Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 8 picks

I'm sorry. To the four of you who read these (and I probably already apologized to), please allow me to explain my 4/13 showing.
As always, I like to have a drink or two when I sit down to do this. As you get later in the picks, you'll see my St. Louis/Dallas and Indy/New Orleans gems. Thanks, Kokanee. Two down, seven to go.
Pardon me for the reigning Super Bowl champions not being able to beat a 1-5 team starting a rookie QB by more than nine and the Ravens laying a stinkbomb on Monday Night Football against a 1-5 team starting a rookie QB. Four down, five to go.
I didn't know Bears-Bucs were playing in London. That's completely on me, but had I known, who knows? Five down, four to go.
The Redskins weren't starting Rex Grossman. What was I supposed to do? Six down, three to go.
A 5-1 team at home against a 3-3 team. I'm not taking it back. Seven down, two to go.
As for the other two games (KC/Oakland, Houston/Tennessee) well, those are entirely on me.
This week, I'm currently on beer one, nobody is playing on another continent and I'm another week wiser, with the fullest of intentions to redeem myself. Here we go.

Home team in caps.

Indianapolis vs TENNESSEE (-9.5)

The battle of the two most underwhelming performances of Week 7! Indy needs to lose out to have a shot at Andrew Luck, a great successor to Peyton Manning with conceivable Favre/Rodgers parallels. The Titans can't lose if they want to stay in the AFC South race. Plus, the Colts' run defense is notoriously bad and Chris Johnson is so past due, he's getting collection notices. Also, Indy gave up 62 points last week, making Tennessee's 41 allowed look stingy.

New Orleans (-10.5) vs ST. LOUIS

To be honest, I still don't think the Saints are that good. I just think Indy's that bad, as evidenced by me taking 9.5 from a team that lost by 34 at home last week. Meanwhile, the Rams are also co-front runners for Mr. Luck. Now, I don't think they'll get him (or even want him... Sam Bradford is still decent), but I still don't see them being competitive here. Worst-case scenario, Saints-Cowboys are virtually a push. Dallas beat the Rams by about 91 last week, so take 3.5 on each side of the home-and-home tradeoff for St. Louis and New Orleans could still lay about 84 to the Rams and cover.

Miami (+9.5) vs NY GIANTS

I'm not falling for it again, Eli Manning. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. You screwed over my survivor pool against Seattle, I won't let you make me look bad again.
I'm probably about four days from regretting this, but we'll see. The Giants are like the Montreal Canadiens. If I pick them, they'll lose and vice versa. But here's the deal.
New York's next six weeks after Miami: at New England, at San Francisco, Philadelphia, at New Orleans, Green Bay, at Dallas. Wow. Pretty easy to overlook Miami with that on deck.

Minnesota vs CAROLINA (-3.5)

The Panthers are better than the Vikings. The only thing they have to do (obviously easier said than done) is slow down Adrian Peterson. And maybe Jared Allen.
Minnesota's job is to slow down Cam Newton, something that hasn't really been done yet. Oh, and the Viking secondary could use a few more guys with their ability to stop teams from passing on them.

Arizona vs BALTIMORE (-12.5)

Don't screw me over again, Ravens. This is your chance to make a New Orleans/Indy type statement.
Because of my logic hanging me out to dry, I'm retiring my Stone Cold Lock of the Week after back-to-back losses. But the logic still works here:
Kevin Kolb isn't getting Arizona to more than, say, 13 points, but it'll probably be closer to six.
Can Baltimore put up about 26 on Arizona's defense. Yes, the Orioles can.

Jacksonville (+9.5) vs HOUSTON

Like New Orleans, the Texans aren't that good. I don't know how their game against the Titans happened.
But Jacksonville might not be awful. And that's a lot of points to give to a not-awful team. The team played inspired ball against Pittsburgh and Baltimore and doing so against Houston easily puts them in line to cover, if not win outright. I'm counting on an inspired Jags team.

Washington vs BUFFALO (-5.5)

It's a good thing the Redskins can't play offense, because the Bills can't play defense. John Beck, Rex Grossman, Chris Weinke, it doesn't matter this week. No Santana Moss, no Tim Hightower. Oh, and Buffalo's offense is pretty good. I think you could double this line and I'd still jump on it. I'd call it the SCLotW, but Washington would win 33-24, so... I won't.

