Sunday, January 19, 2014

NFL Conference Championship Sunday

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Today's the day AFC & NFC Champions are crowned. Get set for two terrific games. New England Patriots travel to Denver for the AFC Championship Game against the Broncos. The nightcap features San Francisco 49ers in Seattle for another battle against the Seahawks.

Denver was moments away from winning last years AFC title game. Poor clock management came back to haunt and it was Baltimore who advanced to the big dance. Peyton Manning has Denver teammates focused and determined. Manning put together a monster statistical season (career stats). NFL record 55 TD's, NFL record 5477 yards, NFL record 342.3 yards/game will certainly give Manning more hardware for the family mantelpiece.
New England has handled Manning in years past when he was taking snaps for the Indianapolis Colts. Can Belichick devise another superb defensive scheme? Odds say not this time.
Prediction: Denver playing in front of home crowd & determined to win another championship. Only thing that can derail Denver is turnovers. Manning will play nearly flawless football this afternoon. Denver wins 35-20.

2013 Seattle Seahawks are the best in franchise history. Stingy defense, efficient offense, smart head coach. Seattle and San Francisco split their two divisional games this season. They appear evenly matched on paper. The big question of the day is whether or not San Fran can overcome thunderous crowd noise in Seattle. Seattle fans massive exuberance registered a minor earthquake last weekend. They might bring the house down this evening.
Prediction: Seahawks survive a brutal hard hitting game. Defense shines. Seattle wins 24-20.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013-14 NFL Playoffs - Wild Card Games

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(2013 NFL final standings)

The NFL regular season is over. The 2013 season was filled with plenty of highlights, lowlights, record setting performances, suspensions, end of year head coach firings, exciting final weekend games, defending champions eliminated (Baltimore), December debacles (Dallas) and soon to be the first ever cold weather Super Bowl.

Playoff football is here. Wild Card games begin later this afternoon. Four sensational matchups (at least on paper).

Time to polish off my post-season crystal ball. Digger finished the regular season with 11 correct Week 17 picks finishing the year with 167-88 record (65.5%).


Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

 KC Offense
Which KC team is getting ready to take the field? The KC team which began the season 9-0 by playing flawless football? Or, the KC team that finished 2-5 during the 2nd half of the season? First year KC coach Andy Reid (previously Eagles) has done a masterful job. KC's offense is clearly centered around running back Jamaal Charles. Charles rushed for 1,287 and 5 yards per carry in 15 games. He also tallied 70 pass receptions out of the backfield. QB Alex Smith has thrived in KC. He's been playing an efficient ball control style methodically moving the Chiefs downfield. Playing indoors at Indy provides a very quick surface with big play capability. Charles will have every opportunity to shine. Andy Reid needs to execute a solid plan as Colts defenders primary objective will be to neutralize Charles from the get go.

KC Defense
Chief defense hasn't played well lately. No opponent score more than 17 during their 9 game winning streak. Unfortunately, no opponent scored less than 23 over the final 7 games. If their D can't step up today then it's going to be a long afternoon for KC fans.

INDY Offense
The Colts are very talented and have beaten tough teams (SF, Seattle, Denver). They're led by QB Andrew Luck (60.2% completions) and WR T.Y. Hilton (82 receptions). Indy's short passing game is the key to their success or failure this afternoon. Indy's running game isn't good. Four different RB's have started games (mostly due to injuries) and none have provided enough pop to pry defenses from defending against Indy's passing game. Trent Richardson, recently acquired from Cleveland, gets the nod. Good news is even though opponents key on passing game, Luck found away to lead his team to the AFC North division title. Mistake free football is a must for the Colts if they're to win today.

 INDY Defense
3 keys and they're huge. Number's 1 & 2 will be to stop Jamaal Charles. Colts must contain him when taking handoffs and shut him down from catching passes out of the backfield. 3rd key is not to get faked out by precision play action passes. Not an easy task but if Indy can disguise their pre-snap D and players stick to their assignments then who knows how far these guys can go? One big potential problem is key DB's not 100% healthy.

Prediction: Lucas Oil Stadium will be rocking. Fans can be a tremendous help by keeping decibel levels high throughout this contest. KC's attack is better than Indy's. Indy's D is better than KC. KC pulls away late. KC 45-30.

New Orleans Saints (11-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

NO Offense
Drew Brees is the man in New Orleans. Brees completed 68.2% threw for 5162 passing yards & 39 TD's all NFC highs. RB's Pierre Thomas (77 catches) & Darren Sproles (71 catches) took full advantage of defenders chasing WR's while Brees faced intense blitz packages leaving these two wide open. TE Jimmy Graham was Brees favorite target (team leading 82 catches, 16 TD). This offense is a defensive coordinator's nightmare. Saints biggest problem though is lack of a feared running attack which directly led to being held to 20 or fewer points in 6 regular season contests. Saints still looking for 1st playoff victory after winning Super Bowl XLIV (2010).

NO Defense
Saints defense played surprisingly well (4th lowest points against) when taking into account playing with a quick strike offense. This means, Saints D keeps fresh even though they're on the field with short in-game rest periods. Defensive End Cameron Jordan (12.5 sacks) & LB Junior Galette (12.0 sacks) keep opposing QB's off balance leading to 2nd best team pass defense vs pass (194 yds/game). Saints D will need to come up big vs rejuvenated Eagles offense playing in frigid conditions tonight.

