Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 16 Picks

It’s the second last week of the NFL season and things are heating up, with eight teams in the running for the AFC wild card spots and just three serious contenders on the other side.

Last week I had another off-week, going 9-7 thanks to a big win by the Giants to keep them in the playoff picture. My record now sits at 134-58. You’ll notice these picks are a little more hastily done than in previous weeks, but hey – it’s a busy time of year! Here are my picks for this week:

San Diego (11-3) @ Tennessee (7-7)

My pick: San Diego

-As much as I want to see the Titans make the playoffs, they’re playing the Chargers at the wrong time of year. San Diego has won nine in a row, including wins over Dallas and Cincinnati the last two weeks. One factor in this game could be the Chargers resting starters, as they’ve already clinched their division.

Buffalo (5-9) @ Atlanta (7-7)

My pick: Atlanta

-The Falcons and the Bills might both be out of the playoff race, but both teams will be playing for pride this weekend. The Falcons are coming off a win over the Jets after a three-point loss to the Saints. They’re a far better team than their record suggests as injuries to key players have ravaged their lineup.

Kansas City (3-11) @ Cincinnati (9-5)

My pick: Cincinnati

-For the third straight week, the Bengals will be trying to clinch the AFC North title. After losses to Minnesota and San Diego they will finally get the win they need against a Chiefs team that has lost four in a row.

Oakland (5-9) @ Cleveland (3-11)

My pick: Oakland

-Just for a laugh, I’m going to pick the Raiders this week. It’s basically a crapshoot anytime Oakland is playing a game you think they should win, or a game you think they should lose. Take their wins over Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Denver, for example. They’ve been playing with more confidence as of late though, and I think we’ll see that this weekend.

Seattle (5-9) @ Green Bay (9-5)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Packers need this win to keep their place in the wild card slot of the NFC – and Seattle is 1-6 on the road and coming off a loss to Tampa Bay. The Steelers beat the Packers last week by a single point, but prior to that Green Bay had won five in a row so I don’t see any reason they won’t win this weekend.

Houston (7-7) @ Miami (7-7)

My pick: Houston

-This is a huge game for both these clubs – just two of a whole bunch of teams fighting for position in the AFC. I’m going to give it to Houston though, because Matt Schaub is due for a big game and the Texans are riding a two-game win streak. The Dolphins fell short in a big comeback last week against the Titans; I just think Schaub is more capable of winning this one than Chad Henne is.

Baltimore (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (7-7)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Steelers snapped a six-game losing skid last week against the Packers, but the Ravens have been playing strong football for about the last month or so, winning three of four after going through a bit of a rough patch. This is another big game in that AFC playoff race, but I’m not convinced that the Steelers are over whatever’s been plaguing them the past while.

Carolina (6-8) @ NY Giants (8-6)

My pick: New York

-The Giants are coming off a masterful performance against Washington last week where they absolutely dominated, getting themselves back on track after a loss to the Eagles. The Panthers became just the second team to beat the Vikings this season last week, but they’re out of the hunt, while the Giants still have a lot to play for.

Jacksonville (7-7) @ New England (9-5)

My pick: New England

-After losing three of four games, the Pats seem to be back on track with wins over Carolina and Buffalo. The Jaguars came close to beating the Colts last week, but have lost three of four. I’m picking Tom Brady and the Pats to rise up to the challenge and get past the Jags.

Tampa Bay (2-12) @ New Orleans (13-1)

My pick: New Orleans

-The Saints are coming off their first loss of the year, but I expect them to bounce back this weekend against Tampa. The Saints have some tight games this season, they’ve had to battle from behind a few times – so they’ve faced some adversity during the season. New Orleans has locked up a playoff spot, but look for them to try and make a statement this weekend.

St. Louis (1-13) @ Arizona (9-5)

My pick: Arizona

-The Cardinals bounced back after a disappointing loss to San Francisco with a win over the Lions last week – look for them to do the same against the lowly Rams this week. They bounced back in a way too – losing 16-13 after a 47-7 loss the week before, but I don’t think they’ve got enough to beat Arizona…unless the Cards just fall apart again.

Detroit (2-12) @ San Francisco (6-8)

My pick: San Francisco

-The Niners have been unable to string together consecutive wins since the first two weeks of the season and blew another shot at doing just that last weekend in a 27-13 loss to the Eagles. I think they’ll be able to handle the Lions though, so maybe they can end the season with a shot at back-to-back wins!

Denver (8-6) @ Philadelphia (10-4)

My pick: Philadelphia

-The Eagles have been a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East, winning five in a row to capture their divisional title. Donovan McNabb has been on fire as of late, and the team will get a boost this weekend with Brian Westbrook back in the lineup, even if his role is limited.

NY Jets (7-7) @ Indianapolis (14-0)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The Colts may end up resting some of their starters this weekend, but the Jets showed why their record isn’t better than it is last weekend by doing what they’ve done all season long – turning the ball over too many times. Mark Sanchez has looked good at times this season, but until he takes care of that side of his game, he won’t reach his potential.

Dallas (9-5) @ Washington (4-10)

My pick: Dallas

-As bad as they’ve been in December, the Cowboys need to pull it together for this weekend’s match up with the Redskins. Right now they’ve got one of the wild card spots in the NFC, but they need to put some points on the board to stay there. The Cowboys are coming off a win over the Saints, which I’m sure they hope was them turning the page on a rough month.

Minnesota (11-3) @ Chicago (5-9)

My pick: Minnesota

-In their last game, the Vikings fell flat against the Carolina Panthers and since then, there has been all kinds of news about a rift between coach Brad Childress and QB Brett Favre. Both sides have downplayed the issue, and you know they’ll both be hoping the team looks like it did before last week. The Vikings have played great for most of the season, I think they’ll get past all this and finish strong.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Horsing Around

So a horse walks into a bar, and the bartender asks "why the long face?"

Zenyatta, the five-year-old mare who capped her 14-0 career by becoming the first female horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, then explained her second place finish in the Associated Press's Female Athlete of the Year voting.

Yes, you read that right: a horse finished second in Female Athlete of the Year voting.

Tennis star Serena Williams was the only human to outperform Zenyatta the horse, winning by a huge margin of 48 votes. Is this year's class of female athletes that bad that they had to open things up to other species just to get some good competition going?! That's unbelievable!

Williams won Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the Tour Championships and three Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus this year, so is well-deserving in that respect. But some people don't think she deserved the AP honour because of an on-court outburst during a US Open semifinal loss to eventual tourney winner Kim Clijsters, during which she apparently threatened to shove the ball down the bleeping throat of a line judge for calling a foot fault on her previous serve.

Either way, I feel pretty bad for Clijsters - the first unseeded woman to win a US Open and the first mom to win a Grand Slam title since 1980 - she didn't deserve to win the Athlete of the Year title, but she probably deserved to finish ahead of a fricken horse!

Between this AP business (which some people are blowing way out of proportion) and the female ski jumpers losing their final legal challenge in their bid to compete in next year's Winter Olympics, it's been a pretty rough day for women's sports.

Hopefully the ski jumping situation can be sorted out before the 2014 Olympics, because they're obviously passionate about getting in there and competing.

At the very least, all the press over this in the past while will hopefully get more women into the sport!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

Edmonton’s last three games were all about comebacks, but unfortunately each result was a loss following a string of five straight road wins.

In a 3-2 loss to the LA Kings on Tuesday, the Oil stormed back from a 2-0 deficit only to give up a goal with about 4:30 to go in the third period (for the second time this season vs. LA).

On Thursday night it was Edmonton with an early 2-0 lead, but they gave up four unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators, who scored three times in less than five minutes at one point.

The final game of the week for Edmonton saw them plunder another 2-0 lead, while giving up another four unanswered goals – this time in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.

This week:

The Oilers wrap up a four-game home stand tonight against the St. Louis Blues and then hit the road for a game in Minnesota on Wednesday. There’s some holiday on Friday, but the Oil are right back at it on Saturday in Vancouver.

Edmonton desperately needs to string together some wins to avoid falling too far behind. Coming into this week, they’re at the bottom of the Western Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot.

Blues @ Oilers
Monday Dec. 15th - Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-In a sort of ironic twist, the week before the Oilers gave up four straight goals in two straight games, they scored five unanswered in a 5-3 win over the Blues in St. Louis for their fifth straight win. The Oil have lost three straight since then, while the Blues are 2-2, coming off a 3-1 win over the Canucks on Sunday night – the first game of a four-game road trip. St. Louis is 5-4 so far in December and they sit a point out of last in the West. The team is led offensively by forward Brad Boyes, who has 22 points, but there are a handful of players hovering around the 10-goal mark. Defenseman Erik Johnson is having a solid season averaging almost 22 minutes per game, with 21 points from the blue line. Goalies Chris Mason and Ty Conklin are both capable of standing on their heads to steal a game, but neither has done so too often this season.

