Saturday, October 31

NFL Picks: Week 8

Last week
Andy: 9-4
Figgs: 9-4
Nick: 7-6
Nick's Money Picks ($): 4-2

Year to date
Andy: 60-43 (A paragon of consistency.)
Figgs: 56-47 (Much improved!)
Nick: 53-50 (Nick.)
Nick's Money Picks ($): 15-12
Nick's teaser: 2-3

Sunday games
1:00 pm kickoffs

BEARS (-13.5) vs Browns
Andy: Watch me justify this surprisingly big line with a terrible transitive property argument. We played the Bengals close and the Bears got absolutely CRUSHED by Cincinnati, thus we can beat the Bears. No we can't. Browns.
Figgs: I for some reason see us keeping this relatively close. Browns.
Nick: Time to limp into the bye. Bears. ($)

BILLS (+3.5) vs Texans
Andy: I'd give more than this - Houston is on a roll. Yet the .500 thing with them plagues me. I think it's time to give them the benefit of the doubt, and time to start redoubting Buffalo.
Figgs: Texans. The Jills will come back to life in this one.
Nick: Houston has a really serious offense, and the weather doesn't look like it should be bad in Buffalo. Texans. ($)

COWBOYS (-9.5) vs Seahawks
Andy: Another big Dallas line, but here I think they can justify it. I don't like Seattle outside of Qwest, so I'll take the Cowboys.
Figgs: Dallas. What they said.
Nick: This is probably the fairest Cowboys line in weeks, and I'm going to pick them here because they impressed me against Atlanta last week and Seattle is a different club on the road. Still, teams coming out of the bye week spook me a little bit.

LIONS (-3.5) vs Rams
Andy: No matter what this is, I'm going Detroit. And now that I see the line several days later, I'm pleased to confirm that pick.
Figgs: Lions. The Rams are ridiculously awful.
Nick: Lions. For only having one win, Detroit has some fight in them.

RAVENS (-3.5) vs Broncos
Andy: So far, bettors have picked against this Bronco club at their own peril. However, I don't see them going into Baltimore and handing the Ravens their 4th straight defeat, especially after a Baltimore bye. Denver might well get crushed here. Nick's comment below may not make sense because I've edited what I had written provisionally - that's on me.
Figgs: I like the Ravens here as well. I just don't see them losing four straight games.
Nick: Oh, I'll play your game, you rogue. Ravens. Denver's going to make the playoffs because they got some lucky/close wins early, and the West blows. They won't be undefeated after this week. ($)

COLTS (-11.5) vs 49ers
Andy: Even for the Colts, too many points. San Fran will keep this closer than the line.
Figgs: Colts. Peyton is rolling and the Niners have been struggling.
Nick: This line is a couple points higher than it should be, but I'm not going to pick against the Colts.

JETS (-3.5) vs Dolphins
Andy: The Dolphish are the most enigmatic team in the league to my mind. I wouldn't bet for or against them any week. I will, however, take the Jets here.
Figgs: The Fins are much better than their record indicates, and I kind of like them here. However, michigan is currently losing to a laughable Illinois squad, which has to be a sign to pick against Chad Henne. Jets.
Nick: I like the Fish here. Their running game is sick, and they had the Saints beat last week.

EAGLES (-1) vs Giants
Andy: This looks like a good game - watch it not be broadcast here. The Giants won't drop three straight.
Figgs: NY will bounce back here.
Nick: I'm going Giants because I like Andy's logic, and I'm also not totally sold on this Eagles team.

4:00 pm kickoffs

TITANS (-3) vs Jags
Andy: Welcome to Jacksonville, where you're getting three from an 0-6 team who lost their last game 59-0. And welcome to FCF, where I lay that three.
Figgs: The Fighting Fishers have to win sometime. Here looks like a good option.
Nick: I had the Titans originally, but I'm going to switch to the Jags. I'm sticking with picking against the Titans until I have a reason not to, the same way I'm going to keep picking the Colts and Saints. Vince Young is starting at quarterback this week. Let that sink in.

CHARGERS (-16.5) vs Raiders
Andy: Really a well-set line here; I hate taking the Raiders, but I also hate giving this many to a good-not-great Charger club. Bruce Gradkowski puts me in the Bolts' corner.
Figgs: I'm with Nick, SD.
Nick: I'll pick against the Raiders until I have a reason not to.

CARDINALS (-10) vs Panthers
Andy: Cards. The Panthers suck.
Figgs: Might as well go with the flow, Cards.
Nick: Cardinals. This is going to be a slaughter. ($)

PACKERS (-3) vs Vikings
Andy: I think the Pack might well come out and win this one huge.
Figgs: Vikings win, but because of AD, not Favre.
Nick: Vikings. Why do people trust Green Bay's defense? They give up big points to good teams.

Monday Night Game
8:30 pm kickoff

SAINTS (-10) vs Falcons
Andy: TEN? I love this Saints club, but come on. Damn you Vegas, you're learning. Still, I've enjoyed their season so much thus far, and I like them hosting a Monday nighter, that I'm going to keep rolling with them. I won't pick against Mr. Brees until I hafta. New Orleans.
Figgs: I'm glad to see NO on national tv, as they are a very entertaining team to watch. ATL keeps this within a touchdown though, maybe even win it outright.
Nick: This line's a field goal too high, but I'm still taking the Saints. Atlanta made me nervous last week.

Wednesday, October 28

Pryor, OSU Bounce Back

After a week of heavy criticism, Ohio St (Terrelle Pryor in particular) came into last Saturday's game against Minnesota with quite the chip on their shoulder. During the game, they proceeded to toss that chip away, for now anyway, as the Bucks pounded the Golden Gophers, 38-7. Pryor looked much better in this contest than he did the previous week against Purdue, but there was really nowhere to go but up. Let's rap.

Game Recap

The first quarter was dominated by one long OSU drive. Starting from their own 15, Ohio St drove 78 yards on 19 plays, eating up almost nine minutes of game play. The drive stalled inside the Gopher 15, however, when Pryor was sacked on third down. The Buckeyes settled for a short FG, one which Aaron Pettrey promptly missed. I cannot figure this guy out. He's lights out from 40+ yards, but can't hit jack shit from close range. Ugh.

Minnesota had a few decent drives throughout the first half, but miscues such as penalties and dropped passes killed them and the OSU D held enough to force five Gopher punts. The only score came when Pryor lobbed up a bomb that was caught by DeVier Posey. It was really an errant pass that Posey bailed Terrelle out on. In Pryor's defense, Posey was so wide open that maybe he was just trying to make sure he got it off and let Posey run under it, but still, it would have been nice to see TP hit him in stride. Ohio St had another good drive late in the half but ended when Pryor was picked off in the Minnesota red zone. Neither team looked very good, and OSU went into the tunnel on top, 7-0.

The second half was a much different story. The Buckeye defense really buckled down, Pryor and the offense started to click, and Minnesota continued to make mistakes. Minnesota returner Troy Stoudermire fumbled the kick to begin the second half, and it only took Pryor three plays to cash in. Making the Gopher defense look silly, TP took it in himself on a 15 yard run to put the Bucks up 14-0. An OSU sack later in the quarter forced another fumble, and again the Buckeyes quickly capitalized. Freshman Jordan Hall had an 11 yard touchdown to start the route. Hall was getting the majority of the playing time due to injuries, which I will discuss later.

Later in the third, Pryor threw his best pass of the game, hitting Posey right in stride on a deep ball that was broken up by the defender. It could have been called a fumble, but, worrying that it could help their opponent, neither team challenged. Terrelle tried again deep to Posey, threw a much worse pass that was short, but DeVier came back to it to catch his second TD of the game.

The 4th quarter saw Joe Bauserman at the helm for OSU, and mostly had him handing off to fourth-string freshman Jermil Martin. The Minnesota D was demoralized and just gassed at this point, and Martin broke one for 40 yards to the house to begin the quarter, making it 35-0. Austin Spitler and Kurt Coleman both had picks, seemingly sealing the shutout. Unfortunately, MarQueis Gray led a late TD drive for the Golden Gophers, putting the final at 38-7.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Pryor's overall numbers were impressive, but he still made too many mistakes in my mind to get this. DeVier Posey caught 8 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. This guy has been making big plays all year. If he can learn to run routes other than the fly, he can become an excellent receiver.
Game Balls to date: Pryor (2), Saine, Coleman, Posey, Defense

Jekyll and Hyde
Terrelle Pryor made some very good plays in this game, but he is still making the same mistakes. He is still underthrowing receivers and still forcing too many passes. He definitely improved drastically since the Purdue game, but he still has a lot of work to do.

The Ohio St defense was back to its dominant self in this one, particularly in the second half. They held Minnesota to under 300 total yards (not completely shutdown, but impressive nonetheless), but more importantly, they got their 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st takeaways of the season. Spitler's second half pick made him the 11th guy on the team to get an INT. That's absurd, especially with four games still to play. Another impressive stat: including the three that they picked up in this contest, the OSU defense has not allowed a point in 19 of the 32 quarters thus far.

The Backfield Injury Bug
Brandon Saine left the Minnesota game early with a mild concussion. This is on top of the ankle injury sustained to Dan Herron that has sidelined him 3 1/2 of the last 4 weeks. Freshmen Jordan Hall and Jermile Martin have looked good in limited action, but that has mostly been garbage time. I'm confident that those two can carry the load this week against New Mexico St (I'm pretty sure that Andy and Nick could), but at least one of the top two backs absolutely has to be back in two weeks when the Buckeyes travel to Happy Valley. Both Herron's and Saine's status for this week is uncertain as of right now.

OSU Bashers
Hey dumb asses, back off. I have been critical of Pryor on this blog on multiple occasions, and certainly the Purdue game gave reason for criticism, but let's not get out of control. People have been calling into Columbus radio shows totally trashing the team, Pryor, and (gasp) coach Jim Tressel. Really guys? One "fan" even went as far as saying "Tressel is a joke." Yeah, in a seven year span, six BCS games, three National Championship appearances, five Big Ten titles, and one Championship ring is pretty laughable. Another guy, presumably a member of the Gertrude Barber Center, asks "When's the bleeding gonna stop?" I realize this is a program that accepts nothing but the best, but let's all relax a little bit.

