Look Ahead into NFL Week 10

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

We’re rounding the stretch and will soon close out the NFL’s middle part of the season. Some teams, like the unbeaten clubs will start turning their eyes towards the postseason as they will be tying up their divisions soon. Others, like the Ravens, Lions, and 49ers will be looking to offseason questions (Calvin Johnson or Colin Kaepernick anyone?). For an awful lot of clubs in the middle and their fans this is best time of year. It’s division race time where a victory can feel like the best thing in the world and a loss carries the devastation of a truly missed opportunity. We’ll take a look at all the games this week, but first let’s look at last week’s picks and my “pick” from last night.

Week 9 Against the Spread 8-5 (68-54 Overall)

A marginally better week than last one especially when you consider that one of my losses was the nearly universally mis-picked Colts-Broncos game. Easily my best pick was taking Oakland to lose while beating the spread. They may prove a stern test for the Minnesota Vikings this week. Big misses for me were on the Chargers, Falcons and Packers and miracle of miracles, I finally got a Dolphins game right. Let’s hope for another good week.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Buffalo Bills 22 New York Jets 17

Well my readers, you’re going to have to take me at my word on this one. I picked Buffalo to cover the spread and honestly I was hoping they’d lose towards the end so I wouldn’t seem self-serving. My concussion article yesterday certainly lacked the proper tone for a game pick at the end and posting my pick for this game on Twitter just slipped my mind. Regardless, this was a statement win for Big Rex Ryan. As much as he might want to pretend he cares more about beating New England, this game clearly meant a lot to him.

[Read more…]

NFL Midseason Review

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Somehow, incredibly, we are halfway through the NFL season. Every team except the Bears (they play tonight) has gone through at least eight games already. For a few teams, the playoffs are a virtual lock at this point and the focus turns to position. For a few other teams, the season is lost already and the focus will turn to evaluating which players should be the core of the rebuild. Most teams find themselves in the middle of the pack. This has been a congested season in particular, but given the NFL focus on putting more division games in the second half of the season, there is still plenty of time for many teams to make a playoff push. That said, let’s take a shot at projecting out the rest of the year and the major awards now that the halfway mark has been reached.

PROJECTED DIVISION WINNERS

Projected NFC East Champion — New York Giants

Photo Credit: Steven Flynn/USA Today Sports

The Giants are currently leading the division, but they shouldn’t get comfortable. At 5-4 they hold a mere half game lead over trailing Philadelphia. To my eyes the Eagles have looked far too ordinary to win the division. Their struggles with Dallas proved that. Washington is only two games back, but they aren’t a serious contender. Poor Dallas languishes at 2-6, their season lost to Tony Romo’s injury. Romo turns 36 this offseason and with his history you have to wonder if there isn’t merit in putting him on the IR at this point.

Projected NFC North Champion — Green Bay Packers

The Vikings technically lead the division by virtue of their three division wins and both teams share a 6-2 record. The Vikings are no joke and the Packers have just lost two straight. That said, losing, even badly, on the road to back to back unbeaten clubs isn’t shameful and Green Bay has the perfect remedy. They play four straight division games, including three games against cellar-dwellers Detroit and Chicago in the next four. The division will likely be decided by the Vikings-Packers matchups. We’ll see the first one in two weeks.

Projected NFC South Champion — Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have some mild concern over late game panics against Green Bay and Indianapolis, but Carolina is a perfect 8-0. They are the best team in the NFC and their thoughts will soon turn to trying to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. At 6-3, the Falcons are likely headed to the playoffs anyway, but three losses is a lot to make up already in the NFC South. The Saints chances at the postseason were probably lost against Tennessee. At 4-5 there is too much ground left.

Projected NFC West Champion — Arizona Cardinals

At 6-2 the Cardinals hold a two-game lead in the West over the Rams and Seahawks. The focus will be on division games and a big December matchup with Green Bay which could determine a first round bye. The Rams lost an absolute heartbreaker to Minnesota that put a huge dent in their postseason hopes. It could be a crucial tiebreaker. The Seahawks will return from their bye with the knowledge that they need a big second half of the season to make the playoffs.

[Read more…]

Reid’s Week Nine NFL Picks: The Hardy Situation

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

I am not defending Greg Hardy, nor would I ever.

That’s something I feel like I should say right up front because judging from my Twitter feed, some people only read about ten words of my articles before they start tweeting me 140 characters of pure anger.

So for the purposes of discussion, I’ll say it again. I’m not defending Greg Hardy. I read the reports when his domestic violence arrest happened. Once you do that, you realize the guy is, for lack of a better term, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Here’s what I wrote about Hardy for Project Shanks.com last year.

