NFL Week 9 Picks

We’re basically at the halfway point of the season and with the clocks going an hour back and November officially here having been brought in by an amazing college football game won by Texas Tech with a second to spare over No.1 Texas, what kind of big games will we get in the crucial final two months of the regular season?

There’s only one unbeaten in defensive minded Tennessee and the defending champion Giants are 6-1 just half a game in front of the surprising Redskins with every NFC East team including the banged up Cowboys who enter with five wins looking to pull a huge upset at East Rutherford. The Eagles must also not be forgotten at 4-3 with a very winnable road game in Seattle.

The question is is there a better division in football? Sure doesn’t seem like it despite Jerry Jones lurking around promising changes if his injured team doesn’t get going.

Meanwhile, the struggling Jets are at a crossroads somehow just a game behind the first place Bills as they enter a big divisional match-up at Ralph Wilson Stadium where the 5-2 Bills have yet to lose in three home games. They’re usually very tough to beat there as well getting great special teams, solid D and efficient QBing from second-year starter Trent Edwards.

So, can Brett Favre and a lost Gang Green team who squeaked by the lowly Chiefs last week thanks to the usual Herm Edwards “Play To Win Lose” philosophy get the ship righted and come away with a ‘W’ in Buffalo? All that and more shall get answered today.

NFL Week 9

Jets (4-3) at Bills (5-2)- It’s hard not to like Buffalo here. Especially after a bitter defeat in Miami last week in which they gave up the last 18 points. Sure. They’ve dropped two of three but every time this team is doubted, they step up with a good performance. The same can’t be said for the dysfunctional Jets who still don’t know what they are despite having a gunslinger. Does Favre respond? Something tells me this will be tight late.

Prediction: Jets 20  Bills 26

Jaguars (3-4) at Bengals (0-8)- Our Super Bowl pick is in huge trouble following a six point home loss to the Browns. They along with the Colts trail the Titans by a ridiculous four games. Right now, it’s just about Jack Del Rio’s inconsistent club staying afloat. He’s labeled Matt Jones their best receiver. Well, duh. They can’t afford to foul this up. So figure Jones to have a nice day and for the Jags to reestablish the ground game.

Prediction: Jags 27  Bengals 16

Ravens (4-3) at Browns (3-4)- Can anyone explain the up and down Browns who can destroy the Giants while losing a tight one to the Skins before rebounding in Jacksonville? They obviously are playing better. They’ll need to not turn it over against an opportunistic Raven D. Something tells me they get it done.

Prediction: Ravens 13  Browns 19

Texans (3-4) at Vikings (3-4)- Two teams with identical records but one hot having reeled off three straight while the other has been an enigma all season despite being a trendy pick. So, can Houston continue its resurgence in Minnesota? That’s usually a tough place to win. This might be close.

Prediction: Texans 17  Vikings 20

Lions (0-7) at Bears (4-3)- Did anyone have the Kyle Orton led Bears putting up 48 on the Vikes two weeks ago? Suddenly, they’re very much in play for the division with the Packers. So, this should be a no-brainer against a winless team Orton lit up once already. At least Daunte Culpepper has a day job again.

Prediction: Lions 13  Bears 27

Bucs (5-3) at Chiefs (1-6)- Jon Gruden’s team is coming off a disappointing 13-9 road loss to the Cowboys. So, figure them to be better this week against the lowly Chiefs who can’t possibly duplicate their performance from last week. The Bucs don’t score much but they’re much better coached than the Jets and need the game.

Prediction: Bucs 20  Chiefs 12

Cards (4-3) at Rams (2-5)- Two-time league MVP Kurt Warner returns to where it all started with the Rams when he led them to a Super Bowl win going from bagging groceries to one of the best stories. He’s having a very good season leading the high powered Cards into first. His former team is playing better under Jim Haslett. So, this won’t be easy. But I wouldn’t bet against Warner in this spot.

