Thursday, September 27

NFL Picks: Week 4

Last Week:
Figgs: 4-11-1
Joe: 7-8-1
Nick: 6-9-1
Figgs' $ Picks: 1-2*
(* We all know I won that Packers game.)

Season to Date:
Joe: 22-23-3
Nick: 21-24-3
Figgs: 12-33-3

Figgs' $ Picks: 2-5*
Nick's $ Picks: 1-2
Nick's $ Picks: 2-5, -7 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
RAVENS (-12) vs. Browns
Figgs: Browns. This has 34-0 Ravens all over it, but we've been known to pull a few tricks out in primetime games against great teams. Let's see one more here.
Joe: Browns; I don't think I'm being unrealistic here.  I'm not expecting a Super Bowl, or even a winning record.  All I'm asking for is to not lose all hope for our season before September ends.  But alas, here we are again.  That said, of course I'm picking the Browns. 
Nick: Browns

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BUFFALOES (+4) vs. Patriots
Figgs: Pats. Joe's spot on here. Brady drop three straight? Keep dreamin Buffalo. ($)
Joe: Patriots; For a team that Never loses 2 in a row, I can't fathom them losing 3 in a row.  This has potential blowout written all over it. 
Nick: Pats.

LIONS (-5) vs. Vikings
Figgs: Lions. Stafford looks good to go, time for Detroit to step it up.
Joe: Lions; I hit on the Vikes last week, but it was a gut feeling that they pull the upset at home against a better team.  I think they are improved, but not yet a consistent team.  Lions bounce back at home here.
Nick: Vikes.

FALCONS (-7) vs. Panthers
Figgs: ATL. I'm sorry guys, please take me back.
Joe: ATL; I hate to do it Cam.  But the Cats are struggling and the Birds look to be perhaps the best team in football.  In the Georgia Dome.  Actually, I can see no possible way this game is closer than 7. 
Nick: Falcons.

JETS (+4) vs. 49ers
Figgs: Niners. Sanchez blows, it's definitely Tebow time.
Joe: 49ers; Harbaugh will use last week as motivation to get them back on track.  Jets are 2-1, but probably should have lost to a bad Fish team last week, they lost Revis, and they have the most unwatchable offense in football (unless they bring Timmy T in). 
Nick: Niners.

CHIEVES (-1) vs. Chargers
Figgs: SD. Arrowhead isn't an easy place to play, but I'll go with my gut on this one. ($ - E)
Joe: Bolts; Here's one where I'm glad I haven't bet on games in years.  It looks like a misprint.  I would probably throw a ton of $$ on San Diego, and then Charles would go for another 200+ yds and I'd lose big.  Anyway, since we're just picking for pride, I pick the Bolts to win big here because outside of Charles, KC has no one that impresses me and SD still has some playmakers. 
Nick: Chargers.

TEXANS (-12) vs. Titans
Figgs: Houston. Don't feel great about this one, but Tex is the real deal.
Joe: Texans; I have felt comfortable taking these guys giving huge spreads so far, and they haven't burned me yet.  They are the real deal this year, and in this division, I see no way (barring injuries of course) that they don't get home field advantage. 
Nick: Texans.

RAMS (+2.5) vs. Seahawks
Figgs: Seattle. That D looks tough.
Joe: Rams; I like Seattle, especially their D, but they appear to be one of those teams that is 180 degrees different when they go on the road.  The Rams will probably lose 10 games this year, but they aren't a pushover anymore.  I'll take St.  Louis at  home here. 
Nick: Seahawks.

(4:05 kickoffs)

CARDINALS (-6.5) vs. Dolphins
Figgs: Cards. I can't believe I'm giving up a touchdown for the Birds, but I'm starting to believe as well.
Joe: Cards; I became a reluctant believer after the Pats game, but after that slaughtering of Vick and the Eagles, I am totally on the bandwagon.  If this defense can shutdown Brady and Vick, what will they do to Tannehill? 
Nick: Cards.

BRONCOS (-6.5) vs. Raiders
Figgs: Raiders. Manning's looked shaky the last two games, so I'll take the points.
Joe: Broncos; Two losses to two of the best teams in football doesn't mean I'm gonna bail on Manning yet.  I think he bounces back against a lesser team.  Plus, the Raiders seem like a team that gets a fluke win and then buys into themselves and thinks they're better than they are. 
Nick: Raiders.

JAGUARS (+2.5) vs. Bengals
Figgs: Cinncy. Jacksonville isn't a very good football team. ($)
Joe: Bengals; I have a feeling I'm wrong on this, because it seems they are begging people to bet the Bengals.  Jags have actually done well against the spread so far, but I can't take Blaine against a decent team, especially for less than a FG.
Nick: Bengals.

(4:25 kickoffs)

PACKERS (-7.5) vs. Saints
Figgs: Pack. As shocked as I was that I gave a touchdown to take ARZ, if you would have told me three weeks ago I wouldn't take over a TD for the Saints I'd say you're nuts. What a crazy league this is.
Joe: Packers; After the MNF fiasco, both teams are now in a must win type game.  So I go with the team that is actually gonna fight thru this and end up safely in  the playoffs.  I've already stated several times my thoughts on the Saints being a mess. 
Nick: Saints.

BUCS (-3) vs. Redskins
Figgs: Skins. Don't like this one at all either.
Joe: Bucs; Not sure about this one.  I like Griffin's future, but the Bucs seem to be more consistent right now.
Nick: Bucs.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm
EAGLES (-1.5) vs. Giants
Figgs: NYG. Vick needs to get back on track here, and this pass-rush-happy Giants team won't let that happen.
Joe: Giants; They certainly looked like they righted the ship last week.  I thought the Eagles were winning with smoke and mirrors the 1st 2 weeks and it would catch up to them last week.  The only thing that has me worried, is that whenever people totally buy into the Giants, that's when they lay an egg. 
Nick: Giants.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 pm
COWBOYS (-3.5) vs. Bears
Figgs: Bears. C'mon Cutler, you're making me look like a fool. ($)
Joe: Cowboys; I wish I didn't have to give the extra half point, but I'll do it.  I think it's a toss up game, so I usually go with either the home team, or the QB I trust more.  This case I get both.  Dallas is at home and I'll put my faith in Romo over Cutler anyday of the week. 
Nick: Cowboys.

Additional Bets
Nick: Parlay Patriots, Falcons, and Texans to win ($6 Schrute Bucks)

Tuesday, September 25

Buckeyes continue to struggle, win

Ohio St completed their non-conference schedule this past Saturday with a win against UAB, 29-15. It hasn’t been a particularly pretty start to the season for the Buckeyes, but the bottom line is they head into Big Ten play with a perfect 4-0 record. If I’m Urban Meyer, I obviously continue to work on the things that have slowed OSU down in these first four games (missed tackles, broken coverage, weak pass rush, inability to throw downfield, to name a few) but you basically treat this as two different seasons. Yes, we have not looked great so far, but we’re undefeated. Let’s put the past behind us and get ready for stiffer competition in conference play.

While Ohio St only beat a 37-point underdog by two touchdowns, this actually may have been their best performance of the season, which goes to show how ugly things have been at times this year. They came out for each half sleep-walking, combining for four first downs in the 1st and 3rd quarters, but looked like a totally different team in the 2nd and 4th, outscoring UAB 29-9.

While missed tackles continued to be a trouble spot en route to giving up over 400 yards to the Blazers, the defense seemed to be in “bend-but-don’t-break” mode and overall looked pretty good to me. They only gave up nine points, six of which wouldn’t have happened against most NCAA teams, coming on field goals of 47 and 54 yards. They also continued to do a much better job of getting after the quarterback for the second straight week after that was a huge problem in the first two games.

Braxton Miller had his most pedestrian stats of the year (12/20 for 143 yards and 0 TDs, 11 carries for 62 yards with 2 TD) but I thought looked at his best. He was very accurate throwing that 12-15 yard pass that is his bread and butter, and best of all he didn’t miss any wide-open opportunities or throw any poor interceptions. And as I talked about last week, his rushing numbers could be as high as he wanted them to be every week - Meyer is just trying to limit the amount of hits he takes, so don’t be alarmed by the low number there. As evidenced by the two touchdowns and the two-point conversion among others, he’s still as effective as anyone in the nation running the ball. Don’t expect Meyer to hold him back this week against Michigan St - he’s going to be running as much as he needs to to give Ohio St a shot to win.

Game Recap
UAB utilizes a two-quarterback system, and gave the start to the veteran who has played the majority of the early season, Jonathan Perry. Perry picked up a few first downs, including a conversion on third down where he side-stepped John Simon and completed a pass after it looked like the All-American had an easy sack. But the drive stalled with a turnover on downs in OSU territory.

Ohio St quickly went three-and-out, and Ben Buchanan came on to begin what would be a very busy day for him. It didn’t start well as his kick was blocked by Nick Adams. There must have been some miscommunication with the Bucks, as Zach Boren was left to block two guys. He did the right thing by taking the inside guy, but Adams was left untouched on the outside and easily got to Buchanan. He was then able to recover and scoop the ball himself before heading into the endzone for a quick Blazer lead. The Buckeyes were able to salvage something by blocking the point-after.

OSU was looking to establish a Jordan Hall-led running game early, but after he picked up two first downs a Miller incompletion forced Buchanan back onto the field. Perry was back out for Birmingham and again gained several yards before the Buckeye D tightened up and forced a punt themselves. With Ohio St facing a third-and-nine on the last play of the quarter, Miller rolled out to his right and just overthrew Philly Brown on what was almost a huge play. This was a very difficult throw to make and Brax just missed him, so I don’t lump this into the category of his bad overthrows to open receivers.

Freshman Austin Brown came out for the second quarter at the helm for UAB, and continued to play the rest of the game. He completed four passes on the drive and gave his kicker an opportunity at a long field goal attempt. Ohio St has been bailed out in previous games with opposing kickers missing kicks, but not in this one as Ty Long looked like an All-American. His first kick from 47 put UAB up 9-0.

The Buckeyes got the ball for the first time in the second quarter, trailing by two scores, and looked like a completely different team than they did in the first. Hall had a nice 14-yard run to start the drive, Braxton finally ran the ball for the first time with 9:00 remaining and picked up a first down, and Rod Smith came in in the red zone and broke off an awfully pretty run to get the Bucks to the goal line. Smith finished the job on the next play with a 1-yard plunge to put OSU on the board.

