Yes, there is college basketball this weekend (we are particularly intrigued by the Duke-Gonzaga game), but the NFL is once again the story.  The league has a full slate of games, spread over four days this weekend,starting with the Colts 35-31 win over the Jaguars last night, continuing into tomorrow’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys, followed by your regular Sunday afternoon rundown of games, and concluding on Monday night, when the New York Giants face the Washington Redskins. Yes Virginia, that is a helluva lot of football.

But mercifully, Saturday afternoon still belongs to the non sports fan, so enjoy that time.  Here is a rundown of a couple of the bigger NFL games on the docket for this weekend so you can sound inform when the conversation at your holiday party shifts from Tiger Woods to the NFL.

1.  We have pretty much conceded, after their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, that the Indianapolis Colts are going to go undefeated this year.  It breaks our heart, but we have stopped fighting this.  However, so great is our desire to see the New Orleans Saints lose before the regular season comes to an end in three weeks that we are doing the unthinkable.  We are rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.  The Saints play the Cowboys on Saturday night in a game that Cowboys quite frankly need to win if they are going to keep their playoff hopes alive. The game is at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network, so non-sports fan subscribers to Time-Warner can rejoice.  You don’t get the NFL Network, and neither will your sports fan if he happens to be at your house.  Huzzah! (more…)

Jake Locker, the University of Washington’s stud junior quarterback, had been projected to be one of the first players selected in this April’s NFL draft if he decided to forego his senior season and declare himself eligible for the NFL.  But Locker, citing that he still had a few goals to achieve at the collegiate level and expressing a feeling that he was not quite ready for the NFL yet, announced this week that he would stay at Washington for his senior year.

This decision has set off a firestorm in the sports media as to whether Locker is costing himself millions of dollars by not entering the draft this year. The NFL’s owners and the players union are headed toward labor Armageddon, as the owners opted out of the collecting bargaining agreement last year, leading many to believe that the league may be headed toward a lockout prior to the 2011 season.  One of the big things that the owners want is a salary cap for rookies.  Recently, top draft picks have received huge contracts (in excess of $40 million dollars over five years), and some owners and many in the player’s union have argued that it makes no sense for players that have never played a single game in the NFL be amongst the highest-paid players in the league.

And while nobody disagrees that Locker definitely could use another year of seasoning at the college level (he is not the most accurate of passers). Also, being that he would likely be a high first round pick, the team that drafted him would be under enormous pressure to play him right away instead of allowing him to spend his first season on the bench learning the ins-and-outs of NFL football.  Instead, he would likely be thrown right into the fire — a decision that would be putting him in a position to fail.

So the question the media has been asking after the Locker decision is does he want to be rich or does he want to be successful? We don’t feel that this is the either/or proposition that the many in the press have made it out to me.  (more…)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which in baseball terms means that the annual shitshow known as the Hot Stove League is well underway.  The Hot Stove League is the term given to the time in baseball’s offseason when the teams sign free agents and make trades in an effort to redesign their squads ahead of Spring Training, which paradoxically begins smack dab in the middle of winter.  The image of the hot stove is supposed to conjure up images of baseball fans trying to get warm around a hot stove in the winter while dreaming about the spring and summer and their baseball teams.  But now, the image that comes to mind is of rich teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and for some reason, the Mariners, buying up all the high priced talent they can find while other teams, who have strict budgets and payroll issues, try desperately to get contracts they can no longer afford of their rolls before the beginning of the regular season.

Thus far this offseason, the Yankees have traded for All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson (largely because the Detroit Tigers could not afford the raise he would be due in arbitration), the Phillies have traded for All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay (pictured) [largely because the Toronto Blue Jays would not be able to afford to sign him after this season when he was due to become a free agent], the Mariners have traded for previous Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee (because the Phillies no longer needed him because they got Roy Halladay), and the Red Sox have signed pitcher John Lackey (largely because no other team could stomach paying $85 million over five years for a guy who is at best a slightly above average pitcher). (more…)

There is an insignificant Monday Night football game featuring the Cardinals and the 49ers tonight, but in essence, all the important NFL action took place yesterday.  And although big wins were registered by the Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins, Chargers and Patriots, this week’s recap will be dedicated to the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, two teams that remain undefeated at this late stage of the season, despite the fact that neither one is an All-Time great team.  So this week’s recap will be dedicated to these two imposters.

1. The New Orleans Saints ran their record to 13-0 with a 26-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.  For the third time in four weeks, the Saints looked very beatable, as this time the Falcons had the ball, down by three, with two minutes left in the game.  Chris Redman, the Falcons’ back-up quarterback, was good enough to keep Atlanta in the ball game, but was not good enough to win it, as his pass to Jason Snelling on fourth down and 2 on the Falcons’ final drive netted Atlanta only one yard.  So the Saints are 13-0, and they have games remaining against the Cowboys, the Buccaneers, and the Panthers.  And although they will be favored to win each of those games, we would nt be surprised if they lost any of them.  That’s because the Saints have been challenged in each of their last two games against inferior opponents (the Falcons could have won that game, while the Redskins should have beaten the Saints the week before.)  This team has a dynamic offense, but it has a very well-rounded defense — they have no corners (a little football humor there).  The defensive is suspect, and we’ll see if comes up to bite them later in the season.

