Friday, September 30, 2011

Separated at Birth?

(Former?) Red Sox Manager Terry Francona and Shia LaBeouf

(Thanks to Swagstein for the suggestion)

NFL: Week 4 Picks

Finally, a winning week. First time that's happened all year. Feels good to get the monkey off my back. Now we can do some actual damage.

Giants -1.5: This is not an optimal situation for the Giants travelling cross-country after a huge road victory against their biggest rival. However, the Cardinals are not a good football team. They barely survived Cam Newton in Week 1, narrowly lost to the Skins in Week 2, and lost in Seattle last week. With Beanie Wells listed as a GTD (fantasy football kryptonite), Larry Fitzgerald is their only threat. Assuming the Giants double him all game – and there’s no reason not to – they should be able to leave the desert victorious.

Chargers -7: San Diego let Kansas City hang around for way too long last week. If the Chiefs had one of the top 28 quarterbacks in the league, they probably win that game. Luckily for the Chargers, they don’t and Matt Cassel played like himself in the fourth quarter. Despite the win, the Bolts have to be a little embarrassed that they only won by three despite being 15-point favorites. I think they come out on a mission this week and dominate.

Always tough betting on this guy

Packers -13.5: Aaron Rodgers is going to pick this secondary apart all day long. This should be over in the first quarter.

Seahawks +5: The Falcons are not who we (specifically me) thought they were. They’ve burned me twice this year, and even if they win, I don’t think they’ll cover. Seattle’s homefield advantage is worth a touchdown.

Patriots -4: After an ugly loss last week, I have to think this team rebounds in a big way.

Record: 6-7-2

Thursday, September 29, 2011

College Football: Week 5 Picks

Week 4 was the first losing week of the season as I went two games under .500 at 1-3. The most painful loss was that by the SDSU Aztecs, my sleeper BCS-buster which did not pan out at all.

Better luck this week...I hope. Let's try five games this week:

Northwestern +10 - In Dan Persa, I trust. The Wildcats are a different team with their QB on the field. He'll be back in uniform Saturday for the first time all year.

LSU -30.5 - It's a rare day where I give more than a touchdown to anyone, but Kentucky lost by 38 at home to Florida last week, and now they have to travel to face the country's best defense. How do they plan on scoring in this game?

Clemson +7 - The Tigers proved me wrong last week by knocking off FSU. They start fast every year. Is this the year they sustain it?

Upset: Toledo +8 - The Rockets have had a brutal start to the season including two brutal losses on the road at Phio State (almost pulled the upset) and Syracuse (did pull the upset but the replay officials were smoking crack). This is a winnable game for them despite it being on the road. I think they start their conference schedule off on the right foot with a mild upset at Temple.

Pick of the Week: Boston College -1 - Montrel Harris is a top-5 running back in the country. With him in the lineup, the Eagles can be half decent, which is all they should need against Wake.

Record: 12-7 (PoW: 3-1; Upset: 1-3)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today's NFL News That Really Wasn't News

The only surprise here is that Sanders lasted three games. Really a shame because this guy can be a Polamalu-like ballhawk and enforcer, but he has played in less than 50% of games in his career. (Note: I also have no idea what Schefter was smoking when he was tweeting "Reserve-Injured.")

The Dolphins are starting to see what everyone else in the league - most notably the Saints - already saw: Reggie Bush is not a very good player.

Next up: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. "Suck for Luck" is nearly in full swing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 3: Jets Recap

Final Score: Oakland 34, Jets 24

All you need to know
: After falling behind 7-0 three minutes into the game, the Jets jumped to a 17-7 lead by the middle of the second quarter. Oakland, specifically Run DMC, then scored 24 straight points to put the game away.

Darren McFadden puts up video game numbers: McFadden rushed 19 times for 171 yards and two scores. This is a NYJ run defense that has finished in the top for each of the past three seasons.

