Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend review: Thanksgiving would be better without Lions

By Jeff

Just because something is a tradition doesn't mean it should be done forever. My family doesn't really like turkey, so we now have some a different main course on Thanksgiving. The tradition of eating turkey didn't make sense for our family, so we stopped. The same thing needs to happen with the Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz doesn't even know
why the Lions still play on Thanksgiving.

The Lions have not had a winning season since 2000 and haven't had 10 or more wins since 1995. The Thanksgiving numbers for the team are even worse. They are 1-10 since 2000, and have been outscored 321 to 159. The past three years have been especially bad with losses of 47-10, 34-12 and 45-24.

Football fans deserve better on Thanksgiving. It's not like the Lions are a popular team across the nation. I'm not sure they're even that popular in Detroit. Why do families across the nation have to sit through these games every year?

At least with the Dallas Cowboys it kind of makes sense for the league. The team is good sometimes and is one of the most popular franchises in professional sports. The Lions are that annoying relative you hope doesn't show to Thanksgiving every year. They don't contribute to the meal, and just show up to bother you with asinine comments or their poor hygiene.

I was out and about this weekend, especially yesterday, so please excuse the poor weekend review below.

  • The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-9. So why do T.O. and Ochocinco still have a show?
  • Speaking of the Bengals, what was up with Joe Theismann during that game Thursday night? He was playing up the Bengals like they were a dangerous team, all while tearing the New York Jets apart despite their 9-2 record. I'm not Jets fan, but they are winning games. It may not be pretty, but that doesn't matter.
  • How the heck did Theismann get another color job? He's terrible. An easy way to figure out if a challenge will be overturned is to see what Theismann says and go the other way. I don't think he's ever got one right.
  • Jason Garrett went for it on 4th down instead of kicking a field goal. His team lost by 3.
  • Boise State is out of the National Championship debate after an overtime loss to Nevada. BCS critics are going to be pissed when the system actually works out. 
  • Pitt really stinks this year, as their embarrassing loss to WVU this weekend showed. At least Dave Wannstadt's players graduate at a rate of 69 percent, which is 5 percent higher than the national average for student athletes. It's reaching, but shouldn't that be more important than wins?
  • I only made thatlast point because I went to a school with a tiny football program and the largest crowd at a game was less than 11,000. That was a record. The team stunk for three years, so wins were never really important.
  • Sad I missed the dominating three-game stretch the Pittsburgh Penguins put together. Two goals against in three games is very impressive in today's NHL.
  • Speaking of impressive, Marc-Andre Fleury is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts. In that time he has a .942 save percentage and 1.75 goals against average. Trade him now when his value is high!
  • I was holding up my sarcasm card when I typed that last sentence. 
  • Sidney Crosby had hat trick Saturday and now has 40 points on the season. He's on pace for 131 this season. He sucks.
  • Alexander Ovechkin has the same number of assists (22) as Crosby. What?
  • Missed the Steelers game yesterday as I was driving back from Philadelphia. I have looked at the hit James Harrison was flagged for. I don't think he speared the quarterback. He did hit him with his forehead, but I thought football players were supposed to see what they hit. Maybe I'm just being a homer. 
  • Anyone missing Jeff Reid? I didn't think so.
  • "The Walking Dead" was pretty slow last night. I don't need blood baths every week, but last night's plot line took 60 minutes for what could have been completed in 20.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Iron Bowl

There aren’t many other rivalries in college football that I pay my respects to. This is because I am an arrogant Michigan fan that believes there is only one real rivalry. (Even though mine hasn’t mattered for 3 plus years, they still realigned the conference because of the Michigan/Ohio State game.)

So I am here this week to talk about a game that will happen Friday that is fantastic and no I am not talking about the Backyard Brawl. Auburn takes its undefeated record to Tuscaloosa on Friday at 2:30 to take on heated rival Alabama. This game has national significance because of Auburn’s undefeated record and the cloud that surrounds Cam Newton. These are all facts we all know.

What few of us (I am saying this because we are Yankee folk) don’t know is how passionate this rivalry really is. I have never been to a game at either stadium but I have watched from a far for many years and I marvel at the passion that is SEC football. While there are many rivalries in that great conference this, is the one I enjoy the most.

For 364 days a year within the state of Alabama people talk about this game. Much like other in state rivalries there are family and friends on each side but mix that in with the fact we are talking about Alabama and you gain understanding of what this game means to these people. I took SI’s Andy Staples advice and listed to Paul Finebaum’s radio show in Alabama and I could feel the passion. This game is a season within a season and that is why it is special. The outcome of the game matters more to most than the entire season, something very few rivalries have.

As for the game on the field, I am hoping for a doozy. Last years game went down to the wire with Bama putting together a clutch 4th quarter drive (To relive, go here(I love the quote, “We run this state, we run this stadium.” Awesome stuff.)) The Crimson Tide went on to win the SEC and the National title as we all know.

Now, Cam Newton will try to do the same in the house that Bear built. Vegas doesn’t like Auburn’s chances but I am not sure if they are overestimating Bama’s defense. Don’t get me wrong, I love Saban coached defense but they struggled to stop Stephen Garcia and Jordan Jefferson. Cam Newton is far better than those two but the clear X factor is that both of those games were on the road.

It is always tough to pick a game that is clouded but so much emotion. I have been for Auburn all season but I feel like college football is due for some chaos. Bama 28-24.

