Tuesday, December 26, 2006

NFL Week 17 ATS: Home Stretch Finds 12 Nags Vying for 4 Wild-Card Berths

Twelve teams are out of it altogether. Eight teams are taking home divisional crowns. That leaves 12 remaining wannabes who wanna be in the playoffs as wild-card teams.

The NFC is so chock-full of not-very-good football teams that, theoretically, someone (the Giants) could enter the postseason with a record below .500, which is, in a word, pathetic. But even if the conference avoids this embarrassment, it’ll still be looking at some pretty woeful squads as potential entrants into the playoff fray. Besides the Giants, there’s Green Bay, St. Louis, Carolina and Atlanta sitting there with 7-8 records, each one hoping to win this weekend while all the others lose. (There’s only one open at-large spot in the NFC, because both Dallas and Philly are guaranted a playoff berth, one as the NFC East winner, the other as a wild card.) The Giants have the upper hand: beating the Redskins in Washington would lock it up for them, barring a Packers victory in Chicago and some weirdly improbable twists in the “strength of schedule” and “strength of victory” tiebreaker formulas.

Things are even crazier in the AFC, where the Jets and the Broncos have the inside track to the postseason. That is, all they need do is win. They’re both at home, and they both play weak teams (Oakland and San Francisco, respectively). But if one or both falters, all hell breaks lose, with the Bengals, Titans, Jaguars and Chiefs, all at 8-7, jockeying for viable position.

It’s pretty confusing. Those seeking a handy guide to keep near the television this weekend might want to print out this page from the online Hartford Courant, which offers a clarifying rundown of the playoff possibilities.

The last week of the regular season presents the handicapper with all sorts of extracurricular considerations. You’ve got teams desperate to make the playoffs, in some cases facing off against teams going nowhere. Will the playoff hopefuls lose focus and tank out? Do the also-rans play up to maximum potential out of pride? Does having a spoiler role really matter to a team that’s 2-13? Then there’s the case of the Patriots, who have won their division title but can’t secure the home field throughout the playoffs. They’ll be hosting a first-round wild-card game no matter what they do on Sunday, so will they care how well they play in Nashville, where the Titans are looking to win their seventh game in a row and snag a playoff berth?

The SMA swami was 9-7 last week, with road underdogs like the Eagles, Jets, Ravens, and Saints coming through with outright wins. Another road ‘dog, the Bengals, did their duty; they lost but beat the tight spread. The yearly record is now 105-97-6. If nothing else, that’s better than the 7-9 the Giants could wind up with while still being considered postseason-worthy.

These early-line spreads courtesy of FootballLocks.com.

1. NY GIANTS (-2) @ WASHINGTON Once they were 6-2. Now they’re 7-8. Yet a victory over the 5-10 Redskins could vault this seemingly heartless Giants squad into the postseason. In the past two weeks, the Skins have beaten the Saints and lost in overtime to St. Louis, displaying moxie in both road games. Skins RB Ladell Betts is making a strong case for why he should be a first-string player, and young QB Jason Campbell gains valuable experience with every outing. I suspect the Skins would love to stick it to the Giants, and they just might. Prediction: Redskins.

2. PITTSBURGH @ CINCINNATI (-6) This matchup hearkens back to the days of the old AFC Central Division. The 8-7 Bengals are desperate for a win, but getting one doesn’t guarantee the playoffs. Losing last week in Denver on a missed extra point has put them behind the 8-ball. They need to win and get help from the likes of the Raiders and 49ers. For a team with so much talent and promise, it looks like a bitter end. The 7-8 Steelers would probably like to make it back to .500 after a bitter year of their own. If the Steelers bring their pride, this’ll be a dogfight. Prediction: Steelers.

3. DETROIT @ DALLAS (-12) Once 8-4, and in the driver’s seat of the NFC East, the Cowboys are now 9-6 and can only get the division crown if the Eagles lose their game at home versus the Falcons. That’s also presuming the ‘boys beat this lost Lions franchise, now 2-13 after dropping a close one to the sleep-walking Bears last week. It would be priceless to see the look on Bill Parcells’ face if the Lions upended his inconsistent squad, which certainly has talent but seems lacking in the esprit de corps category. The Lions flat-out stink, but 12 points is a lot of esprit de corps to summon out of nowhere. Prediction: Lions.

4. CLEVELAND @ HOUSTON (-3.5) The locals are pretty happy in Houston, where the Texans beat the Colts last week and boosted their record to 5-10. Finishing at 6-10 would be a moral victory for Coach Gary Kubiak and would give the team something realistic to shoot for in ‘07. Alas, the Texans are recidivists of the highest order, and the 4-11 Browns are just the type of team to catch them napping. On the other hand, the Browns will be led this week by former Miami Hurricane Ken Dorsey at quarterback. Who knew he was even still in the league after his two less-than-stellar seasons in San Francisco? Prediction: Texans.

5. JACKSONVILLE @ KANSAS CITY (-2.5) A must win for both 8-7 teams, made all the more nerve-wracking because getting the victory still doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth. It’s appropriate that these two should face off at this juncture: both are talented and erratic and equally capable of playing good football. Seems like maybe the Chiefs have the upper hand with Trent Green at QB; his Jags counterpart, David Garrard, is not the kind of guy who can bring you back from behind. If Green and Larry Johnson get the Chiefs a lead, that could be the game. Hard to know if amazing Jags rookie RB Maurice Jones-Drew has any miracles left in him. He’s pretty darn good, though. Usually, so is the Jags’ defense. This should be a highly entertaining scrum. And very close. Maybe it’s Chiefs, 24-23. Prediction: Jaguars.

6. ST. LOUIS (-2) @ MINNESOTA Rams need a victory for even a shot at the playoffs, and then they need help. Vikings now 6-9 and out of it after flirting with success all season long. Vikings have no offense, while Rams have it in spades, with Marc Bulger leading the passing attack and hulkish Steven Jackson pounding out the ground game. The Vikings’ defense has been stalwart all year, but at this point they might ease up. Prediction: Rams.

7. CAROLINA @ NEW ORLEANS (-3) The Panthers need a win plus help from others to get a wild-card spot. The Saints are 10-5 and have gained a first-round playoff bye, so the outcome here for them is superfluous. If they want, they can rest up the troops and maybe hand the Panthers a sympathy “W.” Prediction: Panthers.

