Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chargers: Only AFC division winner favored this week


It’s interesting to see how three of the four AFC division winners are decided underdogs this weekend.

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are a 7-point underdog at Buffalo (no wonder if you saw the Colts forfeit to the New York Jets last week.)

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are 8-point dogs at Houston.

Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals are 10-point underdogs at the New York Jets.

No wonder each of these teams are touchdown-or-more underdogs since they will be resting key players for the playoffs.

The exception this weekend?

Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are a 4-point favorite at home vs. the Washington Redskins, even though the Chargers will have key players such as Shawne Merriman sit out the entire game.

How could this be?

Simple. It shows how good the Chargers are ... and how bad the Redskins have become.

This certainly will be Jim Zorn’s last game as head coach. Who knows if new GM Bruce Allen will keep Jason Campbell as his QB.

All in all, it looks like the Chargers will have another weekend to remember with their 11th straight win.

Prediction:
Chargers 24, Redskins 13

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New York Jets receiving two byes into the playoffs?


Have you ever heard of an NFL team getting two byes in the regular season before making the playoffs?

Welcome to the 2009 edition of the New York Jets.

It’s well-documented how the Jets were handed a win last week when the (then) undefeated Indianapolis Colts rested the likes of Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett after taking a 15-10 lead on the Jets in the third quarter.

Now the Jets get to conclude their regular season against a playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals team probably resting such stars as Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco for much of the game.

There you have it: Two straight division-winning opponents facing the Jets, two consecutive teams that will likely hand New York a victory.

And who said you can’t make the playoffs the easy way?

The sad part is that the likes of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and (maybe) the Pittsburgh Steelers could all be denied playoff berths due to teams lying down for the Jets.

Coach Rex Ryan, QB Mark Sanchez, DB Darrelle Revis and the entire New York squad can thank the schedule makers for saving the best teams for last ... when they already had playoff berths in hand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Say goodbye to Saints, Vikings in postseason


Say goodbye to the New Orleans Saints for the NFC playoffs.

And while you're at it, take Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings with you.

All of a sudden, it looks as if the winner of this week's Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys game will not only win the NFC East ... it may also become the favorite to win the NFC.

Why?

The Saints certainly aren't going to cut it if they can't even beat Tampa Bay at home to clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed.

And with Favre and coach Brad Childress arguing, don't expect the Vikings to go anywhere in the postseason (not to mention the fact Favre normally fades after November.)

New Orleans (13-2) won nine of its first 11 games by double digits. After a 38-17 win over New England, the Saints appeared better situated than ever to make the franchise's first run to the Super Bowl.

Since then, the Drew Brees and Saints have pulled out a pair of three-point wins over non-playoff teams and have lost two straight -- both at home -- starting with a 24-17 setback to Dallas.

Don't forget Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals. They could again fly under the radar and capture the NFC for the second straight season.

As for New Orleans and Minnesota ... their runs were nice while they lasted.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mountain West Conference more than BCS worthy

With six bowl games down and 28 to go post-Christmas, one thing is for certain:

The Mountain West Conference is more than BCS worthy.

The conference is already 3-0 in the postseason, with Air Force vs. Houston and Texas Christian University vs. Boise State still to come.

Most impressively, have you seen how the Mountain West has handled the supposedly superior Pac 10 of the BCS?

How about QB Max Hall and the Brigham Young Cougars running all over Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl?

Or what about true freshman QB Jordan Wynn and the Utah Utes whipping Jeff Tedford’s California Bears in the Poinsettia Bowl?

On top of that, Wyoming beat heavily-favored Fresno State to start the postseason in the New Mexico Bowl.

The BCS does not automatically include the Mountain West, so there’s only one way to make a statement.

The BYUs and Utahs will just have to keep beating the Oregon States and Cals.
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NFL plays Scrooge to Chargers on Christmas


What is it about the NFL that does not agree with the San Diego Chargers at Christmas time?

OK, so the Chargers didn’t play on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day last year ... because there were not any NFL games on those days.

But go back two years and those were the Chargers hosting the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football on Christmas Eve; which happens to be the holiest day of the year to some people.
Fast forward to this year and you have the Chargers playing at the Tennessee Titans on Christmas Night.

Is this fair to Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Luis Castillo, Shaun Phillips, Shawne Merriman, Quentin Jammer and all on Christmas?

No way.

First of all, this is the NFL Network’s "Thursday" game on a Friday. The game certainly could have been played on Saturday ... or the day after Christmas ... just like last Saturday’s Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints game.

In addition, the Chargers are traveling 2,000 miles to play the game; more than any other team has traveled all year for a non-Sunday or -Monday game. And, yes, it is Christmas.
So the Chargers must say thanks to the NFL for once again playing Scrooge with their Christmases.

Prediction:
Titans 23, Chargers 20

Monday, December 21, 2009

Denver Broncos starting to look ugly


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have looked horrible all year, but at least they looked as outstanding as Buccaneers cheerleader Marlana Aref (see above) with Sunday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks.

What team has gone from beautiful to horrible this season?

Try the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are trying hard to become the first team ever to start 6-0 and not make the playoffs. Losing to the Oakland Raiders ... and JaMarcus Russell of all people ... was certainly a major embarrassment.

All of a sudden, the team with Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall and Elvis Dumervil doesn’t look quite so sexy anymore.

After all, any team that could blow a three-game lead with three to play as the Broncos did to the San Diego Chargers last year is capable of any choke job.

On the other hand, the Chargers continue to look like the team most capable of eventually knocking the currently undefeated Indianapolis Colts out of the playoffs.

Not only have the Chargers booted the Colts out of two straight playoffs (and beaten them four of the last five times), the Chargers are no longer under the radar with nine straight wins.

Philip Rivers should be joining the MVP conversation. Vincent Jackson should be gaining much respect as a wide receiver, and Antonio Gates is hard to overlook at tight end.

As much as the Broncos have gone from beautiful to ugly this season, the Chargers have been just the opposite. Look out for them in January ... and maybe the Super Bowl in February!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chargers hope to warm up for playoffs vs. Bengals


The San Diego Chargers have good reason to want a special victory Sunday vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

Not only would it be win No. 9 in a row for the Chargers, it would also all but seal the No. 2 seed for them in the AFC Playoffs.

What would it mean for the Chargers? A first-round bye, an AFC semifinal game at home … and a chance to host the AFC Championship if the Chargers were to win in the AFC semifinals and the Indianapolis Colts were to lose that weekend.

But more than anything, a win this weekend would keep the Chargers from going to Cincinnati for the playoffs. Anybody who was at the Chargers-Bengals “Ice Bowl” game on Jan. 10, 1982 will never forget it.

According to espn.com, the temperature during the game at Cincinnati reached minus-9, with winds gusting to 35 mph, creating a wind chill of minus-59. Almost forgotten was the fact that Cincinnati won over Dan Fouts and the Chargers, 27-7, on its way to a Super Bowl appearance.

The “wind chill” will be about 120-130 degrees warmer when the teams play Sunday in San Diego. And the winner will be hot on the trail of the No. 2 seed.

Prediction:
Chargers 27, Bengals 20

For a visit back to the Ice Bowl, visit the espn.com story at http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3198404

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NFL season is more bizarre than ever


Have you ever witnessed such a topsy-turvy season in the NFL?

It seems like more teams than ever have gone from bad to good – or good to bad – within the course of a season.

