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!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Sens get Cheeky

Some guys just have no luck.

Ottawa Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire is no stranger to injury - the 27-year-old was limited to less than 25 games because of a leg injury in his first year as a starter in Columbus, then after a career year with the Jackets, he was sidelined for most of last season with an ankle injury, clearing the way for the rise of rookie Steve Mason.

Last March Leclaire was dealt to the Senators, looking for a fresh start with a team looking for a number one goalie. Through the first two and a half months of this season, he posted an 8-5-1 record with pretty average stats, but at least he's healthy right?

On Monday night, the Sens came from behind to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime, but they lost Leclaire for about a month with a fractured cheekbone.

How does a goalie break his cheekbone, you ask?

Well, he was minding his own business on the bench - taking the night off to heal up from a lower-body injury he suffered in Saturday's loss to the Sabres - when an attempted dump-in by one of his teammates hit a stick and flew into the Ottawa bench, smoking him in the face.

Leclaire says he was just sitting there chatting with one of the team trainers and didn't even see it coming, describing the pain, saying "it hit me like a baseball bat."

Is that bad luck, or is that bad luck?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Oilers went 1-1-1 last week as they wrapped up a five-game road trip (1-2-2) and kicked off a five-game home stand.

They started the week with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets where they were 2-for-5 on the power play, but they also gave up two power play goals.
Two nights later, the Oil came from behind a couple of times to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 – captain Ethan Moreau left the game after an elbow to the head from Avs defenseman Ryan Wilson. On Saturday night, with Oil Kings goalie Torrie Jung as the backup, the Oil fell 5-2 to the Blackhawks.

Edmonton has won just two of nine November games (2-5-2) and currently sit in 12th spot in the Western Conference, three points out of 11th place Vancouver.

This week:

The Oil are much better at home than on the road, although with that loss on Saturday night, they drop to 7-4-1 at Rexall Place – still pretty decent.

It’s a busy week for the Oilers as we head towards the end of November, with games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then a quick turnaround for a game in Vancouver on Saturday.

The games get progressively tougher, standings wise, as the week progresses – they’ll be up against seventh place Phoenix, fifth place LA and first place San Jose.

Coyotes @ Oilers
Monday Nov. 23rd – Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-Coming into tonight’s game, the Coyotes have won two of three, with that loss coming in overtime and their latest win coming against a strong Philadelphia Flyers club. After a 9-4-0 October, Phoenix has cooled off a bit, going 4-5-1 so far this month and are led by captain Shane Doan, who has 16 points this season. Radim Vrbata has goals in two of his last three games. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has the league’s third-best GAA and is tied for the second most wins – so Edmonton’s forwards could have a tough time putting the puck in the net.

Kings @ Oilers
Wednesday Nov. 25th – Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The LA Kings have been one of the surprises this season, for me at least. Through 24 games, they sit fifth in the conference and probably would be leading their division if it didn’t include the league-best SJ Sharks. As good as they’ve been, the Kings have lost two in a row and are 5-5 in November (including a 7-0 loss to the Thrashers). Kings forward Anze Kopitar leads the NHL in scoring (as of Monday morning) with 14 goals and 33 points and shares the league lead in power play points with 14. Former Oiler and the guy behind Kopitar in team scoring, Ryan Smyth, is out of the LA lineup right now with an injury, which hurts their offense. Jonathan Quick, like Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, is tied for second among goalies with 12 wins this season.

Sharks @ Oilers
Friday Nov. 27th – Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers have won only two games in November – the Sharks have points in 14 of 15 games, dating back to October 24th. As of the start of the week, San Jose has won two in a row after suffering their first regulation loss of the month. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau have proven to be a dangerous trio, with point totals of 32, 28 and 27 in 25 games. Heatley leads the league in goals with 18 and Marleau is right behind him with 14. It should come as no surprise that the Sharks have the league’s best power play (Heatley and Thornton have a combined 27 power play points), so the Oil will have to try and stay out of the box.

Oilers @ Canucks
Saturday Nov. 28th – Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-Another team with a hot power play is the Vancouver Canucks – they’re number six in the league in that category. Despite that, they come into this week just three points up on Edmonton in 11th place in the Conference. The Canucks started the month with a three-game win streak, followed by three straight losses, followed by two wins, so needless to say they’ve been a streaky club this season. This is a big game for the Oilers, who need all the divisional wins they can get at this point in the season.

Who’s hot:

Lubomir Visnovsky – The Oilers blue liner has been racking up the points lately, with a three game streak going and points in four of his last five games (1g,5a).

Sheldon Souray – The team definitely missed Souray’s rocket of a shot while he sat out for over a month dealing with the after-effects of a concussion. He’s got three points in his last three games, including a goal on Saturday.

Shawn Horcoff – He had a slow start to the season, but Shawn Horcoff is now riding a four-game point streak and has seven points in his last seven games.

What to watch for:

The injury situation – Marc Pouliot (sports hernia, 2-3 weeks) and Ryan Stone (knee, day-to-day) skated a bit on Friday and may return to practice soon; on Sunday, Taylor Chorney (ankle, day-to-day) and Robert Nilsson (concussion, day-to-day) got back on the ice for a light skate – no word on when either player will be back. Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t play on Saturday because of a sore back – as of today, he’s day-to-day as they try and figure out what’s wrong.

The goaltending situation – with the ‘Bulin wall on the shelf, for now at least, the Oilers have recalled Devan Dubnyk from Springfield of the AHL. That means they’ll be playing with two pretty inexperienced guys between the pipes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Can JD step up and shine in Khabibulin’s absence? If he’s called into action, can Dubnyk show the coaching staff that he’s ready?