Oilers @ Wild
Wednesday Dec. 23rd - Pre game: 3:30, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-In the post-equipment fire era, the Wild are 0-1, but they should be more comfortable in their new gear by mid-week. If you didn’t hear, the team’s equipment van caught fire last Friday and most players lost everything. It seems like a non-issue, but breaking in new gear (especially for goalies) can take a while. Anyways, the Wild have won nine of their last 12 games and, as of Monday, are 7-3 in the month of December. After a slower start to the season, they’ve been on a roll and are suddenly fighting to get back into the thick of things. Right now the Wild are three points back of Vancouver for third in the Northwest division and wrap up the month with four of their last six games taking place at home, where they’re 10-3-1 this season. Mikko Koivu, younger brother of Saku, leads Minnesota in scoring with 10 goals and 33 points and Andrew Brunette is right behind him with 29. Goalie Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding might still be adjusting to their new gear by Wednesday, which could be a bonus for the Oilers.

Oilers @ Canucks
Saturday Dec. 26th - Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The last time the Oilers visited the Canucks, they were rocked 7-3 – in fact, Edmonton is 0-2 in Vancouver so far this season after coming out on top in the first meeting of the season. The Canucks have been a streaky team this season – they’ll win three, lose three; win two, lose two, etc. So while they’ve chalked up some pretty impressive wins, they’d still be on the outside looking in if the playoff started today. Coming into this week, the Canucks have lost 2-of-3 and are 6-4 this month. Henrik Sedin leads his team’s offense with 15 goals and 44 points and the Canucks have five players with at least 10 points on the power play, which means the Oilers will want to avoid taking dumb penalties. Vancouver has a core of forwards like the Sedin twins, Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson etc, that can all put the puck in the net given the opportunity, so it’ll be important for Edmonton to play sound defensively. They won’t want to get in a run-and-gun style game with the Canucks, because it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get much past Roberto Luongo; he’s allowed three or fewer goals in all but two of his last 16 starts.

Who's hot:

Robert Nilsson – Nilsson scored two highlight-reel goals against Nashville in a 6-3 loss last week and has eight points in his last nine games. He’s a -4 in his last three games though, which has to change.

Sheldon Souray – The veteran defenseman has been quiet offensively this year but has four points in his late three games. If the two-time 20-goal scorer can continue to contribute, it’ll mean good things for the Oilers.

Lubomir Visnovsky – Visnovsky has seven points in his last eight games and has moved into second on the team in scoring with eight goals and 25 points. He’s been a -1 in three straight games though, a stat the coaching staff would like to see less of.

What to watch for:

The goaltending situation – Jeff Deslaurier has started 14 straight games in the absence of Nikolai Khabibulin, who is still listed as “out indefinitely” by the team with a bad back. At some point, the coaching staff will have to let Devan Dubnyk start a game or two – or will they ride Deslaurier?

Who will step up? – The Oilers have had contributions from the vets, the young guys, the call-ups and the goalies at different points in the season, but never all at once on a consistent basis. Will they be able to come together and make a run for the playoffs?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 15 Picks

This week’s NFL schedule kicks off on Thursday night with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts in Jacksonville against a Jaguars team looking to keep hold of an AFC wild card spot.

That exact storyline will play out again in a rare Saturday night match up that pits the 13-0 Saints against the 8-5 Cowboys, who are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive.

After another solid bounce-back week where I went 12-4, I’m now 125-51 overall. Here are my picks for this week:

Indianapolis (13-0) @ Jacksonville (7-6)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The Colts are once again the real deal, like it or not. Peyton Manning has come up big whether it’s been a blowout, a nail biter or a come from behind situation, and they’ve had their fair share of each of those scenarios over the course of this season. The Jaguars are a good team, but are they good enough to dethrone one of the league’s two undefeated teams? I don’t think so. The Colts have serious threats at both receiver and on the ground, they’ve got a pretty strong defense, and if Manning is on his game (as he usually is), Indie will continue to a 14-0 record.

Dallas (8-5) @ New Orleans (13-0)

My pick: New Orleans

-Maybe it’s partly because I WANT to see the possibility of two perfect season continue for at least another week, but I’m taking the Saints to beat the Cowboys. Part of the reason that I think the Saints will take this game is the way they handled the New England Patriots at the Superdome a few weeks ago (a 38-17 win). They’ve won a couple of close three-point games since that win over the Pats, meanwhile the Cowboys have lost two in a row and three of five. Dallas is just 3-3 on the road this season and they seem to struggle in the month of December. I didn’t think much of that stat, but the fact is they continue to not win when they get to this month.

New England (8-5) @ Buffalo (5-8) 

My pick: New England

-This won’t be an easy win for New England, but at this point in their season they’re a team looking to prove that they’re still among the “elite” in the league. If you take away their win over Tampa Bay in London, the Pats are 0-5 on the road this season, while posting a 7-0 record at home. Tom Brady and company know that to get deep into the playoffs, they’ll need to do some winning on the road – this is a good place to start. The Bills have won two of three, but are coming off an unconvincing win over Kansas City and back-to-back weeks where they’ve put up no more than 16 points. They’ll need to do better than that if they hope to come out on top.

Cleveland (2-11) @ Kansas City (3-10)

My pick: Kansas City

-This is a real heavyweight matchup between two teams with a combined 21 losses in 26 games this season. I’m taking the home team in this one, even though the Browns are coming off a win over the struggling Steelers. KC running back Jamaal Charles is averaging about 90 rushing yards over the past five weeks, with four touchdowns during that span. Look for him to be a big factor in this game on the ground.

San Francisco (6-7) @ Philadelphia (9-4)

My pick: Philadelphia

-The Eagles are coming off consecutive wins over quality opponents (Atlanta, NYG) and have won four in a row coming into this week’s home tilt with the Niners. San Fran has been solid at home, but like the Pats, they are 1-5 on the road this season. DeSean Jackson is one of the best big-play receivers in the league this season, which spells trouble for the 49ers 27th ranked pass defense. San Francisco beat Arizona last week, but to me that was more a case of the Cardinals falling apart at the seams. The Eagles are on fire, and that will continue this week.

Houston (6-7) @ St. Louis (1-12)

My pick: Houston

-The Texans snapped a four game losing skid last weekend with a win over the Seahawks, and they are more than due for another win this weekend. They lost by three points two weeks in a row (IND, TEN), lost by eight to the Colts again then lost by five to the Jags the next week. Statistically, Matt Schaub is one of the best quarterbacks in the league with almost 4,000 yards passing and 24 TD passes. He’s due for a big game against the 1-12 Rams, who are coming off a 40-point loss to the Titans.

Miami (7-6) @ Tennessee (6-7)

My pick: Tennessee

-It would be a shame if the Titans came this far after an 0-6 start and fell short of a playoff spot, or wasn’t in the hunt until the end at the very least. The Titans lost to the Colts two weeks ago (no shame in that), but they showed what they’re made of with a dominant performance against the lowly St. Louis Rams the following week. Titans fans may have been worried that after having their win streak snapped, the team would revert to their 0-6 ways, but that wasn’t the case in a 47-7 win. The Dolphins have won four of five, but I’m pulling for the Titans.

Atlanta (6-7) @ NY Jets (7-6)

My pick: New York

-Without their starting quarterback and their starting running back, the Falcons have suffered losses in two straight weeks, though they were against Philly and New Orleans, two solid teams. The Jets meanwhile seem to have regained their early-season form, stringing together three straight wins. They’ll get a boost with rookie QB Mark Sanchez returning to the lineup (depending on which Mark Sanchez decides to show up). The Jets are in the hunt for a playoff spot right now and a win would really help them in that respect. I think I read somewhere that Sanchez hasn’t really ever played in cold weather before (being a California boy), so that may be a factor. That being said, I’m taking the Jets to come out on top.

Arizona (8-5) @ Detroit (2-11)

My pick: Arizona

-Arizona has been very inconsistent at times this season, and this is one of those times. After going 5-0 on the road to start the season, they’ve lost two away games in a row, including a pathetic loss to San Francisco last week where ALL of the Niners points came off Arizona turnovers. They have to protect the ball better than that, regardless of who they are playing – but they should be able to get back on track away from home this week against the Detroit Lions. Last week the Lions were thrashed 48-3 by the Ravens (you’d think a lion would win that fight, wouldn’t you?). This should be a game where Kurt Warner and the Cards can get back on track, and they’ve got the Rams next week – a perfect chance to cement a playoff spot.

Oakland (4-9) @ Denver (8-5)

My pick: Denver

-With former number one draft pick JaMarcus Russell at the helm, the Raiders were a terrible (turrrrible) team. After nine games, Tom Cable sat Russell down and gave the starting job to Bruce Gradkowski and the team won two of its next four games. Last week, Gradkowski pulled the MCL in BOTH of his knees, and the Raiders won’t be putting Russell back in, instead going with a guy named Charlie Frye. Now, to the other team – the Denver Broncos have won two of three and shouldn’t have much trouble with the Raiders, especially with their quarterbacking situation.

