Here come the Blurbs! Swerb's back with the sixth edition of Blurb-tastic madness which looks over the Browns, the NFL, and the big college games on tap this weekend. I think Swerb watches 20 TVs simultaneously on Saturdays. <BR><BR>Talk to Swerb in the <A HREF="http://citadel2.ezboard.com/fbrownsinsiderfrm34">Fan Commentary Forum!</A>
This Much Is Clear: The Sunday night game between the Dolphins and the Broncos was, hands down, one of the best regular season football games I have ever witnessed. Two teams, solid in all aspects of the game, clicking on all cylinders on a beautiful night in a great setting before a packed house in Denver. And then to top things off, Jason Elam and Olindo Mare exchange the two longest field goals this season in the final minute to give Miami a thrilling 24-22 win. Wow…..The '72 Dolphins can once again partake in their embarrassing, and much too publicized yearly celebration of the last unbeaten team falling. The Raiders fell to the Rams, leaving no team flawless. The hapless Bungles remain the league's only winless team at 0-6. I wouldn't be surprised if they managed to lose on their bye this week…..Tampa Bay's defense is unbelievable. It's the fastest defense I have ever seen play the game…..With all NFL teams playing only 6 division games this year, down from 10 for some teams in the past, it's looking like a lock that 3 of the 4 teams in the AFC West will make the playoffs. At this point of the season, Denver, San Diego, Oakland, and Kansas City are 4 of the best 9 or 10 teams in football…..Joey Harrington is going to be a helluva quarterback, and will likely buy Matt Millen a perhaps undeserved stay of execution in Detroit, even though he had to be talked into selecting him over Quentin Jammer…..The early front runners for both coach and rookie of the year have to be John Fox and Julius Peppers from Carolina. The Panthers are a couple tough losses away from being 5-1, and have been one of football's best defensive teams through six weeks……and finally, can you believe Terrell Owens? Part of me was disgusted, but never have I laughed so hard watching a football game. The best part of it all was Al Michaels reaction. And then Mariucci's press conference the next day. Even he couldn't help from laughing. He muttered something about how it was all good until he pulled the Sharpie out of his sock before breaking down. Classic.
Looking Ahead: Looking ahead to week 7, the keynote game in an impressive slate is a battle between the two teams most feel have the best chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl…Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. The two teams have met in the playoffs the past two seasons, with Philly winning both games by a combined score of 52-12. Should be a great and heated contest that establishes a frontrunner in the NFC as we near the midpoint of the season. There are some monumental divisional showdowns littering the schedule this weekend, including face-offs between the 4 very talented teams in the loaded AFC West. Denver visits Arrowhead to face the Chiefs and San Diego will play at Oakland. Also, Buffalo plays at Miami, and hopes to creep within a game of them with a big road win. In the final crucial division game, the 49ers visit the French Quarter to take on the red hot 5-1 New Orleans Saints. There is no Sunday night game this week, and on Monday night the Steelers, in a bid to get back to .500, host the 4-1 AFC South leading Indianapolis Colts in a rematch of the 1995 AFC Championship game. New England, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and the NY Giants are off this week.
An Offensive Offensive Line: I'm just not sure how much more I can take when it comes to watching our offensive line get dominated week in and week out. It's past the point of frustration, and I'm not sure that we have made any progress since rejoining the NFL at the start of the 1999 season. It's a finesse line that handles itself marginally when pass blocking, but when it comes to getting a push and opening holes for our backs, it's just turned into an absolute joke. And what's disturbing is the fact that no one or two players are the weak links that are causing our blocking woes. It's someone else every play. I'm tired of hearing how these guys "graded out well" each week. It's time for some damn results out of the running game. And I also attribute a lot of our defensive line's troubles stopping the run this year to the fact that they are practicing against our offensive line all week, and are overmatched on Sundays when going up against the Chiefs and Steelers of the NFL, and their big and powerful offensive fronts. There's nothing that can be done about our problems in this area now, and it's likely that we will once again be heading into next season with several new pieces parts that will yet again have to "gel as a unit". And to think the Chiefs were criticized at the time for trading the #19 overall pick for Willie Roaf, who is once again performing at a Pro Bowl level, and is the anchor to the leagues top line. Willie would have looked damn good in the orange and brown.
