Time to Play a Little NFL Over/Under

So each year I’m looking for different stuff to bet on. A few years back, one of my friends convinced me to bet the coin toss at the Super Bowl, while we got a little carried away, Heads prevailed but I still felt silly for gambling on such a meaningless thing. So let’s look at something more meaningful… Team wins and losses! Below I’ve listed Vegas’ lines for total team wins applicable to the 2013 Regular Season. Here goes nothing:

Arizona Cardinals – Over 5½
While Carson Palmer isn’t striking fear into the hearts of many opponents, the Cards’ defense is good

Atlanta Falcons – Under 10
I’m going out on a limb here, but the Falcons looked shaky in the pre-season and play a tough schedule

Baltimore Ravens – Under 8½
Super Bowl hangover, not to mention all the weapons they lost

Buffalo Bills – Under 6½ 
EJ Manuel could be the next rookie sensation, but he’s already banged up

Carolina Panthers – Under 7
I have a feeling this is the year it all blows up for Cam Newton.

Chicago Bears – Under 8½
Speaking of it all blowing up, how long is Cutler going to last with that O-line?

Cincinnati Bengals – Over 8½
This would be my lock of the century, Cinnci could be playing for a first round bye this year

Cleveland Browns – Under 6
While 6 is a reasonable expectation, they still have to play the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals for 6 games

Dallas Cowboys – Over 8½
This is my sleeper team of the year. Revamped defense and a Romo looking to disprove the nay-sayers

Denver Broncos – Under 11½
13 wins was impressive last term, tougher schedule this year, but 11 wins still wins the division with ease

Detroit Lions – Over 8
The addition of Reggie Bush was clutch, remove some bad breaks last year and this is a playoff team

Green Bay Packers – Under 10½
10 wins is likely, great offense but injuries and a questionable Defense keep them from a better record

Houston Texans – Under 10½
Texans have some really great players but I’m concerned about Arian Foster’s health, and he’s their bread & butter

Indianapolis Colts – Over 8½
Some people are sleeping on this team, I wouldn’t, not with Luck on their side (sorry bad pun, apologies)

Jacksonville Jaguars – Under 5
Will struggle to get to 3 wins,even with a healthy MJD

Kansas City Chiefs – Over 7½
My sleeper pick in the AFC. There’s a ton of question marks here but the combo of Andy Reid and Alex Smith could surprise some people

Miami Dolphins – Push 8
I’m not as keen as some others, Tannehill is too inconsistent, they’re the second best team in the AFC East though.

Minnesota Vikings – Under 7½
Last year was a fluke, plain and simple. Teams that limit Peterson even just a little will confound the Vikes’ offense

New England Patriots – Over 11
Brady will be Brady, no matter who he’s throwing to.

New Orleans Saints – Over 9
Sean Payton and co. will be back for revenge, Expect the Saints to contend for a division title

New York Giants – Under 9
Injuries already a concern, and Eli was less than effective late in the year last season.

New York Jets – Under 6½
This could be the worst team in football. I’ll refrain from commenting on the stories already beaten to death

Oakland Raiders – Under 5½
Rebuilding years rarely produce more than 5 wins. Terrel Pryor is not the answer

Philadelphia Eagles – Over 7½
I think Chip Kelly could catch some teams off guard and rattle off a few early season victories

Pittsburgh Steelers – Under 9
This looks to be the poorest Steelers team in recent memory. Coaching staff will face major questions throughout the season

San Diego Chargers – Under 7½
A confusing team to peg down, but with an increasingly shaky Rivers at the helm it’s more likely to go south.

San Francisco 49ers – Under 11
I think 11 wins sounds just about right, but also think Kaepernick could face a few growing pains along the way

Seattle Seahawks – Over 10½
While I think Seattle is being a bit over-hyped, I still like them to finish the year with a solid record. Can almost bank on 8 home wins off the bat

St. Louis Rams – Under 7½
While I really like the Rams’ chances of being a sleeper team, there are just too many areas of weakness on offense. This could also be the most competitive NFL division

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Under 7½
I think Freeman loses his job at some point this year. Revis can only guard one guy at a time on defense

Tennessee Titans – Under 6½
Jake Locker looked like a QB with potential a few years back, now I can only envision him holding  a clipboard

Washington Redskins – Under 8½
I can see this team winning 10 games this year, but in their division and with the health of RGIII in question odds favor a slight drop, 8-8 is more realistic

BONUS
The week 1 match-up between the Falcons and Saints looks to be a shootout, take the over (54 pts)
So that’s that. We’ll check back at season’s end to see how we did.

