TOJ Wild-Card Weekend Picks

TOJ with his wild-card weekend picks. Who do you like?

After a very average season of regular season picks against the spread, I am ready to impart my wisdom on the wild-card round of the playoffs. If you have said before the season that I’d be settling in this weekend to watch T.J. Yates, Andy Dalton, and Tim Tebow play, I would have said you were as crazy as Rex Ryan when he decided to name Santonio Holmes captain. Oh well.

Final Regular Season Record: 124-120-5

Houston (-3) vs. Cincinnati – This should be an evenly matched, fairly low-scoring game. I do think the Houston running game will control the clock and Arian Foster or Ben Tate will break a big run at some point that will prove to be difference. Cincinnati made it into the playoffs without ever posting a truly impressive win, I do think this will be tight into the fourth quarter but they won’t be able to make the big play late to win this game.

Detroit (+10.5) vs. New Orleans – I do think New Orleans will ultimately win this game but it will be closer than most people anticipate. Detroit has the firepower to run up points in the dome and I think they will remain in striking distance until the fourth quarter, when Drew Brees will make a few plays that Matthew Stafford won’t.

New York Giants (-3) vs. Atlanta – A very evenly matched game, in which both teams should run up a good amount of points. The key to this game will be how well Atlanta can run the football in order to set up the play action passing game where they can hurt the Giants secondary with their big play weapons. Ultimately, in a game this tight I am going with the better quarterback, who is Eli Manning.

Pittsburgh (-8.5) vs. Denver – This game has 20-3 written all over it. Tim Tebow isn’t ready to beat this Pittsburgh defense.

The Slow March: First Casualties Of Black Monday

Justin looks at the teams in the NFL who fired their coaches and where they go from here

The Rams have excuses. Sam Bradford got too buff, cornerbacks came down with the Greg Oden syndrome (6 cornerbacks on injured reserve), the return of the manchild Josh McDaniels (who may or may not be the future Jets offensive coordinator). Things are tough in St. Louis. Pujols skipped out. Although, looking back on it, it was one of the shrewdest and most cost effective moves in the last decade in the MLB. The Angels will wish they didn’t pull a Steinbrenner in 5 years. Trust me, I’ve been watching the Yankees like a third work anthropologist. Things fail in New York. Fail big.
Bumping Bradford will be like trying to find a date for a cousin whose name shows up on the local ex-con web site. It’s hard to avoid the fact that there were more than one game this year in which he performed like a one legged pirate with osteoporosis.

It’s very real, this uncertainty. It’s going to be snowing in St Louis soon, and to those with the NFL network, the TIVO replays of the Rams season is going to be like Chinese water torture. There will be no bright spots. It’s a Rorschach test without answers.

In being fair to the good people of San Lewie. I will look for something that doesn’t cause you to stare out the window one last time, call up that old dope dealer from your factory job, and tell him you’d like to meet him somewhere off I-95, in the deep woods.

There’s essentially two ways of looking at the Rams offseason. Both will cause Rams fans to scramble to put Bradford jerseys on Ebay, and hold off on the Brandon Lloyd for Pro Bowl resuscitation campaign. Keep Bradford, let Pettis and Salas show off what they’ve got in a full training camp, let Brandon Lloyd acclimate to ,another year of McDaniels? And at least have faith in Matt Kalil, who will be the only Rams player to make the Pro Bowl next year, as opposed to the 0 that made it this year. The upside is that if Bradford is protected, and has a full year of Pettis, Salas, Mark Clayton and Lloyd, and he fails miserably, there is finally a legitimate excuse to part with him and let him attempt to revive his career in some miserable place like Minnesota or Miami.

The other? Vegas. Get Blackmon with the second pick, have a starting duo of Lloyd and Blackmon, while the rest scramble to nail a slot receiver job, and pray to god they reincorporate the spread offense, looking for 4,000 yards passing and giving Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams a break from the bone crunching they’ve had to take all year. Take a cornerback in the second round (Al Harris is 37), and do some more work on the defensive line with the third round pick. They’ll have a tough time selling this team to anyone through free agency.

Turning from the worst division in the NFC to a team with the most and least potential at once in the NFC South. Has everyone learned their lesson about young head coaches in the NFL? Have a “run” that doesn’t even get you into the playoffs and you become a pariah. Articles about Raheem Morris coming up in the streets, toughness, Dre Beats, Zip Em Up. How many fights you think Belichick got into growing up? Everyone understands there’s some sort of youth movement going on in the NFL, but there’s a point when players have to be accountable for their actions, and from heads on the inside, the whole Aqib Talib not getting cut for attempting to kill someone may have been the first of many wrong decisions throughout the season.

