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Straight Cash’s Wild Card Weekend Picks

This NFL Wild Card weekend will have dirty birds, rookie QBs, MVPs, All-Days, Burners, Bolts and Colts. It also features all 4 home teams as underdogs — first time I’ve ever seen that. Let’s get to the picks. Short and sweet.

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Dreaming of days with Martz and Faulk

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals, 4:30pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: ATL -2, o/u 51

The pick: Over 51

It’ll be a shootout in the desert. The Falcons will score points because the Cardinals are 0-6 against teams who were in the top 10 in rushing (the Falcons are ranked #2 behind the Giants). Then, after a steady diet of Mike Turner and Jerious Norwood, Matt Ryan will open up the field against Arizona’s 22nd ranked pass D. On the other side, Arizona will take to the air because they are dead last in rushing, and so we’ll see the Kurt Warner show against Atlanta’s very shaky secondary. This game may also get messy with the presence of John Abraham and his 16.5 sacks. Though a lot of things point to an Atlanta win, you cannot count out Captain Kurt at home. He will go down chucking the ball to his talented trio of receivers, and if he misses, well that’s just better field position for the dirty birds. One big stat: the over is 9-1 in Arizona’s last 10 home games.

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Will Peyton take it lying down?

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers, 8:00pm EST, NBC
Line/Total: IND -1, o/u 50

The pick: IND -1

The Chargers may be on a roll with 4 wins in a row to close the season, but if you look closely they were against the doormat Chiefs, lowly Raiders, and self-destructing Broncos and Bucs teams. The Colts are riding a 9-win wave themselves with quality victories over the Steelers, Patriots and a 23-20 Week 12 win over the Chargers at Qualcomm. In this matchup of two premier QBs, I’ll take Indy’s 6th ranked pass D over the 31st ranked San Diego pass D (only the Seahawks were worse). It will be close throughout, but look for the Colts to slow this game down, and finish with a vintage Peyton Manning, long, drawn-out, antsy, multi-audible, drive.

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Will Ed Reed touch the ball more than Ricky Williams?

Baltimore Orioles at Miami Dolphins, 1:00pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: BAL -3, o/u 38

The pick: BAL -3

Baltimore’s D will be too much for Pennington and Miami. In their 27-13 Week 7 win over the Dolphins, the Ravens stopped the vaunted Wildcat offense allowing only 71 rush yards and forcing a pick 6 courtesy of Terrell Suggs. Look for Baltimore to bring the same defensive gameplan and challenge Pennington to go deep (not his strength) where my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Mr. Ed Reed (and his 9 INTs), will be waiting. All rookie QB Joe Flacco has to do is his best Kerry Collins imitation and take care of the ball and make simple, low risk plays, and leave the rest to Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Suggs and company. The Dolphins’ and Pennington’s comeback story has been inspiring this year, but it ends this weekend.

A little help on "O" please

A little help on "O" please

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings, 4:30pm EST, FOX
Line/Total: PHI -2, o/u 41

The pick: PHI -2

If the Eagles were facing any other NFC playoff team, I might think twice about picking them because of their inconsistency and much too frequent brain farts. But against the one-dimensional Vikes, it makes it easy for D-guru Jim Johnson to scheme up ways to stop Adrian Peterson and expose the Vikings passing game. Yes, Minnesota has the top-ranked rush defense, but Philadelphia isn’t too shabby at #5. The difference is that Philly has a very efficient McNabb, who’s making the right reads of late. Also, the Eagles 3rd ranked pass defense will feast on Minny’s 25th ranked pass offense. Nothing else here other than the Eagles secondary has been swarming, and if any bit of the intensity brought against Dallas shows up, it’ll be a long day for Tavaris Jackson. Hopefully, we don’t get any of this on the sidelines.

USC’s KO of Penn State started the year off right. Straight Cash record for 2009: 1-0

Good Luck everyone.

January 3, 2009 Posted by | General, NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NFL 2008: Crazy

As 2008 draws to a close and 2009 brings us the beginning of the playoff season, we should look back on what makes us love football so much.

The great thing about the NFL season is that, no matter what you think you know, you really know nothing.  When the NFL schedule was released in spring 2007, everyone thought the Cowboys would be Superbowl champs.

Crazy.

Everyone thought the Dolphins and Falcons would be battling for the number one pick.

Crazy.

Many thought that Tom Brady would help lead the Patriots deep into the playoffs and that the Eagles were getting ready to say goodbye to the Donnovan McNabb era.

