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Swerb's Blurbs

Watch out! Swerb is blurbing away again!! As we've come to expect, Swerb talks Browns, NFL, NCCAA and even point spreads. Here is Volume #4 of Swerb's Blurbs.<P>Talk to Swerb in the <A HREF="http://citadel2.ezboard.com/fbrownsinsiderfrm34">Fan Commentator Forum</A>

NFL Notebook

 

This Much Is Clear:  The two best divisions in the NFL are the AFC East and the AFC West.  With the possible exception of the Jets, who may actually be able to turn things around behind Chad Pennington, every team in those two divisions is a legitimate playoff contender in the wide-open AFC…….My pre-season Super Bowl prediction of the Buccaneers and the Raiders is looking solid right now.  Though it's still early, and two of their wins have come against the Bengals and the Ravens, Gruden has appeared to bring that missing element to Tampa.  For the Raiders, the infusion of draft picks and the laid back style of Bill Callahan have that team playing scary ball right now…….The Bengals are an embarrassment to not only professional football, but also the city of Cincinnati.  They play undisciplined, without confidence, and have no quarterback even worthy of being a backup in this league.  Currently, an on-line petition to oust mega-cheap owner Mike Brown has over 30,000 signatures…….Rich Gannon is the most underrated player in the NFL right now, hands down……And Tony Gonzalez is the most talented tight end in NFL history.  And that's coming from a guy that grew up watching Ozzie Newsome redefine the position.

 

Looking Ahead:  Week #5 of the 17-week NFL season sees four of the worst teams in the NFL on their bye week, and also features tough road match-ups for the leagues last two unbeaten teams.  On their bye are the winless Vikings, as well as the 1-3 Seahawks, Texans, and Lions.  The only 2 undefeated teams left at this early stage of the season both reside in the loaded AFC West division, and both will hit the road this week looking to stay flawless.  The upstart Chargers visit Denver to play the Broncos, and the Raiders, the leagues other unbeaten, travel cross country to take on the Buffalo Bills, who are averaging 33 points a game thus far behind the right arm of off-season acquisition Drew Bledsoe.  The prime time slate is a pair of rivalry games, with Baltimore traveling to Cleveland on Sunday night and the Packers and Bears hooking up at the Bears temporary home on the campus of the University of Illinois.  Other games of note see the winless Rams try to get things going with a visit to San Fran to face their divisional rivals whose number they have had in the past.  Pittsburgh plays at New Orleans and the surprising Jaguars host the dangerous Eagles, and in a battle for supremacy in the AFC East…Miami and New England both look to rebound from losses last week in a battle in south Florida.

 

Dawg Droppings

 

Too Conservative?  Most of the post-game analysis and speculation following the Browns latest heartbreaking loss has centered around the conservative play calling exhibited by Butch Davis and Bruce Arians in the final quarter and overtime period of this past Sunday's 16-13 debacle.  Personally, in OT…I would have done nothing different.  After taking over at the Steeler 34-yard line, the Browns needed just 6 yards to make the attempt that of 45 yards, and within the comfort zone of Phil Dawson, who had hit 24 of his past 25 attempts and was kicking into the closed end of Heinz Field.  That's exactly what we did, and Dawson nearly made the attempt despite the Stillers getting both a finger and a helmet on the ball.  Butch had no reason not to be confident in Dawson there, and he simply was just trying to get him as close as possible without subjecting the team to the possibility of a sack or an INT.  My beef with the play calling relates to the strategy in the 4th quarter when we led 13-6 with seven minutes left.  Knowing that a QB switch was coming on the Stillers next drive, and also knowing that Fuller and ‘Cutch were done for the game, the Browns should have made every attempt possible to push the ball past midfield before going into their shell offensively and simply trying to drain the clock.  When you have a seven-point lead, unlike OT, you can be a bit more aggressive and go for a teams throat in that position.  Especially when you have a chance to go 2 ½ games up on your division rival after just 4 weeks.

 

We Meet Again:  The Browns and Steelers meet again in just 5 short weeks on November 3rd in Cleveland Browns Stadium.  The Browns lead the division by half a game, and 3 of the 4 games they play before the rematch appear very winnable.  After defeating Baltimore this week, we travel to Tampa for what will be a very tough game before hosting the Texans and traveling to play the struggling Jets.  As for Pittsburgh, they play at New Orleans and Cincinnati before heading back home to host Indianapolis.  They then travel to Baltimore before heading to Cleveland for the week 9 rematch.  The Browns have their bye week the following week, in week 10.