Cincinnati (9-4) @ San Diego (10-3)

My pick: San Diego

-The Chargers have won eight in a row and are easily one of the best teams in the league at this point – part of that is due to the resurgence of running back LaDainian Tomlinson. After getting into the end zone just once in the first seven weeks of the season, everyone was talking about LT was past his prime – well since then, he has nine majors in seven weeks. The Bengals are coming off a big win last week, but also the loss of a teammate this week. The death of Chris Henry has deeply affected the team, and that may make it hard to focus when it comes time to get back to playing football.

Chicago (5-8) @ Baltimore (7-6)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Ravens are still in the hunt for a postseason berth and are coming off a dominant 48-3 win, albeit over the Detroit Lions. The thing is, it was their first decisive victory since the start of November, a stat that will likely have them riding high coming into this week. The Ravens are a better team than their record shows, which has got to be frustrating. Laying a beating on someone, even a team like Detroit, at this point in the season could be what the Ravens need to get back in the right mind frame. Ray Rice is coming off a 166 yard rushing, 58 yard receiving performance, his best of the year, look for him to be a factor.

Green Bay (9-4) @ Pittsburgh (6-7)

My pick: Green Bay

-After an up and down start to the season, the Packers have started to play consistently when it counts, winning five in a row in the second half of the season up to this point. On the other side of the field is the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, who have dropped five in a row, including losses to Cleveland, Kansas City and Oakland. They’ve really fallen off, and I don’t think they’ve got what it takes to beat a surging Green Bay side. Both offensive lines have allowed their quarterbacks to get sacked an unhealthy amount this season, but GB’s Aaron Rodgers is winning despite that, while it seems to be taking its toll on Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.

Tampa Bay (1-12) @ Seattle (5-8)

My pick: Seattle

-The undoing of the Seahawks this season has been their play on the road (1-6), despite a 4-2 home record. Seattle has won two of three and two straight on home turf, going up against a Tampa team with just one win on the season. Neither team really has much to play for, so I’m going to stick with the fact that the ‘Hawks play much better when they’re not on the road.

Minnesota (11-2) @ Carolina (5-8)

My pick: Minnesota

-For just the second time this season, the Vikings are coming off a loss and for the second time, I think they’ll bounce back with a victory. The Carolina Panthers will be relying on their backup QB to run the offense this week, with Jake Delhomme ruled out with a finger injury…he’s got a daunting task ahead of him going up against the 40-year-old wonder, Brett Favre. Even worse for the Panthers, they’ve been known to give up serious yardage on the ground and they’ll probably see a lot of the league’s fourth-best rusher, Adrian Peterson. Only one player has more rushing majors this season that Peterson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs a few in this weekend.

NY Giants (7-6) @ Washington (4-9)

My pick: New York

-The Giants can’t let the Redskins play the role of spoiler this week – they’re the better team and they must play like it. If you like to read into obscure statistics, here’s one for you: the Giants are 0-5 when Eli Manning gets sacked more than once in a game and 7-1 when it’s once or not at all. Maybe it’s a confidence issue for Manning and his o-line, maybe it’s coincidence – but if you’re the Redskins, you’re trying to get to him as often as possible. If the Giants want to stay in the playoff picture, they need this win and I think they’ll get it.

Kerrzy's Notebook: A Little Help?


You know things are bad when you start asking the FANS for strategic help...

That's exactly what the NBA's Washington Wizards are doing right now, through a contest on ESPN.com. Obviously short of ideas after a 7-16 start to the season, the Wiz are asking fans to draw up a diagram of an inbounds play and send it in before December 23rd.

The website says the team will try to use the "winning" play during a game, hoping that it'll truly be a winner. It doesn't quite say what the prize will be (or maybe it does, but you have to be an "ESPN Insider" for more information) - but if all the winner gets is to see a losing team run their play, that's not much of a prize!

Who came up with the idea, I wonder? Did Flip Saunders just throw his hands up and say "well, I'm all out of ideas," one day?

Wizard's forward Antawn Jamison told the Associated Press "I'm sure it's something we will run in the first quarter, not something we'll be doing with the game on the line," but come on! Whatever they've been doing with the "game on the line" clearly hasn't worked up to this point so why not give it a go?

The amazing part of this story is that Washington isn't even the worst team in the league and they're resorting to this. Imagine what a team like the New Jersey Nets is doing behind the scenes! If you're not familiar, it took the Nets until December 4th to register a win, going 0-18 to start the NBA season (0-21 if you count the preseason).

It's actually a pretty funny story; do you know what happened?

Ashton Kutcher and the crew from Punk'd sent the Nets a phony press release from the league stating that, due to the recession, all games this season would be played half-court. Either that, or the Nets are just plain brutal.

While we're on the subject of the NJ Nets - over $500-million in bonds for a new Brooklyn arena for the team sold in two hours on Tuesday. My question is, these people know it'll be the NETS playing there though, right?

That sounds like as smart an investment as someone buying up a block of Phoenix Coyotes season tickets hoping to make money back by scalping them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers won all three of their games last week, beating the Panthers, Lightning and Blues and extending their road-win streak to five games - the first time in franchise history that they've hit that mark.

On Monday, Shawn Horcoff scored the shootout winner for the second straight game, adding a goal in regulation as the Oil beat Florida 3-2. Tough guy Zack Stortini scored the game-winning goal, adding an assist and a fight for the "Gordie Howe hat trick" in a 3-2 win over the Lightning on Wednesday. On Friday, it was Gilbert Brule with a pair of goals to kick-start the comeback as the Oil scored five unanswered in a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues.

This week:

The Oilers are at home for four games after a six-game stretch away from Rexall Place and three of those games fall into this week. The Oil host the Kings on Tuesday, the Preds on Thursday and the Capitals on Saturday.

It's imperative that Edmonton builds on that five game win streak that saw the team do a lot of things right, and battle back more than a few times to come out on top. Despite their recent success the Oilers still sit tied for 11th in the conference, just three points ahead of the last place Blues and Ducks.

The Oil are 8-5-2 through 15 games at home this season - they need to keep their confidence up during this next stretch of games by picking up as many points as possible.

Kings @ Oilers
Tuesday Dec. 15th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-First up for the Oil is the Kings, who had a four-game win streak snapped on Monday night in Vancouver and come into tonight's game having won seven of their last nine games. LA is one of those teams that has surprised a lot of people this season by winning as much as they have (in fact, they were the first team in the Western Conference to hit the 20-win plateau). They've been without former Oiler Ryan Smyth for a while though, and their power play has suffered big time because of that. For the first part of the season the Kings were led by Anze Kopitar, but since the team's last meeting with the Oilers, Kopitar (who led the league in scoring at one point) has just five points in 11 games. Another former Oiler, Jarret Stoll, is tied with captain Dustin Brown for second in team scoring with 25 points, while second-year defenceman Drew Doughty is right behind them with 24 points, three off his total from last season. In net, Jonathan Quick will likely get the start - the youngster is tied for second overall in the league with 19 wins so far this season.

Predators @ Oilers
Thursday Dec. 17th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers will face a tough test on Thursday against the Nashville Predators. In November, the Preds lost just four of 13 games played and won seven in a row and eight of nine at one point during the month. December has been pretty good to the Preds as well, as they've put up a 4-1-2 record through seven games as of Tuesday (and they host the Lightning tonight). Nashville is led by a veteran core of guys like Steve Sullivan, who scored a hat trick on Monday night to take the team lead in points with 22, Jason Arnott and JP Dumont, who are tied for second with 20 points each. Their blue line is stacked with young talent and a few heavy shots, which the Oilers will have to be cognisant of. Between the pipes, Pekka Rinne is one of those goalies that can really shut teams down if he's in the zone. Edmonton will have to continue to throw pucks at the net and keep Rinne busy.

Capitals @ Oilers
Saturday Dec. 19th - Pre game: 6:30, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Washington Capitals continue a four-game road trip tonight and on Friday in Colorado and then Vancouver before stopping in Edmonton for their tilt with the Oilers - as of Tuesday, they had lost two of three following a string of six straight wins. I don't think it's just a coincidence that goalie Semyon Varlamov has been hurt since last Monday, and all of a sudden the team has lost two of three games. Varlamov has an incredibly impressive 12-1-2 record this season, so not having him between the pipes would be a big plus for the Oilers, but they've got bigger concerns in guys like Alex Ovechkin, Ales Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green. Ovie and Backstrom lead the team in scoring with 37 points each, Green is five back with 32 and Semin sits fourth in team scoring with 32 points so far this season. The Oil will have to be very aware of where each of those guys are when they're out on the ice, because they've proven time and again that if you give them a bit of space they can burn you.

Who's hot:

Dustin Penner - With goals in three straight games and six points during that span, Penner is on fire right now. With 36 points in 32 games this season, he's now just one point away from tying his total from all of last season.

Jeff Deslaurier - Ever since Nikolai Khabibulin went down with a back injury, the rookie netminder was thrust into the role of Edmonton's starter - and lately, he's looking like one. In each of the last five games, Deslaurier has allowed three goals or less while making no fewer than 27 saves each game. His confidence is key to the Oilers success.

Gilbert Brule - After a quiet few games, Brule has four points in his last two games, including a two-goal effort against the Blues on Friday, which really got the team going. He missed practise on Monday though, so he's likely a game-time decision on Tuesday.

