A lot is going wrong in the NFL his year. Depending on what team you root for it’s either a blessing, same old or “we’ll get ‘em next year.” For these teams, there’s something wrong. Yet some of them still have playoff shots at the halfway point of the season.
Dallas Cowboys (1-6)
The pressure started on these guys when Cowboys Stadium was selected to host Super Bowl XLV. Coach Wade Phillips doesn’t have the leadership to mold this team, Tony Romo no longer dates Jessica Simpson (and he got hurt) while receiver Miles Austin no longer dates Kim Kardashian. I’d feel like losing too if I no longer dated those girls.
Washington Redskins (4-4)
New coach Mike Shanahan bullied lineman Albert Haynesworth during training camp, forcing the bruising defender to try to pass a conditioning test (which the massive Haynesworth failed repeatedly) before getting on the field. Haynesworth is an All-Pro player. Why would you do this? The team itself has been mediocre, but the most questionable move came this week when starting quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched for lack of conditioning and his inability to master the two-minute offense.
Guess who worked out for the Redskins this week? Jamarcus Russell, the former Raiders oaf, arguably one of the laziest players to ever put on an NFL uniform. This tub of lard is going to help? The Raiders have average quarterbacks now and technically, they’re in playoff contention.
Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
My friends always give me grief for saying quarterback Matt Leinart could have led this team. Well, he was never given a full season’s chance, outplaying Derek Anderson for the starting job and still getting released. Coach Ken Whisenhunt had his mind made up long before the preseason finished and now he has been rewarded with a season of mediocrity. Anderson, who has been OK his entire career and undrafted rookie Max Hall from BYU lead this team. The Cardinals still have a chance since they play in the awful NFC West, perhaps the worst division in the history of the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers (2-6)
I don’t know how to explain this one. The way the Niners have played the past couple of years this was a gimme. In a division with lowly Seattle, Arizona minus Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin and the always pathetic St. Louis Rams, San Francisco should win this division by default. Yet the team started 0-5. The 49ers can still win the division since the Seahawks are 4-3 and coach Pete Carroll had more talent at USC than Seattle.
Minnesota Vikings (2-5)
Brett Favre came back after holding the team, football fans and ESPN hostage. But receiver Sidney Rice got hurt early on, the Vikings got behind early and then superstar and super diva Randy Moss was brought in. Moss didn’t pan out as he was released this week. He had a bad attitude (what a surprise) and he might be an impact player for another team assuming he doesn’t wear out his welcome after a month. Minnesota’s defense is still good and running back Adrian Peterson is a stud, but losing close games has put the team in a hole. It doesn’t look good the rest of the way. To make the playoffs, the Vikings would have to finish 8-1 or 7-2 and that’s extremely unlikely.
Carolina Panthers (1-6)
Carolina still has a team? Who plays for them? Seriously, I can’t name any impact players for this team. I know they drafted Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame. That’s about it though. When you don’t have any players that the casual fan is aware of, you know the team is in bad shape.
Buffalo Bills (0-7)
The Bills’ major problem is that Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith don’t play for them anymore. The current Bills stink. Like the Panthers, they have no impact players. Nobody has a fantasy team loaded with Buffalo players. Nobody in their right mind would go to Las Vegas and bet that these Buffalo Bills will go to four straight Super Bowls.
Denver Broncos (2-6) John Elway doesn’t play for these guys. Neither does running back Terrell Davis. And Shanahan doesn’t coach here. At least with Shanahan the team had a system in which it could still be successful. Now, the Broncos are so bad they lost to the previously downtrodden Raiders, 59-14. Are you kidding me, 59 points? The NFL record is 62 points. No teams ever score that much. Maybe former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow can play defense. It can’t hurt, right?
San Diego Chargers (3-5)
This is all you need to know about the Chargers’ demise: they are coached by Norv Turner and he is a proven loser. He coached Washington and he coached the Oakland. Both of those teams sucked. San Diego probably would have at least gone to a Super Bowl with former coach Marty Schottenheimer. He was fired after going 14-2 and losing in the AFC divisional playoff game. The geniuses in the San Diego front office replaced him with Turner and the Chargers have underachieved since.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)
Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco is a recipe for disaster. Pair these guys up with Moss and you’ll be guaranteed an 0-16 season. The team would probably be so dysfunctional, the Bengals would cease to exist and fans wouldn’t even be given a refund for games they don’t get to attend. On paper, the team looked strong and like Minnesota, has lost close games. But this is the NFL. You win two close ones, you’re in playoff contention. You lose them and you end up on this list. Cleveland Browns (2-5) The Cleveland Browns will suck forever. When are they ever good? Who plays for them? Does Tim Couch still play quarterback? Ever watch “The Drew Carey Show” and just get baffled at the “Cleveland Rocks” song? Who likes the Indians? Browns? Cavaliers? Hell, LeBron James loved the Cavaliers so much he took his talents to South Beach. Cleveland is playing for another top three pick in the draft and judging by its sorriness, will “earn” that pick yet again.
Catch that opening game Miami Heat loss? Of course you did. Rooting against LeBron James is the most American thing to do now that the New York Yankees lost the American League Championship Series and the Dallas Cowboys suck.
Since the NBA’s new Big Three united in July, the Heat have dominated all of the off-season talk. All because of these words: “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy predicted Miami would eclipse the Chicago Bulls’ 72-win season. I bet some thought the Heat were bound for an 82-0 season.
Either way, people seem to hate the Miami Heat and comparisons have been made to the creation of the New World Order back in the good, old days of World Championship Wrestling. Good guy Hulk Hogan turned his back on WCW and joined up with cutthroat heels Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (most remember them as Razor Ramon and Diesel of World Wrestling Federation fame).
These three were legitimate superstars who beat up other wrestlers mercilessly, gained popularity, got other wrestlers in WCW to join the nWo cause and beat up whoever didn’t rock the faction’s black and white colors.