The good:

How about the Tennessee Titans going from 0-6 to 6-7 (and possible playoff contention) behind the play of QB Vince Young?

What about the Miami Dolphins going from 0-3 to 7-6 with second-stringer Chad Henne at QB?

And how about the San Diego Chargers going from a 2-3 start to 10-3 behind the MVP-type play of QB Philip Rivers?

Then there are the Green Bay Packers recovering from a 4-4 start to be 9-4 with QB Aaron Rodgers suddenly receiving some protection.

The bad:

Who could have imagined the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger going from 6-2 to 6-7 … and losing to the Cleveland Browns!

How about that 3-0 start of the New York Jets turning into a 7-6 season?

And don’t forget the suddenly-crippled Atlanta Falcons going from 4-1 to 6-7.

The indifferent:

Who would have thought the Denver Broncos would be sitting at 8-5 after winning their first six games?

And how about those supposedly invincible New York Giants slipping to 7-6 after a 5-0 start?

Indeed, there has probably never been a season quite like this in the NFL.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chargers: Team the Indianapolis Colts fear most


As a head coach last season, Tony Dungy could never say he feared one team more than another because of coaching decorum.

But now that Dungy is an analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, he can be a straight-talker.

When asked recently which team the undefeated Indianapolis Colts fear most in the AFC, Dungy’s answer was straight to the point: the San Diego Chargers.

After all, these are the same Chargers who snapped Dungy and the Colts’ nine-game winning streak in the wild card round of last year’s playoffs in San Diego.

The previous season, the Chargers knocked the Colts out of the AFC semifinals at Indianapolis in a game-winning drive led by second-stringers such as Billy Volek, Michael Turner and Legedu Naanee.

Going further back, the Chargers snapped the Colts 13-0 record (sound familiar?) with a 2005 win at Indianapolis led by the likes of blitzing linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.

Certainly, Peyton Manning of the Colts and former San Diego QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints are the talk of the NFL this season by leading their respective teams to 13-0 records.

But Manning and his Colts know that Philip Rivers and the Chargers could very well be lurking in their playoff picture.

Ask Tony Dungy: He’ll tell you that is not a comforting thought for Indianapolis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cowboys ready to upset Chargers this weekend?


Wade Phillips is loved by members of the San Diego Chargers’ defense.

Problem is he’s now head coach of the Dallas Cowboys ... not defensive coordinator of the Chargers.

LaDainian Tomlinson grew up loving the Dallas Cowboys.

Problem is he’s still the star running back for the San Diego Chargers, who have won seven straight games.

Igor Olshansky was a fan favorite with the Chargers but now plays for the Cowboys.

DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys was picked one spot ahead of San Diego’s Shawne Merriman in the 2005 NFL draft … and Merriman hasn’t forgotten.

Yes, there will be lots of coincidences when the Chargers and Cowboys meet for the first time in four years Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Philip Rivers of the Chargers is proving to be as good of a quarterback as there is in the NFL. Tony Romo of the Cowboys seems to be more hooked on being Tony Romeo with the women than a winner of crucial games in the NFL.

The Chargers haven’t lost a game in December since 2005. The Cowboys seemingly haven’t had a winning December since Roger Staubach was QB (OK, a little bit of an exaggeration.)

Since the Chargers don’t lose in December and the Cowboys don’t win, that should make Sunday’s game an easy pick.

Not so fast!

Prediction:
Cowboys 23, Chargers 21

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

San Diego Union-Tribune turning to smut?


The San Diego Union-Tribune prides itself on supposedly being a family newspaper that reaches over 1 million readers per week.

You can challenge the 1 million figure; but there’s no doubt that the paper is NOT all about families. (In fact, it appears to be trying to keep up with the recent image of Tiger Woods ... or should we call him Cheetah Woods?)

For proof, just check out today’s sports section.

On Page D3, there are two advertisements that immediately catch your attention:

One shows a couple making out with the ad reading: “Erectile Dysfunction? Premature Ejaculation? Last 45 Minutes to over 2 hours.”

The ad other shows the face of a girl looking ready to go with the copy reading: “Adult Gentlemen’s Studio Private Dances.”

Then on Page D4, there is a hot-looking couple with the ad: “Erectile Dysfunction? Premature Ejaculation? Last Up to 60 Minutes!”

The new owners promised changes when they took over the Union-Tribune earlier this year.

Unfortunately, it looks like daily smut is among their biggest alterations.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tomlinson proves classiest player in the NFL


The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t even win at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders.

The New England Patriots couldn’t hold a 9-point lead vs. the Miami Dolphins.

So much for the six-time champion Steelers and the three-time champion Patriots (all in this millennium.)

You want someone with real class in 2009?

How about trying LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers?

As soon as LT passed former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown for eighth on the all-time rushing list, he knew what to do Sunday.

Tomlinson immediately patted his heart and saluted Brown from where he was sitting in the stands.

Earlier this season, Brown had stated the Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was the most complete back in the NFL.

Even though this was a slight to Tomlinson, it did not impair his sight of NFL history.

Of all the classy moves in the NFL this weekend, none was more significant than Tomlinson saluting Brown.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chargers looking good down the stretch


All of a sudden, the San Diego Chargers have been looking as good as the girlfriends of Tiger Woods.

In fact, you could say the Chargers have been as hot as the likes of Rachel Uchitel, Jaimee Grubbs … and probably many more names to come.

Speaking of names, part of the reason for San Diego’s six-game winning streak involves unheralded players suddenly making a name for themselves.

Linebackers Brandon Siler and Tim Dobbins have emerged due to injuries to the likes of Shawne Merriman and Kevin Burnett. In the secondary, Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory have been shining with Eric Weddle injured for a couple of weeks and Clinton Hart no longer with the team.

As for the offense, give credit to linemen such as Scott Mruczkowski and Brandyn Dombrowski filling in well for Nick Hardwick and Jeromey Clary while they are injured.

Sure, it’s the likes of QB Philip Rivers, WRVincent Jackson and RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles who make the team go. But the recent success would not have been possible without the success of a patchwork offensive line.

The Chargers virtually receive a “bye” this week when they play at Cleveland. Then comes a critical three-game run at Dallas, home vs. Cincinnati and at Tennessee on Christmas. (They’re undefeated the past three Decembers, but that has no bearing on how they will play this year.)

The three-game stretch at month’s end will determine how well they look when the playoff seedings come out after the first weekend of January.

Prediction:
Chargers 30, Browns 13

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paciifc Life Holiday Bowl should pursue USC


Bobby Bowden should be commended for his 44 seasons as a college football head coach.

Charlie Weis should be able to find a job as an offensive coordinator in the NFL.

Tiger Woods should be ashamed of his extra-marital affairs.

OK, since that’s out of the way, let’s get on with what the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl should be doing.

The Holiday Bowl gets the No. 2 pick from the Pac 10, but it should not take the loser of Thursday night’s Oregon-Oregon State game.

Why? Because this is the first chance the Holiday Bowl will ever have to secure the USC Trojans for the game.

Oregon has been to the Holiday Bowl for two of the past four years. And while Oregon State has never played in the game, it certainly doesn’t bring the prestige of USC.

After all, an event such as the Holiday Bowl will only get the Trojans in a “down” year (they are 8-3 going into Saturday’s regular-season finale vs. Arizona.)

