08 November 2013

First Quarter NFL Report in 2013

AFC East: New England holds a tenuous lead by one game, including winning both divisional games so far. However, Miami remains on the Patriots’ heels.  The Patriots have yet to play the Dolphins who are only one game behind in the standings.

AFC North: This race consists of a three-way bottleneck for first place. Each of that trio has won a divisional game so far. The Ravens lead by a nose since they have yet to lose a game within the division. In contrast, the Browns and Bengals have split their two divisional games so far. With the 0-4 start, Pittsburgh has completely fallen out of contention.

AFC South: Indianapolis has edged slightly past Tennessee due to a divisional win while the Titans lost their only AFC South game so far. That loss to Houston keeps the Texans within striking distance despite trailing those other two teams. The Jaguars are already planning to relocate more games out of Jacksonville; could a move to Los Angeles be forthcoming?

AFC West: Denver and Kansas City have set themselves on a collision course with each other to win the division. They have the best records in the AFC. It seems certain that one will win the division while the other claims the higher wildcard. 

NFC East: This quartet appears as the weakest by far of all of the divisions. None have a winning record. In fact, these four have only two wins in total versus opponents outside of the division. This division is going to give ammunition to those who wish to base playoff seedings solely on teams' records without any consideration given to divisional winners.

NFC South: The Saints are on pace to wrap up the divisional championship before Thanksgiving Day. With at least a three and a half game lead on everyone in the division plus wins in both divisional games played so far, New Orleans will soon claim this title.

NFC West: This race is closer than it appears at first glance. The last place team, Saint Louis, sits only two games out of first place and has a 1-1 divisional record. The Rams could make up that deficit and more with both games against first place Seattle remaining.  


2013 Halftime Report for the National Football League

Since every team in the National Football League has now played at least half of its regular season games, a review the results and standings is warranted. 

AFC East: The Jets are still within striking distance of the Patriots but have little room for error. New York needs to break its "win one, lose one" routine and go on a winning streak, especially in the three remaining divisional games. Additionally, the Jets need the Bills or Dolphins to upset New England, which would give the Jets a tiebreaker advantage if the Jets win those three key games. This is New England's divisional crown to lose. Buffalo is destined to continue the NFL's longest current streak without a playoff appearance. Miami will be further distracted by its bullying scandal. 

AFC North: Cincinnati holds a precarious two game lead over Cleveland and two and a half game lead over Baltimore in the standings.  However, the Bengals lost the first meeting versus the Browns. Also, the Bengals have yet to play the Ravens. If Cincinnati loses again to Cleveland and at least once to Baltimore, this race will tighten up considerably.    

AFC South: Indianapolis continuing its two game cushion over Tennessee will depend considerably on how the Colts fare versus the Titans in their two games against each other. A sweep by the Titans would possibly swing the divisional crown into their clutches. Houston will need a miraculously long string of wins just to sneak into contention for the playoffs. Jacksonville is destined to receive the first or second pick in next spring's NFL draft. 

AFC West: The race between Kansas City and Denver developed early in the season as a question of which team would win the division with the other settling for the higher wildcard. These two will face each twice in the span of fifteen days. If one team sweeps, that team will most likely grab the divisional championship as well as the top seed in the AFC playoffs.  

NFC East: At first glance, it appears that Dallas holds a precarious lead of one game over Philadelphia and one and of a half over Washington. However, the Cowboys can do no worse than splitting their series versus its fellow division members after having beaten each one once already. In contrast, the other three teams have lost two games within the division. The Cowboys could still fritter away their shot at the playoffs with games at New Orleans, New York, Chicago and Washington remaining. A loss or two by the Cowboys, especially to the Eagles or Redskins, will endanger Dallas' playoff hopes. 

NFC North: This race stands out as the tightest by far in the NFL. Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago have identical overall and divisional records. Each one in that trio has defeated one of the other two and lost to the other. The Lions hold a slender lead in terms of tie-breakers with the strongest conference record, four wins and two losses, compared to the Bears having split their six games with the NFC and to three wins in five conference games for the Packers. Fans should expect this race to go undecided until the last weekend of the season. 

NFC South: The Saints' cruising toward the divisional championship hits two recent speed bumps. Meanwhile, Carolina's streak of four victories has launched the Panthers just one game behind the Saints. These two will settle the championship in December when they will face each other twice in three weeks. The Falcons have crashed and burned. The Bucs will receive the other draft pick not allotted to the other decrepit team a few hours drive to the north of Tampa Bay.

NFC West: The Seahawks have pulled slightly ahead of the Forty-Niners, mostly due to Seattle's victory over San Francisco in September. If San Francisco can win their rematch, this race may not be settled until late December. If Seattle wins the game, the Seahawks can afford a loss versus another opponent. 


01 November 2013

Review of NCAA Football in October of 2013

After the second month of the 2013 college football season, the early intra-conference games have filtered out the pretenders. As a result, only one conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference,  has more than one undefeated team remaining. Two possible non-automatic qualifiers remain undefeated. However, each conference has at least one team with one loss who can still win the conference crown with no help from others. In some cases, teams with two losses might manage to seize their conferences' crowns.  Plenty of drama and the possibility of upsets remain!