The veterans taking charge – On Sunday morning the coaching staff called the players in for a quick meeting at Rexall Place and kept a group of seven players for a 90-minute meeting to “clear the air.” Both sides vented and had an open discussion according to captain Ethan Moreau. It’ll be interesting to see how the players respond moving forward. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster season so far where they’ve had success, they’ve had failure, the flu bug ravaged the room, injuries had them playing shorthanded, and so on. They need the vets to keep the team on an even keel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Move Over Maradona

In June of 1986, Argentina's national squad got some "heavenly intervention" when Diego Maradona put his side ahead in a quarter-final match with England.

He went up to challenge the England keeper for the ball, knocked it with his fist, and celebrated as it went into the net - and since the ref didn't see it, the goal stood. After the game, he famously quipped that the goal was "a little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God."

Well, there was an incident this week that conjured up images of that goal - a handball in extra time by Thierry Henry that directly resulted in the winning goal, sending France to the 2010 World Cup, and sending Ireland packing.

As you'll see in the video below, it all starts from a free kick near centre in the thirteenth minute of extra time - the ball is sent into the six yard box, narrowly missing the hand of one French player, it bounces in front of Henry, who puts his hand out to keep it in play (which you can't do). He then flicks it on to William Gallas who taps it in with his noggin.


After the game, Henry played it cool - admitting he hit the ball with his hand, but it's not up to him to blow the whistle, and he's got a point. According to the Canadian Press, Henry said:

"I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref. I played it. The ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him."

Quite right. But to me, the pressing question is - did he do it on purpose? In the quotes that I've seen from Henry in the aftermath of the disputed goal, I haven't seen words like "unintentional" or "accident," which is what I would say if I was being hounded by journalists after the game.

"The ball came up and hit my hand; it was unintentional, but I didn't hear a whistle and so I kept playing." That's the sort of thing I was looking for, but I didn't find it.

That leads me to believe that he got away with an intentional handball, which cost Ireland a trip to the World Cup. In soccer they don't do the whole video replay thing, and while some are calling for a rematch, that won't happen. It's one of those instances where the damage is done and there's nothing that can really change what happened.

What do you think?

Is it time they brought in some sort of football-style challenge system, where coaches can throw the flag for a video review? Should FIFA just leave things how they are? Should there be more dramatic changes?

Just for good measure, here is Maradona's famous "Hand of God" goal in the '86 World Cup:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: NFL Week 11 Picks

Week 11 of the NFL season gets underway with the Carolina Panthers hosting the Miami Dolphins tonight and wraps up with Tennessee in Houston on Monday – and there are some very interesting games in between.

Last weekend was a little more than frustrating as I flirted with my first losing week since I started making picks – but thanks to a Baltimore win on Monday I came out on the winning side at 8-7, taking me to 81-31 overall.

Here are my picks for this week:

Miami (4-5) @ Carolina (4-5)

My pick: Carolina

-The Miami Dolphins ground game was dealt a huge blow on Wednesday with the news that Ronnie Brown is done for the season – he was the team’s leading rusher, had the most touchdowns and was the triggerman in Miami’s wildcat offense. Carolina pulled out a big win last week against the Falcons, a week after almost pulling out an upset over the still-unbeaten Saints. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been putting up big numbers in the Panthers backfield – look for them to be big factors come game time.

Indianapolis (9-0) @ Baltimore (5-4)

My pick: Indianapolis

-Even though they’ve caught some lucky breaks over the past three weeks in order to stay perfect – I still find it hard to bet against the Colts. The Ravens have a good defense, but Peyton Manning and the Indie offense have been pretty lights out so far this season. You could chalk up last week’s win over the Pats to a bad gamble by Bill Bellichik, but to win, the Colts did have to storm back from a 17 point deficit. I could see the Ravens maybe pulling out an upset, but I’m going with the Colts.

Washington (3-6) @ Dallas (6-3)

My pick: Dallas

-Not sure what happened to the Dallas offense last week, but they underperformed and came up short in Green Bay – this week they’re back at home (where they are 3-1), facing the Redskins, who were the latest team to beat the struggling Broncos last week. The offenses of these two clubs don’t even compare – Dallas averages over 80 more total yards and almost 10 more points per game. Tony Romo will be up against the league’s best pass defense, but if they’re not getting much in the air, they should be able to dictate on the ground as well.

Cleveland (1-8) @ Detroit (1-8)

My pick: Detroit

-As I’m writing this, I’m staring in disbelief at an advertisement for “all you can eat seats starting at just $57” for this game – first of all, why would you want to eat a seat, nevermind more than one; and secondly, who would pay $57 (US) to watch the Browns and the Lions? Good lord. Anyways, as bad as Detroit is, the Browns offense is far worse – they were shutout last week and have nine points in their last three games. At the least the Lions can put points on the board.

San Francisco (4-5) @ Green Bay (5-4)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Packers are coming off a big win over the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys last week, shaking off the rust from back-to-back losses – on the other hand, the Niners took advantage of FIVE turnovers by Chicago QB Jay Cutler to pull out the 10-6 win last week. I’ve got to say, I’m more impressed by Green Bay win. Going by the numbers, the Packers are slightly stronger and Aaron Rodgers definitely has the edge over Alex Smith – which is why I’m giving this one to the cheeseheads.

