Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In Case You Missed It...

Here is the video and audio of the home-brewed coverage of the Ravens-Steelers game. Take three and a half hours and let it just play out in the background. Or download the mp3. Freedom is in your hands.

BTW, if you're worried about whether you can take that much football, just keep in mind that we hardly talked about any football.


That first video was 90% of it before Ustream started conking out on us. The rest of the game (in staggered video) is chronicled in these links.



Audio Download:


Thursday, September 25, 2008

22 Scenarios

With BYU going into its bye week, we will now look at the bigger picture. A BCS game is a lock if the Cougars go undefeated, but getting to the BCS title game will take extra help.
Last year, it might have happened (since LSU got in with 2 losses) and it felt like the No.1 and No. 2 teams in the country got upset almost every weekend.  I doubt this will happen, but here's to wishful thinking.
Here are 22 Scenarios to help BYU get an invitation to the BCS title game.
1. No. 2 Oklahoma loses to TCU this weekend.    
2. Then Oklahoma wins out, but then loses in the Big 12 title game to Missouri    
3. No. 1 USC needs to lose at Oregon State this weekend.    
4. No. 1 USC then needs to win the rest of their games, but lose to UCLA    
5. No. 3 Georgia needs to lose at LSU and at Auburn    
6. No. 4 Florida loses at Georgia, then in the SEC title game. A 3rd loss would help.    
7. No. 5 LSU loses at Florida and at South Carolina in back to back weeks.    
8. No. 6 Missouri beat No. 7 Texas, and beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game    
9. No. 7 Texas loses to Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas   
10. No. 8 Alabama loses at Georgia, at LSU and at Tennessee   
11. No. 9 Wisconsin loses at Michigan and Ohio State, but beats Penn State   
12. No. 10 Texas Tech loses at Kansas State, Texas A&M and Texas   
13. No. 12 Penn State loses to Illinois and Wisconsin, but beats Ohio State   
14. No. 14 Ohio State loses to Wisconsin and Michigan   
15. No. 13 South Florida loses at North Carolina State and at West Virginia   
16. No. 15 Auburn loses at West Virginia and at Alabama   
17. No. 16 Wake Forest beats Clemson, but loses at Maryland and at Miami   
18. No. 17 Utah goes undefeated, but loses November 22 against BYU   
19. No. 19 Boise State loses to Fresno State   
20. No. 21 Vanderbilt goes back to being Vanderbilt   
21. No. 11 BYU shuts out a few more teams and ends the season on 22 game win-streak   
22. Basically, every BCS team needs at least two losses like last year, and we face Missouri in the National Title Game and win in an offensive shootout. 
This is why I hate college football. Wild Cards do not even have a shot to get to the championship game like the New York Giants did last year in the NFL. It is reason No. 25 why pro football is better than the greedy college bowl championship series system.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BYU 44, Wyoming 0: A Boring Shutout

September 20, 2008:

I won't lie. I wasn't able to attend this game at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo because I was in Seattle for some family stuff. I wish I had gone to Seattle two weeks earlier to watch the controversial win against the University of Washington. I don't know if any of you readers have ever visited the UW campus, but it is amazing. I'd say it's a top-5 most awesome campus in the country.

I couldn't get the MTN channel (the Mountain West Network) up in the state of Washington, so I had to get my scoring updates via Google Text (text something to the number 46645, and you'll get a quicker response than using CHA-CHA).

The game appeared to be amazing from the texting standpoint. 44-0! Another shutout at home! That's 103-0 against the past two opponents. This never happens (actually BYU had a 59-0 win followed by a 44-0 win in 1985, the year after their first national title in 1984).

I couldn't wait to watch the game on replay. I got home and read all the newspapers, and talked with my friends who attended the game. They all said the same thing.

"It was pretty boring."

What!?!?!?! How could a 44-0 landslide victory be boring? I was at the 59-0 game the previous week, and that was anything but boring. 'Twas a 3-hour celebration! Every awesome touchdown was euphoric! The suspense of the looming shutout was intense.