2. The Indianapolis Colts have this way of jumping on opponents early and then allowing the other team to make a spirited comeback, only to score again late and secure the victory.  The Colts used this formula yet again to dispatch the Denver Broncos. The Colts got up 21-0 early behind two touchdown catches by Dallas Clark (pictured), then allowed the Broncos to score the next 16 points before scoring late to ice the game.  Indy won 28-16, despite allowing Brandon Marshall to catch 21 balls in the game (an NFL record.)  We don’t really have a problem with Colts pedigree as they chase perfection.  (more…)

Ladies and other non-sports fans: you officially have your Saturdays back.

College football’s regular season shuffled off this mortal coil last week (with the exception of Saturday’s Army-Navy game), so expect your sports fan to be a bit at a loss for things to do on Saturday.  There are no NFL games on Saturday this week, although that will change next weekend when the NFL Network begins double-barrell action on both Thursday nights and Saturday nights. Yes, college basketball season has started, and we will address a couple of the bigger games on tap for this weekend below.  But it is hard for the average sports fan to seamlessly transition from college football to college basketball, and most middle-of-the-road athletic supporters don’t start paying attention to college hoops until about late January or early February. So rejoice.  From now until the beginning of the NFL playoffs, when the league will schedule games for both the late Saturday afternoon as well as Saturday night, you can once again call Saturday your own.  Go purchase and decorate your Christmas tree, or make plans to go to that Saturday afternoon holiday soiree.  Your sports fan will have no excuse for not attending.  Happy Holidays, indeed.

But all that once again will come to a screeching halt on Sunday, when the NFL returns with a full slate of somewhat meaningful games.  Here’s a look for what’s on tap for this weekend.

1. There are only four weeks left in the NFL season, so we are running of games that the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints can lose.  Both teams are undefeated and both will put those unblemished marks on the line on Sunday.  The Saints will travel to Atlanta to face the suddenly-reeling Falcons, while Peyton Manning (pictured) and the Colts will host the resurgent Denver Broncos.  We have no problem saying that we are rooting for each team to lose before the end of the season, largely because we are Patriots fans, and New England is only team to navigate a 16 game regular season without losing in 2007 (Of course, they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, ruining all the great memories that were attached to fabulous campaign.  We are still not ready to talk about that.) Our main beef with these teams is that we do not feel like either is an All-Time great team.  The Saints needed a miracle in Washington to win last week, and have major problems on the defensive side of the ball.  And this Colts team is not even the best squad they have fielded this decade (both the 2005 and 2006 teams had better personnel). So we will be cheering for both the Falcons and Broncos on Sunday.

2. Other NFL games of interest feature the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys squaring off against the San Diego Chargers in Dallas.  All three games have major playoff implications, especially the Philadelphia-New York game.  A win by the Eagles would put them in the driver’s seat in the NFC East with only three games left to go. (more…)

Notre Dame has found its new head football coach.  Cincinnati head man Brian Kelly will be the Fighting Irish’s new leading man after accepting an offer just eight days after saying on a radio show in the Queen City that he planned to stay with the Bearcats for the foreseeable future. Apparently, eight days was all he could foresee.

Understandably, Kelly’s decision did not sit well with his now former charges.  Cincinnati is undefeated and scheduled to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.  Kelly had just led the Bearcats to their best season in the school’s history, and many players were not pleased that Kelly had led them this far just to leave them before the biggest game in the program’s history (Kelly began work at Notre Dame this afternoon.  UC offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn will be the head coach of the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl.) Kelly told his team about his decision at the team’s banquet last night, but by the time he told the players, the news had already broken nationwide.  The players were nonplussed, to say the least.

“He went for the money,” Bearcats wide receiver Mardy Gilyard told The Associated Press. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long.”

“We already knew what he was going to say. We weren’t giving him a round of applause or anything,” tight end Ben Guidugli said. “It’s like somebody turned their back on us. We brought this whole thing this far. We’ve come this far. To have someone walk out now is disappointing.”

But as disappointed as the players are, this decision was an easy one for Kelly.  Just think about this: Cincinnati just went undefeated and they are not playing for the national championship.  That would never happen to a Notre Dame team that managed to navigate the regular season without losing.  (more…)

Yesterday, a subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision game as a national championship unless it results from a playoff. The bill passed the committee by a voice vote and will now go before a full committee in the House.

Now opponents of the BCS have cheered the legislation, saying that the Bowl Championship Series is unfair to smaller schools that do not come from the six BCS conferences — the Pac-10, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big East.  BCS proponents have not really argued against this assertion, but they have said that they believe that Congress should have more important things to do than meddle in how college football decides its national champion.

“With all due respect, I really think we have more important things to spend our time on,” Rep. Joe Barrow , D-Georgia, said before the vote, while also saying that he is not a big fan of BCS either.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock (pictured above looking incredulous) echoed Barrow’s sentiments, saying: “With all the serious matters facing our country, surely Congress has more important issues than spending taxpayer money to dictate how college football is played.”

This led subcommittee chairman Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, to retort “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

This all strikes us as a little bit ridiculous.  Both sides are right.  The BCS is ridiculous and unfair to the smaller schools and there is no good reason why Division I football cannot end with a playoff when every other level of college football (Division I-AA, Division II, and Division III) have playoff systems in place.  (more…)