Swerb is back with the Blurbs, looking at the Browns, the NFL, the NCAA, and the betting lines. You know you want to be blurbed... give in and check out Swerb's latests.<BR><BR>Talk back to Swerb in the <A HREF="http://citadel2.ezboard.com/fbrownsinsiderfrm34">Fan Commentary Forum</A>.
This Much Is Clear: No one unit has overachieved as much as the Charger offensive line thus far this season. Often criticized last season, and with 4 new starters this season, they and LaDanian have led the Chargers to the best start in the league. The Chargers draft well every year, and landed two steals early in the 2nd round this season in OG Toniu Fonoti and WR Reche Caldwell…..A big key to the surprising 4-2 start by the Arizona Cardinals has been their lack of penalties. Through 6 games, the Cards have committed only 23 penalties for just 184 yards, both league lows…..Minnesota lost their 13th straight road game this week in the Meadowlands against the Jets. They also dropped to a league low –14 in turnover differential…..The Chad Pennington era has officially started in New York. And with a bang. Pennington has connected on 73 of his first 106 this season and is averaging over 300 yards per game through the air…..Freddie Taylor is back, and showing us all exactly the type of back he can be when not injured. Taylor is on pace for nearly 1,700 yards rushing…...Speaking of backs on pace to rush for 1,700 yards, Deuce McAllister is the real deal. And New Orleans is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. You can still snag them at over 10-1 to win the Bowl and I like that investment right about now…..And speaking of good investments, how about the Buffalo Bills still at around 20-1 just to reach the Super Bowl? Bledsoe and that receiving corp will continue to post points, and their defense gets better each week. Despite not having an INT until this past week, the Bills Buckeye duo of Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements are one of the most talented CB tandems in the league.
Looking Ahead: Just one game this week pitting two teams with winning records against each other, and the Arizona Cardinals are involved. That's right, it's Arizona and San Francisco, one of football's newest rivalries, facing off at 3Com for the division lead in the NFC West. Who would have thought? The NFL's other surprise division leader, the Baltimore Ravens, host Pittsburgh in another battle for 1st place and the Monday night game this week will also be a battle for division supremacy as the 4-2 Eagles play the 3-3 Giants under the lights in a NFC East battle. As a matter of fact, 8 of the 14 games this week match division opponents. In the best game between non-division rivals, Denver heads up to New England to face the reeling Pats who have dropped 3 straight after a 3-0 start.
We Needed That: As scary as that game this past weekend looked as the Browns were running out the clock to end the first half tied 7-7 with the expansion Texans, give credit to the Browns for coming out inspired to start the second half. Couch came out and threw 9-10 in the 3rd quarter, including several clutch tosses to keep drives alive. The return game continued to provide a huge boost, as Andre Davis's kickoff return midway through the 3rd quarter gave the team a lead they would never relinquish. And although it was against the league's 2nd poorest offensive line, it was nice to finally see some sort of pass rush. We also were able to keep the penalties to a minimum, committing just 4 this week…including Ryan Tucker's token 2 false starts that he chalks up per game.
Why Butch, Why?: Why on earth does this coaching staff refuse to try and put together a two minute drill offensively, or ever use timeouts on defense to try and secure the team more time to put something together at the ends of the first halves of games? We have four second round picks at WR, and 1st round picks at QB and RB. Let these kids try and develop some chemistry in that two-minute setting. The offense has excelled in that area at the ends of games, yet never gets the opportunity to put something together at the end of the 1st half. And where on earth have Darren Hambrick and Dwayne Rudd been defensively for us this season? I went into this season, excited at the speed and athleticism that pair was going to provide us at OLB this season, and now, just 7 weeks in, I'm happy just to hear them involved in tackles.
Around the NCAA…
The Week That Was: Down to just 8 unbeaten teams in Division I thanks to losses by Air Force and Oregon, the national championship race is starting to heat up. The Ducks, who were upset by Arizona St., are likely cooked as are the Falcons, whose vaunted ground attack was shut down by the very impressive defense of this seasons Cinderella story, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…now just behind Miami Fla. at #3 in the recently released BCS rankings. Oklahoma, who holds the #1 spot, absolutely dominated the upstart Cyclones of Iowa St. 49-3, and likely ended the Heisman hopes of their QB Seneca Wallace, who ended 4-22 for 43 yards and 3 interceptions. Ohio St., also still flawless, fended off Wisconsin behind a workmanlike effort from their defense and super frosh Maurice Clarett. The #4 and #5 BCS rated teams, Virginia Tech and Georgia both had an easy time with conference patsies Rutgers and Vanderbilt. North Carolina St. got a major scare from Duke of all teams, and Bowling Green, the nations last unbeaten, prevailed in a 48-45 overtime thriller against a gritty Western Michigan team. In a couple of big PAC-10 games, USC pounded Washington and Cal continued their unlikely bowl run with a 17-12 home win over UCLA. And in the Big Ten, Michigan and Iowa held off Purdue and Indiana respectively in precursors to their head to head showdown this week in the Big House. And finally, LSU and Texas cemented their place in the top 10 of both the national and BCS rankings with impressive wins over South Carolina and Kansas St.
Heisman Watch: The more I try and break down the Heisman race, and the further we get into the season…the more muddled the picture becomes. With just 6 weeks remaining in college football's regular season, there are still 12-15 players with a legitimate shot to win the award, and no clear-cut favorite. Let's take a look at how things are shaping up:
Serious Contenders: Ken Dorsey/Miami Fla. Willis McGahee/Miami Fla., Maurice Clarett/Ohio St., Onterrio Smith/Oregon
On The Brink: Byron Leftwich/Marshall, Chris Brown/Colorado, Phillip Rivers/NC St., Jason Gesser/Washington St.
