BSB’s 2014 NFL Preview

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2011, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance in 2012, winning 21-11.  However, Doogan took the title right back in 2013 with a pretty easy 18-14 win (post reposted just below this one updated with last year’s results).  This is now the seventh NFL preview we’ve done (which is HARD to believe) with Doogan holding a 4-2 all-time lead.  Bry needs this one and, fortunately for him, will get the #1 pick to try and do it.

1). BRY – Houston Texans – OVER 2 wins: It seems general practice in these things that the #1 pick is almost always the Over on one of the worst teams in the NFL the previous year.  I will not buck that trend, as there seems no way that the Texans can’t pick up 3 freaking wins.  I mean they have 5 games on their schedule that are against either the Jags, the Titans, or the Raiders.  Even if they go 2-3 in those 5, they only need to find one more win in the other 11 games.  With the addition of JaDaveon Clowney and the subtraction of Matt Schaub, this team HAS to be better than 2-14.

2). DOOGAN – Washington Redskins – OVER 3 wins: I’ll stay right there with you on a the bottom-feeders.  The defense looks like it will suck again, but there’s definitely reason to think the offense will be improved.  Our old friend D-Jax is a massive upgrade over the receivers they had opposite Pierre Garcon last year.  It’s a nice collection of weapons on offense, and a new coaching regime should be able to improve on what they produced last year.  I know there’s some hand-wringing going on over RGIII but he’ll probably be fine.

3). DOOGAN – Atlanta Falcons- OVER 4 wins: I don’t think I’m as bullish on the Falcons as many (I don’t think they’re a playoff team), but there’s no reason to think they aren’t better than a 4-win team.  They had injuries all over their offense last season, and with Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy, and with some new additions to the O-Line, they should be back to where they were in 2012, which means about 70 more points scored over the course of the season.  But the underrated story was the decline of their defense last year.  They’ve made some veteran additions there, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to turn it around.  They’ll hover around .500.

4). BRY – Carolina Panthers – UNDER 12 wins: Well, you took my next two picks.  Is it a bad sign that I already think this is getting tough?  I’m usually bullish on the Panthers, but not this year.  Their receiving corps is dreadful, unless you think the rookie Kelvin Benjamin can have a big year (and, if you know anything about rookie WRs, you don’t think that).  And, Cam is starting the season banged up.  Throw in the fact that every other team in this division looks markedly improved and you’ve got too much against this team for a really good defense to carry them anywhere near 12 wins again this year.  I think they’ll be lucky to hit 9 or 10, but more likely in the 7 or 8 area.

5).  DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – UNDER 11 wins: There were five that stood out to me as “easy” calls, this being the 5th.  We’ll see how many actually turn out to be that easy.  This is a situation where the Chiefs were obviously not as good as the 11 wins indicates.  Not only did they finish the regular season 2-5 after the 9-0 start, but of all those 11 wins they beat exactly one playoff team (the Eagles way back in Week 3).  They won’t get the favors from the schedule this year, especially matching up with the NFC West.  That’s bad news for the offense, who lost a couple offensive line starters and versatile playmaker Dexter McCluster and replaced them with…basically nothing.  A strong (if maybe overrated) defense and a very pedestrian offense against a tough schedule.  They’ll be under .500.

6). BRY – Green Bay Packers – OVER 8 wins: There are few organizations in sports (and maybe none in the NFL) as well-run as the Green Bay Packers.  They have the history coupled with constant relevance.  They have a rabid fanbase that is pure, loyal, and local.  And, most importantly, they have – in my opinion – the single best football player on the planet.  They missed that player for 9 games last year and still won the division.  I’m not sold on the Lions or Bears and the Vikings are most likely not going to play a role in the division race, so I don’t see much chance that this division is not won by the guys from Green Bay.  Put me down for 10 or 11 wins, a division title, and quite possibly a surprise trip to the Super Bowl.

7). DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OVER 4 wins: Felt a lot better about this one when I remembered the massive upgrade they made at head coach, going from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith.  Smith is a proven defensive coach, so I’m not too worried about the loss of Darrelle Revis.  On offense, Josh McCown takes over at QB after playing really well in place of Jay Cutler in Chicago last year.  Granted, McCown won’t have the weapons he had with the Bears, but the cupboard isn’t bare with Vincent Jackson and 1st-Round pick Mike Evans in the receiving corps.  They also made some solid improvements on the O-line with two free agent additions and the big trade yesterday that netted them All-Pro guard Logan Mankins from New England.  They can definitely get to 8 wins.

8). BRY – Cleveland Browns – OVER 4 wins: I think this is the third straight year that I have taken the Browns and the Over.  And, this will probably be the third straight year that I get it wrong.  You know how hard it is to get worse in the NFL 3 straight years?  Well, this year I’m taking them not because of Johnny f’ing Football (that guy sucks), but because I think they might have a Top 5 defense.  Yes, top 5.  They did lose the underrated D’Qwell Jackson, but that might be a bigger deal for the Jackson Greys than the Cleveland Browns.  Joe Haden is an ELITE corner.  Justin Gilbert – their first-round pick – could walk right in and be adequate on the other side.  Barkavious Mingo is in his second year and a possible stud in the making.  And, they added some attitude with Donte Hitner (formerly Whitner, but officially changed his legal name because he “hits” so hard).  And, I think with what they lack in offensive weapons, they can negate some of that with their elite offensive line, including Joe Thomas – maybe the best O-lineman in football.  I’ll be realistic and only ask for 6 wins, but that’s more than 4.

9). DOOGAN – San Francisco 49ers – UNDER 12 wins: Not my usual move to go Under this early on a really good team, but I see red flags all over the place with this team.  First, the more concrete problems.  Three of their four starters in the secondary have left in free agency and the replacements are a mix of unproven and past their prime (Antoine Bethea).  At linebacker, Aldon Smith is a disaster off the field and we’ll see if he even plays the 11 games he did last year.  All-Pro freak Navorro Bowman (PSU alum, I must add) is out for at least half the year and will not be 100% when he does come back after blowing out his knee.  So, all of a sudden, this great defense has some real concerns.  I don’t like the Kaepernick off-the-field distractions.  Not good from your quarterback.  And, finally, there’s been so many rumors about Harbaugh wanting out and trying to get to a new team.  Who knows, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and it’s a distraction and also maybe says something about how Harbaugh views this team moving forward.  OK, that’s my long-winded way of saying the Niners are dropping from 12 wins to 10 this year.

10). BRY – Cincinnati Bengals – UNDER 11 wins: Doogan, I think you’ve literally taken my next pick every single time.  But, anyway, let’s continue my recent trend of duplicating wrong picks I made last year.  I took the Bengals Under-10 last year, and they won 11.  So, I’m doubling-down here this year.  They might still win this division (though, I would definitely take the field), but I think that Mike Zimmer made more of a difference than people may realize on the defensive side.  I think that they take a slight step back defensively and nothing forward offensively.  Plus, 11 is a pretty big number in a relatively tough division.  10, tops, for this Bengals team.

11). DOOGAN – Denver Broncos – UNDER 13 wins: I don’t feel great about this at all, and they burned me last year, but I’ll go for it again.  Peyton threw a ridiculous 55 touchdowns last year.  Can the offense keep up that sort of production?  Every historical precedent says no.  Peyton’s a year older, Eric Decker is gone, Welker already has another concussion this year, there are legit questions with the running backs.  I know, Manning is not like other mere mortals and even at 38 he can probably take guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Monte Ball and make them stars.  But the schedule will get tougher this year as they matchup with the NFC West.  Logic says they’ll step back to 11-5.

12). BRY – Arizona Cardinals – UNDER 10 wins: I really don’t know what to think about the Cardinals.  Their defense seems terrific, but they lost Daryl Washington for the season due to a drug suspension, and I think they may have overachieved a little bit last year.  But, even if they’re the ’85 Bears or ’91 Eagles, they play in the best division in football with Carson Palmer at QB.  10 seems like an awfully big number to me.

13). DOOGAN – Detroit Lions – OVER 7 wins: They have a basically league-average defense in Detroit with just about all the same guys back from last year.  A great front led by Suh and Ziggy Ansah, with some shaky secondary play.  On offense, you think of them as really good but they somehow ranked just 13th in the league in points last year.  Put those things together and 7 wins makes sense.  I’ll bet on the offense improving.  I’m not totally sold on Stafford and maybe he’s the problem, but they have the best receiver in the league, two nice running backs, and they’ve added solid Golden Tate opposite Megatron and 10th overall pick Eric Ebron at tight end.  They look more like a 9-10 win team.

14). BRY – Seattle Seahawks – UNDER 13 wins: The defending Super Bowl champs look fantastic in the preseason and are the odds-on favorites to win again this year.  And, I think that if you gave me the same odds on every team to win the Super Bowl, I would probably take Seattle.  But, winning the Super Bowl and winning 13 regular season games are two very different things.  13 is just a huge number.  And, the past decade or so hasn’t been too kind to teams coming off Super Bowl appearances.  I think they still win the NFC West rather handily and probably even homefield advantage.  But, I think there’s a better chance of 12-4 or worse than another 13-3 season.

15). DOOGAN – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 11 wins: The Colts have two big things going for them:  Andrew Luck and playing in a really weak division.  But what else do they really have?  They made no significant improvements to their roster in the offseason, apparently operating under the assumption that their young core will just get better and they already won 11 games, so why worry?  That’s just not really how it works in the NFL.  Especially when you have Reggie Wayne trying to come back from a blown knee at age 35 and Robert Mathis coming off a monster season, but one in which he was suspended late for performance-enhancing drugs.  Throw in the fact that Houston figures to be much better as a divisonal foe, and it’s easy to see these guys dropping to 9-7.

16). BRY – Minnesota Vikings – OVER 5 wins: I don’t think the Vikes are all that good, and I don’t think they’re a playoff team.  But, I do think that they have a relatively workable schedule, one of the best players of our generation, and a pretty low bar of 5 wins.  Plus, we don’t know how much this new outdoors Minneapolis homefield is going to treat them in November and December.  The Vikes won’t be all that relevant, but I think 5 wins is probably the low-end of their possibilities.  Put me down for a 6-10 or 7-9 Vikings team.

17). DOOGAN – New York Jets – UNDER 8 wins: There’s some talk around the Jets this season that goes something like:  Hey, Geno Smith looked good in the preseason.  And he has Chris Johnson and Eric Decker as new weapons to use.  And the defense is always good.  So…they should be pretty good, right?  Admittedly, not a ton of people are buying into that talk, and I’m not one of them.  I’ll believe it when I see it with this offense, and the defense was actually NOT all that good last year (19th in points allowed), and they’ve made no improvements to that side of the ball.  I’ve never been a big Rex Ryan believer, and I think this is his final go-round at the Meadowlands.

18). BRY – Pittsburgh Steelers – OVER 8 wins: If you’ve focused predominantly on the Eagles this preseason, then (a) I don’t blame you, they look great and (b) you might have a warped sense of who the Steelers are this year.  They looked really bad in the all-important 3rd preseason game against the Eagles.  So bad, in fact, that they kept their first teams out there well into the second half against all the Eagles #2s – and still couldn’t get anything done.  But, I think that that game was an anomaly, and I actually might declare the Steelers as my pick to win what should be a pretty intense 3-team race in the AFC North.  I think Roethlisberger is an underappreciated star (and world-class human being, obviously), and the team looked really good down the stretch last year.  They lost Emmanuel Sanders to Denver, but he wasn’t that important.  And, the under-the-radar aspect of their 8-8 2013 season is that they had NO running game.  But, this year Laveon Bell could make the leap, and they added a nice complement in LaGarrette Blount (all blunt jokes aside).  And, maybe the biggest upgrade should be on a defense that started to look old last year, but added some key pieces, including first-round pick, Ryan Shazier, who, by all accounts looks like a star from the jump.  And, they have the best d-coordinator to ever live still running that side of the ball.  I think they win the division, which means at least 9 wins.

19).  DOOGAN – Dallas Cowboys – UNDER 8 wins: Can Dallas go 8-8 for the fourth straight year?  Fortunately, I don’t think so.  I can’t deny that they have a decent enough offense, even if Romo is the biggest choke artist in sports at the moment.  But this defense might be worst in football, and that’s just not gonna get you a winning record.  I used to really hate Jerry Jones, but I’ve come around on him.  In fact, I hope he keeps owning (and making football decisions for) the Cowboys for a long, long time.

20). BRY – Jacksonville Jaguars – OVER 4 wins: This is not a good team…at all.  But, 5 wins are not that many in a league of parity.  And, they looked pretty solid at the end of the year last season – when they actually had legitimate NFL quarterback play.  This year they will start with the serviceable Chad Henne and probably enter the incredibly promising rookie, Blake Bortles (who has been excellent in the preseason).  I also think that – gasp – Toby Gerhart might actually be an upgrade to the aging MJD.  The defense is still a work in progress, but coming along – particularly on the defensive line, where they have a stable of excellent “big uglies” to rotate in.  Put me down for 6 wins down in Jacksonville this year.  Fortunately, one of them will NOT be Week One.

21).  DOOGAN – New England Patriots – UNDER 12 wins: Damn you, Bry.  I really tried not to end up betting against the Pats.  I looked hard at every other team still on the board here, but I just couldn’t leave this big number out there anymore.  You waited me out on this one.  It’s Belichick.  It’s Brady.  There’s no reason to think they can’t win 12 games.  But most of the numbers left on the board are just so hard to call one way or the other.

22). BRY – St. Louis Rams – UNDER 7 wins: Yep, I waited just long enough (I had them next up, too).  Instead, I’ll bet on double-digit losses from the worst team in a division before they lost their starting QB for the season.  Granted, Sam Bradford isn’t exactly an extreme difference-maker, but he is better than Shaun Hill, and the margin for error for this Rams team isn’t much in this division.  Their defense is terrific, but I still see 6-10 for this team.

23).  DOOGAN – Baltimore Ravens – OVER 8 wins: This division is very hard to predict, and it won’t be at all surprising if only one team ends up above .500.  If we’re just looking at franchise pedigree, it’s fair to bet against the Bengals being that team for the second straight year.  That leaves us with the Ravens and Steelers.  Bry has already hitched his wagon in this division with the Steel.  I’ll go with the Ravens to recover (somewhat) from their Super Bowl hangover of a year ago and scrap their way back atop the AFC North.

24). BRY – Chicago Bears – OVER 8 wins: I already have the Overs on the Packers and Vikings, and Doogan has the Over on the Lions, so I guess it’s fair to say that we think the NFC North will be vastly improved.  I do not like this defense all that much, as the worst defense in Bears history lost Julius Peppers.  But, the offense could be sensational.  The weapons around a healthy Jay Cutler are tremendous with top-5 RB Matt Forte and two elite wideouts in Marshall and Jeffrey.  Throw in a solid (but lazy) TE in Martellus Bennett and a lottery card in Santonio Holmes, and I think this offense could be one of the best in football.  Does that mean a division title or a dozen wins?  Probably not.  But, I could see 9+ as more likely than .500 or below.

25). DOOGAN – Miami Dolphins – OVER 8 wins: Part of my plan for this pick (and my Pats Under pick) is to have the Dolphins knock off the Pats at home this Sunday.  There’s obviously an opening for somebody to be the second-best team in this division, and while there’s obviously no guarantee that that second place team will have a winning record, I’ll say Miami pulls it off.  A pretty decent defense combined with a young quarterback who now has two full years of starting experience, minus the circus sideshow of whatever happened with that Martin/Incognito thing last year.  A lot of easy wins on the slate (Bills and Jets twice, Raiders, Jags, Vikings).  9-7 season for the Fins.

26). BRY – Oakland Raiders – OVER 4 wins: This is probably the worst team in football, and they were not made any better in the short-term when they named rookie 2nd-round pick Derrick Carr as the starter Week One against the Jets.  They are an old, cap-strapped team that doesn’t have any talent or any real hope for the future.  BUT…the NFL is a league with a very strong pull towards mediocrity, so I will just pray that this team somehow scrapes out 5 wins in the process of being the worst team – on paper – in the league.

27). DOOGAN – Philadelphia Eagles – UNDER 10 wins: We’ve reached the point where if you asked me to throw out my best guess for how many games any of the teams left will win, I’m pretty sure I would say the exact number that they won last year.  I wouldn’t say I’m “down” on the Birds (like I was last year), because I think they’ll win 10 games and the division and be a tough out in January.  BUT, I look at this schedule, and I just think 9 wins is more likely than 11.  You can talk about the division being easy, but NFC East games are usually pretty tough, and there may be no total pushovers in the bunch.  Throw in four games against the NFC West and road games at Green Bay and Indy, and you can find a lot of losses out there if you’re looking for them.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the defense makes a big improvement, but I don’t have a ton of reason to think that’s coming.

28). San Diego Chargers – OVER 9 wins: I got talked into this one by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders.  Apparently, the arrows are all pointing in the right direction for the Chargers and he said “It wouldn’t shock me if they were 13-3.”  Huh?!?!?!?  But, I will take his word for it because I agree with Doogan in that every pick left of the board looks like it will hit the number.  But, the Chiefs are falling back and the Raiders stink, so the Chargers are clearly the 2nd-best team in the division.  Yes, they get the NFC West, but this is a relatively young team with a potential star coach in Mike McCoy (who should have been coach of the year last year, in my opinion), so I guess I’ll take the Chargers for double-digit wins…cringe.  PS…Doogan, I would have gone OVER on the Birds, so thanks for keeping the site relatively objective.

29). DOOGAN – New Orleans Saints – UNDER 11 wins: Starting in ’09 and skipping the season where Sean Payton was suspended and everything went crazy for them, the Saints win totals have gone 13, 11, 13, 11.  So, does that mean they’re headed for 13 wins this year?  Very possibly!  Are those numbers a good reason to go Under here on 11?  No!  But whatever, when you think the number is right it makes sense to go below on a big number.  Can the Saints defense match the solid year they had last year?  Maybe, but they were the worst defense in the league two years ago, so we’ll see.

30). BRY – Tennessee Titans – OVER 7 wins: We’re just throwing darts here, right?  I like Jake Locker (and, I might be the only one…), and I think the AFC South is the worst division in football.  4 games with Jacksonville and Houston will help, and I don’t think Indy is unbeatable.  Plus, they get to play the second-worst division in the league, the NFC East, as well.  I think 8 wins is more likely than 6 wins, so I’ll take the Over on 7.

31). DOOGAN – New York Giants – UNDER 7 wins: I actually feel pretty good about my last pick here, and not just because of Under on the G-Men.  It would be hard to argue that this team is really any good, so Under on a mid-range number seems pretty clear.  The O-Line was a disaster last year and they’ve brought in new people, but that doesn’t mean it’s fixed.  They have nobody at running back and a rookie starting at wide-out opposite Victor Cruz.  I don’t see a mid-30’s Eli being able to do much with this group around him.  They lost Linval Joseph and a still-decent Justin Tuck from a defense that was already pretty poor.  Probably the farewell tour for Tom Coughlin at the Meadowlands.

32). BRY – Buffalo Bills – UNDER 6 wins: Yeah, I have been weighing the Giants Under for about 10 picks now, but just couldn’t do it because I feel like I make that pick every year, and every year I look like a Giants hater (which is totally true).  But, as I am stuck here with the last pick, I would love to call a push here, as 6-10 sounds exactly right.  But, honestly, for a 32nd pick, this isn’t terrible because there is no way this team wins 7+, so I just have to dodge 6-10 to get a point here, which is probably a coin flip.  E.J. Manual stinks – as evidenced by their signing of Kyle Orton out of retirement.  But, the defense is probably good enough to make me sweat this out.

BSB’s 2013 NFL Preview

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2012, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance, taking last year’s contest, 21-11. Doogan will try to rebound here in 2013, as he gets the first pick this year.

1) DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – OVER 2 wins: Big Red lives! Everyone’s acting like Alex Smith is a Hall of Fame quarterback just because he’s replacing guys that were a disaster. I’m not sure he’ll be all that good but, despite what we saw in Philly a year ago, Andy knows how to coach an offense. And the defense is fairly loaded, led by one of my favorite non-Eagles in the league, Tamba Hali. Some are saying they could go from the bottom of the league to a playoff berth. Let’s just call it 6-10, though.

FINAL RECORD: 11-5
DOOGAN 1 – BRY 0
Doogan takes an easy point here, as the Coach Reid coaches ‘em up to 11 wins and a playoff berth.  Doogan even undershot this first pick.

2). BRY – Philadelphia Eagles – OVER 4 wins: It is not interesting to most that I would take the home team here because I always seem overly bullish on the Eagles. But, it is interesting to me because I seem like a bit of a wet blanket when talking about the Birds this year. I think they are still a ways away from serious contention (though, this division is just bad enough to change our definition of “contention”). That being said, I think that this team had WAY more than 4-win talent last year, and I think they have WAY more than 4-win talent this year. They may even have a playoff-caliber offense. The defense is quite suspect, but the schedule is really soft. Put me down for 6 or 7 wins for the Birds with the needle firmly pointed upwards.

FINAL RECORD: 10-6
BRY 1 – DOOGAN 1
Bry also picks up an easy point with his first pick – undershooting this one, as well.  The one and only Coach Kelly turned a 4-win team into a division champ.  Fly, Eagles, Fly!

Continue reading “BSB’s 2013 NFL Preview”

BSB’s 2012 NFL Preview

UPDATE 8-27-13…Final Results Below in RED

(Originally posted 9-4-12)
For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative.  What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record.  Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting.  It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect.  Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about.  Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version.  In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score.  And, then last year, Doogan absolutely dominated, 19-13, to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview.  Bry is trying to get back some dignity from last year’s brutal defeat.

So, on to this year’s NFL Preview, BSB-style.  Doogan picked first last year, so Bry is on the clock…

1). BRY – Green Bay Packers – UNDER 15 wins: This is not because I think the Packers got any worse.  And, it is not because I do not think they are the best team in the NFC – I think they absolutely are.  I also think that their defense will be a lot better this year than last, and their offense should be just as explosive, with the game’s best player leading the way.  So, have I lost my mind picking the Pack and the UNDER with my #1 pick?  Maybe.  But, I just believe that, no matter how good you are, everything has to go right to win 15+ games in the NFL.  I still think they will probably win 13, maybe 14.  But, I will wager against them winning 15 again…this from a guy who got his first pick wrong last year…

FINAL: 11-5…Bry 1-0
Pretty comfortable point for Bry here with the #1 pick, as the Pack was good, but not 15-1 good.  Bry even oversold them at 13 or 14 wins.

2) DOOGAN – San Francisco 49ers – UNDER 13 wins: I’ve said before, my favorite teams to pick against in this game are the ones that made a big leap the previous year.  The Niners jumped from 6 to 13 wins last year, and rarely is a franchise’s ascendance that easy.  Maybe Jim Harbaugh is the next Lombardi or Belichick or something, but meeting the now high expectations will be a challenge.  The defense is top-notch, but can Alex Smith repeat last season’s success? Doubt it.  Will Randy Moss contribute or just be an poor performing distraction?  I say the latter.  With road games at the Packers, Jets, Saints, and Pats on the slate, the easy divisional competition is off-set.  Niners repeat as division champs, with 10 wins.

FINAL: 11-4-1…Doogan 1-1
The NFC Champion 49ers actually score a point for Doogan on the UNDER, as they “only” picked up 11 wins.  Doogan’s division champs and 10 win prediction was very close.

Continue reading “BSB’s 2012 NFL Preview”

2013 MLB Preview: BSB-Style

It is upon us.  The dawn of the baseball season is here.  And, after an interminable Spring Training, we are more than ready.  And, here at BSB, as has been the norm, we will kick off our baseball coverage with our unique style of preview.  We will go back and forth trying to pick teams that will be better or worse than they were in 2012.

This will be the sixth season that we do this.  Bry won the first three of them, but Doogan has responded with two convincing wins in a row, including a 17-13 win in 2012.

The interesting part of the 2012 preview is that both of us missed our first picks.  Doogan took the Over 72 on the Marlins at #1, and Bry took the Over 56 on the Astros at #2.  Since Doogan went #1 last year, Bry will get the first pick in 2013.

FINAL SCORES posted below in RED.

1. BRY- Toronto Blue Jays – OVER 73 wins: Stop me when this sounds familiar.  The team I’m taking a team at #1 that has been an afterthought in a good division for at least a decade now.  But, they have blown away the rest of the league with their offseason acquisitions, including SS Jose Reyes and SP Mark Buehrle.  They also enter the year with a brand-new manager.  No, I didn’t learn from Doogan’s Marlins mistake last year, and I suckered into the Blue Jays.  That being said, while I think they’re a safe bet to go over 73 wins, I do not think that this is some juggernaut all of a sudden.  Think about it – they added the core of a 69-win team last year plus the NL Cy Young Award winner, who just so happens to be 38 years old and not exactly “well-established.”  I’d like to pump the brakes on the Blue Jays as World Series favorites, but I will take my chances on them being better than they were a year ago.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Bry, 1-0
Bry bought into all the hype, and it almost bit him, but he barely avoids having the #1 pick lose for the second straight year.

2. DOOGAN – Baltimore Orioles – UNDER 93 wins: No major roster changes here, just a team that greatly overachieved a year ago and should’ve won at least 10 games less than they did, based on run differential.  With a rotation fronted by the likes of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, and in the AL East, I have to think you’re winning much less than 93 games.

2013 Record:  85-77
POINT:  Doogan, 1-1
Doogan, cruises with his first pick, as this one never really looked in trouble. 

3. DOOGAN – New York Yankees – UNDER 95 wins: So our first three picks are all from the AL East.  The hits this team has taken to its lineup are well-documented: ARod could miss the year, Granderson broke his arm, Teixeira is out for a while, Jeter’s coming back from injury.  But I also don’t have confidence in this pitching staff.  I’m not convinced that Kuroda can match what he did last year, Andy Pettitte is overdue to run out of gas, I’m not ready to say that Phil Hughes will be good.  And I hate to doubt Mariano, but he is coming back from a major injury in his 40’s.