Buffalo (3-6) @ Jacksonville (5-4)

My pick: Jacksonville

-The Jaguars made me very angry last weekend (but I was really angry at the Jets/myself for picking the Jets) by sneaking past NY with a last-second field goal. They’ve now won three of four, and I’ll be happy if they win this week because I’m picking them to beat the slumping Buffalo Bills, losers of two straight. They’ve got a new coach and a new quarterback, but I don’t expect we’ll see anything new from the Bills. In the three weeks since Jacksonville’s bye, running back Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 177, 97 and 123 yards with four touchdowns – the Buffalo defense is woeful against the run, giving up an average of 173 yards per game in that category. Jags take it, and Jones-Drew is a big factor.

Pittsburgh (6-3) @ Kansas City (2-7)

My pick: Pittsburgh

-As bad as the Steelers played last weekend in an 18-12 loss to the Bengals, there is no way they’re going to follow that up with a loss to the Chiefs. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season in last week’s loss, which snapped a five game win streak for Pittsburgh. Look for them to get back on track this week against the Chiefs, who are 0-4 at home this season.

Seattle (3-6) @ Minnesota (8-1)

My pick: Minnesota

-The Vikings have been great this season whether they’re running the ball or taking the aerial route. Brett Favre has 17 touchdown passes and Adrian Peterson has 11 rushing majors, so basically you have to eliminate both aspects of their game to make any headway. The Seahawks have the 22nd ranked pass defense in the league and the 10th best rush D, and the Vikings defensive game is pretty much around the same place. Statistically, the thing that gives Minnesota the edge here is that they’ve been averaging about 10 points more per game than the ‘Hawks.

Atlanta (5-4) @ NY Giants (5-4)

My pick: New York

-The Atlanta Falcons are missing a big piece of the puzzle this weekend in running back Michael Turner, who suffered an ankle sprain last week in a loss to Carolina. How important is he to the team? In his last three outings, he’s rushed for 151, 166 and 111 yards (in just one half last week). Needless to say, their chances of winning are depleted with him out of the lineup. The NY Giants on the other hand are a team that desperately needs to get back on track, and this is a good opportunity for them to do so. I’m not saying the Falcons are completely one-dimensional, but not having Turner is a big hit to their offense.

New Orleans (9-0) @ Tampa Bay (1-8)

My pick: New Orleans

-The pressure of maintaining a perfect season can be tough on a team – and that seems to have been the case for the Saints over the past few weeks – they needed big comebacks against the Dolphins and the Panthers, and almost blew it against the lowly Rams last week. This week – another low-end opponent that they better not take lightly, in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have just one win on the season. The Saints defense will be up against a rookie quarterback, which bodes well for them – and as long as the offense can continue to roll without Reggie Bush (questionable to play), they’ll be fine.

Arizona (6-3) @ St. Louis (1-8)

My pick: Arizona

-Now, the Cardinals have been a somewhat frustrating team to gauge this season – perfect on the road, brutal at home. Thankfully, this week they’re playing IN St. Louis, where the Rams are 0-4 – in fact they’ve only got one win this season. Another difference between these two teams is points on the board at the end of four quarters – the Rams are averaging just 11 points per game, while the Cards have been scoring about 25. That doesn’t mean Arizona is going to win 25-11, but it gives us an idea of where the two offenses are at. Arizona QB Kurt Warner bounced back from a 5-interception loss to Carolina with two solid games against Chicago and Seattle – look for that to continue in the ‘Lou.

San Diego (6-3) @ Denver (6-3)

My pick: San Diego

-This is a tough one because at face value, this looks like a pretty even matchup – but the Broncos have lost three in a row after starting the season at 6-0. The Chargers, meanwhile, have won four straight and are really hitting their stride. LaDainian Thomlinson is coming off a two-TD outing last week and quarterback Philip Rivers has five TD passes in his last two games – so the Chargers offense is rolling right now. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is expected to play, despite an ankle injury, which could be good news for San Diego defenders.

NY Jets (4-5) @ New England Patriots (6-3)

My pick: New England

-The Patriots blew a 17-point lead and gave the ball up in their own half in last week’s one-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts – but apart from that, they played a solid game against one of the other elite teams in the league. This week, they’ve got the lowly NY Jets in their barn. After a 3-0 start the Jets have gone 1-5, with that one win coming against the Chokeland Raiders. They almost beat Jacksonville last week, but lost on a last-second field goal – I just don’t see them coming that close against a quality team like the Pats.

Cincinnati (7-2) @ Oakland (2-7)

My pick: Cincinnati

-The Bengals are cruising heading into this weekend’s game in Oakland against the Raiders, who have finally benched JaMarcus Russell. Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer has his offense playing a confident brand of football, but it looks like they’ll be doing so without Cedric Benson, who is out with a hip injury. Benson is the only Bengal with a rushing major this season, so someone will have to step up to fill that void. Maybe this sets the stage for a huge game from Chad Ochocinco?

Philadelphia (5-4) @ Chicago (4-5)

My pick: Philadelphia

-The Eagles are a team looking to bounce back after a couple of losses – and what better a boost for the defense than knowing they’re up against a quarterback that’s thrown 17 interceptions, including FIVE in his last outing (against the 29th ranked pass defense of the 49ers). Jay Cutler will face a much tougher test this week against Philly, who rank 10th in pass defense and third when it comes to INTs. The Eagles have run into some injury problems, but I think they’ve got enough to get past the bumbling Bears.

