Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 8 Picks

Ok, a big Week 8 on tap and we'll see if we can do a better job than flipping a coin. 

Arizona @ Baltimore - I have to think that the Ravens are going to be on a mission to erase that performance that we saw last Monday night.  They are playing at home and maybe Halloween will be time for their offense to treat instead of trick.  Arizona is in the process of getting their offense on tracka nd this isn't the defense that I'd like to go against in order to make this happen.  There is some hope because the Ravens defense will have a few injuries that may play a role in this game and their biggest one being Ed Reed.  Winner - Ravens.

Minnesota @ Carolina - This ought to be a good one, with two rookie QBs (Ponder and Newton) and two struggling defenses.  I am surprised that McNabb still feels like he's better suited to win games for this Vikings team, well moreso that he said it publically.  I think that switched to Ponder one game too early but it proved to maybe not be such a bad decision with Ponder's performance against the Packers.  I could see it going both ways.  Winner - Carolina.

Jacksonville @ Houston - The Texans showed up last week and put up a lot of points with Arian Foster literally running wild.  Jacksonville surprised the world with their win over the Ravens last Monday night in possibly one of the ugliest games I've seen in awhile and at the same time they may have saved their head coaches job.  Houston has to win this game because this is their year, so we'll see if they can put two back to back good games.  Winner - Texans

Miami @ New York Giants - This starts the Sparano Death March.  It's snowing in New York, the Dolphins are struggling (to say the least).  A lot of news has been made about Sparano putting his house up for sale, but it's really about whether this team could score 21 points on the practice field.  Winner - Giants.

New Orleans @ St. Louis - I don't think they'll get to 62 this week, but I expect a big win from the Saints.  Winner - Saints

Indianapolis @ Tennessee - I have been waiting for Painter to have a break out game and he's been close, so the question is will it be today?  The Titans are struggling to get their running game on track and something tells me that this may be the week that happens.  Hasselbeck can manage this team and help them get a win, but if they don't score, I think that gives the Colts a chance to stay around and possibly sneak at win at the end.  Winner - Titans

Detroit @ Denver - This seasons' darlings against Tebow Mania.  The Lions have lost 2 straight and they have to get back to doing what they need to do in order to win games and that's run the ball.  We'll see if they have found an answer to their running game while we'll see how well Tebow can bounce back after his performance last week.  I imagine that the defensive line of the Lions will give the Broncos some problems as they have some RB issues also.  Winner - Lions

Washington @ Buffalo - No Santana Moss, no Tim Hightower, and pretty much no chance.  Thsi Redskins team went from an amazing start to crashing and burning quickly.  Hopefully Fitzpatrick doesn't have contract letdown since signing his deal late last week.  Winner - Bills

Cincinnati @ Seattle - How can Tavaris Jackson possibly start with an injured pectoral?  I know the QB play isn't inspiring in Seattle, but that must say alot that you'd start him over Whitehurst (we'll see what really happens).  But this game won't be worth watching, unless you live in Cincy or Seattle and maybe not even then.  Winner - Bengals

Cleveland @ San Francisco - The 49ers are for real.  The Browns are without Hillis and I'm not sure thtey have a lot of hope.  Winner - 49ers

New England @ Pittsburgh - Now we're talking the big boys.  The Patriots come into Pittsburgh owning these Steelers.  The big question is whether the Steelers can pressure Brady and force him into bad decisions.  Those two tightend sets that the Patriots will run will hurt a Steelers defense, so the Steelers offense will do well with running the ball and keeping Mr. Brady in a baseball cap.  Winner - Patriots

Dallas @ Philadelphia - The Cowboys have had this game circled since the preseason.  I hope that they're ready to actually do something besides make a mark on a calendar.  It's fitting that this game will come down to whether Romo 'tricks or treats' his team.  Winner - Eagles

San Diego @ Kansas City - Halloween Night.  Two teams that have taken two different routes here.  The Chiefs can play for a tie in the AFC West with a win here.  They have lost their starting RB (Charles) , S (Berry), and TE (Moeaki) and are still winning.  I wouldn't have thought that they would have gotten this far, but their defense has stepped up.  The Chargers actually started off fast this year and then hit a lull with some closes losses.  Gates looks to finally be back in the Chargers lineup and as always their offense is explosive.  I would normally pick the Chargers in this game, but it's Halloween and we never know what could happen.  Winner - Chargers

Who you got?!?!?!?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 7 Wrap Up

Is the world really going to end?  I mean these games this weekend just broke my heart a few different times.  Lots of injuries this week that caused some of these outcomes, but that's part of the game. 

San Diego @ New York Jets - Well, the Chargers jumped out early and looked like they were going to not only take the Jets hearts, but win this game.  After that, the 2nd half happened.   The Jets battled back and Mark Sanchez found Plaxico Burress for (not 1, not 2,..) 3 TDs and a come back win for the Jets.  I'm not sure if this was a season saver for the Jets, but part of me thinks that it was.  If they didn't win this game, Sanchez was going to come under fire for his bad play and all Superbowl talk would have come down to whether the Jets would have been able to find a travel agent that could have gotten them tickets for the event.  The Chargers looked like the team that they have in the past, good for one half and then they looked worse than average at the end of the game (bad play calling, no urgency, and lots of mistakes).  Rex Ryan was extremely happy during this presser, so you know he was breathing a sigh of relief.  Inquisitive Mind 0 - 1 for the week.

Chicago @ Tampa Bay - Well, the short of it is this, the Bears have the same record as they had last year going into the bye week and they are excited in Chicago but I think they need to temper that excitement because this team isn't as good as last years.  The other thing that we know is that it's a dayum shame that Forte isn't getting his money.  I'm not sure what else he has to do.  His price is only going up.  For the Bucs, this was a costly trip to London because they lost about 4 players in this game including Earnest 'Insurance' Graham.  Hopefully Blount comes back soon because they were down to their last running back in this game.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 1 for the week.

Washington @ Carolina - This was a yawner up to halftime and then somehow the offense opened up.  Cam Newton was decent and showed signs of really becoming a better QB, I just need him to get some more help on the ground from his team so that he is running as much.  No turnovers and 2 TDs (1 rushing, 1 passing).  The Redskins may be done for the rest of the year with Hightower (ACL) done for the year and the defense's inability to stop the run.  It's not going to really matter whom the QB is at this point.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 1 for the week. 