Alabama- I’m In a Hurry

Week 12 picks: Steelers won't give up 49 points to Bills

By Jeff

The above statement isn't really a hard prediction to make. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not the Cincinnati Bengals, so of course they won't blow a 31-14 halftime lead and lose 49-31 to the Buffalo Bills.
Zombies would have a feast if they got their
 hands on Fitzpatrick's head and brains.

The Bills are 2-8, but they are playing tough games against teams like the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Both teams beat the Steelers earlier this year, so this could be a tough match for the Steelers. Now take a look at how the Steelers lost games to crappy teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns last season, and this game can legitimately make Steelers fans worried.

Well, I'm not too worried.

The Steelers have a great pass rush with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to under constant pressure. And his safety valve, Fred Jackson, isn't going to run for 116 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers. The Pittsburgh defense hasn't given up a 100-yard rusher this season and are only allowing 63 yards per game. Jackson won't top 60.

On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his best game of the season and looking good. His young receivers are also stepping up when asked, which is a pleasant surprise. Receiver was supposed to be a position of weakness this year.

Now that we got that sorted out, let's move on to the picks. Don't look now, but I had my first winning record of the season last week. Woo! I went 10-6 to improve (first time this year I could say that) to 69-85-5.

My big miss of the week was predicting the Denver Broncos to cover. It's not that I forgot how bad Josh McDaniels is at coaching, it's just I figured it would be a high scoring affair with both offenses moving the ball. I was half right.

Week 12's pick are below and home teams are in caps.

"Wait, what's my QB's name again?
New England (-6.5) over DETROIT: How is this line only 6.5? The Lions are terrible and don't win on Thanksgiving. If there weren't already one million posts about how stupid it is that the Lions and Dallas Cowboys always get Thanksgiving games, I would write one. Wait, that one million posts excuse didn't stop me from writing a weekly picks column. Check back tomorrow.

New Orleans (-4) over DALLAS: Jon Kitna seems to only be looking for Dez Bryant, and who can blame him? Bryant has been great the past couple weeks. The problem I see here is Kitna will be looking for Bryant downfield when the Saints defense crushes Kitna and knocks him out of the game. Gregg Williams likes to blitz. He's going to bring the heat. At least five sacks for the Saints.

NEW YORK JETS (-9) over Cincinnati: I love how Bill Simmons always says that a team playing really well reminds him of how a Boston team was playing in a year they won a championship. And by love I mean despise. I'm a homer, a much less successful homer, but Simmons takes it to whole other level. But at least he admits it. Anyway, the Bengals have quit on this season. Last Sunday proved that they have zero fight left in them. Of course, that's if they ever had any fight in them this season.

Minnesota (+1.5) over WASHINGTON: Brad Childress is gone, so I'm banking on the Vikings actually trying. Childress' time in Minnesota is a perfect example of how volatile the head coaching market in the NFL can be. The team went 6-10, 8-8, 10-6 and 12-4 in Childress' four complete seasons at the helm. But one disaster season costs him his job. Brett Favre is leading the league in interceptions and turnovers, yet he is going to keep starting. How does that make sense. I like Favre (it's getting harder), but the Vikings' season is over and he's not coming back next year. It's time to let them try and get other people in there that might be a part of the organization next year.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) over BUFFALO: Ryan Fitzpatrick comes down to earth this week. Well, he will probably still have nice numbers because of the garbage time yards. Can we rename garbage time to Carson time? Any objections?

Meet Rusty Smith.
Who names their child Rusty?
HOUSTON (-6.5) over TENNESSEE: Not because the Texans. They've shown they're not for real. This pick is strictly because Tennessee is a mess right now. Randy Moss has no catches in two games, they are starting rookie Rusty Smith at quarterback. Even the Texans secondary should be able to limit his success, right?

NEW YORK GIANTS (-6) over Jacksonville: Did you know both of these teams are 6-4? The Jaguars have had some crazy wins the past few weeks, one of which included at 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired. How can you pick a team with that kind of perseverance? I don't have a good explanation. I just don't think the Jags can continue this current hot streak.

CLEVELAND (-11) Carolina: The Browns favored by 11? Can someone in research (Mike) look up the last time the Browns were favored by double digits?

Tampa Bay (+7.5) over BALTIMORE: The Ravens didn't pull away from a Brian St. Pierre - led Panthers until the fourth quarter last week. This team is vulnerable.

Philadelphia (-3.5) over CHICAGO: Rick Reilly wrote an interesting column this week saying it's time to forgive Michael Vick. He made it sound like anyone who doesn't like Vick because he killed dogs thinks anyone who likes him supports killing animals. It really bothered me. While I completely supported Vick getting reinstated and having a second chance after paying for his crimes, I don't have to cheer for him and wish for him to succeed on the field. Don't tell me I should forgive him for killing dogs and just enjoy his success this year. Reilly went as far as to say Vick's actions (The dog killing ones) is one of the best things for pit bulls because it opened the public's eyes to the problem. I'm calling BS on that one. Vick is doing well, which is good for him. Just don't tell me I should jump on the bandwagon.

Ryan is laughing because he
is about to ice these guys.
ATLANTA (-2) over Green Bay: Matt Ryan doesn't lose at home. Well, there was this one time...

OAKLAND (-3) over Miami: Tyler Thigpen doesn't win games. Well, there was this one time...

Kansas City (-1.5) over SEATTLE: I still haven't seen a Seahawks game this year. Does that make me a bad person? I would argue it makes me a better and happier person.

DENVER (-4) over St. Louis: Sam Bradford has been good this season, but a rookie QB playing for the first time in Denver is not something I would put money on.