2013 Record:  85-77
POINT:  Doogan, 2-1
Doogan hits the Under on back-to-back 85-win AL East teams with another somewhat comfortable point here.

4. BRY – Boston Red Sox – OVER 69 wins: If nothing else, I’m a man who loves a good theme, so let’s make it four in a row from the AL East.  A Red Sox team that didn’t win 70 games?  Almost impossible to believe for this generation.  I can’t imagine that will happen again.  They are probably not serious contenders for any banners in 2013, but if the reports are right on John Lackey’s fitness are anywhere near accurate, and they can get anything remotely close to the “old” John Lester or Clay Bucholz then this pitching staff should be much improved.  And, they do still have Pedroia, as well as adding a now healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, our old friend Shane Victorino, and some guy named Jackie Bradley, who has been tearing up the Grapefruit League.  Alright, Doogan, be a man and make a pick on Tampa…

2013 Record:  97-65
POINT:  Bry, 2-2
The four straight AL East teams to start the draft all hit, as Bry grabs the easiest point in the whole draft here at #4.

5. DOOGAN – Oakland A’s – UNDER 94 wins: Sorry, can’t go Tampa here.  I’ll take a team that is in sort of in the Baltimore mold, even though I think they’re pretty clearly better than Baltimore.  Still, a young team that overachieved last year and is in a tough division.  Pitchers like Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone kind of came out nowhere last year and should regress.  I don’t see Brandon Moss being .950 OPS guy again.  The bullpen is good, but probably not as good as they were last year, either.  Easily could be a third place team in this division.

2013 Record:  96-66
POINT:  Bry, 3-2
Our first missed pick comes in at #5, as the A’s continue to shock even the most ardent baseball fans with their winning ways.

6. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 61 wins: Just playing the numbers here.  The Cubbies aren’t good, but they’re also not 100-loss bad.  Starlin Castro is  going to be the most unimpressive 3,000-hit guy in baseball history, when it’s all said and done, but he’s still a SS who gets 200 hits every year, which kind of kills any argument against him being a franchise player (though, I continue to make them).  Their rotation isn’t terrible now that they added Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman to Matt Garza and Jeff Samardz…however it’s spelled…and Travis Wood.  So, if they even get 100 starts from those five (very consevative), I think they could win 40-45 of those, leaving only about 20 more wins to find somewhere. Again, they’re not good, but should give me 65-70 wins, at minimum.

2013 Record:  66-96
POINT:  Bry, 4-2
It wasn’t easy the whole way, but Bry called for 65-70 wins, got 66, and takes the point and the lead.

7. DOOGAN – Cleveland Indians – OVER 68 wins: It was an active offseason for the Tribe.  They didn’t upgrade the pitching staff much, which is a pretty huge concern.  Still, this is a strong lineup with the likes of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher joining Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis.  Bourn and Drew Stubbs give them a pretty fantastic defensive outfield and a nice dose of speed.  Only the Mariners scored less runs in the AL last year.  That will change, and this team will win 75 games.

2013 Record:  92-70
POINT:  Doogan, 3-4
The second-best pick of the draft (behind BOS) was the Indians, as Doogan takes an easy one here to climb back within 1.

8. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 72 wins: Since I make this pick every year, I might as well get it over with early enough, so I don’t have to stare at it every time I want to make another pick.  This year, I mean it, though, this team could be good.  The offense is actually somewhat solid, particularly the underrated Billy Butler, the uber-talented Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and the somehow always forgotten, Alex Gordon, who only led the majors in doubles last year.  And, as we all know, they acquired a total horse at the front of the rotation in James Shields.  But, as people may not know, they also brought in new #2, #3, and #4 starters in Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis.  It remains to be seen if they actually pitch like #2-4 starters, but at least they don’t have to throw Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar out there are their top 2 starters any more.

2013 Record:  86-76
POINT:  Bry, 5-3
Bry FINALLY get the Royals Over correct, as KC was actually in contention for much of the season.

9. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – UNDER 97 wins: Really a strong team with a ton of talent, but this pick is more than just “picking under on a big number.”  Even though they have enough in place to contend for a championship, the bottom line is that this is no juggernaut than can be expected to get back to upper-90’s in wins.  The starting rotation is very solid, but there isn’t any ace.  I know Johnny Cueto was one last year, but let’s see him do it again before we call him an ace.  Ryan Ludwick is a rock solid hitter, but if he’s your cleanup hitter, I have my doubts about how good your line-up really is.  Again, it’s a good team, but not a great team, so I feel pretty good about Under on this big a number.

2013 Record:  90-72
POINT:  Doogan, 4-5
A 90-win season in Cincinnati was still a 7-game deprovement for the Redlegs, and Doogan wins on a solid pick here. 

10. BRY – Texas Rangers – UNDER 93 wins: It is amazing how quickly your “window” can close in this game.  I’m not saying that the Rangers can’t get that elusive championship, but it looks like they are on the downside of the best opportunity this franchise has ever had.  Maybe Nelson Cruz should have, ya know, caught that fly ball that would have ended Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.  Anyway, by downgrading Josh Hamilton to Lance Berkman and Mike Napoli to A.J. Pierzynski, the juggernaut offense that this team has leaned on for this long run of dominance is not the same.  They also lost the heart and soul of their clubhouse in Michael Young.  And, without C.J. Wilson, whom they lost last offseason to free agency, and Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis, whom they lost this offseason to various injuries, their rotation looks – all of a sudden – rather pedestrian.  Unless Yu Darvish is a Cy Young-caliber pitcher and Matt Harrison and Derek Holland are borderline All-Stars, the front-end of this rotation may not make up for the gigantic question marks at the back-end.  They should be in the mix, but 93 is a big number for a team that is likely on the decline.

2013 Record:  91-71 (the one-game playoff loss to Tampa doesn’t count for our contest – though makes no difference in terms of scoring here)
POINT:  Bry, 6-4
Bry sweats out another right pick, as the guys hit 9 of their first 10 picks in 2013.

11. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Phillies – OVER 81 wins: It’s Opening Day, and as they say, hope springs eternal.  You can punch holes in this team and find plenty of weaknesses, but I definitely think they are being underrated by the national media coming into the season.  Hamels and Lee should be one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball.  I’m buying into the concern about Halladay, but the guy’s still two seasons removed from being Cy Young-caliber, so he still could turn in a really strong season.  I like (not love, but like) the bullpen, with the plan of Bastardo, Adams, Papelbon in the 7th, 8th, and 9th.  I think the lineup will be at least average, and when paired with pretty clearly above-average pitching, that makes for more than 81 wins, and I don’t think 90+ is at all out of the question.

2013 Record:  73-89
POINT:  Bry, 7-4
The optimism burns Doogan here, as the Phils limp to an 89-loss season just two years after winning 102…ugh.

12. BRY – Houston Astros – OVER 55 wins: This is a terrible team – one of the worst of our lifetimes (which may be why we passed on a 55-win line for 11 picks).  But, every night, the team will consist of 25 people who make their livelihoods playing baseball.  And, baseball – more than any other sport – rarely gives any team more than a 2-to-1 advantage on a given night.  Therefore, it is really, really hard to lose 107 games.  Granted, if any team I’ve ever seen can do it, it would be this one, but they’re 1-0 right now, so I just need 55 more wins to hit this over.  They might be a 104-loss team, but I don’t see another 107.

2013 Record:  51-111
POINT:  Doogan, 5-7
Bry misses his first pick of the year, as the Astros are historically bad…losing 111 games after a .500 month of April is VERY impressive.

13. DOOGAN – Colorado Rockies – OVER 64 wins: This pitching staff, in Coors Field or anywhere else, is a disaster.  But, this lineup, in any ballpark, is pretty awesome.  After finding success focusing more on pitching, the Rockies are back to their Blake Street Bomber roots (in some ways), and while that means a lot of losses, it also means they could be tough to beat at home, and 64 is a low hurdle.  Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, even the catcher, Wilin Rosario, has a power bat.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Doogan, 6-7
A 10-win cushion for these middle picks is pretty solid, as Doogan takes an easy one at #13.

14. BRY – Washington Nationals – UNDER 98 wins: I may have had more discussions about the expectations for the 2013 Nationals than anything else in my life over the past month, and I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.  Is this the best team in baseball?  Possibly.  Is it the best team in the NL?  Maybe.  Is it the best team in the NL East?  Probably.  On paper, are they better than they were last year?  Definitely.  Are baseball games – let alone seasons – ever played on paper?  Absolutely not.  If so, they wouldn’t have won 98 games last year.  They were more like an 88-90-win team last year.  I think they might be 3-5 wins better this year, but that still only puts them in the mid-90s, at best.  98 wins is a HUGE number.  I still have question marks about the durability of their rotation – Strasburg and Detwiler have combined for ZERO seasons with 165+ innings.  (EDIT) Danny Haren is coming off of a season where he broke down and looked like he felt every bit of his 1,800 innings, and Gio Gonzalez isn’t a safe bet, himself.  And, they have NO pitching depth.  So, even if they lose a starter or two for short DL stints, that could preclude them from the seemingly guaranteed 100-win season.  Throw in health question marks about two of their most important position players – Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth – and a possible set back for the overachieving middle infield last year, and you have a FAR CRY from a sure thing.  Yes, the bullpen is loaded.  Yes, 20-year old Bryce Harper might be in for MVP numbers already.  And, yes, I would call them pretty clear favorites to win the East, but 98 games?  That is a LOT of games.

2013 Record:  86-76
POINT:  Bry, 8-6
By the end of the season, the Nats looked like a 98-win team, but they stumbled through the first half of the year and could never make up enough ground.

15. DOOGAN – Miami Marlins – UNDER 69 wins: I was going Under on that Nats next also, but I’ll keep it in the division here.  We know all they’ve lost with Reyes, Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and others gone.  They’re in total rebuilding mode, with possibly Placido Polanco batting cleanup, I’ve heard?  With three very good teams at the top of the division, and this team bereft of talent outside of Giancarlo Stanton, they’ll be lucky to avoid 100 losses.

2013 Record:  62-100
POINT:  Doogan, 7-8
Doogan continues to roll with another relatively comfortable pick of the Marlins, who turned in an embarrassing 100-loss season.

16. BRY – Chicago White Sox – UNDER 85 wins: This team is aging, and I think that they overperformed most of the season last year anyway.  John Danks is hurt, and Chris Sale may take a step backwards (health or performance) after a much heavier workload last year than he had ever had before.  Another year of age for Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Paul Konerko (borderline, Hall of Famer, by the way), and Adam Dunn is not exactly a good thing.  These picks are getting tougher, and I’m not in love with this one, but I’ll take my chances that things go wrong on the South Side and they’re a .500 team, at best.

2013 Record:  63-99
POINT:  Bry, 9-7
These guys are good.  Another comfortable point won here for Bry with the ChiSox barely avoiding triple-digit losses.

17. DOOGAN – Detroit Tigers – OVER 88 wins: Building off that last pick by Bry, this is a very good team in a division that could be very bad.  They have the best pitcher in the game and three high-quality guys behind him.  They have the absolute best 3-4 combo in the middle of their order, with a few other quality bats supporting them.  The bullpen is a bit of a question mark, but could be solid, and I worry that their infield is basically a bunch of fat guys, including the shortstop (Peralta), but the talent is here, in a poor division, to win 93-95 games.

2013 Record:  93-69
POINT:  Doogan, 8-9
Doogan said 93-95 wins, and NAILED it, as the Tigers hit 93 exactly.  Wow.

18. BRY – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 86 wins: Well, you took my next pick, Doogan, so I have to take the bait on the Dodgers.  Other than the Blue Jays, this team was the talk of the offseason, so it’s a bit of a surprise (and possibly telling) that it took us this long to jump on them.  And, honestly, I’m not even that comfortable making this pick, but it’s getting tougher to justify any of the teams left.  And, I am – and always have been – completely enamored by talent.  Obviously, I admire the gritty, determined overachievers and the teams that win on “clubhouse chemistry,” but part of the reason we love sports is because we get to see people play games that we have played on levels that are so far beyond imagination that it almost defies comprehension.  I love elite talent.  And, the Dodgers have a whole lot of that.  Whether or not it materializes into elite team performance remains to be seen, but up and down this lineup  – and now the starting rotation – they have some of the best players in the world.  And, chemistry or no chemistry, they open their rotation with Clayton Kershaw (one of the 5 best pitchers on the planet), Zack Greinke (one of the 15 best pitchers on the planet), and Josh Beckett (who is rumored to be looking more like the old Beckett than the more recent Beckett, which could put him in the top 30 on the planet).  Then, they will post a lineup with a first five of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, which is as talented a first 5 as I can remember, honestly.  All that said, we still both passed on a somewhat low line 17 times – so, obviously, as awesome as I find pure talent, we are both wary of its ability to carry the day and actually win games.

2013 Record:  92-70
POINT:  Bry, 10-8
Bry hits another one here.  In retrospect, looking at it now, it’s a wonder that it took 18 picks for the Dodgers and the Over, but there were real question marks.

19. DOOGAN – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 94 wins: Sitting here watching the Braves-Phillies Opening Day game while I make this pick.  I’m not factoring in this game at all, and this is a good team, but the fact that they just said that Johnny Venters is visiting Dr. James Andrews today makes this pick just a TINY bit easier.  Their bullpen is devastating, but not nearly as much if Venters is hurt.  Mainly, I think this starting rotation has more questions than people are talking about.  There’s certainly no ace.  Tim Hudson is 37.  Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran are all basically potential guys that haven’t really done for long or at all in the big leagues.  McCann and Uggla are on the decline, which is ok because they have Heyward, Justin Upton, and Freeman to make up for that, but I’m just not sure the lineup is quite as good as it looks at first glance.  94 is a big number, especially at this point of the competition, so I like the Under.

2013 Record:  96-66
POINT:  Bry, 11-8
Doogan breaks the streak of 7 straight correct picks by betting on the Braves to get worse, then they actually got a bit better.

20. BRY – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 89 wins: If I were an Angels fan, I would be very concerned about the pitching staff, particularly come October.  But, what I would not be concerned with is this offense.  Adding Josh Hamilton to an already LOADED offense with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, this team could simply mash its way to 90 wins.  Plus, adding the Astros to this division should help.  Remember, they should have a little more health than they did last year, and they should get about 6 more weeks of Mike Trout – the game’s best player.

2013 Record:  78-84
POINT:  Doogan, 9-11
Bry loses only his second pick of the round, but this one was REALLY bad, as the Angels were 15 games worse after Bry thought they’d be better.  The guys go 6-4 with picks 11-20 and are 15-5 through 20 picks.

21. DOOGAN – San Francisco Giants – UNDER 94 wins: Some nitpicking here on the defending World Champs and you can talk yourself into the Under.  First off, it wasn’t noticed much because they won it all, but this was not a 94-win team, based on run differential, last year.  They still don’t score a ton of runs, though they’re far from bad offensively.  Lincecum still looks lost, but they still have one of the top couple of rotations in the game.  They have a number of quality relievers, but they don’t have that shutdown closer they once did with Brian Wilson.  Last year’s 94 was the most they’ve won in the regular season with this current core, and that includes their other title winning team in 2010, and they only won 86 in the year between those two runs.  I think they’re a team that’s more built for October than the regular season, so after a long-winded talking-myself-into-this-pick, I go under.

2013 Record:  76-86
POINT:  Doogan, 10-11
Doogan is putting the pressure on with another correct pick, as the Giants got 18 games worse in 2013.  It is hard to believe that all this talent could lose 86 games.

22. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 75 wins: Not really sure why I like this one, but the pickins are getting pretty slim, and I think that the M’s are moving in the right direction.  Any time you add 3- and 4-hitters, a #3 starter, and a veteran bench player you have to be improved, right?  I’m not saying that Michael Morse, Kendry Morales, Joe Saunders, and Raul Ibanez will be wearing World Series rings after this year, but the team should be improved – at least, on paper.  Plus, they do have one of the very best pitchers on the planet, so I see this team pushing 65 wins non-Astros wins and another 12-15 against the ‘Stros.

2013 Record:  71-91
POINT:  Doogan, 11-11
Bry’s second straight botched pick has pushed us back into a tie through 22 picks, as the Mariners continue to baffle with poor season after poor season.

23. DOOGAN – Milwaukee Brewers – UNDER 83 wins: A franchise that is sort of grasping at straws trying to stay competitive when the best (and inevitable) move may be a rebuild.  The pitching staff, both the starters and bullpen, is just not very good, with very little starter depth.  The offensive is still above average, but Corey Hart is on the DL and may not be fully healthy all season after offseason knee surgery.  While he’s out, Alex Gonzalez is their starting first baseman.  That’s not good.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Doogan, 12-11
Doogan picks up his 4th straight point to take his first lead since the first pick of the draft.

24. BRY – Minnesota Twins – OVER 66 wins: This team is not good, and with Vance Worley pitching on Opening Day, it’s clear that they have the pitching staff to loss 100 games.  Fellow newcomers, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia will likely be the next two in the rotation – ouch.  But, they do have a promising pitcher in Scott Diamond that should be healthy come May or so, and they have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham…at least until the trade deadline.  I’m not confident with this pick, but everything left is tough.

2013 Record:  66-96
POINT:  Doogan, 13-11
Chalk up another one for Doogan, as Bry misses his 3rd straight – albeit, this one was right on the nose.

25. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Pirates – UNDER 79 wins: Well, we know that the Buccos are going to lose more games than they win, because they’ve done that 20-som straight years and it’s not like anything major has changed.  So that doesn’t leave them much room to hit 79 wins.  Yes, Andrew McCutchen is an elite player.  Other than that, this team is not very good.  The rotation is three middle-of-the-rotation types and then nobodies.  Adding Russell Martin doesn’t excite me.  The losing continues in the Steel City.

2013 Record:  94-68
POINT:  Bry, 12-13
Well, the streak of five straight points for Doogan ends in ugly fashion, as the Pirates actually got 15 games better.  Man, we all knew they were good, but 94 wins good?  Wow!

26. BRY – Arizona Diamondbacks – OVER 81 wins: I’ve never believed in the whole “addition by subtraction” theory in baseball.  Football, maybe.  Basketball, definitely.  But, in baseball?  I don’t understand why you would ever ship off talent for less talent, but better “chemistry?”  So, the D’backs trade of Justin Upton was probably a bad move, but I actually think it was more of a calculated risk that he just doesn’t have the makeup to be a star, so they could sell high, get an underrated Martin Prado in return, and not be stuck with a bad contract in a year or two.  The problem is that they still need someone to drive in runs.  Can a team with a 3-4-5-6 of Aaron Hill, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Paul Goldschmidt win 90 games?  No.  But, a team with Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Wade Miley shouldn’t need all that much to get to 83 or so.

2013 Record:  81-81
POINT:  Doogan, 14-12
Ouch!  Bry gets hit with his second-straight ON THE NUMBER loss, as the D’backs are 162-162 over the past two seasons. 

27. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – OVER 88 wins: I’ve pondered the Under on this one a few times now, but everytime end up saying, “I don’t want to go Under on the Cardinals.  I don’t like betting against that franchise.”  So, I won’t bet against them.  When I look at this roster, am I confident they have 90 wins in them, especially when they’re pretty clearly not the best team in their division?  No.  They also don’t get the Astros wins this year.  But, they do still have three average-to-poor teams in that division, and they have a solid amount of talent in all phases of the game.  Let’s mark ’em down for 90-72.

2013 Record:  97-65
POINT:  Doogan, 15-12
Doogan’s crazy comeback has now clinched at least a tie for 2013, as he crushes pick #27 with the Cards going way Over.

28. BRY – San Diego Padres – UNDER 76 wins: This is going against what a lot of the so-called “experts” are saying.  I have heard several times how the Padres might be darkhorse contenders in the NL West, based on a blistering hot September last year and a decent spring training.  But, there is an old adage in baseball circles that says “never believe anything that happens in March or September.”  Now, I am not claiming that the Bryan “eye test” should be trusted over people who do this stuff for a living, but this “eye test” sees a talent level closer to 90 losses than anything resembling a .500 team.  Like Doogan went with his gut on the Cards, I am doing so here.  Let’s mark ’em down for 72-90.

2013 Record:  76-86
POINT:  Doogan, 16-12
You can’t make this stuff up!!!  Doogan clinches the 2013 MLB Preview (his 3rd in a row) with Bry’s THIRD STRAIGHT pick that landed ON THE NUMBER.

29. DOOGAN – New York Mets – UNDER 74 wins: You know, why not?  I actually would’ve gone Over on them at least 5-8 picks ago if it hadn’t been for the Johan Santana injury.  Sad for Santana that his career was really cut short by elbow/shoulder problems.  I know the Mets are off to a 3-2 start, but unfortunately for them they don’t play home games against the Padres and Marlins all season.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Bry, 13-16
It is small consolation that the “on the number” loss strikes Doogan with his final pick.  That’s crazy that FOUR teams had the EXACT same record in 2013 as they did in 2012.

30. BRY – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 90 wins: Not surprising that this is the last team on the board, as this is a really tough call.  Vegas has them at 87.5 as an O/U.  At that number, I would definitely take the Over, but 90 is such a tossup that I guess I’ll trust my boys in Sin City.  That said, I think 94+ wins is much more likely than 84-.

2013 Record:  91-71 (one-game playoff win over Texas doesn’t count, though it would not have changed the scoring here)
POINT:  Doogan, 17-13
Doogan wins 17-13, as Bry misses his SIXTH straight pick (granted, three of them were on the number and this one was by a single game).

2012 MLB Preview: BSB-Style

(UPDATE:  Below in red is a recap of the 2012 preview.  Keep a lookout for the 2013 preview, which will begin shortly…)

The beginning of April gives us one of best sports “transitions” of the calendar year. With the promise of spring comes a sharp switch in our overall mentalities from the squeeking of sneakers on the hardwood to the cracking of bats on the diamond. BSB feels this transition as much as anything, as we have always focused most of our attention on 3 sports – college hoops, baseball, and football. So, with the college hoops championship game occuring usually within days of MLB’s opening day, we usually take an about-face on the site and switch over to the sights and sounds of our national pastime. And, no better way to make that transition than to kick off our 2012 MLB Preview.

As followers of the site know, we do season previews in a much different way than anyone else out there. We like to do team-by-team previews, but spice them up by adding in a touch of strategic competition. What we do is to take each team’s win totals from a year ago and set them as the “over-unders” for their win totals this year. Then, we make these over-under picks in draft order, depending on how confident we are in the team either going over or under their total from last year. Then, at the end of the year, we add them up and see how we did. Bry won the first three times we ran this preview (by narrow margins in the first two, 2008 and 2009, and then a wider margin in 2010), and then Doogan got on the board last year, winning the 2011 Preview in a tiebreaker, so he has the momentum.

We will add our picks to this post periodically throughout the week leading up to opening day.

Having picked first last year, Bry defers to Doogan to take the #1 choice this year…

1. DOOGAN – Miami Marlins – OVER 72 wins: Teams always like to make a splash (no pun intended here?) with their first year in a new ballpark, but the Marlins seem to have taken that to a new level going into 2012. Not only have they totally changed their uniforms, changed the name of the team, and brought in a new manager, but they’ve also remade the roster with three high-priced free agents. Jose Reyes takes over at short, Mark Buehrle joins the rotation, and Heath Bell takes over as the closer. Those three veterans join an already talented group of youngsters led by Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton (now, amazingly, known as Giancarlo Stanton), Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez. If they stay healthy, they should definitely push for a playoff spot.

FINAL RECORD:  69-93.  Point Bry, 1-0
MADNESS!  History is made here, as never before has anyone missed their #1 pick.  But, it’s much more of a testament to just how disappointingly horrible the Marlins were in 2012 than anything else.

2. BRY – Houston Astros – OVER 56 wins: Is it me or do the “gimmes” get fewer and fewer every year we do this? You would think that with 29 teams to choose from, I would feel more confident than this pick. But, there is an old adage in baseball – you’re going to win 60 games and lose 60 games, and everything is decided in the other 40. Well, I guess I’ll stick with that adage and assume that even if this terrible team loses all 40 of them, they will still hit the Over here for me. Then again – I bet on them to win their division last year and they lost 106.

FINAL RECORD:  55-107.  Point Doogan, 1-1
MORE MADNESS!!!  Wow!  What an unbelievable season if the top two picks are both wrong.  Bry mentioned that the “gimmes” are few and far between, but really?  56 wins looked easy.  Not for the ‘Stros.  What a pathetic franchise.  Have fun in the AL West, boys.

3. BRY – Milwaukee Brewers – UNDER 96 wins: With Prince Fielder gone, Ryan Braun‘s appeal of his 50-game suspension may end up being the biggest victory of the Brewers 2012 season. It’s hard to imagine them competing without 210 games of Fielder and Braun. As it is, they still lost 162 games of Fielder, so this team should take a step backwards. Now, honestly, I don’t think they are that much worse, though, I just don’t think anyone in this division will win 96 games. They Brewers still have a pretty solid rotation and their defense should be a lot better – particularly on the left side – as they went from Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGahee to Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez. That is about as big of a defensive upgrade as I can remember one team making on the left side of an infield. Also, if Ramirez can regain some of his offensive prowess, his bat could help defray some of the loss felt in the middle of the order by Fielder’s departure. In short, I may be in the minority, but I still feel like this is the team to beat in the NL Central, so it’s strange to pick the Under with the #3 pick – I just think 96 wins is way too many.

FINAL RECORD:  83-79.  Point Bry, 2-1
The Brewers weren’t terrible in 2012, but they weren’t that good either, giving Bry the first correct pick of the contest.

4. DOOGAN – Minnesota Twins – OVER 63 wins: A couple of standard BSB MLB preview strategies go into this pick. Mainly, 63 is a low number. This pick shouldn’t be taken as a vote of confidence in this Twins team. But also, there are some teams that you just tend to go over on, based on the history of the franchise, and the Twins are one of those teams. One horrible season won’t change that. Here’s hoping that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can stay healthy to power the middle of the line-up. The rotation has no ace, but it is fairly deep, with a good number of solid guys like Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Scott Baker. In a pretty middling division, they should be able to hit 70 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  66-96.  Point Doogan, 2-2
It wasn’t easy, but Doogan eked out his first correct pick here.  It’s hard to believe that such a well-run franchise with a couple of bonafied stars has lost 195 games in the past two years.

