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Goodell has got to go + Week 3 picks

- September 20th, 2014

Roger Goodell said in his long-awaited press conference on Friday that he had no intention on resigning. The biggest question now is, of course, “Why the hell not?”

I’m not Goodell’s boss and I’m not one to go around saying that hard-working people should lose their jobs, but in Goodell’s case, the only thing that he works hard it is apparently cover-ups and he’s not very good at it either.

The negatives are far outweighing the positives from Goodell’s reign as commissioner of the NFL.

The biggest positive is the amount of money he has made the owners – his bosses – and how he has grown the game. Really though, with the position the league was in when Goodell took over from Paul Tagliabue, football was already on a rollercoaster ride to the top and the money was always going to come in.

As proven by what Goodell has done while in charge, anybody with even the slightest bit of aptitude for this position could have raked in a huge amount of money.

My favourite part of Friday’s press conference was when a TMZ reporter asked Goodell how his entire legal department couldn’t get the Rice elevator tape when all it took TMZ was a single phone call. Goodell’s answer involved something about not knowing how TMZ got said tape.

That response reeks of a dodge and just overall incompetence.

That’s exactly why Goodell has to go.

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS

TampaBay +6 over ATLANTA

OK, I really should have seen this one coming. The Bucs are in pretty dire straights and I’m not sure what Lovie Smith can do to turn this team around.

San Diego +2.5 over BUFFALO

The Bills are undefeated and looked good against Miami, but the Chargers are the better team here.

ST. LOUIS (pk) over Dallas

Just when you think the Cowboys have pulled it together, they fall apart against a weaker team.

Washington +6.5 over PHILADELPHIA

I really like Kirk Cousin and think he deserves to start even over a healthy RG3. The Eagles have a problem with falling behind early and Washington might be able to take advantage of it.

Houston -2 over NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants are one of the five worst teams in the league and their offensive line will be in trouble trying to stop J.J. Watt.

NEW ORLEANS -10.5 over Minnesota

Even if this whole Adrian Peterson saga galvanizes this Vikings team like the Ray Rice saga in Baltimore, you can’t discount an angry, winless Saints team in their home-opener

CINCINNATI -7 over Tennessee

The Titans had a lot of trouble stopping the run against Dallas and should see another steady diet of power rushing by the Bengals this week with A.J. Green hobbled.

CLEVELAND +6.5 over Baltimore

The Ravens are a different team on the road and the Browns will play them tough.

DETROIT -2.5 over Green Bay

While many picked the Pack as a Super Bowl contender, I’m really not seeing it through two games. The Lions aren’t a great team, but will definitely give it their all here. And who’s covering Megatron, really?

JACKSONVILLE +7 over Indianapolis

The Jags were embarrassed at Washington last week, but are always ready to put up a fight against their division rivals.

NEW ENGLAND -14 over Oakland

If this line stayed at 16, which I saw earlier this week, then I might’ve actually talked myself into Oakland. But I see the Pats running the ball hard down the Raiders’ throats.

San Francisco -3 over ARIZONA

The Niners fell apart against Chicago and Colin Kaepernick looked very shaky. That said the Cardinals are also falling apart and starting Drew Stanton again.

SEATTLE -4.5 over Denver

The Super Bowl rematch won’t be a shellacking like the game in February, but it should be an easy win at home for the Seahawks.

Kansas City +4 over MIAMI

The Dolphins’ flaws were exposed by Buffalo last week, and with Jamaal Charles looking like he could play, the Chiefs just might be able to exploit them.

CAROLINA -3 over Pittsburgh

The Panthers didn’t slide into regression like many thought they would, while Pittsburgh hasn’t looked great in its two games so far.

Chicago +3 over NEW YORK JETS

The Bears needed a big comeback to beat the Niners on the West Coast, but shouldn’t be getting points against a Jets team that barely beat Oakland.

Last week: 6-10
This season: 12-20

Costa the best buy of the summer

- September 16th, 2014

I’m not sure that we’re even going to be able to debate the best signing of the season in the Premier League because we already have the answer: Diego Costa.

He is basically everything that Chelsea lacked last season in an attacker. He is the perfect poaching No. 9 that is in the right spot at the right time all the time.

That was certainly the case on Saturday as the Blues maintained their 100% record by trouncing fellow table-toppers Swansea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.

Costa potted three goals that were all about opportunity and now has seven on the season in just four games.

That’s seven in four games compared to five for Fernando Torres, five for Demba Ba and nine for Samuel Eto’o in the entire 2013-14 campaign.

As demonstrated by those numbers, you can clearly see that Chelsea’s strikers weren’t all that great at, well, striking.

Costa is just that. Two of his goals against the Swans came on clever runs and simple deflections past the hopeless keeper.

