By Razor Sharp Sports
The NFL Preseason is winding down and now it is time for our experts to make their predictions. Let’s see who everyone likes and feel free to send your predictions in to compare to our handicappers. We had eleven of our handicappers give us their picks. Of the 11, four of them have the Atlanta Falcons taking home the Lombardi Trophy, while 3 others took the Falcons division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. Interestingly, no one picked the Vegas favorite and defending champion Green Bay Packers to repeat. We did have 2 teams with a complete sweep of the division picks. Both the Chargers (AFC West) and the Green Bay Packers (NFC North) were selected by all 11 handicappers to win their division.
By Dr, Vegas
This is the second part of my NFL Preseason handicapping series.
Are new coaches a special breed when considering NFL handicapping? Do new coaches want to win the first preseason game to make a good impression? Do they want to win the last one to give their team a boost into the regular season? Do they want to have a good overall record to show they know how to win? Well, it’s time to separate fact from fiction and break down all of these numbers. In this segment, I’m looking at how new coaches perform in the first week of the preseason. I have taken stats for all new coaches from the 2003 through 2008 preseasons, and broken them down several ways.
By Platinum Plays
This is a great time of year in the NFL where pretty much the best eight teams are left and each game is the end of another year for the loser. Our best against your best and let it all out on the field. San Diego and Pittsburgh played each other earlier this year in snowy and sloppy conditions that resulted in a Pittsburgh victory (11-10) on a Jeff Reed 32 yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining. The early forecast for Sunday’s contest is 28° and sunny which should mean Heinz Field should be in pretty good shape for this time of year.
By Big Jay of Platinum Plays
It’ll be an interesting Wildcard Playoff weekend for fans and handicappers alike as all four road teams are favored in their respective playoff games. Some of this can be explained by the disparity in strength between the divisions this year which was more pronounced in 2008 than any year in modern NFL history. Most notably, the NFC West, the AFC West were incredibly bad and the AFC East and NFC South which were incredibly strong. The NFC West divsion winner, the Arizona Cardinals looked very good at times this year (mostly at home) and won NFC West with a (9-7) record. The Cardinals clinched their spot in the playoffs after week 14 and their dismal late season performance is not as alarming had they needed to finish strongly to qualify for the playoffs. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals can regain their midseason form and prove they are a team who deserves a chance to win the Lomabardi Trophy. The Falcons, coming off one of their worst seasons in the franchise’s history, played very well all year long with a rookie head coach (Mike Smith), a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan) and a running back (Michael Turner) who’s never had the opportunity to be a fulltime player until this season. They finished with an (11-5) record and laid claim to one of the NFC Wildcard spots over the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, all who had chances to make the playoffs in the final weekend of the season. Having put the Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino controversies in their rear view mirror, the Falcons made last years (4-12) record seem like a bad dream whereas the Cardinals, finally lived up to many preseason predictions of the last three years by finally qualifying for the playoffs this season.
By Platinum Plays
What a game to finalize the 2008 NFL regular season. Yes, their’s a playoff spot at stake for the winner of the “Inept Game of the Year” and we will be forced to watch one of these “powerhouses” in the first round of the playoffs and that’s about the best anyone can say of this game. If the NFL dropped both the AFC West and NFC West would anyone really care after their perfomances this year? If one could see this is only a short down period for each of these divisions, I might not be as critical but, it looks like it’s going to be at least a couple of years before these divisions rise from the ashes of the 2008 season.
