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.

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: 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."

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.

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.

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.

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?

Packers 31, Vikings 23