Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year's!

First off, hope your 2006 was great and hope your 2007 is even better!

Anyway, things look a little different here, as I was upgrading some stuff, but that knocked out my header and I'm not sure how to get it back yet!



So hopefully I'll be able to get that figured out, in the meantime if anyone has switched and knows how to help, I'd be grateful!

Happy New Year's!

Friday, 29 December 2006

New Year's Day and BCS Bowl Predictions

I'll save my National Championship game prediction for another day, but for now I'll give you my thoughts on all of the New Year's Day games and the BCS games.

Outback Bowl: (17) Tennessee vs. Penn St.
If Penn St. can get the ball in the hands of guys like Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwoodh, and Tony Hunt, they have the offensive weapons to compete with the Vols. The problem, of course, is getting the ball to them, as Anthony Morelli hasn't exactly torn up the Big Ten. He's completed only a little over 50% of his passes, with a 10:8 TD:INT ratio. That's not good enough to beat a solid SEC team in Tennessee. TENNESSEE 31-21.

Cotton Bowl: (10) Auburn vs. (22) Nebraska
I'm not sure what was up with Auburn getting stomped by Georgia in the 2nd to last game of the year, but ok. One of the biggest problems Auburn was having was that Kenny Irons was playing hurt and was just not as effective down the stretch, which obviously caused some problems. However, after a month or so off, that should be behind him. For the Huskers, I love their offensive balance, but Auburn will be one of the best defenses they've faced all year. AUBURN 24-20.

Gator Bowl: (13) West Virginia vs. Georgia Tech
Not that Reggie Ball was really very good, but things should be even worse offensively with him not playing because of academic reasons. Which is ok because West Virginia's defense isn't that good... but it's not ok because West Virginia's offense is very good. And Georgia Tech won't be able to score enough with their backup QB to keep up with the Mountaineers. WEST VIRGINIA 34-13.

Capital One Bowl: (12) Arkansas vs. (6) Wisconsin
Surprisingly Arkansas comes into this game losers of two straight and with some off-field distractions from parents who think their freshman TE should be catching 60 balls. Um, yeah. This one looks a lot like last year's Capital One Bowl, when most people (myself included) thought Auburn would be able to abuse Wisconsin, and the opposite happened en route to a 24-10 Wisconsin victory. However, I think McFadden & Jones are better than Kenny Irons, and PJ Hill isn't quite Brian Calhoun yet. ARKANSAS 24-23.

Fiesta Bowl: (7) Oklahoma vs. (9) Boise St.
This is pretty much uncharted territory for Boise St., but they come with lots of firepower. Foremost is Ian Johnson, whose numbers are eye-popping. Over 1600 yards rushing, 6.4 YPC, and 24 TD. But if you focus on him Jared Zabrasnky (it seems like he's been there forever) can hurt you either throwing or running the ball. Boise averaged nearly 40 PPG this year, so they can score in a hurry. But they haven't faced anyone like Oklahoma yet this year. Somehow the Sooners are at 11-2 (and should be 12-1), even after Adrian Peterson went down. Paul Thompson has actually been very good at QB, and Adrian Peterson will be back. Enough said. OKLAHOMA 35-20.

Rose Bowl: (8) USC vs. (3) Michigan
I think USC is a bit underrated... their defense is good, and they really do have a solid, balanced offense. If John David Booty has time, he's extremely accurate and has the great WR weapons to throw to. However, as I've said before, on a neutral field I think Michigan is the best team in the country. Michael Hart is a tough runner, Chad Henne makes good decisions with the ball, and Mario Manningham is one of the top WR in the nation. And then there's the defense, led by CB Leon Hall. I really like USC, but I love Michigan. MICHIGAN 31-23.

Orange Bowl: (5) Louisvilla vs. (15) Wake Forest
Wake Forest has been perhaps the surprise team of the country, and they do a lot of things well, but I don't think they match up with Louisville. Louisville has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, with Brian Brohm, Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia, and a bevy of solid RBs who have stepped up after Michael Bush's injury. I think they'll score early and often, and put a little damper on what was a fine season for Wake Forest. LOUISVILLE 41-20.

Sugar Bowl: (11) Notre Dame vs. (4) LSU
I think we all remember last year, where Notre Dame was getting tons of hype, went into the BCS confident, and then got run off the field by a much better Ohio St. team. This year, I see some more of the same, though not quite as much hype about Notre Dame in the media. But one thing remains the same... Notre Dame is a solid team with a good offense, but they are not as talented as their opponent. LSU's two losses this year came at Auburn and at Florida... not bad. They have a great, fast defense that should be able to put pressure on Brady Quinn, forcing him into some mistakes. Offensively, JaMarcus Russell has grown better and better with each game, and they should be able to put up points against a still porous Notre Dame defense. LSU 34-21.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 17

My final week of mediocrity as I continue my quest for .500. I need a superhuman effort here, which probably won't happen, but youneverknow. Let me hold onto my dreams. I have a simple strategy in place... if a team that has something to play for is playing a team that has nothing to play for, I'll usually pick them.

Giants (-2.5) over Redskins
The Giants were my preseason NFC Super Bowl pick, so maybe this is just me holding out hope that that can somehow come through. But still, they have some talent, how do the Giants lose 6 of 7 games?

Bengals (-6) over Steelers
See: something to play for/nothing to play for rationale.

Titans (-3) over Patriots
I didn't think I'd be taking the Titans to cover when they were favored against the Patriots this season, but funny things happen. Funny things such as Vince Young being really good and the Titans winning a lot. And the Patriots having the division locked up.

Raiders (+12.5) over Jets
That's a pretty wide point margin, and the Raiders defense is ok. Jets will win, but I like the Raiders to at least keep this one reasonably close.

Vikings (+2.5) over Rams
Part homer pick. I can't pick against the Vikings when they're the underdogs at home!

Jaguars (+2) over Chiefs
Jags against a good team? That's worked out pretty well for them so far.

Seahawks (+3.5) over Bucs
Neither team has anything to play for... even though Seattle will probably rest some starters the Bucs just aren't very good.

Lions (+12.5) over Cowboys
This goes under the "the NFL is too weird to pick the favorite with this big of a spread" rationale. Hey, it makes sense to me at least.

Texans (-4) over Browns
Charlie Frye wasn't exactly a Pro Bowler, but at least he was better than Derek Anderson. The Browns lost by 15 points last week to Tampa Bay. The Texans beat the Colts. If all is right with the world, that should mean something.

Panthers (-3) over Saints
See: something to play for/nothing to play for rationale.

Broncos (-10.5) over 49ers
See: something to play for/nothing to play for rationale.

Chargers (-13.5) over Cardinals
Even the Chargers backups are good enough to cover the spread against the Cards.

Colts (-9) at Dolphins
Colts should be playing angry after an embarrassing loss to the Texans last week... plus, it doesn't hurt that the Dolphins options at QB are Joey Harrington and Cleo Lemon.

Falcons (+8) over Eagles
I just like the Falcons to be able to cover in this game. It doesn't make sense because of the way the two teams are playing, just the gut feeling I have.

Bills (+9.5) over Ravens
The Ravens look like they have the 2 seed in the AFC, which is nice. But the Bills are a scrappy team that has been playing pretty well. I'm not sure they'll be able to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, especially if the Ravens starters play, but I like them to cover in this game.

Packers (+3) over Bears
See: something to play for/nothing to play for rationale.

Last Week: 8-7
Season: 101-110-8

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Who's the best NFL Rookie QB?

Maybe it's just my bad memory, but it seems to me like there have been more rookie QBs making appearances this season than normal. There is Vince Young, the #3 pick in the draft who had led the Titans back into the playoff race. There's Matt Leinart, who's shown some flashes for the lowly Cardinals. There's Jay Cutler, who took over the Broncos and has them playing well again and in the playoff race. Then there's even Bruce Gradkowski, who started for Tampa Bay after Chris Simms went down, and Tarvaris Jackson, who's gotten some time in Minnesota. But who's been the best? Let's look at each one.

First just a quick look at Tarvaris Jackson. As you may know, I love the guy. But obviously, he's not really in the Young/Leinart/Cutler category yet, as he's only started 1 game. But I'll talk about him a little anyway. He's mobile, he's got a strong arm, quick release, and for the most part has made pretty good decisions. He hasn't had much experience at all at very high level of football (he played at D2 Alabama St. in college. No offense to D2 football, because everyone there is still much, much better than I ever was at football). So the fact that he's played some and not embarrassed himself is encouraging in and of itself.