Detroit (-3.5) vs DENVER

OK, America, you can put away your Tebowners anytime now. Why is everyone going crazy for Tim Tebow? Sure, he's fun to watch and it's interesting to see 11 guys huddle to pray instead of call plays, but you realize he had 24 passing yards at one point in the third quarter against the same team that gave up 500 something to Tom Brady, right? And it took his team 57 minutes to score against one of the three worst teams in the NFL? And you'd be hard pressed to name two other starting Denver Bronco offensive players without looking it up? And Detroit was undefeated before two tough losses to pretty good teams?

Cincinnati vs SEATTLE (+2.5)

My favorite part of last week might have been picking the Seahawks to cover 3.5 points (which they did) and still losing (which they also did) in what can only be described as "The Worst Game of the 2011 Season." Cleveland's 6-3 win was highlighted by something, but I don't remember what it was. It may have been a nine-yard rush, I'm not sure.
That being said, Seattle is always better at home. Their fans are amazing (yeah, I'll admit it). They're like a bobo doll. Keep knocking it down, it's getting back up. Sonics, see ya. Mariners, awful since 2001. Seahawks, lost their only Super Bowl appearance since their inception in 1976.
Cincy is good, but definitely a one score, if not one point, game. Come on, Bengals, 14-13!!!!

Cleveland vs SAN FRANCISCO (-9.5)

I'm done betting against my 49ers until they give me a reason to. Jim Harbaugh has had two weeks to get ready for the Browns, who put up six points at home against the Seahawks. I really hope the Niners do what really good teams do in situations like this: win 34-6 or something.

New England (-2.5) vs PITTSBURGH

Two weeks to prepare for a 5-2 Steelers team that has played like it should be 3-4. I like it.
Pittsburgh has struggled with the Pats recently, including a 39-26 loss at home last season (when they went to the Super Bowl). The Patriots are better than they were last season, Pittsburgh isn't. The end.

Dallas (+3.5) vs PHILADELPHIA

Make or break week for the Eagles. They've already lost to the Giants at home, they're a game behind Dallas and two behind New York. Philadelphia has had two weeks to get ready for Rob Ryan's blitzes and aggressive defense, but an always-fragile Michael Vick is just one hit away from leaving the game.
Meanwhile, the Cowboy offense is thriving on momentum gained from throttling the Rams and shouldn't really take a step back against a mediocre Eagle defense. If it's a shootout, Philly might escape with a W, but a few stops against Vick and it could turn into a bit of a rout for Dallas.

San Diego vs KANSAS CITY (+3.5)

I got sucked into the Chiefs being awful thanks to getting annihilated against the Bills and Lions in the first two weeks, then scraping by against the Colts. They've been better recently, evidenced by a shellacking of a Raiders team missing Jason Campbell (oooooh). These teams already met (Week 3, following those aforementioned blowouts) and San Diego escaped with a three-point home victory. Granted the Chargers play poorly in September, but remember: The Chiefs won the AFC West last season. And despite their rough start, KC is only a game out of first place. If they win this game, it's a new season halfway through.
If nothing else, it's gonna be close. But I think the Chiefs want it more. Plus, I'm still not sold on Philip Rivers. Chiefs 30, Chargers 24.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 7 Picks

I didn't do too bad with my debut picks column. To be fair, I gave myself five weeks to analyze the NFL so I didn't come out here on the first week and hit five of 16 games.
Actually, I've been solid this season. On ESPN, I have yet to (knock on wood) be below average for a single week of all entries.
I am ashamed, however, of last week's Stone Cold Lock of the Week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week 6 NFL Picks

(Subject to change...I haven't run them by Brandon yet)

Last week, I thought about my picks a bit, trying to figure out a few things beyond the actual game (Al Davis' death, Philly publicly revoking "Dream Team" status, Seattle not having won on the road since 1994) that might give me an edge over the rest of America. Like the four weeks that preceded them, however, my Week 5 picks were once again average (Week 1: 8/16, average 8, Week 2: 9/16, average 8, Week 3: 9/16, average 8, Week 4: 9/16, average 9, Week 5: 7/13, average 7).
The one thing I noticed about those picks was that I took nearly every favorite. Seriously. After my first draft, I think I picked two teams getting points. Knowing that wouldn't happen, I adjusted a few games and, obviously, broke about even.
This week, we're riding the underdogs. It's pretty clear there are three or four elite NFL teams, three or four awful NFL teams and about 25 that could beat any of the others under the right circumstances (see the Tennessee-Pittsburgh-Baltimore round robin). I touched on it on the blog last night (OK, I spent about two hours on it). San Francisco is good, but how much better are they than Cincinnati? Five points? How about Washington? The Giants? The list goes on. They could just as easily have defeated Dallas in Week 2. Or lost to Cincy and Philly in Weeks 3 and 4. The perfect formula initiated their blowout of Tampa Bay last week (short week for Tampa, big home game against New Orleans in Week 6, San Francisco coming off an emotional comeback against a Super Bowl favorite. You get the idea.