Jackie Williams had a nice return for UAB setting them up in good field position, and after a first down Long was ready to come out for another deep FG. This one was from an almost-unprecedented (for college) 54 yards out, but he nailed it again to give the Blazers a 12-7 lead. Miller went right back to work once he got the ball back, going 4/4 passing then running it in for a 12-yard score on the quick series to give Ohio St its first lead. The run was typical Brax, as he just made the defenders look like little boys. Maybe Meyer read my Cal recap last week questioning where freshman Mike Thomas was, as Thomas got his first catch of the season on this drive.

With less than two minutes to play in the half, UAB was not content to go to half with a two-point deficit and Brown came out throwing. They probably should have been a little more conservative, as TE Kennard Backman quickly fumbled and the Buckeyes were right back in business. Braxton again wasted no time, rushing for 19 yards then hitting Brown for 11 more to set up Zach Boren’s 1-yard score. After a slow start, Ohio St headed to the locker room with a 21-12 advantage.

After a dominating second quarter giving Ohio St all the momentum and getting the ball to start the 3rd, I’m expecting us to steamroll in the second half. Not so fast, my friend. UAB opens with an on-side kick and there isn’t a Buckeye in sight as Birmingham easily recovers. Luckily the defense bails us out by forcing a three-and-out and beginning a boring and scoreless third quarter. The Buckeye offense went back into zombie mode as they only garnered two first downs and punted another three times.

Their best play came on Buchanan’s final punt of the quarter, when long snapper Bryce Hane beat everyone down the field and downed the ball he snapped himself at the UAB 4-yard line. Antonio Brown was up for the challenge, however, as he led a 16-play, 80-yard drive. Travis Howard picked off Brown during the series but the play was called back due to an offsides penalty on Ohio St. As they did all game though, the Buckeye D held near the red zone and the Blazers had to settle for another Long field goal (this one was actually short, that just happens to be the kicker’s name) to begin the 4th quarter and cut the lead to six.

Another Ohio St three-and-out gave UAB the ball back with a shot to regain the lead. After Orhian Johnson broke up a pass on third down, the Buckeyes were seemingly on the verge of getting the ball right back when Christian Bryant was called for a bullshit taunting penalty to keep the drive alive. UAB receiver Patrick Hearn gave Bryant a little shove, which prompted Bryant to talk shit, as he does on every play. He wasn’t even in the guy’s face, he was just barking at him from a few yards away and was inexplicably penalized. Brown went right back to Hearn on the next play for 24 yards and the Blazers were suddenly in business. Again, the defense stood up to the challenge and Ty Long was back on the field to attempt another 47 yarder. He actually missed this one, giving the ball back to Braxton with a chance to put the game away.

Miller responded wonderfully, moving the Bucks effortlessly down the field. On third-and-goal from the one, Brax kept it himself on a draw for his second rushing TD of the contest. OSU went for two to make it a two-touchdown game, and again it was Miller on a designed run. He went outside this time, and was one-on-one with a UAB defender. Miller dropped the dude with a TP-like stiff arm, slowed down so he could stare down the defender on the ground, then walked into the endzone. So bad ass.

Doran Grant, who played a fine game in place of the injured Bradley Roby, intercepted Antonio Brown two plays later to put the final touches on the victory. But Ohio St wasn’t done, as Miller threw deep to his playmaker Devin Smith with a few minutes remaining. The ball was just a tad underthrown but Smith made a good adjustment and should have caught it but was unable to. I mentioned how Braxton looked good throwing the midrange passes and wasn’t terrible throwing deep, but he’s still not putting it quite where it needs to be on those long throws. He’s usually rolling out when he does it, and I think he needs to try and set his feet more before launching it. UAB got the ball back but didn’t do anything before the time expired, giving the Buckeyes a 29-15 victory.

Game Ball
Although it was still not quite what we’ve come to expect from an Ohio St defense, the Buckeye D turned in its finest performance of the season against UAB, and the biggest (and I mean BIGgest) reason was Jonathon Hankins. Big Jon Hanks recorded 10 tackles in this one and had a hand in almost every play made around the line of scrimmage. John Simon and Nathan Williams looked good as well and these three were putting constant pressure on the Blazer QBs all day. Ryan Shazier and Christian Bryant were in just about every tackle like usual, while Doran Grant played well in his first carrer start, so if they can get everyone healthy I think this defense might be getting over their slow start and are finally coming together. There were still too many missed tackles though, which will surely need to be repaired before trying to bring down Le’Veon Bell next week.
Game balls to date: Hankins, Miller, Howard, Roby

Big Ten
This is starting to sound like a broken record, but it was another week to forget for the Big Ten. In the conference’s headliner, Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame defense forced five can’t-tie turnovers and kept michigan out of the endzone en route to a 13-6 victory. Remember when this team was preseason #8? Hahaha.

The BT also found themselves on the receiving end of two embarrassing home upsets as Central Michigan topped Iowa on a last-second filed goal and Louisiana Tech thrashed Illinois, 52-24. As has been the case all year, even most of the conference’s wins came in unimpressive performances. Montee Ball was injured as Wisconsin struggled with UTEP and Michigan St was trailing at halftime before pulling away from Eastern Michigan.

As the teams get ready to do battle with each other, Ohio St finds themselves as one of only three unbeatens, along with surprises Minnesota and Northwestern. The first week of league play could go a long way in deciding who plays in Indianapolis at the season’s end, as the top four teams go head-to-head. In addition to the Buckeyes traveling to East Lansing to face the Spartans, Wisconsin will head to Nebraska for a primetime showdown.

Injury Update
CB Bradley Roby and S C.J. Barnett did not dress for the contest with UAB. Maybe it has to do with a Fantasy Football thing or something, but it seems I know about every injury to every player in the NFL during the week, yet I heard nothing about these two significant injuries to the Buckeyes. I had to get in touch with some insiders this week, but right now it seems that both defensive backs along with DL Michael Bennett and RB Carlos Hyde are all expected to play this week against Michigan St. This would be a huge lift for a seemingly already improving defense. Jordan Hall has run well in Hyde’s absence but the return of Carlos would allow Meyer to do more things with Hall and move him around a bit more.

Can you hear me now?
I’ve seen nine games in The Horseshoe in my lifetime, and if you haven’t had the pleasure, let me tell you - it gets loud. Real loud. For some reason that has just not been the case this season, and I can’t really figure out why. UCF coach George O’Leary even went as far as calling out Ohio St fans saying that they’ve been quiet. I agree, George, and that hasn’t been more obvious then in the UAB game. It’s time for that to change, Buckeye fans. I’ll do my part on November 3 when I’m there, but until then, it’s up to you guys.

Up Next: @Michigan St (3-1), 3:30 ABC
If Ohio St had played the way the did in any of it's first four games this year in Spartan Standium instead of at home against the likes of Miami (OH), UCF, Cal, and UAB, they would not be undefeated right now. That certainly does not suggest that the Spartans haven’t had their problems as well, as they were easily disposed of by Notre Dame and limped to a win over hapless Eastern Michigan after a 2-0 start.

The game plan for Michigan St is simple - get the ball to Le’Veon Bell. Bell’s 600+ rushing yards this season is tops in the Big Ten and third in the nation, and looks to be the only real threat on this Spartan offense. First-year starting QB Andrew Maxwell has had his problems, and has not been helped out one bit by his receivers who consistently drop passes and run wrong routes. B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin aren’t walking through that door, so OSU will definitely be looking to stack the box and make Maxwell beat them. DE William Gholston anchors a dominating Spartan defense allowing a miniscule 11 points per game. Expect Gholston to be lining up all over the field and Braxton Miller to be constantly running away from him.

Last season Michigan St broke a seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes by winning 10-7 in one of the most boring and hard to watch games of the year. Both teams have had their issues this season but both are still front-runners to finish with the best record in their half of the Big Ten. I expect a close, hard-fought game with both teams looking better than they have so far this year, but for Braxton Miller’s running ability to be the difference and Ohio St to prevail.
Prediction: Ohio St 27 Michigan St 21


Thursday, September 20

NFL Picks: Week 3

Last Week:
Figgs: 5-9-2
Joe: 6-8-2
Nick: 8-6-2

Season to Date:
Figgs: 8-22-2
Joe: 15-15-2
Nick: 15-15-2
Figgs' $ Picks: 1-3
Nick's $ Picks: 1-3, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football, 8:20
PANTHERS (E) vs. Giants
Figgs: NYG. Haven't got a good feel for either team yet this year, could see this going either way. ($)
Joe: Panthers; The kid showed last week he's still got it. No sophomore slump here. Plus, the Giants are without Nicks and Hixon, so I don't see Eli throwing for 500 yds again with less weapons. Cats win at home.
Nick: Panthers. I'm not particularly confident in this pick, but the Giants are pretty beat up and haven't shown well this year. The crowd needs to show up in Charlotte tonight, but I'll roll with the home team in prime time.

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BROWNS (+3) vs. Buffaloes
Figgs: Browns. Although we are the usual 0-2, I've already been more entertained in these first two weeks than I was all of last year. If we can put Week 1's defense together with Week 2's offense, we may be getting somewhere.
Joe: Browns; We ususally have epic exciting contests with these clowns. Here's to another one. I feel like things were coming together offensively last week for us, and Buffalo isn't playing the Chiefs dreadful defense. We have to get in the win column sometime. Why not this week?
Nick: Browns. Once more into the breach, dear friends.

BEARS (7.5) vs. Rams
Figgs: STL. The Rams have showed me a lot this year, barely losing to Detroit and beating Washington. No reason they can't keep this one close as well.
Joe: Rams; They seem to be a much improved team this year, thanks to the hire of Jeff Fisher. (Just ask the Saints what a good coach can do for you.) This team won't quit, so even if they don't get the upset, I like them to keep it close.
Nick: Rams.

COWBOYS (-7) vs. Bucs
Figgs: TB. Dallas has continued their up and down ways so far this year, while Tampa has been surprisingly decent.
Joe: Bucs; After two weeks of hating, I will finally give the Bucs some credit. They're not bad. And Dallas looks to continue to be the NFC version of the Jets: Jekyll and Hide.
Nick: Bucs.

DOLPHINS (+3) vs. Jets
Figgs: NYJ. I don't care that they burned me last week, I'm still sticking with...haha, the dolphins.
Joe: J-E-T-S; Like I said in week 1, I think the Jets willhave an up and down 8-8 season. This week will be an UP week.
Nick: Jets.

VIKINGS (+7) vs. 49ers
Figgs: SF. A full touchdown is a lot to give up on the road, but SanFran has been in a league of their own so far this year.
Joe: Vikings; Just a gut feeling. San Fran might win by 4 TDs and make me look foolish, but something is telling me that the Vikes keep this to within a FG.
Nick: Niners.

