published Thursday, September 5th, 2013

5-at-10: AFC preview, 5 SEC things to watch and the Fab 4-plus-1 picks

From the "Talks too much" studios, he hates these cans.

NFL preview, part II

The NFL starts tonight.

It starts with Peyton Manning and the Broncos opening the season as the NFL favorite to win the whole thing. A second Super Bowl — which would match his younger brother's total — would lift Manning's profile among the game's all-time All Timers.

That said, the questions surrounding this Denver team are fair and legitimate. But Denver's in the AFC, and for the first time in a long time, the AFC is nowhere near as stout as the NFC, which has five teams that are at least the Broncos equal.

Here is our best guess for the AFC playoff shakedown:

1) Denver — We're not crazy about the Broncos like Vegas is — Denver is a 6-to-1 pick to win the Super Bowl and Peyton Manning is a 5-to-1 pick to be the MVP; each is the favorite according to pregame.com — but they seem a lock to have the AFC's best record because they play in the West. That should be good for 6-0 in the division off the top.

2) Patriots — This feels like a big-time season for the Pats. All the drama. All the questions. All the Tebow. Wait never mind that last one. (Side note: Not since Pontius Pilate has someone washed their hands of a situation the way Bob Kraft did with the whole Tebow situation.) Somewhere in Foxboro, Bill Belichick is smiling because of the way circumstances have galvanized this team.

3) Houston — The Texans could be higher if Arian Foster is full speed. That said, the window for this team feels like it's starting to close, especially since Andre Johnson is 32 years old.

4) Cincy — The Bengals could have the league's best young roster. Whether Andy Dalton is ready to take the next step is the big question.

5) Indy — A forgiving schedule and the game's best young QB add up to the Colts making a run. If you re-drafted the NFL right now, Andrew Luck would be the No. 2 overall pick behind Aaron Rodgers.

6) Kansas City — Here's saying the Chiefs flip the script from 2-14 to the playoffs, Andy Reid is the coach of the year and quarterback Alex Smith is the leading contender for comeback player of the year.

AFC player of the year: Tom Brady, New England quarterback

AFC defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt, Houston defensive end

AFC coach of the year: Andy Reid, Kansas City.

Feel free to weigh in.

————

Fab 4-plus-1 picks

Well, how about that start? Five-and-bagel. Not too shabby. And here's hoping your entertainment bank roll got a slew of cushion to start the season.

We also must throw out a tip of the cap to Izod, who makes his weekly picks on SportTalk on 102.3 on Wednesday afternoons. Izod, who joins Quake and the Good Doctor — he is a Doctor after all — and Cowboy Joe, started his week 1-0 last week and tossed out an intriguing pick of over the 56 in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky game.

We looked long and hard at that game, and while we like his pick, the five we choose this week are testaments to a few things we have learned about gambling.

One, realize you are picking games to pick winners, not to enhance the enjoyment of watching the game. If you are doing it for the juice and because the game is on TV, well, that's how Vegas builds really fancy buildings. There's a real chance we won't watch a single moment of any of the five games we picked this week. In a perfect world, you make your pick, check the final score and cash the entertainment vouchers.

Secondly, and we believe this as a rule, when a line looks too good to be true it almost always is. That's why we stayed away from UT-WKU, Miami-Florida and even Auburn-Arky State. All of those lines looked too good. Know that Vegas knows more than you and try to pick humbly. You have to play this game with fear and arrogance.

Here we go:

Duke minus-5 at Memphis: David Cutcliffe does work with less talent than most. And when he can face a team with similar talent, we like our chances.

Oregon minus-21 at Virginia: The Ducks and UCLA are going to be our go-to teams this year. Well, at least until they give us reason not to.

Arizona minus-10 at UNLV: Hunch pick here because the Wildcats score a ton of points and have a first-round NFL running back. UNLV had Larry Johnson and Randall Cunningham.

Cincy minus-7 at Illinois: Illinois surrendered more than 400 yards to Southern Illinois last week. Cincy thumped Purdue. Illini meet Munchie Legaux, Munchie, meet the Illini.

