Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rob's Fearless (And Usually Wrong) 2015 NFL Predictions!

Why not?

1) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): I don't see any team in this division capable of going 12-4. Can Sam Bradford actually start sixteen games? I don't see that, either. I also don't see Chip Kelly keeping the attention of this team over that stretch, either. But they're the best team in a mediocre division.

2) Dallas Cowboys (8-8): If they can't run the football (thanks for taking Darren McFadden!!), we're back to 400 yard passing days for Romo, with a key interception along the way to kill comebacks or allow another team to steal a win.

3) New York Giants (6-10): Eli Manning's shelf life will be shorter than his brother. The Manning dynasty's best days are behind them. Teams should be able to score at will on the G-Men this year.

4) Washington Redskins (3-13): With the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft......

1) Green Bay Packers (12-4): This division has the potential to be the best in the league. Note the word potential. Aaron Rodgers makes receivers better. One player won't replace Jordy Nelson's numbers, he'll spread the love. Pack fans have nothing to worry about. NOTE: MUST beat Seattle next Sunday for home-field advantage in January.

2) Detroit Lions (9-7): On the cusp playoff team here. They desperately need a legitimate second wideout to free up Johnson to only double teams (!) and, of course, they need someone to replace Suh up the defensive middle. I think they'll be okay.

3) Minnesota Vikings (9-7): Also on the cusp. It's all about Bridgewater and who steps up to be his go-to weapon. If Peterson even has a decent season, the Vikes will be in it. But they have to go to Green Bay week 17 while Detroit gets....

4) Chicago Bears (5-11): John Fox won't be able to keep this dysfunctional bunch moving in the wrong direction. Will probably go 1-5 within the division, maybe 2-4 if they can beat Minnesota and Detroit at home.

1) Atlanta Falcons (11-5): I can't see Ryan, Jones, White, etc. missing the playoffs again. I can see Dan Quinn immediately bringing improvement to the defense, first by confidence, second by using schemes to take advantage of the talent they do have. But I won't be surprised if they win a lot of 34-31 games, something Quinn's not used to.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): My surprise team of the NFC. Not a playoff team, but Winston gets them a couple of wins, and a healthy Doug Martin can be very dangerous.

3) New Orleans Saints (7-9): Where is the defense? The loss of Jimmy Graham isn't the issue.

4) Carolina Panthers (5-11): It will be a struggle this year for Cam Newton and the Panthers. Their defense takes a step back, and losing Kelvin Benjamin was 10 times worse for them than Green Bay losing Jordy Nelson.

1) Seattle Seahawks (12-4): Even without Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks find good players for that defense, which certainly proved me wrong in 2014. Russell Wilson doesn't strike me as a player who goes complacent now that he has the big contract, and if Fred Jackson stays healthy....he and Beast Mode are very good friends from their Buffalo days. Could easily be the best running combo in the league.

2) San Francisco 49ers (9-7): Everyone is writing off the 49ers. I think Jim Tomsula uses this a la Harbaugh (but not as ingratiating) and takes the "underdog" team to a better than expected season. Obviously, multiple players must step up defensively, but Torrey Smith is a good pickup and I'm hoping Tomsula allows Kaepernick to be himself. Run the read-option. Let him run. It got you to the Super Bowl three years ago, remember?

3) St. Louis Rams (6-10): Is this the last year for Jeff Fisher?  Is this the last year in St. Louis, period? This season could end up like "Cleveland 1995" if ownership isn't careful. Foles must stay healthy, and there's no one in the backfield healthy enough to scare me if I'm a DC.

4) Arizona Cardinals (4-12): Collapse. Carson Palmer becomes Carson Palmer again, Larry Fitzgerald is another year older. Changes on the defensive side don't help.

NFC EAST: Philadelphia
NFC NORTH: Green Bay
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta
NFC WEST: Seattle
WILD CARDS: Detroit, San Francisco

BYES: Green Bay, Seattle

Atlanta over San Francisco
Detroit over Philadelphia

Green Bay over Detroit

Seattle over Atlanta

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Green Bay over Seattle (payback....)

1) New England Patriots (11-5): They won't be as dominant as they were down the stretch last year, but they're certainly in the Super Bowl conversation. Until we see a definitive slip in Tom Brady, don't bet against him. How much do they miss Vince Wilfork?