Tennessee (3-6) @ Houston (5-4)

My pick: Tennessee

-Ever since the change at quarterback, the Tennessee Titans are a different team – hell, even their owner is revved up by their recent success. In the weeks following a 59-0 loss to the Patriots, Vince Young has led the offense to point totals of 30, 34 and 41 – not bad for a team that scored 10 or fewer points in three of their first six games. At least some of that success is due to the play of Chris Johnson, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (first guy to hit 1,000). In the last four games, Johnson is averaging a monstrous 155 yards rushing PER game with two touchdowns in each of his last three games. Look for him to have another big day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week: 

After a big win over the Colorado Avalanche last Sunday, it looked like it might be a successful road trip for the Edmonton Oilers. However, a shootout loss in Ottawa followed by losses in Buffalo and Atlanta drop them to 1-2-1 through four games and 8-10-2 overall – two points out of last in the Northwest Division.

The Oil have now lost eight of their ten road games this season, racking up just five of a possible 20 points, and bizarrely, they’re 0-3-1 when out-shooting their opponents.

This week:

Edmonton wraps up a five-game road trip in Columbus tonight, before playing five straight at home – starting with the Northwest Division leading Avalanche and the Central Division leading Blackhawks.

The Oilers are 3-1 against the Central Division so far this season, and two players in particular – Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky – have had a lot of offensive success in those games. Penner has 13 points and Hemsky has 10.

Oilers @ Blue Jackets
Monday Nov. 16th – Pre game: 3:30pm, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-The Columbus Blue Jackets wrap up a four-game homestand against the Oilers tonight – they were humbled 9-1 in front of their own fans by the Red Wings on Wednesday, but rebounded with a 3-2 shootout win over the Ducks two nights later. Columbus has at least a point in six of their last seven games and are 5-2-2 at Nationwide Arena this season. Rick Nash is playing extremely well right now, leading the Jackets with 13 goals and 24 points – he’s got points in three straight games. I assume Steve Mason will start in net, he let in eight in his last start, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds.

Avalanche @ Oilers
Wednesday Nov. 18th – Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-The Colorado Avalanche were first overall in the NHL last week, but three straight losses have seen them drop off a little bit, and they now sit in third overall, second in the West. Before they come to Edmonton, the Avs will have to get through the Calgary Flames, coming off an 8-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. In their last meeting, the Oilers were 4-for-7 on the power play and pulled out the 5-3 win. Wojtek Wolski leads Colorado with nine goals on the season, while Paul Stastny is the team leader in points with 18 in 20 games. Craig Anderson was pulled after four goals on Saturday night, but is 11-5-3 overall this year.

Blackhawks @ Oilers
Saturday Nov. 21st – Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Chicago Blackhawks have won four in a row and have points in their last five games – so the Oilers will face a tough test. Edmonton’s PP has been struggling and the Hawks have been sharp on the penalty kill, with just one goal allowed in their last 19 kills. Chicago has a potent offense led by Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews – overall a fairly balanced attack. In their only other meeting this season, the Hawks beat the Oilers 4-3.

Who’s hot:

Dustin Penner – the big-bodied forward has a goal in three of his last four games and leads the Oilers with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists). He’s skating very well and also leads the team with a +9 rating.

What to watch for:

The Oilers power play improving – Edmonton was 4-for-7 on the PP against the Avalanche last Sunday, but since then they’ve scored just once in 13 tries. Oilers coach Pat Quinn has been very critical of his clubs lack of scoring opportunities when on the man advantage.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week 10 Picks

Another week of football is upon us – I didn’t realize things kicked off tonight with the Bears in San Fran until this afternoon, I just about missed it all together!

There are some interesting games this weekend, like the Pats and Colts, Dallas and Green Bay, the Bengals and the Steelers…it’ll be a tough one! A second straight 10-3 week last time around takes me to 73-24 overall. Here are my picks for this week:

Chicago (4-4) @ San Francisco (3-5)

My pick: Chicago

-After getting off to a pretty hot start that saw them win three of four, the Niners have lost four in a row. Meanwhile, since their bye week, the Bears are just 1-3, but despite a beat-up defense Chicago is still putting up pretty decent numbers. Jay Cutler had three TD passes in that loss to Arizona last week, and should be able to excel against San Francisco’s 24th ranked pass defense. After giving up five TDs at home last week, the Bears will be looking to bounce back in a big way.

Atlanta (5-3) @ Carolina (3-5)

My pick: Atlanta

-One player that really impressed me last season was running back Michael Turner – he’s a tank, and when he gets rolling, there isn’t much that’ll stop him. He got off to a rough start to the season but has over 300 rushing yards and three majors in the last two weeks, and this week he’s up against Carolina’s 23rd ranked run defense. Overall, the Falcons defense is more potent but they’ll have to stop the run game of the Panthers in order to be successful.

Tampa Bay (1-7) @ Miami (3-5)

My pick: Miami

-Things haven’t gone well for the Dolphins in the past few weeks, but then again – they lost to New England and New Orleans, two elite teams, on either side of a win over the NY Jets. The Dolphins have a scary one-two punch in the running department, with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combining for 13 TDs this season. Miami is a better team, but there’s always the outside chance that the Bucs could steal one.

Detroit (1-7) @ Minnesota (7-1)

My pick: Minnesota

-At the start of the season, most people expected Brett Favre to just hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson all season long – well he’s done that, but he’s also thrown 16 touchdown passes, good enough for second in the league. Put that stat next to AP’s nine rushing majors, and it’s clear why the Vikings are 7-1 to start the season. They’ll be well rested coming up against a Lions team that had turnover problems last week in a loss to the Seahawks.

