This week, I would like to take the opportunity to give my deepest thanks to the troops, both past and present, who have put/continue to put their lives on the line to protect my freedom to enjoy sports to the point where I might learn a thing or 10 over the week, and then come in here to pass along this knowledge, and the freedoms of Americans everywhere.
1) The uni's weren't the only thing changed this week- Watching the Bucs Packers game at my house, I was telling my dad as he and the announcers on the game kept mentioning how the Bucs were hanging around and fighting hard, "Yeah, but watch, they'll go in at halftime, make no adjustments, and come out and get blown out in the second half." I had every right to believe what I was saying. It had happened already in all 7 of their previous games (including winable games against the Redskins and Panthers). But then the miraculous happened. I joked with the guys at work I felt like I was watching on old Foldger's coffee commerical. "We've secretly replaced the Buccaneers coaching staff with one that can make half time adjustments and win a game." And that they did. And what's up with the Packers swiss cheese O-line? Way to make Stylez G. White look like the second coming of Michael Strahan.
2) Irish's BCS dreams sunk by Navy- In addition to thanking the troops this Veteran's Day, how about thanking future troops, the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy, who prevented mine (and every non-Notre Dame fans) worst nightmare of seeing an undeserving and over-matched Irish team in a BCS game only to serve as the sacrificial lamb. And of course, with Pitt and Stanford both looking to be much better than previously advertised, the Irish could relistically finish the regular season 7-5 and be Charlie Weis' swan song. For more of my thoughts on the game, Irish fans, and their "mystique" (if interested), I direct you to this thread: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/messag
3) Take advantage of your stellar D- Boy, as a Gator fan I am longing for the days of Dan Mullen. Steve Adazio's play calling is baffling at best sometimes, and a huge reason for the team's red zone struggles this year. There was a third and two from the 10 early in the game where Aaron Hernandez, our TE, motioned into the backfield, and in a terrifyingly slow developing play, Tebow fake pitched it to him and was absolutely stuffed. Field Goal. It's obvious this year due to the Gators' superior D, he's afraid of opening it up and making mistakes, preferring the D to carry them. I say, all the more reason to open it up and make a couple mistakes. You know the defense will be there to clean up for you. Sure, maybe Charlie Strong gets a little mad at you when the other team ends up putting 10 or 13 on the scoreboard, but so what? Especially if you end up putting 40+ up. Is it just me?
4) Anti-SEC angst again directed in the wrong direction- It's been an abysmal season for officiating in the SEC, and I cannot try to defend or justify it. Previously, I thought we had the best officials in the game along with the Big 12, due to the level of football being played. Well, maybe this game has become too fast for them. Another likely blown call was made in the LSU-Alabama game. But as easy as it is to criticize the replay official and why do we have replay, blah, blah, blah (by the way, ask the Big Ten how replay is going for them) it was AGAIN not the replay official's fault. Here's why. You take a look at the replay. Clearly his left foot was in bounds. The problem is, it is not obvious when he secures possession (despite what LSU fans say). To me, it appeared that he did not secure the ball until his left foot was up. So now we look at the right. Did I think he had the right down? Yes, I do. Gary Danielson did a fantastic job during the replay showing again why I feel he's the best in the game. He even pointed out the little bit of grass that seemed to come up with the right foot, and no white grass. But can I conclusively say it was in? Conclusively being the opporative word. No, I can't. And if I can't say he conclusively had his right foot in, and I can't conclusively say he had possession while his left foot was still down, guess what? Play stands as called. Again, I point out, PLAY STANDS AS CALLED. Somehow, fans and media members have twisted this around using converse logic that had it correctly (imo) been called a pick, it would have been overturned on replay. SIMPLY NOT TRUE. There would have been equal (if not less) evidence to not overturn a pick call. Once again, get mad at the officials on the field who were either out of position or simply inept and made a bad call and then expect the replay official to OVERSTEP his bounds and fix what was not as obvious of a mistake as people like to think.
