November 30, 2011
I can’t believe it’s Week 13 in the NFL already. Feels like yesterday we were freaking out about potentially not having a football season. Now we’re watching quarterbacks drop like flies. The Bears, who I boldly predicted would win the Super Bowl many times over the past weeks, have lost Jay Cutler for the rest of the regular season and may miss the playoffs. The Texans lost Matt Schaub, then Matt Leinart, and are forced to start a rookie QB no one’s ever heard of. And Kyle Orton was dumped – and picked up by the Chiefs for some reason – instead of one of the two aforementioned teams that have strong playoff teams with a good quarterback. The NFL is in its midseason stride.
My predictions last week were terrible if you don’t include Beanie Wells. The Ohio State alum had a career day, recording 228 rushing yards and one touchdown in a game where I honestly did not know who won until I looked at it now. Otherwise, the Green Bay-Detroit Thanksgiving Day game was not as high scoring as hoped (which I kind of predicted), Cam Newton led his team to a win despite only recording one touchdown, and the Texans defense did not destroy the Jaguars as I suspected, although limiting them to 13 points is pretty good as is forcing three turnovers. What’s Week 13 have in store for us?
Fantasy Football Predictions
As I’ve said before, the Cleveland Browns have one of the worst run defenses in the league. They’ve gotten better over the last few weeks, but have also been facing lesser opponents. Look for the Ravens to feed the ball to Ray Rice this weekend, limit Flacco’s impact on the game, and run all over the Brownies.
He’s one of the most impressive young receivers in the league on an explosive Cowboys team. The surge of Laurent Robinson over the last week has left many fantasy football owners dismayed, including myself, at the lack of scores by Dez Bryant. But he’s still the number one receiver with Miles Austin out, and the best red zone target the team has hands down. The Cardinals don’t have a strong, physical corner that can man up with his physical nature, and have a bad pass defense in general, so look for him to find pay dirt this weekend.
Frank Gore / BenJarvus Green-Ellis
I’m going to pick on St. Louis and Indianapolis the rest of the season. Sure, their records are terrible, but that’s only the first half of it. Once the record gets bad, it’s legitimate to think the players will not try as hard. It’s not the right thing to do, but it’s a natural tendency.
I’ve seen this from the Colts over the past few weeks, so I’m convinced Green-Ellis will have a big game, despite New England’s inability (or choice) not to run the ball. St. Louis is giving more effort, but has similar results. The Niners actually run the ball, too, so Frank Gore should have a solid game.
November 29, 2011
1. Green Bay Packers (11-0) — Sunday’s game at the Giants could be the biggest remaining hurdle towards 16-0. How bad do the Packers want to run the table?
2. New England Patriots (8-3) — With a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on their side, the Patriots have almost locked up the AFC East. The schedule sets up well for a run at home-field advantage.
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – The Ravens stay on top of the AFC North with a Thanksgiving Day win in the Harbaugh bowl. Now they must avoid any more letdowns.
5. San Francisco 49ers (9-2) – Despite the loss, the Niners show they can compete with the NFL elite. They can clinch the NFC West with a win against St. Louis.
6. Houston Texans (8-3) – The Texans pick up another win but lose another quarterback. Now it’s up to rookie T.J. Yates to lead a playoff run.
7. Atlanta Falcons (7-4) – Atlanta has won five of the last six. Sunday’s trip to Houston looks more winnable with the Texans down to the third-string quarterback.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) – It wasn’t pretty in Kansas City but a win is a win. Huge game in the AFC North this week against Cincinnati.
10. Dallas Cowboys (7-4) – America’s Team has moved to the top of the NFC East with four straight wins. They need to make it five in a row before a critical meeting with the Giants.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) – The Bengals continue to exceed expectations. If they can do that on Sunday and beat the Steelers, it would go a long way towards getting them to the playoffs.
13. Oakland Raiders (7-4) – It’s a two team race in the AFC West. Oakland has a one-game lead but the more difficult schedule.
14. New York Jets (6-5) – The Jets got back on track with a win over Buffalo. They should pick up a couple more wins with Washington and Kansas City in the next couple weeks.
15. Tennessee Titans (6-5) – The Titans beat Tampa Bay in what was essentially an elimination game. They can knock the Bills out with a win this week.
16. New York Giants (6-5) – The Giants are in big trouble after losing three straight and the undefeated Packers are up next. The good news is they still play the Cowboys twice so they can control their fate.
18. Buffalo Bills (5-6) – The Bills are on life support after four losses in a row. They will have to run the table for the week 17 game at New England to matter.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) – With the loss to New England, the Eagles have a stranglehold on the most disappointing team of the year. How much worse will it get?
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) – The Bucs are another disappointing team in the NFC. They need to beat Carolina to avoid falling into last in the NFC South.
22. San Diego Chargers (4-7) – What happened during their bye week? The Chargers were 4-1 before the bye and are now 0-6 after.
23. Miami Dolphins (3-8) – The Dolphins have won three of four. They could give the Bills a run for third in the AFC East.
24. Washington Redskins (4-7) – They broke the six-game losing streak against Seattle. They could start a new streak with three teams fighting for the playoffs coming up next.