Still Alive: Seneca Wallace/Iowa St., Greg Jones/Florida St., Kliff Kingsbury/Texas Tech, Avon Cobourne/Virginia Tech
Longshots: Charlie Rogers/Michigan St., Carnell Williams/Auburn, Cedric Benson/Texas, Josh Harris/Bowling Green, Chance Harridge/Air Force, Eli Manning/Ole Miss
The Games That Matter: Big week of key conference match-ups this week, headlined by Penn St.'s visit to The Horseshoe in Columbus to face the undefeated and #4 raked Buckeyes of Ohio St. Should the Bucks win, their main roadblock to a Big Ten title will be the winner of this week's Michigan/Iowa contest. Georgia and Notre Dame, also looking to keep their national championship hopes alive in tough road assignments at Kentucky and Florida St. Over in the Big 12, Iowa St. and Seneca Wallace look to rebound from last week's humiliation with a tough road game at Texas, and Colorado and Chris Brown host the high powered Texas Tech attack, which is spearheaded by Kliff Kingsbury. Out west, USC continues on with their brutally tough schedule with a trip to Oregon to face the wounded Ducks, and Arizona St. celebrates their first top 25 ranking since Jake Plummer with a home game against Washington…who recently dropped out of the polls. In the last of the big games pairing ranked teams, Alabama plays at Tennessee.
Nice little rebound week for me with winning days in my early week plays posted in this column, and for my late plays in the Saturday morning newsletter, in which I churned out my 4th profitable week in 5 tries. In the Saturday update, I went 6-4 in college and 3-2 in the NFL. For the season, the newsletter stands at 17-13 (56.6%) in the NCAA, and 13-11-1 (54.2%) in the NFL against the respective Vegas numbers. Anyone that wants added to the mailing list to which I send that weekend update out to, just drop me a quick e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have about 50 people signed up, and do it as a free little perk to readers of this portion of my column.
For the first time this season, favorites covered more games than underdogs as teams laying chalk went 9-4-1 ATS! Underdogs have been the much better moneymaker this season through 7 weeks, with a 56-42-4 record against the number. 9 of 14 games this week also went under their respective total. In one of many signs that the guys making these number know precisely what they're doing…52 games have went over and 50 games under the Vegas totals. Home teams went 10-3-1 ATS, but for the season are just 47-51-4.
And lastly, just a repeat of a public service announcement for any of you who like to surf the web for quality sports handicapping sites. My boy Chad at www.sportslynx.com continues to sizzle handicapping games this season. Trust me. Great site, great analysis. Check it out. On to this week's picks…
Kansas City +3 vs. Oakland
Kansas City was robbed of a cover as a home dog last week when they completely outplayed Denver for 3 ½ quarters. This week, they find themselves again getting a field goal at home against the Raiders…who have lost 2 straight after their 4-0 start. The Raiders defense has unraveled on them, and they lost star rookie CB Phillip Buchanon for 8 weeks, which also hurts their return game. I like the Chiefs to get it done at home this week, and post a lot of points in the process…sending the Raiders to their 3rd straight loss.
Chicago +1 at Minnesota
This Viking team has simply come apart at the seams, and I will continue to bet against them every week until the odds makers start realizing exactly how poor this team is. They should not be giving anyone points right now. The Bears are a mess themselves, but are getting healthier by the week and are the same team that won 13 games last season. Unlike the Vikings, they will be very hungry for a win this week to stay in the playoff hunt and should feast on the reeling Vikes…even in the Metrodome.
New England –3 vs. Denver
Coming off of 2 mega-emotional games against Miami and Kansas City, this is a classic letdown spot for the Broncos this week. Not making matters any better for Denver is the fact that New England is a wounded animal coming off of 3 straight losses and a bye week. NFL teams have fared very well off a bye week this season, and I expect a top notch performance this week from the defending champs. Also, Denver's best offensive lineman, Tom Nalen, was lost for the season last week. Take the Pats.
San Jose St. +16 vs. Boise St.
San Jose is a huge home dog this week due to Boise St's utter ass whooping of Fresno on Friday night of last week. San Jose has been on the road for 7 of the past 8 weeks, and will be a refreshed and relaxed team this week that will be very focused for a Boise team that is on a roll. Boise played as well as they possibly could have last week, and I expect a bit of a letdown here on the road against a gritty Spartan team. I went against San Jose last week and hit based on their torrid road schedule, and I like them at home this week getting a generous amount of points. Take San Jose St.
Virginia +5 ½ at Georgia Tech
Not sure I understand this line. Virginia is on fire, and winners of 5 in a row after scoring 37 unanswered points to come back and spank North Carolina last week. Georgia Tech is circling the drain, and their slew of injuries to key players is starting to catch up with them. Why the Cavaliers are getting more than a FG here is beyond me, and I will back Virginia getting the 5 ½ points here.
California +5 ½ at Oregon St.
See the above game. Cal continues to get disrespected by the odds makers despite proving that they are a quality bowl team this season. My Saturday newsletter was all over them getting 3 points at home against UCLA last week and I will jump all over them again here getting 5 ½ points against an incredibly inconsistent Oregon St. team.
Iowa St. +13 at Texas
Seneca Wallace is a much better player that Oklahoma's defense made him look last week, and Iowa St. is still a very solid Top 20 football team. Getting a win in Austin may be a tough task to pull off this week, but I like Seneca and the Cyclones to make this a tight game. I love Iowa St. getting nearly 2 TD's here as they will be out to prove to the country that last week was an aberration. Take Iowa St.