Friday, October 14, 2005

A Loser Picking Winners, Week 6

Other than my buddy Andy, am I the only person who thinks that Charlie Batch is at least as good as (and maybe better) than Tommy Maddox? I know I don't have the benefit of seeing practice, so I have no idea how these guys look on a daily basis, but I got to see Maddox play for a season and a half, and I've seen Batch, first as a starter in Detroit, and then during his preseason mop-up duties in Pittsburgh the last few seasons. I'm not convinced they're so different that Maddox is clearly the #2 guy. (There is the little issue of Maddox have a lot more game experience this century, which is certainly worth something, but I guess the question is, "Does it make enough of a difference to warrant him starting, even if he's only 85-90%?")

Here's what Jim Wexell said in yesterday's Herald Standard:
"I didn't think I'd be back this quick," said Maddox. "But even by Sunday, when I came in for treatment before the team left, I started feeling a lot better. It started healing pretty quick. I feel good. I think as the week goes on it'll get stronger and stronger."

However, judging by yesterday's practice, Batch would get the call if Roethlisberger can't play.

"Right now, I'm the guy preparing to play this week," said Batch. "I'll go out and prepare that way and get the timing down with the receivers and make sure I get the verbiage called with the plays. Once you get the game plan down, everything just becomes natural at that point."
Frankly, if Roethlisberger can't go, which still is a possibility I guess, I'd like to see Batch out there Sunday. It's been so long since he's started a game that no one may remember it, but Batch is pretty mobile. His rookie season he rushed for over 200 yards, in addition to throwing for over 2,000. Maddox, on the other hand, would have trouble beating Mark Madden in a foot race, which certainly makes game planning against him a little easier.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I think Maddox is garabage and should be relegated to Brian St. Pierre status, I'm just saying that I really don't see much difference between his abilities and Batch's; at least not enough to unequivocally assume he'll be the starter if healthy. Plus, shouldn't Batch get an opportunity to play if for no other reason than he threw a 50-yard bomb to Sean Morey to win a preseason game against the Panthers? I mean, how many guys can say they threw a completed pass to Morey? Seriously? That's like saying that Ray Lewis went through a pregame with doing that ridiculous dance where he rubs grass all over himself.

(By the way, does anyone else find it a bit odd that Lewis rubs grass all over his person even though Baltimore has artificial turf? What's even goofier is that some poor sap has to place a patch of actual grass near the Ravens tunnel so Lewis has something to actually pick. Maybe it's just me, but this all seems kinda weird. Of course, so does stocking your roster with ex-cons, so what do I know.)

OK, back on earth -- specifically Pittsburgh -- it probably won't matter who actually starts Sunday if Ben can't go (although I just saw that Maddox was upgraded to probable). Given how the Bus played last week, and how well Willie Parker has played thus far this season, there's no reason to think that Pittsburgh will do anything other than pound the ball, and throw high percentage passes. Although there was no mention of this Monday night (even after Duce was deactivated), during Tuesday's press conference, Bill Cowher made an interesting comment:
I think, unfortunately as I sat down and talked to Duce, Duce didn't have a chance to go through a training camp. He really hasn't had a chance to put together any practices. You look at Jerome, Jerome went through all of training camp and he got hurt right as we broke camp. I think that Duce, quite frankly, may not be 100 percent all year. He's working to get better and he's working at it and at some point, we may need him. He understands the situation. That was why the decision was made. It's always a tough decision to make. But Jerome Bettis, he gives you something.
So it sounds like Duce might not dress for a while. And yes, the Bus does indeed "give you something," but Duce was really good for the first third of the season in 2004. And while I like the current rotation of Willie, Jerome and Verron, I'd also like to see Duce get back in the mix.

While it's not particularly surprising that Roethlisberger missed practice Thursday, what might be a bit worrisome -- at least to Jim Wexell (OK, and me too) -- is that Hines Ward didn't practice ... again. His hamstring is still giving him trouble. And while Cowher has a general rule about players who don't practice Friday don't play Sunday, he willingly admits that there is some wiggle room, and that the rule isn't absolute, which is exactly what I'd say too if I was talking about Hines Ward. What's interesting is that Hines didn't practice much during the two weeks between the Pats game and the Chargers Monday-nighter. But when the game started, Hines Ward looked like, well, Hines Ward. And the first touchdown (you know, the one that was inexplicably called back), made it pretty clear that his hamstring didn't seem to be giving him too much trouble.

I was thinking that if Ward couldn't go for the San Diego game, it would give Quincy Morgan a chance to see a little more playing time. Well, Morgan got a little playing time and promptly parlayed that into a pretty big dropped pass right before the first half ended. If he had made the catch down the sideline, the Steelers might have had a chance at a field goal. Still, Morgan did have a nice kickoff return after Colclough went out with a shoulder injury. I guess we'll just have to wait and see on Hines.

Which reminds me, I'll be waiting and seeing in person -- my buddy Andy, me and my wife will be in Pittsburgh for the game. This will be my third game at Heinz Field, and I'm 2-0. And I don't mean 2-0 during the Roethlisberger era, I mean 2-0 circa throughout the 2003 season, when this team was 6-10 for the year. So even if Ben can't go, you'll have that to give you hope. I'll probably get to the game three hours early and take a bunch of dopey photos, so look for those Sunday night when I get back.

At this point, me picking games is pretty much an exercise in futility, but when has that ever slowed me up? That's right, never. So with that out of the way, here are this weeks, ahem, "sure things:"
WAS KC -5.5 KC
Season: 31 - 42 - 1
Last week: 6 - 7 - 1
Earnings to date: - $1520

Week 1 picks
Week 2 picks
Week 3 picks
Week 4 picks
Week 5 picks