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NFL Preview 2007

 
 

Complimentary SUPER BOWL Selection:

NEW YORK GIANTS

 

 
 

AFC East - AFC West - AFC South - AFC North

NFC East - NFC West - NFC South

 
 

AFC East Preview

NEW ENGLAND PATS 13-3

The Pats uncharacteristically choked in the AFC Championship game and cost themselves their 4th Super Bowl title in 6 years. Coach Bill Belichick, never one to sit still for defeat, bolstered a depleted WR corps and aging defense, with several off-season acquisitions. Most notable was a draft day trade for WR Randy Moss. Moss, a disgruntled crybaby in Oakland , is perceived to be the missing link in the Pats offensive arsenal. I wouldn’t be too sure about that. There’s already rumblings Moss is beginning to pout about not being the focal point of Tom Brady’s passes and we all know Bill Belichick will not stand for some whiney malcontent disrupting his team. It doesn’t matter how talented Moss is, he’d better stay in his shoes, or Belichick will send him packing, Green Bay Packing. Dante Stallworth and Wes Welker are also added Brady targets, as is the capable TE, Ben Watson. On defense free agent acquisition Adalius Thomas bolsters an aging LB unit and helps compliment a stellar defensive line. The Pats can line up in the 3-4 or 4-3 defense and are difficult to game plan against. Bottom line here is, the Pats are loaded and have all the tools necessary to run the AFC gauntlet, barring injury. Once they get to the Super Bowl, it’ll be a cakewalk. Take a look at them in their Nov. 4th rematch with the Colts, Indy won’t know what hit them.

 

NEW YORK JETS 8-8

The Jets, and 1st year coach Eric Man’Genius’, surprised the NFL last year and turned a 4-12 loser into a 10-6 playoff team. While impressive, a closer look reveals the well-coached Flyboys turned an easy schedule, and numerous breaks, into a respectable outcome. Now it’s time to pay the piper. Mangini proved his worth, with a well-prepared team capable of capitalizing on the numerous breaks that came their way. The Jets utilize the West Coast offense to help mask QB Chad Pennington’s limited arm strength. Pennington has capable WR’s that fight for the ball and newly acquired RB Thomas Jones will help carry the load. The N.Y. offensive line is a major question mark, after losing disgruntled G Pete Kendall, and Pennington must stay healthy for this team to compete. Defensively, the Jets are a little light in the loafers and easily pushed around by power running teams. This year the Jets have a much tougher schedule and odds are the breaks won’t be coming their way 2 years in a row. Look to bet against them early, before the odds catch up with reality.

 

BUFFALO BILLS 7-9

What can I tell you about the Bills that you don’t know already? Not much, but let me reiterate the fact that they’re going to stink on defense and when I say stink I mean like a skunk, stuck in a Delaware Park port-a-poddy, that hasn’t been emptied all summer. The defense should improve as the year goes on; with LB Paul Posluszny learning the ropes and reinforcements due back on the line, but the early going is going to be tough to take. The offense will show some improvement, with RB Marshawn Lynch able to add some speed and versatility to the run game. The offensive line is supposedly upgraded, but they certainly failed to show it in the pre-season. QB J.P Losman better get out of the gate fast or rookie Trent Edwards will be breathing down his neck. The last thing we need is another QB controversy; I still hear arguments about Flutie and Johnson almost a decade later. The reality is, the first half of the season the Bills don’t play one team that was under .500 last year, so I would bet against the Bills early, often and especially consider the OVER until the bookies catch up with them. The second half of the year, when they should be playing better and getting points, will be a good time to consider them for a wager. Until then take the OVER and stay away.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS 5-11

Nick Saban, after an ill-fated year as coach, waved Ba-Bye to the Dolphin faithful on his way to Tuscaloosa . Thanks for coming Nick. Cam Cameron takes over as coach, following a stellar run as the Chargers offensive coordinator. Too bad for Cam he doesn’t have the same toolbox. The Miami offense is a mistake waiting to happen and is probably going to get worse before it gets better. After passing on Brady Quinn in the draft, the aging Trent Green will be the starter at QB. It doesn’t help that his offensive line is a mess and Green is one hit away from the loony bin. The bright spot for Miami is an excellent defense that was rated 4th last year and should not miss a beat. Joey Porter was added at LB and will add a little oomph to this aging but capable cast. The bottom line here is, the Dolphins have an excellent defense and a terrible offense. It’s an obvious lean to the UNDER and never bet on them as a favorite.

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  August 29, 2007

NFC East

PHILLY EAGLES 11-5

The Eagles played hard, despite some major injuries, last year, and came within a whisker of returning to the NFC Championship game. QB Jeff Garcia stood in for the injured Donovan McNabb and rallied the Birds down the stretch. Garcia was handed his walking papers for his trouble. Coach Andy Reid, in his 9th year, has kept this team a constant contender and his 82-57 ATS record is phenomenal. QB McNabb must stay healthy, after season ending injuries in 3 of the last 5 years, and there are already rumblings, after QB Kevin Kolb was drafted in the 1st round. RB Brian Westbrook makes this offense go, with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. The WR position is extremely thin, but McNabb’s ability to make time in the pocket makes them better. On defense, Philly has an excellent secondary, but must improve their sturdiness against the run, after ranking 26th a year ago. Veteran LB Jeremiah Trotter’s recent release caused some rumblings in the locker room, but you know what NFL stands for, Not-For-Long. The Eagles are well coached and flying below the radar, an easy early schedule should propel them into the playoffs in this lightweight division.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS 10-6

Bill Parcells took his grocery bag and went home, making way for Chef Wade Phillips to prepare Owner Jerry Jones dinner. What’s left in the fridge, should make for some mighty good eats. Wade’s specialty dish is defense and Mother Hubbard is nowhere to be found in Big D. Wade has many capable ingredients, to prepare a full menu, and the know how to make it a 5 Star meal. Bottom line, this above average defense will get even better now that Wade is in charge. Where it gets a little tricky is on offense. Tony Romo took over for the statuesque Drew Bledsoe, last year, and immediately improved the Dallas offense. Then, as opposing coaches caught on to his weaknesses, he deteriorated down the stretch. That was capped by the utter implosion, of fumbling a placement snap and a sure playoff win, in Seattle. Romo was literally reduced to tears and must man up, if he’s going to make it in this league. Romo has a capable duo at RB, in Marion Barber and Julius Jones. The WR position is where it gets interesting, as Terrell Owens has no more excuses, after a year long case of the dropsies. Dallas should see an improved defense carry a still emerging QB to the playoffs. One thing Big D, hold on to your six-shooters with all the Super Bowl talk. Talk like that can make Wade ruin dinner.

 

WASH. REDSKINS 7-9

The Skins were devastated by injuries, last year, and a lack of depth finally caught up to their free spending behavior. Washington wised up and used their draft picks, instead of trading them for aging veterans. Joe Gibbs enters his 4th retread year and this may be his last hurrah. Jason Campbell will be the starter at QB and his youth will limit this offense. Clinton Portis still seems to have the pop, at RB, and Ladell Betts is there to take up the slack. WR Santana Moss is their only playmaker, so this should be an ultraconservative unit. Defensive Coordinator, Gregg Williams, endured the year from hell and he’s looking for a big rebound from this unit. LB London Fletcher was signed for his tackling ability, but the defensive line must step up and give him the room to operate. The Skins have an easy early schedule, but their defense must revert to their previous form to make it all work. Look Under when the Skins suit up.

 

N.Y. GIANTS 4-12

I can feel rumbling now and it looks like there’s going to be a 7.0 in the Big Apple. How Tom Coughlin survived to coach another year in N.Y. I’ll never know, but I’ve got the feeling he’s going to wish he never did. Big Mouth, Tiki Barber, is gone and still causing trouble, Loud Mouth, Michael Strahan, is angling for more alimony money and Motor Mouth, Jeremy Shockey, is just waiting to explode. Big Mouth Barber has already called out his former QB, Eli Manning, and Manning better respond on the field. Loud Mouth Strahan doesn’t know if he’s coming or going and this defense is bad even if he does show up. Motor Mouth Shockey has been relatively quiet, but when the G-Men start losing early, all hell is going to break loose. It’s all a recipe for disaster and it’s going to be great fun to watch. Bet against this team early and often. I’ll be surprised if Coughlin is still there at the final whistle.

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  August 22, 2007

AFC North

BALTIMORE RAVENS 11-5

Brian Billick, and the Ravens, breezed through an easy schedule last year, but came up short in the playoffs. QB Steve McNair finally filled the perennial void at QB, but the supporting cast could not deliver. Our old buddy Willis ‘Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out’ McGahee will be an upgrade at RB. The Ravens feel McGahee has the speed and pass catching ability to be the final piece of their offensive puzzle, but they’re in for a rude awakening. McGahee wasn’t even on the field, on 3rd downs, for the Bills, because he couldn’t pickup the blitz, and Willis is no more than a 4 yard per carry back. Their WR’s are decent, as is their offensive line. The Ravens strength lies in a defense that likes to attack the opposition. Ray Lewis has lost a step, but he’s still a force in the middle. They also have a solid defensive line and a defensive backfield that is second to none. Baltimore again, has an easy schedule and should build some positive momentum, until a stretch of games against San Diego, New England and Indy. There we can look to play against them.

 

CINCY BENGALS 10-6

Marvin Lewis is entering his 5th year as coach and the Bengals are still looking to take the next step forward. Marvin’s biggest challenge may be keeping his team out of prison. Cincy started out like gangbusters last year, only to go 0-3 down the stretch and miss the playoffs. The Bengals offense is top notch, with Carson Palmer at QB and a capable trio at WR. Rudi Johnson gets the job done at RB and the offensive line needs to stay healthy to carry the load. The Bengals weakness is on the defensive side and they are especially vulnerable versus the pass. Look for Bengal games to be high scoring shootouts. The playoffs are a definite possibility, as long as the Bengals can stay out of handcuffs.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 8-8

The Steelers failed to step up to the plate last year, after a miraculous Super Bow season. Coach Bill Cowher was a lame duck and ‘retired’ because the front office refused to pay him what he’s worth. Look for Cowher to resurface next year. Mike Tomlin takes over as coach and has some big shoes to fill. QB Ben Roethlisberger endured the year from hell, after a motorcycle accident and appendectomy. In hindsight, it was a mistake to rush him back into service. Big Ben should be ready to go this year and the new offense will be looking to take a few more shots downfield under their new coach. ‘Fast’ Willie Parker will carry the load at RB, with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes manning the WR position. On defense, Dick LeBeau was retained as coordinator and their will be little transition in the coming year. LB Joey Porter was lost in Free Agency, but this defense should still be able to bring it. The ‘Steel Curtain’ should be able to carry this team, but the playoffs will be difficult in this tough division.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS 4-12

The lovable losers, known as the Cleveland Browns, have upgraded in the draft, but by the time those players are ready to contribute, Coach Romeo Crennel will be the biggest loser. A stellar draft brought OT Joe Thomas, QB Brady Quinn, and CB Eric Wright into the fold. The problem is, by the time those players are ready to prove their worth, Crennel may be long gone. QB Quinn, a lengthy holdout, missed valuable training camp time and will not be ready to start. Charlie Frye should be the opening day starter and RB Jamal Lewis will be the go to back. That backfield does not breed confidence. TE Kellen Winslow is still waiting to reach his potential and WR Braylon Edwards is the only bright spot on an offensive unit that is truly offensive. The defense rated 27th a year ago and aging veterans, Ted Washington and Willie McGinst, are not the long-term answer. It’s going to be another long year on the shores of Lake Erie and I would bet against this team early and often. Bye-Bye Romeo.