2) Buffalo Bills (10-6): I think this is the year they return to the postseason. Tyrod Taylor manages the game, and if McCoy and Spiller stay healthy, they could run the ball down your throat, then let their defense do the rest. Time of possession is huge. Now, if the oft-injured aforementioned go out, flip the record. Or worse.

3) Miami Dolphins (7-9): They start well, and, as usual, nosedive after the leaves fall. Brief MVP talk for Tannehill in late September, followed by "bench him!" by early December. And that's it for Philbin....

4) New York Jets (4-12): I really like Todd Bowles. But this is just a mess. In fact, if the Redskins didn't exist, the Jets would be "team dysfunctional". I'm sorry, Jets fans.

1) Baltimore Ravens (10-6): A good final year for Steve Smith, another good season for Forsett, as he may be about to turn 30, but he has plenty of wear left on his tires. Add the always tough defense, and the Ravens survive the wars of the AFC North the best.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7): Big Ben isn't as big as last year, but he'll have a good season. It's all about the defense at Heinz Field this season. They rise and fall on their fortunes, or lack thereof.

3) Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): This is it for Marvin Lewis. Four playoff "one and dones" followed by missing the playoffs this year, and there's simply no justification to keep him after all these years, and chances. They need to sign AJ Green to eliminate distractions. And, as much as I like the guy, there will be calls to replace Andy Dalton before the year is out. Good news? Jeremy Hill will be a beast and become an elite NFL running back.

4) Cleveland Browns (6-10): Quick, name five important players! I said important, so that eliminates Manziel.  :)

1) Indianapolis Colts (13-3): Winner by default, sweep the division, best record in the NFL. They get Brady, Brees, and Peyton Manning all at home, only tough December game is at Pittsburgh.

2) Houston Texans (8-8): Bryan Hoyer will do reasonably well. Would've done better with Arian Foster starting Week 1. JJ Watt equals at least two wins on his own. They'll sweep Jacksonville and Tennessee.

3) Tennessee Titans (4-12): Rough first season for Marcus Mariota. Very few weapons. Gonna be a tough season.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): They tie Washington for the worst record in the league, and still can't get the #1 pick in the draft. More coaching changes coming in 2016. Here's hoping Josh Wells gets healthy soon!! I do like TJ Yeldon at running back. They need him desperately, as Julius Thomas could be the biggest free agent bust of the year.

1) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): Jamaal Charles wins the rushing title, Alex Smith continues to be somewhat underrated, and actually throws a TD pass to a wide receiver. I really like their defense. They need to win 20-17 games. They'll lose games that are 31-27.

2) San Diego Chargers (9-7): Circle October 12th. A win over Pittsburgh that night could clinch the #6 seed in the playoffs. Rivers is fine, Woodhead is fine, Melvin Gordon could compete for Rookie of The Year. But again, they'll be a team that needs to score 30 a game because their defense may allow 25 per game....

3) Denver Broncos (6-10): It finally happens. The quick decline of Peyton Manning is in 2015. Hate to see it, because history will judge him harshly for going 1-2 in Super Bowls while his rival, Tom Brady, went 4-2. No running game to speak of, and he can't chuck the ball 50 times a game anymore.

4) Oakland Raiders (5-11): Improvement for my favorite team, but if you can't win a few games in your division, it makes it hard to go 8-8. Carr was better than I thought, I was wrong about Mack, and I love Amari Cooper. But teams will double team him and dare Carr to go elsewhere, and we don't have a good second option.

AFC EAST: New England
AFC NORTH: Baltimore
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis
AFC WEST: Kansas City
WILD CARDS: Buffalo, San Diego

BYES: Indianapolis, New England

San Diego over Baltimore
Kansas City over Buffalo

San Diego over Indianapolis
New England over Kansas City

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: New England over San Diego

SUPER BOWL 50: Green Bay 30, New England 24: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix deflects the game-winning touchdown in the final minute in a classic case of role reversal, and Aaron Rodgers holds Lombardi for the second time. Appropriate that the winner of Super Bowl I will take #50.

Enjoy the season! You now know, since I said this, it likely won't happen.  :) :)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dusty Rhodes...

I'm sitting here decompressing from a brutally hot day of state tournament action, complete with an electrical storm with torrential rain, reminded of the sad news of Thursday as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, aka Virgil Runnels, had passed away at age 69.