But moving on to Bruce Gradkowski. I include him only because he is a rookie. However, before he was replaced he really wasn't that good. He completed 54% of his passes and had a 1:1 TD:INT ratio, which isn't good, but not awful. But he had only 5.06 YPA, which is really bad. Of QBs that have taken the most snaps for their team, it was by far the worst in the NFL. Second worst was 5.76 YPA by Joey Harrington. So Gradkowski doesn't really deserve to be with Leinart/Young/Cutler either.

So next is Jay Cutler, the lowest picked of the three first-round QBs. He's only made 4 starts, but he has impressed. His first game was subpar as he did throw 2 INT, but he has thrown 2 TD in each of his 4 games, which is excellent. He's been accurate (57% completion in 105 passes), he's obviously getting the ball in the endzone (8:4 TD:INT), and he's getting the ball downfield. He has a 7.34 YPA, which would be 7th in the NFL if he qualified. After the offense struggled a little bit with Plummer at the helm, they are hitting their stride with Cutler and becoming more explosive. The Broncos have averaged over 25 PPG in his 4 games. As I have mentioned before on here, I think Shanahan made a very good move here and the Broncos will be served better by having a guy like Cutler who gets the ball downfield more as their starting QB.

Then there's Matt Leinart, who was taken one spot ahead of Jay Cutler in the draft. He's been starting since week 5, so there's a solid sample size there. There have been a lot of up and downs for Leinart (which is almost a given considering he plays in Arizona). The highs have been Chicago, where he played a very solid game and drove the Cards down for what looked like would be the winning FG, and Minnesota, where he threw for over 400 yards. There's also been lows, such as the 3-game stretch against Oakland, Green Bay, and Dallas where he threw 1 TD and 5 INT. But overall he's been pretty accurate (56.8%) and has about an even TD:INT ratio. About what you'd expect from a QB playing behind the Arizona O-Line, which has been spotty.

Last is Vince Young. If you listen to Merril Hoge, VY is an awful QB who will never amount to anything. Fortunately, most people don't listen to Merril Hoge. I don't like to say a QB just "wins games" because football is the ultimate team game and no one player "just wins games", but that said I don't think anyone in Tennessee is complaining about taking Young over Leinart. His passing abilities haven't quite caused anyone to confuse him with Dan Marino, but his running ability combined with the passing have been superb. He's been ok throwing it... about 53% completions, 12 TD, 11 INT, 6.14 YPA... not great numbers by any means, but not impossibly bad numbers. But then throw in that he's run for over 500 yards and 6 TD, and he becomes a pretty darn good QB. Of course, it's pretty freakin' hard to ignore that the Titans have won 6 straight games and are suddenly back in the playoff race. That's a point in his favor.

So what does it all mean? Well, basically it just means that the three first-rounders all look really good and should have bright futures. I truly would have no real qualms ranking them 1-2-3 in whatever order you like. If I had to rank them (and I don't, but what's the point of this if I don't?!), I'd probably stick with my pre-draft ranking of them:

(1) Jay Cutler
(2) Matt Leinart
(3) Vince Young

Agree? Disagree?

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I'll be super busy as I'm sure most will over the next couple of days, but hopefully all you great readers have a great holiday!

Friday, 22 December 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 16

As I continue on my quest of mediocrity, we only have 2 weeks to go, which makes .500 unlikely. But I can still dream.

Chiefs (-7) over Raiders
Sometimes I'm actually glad I don't get the NFL Network.

Redskins (+2) over Rams
The Jason Campbell has been pretty underwhelming so far, as Campbell has barely completed 50% of his passes and has 7 TD to 5 INT. But amazingly enough, Ladell Betts is only 67 yards away from 1000 this season and has been tearing it up lately. I'll take the Skins in a mini-upset to knock the Rams out of the playoff race.

Bucs (+3) over Browns
Bill Simmons just sort of hit the nail on the head: "Did you ever think they could have a Week 16 game devoid of NFL playoff implications, fantasy playoff implications AND "the loser has the inside track for the No. 1 pick" implications?" I hope I don't get so bored that I'd be forced to watch this game.

Bills (-4.5) over Titans
I love what Vince Young is doing, but I'm not sure he should really get the praise for the win last week, being that it was the defense that scored the TDs. Regardless, I think the Titans magical run ends in Buffalo, against a surprisingly ok Bills team led by JP Losman. Bills win in the "If we win this we might actually have a chance for the playoffs" game.

Saints (+3) over Giants
It just makes sense in the NFL that a week after the Saints lost at home to Washington they would go on the road to beat the Giants. That's just the way things work in the NFL.

Patriots (+3) over Jaguars
Don't look now, but the Pats are 5-1 on the road this year. Besides, at 10-4, amazingly enough, they're still not guaranteed a playoff berth, because the Jets could still win the division and knock NE out. Unlikely, but it could happen. So the Patriots motivation will be there, though admittedly it's hard to pick against the Jags against a good team, because they usually beat those.

Colts (-9.5) over Texans
Texans suck. The end.

Lions (+5.5) over Bears
The Bears have HFA in the NFC all locked up at this point, leaving nothing to play for. Of course, the antagonist could say the Lions have been playing like there's nothing to play for for the last 5 years. But I'm not going to go there.

Falcons (-6.5) over Panthers
Don't look now, but Chris Weinke is 1-17 in his career as a starter. And he's lost 17 straight starts after winning his first one. And this is his 4th year earning an NFL salary. There are worse jobs in the world than the backup QB.

Steelers (-3.5) over Ravens
Unfortunately for the Steelers, even after another miracle run to end the regular season they'll be missing out on the playoffs. Which generally tends to happen when you start 2-6 and lose even to the Oakland Raiders. Along with the Steelers streak, some concerns about McNair's health make me lean with the Steelers here in Pittsburgh.

Cardinals (+4) over 49ers
Don't know why but I just feel like the Niners will lose this game. I don't have any real rationale, just a feeling.

Seahawks (+4.5) over Chargers
Seahawks are a 4.5 point underdog at home? Hmmm. Like the Patriots, they have a relatively comfortable division lead but they're still not guaranteed a playoff spot. I think they'll be able to break their 2 game losing streak, or at least keep this game within 5 points by the end.

Bengals (+3) over Broncos
This is a tough game to call. Two solid teams fighting for their playoff lives. However, I'll just look at the QBs here. Carson Palmer is superb, and while I think Cutler will be excellent, he's still a rook. Slight nod to the Bengals, though I don't have a lot of confidence about it.

Eagles (+7) over Cowboys
Eagles are playing pretty darn good football right now. With Brian Westbrook getting the ball early and often, and Jeff Garcia limiting mistakes, I think the Eagles will keep this a tight ballgame.

Dolphins (-2.5) over Jets
Eric Mangini, you had a good first year run. 9-7 is nothing to be ashamed of.

Last Week: 7-8
Season: 93-103-8

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Packers defeat Vikings

My goodness, what an ugly game. First off, my condolences to those neutral fans that watched the game, because it wasn't pretty. But rest assured knowing that you didn't suffer nearly as much as me. There is nothing I hate worse in sports, and very few things I hate worse in all of life than when the Vikings lose to the Packers. It's a physically painful feeling. Anyway, some thoughts from the game:

- Tarvaris Jackson wasn't overly impressive by any means in his first NFL start, but the conditions were pretty tough. On the road against an archrival, pumped up crowd, national TV, poor weather, etc. But still, he didn't play well.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg as far as offensive problems. First off, the Offensive Line was atrocious. Penalties, whiffed blocks, etc. Artis Hicks was getting used and abused all game, and whoever Aaron Kampan was going up against was getting beat consistently. Jackson very rarely had time to set his feet and throw, which is generally a problem. The poor Line play also caused the running game to suffer, as there was rarely holes.

When Tarvaris did have time to throw, sometimes it didn't matter where the ball was because the receivers could not get separation at all. Or when they did, something still went wrong, like in the first quarter, when Tarvaris threw a beautiful deep ball, and Troy Williamson overran it and made a terrible attempt at it.

There were problems with the whole offense up to and including the playcalling, and it showed obviously, as the Vikings mustered 3 first downs. Just simply atrocious all the way around.