LeBron and Dwyane Wade, I could see as superstars. But Chris Bosh, who the hell is this guy? This guy isn’t a superstar. He was the leading scorer on the Raptors, but remember, every team has to have a leading scorer. Bosh is no Hulk Hogan and hasn’t even paid his dues to be on Hall or Nash level.
Nash won the world title and went up against the likes of Hogan, Undertaker, Bret “the Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels. Hall never won an individual world title, but he was the winner of one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time: the first ladder match in history against Michaels.
What has Bosh done? He was part of the 2008 Olympic “Redeem Team” that won the gold medal. Then again, so was Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince, would you call those guys superstars? Bosh led the Toronto Raptors, whose greatest claim to fame was losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the playoffs in 2001, in scoring and rebounding (24 points and almost 11 rebounds per game).
I guess Bosh gets the Hall role.
That leaves Wade in the Nash role, which is unusual since D-Wade is the only player in the Big Three with a championship ring.
James is the Hogan role, cause let’s be honest, he’s the baddest dude to put on a jersey in the league. Kobe Bryant is the most clutch in playoff time and Kevin Durant’s youth and potential may one day dethrone the King, but LeBron is too nice.
He’s one of the faces of the league. Love him or hate him, he can ball. Despite the nWo’s dominance, they lost every now and then.
Even Hogan, whose most famous defeat as a member of the nWo was against Sting, who no longer looked like the Ultimate Warrior, but an exact replica of the Crow. If he carried a baseball bat around.
This classic match took place at Starrcade 1997. It had tremendous pre-match hype and great intros.
Hogan lost and it was like, “damn, why didn’t the nWo just cheat to win?”
A lot of people think Miami cheated to get its players. The Heat did nothing wrong. In fact, the Big Two (plus Bosh) all took less money so they could play together.
So what if they lost the opener against Boston? If you haven’t noticed, the Celtics are a loaded team that came within a quarter of winning the championship.
Trust me, Miami will have games in which it wins handily. And one day, the Heat may win 72 games or more. It’s not that difficult. Two teams came within five games in the last decade without even trying (2000 Lakers and 2007 Mavericks, both with 67 wins).
A real conspiracy would be another legitimate superstar taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat. Until then, I’ll just wait for a Miami Heat T-shirt to come out in the likeness of those old nWo T-shirts everyone had. Root against the Heat all you want, they’ll do just fine with or without your hate.
Watching just the first five weeks of this college football season, I legitimately believe this could be the best class of quarterbacks since 2004. And honestly, I think this class will be better than 2004. By my count, there are no less than five guys who could easily go in the first round.
Before the season began, my top six quarterbacks list looked like this:
I know, right. John Brantley sucks. The worst part of watching Brantley stink up the joint this season has been how incredibly Cam “Lootin” Newton has played. My top five QBs going into week five were:
I thought I had everything figured out going into last week…and then last week happened. My new list goes:
The craziest part of my new QB list is how close everything is. The top three guys are absolutely the three leaders for the Heisman this season – or at least they should be.
I’m not sure how it is that no one is talking about how amazing the Alabama offense is this year. They could legitimately have six first round draft picks next April, just on offense – McElroy, RB Mark Ingram, RB Trent Richardson, WR Julio Jones, LT James Carpenter and LG Barrett Jones.
I knew McElroy was good, but he’s been beyond good this year. Anyone who is putting Ingram ahead of him on the Heisman list just isn’t watching the games. McElroy doesn’t have the stats, just 983 yards passing and 7 touchdowns with 3 interceptions, but his play has been what’s taken Bama’s offense to the next level.
Typically when you say a quarterback “manages” the game, you mean that he sucks, but he doesn’t screw things up. McElroy actually manages the game in the sense that he controls games and does exactly what his team needs. When his team needed him to throw the ball against Arkansas, he lit it up. When they needed him to control the clock in the second half against Florida, he made every play. He is amazing to watch. I hate him. I hate him so much.
Denard Robinson has been stupid, filthy good. In five games as a starter, he already owns the top three offensive performances in the history of the program. And this is the University of Michigan we’re talking about not, Eastern Michigan or Western or South Central.
Kellen Moore is doing what everyone thought he would. No more, no less. The sad thing is, what everyone expected him to do is be spectacular and he’s been spectacular and is getting no credit for it.
Pryor has been great, but he still hasn’t played a meaningful game.
“Lootin” Newton is throwing every ball like it’s a laptop out of his bedroom window. He’s running the ball like the Gainesville police are always after him. I’m starting to hate him too.
Landry Jones may be having the greatest under-the-radar season ever. In five games, 1457 yards, 64 percent completion rate, 11 touchdowns and just three picks. And no one is talking about him.
This football season is going to be amazing.
It’s been about a week since Reggie Bush gave up his Heisman Trophy. Is this mess finally over? Anything else people want to pressure him into doing?
There’s no denying what Bush did was wrong. Even if what he did exactly is kind of fuzzy, we know he was involved with a sports agent while playing college football, a big no-no.
A Heisman-less Bush must now move on with his life. It must be tough, what with his millions of dollars, Super Bowl rings and memories of a relationship with Kim Kardashian.
Bush said his giving the Heisman back was “not an admission of guilt.” He can think what he wants. Officially, the Heisman Trust said the 2005 Heisman would be vacant.
Yet a bunch of crazy talk erupted last week that former Texas Longhorns quarterback Vince Young wanted the award.
Bush won that Heisman. By a lot. He received the second highest amount of votes ever and doubled the votes Young received. The race wasn’t close.
Who’s to say Young would have won had Bush been ineligible? Bush and 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart were on the same team, they could have split votes. Yet Bush still won in a landslide. Without Bush who’s to say Leinart doesn’t become the second two-time Heisman winner.
Ignorant fans say Young should have won, especially since he almost single handedly beat USC in the Rose Bowl. Guess what, geniuses? That game happened after the Heisman Trophy was handed out. You can’t use that as a case for Young nabbing the award.