So, I hurried home to watch the TiVo'd version of the game. I don't know about you, but I love to watch a football game previously recorded. You can condense a 3 1/2 hour football game to just around one hour, or an episode of "Lost" or "24" or "Chuck" for those of you non-sports readers. No commercials, no pre-game, no halftime, and you don't have to listen to every stupid little quib the commentators think they have to give.

Sure enough, the game was kind of boring, even in the shorter version. I was so bored after a 27-0 first half lead, that I didn't even bother to watch the last 17 points scored after halftime. Even if Wyoming had scored, it would have been ok. Weird.

So, I decided to write about something else for the second half.

Have you ever watched an old movie you remember being so awesome as a kid, and then as you re-watch it, you can't believe how awesomely bad it was, even "Star Wars?"

This weeks movie: "Bloodsport" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, released in 1988. One user on IMDB called it the best Martial-Arts film of the century.

Growing up as a kid, I remember thinking this movie had it all. Martial Arts, fighting, and the perfect villain named Chong Li (whom I believe was the inspiration for woman Chinese fighter Chun Li from one of the best video games ever: Street Fighter 2).

But watching it last week on TV, wow! I don't think it could have gotten any worse. It was so bad, it was great. The fighting in the movie was more scripted than a Dukes of Hazard bar fight. I was so disappointed. It felt like the producer knew that the movie would fail, but young kids would drink it up quicker than WWF wrestling. Sorry, Hulk Hogan.

He was right! I remember thinking this was the greatest thing since Thundercats. Oh, that scene where Chong Li breaks the dudes leg, and you stomach churns. I was so bummed out that they edited it out in the cable TV-version I was watching. But if this movie didn't inspire the video game Street Fighter, which then gave us Mortal Kombat, nothing else did.

This was the greatest gift ever given to boys my age. Better than Kathy Ireland playing a football kicker on a college team in "Necessary Roughness." Better than "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (the first movie). Better than Ken Griffey Jr. UpperDeck rookie baseball card. I submit that it could not get any better than this!

I'd personally like to thank the producer and director for reluctantly giving boys of the '80s the most important R rated movie of our lifetimes. Jean-Claude Van Damme owes his career ("Kickboxer," "Lionheart," "Double Team," etc.) to you, and so does Forrest Whittaker ("Species," "The Last King of Scotland" and "Hope Floats").

Just please, watch it again... for the first time. Make it an event.

Next Week: 400 possible scenarios of how BYU could make the BCS title game during its bye. Weber State plays Utah for the first time since Ron McBride gave us MAFU. Plus, No. 24 TCU at No. 2 Oklahoma could possibly be the biggest game in the history of the Mountain West Conference.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photo of the Year: ARGGGGGHHHHH MATEY!

Wow! Where do I even begin?

For those of you who don't know football, the man on the right, Al Davis, has been the owner of the Oakland Raiders for a really, really, long time. Normally he makes his public appearances with shades (hint: bring back the sunglasses). The Raiders pride themselves on their pirate, pillaging, plundering image. I vote that the grim reaper on the right, Davis, should just wear an eye-patch and call himself "Captain Davis."

The man on the left is Lane Kiffin, whom Davis hired to be his head coach last year when he was only 32 years old, younger than some of the players on his roster. After only one season, where the Raiders actually showed improvement by doubling their wins from the season before from 2 to 4, Captain Davis asked coach Kiffin to resign. If Kiffin resigned, he wouldn't get the three years and millions of dollars on his contract still owed to him. Kiffin said "if you want me out, you'll have to fire me" meaning, pay him what he signed up for. Hence, Kiffin, thinks that Davis is a joke (which he is) and he can't wipe that smirk of his face. He's toying with the senile bat who's too cheap to fire him, and instead makes petty threats via the media.

The two haven't spoken for weeks, and rumors have been flying that Kiffin will be fired any day now, despite the fact that the Raiders won their game last week on the road in Kansas City. It's absolutely bizarro.