- There's all this talk about Brett Favre rallying them in the 8th Annual "Brett Favre's Last Ever Home Game", but in reality Favre played a pretty awful game. Most of his completions came simply when there was no pass rush (which is certainly a common theme for the Vikings) and he could pick apart the zone, like most NFL QBs can do. (obviously he had a few solid throws in coverage, including the one on the final drive that got them in Vikings territory). When he threw into coverage, things usually didn't go as well. And in Favre Fashion, he threw 2 bad INTs. One was a pass that went right to Fred Smoot who had the clear path to the endzone for the game's lone TD. On his next pass he just threw it up and Darren Sharper picked it off. Let's not give Favre all the credit, because this game was one strictly by their defense.

- As usual, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams dominated in interior of the line on run plays. Just a couple of absolute dominators there.

- Antoine Winfield was also excellent. Solid in coverage (except for the long play on the final drive), absolutely awesome in run support, and even a big special teams hit. And this guy has never been to a Pro Bowl? That's a crime.

- The Vikings need to consider sending Bubba Franks a Christmas gift, because he was awful. I have never seen a TE play such an awful game.

- On the subject of the announcers, I do like Cris Collinsworth. Honestly, he may very well be the best color man I've heard all season. Though I'm not sure if that speaks to the quality of Collinsoworth's work or the lack of quality in everyone else's.

- Have I mentioned that I hate losing to the Packers? GAH!! As Brett Favre is known to do he practically gave this game to Minnesota, and they just didn't take it. Horrible offensive effort, but that's pretty much to be expected when a rookie is making his first start on the road. If this was Tarvaris' 3rd or 4th start I'm not sure things go that poorly. Hopefully Tarvaris can play well next week to bring momentum into next year and show the team that he can be the guy at QB. Not much else to play for at this point.

- For the record, I HATE THE PACKERS.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Links I Enjoy

I don't really have much to write about today, so I'll do what all good people do in that situation... hand some links out to others more talented than me, at least on this day.

First, a non-sports note... did anyone ever watch the TV show Arrested Development? I just rented a DVD of it and watch the first 6 episodes... great, great show. If you haven't seen it, I implore you to check it out. Er, finish reading this first, then check it out.

Zach from The Big Picture continues his solid work with his blogger interviews, this time with Matt Uffords from With Leather. As with his first one, he really does a great job and it's an interesting look at the blogger with some info you probably didn't know.

Terrell Owens missed the Pro Bowl. Oh darn.

Goodbye Brad Radke, a man of true class. It was a lot of fun watching him pitch for the Twins for so many years, especially this last year when he was in such enormous pain.

Passion & Pride always has all the Sixers news you need... which is good because they're usually too depressing for me to write about these days.

Just another example of why I love Fire Joe Morgan.

The Peter King Manlove Translator. Brilliant.

You have your Mauer Sideburns, now get your Childress Mustache! Just seems like the fitting way to end this.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Billy King: No Level of Incompetence that won't be tolerated

As I mentioned earlier and you almost certainly have heard many times, Allen Iverson was traded. The official deal is Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin for Andre Miller, Joe Smith (and his expiring contract), and two first-round draft picks.

Allen Iverson was the reason I first became a Sixers fan, so it's tough to see him go, especially when he's still playing great basketball. He's incredibly quick, a great finisher, gets to the line, and will give you all he's got each and every game. Maybe he's not big on practice, but I think that's forgivable considering the beating he takes game in and game out.

So about the trade. I don't really like it much. Certainly it's not an awful deal, but in many ways I don't see the point. Andre Miller is a nice PG, and a good distributor. But like Iverson he's 31 years old and his deal runs for 2 more years after this one. Honestly, all I can see Miller doing is improving the Sixers just enough to lessen their shot at the #1 pick. I wouldn't really be surprised if the Sixers turned around and traded Miller.

Then there's Joe Smith, who is simply in it for the expiring contract. OK.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, are 2 first-round picks. These are obviously nice, but they'll be late first rounders sometime in the 20s. It's a deep draft, which is good, but what do you normally get from picks in the 20s? Based on my unscientific research, generally role players or occasional starters. Every once in a while there's a guy like Josh Howard, but then there's also the guys that never make it. And that is what they got for Allen Iverson, who by the time he's done with be one of the top 50 (certainly) players ever to play the game, and who's still playing at a very high level.

It's increasingly evident that the problem in Philadelphia was not Allen Iverson, it's Billy King. Seriously, look at this Philly team right now.

- Andre Iguodala - ok, no complaints here. He's a nice up-and-coming player on both ends of the court.
- Kyle Korver - great shooter, no defense. Solid role player.
- Chris Webber - basically on one leg, limited mobility, and with an albatross contract. An awful defensively player and poor fit for Philly's personnel.
- Samuel Dalembert - an athletic post with no real offensive skills and seems to be the same player he was 2 years ago.
- Rodney Carney - promising young player who's nowhere near ready yet.

That's about it. Kevin Ollie starts, but he sucks. Louis Williams could be good someday, but he's not yet. Stephen Hunter is a decent big man off the bench. The starting lineup is below average, and there is no depth. This was the team surrounding around Allen Iverson.

At the end of the day, Allen Iverson is a Denver Nugget, and they become my 2nd favorite team. But the problems for the 76ers run a lot deeper than Allen Iverson, and they start in the front office with Billy King. The man with seemingly no plan, and from the looks of it no real clue on how to piece together a team.

Here's a great post at The 700 Level, and I'll quote a part I really like:

I'll remember the crossover on Jordan, the high arching kiss off the glass, the step over Tyronne Lue, the cupped hand to the ear, the sleeve, the tattoos, the MVP. I'm not talkin' bout practice, I'm talkin' bout the warrior.

Allen Iverson had his flaws. Philadelphia loved him anyway. Thanks for the memories.

Indeed. Thanks AI, you'll be missed by this 76ers fan.

Bye Bye Bubba Chuck

It's official, Allen Iverson is officially a member of the Denver Nuggets.

As a Sixers fan, it will be hard to watch AI play in another uniform. More analysis later, but I don't feel up to it right now.







Monday, 18 December 2006

Knicks/Nuggets Suspensions handed down

For the record, here are the suspensions:

Carmelo Anthony - DEN - 15 games
Nate Robinson - NY - 10 games
JR Smith - DEN - 10 games
Mardy Collins - NY - 6 games
Jared Jeffries - NY - 4 games
Nene - DEN - 1 game
Jerome James - NY - 1 games
Isiah Thomas - NY - 0 games

In addition both teams were fined $500,000.

Some of the suspensions I thought were just right, some I thought were too harsh, and then there was some parts thought the penalty should have been harsher (or there should have at least been a penalty).

First, the longest one, Carmelo Anthony. This was too long, I think. First off, it was not a sucker punch. I can understand that from the angle most commonly shown it does look like a punch, but from the reverse angle his fist is not closed, showing it was more like a hard slap than a punch. Still obviously not a good thing, but not as bad as everyone is quite making it out to be.

Then there's Nate Robinson. Honestly, I don't know why he did not get a longer suspension, or at least the same length as Carmelo. Certainly the foul and reaction of JR Smith started things, but Robinson is the one that escalated it by immediately getting in JR Smith's face and then throwing the reverse bodyslam on him. After that, Robinson continued jumping around and getting in the faces of the Nuggets player. Robinson, as much as anybody, caused this thing to get as big as it was.

Smith with 10 games, I don't really have a problem with that in relation to what the other guys got. Same for Jeffries, James, and Nene. Mardy Collins getting 6 games I felt was a little harsh, because if the fight hadn't escalated he wouldn't have gotten suspended at all, and he didn't really have a role in the fight. I mean, it was a hard foul and a flagrant foul, but I've certainly seen a lot worse.

Then, in my eyes, the most egregious error of them all... the fact that Isiah Thomas did not get suspended at all. Now, I'm not a professional lipreader, but the videos show he said this to Carmelo Anthony right before the whole thing started: "Don't go to the basket right now." Of course, Thomas says he said it not as a threat but as a lecture on sportsmanship. Yeah, I bet. As great as a player that Isiah Thomas was, he's a clown off the court.

The other thing that I find funny... according to the Knicks and Nate Robinson, this all escalated because they felt the Nuggets were trying to run up the score and had some starters still in. Yes, being 9-17 and being booed at home constantly is not that embarrassing, but having a team have 4 starters in in the 4th quarter of a 19 point game is just way too much to handle. Makes sense to me.

Also, kudos to Carmelo Anthony for at least issuing an apology and recognizing that he was over the line. Unfortunately, no such thing has been heard from Nate Robinson or Isiah Thomas, and I doubt they will be forthcoming either.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

NFL Week 15 Recap

Aside from the start of the Tarvaris Jackson Era, some other things did happen this weekend in the NFL. I'll recap in a way that only I can... hit on some things in a mildly sarcastic manner until I get bored. Because that's just the way things work around here.

