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August 2005

Football picksAugust 1, 2005


2005 NFL Season Wins: Over/Under Predictions
Season Totals Picks

After evaluating all of the team total for the season, there are five that stick out as good bets in my book:

Philadelphia Eagles UNDER 11.5 Wins
Three main reasons I like the under here. One, the public is on the OVER. This team nearly won the Super Bowl and many thought they should have. The public and media are convinced they can get back. Two, they've been to the NFC Championship four times in a row. I view this as a reason to go UNDER, not OVER. Teams simply cannot stay on top forever. They will eventually slide backwards and this is a likely year for the Eagles. Third, T.O. Whether he plays or not, there's been too much bad blood. This is a MAJOR distraction for the Eagles, despite what anyone admits. Andy Reid has spent too much time dealing with this. Owens and McNabb are not on speaking terms (what, is this high-school?!?). No matter how you slice it, it's bad. It's gotten past the point of no return and he'll either sit or continue to be a major distraction. It all adds up to a dissapointing year for the Eagles. Everyone's on the OVER here so we'll go UNDER this total.

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Buffalo Bills OVER 8 Wins
This one seems easy to me. Buffalo won 9 games last year and finished the regular season on a tear yet they are only expected to win 8 games in 2005? My power ratings had this team as the strongest in the league at the end of the regualr season – better than Philly and better than New England. Their defense was incredible in 2004 and once they got their offense on track, they were one of the best teams in the league. Willis McGahee emerged last year as a great back and this team has a slew of very good receivers. The big loss was at Quarterback as Drew Bledsoe fled for Dallas. Rookie JP Losman takes the reigns and this is the reason this total is so low. A rookie QB teamed with a great defense didn't stop the Steelers from putting up 15 wins last year. For the Bills, it all comes back to the defense. This defense is as good as they come and will keep the Bills in every single game. Their schedule includes five road games against teams that had losing records last year. I think they win more than 8.

Atlanta UNDER 9.5 Wins
Along with the St. Louis Rams, this team was one of the two pretenders in the 2004 playoffs. Neither of the two teams should have been there. As you'll see below, I almost took the Rams UNDER this year but their number moved the wrong way for me (dropping from 9 to 8.5). With the Falcons, though, we get 9.5 which is just too high. Atlanta had the second easiest schedule of any NFL team (#31) last year which masked their true identity. They only outscored their opponents last year by three total points (340 to 337). Vick is an awesome spectacle and this team has the best running game in the league. But, they don't have a receiving corp and their defense is not good enough to support 10 wins. And, while Vick is a good quarterback for fantasy leagues that award a lot of points for runnning, and he's as fun as they come to watch, he's not yet a very good passer. He completed only 56% of his passes in 2004 and that doesn't cut it. Their schedule will be a lot tougher this year including games against New England and Philadelphia, both of which they will lose. Opposing defenses will adjust from last year and load up the line to stop the run. I believe Atlanta should have won about 9 games last year, not 11. Go UNDER here.

Kansas City OVER 9 Wins
This offense is as good as they come. Last year they put up over 30 points per game. If they can just play some defense, they can be a real contender. Can they do it? I think their defense will be improved this year, one year later than most thought it would. I was vocal about KC's defense stinking it up yet again last year. You simply cannot turn things around that quickly by just replacing your defensive coordinator. But, now Gunther Cunningham has a year under his belt and has added some horses on the field with the addition of Kendrell Bell, Sammy Knight and Patrick Surtain. They also drafted Derrick Johnson in the first round who may contribute. They are coming off a very tough schedule last year which doesn't get a lot easier this year in the tough AFC West but it does get easier. With Dick Vermeil at the helm at this offense, these guys can easily reach or exceed 9 wins. Go OVER.