Also, Captain Davis, aka Skeletor, is the general manager of the Raiders. I believe he is the only owner in the league that has no GM, which means he makes all the personnel moves (signing players, traders, drafts, and coaches). At the end of last season, coach Kiffin wanted to fire the defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan; Skeletor blocked it, and instead asked baby-faced Kiffin to walk the plank.

I have no idea how Captain Davis is in the Hall of Fame, espcially if Art Modell is not. But that's a discussion for another time, scallywags.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BYU 59 UCLA 0 - The Perfect Game

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

I woke up around 11 a.m. (very common for an Average Joe Saturday morning). Took a shower, shaved, and jumped in the car with Lex and my roommate Scott and his brother Zak, also roommate, for the weekly pilgrimage down to Provo.

Before the game we stopped at The Italian Place, a local sandwich stop where I promptly ordered a pastrami sandwich. Pastrami is always the meat of choice if I choose to pay for sandwiches. I think that is reason number one why I hate Subway, no pastrami option. I have never liked spending money for sandwiches, but if I do, hopefully pastrami is an option.

We arrived at the stadium, and I met Jon (editor-in-chief of this blog) for our ritual shot of the field from our seats. I had actually thought my seats were more nose bleed at the opening game, but after re-reading my ticket, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had really good seats for this season! (see picture)

This was the marquee game of the season for the Cougars. A chance to play a good PAC-10 team at home and exact revenge on the team that had beaten us last year in the Rose Bowl.

It was awesome to see most the 64,000 fans wearing blue and white on a hot Saturday afternoon. I forgot to wear sun block, and ended up with a red face the following day.

BYU scored on their first possession and went up 7-0. Then in the second quarter all-heck-broke-loose.

The Cougars scored to go up 14-0. Then DE Jan Jorgensen sacked UCLA QB Kevin Craft, who fumbled and it was recovered by the Cougars. BYU scored on the very next play, a 37-yard pass to WR Austin Collie for a 21-0 lead. Then UCLA fumbled on the kickoff, and the Cougars scored again to make it 28-0. On the following possession, BYU defender Scott Johnson nailed the Bruins tailback who did a flip in the air during the tackle and coughed up the football (not literally). BYU recovered and scored to make it 35-0 with nine minutes left in the half.

BYU scored four touchdowns in five minutes. The game was over in 20 minutes. I couldn't believe it! Everybody was going nuts. The rest of the game, the fans continued to hope for a shut out. BYU blocked UCLA's field goal attempt (this is the exact way we beat them in the Las Vegas Bowl in December). And then their kicker missed a very short field goal in the 4th quarter to keep the shut out intact.

It was the most PERFECT, complete game I have ever witness the Cougars play! I have seen the Cougars score 50+ points several times. I've even seen them score 50 points and lose. But I have never seen the team completely destroy the other team with 59 points in a shutout domination!

(I'm speechless)

Ok. Now I'm no longer speechless. Some interesting points from the game:

1) Last week, I had mentioned the Utes stadium being the Red Sea because the 44,000 strong were wearing some form of red. I stand corrected. We'll call the Utes the Red Lake. The real Red Sea reference belongs to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They have sold out every single game since 1962 and Memorial stadium doubles the Utes stadium with 80,000+ fans each game!

2) I also noted that I was jealous because the Utes have a sliver of their stadium (one section in the southeast corner) dedicated to students to want to stand up and be rowdy during the entire game. Well, this week I noticed that nearly half of Cougar stadium is filled with students standing up, wearing blue, and cheering raucously the entire game. BYU has the entire South End zone, plus the north AND south east side of the stadium packed with students wearing blue and cheering the entire game. I'd say BYU has about as many of these crazies standing than Rice Eccles even holds.

3) "Guys, the bathrooms here are NUTS!" (Bill Hader in the movie Hot Rod, 2007) - Cougar stadium men's bathrooms have the game broadcast on the radio so you don't miss even a leak of action.

4) UCLA featured one of the greatest offensive geniuses in college football history on their sidelines in Norm Chow. Just ask any BYU loyal fan, Norm Chow produced incredible offenses for the Cougars during his 25-year tenure over the BYU offense. We shut him out! I don't think he has even been shut out as an offensive coordinator.