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over San Diego: The Chargers may have fought back to 5-5 this season, but they still suck on the road.

ARIZONA (+1) over San Francisco: At least I don't have to stay up late Monday.

The Beatles - We Can Work It Out

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seymour fine illustrates NFL's inconsistencies

By Jeff

Seymour isn't confused by how much he was fined.
He's still wondering how he wound up in Oakland.
Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour was recently fined $25,000 for hitting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the face well after a play was over Sunday. The fine simply shows that the NFL has no real system in place for punishing players. It's almost like they have a wheel with different consequences on it, and they spin it whenever there is a questionable action.

If you just put it in to perspective with some other plays that resulted in fines this season, it doesn't make sense. Players have been fined upward to $75,000 for actions that were not penalized and happened during a play. Seymour was flagged and his slap (I won't call it a punch.) occurred after the whistle.

It's just mind boggling how the league comes up with these monetary values. The Tennessee Titans assistant coach Chuck Cecil was fined $40,000 for giving the finger to officials this season. And the Titans owner was fined $250,000 last year for flipping off Buffalo Bills fans (Doesn't there team do that every season?). While there is no excuse for either of these incidents, they weren't physically hitting anyone. There was no potential or intent to injure. Their fines should not be greater than Seymour's.

I'm not just posting this because it happened against the Steelers, and I'm not saying Seymour should have been suspended or fined upwards to $100,000 as many local media personalities said yesterday. The guy threw a slap at another player in a game where guys tackle each other on every play. Seymour let his emotions get the best of him, was justly penalized and ejected. But I do find it ridiculous that he is getting off easier, even as a repeat offender, than guys who made gestures or players who weren't even penalized on the plays in question.

The league isn't out to get the Steelers, or any team in particular. Refs may be watching James Harrison and players like him too closely, resulting in them throwing flags when they shouldn't, but there is no conspiracy against any one team. The league's inconsistent punishments are making it easier for fans to believe their team is being targeted, though.

That is a problem that can't be solved until the public gets a better explanation of the inner workings of the league's disciplining policy and process.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Radio, Radio

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend review: Bengals downward spiral gets steeper

By Jeff

The weekend review was initially going to include the terrible officiating, but that was covered in this post.

Instead, let's look at how awesomely bad the Cincinnati Bengals are. They lost 49-31 to the Buffalo Bills Sunday. What makes this loss the team's biggest embarrassment this season is they were leading 31-14 at halftime. They were outscored 35-0 in the second half. Anyone still think Carson Palmer is a good quarterback?
"Really, it's all Chad's fault we suck."

The team needs to clean house. The combination of Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Marvin Lewis can't win consistently in the AFC North or the NFL. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore  Ravens. They are almost always in the playoff hunt and making waves once they get into the postseason. The Bengals? Not so much. Two postseason appearances under in the Lewis-Palmer-Ochocinco era and no wins. If I can see that, you'd think the rest of the organization can.

Lewis needs to go at the end of the year and get a new start somewhere without a group of divas running the show (Houston).

The rest of the weekend had some pretty fun moments as well.

    Apparently, Kunitz tried to trade in the Cup
    for the Crown Jewels
  • Marc-Andre Fluery wasn't spectacular, but he was good enough to the beat the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night. Four goals against isn't pretty, but all that counts is the two saves he made in the shootout.
  • Sidney Crosby put up another 4-point night. He now has a point in eight consecutive games. Man, he sucks.
  • Chris Kunitz has been very good this season. He works hard on the boards, gets in front of the net and is actually scoring some goals. Now if only he can do a little more in his own zone. There have been several times this year where the other team scored because Kunitz was late in getting back. 
  • The power play is still terrible, but there is always the chance Mario Lemieux gets so frustrated he comes out of retirement and breaths some life into it. One can dream.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are thinking about adding Jorge de la Rosa to the starting rotation. Can anyone say Oliver Perez 2.0? 
Another lefty strikeout pitcher with command
problems. What could go wrong?
  • Pitt basketball continued their good start with good wins against Maryland and Texas. How does Jamie Dixon still have hair with all of the crazy screaming he does? You'd never know Pitt was winning a basketball game if all you saw was Jamie Dixon's face.
  •  Heinz Field looks terrible again. Why is it so hard to get good turf on that field? Some blame Pitt, while some blame the high school games. I blame Matt Spaeth for peeing on it before and after every game.
  • Pitt football beat South Florida. But it's Big East football, so no one cares.
  • Jimmie Johnson won his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup. And you thought we only talked about sports at this blog.
Favre wasn't the only one sending
Sterger suggestive text messages.
  • As I'm writing this, I'm reading that Brad Childress just got fired. I'm also reading that Brett Favre is having a pool party to celebrate. No word on if Jenn Sterger will make an appearance.
  • Favre has to be regretting his decision to come back this year. Going out after one of your best season's is much better than retiring following a terrible year where you looked 10 years older than you actually are. And you are already 41.
  • Anyone see the end of "The Walking Dead" last night. Friggin' zombies.
  • Sorry for the weak review this week. I'd say next week will be better, but that's too much pressure.

NFL needs to address officiating

By Jeff

If you watched the Pittsburgh Steelers-Oakland Raiders game yesterday, you know what I'm talking about. The Steelers were penalized 14 times for 163 yards and the Raiders were tagged for 55 yards on seven penalties.