8. OAKLAND @ NY JETS (-12.5) The 9-6 Jets are poised to make the playoffs, and all they have to do is defeat possibly the worst team in football. At home, no less. Can’t see how the Jets can miss the victory. But they might not cover. Prediction: Raiders.

9. SEATTLE @ TAMPA BAY (-3.5) The defending NFC champ Seahawks limp into the postseason, and the best record they can have is 9-7, presuming they beat the bad, bad Bucs (4-11). The Hawks could really use a good tune-up game here, to at least show us that maybe they’re not what we suspect they are, i.e., a .500 team lucky to be playing in a lousy division. Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck could use the work, so look for Seattle to grind out the victory. It might not be so easy, but they’re getting points, so the play is made a lot easier. Prediction: Seahawks.

10. NEW ENGLAND @ TENNESSEE (-3) The Titans are on a six-game winning streak and playing magical football. A win here would put them at 9-7 and give them a playoff shot, which would happen for sure if the Broncos, Bengals and Jaguars all lost. It’s a meaningless game to the Pats. Seems pointless to even play Tom Brady, as a matter of fact. This game will be played concurrently with the Bengals-Steelers and Chiefs-Jags tilts, so scoreboard-watching will be hard to resist. Prediction: Titans.

11. BUFFALO @ BALTIMORE (-9) With the Bills out of the playoffs and the Ravens marching onward into them, this might look like a meaningless affair. In fact, the Ravens, at 12-3, could gain home field throughout the playoffs if they win and, by some miracle, the Cardinals defeat the Chargers in San Diego. The Ravens have been nipping at the Chargers’ heels all season, and if they tie at 13-3, the Ravens win the key postseason advantage by virtue of their victory over San Diego in Week 4. Failing that, the Ravens at least want to stay ahead of Indy in the race for a first-round bye. Prediction: Ravens.

12. SAN FRANCISCO @ DENVER (-11) A lot of AFC wild-card hopefuls are pulling for the 49ers (6-9) to play over their heads in Denver and deal the 9-6 Broncos a lethal blow. Broncs won a biggie last week over Cincy, and they’re holding up under rookie QB Jay Cutler. The Niners are scrappy and they have Frank Gore running the ball, so a Denver “W” is not automatic. Plus, Cutler’s still young and mistakes can happen. Hefty spread for such an up and down team to cover. Prediction: 49ers.

13. MIAMI @ INDIANAPOLIS (-9) This game has some potentially important implications for the Colts. If they win and Baltimore loses, they’ll gain a first-round bye, which is a huge advantage in the postseason. It means extra rest and the opportunity to host a divisional playoff game. Maybe the Colts will use this game to try some new defensive schemes against the run. If they don’t improve in that department, it may not matter how great Peyton Manning is. Dolphins playing out the string at 6-9, and Cleo Lemon (??) replaced Joey Harrington at quarterback in their Monday night game versus the Jets. (Pop quiz: Where did Cleo Lemon play his college ball? Answer below.) Dolphins could still beat this spread. Prediction: Dolphins.

14. ATLANTA @ PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) For the 9-6 Eagles, this game means the difference between a division title (with a first-round home game) and a wild-card berth (with a first-round game on the road). A letdown here is simply not acceptable, not for a team that’s shown so much grit. The Falcons will probably wind their way to their inevitably sluggish 7-9 destiny, even though victory keeps them theoretically alive in the wild-card race. (Fact is, if the Giants win on Saturday, the Falcons will be out of it anyway.) For all that, there’s no guarantee the Eagles cover. Prediction: Falcons.

15. ARIZONA @ SAN DIEGO (-13.5) The 13-2 Chargers sometimes struggle with lousy teams. They’ve shown a tendency to keep ‘em hanging around for a while before eventually getting the “W.” But if the Chargers want the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they need to win this one, because the Ravens are right behind them and are playing a home game of their own. The Cards, once 1-8, are now 5-10, which means they’re playing at a 4-2 clip and showing signs of respectability. They don’t have Matt Leinart, though, out for the season after injuring his shoulder against the 49ers. Old vet Kurt Warner has taken over; he could have problems with that swarming Chargers defense. Prediction: Chargers.

16. GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO (-2.5) Yet another game that means nothing to the Bears, now 13-2. Still, it’s a home game and it’s against the rival Packers and who knows if it isn’t maybe Brett Favre’s last appearance at Soldier Field. The Packers are 7-8 and with an outside playoff shot (though by the time this Sunday night game rolls around, the Giants may have already made that proposition academic). Bears haven’t really been playing very well of late, and if the game turns out to really mean something to Green Bay’s playoff chances, then it could be a barn-burner. Prediction: Packers.

Pop Quiz Answer: Arkansas State.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

NFL Week 16 ATS: Anybody’s Ballgame

Heading into the penultimate weekend of NFL play, only seven teams are absolutely eliminated from playoff contention. That leaves eight current division leaders (most of them with the top spot locked up) and an unbelievable 17 other teams still harboring a mathematical shot at a wild-card berth. This is the way Pete Rozelle dreamed it up years ago: a system designed to keep interest high right to the very end, and to ensure that even the smallest-market football teams have a chance to get a piece of the pie. Hence we have six 6-8 teams—St. Louis, San Francisco, Minnesota, Green Bay, Carolina and Miami—who are technically still in the running, though the cards would have to fall in almost impossible ways in order for one of them to advance to the post-season. Still, it could happen, especially in that crazy-quilt NFC, where mediocrity rules and even division leaders like Dallas and Seattle don’t look secure.

As for adventures against the spread, the SMA swami exhibited his own brand of mediocrity last week, going 8-8. That leaves us 96-90-6 on the year. Not very prescient, to be sure (there’s parity everywhere). It sure doesn’t get any easier, either. This week’s slate is loaded with critical contentious matchups.

Spreads courtesy of FootballLocks.com.

1. MINNESOTA @ GREEN BAY (-3.5) Two 6-8 teams, each looking for a playoff Christmas miracle. The Packers are on a mild rebound, though they’ve only posted a 2-5 record at home this season. The Vikings lost an important game at home last week against the Jets, and now are handing the quarterbacking duties to rookie Tarvaris Jackson. The odds are that he’ll struggle, and it could be that the Vikings are finished for good. Prediction: Packers.

2. KANSAS CITY (-6.5) @ OAKLAND Sigh. The Chiefs (7-7) are sorta like the Jaguars: a totally mystifying team ATS, but with legit playoff chances. With Denver and Cincy facing off this week, one of them will emerge from that game at 8-7, which is what the Chiefs can be if they take care of business in Oakland. The Raiders (2-12) still look confused. Prediction: Chiefs.