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August 17, 2007

NFC South

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 11-5

New coach Sean Peyton, and the Saints, surprised the football world last year, but came up just short of a Super Bowl berth. That loss, in Chicago , can be directly attributed to the rookie coach. Why in the world you would play pinball, with the pigskin, on a cold, rainy, day in the Windy City is beyond me. New Orlean’s turnovers gift-wrapped the Championship for the Bears. The Saints have an explosive offense and fire both barrels. Runner up MVP, Drew Brees, distributes the ball to the talented RB combo of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. Throw in a superior WR corps and you have the makings for an unstoppable force. The Saint defense, although not the team strength, is well coached and can hold up their end of the bargain. Look for New Orleans to hit the ground running, in the early going, and build off last year’s success. Lean to the OVER and take a good look at them in the season opener against the Colts.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS 10-6

The Panthers are like a yo-yo, up one year, down the next. This year Coach John Fox and company are in luck, because last year was definitely on the downswing. Carolina’s strength is their defense, with DE Julius Peppers leading the way. Peppers is a pass rushing phenom and he has a supporting cast that brings out his best. The problem with the Panthers is an Offense that’s stuck in 2nd gear. Jake Delhomme is a steady QB, but he doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Deshaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams are decent RB’s, but neither is a game breaker. The Cats do have a stud at WR, Steve Smith, but he’s constantly double covered and doesn’t have any help. The Panthers will go as far as their Offense takes them. If the O keeps it together, the yo-yo will be on the upswing. Consider Carolina as an UNDER, or Dog play. Their conservative Offense and solid Defense should keep them close.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCS 7-9

This years edition of the Bucs has more ?’s then the Riddler on speed. In an effort to get off the hot seat, and improve his fading offense, Coach Jon Gruden went after quantity, instead of quality. QB’s presently on the roster include, Jake Plummer (want’s to retire), Jeff Garcia (rubber arm), Chris Simms (lost his spleen), Bruce Gradkowski (still green) and Luke McCown (doesn’t have a light saber). Riddle me this Batman, How many QB’s does it take to make a stink bomb? Answer, All of them. Garcia can run the West Coast Offense, and looks like the odds on favorite, but how is he going to get the ball downfield to the blazing Joey Galloway? Tampa does have a couple of capable RB’s, in Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman, but there won’t be many holes with a suspect offensive line. In the past, the Bucs could lean on their stellar defense to keep them viable, but this year’s edition could qualify for an AARP card. I would stay away from this team, until I see what they can do on offense and, if the injuries pile up, bet against them late in the year.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS 6-10

New Coach Bobby Petrino, fresh from the college ranks, certainly didn’t bargain to be in this year’s newest soap opera, ‘The Young and the Stupid’. Dog fighting, are you kidding me? Why the hell does a guy, who grosses over $10 Million a year, give a flying @#$% about dog fighting? There can only be one answer, Michael Vick, you’re dumber than dirt. On the football field, the Piano Man, Joey Harrington, takes over at QB, after a lackluster stint in Detroit. Harrington doesn’t have a strong arm, or the legs, but he’s definitely a lot smarter than Vick. Harrington will stay in the pocket, look for his receivers, and believe it or not, may actually be an upgrade at QB. RB Warrick Dunn is getting a little long in the tooth, as is new WR Joe Horn. The defensive side of the ball is not much better, with 4 or 5 new starters. It looks like it’s going to be a long year for the Georgia Peaches. I would bet against this team early, with a new Coach, new offensive philosophy, and new QB. If they show any signs of life, consider them as a Dog, in the second half of the year.

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August 9, 2007

AFC South

INDY COLTS 11-5

The Colts lost 4 of their last 7 in the regular season, but turned it on in the post season to emerge victorious in the Super Bowl. Coach Tony Dungy and QB Peyton Manning finally got the proverbial twin monkeys off their respective backs with a stirring, 2nd half, comeback against the Patriots. This year the Colts will be sporting a bull’s eye on their helmets, instead of the traditional horseshoe. The Colts are all about the offense and this year’s edition is no different. RB Joseph Addai takes over for the departed Dominic Rhodes. WR Marvin Harrison, although 34, still stretches the field and makes the tough catches. On defense, Indy was terrible against the run, until stepping it up in the playoffs. This year they will be even worse. Indy lost several starters to free agency and lineman, Booger (I love that name) McFarland, went down with a major injury. It looks like there will be nothing but high scoring shootouts for the Colts, this year, and the guns will be blazing in the season opener versus the Saints. Bet the OVER.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGS 9-7

The Jags overcame several major injuries to rank #2 in defense, but could not overcome a putrid offense to sneak into the playoffs. Coach Jack Del Rio’s job is on the line and it’s playoffs or bust for this edition of the Jags. QB Brian Leftwich is the leader of a sub par offense and he’s returning from a major injury. Leftwich has a strong arm, but the mobility of the McKinley Monument. The Jags have a decent running tandem in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, but no playmakers at WR. The defense is again solid and should finish in the top 5. The Jags will go as far as their offense takes them. Jacksonville returns 20 of 22 starters and will be ready to go in week 1. The Jags look like a good play in the underdog roll and look to the UNDER when the Jags take the field.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS 7-9

Second year coach, Gary Kubiak, will take some late season momentum as a positive sign for this years Texans. Houston is still trying to recover from their draft day blunder, of last year, leaving Reggie Bush and hometown hero, Vince Young, on the board. This year, the Texans kicked QB David Carr to the curb, trading for Atlanta backup QB, Matt Schaub and signed RB Ahman Green in free agency. WR Andre Johnson, a perennial pro bowler, is the go to guy, but a weak offensive line will have to step it up to keep this offense afloat. The Houston defense improved as the year went on, but DE Mario Williams needs to step up his play and show fans he was worth the #1 overall selection last year. The Titans use a short passing game, to get the ball down the field, but need to be more consistent, on both sides of the ball, to make it all work. Houston should give the Chiefs all they can handle in the season opener and UNDER is the way to lean.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS 5-11

The Titans are clearly in a rebuilding mode and will be riding QB Vince Young like a rented mule. Tennessee released WR Drew Bennett, along with leading rusher Travis Henry, and it doesn’t look like Mr. Young is going to have much help moving the ball. He certainly can’t count on RB ‘LenWhale’ White to help. The rotund one is a world-class underachiever and can’t be counted on. The defense is not in any better shape, with several question marks. The only defensive playmaker they had, Pacman Jones is an idiot and presently on suspension, maybe forever. Jeff Fisher is a good coach and has 10 draft picks to help him, but it’s going to take time. The Titans first 3 games are at Jacksonville, home versus Indy, and at New Orleans. I would play against this team, early and often.

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July 17, 2007

AFC West

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 11-5

After an impressive run through the regular season, ‘Marty Ball’ didn’t have enough juice to get past New England in the playoffs. Coach Schottenheimer had an impressive run but he couldn’t win a playoff game. He also could not coexist with GM A.J. Smith so, it’s Bye-Bye ‘Marty Ball’, Hello Norv Turner. Norv will hit the ground running with this talented squad. QB Philip Rivers will only get better, after an excellent year and RB LaDainian Tomlinson is the best in the business. This offense revolves around Tomlinson and he can do it all, he slices, dices and even purees, opposing defenses. Norv’s going to have a lot of fun calling plays for LT. On defense it’s a Buffalo reunion, as Ted Cottrell takes over for our old buddy Wade Phillips. Wade put on his ‘Cowboy’ boots and took a bowlegged stroll to Dallas, but this unit will not miss a beat. Cottrell knows all the X’s and O’s, from their days in Buffalo. The Charger defense is solid and can pressure the QB with the best of them. The Super Chargers have the talent to repeat as division champs, but Norv’s playoff record isn’t any better than Marty’s. Fade this team as a big favorite and, with this explosive offense, look to the OVER. They should handle in Bears in the opener as a small chalk.

DENVER BRONCOS 9-7

The Broncos missed the playoffs, after an impressive 5-1 start last year. Mike Shanahan is entering his 13th season and ‘Coach Teflon’ is still looking to recreate the Denver glory years. Where’s John Elway when you need him? Jay Cutler took over the QB duties, in week 12, from the now ‘retired?’ Jake Plummer. Cutler has talent, but had to endure some on the job training. Cutler will get better as the season rolls on and it’s lucky for him, the Broncos rely on the running game to make things hum. Oddly enough Denver has lost their leading rusher the last 4 years, so my advice to Travis Henry is, rent don’t buy. Travis is a workhorse and should fit in nicely behind a solid offensive line. In retrospect, it sure was a big mistake for the Bills to let Travis go and keep Willis McGahee. Coordinator Jim Bates takes over Denver’s suspect defense. The Broncos defense wore down after a strong start and a bad defensive line is the reason why. Denver went ‘all in’ during the draft and selected several linemen to solve the problem. The LB’s and secondary will benefit, eventually, but how long will it take for those new linemen to get up to speed? After going 5-11 against the spread last year, I would stay away from this team early and see how they do, especially on defense.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 8-8

The Chiefs, with new Coach Herm Edward, made the playoffs last year, only to get embarrassed by the Colts in Indy. Coach Edwards continues to instill his conservative, defensive minded, philosophy with this team, but the talent is not in place to take it to the next level. QB Tent Green was traded to the Dolphins, after an injury prone campaign, and Damon Huard takes over, going 5-3 in relief last year. Huard is not flashy, but doesn’t make many mistakes in this run first offense. RB Larry Johnson is the workhorse, but he’s presently in holdout mode. Johnson is the only real weapon they have. TE Tony Gonzalez is on a downhill slope and the WR options are limited. It doesn’t help that Will Shields and Willie Roaf have now retired and left a suspect OL. The Chiefs are improving on defense, with the addition of LB’s Napoleon Harris and Donnie Edwards. I would look to the UNDER when this team takes the field. If the offense shows any signs of life, maybe consider them as a dog play.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 4-12

The Raiders were an embarrassment to their ‘Commitment to Excellence’ last year and anything they do will be a step up. Coach Art Shell got the boot and Lane Kiffin was hired from USC. Kiffin’s main order of business is to improve one of the worst offenses ever. The first step in the right direction was showing malcontent Randy Moss the door. The addition of No. 1 draft pick, QB JaMarcus Russell helps, but Josh McCown will probably be the opening day starter, until Russell is ready, or the Raiders lose too many games. Oakland will have a RB by committee and WR Jerry Porter better put up or shut up, after a disastrous season. The Oakland defense is the light at the end of the tunnel. They are young, talented and finished 3rd overall last year. The Raiders should double their win total, but 4 wins still isn’t saying much. With a rebuilding offense and a solid defense, I would look to the UNDER with this team. If the offense shows any signs of life consider them as nice dog.