Philadelphia Offense
If it wasn't for Peyton Manning's record breaking season then Eagles QB Nick Foles would be this year's MVP. Foles was 8-2 after taking over for Michael Vick and has everyone in Philly believing this is their year! Foles has been nothing short of the textbook definition of spectacular. 27 TD passes vs only 2 interceptions. Simply incredible. So is his QB rating of 119.2. Foles also led the NFL in TD% (8.5), yards per attempt (9.1) and yards per completion (14.1). And guess what? This is a run first offense paced by RB LeSean McCoy. McCoy led all RB's with 310 rushes for 1607 yards (100.4 yds/game). Toss in 52 receptions and he's one of the NFL's best. 1st year NFL coach Chip Kelly was mocked often for employing a NCAA style offense. Nobody should be mocking him any longer after Philadelphia won the NFC East! Saints D is facing their toughest task of the season.

 Philadelphia Defense
This is a good news, bad news defense. Today's good news is their NFL 29th ranked D somehow manages to make big plays when the game is on the line. Today's bad news is they surrendered NFL high of 4,636 passing yards. Brees could have easy pickings unless Bill Davis devises a stellar plan to disrupt New Orleans air it out attack. 20+ degree weather should help a bit vs an indoor team with problems winning road playoff games.

Prediction: Eagles are hot. Saints are not. I have to go with Foles & McCoy here. A solid rushing attack can negate a vicious sack attack. Eagles pull it off, 30-27.


San Diego Chargers (9-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
SD Offense
1st year coach Mike McCoy's team hit their stride just in the nick of time. The Chargers qualified as the AFC's final Wild Card team by winning their final four regular season games including a final game thriller vs KC (27-24). QB Phillip Rivers completed nearly 70% of passing attempts (69.5, NFL best) & 30 TD's. RB Ryan Matthews enjoyed a fine comeback season leading SD with 1,255 rushing yards. Rivers has many weapons for his passing attack: TE Gates (77 catches), FLEX Woodhead (76 yards), WR Allen (71 catches), WR Royal (47 catches). This offense should've been putting up big TD numbers all season long. For some reason they don't. Costly penalties coupled with 3rd & long don't help matters. Only 4 games scoring 30 or more points all season. Chargers finished 5th with 393.3 yards/game .. yet, only 12th with 24.8 points/game.

SD Defense
Finished 11th best with 21.8 points/game and unimpressive 366.5 yards/game (23rd). SD only had 17 takeaways in 16 games. Chargers D managed to stiffen up down the stretch after an ugly 1st 10+ games. They're hands will be full attempting to contain Cincinnati's offense in foul weather conditions (39 degrees, 90% precipitation forecast).

Cincinnati Offense
Coach Marvin Lewis rollercoaster tenure in Cincinnati was rewarded this year by a fine team performance on and off the field. Bengals won their 1st AFC North title since 2009 led by QB Andy Dalton and the two headed running attack of BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Giovani Bernard (combined 1,445 rushing yards, 12 TD). Dalton's favorite target is WR A.J. Green (98 receptions, 1,426 yards, 11 TD). When this offense is clicking, they're nearly unstoppable. They edged San Diego 17-10 in Week 13. Six games scoring 34 or more. Sunday will be more of the same.

Cincinnati Defense
Defensive End bookends Carlos Dunlap & Wallace Gilberry registered 7.5 sacks each and DT Gene Atkins had 6. They're a very tough front line unit. MLB Vontaze Burfict posted 112 tackles. This is a hard hitting, Johnny-on-the-spot defense. They held San Diego to 10 in their previous meeting. I'm not expecting the Chargers to survive tomorrow's contest either.

Prediction: Cincinnati's offense will be too much for Chargers defense to handle. SD's only chance is to win a shootout. Cincy 38-24.

San Francisco 49ers (12-4) @ Green Bay Packers (8-7-1)
SF Offense
Dangerous but not nearly as explosive as I believe they should be. QB Colin Kaepernick is exciting but should be better. Here's a guy who keeps defenses off balance. He has size, speed and strength. However, average reading passing d's and too many off balance off target throws stymies SF's scoring chances. The good news is they're on a 6 game winning streak and offense has played well of late (with great field position help from their defense). Kaepernick's favorite targets are WR Boldin 85 receptions, 1,179 yards) & TE Vernon Davis (52 receptions, 13 TD). RB Frank Gore is their featured back but too many shotgun formations taking attempts away from what should be a run first offense. One never knows from week to week how well they'll perform as a unit. Lately, they've been on their game.

SF Defense
SF will only go as far as their defense will take them. Defense is everything in SF. The defensive unit often sets up the offense with great field position. This is a very aggressive hard nosed unit which makes it very difficult for opponents to drive down the field.

