Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the Decade - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/30/2009).....

It is the end of the decade and Mike and I are covering the sports best players and the memorable events from the last ten years. In part one we discuss the NBA, the NHL, and some "fringe" sports. I also talk about an incident during the 2006 NHL Playoffs that will not get me on any Father of the Year lists. In the second part of the discussion, Mike and I cover the NFL and MLB, along with some sports fan tech.

Some highlights of the best and memorable that we discussed:
Golf: Tiger Woods
Tennis: Roger Federer and Serena Williams
NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt's death
Others: Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, World Cup Soccer

NBA: Kobe Bryant / Los Angeles Lakers / "The Brawl"
NHL: Nicholas Lindstrom / Martin Brodeur / Detroit Red Wings / The Lockout
MLB: Barry Bonds / Mariano Rivera / New York Yankees / steriods / many highlights
NFL: Peyton Manning / New England Patriots / many, many highlights

The SportsFan Buzz: December 30, 2009 (Part A)
The SportsFan Buzz: December 30, 2009 (Part B)

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
You can subscribe to have The SportsFan Buzz delivered to your inbox.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/28/2009).....

16 NFL weeks down and one to go in the 2009 season. Mike Tricarico and I go over the week 16 games and discuss the NFC playoff teams and how the AFC playoff picture is shaping up. Mike and I also rant on the Colts giving up their pursuit for an undefeated season.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 28, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The SportsFanBuzz Podcast (12/24/2009).....

On today's podcast I am joined by former ESPN employee and podcaster Amanda Rykoff. In the first of a two part podcast we discuss fantasy football, surviving the survivor pool and how social media is being used correctly and incorrectly by companies. On the second part of the podcast, we make our week 16 NFL picks. Enjoy.

Amanda on Twitter
Amanda's blog
Touching Base interview in NY Daily News
Trust Agents by Chris Borgen & Julien Smith

The SportsFan Buzz: December 24, 2009 (Part A)
The SportsFan Buzz: December 24, 2009 (Part B)

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

NFL Week 16 picks.....

Week 16 picks (Home team in CAPS)

TITANS (-3) over Chargers
Yes, the Chargers have won nine in a row, but their defense is still a weak link. The Titans pass defense has been good, but Tennessee has some defensive injuries and will also be tested. With Chris Johnson so close to 2000 rushing yards and very close to breaking Marshall Faulk's yard from scrimmage record, San Diego will see a very heavy dose of #28.

PACKERS (-14) over Seahawks
Green Bay looks to bounce back after the tough loss to Pittsburgh and takes it out on a poor Seattle defense. Look for the Packers to have big offensive numbers.

Raiders (NL) over BROWNS
Giving the Raiders some holiday love after their come from behind upset win in Denver on Sunday. The Browns will have to play this game, and the rest of the season, without Brady Quinn who has an injured foot. As long as Oakland keep the ball away from Joshua Cribbs, they should win the game.

Chiefs (+14) over BENGALS
The Chiefs are bad, but they have shown they can score some points. Cincinnati is coming off the tough loss in San Diego, and then Chris Henry's funeral on Tuesday. Bengals win, but their distractions will make it close.

Bills (+8 1/2) over FALCONS
Atlanta got the win last week against the Jets, but did not look like world beaters on the offensive side of the ball. Buffalo has been playing better, and keeps it close against the Falcons.

DOLPHINS (-3) over Texans
A furious 18 point comeback by Miami last week against Tennessee was wasted when Chad Henne was picked off in overtime. Andre Johnson has been a monster for Houston, and will give the Dolphin rookie DBs a handful. That said, the Dolphins keep the turnovers to a minimal and get back on track to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Panthers (+7) over GIANTS
Carolina starting to play better football under quarterback Matt Moore and will keep this close. The Giants played a great game against a bad Redskin team on Monday Night, but will be in a tougher fight as they look to keep pace in the NFC Wildcard race.

SAINTS (-14 1/2) over Bucs
We'll see how the Saints react after suffering their first loss of the year. Having Tampa Bay in town as your opponent after that defeat is the best medicine New Orleans could have wished for, and they will roll in a big victory.

Jaguars (+8) over PATRIOTS
Jacksonville was "oh so close" to beating the Colts last Thursday night, and now they travel to New England to face the Patriots. The Jaguars are part of that 7-7 mess of teams in the AFC, but the Patriots will get the close home win and stay ahead of the others in the AFC East.

STEELERS (-2 1/2) over Ravens
The Steelers were seconds away from packing for the holidays, but the Mike Wallace touchdown catch as time expired to beat the Packers, when added to the losses suffered by the other AFC teams, has given Pittsburgh new life. The defending champions take advantage of that life and beat their division foes.

EAGLES (-7) over Broncos
Someone still has to explain to me how Denver allowed Oakland to comeback on Denver's own home field and get that victory last Sunday. I've been with the Broncos much of the year, but I think that was the beginning of the end for their playoff chances. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is playing their best football of the year. The Eagles win and upset the Brian Dawkins homecoming.

CARDINALS (-14) over Rams
St. Louis played Arizona tough a few weeks ago in their place, but this time the game is in the desert. The Cardinals have clinched the NFC West, but they play hard and try to fine tune themselves in order to make another long playoff run.

49ERS (-12) over Lions
Even though this is a large number, the Lions are pretty bad, while the 49ers offense can put up points when Alex Smith is not turning the ball over to his opponents. This week they keep the ball and get a big win.

COLTS (-5 1/2) over Jets
I might have leaned towards the Jets in this one if not for the poor performance last Sunday at home against Atlanta. Peyton Manning now says he would like to stay undefeated, and it seems what Peyton wants, Peyton gets. Colts end the day 15-0, and one win away from regular season perfection.

REDSKINS (+7) over Cowboys
Dallas has the huge win over New Orleans on Saturday night, and should roll over a Redskin team who looked terrible Monday night, but there is just something that says Washington keeps this close and cares the Cowboys and their fans. Dallas wins in the end, but they sweat it out.

BEARS (+7) over Vikings
Trouble in Minnesota paradise between Brett Favre and Brad Childress and how the offense is game planned and the audibles. The Vikings are better then the Bears, but with this is another outdoor game for the Vikings and they have not looked good in their last two played in nature. Bears play hard against a division rival for Lovie Smith.

Week 15 record (9-6-1)
2009 season (68-64-2)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Tiger's Tale.....

I wanted to stay away from the Tiger Woods story until the dust had settled to see what was exactly out there to observe. At almost a month since “The Accident”, I think the dust is settled and we can see what we have, and to me it has really opened my eyes.

We all know the story by now. Tiger Woods ran his car into a fire hydrant and tree, just outside his driveway, in the early morning on the day after Thanksgiving. There was a National Enquirer story about a possible affair(s), and when combined with the accident, the whispers started getting louder about what really was going on in the Woods household.

The day the accident became known, and I became aware of The Enquirer story, I told my wife something that I still stand by today almost a month after the incident. I don’t care that Tiger Woods was unfaithful to his wife (or maybe soon to be ex-wife) Elin. The matter is between the two of them, and their two young children.

Now, I do freely admit that I am curious to know exactly how he came to run over a fire hydrant and hit a tree without setting off his air bags, and how and when the windows were broken by the golf club Elin processed. This invasion of privacy has nothing to do with Woods. If I came across the same scene in my neighborhood while out for my walk, I would want to know how my neighbor “John Smith” did the same thing, even if I never normally speak to Smith at the cul-de-sac block party.

The fact that he was unfaithful makes no difference to me in my feelings towards Tiger as a golfer (I like and respect his game, but I am a Phil Michelson fan.), and because I do not purchase items based on who is endorsing them, it had zero effect on my buying habits.

Even Woods’ silence about the accident didn’t bother me like it did some others.

Thoughts were that others have been unfaithful and bounced back from it, so I assumed it would be the same for Woods. Let the holidays come and go, and there would be another story overshadowing Woods “indiscretions” by the time he returned to the PGA Tour. Win the Masters and/or US Open, and all would be forgotten and forgiven.

Those thoughts were two mistresses and five days removed from the accident. Who knew the floodgates were going to open and change the landscape of this whole story and show us what Tiger Woods and those around Woods really care about?

I still don’t care that Woods was unfaithful to his wife, but when the number of affairs reaches double digits, it is no longer about just being unfaithful. It is about a total disregard and lack of respect on Woods’ part toward his wife and their marriage. It is about how someone with such reckless acts has been groomed, molded and shielded from us, but at the same time been put into our face to try and get us to purchase products from sport drinks and razors, to high end watches

To me what perked my interest in this story was to see how Tiger would handle his deception to the public, and what would be the response of those products which Woods has become the face of through marketing. Tiger is a huge asset and tool for these companies. How companies would handle the asset that showed this “depreciation” in its value would tell a tremendous amount about all those involved. Also, how Woods himself decided to proceed would show where he was trying to guide the matter. What happened was that nobody disappointed me by disappointing me.

Before we get to the Woods, his handlers and the advertisers, let’s get one thing out of the way. Any and all people who use the “it’s a guy thing”, or “men are wired to cheat”, or the “you don’t know what it is like to be a rich, famous athlete” need to go back under the rock and keep quiet. You want to be with any skirt that passes you by and gives a wink? Go ahead, but maybe not stopping off at the alter should have been a thought if skirt chasing was still going to be a Tiger hobby. And the lame argument by some that Woods only got married because it was “the right thing to do” and that the public likes to see a family man, really need to see if they can say those remarks with a straight face. Yes, getting caught cheating with 11 different women while your wife was home pregnant and/or taking care of your children is a much better thing then just knowing Tiger was a single playboy all these years. Please.