Lack Of Discipline?: The Browns continued to shoot themselves in the foot this week, committing 8 penalties for 66 yards, not including another couple of infractions that were declined by Tampa Bay. On the season, the Browns have committed 47 enforced penalties, which have cost the team 415 yards. The only teams to commit more penalties this season have been the Bills and the Texans, and the Bills are the only team to have been penalized for more yards than the Browns. The thing that really worries me is the fact that it isn't "effort mistakes" like pass interference or holding penalties that have really plagued us. It's the stupid false starts and unsportsmanlike conduct calls that have accounted for a good chunk of the damage. Those are penalties that can be avoided due to preparation and coaching, and I will be keeping a close eye on whether or not the team shows any improvement in their team discipline as the season progresses. At their current pace, the Browns are on pace to commit 125 penalties this season, just off the team record of 128 set by the 1989 club.
Palmer's Revenge: With 3 consecutive losses now in the books, the Browns are in a must win situation with the expansion Houston Texans coming to town this week. Houston won their opener, and have since lost 4 consecutive games…struggling mightily against San Diego and Indianapolis before playing better in their last 2 losses to Philadelphia and Buffalo. As we all know, former Browns head coach Chris Palmer joined head coach Dom Capers as the Texans offensive coordinator, and he would love nothing better than to deal yet another blow to the Browns while they're down this week. Palmer knows Couch about as well as anyone in the league, and chances are that Chris will spend nearly as much time schooling the Texans defensive unit as he will his own offense. The Texans do have some solid veteran defensive players, and will not be a walkover for us offensively this week, especially given the team's offensive woes as of late.
Around the NCAA…
The Week That Was: Ten of the eleven undefeated teams stayed flawless this past week despite scares being held off by Miami Fla., Oregon, Georgia, and Notre Dame. The Miami-Florida St. game was a true classic that saw Miami scramble back to take the lead and prevail when Florida St. missed yet another field goal in this series that would have dealt a serious blow to their hated in state rival. Oregon also rallied early in the 4th quarter to take the lead over UCLA, and also were the benefactors of a late missed field goal. Georgia held off Tennessee to go 6-0 for the 1st time in 23 years, and Notre Dame once again rode their defense to yet another win without the help of much offense. The only team to suffer their first loss this past week was Texas, who were once again defeated by Oklahoma, continuing the woes of Mack Brown and Chris Simms against top flight competition. Michigan sustained their dominance over Penn St. in an overtime thriller, and LSU handed Florida and the beleaguered Ron Zook their worst home beating in years. Also, NC St. and Air Force stayed perfect with impressive wins in rivalry games over North Carolina and BYU respectively.
Heisman Watch: Back once again to take a look at the weekly Heisman race, and at least as of now, it appears to be a 3-man race. Both Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee can both thank Florida St. kicker Xavier Beitia for keeping their names at the top of the list. A loss would not completely deflated the hopes of either, but the win leaves just 2 games on their schedule that could interfere with a flawless regular season…which would nearly ensure that both get the invite to the awards ceremony. Iowa St.'s Seneca Wallace, off the heels of another huge performance in a win over a formidable foe, is running neck and neck with the pair of Hurricanes, and has several huge games left on his schedule to boost (or bust) his Heisman hopes. As it stands now, here is the list of remaining Heisman hopefuls, with each players remaining key games in parenthesis….