The man behind this madness was none other than Texas’s Mack Brown, the world’s best (or worst) politician disguising himself as a college football coach. “I talked to Vince and told him that it would be very important for the University of Texas football program if the Heisman was brought back here,” Brown said. “Not for you, but for the university I’d like for you to stand up and say you want it because I think it would be important to bring it back here.”
In 2004 Brown persuaded pollsters to bump Texas up in the rankings in order for the Longhorns to play in a Bowl Championship Series game. It worked and poor Cal, perhaps the second best team in the nation that season (yes, including undefeated Auburn and Oklahoma) was unfairly pushed aside despite being ahead of Texas during the final weekend of the regular season.
Common sense prevailed, as Young won’t be awarded a Heisman he didn’t deserve.
Now that the Heisman mess is sorted out, I have some points to bring up regarding the entire Bush saga:
USC’s facing severe penalties is simply wrong. The NCAA has to change its method of punishing schools. Why should these players who were middle schoolers at the time pay the price for Bush’s misdeeds?
There needs to be a way to penalize the player. Make him (or her) pay back whatever tuition costs, whatever room and board costs, any fees associated with going to school for a free ride. Fine the college a hefty dollar amount.
But don’t punish players that have nothing to do with the situation. That makes no sense.
I also don’t think what Bush did was really that bad. These student-athletes make universities loads of cash. You want to know what’s bad? Using steroids, that’s bad. Having someone else do your homework, that’s bad. Cheating or falsifying grades to get into college, that’s bad.
Your parents getting a pad? Driving a new car? Travel expenses paid for? How does this help someone on the field?
Finally, who here thinks Bush was the only Heisman winner to get a little something extra? Not just Heisman winners, you know these athletes get a little something extra not just in the classroom, but in the wallet. Watch “The Program,” it’ll clear everything up.
Imagine if a Heisman winner from back in the day, maybe from the 60s or 70s, was found to be dirty. Would a media frenzy come about? Would hardware be given back?
I think every university is dirty until it’s caught. When I went to school, an instructor offered to give me a free A if I just continued writing coverage on their sport. No attendance, no work, no tests, just a free grade. I wasn’t an athlete, just a mild mannered reporter without the physique of Clark Kent.
Hell, I knew an older dude who played baseball about four decades ago, was heavily recruited by many universities, and had tremendous offers. One, which sounded very tempting, went like this: Attend our school and you’ll never have to go to class. Ever. You’ll get a degree and all you have to do is play baseball.
This was a tiny college that was hurting, but the offer was out there. Not from a coach, but from an administrator. A big shot was offering that “education.”
Temptation is out there. Bush got popped and now the Heisman is his penance. Unfortunately, USC is serving its penance for years to come.
This past weekend, I officially ran out of people to hate in college sports. All of my enemies – all the teams, coaches and players I have spent the whole of my life casting my unmitigated enmity and vitriol upon – I can no longer find cause to even dislike.
Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for USC. On Saturday his team barely squeaked by Virginia in what had to be the most pathetic USC performance I’ve seen since Paul Hackett was coaching. I was looking forward to years of hating Lane, but now – nothing.
I can’t hate Derek Dooley or Tennessee because I just genuinely feel bad about how hard they got screwed over by that D-bag Kiffin. Dooley didn’t do any preseason posturing, he didn’t make any stupid guarantees or talk about singing Rocky Top “all night long” after beating a team he knows damn well he has no chance to beat. He’s just a good ol’ down home boy who got saved from having to try to win games coaching Louisiana Tech.
I’ve tried to talk myself into hating Auburn and Cam “Lootin’” Newton, but really I just enjoy making fun of him too much. During Auburn games I love to make jokes like, “Wow, Cam threw that pass like he threw that white kids laptop out the window after he stole it,” or “Oh man, Newton looks like he’s running from the campus police out there,” or “Damn, Newton tossed that ball like Urban tossed him off the team.”
I was on the road to hating Nick Saban. What, with his national championship, destroying Florida in the SEC Championship Game and his eternal stoicism he was an easy target. But those “College Gameday” commercials with he and Mack Brown playing Hungry Hungry Hippos and the one where he eats the cookie off the ground are hilarious. Now I almost like him
I don’t even hate Mark Richt. Honestly, I’ve never hated Mark Richt and I don’t know why. If there’s anyone I should hate it’s him. He spent 14 years as Bobby Bowden’s errand boy at Florida State, he was born in Nebraska (a state I generally despise), he played college ball for Miami (FL) and he played pro for the Bills in the ‘90s. Then there was that little stunt he pulled in 2007. I should hate Mark Richt more than anyone alive. Watching Spurrier beat him on Saturday should have filled me with joy, but I didn’t really get anything out of it.
Worst of all, I can’t even bring myself to hate Jimbo Fisher, and his name is Jimbo. During Saturday’s drubbing from Oklahoma I actually found myself feeling sorry for Florida State. I have never, ever in my life felt sorry for Florida State. I’ve always reveled in watching them get beaten, but on Saturday as the Sooners scout team was scoring on them I just changed the channel and shook my head.
Maybe I’m just getting too old to genuinely hate people because they play or coach for a rival football team. Or maybe the cast of characters in college football is just not hateable enough. Maybe Urban dominating rivalry games since he got to Gainesville has mollified my passion for SEC football (the man is 15-1 in rivalry games since coming to Gainesville). Whatever the case, I need to find someone to hate soon. College football isn’t nearly as enjoyable when you don’t detest the opposition with a fiery passion.
So, last night was my annual fantasy football draft. It is not my favorite night. A friend once asked me to explain the intricacies of the National Football League. I relayed that a douche bag that is infected with entirely too much self worth throws an irritatingly odd shaped ball across the field to an even bigger douche bag with the ego the size of my tummy. He catches this ball and runs past the safety who is just as fast as the douche bag that caught the ball but he doesn’t know how to catch so the coaches put him on defense. So his job is to tackle the the doucher with the ball. They do this all game until the guy who majored in accounting comes and kicks a ball between two sticks. The game ends when one of the players robs someone or shoots themselves in the leg with a concealed pistol. Hall of Famers are allowed to engage in statutory rape where appropriate.