Green Bay Offense
He's baaaaaaaack! Aaron Rodgers returned just in time for Packers nation. Rodgers returned to beat Chicago last weekend in a winner take all (loser's go home) battle. Green Bay prevailed 33-28 to lock up the NFC North with an anything but impressive 8-7-1 record. Rodgers began the season on fire leading Green Bay to a 5-2 record before getting knocked out of action vs Minnesota. After near misses, Rodgers wants a Super Bowl ring. Big challenge vs SF. I'm betting Rodgers is up to the task. Rookie RB Eddie Lacy enjoyed a fine inaugural season posting 1,178 yards (often while banged up). Rodgers will spread the ball out to many talented pass catchers. WR Jordy Nelson led GB with 85 receptions for 1,314 yards.

Green Bay Defense
They're rejuvenated now that Rodgers is back taking snaps. Frank Gore could have a field day unless these guys step it up. Packers surrendering 125 yards/game to backs, 372.3 total yards/game. Packers D could be described as bend but don't break. Whatever you want to call them they're much better when Rodgers & Co. are chewing up yards on offense with long drives.

Prediction: Game time temperature in Green Bay predicted to be -19 degrees. That's right, minus 19. Green Bay was 6-2 with Rodgers as starting QB. 2-5-1 without. SF was hot until facing -19. Crystal ball says Rodgers decisively, 28-10.

Friday, December 20, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 16 Predictions

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Last weekend was featured crazy games highlighted by another Dallas Cowboys December choke. St. Louis surprised New Orleans. Miami bested New England. San Diego knocked off Denver.

Only two weeks remain. NFL playoff picture coming into focus. Must win scenarios for a select few this weekend. Digger slipped off track nailing only 8 of 15 (147-76, 65.9%).

Week 16
Dolphins 28BILLS 10
BENGALS 32Vikings 24
CHIEFS 27Colts 23
RAMS 24Bucs 17
Browns 30JETS 14
REDSKINS 28Cowboys 27
PANTHERS 31Saints 28
Titans 24JAGUARS 23
Broncos 38TEXANS 34
LIONS 27Giants 13
SEAHAWKS 24Cardinals 20
PACKERS 27Steelers 21
CHARGERS 31Raiders 17
Patriots 30RAVENS 23
EAGLES 27Bears 20
49ERS 26Falcons 24

Friday, December 13, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 15 Predictions

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Only three weeks of games in the 2013 NFL season. Indianapolis is the only team to have locked up a division title (1 of 8). There's plenty left to be determined from division winners to wild card teams. (NFL standings).

East: New England (10-3) holding a comfortable lead over Miami (7-6). These two play in Miami on Sunday. Must win for Miami's wild card aspirations.
North: Cincinnati (9-4) maintaining 2 game lead over Baltimore (7-6). Baltimore edges Miami in tie-breakers for AFC's final slot.
South: Indianapolis clinched. Rest of the division playing for self respect (all eliminated from playoff contention).
West: Denver (11-3) holding onto 1/2 game lead over Kansas City (10-3). Denver holds tie break advantage having dumped KC twice. KC is suddenly slumping - losers in 3 of past 4 games after beginning 9-0. One win and KC is playoff bound. San Diego (7-7) is on the outside looking in but it's not over yet after last nights upset victory in Denver.

East: Philadelphia (8-5) has won 5 straight with Nick Foles leading their rejuvenated attack. Foles had thrown 19 TD's without an INT until last weekend. Dallas (8-6) is trying to keep pace. But, as all fans in Dallas are well aware, December football has not been favorable to this squad in recent years.
North: It's a logjam. Detroit (7-6) holds tiebreaker over Chicago (7-6). Green Bay (6-6-1) is keeping pace. These three teams have been battling key injuries all season long. This division may come down the final snap of regular season action.
South: New Orleans (10-3) coming off a huge win over Carolina (9-4) last weekend. Saints undefeated at home. Carolina looking good for wild card birth - unless they fold in final weeks.
West: Seattle (11-2) appears to be NFC's best. They're coming off a last minute loss to San Francisco (9-4). A win would have locked up the West. Arizona (8-5) has been playing solid football. Prognosticators barely mention Cardinals advancing to playoffs which works well for this squad. They're currently reside in 7th place (top six make playoffs). They finish the year playing Seattle & San Francisco.
Weekend 15 is huge for all teams trying to advance. Weather will be a big factor as winter storms show up again for the second consecutive weekend. Digger's picks went 11-5 last week raising the season total to 139-69 (66.8%). Time for Week 15 selections (home teams in CAPS).
(missed deadline for Thursday night game)

Week 15
Redskins 27FALCONS 24
Bears 17BROWNS 16
COLTS 33Texans 17
DOLPHINS 27Patriots 23
Eagles 30VIKINGS 20
Seahawks 24GIANTS 7
49ers 27BUCS 14
JAGUARS 27Bills 17
Chiefs 38RAIDERS 10
COWBOYS 31Packers 28
Cardinals 23TITANS 21
Saints 35RAMS 16
Bengals 20STEELERS 17
LIONS 28Ravens 24