- So anyway, another example of how I don't understand the NFL. Last week the Saints went into Dallas and absolutely destroyed the [now] 9-5 Cowboys. This week they came back home and lost to the [now] 5-7 Washington Redskins. I suppose that makes perfect sense to someone, somewhere, but not me.

- Joey Harrington: 5/17, 20 yards, 2 INT. Good to have you back!

- I think it's time to remind everyone that the Carolina Panthers were a popular preseason Super Bowl pick. And here they lost 37-3! 37-3! I know Jake Delhomme was out and Chris Weinke sucks... but 37-3?

- Tampa Bay scored 31 points on the Chicago Bears? Rex Grossman bails out the Bears defense and special teams? The NFL can be so weird sometimes.

- It looks like Andy Reid has finally discovered that a run game is not such an evil thing... 19 carries for Brian Westbrook, 8 more for Correll Buckhalter, another win for the Philadelphia Eagles. Coincidence? Well, maybe. But I tend to think not.

- As I predicted, another loss to Tennessee for the Jacksonville Jaguars. 2/3 of their losses this year are to either Tennessee (quietly 7-7) or Houston (not so quietly sucking again). And Vince Young didn't even need any late-game heroics this week.

- Oakland's offense sucks badly. No need to expound on that. They're just awful, and yet somehow they were favored this week. Um, yeah.

- At least Brett Favre didn't disappoint. 0 TD, 3 INT. And the Packers still beat the Lions. Please Detroit, I beg you, keep Matt Millen around as long as possible!

- Yay for the NFL!

The Tarvaris Jackson Era has arrived

14/23, 177 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT in a little over a quarter.

Take notice.

Friday, 15 December 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 14

Well, in case you noticed I've been absent here for the past couple days, due mainly to having finals to take and all that stuff. But, I'm happy to report that I'm back, finals are over, and I'm on Christmas vacation. I think that's something we can all be happy about. But enough talking, let's get to the picks.

Cowboys (-3.5) over Falcons
How quickly those bandwagons go. One bad game by Tony Romo and we haven't heard much talk about him. A couple of wins by the Falcons in a row and everyone thinks Michael Vick is good again. Well, almost everyone.

Dolphins (+1) over Bills
It's the second half of the season, which means the Dolphins are pretty much unbeatable. JP Losman is finally looking like an actual NFL Quarterback, but the Dolphins are looking like a tough out right now. Jason Taylor has been the best defensive player in the NFL this year, and Joey Harrington is doing just enough to win games. I'll take Miami here.

Saints (-9.5) over Redskins
I just can't get the picture out of my mind of the Saints just pulverizing the Cowboys defense last week. Brees is playing unbelievably well, Deuce is running well, Reggie Bush is a weapon no matter how he's used, and the receivers are making plays. This is the best offense in the NFL right now, and they are fun to watch.

Panthers (+2.5) over Steelers
This just sorta seems like the way things go for the Panthers. Three straight losses where they have not looked good at all leaving them on the edge of playoff contention, it just makes sense in the NFL today that they should beat a Pittsburgh team that is playing pretty well lately. Certainly they have the talent to do it, at least.

Bears (+13.5) over Bucs
Bears should win easily but this line is just too big for me. Sorry, I'll take the Bucs to cover.

Vikings (-3.5) over Jets
Mostly a homer pick. I do think the Vikings will win, but I would be a lot more confident if Brad Johnson wasn't starting. I'm not sure Chad Pennington is good enough to carry the offense, which is what QBs have to do against the Vikings, because their run defense is historically good, led by Pat Williams, who better get a Pro Bowl spot this year. He's an absolute beast.

Browns (+11.5) over Ravens
See the Bears description. Just a little too big of a spread for me in a League where a lot of funny things have happened this year.

Titans (+3.5) over Jaguars
For all of the Jags impressive victories, they've also lost twice to Houston and once to Tennessee this year. I've definitely become a Vince Young believer, and I think that with this game in Tennessee the Titans will pull it out. That's just how the Jags season has gone this year.

Texans (+11) over Patriots
Much like the Bears and Ravens game, this spread is a little big for me. Especially since New England is coming off of a game in which they lost 21-0.

Lions (+5) over Green Bay
Even if no one else will say it, I will... it's not just the rest of the offense that's the problem in Green Bay, Brett Favre plays a pretty big part in it as well. Uncatchable passes, poor decisions, etc. Not that they have anywhere better than him right now that should be playing because they definitely don't, but Favre is a shell of his former self at this point.

Broncos (-3) over Cardinals
Interesting battle of the rookie QBs, though I think this one is decided by the fact that Denver's defense is better than the Cardinals defense. But man, did you ever think that after the start the Broncos had this year, especially defensively, that they'd be 7-6 and on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned? I certainly didn't, but again, it's the NFL, so I should probably just expect the unexpected now. Which I guess means I should be picking the Cards instead of the Broncos. Oh well.

Rams (+2.5) over Raiders
Oakland is the favorite? OAKLAND? They're 2-11, have lost 6 straight, and haven't scored more than 14 points during that losing streak. And they're the favorite? Certainly the Rams are no world-beaters, but I'm not taking the Raiders to beat the spread in a game that they're favored to win. No sir.

Eagles (+5.5) over Giants
I can see it now... Garcia continues his strong play, gets rewarded with a multi-year deal from some team looking for that veteran influence at QB, then he sucks again. It's almost too predictable.

Chiefs (+8.5) over Chargers
As awesome as the Chargers look at times, they can also be pretty inconsistent. And with the Chiefs loss last week their backs are firmly against the wall. Which isn't a good reason to pick a team to beat the spread, but that's all I got right now.

Colts (-3) over Bengals
Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this that everyone doesn't already know. It should be very high scoring and very entertaining. I'll take the home team, even if their run defense is incredibly bad.

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 86-95-8

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Best NFL Coaching Tirades

With finals in full swing I don't have much time to write, so I'll just point you in the direction of a couple of excellent videos. The first is just a hodgepodge of the best tirades of NFL coaches, including Dennis Green, Jim Mora, and Mike Ditka.



The second one is just the best of Jim Mora. I once linked to the Jim Mora Playoffs Clip, but this one is longer and has a greater variety. Though for my money you can't beat: "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I'm just hoping we can win a game."

Monday, 11 December 2006

NFL Power Rankings

I gave my top 10 a couple weeks ago, and it's time to bring it back again this week because, well, I can. So here's my NFL top 10 after week 14.

1. San Diego Chargers - I don't even really need to explain this. LaDainian Tomlinson is pretty good, in case you haven't noticed.

2. Baltimore Ravens - I still have a couple of doubts about Steve McNair, but he's erasing more and more of them every week. As long as McNair can avoid stupid mistakes they can use the same formula they've used in the past... play great defense, control the clock, make plays late. So far that formula has worked for a 10-3 record.

3. Indianapolis Colts - I know, I know. 375 yards rushing allowed. But still, Peyon Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, etc. If they can just stop the run a little they'll still a Super Bowl contender. But at this point you definitely have to put them behind San Diego and Baltimore, but no one else really jumps out at me as being ahead of them (unless Rex Grossman can find consistency).

4. New Orleans Saints - That performance at Dallas was just extremely impressive to me. They may have the best and most diverse offense in the NFL... they can just hurt you in so many different ways and Drew Brees is so good right now. But they also displayed a surprisingly solid and opportunistic defense. These guys will be hard to beat, especially if they can get a 2nd round playoff game in the Superdome.

5. Chicago Bears - Much better, Rex Grossman. If I was more convinced he can play that solidly (no turnovers!) the Bears would move up to #3 for me. But I'm not, not yet. Of course, with Devin Hester and the Bears defense he doesn't have to be that good. Devin Hester: Rookie of the Year? I'm not so sure any other rookie's been as valuable as he has.

6. Cincinnati Bengals - I contemplated putting them higher but they wind up at #6. Their defense is playing very well right now (granted it's been against weaker competition) and Carson Palmer is getting more comfortable on that knee every week. Rudi could have a big day against the Colts D next week that as mentioned is a little porous against the run. Cincy at Indianapolis next Monday night should tell us a lot about both teams.