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June 27, 2007

NFC West

San Fran Niners 10-6  

That’s right sports fans, I predict the Niners will take the next step and unseat Seattle for the division crown. Coach Mike ‘The Suit’ Nolan is now in his 3rd year and this team has shown steady improvement under his watch. QB Alex Smith and RB Frank Gore hit their stride last year and the addition of WR’s Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie will help stretch the field for an improving offense. On defense, 5 new Free Agents, including our own, overpriced, Nate Clements, will help improve an inconsistent unit. Bet on this team early in the year, especially as a dog, as they will surprise several teams. Lean towards the OVER when the Niners take the field.

Seattle Seahawks 9-7

The Seahawks played through some major injuries last year and still gave the Bears all they could handle in the playoffs. Coach Mike Holmgren brings consistency to this franchise. Last year’s offense was torn apart by injuries, but QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander should be ready to go. The question is, for how long? WR Deion Branch was a nice addition and another year in the system will only help. Jim Mora takes over as secondary coach and needs to cut down on the big plays the Seahawks allowed last year. Bet on this team early and be on the lookout for any injuries, especially on offense. With a powerful offense and susceptible secondary, OVER is usually the way to go. If this aging offense starts to sputter, look the other way.

St. Louis Rams 7-9

Scott Linehan begins his second year as head coach of this Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde squad. The Rams have an excellent offense led by the steady QB, Marc Bulger. This team now has more of a ball control attack and Bulger likes to spread the field with his excellent weapons. At RB is the outstanding Stephen Jackson, and they have a stable full of WR’s led by Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Drew Bennett. The Mr. Hyde defense is where things get ‘hairy’ for this team. The Ram defense, led by Jim Haslett, allowed a league high 145 yards per game rushing last year and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be much of an improvement. St. Louis has a tough early schedule, so I would stay away from this team early, especially as a favorite. Look to the OVER and evaluate the Rams defense as the season goes on.

Arizona Cardinals 5-11

Say Ba-Bye to ‘Gary Coleman’, I mean Dennis Green, and say hello to Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals new head coach. Ken is from the Steeler school of coaching and is looking to put that imprint on this perennial loser. That might be what he wants to do, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The Cards are solid at the skill positions on offense with QB Matt Leinart, RB Edgerrin James, and WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The problem lies in a very weak offensive line. The line needs to give, ‘Pretty Boy’, Leinart the time to find those options. The Arizona defense does not have much talent and is also switching between the 4-3 / 3-4 defenses. The new offensive and defensive systems will cause a tremendous amount of grief for this team early in the year. The Cards also have a tough early schedule, so I would stay away, until they show some signs of life. Mr. Whisenhunt may want to emulate those dominant teams from Pittsburgh, with solid defense and a ball control offense, but it’s going to take a long time before the talent and intelligence are in place. Especially in Arizona.

Top

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“’Til Death Do Us Part”

June 19, 2007

        Bear with me for a moment, please. We all know this crotchety old fart that’s been married for 47 years. He’s 88, got a ton of money, but he’s never satisfied. His devoted spouse would do anything for him and has stood by his side, through thick and thin, for 47 years. This old man’s got the world by the balls, yet all he does is whine and complain about how he never gets a fair shake.

In the mid 60’s, the then young couple, couldn’t get enough of each other. They spawned a brood of devoted offspring. Yet, old crotchety was never happy and always threatened to leave.

In the early 70’s, they decided to put their troubles behind them and built a wonderful new home in the South towns for all their children. This seemed to work for a while, but as the 80’s arrived, the children began to leave and the big house seemed empty. The Miss’s began to lose her luster and old crotchety started to get restless again. The old cheapskate stopped spending his money and began looking for greener pastures.

Then, as the 90’s arrived, a wonderful thing began to happen. Their devoted children began to return home with children of their own. The big house came alive again and old crotchety began to loosen the purse strings. The more he spent, the happier everyone became. It was one big happy family, everyone looking out for each other and working towards the same goal.

It was a wonderful time, but in the late 90’s, old crotchety couldn’t handle prosperity. Instead of being happy for all the good things he had, all he did was act like a little 3 year old who didn’t have the biggest piece of cake. He had to have it all.

Now, in his twilight years, instead of sharing his greatest achievement with his devoted family, the crotchety old fart plans on taking it to his grave.

You may ask, “Who is this crotchety old fart and why is he acting like such a butt hole towards the people that made him what he is today?” The answer is Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and his spouse and family are you and I, the good people of Buffalo and Western New York.

In a recent Buffalo News article, the crotchety old fart stated the Buffalo Bills will not be sold until after he dies. What this means is, when Ralph dies, the team will be sold to the highest bidder. No provisions have been made to keep the team in WNY. The Bills are presently worth over 600 Million dollars, not bad for a $25,000 investment in 1959. That's a 24,000% return, if my math is correct.

Yes, Mr. Wilson had the foresight to purchase the franchise, but the reason why it’s worth 600 million today is because of our devotion to the team. We bought the tickets, we wore the jerseys, and we filled the stadium. Not only that, but we built “Ralph Wilson Stadium?” with taxpayer money and we also pay the team a yearly subsidy for the “privilege” of having them here. That money comes from all our taxes, even the non fans.

In a marriage both spouses are equal partners, each is entitled to half the assets. In this marriage, we are entitled to exactly 0. The blood, sweat, and tears, we as a community poured into this team, for 47 years, is worth nothing, zilch, nada. All we did was make old Ralphie boy even richer then he already was.

Now, when Ralph passes, some out of town billionaire will swoop down and steal “our” team right out from under our noses. What about Tom Gallisano and Jeremy Jacobs you might ask? Yes, they have deep pockets, but there are only 32 NFL franchises and the Bills will be worth much more than 600 million in another market. Without Mr. Wilson’s help, Mr. Gallisano and Mr. Jacobs will not be able to compete and Ralph refuses to help.

Ralph would like to be championed as the man who stood up for the little guy and the small market teams, but that’s not what we’re going to remember Ralph for. We’re going to remember the crotchety old fart who refused to compromise and wanted to squeeze every last dime out of this community, even in death. So, Ralph next time you’re “whistling past the grave yard” remember, we’re whistling right along with you.

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“That’s Whacked”

June 12, 2007

        “Woke up this morning with a blue moon in my eye”, wondering what was up with the Sopranos finale? The final scene is one that will be debated until eternity. Is Tony dead, or does life go on? Like everyone else, I was disappointed at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Life is complicated, unpredictable and can’t be wrapped up in a “tidy little box”. Just like Tony, we always have to be vigilant and aware of our surroundings. One minute you’re waving “bye-bye” to your grandkids, the next you’re road pizza, like Phil Leotardo.

        The more I though about it, the more I wrapped myself up like a pretzel. Then the doorbell rang and my Mailman handed me a “tidy little box”. What was in it, even I didn’t know at the time. What had I ordered and forgotten about? I opened it and realized, it was the collection of Buffalo Sabres Medallions I had ordered, for my nephew, 6 weeks ago.

        I looked through the collection and thought to myself, I ordered these when the Sabres were in full flight, the playoffs were just beginning, the town was Cup Crazy and we were destined for greatness. Now, I sadly realized, that’s just a distant memory. What a difference a few short weeks make.

        I looked at each one of those medallions knowing that this thrilling team would never be the same. Someone was getting “whacked” and I wondered which neck, or necks would come under Darcy’s hatchet. Was Captain Chris Drury’s head going to be found in some bowling bag, like Ralph Cifaretto? How about Danny Briere, would he be sleeping with the fishes, like Big Pussy? Thomas Vanek, an unpredictable young gun, would he be put out of his misery, like Christopher Multisanti? How about Teppo Numminen, would he be left to rot at the retirement home, like Uncle Junior? What about “Florio”, I mean Dainius Zubrus, would he return to “The Old Country” as quickly as he came? The erratic Max Afinofenov, would he take a shotgun shell to the face, like Tony Blundetto? Then there’s numb nuts, like Dimitri Kalinin and Jaroslav Spacek, would they be lost in the Pine Barrens, like Christopher and Paulie Walnuts?

        The more I thought about it, the more I realized, no matter what happens, I’m not going to like the ending. You watch these guys grow and develop, right before your eyes. Though you don’t really know them, you build a mental bond, because you’re all reaching for the same goal. You cheer, you jeer, you worry, you wait. Then the ax falls, everything goes black, and it’s all over.

What does it all mean? What’s the point? Life, like sports, is a fleeting moment. A beautiful goal, a come from behind win, a thrilling victory in overtime. Enjoy them for what they are, right then and there, because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, just like in real life. So, sit back, have some onion rings and in the immortal words of the annoying A.J. Soprano, “Focus on the good times”. Thank you, Sopranos and Thank you, Sabres. It was a hell of a ride. Ben

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“Ten Tidbits”

May 29, 2007

·        It’s now Drury versus Briere in Sabres off season. It’s ironic that our co-captains, and two of the classiest team players in the game, are reduced to a one-on-one competition. It didn’t have to come to this. It would’ve been nice for the Sabres front office to have a little foresight. They could’ve locked up these guys, years ago, for a lot less money. Hey Darcy and Tom, sometimes you have to spend a lot of money, to ‘save’ a lot of money. The worst part of the whole deal is, we might lose both of them and watch out for a backdoor offer to Thomas Vanek. Losing those 3 would be tragic.