USC does not have its weapons of the past, but the Trojans are building with younger players who could be in the Holiday Bowl in 2009 … and in the BCS Championship within the next couple of years.

It will be interesting to see how freshman QB Matt Barkley continues to develop under coach Pete Carroll and his staff. Junior running back Joe McKnight is within 21 yards of a 1,000-yard rushing season, and the defense has such rising stars as sophomore linebacker Chris Galippo and junior defensive end Everson Griffen.

As for an opponent, the Holiday Bowl should take Nebraska in a second if it loses to Texas in the Big 12 Championship.

After all, few bowls outside of a BCS game will ever get a USC-Nebraska match-up.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Super Bowl: Cowboys vs. Chargers?


When you are known as “America’s Team” and are flying under the radar, that’s very unusual.

When you have won your division three straight seasons, are on a current six-game winning streak and still flying under the radar; that’s also unusual.

Given those circumstances, could the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers fly under the radar all the way to the Super Bowl?

Perhaps.

The Cowboys (8-3) certainly are not drawing attention as much as New Orleans (10-0) or Minnesota (10-1) in the NFC.

In the AFC, San Diego (8-3) doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often as Indianapolis (11-0), New England (7-3) or even upstart Cincinnati (8-3).

Of the two, the Cowboys likely will have it rougher down the stretch than the Chargers.

Dallas is just 5-8 with Tony Romo as a starter in December, while the Chargers are 41-5 down the stretch since 2004.

Romo seems to have latched on to Miles Austin as his favorite receiver, something the QB could not have done last season while Terrell Owens was demanding all the attention.

In San Diego, Philip Rivers has quietly averaged more points per game than any starting QB in NFL history, according to CBS-TV.

Rivers has found Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd all to be his favorite receivers … depending on the week and opponent.

Cowboys vs. Chargers in the Super Bowl? Don’t discount the possibility.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chris Chambers looking to get even with Chargers


Chris Chambers must be licking his cops.

A flop through seven games with the San Diego Chargers this year, he’s been a star in three games with the Kansas City Chiefs.

And don’t you think Chambers would love to get even when the teams play Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium?

Chambers set up KC’s overtime upset of Pittsburgh last week with a 61-yard reception in OT.

He’s itching to do the same against a Chargers team that is not exactly strong against the pass.
Matt Cassel is finally starting to fit in as the Chiefs QB and Jamaal Charles is certainly an all-purpose player to be reckoned with.

The Chargers? They’ve won five straight ... and no QB is playing better lately than Philip Rivers.

San Diego will celebrate its 50th anniversary Sunday by honoring the top 50 players in team history (well, Walter Sweeney certainly should have made the special teams squad.)

But will the Chargers be celebrating about 4 pm?

Prediction:
Chargers 24, Chiefs 21

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Abraham Lincoln explains meaning of Thanksgiving


As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we truly have an abundance of reasons to be thankful.


Among them for many of us are Faith, Family, Friends, Finances, and the Future.


Why finances, considering what has happened to our ecomony?


If you have any money in your wallet or purse, that makes you among the wealthiest 8 percent of the people in the world.


Thanksgiving Day in America originated in 1863 under President Abraham Lincoln. The following from the "Today in the Word" devotional from Moody Bible Institute explains the origin of Thanksgiving:


On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following words: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

These words proclaimed a day when the nation would come together for remembrance. This preceded the proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving, which came a few months later.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stick a fork in the Denver Broncos


Got a fork? Stick it in the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are as good as dead after Sunday’s 32-3 loss to the AFC West-leading San Diego Chargers.

Denver started 6-0; the Tennessee Titans began 0-6. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos (6-4) and Titans (3-6) end the season with near identical records.

As for the Chargers, they are on a typical late-season run that has seen them post a 41-5 record down the stretch since 2004.

With the Chargers on a five-game winning streak and Denver on a four-game losing skid, the AFC West is as good as over even though the Chargers only lead by one game.

Consider some recent Charger facts:

Their defense allowed more than 27 points per game the first five games; it has allowed fewer than 14 ppg in the past five.
QB Philip Rivers was sacked an average of three times per game the first five games but just once a game in the last five.
The Chargers averaged one sack per outing through five games, but four per game in the past five contests (thanks greatly to a revived Shawne Merriman and consistent Shaun Phillips.)

And then there’s a Denver team that outscored its first six opponents in the second half 76-10.

In the past four games, the Broncos have been outscored in the second half 77-17.

For all intents and purposes, say goodbye to the Broncos for 2009.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Norv Turner: Best coach in Chargers history?????


The San Diego Chargers have dutifully noted in a press release that current coach Norv Turner has the all-time highest winning percentage in team history.

So, this makes Turner the best coach in the team’s 50-year history?

Not so fast!

Perhaps a better way to judge a coach would be to consider where the team was when he took over … and what it accomplished thereafter.

On that basis, he certainly doesn’t compare to a couple of Chargers coaches over the past generation.

In the 46 games (including playoffs) before Turner took over in 2007, the Chargers were 34-12. Since the current coach took charge, the team is 28-18.

Bobby Ross compiled a 50-36 record from 1992-96. In the 86 games before Ross, the Chargers were 22-64.

Marty Schottenheimer was 47-35 as head coach from 2002-06. In the 82 games before him, the Chargers went 24-58.

All told, Ross and Schottenheimer both doubled the winning percentage during their tenure. In contrast, the winning percentage has dropped 20% under Turner.

The Chargers beam over the fact that Turner has such a significant overall winning percentage. But when all things are considered, Ross and Schottenheimer did a much better job of taking the team from where it was to a much higher level.

Sunday Prediction:
Chargers 24, Denver Broncos 21

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wisconsin's John Clay deserving of Heisman votes


First of all, running back John Clay from the University of Wisconsin is not going to win the Heisman Trophy in 2009.

No how; no way.

But does Clay at least deserve to be in the discussion among people receiving votes?

Absolutely!

The three running backs most talked about for the Heisman are Toby Gerhart of Stanford, Mark Ingram of Alabama and C.J. Spiller of Clemson.

Let’s see how Clay stacks up statistically against each of them (listed by rushing attempts-yards-average per carry-TDs.)

Gerhart 262-1,395-5.3-19
Ingram 194-1,297-6.7-10
Clay 218-1,124-5.2-12
Spiller 153-836-5.5-6

Ingram and Spiller are also accomplished receivers. Ingram has 25 catches for 225 yards and 3 TDs; Spiller 24 receptions for 382 yards and 4 TDs.

Clay, only a sophomore, is the most dominating running back at Wisconsin since Ron Dayne.

And don’t be surprised if he one day becomes the first Badgers’ player to win the Heisman Trophy since Dayne in 1999.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Norv Turner looks like a head coaching genius


Norv Turner looked like a head coaching genius Sunday in comparison to supposed geniuses Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.

Belichick’s going for it on a fourth-and-2 at his own 28 late in the fourth quarter handed the Indianapolis Colts a last-minute TD and 35-34 win over the New England Patriots.

If not for Belichick, Reid would have been the dumbest coach in the NFL over the weekend.

Turner, often criticized for not being a good head coach, had a solid game plan in the San Diego Chargers’ 31-23 win over Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Reid? He could have used a little help.

First of all, down by 19 points early in the fourth quarter, he went for an extra point after a TD.