What to watch for:

Team confidence - The Oilers have had some huge come-from-behind victories, culminating in that win on Friday over St. Louis that saw them erase a 3-0 deficit. If they can continue to build on those efforts and maintain that level of confidence, they could find themselves storming up the standings.

Blue line boost - Brule and Sheldon Souray both missed practise on Monday, but the Oil got some great news with Denis Grebeshkov expected to be back in the lineup against the Kings. Grebeshkov missed 13 games with a knee injury and will give the team a big boost at the back.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Tiger Hangs 'em Up

The PGA Tour will have to find a new face for the sport of golf, at least for now.

Eldrick "Tiger" Woods announced Friday through his official website that he'll be taking an indefinite break from pro golf to try and "repair the damage" that he's done to his family through a string of affairs that have recently come to light.

Woods says he's taking time off so that he can focus on being a better "husband, father and person," but a British newspaper says part of the reason he's leaving golf (for now) is that his wife, Elin Nordegren, has given the billionaire an ultimatum: golf or her.

That's what was first reported by The Sun before being picked up by media outlets around the world on Friday. They say Nordegren has drawn up a strict list of "rules" for Tiger to follow if he wants to fix the marriage - adding this quote from a source:

"They have agreed to try and rebuild their marriage, but Elin will be the one calling the shots. It will be a long time before [Woods is] travelling the globe playing golf unless Elin's by his side."

Later on Friday, Woods posted this statement:

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try.

I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.

Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period."


Yeah, giving up golf is a big sacrifice for Woods, but lets be honest with ourselves here. The guy's a billionaire - he's basically playing for fun right now anyway. This is basically like him getting grounded and not being able to go hang out with his friends once he's done his homework.

His marriage is probably the bigger 'investment' to focus on right now anyway; if his wife leaves him, she'll leave with half his stuff, not to mention the millions upon millions of dollars she'll likely receive. Not that money is the reason he should try to patch things up with the wife, but I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from there.

Here's the other issue: how will the absence of the world's number one golfer affect the PGA? Can golf 'survive' without its number one draw?

Time Magazine has an interesting piece dealing with just that - they predict there will be a larger audience than expected tuning in to watch the next few tournaments.

Why? They say people will tune in to see how the networks handle the situation, what certain commentators say (whisper) about Woods, what other golfers have to say, and (in my mind, the weakest of all those arguments,) what a tour without Tiger "feels" like.

For me, the biggest thing to watch for is who will be the next up-and-coming pro athlete to be built up as the next wholesome, never-do-wrong guy...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 14 Picks

We're getting down to the time of year when games really start to mean something for a lot of teams - and week 14 kicks off with the Pittsburgh Steelers trying to halt a four-game losing skid and stay in playoff contention.

I'm looking to turn things around myself, after an 8-8 week where I think none of my gambles ended up paying off - I'm now 113-47 overall. Here are my picks for this week:

Pittsburgh (6-6) @ Cleveland (1-11)

My pick: Pittsburgh

-Losing four in a row can really hurt the pride of a team, especially when that team shouldn't be losing that many in a row in the first place - but playing the 1-11 Browns gives the Steelers a chance to bounce back and gain a little confidence heading into their final three matchups. That's not to say the Browns will just roll over because they're well out of the playoff picture - they've got an opportunity to ruin the season of the defending Super Bowl champs and you know they would gladly play the role of spoiler if they're given the opportunity. The Steelers have struggled, but each of their last four losses have been one score games (they lost by three points in three straight weeks!). Hines Ward is questionable with a hamstring injury, so the offence may be a little thin in parts, but this is a game that the Steelers MUST win, and as a veteran club I'm sure they'll pull it out.

New Orleans (12-0) @ Atlanta (6-6)

My pick: New Orleans

-The league's top-ranked offence will carry the Saints to victory on Sunday against an Atlanta D that has struggled to be consistent this season so far. On the other side of the ball, the Falcons are battling through injuries to key members of their team, like QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner, both of whom are questionable. Atlanta put up seven points in a loss to Philadelphia last week, and if they have any hope of beating New Orleans, they'll have to score a lot more than that. The Saints needed some lucky breaks to come out on top last week, but what we also saw was a team that refused to give up and battled hard all the way to an improbable victory over the Redskins in overtime.

Detroit (2-10) @ Baltimore (6-6)

My pick: Baltimore

-It has been a disappointing season for Ravens fans, but they should be looking forward to this weekend's tilt with the 2-10 Lions. They've won four-of-six at home this season, and they really need their vets to step up and make sure they don't let this one slip away if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Joe Flacco has been average over the past few weeks after starting the season with a bang - he's got a good opportunity to get back on track this weekend against the NFL's worst pass defence. After a big win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens came out and lost last week to Green Bay in the Monday Nighter. If they can't beat Detroit this week, they've got no business being in the playoffs anyway. Here's another little tidbit that Baltimore fans will be hoping plays in their favour - the Lions have lost 18 in a row on the road.

Green Bay (8-4) @ Chicago (5-7)

My pick: Green Bay

-The struggling Bears have lost four of five, and barely beat the lowly St. Louis Rams last weekend – things will only get tougher from here on out with the Green Bay Packers in town. Since losing to Minnesota, then Tampa Bay, the Packers have managed to string together four straight wins as they continue to battle for a playoff spot. Jay Cutler has had a tough go of it this season and going up against a cornerback like Charles Woodson could mean another afternoon to forget if you’re rooting for the Bears.

Seattle (5-7) @ Houston (5-7)

My pick: Seattle

-The Seahawks are a team I’ve had a tough time with this season – every time they get going, they seem to fall right back off. Right now they’ve won two in a row and are up against a Houston team that has lost four in a row since losing tight end Owen Daniels. Matt Schaub is statistically one of the best QBs in the game with 22 TDs this season – but his team hasn’t helped him out much. I’m going with Seattle.

Denver (8-4) @ Indianapolis (12-0)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The Colts have remained perfect this season despite some shaky performances and some tough tests – this will be another one of those tough games, with the Broncos winning two straight after a stretch of four losses. This will be a good game, but if the Colts can play like they’ve played all season long so far, they’ll come out on top. They’ve shown on more than one occasion in the second half of the season that, when faced with adversity against a good team, they can come together and pull it out.

Miami (6-6) @ Jacksonville (7-5)

My pick: Miami

-The Dolphins are a team that has been good, but not great this season – some game they’ve looked like worldbeaters, other times they’ve been in games, but just haven’t had enough juice. Case and point: they open the season with a loss to the Falcons, then almost beat the Colts in week two. They’re coming off a dramatic win over the New England Patriots last week, which is no doubt a huge boost for rookie QB Chad Henne’s confidence. This is a big game in terms of the playoff race too, with the Dolphins just a win back of the wild card spot currently held by the Jaguars.

Buffalo (4-8) @ Kansas City (3-9)

My pick: Buffalo

-One of the biggest disappointments of the season has got to be the Buffalo Bills – maybe even bigger than the team as a whole is the play of “star” receiver Terrell Owens. As NFL.com notes, Owens is playing for a contract in these last few games, so look for him to really step it up and try to show GMs around the league that he’s still got what it takes. He’s shown flashes of it in the past few weeks, but he hasn’t been consistently there. KC has just one home win in six games this season, so I’m going with the Bills to take this one.

Cincinnati (9-3) @ Minnesota (10-2)

My pick: Minnesota

-As good as Carson Palmer and the Bengals have been this season, the Vikings have been that much better in my eyes. Brett Favre is having the best season of his long and storied career, and part of that success is due to the great balance of the Minnesota offence. Adrian Peterson has racked up 12 rushing majors this season, and Sidney Rice has become Favre’s favorite target in the last several weeks, coming up with some big plays at the right time.

Carolina (5-7) @ New England (7-5)

My pick: New England

-It’s been a rough second half for the Patriots – they’re coming off a tough loss to the Dolphins and a beat down by the Saints the week before. As rough as it’s been on the road, they are 6-0 at home, which is bad news for the Panthers. As long as a midweek incident that saw a few players, including Randy Moss, get sent home from practice for being late doesn’t affect morale too much, the Pats are due for a win. Tom Brady is suffering from a few ailments but will play. He called out his team after their last loss and I expect him to step up and lead the Patriots to victory.

NY Jets (6-6) @ Tampa Bay (1-11)

My pick: New York

-Despite a rocky season, the Jets have won two straight and are looking to make it three as they find themselves in the hunt for the playoffs. They started the season with three straight wins, before losing six of seven, but they appear to be regaining their early form. The Jets won a scrappy one in Toronto last week, but they’ll likely need to play a bit better to win this one, even if it is against a team with only one win this season.

St. Louis (1-11) @ Tennessee (5-7)

My pick: Tennessee

-Despite a setback last week against the undefeated Colts, the Titans have really turned thing around this season. Much of that success has to do with quarterback Vince Young taking over the reigns – he’s been hurting this week with a sore knee, but says he’ll play against the Rams. If the Titans want to continue their march for the playoffs, they need to get past St. Louis, which shouldn’t be much trouble. They’ve just got to stick with what’s got them where they’re at right now after the past six weeks.