2008: 7th
2009: 8th
2010: 3rd

They are no slouches, and DMC made them look terrible. Plus, he tweaked his groin in the fourth quarter or the numbers would have been bigger. Guy is an absolute beast.

Dude treated grown men like high schoolers.

Antonio Cromartie wiped out all the good he did in Week 2: He committed four penalties, fumbled a kick return, and got picked apart through the air. F- grade for this one. Needs to improve. He also bruised his ribs/lungs putting next week's game in question for Cro.

Sebastian Janikowski changes games: Oakland HC Hue Jackson knows that if his team can get inside the opponent's 45, he can chalk three points on the board. That makes the Raiders dangerous on all downs and distances in positive territory.

Nick Mangold's injury left a gaping hole in the middle of the offensive line: He needs to get healthy in a hurry.

I'm still not ready to wholeheartedly trust Mark Sanchez: His first quarter INT in the end zone was a terrible, terrible, terrible decision that everyone in New York saw coming. He needs to do a better job protecting the ball. Sanchez also broke his nose in the game.

WR Jeremy Kerley impressed me with his toughness/stupidity: After fielding a punt, Kerley got his helmet knocked off and still tried to gain yardage (even though the play was blown dead). His teammates looked at him like he was insane but you could see they respected the effort.
Losing TE Jeff Cumberland for the year is not a minor deal: JC was a capable run blocker and allowed Dustin Keller to do his thing downfield in the passing game

It doesn't get any easier for the Jets: They travel to Baltimore this week followed by a trip to New England.

Monday Mullet

Sunday, September 25, 2011

11 Things I Know I know: Week 3

1. I know the most impressive team of the day was the Buffalo Bills. We - specifically this author - have used the western New Yorkers as the butt of our jokes repeatedly for the last 15 years or so. It's time to give them their due credit.

Down 21-0 24 minutes into the game, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick rallied the troops, and led the Bills to a stunning 34-31 victory. They are now 3-0. Really incredible. This team might be legit.

Tom Brady did his part by throwing four picks too.

Two other notes about this game:

-Wes Welker won a lot of games for his fantasy football owners with his ridiculous 16-catch, 217 yard, 2 touchdown masterpiece today. Great game, but it was not enough (at least in the real world).

-The way Brady stands in the pocket - like a statue - drives me absolutely crazy. He is going to get popped one of these days, and I probably won't feel too badly about it.

2. I know the second most impressive team of the day was the New York Giants. Presumed dead after their lackluster performance in the opening stanza of the season, Tom Coughlin has somehow righted the ship in two short weeks. The G-Men are now division leaders. Well done.

Victor Cruz, have a day kid.

And how about that last place Dream Team, huh? They now have Mike Kafka at the helm as they try to save their season since Michael Vick will probably be out for a week or two with a broken hand.

3. I know the least impressive team of the day was the Atlanta Falcons.

Absolutely no heart, no fight, and no excuses. The last play of this game sums it up perfectly: up by three with under a minute left and the ball near midfield, Josh Freeman somehow drew the Falcons offsides on a fourth down when everyone in the stadium knew they weren't going for it. An unacceptable mistake typifying the effort put forth by this Atlanta squad.

Things are going poorly when Roddy White is dropping passes and that's exactly what happened today. After being so high after last week's win, this loss should knock them back to Earth.

4. I know the second least impressive performance of the day was put forth by the St. Louis Rams. The fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter, showed next to no fight whatsoever, and simply did not belong on the same field as the Ravens.

Also have to tip my proverbial cap to Torrey Smith whose first three career receptions (all in the first quarter of this game) went for touchdowns. Nicely done.

5. I know that I am completely sick of hearing analysts, commentators, talking heads, or anyone pretending to know anything about football praise Gregg Williams and his New Orleans Saints defense. What is everyone's infatuation with this guy? Great, he brings some pressure. It means nothing. They are still terrible.

