the road and we can finish with one loss and quite possibly earn another share of another Big Ten title.

Wait, I forgot a team! We still play the mighty michigan wolverines at the end of the season. Whatever. Coach DickRod's team has been completely exposed for the fraud they always were, and are in for another thrashing in Columbus come Thanksgiving weekend - it's going to be fun to ring up seven straight. I'm planning to once again run the Pigskin Classic here in Downtown Cleveland; 5K run three hours before kickoff, tailgate outdoors up until the game, then watch the Buckeyes smash michigan. What's not to like? But first there's business to take care of, starting with Purdue in the Horseshoe at noon on Saturday and including Nick and my pilgrimage to Ohio's capital on November 13 to watch OSU take on Penn State.


Cavs
The buzz surrounding the 2010-11 Cavaliers is almost deafening at this point. People are psyched for this club. Aw hell, no they're not. I've heard a number of people tell me personally that they're giving up on the NBA after this summer's shenanigans. I think that's the wrong way to play it - basketball is still a great game, and if you give up on the Cavaliers just because they lost one guy in the offseason, well, then the terrorists have won.

The Cavs aren't going to contend for the NBA Championship as they have in past seasons, that's for sure. I think they're going to win around 35 games. But I'll be damned if I'm going to give up on a club I've supported for almost 25 years just because they no longer rank among the league's elite. No way.

The national media isn't real high on the Clevelanders this season. ESPN's Bill Simmons recently ranked all 30 NBA teams in order of how excited he would be to see them in person, and slotted the Cavs in at...#30. Kelly Dwyer, the normally astute Yahoo! basketball writer, penciled Cleveland in for 12 wins, which is ridiculous. Even the Lottey-tanking 2002-03 Caballeros won 17, and that team was brutal. I have no idea what Dwyer was thinking or if he was even being serious, but I'd expect the Cavs to win at least twice that, if not three times. We'll see starting October 27th what this squad is made of. Go Cavs!

Monday, October 18

Greedy NBA players

One of the most consistent themes of my writing is marveling at the things people will say when they think they can get more money. To that end, I give you the NBA Players Association threatening legal action over the league's stricter rules on technical fouls.

My absolute favorite part came from NBAPA director Billy Hunter, who said, "We have not seen any increase in the level of 'complaining' to the officials."

First off, you don't get to use mock-quotes like that. It's actual complaining here.

Second, the only way that you can think that there hasn't been an increase in the amount of complaining to referees is if you haven't watched a single NBA game in the past five years. Hunter can't possibly believe this - I'm impressed that he was able to say it with a straight face.

But, if the NBAPA doesn't protest, there will be more technicals and more fines, and we certainly can't have that.

Sunday, October 17

Fade Nick

When the Buckeyes were trailing the Badgers 21-0 at some point in the first half on Saturday night, I realized that I was busting Nick's balls even more than usual - all in the spirit of fun, but I wasn't missing too many opportunities. I realized that the reason for this was: that was all I had at the time. The Bucks sure weren't getting it done, so it was time for some jokes. Fast-forward to Sunday, where the steelers just beat the Browns for the 99th time out of 100, and I'm feeling a bit salty, and it's time for my young apprentice to feel my wrath once again. A hardcore anti-steeler post is in the works, but first it's time to give Nick a hard time for a couple of the more aggressive picks he made this week. As the legendary Onion editorial reminds us: "People don't like it when you call them stupid."

RAMS (+9) vs Chargers
Nick: Chargers. You guys are all stupid.

Rams won this one outright. Stupid indeed!

GIANTS (-10) vs Lions
Nick: Giants. Again, I really can't stress enough how much smarter I am than the rest of you.

G-Men won this one by 8, meaning Detroit covered once again. I wish Nick would stress this a bit more.

Friday, October 15

NFL Picks: Week 6

Underdogs went 9-5 straight-up this past weekend, and Bucko went 9-5 ATS, as the rest of the competitors floundered. Figgs has taken the lead, being the only member of FCF above .500 at this point. This week's picks will be interesting as we see how players adapt to the success of the underdogs in 2010 and how well Nick can type after Louie and Rocco break his thumbs.