Up Next: vs. New Mexico St, 12:00, Big Ten Network
The mighty Aggies come into the Shoe with a 3-5 record and sporting the nation's worst offense. There's a good chance neither Saine or Boom will play, and Pryor will be out by halftime. If NMSU (is that their acronym?) scores a point I'll be totally shocked. It's fitting that this game is on Halloween, because it's gonna be ugly.
Prediction: Ohio St 41 New Mexico St 0


Tuesday, October 27

NBA Season Predictions

My 2009-2010 NBA preseason predictions are out!

Western Conference (596-634)

San Antonio
New Orleans

LA Lakers
Golden State
LA Clippers

Oklahoma City

Eastern Conference (634 - 596)



New Jersey
New York


Conference Quarterfinals
LA Lakers over Phoenix (4-0)
San Antonio over New Orleans (4-1)
Denver over Utah (4-2)
Portland over Dallas (4-2)

Cleveland over Charlotte (4-0)
Chicago over Washington (4-3)
Boston over Miami (4-2)
Orlando over Atlanta (4-1)

Conference Semifinals
LA Lakers over Portland (4-1)
San Antonio over Denver (4-1)

Cleveland over Chicago (4-1)
Orlando over Boston (4-2)

Conference Finals
Cleveland over Orlando (4-2)
LA Lakers over San Antonio (4-2)

NBA Finals
LA Lakers over Cleveland (4-1)

I'd love to say that the Cavs have what it takes to knock off the Lakers, but I have a bad feeling that if these teams meet in the Finals, the games will look more like this:

Sunday, October 25

The Downtown report

Live and di-rect from my Downtown penthouse in Cleveland, it's a weekend version of the Downtown Report. Fine, I live on the 14th floor and not the penthouse, but anyone actually going to the penthouse has to wait for me to stop on my floor before they get home.

I'll say this for Green Bay Packers fans: they travel well. I was at Wonder Bar on E 4th on Friday night and, all of a sudden, the place is just overrun with green and yellow. Crazy. I talked with a few of them - they actually sound like those accents people had in Fargo. I informed them that they were really going to crush us on Sunday, which turned out to be true. Pack fans are a lot different than Steeler fans, by which I mean they aren't total dicks. They also know what "yellow" and "gold" mean They're actually a cheerful lot, though they were a bit too festive for me on Friday. I almost felt the need to invoke Brett Favre's turncoating to somber them a bit, but wasn't that far into the beer just yet.

Speaking of Favre, I saw a couple of Packers #4 jerseys today. Really? Really? I mean, how much does that guy have to sell you out before you spring for a Rodgers?

I like the Indians' hiring of Manny Acta as their new manager. I recall reading on FIRE JOE MORGAN that Acta generally eschews bunting and reads (and understands!) Baseball Prospectus. Welcome to Cleveland, Mr. Acta.

Buckeyes looked better on Saturday, though it took them a while to get going. The offense was sluggish in the first half, but they looked much sharper in the second. The D stepped up all game long - it's a shame they lost the shutout. The two chief culprits on the offensive side, as I see it, are the offensive line's inability to give Terrelle Pryor much time, and Pryor's shaky decision-making on throws. The Iowas and Penn States of the world are going to be quite a challenge if those things don't improve.

Loved watching Michigan get smacked around by Penn State in their own house. It's just such a good feeling to watch them lose. It gives me goosebumps. Matt Millen was the color guy for the game, and he's as inept at that as he was at GM'ing the Lions. He called Tate Forcier the best quarterback in the Big 10, when he was in fact by a wide margin not even the best quarterback on the field. How can you say Forcier is better than Daryll Clark with a straight face?

Went for a hangover-helper 5-mile run at about 11 am on Sunday and was really energized running around the stadium. It's a great atmosphere - too bad the on-field product dampens it so much. Any time you go for a run and high-five a traffic cop, it's a good run.

Let's just not even talk about the Browns game. That was ugly. As it happens, that contest was just one of three that I missed out on the Sunday slate, putting me at a robust 8-3 headed into the evening games. Rock and roll.

The most intriguing afternoon games to me were Cincy/Chicago and New Orleans/Miami. The Bengals looked very, very impressive in dismantling the Bears. Just a machine. If the Bears suck that bad next weekend, maybe we can take them out. Probably not, but maybe. The Saints rallied from down 24-3 (!) and, having not trailed all season, simply went on a 43-10 run to beat the Dolphins and cover the six-point spread. Wow. The comeback effort was helped by former Wolverine Chad Henne tossing two pick-sixes to the black and gold. Nice work, dummy. This Saints team is an exciting bunch.

I'll be out and about traveling the nation for the next week or so, so I won't get to see the Cavaliers begin their attack run from my typical lakefront location on Tuesday. Nevertheless: Go Cavs!

Saturday, October 24

NFL Picks: Week 7

Boy, last week was a tough one. Come on, who actually thought that the Raiders and Buffaloes would suddenly remember how to play football? Fortunately, all three FCF predictors nailed the Sunday and Monday contests to get at or near break-even for the week. On to Week 7.

Last week
Andy: 7-7
Figgs: 7-7
Nick: 6-8
Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-4

Year to date
Andy: 51-39
Figgs: 47-43
Nick: 46-44
Nick's Money Picks ($): 11-10
Nick's teaser: 2-3

Sunday games
1:00 pm kickoffs

BROWNS (+7) vs Packers
Andy: Browns, but let me say I can't believe we're not getting more than this. Do you trust the Brownies to cover with only a TD after the Packers smacked around the Lions last week? Me neither. I don't see any way in hell we cover this. Can I go against my rule this quickly and pick against the Browns? I'll decide Sunday morning, after a night of drinking with the Capital District (NY) Browns Backers. [Fast-forward to Sunday] I'm jacked up after a run around the stadium, so I'm going Browns.
Figgs: When you're down four games, you gotta pick with your head and leave your heart out of it. Pack.
Nick: The Browns are 3-0 vs. the spread in the last three weeks. The party's over. Packers. ($)

CHIEVES (+5) vs Chargers
Andy: I'm not afraid to take Kansas City anymore, especially at home against an unimpressive Charger squad. I'd consider the Chargers at -3, but here I'm going KC.
Figgs: SD. The Chargers need this one.
Nick: This was one of the trickiest games for me to pick. I wonder how demoralized the Chargers will be after the Monday night loss? The Chiefs don't quit, and I like that. The forecast calls for rain, and that may be something of an equalizer. Chiefs?

RAMS (-13) vs Colts
Andy: Somehow, some way, this line is less than 20. Colts, Colts, Colts. Dome, coming off the bye week, against the Rams? Please.
Figgs: Peyton by seven touchdowns.
Nick: Colts. What a terrific line. ($)

STEELERS (-4) vs Vikings
Andy: I think the Vikings' run of perfection ends in Pittsburgh, unfortunately. Will the Steelers cover this? Probably. Pittsburgh.
Figgs: This is a really tough one. I also think that Pittsburgh will win, but will it be more than a FG? Rule of thumb, if I could go either way, and the Steelers are involved, pick against them because they suck. Vikes.
Nick: Vikings. I can't understand why people like Pittsburgh in this one.

BUCS (+14) vs Patriots
Andy: Pats. After hanging 59 on the Oilers in the snow, I trust the rejuvenated Pats to cover this line against a hapless Tampa Bay team.
Figgs: Not to be outdone, Brady by eight touchdowns.
Nick: I'll go Pats here, too.

TEXANS (-3.5) vs 49ers
Andy: I knew I should have picked the Texans in a game that gave them the chance to get to .500! What was I thinking? Looking ahead, I see they have Buffalo next week, and are likely to win that, so I'll take San Francisco here.
Figgs: Niners get back on track here.
Nick: Niners coming off a thrashing and out of the bye week. They've been a good road team so far, too.

4:00 pm kickoffs

PANTHERS (-7) vs Bills
Andy: Bills, oddly. I can't give 7 to back Carolina.
Figgs: Bills.
Nick: Panthers, though I thought this might be a point or two lower. Are the Bills really worse without Edwards? At least Fitzpatrick can run around a little bit. Buffalo can't count on getting 17 interceptions each week, though.

RAIDERS (+7) vs Jets
Andy: Artificially low line based on a couple of fluky games last week. Sanchez will take better care of the ball, Russell will take worse, and I'll take the Jets.
Figgs: I'll have what he's having. Jets.
Nick: Jets. I don't see taking the Raiders at any point this season.

COWBOYS (-3) vs Falcons
Andy: ATL. What's greater: the extent to which the Falcons are underrated, or the degree to which the Cowboys are overrated?
Figgs: ATL. I think some people are starting to see Dallas isn't very good, so to answer Andy's question, Atlanta's being underrated.
Nick: Falcons. This line should be inverted. I got the Falcons at +4. ($)

BENGALS (-3) vs Bears
Andy: Cincy will bounce back here, I think. The Bears are a pretty blah team for me.
Figgs: Basically a toss up, with the home team giving 3 points. I'll go Bears, cause I really need Forte to start producing in Fantasy.
Nick: This is a really tight line, but I like the Bears here because they should've beaten the Falcons last week, and they've had some bad luck. Both of these teams have played close games, so I'm going Chicago here.