Any mathematician could tell you that the Eagles needed two TDs, a pair of TWO-point conversions and a field goal to make up 19 points.

Then, on a fourth-and-4 while down by 12 points in the same quarter, he had to take a timeout to decide whether to go for or kick a field goal.

Duh? A field goal brings you within nine points, but you still need two more scores if you are only within 9.

Worst of all was his team’s play-calling. Each time the Eagles needed one yard for a first down or touchdown, their offense was motionless. It resulted in three field goals in the red zone; one coming after first-and-goal at the 1.

Few people will ever call Norv Turner a head coaching genius. But he sure was able to outshine Belichick and Reid on this particular weekend.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Denver Broncos got the best of Cutler-Orton trade


Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler straight-up would have been a good trade for the Denver Broncos.

Just look at what Cutler – the biggest pouter in the NFL – has “accomplished” this season.

He threw five interceptions in the Chicago Bears’10-6 loss at the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, tying for the most by a Bears QB since Zeke Bratkowski threw seven in a 42-7 loss to the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 2, 1960.

This comes on top of Cutler’s four interceptions in a season-opening loss at the Green Bay Packers.

Orton? All he has done is lead the Broncos to a surprising first-place standing in the AFC West at 6-2. He doesn’t necessarily win games for you; but he throws very few interceptions and keeps you from losing.

This being said, one must consider what else came along in the Bears-Broncos trade back in April.

The Broncos also received first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 for trading Cutler, along with a third-round pick in 2009. In return, the Bears received a fifth-round pick in 2009 that Denver had already acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for wide receiver Keary Colbert.

Cutler and the Bears already are virtually out of playoff contention at 4-5.

Orton? He needs to lead the Broncos to a win Sunday at the Washington Redskins, or the Broncos will have lost three straight and be in danger of falling into a first-place tie in the AFC West with the San Diego Chargers (if the Chargers beat the Philadelphia Eagles.)

Speaking of QBs, Philip Rivers of the Chargers is far more effective than Cutler or Orton. He rarely loses games for you as Cutler often does and he’s much more capable of leading a winning drive than Orton.

All of which could still make the Chargers the best team in the AFC West.

Prediction:
Chargers 24, Eagles 23

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tomlinson's days numbered in San Diego?


All of a sudden, things are clicking for the San Diego Chargers.

Philip Rivers is passing as well as ever. Vincent Jackson constantly makes big receptions.

Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips are back to making sacks.

But on the other hand, there is one thing missing:

Production from LaDainian Tomlinson.

As much as some people may blame it all on the (lack of) blocking, it looks like LT is near the end of his career with the Chargers.

This is not the worst line Tomlinson has ever been behind. He has done much better behind much worse offensive lines.

The sad thing is that when Tomlinson was injured in the 2007 playoffs, it all came down to one of two things: Either his injury was a fluke or the beginning of a trend.

Sadly, the trend continues.

LT, a certain Pro Football Hall of Fame player, is having his worst year ever in 2009.

He rushed for 15 yards at Pittsburgh and 22 yards at the New York Giants; two of his three-lowest producing days in his nine-year career.

He’s averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per attempt this season and has only three rushing TDs. In every previous season, he has scored rushing TDs in double figures.

Darren Sproles is a great change-up to Tomlinson in the backfield but will never be a full-time running back at 5-foot-6.

The Chargers already knew they needed succession planning at RB in the 2009 draft. They didn’t take a RB until the fourth round in Gartrell Johnson, who is no longer with the team.

It’s too bad that LT will likely never again be the player he once was in San Diego. And it’s too bad the Chargers haven’t had the foresight to take care of their problems at RB.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rivers clearly better QB than Eli Manning


Eli Manning never did want to come to the San Diego Chargers in 2004 because he thought San Diego had the worst team in the NFL.

Well, Eli, here is some news for you.

Since your refusal to come to San Diego when the Chargers made you the number one draft pick in 2004; the Chargers have yet to experience a losing season.

Not only that, they are now 2-0 against you with Sunday’s 21-20 win over you and your New York Giants at the Meadowlands.

Clearly, Philip Rivers has been better statistically over his career than you.

Besides that, Rivers led the Chargers on an 8-play, 80-yard drive in 1:46 to beat you with a last-minute pass of 18 yards to Vincent Jackson.

(This came after you and the Giants were unable to score a TD after an interception left you with first-and-goal at the Chargers 4 with 3:14 remaining. With a TD, you would’ve clinched the game with a 10-point lead.)

Certainly, Eli, you have the Super Bowl ring that Rivers does not.

However, it’s not always the best QB who wins the Super Bowl. Do you really believe Trent Dilfer was the league’s best QB when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl?

All things considered, Rivers has turned out to be a better QB than you, Eli.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chargers-Giants step away from dregs of NFL


It’s amazing how perspective can be sometimes.

The San Diego Union-Tribune dutifully notes that the New York Giants (5-3) have four wins against the “dregs” of the NFL (Washington, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland.)

What it doesn’t note is that the San Diego Chargers (4-3) have recorded three of their four wins against the dregs of Oakland and Kansas City.

This Sunday, the Chargers and Giants step away from the dregs when they meet each other in the Meadowlands.

San Diego QB Philip Rivers should have a field day vs. the porous Giants secondary.

On the other hand, look for Brandon Jacobs to record his first 100-yard rushing game of the season vs. the weak Chargers’ defense.

Over the past four years, Rivers has been a better QB statistically than Eli Manning of the Giants. But Manning has a Super Bowl ring … and a better team surrounding him … to show for it.

That should make the difference Sunday.

Prediction:
Giants 27, Chargers 23

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Manning vs. Rivers: Who got the best of the trade?


Certainly, a majority of football fans in San Diego still remember the 2004 NFL Draft.

There was Eli Manning pouting after he was the first overall pick by the San Diego Chargers. (He didn’t want to come to what he thought was the worst team in football; a Chargers team that went 12-4 in 2004.)

Less than an hour after being drafted by the Chargers, Manning was a member of the New York Giants.

The Chargers wisely instituted a trade for Giants first-round pick Philip Rivers, adding some future draft picks along with Rivers.

As it turned out, those future selections included a couple of stars to be in linebacker Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding.

Who got the better of the deal?

Without a doubt, you could argue that the Chargers did. After all, they received what turned out to be three quality players for Manning.

But on the other hand, Manning has won a Super Bowl. That’s more than Rivers, Merriman or Kaeding have ever accomplished.

Come Sunday at the Meadowlands, Rivers and Manning will start against each other for the first time.

No matter what happens, Manning still has a one-up on Rivers with a Super Bowl ring.

That fact alone makes the 2004 draft swap a good trade for the Giants.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Oklahoma?


How would this be for a Pacific Life Holiday Bowl match-up in 2009?

Try the University of Southern California Trojans vs. the Oklahoma Sooners!

In a good year, the two schools could be playing for the BCS championship. But in a “down” year such as this, it might be the best chance ever for the Holiday Bowl to get a USC vs. Oklahoma billing.

Talk about getting the top non-BCS or New Year’s Day game if you could sign such a deal.

The Holiday Bowl is in the final year of an agreement where it gets the No. 2 pick from the Pac 10 vs. the No. 3 selection from the Big 12.

No. 12 USC (6-2) is virtually out of the Rose Bowl race with Saturday’s loss at Oregon. But the Trojans still have wins over the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame and California on their 2009 resume.