In his most recent interview, Ronde Barber admitted “the uptic is that we’re a young team”. Of course. Young. Full of talent on the defensive line. but what else? Kellen Winslow? Davin Joseph? Is this what the people in Tampa Bay are paying to see?

Everyone sees Ronde Barber leaving in the next year or two anyway, so a 1st round corner would at least give some help to a secondary most likely planning to start this years rookies (Black & Gaitor).

Many aren’t happy with the time Freeman is getting in the pocket so a center in the second round is the backhanded approach at eventually dumping Freeman if he falls apart at the seams in his fourth year. “We got him offensive line help! Even drafted a 4th and 6th round receiver! Looks like we were wrong about Josh. Good thing we drafted Brandon Wheeden in the 3rd round.”

Let us, for a second, be completely truthful about the Buccaneers. Barring some sort of miraculous free agent receiver pickup, the Buccaneers aren’t making the playoffs next year. Their best bet is to ultimately build up that defensive line, try to pressure with 4 and grab a linebacker and another defensive back in free agency, and see it from there. Hope Freeman turns it around and airs it out big time.

As if this wasn’t turning into an out and out pity party, it’s time for the Colts, sadly, without the Polians going forward. The twitter world is already morning the insane exchanges between fans, Polian, and Irsay. It was like a bunch of teenage Friends going off to college and exchanging mushroom trip stories. Brilliant stuff. One real quote: “The New Year will have 7 lives and many faces” You’ll never understand.

Let’s say Irsay gets real loaded one night and Tweets this out. “Housecleaning Special In Indy….18 Reasons To Move Forward…Peyton will not play in 2012…Start Packin It Up Mathis!”

It could happen. The only people the Colts really need to keep, by position, are the following. Delone Carter and Donald Brown at running back. Reggie Wayne at wide receiver. Dallas Clark at tight end. Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana on the offensive line. Jamaal Anderson, Jerry Hughes and Drake Nevis on the defensive line. Antoine Bethea, Jermaile Hines, and Chris Rucker in the secondary. If you haven’t heard of half those names it’s because they were last years draft picks and it’s usually in bad taste to dump draft picks one year into their career.

Mathis? Expendable. Especially if it lands an offensive weapon, which is what Andrew Luck is going to need if they’re going to attempt to run the already installed offense. The Wayne and Clark duo can do a good enough job of keeping the continuum and Andrew Luck makes his own line calls anyway, so keeping old Jeff Saturday there grumbling about Peyton is pretty much pushing it at 36 years old.

There’s plenty more to come, and I’m still weighing writing something about the Jets, because after watching what happened in the last 48 hours concerning that team, I can think of few things as laughably absurd about the situation as a whole. Maybe a Kim Kardashian announcement to pursue a PhD in experimental mathematics, but there would be some shred of admiration in the attempt. WIth the former, there’s nothing.

Initial Thoughts On Wild-Card Weekend

Initial thoughts on the match-ups for wild-card weekend. Who are you rooting for?

Contrary to the beliefs of some New York Jets fans out there, the world and the NFL season did not end this past Sunday. The playoffs kick off this weekend, with a particularly weak AFC field that does make the Jets missing the playoffs sting a little more. Here is a quick look at the four games –

Cincinnati at Houston – Pretty bizarre to think that the Bengals are in the playoffs when most people ranked them as the 32nd best team in the league heading into the season. Remember how they looked in the pre-season against the Jets? Who would have thought? Regardless, they have a tough defense, a young quarterback who isn’t afraid to put the ball down the field, and a monster at receiver in A.J. Green. Houston is down to their third quarterback in rookie T.J. Yates and has struggled down the stretch. This game is a complete toss-up, yet Jets fans should be rooting for the Texans. Why? You want Pittsburgh (after they dismantle Denver) going to New England in round two to end our beloved Patriots season. If the Bengals win, they are heading to a blow out loss in New England, which nobody wants to watch.

Detroit at New Orleans – Even though we all remember picking the Saints to easily win wild-card weekend last year and watch them lose a shocker to Seattle, it is hard to imagine the same thing happening two years in a row. The Saints are nearly unbeatable in their dome and the Lions are one of the teams they smacked around in it during the regular season. Detroit’s only chance is to beat New Orleans at their own game in a shootout and I just can’t see Drew Brees coming up short here.