Last Week
Andy: 5-9
Figgs: 7-7
Nick: 4-10
Bucko: 8-6
Gopo: 4-10

Nick's Money Picks ($): 0-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-0


Standings
Figgs: 38-35-3
Gopo: 36-37-3
Andy: 36-37-3
Bucko: 34-39-3
Nick: 32-41-3

Nick's Money Picks ($): 5-12-1
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 10-4-1

Bye: Buffaloes, Bengals, Cardinals, Panthers

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff


STEELERS (-14) vs Browns
I hate writing the hillbillies in all caps like this. At least I unbolded them.
Andy: BROWNS. There, I got to write us in all caps. I'll be surprised if anyone else takes Cleveland on the road in Pittsburgh after the steelers' bye week with Colt McCoy making his NFL debut. It's going to be tough sledding for the good guys. Gopo, Figgs once did a Costanza and went like 11-5 - it was awesome. Considering you're basically at .500 for the year, it might not be as effective for you.
Figgs: Fuck it. Browns.
Nick: I've been worried that I won't enjoy Colt McCoy's debut as much as Brady Quinn's because McCoy doesn't have a cool song I can play in his honor, then I realized that I totally forgot about German 90s sensation Real McCoy! Like I need an excuse to crank up "Run Away" or "Another Night, Another Dream?!" It's so on. Go Browns.
Bucko: Steelers. The browns are just to banged up, not that they had much anyways.
Gopo: Steelers. I might have to pull a Costanza this week and do the opposite of what I would normally do. I hate giving this many points away, but I think Rapistberger is at least a 10 point upgrade over Batch.

BEARS (-7) vs Seahawks
Andy: Bears. I cannot and will not take the Seattle Seahawks on the road at this juncture. I don't even care who's starting at QB for da Bears.
Figgs: Bears. Not really sure about this Chicago team, but I am sure that Seattle porks on the road.
Nick: Bears. I'm totally going home/away on the Shehawks.
Bucko: Bears. Pete Carol sucks.
Gopo: Bears. I might have to start respecting this Bears team, though its possible they might be better without Cutler.

PACKERS (-3) vs Dolphins
Andy: Dolphins, regardless of line. If there isn't a line on this by the time I leave Cleveland on Saturday, I'm taking it off the board though.
Figgs: Packers. I don't know if you guys noticed yet, but I don't like picking a certain michigan QB.
Nick: Fish. Not sure about Rodgers, but Jermichael Finley is an enormous blow both to the Packers and my fantasy hopes. I had a raging fantasy man crush on J-Mike this year.
Bucko: Packers. Rodgers will find a way to get it done.
Gopo: Dolphins. Apparently the Packers aren't very good - who knew? 2 straight losses for the fins, so call this my anti-momentum pick.

RAMS (+9) vs Chargers
Andy: Rams. I just like taking this team for some reason, and I think both teams here have serious road-home splits that make me feel OK about getting 9 points. I thought it would only be 6.
Figgs: Rams. The Chargers are a weird team. They could win this by 20 or lose the game.
Nick: Chargers. You guys are all stupid.
Bucko: Chargers. If I was getting one more point I might change my mind.
Gopo: Rams. Also, apparently the Chargers aren't all that good. Then again, they do exactly this every year and then win 7 straight games in November/December. This is why I don't bet $ on football.

PATRIOTS (-3) vs Ravens
Andy: Patriots. I can see the Ravens stealing this one, but I just think New England is going to pull this one out.
Figgs: Pats. NE is 7-1 ATS the last eight years after a bye week.
Nick: Ravens. So Vegas thinks these two teams are even? They're not. Was thinking about betting this one, but Figgs might have me talked out of it. Still like the Ravens for now. ($)
Bucko: Ravens. Looks like they might have a running game now. The Pats will wish they kept Moss for this one.
Gopo: Patriots. Yes, the Ravens will turn the Pats into a one dimensional team, but there are few teams better suited to winning that way. I think they'll find the holes in the second half and put up some serious points. Hopefully I won't be saying this in the Super Bowl, but I still don't think the Ravens are all that good.

