Saturday, October 21, 2006

October(sports)fest

This is truly the greatest time of the year - the World Series starts tonight, with the heavily favored Tigers hosting the happy-to-be-there St. Louis Cardinals. The NFL is in full swing, college football is raging, NHL hockey (not that I care) is starting up, and the NBA is on the horizon.

Before we got to the Week 7 NFL picks, just a couple of words on the scintillating Game 7 of the NLCS. The picture to the right (courtesy of Getty) tells a thousand words. The ump is in classic strike three pose, Cardinals catcher - and hitting hero - Yadier Molina is sky-high, Mets hitting stud Carlos Beltran is left to ponder the Uncle Charlie he just stared at, and the Mets fans are just beginning to let thoughts of a long, cold Northeast winter sink in. The series itself lacked a lot of defining moments, but the seventh game more than made up for it. The spectacular catch by Mets LF Endy Chavez still boggles the mind. He timed his leap perfectly, and I still can't believe the ball didn't fall out of his glove as he slung his arm back over the wall. Scotty Rolen can't believe it either. How about the pitching performances of Jeff Suppan and Oliver Perez? Before the game, it was probably the most underwhelming pitching duel in seventh game history, but both did themselves proud. Then you had the aforementioned Molina (of the Molina baseball factory) uncharacteristically popping one out of the park to give the Cards a 3-1 lead. Just a great baseball game all around, and while I think the Tigers should win it all, I'm glad the Cardinals - who could become baseball's version of the hard-luck Buffalo Bills - are there. I couldn't stand to watch one more Tom Glavine outing - watching him pitch is like watching an 80-year old pick out apples at the grocery store. Excruciating.

Okay, onto the National Football League. The record was 6-7 last Sunday, making the season mark 40-30-3. Without any further ado, here's this week's slate:

San Diego (-5) @ Kansas City: Yes, the Chiefs do boast an incredible home-field advantage, and yes, they did get absolutely blown off the field last week against Pittsburgh, so yes they should play a little better. The Chargers, however, are dramatically better than the Steelers and should lay another hurting on KC.

Jacksonville @ Houston (+9): Lots of talk over whether Byron Leftwich's balky ankle will allow him to play this one. Even if he doesn't go, the Jags have a good backup in David Garrard and they are clearly the superior team. Jacksonville will win, but look for the Texans to play tough at home and cover.

New England (-5.5) @ Buffalo: I know the Bills play the Patriots tough, but here's the deal. Give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for a team he's already seen once this season, and I like our chances quite a lot. The bye week hopefully gave some of the newer receivers (Gabriel, Gaffney) a chance to get more acclimated to the playbook, and the Bills can't stop the two-headed running machine of Dillon & Maroney, Inc. Pats are the call.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) @ Atlanta: The Steelers aren't as good as they played last weekend, and the Falcons may be as bad. Ron Mexico Vick has to be one of the most overrated players in the game, quite a contrast between the conservative, game-managing Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers should cover.

Green Bay @ Miami (-5): The Joey Harrington Experiment continues. When I think about this game, I just get visuals of Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas wreaking havoc on Brett Favre and the Pack's weak running game. Could actually turn into an entertaining game, but I'll take Miami. Every dog's gotta find a few bones now and then, right?

Philadelphia (-5.5) @ Tampa Bay: Some people feel as though the Bruce Gradkowski Era is underway. I say the Eagles D takes care of the rookie QB, and Philly recovers from last week's tough loss to the Saints.

Detroit (+3.5) @ NY Jets: Jets, Mets, Nets, they all suck. The Jets, in my mind, are vastly overrated and haven't won a game this year against a winning team. I know the Lions aren't a winning team, but they'll move one step closer with Jon Kitna and Kevin Jones having their way. The misery continues in New York, which is just a crying shame.

Carolina (+3) @ Cincinnati: Probably the best game on the board this weekend, which isn't saying much in the National Parity League. Carolina's been squeaking by opponents, while the Bengals have stumbled since getting blown out by the Pats in Week 4. In the end, the Panthers' D - and Delhomme, Smith, and Foster - make enough plays for the victory.

Denver (-4.5) @ Cleveland: Through five games, Denver's offense is averaging 12 points per game and the stingy defense is giving up an average of 7. Pretty incredible, and some pretty incredibly boring football. Expect more boredom, with Denver coming out on top, 12-7.

Washington (-8.5) @ Indianapolis: This one is strictly a bet on Clinton Portis. I know the 'Skins lost a tough one to Tennesee last weekend, but the Titans also played the Colts pretty well in their matchup. Call me nuts, but I'm liking Washington to cover in this one.

Minnesota @ Seattle (-6.5): No one enjoys a stronger home-field edge than the Seahawks. Vikings QB Brad Johnson will need a bullhorn to communicate with his offense, and the guess here is that they'll have an all-around miserable day. Lay the points with Seattle.

Arizona (-3) @ Oakland: Where do we start? While the Cards suffered a monumental collapse Monday night against the Bears - and Mt. Denny Green is still probably spewing lava - the one positive was Matt Leinart's performance. The kid looked good, and he'll want to impress back in California. If the Cardinals don't win this one, Green's in trouble.

NY Giants @ Dallas (-3.5): The Monday nighter should be a good, competitive ballgame, and could come down to a field goal. Dallas, though, is strong against the run which could make Tiki Barber want to retire even sooner. T.O. should get his touches. Cowboys win by six.

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