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 14 Predictions

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Now, that's a nice comeback! 12 of 16 correct picks increases Digger's season total to 128-64 (66.7%). Week 13 featured a bevy of great games and huge stats for fantasy coaches.
-Cleveland's Brandon Weeden armed 370 yards & 3 TD's in a losing effort against the suddenly hot Jacksonville Jaguars. Jags pulled off the win in the closing seconds when Chad Henne found Cecil Shorts III for a 20 yard TD play. Browns WR Josh Gordon finished with 261 yards receiving (2 TD). His second consecutive 200+ yard game. He's only 41 yards away from breaking the franchise's all time single receiving record.
-Pittsburgh & Baltimore battled in another typically close game. Steelers comeback efforts fell short by way of a missed 2 point conversion attempt.
-Minnesota & Chicago went toe-to-toe. This game was decided in OT on a Blair Walsh 34 yard FG. Vikes Adrian Peterson rumbled for 211 yards. Bears Josh McCown threw 249 of his 355 yards to WR Ashlon Jeffery. Jeffery's second 200 yard game of the season!
-Nick Foles has Philadelphia playing championship caliber football. Foles 3 TD tosses on Sunday gives him 19 on the season...with ZERO interceptions. He's the highest rated passer in the NFL - 125.2 Eagles improved to 7-5 after edging Arizona 24-21.
-Denver overcame a 21-7 deficit to win a 35-28 thriller in KC. Manning went over 400 yards again. Why didn't I draft him in 1st round???
-New England survived Houston 34-31. Brady to Gronkowski for 127 (TD). Texans backup HB Tate scored 3 times.
-Seattle creamed New Orleans clock on Monday Night Football (34-7) in every area of the contest. Seattle must be considered the NFL's best at this point in time.

Four weekends of football remain. Seattle clinched the NFC West. Indy on the verge of capturing AFC North. Every other division is up for grabs. Every second, every inch, every play magnified the rest of the way.

Let's get to it. Digger's Week 14 selections... (home team in CAPS).
Week 14
JAGUARS 30Texans 24
BENGALS 27Colts 23
*PACKERS 28Falcons 14
Falcons 24**PACKERS 13
PATRIOTS 37Browns 21
Raiders 24JETS 7
EAGLES 35Lions 31
Dolphins 28STELLERS 24
BUCS 28Bills 14
Chiefs 24REDSKINS 23
RAVENS 27Vikings 16
BRONCOS 55Titans 17
Giants 27CHARGERS 21
Seahawks 3049ERS 16
Panthers 33SAINTS 31
BEARS 28Cowboys 20
* = Packers win if Rodgers starts.
**= Packers lose if Rodgers does not start.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 13 Predictions

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Week 12 was a crazy weekend of NFL action. Green Bay vs Minnesota ended in a 26-26 tie! Detroit was dumped by Tampa Bay. The suddenly explosive Rams carved up Chicago 42-21. It's never easy watching good teams fail miserably... Texans flat out stink and proved it by losing to woeful Jacksonville... at home! Indianapolis is getting exposed - Cardinals flew right past them 40-11. Broncos coughed up a huge lead as Brady's hot 2nd half led the way to 34-31 OT victory. Cowboys offensive line woke up just in time to protect Romo for a final game drive to win on the last play in NY 24-21.

So what does this all mean in regards to teams playoff hopes? (standings) Simplest answer, it's remains a fight to the finish. Only 6 of 32 teams have no shot at playoff action. As of right now, AFC's 6th seeded team would be the 5 win, 6 loss Tennessee Titans by virtue of tie-breaker rules vs 5 others. Final seed might back in with a losing record. Two NFC division leaders sporting mediocre 6-5 records. Crazy stuff indeed.

Speaking of crazy... only 6 correct picks last weekend thanks to a bevy of upsets. 116-60 (67.4%) Nearly every game has huge implications this weekend. Home team in CAPS.

Week 13
LIONS 34Packers 24
COWBOYS 40Raiders 17
RAVENS 23Steelers 17
BROWNS 26Jaguars 14
Bears 23
Titans 23
Dolphins 20JETS 10
EAGLES 24Cardinals 20
PANTHERS 27Bucs 17
Patriots 42TEXANS 9
BILLS 17Falcons 13
Rams 3149ERS 27
Broncos 34CHIEFS 23
Bengals 28CHARGERS 20
Giants 24REDSKINS 20
SEAHAWKS 30Saints 27

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 12 Predictions

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The NFL playoff picture has become mighty crowded.
-NY Giants (4-6) are clawing their way back into NFC East contention. Dallas (5-6) visits NY in a game of the week atmosphere. There's been plenty of trash talking heading into this one.
-Denver (9-1) handed KC their (9-1) first loss of the year and are tied atop AFC West. They meet again in two weeks.
-Two AFC teams are tied at 5-5 (Miami, NY Jets).
-Six 4-6 teams (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, Tennessee, Oakland, San Diego). Football is a game of inches. Each team listed above will be scrapping, fighting & clawing for every inch. Every play will have a decisive impact on their fortunes.

NFC is just a muddied....
-Philadelphia (6-5) leads NFC East but last place Washington (3-7) is only two off in loss column.
-Detroit & Chicago are tied (6-4) with Green Bay (5-5) trailing by 1 in NFC North.
-NFC South is a two team fight with Carolina (7-3) pressuring New Orleans (8-2).
-NFC West San Francisco & Arizona (both 6-4) fighting for Wild Card entry.