For the first time this season, I'm posting my NFL picks. You can bet your bottom dollar I'll either miss or hit four games. Make or break week and you'll see why:

(Blatantly copying Bill Simmons, home team in caps)

Carolina (+4.5) vs ATLANTA

Part of me is nervous picking against the Falcons at home, but in two Georgia Dome games this season, they eked by a possibly-terrible Tampa Bay team and easily blew a 14-point lead to the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
The second of those games is the most telling. Atlanta-Green Bay met in the second round of last season's playoffs. Roddy White recently said that the Falcons were a better team than the Packers last year. Well, nothing really changed. The cheeseheads even spotted Atlanta 14 points and the Falcons responded by scoring zero after the first quarter. Not exactly inspiring. Better teams don't lose games like that. Hell, pretty good teams don't lose games that important in that fashion unless the Packers are THAT transcendent, which, I don't quite think they are.
Carolina, meanwhile, goes toe-to-toe week in and week out no matter who stands on the opposing sideline. They've lost by seven (Arizona), seven (Green Bay), five (Chicago) and three (New Orleans). And I'm supposed to be scared of the Falcons. No.

Buffalo (+3.5) vs NY GIANTS

Can we say Buffalo is good yet? Can we? Because they are. Sorry they only have one win against the Patriots and haven't beaten Green Bay, but you can't really pin that on the Bills. Blame the schedule-makers.

Meanwhile, the Giants are coming off an awful home loss to the pathetic Seattle Seahawks. Hell, they weren't even getting the job done against Tarvaris Jackson's Seahawks, much less Charlie Whitehurst's Seahawks. Obviously, they're not that bad, but they're not that good either. Beating St. Louis by 12 and Arizona by three is supposed to impress me? Knocking off a reeling Eagles team is your signature win? Sorry, I'm not buying you.

Indianapolis vs CINCINNATI (-6.5)

The Colts are definitely not getting a win before whenever they play Jacksonville at home. Forget about it. So now the question isn't if the Bengals will win, but by how much? Well, my guess is a lot. Like, around 14. Something in the realm of 24-10. Cincy's defense is third in the NFL against the pass (best of luck, Curtis Painter and the NFL's 25th-ranked passing offense) and seventh against the run (best of luck, three guys who all suck about the same and are collectively 30th in the NFL in rushing offense).
The Bengals don't wow you offensively (24th passing, 18th rushing), but fortunately, the Colts are about as bad defensively (19th vs the pass, 31st vs the run) as they are offensively. Also, the game is in Cincinnati, where the Bengals nearly beat the 49ers and did beat the Bills. Indy's best chance to cover might be a forfeit.

San Francisco vs DETROIT (-4.5)

See two blogs ago. I think San Fran can and will go toe-to-toe with the undefeated Lions. And I hope I'm dead wrong on this pick. But I just can't go all in with the Niners quite yet. Gimme a signature win against a talented team that's playing at their peak right now.
I like San Francisco's revamped secondary, but Megatron is a freak. Without a doubt the best receiver in the game. Three Cowboys couldn't stop him in the end zone two weeks ago and I'm not quite sure if Carlos Rogers has it in him yet.
The one advantage the 49ers might have is that Jahvid Best, despite his big game against the Bears, isn't really a threat against the game's best run defense (not by stats, but trust me on that). That might allow San Fran to drop back in coverage a bit. But with the weapons Matthew Stafford has (Brandon Pettigrew is really good, by the way), it's a tall task for the Niners to go on the road again and beat arguably the league's hottest team.

St. Louis vs GREEN BAY (-14.5)

Pretty easy week for the promotions department at Lambeau Field to plan out. Buy a front-row ticket anywhere in the stadium, get a Packers player to leap into you, FREE!!!

