Shaun Fagan's Blog
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Hey everyone! As Week 10 approaches, we should first take a small step back and take a look at the NFL landscape. My picks have been highly ineffective, as underdog teams are actually over .500 on the season. Bad teams are beating “superior” teams week in and week out. There is a record number of 500 yard rushers halfway through the season, journeyman quarterbacks are bringing their teams back into the playoff hunt, yet points are down since last year.

 

There has been a great deal of talk about the NFL shifting from parity to mediocrity. I strongly believe that the NFL isn’t getting worse, there is just a limit as to how physically dominant a human being can get. I think that with the new supplements and advances in health training and therapy, and yes, that S word, players have hit a plateau as to how big, strong, and fast they can get. I’ve always thought that NFL players are the real ultimate physical specimens. First of all, NFL players are the most massive athletes in mainstream professional sports. They have low body fat with high body indexes. Not only are they big and strong, they are also extremely fast and agile. To think that a guy the size of Matt Jones, 6’6” 240 lbs, can run a 40 yard dash in an estimated 4.3 seconds is borderline impossible due to the rules of physics. A human should not be that big yet fast at the same time. Usually there is a tradeoff, size for speed or vice versa. NFL players have been developed so much since the 1990’s that physical specimens like Matt Jones are relatively commonplace. Running backs are averaging 5’11” 220 lbs. Wide Receivers are averaging 6’3” 220 lbs. Linebackers are averaging 6’1” 245lbs. Hell, even the kickers are big now too.

 

As NFL players are worked out harder and harder, they hit the wall of human muscle development. I think that because of this human limitation, NFL players are as big as they can get without sacrificing speed. The most elite of the NFL players are at about 99% of a human’s athletic capacity, and therefore in the future, they aren’t going to get any bigger or faster. Everyone is so big and fast now that there is little margin for a special player in this NFL to truly dominate. It’s shown in Madden ’07, as seemingly every starter on every team in every position is over an 85 overall skill level. You’d expect 85 overall to produce a very good player, but because of this new trend, 85 is actually quite average in relation to everyone else. In fact, unless a player is up above 95 overall, they are all interchangeable and mediocre. Of course, this is all my own opinion, and I have very few facts to support this, but I think that this is an unforeseen realization of why the NFL doesn’t have many dominate players or teams.

 

The best player in the league is Peyton Manning. The only reason why he separates himself from all the rest of the players is because of his brains. That is the next level of NFL player, cerebral players who play smarter. As the great Canadian golfer Moe Norman once said, “try smarter, not harder”. The NFL could eventually become a more complex and cerebral product which requires players to outthink opponents instead of get bigger and stronger. Of course, that would hurt the appeal of the modern gladiator show, the NFL as we know it.

 

A quick note: I spent all night watching my favorite athlete, Mr. Eldrick Woods last night in primetime on the Golf Channel, live in China at the HSBC championship. I must say, there are few more satisfying experiences than staying in on a Thursday evening, drinking a beer and watching Tiger hit a 225 yard 4 iron into a 590 yard par 5 to 10 feet. Now I understand most of you think that I am crazy to quietly enjoy myself in the comfort of my apartment watching Tiger at 11pm on a Thursday night, but what can I say, he is must see TV. He did shoot a solid 64, which helped make it more watchable I guess, but when you see him on TV, you just can tell he’s different than any other knucklehead who hits a little white ball into a hole in the ground. He has an aura, and if you didn’t know who he was, you would realize that he is the one you want to watch. You might not know why until you see how artistic his game is. Truly the best golfer ever to play the game, ever.

 

Well, I’m done ranting for now, lets get on with the Week 10 picks, shall we?

 

49ers at Lions, Sunday 1pm

                My Lions pulled through last week, and I think they have finally figured out their identity. Jon Kitna, who I always used to think he looked like a Marine, will come through on the Marine Corps weekend of their 232nd anniversary. Semper Fi, do or die. Lions will win this game and finally start turning the heads that they were expected to at the beginning of the year.

                Final Score: Lions 27, 49ers 17

Bills at Colts, Sunday 1pm

                Peyton Manning was already alluded to in this edition of the Friday Blog as the best player in the NFL. It doesn’t hurt that he has two of the best route runners on the same wavelength alongside him. Harrison is so reminiscent of Jerry Rice, only with possibly better hands to make up for his slight disadvantage in size. Reggie Wayne has become one of the top 10 receivers in the league extremely quietly. He has never made a Pro Bowl, yet he is going to post his 3rd consecutive 1,000 yard receiving season, and possibly surpass his previous career high of 12 receiving TDs from 2004.  He can be on my team any day. And we have a special bond, Reggie was a shortstop growing up, as was I when I played little league. Luckily for him, he learned how to catch without a mitt on. I still haven’t figured that one out.