Week 11 was our bounce back weekend. 11 correct picks puts the season totals at 110-52 (67.9%).
Time to pick'em (home team in CAPS).

Week 12
Saints 45FALCONS 17
Steelers 27BROWNS 24
LIONS 37Bucs 31
Packers 24VIKINGS 20
CHIEFS 24Chargers 17
Bears 27RAMS 17
Panthers 28DOLPHINS 13
RAVENS 26Jets 19
TEXANS 17Jaguars 10
Titans 28RAIDERS 24
Colts 27CARDINALS 24
GIANTS 34Cowboys 27
Broncos 38PATRIOTS 20
49ers 27REDSKINS 21

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 11 Predictions

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We stumbled a bit in Week 10. 7 right, 7 wrong. Not good by our standards. Season total now stands at 99-48 (67.3%). Jags first victory and Rams destroying Indy cracked our crystal ball.

AFC/NFC playoff races remain wide open based on equal sharing of mediocrity. A few very big divisional games this weekend will go a long way in determining team destinies.

Time to pick'em (home team in CAPS).

Week 11
Colts 27TITANS 14
BEARS 24Ravens 20
BILLS 27Jets 14
BENGALS 27Browns 13
EAGLES 31Redskins 17
Lions 24STEELERS 23
Falcons 28BUCS 14
Cardinals 20JAGUARS 10
TEXANS 17Raiders 14
Chargers 42DOLPHINS 17
SAINTS 3549ers 20
GIANTS 27Packers 6
SEAHAWKS 26Vikings 10
BRONCOS 27Chiefs 24
PANTHERS 31Patriots 24
Bye: Dallas, St. Louis

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 10 Predictions

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Week 9 results weren't up to usual standards. 7 right, 6 wrong. Losing two starting QB's early in games didn't help matters. Digger's season total now stands at 92-41 (69.2%).

The NFL season is half over. Many teams still struggling to find consistency and wins. There's still hope for many teams fighting to right their season. Week 10 games have become make or break for notables teams: Giants, Redskins, Cardinals, Dolphins, Bills, Ravens and Chargers. Injuries are becoming huge. Green Bay lost Aaron Rodgers for at least a month opening the door for NFC North rivals (Lions/Bears) to take their best shot.

Time to pick'em (home team in CAPS).

Week 10
Redskins 24VIKINGS 20
Seahawks 27FALCONS 20
Lions 33BEARS 24
Eagles 23PACKERS 21
TITANS 20Jaguars 9
COLTS 27Rams 10
GIANTS 30Raiders 17
STEELERS 21Bills 14
Bengals 31RAVENS 17
49ERS 24Panthers 23
Texans 17CARDINALS 16
Broncos 42CHARGERS 24
SAINTS 31Cowboys 27
Dolphins 21BUCS 17
·Bye: Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, NY Jets

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 9 Predictions

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Now that's what I'm talking about. 11-2 on Week 8 picks brings AWAS season total to 85-35 (70.8%). My bookie will be broke soon enough!

There's just one unbeaten team (Kansas City) and one winless team (Jacksonville). How long will they keep their streaks going? NFC East gets uglier by the week after Dallas complete collapse vs Detroit. Seattle and SF will battle to the final week of the season in NFC West as will KC and Denver on AFC side.

Week 9 doesn't have a single "must watch" game on paper. This is the weakest weekend I can ever remember. Just flat out ugly with the lone exception Monday night when Chicago visits rival Green Bay. Time to pick'em (home team in CAPS).

Week 9
Bengals 27DOLPHINS 17
Chiefs 21BILLS 17
COWBOYS 28Vikings 17
Titans 27Rams 13
Saints 37JETS 10
Chargers 28REDSKINS 21
PANTHERS 33Falcons 24
RAIDERS 17Eagles 13
SEAHAWKS 26Bucs 14
Ravens 23BROWNS 21
PATRIOTS 24Steelers 20
Colts 30TEXANS 20
PACKERS 27Bears 23

Bye: Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, NY Giants, San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 8 Predictions

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Back to back 11 win weekends improves Digger's season total to 74-33 (69.2%). I'm posting on time this week after the fiasco from a few days ago. Week 7 featured Eli Manning's New York Giants winning their first of the season (1-6) and brother Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos losing their first (7-1). Kansas City remains as the leagues lone undefeated squad (7-0). Andy Reid has these guys believing. Good ball control offense and tenacious defense are ruling the day for KC.

New York Jets backed into a win over hated rival New England last weekend thanks largely to a first time ever called penalty against Pats special teams on a errant field goal attempt by the Jets. Controversy immediately irrupted after Pats special teams were called for pushing his own man aiding to block a field goal attempt. What is happening in the NFL? Stupid rules lead to stupid penalties. Technically, yes, I guess New England did commit this ridiculously stupid infraction (how did this rule ever become law in the first place???). But, to call it in OT for the first time after then type of incident happens on nearly EVERY field goal and extra point attempt is beyond believe. Long story short, Jets inched closer and kicked a game winning OT field goal to stun Patriots.

Good games featured in Week 8. Perfect time to jump between games in progress (home team in CAPS).

