As I said in the not to distant past,  when it comes to predicting the outcome of an NFL game, expect the unexpected. How else do you explain the Browns victory over the Saints? An experience not seen in this town since 2004; a win in the home opener that is. That being said, here are my picks for week 3:

Buccaneers @ Falcons: Lovie is good for the Bucs’, but still many pieces need before fruition takes place. Matty Ice has a new weapon in Devin Hester, and at home is the best place to show it off. PICK:  Falcons

Chargers @ Bills:  Prior to this season, I would’ve looked at this game and told you the Bills have no chance. Sittin’ at 2-0 in the ” Patriot East”,  I tell you the Bills’ will see your chance, and raise you another. PICK: Bills

Cowboys @ Rams: Boys’ seemed to have righted the ship, but let me point out that it was against the Titans. Rams are in for a tough season without a viable option at QB. PICK: Cowboys

Redskins @ Eagles: Cousins’ may be serviceable for the time being, but Eagles will be a disservice to many teams this season, including the Skins, division game or otherwise. PICK: Eagles

Texans @ Giants: Can the G-Men win at home? Will they win at all this season?  Not if J.J. Watt has anything to say about it. PICK: Texans

Vikings @ Saints:  Vikings can’t afford to play this one without AP; Saints won’t lose at home after losing to Browns. PICK: Saints

Titans @ Bengals: Titans are a headscratcher and Bengals are scratchin’ folks out the picture already. With, or without  A.J. Green. PICK: Bengals

Ravens @ Browns: I still think Ravens will win the North, but Browns showed a moxy in beating Saints not seen in this town since the days of Bernie Kosar. That alone is good enough to garner my vote this week. PICK:  Browns

Packers @ Lions:  Lions couldn’t win the North when it was handed on a silver platter, and they won’t beat the Packers when it counts ever; sorry Mr.Caldwell.  PICK: Packers

Colts @ Jaguars:  Man, oh man, was I wrong about the Jags; until they put in Bortles anyway. Andrew doesn’t need any luck to beat these guys. PICK:  Colts

Raiders @ Patriots:  Silver and Black are a far cry from what they used to be under Al Davis. Patriots won’t get caught napping in this one. PICK:  Patriots

49ers @ Cardinals:  Carson Palmer has to suit up in this one for the Cards to even have a chance. Niners will still have the taste of the 17-point comeback by the Bears in their mouth. PICK: 49ers

Broncos @ Seahawks: Peyton’s regular season performances outweigh his post-season performances, which makes absolutely no sense. The Hawks have what it takes to beat him; if not, the 12th Man sure as he#$ does!!  PICK: Seahawks

Chiefs @ Dolphins:  Niles Davis (Chiefs) is a beast filling in for Charles. Is he and Alex Smith enough to beat the Phins down in the Sunshine state? Not sure. PICK: Pick em’

Steelers @ Panthers: Steelers physical style of football seems to have taken it’s toll…ON THE STEELERS!  Panthers like playing smash mouth too. PICK:  Panthers

Bears @ Jets:  Jets let one get away against the Pack, and Bears took one away from the Niners. Whoever has the advantage in takeaways takes this one. PICK: Pick em’

I’m not even sure I should be doing this anymore. If somebody out there is using my picks to make their own, I apologize for not winning you any money. If your’s are any better, please let us know. http://www.theshopreport.com

Up Next: Week 4

Boy oh boy, week 1 of the 2014 NFL season -as usual- did not disappoint. Nobody in their right mind would’ve thought the Dolphins could beat the Patriots no matter how improved the Phins’ are. Or, the Bills to beat Chicago, in Chicago!!  So, I make my matchup predictions this week, keeping in mind to expect the unexpected.