5) Curb your enthusiasm- After tOSU's domination of Penn State in Happy Valley, some Buckeye fans began jumping off the deep end proclaiming that Terrelle Pryor might not lose another game. Well, I mean, in a sense they are right. He MIGHT not lose again. But likely he will. Still, with the team he has around him, he shouldn't lose many more, especially if he can build off his performance. But, one good game does not a career make, and he still has things he needs to work on. Overall, though, great win by the Buckeyes, who I no longer need to win this week, but just might pull for them all the same (more on this, next).
6) General college musings- Iowa's weekly let's play to the level of our competition and come from behind job is mercifully over, although you never want to see a starting QB go down like that, a week after a through dismantling of the Trojans, the Ducks lay an egg against Stanford (although the Cardinal are a good team), the Hoosiers again do just enough to hang in a game and still lose, and the black shirts get some revenge against their formal arch rival in securing 5 picks in a 10-3 victory over the Sooners that mericfully finally pushed OU out of the Top 25. By the way, what has become with some of the tradition in college football? I meant to hit on this a few weeks ago, but Bama Tennessee not being on the 3rd Saturday in October? (Bama played the other USC that week, and the Volunteers were off). And OU Nebraska not playing each other every year since expending to the Big 12? As I was telling my good Husker fan HuskerTex, I remember EVERY Thanksgiving weekend watching four football games, Florida Florida State, Auburn Alabama, Texas Texas A&M, and Oklahoma Nebraska.
7) General NFL musings- Huge wins by the Cowboys and Steelers this week. Why did more people not see Cincy beating Baltimore? They already did it once, and Cedric Benson, an early candidate for comeback player of the year, ran for over 100 yards against them AGAIN. It's the 3rd time in 4 games the Ravens have allowed a 100 yard back. Big win also by the Chargers. How does Vincent Jackson get that wide open. Well, first the corner thinks he has (and should have had) safety help, and did, but the safety was far too late getting over. Of course, part of this is on the corner for not rerouting Jackson inside to where the help should have been and allowing him to get outside where the safety had much more ground to cover (and again, was late doing so). And the Saints and Colts just continue to find ways to win, again in comeback fashion for the Saints.
8) Some thoughts on the hardwood- We may be in line for another Celtics Lakers Finals matchup. The Magic look great most nights, but lose by 28 to the Thunder. Also, Magic might be in a tougher division than previously thought as there may be 3 playoff caliber teams, including the resurgent Heat. And is LeBron already half way out the door? That 4-3 start won't help. Also, college bball tipped off for real on Monday, so expect to see more on that in the coming weeks, especially after football winds down.
9) Icy thoughts- The Lightning are an improved 6-4-5, getting points in all four games on a recent road trip. Should the playoffs had started Monday, the Lightning would be in it. The Devils are red-hot (hey, they are the Devils) and now are tied with the Penguins in the East Atlantic (I do make mistakes form time to time). And the Avalanche continue to amaze getting stellar goaltending, although the Sharks have now passed them for the overall lead in the NHL.
