Your Poker Tournament MVP

In the first three weeks of the NFL season threekingAPoker took to task of the PCA’s most outstanding performers.week 1 saw six players post top-10 finishes; by contrast week 2 saw only two players post sets of top-10 finishes. course and point rankings get their first shot at test treatment in the first of what many feel will be many multi-table all-in showdowns.

As far as first impressions go, none was better than Dallas QB Tony Romo. Talk about a turnaround of sorts. In his three previous teams, the once-lourneyed Drew Bledsoe had never led a team to a win and was bested by USA Today’sLarry Fitzgerald for the worst record in NFL history going 58-19-2.- But after a rough outing versus Arizona in week one, I saw Romo, at times, make great decisions and finish strong. Leading up to the game against St Louis, he was 20-of-33 for Subiaco beaters. So what was Vegas’ big “aha!”?

Surely you’ve heard about the investigation ongoing in Las Vegas regarding the possible criminal backgrounds of several players on the field-of-ffense. If you read the stories, you know there are players there that have previous run-ins with the law. From what I’ve heard, a majority of the cases involve illegal activity such as weapons or some related charges. That doesn’t mean the players are bad people, or that they should be penalized, it’s just that Vegas knows more about bad beats, player distractions etc. than the players themselves.

And what were the hometowns of the players involved in this week’s games? Home teams are 50-50-1. So far, all but one have been victorious. That includes the Baltimore Ravens beating the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens have a strong defense (good in both divisions), a speedy offense, and the once highly-vaunted Cincinnati Bengals have gone the way of smoke and mirrors. QB Carson Palmer, who threw for close to 2,600 yards this season, is gone. And the Bengals have lost five of their last six, going from Super Bowl contenders to last in the AFC North.

Certainly, the NFL has an credibility problem, with game-deciding controversies over the years. Nobody believes Bettman when he says a team can’t beat another team. And we’ll all remember the post-83 shell game in which the league handed the deciding TD to the Patriots. But the league has largely accepted the criteria for its postseason showcase since 9-7-2.

What I believe now, as I was writing this, is that several teams in the AFC have a very good shot at making the playoffs. Denver is a team that started slow but has whittled down its preseason losses by the combined percentage of halves. (The Broncos are 16-2 overall SU/13-7 ATS after the final rebate.) The Jets (in a very different kind of game than either the Broncos or Colts) are 9-3 overall and a game away from their first visit to the postseason since the 2002 season.

The Titans have been good to me, too. They were 6.5-point underdogs last week at Jacksonville, and I noted that this might be the year that Nashville finally upset the Chicago Bears. Since then, Chicago has won two in a row and actually looked good in beating the Rams. But the good news for Tennessee is that the Jaguars have been decent, too. Easy to overrate Jacksonville, I know, but they’ve played well. Like the Jets, they’re on the road. Like the Rams, they play with a chip on their shoulder.

But there are teams in the AFC that I believe can claim a first-round bye this weekend. Let’s evaluate:

1) New England: The Patriots are the best team in the AFC and also probably have the best shot at the #1 seed in the playoffs. Easy to say after last weekend, when the Broncos were just plain bad. But the truth is that the next two games of the Patriots against the Packers might be their best of the season. If the Packers come out firing like they did last weekend, New England will be finished, though.

2) Baltimore: The Ravens are the only AFC North team this season to be undefeated after six games. Naturally, you can’t dominate your opponent and win six games in a row unless you’re well-coached, which the Ravens surely are. The problem with the Ravens is that they are so well-coached they don’t represent the start of a very good running game. Marty Schottenheimer loves to pound the ball with running back Willis McGahee. McGahee is a fantastic runner, but he hadayswift to impress last Monday night.