BUCS (+4.5) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. I was really tempted to jump on the Tampa bandwagon and off the New Orleans one, but I'd feel like a dummy doing it a week too late. The Bucs seems too trendy of a pick for Francis.
Figgs: Saints. Bress gets back on track this week in a big way.
Nick: Bucs. I mean, they are undefeated, and the Saints just lost to Max Hall and the Cardinals. That should be a band. ($)
Bucko: Saints. For no reason.
Gopo: Bucs. Also, apparently the Saints aren't very good. How the hell did this team win the SuperBowl last year? What exactly has changed - they just lost Sharper on D, right? Is someone other than Brees QBing this team and I'm not aware of it?

GIANTS (-10) vs Lions
Andy: Lions. Ladies and gentlemen, the only team left in the NFL still undefeated ATS. The Giants have played better ball of late, but Detroit is plucky. Just your basic 1-4 team with a +14 point differential.
Figgs: Lions. Gopo makes a good point about them scoring late, should be able to keep this at single digits.
Nick: Giants. Again, I really can't stress enough how much smarter I am than the rest of you.
Bucko: Lions. Someone should tell Nick that he shouldn't talk so much shit when he is in last place.
Gopo: Lions. Too many points for me to take the Giants, and I think the Lions are a really frisky team that will manage to stay in every game. They have proven the ability to put up points in garbage time, which is key for any bad team that gets a ton of points.

EAGLES (-3) vs Falcons
Andy: Falcons. I think Atlanta got away with a shaky game in Cleveland last week and will improve in this one. Essentially, I'm getting three points to take the NFC's leader in point differential and a club that's rattled off four straight wins.
Figgs: Falcons. They're simply the better team.
Nick: Dirty Birds. These 2010 Falcons are making Jamal Anderson and Chris Chandler proud.
Bucko: Falcons. They're better than we thought they were.
Gopo: Falcons. I believe Kolb is playing this weekend. Either way, I think the Falcons are the better team and come away with a win.

TEXANS (-4.5) vs Chieves
Andy: Chieves. One of the toughest on the board for me - I initially thought Texans, but they haven't played that strongly since their opening week and the lure of .500 is working against them.
Figgs: Texans. I'm sticking with them, even though they burned me last week for the first time.
Nick: Chiefs. I'm so over the Texans. Dre Johnson is banged up and they still are without their starting LT. BLIND SIDE! ($)
Bucko: Texans. I don't believe the hype behind the Chiefs.
Gopo: Texans. Picking this as a bounce back game, but I have zero idea. It's really hard for me to physically type "Chiefs" during my weekly picks. This might end up biting me in the ass more than it has already.


4 pm kickoff

49ERS (-6.5) vs Raiders
Andy: Raiders. Damnit, I should have stuck with them last week. Have some backbone! I guess I just have a problem with giving 6.5 to back a 0-5 team that's averaging a 10-point loss so far on the season. Oakland could easily be 3-2 if Janikowski hadn't missed that easy kick against the Cardinals. Oh well.
Figgs: Raiders. Why does Vegas still love San Fran? Aren't they watching their games?
Nick: Raiders. Niner? I barely know her!
Bucko: 49ERS. They finally get their shit together.
Gopo: Raiders. Seriously? I can't believe the Raiders are getting any points; they should win this game outright. On a positive note, maybe I'll finally be able to watch some other team on TV.

BRONCOS (+3) vs Jets
Andy: Jets. They're confident and they're tough, they lead the NFL in point differential, and they're the kind of team that can win in Mile High. Also: Denver isn't very good.
Figgs: Jets. By far my favorite game on the board. ($)
Nick: J-E-T-S. The class of the AFC along with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. ($)
Bucko: Jets. Damn, they are pretty good.
Gopo: Jets. Apparently the Jets are actually pretty good. I need to stop picking against those guys even if I think Dirty Sanchez is not a very good QB.