·        It’s refreshing to see young Bills players like J.P Losman and Lee Evans taking their leadership roles to heart. I’m sick and tired of all these aging veterans, a.k.a Locker Room Lawyers, whine and complain and undermine the team. We now have a nucleus of quality, smart, character players who can grow together. Now hurry up and grow.

·        The Yanks can have all the team meetings they want, but they are in big trouble. N.Y. is 13.5 games behind the Red Sox and their pitching staff is in shambles. If the Yankees are hoping for Roger The ‘Mercenary’ Rocket to save them, they better not hold their collective breaths, he can only pitch once every 5 games. Not only that, but their bats are no longer getting the job done. It’s been a total team collapse, from the front office, to the bat boys. The Yanks streak of 13 straight playoff appearances is in ‘Jeopardy’ and not even Alex Trabec can help with the solution.

·        The Anaheim Ducks just got through putting away the Ottawa Senators in game 1, of the Stanley Cup Finals, 3-2. The Ducks hit everything that moved and the Senators cried ‘Uncle’, in the late going. Ottawa lost despite scoring 2 power play goals and having a huge man advantage throughout the game. Sen’s goalie ‘Sugar’ Ray Emery got peppered and dwindled in crunch time. We knew he wasn’t very good, too bad the Sabres couldn’t take advantage of that weakness. The Ducks in 6.

·        Maybe it was a good thing the Sabres lost when they did. Follow my logic here: If the Ottawa Senators are bigger and stronger than the Sabres; and Anaheim Ducks are bigger and stronger than the Senators; what was going to happen to the Sabres in the Finals? You got it slick, we would’ve got pounded into submission. Players like Jay Mckee and Mike Greer may not be ‘sexy’ Free Agent signings, but when things get down to the nitty gritty, they can be in my corner any time. I hope the Sabres front office has taken notice and Darcy makes an ‘unsexy’ signing or two.

·        Mike Vick is in ‘deep dog doo-doo’ over dog fighting allegations on his Virginia property. The Feds, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have taken notice. Now an informant has come forward stating Vick was a ‘heavyweight’ in the illegal activity. The Commissioner will not sit still for this, just ask Pacman Jones. It was rumored, after saying all the right things to the Commish, in NY, Pacman left his office and went directly to a strip club. Mr. Goodell was not amused and promptly banished Mr. Jones for 1 year. Nice knowing you Mike, now you can join your brother, and ‘Ron Mexico’, in the ‘Vick Hall of Shame’. Kudos to the Commish, keep up the good work.

·        Have you seen the newest ‘Amber Alert’? I sure hope they find Little Dimitri “Can’t Get It Out’ Kalinin and Tiny Jaroslav ‘Spaz’ Spacek soon, I know their Mothers must be worried sick about them.

·        Condolences to the family of Pats Defensive Lineman Marquise Hill, after his drowning in Louisiana. I read he was an excellent swimmer, but I can’t get over the fact that he didn’t have a life vest on. These athletes today have the feeling that they’re invincible, like Superman, but hey, s**t happens. It’s better to be safe, than sorry and the sorry list getting awful long.

·        Has Jason Giambi stopped talking yet, or are the steroids still eating away at his brain? Hey Jason, shut up and do your job, while you still have one.

·        I think I have a ‘Man Crush’ on Bills Rookie, LB Paul Posluszny, a fine physical specimen. I can’t wait until preseason and watch him take apart some unsuspecting RB. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

Don’t forget to check out my FREE Daily pick at www.benspicks.com. Thanks, Ben

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“A Sabres Postmortem”

May 22, 2007

 The 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres were thought to be a team of destiny, but Buffalo was unprepared for their playoff series with the Ottawa Senators. You would’ve thought facing the avenging Senators would bring their ‘A’ game, it didn’t. Buffalo was down 2-0, in game 1, before they realized they were in a hockey game. The Sabres fought back, but it was too little, too late, a 5-2 loss.

Down 1-0, in games, Buffalo poured it on in the 1st period of game 2. The Sabres came in waves building a 2-0 lead. That was the team we came to see, peppering Sen’s goalie Ray Emery and exposing Ottawa’s weakness. Then, for some unexplained reason, Buffalo decided they would pay the extra 2cent postage and mail it in. Ottawa built a 3-2 lead, late in the 3rd period. It was do or die when Daniel Briere’s last second goal tickled the twine and sent the game into OT. Then the feeling hit you again, this was a team of destiny. We thought Buffalo would come out with their sweaters on fire and win it in OT, just like Mad Max’s swan dive against the Rangers. It wasn’t meant to be. The Sabres sleepwalked through the 1st OT and finally succumbed to a ‘Seeing Eye’ knuckler in double OT. This wasn’t supposed to happen, down 2-0 at home and headed to Ottawa.

The Sabres 1-0 loss to the Senators, in game 3, was a difficult pill to swallow. Like a good friend on life support, it put the Sabres in an insurmountable 3-0 hole and you knew the inevitable conclusion. You could almost hear the beep....beep....beep gaining momentum in the background. You wanted to ‘believe’, but we all knew the insurmountable odds. How could it happen? Wasn’t this supposed to be the team of destiny? ‘One Team, One Goal’ was the slogan, but it was the most ‘one-sided, one goal’, game I’d ever seen. From top to bottom the Sabres were out played, out hustled, and out coached. There are no excuses for that pitiful effort. The Presidents Trophy winner was up against it and their collars began to tighten.

Frustrated, I put my Sabre gear in storage and came to grips with the obvious. The players were all saying the right things, before game 4, but I couldn’t bear to listen. Then Ottawa Coach ‘Yosemite Sam’, a.k.a. Bryan Murray, began talking about playing in the Cup finals and I began to get angry. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. Who does this guy think he is? The Sabres may lose, but they won’t go down without a fight. I got my gear back out and said, ‘screw it, this is my team and I’m going down with the ship’, as did about 8,000 other die hards in HSBC Arena.

Game 4 was a revelation, a decisive 3-2 Sabres win. Ottawa tried to pour it on, but Buffalo prevailed. Lindy Ruff shortened the bench, Buffalo cut down on their mistakes and breathed new life into the series. We were coming home, a win would make it 3-2, then anything could happen. Thoughts of the 2004 Boston Red Sox began to play in my head. Johnny Damon, Big Papi, the ‘bloody sock’ and Manny being Manny. Could it be, I thought? Can we really come back from a 3-0 deficit and win? The Sox did it to erase 86 years if frustration, why not the Sabres? Were we really the team of destiny? Just get us back to Ottawa, I thought, with the Sens history of failure, anything could happen.

Game 6 arrived on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, amid much anticipation. The approximately 10,000 ‘believers’ in the Plaza would party well into the night, after a Sabres victory. Buffalo took a 1-0 lead, but Ottawa faced their fear and gained a 2-1 advantage. Buffalo valiantly fought back and sent the game into OT, tied at 2. It was all on the line in OT, when Ryan Miller made a spectacular save to deny Jason Spezza. A wide open net and Miller was there, certainly this was the team of destiny. The feeling began to build, but like a cruel joke the ‘Hockey Gods’ got the last laugh. Daniel Alfredsson, last years goat, found redemption and the ‘bizarro world reflection’ of last years series was complete. The dream was dead and, as fast as Bryan Miller can say ‘sssssuffin sssssuccotash’, the ‘Party in the Plaza’ turned into the ‘Wake on Washington Street’. Cause of death? Choking.

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“How Does That Taste Big Apple?”

May 8, 2007

        Buffalo is now officially King of NY hockey. I’ll have to admit I wasn’t very confident, or happy, after the Rangers scored with about 3 minutes left in game 5. NY took a 1-0 lead in the pivotal game, of their playoff series with the Sabres. Buffalo dominated the game from the opening face off, but there they stood, staring a 3-2 series deficit in the face.

NY, it was right in front of you, there for the taking. 16 seconds from a commanding 3-2 series lead. 16 seconds from escaping with victory, in a game you did not deserve. 16 seconds away from Utopia.

They dropped the puck and, in the blink of an eye, the series was over. But, like the “old switcheroo”, in a great spy thriller, it was the Rangers who tumbled to their death. A mere 7.7 seconds remained when “Captain Clutch”, Chris Drury, buried a rebound that will live in Sabres infamy. The series was over right then and there. Game, set, and match. It didn’t matter the game was only tied and going into overtime. It didn’t matter that the Rangers still had a home game on deck. It didn’t matter what buttons Rangers Coach Tom Renney pushed. No team was coming back from that cold hard slap.

You have to give the Rangers credit, they did not go away without a fight. NY battled back several times, in a 5-4, game 6 loss, but in the end the “cream” did rise to the top, Mr. Renney. The problem I’m having today, with the Rangers, is this quote from Captain Jaromir “Girly Man” Jagr, “We gave them this series. They didn’t win it. We gave it to them.” Well thank you very much Jaromir, that’s very nice of you. I would just like to know, where all this charity occurred?

Was it game 1, a 5-2 dominating Sabres win? Was it game 2, a game Buffalo spotted NY a 2-1, 3rd period, lead and won 3-2? Was it game 3, a 2-1 Sabre loss in double OT? Maybe it was game 4, another 2-1 Sabre loss, where Daniel Briere was wrongly denied, via video replay, the tying goal with 12 seconds remaining? You obviously can’t be talking about game 6, a 5-4 Sabres win. The refs gave your team 3, 3rd period, power play chances and you still couldn’t get it done. That leaves game 5, a game the Sabres dominated, out shooting your team 40-23. A game your team was 7.7 seconds away from winning. Sorry, Jaromir your team didn’t give Buffalo that game, or the series, they took it.

If you look back at this series, each game had a common thread, as the game went on Buffalo got stronger. The only reason the Rangers were competitive was because of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It certainly wasn’t because of part-timer Jagr or Sean “Big Mouth No Action” Avery. Talk about disappearing, Avery would put Houdini to shame.

Face reality Jaromir, teams are a reflection of their captain and your team is old and mentally weak. The fact is, Jagr will never win a Cup without “Super” Mario Lemieux by his side.

I have yet to see it, but I hear there’s video of Jaromir actually crying during a post game 6 interview. Somehow, I can’t picture Chris Drury doing the same. Give me “Captain Clutch” over the “Girly Man” every time.

