January 14, 2014
The good news is that the NFL’s championship weekend is upon us and we’ve got what we wanted. Brady vs. Manning. Kaepernick vs. Wilson. The best coach in the league against the best offense in history. The best rivalry going today and the earthquake-causing 12th man. The bad news is that there is just three football games left and I’ve got to work on Sunday. I better start faking an illness today so I can get out of work on Sunday. So who will win? I couldn’t tell you that. But I do have a good idea which players could decide the games.
Colin Kaepernick is going to need someone to make a few big plays in the passing game. It could be Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis, but I’d put my trust in Boldin. Nobody is tougher and his eight catches for 136 yards was huge against Carolina last week.
He’s won a few big games in his short career. Most of them with his legs. He’ll have to complete some big throws on Sunday and avoid the interceptions that have plagued him in Seattle for the 49ers to stay in the game. For them to win…he’ll have to make a huge third down conversion in the fourth quarter…with his legs.
Don’t expect Blount to come up with another 166 yards and four touchdowns this week. But if he can get to 100 without putting the ball on the ground, that would be a good sign for the Patriots chances.
The rookie cornerback led New England with five interceptions, but he’ll be facing the biggest challenge of his short career taking on Peyton Manning and all his weapons in Denver. Will he make a huge play or allow one?
If he is healthy, the Seahawks offense goes to another level (in theory anyway…he hasn’t been healthy all year). Will Harvin play Sunday after suffering a concussion last week? I’m guessing no. But if he can get back on the field, he could make a game-changing play.
He’s dominated the league all season. Except for the game in New England. The Broncos didn’t really try to throw in that game because of the weather and the dominance of the running game. But he’s going to have to throw for them to win this week.
Seattle’s 12th man.
The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the league. They outscored the 49ers 71-16 in the last two games in Seattle. The first few minutes of this game will be big for the 49ers to get some momentum going. Otherwise the crowd could take control of the game.
The Patriots haven’t been underdogs much in the last few years, but they are this week. And if New England is going to win, Brady will have to be at the top of his game. The Patriots don’t have the weapons that the Broncos do so it will be up to Brady to keep the chains moving and Peyton Manning on the sidelines. And of course, no interceptions.
The Broncos’ offense is much more dangerous with Welker on the field. He’s going to want to have a big game against his old team, especially since it was his mistake that set up the Patriots game-winning field goal earlier this season. Look for Manning to try to get Welker going early and for Welker to pick up a couple key third down conversions in the second half if Denver wins this game.
January 13, 2014
NFL Conference Championship Games Set: The NFL Playoffs continued this weekend and the conference championship games are now set. In the AFC, the New England Patriots will travel to Denver to play the Broncos. In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks will host the San Francisco 49ers. At this point, the Super Bowl is anybody’s to win and both of the road teams will have legitimate shots to win. The Patriots are fresh off a three-touchdown drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts and have a guy named Tom Brady at the helm. The 49ers were soundly beaten in Seattle earlier this season, but came back to beat them at home and also are a different team with a healthy Michael Crabtree. Both home teams look good, but don’t be surprised by a road win or two, either.
Baseball to Induct New Hall of Famers: The Baseball Hall of Fame will grow by a few members later this year when Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine will all be inducted. Maddux received the most votes of the three but still took home ‘only’ 97% of ‘yes’ votes. It’s always astonishing to see voters that clearly don’t take their responsibility all that seriously. Maddux isn’t only a clear Hall of Famer, but he’s one of the best pitchers of all time. The Hall could do itself a favor by eliminating the follies of voters by simply taking away their ballot if they can’t exercise a bit of common sense. Craig Biggio barely missed the cut, but will almost surely get in either next year or in the near future. Meanwhile, voters again showed their clear disdain for players widely suspected to have taken PEDs as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire all fell well short of the required number of votes needed for induction.
Florida State wins National Championship: Last Monday, the Florida State Seminoles topped the Auburn Tigers after a slow start, winning 34-31. Trailing 21-10, the Seminoles were on the ropes and easily faced their stiffest test of the year against the SEC champion. But they rallied for 21 points in the final quarter to claim the title, led by freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. One loss can knock a team out in the regular season, but with Winston at the helm as well as talented players on both sides of the ball, it’s really hard to pick another favorite to win it all next year.