Skip all the preliminary material, and go straight to the heart of the matter. A man who has made close to one billion dollars in endorsements was now seen by many as more then just an adulterer. In some eyes he was creepy because of the sheer volume of affairs involved.

What would come next?

Would Tiger ask (through his handlers and agents who make money if Tiger makes money) his advertising partners to pull his image from their marketing until he could get through it? Woods certainly doesn’t need the money that he might be giving up for maybe three to six months of quiet time.

Would those advertising partners see a flawed asset and pull back his image on their own, as a sign of respecting Woods, to lower his profile while he worked with his family to try and repair the situation, while at the same time showing a respect to Elin and his family for the pain he was putting them through?

When left on their own, all of the above decided to do nothing and hope the public would not notice. It was not until the whispers starting getting louder that someone finally blinked, and blinked in a big way. Accenture released a public statement distancing themselves from Woods. While they could have been quiet about it, they decided to make sure the public knew what they were doing. It was oblivious at this point that distancing yourself from Woods worked well at this time, so while Accenture gets points for taking a stand, their reasoning was not 100% noble.

Once Accenture stepped forward others like Gillette and AT&T followed suite in lowering Woods’ profile with them, but not extinguishing it. While others, like the watch maker TAG Heuer at first claimed that Woods’ situation had no bearing on their endorsement agreement with him. A few days after that statement, with some pressure mounting because the statement sounded so cold, and it was, TAG finally decided to scale back some of Woods’ presence with them.

The one high profile holdout and I never thought for a second they would do anything differently, is Nike. Phil Knight’s statement that Woods’ personal situation does not impact their deal because their deal is with the best golfer in the world was typical Knight and Nike. We should not expect anything less for the “Just Do It” company. Nike and Knight are arrogant to the end.

Also, let’s not forget the stories coming out from this that Woods was trying to keep quiet these women from telling any further stories, and that included the report about possible payments to Elin for not going public with her side of this mess. If true, that was another piece of damage control to keep the Woods image shiny, which once found out, actually threw more tarnish on his image.

Tiger Woods had a chance to get some positive spin from this situation by stepping out front and asking these partners to ease off for a short while, and he failed to do so. These same partners could have also taken the first step and all failed to do so until they read the public’s take on the situation, then decided to react. Every single participant in this played wait and react, while the ones that actually drove the story were these women themselves.

So at the end of the day, Tiger, in trying to keep control of everything, instead got nothing. He played “whack a mole” in trying to defuse the different fires that kept arising with these different women coming out of the woodwork. He and his people seem to be hoping we will forget about it all by the time he emerges from his self induced hiatus. Does anybody really think that is going to happen?

There were many chances to quiet this situation and let it settle. There were many chances to get in front of the story, and take the reins of control to keep Woods’ image from sliding down the mountain. There were many chances for Woods, his people and his partners to not make it seem they were only concerned about dollar bills. All those chances were wasted and are gone. All to keep a grip on a situation which is / was slicker then an US Open green during the fourth round of the tournament.

Now we wait and see how Tiger Woods emerges on the other side of the curtain. Again, I don’t care that Tiger Woods had an affair. I do care how someone represents and fixes themselves when caught in a situation that needs repair. For me, he still needs to call a good repairman.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The SportsFanBuzz Podcast (12/21/2009).....

It is a NFL Week 15 review. Mike Tricarico and I discuss what went on in the NFL over the weekend, including the situation where coaches seem to have lost their minds, and how sometimes the results of certain games make you question what you really know about the NFL. We also talk about Johnny Damon and how he looks to no longer be a Yankee. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 21, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

College Bowl Picks.....

34 Bowl Games starting tonight, and wrapping up with the BCS Championship on January 7th. And, no, I did not make up some of these bowl game names. Here we go. Enjoy.

December 19
New Mexico Bowl --- Fresno State Bulldogs over Wyoming Cowboys
St. Petersburg Bowl --- University of Central Florida Knights over Rutgers Scarlet Knights

December 20
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl --- Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles over Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

December 22
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl --- Brigham Young Cougars (#14) over Oregon State Beavers (#18)
*** First game with ranked teams. Tough match-up to call. Should be a close game and I would not be surprised if it goes the other way.

December 23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl --- Utah Utes (#23) over California Golden Bears
*** It's not the Sugar Bowl like last year, but Utah caps their second consecutive good season with another bowl victory.

December 24
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl --- Southern Methodist Mustangs over Nevada Wolf Pack

December 26
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl --- Ohio Bobcats over Marshall Thundering Herd
Meineke Car Care Bowl --- Pittsburgh Panthers (#17) over North Carolina Tar Heels
*** North Carolina playing close to home, but Pittsburgh caps their nice season and gets their tenth win.

Emerald Bowl --- USC Trojans (#24) over Boston College Eagles
*** Emerald Bowl and USC? Who saw that coming? Although disappointed, Pete Carroll gets his team ready for the game, and they roll over Boston College.

December 27
Gaylord Hotel Music City Bowl --- Clemson Tigers over Kentucky Wildcats

December 28
AdvoCare V 1000 Independence Bowl --- Georgia Bulldogs over Texas A&M Aggies

December 29
Eagle Bank Bowl --- UCLA Bruins over Temple Owls
Champs Sports Bowl --- Miami Hurricanes (#15) over Wisconsin Badgers (#25)
*** Nice match-up of Miami's speed versus Wisconsin's power, with the Hurricanes speed being the difference.

December 30
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl --- Idaho Vandals over Bowling Green Falcons
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl --- Nebraska Cornhuskers (#22) over Arizona Wildcats (#20)
*** Nebraska's defense showed the nation they are good, actually very good in the Big 12 championship game, and I think they keep the momentum against a good Arizona team.

December 31
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl --- Houston Cougars over Air Force Falcons
Brut Sun Bowl --- Stanford Cardinal (#21) over Oklahoma Sooners
*** Stanford ends their surprise season with another victory over a known football school.

Texas Bowl --- Navy Midshipmen over Missouri Tigers
Insight Bowl --- Minnesota Golden Gophers over Iowa State Cyclones
Chick-fil-A Bowl --- Virginia Tech Hokies (#11) over Tennessee Volunteers
*** Lane Kiffin has done a nice job in his first year at Tennessee, but Virginia Tech is better in all aspects and will get their tenth win of the year.

New Years Day 2010
Outback Bowl --- Auburn Tigers over Northwestern Wildcats
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl --- Florida State Seminoles over West Virginia Mountaineers (#16)
*** This one is all with my heart. FSU pulls it out in the farewell game of Bobby Bowden's great career.

Capital One Bowl --- Penn State Nittany Lions (#13) over LSU Tigers (#12)
*** Now starts the games matching up higher ranked teams. Penn State beats a LSU team that never looked as well as their ranking claimed during the season.

Rose Bowl --- Oregon Ducks (#7) over Ohio State Buckeyes (#8)
***Oregon's speed will be too much for Ohio State to handle, as the Buckeyes will have no answer for the Ducks quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli and his run or pass threat.

Allstate Sugar Bowl --- Florida Gators (#5) over Cincinnati Bearcats(#3)
*** Could Florida suffer the same fate as last year's SEC Championship game loser, Alabama? I don't think Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow allow that to happen to the Gators. Cincinnati wants to finish undefeated and show they belong with the "big boys", but the loss of Coach Kelly may still be in the back of the team's minds.

January 2
International Bowl --- South Florida Bulls over Northern Illinois Huskies Bowl --- South Carolina Gamecocks over Connecticut Huskies
AT&T Cotton Bowl --- Oklahoma State Cowboys (#19) over Mississippi Rebels
*** Both teams thought their season would end better then this, especially Ole Miss which was ranked as high as #4 early in the season.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl --- East Carolina Pirates over Arkansas Razorbacks
Valero Alamo Bowl ---Texas Tech Red Raiders over Michigan State Spartans

January 4
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl --- Texas Christian Horned Frogs (#4) over Boise State Broncos (#6)
*** Seems like the bowl game at the kiddies' table. Both these teams wanted to play bigger conference opponents in their bowl game, but instead will face each other. TCU's offense has been very good all year, and that will be the difference in the "Little BCS" game.

January 5
FedEx Orange Bowl --- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (#9) over Iowa Hawkeyes (#10)
*** Georgia Tech's speed and option offense will be too much for a gritty Iowa team.

January 6
GMAC Bowl --- Central Michigan Chippewas over Troy Trojans

January 7
BCS National Championship --- Alabama Crimson Tide (#1) over Texas Longhorns (#2)
*** Alabama's offense was able to move the ball and score against a good Florida defense, while Texas' offense struggled against Nebraska's defense. While the Longhorn offense will play better then they did in the Big 12 championship game, Alabama will play even better. Mark Ingram helps put a BCS championship title on his resume by showing the country why he won the Heisman Trophy for this season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Week 15 NFL Picks.....

The SportsFan Buzz "Best of the Decade" podcast has been rescheduled for Monday, December 28th and will be posted the next day.