Tampa Bay OVER 7.5 Wins
After two rough years, it's almost hard to remember the mystique that surrounded John Gruden after the 2002 Super Bowl win. This guy won in Oakland and then took the Bucs to the Super Bowl immediately, defeating his old team as a big underdog. Has he forgotten how to coach? I don't think so. Granted, they had an easy schedule and the ball bounced their way in 2002 (+17 on turnovers). I don't think they'll be making the Super Bowl this year. But, there are some positive changes for the Bucs. Brian Griese emerged as a very good quarterback in the Gruden system last year. He didn't play the first four games, all Bucs losses. They are a good team with him at the helm. They also had a bad turnover year last year at -9 which contributed to their 5-11 record. Several of those losses came late in the season after they packed things in, unable to recover from their bad start. Thanks to a solid defense (#5 last year), they actually outgained their opponents by an average of 25 yards per game in 2004 and scored as many points as their opponents. All of this indicates they were better than a 5-11 team last year and should get to .500 or better this season. Go OVER 7.5 wins here.



San Diego OVER 8.5 Wins – Last year not a fluke.

Minnesota UNDER 9.5 Wins – No Randy and not sold on Tice.

Jacksonville UNDER 8.5 Wins – Offense is just average. But, easy schedule.

Dallas UNDER 8.5 Wins – Hard to go against Parcells but this team has issues.

Oakland UNDER 8 Wins – Randy Moss is the X factor but these guys aren't that good.

Denver OVER 8.5 Wins – Team is solid on both sides of the ball. But, tough schedule. Can easily get 9+ wins in regular season. Getting a win in the playoffs? That's another story.

St. Louis UNDER 8.5 Wins – Would have loved this at opening line of 9. Martz too pass-oriented. But, very easy schedule might get them over this total.

FINAL RESULTS: 9-3 (4-1 with top picks and 5-2 with leans)


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Football picksAugust 1, 2005


2005 NFL Preview
Pro Football

2005 NFL Preview & ForecastWho will make it to the 2005 NFL Playoffs? Because quality of teams varies greatly within and between conferences, the best NFL teams are not necessarily the ones with the best odds of making the playoffs

Season Win Totals Predictions

AFC Playoff Forecast

NFC Playoff Forecast

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2005 NFL Preview
NFL 2005: 15 Games to Watch

By Jeffrey Boswell
Sports Centralcolumnist

Oakland @ New England (September 8)
We all know what the outcome will be: a Patriot win, probably decisive. But it’s the 2005 opener, and Randy Moss is in Raider black (which often leads to correctional facility orange) and the Pats open defense of their two consecutive Super Bowls without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Eric Mangini has taken over defensive duties, and, as of now, an offensive replacement hasn’t been named. Head coach Bill Belichick will probably call the shots.

On paper, the Raider offense has firepower, but New England defenses have often proved that paper is reduced to shreds on the Gillette Stadium grass. Don’t be surprised if return specialist Chad Morton endears himself immediately to the Pats’ faithful with a touchdown.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland (September 11)
When these teams met last year, they combined for 106 points in a Week 12 game won by the Bengals, 58-48. While the Browns seem to be the last AFC North team mentioned as a playoff contender, they will surely be capable of an opening week upset of the Bengals, who hope for a one or two game improvement on last year’s 8-8 record. The Browns, under the supervision of new coach Romeo Crennel, may be two or three years from the playoffs, but they will begin to mark their territory in the North, much to the delight of an anticipatory Dawg Pound.

Green Bay @ Detroit (September 11)
If Lions’ quarterback Joey Harrington can’t make it work with this offense, which includes wideouts Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and rookie Mike Williams, plus emerging superstar Kevin Jones at running back, then his days as a starter are finished. Of course, Harrington may not even be the starter in the Lions’ opener — Jeff Garcia has reunited with coach Steve Mariucci and may be awarded the QB spot. Either way, the Lions hope to prove that they have an offense that affords them contention is the NFC North, which lately has been a two-team race between the Packers and Vikings.

Philadelphia @ Atlanta (September 12)
The Falcons will seek to avenge last year’s 27-10 NFC Championship loss to the Eagles, and possibly get a jump on homefield advantage in the 2005 playoffs, assuming 2004’s success was no fluke. A win here will be important to the Falcons — in their next four games, they face Seattle and Buffalo on the road, then host Minnesota and New England. 3-2 in those five should make them happy. Will Philly be graced by the presence of Terrell Owens, or will he continue to hold out for a new contract and alienate the few supporters he has left?