Serious Contenders: Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee/Miami Fla. (at Tennessee, vs. Pitt, vs. Virginia Tech), Seneca Wallace/Iowa St. (at Oklahoma, at Texas, at Kansas St., at Colorado)
On The Brink: Phillip Rivers/NC St. (at Clemson, vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Florida St.), Onterrio Smith/Oregon (vs. USC, at Washington St., vs. Washington), Maurice Clarett/Ohio St. (at Wisconsin, vs. Penn St., vs. Michigan), Greg Jones/Florida St. (vs. Notre Dame, at Georgia Tech, at NC St., vs. Florida), Jason Gesser/Washington St. (vs. Oregon, vs. Washington, at UCLA)
Still Alive: Byron Leftwich/Marshall, Charles Rogers/Michigan St., Kliff Kingsbury/Texas Tech, Eli Manning/Ole Miss, Chance Harridge/Air Force, Cedric Benson/Texas, Carnell Williams/Auburn, Avon Cobourne/West Virginia
The Games That Matter: The coming weekend lacks the high profile match-ups of last Saturday, but still several quality games nonetheless. The headliner this week is a battle between Air Force and Notre Dame, college football's two most unlikely unbeaten teams. Also, in another contest that heavily impacts both the Heisman and national championship race, Iowa St. travels to Norman to face Oklahoma. Ohio St. is on the road at Wisconsin, Texas looks to rebound from last week in a visit to Kansas St, and Washington plays at USC. And finally, in three pretty damn good SEC games, Ole Miss is at Alabama, South Carolina visits LSU, and Auburn travels to The Swamp to take on the reeling Florida Gators.
Ouch. In what was the poorest week I can ever recall since handicapping professional and college football in print, the HC took a beating last week, as I lost all 7 selections I posted in this portion of my column. The Saturday morning update, in which I had been predicting winners at over a 62% clip this season, failed to fare much better, as I won just 3 of my 10 combined selections in college and the pros. I apologize to all of my readers, and can assure you that the results of this past week are not due to a lack of research of preparation, it was just one of those weeks. And while I've been consistent up until this point, I have yet to have one of those weeks that turns out as freakishly profitable as this week was poor. It will come. The season is a marathon and not a sprint. For any of you sadistic enough to want to be added to the Saturday morning mailing, which still stands at 11-8 in college and 10-9-1 in the pros, just drop me a quick line at firstname.lastname@example.org indicating as much.
Continuing an amazing run in the NFL, underdogs continued to cover at a torrid pace, with 10 of the 14 on the board once again cashing in. For the season, underdogs are 55-31-2, and are hitting at a 64% clip! While this streak is unlikely to continue, the fact that nearly 2 out of every 3 underdogs have covered over the first 6 weeks of the season makes this the hottest start to an NFL season that teams getting points has produced in recent history. Also, road teams once again covered 8 of 14 games, and have a record of 51-35-2 against the number thus far. And lastly, 8 of the 14 games this week went under the posted totals. To date, 47 games have gone over and 41 games have gone under the totals.
Tough choice for this week's "sucker bet of the week", but I'll have to go with the Raiders, laying 9 on the road to a wounded St. Louis Rams team. Also in consideration were Buffalo, laying 8 on the road in Houston, and the Giants, giving 5 points to Michael Vick-less Falcons squad. I try to rarely buy into sucker bets, and did have the Rams, Texans, and Falcons this week. Unfortunately, just about everything else I took Sunday fell apart late. There's nowhere to go but up this week.
And lastly, before I get on to my picks, I have to let everyone in on a phenomenal sports handicapping site that I have been a loyal visitor to for years. It's www.sportslynx.com. The dude that runs the site is named Chad, and I've actually gotten to know him pretty well over the years. There is a wealth of free sports handicapping information jam packed onto his site, and Chad is an absolutely brilliant handicapper himself. He has just been on fire in what he calls his "key selections" this year, with a documented 29-12 record in college so far this year, and 22-17 in the NFL. The National Sports Monitor has him ranked as the #1 handicapper in the country in college ball this year. He offers opinion plays on every college and pro football game on the board every week, and offers his key plays up for about $2 apiece. Dude is rock solid, and I know from 5 years of reading and BS'ing with him. Check his site out, and if you have any questions, drop him a line at email@example.com. He'll reply right back to any questions you may have. Tell him Swerb sent you for the red carpet treatment. On to my picks…
NY Jets –3 vs. Minnesota
The Jets are coming off of a bye and giving just field goal here to a Viking team in shambles, despite their win over league power Detroit last week. Bad start and all, this Jets squad is a team many were predicting the Super Bowl for. Have things fell for them this quick? I don't think so. While I don't believe the Jets are a playoff team, I do believe they finally have the right guy behind center. I also believe they will win this home game against a very weak Minnesota team quite comfortably this week. Take the Jets.