Week 15 picks (home team in CAPS)

JAGUARS (+3) over Colts
Here we go again. Another shot at someone knocking off the undefeated team. While the Colts have everything wrapped up, this is a playoff game for the Jaguars. Plus for the first time all season, Jacksonville will be playing in front of a sellout crowd. Jags keep it close and possibly pull the upset.

Cowboys (+7) over SAINTS
Our second undefeated team, and just like the Colts, the Saints will be tested. Yes, the Cowboys are in their December swoon, but if they attack the Saints weakness of defending the run, and stick with it, Dallas should keep it close and can be the team to push New Orleans from the perfect mountain.

Packers (+1 ½) over STEELERS
One team has won five in the row, while the other has lost five in a row, so this should be a no-brainer, but I struggled with it before deciding on the Packers. I can’t imagine the defending champs losing six in a row, but I had this Packer team at the start of the season and I believe they keep the roll going.

Dolphins (+3 ½) over TITANS
Both teams are playing good, tough football led by their respective running games. Don’t blink if watching this one, as both teams will run and run some more against the other. A hobbled Vince Young means the Dolphins can key a little more on Chris Johnson, and that will be the difference in the game.

Patriots (-7) over BILLS
Buffalo had the Patriots down and out in the opening week Monday Night game, then watched Tom Brady and company score two late touchdowns, helped by Bills’ kick returner, Leodis McKelvin fumble which set up the Patriots for the go ahead touchdown. New England is still looking for their first win this year in an opponent’s stadium, and they get it in Buffalo.

Cardinals (-12) over LIONS
Arizona lost their opportunity to wrap up the NFC West on Monday Night with a very sloppy (7 turnovers) and uninspired effort. They will make up for it on Sunday when visiting Detroit. The Lions are beat up, and even though their offense has improved in 2009, their defense has not done the same. Kurt Warner and his receivers put up big numbers and clinch their division in the process.

EAGLES (-9) over 49ers
The Eagles showed off their offensive weapons on Sunday Night against the Giants, and they will do the same Sunday when the 49ers come to town. The defensive effort was suspect against New York, but I think they get it settled at home. Donovan McNabb and his teammates have the NFC East title in their sights, and they keep up their good play against San Francisco.

JETS (NL) over Falcons
Atlanta still is not sure if either Matt Ryan or Michael Turner will be on the field for them against the tough New York defense. While Mark Sanchez will be behind center for the Jets (albeit wearing two knee braces), but I expect him to be turning and handing off to Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene most of the game. Jets keep the playoff hopes alive for another week.

RAVENS (-10 ½) over Bears
The Bears seemed like a lost team after their defeat last week to Green Bay. It has been a long season for them between the injuries on defense and inconsistent offense, and this trip to Baltimore will not help them as the Ravens got the offense rolling last week against Detroit, and will look to continue the good play as they try to gain the last AFC playoff spot.

Browns (+1 ½) over CHIEFS
Maybe the Browns will get some momentum off their big win against Pittsburgh last Thursday, against a Kansas City team which is waiting for the season to end. If the Browns defense put in another effort like they did last week, Cleveland will be riding a two game winning streak.

Texans (-12 1/2) over RAMS
The Rams are another team looking forward to the off season. The Texans are too strong, and still have a slim chance at the final wildcard spot, so expect a good effort from Houston against a weaker opponent.

Bengals (+6 ½) over CHARGERS
This one takes on a whole different tone in the wake of Chris Henry’s death. The winner has the inside track to the number two seed in the AFC, and the important bye week. The Bengals need to run the ball, and keep running against the weak Charger run defense, while keeping the Chargers passing game from making the big play downfield. The Bengals’ safety, Chris Crocker, is out of the game, so it is even more important that the defensive line help the secondary by putting pressure on Philip Rivers. Cincinnati rides emotion to keep it close and if able to run, get the victory.

BRONCOS (-14) over Raiders
It is so bad in Oakland that Charlie Frye is the Raiders’ starting quarterback over number one overall pick Jamarcus Russell. Denver stays focused at home, and wins big over this dysfunctional franchise.

SEAHAWKS (-7) over Bucs
Battle of the two 1976 expansion teams is about the only thing I can think of interest about this match-up. Seattle has played well at home, and Tampa Bay is making a very long trip and bringing a pretty bad team.

PANTHERS (+9) over Vikings
While the Panthers’ season is over, they might be playing for their coaches’, as well as their own jobs. The possibility of bad field conditions in Charlotte, along with this being the Vikings first cold weather game of the season should mean a low scoring close affair. Minnesota wins, but Carolina will keep it close.

Giants (-3) over REDSKINS
New York gave up 45 points to the Eagles last Sunday, but even with the poor performance and loss, they still have a good chance at capturing the second NFC wildcard slot. The Redskins will be looking to spoil their division rival’s season, but the Giants put together enough of a game to get the victory.

Week 14 record (5-11) OUCH!
2009 season (59-58-1)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/17/2009).....

On this edition of The SportsFan Buzz I am joined by Blake DeRouchey (Twitter: @DSM_SportsFreak and personal sports blog) as we discuss Big Ten Football, Basketball and the possible expansion of the conference. We also touch on Tiger Woods being named the Athlete of the Decade, and make our picks of the NFL Week 15 games.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 17, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/16/2009).....

Mike Tricarico is back for our weekend review of the NFL's week 14 action and we also take a sneak peek at the games for week 15. Before we dive into the NFL, we cover the Heisman Trophy Award winner, as well as the show itself, and also talk about the blockbuster baseball trades of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 16, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/14/2009).....

Today's podcast (taped Friday, December 11th) is all college football. I am joined by my friend Richard Ramos as we discuss Bobby Bowden (Rich lives in Tallahassee), how we both dislike the BCS and maybe a solution, and Rich's beloved USC Trojans. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 14, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Year's Bowling.....

Five undefeated teams after the regular season and conference championships have all been played out. Not what the head honchos who run the Bowl Championship System (BCS) wanted to see when they checked the boxscores Sunday morning. Neither was it the scenario that college football fans wanted to see, because we knew what was coming next. Computer generated standings that would place the top two teams (meaning top two conferences) into the championship.

College football fans have seen this story before and no matter how many times it plays out, it is never well received, and this year is no different. While Alabama against Texas is a nice match-up, there are questions about whether any of the other three undefeated teams, TCU, Boise St., and Cincinnati should or could match-up with the two “big boys”. Unfortunately, we will not know the answer to the question in the championship game, and in only one of the other bowl games when Cincinnati takes on Florida in the Sugar Bowl, because TCU and Boise St. were matched up in the Fiesta Bowl.

The BCS Bowl games spread out over seven days look like this:

January 1st - Rose Bowl: Ohio St. vs. Oregon
                    Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Cincinnati
January 4th - Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs. Boise St.
January 5th - Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Iowa
January 7th – BCS Championship: Alabama vs. Texas

The BCS was set up to help avoid the arguments that used to take place when we were dealt “split championships” and no true champion for the college football season. It has not done what it set out to accomplish, as we now have annual arguments over who ends up and how they ended up in the BCS Championship and more cries for a playoff format. While we have gotten the best team as the winner of the championship game in most cases, it has not always been matched up against the best opponent, so that does not make for a clear cut champion.

With no playoff and none anywhere in sight, arguments about the championship game participants, and bowl games spread out over seven days, it is not an appealing set-up for many college football fans. I think it is time to scrap the BCS and do something drastic, and that is to go back in time, but with a little tweak. Why not go back to New Years Eve and Day bowl games to wrap up the college season?

Here is my proposal for these “elite” bowl games to be played on those two days / nights. First, there would be six bowl games in this group. They would include the four we already showcase with the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta, with the two additional games being the Cotton and Chick-Fil-A, which I would rename The Peach Bowl, brought to you by Chick-Fil-A.

I would bring back conference affiliations with each of the bowls, except for the Fiesta, which I would keep independent from a conference tie-in. The Rose would keep the Pac 10 and Big 10, while the Sugar would keep the SEC, and the Cotton would get the Big 12. For the Orange and Peach, they would get the ACC and Big East as their associations, but I would put the Peach Bowl as a New Year’s Eve game, and they would get the lower of the two ranked champions as the host team.

Then just like the old system, the bowls would recruit schools to get the best match-up or full stadium.

So under my bowl system, here is what New Years Eve and Day would look like in three weeks.

New Year’s Eve:
Peach Bowl – Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
Fiesta Bowl – Penn St. vs. LSU

New Year’s Day:
Cotton Bowl – Boise St. vs. Texas
Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Ohio St.
Orange Bowl – Florida vs. Cincinnati
Sugar Bowl – TCU vs. Alabama

How is that for a New Year’s Day line-up of games? There probably is still no clear cut #1 team, but when you have five undefeated teams going into the bowl games, you are never going to get a consensus top team.

We are not going to have five undefeated teams each year, so we also need a way to have the top two teams play each other if the scenario warrants it. Actually, that is my tweak or adjustment to make this different then the old system. Once every four years a conference champion can “challenge” another team, which could and should allow more top team match-ups. Yes, this leaves their bowl game with no affiliation for that year, but in that case, the affected bowl game would get first pick of all other available teams in trying to put together its bowl match-up. Not perfect, but nothing is at this point, and there are smarter people then me that might find a little better way to get this to happen.

With going back to this system, the big bowl games are back to where they belong on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (If the holiday falls on a NFL Sunday, then they just play those games on January 2nd.) just like they started, when we used to celebrate the college game on the holidays. It also gives more of a chance, albeit slim, for the smaller conferences to face off against the larger conferences for the National Championship.