Washington @ Dallas (September 19)
The Cowboys have won four in a row, and 14 of last 15, in what has become a lopsided rivalry. Joe Gibbs may be waving the white flag, signifying his last lap as ‘Skins coach, or maybe it’s the white flag of surrender, if he doesn’t lead Washington to a win over the Cowboys. And speaking of “waving,” noted gun-waver and general menace to society Sean Taylor, Redskins safety, will probably be on the field, where he can legally assault his opponents. Those opponents include running back Julius Jones, set for a breakout season, and new Cowboy Drew Bledsoe, whom Taylor should have no trouble catching, even while carrying a firearm, a team of defense lawyers, and a pending jail sentence.

Miami @ Buffalo (October 9)
Ricky Williams returns from a four-game drug suspension, and a couple of years wandering the earth searching for the meaning of life in a bong. I’m sure Ricky’s as curious about his performance as you and I are. One thing’s for sure: he won’t have to worry about defenders dragging him down by his dreadlocks. Even if Williams returns at his optimum playing weight (about 235 pounds, or about 107 kilos), the sturdy Bills’ defense will probably leave Williams feeling dazed and confused.

Pittsburgh @ San Diego (October 10)
By the time this Week 5 showdown kicks off, we should know whether these two teams are in line to duplicate last year’s success. Remember, at the onset of last season, no one had these two pegged as real contenders. They were wrong. This year, everyone has them in the playoffs. Are they right? And what about quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees? Both are intent on keeping the word “fluke” away after their stellar 2004 campaigns. The Steelers will be rested from a Week 4 bye, while the Chargers will likely be worn from a physical matchup in New England. The Chargers are at home, where they were 7-1 in 2004. Of course, the Steelers were 7-1 on the road.

Green Bay @ Minnesota (October 23)
Can the Vikings win with defense? Can they win without Randy Moss? We should know by this Week 7 contest, when the Pack and Vikes meet for the first time since January’s 31-17 Minnesota wildcard win at Lambeau Field. The Minnesota defense include such newcomers as cornerback Fred Smoot, nose tackle Pat Williams, and free safety and former Packer Darren Sharper. The winner seizes an early edge in the race for the division. These two teams battled to the wire for the title last year. The Vikes are much improved, at least on defense, while Green Bay has made few changes. Currently holding out Packers wide receiver Javon Walker should come to his senses, with a little Brett Favre motivation, and be a factor in this game.

Buffalo @ New England (October 30)
New England will enter this ESPN Sunday night game rested, thanks to a bye week, from a brutal stretch of four of their first six games on the road against three playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver) and Carolina (who just missed the playoffs). If the Bills are the same team they were in the second half of 2004, they could, possibly, be 5-2, and a win could give them an early edge in the competitive AFC East. Whether or not the Bills are the same team that finished 2004 7-2 in their last nine games falls mainly on the shoulders of new QB J.P. Losman. If Losman produces, Willis McGahee will find room to run much easier. If Losman looks to be the weak link, the Patriots will certainly know it by this Week 8 showdown.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (October 31)
Another gigantic Halloween game in the Steel City, and, in this most heated of NFL rivalries, expect both teams to be in evil mode. Last year, Pittsburgh ended the Patriots’ 21-game winning streak with a 34-20 win on October 31. Will five months of freedom have allowed Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis to regain the form that saw him rush for over 2,000 yards in 2003? Only “time” will tell. Last year, when the Steelers and Ravens met for the first time, in Week 2, Baltimore whipped the Steelers 30-13. Pittsburgh didn’t lose again until the AFC Championship Game.

The Halloween matchup is the first of two Ravens/Steelers contest in less than a month. The division title may rest on the outcome of those two games. The Ravens’ defense will be frightening as usual — their passing game should be improved with the acquisition of WR Derrick Mason an the draft selection of WR Mark Clayton of Oklahoma. Pittsburgh won’t run away with the division this year. Even the Bengals may have a voice in the AFC North crown.