"Who missed that last play?"
The number of penalties weren't the problem. The calls themselves were the problem. Several Steelers players were given 15-yard personal foul penalties for what looked like regular football plays. James Harrison tackled Jason Campbell. He didn't drive him to the ground maliciously or hit him in the head or knee. He just tackled him and was flagged for bringing all of his weight down on the quarterback. Would it had been legal if he only came down with 72 percent of his weight? The penalty cost the Steelers 7 points as Ike Taylor intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown.

There were too many questionable calls to point them all out. There just isn't enough time or space, and it will just make me angry.

The blame falls on the league as well as the officials. Players believe they have a legitimate argument when appealing the ridiculous fines they receive when they weren't penalized on the play. I think the NFL is countering this by telling the officials to throw more flags, even if there is some doubt as to whether the play was illegal. The result is the plethora of flags you saw in Pittsburgh yesterday.

Fortunately for the Steelers, the game was only close in the first quarter. Despite all the penalties, the Steelers dominated every aspect of the game and came away with a much-needed victory after last week's performance. But what if this game went the other way, or Pittsburgh lost a close game? The refs would probably would need to enter Witness Protection had that been the result. Angry yinzers are dangerous yinzers. They act and speak way before thinking even crosses their minds.

I expect the league will review the game and send another apology to the Steelers, like they did after two bad calls almost cost the team a win against the Cincinnati Bengals. But that doesn't cut it. It's OK for now, because the Steelers won both games. But if multiple poor calls lead to a Steelers loss, who cares if the league comes out and says, "Oops"? They can't go back and replay the game.

The NFL needs to fix this problem that's developing. I'm all for protecting players from helmet-to-helmet hits, but at some point they need to let these men play football without the fear of being penalized for clean hits.

Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo

Friday, November 19, 2010

Power play stinks, penalty kill thriving

By Jeff

Every Pittsburgh Penguins fan and Pittsburgh media personality knows the Pens power play is terrible. They are 25th in the league with a 12.8 percent success rate. There is no excuse for a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to be that bad on the power play. Yet, the Pens keep doing it.

I'm not a hockey expert, but the problem seems to be the wrong guys are taking the shots. Alex Goligoski is a very talented player with lots of offensive upside. But he should not be the one blasting shots from the point. Even though Kris Letang misses the net a lot of the time, he should be the one shooting from the top. Along those lines, Crosby should not be the one of the half boards. That spot should be reserved for Malkin, who has a great one-timer from that spot. How many times has he scored when it seemed like there was no way the puck could get through? Lots.
I'm so jealous of that beard.

Unlike many, I enjoy the rover strategy they are using. Instead of having guys just stand around, they are always moving. Kunitz is doing a decent job in front of the net, it's just not enough shots are getting to the net. Either the team isn't shooting or the shots are getting blocked. I wish there was some positive to get from this power play, but it's looking like this will be a season-long problem.

On the flip side, the Pens penalty kill has been lights out. They are the fifth-ranked PK in the league with a 88.2 percent kill-rate. Recently, they have pretty much shut down some of the league's best power plays. They prevented the Atlanta Thrashers (fifth in the league) and Vancouver Canucks (second) to notch power play goals, and held the Tampa Bay Stamkos (fourth) to a 5-on-3 goal, while killing another 5-on-3 a few minutes later.

Once again, I'm not a hockey expert, so my analysis on the success of the penalty kill should not be taken very serious. With that being said, the key has been the forwards. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Max Talbot and Craig Adams have been outstanding. Not only are they killing the penalties well, but they are a dangerous group. If teams aren't careful, they are fully capable of going on the offensive. They currently are tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals with three, and Jordan Staal hasn't even played a game yet.

While having a great penalty kill is making up for a terrible power play, I would feel a lot more confident if the power play started showing some kind of consistency. Well, productive consistency. They need to break away from being consistently bad.

Old 97's - Time Bomb

Fleury breaking out of slump

By Jeff

Don't look now, but Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury is playing some of the best hockey he's played in about a year. 

Fleury is 3-0-1 in his last three starts and has yet to allow more than two goals in regulation. That's a .932 saves percentage and 1.75 goals against average. Not too shabby. 
No idea where the goal is, but at least the puck isn't in it.

Those numbers would be impressive against anyone, but the teams Fleury faced in the past four games are all in the top 10 for goals per game. The Tampa Bay Lightning are sixth with 3.16, the Vancouver Canucks are seventh with 3.06 and the New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers are tied with several teams for eighth. Three of those teams (Lightning, Canucks and Thrashers) also have top five power play units. 

Could all this come crashing down for Fleury? Unfortunately for the Pens and their fans, yes. His first seven starts this year, in which he never let in less than three goals, are proof that he can get off track for long periods of time. And if you ever forget that, there are plenty of people who will be happy to remind you and say they would have rather signed Ty Conklin to a long-term deal.

Haters will always try and bring Fleury down. While he has had rough patches, some people are just ridiculous is trashing him. It's almost as if these fans would rather see him fail and the Pens lose, just so they could say "I told you Fleury sucks!" 

But for now, these haters have nothing on Fleury. He is playing at a high level and helping the Pens win games. That's all that matters.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

12th Man, We Need You

We are rolling a little light again this week as most of the teams at the top either don’t play or have a soft opponent. The two games that catch my eye are Ohio St at Iowa and Nebraska at Texas A&M. Neither game decides its conference but it will have some say at the end of the day next week. So I will give you a quick preview of each game.