UNC minus-17 vs. MTSU: Here's this week's gem from combing the lines. This is the one that feels like a 52-20 game and never the 'twain shall meet.

Last week: 5-0

Season: 5-0

And remember gang, these picks are for entertainment purposes only and past performance is not an indicator of future results. Enjoy.

————

Five SEC things to look for this weekend

As will be our Thursday ritual around these parts, we'll have 5 SEC things to watch on Thursday.

Let's cut the small talk and get cracking.

1) Season on the line in Athens. The Georgiua fan base is on pins and needles. A hair-splitting, finger-nail-biting, 38-35 loss to Clemson last week, leaves the Bulldogs facing a South Carolina team this week with the real chance that a loss means the season's championship goals are done in eight days. If South Carolina manages to pull out a 'W' maybe Mark Richt and Co. can schedule Wofford for a third-place in the Palmetto State game.

2) Western Kentucky looking for a 2-0 start in the SEC East. You know how when someone is underrated and then everyone talks about how they are underrated to the point that they become overrated. That's the turn of Western Kentucky this week, you know? After pasting Kentucky last week, everyone is calling this an upset special. Well, everyone other than the folks in Vegas, who build really fancy buildings for gamblers because of games like this one. That said, you know the Tennessee talent base is depleted when Johnny Vols Fans are legitimately worried because a 5-foot-7 white wide receiver may not play.

3) Miami-Florida, who's blowing Sunshine. The Hurricanes have the edge on offense, especially with running back Duke Johnson's big-play ability. The Gators are content playing rugged and slow. (Side note: Who came up with the word smash mouth? We prefer the old Fat Albert character Mush Mouth personally.) Miami quarterback Stephen Morris will decide this one. If he protects the ball, the Hurricanes will be tough to handle.

4) The Malzahn Bowl. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers face the team he coached to the Sun Belt Conference title last year. Both teams look to run the ball — a lot. And amazingly, of the talented runners on the field — and after one week, there are six players in this one with more than 70 rushing yards — the highest-ranked runner coming out of high school is Arkansas State back David Oku. Yes, that David Oku, who was the nation's top-ranked all-purpose back when he signed with Lane Kiffin and the Vols those many moons ago.

5) Missouri as a darkhorse in the SEC East. OK, the Tigers thumped Murray State 58-14 and churned up a whisker shy of 700 yards of offense. Open up and insert cupcake joke here. Saturday, the Tigers face a Toledo team that frustrated Florida in the Swamp last week. Dazzle us against Rockets, Mizzou, and then we'll talk about potential darkhorse possibilities.

————

This and that

  • photo
    Tennessee players (left to right) Gerald Jones, Marsalis Teague, Ben Martin, Steven Fowlkes, and Chris Walker, sing "If I ever fall in love again," by Shai during the 2009 Vols annual media day.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Great reporting from TFP ace Judy Walton here on the concussion lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former UT football players Ben Martin and Chris Walker. This comes on the heels of the NFL settling a $765-million class action suit brought by former players on similar grounds. This will be a long and detailed process that will play out over the next few years. Or decades.

— From the rich getting richer file, Alabama landed the nation's best high school football tackle prospect. Yawn. Saban is machine; machine is Saban. Kneel before Zod.

— Brian Urlacher confirmed the long-suspected knowledge that teams have a "dive" guy to fall down and slow down fast-paced offenses. Pretty sneaky sis. Unless you are the Georgia player that Mark Richt said, "Yeah, he got hit in his privates real hard." (Richt was quoting Shakespeare there, right Spy?)

— Bill Nye the science guy is on Dancing with the Stars. Bill Nye is competing against Snooki. Only in America.

————

Today's question

Feel free to offer any of your weekend picks.

And remember the mailbag... we have a slew of open spots as of right now.

If you need a talking point, let's try this:

Tonight, Peyton Manning opens the season against Joe Flacco.

If you take sentiment out of it for a slew of us, where does Peyton rank among all-time QBs?

Discuss.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
LaughingBoy said...

UTC's offense is "close", close to maybe putting the head coach on the hotseat. It's time to put up or shut up. We have decided to go back to games this year but we were close to just calling it a wrap after that dud last week.