Steelers @ Ravens: Without going on some long drawn out rant about the Ray Rice fiasco, Imake this pick strictly based on football. Steelers barely got by the Browns (surprisingly), and Ravens uncharacteristically couldn’t finish the deal after getting the lead against the Bengals. PICK: Ravens

Dolphins @ Bills: Both of these squads have put the league on notice that they’re tired of being everybody else’s fodder. That’s why this game is a: PICK EM’

Jaguars @ Redskins: I have the Jags as one of my sleepers, and they did exactly that after getting a lead against the dynamic Eagles-fell asleep! Skins’ fared no better scoring only 6-pts against the Texans. Not sure if I should pick a winner, or see who gets first pick in next year’s draft. PICK: Redskins

Cowboys @ Titans: Romo and co. looked downright abysmal against Niners; PICK: Titans

Cardinals @ Giants: No way the Giants are 14-pts bad. On the other hand, Cards have to be better than 18! PICK: Cardinals

Patriots @ Vikings: Pats’ still have the aura and mystique, but like the NFL shield, it’s starting to show severe cracks. Vikings look solid. PICK: Vikings

Saints @ Browns: Although most fans’ in Cleveland feel think there is reason for hope after the second half showing against the Burg, I say Saints are more than pissed at how they lost to the Falcons. PICK: Saints

Falcons @ Bengals: Falcons offense is better than decent; Defense is not. Bengals D will do what Saints couldn’t, and the offense is more than what Falcons D can handle. PICK: Bengals

Lions @ Panthers: Lions played against the Giants with the mindset that they won’t give away the North this time. Panthers better hurry up and get Cam back. PICK: Lions

Rams @ Buccaneers: Rams are hurting without a legit starting QB; Bucs will win this one with their D. PICK: Buccaneers

Seahawks @ Chargers: Hawks can beat anybody anywhere, anytime. Chargers slow start this season will be due to what opponents are doing to them, not what the usually do to themselves. PICK: Sehawks

Texans @ Raiders: Even without Clowney, Texans are more than Raiders can handle. PICK: Texans

Jets @ Packers: Jets are pretty well coached all around under Ryan, but the Pack wants some get back after what happend in Seattle. PICK: Packers

Chiefs @ Broncos: Chiefs won’t have enough left in the tank after making the “Mile High” climb. Peyton may end up not even playing the second half. PICK: Broncos

Bears @ 49ers: What the Niners did to the Cowboys was downright disrespectful; can’t say the boys didn’t deserve it. Cutler trys to often to make THE PLAY, instead of THE RIGHT PLAY, which ends being to the detriment of the Bears offense. PICK: 49ers

Eagles @ Colts: I like the Colts, but not in this one. Eagles haven’t reached their full potential. PICK: Eagles

 

Those are my week 2 picks… Name yours.  www.theshopreport.com

 

No matter how many “ethical dilemas” the NFL seems to be faced with each week, “American Football” still reigns supreme and has long since surpassed Major League Baseball as America’s favorite past time. That being said, here are The Shop’s week 1 predictions.

Green Bay @ Seattle:  The Hawks have everything they need to repeat;  the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. If there is any QB in the not for long that can beat the 12th man, A Rod is one of em’. PICK: Packers

Browns @ Steelers: With or without a Blount-no pun intended- Steelers are tough to beat at home. Is it high time the Browns beat them? He-to-da Hockeysticks yeah!! Unfortunately, this is a rilvary only in the minds of Cleveland’s faithful. And those who own an XBox or PS4. PICK: Steelers

Vikings @ St.Louis: Not sure how the loss of Bradford will factor in over the season’s duration, but Jeff Fisher strikes me as a guy who can pick up the pieces and keep the train rollin’. Is Norv & All Day enough? PICK: Rams

Buffalo @ Chicago: I feel bad for E.J. Manuel and Sammy Watkins. Not because of what the Bears D will do, but because of what Cutler, Jeffery, and Marshall will. PICK: Bears

Washington @ Houston:  A few years ago this would’ve been worth the price of admission; now, not so much. PICK: Pick em’

Tennesse @ Kansas City: Whisenhunt will have Titans ready to play, but if Alex Smith can’t beat Jake Locker, Andy Reid may end up being the Browns head coach next year. PICK: Chiefs

New Orleans @ Atlanta: “Matty Ice” IS OVERRATED, and Payton/Brees are right at home in any dome. PICK: Saints

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia: Chip Kelley’s offense is dangerous even without D Jack. Jags pull this one out, and folks in Cleveland will be pissed all the way off! PICK: Jaguars