DOLPHINS (+6) vs Saints
Andy: Are we sure this isn't +16? The Saints haven't trailed this year, nor have they won by fewer than 14 points. New Orleans, all day.
Figgs: Saints.
Nick: Saints. The wildcat still spooks me a little bit, but I can't believe this is under a touchdown. ($)

8:20 pm kickoffs

GIANTS (-7) vs Cards
Andy: Are we sure this isn't -17? The Giants are going to regroup strongly here after New Orleans decimated them. They'll be at home, at night, they'll be pissed, and they're playing a bad road team in Arizona. G-men all the way.
Figgs: Giants. The Cardinals have started clicking the past few weeks, but I still thought this line would be double digits.
Nick: For all the reasons Andy mentioned, and also because the Cards are going to the East coast, and they're playing outdoors. ($)

Monday Night Game
8:30 pm kickoff

REDSKINS (+7) vs Eagles
Andy: I can't pick the Redskins against anyone, with any line, after their ridiculous coaching shenanigans. I don't expect Philly to lay another egg like they did in California last week.
Figgs: Philly. The Redskins are a total mess.
Nick: Eagles. This game and the Indy game are my locks of the week. ($)

Thursday, October 22

Ten Points: I'm tired of losing to these guys

1) A true professional
No, not any of the Browns. I'm talking about myself. Thursday has nearly come and gone without nary a Browns piece from our resident NFL expert Nick, and thus it falls upon me to get this recap done. Naturally, I plan to mail this in almost to the extent that Figgs mails in his NFL picks each week.

2) Josh Cribbs is good
The rest of the team: not so much. Yet another kick return for a TD - this guy is phenomenal. The interception wasn't so good, but at least he got to be a historical footnote by being the first dude to take back a kick and throw a pick in the same game since ever or something.

You know whose fault the pick was? JC, yes, but also a number of people not named Josh Cribbs. Braylon Edwards for being a total cock comes to mind. But more directly, Chanci Stuckey, who dropped an easy throw from Cribbs on the previous play. You get five yards on that play, you set up a better second down and that doesn't happen. We generally need to use Cribbs better on offense; more end-arounds and let's not totally abandon passing just because of one throw.

I think Cribbs has handled his contract situation with quite a bit of maturity. He wants more money, and he's open about that, but he also kinda got a good point. He's much more valuable than when he signed the deal, and deserves a promotion. But he's not being an idiot and holding out and pouting. He's kicking ass, like he always does, letting his play speak for itself and waiting until the off-season when he'll focus on getting a new deal, which he is virtually assured to get.

Also, I absolutely loved him mocking Hines Ward's stupid gallop thing on his way to the end zone. We get almost nothing over on the Steelers, so a small victory like that is fun. I hate Hines Ward. I hate all of the Steelers.

3) Ben Roethlisberger is ugly
Now that I've put that in bold letters, not much more needs to be said. I texted a die-hard Browns fan buddy of mine named Ben during the game that he should consider a name change. I was only half-kidding.

4) Brandon McDonald
Ye gods. You cannot convince me that he's a better DB than either Mike Furrey or Coye Francies. Or Cribbs, for that matter.

5) Duck and Cover
I have no idea how Nick comes up with this many puns each week - I'm reaching by item #5. This one's about the Browns covering the 14-point spread and making me look good. I was concerned those jerk Steelers would drive and kick a field goal and cover to double-screw me, but they didn't.

6) Flag on the play, on every single play
What dummy decided it was a good idea to show the Steelers' score in a yellow box at the top of the screen? Every single play I thought there was a flag because I saw the yellow box at the top of the screen. Would white text on a black field have been so difficult?

7) Mike Tomlin, fashionista
Tell me you didn't like those hilarious aviators he was sporting on the sidelines. I especially like cold-weather games late in the season when he shows up in a puffy coat and pajamas.

8) I'm in first place in the NFL Picks
And you're not.

9) Real troopers
I'll be meeting up with some fellows from the Capital District Browns Backers (Albany area, New York state) before the game Sunday. They're coming over 7 hours to see the Browns in person - now that's admirable dedication. I hope the Browns reward their service with some decent play.

10) You'll notice I didn't talk much about the game
It wasn't really worth it, wouldn't you agree? Maybe if we lose to the Pack by 20, Nick will let me guest-author this piece again. Considering we have about 54 guys out with the flu, I'm not super-optimistic about this one. On the bright side, we're now getting the nine points I initially predicted. Go Browns.

Tuesday, October 20

Five Turnovers Doom Ohio St

Terrelle Pryor looked the worst he's ever been, turning the ball over 4 times, in a 26-18 loss to Purdue last Saturday. Ohio St's offense continued to struggle, but unlike the week before against Wisconsin, the defense didn't do enough for OSU to escape with a win. It was an embarrassing loss to a bad team, that's all there is to it.

Game Recap

This game was immediately off to a bad start, when Pryor was sacked and fumbled on the second play. The OSU defense held, and Purdue was off to a quick 3-0 lead. Ohio St answered with a three-play drive, with Brandon Saine doing most of the work and Pryor finishing it off with a six-yard run. At this point it looked like the Buckeyes just spotted Purdue three points but were still going to roll along. That was not the case, however.

Ohio St could not move the ball at all the rest of the half, and Pryor fumbled for the second time midway through the second quarter. The Boilermakers had three decent drives later in the half, all resulting in Carson Wiggs FG attempts. Wiggs hit 2 of 3 and the Buckeyes went to the break down 9-7.

Joey Elliot marched Purdue right down the field to begin the second half, hitting Aaron Valentin for a 15 yard score, making it 16-7. Little did I know, we'd be seeing much more of Valentin later. Later in the quarter, Terrelle was picked off by Brandon King, giving Purdue good starting field position. Thankfully, we have a play-making defense of our own, and Devon Torrence answered with an interception. Not to be outdone, three plays later TP threw another pick, again to King. Couldn't he tell he played for Purdue? This time Elliot cashed in, throwing a 23 yard TD strike to, that's right, Aaron Valentin. Going into the final quarter, it's 23-7 Boilermakers.

Pryor led OSU on their first good drive of the game, but it stalled inside the Purdue ten, and needing three scores anyway, Tressel elected to go with the FG, cutting the deficit to 23-10. Instead of sitting on the ball, Elliot continued to throw and Wiggs connected on his fourth field goal of the game. DeVier Posey caught five passes on the next possession, including a 25 yard touchdown to keep OSU in the game. Let's make no mistake about it, Pryor threw a terrible ball up for grabs, and Posey was lucky enough to get under it. Pryor ran in the two point conversion, making it a one possession game.

The defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out, giving Pryor one last chance. He moved the ball into Purdue territory, but on a 4th and 14, he threw a pass to no one in particular that landed incomplete. Ohio St stuffed Purdue three more times, looking like they might get the ball back with about one minute to go. However, a stupid face mask penalty called on Doug Worthington gave Purdue a first down and ended the game, 26-18.

Game Notes

TP Struggles (Again)
Terrelle Pryor had the worst game of his collegiate career (and there have been some bad ones). He went 17/31 for 221 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. He also fumbled the ball twice. It's starting to get to the point where you have to think, maybe he's never going to get it. He obviously has unbelievable size, strength, and athleticism, and because of this he will make some great plays and look very talented at times. But by this time, I, like other fans and the coaching staff, expected him to start to mature and stop making these terrible mistakes. He is still only a sophomore, but he has had more starts under his belt than many seniors. It's time for Pryor to grow up, or shut up.

No Boom
This game showed that Ohio St really misses Dan Herron at the goal line. Two possessions for OSU stalled inside the Purdue 5 yard line because they had no one to run the ball right up the middle. They apparently didn't trust Saine to go between the tackles, so they're only option was a pitch out to him or a draw by Pryor. If I know this, you can bet your ass so does Purdue. The linebackers did a good job of not committing and containing TP and stopped the Bucks from crossing the goal line both times.

The Bigger Picture
Although this loss was hard to take because, well it's embarrassing, we don't get to break michigan's conference road winning streak, and it showed some flaws in our team, but looking in the grand scheme of things, postseason-wise, this loss really means nothing. The National Title was out when OSU lost to USC, and even with this loss the Buckeyes still control their own destiny to win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl. If they do win out, they would most likely share the conference title instead of winning it outright, but oh well. It's time to move on and get back on track.

Up Next: vs. Minnesota, 12:00, ESPN
The Golden Gophers come to the Horseshoe sporting a 4-3 record (2-2 in the Big Ten). Minnesota looked bad in a shutout loss last week against Penn St, and certainly will be looking to get big play wideout Eric Decker back into the action. Minnesota is awful against the run, so hopefully Tressel can limit Pryor's mistakes by not giving him a chance to make them. Herron is expected to be back, so just let him and Saine run all day. Ohio St hasn't lost back-to-back conference games since 2004, and I don't expect them to here.
Prediction: Ohio St 28 Minnesota 13


Saturday, October 17

NFL Picks: Week 6

Last week
Andy: 9-5
Figgs: 6-8
Nick: 5-9
Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-2
Nick's teaser: 0-1

Year to date
Andy: 44-32 (boo-ya)
Figgs: 40-36
Nick: 40-36
Nick's Money Picks ($): 9-6
Nick's teaser: 2-3

Sunday games
1:00 pm kickoffs

Browns (+14) vs STEELERS
Andy: God fucking damnit, I hate when we play the Steelers. I'll write them in all caps to preserve convention, but I'll be damned if they get listed before us. I betcha one of us here at FCF will be a Nancy and pick Pittsburgh, then have to not-so-secretly hope they cover late in the game. That's right, Nick - if we're trailing by 13 with very little time to play, you will be rooting for Pittsburgh to score against Cleveland to get your pick right. I won't. Browns. BROWNS!
Figgs: Why not, Browns. [With very little confidence] Maybe we keep it kind of close?
Nick: Steelers. Nancy's my word, Francis. I'm even putting money on it. You're wrong about who I'll be rooting for, though. I'd gladly trade much more than $25 for us to beat Pittsburgh. This is largely a hedge bet. ($)

BENGALS (-4.5) vs Texans
Andy: Love the Bengals here - maybe my favorite pick on the board. They're confident, they have a chip on their shoulder because Nick still doesn't believe in them and they can't sell out their stadium, and Houston is crummy on the road. Yes, this means I'm going against my deal last week where I said I'd always pick the Texans in the direction that moves them closer to .500, and they're currently 2-3, but I'll hook up with them the next two weeks, alright?
Figgs: Cinncy.
Nick: Bengals. Surprised this isn't higher, and the bad weather should bug Schaub.