It’s a QB Injury Epidemic

As Jerry Seinfeld might say… what’s the deal with QB injuries? I mean really? broken thumb, cracked ribs, sprained toe… who ARE these people?! In all seriousness, the king of sitcom reruns has a point, what’s up with the casualty count in the NFL right now? Sure there have been years where a large number of players get injured, but typically they are at the skilled positions like RB, WR, CB, etc. When was the last time this many playcallers went down?

The number of players out right now is staggering (Manning, Henne, Vick, Cutler, Schaub, Collins, Campbell, Leinart, Cassel, and Kolb)… plus injuries to Bradford, Romo, Stafford, Vince Young, Hasslebeck, and Tarvaris Jackson, who have since recovered from their dings. Add 1 more if you count Roethlisberger‘s broken finger and questionable status going into Kansas City this past Sunday. Realistically that’s 15 teams who have had to wonder about the status of their QBs at some point 11 weeks into this season. That’s nearly half the teams in the NFL, and at least one player in 7 out of the 8 NFL divisions!

As predicted by many, Vick took a pounding and didn't hold up this season

This doesnt even count those players that have been benched due to poor performances… McNabb, Gabbert, Grossman, Beck, Freeman, Painter, and Orton. Adding it all up, we see that 59 different Quarterbacks have thrown a pass this year. That’s right FIFTY NINE! An average of nearly two QB’s per NFL team. Unfortunately the stat department at WhitSport isn’t nearly the size of that at ESPN, but going back over the past few seasons an interesting revelation was found… The 2010 NFL season featured 70 different QBs, while the 2009 season saw 68 different passers.

So why does the 2011 season seem so much more brutal in terms of playcallers going down? Simply put, it’s the magnitude of the QBs that are hurt. Six of the QBs that have been mentioned in the above paragraphs played in the post-season last year, and two were in MVP discussions. With guys like Manning, Schaub, Cutler, and Vick on the shelf, NFL fans have been exposed to the likes of Curtis Painter and John Kafka. Even Matt Leinart got in on the action. The other reason these injuries have garnered such attention is due to the playoff implications. The Texans will still likely run away with the AFC South division crown, but may have to rely on the arm of a rookie QB once they make their first ever post-season appearance. The same situation unfolds in Chicago, where the Bears were on a roll, up until Jay Cutler broke his thumb.

Tebow gets in on the action while a disappointing Orton looks on (before eventually being cut)

In the end, several conclusions can be drawn. The Quarterback position is one of the most vulnerable in all of sports; injuries are prevalent and being benched is never an unthinkable option. Though we didn’t delve this deep, it was fairly evident that teams which started more than 1 QB during a season have far less appearances in the playoffs. Overall, the QB position remains one of the most crucial spots in football in terms of solidarity and consistency. It also becomes fairly clear why Offensive Linemen are drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Keeping a top-tier QB is essential to success, and an upright passer is a healthy passer. Overall, this season has surely seen its fair share of injuries to the NFL’s marquee players. Let’s hope the rest can remain healthy and set up another wild finish to an already-entertaining season.

NFL Playoff Predictions

The NFL playoffs are rarely boring, even a 33-14 blowout by the Ravens in New England last year was very watchable. So this weekend’s games are already must-see-TV. But what about the actual match-ups? Many are rematches of games we’ve seen not so long ago. The Chiefs and Ravens battled in a back and forth game in Week 1 last season, and, I’ll use this moment to drop a name I may never mention again: Brodie Croyle threw two TDs in a losing effort. The Jets and Colts met more recently, and in a much more meaningful setting: an AFC Title game just 348 days ago. The Packers also edged the Eagles in Week 1, during Michael Vick’s coming out party.

Ok, so some of this weekend’s match-ups may seem like no contests. But I assure you, despite New Orleans giving a 10.5 point spread to Seattle on the road, expect stronger seeming road teams to still have their hands full. Sure, over the last 3 years, home teams are 6-6 in the first round of the playoffs (hardly home-field advantage). But how many times have we said “that team played in an inferior division, they’ll get crushed”, only to be proven so wrong on Saturday or Sunday? See Arizona the past two years for evidence. Without further ado, a titillating month of football is on hand…

WILD CARD WEEKEND

SATURDAY:

I like the Colts to top the Jets once again. Rex Ryan may have grabbed more headlines than anyone this season, but his football team isn’t looking all that hot lately. Sure they’ve had tough opponents in recent weeks, Bears, Steelers, Pats… but Sanchez is dinged up, and the running game has slowed down a bit. Plus, again when have we been able to say this before, Peyton Manning is practically flying under the radar right now. In a season decimated by injuries, the Colts still pulled out the division, and managed to rediscover their running game over the last 4 weeks of the season. Pick: Jets 13, Colts 24