Dogs can be Football Fans, too, Right?: Right?!?!?
ALL THE DEREK HOLLAND JOKES: Speaking of dogs, Derek Holland’s apparently caused him to miss half of the 2014 baseball season. Cue the jokes about weird baseball injuries.
ARod Suspended for Season: Alex Rodriguez should officially miss all of 2014 after an arbitrator upheld MLB’s initial suspension for his use of PEDs. ARod actually had his suspension cut from 211 games but is still banned for the entire season, including the playoffs. The suspension is obviously a blow to ARod, but don’t expect the Yankees to be shedding any tears over his ban. The team still owes him about $60 million over the next few seasons, but will save over $20 million in luxury tax money they would have owed had he played. If ARod were still a dominant player, New York would rather have him on the field. But with his career in severe decline, not having their third baseman and saving all of that money is actually a significant benefit.
Penn State hires James Franklin: After losing head coach Bill O’Brien to the NFL, the Nittany Lions hired away James Franklin from Vanderbilt. Franklin is known as an excellent recruiter and did a remarkable job in getting the Commodores’ program to new heights, winning nine games in each of the past two seasons. The hire, however, shouldn’t go unquestioned since he also went 1-8 against Top 25 teams in his tenure at Vandy. Franklin will stand a better chance in the Big Ten at a historic program than he did trying to revive a struggling one in the difficult SEC. Beating the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan, though, won’t be a cakewalk, though.
Lindsey Vonn out of Olympics: U.S. skiing will look a little different in the Olympics at Sochi this year when Lindsey Vonn announced her injured knee will keep her from participating. Tough, tough blow for Vonn who, at 31, might not have the chance to ski in another Olympics.
NFL Could Sell Thursday Night Games: The NFL currently broadcasts Thursday night games on its own NFL Network, but the league may decide to sell those to other networks. If the decision goes through, the games would surely generate a huge amount of interest … and a huge amount of money for the NFL.
Chicago Bulls play for Future: The Chicago Bulls are without Derrick Rose, who is likely out for the season with a knee injury. Despite playing in a weak conference, the franchise decided to play for the future by trading away their best healthy player, Luol Deng, for the Cavaliers’ Andrew Bynum and draft picks … and then promptly releasing Bynum to save money. It’s understandable that many Chicago fans are perturbed by the move. The Bulls gain the draft picks and money to sign another player, but the team not only gave up on the season but also gave up on trying to re-sign Deng, who is a very good player.
November 27, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.
The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?
The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.
Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.
The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?
The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.
The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.
The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.
Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.
The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.
Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.
This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.
The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.
Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.
Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.
The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.
Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.
The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.
The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.
Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.
The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.
The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.
Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.
The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.
If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.
The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.
If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!
Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.
November 26, 2013
In just a couple days the nation will be eating turkey and giving thanks for all the Black Friday sales. So if you are planning to spend hours in line waiting for the chance to trample other shoppers and need something to pass the time, try predicting what will happen in the last five weeks of the NFL season. I did. And trust me, I’m in the mood to trample. But I learned a few things along the way, too.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the AFC:
1. New England: 13-3
2. Denver: 13-3
3. Cincinnati: 12-4
4. Indianapolis: 9-7
5. Kansas City: 13-3
6. Miami: 9-7
The Broncos may have just cost themselves home field advantage in the AFC by blowing that 24-0 lead in New England. And if they don’t bounce back with a win in Kansas City on Sunday, they’ll be looking at a wild card spot.
Suddenly, Sunday’s game between the Titans and Colts is huge. The Colts are reeling after another blowout loss and still have to play the Bengals and Chiefs. A Tennessee win on Sunday would put the Titans just a game back with the Cardinals, Jaguars and Texans as their last three opponents.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the NFC:
1. New Orleans: 14-2
2. Seattle: 13-3
3. Dallas: 10-6
4. Green Bay: 9-6-1
5. Carolina: 11-5
6. San Francisco: 11-5
The NFC East will come down to the final game of the season when the Eagles head to Dallas to battle the Cowboys. Especially if the Eagles can beat Arizona this week.