VIKINGS (-3) vs Ravens
Andy: What to make of Baltimore after a couple of close losses? A team that will struggle against Minnesota's front four in the Metrodome is what I make of them. Also: a team I fucking hate. Vikes.
Figgs: I think the Ravens are a much better team than 3-3, but I'll go with the Vikes because of the dome.
Nick: I also like the Vikings here. This line should be five or six.

PACKERS (-13) vs Lions
Andy: Big line here. How cold will it be? Is Stafford playing? Do I have to pick this? The Packers strike me as enigmatic, but I think I have to take them.
Figgs: Lions keep this under 10. They're much better than people give them credit for.
Nick: Gotta go Packers here, especially if the Staff(ord) Infection is still on the shelf. On an unrelated note, I think he's looked pretty good so far.

SAINTS (-3) vs Giants
Andy: Now THIS is a game. If this isn't broadcast here on Fox, someone needs to be fired. I like the Saints here because they're at home, coming off a bye, and Eli Manning may not be at full strength for the G-men. Plus, I saw a feature on Drew Brees' pregame fire-up-the-troops huddle and found myself with a strong desire to watch the Saints kick some ass, and I'm not even a Saints fan. I'm surprised at how good I feel about picking against a 5-0 team that has been steamrolling foes, but that's how it goes.
Figgs: I skipped this game and came back to it last, hoping that in the last 8 min I would have a sudden revelation that would tell me who to pick. This did not happen, and I still have no idea. Giants, I guess.
Nick: Love the Giants here, although not quite enough to bet on them. Eli Manning is really good on the road and indoors (no wind). The Giants are the deepest and most balanced team in the league, and they should not be getting three points.

BUCS (+3.5) vs Panthers
Andy: Now THIS is garbage. Carolina is one of my least favorite teams to evaluate each week. Consider this: they barely managed to squeak by Washington by 3 at home, and the Redskins are lousy. I kinda like the Bucs here, enough to take the FG+.
Figgs: Cats. The Bucs are terrible.
Nick: Panthers. My betting strategy is to feast on the remains of the league's worst teams. ($)

REDSKINS (-6.5) vs Chieves
Andy: KC. This is 2.5 more points than I thought I'd get, and I think KC might take this one outright.
Figgs: KC. What they said.
Nick: Chiefs. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them win outright. They have a little fight in them. I like that.

JAGS (-9.5) vs Rams
Andy: Yuck. I mean, can I really lay almost 10 points to take a team that lost 41-0 in Seattle last week? St. Louis is bad, but I dunno. The Jags are bipolar. Jags. That was horrible writing.
Figgs: Jax.
Nick: Jags. The Rams are averaging the least points scored per game and the most points allowed, and the Jags are back in sunny Florida. ($)

4:00 pm kickoffs

SEAHAWKS (-3) vs Cards
Andy: Bo-ring. I'll take Seattle at home - Arizona on the road is not something I relish.
Figgs: I picked against Seattle last week and they won by 6 touchdowns. To punish them for my embarrassment, I will go against them again. Cards.
Nick: She-Hawks. Seattle is a totally different team at home and when Seneca Wallace isn't playing quarterback.

RAIDERS (+14) vs Eagles
Andy: Why am I taking Philly (-14)? Because Vegas isn't making me take them -21, that's why. JaMarcus Russell is becoming one of the league's most comedic storylines. I guarantee Charlie Frye could do better than this. I'm starting to wonder if Browns-Raiders is going to be as bad as Browns-Bills.
Figgs: Philly.
Nick: Philly, in my lock of the week. The Raiders haven't kept a game close in a long time. ($)

PATRIOTS (-9) vs Titans
Andy: Remember last week when I bailed on the Titans to back the Colts and it worked out great? Even though I think this is a lot of points, I'm sticking with that and going New England here.
Figgs: Pats. Both starting CB's are out for Tennessee. Brady is gonna have a field day and get me some big time fantasy points.
Nick: Patriots. I'm going to keep picking against Tennessee until I have a reason not to. The Titans were arguably the best team in the league last year; how is this team going to get up for games anymore?

JETS (-9.5) vs Buffaloes
Andy: At one point, I'd written down Buffalo in my notebook for this game. My theory is that my brain has repressed all memories of last week's contest against Cleveland, making me unable to comprehend the true badness of Buffalo. So what I did was, I re-read about some of the Buffaloes' exploits, to be able to properly gauge their level of ineptitude. Jets.
Figgs: Jets. I like Nick's way of thinking.
Nick: Jets. The Browns suck. The Browns beat the Bills. The transitive property suggests that the Bills really suck. ($)

8:20 pm kickoffs

FALCONS (-3.5) vs Bears
Andy: Color me impressed with the Falcons after completely waxing a solid 49er team in San Francisco. I always like the Falcons at home, and I see them winning this game easily.
Figgs: I'm still riding the Falcon wave from '08.
Nick: Falcons. The Bears look like a paper tiger. You can move the ball on that defense, and their offense hasn't really clicked yet. ($)

Monday Night Game
8:30 pm kickoff

CHARGERS (-3.5) vs Broncos
Andy: I would have taken Denver anyway, but I'm pleased to see I get the field goal plus instead of the single point I would have guessed.
Figgs: Denver. I ate a whole lot of crow after back-to-back impressive wins by Denver after I said they were not for real over and over again.
Nick: Broncos. How are the Chargers favored again? They seem to get a little extra juice for Vegas when they're at home, but they look exceedingly mediocre this year.

Thursday, October 15

Ten Points: Browns/Bills

1. Who wants it less?
Just because a game is close doesn’t necessarily make it enjoyable, and the Browns and Bills proved that theory beyond rebuttal last Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Windy weather combined with two lousy offenses to create one of the worst NFL games in recent memory. (I’ve actively repressed all memories of the 2008 Browns’ month of December.) There were just 48 pass attempts (just 18 completions) against 76 rushes, a ratio that would make Woody Hayes smile.

Special teams was the difference for the Browns, as Dave Zastudil pinned the Bills inside their own 20 yard line no less than 7 times. A crucial Roscoe Parrish fumble gave the Browns the ball at Buffalo’s 16 yard line, setting up Billy Cundiff to mercifully break the late fourth quarter tie and spare us from having to endure overtime.

Early on, it became clear that Eric Mangini wasn’t going to let a crucial mistake beat the Browns, so the offense became a run-heavy shell as the Browns waited for a Buffalo error. Mangini was playing not to lose, and for at least one week, it worked.

2. 11.8%
That was the completion percentage that Derek Anderson earned with his 2-for-17 gem. Anderson also added an interception.

To be fair, there were probably three or four legitimate drops, and the windy conditions were making it tough for either team to complete passes. That said, you should be able to go 2-for-17 left-handed and blindfolded. Anderson doesn’t seem to understand that 5 yard passes to running backs should not be fastballs. Touch passes have never been Anderson’s forte, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Anderson really needs to be wary of patting the ball before he throws. Tim Couch was doing that for awhile too, and when a quarterback pats the ball it cues the defense as to when he’s going to throw. That helps the coverage guys, but it also really helps the defensive line know when to jump and try to tip the ball. Anderson had a handful of passes tipped in Buffalo, and his new habit might be the reason.

The conservative nature of this particular game plus the elements’ effect on the long ball probably would have made this a better game for Brady Quinn than for Anderson. But for whatever reason, Eric Mangini seems to be giving Anderson a much longer leash than he ever granted Quinn. Sure, the Browns won, but they had to drag Anderson to victory, which isn’t the way it’s supposed to work.

On a quick side note, I’d like to dispel the notion of a “winning” quarterback with lousy numbers. Wins and losses alone are not a good metric for evaluating quarterback play. Vince Young was labeled a “winner” in spite of the fact that he threw more interceptions than touchdowns during both of his seasons as a starter and never posted a rating higher than 71.1. Arguments about “clutch” play are something else entirely, but if you want to argue that Eli Manning was an elite quarterback because the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007-08, you’re incorrect.

3. Ground game.
The Browns ran the ball 41 times for 171 yards and a 4.2 yard average. We need to keep that in the context of playing the mediocre Bills defense, but it’s still a good start.

Jamal Lewis was back and had a spring in his step. Lewis carried 31 times for 117 yards, and hasn’t looked that good since 2007.

I liked seeing the Browns use more pitches with Lewis to help him build a head of steam. Even though Lewis has lost that quick first step (which has made him far less effective inside), he’s still tough to bring down once he accelerates to top speed. It would have been nice to see a little more of Jerome Harrison, and hopefully the Browns are moving towards a Lewis/Harrison backfield tandem.

Alex Mack showed some signs of life, too. Brian Daboll was pulling Mack out to lead block for Lewis on some of the aforementioned pitches, and Mack was blowing up Buffalo defenders downfield. Maybe Mack’s finally starting to get his sea legs.

4. Super Dave.
If there’s one thing the Browns have done since 1999, it’s showcase their punters, and Sunday was no exception as Eric Mangini called Dave Zastudil’s number 9 times. Zastudil had a career game, pinning the Bills inside their own 20 yard line 7 (!) times. Obviously, some of that was attributable to where Zastudil was punting from, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Zastudil put three punts inside the Buffalo five yard line, including two punts that he parked on the one. Credit the rest of the coverage unit for getting in position to down those punts, particularly Mike Adams and Josh Cribbs.

5. Barton up the middle.
Eric Barton has been as mediocre as advertised. Barton’s a decent player, but he’s not going to turn any heads at inside linebacker. Plus, he’s made a habit of flying through the line when he’s free on blitzes, but apparently he’s not very good at changing directions, because he flies right past the quarterback.

It’s great to see Barton pressuring the quarterback, but he’s largely wasted if the quarterback can just slide left or right to avoid him. Plus, Trent Edwards isn’t exactly Mr. Mobility. If Barton can’t wrap up Edwards, he’s really going to have trouble with Ben Roethlisberger this week.

6. Robert Royal and his hands of stone.
I was talking football with my buddy Sean (an avid Bills fan) over the summer, and in passing I mentioned the Browns’ signing of Robert Royal. When I asked him his opinion of Royal, he wasn’t very complimentary. After watching the guy for just five games, I can see why.