3. TENNESSEE @ BUFFALO (-4.5) Two of the better stories in the AFC this year. Both teams have overcome rocky starts and stand at 7-7. The Titans have won five in a row, often in most improbable fashion; the Bills have had two impressive recent victories, over the Jets in New York and a shutout at home last week against Miami. Pretty tough call, but the Bills’ offensive execution has improved, and the team looks hungry. And they’re at home too. Prediction: Bills.

4. NEW ORLEANS @ NY GIANTS (-3) The 9-5 Saints kinda shot themselves in the foot at home last week, losing to the Redskins. Now they go to the Meadowlands, with its memory of last season’s Katrina “home” game. At 7-7, the Giants are desperate for a win to stay in the wild-card race. They’ve lost five of six, and frankly they have only themselves to blame for their predicament. Saints an appealing road ‘dog. Prediction: Saints.

5. CAROLINA @ ATLANTA (-6) Hard to believe that, after a season of ugly on-field play and ugly off-field behavior by players and coaches as well as disparaging remarks from the owner, the Falcons (7-7) are still in the running for the wild card. In fact, there are some tasty scenarios that could play out in their favor, and all they need do is keep winning. The Carolina saga is also negative, but at 6-8—and even with a four-game losing streak—they’re still in it mathematically. They probably still won’t have sore-thumbed QB Jake Delhomme, however, and his absence makes this a different (and much weaker) squad. The Falcons could certainly blow it, and this spread is a potential trap, but they still get the nod. Prediction: Falcons.

6. WASHINGTON @ ST. LOUIS (-2.5) The 5-9 Redskins defy analysis, after they beat the Saints last week in New Orleans. The Rams are one of those 6-8 teams hoping for wild-card mathematical magic. It’s a modest spread, and the home team, in theory, should be able to cover it. But anything’s possible here. Prediction: Rams.

7. INDIANAPOLIS (-9) @ HOUSTON The AFC home-field advantage game is still afoot, and the Colts would love to continue playing well, as they did against Cincy on Monday night. It’s a short work week for them and they have to travel, but to Houston, where a 4-10 team awaits yet another thrashing after getting shellacked 40-7 in New England. Hefty spread, but Colts are able. Prediction: Colts.

8. BALTIMORE @ PITTSBURGH (-3) Losing here doesn’t deal the 11-3 Ravens a fatal blow, but it would make getting the home field throughout the playoffs impossible if San Diego wins its game against Seattle. Steelers, on a three-game win streak, and now at 7-7, are playing well enough to be dangerous. Ravens QB Steve McNair expected to play after getting his hand stepped on last week. Ravens in the unusual position of being an underdog. I’d be surprised if they didn’t play a competitive game. Prediction: Ravens.

9. TAMPA BAY @ CLEVELAND (-3) Okay, here’s one that truly doesn’t matter to anyone. The 3-11 Bucs extended the Bears to overtime last week before losing, and the 4-10 Browns kept things close versus the Ravens before capitulating. Prediction: Browns.

10. CHICAGO (-4.5) @ DETROIT The Bears have nothing to play for. At 12-2, they’ve wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They’d probably like to rest up, though it wouldn’t hurt QB Rex Grossman to keep honing his skills and execute that offense. Detroit is 2-12, and the record speaks for itself. In the interest of pride, the Lions could muster some effort here; meanwhile, the Bears could slack off. For a meaningless game, it’s a very tough play. If the spread were higher, the Lions might rate. Even so, this could very well be “one of those games.” Prediction: Bears.

11. NEW ENGLAND @ JACKSONVILLE (-2.5) Just when you think there can’t be a tougher game to pick, along comes this important tilt. The Jags, at 8-6, must win, because either Denver or Cincy will be at 9-6 by day’s end, and the Jets could be also by Monday night. Jags facing a 10-4 Patriots team coming off a 40-7 rout of Houston. Jags are tough at home usually, but they must be smarting from their improbable loss last week at Tennessee, where they piled up huge yardage and time of possession advantages but lost on critical turnovers, all by quarterback David Garrard. It’s basically a must-win for Jacksonville, but New England also has to watch its back because they could still blow the AFC East divisional title by losing their final two games while the Jets win theirs. Should make for excellent television at any rate. Prediction: Jaguars.

12. ARIZONA @ SAN FRANCISCO (-4) The 6-8 49ers have little chance to make the playoffs, but it would be a surprise if they didn’t expend some effort in their final home game. Not a necessarily tough spread to cover under the circumstances, though the 4-10 Cardinals seem to be improving. A bit of a crap shoot. Prediction: 49ers.

13. CINCINNATI @ DENVER (-3) A big-time head-on battle for control of the AFC wild-card picture. Both teams are 8-6, with Cincy coming off a disappointing Monday night performance against the Colts, and the Broncos winning as they should against Arizona. Denver rookie QB Jay Cutler had a big-league game, which can only help his confidence. Bengals looked ragged against Indy, giving the handicapper pause, and rumors swirled this week that QB Carson Palmer has a sore shoulder. He’s probable for the game though. The Broncos would probably look better as the underdog. Prediction: Bengals.

14. SAN DIEGO (-5) @ SEATTLE San Diego, for all the great football they’ve played so far, still have not nailed down the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Baltimore and Indy, both 11-3, are breathing down their 12-2 necks. The Seahawks team they face is 8-6, and only 3-3 in their own weak division. The Seahawks of 2005 would match up well against this Chargers squad, but this year’s Seattle team has been hampered by key injuries and erratic play. Just a hunch but maybe the Seahawks will get it together enough to beat the spread. Being home helps. Prediction: Seahawks.

15. PHILADELPHIA @ DALLAS (-7) It’s been tough to believe in the Eagles this year, but they’ve proved they have heart. At 8-6, they trail the division-leading Cowboys by only a game, and a win here could really muck with the NFC playoff picture. They might lose, but that doesn’t diminish the betting value of Jeff Garcia and the points. Prediction: Eagles.