No. 20 Oklahoma (5-3) is without QB Sam Bradford for the rest of the season, but the Sooners still have much national respect. Don’t forget that they only lost by three points to No. 2 Texas without the injured Bradford for a majority of the game.

USC vs. Oklahoma. Pete Carroll vs. Bob Stoops.

The Holiday Bowl better latch on to this great match-up while it still has the opportunity.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oakland Raiders: Commitment to Failure?


A friend of mine in Blythe, Calif. is surrounded by Oakland Raiders fans (fortunately, he’s not one of them.)

He says that most Raiders fans say the team will be good again only when Al Davis leaves the scene.

The Raiders once had a “Commitment to Excellence.” These days, they appear to have a “Commitment to Failure.”

How else do you explain the Raiders arguably being the worst team in the NFL since they last played in a Super Bowl seven seasons ago?

It all starts on the field with JaMarcus Russell, the worst/laziest starting quarterback in the NFL today. (Yes, he was Al Davis’ choice to be a No. 1 draft pick.)

It doesn’t help that he’s working with his third offensive coordinator in three years, two rookie wide receivers and a horrible offensive line. (Heck, the Raiders are averaging a whopping 8.9 points per game.)

Richard Seymour has brought solidarity to the defense up front, but don’t you think he would rather be back in New England where another Super Bowl is a real possibility this season?

The Raiders have lost 12 straight to Sunday’s opponent, the San Diego Chargers. At one time, the Raiders used to beat the Chargers with their collective eyes closed.

Oakland only had 39,354 home fans for last week’s 38-0 loss to the New York Jets, the smallest home crowd since 1968. Yes, people in the Bay Area have caught on.

The Chargers? They aren’t exactly a juggernaut yet this season, but playing the Raiders is always a way to cure what ails them.

Prediction:
Chargers 27, Raiders 14

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

San Diego State going to bowl game in 2009?


After 10 straight non-winning seasons, could it be that the San Diego State football team is going to a bowl game in 2009?

(It won’t take a winning record, but the Aztecs could make their first postseason appearance since the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl this season.)

SDSU set itself up for such a scenario with last Saturday’s 42-28 upset win at Colorado State.

The Aztecs (3-4) should be favored to win three of their final five games. Win all three and their 6-6 record makes them “bowl eligible.”

SDSU is a 17-point favorite at home this weekend vs. winless New Mexico.

Then, after a likely home loss to Texas Christian University on Nov. 7, the Aztecs have what will likely be their game of the year at home vs. Wyoming on Nov. 14.

If the Aztecs beat New Mexico and Wyoming, then they would only need to win at Utah (not likely) on Nov. 21 or at Nevada Las Vegas (likely) on Nov. 28.

Amazing how far that new head coach Brady Hoke (may) have brought the Aztecs in one season.

Ryan Lindley has proven to be a standout QB as exemplified by his six touchdown passes vs. Colorado State. DeMarco Sampson had the game of his life with 15 receptions for 257 yards and three TDs.

The only drawback is that the team’s leading receiver, Vincent Brown, has ligament damage in his right thumb that could keep him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

Get this: CBSSports.com is projecting that the Aztecs will meet Fresno State this season in the New Mexico Bowl.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But at least it’s a step in the right direction for a university that hasn’t played in a bowl game in the 21st century.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Parity? Not in the NFL


For the first time ever, there are three undefeated teams in the NFL through Week 7.

Say hello to the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

On the other side, there are three winless teams.

Say goodbye to the St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans.

Maybe the reason there are so many good teams in the NFL is because there are so many bad teams to make perfection possible.

Speaking of horrible teams, don’t forget the likes of the Cleveland Browns (1-6), Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) and Detroit Lions (1-5). Throw in the Washington Redskins (2-4), who are a total mess, and you can see that the bad outweighs the good in the NFL.

So much for the theory of the NFL having “parity.”

This weekend’s scores alone show just how bad the disparity has become.

Consider the following: New York Jets 38, Oakland 0; Indianapolis 42, St. Louis 6; San Diego 37, Kansas City 7; Green Bay 31, Cleveland 3; New England 35, Tampa Bay 7. All were mismatches with the good vs. the bad.

Then there was Cincinnati’s 45-10 win over Chicago, which fit the mold of good vs. bad (although both teams are better than average in this year’s NFL.)

The late Commissioner Pete Rozelle used to preach parity in the NFL ... but so much for parity in 2009.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Upset Special: Chiefs over Chargers


The San Diego Chargers got lucky twice last season vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chargers were fortunate to beat the Chiefs by one point in San Diego ... and even more fortunate to win by one in Kansas City.

KC lost in San Diego due to a missed extra point; and it failed at home by not recovering an onside kick by the Chargers or making a field goal as time expired.

Revenge? This could be the week.

The Chiefs have won eight straight October home games vs. the Chargers, but those came primarily when Kansas City was going well and the Chargers not so well.

San Diego QB Philip Rivers normally has a tough time vs. the Chiefs and this should be no exception. He’s already been sacked 17 times this season. The Chiefs recorded nearly half of all their sacks last year vs. the Chargers.

Matt Cassel seems to be getting more comfortable each week for the Chiefs. Larry Johnson has the ability to grind out yards vs. the porous Chargers defense.

This game has Upset Special written all over it ... not to mention the fact that Norv Turner is the NFL's worst "motivator."

Prediction:
Chiefs 17, Chargers 16

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Denver Broncos: 1977 all over again?


Remember Red Miller, the Orange Crush and the Pony Express cheerleaders?

Looks like the current Denver Broncos may turn out to be the latest version of those 1977 Broncos.

In 1977, the Broncos won their first six games under new coach Red Miller. This year’s Broncos are 6-0 under new coach Josh McDaniels.

The 1977 Broncos featured an "Orange Crush" defense. The current Broncos feature a defense that has allowed just 10 points total in the second half of their first six games.

Back in 1977, the Broncos had an attractive cheerleader group called the "Pony Express." Equally as attractive, they are now the Bronco Cheerleaders.

When the Broncos won Monday night at San Diego, 34-23, it brought back another memory of 1977.

That year, the Broncos were 4-0 when they traveled to Oakland and defeated the Raiders, 30-7. At that time, Oakland had been dominating the AFC West.

The Chargers had also been dominant in the AFC West for several years until this year’s edition of the Broncos came along.

Kyle Orton, of all people, may be the modern-day Craig Morton of the Broncos. And the list goes on.

(For those who have forgotten, Denver’s back-up QB in 1977 was Craig Penrose out of San Diego State. He played for the Aztec more than 30 years ago; back when they were annual winners instead of perennial losers.)
The Broncos did go 12-2 in 1977 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl for the first time under a new head coach. Is history repeating in 2009?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chargers-Broncos: Who will get thrown back?



Both teams will come into Monday Night Football wearing their crazy uniforms from the 1960s.

The Denver Broncos will wear their road uniforms with the horrible striped socks. The San Diego Chargers will be recognized by their 1963 throwback uniforms.

This game could also be a throwback game for the Chargers. If they lose, you could throw them back out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

But the funny thing is, every time the Chargers look like they are out of it, they seem to get back in it.

Consider how they won four straight at the end of last season to make the playoffs with a shameful (for a playoff team) record of 8-8, or how Denver collapsed with three losses at the end to choke on the division lead.