Washington (3-9) @ Oakland (4-8)

My pick: Oakland

-I think this is the first time I’ve picked the Raiders since the first few weeks of the season, but they’ve been showing signs of improvements as of late with Bruce Gradkowski at the helm. They’re coming off a big win over the Steelers and two weeks ago, they beat the Bengals. Who would have thought that would happen this season?! Both these teams are playing for pride at this point, and I think the Raiders have more to play for in that respect as it’s been a woeful season.

San Diego (9-3) @ Dallas (8-4)

My pick: San Diego

-The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in football right now, with seven straight wins – including wins over the Giants, Eagles and Broncos in that span. The Cowboys have been good, but not great as of late, and despite being at home I think they’ll drop this one against the high-flying Chargers. After a slow start to the season, LaDainian Tomlinson has been on fire in the past four weeks, finding the end zone six times (he has eight of his nine TDs in the past six weeks); look for him to be factor in this game.

Philadelphia (8-4) @ NY Giants (7-5)

My pick: Philadelphia

-In their last meeting, the Eagles pounded the Giants 40-17. This time around Eli Manning isn’t 100% and the Eagles have won three in a row. New York is coming off a big win over the Cowboys, but they were embarrassed by Denver the week before and just squeaked past Atlanta the week before that. It’s worth noting that the Eagles trounced the Falcons 34-7 last week, so they’ll be riding high coming into this game.

Arizona (8-4) @ San Francisco (5-7)

My pick: Arizona

-The Cardinals need this win to keep some distance between themselves and anyone else in their division. If not for a last-play drive into the end zone by the Titans two weeks ago, they’d be riding a five-game win streak into this game. Kurt Warner has put up scary numbers in his last four starts, with a passer rating over 120 in each of those games. A good game by Warner almost guarantees an Arizona win this week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: $1 Beer

It has been a while since the Edmonton Oilers played in front of a full house – in fact, it’ll be about five games after Friday’s tilt with the St. Louis Blues.

After that they’ll be back home for four games, though they may not recognize the winter wonderland our city has become – but hey, at least they’ll no longer be able to hear a pin drop while they play. Where am I going with this?

Well the NHL’s attendance struggles have been hard to miss this season. When you watch the Oilers on the road for example, more often than not you may find yourself becoming distracted by the blocks of open seats.

Case and point: Edmonton’s 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers on Monday, which had an announced crowd of 11,469 (though they must all have been sitting in the upper deck).

Photobucket

Before that game, they played in front of “15,860” fans in Dallas and “18,018” at The Joe in Detroit. I put those numbers in quotations because there is literally no way there was anywhere near that many people at either of those games!

So teams are obviously finding ways to boost their numbers, which the NHL seems to be okay with. That’s probably because if the numbers are decent, it makes the overall product look good, on paper.

For anyone that watches hockey on a regular basis though – it’s a real eye opener…apparently hockey isn’t as popular in certain parts of the US as we thought. Wait, no…it wasn’t us that thought it’d be popular in places where they still have summer while we have winter…

Anyways – I have a solution. Are you listening “sun belt” states?

Here it is: the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, who have the second worst home attendance in the league, will be playing on national TV for the first time in a couple of years next Wednesday when they host the Washington Wizards. How do they plan to fill the stands at ARCO Arena?

Three words: “Dollar Beer Night.”

Well, it’s “dollar beer until half time, or soda or water all night, night” officially. Either way – if that doesn’t sell tickets, you might as well pack up and seek greener pastures.

The NHL is so adamant that hockey will work in Phoenix, so here’s an experiment they can try:

Offer $1 drinks at Jobing.com arena for one month, and if the Phoenix Coyotes can’t get their average up past 10,000 per game – that is proof positive that it’s time to move on!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Friendly Fire

It's been a tough week or so for some members of the Florida Panthers - not only did they have to watch out for opposing players out on the ice, they've had to watch out for each other lately!

As the second period drew to a close in Monday night's shootout loss to the Oilers, Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen was channelling one-time Florida resident Bryan Marchment as he lined up Robert Nilsson for a hit that would very likely have put him back on the IR - the problem was, Nilsson dodged the check and Allen creamed teammate Gregory Campbell.

Yes, that's the second time in just over a week that a Florida Panther has taken out a teammate!


That hit follows Keith "Paul Bunyan" Ballard's accidental attempt to break his stick over the head of his goalie, Tomas Vokoun last Monday. Just for kicks, here's that video again incase you're one of the 10 people that hasn't seen it:



It's not the first time that Panthers players have had to watch out for each other on the ice - remember Richard Zednik? His neck was cut open by Panthers teammate Olli Jokinen back in 2008.



Back to the present though - in Florida's very next game following that chop on Vokoun, Ballard did what any self-respecting guy who had just taken out his own goalie would do - he took out the other team's goalie!

It was the last minute of overtime between the Panthers and the Avalanche and Ballard came flying down the right wing with the puck on his stick. He cut to the net, lost his footing and smoked Avs goalie Craig Anderson; then took a couple of sucker punches from Colorado defenseman Adam Foote.


You've really got to feel for Bryan Allen here though - he probably thought he was about to make the highlights for a crushing Scott Stevens type hit on an unsuspecting Robert Nilsson...instead, he takes out one of his own players.

He can take solace though in the fact that even the best players sometimes wind up bumping into each other:




It doesn't take much skill to accidentally run into a teammate - but what about making two opposing players knock into each other? Pavel Datsyuk made it look easy in this clip from 2007:



Collisions like these aren't just limited to hockey. I'm not really sure what happens here, but Michigan Wolverines receiver Junior Hemingway winds up being taken out at the knees by a teammate:



I guess the moral of the story is: keep your eyes open and your head up, especially if you play for the Panthers!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

It was a light week games-wise for the Oilers last week, and the extra rest paid off – they picked up wins over the Red Wings and the Stars as they hit the midway point of a stretch of six games away from Rexall Place.

Goalie Jeff Deslaurier bounced back from a shaky start against the Canucks with a solid 27-save performance at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday. Patrick O’Sullivan broke out of a bit of a funk scoring twice, and Robert Nilsson scored a highlight-reel goal in his return to action after almost a month out of action.

On Saturday afternoon, Lubo Visnovsky and Ladislav Smid scored for the Oilers in a 3-2 shootout win in Dallas.

This week:

The Oilers wrap up a six-game road trip with three games this week – first up they’re in Florida, then it’s Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

The team is riding a two-game win streak and will be playing all teams with similar records (Florida 27 points, Tampa 30 points, St. Louis 29 points).

Oilers @ Panthers
Monday Dec. 7th – Pre game: 4pm, Puck drop: 5:30pm; 630 CHED

-Despite having goalie Tomas Vokoun back between the pipes on Saturday, the Florida Panthers lost in a shootout – their seventh loss in their past eight games (three of those by shootout). Seven of their last 10 games have been decided by one goal, so you know they’re able to keep a game close. The trio of Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Steve Reinprecht lead the Panthers offensively, with 25, 24 and 23 points respectively. As always, it’ll be important for the Oilers to stay out of the box, but the Panthers have a low-ranking power play – if they can get Florida taking some penalties, Edmonton’s 12th-ranked power play could take advantage of a low-ranking penalty kill.

Oilers @ Lightning
Wednesday Dec. 9th – Pre game: 4pm, Puck drop: 5:30pm; 630 CHED

-As of Monday, the Lightning had lost four-of-five, but were coming off a shutout win over the NY Islanders. They’ve got one game before they meet up with the Oilers, at home to the Capitals, and then they’re on the road for six. The Lightning have been a real up and down team this season, much like the Oil, but they’ve been pretty solid at home, going 7-2-4 in their first 14 games at the St. Pete Times Forum this season. Second year forward Steve Stamkos leads the Tampa power play with 14 points (tied for third in the league), and also leads the team in scoring, along with Martin St. Louis at 30 points. Stamkos and Ryan Malone have 17 and 16 goals, the only Lightning players with more than 10 goals.

Oilers @ Blues
Friday Dec. 11th – Pregame: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED

-The Blues came into this season with high hopes, and those hopes seemed to be affirmed when they swept the Red Wings in two games over in Europe – since then, they’ve had a pretty disappointing campaign. As of Monday, St. Louis had won two straight though, against San Jose and LA, which you know will have them playing a more confident brand of hockey. Before they play the Oilers, they’ve got Colorado and then Detroit (who they are 2-0-1 against this season) – it’ll be good for Edmonton if those two game don’t go well for the Blues, who are about as good at home as the Oil are on the road. Young defenseman Erik Johnson leads St. Louis in scoring with a modest 19 points, and this is a team that’s had contribution from a lot of its younger players, again – much like the Oilers.

Who’s hot:

Lubomir Visnovsky - The veteran defenseman has been the main constant in the last few weeks for the Oil, putting up nine points in his last nine games, including goals in two straight games. He’s also a +6 in his last four games, which is far better than some of Edmonton’s other key players (Penner, Gagner -2; O’Sullivan, Souray -4, for example).