The Hawkeyes are not in the Big Ten title race anymore but they are still a quality team, especially on senior day at Kinnick. Stanzi is a good passer and great American and I expect the Hawkeyes to show up. Unfortunately for them though, Ohio State owns November. The Buckeyes have been stellar since their loss in Madison. The key to the game will be turnovers. OSU dominated Penn St after they tried to force things and it at them alive. I expect Stanzi to take better control of the ball and out play Pryor at the end. Iowa 24-21.

In College Station the Aggies have been reborn this season under new QB Ryan Tannehill. He has replaced Johnson and has them playing at a high level. Nebraska has had a good season but have struggled recently with the injury to Taylor Martinez. I am going to go with the home team again not just because of the Aggies recent play but because the Big XII makes no sense this season. Texas A&M 31-21.

I am out. I will see a few of you next week for Thanksgiving.

Week 11 picks: Will Oakland beat Big Ben again?

By Jeff

The Pittsburgh Steelers play a surprising Oakland Raiders team this week. They're surprising because they are currently 5-4. The Raiders haven't won more than five games in a season since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002. Now just add the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has yet to beat the Raiders in his career, and you have a decent game this weekend. It should be noted that in one of those Raiders wins, they only needed 98 yards of offense. Roethlisberger's poor performance provided them with the rest of their points.
You're not the only one who's surprised
you're 0-2 against the Raiders.

The unpredictability of the Steelers-Raiders game is just another example of how crazy the league is this year. No team has really stood out as the favorite. The New England Patriots are getting stomped by the Cleveland Browns one week, and then turning around and burning the Steelers the next. The New York Giants looked terrible early on, then were looking unstoppable, but went back to suck last weekend. It's one of the craziest seasons I've witnessed. Even the Browns look, dare I say it, good some weeks. It makes the impending 2011 lockout that much more frustrating.

As for my picks, well they are a lot more predictable. By now, you know they are as reliable as Greg Oden's knees (He's out for the season again.). Last week I was 6-8, bringing my season total to 59-79-5. Vegas would own my house if I had one.

The big miss last week was taking Kansas City to beat Denver. The Broncos had a 35-0 lead by the early second quarter and it was never a game. That's why you never bet against Kyle Orton at home!

Week 11's picks are below and the home teams are in all caps.

There was a picture of Thigpen being inappropriate with
a skeleton, but I felt dirty posting it.
Chicago (+1.5) over MIAMI: Let the Tyler Thigpen era begin in Miami! The guy was a fantasy MVP a few years back with Kansas City, but he's not an accurate passer and I expect this to be a low scoring affair. It pains me to side with Jay Cutler.

PITTSBURGH (-7) over Oakland: The Raiders need to run the ball to win, and they won't be able to do it against the Steelers. Nevermind that BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a good game last week. The Steelers were way too worried about Tom Brady picking them apart to pay any attention to the running game. Jason Campbell won't command that kind of respect. By the way, anyone think that Campbell is pissed off that Cam Newton received a better deal at Auburn than Campbell did. Zing!

NEW YORK JETS (-7) over Houston: We really haven't heard Darrelle Revis' name that often this season. We heard all about him and his holdout in the offseason, but not so much once he got on the field. That doesn't matter though, the Texans are struggling, Matt Schaub's knee is bothering him and Santonio Holmes is starting to click with Mark Sanchez. Don't be surprised if Gary Kubiak puts his house up for sale after Sunday.

Baltimore (-10) over CAROLINA: Well, Tony Pike didn't start for Carolina last week, but he might this week. I stand by my statement that a team considering Tony Pike should never be picked to win or cover.

Give me a contract potentially worth $80 million
and I'd be this happy too.
TENNESSEE (-7) over Washington: Donovan McNabb did not have a bad game last week as his three picks might suggest. One bounced off his receiver's hands and a receiver was benched for running the wrong route on another. That doesn't change the fact that the team let Michael Vick do whatever he wanted to them. Vince Young won't be as successful, but he'll do enough to cover.

Detroit (+6.5) over DALLAS: HUGE matchup between Jon Kitna and his former team. Well, not really. Just a meaningless game for two teams with a combined record of 4-14. Moving on.

Green Bay (-3) over MINNESOTA: Why does the media fall for it every time. We're not even done with this season and they are trying to get a scoop on if Brett Favre is coming back next year or not. Why do you keep doing that to yourself, Ed Werder? Why!?!

Buffalo (+5.5) over CINCINNATI: Watch Carson Palmer and T.O. rack up big numbers after the Bills jump out to a big lead.

JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) over Cleveland: Only three teams with winning records have been cumulatively outscored this season. The Jaguars are one of them. So either they win a close one, or they get crushed. They're at home, so I'm picking the former.

Arizona (+8) over KANSAS CITY: No logic here. I Just don't like the way the Chiefs are trending.

Apparently, the key to stopping Bush is tickling.
NEW ORLEANS (-11.5) over Seattle: Reggie Bush vs. his college coach. It's not really much of a storyline, but could you find anything else about this game to get excited about?

Atlanta (-3) over ST. LOUIS: The Falcons are just too balanced for the Rams defense. If they try to take Roddy White out of the game, Michael Turner will beat them. If they stack the box against Turner, Matt Ryan will be happy to toss the ball up to White all day. Anyone else surprised there hasn't been a "Mayne Event" with Ryan "Matty Ice" icing other players around the league? Can we make this happen, please?

Tampa Bay (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO: If you don't play fantasy football, you probably have no idea how good of a season Frank Gore is having. He has almost 1,200 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns despite the other team knowing he is the 49ers go-to weapon. Too bad for Gore his team loses another close one this week.

Indianapolis (+3.5) over New England: It was the .5 that did it for me!

New York Giants (+3) over PHILADELPHIA: Going out on a limb here, but I think Michael Vick has an off game here. With all the hype he is receiving following his incredible performance Monday, I think  he is due to have his first turnover (or two). Then again, I have never have any idea what the Giants are going to do.

Denver (+10) over SAN DIEGO: I might be putting too much faith in Champ Bailey.

Tuff Darts - All for the Love of Rock and Roll

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In case you forgot why Browns fans suck

By Jeff

The shirt says it all.
Just read this story on ESPN. Apparently, a Cleveland Browns fan tackled a 8-year-old in the parking lot Sunday because the child had a New York Jets jersey on. I will repeat that. A Browns fan tackled and 8-year-old boy for wearing the opposing team's jersey. And it wasn't even a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey.

Cleveland sucks.

Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World

Report: Cats would eat you if they were big enough

By Jeff

Despite giving you cute looks and trying to cuddle with you, reports are coming out that your cat could be plotting your demise.

Recent studies from the International Feline Research Center (IFRC) have found that household cats would eat their owners if they were big enough to do so. The study was done over the course of five years and included more than 1,000 cats and their owners.

"What we're finding is truly terrifying," IFRC head researcher Donald Nelson said. "Owners for all these years have thought that cats are showing love and affection, but in reality, they are just testing our reactions and trying to figure out a way to make us the main course."
A recent IFRC study found that
cats want to eat us.

Scientists and the general public have known for years that hunting cats likes tigers and lions will eat people from time to time, but it was believed domestic cats were harmless outside of scratching their owners with their claws. The IFRC's not only show that cats want to eat humans, but they are slowly making progress toward their goal.

"While house cats aren't big enough to eat us right now, they are adapting to do so in the future," Nelson said. "In our trials, we noticed cats would start nibbling at their owners' fingers and toes. A week later, the same cats were moving their way up their owners' arms and legs. We're not that far away from them using their claws to cut you, and then go after your organs."

No conclusions have been drawn yet about how long it will take for cats to figure out a way to eat their owners. Some scientists think it's at least a century away, but others think that day is only a few decades away. Their findings show that crazy cat ladies are the most at risk, as they share close quarters with up to 30 cats. The elderly and small children are the next populations most likely to fall victim to cat feeding frenzies beause they would have a harder time defending themselves.

"These women you see on television who take in dozens of strays are in real danger," Nelson said. "If house cats keep evolving into more efficient killers and eaters, these women are going to find themselves as the main course at a feast. Hopefully they see this research and make drastic changes to their lifestyle for their own safety."

Many cat owners refuse to believe the IFRC's findings. They see their cats as members of the family that would never bring harm to anyone, let alone eat them. Some owners are not willing to take such a risk.

"Once I heard Bubbles wanted to eat me, I gave him away to my mother-in-law," John Sanchez said. "No way I was going to let him eat me, but if anyone deserves to be eaten by a cat, it's her."

PETA released a statement claiming that even if the findings are true, cat owners should not abandon or give away their cats. PETA's stance is that humans eat other animals and that it's only fair animals start returning the favor.

PETA was contacted for additional statements but they did not return calls. They were probably too busy trying to stop a dog from taking a flea bath.

Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band - Kitty's Back

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reed gets the boot

By Jeff

Adam Schefter actually got a report concerning the Pittsburgh Steelers right! Schefter Tweeted on Monday that the Steelers were likely to cut kicker Jeff Reed, and they did just that today.

Who will Steelers blame now that Reed is gone?
Probably Kordell Stewart.
Taking Reed's place will be Shaun Suisham. There are no reports that he likes to beat towel dispensers and/or make fighting gestures toward police officers, but he is 80 percent on field goals for his career.

I never really cared about what Reed did off the field. I didn't care that he beat the hell out of a towel dispenser in a gas station or drunkenly ask the police if they wanted to fight. As long as he was making field goals, these minor incidents didn't really phase me. If he were dealing drugs, beating people or something more serious, I would have had a problem.

All that mattered to me was Reed making kicks, which he did until this season. Reed is a woeful 15-for-22 this season. He hasn't made one between 40 and 49 yards. That's not good. To emphasize his incompetence, he missed a 26-yard field goal Sunday. That's a chip shot for any kicker in this league.

To make matters worse for Reed, he was jerk in the preseason and season. He told the media during training camp that the Rooneys had lied to him about wanting to sign him to a long-term contract. Apparently he forgot who he was working for. The Steelers handle things behind closed doors. They don't like it when players go crying to the media. If he wanted a big contract, he should have shut up and had a good year. Instead he stunk from Week 1 to Week 10.

Reed's latest transgression was making excuses for missing kicks, specifically the 26-yard attempt from Sunday. He cried about the turf quality and the negativity of the fans and media. Right, it was the fans making fun of you on the sports talk shows that led to you missing an easy kick. The turf at Heinz Field is terrible. There is no doubting that. But that's not an excuse. The rest of your team and the other team had to play on that same turf, and they weren't crying after the game.

Reed will be picked up quickly by someone, and will probably be successful again.. Kris Brown stunk at Heinz FIeld, but went on to a solid, eight-year stint in Houston. With that being said, it was definitely time for Reed to leave Pittsburgh.

Elton John - Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)

Hurdle brings good attitude to team

By Jeff

New Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made an excellent first impression when he spoke to the media yesterday. He said he wanted to tackle this challenge and bring winning baseball back to Pittsburgh. He said a priority was to get the pitching situation straightened out and make the team better in the field. He said a lot of good things.
Hurdle will also provide a left-handed bat off the bench.

The man legitimately seemed excited to have the opportunity to manage the team. At first, that might seem shocking. Who really wants to manage a team that has 18 consecutive losing seasons, is made the laughing stock of the national media and has an owner who has a reputation for not spending money on major-league talent? Sounds like hell, right? Not really.

There are only 30 major league baseball manager jobs out there. You'd think having one, any one, would be a major achievement for any baseball coach. Hurdle realizes this and I think his positive attitude is sincere. He knows he has a lot of work to do. If he's not completely aware of the challenge in front of him, all he has to do is ask Jim Tracy. The Colorado Rockies manager was fired by the Pirates in 2007 and was assistant under Hurdle until Hurdle was canned by the Rockies.

How odd is that? Tracy, who was fired by the Buccos, replaces Hurdle and immediately helps the Rockies improve. Then a few years later, the Pirates hire Hurdle. It really means nothing. Just because Hurdle only had one good season (and a World Series appearance) with the Rockies, doesn't mean he is a bad signing for the Pirates. Tracy led the Los Angeles Dodgers to an NL West crown before failing in Pittsburgh. Let's be honest, a manager is only as good as the team, and the Pirates are bad.

So what can we expect from Hurdle? Well, he can't turn a 105-loss team into a contender overnight. It's unfair to expect him to do so. There is no quick fix to the Pirates. Their pitching is atrocious and their lineup lacks proven consistency.

Hurdle needs to get back to the basics with this team. That would be a start. Too often were the young players making terrible baserunning decisions. That needs to be hammered into their brains. If they keep making the mistakes, sit them down.

Hurdle can also gain the support of fans if he shows some life. While I think arguing in baseball is kind of silly. You do it to show your team you have their backs. That you won't stand for an ump making a bad call. They won't reverse the call just because a manager yells at them, but that's not the point of arguing in baseball. The Pirates last manager, John Russell was torn apart by fans and the media for showing no emotion. If Hurdle shows just a little, he'll be an improvement in the eyes of many.

So was Hurdle the right choice? Is anyone excited about him?

Bruce Springsteen - The Promise 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Justin Bieber takes Steelers to school

By Jeff

Brady kinda resembles Bieber with that new haircut,
but he's still prettier than all of us. One more reason to hate him.
Tom "Bieber" Brady is a great quarterback. As much as the media showers him with praise, I still think he's underrated. Just typing that last sentence made me throw up a little bit, because I can't stand Brady, the New England Patriots or their fans. But you have to give credit where it's due and respect all that he's done in his career to this point.

Last night's 39-26 Steelers' defeat to the Patriots was just the latest in a long line of one-sided affairs between the two teams in the Brady Era. The Patriots are 6-1 against the Steelers in games that Brady has started. Two of those games were AFC Championship Games at Heinz Field. So yeah, it's safe to say he  has the Steelers' number, address and probably social security number. Hell, he probably has their luggage combination.

The Steelers' gameplan wasn't exactly great either. I'm not a defensive coordinator, but rushing three guys just seems silly when facing Brady. Giving that man more than five seconds is just asking to be picked apart. And playing 10 yards off the Patriots' receivers didn't make a lot of sense. Brady has a quick release. He saw those gaps and killed Pittsburgh underneath.

Of course, it all comes down to execution and the Steelers just didn't do it. Their red-zone offense is in need of some serious help. It's not that great when Hines Ward does play, so it just went to hell when he got knocked out of the game. Antwaan Randle El and Mike Wallace dropped a few touchdowns and then Jeff Reed goes and misses a 26-yard field goal.

Really, there are too many people to blame for the loss and I don't have enough fingers. So let's move on to the rest of the weekend's event.

  • Marc-Andre Fluery haters will hate no matter what, but it's good to see Fleury string some good games together for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played great Friday and Saturday. I'm not ready to say he's back, but he's getting there.
  • Not to be outdone by Fleury, Evgeni Malkin seems to have broken out of his early slump. He had a hat trick Saturday night, almost doubling his goal total for the season. Even when he wasn't scoring, he was flying around the ice and making plays. 
  • If you see Mike Comrie, please let him know that he did sign a contract to play this season. He may have forgotten.
  • Despite the power play sucking and the team struggling, Sidney Crosby has quietly scored 12 goals and 15 assists. He's scored in five straight games. Philadelphia Flyers fans must have a completely different definition of "sucks" than I do.
  • The Pirates hired Clint Hurdle to be their next manager. Good? Bad? Does it make a difference with this team? 
  • The Oregon Ducks have averaged like 200 points a game this season. Then they go and put up 15 Saturday. Maybe the Duck needed a break from doing hundreds of pushups every Saturday.
  • If you haven't watched the cartoon "The Venture Bros." you need to go out and do that. The first season starts slow and is pretty weird, but you'll thank me.
  • It's looking more and more like TCU and Boise State won't make the BCS Championship game despite being undefeated. I used to think college football was fine without a playoff system. I'm starting to see the light.
  • If X-Box executives are reading this blog (I'm sure they are) I have an idea for the your next "Call of Duty: Black Ops" commercial. Have Shaq and Kobe shooting at each other. The looks of joy and excitement on their faces will be 100 percent pure and everyone loves Shaq. I'll take it a step further. Because you respawn when you die, you can actually have them killing each other, and then coming back. You pitch that to Kobe and Shaq and I bet you don't even have to pay them.
  • That last note is probably the only NBA reference in this post.
  • I changed my mind. Are we going to have to hear about every Miami Heat loss? Even if I cared about the NBA, I certainly wouldn't care about the NBA in November.
  • Anyone see the last play of the Jacksonville Jaguars-Houston Texans game? You have to love it when a Hail Mary works.
  • Jon Kitna for MVP! OK, that's overreacting, but the Dallas Cowboys got a great win over the New York Giants Sunday. Contrary to reports, the whole team has not given up. Giants fans are probably calling for Tom Coughlin to be fired.
  • The Buffalo Bills won a game! Chan Gailey should still be fired at the end of the year. 
  • Weezer's "Death to False Metal" is a very good album. It's got a few stinkers, but is mostly good. "Pinkerton Deluxe" is OK. I love the B-Sides and the previously unreleased material from that period of their careers. I really didn't need five versions of "The Good Life", "El Scorcho" and "Pink Triangle", though. Why not include live versions of the B-sides to fill space instead of live renditions of the same three songs? 
  • Anyone want to guess on how many penalty minutes Sean Avery has tonight against the Pens? I'm putting the over/under at 10.

Springsteen's Darkness box full of joy for fans


Most of the posts here are about sports, but we are going to take a timeout from that to talk about my favorite artists and one of Jeff's favorites, Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce during the early years.
Tomorrow marks the release of Springsteen's much anticipated box set behind one of his classic allbums (and his best album in my opinion), Darkness on the Edge of Town. The collection had been talked about in fan circles for years but did not seem like it would be a reality. However, in the past year, Springsteen and his team have been working to finish the project.

The box set includes a remastered album, two discs of outtakes, and three DVDs; including one DVD of the documentary, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town story, a DVD featuring a full album performance shot in a New Jersey theater last December and a DVD of a concert from the Darkness tour in 1978, filmed in Houston.

A few quick thoughts, the tour behind the Darkness album is widely referred to by many rock critics as one of the best rock tours ever for the sheer intensity and power of shows that captured an artist and band that had hit their artistic stride and the fact that Springsteen could rock for over three hours and the crowd would be more exhausted then he was at the end of the night. The full album performance features the-1978 version of the E Street Band, with Charlie Giordano in for the deceased Danny Federici and shows a still powerful band that can bring it every night.

The Promise documentary garnered lots of positive reviews at various film festivals and was on HBO last month. The documentary captures the inner workings of an artist trying to move onto the adult world and writing about it, while in the midst of a battle for the ownership of his music and musicial integrity and the struggles that come from following up a much-hyped and successful album with another one that is just as strong. The film captures a close look at Springsteen's obsessive song writing habits, looks at some material he left off the album and examines the brother-esque relationship that right-hand man and guitarist Steven Van Zandt and Springsteen had and still have. The film is a must watch for any music film and even just the casual fan of Springsteen to better understand the inner workings of a man driven to succeed, what this album meant and a side of Springsteen that we have not often seen.

The remastered album is a nice cleaned up product, but the two discs of outtakes are solid. There are some that you quickly understand why they were left off the album ("Someday, We'll Be Together"), alternate versions of songs (a more rocked up "Racing In the Street"), songs Bruce eventually gave to other artists ("Fire", "Talk to Me", "Because the Night" and "Ain't Good Enough For You", which is very similar to a song Bruce worked on with Gary "U.S." Bonds called "This Little Girl Is Mine".) and songs that you wonder why Bruce couldn't find room for on other albums ("Gotta Get That Feeling", "Wrong Side of the Street" and "Breakaway") to name a few.

My one peeve on the outtakes is that you can tell on certain tracks that the vocals were completely redone, redone in spots ("Wrong Side of the Street"-the vocal is much different in a few spots) or in one or two instances it seems as though the entire song was re-recorded (Save My Love).

Overall, though a collection worth having for any Springsteen fan and if you are just into the music, the two-disc outtakes set will be sold seperately as well. Happy listening!

Breakaway-Bruce Springsteen (My favorite from the outtakes with Wrong Side of the Street, Talk to Me and Racing In the Street (alternate) meriting honorable mention.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Better get it done now

One time when I was in high school I ran into Steve Spurrier in an airport in Boston. I just looked at him and said, “fun and gun!” I am not really sure what that has to do anything but I don’t have much to work with this week.

This slow week of games is headlined by Spurrier and the Gamecocks visiting the Gators at the Swamp. Winner will win the dumb down SEC East. Apparently South Carolina has won close to nothing in their schools history and this game would be a huge step for the school. They have already got one big notch on their belt as they took down Bama earlier this year at home. Unfortunately for them, this game is at the Swamp.

The Gators have rebounded from their early season struggles by putting like 12 QBs out there in order to get production. (Hey, if it works, it works.) Chris Rainey has been a spark and Urban Meyer may not have to worry about losing his job in the ever present hot seat of SEC coaches.

Achilles himself, Stephen Garcia, will once again be the key to the game. Outside of his random brain fart on the safety play against Bama, he was great that game. He will need to be equally as good and get off to a hot start in order to quiet the crowd.

Much like everyone else, I think Urban Meyer is a dbag but he is a quality coach and he will have the Gators ready to win. Florida 30-21.

Bonus pick- Salez, Jess and Krob will be with me Sunday night as the Steelers take down Colelli and the Pats. Lers 27-20.

Phil Collins- In the Air Tonight