 

Spotlight On Cleveland:  All eyes will be on Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday night, as the Browns host the hated Ravens in the nationally televised ESPN Sunday night game this week.  For the Browns, this will be their first nationally televised contest since their first game back after The Betrayal, the 43-0 shellacking we suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh in the '99 opener.  If you remember correctly, we were supposed to open last season on Sunday night at Pittsburgh, but due to the unfortunate events of September 11th, the game was moved to the final week and switched to a 1:00 PM kickoff.

 

Around the NCAA…

 

The Week That Was:  Last week started out with one of season's bigger upsets in the college ranks when Louisville fended off Florida St. in overtime at home in an epic duel in the driving rain on national television Thursday night.  In the week's only other upset of any significance, another OT instant classic, Iowa went into Happy Valley and upended undefeated Penn St. 42-35 in a game that saw the Nittany Lions rally from a 35-13 deficit with just 7 minutes left before falling to the Hawkeyes for the 3rd straight season.  Nebraska fell from the Top 25 ratings for the first time since Reagan's early days in office after suffering their 2nd straight embarrassing loss, this time falling 36-14 at Iowa St.  And a couple of teams (Oregon St. and Arkansas) that started off the season undefeated due to relatively soft scheduling were exposed for what they really are in blowout losses to USC and Alabama, both teams that all of the sudden look very dangerous despite already having a loss.

 

Heisman Watch:  The way I see it, with two months of regular season play left to decide the winner of this year's Heisman trophy, the field has been trimmed down to a dozen legitimate candidates capable of winning college football's most esteemed award.  As it stands now, those 12 players can be broken down into three groups of four in determining their current likelihood of bringing home the hardware.  The first group of four features not only a wide receiver, but a freshman as well.  Charlie Rogers of Michigan St. is no doubt one of those most talented WR's college football has seen as of late, but he will likely be eventually victimized by his teams lack of success and continued underachievement.  Ohio St. freshman runner Maurice "The Beast" Clarett is looking rewrite the unwritten rules that say a frosh cannot win this award.  Leading the Buckeyes to a Fiesta Bowl berth with his rare blend of power and speed may do just that.  The other frontrunners right now are quarterbacks Ken Dorsey of Miami Fla. and Seneca Wallace of Iowa St.  The second quartet of contenders features another Hurricane, RB Willis McGahee, and three more signal callers (Phillip Rivers, Byron Leftwich, and Rex Grossman) all capable of posting jaw dropping numbers through the air.  The final four guys who still have a shot at the Heisman are led by Texas QB Chris Simms, who has done little to either help or hurt his campaign thus far but still has Oklahoma, Kansas St., Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M on his schedule.  Simms can get right in the thick of things quick if the Longhorns can go on a little winning streak.  Also, Jason Gesser of Washington St.'s Heisman campaign was revived a bit last week in a big win at Cal last week.  The final two contenders are a pair of backs coming off huge weeks…Auburn's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and West Virginia's Avon Cobourne.

 

The Games That Matter:  Looking ahead to this coming weekend's schedule, there are no marquee match-ups to speak of.  Instead, the board is littered with conference games, but not one matching teams in the top 16 in the country.  According to the rankings, the weeks top games feature #18 USC at #17 Washington St. and #20 Penn St. at #19 Wisconsin.  Other games of note see Georgia travel to Alabama, Arkansas at Tennessee, Florida at Ole Miss, UCLA at Oregon St., and Kansas St. at Colorado.  Also, the undefeated and #9 ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame continue their run at an attempted return to glory by hosting Stanford this weekend.

 

Handicapper's Corner

 

After a week off, the HC is back and looking to beat the books as we head into the 7th week of college football and the 5th week of NFL play.  Despite taking a week off from posting ‘Da Blurbs, I did once again release my Saturday morning newsletter this past week…and again enjoyed another successful weekend.  In that free newsletter, I release my top 5 college and pro selections after having a full week to analyze the board, as opposed to the Tuesday afternoon deadline I assign myself for this column.  To date, my record in the weekend update stands at 6-4 in college and 7-3 in the NFL.  Currently, there are about 30 people signed up.  I'd love to add you to the list of people I send it out to Saturday mornings.  If interested, just drop me a quick email at swerb@berniesinsiders.com.