5. BRY – New York Mess – UNDER 77 wins: This team is not very good at all. And, since they can’t spend any money, they have to fill holes as cheaply as possible. And, they created two pretty big holes up the middle when they traded away Carlos Beltran and let Jose Reyes walk in free agency (two moves that I actually agree with in the long-term, but we’re not “previewing” the long-term). The hole at short is going to be filled with fringe prospect Ruben Tejada, while the hole in center is filled with a guy that didn’t hit enough to stay in the anemic Giants offense – Andres Torres (who will bring his .221 batting average to the Mets leadoff spot this year). Oh, and not that they will have all that many “save opportunities,” but it looks like their cheap replacement closer, Frankie Francisco, might be having shoulder issues. The one thing that gives me a little pause is that Johan Santana looks like he might actually be healthy, so they could have a horse at the top of the rotation. But, with this offense, how many wins does Johan – even at his peak give you – 15? How will this offense win 65 games with Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey, and Mike Pelfrey on the mound? In the NL East? They won’t.

FINAL RECORD:  74-88.  Point Bry, 3-2
Far be it for me to give any compliments to the awful team to our north, but there is some promise in this organization.  Their offense needs a total makeover, but there are some good young arms in this organization.  But, they are still several years away from relevance…which is fine with me.

6. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Phillies – UNDER 102 wins: Let’s take the suspense out of this one early. I’ve been a believer in the Phils and the Over every year we’ve done this, but 102?? Amidst all that has gone wrong for the team this spring, it’s important to remember that they still run out the best 1-3 pitchers in the game, by a LONG shot. Still, a team that struggled to score runs at a lot of times over the last couple of years will continue to struggle a lot of the time. Jimmy Rollins looks like the Opening Day 3-hitter, with Ty Wigginton at first base and batting 5th or 6th. I have so much faith in Halladay, Lee, and Hamels though, that this still looks like the cream of the crop in the NL, if not the whole game.

FINAL RECORD:  81-81.  Point Doogan, 3-3
Doogan sold his soul for this point, but I’m sure he was hoping for a little more of a sweat with this pick.  Let’s just chalk up the 2012 Phillies season as getting all the health issues and general bad karma out of the way in one season.  Back to winning division titles, guys.

7. BRY – New York Yankees – UNDER 97 wins: Can’t really blame you for taking the Under on the Phils – hell, I did it last year at 98. And, right after you take the Under on the best team in the NL, I’ll take the Under on, quite possibly, the best team in the AL. I like what the Yankees have done with their rotation, but the offense continues to age, and the “ageless one” at the end of the bullpen just has to show signs of mortality at some point, right? Even so, I still think this is probably as good a team as there is in the Junior Circuit, but 97 is a big number, and this division is loaded. I think the 1927 Yankees might have trouble hitting this number, and the 2012 Yankees are not exactly their counterparts from 85 years ago.

FINAL RECORD:  95-67.  Point Bry, 4-3
Just how these Yankees keep churning out 95-win seasons is amazing, but they didn’t win enough to cost Bry the point here.  It will be interesting to see when (and if) this team stops dominating the best division in baseball.

8. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 86 wins: Just looks like a really good team, on paper. Obviously, Albert Pujols thrown into the middle of the order doesn’t hurt, though the offense still looks suspect with the over-the-hill Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells penciled in as starters and Kendrys Morales trying to comeback after missing most of the past two years with injuries. What makes this team a definite contender is the rotation, where C.J. Wilson joins Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana. With Mike Scioscia pulling the strings and most likely some money to burn if they need to make additions in July, they should get 90-92 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  89-73.  Point Doogan, 4-4
Many people see the 2012 Angels as a disappoinment, and for the most part, I guess that’s true.  But, they did win 89 games – which is more than NLCS participant, St. Louis, and World Series participant, Detroit.  Then again, adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to an already good team, and then getting MVP stuff from Mike Trout should have equated to more than 89 wins.

9. BRY – Arizona Diamondbacks – UNDER 94 wins: When looking for a team that you think will take a step backwards, you would think that one would probably look for either (a) an aging team likely in decline or (b) a team that has lost a couple key pieces either through free agency/trade or injury. The Diamondbacks don’t even come close to fitting into either category, as they are a young team that is pretty much completely in tact from the team that won 94 games a year ago. So, this might be a dangerous pick, but I just do not see this team in the mid-90s. I think last year everything kind of fell right into place – they won a lot of close games, got seemingly career years from several pitchers (most notably Yankee castoff, Ian Kennedy; fringe bullpen prospect turned starter, Josh Collmenter; and resurrected closer, J.J. Putz), and benefitted from a surprisingly down year throughout the division. So, even though this team comes back as a whole and a year older (which is a good thing), I still don’t see them matching last year’s success.

FINAL RECORD:  81-81.  Point Bry, 5-4
Bry cruises to a point here, as the guys have hit 7 in a row after their embarrassing starts.

10. DOOGAN – Texas Rangers – UNDER 96 wins: A big win number and a lot of question marks makes for a fairly easy Under pick. Sure, there’s a TON of talent on this roster, but they’re really counting on Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz to be high-quality starters, and both of those are definite question marks, mainly because neither has ever actually started a Major League game yet. They’ll score runs, but Josh Hamilton gets hurt a lot and is already slowed by injuries this spring. When does Michael Young start to show his age with the bat? Just too many questions to expect so many wins.

FINAL RECORD:  93-69.  Point Doogan, 5-5
This pick was in jeopardy until the final week, when the Rangers swoon gave Doogan the point here.  What a disappointing end to the Rangers careers of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

11. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 71 wins: Since I always end up making this pick, at some point, might as well get it over with early, then I can stop “almost” picking it. I should just copy and paste what I’ve written for each of the past 4 years. This team has an amazing farm system…blah, blah, blah. They will be up in the bigs at some point…blah, blah, blah. The division isn’t very good…blah, blah, blah. 71 isn’t a huge number…blah, blah, blah. Ready for something new: Eric Hosmer is a total stud and will be an MVP candidate within the next three years – maybe as early as this year. I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid that this team is going to compete for a playoff spot, but I do think they can flirt with .500 and probably finish somewhere in the mid-70s.

FINAL RECORD:  72-90.  Point Bry, 6-5
A 4-2 win over the Tigers on the second-to-last day of the regular season gave the Royals the 72 wins needed to reward Bry’s loyalty.  Will this team ever be good?

12. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – OVER 79 wins: No National League team has scored more runs over the last two years than the Reds, so you know they can swing the bats. Joey Votto has established himself as one of the game’s premier hitters, and Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips produce as well. They added Mat Latos from the Padres in the offseason, and he has a lot of ability despite not having a great 2011. The loss of Ryan Madson gives me a little pause here, but this team was better than their 79 wins suggest last year, and with the Cardinals and Brewers most likely taking steps backward, they should be ready to step it up themselves into, let’s say an 86-win season.

FINAL RECORD:  97-65.  Point Doogan, 6-6
An easy point here for Doogan, as he makes a really nice pick at #12.  It’s probably time for this collection of solid players to win a playoff series, huh? 

13. BRY – Oakland A’s – UNDER 74 wins: Last year’s A’s were not that competitive, but they at least had a somewhat decent pitching staff. This year’s A’s? Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon are their #1 and #2. Trevor Cahill is gone. Gio Gonzalez is gone. Even Dallas Braden might miss the whole season with shoulder issues. And, this is a team with Kurt Suzuki hitting in the middle of the lineup. There is a chance that this is the worst team in baseball, so I’ll take them for 70 wins at the most.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Doogan, 7-6
As bad as the first two picks were, this one is shameful.  To miss a pick by 21 games is unacceptable…then again, did ANYONE see this coming?

14. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – UNDER 90 wins: This feels like a pick I often make and lose on, so like Bry and the Royals, I’ll keep the momentum going. Pujols is obviously a huge loss, but this team led the NL in runs scored by a healthy margin last year, so they’ll still score runs, especially with Carlos Beltran joining Matt Holliday (though Lance Berkman could be headed for a downturn). The main reason I’m somewhat comfortable going Under is that Chris Carpenter is down for the first couple of months of the season and Kyle Lohse is making their Opening Night start tomorrow.

FINAL RECORD:  88-74.  Point Doogan, 8-6
Doogan “consolidates his break” by eking out a Cardinals point here.  The Redbirds took two of three from Cincy in the final series to give Doogan the lead.
 

15. BRY – San Francisco Giants – OVER 86 wins: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, and Zito. Oh, and arguably the best bullpen in the game. And, while Brandon Crawford may not be ready for the bigs with the stick, he sure can field the shortstop position. And, coming off of a year of Miguel Tejada there, they upgraded the most important defensive position about as much as is actually possible. They’re not going to score many runs, but their pitching and defense is as good as anyone. In a potentially weak NL West, this team seems poised for 90 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Bry, 7-8
Your 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants…weird.  Wait…they won two years ago too?  Very weird.

16. DOOGAN – Colorado Rockies – OVER 73 wins: I don’t like taking Overs on teams with pitching staffs as suspect as this team’s, but the offense could be scary good with Tulowitzki and CarGo, Helton still swinging it, and two proven veterans joining them in Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro. I’d worry about Cuddyer playing the outfield in Coors, but other than that they have + defenders all over the diamond, which will be needed with the pitchers allowing the ball to be hit all over the place most of the time. I don’t see them winning half their games, but 78 wins seems reachable.

FINAL RECORD:  64-98.  Point Bry, 8-8
The Rockies are in a rough place right now, as a franchise.  They have a franchise player at an elite position and they have NOTHING else – and nothing coming

17. BRY – Toronto Blue Jays – OVER 81 wins: It embarrasses me sometimes how easily I buy into the hype machine. With the state of the AL East, there is no reason to believe that the Jays can be over .500 this year, but I can’t ignore the hype. And, no, I don’t put any stock whatsoever in spring training records, so I am not even going to mention the fact that they are 19-4 this spring. I won’t even mention it. But, there is just too much talent across the border to ignore. Ricky Romero is poised to be a certifiable ace. Jose Bautista has been the best player in baseball (by a pretty wide margin) over the past two seasons. And, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencebia, and especially Brett Lawrie are all poised for breakout seasons. If Kyle Drabek can find the strike zone, he could join Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, and Dustin McGowan in a solid, if not stellar, starting rotation. Oh, and I love the fact that they brought back their old unis and logo. This is dangerous territory, I know, but gimme the Jays for 83-86 wins.

FINAL RECORD: 73-89.  Point Doogan, 9-8
Doogan takes the lead back after Bry’s bad pick of the Jays.  This team wasn’t good and we will see if their “new look” is that much better.

18. DOOGAN – San Diego Padres – OVER 71 wins: This is one of those picks where it’s getting late in the game here but I’ve suddenly talked myself into this one as very safe pick. It’s a low number for a team with a capable manager and a fair amount of young talent, if no stars. They won’t score many runs, but Yonder Alonso could be a breakout hitter, and they have Carlos Quentin when he returns from injury. They’re a good defensive team up the middle, with Jason Bartlett at short, Orlando Hudson at second, and Cameron Maybin in center. They have some pretty solid young arms in the rotation as well, with Edinson Volquez, Cory Luebke, and Clayton Richard.

FINAL RECORD:  76-86.  Point Doogan, 10-8
Doogan stays ahead with a nice pick of the Padres.  It didn’t look good for a while, but the Pads always seem to surprise late in the season.  What a frustrating organization to be a fan of, though, right?

19. BRY – Detroit Tigers – UNDER 95 wins: This feels like a strange pick to make, considering they are one of the handful of legit contenders for a World Series title. They won 95 games last year AND added one of the game’s premier power hitters in Prince Fielder. Add in the fact that yhey are HEAD AND SHOULDERS better than the rest of this division and this pick starts to get suspect. However…95 is a really big number, and last year’s 95 was a bit hollow. They got a perfect season from their closer and a dream season from Justin Verlander. Not saying that Verlander isn’t great (in fact, blasphemous or not, I would consider him on par with Mr. Halladay as the best pitcher on the planet) – I am saying, though, that that was a dream season for anyone and may not be duplicated. But, even if it is, the addition of Prince Fielder is mitigated by the fact that he’s really just a moderate offensive upgrade to Victor Martinez, who was lost for the year. And, one has to question their decision to make Miguel Cabrera (a below average FIRSTbaseman) into the everyday thirdbaseman. Last year, they had Brandon Inge – one of the game’s best at the hot corner. Add in the fact that they got the best of guys like Tim Fister, Alex Avila, and Ryan Raburn (not likely to repeat their ’11 numbers this year). I am, in no way, saying that the Tigers are not going to contend – in fact, they might be the best bet in baseball to win the World Series because they are the biggest favorite (by a huge margin) to win their division and avoid the 1-game playoff. But, I just see them being in the same position with 88-90 wins as they would be with 96-100. And, I think 95 is just too tough for a team that does still have some flaws.

FINAL RECORD:  88-74.  Point Bry, 9-10
Bry gets the point by picking the Under on the AL Champs with the best pitcher and hitter on the planet.  But, the dirty little secret is that the Tigers – in the regular season – weren’t all that good.

20. DOOGAN – Washington Nationals – OVER 80 wins: This is a classic “taking the bait” pick on a team that’s made a bunch of veteran additions to a young core, but still may be another year or two away from being legit. The rotation has a chance to be really good, but its far from guaranteed, with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, and Jordan Zimmermann. The line-up looks like it could be average, with Jayson Werth probably having an improved season and Bryce Harper waiting in the wings. And they’ve also added arms to the pen. In a lesser division, I’d feel confident with this Over, but they very well could be a 4th place team. Still, the talent is on board for 84 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  98-64.  Point Doogan, 11-9
Doogan “took the bait,” and it paid off big-time.  He won this one by September, as the “best team in baseball” cruised to an NL East title…and a division series flameout.  Oops…

21. BRY – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 89 wins: As Doogan explained in the last pick, the Nats are probably going to be better than they were a year ago. And, with the Marlins Over going off the board at #1, it’s safe to say that this division is much improved. And, while there is still a lot of talent on this Braves roster, the health and mental makeup of that talent is seemingly revealing a lot more questions than answers. The two most accomplished players on the roster – Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson – are out to start the season – possibly a bad omen for players on the downside of their career arcs. And, the rest of the pitching staff has been actually rather awful this spring. Jair Jurrjens doesn’t look healthy, and all those “young arms” look either overrated or not ready. And, then there are the questions surrounding this offense. It wasn’t very good last year and, possibly, the two most important bats in the lineup – Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman – don’t exactly look like a pillar of mental fortitude. They do still have absolute horses in the ‘pen, but Fredi Gonzalez has proven rather inept at utilizing a bullpen. The reason I didn’t make this pick earlier is because I wouldn’t be shocked for any result from 80 all the way to 100 wins. But, all in all, I disagree with your statement above, Doogan, and I think that this might be the 4th-place team you speak of, and, if so, they won’t even come close to 89 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Doogan, 12-9
Doogan is taking control of this, as Bry misses another pick.  That Bravo bullpen was incredible and, while Bry was right on Jair Jurrjens, he clearly didn’t consider the all-powerful Kris Medlen.

22. DOOGAN – Chicago White Sox – UNDER 79 wins: I’ll declare this the point of the draft where I won’t feel remotely sure about any picks from here on. The White Sox do have a potentially above-average rotation with John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, and Philip Humber, who had a quiet nice season last year. Though Peavy is not close to what he once was and neither Danks nor Floyd resemble an ace. The offense struggled to score runs a year ago and can expect more of the same. Even if Adam Dunn rebounds (which he almost has to do), Carlos Quentin and his 24 homers are gone. Kenny Williams looks like he wants to rebuild, and as arguably the most aggressive GM in the biz, he could get very aggressive with unloading veterans in a couple months.

FINAL RECORD:  85-77.  Point Bry, 10-12
A very important point here for Bry, as Doogan underrated the ChiSox.  It’s hard to blame him, though, 85 wins for this team seems like overachieving.

23. BRY – Boston Red Sox – UNDER 90 wins: I have almost pulled the trigger on this one for about 10 rounds now, but I kept thinking about how much talent they have on this team. They have 5 elite offensive players and two elite starting pitchers. But, in a division this tough and a town this brutal, seasons can unravel quickly. Add to the fire a spitfire manager and a bullpen that is in complete disarray, I could see this team slipping towards .500. This isn’t an easy pick, but you can’t expect them to be easy around this time in the game.

FINAL RECORD:  69-93.  Point Bry, 11-12
For the 23rd pick, this one was rather stress-free.  The worst Red Sox team in a decade or so (and, not coincidentally, the first without Terry Francona), limped to the finish line with 69 wins.  69 wins?!?  With that talent and payroll?  Ouch…fire the manager!  Oh wait…

24. DOOGAN – Baltimore Orioles – UNDER 69 wins: A bad team, a bad organization, that’s just spinning its wheels in a beastly division. They haven’t topped 69 wins since 2006, when they won, you guessed it, 70. With the improved Blue Jays really only making this an even tougher division and no noteworthy additions to the roster, I don’t see why anyone should expect this year to be one where they win more than 67 games.

FINAL RECORD:  93-69.  Point Bry, 12-12
Three in a row for Bry, as Doogan misses BADLY on this pick.  Again, it’s hard to blame him because who saw this coming, but wow.  Think about it.  Everything Doogan said in the above paragraph seemed right on – at the time.  As crazy as the A’s season was, that Orioles season is mind-boggling.

25. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 67 wins: A bad team, a bad organization, that’s just spinning its wheels…in a division that isn’t as beastly as the AL East. Yes, the pickins are getting slim here, but 67 is a pretty low number, especially when you get to play the A’s 19 times. Is it that big of a stretch to think that the Mariners might not hit 95 losses? Well…like I said, the pickens are getting slim.

FINAL RECORD:  75-87.  Point Bry, 13-12
Four straight for Bry to take the lead down the stretch.  Even now, though, looking back, I’m still surprised that that god-awful Mariners team managed 75 wins.  The only thing more surprising is that people are kind of calling them contenders in 2013.

26. DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 91 wins: You have to love the pitching staff, especially since their sixth-best starter would probably #3 in a lot of rotations. Looking for chinks in the armor, I’d say that Evan Longoria is the only sure-thing hitter in the lineup, with some other guys that go up-and-down or haven’t lived up to expectations yet. The bullpen has guys that were great last year but not guys that have long track records, so that could be a place where they take a step back, as well.

FINAL RECORD:  90-72.  Point Doogan, 13-13
Doogan stops the winning streak with a “skin-of-the-teeth” win on the Rays.  One of the biggest surprises of the Orioles season is that they kept a phenomenal Rays team out of the playoffs.  Just a crazy year in an AL East where Baltimore was 24 games better than Boston.

27. BRY – Cleveland Indians – OVER 80 wins: Okay, we’ve officially reached the “I have no idea range,” so this is more of a shot in the dark than anything. It’s probably a bad pick, considering the Tribe didn’t exactly add anyone from a team that probably overachieved last year, but this division stinks and there is some room for improvement from a year ago. You have to expect Shin-Soo Choo to rebound from a terrible year to be more like his career before the DUI. And, they did play most of the season without their best player – Carlos Santana – who is now healthy and could be a superstar. Plus, Justin Masterson has a chance to be a true ace – and by “true ace,” I really mean “reliable starting pitcher.” So, I guess I’ll take them to finish .500 or better, why not?

FINAL RECORD:  68-94.  Point Doogan, 14-13
A big miss here by Bry puts Doogan a game away from clinching at least a tie.  This pick looked good for a while, but an absolutely DREADFUL July for the Tribe ended any hope for this pick.

28. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 82 wins: They have at least an average rotation, with reigning Cy Young winner Kershaw backed up by solid arms like Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley. The line-up is a bit of a mess, but Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are a 3-4 combo that a lot of teams out there would take in heartbeat. The bullpen doesn’t look too formidable, but I’ll take the positive vibes they’re feeling from the end of the McCourt fiasco and say they can ride their two young super-stars to 83-85 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  86-76.  Point Doogan, 15-13
Doogan clinches at least a tie, as he takes a Dodgers team that looked a lot different at the end of the season than the beginning.  That being said, they didn’t play that much better after all those crazy trades.  This was a really nice pick this late, particularly upon citing the “end of the McCourt fiasco” as a step in the right direction.

29. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 71 wins: So, left with two teams from the NL Central with O/Us of 72 and 71. Hmm… I’ll go with the Cubbies and the Over because 71 is a pretty low number for a team with such a high payroll and a really good General Manager. Granted, they do have an extreme dearth of talent, so Theo’s got his work cut out for him. Not surprisingly, considering it’s the 29th pick, but this seems like a total toss-up to me. So, I guess I’ll take the Cubs to avoid 91+ losses…I guess. Have fun with the last one, Doogan…

FINAL RECORD: 61-101.  Point Doogan, 16-13
Doogan clinches his second straight baseball preview title, as Bry misses by TEN games.  The Cubbies lost 101 in 2012…WOW!

30. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Pirates – OVER 72 wins: Well, they just wrapped up a series win over the Phils, so if I went Under it would probably just look spiteful. I don’t want to be spiteful. Good job this weekend, Buccos. You can surely win 71 more games in 2012.

FINAL RECORD:  79-83.  Point Doogan, 17-13
Doogan ends it in style, picking up the last 5 points to defend his championship.  The Buckos are still looking for a winning record, though, so we’ll see who takes that in 2013…

BSB’s 2011 NFL Preview (Recapped 8/20/12)

(UPDATE (8/20/12):  The 2012 NFL Preview is coming shortly, and since we like to be accountable here at BSB, let’s take a look back at how we did last year…the regular type were our opinions before the season started last year, while the italicized and underlined portions are a recap of how we actually did. 

Here we go, friends.  The NFL season!  Gotta love it.  It looked, for a while, like the NFL season would either be abbreviated or extended to 18 games.  Both of which would have put a serious hit on our NFL preview game here on BSB.  But, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and we’ve got ourselves a 16-game schedule this year, so we’re going to plow ahead and rock out another BSB NFL Preview.

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, Doogan and I will be trying to predict whether each NFL team with either improve or, uh, “get worse” (you’d think someone who likes to write blog posts would be able to think of a word opposite of improve…).  Anyway, we do it kind of a draft kind of process.  Feel free to check out our past previews.  Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version.  Last year, in the 2010 version, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score to take over the bragging rights…at least for a year.

So, on to this year’s NFL Preview, BSB-style.  Check back regularly for our picks, as we do them in “real time.”  Bry picked first last year, so Doogan is on the clock…

1. DOOGAN – Carolina Panthers – OVER 2 wins: I’m just gonna jump on the easiest number on the board with Carolina and over 2.  Having recently moved to the great state of North Carolina, I’m gonna try to get some positive karma going here and hope they scrape together just a few W’s, even if they end up underdogs in every game they play.

FINAL: 6-10.  DOOGAN, 1-0
Doogan nails his first pick with ease, though it might be surprising to think that, even with all the Cam Newton love, the Panthers still lost 10 games.

2. BRY – San Diego Chargers – OVER 9 wins: Wow, ya, this one is not gonna be easy, as I’m on my very first pick, and can’t find one gimme.  But, I do like the San Diego Super-Chargers to hit double-digit wins this year.  I don’t think anyone would argue that they weren’t better than a 9-7 team last year, and they haven’t changed all that much this offseason.  While they did lose Darren Sproles, there is at least a chance that Ryan Matthews can be the guy they thought they were drafting.  Plus, 16 healthy games of Vincent Jackson is clearly an upgrade from 6 rusty games of Vincent Jackson.  While they do play a pretty tough schedule, including the Pats, Jets, Ravens, and Packers, they also have 4 games with Oakland and Denver, and it’s unlikely they will lose 3 of them like they did last year.  Let’s not forget, while I generally hate the way we “rank” offense and defense, they did finish last year with the #1 offense AND #1 defense in the league last year.  I cannot imagine the special teams being as historically bad as they were last year.  Yes, it’s not a slam dunk (which it should be with a high pick like this), but I find it hard to believe that this isn’t a 10+-win team this year.

FINAL: 8-8.  DOOGAN, 2-0
For the first time in “season preview” history, one of us gets our very first pick incorrect, as Bry loses on the Chargers.

3. BRY – Chicago Bears – UNDER 11 wins: Yes, this team brings back all the key pieces from a team that hosted the NFC Championship Game last year.  But, do we really think even with the end results from last year that this team was all that good?  And, the last time we saw the Bears, their “franchise quarterback” was pacing the sidelines of the most important game of his life, while his peers took pot shots on Twitter, and some other guy that we’ll never hear from again tried to lead a comeback to send the Bears to the Super Bowl.  This defense is still good, and I do think Cutler is better than he seems to get credit for, but this team just seems destined for a somewhat big step backwards, especially considering they play in a division with the defending champs, an improving and feisty Lions team, and a Vikes team that still does have elite top-end talent, even if their depth is suspect.  Sounds like 8-8, at best, if you ask me, but certainly not 11 wins again.

FINAL: 8-8.  BRY, 1-2
If Cutler and Forte were both healthy all year, Bry may have missed BOTH of his first two picks, but he actually got this one relatively easily.

4. DOOGAN – Atlanta Falcons – UNDER 13 wins: I tend to always be down on the Falcons, but they actually convinced me last year with that best-in-the-NFC 13 win campaign.  Julio Jones should make their offense even more dynamic this year.  They convinced that they’re a solid team, NOT that they’re a powerhouse.  Their schedule may not be brutal, but probably half the games could safely be termed “tough”.  Can they win 5 of those 8 tough ones and avoid slip-ups in any of the other 8?  I really doubt it.  10 or 11 wins in Atlanta this year.