Jeff Deslaurier – The young goalie, who is the starter until Nikolai Khabibulin’s back gets better, has won back-to-back starts after letting in four goals on 11 shots last Saturday against Vancouver. In both those wins he made at least 27 saves, allowing one and two goals. To this point, he has a 5-4-2 and has looked like a rookie at times – but he looks more and more confident with each start. That needs to continue.

What to watch for:

The injury situation – Marc Pouliot should be close to coming back, which could be another lift for an Oilers club that has been battered by injuries this season. Ryan Stone and Robert Nilsson made immediate impacts when they returned to the lineup against Detroit, so they’ll be looking for Pouliot to do the same when he does get healthy. Defenseman Taylor Chorney was skating last week, but is now listed as “out indefinitely,” which is obviously bad news. Even worse for the Oilers though, is the status of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin going from “day-to-day” to “out indefinitely” as well. How long is he sidelined with a back injury? Who knows. Not having that veteran presence between the pipes down the stretch could be a key loss.

Team confidence – Head coach Pat Quinn talked about how his club’s confidence is sometimes there, but sometimes not. If they want to string together some wins, the team needs to come together and play with confidence. The best way to do that is to try and win a few more games in a row and put some goals on the board. Their success against Detroit came from getting pucks on net and driving the net – simple, but effective. They’ve got two straight wins, a couple more and we could see the team make some big steps.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 13 Picks

The NFL comes to Canada on Thursday night with the New York Jets taking on the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto – a game that features two clubs that probably should have better records than they do.

There are some other interesting matchups this week as the season winds down, including: the Titans five-game win streak takes them to Indianapolis, where they’ll battle the undefeated Colts, while the Saints have an easier road to 12-0 against the Redskins in Washington.

Last week I went 11-5, which takes me to 105-39 overall. Here are my picks for this week:

NY Jets (5-6) @ Buffalo (4-7)

My pick: Buffalo

-I feel like I’m going against the grain a little with this pick, but here’s why I think the Bills will come out on top: both of these teams are coming off a big win, but have lost three of their last four games - though only one of the teams has had some pretty big personnel changes that might be the reason. With the Jets, they’ve got five wins this season, but they’ve been horribly inconsistent this season. The Bills have a new (interim) coach, and a new guy under centre. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick came in at quarterback, Buffalo’s big offseason acquisition, Terrell Owens, has finally started to put up decent numbers. He’s now got touchdowns in two straight games, after putting up just ONE in the previous nine games. A big play or two from T.O. in T.O. could be the difference.

Philadelphia (7-4) @ Atlanta (6-5)

My pick: Philadelphia

-The race for playoff spots in the NFC doesn’t seem to be as intense and wide open as in the AFC, but this is one of those games with big playoff implications – the wild card Eagles taking on the Falcons, who are one of two teams that are one win back of that spot. The Falcons need this win to keep pace, but they’ll be doing so without star running back Michael Turner, who has a high ankle sprain On the other side of the ball, DeSean Jackson, Philly’s top wide receiver, is out with a concussion. I’m giving the edge here to Philly because both teams need this game, but the Eagles have the tools right now to come out on top. Not having Turner’s 10 touchdowns and rushing ability will be a big loss for the Falcons – I bet they’re wishing he rested against Tampa last weekend.

Tampa Bay (1-10) @ Carolina (4-7)

My pick: Tampa Bay

-If there was ever a game that was gift-wrapped for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s this weekend’s tilt with the Panthers. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme is out with a broken finger and their leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, is questionable with a sprained ankle (he missed three straight practices, which makes me doubt he’ll be in the lineup). In the four games that Josh Freeman has been under centre for the Bucs they are 1-3, with only one of those losses by more than three points (and it was against the Saints, go figure). Well, the Panthers aren’t the Saints and they’re hurting right now – and Tampa has got to be playing with a bit more confidence given their latest results.

St. Louis (1-10) @ Chicago (4-7)

My pick: Chicago

-Jay Cutler has a chance to forget, if only for a week, about his pretty woeful season with the Bears this season against the 1-10 Rams and their 22nd ranked pass defense. Cutler is a more generous QB on the road (17 interceptions), but plays much better at home with eight TD strikes and just three INTs. The Bears have lost four straight, but those losses have all come against quality opponents. The big thing for the Bears will be stopping the run – Steven Jackson leads the NFC with 1,120 rushing yards. That’s really St. Louis’ only threat though.

Detroit (2-9) @ Cincinnati (8-3)

My pick: Cincinnati

-The AFC North leading Bengals can put a stamp on things with a win over the Lions this weekend, and their run game will get a big boost with the expected return of Cedrick Benson. Cincinnati is 4-1 in their last five, with a disappointing loss to the Raiders two weeks ago being their only loss during that span. After an exciting with over the Browns, Matt Stafford threw four picks in a Thanksgiving loss to Green Bay last week. The Lions just don’t have the depth to compete with the Bengals, unless Cincinnati decides to take them lightly.

Tennessee (5-6) @ Indianapolis (11-0)

My pick: Tennessee

-Okay, before you tell me I’m wrong, here’s why I think the Titans can pull it off: Last week the Colts had to erase a 17-point first half deficit for an eight-point win over the Texans; in the four weeks before that, they won by four or less in each outing. If the Titans, who have won five in a row, can keep the game close, Vince Young has shown he can pull off the late-game heroics. Chris Johnson is gunning for his seventh game with at least 125 yards, which would be an NFL record. The Colts might end up blowing the Titans out, but Tennessee has shown me that they’re a different club and they’re playing with all kinds of swagger right now.

Houston (5-6) @ Jacksonville (6-5)

My pick: Jacksonville

-Both teams are coming off a loss, but the Jags are 4-1 at home this season and have won three-of-four coming into this weekend’s important matchup with the Texans. As always, the Jaguars success will be dependant on the success of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has found the endzone 13 times this season. This game will basically be about Houston QB Matt Schaub’s production vs. Jones-Drew’s production. Whoever contributes more over the course of the game will win it for his team.

Denver (7-4) @ Kansas City (3-8)

My pick: Denver

-The Broncos need this win to retain their spot as the holder of one of the AFC wild card spots – they snapped a four-game losing skid last week with a win over the Giants and must build on that this week. Thankfully, they’re up against a Chiefs team with more losses than Denver has wins this season, who are coming off a grade “A” butt kicking at the hands of the Chargers last week. Prior to that though, KC had put together a string of two straight wins, including an OT victory over the Steelers. In order to win this one though, the Broncos need contributions from all sides, because they’ve still lost four-of-five here and aren’t out of the woods just yet.

New England (7-4) @ Miami (5-6)

My pick: New England

-I like Miami and I’m a big supporter of Ricky Williams, but I think in this case you just can’t keep a team like New England down for long. They’ve uncharacteristically lost two of three (that one-pointer to Indy and a big one last week to the Saints), and you know they’ll be looking to make a statement in Miami this weekend. The Dolphins could be without a key piece of their defense, with Joey Porter nursing a sore knee, which will only make things harder for a club that needs to keep winning to stay in the thick of the wild card chase. If it comes down to a battle between Chad Henne and Tom Brady, I think you’ve got to give it to the Pats.

Oakland (3-8) @ Pittsburgh (6-5)

My pick: Pittsburgh

-The Pittsburgh Steelers need to break out of this three game skid if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive – though if they played in the NHL they’d be 0-1-2 in that stretch after losing in back-to-back overtime games against Kansas City (who they should have beat) and Baltimore (without Ben Roethlisberger) – despite starting both overtimes with the ball. Statistically speaking, the Steelers should pump the Raiders, but Oakland has had a knack for winning when they shouldn’t this season (that is, when they actually win) – beating both Philly and Cincinnati since week six. Big Ben is expected to play this week after sitting out last week due to a concussion. As long as he and Hines Ward have actually patched things up, the Raiders shouldn’t be a problem.

New Orleans (11-0) @ Washington (3-8)

My pick: New Orleans

-The Colts have to play the upstart Titans this week, while the other 11-0 team gets the 3-8 Redskins – is that fair? Whatever the case, the Saints are coming off a huge win over the Patriots last Monday, which you know has them feeling even more confident coming into this week. They have to make sure they don’t take Washington too lightly though, like they maybe did with St. Louis a few weeks back.

San Diego (8-3) @ Cleveland (1-10)

My pick: San Diego

-The Chargers seem to be only getting stronger as the season goes on – they’re coming off a 43-14 win over KC; before that they beat Denver by 29 and put up 31 against the Eagles. So it’s safe to say they’re on fire right now with six straight wins, and they’re up against a team with just one win this season in the Browns. LaDainian Tomlinson has really picked up in the second half of the season with five touchdowns in his last three games – look for him to continue that against a Cleveland side that’s giving up almost 160 rushing yards per game on average this season.