SAINTS (-9) vs. Chieves
Figgs: NO. The Saints have not looked good, but if anything can get them back on track it's KC in the Dome.
Joe: Saints; I have been proven right about the Saints thru 2 weeks. But this week they get a Chiefs team that gave up a combined 75 points so far. And there hasn't been anything wrong with the Saints offense, so they should roll here.
Nick: Saints.

TITANS (+3.5) vs. Lions
Figgs: Lions. After two sub-par performances, I'll give Detroit one more week before I stop believing.
Joe: Titans; They haven't been very good after two weeks, but I think Detroit is overrated and I don't trust taking them on the road giving more than a FG.
Nick: Lions. (-3, $3 Schrute Bucks)

COLTS (-3) vs. Jaguars
Figgs: Indy. No idea here. I guess I'd take Luck over Gabbert and they're at home.
Joe: Colts; Blaine Gabbert on the road? No thanks.
Nick: Jags.

REDSKINS (-3.5) vs. Bengals
Figgs: Cinncy. Not real confident here either. Bengals haven't looked too sharp so far but I think they're a slightly better team than the Skins so even though they're on the road I'll take the points.
Joe: Skins; Home opener for an improved Redskin team against a Bengal team that looks like it might be regressing this year. I'll take RG3, and I'll give the points.
Nick: Bengals.

(4:05 kickoffs)

CARDINALS (+3.5) vs. Eagles
Figgs: Philly. Eagles could easily be 0-2, but their offense shredded the vaunted Baltimore D last week so I'm confident they can do it in the dessert as well. ($)
Joe: Cardinals; Maybe last week was the fluke of the year. But maybe the Cards aren't as bad as people think. Their defense looks legit, and Philly has flirted with disaster two weeks in a row. If they turn it over multiple times again, it will catch up to them this week.
Nick: Cards.

CHARGERS (-3) vs. Falcons
Figgs: SD. I definitely jumped ship too soon on the ATL, but they're traveling across the country with Michael Turner's status uncertain against a good Charger team here. If they burn me again, I may not pick against them the rest of the year.
Joe: ATL; Toughest call of the week for me. Two very solid teams. I like San Diego alot this year, but the Dirty Birds have looked even better so far. I guess if Iam this torn, I might as well go with the coach that I trust more in a closegame.
Nick: Falcons.

(4:25 kickoffs)

BRONCOS (+1.5) vs. Texans
Figgs: Denver. Houston's looked good against DII teams so far, and while I think they are a solid playoff team I don't know if I'm ready to call them Super Bowl contenders yet. A win in Mile High could change my opinion.
Joe:Texans; They haven't been tested yet, but they don't make the schedule. They did what they were supposed to do against bad teams. I think they win a close one on the road here against a tough Bronco team.
Nick: Texans. ($ -2, 3 Schrute Bucks)

RAIDERS (+4.5) vs. steelers
Figgs: pittsburgh. I can't believe I've picked these guys all three weeks. I feel like I need a shower.
Joe: Raiders; I saved this game for last, in order to talk myself into picking against the steelers. Team travelling cross country...maybe. Classic Steelers playing down to inferior competition game... maybe. No rock solid reason to do so, but I would rather lose a game in the standings every week than pick these assh*les.
Nick:Pittsburg professional football team.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20
RAVENS (-3) vs. Patriots
Figgs: NE. Should be a great game, I was prepared to take whoever was getting points.
Joe: Ravens; Another real tough call, but I'll take the Rats, who are out to prove the better team did not win last year in the AFC championship game.
Nick:Ravens. (-2.5, $2 Schrute Bucks)

Monday Night Football, 8:30
SEAHAWKS (+3.5) vs. Packers
Figgs: Pack. Big Quest home field or not, GB is a far superior team. ($)
Joe: Packers; The 12th man will be jacked up for a Monday nighter, but I can't reasonably take a rookie QB over Aaron Rodgers. I wouldn't put money on it, but I'll take the Pack to cover and like my chances.
Nick: Pack.

Wednesday, September 19

Buckeyes survive scare from Cal

The California Golden Bears took their best shot at Ohio St last Saturday, but ultimately were done in by three missed field goals and the stellar play of Braxton Miller to fall just short. The Buckeyes improved in some areas but continued to make mistakes and were able to just slip past Cal, 35-28.

Miller put together his most complete game of the season, torching Cal in both the running and passing game to lead the Bucks. Carlos Hyde was out but Jordan Hall was in the lineup for the first time all season and did a fine job, gaining 87 yards on 17 carries. Devin Smith continued his great season by catching five balls for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with three-and-a-half minutes to play when he beat his man with total ease and walked into the endzone for the 72-yard score.

One of the biggest positives from this game came from a pass rush that was virtually nonexistent the first two weeks of the season. John Simon was finally the force we expected him to be, Garrett Goebel and Jonathon Hankins were getting pressure up the middle, and the line was bolstered even further by the return of Nathan Williams, who missed the UCF game with an injury. Ohio St’s defense really relies on getting after the quarterback, and Cal signal-caller Zach Maynard finally felt the heat in this one.

But considering the Buckeyes needed a last-minute TD to outdo a team they were favored to beat by 18, it certainly wasn’t all positive. The receivers dropped some easy passes early in this game, something that you simply can’t have when your QB is struggling to throw the ball. Other than that and the fact that the secondary continued to have some miscommunications, I really only saw one chink in the Buckeye armor this week, but it was a very important one - missed tackles.

OSU players were missing Cal runners time and time again, and it almost cost them the game. Bear RB Brendan Bigelow ripped off 160 yards on only 4 carries. His 81-yarder early in the third and 59-yarder in the fourth both went for scores, the latter tying the game at 28. Several Buckeyes had shots to take Bigelow out on each play, the most embarrassing miss coming from Christian Bryant on the second TD. Bryant had him dead to rights in the open field, squared him up, then just put his head too low and didn’t bother to wrap up as Bigelow easily escaped and was off to the races. Usually-sure tackler Ryan Shazier missed Bigelow right before Bryant’s gaffe. This issue doesn’t concern me too much because we’re typically an above-average tackling team, but it’ll definitely be something to keep an eye on to make sure it gets corrected immediately.

So for the third consecutive week Ohio St, made a lot of mistakes and showed that they have a long way to go to becoming an elite team, but escaped The Horseshoe with a win, and that’s really all that matters. That and the fact that we’re still not michigan fans.

Game Recap
After both teams punted on each of their first two possessions, the last six minutes of the first quarter provided plenty of excitement. The first big play came when Miller broke one to the outside and went 55 yards to paydirt. Drew Basil just missed the point-after, and the Bucks’ lead stayed at 6-0. Maynard led the Bears right back, and his 19-yard scoring strike to Chris Harper, followed by a successful PAT, put Cal on top. Not to be outdone, Brax completed passes of 40 yards to Jake Stoneburner and 25 to Devin Smith, the latter resulting in a touchdown to give OSU the 13-6 advantage after one.

After a Cal three-and-out, Miller and Smith picked up right where they left off by hooking up for a 35-yard conversion on third-and-ten. On second-and-goal from the one, Meyer brought out his famous “jump pass” call, only Braxton isn’t five feet tall like Tim Tebow so he was able to just throw it over the line normally. But it was a great play-call, as Miller faked a QB draw, planted his feet right behind his o-line, and found a wide open Stoneburner in the end zone. The defenses controlled the rest of the half, with the only scoring opporunity coming on a Cal missed 40-yard FG. Ohio St went into the tunnel with a comfortable 20-7 lead.

It turns out that lead was anything but comfortable. The Buckeye offense managed a paltry 25 yards and 0 first downs in the third quarter. The defense wasn’t a whole lot better, giving up two 50+-yard drives that thankfully didn’t result in any California points. One drive stalled when WR Keenan Allen, brother and #1 target of Maynard, was tackled a yard short on 4th and 6, another when kicker Vincenzo D’Amato missed another field goal. Cal did get on the board once in this quarter, however, when freshman Brendan Bigelow got his first carry of the game and took it 81 yards to the house. Heading to the final frame, Ohio St’s lead was down to 20-14.

After Ben Buchannan was seemingly on the field just as much as Braxton Miller in the first three quarters, this exciting and fast-paced 4th didn’t see either punter once. Maynard took a short field and immediately turned it into points, running it in himself and giving Cal their second lead of the game. Miller responded by directing Ohio St’s best a drive of the game, an 11-play, 75-yarder that resulted in another TD pass to Stoneburner. Braxton easily ran in the two-point conversion on a draw play to put the Buckeyes up by a touchdown.

The lead was short-lived, when Bigelow came in on the next series and took a whole two plays this time before tying the game. He rushed for 16 yards on the first play before breaking one for 59 and the score on the next. Shazier had the first crack at Bigelow but took a bad angle and couldn’t bring him down, as Bigelow put his hand on the ground and spun 360-degrees before staying up and heading towards the sideline. Bryant was next up to look foolish, as his attempted tackle was just awful. Once Bigelow was free from that one it was all speed and there wasn’t a Buckeye inside the 20 by the time he hit the endzone.

So here we are, tied at 28 with eight minutes to play and Miller putting together the most complete game of his career. I feel confident he’s got an 80-yard drive in him to win the game. Then he reminds me that he’s still only 19 and still has a lot of work to do to before becoming an top-tier quarterback. Not only does he throw into double coverage, but the pass doesn’t even go anywhere near his receiver and is picked off by Steve Williams.

Now it’s up to a struggling defense to save the game with Cal already starting in possible game-winning field position. The D does its job, allowing only 9 yards on three plays. To the surprise of 110,000 people in The Shoe, Cal Coach Jeff Tedford sends out D’Amato for the third time instead of electing to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 25. And for the third time, D’Amato shanks it left.

So Braxton has another chance, now with just over four minutes remaining in a tie game. An incompletion and a short Jordan Hall run make it third-and-seven from their own 28. Miller rolls to his right and starts to scramble toward the sideline, which draws DB Alex Logan up and leaving Devin Smith wide open. "You see somebody open like that you at least have to put some air under it so they can run under it and get position. You have to be careful with those type of throws," said Miller after the game. He did just that, putting plenty of air under it and setting up Smith for an easy catch and run into the endzone.

The Buckeye defense stepped it up for the second straight drive and quickly ended any hopes of Cal coming down and tying the game back up. Big Jon Hankins had a sack and Christian Bryant, looking to make up for his missed tackle, sealed the Bears’ fate by intercepting Maynard and giving Ohio St a narrow 35-28 victory.