Jacksonville (4-4) @ NY Jets (4-4)

My pick: New York

-In order to win this game, the Jets will have to shut down running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has found the end zone 11 times this season. I think the Jets will finally get back on track this week, after looking pretty bad in their last few outings. I feel like I’m going out on a limb here, but they’ve shown us before that they can dominate, and nothing has really changed with the team that started 3-0 and are now 4-4. Mark Sanchez needs a big game this weekend.

Cincinnati (6-2) @ Pittsburgh (6-2)

My pick: Pittsburgh

-The Steelers had a really tough start to the season, and even when they started winning, they were falling apart in the fourth quarter and just hanging on, but that seems to be over. Since a three-point loss to the Bengals in week three, the Steelers have won five in a row including wins over San Diego and Minnesota. The Bengals defense will have to not only worry about Ben Roethlisberger’s arm, but Rashard Mendenhall has four majors since taking over the main running back duties in week four and has been a big part of Pittsburgh’s success. I think the Steelers avenge that earlier loss and improve to 7-2.

New Orleans (8-0) @ St. Louis (1-7)

My pick: New Orleans

-The Saints fell behind early against the Panthers last week, but put up a big rally to take a 30-20 win – and that’s partly why I’ll continue to pick them. I thought they’d be tasting defeat for the first time, but they dug deep and came out on top. Drew Brees continues to roll at the head of an offense that’s averaging almost 430 yards and almost 40 points per game this season. The Saints have beaten far better teams than the Rams this season, so they should be going 9-0.

Buffalo (3-5) @ Tennessee (2-6)

My pick: Tennessee

-I don’t think I’ve picked the Titans all season so far, so I’m finally going to take them this week. Since Vince Young got his chance under centre, the team that was 0-6 has now won two straight. If the Titans are going to win this one, it’ll be on the ground – running back Chris Johnson has been on a tear as of late with four touchdowns in his last two games and over 360 yards rushing. He’ll be up against the worst run defense in the league this week, which only bodes well for the Titans.

Denver (6-2) @ Washington (2-6)

My pick: Denver

-The Denver Broncos need this win to get back on track after back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but they’ll be up against the Redskins top ranked pass defense. While Washington’s rush defense isn’t as strong, Denver doesn’t really have many huge threats on the ground, so they may not be able to exploit that. The Redskins have lost four straight though, and you know the Broncos pride is at stake here. The Redskins have lost to some bad teams this season, and barely beat others, so for that reason I think their losing skid continues.

Kansas City (1-7) @ Oakland (2-6)

My pick: Kansas City

-I hate picking these ones – two brutal teams going at it! I think the Chiefs will take this one though – they’ve been putting more points on the board this season than the Raiders have, and that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. KC has given up 30 sacks this season, but if they can play a bit stronger defensively, they could make things easier on themselves.

Seattle (3-5) @ Arizona (5-3)

My pick: Arizona

-The Cardinals are an odd beast this season so far – 1-3 at home and undefeated on the road through eight games. Kurt Warner threw five interceptions one week and five touchdowns the week after – he’s a tough guy to read! Both teams are coming off wins, but it’s only a matter of time before the Cardinals shake their streaky play at home.

Dallas (6-2) @ Green Bay (4-4)

My pick: Dallas

-Tony Romo is the key to this one for the Dallas Cowboys – he’s got seven touchdown passes in the last three games and nine during Dallas’ four-game win streak. Miles Austin has come out of nowhere to rack up seven TD catches for the Cowboys and he’ll have to continue his hot streak for Dallas to be successful. On the other end of things, the Packers have lost two straight, including a 10-point loss to Tampa last weekend.

Philadelphia (5-3) @ San Diego (5-3)

My pick: San Diego

-The Chargers have won three in a row heading into this game, and I think they’ll make it four against the Eagles. Philly seems to win every time I pick against them, but I’ve got a feeling that Philip Rivers will continue to roll into this one. San Diego is coming off a big win over the Giants; meanwhile the Eagles were trumped in Dallas.

New England (6-2) @ Indianapolis (8-0)

My pick: New England

-This is one of the best rivalries in football right now – Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning – and both quarterbacks are having a strong season so far with pretty equal stats. This one will probably be a real nail-biter, but I’m picking the Patriots to come out on top. After a slower start to the season, they’ve cranked it up in the past few weeks. The Colts are obviously a great team, but I’m feeling the Pats.

Baltimore (4-4) @ Cleveland (1-7)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Ravens will be looking to bounce back from a brutal loss to the Bengals last week – and what better time to do it than this week against the hopeless Browns. Cleveland is averaging less than 10 points per game and Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn have combined for just three touchdown passes in eight games so far. On the other side of the ball, Joe Flacco has been solid for the most part and the Ravens have two players with five rushing majors. Should be an easy win for Baltimore to get them back on track.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Hilton Curse

Real Madrid superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who has sat out for almost a month with an ankle injury, found out last week that it'll take another two weeks of rehab before he's fit enough to return to action.

So, why am I bothering you with this seemingly bland injury update on Real's $142-million summer purchase? Well, lets see - it involves Paris Hilton and a fricken sorcerer - is that good enough for ya?!

Back when Ronaldo initially got hurt, an "anonymous Spanish sorcerer" (who we now know is named Pepe) came out with claims that he'd been hired to place a curse on the Portuguese international, causing him to suffer an injury. Who would do such a thing? The sorcerer says he was hired by a woman who had been "deprived" by Ronaldo.