VIKINGS (-1) vs Cowboys
Andy: Vikes. They absolutely slaughtered the Cowboys in this very venue in the NFC Playoffs last year, and I think they'll pull together and win this one as well. Dallas looks pretty well buried in the NFC East while Minny still has a shot to move up in the North.
Figgs: Vikes. Must-win for both teams, I'll take the one that's at home and just flat out better.
Nick: Vikes. Riding hard against the Cowboys has worked wonders for me this season. It's really one of the few things I've gotten right. I'll happily take the Vikes with their home field advantage.
Bucko: Cowboys. I think Favre or Jackson struggle in this one.
Gopo: Cowboys. I picked the Vikings to sit at 1-5 and I'm sticking with that. I just hope Favre is healthy enough to have his consecutive game streaked snapped because of sexting instead of injury. Or he hangs around long enough to have people boo him and call for Tavaris Jackson to start. I'm not sure which is worse, but whatever is worse is what I want to happen. That plus his arm falling off at the same time.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

REDSKINS (+3) vs Colts
Andy: Colts. For one, history has shown time and time again that picking against Peyton Manning in a night game is unwise. Also, I'm tired of the Redskins screwing up my picks and have developed a distaste for them.
Figgs: Colts. The Skins have me confused as well, so I'll just stick behind Peyton. ($)
Nick: Colts. Manning. Night game. I require no more information. Don't you have to bet this? ($)
Bucko: Colts. Let me state that again Colts, not Colt McCoy. Manning in prime time.
Gopo: Colts. I have no idea what to make of these Redskins, so I'm not going to spend any time pretending like I have a reason for this pick.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 pm

JAGS (+3) vs Titans
Andy: Titans. I still think Tennessee is a strong club and Jax doesn't do it for me.
Figgs: Titans. Not completely sure if Jacksonville is any good or not, but I'm leaning towards no. ($)
Nick: Titans. This should be 8. ($)
Bucko: TIT-ans. I just said tit.
Gopo: Titans. I think the Jags are a "look good when you're playing another awful team, but can't do anything when you're playing a decent team" team. Well, I guess I didn't use the Costanza strategy this week, so at least I have that in my back pocket for next week...

Wednesday, October 13

Tressel wins #100, Buckeyes Move to #1

In my prediction last week, I wrote that I expected Terrelle Pryor's left thigh injury to slow him and the Ohio St offense down. Boy, was I way off. Pryor looked 100% healthy and had a career day, as Ohio St pounded Indiana, 38-10, en route to Jim Tressel's 100th win as head coach of the Buckeyes. Ohio St's defense was in its usual dominant form, holding Indiana's usually high-powered offense (which had 568 yards against michigan's great D last week, fyi) to a mere 210 yards. With Alabama's loss to South Carolina, Ohio St moves up to #1 in the polls.


Game Recap

Ohio St got off to a quick start again, as they have in each game this season. This time it was on a Dan Herron 39-yard run less than two minutes into the game. Not long after that, IU quarterback Ben Chappell was intercepted by Devon Torrence. This seems to be a good time to mention Chappell threw for 106 yards with 0 TD's and 2 INT's in this one, where he threw for 480 yards and 3 touchdowns in the week prior against michigan. Following the turnover, it only took two Pryor-Dane Sanzenbacher completions to put the Bucks up 14-0. Near the end of the first quarter, Drew Basil attempted a 53-yard field goal, but had it blocked.

Ohio St got the ball right back after a Hoosier three-and-out, and 1:30 later the rout was on after TP hit Brandon Saine for a 60-yard touchdown. After each team traded punts, LB Brian Rolle picked off his second pass of the year. Boom picked up a couple of first downs before Pryor threw his third TD of the game, this one to DeVier Posey. Posey was the game's leading receiver with 8 grabs for 103 yards, and appears to be right on track to meet my preseason prediction of being an All-Conference selection. OSU got the ball back with about three minutes to go, and drove 74 yards in two-and-a-half minutes to set up a successful Barclay kick, making it 31-0 at the midpoint.

I'm going to be honest, I didn't see a whole lot of this second half. I was at a party with Penn St fans so I was often checking in with them on their game, plus the 8 am tailgating was starting to show its effects. I did see the whole first drive, where TP was a deadly 6/6 and Herron ran in his second TD of the game. After the Hoosiers got on the board with a FG, it was Bowser time. The rest of the second-stringers were on the field in addition to Joe Bauserman, who only lasted one series (a Carlos Hyde fumble) before Kenny Guiton was under center.

There were a few 4th quarter noteworthy plays - Guiton threw a pick in his only pass attempt, Indiana RB Antonio Banks scored a touchdown, Jaamal Berry and the freshman Hyde got all of the carries for the Bucks, and freshman DB Dominic Clarke (who is starting to come on strong for the Buckeyes with all of the injuries) had an INT - before the 38-10 final.


Game Notes

Game Ball
Goes to Ben Buchannon! OK, just kidding. Terrelle Pryor completed 24 of his 30 pass attempts, threw for a career-high 334 yards, and had a 3/0 TD/INT ratio. This all coming only a week after he was "maybe 25%" with a strained left thigh muscle. You certainly didn't notice the injury in his passing game, but the fact that he never tried to run still scares me a little. Hopefully that was just an extra precaution. TP continues to reach Ohio St milestones, as he tied the record set by Joe Germaine with his sixth straight game of at least 300 yards of total offense, as well as moving into fourth place in total offense at OSU with 6,518 yards. Remember when I said I won't see him as a serious Heisman contender until he can do this on a consistent basis? Well, he better start practicing that stiff-arm.
Game balls to date: Pryor (4), Herron, Moeller

Big Ten
michigan: 17, Michigan St: 34. Now, I'm not typically one to toot my own horn, but my internal conductor is really pulling at the strings on this one. The wolverine defense looked pathetic yet again, as Sparty rolled up 536 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, Can't-Tie looked merely average, at best, against a tough MSU defense. They knew he was going to run, made him throw, and he didn't look so hot, throwing three costly interceptions. Somehow people are still putting this ass-clown at the top of their Heisman lists, but that should change when the same thing happens this week against Iowa.

In other Big Ten news, Penn St porks. They were absolutely dominated at home by a mediocre Illinois team, 33-13. The Lions will limp into their bye week at 3-3 and try to figure out some way to get to a Bowl game. John Clay had three TD's as Wisconsin cruised past Minnesota, and Northwestern took their first loss of the season falling at home to Purdue.

WR Brandon Saine
It appears as if Saine has become a full-time receiver now, getting zero carries but catching four passes for 84 yards and a score in this game. As much as I have been a big time Saine supporter the past few years, I'm okay with this. He has really struggled running the ball lately, he provides a very dangerous target in a relatively thin receiving corps, Boom has been running well the past few weeks, and guys like Jaamal Berry, Jordan Hall, and Carlos Hyde are more than ready to take Saine's share of the carries when Herron needs a break.

Another reason to hate the BCS
The BCS standings will be released for the first time this Sunday, and current projections have Ohio St at...5. Um, what? If the AP Poll (OSU ranked #1) is one-third of the formula, and the Coaches Poll (OSU ranked #1) is one-third of the formula, where the hell do the computers have Ohio St to make them fifth?! 15? 20? I could probably put my math minor to use and figure that out, but I would rather rant instead. I'm sure this isn't a very big deal, if the Buckeyes go undefeated they will almost certainly be playing for the National Title, but I just don't understand how they could be fifth. If you were wondering, the projections are 1) Boise St, 2) Oregon, 3) TCU, 4) Oklahoma.

Quick Hits
- Indiana became the 29th straight team to fail to have a 100-yard rusher against the Bucks. 29? Wow.
- Apparently we're not looking to redshirt Carlos Hyde, as he continues to get carries. I still think it would be the best decision, but then again I haven't won 100 games at Ohio St.
- If you have been trying to figure out why there has been a freshman named Corey Brown playing both offense and defense, and why he has seemingly been switching his number, like I have, let me help you out. There are two freshmen on the team with the same name. The wide receiver is #10, the defensive back is #3.
- michigan sucks.

Up Next: @Wisconsin, 7:00, ESPN
Along with the game at Iowa, this trip to Madison appears to be the biggest road block in the way of Ohio St's undefeated season. The Badgers (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) are a very balanced team with Scott Tolzien at QB and featuring a three-headed monster at running back. While John Clay (692 yards, 9 TDs) is the main guy and gets all the publicity, James White (485, 8) and Montee Ball (201, 3) can be devastating as well. All-American safety Jay Valai leads the defense.

Camp Randall is one of the toughest places to play in the country (I hate it so much because it's Wisconsin, but I have to admit that them jumping around to House of Pain before the 4th quarter is pretty bad-ass), but I recall a very raw Terrelle Pryor as a freshman in 2008 leading the Buckeyes on two fourth quarter scoring drives to beat the Badgers. My fellow FCF-ers Nick and Andy will join me for our first game together since the crushing defeat to USC last year. While this one won't be easy, I expect a better outcome than the SC game.
Prediction: Ohio St: 28 Wisconsin: 17


GET EM

Friday, October 8

NFL Picks: Week 5

Um...that wasn't very good. Last week's NFL slate must have been particularly tricky, because all of us would statistically have been at least as well-off had we flipped coins instead of applying our powers of analysis. Figgs still managed to pick up a game on Gopo and I, tying me just one game back of our West Coast friend. In other news, I hope Nick isn't putting too much money on these games. Fun fact: only two NFL teams remain unbeaten ATS so far in 2010: Detroit and Kansas City.

Last Week
Andy: 6-8
Figgs: 7-7
Nick: 6-8
Bucko: 5-9
Gopo: 6-8
Nick's Money Picks ($): 1-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-1

Standings
Gopo: 32-27-3
Andy: 31-28-3
Figgs: 31-28-3
Nick: 28-31-3
Bucko: 26-33-3

Nick's Money Picks ($): 5-9-1
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 8-4-1


Byes: Dolphins, Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff


BROWNS (+3) vs Falcons
Andy: BROWNS. The line hasn't even been set and it's Monday, and I'm taking us anyway. Fast-forward to Thursday; I'm a bit surprised we weren't getting an extra half- or full-point, but who cares? I am slightly annoyed that Seneca Wallace won't be calling the signals for the Brownies, but we'll win anyway. Also, Figgs, what on Earth is your weird love of Atlanta? You like them almost as you like the Kansas City Chieves. I looked through the archives and discovered that you've picked them 27 out of 37 times. Three of the times you went against them was against the Saints. What's my point? Go Browns, is my point.
Figgs: :cough: Falcons :cough:
Nick: Browns. Can't do it.
Bucko: Falcons. Sorry Andy, I need more than 3pts.
Gopo: Falcons. I'm trying to get through these picks before I get out of town for the weekend, so don't expect too much analysis. I'll start that by saying: not nearly enough points.

BUFFALOES (+1) vs Jags
Andy: Buffaloes. I really need to stop picking this team, but I can't for some reason. They're plucky. Last week was Jax's season as far as I'm concerned, and Buffalo is going to bring it extra to get that first W.
Figgs: Jax. I won't be picking against the Jills for my Eliminator poll for the first time all year, because I'm only about 80% confident they will lose.
Nick: Billskis. I've been riding hard against the Bills this year, but I think they get it together for one week. The Jagoffs will have a letdown after last week's win, and Buffalo's stadium is shitty, drunk, and loud.
Bucko: Jags. Buffalo has new QB and traded their RB, and Jags are coming off a big win.
Gopo: Jags. I think Jacksonville has found their identity a bit - add that to the fact that I think the Bills might be the worst team in the league, and well...