Oakland @ N.Y. Jets: PICK: Jets

Cincinnati @ Baltimore: Bengals have probably a better looking roster, but Ravens have “Uncle Ray” somewhere in the building. Most pundits say Bengals will win the North primarily because of their talent, I say Ravens win the North because… what’s already understood need not be explained. PICK: Ravens

New England @ Miami: There are some who think that this be the year Dolphins pose a real challenge to the Pats for the East; I ain’t one em’. PICK: Patriots

San Francisco @ Dallas: Niners window gets smaller and smaller with each light that goes out. As Romo goes, so go the Boys. PICK: Cowboys

Carolina @ Tampa Bay: Cam should be able to pull this one out due to the strong running game Panthers possess. His ability to read defenses is still a question mark, and Tampa looks like they have a gooooood DEFENSE. PICK: Panthers

Indianapolis @ Denver: Peyton in the regular season is not worth mentioning. Luck going a “Mile High” to get a victory is. PICK: Colts

N.Y. Giants @ Detroit: Lions had the NFC North in the palm of their hands, and gave it away. If the pre-season told us anything about the Giants, it’s that they need more pre-season. PICK: Lions

San Diego @ Arizona: Notorious for their slow starts no matter who’s coach, Chargers can’t afford to do that against the Cards. Palmer looked like a bust prior to Arians arrival in the heat. Cardinals want Chargers history to keep repeating itself. PICK: Cardinals

 

Read em and weep people!!  www.theshopreport.com

Up Next: Matchup Predictions week 2

Now that we’ve told you who to watch for from the AFC side of thing’s, let us take a look at the NFC’s representatives.

Packers: Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are joined at the hip like nobody’s business. The Pack’s infrastructure is built from adamantium, and is usually the case with the “always mentioned” squads in the NFL who just seem to get it right year in and year out. These cats’ don’t rebuild, they reload!! If you’ve got your money on this bunch to be the NFC rep in this year’s Super Bowl, I’d say that ‘s about as safe a bet as you can make.

Eagles: I know D Jack is no longer in the mix, but that won’t slow down Chip and co. not one bit. As it stands, I seem to have been DEAD WRONG about Chip and his brand of offense. This guy has already shown that he understands how to use, and get most out of whoever is on the roster; something the Browns – 15 yrs and counting- have yet to figure out. His offensive philosophy can be downright scary at times. Again, D Jack is a big loss, but I believe Chip will find a way to compensate for the loss.

Saints: There seems to be a common thread amongst teams that figure to consistently be in the mix. A good head coach (Payton), and a franchise QB (Brees), and what you get is a greater than 75% chance your team will be in post season conversation each and every go round. Nothing says that more than how the Saints fared during the 1- year suspension of Payton; Brees, and the rest of Benson’s Saints had an ok year, but not like the Super Bowl year when Payton was on the sidelines. As long as those two (Payton/Brees) are together, Saints are a playoff foregone conclusion.

Seahawks: We all know the Russell Wilson story by now. It’s a high crime that “Wilson Mania” falls far below “Manznia”, and Wilson has down far more in the way of production on the field as Manziel has in filming TV commercials; blame it on the basanova. This squad was a Marshawn Lynch fumble (on the 2-yd line) in 2012 against the Falcons from going to the Bowl that year. As long as the mantra in Hawks camp- “every week is championship week!”- remains the same, I see know reason why they shouldn’t repeat.

Cowboys: The boys’ have an absolute dawg in Dez Braynt; the question is, can Romo finally get over the regular season phenom, playoff putrid player he is now known for? I could give a crap less about QBR and any other stat people use to try and justify a players performance. What Romo lacks is unquantifiable. There is enough talent on this squad to make some noise, but it all starts with Tony.

Sleepers:

Rams: I’m not so sure I clearly understand all the concern surrounding the loss of Bradford. He was slightly above average in my estimation, and not nearly worth the 13-16 million he is supposed to make next season. That doesn’t mean Shaun Hill will thrill, but Jeff Fisher is solid enough as an NFL head coach that I think the Rams will figure it out. Bradford going down does not hurt this squad like it would the Browns were Bradford in Cleveland. Because of Fisher, Rams will be a tough out for just about any team this season.

