Editor’s Note: Lee submitted his locks before the games he called on Sunday, so we can confirm that although they were posted after the fact, no tampering has been done to alter Lee’s record in any way. Not that he really cares about his record anyway. But still, the guy’s known for his honesty ‘round these parts, and we’d like to keep it that way.
Around the NFL, the New England Patriots are now 10-3. I’d say that’s a pretty good record, and it was former coach Bill Parcells who once famously said that ‘you are who your record says you are’. I’m actually not buying into that in this particular circumstance, however. On Sunday last, the Pats beat the moribund Washington Redskins, 34-27 and did so when Washington QB Rex Grossman threw an interception on the Redskin’s final drive instead of tying the game (or *gulp* going for two and the win). This same Redskin’s offense still managed to generate 27 points, 463 total yards, 25 first downs and were also 50 percent effective on third down against New England when they were averaging 16.8 points per game previously.
The Pats may be 10-3 today, but this is a recipe for 0-1 again in the playoffs because I’m thinking that the teams in the postseason will likely be a tad better than the Redskins.
Next Up? Why it’s the Tebow-led Broncos in Denver where New England hasn’t won since 2003. As T.O. would say: ‘Getcha’ popcorn ready’.
Pittsburgh LB James Harrison is busy working on an NFL suspension. He’s likely the last one to get away with anything, but his vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland QB Colt McCoy leaves little doubt that he’s headed for NFL Purgatory and deservedly so. There’s playing hard, and there’s playing brutal, and Harrison definitely falls into the latter category. The NFL has in fact handed down a one-game suspension, which will cost him $73,500. What this mean is whenever he’s flagged for a personal foul that is reviewed by the league office and warrants any action, there will likely be a suspension associated with it, and they get longer – not shorter. Harrison is a football player, playing football, but he’s been guilty of lowering his head when tackling, and that’s the problem because he’s not using his shoulders, he’s using his helmet.
Who would you rather have directing your football team in the fourth quarter for the deciding score if your choices were Eli Manning and Tony Romo? It’s easy for me because if I could do anything at all to avoid it, Romo would not be the quarterback on my team. Dallas has now blown three fourth-quarter leads of 12 points of more just this season. That’s more than they had in the previous 51 years for the franchise. Romo may not be the entire problem, but he’s not part of the solution either.
In the NCAA, congratulations go out to QB Robert Griffin III of Baylor on his 2011 Heisman Trophy Award, which annually goes to the college player who submitted the best overall season. Griffin led the Bears to a 9-3 record and No. 16 in the BCS in his junior season with some electrifying plays running and throwing the football. Baylor’s nine wins represented their best record in 25 years. He also managed to beat out Andrew Luck of Stanford, who finished second behind Griffin.
He’s now a junior, and it will be interesting to see if he pursues the NFL draft next year.
In baseball, NL MVP Ryan Braun has gone from hero to zero in a matter of just weeks. The Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder was recently accused of using banned substances from league-conducted drug test results and could face a 50-game suspension to begin the 2012 season. We’ll find out if those Wisconsin fans have a sense of humor. And if they have a sense of forgiveness.
With Stanford QB Andrew Luck likely to go with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, we’re keeping tabs on who is presently qualifying for that lofty position and likewise, the rights to select what many claim is to be the best quarterback prospect in the last decade, if not the last couple of centuries.
The current Luck Leader field:
The Colts seem quite intent on winning the contest, even though the Rams and Vikings are providing competition--although if not for some very poor officiating in the Minnesota-Detroit game this past Sunday, the Vikings would have another win and would be out of the running.
“When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been being played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close ... I mean we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers." -- Deidre Pujols (wife of baseball player Albert, who signed a 10-year, $250 million dollar contract with the Angels, leaving the St. Louis Cardinals).
I’m really relieved to hear that this had absolutely nothing to do with money.
After a 3-2 week, I went right back to the NFL because, well, I’m a glutton for punishment, that’s why. Where else can you take your lumps and have doing it?
I again went after five teams and really didn’t feel that great about any because the unpredictability factor is too high for any comfort level and I try to avoid the no-brainers.
My first game had the New Orleans Saints at the Tennessee Titans and I was back and forth on this one because it was outside, the Titans needed it badly and an unfamiliar team for Drew Brees. In the end I picked New Orleans, and they backed me up with a 22-17 final.
I then had a toughie with the Houston Texans at the Cincinnati Bengals, and although Cincinnati hasn’t beaten anyone really noteworthy, they needed this game to stay in the Wild Card chase, so I went with Cincy to win. Speaking of wild, I watched a good portion of the game and couldn’t believe it when former third string quarterback T.J. Yates marched the Texans down the field for the winning score with two seconds left in the game. You had to feel good for the rookie with his mother in the stands in tears even though I had picked the other guys. Yates is looking like a fifth round steal so far. Houston won an exciting ending, 20-19 for their first-ever AFC South title, courtesy of good play by them and non-existent play by former champs, Indianapolis.
Next up was the Kansas City Chiefs at the hated New York Jets and with KC laying a hammer on the Bears last week in Chicago, I figured another close game, but went with New York to take it at home, which they did by a 37-10 trouncing.
I figured the Chicago Bears at the Denver Broncos would be another good one and for three quarters, it was – for the Bears. Then the Broncos tied it up as usual in quarter number four to send it into overtime. Chicago had everything going for them and actually got into Robbie Gould field goal range when the unthinkable happened: Marion Barber got a case of the droppsies and Denver recovered. Matt Prater then issued a 51-yard field goal, which gave Denver and me, the win, 13-10. The Bears are now on the outside looking in at the playoffs and Denver is in the number one spot in the AFC West.