16. NY JETS @ MIAMI (-2) The 8-6 Jets scored a huge road victory at Minnesota last week. They’ve got themselves in a very nice position to snag a wild-card berth. In fact, if the Jets win out and the Patriots drop their final two games, the Jets can win the AFC East. Miami is 6-8 and mostly in a spoiler role despite a faint playoff hope. The Jets control their destiny, and they’re getting a couple of points here. Will they lose focus? Prediction: Jets.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NFL Week 15 ATS: Road Warriors

It’s getting so going 10-6 against the spread has become the desired realistic standard. That’s a .625 percentage, and given how uncertain this handicapping biz can be sometimes, we’ll take it. It’s particularly sweet in a week where almost every single game was a head-scratcher. But the SMA swami got some serious assistance from spread-busting squads like the Giants (over Carolina), the Ravens (over Kansas City), the Dolphins (over New England), the Saints (over Dallas), the Packers (over San Francisco) and the Titans (over Houston). Except for the Dolphins, every one of these underdogs was playing on the road. That’s a lot of road ‘dog success, and every single team didn’t just beat the spread—they all won their games outright.

With a 36-27-1 record ATS the past four weeks, we now stand at 88-82-6 on the year. It’s not that great, to be sure, but the swami stays afloat, and we’re having some fun.

Spreads, as always, courtesy of FootballLocks.com.

1. SAN FRANCISCO @ SEATTLE (-10) The 5-8 Niners are firmly back to earth after now losing three in a row. Seattle, 8-5, just lost to Arizona, which possibly indicates some sense of growing NFC West parity. If the right Niners team shows up, they can beat this spread. Prediction: 49ers.

2. DALLAS (-3.5) @ ATLANTA After getting trounced at home on national TV by the Saints, the Cowboys require reevaluation. They had appeared to assert themselves as the kings of the NFC East, but at 8-5 they now find themselves only a single game ahead of the Giants and Philly. The schizoid Falcons have won two straight and at 7-6 have rejuvenated their playoff hopes. There is no obvious indicator as to who wins this game. But the Falcons seem to have steadied their ship—unless that’s yet another mirage—and as the home team getting the points, they might be worth a tumble. Prediction: Falcons.

3. NY JETS @ MINNESOTA (-3) The 7-6 Jets lost a key home game to Buffalo last week, cramping their wild-card style in a serious way. Meanwhile, the 6-7 Vikings beat Detroit like they were supposed to and kept their own playoff aspirations alive. The Vikes get the obligatory home-team points here, but otherwise these are two almost identically matched squads. The Jets have an edge with QB Chad Pennington, but the Vikings’ defense has played tough all year long. This should be so close that the only logical choice is the underdog. Prediction: Jets.

4. CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE (-11) It shouldn’t take a titanic effort from the homebound 10-3 Ravens to defeat the 4-9 Browns. But after last week’s big victory in Kansas City, the Ravens might be inclined to ease up on the intensity, even if they’re still hearing the Bengals’ footsteps behind them in the AFC North. Of course, they could romp too, the Browns being who they are. Still too many points to be easily trusted. Prediction: Browns.

5. HOUSTON @ NEW ENGLAND (-11) After getting shutout in Miami, the 9-4 Patriots have something to prove. Houston, at 4-9, might provide the tonic. The Texans aren’t the worst team around. They scrap and fight and try real hard, and through some combination of unknown forces have managed to beat the Jaguars twice this year. Strangely, the Pats are better on the road (5-1) than they are at home (4-3). A daunting spread here, and the Pats rarely blow anybody out. Very tough call, but it’s easier to believe in Tom Brady than David Carr. Prediction: Patriots.

6. MIAMI @ BUFFALO (-1) Two AFC East teams, both at 6-7, each with remote but not impossible chances for a wild-card berth. The Fins are off a big victory over the Patriots, and the Bills spanked the Jets convincingly last week in New York. It’s a virtual toss-up. Home team wins. Prediction: Bills.

7. PITTSBURGH (-2.5) @ CAROLINA Two 6-7 teams that both had Super Bowl aspirations, but now neither is sure where they’re going. The Panthers have lost three straight, all to NFC East teams, and they were the favorite in each game. Now they’re at home for the second straight week, only now they’re gonna get some points. The Steelers have won four out of their last five, including two straight against weak sisters Tampa Bay and Cleveland, and harbor only a mathematical shot at the playoffs. It’s a virtual pick ‘em here. The Steelers have a 1-5 record on the road, yet the Panthers are playing like a team that’s definitely lost its mojo. As tough a play as any this week. Hard to ignore that the home team is the underdog, though. Prediction: Panthers.

8. WASHINGTON @ NEW ORLEANS (-10) The Skins are now 4-9, and the remainder of their disappointing season gives young QB Jason Campbell a chance to grow. Otherwise, this team is flat-out unpredictable and also lacks the killer instinct. The Saints are 9-4, look great, and have a multi-dimensional offense capable of eating opponents alive. A formidable spread here, but don’t underestimate the home team, which would love to secure a first-round playoff bye and needs to keep winning to do so. Prediction: Saints.

9. JACKSONVILLE (-3.5) @ TENNESSEE The 8-5 Jags are one of the handicappers’ least favorite teams. They look like they’re gaining consistency at the moment—coming off a rout of the Colts, too—but the problem with that is, that’s just when they lose unlikely games. The Titans are surging under Vince Young, having won six of their last eight, and, at 6-7, they even have a mathematical playoff chance, however improbable. Titans will have their hands full with the Jacksonville running game and defense, and it might be too much to expect a fifth straight miracle from their gifted rookie QB. But don’t bet the farm on this game, ‘cause Young is the real deal and the Titans look motivated. Prediction: Jaguars.

10. TAMPA BAY @ CHICAGO (-13.5) This spread looks right, given it’s the 3-10 Bucs versus the 11-2 Bears. But it’s still a lot of points, and what if Rex Grossman reverts to bad form? Bears win, but will they cover? Bucs are averaging 11.6 points per game this year. Bears averaging 27.6 PPG. And it is cold in Chicago. Prediction: Bears.

11. PHILADELPHIA @ NY GIANTS (-5.5) An NFC East wild-card wannabe matchup. Both teams are 7-6. While the Giants have been losing lately, they won at Carolina last week, and have simply looked to be a better team than Philly this year. Can Eagles’ QB Jeff Garcia keep up his recent magic? The points here are playing havoc with the logic of parity. Here’s hoping the Giants play to potential. Prediction: Giants.

12. DETROIT @ GREEN BAY (-5) Packers now 5-8 after getting a decisive victory in San Francisco. Lions are 2-11 and desperately seeking validation—of any kind. Packers are only 1-5 at home; Lions winless on the road. Seems like a lot of points for the mediocre Packers to yield. Prediction: Lions.

13. DENVER (-2.5) @ ARIZONA The Broncos have risked a lot in making Jay Cutler their starting QB. The rookie has lost two in a row, and it’s clearly a case of on-the-job training. The team’s in the middle of a four-game losing streak. They used to be 7-2 and the odds-on favorite to take the AFC West; now they’re 7-6 and fighting for their playoff lives. Arizona meanwhile has won two straight (!) and continues to strive for respectability. This game looks like a sucker play. Still, the Broncos have to be considered the better team, and they’re not ceding enough points to pick against ‘em. Prediction: Broncos.

14. KANSAS CITY @ SAN DIEGO (-8.5) The 11-2 Chargers look like world-beaters after stomping on the Broncos last week. Sometimes, where the spread is concerned, they seem to ease up against lesser teams, though KC doesn’t exactly fit that category. The Chiefs are 7-6, with legit wild-card hopes, but have dropped two straight winnable games. It’s LT vs. LJ and could be a fun game to watch. Best to rely on the Chargers’ tendency to win but not cover. Prediction: Chiefs.

15. ST. LOUIS @ OAKLAND (-2.5) The Raiders (2-11) finally failed to cover a double-digit spread last week, against Cincy. Now they’re favored, against a 5-8 Rams team that’s lost seven of its last eight. The Rams, despite their problems, clearly look like the better team; so much the better that they’re receiving points. Prediction: Rams.

16. CINCINNATI @ INDIANAPOLIS (-3.5) A huge game featuring high-powered offenses and suspect defenses. The Colts are now 10-3, having lost three of their last four, and are desperate to get back to winning ways. The 8-5 Bengals want to keep pace with AFC North-leading Baltimore and also solidify their hold on a wild-card berth. Look for a shoot-out. Tricky play here, especially with the Indy run defense providing all the resistance of wet tissue paper. Prediction: Colts.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Handicapper’s Monopoly Money Guide to the College Bowl Games

I only know what the average fan knows about college football. I catch the big games on TV, I listen to what the radio/TV pundits have to say, I keep fairly well informed. But the NFL keeps me busy enough where serious analysis and attention is concerned, so there are things about the college game that pass me by. For example, just how good is this Northern Illinois team that enters the Poinsettia Bowl a 13-point underdog versus the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian? Or, what were the oddsmakers thinking when they installed East Carolina as a 4-point underdog to South Florida in the PapaJohn’s.com Bowl? And just how fair is it that the University of Hawaii Rainbows get to play in the Hawaii Bowl—in Hawaii!!??

Never mind that you know the old-timey romance is definitely out of the college bowl picture when a storied team like Navy faces off with Boston College...in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. (Think about that front-end alignment you’ve been postponing while you watch the game!)

There are 32 bowl games, 64 teams. It’s enough to make Beano Cook break out into a cold sweat. And frankly, I don’t think even Beano could make consistently astute predictions about the outcomes against the spread in this motley assortment of games.

So here, for the whimsically likeminded, is a quick overview of the bowl landscape, with spreads, along with some random, semi-informed choices versus the odds. It’s fun, and everyone can play along!

12/19 Poinsettia Bowl: NORTHERN ILLINOIS (+13) vs. TCU For the sake of accuracy, this is actually the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Weird. LaDainian Tomlinson went to TCU. Northern Illinois is in the Mid-American Conference. MAC teams are always a pain in someone’s ass during March Madness. Pick: Northern Illinois.

12/21 Las Vegas Bowl: OREGON (+4.5) vs. BYU An occasional PAC-10 stalwart confronts the Mormons. They have some oddball religions in Oregon, too, you know. Pick: Oregon.

12/22 New Orleans Bowl: TROY (+7) vs. RICE Troy is one of those little southern programs that’s starting to produce NFL players. They probably can’t read or spell, but they can sure play some mean defensive tackle. Rice is probably just happy to be here. Pick: Troy.

12/23 Papa John’s.com Bowl: EAST CAROLINA (+4) vs. SOUTH FLORIDA Just what the college football world needs: another program in Florida that’s starting to achieve big-time results. South Florida beat West Virginia this year. Anybody have a clue as to their team nickname?? Pick: South Florida.

12/23 New Mexico Bowl: SAN JOSE ST. (+5) vs. NEW MEXICO Hmmm... New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl... Sounds like a stacked deck to me. Still, how can you not root for a team from San Jose? It’s so pretty there. Pick: San Jose St.

12/23 Armed Forces Bowl: TULSA (+3) vs. UTAH Is it just me, or is it suspiciously strange that the Armed Forces Bowl couldn’t manage to snag Navy for the big game? Utah has been a pretty good team of late. NFL QB Gus Frerotte went to Tulsa. Pick: Utah.

12/24 Hawaii Bowl: ARIZONA ST. (+8) vs. HAWAII This set-up is patently unfair: Hawaii at home in their very own bowl game. But if you’re gonna give me a PAC-10 team and 8 points, I’m there. Pick: Arizona St.

12/26 Motor City Bowl: MIDDLE TENN. ST. (+10.5) vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN MTSU is the Blue Raiders, by the way. They were 7-5 this year, 6-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. They’re trying to build a legit Div. I program, and among their out-of-conference opponents this year were Louisville and Oklahoma. They got their asses kicked. Maybe they can stay with good ol’ CMU. Pick: MTSU.

12/27 Emerald Bowl: FLORIDA ST. (+5) vs. UCLA The Bruins hit their high-water mark with the big defeat of USC. For that, they were gifted with a trip to the Bay Area and a date with the legendary Bobby Bowden, whose team was only 6-6, practically an insult to Floridians. I like the really old ball coach’s chances. Pick: FSU.

12/28 Independence Bowl: ALABAMA (+2.5) vs. OKLAHOMA ST. It’s irony, right? Mike Shula coaches his team to a bowl game and himself right out of a job. Now we know what the “A” in Alabama stands for: assholes. Someone must think this’ll be close. In that case, let’s win it for the Miker. Pick: Alabama.

12/28 Holiday Bowl: TEXAS A&M (+5) vs. CALIFORNIA Can a bunch of knee-jerk lefty liberals from Berkeley really beat good ol’ boys from College Station? I think not. Pick: Texas A&M.