A potential disaster looms if teams currently without losses in the six major conferences (Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Baylor and either Florida State and Miami) all finish with perfect records. That scenario excludes two other possibly undefeated teams, Fresno State and Northern Illinois. Excluding multiple teams without any losses  from the national title game seems like a suitably cruel way to bring the curtain down on the BCS system. The BCS has rarely produced an undisputed match-up for the national championship. Why would anyone expect that to change in its final year of existence? 

American Athletic Conference: In the final year with an automatic bid for this tenuous collection of remnants of the Big East Conference and escapees from Conference USA, the race is wide open. Houston and Central Florida are the only members undefeated in conference play. However, four other teams here have just one loss in conference. The Cougars still have yet to pay three of those four in addition to UCF. Assuming the Knights, on their own home field following an open date, can defeat Houston,  UCF should breeze into regular season finale versus Southern Methodist with the conference championship and a BCS berth mostly likely already secured. 

Atlantic Coast Conference: At last, the ACC's two highest profile programs will face each other like they did before they were in the same conference. Both Florida State and Miami enter their annual grudge match undefeated and ranked in the top ten. Barring both of these teams being upset by any of the mediocre to horrible teams left on their conference slates, the ACC's bigwigs will finally enjoy what they expected since ten years ago: the Seminoles and Hurricanes squaring off as divisional winners with a possible shot at reaching the national title game for the winner. 

Big Twelve: In 2003, someone predicting that, ten years in the future, the Big Twelve's greatest chance of landing a team in the BCS title game rested in the hands of Baylor would have been outfitted with a straitjacket for some intensive mental health treatments. From serving as a guaranteed win for everyone else in the conference to being the sole undefeated member heading into November shows how high out of the muck the Bears have soared. Nevertheless, the Bears' shot at playing in Pasadena for the final BCS title seems very unlikely at best. They have yet to play the only other undefeated team in conference games (Texas) nor any of the one-loss conference members. We can expect to see a split conference title with plenty of grumbling about who ends up playing in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Big Ten: Ohio State is the odds-on favorite to finish the season undefeated and represent the conference as its champion in Pasadena in January. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that appears to mean playing on New Year's Day instead of in the BCS title game. Barring losses by every member of the six automatic qualifying conference, Ohio State seems to have no chance of playing for the national championship. Their weak non-conference slate combined with the poor performance of their conference mates in September translates to a dim view by the voters and computers of their worthiness. Also, the Buckeyes face the unenviable task of beating the same team twice in as many weeks if Michigan wins the Legends Division. 

Conference USA: North Texas can remain in contention for the Western Divisional title by defeating Rice. If not, the winner of the regular season finale between the Owls and Green Wave will claim the division. In the East, the race is more competitive. Alabama-Birmingham can remain in the hunt by defeating the other three teams ahead in the standings, Middle Tennessee, Marshall and East Carolina in the next three weeks. Otherwise, the winner of the game between the Herd and the Pirates at the end of the regular season will likely determine who represents the East in the CUSA championship game. 

Mid-American Conference: Buffalo controls its own destiny to win the East. Should the Bulls lose to either Ohio or Bowling Green, either of those team could easily grab the divisional crown from Buffalo. Northern Illinois should not let dreams of a second berth in a BCS bowl distract its team from clinching the West. The Huskies' game versus Ball State will likely settle the division though Toledo could muddle the race by defeating NIU.

Mountain West: Fresno also has a realistic shot at playing in a BCS bowl. The regular season closer at San Jose State appears to be the only formidable obstacle to wrapping up the division after victories over the other 1-loss teams in the division. Fresno State faces a possible re-match in the conference championship game versus Boise State, assuming the Broncos defeat Colorado State. If not, the Aggies or Rams might emerge as the opponent after the tie-breakers are applied to a jumble of three teams in first place.

Pacific Twelve: Oregon's race toward Pasadena on the sixth of January instead of on New Year's Day depends on finishing undefeated. The Ducks' immediate goals include beating the other teams in the North with just one loss within conference games, Stanford and Oregon State. Otherwise, Oregon could drop from its number two national ranking to playing in a consolation bowl elsewhere.

Southeastern Conference: Will Alabama tempt fate once again by losing a home game in November? In the past three seasons, the Tide has done so yet still won the national championship in the past two. If Alabama remains undefeated while Auburn does not lose again, the Iron Bowl will be even more drama-filled than usual. Year-long bragging rights and the divisional crown would be at stake! Despite its first loss of the season, Missouri still controls its own fate to win the Eastern Division. However, with a possible loss at Mississippi or in hosting Texas A&M, the race could be thrown into the air with the BCS standings choosing the representative heading to Atlanta. South Carolina and the winner between Florida and Georgia would still be lingering, ready to surge over the Tigers should they lose once again. 

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette finds itself in the driver's seat though precariously. The Cajuns still have yet to face the teams just one or a half of one game behind them, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe. Wins versus both of those will secure the championship for ULL.. A split of those two matches would increase greatly the odds of a shared title.