But all this is not my beef with the NFL and fantasy drafting. These are:
1) Forcing a Statistics based game into the NFL format. Granted this works for offense, albeit not very well. But then they throw defense in as one small, general entity of a football game. I think the 2005 Steelers would argue that defense makes up a bigger role than just one of eight specialized fantasy roles.
2) Injuries – The biggest complaint about fantasy baseball is that it takes too long. Well football may be played once a week but everyday one of my players is subjected to turf toe, abdominal strain, or just plain homesickness. Well I am tired of it. Not because I have to put in Pierre Garcon for Hines Ward every other day but because the NFL gives you cute little terms for how hurt a player is. I get IR (injured reserve), NA (not active), O (out) but the rest just frustrate.
Day-to-Day – This means one of two things. Either your featured back is going through an amputation and the team is disguising his horrible injury as a day-to-day phenomena or he is completely fine and they want you to think he is impaled with something painful. It is rarely an actual day-to-day phenomena.
Doubtful – adj. Not known with certainty: As in – Felix Jones was listed as doubtful so I kept him out of my lineup. He then ran for 500 yards and ended world hunger so I lost my weekly match-up to Teabaggers Anonymous.
Probable – adj. Likely to be the case or to happen: As in – Visanthe Shiancoe is listed as probable. I can be 100% sure that he will play which makes the probable label a misnomer and he should be fucking listed as “totes.”
Questionable -adj. inviting inquiry As in: Rex Ryan labeled Mark Sanchez as questionable this week. Rex Ryan is fat and I wish he would be more direct with his status of his players ability to play.
All this means is that you can’t trust if your stud wide out is going to play, play well, or even show up. So you scour new sources every minute to gauge if the injury report is erroneous, fact, or somewhere in between.
3) Crime – This one is bigger than you think. Nowhere else in sports do you have to draft with the assumption that your player may or may not be at some point in the year speeding across state lines with a dead body in the trunk. Please draft players with a little to no predilection to break federal and state crimes between September and January.
4) Kickers – Really. I have to really draft a kicker. These guys are semi-football players at best. You are telling me they hold almost the same weight as defense? I thought it sucked giant donkey nuts drafting three closers in baseball but drafting one kicker in any round just feels like…Well it feels a little like dying. I don’t like that feeling and I don’t like you Akers.
With that I hope to wake up tomorrow with the Rams defense solidly in tow and my first weekly match up to be against the Walla Walla Up Your Butts. They after all make the Justin Bieber Reduxes look like the Frosted Corn Holes. At least in my league they do.
I like to kick things off with a bang. I know this may sound crazy, but follow my logic. The Broncos aka Blue Magic return 21 starters on offense and defense from last season. They went undefeated last season. They’ve got a great quarterback, a very talented offensive line and a spectacular defense that is full of seniors and returning starters. Also, unlike most teams who have gone undefeated, this team still feels disrespected and still legitimately has something to prove.
They’ll put everything on the line when they begin the season against Virginia Tech. That game is literally for all the marbles, because the Broncos can’t win it all without an undefeated season. If they beat the Hokies, I don’t think there’s anyone – not even Nick Saban and Alabama – that can stop them. Don’t forget that every time this team has gotten the spotlight they’ve stepped up to the challenge.
Heisman Finalists: Jacory Harris (UMia), Kellen Moore (Boise), John Clay (Wis), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Landry Jones (Okla)
If you follow my logic on Boise, it’s gotta be Moore. Taking a WAC team to the BCS National Championship Game has to get you a Heisman. It just has to. I think there will be a legitimate argument to be made for Dion Lewis, but the voters are tired of seeing sophomores win it and that will kill his chances. As far as Mark Ingram goes, I just think Trent Richardson splitting time and Greg McElroy being able to throw the ball down the field are going to take too many of his touches this season.
Championship Game Match-ups:
ACC – Miami 31 – Florida State 6
I like Florida State out of the Atlantic division because no one else in the Atlantic should be any good. Clemson could be decent, but I think the ‘Noles have enough fire power to get by them. The real slugfest is going to be in the Coastal, where a tough North Carolina team, reigning champions Georgia Tech and the always dangerous Virginia Tech Hokies aren’t gonna make Miami’s life easy. I just like Randy Shannon’s team too much this year to pick against them.
Big XII – Oklahoma 38 – Nebraska 24
This is probably the easiest game to pick. No one from the North should challenge the Huskers this year as they prepare to exit the conference and in the South it should come down to Oct. 2 and the Red River Shootout to determine a winner. If you read my worst college quarterbacks of 2009 article, you know what I think of Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts and as much as I like Tommy Tubberville, I don’t see him pulling any championships out of that kid.
MAC – Central Michigan 41 – Bowling Green 35
I just randomly picked two teams from the Mid-American Conference. You can’t seriously expect me to have thoughts on the MAC. I couldn’t even name every team in the MAC off the top of my head. In fact, I probably couldn’t name five. And honestly, I prefer it that way.
SEC – Alabama 21 – South Carolina 16
I’m of the impression that Florida-Alabama III cannot happen. It defies all laws of SEC logic. Two teams cannot own the conference in perpetuity. The players are too good, the coaches are too good and the home-field advantages are too strong. I think Bama is too good to be stopped even with their insane schedule, which leaves Florida (a team with no senior class) as the odd man out. Also, all South Carolina needs is for Steven Garcia not to play like a complete bum and they could really be good.
If Florida does manage to beat ‘Bama when they play on Oct. 2, I like them to win the East, but I don’t think ‘Bama will recover and take the West. Either way, there is no way (read: NO WAY) that Alabama and Florida will play for the SEC title at the end of the year. The SEC Gods will simply not allow it.
Why They’re Here: They’re the champs. And you’ve got to beat the champs to be the champs. On offense, the Tide only got better. They return eight starters from a team that was exceptional last year and that includes Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram. Alabama will need to reload on defense, but come on, this is Nick Saban we’re talking about.
The Good: You know you’re ridiculously, obscenely loaded with talent when you’ve got a returning junior Heisman Trophy winner and he’s not even the thing you’re most excited about for the season. ‘Bama has always been defense, defense, defense and more defense during the Saban era (amazing that era is only four-years-old isn’t it?). After defense, the team’s next thought was defense. No more! This year the Tide look to be loaded with talent, from Ingram to fellow RB Trent Richardson to WR Julio Jones, the Tide look scary on O. Perhaps the biggest reason for head coach Nick Saban to smile may be QB Greg McElroy, who’s entering his senior season. He’s got all the weapons a young quarterback could ask for and from the look of things, he’s got all the skills too. On defense, the Tide only return three starters, but if there’s any coach and any team that we should believe can overcome that problem it’s this coach and this team. They also retain first team All-SEC S Mark Barron.
The Bad: There is cause for some worry in ole Tuscaloosa. First, no SEC team has every completed back-to-back undefeated seasons in the history of the conference. Alabama is also trying to go 8-0 in SEC play for the third straight year (the 2008 loss to Florida in the conference championship game doesn’t count), no team has ever accomplished that. Not only is history against the Tide, but historically speaking, the conference is too good for one team to dominate it for more than a year or two. ‘Bama will also have to play six teams coming off their bye week, that’s two more than any other team in conference history has every played. The teams they’ll play: arch-rival Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee. Not exactly the children of the poor. Not only will the target be on their backs, but six pretty good teams will get an extra week to prepare for them.
The Final Word: This team will need to be ready for war every time they step on the field. If there’s even a hint of complacency the Tide are going to get rolled and it won’t be pretty. They’ll get their first test on Sept. 11 against Penn State and the hits will keep on coming. They get Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee in a murderers row after playing Duke. If this team makes it to the national championship they’ll have earned it and they’ll be as good as we all think they can be. As good as they are, I don’t know that even this team can overcome everything that’s stacked against them. Then again, if any team can do it, it’s this team.
Final Record: 13-1
Why They’re Here: Like everyone else who writes about college football, I refuse to give up and accept that the Big (12) Ten has become an inferior conference. The Buckeyes are sort of like the Spurs this past year. You know that there’s no way they’re actually going to win a championship with the roster they had assembled, but you have to take them seriously anyway, because they’re always a threat. You never know what Head Coach Jim Tressel’s got up his sleve, and QB Tyrelle Pryor may just be great after all. Remember Vince Young’s sophomore season? Atrocious – 1,849 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. There’s certainly hope for the young Mr. Pryor, yet.
The Good: For all the crap I give the Buckeyes, this is actually a very, very talented team at almost every position. They return stand-out running backs Boom Herron and Brandon Saine and 16 starters from last year. Their secondary has been monstrous the past couple seasons and shows no signs of not being able to reload. Tressel has also been building for this year since 2005 when he first started recruiting Pryor. He’s been trying to create a pocket passing quarterback who can read the field, make all the throws and deliver the long bomb, but can also pull the ball down and beat anyone on the field to the end zone. Most coaches have been content to let their mobile quarterback simply be a runner or a passer. Tressel is trying to groom Pryor to be the first college QB who is a legitimate pocket presence, but can also destroy you for not respecting his scrambling ability. If it works, watch out.
The Bad: If it doesn’t work and Tressel has overloaded Pryor like a lot of people in Ohio think he has, the coach better watch out. He could be getting the ol’ pink slip. This whole season is on Pryor’s shoulders and if he can rise to the occasion, he’ll be legendary, but legends aren’t made, they’re born. The question is, does he have it in him?
The Last Word: One of three things will happen to Ohio State this season: 1) Tyrelle Pryor will emerge to silence all his critics by becoming the unholy spawn of Vince Young and Peyton Manning. It will literally be impossible to stop him and he will score five touchdowns against Michigan to win The Game for the Buckeyes in what sports writers across the nation will call “The Greatest College Performance Ever Witnessed.” The Buckeyes go undefeated and demolish Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game in a cudgeling not seen since Oklahoma – USC 2005 (a game that, according to the N-C-Double-A-holes, never actually happened). 2) Pryor gets injured, doesn’t spend enough time with his playbook or generally underachieves, but the Buckeyes still win the Big (12) Ten because Iowa has no playmakers on offense and the rest of the conference has been in the trash compactor since 1999. They then get squarely beaten in the Rose Bowl by whatever team from the Pac (12) Ten gets USC’s spot. 3) Prior doesn’t get hurt, but underachieves to the point that the Bucks lose stingers to Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin, or at least three of those games, Pryor gets benched and Tressel gets fired. My money’s on number two, but one or three would make this a much more exciting football season in general.
Final Record: 8-4
• Dallas Clark, IND – He is as reliable as they come at the position. Sometimes Peyton Manning will just lock in on him for an entire possession and opponents still can’t stop the duo. He is well worth landing in the #1 spot for tight ends, but just don’t take him before the 5th round. I believe this is a year where you can select a tight end late and have a great season.
• Antonio Gates, SD – If Clark is 1A, then make Gates a close 1B. You really can’t miss with either pick, as they are in a tier of their own for fantasy. Consistent touchdown production from this position throughout the season will always land you somewhere at the top of your league. And Gates is a magnet in the end-zone.
• Vernon Davis, SF – Finally had his breakout season in 2009, leading all tight ends with an incredible thirteen touchdowns. I don’t think he’ll quite hit those numbers again, but another double-digit touchdown campaign is definitely a possibility. I like Alex Smith to have more control of the offense and Davis will produce for the second season in a row.
• Jason Witten, DAL – I expect Witten to return to his old form in 2010. You know you have set the bar high when a 1,000 yard season was considered a down year. But it wasn’t the yards, it was his lack of touchdown, which was a fluke more than anything to me. He only produced two a season prior, but that number will drastically improve this time around. I think he’s good for eight this season.
• Jermichael Finley, GB – There is absolutely nothing not to love about the Packer’s offense. And Finley may be the most dangerous target they have. He is young, fast, and a freak of nature. He’s a star in the making and it won’t be long before he lands at the top of this list.
• Tony Gonzalez, ATL – The most consistent tight end the game has ever seen. Even on a down season, he is still good for six or seven scores. He’ll be as consistent as ever this season. Why? Because he is always targeted in the red-zone.
• Brent Celek, PHI – Celek was an early season pickup for me last fantasy season and was key to me winning my league. The Eagles have a surplus of young talent on the offensive side, but I don’t see Celek putting up as big of numbers as last season.
• Kellen Winslow, TB –A former 1st round draft pick, who came back to life in 2009. Josh Freeman is now in his second year and Winslow is worthy of being a starting tight end on your fantasy team.
• Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN – He doesn’t get many yards, but the last two seasons he’s hauled down eighteen touchdowns. Enough said.
• Greg Olsen, CHI – They say Mike Martz doesn’t produce valuable fantasy tight ends, but I’m not buying it completely. Olsen is too good not to get the ball and will have at least a handful of touchdowns in 2010.
• Zach Miller, OAK – I know it’s tough to draft a player from the Raiders, but he is very talented and will benefit from a better quarterback this season.
• Fred Davis, WAS – Chris Cooley is the current starter, but not worthy of being drafted high. Davis will come at a steep discount, and if Cooley is traded along with his large contract, Davis will shine. He is their future tight end and showed he could play last season.
• Owen Daniels, HOU – It’s hard to call him a sleeper, but coming off of an injury is always a tricky situation. Daniels was one of the best at his position in the first half of 2009 before he blew out his knee. He’s one of those guys that will get drafted super late this season, but could end up being a bomb to left field.
Why They’re Here: Boise State is movin up in the world. This is the highest ranking the Broncos – or as I’ll be referring to them as henceforth, Blue Magic – have ever had and they’ve certainly earned it. They’ve managed three undefeated seasons in four years and have played in two BCS bowls and won both in that time. That’s an impressive resume no matter who plays in your conference. They’ll have to earn their way in, but if Blue Magic takes care of business they have an amazing chance to play for the BCS National Championship this year. That’s something no one would have thought even three years ago.
The Good: Blue Magic have everything going for them. They’ve managed to keep their coach from dumping them for a prettier program with no money, their first-thought Heisman quarterback is returning for his junior season – his third as a starter – and the running game and defense have never looked better. In fact, this squad returns 19 starters from a team that beat one of the nation’s best teams in last year’s Sugar Bowl. They’re ready for this number three ranking. They’ve earned it.
The Bad: Boise State being ranked third (which they probably will be in most national polls when the season starts, not just here) is sort of like Rudy starting for Notre Dame. Yeah, you pulled for him to get in the game, because he had to earn it and we all cried a little when he hit the field, but do you really want him out there starting the game with the first team D? Ask yourself how you’d really feel about a guy “five-foot-nothin, a hundred-and-nothin,” starting for your team. That’s sort of how it is with Boise State. We all loved them as a Cinderella story, but do we really want them out there with the first string D, week in and week out? With respect comes expectations and Blue Magic is going to have to bring it every week. They’ve always had the bull’s-eye on their back in the WAC, but they have now become every other team’s ticket to the national spotlight. One off week, one bad play, one botched call and it’s all over and the program may never have this opportunity again. No one at Boise has ever had to carry that kind of load – they were always the Little Engine That Could – and it will be interesting to see if they’ve got the stones to make it happen. Having a first-thought Heisman candidate who will have to air it out to get the necessary votes to become the school’s first-ever winner will add another wrinkle to the equation – especially since Blue Magic are at their best when the utilize the ground game.
The Last Word: Can you imagine splediferousness (that’s a Don King word) of a Boise State-Alabama national championship game? It would put Duke-Davidson to shame. It would be the greatest thing to happen to college football since Tim Tebow. Bama-Blue Magic would bring in a 40 rating, easy. Who wouldn’t want to watch The Little Engine That Could take on the most illustrious, untouchable program in the history of college football, coached by probably the most pompous, swaggerific coach in the game this side of Lane Kiffin? Would you miss that game? Not for the birth of your first son. The football gods have been plotting this one. I may be all alone in this one, but I think they can do it.
Final Record: 14 – 0
• Andre Johnson, HOU – This guy is a beast! AJ is the best wideout in the NFL right now and the clear-cut #1 fantasy option at the position. He is what Larry Fitzgerald was in last year’s fantasy draft. The Texans love to pass the ball and he has great chemistry with Matt Schaub. I’m thinking at least 12 TD’s in 2010.
• Randy Moss, NE – Always a great addition to a fantasy squad. One of those guys that can be shutdown all game in terms of yards, but will still manage to have that one TD catch. He’s also in a contract year and needs to prove that he is worth one final wad of cash.
• Larry Fitzgerald, ARI – If I wasn’t iffy about Matt Leinart, he’d definitely be my #2, if not my #1 still. But I AM iffy about Matt Leinart: hell, who isn’t? He hasn’t exactly proved that he is up to the job quite yet, if at all. On top of that, Larry sprained that same knee in his first preseason game that bothered him last season. He could definitely have another big year, which is why he remains this high, but it’s less likely this time around.
• Calvin Johnson, DET – Too high? Maybe. I love him in this position. He battled a ton of injuries last season and will come back with a bang this year. Matthew Stafford is in his second season, Jahvid Best has to be respected in the backfield, and Nate Burleson is the best WR to line up opposite CJ in a few seasons. He’s going to have a very big season!
