October 17, 2008

NFL Picks Week 7

Brien (18-12):

Another good week for me last week, but of course I didn't actually bet my picks this time.

Tennessee (-8) over KANSAS CITY - The Titans haven't lost yet and also haven't failed to cover. Even as road favorites by more than a touchdown, I'm going to keep picking them.

TAMPA BAY (-11) over Seattle - The Bucs are 5-1 ATS, and the Seahawks are 1-4.

Indianapolis (-1.5) over GREEN BAY - I think last week we saw the return of the real Colts.

NY Jets (-3) over OAKLAND - I still haven't seen anything from the Raiders that makes me think they're any good.

CAROLINA (-3) over New Orleans - This game features the top rated passing offense in the league (Saints) against the second best pass defense (Panthers). Always pick defense over offense.

Jason (15-15-0)
I'm as good at picking games as an inanimate object.

Cleveland (+7.5) over WASHINGTON
- It's a lot to ask, but I just need Cleveland to take advantage of the Skins' non-existant secondary this week.

Indianapolis (-1.5) over GREEN BAY
- I really think the 4th quarter of the Texans game was the turning point.

Dallas (-7) over ST. LOUIS
- I think Dallas is going to play a statement game after a tumultuous week.

MIAMI (-2.5) over Baltimore
- I think Baltimore is settling in for the season we expected.

CINCINNATI (+10) over Pittsburgh
- Just because it's their turn.

Jeremy (16-14-0)
As tempting as the line may be in Dallas-St. Louis, avoid the Dallas game like the plague, as there's a pretty big difference between Brad Johnson and Tony Romo, and right now, we have no friggin idea who will start.

New York Jets (-3) over OAKLAND - Yes, it's a long trip west, but Oakland is HORRIBLE.

BUFFALO (+1) over San Diego - The team that I believe will win the AFC East getting points at home against a team making a long trip east. Sign me up.

WASHINGTON (-7.5) over Cleveland - I have to bet again on my 'Skins. And I can't imagine they'll let this be a trap game like last week, especially since Cleveland showed signs of life on Monday night (albeit counterfeit signs of life)

San Francisco (+11) over NEW YORK GIANTS - The Niners soundly beat the Eagles for three quarters last week and get a banged up Eli this week. I still like the Giants, but not by that much.

CHICAGO (-3.5) over Minnesota - Soon Bill Simmons will be talking about the "Brad Childress face."

Magic 8 Ball (15-15-0)
The Magic 8 Ball was brought back solidly to Earth last week by an 0-fer-5 week. It's probably harder to do that than it is to pick 5 games correctly.

OAKLAND (+3) over New York Jets - "My sources say yes." (Raiders will beat the spread)

San Diego (-1) over BUFFALO - "My answer is no." (Bills won't beat spread)

WASHINGTON (+7.5) over Cleveland - "My sources say yes." (Redskins will beat the spread)

NEW YORK GIANTS (-11) over San Francisco - "Signs point to yes." (Giants will beat the spread)

Minnesota (+3.5) over CHICAGO - "No." (Bears won't beat the spread)

Russell (16-14-0):
My return to the cellar appears more imminent with each passing week.

HOUSTON (-9.5) over Detroit -
Yeah, the Lions are that bad, plus the Texans can score.

Indy (-1.5) over GREEN BAY -
The Colts are back.

TAMPA BAY (-11) over Seattle - Seneca Wallace on the road against a really good defense? I don't think so.

NY Jets (-3) over OAKLAND - Favre and the gang over the rudderless Raiders.

Pittsburgh (-10) over CINCINNATI - Risky on the size of the spread, but the Bengals have looked really terrible lately.

Jeremy: NYJ, BUF, WAS, SF, CHI
Russell: HOU, IND, TB, NYJ, PIT

October 16, 2008

College Football Picks - Week 8

Last week was my first sub-.500 week of the year, and I think we've reached the time of year when Vegas knows more than we do. I would love to pretend that I have some incredible insight on Texas-Missouri or Maryland-Wake, but I've got no idea, can't wait to watch though. I forge ahead with optimism nonetheless, going with all road teams once again.

Georgia Tech (-2) over CLEMSON - Tech has outperformed expectations all year, and the anomaly last week can be attributed to the absence of both of the top 2 QB's, both of whom will play this week. The absence of Spiller, the QB controversy, and the coaching turmoil should distract the Tigers, who were vulnerable to begin with. The Jackets D wins a low scoring game.