                Final Score: Colts 31, Bills 14

 

Browns at Falcons, Sunday 1pm

                You’d have to expect the Falcons to wake up from the Detroit loss this week. They need to stop pretending that Michael Vick can consistently throw for 300 yards and score 4 TDs every week. Expect them to pound the Brownies into batter on Sunday. I’d expect over 200 yards of rushing by the Falcons with the addition of two Vick TD passes. Shouldn’t be too exciting of a contest, yet the Falcons have really disappointed their fans lately with a bunch of dominant victories and confidence-shaking defeats. At 4-4, the Falcons really need this one to stay afloat in the NFC South.

                Final Score: Falcons 28, Browns 7

 

Chargers at Bengals, Sunday 1pm

                I hope this game is on TV. This is definitely an intriguing match-up between a supposed powerhouse and an underachieving team which might blow up at any minute. I love the Chargers as a team, yet I’ve picked (wrongly) the Bengals the last few weeks, and they have lost both times. I’m thinking that this game could be an old fashioned shootout, but I could be wrong. If the Chargers cannot pressure Carson Palmer and throw off his timing, then the Bengals could put up some big points on a supposedly very good Bolts Defense. LT should have yet another good game, as Cincy’s run defense is ranked 24th in the NFL right now. With all that said, I STILL think that the Bengals are going to be in the playoffs, and I have to continue to pick them to win. I mean, after all, they are going to win at some point, right? And in this topsy-turvy NFL, the underdogs have been winning. I’m surprisingly picking the Bengals to win this one.

                Final Score: Bengals 34, Chargers 30

 

Chiefs at Dolphins, Sunday 1pm

                This game should actually be good. I think that the Dolphins are a 2nd half team with Nick Saban, as they were last year. Last week’s domination of the Bears certainly gives them some credibility going into the final half of the second. Ronnie Brown should be able to find holes and break 100 yards again, especially since the Chiefs got shredded by the dual threat of Steven Jackson last week. Dude had 13 catches out of the backfield! Brown might not be as sure handed, but you’d have to expect for the Dolphins to use parts of St. Louis’s game plan from last week into Brown’s philosophy. LJ will remain a stud, but the Dolphins, yes, the Dolphins, will steal a game from Damon Huard and the Chiefs, setting them back in their attempt to claim a top spot in the AFC west.

                Final Score: Dolphins 24, Chiefs 21

 

Jets at Patriots, Sunday 1pm

                Of course, this game will be on TV over the Chargers/Bengals game. Its hard to live in Boston without a love for the Pats. I’ve never liked the Pats. I’ve never loved any NFL team other than the Lions, I enjoy the games and the match-ups more than the individual teams. Well, I’d say the Pats are trying to pick up the pieces from last week’s debacle. It was an interesting 180 from the week before, when the Pats destroyed the Vikings in an old fashioned slaughter. The Colts made the Pats look like those Vikings last week. Expect the Pats to come back from that and continue their streak of 57 games without consecutive losses. Only four more games without consecutive losses, and they will break the all time record. I’d expect that to happen. Pats and Belichick will regain their form, show their pride, and beat the Jets by a sizable margin. It will be interesting to see what Belichick does to fill the void of Rodney Harrison though.

                Final Score: Patriots 27, Jets 10

 

Packers at Vikings, Sunday 1pm

                A game that I don’t want to see, so that means it will be on Fox, guaranteed. The NFC Norris, as Boomer likes to call it, is a very mediocre division, with the exception of the Bears, although they appear overrated now, don’t they? I think this will be a defensive slugfest, with both QBs making back-breaking mistakes. Both coaches will have looks on their faces reminiscent of those Southwest Airlines commercials which beg the question “Wanna get away?” Will this be the week Brad Johnson gets benched? Probably not since the Pack own the dubious distinction of having the WORST pass defense in the whole universe. That being said, it doesn’t mean he will shred up their unit. I think Favre still has some magic left and will beat the favored Vikings since I can’t count out the crafty veteran in a game featuring two teams that don’t do anything to excite the NFL.

                Final Score: Packers 27, Vikings 22

 

Ravens at Titans, Sunday 1pm

                Vince Young might get totally slaughtered by the Ravens D. I’d hate to be him this week, but hopefully he can use his athleticism to avoid getting planted 14 times. I still think Air McNair is washed up, but he is getting the job done somehow for the NFC central leading Ravens. If the Titans D shows up and plays well, they might have a chance to keep this close. The only question is if Vince Young can put up any points, which is doubtful

                Final Score: Ravens 17, Titans 13

 

Redskins at Eagles, Sunday 1pm

                I would be shocked if this game was not on Fox in my viewing area. I always seem to see Redskin games, and I hate the Redskins. No, that has no correlation with actual Native Americans, I am sorry if any of you were offended. Anyway, I think the Eagles will win won, and Reggie Brown will respond to his 5 year contract extension with a big game. How clichéd. The Skins’ playoff hopes are buried this weekend.