 

Underdogs continued to cash in this week in the NFL, posting 9 covers in the 14 games played.  For the season, underdogs are 38-21-1 (64.4%) against the Vegas number.  If you are one of those guys that plays nearly all favorites (and likely had St. Louis, New Orleans, and Denver this week), it may be time to seriously assess the newfound parity in the NFL and adjust your wagering strategy accordingly.  As far as over/unders are concerned, it's been nearly a dead heat with 31 games going over the posted total so far this season and 29 games going under.  Road teams have also been profitable, going 34-25-1 ATS through 4 weeks.

 

Moving onward to my early picks this week, I'll be looking to improve on a mediocre 7-9-2 overall record.  Clearly, the extra research time I'm afforded for the Saturday morning newsletter deadline has proved fruitful.  Here's looking to move above .500 this week and start concentrating on a profitable final 2/3 of the season in the HC.  If anyone has any questions, comments, or opinions on this week's slate, or wants added to the Saturday update…shoot me an e-mail at swerb@berniesinsiders.com.  Good luck!

 

NFL

 

5-5 (50.0%)

 

New England +3 @ Miami

 

After getting out to their patented hot start, fueled by home wins over the lowly Jets and Lions, Miami and Jay Fiedler were exposed last week by the Chiefs.  Trent Green abused the beat up Miami defense, throwing to 7 different receivers and tossing 5 TD's against no INT's while rolling up 48 points.  Look for Belichick and Brady to go to school off that performance and continue to put up big numbers through the air.  I like New England to rebound this week and get the outright win.  Take the Pats plus 3.

 

Tampa Bay –1 ½ @ Atlanta

 

I am officially on the Tampa bandwagon, and feel they will get the job done here on the road against Atlanta.  The Falcons are a young improving team, but beating the red hot Bucs in this spot may be a bit too much too ask at this young stage of the season.  Tampa plays well on turf and will be geeked up for this important divisional game, and will hand the Falcons their 3rd hard luck loss of the year here.  Take Tampa.

 

New Orleans –3 vs. Pittsburgh

 

At –3, I'm not a huge fan of the Saints here, but you can rest assured that bettors riding the Steelers will drive this number below 3 on game day, and that's where I step in and take the Saints.  The Steelers, despite winning last week, are a much more flawed team than many people expected, or still realize for that matter, at this stage of the season.  The running game has been a mess, and there's a QB controversy brewing.  Though they lost to the Lions last week, I still feel the Saints are a dangerous team, solid on both lines of scrimmage, that is still very capable of doing some damage this season.  I like them to defend their home turf here this week.  Watch for the number to fall, and take the Saints.

 

NCAA

 

2-4-2 (33.3%)

 

Navy +24 @ Air Force

 

I love going against teams coming off emotional victories, and Air Force is coming off huge back to back SU and ATS wins against Cal and Utah, two teams they were almost 10 point underdogs against.  Look for them to overlook Navy, especially with BYU coming to town next week.  Also, Navy is amazingly 31-7 ATS on the road following a home game since 1991.  Take Navy.

 

Illinois +3 ½ @ Minnesota

 

The Illini are much too talented to not get things turned around at some point here, and this week they face a Gopher team that has played 4 absolute meatballs to open the season.  Like many of the teams who opened with weak schedules, Minnesota will get stung this week and lose outright to a more talented, tested, and hungry Illini team that must right the ship quick to avoid going from the Sugar Bowl to no bowl despite returning 14 starters from a year ago.  Jump on Illinois plus the three and a hook.

 

Texas Tech +6 @ Texas A&M

 

This is a game I play every year.  Tech has owned A&M ATS, covering 10 of the last 13.  A&M has a great defense, but struggle mightily on the offensive side of the ball and remain a very inconsistent team from week to week.  After shutting down La.Tech's pass attack last week, I'm hedging that Kingsbury will be able to score some points on them this week.  A&M's offense is bad news, and 2 or 3 Kingsbury TD's should equal a cover.  Take the Red Raiders.

 

Florida –15 @ Ole Miss

 

Hate to go with all road teams this week, but Mississippi is simply one of the more overrated teams in college football based solely on the last name of their quarterback.  I like Florida to roll big time here a week after struggling a bit with Kentucky, and continue the revival of Rex Grossman's Heisman campaign.  Lay the points and take the Gators.


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