But this is a different season and the Broncos are beginning to resemble the 1994 Chargers. Both teams were picked to be also-rans; the Chargers went to the Super Bowl that year. Could Denver be the surprise team playing in February this season?

Kyle Orton won’t win you many games at quarterback, yet he manages them well enough to keep you from losing. And he doesn’t pout and hang his head like baby Jay Cutler.

Add a superior Denver defense and you see where the Broncos could be heading this year.

The Chargers? Let’s just say they have been unimpressive thus far.

Philip Rivers has been great under the circumstances at QB. But the team’s running game hasn’t gotten in gear … and the defense has performed even worse than the runners.

San Diego is 10-1 in its last 11 night games at home and desperately needs this one.

Prediction:
Chargers 24, Broncos 16

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rivalries promise great weekend of college football


This weekend is just about as good as it gets in college football rivalries with USC vs. Notre Dame and Oklahoma vs. Texas.

Problem is these games just don’t mean as much as they used to.

With USC, it’s a matter of always losing a game early to fall out of the BCS championship picture. With Notre Dame, it’s a matter of too many losses in recent years.

In the case of Oklahoma-Texas, it’s that the winner of this game doesn’t necessarily get bonus points when it counts the most.

Remember when Texas beat Oklahoma last year, only to lose to Texas Tech and later watch Oklahoma lose (again) in the BCS title game?

Or how about USC with its early season loss to Washington this year that has all but eliminated the Trojans from the national title picture?

It’s too bad that USC doesn’t play in the Big 12 or the Southeastern Conference. In those conferences, coach Pete Carroll’s Trojans could redeem themselves by winning out and playing in a conference championship game (which the Pac 10 does not have yet.)

That’s a sure way to get to the BCS championship (see the Big 12 and SEC.)

As for Oklahoma-Texas, this is a year when the Longhorns can actually make a win over Oklahoma matter more than last year. With a win over the Sooners, don’t be surprised to see Texas ride it out all the way to the BCS finals.

Colt McCoy vs. Sam Bradford. Jimmy Clausen vs. USC becoming tailback university … again.

It should make for an interesting weekend of college football.

Predictions:
USC 24, Notre Dame 14
Texas 27, Oklahoma 23

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodgers are most resilient team around


Say this much about the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Whenever they absolutely needed to win this season, they did.

Did you notice how they finally beat the Colorado Rockies to clinch the NL West after the Rockies came within a game of them? (This, after failing to clinch vs. lowly Pittsburgh or San Diego.)

Or did you notice how that virtually every time the Dodgers were slumping this season and somebody came within a game or two of them, the Dodgers started winning again?

Or how about supposedly being “overmatched” by St. Louis pitchers Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, only to sweep three straight from the Cardinals in the NL Divisional Series?

Now, the Philadelphia Phillies are supposed to beat the Dodgers for the second consecutive year in the NL Championship Series … or are they?

If nothing else, the Dodgers have proven to be the most resilient team around in 2009. They are hard to bet against at this point.

Another thing tough to bet against is the possibility of a Freeway Series matching the Dodgers and Anaheim Angels in the World Series.

“You kind of catch yourself rooting for the Dodgers, and I'm sure the Dodgers are rooting for us,” Torii Hunter of the Angels told the Associated Press. “It'd be kind of awesome to have a Freeway Series.”

There would be an irony in a Freeway Series in that Angels manager Mike Scioscia was the catcher on the last Dodgers team to win a World Series in 1988. Angels coaches Mickey Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin also played for the 1988 Dodgers.

Twenty-one years later, the Dodgers look like they may once again be a team of destiny.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Denver Broncos: Remake of 1994 Chargers?


It all started in 1994 when Denver quarterback John Elway let the ball slip out of his hands to Junior Seau on what should have been a game-winning drive for the Broncos.

Did it all start for the Broncos in 2009 when Brandon Stokley caught a miracle tipped pass for an 87-yard touchdown with 11 seconds to go to stun the Cincinnati Bengals?

The more this season unfolds; the more it appears that the 2009 Broncos may be a remake of the 1994 Chargers.

As previously mentioned, both teams were more than lucky to win their opener. And before each respective season began, neither team was considered a contender.

The 1994 Chargers started 6-0; this year’s Broncos are a surprising 5-0.

Each quarterback was a castoff from elsewhere: Stan Humphries of the Chargers and Kyle Orton of the current Broncos. Both team had great defenses; the Broncos having allowed just 43 points this year in their first 5-0 start since their last Super Bowl season in 1998.

And if you want to test your memory, can you remember some of these “stars” of the 1994 Chargers?

Do you remember that the team’s leading receivers were Mark Seay and Ronnie Harmon? Or that the No. 2 rusher behind Natrone Means was Eric Bieniemy?

Then there was linebacker Dennis Gibson, who made the game-saving play in the AFC Championship vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The current Broncos are a long way from the Super Bowl, but they sure do bring back memories of how the Chargers came out of nowhere 15 years ago to play in their only Super Bowl ever.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Angels-Dodgers Would Series would be just fine


Turn on ESPN during the baseball season. If they’re not talking about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox; they’re talking about the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Here’s one voice for hoping that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anaheim Angels play in the World Series.

Wouldn’t it be nice for a change for the media … with its East Coast bias … to see that there actually are teams worth talking about in Southern California?

Oh, sure, ESPN loves talking about Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers. Of course, that’s only because all of his years with the Red Sox.

You don’t exactly hear about Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw or James Loney of the Dodgers every day on ESPN.

Ditto for Torii Hunter, John Lackey, Kendry Morales and Howie Kendrick of the Angels.

The only way for these guys to make a national dent is to beat the St. Louis Cardinals and Red Sox, respectively, then go on to win their respective league championship series.

Sure, an all-Southern California World Series would not exactly make for the greatest TV ratings ever. But neither did the Yankees-Mets World Series outside of New York in 2000.

It’s about time the West Coast received its due in MLB.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dodgers don't match up well in playoffs


The Los Angeles Dodgers set an all-time franchise record this season by having 22 different pitchers earn at least one win.

Good news?

Not really.

More than anything, it only confirms the fact that the Dodgers have lots of small pieces on their pitching staff … but no ace.

Never is that more evident than in the pitching match-ups for the first two games of the National League Divisional Series vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.

Who would you rather have as your top two pitchers in the playoffs?

Journeyman Randy Wolf, an 11-game winner; and Clayton Kershaw, who finished with a .500 record?

Or Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, both of whom have legitimate cases for winning the NL Cy Young?

About the only thing the Dodgers have going for them in the first round of the playoffs is home field advantage against the Cardinals. But let’s face it: The Dodgers earned home field advantage with wins before the All-Star break; not in September or October.

How else do you explain them losing five of six games to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres down the stretch … when two wins during that time would have clinched the NL West division a lot earlier than Oct. 3?

The Dodgers may have the record to prove they were the best team in the league during the regular season; but that means squat come October.

It looks like a minor miracle … or Randy Wolf turning into a postseason Orel Hershiser … are the best hopes for Los Angeles in postseason 2009.

Monday, October 5, 2009

San Diego Padres: What is 'strategic planning?'


It all seemed so positive for the San Diego Padres during the last 10 weeks of the 2009 season.

They had the fourth-best winning percentage in MLB during that time. They were third-best in the National League and second (to the surging Colorado Rockies) in the NL West.