FINAL: 10-6.  DOOGAN, 3-1
Another easy pick for Doogan, as the Falcons do make the playoffs, but fall 3 wins shy of their 10-win 2010 campaign.

5. BRY – Jacksonville Jaguars – UNDER 8 wins: It’s hard to imagine taking an 8-8 team that didn’t change all that much to go under in a mediocre division this early in the game, but that is what I’m going to do here with the Jags.  I think the draft pick of Blaine Gabbert, while it may pay dividends down the road, could torpedo the 2011 Jags season.  A quarterback controversy is never good for the locker room, and I don’t think that this locker room has either the leadership or sheer talent to overcome it.  Maurice Jones-Drew is still a star, but there’s at least a minor chance that he starts to break down after several workhorse seasons in north Florida.  And, the defense is not anything to write home about.  I see this team much more likely to compete for the #1 draft pick than the AFC South.

FINAL: 5-11.  BRY, 2-3
This one wasn’t ever really in doubt, as Bry cruises to the point here.

6. DOOGAN – Dallas Cowboys – OVER 6 wins: Tony Romo is back under center and this offense should be able to put up a lot of points.  Their downfall last year was the defense and, luckily for us Eagle fans, they didn’t do much to improve there personnel-wise.  They did bring in Rob Ryan as the new DC though, and there’s enough talent there for them to at least be half-decent on that side of the ball.  With a pretty favorable schedule to work with (all NFC West teams plus Buffalo and Miami at home in inter-conference play), I’ll call them for 9-7.

FINAL:  8-8.  DOOGAN, 4-2
Doogan had a nice call here, though he was a tad optimistic, as the ‘Boys only went 8-8, but it was enough for the point.

7. BRY – Houston Texans – OVER 6 wins: Dallas and the over?  How’d that feel, Doogan?  Anyway, for years and years there has been a Texans bandwagon around this time.  I have tried hard not to get caught up in it in the past, and I feel like I’ve done a decent job doing so.  But, this year, they got me.  I believe in them this year around.  Their offense is stellar, but they have addressed their big problem last year – their pass defense – by adding the second-best free agent corner, in James Joseph, and another decent d-back in Daniel Manning.  With a healthy Arian Foster, I see this team as at least a decent shot at winning the division, but even without a healthy Foster, I think this team is easily a .500 team, at worst.

FINAL:  10-6.  BRY, 3-4
Another easy point for Bry here, as he tries to keep pace with Doogan, who has yet to miss a pick.

8. DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – UNDER 10 wins: WR Steve Breaston and NT Kelly Gregg are two solid, if unspectacular, additions, but the Chiefs have a few things working against them.  Most importantly, they picked up those 10 wins last year on the strength of one of the easiest schedules in the league.  After a first-place finish and matching up with the NFC North instead of the West, that won’t be the case this year.  Also, Charlie Weis seemed to have a real positive impact on Matt Cassel last year, which very well might not last with Weis now gone.  Finally, I love picking against these teams that make a big leap into the playoffs like they did.  They tend to come crashing back to earth the next year.

FINAL:  7-9.  DOOGAN, 5-3
Doogan stays perfect through 4 picks, as he wins this one with a 3-game cushion.

9. BRY – Oakland Raiders – UNDER 8 wins: Not sure if anyone has heard, but this guy named Nnamdi used to be on the Raiders and now he’s on some other team.  I can’t really remember which team he’s on now, but he’s pretty good, and the Raiders will probably miss him.  In all seriousness, I did think that this defense was actually coming along last year and showed signs of being pretty good, but you simply cannot subtract a guy like Nnamdi and expect to be the same defense.  And, while I don’t mind the McFadden/Bush running back duo, the offense was not very good last year and lost maybe their best pass-catcher in tight end Zach Miller.  People keep telling me that, at one point, Al Davis was a brilliant football mind and a really important part of the game we now know and love to be the NFL, but I’m now 32 years old, so if someone was good before my time, they’re probably overdue in giving up the reigns.  Put me down for no more than 6 wins from this Oakland team this year.

FINAL:  8-8.  DOOGAN, 6-3
Bry misses his second pick of the contest here, as the Raiders equal their 2010 record of 8-8.

10. DOOGAN – Miami Dolphins – UNDER 7 wins: Maybe the hardest thing to do in the NFL is win without a decent quarterback, so the Dolphins were probably fortunate to win 7 games last year.  With Chad Henne and Matt Moore as their play-calling options, it could be a brutal year on the offensive side of the ball for the Fins.  The defense is solid, but this just has the feel of a team that is looking to the future and will probably clean-house, on the roster and the coaching staff, after a really poor season in 2011.

FINAL:  6-10.  DOOGAN 7-3
They are getting harder, as usual, by this point, but Doogan does hit on the Dolphins getting to double-digit losses.

11. BRY – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 10 wins: Betting on the Colts to not reach double-digit wins is one of those stupid things that people do that help build big, beautiful casinos in the middle of the desert.  But, I might just be another sucker here because I am going with them to fall below 10 wins for the first time in 10 years.  (Actually, they had their consecutive 12-win season streak snapped last at 7, which I believe is the second-best streak of my lifetime behind Roger Federer’s consecutive Grand Slam semifinals appearances.)  But, there is something about this year in Indy.  Maybe it’s the schedule.  Maybe it’s three or four mediocre-to-poor drafts in a row.  Maybe it’s an aging Reggie Wayne and zero running game.  Or…maybe it’s Kerry Collins.  But, even if Peyton does play 16 games, I’m not sure they win 10 of them.

FINAL:  2-14.  BRY 4-7
Lost in the chase for the #1 pick was how quickly the Colts had fallen from such long-standing heights.  I know that they lost their Hall of Fame QB, but after a full decade of seasons with double-digit wins, to see them at 2-14 is quite a shock.

12. DOOGAN – New York Giants – UNDER 10 wins: It hasn’t been a real smooth offseason for Big Blue, which is obviously pretty awesome.  Eli’s favorite receiver, Steve Smith, bolted unexpectedly to their arch rivals, and they also had to deal with the whole Osi Umenyiora mess.  They also lost a couple of veteran offensive linemen.  Those linemen may have been too old to still be effective, but they’ve left some serious question marks on the O-line.  With the Eagles and Cowboys most likely taking a step forward this year, the Giants could easily slip to being a .500 team.

FINAL:  9-7.  DOOGAN, 8-4
So, the Giants missed the playoffs in 2010 and WON THE SUPER BOWL in 2011.  So, you’d think that Doogan’s UNDER pick would be a loser, right?  Wrong.  The Giants were actually a game worse in 2011, giving Doogan his 6th straight correct pick.  Wow!

13. BRY – Denver Broncos – OVER 4 wins: First thing’s first – I am not a huge fan of this team.  I don’t think they are very good.  I think they made a progress-halting decision of drafting Tim Tebow in the first round last year and right after Josh McDaniel decided that he was too smart to have a strong-armed talented quarterback or a 100-catch wideout, so he sent Cutler and Marshall packing.  Now, he’s gone too, and their offensive personnel doesn’t fit their new coach’s style and their defensive personnel isn’t very good.  But…4 is a really low number.  And, as anyone who has ever read any of these previews, I have this ridiculously inflated opinion of John Fox.  I think he’s a fantastic coach.  And, as you can see in picks #8 and #9, the Chiefs and Raiders are not expected to be as good, so 5 wins should not be all that far-fetched.

FINAL:  8-8.  BRY 5-8
Tebow-Mania gives Bry a more comfortable win here than any of the Broncos actual wins all season.

14. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Eagles – OVER 10 wins: Time to go for it.  Will the offensive line be good enough?  More importantly, can it keep Mike Vick upright and on the field?  Will DeSean stay happy and healthy?  Will the linebackers be the downfall of a revamped defense?  Can the rookie kicker come through in the clutch?  All legitimate questions, but when it comes right down to it this is a team with proven talent all over the field, a wealth of explosive play-makers on both sides of the ball, and a coaching staff that, even if it tends to sabotage itself now and then, also has a proven track-record of success, especially in the regular season.  With the rest of the division in varying degrees of transition, they’re clearly the division favorite.  They also get to play the entire NFC West, and their match-ups with the AFC East are favorable because they get the Pats and Jets at home, making those games more winnable.  A lot of questions to be answered, but 12 wins seems like a smart guess right now.

FINAL:  8-8.  BRY 6-8
The pain for Doogan of losing his 6-pick streak is doubled by the fact that it was by missing an OVER pick on the Birds.  Bry climbs back into contention here.

15. BRY – Baltimore Ravens – UNDER 12 wins: I guess I waited one pick too long to pull the trigger on the Birds Over – nice pick, and I agree.  As my next pick, I am going against a team in whom I always seem to have a TON of confidence.  But, 12 wins is a LOT of wins, and I am not at all enthralled with the offseason here in B’more.  Granted, if you’re a Ravens fan, you have to have all the confidence and trust in the world in Ozzie Newsome and company, but it’s hard to argue that this team got better this offseason.  Plus, this team is built on defense and their two core defensive players (Lewis and Reed) on on the downsides of their careers – albeit first-ballot HoF careers, but still.  They also let go of a lot of veteran leadership on the offensive side of the ball, with the cuts of Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and Willis McGahee.  While none of these three were stars anymore, nor are they irreplaceable, their combined losses leave this offense with a lot less depth and a lot less margin for error when it comes to injuries.  They are one Ray Rice or Anquan Boldin injury away from real offensive issues.  I would still bet on this team to make the playoffs, and the only reason it took me this long to make this pick is because of faith in this organization and an incredibly favorable schedule (NFC West and AFC South).  But, easy schedule or no, this team just doesn’t smell like a 12-win team to me.

FINAL:  12-4.  DOOGAN, 9-6
The pick getting back in it, Bry gives one right back, as the Ravens – AGAIN – pile up a 12-win season.  Honestly, this is a truly elite franchise.

16. DOOGAN – St. Louis Rams – OVER 7 wins: They’re the best team in their division, so the OVER on 7 wins should be pretty much a no-brainer.  The problem: they were the best team in their division last year, too.  Still, Sam Bradford could be poised to become a big asset at the most important position, Steven Jackson still has something left in the tank, and they made an upgrade on the O-line.  I have a lot of faith in Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive coaching abilities, and Quintin Mikell should help, especially since he’s familiar with the scheme already.  In the worst division in the game, I see no reason why they can’t hit 9 wins and host a playoff game.

FINAL:  2-14.  BRY, 7-9
A big miss here by Doogan, but it’s not surprising, as most people thought the Rams would be better than they were.  Bry is still alive here, as the picks continue to get harder.

17. BRY – New England Patiots – UNDER 14 wins: Do I think the Pats will take a step backwards?  No.  Do I think Brady has lost a step?  No.  Do I think Belichick is the best head coach in football?  Yes – I may even make the case that he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time.  Do I think Ochocinco is going to have a big year?  Maybe.  Do I think Albert Haynesworth is gonna be a beast on the D-line?  Yes.  Do I think that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL?  Yes, actually.  However, with all that said, 14 is just too big of a number.  If you held a gun to my head and said “pick this year’s Super Bowl champs,” I would take New England.  But, I think they can easily do that with 12 or 13 wins.  14 is a lot for anyone.

FINAL:  13-3.  BRY, 8-9
While Bry had clinched this in Week 9, it turned out to be by the skin of his teeth, as the Pats rolled off 8 straight wins to end the season.

18. DOOGAN – Detroit Lions – OVER 6 wins: I’ve been considering this pick for a while now because logic says this should be an improved team in 2011, but when I look through their schedule it’s not too difficult to imagine them struggling to get more than 6 wins.  That being said, they’re in a similar boat to the Rams in the sense that they have a potential young star at the QB position in Matthew Stafford.  Last year, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton both saw more snaps than Stafford, and it can only be a good thing for the Lions to have him in there.  Of course, he’ll need to stay healthy.  Calvin Johnson is one of the best young wide-outs in the league.  Nick Fairley was a potential steal with the 13th pick in the draft, and he could team with Ndamukong Suh to form a lethal interior D-line for years to come.  This team closed out last year with four straight wins.  They’re probably at least a year away from a long-awaited playoff return, but they can win 8 this year.

FINAL:  10-6.  DOOGAN, 10-8
After back-to-back misses, Doogan is back on track with an easy win.  It’s interesting to see how long it took us to take the much-hyped Lions with such a low number, but I guess that shows you that, in retrospect, their 10-win season wasn’t nearly as expected as it may seem now.

19. BRY – Cleveland Browns – OVER 5 wins: This is not a great team, but I actually kind of like their offense right now.  I am a Colt McCoy believer.  I think he has shown a really encouraging combination of talent and moxy that tells me that there is a chance that he becomes a decent NFL quarterback.  Then again, I have been saying similar things about Chad Henne for the better part of three years now, so I may not exactly be the best judge of quarterbacking talent.  Along with McCoy, the Browns also have a pretty ferocious offensive line and may have found themselves a feature back in Peyton Hillis, as long as the Madden cover jinx doesn’t rear its ugly face (by the way, is Hillis the strangest Madden cover figure ever?).  McCoy still doesn’t have too many receiving weapons, and, though the secondary led by Joe Haden is decent, the front seven on defense is still a work in progress, but the schedule is pretty soft, and I think Pat Shurmur might be a decent head coach.  Put me down for 6-8 wins for the Brownies this year.

FINAL:  4-12.  DOOGAN, 11-8
A big point for Doogan here, as Bry misses on a really bad Browns team.  The sentence “I am a Colt McCoy believer” is echoing pretty loudly right now.

20. DOOGAN – Green Bay Packers – OVER 10 wins: This late in the game, I’m pretty happy to grab the Over on 10 for the defending champs.  Much has been made of all the injuries the Packers had last year, with a lot of people making the assumption that they’ll be even better this year.  I’m not ready to make that assumption, especially because I think the challenges that come with being the defending champ are real.  But, I don’t see any reason why can’t be just as good as they were last year, and the should have won at least a couple more than 10 games a year ago.

FINAL:  15-1.  DOOGAN, 12-8
Another seemingly easy pick in retrospect gives Doogan a commanding lead heading into the final 8 picks.

21. BRY – Tampa Bay Buccanneers – UNDER 10 wins: Ya, that’s pretty good value at #20, Doogan.  I’ll take the Bucs to slide a little bit back to reality this year.  While there is no reason to really think that this team will be any worse than they were last year, considering all their key players are young, and they have one of the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the game.  But, I don’t think they were 10-wins good last year, I think they more benefitted from some good fortune and a favorable schedule.  Plus, they do have major question marks in the secondary now with the legal troubles of Aqib Talib and other issues among important d-backs.  Despite that, I actually think that this year’s Bucs team might be just as good or better than last year’s, yet still not reach 10 wins this time around.

FINAL:  4-12.  BRY, 9-12
Bry does what he needs to here, as he gets an easy point at #21.  These mid-to-late picks aren’t supposed to be this easy…

22. DOOGAN – Buffalo Bills – OVER 4 wins: The Bills put up some random big offensive days last season, and even if they don’t have a ton of talent on that offense, they do have pretty much all the same guys back, so there’s reason to believe they can be an average offense this season.  Shawne Merriman looks like he could be an asset on defense, and 3rd-overall pick Marcel Dareus could have an immediate impact on the d-line.  Also worth noting that after an 0-8 start last year, they finished 4-4, with three of those final four losses being to the Steelers, Pats, and Jets.  I could see them winning 7 this year.

FINAL:  6-10.  DOOGAN, 13-9
Doogan saw them for 7; he got 6 and got the point.  Though, it seems like the Bills were even better than 6-10, looking back.

23. BRY – Cincinnati Bengals – OVER 4 wins: I would feel bad about making this pick after a Week One victory, but I give my word that this was my next pick, anyway.  Plus, they did lose their starting quarterback in the game, so who knows.  But, anyway, I don’t think this team is all that good, but 4 is a very low number, and the AFC North was given a really soft schedule this year (NFC West and AFC South – probably the two worst divisions in the league).  This team is also only 2 years removed from 10 wins and an impressive sweep of this division.  Their defense isn’t terrible (for a 4-win team), and they do have Cedric Benson and a slew of promising young weapons on the offensive side, including #4 overall pick, A.J. Green.  Their QB position is a huge question mark, but the dirty little secret is that their QB wasn’t all that good last year, either, regardless of what people may believe about Carson Palmer.  I’m not convinced that the reason he wasn’t traded is because of some weird Mike Brown “line in the sand.”  I kind of think that the rest of the league might not have been all that interested.

FINAL:  9-7.  BRY, 10-13
Bry looks savvy on this pick, as the Bengals made the playoffs, but he clearly didn’t think that was going to happen, though the point counts all the same.

24. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Steelers – UNDER 12 wins: Wow, that was an ugly Week 1 performance!  A team like this, with a winner at QB, some of the sport’s elite playmakers on defense, and very capable head coach, will find a way to right the ship, but after a game like that, going under on 12 feels fairly easy.

FINAL:  12-4.  BRY, 11-13
The Steelers rebounded from a terrible Week One to get to the 12 number and give Bry life in this competition.

25. BRY – Seattle Seahawks – UNDER 7 wins: If we could have taken the UNDER on playoff wins, this might have been the top pick on the board, but the fact that they only won 7 regular season games last year makes this a much trickier proposition.  Plus, throw in the fact that they play 6 games in a bad division, and it’s even tougher.  But, there really just isn’t any talent on this team.  They might be the worst team in the league.  And, while I have to root for Tavaris Jackson for the “All-Jackson” fantasy team, he really isn’t very good…at all.  Put me down for 4-5 wins for the ‘Hawks, with a higher possibility of 2 wins and Andrew Luck than 7 wins and another year of T-Jax.

FINAL:  7-9.  DOOGAN, 14-11
Even more brutal for Bry than this number going exactly 7 again is that one of those 7 was the ugly Thursday night win over the Eagles…

26. DOOGAN – New Orleans Saints – OVER 11 wins: Tough to go over on a big number for a team that already has one in the L column, but their all tough calls at this point.  Drew Brees showed last week that he’s ready for a bounce back year after an off year last year that probably had a lot to do with a nagging knee injury.  Darren Sproles (7 catches, 75 yards) showed that they won’t miss Reggie Bush much.  Marques Colston going down with a broken collarbone is a blow, but there’s still plenty of nice options for Brees to chuck it to.  They should put up a ton of points all year, and should also be favored in every game from here on out, with the exception of their trip to Atlanta in November.

FINAL:  13-3.  DOOGAN, 15-11
Doogan gets to a game away from clinching at least a tie, as the Saints improve by 2 games over a solid 11-5 year.

27. BRY – Washington Redskins – OVER 6 wins: Now that we’re two games in, it’s hard to eliminate what we already know about the season, so their 2-0 start is obviously out there for all to see.  But, I was thinking Over on the ‘Skins anyway, and in my week-by-week preview, I did have them winning these two games, so I guess I can lean on that.  Either way, I had a little fear of this team coming out of the preseason because it looks like Mike Shanahan finally has “his team” there in Washington, and that can be scary.  Also, as I’ve said a couple of times here on BSB, I’m not sure why everyone thinks that Rex Grossman is not one of the best 32 quarterbacks on the planet.  Is he top ten?  Certainly not.  But, the dude wins, and, to shamelessly (more like, lazily) quote myself here, “I believe that the job of a professional athlete is to win ballgames.  And, as pretty much anyone will confess, the quarterback of a football team has more to do with a team’s season-long success than any other position in sports (considering that a starting pitcher, who admittedly may affect individual games more, only pitches 1 out of every 5 games).  So, why do we all love guys like Matt Schaub and Daunte Culpepper, but can’t stand the Vince Youngs and Rex Grossmans of the world?  I don’t get it.  Grossman is 31-17 as a starting quarterback, including a Super Bowl run.  And, it’s not like he has been throwing to Andre Johnson, Cris Carter, or Randy Moss in any of his various stops (you know, other than the 1 game he started as Schaub’s backup last year).  I’m not saying the Skins are headed to the Super Bowl, but Shanahan may not be the grumpy old man he was made out to be last year.”  Gimme the ‘Skins as a .500 team this year.

FINAL:  5-11.  DOOGAN, 16-11
Bry loses all shot at an outright victory because of the faith he put in the Dedskins to play .500 ball last year.  Oh, and another team that beat the Eagles and still went UNDER.

28. DOOGAN – Tennessee Titans – OVER 6 wins: They’re left without Jeff Fisher (a head coach I really respect), Vince Young or Kerry Collins, and with a number of key players gone from the defense.  So why will they get better?  For one, they lost a number of games that they should’ve won a year ago.  They may not be a contender these days, but the cupboard isn’t bare, especially considering they have one of the top players in the league carrying the ball, Chris Johnson.  He practically gives them a decent offense by himself, because the opposing defense has to key on him and Matt Hasselbeck can try to not screw things up.  With the Colts obviously taking a huge step backward, that makes the schedule look a lot less daunting.  It’s suddenly an up-for-grabs division, which means the Titans should be able to hang around .500.

FINAL:  9-7.  DOOGAN, 17-11
Does anyone remember that the Titans won 9 games in 2011?  Well, Doogan does, as it is the pick that clinched a second straight NFL Preview title.

29. BRY – Arizona Cardinals – OVER 5 wins: You know that a division is bad if the perceived “best” team in the division doesn’t go over on SEVEN WINS until pick #16.  Then, the next one off the board is the defending division champs and UNDER SEVEN WINS.  Now, the other two left with four teams to pick from are sitting with lines of 5 and 6.  Someone has to win these games, right?  Right?  Well, I am going to take the Cards and the Over because, well, they may have the best QB in the division (it’s at least close between Kolb and Bradford) and when is the last time a team with a division’s best QB lost 11 games?  But…I’m not confident in this one in any way whatsoever.

FINAL:  8-8.  BRY, 12-17
Just playing out the string here, as Bry hits on what turned out to be a comfortable OVER pick of the Cards (another team that beat the Eagles…ugh).

30. DOOGAN – Minnesota Vikings – UNDER 6 wins: Brad Childress proved himself to be grossly inept as an NFL head coach, and it seems like things may have to get worse for the Vikings before they get better in the wake of his tenure.  With the emergence of the Lions, the Vikings seem destined for a last place finish and spot pretty far up the draft board come April.

FINAL:  3-13.  DOOGAN, 18-12
Just pouring it on now in a very impressive prediction performance by Doogan this year, as he nails the Vikings UNDER by 3 whole games.

31. BRY – San Francisco 49ers – OVER 6 wins: Everything I said about the Cardinals can also apply to the 49ers – it’s just a harder pick because the line is 6 and not 5.  But, sign me up for the over on both of them, hoping I just split them…

FINAL:  13-3.  BRY, 13-18
Fortunately, Bry’s last pick (usually a coin flip) fell on the right side…BY 7 GAMES – or this would have been a really ugly way to finish.

32. DOOGAN – New York Jets – UNDER 11 wins: Coin toss…?

FINAL:  8-8.  DOOGAN, 19-13
Doogan’s coin toss at #32 hits right by 3 games, and he finishes with a very impressive 19-13 victory.

Doogan nailed 13 of his 16 picks, while Bry only hit on 10 of his 16.  Congrats to Mr. Doogan on a well-earned victory and the ability to keep the crown for another year.

2011 MLB Season Preview: BSB-Style

(UPDATE:  BSB is about to begin the 2012 MLB Preview, so we figured it would be a good time to look back at the 2011 Preview in anticipation.  The individual previews were posted on 3/28.  The updates (underlined) were made after the regular season ended.)

With the end of a fantastic college basketball season this year imminent, it is time for Broad Street Believers to officially turn most of its attention squarely on the 2011 MLB season.  And, to kick off what might be a prolific season of baseball coverage, we will run our annual tradition of previewing the MLB season in a unique way you won’t find anywhere else.  We, here at BSB, like to have a little fun with everything and turn as many things as we can into competitions.  And, we found a way to preview various seasons in a competitive manner.  Over the next couple of days, Doogan and I will be “analyzing” all 30 Major League teams by trying to predict who is going to get better, who is going to get worse, and how confident we are in those assessments.  This is the fourth year we have done this for baseball, and Bry has actually won all three – the first two very narrowly, and then last year’s by an 18-12 score.  (You can check out last year’s final recap here.)  So, if you are interested in our picks, check back as we will conduct this “draft” live, with updates, well, whenever we do them until we have picked all 30 teams.  Doogan picked first last year, so Bry will kick off 2011 with the #1 draft pick…

FINAL RESULTS: show final record, winner of the pick.

1. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 61 wins:
Doogan, judging by the trouble I had with #1, this year might be the most difficult yet.  Usually, there are at least 2 or 3 that are obvious right off the bat, but I am not 100% confident with my very first pick.  That being said, I cannot imagine how the Mariners will be worse than they were last year.  They do have talent and the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, who is only getting better.  I don’t think they are anywhere near contenders, but they will not lose 100 games again.  Your move…

FINAL: 67-95
BRY leads 1-0
The M’s didn’t have a good year, by any stretch, but they did manage to avoid another 100-loss season and get Bry the first point.

2. DOOGAN – San Diego Padres – UNDER 90 wins:
Well, let’s see, nobody could figure out how the Padres won 90 games last year, and they traded away their only legitimate offensive threat, Adrian Gonzalez, in the offseason.  They also lost Jon Garland, who gave them a very solid season.  They could very easily lose 90 games this time around.

FINAL: 71-91
DOOGAN ties it up 1-1
Bry’s first pick was a bit of a sweat, but Doogan’s was drama-free, as the Pads were 19 games worse in 2011 than 2010.

3. DOOGAN – Milwaukee Brewers – OVER 77 wins:
Zach Greinke’s injury may give a moment’s pause here, but with him joining Yovani Gallardo, the also newly-acquired Shaun Marcum, and the still-steady Randy Wolf, the Brewers have one of the better rotations in the game.  The offense still has Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks, and Takashi Saito has joined the pen.  In a weak division, they should be able to push for 90 wins.

FINAL: 96-66
DOOGAN leads 2-1
If his first two picks are any indication, Doogan is on point here, as the Brew Crew also wins the point for him with 19 games to spare.

4. BRY – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 96 wins:
I strongly considered San Diego with #1, so nice pick there.  I am going to go with Tampa here because 96 wins is a lot for anyone in any division, but this team did lose, arguably, its best offensive player, and most of its bullpen, and they still play in the AL East.  All that being said, I still think this is a very, very good team that could seriously contend because of their incredible pitching, but 96 wins is just too much.

FINAL: 91-71
BRY ties it up 2-2
The Rays made the playoffs with 91 wins, but it wasn’t enough to cost Bry the point.  Still “on serve” after 4 picks.

5. DOOGAN – Oakland A’s – OVER 81 wins:
They have a very promising young rotation with Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden, and they took a flier on their former young star, Rich Harden, who has maybe one more shot to get his career back on track.  They’ve made a couple nice additions to the bullpen with Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour joining young closer Andrew Bailey.  They may still struggle to score runs, but newcomers Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham will certainly help.  They can definitely contend in the underwhelming AL West and win 90 games.

FINAL: 74-88 – WRONG
BRY takes the lead 3-2
The first “break” of the game goes to Bry, as Doogan thought the A’s would be above .500.

6. BRY – Pittsburgh Pirates – OVER 57 wins:
If I had to bet on a team to be the worst in baseball, I would absolutely bet on the Pirates.  But, I also find it really hard to believe that in a National League that is very short on great teams will give us any team that loses 105 games again.  Again, if anyone can do it, it would be the Pirates because they have been terrible for so long and haven’t really added anything to make us think they won’t, but young’ins like Andrew McCutcheon and Pedro Alvarez have to improve a little bit, right?  Maybe?

FINAL: 72-90
BRY leads 4-2
This point was probably won in July, as the Pirates improved by 15 games in 2011.

7. DOOGAN – New York Mets – UNDER 79 wins:
You definitely stole my next pick with there with the Buccos, and that’s the end of the gimmes, in my mind.  Considering the new regime in Queens and the whole Madoff situation with the owners, I really see this season being the end of an era and the Mets trading away guys like Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in July.  I mean, by that point they’ll be, what, 20 games behind the Phils?

FINAL: 77-85
DOOGAN trails 4-3
In a point that was more dramatic than it may seem, it remains difficult to believe that the 2011 Mets won 77 games, but they did – it just wasn’t enough to cost Doogan the point.

8. BRY – New York Yankees – UNDER 95 wins:
Since we’re in the Big Apple, let’s just head over to the other Borough and pick against them too, while we’re at it.  I know that this team always wins and almost assuredly will end the season with at least one or two more major pieces than they started it with, but I really can’t find 95 wins on this roster – particularly, this pitching staff.  With Andy Pettitte retiring, the Bombers are all of a sudden counting on A.J. Burnett as their #2 starter?  That’s incredibly scary.  Maybe Phil Hughes progresses even more, but still do they win 95 games when Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova are starting 30-40% of their games?  Yes, in true Yankees fashion, they added the best closer on the market – Rafael Soriano – to be a handsomely paid setup man, but the rest of the bullpen is somewhat shaky, and there will be a time when Mariano is just too old to keep getting it done.  And, speaking of old – have you seen the left side of the infield?  All of a sudden two of the best players of my lifetime look like they’re ready to become the centerpieces of the “stories of my youth.”  I do think Robinson Cano is one of the best players in the game, but I don’t see 95 wins in the Bronx this year.

FINAL: 97-65 – WRONG
DOOGAN ties it up 4-4
Bry’s first misstep comes at #8 with the Yanks.  They actually got 2 games better in 2011, despite injury-riddled seasons from A-Rod and Jeter and a no-show from AJ Burnett.  Curtis Granderson is probably to blame for the improvement of the Bombers this year.

9. DOOGAN – Boston Red Sox – OVER 89 wins:
Well, if the Yanks and Rays are both going under, then those AL East wins have to go somewhere, and the Sox look to be in a great position to take them.  They had a ton of injuries last year, and I see improved seasons coming from Josh Beckett and John Lackey behind Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in the rotation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the two massive additions to the line-up, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  Add in a couple bullpen reinforcements in Bobby Jenks and Dennys Reyes, and this is team is the clear favorite to win the best division in baseball.  That means 96-97 wins.

FINAL: 90-72
DOOGAN takes the lead 5-4
Most people will remember the Red Sox losing game #162 as a devastating loss, little does everyone realize that they didn’t need that 91st win.  Doogan had already hit his Over with their 90th win.  Much ado about nothing…

10. BRY – Baltimore Orioles – OVER 66 wins:
Ya, that was my next pick as well, but I’ll stay here in the AL East.  Trivia question:  If we split last year into two 81-game seasons, who would have won the AL East in that second season?  Answer:  The Baltimore Orioles.  That’s right, the Orioles had a better record than the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays in the final 81 games.  Now, I am not at all implying they are contenders for the title this year, but I think they will be a lot better than the 96 losses they had last year.  They have Showalter for a full year, and I actually kind of like the additions of J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee, and Vlad Guerrero.  Plus, guys like Matt Wieters and Adam Jones are a year older, and guys in the rotation like Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, and Jake Arrieta have another year under their belts.

FINAL: 69-93
BRY ties it up 5-5
While the O’s may not have “taken the next step” in 2011, they did improve by 3 games – which is enough to get Bry the point here at #10.

11. DOOGAN – Detroit Tigers – OVER 81 wins:
This is a slightly scary pick because there are a lot of “ifs” that need to turn out on the positive side, but there’s a lot of talent on this roster.  The most important “if”: IF Miguel Cabrera can keep himself alive and out of trouble, he should team with Victor Martinez in the middle of a solid line-up that also features young outfielders Austin Jackson, Ryan Raburn, and Brennan Boesch.  I think Rick Porcello will bounce back with a solid year, joining ace Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the front of the rotation.  And Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit will form a dependable back-end of the bullpen.

FINAL: 95-67
DOOGAN takes the lead 6-5
A stress-free point for Doogan at #11, as the Tigers were 14 games better in 2011 than the 2010 version.

12. BRY – Toronto Blue Jays – UNDER 85 wins:
This might be odd to talk about the Blue Jays regressing because they seem to a team moving in the right direction, in a weird way, but I just don’t see 85 wins of talent on this roster, especially in the AL East.  They had a slew of career years offensively last year (Jose Bautista comes to mind), so even with the normal regression to the mean for these guys, you have to expect that they will not hit 250 home runs again or score close to 800 runs again.  Plus, as bad as a contract as Vernon Wells had and as great as it was for the future of the team to move him, his loss will be felt in the short-term.  I like the depth of their pitching staff, but it’s just a collection of decent #3’s.  Put me down as surprised if this team goes .500 and pretty sure they won’t hit 85 wins again.

FINAL: 81-81
BRY ties it up 6-6
A decent Blue Jays team was only good enough to go .500 in the brutal AL East, which means Bry takes the point and stays on serve.

13. DOOGAN – Arizona Diamondbacks – OVER 65 wins:
Not gonna lie, it took me a while to find a next pick.  In the end, I’m going with one of the lower numbers out there.  I don’t think this will be a good team.  They don’t really have any stars that can carry them, but I do think they have enough to get into the 70’s in wins.  Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, and Armando Galarraga are guys that have gotten it done in the bigs for various lengths of time.  The “future stars” on offense that look like they’ll never quite make it (Chris Young, Stephen Drew, maybe even Justin Upton) are at least solidly productive.  The weak bullpen could be what really derails them, but 70 wins isn’t too much to ask for.

FINAL: 94-68
DOOGAN takes the lead 7-6
The second-best pick of the whole thing comes at #13, as Doogan wins this one by almost 30 wins – wow!

14. BRY – Minnesota Twins – UNDER 94 wins:
Ya, it’s getting real tough already.  Not sure how the rest of these picks are gonna go.  And, as evidence for the difficulty, I have to go against a team that always seems to overachieve.  But, 94 wins is a lot of wins.  I know that they played most of the second half without their second-best player in Justin Morneau.  I know that they played the whole season without their star closer, Joe Nathan.  And, I know that they won 94 games last year, despite all of that.  But, I just think that they may have overachieved a little too much last year.  I could easily see them at 90-92 this year and winning the division again, but I just think 94 is a big number.

FINAL: 63-99
BRY ties it up 7-7
The second-best pick is followed up by the best pick in this middle section of the draw, as the Twins were an ungodly 31 games worse than they were in 2010.

15. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 80 wins:
The Angels have taken a bunch of steps back over the last couple years, but they still have two really important things going for them:  starting pitching and money.  Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are a great 1-2 combo at the front of the rotation, and Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro are solid veterans.  The underwhelming offense is relying on three over-the-hill outfielders (Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vernon Wells) and the once-great bullpen has been largely gutted, but the starting pitching should help make them decent, and they have the money to add payroll mid-season and make a push in a winnable AL West.

FINAL: 86-76
DOOGAN takes the lead 8-7
These guys are good, as halfway through, there have only been 2 incorrect picks out of 15.  Doogan hits this one with 6 games to spare.

16. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 67 wins:
I think I end up taking the Royals and the OVER every year, so why not get it over with now?  By almost all accounts, this team has the best farm system in all of baseball and it seems like many of these guys are just about ready to contribute on the ML level – at least by July or so.  I don’t think this team will compete this year – or even next – and they did lose their only real star in Zack Greinke in the offseason, but I can see this team getting real feisty in the second half and winning 35-40 games in the second half.  So, if they can just be not awful in the first half (which is no lock, by any means), then I think they’ll be hitting the almighty 70-win mark.  Then again, this may be really stupid, considering their rotation consists of Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, the immortal Bruce Chen, and a 5th starter-to-be-named-later.  Ugh…what did I just do?

FINAL: 71-91
BRY ties it up 8-8
The youthful Royals are going to be the trendy pick to win the Central for the next decade, but we’ll see if it ever happens.  Hey, they improved by FOUR whole games in 2011…Yankees watch out.

17. DOOGAN – Texas Rangers – UNDER 90 wins:
It’s hard not to like the direction this franchise is heading in, but I’ve already gone OVER on the A’s and Angels, so that would put the Rangers in a tough spot.  They also won’t get two months from a certain guy named Cliff Lee.  I feel like they’ll find a way to have a decent rotation, but C.J. Wilson as your Opening Day starter isn’t a great sign.  Adrian Beltre is a nice replacement for Vlad Guerrero in the line-up, but with him joining Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, the team’s three best hitters are all injury-prone, which could certainly come back to haunt them. 

FINAL: 96-66 – WRONG
BRY takes the lead 9-8
The streak of 8 straight correct picks is finished, as Doogan gets burned by another great year in Arlington.

18. BRY – Colorado Rockies – OVER 83 wins:
I have been resoundingly critical of this Colorado team for a couple years now.  I could never really understand how they were any good at all with an aging Todd Helton and heavily struggling guys like Garret Atkins and Brad Hawpe in the lineup every day.  Plus, their leadoff hitter was Dexter Fowler, who almost never got on base.  But, I have come around on this team, particularly because of three guys (who are pretty obvious these days) – Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez.  When you have a true #1 pitcher, an elite shortstop, and one of the best rising offensive stars in the game, you do not have all that much more building that needs to be done.  Plus, I like Jorge De La Rosa as a #2 and I think Huston Street is an underrated closer (when healthy).  I still don’t see this team as a pennant contender, but I can easily see them winning 85+ games in a mediocre division.

FINAL: 73-89 – WRONG
DOOGAN ties it up 9-9
Bry’s lead doesn’t last long, as he missed badly on the Rox in 2011.

19. DOOGAN – Houston Astros – UNDER 76 wins:
A mediocre rotation, a bad bullpen, and a line-up that really struggles to score.  Ladies and gentlemen, Ed Wade in action!  This team was lucky to win 76 last year.  They’ll be lucky to win 70 without any help from Mr. Roy Oswalt

FINAL: 56-106
DOOGAN takes the lead 10-9
Did they really lose 106 games???  Ouch…

20. BRY – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 80 wins:
Clayton Kershaw may be on the verge of being an elite starting pitcher.  If Chad Billingsley ever finds it again, he could be a solid #2; Ted Lilly is already a solid #3; and, you can do a lot worse than Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland as your #4-5.  Plus, the bullpen is still very good, anchored by closer Jonathan Broxton.  All of those parts add up to a really solid all-around pitching staff and when your pitching staff is solid, you have a really good chance to win more games than you lose.  And, it’s not like this offense is terrible.  Andre Ethier is not nearly as good as many people may think, but he’s solid.  Matt Kemp is not even close to as good as he probably should be, but he is immensely talented.  Rafael Furcal and James Loney are solid pieces.  This team is probably no better than a third-place team right now, but they could add a piece or two if they figure out their finances.  I wouldn’t be surprised with pretty much any result between 75 and 90, but I think the chances are better they’re over 80 than under it.

FINAL: 82-79
BRY ties it up 10-10
By the skin of his teeth, Bry avoids back-to-back misses, as the Dodgers and Matt Kemp managed a 2-win improvement in 2011.

21. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – UNDER 86 wins:
Argh, you definitely stole my next one with the Dodgers.  I hate betting against this Cardinal team, but losing Adam Wainwright for the season is a massive blow.  And I’m usually not one to buy into “distractions” affecting a team that much, but this Pujols contract situation is such a dark cloud hanging over this Cardinal season that its hard for me to see it not having a negative impact on just about everyone in the organization.  Also, isn’t about time this “Ryan Franklin as competent closer” phenomenon came to an end?

FINAL: 90-72 – WRONG
BRY takes the lead 11-10
This one burns…what I wouldn’t give for Doogan to have been right about this one.  Then again, at least he didn’t pick…

22 BRY – Philadelphia Phillies – UNDER 97 wins:
Okay, I’ve put this off long enough for six reasons:  (1) I have a hard time picking the Phillies and the Under, in general; (2) I’ve thought about picking them and the Under for the last couple years and I always talk myself into the Over and end up getting rewarded; (3) Roy Halladay; (4) Cliff Lee; (5) Cole Hamels; (6) Roy Oswalt.  It is hard to believe that the best pitching staff of all-time won’t win 97 games, but I’m a little worried.  Let’s do some math, by the dozen:  I think that even these 4 great pitchers will probably throw out 3-4 “off days” a year, so say that’s approximately a dozen losses from them.  Without Brad Lidge, I think that the bullpen could blow at least a dozen leads.  There will probably be 20-30 games with these starters lead tied.  If the Phils win about half of them, that’s another dozen losses.  A non-stud starter will get at least 30-40 starts, so say that’s another dozen losses, at least.  And, there will probably be another dozen losses when the offense just doesn’t do anything (especially without Utley) and Halladay loses 2-1 or 1-0.  So, that is, by my count, six dozen losses…or about 90 wins.  Honestly, I would definitely take the Over on 90, but I think I have go with the Under on 97.

FINAL: 102-60 – WRONG
DOOGAN ties it up 11-11
The best team in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Bry went with the Under – he was unavailable for comment on this one…

23. DOOGAN – Chicago Cubs – OVER 75 wins:
I was gonna go Over on the Phils at some point.  Boo to you, Bry.  As for the Cubbies, it must make their fans sick to see some of these contracts.  This year they’re paying $19 mil. each to Soriano and Zambrano, $17 mil. to Aramis Ramirez, and $14 mil. to Kosuke Fukudome.  Anyway, it looks like they have a .500 team.  Zambrano, Dempster, and Matt Garza is a serviceable trio of starters and Kerry Wood returns to join Carlos Marmol at the back of the pen.  The offense definitely doesn’t thrill you but, again, not terrible.  111 years and counting for the North Siders.

FINAL: 71-91 – WRONG
BRY takes the lead 12-11
The Cubbies are in trouble, as a franchise.  A winnable division, a huge payroll, and 71 wins?  That’s, uh, not very good.  Bry takes the lead back, as the guys are starting to struggle here down the stretch.

24. BRY – Florida Marlins – OVER 80 wins:
Ya, I’m not a fan of my last pick, either, Doogan.  The good news is – if I had to pick one team that I think has the best chance to win the World Series, it would be the Phils because I think that 97 wins or not, they are going to the playoffs and once they get there, with that rotation – watch out.  Anyway, this paragraph isn’t supposed to be about the Phils.  It’s getting pretty tough here with these last couple, but I’ll go with the Fish and their youngsters to at least go .500.  When you have a top 5 starting pitcher and a top 5 shortstop, you should win a lot of games.  Plus, the rest of the rotation is decent and they always have good young talent on the way.

FINAL: 72-90 – WRONG
DOOGAN ties it up 12-12
The 4th straight incorrect pick gives us another tie here after 24 picks.  It’s hard to imagine that this Marlins team was a last-place team in 2011, but it’s true.

25. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – UNDER 91 wins:
Even though, in a lot of ways, this is an up-and-coming team, they look more likely to take a step back this year.  Is Joey Votto really going to repeat as MVP?  Also, even though they have a bunch of decent arms in the rotation, none of them can be considered a sure thing, especially with two of them (Cueto and Bailey) starting the year on the DL.  Aroldis Chapman might turn into a beast in the pen, but they have a bunch of relievers that had really good years last year who could easily be very average this year.  The good news for them is that 87 wins could definitely take the division title again.

FINAL: 79-83
DOOGAN takes the lead 13-12
To get an easy point at #25 is always a welcome relief, but after 4 straight incorrect picks, this one feels pretty important for Doogan’s chances at winning the MLB Preview for the first time.

26. BRY – Chicago White Sox – OVER 88 wins:
The remaining picks are really, really tough, but the Ozzie Guillen/Ken Williams Era has been very underrated on the South Side, so I’ll go with the ChiSox.  This team is always competitive and they always seem to make a big move if they need it.  And, I think that they are arguably the best team in this decent division, which usually leads to 90+ wins.  I really like the Adam Dunn signing and the Paul Konerko re-signing.  And, even though Jake Peavy will start the season on the DL, if they can get anything close to the Peavy of old, this staff could be excellent with Mark Buerhle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson.  We could even see breakout performances from guys like Gordan Beckham or Alexei Ramirez.

FINAL: 79-83 – WRONG
DOOGAN leads 14-12
Yet another bad pick by Bry, as he is fading quickly down the stretch here – Doogan’s magic number is 2.

27. DOOGAN – San Francisco Giants – UNDER 92 wins:
As good as their starting pitching is, it’s pretty hard to see it getting better.  On the other hand, they’ll continue to struggle to score runs, and it’s easy to see Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, and Andres Torres dropping their production level of last year.  They’re hoping rookie first baseman Brandon Belt will help with run production.  This also a brutal defensive team, with Burrell in left, 37-year-old Miguel Tejada at short, Pablo Sandoval at third, and Huff moving to right field to make room for Belt.  Throw in Brian Wilson starting the year on the DL, and I like the Under here.

FINAL: 86-76
DOOGAN leads 15-12 (clinches at least a tie)
A great call by Doogan here at #27 to pick against the defending champs has put him on the verge of the 2011 title.

28. BRY – Washington Nationals – OVER 69 wins:
I have put off this pick for a while now because, while I think they have to be getting better (right?), they really have no starting pitching.  And, we all know that Strasburg is out with an injury, and Jordan Zimmerman may not be ready for The Show quite yet.  But, they do have the most underrated player in the game (Ryan Zimmerman) and they added some guy named Jayson Werth.  I think they’re probably more likely to hit 65 than 75, but I still think that they’re probably around 72 or so, so I’ll take the Over – barely.

FINAL: 80-81
BRY trails 15-13
The champagne will have to stay “on ice,” as Bry cruises to an easy point here, with the Nats nearly playing .500 ball in 2011.

29. DOOGAN – Cleveland Indians – UNDER 69 wins:
I stayed away from this pick for so long because the Indians have a lot of guys that could either way: pretty good or really bad.  The offense has the potential to be average (that’s about it though), but the pitching has the potential to be epically bad (which they showed when the first two starters combined to give up 17 runs in the first two games of the year).  In a pretty tough division with three good teams to play 18 times each, it’s likely to be another long year in Cleveland.

FINAL: 80-82
BRY trails 15-14
Doogan misses another chance to clinch the title, as the Indians (despite playing about .300 baseball in the second half) had a good enough first half to nearly finish .500.

30. BRY – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 91 wins:
After taking the Phils and the Under, I had a feeling that Doogan would set me up here to be the ultimate “bad guy” with a Braves and Over pick.  But, in true stubborn fashion, I refuse.  Give me the Under.  I do like this Braves team, but I think that they are getting way too much love from the national pundits.  Their starting rotation is good, on paper, and very deep, but Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson are another year older.  Jair Jurrjens and Kris Medlin have never proven they can stay healthy for a full year, and Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor still have a lot more to prove in the bigs.  And, on offense, everyone is talking about how great this offense is and I just don’t get it.  This is the first four in their order:  Martin Prado, Nate McClouth, a 39-year old Chipper Jones, and Dan Uggla.  Is that the first four of a title contender?  No way.  Jason Hayward is a stud, but does that mean that Freddie Freeman is too?  Plus, they lost Billy Wagner and are now counting on a couple of really young relievers in Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel at the back of the ‘pen.  But, despite all of what I just said, I would absolutely have picked this team for the Over and possibly thought they had a shot in the NL East, if not for one thing – the best manager of our generation is no longer calling the shots.  It’s hard to quantify what Bobby Cox did for that clubhouse, but I can say that, regardless of his replacement, they have downgraded.  Give me the Under in Atlanta and a fifth straight NL East title for the Phightin’ Phils!

FINAL: 89-73
BRY ties it up 15-15
Three straight wins for the Phils against the Braves to close out the season gives Bry three straight points to close out the Preview, and we’ve got ourselves a flat-footed tie, folks.  And, for the first time in our four-year history, we have to go to the tie-breaker (win differential).

TIEBREAKER:
DOOGAN – 96
BRY – 49

Doogan takes the 2011 MLB Preview Title in a Tiebreaker, 96-49.

2010 NFL Preview: BSB Style

Update (After Week 13):  Back before the season started, as we do every year, Doogan and I played our little “preview” game, where we took turns picking teams and whether or not we thought they’d be better or worse than they were last year.  Well, not it’s time to give a midseason update on our preview. 

Below are our original picks and our justification back in August, and below that, in italics, I’ll add a little rundown of each team’s season through 12 games, where they stand going forward, and how Doogan and I did in our predictions.  There may even be a random mention of the ancient Germanic tribes somewhere hidden in these italics.

AND…BELOW THE FIRST ITALICS IS THE FINAL STANDINGS AND THE SCORES FOR THIS YEAR’S NFL PREVIEW.

And, we are on the doorstep of yet another NFL season.  And, you all know what that means:  everyone’s favorite game…THE BSB NFL PREVIEW!  Doogan won our first NFL preview 17-15, in 2008, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version.  So, the 2010 preview is for the eternal bragging rights…for now.  Doogan had the first pick in 2009, so Bry will go first here in 2010.

BRY 1 – St. Louis Rams – OVER 1 win:  Doogan, let me warn you right now:  judging by the first pick, this is going to be really hard this year.  The last two first picks were easy with the Patriots coming off 16-0 and the Lions coming off 0-16.  Nothing was easy, and I don’t think it’s just the first pick that’ll be hard.  I had to start with the Rams.  I still think that this might be the worst team in football, but 1 win is a ridiculous number, and the OVER is a gimme, right?  Right?!?  The Rams and the OVER was my first pick last year (OVER 2 wins), and they finished 1-15 to screw me, but unabashed, I’m going for it again.

Through Week 13:  6-6
Quarterback is the most important position in sports, and it looks like the Rams found themselves a good one in Bradford.  Also, the second year under a good coach, Steve Spaguolo, may be reaping the benefits now.  Granted they play in probably the worst division in the history of the NFL, but the Rams may well be heading towards a home playoff game.

FINAL:  7-9, POINT BRY, 1-0
The emergence of Sam Bradford gets Bry off to a good start.

DOOGAN 2 – Washington Redskins – OVER 4 wins:  It takes a ton of talent, not only on the field but also on the sideline and upstairs in the offices, to make a successful NFL team.  But, if there are two men that are the most important in determining that success, it is the head coach and the quarterback.  The Skins made big upgrades at both of those spots this year, with Mike Shanahan and Donny Mac.  And they have enough talent at other spots to win half their games, even in a brutal division.

Through Week 13:  5-7
They are better than last year with a new coach and new QB, but how much better?  Obviously, they have already gone over their win total, but, if you can believe it, there may be even more dissaray this year in Washington than last year’s 4-12 team.  The QB is old and looks it.  The coach is not getting along with his team.  And, their best defensive player has just been suspended for the rest of the season for refusing to go into the game when his number was called.  Trouble in the Beltway.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT DOOGAN, 1-1
Maybe not the safe pick Doogan expected here at #2, but he does get the point and that’s all that matters.  In actuality, I’m sure Doogan is really happy with this result, as the Skins were terrible and aren’t looking any better, and he still got this point with the over.

DOOGAN 3 – Detroit Lions – OVER 2 wins:  Working under a lot of the same logic as the above pick, I’ll take the Lions on the over.  Head coach Jim Schwartz and quarterback Matthew Stafford were both new to their roles last year, but there’s reason to think that both will end up being capable at their jobs.  Schwartz was a successful defensive coordinator, and he now has Ndamukong Suh, who could make an immediate impact on the D-Line.  Stafford has an elite receiver in Calvin Johnson, and with a little progress on both sides of the ball, the Lions can win 4-5 games.

Through Week 13:  2-10
I’m about to drop one of the most overused sports phrases, but I don’t care.  Are the Lions the best 2-10 team in history?  They are a couple plays away from 6-6 and have given some of the NFL’s best teams legitimate scares.  This team is on the road to being pretty good with some big-time players to build around on both sides of the ball.  I think Jim Schwartz is doing a great job and the wins will come.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT DOOGAN, 2-1
Did anyone else not realize that the Lions won 4 in a row to end the season?  Well, they did, and with it gave Doogan an easy point here at #3 and the overall lead.