6. I know it's Christian Ponder time in Minnesota. After today's collapse, the Vikings have now blown double-digit, second-half leads in each of the season's first three games. I wish I could verify this was a record, but I can't imagine it's ever happened in more consecutive games.

Matthew Stafford (and the 3-0 Lions), like Josh Freeman last week, woke up in the second half against the Vikings after being held completely in check for the first 45 minutes. Good teams play for a full 60. Unfortunately, the Vikings do not.

This is a bad team in need of a youth infusion.

7. I know the only bad thing about the Red Zone channel is they are contractually obligated to televise games like San Fran-Cincinnati, Miami-Cleveland, Jacksonville-Carolina (no, rookie quarterbacks playing in a monsoon is not entertaining), and Denver-Tennessee. Pretty terrible slew of 1:00 games today mixed in with some gems like New England-Buffalo and Houston-New Orleans.

8. I know that Chris Johnson has not looked like himself in over a year now. He rushed for only 21 yards on the day against Denver, and I would be extremely concerned if I were a Titans fan. Tennessee's 2-1 record looks to be a mirage especially with WR Kenny Britt now out for the year.

When/why did this dude become twinkle toes?

9. I know that no team in the NFL can stop the Green Bay Packer offense. They won the Super Bowl without the services of Jermichael Finley who adds another potent dimension to this unit (just ask the Chicago Bears about that).

You blitz them, Rodgers picks you apart. You drop seven or eight into coverage, Rodgers waits an extra second and then picks you apart. You better be ready to win a shootout if you have any hope of beating the champs.

10. I know that Reggie Bush was the best free agent acquisition of the offseason. Ok, just making sure you were still paying attention. He has been terrible and so have the Dolphins. After a decent Week 1, Bush has 42 rushing yards, 15 receiving yards, and a fumble lost over the last two weeks. Reggie, I don't think that big contract s coming anytime soon. Nor do I think the 0-3 Dolphins are turning this thing around anytime soon.

11. I know the Cowboys will beat the Redskins on Monday Night Football, 31-24. Editor's note: In the three MNF games so far, my predictions have been off by a total of nine points.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NFL: Week 3 Picks

.375: Great batting average in baseball. Terrible winning percentage when selecting games.

Time for a big week.

Falcons +1.5: Both teams are riding high after big wins last week, but Atlanta beat a great team while Tampa Bay beat the Vikings. I think Michael Turner will have a big day.

Raiders +3.5: Love the Jets, but hate the idea of them being road favorites on the West Coast.

Seahawks +3.5: Seattle is terrible, but this is their home opener, and I think they'll have some extra motivation in front of their fans. 12th man makes the difference here.

Browns -1.5: 49ers are terrible.

Chiefs +15: San Diego always struggles when they are big favorites.

Record: 3-5-2

College Football: Week 4 Picks

Last week, I was able to take advantage of two of the three opportunities I saw on the board. The Mean Green had me a little nervous when they surrendered three early 4th quarter touchdowns, but they kept the Tide off the board the rest of the way to cover. OU used a nice 10-0 spurt in the final frame to hold off FSU.

Another relatively boring bunch of game's this weekend, but let's it's just as kind as last.

Pittsburgh +7: I've wagered against the Fighting Irish three times (two wins) in three weeks already, but I think the Panthers keep this one close on their home soil.

Florida State +3: This line has shifted SIX points in four days as FSU opened as a three-point favorite. A touchdown shift is almost unheard of when the spread is this close to Pick 'em. I think the Seminoles are extra motivated after losing on national tv last week, and Clemson is a bit overrated (see: barely beating Wofford at home).

Pick of the Week - San Diego State +10.5: Can Brady Hoke's former team spring the upset in the Big House? I hope so because the Aztecs are my sleeper BCS crasher this season and a win here would be enormous for their chances.

Upset - West Virginia +6: Just have a gut feeling about this one. The atmosphere will be crazy, and I think Geno Smith arrives on the national stage.