Atlanta at Giants – The best match-up of the weekend. Atlanta has the weapons to take advantage of a suspect Giants secondary with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez but can they protect Matt Ryan, who has never won a playoff game, long enough so he can get the ball out? Eli Manning and Victor Cruz have turned into arguably the best big play combo in the league and will put up points on an inconsistent Falcons defense. This should be a high scoring, close game that comes down to the final possession.

Pittsburgh at Denver – Whether you want to embrace it or not, Tim Tebow is not a good NFL quarterback and the Broncos offense is a joke. The only way this game is close is if Denver’s defense puts together an epically good performance.

NFL Week 17: 12 Pack Of Predictions

12 predictions for the final week of the NFL season

Our last 12 pack of the regular season…a bittersweet time to look back on a year filled disappointment and many wrong predictions about our New York Jets. Regardless, we are going at it one last time, not just on the Jets and Dolphins but on the rest of the league and the playoff picture —

1. My original pick for this game was going to be Miami over the Jets in a tight one. However, today’s announcement that Reggie Bush won’t play has swung me the other way. Bush was going to kill the Jets on the edges and as a receiver out of the backfield. Miami will be more one-dimensional and predictable on offense now, and the Jets prevail in an ugly, low scoring 16-14 game.

2. Since I have swung my pick to the Jets and reflected that the fact of the matter is that before the year I picked the Jets to make the playoffs and I don’t want to switch on it now. I will say that Baltimore will beat Cincinnati, Houston will beat Tennessee (with every report being that they will play all their starters), Oakland will beat San Diego, and it will be Kyle Orton and the Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the Jesus Quarterback himself to get the Jets in as the number six seed.

3. In the NFC, Detroit will beat Green Bay (it is now being reported that Aaron Rodgers won’t play) and Atlanta will beat Tampa Bay, meaning the Falcons will be in New Orleans in round one, where they will get smoked. Detroit will be heading to MetLife Stadium to play the Giants, who will beat the Cowboys Sunday night.

4. Pittsburgh will beat Cleveland and settle into the number five seed. New England will beat Buffalo and clinch the number one seed.

5. Your AFC wild-card match-ups will then settle as being Pittsburgh at Oakland and Jets at Houston.

6. The Indianapolis Colts will lose and clinch the top overall draft pick.

7. Back to Jets/Fins – Shonn Greene will run for 85 yards, finishing with 1084 yards on the season, a fairly disappointing number.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson will score a touchdown in what could be his final NFL game.

9. Aaron Maybin will have a sack and end the season as the team leader with 7.

10. Darrelle Revis will have an interception.

11. Jason Taylor will have two sacks of Mark Sanchez in his final NFL game. Sanchez will finish with less than 225 yards passing.

12. I will not enjoy going down in a blaze of hopeless optimism, as I will wake up hungover from New Year’s Eve with this crazy hope of the Jets still making the playoffs.

TOJ Week 17 NFL Picks

TOJ with his week 17 NFL picks. Who are your best bets?

Last Week: 6-8

Season Record: 114-116-5

Week 17 Picks

  • Philadelphia (-9.5) vs. Washington
  • Atlanta (-13) vs. Tampa Bay
  • San Francisco (-11) vs. St. Louis
  • Minnesota (-1.5) vs. Chicago
  • Green Bay (+3.5) vs. Detroit
  • Giants (-3.5) vs. Dallas
  • New Orleans (-8.5) vs. Carolina
  • Houston (+3) vs. Tennessee
  • Baltimore (-2) vs. Cincinnati
  • Jacksonville (-3.5) vs. Indianapolis
  • New England (-10.5) vs. Buffalo
  • Oakland (-3) vs. San Diego
  • Kansas City (+3) vs. Denver
  • Seattle (+2) vs. Arizona

Wait It Out: A Brief Explanation Of The New 49ers

Justin with a look at the NFC playoff picture, in particular the 49ers

I put in a call to a cousin in Vegas yesterday to see the odds on the 49ers winning the Super Bowl. After wearing out welcomes on both coasts he settled, as it were, at the doorstep of hell.

He was stuttering, trying to get the words out like a man with serious terror closing in from all sides. “The front office boys are saying 9 to 1, but anyone with a real pulse on the thing know its realistically somewhere around 20 to 1. Alex Smith is rumored to be seeing between one and three psychoanalysts at any given time. He’s made of glass…he’s gonna finally crack if they make the playoffs…Harbaugh hedged his bets on a jumpy horse and the thunderclouds are rolling in”.

