Posted on: January 4, 2009 12:48 am
Edited on: January 4, 2009 6:25 pm

NFL Playoffs -- Cardinals, Chargers win

I'm disappointed with the results of both of today's games, and I only went 1 and 1 on my predictions. I predicted the Falcons and the Chargers would win. Ah, well, there's always tomorrow.

The Cardinals and the Falcons really duked it out, but Arizona rode Kurt  Warner's arm to a 30-24 victory. Warner was 19 of 32 for 271 yards, with two touchdowns -- one each to receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin -- and one interception. Fitzgerald had six catches for 101 yards and the TD. Warner threw to nine different players, while running backs Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower combined for 22 carries for 96 yards, with Hightower also notching a touchdown. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was 26 of 40 for 190 yards, two touchdowns -- one each to receiver Roddy White and tight end Justin Peelle -- and two interceptions. Ryan threw to eight different players, while running back Michael Turner was held to just 42 yards on 18 carries, but did score a touchdown. The turning point in this game came early in the second half when a handoff by Ryan was mishandled and popped right into the hands of Arizona safety Antrel Rolle, who ran the ball back 26 yards for a touchdown. Atlanta's offense appeared to be rattled by the play and never really recovered. Kudos to the outstanding effort this year by Ryan and the Falcons, and kudos to Warner and the Cardinals, who are moving on to Round Two against the Giants (?? -- remains to be seen, pending outcome of Eagles at Vikings) next Sunday.

Home-field advantage finally worked for the Chargers, as they drove for a field goal to tie the score at 17-17 in the waning moments of regulation and, while the Colts' defense suffered major mental lapses in the overtime, San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers engineered a touchdown drive to seal the 23-17 victory. Rivers was 20 of 36 for 217 yards and an interception. But for San Diego, their primary weapon for the night was Darren Sproles, who had 23 carries for 105 yards, five catches for 45 yards, 106 yards on four kickoff returns, and 72 yards running back three punts, a total of 328 all-purpose yards, including the game-winning touchdown. Rivers threw to six different players, Antonio Gates being the most productive with eight catches for 87 yards. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson had five carries for 25 yards, but was only available for about the first half of the game because he was nursing a groin injury. For the Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning was 25 of 42 for 310 yards and one touchdown to receiver Reggie Wayne, who had four catches for 129 yards. Receiver Anthony Gonzalez had six receptions for 97 yards. Manning threw to six different players in the game. Running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined for 20 carries and just 56 yards, while Addai did score a touchdown. San Diego won the toss going into the overtime, and the Colts defense appeared to lose its cool, racking up some costly penalties while the Chargers rolled into field goal range before Sproles broke loose on a 22-yard run to score the game winner. In spite of another fine effort from Manning, the Colts couldn't hold it together. Kudos to the Chargers, who move on to Round Two against the Titans Steelers (forgot about the reseeding -- see posts below!!) next Saturday.

Hey, I guess 1 and 1 isn't so bad. We'll see what happens tomorrow!

Posted on: December 29, 2008 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:46 pm

NFL: The table is set; three hot seats catch fire

The Wild Card round of the 2008 NFL playoffs are set, and there are some fine matchups in line.

The Seeds

                     AFC                                                                                 NFC

1 --               Titans                                                                              Giants

2 --               Steelers                                                                          Panthers

3 --               Dolphins                                                                         Vikings

4 --               Chargers                                                                        Cardinals

5 --               Colts                                                                                Falcons

6 --               Ravens                                                                            Eagles

The Wild Card Matchups

                      AFC                                                                                  NFC

SAT              Colts at Chargers                                                          Falcons at Cardinals

SUN             Ravens at Dolphins                                                      Eagles at Vikings

I believe the NFC games are easier to predict than the AFC games in this round. The Falcons have been playing heads-up ball lately while the Cardinals have limped into the post-season after claiming the championship in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL. I think the Falcons take this one. And the Eagles are on fire. Granted, they took apart a faltering Cowboys team, but Philadelphia is firing on all cylinders. It took all the Vikings had to get past the Giants by one point. I'm not sure the Vikings can handle the Eagles at full strength. I'll go with the Eagles in this one.

The AFC matchups are more intriguing. The Colts are riding a nine-game win streak, but the Chargers, who are on a four-game win streak of their own, have a huge chip on their shoulders and are playing much better than their record indicates. Being from and living in Indiana, and since my Bengals didn't even come close, I'll be rooting for the Colts, but I think I'll be prepared to be disappointed. I call this one a toss-up with a slight edge to the Chargers for home-field advantage.

Of all the games this coming weekend, I think the Ravens/Dolphins matchup is the most intriguing. Miami is riding high on the wave of an 11-5 season after an abysmal 1-15 campaign last year. They had to beat the Jets this past Sunday to get in. They played effectively and efficiently and got the job done. For the Dolphins, this will come down to mental toughness. For some players, the game against the Jets may have been the playoffs, do-or-die to make the postseason, but, on the good side, the Dolphins come into the game on a five-game win streak. There could be a letdown coming, a letdown they can't afford against a Ravens team that also squeaked their way in, but which also has a lot of playoff experience on the team. Typically, a rookie quarterback could be a weak link under playoff pressure, but Ravens QB Joe Flacco has grown into the position this year and has shown poise beyond that of a typical rookie QB. If the Ravens' defense can handle the flair that the Dolphins' offense may try to throw at them, they should win this game. Behind that defense and with more playoff experience, I'll give the Ravens a slight edge in this game, in spite of home-field advantage for the Dolphins.

Three head coaches early casualties . . .

Browns' head coach Romeo Crennel, Jets' maestro Eric Mangini, and Lions' ringmaster Rod Marinelli were all three shown the door today. Crennel's Browns were 4-12, Mangini's Jets were 9-7, but flamed out toward the end of the season when they looked like sure locks for the playoffs, and Marinelli's Lions set an NFL season record by going 0-16, a mark that will be hard for the hard-luck franchise to live down considering recent years and recent events.

Now, fans are left to wonder where these three will land and who will take their places on their former teams. There are still a limited number of jobs, a limited number of candidates and a limited number of teams, so it's likely Crennel, Mangini and Marinelli will end up somewhere, perhaps even as head coaches again, though it may take a couple of years. The better question is who will take their places -- who might be lured from somewhere else, who might be lured out of retirement, or who might be willing to take a chance on reviving some franchises that have fallen on rough times and want to find a spark to get them going again.

Posted on: December 7, 2008 6:22 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2008 12:37 am

Colts run roughshod over Bengals 35-3

It may sound weak to some, but I actually thought the Bengals were in this game until late in the second quarter. After a 22-yard interception return by Colts' cornerback Kelvin Hayden with 1:13 left in the half put the ball on the Bengals' 15 yard line, Bengals receiver Chris Henry shoved a Colts' defensive back to the ground, resulting in an unnecessary roughness call that halved the distance to the goal line for the Colts. So, instead of giving the defense a chance to hold the Colts to a field goal, Henry essentially spotted the opposition seven points and turned over any momentum the Bengals could have gained at the end of the first half. The Colts quickly scored on a Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison 5-yard strike that was way too easy. The Bengals went to the half down 14-3 and completely deflated.

Bengals buckle again -- The final score of the game was 35-3, the second consecutive game in which the Bengals have given up 34 or more points and lost by 31 or more points. Place kicker Shayne Graham put the only points on the board last week versus the Ravens and this week versus the Colts. Both Graham field goals have come in the second quarter, when momentum seemed headed in the right direction, but quickly went south in both games. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 18 of 26 for 170 yards and two interceptions. Fitz also made two fumbles, one of which he fortunately was able to get on top of after a Robert Mathis force he didn't see coming, but another he gave up because he forgot to tuck the ball on a scramble. Fitz also was sacked four times. Jordan Palmer entered the game for the Bengals' last offensive series, just in time to get sacked once and give up an interception. On that last possession, Palmer was 4 of 6 for 30 yards.

Chad Johson had five catches for 79 yards, one of his best efforts this year. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had eight catches for 75 yards. You would think that, with two receivers putting up reasonable numbers, the Bengals could have mustered some more points, but it was not to be. In yet another non-factor performance, Chris Henry caught two balls for 20 yards. For me, the "highlight" of Henry's day was him giving up on the play when Hayden made an interception in front of him in the fourth and ran it back 85 yards for a touchdown, with Henry not even trying to run Hayden down or get in the play on the return. Cedric Benson got 57 yards on 16 carries, with Fitz again the second best rusher on the day, carrying the ball three times for 17 yards.