BRY 4 – San Diego Chargers – UNDER 13 wins:  I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard to use my second pick on the UNDER for a team that is head and shoulders above anyone else in their division, but I’m going to, and I feel okay about it.  The Chargers will win the NFC West, but I do not think they will win 13 games.  They are not starting the season all that positively, with problems with two of their most important offensive players (Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson) to go along with lingering questions about their defense and perpetual questions about their head coach.  They’ll probably win 10, but not 13.

Through Week 13:  6-6
I put $20 on the Chargers to win the Super Bowl at 30-1 odds when they were 2-5.  While I would still make that same bet today, I would have felt MUCH better about it had they not crapped the bed against Oakland this week.  They now sit two games behind KC in the West, and the AFC wild card is not exactly out there for the taking.  This team probably needs to win out for a shot at the playoffs, otherwise, the AFC teams can breathe easier knowing that one of the best teams in the league may not be playing come January.

FINAL:  9-7.  POINT BRY, 2-2
A pretty easy pick here for Bry at #4, as the BSB’ers remain perfect through 4.

DOOGAN 5 – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 14 wins:  It’s a big number and it’s a tough schedule.  Their division isn’t quite as strong as it was a couple years ago, but all three of the other teams are capable of beating the Colts if they have home-field advantage.  Plus, Indy plays at New England and Philly and gets Dallas and San Diego at home.  And even if they do manage to get towards the tail-end of the season with 12 or 13 wins, they’ll probably be able to rest their starters and take a loss or two.

Through Week 13:  6-6
After 500 years of hegemony, the Roman Empire, as the world knew it, fell in 476 AD thanks to a successful revolt by the tribes of Germanic peoples, united and led by Odoacer.  However, though the world viewed this as its devastation, the Roman Empire actually built itself back up and spent the next 1,000 years with wealth and power nearly as equal to that which they enjoyed prior to their “demise” in 476.  Well, 2010 in Indianapolis feels, to me, like 476 AD in Ancient Rome.  Everyone is throwing dirt on the grave of Peyton Manning, and they will probably miss the playoffs this year, but would anyone be surprised if they were 14-2 again next year?  I won’t and neither will anyone reading this because you will all remember how I weaved the Fall of the Roman Empire into the Race for the AFC South.

FINAL:  10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 3-2
There are two streaks that I have seen in my lifetime that I find absolutely astonishing that do not seem to get much press at all.  Most amazing BY FAR is Roger Federer’s streak of TWENTY-THREE consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances.  Absolutely astonishing.  But, second to that is the streak that ended this year – the Indianapolis Colts, in a sport of arbitrary injury and widespread parity, went 7 consecutive years without losing more than 4 games.  That is incredible.  12-4 or better for 7 straight years!  Wow.  They did, in 2010, finish their 9th straight year with double-digit wins, winning their final 4 games to get to 10-6.

BRY 6 – San Francisco 49ers – OVER 8 wins:  I like the Indy pick, Doogan, and was debating between that and SD with #4.  Now, at #6, I might be going out on a limb here, taking this team this early, but I honestly think that there is no way the Niners don’t find 9 wins this year.  Their defense is just too good; Singletary is too good of a coach; and that division is just so, SO bad.  Again, probably a “reach pick” at #6, but give me the Niners and the OVER.

Through Week 13:  4-8
With all the talk of the disappoinment in Dallas, Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Arizona, I kind of think that the fans of the San Francisco 49ers have to be in the discussion for most letdown fanbase.  This team was poised to enter the upper echelon of NFC teams.  They were led by a fiery and seemingly talented up-and-coming coach.  But, what happened?  They are 4-8; their coach is on the hot seat; and, they can’t even win the worst division in the history of the NFL.  They are probably going to watch the St. Louis Rams host a playoff game that absolutely should have been theirs.  Then again, these fans are probably fans of that World Series winning baseball team, too, so it’s hard to muster up too much sympathy.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT DOOGAN, 4-2
And another streak ends, as the first missed pick comes at #6 here as Bry has too much faith in the 49ers.  Doogan takes the lead.

DOOGAN 7 – Baltimore Ravens – OVER 9 wins:  For once I’m going to step in and take the over on a Baltimore team.  It’s usually all you, Bry.  With the rare turmoil going on in Pittsburgh, this squad looks like the clear-cut favorites in the AFC North.  Maybe they’ve lost a little bit defensively, mostly because of age, but time has been good to them on the other side of the ball, where their young talent is coming into its prime.  Ray Rice is a star, the O-Line really gets the job done, Derrick Mason hasn’t shown much sign of slowing down at 36-years-old, and now they have Anquan Boldin thrown in the mix.  They have the makings of a 12-win team. 

Through Week 13:  8-4
After a brutal, brutal loss on Sunday night to their arch-rivals, the Ravens are all of a sudden full of question marks.  They are a full game behind the Steelers in the AFC North, but the good news is that they are 2 games clear of the closest contender for the wild card.  They should be okay, playoff-wise, but are now staring at a wild card.  By the way, how great are the Steelers-Ravens games?  They are my favorite non-Eagles games to watch every year.

FINAL:  12-4.  POINT DOOGAN, 5-2
Doogan consolidates the break (in tennis parlance) with a nice pick here on a truly great franchise.  I hate their fans, I despise their owner, and I’m jealous of their Super Bowl, but this team flat-out wins.

BRY 8 – Minnesota Vikings – UNDER 12 wins:  This is getting kind of tough already, but I’m okay with this pick at #8.  Despite their immense talent on both sides of the ball, there is just too much working against the Vikes right now.  Percy Harvin is a major question mark with, apparently, very serious migraines (doesn’t sound like fun); Sidney Rice hasn’t been on the field all offseason; Chester Taylor is gone; and, oh by the way, their quarterback is FORTY.  I think they’ll still be good and still be a contender for the NFC title, but I don’t think this the best team in their own division, and when has a second-place team ever won 12 games?  Give me the UNDER.

Through Week 13:  5-7
Obviously, these guys are one of the most disappointing stories of the 2010 season.  So much has been said, on so many levels about the mess in Minnesota, that I don’t need to belabor it.  All I can say is this:  they are a MUCH better team when the offense goes through Adrian Peterson, not the quarterback.  We’ll see if they understand that or, more importantly, have the ball to tell the old man that.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT BRY, 3-5
Bry redeems himself a little from the SF blunder by nailing this pick, as the Vikes only win half as many as they did a year ago.  This franchise is in complete disarray.  I guess that’s what you get when you sell your soul to the Favre.

DOOGAN 9 – Arizona Cardinals – UNDER 10 wins:  With the departure of Kurt Warner, the Cards have decided to remake their offense.  Anquan Boldin is also gone, and Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca has been added to the O-Line.  It’s not necessarily a bad idea to put more focus on the running game, considering that Matt Leinart is no Warner, but that certainly doesn’t mean the offense will be better, either.  Also, Karlos Dansby, a really underrated linebacker, is gone to Miami and Antrel Rolle, a playmaking safety, is a Giant.  It seems like they went into the offseason with a plan, but it’s hard to make up for a big downgrade at the QB position.  They’re heading for a losing season.

Through Week 13:  3-9
With all due respect to the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills, this is BY FAR the worst team in football.  Now, I really dislike Kurt Warner, but the dropoff at the QB position is staggering.  I also think that the loss of Anquan Boldin (as mentioned above by Doogan before the season) has really had an affect on this whole offense more than people realize because it’s hidden by the awful QB play.  This team is just abysmal.  I’m not really sure how they won 3 games.

FINAL:  5-11.  POINT DOOGAN, 6-3
A great pick here for Doogan, as it’s hard to imagine how this pick lasted until #9 looking back on it.  But, that’s why these previews are interesting to look at – I guess it wasn’t completely obvious that this team was this bad…though, it should have been.

BRY 10 – Oakland Raiders – OVER 5 wins:  Okay, this is stupid.  I admit it.  I’m dumb.  We have now done this preview three times, and all three times, I have taken the Raiders and the OVER.  I even said, in last year’s wrapup of my incorrect pick of the Raiders and the OVER, that someone (probably me) would be stupid enough to take the Raiders and the OVER again in 2010.  Well, I was right.  But, let me try one more time to explain why I think that the Raiders will win more than 5 games for the first time since their trip to the Super Bowl.  Jason Campbell is a gigantic upgrade at quarterback over JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski.  Also, last year, their defense was pretty good, and it’s very young, so you’d have to expect that it at least remains as good, if not improves.  Throw in a really weak division, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for…dare I say it…8-8?  Maybe.  But, I don’t see them going 5-11 AGAIN.

Through Week 13:  6-6
The Raiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-ders.  For the first time since Rich Gannon led them to the Super Bowl in 2002, the Raiders will finish with fewer than 11 losses.  That’s an unbelievable streak in the era of parody in the NFL, but it’s finally over.  Oakland is still 2 games back of true playoff contention, but who knows?  They have gone old-school and figured out that pounding the ball down people throats on the ground and playing solid defense actually might win in this league.  Go figure!

FINAL:  8-8.  POINT BRY, 4-6
The Raiders finally come through for Bry, finishing at .500.  Weird stat of the day:  The Raiders were the only team in football to sweep their division…and, they are the only team in NFL history to sweep their division and NOT make the playoffs.  Only the Raiders.

DOOGAN 11 – Kansas City Chiefs – OVER 4 wins:  It’s rare for me to feel this good about a pick once we’re through the top ten.  As far as the roster goes, there isn’t a huge difference here, but they did make some upgrades on the O-line, and Thomas Jones was brought aboard to share the load with up-and-comer Jamaal Charles in the backfield.  Maybe more importantly, they added Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as coordinators.  They may not be the masters they looked like a few years ago, but do both have multiple championship rings in their current role.  Finally, the schedule is a cake-walk.  Not only do they play in an underwhelming division, but they play the NFC West out of conference, and they also get the Browns and Bills.  I’ll call them for 7 wins.

Through Week 13:  8-4
Doogan nailed the Chiefs in his preview, but actually went too conservative in his calling for 7 wins.  I mentioned above how the Raiders are winning with the tried and true mentality of running the ball and stopping the run…well, the Chiefs are better at both things, which is why they’re now 2 games clear of anyone else in this division.  And, with a somewhat light schedule (after this week’s game in San Diego), they are looking good to earn themselves a playoff game at Arrowhead.

FINAL:  10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 7-4
Doogan nails another one, as he continues to be red-hot in this year’s preview.  A nice season for KC, despite bowing out pretty noiselessly in the playoffs.

BRY 12 – Denver Broncos – UNDER 8 wins:  This is tough because I’m not as bullish on KC as Doogan is, so I think that the AFC West is a bad division.  But, part of it being a bad division is because it includes the Denver Broncos.  This team looked really bad in the last 10 games of the season last year, and they lost their only two true stars on either side of the ball in Brandon Marshall (to a trade) and Elvis Doumerville (to injury).  The defense is old and not very good, while the offense has very few weapons surrounding a trio of bad quarterbacks.  Whether it’s Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, or Tim Tebow, this is nowhere near a .500 team.

Through Week 13:  3-9
Josh McDaniels has been fired.  Some of the Bronco fans are calling for Tim Tebow to replace one of the most prolific passers in the NFL.  The defense is old and slow.  This team is a total mess, and unless you believe in Tebow (I do not), then there isn’t much help on the horizon for one of the more proud franchises in this league.

FINAL:  4-12.  POINT BRY, 5-7
Bry continues to keep pace with a red-hot Doogan, as the BSB predictors are now 11-for-12 on the year.  How did we all enjoy the McDaniels Era?

DOOGAN 13 – Carolina Panthers – UNDER 8 wins:  This team is similar to the Cardinals in that they’ve made a concious move to let some veterans walk and get younger.  Maybe not a bad idea for the future of the team, but it looks like their plan is to take one step back before trying to take two forward.  Julius Peppers and Muhsin Muhammad are gone (as well as Jake Delhomme, but that’s probably a good thing right away).  Coach John Fox is a lame-duck, in the last year of his contract and no negotiations in sight.  The rebuilding has begun in Carolina.

Through Week 13:  1-11
As Doogan said, “the rebuilding has begun in Carolina,” and it looks like it might start in earnest this offseason, as they weight their options with the #1 overall draft pick.  This team is really bad.  Does anyone remember them having the Giants on the ropes in Week One?  I do.

FINAL:  2-14.  POINT DOOGAN, 8-5
Doogan stays perfect without sweat here, as the Panthers are the worst team in football in 2010.

BRY 14 – New Orleans Saints – UNDER 13 wins:  Yes, the defending champs are still incredibly talented, but I’m willing to take my chances on the fact that they will not repeat their 13-3 regular season.  The schedule is a bit harder, and they are scrambling to find any semblence of a running game.  Plus, their defense was off-the-charts fortunate last year with takeaways (many for touchdowns).  I LOVE them at 13:1 to win the Super Bowl (the Vegas odds), but I do not like them to win 13+ games again, especially with an up-and-coming Atlanta team.

Through Week 13:  9-3
How can the defending Super Bowl champions start 9-3 and be completely under the radar?  I’m not sure, but it’s happening right now.  This team is clicking and is going to be a really tough out in the NFC playoffs yet again.  In fact, they are a 29-yard missed field goal away from having the best record in football.  Incidentally, I wonder if people know just how close this team is to being 12-0.  We mentioned the 29-yard missed field goal in OT against Atlanta that cost them a game, but their other two losses were both of the head-scratching variety – at Arizona, where they gave up four TDs that were neither rushing or passing, and a strange home loss to Cleveland.  If they were to take care of those two bottom-feeders, there would be a much different public perception of the Saints right now.  Either way, I’m terrified of them in the NFC playoffs.

FINAL:  11-5.  POINT BRY, 6-8
Bry has still only missed the Niners pick, as he hits another one here with the Saints taking a small step backwards.  Then again, if you compare the playoff runs of last year’s team to this year’s, you might think it was  a HUGE step backwards.

DOOGAN 15 – Cincinnati Bengals – UNDER 10 wins:  Ah, you stole my next pick there, Bry.  This Bengals team will be an interesting one to follow this year.  They shocked people (including me) in the first-half of last season, beating the Steelers and Ravens twice each and winning in Green Bay.  But they weren’t the same team in the second-half, culminating with a home playoff loss to the Jets.  Their biggest weakness last year, ironically based on what they were a few years ago, was the passing game.  They’ve added T.O., Antonio Bryant, and rookie Jordan Shipley to team with Ochocinco in the receiving corps, which should help, as long as T.O. and Ocho can keep some semblance of sanity.  BUT, can Cedric Benson duplicate his great season?  Is this defense really as good as it played for much of ’09?  I kind of doubt it.  And the schedule will do them NO favors: road games vs. the Colts, Pats, Ravens, Jets, Steelers, and Falcons, as well as visits to Cincy by the Saints and Chargers.  Really brutal.  Too many obstacles to overcome here, too many question marks, they’re heading for 7-8 wins.

Through Week 13:  2-10
How is this possible?  How did this happen?  The Bengals – a pretty common sleeper pick by many to have a fantastic season – have now lost 9 in a row and sit at 2-10.  It’s uncanny how bad they’ve been since taking care of Baltimore in Week Three.  I don’t know what else to say about this team, other than, “wow, yet again, I’m thankful that I’m not a Bengals fan.”

FINAL:  4-12.  POINT DOOGAN, 9-6
Red-hot Doogan is not even breaking a sweat with this picks, as he nails the Bengals pick by 6 games at the #15 spot.

BRY 16 – Miami Dolphins – OVER 7 wins:  I know this division is tough with the Jets and Pats, but I really like this Dolphins team.  Parcells’ ability to evaluate talent cannot be overstated, and he has now had three years to rework this roster.  Plus, I believe in Tony Sparano, and I actually really believe in Chad Henne, for some strange reason.  They also probably made one of the best offseason acquisitions in Brandon Marshall.  I like this team for somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 wins.

Through Week 13:  6-6
If the Dolphins had taken care of Cleveland at home last week, they would have been right in the thick of this AFC playoff race, despite no one saying word one about their postseason chances.  They’ve played a brutal schedule, but they get a break in Weeks 15 & 16, so if they were able to get 7 wins up to that point, they’d have a shot.  But, now it’s unlikely, especially with the questionable handling of the quarterback position.  I like Sparano, but I’m not sure what he’s doing with Chad Henne.  Anyway, they are still alive at 6-6, with two really tough games and two very winnable games left.

FINAL:  7-9.  POINT DOOGAN, 10-6
The ‘Phins lose their final 3 games to crush Bry here and give a big point to Doogan.  Judging on how he’s been picking, this could be a tough one to overcome.  As for Miami – is anyone else absolutely baffled by the awfulness of Chad Henne?  I thought he was going to be a solid NFL quarterback, but it turns out he absolutely stinks.

DOOGAN 17 – Cleveland Browns – UNDER 5 wins:  Alright, this just got real hard.  This could be one of those statments that comes back to haunt me, but I doubt it:  this team stinks!  Kudos to Eric Mangini for getting his team to play hard at the end of a lost season in ’09 (they won their last 4 after a 1-11 start), but I just don’t think that finish was a harbinger of things to come.  Yes, they may have found a nice running back in Jerome Harrison, but Jake Delhomme probably won’t be much of an upgrade at QB.  The defense is a mess, and it doesn’t help that arguably their most talented player on that side of the ball last year, LB Kamerion Wimbley, is gone to Oakland.  2 wins is very possible.  At least the Cleveland fans can look forward to basketball season, oh wait….

Through Week 13:  5-7
Well, Doogan, I’m not sure it’s coming back to haunt you, but this team doesn’t stink.  In fact, they are playing a tough brand of football that should scare the teams left on their schedule, and, call me absolutely crazy, but they are not entirely out of the playoff race.  Obviously, they would have to win out to even have a chance and they are left with Baltimore and Pittsburgh on their schedule, but the other two games are winnable (@Buf, @Cin) and they get both of the big boys at home.  Just sayin’…

FINAL:  5-11.  POINT BRY, 7-10
It takes two head-scratching wins (over New Orleans and New England in back-to-back weeks) to
just barely end this impressive streak for Doogan.  Bry takes the point here, as the Browns hit their number.

BRY 18 – Atlanta Falcons – OVER 9 wins:  Ooh, Doogan, you throw that jab at Cleveland right after I picked Miami and the OVER?  Rough.  Anyway, you’re right in that this has gotten real tough.  I’m going to take the Falcons because I think that the Bucs stink, the Panthers are mediocre at best, and the Saints will not be 13-3.  Plus, the Falcons have a somewhat easier schedule than a year ago, and their young quarterback is a year older.  I’m not usually big on the “sleeper” that everyone has, but I do think that this team is going back to the playoffs this year, which probably means at least 10 wins.

Through Week 13:  10-2
On paper, I don’t see the best team in the NFC residing in Georgia, but, to use another awful, overused sports cliche, “they don’t play these games on paper.”  One of the most amazing stats I’ve heard this year is that the Falcons have 6 wins this year in which they have trailed in the fourth quarter – with 5 of them coming after trailing with less than five minutes to play.  That is amazing and tells me two things:  (1) they really know how to win, and (2) they probably aren’t quite as good as their record makes them appear.  I’m not sure whether that makes them scary or overrated come playoff-time (or maybe both), but it is an incredible statistic.

FINAL:  13-3.  POINT BRY, 8-10
Bry has a nice pick here at #18, as he cruises to the point with the Falcons.

DOOGAN 19 – Tennessee Titans – UNDER 8 wins:  I’ve always been a Jeff Fisher fan, and of course I’m a Chris Johnson fan, but everybody knows that this league is all about the passing game right now.  Vince Young continues to show potential, but I don’t trust him to ever put it together, and especially not with his current corps of receivers.  Making matters worse, the defense ranked second-to-last against the pass last year, and didn’t make any major changes to improve.  If you can’t throw the ball effectively and you can’t stop the pass, you don’t win half your games in the NFL in 2010.

Through Week 13:  5-7
Here is what I have learned from watching the Titans this year:  to win in the NFL, you need (1) a good quarterback, and (2) a mentally stable quarterback.  I believe that the jury is still out as to whether or not Vince Young is good, but I think we can officially rule him highly combustible from the mental side of it.  If Jeff Fisher can’t make it work, I pity the fool who tries to do it again next year.  And, I pray that Mr. Fisher does not end up in the NFC East.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT DOOGAN, 11-8
Doogan gets right back on the horse by nailing a good pick with Tennessee here at #19.  What happened to the Titans?  They should not be a 10-loss team with that kind of talent.  Well, maybe they should, considering their nightmare at the QB position.

BRY 20 – Chicago Bears – OVER 7 wins:  Jay Cutler had a really bad year last year, but I’m not convinced that he’s a really bad quarterback.  We will find out this year, though, because he’s operating under the Mike Martz system, so it’s boom or boost for the Chicago passing attack (why a team with an outside stadium in the “Windy City” hires a guy like Mike Martz is beyond me, but hey, at least half of their division plays in a dome, right?).  Plus, the Bears defense should be greatly improved, considering their two best defenders are brand new from last year’s defense.  Brian Urlacher is back from missing the entire 2009 season with an injury, and say what you will about whether he’s worth the money, there is little doubt that Julius Peppers is still a stalwart defensive lineman.  The only reason it took me this long to make this pick is because their division is really good, but I still think the Bears are at least a .500 team this year.

Through Week 13:  9-3
I rarely show outward pride about a preseason prognostication (mostly because they never really bring about anything about which to be proud), but this one I’m going to.  I feel like I was the only one outside of Illinois that actually believed in this Bears team this year.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have them in the hunt for a first-round bye, but I saw them as a 9- or 10-win team.  And, they are doing just that with a great defense and employing a quarterback that somehow just stopped turning the ball over.  Now, they still may come crashing back to earth because of their remaining schedule, but until they do, we have to consider this team a true contender.

FINAL:  11-5.  POINT BRY, 9-11
Bry gets an easy one here at #20.  This is the one I am most proud of, as I was one of the few people who thought the Bears could really compete this year.  In retrospect, I wish they weren’t competitive because they stole the coveted #2 seed from the Birds.

DOOGAN 21 – Jacksonville Jaguars – UNDER 7 wins:  Somewhat similar to the Titans.  They have a star back in Maurice Jones-Drew (though he’s no Chris Johnson), but the passing game is underwhelming, with a very average QB in David Garrard and not many weapons to use.  And, this team was really built on solid defense for a lot of years, but that is no longer the case; the Jags ranked 27th in opponent passing yardage in ’09.  The nail in the coffin for their quest to get 7 wins is probably the fact that they have to matchup with the NFC East out of conference.

Through Week 13:  7-5
So, if you told me, at the beginning of the season, that half of the NFL divisions would be led by the Bears, Chiefs, Rams, and Jaguars, I probably would have laughed in your face and somewhat politely asked you to leave the sports talk to those who know what they’re talking about.  But, that is what is going on right now.  The Jags still have some work to do if they are going to pull out a surprising AFC South title, as they travel to Indy in Week 15 and to Houston in Week 17.  But, so far, they are winning games the old-fashioned way – by pounding the ball down the defenses’ throats with one, single, workhorse back.  It’s a tried and true recipe that may or may not be obsolete.

FINAL:  8-8.  POINT BRY, 10-11
Bry has hung in their long enough and weathered the storm and now they are back on serve, as Doogan barely misses with the Jags.  I am still unsure as to how this team was in the playoff picture for so long, but they always seem to hang around, and they did it again this year.

BRY 22 – Buffalo Bills – UNDER 6 wins:  I’ve been staring at this pick for about 10 rounds now, and I’m finally ready to pull the trigger.  To quote Doogan quoting me “this team stinks.”  No, seriously, they are really bad.  I have to imagine that they’ll go no better than 1-5 in AFC East games, which means that to beat me, they would have to play .500 ball against the rest of their schedule.  I’m not sure if this team even goes .500 in an SEC schedule, let alone an NFL schedule.  The more I think about it, the more I like this pick for being this late in the game here.

Through Week 13:  2-10
In the past, we have seen Bradshaw to Swann, Montana to Rice, Manning to Harrison, and Brady to Moss.  But, it’s time for them all to take a back seat to Fitzpatrick to Johnson.  Okay, well not exactly the same thing, but how good have these two been, coming from complete obscurity.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is from the football factory named Harvard, and Stevie Johnson is so out of nowhere that even Waters, the owner of The Dix (a fantasy football team with 30 roster spots made up entirely of guys named “Johnson”), had never heard of him – and didn’t have him on the roster – until he started scoring multiple TDs every week.  All I hope (and, I actually hope for good things for the Bills franchise) is that this isn’t fool’s gold.  I hope that either Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid quarterback around which they can build OR that they realize it now that he is not and address that void with self-honesty.

FINAL:  4-12.  POINT BRY, 11-11
And, it’s a brand-new ballgame, folks.  Bry hits on the Bills here (kind of surprising they lasted until #22) and ties up the score with 10 points left to be awarded.

DOOGAN 23 – Dallas Cowboys – UNDER 11 wins:  The usual disclaimer here: it’s very hard for me to be unbiased about this team.  But, this organization hasn’t responded well to high expectations of late.  After 12 wins in ’07, they dropped to 9 in ’08.  They came on strong at the end of last year to win the division, and now I’m sure the Dallas fans are expecting nothing less than a title.  I don’t think Wade Phillips is up to the job.  I’m not sure that Miles Austin can repeat what he did last year, and I don’t know where they make up for that production in the passing game if he can’t.  And they have to handle a tough schedule.  Besides the 6 divisional games, they also have road games at the Colts, Packers, and Vikings, and the Saints play in Dallas.

Through Week 13:  4-8
In all the years with all the sports that we do these previews, I’m not sure that we’ve had such a prophetic paragraph on a team’s season before it ever got started.  Doogan talked about the Cowboys not responding well to success, Wade Phillips not being up to the job, and Miles Austin not repeating what he did last year.  He nailed all three, as the ‘Boys have stumbled and bumbled their way to 4-8 this year.  And, it is glorious!  Honestly, how great is it that this is the year that the Cowboys are terrible – with all the talk about “hosting the Super Bowl?”  Just fantastic!  Thank you, football gods.