Atlanta @ Detroit - Another week, another Lions letdown.  The bandwagon wheels are starting to show some wear and may require a full fledged jumping off if the Lions can't run the ball.  The defense was able to slow down the Falcons, but the Lions offense is going to have to puts some points on the board.  There should be concern in Detroit, but I'm not ready to give up on them yet.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 2 for the week.  

Seattle @ Cleveland - This was the second worst game of the week and with a 6-3 final score, you have to know what the worst game of the week was.  This is all I have to say, this has to be punishment for Pete Carroll for all of the USC stuff because this Seahawks team is horriawful.  Neither QB can play and your starting RB has back spasms.  For those that watched this game, please send your request for payment of your time to the Browns and the Seahawks.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 3 for the week.  

Denver @ Miami - Well this is the beginning of Tebow Mania.  Tebow and the Broncos played like isht for about 54 minutes of a 60 minute game (and they played better than the Ravens, imagine that).  Tebow put on his Superman cape and willed this team to a win.  Still this is a bad team and with their losses in this game, they got a lot on them for their next game.  On the flip side an out of town trip from the Dolphins owner may in fact allow Sparano to keep his job.  We know the end is coming, right?  Inquisitive Mind 3 - 3 for the week.  

Houston @ Tennessee - Well the Texans opened up a can of A$$WHOOPIN on the Titans.  They treated this game like they were playing the Colts in Week 1.  I think that Arian Foster is still running or catching passes somewhere.  Good win and this may get them back on the right road in the AFC. Inquisitive Mind 3 - 4 for the week.  

Kansas City @ Oakland - Al Davis wouldn't have liked this game.  Both of your QBs throw for 3 INTs in one game?  Really?  McFadden injures his ankle, and now some are ready to close down the Raiders shop, all within a week.  The Chiefs are messing up their chances for Andrew Luck with each of these empty wins.  (Yes, that's about all they have left for this year).  Inquisitive Mind 3 - 5 for the week.  

Pittsburgh @ Arizona - Beanie Wells gets hurt, the Cardinals offense sucks yet again and the Steelers limp along.  That pretty much sums this game up.  If he's not careful someone in Arizona might be job hunting also.  Inquisitive Mind 4 - 5 for the week.  

Green Bay @ Minnesota - I will say that I am surprised that the Vikings were able to keep this close.  Had it not been for that wide open Greg Jennings TD, this game could have been in the Vikings favor.  Christian Ponder actually played pretty well for a rookie and moved outside of the pocket to make some throws.  Maybe it was time for the Vikings to make that change at QB.  With the defense turning around the Vikings may play spoiler to a few teams in the NFC when we start talking about playoffs.  Is anyone else watching Aaron Rodgers and how well he's playing?  I mean he makes it look so effortless to play the way he is playing.  Brees is balling, but Rodgers might be the MVP this year.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 5 for the week.  

St. Louis @ Dallas - The Cowboys showed up and they were 'unbeatable' (from Dez Bryant).  These team needs to show up more and it always helps when you have a newbie who runs for a team record 253 yards on the ground.  DeMarco Murray made this game easy for the Cowboys and if he can keep this up (we know he's going to have like a 70 yard game next week) the Cowboys are going to look good.  Success never really changes for the Cowboys, run the ball  to setup the pass and get a few big plays out of your big time receivers and tight end and you win.  Inquisitive Mind 6 - 5 for the week.  

Indianapolis @ New Orleans - Oochie ouch!!!!  They scored 62!!!  And they could have easily scored at least another 7 points.  Drew Brees was out of this world and he didn't even get over 350 yards, but those 6 TDs probably made him the big fantasy winner.  The Colts looked bad and there's even some sentiment running around that Jim Caldwell may need to have his bags packed.  I hope that he isn't fired because of this season (sans Manning) as that would be a travesty.  By the way, the cutaways to Manning reached 6 in the first 4 minutes of the game and I stopped counting after I got to about 15.  It's tough to watch the Colts get beat like this.  Inquisitive Mind 7 - 5 for the week.  

Baltimore @ Jacksonville - Hello Jaguars defense, goodbye Ravens.  What in the halibut happened?  I mean this is the second time this year that the Ravens have not only laid an egg, but it was a rotten egg at that.  I was downplaying the chatter that this team is being held back by Flacco but now, I'm almost on board with that.  This was supposed to be the year they opened the offense and got him some more weapons to make this offense go and this is the type of game that I have to suffer through?  Harbaugh should have pulled a Schwartz on his OC and Flacco with some old Vince Lombardi 'What the he77 is going on out there?'  This was sad, really sad.  I remember back in 2000, Ray Lewis came on TV and told everyone, if the offense gives us 14 points a game, I guarantee that we win the majority of them because their defense was that good.  They're close now to that defense and I think he needs to step out there and say the same thing again.  Something has got to change.  The absolute worst game of the week (unless you're a Jaguar fan).  Inquisitive Mind 7 - 6 for the week.  

This was horrible, and I mean horrible.  I might have to resort to flipping coins for next week.  After this 7-6 that puts us at 67 -36 for the year and in last place.  (Jaws doesn't count because he can't pick Monday night games).  

Friday, October 21, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 7 Picks

Let's get this thing moving again.  Lots of good games and even one across the pond in London.  Want a good week this week so cross everything and let's get started. 

San Diego @ New York Jets - Well, Rex Ryan said he would have won about two rings with those stacked Chargers teams and I actually think he is right.  Norv is a great offensive coordinator (Dallas) but you can't sell me that he's that good of a head coach (Washington, San Diego).  But as usual, the players will decide this game on the field and both teams need this game, but the Jets need this more than anyone.  Their offense is sputtering and their defense needs to make a few more plays which will be harder with Philip Rivers bearing down on them.  This will be LT's first game against the Chargers as a Jet, so that will be interesting also.  Should be a good game, should be high scoring,....Winner - Chargers.   