Knowing a bit about the professional wrestling lifestyle, and trying to help my son avoid as many of its pitfalls as possible, I can only imagine how many nights closed one bar while Ric Flair and the Four Horseman closed another because, God forbid they be seen "in public...if you will..." together, breaking kayfabe. Rhodes and Flair were killing each other earlier at the Coliseum, they cannot "wine and dine" at the Marriott afterwards.

Boy, was the business different back then. But for many of us in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, for a long time, Dusty Rhodes was a larger-than-life figure we saw mostly in Pro Wrestling Illustrated at Standard Drug Stores. He was mostly in Florida, then in Georgia on Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS. That's where his legend really grew, then finally coming to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984, where he reset the bar for babyface promos.

Before him, you had some great babyfaces in the ring: Ricky Steamboat, Johnny Weaver, Wahoo McDaniel (who I also felt made a terrible heel when cast that way. He always seemed constipated to me), but no Dusty Rhodes.

In under two years, we knew about being the son of a plumber, about hard times, about wining and dining with kings and queens and also eating pork and beans.

Which brings me to my earliest memory of wrestling. 5pm Saturdays on WTVR-TV6. Saturday night was hot dog and baked beans night and we ate watching Rip Hawk, Swede Hanson, the Anderson Brothers and more.

But I digress. While in my top five talkers in wrestling history, Rhodes isn't number one. But he accomplished something no other wrestler, in my opinion, has ever done, and that is be the superstar babyface without a great physique, but compensating by connecting to the fans on the mic and in the ring like few have, or will ever do.

Rest in Peace Dusty. And thank you!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Surreal Saturday.....

It's early Sunday morning as I get a chance to type this, trying to decompress from a myriad of emotions. This will be done in a stream of conscious matter, just allowing me to get out everything I continue to process.

--Prince George County, where I pastored for nine years, is devastated to learn of the death of a Royals senior who died en route to her graduation at the football field. I cannot imagine the heartbreak her family is enduring right now, and how in the world I could ever serve a family in that deep, deep level of sorrow.

--A 44-year old woman in Hanover that many of my friends knew is senselessly murdered. My heart breaks for her family, and my friends.

--My brother lost his mother-in-law today, as she suffered a massive stroke Friday and never regained consciousness. My heart breaks for my sister-in-law, as I know how it feels to lose your Mama, for my niece and grand-niece. My brother preaches on in the morning, and I agree with his decision. I preached 12 hours after my Mom passed. Had to. Totally therapeutic.

--I'm just sorry we cannot come and support our North Carolina family. Margaret's funeral will be on Rachel's graduation day. There's nothing that can be done about it. It is all in God's timing and He understands, and we trust in His handiwork. We will miss them, but we know how proud they are of Rachel, that is for sure.

--I was honored to officiate a beautiful wedding late this afternoon in Innsbrook as Lee Coe and Rebecca Windle became husband and wife. The weather held out well, the ring bearer and two flower girls, ALL of whom were TWO, played their parts perfectly! I tripped up a couple of times (yes, ministers get nervous, too!), and their sand ceremony was the best I've seen. What a work of art, and great representation of two becoming one. I asked the Lord to hold off the rain until after 7pm. As I left around 7:15, the rain began.

--Off I went to Deep Run as Clover Hill and Douglas Freeman was in a rain delay. I arrived for what would be the final five innings of a ten-inning game that, actually, had already been decided. Clover Hill would score a run in the sixth, Freeman would answer, then we stayed tied until the tenth when Clover Hill scratched one across, then ended things to win 2-1 and clinch a 5A State Tournament berth.

--Only it wouldn't happen. Douglas Freeman filed a protest mid-game about their opponents using a pitcher one inning too long per VHSL rules. I get home, do some dishes, reload Twitter and it has exploded with questions about the protest. I work and work to confirm it independently. I talk w/a local TV station. Finally, we went with a confirmation just after midnight.

--I have a great interview with two elated Clover Hill players, including the one who scored the winning run. The video now stays on my phone. I am so, so disappointed for the Cavaliers, who have to be devastated that in, maybe an hour's time, they went from jubilation to the news that their season was over. Reporting that news is a part of my craft I do not enjoy.

--I also don't like goodbyes. So as news came that both Hanover and Glen Allen softball lost their Region Semifinal games in Tidewater today, I thought of great seniors whose careers are now over. Specifically, I think of Eryn King, Hanover second baseman, who never failed to yell, "HI ROB!" when she would see me approach the diamond on game day as she practiced or warmed up. Hanover softball won't be the same without her. Our loss is VCU's gain.