Indianapolis @ New England (November 7)
As far as playoff implications are concerned, this game will probably have more meaning to the Patriots (the Colts may well have the AFC South in hand by Week 9). But the Colts know that to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender, they must overcome the mental barrier that the Patriots exert against them. Regardless of the consequences, expect Colt players to downplay New England’s dominance with quotes like this: “No, I don’t feel like they have a mental edge against us. We just to execute and play our game.” Something they haven’t done before. It will be early November with a few snow flurries adding to the drama to be witnessed by a captive Monday Night Football audience. Can the Colts win and evict the monkey known as King Kong from their back?

St. Louis @ Seattle (November 13)
The Rams and Seahawks met three times last year, with the Rams sweeping the series, including a 27-20 wildcard round victory at Qwest Field. Genius/dumbest coach in the league, Mike Martz, hopes his Rams can again overcome genius/most-overrated coach in the game, Mike Holmgren, and his Seahawks and win the West. Martz has named Steven Jackson starting running back — it remains to be seen whether Martz will let him run it. Currently, Seahawks’ running back Shaun Alexander is holding out for a long-term contract. Who knows if he’ll be in uniform come Week 10, and, if he is, will it be a Seattle uniform?

Oakland @ San Diego (December 4)
Will this game matter come Week 13? Of course it will, despite the records. It’s the AFC West — it matters because everybody wants to beat the Raiders. Last year in San Diego, the Raiders got blasted, 42-14, and I’m sure they remember. Featured are two of the NFL’s most dynamic athletes, Oakland’s Randy Moss and San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson. Moss joins Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, and Doug Gabriel to give the Raiders arguably the league’s best WR corps.

No one doubts the Raiders will score more, with Moss and running back LaMont Jordan from the Jets adding punch. Will they score enough? Last year’s raider defense ranked 30th in the league, and Tomlinson rushed for 235 yards and two TDs on 56 rushes in two games versus the Raiders.

Philadelphia @ Arizona (December 24)
If the Cardinals have indeed improved as some have predicted, this game may actually mean something to them. In the NFL’s weakest division, the NFC West, Seattle won the division with a 9-7 record. Arizona finished three games back, at 6-10, with two of those losses to San Francisco, one of the league’s worst teams. The Cardinals also lost five of their last seven games to shatter any playoff hopes.

Assuming they are healthy when this game is played, Arizona will be bolstered by strong three-man WR corps (Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Bryant Johnson), and two potentially explosive running backs in Marcel Shipp and rookie J. J. Arrington. And QB Kurt Warner will be at the helm, which may or may not be a good thing. The Eagles are still easily the class of the NFC East, and probably the NFC, in general.

Carolina @ Atlanta (January 1)
Let’s hope this Week 17 contest is for all the NFC South marbles. Otherwise, this game wouldn’t be on the list. And let’s hope injuries don’t plague the Falcons or the Panthers — otherwise, this might be a battle of teams with 7-8 records. In 2003, Michael Vick’s broken leg ruined Atlanta’s season. Last year, only a year removed from the Super Bowl, injuries to running backs Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster and wide receiver Steve Smith left Carolina in array, although they still made a valiant playoff run. If all of the big-name players are healthy for this one, it could be a classic in a budding NFC South rivalry.

This article was reprinted with permission from Sports Central.


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Football picksAugust 1, 2005

Who will make it to the playoffs in the NFC? Using a Super Computer, the StatShark simulation engine has played all regular season games 10,000 times each. Because quality of teams varies greatly within and between conferences, the best NFL teams are not necessarily the ones with the best odds of making the playoffs. StatShark’s value is in showing how a team’s performance within their conference and division translates to play-off contention.

During each simulated season the super computer has tabulated the number of times that each team made the playoffs either as a division winner or as a wild-card. In the event of a tie StatShark reviews the record the tying teams had vs. each other and their conference records. In a small number of cases the tie-breaker rules were inconclusive. StatShark has also tabulated the number of victories each team had in each simulation. The second table below shows the exact probability that each team has of winning anywhere from 16 victories down to 0 victories.