7. Dallas Cowboys - Last week everyone (including me) was saying they could be the best team in the NFC, but things have quieted after Tony Romo showed he was, in fact, very human. But still, they've got a balanced offense and the defense is not as bad as it looked against New Orleans. They're still going to be a very tough out come playoff time.

8. New England Patriots - Their record indicates they should be higher up on this list, but I just don't see it. I love Bill Belicheck, I love Tom Brady, but I don't love the rest of the team. In a game against Miami that had them still in the running for a first-round bye they put up less than 200 yards of offense including 66 net yards passing. I just don't know at this point that they'll be able to sustain drives long enough to be a real force come playoff time.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars - Hard to go against them after the dismantling of the Colts. But still, they won't be able to run like that every week and David Garrard's numbers were pretty pedestrian. And I still can't get out of my mind the fact that they lost twice to Houston and once to Tennessee. There's just no real telling what these guys will do from week to week.

10. Miami Dolphins - They won't be going to the playoffs, but once again they're finishing strong. I'm still not a big Joey Harrington guy, but he's been ok. But the defense has been superb. Jason Taylor had another sack and Forced Fumble in the shutout of the Pats, and really has been the best defensive player in the NFL so far this year.

Who are your top teams?

Sunday, 10 December 2006

NFL Week 14 Thoughts

Quick thoughts from the week that was in the NFL:

If you're a Texans fan look away:
- Reggie Bush - 6 carries, 37 yards, 6 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD. Saints win
- Vince Young - 19/29, 218 passing yards, 1 INT, 86 rush yards, 39 yard TD run in OT, Titans win
- Matt Leinart - 21/34, 232 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, Cardinals win
- Mario Williams - 2 tackles, Texans loss

- Congratulations to LaDainian Tomlinson, who already has the record for most TDs in a single season. Oh yeah, and there's three games left in the season.

- Congratulations Drew Brees, the only guy that can reasonably challenge LT for the NFL MVP award this year. Just another incredible day against a good Cowboys defense... 26/28, 384 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. And that was with Joe Horn out and Marques Colston still not quite 100%.

- It says here that Sean Payton is the NFL Coach of the Year. It also says here that the New Orleans Saints are the class of the NFC. That could very well be the best offense in the NFL.

- The New York Giants have lost 4 of 5 games, and if the season ended today they'd be the 5th seed in the NFC. What a world. By the same token, Brad Johnson is the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and they're 1 game back of a playoff spot right now.

- I knew the Colts had problems stopping the run, but this was a little ridiculous. Jones-Drew runs for 166 yards, Fred Taylor gets 131 yards, and Alvin Pearman gets 71 yards just for good measure. As a Maurice Jones-Drew fantasy owner, I thank the Colts.

- As Bill Parcells himself might say, let's not put Tony Romo in the Hall-of-Fame quite yet.

- Thanks for playing San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos. Better luck next year.

- Bears vs. Rams on Monday night. I can't wait [to do something else instead of watching that]!

Saturday, 9 December 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 14

Pretty busy this weekend, so I'll just give my picks as I continue my drive to .500!

Bengals (-10.5) over Raiders

Titans (Even) over Texans

Falcons (-3) over Bucs

Giants (+3) over Panthers

Ravens (+3) over Chiefs

Patriots (-3.5) over Dolphins

Vikings (+1.5) over Lions

Colts (Even) over Jaguars

Seahawks (-3) over Cardinals

49ers (-4) over Packers

Broncos (+8) over Chargers

Jets (-3.5) over Bills

Saints (+7) over Cowboys

Rams (+6) over Bears

Last Week: 10-5
Season: 79-88-8

Thursday, 7 December 2006

#25 Scottie Pippen

This is part of my list of the 50 Greatest NBA Players Ever, where I will go through each player in a random order. #25 on the list is Scottie Pippen.


When you mention Scottie Pippen, you tend to get a lot of varying opinions. Typically what I hear most is that Scottie Pippen is very overrated and wouldn't have been nearly the player he was had he not been with Michael Jordan his whole career. I tend to take the complete opposite position.

Scottie Pippen is one of the most underrated players ever because he played with Michael Jordan. Some people might say 25 is too high of a spot for Pippen, but honestly I would be more likely to make him higher on the list than I would to put him lower. Obviously Michael Jordan was great, I think he was the best NBA player ever, but he's not winning all those titles without Scottie Pippen.

Scottie was a jack-of-all-trades. He was never a great scorer or great shooter, but he didn't have to be. And that's just a small complaint against a guy that did almost everything else well.

What was it that he did well? For starters, he's one of the best defensive players ever. He was quick enough to guard and disrupt PGs such as Mark Jackson in the 1998 playoffs, his long arms wreaked havoc with offensive players on the wing, and at 6'7'' he was tall enough and quick enough to guard guys down low. He's 5th in the NBA in career steals, nearly had 1000 career blocks, and was on either the 1st or 2nd team All-NBA Defense every year from 1991 to 2000.

But he was far from a defensive specialist. With his unique skills he practically started the concept of a "point forward." With his size and ballhandling skills that added another dimension to whatever offense he was in. He was also a great passer that averaged over 5 assists a game for his career. In 1992 he averaged 21 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 7.0 APG. Which reminds me, he was a pretty darn good rebounder as well, averaging 6.4 a game for his career but pulling down 7 or 8 a game during his prime.

And this was not all because of Jordan. In 1994 when Jordan retired for the first time, Pippen stepped up his game. He averaged 22 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 SPG, and finished 3rd in the NBA MVP voting. The team didn't do so bad either, winning 55 games on a team whose 2nd and 3rd leading scorers were Horace Grant and BJ Armstrong.

Later in his career as he joined Portland he lost a step or two athletically but still did whatever he could to help the Blazers come within a quarter of going to the Finals.The points when down a little as Pip scaled back shooting, but he kept rebounding, passing, and playing excellent defense.

Those that don't like Scottie will point out how he refused to re-enter the end of a playoff game after not having the final shot drawn up for him... and while I can't defend that action, I'm willing to forgive.

So while some might call Scottie Pippen overrated, I lean the opposite way. He was one of the great all-around players ever... he scored some, played great defense, rebounded, and was unselfish with the ball. He played with the greatest player ever, but that doesn't make him any less of a player.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Bill Walton Chats

I have to admit, I'm a big fan of the chats at ESPN. Typically they cover a lot more topics and so there's a better likelihood that they'll talk about things I'll find interesting. However, I saw that there was going to be a chat with Bill Walton, which was something I had never seen before, and so I figured it would be a little different and strange.

Generally the chatter answer lots of questions and give short answers... not Bill Walton. He took 7 questions and gave very long responses. I find Bill very funny in person because of his great exaggerations and hyperbole, but I wasn't sure how it would translate to writing... but I found it funny.

So here are some of the parts I found funny... if you think it sounds like the writing of a guy tripping on acid... well, you're not alone.

"Joe Crawford has stepped into the center circle, hopefully he won't be ejecting any willing participants in today's ceremony. The ball is in the air, the two hands going ever higher. The fate of the known world is in the balance. I'm ready to play...Thanks for putting me in coach. Let's go!"

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[talking about the Phoenix Suns]"...and my favorite coach in the NBA (he shouldn't be wasting his time with basketball, he should be president) it's all there for Phoenix. The've capitalized brilliantly on their favorable schedule (a lot of home games against the Sisters of the Poor). But now they head East, for their first of what promises to be many momements of Truth."

------------------------------

"We're really excited Ben about your Bulls impressive 5 game win streak! And if you can continue to play the Knicks, Boston, and any other memebers of the Atlantic Division (Philly tonight ESPN at 9 ET) we're sure that there is nothing that will stop your mighty Bulls from shattering the Lakers 33 game win streak."

------------------------------

"And we can only hope that Shaq is able to return as quickly as possible. We're well aware of how hard he worked all summer to come back in tip-top shape to defend his fourth championship."

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"Artis Gilmore gave me more trouble than anyone else, but that was because he had no comprehension that double dribbling, three seconds, offensive fouls, and travelling were not only against the rules of basketball, but against the rules of human decency."

-----------------------------

"When I joined the NBA in 1974, I became the highest paid player in the history of all team sports (for about as much money as today's minimum salary). My agent was so excited he was raving about all the money, and how it was going to change my entire life. And I looked at him and said, "I don't care about any of this. After four years with John Wooden the only thing that I was concerned about was that I didn't want anyone to tell me when to get a haircut and when to shave or whether or not I could wear a headband." And I was a rookie Ben! I knew enough at that point to get it in writing!"

