Swerb's Blurbs

Fan commentator Swerb is blurbing once more, with an eye towards the NFL, NCAA, and this weekend's betting lines!

Dropped passes, poor tackling, terrible blocking, and costly penalties.  Not exactly what we were expecting with the winless Chargers coming into town and the Browns off back-to-back wins over the Steelers and the Raiders.

Actually, to anyone who follows the Browns closely, the stinker against the Chargers should not have come as a surprise.  The one thing we have all learned during the Butch Davis era is to expect the unexpected.  Every team the team appears down and out; they surge back with an unexpected win.  When things appear on the right track, we lose at home to the Bengals or the Chargers.  The irony in this all is that Butch Davis has been preaching about consistency to his players and the local media since taking this poState

In addition to the factors mentioned at the outset of this column, the quarterback play was terrible this past Sunday.  Not helping matters was our banged up line giving Couch no time to throw.  But on both interceptions, which were directly parlayed into ten Charger points, the onus should fall directly on Couch, and terrible reads which resulted in very ignorant throws. 

The porous offensive line of this team makes it very difficult for me to decipher who is the long-term answer at quarterback for this team, or even if our future quarterback is presently on the roster.  Couch continues to be plagued by the same faults he's always had here, and has not been able to enjoy a prolonged stretch of solid performances leading this football team.  Again, I wonder to myself if his development would have differed over these past four plus seasons if the offensive line would not have been so sub par.

Despite all this, the Browns are tied for first place in the pathetic AFC North.  How many wins will be needed to take this division?  One would have to assume that it will still take at least eight wins despite the fact that the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens all sit at 3-4.  What worries me is that the Browns next four road games come against teams (Patriots, Chiefs, Seahawks, Broncos) with a combined record of 22-5.

Of course, they'll probably win those four games, and lose to Arizona, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

NFL Notebook

Power Poll

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-0, ranked #1 last week):  Keep rolling along. 
  1. Minnesota Vikings (6-0, ranked #3 last week):  Still perfect after beating the Broncos and silencing the critics who spoke of the Vikings weak early season schedule.
  1. Carolina Panthers (5-1, ranked #2 last week):  Caught one on the chin, losing four fumbles and falling victim to a fake punt in a loss to the Titans.
  1. Indianapolis Colts (5-1, ranked #5 last week):  Move up one spot on their bye week due to a Bronco loss.  Have the Texans at home this week.
  1. Tennessee Titans (5-2, ranked #10 last week):  Have been nearly perfect since getting spanked by the Colts in week two.
  1. Denver Broncos (5-2, ranked #4 last week):  Need to maintain playoff positioning with Plummer sidelined.
  1. Dallas Cowboys (5-1, ranked #9 last week):  The friggin' Tuna.  Unbelievable…
  1. Seattle Seahawks (5-1, ranked #8 last week):  Squeak out a win over the Bears.  A very weak schedule should guarantee ten wins and a playoff spot.
  1. New England Patriots (5-2, unranked last week):  Belichick does not want to hear about injuries, and continues to pound out upset wins over quality opponents.
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3, ranked #6 last week):  Barely hang on to last spot over the Rams and Dolphins.  Need to get their act together quickly.

The MVP Race

  1. QB Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans:  What a season McNair is having.  Twelve touchdowns, two interceptions, and a QB rating of 107.
  2. QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts:  Best start of career more impressive without a healthy Edgerrin.
  3. WR Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings:  Huge week after huge week in leading unbeaten Minnesota's #1 ranked offense through seven weeks.
  4. DE Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Added his second INT this past week to go along with his league leading eight sacks.
  5. S Brian Russell, Minnesota Vikings:  What a story!  Undrafted rookie FA from a couple years back has intercepted a pass in each of the Vikings first six games!
  6. KR/WR Dante Hall, Kansas City Chiefs:  Held somewhat in check the last two weeks, but there's no denying his impact on the Chiefs 7-0 start.
  7. RB Stephen Davis, Carolina Panthers:  Fading a bit due to fumbleitis. 
  8. S Edward Reed, Baltimore Ravens:  Four interceptions and two touchdowns already this season for the Ravens.
  9. WR Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts:  Doesn't have Terrell Owens biceps or bravado, but he has been a much more consistent and valuable player over the years.
  10. RB Priest Holmes, Kansas City Chiefs:  The hip has looked fine, and so do the Chiefs chances with a healthy PrieState
  11. DE Mike Rucker, Carolina Panthers:  Continues to benefit from Peppers double teams.  Six sacks and one of the best DE's in the league against the run.
  12. S Rodney Harrison, New England Patriots:  Making Belichick look like a genius as he continues to drink from the fountain of youth.  Amongst the league leaders in tackles with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
  13. RB Jamal Lewis, Baltimore Ravens:  Has been the only thing consistent about the Raven offense.  En route to a big season.
  14. LB Chris Claiborne, Minnesota Vikings:  Free agent acquisition has been one of the keys to the Viking start.  Three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception in addition to a leading tackler.
  15. LB David Thornton, Indianapolis Colts:  Forced into duty this season, last years third round pick of the Colts has been excellent.
  16. RB Ahman Green, Green Bay Packers:  Coach Mike Sherman has said he has never seen Ahman look better.
  17. LB Keith Bulluck, Tennessee Titans:  Has been amazing this season in leading the Titan defense.  An evolving star.  Fumble recovery for touchdown was big in win over Panthers.
  18. DE Shaun Ellis, NY Jets:  Leads defensive linemen in tackes (27) and sacks (8) so far this season.
  19. RB Deuce McAllister, New Orleans Saints:  Trying to lead the Saints back into the playoff picture.
  20. RB LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers:  If the Chargers only had a passing game to keep opposing defenses honeState

