After taking a break of a few weeks, it is time to go back to my good old PlayStation 2. It hasn’t yet proven itself to be a brilliant handicapper, but it has had its moments. Again, I will have NCAA Football 09 simulate three games to see how it sees them play out:
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The bad luck continues at North Carolina. Already dealing with life without Tyler Hansbrough, they have lost another player – Tyler Zeller. He has a broken wrist that will likely keep him out for the season. Zeller is a freshman and a forward, so they won’t necessarily struggle to replace him. He was off to a good start, though – he was the leading scorer in his debut game against Penn. I’m not particularly superstitious, but it does seem like the Tar Heels are snake bit. Hopefully for them their luck turns soon enough.
Worst NFL Game of the Week – Given the way they are playing, Chicago and St. Louis are not destined to make a classic – the Rams are absolutely terrible, and the Bears are in a sudden and dire slump. This should get the Bears back on track, but it won’t be pretty. There is worse, though – Buffalo at Kansas City. The Bills showed the world new and creative ways to throw away a win on Monday night. The Chiefs have a few things going for them – in Tyler Thigpen they may have finally found the QB of the future – but there are so many holes with the team that it’s almost sad. Ugly.
Best NFL Game of the Week – Indianapolis at San Diego should be a great game, but the Chargers have ensured by their play that it won’t be. Carolina at Atlanta is a surprisingly good game with high stakes. The Jets at Tennessee pits two hot teams at the top of their games together. The winner, though, is one that would have been terrible last year. The Pats and the Dolphins meet in a game that could go a long way to determining a wild card spot. Both teams can look very good when they want to, and both obviously have flaws. This game could be awful, but there is a much better chance that it will be totally entertaining.
This is going to be a shorter than usual version of this feature. That’s not because I am feeling lazy. It’s just because we didn’t really learn anything on Saturday. Everyone who was supposed to win did their job. The BCS standings and the top of the polls are still intact and unchanged. Anything we did learn only confirmed things I already suspected – LSU and Alabama are frauds and the SEC isn’t the strongest conference, Miami is on the way back, and so on. All in all, it was the least educational week we have seen for a long time in college football. Next weekend will be much, much more interesting, though.
The ending of the Pittsburgh – San Diego game has all sorts of bettors crying foul. The total was 40.5, so the under was secure as the score was 11-10 with seconds left. What wasn’t determined, though, was the spread. Pittsburgh was favored by 4.5, and about two-thirds of the money was bet on them. Needless to say, the sportsbooks would have much preferred a San Diego cover. Hence the conspiracy theories.
It’s a very strange week for college football. It seems like most of the action is next weekend, so this week teams just seem to be in a position to make sure that they don’t screw up by overlooking their current opponents. That makes this weekend very interesting, but not in such an obvious way as next weekend will be. Here are some of the games I’ll have my eye on:
There is one team left in the NFL that has a shot at reaching hallowed heights. It is almost impossible to be perfect in the tough, unpredictable, parity-filled league. But one team has the schedule, the talent, the coaching, the management, and that certain je ne sais quoi to go all the way. I’m talking, of course, about the Detroit Lions. Perfect futility is perhaps tougher to achieve than perfect success, but if any team can pull it off it is the Lions. And if they did I think it would be an even bigger accomplishment than what New England did last year.
I’m not going to offer a pick or any specific analysis about tonight’s huge NFL game – that’s not what I do here. This is a very interesting game, though, so I do want to take a closer look at it. Here are five different elements to this game that I will be watching closely, and which have factored significantly into my handicapping of the game:
As we get prepared for a busy weekend of sporting action, there are some injury notes that are worth a look:
Greg Oden – The big guy is supposed to return to action tonight for the Trail Blazers. That should be a boost for Portland, but I will hold judgment until I see two different things – how well he is physically, and whether he can last for more than a minute and a half this time. Oden is frustrating and hard to trust at this point, but I can’t wait to see what he can do if he can settle in and get comfortable. This team could use a boost.
Worst NFL Game of the Week – The Monday night game is certainly not going to be a gem – neither Cleveland nor Buffalo are in a particularly good place right now. It’s gets worse, though. Late Sunday afternoon the Niners will play in St. Louis. Two struggling offenses with all sorts of troubles. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Insomniacs rejoice – the cure has been found.
Best NFL Game of the Week – It should be Tennessee at Jacksonville, San Diego at Pittsburgh, or Dallas at Washington, but each of those games features one deeply flawed team that robs the game of some potential. The Jets at New England is a good old fashioned showdown for the division lead. It’s not all it could be, but it should still be compelling. My choice, though, is an unexpected one – Baltimore at the Giants. The Ravens are red hot, and the Giants are probably the best team in the league. It should be a battle of wills.
Game With Teams With The Most To Prove – Cleveland and Buffalo. The Bills need to end their ugly, ugly slide that threatens to rob them of the promise their early season showed. Cleveland lost ugly yet again on Thursday, and they desperately need to do something to get things off to a strong start in the Quinn era.