Prediction: Cards 31 Rams 24

Packers (4-3) at Titans (7-0)- Can anyone stop the Titans? Green Bay should be in this game but they better find a way to slow down Tennessee’s ground game or it could be a long day. Kerry Collins doesn’t have to be lights out due to the combo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. He can pick his spots. Something tells me the Titans will blanket Ryan Grant getting to Aaron Rodgers.

Prediction: Packers 13  Titans 24

Dolphins (3-4) at Broncos (4-3)- Miami’s coming off a quality home win over Buffalo keeping them in the AFC East race a couple back of the Bills and Pats. Chad Pennington threw for over 300 yards and has been rejuvenated. Denver has dropped two straight but is coming off a bye and should be healthier. Figure Jay Cutler and their air attack to get back on track.

Prediction: Dolphins 20  Broncos 31

Cowboys (5-3) at Giants (6-1)- Let’s see. No Tony Romo. Check. No Felix Jones. Check. Probably no Jason Witten. Check. No Terrence Newman. Check. A 40 year-old immobile QB in Brad JohnsonMarion Barber forcing Johnson to beat them. The Giants meanwhile are much healthier and just need to do a better job in the red zone. starting against a super fast pass rushing D. Check. Despite all that, expect the Cowboys to stay in it because there’s too much at stake. They should play hard. But figure the Giants to concentrate on stopping

Prediction: Cowboys 17  Giants 26

Eagles (4-3) at Seahawks (2-5)- Donovan McNabb is motivated and Brian Westbrook is healthy. So, this shouldn’t be any cause for concern against a bad Seahawk team. Right? Figure the Eagle D to make life miserable for Matt Hasselbeck.

Prediction: Eagles 28  Seahawks 13

Falcons (4-3) at Raiders (2-5)- The Falcons suffered a 13-point loss to the Eagles last week and now visit The Black Hole looking for a bounce back performance. Expect rookie Matt Ryan to step up with a nice run game led by Michael Turner. A win keeps one of the league’s pleasant surprises right there for the NFC South.

Prediction: Falcons 24  Raiders 16

Patriots (5-2) at Colts (3-4)- The Pats somehow have five wins without Tom Brady because they blew the doors off Denver in a must win two weeks ago and held off a tougher Rams team. Now, they enter one of those old establishment match-ups in primetime against Peyton Manning and the struggling Colts. I just can’t see Manning letting his team lose this one. It’s too important.

Prediction: Pats 16  Colts 27

Steelers (5-2) at Redskins (6-2)- This is easily the best game of the week. Boy. Did ESPN luck out and you can’t always say that. So, how will they ruin it? Who had Washington with six wins already? Mean time, Big Ben tries to rebound from a pitiful performance against an attacking Giant D which sacked him five times forcing him into five turnovers. The Skins continue to play well getting inspired running from league leader Clinton Portis and efficient passing from Jason Campbell, who enters without an Int. A potential barn burner in the making between two good football teams.

Prediction: Steelers 17  Redskins 14

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More HB: The Day After

-And so, the New York baseball season is over and it really does feel weird that both the Mets and Yankees won’t be playing meaningful baseball as October gets ready to hit. I just can’t remember what this felt like. Sure. The two teams both finished with identical records winning 89 games which meant they didn’t stink by any stretch but when you have the kind of payrolls they do, so many expectations come with it for this spoiled city which makes it all the more disappointing.

In the end, both teams despite big names proved to be flawed which was why they fell short in their postseason bids. Injuries aside, the Yankees didn’t have enough pitching or timely hitting. For some reason, they never hit the way they could’ve and too often couldn’t deliver in the clutch. That along with being a very streaky team which sometimes lacked energy kept them from putting together that run with their best ball coming way too late when the season was already lost.

The Mets also had their share of injuries but severely underperformed the first 10 weeks getting Willie Randolph axed before waking up under Jerry Manuel to get back in the race. Despite no pen to speak of, they persevered and once again were in great position to win their division before it all came crashing down in the final couple of weeks though not as badly as last year. While the pen could never be trusted and cost them a ton of games, what was most baffling was the offense which at times disappeared. How do you explain getting shutout 1-0 against the majors’ worst team the Nats? And what about scoring only five runs in the do or die weekend series against the same Marlins who danced on their field eliminating them last year? Questions will continue to linger about David Wright and Jose Reyes until they stop disappearing and carry this team back to October and beyond.