5) Cougar-tail: Wow, what a great name! Unfortunately, it means an 18-inch maple bar that BYU sells over 1,500 each Saturday at their home games. But even better I just found out that BYU also sells a Brat-tail (another a great name!) which is one of these delicious donuts stuffed with a bratwurst. It's like the McDonald's McGriddle and BYU football just had a baby and perfection was created. I'm trying one of these next home game!

Breakfast + bratwurst = a party in my mouth!

6) Speaking of perfection, BYU's motto is the "The Quest for Perfection" and we just played a perfect game with a 59-0 thumping of a worthy PAC-10 opponent. Now we have the pathetic Wyoming Cowboys coming to town this weekend. Only three hard games remain on the schedule: at Air Force, at TCU, and at Utah on November 22. That game cannot get here any faster!

Next week: Pokes? More like jokes! Wyoming Cowboys get their backs broke!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Geek vs. The Jock

So, this is probably my greatest story as an intern for the Baltimore Ravens in 2003.   

During the season, I developed a high school-style crush on one of the Ravens cheerleaders. She was one of the top-3 most gorgeous women I have ever met in person, and I'm not saying that because she was a cheerleader. She was really nice and super, MEGA hot.   

I would occasionally see her at events. I tried my best to get to know her the best I could without looking like too much of a doofus.   

One time, my roommate Jeff (also an intern) and I went to a club on a weeknight. She happened to be there. I said hey, and we talked for a little bit. I actually got the guts to ask her for her phone number, which she suprisingly gave to me.   

On the final game of the season (a home playoff loss in the wild-card round to the Tennesse Titans), some of the players and some of the staff went to the same club after the game to blow off a season full of stress.   

After the party, we ended up at my boss's house to chill a little longer. This cheerleader happened to be there. Safety Will Demps, a starter, also happened to be there. He was a ladies' man who happened to have scored a touchdown off an interception earlier in the game.   

He had been drinking and was trying to get this cheerleader to go home with him with all his "C'mon baby, I'll take you home" moves.   

She seemed a little hesitant, and I dunno if she didn't want to hook up with him or was nervous about him driving. Anyway, I offered her a ride home, and she chose me.   

I guess I seemed like the safe choice. Obviously nothing happened, but hey, at least for a day, this geek can say that he trumped the jock.   

Five years later, I happened to stumble across this article on NBC sports.com.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Week 2: Utah 42 UNLV 21 -- The Red Sea

Week 2: September 6th, 2008

Ahhh, another Saturday filled with football. I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that football season is back. I woke up around noon (typical for an Average Joe Saturday). I then walked down to the living room and got ready to watch BYU play at the University of Washington in Seattle.

I am from the state of Washington, but I grew up on the east side of the state in the Tri-Cities. In Washington, you are either a Husky (UW) or a Cougar (Washington State). I was a Cougar. Every year, our teams battled it out in the Apple Cup. The Huskies were dominant during my youth. They even won a national championship in the early '90s. So, as a Cougar, I've always hated the purple and gold of the UW Huskies.

If any of you have ever seen me in the morning, you can attest that I am not a morning person. I look like one of the zombies straight out of the thriller video, except without the cool '80s garb (or the dancing). I sleep-walked straight over to the fridge and pulled out some five-day old Chinese food for breakfast. I admit it was a bad idea, but it seemed like an okay idea in my comatose state.

My roommate Kyle came in to watch the game. It was my first experience watching a BYU game with him, but he added quite a twist to the viewing pleasure. My friend Lex also joined us in the festivities. We ordered some take-out from La Frontera (a fabulous dirty Mexican joint off Bangerter Highway) and enjoyed watching the first half of tight football.

I had a dress rehearsal for a gig with my guitar friend Mike later in the day so I had to take off and miss the second half. I caught the final minutes of the game on the radio and it turns out that BYU won 28-27 after a controversial "excessive celebration" penalty pushed a game-tying extra point back 15 yards that BYU blocked to win the game.