Chicago @ Tampa Bay - Another good one and this one is in London.  I understand the need to expand the NFL around the world, but this is tough travel for each team.  If we can get Cutler to not cuss out his OC and find a way for the Bears to protect him, not with 8 man protection schemes but with shorter drops, the Bears should be pretty good.  For some reason teams have been kicking to Hester and I still don't understand that, but I'm sure the ol'blokes in London would love to see a return for a touchdown, so Tampa probably will be mandated to kick to him at least 3 times.  The Bucs are going to play the Bears tough.  Blount is not going to play, so the workload will be given to Earnest Graham.  This is the week prior to the Bears bye week and with a win, they would have the same record as last year before the bye.  Not sure what that means, but that will give the Bears fans false hope.  Winner - Bears.

Washington @ Carolina - The Showdown between Rex Grossman and Cam Newton, just what we were looking for.  (What?)  You mean that Sexy Rexy has been benched and Beck is going to start for the Redskins?  @MikeCrowder, I know you're somewhere crying in your beer over that, but this is where Rex is best suited, on the bench.  The Redskins defense can bring it and they'll have their hands full dealing with Newton and Steve Smith, but it'll come down to whether Beck can get that Redskins offense moving.  This will be a better game than most think.  I still think the young guy has some more 'amazing' in his tank.  Winner - Panthers

Atlanta @ Detroit - Both teams are on a mission here.  The Lions are trying to right the ship after their first loss and the Falcons are trying to right their ship after a slow start to the season.  The teams are going to be playing in the dome in Detroit and each has some minor problems.  Jahvid Best is being told that he should sit out the rest of the season because of the fact that he's already had 2 concussion this year and then a trade for Ronnie Brown was nixed because Jerome Harrison has a brain tumor.  (Side note: Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jerome and his family.  Always look at the good in this, because without this failed trade, it's possible that the brain tumor would have never been found until something bad happened.)  Without a ground game the Lions are in trouble because they can't afford to have Stafford dropping back 40 or 50 times.  Winner - Lions.

Seattle @ Cleveland - Can we just pay Hillis already so he'll play?  I mean this circus has got to stop.  And yes, I believe that he's mailing it in until he gets his check (part of me doesn't fault him for that).  Two bad teams and someone has to win, right?  We should see more of Mr. Cribbs, but is that enough to push this game in favor of the Browns?  Winner - Seahawks.

Denver @ Miami - I betcha Brandon Marshall doesn't drop a ball in this game.  His old team comes to town and they are starting Mr. Tebow.  Not only will Tebow's Florida team be honored during this game, but he gets his first start that could be the beginning (or end) of the Tebow Era in Denver.  The Dolphins looked terrible on Monday night and there's nothing that has me thinking that they'll be much better this Sunday.  I guess I gotta go with Tebow mania this week.  (Side note: I'm hoping that Tebow gets a good opportunity to make things happen for himself in Denver.  He may not be your prototypical QB, but he does the one thing that QBs are measured on and that's win).  Winner - Broncos.

Houston @ Tennessee - The Titans are quietly 4-2 and no one seems to care.  The Texans are still reeling from losing Andre Johnson, although there's an outside chance of him playing in this game (he was limited this week in practice).  This is supposed to be 'THE YEAR' for the Texans with the team they have and the little fact that #18 in Indy is hurt, but they haven't seized the day, yet.  They have to start here and make sure that they win this game so that they can start making some deep plans about being in the playoffs.  Winner - Titans.

Kansas City @ Oakland - Yes, Al Davis would love that they got Carson Palmer and he'd love the fact that he has a chance to beat the Chiefs all in the same week.  Palmer starting says a lot about Kyle Boller.  The fact that they didn't even give Palmer a week to acclimate is (I can't even think of the word).  So, the Raiders get an upgrade from Jason Campbell (Side note: Someone give Jason Campbell a real shot next year.  I mean the kid has had more OCs than Kim Kardashian has had boyfriends, and he has talent, but he hasn't been given a fair shot.  He was actually playing pretty well in Oakland.) and that upgrade has to realize that the best pass he can throw is a hand off to Darren McFadden.  This Chiefs team is struggling so I expect that the Raiders jump on them early.  Winner - Raiders.

Pittsburgh @ Arizona - Well supposedly the Cardinals have figured out why their passing game has sucked this year (they do know Kevin Kolb is their QB, right?) and they expect to roll this out against the Steelers and their limited defensive backfield.  The Cardinals are going to need a big game from Beanie Wells and the aforementioned Kolb to pull this one off.  Winner - Steelers

Green Bay @ Minnesota - For those of you that have played spades in the past, you can throw in your hand when you don't have any spades and that's kind of like what the Vikings are faced with.  They have on spade and it's a 3, but that's it.  Not suits, nothing higher than a 7.  I'm pretty sure if they call the league, the NFL will spare them this butt whuppin and just assign a score of maybe 31 to 10 as the final and no one has to even chance getting hurt this weekend.  Christian Ponder, welcome to the NFL and your gift today is the Packers defense.  Be well.  Winner - Packers.

St. Louis @ Dallas - Hmmm,...the bad team versus the not so good team, and I'll let you pick which one works for which team.  The Cowboys need this win so that people can stop talking about their coach or their starting QB.  Just a note to Mr. Romo, when you get to the line and see that Dez Bryant is locked up 1-on-1 with any of the Rams DBs, please audible and go to Dez.  Just thought I'd try and help out a little.  It'll make you look real good.  Winner - Cowboys.

Indianapolis @ New Orleans - What's the over-under on cutaways to Peyton Manning (and or Archie Manning) in this game?  I say the under is 6.  Yes, the Colts go to the Big Easy but it definitely won't be easy for them to get a win.  Their defense has been toasted by just about everyone they've played and the offense just isn't clicking yet (it would have been had they let Painter start the beginning of the season, just my two cents.).  The Saints need to get back on the winning track after losing a close one to the Bucs last week.  Brees remember, those 3 picks lost you the game last week, let's try and throw it to our guys this week.  Winner - Saints

Baltimore @ Jacksonville - Hello Ravens defense, goodbye Jacksonville.  Winner - Ravens.

(Side note: ATTN: Bears Management - Please watch what the Bills did during their bye-week by signing their top performer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to an expected $10M a year deal.  See, people perform and you pay them and everybody's happy.  Please pay Forte NOW!!!!  He's not tanking like Hillis and he's the cog in your offense that you can't do without.  #IMJUSTSAYIN).

Who you got?!?!?!?

Lockout Fixed?!?!?