“It’s a great deal for the Cowboys. Except, of course, for the fact that Hardy is by all accounts a despicable human being. Just Google him some day when you’ve got time, then read up and go home and start building that defensive-end-proof panic room in your house. The only way anyone would ever root for Greg Hardy is if he faces off in a dark alleyway with Darren Sharper.”

Still true. Hardy’s got more issues than National Geographic, and this week Deadspin released the previously-sealed pictures of his former girlfriend and the injuries she suffered at his hands.

Let’s be clear here, Hardy’s not a good guy, and domestic violence is a crime that should be taken much more seriously.

But why is this such an issue now?

Honestly, this second round of outrage frustrates me. If you’re telling me that what he did is somehow worse because now you’ve seen pictures of it, that’s your problem. Admitting you want more punishment now just indicates you didn’t take the assault charges seriously enough the first time, and we shouldn’t need TMZ or Deadspin to show us actual bruises before we get angry.

Here’s the problem, and it’s a simple one. He’s already been punished. He was suspended for almost an entire season last year, and then for four games this season. He can’t be re-punished by the NFL, and the charges have been expunged from his record.

Legally speaking, Hardy is in the clear. Why? Because domestic violence is a crime we don’t take seriously enough as a society. Even if Hardy was found guilty in North Carolina, he was only looking at the standard punishment of eighteen months of probation.

You can be angry at the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s North Carolina that ignored clear evidence and didn’t impose any punishment at all on a guy who beat up his girlfriend. And North Carolina would have done more in this case than New Jersey did to Ray Rice, in spite of Rice being shown on video knocking his wife out and dragging her like a bag of dirty laundry. Rice got anger management and $125 fine.

Unlike sportswriters who have afternoon shows on ESPN, I’ll freely admit I don’t have all the answers here. If you say that someone should be banned for life from the NFL for domestic assault, I can certainly understand your point. If that’s where you draw the line, it’s admirable, but don’t stop there. Volunteer or donate to a women’s shelter so battered wives have a place to go. Write your representatives and let them know how you feel about the punishment for domestic violence not being strict enough. Stop being amused by Charlie Sheen, Bobby Brown, or Mike Tyson.

Do you enjoy movies with Sean Penn or Josh Brolin in them? Do you watch “Empire?” Be consistent, that’s all I’m saying.

Because if you’re adamant that Greg Hardy doesn’t deserve his high-paying job, but you’re riding around listening to Chris Brown, that makes you a hypocrite.

Time for an awkward segue, as I get back to my regularly scheduled picks. I was 4-2 in week eight, thanks to Dallas being bad without being awful. I somehow overestimated the Lions and Browns, which is a lot like looking forward to an Adam Sandler movie. There’s no point.

I’m now 32-17-2 on the year, still floating right along. Here’s my picks for week nine. Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering.

Tennessee (+8) at New Orleans – Ken Whisenhunt was fired this week by the Titans. He won his first game in both seasons as head coach, then went 1-20 in the rest, thus making him the M. Night Shyamalan of the NFL. Big splash, horrible follow up.
Pick: Titans

Washington (+14) at New England – Just saying, but Redskins and Patriots seems like an odd matchup to schedule so close to Thanksgiving.
Pick: Washington

Green Bay (-3) at Carolina – Everyone loves the Panthers this year because Cam Newton plays for them, and Greg Hardy does not.
Pick: Panthers

Atlanta (-7.5) at San Francisco – Even Colin Kaepernick has dropped Colin Kaepernick from his fantasy football team at this point.
Pick: Falcons

NY Giants (-2.5) at Tampa Bay – Orleans Darkwa is either the name of a Giants running back, or a Bon Temps festival on True Blood. Not sure which, I’ll have to get back to you.
Pick: Giants

Philadelphia (-3) at Dallas – Remember Cowboys fans, trading for a quarterback who couldn’t win the starting job in Buffalo is like buying a used lottery ticket. Yes, it doesn’t cost you very much, but the odds of it being successful ain’t too good.
Pick: Eagles

I’ll also take Houston to lose on their bye week, the Colts to have a new coach after the season ends, and the Jaguars to come back and win the division.

– Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s novel “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

Look Ahead into NFL Week 9

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Photo Credit: Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports

So the Lions and Martha Ford apparently decided to go all “Red Wedding” following their total collapse against Kansas City. President, done. General Manager, done. You have to wonder what Jim Caldwell is thinking. You have to wonder what the players are thinking? It is definitely every man for himself in Detroit. It also seems that this is already a bad year for impatient ownership as well. Colin Kaepernick has just been benched. Tennessee and Miami have fired their coaches in-season. Indy has sacked their offensive coordinator. If this is during the season, I can’t imagine what Black Monday (the Monday after the last regular season Sunday) will look like in the NFL. Good gracious. Still, we’re in the midst of the playoff push as it is. No rest for the weary. So let’s take a look at all the upcoming action. Before that though, let’s see how I did last week and with my Thursday Night pick.

