December 30, 2011
If you are a UFC fan, then you already know more than anything you will find in this article. Now, I enjoy watching MMA, but I might catch it once every two months. Since I am such a big fan in most things we cover on this blog, I thought it would be fun to breakdown UFC 141 from a completely uneducated perspective. So without further delay, here are my complete guesses (aka picks) for tonight’s fights.
Main Event – Lesnar vs. Overeem
This actually sounds like a Main Event I would love to watch. Lesnar (6’3, 265) and Overeem (6’5, 265) are huge punchers who don’t let fights go very long. A fight that seems a lock for not going to decision, there should be plenty of heavy blows landing in this one. While Lesnar has gotten a lot of the spotlight, Overeem is far more experienced in the octagon. However, this will be Overeem’s first fight in the UFC. It sounds like Lesnar will look to go to the ground and keep Overeem from standing and using his legs. My guess here is Overeem doesn’t buckle under the bright lights of the UFC and uses his experience to get a big win over Lesnar.
Co-Main Event – Diaz vs. Cerrone
A lightweight bought between two fighters with similar builds and records, this will be hard to breakdown. Diaz will look to get takedowns and win via submission, but won’t be too outmatched on his feet. Cerrone will need to work on his takedown defense if he hopes to stay in this fight. Diaz has a surprisingly weak takedown defense as well, and if Cerrone can catch him by surprise and land punches that way, it could lead to a victory. Cerrone ended both of his last fights early and will look to do the same tonight. I like Cerrone to beat Diaz.
Fitch vs. Hendricks
For some reason, this fight really intrigues me. Jon Fitch’s last two losses were to BJ Penn in his last fight and Georges St. Pierre back in 2008, both very respectable losses. Hendricks meanwhile is 11-1 and looking to use Fitch as his marquee win. A former wrestler at Oklahoma State, he of course has the upper hand in takedowns and overall wrestling. Look for Fitch, who isn’t bad at takedowns himself, to try and turn this into a boxing match. If Hendricks does get a takedown, look for Fitch to try and use Hendricks’ inexperience against him and try to catch him with a submission. I like Fitch in this fight, but something has me pulling for Hendricks. Maybe it’s just the underdog role.
Matyushenko vs. Gustafsson
The 3 cards above all seemed to be against similar opponents. This card is the battle of pure opposites. Matyushenko (6’0, 205, 40 years old) and Gustafsson (6’5, 205, 24 years old) are so different it makes you laugh when you look at the card. Matyushenko is a takedown fighter who I would assume will look to use a “ground and pound” technique on the younger Gustafsson. Gustafsson, meanwhile, is a submission fighter who will look to use his length to keep this fight in a standup position as much as possible. Gustafsson is 12-1, and I think he gains the edge the longer this fight goes. However, I think Matyushenko ends this fight early.
Phan vs. Hettes
Another battle of submission fighter (Hettes) vs. striker (Phan), this fight could get interesting. I think Phan will look to end this fight early as newcomer Hettes will only gain confidence the longer the fight goes. Look for Phan to try and stay on his feet for a while with Hettes not being a very good striker. Phan should win this fight and hand Hettes his first defeat.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the ramblings of someone who has no idea what they are talking about. Trust me; I will be watching to see if I was anywhere close in my guesses.
December 29, 2011
In the final week of the NFL season, there are still 3 playoff spots still unclaimed. The NFC East, AFC West and the final AFC Wild Card are up for grabs and will be decided this weekend. We take a look at which teams will earn, or back into, a berth in this year’s NFL playoffs.
NFC EAST Champion
The NFC East was given to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason after they went out and made some big free agent signings. Long considered one of the tougher conferences in the NFL, not many would be surprised if you told them the NFC East would come down to the final week before we had a winner. However, it would be surprising to hear the Eagles didn’t have a chance. The Dallas Cowboys will travel to New York to take on the Giants in what is essentially the NFC East Championship game.
The Cowboys have had multiple chances to put distance between themselves and the Giants, but failed to take advantage of the opportunities. Add to that the injured throwing hand of Tony Romo, and all of the momentum seems to lie with Eli Manning and the Giants. Look for the Giants to get after Romo and get out to an early lead to keep the home crowd in the game. I like the Giants to claim the NFC East championship this year.
AFC WEST Champions
The AFC West seems to be the division nobody wants to win. The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos are both fighting to stay above .500 on the season and haven’t looked strong in the last couple weeks. Denver has dropped two in a row, while the Raiders have lost 3 of 4, needing OT to beat Kansas City last week.
Unlike the NFC East game, these two teams don’t get to play each other for the right to go to the playoffs. If both teams win this weekend Denver will win the AFC West and Oakland will have a chance to win the final remaining Wild Card spot, but we will get to that later. Denver has the better draw, having only need to beat the Chiefs while Oakland must beat San Diego. I like Tim Tebow to find a way to beat his predecessor Kyle Orton and return the Broncos back to the postseason.