A solution to all of this NBA Lockout mess and something that I have tweeted about previously, get your own dayum league.  This article is from Peter Keating, ESPN the Magazine, but I felt like this should hit home for all involved:

'This story appears in the Oct. 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

IS THERE ANYTHING MORE BORING than a lockout? One gray-haired, grimly smiling guy steps from a fleet of SUVs to a battery of microphones and says he wishes the two sides weren't so far apart. Another gray-haired, grimly smiling guy steps from the next line of SUVs to the same microphones and says his side's resolve is stronger than ever. Instead of highlight reels, we get a dull, corporate scorpion mating dance.

But a footnote in history says our sports don't have to be held hostage by negotiations. In 1890, a group of baseball stars formed the Players League, which shared profits among athletes and investors. Greed and mismanagement doomed the league after only one year, but its concept of solidarity still applies. Now that the NBA lockout has already brought, as of press time, the cancellation of at least two weeks of games, the sport's stars have even more incentive to take control of basketball's most valuable resource -- their talent -- and start a league of their own.

"I've discussed forming our own league with LeBron," Carmelo Anthony told The Mag in mid-October after playing in the South Florida All-Star Classic, a packed-house charity game that also included King James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. "You can see the fan reaction here. They need it, we need it. I can tell you that I'm working on something. We'll see what happens."
Amar'e Stoudemire agrees: "It's something that we've thought about. Obviously we want to play in the NBA and get this situation resolved. But if it doesn't, we still want to play at a high level and keep our fans satisfied."

In other industries where talent works with suits to produce entertainment -- Hollywood, music, publishing -- artists receive royalties. Yet in sports, the concept of players as owners remains a novelty, even though it's the athletes we pay to see. Since the Players' League folded a century ago, athletes have been punching clocks in all our major sports. Incredibly lucrative clocks, for sure. But NBA owners have let hard-liners like Cleveland's Dan Gilbert and Phoenix's Robert Sarver set an agenda of reducing the money flowing to players by hundreds of millions of dollars. If the NBA players' association reacts by simply conceding a few percentage points of revenue, the owners will come back in a few years, claiming more losses and seeking more givebacks.

Audited financial statements of NBA owners show that they lost a combined $1.55 billion from 2005-06 to 2009-10. But most NBA franchises are like the Mona Lisa; they're worth owning not because of what they make or lose in a given year but because they are rare and prestigious and accumulate value. The average NBA team has gained more than $100 million, or nearly 40 percent, in value since 2003, during the worst economy in decades. Team owners also get a crazy, and lucrative, tax break. They can write off 100 percent of the amount they paid for their teams over 15 years, on whatever schedule they like. This is a fabulous way to make profits disappear for tax purposes -- or during labor negotiations. There's little debate that buying or keeping most franchises is a no-brainer for anyone with enough money.

With such a cash cow at stake, the owners do everything they can to choke off competition while the NBA is active. But this is America. I can lock you up to play for me or I can lock you out from playing for me, but not both.

So should players secede right away? No way. As long as there are games left on the 2011-12 calendar, NBA commissioner David Stern could crush any talk of a new league simply by lifting the lockout. With the proviso that a players' league makes sense only if this entire season is canceled, what would it look like? After talking with players, financial experts, media consultants and potential investors, and looking at plans floated by gadflies like Michael Tillery of the Starting Five blog, here's our stab at a basic business plan.

MISSION STATEMENT: The National Players League (NPL) is of the players, by the players and for the players and fans. It will provide the highest-quality competition and entertainment.

BUSINESS CONCEPT: The NPL will leverage the talent of the world's top basketball players to achieve three goals: First, to stage games in place of the NBA season. Second, to establish a new business model for basketball, in which the players themselves own the league and fewer intermediaries exist between the league and fans. Third, to exploit the NBA's areas of vulnerability to grow and expand the new NPL.

FUNDING: The NPL's overall goal is to raise $500 million. Initial seed money will come from a source that has gone largely unnoticed in the current labor dispute: escrow overages.
Under the NBA's expired collective bargaining agreement, players were entitled to 57 percent of the league's basketball-related income every year. But team owners couldn't know whether all of the contracts in the league would add up to more or less than that until after each season, so teams withheld a small portion of every player's paycheck in an escrow account. At the end of each season, if teams had collectively already paid out more than 57 percent of revenues to players, they kept part or all of the account; if they had paid less, they gave the escrow back.

Last season, for the first time under this CBA, the owners paid out less than 57 percent. As a result, the NBA refunded $188 million to the players. Asking players to forward their escrow checks to the NPL would be a perfect way to start a new league: Every player in the union would contribute an equal fraction of his salary in the form of the roughly 8 percent that the league had withheld. Members would all become part-owners of the new league, whether or not they play in it anytime soon. And the money would have originated from an NBA bank account, not players' pockets.
Further, the NPL will offer primary ownership roles to players willing to invest $10 million or more in the new league. Ten players have earned significant MVP votes in the past three years (with a steep drop-off beyond them): Anthony, Bryant, Durant, James, Paul, Wade, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose. As the NPL's top players and revenue producers, they will be given first chance to be managing partners of NPL franchises. If one of them balks, then player rep Derek Fisher would step in and be given the first pick.

OPERATING STRUCTURE: The NPL will launch with 10 teams of 10 players, in two types of cities. The league will first look to locations that are NBA-ready but don't have NBA teams. Stern has previously said Kansas City, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa-St. Pete have "good buildings"; we can add Anaheim, San Jose and Seattle to that list. Second are cities that have strongly supported the barnstorming games held during the lockout: Las Vegas, Miami and possibly Baltimore or Philadelphia.
Teams will stock their rosters through a nine-round, 90-player draft, creating one of the greatest basketball spectacles ever: Dirk, Kobe and LeBron battling it out over the rights to Manu, Rajon and Blake. Each team will have an initial budget of 10 percent of the league's investing pool (or at least $50 million per franchise). Teams will share the league's overhead: the costs of insurance, promotion and travel. Beyond that, the managing partners, together with the general managers they hire, will negotiate player salaries.
There will be no graduation requirements, no age limits, no maximum salaries, no salary caps. The NPL is about competition, not misallocating resources because of top-down rules.
Teams will play each other five times. The NPL's 45-game schedule will begin on what would have been NBA All-Star weekend and end with two rounds of playoffs the week before the start of the NFL season.