Along with 95% of America, I am going with the Saints in their contest at Qwest Field. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Hasselbeck has risen to the occasion in the past, but a 35-year old QB who has missed 3 games due to hip problems is past his prime. Drew Brees may be turning the ball over more this year, but with Reggie Bush back in the line-up, the Saints are obviously a more dynamic team, and will be able to find more ways to win… even if this ends up being a tighter contest. Pick: Saints 28, Seahawks 10

SUNDAY:

While most people are handing this game to the Ravens, i am not. I think this may be the closest game of the weekend. The Ravens haven’t been blowing teams out lately, and the Cheifs may be one of the only teams in the league capable of breaking through the Baltimore D with the running game. Expect a mistake here and there from both Flacco and Cassel, but big plays on defense keeping this one tight. Pick: Ravens 16, Chiefs 17

The Packers – Eagles game promises to be the weekend’s showcase match-up. After Green Bay beat Philly earlier in the season, Michael Vick said “I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would’ve had a chance to win the game;” he entered in the 2nd quarter after Kevin Kolb was concussed. Aaron Rodgers is being touted as the next great QB, but on Sunday he’ll simply be looking for his 1st ever post-season victory. I think he’ll get it, based on the Eagles’ lack of defense the last few weeks. Pick: Packers 30, Eagles 20

DIVISIONAL/CONFERENCE FINALS

AFC: With expected match-ups of Patriots v Chiefs, and Steelers vs Colts, more recent clashes come to mind… Practically a third of the Chiefs coaching/management came from New England; will that give them a leg up on the pole-setters? Not likely… As for the Steelers, they beat a favored Indy team in 2006 in their Super Bowl XL march. I expect a solid Steelers defense to stand strong at home, setting up a NE vs Pitt AFC Championship game. The Patriots simply own the Steelers with Brady, no matter where the game’s played. I’ll take New England as my Super Bowl pick

NFC: As the Saints match-up with the Bears, one thing will determine the outcome: turnovers. Both QBs have thrown their fair-share of picks this season, and if one comes when the game’s on the line, it could determine the outcome. Bears have proved me wrong all season, so I’ll take them to squeak out a close game. As for the Packers, they run up against Matt Ryan, in Atlanta. I like it when teams buck history, and will take GB to pull an upset…. thus, setting up an NFC North clash for the Championship. The Packers looked awful good in weeks 16-17, and really seem to be clicking now. Repeat the low scoring game at Soldier field, with the same result.

SUPER BOWL XLV

The game’s in Dallas, meaning both teams on a neutral field, in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI. Amazing that both Favre and Bledsoe’s understudies, would be the ones to play, 14 years later. I still think New England will come out on top, but something about Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers is really tempting. Since the Pack have developed a tendency for losing close games, I’ll take Bellichick, Woodhead, and Brady’s locks.

Pick: Patriots 27, Packers 23

NFL: Regular Season Wrap Up

Urlacher lead the Bears to an NFC North title

Ever notice how much things change when you look back just a few weeks in an NFL season? I was reading a Sports Illustrated from early November yesterday, and a few things caught my eye… the Bears offensive struggles had people predicting a failed season to come (yet they ended up winning NFC North)… the Giants were ranked as the NFC East’s best on most experts’ power rankings (one 4th quarter meltdown and DeSean Jackson punt return changed all that)… the Chargers were closing in on spoiling the Chiefs AFC West party (so much for that Norv Turner)… the Colts were finally going to miss the playoffs (Peyton Manning had other ideas). The point is, the NFL changes so much from Weeks 10-17, that it’s near impossible to predict final standings more than half way through; we can’t say the same thing about the NBA now can we (already putting $ down on a Lakers-Heat Final).

The overall theme of this season has to be parity. The league and the game itself have become so balanced that A) no team was a run away favorite 10 games into the season, and B) teams that were awful last year competed and grabbed playoff spots this year (and vice versa, see Panthers). So many kudos can go around to various players and teams, whom all deserve them, so let’s begin:

OFFENSE

Players of the Year:

AFC: Arian Foster- in a once pass-happy offense, this once spurned RB led the league in rushing yards and TDs, and delighted those who snagged him late in fantasy drafts.

NFC: Michael Vick- amazed fans as the dual threat QB showed that he can still run. The lack of INTs also surprised many who hadn’t forgotten his last three years in Atlanta

Breakout Seasons:

AFC: Peyton Hillis- had you ever heard of this guy before 2010? The guy got 13 carries last year, but turned his 270 hauls this year into pay-dirt.