Now, it’s on to Ottawa for a series that is sure to go down to the wire. As we all know, these 2 teams don’t like each other and the Senators feel they can get physical with the Sabres. The Rangers felt that way and so did the Islanders. I’m sure NY, NY will enjoy watching this series between tee times. The best part of this scenario is, the Senators are not prepared for what’s going to happen next. When Buffalo last faced Ottawa, there was no Dainius Zubrus, no Paul Gausted, no Ales Kotalik, and no Tim Connolly. The Senators are big and fast, but the Sabres are now just as big and slightly faster. The major difference in this series will be in the goaltending. The Sabres are already in “Sugar” Ray Emery’s head, after last years beat down. All Ryan Miller has to do is play his game and it’s on to the finals. Buffalo in 7. Hopefully, by the time you read this, Buffalo will be already up 1-0. Thanks and Go Sabres, Ben

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“You Can’t Get There From Here”

May 1, 2007

        Last year, after a horrendous start, the Bills and their new coaching staff, turned the season around and got headed in the right direction. Buffalo finished the year at a respectable 7-9 and played several playoff teams to the wire. QB J.P. Losman started to act like a 1st round draft pick and the Bills porous defense began a slow climb to respectability. The future looked bright. With another year of experience and a solid draft, Buffalo would be on the road to somewhere we haven’t been in a long time, the 2007 playoffs.

The Bills held the 12th overall pick and it was a great opportunity to fill the major holes on an up and coming team. Those holes were especially evident on defense, where overpriced veterans Nate Clements, Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher were kicked to the curb. This year’s draft was especially loaded with skilled linebackers and swift cornerbacks to help Buffalo fill those holes. The road map to the playoffs was a straight line, point A to point B. The “Octogenarian Army”, led by GM Marv Levy and Coach Dick Jauron, a defensive specialist, certainly know how to read a map and would take the direct route to the postseason.

        I waited patiently Saturday afternoon, as the Bills selection approached, and was a little disappointed when LB Patrick Wills went to the Niners, with the selection prior to ours. No matter, LB Paul Posluszny, from Penn State, would fill the bill. When the Bills selected Running Back Marshawn Lynch, I was a little surprised. Then I began to think, we do need a capable RB now that Willis McGhee is spreading his demon seed in Baltimore, so maybe picking Lynch was a good idea. Buffalo did sign several Free Agents on the Offensive Line and Lynch is a capable RB. In fact he’s probably better than Wills, he’s faster, he can catch the ball and he knows how to speak English. He even stated he, and his whole family, would be moving to Buffalo from California. Now if that’s not the anti-Willis what is? So, I came to grips with the selection. Yes, it was a slight detour, but we needed a RB and we got a good one.

        It would be a long wait for Buffalo’s 2nd round selection, so I buckled up my safety belt and watched the ESPN scenery along the way. Look at Mel Kiper, I wonder how many gallons of oil he needs to do his hair? Poor Brady Quinn got left on the side of the road, with his thumb hanging out. Teams kept driving by, Oakland, Cleveland, Miami, but no one would pick him up. Finally, Cleveland lets him in the Dawg Pound, on the second trip around. That Chris Mortenson hates the Bills guts, must have something to do with the fact we did a drive by on his buddy, Tom Donahoe. What’s the matter Chris, isn’t anyone at One Bills Drive spoon feeding you inside info anymore? What the hell is Keyshawn Johnson doing there. Talk about a guy full of it, he compares every Wide Receiver to himself. Earth to Keyshawn, it’s not all about you.

        Finally, the 2nd round begins and LB Posluszny is still waiting, but it’s 12 more picks until Buffalo’s selection. Then it happens, the Bills trade up with the Lions and select Posluszny. Now you’re talking, Marv has finally got this caravan headed in the right direction. Posluszny is a stud from Linebacker U, Penn State. He’s a 2-time winner of the Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the year). Posluszny can play inside or out and has been compared to former Bill, Shane Conlan. He’s a character player and is already talking about filling the leadership roll left by London Fletcher.

The selection was a perfect fit and, with several more defensive selections, Buffalo will be making a bee line to the Playoffs. Then, the unthinkable happens, in the 3rd round, Buffalo reaches a fork in the road and decides to take the scenic route. The Bills select Quarterback Trent Edwards, from Stanford. A QB? That’s the last thing the Bills need. J.P.’s the starter, Craig Nall is a capable backup, why do we need to waste a 3rd rounder on a bench warmer, we still need defensive help. I’m sure Mr. Edwards warrants this selection, but not by the Bills.

I was still shaking my head on Sunday. Why do we need a backup QB? What was up with the detour? Then, with their 4th round selection, the Bills pick RB Dwayne Wright, from Fresno State. I was stunned, another Running Back. No way! What’s going on here? Why do we need another guy to warm the bench? Was Marv losing it?

I sat down for a second in a daze, unable to comprehend what was happening. Then it hit me, like a semi coming in the wrong direction, “you can’t get there from here”, and the 2007 Playoff Caravan came to a screeching halt. Unloading all those high priced veterans, drafting the best player available instead of the positions we need. It finally became obvious what was happening, this is not the road to the 2007 Playoffs, this is the road map to 2008, and beyond. Talk about letting the air out of your tires. Another year of mediocrity, another year of riding in the back seat, another year of waiting. Will we be better off in the long run? Probably. But it sure sucks waiting at this red light.

Don’t forget Mark Clement’s derby selections will be available, May 4th, on my website, www.benspicks.com. Thanks and Go Sabres, Ben

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“Working For a Living”

April 17, 2007

        I just got through watching the Buffalo Sabres beat the NY Islanders, 3-2, in Game 3, of the opening round, of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game and the score were, in many ways, anything but impressive. What was impressive is that it was a workman like effort, by the superior team. Buffalo now holds a 2-1 edge in the series.

        The Sabres did the same thing in game 1, a 4-1 win. In that contest Buffalo dominated the early going, but only held a 1-0 lead. The game Islanders caught a break, on a 2 on 1 odd man rush, and tied the score.

Did the Sabres get down on themselves? No. Did the Sabres overreact? No. Did the Sabres start pressing in front of the disappointed home crowd? No. What the Sabres did was get back to what got them here in the first place, good old fashioned hard work. Buffalo continued to take the play to the Islanders and won easily 4-1.

        In game 2 Islanders Coach, Ted Nolan, changed tactics and decided to attack the Sabres in their own end. Teddy sent 2, sometimes 3, checkers into the Sabres end and clogged up the Sabres defense. The defensemen were unable to get off that first pass. The Islanders took advantage, by scoring 2 early goals, before the Sabres could adjust. One of those goals was especially awful as Ryan Miller made a huge blunder. To compound matters, Islander goalie, Rick Dipietro, was making his comeback from a concussion injury, and played an excellent game. He stoned the Sabres several times and clearly played better than his counterpart.

Did the Sabres get down on themselves? No. Did the Sabres overreact? No. Did the Sabres start pressing in front of their home crowd? No. What the Sabres did, once they figured out the Islander tactics, was good old fashioned hard work. Buffalo bore down on the Islanders and eventually tied up the score 2-2, despite Dipietro’s heroics. In the 3rd period NY took advantage of a questionable power play and took the lead 3-2. The Sabres again went back to work, but ran out of time.

Now the series was tied at 1-1 and you would’ve thought the world was coming to an end, by listening to the call in shows. It was all gloom and doom. Miller stinks, we should have kept Biron, Dipietro is going to get on a hot streak, Teddy Nolan is going to get even, we lost home ice advantage, and so on. Yes, the Islanders gave it their all and won the game, but NY only played 1 good period out of 6. The Sabres didn’t lose the game, they ran out of time. What was with all the panic?

Did the Sabres get down on themselves? No. Did the Sabres overreact? No. Did the Sabres start pressing because their fans were having a cow? No. The Sabres went back to work in game 3, on the Island, and took care of business, 3-2. Miller played great, Dipietro came back down to earth, and even Teddy Noland couldn’t turn slacker Alexei Yashin into Mark Messier.

The Islanders come to play and will not go away easily, but the Sabres are clearly the superior team. Buffalo needs to work hard, stick to their game plan and they will emerge victorious. The Stanley Cup Playoff is a 2 month grind, one bad period, or one bad game, is not the end of the world. Buffalo is battle tested by their run last year and this team is on a mission. Every team the Sabres face is going to give them their best shot. Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Tampa, New Jersey, the Rangers, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to be a cakewalk. So, Buffalo fans I’ve just got one piece of advice, don’t forget your lunch pail, punch the time clock and buckle up your chinstrap, because the Sabres, like every other playoff team, know they’re “Working For a Living”, and so should you.

Part II of “Betting The Derby”, by Mark Clement, will be available next week. Mark’s Derby selections will be available on my website, www.benspicks.com, on May 4th. Thanks, Ben

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“Betting The Derby – Part I”

April 10, 2007

        Welcome Horse Racing fans, I’ve got a real treat for you. Our guest columnist is local resident, Mark Clement. Mark is the winner of the prestigious “2006 Horse Player World Series”, held at The Orleans, in Las Vegas. Mark is going to give us an informative ‘heads up’ on picking a winner for the Kentucky Derby. So, pay attention, you just might learn something.

        “Thoroughbreds are like escalators. They are either going up or coming down” says Professor Gordon Jones in his book “Gordon Jones To Win”. He compares the wagering on thoroughbreds, with the Wall Street Stock Market: “you have to catch the ones that are getting good early when the price is right, and you have to drop the ones that have peaked as soon as they start the downward plunge”.

        The Kentucky Derby personifies Professor Jones’ comment with an all encompassing complexity which challenges the best handicappers’ efforts to simplify into a coherent pick.

        But chaos ensues. There is a cavalry charge to the first turn of twenty thoroughbreds, all trying to gain a favorable position, many trying to squeeze through a wall of horses, and all attempting a mile and a quarter for the first time; perhaps the parts that make the sum should be analyzed individually.

        The Derby favorite is a great bet against, especially with the current 20 horse field. Since 1990 only two favorites have won, with 15 of 16 winners paying double digits, with an average mutual of $27.50.

        There are many reasons to play against the favorite. Sometimes the Derby chalk is legit and simply gets beaten because of the large field and resulting bad trip. This happens more often than not, in the Derby, and a lot less in The Preakness and The Belmont.

        Sometimes the Derby favorite runs a huge prop race just before the Derby and, in fact, it runs too fast receiving a big Beyer or Daily Racing Form number. Remembering Professor Jones’ escalator theory, the horse often bounces downward after that try attracting everyone’s attention and money.

        Every year there is always the over-hyped “wise guy” entrant (last year, Andy Beyers’ A.P. Warrior) and so-called “smart money” on the toteboard (Daily Racing Form’s Steven Crist’s Sweetnorthernsaint bet down to 5-1 from 10-1) – neither horse finished in the money.