PRICING AND MARKETING: With teams, cities and venues established, the NPL expects to secure a national TV partner. The likeliest: Comcast-NBC, which could use more sports programming in the late winter and spring, and which is rebranding its Versus outlet toward traditional sports.
The NPL is confident that some media giant will offer a contract because live sports remain one of the few ways for advertisers to reach the viewers they covet. Advertisers are expected to pay about $1.3 billion to ESPN/ABC, TNT and NBA TV for NBA games in 2011-12. If this season is canceled, where better for them to redirect at least part of that spending than to replacement top-level basketball programming?
At the local level, the NPL will focus on attracting fans to games, not maximizing revenues. High ticket and concessions prices have driven away many people, particularly younger and black fans, from the NBA experience. Part of the NPL's mission is to overcome that trend. Maintaining robust crowds is also important in order to generate favorable media coverage and a good TV presence. The new league will keep ticket prices between $5 and $20.

ANALYSIS OF COMPETITIVE RISK: Even assuming the NPL finds capital and generates revenues, it faces two severe risks. A new organization will find it hard to meet demand from fans who want basketball but are used to getting it from the NBA. "We looked at an alternative football league that eventually became the XFL," says Harvey Schiller, CEO of GlobalOptions Group and former president of Turner Sports. "And one thing came from fans, almost to a person, when we reviewed their opinions. They said, 'You guys can do whatever you want, but don't mess with my NFL.' "

The NPL is betting that hoops fans have less of an unshakable connection to the names and traditions and logos of their favorite franchises than they do to the names and styles and personalities of their favorite players. After all, 1.1 million people just watched the live Internet feed of Chris Paul's All-Star Charity Pickup Game. NBA players are more visible than baseball or football players. It's arguable that in basketball, Michael Jordan and LeBron James fans connect to them more than any particular organization.
The other prime risk is competition from the NBA itself. But if the owners carry out their threat to kill the season, then fans, sponsors and corporate partners will all turn their attention to whatever basketball springs up. Yes, Adidas has a $400 million deal to outfit the NBA in apparel, but what would Nike pay to dress LeBron and Melo in new unis? Yes, Spalding makes NBA basketballs, but Rawlings and Wilson could bid for that contract. And yes, it will be difficult to fill front-office, marketing and medical staff, but the NPL can start by hiring people the NBA lays off. The NBA is a dominant entity and a powerful brand, but its competitive position will begin to crumble.

HOW MANY THINGS COULD GO WRONG with this plan? How about everything. Let's face it, the history of alternative leagues isn't too bright. Players could cave once they start missing paychecks. They could quarrel over money or mismanage it, or fail to find outside investors. But if they band together at this moment, the NPL would have something that no other alphabet-soup combo in the history of rival startups, from the AFL to the USFL to the WHA, ever boasted: the best players.
"Even in the ABA, which had Dr. J and George Gervin, most of the players were nobodies," says David Berri, associate professor of economics at Southern Utah University and general manager of the website for Wages of Wins Journal, an early proponent of a new players league. "But the best players could be in this new league."

The NPL draft would be fun. Athletes would be paid a combination of salaries and profits. Competition would be high-level. Games would be cheap. It's a chance to combine the best aspects of the NBA, reform proposals and fantasy games into one entity.
Of course, if the NPL ever came close to viability, Stern and his minions would probably unhinge their jaws and do whatever it took to swallow the new league. Which brings us to exit strategy, something traditional business plans don't usually make explicit. Previous alternative leagues often sought expansion via mergers, but that's not really an issue here. The players will need to decide on what terms they would fold this new league. Here's a suggestion that would bring the soul of the NPL concept into the NBA and would potentially change labor agreements across sports: Any new CBA should allow player compensation to include partial ownership of franchises, which players would convert to cash if they switch clubs or the team is sold.

If NBA players are willing to assume the risks of owning their teams, they should be able to share in the profits. Because if NBA owners, with their monopolies, subsidies and tax breaks, are really losing more than $300 million a year, then the right response isn't to shovel more revenues at them. It's to put some new drivers behind the wheel.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

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Hey, we are on Twitter now, follow us there for more information on your favorite sports.  You can follow us @Inq_Mind_Blog.  Tweet ya soon.

2011 ACC Media Day

ACC Media coverage can be found here.  Get ready, basketball (in some form) is getting ready to start.  Let's Go Devils!!!!

More from Andy Katz,

2011-12 NFL Week 6 Wrap Up

Maybe I should spend more time with the kids around when I make my picks, things seem to work out better.  After this week, I might even let my youngest make my Week 7 Picks.  Talk about a tough week.  Let's take a look at the carnage.

San Francisco @ Detroit - The let down was with the Lions as they finally took an 'L' for the first time this season.  Yes, this hurt, which is why you saw all of this Hand Shakegate for the majority of the week.  Harbaugh may be somewhat of an a$$, but I don't think that he was trying to instigate anything.  It just looked bad, like he was telling Schwartz, take your coat, your hat, and leave with that shove in the back.   Inquisitive Mind 0 - 1 for the week.  

St. Louis @ Green Bay - The Packers let up on this one.  They dominated the first half and then practiced the second half.  Where are all of the Rams fans?  Wasn't this supposed to be the year that they turned things around.  This is really a rhetorical question.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 1 for the week.  

Carolina @ Atlanta - This was a good game until the Panthers imploded.  Well, let me also add that the Falcons had to be saying to themselves, we CAN'T lose this game.  So, Cam has gently come back to earth after a great start to the first 4 weeks of his career and the Falcons realized that Michael Turner can actually run the ball.  Good win for the Falcons.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 2 for the week.  

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati - When it goes bad, it just goes bad.  Both teams were basically even statistically except in the one category that mattered and that was turnovers.  The Colts had 3 and the Bengals had none.  Game over.  Still waiting for Painter to look decent and not this bad.  Maybe Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are hoping for a trade now.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 3 for the week.  

Buffalo @ New York Giants - Turnovers will kill you.  Not so much by the points that were scored but the idea that the Bills had opportunities to score and then gave the ball away.  They lost on a late Tynes field goal, after basically matching the Giants from a production standpoint.  Maybe it's time to get off this Bill bandwagon before it goes downhill.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 4 for the week.  