Week 8 Against the Spread 6-8 (60-59 Overall)

Another middling week and my advantage has evaporated. My biggest misfires were, by far, Green Bay, Detroit, and Miami. I picked Green Bay as a possible blowout winner. Instead, they flipped the tables on me making the number one scoring defense in the NFL look like swiss cheese with either run or pass and stomping the Green Bay offense. Miami blew up on me again. After teasing for two weeks with improved play following the Philbin firing, they wet the bed against the Pats. Detroit was massacred. Enough said.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Cincinnati 31 Cleveland 10

Nailed this one right. Cleveland kept it close on the legs of Johnny Manziel at first. He’s definitely their best quarterback, but he just takes off every time his first read is covered. This is a team that will never find a way to improve without a franchise QB and it’s hard to imagine the front office even knows what that looks like. Their quarterback picks from the last few years haven’t exactly been sure things. Cincy meanwhile hits the halfway mark of the season still perfect. Incredible.

[Read more…]

State of the NFL Week 8

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Ouch. Call this week a medic because the injuries were just brutal. News broke late on Sunday that Steelers running back Le’veon Bell is believed to be out for the season with a torn MCL. It’s mostly insult to injury as their loss to Cincy basically sealed the division race, but it still hurt badly. Elsewhere, Steve Smith Sr. was lost for the year, as was Reggie Bush on a freak slide into a wall. Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette terrified the nation for several tense minutes after a frightening collision where he had to have his neck stabilized on the field. Thankfully, he appears to have “only” suffered a severe concussion, though it could have been much worse. As far as the actual football was concerned, a promising week in the NFL was mostly a dud. New Orleans and the Giants offered a fun shootout in a college football kind of way, but most other games were pretty dull. Seattle and Dallas could barely move against each other and the highlight game of the week, Denver vs. Green Bay was over by the middle of the third quarter. Nonetheless, teams continue to assert themselves and November football has brought true meaning to the games. Let’s take a look at the state of the NFL after Week 8.

[Read more…]

Look Ahead into NFL Week 8

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

With the Patriots’ dismantling of the Dolphins the NFL has officially flipped the page from October to November. November is for teeing up playing runs and forming your identity as a team. At this point we’ve started to get a good idea of who the real power teams are. That said, there are still quite a few big tests ahead. This looks to be a great week in the NFL with a number of fascinating matchups. Of course, the week is headlined by the Sunday Night Matchup of the 6-0 Packers and the 6-0 Broncos. Let’s take a look at all the action coming this weekend, but first, let’s look back at my results last week and my Thursday Night pick.

Week 7 Against the Spread 5-9 (54-51 Overall)

I started Week 7 in the hole as the 49ers failed to do anything against the Seahawks and it went downhill from there. The theme of the week was optimism and a number of teams let me down. The Jets, Bills, Steelers, Chargers, Colts, and Browns all had a chance to show that they are more than their narrative and every one of them played into the storylines of the week. The Jets couldn’t beat the Pats, the Bills failed to show up and so on. The result is that, while still ahead for the year, I need a good week of picks to justify my readers faith in me.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Patriots 36 Dolphins 7

Well, Miami misfired for me again. There will be a lot of hard questions for the Dolphins at the end of the season. Who will be the new head coach? What on Earth was the plan for Suh? Why has Ryan Tannehill regressed? Ultimately, this was the Dolphins Super Bowl. They had a real chance to start something, a three game win streak and a division win over the Pats. Instead, as Dennis Green might say, “they are who we thought they were.” This is a bad football club and they are wasting talent. At 3-4 they are still very much alive in the AFC Wild Card race, but what does that really mean? This is a bad ball club in Miami. For now though, let’s get to this week’s picks.

[Read more…]

State of the NFL Week 7

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

It wasn’t a great week in the NFL. The big games kind of fizzled, (see: Jets-Patriots) and the rest of the matchups were fairly bland. Even the close games like the Giants Cowboys matchup ended with a whimper instead of a bang. Still we did learn a few things. We learned that the Colts are probably going to win the AFC South by default (then promptly get stomped in the playoffs). We learned that it is high time the Panthers got their due as well. The NFL is finished with October save a Monday Night matchup featuring the Ravens and Cardinals and a Thursday matchup between the Dolphins and Pats. With the calendar turning to November it’s time to start thinking playoffs. With that in mind, Week 7 did teach us a few things.

The AFC South is a Joke

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a moment, shall we, to survey the putrid waste that is the AFC South. After seven weeks the Colts lead the division with  losing record of 3-4. The Colts lost, at home mind you, to a 2-4 Saints club. The Texans were curb-stomped by the Dolphins in a total laugher and the Titans lost a total snoozer to the Falcons. Only the Jaguars won, nearly blowing a double digit lead to the Bills across the pond. Through seven weeks the entire AFC South has eight wins, EIGHT! Someone has to win the division by default I suppose and it looks like it’ll be the Colts, but what does that even mean. The current Wild Cards in the AFC are the Steelers and the Jets. Does anyone really think that either of those teams would have trouble with the Colts in the playoffs?

Some have speculated that Andrew Luck is still dealing with arm issues and that may be. However, to my eyes the team issues go deeper. This is a club that has shown only tepid commitment to building through the draft. Moronic deals for Trent Richardson and Andre Johnson have gotten the team older, not younger. Andrew Luck has, if anything regressed. The team lacks an obvious identity. These things may change when Pagano is fired in the offseason, and believe me that’s coming, but until then, this is a joke of a division leader.

The rest of the division is no better. The Texans are paying the price for thinking that they could win with Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer. How during two years of Bill O’Brien’s tenure the team hasn’t done more about the QB spot is beyond me. To paraphrase the great Ron Wolf, if you don’t have a quarterback you don’t have anything. You draft one, trade for one, anything. Even if you think he’s total crap you draft somebody to see what they’ve got. Why on Earth was the best preseason quarterback, rookie Brett Hundley, sitting on Green Bay’s bench and not Houston’s? This is a lost franchise until the QB problem is solved.

The Jaguars are who they are. Bortles has shown some promise and there are pieces here and there. A victory over Buffalo looks nice, but this franchise has been awful for ages. A turnaround needs to happen in the next year or two.

As for the Titans, judgment is reserved. The team commendably took the leap and snatched Marcus Mariota in the draft. He has looked very green, but at least they are trying something. The post Chris Johnson years have been forgettable. At 1-5 this club is still a year or two away, but at the very least it looks as though they have a plan. Not so for the rest of the AFC South, what a mess.

[Read more…]

Look Ahead into NFL Week 7

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

It’s hard to believe, but this is the last NFL Sunday in October. With November 1 landing on Sunday next week the calendar takes an early turn to November. This signals crunch time. November is when teams set themselves up for a playoff push in December. It’s also when half the league realizes they’re playing for their jobs when the hammers start falling in January for teams that didn’t make the cut. For now though, it’s still October. The weather hasn’t quite turned cold and, given that only 10 teams are above .500 and there are no teams that are still winless, everyone still has a shot. We’ll take a look at the matchups coming this week, but first, my Week 6 in review and the Thursday result.

Week 6 Against the Spread 7-7 (49-42 Overall)

A bit of a comedown, but 11-3 against the spread in Week 5 just wasn’t sustainable. Impressive wins by Pittsburgh and New Orleans this week made the picks challenging. By far my best pick was taking Carolina on the road against a tough Seattle team. My worst had to be taking the Giants. Boy did the New York Football Giants look tiny against the Eagles. Just a note to anyone, if you can figure out the NFC East please drop me a line. The same goes for Miami; I can’t pick those guys right to save my life.

[Read more…]

State of the NFL Week 6

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

It was a strange week in the NFL. We saw arguably the worst special teams play call of all time when the Colts committed suicide against the Pats. The Chargers somehow threw for 500+ yards and still lost. The Broncos were taken into overtime by the Browns and Manning is the weak link on his own team. We also saw the vaunted Seahawks defense collapse again. We’ll get to all of the above in this week’s review of the State of the NFL.

Chuck Pagano Watched His Team Commit the Worst Special Teams Gaffe Ever

Okay, it’s a loaded headline, however I’ll defend it. While there have doubtless been special teams gaffes as dumb as the Colts’ swinging gate catastrophe, nothing has ever surpassed it. Let me back up and set the scene.

Imagine a great action film. It has all lead up to this. The hero and the villain square off. Each is a master warrior. They appear evenly matched. Both draw their pistols and size each other up. Then, as the audience holds its breath, the hero points his gun right at his foot and pulls the trigger and collapses in pain. The villain blinks once, then walks over and shoots the hero in the head. The End. Roll Credits.