In a letter to a Spanish newspaper, the sorcerer wrote:

"I have nothing against this grand club. I am a professional and get paid very well for using my powers. I have been contracted so Cristiano Ronaldo suffers a serious injury. I can't promise that will be, but I can say he will be injured for more time than he plays."

If that isn't weird enough, it turns out Paris Hilton is the woman responsible for the curse. Then again, those following the story weren't too surprised by that, given the clues that Pepe the witch gave us: He said the jilted lover is a very wealthy non-European heiress from a well-known family.

So really, it should have been obvious!

In late October, Ms. Hilton fessed up to hiring "Pepe" - telling Life & Style magazine:

"I can't stand it when someone is mean," before taking a stab at Ronaldo by calling him a "wimp" and saying "I want a man anyway, not someone who runs about like a little girl."

According to Yahoo! Sports, Ronaldo got a sorcerer of his own, Fafa, to cast a spell to counteract Hilton's curse. Can you believe these people?

If you listen to celebrity-bashing bloggers around the internet, Cristiano Ronaldo should count his lucky starts that all he got from Paris Hilton is a sore ankle.

So let this be a lesson to you guys: if you ever meet Paris Hilton, be nice.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

After back-to-back losses to the two New York teams, the Oilers kicked off a five game road trip by beating the league-best Colorado Avalanche 5-3,their first home loss of the season. After going 0-for-5 on the power play in the first two games of the week, the Oilers scored four times with the man advantage in seven tries against the Avs. At this point, they’re 8-81 and 3-4-1 against their own division.

This week:

Oilers @ Senators
Tuesday Nov. 10th – Pre game: 4pm, Puck drop: 5:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers are 1-3 against the Eastern Conference so far this season, but they’ll be up against an Ottawa Senators team with three losses in their last four games and five of seven. Captain Daniel Alfredsson leads the team with 18 points, but just six goals. Mike Fisher leads the Sens with four power play goals.

Oilers @ Sabres
Wednesday Nov. 11th – Pre game: 3:30pm, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-The Northeast division leading Buffalo Sabres are a tough team play at HSBC Arena – they’ve lost just three times in eight games at home and are an equally impressive 4-2-0 on the road. After an 8-1-1 start to the season, the Sabres have lost two straight and three of four. Edmonton shooters will have a tough test getting the puck past Ryan Miller – he’s one of the league’s hottest goalies right now, with a 1.89 GAA and .936 save percentage.

Oilers @ Thrashers
Sunday Nov. 15th – Pre game: 10:30am, Puck drop: 12pm; 630 CHED

-The Atlanta Thrashers are a measly 2-4-0 at home this season, but they’ve won 3-of-5. They’re 2-2 to start the month of November and they’re 3-3 since losing star forward Ilya Kovalchuk to injury. A big reason they haven’t completely tanked since Kovalchuk has been out is the play of net minder Ondrej Pavelec, who has 30+ saves in about half of his starts this season.

Who’s hot:

The Oilers power play – After a bit of a drought, the Oilers scored four power play goals in seven tries against the Avalanche. Mike Comrie, Tom Gilbert, Dustin Penner and Ryan Potulny all scored PPGs against the Avs.

Nikolai Khabibulin – Another 30+ save performance for the Bulin Wall against Colorado. That’s three straight games with at least 34 saves, which gives the Oil a chance to win every night.

What to watch for:

Edmonton’s win over the Avalanche was just their second road win of the season – if the Oilers want to climb the standings, they need to start winning away from Rexall Place.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: NFL Week Nine Picks

It’s week nine of the NFL season and there’s another thirteen games on the schedule. Two teams are still undefeated and while another team remains winless – will that trend continue?

In week eight, I went 10-3 taking me to 63-21 overall – that’s a trend I’m hoping continues right into week 16 of the season! Here are my picks for this week:

Washington (2-5) @ Atlanta (4-3)

My pick: Atlanta

-The Falcons are coming off a loss to the undefeated New Orleans Saints, in NO, but played what I thought was a strong game against the best team in the league last Monday. I think they’re better than their 4-3 record might have you believe. Second year QB Matt Ryan has struggled in the team’s back-to-back losses but his 12 TD passes ranks fifth in the league and I feel he’ll be up to the challenge.

Arizona (4-3) @ Chicago (4-3)

My pick: Arizona

-Looking at the stats I think Chicago is going to win this one, but my gut say the Cardinals will bounce back from a dismal performance last weekend and improve to 4-0 on the road this season. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is a grizzled veteran and the six turnovers he committed last week (five interceptions and a fumble) are probably weighing heavily on him – I think he’ll get the Cards back on track.

Houston (5-3) @ Indianapolis (7-0)

My pick: Indianapolis

-The Colts have given me no reason to bet against them just yet – they were challenged against the 49ers but remained perfect with a second half rally. Peyton Manning was held without a touchdown pass last week, don’t expect that to last much longer. The Texans have been good, winning three straight, but their pass defense ranks 14th in the league and Manning is averaging a league-high 318 passing yards per game. Colts stay perfect.

Baltimore (4-3) @ Cincinnati (5-2)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Bengals beat the Ravens by three points in week five with a late drive in Baltimore – might we see some revenge this week? There isn’t much between these two clubs, so I expect this one will be another tight game. However, I think the Ravens renewed confidence following last week’s 30-7 rout of the previously undefeated Broncos will put them over the top in this one.

Kansas City (1-5) @ Jacksonville (3-4)

My pick: Jacksonville

-The Jags have a solid offense, averaging over 350 yard per game, but their defense has been their undoing so far this season – allowing just over 370 yards. Jacksonville became the first team to lose to Tennessee last week, which means they’ll probably be looking to let everyone know they’re not actually that bad! Getting running back Maurice Jones-Drew more involved in the offense could be the key to getting a “W” for the home team, given KC’s 26th ranked rushing defense.