Record: 11-4 (PoW: 3-0; Upset: 1-2)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Charity Event: NYC

Here is an event that I am proud to be a part of. Please spread the word for a great cause:

(Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Week 2: Jets Recap / It Must Suck

This week’s Jets game was about as boring (in a good way since the game was never in any doubt) as I can remember.

Luke McCown might as well have been wearing a throwback Titans jersey because he was the best player on the field for the Jets. Four interceptions in three quarters. Really appreciate it, Luke.

So instead of an in-depth NYJ recap, let’s try something new called “It Must Suck...”:

-It must suck ... to be a Chargers special teamer. Adam Schefter tweeted this tidbit over the weekend.

That's 21+ straight games without a miss. If it were any other team besides the Chargers, I'd chalk it up to bad luck. In this case, it must be Norv Turner's fault.

-It must suck ... to be a Panthers linebacker. First it was Jon Beason (torn Achilles), now, Thomas Davis tears an ACL for the THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR.


-It must suck ... rooting for the Bengals. At least, I imagine it would, and I couldn’t find any of their fans to disprove this theory, meaning it must be true. Good luck with Andy Dalton for the next few years.

-It must suck ... actually it definitely sucks that Jason Hill wasn't “healthy” enough to back up his smack talk this weekend against Darrelle Revis.

There's a 100% chance Hill would have been shut down if he did play. Man up, Jason Hill - whoever the hell you are. If you talk smack, at least play.

-It must suck ... to be LB Lofa Tatupu. Why is this guy a free agent? The whole NFC East can use a former Pro Bowl linebacker. Is it roids? Did he age that quickly? Did all teams lose his numbers? Someone sign this guy.


One more quick Jets thing. As a fan, I think it is incredibly dumb to have Antonio Cromartie play offense. They have four running backs and five wide receivers on the roster, and they ask AC to play offense AND run back kicks? That's just begging for something bad to happen. Please end it, Rex.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

11 Things I Know I Know: Week 2

1. I know Tony Romo saved the season today with his fourth quarter/OT comeback win. His play, namely the goal line fumble, last week against the Jets was indefensible, but he completely redeemed himself in my eyes and likely the eyes of many others when he played the second half with a broken rib.

I broke a rib in college, and it was one of the most painful experiences for two straight weeks. I struggled getting into bed, and I can't imagine the pain he was in during the game.

2. I know the two teams whose fans need them most in these difficult economic times - Detroit and Buffalo - have made their cities proud and given them hope with their 2-0 starts.

Detroit looks amazing through two weeks, and Ryan Fitzpatrick looks more than capable of leading the offense.

The Bills host the Patriots next Sunday in the only game of the week featuring two undefeated teams.

3. I know the seasons ended today for Kansas City, Indianapolis, Minnesota, and Miami. Nice knowing you, and good luck in your quest for Andrew Luck.

4. I know we learned a lot about the Packers and Cam Newton during today's game.

The Packers need help in the secondary. Drew Brees lit them up last week, and now Newton had his way with them today. Adjustments need to be made if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champs...and I assume they do.

Newton has now thrown for 400+ yards in his first two career NFL games. He deserved a better fate today, but then again, he only has himself to blame as the Panthers had a chance to tie in the last three minutes but could not do so.

5. I know Bill Belichick's cockiness will cost the Patriots a game at some point this season. With a six-point lead and 11:46 left in the fourth quarter, New England faced 4th-and-4 at the Chargers' 49. BB went for it, but the Pats were stopped. San Diego took over on downs with great field position. Unfortunately for them, Mike "Rhinoceros" Tolbert fumbled three plays later. Still, it seemed like a risk that wasn't worth taking.

6. I know the Jets took care of business as any team should when Luke McCown is the opposing quarterback. It's a good thing too because they face a daunting schedule over the next seven games: at Oakland, at Baltimore, at New England, Miami, San Diego, at Buffalo, and New England. They will need a healthy Nick Mangold in order to win the majority of those games.