College football fans deserve better then what we have, so while not perfect, going back in time might be the best solution we have available to us. Also, getting back New Year's Day with wall to wall college bowl games involving the top college teams sounds like a great way to recover from the night before and the ringing in the of that New Year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/11/2009).....

Today we talk baseball of the podcast, as I am joined by Paul Lebowitz, who is the author of "Breaking Balls" and has produced baseball guides for the last three season. You can find his work at his Prince of NY website, and also Paul's personal website. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 11, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Week 14 NFL Picks.....

Week 14 picks (home team in CAPS)

Steelers (-10) over BROWNS
Four weeks ago the defending champions were 6-2 and coming off an impressive win at Denver on a Monday night. Now they are 6-6 and sitting outside the playoffs. I don’t believe this team will go quietly, and the run to get into the playoffs starts here with a big win. While the Browns have moved the ball well the past few weeks, their divisional rival shuts them down.

Broncos (+7) over COLTS
Here we go again thinking that the Colts’ opponent is “the team” to knock them from their undefeated perch. The list is getting long (49ers, Texans (twice), Ravens, and Titans), and might get longer after this week against Denver. Denver has put together two nice wins to put the four game losing skid in the rearview mirror, and they will use the formula from the past two weeks to keep this close against Indianapolis, and yes, they could pull off the upset.

Bengals (+6 ½) over VIKINGS
The Bengals are winning by running the ball and playing good defense, especially good run defense. While not sexy, it has been working very well. Cincinnati will bring that run defense into the Metrodome and try to shut down Adrian Peterson, and see if Brett Favre can beat them. The Bengals will also run Cedric Benson to try and shorten the game and wear down the Vikings’ defense.

Jets (-3) over BUCS
No Mark Sanchez (knee) this week for the Jets, but the Jets are a much better team then Tampa Bay, and will look to run the ball, so it should not effect them too much. New York still has a shot at the playoffs, and even the divisional title, so expect a solid effort from the Jets over the one win Tampa Bay team.

CHIEFS (pick ‘em) over Bills
First game with no playoff implications associated with it, The Chiefs have been playing better football as of late and Kansas City has found a bit of a running game with Jamaal Charles, and they should find a lot more running game against the league's worst ranked run defense. That should also greatly help Matt Cassel and the passing game.

Packers (-3) over BEARS
The last four weeks have been the Packer team we expected when the season started. Green Bay comes in with the NFL’s number one ranked defense, and gets a Bear team that has just not been able to get their offense in sync all season. Even though the Packers are on the short week and traveling, look for them to keep their winning streak alive.

Saints (-10 ½) over FALCONS
The Falcons have played themselves onto the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention, and their task is even tougher this week. Besides facing the undefeated Saints, they must do it without Matt Ryan (toe) and possibly without Michael Turner (ankle), who has been hobbled with a bad ankle. New Orleans keeps the undefeated dreams alive.

RAVENS (-13) over Lions
The Ravens are another 6-6 teams fighting for a wildcard slot in the AFC, and they are coming off the Monday night loss to Green Bay. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford will sit this one out to rest his injured shoulder and that may not be a bad idea when you are a rookie and facing the Ravens’ hard hitting defense. Joe Flacco needs to cut down on the mistakes, and should have a good game against a poor Lion defense.

Dolphins (+2 ½) over JAGUARS
Jacksonville holds the second AFC wildcard position at 7-5 and Miami is one of those teams chasing them with a 6-6 record. The Dolphins got themselves back in the wildcard and AFC East playoff races with their victory last week over New England, which makes the prior week to Buffalo hurt even worse. The Jaguars are the most unlikely of the playoff contenders, and this last quarter of the season may expose them. Look for Miami to take advantage of their new life.

PATRIOTS (-13 ½) over Panthers
New England has problems playing the pass, and luckily for them so far this year the Panthers have had trouble moving the ball in the air. Carolina might get DeAngelo Williams back to get their duel running attack going, but look for Tom Brady and the New England passing game to get back on track at home.

TEXANS (-6) over Seahawks
Houston is on a four game losing streak which has pretty much knocked them out of playoff contention, but they still have a sliver of hope. Right now they could just be playing to try and save head coach Gary Kubiak’s job. The Texans had to shut down Steve Slaton’s season due to shoulder and neck problems, but they should have enough offense against Seattle, and will get themselves back in the win column.

Rams (+13) over TITANS
This game features two of the best young running backs in the league in the Titans’ Chris Johnson and the Rams’ Steven Jackson. Tennessee played well in their loss to the Colts, so even though their five game winning streak ended, their good play did not. St. Louis has scored the least points in the league, but will keep it close because of Jackson’s running.

RAIDERS (+1) over Redskins
Another game consisting of teams eliminated from playoff contention. Oakland had a good win over the Steelers last week, while Washington lost a heart breaker in which they were a missed 23 yard field goal away from knocking off the undefeated Saints. The Raiders ride that good momentum to another victory.

COWBOYS (-3) over Chargers
San Diego has won their last 15 December, while we all know the Dallas struggles during the last month of the year. The Charger defense is vulnerable against the run, but because they have been ahead in their games, have not had it come back to haunt them. The Cowboys need to run the ball with Marion Barber and company to exploit the Charger defense, and to keep Philip Rivers and that passing offense off the field. If they do that, Dallas should reverse these December trends.

GIANTS (-1) over Eagles
The Giants needed to show they were not giving up on the season last week, and they did that in beating Dallas and bringing themselves back into the middle of the division and wildcard hunts. Philadelphia seems to be clicking, but they still are without Brian Westbrook, and I think this divisional match-up will be a week when they miss him. Look for the Giants to step-up and revenge their earlier loss to the Eagles.

Cardinals (-3) over 49ERS
The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West with a victory in this game. Last week Arizona had a very impressive win at home against the Vikings, while the 49ers had a tough loss to the Seahawks to set up this scenario. Look for the Cardinals to keep up their impressive play and wrap up the division, and make the other NFC playoff contenders worry about having to face the defending NFC champs.

Week 12 record (9-7)
2009 season (54-47-1)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/9/2009).....

On today's podcast I am joined by Heather Zeller (Twitter: @heatherzeller), the author of the webpage A Glam Slam, as we discuss holiday gifts, fashion and sports, and cold weather in Wisconsin. Heather and I also pick the winners of this week's NFL games for week 14. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 9, 2009

You can find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/8/2009).....

Another two part effort by Mike and I as we cover this weekend's sport happenings, and get through it all without a mention of Tiger Woods. In Part A, we cover the baseball winter meetings and the college football conference championship games that took place on Saturday. In Part B, the NFL's week 13 action is the discussion point, and Mike gets through the Steelers segment with minimal heartache (well not really minimal). Now with additional audio drop-ins for your listening pleasure.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 8, 2009 (Part A)

The SportsFan Buzz: December 8, 2009 (Part B)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tebow Tears.....

Did you see where during the last remaining seconds of the SEC Championship Game, presented by Dr. Pepper (I think everybody is legally obligated to say it this way), the camera caught Florida Gator quarterback Tim Tebow crying on the sidelines? Not sure if those tears were due to Tebow realizing his dreams of another National Championship were gone with the loss to Alabama, or because he was upset he didn’t play well enough to carry his teammates to the victory, but it was a scene showing a young man’s emotions and was captured for all to witness.

The scene was replayed on all the highlight shows, was the top Twitter trend, and seemed to be a topic on many of my friends’ Facebook pages. It was the topic of a “First & 10” segment on ESPN’s First Take, with Detroit writer Rob Parker pulling out tissues and faking tears in mocking Tebow. I think the only place it wasn’t shown or spoken about was on Saturday Night Live. (Thank you, White House Crashers and Tiger Woods.)

Oh, how sweet you say. Ah, no, it had nothing to do with sweet. Most of the chatter concerning those tears were cheap shots and rips into the young Tebow. There were a few “Tebow is my hero”, and “Look how much he cares” posts, but for the most part it was mostly pokes, prods and jabs at the quarterback’s expense.

If you are thinking there sure are many sport fans that must dislike the Florida Gators and were happy to see the Alabama Crimson Tide get the victory, you would again be off the mark. These remarks against Tebow have nothing to do with who he plays for or who Tebow was playing against, as this is completely personal against the college senior. Check the Nebraska sidelines Saturday night after the Texas placekicker, Hunter Lawrence’s kick sailed through the uprights and there were tears, but none got an ESPN highlight, tweets or Facebook time.

I like human emotion, and I like to see athletes show that emotion. When I see an eighteen year old freshman who just dropped the pass in the end zone to cost his team the game, or the bench warmer who never stepped foot on the field have tears, I feel for them. I also feel for those kids if they have tears of joy after a victory. Same goes for the professionals who show emotions and caring after their long season has ended, whether it be holding the trophy or saying “We’ll do it next year”. Why? Because it makes me care more about what I just witnessed knowing they put everything into what they were trying to accomplish. When it is the professionals showing that caring, it helps me forget about salaries and millions of dollars, and gets back to the heart of what I tuned in to see, playing to win and leaving it all out there on the field/court/rink with no regrets about effort.

Personally, any athlete, professional or college, who after a victory has a sour face, or after a loss has a smile and laughter, shows me they didn’t care enough for it to hurt. (It also means they probably play for themselves, and not the team, but that’s another column) Now don’t think I mean they can never smile or be upset, but immediately after the game has ended emotions should still be carrying them.