--Oh, and today was the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation. Standing in Monroe Park across from what was then "The Mosque" in 1985, I can remember a moment standing there, asking myself where would I be, what would I be doing in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years....

--The answer to the "30 years" question is now laid out before you. Some days pack so much in, it may take a day or two to simply process it. And I'd better do it quickly.

Because Tuesday's coming. And I gotta be on my "A" game when my baby walks across the stage at Siegel and gets that diploma.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank You Dave.....

I've only attended two television tapings in my nearly 48 years. 

On June 16, 1983, me, my Dad and my brother-in-law Dave got in line in "beautiful downtown Burbank" and witnessed the maestro. It was "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". His guest that night was Robin Williams. You cannot imagine. The comedy during the commercial breaks was unbelievable.

There it was, the stage, Doc, Ed, the orchestra, Johnny's famous desk. I saw the magic work before my very eyes. At just shy of my 16th birthday, it was nothing short of a phenomenon.

Late night television had a profound effect on me, my attempt at wit, my philosophy on humor (I'm a huge proponent. Jim Valvano was so right: laugh every day. A good laugh, too.) The summer before my trip to California, my weeknight viewing consisted of Benny Hill at 11pm, Johnny Carson at 11:30, then David Letterman at 12:30. 

Ah, David Letterman. 

Now, I can honestly count myself as among the few to loyally watch his ill-fated morning talk show in the summer of 1980. Our Richmond affiliate never aired it, opting for the "Good Morning Movie". So I'd have to run outside, twist the ground-based antenna to the north so I could pick up, with snowy success, WRC-TV Channel 4 in Washington, who did air the program.

Edwin Newman had news updates during the show. Let that sink in for a moment. Want to see one? CLICK HERE.

Alas, it didn't last long, but NBC realized what didn't work at 10am would do pretty well at 12:30am. And here came Dave.

I forget the pundit who said this recently, but as Carson was the quintessential talk show host, Letterman was the "anti-host". He literally turned a genre that had been dominated since its inception for decades by Allen, Paar, Carson, Griffin, Douglas, tore it apart, and rebuilt it from a different set of eyes. And, for me, watching comedy from this prism was mesmerizing.

Example: Out of nowhere, cue an idyllic scene that reminds you of "The Sound of Music", then start that song, but when you get to "Muuu---sssiicccc!", cut to a shot of a stick of butter and have long-time announcer Bill Wendell growl, "Buuuuttttteeeerrrrrrrrrr!". 

Simple. Brilliant. Capable of inducing doubled-over laughter. I was 14 when Late Night premiered. Watching Letterman during my high school years was gold.

Chris Elliot screaming out of the studio. Asking the person at the laundry mat to overfill all the washers with detergent. Oh, and, back to the "The David Letterman Show" for a second, the wedding reception whose last scene was people using fire extinguishers to stop tons of petals that were released but caught fire due to some snafu, all as the credits rolled and the hired band played on.

David Letterman is the very definition of "surreal".

Which is why Dave didn't get "The Tonight Show", though he most certainly deserved it. NBC wanted safe. Traditional. Leno could give you a "Carson-like" performance. NBC wasn't ready for Dave, even after having him for over a decade. He also wasn't a "company guy" (right, GE? Like, you couldn't accept a lousy welcoming gift??).

So, for many people for whom Letterman was their cup of tea, there will always be the shots. Leno beat him, Letterman isn't funny, and, in later years, Letterman is old and bitter.

I'll agree with the latter. I've gone through long periods without a Dave fix. His final years at NBC were part of that "bitter" stage, but could you blame him? It was going to affect his comedy, that should have been a given.

I left Dave, very disappointed, again several years back when his political joking just became downright rude. He should have stuck with his mentor's stand on that issue. Johnny Carson dished it out evenly for decades. Letterman couldn't hide his far-left beliefs. 

I figure if Dave and I ever met for lunch, we couldn't talk 20 seconds about politics, but we would likely spend 20 hours on life, comedy, and observing the human condition.

But there are things about me my own wife doesn't care for, yet, she's still beside me tonight as I write this, patiently waiting for me to scratch her back.  :)

So, despite his flaws, and we all have them, I've chosen to look at all the comedy brilliance he's provided me for 35 years these past few weeks, and I've squeezed every moment out of his final broadcasts.