Game Ball
The past two weeks I overlooked Brax for this honor because of his inability to throw the ball downfield and awarded the GB to a DB instead, but not this time. Miller was his usual unstoppable self on the ground, although in a reduced role, rushing 12 times for 75 yards and a score, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Coach Meyer said he wanted to limit the amount of hits Braxton was taking and cap his rushing attempts around 15 (down from 27 the week prior) and I think this worked out perfectly. I think I only counted six or seven designed runs for Miller, plus the times he took off on his own after finding no one open. Teams are starting to load the box to stop Miller’s rushing game, but it really doesn’t matter what they do because there is no stopping it - the guy’s a freak.

We all know he can run, but I was most happy to see him throwing effectively in this game. They continued to give him safe, easy targets, and Brax responded by going 16/30 for 249 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. The completion percentage still isn’t quite where I’d like it to be and the one INT was a very poorly thrown ball, but he’s certainly progressing. While Smith was SO open on the game-winning score that Miller probably could have punted it to him, it was at least good to see him throw deep and put it right there instead of overthrowing his target by 10 yards. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I feel much more comfortable with Miller throwing after this game than I did after last week.
Game balls to date: Miller, Howard, Roby

Big Ten
Well, the Big Ten didn’t embarrass themselves this week, combining for a record of 10-2, so there’s that. On the other hand, they didn’t do anything to quiet the haters, as only one team faced a quality opponent and Michigan St was easily downed by Notre Dame. The Spartans were really the only thing the conference had going this year, and the Irish abruptly put an end to that.

Indiana was beat by Ball St (wow the Hoosiers are bad) and the other ten teams combined to beat four FCS schools, four non-AQ conference schools, Boston College and Cal. Next week looks like more of the same with only one big-time matchup on the schedule again involving Notre Dame, as the Irish host that school up north.

Quick Hits
- In addition to Jordan Hall and Nathan Williams returning from injury, CB Travis Howard was also back in action against Cal after leaving the UCF game in the 4th quarter. That leaves Carlos Hyde as the only injury of note heading into this week’s game against UAB. Hyde will most likely be held out of this one in attempt to get him ready for Michigan St in two weeks.

- With Devin Smith, Philly Brown and Evan Spencer all playing well and Jake Stoneburner converting to wide receiver, it’s not a total shock that we haven’t seen a lot of the Spring Game MVP, freshman Mike Thomas, but I am a little surprised that he hasn’t gotten on the field at all. He seemed to have a good rapport with Miller and I thought that Meyer would at least give him some chances sporadically.

- Bradley Roby had another promising game, in the first half in particular, other than a dropped interception in the first quarter that would have gone back for six. This secondary surely isn’t hurting for guys that can make big plays, but they continue to struggle to work together and are missing assignments, leaving guys wide open.

Up Next: vs. UAB (0-2), 12:00, Big Ten Network
Ohio St gets one more week to fix the problems that have slowed them down the first few games before they travel to East Lansing. UAB comes to The Shoe this Saturday for what should be an absolute massacre. The Blazers’ leading rusher has 18 carries for 58 yards on the year, so expect UAB to be throwing early and often, especially when they get down quickly. That should provide the Buckeyes with the opportunity to work on their pass rush, coverage mistakes, and missed tackles. I know I said this last week, but this time I mean it - I fully expect the Ohio St defense to finally put it all together for a game. Offensively, Braxton shouldn’t have trouble racking up 300+ yards and be sitting on the bench by halftime. It’ll be nice to see the Bucks carry some momentum into the Big Ten season.
Prediction: Ohio St 38 UAB 0


Tuesday, September 18

The Browns through the 2000's

Our staff has already written about and ranked the teams from the past decade for the Cavs, Indians, and Buckeyes, and with football season fast approaching, it's time to do the same for the Browns. This is not for the faint of heart.

10) 2008
Record: 4-12
4th Place, AFC North
vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 35-14 vs. Giants
Crushing Defeat: 31-0 at Steelers
First Round Pick: None, traded for rights to draft Brady Quinn
Team MVP: Shaun Rogers

The 2008 Browns were not the worst we’ve seen since the team returned, as that distinction lays with either the 1999 or 2000 squad. However, the team was burdened with the loftiest expectations of any Browns club since the Belichick era. Many fans and media members expected the Browns to build on their 10-win 2007 season, and Phil Savage aggressively parlayed the team’s second and third round draft choices into Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers, respectively (Leigh Bodden was also sent to Detroit in the Rogers deal).

Both trades came with a high degree of risk because Savage had to give both linemen expensive new contracts upon acquiring them. In Rogers’ case, Savage’s faith was rewarded. Unfortunately, injuries and problems shifting into the 3-4 scheme made the Corey Williams trade an awful failure. At any rate, neither trade made Derek Anderson any more accurate, nor did they improve the lackluster bunch of linebackers. Savage also added Donte Stallworth, who didn’t see the field much due to injuries and his well-documented suspension for vehicle manslaughter and DUI.

The high expectations (remember fans chanting “Super Bowl” at the first training camp?) didn’t prove to be justified, as 0-4 exhibition record proved a harbinger of things to come. The Browns fell to 0-3 when an opening day loss to the Cowboys was coupled with tough divisional losses to the Steelers and Ravens, which put them in a hole from which they never truly recovered. As much as things went right for the Browns in 2007 with regards to a favorable schedule, staying relatively healthy, and Derek Anderson completing passes, that luck didn’t hold in 2008.

A Monday night win against the defending champion Giants provided just about the only highlight of what truly proved to be a lost season. Andy was there and it was AMAZING. Nick picked the Giants, saying it was "all over but the crying." Oh ye of little faith. Brady Quinn eventually replaced Derek Anderson, but Anderson returned after Quinn suffered a season-ending hand injury. Anderson soon suffered a season-ending injury of his own, leaving the Browns with a quarterback combo of Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski.

The Browns didn’t even have the heart to limp to the finish line – they died mid-race. The season ended with a final insult, as Gradkowski “quarterbacked” the Browns to a 31-0 beating at Ketchup Field in Pittsburgh. Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage were ousted soon thereafter.

9) 2000
Record: 3-13
4th Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 1-1
Memorable Win: 23-20 vs. Steelers
Crushing Defeat: 44-7 at Ravens
First Round Pick: Courtney Brown
Team MVP: Chris Gardocki

Anytime the writing staff (perhaps correctly) deems a team's punter to be their MVP, well...that's not a particularly good sign for your club. It should be pointed out, however, that this was the year he gave the steelers the finger, and frankly that should count for something.

This team was truly awful: dead last among the 31 teams in scoring, 27th in defense. They somehow got off to a 2-1 start, but reality set in and they won just one of their final 13 contests, including a two-week stretch where they were outscored 92-7. Also in the "not a good sign" category is when you follow up the season's "crushing defeat" with a 48-0 loss.

But hey, guess what: the Browns beat the steelers this year, 23-20, when Courtney Brown sacked ex-Buckeye Kent Graham on the game's final play to seal the win. That was fun, right? It was. I still recall listening to that on the radio when I lived in Pittsburgh and was working on the student newspaper. One person in that newsroom was ecstatic, the others not so much.

8) 2006
Record: 4-12
4th Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 31-28 vs. Chiefs
Crushing Defeat: 24-20 vs. Steelers
First Round Pick: Kamerion Wimbley
Team MVP: Kamerion Wimbley

You know, it's bad enough that I'm doing this at 5 am while I'm at work babysitting a huge piece of equipment, but now I have to go through a season where some sort of awful quarterbacking torch was passed from Chuck Frye to Derek Anderson? Nope, I'm skipping down to the '07 campaign, I'll be back.

Alright, I'm back. Has this season gotten less depressing yet? It has all the elements of a desultory Browns campaign - QB change halfway through, two losses to both the steelers and Ravens, Opening Day loss, wins over the Raiders and Jets that I bet you don't remember, and 220 carries for a guy named "Reuben."

Really the only exciting game of the year was Derek Anderson's breakout performance, relieving an injured Charlie Frye and leading the Browns to a 31-28 comeback win over the Chiefs. I enjoyed that one, even if my Browns Backers club in Albany had basically given up on the season by that point. The Browns rewarded that view by dropping their final four contests, which at least put them in position to draft Mr. Joe Thomas the following April. So...there's that. Sean Jones and Daven Holly (yes, THE Daven Holly) had five picks each, and Kam Wimbley had 11 sacks in the one year before everyone figured out his one move.

I'm sorry, that's all I got. Dawson and Cribbs were good, too. What would you have said about this team? I mean, seriously, they lost 30-0 to the Bengals.

7) 2004
Record: 4-12
4th Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 20-3 vs. Ravens
Crushing Defeat: 58-48 at Bengals
First Round Pick: Kellen Winslow II
Team MVP: Lee Suggs
Honorable Mention: Dennis Northcutt

Let me lay it out there how miserable the Browns franchise has been over this decade of football. This was the season where Butch Davis simply quit on the team, Terry Robiskie took over and mused aloud that he didn't know if they'd win another game (they had six left)...and it's STILL only the 4th-worst of the 10. Amazing.

We had Luke McCown start a game. Someone named "Adimchinobe Echemandu" apparently threw a pass for us. Frisman Jackson threw a pass, which is great because he had boasted that "no one throws like the Fris" (Jackson could toss one like 70 yards) and my buddy Dan thought that was hilarious and the one game we watched together was one where the Fris let a Hail Mary rip.

You're not goign to believe this, but the Browns actually...I'm not kidding...this is for real now...won their season opener. Yep, the only time since the return. And it was a convincing win, a 20-3 drubbing of a Ravens team that finished 9-7 that year. The Browns actually managed a 3-3 start in Jeff Garcia's first season under center, before absolutely free-falling to 3-12 before winning their customary meaningless game against the Texans at the end to cost them a draft spot and end up in a position to draft my least favorite Brown ever, Braylon Edwards. Good times.

A few other miscellany before I move on...Garcia to Andre Davis for the Browns' lone 99-yard play since the return...a loss to Cincinnati in a game where the teams combined for 106 points...a game where they lost, in snow, 21-0, to a team from Southern California. Surely, things would be much better the next year.

6) 2005
Record: 6-10
3rd Place (Tie), AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 26-24 at Packers
Crushing Defeat: 41-0 at Pittsburgh
First Round Pick: Braylon Edwards
Team MVP: Reuben Droughns
Honorable Mention: Antonio Bryant

Nope, only slightly better. This year we were treated to Trent Dilfer at QB, at least until Charlier Frye took his job and Dilfer seemed to be the only guy who didn't realize that he wasn't Cleveland's long-term answer. Between the two of them, they piloted the league's worst scoring offense.