So, what are Tim Tebow’s crimes to illicit these different reactions? Well, Tebow is described by most as a good person, a great teammate and a winner. He is a good student, loves his parents, and doesn’t get into any trouble. I know what you are thinking, "Why are you telling me about such a terrible being?" Also, he is also a Christian who wears his faith on his sleeve for all to see. Because Tebow’s Gator teams have been a college football powerhouse for his four years in Gainesville, and because Tebow is the quarterback, he has been in the spotlight for all to view. With those views, we have seen Tebow’s eye-black tape with Bible verses written on them, have heard his “God Bless” after all interviews and have been told all the stories about his missionary work in the Philippines and how he ministers prisoners in his spare time.

Problem? Well for some it seems the above characteristics are the problem, especially the last part of the above paragraph describing his Christian faith, and how he lives his life. It is one of those “too good to be true” stories, that some feel has been exaggerated by those who cover and report on the quarterback. I don’t feel exaggeration was the problem as much as the number of Tebow stories that surfaced on the air last year.

Those feeling went over the top for many Tebow detractors when Thom Brennaman told the audience tuning into last year’s BCS title game against Oklahoma that “If you are fortunate enough to spend five minutes or twenty minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it.” Over the top? Sure. Give you a “roll of the eyes” moment. Check to that also. What it also did was unleash a backlash against the kid that I have never seen in my time watching and loving sports. He was no longer the good guy Florida quarterback, who was also a Christian. Instead, for many, he turned into the Jesus freak, no way it’s too good to be true, hope he falls on his face, quarterback of the Gators.

Tebow didn’t ask Brennaman to say that about him, and I am sure he was embarrassed when told of the remarks, but it was too late as the floodgates were opened.

The 2009 college season started with Florida ranked at the top of the polls, poised for a repeat, and Tim Tebow the favorite to win the Heisman trophy for the second time of his college career, and right from the start there was an anti-Tebow mood with college football fans. Not just “against Florida, SEC fans”, but what seemed like all fans other then Gator fans. While I agree Tebow and Florida did seem to be crowned in the preseason, it was by no fault or ways of Tebow. He was responding to what was being presented, not initiating the crowning.

As the season progressed, Tebow did not have the kind of year that was expected of him, but the Gators kept winning, and that winning kept Florida on top of the poles, and kept Tebow in the spotlight, which seemed to make the divide wider. It all cumulated with the scene on Saturday night after Alabama crushed Florida in the SEC Championship game, and the cameras capturing Tebow crying as the clock wound down.

As I mentioned, I love true human emotion, and so does the nation of Tebow non-fans when it comes in the form of #15 tears because of a loss. As of this writing if you Google “Tim Tebow cries” it brings up 153,000 hits, and not all of them are glowing accounts of the moment.

For more fun, put in “Tim Tebow sucks” and get another 94,000 links presented for your viewing pleasure.

Is a good guy really that much of a problem for us? Do we really need to tear down and mock a 22 year old kid because he is nice, and does the right things? While other sport stars have fallen off the cliff of their own doing either though cheating, drugs, performance enhancing substances, domestic abuse, murder, robbery, or just plain being a terrible person, here we have a kid who is on the opposite side of that fence, and yet we are ready to push him off with the others. How about we see if he brings himself to the cliff’s edge before we toss him off it? You can even make the argument that some of those others receive forgiveness and a second chance (Michael Vick, anyone?) while this kid is being buried for just being “too good to be true” and too overexposed for some?

For full disclosure I am a Christian (baptized in the Pacific Ocean along with my wife in August 2008), but the religious angle of this is not a part of my thoughts. I don’t care that he is a Christian, or if he was Jewish, Muslim, or believed in little green aliens. Strip away all religious aspects, and this is still a good kid and someone that could and should be looked upon in a positive light. That is what I care about, him being a good person and someone I can tell my daughter she can look up to. Not how or who he says his prayers to at night.

In a time when we have the most famous current athlete paying off affairs and his wife to keep a false image clean, why must we dismiss someone who for now seems to be the opposite of what is wrong in sports and society. Are we afraid of getting hurt by him if he does falter like other have before him? Or is it that we like a little dirt in our lives, and that makes it easier for us when that fall from grace does arrive. That way we can say “I told you so”, and just move on.

To those of us that are parents, isn’t this “height” what we hope for our children to emulate and inspire to be like, or do we want them teasing the straight A student who doesn’t get in trouble at school. That way the student may come down a level and make it easier for our child to reach those lowered heights. Is that what we truly want?

Yes, he may be pushed by some others to be more then what he really is, but even when you take off the extra coats of sugar put on Tebow by some, what you get at the core is someone we should wish was more the norm, then pointed at and ridiculed like a freak show.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/4/2009).....

Today's The SportsFan Buzz Podcast covers the action taking place in the City of Brotherly Love as we are joined by Mike Tursi (Twitter: @thesportstwit), who writes The Sports Twit Blog and lives in Philadelphia. It has been a busy few days in Philly, as Allen Iverson returns to the 76ers, while the Flyers fire their coach about 45 minutes before we started to record. Mike and I discuss those topics, the college football weekend, and also take our shots picking the Week 13 NFL games. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 4, 2009

This & That (Friday 12/4/09).....

--- NFL Playoff scenarios starting to take shape as we come down to the final five weeks, but the way the last few weeks have played out, it could be a mess by the time the Monday Night game ends. It's not that all the teams have a chance, but the teams you think are ready to fall off the "playoff ledge" seem to be getting the right combination that still keeps their hopes alive.

NFL MVP talk is starting to heat up with the names Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre leading the discussion, but the Titans' Chris Johnson is starting to get some whispers. While Johnson may get to 2,000 yards, if the Titans don't make the playoffs, he should not be part of the conversation.

--- Ron Artest and Hennessy? I find it strange that he admitted this in the middle of a season and not during an off season. While Artest claims he no longer keeps a "stash", how closely do you think the Lakers and the NBA are watching his behavior?

Never thought I would see Allen Iverson making a return trip to 76ers, much less the emotional press conference to reintroduce himself to the city of Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if Iverson plays well and is able to help the team win a few more games, along with putting more fans in the seats, which is the primary reason AI was brought back to Philly.

--- Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart are the Heisman Trophy front runners. Gerhart's season is finished, while the other three have their final chances to show the voters they are "the one", but each face their toughest defensive opponent this weekend. If any of the three have a "statement game", they should move to the top of the list. If the three have their normal productive games, then it will be a very interesting night next Saturday in New York.

Personally, while I think Gerhart has had the best year in terms of pure statistics, but last week's game against Texas A&M put it in McCoy's hands, and only a terrible game against Nebraska will cost him the trophy.

After ripping Florida coach Urban Meyer a few weeks ago, I must give my kudos to him for his quick action with regards to suspending defensive end Carlos Dunlap, for this week's SEC Championship game against Alabama. Dunlap was issued a DUI after falling asleep in his car at a red light. Besides the DUI, Dunlap is under age, which makes this a double mistake. There are some who think Meyer is making the wrong decision in suspending Dunlap as it hurts his team's chances to win the game, and winning is supposed to be Meyer's job. Plain and simple those people are wrong. Winning the game is one thing, but doing the right thing is another, and Meyer did the right thing in this situation.

If Dunlap was found drinking at the frat house, then maybe a suspension would not be warranted. The same goes for Dunlap just falling asleep at the wheel from exhaustion. Combine the two, and there is no question he should have been punished.

--- Vin Scully will be coming back to broadcast Dodger games in 2010. This will be Scully's 61st season in the booth, and he still sounds as great as ever. Not to be out done on the golden tones front, the San Diego Padres will have Dick Enberg describing their games for the local television broadcasts. With those two legends calling games, there are some very lucky baseball fans in Southern California.

Roy Halladay has told the Toronto Blue Jays that he will now accept a trade to the New York Yankees, which can only make the Toronto front office happy, as that should help them get a better deal for the star pitcher. At the same time Halladay also informed them that he will not accept any trade made once the spring training starts, which will handcuff the Blue Jays' management.

I'm sure Halladay's thinking for issuing the deadline is that last year his season hit a bit of a swoon while all the trade discussion was going on, and he doesn't want to go through that mess again.

There was a large amount of players not offered arbitration, which will flood the second and third tier free agent markets. Looks like it will again be a buyers' market for those players not considered superstars.

--- Keith Ballard accidently hitting Tomas Vokoun is still the talk of the NHL and sport fans in general. In all my years of watching hockey, I have never seen anything close to what happened Monday night. Vokoun has forgiven Ballard, and they are trying to put the incident behind them and move forward with the Panthers' season.

There were some rumblings by hockey fans that maybe the league should have looked into suspending Ballard for his loose work with his stick. While I am a strong proponent of players controlling their sticks, I think Ballard has been punished enough for his mistake, and if discipline was to be handed out, it should have been the Panthers call to make, and not the league.

Alex Ovechkin was suspended two games due to his knee to knee hit on the Carolina Hurricanes' Tim Gleason, last Monday night. The suspension was fair, as that type of play is dangerous for both players, and in this case as Ovechkin was the one hurt on the play. I was at the game, and didn't think the hit had intent behind it, but nevertheless, the league needs to send a message to it players.