                Final Score: Eagles 28, Redskins 24

 

Saints at Steelers, Sunday 1pm

                Another week, another bad week for Reggie Bush. When you are dancing in the backfield every play, you wonder if the blocking is really that bad, or he is scared that he can no longer run away from defensive players since getting into the NFL. It was funny to watch him completely outrun the entire defense in college, especially in that game vs. Fresno St. where he put up over 550 all purpose yards. That was one of my best drunken memories from last year when we had a party at our place, and we watched Reggie Bush run all over everyone in a red uniform. That was something else, something I will never forget… unless he continues this horrible play in the NFL. This is again, not a good matchup for Bush against the fast Steelers D. Steelers don’t have any heart Willie Parker? I bet you’re teammates, who are pissed at you right now by the way, prove to you that you don’t know what the (tar) ‘Heel’ you’re talking about.

                Final Score: Steelers 28, Saints 14

 

Texans at Jaguars, Sunday 1pm

                I think the Jaguars are going to win this game. I really don’t have anything else interesting to say about this one.

                Final Score: Jaguars 16, Texans 10

 

Cowboys at Cardinals, Sunday 405pm

                Cowboys should win this game handily, although you never know if the Cardinals play like they did against the Bears, it could be interesting. I would go with a complete upset, but I doubt that after last weekend’s last second (actually, there was no seconds on the clock) upset by the Skins, the Cowboys will dispatch of the Cardinals without too much drama. Dallas cannot afford another loss in a game they were supposed to win. My gut wants to go with the Cardinals, but I can’t see the Boys dropping another game so soon.

                Final Score: Cowboys 24, Cardinals 14

 

Broncos at Raiders, Sunday 405pm

                Can the Raiders put up another inspired defensive performance without knocking anyone in the family jewels? Ya, sure, against Jake Plummer, anything is possible. What is not possible is the Raiders scoring a touchdown against the Broncos defense, unless it comes in garbage time. Denver won’t press on a game it doesn’t need to.

                Final Score: Denver 21, Raiders 6

 

Rams at Seahawks, Sunday 415pm

                This seems like it should be very similar to the Rams Chiefs game last week. All indications are that it will be another fun game to watch, as the Seahawks are playing surprisingly very well without Hasselbeck and Alexander. Seneca Wallace is proof that backup QBs in the NFL are still very good QBs and are extremely well-prepared by the coaching staffs. And can I just say something about that Madden cover jinx? I can’t believe it, how consistent it has been. I’ve always been a small believer in it, but my goodness. Lets run down the facts:

John Madden on the first few covers- Before: Highest winning percentage in NFL history as a coach. After- most commonly ridiculed and clueless announcer the world has ever seen.

                Barry Sanders- Retirement

                Michael Vick- Broken Leg

                Donovan McNabb- TO, Broken Leg

                Daunte Culpepper- Daunte Culpepper

                Shaun Alexander- Mystery broken foot

I read Bill Simmons’ column earlier today and he remarked about how fans are saying they should put Osama bin Laden on the cover of 2008. Ingenious. Actually, I think they should just put dead football legends on the cover, or the Lombardi Trophy. Why not. I don’t think anything can happen to a dead guy or a piece of metal, although I could be wrong. I would suggest a newly retired player, but we don’t want them to suddenly end up dead.

                Final Score: Rams 31, Seahawks 30

 

Bears at Giants, Sunday 815pm

                Should be the game of the week. Unfortunately, fans are going to be sadly mistaken, as these are two teams from the NFC. You really think that two NFC teams are going to make for an interesting match-up? I don’t. I think the Bears defense is going to dominate this game. Giants are claimed to be the Super Bowl favorite by a few ESPN representatives, but I think the Bears are the only team worthy of representing the sad NFC in the Super Bowl. Rex Grossman cannot keep making these bonehead mistakes that he has been doing lately. Guy can turnover like a hotcake factory (sorry I went to a business school so I use business related terms sometimes). Limit his passes and control the ball with Benson/Jones, and the Bears will be extremely tough to beat for anyone.

                Final Score: Bears 22, Giants 17

 

Buccaneers at Panthers, Monday 830pm

                Back a few years ago, when it was Chucky vs. John Fox, this game would be very fun to watch. Nowadays, both franchises are in flux. After winning 4 in a row when Steve Smith got back, the Panthers and their horribly overrated defense has lost their last two. Listen, I’ve always said an undersized receiver doesn’t do anything to help the team win games, despite the big play ability. People can argue that all they want, but I’d much rather have a 6’ 4” receiver who lacks the speed than a 5’ 9” WR who’s super fast because they are historically too unreliable from year to year. At least for them they match up against a team quickly going down the drain. I think Bruce G’s luck has finally run out, and the Bucs will suffer a tough loss on the road against the Panthers on Monday night.

                Final Score: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 9

 

That’s it for the week 10 picks, hope you enjoy them, and have a great weekend! I’ll be watching Tiger in primetime, and NFL on Sunday.

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