Philadelphia (+0.5) vs WASHINGTON

Sorry, Ryan. It's last-chance weekend for the Eagles to turn it around, not just for my betting purposes, but for their swiftly-fading playoff hopes. I know the Redskins have had two weeks to prepare, but they didn't do anything over that time to upgrade at quarterback from Rex Grossman to Not Rex Grossman. Washington's defense is good enough to create problems for Michael Vick and Co. and Roy Helu could very well run all over the Eagles front seven, eight, nine, twelve, sixteen, whatever they want to throw in the box. The more I write, the more I want to abandon this pick, so I'm gonna stop.

Jacksonville vs PITTSBURGH (-12.5)

If you don't believe me, go back a month to when the Jaguars went to New York to face the Jets. You should have gone into that game thinking "Jacksonville won't get to 10, the Jets will get to more than 20, ready, break!" Final score: 32-3 Jets.
This is like that game, except if the Jets were better. You think the Jags are getting to 10 points? Yeah right. You think Pittsburgh is getting to at least 23? Well, I mean by the end of the game, but if you're thinking second quarter, well, yeah, they'll do that too. This is the stone cold lock of the year. You know, besides the Jacksonville-Jets game.

Cleveland (+5.5) vs OAKLAND

All right, children, open your textbooks to page 1. We're going to discuss letdown games today.

Coming off possibly their most emotional win in team history, the Raiders get a Browns team that's had two weeks to prepare for them. Also, I'm not so sure the Browns are that bad (though their schedule is screaming at me that I'm wrong). Meanwhile, the Raiders have divison-rival Kansas City on deck and haven't won back-to-back games this season. If Oakland can keep the memory of Al Davis going two weeks running, they should win this game. But I also don't think they're six points better than the Browns.

Houston vs BALTIMORE (-7.5)

I understand the Texans losing to the Raiders last week. They didn't have Andre Johnson, lost Mario Williams and Oakland just had to win that game. Makes sense.
That said, I also understand the Texans losing to Baltimore this week. They don't have Andre Johnson or Mario Williams, the Ravens are better, at home and are coming off a bye week.
Houston's rankings across the board are good, but that'll happen when you take on Indianapolis and Miami your first two weeks.
As far as the Ravens are concerned, they're impressive. Borderline elite. Whatever happened against Tennessee was probably the result of destroying Pittsburgh the week prior, but I'm not 100 percent sure yet. If they whip a very beatable Houston team like I think they will, they may be in line for a promotion to elite status.

Dallas (+7.5) vs NEW ENGLAND

I'm all about these bye week teams not named the Rams. I hate the Cowboys, but you think they could come up with a gameplan somewhere along the lines of "Let's throw the ball as much as New England and hope we get the ball last" in two weeks. If anything, New England is coming off a big win over their rivals, the Jets, and Dallas can swoop in and make a game of it. On an unrelated note, I'm really happy I have Tom Brady as a fantasy quarterback this week.

New Orleans vs TAMPA BAY (+4.5)

The perfect way for the Buccaneers to erase the memory of a 45-point loss would be to climb back in the division hunt (albeit temporarily) with a win at home against the Saints. New Orleans hasn't wowed me yet. I'm not even throwing them into the NFL's elite pantheon. Their only decent win is a 17-point beating of the Bears at home in Week 2. Other than that, they lost to the Packers, beat Houston by seven, Jacksonville by 13 and Carolina by three. BFD. This game means much more to the Bucs than it does the Saints and it'll show on Sunday.

Minnesota (+3.5) vs CHICAGO

The Vikings are on the rebound. The Bears are on the debound. Minnesota could easily be 4-1 if they could hold onto 20-point leads and beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, everybody thought the Bears were going to be a player in the NFC North after throttling Atlanta, except now, the Falcons are bad and Chicago hasn't been within single-digits of the Packers, Saints and Lions. Sure, that's a murderer's row of sorts, but only against Detroit was Chicago really threatening. Oh, and the Bears only knocked off Carolina by five at home.
One more thing: If I set the over/under for Jared Allen sacks of Jay Cutler at 3.5, I'd take the under, but only because Cutler's going to be in a hospital bed before halftime.

Miami vs NY JETS (-7.5)

It's too bad the Dolphins and Colts didn't play each other in Week 1 so one team could officially be crowned "Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Champions." Instead, those teams, especially with Chad Henne out, are going to try to out-tank each other down the stretch.
The Jets are coming off three-straight losses and have to have a win to get back into the AFC East hunt. Pretty simple equation here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High school fantasy draft breakdown. Seriously.