AFC Wildcard (6th seed)
This is where it all gets interesting. Four teams can still claim this final AFC Wild Card spot: the Benals, Jets, Titans and Raiders. Try to stay with me here. The Cincinnati Bengals have the easiest road to get to the playoffs: win and they are in. They can also get in if the Jets and Raiders or Broncos lose.
If that doesn’t happen, the Raiders can get in if they win, the Bengals lose and either the Titans lose or the Jets win.
The Jets get in if they win and the Titans, Bengals, and either the Raiders or Broncos lose.
Finally, there is Tennessee. They need to win. They also need the Bengals to lose. Then, if the Jets win, they need the Raiders or Broncos to lose. If the Jets lose, they need both the Raiders AND the Broncos to win.
Head spinning yet? Mine too. After all of those scenarios, here is all you need to know. I think the New York Jets find a way to sneak in. If the Bengals can find a way to knock of a veteran Ravens team who doesn’t come out prepared to play, they could earn their spot. However, I just don’t think the Raiders, Titans, or Bengals will win this week, which makes me think even though the Jets have had a bad year, they just sneak into the playoffs.
But if the NFL has proven anything this season, it’s that no one has any idea.
December 28, 2011
1. Green Bay Packers (14-1) — If anyone in the NFC is going to knock out the champs they will have to do it on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
3. New England Patriots (12-3) — The Pats are a win over the Bills away from home-field advantage in the AFC.
4. Baltimore Ravens (11-4) – Huge game coming up at Cincinnati with Baltimore playing for the division title and a bye with an outside shot at the top seed in the AFC.
5. San Francisco 49ers (12-3) – With a win at St. Louis the 49ers lock up a first-round bye. Who saw that coming?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) – The Steelers shouldn’t have a problem beating Cleveland on Sunday. The question is, what will it do for them? They could get the 1 or 2 seed with some help.
7. Detroit Lions (10-5) – The Lions are back in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Looks like they will be at the Giants, Cowboys or Saints.
8. Houston Texans (10-5) – Texans have lost two straight and a chance for a playoff bye. A third straight loss to the Titans on Sunday could lead to a third meeting against the Titans in the playoffs.
9. Atlanta Falcons (9-6) – Things got out of hand against the Saints, but Falcons clinch playoff spot anyway after Chicago lost. They too, could be headed for a third meeting with a division rival.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) – The Bengals win and they will be at Houston in the first round. It won’t be easy with the Ravens coming to town.
12. New York Giants (8-7) – The Giants ended the Eagles season by beating the Jets. They can end the Cowboys season with a win this week.
13. New York Jets (8-7) – The Jets don’t look like they are going to another AFC title game. They need a lot of help to squeak into the final playoff spot.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (7-8) – This team will have the whole offseason to be kicking themselves for missing the playoffs. Getting to .500 with a win over Washington won’t be much consolation.
16. Tennessee Titans (8-7) – Titans need a win and some help. Losing to the winless Colts may come back to haunt this team.
17. Arizona Cardinals (7-8) – Beating the Bengals last week would have made their game agaist Seattle a big one.
18. Oakland Raiders (8-7) – Just win (and get some help) baby. Raiders can still win the AFC West or take the last wild card spot if things go their way on Sunday.
19. Seattle Seahawks (7-8) – Seahawks host the Cardinals with second place in the NFC West on the line. Winner gets to .500.
20. San Diego Chargers (7-8) – Too little, too late for this bunch. We will see how bad they want to eliminate the Raiders on Sunday.
22. Carolina Panthers (6-9) – The Panthers are the third best team in the NFC South. If they can take another step in 2012 they will be in the playoff hunt.
23. Washington Redskins (5-10) – Still a lot of work to do for Shanahan to get the Skins back to the playoffs. Will he draft a quarterback in 2012?
25. Miami Dolphins (5-10) – Dolphins can eliminate the Jets with a win. This isn’t the same team the Jets dominated earlier in the season.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) – Orton vs. Tebow. Too bad the Chiefs lost last week or the division title would be up for grabs here. Somebody petition the league and see if we can get this game played inside a steel cage.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) – Another disappointing season in Jacksonville. On the bight side, the Jags finally finished ahead of the Colts.
28. Cleveland Browns (4-11) – Browns could be headed for a sixth consecutive loss in Pittsburgh.
29. Minnesota Vikings (3-12) – Costly win on Sunday. Not only did the Vikings lose Peterson, they also lost their chance at the top pick in the draft.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) – From 4-2 to 4-11. The defense is terrible.
31. Indianapolis Colts (2-13) – Colts are playing like they don’t care if they get the first pick in the draft. They could make it three wins in a row on Sunday.
32. St. Louis Rams (2-13) – How did these guys beat the Saints?
December 27, 2011
For years, the Clippers have played second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Clippers were the anti-Lakers, unable to win even after years of stockpiling top draft picks. The team has had a streak of bad luck that would make the Pittsburgh Pirates envious. While the Clippers have yet to prove anything in a season that’s just underway, one thing’s for certain – their luck could be changing.