The 2010 Winter Olympics are still a couple of months away, but the NHL is already causing a stir with regards to the 2014 Olympics set to take place in Russia. At this time, the NHL says it is not sure if it will stop the season for the two week Olympic break. That is not sitting well with the current NHL players from Russia, who want to play for their Olympic team in their home country. I would say now the NHL is thinking "no", but does not want to take away from the Vancouver games. In the end though, the NHL will send players in 2014, only to avoid the nasty scenarios that could occur otherwise.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Week 13 NFL Picks.....

Week 13 picks (home team in CAPS)

Jets (-3) over BILLS
New York travels to Buffalo by way of Toronto for this AFC East matchup. While the Bills are looking for two in a row and divisional foes, look for the Jets to take full advantage of the Bills' last ranked run defense.

Broncos (-4 1/2) over CHIEFS
Kansas City has been a terrible destination for the Broncos in the past, but these aren't the same Chiefs. While this game has the feel of the Broncos trip to Washington a few weeks ago, expect the Broncos to have learned from that loss, and do what playoff contenders are supposed to do, and that is beat the team they should beat.

STEELERS (-13 1/2) over Raiders
Looks like Ben Roethlisberger will be in the lineup for Pittsburgh, but even if he isn’t able to play, look for an angry defending champion and the perfect opponent on the field for them this Sunday. An Oakland team traveling cross country should help to get the Steelers back on their winning ways.

Texans (pick 'em) over JAGUARS
This game is a pick 'em, and I can see why. After looking at this all ways, I can't figure out who has an advantage. The Texans have lost 3 straight that were within their grasp, including two to the Colts. Meanwhile, Jacksonville laid an egg last week in their loss to San Francisco. Look for Houston to rebound from this tough stretch.

Titans (+6 1/2) over COLTS
Everybody and their mother are picking the Titans to pull the upset after their comeback win over Arizona last Sunday, and I'll jump on the same bandwagon, but for a different reason. While most are talking about Vince Young and "the drive", I think it will be Chris Johnson and the improved Titan defense which keeps it close, and may allow for the victory.

Eagles (-4 1/2) over FALCONS
Although Chris Redman led the Falcons to last weeks victory in relief of injured Matt Ryan, it was against the Tampa Bay. This week it is an Eagle team looking to get on a roll toward the playoffs. Donovan McNabb will possibly be without DeSean Jackson, but they will have enough offense and the Philadelphia defense will harass Redman, all in leading to an Eagle win.

BENGALS (-12 1/2) over Lions
Larry Johnson contributing last week was a boost for the team. Cincinnati with a virtual three game lead over Pittsburgh and Baltimore and they can see the divisional title in their sights. Plus the Bengals are still in a fight with San Diego for the second seed in the AFC. Big home win putting them closer to both goals.

REDSKINS (+9 1/2) over Saints
The "trap" or "letdown" game for the Saints after their emotional Monday Night against the Patriots. New Orleans, even on a letdown, is the better team, but the Redskin defense and offensive rushing attack will keep this close. Plus Washington seems to be an overall improved team these last few games.

PANTHERS (-6 1/2) over Bucs
Will the Panthers' coaching staff realize that they have to run the ball to be a good team? Last week against the Jets, Carolina decided that passing was the way to go, and Jake Delhomme had 4 interceptions and a broken finger. Matt Moore makes his first start since 2007, so expect large doses of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (if healthy) running at that Tampa Bay defense.

Patriots (-5) over DOLPHINS
Miami missed a golden opportunity to keep pace with New England in the standings in their loss to Buffalo last Sunday. Then when you factor in the Patriot loss to New Orleans, the loss is a double shot to the gut. New England is on the short week, plus traveling, but they will overcome those obstacles and take care of the Dolphins, who might still be thinking about "what could have been". Look for Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker to again take advantage of the Miami rookie corners, just like they did in their initial match up of the season.

Rams (+9) over BEARS
Drama in Chicago between the star quarterback (Jay Cutler) a defensive leader (Brian Urlacher), or is there? In the end, it does not matter. This is a team that can't play defense, lost its running game, and can't find a "go to" receiver. The Bears are the better team, but Steven Jackson helps the Rams keep it close.

Chargers (-12 1/2) over BROWNS
Six wins in a row for the Chargers, and they are now looking like the team everyone has expected them to be at the start of the season. Still not convinced the running game is back, and the defense does not play the run well, but Philip Rivers and the passing game are churning on all cylinders. Unless there is a snowstorm that stalls the San Diego bus, look for an offensive show by the Chargers over the Browns defense.

49ers (pick 'em) over SEAHAWKS
The 49ers need this win, and the Vikings to defeat the Cardinals in the Sunday night game to make next week's game against those Cardinals for the NFC West lead. San Francisco is the better team and has been playing well, and they should keep that good play going in Seattle. Alex Smith is quietly doing a nice job since taking over the quarterback reigns.

GIANTS (+2) over Cowboys
I probably need my head examined after that debacle the Giants had in Denver on Thanksgiving night, but this is as much a pick for New York as it is a pick against Dallas. Even though they are 2-1 the last three weeks, Dallas still must show they are the force of the NFC East, and I'm not sure that they are that force. Add in that Dallas seems to be grasping for motivation, and it adds up to a New York win, a very tight NFC East.

CARDINALS (+4) over Vikings
Everything points to the Vikings keeping their roll going, even if traveling to Arizona. The Adrian Peterson driving incident (109mph in a 55mph zone) shouldn't be a distraction to the team. I just have a feeling the Cardinals with their wideouts, and the threat of a running game with be able to move the ball against the Minnesota defense. If Kurt Warner can't go, and Matt Leinart starts, switch this and go with the Vikings.

PACKERS (-3) over Ravens
Three wins in a row for Green Bay since the Tampa Bay loss, and they are now the NFC wildcard leader. The Ravens are coming off the tough win over the Steelers, but still don't seem right. Look for Aaron Rodgers to find Greg Jennings and Donald Driver for some big plays against the Baltimore secondary, while he Packer defense keeps Joe Flacco and the Raven offense in check.

Week 12 record (6-10)
2009 season (45-40-1)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (12/1/2009).....

Today's The SportsFan Buzz podcast is another post Monday Night Football production split into two parts for your listening enjoyment.

With sleep being overrated, Mike Tricarico and I discuss a variety of topics in part one of the podcast. Among our points of discussion is the Tiger Woods "accident", the weekend in college football, the Nets 0-17 start and the sad state of the NY NBA teams. Also some baseball and the hockey players getting cut, while a goalie takes a hit to the head from his own teammate.

In part two, Mike laments over the Steelers losing to the Ravens on Sunday night. We also discuss the results from week 12 in the NFL, a look ahead at the games for week 13, and how the playoff scenarios are shaping up.

Enjoy the late night ramblings.

The SportsFan Buzz: December 1, 2009 (Part A)

The SportsFan Buzz: December 1, 2009 (Part B)

Friday, November 27, 2009

This & That (Black Friday Edition 11/27/09).....

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. If you decided to go out and do physical shopping on "Black Friday", hopefully you were able to purchase the items you targeted and didn't see too much bodily harm from shoppers in the stores.

--- The NFL version of Thanksgiving Football was a three course meal of complete turkeys. The heavily favored Packers and Cowboys won their games in easy fashion during the afternoon action. While in the NFL night cap, the Giants went to Denver to face the Broncos, and looked like they wanted to be anyplace but playing football on their holiday.

Green Bay's offense was moving right along in their 34-12 victory over the Detroit Lions. Donald Driver was the offensive star with his 142 receiving yards and one TD catch. The Packer did was solid all day, and seemed to show no ill effects from the injuries they have suffered on that side of the ball.

In an off the field story, Packer defensive back Charles Woodson donated $2 million to the new University of Michigan hospital. Bravo to Woodson for his giving back to his alma mater.

While in Dallas, the Cowboys' offense seemed to wake from their two week nap by gained 195 yards on the ground and Tony Romo playing mistake free football in rolling over the Raiders 24-7. The "bad" Oakland team showed up for this game, but they did manage to gain 124 yards on the ground against the Cowboy defense.

The Giants traveled to Denver to face the Broncos, but looked like they never really got off the plane. Denver looked like the team who started the season 6-0, in whipping New York 26-6. The Broncos dominated every facet of the game and look to be back on track, while the Giants look like they are in serious trouble with only 5 games remaining.

---The best game of the day was the college rivalry match-up between the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies. In a game that brings Texas a step closer to the BCS Championship game, the Longhorns beat the Aggies 49-39 in a good old fashioned shootout. The performance by Colt McCoy firmly moved him up the Heisman discussion, and to me I think he is the leader of the race with Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram just behind the Texas QB.

The concern coming out of the game if you are a Longhorn fan, is giving up 39 points and 542 yards to the Aggies' offense. While Nebraska's offense isn't as explosive, I'm sure Coach Mack Brown will look for the defense to tighten up and play better before facing Huskers in the Big 12 title game.

Alabama faces Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Friday, while Florida hosts Florida State on Saturday, and if both clear those hurdles, it will set up the December 5th SEC Championship game as a "semi-final" to see who will be one half of the championship game participants.

Wonder what the rest of the holiday weekend sports has in store for us? Hopefully, I will be better then my zero for three turkey in picks on Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week 12 NFL Picks.....