A few minutes ago, my colleague at the Lake County Leader/college buddy Brandon Hansen told me that tomorrow, him and I will be participating in a high school fantasy sports contest. We haven't quite worked out the kinks or how it will be scored, so really, we don't have a lot to work with yet. But anyone who reads our paper and likes fantasy sports will recognize the names I'm about to break down.



Vince DiGiallonardo, Polson: Very Michael Vick-like with his ability to throw and run. He averages about 2-3 touchdowns a week and can rack up yards all over the board (he's also a kick returner and safety).

Tra Ludeman, Charlo: Similar to DiGiallonardo and embedded in a run-happy offense. That's not to say they won't air the ball out, which they do on occasion. If they do, Ludeman has more weapons than Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith (maybe I'll leave the analogies to Brandon).

Dylan Evans, Mission: While Mission's offense isn't as explosive as DiGiallonardo's or Ludeman's, Evans can rack up yards and touchdowns in a hurry. Depending on the matchup, Evans is in the discussion as one of the areas elite QBs.

Admittedly, I'm not very familiar with the quarterback situation in Ronan or Arlee, which could prove to be a major disadvantage. Those are Brandon's schools to cover, but I'd feel comfortable matching up any of these studs against anyone in Lake County.

Running Backs:

Paul McClurg, Chris Cote, Polson: Both of these guys are big-play capable, but split carries week in and week out. Both have reached the 100-yard plateau during the season, but if either one was a feature back, 200 would be a regular occurrence.

Jacen Petersen, Charlo: Adrian Peterson racked up three first-quarter touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. Jacen Peterson, of the Charlo Vikings, beat him to the punch when he hit pay dirt three times in the first quarter in Charlo's annihilation of Philipsburg on Friday. That's not really a fluke, either. He's that good.

Zach Tameler, Arlee: When Tameler doesn't reach the end zone three times in a week, something went wrong. The kid is virtually unstoppable. Every time the ball touches his hands, you can expect six points to come out of it.

Since we haven't worked out exactly how this fantasy draft is going to work, I can only assume I'll have the chance at two area players. You can't go wrong with any of these guys, but with Charlo racking up close to 50 points a game, you'd be hard pressed to find a better top two picks than Ludeman and Petersen. If Brandon nabs them, however, you can't even consider it settling for the other four. They're just as capable of putting up as many points as the Viking tandem.


I'll make this brief. The choices are Riley "The Leg" Lemm and James "The Lawman" Larson, both from Polson. Each has a four-goal game under their belt this season, as well as multiple hat tricks. They could very well be the last two picks of the draft, simply because you'll flip a coin between the two and cross your fingers that they outscore their teammate. The wash of washes in the draft.


I might be at a slight disadvantage here. Brandon covers Polson, Mission and Charlo volleyball teams, while I oversee Ronan and Arlee. I know a bit about Charlo, but near nothing about the Lady Pirates and Lady Bulldogs.

Here's what I do know:

Arlee's Cortney Dix is the best volleyball player in Lake County. There, I said it. No offense to the many talented girls around the area, but Dix does it all. The Scarlets' best setter, Dix is constantly surveying the court, looking for opportunities to sneak sets where the opposing defense isn't. If nothing is there, she's laying up perfect sets for teammates Becca Nelson and Mahalia Hendren. She also has a tremendously consistent serve and is surrounded by enough talent to give her opportunities to thrive. Unfortunately, Brandon knows I'm a huge fan and it wouldn't surprise me if he swooped in to steal Dix.

The aforementioned Nelson and Hendren give Dix a very solid supporting cast and both are very sound volleyball players. It's amazing Nelson hasn't hurt anyone (at least that I've seen) with her spikes, while Hendren finds herself at or near the top of most of Arlee's stats night in and night out. Definitely a trio to look out for in the draft.

Ronan has several talented players, but the problem is that they're an extremely balanced team. Good for real life volleyball, but not so much for fantasy purposes. From game to game, four or five different girls will find themselves in the box score, leading the Maidens in one stat or another.

Charlo is similar to Ronan, with a lot of contributing parts. You can expect Rachel Hoyt or Deondra Brown to lead the team in kills. Cousins Dawn and Kelsie Blevins both play integral roles with the Lady Vikings, as do Kinley Pope and Derika Stipe. All warrant an eye in the draft.

Cross Country

Paden Alexander and Ashley Courville. That's all I know.