Dallas (8-3) @ NY Giants (6-5)

My pick: Dallas

-Since 2006, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been very good in the month of December, but that stat really doesn’t actually mean anything at all to me. This is a game between a Cowboys team that has won six-of-seven against a Giants club with one win in their last six games – Tony Romo is flying high, Eli Manning is supposedly battling some kind of injury and is slumping quite badly. The Giants offensive line is hurting bad right now, giving up a lot of sacks in the last six games – unless they turn that around, they’ll have a tough time beating a fairly strong Dallas side.

San Francisco (5-6) @ Seattle (4-7)

My pick: San Francisco

-The 49ers have won two of three which put them right into the hunt for the playoffs – they spanked the Jaguars last week and Chicago two weeks ago. The Seahawks are better at home than on the road, and are coming off a win over the Rams; but I think Frank Gore could be the game breaker for the Niners.

Minnesota (10-1) @ Arizona (7-4)

My pick: Minnesota

-It’s hard to imagine the Vikings losing – that’s how good they’ve been. Brett Favre is killing it this season, he’s got his receivers on the same page as him, their running game is solid and their defense has been taking care of business so far. Arizona has had its struggles at home this season and QB Kurt Warner is questionable with a concussion – that could be a big blow to their offense. Either way, I like Minnesota in this game.

Baltimore (6-5) @ Green Bay (7-4)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Packers need this win just as much as the Ravens do, but home field should be the advantage they need to get them the win. Aaron Rodgers led the Pack to a win over the Lions last week, while Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in overtime. Rodgers is a stronger QB than Flacco, and that could be what it could come down to on this night.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: What a Night!

What a bizarre Monday night in the NHL...

First, you've got the reigning league MVP getting tossed from a game for the second time in three nights, this time for a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina forward Tim Gleason that landed him a two-game suspension (though you could argue the first incident was the more suspendable offence).


Also in the first period of that game, a 3-2 win for Washington, the skate of Caps defenceman Karl Alzner cut the right leg of 'Canes blue liner Joe Corvo on what looked like a harmless collision - putting him out of action for 8-12 weeks.

It's especially strange because it's not the first time this type of injury has hurt them this season - starting goalie and Team Canada hopeful Cam Ward had his leg opened up by Columbus captain Rick Nash on November 8th, putting him out for at least a month.

Is that enough first period weirdness for you for one night? There was more!

Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun is okay, but not able to play for a few games after being on the receiving end of a same-team, Marty McSorley style stick-swinging incident in the first period of Monday's 4-3 loss to the Thrashers.

Seconds after Ilya Kovalchuk put in his own rebound after being stopped by Vokoun on a breakaway, Panthers defenceman Keith Ballard turned around and tried to break his stick on the post, but wound up walloping his goalie across the side of the head.


Vokoun lay on the ice for almost 10 minutes and had to be stretchered off, but after getting stitches on his left ear, he did rejoin the team. Since he can't comfortably put his helmet on though, he won't be able to suit up.

Now, I can understand smashing your stick over the post in a fit of rage...we've all done it. But come on, that Kovalchuk goal made it a 2-1 game with 51:06 to play! That's more than enough time to score one goal, Keith!

What are you doing?! If there was a time during that game where it would be acceptable to break your stick over the post - it was when Maxim Afinogenov scored the game-winner with six seconds left!

Back to the Ovechkin suspension though - after the Kaleta hit, the NHL spun its infamous "Wheel of Justice," which landed on zero games for The Great Eight. In Kaleta's next game, he flattened Philly's Jared Ross from behind and his spin landed him a two-game suspension.

There was a bit of head scratching going on when Kaleta got two games and Ovie got none, so the suspension for the Gleason hit could be some kind of "makeup call" on that front.

In my mind, the hit on Kaleta was way worse than the hit on Gleason. In both cases the players stayed in the game - in fact, Ovie is the one with a sore knee, listed as day-to-day right now.

Is he a dirty player, or is Alex Ovechkin just a guy that plays really hard and sometimes crosses the line? I think it's the latter, but let me know what you think!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers started a busy week with a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, but fell 3-1 to the Kings, blew a couple of leads in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Sharks and were embarrassed 7-3 by the Canucks.

In the win over Phoenix, the Oil jumped out to an early lead and played two good periods before letting the Coyotes back into it. Thankfully for them, Jeff Deslaurier stood tall between the pipes for his first career shutout.

They scored first against the Kings two nights later, but gave up the game-winning goal late in the third period - head coach Pat Quinn was upset afterwards about the team's lack of secondary (and at times, primary, scoring). Forward Ales Hemsky was wallpapered by LA's Michael Handzus during this game; he's now out for 5-6 months with an injured shoulder that will require surgery.

On Friday night, the Oilers and Sharks were tied at 1's going into the third period, where six goals were scored, leaving them tied once again headed to extras. The Oil led 3-1 and 4-3 in the third period, but were unable to hold on. The game-tying goal was a shorthanded tally by Patrick Marleau with less than two minutes to go, after Edmonton won a defensive zone faceoff - one of three Marleau-from-Thornton goals on the night.

They wrapped up the week with a disappointing effort on Saturday night in Vancouver, giving up four goals before the first period was even half done. Jeff Deslaurier was yanked in favour of Devan Dubnyk, and while the Oil mounted a mini-comeback, getting to 5-3, they gave up a couple more goals.

This week:

The Oilers continue a six-game road trip with two games this week against teams they've beaten this season - one in Detroit and one in Dallas.

The team gets a much-needed four-day break between games to regroup as they look to perform a little better in December than they did in November, where they won just three of thirteen games.

Away from Rexall Place, the Oilers have just two wins and points in four of twelve games, a stat they desperately need to change at this point in the season if they expect to make a run for the playoffs in a few months.

Oilers @ Red Wings
Thursday, Dec. 3rd - Pre game 3:30, Puck drop 5pm; 630 CHED

-The Detroit Red Wings are having a tough go of things this year, with one win in their last four games, which bodes well for the Oilers. At the Joe, they are just 7-4-2 this season and they've struggled to score goals as of late. Three times last week, the Wings put up 40 shots and held their opponent to less than 25 - they scored once and lost all three games. Goaltending has been an issue for Detroit, so if the Oiler shooters can get to either Chris Osgood or Jimmy Howard early, they've got a shot at going 2-0 vs. the Wings. At the same time, if Detroit is putting up 40-some shots, Edmonton's goaltending will have to be sharp because the Wings have a very skilled and balanced offence led by the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Oilers @ Stars
Saturday, Dec. 5th - Pre game 10:30am, Puck drop 12pm; 630 CHED

-The Dallas Stars play twice this week before entertaining the Oilers for an early weekend game, but as of Monday afternoon, they had lost two of three, but were coming off a win over the Lightning. Once you get past the Sharks, it's a tight race in the Pacific division, with the Kings, Stars and Coyotes all within a point of each other, which means Dallas is in a position to make some noise if they keep putting up wins. As of Monday, they had won three of five, with points in four of those games, and after Saturday's game with the Oil, they head out on a five-game road trip with three divisional matchups. Brad Richards leads the Stars with 25 assists and 32 points through 24 games, with four or five guys hovering around the 10-goal mark. Marty Turco hasn't been the dominant force between the pipes that he was in previous years though, with an 8-5-5 record so far.

Who's hot:

Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner - Both players are coming off back-to-back two point games where they each had a goal and an assist. Brule has five points (2g, 3a) in his last four games; Penner has seven (3g, 4a) in his last five.

Sam Gagner - As a whole, the Oilers have struggled offensively but Gagner has six points (1g, 5a) in his last six outings. He's been a good setup man, and that's important for a team struggling to find the net.

Ryan Potulny - The Grand Forks native had the game-tying goal and what should have been the game-winner for Edmonton against San Jose on Friday. He's got potential to be a big part of the Oilers offence as he gets more experience. He also scored against LA, giving him four points (3g, 1a) in four games.

What to watch for:

Players coming back - The Oilers have about five players who are either listed as day-to-day, or they're on the tail end of an injury and should be back in the lineup soon. For a team ravaged by injuries, it could be a boost to get some guys back in the lineup. Among the players I'm talking about are Marc Pouliot, Ryan Stone, Taylor Chorney, Robert Nilsson and...

The goaltending situation - Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't played since November 16th due to a sore back, leaving the workload on the shoulders of an inexperienced Jeff Deslaurier. JD has shown flashes of greatness, like his shutout of the Coyotes on Monday, but he's also been shaky at time (and it doesn't help when not much defence is being played in front of you). The Oil need the veteran presence of Khabibulin back between the pipes down the stretch.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 12 Picks

Things kick off early this week with three games on Thursday, but the excitement doesn’t end there!

With games between the Giants and Broncos, Steelers and Ravens and, the biggest one of all, the Pats and Saints, this week looks like another hard one to pick!

After an 8-7 week 10, I bounced back with a 13-3 record last week, taking me to 94-34 overall. Here are my picks for this week:

Green Bay (6-4) @ Detroit (2-8)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Detroit Lions played in one of the games of the week last week – a 38-37 last-second win over the equally brutal Cleveland Browns. However, quarterback Matthew Stafford is out with a separated shoulder and wide receiver Calvin Johnson has also been sitting out of practice with hand and knee injuries. Yes, they put up big numbers last week, but this is a game the Green Bay Packers, who are riding a two-game win streak, should win this one.