Week 8
Panthers 31BUCS 24
LIONS 30Cowboys 28
CHIEFS 28Browns 10
PATRIOTS 24Dolphins 14
SAINTS 42Bills 10
Giants 28EAGLES 24
49ers 36JAGUARS 3
Jets 24BENGALS 21
Steelers 21RAIDERS 17
BRONCOS 48Redskins 14
Falcons 26CARDINALS 21
Packers 52VIKINGS 10
Seahawks 31RAMS 13

·Bye: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee.

NFL 2013 NFL Week 7 Predictions

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11 wins in Week 6 brings Digger's season total to 63-29 (68.4%). Week 7 predictions weren't posted due to time delay mechanism failure. Our apologies. Better late than never... here's how we had the weekend pegged
(home team in CAPS).

Week 7
Seahawks 30CARDINALS 10
FALCONS 33Bucs 17
LIONS 26Bengals 24
DOLPHINS 20Bills 17
Patriots 27JETS 17
Cowboys28EAGLES 13
REDSKINS 34Bears 23
PANTHERS 28Rams 14
Chargers 35JAGUARS 10
49ers 28TITANS 9
PACKERS 34Browns 14
CHIEFS 27Texans 21
STEELERS 24Ravens 23
Broncos 37COLTS 27
GIANTS 26Vikings 17

·Bye: New Orleans, Oakland.

2013 World Series Preview: Cardinals vs Red Sox

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The time has come to crown a new World Series Champion. Two proud franchises will go head to head. St. Louis Cardinals vs Boston Red Sox. NL's best team of 2013 vs AL's best team of 2013.
Boston & St. Louis are perfectly matched teams. Both teams feature clutch hitting, aggressive base running, solid defense, strong bullpens and solid managers. Each game will be tight. Here's a break down of what to expect.

Starting pitching. If there's an edge to be had in this Series it belongs to the Cardinals rotation. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94), Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78) & Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) are projected starters in first three games. Wainwright is as clutch as they come. Devastating variety of pitchers figure to keep Red Sox hitters off balance all night long. Wacha has been lights out this post-season going 3-0 while surrendering just 1 run in 21 innings. They will be going head to head up in Boston vs Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75) and John Lackey (10-13, 3.52). There's no margin for error in World Series play. Lester & Lackey need their A games. Edge: Cardinals

Lineups: Clutch hitting Adam Craig returns to Cards lineup after a 7 week absence. He'll DH in Games 1 & 2 and relegated to PH duties when games shift to St. Louis. Top to bottom both lineups are as tough as they come. Nearly all Cards hitters get it done in clutch situations. Boston features significantly more power and have been pretty clutch themselves this post-season. The games will boil down to whichever team is successful with situational hitting vs tough starting pitching. Question for Boston is who plays 1B in St. Louis? Napoli or Ortiz. Remember, no DH in NL park. Edge: Even.
Bullpens. Very strong relievers fill both bullpens. Cards have overall edge for middle relief and setup men while Boston's closer has been lights out (Uehara).

Weather factor: A factor seldom discussed when addressing World Series games. A cold front moved into Fenway this afternoon. Cold blustery weather forecast for Games 1 & 2 in Boston could effect pitcher's ball grip. This is somewhat significant as breaking ball may not bite sharply or pitchers susceptible to hanging one from time to time. 30 degree weather has arrived. A cold front is also expected in St. Louis. 50's daytime, 30's nighttime. Edge: even.

Managers: Red Sox have been running this season. Cards hit and run. These teams love their skippers. Both experts in situational substitutions from the pen and off the bench.  Edge: Even

Defense: Better infield D belongs to Boston. OF & C (Molina) to St. Louis. Edge: Errors are huge in World Series play.  Edge: Boston

Outlook: It boils down to Cardinals rotation vs hot Red Sox hitters. Napoli, Victorino & Ortiz have been clutch. Beltran padding record book. World Series has potential for an epic 7 games. Red Sox prevail, 4 games to 3.

Friday, October 11, 2013

NFL 2013 NFL Week 6 Predictions

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9 wins, 5 wrongs last week. 52-25 (67.5%) thru 5 weeks of action. And the winners in Week 6 will be.... (home team in CAPS).

Week 6
BEARS 31Giants17
Bengals 24BILLS 20
Lions 26BROWNS 24
CHIEFS 30Raiders 13
Panthers 27VIKINGS 24
JETS 28Steelers 10
Eagles 31BUCS 20
Packers 35RAVENS 14
TEXANS 23Rams 14
BRONCOS 56Jaguars 7
SEAHAWKS 24Titans 17
49ERS 28Cardinals 10
Saints 35PATRIOTS 31
COWBOYS 27Redskins 21
Colts 28CHARGERS 27

Saturday, October 5, 2013

2013 MLB Playoffs - AL Division Series: Rays vs Red Sox

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Tampa Bay Rays (92-71) vs Boston Red Sox (97-65)

Boston rebounded from AL East worst in 2012 to baseball's best record in 2013. What a difference one year and one competent manager can make. Boston is a team on a mission. Solid hitting, solid pitching, solid base runners, solid defense = 97 wins. Gutsy Tampa Bay does it all with a limited budget and fairweather fans (dead last in home attendance). Yet, this teams plays fundamental baseball behind a talented manager and strong pitching staff.