Looking Ahead

The closest thing to a marquee game this week sees the reborn Dallas Cowboys and Bill Parcells travel to Tampa to play the defending Super Bowl champions.  The last two unbeaten teams, Kansas City and Minnesota, also face tough tests this week…albeit at home.  The Chiefs host the Bills, and Minnesota will take on the visiting Giants, who are desperate for a win.  The prime time games lack their usual punch this week, with the disappointing Jets and Eagles meeting up on Sunday night in Philly, and the Chargers hosting the Dolphins on Monday night.  And lastly, in the ugly AFC North, where all four teams are below .500 and within a game of each other, there are four intriguing match-ups that will help to sort things out as we approach the halfway mark.  Cleveland plays at New England, Baltimore hosts Denver, the Rams travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, and the Bengals play host to the Seahawks.

The College Ranks

Road To The Sugar Bowl

Very little shakeup at the top of the rankings this week as nine of the top ten teams remained the same, with just Iowa dropping out after their loss to Ohio State.  With that second loss, any hopes the Hawkeyes had of a title game run were dashed, as were the hopes of Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Minnesota who also dropped their second games of the year.

TCU and Northern Illinois both also remain unbeaten, but the nature of the system that currently exists likely prevents them from putting themselves in a national title game, even if they were to finish the season unblemished.

Purdue, Nebraska, and Michigan State are all one-loss teams that strengthened their respective campaigns with impressive wins this week to put them on the cusp of the top ten.

And the situation at the very top remained the same, as the country waits for next weekend's game between Miami of Florida and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.  Just those two teams and Oklahoma are still unbeaten, with a legion of talented one-loss teams lurking in the shadows.

Heisman Watch

  1. 1a. QB BJ Symons, Texas Tech: A good novelty story at first, Symons is now defying logic. That was not a half bad Okie St D he just torched.
  2. 1b. QB Jason White, Oklahoma: Another ho hum solid performance. White is the nation's top rated passer on the nation's best team.
  3. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh: Leapfrogs Mike Williams (barely) as the worthiest wideout. 200 yards in the 1st half against Rutgers this past week. Dude is sick.
  4. WR Mike Williams, USC: Another 9 catches and a score this week vs. Notre Dame. Consistent excellence each week.
  5. QB Phillip Rivers, North Carolina State: Right now, IMO, it would be a tough call for the final invite to NY. In the end though, I realized how good Rivers #'s would look if Symons weren't right above him.
  6. WR Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State: 6-147 this week in BIG win over Texas Tech has him in the hunt.
  7. RB Stephen Jackson, Oregon State: Struggled a bit this week (22-49, 5-53 rec) to fall back a bit.
  8. RB Chris Perry, Michigan: Statistically the top back in the country right now.
  9. RB Kevin Jones, Virginia Tech: Bye week sees Jones, who has yet to dominate, fall back a bit.
  10. QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss: 14-22 for 280 yards, 3 td, and 0 INT in big win over 'Bama.
  11. RB Michael Turner, Northen Illinois
  12. RB Carnell Williams, Auburn
  13. QB Bill Whittemore, Kansas
  14. OT Robert Gallery, Iowa
  15. S Sean Taylor, Miami-Florida
  16. QB Brad Smith, Missouri
  17. RB Tatum Bell, Oklahoma State
  18. OT Shawn Andrews, Arkansas
  19. RB Derrick Knight, Boston College
  20. RB Cedric Cobbs, Arkansas
  21. WR Reggie Williams, Washington
  22. QB Jeff Smoker, Michigan State
  23. QB Josh Harris, Bowling Green
  24. RB Marion Barber, Minnesota
  25. RB Walter Reyes, Syracuse