BENGALS (-6.5) vs Bucs
Andy: Bengals. Bounce-back game after Cleveland at home against an eminently beatable Tampa club.
Figgs: Cincy. This is my Eliminator pick this week. Definitely a bounce-back game at home.
Nick: Cincy. Carson looked sharp last week, and the Bucs are a complete illusion. The Bengals really need this game heading into the bye. ($)
Bucko: Bengals. Their defense is still good and I think the offense will put something together.
Gopo: Bucs. I will continue thinking the Bengals aren't very good at playing football.

LIONS (-3) vs Rams
Andy: Rams. They've been quite competitive this year, and I think it'll culminate in Bradford's first road win.
Figgs: Rams. I went back-and-forth with this one. I'll take the Rams, but don't really have any reason to support that.
Nick: Rams. So Vegas thinks these teams are even? The Rams are kinda/sorta good, and have won the last two games by double digits. I can't believe it, but this is my favorite game on the board. ($)
Bucko: Lions. This one could change later depending on injuries.
Gopo: Rams. Really tough game to pick. Without looking at the rest of the matchups, I'm declaring this the toughest game to pick this week. I'm all about the momentum train in my picks this week and the Rams have it.

COLTS (-8) vs Chieves
Andy: Colts. The Chieves have been punching above their weight all year; this is where it comes crashing down against a Colt team whose veteran pride must have been wounded by last week's debacle in Florida.
Figgs: Colts. I originally thought this was too high, but I just see far more scenarios where the Colts win by multiple touchdowns than KC keeping it close.
Nick: Chiefs. Just keep banging away with Jones and Charles. That Indy D is Downy soft.
Bucko: Chiefs. I think the Colts will win, but this is just a little too high for me.
Gopo: Chiefs. See previous comment regarding momentum train. Also, maybe the Colts aren't as good as we think.

REDSKINS (+2.5) vs Packers
Andy: Packers. Hey, I finally got a Washington game right last week! Time to pick against them. If the Packers are the Super Bowl team people think they are, they will not lose this after two straight shaky weeks.
Figgs: Packers. Good for McNabb for getting that win last week, now it's time for the Skins to come back and face the reality that they're not very good.
Nick: Pack. Green Bay is very solid, and this will be a hangover game for the Skins, who got some nice breaks with injuries in Philly last week. I've been talked out of betting this because the Packers have some injury/defensive issues, but they're still the better team, right?
Bucko: Packers. I don't think the Redskins offense will be able to keep up with Rodgers.
Gopo: Packers. I have no idea why this line is so low. The Packers have been super inconsistent, but I have no faith in the Redskins.

PANTHERS (+1.5) vs Bears
Andy: Panthers. They should have some renewed confidence after playing New Orleans tough on the road last week, and the Bears are starting Todd Collins, who is 47 years old. Have fun behind that Bear offensive line.
Figgs: Bears. I originally put a star next to this game when I first saw the lines on Tuesday as a possible money game, then realized that Collins would be starting. I still think the Bears D can do enough to get the win, but I'm not very confident.
Nick: Panthers. You know that whatever side you pick in this game, you'll be wrong.
Bucko: Bears. Their D is playing really well.
Gopo: Panthers. Todd Collins is starting. I believe people are aware of this, but still. Worth repeating: Todd Collins is starting.

RAVENS (-7) vs Broncos
Andy: Ravens. Annoyingly, Baltimore is possibly the class of the AFC, and by "class" I mean "team with the most murderers who plays well and whom Bucko adores and probably has a Terrell Suggs jhirt." By the way, I was in Baltimore last week, and all their purple garbage strewn about the city is completely and utterly disgusting, except for the "Raytorious" sign we affixed to my friend Ray's back. Also, Baltimorons have nicknamed Joe Flacco "Cool Joe," which...I can't even go on. Too much stupid.
Figgs: Ravens. I was not in Baltimore last week, but still back everything that Andy just said.
Nick: Rats. I could see Denver beating the number, but a cover seems more likely.
Bucko: Ravens. That's right Andy. The Broncos have no running game, and I look for Orton to make a couple of mistakes.
Gopo: Broncos. I hate the Ravens and I still don't think they are that good. The fact that this is a home game for the Ravens makes the line a little more realistic, but you know what? Fuck those guys.