I'd be worried about Oregon traveling to the East Coast for a game, regardless of time, even with a 3 touchdown spread. Look at the way it affects pro teams.

I would have liked to have seen a replay of the possible bobbling catch by Clemson along the sideline, on third and long pretty late in the game. They got the next play off before it could be looked at, apparently. And if Georgia makes a chip shot field goal as they should have, it's possibly we have totally different impressions of both teams.

The Science Guy and Snooki have a lot if common, Nye is insistent global warming could lead to the fall of civilization, Snooki is a direct part of it.

September 5, 2013 at 10:23 a.m.
chas9 said...

Not sure why the UT-WKU line looks too good to be true to you. I'm seeing 13 or 14 points. Which side are you on? I'd gladly take The Toppers plus thirteen and a half. I agree that over 56 is a good bet. And if Pasquali will give me seven, I'll take Spurrier's Cocks.

Spy, fec, and I are old enough to remember when Rick Barry shot from the charity stripe underhanded. Call him sissy if you will, but it's a motion that ranked him all-time #1 in the ABA and #3 in NBA free throw percentage, close to 90%.

This fall when you watch College of Charleston games you'll think you've gone back in time as Rick's 6'8" son Canyon shoots the same way. And, like dad, he hits almost 90%.

As a mere ute I remember the occasional NBA player shooting freebies underhand, but it was rare. Does anybody know if it was ever as high as ten or twenty percent (after the Naismith peach basket days)?

No word yet on whether the set shot is making a comeback.

Don't know the merits of this concussion case, but football at all levels is going to have to do better protecting players from this scourge. The times they are a-changing.

September 5, 2013 at 10:31 a.m.
Stewwie said...

I know Jay and Spy will disagree, but I stand by my prior pick of Peyton as the greatest QB of all time. (Full disclosure: I do not bleed orange so I could care less that he went to Tennessee for college.) No doubt that Brady is good, but Peyton is the best in the BID-ness. Peyton could go anywhere and win. If you divorced Brady from Belicheat and his system, I'm not sure he'd be able to make the same transition as easily.

Brady as AFC player of the year?? He's headed downhill. He and Belicheat will never win another Super Bowl together. If the Broncos are the best in the AFC again (as you predicted), Peyton will rightfully win the MVP. (Unless, of course, AP has another wild rushing season.)

At first I thought it was crazy that you put the Chiefs in the top 6. But a quick look at their schedule indicates that it's reasonable to think they could end up 10-6. Plus, it's much easier to have a turn-around season in the NFL than in any other professional sports league.

September 5, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Saint Peyton the greatest of all-time??? on skill perhaps...however, he still has a LOSING record in the playoffs and only ONE ring...Eli has 2, which means he is MONEY in the big games...enough said...oops I forgot this is Saint Peyton day in the Nooga as it seems every slob over 18 has on a Bronco jersey lol...

September 5, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.
Stewwie said...

OG,

Rings should be considered to a certain point. We can debate Brady vs. Peyton all day with fair points, but you can't tell me that Eli is better than Peyton. Simply because he has one more ring? C'mon man.

September 5, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

For me Stewwie, I want someone who wins important games, Eli wins games, they might not be pretty, but he wins them...Peyton has a proven track record of faltering in practically any important game in high school, college, and pros...

September 5, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Peyton's job first and foremost as QB is to lead his team down the field to score. He is able to do that and has done that consistently over his career. He is clearly a clutch player in the tough moments as well. However, if his D blows coverage at the end of a game or if his team has an "idiot kicker" who can't deliver when time is running out, that's not something Peyton can control.

September 5, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.
jgreeson said...

LB —

We can see that concern about the Ducks.

And we saw a line on the Mocs -10 at Georgia State. LOVE the Mocs if you can find them at that number.

Nice line about Bill Nye and Snooki.

9er —

Rick Barry has a colleged-aged kid. Can you say accident?

And yes, the WKU -plus 13 looks too good to be true. Maybe it hits. We all think it will be a super close game so the 13 points feels like a gift. Those are the lines — the ones that make you scratch your head and go HUH? — that scare us. Same with Miami getting 3 at home in a game everyone thinks they are going to win straight up.