Miami (-5.5) over DUKE - The Devils are better than last year, but I'm still not convinced they can compete at this level.

Taking the redshirt off could yield a conference title for Tyrod and the Hokies.

Virginia Tech (+2) over BOSTON COLLEGE - The Eagles lost more than Ryan from last year, and the Hokies rather quietly might be the best team in the ACC.

Kansas (+20) over OKLAHOMA - The Jayhawks might not have much defense, but they can still put up enough points to keep it competitive.

Can Mackenzie repeat his performance from two weeks ago?

Vanderbilt (+15) over GEORGIA - The Bulldogs continue to have offensive line issues, and the Commodores will respond after a tough loss.

Last week: 3-4-1
Season: 24-17-2

October 15, 2008

The Turning Point for US Soccer: November 19, 1989

Watching the US Men's National Team qualifier in Trinidad and Tobago tonight, I can't help but remember the biggest moment in US soccer history. It also happens to be one of my earliest memories about watching soccer.

It was November 19, 1989, and I was an 8 year old soccer fan. The US was given no chance to qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but came into Trinidad needing a win to earn the last spot in the World Cup's 24 team field. Trinidad and Tobago could advance just by holding the score even at home.

Amazingly, 21 year old Paul Caligiuri knocked in an arcing shot from outside the box that found the right side of the net. That goal won the match for the US and sent the Americans to their first World Cup since 1950.

Almost 20 years later, it's hard to explain the state of US soccer in 1989. This was before the 1994 World Cup brought the world's best soccer to America. This was before the MLS made soccer highlights a regular part of Sportscenter. This was before the Internet, Fox Soccer Channel, and ESPN showing Euro matches. Soccer was a sport played by immigrants, little kids, and weirdos. Since then, there have been regular predicitions (all wrong) that soccer is the next breakthrough sport, but the progress it has made in this country since 1989 is amazing. For that, we can thank Paul Caligiuri.

Bonus points from the video:

  • A young Bob Ley!
  • Sportscenter before it got out of hand!
  • Tony Meola!

Various Versions of the RichRod Vote of Confidence

Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin gave coach Rich Rodriguez a vote of confidence on Tuesday. I won't pretend all is well in Ann Arbor this year, but it's ridiculous that he would even feel compelled to make such a comment.

Bill Martin's comments, according to ESPN, were this:

"There's absolutely no question I'm totally supportive of Rich." "Was I surprised with the loss last Saturday [to Toledo]? Sure I was, no question about it. But I think he's the right man for this program at this time."

"You always have to, when you're sitting in my seat, look at long term. You can't look at instant gratification."

Comparing RichRod to Nick Saban (gee, thanks A.D.!): "And where is he now? [No. 2] in the country? Second year..." "So things turn quickly."

Ok, I hate to play lawyer again but that is a pretty half-assed vote of confidence, especially when there was no need for one in the first place. "I think he's the right man for this program at this time." How about "Rich is the right man for this job"? Why qualify it with "I think" and "at this time"? Here's how it should have gone down:

Correct Answer

"You're kidding right? You're seriously asking me if my first-year coach who installed an entirely new offensive system, one that has been highly effective elsewhere, has my support just because we got off to a slow start? Get a life."

Alternative - Silent, contemputous stare for remainder of press conference.

Alternative - "Oh, before I forget, have you seen Michael Phelps' tattoo?"

Honest Answer

"We could be 0-6 without a single field goal this year and Rich would be my coach. Seriously, I just had the M Club cough up millions of dollars to bring two coaches here from West Virginia. Those same donors have lost enough money recently. I'm not asking them for more now. I like my job too."
Weasel Answer

"We brought Rich Rodriguez in to secure our position as one of the premiere football programs in the county. So long as we're moving towards that goal, Rich is doing everything we asked of him."

Revisionist Answer

"We knew we were going to have a tough time early this year. I mean, look at last year. We lost to Appalachian State at home. We scheduled home games against teams we expected to be able to come into the Big House and test our squad. We know this team in November will look nothing like what you saw early on, and we'll build on that this year and next.

Alumni-Pleasing Answer

"Michigan Football has always been about team football. In recent years, we got away from that somewhat. Individuals were fighting for the spotlight. We're returning to true team football, and the boys are excited. The spread offense makes everyone better than any one individual, and they are seeing that. No one in this country can beat 11 Michigan Men working together."
Worst Possible Answer
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response." (Sorry, that one never works. Ask any married man.)