        But what works? How can the Derby field be reduced to a lower amount of contenders? Career starts will help. In the past 21 years all Derby winners, except Barbaro and Grindstone, had at least six career starts or more, and the two exceptions had five starts. Dating from 1942 to the present there were 35 entrants with four career starts or less and all lost, and only two hit the board.

        Another consideration is stakes win. Seventeen of the last 21 winners showed a stakes win in its profile, with the other four winners hitting the board in one or more stakes events as a 3 year old.

        The best and most predictive category is the number of races as a 3 year old. During the past 21 years entrants who have just two prep races, in the Derby year, are 43 starts, 0 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third. Only 2 horses since 1947 have won with two prep races.

        So far let’s check out what makes a good, value-orientated play for the Kentucky Derby: no chalk or favoritism, no big numbered prep race just before the Derby, no smart money bet down or over-hyped-wise guy selection, at least 6 career starts, a stakes win in the chart or a in the money stakes finish this year, and more than 2 races as a 3 year old. See how easy it is!

        But there is more such as; post position, trainers, projected pace of the race and running styles, key prep races, breeding, workouts, and a great long shot place angle for completing the exacta combination; but those subjects are for next installment.

Part II will be available, in this space, April 26, 2007. Marks’ selections will be available Friday, May 4th at www.benspicks.com. Thanks, Ben

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“Ten Tidbits”

April 3, 2007

·        Congratulations to the Florida Gators, back-to-back NCAA Basketball Champions. I just got done watching them, decisively, beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 84-75 and I have just one question, do those guys ever miss?

·        Speaking of NCAA Basketball, Ohio State Freshman Center, Greg Oden, is a man among boys. There is not much more he can learn, basketball wise, at the College level. He should declare for the NBA Draft and let his ‘real’ education begin. I’ll bet Scaq can teach him a thing or two. Best of all, he’ll be making millions, instead of living in a dorm room.

·        The Octogenarian Army at One Bills Drive is sniffing around San Diego, back up, RB, Michael Turner The Chargers are looking for #1 and #3 draft picks and Buffalo will have to sign him to a new deal. I haven’t seen much of LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup, but the Bills better make sure he’s the real deal. That’s a steep price.

·        Don’t look now, but the NHL playoffs are here and the Sabres are almost at full strength. Tim Connelly and Mad Max could be the final pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle. Hopefully, they can hit the ice at full speed.

·        From the be careful what you wish for file, Motor mouth, Marty Biron, signed a 2 year, 7 Million Dollar deal with the Philly Flyers. I wonder what it’s like being on the wrong end of target practice? Good Luck Marty, but I still hate the Flyers.

·        Derby time is right around the corner and all you “Horseballs” are in for a treat. Next week we’re going to have Part 1 of our Derby Preview, with the winner of the 2006 Horse Player World Series. He’s local resident, Mark Clement. The contest was held at The Orleans, in Las Vegas. Mark will be giving us a heads up on the Derby and the other Triple Crown races. Pay attention, you might learn something.

·        If the NHL wants their referees to swallow their whistles, for the playoffs, let them. The Sabres are at their best 5 on 5 and nobody can roll 4 lines like Buffalo.

·        The NFL Draft is a couple of weeks away and there’s only one thing I have to say to Marv Levy and Company. Deeeeefense! Deeeeefense! Deeeeefense!

·        Congratulations to the NHL Rookie of the Month, Drew Stafford. Drew had 9 goals in 15 games. You can’t teach, what this guy’s got. Mr. Stafford has a long and prosperous NHL career in front of him and I’m glad he’s a Buffalo Sabre.

·        New Jersey Devils GM, Lou Lamoriello, fired his first place coach, Claude Julien, and replaced him with himself. It’s good to see the Devils in a little turmoil on the cusp of the playoffs. The only problem is, Lamoriello has done this before, to Larry Robinson, and ended up winning the Cup. Lou is full of himself and it’s time he got taken down a peg. The Sabres are just the team to do it.

·        Don’t forget to check out my FREE Daily pick at www.benspicks.com. Thanks, Ben

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“Wake Up Buffalo!”

March 27, 2007

What’s going on here?

Last Friday night the Buffalo Sabres faced the desperate Toronto Maple Leafs, in HSBC Arena. Buffalo came out flatter than a pancake and the Leafs hit everything in a blue uniform. Toronto was hungry and fighting for their playoff lives. The Leafs out worked, out hustled, out shot and out hit their hosts, through a solid 45 minutes of playoff type hockey. The referee’s had swallowed their whistles, like they always do when Toronto’s in town, and the Sabres were down 4-1. The game was approaching its natural conclusion, when a funny thing happened along the way. Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, vented his displeasure, with his teammates, by heaving his stick in disgust, after the Leafs freaky 4th goal. It was a natural reaction to a terrible performance and Miller’s teammates must’ve taken it to heart, because what happened next, is one for the archives. In a season full of comeback wins and last second victories, Buffalo flipped the switch and scored 4 goals, in 8:45, to take a 5-4 lead. Toronto, and their fans, never knew what hit them, as they headed back over the Peace Bridge, dazed and confused. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching those know it all Leaf fans beside themselves.

I couldn’t believe it. Are the Sabres that good? Can they just flip the switch and turn it on whenever they want? I’ve got to admit it was fun to watch those final 15 minutes. The best part of the whole scenario was, these same two teams were to meet the next night, in Toronto.

Certainly Buffalo Coach, Lindy Ruff would read these guys the riot act. The Sabres, I thought, would take that momentum and carry it with them to Toronto. There they would take it right to the Leafs, take the early lead, and watch the Toronto fans eat their own. Boy, was I wrong. Instead of hopping on the Leafs early, and often, it was like ‘deja vu all over again’. Toronto out worked, out hustled, out shot and out hit the Sabres again. The Leafs again, held a 4-1 lead in the 3rd period. This time, the Sabres were the one’s to head over the Peach Bridge with their tails between their legs. It was very disappointing, especially since that low brow, Darcy Tucker, scored 2 of Toronto’s goals. I hate that guy, but you’ve got to hand it to the Leafs, coming back from such a demoralizing loss.

Ryan Miller, again, let his team know how he felt, “If we want to be the big, bad team we think we are, we’re going to have to show a little more effort, that’s for sure” Miller’s right. The Sabres aren’t as good as they think they are and they can’t just flip the switch whenever they want. Hockey is an 82 game grind out, followed by an even tougher grind in the playoffs. If your team is not ready for the grind, you will be pulverized. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, just ask the Ottawa Senators.

 Last year the Sabres were the hunters. They were hungry and worked like dogs to beat the Flyers, then the Senators. Next came Carolina, a team as hungry as the Sabres. Buffalo gave it their all, but succumbed to injury, in the final period, of the 7th game. It was a devastating loss and there’s a big obstacle ahead of them, just to get back to that point. If Buffalo is not prepared, if they think they can just lace them up and beat teams, they’re in for a rude awakening. It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs and no one is going to lie down. No one, especially since the Sabres are now the hunted. It’s going to be a knock down drag out fight to the finish. Are the Sabres up for it? Are they ready for the battle? They fooled us once, I don’t want to be fooled again. Wake Up Buffalo!

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“HSBC Madness”

March 20, 2007

Pat yourself on the back Buffalo. The first leg of the NCAA Tournament came to town last weekend and the City of Good Neighbors showed it’s true colors. College students and basketball junkies, from throughout the Northeast, descended on HSBC Arena and you could feel the electricity in the air.

The school bands stood and played, the cheerleaders twirled and spun, the face painters cheered and jeered and the fans definitely got their monies worth. It was an enjoyable experience. The only disappointment was whether your team won, or lost, sorry Duke fans.

        The Thursday afternoon session saw the Davidson Wildcats hang with the athletically superior Maryland Terrapins. Maryland pulled away in the last 5 minutes, beating Davidson 82-70. The second game was a half court battle between the Butler Bulldogs and the Old Dominion Monarchs. The Bulldogs went on a 20-4, 2nd half, run and the Monarchs could not recover, losing 57-46.

        There was an enjoyable 2 hour break, before the evening session. Yours truly spent the time fueling up the tank and soaking in the atmosphere. This time around the City was ready, as the crowd exited the Arena. There were scores of volunteers answering questions and helping with directions. There wasn’t a chicken wing safe anywhere, as shuttle busses and trolleys took hungry fans to all the restaurants and bars in the area. It was a major contrast to the last time the Tournament was here. It’s good to know the City learned its lesson and improved the experience. It also felt good to be downtown and enjoy the positive vibes. It reminded me of the good old days, when people actually went out of their way to shop and eat downtown.

        In the evening session, we got the most anticipated match up, as the legendary Duke Blue Devils took on the Virginia Commonwealth Rams. Duke, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski, was the draw of the Tournament and tickets were at a premium. The Devils, with a little help from the refs, held a comfortable lead throughout the second half. It got a little nauseating watching Duke guard, Greg Paulus, whine and complain. The refs gave the Blue Devil every call in the book, but the Rams kept plugging away. Then, with about 5 minutes to play, the Rams caught fire. VCU started popping 3’s and took the lead for good, with 1.8 seconds left, on a jumper by Eric Maynor. The VCU win was the biggest upset of the tournament and it was good to see justice served. The late game saw the Wright State Raiders overmatched by the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt got a sizable halftime lead and never looked back.

        In the Saturday session, both games went down to the wire. Maryland had the better athletes, but Butler played disciplined basketball. The Bulldogs would not relent, beating the Terrapins 62-59, in an upset. Maryland did not play as a team and I lost a little respect for Maryland’s coach, Gary Williams. In the final game, VCU was in deep doo-doo, behind Pitt by 19, in the second half. The game Rams would not give in. VCU started pressing and trapping and slowly got back into the game, forcing overtime. In the extra session, Pittsburgh regrouped and pulled away for the win, 84-79.

        It was one hell of a ride, 8 teams, 6 games, 4 nail biters, 2 upsets and 1 clear winner, Buffalo, NY.

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“Caught In A Trap”

March 13, 2007

I’m a Sabre fan and I’m getting a bad feeling. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s a Buffalo thing, but something in my gut just isn’t sitting right. It’s a strange feeling that’s a little hard to describe, but let me try.

It’s like you’re at the game, you’ve had a few and boy, that hot dog looks good right about now. The first one taste’s great so, you’ve got to have another. Then, just as you finish your last bite, you get a little queasy feeling and you think, uh-oh.