Green Bay (4-3) @ Tampa Bay (0-7)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Green Bay Packers need to forget about last week’s loss to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings – so they’re likely licking their chops at the prospect of facing the winless Bucs. Looking at the stats, this should be an easy win for the Packers, but it’s very important that they don’t take Tampa Bay lightly – even though they’re giving up an average of 29 points per game, while scoring less than 14.

Miami (3-4) @ New England (5-2)

My pick: New England

-This is a big AFC East match up – a win would put the Dolphins into a tie for second with the Jets, and the Pats would fall to 5-3. When the pressure’s on, I look to the vets, and I think that’s where New England gets the edge. Chad Henne has looked pretty good filling in for Chad Pennington at pivot for the Dolphins, but Tom Brady seems to have found the swagger he had back in 2007 once again.

Carolina (3-4) @ New Orleans (7-0)

My pick: New Orleans

-The best chance for the Panthers to beat the Saints could be on the ground this week as a key part of the New Orleans defense, Sedrick Ellis, will be on the sidelines. Carolina’s league-best passing defense will be up against the best offense in the league though, and they are averaging almost 430 yards per game and just short of 40 points. Jake Delhomme may be due for a big game, but he’s 11 touchdowns back of the red-hot Drew Brees on the season, and I don’t see any reason that Brees will suddenly slow down this week.

Detroit (1-6) @ Seattle (2-5)

My pick: Seattle

-The Seahawks are a pretty inconsistent club, but they’re better at home than on the road this season and they’re up against a team that’s pretty bad at home and losers of 16 straight on the road. Lions QB Matt Stafford struggled in his first game back from a knee injury last week in a loss to the (brutal) St. Louis Rams, while Seattle stayed with the Cowboys for most of the game but came out on the losing end. This one goes to Seattle.

San Diego (4-3) @ NY Giants (5-3)

My pick: San Diego

-For the last two weeks I’ve been waiting for the NY Giants to “bounce back” after a humbling loss to the New Orleans Saints, but it hasn’t happened. Things won’t get easier for them this weekend, hosting the surging Chargers. The ability of quarterback Philip Rivers to go deep could be key for his club against a NY defense that’s been lit up in each of the last three weeks. They’re giving up an average of 266 yards passing and 403 total yards offense during that span, which simply isn’t good enough.

Tennessee (1-6) @ San Francisco (3-4)

My pick: San Francisco

-This is an interesting match up, because despite their 1-6 record, the Titans offense averages over 60 more rushing yards per game than the 49ers and over 50 more overall offensive yards. It’s their defense though, that seems to let them down. Vince Young looked good in Tennessee’s first win of the season last week, but I don’t think they’ll get past San Fran and their fairly strong defense.

Dallas (5-2) @ Philadelphia (5-2)

My pick: Dallas

-It seems like whenever I pick against the Eagles, they come up with a big win, but I’m going with my gut and picking the Cowboys. I expect this one to be a very tight game, but the way the Dallas offense is rolling right now, I see them coming out on top. After back to back games without a touchdown pass, Tony Romo has eight in his last three games, along with no interceptions. It’ll be interesting to see if he gives Roy Williams some better passes after all that complaining during the week.

Pittsburgh (5-2) @ Denver (6-1)

My pick: Pittsburgh

-The Steelers are cruising right now, having won four straight heading into their bye week last week – with wins over both San Diego and Minnesota during that span. Denver has the best overall defense in the league and the tale of the tape shows a pretty even match up between these two clubs. The Broncos are coming off a loss for the first time this season, while the defending champion Steelers are a club that started slow but has found its stride. I say it’s close, but the Steelers come out on top.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Ego Trippin' at UCF

An incredibly selfish move by the son of His Airness, Michael Jordan, has the University of Central Florida looking for a new athletic sponsor.

Yes, Marcus Jordan's refusal to wear adidas shoes is apparently costing the entire UCF athletics program its gear once their current deal wraps up in 2010. This issue has been brewing for a while , but came to a head on Wednesday night when the freshman wore a pair of Nike Air Jordan shoes during a Golden Knights exhibition game .

It was great timing by Jordan too, with his school in the middle of negotiating an extension on its five-year deal with adidas - an extension that, needless to say, will no longer happen. The company says that's due to UCF (or, Marcus Jordan) choosing not to deliver on its contractual commitment. Because of that, they say they've chosen not to continue their relationship with the school.

The University of Central Florida claimed last month that someone from adidas gave Marcus Jordan permission to rock his papa's shoes but company brass says that never happened, and I think I believe them more than I believe the school, who are trying to save their butts right now.

Isn't this where Air Jordan himself should have stepped in and told his son to quit being silly and just put on the damn three stripes? Or is he just as selfish as his 18-year-old son? Here's the big question - will he talk to his pals at Nike, to whom he has brought millions upon millions of dollars, and get the school's athletic program sponsored so they can ALL wear Air Jordans?

All this for a guy that was 0-3 from the field with one point and one assist despite playing the third-most minutes of anyone on his team.

I mean, if you're going to come in as a first-year player and cause a stink like this, potentially costing the school millions of dollars - you better at least be good enough that people can look past your extreme selfishness. And what's with those silly glasses Marcus?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Batman and PETA

Every now and then we all do something that seemed funny at the time, only to realize that the consequences aren't as humorous...come on, you've been there.