Man. What I'll remember from Late Night and The Late Show.....

---Jane Pauley on helium
---The rotating screen show
---Larry "Bud" Melman (especially his opening of the first CBS show, busting through the center of the "Eye" to proclaim, "This is CBS!")
---The suit of Alka-Seltzer
---The fastest grocery bagger
---Jay Thomas' Holiday Football Challenge
---Sue Hum
---Racing through the Rockefeller Plaza hallways
---The "water sprayer" along 53rd Street
---Rupert Jee (I ate at his deli. DELICIOUS!)
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by an opera singer
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by Barry White
---And pretty much every Top 10
---Wahoo, Nebraska
---The two original members of the "World's Most Dangerous Band": Paul Shaffer and Will Lee
---Every word Paul ever uttered to add the punch to the monologue that Ed McMahon did for Johnny
---TV's and Watermelons thrown off the roof
---Viewer Mail
---The revival of "Stump The Band"
---Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler
---Any trip to a drive-through
---"And DOWN the stretch they come!!"
---The Late Night Monkey Cam
---The 9/11 Monologue
---Having his doctors and nurses on his first show after heart bypass surgery
---Jamming the Jamba Juice across the street with superheroes
---Biff Henderson (especially reporting from any sporting event)
---Pies with Dave's Mom
---The Olympics with Dave's Mom
---Frankly, anything with Dave's Mom

and, of course, "Will It Float??" (based on the British game, "Is it Buoyant?")

There's so much more. Dave tapped a side of comedy not seen in 1980 on television, just as my generation was coming of age. The combination and timing couldn't have been more perfect.

I do hope he finally finds some peace in his "retirement", whatever that may consist of. I suspect he'll spend, and cherish, lots of time with his son Harry. He will find much more life value there than in any spat with a woman with just one name (Cher, Oprah, Madonna)...

And I'm just glad I got to experience that other television taping, when, on August 25, 2008, my wife and I entered the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Late Show. I had to be the most animated fan in the crowd that day. 

So I don't need to be at another TV taping. Carson, then Letterman. What in the world could be better than that?

I leave you with my all-time favorite Top Ten list, from his first week on CBS. Again, simple, but brilliant, and Dave being Dave, willing to share in the comedy, as the master of the countdown, Casey Kasem, pays a call.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just a few random thoughts....

Wow. I'm on Blogger all the time, but never seem to have time to blog. Well, here.

So, I'm making myself rest after a trip today, first to cover Randolph-Macon volleyball in Ashland, then up to Spotsylvania to perform a wedding ceremony for a fantastic couple.

1) Gotta Walk: It's prime walking season, and I've got to take advantage. Humidity's gone, heat to follow, and before we get to 5pm sunsets, I've got to go find out which houses are for sale in the neighborhood. The Richmond Heart Walk 5K last Saturday was a little easier than last year's. I never walk 5K in my neighborhood, so it's the "annual ultimate test". I'm still a work in progress, 18 months after the heart attack, and 12 years after the sleep apnea diagnosis kicked off this era of "chronic illness".

2) Surprised? For some people who know me, and see me at football, field hockey, volleyball, and other events.....the last part of Item #1 may come as a shock. What you don't see is the scheduled down times where I make myself rest up, the many hours I'm sleeping, or when doing things online, doing them while in bed resting. Otherwise, the still undiagnosed nausea likes to kick in, sometimes in debilitating fashion. Rarely I can fight through it, 98 percent of the time I cannot.

3) A Thousand Kids: Covering high school and college sports helps me stay mentally young, it really does. It makes me have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, as much as I can, helps me understand my two adult kids better, too. Poor Rachel, sometimes she gets jealous of how much some student-athletes appreciate what I do. But I remind her, I feel like I have a thousand kids around the area, and it's an honor to cover every one of them, as well as get to meet their families. BUT....I only have two CHILDREN. They know who they are. :)

4) TV Analyst??: I went to Comcast at the request of the American Heart Association to do a TV interview for their public access channel to promote the Heart Walk. If you know me, you know I chose radio for a reason: I'm NOT television material. Imagine my surprise when I get a Facebook message from Cheryle Rodriguez asking me to come back to tape a segment talking about the NFL and players from the area!

So, Friday morning, we had a wonderful time talking about Russell Wilson, Jake Wells, Antone Exum, etc, etc. I wish I hadn't mentioned Percy Harvin, who was traded to the Jets within hours of taping! (GRRR...)