NFC: Roddy White- solidified himself as the best wide out in the NFC, had 20 more catches than anyone else in the conference.

MVP:

AFC: Tom Brady- the lack of interceptions and ability to win defines him as a competitor

NFC: Aaron Rogers- league’s 2nd best rated passer, and Packers’ offensive heart and soul

Rookies of the Year

AFC: Maurkice Pouncey- centered every game for the 12-4 Steelers in his first season, and is already a Pro-Bowler.

NFC: Sam Bradford- dude had to throw over 50 times in his 1st NFL game, and carried the putrid Rams to within one win of a division title.

DEFENSE

Players of the Year:

AFC: Jerod Mayo- led the league in tackles and showed how much of a non-joke the Patriots defense really was.

NFC: Brian Urlacher- 126 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception, the man did it all, including lead a defense that ranked 4th overall in the NFL

Breakout Seasons:

AFC: Cameron Wake- this beast of a man had 14 sacks as a linebacker, nuff said.

NFC: Terrell Thomas- provided solid play where the Gmen have lacked in recent years.

MVP:

AFC: Troy Polamalu- the Steelers really missed the Hair in the home loss to the Jets, his health is the key to the Steelers postseason plans.

NFC: Clay Matthews- with 13.5 sacks in just his 2nd year, he’s becoming a force to be reckoned with; watching him plays frightens me on my couch

Rookies of the Year

AFC: Devin McCourty- the 1st rounder out of Rutgers stepped right in and intercepted his way to a 14-2 record. Already a top 5 corner in the league

NFC: Ndamukong Suh- showed no learning curve, he jumped right in to a porous Lions defense and made an impact.

Check back tomorrow for Full Playoff Predictions…

NFL: Deadlocked Divisional Duels

In the NFL, 8 teams combine for an alliteration-lover’s dream, see blog-title. Fancy naming schemes aside, football consistently boasts the least parity of any of the four major sports, and gives fans competitive treats year in and year out. This is year is no different, as 4 different divisions feature a pair of teams, with equal records, fighting for the division crown, and more importantly… an automatic playoff spot. So which teams should we expect to be playing in January of 2011? Let’s take a closer look:

AFC East: While most people thought the Jets and Patriots would battle things out for supremacy in this division, few could have predicted how things have played out. With the departure of Randy Moss, to the Brady/Beiber haircut controversy, to the Jets being shutout, and Darrell Revis’ lack of dominance, it’s already been an interesting year. Can the Dolphins end their home woes and catch these two? Whitsport Pick: Patriots (2 words: Bill Belichick)

AFC North: While some expected Cincinnati to challenge for this division’s crown, it’s now clear that the Steelers and Ravens are the two best teams in the division. Many are also slotting them for Super Bowl runs. With each squad displaying a mix of solid defense and play-makers on offense, their December 5th showdown in Baltimore could decide the division. Whitsport Pick: Ravens (Better Offense right now)

AFC South: Looks like this division is the best in football. With each team .500 or better, it’ll be a dog-fight to the end for the division championship. Good thing Michael Vick doesn’t play here… too soon? The Colts are always here, and the Titan’s defense has been scary for a few years now. Just one game back lie the Texans, who are the enigmatic team of the year so far, and the Jags, who are a close second. Odds are Manning will do his norm and take home the crown, but with Indy’s injuries, maybe this is the year another team trumps them. Whitsport Pick: Colts (1 word: Peyton)

NFC West: Yet again, it looks like nobody wants to win the division. Will we see a 7-9 team in the post-season?! The Seahawks and Rams currently share the top spot, but something tells me we’re in store for a few more twists and turns over the remaining 8 weeks. Although his notion seemed insane at the time, owner Jed York’s prediction of still winning the division could happen… the Niners are just two games off the pace. Whitsport Pick: Rams (underdog story of the year)

Despite not being completely square, all other divisions in the NFL are separated by just one game or less. The Saints trail the Falcons by just a half game in the NFC South, and two surprise teams, the Chiefs and Raiders, are battling things out in in the AFC West. Throw in the NY-Philly battle, and the Vikings making run after the Packers.

The end of the season is sure to be another memorable one. With no team running away with their division, this could be the closest NFL season we’ve seen in years. Not to mention that pre-season favorites Dallas, Cincinnati, and San Francisco are a combined 5-19. Will we see another 0-16? or will Buffalo finally earn a victory? Either way it looks to be a crowded party for the #1 Draft pick, throwing the Panthers and Broncos into the mix.