25. Minnesota Vikings (2-9) – The Vikings have lost three straight. If they don’t find a way to beat Tebow it could become six straight with the Lions and Saints coming up.
26. Seattle Seahawks (3-7) – The Seahawks blew a 10-point lead against Washington. At least they have a short week to think about it.
27. Carolina Panthers (3-8) – The Panthers are much better than last year but aren’t getting many wins to show for it. But they have found their quarterback.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (4-7) – The defense played well against the Steelers but the offense couldn’t get it going. Will they turn to Kyle Orton this week?
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) – Jack Del Rio has been fired. This franchise has a lot of work to do.
30. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – They put up a fight against Cincinnati but came up short. And there’s more bad news; four of the last five games are against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-9) – The way this team has played its hard to find another win on their schedule. The best chance appears to be at Seattle.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-11) – The Colts could make a run at 0-16. They are at New England and Baltimore for the next two.
November 28, 2011
What, the NBA lockout’s over? Seriously?
Well, sort of. There are still some ‘I’s to be dotted and ‘T’s to be crossed, but for all intents and purposes, there should be NBA basketball this year. And not only that, but the plan is to play 66 games, meaning it’s practically a full season.
With college football winding down, that’s good news indeed. So what can we look for this year in the NBA?
10. Will any guys stay overseas? A good number of NBA players dabbled in the international game, playing in various leagues overseas. It’s not likely we’ll see major stars remain over there, and ones with contracts will have to come back, but what about free agents? Could some of them stay and make a bit more money than they could here? I think it’s possible, but don’t expect it to become a trend … especially this year. With the possibility of a shortened training camp, we could see plenty of guys come in out of shape and even a few more injuries than normal. There should be lots of opportunities for free agents to come in and play right away, and NBA teams will be looking to persuade them to play in the States.
9. Can the Mavs repeat? This question gets asked of the NBA champion every year. Can they? Sure. Will they? Eh, who knows? One thing we do know, though, is that repeating in any professional sport is difficult. Add playing in the difficult Western Conference, and the chances are good that Dallas might not even get back to the NBA Finals.
8. How much noise will the Knicks make? New York has the sport’s newest trio of superstars with Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Amare Stoudamire. Having acquired Anthony in the middle of last season, this will be the first full year with all three players. Playing in the Eastern Conference will help, and it’s hard not to see this team right up there with the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics. The Knicks should at least contend for the conference title.
7. Which rookies will create a stir? The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams will almost assuredly have decent seasons. But the most intriguing prospect to me is the Washington Wizards’ Jan Vesely, who was taken sixth in this year’s NBA Draft. At 21, he’s got the equivalent of three seasons worth of college experience playing overseas, so he should be a bit more polished than one-and-done players. He also was arguably the top international player in the Draft and one of the most athletic players as well. He’s known as a good defender and should be able to step in and contribute right away.
6. Are the Bulls for real? Last season, no one outside of Chicago expected the Bulls to come away with the NBA’s top record. But that’s exactly what happened as Derrick Rose led them to 62 wins. We know the Bulls should be good this season, but how far can their defense-first approach carry them in the playoffs? Time will tell.
5. Is Kevin Durant the NBA’s best player? Having won the last two scoring titles, it’s easy to make an argument that Durant is the most prolific offensive talent in the NBA. But best overall player is an entirely different category, and, until he at least gets to a Finals as Lebron and Kobe have, I’ll lean towards saying no.
4. What effect will the lockout have on the season? As I said earlier, I think we could see some out of shape and rusty players early on this NBA season. But more importantly, the lockout probably favors the veteran teams a bit. Cutting 16 games off of the NBA schedule is a big deal and veterans such as Tim Duncan and Steve Nash will probably be grateful for the extra rest they’ve had. Those teams could have more gas in the tank than usual come playoff time.
3. Can Kobe win another ring? The Lakers were ousted unceremoniously by the Dallas Mavericks last year. With Kobe and Los Angeles a year older, do they still have another title run in them? I think so. Pau Gasol is still pretty young, and with Kobe, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest Metta World Peace, there’s plenty of firepower on that team.
2. Is the nation ready to embrace LeBron? The Heat played one of the biggest heel roles since some guy named Darth ran around in a cape using the Force to choke the living daylights out of people. But a year later, will the hatred be gone? I’m guessing not. Folks were critical about how Bron Bron left Cleveland, and Miami’s triumvirate of stars are likely to still hear about it when the Heat are playing on the road (especially those games in Cleveland). I imagine things would have been even worse if the Heat had won the title this Spring, but I believe many NBA fans are just not ready to forgive yet. Which leads us to…
1. Can the Heat win the title? In a word, yes. They were close last year, reaching the NBA Finals after struggling early in the season. The Heat do have an advantage in the East where the competition top to bottom isn’t as strong as out West. The talent’s there, and having reached the NBA Finals last year, so is the experience. All they’ve got to do is put it all together.
If only it were that easy.
November 24, 2011
In a college football season that seemed destined for BCS chaos from the start, we finally got some clarity. LSU and Oklahoma State were bound to meet in the BCS championship game if both teams could survive the last big test on their schedules. Last weekend was supposed to be the week where we could take a break from the chaos as we waited for the LSU vs. Arkansas and Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma St. matchups.