For those that missed the actual play. The Colts, down by six and well into their own territory faced 4th and short. The punt team came out and then the whole formation shifted as the punt squad minus the snapper and punter ran near the opposite sideline. The Pats appeared unconcerned and spread out to defend the obvious trick play. Roughly four Patriots were guarding the snapper and punter who stood alone. This is where the head coach needs to step in and call time out. Instead the Colts snapped the ball and were sacked. Pats ball well into Colts territory. The Pats scored a TD and went up by 13. They never looked back.

The play killed any momentum the Colts had and deflated their team. It was inexcusable and indefensible. It’s the dumbest special teams play ever.

[Read more…]

Look Ahead into NFL Week 6

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Another great week of games coming up. There are a lot of do or die games.. These are the weeks that will carve up the congested middle of the NFL standings and determine who will be fighting for the postseason and who will be fighting for a job. It’s a really nice part of the NFL. There is no “tanking.” There is so much roster and coaching turnover that a player who dogs it, even in a losing season, could see himself cut the next season. Going into Week 6 is also the farthest into the season that six teams have been undefeated. That has lead to some real standings congestion. The next four weeks will sort a lot of that out. We’ll take a look at every game, but first let’s look at my picks from last week.

Week 5 Against the Spread 11-3 (42-35 Overall)

Bragging is bad karma and I absolutely believe in the football gods. I also think that 11-3 against the spread speaks for itself. I had my fair share of good picks in there too. Cleveland beating Baltimore and Cincy over Seattle were both good picks. Pittsburgh beating the spread against the Chargers wasn’t a gimme either. Don’t worry though, this week will bring some humility to me. Some of these picks were tough. Speak of the devil…

MY THURSDAY PICK

Saints 31 Falcons 21

Division games can be so hard to predict in the NFL. The Rams have knocked off the Seahawks and Cardinals for example. These teams just know each other so well. The Saints were playing for their playoff lives and just got it done at home. Thursday night football is through and we already have knocked one team from the ranks of the Champagne Watch. Will we see more fall before Week 6 is through?

MUST WATCH GAMES

Seattle vs. Carolina (Carolina +7.0)

My column on Thursday dealt a lot with this game and it is the game of the week. In this corner we have the Carolina Panthers. Undefeated. 4-0. Coming off a bye. In the other corner we have the 2-3 Seattle Seahawks. This is a team that many think is better than their record. Going to 2-4 for Seattle would mean needing an 8-2 finish to the year just to get to double-digit wins. On the other hand, a win by Carolina would mean taking the sole lead in the division at 5-0 to the Falcons 5-1. A lot on the line for both teams.

Honestly, this is a tough game to pick straight up. Seattle has a lot of talent, but has been incredibly hard to read. Carolina is undefeated, but I think they are playing above their talent. Still being a seven point dog is too dismissive of the Panthers and how close they’ve played Seattle in recent memory. Take the Panthers to beat the spread.

[Read more…]

The Power of NFL Power Rankings

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

People ask me a lot about “Power Rankings,” which is something the sports media came up with to give the NFL the feel of the most frustrating part of college football.

Yeah, I hate those.

Every media outlet has them. I actually get updates on my phone when ESPN’s power rankings come out every week, telling me where certain teams have gained ground or lost steam.

Even more important newsflash: No one cares. [Read more…]

Time for Some Statement Games in NFL Week 6

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

As the weeks fall off the calendar we’ve started to see who is who in the NFL. Teams we thought would be good like the Dolphins, Ravens and Lions have failed miserably. Others, like the Cardinals and Bengals, have soared to the tops of their divisions. For a few other teams in the middle, Week 6 is when we’ll start to see statement games show up. These are games that will begin to tell us what teams really have under the hood. While we’ll get to all of them tomorrow, here are the top two matchups this week and what they’ll tell us about the teams playing.

Seahawks vs. Panthers

This is easily the game of the week. On one side we have a Seattle team that still has problems it is struggling to fix. The defense keeps blowing second half leads. The offense can’t seem to use Jimmy Graham properly. On top of it all the offensive line has been its usual struggling self. On the other side the Panthers have exceeded expectations after preseason injuries ravaged the receiver corps. Carolina is undefeated. A win against the defending NFC Champs would turn a lot of skeptics in believers, especially with that win coming on the road in Seattle. A Seattle loss would drop the Seahawks to 2-4 and leave them with a big hole to dig out of.

The Panthers have typically played the Seahawks close the last few years and there is no reason to expect this game to be any different. The Panthers are traveling cross country, but are coming off a bye to do so. The Seahawks are getting Marshawn Lynch back this week, but the Panthers get back Luke Kuechly. All in all, it should be an excellent game. A win by either team would be huge and with Seattle having their backs to the wall the tension should be high.

[Read more…]