Bill Walton everybody! One crazy SOB.

And remember, you hear a good Bill Walton quote, let me know as I am compiling my Bill Walton Quote Library!

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Some good college basketball action

There are some other things going on, such as the Red Sox signing JD Drew (a veritable steal in this market if he can stay healthy), but I don't feel like writing a lot about baseball today, and I've been neglecting college basketball. So, a rundown of what happened on Tuesday:

First, LSU beat Texas A&M 64-52. Glen Davis was a beast with 24 and 10, but the determining factor was that Acie Law was not a factor. 1/11 shooting, 4 points. On a day when Joseph Jones was limited to 16 minutes because of foul trouble and Acie Law was a non-factor, LSU didn't even need a miracle like the one Darrel Mitchell gave them last time.

Two decently solid games in the Jimmy V Classic. The first featured Oklahoma St. remaining undefeated a 72-68 win over Syracuse. Obviously its looking like the Cowboys were a little underrated to start the year... they have a very good inside-outside game with Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry and are well-coached under young Sean Sutton. For Cuse, this was the first time I got to see Paul Harris extensively, and I echo the sentiment of others. His outside shot isn't that good right now, but he's very good going to the hoop, an excellent rebounder for his size (6'5'') and a solid defender. No need for Cuse to panic after 2 straight losses, as the talent is in place for a Tourney run.

The nightcap featured #15 Arizona taking out Lousvilla 72-65 in a strange game. Arziona built a big first half lead, then Louisville came back to take the lead early in the second half, and Arizona quickly pulled back ahead by double digits. Everything you've heard about frosh Chase Budinger is true, but I'm not as big a fan of these guys as some are. Marcus Williams has not looked great, and I still think Mustafa Shakur takes too many bad shots. As for Louisville, could it be another year out of the Tourney for Rick Pitino? You heard it here first.

Another game of note was Washington St. upsetting Gonzaga by 10. Normally a Pac-10 team beating a WCC team isn't an upset, but in this case it probably is. Though Washington St. is 8-1 right now, a record that's probably skewed a little because their schedule has not been very challenging yet. But still a very nice win for them under a new coach.

A final game of note that I mention because I can was UCLA remaining undefeated with a 78-54 win over Cal-State Fullerton. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute struggled, everyone else was good. 7-0.

What do you think was the biggest storyline in college basketball for the day?

Monday, 4 December 2006

My favorite Sportscenter commerical

Over the past few years ESPN has gone down a bit, but I've always found their Sportscenter commercials to be always rather funny. And here is the one that is probably my favorite:


"GET UP, WALK IT OFF. YOUR PARENTS SIGNED THE PERMISSION SLIP, GET UP MAN."

What's your favorite Sportscenter commercial?

Sunday, 3 December 2006

BCS Title Game: Ohio St. vs. Florida

UPDATE: For my BCS National Title Game Preview, check here.

Let the debate begin. After moving up in the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, the Gators jumped the Wolverines into the #2 spot in the BCS, pitting them against Ohio St. in the National Championship game. Throughout this whole process, I have held to two beliefs:

(1) Michigan is a better team than Florida
(2) Florida has done more to deserve the title spot than Michigan.

I'm not much into the argument that Michigan should not be in the title game because they didn't win their conference. Just because the best team in the country happens to be in their conference does not mean that they are not the second best team. The other argument I don't like is the sentiment that Michigan had their chance so there should not be a rematch. Look, if the goal of the BCS is simply to match the 2 best teams in the National Championship game, then it should not matter if they already met earlier this season. That is completely irrelevant.

Really, the only issue is (or at least should be) whether the fact that the only loss Michigan had this year was by 3 points on the road at Ohio St. outweighed by the fact that Florida had the overall tougher schedule? That's a matter of opinion, and I won't and can't even attempt to answer that question. It can't be answered definitively.

So at the end of the day, I'm not upset Florida is in the BCS Title Game over Michigan, and I wouldn't have been upset if Michigan was in the BCS Title Game over Florida. The only thing that I'm upset about is that this has to be an either/or situation. No, a playoff system is not a perfectly fair way to determine a national champion, but it's the fairest way, and it sure works well in every other sport that I know of.

One other question, and this is purely speculation, would Florida have jumped Michigan in the polls if USC had won? How many people didn't want to see a rematch and so they voted Florida ahead of Michigan? Again, this is pure speculation and we have no way of knowing if this is true, but I have my doubts that Florida would have jumped Michigan if USC had won. And I find that to be a little bit of a problem.

But in the end, we have Florida vs. Ohio St. As The Sports Pulse writes, the consensus seems to be that Florida has no shot in this game. I think that's a badly mistaken thought. Florida will be the best defense the Buckeyes have played all year. Florida has the playmakers offensively (see Harvin, Percy) to put points on the board. I think Florida is being underrated a little bit by a lot of people, but the fact is they are a very good team. Better than Michigan? Well, since we don't have a playoff system, we'll never know. Which is really too bad.

Bears 23, Vikings 13

As bad as I'm sure this game was to watch for neutral fans, well, it was much worse for me, a Vikings fan. If I wrote out all my thoughts it would probably fill a book, so I'll just write some of them, especially pertaining to the QBs. I apologize in advance for the angry tone.

Some numbers for you:

Brad Johnson: 11/26, 73 yards, 0 TD/4 INT
Brooks Bollinger: 7/8, 80 yards
Tarvaris Jackson: 3/4, 35 yards

It's safe to say Brad Johnson was the Bears MVP today. He threw bad picks at crucial times, has, as I read, "paraplegic escapability," (no offense to paraplegics), and missed a few wide open WRs. I mean, really the only positive I can say about Johnson's game is that one of the INTs was not his fault. That's it.

It's not even so much the INT, but its more when and where they happened. In the first, he threw a perfect pass to Danieal Manning, which set the Bears up at about the Vikings 30. Ultimately this didn't have an effect because the Vikings picked off Rex Grossman (more on him later), but it was a bad throw at a bad spot on the field.

The next pick (I think it was the next one) was admittedly not his fault. He threw an excellent ball to Jeff Dugan, who let it hit his chest and it was intercepted by Lance Briggs. That is one I can't put on Brad Johnson.

Then, with the score 7-6 and the Vikings around midfield, Johnson forced a slant pass to Marcus Robinson. Ricky Manning read it all the way and intercepted it. 14-6. Next possession, first play, Johnson is pressured, and instead of taking the sack lofts one over the head of the RB and into the arms of Brian Urlacher for the easy intereception. With the Bears at around the 20, they decide to roll the dice and go for it on 4th and 1. 21-6. Ballgame over.

At this point in his career, Brad Johnson has very few redeemable qualities as a QB. He is not a good game manager anymore, and he showed he can make some really bad decisions. He's got a noodle arm, and any pass thrown over 20 yards is a rainbow. He has no mobility. I'm not just basing it on this game either... because I know the Bears have a great defense... all of these factors have been a trend all season. Benching Brad Johnson near the end of the 3rd quarter was a start... now DO NOT START BRAD JOHNSON NEXT WEEK.

Now, the Bears. First off, the running game impressed me. Thomas Jones had some nice runs early on, and Cedric Benson was solid throughout. But I came in with a very low opinion of Rex Grossman as a QB... and he even surprised me with how bad he was.

6/19, 34 yards, 0 TD/3 INT. And honestly, the Vikings didn't even put that much pressure on him. He was inaccurate and made bad decisions. He was throwing off his back foot and seemed antsy in the pocket. His deep ball was not accurate and usually uncatchable, the short passes were off target, and he made poor decisions.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... the Bears have one of the top 2 defenses in the NFL and perhaps the best Special Teams in the NFL (though they did make a couple of big mistakes today)... but they WILL NOT WIN THE NFC THIS YEAR WITH REX GROSSMAN AS THEIR STARTING QUARTERBACK. If I'm wrong, I'll gladly eat crow. But I really cannot see it happening.

Steve Spurrier staying at South Carolina

Rumors of Steve Spurrier's departure have been greatly exaggerated.

As I reported when I wrote that Steve Spurrier could be the next coach at Miami, sources told CSTV that Spurrier could be on the move. Almost immediately there were reports that he was denying this, but it was really just hard to know what to believe.

But have no doubt anymore, with Steve Spurrier extending his deal and having his salary upped... he will be staying at South Carolina.

Oh well... would have been kinda fun to see The Ole Ball Coach back in Florida.