If you want to see me enjoy a conversation while looking uncomfortable on TV, it's Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8:30 on Comcast 95, and FiOS 36.  :)  I'd be honored to return sometime.

5) Change: Our cottage industry, HCS Media Network, is undergoing some changes to, hopefully, help it further reach its fullest potential. That'll be my focus Sunday afternoon while watching/listening to Red Zone.

That's my story. For now. What's yours?  :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Rob's Fearless 2014 NFL Predictions!!

Well, here we go again. The one sport where I take a little time and actually try to make some preseason picks that, normally, look pretty stupid when we finally get to mid-January.

But, hey, it's all in fun, right?  So, here we go....

NOTE: I went through all 17 weeks and predicted winners of every game to come up with these forecasts...


1) Philadelphia (11-5): Just too many weapons offensively, especially with Sproles in the mix. They won't miss Jackson like many think they will, with Sproles available to help McCoy breathe (and leave something in the tank for the postseason). Nick Foles will likely be in the top 5 in passing categories, but, unlike a guy like Matthew Stafford, the stats will mean something.

2) Washington (7-9): It's the porridge season of "just quite not right" for the Redskins as they can't make the playoffs, but don't collapse under the weight of a knee brace. They lose a couple they shouldn't, then go build on this for 2015, if they can hear each other due to the hue and cry for a nickname change, which, IMO, will happen in the next one to two years.

3) New York Giants (6-10): We're a year away, if history is an indication, from another Eli December to February ultimate comeback to lead his team to the promised land, though I think that window has long since closed (and I'm a Giants fan! Wait 'till you see what I do with my Raiders!!). Victor Cruz always has some sort of physical problem. Randle isn't a #1 receiver. Loved the Rashad Jennings pickup, though, much to my chagrin on my Raider side. The defense doesn't wow me, either.

4) Dallas (3-13): Their worst season since Troy Aikman's rookie year. Romo to Bryant won't be enough, Murray won't stay healthy. They'll have to put up Madden '15 type offensive numbers because the defense will


1) Green Bay (13-3): Imagine a healthy Aaron Rodgers last year. He's back, Eddie Lacy has had an off-season to improve. Lacy will improve Rodgers, as Rodgers won't have to throw for 350 plus a game for victory. Time of possession, too. They'll miss BJ Raji, but they're okay defensively. I like the Packers.

2) Chicago (10-6): And it could've been better than this, but the Bears, in typical recent Bear fashion, will stink up the joint a time or two when they'll be favored to win. This is ALL predicated on a healthy Jay Cutler. That's all we'll say about that.

3) Detroit (7-9): New coach, same result. Lots of yards for Stafford that mean little; Johnson gets triple teamed, still catches balls, but no running game, and holes in the defense put the Lions in, again, the middle of the pack.

4) Minnesota (7-9): Mike Zimmer is a good coach; very good hire for the Vikings. He'll bring discipline and better defensive performance. Now if they had a decent quarterback to throw to Patterson and Rudolph so that AP didn't think he has to save the day every Sunday....


1) New Orleans (11-5): Many analysts with much higher profiles than mine, reading their Super Bowl picks, think the Saints go to the Super Bowl if they can ever clinch home-field advantage. I'm not sold on that. But if Drew Brees can develop one more receiver to go with Colston and Graham (that offense has always needed that third option to keep the best of defenses on their toes), the Saints could go to a place like Lambeau in January with a shot to win. Whatever happened to Mark Ingram?

2) Atlanta (8-8): They upset the Saints to start the year, but never find a groove. No big winning or losing streaks, and Matt Ryan and company finish 8-8. Jackson is again, Rodgers may not be the RB answer, and there are big questions defensively. But at least, for the sake of the franchise, they bounce back from '13.

3) Carolina (8-8): I see a SLOW start for Carolina, so much so that some will throw in the towel after Week 8 or 9. But Newton will heal, Kelvin Benjamin will have a monster second half of the season to run away with the Rookie of the Year awards (sorry, Johnny!), and they'll go 6-2, 5-3 down the stretch to get ready for '15. Carolina needs to find an Alfred Morris-type RB in the draft, say goodbye to their current group (save Tolbert, the bruiser). Give Cam a 1,500 yard durable back with that defense, and we're talking Carolina in the mix for home-field advantage instead of 8-8.