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh - Thank you Steelers for winning a game this week.  They didn't dominate as I had thought, but at least they won.  As long as this Steeler team hangs around, they are going to be dangerous.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 4 for the week.  

Philadelphia @ Washington - The Eagles came thisclose to losing this game.  How can you not get a yard?  Every offense in the NFL should be able to get one yard on the ground to get a first down.  Why is it that the Eagles continually, through the years, have this problem?  They finally stopped the bleeding and that's probably thanks to Rex Grossman and his 4 INTs.  Can't depend on Grossman to give you games in the future.  Inquisitive Mind 3 - 4 for the week.  

Houston @ Baltimore - I guess the big question for this game is whether Flacco is going to cost the Ravens a few games or is there something else going on?  There's something holding this Ravens offense back and the easy answer is the QB, but I'm not so sure.  I like Flacco and think that he is a pretty decent QB, but with the options he has as receivers, he's got to put up better numbers than he did in this game.  Just need to watch this going forward.  That defense is only going to be able to do what they do in the manner they do it for a limited time going forward, so they need to capitalize on this opportunity now. Inquisitive Mind 4 - 4 for the week.  

Cleveland @ Oakland - Sucks to be Jason Campbell.  He was playing well and then he gets hurt (broken collarbone) and he is in the last year of his contract.  Now the Raiders bring in Carson Palmer and I doubt that Campbell is back next year.  The timing is bad for this kid.  The Raiders have put together a minor winning streak here.  Look out for them.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 4 for the week.  

Dallas @ New England - Cowboys gave this game away, period.  They had everything going that they needed to do in order to win in New England but couldn't close the deal.  Is Romo who we thought he was?  Is he a closer?  Or is he just a better than average QB?  Answers will be shown over the next 4 or 5 games by the Cowboys.  Inquisitive Mind 6 - 4 for the week.  

New Orleans @ Tampa Bay - Congrats to Raheem Morris and this Tampa team as they look legit.  They have a good QB, a good RB and they play defense.  Watch out for them if they are on your schedule.  How long can this young team find ways to win?  Inquisitive Mind 6 - 5 for the week.  

Minnesota @ Chicago - Are the Bears that good or are the Vikings that bad?  Neither question was answered, but I will say that the Bears have upped (I know that's not a word) the expectations for them in the Chicago area by beating this team so soundly.  I don't think the Bears are that good, but we'll find out soon.  Lovie can say that we're where we were last year, so we're ok.  I don't believe that.  Inquisitive Mind 7 - 5 for the week.  

Miami @ New York Jets - The Dolphins and more specifically Brandon Marshall gave this game away.  How many passes did he drop?  How many were in the end zone?  They were already at a disadvantage, but that didn't help.  That may have saved Tony Sparano's job by getting that win.  Well, the only thing that would save his job is probably them going to the Superbowl, so we don't have to worry about that.  Sparano, start cleaning out the office and be ready to bounce at any time after the bye week.  Inquisitive Mind 8 - 5 for the week.  

Bad week!!!  8-5 is for people who don't know what they're talking about.  That puts me squarely at 60-30 for the year.  Seems like I need to hanging out with Mike Golic a little more as he is leading me by 6 games. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 6 Picks

Ok, maybe I'll have some time today to get these in.  The kids need to sleep too, right?!?!?

San Francisco @ Detroit - It's gotta end at sometime, right?  The Lions just can't go all crazy on folks like their 'hopped up on Mountain Dew' (if you don't understand the movie, let me know and I'll explain).  The 49ers come in after throttling the Bucs by 45 (did I write that?).  Someone has some letdown somewhere.  Winner - Lions

St. Louis @ Green Bay - Not sure what to say about this one.  This is David versus Goliath without David having God on his side.  The Packers are a disciplined team and I expect that they'll make the most of welcoming the Rams to Lambeau.  Winner - Packers

Carolina @ Atlanta - This is going to be a good game.  The Panthers are hurting on defense, and the Falcons are hurting on offense.  Two QBs that know each other personally and I imagine that they will both put up good numbers this weekend.  Cam, I'm all in with you.  Let's see if you can get a 'W' in the ATL.  Winner - Panthers

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati - I've given this Colts team the benefit of the doubt but the way they are playing they are trying to get some Luck.  Then the word on the street is that they are willing to ship Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne out of town, things ain't looking good for wins this year.  This is their chance to get a 'W' and try and do something different.  Winner - Colts.  

Buffalo @ New York Giants - This ought to be good.  The fight for New York is finally a fair fight.  The Bills defense is becoming a turn over machine and the offense is starting to learn how to beat teams.  The Giants let me down last week and Eli, well,..he's Eli.  Winner - Buffalo.

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh - Another game for the Steelers to heal themselves and get ready for the Ravens.  Winner - Steelers

Philadelphia @ Washington - Can I say that I want the Eagles to win this game just so they are on track for the rest of the year?  They are going to face a stiff Redskins defense that has a chip on their shoulder from the butt whoopin they received from Mr. Vick last year at Redskins Park.  The Eagles just have to make some minor changes to get a 'W'.  Do it this weekend, PLEASE.  Winner - Eagles.  

Houston @ Baltimore - Yes, Derrick Mason will play his old team twice this year and I'm not sure if it's going to help.  The Baltimore D is good against the run and without Mr. Johnson the Texans passing game isn't going to scare too many people.  Winner - Ravens

Cleveland @ Oakland - Looking for another big game from the Raiders.  They had an emotional win last week and don't have to travel this week.  Think more of the same.  Hillis could spoil this pick for me, but I think he's concerned with getting his money.  Winner - Raiders

Dallas @ New England - I would say that this should be a good game, but I'm just not sure.  Yes, the Cowboys will have their defense working, but I imagine that the offense will struggle with injuries and whether they have the 'Good' or 'Bad' Romo showing up.  Winner - Patriots

New Orleans @ Tampa Bay - Hmmm,.....two good teams, one got trounced last week and one has the better QB.  The Bucs are going to have to run the ball to keep Brees on the sideline and if they don't, the scoreboard might have to get cut off.  Winner - Saints

Minnesota @ Chicago - The Bears defense has got to play better in this game as we all watched last week when the Lions just marched up and down the field on them.  The offense has to do better too and protect Cutler and make some holes for Forte.  Even with AP expected to get a boatload of carries, the Bears sneak this one out.  Winner - Bears

Miami @ New York Jets - Rex Ryan has taken a lot of criticism this week and he's still on the 'Jets to the Superbowl' thing so I imagine that they'll be blitzing the Dolphins once they get off the bus.  This should be a game that will help the Jets lick their wounds.  Don't mess this up.  Winner - Jets

Who you got?!?!?!