Brady Goes Down

Brady Goes Down

Crazy.

Early in the season, many thought that the Redskins were a great team and that Jason Campbell was emerging as an elite quarterback.  Many thought that the Buffalo Bills had finally become contenders in the AFC East.

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that the hard-nosed Tampa Bay Buccaneers would lose all of their games in December, including a match-up against the lowly Raiders, thus ending their playoff hopes?  Who would’ve thought that in the same game–in the fourth quarter no less–that running back Carnell Williams would tear up his knee yet again after a year long rehab?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that we would’ve seen a team like the Patriots come so close to immortality in February and just ten months later, see the Detroit Lions get inducted into the Hall of Shame?

Lions go 0-16

Lions go 0-16

Crazy.

Who could have forseen that this time a year ago, Michael Vick began his prison sentence.  Just one year later, his Falcons have a franchise quarterback, a coach of the year candidate, and a playoff birth?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought that Drew Brees could throw for over 5,000 yards (coming 16 yards shy of the passing record) and 34 touchdowns and not even be in serious contention for the MVP award?

Crazy.

Who would’ve thought than the Patriots could go 11-5 and miss the playoffs, while the 8-8 Chargers host the 12-4 Colts and the 9-7 Cardinals host the 11-5 Falcons this weekend?

Crazy.

This has been a season of surprises and jaw dropping moments.  As Don Cheadle (below) once said, the “crazy” is why we love it.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best/Worst NFL Desicions of 2008

With the New Year right around the corner, let’s look back at a few of the best and worst decisions of the 2008 NFL season.

BEST:

1)  Starting rookie quarterbacks–Choosing to start young guns Matt Ryan and Joe Flacoo truly paid off for the Falcons and Ravens, respectively.  Both players managed the game well, looked poised in the pocket, and limited their mistakes.  Ryan and Flacoo never hit a rookie wall and just may have changed the thought around the league that rookie quarterbacks should never hit the football field early.

2)  Michael Turner to the Falcons–While everyone knew that Turner had great ability, no one knew quite what to expect from Tomlinson’s career backup.  Turner’s decision to go to Atlanta was met with skepticism, as the big man signed with one of the worst teams of 2007.  Seventeen touchdowns later, Turner was the best free agent signing of the 2008.

Matt Cassell

Matt Cassell

3)  Keeping Matt Cassell–A career backup everywhere he went, the Patriots made a great decision in both developing Cassell and not cutting him.  For years, Cassell looked awful in pre-season games, and he was close to being cut several times over the years.  The Patriots were smart in keeping Cassell around, as Tom Brady’s injury proved how necessary it is to have a quality back-up.

WORST:

1)  Not Trading Derek Anderson–This is not hindsight.  The Browns should’ve traded Anderson the minute after the pro-bowl ended.  His numbers last season looked good, but Anderson faltered down the stretch in 2007.  His ineptitude against the Bengals in December of 2007 cost the Browns a playoff birth.  And Anderson couldn’t hit his receivers in the pro bowl–a game that doesn’t allow opposing defenses to blitz.  GM Phil Savage refused to trade Anderson and closed the door on the possibility of a training camp competiton involving Brady Quinn.  Anderson eventually signed a long term contract with Cleveland, and Phil Savage simultaneously signed his own death warrant.

Derek Anderson

Derek Anderson

2)  Jets Release Chad Pennington–Pennington was always a pretty good quarterback.  Not great, but he did a lot of things well and was football smart.  While one cannot argue that his weak arm is better suited in warm Miami than cold New York, Pennington was always good for minimizing his mistakes.  Favre, while certainly a gun slinger, is a turnover machine.  The choice to trade for Brett Favre and subsequently release Pennington came back to bite them in week 17.  It also cost Eric Mangini his head coaching job.

3)  PacMan Jones Gets a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Chance–This is all on Roger Goodell.  At some point, a man such as PacMan Jones needs to learn that his beahvoir is not acceptable, and that priveleges he has enjoyed in the past will be stripped away due to his reckless behaivor.  Regarding Jones and the NFL, his priveleges were always taken away–but only temporarily.  Whether it’s his dozens of arrests, his fight at a night club which resulted in someone getting shot and paralyzed, or his “incident” with his own bodyguard, it’s clear that PacMan Jones just doesn’t “get it.”  And for someone who acts so stupid off the field, he should’ve forver lost the privelege to suit up and play.