4) Tampa Bay (5-11): Little Known Fact: No quarterback named McCown has ever won a Super Bowl. Sorry, Lovie.


1) Seattle (10-6): As do most "defensive Super Bowl Champions", the Seahawks return to the pack this year. It's only a hot December that gives them the division crown. So the road to the Super Bowl won't go through the 12th Man this year, and the 2014 Seahawks will have happen to them what happened to the 1986 Bears, 2001 Ravens, and 1976 Steelers. Credit to the 1975 Steelers, though, for bucking this trend. It won't be duplicated this year.

2) San Francisco (10-6): This is being generous to the 49ers. Their defense is falling apart due to needing...defense...attorneys. Harbaugh's ability to keep a disciplined team together is in question (and rightfully so), but that's just what ol' Jim will use, the "us against the world, next man up" mentality to nurse the team through a rough season with key late wins to make the playoffs with the final wild card spot. It's time for Colin Kaepernick to start throwing for 35 touchdowns, though, as Frank Gore's "Best By" date quickly approaches....oh, can't wait to see Marcus Lattimore finally get a chance. I hope he's healthy enough to do so.

3) St. Louis (8-8): Yes, 8-8. Shaun Hill is miles ahead of the plethora of backups the Rams had to play last year. If they can get ANY semblance of a running game so Hill could really use Tavon Austin with the full playbook....and their defense is maybe the best in the league. They'd better keep games in the teens, though. The Rams will be the team you won't see on the big screens at Buffalo Wild Wings unless they play glamour opponents (or you live in St. Louis), because the average fan doesn't go nuts for a 13-10 defensive war. I love those games. I'm in the minority.

4) Arizona (6-10): Washington gone, Dansby gone, age a factor, and Carson Palmer can't possibly play like that two straight years, right?  Or be healthy, right?  Last year had to be a case of everything going right, and they STILL missed the post-season (and I felt bad for them, they played some good ball last year). Fitzgerald and Peterson can't do it alone.

NFC EAST: Philadelphia
NFC NORTH: Green Bay
NFC SOUTH: New Orleans
NFC WEST: Seattle
NFC WILD CARDS: Chicago, San Francisco


1) New England (12-4): No one comes close. They sweep the division to win by four games and are a threat, yet again, to reach February 1st. What else can you say? Brady will play like Brady until the one opponent he can't defeat, Father Time, catches up to him. Remember, this is his 15th season, 13th as an active starter.

2) Miami (8-8): The first of two division teams that have decent seasons even with quarterback doubts. Charles Clay emerges as one of the best all-around tight ends this year that people DO know, and the Dolphins are in the wild card mix to the end, joining....

3) Buffalo (8-8): Yes, it's finally the year that Manuel, Spiller, Jackson ALL stay healthy. Decent receiving by committee while Watkins gets going keeps them afloat. It's the defense that will need to improve to allow this .500 record to become a reality. On a side note, for the sake of keeping the Bills in Buffalo, Western New York fans NEED to still be in the playoff chase going into Weeks 16 and 17. I'd hate to see the Buffalo Bills become the Los Angeles Whatevers...

4) New York Jets (5-11): The bubble bursts. Geno is a bust, Vick gets hurt, and by Week 14, the Jets are starting Who Knows What at quarterback. Chris Johnson is spent, Eric Decker wonders what he was thinking during free agency, and there's not much defense, either. Time to clean house.


1) Pittsburgh (10-6): A bounce-back season in a tight, tough division. Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley finally get along. That counts for half off the offensive success of any team. They finally started the youth movement on defense (a year too late, IMO), and in this division, ten wins can get you the title.

2) Cincinnati (9-7): A tough out at home, but poor road performances and a rough first-place schedule (at New England, at New Orleans....) hurt my baby girl's Bengals. On top of that, you cannot underestimate the loss of both coordinators to head coaching positions. Gruden and Zimmer had more to do with recent success, IMO, than Marvin Lewis did. Having said all that, Dalton and A.J. squeeze the 6th and final playoff spot.

3) Baltimore (7-9): Something's just not right here. The talent is there, but, for whatever reason, the Ravens go much the way of last season, not being able to win the big games that they did late in 2012 to start the Super Bowl run. One reason?  Even though they struggled down the stretch that year, they'd already played well enough to be in the January tournament. That won't be the case this season. The NFL's enigma resides in Baltimore.