Even the questionable trades of Jake Peavy and Scott Hairston have turned out positive so far.

The Padres got rid of Peavy’s $50-million plus salary over the next three years. In return, they received Clayton Richard (probably the No. 3 starter next year), Adam Russell (a likely mainstay in the bullpen) and Aaron Poreda (probably in the starting rotation by 2011.)

The Hairston trade netted them the likes of Ryan Webb and Sean Gallagher, both of whom should contend for spots on the 2010 pitching staff.

Then came the firing over the weekend of General Manager Kevin Towers, who brought all the new pitching to San Diego this season. Love Towers or hate him, this is a “what have you done for me lately” business. Lately, he has done quite well.

And remember, during his 14years as the team’s GM, the Padres won four of the five division championships they have captured in their 41-year history.

Now comes the news that the team is into “strategic planning,” one of those buzz phrases that makes you want to regurgitate.

What is strategic planning? If you’ve been around it, it’s nothing more than a catch-term for people who takes months to make a decision … then the decision is usually no decision at all.

The Padres came so far in the second half of 2009 that it appeared they were headed in the right direction. But now that they are into strategic planning, it makes you wonder what nonsense the future might hold.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pittsburgh is tough as Steel vs. Chargers


You can almost always expect the best NFL match-up of the week to be on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

This week is no exception when the San Diego Chargers travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

San Diego has yet to win in 13 regular season games in Pittsburgh, but it did win the 1994 AFC Championship game in the Steel City. That gave the Chargers their only Super Bowl appearance (no big deal to the Steelers with six Super Bowl titles!)

We all know that San Diego has had trouble running the ball this season. Even if LaDainian Tomlinson returns Sunday night, it won’t make much difference. Pittsburgh takes away the run and forces you to pass, no matter who you are.

That’s where the Chargers excel. Philip Rivers leads the league in passing yardage, and Vincent Jackson is turning into a monster this season. (Once the Chargers replace Chris Chambers with Malcom Floyd in the starting lineup, they’ll be even more effective.)

The Steelers will once again be without safety Troy Polamalu, which will weaken their defense. But don’t be surprised if Ben Roethlisberger has once of his patented game-winning drives (remember the last Super Bowl?) at the end.

Prediction:
Steelers 24, Chargers 20

As for the upset special, we all know Brett Favre will be seeking revenge when the Minnesota Vikings host the Green Bay Packers. But don’t you think the Packers will seek revenge, too, on a QB who hasn’t exactly been respectful to them either?

Prediction:
Packers 31, Vikings 23

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wisconsin Badgers: College football's most overlooked team?


Who is the most overlooked team in college football today?

For now, it could be the Wisconsin Badgers.

Sure, the Badgers went their typical 3-0 in non-conference games by beating teams they were supposed to.

But Wisconsin’s impressive 38-30 win over Michigan State in last week's Big Ten opener (the Badgers led by 21 points late in the game) showed that they might be a team to reckon with in 2009.

Of course, the Badgers will find out a lot about themselves in the next two weeks when they play their first road games of the season at Minnesota and The Ohio State. Yet with the way this young team is playing right now, don’t be surprised if Wisconsin beats Minnesota and gives Ohio State all that it can handle.

What’s most noteworthy about the Badgers is that they are winning with a very young team.

Junior QB Scott Tolzien has completed two-thirds of his 99 passes for eight TDs with just two interceptions. Sophomore running back John Clay is averaging 99.5 yards per game and has four TDs.

Sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon (18 catches-236 yards-2 TDs) is the son of former NFL standout Al Toon. Tight end Garrett Graham, one of the few senior starters on the team, has 16 catches including four TDs.

And if you watched the Badgers on ESPN last week, you noticed No. 53 was all over the field on defense. He’s linebacker Mike Taylor, a freshman.

Wisconsin received enough votes (20) to be 32nd in this week’s Associated Press poll, one spot ahead of Notre Dame.

The Badgers may not have made a name for themselves yet, but they could very well do so in the next two weeks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chargers should prevail again in AFC West


Here we go again.

It looks like the Denver Broncos might challenge the San Diego Chargers for the AFC West title again ... but it isn’t going to happen.

Just like last year; when the Broncos lost three straight and the Chargers won four in a row at the end; Denver is going to fade.

Believe it or not, the Chargers have an easier road by playing a "first place" schedule than Denver does by playing a "second place" schedule.

The teams have 14 games in common. The two exceptions are that the Chargers play Miami and Tennessee, both division champs last year but winless this season. In turn, Denver gets to play Indianapolis (3-0) and New England (2-1).

The Chargers are going to get better when LaDainian Tomlinson returns. They are the worst running team in the NFL now, yet LT will make them much better after he comes back likely for the Denver game at home on Monday night, Oct. 19.

So much for those who thought the team could get along without him.

With LT on the sidelines, the team’s best "rusher" might be Philip Rivers. The slow QB is the only Charger to score a rushing touchdown the past two weeks.

With LT eventually on the way back ... and Denver having a tougher schedule ... the Chargers should prevail again in the AFC West.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Detroit Lions will upset Washington Redskins!


You heard it here first. The Detroit Lions will win for the first time in two years when they beat the sad-sack Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Other upsets?

The Tennessee Titans can’t afford to start 0-3, so they will beat the undefeated New York Jets. Look for Kerry Collins to have a better day than Jets’ rookie QB Mark Sanchez.

The Cincinnati Bengals will be pumped up at home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look for Carson Palmer and mates to pull this one off.

As for the banged-up San Diego Chargers, they should play like a wounded animal at home vs. the Miami Dolphins.

The Chargers will be without three of their mainstays of the past several seasons: running back LaDainian Tomlinson, center Nick Hardwick and defensive lineman Jamal Williams.

This is a game where the unexpected will step up. Look for the Chargers to throw a lot, with WRs Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee coming through big time.

San Diego is favored … and it should win by a field goal. The Dolphins lost precious preparation time by playing Monday night, then having to travel cross-country on Saturday.

Prediction:
San Diego 23, Miami 20

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jamal Williams' loss could bring Chargers down


The loss of Jamal Williams to a triceps injury could be devastating to the San Diego Chargers in 2009. The demotion of Chris Chambers could be a positive if it happened.

More than anyone (including Shawne Merriman when he was healthy), Williams is the key to the Chargers’ defense. At nose tackle, he’s normally taking on two people and freeing up someone else to (hopefully) make the tackle.

From 2005-07, Williams’ peers recognized him as an All-Pro. That was no surprise. The only surprise was that he did not get named a Pro Bowler sooner in his career.

The impact of Williams was certainly never displayed more than in the 2002 season. The Chargers were 8-4 and probably on their way to the playoffs before a cheap shot by Denver Broncos offensive lineman Steve Herndon ended Williams’ season. Without Williams, the Chargers lost their last four games and headed home for the postseason.

It was no coincidence that when Williams went down, so did the Chargers.

As for Chambers, his best days at wide receiver seem to be behind him. He’s gone from 82 receptions and 11 touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins in 2005 to 33 catches and 5 TDs for the Chargers last season … and this year looks worse so far.

Chambers caught just 2 of 10 passes targeted to him (20%) in last week’s 31-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The remainder of the team caught nearly 80% of the passes thrown their way.

