Swerb's Blurbs, Vol. X

Now it starts to get really fun... the college football season is getting close to the wire, while the NFL turns the corner and nears the home stretch. Swerb rampages through the NCAA and the NFL schedules this week, picking out some of the contests to key on. Your Friday blurbs are here!

NFL Notebook


Playoff Picture:  The race in the AFC is a mess.  The Bungles are 1-8, the Texans are 2-7, and the 14 other AFC teams are all between 6-3 and 4-5.  Amazing.  Over in the NFC, the six playoff teams remained stagnant.  The Falcons tie kept them a half game ahead of the Giants, who've won two straight since looking abysmal against the Eagles on Monday night.  Green Bay and Denver would have home field throughout the playoffs.  Here's where things stand:




1st Round Byes:  Denver (6-3) and Pittsburgh (5-3-1)

Other Division Leaders:  New England (5-4) and Tennessee (5-4)

Wild Card Teams:  San Diego (6-3) and ???

Stalking the Pack:  Oakland (5-4), Buffalo (5-4), Miami (5-4), Indianapolis (5-4), Kansas City (4-5), Jacksonville (4-5), NY Jets (4-5), Baltimore (4-5), and Cleveland (4-5)




1st Round Byes:  Green Bay (8-1) and New Orleans (7-2)

Other Division Leaders:  Philadelphia (6-3) and San Francisco (7-2)

Wild Card Teams:  Tampa Bay (7-2) and Atlanta (5-3-1)

Stalking the Pack:  NY Giants (5-4), Washington (4-5), St. Louis (4-5), and Arizona (4-5)


Looking Ahead:  With the bye weeks now all past, we're back to a full 16 game slate for the final 7 weeks of the NFL regular season schedule.  This week's slate is headlined by four big games matching 8 of the 14 teams within one game of the AFC's six playoff spots.  We've got Buffalo at Kansas City, Pittsburgh at Tennessee, Baltimore at Miami, and New England at Oakland in prime time on Sunday night in a rematch of last season's memorable AFC playoff match-up.  Over in the NFC, games of note include a couple of big divisional duels between New Orleans and Atlanta in the Georgia Dome and the Redskins and the Giants meeting in the Meadowlands in the race to stay on the Eagles heels in the NFC East.  The Monday night game sees the Chicago Bears, losers of seven straight visit the St. Louis Rams, who have won 4 straight behind backup QB Marc Bulger.  And in the only worthwhile contest matching contenders from the two conferences, the Chargers look to break their two game losing streak against San Francisco, who has rattled off three straight wins since losing a shootout to the Saints in mid-October.


Around the NCAA…


Quest For The Fiesta:  And then there were two.  Miami of Florida and the Ohio State University.  Miami must get past a home game vs. the Pitt Panthers on Thursday night on ESPN next week as well as a road game at the suddenly competitive Syracuse Orangemen before a season ending home date versus Virginia Tech.  For the Buckeyes, they play at Illinois this week before ending their season when that team up north visits The Horseshoe on November the 23rd.  Should they pass these remaining tests, the two teams will meet in Tempe in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.  Should one or both of them falter, the door opens for the Washington St's, the Iowa's, and the Texas's of the college football world.  Oklahoma sneaks back into the picture as do Georgia and Notre Dame.  Talented two loss teams like USC, Kansas St., and Michigan could theoretically get back in the mix based on the fact that not a single team ahead of them has a smooth ride to the finish line.  And so it goes…


Heisman Watch:  As we head down the home stretch, the race is still wide open.  Here's my take on the top 16 contenders, ranked in order of deservedness (last week's rank in parenthesis) as it presently stands…