Friday, 1 December 2006

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 13

I skipped last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but things seemed to be more normal, meaning it was the week I should have been here! Which just means my losing streak is still going strong... obviously I skipped the Thursday night game as well, since I couldn't see it anyway. Stupid NFL Network. Out of sight, out of mind.

Saints (-7) over 49ers
Niners are playing very solid football and have entered right in the middle of the terrible NFC playoff race. So they're a very tempting pick here, especially with the spread up to 7 points. But I just love the versatility of the Saints offense. Drew Brees has been spectacular, Deuce provides inside running, Reggie does a little bit of everything, and I like the receivers there. At home, I'll take the Saints beating the Niners by around 10 or so.

Chargers (-6) over Bills
The spread makes me nervous for a couple of reasons. One, it's in Buffalo in December, and could be rather chilly. Two, SD hasn't been that inspiringly good against mediocre teams this year. Three, JP Losman has looked like *gulp* an NFL QB the past couple weeks. All the signs say to go with the Bills and the spread, but in this NFL season, I'll go against my instinct on this one. Chargers are just so talented.

Jets (Even) over Packers
Lambeau Field in December. These used to be the game of games Brett Favre would never lose. But ladies and gentlemen, this is not your father's Brett Favre.

Vikings (+9.5) over Bears
I just have a feeling here. I don't see the Bears being able to run the ball at all, leaving this offense to Rex Grossman. And I envision the Vikings blitzing the heck out of Grossman, and I'm not sure how he'll respond to that. Brad Johnson against the Bears defense could be a very ugly site, but I think the Vikings defense can keep this game within single digits.

Browns (+5) over Chiefs
I have no way to explain this pick. The Chiefs are playing well, the Browns are not. Larry Johnson is awesome, the Browns offense is not. I'm not even going to explain why I'm picking the Browns here, because even I'm not really sure.

Rams (-6.5) over Cardinals
Congratulations Rams, you play in the NFC! After a 4-1 start, they lost 5 in a row, then eeked out a win against San Fran last week... and they're right back in the playoff race at 5-6. Ain't it grand?

Titans (+7.5) over Colts
When the teams met earlier this year the Colts beat the Titans by 1 in Indy. Now, it's in Tennesee, and Vince Young is starting to get comfortable and played some fine football last week. The Colts continue their efforts of taking it easy against far lesser teams as they allow the Titans to stay in this game.

Lions (+13.5) over Patriots
The Patriots are 5-0 on the road, 3-3 at home. Plus, this is the NFL. A 13.5 point spread just seems a little excessive to me. But gosh, its so hard to pick the Lions to cover the spread. Don't let me down Jon Kitna!

Falcons (+2) over Redskins
Just seems like Vick's due for a good game again. Hey, he's got to at least make everyone think he might be a good QB! But seriously, I like Jason Campbell, but I think he'll continue to go through some rough spots early in his career here.

Texans (+3) over Raiders
I'm sure this game will be very exciting for both people that actually are forced to watch it.

Jaguars (Even) over Dolphins
Joey Harrington is playing better than he ever was in Detroit, but let's get serious for a moment. He still gets rid of the ball WAY too quickly (kinda like the anti-Drew Bledsoe), and at least once a game he will make a terrible decision and throw into triple coverage and have everyone scratching their heads. I'm not on the bandwagon yet. Although it's very hard to pick against Jason Taylor right now.

Steelers (-7) over Bucs
Yes that's right, I'm picking a 4-7 team to cover a 7 point spread. Unfortunately for Tampa, as good as the defense has been the last few years, there is definitely a dropoff now. Age will do that to a person. I love the way Romo is playing, but 5 TD passes?

Giants (+3.5) over Cowboys
I'm not sure NY will go quietly into the night just yet. I think the comments by Michael Strahan should at least get Burress to, you know, try harder. The Giants know if they lose this they'll be in trouble... I mean, they won't be buried because they play in the NFC, but I imagine there's already lots of tension because they don't seem to like Tom Coughlin, and this probably wouldn't help. I look for an inspired effort from the Giants.

Broncos (-4) over Seahawks
I love the Cutler move and think it was a long time coming. Jake Plummer cannot carry an offense, and this was not a Super Bowl caliber team with Plummer at the helm. I think Cutler was the best QB in the draft, I think he's got a very strong arm, and he's smart back there. If, and this is a big if, he picks up the offense quickly, this is not a team I would want to face in the playoffs. So, uh, I kinda like Cutler.

Panthers (-3) over Eagles
I generally find that I have no idea how the Panthers will play from week to week. So this is mostly just a guess.

Week 11: 6-8-2
Season: 69-83-8

Thursday, 30 November 2006

College Football Picks: Week 14

After taking a one-week hiatus for the Thanksgiving break, I am back and better than ever (ok, probably not). But this is the final weekend of the regular season in college football, so there are games of some relative importance, including conference championships, and a game that will determine [in all likelihood] who makes it to the National Championship. And generally that's pretty important. But enough rambling.

(2) USC @ UCLA
It's pretty simple for USC... win, and they're almost certainly in the national championship. Again. UCLA has already accepted a bid to play in the Emerald Bowl (!) against Florida St., so all that's left to play for is pride. Looks like the Trojans are already making ticket plans for the BS Championship, and it's hard to blame them. Trojans are better offensively, better defensively, and a lot better coached. I'd like to think UCLA can win, and I'll be cheering for them, but my optimism about Bruin football isn't very high. USC 38-17.

(16) Wake Forest vs. (23) Georgia Tech
This is your ACC Championship game! Looking strictly at the team names, it seems underwhelming, but (as is obvious by the records) both teams have had very nice years, though it's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Wake Forest could be in a BCS Bowl. Georgia Tech has the best player in this game in Calvin Johnson, but the guy throwing him the ball hasn't been all that good. For the 4th straight year Reggie Ball's completion % went down, all the way to where it now sits at 45.8%. Make no mistake, that's pretty awful. For Wake, they're not flashy, they're not the most talented team, but they get the job done. I expect them to find a way to get it done one more time and continue the dream. WAKE FOREST 20-17.

(13) Rutgers @ (15) West Virginia
After both teams lost a game they shouldn't have in recent weeks, this game has lost a little bit of its luster. However, it's maintained its importance. For Rutgers, its simple... win, and they're in a BCS Bowl. Lose, and they're not. After losing to Cincy, they bounced back to dominate Cuse, and will be coming into this game highly motivated. Obviously they are led by their fantastic rushing attack and defense, with Ray Rice being a fringe Heisman candidate. But as good as their rushing attack is, it's not comparable to West Virginia's at this point. Both Steve Slaton and Pat White are over 1000 yards and averaging over 7 yards a carry. They've combined to run for 31 TDs. Pat White may not have a great arm, but I think the Mountaineer's come in with something to prove, and I'm not sure Rutgers will be fast enough to slow the offense down. WEST VIRGINIA 27-21.

(19) Nebraska vs. (8) Oklahoma
By a show of hands (ok, that might not work here) how many of you thought Oklahoma would be in the Big 12 Title Game after Adrian Peterson went down? I know I sure didn't. But thanks to the magic of Bob Stoops combined with the late season meltdown from Texas, and here the Sooners are. On the backs of a solid defense and surprisingly solid offense, they might be a contender for the national title if the refs in the Oregon game had made the right calls. But that's neither here nor there. For the Huskers, they have a balanced offense capable of scoring lots of points. Zac Taylor has been an efficient leader of the offense, while Brandon Jackson and Marlon Lucky provide balance in the run game. Oklahoma will try to pound the ball and run the clock, but I like this Nebraska offense. I think they'll have just enough to get by. NEBRASKA 23-21.

(4) Florida vs. (8) Arkansas
Admittedly, this game lost a little bit of luster after Arkansas lost last week, but it's still a very intriguing matchup between two teams with different styles. Florida can't really run the ball, Arkansas can't really throw the ball. With Adrian Peterson injured, Darren McFadden is the best RB in the nation right now. He returns kicks, he's got speed, power, and even the ability to line up at QB. Combined with Felix Jones, they have the best backfield in the nation. For Florida's offense, everything comes off of the passing game. Chris Leak is experienced, and when he's not getting pressured much extremely accurate. In short yardage, Tim Tebow's a weapon. What does it all mean? Well, I just can't get over watching that Arkansas/LSU game and watching Casey Dick try to throw on LSU. I don't know of many teams that are markedly better when their QB is OUT of the game, but that was Arkansas last week. Florida's defense is no pushover either. FLORIDA 17-16.

Last Picks: 3-2
Season: 40-20

Podcast worth listening to

Normally I'm not a guy for podcasts (or sports radio), but I have made an exception.

This one is run by a couple of guys I know, one of them being the writer of Divine Interception. But the podcast itself is called "The Sam and Sam Show," obviously starring a couple of guys named Sam, both of whom I've known online for awhile now and both of whom I can vouch know their stuff.

As from the site, their show this week contains:

Today, Jonathan Forman joins us on the Sam and Sam Show as we catch up on the ridiculous baseball free agent signings. Also, Michael Strahan on the prowl, Tony Romo’s “ancestors”, Carlos Lee’s weight problem, Mark McGwire’s HOF bid, Ben Wallace’s headband issues, the BCS and Week 13 NFL picks.

Today is the first chance for all you listeners to win free baseball memorabilia in 360’s Reel Baseball Giveaway. Our first question was announced in the show. Check it out.

A lot of what they say, especially on the topic of baseball free agents agrees with what I wrote about it, which only enhances their credibility! For example, it was pretty much agreed that Juan Pierre sucks and was an awful signing. Lots of great topics, lots of good stuff on there.

So there you have it. Listen to lots of good sports talk and maybe even win a baseball book. From what I understand you can even listen to it on iTunes. What could be better?

The Sam and Sam Show

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Chris Paul or Deron Williams?

At the end of last season, it looked pretty obvious to a lot of NBA followers that the Utah Jazz had made a mistake on draft day when took Deron Williams over Chris Paul. Not that Williams played poorly, but Paul was just so good. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year, and in an even greater achievement, was named the first team PG on my 2011 All-NBA team (ok, maybe that's not the greater achievement).

But this year Deron Williams has evened the playing field a little bit. He appears to have lost some weight, is a little quicker, and is playing some great basketball for the 13-3 Utah Jazz. Which begs the question, if the Jazz had to do it all over again, would they take Deron Williams or Chris Paul? Let's take a quick look at the numbers.

First Paul, the incumbent PG of the future. He has continued to be excellent, upping his scoring average from 16.1 PPG to 17.9 PPG this year. Likewise, the Assists per Game are almost 1, to 8.6 APG so far this year. The rebound numbers are down a little, but still a solid 3.9 a game. He's also getting 2 steals a game.

As for Deron Williams, all the numbers are up. He's up to 17.1 PPG and 9.0 APG, which is 4th in the NBA (Paul is 5th). His 3-point shooting is down a little bit, but he's making 30% of those. Like Paul, he's averaging about 3 turnovers per game, for a solid 3:1 Assist: TO ratio.

So what does it all mean? Well, I'd take either on my team. Deron Williams is the better outside shooter of the two... his FG% is higher, and the 3 point% is much higher (and smartly, Paul tends to avoid taking 3s). As is obvious by the high assist totals, both are excellent at finding teammates and creating easy shots for others. Both are solid defensively, with probably a slight edge to Paul.

So who's my choice? Well, for all of the great work Deron Williams has done, I'm still on the Chris Paul Bandwagon. Williams has caught up to Paul in a lot of categories, but Paul is still better at getting to the rim and getting to the FT Line. This year Williams has gotten only about 3 FT attempts per game, while Paul has had 5.4 (and 6 per game last year). This helps obviously to get teams in foul trouble, but also to get easier points and not be as reliant on the outside game.

So while Williams is greatly improved from his rookie year, I'd still take Paul. But really, you can't go wrong with either guy.

If you were the GM of the Jazz, and you could go back in time, which PG would you take?

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

A look at the ACC/Big 10 Challenge

As always at this time of year, we've got some interesting matchups in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Historically, the ACC is 7-0 in these challenges and things point to them making it 8-0, but there are some intriguing subplots nonetheless. Here's a look at what happened today:

(10) Duke 54, Indiana 51
For all of the talk about Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus, I'm not even sure they're that good. Ok, McRoberts is a very athletic big man, dribbles well for his size, and is a good passer. But as a #1 scorer? I've not been convinced. He had 7 points against the Hoosiers and is only averaging about 11. As for Paulus, I think he was ok last year when he didn't have to do much. I'm not convinced he can do any more than just be a caretaker for the offense. He can't shoot, he can't get to the hole that well, and he's not quick enough defensively to stick with quick PGs. Ok, Duke won, but that does not mean all is well for the Dukies.

(13) Wisconsin 81, Florida St. 66
Someone wrote this, and I don't remember who, but FSU is like the Michigan of the ACC. They always seem like they have the talent to do things, but they never do. I mean, losing at Pittsburgh and then at Wisconsin is not unreasonable by any means... but they've just looked so bad doing it. Wisconsin, meanwhile, looks strong as expected. They are deep, talented, and one of the top 2 teams in the Big 10.

(19) Maryland 72, Illinois 66
Very interesting matchup here, as Maryland snapped a very long Illinois non-conference home winning streak, continuing their great run to start the year. The Terps are now 8-0 and one of the most impressive teams in the country. With the Terps youth/experience blend, they very well could be the second best team in the ACC after North Carolina. Duke is down, BC is not playing well, and Georgia Tech is still very young. At the very least, a return trip to the NCAAs is in order for the Terps.

(24) Georgia Tech 77, Penn St. 73
I know the Nittany Lions have had a tough loss earlier this year to Stony Brook, but they're still a solid ballclub. Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley are one of the top duos in the Big 10. But once again, GT got things done. Javaris Crittenton scored 14 points and doled out 5 assists, while Lewis Clinch continues to just knock down shots, draining 4 threes on his way to 20 points. Nice win for the Yellow Jackets as they try to distance themselves a little from the middle of the pack in the ACC.

Northwestern 61, Miami 59
Move along, nothing to see here.

ACC holds the 4-2 lead so far, with a few more games remaining. Here are the games to be played Wednesday, with my picks in bold.

Michigan St. @ Boston College
Iowa @ Virginia Tech
Virginia @ Purdue
Ohio St. @ North Carolina
Clemson @ Minnesota

Monday, 27 November 2006

What has been the worst FA signing so far this offseason?

Call it inflation. Call it teams having money to spend. Call it whatever you want. But there's no denying that there are some awful contracts being doled out right now in the MLB. Which one is the worst? Well, I'm on the case to find out.

The four that stick out most to me are Alfonso Soriano (8 years/$138 million), Carlos Lee (6 years, $100 million), Gary Matthews Jr. (5 years/$50 million), and Juan Pierre (5 years /$45 million).

If Gary Matthews can perform like he did this year (doubtful, but you never know), then $10 million/year is decently reasonable, so I'll take his name off the list. Carlos Lee's 6 year deal at over $16 million per is excessive in most markets, but almost looks reasonable after Soriano's deal. So I'll toss him out of consideration as well.

Which leaves us with just Alfonso Soriano's deal with the Cubs and Juan Pierre's deal with the Dodgers. Both awful, but which is worse? First, let's look at Soriano's.

No denying Soriano was solid last year. Heck, at the reported age of 30, it was the best season of his career. Can he keep it up? For a couple of years, maybe. For 8 years? Not a chance. One of Soriano's best talents is that he's really fast. Unfortunately, that tends to go quickly with age. And another thing is that even though he is fast, he's not that good at stealing bases. 41 SB is nice, but it's counterproductive when you get caught 17 times. Then there is his most glaring weakness... he's not that good at getting on base (and neither were the Cubs last year). The .351 OBP was ok, but again, can he keep that up. Then there's also the fact that the Cubs will ask him to play CF, which he's never been done before. All in all, if they signed up for $18 million per for 4 or 5 years, ok, that's a little more reasonable. But 8 years? By the time the contract is over, he'll be 39, have less power, less speed, and will probably not be a good player. But the Cubs will still be paying him like it.

Then there's Juan Pierre. He'll be getting $9 million a year to get on base at a below average rate, hit for no power, play bad defense, and steal bases at an ok rate. Everything about his game is predicated on speed... stolen bases, no power, etc. And of course, speed is generally one of the first things to go. He was good in 2004, below average in 2005, and even worse in 2006. That's generally not a good trend. He's a 4th OF type making $9 million a year... I need to hire his agent, I think.

Verdict: Alfonso Soriano's deal was really bad, but at least he'll have to chance to be worth something close to what he's making. Juan Pierre has no shot to be worth $9 million a year at any point in his contract. Which makes the Dodgers signing of Juan Pierre for $45 million over 5 years the worst deal of this offseason.