7. I know QB Jason Campbell and the Raiders deserved a better fate after putting up 35 points despite a) missing their top three wide receivers (Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey) and b) traveling across the country to play the 1pm EST.

8. I know we shouldn't judge teams based solely on Opening Week. See: Steelers, Pittsburgh and Ravens, Baltimore. We still can't be sure how good the Steelers are because Seattle is terrible, but their defense will finish at the top of the league again. Baltimore's defense performed poorly in their first road test, and they clearly aren't as invincible as it seemed seven days ago.

9. I know I was pretty shocked to see the Bears throw out a stinker in New Orleans today on the heels of an emotional week that included the passing of Brian Urlacher's mother. I can't really blame him for having his mind elsewhere, but his teammates need to pick him up.

10. I know the three dumbest headbutts of the weekend were:
1. Falcons CB Dunta Robinson on Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin
2. Victor Ortiz on Floyd Mayweather (even dumber was trying to overapologize)
3. Every fantasy owner of Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd on the wall when they realized too late he was inactive

11. I know the Giants will beat the Rams tomorrow night, 27-17. Like the Steelers, the Giants are not as bad as they played in Week One. The crowd will be raucous, and I don't see how St. Louis can stop the Giants rushing attack.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where Have You Gone, Ike?

On May 10th, Mets 1B Ike Davis sprained his ankle when he collided with 3B David Wright while trying to catch an infield pop up. This was not a full speed collision. The two were camped under the ball and bumped into each other near the pitcher’s mound.


David Wright to the 15-day DL

Ike Davis: out for the year

Ike was mashing before the injury: 7 homers, .302 BA, .383 OBP, .543 Slugging…and then he was gone. Not only did Davis miss the rest of 2011, but now sources (hopefully these sources are more reliable than the completely inept Mets training staff) are hinting Davis might not even be ready for the start of 2012.

Please tell me this is some kind of cruel joke.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A 162-game Baseball Season Can Swing on One Game

The Red Sox lead the Rays by three games in the Wildcard hunt heading into tonight’s game, but the situation would have been a whole lot more interesting if their game on July 17th ended differently. On that day two months ago, Boston won a 16-inning marathon, 1-0. Josh Beckett - who happens to start tonight after an 11-day layoff - and others combined on the 3-hit shutout.

(The game lasted 5 hours and 44 minutes, about the average time of a 9-inning Yankees-Red Sox game.)

The Rays came to bat 54 times on that day and blew every opportunity to knock in a run. Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac, Johnny Damon, and Justin Ruggiano all left runners in scoring position in the 9th inning or later.

At one point, 24 consecutive Rays were retired.

Scoring a run in any of the first 15 innings would have won it. But, they couldn’t deliver.

Had they won that game, they could have been 1-game out which would have made tonight even more exciting than it is.

Unfortunately, a July choke-job will almost definitely cost the Rays a taste of October and us a really meaningful game tonight.

A lot of this going on in the AL East this year.

Babb Note: Leadoff walks will kill you. The only run of the game (Josh Reddick) scored after being walked to start the 16th.

Did You Know?

Since winning the 1985 World Series, the Kansas City Royals have not made it back to the playoffs. They are 0-for-their last 26 seasons.

At least the fans in KC have the Chiefs…. oh wait. (Too soon?)

College Football: Week 3 Picks

Feeling pretty good so far about my college football picks as I'm batting .750. Going to be hard/impossible to keep up this pace, but let's try. It's going to be a light week because the games are so uninspiring.

North Texas +47: North Texas' Lance Dunbar can keep this under a seven-touchdown game, right? Seven touchdowns?

Pick of the Week - Oklahoma -3: Until Florida State wins a big one, I'm not buying them as national title contenders. I would call this a big one.