Week 12 picks: (home team in CAPS)

LIONS +10 1/2 over Packers
Raiders +14 over COWBOYS
Giants -5 over BRONCOS
FALCONS -11 1/2 over Bucs
Dolphins -3 over BILLS
BENGALS -14 over Browns
Seahawks +1 over RAMS
Panthers +3 over JETS
Redskins +9 over EAGLES
Colts -3 1/2 pver TEXANS
Chiefs +13 1/2 over CHARGERS
49ERS -3 over Jaguars
VIKINGS -10 over Bears
TITANS xxx over Cardinals*
Steelers xxx over RAVENS*
As of this posting, there is no line on either game due to injuries
Patriots +3 over SAINTS

Week 11 record (8-8)
2009 season (39-30-1)

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/25/2009).....

The pre-Thanksgiving edition of The SportsFan Buzz. Before we scatter for the holiday, the podcast is joined by Megan Marshall (on Twitter: YankeeMegInPHL). A Yankee, Raven/Jet and Ranger fan, who is passionate about her sports.

Meg and I discuss our Thanksgiving plans, how I cook a turkey and Turkey Bowls, along with a preview of the NFL action for week 12. Plus I buy jeans for my wife.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/23/2009).....

Today's The SportsFan Buzz podcast is a late night production. Deciding sleep means nothing to us, I am joined by Mike Tricarico (Twitter mtrico) as we discuss a variety of topics. All taking place after we finished watching the Titans/Texans Monday Night Football game.

Among them in part one is Notre Dame football and whether the ND job is still a good job, LSU's clock management problems, and Mike going to the premier of the New York Yankees' World Series DVD.

In part two, we discuss NFL Week 11 and the upsets that occurred, and a glance at what the playoff picture is shaping up to look like with 6 weeks remaining.

Enjoy the late night ramblings.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 23, 2009 (Part A)

The SportsFan Buzz: November 23, 2009 (Part B)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking Baseball Awards.....

Thanksgiving is around the corner and you know what that means? Yep, it means baseball awards are being handed out. Between the time a World Series champion is crowned and the frenzy of the free agent / trading season is when baseball takes a breathe and hands out the hardware to the most deserving players from the prior year.

When growing up, I was always excited about these awards. I would make out my own ballots, and see where they compared to the baseball writers who actually voted for the awards. I had a hard time coming up with ten players for my MVP Ballot, but usually my top five were pretty close to the experts, as well as my Cy Young and Rookie of the Year "votes". I thank The Sporting News for reprinting all the boxscores each week for me to waste my summer nights reading (yes, we read boxscores a week late back then), and early ESPN so I could see highlights of all players to go with my boxscore reading.

For me, Cy Young "voting" was easy. My choice each year was the pitcher you just didn't want to face that year. You knew who the best pitcher was on a look/feel test. There may have been a few good nominees in some years, but it was usually just a matter of seeing who had the better numbers that helped determine my choice.

For me, the MVP was different. It could be a batter or pitcher, but the important distinction between it and the Cy Young was, the Cy went to the best pitcher, while the MVP was supposed to go to the most "valuable" player. Who was that player who helped that team win or be a contender that year, and they just couldn't live without?

I thought about what a privilege it must be to fill out one of those ballots (Remember, young and still obliviously naive.). How the writers must have really poured over their notes in submitting their voting sheets. Then those thoughts started to change for me in 1987 with the awarding of the NL MVP to Andre Dawson. While Dawson had a great season with his 49 home runs and 137 RBIs, Jack Clark was my choice with 35 and 106, plus Clark had 104 more walks and an OPS 159 points better than Dawson. But to me the biggest clincher was the fact that Dawson's Cubs finished 18 1/2 games behind Clark's Cardinals for the NL East divisional crown. Plus the Cubs were 11 games under .500 for the year. What was Dawson's value to that finish?

Then they did it again in 2003, when the AL MVP went to Alex Rodriguez with his good statistical year, while Carlos Delgado (with stats equal to, and maybe better then Rodriguez), and Jorge Posada ended up behind him in the voting, even though their teams won 15 and 30 games more then Rodriguez's Texas Rangers who finished 71-91, and 25 games out of first place.

What were the writers thinking? Or were they? While those may have been from lack of thinking, and just using numbers to place the players in the voting, we know seem to have gone the opposite way in some cases with over thinking. Case in point is Keith Law's 2nd place vote for Javier Vazquez in the 2009 Cy Young voting, while leaving Chris Carpenter off his ballot. Part of Law's reasoning behind his vote was the defense behind each pitcher, and the fact that because Vazquez pitched in the NL East, he faced better lineups more often. The fact that Carpenter had 2 more wins, and six less losses, seemed to be ignored by Law, and in fact he states that wins does not go into his thought process for the award. While I agree with Law about Carpenter's lack of pitching 200 innings (though he did get in 192.1), he was close enough for me to consider it a non-factor. For me, it all comes back to the look/feel test I spoke of earlier. Who did you not want to see on the mound against your favorite team. I remember lots of talk about the Cardinals top two pitchers during the summer, but not much about Vazquez and his 10 losses making the Braves dangerous.

I'm not picking on Mr. Law, and have enjoyed reading his work and listening to him on ESPN Radio. Matter of fact, I probably have more problem with the vote and reasoning behind Dan Haren's third place vote from Will Carroll. Haren had a nice year, especially the first half, and was in my top five for NL pitchers, but his 3.14 ERA and 27 home runs allowed was not Top 3 material when looked at the other involved.  Law's placing of Vazquez second, sticks out to me more, because it is in fact a second place vote. While it may seem trivial, I am probably not as bothered if Vazquez is third on his ballot. It is still puzzling, but a little less so.

I'm just getting a feeling that either not enough care is being taken by some writers when they vote on these awards, or there is too much over thinking and "smart" voting going on when compiling their ballots. Baseball is a simple and beautiful game. Look and feel. You'll get it right.

***** As I'm wrapping up this column, the 2009 AL MVP voting has just been announced. Joe Mauer won in a landslide, like everyone thought he would, but he did not win it unanimously. One voter decided that Miguel Cabrera was the AL MVP. Guess that night of drinking and subsequent arrest during the final weekend of the season was a part of that "valuable" quality. Really? Ugh!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Week 11 NFL Picks & SportsFan Buzz Podcast.....

This week for my NFL picks, I am joined on the podcast by Mike Tursi from "The SportsTwit Blog". We wrap up Week 10 and look forward to Week 11 of the NFL season with our picks and previews of this week's NFL games. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 19, 2009

Week 11 picks: (home team in CAPS)

Dolphins +3 1/2 over PANTHERS
Redskins +12 1/2 over COWBOYS
LIONS -4 1/2 over Browns
PACKERS -5 1/2 over 49ers
Steelers -10 over CHIEFS
VIKINGS -11 over Seahawks
GIANTS -5 1/2 over Falcons
BUCS +12 1/2 over Saints
JAGUARS -8 over Bills
RAVENS -1 over Colts
RAMS +9 1/2 over Cardinals
Chargers -4 over BRONCOS*
*As of this writing, there is no line on the game, so this is an educated guess.
Bengals -9 1/2 over RAIDERS
PATRIOTS -11 over Jets
Eagles -2 1/2 over BEARS
TEXANS -3 1/2 over Titans

Week 10 record (10-5)
2009 season (31-22-1)

Cleveland Rocked.....

Is there a sports city that needs a hug more than Cleveland? The Indians while flirting with championships haven’t won it all since 1948. The Browns are making their fans suffer through what might be the worst stretch in their history, and haven’t won a championship since 1964. The Cavaliers are doing well, but they have never won it all, and face the possibility of LeBron James leaving them in the summer of 2010. This is a good sports town. How much is too much?

Three weeks ago, Cleveland sport fans watched the 2007 and 2008 AL CY Young Award winners face off against each other in Game 1 of the World Series. The problem for the fans was that sixteen months prior, those two pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee were in the Indians' rotation and the two of them won those awards while pitching for the Indians.

For Indians’ fans, the current tailspin can be traced back to when the Indians blew a three games to one lead against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. After dominating the Sox to take the commanding series lead in the series, and with Sabathia starting Game 5 in Cleveland, things looked good for Indians’ fans. Instead disaster occurred, and Boston crushed the Indians by a combined 30-5 score in the last three games to go on to face the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, which Boston won.

The Indians have a descent core of young players, and a fairly good farm system to work from. They will rebuild and compete again, but after getting so close in 1995, 1997, and then again in 2007, and then seeing their top two pitchers leave in 2008 and 2009, they must wonder if they need the movie “Major League” to become a reality before they will ever win it all.

As for the Browns, what can you say besides the current situation is horrible, and the road to recovery looks very long and slow? No matter who eventually comes in to take over the team, they will have to overcome the poor player personnel decisions made at the quarterback position in order to move forward.

After a good 2007 season, which saw the Browns win ten games, the Browns decided to reward the quarterback who led them to those victories, Derek Anderson. Anderson, who was only in his first full season as a starting quarterback threw for 29 TDs, and seemed to be poised to lead the Browns’ future. This all seems to be good, except there was a problem. That problem was the Browns drafted Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn in the 2007 draft with the 22nd overall pick, and in doing so, also invested a good amount of money in him.

Some would say that was no problem, because what team would not want two good quarterbacks pushing each other forward. Well, it turns out that neither Anderson or Quinn are NFL caliber quarterbacks Cleveland thought they were when signing them and investing in them, and the Browns are stuck with both of them. Plus the team has no QB for the future to help them out of this mess. Add in that their lead running back is 30 year old Jamal Lewis, who has lots of mileage on him, plus they have no real quality receivers (especially after trading Braylan Edwards) and this is not a good combination.

