Swerbs Blurbs #8

It's Halloween. There's a feeling of dread in the air.... almost one of feeling stalked by the Grim Reaper himself. Yes, if you're one of the undefeated teams sitting atop the college rankings, you know that great pleasure would be taken in your untimely demise. Swerb blurbs on the big college games this weekend, as well as the NFL playoff race. Overcome your fear, the blurbs are here.

NFL Notebook


Playoff Picture:  With the season nearly half over, it's time to start taking a look at how the playoff races are shaping up.  Starting in the AFC, it's interesting to note that Oakland and New England are currently on the outside looking in…and Buffalo and San Diego would be in, with the Chargers currently leading the race for home field advantage.


1st round byes:  San Diego (6-1) and Miami (5-2)

The other division leaders:  Indianapolis (4-3) and Pittsburgh (4-3)

The wild cards:  Denver (6-2) and Buffalo (5-3) 

Stalking the pack:  Oakland (4-3), Cleveland (4-4), and Kansas City (4-4)


Over in the NFC, St and Chicago have been vast disappointments and would need miraculous turnarounds to get back in the playoff hunt.  The surprise teams have been New Orleans, Arizona, and Atlanta…all of whom are all firmly entrenched in the playoff hunt.


1st round byes:  Green Bay (6-1) and New Orleans (6-2)

The other division leaders:  Philadelphia (5-2) and San Francisco (5-2)

The wild cards:  Tampa Bay (6-2) and Arizona (4-3)

Stalking the pack:  Atlanta (4-3), NY Giants (3-4), and Washington (3-4)


Looking Ahead:  This weekend's action is most definitely highlighted by the Monday night affair, a showdown at Lambeau between the Dolphins and the Packers…a pair of legitimate Super Bowl contenders at this point of the season.  In another game matching Super Bowl quality teams, the 49ers will travel across the bay to take on the Raiders, losers of three straight.  New England looks to get back into the race in the AFC East this week and will travel to Buffalo to take on their old friend Drew Bledsoe.  And in two other games that are for first place in their respective divisions, the Titans take on the Colts in Indy and the Browns and Steelers face off at Cleveland Browns Stadium.  And don't forget about that Bengals/Texans game…


Around the NCAA…


Quest For The Fiesta:  Eight teams still remain unbeaten in their quests for a spot in the national championship game, and the potential for yet another BCS controversy grows by the week.  Possibly another year of this nonsense will finally put the necessary pressure on the NCAA to start to take a look at some type of 8 or 16 team playoff format.  For any college football nuts out there, check out www.collegefootballnews.com.  Great website.  They update weekly a 16-team playoff bracket (8 winners of the big 8 conferences and next 8 highest rated teams) that they propose replace the current system.  In any event, getting back to the race for the Fiesta, there are now 6 teams that have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack.  Miami Fla., Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Ohio St., and Georgia.  Miami and Virginia Tech play each other, and Georgia and Oklahoma will not only have to get through a tough end to their schedule, but also a conference championship game.  Ohio St. still plays host to Minnesota and Michigan and has road trips to Purdue and Illinois.  Which leaves Notre Dame, who will have just a season ending road game at USC in their way provided they can get by Boston College this week.  Behind that group are the NC St. and Bowling Green (the other 2 Div I unbeatens), as well as a trio of strong one-loss teams in Iowa, Washington St., and Texas. 


Heisman Watch:  Ken Dorsey remained the frontrunner in the Heisman race with a career high passing effort against West Virginia.  This is starting to remind me an awful lot of the season that Gino Toretta, another solid yet unspectacular Hurricane QB, brought home the hardware.  Here's a look at the latest…


Serious Contenders:  Ken Dorsey/Miami Fla., Maurice Clarett/Ohio St., Onterrio Smith/Oregon, Byron Leftwich/Marshall


On the Brink:  Willis McGahee/Miami Fla., Chris Brown/Colorado, Phillip Rivers/NC St., Jason Gesser/Washington St.


Still Alive:  Seneca Wallace/Iowa St., Greg Jones/Florida St., Avon Cobourne/West Virginia, Cedric Benson/Texas


Longshots:  Charlie Rogers/Michigan St., Josh Harris/Bowling Green


The Games That Matter: Tough tests for Top 10 teams is the theme this week in college football.  Aside from Miami Fla., who takes on Rutgers, each of the other 9 teams in the Top 10 face a legitimate foe this Saturday.  It all starts with the 5 unbeatens right behind the ‘Canes in the polls, all of who are at home this week.  The #2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners play host to the red hot Buffaloes of Colorado, Virginia Tech takes on Pitt, Notre Dame plays BC, Georgia faces Florida, and Ohio St. plays Minnesota.  #7 Texas plays at Nebraska, #8 Washington St. hosts the upstart Sun Devils of Arizona St., #9 Iowa hosts Wisconsin, and #10 North Carolina St. is home against Georgia Tech.  I love this time of year…


Handicapper's Corner


Another ho-hum week for me as I continue to strive for my "breakout week" that will hopefully spur on a torrid winning streak.  I went 3-4 in my combined plays in this portion of last week's column and the Saturday newsletter ended up a combined 6-7.  Taking the vigorish, or "juice" as it's more widely known as in the world of sports handicapping, the Saturday morning mailing is right around even for the season.  I currently stand at 20-18 (52.6%) in college, and 16-13-1 (55.2%) in the NFL.  If you bet the same amount on every game, it's necessary to pick winners at right around a 54% clip in order to come out in the black.  Any of you out there who want to be added to the mailing list that I send the Saturday morning update out to, just drop me a quick e-mail at swerb@berniesinsiders.com indicating as much.