FINAL:  6-10.  POINT DOOGAN, 12-11
Doogan takes the lead back with authority, as he absolutely nails this 23rd pick.  Picks this late should not be this easy…or this awesome!

BRY 24 – New York Giants – UNDER 8 wins:  Well, Doogan, since you took the bait on your team with “an unbiased hatred,” I guess I have to take mine, as well.  Same disclaimer here for me and the G-Men.  I have said a hundred times now, “If the Giants were playing a game against North Korea, I’d be rooting for Kim Jong-Il and the boys.”  That being said, there are serious question marks about this team.  I know that a lot of “experts” actually like them to bounce back and have a good season, but I don’t see it.  Let’s break it down a little here and tell me where I’m wrong.  Eli is not as bad as I make him out to be, but he’s NOWHERE NEAR a star in this league.  The O-line has gotten very old very fast.  Brandon Jacobs is just about completely washed up because of the punishment he’s taken over the years.  And, I don’t see why everyone loves this receiving corps.  They’re “okay,” I guess, but nothing special.  Now, on the other side.  This defense was one of the worst in the entire league last year.  Yes, Bill Sheridan was a joke as a D-coordinator and Perry Fewell is a pretty big upgrade, but do we really think that the D-coordinator is gonna be the difference?  Really?  The linebacking corps was downright abysmal last year and the only change is that they LOST their only reliable linebacker, Antonio Pierce.  The D-line once led them to a shocking Super Bowl title, but Osi is unhappy and unproductive, Justin Tuck was much better when he wasn’t double-teamed, and this Pierre-Paul guy is a total project.  They did add Antrelle Rolle to the secondary, which is a good addition (albeit an overpaid one), but he’s not exactly Bob Sanders or Darrelle Revis, and the rest of the group is barely average.  A brutal division and a tough out-of-division schedule equates to no more than 6 or 7 wins for the most overrated team in football year in and year out.  Now, THAT was unbiased analysis…

Through Week 13:  8-4
It’s pretty strange to me to see the Giants keep winning ugly and have the experts all over them like they are legit Super Bowl contenders.  They have been decent, and they have won the games they’ve supposed to have won, but when your best wins are home games against Chicago and Jacksonville, it’s hard to really talk Super Bowl, right?  Or, am I just biasd?  I do have to say, though, that this defense is WAY better than I thought it was going to be, and Antrelle Rolle has been utterly dynamic in the secondary.  I didn’t think the D-coordinator could make THAT much of a difference, as they have gone from one of the worst D’s in the league to one of the best, seemingly overnight.  Looks like the blind hatred for Big Blue has bit Bry in the backside once again…

FINAL:  10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 13-11
Bry’s blind hatred of all things New York Giants-related bites him again, as Doogan regains the lead. 

DOOGAN 25 – New York Jets – OVER 9 wins:  OK, I guess this is the hyped team this year that neither of us wanted to “take the bait” on, but here I go.  Obviously, the Darelle Revis holdout is a factor in waiting so long to make this pick.  The fear of the overhyped team also plays in, of course.  They feel like they could very well be this year’s version of the Bears last year.  BUT, I think they’re going to win 10 games, so I’m barely going OVER.  Revis would be a huge loss, but this was the best defense in the game last year, so they’ll still be very good there, even without him.  On offense, Shonn Greene should have a big year running behind a really good O-Line, and Mark Sanchez has some new weapons, mainly Santonio Holmes.  Laveranues Coles, a good teammate and wily veteran, also returns for his third stint with the Jets.  They also catch some breaks with the schedule, as their only tough road game out of the division is at Pittsburgh.

Through Week 13:  9-3
Is it me or is this team a bit of a mirage?  Even before Monday night’s complete thrashing by the Pats, this team looked like a complete smoke-and-mirrors 9-2.  Let’s run it down quickly here.  They lost a close game to a good Baltimore team in Week One and then rattled off two solid wins over New England at home and Miami on the road and then dismantled a bad Buffalo team in Week Four, beat Minnesota at home in Week Five, and edged Denver in Denver in Week Six.  They it seems like they went on the bye and started tasting themselves.  They came out of the bye and played a miserable game, getting shutout by Green Bay.  Then they needed overtime in back-to-back weeks to beat Detroit and Cleveland.  After that, they pulled out a miracle win at home against a mediocre Houston team, and then beat Cincy at home on Thanksgiving night, before the absolute thrashing they took from New England on Monday.  I don’t think they’re very good…there I said it.  And, they better take a hard look at themselves because they could be staring at 9-6 going into Week 17, as they have some tough games coming up.

FINAL:  11-5.  POINT DOOGAN, 14-11
In a pick that probably should have gone earlier, Doogan picks up a nice late point.

BRY 26 – Pittsburgh Steelers – OVER 9 wins:  Actually, Doogan, Revis wasn’t the reason I passed on the Jets so many times, it was Sanchez.  I’m not a believer yet.  But, still, if I was forced to make a pick, I would have taken the OVER as well, so it’s not a bad pick, especially this late.  Anyway, I’m going to take the Steelers and the OVER here, for a couple of reasons, most notably, it’s getting really hard to find any picks I’m confident in with the teams left.  But, more so, I look at this team–two years removed from Super Bowl champs, with pretty much the same team.  Yes, I know that Big Ben is probably going to be out for the first four games, and I think they’ll go 1-3 in those 4, with their only win coming against Tampa Bay.  However, I think that when Ben gets back, this will be one of the best teams in the league, so I can totally see them going 9-3 with a full team.  Plus, they were 9-7 last year (including bad losses to Cleveland and Oakland).  The losses?  Santonio Holmes and 1/4 of Big Ben.  The additions?  Troy Polamalu.  The best safety, maybe in NFL history, is a full win better than a #2 wideout and 4 games without a QB.

Through Week 13:  9-3
In the race to annoint the Falcons, Patriots, Jets, Ravens, and even the Eagles, as the best teams in football, people seem to forget about the Pittsburgh Steelers in this talk, and I’m not sure why.  What do Baltimore, New Orleans, and New England have in common?  One, they are great teams, and two, they are the only teams to beat the Steelers this year – and the Ravens did it against a Ben-less offense.  If you put everyone at even money and said I had to bet on a Super Bowl champ right now, I would take the Pittsburgh Steelers, even with their offensive line in shambles.  This team is for real and is not going to be an easy out for anyone come January.

FINAL: 12-4.  POINT BRY, 12-14
In another pick that seems like it should have gone a lot earlier, Bry picks up an easy point here late.

DOOGAN 27 – Philadelphia Eagles – UNDER 11 wins:  Well, if the Birds have sat there until this late in the draft, that probably means that neither of us could talk ourselves into taking the OVER, which probably means that this is the right way to go.  I do have confidence in Kevin Kolb.  And saying that has more to do with my confidence in the QB evaluation of Andy Reid, as well as the talent of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek.  I do have some concerns about LeSean McCoy and the running game, in general.  Also, the defense imploded in those two losses to Dallas to end the season.  I’m hopeful that Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims can stabilize the linebacking corps, but I’m still skeptical.  And the lost starter that I feel like we might not have the right replacement for isn’t Donovan McNabb, but Sheldon Brown.  Can Ellis Hobbs get the job done?  Will Nate Allen be ready to be a reliable safety from Day 1 in the league?  I like the team, but all those variables combined with playing in such a tough division means I have to go UNDER.  If the four teams beat each other up enough, 10 wins could mean the top of the division, and hopefully that will be where the Eagles end up.

Through Week 13:  8-4
There is enough about the Birds on this site so that I don’t really need to go into that much about them here, but all I can say is that I am downright
TERRIFIED of this team going 11-5 and missing the playoffs.  And, this one would sting…bad…because I think they are one of the most difficult matchups in football right now and wouldn’t be shocked at all to see them put a historical run together.  That being said, it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them lose at home in the first round because the wild card teams are going to be rather formidable in the NFC this year (New Orleans/Green Bay/N.Y. Giants).

FINAL: 10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 15-12
The Kevin Kolb-led Eagles falling to the Cowboys 14-13 in a meaningless Week 17 game gave Doogan a very important point here, as he continues to keep Bry at arm’s length leaves Doogan’s magic number at 2.

BRY 28 – New England Patriots – OVER 10 wins:  Ya, Doogan, I think you picked the right side on the Birds, but I also agree that 10 wins is certainly a possibility and that could win the division, but I definitely don’t see 12.  As for this next pick, I’m just going to go with my gut here, and my gut always tells me that quarterbacking, coaching, and line play is what wins in the modern-day NFL, and the Patriots most certainly have the first two in spades, and the line play is still really good.  I actually think that this offense might be poised for a huge breakout season because Brady is now two years removed from the ACL injury (usually a two-year full recovery) and Welker is back and looking relatively good.  The defense is not really anywhere near where it was when this team was dynastic, and the running game gives me pause, but I still think this team is heading for 11+ wins and another AFC East title.

Through Week 13:  10-2
How good are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?  The answer:  really, really f’ing good.  This offense is off-the-charts good and so hard to defend, and Belichick is up to his old tricks of scheming up defenses to work with whatever personnel he’s got to work with.  If not for their shoddy secondary, I’d say that this is clearly the best team in the NFL, and they might be even so.  If they get homefield advantage in the AFC, we might be staring at #4 for Brady and Belichick.

FINAL: 14-2.  POINT BRY, 13-15
Ho-hum, another 14-2 season for the Pats.  Easy point for Bry, especially this late in the game.

DOOGAN 29 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OVER 3 wins:  Obviously, this is a bad team.  An organization revered for its talent in the front seven on defense has VERY little to speak of there anymore.  Their starting wide outs this year are Reggie Brown and a rookie 4th-round pick, and Josh Freeman will be the one attempting to get them the ball.  So, why go OVER?  Mainly, of course, because 3 is a low number.  But, also, some positives:  Cadillac Williams running the ball.  Kellen Winslow finally living up to his potential at tight end.  Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib at the corners.  And also, the schedule.  They actually played a real tough schedule last year, and two of their wins were over the Packers and the Saints (in New Orleans).  This year, they have home games against the Browns, Lions, Rams, and Seahawks.  They should be able to take two or three of those, then they just have to steal one or two from their other 12 games.

Through Week 13:  7-5
One of the most pleasant surprises this year has been the Bucs, and they’re still kicking in this playoff picture.  Yes, we’ve heard time and time again how they have yet to beat a team with a winning record, but they played Baltimore really tough in Charm City and gave Atlanta a game twice, including last week, where they had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, blowing that lead (and losing Aqib Talib for the season) might seal their fate here in the regular season, as they are clearly the third-place team in the South, so they’d have to hope for all the other wild card contenders fall down.  But, either way, the future is bright in Tampa (which is shocking to me), as Josh Freeman and LaGarrette Blount look like the real deals.

FINAL: 10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 16-13
Doogan clinches at least a tie with absolute ease here, as he has a 7-game cushion on this pick.  But, think about this – the line on them was THREE.  And, we passed on them TWENTY-EIGHT times before Doogan finally took the over.  And, they come in with a 10-win season.  That should tell you about the job the Raheem Morris did with this Bucs team.

BRY 30 – Seattle Seahawks – OVER 5 wins:  I struggled with this one, but eventually went with the Seahawks and the OVER here.  I don’t think this team is very good, but this division is really bad, and 6 wins is not a lot in this league.  Pete Carroll is here and, despite his “ethics,” he is a good coach and there is a little bit of talent on this team.

Through Week 13:  6-6
I really don’t enjoy talking about the NFC West, so I’m glad that this is the last team from that joke of a division.  The Seahawks have looked okay at times and downright putrid at times this year, which in the NFC West, is good enough for first place.  The only problem here is that they could be staring at a division championship at 8-8 (or even 7-9), which you would just think, “well, whatever, they’ll just be an annoyance for the #1 wild card in the first round.”  But, not necessarily, because they will host that game, and the one thing the Seahawks can do is play well at home.  I’m rooting for the Rams just because I don’t want to see the Seahawks host a game during one of the best sports weekend of the year – the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend.

FINAL: 7-9.  POINT BRY, 14-16
Bry keeps his hope for a draw alive with this one – and, yes, they won the division with SEVEN wins.

DOOGAN 31 – Green Bay Packers – UNDER 11 wins:  Like the team.  Aaron Rodgers should have another huge year.  I’m just gonna go UNDER because that’s easier with the 11 number, also their road schedule is pretty brutal.  7 of their 8 road games could be pretty tough.  And, there are some concerns with the defense.  They were good last year and they have a lot of talent, but they were also inconsistent for some reason, giving up 51 points to the Cardinals in their playoff loss, and 500 yards passing to Ben Roethlisberger a few weeks before that.

Through Week 13:  8-4
Did you know that all four of the Packers losses this year have been by exactly 3 points?  And, two of them were overtime losses.  They haven’t lost to a team worse than 5-7, and they have beaten an 8-4 team on the road and a 9-3 team on the road.  If they don’t make the playoffs (and they are in the thick of it with a tough finishing schedule), it will be a brutally tough pill to swallow for this team.  This team is one of the best in football, but the NFC is going to have one very good team left out (to leave room for an NFC West team) this year, and it very well could be the Packers.

FINAL: 10-6.  POINT DOOGAN, 17-14
You can’t make this stuff up – Doogan clinches the 2010 NFL Preview title by picking AGAINST the eventual Super Bowl champions.

BRY 32 – Houston Texans – UNDER 9 wins:  So, I guess the Texans are the hardest to predict a change in, huh?  It makes sense, they look very much like a 9-7 team.  But, judging by history, I think it’s more likely that they’ll be 8-8 than 10-6 (you know, because they’ve never been 10-6 and they were 8-8 for back-to-back years before last year).  They do have weapons with the best receiver in the league and maybe the most underrated quarterback.  But, they are losing Brian Cushing for four games off the defense, and I just don’t think they have 10-win talent.  Plus, I don’t think Kubiak is a very good coach.

Through Week 13:  5-7
Enough already, people.  Fire Gary Kubiak…seriously.  It’s hard to imagine that they still want this guy running their team when he leads them to yet another substandard season.  This team has talent…at least on offense.  They have been absolutely dreadful on defense – particularly, in the secondary, which has been a problem for almost the entire life of the franchise.  But, there is no way that, in a down AFC South, that the Texans, with all their weapons, should be needing to run the table for a winning record.  Unacceptable.

FINAL: 6-10.  POINT BRY, 15-17
Bry ends with a meaningless win here to save some face, but Doogan wins the title and will go into next year as the defending champ.

2010 MLB Season Preview: BSB-Style

Well, the Final Four is coming, signifying the end of the college hoops season, but have no fear, as in this never-ending sports season, the Major League Baseball season is primed and ready to go.  I’m guessing you’re not tuning into BSB for a regular, boring “preview,” so as we like to do, let’s make a game out of it.  For our season previews, we like to see if we can best each other by trying to predict which teams will improve and which will get worse.  Bry has actually narrowly won both MLB previews, so Doogan will try and get on the board this year.  With no further ado, since Bry picked first last year, Doogan will get first crack this year…

UPDATE (as of July 31st):  As usual, we are running an in-season update for the BSB MLB Preview.  Doogan is trying to break Bry’s two-year run on the MLB side of the previews, so we will see how he’s doing.

FINAL RECAP:  LET’S TALLY THE SCORES.  FINAL TALLIES ARE THE SECOND UPDATE IN ITALICS UNDER EACH PICK.

1. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Angels – UNDER 97 wins:  Hard to believe, but I’m kicking things off by betting against Mike Scioscia and this franchise.  With John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, and Chone Figgins gone, they’ve lost a ton of talent, and I don’t think Hideki Matsui and Joel Pineiro can make up for it.  Plus, some of their offensive stars from last year (Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis) are still not proven for the long haul, and the division will be tougher than it’s been in a while.  97 is a big number, and they won’t hit it.

PACE: 81.  Well, Doogan nails his first pick with the Angels, as they are 53-53 right now.  It doesn’t look like they are even heading for the playoffs.  Pretty hard to believe, but it’s true

FINAL:  80.  POINT DOOGAN, 1-0
Injuries hit the Halos, but it is a bit surprising just how far they have fallen.  After about a decade of domination by this club, has there been a changing of the guard out west?  Either way, this was an easy point at #1 for Doogan.

2. BRY – Los Angeles Dodgers – UNDER 95 wins:  Doogan, I think your Angels pick might just be a sign that this year is going to be the toughest one yet.  For my first pick, I’ll go with the other team from the City of Angels.  They didn’t do anything this offseason (funny how a divorce can affect a baseball team–and by “funny,” I mean “pathetic”), and I think they’ll probably miss Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson more than they think they will.

PACE: 84.  Bry goes against the City of Angels as well and this pick also looks pretty solid.  The Dodgers are only slightly over .500, which means they have to really pick it up between now and the end of the season.  They were active at the trading deadline, but they have a lot of games to make up.  This pick isn’t quite as solid as Doogan’s #1, but we’ll still give it solidly to Bry

FINAL:  80.  POINT BRY, 1-1
The Dodgers stuggle all year amidst divorce distractions, as Joe Torre goes out with a losing record.  This team has too much talent not to compete in this division, but we will see.  Bry gets an easy point to tie it up.

3. BRY – Baltimore Orioles – OVER 64 wins:  Now don’t think that the Baltimore water has gotten to me while living here.  I do NOT think this team can compete in the AL East this year or for the foreseeable future, but I do think that 98 losses is a boatload of losses, and I think this team at least believes that it is going in the right direction.  A full season from Wieters should help.  Plus, they added a veteran pitcher in Kevin Millwood to go along with a couple talented, young arms.  I don’t think they’ll even win 75, but I definitely think they’ll hit 65.

PACE: 50.  Wow!  It looks like Bry is going to get slaughtered on his #3 overall pick.  The O’s are not even on pace to win FIFTY games!  They look to be a gigantic longshot to even reach 60, let alone 65.  Bry is kicking himself with this pick.

FINAL:  66.  POINT BRY, 2-1
The biggest benefactor of the Buck Showalter hire was Bry, who somehow salvaged what looked to be a long-lost #3 overall pick.  Did you know that if the season was split into two seasons, the Orioles would have won the AL East’s second half?

4. DOOGAN – New York Mets – OVER 70 wins:  No, the New York water has not gotten to me, and I also don’t think the Mets will compete in their division, but when you consider the ridiculous amount of injuries they had last year, and they still have Johan Santana, Frankie Rodriguez, and David Wright.  Presumably, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes will play a lot more, and Jason Bay has joined the line-up.  They should be able to win 80 (but let’s hope not!).

PACE: 83.  Doogan continues his red-hot start to this year’s MLB Preview, as he looks to nail another one.  The Mets should soar right past the 70 mark that Doogan needs.

FINAL:  79.  POINT DOOGAN, 2-2
Doogan hits this pick easily.  The Mets were bad, but not nearly as bad as they were in 2009.  That being said, the arrow is not exactly pointing up for this unstoried franchise.

5. BRY – Washington Nationals – OVER 59 wins:  I like the Mets pick, Doogan, in that I think you’ll probably be right about it, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on it.  For #5, I’m going to make a third straight pick of OVER on a team that we don’t think will compete.  I don’t think this team is good.  I don’t think they’re close to being good.  But, I’m willing to bet that every team in the majors will win at least 60, so I’ll take OVER 59 for even the worst team in the bigs.  Plus, I really can’t wait for the Strausburg Era.

PACE: 72.  Bry is back on track as this looks like another solid point.  Of the first five, this is probably the most up for grabs, but it still looks good for Bry’s OVER pick.  The Nats, thanks to their strong start, are on pace for an easy cover for BRY, plus they didn’t move Adam Dunn at the deadline (though, they did move closer Matt Capps).  But, they haven’t been playing all that well lately.  We’ll see what the final 60 games have in store for these guys.  For now, we still have this solidly in Bry’s column, though, since he has about 13 games to spare on this pace.

FINAL:  69.  POINT BRY, 3-2
The BSB predictors are now 5-for-5, as Bry hits his 3rd pick.  The Nats are improving and may not be as far from contention as people may believe.  Then again, they have absolutely no pitching, which is kind of important.

6. DOOGAN – Arizona Diamondbacks – OVER 70 wins:  You’ve definitely taken two of my picks already with the Dodgers and Nats.  I’ll go with the D-Backs here, who are a tough to team to figure out, but they do seem like a team that should get at least into the high-70’s in W’s.  Brandon Webb missed all of last season, and though he’ll start the year on the DL, it certainly looks like they’ll get a lot more from him this year.  Dan Haren is a stud, and the young players that we’ve been hearing about for years (Stephen Drew, Chris Young) could be ready to be solid players to complement the emerging star, Justin Upton.

PACE: 59.  Doogan’s perfect run looks like it will end here at #6, as the D-Backs are nowhere near the pace of 71 wins that Doogan needs.  This has been an incredibly disappointing season in the desert–again.  Anyone remember that they were the youngest team in the league in 2007 and made the NLCS?  Wha– happened?

FINAL:  65.  POINT BRY, 4-2
Doogan makes the first misstep here, as the D-Backs were even worse than they were in 2009.  How frustrating must it be to be a D-Backs fan right now?  They looked to maybe be starting a run of great success and now they are just really, really bad.

7. BRY – Tampa Bay Rays – OVER 84 wins:  I like the D’Backs pick.  I’ll take the Rays here.  They still have all the important pieces from the AL Pennant winning team two years ago, and they were hurt with a bunch of injuries last year also.  Plus, Ben Zobrist has become a very good player and you have to think that David Price will soon be ready to reach his enormous potential.  They also have a couple other young players still to come up through the system.  The only thing that gives me pause is that if they are even close to out of contention by the trade deadline, they will probably look to move Crawford and/or Pena.  But, I’m guessing that they will either (a) be in the race or (b) be able to win 85 games regardless of their deadline decisions.

PACE: 101.  Great pick for Bry at #7.  The Rays are on a blistering pace and should cruise right past the total Bry needs of 85.  This one should be clinched by the end of August.

FINAL:  96.  POINT BRY, 5-2
Bry hits his 4th in a row to start this preview, as the Rays bounce back from a step back in 2009.  Though people may look at this season as a little disappointing because of the playoff loss to Texas and then the bolting of the high-profile free agents, but let’s not quite think that this team is going to just go away.

8. DOOGAN – Toronto Blue Jays – UNDER 75 wins:  Rumor has it they had a really good pitcher that isn’t on their team anymore.  Can’t quite remember his name but, either way, that figures to put a dent in their win total.  Also, you can’t expect Adam Lind and Aaron Hill to match their big offensive numbers of last year, and the pitching staff is really just no-names at this point, even if a few of them are still just too young to have made a name for themselves.

PACE: 84.  Our first team whose pace is within 10 games of its number is this one, the Toronto Blue Jays.  Doogan needs them with no more than 74 wins, which doesn’t look good right now.  We’re going to give the point to Bry, but we’re not going to make it solid because this team is showing signs of the wheels possibly falling off.  Plus, they still have a ton of games against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.

FINAL:  85.  POINT BRY, 6-2
Back-to-back misses for Doogan, as the surprising Jays surprised Doogan the most.  Is it fool’s gold so that they think they are going in the right direction with some career years or are they really building something North of the Border?  It’s hard to tell, but an 85-win season in the AL East probably can’t be a bad thing.

9. BRY – Chicago White Sox – OVER 79 wins:  Well, Doogan, since you took my next pick, I guess I’ll resort to the team I always seem to overrate in March.  But, I’ll never learn.  Humor me, here.  They have Jake Peavy.  They have Jose Cruz, Jr.  They already had a good amount of talent.  They play in a division without a dominant team.  They have a GM who is willing to spit in the face of “development” to win games now.  They have a fiery coach who might be on his last life.  All this is forcing me to go with the White Sox YET AGAIN.  Ugh…

PACE: 91.  For a while, it looked like this was a terrible pick.  Now, it actually looks like a great pick.  The ChiSox are in first place in the AL Central and on pace for more than 90 wins.  Though it’s hard to put that much confidence into a team that wasn’t very good for the first month of the season, this one has to go solidly to Bry because they’ve been the best team in baseball for the last month and are on pace to clear their number by a good 12 games.

FINAL:  88.  POINT BRY, 7-2
Bry continues to light it up, extending a pretty nice lead here.  I don’t think people realize just how good the White Sox have been in the Ozzie Era.  Ho-hum, another near-90 win season that will go completely under the radar.  This currently the most underrated franchise in the sport.

10.  DOOGAN – Cleveland Indians – OVER 65 wins:  OK, I’ll stay with an over in the AL Central because, as you point out, it’s not a great division.  They had Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez for most of the season and still could only muster the 65 wins, but I think a new manager is a good thing, and they should get bounce back years from Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta.  Shin-Soo Choo is also a nice hitter, and Travis Hafner at least has the potential to be good again.  The pitching staff could be a mess, but 65 is a low number, so I’ll take it.

PACE: 67.  Okay, so this is our first one that is really too close to call, at this point.  The Indians are on pace for exactly 66.9 wins.  Doogan needs 66 to get this point.  We’re going to give it to him, very tenatively because they are on pace to surpass it, but this one could really go either way.  It looks like Doogan is going to really need it, as he probably won’t have scored at this point since pick #4.

FINAL:  69.  POINT DOOGAN, 3-7
Doogan stops a 5-point streak for Bry by narrowly hitting this Indians pick.  How quickly has this franchise fallen completely off the map?  They blew a potential pennant-clinching lead in Game 5 of the ALCS and then lost games 6 & 7 and really haven’t been good at all since.  What happened to all this young talent?  And the strangest example is Grady Sizemore.  If this were 5 years ago, I would have said, “well, I guess Sizemore was a juicer who stopped,” but he kind of came along after testing…kind of.  Wait, did he?  Hmmm…

11. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 83 wins:  You have to think this team underachieved last year, right?  And, though they lost Harden, they also lost Milton Bradley, which is probably a wash.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of the additions of Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, or Carlos Silva, but this team should have enough returning talent to win 85-90 games.