It’s like, when you’re a kid and you’re outside playing, having a grand old time. Then all of a sudden, you hear your Mom calling you at the top of her lungs. It’s not like the, Benny come in for dinner call. That wouldn’t be so bad. It’s the, Benny you’re in deep do-do screech. The one where she uses your full name. Remember that sinking feeling you got in the middle of your stomach?

It’s like, the first really nice day of spring. The one where you can actually feel the heat and know, summer is just around the corner. You know what I mean, it’s a beautiful morning, the Sun is shinning, the birds are chirping. You head out to work, with the windows open and the radio blaring. You literally, can’t wait for lunch time, so you can bask in the glow. Then you go back to work, but you can’t concentrate and start to feel a little antsy. You start watching the clock, then the walls start closing in on you. It starts to feel like you’re in prison, time has stopped, and 5:00 will never come.

Put a little bit of each one of those together and that’s what I’m feeling right now.

Two weeks ago, the Sabres had some major injuries, but didn’t miss a beat. The kids from Rochester got put to the test and came through with ‘flying’ colors. The young guns skated Toronto, Montreal and Toronto again, into the ground. It was a total mismatch and the Canadian teams didn’t know what hit them. Then Colorado, Minnesota, and New Jersey came to town and let the air out of the balloon. Wednesday the Avalanche took a 3-2 lead and the Sabres only managed 4 total shots in the final stanza. Friday the Wild got out to an early lead and Buffalo could never climb back up the hill. Saturday, with a chance at redemption, the Devils took the wind out of their sails and got one step closer, with a 3-2 win over Buffalo.

Three defeats in a row, all at home, put that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. The more I thought about it, the worse it got. Those three teams have a lot in common. They are all disciplined, well coached teams, that put a premium on goaltending and defense. In other words, they all play the ‘Neutral Zone Trap’. The Devils are masters of ‘The Trap’ and the tactic was invented by their former coach, the present coach of the Wild, Jacques Lamaire. Lamaire, single handedly, set hockey back 20 years and it is only beginning to recover. ‘The Trap’, as all of you hockey fans know, is used to clog up the area between the blue lines. This causes skating teams, like the Sabres, to dump the puck into the offensive zone and chase it. That basically turns the game into a, grind it out, battle in the corners, instead of an open ice speed and skill contest.

This tactic, obviously, puts a young, small, team like the Sabres at a big disadvantage. Throw into the mix, the fact that the referees have begun to swallow their whistles and teams like the Sabres are taken right out of their game. This is what the block head Canadians, a.k.a Don Cherry, like to call ‘Playoff Hockey’. I call ‘Playoff Hockey’, ‘Caveman Hockey’ (no offense to the dude in the Geico commercial). In other words, if you can’t beat a team with speed and skill, beat them over the head with your stick. It reminded me of the great Sabre teams of the 70’s. Perreault, Martin and Robert, skated circles around people, but they couldn’t get by the Islanders, or Broad Street Bullies. Why? Because of ‘Caveman Hockey’. The rules were suddenly different in the playoffs. Thanks NHL. Thanks for turning the fastest game in the world into a slugfest.

Last year, in the post season, our defense took a physical beating. We lost 4 blue liners and could not hold up although, we were lucky enough to miss meeting New Jersey. This year, we won’t be so lucky. The match up with the Devils is going to be a 7 game grind out, to see who gets to the Stanley Cup final. If the Sabres are lucky enough to advance, it’s going to be another all out battle, against a Western Conference powerhouse. Now, you know why, I’ve got that sinking feeling. I’ve seen this movie before, there’s nothing I can do to change it and it’s not a happy ending. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. It makes me feel like, I’m ‘Caught In A Trap’.

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March 6, 2007

“Ten Tidbits”

  • Kudos to Marv Levy and the Octogenarian Army. Although Ralph “Alligator Arms” Wilson tied their hands behind their backs, the Bills were still aggressive in Free Agency. Marv rebuilt the foundation of the Bills Offense, by signing 3, stand up, Offensive Linemen. Isn’t it nice to see character people, that actually want, to come to Buffalo.
  • Wasn’t it great watching the Rochester Americans beat Toronto, Montreal, and Toronto again, all in less than 5 days. The Leafs and Canadians are fighting for their playoff lives and they can’t even beat a team, with half an AHL roster. Those pretentious hockey know-it-all’s up North, a.k.a Don Cherry, must be livid.
  • $80,000,000 for Nate Clements. $25,000,000 for London Fletcher. The Bills were right to let them walk. They’re not worth that kind of money.
  • It’s almost time for the “Madness” to begin, at HSBC Arena. I love watching the kids play for the love of the game. No money, no entourage, just playing to win. You can’t watch a better, live, competition than that. I will be posting my Bracket selections, Wednesday the 14th , on www.benspicks.com. Log on, if you need a little help. I usually do pretty well.
  • Darcy Regier did what he could at the trade deadline. The Sabres added some depth on defense, and Dainius Zubrus is a definite upgrade. I’ve just got one thing to say, Ryan Miller better stay healthy, or Darcy will never hear the end of it.
  • Just a little tip, for all you basketball junkies out there. You can log on to www.ncaasports.com and watch any NCAA Tournament game you want, live. Just don’t blame me, when you get caught by the boss.
  • Is it me, or should Drew Stafford have his own Jergens commercial? Nobody’s got softer hands then that guy. No more bus rides for Mr. Stafford.
  • Isn’t it good to know the Sabres beat up and took, Bobby Clarke’s lunch money. How can I still hate the Flyers, now that Marty “Motor Mouth” Biron, is the Philly Goalie, and Don Luce, is in their front office? Bye-Bye, Broad Street Bullies.
  • Derby time is right around the corner and all you “Horseballs” are in for a treat. I’m going to have an interview with the winner of the 2006 Horse Player World Series. He’s local resident, Mark Clement. The contest was held at The Orleans, in Las Vegas. Mark will be giving us a heads up on the Triple Crown races and maybe, he’ll share his selections with us.
  • It looks like RB Willis “Trade Bait” McGahee has made his last carry for the Buffalo Bills. Willis doesn’t want to be here and Marv will grant him his wish. Good move. I’ve got a great idea Marv, why don’t you drop a line up North, and see, if the Toronto Argonauts need a RB? I know Willis loves it up there. Bye-Bye Willis, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Case Closed!

Don’t forget to check out my FREE Daily pick at 

www.benspicks.com. We’ve had a great start,

 hopefully we can keep it going. Thanks, Ben

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The Cheapskate Blues

February 20, 2007

        The Octogenarian Army was at it again, last Friday, at One Bills Drive. After meeting with “Lead Singer”, Ralph Wilson, in Florida, GM Marv Levy brought us the “State Of The Bills”. In another uninspiring news conference, Marv would’ve put Tiny Tim to shame, as he “Tiptoed Through the Tulips” to let us know the obvious, Ralph’s got deep pockets and “Alligator” arms.

        With Jim “Tightwad” Overdorf on base, Jeff “Penny Pincher” Littman on drums, and Chuck “The Lackey” Schummer on backup vocals, Marv strummed his ukulele to several tunes. They included “Cash To The Cap”, “Don’t Amortize Your Future”, “Nate Clements Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and last, but not least, that old favorite, “The Cheapskate Blues”. For those of you lucky enough to miss the latest rendition of Ralph’s broken record, please allow me to translate. The Bills are not giving out any big signing bonuses. That means you can kiss any big Free Agents goodbye, including our own, CB Nate Clements and LB London Fletcher. It was a very disappointing session.

        2006 started with a new Coach, a new GM, and modest expectations. It all hit the dumper after a 2-5 start to the season. Then during the Bye week, the Bills shuffled their offensive line and everything started to come together. QB J.P. Losman became more consistent, the Bills held the ball longer and the defense evolved into a more cohesive unit. Buffalo went 5-4 down the stretch and, in 2 of their losses, played San Diego and Indy to the wire. In November and December, the Bills failed to sell out several of their games, due to their lackluster start, but there was a positive air going into next season. It seemed, with Marv Levy and Dick Jauron in charge, the Bills were headed in the right direction. That all hit the poop chute, when Ralph started singing “The Cheapskate Blues”.

Ralph, Bills Fans are sick and tired of hearing you whine and complain about how your getting short changed by the league. We’re paying for a Stadium, named after you. Not only that, but those “Alligator” arms have no problem going into our pockets, to pay for that new scoreboard that’s going up. Then you wonder why the Stadium is not sold out. It’s not because of our “financially depressed area”, that’s the same “Oldie” we’ve been hearing from you since the 60’s. It’s because, you haven’t put the product on the field, Ralph. It’s funny how the Sabres have no problem filling the Arena. Ralph, you expect us fans to blindly put up our hard earned cash, yet there you are, in “Gator Country”, short arms and all. Don’t you realize, it’s been almost a decade since they cheated us in “The Music City Miracle”. Doesn’t your heart still sink a little every time they replay “Wide Right”? Wake Up Ralph! That was 5 Coaches and 4 GM’s ago, all because you keep singing “The Cheapskate Blues”. It’s quality, not quantity Ralph. Isn’t it about time you did something about it, before it’s too late?

I just got one question Ralph, you’re 80 something years old, you’re worth 100’s of millions of dollars, do you plan on taking that money with you? That would be quite a sight, they could fill up a fleet of Brinks trucks, follow your hearse to the cemetery and engrave the words “Four Time Loser” on your headstone. Is that what you want Ralph? Is that the way it’s going to be? Wise up Ralph, you can’t take it with you and I for one am sick and tired of being the butt of a joke every time I tell someone, I’m a Bills Fan. It’s your legacy Ralph, you make the call. Are you a “Fan”, or are you a “Cheapskate”?

Don’t forget to check out my FREE Daily pick at www.benspicks.com. We’ve had a great start, hopefully we can keep it going. Thanks, Ben

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Willis McGahee – Dumb or Dumber?

 February 12, 2007

       Buffalo Bills RB Willis McGahee does not strike me as a very intelligent person. In the February issue of Penthouse (I only read it for the articles) he has a short interview with the magazine. In the interview Willis states, “I got a lot of love for Buffalo. They took a chance on me in the first round, not knowing whether I’d be able to play or not. I thank God for the whole situation. And, you know I’m trying to make them proud. I’m trying to do some things here.” Then several questions later he’s asked, “There’s talk of an NFL team for nearby Toronto. What do you think?” The “cerebral” #21 answers, “That would be a good situation. Toronto is a beautiful place. But if they’re going t put a team there, they should just bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto. Case Closed.” Really Willis? Case closed? Well Willis, the case is still open, the Jury is still out and you’re the one on trial. Tell the people of the Jury Mr. McGahee, how do you have a lot of love for Buffalo, how are you going to make them proud, when you think their team should be moved to Toronto?