Now, it will be a long offseason for Omar Minaya with plenty of angry customers wondering why next year will be different at Citi Field. Getting a real second baseman while unloading Luis Castillo along with revamping the bullpen are just a couple of topics he must address with new record closer Francisco Rodriguez at the top of the list. It’s also likely Pedro Martinez pitched his final game as a Met after struggling mightily. And then there’s Oliver Perez, who will be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $12-16 million per year under greedy agent Scott Boras$. Is he really worth that kind of money longterm? I say no. He’s just too unpredictable to get to that next level. What about Carlos Delgado? Do they pick up the $12 million option rewarding him for his brilliant second half or do they try to get younger going for better defense? If they let him go, it won’t be easy to replace his big bat.

As for the Yankees, they will need to decide on center field moving forward along with what they intend to do with Joba Chamberlain. If they make him a starter, then they must continue to shore up their pen. Bringing back 20-game winner Mike Mussina should be at the top of Brian Cashman’s list. Figure Andy Pettite to either retire or go elsewhere following a dismal second half. The Yanks of course need a real ace and should be in the running for C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey or A.J. Burnett with him expected to opt out of Toronto. There’s also the first base situation where they could be competing with the Angels and Mets for Mark Teixeira. Figure Jason Giambi to go elsewhere after a productive season proving he can still be a valuable DH somewhere. As for Bobby Abreu, he’s a solid run producer who gets on base but leaves something to be desired for in right which is why we see Xavier Nady shifting.

Whatever transpires over the next three months, New York baseball fans know full well their rosters won’t look the same following a quiet October.

Get ready for chaos.

-Just in case we forgot, there’s still one more regular season game to be played later today when the Twins visit the Windy City against the White Sox, who earned the one-game home playoff by getting a grand slam from overlooked rookie second baseman Alexei Ramirez in an 8-2 win over the Tigers in a makeup game Monday. They get the game despite winning their first in six thanks to the Twins dropping two of three to the Royals despite sweeping three from Ozzie Guillen’s club to pull half a game up. It’ll be John Danks going on three days rest against Nick Blackburn to decide the AL Central for the final playoff berth.

One team will advance to play the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series while Boston travels to California to meet the 100-win Angels.

The NL of course is all set with the Cubs taking on the Dodgers while the Phillies host the Brewers, who are in their first postseason in 26 years.

We’ll have more playoff stuff later on.

-It’s hard to choose one between each but our pick for NL MVP would be Ryan Howard for how he carried the Phillies the final month having one of the best Septembers eerily similar to when he clubbed 58 home runs and knocking in 149 to win the award two years ago. I’ve always been a huge fan of Manny Ramirez and he sure stepped up carrying the Dodgers in the final two months impacting their lineup while coming back to win the NL West. But it’s hard to pick him over Howard with how well the first base slugger finished leading his team to a 13-3 record over the final 16 pressure packed games in a very tight race.

-The same could be said for the NL Cy Young where worthy candidates like Johan Santana, Brandon Webb and Tim Lincecum all are in the running against Milwaukee rental Sabathia, who tossed a remarkable seven complete games pacing the league while turning in a money performance following Santana’s gem to get the Brewers in. For that, we’ll give the nod to Sabathia over Lincecum with Santana third and Webb fourth.

-AL MVP is a little easier and could depend on if the Twins win with Justin Morneau once again in the running against Boston tandem Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. It’s hard to ignore Carlos Quentin’s impact with the White Sox, who haven’t been the same since he went down. To be honest, he would’ve been a lock had he not broken his wrist. If the Twins get in, Morneau should win his second MVP in three years this time edging another do everything infielder Pedroia, who resembles a young Derek Jeter. If not, give the award to Pedroia because he’s been his team’s best player since the Manny trade.