2011-12 NFL Week 5 Wrap Up

Another quick recap before the Week 6 action.

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh - Steelers are back and they are probably looking to get healthy before they play the Ravens in a few weeks.  Good win, more to come.    Inquisitive Mind 1 - 0 for the week.  

Seattle @ New York Giants - Bad Eli showed up and the Giants gave this game away.  Just when I thought it was safe to pick them.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 1 for the week.  

Cincinnati @ Jacksonville - Both teams put up some big numbers in this game and the Bengals finally came out on top.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 1 for the week.   

New Orleans @ Carolina - Cam Newton, I'm all in with you.  If the Panthers had a little more in the tank, this team could actually make the playoffs. Inquisitive Mind 3 - 1 for the week.  

Oakland @ Houston - Win one for Al Davis and that's what the Raiders did.  Emotional win and needed for this organization.  What's next?  Inquisitive Mind 4 - 1 for the week.  

Philadelphia @ Buffalo - Alright, the Phillies are out, the Eagles are sucking and I'm not sure when they will turn it around.  Can I pause from making any picks on the Eagles games until they win one?  Inquisitive Mind 4 - 2 for the week.  

Kansas City @ Indianapolis - Somehow the Chiefs find a way to win games and ruin their chances at Andrew Luck.  Inquisitive Mind 4 - 3 for the week.  

Arizona @ Minnesota - That's a novel idea, pound teams with Adrian Peterson and then you don't have to worry about losing games.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 3 for the week.  

Tampa Bay @ San Francisco - Talk about a butt whuppin.  The Bucs must not have gotten off the airplane in San Fran.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 4 for the week.  

New York Jets @ New England - The Jets are sliding and it's not looking good for Sanchez.  Is he the guy that we thought he'd be?  Inquisitive Mind 6 - 4 for the week.  

San Diego @ Denver - We saw Tebow and will see him more over the next few weeks.  He almost brought that Broncos team back.  Inquisitive Mind 7 - 4 for the week.  

Green Bay @ Atlanta - I guess the Packers know how to handle things when people disrespect them.  Inquisitive Mind 8 - 4 for the week.  

Chicago @ Detroit - Detroit is for real and I'm not talking about baseball (although that may be true also).  The Bears weren't able to handle the Detroit pass rush and couldn't really move the ball consistently.  Possibly one of Cutler's better/best games as a Bear and the team wasted it.  Inquisitive Mind 9 - 4 for the week. 

Not bad, but I still have some ground to gain.  That makes it 52-25 for the season.  Looking forward to Week 6. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 4 Wrap Up

Catching up, but let's cut to the chase for Week 4.  Not too bad. 

Detroit @ Dallas - Dallas gave it away, the Lions capitalized.  Great win for Lions.  Inquisitive Mind 1 - 0 for the week.  

Carolina @ Chicago - Finally the Bears win and Forte goes off (PAY THE MAN)  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 0 for the week.  

Buffalo @ Cincinatti - Buffalo let me down.  I got on the bandwagon and a tire blew.  How do you lose to the Bengals?  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 1 for the week.  

Tennessee @ Cleveland - Another letdown game by the Browns.  Just when I thought they'd turn it around.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 2 for the week.  

Minnesota @ Kansas City - You lost to the Chiefs.  Sometime later in the season, the Vikings will remember this and throw up just a little.  Inquisitive Mind 2 - 3 for the week.  

Washington @ St. Louis - Ugly game, but it's great to win those too.  Inquisitive Mind 3 -3 for the week.  

New Orleans @ Jacksonville - Not too bad of a loss for the Jaguars.  Inquisitive Mind 4 - 3 for the week.  

Pittsburgh @ Houston - Not really a stunner but an important win for the Texans.  Big loss of Andre Johnson though.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 3 for the week.  

San Francisco @ Philadelphia - I'm not even commenting on this game.  Andy Reid, your job is calling.  Inquisitive Mind 5 - 4 for the week.  

New York Giants @ Arizona - Eli Manning, wow!  Inquisitive Mind 6 - 4 for the week.  Giants.

Atlanta @ Seattle - Close game, closer than I thought.  Inquisitive Mind 7 - 4 for the week.  

Miami @ San Diego - The Chargers tried to lose this game, but failed to do so.  Inquisitive Mind 8 - 4 for the week.  

New England @ Oakland - Pressure on Brady wasn't enough to stop the Patriots.  They let this one slip away.  Inquisitive Mind 8 - 5 for the week.  

Denver @ Green Bay - E-M-B-A-R-R-A-S-S-I-N-G.  Inquisitive Mind 9 - 5 for the week.  

New York Jets @ Baltimore - Finally another big loss by the Jets.  How many more do they have in them this year?  Inquisitive Mind 10 - 5 for the week.  

Indianapolis @ Tampa Bay - Arrrgghhhh.  This was the one I thought for sure I'd get.  The Colts are thisclose, but maybe their trying their Luck.  Inquisitive Mind 10 -6 for the week.  

Not bad, but this has got to get better.  That brings us to 43-21 for the season.  Who you got? 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 5 Picks

Well another kids weekend so it's real late.  I'll post my Week 4 Wrap Up later today but wanted to get my Week 5 Picks out. 

Also before we start, take a moment to honor Al Davis who died at 82.  He was a visionary and although he did things his way he was truly trying to do what he thought would make his Raiders a better team.  RIP Al Davis. 

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh - It would be easy to say that the Titans should win this game.  Harrison and Mendenhall are out for this one, Big Ben is on a bad foot and Max Starks is starting this week and he just got signed.  For some reason I can't think that this team will fold, call me crazy.  Winner - Steelers.

Seattle @ New York Giants - Hmmm,...I've been underestimating these Giants all year.  Can the Seahawks pull off a decent performance this week?  Would't bet on it.  Winner - Giants.

Cincinnati @ Jacksonville - This ought to be a terrible game, more like a scrimmage that people shouldn't have to watch.  Winner - Bengals. 