Boston rotation - Lester (15-8), Lackey (10-13), Buchholz (12-1) & Peavy (4-1). Tampa rotation - Moore (17-4), Price (10-8), Cobb (11-3) & Hellickson (12-10). Red Sox won season series (12-7). Rays facing a powerful top to bottom Red Sox attack. Sox feature strong starters and lights out bullpen. Edge: Boston.

Red Sox stocked lineup will give Rays pitchers fits. Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, Gomes, Saltalamacchia, Drew & Middlebrooks form one of baseball's best lineups. Speed, power, timely hitting & playoff experience can score in bunches. Red Sox hitters will not be denied in this series.
Rays weaker lineup manages to get the job done but is no match for a slugfest -CF Jennings, 2B Zobrist, RF Myers, 3B Longoria, DH Young, LF Rodriguez, SS Escobar, 1B Loney, C Lobaton/Molina. Rays manufacture runs. Heart of the order is clutch but will have a tough time keeping up with Red Sox attack.

Prediction: Red Sox dominated in regular season. Rays clawed and scratched their way into playoffs. Red Sox are the better team. Sox in 4.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 MLB Playoffs - NL Division Series: Braves vs Dodgers

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Atlanta Braves (96-66) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70)

Bring on the heat. Both of these NLDS pitching staffs feature flame throwers. Dodgers with Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and relievers paced by closer Kenley Jansen. Kershaw & Greinke represent the best 1-2 punch in this year's playoffs on paper. Don't crowd the plate against Braves starters Medlen, Teheran & Minor. Fire baller closer Kimbrel saved 50 of 54 and sports a career 15.1 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Probable rotations: (LA) Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu vs (Atl) Medlen, Minor, Teheran.

Dodgers enter the series with two big injuries. Matt Kemp is inactive. Andre Ethier will only be used as a pinch hitter in NLDS. LA's Game 1 lineup: LF Crawford, 2B Ellis, SS Ramirez, 1B Gonzalez, RF Puig, 3B Uribe, CF Schumaker, C Ellis. Dodgers offense was banged up early on in 2013. Ramirez & Kemp missed time with injuries. Puig was still playing minor league ball. Manager Don Mattingly seemed only moments away from being replaced after LA stumbled to a 30-42 record. LA caught fire when Puig joined the lineup. Their lineup was juiced once Ramirez returned. Before you knew it LA finished the year 62-28 and Mattingly went from potential firing to Manager of the Year candidate. Timely hitting & lights out pitching is their theme.
Atlanta decided to keep Uggla off of their roster ... by choice. Uggla was miserable at the dish batting an anemic .179. His defense at 2B will be sorely missed. Braves opening lineup: CF Heyward, RF J. Upton, 1B Freeman, LF Gattis, C McCann, 3B Johnson, SS Simmons, 2B Johnson = 4th highest run production in NL.

Prediction: Kershaw & Greinke are just too tough in a best of five series. Dodgers play much better defense too. Dodgers sweep.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

NFL 2013 Week 5 Predictions

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Denver & Peyton Manning are destroying every team in their path. Broncos football is 2nd to none thus far after 4 weeks of play. Next up, Cowboys (2-2) in Big D. Speaking of big... big trouble brewing for winless Giants, Steelers & Jaguars. On the flip side, joining Denver as unbeaten teams are New Orleans, Kansas City, New England & Seattle.

9 of 15 correct picks last weekend brings Digger's season total to 43-20 (68.3%). Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington bye week (home in CAPS).

Week 5
BROWNS 26Bills 14
Saints 31BEARS 17
Patriots 27BENGALS 21
PACKERS 27Lions 23
Chiefs 21TITANS 10
Seahawks 33COLTS 10
RAMS 13Jaguars 10
Ravens 27DOLPHINS 17
Eagles 31GIANTS 14
Panthers 34CARDINALS 17
Broncos 48COWBOYS 10
49ERS 27Texans 23
Chargers 35RAIDERS 13
FALCONS 24Jets 10

2013 MLB Playoffs - NL Division Series: Pirates vs Cardinals

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Ready, set, go. National League Division Series Playoffs begins Thursday night in St. Louis. Pittsburgh scorched the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in a one game Wild Card to advance.
2013 is Pittsburgh's first playoff appearance since 1992 and Pirates fans were ready, willing and able participants. They're boisterous energies taunted Cincinnati's starting pitcher all night. Perhaps their energy caused an ineffective Cueto to drop the baseball in between pitches? Now it's off to play the Cardinals in NLDS action.

Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
Bucktober baseball opens up with A.J. Burnett who went 3-1 against the Cardinals this season taking on Adam Wainwright (1-0 in 3 starts vs Pit). Both hurlers feature knee buckling off speed stuff to compliment electric fastballs. Hitters for both teams could be in for a long night if these guys bring their A games. Bucs haven't chosen a Game 2 starter against Lance Lynn. Lirano starts Game 3 back in Pittsburgh where he's been dominant all season. Both teams employ stingy bullpens. Situational pitching will dictate the day.
Pittsburgh is fired up. Hitters are in the zone. Lead off man Marte's hand healed and he's seeing the ball well. Neil Walker is raking. McCutcheon is MVP candidate. Morneau's due for a power surge. Byrd has been exceptional since being stolen from the Mets. 3B Alvarez is a streaky ball masher. Russell Martin crushed 2 round-trippers in the WC game. SS split of Barmes/Mercer shouldn't be taken for granted. Pirates are feeling it having won 4 straight. Big test coming up on the road against Wainwright.
Cardinals hitters have produced many thrilling playoff games in recent years. However, Mr. Clutch Allen Craig's foot injury will keep him out of NLDS action. Craig was hitting an astonishing .454 with 83 RBI in only 130 AB with runners in scoring position. Clubbing .700 with bases loaded on 7 of 10 with 20 RBI. A serious MVP candidate before injury. Probable Game 1 lineup features 55 double man Carpenter leading off followed by prime time playoff hitter Carlos Beltran (RF). LF Matt Holliday (.300) is 3rd. Allen's replacement Matt Adams at 1B slugging .505. The Cards Mr October Molina bats 5th (.373 RISP). CF Jon Jay (.351 OBA) followed by 3B Freese. Starting SS remains to be seen between Descalso and Kosma. Cards lineup is very talented, very clutch and no strangers to playoff baseball.
Prediction: Best of 5 series has all the makings of going the distance. Cards hitters possess more patience meaning they don't necessarily chase bad pitches. Cards clutch lineup feast on opposing pitchers mistakes. A deadly combination in post-season play (and for a team riding a 6 game win streak). This all goes away if Burnett's on his game but he's known to throw many pitches so fatigue factor likely comes into play.   NLDS destined for 5.  If Liriano (3-0, 0.75 vs StL) pitches Game 5 then Bucs advance.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 A.W.A.S. Baseball Awards

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The 2013 Major League Baseball season is coming to an end. Another spectacular season soon to be etched into baseball history. It's been a season filled with high and low moments. Winners, losers, no hitters, records, pennant races, suspensions and retiring legends.

All World All Sports examined the best and worst of 2013. Time to announce our annual awards.

AL: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit). Miggy becomes the first AL player to win back to back awards since Frank Thomas (1993-94). Detroit doesn't win AL Central without his contributions.
NL: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh) I'm prediction NL MVP official voting will be the closest in history. So many deserving players. Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona), Freddie Freeman (Atlanta), Yadier Molina (STL), Matt Carpenter (STL). McCutchen gets my vote as being an essential cog in Pittsburgh first winning season & first post-season appearance since 1992.

AL: Max Scherzer (Detroit) Another very close battle with plenty of deserving candidates. However, 21-3, .970 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 10.1 K/9 too much to overlook.
NL: Clayton Kershaw (LA) Near unanimous selection will give Kershaw his 2nd Cy Young in 3 seasons.

AL: Wil Myers (TB)
NL: Jose Fernandez (Miami)

AL: Terry Francona (Cleveland)
NL: Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)

(Top Closer)
AL: Greg Holland (KC)
NL: Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta)

Mariano Rivera (NYY). Mariano Rivera pitched his final game in Yankee Stadium last night. Baseball's oldest current player (44) goes down in history as the games greatest closer, ever. He's known as one of the greatest men ever to play. Not just because of raw natural ability. He's a man's man. Religiously devoted, giving & unselfish Rivera's one of the few players liked by nearly everyone. Never a bad word ever published in a town known for unrelenting media attention. Not a dry eye in Yankee Stadium last night when Mariano was removed from the game with 2 outs in the 9th inning. Rivera wept like a child in Andy Pettitte's arms as a sold out crowd rewarded with a thunderous & never to be forgotten standing ovation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NFL 2013 Week 4 Predictions

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11 correct Week 3 predictions raises our season total to 34-14. Week 4 is the first bye week of young season (Green Bay & Carolina). NY Giants, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota & Tampa Bay are not used to losing their first three games of the year. All sit at 0-3 looking for answers.

-Giants offensive line is horrendous. Running game inept. Eli Manning 8 INT's.
-Washington's bottom ranked defense and RGIII not playing well.
-Aging Pittsburgh has no rhythm on offense.
-Minnesota lost to Cleveland, enough said.
-Tampa Bay makes QB change. Rookie QB from NC State Mike Glennon takes over. Josh Freeman benched, demands trade.
-Jacksonville, no hope in sight. -64 DIFF worst in NFL.

Every game seems big this week. Huge implications for all involved. Time to announce crystal ball results (home team in CAPS).

Week 4
49ers 34CARDINALS 14
Ravens 27BILLS 13
Bengals 27BROWNS 20
LIONS 37Bears 24
CHIEFS 28Giants 17
BUCS 17Cardinals 16
Colts 31JAGUARS 10
Seahawks 27TEXANS 21
Steelers 21VIKINGS 20
Jets 27TITANS 23
Redskins 20RAIDERS 10
BRONCOS 52Eagles 17
CHARGERS 31Cowboys 23
FALCONS 30Patriots 24
SAINTS 37Dolphins 17