This happened to be the fall where Nick and Andy became acquainted, through the Pittsburgh Browns Backers, and sweet Jebus did we ever watch some stultifying football at The Bridge. I still remember sitting listlessly (as did the Browns) through losses to Baltimore, Detroit, and Houston that dropped the Browns to 2-5. The main scores from that year of PBB were the one guy who yelled "BRAYLON EDWARDS" apropo of nothing from time to time, and the emergence of one Bob Cobb.

The highlights of the season were the win over Green Bay, as well as a 22-0 win over Miami that is the club's last shutout to date. I once won a beer from Hanford Dixon for knowing that. I told him the answer and he was all suspicious of me, actually said "how did you know that?" I said, "I watched the game on TV." What else would I say? I even remembered the team and the score. Another time, I drunkenly told Hanford that I had a posted of him when I was a kid, and of course he had that same poster right next to him at the time. Classic.

Overall, a tedious year, though I definitely thought at one point that Frye was going to be a viable NFL quarterback. I was incorrect.

5) 2009
Record: 5-11
4th Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 1-1
Memorable Win: 13-6 vs. Steelers
Crushing Defeat: 34-3 at Ravens
First Round Pick: Alex Mack
Team MVP: Josh Cribbs
Honorable Mentions: Joe Thomas, Alex Mack

Halfway through their season, the ’09 squad looked like a lock to finish dead last on this list. Of course, that’s back when they were setting new highs for embarrassment week after week. Eric Mangini and George "I'm really an NFL GM" Kokinis were clearly way over their heads after Randy Lerner handed them the keys to an NFL franchise, and a questionable draft combined with a draconian training camp left him with a roster largely devoid of talent, and a good portion of the locker room hating his guts.

Eric Mangini did nothing to reassure an already skeptical fan base, as the Browns stumbled to 0-3 out of the gate, losing by an average margin of 22 points. After a week four loss to the Bengals Braylon Edwards got into a scuffle outside of a Cleveland nightclub and was traded to the New York Jets. The Browns notched their first win 6-3 over the equally inept Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, in what was truly a case of "Who wants it least?"

Losses by wide margins to the Steelers (27-14), Packers (31-3), Bears (30-6), and Ravens (16-0) left the Browns at 1-8. Just when it looked like the team had hit rock bottom, they lost a 38-37 shootout to the hapless Detroit Lions. A pair of losses to the Bengals (16-7) and Chargers (30-23) dropped the Browns to 1-11, and with a Thursday night date with the rival Steelers on the docket, Browns fans braced for the worst.

The Browns hadn't defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers since October 5, 2003, and although the Steelers were treading water at 6-6, they were still the defending Super Bowl champions and still had talent on both sides of the ball that was vastly superior (as were most teams, I suppose) to that of the Browns. But extremely cold and windy conditions leveled the playing field as the Browns displayed remarkable heart and discipline, defeating their rivals 13-6 in one of the season's biggest upsets. I've never been more proud of a Browns performance than I was on that snowy December evening.

Editor's note: Nick wrote this, but Andy was totally at this game. I have literally never been colder in my entire life. I got a beer at the game, just to prove that I could, and the last ounce or two froze in my cup. It was awesome.

4) 2003
Record: 5-11
4th Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 1-1
Memorable Win: 33-13 at Steelers
Crushing Defeat: 35-0 vs. Ravens
First Round Pick: Jeff Faine
Team MVP: Dennis Northcutt

Funny we should arrive here, because I just remarked the other day that I can't remember anything I did or that happened to me in 2003. Maybe another boring Browns season will jog my memory. I hate to keep flogging this deceased equine, but this is now the 4th-best campaign of the decade, and the club's record was 5-11.

Oh, right, this was the year Kelly Holcomb won the QB competition over Tim Couch, good times. The Browns promptly started 0-2 and were in considerable danger of dropping to 0-3 until Holcomb rallied them, throwing two TD passes in the final 11 minutes and one with less than a minute to go, on a broken leg, to steal one from the 49ers in Candlestick.

Two weeks later, the Browns claimed one of the most satisfying wins in the expansion era. Holcomb was ruled out for the Sunday night game against the steelers (I briefly appeared on ESPN when they filmed PBB for a timeout shot) and Couch was named the starter. I still remember Pittsburgh radio DJs and fans mocking Couch all day long...and then Couch simply obliterated Pittsburgh in a 33-13 laugher, hitting on a surgical 20-25 for 208 yards, 2 TD's, and even rushing for a score. Does anyone have a tape of this that I can watch?

I just discovered that the steelers play(ed) on something called "dessograss," which, fuck you steelers, what the fuck is that. This list is making me furious!

The Browns pulled to 3-3 before executing their customary fade, dropping 8 of 9 at one point before an utterly useless win over Cincy in the season finale that made them give up a bunch to draft K2, who immediately got hurt for like two full seasons. Wow is it ever hard to root for this organization.

3) 2001
Record: 7-9
4th Place, AFC Central
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 24-14 vs. Ravens
Crushing Defeat: 27-21 at Bears
First Round Pick: Gerard Warren
Team MVP: Jamir Miller
Honorable Mentions: Tim Couch, Anthony Henry

First round pick: Gerard Warren. This article is quickly turning into George Costanza talking about his life to that apartment board, making pretty much every other sports team's fans look like the Andrea Doria guy. I haven't embellished these season recaps because they need no embellishment.

On the bright side, '01 was actually a decent year. The record wasn't all there, but it was a huge thing psychologically because they actually seemed like a real team and not a bunch of expansion patsies. You felt like they had a legitimate chance to win most weeks, and you weren't going through the motions as a fan just out of habit, but because the games were genuinely exciting. Sure, they dropped the opener, like always, but then they rattled off three straight wins (THREE!) including a really solid home win over the Chargers that for me, really said: this team is back, baby. Cleveland also placed their first representative on a Pro Bowl team in Jamir Miller, who immediately went and got hurt in the preseason the next year and missed all of the '02 campaign.

The Browns stumbled with their trademark two losses to Pittsburgh, but actually dispatched the Ravens (who had won their disgusting Super Bowl the previous season) twice, which was some sweet Ratbird revenge. They lost one of the most improbable, disheartening games I've ever seen to the Bears. I bet you didn't even know before that game that a team could be up 14 with 32 seconds left and still lose. That's the Browns. They didn't let it get to them, though, and battled back to hold a 6-4 mark before starting their patented fade and dropping to 7-9 on the year.

The '01 season portended good things to come, but who could have known how weird the following season would be?

2) 2007
Record: 10-6
2nd Place, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 8-0 vs. Buffalo
Honorable Mention: 33-30 at Baltimore
Crushing Defeat: 19-14 at Cincinnati
First Round Picks: Joe Thomas, Brady Quinn
Team MVP: Joe Thomas
Honorable Mentions: Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis, Kellen Winslow

This was a rare fun year for the Browns, even though they achieved the also-rare feat of winning 10 games and yet not qualifying for the postseason. The Brownies were 8th in the league in scoring with 25 points a game (wouldn't you take that from this year's club?), offsetting a mediocre 21st-ranked defense.

The story of the year, though, was Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards. Today, Anderson is regarded by fans as a journeyman (and it should be noted that in this career apex "Pro Bowl" season his Passer Rating was only 82.5) and Edwards doesn't have a whole lot of friends left here (because he's an idiot). But in '07 the two hooked up for 16 TD passes and the Browns, if never the sturdiest team in the league, at least had an offense one could reasonably call "explosive." Anderson also had sure-handed Joe Jurevicius and sticky-fingered Kellen Winslow Jr at his disposal, with Jamal Lewis rushing for over 1300 yards in support. Joe Thomas made a Pro Bowl at LT in his rookie campaign, and hasn't looked back since.

Josh Cribbs had a huge year on special teams, taking three kicks back for touchdowns, and Phil Dawson was as precise as ever. Brodney Pool, Sean Jones, and Leigh Bodden anchored the secondary with Kam Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson leading the linebacking corps.

The season started badly, to which I say: what's new, as the Browns are 1-12 in season openers as I type this. But this was really badly, a 34-7 drubbing to the steelers that I watched in San Francisco with steelers fans that would be Charlie Frye's only game of the season with the club. This was the first of our requisite two losses to Pittsburgh seemingly every year.

But things turned around quickly, with Cleveland prevailing in an epic 51-45 shootout with the Bengals. They notched a rare win against the Ravens in week 4 and headed into the bye 3-3 after racing past the Dolphins 41-31. Forty-one points! In one game! The 2011 version failed to crack 30 in a contest, in case you were wondering.

The Browns improved to 7-4 via a couple of remarkable 33-30 overtime wins, including the improbable comeback in Baltimore highlighted by Phil Dawson's crazy long game-tying FG off the back goal support. What a wild game that was, and it never would have happened if Brian Billick had simply stopped kicking the ball to Josh Cribbs. If that wasn't weird enough, one of the craziest games since the Return took place in Browns Stadium on Dec. 16 against the Bills in the snowiest game I've ever seen. Cleveland prevailed 8-0 on two impossible kicks by Phil Dawson and a safety. Would you believe the Browns actually gained over 300 yards in that game? I remember it for the outcome as much as I do the referees' inability to locate yard markers buried under snowdrifts. The Buffaloes actually drove to within the Browns' 10 in the final minute but were held off by the defense as Cleveland moved to 9-5 on the season.

Unfortunately, Derek Anderson's 4 INT performance in Cincy the next week killed the Browns chances, and a win over the 49ers in the final week, their 10th, wasn't enough to valut them past the Titans and into the tournament. They have yet to win more than 5 in a season since then, but 2007 was a fun time.

1) 2002
Record: 9-7
2nd, AFC North
Vs. Pittsburgh: 0-2
Memorable Win: 24-14 vs. Falcons
Crushing Defeat: 36-33 at Pittsburgh, Wild Card Round
First Round Pick: William Green
Team MVP: William Green
Honorable Mentions: Tim Couch, Quincy Morgan


The Browns' lone playoff team since The Return in 1999 took fans on a wild ride of a campaign, eking out just enough wins to qualify for the postseason and making each of them absolutely as difficult and nail-biting as possible. In terms of sheer excitement, you simply can't top this regular season, though as always, the club's hopes and dreams were dashed by a certain squad of inbreds to the southeast of these parts.

The season got off on a tame note, with a fairly nondescript game against Kansas City...ha, just kidding. The Browns' opener was (of course) a loss, but not just any loss - it was The Helmet Game. Leading the Chieves by two points with time for just one more play, Cleveland linebacker Dwayne Rudd tossed off his helmet in celebration of what he thought was a game-ending sack...only the play had managed to continue as the clock expired. Never ones to let a penalty that has absolutely nothing to do with the goddamn play go, the refs flagged Rudd for personal foul and KC kicked a bunny with no time on the clock to escape with a win and deliver another classic Browns meltdown.