10) BuccinGator's stone cold NFL predicitions- Instead of doing a look ahead this week (although I am really looking forward to the Sunday Night game between the Patriots and Colts), I shall bring you my NFL playoff predictions. Now that all of the teams (except 2 who have gotten in 9) have played exactly half their season, it's far easier to get reads on the teams and who might make some noise come post season. Sure, waiting like this makes it easy for me to pick teams like the Colts, Vikings, and Saints, but it also makes it easier to identify the Dolphins and Falcons of last year. Here's a look back at last year's edition:
Now that we are officially at the half way point of the NFL season, with every team having played 8 games (except for 4 that have played 9), here go my picks for the twelve teams that will be playing come January for a chance to visit my home town of Tampa, Florida on Feb. 9th. In the AFC, I like the Patriots to hang on to the East, the Titans to win the South (duh), the Steelers to take the north, and the Chargers to luck into the West with no better than a 9-7 record. For the wild card teams, give me the Ravens (even though they face a brutal schedule including all the teams from the NFC East), and I'll go with a team from the East, give me the Dolphins in a surprise. The Bills have looked lost recently for some unknown reason and I just don't trust Jet Favre to be careful enough with the ball on what I think is a mediocre team. In the NFC, I'll take the Giants to win the East, the Packers to squeak by in the North (with no better than a 10-6 record), the Cardinals in the West (another duh). I'll take the Bucs as one of my wild cards, and the other will obviously go to a team in the East, so let's make it the Eagles, who I think edge out the Redskins. But wait a minute, I haven't picked my division winner in the South, you might be saying. Well, the easy thing to do is take the Panthers, who in the end I think will take it (especially if they can handle the Bucs in Carolina), but my official pick on my blog is ... the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, the worst to first trend continues with a team that everyone thought would be rebuilding, but instead are just recovering from a horrible coach. So there you have it. I'll pick official playoff winners once the playoffs are set, but based on these picks, I'll go #3 Patriots over #6 Ravens, #5 Dolphins over #4 Chargers, #1 Titans over #5 Dolphins, #2 Steelers over #3 Patriots, #2 Steelers over #1 Titans. In the NFC, give me #5 Buccaneers over #4 Packers, #6 Eagles over #3 Cardinals, #1 Giants over #6 Eagles, #5 Buccaneers over #2 Falcons (hey, how about that, two divisional matchups in the divisional round. Wouldn't that be neat?) #1 Giants over #5 Buccaneers, and finally, in Tampa, Giants over Steelers. There you have it, folks.
As you can see, I got 9 out of the twelve teams correct (couldn't see the Colts late season run or the Bucs choke job). I did also call the Chargers lucking into the AFC West last year. Don't know what I was thinking taking the Pack and TT's big ego. And, I had the Jets pegged better than most of the experts. So here they are, this year's NFL playoff predictions culminating with who I think ends up in Miami. For the AFC East, it's an easy pick with the Patriots. South another slam dunk with the Colts. In the North, I like the Steelers to edge out the Bengals, while both make the playoffs, the loser securing one of the AFC's wild cards. In the West, gotta go Broncos, although they appear to be slipping somewhat, and the Chargers are hanging around. For the last wild card spot, I just don't trust the Jets or Ravens enough, so I think it comes down to the Texans and Chargers, with the Chargers winning out. In the NFC, give me the Eagles to win the East despite their hiccup against the Cowboys, the Saints to win the South (duh), the Vikings in the North (double duh), and in the West, it's got to be the Cardinals with the 49ers disappointing the way they are. For the two wild cards, I'll take the Cowboys and the Falcons. So here's how I see the playoffs. In the AFC, I like #3 Patriots over #6 Chargers and #5 Bengals over #4 Broncos in a revenge game, then, #1 Colts over #5 Bengals and #2 Steelers over #3 Patriots in what should be a great game if it happens. Home field and defense I think will win out. For the AFC Championship, I'm going to go with the upset and go #2 Steelers over #1 Colts granting Sixburgh their second consecutive trip to Florida. For the NFC, I like #3 Cardinals over #6 Cowboys (Cowboys still can't win a playoff game or get revenge for 1998) and #5 Falcons over #4 Eagles in what would be a tight game. Then, #1 Saints over #5 Falcons and #2 Vikings over #3 Cardinals. Then in what should be a heck of an NFC Championship game which will most likely be in a dome (will be if my top two seeds are there), #1 Saints over #2 Vikings where home field again becomes a factor. And for Super Bowl LXIV in Miami, I can't believe I'm saying this as it will make Saints fans more obnoxious than normal (although it'd be a great story for the true Saints fans like some of the ones you see in the Super Dome), I'll take the Saints to beat the Steelers. They just seem to have enough on defense and have finally realized that Bush is overrated and exactly how and when he needs to be used, that I will go ahead and go with them. I really hope I'm wrong, however (at least with them).