-As for AL Cy Young, Cliff Lee should get the nod handily edging out K-Rod, Dice-K and Roy Halladay. I know he won’t get a lot of consideration but Moose deserves a few votes for how well he pitched in the Bronx this year.

-What else can Joe Girardi be two-faced about and purposely hide from the media?

-It’s nice to see Brett Favre finally be allowed to open it up and get on the same page with Laveranues Coles, who caught three touchdowns for the first time in his career- half of Favre’s career high six in the Jets’ 56-35 win over Kurt Warner and the Cards. I just wonder if Gang Green fans can be pleased about their D turning a 34-0 halftime cushion into a game by allowing three straight TDs in the third quarter before Favre and the Jet offense put it away.

-Did anyone ever think the Bills and Titans would both be the only remaining unbeatens in the AFC looking like playoff locks?

-How come Terrell Owens always blames Dallas defeats on not getting him involved enough when it was about as believable as anything Sarah Palin says? Can’t he ever give credit to the opponent because the Redskins played a heck of a game and have certainly turned things around since the NFL Opener defeat to the Giants? But hey. T-Ho will always be a selfserving primadona who doesn’t care about the team concept despite his talent which is why I’d never take him on my team.

-I could do a better job than Scott Linehan did with the Rams.

-It sure took long enough for the Lions to realize Matt Millen wasn’t a good Team President. I wonder what keyed them in on that.

-When someone takes shots at the Yanks and Mets for not qualifying, just remember you could be the Tigers who gave up the world for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, who now looks like a serious rebuilding project. Tell ya one thing. Cameron Maybin sure looks good in center for the Marlins. And if Andrew Miller pans out, that’s gonna be one heck of a rotation in 2009. The Mets and Phillies might have some competition for the NL East.

-Just how ridiculous is Jim Dolan? Idiotic enough to continue bringing back Allan Houston while refusing to payoff Stephon Marbury to get him off the Knicks roster. That’s why no matter who’s running it, they’ll always be the same laughingstock.

-Now would be a good time to tell the Rangers that the NHL regular season begins in a few days over in Europe cause they have looked really bad so far. I wonder what Glen Sather thinks now of investing six years and six and a half per on Wade Redden. Just wait till the season starts up. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

-What I like about the Giant organization is they stick to their rules disciplining Plaxico Burress for missing two straight days of practice even if it was due to a personal family matter. The wideout still should’ve communicated better this way he wouldn’t be fined and have to sit out next week’s home game versus Seattle. However, there aren’t any excuses and no exceptions under Coach Coughlin which is why I believe this team can repeat. They get it!

-Someone might want to tell Jerry Jones that this isn’t the 50′s anymore when he last played organized football. He doesn’t belong on the sideline.

-Boomer and Carton are a fun listen on WFAN in the morning because they work well and have solid chemistry. Listening to them rant over the Mets’ latest disappointment was good radio. Loved Carton’s nickname for Wright for failing to deliver in the clutch: “D-Rod.” A reference to Alex Rodriguez.

-I feel bad for diehard Met fans like Steve Somers, Tony Paige, Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno, who live and die with their team all year long. You can feel the emotion and terrible bitterness in their voices. Particularly Somers, who last week coming back from a great Weezer concert sounded heartbroken over a costly extra inning defeat to the Cubs. You could really tell how badly he wanted to see them get in and reverse last year.

They all did and showed so much. Maybe if the Mets had played with as much energy as they brought to the WFAN airwaves, they wouldn’t be sitting home instead getting ready for Lou Piniella’s Cubs. They might get paid to talk sports but they wear the Mets’ logo as a badge of honor as did outstanding play-by-play man Howie Rose.

Nobody ever likes to get their hearts broken. Especially by their favorite sports team which is what can make following sports so crazy. One minute, you’re as high as the sky and the next you feel like burying yourself under the sand.

It’s the real diehards who never abandon ship who shall always get my sorrows. Cause it takes a lot sometimes to stay with a team that constantly gives you heartache.

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