The Browns righted the ship with a solid 20-7 home win over the Bungles and a thrilling 31-28 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans. Trailing by 14 points in the final frame, Tim Couch delivered touchdown strikes in the final three minutes to Andre Davis and Dennis Northcutt to tie the game with just 0:18 remaining. The Browns won the overtime coin flip and marched straight down for a 33-yard game-winner from Phil Dawson.

Things quickly got not fun, as Cleveland suffered an amazingly avoidable overtime loss to the hated Steelers, followed by losses to Baltimore and eventual Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay to drop them to 2-4. A 34-17 win over Houston (Andy's first-ever Browns game attended in person) got them on track and an insane 24-21 in the Meadowlands against the Jets the week of Al Lerner's death evened their mark at 4-4. The Browns, suckers for a good comeback, trailed 21-3 at one point only to tie the game on a Couch TD pass to Davis and subsequent ridiculous underarm desperation toss of a two-pointer to Northcutt. They eventually prevailed on (what else) a Dawson FG.

Inconsistent play kept the Browns mired at .500 as they faced Jacksonville down in Florida. The Football Gods, perhaps feeling over-the-top even for them about that opener, smiled a bit on the team as Couch connected with Quincy Morgan on a 50-yard Hail Mary as time expired to give the team a 21-20 victory and move them to 7-6. They lost to the Colts before two thrilling wins snuck them into the postseason.

First was a stunning 14-13 win in Baltimore. Couch and the Browns offense had struggled all game to move the ball, and with 2:18 remaining they found themselves with 164 total yards on the afternoon, out of timeouts, down six points, and with 92 yards to travel against the staunch Baltimore defense. As far as degree of difficulty goes, you don't get much tougher than this. Naturally, Couch went 6-7 on the drive and led the Browns to the winning TD on which I almost hit my head on my friend Milkey's low ceiling. I'll never forget him waving sarcastically at the Raven "fans" on his way out the tunnel.

The Browns closed the year with a 24-14 win over Atlanta, the famous "Run, William, Run!" game where Green's 64-yard dash put the Browns up eight but with way too much time on the clock. Fortunately, the Browns' D authored a brilliant goal-line stand, as Earl Holmes stuffed Warrick Dunn on 4th-and-goal from the 1 to preserve the win. A Jets loss later in the afternoon put the Browns in the postseason and yada yada yada hey at least the Buckeyes won that year.

Thursday, September 13

NFL Picks: Week 2

Last Week:
Figgs: 3-13
Joe: 9-7
Nick: 7-9

Season to Date:
Figgs: 3-13
Joe: 9-7
Nick: 7-9
Figgs' $ Picks: 1-3
Nick's $ Picks: 1-3, -4 Schrute Bucks

Thursday Night Football
PACKERS (-5) vs. Bears
Figgs: Bears. Green Bay's defense does not look good at all, and I am fully on the Cutler/Bears bandwagon this year. Pack may get this win in Lambeau, but I like it to stay close. ($ +6)
Joe: Packers.
Nick: Pack. I'm not ready to give up on the Green & Yellow just yet. The Bears played a really weak Indy team on Sunday, while the Packers were beaten up physically at home by a very good Niners squad. This is a must-win game for the Packers, and I'll take the league'sbest quarterback with a tremendous home field advantage. (2 Schrute Bucks)

Sunday 1:00 kickoff
BENGALS (-7) vs. Browns
Figgs: Browns. Cinncy didn't look much better than we did last week. Haden being out really sucks, but Week 2 is a little early to be giving up on us.
Joe: Browns; Last week makes me think this will be another long year. But the defense played well, and I can see this as one of those years where we lose every single game by exactly 1 point.
Nick: Browns. If there's one thing I know about Brandon Weeden since he took over as our starting quarterback, it's that he's never played two lousy games in a row.

GIANTS (-7) vs. Bucs
Figgs: Giants. Not often a winless team is a TD favorite over an undefeated team. NY bounces back this week.
Joe: Giants; Just like Green Bay on Thursday night, the G-men are in desperation mode, since historically only 12% of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. That should be enough motivation to fire up the Giants.s
Nick: Bucs. The Giants are still banged up and the Bucs are going to surprise some people this year.

PATRIOTS (-13.5) vs. Cardinals
Figgs: Pats. That big number doesn't scare me one bit. I'd be willing to give another touchdown.
Joe: Patriots; Lock of the week eliminator pick, if you're going straight up. But with the huge spread, not a lock, but I'll still feel comfortable if I get Tom Brady and you get the guy who couldn't beat out Johnny Bones in training camp.
Nick: Pats. Nobody's watching this game unless they live in Boston or Phoenix. Or happen to be fans of those teams living elsewhere. Or have a fantasy interest. Or wagered on the game. Whatever, I started with a strong point.

COLTS (+3) vs. Vikings
Figgs: Vikes. Peterson proved he's 100% last week and has more talent in his torn ACL than the entire Indy team combined.
Joe: Vikings; My toughest game on the board. Two bad teams who both burned me last week. I finally made my decision based on the team that has Adrian Peterson on it.
Nick: Vikes. So Peterson looked very Petersony, in spite of my statement to Figgs, "I really don't like your Peterson pick." Another bullseye. (-1.5, 1 Schrute Buck)

PANTHERS (+2.5) vs. Saints
Figgs: Saints. After last week's poor performance, I may have overrated the Panthers this year. Saints won't start 0-2.
Joe:Panthers; As I said last week, I don't trust the Saints without Payton. There response last week: 40 points allowed in a home loss to RG3 and the Skins. You know who is a similar QB to RG3? Cam Freaking Newton! I'll take my boy and the Cats to send the Saints into that 0-2 hole.
Nick: Saints. I may be proven wrong, but it's really tough for me to pick against Drew Brees against a team that will finish sub-.500, especially if I don't have to give a field goal.

BILLS (-3) vs. Chieves
Figgs: Jills. Speaking of team's I may have overrated...I'll give them one more shot this week at home.
Joe: Bills?; No clue here. Vegas doesn't even know, as they gave it the standard 3 point home spread. I too, will go with the home team. I guess.
Nick: Bills. I may have gone the other way if this was 3.5, but I'll pick the Bills to bounce back at home. They seem to have trouble with the Jets and they still have one of the better home field advantages.

EAGLES (-2.5) vs. Ravens
Figgs: Ravens. This seems like the ultimate trap game, but I'm bitting. Did anyone in Vegas watch these two teams last week? Baltimore looks like a Super Bowl team. ($)
Joe: Ravens; I'm trying not to be the overreacting to Week 1 guy. But even if Philly plays better and Baltimore comes back to earth, I still like the Ravens to win outright here.
Nick: Ravens. Philly's receivers are beat up and although I'll agree that this game is a little "trappy," why are the Eagles favored against what is arguably the best team in the AFC right now? (straight up, 2 Schrute Bucks)

DOLPHINS (+2.5) vs. Raiders
Figgs: Raiders. Haha, the Dolphins.
Joe: Raiders; As long as they have a longsnapper. McFadden looked fantastic last week. Tannehill did not.
Nick: Raiders. Ryan Tannehill has looked so bad that I'm willing to back Carson, giving points on the road, in the classic "west coast to east coast trap game." Yeah, he's been that bad.

JAGUARS (+7) vs. Texans
Figgs: Houston. I went against the Texans last week with a big spread, not gonna make that mistake again.
Joe:Texans; Trendy Super Bowl pick this year. It's hard to tell if they are in the New England/Baltimore league yet when they are playing Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert, but they very well might be. I like them in this game by at least 2 or 3 TDs.
Nick: Texans. This is a pretty good line. Don't be surprised if the Jags hang around long enough to pull off a sneaky cover.

(4:25 kickoffs)

SEAHAWKS (+3) vs. Cowboys
Figgs: Dallas. The 'Hawks are a much different team at home, but I still thought this would be a few points higher. I'll take the better team.
Joe: Cowboys; Hawks are probably a trendy pick this week since they are good at home and everyone hates Romo. Keep hating, idiots, and I'll keep racking up wins with this guy. If the Boys can win on the road against the defending champs, they can do it against Rusty.
Nick: Seahawks. Seattle has won only 19 games the last 3 seasons, and 13 have been at home. Classic "Cowboys come crashing back to earth" game.

RAMS (+3.5) vs. Redskins
Figgs: Skins. Another one I was really surprised by. If RGIII and go can put up 40 in New Orleans, I don't see the lowly Rams doing any better. ($)
Joe: Skins; I am not jumping on the RG3 bandwagon, I created the bandwagon last September when I said he would win the Heisman and that the Browns should draft him. (Last September, I was laughed at and I knew nothing about football. This September, I'm a freaking genius, man.)
Nick: Skins. I really want to take the Rams, but I think the Skins will be able to control the game on the ground with Alfred Morris. I can't imagine many people are backing the Rams; if they cover, then Vegas is going to clean up.

STEELERS (-5) vs. Jets
Figgs: steelers. The Jets need to do that against a real defense before I become a believer.
Joe: J-E-T-S; If for no other reason to pick them, I'll do it out of spite. Besides, if the Jets feel like giving Marky boy the day off to go surf or whatever, they happen to have a backup QB who owns a playoff victory over the steelers. Just sayin.
Nick: Pittsburgh professional football team. Almost solely because Darrelle Revis is out.

CHARGERS (-6.5) vs. Titans
Figgs: Chargers. Tough call here, no real reason for going with SD.
Joe:Titans; I like the Bolts to win, but I don't like giving the 6.5. I can see a close game until the end, or a 10-13 point game where the Titans score at the end to get the back door cover. Either way, I'll take the dog.
Nick: Titans. I had "Chargers" typed in, but Ryan Mathews probably won't play, and Kenny Britt is coming back. It is easy to forget that the Titans won nine games last year.