By Platinum Plays
Each of these teams have clinched their respective divisions; the Steelers, the AFC North and the Titans, the AFC South. With homefield advantage at stake throughout the playoffs, this game looms large for both teams. If the Steelers can get a road win over Tennessee, they would gain the advantage over the Titans to play all their playoff games at Heinz Field which would be a distinct advantage. The Steelers are coming off a big (13-9) win over division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, which the outcome was ultimately decided on a controversial replay overturn of an official’s call on the field which was ruled a touchdown to give Pittburgh the lead rather than having 4th and inches inside the Baltimore one yard line with a decision to make of either going for the win or playing for overtime. The Titans are coming off a road loss to the Houston Texans and maybe the bigger story coming from this game was not the one point road loss to Houston but, a late injury to Titans defensive line, DT Albert Haynesworth may have a bigger impact than the result of this game. The Titans disdained a late 49 yard field goal and went for it on a 4th and 3 from the Texans 32 yard line but Kerry Collins pass sailed just over the fingertips Justin McCareins fingertips securing the win for the Texans. The decision to forego the field goal was a curious one by head coach Jeff Fisher considering Tennesee’s kicker, Rob Bironas has a strong leg. Now, homefield advantage throughout the playoffs may be as fleeting as the Collins to McCareins pass but, more importantly for the Titans is to have Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch healthy and up to speed for the playoffs.
By Platinum Plays
Both the Texans and Packers are in the midst of disappointing seasons and though neither team has been officially eliminated from the playoffs, the outlook for playing football after week #17 would be officially listed as bleak for both these teams. Each team has bright spots and reasons for an optimistic future and each team has some gaping holes which need to be addressed. The Texans need to shore up their offensive line, address some weaknesses in their defense, decide on a quarteback and win a game on the road. The Packers decline can be traced to an inconsistent running game, a pourous defense and horrendous special teams play. Not even Brett Favre could cover up those deficiencies. However, in the ever changing landscape of the NFL, teams make moves to fix their problematic areas from the previous year only to find new problems arise in areas which didn’t need addressing earlier. Successful teams have general managers and coaches who anticipate and make moves ahead of time instead of reacting to immediate problems. Eventhough the results haven’t been relayed on the field this year, the Packers combination of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are more likely to rise back to prominence in the foreseeable future while the Texans will continue to be a team who just can’t get over the hump.
By Platinum Plays
No team has been more impressive the last few weeks than Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators. Since dropping a home game to Mississippi (30-31) on September 27th, the Gators have reeled off seven straight decisive wins over the likes of Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and are poised to take on Alabama in the SEC Championship game on December 6th. If the Gators can defeat Florida State and Alabama, it would be hard pressed to keep them from playing in the BCS Championship game while the Big XII sorts out their little mess. The Gators are currently ranked 4th in the BCS and by winning out, they should secure a spot in the top two.
By Platinum Plays
This Sunday we have a “matchup” of divisional leaders in the NFC of which I propose is really a mismatch. The (7-3) NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals will be hosting the current Super Bowl Champions and leader of the NFC East, the (9-1) New York Giants. We’ll give the Cardinals credit, they have finally achieved some of the results on the field which people have been predicting and expecting from them for the last couple of years. They have done so with Kurt Warner, the former NFL MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback, who turned into a journeyman backup and now once again has been thrust into the starting position due to the failure of former 1st round draft choice and USC product, Matt Leinart. If nothing else, Warner has had one of the most interesting and controversial football careers in the history of the National Football league which at times has even been controversial due to his intense religious convictions and his wife’s big mouth. A roller coaster would be considered a ride in the tea cups when compared to the Warner’s job history and performance. Meanwhile, the Giants have fervently set about defending their Super Bowl Championship much like the team they defeated last February 3rd to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the New England Patriots, who won consectutive Super Bowls for the 2003 & 04 seasons. Considering the Giants meteroric ride late last season to win the NFL Championship, a letdown may have been expected but, let’s give coach Tom Coughlin credit for keeping the Giants level of play as high if not higher than last season’s finish despite the retirement of DE Michael Strahan in the offseason and the loss of DE Osi Umenyiora for year in the seasons first game. Umenyiora led the NFC in sacks last season with 13 sacks in the regular season.
By Platinum Plays
This Saturday we have a PAC 10 matchup that will help sort out the “Best of the Rest” in the conference when the Arizona Wildcats (6-3/4-2) make the trip to Eugene to take on the Ducks (7-3/5-2). Autzen Stadium is one of the toughest venues for opposing teams to visit with any kind of success and their will be 54,000 strong rooting for the Ducks. The Ducks have been known for a couple of things under head coach, Mike Belotti; good football teams averaging 8 wins a season and some of the craziest uniforms in college football with a host of combinations.