Matter of fact, the combination on offense is so bad, that after nine games this year, the Browns have only scored 78 (5 offensive TDs) and has only produced 1929 total yards (rushing and passing). Meanwhile, all on his own, Titans running back, Chris Johnson has 1353 total yards and 9 touchdowns after his first nine games..

The Browns best player is return specialist Josh Cribbs, who does get his hands on the ball occasionally on offense, but he is now out with a head injury suffered on the last play of Monday Night’s game against the Ravens. You would say, “Well that’s just football”, but the Browns were down 16-0 at the time, and were running a “hook and lateral” type gadget play, for a reason which is still not known. It was during the confusion of the trick play where Cribbs got hit, and injured. Right now, that play defines what Browns football is at this time.

Because of the quarterback situation, and no real impact players on either side of the ball, it will take a while for Cleveland to get back on track. Browns fans must wonder after the1980 playoff loss to Oakland, “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, and then having their franchise moved by Art Modell, when they will see their payoff.

Then Cleveland fans have their Cavaliers. After being the laughing stock of the NBA for so many years, the Cavalier fortunes turned in 2003 when they drafted LeBron James straight out of high school. After a rough rookie year, James has carried the team to five straight winning years, highlighted by a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 and last year’s 66 win campaign. Unfortunately, while last year looked like a championship year, The Cavaliers fell to the Orlando Magic during the second round of the playoffs.

While the 2009-2010 season should see LeBron again guide the team into the playoffs and possibly more, there is a cloud that overhangs above it all. That cloud is that this is the last year of James’ contract with the Cavaliers, and everybody associated with the NBA is well aware of it. For about the past 3 years, NBA fans, reporters and other teams have pointed towards the summer of 2010 and speculated to what James would do when the contract expires. LeBron has only helped with the speculation about him leaving Cleveland. Whether it is wearing New York Yankee hats, openly talking up his friendship with Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, or just not embracing Cleveland, it swirls the questions.

It wasn’t until recently that James told reporters that he will no longer answer questions about his contract and the upcoming summer. While that may help him and his teammates concentrate on the year ahead and task at hand, Cavalier fans will be left with that uncertain feeling about the future of King James and their Cavaliers.

Cleveland fans are never talked about in nasty ways like you hear about fans from Boston, New York, Philadelphia or even Los Angeles. So why are they going through this long stretch of fans’ torture? If they can’t get a championship, can they at least get a hug?

Monday, November 16, 2009

This & That (Monday 11/16/09).....

A Podcast of this column with an expanded take on events can be downloaded here.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 16, 2009

--- Caught Andre Agassi on Imus in the Morning last week (can be found on iTunes under Imus in podcasts), and if he is trying to move books, he is doing a wonderful job, as I am sure they are flying off the shelves. If Agassi is trying to make people not like him, I think he is also doing a wonderful job with that objective. I always liked Agassi, and when excerpts of the book came out, I felt sorry for him, and thought when done I would like him more. Instead, after seeing and hearing him on 60 Minutes, and then on Imus, I just ask him to please stop.

He seems to have only nasty things to say about practically everyone associated with tennis at his time, and it makes him sound angry and bitter. Agassi comes across as someone who is upset that he is not discussed among the great tennis players, but at the same time, does not realize it was his fault. While Borg, Conners, McEnroe, then Sampras, and now Federer and Nadal are always in the "great" mix, Agassi is left out of the discussion, and with good reason. He did not beat the players that were always put in front of him, and now comes across with snide remarks about those players, as though how his career turned out was because of everyone else's "fluke".

For me, I would have liked for Agassi to take responsibility for his own career, respect his opponents of the time, and show the story for how others should look at it. That is, how a terrible childhood, wasted opportunities, and angry life has now come out the other side because of the love he found with his wife, Steffi Graf, his children, and the work he now does for his charities.

Instead I feel like we are getting a "woe is me" tale, that is supposed to make us feel sorry for how his career played out, and that it could have been better. Yes, Andre, it could have been better, but tennis is a one on one game, and only you made it turn out the way it did. The book may be "Open", but after hearing Agassi, I want it to be "Closed".

--- I have really liked Jon Gruden's work this year on Monday Night Football, and was pleased to see that he will be staying with ESPN for a while. He has great energy in the booth, and when compared to the other #1 analysts (Cris Collinsworth, Troy Aikmen, and Phil Simms), holds his own with any of them.

--- After Saturday night's whipping of Utah, I want to see TCU take on one of the "big boys". They will get there chance in one of the BCS Bowl games, and I want their opponents' best effort. Not this garbage we got last year from Alabama after losing to Utah, saying  that they weren't focused because they came close to playing for championship and the Sugar Bowl was a letdown.

Last three games are a 47-20 loss to Oregon, a 14-9 win over a 4-6 Arizona St. team, and then being manhandled 55-21 by Stanford at home in the Coliseum, and USC is still ranked in the polls? Maybe I care too much about these rankings (probably), or maybe we should just limit rankings to the top 15 at most. Do we really care who is #22 in the AP or BCS poll?

Speaking of Stanford whipping USC, shame of Coach Jim Harbaugh for calling for a 2 point conversion after Stanford had scored to take a 48-21 lead late in the 4th quarter. Just like Urban Meyer and his timeouts last year against Georgia, it was petty and ego driven. It is time for these college coaches to "grow up" and not have their players caught in the middle of their "manhood" contests. Take your win, celebrate, and do it with some class.

--- One story dominating the NFL after Sunday's games and that is Bill Belichick's decision to go on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line with 2 minutes to go in the game against the Colts, and the Patriots up 34-28. The try failed by inches, which allowed Peyton Manning to lead the Colts down the short field, cumulating with a 1 yard pass to Reggie Wayne for the win, 35-34.

While I would not have had the guts to make the call that Belichick did, I give him credit for believing in his offense enough to get the yard and virtually end the game. At the same time, it brings up the question about how much faith he had in his defense, and wouldn't a punt that puts Peyton Manning 69 yards away, been the better play. While Belichick is saying he had confidence in his defense, no matter how many yards were needed for the score, a former defensive player for the Patriots does not see it that way.

I feel that only one quarterback, besides his own Tom Brady, has Belichick making that call, and that is the quarterback that was across from him last night, Peyton Manning. If Favre, Brees, Rivers, Roethlisberger, or any of the other QBs in the league were across the field, the Patriots punt it away and dare them to drive the field. Instead Belichick took a silent dare from Peyton. Score one for Manning.

There were twelve other games played yesterday, and one last Thursday night.

On Thursday night, the 49ers won a stinker of a game 10-6 over the Bears. Jay Cutler had five interceptions, and neither team looked like they would make a serious playoff run.

The Saints were again sloppy, but again stay undefeated in beating the Rams 28-23.

In the match-up of NFC North leaders, the Bengals told everyone that they are for real by going into Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers 18-12. Only one TD scored in the game, and that was on a Cincinnati kickoff return. Bengals now up one on the Steelers, and two on the Ravens, and hold tiebreaker advantage against both teams.

Denver's slide continues as they lose to the Redskins 27-17. To make matters worse, have lost Kyle Orton to an ankle injury, and Chris Simms looked lost as his replacement.

Denver's bad luck is San Diego's good fortune, as they beat the Eagles 31-23, to tie the Broncos for the AFC West lead. The two teams square off Sunday in Denver. Meanwhile, Philadelphia suffered a big blow when running back Brian Westbrook suffered his second concussion, after sitting out the last two weeks because of his first concussion.

Green Bay turned on the defense and dominated the Cowboy offense in recording a 17-7 win over Dallas at Lambeau Field to halt the Cowboys' four game winning streak. Aaron Rodgers had an OK day with 189 passing yards, but was still sacked four times, but it was the Packer defense that was the story. They harassed Tony Romo into a fumble and interception, and kept the Dallas running game in check, and stopped their own two game losing skid.

In Carolina, the Panthers again were able to run the ball, while not turning in over, and took advantage of the Falcons' Michael Turner suffering an injured leg in beating Atlanta 28-19 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Dolphins needed a late field goal to hold off the Bucs 25-23. Coming off last week's victory, Tampa Bay again played hard, and almost got their second upset win in a row.

The Jaguars also needed a last second field goal in beating the Jets 24-22, but theirs came in a little different fashion. Drive for a TD, Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the one yard line with a little over a minute remaining, which forced the Jets, who had no timeouts, to watch as Jacksonville ran the clock down and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.

The Titans won their third in a row, 41-17 over the Buffalo Bills, leading the "what if Vince Young had played earlier" whispers to get louder. Those whispers are mute, as it was team losses early in the season, along with some lousy defense, that led to the 0-6 start. Chris Johnson had another great game with over 100 yards rushing and receiving.

Not to be outdone, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had 133 yards and two touchdowns, but lost 2 fumbles, in the Vikings 27-10 win over the Lions.

The Chiefs got their first rushing touchdown of the year on a 44 yard run by Jamaal Charles, as Kansas City traveled west and beat Oakland 16-10 for their second win of the season.

The Cardinals overcame an early Seattle lead, and beat the Seahawks 31-20, to keep a two game lead in the NFC West.

Overall, a good weekend of football, but one in which the Bill Belichick "go for it" call will dominate the discussions for a while.