But, really, it all starts with the Lakers. Ironically, the player which caused the biggest shift in power between these two teams is the same player that was supposed to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals. The franchise believed it had a deal in place for All-World point guard Chris Paul, but the NBA’s front office surprisingly vetoed the deal, leaving the Lakers to face a stunned Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – players expected to be moved as part of the trade.
The Lakers have been able to convince Gasol to come back ready to play for them, but Odom was visibly shaken by the trade that almost went down. As a result, the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for their 2012 first-round draft pick. Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak could have made that move in hopes of dumping salary, to use the pick as part of a deal to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (we’ll get to that in a bit), or to simply get rid of Odom who was offended by the original would-be trade. But whatever the reason, the Lakers are now weaker than last year’s squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. In addition, trading him to one of the team’s fiercest rivals for the conference title was an ill-advised move.
Odom was never a player that could lead a team to a championship, but without him, it’s hard to see the Lakers winning either of their two most recent titles. Last year, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game. That kind of production is going to be hard to replace, but more than that, Odom was a big time player that often produced in the clutch. L.A. essentially traded a key cog to its success in exchange for what isn’t likely to be a very high draft pick.
Of course, if the Lakers are able to negotiate a trade for the aforementioned Howard, that changes things a bit. Howard is likely the league’s best center and pairing him with Kobe Bryant would give the Lakers the best inside outside duo in the NBA. But until that happens, the franchise has egg on its face since they’ve been unable to secure a deal for him up to this point.
Getting back to Paul, though, he is a game-changing player and perhaps the best point guard in the league. After the Lakers were unable to swing a deal for him, the Clippers swooped in and made one of the biggest moves in the franchise’s history. The team put together a package built around star guard Eric Gordon and a 2012 first-round draft pick for him. While Gordon is considered one of the best young shooting guards in the league, trading him for a player of Paul’s caliber can’t be argued. Paul was brought in to not only get the Clippers to the playoffs, but to lead them to a deep run. It’s safe to say that his addition makes that a strong possibility.
The Clippers, though, aren’t a one-man team. Paul is joined by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, and former All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. They not only have star power, but they have a veteran starting lineup that has plenty of experience.
It’s not as if the Lakers are done, though. They still have one of the game’s best players in Kobe Bryant and with Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, and forward Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), there’s still plenty of talent to get the Lakers to the playoffs. In a seven-game series, I’d still favor them over the Clippers. But with Paul on board, the rivalry has gotten a much-needed jumpstart.
December 23, 2011
Boston at New York
The weekend starts off with Boston traveling to New York to face the team they swept out of the playoffs last year. New York has a bad taste in its mouth from that exit, and has retooled their team a bit since then. The Celtics kept their core group and will look to get off to a quick start to combat some fatigue that could set in down the stretch for their aging group. New York would love to start the season off by avenging their losses last year, but I don’t think they win this one. New teammates mixed with a veteran opponent don’t sound like a good combination. I think Boston capitalizes on early mistakes by New York and start their season with a win.
Miami at Dallas
Forget first round rematches, the second game on the schedule goes right to last year’s NBA Finals. Dallas will still be in celebration mode as they receive their rings and raise the championship banner, and it will only fuel the Heat’s fire having to be there to watch it. Miami knows how costly it can be to get off to a bad start and they will be dialed in from the opening tip. Dallas picked up Vince Carter and Lamar Odom in the offseason, while Miami added defensive specialist Shane Battier. This is a hard game to pick, because Miami’s starters match up well against Dallas, but Dallas has a deeper bench. My gut says Miami takes this game and starts the season off strong.
Chicago at Los Angeles Lakers
Two more teams that shook it up this offseason, Chicago and Los Angeles are both hoping their offseason moves help them get into the Finals. Chicago added SG Richard Hamilton from Detroit, hoping to add another scoring threat to free up PG Derrick Rose. The Lakers traded SF Lamar Odom in a move that could be associated with their efforts to get C Dwight Howard from Orlando. On top of that, Kobe Bryant has a torn ligament in his wrist, which could affect him in the game. Even without Odom, the Lakers frontcourt could be trouble for the Bulls. However, I still think Chicago comes away with this game. Look for a high scoring game that stays close, but Chicago pulls away in the end.
Orlando at Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of high scoring, this game should be a shootout. Oklahoma City has a pair of stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that will keep the tempo at a solid pace. While the Thunder had a relatively quiet offseason, Orlando has been all over the trade rumors. Star C Dwight Howard has asked for a trade and while he hasn’t gotten it yet, the thought has to be on the minds of his teammates. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, but I think the young backcourt of Oklahoma City will be too much for the Magic. The Thunder get the W in this game.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State
The only game featuring teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year is one of the more anticipated ones. The new look Clippers are the talk of the NBA since they landed Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. Now, everyone will look to see if Paul and Blake Griffin can lead the Clippers to the playoffs. The Warriors have a young team as well, led by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. The tempo in this game should make the previous game look like a snail’s pace. Golden State has pushed the ball for years, and with a backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers might look to do the same. The Clippers are going to have to adjust, having so many new starters playing together for the first time in the regular season. The Clippers want to make a statement with this game though, and I think they will put on a show and start their season off with a 1-0 record.