Cardinals: Arians, “Honey Badger”, Palmer, Peterson, and Fitzgerald. If the Cards are going to make any noise this season it’ll be up to these five to anchor a playoff push this season. I think it can be done, simply because Arians’ will give the oppositions DB’s a severe workout night in and night out, and a healthy Peterson/Honey Badger combo will make it a whole lot less stressful on the Cards’ pass rush. Not to mention Fitzgerald came very close to an 1,000 yrd season (952) in 2013 playing with what seemed like a myriad of qb’s.

Vikings: All Day Peterson should flourish under Norv Turner, who I think was prematurely ousted in Cleveland. If Vikes could get to a Wild Card (2012) against the Pack on “ALL DAYS”  back, with Norv, they may just win a round this time.

Bears: Their version of ” The Big 3″ with Jeffery, Cutler, and Marshall, poses an offensive explosion that could be downright offensive once the lights come on. The question is, can the D bring something to the party? Anything? If so, Houston, the entire NFL will have a problem.

Well, that’ll do it for my teams to watch in 2014. As always, let us know what you think at: http://www.theshopreport.com.

Up Next: Week 1 matchup predictions

With the 2014 NFL season just around the corner, here’s my take on which teams (by conf) to watch this upcoming season. I’ll throw in a “sleeper pick” for fun.  Up first, the AFC:

Patriots: We all know the Pats start and end with Bill, Brady, and Kraft. While the lore surrounding this team is most deserving, for all of who the Patriots are supposed to be, this squad having won 3 out of 7 Super Bowl appearances is paltry according to the ” Patriot way.” With Brady, Pats’ are a sure bet to get back to the playoffs, but I can’t honestly say the Pats’ are the sure bet they once were in winning it all.

Ravens:  Putting the unfortunate Ray Rice situation aside, Ravens are, and will always be a force in the (AFC) North. They don’t rebuild, they reload! A down year for the Ravens would be a season ticket sellout for the Cleveland Browns- unfortunately. The Ravens “infrastructre” is a rarity  shared by only a few teams in the NFL, which is why they seem to always be- without fail- in the post-season conversation. Although I’m still a Browns fan (for entertainment purposes only),  I believe the Ravens will come out of the allways tough AFC North. Even with the much maligned Flacco, Ravens are more than a solid pick to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl.

Broncos: No doubt Peyton deserves the adulation for all his ” statistical accomplishments”, but it’s very alarming that said stats don’t measure up come post-season time. Twice during his tenure has he put up phenominal regular season numbers, only to have it all disappear when it it matters most. His lone Super Bowl victory is undeniable, but his 8-point offensive output against the Seahawks was deplorable! If he truly is as good as advertised. I don’t dislike Peyton, but too often have I seen him make gradeschool mistakes (throwing back across his body) that a palyer of his caliber just should not do. Can the Broncos’ get to another SB?  Yes.  Am I  thoroughly convinced because they have Peyton that they will? Absolutely not; Broncos’ title hopes for this season goes as Peyton goes.

Colts: Luck, Luck, Luck, AND MORE LUCK!  With Andrew, Colts’ have a legit shot if nothing else, on making the playoffs. This cat is a pro’s pro simply because of his work ethic and understanding of what it takes to play quarterback at the NFL level. With some quiet talent at the skill positions (Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton), and possible return of the ” more often than not” reliable Reggie Wayne, this Colts squad is solid and durable. Besides, one can’t find a villanous reason to root against them. Don’t know har this team will go, but watching them this season will be worth the price of addmission.

Chiefs: It’s now, or never for the Andy Reid express down in the K.C.; There’s enough talent on this squad on both sides of the ball that last year’s playoff exit should’ve not only left a bad taste, but an eagerness to make amends. Time for Alex Smith to take the next step, and Anthony Fasano could end up being one of the top fantasy picks of the season.

Sleepers:

Jets: If Rex and co. can figure out the qb situation, Jets will be a tough out for just about anybody they play.