(Sunday Night Football)

49ERS (-7) vs. Lions
Figgs: Lions. Niners were even with Baltimore and Denver for the most impressive Week 1 performance for me, and I like them to win at home here, but I think Stafford plays much better and this one comes down to the wire.
Joe:49ers; Most impressive team last week. They have the best defense in football, and quite possibly the best coach (eat your heart out, Pat Shurmur). Lions were unimpressive against a bad Rams team, so I like San Fran, comfortably.
Nick: Niners. I was kicking myself big time for not sticking with my Niners pick last week, so I'm going to make the same mistake twice. The Lions are one-dimensional enought that the league's best defense should be able to at least contain Megatron. (-3, 2 Schrute Bucks)

(Monday Night Football)
FALCONS (-3) vs. Broncos
Figgs: Denver. Looks like I jumped off the ATL bandwagon a little early, but I know better than to go against a healthy Peyton Manning, especially in prime time.
Joe: Broncos; Did it look to anyone else like Peyton Manning missed an entire year? No, not to me either. ATL looked great last week too, but I'm not gonna pick against Peyton until I see a valid reason to do so.
Nick: Falcons. Hey guys, you know that this is Atlanta at home, in prime time right? They've only lost six games at the Georgia Dome in the last four seasons. (-1, 2 Schrute Bucks)

Tuesday, September 11

Imperfect Buckeyes move to perfect 2-0

It’s not often that your team starts the season with two victories by the combined score of 87-26, and your head coach is this displeased. “We're not where I thought we'd be,” said Urban Meyer after Ohio St’s 31-16 win over Central Florida last Saturday. "I don't want to say we're not a good team. But we're not. We're just mushing around out there. And we've got to be much better than we are."

My sentiments exactly. For the second consecutive week, Ohio St had no pass rush, the secondary looked lost, and Braxton Miller could not throw the ball downfield to save his life. To add to the negatives this week, OSU was also flagged 10 times, resulting in 79 penalty yards. But also just like last week, the defense was bailed out by Travis Howard and the fact they weren’t playing a top-tier offense, Brax absolutely killed it with his legs, the penalties didn’t come at crucial times and didn’t seem to hurt, and the Buckeyes still cruised to an easy victory. As Andy texted me after the game when he could tell my concern, “We’re 2-0, I’m drinking beer, and we’re not michigan fans.” Good point my friend, it could be worse.

Game Recap
The Ohio St defense forced a quick three-and-out to open the game, and Miller didn’t waste time getting the Buckeyes on the scoreboard. Two completions to Philly Brown set up Brax’s 37-yard touchdown run for the early lead. After another UCF three-and-out, OSU moved the ball near midfield and Meyer faced his first decision of the game with a 4th and 1. It turns out it really wasn’t even a decision, as Meyer wasted no time keeping his offense on the field, but they were forced to come off when Miller was stuffed well short of the first-down marker. I couldn’t help but think that Hyde not scoring that TD from the one at the end of the half last week affected the choice to let Miller keep it on this play.

Storm Johnson, filling in for injured UCF starting RB Latavius Murray, showed a lot of quickness picking up a few first downs after the Knights took over, but QB Blake Bortles missed his man in the endzone on third down and they settled for a FG. At the end of 1, the Bucks held a 7-3 lead.

A methodic OSU drive began the 2nd, the biggest play coming on a Philly end-around that picked up 19. Drew Basil continued to be perfect this year, knocking one in from 24 yards out and putting the Bucks back up by seven. Johnson continued to impress on the next Knight series, picking up 20 yards on a reception and 48 on a run, setting up a short Bortles-to-Justin Tukes touchdown to tie the game at 10.

With Carlos Hyde, who was injured on the previous series, in the locker room, Zach Boren was receiving the carries for the Buckeyes and responded by fumbling in Central Florida territory for the first turnover of the game. That was quickly matched, however, when Travis Howard picked off Bortles at midfield and set Ohio St up with a short field with just over three minutes left in the half. With Brown and Devin Smith catches moving OSU even closer, Miller was not about to leave points on the board at the end of the half for the second week in a row. Brax took one off the edge for a 20-yard gain then followed that up with a draw up the middle for a six-yard score. The teams headed to the locker room with UCF making like the New Kids and hanging tough, but trailing 17-10.

Just like the week prior against Miami (OH), Ohio St was determined to come out in the third quarter and put this game away. This time it just took a little longer than 17 seconds. Braxton did most of the work of the 12-play, 76-yard drive on the ground, but capped it off by hitting Jake Stoneburner for the score. Five plays later, after an Etienne Sabino INT gave the ball right back to Miller, he was back using his legs and scoring his third rushing touchdown of the game to take away any doubt. A week after setting the school record for QB rushing yards in a game, that run had Brax back in the record books when he became the first OSU quarterback to rush for three TDs since Art Schlichter in 1978.

Bortles led a good drive by completing passes to five different receivers and responded with a touchdown of his own, but it was too little, too late, especially after Ohio St blocked the PAT attempt. The scoreless 4th quarter was relatively boring, but was more cause for concern for the Buckeyes as they turned the ball over twice more. Miller threw an awful interception and Rod Smith put the ball on the ground as well. With Hyde’s knee and Jordan Hall’s foot still in question, guys like Zach Boren and Rod Smith are going to have to step up and stop fumbling the football. But miscues aside, Ohio St leaves The Horseshoe with another victory, 31-16.

Game Ball
For the second consecutive week, Braxton Miller’s legs were definitely GB worthy, but his arm was far from it. I’ll go more in depth about Brax’s performance thus far in a bit, but for now I’m giving the game ball to CB Travis Howard. Just like I said about Bradley Roby last week, it seemed like Howard was just about the only one who decided to show up on defense in this game. Roby disappeared this week, and John Simon and his fellow linemen still cannot put pressure on the QB to save their lives. Save for a poor pass interference in the first quarter, Howard played a remarkable game. Unfortunately, he left in the 4th quarter with an injury and is listed as week-to-week.
Game balls to date: Howard, Roby

Big Ten
Yet again, it was far from a banner week for the conference Ohio St calls home. In fact, it was downright pitiful. Two of the conference’s heavyweights, Wisconsin and Nebraska, were shocked on the road as Oregon St shut down Montee Ball and got some help from the referees on an admitted blown onside kick call to down the Badgers, 10-7 and UCLA used 300 yards and 4 TDs from quarterback Brett Hundley to outlast the Huskers, 36-30.

It doesn’t get much better from there. Penn St’s kicker missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked in a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to Virginia, Iowa got beat by in-state rival Iowa St at home (for the first time in 10 years) 9-6, and Illinois was slaughtered in the dessert by Arizona St, 45-14. One of the Big Ten’s wins came in a very unimpressive performance by that school up north as they just scraped by Air Force.

Other than Northwestern beating Vanderbilt, the team that looked the best might have been in a losing effort as Purdue lost in the closing seconds in South Bend to a very good Notre Dame team. The conference’s most impressive team thus far, Michigan St, had a tune-up (a 41-7 pasting of Central Michigan) before they welcome the Irish to East Lansing this weekend in one of the most anticipated non-conference games of the year. The way the Big Ten is playing, it looks like ND and Ohio St (both of whom they get at home) could be the only roadblocks to an undefeated season for the Spartans.

can’t-tie 2.0?
For the past year and a half, I have been comparing Braxton Miller to Terrelle Pryor. It seemed to fit. Watching this Central Florida game the other day, I came to a very disturbing realization. Miller looks a lot less like TP, and more like (I can’t believe I’m even going to say this)…denard robinson. Whoa, whoa, hang on and put your pitchforks down for a second and hear me out before you burn me at the stake. I know that you have heard me continuously bash can’t-tie over and over on this blog for the last 2+ years, and as much as I hate the guy I never said he couldn’t run. He’s actually one of the best runners in the nation - he just can’t throw (or tie his shoes) worth a lick. My comparison here isn’t because Miller throws up those awful punts like can’t-tie does, and I would still take Miller’s arm over robinson’s any day, my point is just that while Braxton will probably be the best runner on the field in every game this year (that’s right, even against Wisconsin) right now I just have no confidence in his passing ability.

Now, Miller is still only 19 years old and has plenty of time to get better as a passer, but as of right now it seems to me that he doesn’t have it. The coaching staff obviously agrees, as they don’t even let him attempt to throw the ball downfield. They give him a lot of safe, easy passes, which has worked out very successfully so far. The problem is the defenses know this and are starting to creep up and up in the box. The few times that Ohio St has tried to burn opponents on this and actually go deep, Miller has been utterly awful.

The other problem is, although he is a phenomenal runner, we just can’t have our star player getting hit 27 times a game without even dropping back to pass. I know Hyde and Hall were both out, but 27 carries for Miller is way too much, and Meyer even came out and admitted that after the game. Hyde has already been ruled out for this week’s contest against Cal, but there is more optimism surrounding Hall’s availability. Monday was the date set by doctors to clear him to play, but the coaches want to see how he handles being hit in practice this week before they announce him eligible. The Buckeyes still have two weeks to get guys healthy and for Miller to get more consistent with his deep balls before their first true test against Michigan St.

Motown Philly
There was big talk in the off-season about what players Urban Meyer would use in what roles in his new offense. The X-factor position that is key in Meyer’s system and made famous by Percy Harvin in Florida looked to be going to Jordan Hall. Then Hall tore a tendon in his foot, and OSU has been searching for a replacement ever since. I think it’s safe to say they now found him in Philly Brown. While Brown’s stats of 6 catches for 48 yards and 2 carries for 33 yards against UCF aren’t mind-blowing, they are certainly a step in the right direction. Brown was used in the slot on quick screen and slant passes, in the backfield on rushes, and out wide. With Hall possibly returning to action this week, Meyer may have two options to move around and try to confuse defenses with. The more weapons for Miller the better.

No Huddle
After watching conservative offenses being run under John Cooper and Jim Tressel (I obviously never saw a Woody Hayes-coached game, but I can’t imagine he ran much no-huddle either), wow is Urban Meyer’s offense fun to watch. Ohio St very rarely huddled in this game, and while the fast-paced action is designed to keep the defense off-balanced and guessing, it is also awfully entertaining. I love Meyer’s aggressiveness to go for it on 4th downs as well - the less we see of Ben Buchanan the better in my opinion.

The one thing I didn’t quite get though was the double clap. Before each play, once Miller had everyone lined up where he wanted them, he would clap twice, and then center Corey Lindsey would snap the ball. Shouldn’t this have been a tell for the defense every time? I was baffled that UCF was not jumping the snap on every single play.

New Rules
NCAA football made two relatively significant rule changes for this season, and I am not a fan. First, if a players’ helmet comes off during the play, they must immediately stop playing on that play and sit out the following play. I don't like this rule in general, but I can see the first part of the rule, as obviously attempting to make a tackle without a helmet could be dangerous. The second part is just stupid and doesn’t make any sense. What does the next play have to do with anything?

The other rule change is on kickoffs, as touchbacks will now come out to the 25-yard line. This rule is meant to deter players from taking the ball out of the endzone and therefore limiting the amount of injuries on kick returns. Dumb. Kick returns are an exciting part of the game, let’s not get rid of them completely. I also don’t like it considering Basil could kick a touchback every single time if he wanted to.