12/28 Texas Bowl: KANSAS ST. (+7) vs. RUTGERS I, too, was in thrall to the Scarlet Knights’ Rudy-like feel-good story, how they were an eyelash or two away from maybe even taking on Ohio St. in the biggest game of all. Then the clock struck 12. Anybody catch K-State’s victory over Texas? These guys are good. If you’re giving me 7 points to boot, it’s a no-brainer. Pick: Kansas St.

12/29 Music City Bowl: KENTUCKY (+10) vs. CLEMSON Okay, this game sounds kinda ho-hum—an SEC also-ran against an ACC also-ran. But it’s an excellent regional match-up, both teams will travel well, and in many ways this is what the bowl season should be about. Clemson should win, but the decibel level of Kentucky fans might exhort their team into beating the spread. Pick: Kentucky.

12/29 Sun Bowl: MISSOURI (+3.5) vs. OREGON ST. OSU is the team that beat USC a good while back. Mizzou plays Big 12 football. Take the team with the points. (Besides, my mother was from Missouri.) Pick: Missouri.

12/29 Liberty Bowl: HOUSTON (+6.5) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA I wonder if the ol’ ball coach Spurrier gets bored as hell having to play these bowl games. After his failure in the pros, it must be a bring-down to have to take his college squad to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. In Memphis, no less. Pick: Houston.

12/29 Insight Bowl: MINNESOTA (+7) vs. TEXAS TECH I was in Lubbock once, home of Texas Tech. Bobby Knight lives there now. Buddy Holly was from there. There’s no tree line in that part of the country. I saw Tech play Houston in football, and it was cold as a witch’s tit, with the wind blowing through the stadium like an icy dagger from hell. But the Red Raiders won. Other than that, I have no insight into this game. Pick: Texas Tech.

12/29 Champs Sports Bowl: PURDUE (+2) vs. MARYLAND Welcome to the All-Ugly Coaches Bowl, where Purdue’s Joe Tiller faces Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen. This one’s a toss-up. But Friedgen is fatter. Go with the fat. Pick: Maryland.

12/30 Meineke Bowl: NAVY (+7) vs. BOSTON COLLEGE Come Dec. 31, they’ll be shouting with rapturous glee in beautiful old Chestnut Hill, “We won the Meineke Bowl! We won the Meineke Bowl!” Pick: Boston College.

12/30 Alamo Bowl: IOWA (+11) vs. TEXAS Okay, is this one in honor of Davy Crockett or car rentals?? Those Iowa farmboys can play some football, but if this game’s in Texas, they’ll want to get back to milking cows. Pick: Texas.

12/30 Chick-fil-A Bowl: GEORGIA (+2.5) vs. VIRGINIA TECH Georgia wasn’t as good as they usually are this year. Come to think of it, neither was Tech. There are more chickens in Georgia, though. Pick: Georgia.

12/31 MPC Computers Bowl: NEVADA (+3) vs. MIAMI What happens when people who can readily avail themselves of legalized prostitution come up against a bunch of thugs? The thugs bring more mojo to the game, of course. Pick: Miami.

1/1 Outback Bowl: PENN ST. (+4.5) vs. TENNESSEE You won’t find a more mystifying “good” team than the Vols anywhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m pulling for JoPa, wheeling himself up and down the sideline, egging on his troops. Pick: Penn St.

1/1 Cotton Bowl: NEBRASKA (+3) vs. AUBURN Nebraska is coached by Bill Callahan, the guy who took the Raiders to the 2003 Super Bowl. Ever since he took over that Cornhuskers job, he looks like a guy waiting for his mother to find out he did something bad. Auburn plays kick-ass football. Pick: Auburn.

1/1 Gator Bowl: GEORGIA TECH (+7) vs. WEST VIRGINIA The Mountaineers have that Slaton guy. He can run like crazy. Tech plays defense. That’s all I know. Pick: West Virginia.

1/1 Capital One Bowl: WISCONSIN (+1.5) vs. ARKANSAS It’s the Big Ten against the SEC. What's fiercer, a badger or a hog? Well, they say a razorback hog should never be angered. Pick: Arkansas.

1/1 Rose Bowl (BCS): USC (+1) vs. MICHIGAN Wait a minute. In one breath we’re told that USC could be good enough to take on Ohio St. Now they’re an underdog in the Rose Bowl? In their own backyard? I don’t buy it. Pick: USC.

1/1 Fiesta Bowl (BCS): BOISE ST. (+8.5) vs. OKLAHOMA How come Boise St. is only getting these points? I thought they were upstarts who had no business playing against an all-world power like the Sooners. Why isn’t it 15 points, huh? They want us all to bet on Oklahoma probably. Okay, let’s do it. If the Sooners kick their asses all the way back to that Smurf-blue artificial turf they play on, big-time college football will have its vindication. Pick: Oklahoma.

1/2 Orange Bowl (BCS): WAKE FOREST (+9.5) vs. LOUISVILLE You’d think the ACC champion Demon Deacons would get more respect than this, but Louisville has that powerful offense. I think Wake will hang in there, simply because that’s what they’ve done all year long. Pick: Wake Forest.

1/3 Sugar Bowl (BCS): NOTRE DAME (+8.5) vs. LSU The Irish have had magical bowl games, but frankly I don’t think they’re that good. It’s the Cajun voodoo against Touchdown Jesus in this one. Voodoo’s in an up cycle. Pick: LSU.

1/6 International Bowl: WESTERN MICHIGAN (+8.5) vs. CINCINNATI How did this dawg get scheduled for after New Year’s Day? Gleeps. Who cares? Pick: Cincinnati.

1/7 GMAC Bowl: OHIO (+7) vs. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI Ditto this game, which I guess is supposed to remind you to make that January truck payment. Brett Favre went to Southern Miss., and that’s good enough for me. Pick: Southern Mississippi.

1/8 BCS Championship: FLORIDA (+8) vs. OHIO STATE So the Big Enchilada doesn’t have a bowl name attached to it, huh? It’s just the big game. Hmmm... I wonder what the spread would have been if Michigan had been here. Or USC. I mean, if it’s the big game and all, why isn’t it a 3-pointer? Or at least a 5-pointer? Because no one believes that Florida is that good is why. Which is kind of a shame after all that angst expended on this event. Well, from what I’ve seen of Ohio State, they are really good. And that Tressel guy who coaches them is sort of a benevolent Nazi, which could mean hell to pay for the Hurricanes. He’ll rip their hearts out, and then make nice for the cameras. Pick: Ohio State.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NFL Week 14 ATS: Crunch Time

The wild-card races in both conferences are wide open, while, surprisingly, the division champion slots seem pretty much spoken for. Historic tailspins by front-runners, like what happened to the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, aren’t the rule in the NFL. Near-dominance tends to hold until the playoffs, and that’s where all bets are off. First-place teams like Indy, San Diego, Baltimore, New England, Chicago, Seattle, even New Orleans and Dallas, look like pretty safe bets, but facing all those desperate wild-card wannabes in these final weeks will not be fun for anybody. Except for us, the viewers at home.