  1. Willis McGahee, Miami Fla. (1):  Another solid effort against the Vols, and the frontrunner at this point.  He has been more consistent and more valuable than Ken Dorsey this season.
  2. Chris Brown, Colorado (2):  The nation's leading rusher has another big day in the OT win over Mizzou as the Buffs moved one step closer to the Big 12 Championship game.
  3. Jason Gesser, Washington St. (4):  Ascent continues.  Has been solid all season, and has posted big wins over Cal, USC, Arizona St., and Oregon since loss to Buckeyes.
  4. Ken Dorsey, Miami Fla. (3):  If he wins, it will be a lifetime achievement award.  Two words.  Gino Toretta.
  5. Brad Banks, Iowa (6):  Dude has been unstoppable this season.  Very dangerous with his arm and his legs, and just 3 INT's this season in leading the Hawkeyes to a 10-1 mark.
  6. Byron Leftwich, Marshall (5):  Great talent, and a laser arm.  But Leftwich struggled mightily against a Hokie team that others have since been able to throw on in his only true test.
  7. Carson Palmer, USC (7):  Three huge games left (Ariz St., UCLS, Notre Dame) for this trendy pick to steal a wide open race.
  8. Larry Johnson, Penn St. (16):  Were it not for a slow start, he'd be at the top of the list with Colorado's Chris Brown.  A very talented big back.
  9. Avon Cobourne, West Virginia (15):  Continues to shatter records in a stellar senior season. 
  10. Quentin Griffin, Oklahoma (11):  Although he had a good game, the loss to A&M likely hurts his chances as voters would be looking for a candidate from the Sooners if they stayed unbeaten.
  11. Chris Gamble, Ohio St. (NR):  Alright, it's time to mention Gamble as a legitimate Heisman candidate.  Purdue threw nowhere near him all day until he sealed the game with a late INT.  Was also taking back punts, and made some big grabs on offense.  Wow.
  12. Terrell Suggs, Arizona St. (13):  The nation's top defensive player this season is on pace to record 25 sacks.
  13. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (NR):  Is two bad games away from being a top 5 contender.  Has Oklahoma and Texas on deck, which essentially killed Seneca Wallace's campaign.
  14. Michael Turner, Northern Illinois (NR):  The best player on the MAC's best team and the nation's 3rd leading rusher.
  15. Nate Burleson, Nevada (NR):  Has 30 more catches than the 2nd highest WR in the country.
  16. LaMarcus McDonald, TCU/Brandon Everage, Oklahoma (NR):  McDonald, an incredibly athletic LB, and Everage, the Sooner DB…are the nations 2nd and 3rd best defensive players this season.


FU BCS:   The Buckeye fan in me desperately wants to see the ‘Canes and the ‘Bucks finish out the season undefeated and meet in the Fiesta.  The BCS hater in me wants to see the top 8 teams in the country all have one loss.  Here's my weekly look at what a month long 16 team NCAA Football tournament would look like.  Included are the winners of the 6 major BCS conferences, as well as the 10 next best teams in the country based on their spots in the polls, strength of schedule, and W-L record.  I know the below scenario is a pipe dream, but look at some of these potential second round match-ups!


#1 Ohio St (11-0) vs. #16 Virginia Tech (8-2)

#8 Iowa (10-1) vs. #9 USC (7-2)


#4 Oklahoma (8-1) vs. #13 LSU (7-2)

#5 Texas (9-1) vs. #12 Kansas St. (8-2)


#3 Washington St. (9-1) vs. #14 Florida (7-3)

#6 Georgia (9-1) vs. #11 Florida St. (7-3)


#2 Miami Fla. (9-0) vs. #15 Penn St. (7-3)

#7 Notre Dame (9-1) vs. #10 Michigan (8-2)


Handicapper's Corner


This past week was an all around successful one for me, as I was able to go 3-1 ATS in the NFL and 3-2 in the NCAA in this column last week against the Vegas number.  The Saturday morning mailing, where I send interested readers my late Saturday morning selections in the NCAA and NFL, was also a winner.  I went 5-4 in college, and 3-2 in the NFL.  For the season in the Saturday morning newsletter, I stand at 28-27 in the NCAA and 20-19-1 in the NFL.  Hardly outstanding, but I've yet to deliver my breakout week, and traditionally have been much better in November and December since beginning to handicap games in print.  This season has pretty much been a wash for me so far this season, but I like where I stand.  I'm looking forward to a big finish.  To be added to the mailing list for the Saturday mailing, drop me a line at swerb@berniesinsiders.com.