After one off week, underdogs continued their dominance ATS in the NFL, covering 9 of 14 games this week.  Through 8 weeks now, underdogs have covered in 58% (65-47-4) of the 116 NFL games played thus far!!  One may think that teams playing at home would cover at a higher clip that visiting teams, but that has not been the case so far in '02.  Road teams went 8-6 ATS this week and are 59-53-4 (52.7%) for the season.  And despite the fact that this was the lowest scoring week of the season in the NFL, 7 games went over and 7 games went under the posted totals.  On the year, 59 games have went over, and 57 have gone under.


And to those of you who have yet to check out www.sportslynx.com, give it a visit.  It's chock full of all the info you could possibly need to help research the weekend football games, and offers free analysis from several "guest cappers" who post all of the selections on there at no cost.  And for a very minimal cost ($1-$2 a game), my buddy Chad's selections are available as well.  Having studied his analysis for over 5 years now, this is the time of year he really turns it on.  On to my picks…




9-13-1 (41.0%)


NY Jets +7 ½ at San Diego


Many have written the Jets off after last week's heartbreaking loss to the Browns, and that's what the odds makers have done here.  While they are not cooked yet, if they don't win here the circling of the drain will begin for this team that many predicted would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  I believe they will come out aggressive and desperate and keep this game close.  Despite last week, this has been a different team with Pennington at the helm.  If this game drops to 7, buy the hook.  Take the Jets in what should be a tight game.


Arizona +3 ½ vs. St. Louis


Odds makers, knowing that the public loves betting on the Rams…who have won 2 straight, have made them more than a FG favorite here on the road against a team with a winning record.  On principle alone, the Cards are my play here. 


Oakland –3 vs. San Francisco


Love the Raiders in this spot, taking on a San Fran team that has had their defense over the past 3-4 weeks.  Oakland has dropped 3 straight and will be an angry team for this bay area match-up.  Taking a closer look at the 49ers schedule thus far will reveal that the only 2 games they played against anyone of significance (Den and NO) resulted in losses and their 5 wins have come against NYG, Was, StL, Sea, and Arizona.  Oakland will win this game, and likely score at least 30 points in the process against a 49er team that has allowed the opposition to score 28 ppg in their last 3.  Take Oakland.






Wisconsin +9 at Iowa


This game reeks of upset, especially given the Hawkeyes pasting of Michigan in The Big House last Saturday.  Wisconsin started 5-0, then dropped three in a row before laying one on Michigan St. in their house last week.  The running game has looked great the past 2 weeks vs. OSU and MSU and Brooks Bollinger should be able to thrive through the air against a weak Hawkeye secondary…which I have been predicting will end up being their downfall this season.  If not an upset, I like a tight game here.  Wisconsin has beaten Iowa 5 years in a row.  Take the Badgers.


Colorado +12 ½ at Oklahoma


After their customary poor start under Gary Barnett, the Buffaloes are once again starting to impale opponents behind their power rushing game.  This is eerily reminiscent to last season, when their charge landed them in the top 5 in the country.  Chris Brown leads the nation in rushing and they keep him fresh by rotating in the two nearly as talented runners behind him on the depth chart.  I think the Buffs will be able to run the ball just enough this week to keep this game close against the vaunted Sooner defense.  Take Colorado plus the 12 and a hook.


Washington St. –7 ½ vs. Arizona St.


I have backed the Sun Devils the past 2 weeks, but I feel they will get a wakeup call this week against a Cougar team that has been incredibly impressive outside of their loss to Ohio St. in Columbus.  The Sun Devil defense has some serious deficiencies and in Washington St., they face the most complete team in the PAC-10.  Wazzou is coming off of somewhat of a disappointing effort against Arizona and I expect them to be clicking on all cylinders this week against a Sun Devil team that has crept into the Top 20.  Take Washington St.


Boston College +10 at Notre Dame


Since I won't have the balls to unsuccessfully wager against Notre Dame for the 9th straight time this year (who am I kidding, I'll go against them again) I make them one of my selections here.  8-0 ATS!!  What!  Once again, on principle alone, I must fade them here.  BC has underachieved all season, and in addition to this game making their year, they need it just to get in the bowl hunt!  If you dare, go against God's team and take BC getting the 10.


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