Regarding Courville, I'm not sure how this draft is going down (have I mentioned that?) but Courville is one of Lake County's premier two-sport athletes, also excelling on the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team. Considering there are currently no rules, she has to be the number one overall pick, right? She basically gives you a high school fantasy sports power play. You could draft a waterboy and still be on an even playing field.

Going into tomorrow's draft, here's my preliminary draft board:

1) Courville
2) Dix
3) Petersen
4) Ludeman
5) Tameler

Considering Lake County's talent, however, any of those aforementioned names, as well as many others, have the potential to bring home the inaugural High School Fantasy Sports Title. Let the games begin!

49ers: Contenders or pretenders??

Thank God this is a blog, because I'm about to be all over the map with my thoughts. I didn't exactly lay out a plan of how I wanted to talk about this, simply because it should reflect how I'm thinking. And right now, I'm going back and forth more than an 8-bit Pong game.
About 30 minutes ago, I was sold on my San Francisco 49ers. They're off to a 4-1 start. By my biased logic, three of those are quality wins...but...:

Win 1) 13-8 at Cincinnati. I think the Bengals are decent. Not good, not bad. But it was their home opener (granted it wasn't even sold out) and they have an underrated defense. Add to the mix that conditions weren't ideal and Andy Dalton isn't terrible and there were a couple things to like about that game. The Niners trailed for about three quarters and appeared inept on offense, not crossing midfield until the second half. Nothing new, right? What was new was that San Fran didn't let the game get away from them and, for the first time in seemingly a decade, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a couple late scores.
The defense was awesome. Dalton convincingly marched the Bengals down the field on Cincy's first drive. That was it. Cedric Benson, like about 26 running backs before him, didn't get to 100 yards rushing against the stingy Niner D. Alex Smith just did enough in the nick of time for the win.

Ohbytheway) Cincy needed a late score in Week 5 to beat a terrible Jacksonville Jaguars team, lost to the Cleveland Browns, eked out a win against Kyle Orton's Denver Broncos and beat a Buffalo Bills team who spend the first 55 minutes celebrating their win against the Patriots the week before. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the quality of a team whose offseason highlight coming off a 4-12 season was that their starting quarterback was in trade-me-or-I-retire mode. Throw in the fact that two big-name players (Benson, Jerome Simpson) were battling legal issues the week of the 49ers game and they still almost won and, crazy can I be about that win?

Overall- Definitely a bigger "we didn't lose" game than a "we won" game. But in the NFC West, a win is 14 percent closer to a playoff spot, so...

Win 2) 24-23 at Philadelphia. If you would have told me the day before it happened that the 49ers won a game against the Eagles in which they trailed 23-3 in the third quarter, I'd have told you it probably happened in like 1984. If you told me it happened in 2011, I'd ask you if we traded Alex Smith to Philly at halftime. Yet, it did happen, Alex Smith still played for the 49ers and he didn't spend time on the bench. The thing about this game was that Michael Vick passed for over 400 yards and the defense didn't really look bad at all. Did the Eagles gift-wrap this game? Yeah. Will I take it? Of course.
Again, the team never panicked. Down 20 in the third quarter, the offense put its nose to the grindstone and found a way to win. The defense locked down and lucked out when it had to. Sure, Philly's rookie kicker Alex Henery shanked two field goals, but the Eagles also had a chance to win on their last drive and Justin Smith stripped Jeremy Maclin. That's skill, not luck. Also, it's a lack of skill on Maclin's part, but I digress. Kinda.

Ohbytheway) Philadelphia didn't have to do anything fancy in the second half to win that game. They have too many weapons for any team (Maclin, Vick, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant, to name SIX). If Andy Reid was anybody but Andy Reid, a 20-point second-half would be plenty, no matter how bad your overrated defense is. Yet it wasn't. San Francisco doesn't get a loss because they should have lost. Thank God.

Overall- While it's not a win to be proud of, it was definitely an effort to be proud of and it was something to build on. Philadelphia, while 1-4, is more talented than just about any 1-4 team ever. And any time you come back from 20 down to win, it's a testament to coaching and perseverance.

Win 3) 48-3 vs Tampa Bay. Jesus Christ. Where do you start with this game? Alex Smith looked like Joe Montana. First drive, touchdown in triple coverage. Not a lucky throw, either... a legitimate strike to Delanie Walker, and from 26 yards out to boot. After a Frank Gore fumble near the goal line, it was smooth sailing. Sure, the offense stalled (once), but after Carlos Rogers' (aka the offseason pickup of the year) pick-six early in the second, Andy Lee could pretty much call it a day. Pure domination rushing the ball, throwing the ball, stopping the run and stopping the pass. You win those four facets as convincingly as the 49ers did and 48-3 probably isn't such a shock. But still...shocking.