It's almost getting tired at this point, but playing underdogs in the NFL once again proved fruitful for bettors this week as the covered 8 of 14.  On the year, ‘dogs are now 82-57-5, and are hitting at over a 60% clip.  Road teams also once again came out in the black, going 9-5 ATS, and improving their season tally to 77-62-5.  Nine games went over and five games went under.  For the year, 71 of the 144 NFL games played to date have gone over and 73 have gone under.  On to my selections for this week…




12-17-1 (38.7%)


Minnesota +6 vs. Green Bay


The Vikings, historically are one of football's best teams to bet at home when getting points.  This was even true last season when they were almost as terrible as they are this year.  Green Bay has been on such a roll SU and ATS, and I see them looking past the Vikes this week.   I like Culpepper to have a big day after getting woken up by his second half benching last week.  If not in a straight up shocker, I like the Vikes to stay within the number at home here.


Philadelphia –11 vs. Arizona


This one could get ugly, as the Eagles play angry as well as any team in the league.  They responded from their 1st 2 losses (vs. Ten and Jax) with dominating performances over Washington and Tampa Bay and I expect nothing less here against a absolutely horrible Cardinal team that fooled many with a deceivingly quick start.  Held to 3 points at home against the Seahawks, who have a terrible defense even with Chad Brown…who didn't even play last week?  The Jake Plummer era must end.  Take the Eagles.


Jacksonville –6 ½ at Houston


A payback game here, as the Jags win over the ‘Skins last week puts them just a game out of the playoff hunt.  The Jags have looked as good as they have all season in their last 6 quarters, starting with the 2nd half of the Giants game 2 weeks back.  And the defense shut out Washington last week after they notched a quick TD to open the game.  ‘Jags by 2 TD's this week.


Seattle +6 ½ vs. Denver


Gut play here, as a Seattle home loss here will essentially end the Seattle season and likely also the Holmgren era.  Coming off a road blowout and with their old division rivals in town, I like Seattle to come out inspired and keep this game very close.  Hasselback actually looked serviceable last week, and Denver has a short week.  Seattle will go to school off the films of Rich Gannon absolutely picking them to pieces.  Take the Seahawks as a home dog.  The number will likely climb to 7.


Oakland –4 vs. New England


Like the Raiders to keep rolling off their Monday night thrashing of the Broncos.  They have finally realized the true nature of their offense is to throw short often, and run just enough to keep the defense honest.  New England was exposed last week by Chicago, and was losing 27-6 with 9 minutes left before their furious comeback.  The public will likely be all over NE, as this is the spot where their Super Bowl run started last year.  This year's team is not as strong in the trenches and will fall in Oakland this week by 10-14 points.







 Iowa –10 ½ at Minnesota


The Gophers are the worst team I have ever seen start out 7-1.  Defensively, their front 7 is tiny, and Fred Russell and Brad Banks should have no problem running all over them behind the nation's top offensive front.  This is Iowa's last game of the season, and will be looking to impress the pollsters.  Brad Banks also has to have the Heisman on his mind.  Also, an Iowa win guarantees them a spot in the Rose Bowl, either as Big Ten champs or via Ohio St. going to the Fiesta.  This won't be as ugly as Iowa over Northwestern last week, nut I love the Hawkeyes to easily cover the number this week.


Missouri +9 at Texas A&M


Upset special here.  Missouri has been slowly developing all season behind freshman phenom QB Brad Smith, and nearly knocked off both Oklahoma and Colorado.  This is the week they get it done against an A&M team that left it all on the field last week and still has some serious issues with their once proud defensive unit.  At the least, Mizzou makes this a tight one.


Alabama –2 at LSU


‘Bama has absolutely owned the Tigers in their place over the years, and get the win again this year by virtue of just being the much better team.  The Tide's strength is stopping the run, and LSU has struggled every time they have been forced to throw with Marcus Randall at the helm…who is replacing the injured Matt Mauck.  Roll, Tide, Roll.


Auburn +2 ½ vs. Georgia


Georgia is very beat up right now, and nearing the end of what has been a physically and mentally tough season on them.  Auburn, after their poor start has been on a roll and a win here at home could vault them into the SEC Championship game and ruin rival Georgia's season.  The Tigers have not missed a beat since Cadillac Williams went down, and I like them to get the job done here as well.  Take Auburn.


Washington +8 at Oregon


I backed the Huskies last week in their impressive home win over Oregon St. and I will go with them again this week.  Now at 5-5, a win here will make them bowl eligible heading into their season ending game vs. rival Washington St.  The Duck pass defense is horrid, and Cody Pickett has tossed for 300 yards more times this year than anyone in the country.  This game will be a shootout, and one that the Huskies should be able to keep close if they don't win outright.



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