It turned out to be maybe the most chaotic weekend yet with four of the top seven in the BCS standings going down. How is this going to play out? Who knows at this point? LSU and Alabama could be headed for a rematch without either one winning the SEC West division (if Arkansas beats LSU, Alabama beats Auburn and Georgia beats Arkansas in the SEC championship game it could happen). I’ve given up trying to figure it out, but I do know there are some college football matchups coming up that I don’t want to miss. Here’s my top 5 games left in the season.
No. 8 Houston at Tulsa
Both teams are 7-0 in Conference USA. Houston is the only unbeaten left in the nation other than LSU and is in line for a BCS game. Tulsa’s three losses all came against teams in the top 10 (Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. and Boise St.). Tulsa averages 35 points a game. Houston has scored at least 35 in every game and 48 or more eight times. The winner will host the league championship game on Dec. 3.
No. 3 Arkansas at No. 1 LSU
If the Tigers win and stay unbeaten on the year, they will head to the SEC championship game to face Georgia. If Arkansas pulls the upset there could be a three way tie in the SEC West with LSU, Arkansas and Alabama which would be settled with the BCS standings and could give us another BCS controversy adding fuel to the playoff fire.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn
It is looking more and more like Auburn is all that remains between Alabama and the BCS championship game. With a win, Alabama should maintain its No. 2 BCS ranking even if the Tide doesn’t get to play in the SEC championship game. You never know what will happen in a rivalry game…especially when one team has nothing to lose.
No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 4 Oklahoma St.
This game has lost some of its luster after both teams lost on Saturday. But it will likely still determine the Big 12 champion and if Oklahoma St. gets a little help, a win could send the Cowboys to the BCS championship game.
SEC Championship Game
LSU, Alabama or Arkansas vs. Georgia
We know Georgia is one of the hottest teams in the nation. And we know that whoever takes the field against the Bulldogs is going to be in the national championship mix. So, depending on how things shake out in the next two weeks, Georgia will probably gain a lot of fans around the country for this game. It is pretty much a lock that one and probably two teams from the SEC will play for the national championship. But what happens if Georgia pulls the upset?
November 23, 2011
I wholeheartedly regret predicting Ochocinco would break one off for a score in my last NFL fantasy football suggestions. Not only did he fail to reach the end zone, but did not record a single catch. The Patriots have Julien Edelman playing receiver, linebacker, and returning punts for TD’s, but Ocho can’t do a thing. I don’t get it.
Otherwise, my NFL fantasy football predictions were not too bad. The Panthers offense had a solid game against the Lions, despite suffering another second half comeback by Detroit. The Cleveland defense held the Jaguars to just 10 points, despite MJD eclipsing the century mark and finding the end zone. Frank Gore was a surprising miss, but I won’t take the blame for Ryan Grant and James Starks. Their fullback, John Kuhn, and their DEFENSIVE TACKLE, BJ Raji, vultured their goal line touchdowns. Kind of cool, but not if you’re a fantasy football owner.
Week 12 NFL Fantasy Football Predictions
Shootout in Detroit
This is the first Thanksgiving game for Detroit that I can remember meaning something. Since Barry Sanders left, it’s always been the game my family ate dinner during. But the Lions’ high powered, comeback offense should prove for an exciting game this Thursday, especially because they’re facing the undefeated, high powered counterpart in Green Bay.
If you’re fantasy football team is looking for a receiver, grab whoever is available and highest on one of these teams depth charts. Green Bay is your best bet, since Aaron Rodgers tends to spread the ball around, and Matt Stafford tends to focus on Calvin Johnson. But if you’re desperate, Burleson and Pettigrew are good pickups. Kevin Smith, their old, injury prone, former first round pick back from the dead, is a good fantasy football grab, too. He won’t score 3 TD’s every week, but at this point in the season, there won’t be much else available on the waiver wire.
One note of caution – this could be one of those should-be-shootouts that stays around the 24-17 range. Both will be on short rest, and both exploded last weekend on the offensive end, especially Detroit.
Newton had a decent game against the Lions, despite a few turnovers. He reminds me of a more talented Vince Young – ability to score in multiple ways, big body, wins games despite lack of fundamentals. Basically, with the good comes the bad, it depends on if you capitalize on the good.
Sunday, they face the Colts, who have basically given up. Sure, they’re coming out of a bye, but to start trying now when they’ve almost locked down the first pick to nab Andrew Luck wouldn’t make sense. Could be another 400 yard game for Newton.
The Texans are coming off their bye and face a struggling Jacksonville team. Blaine Gabbert is a rookie without a go-to receiver and an inconsistent running back. The Jags will have trouble putting up points against the Texans defense, who ranks surprisingly high on defensive yards per game for both rushing and passing.
Arizona travels to St. Louis, who happens to posses the second worst rushing defense in the league. Wells isn’t the feature back the Cardinals had hoped when they drafted him a couple years ago, but he’s a big guy that should find the end zone in what will likely be a low scoring game (not because of defense, though).