4) Cleveland (6-10): Browns fans dying for Johnny Football won't like this final mark. It isn't because Manziel comes in mid-season and goes 4-4. It's because Hoyer does just enough every week to keep America's Post-Curfew Darling on the bench. It's the perfect combination to drive Browns fans crazy: Hoyer does enough, the defense is really the reason they win six, but Pettine can't find it in his heart to pull the trigger. Let the off-season of angst, wait. Browns fans have Lebron to cheer for again, so they're good into spring. They'll get riled up by Draft Day.  :)


1) Indianapolis (12-4): When you don't have a quarterback....quick, who else is starting in this division after Andrew Luck?  The Colts have another great season from #12, run through most of the division, but won't be a huge threat come playoff time, even though they'll earn the #1 seed thanks to regular season wins over both Denver and New England. They'll be perceived by some as an overrated top seed.

2) Houston (7-9): There's too much talent on this defense not to have Houston turn it around to an extent. Arian Foster stays healthy, too. But the quarterback position.....oh, boy.....

3) Jacksonville (7-9): My surprise team of 2014, and I didn't even know until I did the game-by-game predictions!  The Jaguars have a favorable schedule, and I think Bortles will see the field and do okay. Not Andrew Luck rookie season okay, but okay. No one will take them seriously, and a few teams, after playing them, will wish they had.

4) Tennessee (6-10): I like Ken Whisenhunt, but what does he have in the cupboard to work with? Jake Locker? Quick: name a healthy wide receiving threat?  One reason why all these teams get to six wins is that they'll beat up on each other. Even the Colts will lose one inside the division.


1) Denver (12-4): It won't look like last year; no one romps with such precision as the 2013 edition of the Broncos, but they'll get it done, including an early November win at New England to clinch the #2 seed. Defense improves, slightly (big names aren't the answer, a cohesive unit is), but losing Decker, and now Welker for four games, and having Wes a hit away from the IR makes this run more difficult.

2) Kansas City (10-6): I just can't bet against Andy Reid. Such a consistent coach and with Smith, Charles, Bowe, etc, they'll be good again. Not quite as good as last year, as again I see an NFL with 30 of 32 teams closer to each in parity this year, but good enough for a playoff berth.

3) San Diego (7-9): They return to earth after their late run last year. They should sign Ryan Succop to a minimum deal just to say thank you for helping them get that post-season berth. I expect Mathews to return to his fumble-prone, injury-riddled self, and Danny Woodhead can't do everything....

4) Oakland (1-15): Oh, my Raiders. I normally say "4-12" by default, but not this year. Our best RB is gone, we have no receivers, so Derek Carr has no one to throw to. We didn't draft a Matthews for left tackle, so protection is still a concern. Justin Tuck and Lamaar Woodley....remember when the Raiders got so many retreads and got good years out of them?  One of the reasons Al Davis was successful doing it was he could tell which players still had tread on the tires and which did not. Jim Plunkett struggled with injuries and didn't play for a few years, so, once he was healthy and serving as Dan Pastorini's backup, he was healthy with gas in the tank. Dan breaks his leg, Jim takes the Raiders to the first of two Super Bowl titles. We don't judge those decisions that way any longer. Al didn't do it in his final decade, Mark ain't doing it either.

So maybe a #1 pick can help rebuild the future for my Silver and Black. Because they're on track to get it.

AFC EAST: New England
AFC NORTH: Pittsburgh
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis
AFC WEST: Denver
AFC WILD CARDS: Kansas City and Cincinnati


WILD CARD: New England over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh over Kansas City
DIVISIONALS: New England over Denver, Pittsburgh over Indianapolis
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: New England over Pittsburgh

WILD CARD: San Francisco over Philadelphia, Seattle over Chicago
DIVISIONALS: Green Bay over San Francisco, New Orleans over Seattle
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Green Bay over New Orleans

SUPER BOWL XLIX: Green Bay 31, New England 27

Enjoy the season!!!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I'm On Thumbtack--UPDATED: LINK WORKS! :)

No, no, not physically ON a Thumbtack..... :)

It's!  A place where those in need of professionals in specialty areas look for help!

If couples are in need of a wedding officiant, or someone is in search of a photographer for some work, I am available!

I just began there last week, so working on building the ol' client base, but in the meantime, to view my page and see if there's something there I can help you, a friend, or colleague with, JUST CLICK HERE!

And thanks!