The SMA swami regressed to 7-9 last week, leaving the yearly tote at 78-76-6. The oddsmaker is a formidable opponent indeed, and we’ve got our own version of crunch time right straight ahead of us.

Spreads courtesy of FootballLocks.com.

1. CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH (-7.5) The Browns are now 4-8 after a stirring victory over the Chiefs under the unlikely leadership of nobody QB Derek Anderson. Anderson might get the nod again, since starting quarterback Charlie Frye is questionable. Meanwhile, the 5-7 Steelers will be without S Troy Polamalu and WR Hines Ward, both important players. Steelers are much better at home, and a win is likely, especially since the Browns are as prone to take a step backward as they are to build on something good. But even if this were last year’s Steelers, this would be a hefty-enough spread. They’re simply not the same team. Prediction: Browns.

2. BALTIMORE @ KANSAS CITY (-3) Chiefs blew a big one at Cleveland on Sunday. They’re 7-5 and still in the thick of the wild-card hunt. The Ravens are 9-3 and are pretty much a playoff lock. If this game were critical to Baltimore, they’d be the clear choice. Still, I doubt they want to lose this one, since Cincy is nipping at their heels and has an easy home game against the Raiders. Very tough play, but the Ravens are a better team and they’re getting the points. Prediction: Ravens.

3. ATLANTA (-3) @ TAMPA BAY There is no crystal ball even in the realm of fiction powerful enough to foretell the Falcons’ future. They vaulted themselves back into the wild-card race with a road victory last week at Washington. At 6-6, they have, in theory, as good a chance as anybody to make the playoffs. This game, against the floundering 3-9 Buccaneers, is tailor-made to jump-start the postseason run, but knowing the Falcons, they’ll blow it. Yet even giving points, they’re worth the desperate gamble. Prediction: Falcons.

4. MINNESOTA @ DETROIT (-2.5) The Vikings, at 5-7, could win four straight to finish the season at 9-7, which actually might snare them a wild-card berth, if all the other NFC wild-card wannabes cooperate with typically lackluster play. Stranger things have happened. The Vikes have quarterback woes, but their defense has kept them in almost every game. The woebegone Lions (2-10) had their Super Bowl last week—they took an 18-13 lead into the fourth quarter at New England before succumbing 28-21. Hard to believe they’re favored here, but that just makes the pick easier. Prediction: Vikings.

5. TENNESSEE @ HOUSTON (-1.5) After an 0-5 start, the Titans have won five of seven games. They still lack consistency in executing a game plan, but they’re pulling out victories with hustle and Vince Young’s flow. What they said about the rookie quarterback is true: he’s got too much natural talent not to flirt with success. He’s already done that, and watching his further development will be fun. The Texans are 4-8, after defeating the Raiders in Oakland, in a game in which QB David Carr threw for 32 yards (!), while RB Ron Dayne found the fountain of youth (for him, anyway) in rushing for 95. Presumably this is anybody’s game, but Titans are impressing of late and worth the nod as a road ‘dog. Prediction: Titans.

6. NY GIANTS @ CAROLINA (-3) Two 6-6 teams with wild-card aspirations square off in a critical game. The Panthers are fresh off losing two straight road games to NFC East teams (Philly and Washington) they were favored to beat. Now they host the Giants, who have lost four straight and have watched a division lead vanish quickly. Both teams are fighting for their lives and neither’s recent play inspires confidence, although the Giants hung in there against the Cowboys last week. All things being frustratingly equal, the road ‘dog looks worth a risk. Prediction: Giants.

7. NEW ORLEANS @ DALLAS (-6.5) Two 8-4 teams hungry for the playoffs and, barring major meltdowns, headed there. The Saints haven’t backed away from anyone this season, and despite the loss of DT Hollis Thomas until the playoffs (an apparently bogus steroid suspension; he takes asthma medication), they’re a solid bet to beat this spread. Prediction: Saints.

8. BUFFALO @ NY JETS (-4) Even if the Jets don’t make the playoffs, Eric Mangini is a shoo-in for Coach of the Year honors in the AFC. His team is 7-5, playing aggressive defense, and led courageously on offense by Chad Pennington at quarterback. It’s a very good story, and all the Jets have to do is keep winning and they might capture that wild-card berth. Surprisingly, they’re only 3-3 at home. The 5-7 Bills can be dangerous, and they’d love to upset New York’s Big Apple cart. It should be a close one, but if the Jets want it badly enough, they can cover. Prediction: Jets.

9. INDIANAPOLIS (-1.5) @ JACKSONVILLE The 7-5 Jags won last week against Miami, so that means it’s time to lose. Be pretty hard to see a spread this close and not throw one’s weight behind Peyton Manning, who, after getting thwarted by the Titans, could use a boost to his self-esteem. The Colts (10-2) have now lost two out of three. Anyone betting they’ll lose three out of four? Prediction: Colts.

10. PHILADELPHIA (-1) @ WASHINGTON Practically a pick ‘em, with 6-6 Philly—back in the wild-card hunt behind QB Jeff Garcia—against the 4-8 Skins who are nowheresville. Pardon my cynicism, but talk about the Eagles and the playoffs seems premature. Even with Donovan McNabb healthy they were losing games they should have won earlier in the year. Skins would love to bring Philly down to earth where they belong. Prediction: Redskins.

11. OAKLAND @ CINCINNATI (-11) The 2-10 Raiders have actually had good success beating the spread this year when it’s of the double-digit variety. If only trends were gospel. The 7-5 Bengals are feeling their offensive oats, and they could put on a fireworks display for the home crowd. Prediction: Bengals.

12. NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) @ MIAMI After winning four games in a row, the 5-7 Dolphins looked weak at home last week versus Jacksonville. They still have a pretty good defense, which could keep ‘em in this game for a while. Plus, it wouldn’t be like ‘em not to get up for the Pats (9-3). It’s only a hunch, but it says here the Fins’ll beat the spread. Prediction: Dolphins.

13. GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO (-5) Gee whiz, the Packers are annoying. They won three in a row earlier in the season to boost their record to 4-5 and give their fans hope. Now they’ve lost three in a row and stand at 4-8, including a 1-5 home record. But surprise, they’re 3-3 on the road, and they come into this mostly pointless scuffle getting five blessed points. The lovably surprising 49ers are now 5-7 after being outclassed in New Orleans last week. Maybe the Packers will roll over and play dead in this affair, or maybe Brett Favre will have an LSD flashback and think he’s playing the Niners in a 1996 playoff game. If the latter, Pack looks to beat the spread. Prediction: Packers.

14. SEATTLE (-3.5) @ ARIZONA The Seahawks (8-4) are gaining momentum with the return of Matt Hasselbeck. Arizona is pretty darn bad at 3-9, but they’d love to show the home crowd that there’s a future with Matt Leinart. Seattle’s just too good all-around. Prediction: Seahawks.

15. DENVER @ SAN DIEGO (-7.5) This could be the 7-5 Broncos’ season right here. It was one thing for Dallas’ Bill Parcells to switch to QB Tony Romo earlier in the season. Romo at least had been around the scout team for four years and knew his playbook. But Mike Shanahan’s shift to raw rookie Jay Cutler this late in the season is fraught with danger, and the kid looked pretty out of his element last week against Seattle. That said, the Broncs only lost by three, and their running game returned. And who knows—maybe Shanahan had simply seen enough of Jake Plummer, who in fact wasn’t doing any better than three-point losses himself. Presume all these things—Cutler doesn’t self-destruct, the Denver defense comes to play (though probably missing all-rugged LB Al Wilson), and Shanahan inspires his troops—and the end result is that the 10-2 Chargers win but don’t cover the spread. Prediction: Broncos.

16. CHICAGO (-6.5) @ ST. LOUIS The Bears begin the final quarter of their season against the first of a string of lousy teams. There’s plenty of criticism in the Windy City of quarterback Rex Grossman, who, after looking like he was coming of age in the early part of the season, has suddenly looked like a child among men. They’re gonna stick with him because, at 10-2, they can afford to. Meanwhile, the Bears defense is giving up a mere 12.5 points per game, and their secondary and special teams produce enough offense to beat up on the easy schedule. They even covered the spread against the Vikings last week, with Grossman going 6 of 19 for 34 yards, with 0 TDs and 3 INTS. Meanwhile, the Rams, once 4-1, have lost six of seven, including last week at home to the Cardinals, 34-20. They still have that passing game, for all the good it does ‘em. This game could have a surprise result, but if Grossman somehow gets back on the beam, don’t count on the Rams beating the spread. Prediction: Bears.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ESPN Radio's Freddie Coleman: Who Is This Guy, and Who Gave Him License to Kill the English Language?

I listen to ESPN Radio a lot. I listen to the jocks they have on there as long as I can, then I turn it off. That means that Freddie Coleman gets about 10 seconds of my time. Ever listen to this ultra-maroon? Ever wonder how the hell he got on radio?

I tried to find out more about Coleman. I found no bio on the ESPN Radio website. His name comes up on Google searches, but only referencing the fact that he’s a part of the ESPN Radio GameNight team. There is no hard data on his career or how he came to be hired by ESPN. He’s apparently a cipher—which is maybe no surprise given how he comes across on the air.

If you dig a little deeper on Google, you can come up with the fact that Freddie Coleman attended Mansfield University, located in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, in the north central part of the state. Mansfield plays Division II football, and just concluded a 0-10 season, yet another banner year for the Mountaineers, who usually are lucky to win a single game. And the Mounties don’t just lose—they get hammered. Among this year’s wonderful performances were the 46-0 loss at Slippery Rock, the 61-7 drubbing at the hands of East Stroudsburg, the 51-7 debacle at Kutztown, and the season-ending 41-0 defeat versus Millersville. The Mounties are nothing if not consistent.

So they can’t play football at Mansfield, but apparently they can’t teach the English language there either. Ever heard esteemed alum Freddie pronounce the word radio? He says “RAY-do.” He always says “RAY-do.” You’d think a guy who was having a career in radio would know how to pronounce the very word. It’s “RAY-Dee-O,” Freddie. Get a clue.

The other night, Freddie stumble-bumbled his way through a sentence in which he used the phrase, “in that standpoint.” The cliche phrase, if that’s what he meant, is “FROM that standpoint,” which means ol’ Freddie can’t even use a cliche correctly. But what I think he meant was “in that eventuality,” in which case what he said was simply ignorant nonsense.

How does a guy gifted with substandard pronunciation skills with no sense of English usage—Anybody wanna bet that Freddie can’t spell, either?—qualify as an ESPN broadcaster? And remind me not to recommend Mansfield University to anybody as a seat of higher learning.

I’m not alone, either. Here’s Tom Danehy in a memo to ESPN executives in the 9/21/06 Tucson Weekly:

“Can you find people who speak the language? I don't mind the slang and vernacular (although Stuart Scott's shtick wears thin after the 5,000th invocation of ‘cooler than the other side of the pillow’). What I do mind are people who haven't got a grasp of basic grammar and syntax. It's infuriating to hear an announcer (Freddie Coleman, for example) say, ‘He should have ran’ or ‘She could have went.’ “

So if anybody out there in the blogosphere knows anything at all about this Coleman guy’s resume, drop me a line. He doesn’t appear to be an ex-jock of any repute, which otherwise would have supplied the only logical explanation for how he could have launched a broadcasting career. But even at that, since when are ex-athletes exempt from learning how to enunciate words properly and speak with literate competency? You can bet that when ESPN execs go on speaking junkets to colleges they stress to young wannabe broadcasters the importance of acquiring language skills and all that conventional crap. Then they go back to their offices and hand cushy, high-paying jobs that most of us would kill for to illiterate dummies like Freddie Coleman.

That’s our modern, hypocritical world for ya.

We don’t want anyone to go home empty-handed, though. Here, to the left, is a picture of the infamous Mr. Coleman speaking at Mansfield University. I wonder if anyone understood a word he said...

UPDATE: A reader on the West Coast e-mailed today to inform us that Freddie Coleman was a second-team all-PSAC selection at wide receiver for Mansfield in 1986. That solidifies the ex-jock connection, anyway.