Forecast Data Provided by: StatShark



STATSHARK ANALYST: As our friend The SportsDog explains below, there is a big intangible factor out there – The Madden Curse. Based on all “reasonable” assumptions, Philly should easily win the Division and position itself for home field advantage throughout the Play-Offs.
SPORTS DOG: Clearly the class of the division and the NFC overall; Philly should have no trouble winning the NFC East with or without Terrell Owens who, as of this writing, is creating quite a mess for himself and his team-mates. The one intangible here is the dreaded Madden curse as Donovan McNabb is slated to appear on its cover. For those of you unaware, the Madden curse refers to the fact that each year the player appearing on the cover of Madden’s game has been knocked out due to injury. Ask Michael Vick about the curse sometime. While the mean from the forecasting shows 10 wins; notice that there is a better chance that they will land above 10 than below it. Barring the Madden curse; look for the Eagles to soar into a first round bye in the playoffs.

STATSHARK ANALYST: As you read further, you’ll see that this team has the opportunity to play several bad teams and inflate their win total. This is a classic case where making the Play-Offs or winning 9+ games is not necessarily the result of having a good team, but a matter of being in a good situation.
SPORTS DOG:Year two of the second coming of Joe Gibbs has us saying, “what?” Sticking with a shaky Patrick Ramsey and the loss of quality receiver Rod Gardner (who was tied for the team lead in TDs) has us scratching our heads. Portis should improve on last year’s numbers and a soft schedule will have the Skins with a chance at a playoff berth.

STATSHARK ANALYST: This is a team that StatShark must closely monitor in the Pre-Season and early season in order to determine if the 2003 defensive unit was more indicative of 2005 performance than last year’s team was. Even if the defense is revitalized there are no indications that their offense will significantly improve. The 2nd half of last year, Julius Jones played great but it still led to anemic point totals with the exception of an explosion vs. Seattle.
SPORTS DOG:Dallas may have had the best draft in the entire league and clearly were hell-bent on solidifying a defense that went backwards fast last season. Anchoring around Roy Williams and LeRoi Glover; the Pokes D-unit will be much improved. The offense will rely heavily on two intangibles: can Julius Jones string together a season’s worth of production like he did towards the end of the season? And which Drew Bledsoe shows up. Most likely to finish with 7 or 8 wins; Dallas could sneak into a wild-card berth if their offense shows up.

STATSHARK ANALYST: The Meadlowlands will be a Jets Stadium this year since the Giants don’t look to give their fans too much to cheer about.
SPORTS DOG:Two words describe the Giants situation: Eli Manning. How fast he matures as a player will be the measuring stick of the season. Even if he makes decent strides; this is a rebuilding year for the G-Men and a very Spartan draft didn’t help with only 4 picks total.



STATSHARK ANALYST: The team is well-positioned for regular season success and won a very strong 63% of simulations. Regular season success is definitely not the same as post-season success and the troubling tendency of Brett Favre to throw a staggering number of interceptions in the toughest games is a trend that should trouble Packer fans.
SPORTS DOG:Father Time, aka Brett Favre, continues to play although this is most likely his last hurrah. Assuming everyone plays healthy, the Pack has a very good shot at capturing the division. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. Doubt they will go far but then again I wouldn’t bet against Favre when he is motivated and certainly, he’d like to go out on top like Elway.

STATSHARK ANALYST: The team has Culpepper and many talented players (both receivers and running backs), but consistency in the tough match-ups is in doubt. They should be able to muster 8+ wins and qualify as a Wild Card.
SPORTS DOG:The Vikings without Moss? Hard to say what happens there. I think they’ll be neck and neck with Green Bay for the division crown, this will certainly be a team to watch this year.

STATSHARK ANALYST: : This team has a lot of upside. The odds that they exceed their predicted average of 6 or 7 wins is much higher than their odds of winning under 6. If their 3-headed WR monster (R. Williams, M. Williams, C. Rogers) is healthy along with increasing restrictions on defenses, you can imagine an extremely potent offense with these 3 single covered.
SPORTS DOG:: No more excuses. Potentially the greatest assemblage of receivers since the Redskins of the 70’s, Joey Harrington will find the door real fast if they don’t produce out of the gate or damn near it.