Both of these changes are designed for players’ safety, and I get that, but it gets to the point where you’re just trying to do too much and it’s taking away from the game. These kids know football is a dangerous game, if they didn’t want to risk injury, they wouldn’t play and could just stay in the back seat.

I never thought I’d miss Spielman in the booth
I’ll admit, I did my share of complaining about former and future Buckeye legends Chris Spielman and Urban Meyer announcing the ESPN2 noon games last year, but I would have given anything to listen to them last week. Instead we were treated to Joey Galloway and Beth Mullins. At first, I was excited to see Galloway and almost ready to look past the fact that I was going to have to listen to a girl talk about football for the next three and a half hours. Then I realized Galloway sucked, and was actually heavily anti-OSU in this broadcast. Maybe he wanted to make sure he wasn’t being a homer, but he took it way too far. And Beth Mullins, dear lord. I think I speak for everyone when I say I’d like to take the broad out of broadcasters.

Up Next: vs. California (1-1), 12:00, ABC
While Cal comes in with a bigger name and from a bigger conference than Central Florida, I expect things to get easier for the Buckeyes this week. Cal lost their opener to Nevada and needed a big 4th quarter to get past the FCS’ Southern Utah Thunderbirds, so that should tell you all you need to know. QB Zach Maynard has a strong arm and will be throwing A LOT in this game, but the Bears don’t boast much else. Things to watch here will be Jordan Hall’s availability and if he can't go how freshman Bri’onte Dunn does with his first crack as the feature back, and if the Buckeyes can finally get some pressure on the quarterback. I’d also like to see the secondary improve as a whole unit, and not just have one guy playing really well and covering up for a lot of mistakes.
Prediction: Ohio St 40 Cal 14


Monday, September 10

The Browns in the Onion again

"...clearly the time to give up on the Browns is now."

Friday, September 7

NFL Picks 2012: Week 1


Wednesday kickoff
GIANTS (-4) vs. Cowboys
Figgs: Giants. The defending champs haven't lost their opener in tweleve years. More importantly, they're at home and the better team. I have no problem laying the 4 here. ($)
Joe: Cowboys.IT FEELS SO GOOOOD TO BE BAAAACK! I think the Giants win this game, but I decided against giving the 4. Whenever it's a toss up type of game, I don't like to give more than a field goal. I look for a 20-17, or 17-14 type of game here, so I'll take Dallas with those points. Regardless, I'm excited to be back for my 2nd season of picks here, and to defend my title from last year. Only two words to describe how i feel about football season approaching, "CAN'T WAIT!"
Nick: Giants. The defending champion has a strong winning record since the NFL started kicking things off on a weeknight, and I expect that too continue. The Giants' defensive front will do some damage against the Cowboy's questionable offensive line, and I expect enough offense for the New Yorkers to win by a 7-10 point margin. ($ -- 1 Schrute Buck)

Sunday, 1 pm kickoff
BROWNS (+9.5) vs Eagles
Joe: Browns; Art is dead and I hope that is what it takes to lift the curse Browns win, 3-2
Nick: Browns. Getting a good feeling about this one.

TITANS (+5.5) vs Patriots
Figgs: Pats all day here. I know it's on the road, but shouldn't this be 8 or 9? ($)
Joe: Patriots; I like the kid Locker (who should have started all of last year but inexplicably sat for some reason), and I think they will win some games with him this year, but I don't like him as much as Tom Brady.
Nick: Pats. I don't think that the Titans are a pushover - they did win nine games last year, after all. However, without Kenny Britt on the field the Pats should be able to cover this number.

BEARS (-10) vs Colts
Figgs: Bears. Tough call with all those points, but I think the Cutler-Marshall combo back together makes the Bears a Super Bowl sleeper. Defense shouldn't have a problem with Luck's first game.
Joe: Colts; Wouldn't be shocked with an outright upset win, but if not, I like them to keep it close with the huge upgrade of Luck over Curtis "I can't believe I actually made the NFL" Painter
Nick: Colts. You have to be damn sure to give double-digit points, and I'm not quite there. I think the Bears win it, but this is a potential backdoor cover.

CHIEVES (+3) vs Falcons
Figgs: KC. I am officially off the ATL bandwagon this year. I bet on their under of 9 wins, this would be a good start.
Joe: Falcons; Ryan, White, Jones, Turner.  I don't see a skill postition player on KC that even comes close to matching any of these cats (or should I say birds).
Nick: Falcons. Another half point would tempt me to take the Chiefs, but the Falcons usually take care of business against mediocre teams, then struggle against the cream of the crop.

VIKINGS (-3.5) vs Jaguars
Figgs: Vikes. Peterson should play, but probably won't see much of a workload. When you're facing Blaine Gabbert, does it matter?
Joe: Vikings; Blaine "Thank God Curtis Painter got a contract so I wasn't the worst QB in NFL history" Gabbert is still the QB1 for the Jags, and I like Ponder as a solid starter in Minnesota, so I will feel comfortable taking the Vikes here
Nick: Jags. Tell me why the Vikings are good, again? This should be a low-scoring affair with plenty of running, so I'll take the points.

SAINTS (-7.5) vs Redskins
Figgs: NO. I don't know how successful the Saints will be this year with all of the drama and no Payton, but I think Brees will come out for the opener with something to prove.
Joe: Skins; RG3 era begins here, and I gotta roll with him and the skins.  The Saints will probably be fine, but I need to see it without Payton before I believe it.  Besides, I'm getting a TD here, so I'll take the dog.
Nick: Saints. New Orleans had the best point differential in the whole league last year, and people are forgetting that they easily could have been the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. That extra half point leaves the backdoor wide open, but I like going against a rookie QB in a hostile, noisy environment.

JETS (-3) vs Bills
Figgs: Jills. Two teams where I bet their over/under wins, taking Buffalo's over and New York's under. The Bills taking this one in Jersey would be huge for me. ($)
Joe: J-E-T-S; Probably another up and down 8-8 year for the Jets, but at home against an overrated Bills team, this should be one of their high notes.
Nick: Bills. Much of my early gambling this season is based on the fact that I think the Jets and Cardinals suck. ($ -- 3 Schrute Bucks)

LIONS (-7.5) vs Rams
Figgs: Lions. Move over Rodgers, This will be the best offense in the league this year.
Joe: Lions; My eliminator pick for Week 1. Megatron and Stafford will tear the Rams D up, and I certainly don't see St. Louis "showing me" enough offensively to match it.(See what I did there)
Nick: Lions. More a pick against the Rams than a pick for the Lions.

TEXANS (-12) vs Dolphins
Figgs: Fish. Don't see Houston having any problems winning, but almost two touchdowns without a healthy Foster is a tad high for me.
Joe: Texans; I wasn't sure if I wanted to lay this many points, but I decided to do so without seeing Tanehill prove anything yet. I could see him as this year's Gabbert (drafted way to high and being a complete bust) Just my opinion, either way, give me Houston here. 
Nick: Texans. This is a big number, but Tannehill has been incredibly bad so far. I can see Houston putting up around 30, and I'm not sure that the Dolphins can get to 20.

4:25 kickoff
PACKERS (-5) vs 49ers
Figgs: Pack. Game of the week here for sure. Although Rodgers isn't on my fantasy team for the first time in three years, my man-crush has not faded.
Joe: Packers;  San Fran's D should keep the Pack from putting up 30-40 point numbers, but I still feel comfortably laying the points for a 27-20 type victory.
Nick: I have good reasons to take the Niners: Green Bay can't run, has a shaky line, and a defense I just watched the Browns push around. But it's just awfully tough to take Alex Smith against Aaron Rodgers, on the road, getting less than a TD. Pack.

CARDINALS (+3) vs Seahawks
Figgs: Seattle? Gross.
Joe: Seattle; I'll take Russell Wilson over Johnny Bones anyday.
Nick: Hawks. RUSTY! My favorite game on the slate. Yeah, really. ($ -- 3 Schrute Bucks)

BUCS (+2.5) vs Panthers
Figgs: Cats. I'm digging Carolina a lot this year. ($)
Joe: Panthers; Almost as excited to watch Cam play as I am to watch the Browns. (At least he hasn't let me down yet.) The Bucs also have a very tall black QB, but my guy is 100 times better than your guy. Give me Carolina in their 1st of what I'm predicting will be 10 wins this year.
Nick: Bucs. Looking for the Bucs to bounce back and be sneaky mediocre this year. The Panthers still can't stop anyone, and the Bucs added two premium weapons in Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. Premium.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm
Hey, anyone remember last time these two teams met up?

BRONCOS (-2) vs steelers
Figgs: pittsburgh. Hate to do it, but I think they win. At least even if they do it won't mean quite as much as it did when Denver won last year.
Joe: Broncos; Yes, I remember! Tebow is now gone, so the steelers won't have to prepare for his style of game. They only have to prepare for his replacement...what's his name? Oh yeah, Peyton Manning! Good luck with that! Denver wins 89-0 (or by something more than 2. Either way)
Nick: Not going to take Pittsburgh here. Just not doing it. Fuck these guys. The recipe for beating Pittsburgh has always been spreading them out and throwing 50 times, and why can't Peyton Manning do that? The Broncos can get to the QB, Pittsburgh's offensive line is Swiss cheese, and they don't have a running back. Let's do this thang. Donks.

Monday Night Football, 7 pm
RAVENS (-6.5) vs Bengals
Figgs: Cinncy. Two pretty even teams, I like it to stay close.
Joe: Bengals; I like Baltimore to win the game (and finish 2nd in the divison behind the Browns [take his keys]), but I see this one a close, low scoring defensive 13-10 type game, so I'll take the Bengals getting the points.
Nick: Bengals. Baltimore beat Cincy by 7 and 8 points last year. I wish I had a full touchdown, but I'll take my chances with the Bengals improving.

10:15 pm
RAIDERS (-1) vs Chargers
Figgs: Oakland. Doesn't it always seem like SD lays an egg on this second Monday Night opener?
Joe: Chargers; I usually take the Raiders in all AFC West games, but I'm gonna get back on the San Diego bandwagon (at least until they blow a ridiculously easy game and force me to jump back off).They have a freaking Lightning Bolt as their nickname for crying out loud. Can't argue with that kind of reasoning.
Nick: Raiders. No Ryan Mathews, and I get to pick against Norv Turner and Phil Rivers on a big, loud, national stage? Done.

Additional Bets
Parlay: Bears, Patriots, Texans to win. ($ -- 4 Schrute Bucks)