I then picked the New York Giants over the Dallas Cowboys thinking that New York was turning things around some and Dallas was non-committal about winning the NFC East and wanted to keep us all in suspense. Well, the plan is working to perfection and the G-Men narrowly rewarded my confidence by a very slim 37-34 margin.
With a 3-2 record the previous week, I have to feel okay with this week’s 4-1 mark knowing that most of my wins were by slim margins. Since going strictly NFL over the past five weeks, I’ve managed a 19-5 record, which I can’t complain about, but I can’t seem to get that elusive 5-0 week, though and it likely just won’t ever happen.
The NFL playoff race is really taking shape, and there’s still a lot of teams in the mix--although this weekend will decide whether many will even have a chance at the postseason, even if they get help from someone else.
The first one is compelling because although the Chicago Bears (7-6) once looked formidable, losing QB Jay Cutler is proving that they are next to nothing without him, but their defense is top notch. They host the Seattle Seahawks (6-7) who are clinging desperately to any playoff aspirations although whichever teams loses, you would have to think that they will be watching the playoffs on TV because they have no margin for error.
Next up is the Detroit Lions (8-5) at the Oakland Raiders (7-6), and although the Lions – with Ndamukong Suh back from a two-game suspension – could possibly survive a loss, Oakland cannot, having fallen out of first in the AFC West. The Packers mopped up the field with the Raiders at Lambeau last week and the Lions escaped with a win against the Vikings at home thanks to some questionable officiating when the Vikings were poised to score the go-ahead touchdown. This is a good match-up.
Then we have the hated and despised New York Jets (8-5) heading to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles (5-8), and while New York is playing some good football right now, it’s not against top tier competition and the Eagles have Michael Vick back, while the Jets placed safety Jim Leonhard on injured reserve this week. Philadelphia is not yet out in the playoff hunt thanks to the Giants beating Dallas, so the Eagles have a lot of reasons to play with their season on the line.
For my next selection, I have the New England Patriots (10-3) at the Denver Broncos (8-5). This is about as complex a choice to make as I can imagine. Tim Tebow can’t seem to lose and the Patriots are dead last in the NFL defending the pass, but they rank at No. 13 against the run. That’s deceiving because they allowed Washington (No. 31 rushing in the NFL) to gain 170 yards on the ground last week. Someone on New England’s defense will have to account for Tebow, but the X-factor here could be TE Ron Gronkowski for the Pats. Last Sunday, two Redskin’s defensive backs tried to tackle the ‘Gronk’ after a catch, but they never brought him down, and instead he shook them off and ran another 15 yards before being tripped up by a third. That’s the kind of mismatch that could make a difference in this ballgame. Brady’s only won here once, and he’s due for another.
Pick: New England
For the last game, I have the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) at the San Francisco 49’ers (10-3) on Monday night. This is an excellent match-up between two good football teams, but the Steelers have a disadvantage with the situation regarding the ankle sprains of QB Ben Roethlisberger and C Maurkice Pouncey and their availability and/or effectiveness, and then they will be without the services of OLB James Harrison, who has been suspended one game by the league (as noted previously). San Fran is coming off a tough loss to Arizona and will likely be in a foul mood.
Pick: San Francisco
The Tim-Tebow era in Denver has brought about an unbelievable amount of attention and controversy. The Bronco fans love him and basically lobbied for him in a big way to get the starting nod and with the team then mired at 1-4, he got his chance and subsequently went an amazing 7-1 (so far) in the process. The amazing turnaround isn’t all Tebow – football is a true team effort – yet the attention is being showered on him mainly because many claimed he couldn’t be a starting NFL quarterback and he’s proving them wrong.
It’s a great story that basically says that you can do whatever you want when you put your mind to it and believe in yourself.
The other side of it is the many who don’t like the public display of his Christianity, which he routinely shows whenever something significant happens during a game. We see that a lot where athletes will point to the sky when they score a touchdown, hit a home run, score a goal, or whatever it is that is significant in their particular sport. I have a hard time with Albert Pujols telling us that God told him to play for the Angels, but otherwise, I don’t have an issue when an athlete displays his or her faith in such a manner.
They could be doing worse things in my mind.
When you hear Tim Tebow talk about his faith, he genuinely believes that he’s fortunate to have done the things he’s done and to be able do the things he loves to do. Yes, there’s a time and a place for everything, and even though I happen to drop down on my knees to pray every night, I do it privately. I do know that no matter how successful you are and how much you’ve accomplished, there is no guarantee that it will ever happen again. In a world where we see or hear of horrendous acts performed against each other every single day, I can definitely handle seeing someone get down on their knees when they score a touchdown or whatever the case may be.
In a country that doesn’t want to offend anyone, we avoid mentioning God. Religion is inconvenient when there’s far more important things to do, and when a Tim Tebow comes along and casually reminds us that some people find it okay to believe, we squirm and even denounce, because, well, it’s wrong that he should do that. They likely think that the NFL officials should throw a flag for excessive celebration.
I find that Tebow is very refreshing, and if he chooses to get down on his knees, then the least we can do is respect the fact that he feels strongly enough to do that and lives in a country where it isn’t a crime to do so.
At least not yet.
Get this: Chicago Bear’s wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested in connection with a drug sting operation by federal agents. Hurd was in the market and looking for 5-10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana per WEEK. Here, you have an NFL player who is under contract, and he’s looking for drugs to distribute on a regular basis, and he’s thinking big, not small, and now he has basically flushed his life down the proverbial toilet in the process. If he’s found guilty, he’ll likely not only go to federal prison, but his NFL career will almost certainly be over. Commissioner Roger Goodell is all about forgiveness when someone makes a mistake, but all that cocaine and marijuana hardly constitute a simple mistake.
Have a great week and stay out of trouble,
An inner voice said, "What about the AFC, jerk?" Lee answers his inner voice here with AFC picks.
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