• Miles Austin, DAL – It somewhat pains me to put him this high, especially after saying I would never draft him as a top five WR. But after seeing him in the first preseason game, he really is a top-tier guy. He is the Cowboys #1 weapon on offense and Tony Romo is a very good quarterback. He’ll put up similar stats to 2009’s.
• Greg Jennings, GB – He didn’t live up to expectations for most fantasy owners last season, but this year he will. What’s not to love about the Packer’s passing attack? It’s flat-out nasty! He always seems to have one huge play in him a game. He’ll enter the land of double-digit TD receivers this year.
• Brandon Marshall, MIA – Marshall is back in Florida, close to where he played college ball. A change of scenery is exactly what he needed. The only scare here is that he is Miami’s only real pass-threat. But with his size and ability, he’s too good to pass up. Plus, he has his money now, so it’s time to zip it and play ball, which he will.
• Roddy White, ATL – A very solid #1 wideout fantasy option. In 2010, he returns to the big-play, deep-threat guy we all know him to be.
• Reggie Wayne, IND – Too low? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not too big on Mr. Wayne this season, clearly. He had a great first half in ’09, followed by a very mediocre at best performance in the final six games of the season. Manning has an abundance of players to throw the ball to: Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez. The Colts are just as successful when they get everyone involved, leaving Wayne to fall slightly in this year’s rankings.
• Steve Smith, CAR – He seemed to enjoy a chemistry with starting QB Matt Moore. The Panthers love to run the ball, but Smith is always a major threat downfield, so I like him returning to his old ways this season.
• Marques Colston, NO – As a fantasy owner, you want a scoring threat, and Colston is Drew Brees’ guy in the red-zone. He will put up about 10 TD’s, but will never have over 1,500 yards because of the stacked Saint’s offense.
• Desean Jackson, PHI – Probably the best deep-threat in the NFL. Won’t ever have a ton of receptions, but is good for several long TD catches each year, which is worth being drafted this high.
• Chad Johnson, CIN – Everyone says that the Bengals are a run-first offense now. Ya, ya, ya… I like Johnson to return to double digits in TD catches this year with the addition of T.O and Antonio Bryant as distractions. And I refuse to call him Ochocinco.
• Anquan Boldin, BAL – A great addition to a well-balanced offense and he finally has his money. Boldin makes for a very solid #2 fantasy receiver.
• Steve Smith, NYG – He may be a reception machine, but not a TD machine. Another solid #2 fantasy receiver. He would be higher, but I think Hakeem Nicks will make his presence felt more this year.
• Michael Crabtree, SF – Despite missing games due to his holdout, he proved he is a star in the making.
• Dwayne Bowe, KC – Is he a gamble? Yes. But is he worth it at this position? Absolutely. Cassel is healthier this year and the offense is now in the hands of Charlie Weis. I think you could hit a homerun with this pick.
• Donald Driver, GB – He’ll gain right around 1,000 yards this season to go with 5-8 TDs. If you want a safe, value-pick, look no further.
• Mike Sims-Walker, JAX – He’s a big body and will be healthier this season.
• Percy Harvin, MIN – With Sidney Rice out half the season with a hip injury, Harvin will see even more looks from #4. He has migraine issues, but that won’t stop him from catching balls all over the place this year.
• Johnny Knox, CHI – He is my biggest guy to have a breakout year this season. He’s the Bears fastest receiver and Mike Martz loves speed. He’s going to go over 1,000 yards with 7-9 scores, with the possibility of having the year Miles Austin had last season. He is my ultimate homerun sleeper this season at the wide receiver postion. That’s right, I said it.
• Hakeem Nicks, NYG – Another speed guy. He will eventually supplant Steve Smith as the Giant’s #1 WR.
• Kenny Britt, TEN –Vince Young will continue to get better and Britt will be his favorite target. Britt has the potential to be a top-tier NFL receiver someday.
Disclaimer: When I made this top 25, I had the [Name Removed] as my number four ranked team. That was before certain players had their Heisman trophy taken away, entire seasons were removed from the record books and they were banned from not only bowl games, but from even being considered for the coaches poll.
The Good: I figured even without [unnamed former coach] and with a cloud of NCAA sanctions hanging over them, [Name Removed] could compete for a Pac-10 title and maybe salvage something from this season. Because [Name Removed] were challenging NCAA sanctions, I thought – as apparently [Name Removed] officials, coaches and the now-fired athletic director did – that [Name Removed] would still be ranked this season. We were all wrong. This team still has a ton of talent, even without Seantrel Henderson, D.J. Shoemate and others who have abandoned [Name Removed] and if they weren’t barred from being ranked, they could probably be ranked pretty high. As high as number four on a preseason top 25 list, for instance.
The Bad: They’re playing for nothing. No rankings, no bowl, no championship, nothing. I can’t even begin to imagine how deflating that’s got to get. What do you even say to a team in a locker room before a game? “Boys, I know even if we win tonight it won’t mean anything and no matter how well we do this season, we’re playing for pride and nothing else and this isn’t even a rivalry game we’re playing, but we need to win. We need to win because…because…well…because you can’t lose. You don’t want to be a loser. Losers never get laid.” I could see Kiffin giving that speech.
The Last Word: Everything about this essentially nonexistent season will depend on whether or not this team can keep trucking along knowing they’re playing for nothing. Their situation sort of reminds me of the beginning of “Operation Mayhem” where Ed Norton and Brad Pitt would make recruits stand outside and if the recruit stayed for three days without food, water or encouragement he would be let in. Except in this case it’s two years.
Final Record: 12-0. Not that it matters, but I’m praying to every god in existence that they go undefeated. Would anything be more hilariously ironic than seeing this team go undefeated and having no chance to play for a national championship or any bowl game at all? Maybe I just have a twisted sense of humor. Maybe I’ve been living in LA too long.