Dolphins: Now that the Incognito/Martin fiasco is in the rearview, Phins’ can get back to the business of developing the likes of Tannehill, Wallace, and Lamar Miller.

Jags: My favorite of the sleepers, I’m biased when it comes to Bortles; I feel the Browns (my team) should have found a way to get this guy instead.  Nonetheless, if Jags some how manage to come out on the plus side of their early season contests against Eagles, Skins, Colts, and Chargers, fans beware!

 

Those are my teams’ to watch, who are yours?  Let us know at http://www.theshopreport.com

UP NEXT: The NFC

 

Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin on winning another Super Bowl:” To the outside world, we have arrived, but to us we’re a long way away from that mountain top called, ” arrival.”

Now to the casual fan, like a DC-10 (tan), that went right over their heads. But to the purist, it speaks directly to what winning a championship – on any level- is all about, and that he (Baldwin) is a by-product of a championship culture. A culture on talked about in Cleveland since forever. At least 1999 anyway.

If the owners of Cleveland’s three major sports’ franchises (Browns, Indians, Cavs) -especially the Browns- spent the same amount of effort into putting a championship product on the field field as they do in selling ” season tickets”, this town would have experienced a “major” championship long before now, instead of being champions in nothing more than hype (LeBron/Manziel) and headlines!!

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told his players at the beginning of their Super Bowl season that every week was championship week, stating week 1 of the pre-season. Which would indicate that there is a mindset that must first be established and shared by everyone in the organization in order to become a champion. Adding names to a roster can make you a “Paper Champion”, but not an actual champion.

Here in Cleveland, all you have to do is win a Heisman or be mentioned – ad nauseam- on Sports Center, and you get not only keys to the city, but a 3 year extension to boot!

I don’t know about you, but this season i’m takin’ my cue from the folks in Mizzou- THE SMALL MARKET CITY THAT DOESN’T HAVE A CASE OF THE ME TOO!!

…This should be the response to anyone who finds it noteworthy that a woman has been hired as a coach (assistant be damned) for an NBA franchise.  Becky Hammon, the new assistant coach for the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, should be congratulated for being selected to the premier coaching staff of sports, not simply because she’s the first female on a sideline not named Violet Palmer or Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.  The fact that this is groundbreaking in 2014 should be appalling – not lauded; women have long proven themselves to possess the acumen to be successful leaders of women and men alike for quite some time (reference Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Oprah Winfrey, Chancellor Angela Merkel or a well-mannered child raised by a single mother in your neighborhood).

Coaching has absolutely nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with mentoring, analyzing and creating opportunities for players on the court.  It is accessing the game and developing methods to succeed at that game.  Becky Hammon stated this herself, “But when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching, game-planning, coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be in the mix and shouldn’t be in the mix.”  Mental aptitude in a sports game is not – nor has ever been – gender specific.  Moreover, the NBA has plenty of male coaches who exemplify the adage that “those who can’t do, teach”.  Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers and former NBA coach Larry Brown – with successful tenures and 4 NBA titles as coach between them – were measurably better drawing up plays from the sidelines than wearing a jersey.  Meanwhile, the struggles of Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan as mentor/coach/GM/Owner are in stark contrast to their careers on the court.

The Spurs, with their mix of young and seasoned talent, are the definition of precision basketball.  In 2013-2014, the Spurs boasted – rather did not boast about – just four entries in the top ten for any major statistical category (blocks, blocks per Game, three-point percentage and steals).  As a team, the Spurs shot and assist percentages, combined with their lack of offensive rebounds as well as low number of team fouls solidify that they clearly are the masters of execution and smart play.  Precision like this befits a team that does not have a player with the physical presence of an LBJ, KD or D12, akin to WNBA players who overall lack the physical presence of their male counterparts, even of their own contemporaries.  This is why the women’s game is more fundamentally sound.  This is why Becky Hammon is already prepared to excel; she transitioned from a head smart player to a coach on a team with a similar approach to the game.  Her gender will not be the reason why she fails or succeeds; it’s her ability to understand basketball.  The Spurs have a history of acquiring talent who understand basketball, and this is why sustained success remains in the forecast for the Spurs by adding Becky.