PACE: 72.  It is really absurd how far the Cubbies have fallen in such a short period of time.  They have way too much talent (and way too large of a payroll) to be this bad.  But, they are.  They are on pace for a mere 72 wins, which is not even close to the mark that Bry needs for this point.  Give this one to Doogan, easily.

FINAL:  75.  POINT DOOGAN, 4-7
After hitting his first 5, Bry misses on his Cubs pick here.  There is too much talent for this team to be 12 games under .500.  I guess it’s no accident when a team goes 102 years without a World Series, huh?

12. DOOGAN – San Diego Padres – UNDER 75 wins:  This team stinks and, honestly, I’m not sure how they even won 75 games last year.  They got 13 starts from Jake Peavy, which they won’t get this year, and Adrian Gonzalez keeps attracting all the trade rumors.  They look more like a 65-win team.

PACE: 95.  You see, the thing about making these predictions this way, is that it totally invites us to say things like “this team stinks.”  Bry has looked ridiculous, in retrospect, by saying it on numerous occasions (including about the 2009 N.Y. Jets), and now Doogan looks a bit ridiculous.  Though, I have to say, I was mighty angry that Doogan jumped on San Diego before I could have because I thought this was a steal at #12–as you can tell by the write-up at #13.  But, either way, the Padres are, right now, the best team in the National League and are going to blow away the 75 win total.  Give this point to Bry without breaking a sweat.

FINAL:  90.  POINT BRY, 8-4
As bad as Doogan missed this pick, I actually would have taken the exact same thing.  90 wins for the Padres is probably THE MOST surprising result of 2010 for me.  I still don’t understand how they did it.  But…I’ll still take the point.

13. BRY – Cincinnati Reds – OVER 78 wins:  Damn, you, Doogan.  I almost changed my Cubs pick quickly to the Padres.  I agree with you on that one.  Okay, well, this is more of a “everybody loves them” kind of pick.  I don’t necessarily love them as a sleeper, but 79 wins is not ridiculous.  Plus, pitching wins, and there is a chance that this is one of the best staffs in the National League.

PACE: 89.  The Reds pitching has been very good, and they might be on their way to the playoffs for the first time this century.  Bry should get this point with ease.

FINAL:  91.  POINT BRY, 9-4
A pretty easy point for Bry here at #13, as the Reds did finally put it all together and make a run to the playoffs – albeit a short-lived playoff run that probably would have been completely forgotten in history if they had actually gotten a hit in their first game.

14. DOOGAN – Minnesota Twins – UNDER 87 wins:  First I go against the Angels, now I’m going against the Twins.  This is probably not that smart.  But I have two reasons for this pick.  One, Joe Nathan is a stud and they’ll be without him all season.  Two, they’re moving into a new stadium and the Metrodome offered the best home-field advantage in the sport because of the noise and the weird bounces, etc.  Also, the starting pitching is mediocre at best.  Mark them down for 83 wins.

PACE: 90.  A tough call for Doogan and this one might come back to haunt him.  But, this one is far from over, as the Twins still have some work to do to get to the 87 wins that they would need to cost Doogan this point.  They are on pace to do it, but with Morneau hurt, you never know.  We will give this point to Bry, but only tenatively.

FINAL:  94.  POINT BRY, 10-4
Another point for Bry, as he opens up a pretty substantial 6-point lead here.  This Twins team just keeps getting it done.  94 wins all with missing Justin Morneau for most of the second half?  This Ron Gardenhire can flat-out coach, huh?

15. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 85 wins:  Okay, we’re just talking about the difference between 2009 and 2010, right?  Well, the Mariners added one of the best starting pitchers in the league (Cliff Lee) and one of the best leadoff hitters (Chone Figgins).  So, they have to be better, right?  I’m surprised it took this long for one of us to take them because of all the hype, but I guess that shows how we can both probably see them not being all that better.  Either way, I’m taking the bait here and going with the Mariners.

PACE: 60.  And, this will probably take the cake as the single worst pick of this whole competition.  The Mariners are on pace for a mere 60 wins.  Bry had them winning at least 86.  Great pick…

FINAL:  61.  POINT DOOGAN, 5-10
At least Bry can take solace in the fact that he has a 5-point lead through 15 picks because this pick was absolutely, utterly dreadful.  In maybe the single worst pick in the history of the BSB previews, Bry was only off by TWENTY-FIVE GAMES here.  This bad pick aside, just how terrible were the Mariners?  They made one of the two or three best pitching acquisitions of the offseason (Cliff Lee) and one of the two or three best (or, at least, highest priced) position player acquisitions (Chone Figgins).  Plus, their promising young pitcher finally puts it together and has a Cy Young season.  All this adds up to…101 losses?!?!?!?  Unreal.

16. DOOGAN – New York Yankees – UNDER 103 wins:  We might be a little skeptical of the Mariners hype, but apparently we’re not that skeptical about the Yanks, if we let this 103 number sit out there until the second-half of the draft.  I like the pick-ups of Curtis Granderson and Javy Vazquez, but they lost Damon and Matsui, who both had great seasons.  They’ll also be hard-pressed to get as much production from the aging Jeter and Posada, they were pretty lucky with injuries last year (though A-Rod did miss the first month), and they still don’t have a 5th starter.  I could easily see them coming back to a mid- to high-90’s win total.

PACE: 104.  Wow, this one is going to be very, VERY close.  The Yanks are currently on pace for 104 wins.  Doogan needs them with no more than 102 to get this point.  Although we are going to give Bry the point here at the midseason review, I think Doogan has the better side on this one.  This pace is blistering, the Yanks actually look a little old, and the last month might be meaningless as far as a playoff berth, though it’s hard to say whether or not they will go hard for the division.  Plus, with Phil Hughes on a innings watch, Andy Pettitte on an age watch, and Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett putting Yankees fans on suicide watch, this team might fall short of the number.  But, for now, it’s Bry’s point to lose.

FINAL:  95.  POINT DOOGAN, 6-10
Doogan has a nice comeback to take a much-needed point here.  The Yanks fell off a little bit in the second half en route to a “disappointing” 95-win season (only in the Bronx).

17. BRY – Milwaukee Brewers – OVER 80 wins:  This might be a bit of a hedge on my bets here, as I already have the OVERs on the Reds and Cubs, but there have to be wins somewhere in this division, and I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think that the Brew Crew will be .500 or better.  They have one of the better 3-4 combos in the bigs with Braun and Fielder, and though their pitching is still holding them back from serious contention, they did add Randy Wolf to an already serviceable rotation that features Conestoga product Dave Bush.

PACE: 74.  It’s pretty a rather disappointing season for Milwaukee so far, and there aren’t really any signs of turning it around.  Bry is most likely going to lose this pick.  We’re not quite ready to put it in the lock category for Doogan, but it’s getting awfully close.

FINAL:  77.  POINT DOOGAN, 7-10
Doogan is putting a little run together here, as Bry just misses on the Brewers pick.  This is another team that just isn’t built very well.  They have a bunch of great pieces, but you have to think about team construction, not just throwing out the best talent you can find.

18. DOOGAN – Texas Rangers – UNDER 87 wins:  First off, this just has the feel of one of those teams that takes a big step forward one season and then gets a reality check with the pressure on the next season.  They lost Kevin Millwood and Marlon Byrd, which might not sound like much but both of those guys had very solid seasons.  Vladdy Guerrero and Rich Harden should a help a bit if they can stay healthy (big if), and they can expect a lot more from Josh Hamilton, but my gut definitely says under here.

PACE: 95.  If all of these paces hold up, this will be the fifth straight pick which we have gotten wrong.  This stuff is hard, folks.  And, this one is going to be tough to get back for Doogan, as the Rangers are flying high right now.  The only hope Doogan has here is that the Rangers should have the division locked up halfway through September, so they won’t have much to play for.  Still, he needs them with no more than 86.  Not likely, especially with Cliff Lee now on the roster.  We’ll give this one solidly to Bry.

FINAL:  90.  POINT BRY, 11-7
Doogan’s 3-point streak is over with a missed pick of the AL Champs.  They nearly came back to earth with a injured Hamilton for the last month, but held on to win 90 games and the AL West.  It’s about time the people in Arlington realized that pitching is actually a part of this game we call baseball.

19. BRY – Philadelphia Phillies – OVER 93 wins:  I know 93 is a big number, but we’re trying to predict a change from last year here, right?  Well, the Phils return last year’s team with two notable exceptions.  One, they traded one-half of a season of Cliff Lee for one full season of the one of the three best pitchers on the planet.  They also traded strikeout machine (albeit phenomenal defensive thirdbaseman) Pedro Feliz for the quintessential #2 hitter.  Plus, from all the spring training reports, Cole Hamels looks better.  But, most importantly, this team won 93 games and the NL pennant last year with a bullpen in total shambles.  Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Danny Baez and Jose Contreras are the answers, but I also think that it’s hard to think that the ‘pen could be any worse than it was a year ago.  Give me the Phils to maybe hit the 100-win mark this year.

PACE: 87.  Make it six in a row that look to be wrong, but it’s hard to find a lot of fault in Bry’s pick here, as the Phils are on a pace that could bring them close to the mark, despite being absolutely ravaged by injuries.  They have some ground to make up on that number, but let’s not rule them out, considering they added one of the two best pitchers on the market at the deadline and they are slowly starting to get guys back from injury.  We’ll give this point to Doogan, but it’s far from solid.

FINAL:  97.  POINT BRY, 12-7
Bry’s faith in the Fightins is rewarded, as the Phils – for the first time in their 120+ year history – finish with the best record in all of baseball.  For the record, I now have first-hand information:  that Halladay guy that everyone has been talking about…he’s pretty good.

20. DOOGAN – Houston Astros – UNDER 74 wins:  A bet here against our old friend Ed Wade, and our old friends Brett Myers, Pedro Feliz, Michael Bourn, and Geoff Geary.  I’m sure Astros fans are excited for next season’s big offseason pick-up of Jamie Moyer.  They’ve lost Miguel Tejada, and Myers could definitely be a help in the rotation, but all in all they should be a 70-win team.

PACE: 69.  Excellent call by Doogan.  He called them for 70 wins and they’re on pace for 69.  They are starting to play a little better, so this is far from in the bag, but for now, it’s looking good and we’ll give this point to Doogan, as he draws closer with 12 picks remaining.

FINAL:  76.  POINT BRY, 13-7
Imagine if the Astros ever actually showed up in April and May?  They might win 120.  Another second-half explosion for a team that traded away two franchise icons (Berkman and Oswalt) put them over the mark and cost Doogan another point that looked pretty solid for most of the year.  How about our old friend, Brett Myers, and the season he put together down there?

21. BRY – Florida Marlins – UNDER 87 wins:  This is probably dumb because they always do better than they did before.  Also, they are loaded with young talent that is only going to get better.  But, isn’t 88 wins a lot of wins?  And, it’s hard to believe that the other four teams in the division aren’t also going to be better, so where are all these wins going to come from?  You have to like their pitching, and Hanley Ramirez might be the best player in baseball, but I just have a feeling that this team might come back towards .500, if not below this year.  Give me 80-83 for a Marlins win projection.

PACE: 82.  Bry was right on with this pick.  He called for 80-83 wins for the Fish this year, and they are on pace for a cool 82.  This pick is looking good, but probably not ready to be a lock for Bry, as the Marlins still have the talent and don’t have the pick up the pace that much to reach 87 and steal the point for Doogan.

FINAL:  80.  POINT BRY, 14-7
Bry is inching closer to a third straight MLB preview title with another correct pick here at #21.  His magic number is down to 2.  The Marlins are a little different than the team we all remember, as they are still bringing up young talent, but instead of adding old vets to the mix and going for broke in one year, they are actually using some money to – I know it sound crazy – sign some of their best players to long-term deal.  Gasp!  Though this is straying from a formula that got them 2 titles, it is pretty scary if you are a fan of an NL East team outside of the Sunshine State.

22. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – OVER 91 wins:  Four pretty good reasons to like the Cards:  Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Tony La Russa.  I don’t think they’re as deep (or as good) as the Phils, but in a weaker division, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them end up with the NL’s best record.  Re-signing Matt Holliday certainly didn’t hurt.

PACE: 90.  Along with the Indians and Yankees, the last two months of the Cardinals season could decide the 2010 MLB Preview champion here on BSB.  The Cards are currently on pace to fall just short of the number Doogan needs to get this important point.  But, this is really too close to call.  Bry will get a very tenative point here.

FINAL:  86.  POINT BRY, 15-7
Bry clinches at least a tie, as Doogan misses on a Cardinals team that really has no excuse for missing the playoffs.  With two of the game’s best pitchers and the best player in the history of the game, they should win 90 games in their sleep.

23. BRY – Atlanta Braves – OVER 86 wins:  This is about the time in each of these where it starts to get really tough, but I’m still relatively okay with this pick.  I think the Braves are poised maybe not to challenge the Phils in the East, but to definitely make a run at the wild card in Bobby Cox’s farewell tour.  They won 86 games last year (and that included 6 straight losses to end the season), and they should get more out of Chipper.  If this guy Jason Heyward is even half as good as people say he is, there offense should be improved.  And, let us never, ever forget what wins in major league baseball–pitching.  Barring injury, the Braves should be able to throw out a solid starter 162 times this year with Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrgens, Tim Hudson, Derrek Lowe, and Kenshin Kawakami.  In my opinion, the Braves should be the third-best team in the National League and, if things go right, they might even be better than St. Louis.  PS…I’m not happy about anything I wrote in this entire paragraph with the exception of the Braves not challenging the Phils in the East.

PACE: 93.  Unfortunately, Bry looks to be right on with this pick.  The Bravos are rolling and on pace to blow past the 87 number that Bry needs for this big point late in the competition.  (I really wish I was wrong here.)  There is still some room for them to fall off the table, so we’re not going to make it a complete lock for Bry, but it’s getting ever closer.

FINAL:  91.  POINT BRY, 16-7
Bry clinches the 2010 MLB Preview here in a bitter-sweet way, as it’s from the Braves winning 90 games.  This team is young and very, very good.  As good as the Phils are and will continue to be, this Bravos team is set up to be real scary for a while.

24. DOOGAN – Kansas City Royals – OVER 65 wins:  These guys won 75 two years ago with a lot of the same players, only a bunch of those guys are even closer to their primes now.  They obviously can’t expect anything more than they got from Zack Greinke, and Joakim Soria has quietly established himself as one of the best closers around.  Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, and Kyle Davies have the potential to be a serviceable unit behind Greinke and they signed Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik so, um, no that means nothing.  They can hit 68 wins though!

PACE: 68.  “They can hit 68 wins,” says Doogan in closing of his paragraph on picking the Royals.  Well, this one is shaping up to be pretty impressive for Doogan, as KC is on pace for exactly 68 wins.  Unfortunately for Doogan, he did not predict more of a cushion for the number he needed, but hey, what else can you ask for from a selection in the mid-20’s?  We’ll give a much-needed point to Doogan, tenatively.

FINAL:  67.  POINT DOOGAN, 8-16
Doogan barely hits this pick here, as the Royals win an astonishing 67 games.  Is this team ever going to be good?  Honestly?

25. BRY – Pittsburgh Pirates – OVER 62 wins:  Well, it’s obviously getting tough here, but 63 wins is not a lot.  The Pirates are young and are actually moving in the right direction…sort of.  I like the fact that they’re focusing on player development.  Plus, the Big League club won’t be contending for any division titles, but they do have a semi-decent nucleus of talent (or at least guys we used to think were talented) like Bobby Crosby, Delwyn Young, and Lastings Milledge.  Andrew McCutcheon is about to be a star, and Ryan Doumit is the best catcher no one’s ever heard of.  And, they do have a rotation of four #4’s (Maholm, Duke, Ohlendorf, and Morton), so I guess that’s okay, and a bullpen of some big names (Donnelly, Dotel, Hanrahan).  So, 63 wins?  Hell, I’ll say they blow it away and get 65 or 66.

PACE: 57.  Bry, with a chance to clinch at least a tie for the midseason update, falls dreadfully short.  The Pirates are gawd-awful once again.  It’s really getting ridiculous in Pittsburgh.  The good news for Bry here is that it’s hard to keep up a pace this bad all year.  The bad news is that it’s really not that hard for the Pirates to do it.  Doogan will get the point, but not quite a lock.

FINAL:  57.  POINT DOOGAN, 9-16
This team has been unbelievably bad.  How can they stay so bad when they pick in the top 3 EVERY YEAR?  They have great fans, a great ballpark, and a great baseball history.  It’s sad to see where they are as a franchise here in 2010.  Doogan gets another point, as he is now just looking for respectability.

26. DOOGAN – San Francisco Giants – UNDER 88 wins:  I was going Pirates next.  The Giants were disappointing this off-season because they have so many of the pieces to contend and you would think they’re the type of franchise that would take advantage of that, but they really didn’t upgrade the offense in a signifcant way.  You obviously have to love Lincecum, Cain, and Sandoval, but it’s really tough to keep winning if you’re not scoring runs.

PACE: 92.  Doogan’s logic was sound with this pick because the Giants are having trouble scoring runs, but their pitching staff has been even better than anticipated.  Jonathan Sanchez has joined Lincecum and Cain as a consistently special starter, and Brian Wilson continues to shine at the end of the ‘pen.  However, 92 wins is a lot, even though they’re on pace for it.  The point will go to Bry, but it’s going to be close.  With this point, Bry clinches at least a tie in the midseason update (which means absolutely nothing).

FINAL:  92.  POINT BRY, 17-9
The Giants did hit just enough giving Bry the point here, as Doogan went under.  It’s still hard to believe that the Giants are the World Champs with guys like Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and Aubrey Huff in the middle of their order, but they are.  As always, this game is won with pitching.  Period.

27. BRY – Colorado Rockies – UNDER 92 wins:  Let’s stay out West where, according to us, no one is going to win any games.  But, I’m going to take another West team to go UNDER.  It’s amazing how long I took to take this team because, well, I have absolutely NO IDEA how they’re any good.  But, because I don’t understand how they’re any good, and they keep winning, I guess I might be wrong.  I don’t care, I’m taking them anyway.  Troy Tulowitski is a nice player, but as a #3 guy?  I like Jimenez, but as an ace?  And, who else do they have?  Aaron Cook?  The always-injured Jeff Francis?  And, Huston Street is on the DL for at least a month.  On paper to my untrained eye, this isn’t even a .500 team.  But, I’m always so wrong about them, so they’ll probably win 105.

PACE: 84.  So, if everyone continues on the pace they are on as of August 1st, Bry will clinch the 2010 MLB Preview on pick #27.  The Rockies have been somewhat disappointing, considering they won 92 games last year and the Amazing Ubaldo wasn’t quite amazing yet.  It’s  been their defense that has let them down–and seemingly delivered this point to Bry.  This is so close to solid, but the memories of 2007 are still fresh in everyone’s mind, so we’ll leave this is very, very close to a lock.

FINAL:  83.  POINT BRY, 18-9
For the record books here, as Bry gets his 18th point.  I still don’t understand why this team is considered “good,” though I’m starting to believe a little more because Cargo and Ubaldo are studs.  It should be real interesting to see where this team goes from here.

28. DOOGAN – Detroit Tigers – UNDER 86 wins:  Not much reasoning here.  They lost Polanco, Granderson and Edwin Jackson, they added Damon and Max Scherzer.  So, um, that’s three established players gone and two arrived.  That math equals one less win.  Right?

PACE: 82.  Doogan’s reasoning was spot-on, seemingly, as the Tigers are not on pace to hit their number.  However, they are not entirely out of the race or hitting the OVER, so this point will remain tenative for Doogan.

FINAL:  81.  POINT DOOGAN, 10-18
A pretty nice pick here for Doogan at #28, as the Tigers were darkhorses to possibly win the AL Central.  Doogan, however, correctly saw them as pretenders, despite a monster year from Cabrera.

29. BRY – Oakland A’s – UNDER 75 wins:  I’ll leave you to decide where to go with the BoSox.  I just don’t think the A’s are all that talented.  It’s hard to say that they won’t win 75 games, but I kind of still like the AL West.  The Angels are always good and there are reasons to think that the Mariners and Rangers could be improved.  Despite some decent, young pitching, I still think the A’s are still the worst team in that division, and last place teams usually don’t reach 75 wins (even though they finished last in ’09 with 75 wins).  I guess that’s why this pick wasn’t taken until #29.

PACE: 82.  I wonder how many baseball fans would be as surprised as I was to discover that the A’s are actually above .500.  Yes, I follow baseball pretty closely and had absolutely no idea that the A’s–here on August 1st–have won more games than they’ve lost.  They have the same record as the Detroit Tigers.  That’s surprising to me.  Either way, they are on a decent pace to blow Bry’s UNDER pick away and give Doogan another point.  It’s not quite a lock, but it’s close.

FINAL:  81.  POINT DOOGAN, 11-18
Bry misses another, as Doogan continues to make it more respectable here.  While it is hard for me to see how the A’s are a .500 team, it all comes back to what I’ve been preaching this whole time – pitching, pitching, pitching.

30. DOOGAN – Boston Red Sox – UNDER 95 wins:  Well, here’s a stat for you.  Oakland’s win total the last three seasons: 76, 75, 75.  Boston’s win total the last three: 96, 95, 95.  So yeah, that would explain why these are the last two to go.  I think I like John Lackey a lot more than most people, so I love their starting pitching.  What can I say really, they’re a really good team, but it doesn’t take too many things to go wrong to fall under 95 wins.

PACE: 92.  And, to top it off, Doogan makes it very close (which is important considering just how many points are out there that could really go either way).  As impressive as it is that the Phillies are on pace for 87 with all their injuries, it’s even more impressive that the BoSox are on pace for 92 with some devastating injuries of their own.  That Terry Francona can flat-out manage.  But, injuries or no injuries, it looks like the Sox will be out of the playoffs and Doogan will be one point richer.  It’s not a lock, but it’s looking good for Doogan to finish the picks with a point.

FINAL:  89.  POINT DOOGAN, 12-18
Another nice late pick here for Doogan at #30, as the Sox failed to win 90 games, which means non-contention in the brutal AL East.  However, if you consider the incredible rash of injuries to this team, it’s absolutely amazing that they got to 89 in this division.  Francona is amazing.  Doogan, with 3 straight to end the preview gets a little more respectability.  Bry wins the 2010 BSB MLB Preview by the score of 18-12.  That is 3 in a row for Bry in MLB.

2009 NFL Preview: BSB-Style (Final)

FINAL:  Well, the 2009 NFL season has ended and it was another phenomenal season for the league.  And, the NFL offseason is like no other sport, but before we get into that, we still have the most exciting part of the end of the season–the recap of the BSB Season Preview.  At the midway point in the season, it was pretty up in the air.  We counted 13 solid picks for Bry and 12 solid for Doogan, with 7 very much in play.  But, even though Bry held the slimmest of leads in solid points, Doogan was looking good on 5 of the 7 points in play, so the halfway mark saw Doogan as the favorite to win for the second straight year.  We’ll see how it played out…

(NOTE:  Final points and recaps are below in underline.)

UPDATE:  Well, we are now 10 games into the NFL season, so we are getting a sense of where everyone is.  Honestly, this season has been really lacking in the normal excitement of an NFL season, so far, but this league never lets us down, so I expect the excitement and drama to pick up real quickly.  But, 10 games in is a good time to update the BSB Season Preview Challenge between Doogan and Bry, so we’ll do that.  Look below for the updates to each pick (ALL UPDATES IN ITALICS).  We’ll track the picks we think are solid, those that are shaky, and those that are pretty much lost already.  So, check the picks below for the updates.   

Well, friends, it is almost football season.  Every year, for some reason, I kind of put the NFL aside from like March through July.  I don’t miss it.  I don’t really think about it.  I immerse myself in college basketball and baseball, with the tennis and golf majors in there, as well.  Plus, the weather is beautiful and softball and tennis “playing” seasons are in full swing.  So, then when the NFL season sneaks up in August and we start talking about football, I start to get really, really excited about the season.  And, every year I think to myself, “am I always this excited about the start of the football season.”  This year, I even said it out loud, to my wife last night, to which she said “Yes, yes you are.”  So, I guess it’s time for some serious football talk, starting with the BSB-style preview.  Doogan, who won the whole thing last year, will get the first pick (I took the Patriots and the under on 16 wins last year with the first pick.)  So, without further ado…

DOOGAN 1. Detroit Lions OVER 0 wins:  I’ll make the obvious first pick this year and predict that the lowly Lions will, in fact, win a game this year.  I probably don’t need to make an argument for why, but with Jim Schwartz taking over as head coach, you have to think there will at least be some solid improvement on the defensive side of the ball and the Lions should be able to win a couple games.

Doogan has already clinched his easy #1 pick, as the Lions already have twice as many wins as they needed to get Doogan this point.  A bit off-topic, how crazy was that Lions-Browns game on Sunday?  What a performance by the rookie QB!

An easy win for Doogan here with pick #1, as the Lions finished 2-14–enough to win the OVER. 

POINT:  DOOGAN
Doogan 1 – Bry 0

BRY 2. St. Louis Rams – OVER 2 wins:  I’m not as high on the Rams as a lot of people are, but they have to be at least 3-13, right?  They subtracted Scott Linehan (a bad head coach) and added Steve Spagnuolo (a great defensive coordinator), so they will probably improve at head coach and almost definitely on defense.  I just don’t think they 2-14 bad again.

Amazingly, Bry had 31 teams from which to choose, and it looks like he might lose his #1 pick.  The Rams are currently 1-9, and looking at the remaining schedule (Sea, @Chi, @Ten, Hou, @Ari, SF), it’s pretty hard to find two more wins, even though they’ve been playing better lately.  If I had to make a prediction right now, I would say that they get to two wins, but not to three, which gives Doogan the point.

We haven’t done the research, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone has ever gotten their first pick wrong…until now.  Bry took the Rams with the #2 overall pick and actually got it wrong, so they were WORSE than their 2-14 record in 2008.

POINT:  DOOGAN
Doogan 2 – Bry 0

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