It’s too bad Williams had to go … but looking more and more like Chambers might need to do the same.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad weekend for SoCal's 'elite' football teams


You could see the USC Trojans’ loss coming from a mile away over the weekend.

For the San Diego Chargers, you could see it from more like seven yards away (thanks Ray Lewis.)

The difference between the Chargers losing in the NFL and USC losing in the NCAA is huge: The Chargers could probably lose seven more games and still have a chance at winning the Super Bowl. USC is out of losses for a chance at the national championship.

Why is it that Pete Carroll can always win the big games at USC, yet the little one seems to escape him each year?

It happened with Stanford in 2007, Oregon State in 2008 and last weekend at the University of Washington.

Each year, that one stumble has kept/will keep the Trojans out of the title hunt.

It’s really too bad that the Trojans play on the West Coast because one loss and you’re out. Play in the more publicized Southeastern Conference or Big Ten and one loss keeps you in the hunt.

As for the Chargers, they’re in such a bad division that an 8-8 record likely gets them to the playoffs.

Still, that’s not excuse for the horrible play calling in the end with a fourth-and-2 at the Baltimore Ravens 15.

The Chargers had been averaging 2.5 yards per rush and were getting blown off the line of scrimmage with an injury-depleted offensive line. Yet coach Norv Turner still went with the run on the decisive play when everyone at Qualcomm Stadium (especially Ray Lewis) could see that it was going to be a run by Darren Sproles.

San Diego has still yet to block Lewis on that play.

It was a bad weekend for the Chargers; a horrible one for USC. See you next year, Trojans!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chargers' offensive line could be downfall


The last time the San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs, in 2005, it was because their offensive line was in shambles.

Say hello to déjà vu thus far in 2009.

Already, the team has lost center Nick Hardwick (ankle) and likely right guard Louis Vasquez (knee) for this week’s home opener vs. the Baltimore Ravens.

Add Jeromey Clary at right tackle along with the two injured players and you have a very weak right side of the line.

(Don’t you think the Ravens will exploit this on Sunday?)

Even left tackle Marcus McNeill (ankle) should have come out of Monday’s 24-20 win at Oakland in the fourth quarter, but he continued to play since the Chargers were flat out of reserve linemen.

So what does this mean for Sunday?

You’ll likely see Scott Mruczkowski (center) and guard Brandon Dombrowski (guard) make their first career NFL starts vs. Baltimore.

Does this bode well for the Chargers? Not really.

Prediction:
Ravens 23, Chargers 17

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Winning is all that counts in the NFL


Did you notice how the three most-touted AFC teams all played very poorly on the NFL’s Opening Weekend?

But did you notice how the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers all came out winners in Week 1?

If you were to watch the game tapes without knowing who won, you’d swear that all three lost. Yet so often in the NFL, the lesser teams play harder … but the better teams win.

(If you’re a fan of the Chargers, you’ll remember all those years when the team couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead to save its life.)

The Steelers were anything but dominating in their 13-10 overtime win vs. the Tennessee Titans. Yet a fumble by Hines Ward near the goal line at the end of regulation didn’t stop Ben Roethlisberger from engineering another winning drive in overtime.

Tom Brady and the Patriots looked absolutely horrible for 58 minutes vs. the Buffalo Bills. However, that didn’t stop the Patriots from scoring twice in the final 2:06 to escape with a 25-24 win.

The Chargers were getting pushed all around for much of the night by the Oakland Raiders. But in the end, Darren Sproles scored on a 5-yard run with 18 seconds remaining (while replacing the injured LaDainian Tomlinson) as San Diego survived 24-20.

There were other such stories throughout the NFL such as Baltimore needing two late touchdowns to beat Kansas City 38-24.

But it’s not how well you play; it’s whether you win or lose. That’s why the Steelers, Patriots and Chargers are all undefeated despite sub-par efforts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chargers have easiest path to playoffs


The San Diego Chargers certainly have the path of least resistance to the NFL playoffs.

Who wouldn’t want to be in a division with the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders (none ranked higher than 25th of 32 teams in ESPN’s preseason poll?)

The Chargers can definitely afford another 1-3 start because a 7-9 record could win this AFC West division.

But there’s no reason to start so slowly.

Tonight’s season opener at Oakland is a virtual gimmie; La Dainian Tomlinson eats these guys alive in the Black Hole.

Then there are home games vs. the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins; neither of which looked real strong on opening weekend.

Week 4 is at the Pittsburgh Steelers, before a bye week.

The Chargers should be at least 2-2 at their bye; most likely 3-1. But again, no matter what the record early on, making the playoffs should be a breeze. (After all, five games against the AFC West from Oct. 19-Nov. 29 should put distance between the Chargers and the rest of the division.)

The big question marks with this team are pass defense, offensive line, and running back depth considering Tomlinson’s health the past two years.

But all things considered, with six games against the Weak Weak AFC West, the Chargers should finish 10-6 or better this season.

It would be enough to earn at least one home game in the playoffs, and then we go from there.

The ride should be smooth; until January. Then, the real season begins.

Prediction:
Chargers 27, Raiders 7

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patriots over Eagles in Super Bowl?


Tom Brady is back. That means so are the New England Patriots.

Michael Vick is back. The Philadelphia Eagles should go to the Super Bowl; but that doesn’t mean because of him.

As the NFL season kicks off, the pick from this corner is for the Patriots to defeat the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Sure, there are other contenders.

The San Diego Chargers are in such a weak division that they should cakewalk to the playoffs. (ESPN predicts any of 24 teams could win the AFC West if they were included with Denver, Kansas City and Oakland.)

You can never discount the Pittsburgh Steelers. After all, they are the defending champs.

In the NFC, Drew Brees could surprise and lead the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl. (Don’t expect as much from Brett Favre in Minnesota; if the Vikings go all the way, it might be despite him.)

Of course, there are always surprises. So let’s get to our 2009 predictions:

AFC West:
San Diego, Kansas City, Denver, Oakland.

AFC East:
New England, Miami, New York Jets, Buffalo.

AFC North:
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland.

AFC South:
Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville.

NFC West:
Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis.

NFC East:
Philadelphia, New York Giants, Dallas, Washington.

NFC North:
Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit.

NFC South:
New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay.

AFC Wildcards:
Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

NFC Wildcards:
New York Giants and Minnesota.

AFC Championship:
New England over San Diego.

NFC Championship:
Philadelphia over New Orleans.

Super Bowl:
New England over Philadelphia.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mountain West among the best in college football


One week into the college football season, the Mountain West Conference is already showing why it is among the best.

Or did you not notice that the conference was 2-0 vs. the Big 12 as:

BYU beat the then No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners, 14-13 (and knocked out returning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford for quite some time.)

Colorado State upset the home team Colorado Buffaloes, 23-17.

Sure, it’s only one week; and there is a long way to go.

What does this prove?

Among other things, the Mountain West should be included in the BCS.

Sadly, the Big East Conference – which did not have a ranked team going into the season – gets an automatic BCS berth.

The Mountain West has three teams better than anybody in the Big East: BYU, Texas Christian and Utah.

It’s unfair that any one of those teams will have to go undefeated to get into a BCS game … yet an 8-4 team out of the Big East is an automatic BCS entrant.

Until college football goes to a playoff to determine the national champion … and includes the Mountain West in the BCS … the postseason must be considered a joke.