The defense garnered no sacks, but held the Colts to a combined 57 yards rushing on 20 carries, 10 each by Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes had a touchdown on the day. The Bengals actually won the time of possession battle in this one, holding the ball 32:53 to the Colts' 27:07. The Bengals ran more plays (61 to 52) and had almost as many first downs (17 to 20).

Colts romp -- As predicted, Manning feasted on the Bengals' secondary, going 26 of 32 for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Marvin Harrison had three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Gijon Robinson had six catches for 69 yards. Receiver Reggie Wayne had five catches for 48 yards. TE Dallas Clark had four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown, while receiver Anthony Gonzalez had three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.

When you have a quarterback like Manning and the talent he has to throw to, all you need is enough running to keep defense honest. The Colts did this to perfection. As noted above, the Colts were held to only 57 yards on the ground, but 20 carries was enough for Manning to mix things up and use his full array of plays against the Bengals.

Defensive end Robert Mathis had 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Defensive end Dwight Freeney had a sack and a half, and defensive end Darrell Reid notched a sack. Kelvin Hayden had the two interceptions mentioned earlier, and cornerback Dante Hughes had one. Safety Melvin Bullitt also had a forced fumble.

Thankfully for the Bengals, from a health standpoint, it looks like this game ended with the players on the field fairly unscathed. And the Bengals only had three penalties on the day for 23 yards.

Next up for the Bengals are the Redskins, who play the Ravens tonight at Baltimore. Next up for the Colts are the Lions, who held a lead late again this week, against the Vikings, but folded at the end to lose 20-16.

Around the AFC North . . .

-- The Browns had a day like the Bengals today, losing to the Titans 28-9 on the road.

-- The Steelers are locked in a close one with the Cowboys, with the Cowboys up 10-3 in the 3rd quarter at Pittsburgh.

-- The Ravens host the Redskins later tonight.

Posted on: December 5, 2008 8:26 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2008 10:46 pm

Bengals @ Colts -- The I-74 rivalry

According to the CBS preview, the line for this game opened at 14 1/2 points, and has now settled back to 13 1/2. Vegas, CBS, it doesn't matter. The Bengals have a tough, if not impossible task on their hands this weekend as they take on interstate rival the Indianapolis Colts.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bengals could get lost along the way. I should have invited the team to my house for a cookout and given them bogus directions. I could help them get lost enough that, if they left on Friday to drive up to Indy, they might not find their way back to Cincinnati until Tuesday.

The thrill of victory . . . -- The Colts (8-4) come to this matchup on a five-game win streak, with an average winning score of 21-18. This does not sound overwhelming, only a field goal's margin, but the Colts are doing everything a good team does to win games. Last week, their defense helped them triumph over the Browns, with a fourth-quarter sack of Derek Anderson that forced a fumble and led to the only touchdown of the game. Peyton Manning has finally found his form of late, too, going an average of 24 of 36 for almost 240 yards per game in the Colts' last five. During those five games, he also has thrown for nine touchdowns and given up three interceptions, definitely much more Peyton-like numbers than earlier in the season. The Colts are due for a breakout, and the Bengals probably can't supply much to stop them. As well, the Colts know they are scrapping still for a playoff position. At 8-4, they likely need to win at least two of their last four games to be reasonably assured of a playoff berth.

The agony of defeat . . . -- The Bengals (1-10-1) are now struggling simply to put a cohesive team on the field. The team is more or less having to triage injured players to see who can play. Players again were moved up from the practice squad, and more were signed to fill slots there and on the active roster. A good number of these injuries are on the defensive side of the ball and may have more than a little to do with the fact that the Bengals' offense has been so unproductive that the defense has had to spend way too much time on the field. The wear started to show about two weeks ago and has just gotten worse. This is not written in the way of an excuse, but in the way of explaining how badly this year has gone for the Bengals. As bad as their record says it is, it is only compounded by ongoing troubles with injuries. Interviews in Cincinnati newspapers this week quoted Bengals' players on how difficult it is to play with people you barely know and have barely practiced with. Head coach Marvin Lewis has even commented this week on the injury issue. With four games left, it's looking likely the Bengals could suffer their worst season in recent memory, perhaps going 1-14-1. Judging by the situation, it would not surprise me at all to see this happen.

By The Numbers

Points per game: Bengals 13   Colts 21

Passing Yards per game: Bengals 154   Colts 239

Rushing Yards per game: Bengals 78   Colts 80

Point Allowed per game: Bengals 26   Colts 21

Passing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 218   Colts 188

Rushing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 132   Colts 134

Total Offense: Bengals 232   Colts 319

Total Defense: 349   Colts 322

Going by the numbers, with the Bengals giving up an average of 217 air yards a game, Manning likely will be able to feast on a dinged-up Bengals' secondary, regardless of the Colts' weak running game. If the Bengals can muster some push from their offensive line, they may be able to take advantage of the Colts' comparative weakness against the run, with the team allowing two rushing yards more per game (134 yards to 132 yards) than the Bengals. Give Cedric Benson some room to maneuver and maybe he could produce, but continuing forward with a banged-up, patched-up offensive line, this will be hard to do.

The Bengals continue to play for pride and because, by virtue of the fact they are professional football players and get paid to take the field on Sunday from September through December, they have a job to do. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a fan. Maybe these last four games will teach some lessons and provide some valuable experience. The Colts are thundering toward the playoffs, and they know they can't overlook the Bengals and can't afford to lose this game with tough contests against Jacksonville and Tennessee coming up in the last two weeks of the season.

All five of the CBS experts and SPIN pick Indy to win this game. The only question is whether they cover the spread. If the Colts play true to form, this week for the Bengals could be as bad as last week against the Ravens (34-3).


Around the AFC North . . .

--The Steelers (9-3) face one of their toughest tests so far this year on Sunday, hosting the resurgent Cowboys (8-4). This one could come down to a shootout between quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo. The Steelers are field-goal favorites, again, little more than a tip of the hat for home field advantage. I give the edge to the Steelers, behind the number one ranked defense in the NFL.

--The Browns (4-8) travel to face the Titans (11-1), with the Titans two-touchdown favorites. The Browns are starting a third-string quarterback against a Titans team looking to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. If the troubles off the field for the Browns continue to fester and find their way onto the field, Sunday could be a very long day for the Browns.

Enjoy your games this weekend!

Posted on: December 4, 2008 12:48 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2008 12:55 pm

Bengals@Colts - It is but to laugh - prelude

I checked the line this morning on the impending matchup between the Bengals and the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Las Vegas has the Colts by 13 1/2. Not sure why they don't just bump it to two touchdowns and leave it there. Chances are good it will be there by game time, and chances may be better that the Colts will roll over the Bengals like the Ravens did last Sunday.

That's the first clue that another beatdown of possibly horrific proportions could be coming Sunday. I decided to read the CBS preview, and, while I will dig into the stats a little more with a "By The Numbers" preview blog sometime before the game (because I enjoy torturing myself), I only had to see one feature on the preview page to tell me how this one will likely go.


Look on the right hand side of the page. Scroll down almost to the bottom. Check out the "Key Players" section. Peyton Manning for the Colts (281 for 445 -- 2,948 yards -- 19 passing TDs), and Cedric Benson (114 carries for 335 yards and 1 TD, 13 catches for 77 yards) for the Bengals. The Colts throw Manning out there, and the best the Bengals can come up with is Cedric Benson? Should they even bother making the trip up I-74? Ye gods!

Posted on: October 27, 2008 12:50 pm

OFF TOPIC -- Colts @ Titans

I'm really looking forward to tonight's matchup.

Two questions:

1. Can the 3-3 Colts find their old selves and get back on track?

2. Can the 6-0 Titans continue their streak?

To this point in the season, both teams have faced similar schedules. Right now, the Colts are playing mediocre football, coming off a 34-14 loss to the Packers last Sunday. The Titans are hitting on all cylinders, basking in the sunshine of a 34-10 victory over the Chiefs last week.

The Vegas line has the Titans by 3 or 3 1/2, depending on where you look. That usually is just the "home field advantage" tip-of-the-hat. Three of the five CBS experts pick the Colts. The remaining two plus SPIN are taking the Titans.

Here's hoping for a great game!

Posted on: October 15, 2008 12:13 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2008 4:34 pm

Running backs at a premium now -- What's up?

At least two notable teams ran into problems at the running back position this week.

The Colts have placed rookie Mike Hart on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury. Joseph Addai is out with a hamstring injury that is still being evaluated. Clifton Dawson has been signed, and Chad Simpson has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

The Redskins signed Shaun Alexander to a one-year deal to back up Clinton Portis while Ladell Betts is recovering from a knee injury.

I haven't had a chance to look just yet. Does anybody know of any other teams dealing with significant injury issues at the running back position?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com