Should the flag have been thrown? No. Was it? Unfortunately, yes. Was it a violation of the rule? Yes, UW QB Jake Locker (see photo) threw the ball 20 feet above his head, so a flag could have been thrown. Look, PAC-10 officials messed with their home team. Their officiating has been terrible for years (see Oklahoma at Oregon in 2006).

The solution: Stop using your own referees at your home games in non-conference. Other conferences don't. Why do you have to be the only ones? This is why nobody wants to play you in the West Coast in non-conference. Sure, you get Oklahoma coming back and Ohio State this weekend, but if anything fishy happens in those games, your reputation turns from burnt toast to charred biscuits.

Okay, now to those hated Utes. After my gig, I drove up 4th South to Rice-Eccles Stadium. I've never noticed how deserted downtown SLC can be on game night. It felt like a ghost town.

I parked at Little Caesar's so that I could down some crazy bread on my way up to the game. It's amazing how terrible the parking situation is for a 45,000 seat stadium. If it weren't for TRAX, it would be an absolute nightmare!

As I waited for my ticket from Rhett (I arrived just before halftime), I happened to be standing by the smokers area just outside the gate. I admit, it was a little weird seeing 30 people crammed into a tiny area for their nicotine fix. That wouldn't have even existed 15 years ago. Smokers can really start to understand segregation. I know second-hand smoke smells bad, but at an open air stadium? Sometimes, I start to believe that smokers have some rights too.

As I entered the Red Sea, I felt a little sick to my stomach. Why did I buy Ute season tickets again? (oh yeah, November 22 when BYU comes to town). Why did I choose to attend a Utah versus UNLV game? Because there was nothing better to do on a Saturday night, and I wanted a blog entry.

Our seats were pretty good. Check out the photo. Pretty much the entire stadium wore red and white Ute apparel. In my ignorance, I wore a blue shirt from my earlier gig. It wasn't a BYU shirt, but I felt weird and proud at the same time.

UNLV (a bottom feeder in the Mountain West that shut out Utah last season 27-0 in Las Vegas) played Utah to a 14-14 tie at the break.

Utah took over in the 3rd quarter with three touchdowns to put an end to any upset hopes the Rebels may have had for a upset of a ranked team and ended up winning in a landslide victory 42-21.

Surprised observations:
I was actually impressed with everybody wearing school colors at the stadium. I was also impressed that people knew when to cheer and what the main cheers were for (1st down, etc.). The wave was pretty impressive as well. I loved the student section: the muss - where an entire section is dedicated to students who will stand up for the entire game and wave flags after touchdowns. I wished with all my heart that BYU had such an organized function that I could join during my time there. They are missing out on a golden opportunity.

Bad observations:
I can't believe that such a dumpy stadium hosted the Opening Games for the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was the 10-year anniversary of the renovation of Rice-Eccles stadium. Apparently, 50 million dollars was invested into remodeling the stadium once Utah earned their Olympic bid in the mid 1990s. From what I hear, the stadium was much crappier with wood benches and such before the money was raised. I can't believe that Coach Ron McBride actually competed with BYU in the 1990s with such pathetic facilities.

Another bad observation:
I attended a fireside last night at the University of Utah institute building featuring head coach Kyle Whittingham. I've never had any personal experience with him, but wow, I wasn't impressed. Even if I were a Utah booster with money to donate, his presentation wouldn't have sold me. He isn't very good at addressing a crowd at all. In fact, he was smart to let his secondary coach Morgan Scalley (a captain of the 2004 undefeated Ute team) speak last, who was a much more eloquent speaker. At least Whittingham understands his weaknesses.

The thing that drives me nuts, is that the Utes thrive on ripping BYU in any given opportunity, including a fireside in a church dedicated building when the BYU game is 10 weeks away! You would never hear BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall go out of his way to insult the Utes. Do you know why? He doesn't need to. It's not in his interests. He is focused on winning against the next opponent. Kyle barely mentioned that he was playing at Utah State this weekend. But he took two or three occasions to go out of his way to rip BYU, his alma matter, and the school who first offered him his first head coaching job.