While some forwards need to be the focus of the attack, Costa is just fine stepping into the right spot, which makes him perfect to lead the line for a Chelsea side with a lot of creativity in attack and is sturdy in defence.

With Costa, I’m not so sure that the Premier League won’t become a race for second place, because the Blues might just get too far ahead to be caught.

UNITED UP TO NINTH

All that it took was a 4-0 thumping of an awful-looking QPR side for some to proclaim that Manchester United is ready to contend. Let’s just hold off on that for a second.

Firstly, it was just Louis van Gaal’s first EPL win.

Second, I still see some issues with this side.

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both out, Tyler Blackett remains in the starting lineup.

Sure, the Radamel Falcao signing looks nice on paper, but where is he going to play? The more offensive talent that the Red Devils add, the more that is going to be left out.

And remember: This was just against one of  the worst teams in the EPL.

While some have pointed out that the last time United had two points from the first three games, it went on to win the title. But after that poor start in 2007, it reeled off eight straight wins.

If van Gaal can get on a run like that, then we can start proclaiming Manchester United as the powerhouse it thinks it is.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

This season’s first heavyweight battle ended in a draw as Arsenal and Manchester City fought it out at the Emirates. The real star of the show was Jack Wilshere, who looks to have finally found a position to shine in for the Gunners. With Arsene Wenger moving underachieving Mesut Ozil out wide, Wilshere was able to shine in the middle of the pitch, picking up a goal and an assist. If not for Martin Demichelis’ late tying goal, the Englishman would be the talk of the tabloids even more this week … It feels like forever that Sergio Aguero has played a full game. He is either hurt or subbed off or comes on as a sub, but always seems to score … With Mathieu Debuchy ruled out for as long as three months, Arsenal’s defensive depth is going to be seriously challenged. With Champions League starting today, the Gunners calendar is going to look a bit congested. While Callum Chambers will step in against Borussia Dortmund, there’s little top-class cover on the backline after him … Crystal Palace 0, Burnley 0 because of course it was … Everton picked up its first win of the season, topping West Brom 2-0 thanks to Romelu Lukaku potting his first of the season less than two minutes in … When was the last time that a West Ham player scored a goal like Enner Valencia’s against Hull City on Monday? With the Hammers buying more and more players with skill attributes more than strength and aggression, we could see them play a style more to the fan’s liking – and much to Big Sam’s chagrin … Anybody that picked Southampton to be relegated is looking pretty silly right about now … Despite spending what felt like the entire second half in Aston Villa’s end of the pitch, Liverpool just could not finish. How many people would’ve predicted the Villas would hold the powerful Reds and claim a clean sheet at Anfield? And to do it without injured top centre back Ron Vlaar? And who would’ve thought that Aston Villa would be second in the Premier League at any point?

THE LAST WORD

It’s time for Alan Pardew to go.

While Tony Pulis may have technically been the first manager to leave his post this season, Newcastle’s Pardew should certainly be next.

There has been enough roster turnover at St. James to tell you that it isn’t the players that are letting this side down.

After this weekend’s 4-0 demolishing at the hands of Southampton, there have been plenty of calls for his head to roll. Honestly, I think it’s about time and I’m surprised he has lasted this long.

The Magpies went throw a couple of horrid stretches last season that should’ve been enough to tie a can on Pardew. Now, Newcastle sits at the bottom of the table with two points from four games and a minus-6 goal differential.

It’s not like there’s a lack of replacements out there, either.

David Moyes may not be the right man for a massive club like Manchester United, but he would be more than capable of managing the Magpies to Europa League contention in a couple of years.

The hot name is Hull City’s Steve Bruce, but the fact that the Tigers are visiting the Northeast this coming weekend does that rumour no favours.

So really, if the only reason that Pardew hasn’t been fired is that his contract is too much to buy out, well that’s just not good enough. Keeping a lame duck around could lead this team to relegation, which would cost the team A LOT more.

After all, it’s not like there isn’t a recent history of relegation for Newcastle. Right?

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

What’s next for Ray Rice + Week 2 picks

- September 12th, 2014

Ray Rice has been cut from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL for knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City elevator.

We’ve all read about it and I’m sure we’ve all read too much of it. So let’s just skip the “pleasnatries” of this horrible act and look towards the future.

Where will Ray Rice play next? With this suspension he is surely done for this season, but what about 2015? That answer might be more complicated than you think.

Rice is coming off the worst season of his career, but did show signs that he was in great shape during the pre-season and was poised to regain at least some of his previous great form when he returned from his previous two-game ban. He will be 28-years-old, which is getting towards the tail end of a career for running backs, but is still an age which it’s possible to compete well at.