Washington +7 ½ at Green Bay
For the Redskins, it has been good game, bad game, good game this year. The Packers defense is decimated and I believe Spurrier and Ramsay will be able to exploit it this week, unlike New England a week ago. Ramsay got out some lumps after a strong debut, and I feel he can post some solid numbers this week. Washington's defense played well last week, despite the number of points they allowed. Nearly every NO score was the result of great field position following a turnover, or came via a special teams play. The team is starting to buy into Marvin Lewis's system, and playing better by the week. This number is just a bit too high, and I like the ‘Skins to come in under it and possibly steal a win in Lambeau.
Seattle +5 at St. Louis
Even with their win last week over Oakland, the Rams should not be giving anyone 5 points right now. Seattle actually played pretty well on Monday night, and will have a much easier time running the ball this week against the Rams. I expect Marc Bulger to struggle here in his second start, as most young QB's do. This is a battle between two desperate teams, and I simply feel the Seahawks are the better team right now, even coming off a short week. Take Seattle plus the 5.
New Orleans –2 ½ vs. San Francisco
I am not about to play against this dangerous Saint team right now. They are clicking on all cylinders and are solid in all facets of the game. The Niners are notorious for being poor ATS in domes (2-9 last 5 years), and I feel that they may be walking into a lion's den this week in New Orleans this week. San Fran is coming off a short week, and is banged up, losing several key players to injury on Monday night. Jeff Garcia has still not looked like the Garcia of last season, due in large part to absolutely no other receiving threat stepping up to take some pressure off of Terrell Owens. I look for the Saints to post yet another impressive victory this week. Take New Orleans.
Arizona St. +11 at Oregon
Coming off back-to-back tough road wins at Arizona and UCLA, and with USC coming into town next week…I feel an Oregon letdown coming up this week. The team has played better than everyone has expected, ascending to #7 in the national rankings. Coming back home, and giving more than 10 points to a very able Arizona St. team that just dropped consecutive nail biters at home to North Carolina and Oregon St. is a tough spot for them. I like this to be a close game that could possibly wreck the Ducks undefeated season. Take the Sun Devils +11.
Utah +1 vs. Colorado St.
No offense to the Rams here, but I'm just not sure why they are giving points here to Utah at home. They have struggled mightily the past 3 weeks with Nevada, Fresno St., and Wyoming since defeating Louisville at home. Utah is coming off of a very disappointing loss to San Diego St. in which they surrendered 36 points, but I like them to bounce back at home this week. Utah's defense remains one of the best in the nation, and the talent on their defensive line may be 2nd only to Miami of Florida. Take the Utes as a home dog this week.
Texas +2 at Kansas St.
My "gut feeling" play of the week. Texas is 3-1 ATS coming off of their yearly beating at the hands of Oklahoma. Take the Longhorns.
Arkansas –10 vs. Kentucky
Throw out their beating at the hands of the Crimson Tide, and the Razorbacks have performed admirably this season against four solid opponents, including a big win at Auburn last week coming off the 4 OT loss at Tennessee. Back home now, I expect a solid performance against this overrated Wildcat team. During Houston Nutt's tenure as Arkansas coach, they have been one of college football's best plays as a home favorite (12-6 ATS). Take Arkansas to cover the 10.
Nevada –5 ½ vs. San Jose St.
San Jose St. hits the road yet again for the 7th time in eight weeks in a visit to Nevada last week. Last week against Ohio St., they got off to a decent start before completely running out of steam in the middle of the 2nd quarter. I cannot see anything different here against a Nevada team that still has some weapons on offense, despite the loss earlier this year of star RB Chance Kretschmer. Revenge should also be a factor, as Nevada has lost to San Jose St. the past 2 years by a combined 40 points and surrendered 113 points in those 2 games. Nevada has 10 starters back on defense from last years 65-44 beating. Take Nevada and lay the 5 and a hook.