Others: CB Kewain Ratliff, Florida; RB Darren Sproles, Kansas State; QB Ben Roethlisberger, Miami-OH; QB Ryan Dinwiddie, Boise State;
RB DeAngelo Williams, Memphis; WR Lee Evans, Wisconsin; CB Derrick Strait, Oklahoma; DT Darnell Dockett, Florida State; LB DeMorrio Williams, Nebraska; RB Shaud Williams, Alabama; RB Mewelde Moore, Tulane; The Games That Matter

No marquee games this week, and just two games between teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

  1. #10 Purdue Boilermakers at #13 Michigan Wolverines

  2. #17 Auburn Tigers at #9 Louisiana State Tigers

  3. #5 USC Trojans at Washington Huskies

  4. Oregon State Beavers at #7 Washington State Cougars

  5. #1 Oklahoma Sooners at Colorado Buffaloes

  6. #3 Virginia Tech Hokies at West Virginia Mountaineers

Other games of note:  Syracuse at Pittsburgh, New Mexico at #24 Utah, #22 Tennessee at Alabama, Wake Forest at #6 Florida State, Arizona State at UCLA, BYU at UNLV, Kansas at Kansas State

Handicapper's Corner

Went 2-1 in my college plays last week, but lost all three NFL games I prognosticated in this column last week.  For the season, I am 9-8 overall in my selections against the Vegas number.

Hope some of you had a chance to visit www.sportslynx.com, one of the websites I mentioned in the inaugural "Handicapper's Corner" of the season.  Chad Wilson, the resident handicapper and former Miami of Florida cornerback, has gone 18-11 in his plays over the last month, including a 10-5 mark in his "Two Key" plays.  And this is generally the time of year he heats up…so Chad could be in for a big season.  He is a very knowledgeable man that has actually been in the trenches and knows the game well.

On to my selections for this week.  Three in the NCAA and two in the NFL.  Good luck.

NCAA (6-4)

Arkansas Razorbacks +1 at Mississippi Rebels
Ole Miss got the home win last week versus a floundering Alabama ball club, but I don't think they can make it two in a row with the Razorbacks in town this week.  Arkansas is a solid team coming off two tough home losses to Auburn and Florida that could have went either way.  Mississippi continues to draw in bettors because of the last name of their quarterback.  They have played better of late after barely holding off Vandy and losing at Memphis early in the season, but Arkansas is the better team, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Arkansas needs a win to get back in the SEC race and will get it on the road this week in a series they have dominated ATS (6-2-1 in last 9) as of late.  Take Arkansas.

Oregon Ducks –9 ½ over Stanford Cardinal
Oregon will once again look to exact their frustration on an unexpecting Cardinal team this week in Eugene.  That's exactly what they did last year, pounding Stanford 41-14 at home after two straight losses.  This year, they have lost three straight games and had a bye week to think about it.  Many forget this Duck team was Top 10 material after starting out 4-0 and beating Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Now, after losses to Wazzou, Utah, and Arizona State, they find themselves giving less than ten to a Cardinal team that they should easily handle.  The Ducks are angry…take Oregon.

Washington Huskies +10 over USC
I'll go with the Huskies again this week after easily cashing in on them last week when they won outright by 21 points as a ten-point dog in Corvalis against Oregon State  Despite that impressive win, odds makers are still pricing Washington off the shocking loss to Nevada.  They now find themselves once again getting tem points, but this time at home against a USC team coming off three easy victories after their upset loss to Cal.  No team has been a better home dog than Washington as of late, as the Huskies have not only covered their last five games getting chalk at home, but WON ALL THREE GAMES OUTRIGHT.  The dog has ruled this series, and I like the Huskies getting points at home here.  Take Washington.

NFL (3-4)

New York Giants +6 at Minnesota Vikings
I've been all over the Vikings since about June as one of my sleepers this year, but the fun has to end at some point.  The Vikings are 6-0 ATS this season, and very rarely do NFL teams win or lose more than ten games against the number in any given season.  The Giants are desperate for a win in the suddenly competitive NFC East, and another loss here would just about do them in.  I think Jim Fassel will strongly convey that to the team this week, and we will finally see the Giant offense we've all been waiting to emerge.  Giants win outright.  Take NY plus the six.

Carolina +1 at New Orleans
What?  Carolina getting points from the Saints?  Why?  Because they fumbled four times last week and fell to the Titans by 21 in a game that was played much more evenly than the final score depicted.  This is the same Carolina team that went into Indianapolis and Tampa Bay and slayed the Colts and the Bucs.  And they're getting points from a Saints team they've already beaten whose only wins have come against the Texans, Bears, and Falcons?  The underdog has covered five of the last six in this series.  The Panthers are the much better football team, and is an angry team coming off a tough home loss.  Take Carolina.

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