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.

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 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

NFL Draft Predictions… and Beyond

In the NFL, the draft can make or break you. Most teams, moreso their fans, have found that this motto is true in many ways. Blowing the #1 pick in the draft killed teams like Cleveland in 1999, Texans in 2002, and the Raiders in 2007. So teams spend millions of dollars finding out who will and won’t be added to the list of biggest busts. Without further ado, I present you Whitsport’s Top 10 things you might see during this year’s NFL Draft, and the aftermath that will ensue.

10. Teams will address their needs… St. Louis needs a QB, Redskins needs help at O-Line, and the Browns are desperate for players in their Secondary. These requirements will all be addressed.

9. Trades will be rampant… The Skins, Bills, Jets, 49ers, and Broncos are all likely trade parties. Washington’s got a solitary pick in the first 2 days of the draft, Shannahan is not cool with that. The Niners have two first-rounders and could parlay one of them into a few 2nd and 3rd round picks.

8. Late round QBs will be the ones to pan out in the long run… John Skelton (Fordham) and Tony Pike (Cincinnati) to me resemble the new NFL-prototypical passers. Each stands 6’6” tall with smarts and capable arms.

7. Running back class will be lacking compared to previous years… Spiller, Matthews and Best to name a few, just don’t seem as NFL ready as some backs in previous drafts.

6. The Raiders will provide shock value… as always, Al Davis will find a way to draft someone like Dez Bryant or CJ Spiller way early at #8

5. Tim Tebow will be taken in the first round… some teams just love him and will be willing to draft him for the future (which is exactly what he needs). Being able to sit behind an NFL veteran play caller for a few years is an optimal situation for the former Heisman winner.

4. Offensive Linemen will be at a premium… I wouldn’t be surprised to see 7 or 8 go on Thursday alone.

3. Dez Bryant will fall into the lap of Bill Belichick at #22… and everyone outside of New England will groan as he molds him into a well behaved athlete of success and prominence.

2. Bradford will go #1… but will turn out to be a bust. He’s simply not built like an NFL Quarterback in my opinion. I think the amount of hits he’ll take playing behind a weak line will be his undoing.

1. Steelers will find a new home for Roethlisberger… The Steelers management has begun damage control; after cutting ties with Santonio Holmes, the Steelers will likely part with Big Ben to address their needs along the offensive line and at Cornerback, and continue sending their message that personal conduct troubles are unwelcome in their locker room.

Best Available at Each position:

QB: Sam Bradford- despite the big name, I feel this is a weak choice for top spot, a lot of risk drafting Bradford #1 overall. Jimmy Clausen might actually be a better prospect

RB: CJ Spiller- his 4.27 speed at the combine, 5-11 frame, and upright running style makes him the best RB suited for success at the next level

WR: Dez Bryant- could be the best Wide Receiver we’ve seen in a number of years, why does it seem like everyone, yet no one wants to draft him?

TE: Jermaine Gresham- The Oklahoma product doesn’t have the best speed or agility, but he has the size and strength needed to play in the pros.

OL: Russell Okung- we’ve seen our fair share of busts on O-line over the years, but if he can maintain his fitness, he could revolutionize the position

DL: Ndamukong Suh- just a flat out beast, he’ll make an impact in the NFL within a year or two, no matter where they play him. His strength and ability to shed tackles makes him a good fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

LB: Rolando McClain- the Alabama native won the Lambert and Butkus awards; he is fast and strong and could pan out to be the next Brian Urlacher.

CB: Joe Haden- an impressive athlete, doesn’t have the same speed as a few others at his position, but his “smooth” play in the secondary really turned some heads throughout his college career.

SF: Eric Berry- some are touting him as the best player in the draft, but Safeties don’t get picked #1, he’ll be a stud for sure. Pound for pound the best available at safety, and impressive in a highly competitive SEC.

FEBRUARY: The Most Boring Month in Sports

Well sports fans that’s it… The Super Bowl has come and gone. The NHL and NBA have yet to enter the home stretch. March Madness is still over a month away. Even catchers and pitchers have yet to report… It’s February folks, the most boring month in sports each year. As an avid fan of sports talk radio, and sports chatter in general, I find that this time of year can be unfulfilling as a sports fan. The end of the NFL season each year, signifies the doldrums of winter, as Snowstorms pummel the East Coast, and sports fanatics endure a relatively uneventful 4 week period. In the meantime, let’s explore some other options that may satisfy some sports lovers’ palates:

– European Football (Soccer): with title races heating up in leagues across the continent, Europe features an exciting sport that is an international phenomenon. With a slew of teams vying for the top 4 spots in the English Premier League, the FA Cup 5th round starting, and the European Champions League knockout stages set to begin, February is actually a fairly exciting month to be a footy fan.

– NCAA Basketball: with conference play in full swing, we see those match-ups that make our mouths water, like Duke v UNC. With dozens of teams on the bubble, players put it all on the line, unlike the NBA. It may not be March Madness yet, but wouldn’t it be nice to do a little research and get a leg up in your office pool next month?

– Winter Olympics: it only comes around every 4 years, but Olympic memories are made each time, especially in the highly competitive winter sports like figure skating, ice hockey, downhill skiing, and bobsledding. Did I mention CURLING?! Enough said

– Daytona 500: personally I am not a racing fan at all, but NASCAR may get a boost at Daytona this year, as Danica Patrick makes her first appearance on the circuit, and is sure to steal a good deal of headlines

– NBA All Star Weekend: even though its basically the same each year, the dunk contest, 3point contest, skills challenge, and Rookie Sophomore game may be better than channel surfing,

If none of these options tickle your fancy, have no fear, hope is on the horizon. Just 32 days til you can start filling out those brackets. Only 54 days until Opening Day in MLB. You’ll be back in football’s cozy arms when the 2010 Draft airs in 71 days. In the mean time, try something new… you never know!