December 30, 2008 Posted by | NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Case for Matt Ryan for League MVP

Ryan Takes the Field

Ryan Takes the Field

It may be impossible to fathom, but I think Matt Ryan has a strong case for MVP of the league. This award is usually given to the player who has the gaudiest stats, the one who has the most endorsements, and the one who’s the biggest household name. But that’s not what an MVP of the NFL should be.

MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. This is exactly how you should judge a player who’s up for this award. The thought process should go something like this: If this player was not on [fill in the blank team], where would this [fill in the blank team] be right now? How significant of an impact has this player had on the success of the team?

Let’s first look at the contenders. First up: Kurt Warner. Warner is reminding us of his “greatest show on turf” days. He’s thrown for over 4,200 yards and 26 touchdowns. But he’s fumbled the ball a mind boggling ten times this season; he’s fumbled an astonishing 53 times over the past five years. His Cardinals are also only 8-6. It’s remarkable that they’ll host their first home playoff game since 1947, but Arizona is only in the playoffs this year because their division is so inept.

Next up: Adrian Peterson. I love Peterson—loved him in college, and always thought that he had hall of fame talent. As great of a year as AD (short for “All Day,” his nickname) is having, it still falls short compared to his rookie season. Currently, AD has played 14 games and rushed for 1,581 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, Peterson played 14 games–(missed two to injury)–and started just nine of those 14 matchups. In that time, he rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also broke the single game rushing record last season. There’s no question that his stats would be off the charts with a better passing game, but the Vikings are a bit disappointing given how much talent the team has.

Next is Albert Haynesworth. This man has been a beast for the middle of the defensive line in Tennessee. With 51 tackles and 8.5 sacks, Haynesworth is the reason why the Titans defense has been so tough up front. With that said, it looks like he will be out the remainder of the regular season with a leg injury.

Next is, of course, Peyton Manning. Manning is no doubt incredible—one of the top five quarterbacks I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. It’s hard to argue against him. His numbers, though below his average, are still good. Close to 4,000 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and a 66.4 completion percentage. Injuries, too, ravaged this team, and Manning found a way to rebound like he always does.

With that said, Manning’s Colts still lost the division to the Titans. And though Manning’s stats look good, you have to wonder how the Colts almost lost to the Browns (final score: 10-6). In that game, Manning had less than 130 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. That just shouldn’t happen. Even in a game like Thursday’s matchup against the Jaguars, it just seems the Colts start slow against teams they should beat. It shouldn’t take over three quarters for a Manning-led offense to finally start clicking.

As for Matt Ryan, his stats don’t jump out at you necessarily. He has over 3,100 yards passing with 14 touchdowns and a 62.2 completion percentage. But it’s not always about the numbers. Remember, the Falcons were the team that no one wanted to play for (D’Angelo Hall). Hell, no one wanted to coach there, either (Bobby Petrino). Even Bill Parcells left owner Arthur Blank at the altar regarding a vacant front office position. And, of course, the stench of Michael Vick permeated throughout the entire franchise. With everything that had transpired with this team last year, Blank was asked if he felt used by the media. Blank’s response: “Actually, I feel abused.”

It was ugly in Atlanta in 2007. Last season, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich were attempting to quarterback this team. In 2008, the job has been given to a 23 year old rookie quarterback, and he has been outstanding. He throws the ball extremely well, often very accurate and away from the opposition. He manages the game. He understands the playbook. He’s composed on the field, looking like a ten year veteran in the pocket. Off the field, he exudes confidence when talking to the press.

Some may have thought Ryan would find success in the NFL, but no one would’ve predicted it would come this early. And no one could have foreseen that it would come just one year after the utter disaster that was the 2007 Atlanta Falcons.

In my opinion, Ryan had both the lowest and highest of expectations. He was a top level draftee who was paid an ungodly sum of money. He took over a downtrodden team as an inexperienced pro. And he was filling the shoes of one of the most exciting players in the NFL, and ironically enough one of the most hated athletes in America–Michael Vick.

And all Ryan has done is lead the Falcons to a 9-5 record—they would be 10-6 had Roddy White caught a perfectly thrown touchdown pass by Ryan in the back of the end zone with 58 seconds remaining against the Broncos in week 11. The Falcons are still in the mix for a wild card spot. And while running back Michael Turner no doubt has been a force for Atlanta, Matt Ryan would get my vote for league MVP.

Who is your choice for MVP?

December 20, 2008 Posted by | NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment