Darius Rucker has an End Zone Obsession…and he’d like to share it with you

Not that there aren’t already plenty of places on the World Wide Web where you can go to make weekly football picks, but if you’re one of the millions of people who have owned and loved Hootie and the Blowfish’s album Cracked Rear View, then it might just behoove you to offer a cursory click onto Darius Rucker’s End Zone Obsession.*

End Zone Obsession originated out of an attempt by Rucker and his “people” to figure out a more exciting way to interact with his fans, and when the talk turned to football, Rucker knew they’d hit on an idea that had serious potential. Soon, web designers were hard at work, putting together an easy-to-use site that would allow Rucker and his fans to pick the winners and losers for each week of the NFL season.

“People have been challenging me, and I’ve pretty much accepted every challenge,” said Rucker. “Last week, everybody was talking trash before the weekend, and then I won, ‘cause I picked every game right. So I was on this morning, doing the trash-talking. I’m telling them, ‘Guess you’ve got to do better next week!’”

As Rucker is a diehard Miami fan, this interview obviously took place prior to the Dolphins having been blown out of the water by the Patriots, but it’s not as though his tune will have changed as a result. Clearly, it’s far too late for that now…

* Rucker officially became a Miami Dolphins fan on January 16, 1972. “The Dolphins are playing the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, and I’m in the house with all my cousins. My two aunts are there. There’s, like, 14 kids, and every kid in there, everybody in my whole family, is pulling for the Cowboys. I decided that day that I was pulling for the Dolphins…and I remember crying when the Dolphins lost at the end. But the next year, I started playing little league football, and ever since then I’ve loved the game.”

* He has a piece of swag that would make any Dolphins fan drool. “The very first Miami Dolphins game I ever got to go to, it was a Monday night game against the Steelers back in ’94, and I got to sing the National Anthem. After that game, Dan Marino took his jersey off and gave it to his assistant and had it framed for me, and that is my favorite piece of paraphernalia that I got. I’ve lived in my house for 12 years, and my decorator laughed at me when I moved in, because that jersey was up in the house before anything else could enter.”

* There has only ever been one occasion when his devotion to Miami has wavered. “When I heard that Dave Wannstedt told Dan Marino that he thought that he had a better chance to win with Jay Fiedler than him, I really thought about switching my alliances, because I thought we had the dumbest coach that had ever coached a game of football.”

Given Rucker’s dedication to the Dolphins, he’s not afraid to admit that you can always count on him to make the same selection on End Zone Obsession week after week after week.

“I’m talking to my assistant yesterday, I’m making my picks, and he goes, ‘What do you think about the Dolphins game?’ And I said, ‘Dude, I’m picking the Dolphins sixteen times in a row.’ I can guarantee you that. I’ll be picking the Dolphins sixteen times in a row. And it’s not, like, I’m thinking in my heart, ‘Oh, well, I’ve got to pick the Dolphins.’ I truly believe they’re going to win.”

* For the record, yes, we do know that Rucker has not only continued to record well beyond Hootie’s aforementioned 1994 album but, indeed, has been shifting mass country-music units for the past several years as a solo artist, thanks to such hit singles as “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long, and “Alright.” But, damn, man, Cracked Rear View went platinum sixteen times over. I think that still warrants being cited as his predominant accomplishment, don’t you?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

2009 NFL Week 7 Picks & Predictions

Instead of limiting myself to only four games like I have the previous weeks, I’ve decided to channel my inner Peter King and make predictions (with smaller write ups) on every contest on the NFL schedule this week.

49ers at Texans, 1:00PM ET
It had to have been a long two weeks for San Francisco’s players after the Falcons drubbed the Niners 45-10 in Week 5. Mike Singletary will have his team more focused and I think we’ll see a great defensive effort from San Fran this Sunday to slow down a potent Houston offensive attack.
Odds: Texans –3.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Texans 17.

Packers at Browns, 1:00PM ET
This will be a closer game than most think. The Packers could be looking ahead to a home date with the Vikings next Sunday, although in the end Cleveland’s offense is putrid and while Green Bay has been inconsistent defensively this year, I think they’ll do enough to get the Pack a victory.
Odds: Packers –9.
Prediction: Packers 24, Browns 16.

Chargers at Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
Ron Rivera has no clue on how to get San Diego’s defense back on track, but the young, inexperienced Kansas City secondary could have issues slowing down Philip Rivers and the Bolts’ passing game. Still, I think Matt Cassel and company pull off a surprise upset at home against a San Diego team coming off a short week.
Odds: Chargers –5
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Chargers 18.

Colts at Rams, 1:00PM ET
The Rams have given a nice effort the past two weeks, but this is a horrible matchup for them – even at home. Peyton Manning and company is well rested and the Indy defense will harass Marc Bulger all game.
Odds: Colts –14
Prediction: Colts 34, Rams 14.

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Henne, Wildcat help Dolphins beat Jets in thriller

It’s usually wise to expect the unexpected in the NFL. That’s why I’m not going to act the least bit surprised that Rex Ryan’s defense looked befuddled on Monday night while trying to defend second year quarterback Chad Henne and the Dolphins’ Wildcat formation.

Thanks to Henne’s surprising accuracy (he completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns) and the combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams running the Wildcat, the Dolphins topped the Jets 31-27 in one of the more entertaining games of the year.

All right I admit – I’m a little surprised that Ryan’s defense was little match for the Wildcat. After all, if there were one defensive mind in the NFL that could shut down that formation, it would be Ryan right? Then why whenever the Dolphins needed a big play in the fourth quarter to keep the chains moving did they successfully use the Wildcat? Why can no defensive guru figure this formation out?

The short answer is that Miami runs the Wildcat so well that even the stingiest of defensive coordinators can’t slow them down. Brown has been the perfect fit for the formation and even though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Williams still displays good burst when he runs. Simply put, the Dolphins have mastered the formation and will still give teams (any team, including Ryan’s Jets) fits while using it.

The Wildcat also helped open things up for Henne in the passing game. He wasn’t asked to do too much, but he came up with a couple of huge completions when Miami needed them, specifically on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. early in the fourth. It’s still early, but the Dolphins may have found their franchise quarterback.

On the other side, Mark Sanchez turned in his second poor outing in consecutive weeks. He certainly wasn’t as bad as he was last week in New Orleans, but he was shaky to say the least. He finished with only 172 yards on 12 of 24 passing, although he did throw a touchdown pass to the newly acquired Braylon Edwards, who looked like a player with a new lease on life while hauling in five receptions for 64 yards.

Sanchez was far from the reason the Jets lost, but it has been clear the past two weeks that defensive coordinators are starting to figure out how to game plan for him. This is when it’s important for a young quarterback to learn from what he’s seeing on the field and not lose confidence in his abilities. He didn’t turn the ball over tonight, which was big considering he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against New Orleans last week. But Sanchez needs to continue to learn from his mistakes and move forward in his development.

Dolphins acquire Thigpen from Chiefs

According to the Chiefs’ official website, Kansas City traded quarterback Tyler Thigpen to the Dolphins for an undisclosed draft pick.

Miami was forced to make this move after Chad Pennington suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a loss to the Chargers in Week 3. With only Chad Henne and Pat White on the depth chart, Thigpen gives the Dolphins more experience at the quarterback position.

That said, Henne will remain the Dolphins’ starter because the team wants to get a better look at the former second round pick out of Michigan. Given Pennington’s age (33) and injury history, there’s a good chance that Miami won’t re-sign him when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. But they still want to see whether or not Henne is capable of taking over the starting job before the jettison a veteran quarterback like Pennington, who led Miami to an AFC East title last season.

As for the Chiefs, they were hoping to acquire a fourth round pick in exchange for Thigpen this summer after they traded for Matt Cassel, but I doubt they got more than a fifth rounder from Miami.

Thigpen isn’t a bad fantasy quarterback. He was QB12 last year even though he was second string early in the season. His 18.8 fppg average was 10th-best in the league. He posted some good garbage time numbers for the Chiefs because they were trailing for most of the season. The job is Henne’s to start, but if he falters or gets injured, Thigpen could be a sneaky good pickup in deeper fantasy leagues.

Chad Pennington’s season likely over

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington’s season is likely over after he suffered a torn capsule in his right throwing shoulder in a loss on Sunday to the Chargers. Pennington is seeking a second opinion, but it looks like Chad Henne will be the full-time starter now in Miami.

The team has not yet confirmed the severity of the injury. But Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano told the AP earlier the team was preparing to move on with backup Chad Henne.

“We’re going to have to go out there with Henne, who is a lot less experienced,” Fasano said. “There is definitely going to be a learning curve for Henne. He can learn as much as he wants in a classroom, but until he’s out on the field, in-game experience he’s not going to learn.”

Rookie Pat White, who’s seen action in the Dolphins’ Wildcat package thus far, is the only other QB on the roster.

White would be an intriguing option to start, but he doesn’t have any experience running a pro style offense because he played at West Virginia, which ran a spread option attack. So the Dolphins are essentially forced to start Henne and keep using White in the Wildcat.

This is a massive blow to Miami’s season. Pennington was limited as a passer, but he’s one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game just based on his ability to read defenses and get the ball out of his hands quickly.

Unless Henne turns out to be the next Tom Brady off the bench, the Dolphins are going to struggle to even going .500 this year. They’re already 0-3 and play in one of the toughest divisions in football.

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