And so that’s how its gonna go down. NFC championship. Packers vs. 49ers. It’s gonna come down to a game winning drive. 4th and goal to get to the Super Bowl. Here it is. Alex Smith in search of his ultimate redemption. And then it happens. The whole defense blurs into one yellow and green streak. He stands up, staring at the crowd. Finally, exhausted, he drops to his knees and gets down into the act of worship. The last drop of water falls onto the head of the tortured man. Too much. Too soon.

Screw it. At least they’re gonna get there. That’s after Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith send Matthew Stafford to the hospital for the 3rd time in 3 years. That’s right. Most people like to think about the Montana/Rice 49ers. Those people also like to eat fig newtons and read the sunday newspaper.

We don’t have time for that in the new NFL. We want to see people get hit. We want to see quarterbacks and running backs get plastered every time they get into a power run formation. Or spread em out, no protection. That way no one’s going to even attempt a half hearted chop block on a double inside blitz.

Go watch the tape from the 49ers/Steelers game. That’s what defense should look like. Slot killing safeties, Pro Bowler on the defensive line, and two of the most freakish linebackers in pro football. Aldon Smith has a 7’2 wingspan and Patrick Willis lifts weights until they close the gym.

John Harbaugh, to put it bluntly, is the kick in the balls the 49ers have needed for about 5 years. Putting all these ex 85 Bears players in head coaching gigs is assuming they’ll all become these defensive gurus just like Buddy Ryan. It didn’t work. Leslie Fraser is in the middle of a meltdown in Minnesota, Singletary is out of a job, Ron Rivera is the a few bad Cam Newton performances away from being a lame duck head coach and Jack Del Rio is further evidence of the defensive coach as head coach gone awry.

Harbaugh’s philosophy as a head coach was not exactly evident at Stanford, where he arguably had the best quarterback in the country. After examining a season full of 49ers highlights though, a few things are evident.

Harbaugh wants his defense to rely on the linebackers for pressure and the defensive backs to ballhawk, knowing full well most throws are going to get rushed. Theres not too many DB blitzes or zone blitzes. Keep it simple.

On offense it’s a steady mix of running plays,(counters, dives, off tackle) a cross between a spread and a west coast offense. Nothing too predictable. Nothing repeated. Let the other team take risks and make a short field.. Stop the run. Easy in theory. However, no rushing touchdowns allowed in 14 games speaks for itself.

NFL Playoff Picture: Week 17

TOJ with a look at the NFL playoff picture heading into week 17

Down to the final week of the NFL season, there are only a few things left to be shuffled out before wild-card weekend, most of which is seeding. Every single team below, outside of Green Bay, is playing in a game with some kind of playoff implications this weekend –

AFC

  1. New England (12-3)
  2. Baltimore (11-4)
  3. Houston (10-5)
  4. Denver (8-7)
  5. Pittsburgh (11-4)
  6. Cincinnati (9-6)
  7. Oakland (8-7)
  8. Tennessee (8-7)
  9. Jets (8-7)

New England needs to win to wrap up the number one seed. Baltimore needs to beat Cincinnati to avoid sliding from a number two seed all the way to down to a number five seed. By all reports, Houston is going to play all out this weekend to avoid going into the playoffs on a three game losing streak and to keep divisional rival Tennessee out (good news for the Jets). Denver plays Kansas City and Oakland plays in San Diego in two games that are complete toss-ups, if both teams win or lose, Denver takes the AFC West. Pittsburgh will play hard against Cleveland, as they actually still have an outside shot at the number one seed. The Jets need to win and hope three separate teams help them.

NFC

  1. Green Bay (14-1)
  2. San Francisco (12-3)
  3. New Orleans (12-3)
  4. Giants (8-7)
  5. Detroit (10-5)
  6. Atlanta (9-6)
  7. Dallas (8-7)

Winner of Giants/Dallas takes the number four seed. If Detroit loses and Atlanta wins, they will drop to the number six seed and a likely first round beatdown at the hands of New Orleans, who can only move up to number two if San Francisco slips up this week against St. Louis.

Can Rex And The Jets Get Off The Mat?

Can Rex and the Jets get off the mat in week 17?