Another person that's been there - in fact, is there right now - is San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili.

The Spurs were playing the Sacramento Kings on Halloween when a bat darted onto the court late in the first quarter and stopped play...yes, a bat. That's when Ginobili surprised everyone in attendance by swatting the thing out of mid-air with his bare hand, before picking up the dejected bat and handing it over to some random arena worker.


Nothing a little Purell can't fix right? Wrong.

For his in-game heroics, Manu Ginobili will get a month's worth of rabies shots as a precaution, since the bat couldn't be found afterwards for testing (did they check the bat cave?). The team says it survived and flew away...judging by the video though, I'm going to say that didn't happen. You be the judge!

So, was it worth it Manu?

"It was pretty funny at the time," Ginobili told the San Antonio Express News. "Now it's not. I got like a million shots for rabies." He says he asked to see the bat afterwards, but was told it had "flown away" - a likely story.

And of course, the idio...people over at PETA are upset by this incident and have voiced their opinions. They say that "this is a time when athletes in particular need to be on their best behaviour around any animal," and say the next time someone's life is on the line, they hope Ginobili takes a few seconds to think before he acts.

Umm...what?

They also claim that bats "always try to avoid contact with humans," which is why the bat was flying at court level in a giant arena, right? They even go as far as to not-so-subtly compare Ginobili to...you guessed it, Michael Vick. Yes, swatting a bat that's flying in your personal space is exactly the same as bankrolling a dog fighting operation. Ahh PETA, you've done it again.

I kind of get the feeling that PETA would be mad at you for killing a fly or getting rid of that wasp nest under your front porch.

How can they be mad at the guy? He practically turned into a PETA spokesman after the fact, giving out these words of advice: "Kids, don't do this at home. Don't handle bats. Don't swat them. Don't do anything. Or raccoons."

Classic.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Oilers This Week

This is a new idea I’m trying out for the ol’ blog where we’ll take a look at the week ahead for the Edmonton Oilers.

Who they’re playing, what the games mean, who’s hot, what’s happening with the team – in theory, you’ll find it all here every Monday, or at least some of it.

So, here we go:

The Edmonton Oilers finished October with a 7-6-1 record, despite a stretch that saw them go 6-1-1 in games two through eight. They didn’t finish strong though, losing four of their last five games, including three shutout losses. It seems to be feast or famine right for the Oil in terms of goal scoring – in that one win, they blew a 5-1 lead but beat the Red Wings 6-5 in a shootout.

This week:

The Oilers have just three games in the coming week and play six of the next seven games on the road (seven of eight counting Saturday’s loss in Boston). For some reason, the Oil play the Islanders in New York, the Rangers in Edmonton and then they embark on a five game road trip starting with the Avalanche on Sunday.

Oilers @ NY Islanders
Monday Nov. 2nd - Pre game: 3:30pm, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-It took the NY Islanders until October 21st to earn their first win of the season and four more games to notch win number two, but they’ve since won three straight. All three wins were over quality opponents too, the Rangers (19pts), the Capitals (20pts) and the Sabres (17pts). Jeff Tambellini, son of Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, is coming off a hat-trick performance in a shutout of the Sabres, and some of their other younger players, like Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares, are starting to find their groove.

NY Rangers @ Oilers
Thursday Nov. 5th - Pre game: 5pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-After a 7-1-0 start to the season, the NY Rangers have cooled off significantly, losing five of their last six games (1-4-1) in October before a 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins to start the new month. Marian Gaborik missed a couple of games with a “lower body” injury, but returned to score the lone goal on Sunday and now has seven points in his last four games (5g, 2a). Other players to watch for the Rangers are Vinny Prospal, who is benefiting from playing alongside Gaborik (4g, 13a), former Oiler Ales Kotalik (12pts) and rookie blue liner Michael Del Zotto, who leads all rookies with 12 points.

Oilers @ Avalanche
Sunday Nov. 8th - Pre game: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED

-The Colorado Avalanche have been easily the biggest surprise of the season so far across the entire league, losing in regulation just twice in October. In fact, after one month, they’re one of only three teams with at least 10 wins (the others being San Jose and Pittsburgh). The Avs offence is led by youngsters Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski (13 points each), with Milan Hejduk and 18-year-old rookie Ryan O’Reilly right behind them with 11 points. In their last meeting, the Avs shutout the Oilers 3-0, a second straight game where the Oil failed to register a goal and a third straight loss against their division.

Who’s hot:

Dustin Penner – The Oilers have had their chances, despite being shutout in three of their last four games, and leading that charge is Mr. Penner. Against Detroit, Penner had four points, his sixth multi-point game and second with at least four points. He currently leads the team in scoring with 19 points in 14 games.

Ales Hemsky – Again, the offence has struggled in the past few games, but when they get rolling, there’s a good chance Hemmer is a part of it. He had three points against the Red Wings and is second behind Penner in team scoring with 15 points. Basically, whatever centre coach Pat Quinn puts between them on the top line will see a boost in their offensive production, whether it’s Shawn Horcoff or Sam Gagner.

Nikolai Khabibulin – His stats might not be the greatest, but the Bulin Wall has kept a lot of games close for the Oilers so far this season. He’s faced the third-most shots of any goalie in the league and has come up with key saves. He’s been very impressive as far as I’m concerned.

What to watch for:

Moustaches. Seven players are growing moustaches in “Movember” to raise awareness for men’s health for Prostate Cancer Canada. I think Zack Stortini is going to look awesome by about Movember 5th.