October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day

Remember, the holiday is not about Columbus himself, but rather the spirit of all the explorers who established our great land to be free of the tyranny of soccer. For that, we should all celebrate.

So you want to be a REAL sports journalist...

Some have said that bloggers are those who wish to be sports journalists but don't have the talent to be... as in "those who can, play. those who cannot, coach." Well, we here at ECB have never had any aspirations to be real "sports journalists," but we are doing a bit of public service for our readers or fellow bloggers in the blogosphere who believe that sports journalism is the path they want to take.

So you, aspiring sports journalist, can't wait for your trip to the stadium, your all access pass to the field pregame, your access to the press box buffet during the game with one of the best views of the stadium (although I'd put my diet-rific Lean Pocket and frozen grape in-game meal up against any of your press box buffet lunches), and your access to the locker room postgame to try to get that non-cliched, off-the-cuff quote from the player that will make your story one of the most frequently read and cited articles of the entire week.

To quote my inner Lee Corso... "not so fast my friend." For every experience that you get to write home to your parents and boast to your high school friends at your ten-year reunion (making up for the fact that you were the acne-filled, pockmarked editor of your high school paper who went to prom with the head of the A/V Club), you get an experience like those writers covering the Redskins-Rams game yesterday received.

For you see, due to a "minor" water main break in the vicinity of FedEx Field, the showers in the Redskins locker room were off limits yesterday. That's right. Members of the sports media had the luxury of going into the locker room, crowding around Pete Kendall's locker (and other 300+ pound linemen), men who had sweated for five straight hours on a bright sunny day, probably sweated off ten pounds, and breathing in that Odorific air, all in the name of getting that precious byline.

Even Joe Bugel smells like mothballs and sweat after 5 hours baking in the sun, let alone Rabach, Jansen, Samuels, Kendall, et al.

Some may say that they pity the players for the events in Landover. But hey, that's practically assumption of risk when you choose to play in Prince George's County. In fact, they were just being neighborly given how many residents in P.G. are being foreclosed upon. A good Redskins P.R. person could spin it as some sort of "empathy for the locals" event.

Don't forget the true victims here. The sportswriters. Ladies and gentlemen, we at ECB hope that you recover from your traumatic experience soon and have only a short period of convalescence.

October 12, 2008

Debunking the Myths of the 2008 NFL Season

After five weeks of the 2008 NFL season, we thought we knew something. Week 6 showed us that we were wrong about lots of those things. You could call today "Debunking Day." We here at ECB will run down the NFL myths that were debunked today.

Myth #1: The Colts aren't the same team without Bob Sanders
The Colts were underwhelming in their first 4 games, and lots of the blame was placed on Bob Sanders' injury. The Colts came alive against Baltimore today, looking like the Super Bowl contender they've been in recent years.

Myth #2: The NFC East is the league's toughest division
Last week there was talk that three of the top 5 or 6 teams in the NFL were in the NFC East. Today two of them lost to bad teams in the Rams and the Cardinals. The Cowboys and Redskins are still likely to make the playoffs, but both the NFC and AFC South might be tougher divisions.

Myth #3: Joe Flacco is a prodigy who will lead the Ravens deep in the playoffs
It was tough to be down on the Ravens after close losses to the Steelers and Titans. Joe Flacco looked decent in both games, and even with a tough schedule the Ravens looked poised for a run at a wild card slot. With three interceptions in a 31-3 humiliation in Indianapolis, the Ravens look to be at least a year away.

Myth #4: The Redskins are for real
Sure, they're 4-2 with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, but the Redskins are not one of the best teams in the country. They could still make the playoffs, but the Rams exposed the Washington offense. St. Louis had given up at least 30 points in 7 straight games, but the Skins could only manage 7 points in the first 3 quarters. Their "ownership" of the fourth quarter wasn't even enough to best the lackluster Rams.

Myth #5: The "Wildcat" formation is a gimmick
Sure it was against the Texans, but the Dolphins may be on to something.

Myth #6: Dan Orlovsky is a big-time NFL quarterback
What, no one believed that myth?

[Update: Tirico Suave has the video]

Myth #7: Tom Cable will turn around the Raiders' season
Guess not.