Oakland (3-7) @ Dallas (7-3)

My pick: Dallas

-If you go by the stats, this game is barely worth even playing for the Oakland Raiders; however, with a new quarterback and a new outlook, they might not be as easy to beat as those stats suggest. Bruce Gradkowski took over from JaMarcus Russell last week and led the Raiders to a late win over the heavily favored Cincinnati Bengals. The Cowboys, on the other hand, needed a late touchdown to beat the Washington Redskins…7-6. Dallas QB Tony Romo hurt himself early in last week’s game, but coach Wade Phillips says he’s feeling better. The Raiders could upset the Cowboys like they did the Bengals last week, but I’m taking Dallas.

NY Giants (6-4) @ Denver Broncos (6-4)

My pick: New York

-Both teams need a win this week, but the Broncos are a team in peril right now – after a 6-0 start they’ve lost four straight, including a 32-3 thrashing at the hands of the Chargers, their only competition right now in the AFC West. Starting quarterback Kyle Orton is a game-time decision with a sore ankle – so if it comes down to a quarterbacking duel, the Giants are the obvious choice. That overtime win over Atlanta last week was very important for NY, as they snap a four-game losing skid of their own – look for them to build off that momentum.

Tampa Bay (1-9) @ Atlanta (5-5)

My pick: Atlanta

-Despite a ton of injuries and their star running back only “questionable” for this game, I think Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will have enough juice to get past the lowly Buccaneers. Since taking over at QB, Josh Freeman is 1-2 (with one of those losses a near-upset of the Dolphins), which makes me feel like a Tampa win is possible. Having said that, the Falcons battled hard last week only to lose in OT to the Giants, which I think will be a motivator heading into this game. Also, they’re a perfect 4-0 at home so far this season. If Michael Turner can play, that’ll be a huge boost for Atlanta.

Miami (5-5) @ Buffalo (3-7)

My pick: Miami

-Ricky Williams is coming off of back-to-back 100+ yard rushing games for the Dolphins which included two rushing majors and a touchdown reception last week against Carolina last week – this could mean trouble for the Bills, who have the second-worst rush defense in the entire league. The one-two punch of Williams and Ronnie Brown is no longer, with Brown out for the season, but it looks like Ricky is up to the challenge. The Bills will really have to rely on Terrell Owens making some big plays if they want to win this game, but other than that they don’t seem to have much going for them, with streaks of three straight losses, and three straight losses at home. Dolphins QB Chad Henne has to try and limit his risks, because as bad as Buffalo’s run defense is, they lead the AFC in interceptions this season with 17.

Washington (3-7) @ Philadelphia (6-4)

My pick: Philadelphia

-If the Washington Redskins had a halfway decent offense, they might actually be a team worth talking about – I mean, what good is having the number one ranked pass defense if you can’t put points on the board. The Redskins have scored more than 20 points once this season (through 10 games), and average just shy of 15 points per game. The Eagles won a tight one last week in Chicago, snapping a two-game losing skid; they need this win to keep their NFC East hopes alive. It’ll come down to a strong performance by quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has four TD passes over the last two weeks.

Seattle (3-7) @ St. Louis (1-9)

My pick: St. Louis

-The Seahawks are 0-5 on the road; the Rams are 0-5 at home – something has got to give! The Seahawks have been a disappointing team this year as far as I’m concerned, and with nothing more than pride at stake for both teams, this is a wide-open contest. You know, the Rams have three losses of five or less points this season (which, had they pulled out wins would make them a 4-6 club as opposed to a 1-9 one). Since their one win this season, the Rams have had a bye, a close loss to the Saints and an eight-point loss to Arizona. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the Rams pick up their second win of the season on Sunday.

Carolina (4-6) @ NY Jets (4-6)

My pick: Carolina

-The NY Jets have been a tough team to gauge this season, mainly due to the inconsistent play of quarterback Mark Sanchez. He’s thrown six interceptions over the last two weeks since the Jets bye, all while throwing just two TDs. The Jets and Panthers have identical records and are pretty even statistically, and this is a big game as both teams try to stay in the playoff picture. The Panthers are coming off a one-score loss to the Dolphins last week and have two wins over the Cardinals in the last four games. If they can provide a balanced ground and air attack, the Panthers should be able to win this one.

Cleveland (1-9) @ Cincinnati (7-3)

My pick: Cincinnati

-If the Bengals want to keep their hopes of winning the AFC North alive, they need this win – they’ve got the Browns this week, the Lions next week, then Minnesota and San Diego. So if they can pick up these two wins, it’ll take some of the pressure off down the stretch. The Browns are coming off a heartbreaking last-play loss to the Lions, following a shutout loss at home…so you know they’re not feeling great. The Bengals have something to prove this week too, after giving up a late lead and losing the Raiders in week 11. Prior to that, they completed the sweep of divisional rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Look for them to complete another sweep this weekend.

Indianapolis (10-0) @ Houston (5-5)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The Houston Texans need this win more than the Colts do – but can they do it? They’re coming off back-to-back 20-17 losses where their kicker Kris Brown missed potential game-tying field goals. If they can’t depend on him to make field goals, I think they’ll have a tough time against the Colts, because they’re going to need all the points they can get. Matt Schaub has been having a heck of a season for the Texans, with 19 TD passes, and they seem to have a pretty balanced offense – but against Indie, it’s going to be a tough one. The Colts have been getting all kinds of lucky bounces in the past few weeks, but lets not forget – their last big test came against the Patriots and they overcame a 17-point deficit for the win. 11-0.

Kansas City (3-7) @ San Diego (7-3)

My pick: San Diego

-The AFC West leading Chargers are another team that is better on the road than at home, but they’re rolling right now with five straight wins. The Chiefs will provide a bit of a challenge, but their offense just doesn’t compare with the production of the Chargers. If LaDainian Tomlinson can keep playing the way he’s been playing the last two weeks, it’ll make things even easier for San Diego. LT has three touchdowns in the last two weeks, which is half of his total of six for the season. KC is riding a two-game win streak, which included an overtime win over the Steelers last week, but it’ll take something really special for them to beat San Diego.

Jacksonville (6-4) @ San Francisco (4-6)

My pick: Jacksonville

-The Niners are starting to play a little better with Ales Smith at pivot and Michael Crabtree is getting better every week (imagine if he hadn’t held out), but the Jags have won three in a row and four of five coming into this week. They’ll need running back Maurice Jones-Drew to get going early, though he’ll face a tough test against the league’s sixth-best rush defense. Jones-Drew leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 13 and is averaging about 93 yards per game, which puts him in the top six in the NFL. The Jags are 5-1 when Jones-Drew has 20 or more carries, so they’d be smart to get the ball in his hands often.

Chicago (4-6) @ Minnesota (9-1)

My pick: Minnesota

-The Vikings are sick in the air, sick on the ground, undefeated at home and against their division – and I think that’ll continue. Brett Favre is having one of, if not the BEST season of his career with 21 touchdown passes and just three interceptions this season and shows no signs of slowing down. Adrian Peterson is questionable for this game, but the coaches say they think he’ll play. That would be a big blow to the Vikings offense, though Favre has shown he is more than capable of winning games in the air. The Bears have lost three straight, and face their toughest test during that stretch in this game.

Arizona (7-3) @ Tennessee (4-6)

My pick: Tennessee

-This is an interesting one: with Vince Young at the helm, the Tennessee Titans are 4-0 after starting out the season winless through six games (and Young has actually won his last 8 starts). On the other hand, the Cardinals have won three straight and are 4-0 on the road. Arizona held on for a win against the lowly St. Louis Rams last week, but lost QB Kurt Warner – he’s questionable for this week after suffering a concussion. I think this will be a tough game for Young and the Titans to win, but they’re playing with an insane amount of confidence right now and that could be what pushes them over the top.

Pittsburgh (6-4) @ Baltimore (5-5)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Steelers will be playing without Ben Roethlisberger this week due to a concussion he suffered last week, which is good news for the Ravens defense. Not to say that Big Ben is the one player that makes the Steelers a good team, but not having him will be a big blow to the club. The Ravens are coming off a close loss to the Colts last week and will probably be able to use that to motivate them for this week. A Baltimore win would move them into a tie with the Steelers for the second in the AFC North.

New England (7-3) @ New Orleans (10-0)

My pick: New Orleans

-I sat here and discussed this one with the girlfriend, and we decided that the Saints will continue their perfect season, even though they’re facing probably their toughest test in the New England Patriots. The Saints looked shaky against some teams they should have pounded a couple of weeks ago, but were back in fine form last week with a 38-7 win over the Bucs (without Reggie Bush). The Pats have been good after a slow start but that loss to the Colts, where they squandered a 17-point lead, concerns me a little bit. The Saints have proven game in and game out that whether it’s on the ground or in the air, they can make you pay. This should be an amazing game to watch!