Even Dub-ya doesn't know what to make of the Cowboys this year

NFL Predictions: 2010

Let us take this opportunity to thank God for the finer things in life… it is after all, yet again, once more… FOOTBALL SEASON! So grab your nachos, fire up the grill, and check the cooler, because game time is upon us. First let’s take a look at Whitsport’s picks for division champs and playoff contenders in each division…

AFC

East – Miami Dolphins

Why they’ll win? The Fins have an improving defense and can run the heck out of the ball. Seems like the right make-up to me
Player to Watch: Brandon Marshall – WR -could put up some serious numbers, and seems like a favorite target for Chad Henne, duh!

North – Baltimore Ravens

Why they’ll win? with the addition of Anquan Boldin, QB Joe Flacco now seems to have even more options on offense.
Player to Watch: Ray Rice – RB –  looks to carry an even heavier load on ground and through the air after his breakout season.

South – Houston Texans

Why they’ll win? it might be a stretch, but they have one of the most dangerous offenses in the AFC, with good depth across the board.
Player to Watch: Arian Foster- RB – had a monster end of the season last year. Expect more games, more carries, and more happy fantasy owners.

–> For more picks, predictions, and prognostications visit the 2010 NFL Preview Page

Promotion/Relegation Possibility

Zack Greinke would get the chance to play for a team that people actually knew existed

As the curtain closes on the Premier League season I’d like to reflect a bit and take a look at the concept of relegation. As a blogger for all-things sports here in the USA, I contemplated what life in the American Sports would be like if relegation were in play. There are so many factors to how the system would work that I had a hard time keeping track of them all. Let’s break it down into Pros vs Cons.

PROS

#1. More to play for at the end of seasons. Right now, when a team in pro- basketball, hockey, or football is struggling, they might as well lose the remainder of their games to ensure a good draft pick in the off-season. The Pirates and Nationals fighting it out late in the season to survive in a top flight division, now sounds a bit more interesting.

#2. Plays in with Free Agency. Players are always looking to go to a place where they’ll compete at a high level, and garner higher wages. Promotion and relegation are major proponents of this system. Bigger name English players typically try and remain in the Premier League and will fight for a trade to a team remaining in the top division.

#3. Place for aging veterans to still play. Guys like Barry Bonds, Brett Favre, and Chris Chelios can go somewhere and play out their 40s and 50s while still being the big men on campus. Washed up ballplayers may be over the hill, but their experience is still valued and they can still compete at the lower levels.

#4. Support of revenue sharing. Being in an upper league would benefit teams that normally couldnt afford to pay players higher salaries. Promotion would void this completely, as “lesser teams” would now have an influx of money to help improve the club, and keep it competitive.

#5. Excitement is essentially doubled. Attendance would be boosted to watch teams in the majors and minors battle it out for promotion or relegation. Fans would be treated to bonus exhilaration after things at the top of the leagues were decided weeks earlier.

#6. More divisions = more teams.  With the addition of relegation comes more teams looking to get into the mix, local fans already follow their home-town teams; LA could finally have their football team, Kansas City could finally get their hockey team, and new basketball teams could spawn in places like New York, Philly, and Detroit. Many smaller English teams are even owned by the locals of the town.

CONS

#1. Lack of history for a large number of newly promoted teams. Imagine the Toledo Mudhens or Albuquerque Isotopes playing big league baseball? Tough to do isn’t it? Although these histories would be built over time, just as they were in Europe.

#2. Waffling fan bases… sure teams in England suffer a hit in attendance and merchandising when their teams take the drop, but the majority of the fan base will stick with their team, and follow their performance in the lower league. American fans won’t have that same patience.

#3. Economic hardships are magnified. Every once and a while, a fairly wealthy team like Newcastle gets relegated. Imagine the N.Y. Mets down in AAA, they’d likely be back up the next season. Most of the smaller teams wouldn’t have the same luxury. If the Predators or Coyotes of the NHL got sent down, that’d be all she wrote. Teams would file for bankruptcy; not good for the sport.

#4. Perennial powerhouses out of the spotlight. If a teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs (highest grossing team in the NHL) were to go down, all hell would break loose in Canada. Imagine one bad year for the Cowboys could equal an exit from the country’s biggest sports league.

#5. Loss of the farm-systems. With baseball teams now all in play for who’s going up or down, baseball and hockey teams would be forced to create new pools to which they can draw young players to replace under-performing or injured ones. Plus, sports with non-existent farm systems like Football and Basketball would need time to build up lower divisions.

With every pro exists a con. Is it the best system? Probably not, but it may just be better than the one we’ve got now! Whitsport has had it’s take, now what’s yours?

Promotion advocates look no further than Burnley last year to support their cases... exciting underdog stories would run rampant