Royal might be a sound blocker, but Brian Daboll is using him way too much as a receiver. Royal simply can’t catch. In fact, Derek Anderson’s best pass of the day went into the books as an incompletion because it ricocheted off of Royal’s palms.

I know that Eric Mangini wants tight ends who can block first, but in this day and age it’s somewhat of an antiquated notion. Of course you want tight ends who are competent blockers, but if that prevents you from picking up a hybrid receiving tight end in the mold of a Tony Gonzalez, you’re probably doing your offense a disservice.

In the contemporary NFL, tight ends are big receivers who can block, too. You’d think a guy who drafted Dustin Keller would understand the role of the tight end in today’s game.

7. No love lost?
There might be a little rivalry budding between the Browns and the Bills, who have now played each other three years running. The players were getting pretty chippy with each other, especially early. It probably didn’t hurt that half of the Browns defense used to play the Bills twice every year when they wore Jets uniforms.

I’d be happy to add a new rival, especially one the Browns are capable of beating. It’s only about a three hour drive from Cleveland to Buffalo, so fans can go behind enemy lines for each game. As long as the Browns and Bills can hold down their spots in the cellar, it’s a rivalry we can look forward to for at least one more year.

8. Phil Savage, vindicated?
The defensive line appears to have really gelled over the last couple games, and it’s about time. The line has been the most talented part of the defense for the last two years, and maybe those guys are finally starting to play like it.

Plenty of people gave Phil Savage some guff for focusing solely on the defensive line during the 2008 offseason, and there’s no doubt that the linebackers needed fixing, too. But now that Corey Williams is healthy he looks like a pretty solid player, even if he’s grossly overpaid. The Shaun Williams trade has been a huge success, even if that hasn’t been reflected in wins and losses. In retrospect, Savage’s defensive line experiment probably has probably been more successful than we thought.

9. Romeo Crennel, vindicated?
Nobody was a bigger Crennel critic than me. Crennel was one of the worst NFL coaches I’ve ever seen; he was totally overmatched by the job. But one of my biggest issues with Crennel was his treatment of Brady Quinn and the apparent favoritism he showed to Derek Anderson.

Crennel was always a coach who favored the vets, but it didn’t make sense that he wouldn’t give Quinn a shot even when Anderson struggled mightily in 2008. The front office had to twist Crennel’s arm into eventually naming Quinn the starter late last season. Whether it was a matter of Quinn having a permanent spot in Crennel’s doghouse because of his contact holdout, or Crennel’s veteran bias, it looked like Crennel was giving Quinn a raw deal.

Eric Mangini doesn’t seem to have treated Brady Quinn fairly, either. After such a grueling quarterback competition, pulling the plug on Quinn after less than three games seemed premature, to say the least. But it seems unlikely that two head coaches would have irrational biases against Quinn.

Maybe Quinn rubs people the wrong way in the locker room or has an air of entitlement, but there’s never been even a whiff of that in his interviews. Granted, some people know how to present themselves to the public, but it seems unlikely that Quinn wouldn’t have ever shown at least some shadow of his dark side, if he had one.

The simplest answer tends to be the right one, and the more I think about it, I wonder if Brady Quinn just isn’t that good? That certainly makes more sense than a massive conspiracy to keep him from starting, which involves two completely different regimes.

The big news for the Browns this week was that Brady Quinn put his house on the market. Mangini and Quinn both denied that a trade was in the works, and Quinn cited not needing a house because he’s a bachelor, and also stated that his house in Avon Lake is simply too long of a commute to the practice facility.

Both excuses seem pretty weak, and you don’t need a magnifying glass to read the writing on the wall. Brady Quinn is either going to be shipped out before the October 20th trade deadline, or he’s going to be moved in the off-season. The real victims here are the fans who bought Brady Quinn jerseys, and hopefully those folks will wise up this time around and just buy a jersey with a retired Browns great on the back. That’s clearly the safest investment in the most volatile of markets: the Cleveland Browns roster.

10. Up next: at Pittsburgh Steelers, Ketchup Field, 1:00
It’s nice that the Browns got off the schnide last Sunday, because the next three weeks feature Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Chicago. Thanks, Roscoe Parrish, because you might have saved us the agony of heading into the bye at 0-8.

It will definitely be an uphill battle for the Browns when they face off against the 3-2 Steelers. Sans Polamalu, opponents have moved the ball more effectively against the Steelers defense, but the Steelers have put some big numbers on the scoreboard the last two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger is averaging nearly 300 yards per game through the air, and Rashard Mendenhall has filled in admirably for the injured Willie Parker over the last 2 weeks.

Some pundits are discounting the Steelers because they’re 3-2, but their two losses were both very close, and they probably win both of those games if Polamalu’s healthy. As the Ravens have come back to earth during the last two weeks, my money’s on the Steelers to win the division once again. The Bengals have looked frisky, but it’s going to take a few more solid wins before I trust them.

For the Browns to have a chance, Derek Anderson needs to have one of his “hot” games. The Browns won’t be able to run the ball consistently against the Steelers, so they’ll have to sign up for throwing early and often if they want at shot at scoring.

As always, the key to stopping Pittsburgh on offense is to limit Ben Roethlisberger’s big plays and hope he makes his standard mistakes. Roethlisberger is far more dangerous when the play breaks down and he leaves the pocket, so it’s almost worth just committing to spying him with a linebacker on passing downs.

The Steelers have beaten the Browns in an astounding 11 straight games. The last time the Browns beat the Steelers, I was a 16-year old junior in high school and I’d just got my driver’s license. School of Rock was in theaters. Come on guys, we’re due.

Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 10
(Objectively, I can’t in good faith pick the Browns. You understand.)

(AP Photo)

Tuesday, October 13

Who Had OSU Def/ST in Fantasy?

Here are some stats from last Saturday's Ohio St/Wisconsin game:
Time of possession - Wisconsin: 42:47, Ohio St: 17:13
First downs - Wisconsin: 22, Ohio St: 8
Total yards - Wisconsin: 368, Ohio St: 184

That being said, here is one final set of numbers:
Final score - Wisconsin: 13, Ohio St: 31.

The Buckeyes managed to cover their 15-point spread, despite being completely dominated by the Fighting Bielemas, thanks to two defensive touchdowns and another coming on a kick return.

Game Recap

I was at the Horseshoe for this one (first row behind the end zone, I might add) and I must say, there isn't much to recap here. The first quarter saw each team punt three times, the lone highlight coming midway through the frame when Kurt Coleman picked off a Scott Tolzien pass and took it back 89 yards to paydirt. Terrelle Pryor threw an interception to begin the second quarter. Starting at the OSU 12, the Badgers could only manage to move the ball three yards and were forced to set up for a field goal. They ran an excellent fake, and holder Chris Maragos ran it in for the score to tie the game.

After a Buckeye three-and-out, Wisconsin marched right down the field and Philip Welch nailed a 50 yard field goal to put them up, 10-7. Trailing for the first time since the lost to SoCal, Ohio St responded with what would turn out to be their only touchdown-scoring drive of the game. Pryor began the drive with a 27 yard run, then did the rest through the air, capping things off by hitting DeVier Posey for a 32-yard score. The Buckeyes played pretty poorly, but went into the break up 14-10.

Tolzien was intercepted for the second time to begin the second half, and again the opportunistic Buckeye D took it back for a score. Jermale Hines was the recipient of this one. Wisconsin responded with another long Welch FG, a move that would ultimately decide the Badgers' fate. Ray Small took the ensuing kickoff back 96 yards for the score, putting OSU up 28-13, and essentially ending the game. The 4th quarter was about as boring as the 1st, with Welch missing a FG and Aaron Pettrey connecting on one from 37. Wisconsin's last attempt at a comeback was ended when Ross Homan sacked Tolzien and forced a fumble on third and goal. The Buckeyes got completely outplayed, but managed to win convincingly, 31-13.

Game Notes

Game Ball
GB goes to defensive captain Kurt Coleman. After sitting out last week because of a BS suspension, Coleman came back with a vengeance. In addition to his pick-six, Coleman had 14 tackles and two pass breakups. Coleman is an absolute beast, and on his way to some hardware at season's end.
Game balls to date: Pryor (2), Defense, Saine, Coleman

Horseshoe Magic
There's nothing that can compare to the experience of seeing a game at Ohio Stadium, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that again last weekend. This win bumps my overall record up to 6-1, and 6-0 against the Big Ten. I was in the first row behind the end zone, was on the jumbo-tron three times, got a picture with Brutus (above), and started a "You're not Erin (Andrews)" chant when Holly Rowe walked by. I love Columbus.

Offensive Woes
Terrelle Pryor certainly had his struggles in this game, going 5/13 for 87 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Brandon Saine led the way on the ground, rushing 14 times for only 55 yards. Boom Herron only had two carries before re-aggravating his ankle injury early in the game. He will be held out of the Purdue game this week. OSU could simply just not move the ball. Wisconsin did a good job of controlling the clock and keeping TP off the field, but 17 minutes TOP is just inexcusable. This one wasn't pretty, but a win's a win.

Up Next: @ Purdue, 12:00, Big Ten Network
The Boilermakers come into this game at a sorry 1-5, and have lost 19 straight games to ranked opponents. With 20 turnovers, the Purdue offense is tied for second most in the FBS in this category. This obviously does not bode well for them with this very opportunistic Buckeye defense coming to town. Expect the Ohio St offense to get back on track and make a statement in the last week before the first BCS standings come out.
Prediction: Ohio St 41 Purdue 13


Downtown report, fools

It's this simple: I open a can of OE, I write a Downtown Report.

- The day of the game against the Bengals, the Browns pennant that typically flies below the US flag was absent. I'm not sayin', just sayin'.

- I would be remiss if I didn't include this Twitter link from The Dawgfather. It's not the same as experiencing Robert in person, but it's a taste.

- This season of Browns futility will have many moments that sort of epitomize the club's plight, but so far I'm voting for me falling asleep in the 3rd quarter against the Buffaloes. In a tie game. Browns football: where late and close isn't particularly exciting.

- So maybe the Browns' first win of 2009 wasn't a thrill-ride (though it was a win!), but I'll tell you something from Sunday that was: me destroying the Towpath half-marathon in 1:37:42. Granted, that fast of a time left me marooned at the finish with fully 25 minutes before the beer tent opened, but I'm still pleased with the effort. I didn't fall asleep, anyway.

- Raise your hand if you remember how many games the Indians won this year. The correct answer: 65. You know what's great? Is how I'm going to be totally jacked up for the opener come April-time. Snow somehow completely erases my memory of bad Indians seasons, and that's a good thing.

- As novel as it is to see Shaq and our other new additions (Parker, Moon), I'm not really into Cavaliers pre-season hoops. I think this is, in part, a reflection on the expectations I have for this year's club. How am I supposed to get into pre-season games for a team getting a rather awkward 10:3 to win the NBA? This isn't the Browns, where poor regular seasons make pre-season wins seem almost winnish. Hell, I'm not even sure Cavs regular season games will be attention-grabbing. Of course, once the Browns hit 3-13, I'll change that tune.

- "Black Taco" guy kills me. I don't care how stupid that campaign is. Black taco.

- I cannot overstate the extent to which I want for Braylon Edwards to fall flat on his face tonight in his Jets debut. Football Gods, you've given Browns fans so, so little over the past decade - can we at least see Loser Boy clang Sanchez's first offering off of the blocks of stone attached to his wrists?

- Yeah, I've been giving the Brownies some flack so far in this column, but they did sack it up on defense and have been playing good special teams all year. Positives do not abound, but they've battled two straight teams to draws, and one of them was a genuine good team. Derek Anderson was beyond bad on Sunday; add even a mediocre game to the Browns' rushing attack and we might score double-digits. Yes, I said it: more than 10 points. Interestingly, I didn't see even one shot of Quinn on the sideline on Sunday. I think the NFL has to pay him escalators if they show him above a certain percentage of snaps.

But let's look on the positives: games the Browns are going to win this year. The 0-16 SPECTRE is off their backs, and at 1-4, what can we expect over the next 11 games? (Yes, we have to watch 11 more). Lots of losing, yes, but not unabated 2008 Detroit Lion losing. Let's go into three categories: Maybes, Winnables, and No Fucking Ways. I will now name the latter "Lloyd Christmases" after Jim Carrey's character in Dumb and Dumber. "So you're saying there's a chance." I'm fully cognizant that sometimes teams win Lloyd Christmases, but here I'm going to define it as any game where we're getting two touchdowns. Winnables have us as the favorite or a three-points-or-less dog, and maybes fall inbetween.

Winnables: @KC, Oakland, @ Detroit
Maybes: Jacksonville, San Diago, Green Bay
NFW's: Pittsburgh (2), Baltimore, @Cincinnati, @Chicago

You know how people talk about the strength-of-schedule adjustments the NFL makes and how it supposedly encourages parity? None of those winnables have anything to do with the Browns' last-place 2008 finish. The Buffaloes did. My point is: only two out of 16 games are affected by last year's performance - it's not such a big deal.

Quibble about the categories if you like; we'll go week to week. The Bengals and Bears might be Maybes, but we'll get at least 10 points from each of them. Statistically speaking, here's the most likely outcome:

We take 1-2 of the Winnables.
We take 0-1 of the Maybes
We take 0 of the Lloyd Christmases.

That means we're most likely to win two more games. 3-13 is this team's destiny, probability-wise. 1-15 is technically the basement, but we'll grab one more at least. If we really, really improve and start playing way above our potential, we'll run the table on the Winnables and steal two more from the tougher groups, giving us six wins for the year. That is your best-case scenario. But three looks like the winner. So, Browns fans, look on the bright side: you will, in all probability, see your club win two more football games this season. Yay!
This may not be a good time to point out that the Indianapolis Colts have won 14 straight contests.

- Nothing to do with being Downtown or any Cleveland teams, but I found the Dré Bly situation in San Francisco interesting. Trailing 35-10 in a game his team would lose 45-10 to Atlanta, cornerback Bly picked off a pass and was headed to what seemed like a sure, if unimportant, six. He showboated around his own 35 with a Deion Sanders move and was stripped of the ball by a hustling Falcon about 10 yards later. Really a bush league play by Bly. After the game he was defiant, but the next day word came out that he had approached coach Mike Singletary to apologize and took the podium on Monday and struck what seemed a genuinely recalcitrant tone. Recalcitrant? Is that a real word? Anyway, that was big of Bly, but more importantly: look at how Singletary commands his players' respect. Maybe it was the pants-dropping of a years ago, but that club really seems solid under his guidance. They're not super-talented (everyone, meet Shaun Hill, starting QB) but they can win nine games with fundamentals and make the playoffs. This is what the Browns could aspire to if the players respected Mangini instead of resenting him. Maybe that day will come. OK, maybe that had something to do with Cleveland.

- MNF is on. No, I do not know why the Dolphins are wearing the Hurricanes' jerseys. But I do know this: I want some serious sackage of Chad Henne. As the immortal Figgs would say:


Monday, October 12

Word choice

"We have all the tools now."
-Jets coach Rex Ryan on the acquisition of Braylon Edwards

Well spoken, sir.

Saturday, October 10

NFL Picks: Week 5

Last week
Andy: 8-6
Figgs: 8-6
Nick: 9-5
Nick's Money Games ($): 3-2
Nick's Teaser: 0-1

Year to date
Andy: 35-27
Figgs: 34-28
Nick: 35-27
Nick's Money Games ($): 7-4
Nick's Teaser: 2-2

Nick from last week: Betting should be a heartless endeavor. I play to win, Francis.
Were you playing to win last season?

Sunday games
1:00 pm kickoffs

BUFFALOES (-6) vs Browns
Andy: I don't care what the line is, I'm taking the Browns every game this year. I can't separate my pick from my fandom during the game, hard as I try. (2 days later) Six is even more than I expected. Good...good.
Figgs: Browns.
Nick: I'll roll the dice on the Browns here. I actually might throw a few bucks on them to win outright.

RAVENS (-9) vs Bengals
Andy: Nick is correct that we don't see this Bengal club the same way. I think the Ravens are a strong team, but Cincy is a fluke play away from 4-0 and I'm not willing to give them 9 points here.
Figgs: Cincy.
Nick: Gimme the Ratbirds. Andy and I see this game very differently. I don't think the Bengals are for real.

GIANTS (-16) vs Raiders
Andy: I think this would have to be over 20 for me to take Oakland, even with Manning out.
Figgs: Giants.
Nick: Giants. How can I pick the Raiders here?

CHIEVES (+9) vs Cowboys
Andy: I'm sticking with my theories that the 'Boys are overrated and that their lines are set too high, and taking the Chieves. Hey, I've already taken the Lions once this season - I like to live dangerously.
Figgs: Cowboys.
Nick: Cowboys. The Chiefs won't win this game, and I think Dallas can beat them by double digits.

PANTHERS (-3.5) vs Redskins
Andy: This game would have looked a lot more interesting in the pre-season. Unlike Nick, I wouldn't bet this one with a 10-foot pole. Panthers, I suppose.
Figgs: Panthers.
Nick: Panthers. I'd bet this one, but can you really put money behind Jake Delhomme?

RAMS (+9.5) vs Vikings
Andy: Vikes. I'd bet my house on that line Nick got, and I still love it less than 10. A 4-0 dome team against the worst team in the league and I don't even give double-digits? Wow.
Figgs: Vikings.
Nick: Vikings. I bet this game last week as a prospective line at -7.5. Freaking layup. ($)

EAGLES (-14.5) vs Bucs
Andy: I guessed this one at -9, so this is too many points for me. As reluctant as I am to take Tuberculosis, I'm doing so.
Figgs: Bucs.
Nick: Bucs. More than two touchdowns? I think the Bucs might have enough life to beat the spread here.

LIONS (+10.5) vs Steelers
Andy: Steelers. I thought this would be -13. This isn't quite the gift that Minnesota-St Louis is, but it looks pretty safe.
Figgs: Steelers.
Nick: Unfortunately, Pittsburgh. My second favorite game of the week. ($)

4:00 pm kickoffs

49ERS (-2.5) vs Falcons
Andy: I would always take the home team in a matchup of these clubs. Hence, I choose San Fiasco, particularly since I thought I'd have to give more than a FG.
Figgs: Falcons.
Nick: I wouldn't be surprised to see Atlanta win here, but they haven't beaten anyone good yet. Niners.

CARDS (-5.5) vs Texans
Andy: Ugly, ugly line. Houston is the most mediocre franchise there is; I joked last year that their mission statement is "8-8." They're 2-2 now with a microscopic +2 point differential. From now on, I'm picking them to lose when they're over .500 and win when they're below. That doesn't help this week, but Nick's logic is sound here, so I'll take the Cards.
Figgs: Texans.
Nick: Cards. Zona's good at home, Houston blows on the road. Book it.

BRONCOS (+3) vs Pats
Andy: One of the best games on the slate here. I'll take that field goal and rock the Broncos, who have the AFC's best point differential (+53). The Saints lead the NFL at +78, and they haven't even gotten a chance to hang 56 points on the Brownies.
Figgs: Pats.
Nick: I bet the Patriots, largely to have an interest in the later games (rookie mistake) and instantly regretted it. I like the pick, just shouldn't have bet on it. ($)

SEAHAWKS (+3) vs Jags
Andy: 'Hawks. Last week, I felt stupid for picking them the second that Indy game started. This week, they're at home and I don't buy what Jacksonville's selling.
Figgs: Jags.
Nick: Jags, though I'm not sure about Hasselbeck's status.

