The blurbing continues, as Swerb looks at all the activity taking place this Browns-less weekend. Everybody must get blurbed... and here's your chance!
Playoff Picture: With the NFL regular season now over halfway completed, I'm going to make this weekly look at the NFL playoff puzzle a regular feature. As it presently stands…Buffalo, San Diego, and Atlanta would all be in the playoffs while teams like New England, Oakland, Indianapolis, Chicago, and St would be home for the holidays. Also interesting to note is that football's top division so far has been the newly created NFC South, a division Tampa Bay was supposed to walk through this season. Tampa (7-2), New Orleans (6-2), and Atlanta (5-3) are all playoff teams right now and Carolina (3-5) has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise under new head coach John Fox. They have allowed a league low 117 points.
1st Round Byes: Denver (6-2) and Miami (5-3)
Other Division Leaders: Pittsburgh (5-3) and Tennessee (4-4)
Wild Card Teams: San Diego (6-2) and Buffalo (5-4)
Stalking the Pack: Kansas City (4-4), Oakland (4-4), New England (4-4), and Cleveland (4-5)
1st Round Byes: Green Bay (7-1) and Tampa Bay (7-2)
Other Division Leaders: Philadelphia (6-2) and San Francisco (6-2)
Wild Card Teams: New Orleans (6-2) and Atlanta (5-3)
Stalking the Pack: Arizona (4-4), Washington (4-4), and NY Giants (4-4)
Looking Ahead: Week ten, in addition to being the last round of bye weeks (Buf, Dal, Cle, TB), features divisional match-ups in 7 of the 14 scheduled games. Included in those rivalry games is the Monday nighter between Oakland and Denver at Invesco, and the Sunday night game between the Dolphins and the Jets. While this week is devoid of a true showcase meeting of league powerhouses, there are several intriguing battles. Michael Vick and Atlanta travel to the big ketchup bottle to try and slow down the Steelers, Indianapolis visits Philadelphia, San Diego invades the Trans World Dome to face the resurgent Rams, and the Chiefs play at San Francisco in whet figures to be an exciting affair.
Around the NCAA…
Quest For The Fiesta: Wow. What a weekend. In what were four phenomenal football games, Georgia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina St. were all downed…cutting the number of undefeated teams in Division I college football from 8 down to 4. However, one of those 4 remaining teams is Bowling Green, who is unlikely to draw any BCS consideration even if they manage to get past road games versus N.Illinois, S.Florida, Toledo as well as the MAC Championship game. Which leaves us with just Oklahoma, Miami Fla., and Ohio St. as the remaining unbeaten teams with a shot to run the table and finish off a flawless season with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to those three schools, the madness of this past weekend also pumped some life back into the national championship hopes of Texas, Washington St., and Iowa…a trio of very talented one loss teams that all had enormous wins this past week. And let's not count out Georgia, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech just quite yet. As illustrated below, all of the teams ahead of them still face stiff tests in these final 5 weeks of the college regular season….
#1 Oklahoma (8-0): at Texas A&M, at Baylor, vs. Texas Tech, at Oklahoma St., Big 12 Championship
#2 Miami Fla. (8-0): at Tennessee, vs. Pitt, at Syracuse, vs. Virginia Tech
#3 Ohio St. (10-0): at Purdue, at Illinois, vs. Michigan
#4 Texas (8-1): vs. Baylor, at Texas Tech, vs. Texas A&M
#5 Washington St. (8-1): vs. Oregon, vs. Washington, at Hawaii, at UCLA
#6 Georgia (8-1): vs. Ole Miss, at Auburn, vs. Georgia Tech, SEC Championship
#7 Notre Dame (8-1): vs. Navy, vs. Rutgers, at USC
#8 Iowa (9-1): vs. Northwestern, at Minnesota
#9 Virginia Tech (8-1): at Syracuse, vs. West Virginia, vs. Virginia, at Miami Fla.
#10 USC (6-2): at Stanford, vs. Arizona St., at UCLA, vs. Notre Dame
Heisman Watch: The unveiling of the "Swerb 16" Heisman Trophy hopeful ranking system:
1-Willis McGahee, Miami Fla.: Despite the fumbles, his day was bigger than Dorsey's in coming back to beat Rutgers. The frontrunner.
2-Chris Brown, Colorado: Was able to grind out a hundy against the vaunted Sooner defense. Will likely lead the nation in rushing this season and lead the Buffs to the Big 12 Championship game.
3-Ken Dorsey, Miami Fla.: Can you say Gino Toretta?
4-Jason Gesser, Washington St.: Another gritty performance and another big Wazzou win. A slow ascent.
5-Byron Leftwich, Marshall: Not sure if he was hurt more by the loss to Akron or helped more by the gritty return to the field on one leg.
6-Brad Banks, Iowa: Behind the nation's top line, Banks has burst on to the Heisman scene and is now a legitimate contender hurt only by the fact he has just 2 games left.
7-Carson Palmer, USC: Like Gesser, a slow climb. Has big games left vs. Ariz St, UCLA, and ND.
8-Seneca Wallace, Iowa St.: Barely survived back-to-backs vs. Oklahoma and Texas but got his name back in the mix with a huge game vs. Mizzou.
9-Onterrio Smith, Oregon: Being banged up for the Wash St. game hurt his campaign badly.
10-Josh Harris, Bowling Green: Some tougher tests loom. Would need to keep his team unbeaten to keep his flickering chances alive.
11-Quentin Griffin, Oklahoma: What a season this diminutive back has had leading the Sooner offense.
12-Maurice Clarett, Ohio St.: A senior, much less a freshman, could ill afford missing 2 games due to injury.
13-Terrell Suggs, Arizona St.: 17 ½ sacks as the Sun Devil's bad ass edge rushing defensive end.
14-Phillip Rivers, NC St.: Tossed his Heisman hopes into the arms of a Yellow Jacket defender with a minute left last weekend.
15-Avon Cobourne, West Virginia: Has had a quietly spectacular season for the Mountaineers.
16-Larry Johnson, Penn St.: How impressive has this guy looked over the past 6 weeks?
FU BCS: For quite some time now, it's been established in poll after poll that over 80% of all fans, players, and coaches want to see the asinine BCS system scrapped and replaced by either an 8 or 16 team playoff system that would see a true national champion crowned each season, just as they are in all of the other major college sports. Why this has not yet happened yet is beyond me. The seven major bowl games can practically remain unchanged. Instead of selecting teams to participate in those games, they would make up the 4 games in the round of 8, the 2 games in the round of 4, and the national championship game. The title game could still be rotated between the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta…with the Citrus, Cotton, and Outback bowls comprising the other games that pare the field from 8 down to 1. Keep the other bowls intact! Let the 9th through 40th best teams in the country still go to bowl games like the Holiday and the Liberty Bowl. Just for shits and giggles, for the rest of the season, I'll be bracketing out what the national championship picture would look like were it to include the nations top 16 teams in a 4 week long tournament. The concept is simple. The winners of the 6 major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and PAC 10) would get automatic invites as would any undefeated teams from mid-majors. The remaining teams as well as the seeds would come from some sort of BCS-like ranking system, which would factor in rank in the national polls, strength of schedule, and quality wins.
#1 Oklahoma (8-0) vs. #16 Bowling Green (8-0)
#8 Iowa (9-1) vs. #9 Virginia Tech (8-1)
#4 Texas (8-1) vs. #13 Florida St. (6-3)
#5 Washington St. (8-1) vs. #12 Kansas St. (7-2)
#3 Miami Fla. (8-0) vs. #14 North Carolina St. (9-1)
#6 Georgia (8-1) vs. #11 Michigan (7-2)
#2 Ohio St. (10-0) vs. #15 Louisiana St. (6-2)
#7 Notre Dame (8-1) vs. #10 USC (6-2)
The beat goes on as we move into the latter stages of fall and the heart of both the college and professional football seasons. Another marginal week for me handicapping the action as I went 3-4 overall in this column and saw my winning percentages in the Saturday morning mailing drop to .500 in both college and the pros. For the year, my Saturday morning late picks e-mail that I send out to any interested readers of this column is now at 23-23 in college, and 17-17-2 in the NFL. To join in on the mediocrity, and be added to the list of people I send that update out to, simply drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org indicating as much. Surprisingly enough, I have about 100 people on the mailing list.
Underdogs. We've been talking about them all year in this column, and they responded yet again this past week, going 9-4-1 against the spread. At 74-51-5 ATS in the NFL through 9 weeks, underdogs have covered nearly 60% of all games played thus far. Road teams also continued their point spread dominance, also going 9-4-1, and improving their record ATS to 68-57-5. The under covered in 10 of games this week as well. Through 130 NFL games to this point, 67 have went under and 63 have gone over the posted totals. On to my selections for this week…
Cincinnati +6 at Baltimore
I'll ride the Bengals this week as they attempt to run their torrid winning streak to a whopping 2 games. Baltimore has been gritty this season, riding an overachieving Ray Lewis-less defense to a very 3-5 start where they have been much more competitive than many had thought. That being said, I think they are in danger of losing for the 4th time in the last 5 weeks against a suddenly confident Bengal team that always seems to turn it up a notch in the second half after they've been mathematically eliminated. Take the Bungles plus the 6.
San Diego +6 ½ at St. Louis
I will go against the Rams for the 3rd straight week here. Despite the fact they have covered and won three straight, the odds makers continue to give them too much credit. The Chargers are the better football team in this contest, and accordingly, should be getting no more than a field goal. This is the week they get burned and Marc Bulger has the poor day he is long overdue for. Take the Bolts.
Oakland + 5 ½ and OVER 46 at Denver
For the past three seasons these teams have played on Monday night. All three have been high scoring thrillers (all going over) that have been very competitive games. I see the same thing here in the thin air this Monday evening. Oakland desperately needs a win, and at the worst, keeps this game close. Denver, who always play well at home, should also be sharp. I'm thinking 34-31 Oakland here. Take the Raiders and the over. So long as the Raiders score 20 points, you can break even at the worst.
Washington +3 vs. Oregon St.
What a disaster this season has turned out to be for Rick Neuheisel and his Huskies. Rated in the Top 10 at the beginning of the season, and even after their epic early season loss at Michigan…people figured this team to be a legitimate Rose Bowl contender. Unable to get the job done again last week at home vs. UCLA, this has to be the week the Huskies finally get a win. Oregon St. is 1-7 as a road favorite under Dennis Erickson and Neuheisel's ego will not allow for back to back home losses against a pair of teams both headed for fringe bowl games. Take the Huskies getting points at home.
Miami Fla. –8 ½ at Tennessee
Having watched the Vols play on several occasions this season, it's clear that this is a very watered down version of the product we are used to seeing come out of Knoxville. Without Kelley Washington, the team has no big play threats. This week they get a pissed off Miami team that has been crucified for their brutal performance in a 25 point win over Rutgers and also saw them slip to #3 in the BCS. While this Hurricane team is not as good as last year's team, I like them to hammer the Vols this week. Take the ‘Canes laying the points.
UNLV +10 at Utah
Utah laying 10? What? UNLV is not that bad of a team. This game scares me a bit though. Any time you see a number like this that makes little sense, there's usually some underlying factors at play. I'm going to look into this game further and provide an update in the Saturday morning mailing. So long as there are no major injuries I don't know about I love the Rebels, provided this number stays at 8 ½ or higher. Take UNLV.
Northern Illinois +4 vs. Bowling Green
Bowling Green has not yet played a team with a winning record, yet find themselves laying more than a field goal on the road to a solid Husky team that is 6-3 on the season and 5-0 in conference. Northern took Wake Forest and took Wisconsin to the wire earlier this season and could have easily won either game. While Marshall and BG get all the fanfare because of their star QB's, N.Illinois is the best team in the conference in my opinion. Take the Huskies getting 4 at home.
Iowa St. + 12 at Kansas St.
I like the Cyclones in this spot and expect a tight game here. Seneca Wallace has lost 42-3 and 56-10 the last two seasons against Kansas St. and is once again playing at a very high level after getting through the back to backs against Oklahoma and Texas. Take Iowa St. getting a generous dozen here.