TEXANS (-3) vs Giants
Andy: Giants. The Texans have the worst defense in the NFL, yardage-wise, making me think they might be a bit house-of-cardsy. This is a risky pick, but the G-Men can pressure QB's and should be able to score on Houston.
Figgs: Texans. I've been right on picking Houston games this year, as the only time I went against them was against Dallas. This one will be tough, but I like them at home.
Nick: Giants. Too many injuries/DNPs on that Houston offense, and the Giants will move the ball against that D. I'll take the points.
Bucko: Giants. No reason just a gut feeling
Gopo: Giants. I think the Texans are really hurting without their left tackle. Andre Johnson's injury is just making things worse because Schaub can't throw it up for grabs anymore. Momentum pick.

4 pm kickoff

CARDINALS (+6.5) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. Fuck the Cardinals, I tried to take them once and San Diago is STILL scoring points on them. How did they get so bad in two years?
Figgs: Saints. I'll tell you how they got so bad in two years...K. Warner > D. Anderson. There isn't an alligator mouth in the world that can show by how much.
Nick: Saints. The Cards are truly awful.
Bucko: Saints. I think I could QB a team and beat the cardinals.
Gopo: Saints. I don't know how the Cards have even won two games. They might be one of the 3 worst teams in the league.

COWBOYS (-6.5) vs Titans
Andy: Tit-ans. Pfft, I'm not giving this many points to take an inconsistent Dallas club.
Figgs: Titans. Cowboys probably win this, but that line is just too high for me. Nick: Titans. Could totally see Fisher's boys pulling off an upset here.
Bucko: Cowboys. I think last week's bye helps them out here. The should be able to keep Johnson in check.
Gopo: Cowboys. They have too much talent on offense to continue being inept there. Two strong wins in a row for the Cowboys? I think so.

RAIDERS (+6) vs Chargers
Andy: Chargers. I like taking the Raiders, but I'm making a Saturday-afternoon edit and going with San Diago, who's shown that they can pummel shaky teams at home.
Figgs: Chargers. I just don't see Bruce Gradkowski keeping this up. ($)
Nick: Chargers. Isn't this the time of year when the Chargers go on their mini-run? Plus McFadden is out, and he's been very effective for Oakland this season. ($)
Bucko: Raiders. They should be able to keep the Chargers passing game in check.
Gopo: Chargers. I think the Chargers are finding their offensive game. I can see this being another 41 to 23 win.

Sunday Night Football, 8 pm

49ERS (-3.5) vs Eagles
Andy: 49ers. They're desperate for a W, playing a night game at home against the probably-Vickless Eagles...I absolutely hate this line. No outcome would surprise me here.
Figgs: Philly. I have this line at Eagles +3. Vick or not, I don't see the Niners winning this game. ($)
Nick: Niners. San Fran really needs a win, and the Eagles have a lot of moving parts right now.
Bucko: 49ERS. Unless vick is playing.
Gopo: 49ers. If Vick was playing, I'd take the Eagles with this line, but not with Kevin Kolb. Though being away will probably help him here.

Monday Night Football, 8 pm

JETS (-4) vs Vikings
Andy: Jets. I've been undervaluing them all season and I don't think Minnesota is particularly good. I also think Braylon Edwards is one of the top douches in all of the NFL, for what that's worth.
Figgs: Vikings. I'm going against myself on this one, as I had the line Jets -6.5, but I just have a feeling Favre has something up his sleeve.
Nick: Jets. We definitely all undervalued them after that opening clunker on Monday night.
Bucko: JETS. The Viking offense is a mess. Maybe this would be different if Moss had been there sooner.
Gopo: Vikings. No basis at all, just the first thing that popped into my head. I also don't like the Jets, so that helps. Those two things might be related.