• Aaron Rodgers, GB – Hands down my #1 overall fantasy QB. Not just because he singlehandedly won me my fantasy league in ’09, but because he is the “real deal”. He threw 33 touchdowns a year prior, and I expect that number to be similar, if not a little higher. Green Bay offense is also loaded with offensive firepower. The sleeper of it all though for Rodgers is the fact he can run and will create at least 3 touchdowns on the ground this season. Should be off the board by no later than early 2nd round.
• Peyton Manning, IND – You may be thinking, “Where’s Drew Brees?” But if you want a safe, consistent pick year-in and year-out, Manning is the choice here. Manning is more experienced and has a plethora of wide receivers to throw to. Match that with his chemistry to Dallas Clark and you really can’t miss on this draft pick. Plus, he’s had seven months to think about that Super Bowl loss. I would not be surprised to see him throw 40 TD’s this year.
• Drew Brees, NO – Here he is. Depending on what research you trust, you will find these top 3 QB’s arranged in many different orders. ESPN has him as the only fantasy signal-caller worth taking in the first round. I completely disagree, but that’s what’s great about fantasy, we all have our own opinions. Brees is certainly worth drafting in the 1st round, but so are Rodgers and Manning. He will always have great numbers with the system Sean Payton runs in the French Quarter, but this is where I’d take him. My theory: I don’t like guys coming off of Super Bowl wins.
• Tony Romo, DAL – 2010 is the year the Dallas Cowboy offense will explode. Romo quietly had a great season last year, and 2010 is going to be his best yet as a Cowboy. Miles Austin is his new #1 receiver. Rookie Dez Bryant adds big-play ability. Witten will rebound from this 2-TD performance in ’09. And you can’t discount Roy Williams yet, he will surprise some this year. Plus, Romo’s a year removed from Jessica Simpson, so his head is clearer than ever.
• Tom Brady, NE – I really like Brady this season. Of course he’ll never come close to his incredible 50-TD season back in ’07 again, but that’s understandable. Wes Welker’s injury isn’t too scary because I think he’ll come back strong, and if not, second year man Julian Edelman has shown he can play. Moss is always good for a 10-TD campaign and the Pats have some young tight ends for Brady to hook up with. Match all of this with Belichick’s tendency to throw the ball, up three scores, with under two minutes to go, and Brady is a solid fantasy QB.
• Matt Schaub, HOU – He led the league in passing yards last season with over 4,700 and he has the NFL’s most dominant WR in Andre Johnson. A very nice combination.
• Philip Rivers, SD – He’ll be without Vincent Jackson for at least the first three games and some pretty inexperienced receivers will fill in. However, these WR’s will fit the bill. Antonio Gates will probably get more looks than ever, which is good as a fantasy owner. He’ll throw 25-TDs, but don’t be surprised to see his INTs go up.
• Joe Flacco, BAL – Player on the rise. Now in his 3rd season in the NFL, Joe will be better than ever. The Ravens also brought in Anquan Boldin, which may be the piece they’ve been missing for years. This season is his opportunity to make a statement that he will be good in this league for years to come.
• Brett Favre, MIN – No one wants to hear anything more about #4, so I’ll leave it at that.
• Eli Manning, NYG – Had his most TDs thrown last season and the Giants have some young WR’s for him to play with.
• Carson Palmer, CIN – He is too talented and has too many weapons now not to land this high.
• Jay Cutler, CHI – Mike Martz has to help, right? Not unless he improves his decision making.
• Donovan McNabb, WSH – New system, but same success.
• Matt Ryan, ATL – Rebound season.
• Kevin Kolb, PHI – Good enough to land in the top 15, but will have some growing pains inheriting the Philly offense.
• Matthew Stafford, DET – Last year’s #1 overall pick could turn some heads this year with a pass-first offense and the additions of RB Jahvid Best and WR Nate Burleson.
• Jason Campbell, OAK – Not a fantasy starter, but a solid backup with tremendous upside. New scenery is always good.
• Alex Smith, SF – A team on the rise and Smith’s final chance to prove he can play in this league. Combine that with Crabtree, Davis, Gore, and Westbrook. He has the talent. This is the year he puts it all together.
The Good: The Hokies still have Tyrod Taylor and Frank Beamer. Coach BMW has proven the last few years that you don’t need superstars or even particularly good players to compete year-in and year-out for a conference title. Tyrod Taylor also showed that he might actually be able to pass the ball with some consistency last year, which is dangerous for opposing defenses. The Hokies should be stacked on offense this year, unlike the past few where they’ve relied almost entirely on their defense and Taylor’s play-making ability to even stay competitive. RB Ryan Williams is poised to have a breakout season and with defenses already scared to death of what Taylor can do with his feet, the Hokies’ offense should have a lot to work with.
The Bad: I make it a point to never doubt the capacity to rebuild on defense of a defensive mastermind and I won’t do it here. I’ll just point out V-Tech is only returning four starters on defense and leave it at that. Tech had the No. 1 rated pass defense last year, but they’ll need to replace three of their secondary guys. They’ll also need Taylor to show up and throw the ball downfield. Taylor will need to be able to threaten defenses with his arm regularly, not just on occasion, for this team to triumph in the ACC.
The Last Word: The game that could determine this entire college football season happens on Sept. 6 when Va. Tech hosts Boise State. If Boise wins, they have a legitimate claim to be the number 2 team in the country, given their victory in last year’s Sugar Bowl and their likely preseason top 5 ranking. If Tech wins, they would have a rightful claim to that potential number 2 or 3 spot, which could potentially put two ACC teams into the top 5. That would center the college football world squarely on the conference and provided they can keep up the winning – Tech then plays James Madison, Eastern Carolina, Boston College, NC State, Central Michigan, and Wake Forrest before their next legitimate game against Georgia Tech – the ACC champion will most assuredly be in the National Championship game. The first game of the season has never meant more to more people. Rest assured, the entire NCAA is praying for Virginia Tech.
Final Record: 11-2