So which teams could Rice suit up for?

-A CFL team: Let’s just cross this one off to start. I think that Rice would likely retire before testing the waters here up north. There isn’t a great track record for backs coming to the CFL from the NFL either.

-Baltimore Ravens: Not a chance. After what Rice has put this team through with this saga so far, all bridges should be considered burnt with Baltimore.

-San Francisco 49ers: The Niners won’t shy away from signing a player with a few warts. Just look at their defence. The one hurdle may be the fact that that another Harbaugh brother coaches the team – for now.

-New England Patriots: Bill Belichick isn’t afraid of reclamation projects. Also, when you look at the Patriots depth chart, you can’t help but notice that they could use a versatile guy with good hands and every-down back experience.

-Seattle Seahawks: Another team that’s not shy about signing troubled players. Coach Pete Carroll has even started a program with his players about domestic violence to educate them. Taking on Rice could be considered a character rehab move. It would be tough to get Rice decent carries though, with Marshawn Lynch around.

-Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have never been shy on signing pariahs if the talent is still apparent. Just look at T.O.

-Cleveland Browns: If only to mess with the Ravens. Also, God hates Cleveland.

-Oakland Raiders: They’ll sign anybody, right? Also have shown the willingness to gamble on aging running backs like Maurice Jones-Drew.

-He never plays again: It’s a real possibility, but given the fact that a team took a chance on Michael Vick after his dog-fighting conviction, I don’t see Rice getting completely shunned out of the league.

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

Pittsburgh +2.5 over BALTIMORE

There was two ways this game could’ve gone: Either the Ravens would fall apart under the weight of the Rice saga, or it would galvanize the team and make it stronger. It was obviously the latter, although the Steelers have some real issues.

Detroit +2.5 over CAROLINA

So, Carolina’s defence is still pretty good. And Cam is going to be back. But I can’t shake the feeling that the Lions offence is for real.

Miami (pk) over BUFFALO

The Dolphins are lucky their annual trip up north isn’t in December. Miami

Jacksonville +7 over WASHINGTON

Sure, the Jags gave up 35 points in the second half, but they were up 17-0 in the first half! Washington looked a mess in Texas and should consider starting Kirk Cousins over RG3.

TENNESSEE -3 over Dallas

As long as Jake Locker remains healthy, the Titans are a viable playoff contender.

NEW YORK GIANTS +2.5 over Arizona

Two things about this game before you call me insane: 1. The Cards played late on Monday night, have to travel across the U.S. and play a 1 p.m. game. 2. Who isn’t ripping Eli Manning right now? He looked awful. If he doesn’t step up, he could lose his job.

New England -3 over MINNESOTA

The Patriots just don’t lose two in a row. Although there is a fear that Adrian Peterson could gash them up like Knowshon Moreno did last week.

New Orleans -7 over CLEVELAND

Seven points is a lot to give to a home team, but the Saints have to be fired up after giving away that game in Atlanta. Look for their defence to be better too – can’t be worse, right?

Atlanta +5 over CINCINNATI

Perhaps my fears of Andy Dalton and the loss of both co-ordinators were overblown. Then again, the Falcons offence looked fierce last week.

St. Louis +7 over TAMPA BAY

The Rams defence should keep them in this game. Josh McCown wasn’t great in his Bucs debut and could be in tough against Robert Quinn and Co.

Seattle -7 over SAN DIEGO

Losing Nick Hardwick for the season is a big blow for the Chargers. Any time your centre goes down, it impairs your offence. And with an average O-line already, Philip Rivers will be running for his life.

Houston -2.5 OAKLAND

Poor Oakland. It should do better at home, but if it can’t beat the Jets, can it beat a better version of that team in the Texans?

GREEN BAY -9.5 over New York Jets

The Pack may be ailing, but they have had 10 days to simmer from that loss in Seattle and to prepare for the underwhelming Jets.

DENVER -13.5 over Kansas City

It’s hard to imagine Alex Smith leading a comeback cover like Andrew Luck did last week. The Chiefs are in big trouble for this one.

Chicago +7.5 over SAN FRANCISCO

Despite the scoreline, the Niners weren’t anything special against Dallas last week. The Bears won’t be taking this one lightly after last week’s upset to Buffalo.

Philadelphia +3 over INDIANAPOLIS

The Monday nighter looks like a dynamite one on paper, but is it really? The Eagles showed their flaws going down big early to Jacksonville while the Colts did the same in Denver. Sure, the both staged comebacks to varying degrees of success, but the warts are there. So grab the points and enjoy.

This week: 0-1

Last week: 6-10

This season: 6-10

Getting off to a good start + Week 1 picks

- September 5th, 2014

Nothing’s more important than getting off to a good start when picking games. There’s also nothing harder.