Upset - Michigan State +6: The Spartans have the straw in their hands. Will the Irish allow it to break their backs? I'm guessing yes. Plus I.m two-for-two betting against the Irish.

Record: 9-3 (PoW: 2-0; Upset: 1-1)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

NFL: Week 2 Picks

Last week, I made my picks on Thursday morning. At the time, the Titans were +3. However, by the time the Hilton sent out their weekly spreads, the line dropped to +1.5. Because we run an honest show here at The Banter and because I want to see how I would have done in this year’s SuperContest, I am giving myself a loss even though I would have won the bet had I made it (final score was Jags 16, Titans 14).

Glad that piece of housekeeping is done. Now on to the week two picks.

Jaguars +9: The Jets looked shaky at home in Week 1, albeit against an opponent that will make the playoffs when all is said and done. Somehow, the Jags were able to beat the Titans with Luke McCown at the helm. Their D looked solid, and MJD looked healthy. This Jets team is going to win a lot of defensive battles, and I think this one stays close throughout.

Colts +2.5: The Cleveland Browns are road favorites in this game. The Cleveland Browns are road favorites in this game. The Cleveland Browns are road favorites in this game. The Cleveland Browns are road favorites in this game.

Bengals +4: The Bengals proved last week they won’t be intimidated on the road against teams that absolutely suck. Cedric Benson’s line on Sunday will probably look something like this: 44 carries, 98 yards, 2 touchdowns. It’s never pretty when we are talking about the Bengals, but against the Broncos, you don’t need much to win.

Speaking of not pretty, the Bengals starting tandem of Benson and QB Andy Dalton has to rank second on the ugliest backfield list (behind Marshawn Lynch + any QB in the league).

Lynch and Benson: neither models, nor model citizens.

Cowboys -3: Tony Romo’s bounce-back game. He cost Dallas the game in Week One; now he makes amends. I’m still not convinced the 49ers are not the worst team in the league.

Cardinals +3.5: A little crazy to think that after two weeks one of these teams will be undefeated. I think it will be a high-scoring affair and when that happens, I like to take the team with the better quarterback (Kolb), running back (Wells), and number one wide receiver (Fitz).

Record: 1-3-1

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Bad Is This Weekend's Slate of College Football Games?

Alabama is a 47-point favorite over North Texas. 47 points. 47!!!

The actual woodshed behind which UNT will be beaten on Saturday

In case you are wondering, there is a 100% chance I'm taking the 47 points. I might need every last one of them to cover, but UNT RB Lance Dunbar is actually a very good player, single-handedly capable of leading the Mean Green to a couple scores.


Really, the "Mean Green"? That has to be the worst nickname/mascot/whatever you want to call it in all of college athletics.

Guess the Location

Is this pimp indoor pool at:

A) The Playboy mansion
B) The Four Seasons Hotel of Honolulu
C) The University of Missouri
D) Heaven

If you guessed C, you are a winner. Seems necessary.

Vegas Mullets

So Ricky P over at Swagstein claims this gentleman has the best mullet in the northeast. Really can't disagree.

I would like to suggest a contender for the Mountain West / WAC mullet division:

Ricky P poses with Mullet Man West.

No humans were harmed in the taking of this picture. MMW actually agreed to be photographed.

Man, I love mullets.

The Reason Buck Pierce... in the CFL: negative pocket presence.

MNF Football Predictions

The Banter: 36-23, Patriots
Actual: 38-24, Patriots

The Banter: 20-19, Raiders
Actual: 23-20, Raiders


Monday, September 12, 2011

This is Awesome

A Madison, Wisc. firefighter Robert Verhelst wore 65 pounds of fire fighter gear Sunday in the 2011 Wisconsin Ironman to honor the victims of 9/11.


See the rest of the story here.

Public Service Announcement

Saturday’s slate of college football games is about as bad as you’ll see all year (with the exception of OU-FSU at 8pm ET) so if you have chores to do, in-laws to see, or work to catch up on, this is the day to do it.