8:20 pm kickoffs

TITANS (+3.5) vs Colts
Andy: These teams have killed me this year, for opposite reasons. I waffled here; the die was cast by Bill Simmons' comment that it's "time to stop giving [the Titans] the benefit of the doubt." Indeed.
Figgs: Colts.
Nick: Colts. I'm jumping off the Titans bandwagon. If I get burned, it's going to be by picking against them. Also, I keep expecting the Colts to take a precipitous dive, and it never seems to happen. I don't know if I've ever seen Peyton Manning playing this well. ($)

Monday Night Game
8:30 pm kickoff

DOLPHINS (+1) vs Jets
Andy: The Jets learned their lessons in the Superdome last week. Look for them to roll over the Dolphins in a bounce-back. Plus, I love Figgs' policy of not taking the Fish as long as Henne is their QB, especially considering that Jake Long is his left tackle.
Figgs: Jets.
Nick: Jets. I was really surprised you don't have to give more than a point to pick New York. I put some coin on this one late. I'm clearly getting cocky, but I'm curious to see if I can keep my Monday night streak going, and I also don't like ending the week at .500 betting. Let's win or lose. ($)

Nick's Teaser: Ravens (-2.5) and Cowboys (-3)

Wednesday, October 7

MLB Playoff Preview

Psych! I'm not going to preview the MLB playoffs as long as the qualifying format remains as unfair as it currently is. As Rob Neyer writes, teams with big dollars are doing great this year, and the less-fortunate financial teams are tired of it, writes Tom Van Riper.

I think it sucks, too. Look at the AL qualifiers: Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Twins. With the exception of AL Central Roulette, it's the same fucking teams every year. NL too - Phillies, Dodgers, and whoever wins the Cardinal/Cub sweepstakes. The teams that can spend the most make the playoffs, with a few exceptions here and there for fun. Execs talk about Moneyball and how small-market teams can make it, and occasionally they can with well-above-average management, but the overwhelming number of playoff spaces go to the big spenders. As good as everyone likes to feel about a Tampa Bay or Minnesota crashing the party, the fact that it's so celebrated should give you a clue about how statistically unlikely it is to happen.

How is this OK with everyone? This sport loses a lot of its legitimacy because of the unfairness of its playoff structure, and the powers in charge don't seem to care. As long as they're making money, this will continue to be the case. What's interesting is how much ink the steroid scandals of the past get, as compared to the game's competitive imbalance. Fans don't give a fuck about steroids. That's yesterday's news. Don't. Care. Sorry, Mark Fainaru-Wada, it's over. Guys from every team used them, home runs were hit, records were inflated. Got it. Now we care about our teams having a chance to win. That's what's important.

For fun, here are rankings of MLB's 30 teams by payroll. Look who's in the postseason: yankees (1st), red socks (4th), phillies (7th), dodgers (9th), angels (6th), tigers (5th), cardinals (13th). The Rockies (18th) and Twins (24th) were the only small-market teams in the running - everyone else has the loot. The Indians, for the record, were 15th, despite Cleveland's small market.

The Twins are my obvious favorite in the AL. I'm totally indifferent to the NL - Rockies, I suppose. Now if you'll excuse me, I have football to watch.

Tuesday, October 6

Buckeyes Continue Roll, Pound Indiana

Ohio St picked up right where they left off the past two weeks with a 33-14 defeat of Indiana in Bloomington. This game was dominated from start to finish by OSU, and I have some stats to prove it. The Bucks picked up 29 first downs, while Indiana could only muster 11. They held the ball for over 34 minutes, compared to Indiana's 25. On their six first half possessions, Ohio St was in position to score all six times, converting on four. Since the heartbreaker to SC, the Buckeyes have outscored their last three opponents 111-14.

Game Recap

Brandon Saine, who got his first start in place of the injured Dan Herron, had a big run on the game's first possession which led to an Aaron Pettrey 46 yard field goal. The defense forced a three-and-out and Saine had a couple more big runs on the next drive. This time Ohio St was able to get into the end zone when Terrelle Pryor hit Duron Carter for the TD. Judging by the excellent control and concentration Carter showed to make that catch (pictured above), that will certainly be the first of very many touchdowns by the true freshman. Another good drive for OSU followed another three-and-out for the Hoosiers. This time, however, Pettrey was no good from 35 yards.

Working with a short field, Indiana had their first good drive of the game to start the second quarter and capped it off with a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10-7. After a good kick return on a reverse, Ohio St answered quickly with a Pryor to DeVier Posey TD toss. Pryor led two more good drives to close out the half but one was stalled after another Pettrey miss, this one from 29. I don't understand how he can be so money from 40-60 but can't make a chip shot. TP wasn't about to let Pettrey try again and hooked up with freshman backup fullback Zach Boren for a score late in the half. Ohio St's D did the rest, not allowing Indiana to go anywhere, and went into the break up 24-7.

With the game already out of reach, the second half was pretty boring. The only scoring in the third quarter came when OSU blocked a punt and Robert Rose tackled the punter in the end zone for a safety. Pryor decided his legs weren't getting enough work and ran one in for a score to begin the final frame, putting OSU up 33-7. Even with a big lead, Tressel continued to put the ball in the air, and Terrelle finally made a mistake in the final minutes by forcing a pass into the end zone, which was picked off. Indiana scored a garbage touchdown on the game's last play to make the final 33-14, Bucks.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Although Pryor's numbers (16/27, 159 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 63 rushing yards and another touchdown) may have been good enough for this week's honor, I gotta give it to my boy Brandon Saine. I've been screaming for this guy to get the ball for the past two years, and it only took a sprained ankle from Herron for it to happen. Saine got the ball 19 times and picked up a career-high 132 yards, good enough for seven yards per touch. I still like Boom, and he is a good change of pace from Saine, but even if Herron returns next week (as expected) I think Saine should get the bulk of the carries.
Game Balls to date: Pryor (2), Defense (1), Saine (1)

On the Road Again
With this victory over Indiana, Ohio St has won a school record 16 straight conference road games. They will look to tie michigan's Big Ten record of 17 in two weeks when they travel to West Lafayette to take on a bad Purdue club.

The Option's Back!
Ohio St decided to run the option several times in this game, and as it has been all year, was very successful. When the Buckeyes ran this at the beginning of the year, it was Saine doing most of the work. Indiana seemed to be going more after him and letting Pryor do what he wanted. Not a good decision. TP took several option keepers and just ran all over the Hoosiers. He has the best stiff-arm I have ever seen from a QB, maybe anyone at this level. He simply pushes defenders down with his one free arm then continues to run. Let's hope this play sticks around this time!

Take It Away Now
With Anderson Russell's fumble recovery and interceptions by Russell and Todd Dennlinger, Ohio St now has 13 takeaways in their first five games. Eight different players have an interception. These guys on D just always seem to be where the ball is. Speaking of Russell, he's seen a decrease in playing time since his opening day woes against Navy, but filled in for suspended Kurt Coleman last week and responded in a big way. Sophomore Jermale Hines has looked very good with his increase in playing time, giving this team lots of depth at safety.

Up Next: vs. Wisconsin, 3:30, ABC
Wisconsin enters the Horseshoe with a 5-0 record, but still remains unranked due to a weak schedule. Badger RB John Clay is a beast (582 yards and 7 touchdowns thus far in '09) and will certainly be the focus of the Ohio St defense. This will be the toughest test for OSU since the Trojans, but I'm not completely sold on Wisconsin. Plus, I'll be in attendance and I'll be bringing my 5-0 record against the Big Ten with me.
Prediction: Ohio St 29 Wisconsin 6


(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Monday, October 5

Hey Vikings fans...

If you're wearing a Brett Favre jersey, you suck. Seriously, that's the equivalent of Ben Roethlisberger playing for the Browns in the twilight of his career, and I wouldn't buy that ass clown's jersey if someone wedged a pistol against my temple.

Plus, it's a terrible investment - Favre is probably gone in a year. You guys have the best running back on the planet. Wear number 28!

News roundup

I was interested to read three stories on the PD site after the Browns' loss to the Bengals yesterday, only one of which has anything to do with the game.

First up is John "Big Dawg" Thompson, who has settled his lawsuit with EA for using his likeness in Madden. He was demanding at least $25 000 and (not or) for them not to use his image anymore. Whatever, dude. Wouldn't you want to be in Madden? Why would this upset you to the point where you tried to sue EA? I'd consider it a tribute. I'll never cease to be amazed by how much people like money.

Next is Braylon Edwards assaulting a guy at 2:30 am last night. Apparently it has something to do with Braylon not liking LeBron, who I guess the victim knew or something. I dunno, I don't understand crazy pro athlete behavior. But, based on everything we've seen and heard from Braylon in his career thus far, is there any doubt in anyone's mind that he punched this guy for no good reason? Braylon, you're my least favorite Brown ever - no need to keep trying.

Finally, a game-related story, about Carson Palmer lobbying coach Marvin Lewis to go for it on 4th and 11 late in overtime. The Bengals converted and went on to win, of course, but if this anecdote is true, then Bengal fans should be very concerned about Marvin Lewis' decision-making. The Bengals had the ball on the Browns' 41. It was 4th and 11. There was 1:04 remaining in overtime. And Lewis was leaning towards punting.

Now, I'll give him credit for thinking twice and ultimately making the right call, but seriously, Marvin? You were going to punt? That's insane. Punting there makes essentially only one outcome possible: a tie. The Browns, ineffective at moving the ball and out of timeouts (I think), weren't going to score in a minute from deep in their own end, and by punting, neither were the Bengals. By going for it, you leave open a slight chance to take a loss, a significant chance to win (as they did), and the bulk of the probability on a tie.

I cannot see how you could play for a tie in that situation. You absolutely 100% have to play for the win. The Bengals still have 3 games with Baltimore and Pittsburgh remaining, and they need every win they can get, not a tie against the Browns. For the sake of the integrity of the NFL, I'm glad they went for it.

In fact, thinking about my previous sentence, it doesn't matter what division you're in or what your record is: you play for the tie there. Sure, there are exceptions, like if it's the last game of the year and a tie gets you in the playoffs and you don't want to risk a loss or something. But 99% of the time, independent of context, go for it there and try to get a W.