STATSHARK ANALYST: The team aggressively pursued Muhsin Muhammed and were wise in drafting Cedric Benson. Obviously, the player’s effectiveness will be diminished by the weak QB situation. Chicago fans can’t expect Muhammed to get 100 receptions in this offense.
SPORTS DOG:Bears have more holes in their team than Bonnie and Clyde’s get-away car. Drafting Cedric Benson, potentially one of the best backs in the draft in a few years was the equivalent of a hail-mary pass that someone will certainly knock down.



STATSHARK ANALYST: : Like most football analysts, StatShark “likes” teams that run the ball and play defense. You throw in a difference maker like Michael Vick and you get a clear Division favorite and a strong chance of repeating.
SPORTS DOG:From 5-11 the year before to 11-5 last year. How much of that was Vick’s injury? This will be a very telling season for the Dirty Birds. As the team that is slightly better than the rest in the division they will benefit by the other 3 teams beating up on each other and splitting most head-to-head match-ups.

STATSHARK ANALYST: Slight favorite for #2 position. The RB situation is confusing at the moment, but regardless of who ends up being the starter the team should improve from last year and be a serious wild-card threat.
SPORTS DOG:Not moving up or down much, Carolina looks to be back in the same boat as last year. Certainly, a tad more stability at RB will help them some but how much an effect the loss of Mohammed has remains to be seen. The return of Steve Smith will help offset the loss.

STATSHARK ANALYST: Deuce McAllister played most of last year pretty banged up. The team has excellent offensive talent, but they always have. This team doesn’t look capable of taking a next step beyond mediocrity.
SPORTS DOG:Yet another of those teams with the talent on paper but never seem to be able to put it all together. If they could just keep Joe Horn off the cell phone.

STATSHARK ANALYST: It’s a competitive division when the projected worst team in the division is decimal points difference from the 2nd place team in average win total. The fact is you could re-order this division at random and StatShark would not be surprised by who actually wins.
SPORTS DOG: Talk about intangibles! Is this Brian Griese’s year? How well will Cadillac Williams adapt to the NFL? Look for Williams to get the bulk of the caries early on and never look back. The defense is nothing like it’s former self though and that will have an impact.



STATSHARK ANALYST: As we were going to the presses, news reports said Shaun Alexander was willing to go through a long holdout to get a multi-year deal. His loss could certainly impact the odds reported above. We will carefully monitor the situation and update the figures when his status is clarified.
SPORTS DOG:The Seahawks looks poised to eek into the playoffs once again thanks in part to the NFC being as weak as it is and also in thanks to very soft NFC West rivals. Don’t count on them to go too far though.

STATSHARK ANALYST: StatShark indicates this team is running on reputation. They have stellar WRs, but the team really does not put up great points against any decent defense. The pass first offense inflates Bulger’s passing yard totals, but his relatively low TD total shows that this team is not the “greatest show on turf”.
SPORTS DOG:or reloading? Who knows but the Rams are clearly not in the class they were a few years back. The data suggests that they are more likely to slide slightly backwards from last year as opposed to inch forward.

STATSHARK ANALYST: This is a soft division and this team could potentially capitalize on disappointing performances from the current projected Division leaders. They keep seemingly every game close. Hopefully Warner plays steadily and doesn’t try to force too many passes resulting in game turning interceptions.
SPORTS DOG:The Cards look like they will repeat the outcome of last year: flickers of hope but falling short. Then again, there are a lot of intangibles with this team: year two of Dennis Green, Kurt Warner, etc. so keep an eye on them.

STATSHARK ANALYST: Empires rise and fall. Unfortunately, you don’t see a lot of empires fall and get back up again. Right now SF is as relevant as the Ottoman Empire — once dominated the known world, but unless you were there to see it, you might as well be talking about furniture. Bad analogy. SF is going to struggle.
SPORTS DOG:Don’t expect much out of the ‘Niners other than frustration. It will be a year or two at least before they attain respectability again.



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