Stewwie —

We're not as big a Brady guy as Spy is, but we think dude will be highly motivated this fall. Call it a hunch. We think Andrew Luck will generate MVP talk too.

We're not sure where we'd rank Peyton and we'll certainly talk about this on Press Row from 1-3 on 105.1 FM today.

OG —

Eli is not better than Peyton. Period.

You just like getting a charge out of the Pro-Orange crowd.

Side note: Good to see you back around from time to time.

September 5, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Thanks JG...been a little busy to say the least...just wrote a column for a georgia newpaper on the differences between georgia and tennessee high school football...nothing makes my day more than tweaking those that worship at the altar of st. peyton lol...always remember and never forget grown men should not wear jersey's

September 5, 2013 at 12:13 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Brady won Super Bowls throwing to David Givens, David Patten and TroyBrown and with JR Redmond and Antowain Smith at running back. Thanks for playing the Feud.

September 5, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, yup, right up there with soliloquies from Hamlet and MacBeth (alas, poor rollers, I knew them well ... Ow!!!!)

QB Acropolis: Montana, Unitas, Brady, Manning the elder son

September 5, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Hey, um, 5 ... you wouldn't happen to have a deck of cards and a cribbage board I can borrow? We're out of power in the office.

September 5, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[We're not sure where we'd rank Peyton and we'll certainly talk about this on Press Row from 1-3 on 105.1 FM today.]

I usually have time to catch only the first segment of the show on my way back from lunch. (Can't pick up the FM station in the office and no internet streaming is allowed.) That said, will you post your Peyton rank later today? In fact, let's see a Rushmore.

[QB Acropolis: Montana, Unitas, Brady, Manning the elder son.]

Spy, is Elway your 5th? If so, we have the same top 5 (though not in the same order).

September 5, 2013 at 2 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Mocs minus 10 looks like a Jeff Sagarin line. Here is how he ranks these 4 teams: UTC [139], Samford [146], UT-Martin [156], Ga State [201]. Ga State had 463 yards in total offense against Samford. Mocs D gave up 451 yards to Martin. I am going to the Dome this Saturday and I am worried. Someone please tell me why i should not be...

Billy-In-Brainerd

September 5, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

I read that a school district in Colorado banned students from wearing Peyton Manning jerseys. The school administrator mentioned something about gang affiliation then the conversation took a weird turn. "666" is the number of the beast and if you add three sixes together you get 18. Peyton wears jersey number eighteen thus...Well, I didn't really follow her logic either. Only in a society that finds stupid stuff to worry about could Peyton Manning be linked to gangs and Satanism. Behold the pale rider...in a stylish, yet comfortable Buick Lacrosse.

Where does Peyton rank all-time...Having not given it much thought, I will say he is somewhere between Joe Montana and JaMarcus Russell. He is in Montana's neighborhood and definitely better than Russell. That narrowed that down quite a bit.

"P.S. Is grandma still farting?" Yours truly, Navin.

September 5, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Great stuff.

We're short a couple of mailbag questions, and we're SUPER crunched for time today, so the QB questions above will be mailbagged. As will B-i-B's Mocs concerns.

One question we will address now:

GratefulDawg (through Navin R Johnson) asked if Grandma is still farting? Nope. She's passed.

But we are hoping for extra work soon.

Giddy up.

September 5, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Billy,

I think it will be a good game Saturday at the Dome so I am a little surprised by the line on the game. Even more surprised at Pasquali's 30-13 Mocs pick. I'm not worried about the offense; with T-Rob back (unless he's "hurt" again), things will be a little better. I am more concerned with the D though. They got owned in the 2nd half last week and Huesman blamed it on not subbing enough. However, with his years of experience in the game, you'd think he would know how to handle that part of it by now. Or maybe he's just that concerned about the depth (or lack therof) on that side of the ball.

September 5, 2013 at 3:46 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Gdawg and JG deserve time in the penalty box for pushing the envope of a FOIB.

September 5, 2013 at 7:37 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Sportsfan —

Pushing the envelope is not a penalty.

And Navin R Johnson was born a poor black child.

September 5, 2013 at 9 p.m.
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