Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Bengals can be Christmas Grinch says Lineman

December 24, 2010

NFL/Tis the season so, the Lineman is getting a little help from his friends this week.

Ms. Lineman, who has her bookie on speed dial and is a sparkling 5-1 the last two weeks, is willing to share her secrets (this one time only, she claims) while the G-Man has been eagerly waiting for the chance to atone for his dismal 1-5 showing filling in for the Lineman last season.

The Fine Tooner, aka the Wichita Lineman, who stepped in for the Lineman for one week this season and posted a very respectable 4-2, returns bearing gifts.

The Fine Tooner will go to extreme lengths to get the inside story and for those who need proof, check out Dr. Fine’s expose on Olympic speed skating suits and the affect they have on performance.

Simon Evans, who takes an unconventional look each week at the NFL from a European point of view in his Left Field blog ‘Unnecessary Roughness’, promises to be gentle as he makes his first ever contribution to this corner.

Rounding out the list of dazzling prognosticators is “the Bark”, whose picks are often much worse than his bite.

So, Happy Holidays from all of us here at Team Lineman and may all your picks be winners.

Record: 46-44. Last week: 3-3. Pick of the Week: 8-7

PICK OF THE WEEK:
San Diego Charger (8-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-11) (Line Chargers minus-7.5)
The Bengals can play the role of the Christmas Grinch with an upset win over San Diego that would seriously damage the Chargers hopes of overtaking the Chiefs in the AFC West and clinching a playoff spot.

Beating the Browns and snapping a 10-game losing streak last week was one thing. Beating the streaking Chargers this week is another.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers is Mr. December going 20-1 in games played in the last month of the year while the Bengals have been bad every month.

With the NFL’s top ranked defence and number two ranked offence in total yards, you have to wonder if the Chargers would even be involved in a season-ending cliffhanger if wide receiver Vincent Jackson had missed the first part of the season in a bitter contract dispute.

Jackson, a pass catching machine, has been a difference maker since returning to the roster. The hulking wide receiver was unstoppable last week hauling in a career-high three touchdown catches against the Niners.

The Chargers have been a much better team at home than on the road and a Christmas trip to wintery Cincinnati will not be on the top of their wish list.

But this one is still going to be a Boxing Day blowout. Take the Chargers and give up the 7.5.
- – - -
Ms Lineman (aka Kimberly Spice)
New York Giants (9-5) at Green Bay Packers (8-6) (Line Giants plus 2.5)
Being Christmas, the Giants would like nothing better than to wrap up a playoff spot.

Aaron Rodgers returns from his second concussion this year and will provide the Packers with a huge boost but he will face a ferocious Giants defense, which is second best in the NFL giving up just 15.7 points per game.

Both teams have much at stake in this one. The Giants can lock up a playoff spot with a win while the Packers must win to remain in the wildcard chase.

With the double-barreled running threat of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants may actually be better suited for playing on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field than the Packers with forecasters expecting Arctic-like conditions.

Despite Mr. Lineman’s suggestions that I base my picks on which team has the Mc-Dreamiest quarterback or the nicest helmets – it is not true.

But come to think of it, I do look better in Giants blue than Green Bay green.

Go Blue; take the Giants and the 2.5 points and the win. Merry Christmas.
- – - -
The Fine Tooner (aka Wichita Lineman Larry Fine)
San Francisco 49ers (5-9) at St. Louis Rams (6-8) (Line Rams minus-2.5)
As the sad sack teams of the NFC West limp to the finish line, the Wichita Lineman favors energetic Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and his strong-armed young quarterback Sam Bradford to seize the upper hand with a win over the West Coast visitors.

The Niners have been dreadful on the road (1-6), have to travel East for a 1 pm start time and will be rubbing sleep from their eyes while Bradford fires the ball around and Steven Jackson carves them up on the ground in a crucial, playoff-stakes game.

San Francisco has apparently decided to start Smith instead of Smith at quarterback, but don’t think St. Louis will be confused.