I am so glad that Kyle chose to take the U job, so that he could continue to lead them to mediocrity and teach sportsmanship by onside kicking on Wyoming with a 40 point lead. I wish BYU would have never even offered him the position to begin with. Hiring Bronco was the best thing to happen to both of these programs and their ultra-fierce rivalry. see: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/preview08/news/story?id=3529952

Next week: Did BYU beat UCLA soundly to regain some national respect? How will Norm Chow be embraced back in Provo?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

BYU: 41 Northern Iowa: 17 -- Joe Knows Provo

This season, I was blessed with the opportunity to get season tickets to both BYU and Utah. As a graduate of Brigham Young University, one would ask why I would get season tickets to the Utes, our fiercest rival. The simple answer is this: it was the only way to guarantee a ticket to the BYU vs. Utah game on November 22.

This season, I will be making real and personal blog posts for the first time in this blog, not just random commentary on local and national stories. It's a new style of writing, and I hope to keep it stimulating enough that you won't click back over to your Facebook account to see if something changed in the last 30 seconds.

Week 1: August 30, 2008

Northern Iowa vs. BYU: Why is BYU playing a Div. II school when Utah State is already on the schedule? It's because WAC ninny Nevada backed out of BYU at the last second, and we had to find someone to fill in the Labor Day home game.

Why would BYU schedule a game on home on Labor Day weekend? It's the last official weekend of summer and CLASSES HAVEN'T STARTED YET? Well, if you look at BYU's dismal non-conference road record, you can see why it's so important to open the season at home.

I woke up around ten (noon is the typical wake up time on a Saturday, unless odd morning commitments are scheduled). Today, my parents happened to be in town from the state of Washington, and we were planning to help my sister (who lives in Pleasant Grove) paint my niece's bedroom.

By the time I got to Utah County, the room had already been painted, so I headed over to Jon's (editor-in-chief of averagejoesports.blogspot.com) house to a pre-game meal. We watched some of the Utah at Michigan game (the Utes won at the "Big House" which was the news of the day), then drove down to Cougar stadium.

Traffic was about as bad as it gets in Utah County (this happens six times a year, all BYU home games). Finally, we parked in a decent spot, thanks to Jon's parents' extra parking pass, and hiked up to the stadium. See attached photo of typical BYU alumni tool posing in from of Lavell Edwards stadium.

It was a 4 p.m. kickoff, which was awesome because it was scorching during the first half. The heat was beating down on 64,000 fans wearing blue as if to say: DON'T SCHEDULE GAMES UNTIL AFTER CLASSES START!

Prince (my BYU student friend who hooked me up with the season tickets) missed the game BECAUSE SCHOOL HADN'T STARTED YET, so I gave the ticket to an out-of-town high school friend who needed one extra ticket (This friend happens to be a girl from WA who my parents want me to marry, and I would be totally cool with that). I met her at the gate and gave her the ticket. She said thanks and headed up to sit with her family.

I found that kind of awkward, so I headed up to my seat up at the very, very top. My nose started to bleed (that's a joke), so I got bored and went and squished with Jon and his brothers for the first half. See photo from Jon's seat as teams line up to kick PAT. It was super, duper hot in the stands, but BYU took a convincing lead against an inferior opponent. The guy sitting next to us was really nice, but kind of annoying because he was trying to brainwash his 4-year old boy into becoming a fan of his alumni (like any good father would do). But he was nice enough to not get mad about how squished we all were since I didn't belong there.

In the second quarter, I got an invite from my arranged marriage friend to sit with her and her nieces. I went up there at halftime, and enjoyed the game from the highest seat in the south endzone. By 6 p.m. the stadium had cooled down and I downed two beverages to quench the sweating of the first half.

BYU played dismally in the 3rd quarter and allowed Northern Iowa (how big is Iowa?) to come within ten points. By the 4th quarter, order was restored as BYU won 41-17. To be honest, I didn't pay too much attention to the game as I was trying to catch up with this friend whom my parents wanted me to marry.

We chatted about what's happened the past 10 years of our lives. She speaks fluent Chinese and has been to Asia at least once a year during the past decade. She had a Chinese friend named Thomas with her (kind of an odd name for a guy who speaks no English, but I guess that is better than me trying to pronounce his name in Mandarin).

After the game, we said goodbye as she headed back to her sister's house in south Provo, and I gave my roommate a ride back up to Salt Lake. All in all, it was so nice to feel football in the air. In fact on Labor Day Monday, it rained all day long as summer officially ended and football season is finally here!

Later in the week: Average Joe sneaks into hated territory at Rice-Eccles stadium!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

2008 Average Joe's NFL Preview

The NFL season kicks off this week! Yes! I can't believe it's finally here.

It's time for predictions.

Every year, I swear the so-called "experts" sit there and pick their winners for the upcoming NFL season by just xeroxing a copy of the previous NFL season standings. They pick the same division winners in every division except either the NFC North or South, and that's it. Some of them even pick the same wild cards as the previous year. It's embarrassing. Everybody is afraid to go out on a limb -- except me, of course.

I've been doing my NFL research for the past 8 months. To make my bold predictions, I went through all 32 NFL rosters , scouring the teams for talent. Then I went to the schedules and counted to most definite LOSSES (not wins), calculating road teams and good teams coming to town.

To prove my point about lame "expert" predictions, I will chart the 2008 NFL predictions with the chart below. I will list the teams on how they finished last season. Then put up the expert picks for this upcoming season. ESPN stands for the writers at ESPN who didn't dare make one bold prediction. Then it will be Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z (SI), who has made bold predictions in the past and comes up laughably short (remember the Miami Dolphins two years ago?). Then I will post Tuesday Morning Quarterback, aka Gregg Easterbrook's predictions (TMQ). He is a very detailed writer, but can be a little cocky. Then finally, I will post Average Joe's predictions (JOE).

You will see that a lot of experts go 1, 2, 3, 4 in a lot of divisions. And most pick the exact division winners from a year ago. Wow, don't go too far out on that limb ESPN!

(Note: click on the chart to make bigger if it's difficult to read)

In recent years, the trend has been not to pick the Super Bowl winner, (because believe me, nobody thought the New York Giants would win it all last year, not even Giants fans), but to pick the surprise team. We call this the sleeper. Last year nobody saw Cleveland and Green Bay winning double-digit games. In 2006, the sleepers were the Jets and the Saints.

Who is it going to be this year? The boldest prediction I have heard is from Aaron Schatz in ESPN The Magazine who said it was going to be the Houston Texans. Good choice. They've never made the playoffs, they have drafted a very explosive, young defense and they have a good running game that mimics the Denver Broncos (who have had some of the best running stats in the past decade).

The Arizona Cardinals are getting some buzz, as always, but it's the cardinal (pun intended) rule not to pick them as a sleeper. The Oakland Raiders have a very easy schedule, but until owner Al Davis croaks or sells the team, you can't count on them.

This season's true sleepers are the Raiders, Dolphins, Falcons, Chiefs, 49ers, Rams, Texans, Ravens and Lions. I liked the Rams, but they've been picked too many times.

I picked the Ravens to win the division. It's my homer pick. But heck, when Kyle Boller started as a rookie, the Ravens won the division. Why not new rookie QB Joe Flacco?

My official sleeper pick is the Detroit Lions. Picking them makes me cringe, mainly because general manager Matt Millen still runs the team. But they do have the best quarterback in their division. Wide receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson are studs. I love Jim Colletto as an offensive coordinator (RB Jamal Lewis ran for 2,066 yards when Colletto was the offensive line coach with the Ravens in 2003). They can simply outscore the other teams in their division. Plus, they've been cursed since Barry Sanders retired. They're due.

My Super Bowl pick? The Cowboys (as a wild card) over the Colts. The Patriots are susceptible to the pass, and Indy will surely expose that weakness in the playoffs. Dallas needs to go in as a wildcard so Romo won't crap the bed. Plus, I'd love to see Wade Phillips retire on top. I've really grown to like "grandpa" Wade watching HBO's Hard Knocks.