Although we’ve all read so much analysis, predictions and previews for the season, there’s no real to tell what’s going to happen when the real games start.

The pre-season is nice, but there’s no substitute for the real thing.

And when you’re making your opening picks, just remember that a loss in Week 1 in no way dooms a team. Always remember that we’ve only seen two teams run the table in the history of this league and it’s getting harder and harder every year to do so.

Also, never forget that there’s always one or two teams that come out of nowhere with a big upset. See if you can pick the right dog this week.

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

New Orleans -3 over ATLANTA

While it is risky taking a road favourite in a rivalry game, the Saints have earned some deserved respect and should continue to improve on defence.

Minnesota +3.5 over ST. LOUIS

The Vikings are going to surprise some people this season and it will start with an upset over Shaun Hill and the Rams. Also, I’m betting AP doesn’t score a TD on his first carry of the season.

PITTSBURGH -7 over Cleveland

While some would love to take the points, this should be nothing less than a typical Steelers-run-over-the-Browns blowout.

Jacksonville (+10.5) over PHILADELPHIA

I really like the Eagles this season, but I also think that the Jags could do well enough defensively to keep this in single digits.

Oakland +5.5 over NEW YORK JETS

I hate taking a west-coast team in a 1 p.m. ET start, but why should we trust this Jets team to take care of business?

BALTIMORE -1 over Cincinnati

The Ravens are historically a great home team and the Bengals are still adapting to two new co-ordinators.

CHICAGO -7 over Buffalo

If the Bears want to show the world they are contenders, they have to beat up on the lowly Bills.

Washington +3 over HOUSTON

I’ll bet that new Washington coach Jay Gruden has something up his sleeve to deal with the Texans ferocious pass rush in Week 1.

KANSAS CITY -4 over Tennessee

The Chiefs’ home-field advantage isn’t something to be messed with. And we’re not sure how good the Titans defence will be yet.

MIAMI +4 over New England

The Dolphins won this game the last time they played, so why can’t they do it again, or at least keep it within a field goal?

TAMPA BAY -2 over Carolina

The Panthers best offensive weapon, Cam Newton will be playing hurt and wearing a flak jacket. The Bucs will be fired up to play under a coach they actually like.

San Francisco -4.5 over DALLAS

Even with the 49ers suspensions on defence, you have to feel they can hold the Cowboys off even with what they have.

DENVER -8 over Indianapolis

The Broncos are going to be mad after that last game they played. You know, the Super Bowl. Expect them to run it up on the poor Colts.

New York Giants +5.5 over DETROIT

Hmm, the Lions have a crappy secondary and the Giants are switching to a disciplined passing system. I’ll take the points please.

San Diego +3 over ARIZONA

I feel like I’m missing something as to why the Cards are favoured here. The Chargers are the better team while Arizona

This week: 1-0

This season: 1-0

2013 season: 119-125-9

2013 playoffs: 3-4-3

2012 season: 132-116-8

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Picks for the 2014 NFL season + the big opener

- September 4th, 2014

After two days of recaps, here’s your handy guide to all the playoff teams and award winners for the coming NFL season. And, as always, all predictions are correct or your money back.

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles.

NFC North: Green Bay Packers.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints.

NFC West: Seattle Seahawks.

NFC Wildcards: Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers.

AFC East: New England Patriots.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens.

AFC South: Houston Texans.

AFC West: Denver Broncos.

AFC Wildcards: San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins.

MVP: Peyton Manning, DEN

Offensive player of the year: Drew Brees, NO

Defensive player of the year: Darrelle Revis, NE

Offensive rookie: Brandin Cooks, NO

Defensive rookie: Ryan Shazier, PIT

First overall pick: Buffalo Bills (So, actually the Cleveland Browns)

AFC Championship: New England over Denver

NFC Championship: San Francisco over Philadelphia

Super Bowl: San Francisco over New England

 

As for tonight’s showdown, it might actually be as dramatic as the Fail Mary game these two teams played two years ago.

Green Bay should be champing at the bit after losing in the wild card to San Fran last year and stumbling with Aaron Rodgers out for several weeks. But with the all-pro QB healthy and the defence improved, the Pack should keep this game interesting.

But here’s the thing: Russell Wilson has lost just once at home in his NFL career. The Seahawks also haven’t lost many key pieces from their big Super Bowl win, so we should be able to expect the same level of play from Pete Carroll’s crew.

You also can’t discount the amount of energy the 12th man will have after watching the defending champs run out onto the field for the first time since lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

The pick: SEATTLE -5.5 over Green Bay.

2013 season: 119-125-9 (3 games with NL)

2013 playoffs: 3-4-3

2012 season: 132-116-8