The NFC North will come down to the health of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback that returns and regains his form first will lead his team to the division title. And Detroit is going to regret blowing the game against Tampa Bay last week.
Several teams are playing for their season in week 13:
Detroit Lions: After losing at home to Tampa Bay the Lions face a must-win situation on Thanksgiving against a probably Aaron Rodgers-less division rival from Green Bay.
San Diego: With the Giants, Broncos and Chiefs still to play, San Diego cannot take a seventh loss against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Arizona: The Cardinals must beat the Eagles this week if their week 17 game against the 49ers is to mean anything in the wild card race.
November 25, 2013
Prince Fielder traded – Baseball’s offseason saw its first big trade when All-Star Prince Fielder was dealt away from the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. The move really is one of those win-win deals. Fielder is an incredible talent as his 25 home runs and 106 runs batted in in 2013 will attest, but he was owed a boatload of money for a lot of seasons. The slugger is still owed approximately $170 million over the next seven years and Detroit really needs some of that money to lock down its pitchers. The Tigers get a solid player back in Kinsler but the real benefit to them is getting out from under all of that money due to Fielder. The Rangers, meanwhile, get a bonafide superstar that can make their top ten offense in 2013 even better next season.
Don’t count out the Pats – For most of the season, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have been the class of the AFC. But the Pats have been lurking around in the background and on Sunday, showed they shouldn’t be forgotten. Tom Brady and New England upset Denver in overtime and at 8-3 on the season, are only one game behind the 9-2 Broncos. The Patriots got the game at home, but Brady’s spectacular 344-yard, three-touchdown effort officially put the rest of the NFL on notice.
Charlotte Hornets will get their colors back – The NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats will go back to being the Charlotte Hornets next season, but a name change isn’t the only thing coming. With the team name change, the franchise will go back to their original purple and teal color scheme per ESPN. If that doesn’t conjure up memories of Grandmama, then nothing will.
Crazy African soccer betting – And … I’ll just put this here.
Florida loses to FCS Georgia Southern. In football. – The Florida Gators’ season was already going about as badly as it could. Entering this weekend, they were 4-6 and in serious danger of a sub .500 season. But things got a whole lot worse for the Gators when they lost to FCS team Georgia Southern 26-20 at home. The loss dropped Florida to 4-7 and gave the Gators their sixth straight loss. Hello, Will Muschamp – it’s the hot seat calling.
Red Sox hair trimmings up for auction – Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some pretty interesting auctions related to sports. A few weeks back, Bill Mazeroski’s game jersey he wore when hitting his historic home run in the 1960 World Series fetched six figures. Last week, a ball boy who was given Michael Jordan’s shoes from his famous flu game decided he’d put those up to the highest bidder. Now the Boston Red Sox are getting in on the action. Several Red Sox players have trimmed their beards after their World Series run and putting them up to benefit a men’s organization. You may question if fans really want hair from players, but so far the auction is already bringing in thousands of dollars.
Derrick Rose injures knee … again – Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose sat out all of last season recovering from an ACL injury in his knee. Rose returned this year but caught another tough break when he injured his other knee last week during a game against the Portland Trailblazers. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out, but word is that Rose could miss the rest of the season. If so, it’s another devastating blow to a team that had hopes of reaching the NBA Finals. The Bulls put up a bit of a fight in the postseason last year without Rose, but realistically, it’s difficult envisioning them competing with the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers without their best player.
And you get $20,000, and you get $20,000 – Last week a fan at an Oklahoma City Thunder game made a half-court shot at halftime to win $20,000. That’s an incredible feat, but it’s something that seems to happen in Oklahoma City more than anywhere else. The shot was the fifth such one by a fan in 2013.
Johnny Football and Texas A&M fall short against top teams – Texas A&M hasn’t had a bad season per se, but the Aggies have definitely struggled against the better schools on their football schedule. Johnny Manziel and company have played three ranked programs and after this weekend, have lost all three. Texas A&M previously lost to Alabama and Auburn and on Saturday, dropped a game to LSU on the road. Manziel has still been impressive this season, but failed miserably against the Tigers, completing only 16 of his 41 passes and adding two interceptions against only one touchdown. He’s played well in his sophomore year, but winning a second Heisman is looking less and less likely.