       McGahee arrived here in 2003, a Tom Donahoe draft pick, from “The U”, that’s the University of Miami for all of us regular folks. His agent, Drew “No Comment” Rosenhaus, pulled the jersey over Donahoe’s eyes and we’re still paying the price. Willis was touted as the next coming of O.J., after he recovered from his devastating knee injury. I got to admit, I bought into the hype. We already had a dependable RB in Travis Henry and, although he’s had his off field issues, he’s got heart and he bled Red, White, and Buffalo Blue. He loved it here and was bent out of shape, rightfully so. Travis knew his days were numbered.

       We had to baby sit Willis for a wasted year. Then after a year of sharing the RB duties, Tom Donahoe let Travis go without much fanfare. Donahoe wanted “his guy” in there, and being the GM, he got his wish. Big mistake, Travis tore it up in Tennessee last year. Remember Donahoe is the guy that hired Mularky and Williams, as Head Coaches, and mortgaged our future for QB Drew Bledsoe. Donahoe is not a very good judge of talent or character. That’s why he’s no longer here.

       Now, after a couple of years of mediocrity, including a lackluster 3.8 yards per carry in 2006, Willis is demanding a new contract. Keep in mind, he brought this up while the Bills were still in the playoff hunt and he still has a year to go on his original deal. Nothing like putting the cart before the horse, or is that the RB before the offensive line. Way to be a team player Willis, way to show your appreciation for the team that picked you up off the scrap heap. Like I said, not very bright.

       This is the guy that says, he’s got a lot of love for Buffalo, then several questions later states, they should move the Bills to Toronto. This is the guy that admitted earlier in the year he didn’t know what down it was, on a crucial 4th down try. This is the guy that’s had 3 paternity suits against him in about a years time. This is the guy that works out at “The U”, while the rest of his team is working their butts off at One Bills Drive. This is the guy that goes on the Jim Rome radio show and jibber jabbers so bad no one can understand him. Maybe someone should’ve told him they’ve got more than a weight room at “The U”, or do they?

      Several days after the Penthouse article, #21 offered up some weak apology, probably written by his agent, to cover his butt. The Jury is not buying it Willis, a few of us have actually seen the inside of a classroom. It’s obvious to me and everyone else in Buffalo, you have no desire to be here. The City of Buffalo is nothing but a paycheck on your way back to South Beach.. You’ve got no heart and you have no understanding of this community or its fans. To you and your agent this city is nothing more than Dollar $ign$.

      The best part of the situation is, Marv Levy is the judge now and he knows character. Marv won’t sit still for this bull. If Willis sits out of training camp next year, let him sit, you’ve got a signed deal. RB’s are a dime a dozen. Don’t even give his agent, “Mr. No Comment”, the satisfaction of a call back. When #21 shows up, to fulfill the last year of his contract, run him into the ground, make him earn every penny. Then give him his wish and let him walk as a Free Agent. That’s when we can finally be free of him and the Tom Donahoe era. That’s when Willis can see what it feels like to be used and kicked to the curb. That’s what he deserves for biting the hand that feeds him and his illegitimate children. The Jury is in Mr. McGahee, you’re not very bright. CASE CLOSED!

      These are my opinions not those of the Buffalo Rocket or its affiliates. Don’t forget to check out my FREE daily pick at www.benspicks.com. Thanks, Ben

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Super Bowl XLI Recap

 February 7, 2007

      I hope you people were paying attention last week, because if you did, you made a bundle on XLI. Here is only part of what I wrote, “The game should see some first quarter jitters, as it always does. When things begin to settle down, I see Manning, and the Colts, spreading the ball around and moving on the Chicago defense. Putting the ball in the end zone, when it matters. When the Bears have the ball, I don't see them being able to put together the long scoring drives they are going to need to beat Indy's Cover-2 defense. Remember, the Colt defense is fast and doesn't give the opposition very much room. It will be up to Grossman to string together enough positive plays to get the Bears down the field consistently. I don't see it happening. I see the Colts taking a modest first half lead, thus forcing the Bears into taking chances in the second half. That's when the flood gates open. Grossman is green and the mistakes will happen. He'll end up throwing 2 picks, maybe 3, and the Colts will win going away, like Secretariat.” When you’re trying to predict football games, it doesn’t get any better than that.

     The Bears and Rex Grossman got their butts handed to them and they’ve got no excuses. It was Chicago weather throughout the game, and the Bears caught every break in the book, early on, but still couldn’t hang with the Colts. Kevin Hester ran back the opening kick, for a quick Chicago lead. The veteran Colts and Peyton Manning did not panic. Manning brought the Colts back, with a wide open TD pass to Reggie Wayne, only to miss the extra point. I’ll bet that screwed up a few pools. Then, on the Colts next possession, Manning was forced into a rare interception. That’s when the Bears produced their only real offense of the game, a 50 yard run by Thomas Jones. Chicago eventually punched it in for a 14-6 Bear lead, but it was all downhill after that.

     The Colts went into conservative mode and Manning dinked and dunked his way down the field, twice. Indy held a slim 16-14 halftime lead, but you could feel it slipping away from the Bears. Indy took the second half kickoff, went on a long drive, stalled in the Red Zone, and settled for a field goal. Then they did it again. The Bears didn’t do much versus the Colt defense, but managed a field goal, to end the third quarter down only 22-17. It was a very misleading score. The Colts were dominating the game and the Bears were still covering the 7 point spread. I was not happy, but luckily, when it mattered, my Grossman prediction kicked in. Rexy showed his real stripes, when he tried to make something happen, instead of throwing the ball away. His interception throw to CB Kevin Hayden, of the Colts, turned the game around. Hayden made like Prince on steroids and somehow danced his way down the sidelines, without going out of bounds. Rexy threw another interception, on the next possession, and those 2 forth quarter gaffes sealed the Bears fate. It would’ve been nice for the Colts to kick one more field goal to hit the Over 47, but Tony Dungy would have none of that. I think Lovie Smith being on the other sideline had a big influence on Dungy’s decision not to run up the score. I wasn’t too happy and lost a little respect for Dungy in the process. It shouldn’t matter who’s on the other sideline Tony. I don’t care if it’s your buddy, your cousin, or your brother. It should have no influence on the game and it did. Shame on you Tony.

     The Bears have no excuses. They got the weather they wanted, the early lead and all they had to do was pound the ball on the worst run defense in the league. They couldn’t do it. The Bears were pretenders and it was the Colts who pounded the ball, with 191 yards rushing and 38:04 time of possession. Manning, Dungy and Polian finally got their Super Bowl, after years of trying. It was a well deserved victory. They were the better team, no doubt about it, and they earned Super Bowl XLI. Congratulations Indy.

     Beginning this Friday I will be posting a FREE! daily pick on my website, www.benspicks.com. It will be available each day by 4:00 PM, just click on FREE PICK.

If you have any comments, you can reach me at ben@benspicks.com. Thanks, Ben

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Viva Las Vegas - Part II

January 29, 2007

     It's been a fantastic week in Las Vegas. The weather has been sunny and a very respectable 60 degrees. That's not hard to take, considering I know what's waiting for me later today, back in Buffalo. I've spent the week playing the tables, betting some hoops and I've been able to do pretty well. I've also been eating like Porky Pig, tipping like Elmer J. Fudd and I still have almost my whole bankroll. But, alas all good things must come to an end.

     Now, the good stuff, predicting who will win Superbowl XLI. I was able to meet with several professional handicappers in my travels this week. They shall remain nameless, but two were locals and one was from California. This is what I learned, all the stats and trends point to the Bears, so all the sharps and wise guys bet down the down the opening line of Indy -7 to -6.5. My Power Rating, the BPR, also points to the Bears, but here is where it gets a little sticky. Have you seen the Bears play the last 2 weeks? Chicago was tooth and nails to beat a terrible Seattle team, at home. Last week, they had the Saints by the throat and let them back in the game. If it wasn't for some bonehead coaching, and terrible breaks, the Saints would be playing this weekend. Then, if you look back at the teams Chicago beat in the regular season, it's a long list of chumps. The only good team the Bears faced was New England and they lost to them in Foxboro. Also, do not forget that the NFC sucked this year and they were totally dominated by the AFC. Now, when you look at all that, and think about all the stats that they've piled up, the Bears do not look as impressive. Rex Grossman was a terrible 11 for 26, versus New Orleans. The only reason he's here, is because the Saints could not hang on to the ball. The Bears do not inspire me. Rex Grossman does not look like a Superbowl QB and I have a hard time putting my money on that guy.

     Now, the Colts, as the season was winding down, no one gave Indy much of a shot. The Colt run defense was in the barn and Peyton Manning, and the explosive Indy offense, was just plodding along. Then the playoffs came and a light went on. The Colts stopped the Chiefs running game dead in it's tracks, for win number one. Then Indy traveled to Baltimore and hit the Daily Double, shutting down the soaring Ravens, in an impressive road win. They topped off the Trifecta, with an impressive come from behind win, beating the Pats at the wire. Manning generated 5 second half scoring drives, all with the game on the line. He did it by spreading the ball to 9 different receivers and not completing a pass to his best WR, Marvin Harrison, in the second half. That was a statement game, loud and clear. Peyton Manning finally took the reins and put an end to all the Colt playoff disasters.

     Now, the match-up. The game should see some first quarter jitters, as it always does. When things begin to settle down, I see Manning, and the Colts, spreading the ball around and moving on the Chicago defense. Putting the ball in the end zone, when it matters. When the Bears have the ball, I don't see them being able to put together the long scoring drives they are going to need to beat Indy's Cover-2 defense. Remember, the Colt defense is fast and doesn't give the opposition very much room. It will be up to Grossman to string together enough positive plays to get the Bears down the field consistently. I don't see it happening. I see the Colts taking a modest first half lead, thus forcing the Bears into taking chances in the second half. That's when the flood gates open. Grossman is green and the mistakes will happen. He'll end up throwing 2 picks, maybe 3, and the Colts will win going away, like Secretariat. I like Indy big, with a slight lean to the Over. Indy 37 - Chicago 17. If you're still in doubt about spotting the 7 points, think about this. Who would you rather have on your horse, Rex Grossman or Peyton Manning. Bet them early, while they're still at -6.5, because the public will be betting them back up to 7 by Sunday. Thanks for listening everyone. Now it's time to pack for the long flight home. I think I'll leave a little early, I know there's a casino I can hit on the way to the airport for one last shot. Good Luck, Ben

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