I don’t know if this is truly the low point in the Rex Ryan era but it certainly feels like it. We all know change is coming this off-season, in some shape or form, but that is a discussion for another day. Right now, the question is how much pride will the Jets show this Sunday against their division rival Miami Dolphins?

First off, there is still a chance, an extremely low but not as low as some people make it out to be chance that the Jets can still get into the playoffs that should be motivation enough for this team. Second, they have embarrassed themselves the past two weeks, most notably last week. Their coach, quarterback, and entire offense is currently a punchline. Third, you don’t want to end the season losing to division rival like Miami.

Miami has been a better team than the Jets since their previous meeting. Matt Moore has been better than Mark Sanchez. Reggie Bush has been better than Shonn Greene. Brandon Marshall has been better than Santonio Holmes. Miami’s defense has been better than the Jets.

Can this team regain some type of confidence and play to their ability this week? Ryan said it best yesterday, the last thing you want to do is have everything fall in place and then not take care of your own business.

If Ryan doesn’t want that to occur he will be in every offensive meeting this week, making sure his team runs the ball 30-35 times this Sunday and he will find some way to generate a pass rush and slow Reggie Bush down on the edges.

This team has been embarrassed enough this season, by Baltimore, New England twice, Philadelphia, and now the Giants…they don’t need another one under their belt.

TOJ Week 16 NFL Picks

TOJ with his week 16 NFL picks. Who are your best bets?

Last Week: 8-8

Season Record: 108-108-5

Week 16 NFL Picks (Lines Courtesy of BetUS)

  • Houston (-7) vs. Indianapolis
  • Kansas City (-2.5) vs. Oakland
  • Denver (-3) vs. Buffalo
  • Tennessee (-7) vs. Jacksonville
  • Arizona (+4.5) vs. Cincinnati
  • New England (-10) vs. Miami
  • Baltimore (-13) vs. Cleveland
  • Minnesota (+7) vs. Washington
  • Carolina (-8.5) vs. Tampa Bay
  • San Diego (+2.5) vs. Detroit
  • Seattle (+3) vs. San Francisco
  • Philadelphia (+1.5) vs. Dallas
  • Green Bay (-13) vs. Chicago
  • New Orleans (-7) vs. Atlanta

NFL Playoff Picture: Do or Die Time

TOJ with a closer look at the NFL playoff picture, where week 16 could make or break a number of teams

It is amazing how many teams remain relevant in the playoff race in both conferences, with 11 of the 16 teams in each the AFC and NFC still having a realistic shot of making the post-season. This weekend should end hopes for many of those teams, so it will be interesting to see who rises to the occasion in a big spot and who falls off as a contender.

AFC

  1. New England (11-3)
  2. Baltimore (10-4)
  3. Houston (10-4)
  4. Denver (8-6)
  5. Pittsburgh (10-4)
  6. Jets (8-6)
  7. Cincinnati (8-6)
  8. Tennessee (7-7)
  9. Oakland (7-7)
  10. San Diego (7-7)
  11. Kansas City (6-8)

With games left against Miami and Buffalo, New England has all but wrapped up home-field throughout the playoffs. Pittsburgh ends the season with the Rams and Browns, which will keep pressure on Baltimore to win their last two to clinch the AFC North title and the second seed. Houston had a tough loss last week and unless the Ravens slip up will end up being the three seed. All four teams remain alive in the AFC West and at this point I think San Diego might be the most dangerous one if they get into the tournament. The battle for the number six seed will likely come down to the Jets and Bengals, both of whom face 7-7 NFC teams this weekend, with the Jets hosting the Giants and the Bengals hosting the surging Cardinals.

NFC

  1. Green Bay (13-1)
  2. San Francisco (11-3)
  3. New Orleans (11-3)
  4. Dallas (8-6)
  5. Atlanta (9-5)
  6. Detroit (9-5)
  7. Seattle (7-7)
  8. Chicago (7-7)
  9. Giants (7-7)
  10. Arizona (7-7)
  11. Philadelphia (6-8)

Green Bay is still safe as the number one seed, while the number two remains a toss up. Both New Orleans and San Francisco have tough games this week, against the Seahawks and Falcons respectively. The NFC East is wide open and it is crazy to think that Philadelphia still has a somewhat realistic shot to sneak into the playoffs as a division winner. Atlanta and Detroit only need to win one more game each to clinch a playoff spot but the Lions have San Diego and Green Bay the next two weeks. If they lose out, it could open the door for a team like Seattle or Arizona to somehow sneak in.