New Orleans @ Carolina - Let's hope for more weather like last week so that something will slow the Saints down on offense.  This may turn in to a shootout with young Cam Newton putting up 400 yard games here and there.  His team might want to help him by running the ball more and keeping Brees on the sideline.  Should be entertaining.  Winner - Saints

Oakland @ Houston - This should be a very emotional game for the Raiders with the loss of their owner Al Davis so I expect for them to play inspired.  The Texans are good, but are they good enough at this point?  Winner - Raiders.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo - Ok Eagles, I'm blindly picking you each week and you're not making me look good.  I need a complete game from Vick and some protection for him.  A solid defensive turnout and a 'W'.  Winner - Eagles

Kansas City @ Indianapolis - Painter gets win #1.  Winner - Colts

Arizona @ Minnesota - This could be 0-5 and the end of Leslie Frazier and Donovan McNabb all at the same time.  That's what we're up against this weekend.  The defense will play inspired, and I think the offense finally gets on track.  Winner - Vikings

Tampa Bay @ San Francisco - This ought to be a good game, two tough teams with a lot to play for.  Do the Bucs let down after a tough win against the Colts on Monday night.  You can't get two good games in a row out of Alex Smith.  Winner - Bucs.

New York Jets @ New England - I think that the Jets need to stop talking and play ball.  They aren't looking good and Sanchez looks like he's lost all of his confidence.  Lots of LT this game, but I think the Patriots are ready.  Winner - Patriots.     

San Diego @ Denver - Will we see Tebow at QB today, I think that's really the only question.  Winner - Chargers

Green Bay @ Atlanta - Well Aaron Rodgers feels like the Falcons disrespected them last year and the struggling Falcons get to face this hot Packers team at home.  I've never really thought that the Packers needed more motivation, but it's time for this defense to step up.  Winner - Packers

Chicago @ Detroit - Thsi is going to be a game, a real good one.  The Lions are 4-0 and are looking good after come back wins the last two weeks.  They can't get behind like that with this Bears team.  The Bears are faster on carpet and they may get to Stafford a few times.  I could see this one going either way, but I gotta go with,.....Winner - Lions.

Now I'm going to get me a few more hours of sleep and I'll be with the kids all day today too.  Who you got?!?!?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

2011-12 NFL Week 4 Picks

Ok, late again and I have little people all around me wanting to help me do my work on the computer.  Gotta love kids.  So, this is the Week 4 kids edition of my picks. 

Detroit @ Dallas - Great game, Romo showed heart, Bryant will probably play, Stafford is coming back 'home' and I imagine both defenses will have a chip on their shoulders.  I'm not sure Romo makes it out of this one because that Lions defensive line is dangerous.  Winner - Lions.

Carolina @ Chicago - Very interesting game.  The Bears have got to show up and have a good game or they go 1-3 which will make all the chatter about them increase.  The Panthers are dependent upon Cam Newton having great games but they will need their two headed running back system to work better.  The Panthers are short a few people on defense, so I imagine that this will be a shootout of shorts but I'm not sure the Panthers have enough.  It'll be Cam and Steve Smith against the Bears.  Winner - Bears.

Buffalo @ Cincinatti - I'm on the Bills bandwagon, sorry.  The Bills should make short work of the Bengals, but this could be a trap game for them.  You know, that team you should beat the pants off of, but you don't prepare and fall into the trap.  Winner - Bills.

Tennessee @ Cleveland - Should be a good game.  The Titans are short on offense and the Browns should control tempo and run the ball a lot.  Winner - Browns.

Minnesota @ Kansas City - The Chiefs gave the Chargers a scare last week, but if the Vikings lose this game, they should just close up shop and call it a season.  McNabb, I need you to win this game.  Next time you guys have a 4th and 1 and you go for it and don't give AP the ball, every offensive coach should be fired.  Winner - Vikings.

Washington @ St. Louis - This is the game the Rams need to change their season.  The Redskins are going to be very aggressive on defense and that can backfire on them as we saw last weekend.  Jackson is still nicked up and I'm not sure that the Rams can have a balanced attack without him.  Winner - Redskins

New Orleans @ Jacksonville - This one is easy, Winner - Saints

Pittsburgh @ Houston - Well, just what the Steelers needed, a chance to face a team that is pretty balanced.  The Texans have something to prove and the Steelers may be vulnerable to speedy backs matched up against their LBs.  On the other side of the ball the Steelers offensive line woes should have Mario Williams and crew licking their chops.  Winner - Texans.

San Francisco @ Philadelphia - Is this the game that the Eagles get back on track?  It better be.  Winner - Eagles

New York Giants @ Arizona - The Cardinals have dissapointed so far.  They should be getting back Beanie Wells for this game so hopefully they'll be able to run the ball.  The question is really going to be on defense and whether they can stop (gulp) Eli Manning and crew.  Great play calling last week and I imagine that they'll keep it up this week.  Winner - Giants

Atlanta @ Seattle - Tavaris Jackson, nuff said.  Winner - Falcons

Miami @ San Diego - Unless Dan Marino is coming out of that Dolphins lockerroom and this is say 1988 or so, this is the beginning of the end for Tony Sparano.  Winner - Chargers.

New England @ Oakland - Probably the best game of the day.  The Patriots are a pass heavy team facing a team with a pretty good front four.  The Raiders may be best suited with running the ball and keeping Brady in a baseball cap waiting on the sidelines.  This one will be interesting because this is a statement game for the Raiders.  Can they pull it off?  Winner - Raiders

Denver @ Green Bay - The Champs march on.  Winner - Packers

New York Jets @ Baltimore - A knock out drag'em game.  I will go out on a limb and say this is Flacco's game to win and prove that he still is one of the better QBs in the league.  They've opened up the offense for him and he has some threats, so this is all on him.  Expect a big game from Ray Rice (hope you caught the humor in that one).  Winner - Ravens.

Indianapolis @ Tampa Bay - The Curtis Painter era starts in Indy and I actually think that he'll be better than most people think.  In limited work last week he could run the offense, but you could tell that he didn't have the practice time and his timing was off.  This week, I think he plays better and this team shows up on Monday nights.  The Bucs can run the ball and this is their first Monday night game in how long?  Are they ready?  Winner - Colts.

Who you got?  Let's see if we can ride last weeks' results for the rest of the season.