Ohbytheway) Tampa was coming off a short week and they looked mediocre at best against the winless Indianapolis Colts. Sure, they're 3-2, but their win against Atlanta looks bad because Atlanta is bad, they should have lost to Minnesota, they couldn't beat the Lions in their home opener and it really wasn't as close as the score indicated. If Tampa doesn't have 7-9 written all over them, I don't know who does.

I'm not crazy about their first two games, either. I'm convinced they would have lost to Seattle in Week 1 at home had Ted Ginn Jr. not split the Seahawks' special teams unit twice like a bomb was strapped to his chest.

If anything, their Week 2 loss was one of their best-played games this least for the first three and a half quarters. The secondary stopped and nearly murdered Tony Romo and the offense withstood constant pressure from the Dallas pass rush. To think San Francisco is a Harbaugh "taking the points off the board to keep the ball and kill more clock" decision away from 5-0 is hard to believe.

This all brings me back to 30 minutes ago, which is now closer to an hour and 30 minutes ago. I felt great. Why shouldn't I? San Fran's record is 4-1 with two tough road wins and a dismantling of a supposed playoff contender. But is their resume as good as it appears?

Unfortunately, Bill Simmons, Cousin Sal and the rest of America, apparently, think so. During their recent podcast, I thought it was a red flag when Cousin Sal said the 49ers were good enough to not just win one playoff game, but two. In his hypothetical scenario, San Fran hosts a 9-7 Falcons team in round one, then moves on to defeat a second opponent (obviously, it'd have to be New Orleans or Green Bay) to reach the NFC Championship Game. Um, excuse me?
If that wasn't enough, later in the podcast, Simmons is ready to jump all over the 49ers at 30-1 odds to WIN THE SUPER BOWL. By comparison, the New York Jets, who are in the midst of a three-game slide, but reached the AFC Championship game two years running, are also 30-1. Those aforementioned Eagles? The self-proclaimed Dream Team? The team who, before the start of the season, experts proclaimed would be disappointed with anything less than a Super Bowl title? 40-1.
If you thought the San Francisco 49ers, who haven't had a winning season since 2002, would, according to Vegas, have a better chance at a Super Bowl Championship than the Philadelphia Eagles, who have some of the best talent ever assembled by a single NFL football team, by Week 6, well, kudos.

Other ESPN talking heads have gushed about the 49ers performance through five games. Best defense in the league has been thrown around. And while it's good, it hasn't exactly been tested...

...which brings us to the 5-0 Detroit Lions.

Like the 49ers, Detroit has struggled throughout the last decade, enduring an 0-16 campaign along the way. Unlike the 49ers, the Lions came into 2011 with some hype. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, among others, had sleeper seekers keeping one eye open. This team was on the cusp coming into the season.

Well, by this time, it's safe to say Detroit is off the cusp and in a good way. Season-opening road win at Tampa Bay. Destruction of the reigning AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Gritty come-from-behind wins on the road at Minnesota and at Dallas. All that followed up by a workmanlike Monday Night Football victory over division rival Chicago. Not the best lineup, but not exactly the bottom three NFC West teams either.

Anytime your team has a wide receiver nicknamed "Megatron," consider yourself a contender. The emergence of Matthew Stafford was only overdue because of his porous, but now improved offensive line. Jahvid Best made the Chicago Bears D look like the Washington State Cougars D (CIRCA ANY YEAR BEFORE THIS ONE!!! GO COUGS!!!). Brandon Pettigrew is the NFL's best-kept secret. It's a test unlike anything Patrick Willis, Carlos Rogers and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has seen in 2011.

Are the 49ers ready? The answer is yes. They're hungry and eager for the challenge. But the ultimate question is: Are they for real enough to compete with a legitimately dangerous Lions team? We'll find out in about five days.

All I know is that if the San Francisco 49ers move to 5-1 on Sunday, Cousin Sal and Bill Simmons might actually be onto something. The NFC West would be all but secured. A first-round bye wouldn't even be out of the question. And my hopes would officially be sky high.

I don't know if I'm ready for it, but as long as the Niners are, I think be fine. I just hope I feel the same way 30 minutes from now.