I think most coaches' decisions should be made independent of context, despite what many announcers will tell you. Rich Gannon (who actually made a number of interesting points through the game) yesterday said that Mangini could take more chances, for example going for 4th downs, because the Browns have a bad record and "have nothing to lose." That's rubbish. You make the in-game decision that gives your team the best chance to win, every time, regardless of your record. Coaches of 0-4 clubs should make the same choices as coaches of 4-0 teams. I don't understand why there's this perceived difference based on team record, when the coach has exactly the same objective in both situation.

The No-Quinn Scenario

Let's get one thing straight: the Brady Quinn era is over. You could argue that it never really began, but now it looks like the former first-round pick is never going to get a fair shake in Cleveland.

Let's also all admit that Derek Anderson probably gives the Browns a marginally better chance to win at this point. Unfortunately, as good as Anderson looks from time to time, eventually his inner Hyde will burst through, and when the pressure is on we'll witness the meltdown. Opposing teams figured out how to stop Anderson during the second half of 2007, and DA never was able to adjust - it's as simple as that.

Derek Anderson isn't light years ahead of Brady Quinn, and while Anderson is largely a known quantity, Quinn is not. Most NFL teams realize that patience is necessary when developing a quarterback. If anything, teams sometimes stick with first-round quarterbacks for too long simply due to the switching costs associated with unloading a top pick and hitching your wagon to another.

Brady Quinn is in his third season, and unless Derek Anderson gets hurt or spontaneously combusts, Quinn will have six professional starts to his credit at the end of the year. Included in those six starts are two games during which Quinn was playing with a broken finger (2008 at Buffalo, Houston).

During the 2003-2007 NFL drafts (a 5-year span) there were 16 quarterbacks selected in the first round, including Quinn. Take a look at the playing time each signal caller received during his first three seasons:

2007 Draft
1st overall - JaMarcus Russell - 19 starts
22nd overall - Brady Quinn - 6 starts

The first overall pick, JaMarcus Russell, was the only passer other than Quinn chosen in the first round of the 2007 draft. Just like Quinn, this is Russell's third season, and if he doesn't get injured he will have 32 starts under his belt when this season is over. As bad as Quinn has been, Russell has been much worse in Oakland, and it's a little amusing to think that Russell could have more than five times Quinn's starting experience by the end of the season.

2006 Draft
3rd overall - Vince Young - 29 starts
10th overall - Matt Leinart - 16 starts
11th overall - Jay Cutler - 37 starts

Jay Cutler certainly looks like the star in this group, and he's the only guy who’s currently starting. Vince Young is more of an athlete than a quarterback, and was eventually lifted for the more consistent Kerry Collins. Matt Leinart was pretty mediocre as the starter and was replaced by the ageless Kurt Warner, who has somehow managed to recapture his glory days, and has forced us to endure gratuitous shots of his wife in the stands.

2005 Draft
1st overall - Alex Smith - 30 starts
24th overall - Aaron Rodgers - 0 starts
25th overall - Jason Campbell - 36 starts

After his strange ascension up draft boards during the spring of '05, Alex Smith looks like a total bust. Seriously, this guy is Ryan Leaf minus the media outbursts. Jason Campbell has been a pretty average starter despite never having a true number one receiver. The wild card of this group is Aaron Rodgers, who sat for three years behind Brett Favre, but had practically no learning curve when he became the starter last season. Rodgers looks like one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks after less than two seasons under center, and he looks destined to be the star of this group.

2004 Draft
1st overall - Eli Manning - 39 starts
4th overall - Phillip Rivers - 16 starts
11th overall - Ben Roethlisberger - 40 starts
22nd overall - J.P. Losman

This quarterback class has been a smashing success, as the top three guys have all led their respective teams at least as far as the conference championship game. Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring, and regrettably, Ben Roethlisberger has a pair of his own. Roethlisberger is also the proud owner of the NFL’s fattest face. Not unlike Rodgers, Rivers had to sit behind a veteran quarterback for a couple of seasons, and that probably made his transition to the starting job much more seamless. J.P. Losman had some success, but was never able to find any consistency in Buffalo. Losman is currently trying his hand in the UFL. (Is it just me, or did it always seem like a bad idea to have quarterback whose name was pronounced “Loss – man?”)

2003 Draft
1st overall - Carson Palmer - 29 starts
7th overall - Byron Leftwich - 38 starts
19th overall - Kyle Boller - 34 starts
22nd overall - Rex Grossman - 7 starts

When the Bengals exploded onto the scene to win the AFC North in 2005, Carson Palmer looked like he was ready to the take the mantle of "top quarterback" away from Peyton Manning in the near future. Freak injuries and a lousy offensive line have stunted Palmer's progression, and although he's still just 29, Palmer may never be considered a truly elite quarterback. Still, Palmer's definitely an above average passer, and there are plenty of teams that would gladly swap their quarterback for Palmer.

Although Byron Leftwich and Rex Grossman both had some success, they'd probably both be graded as failures. Grossman was dragged to the Super Bowl by the solid 2006 Bears. Injury problems limited Grossman to just seven starts in his first three seasons. Kyle Boller was never able to make the leap in Baltimore, and we can consider him a fizzle, too. Boller is currently backing up Marc Bulger in St. Louis. Your career is not going well if you’re backing up Marc Bulger.

When you consider those stats, it's clear that Brady Quinn hasn't been given much of an opportunity to grow. Guys like Rex Grossman and Kyle Boller, who were never good, were given a much longer leash than Quinn ever was. Whether it was his initial holdout, Anderson's short-lived success, Quinn's finger injury, or Mangini's indecisiveness, circumstances have prevented Brady Quinn from seeing the field with any consistency.

The Anderson/Quinn angle has been examined ad nauseum, so let's concentrate on the Mangini factor. Given the time Mangini invested in grading these quarterbacks, it strikes me as a little odd that it took him less than 10 quarters to make this switch. Quinn obviously was not playing good football, but he didn't look like a basket case, either.

Plus, Mangini had alluded to the fact that he would basically stick it out with the winner of the quarterback derby, regardless of who that ultimately was. If we'd reached the bye week and Quinn hadn't shown any signs of improvement, then I could see considering a switch, but why now? Something doesn't quite add up.

As a matter of fact, "adding up" might be exactly what's going to keep Brady Quinn marooned on the bench. Quinn has escalators in his contract that are triggered if he takes a certain percentage of this year's snaps.

If Quinn takes 70 percent or more snaps this season, escalators kick in that add $5 million to his contract next season, and $5.9 million in 2011. Quinn can also earn an additional $1.3 million if he takes 45 percent of this year's snaps, although that number is relatively insignificant when measured against the NFL's salary cap of approximately $129 million.

So if Mangini's seen enough to think that Quinn isn't his answer at quarterback, and evidently he has, then his logic must be that sitting Quinn will at least save the team some cash over the next few seasons. There is certainly merit to that, but we also know that Derek Anderson isn't the long-term solution, either. That means that the Browns will likely look to the draft for a quarterback, and they will almost certainly be in the top five next April.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say that the Browns are the worst team in football this season, and that they take a quarterback first overall. This year's number one pick, Matt Stafford, inked a six-year deal that could be worth up to $78 million with incentives, and includes $41.7 million guaranteed. If next year's top pick is a quarterback, he will likely be paid 5-10 percent more.

Weigh $13-15 million a year (about $7 million of which will be guaranteed) against Quinn's $11 million over two years and obviously, Quinn's bonus money seems trivial. Of course, there's certainly the possibility that Quinn would fail, but if you glance over that list of 2003-2007's first round quarterbacks, you see that their success rate is only around 50 percent. So Mangini needs to decide whether to roll the dice with Quinn and pay his far smaller bonuses ($11 million still isn't exactly peanuts), or start over with a number one quarterback whose success will probably determine whether or not Mangini sticks in Cleveland.

At least from where I'm sitting, it makes sense to give Quinn his shot. Not only could that save Mangini from making a leap of faith with another young quarterback, but it would allow him to draft a defensive play maker in the mold of an Ed Reed or a Troy Polamalu that this team so sorely lacks. Watch these clips of Eric Berry and Taylor Mays. Commence salivating.

Eric Mangini's problem is that he’s been just as indecisive with Brady Quinn as Phil Savage was. Whereas Savage couldn't decide between Quinn and Anderson, Mangini couldn't decide between Quinn and Mark Sanchez.

Supposedly Mangini was very impressed with Sanchez and spent several hours diagramming plays with him. But instead of pulling the trigger on Sanchez at number five, which would have been an unpopular move, Mangini traded down for poor value. At the time I was fine with that. After all, there wasn't anyone at number five who I was wild about paying big money, but that also came with the assumption that trading down was tantamount to committing to Quinn.

Most of us assumed that the quarterback competition was a sham to pump up Derek Anderson's trade value and/or to maintain Anderson's delicate psyche. There was certainly enough tape to show that Derek Anderson was a good backup, but not a long-term starting solution. As it turns out, the competition was anything but a sham, and Mangini had these two quarterbacks rated almost dead even before, during, and after training camp.

The fact that Mangini couldn't declare Quinn the starter with certainty before camp should have told him all he needed to know. If he wasn't convinced that Brady Quinn was superior to Derek Anderson, then he should have looked in another direction, and it probably should have led him to drafting Sanchez.

I don't mean to suggest that Mark Sanchez would be experiencing the same success in Cleveland that he's had in New York, because there's clearly a huge disparity in talent between those rosters. In fact, it would have made sense to unload Quinn for a second or third round pick, install Anderson as the starter, and stash Sanchez on the bench for a season. The problem is that Mangini didn't use a high pick on a quarterback when he had the chance, and he also missed a huge opportunity to start the developmental clock on a quarterback during a throwaway season.

Now Mangini is faced with his own version of the Kobayashi Maru test, as he's forced to choose between playing and paying Quinn even if he has a slim chance of succeeding, or waiting until the 2010 draft to roll the dice on one of the top quarterbacks. It appears that Mangini has chosen the latter of the two options. He can't afford to be wrong. Frankly, hundreds of thousands of livers throughout northeast Ohio can’t afford for him to be wrong, either.