Troy Smith is apparently being given the nod over Alex Smith, since the former Smith had a big game in leading the Niners to victory in the team’s first clash.

Former Ohio State signal caller Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, completed 17-of-28 passes including a touchdown toss in the Nov. 14 victory even though he later yielded the job back to 2005 number one overall draft pick Alex Smith. Confused? So are we.

A win for the locals could mean a clear lead in the tortoise verses tortoise race for the division crown since the Seattle Seahawks (6-8) go up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6).
No photo-finish here. Take the Rams and give up the 2.5.
- – - -
Mr. Unnecessary Roughness (aka Simon Evans)
Washington Redskins (5-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) (Line Jaguars minus-7.5)
The Jaguars need to win to keep up the pressure on the Colts in the AFC South while the Redskins’ season is over.

Motivation alone says that the Jaguars win this one and win it handsomely.

The only problems are that Jacksonville are frustratingly inconsistent and Washington, having benched their previous starting quarterback, have Rex Grossman calling plays and the 30-year-old former University of Florida favorite will be relishing a chance to impress in ‘Gator country.

But that isn’t going to be enough to deal with one simple reality – the Jaguars have the third best rushing offense in the NFL and the Redskins – the sixth worst defense against the run.

Maurice Jones-Drew, second top in the league in rushing yards, could have some fun. Feel the Teal. Take the Jaguars and give up the 7.5.
- – - -
The G-Man (aka Steve Ginsburg)
Baltimore Ravens (10-4) at Cleveland Browns (5-9) (Line Ravens minus-3.5)
Forget the iPad, an exercise bike, or a Kindle e-reader. The National Football League has given you a gift this holiday season.

It’s the Ravens giving 3.5 to the Cleveland Browns this weekend.

We all know Cleveland still holds a grudge that Art Modell moved the Browns franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. We understand that. But it’s 2010 and we need to understand one basic tenant of life: The Browns are not a good football team.

This little elf was at the Ravens-Browns game earlier this season and Baltimore’s 24-17 triumph at home should have been a lot more. They’re a much better football team.

The Ravens won 16-0 in Cleveland last year. It was 37-27 in 2008. Cleveland won in 2007 but the Ravens were 5-11 that year.

When the Ravens are good and need a victory, they win at Browns Stadium.

Baltimore is 10-4 this season and tied with Pittsburgh for the top spot in the AFC North. The Browns are 5-9, losers of two straight, and are dusting off their big-screen TVs to watch the playoffs.

The Browns’ Peyton Hillis rushed for 144 yards in the first game but he’s slowed with a knee injury this time. And the Ravens know he’s good. It won’t happen again.

Take the gift from Santa, give up the 3.5, go with the Ravens. Then go out on Sunday night and get your own iPad, bike and Kindle.
- – - -
The Bark (aka Dave Barker)
Detroit Lions (4-10) at Miami Dolphins (7-7) (Line Lions plus 3.5)
Though both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Lions are coming off consecutive upset wins over Tampa Bay and Green Bay and should make it three in a row when they travel to Miami.

The Dolphins loss to the Bills last week took them out of post-season contention and stretched their puzzling home record to a dismal 1 -6, worst in the NFL.

The Lions are pumped up for this one and their most dangerous weapon, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, had a big game versus the Bucs with 10 catches for over 150 yards while team mate Maurice Morris posted Detroit’s first 100 yard rushing game of the season.

On the other side of the ball, Dolphins O-line will have their hands full trying to contain the ferocious pass rush of Lions’ rookie tackle Ndamukong Suh, who looks like a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl.

With nothing to play for, fourth down efficiency could be an important stat to consider.

The Lions conversion rate this season has been a respectable 62.5 percent while the Dolphins success of turning fourth downs into first downs is a paltry 25 percent.

The Lions not only cover, they win their second road game of 2010. Take the Lions and the 3.5.

PHOTO: San Diego Chargers tight end Kris Wilson loses his helmet as he is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe in the fourth quarter during their NFL football game in San Diego, California December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •