Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons
This game is the reverse of the Ravens – Broncos game of yesterday. Everyone is picking the Seahawks and ignoring the home team. While it’s true that Atlanta played an easy schedule this year, I just think that in the dome they’re going to be all the Seahakws can handle. The way for Seattle to win is to repeatedly hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch to attack the weak Falcon rush defense. The key match up is going to be the Falcons dynamic receivers against the Seahwaks talented and physical corners. I’m picking the Falcons in a close 32-28 victory.
Houston Texans Vs. New England Patriots
The last time the Patriots blew out an opponent and met them again in the post season Mark Sanchez and the Jets shocked the world by beating them. While I don’t think the Texans will pull off that feat, I think it will be a hell of a lot closer than 42-14. To have a chance the Texans need to hand the ball to Arian Foster and set up the play action to take advantage of a weak Patriots secondary. The real effort is going to be on defense. New England has the highest scoring offense this year and for the first time in a long time they can run the ball effectively. Even if the score is close at halftime, the Patriots are a good second half team and I see them winning 32-27
Baltimore Ravens Vs. Denver Broncos:
While many experts are picking Denver to face New England next week for the AFC championship game next week I think this team has the potential to be an upset victim. I know Joe Flacco can struggle at times and that Baltimore lost to the Broncos only a few weeks ago, but I still have a nagging suspicion that this is their year. I think this team is hungry and won’t be afraid of going on the road. Also, even though this Broncos team is 13-3, they played a less than inspiring schedule. I’m taking the Ravens in a 21-17 upset.
Green Bay Packers Vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Packers are a team that has been able to fly under the radar for the majority of the season thanks to Peyton Manning, the Jets, and various other NFL story lines the media finds more interesting. While the Packers struggled early in the season they have come around at the right time, just like 2010 when they won the Superbowl. While the 49ers have a more dynamic offense now with Colin Kaepernick behind the center they did lose some playoff experience by benching Alex Smith. Hopefully Smith has been able to give some advice to his young teammate on what it’s like to be in the playoffs. I like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to roll to a 28 -20 victory.
I’ll be back with my Sunday Picks tomorrow. Enjoy the games today!
It’s good to be back after a much needed Holiday break and I hope all of you loyal readers enjoyed yourselves. I came back just in time for the start of the NFL playoffs. The last few years we have seen teams get off to hot starts and look unbeatable all year leaving us with a cut and dry favorite. Not so much this year. While Atlanta and Denver both finished 13-3, they both had some serious flaws and benefited from weak schedules. In fact, no team this postseason looks like they can’t be beaten by anybody else. I think it should make for a highly entertaining playoff run, hopefully much more so entertaining than the college bowl season which so far has been defined by blowouts and sloppy play. Let’s take a look at the four games this weekend:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans
These two teams met last year with Houston beating Cincinnati behind third string QB T.J. Yates. This year they have their top QB, Matt Schaub taking the snaps. The Texans struggled down the stretch after getting out to a hot start. The team is equally effective running the ball as well as passing but can struggle when made one dimensional. The trick will be for the Bengals to bottle up Arian Foster and the running game to make Schaub beat them with his arm. Andy Dalton has struggled in the last three games but he got some playoff experience last year and just has to do enough to eek out a win. However, containing Foster is easier said than done and I think the Texans can pull off a 24-14 victory.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
This is a rematch of last weeks highly entertaining game in which Adrian Peterson came up nine yards short of the all time rushing record. These are two division rivals that know each other well so the players should be hyped up for the game. The Packers have overcome a slow start to be for my money the favorite in the NFC. For the Vikings, they will go only as far as Peterson will carry them. Luckily for the men in purple he has carved the Packers up this year on the ground and he is more than capable of doing it again. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty though, I trust Aaron Rodgers infinitely more than I do Christian Ponder. The Packer defense has improved from the abysmal squad they fielded last year as well. Even if AP has another great day, I still see the Packers winning 31-17 behind a big day from Rodgers.
Update: NBC just reported that Joe Webb will start in place of Ponder. Read that sentence I wrote about trusting Rodgers more than Ponder and substitute Webb for Ponder. Also, I’m predicting 31-14 for the final score now.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens
This is a game that has a lot of hype leading up to it, but I think the game may not be as interesting as the side stories. First of all, pundits will be trying to make cases that both teams are going to play “inspired football.” The Colts are supposedly feeding off the energy of their coach who came back last week after battling Leukemia for most of the season. The Ravens are now inspired because Ray Lewis is going to hang up his cleats at the end of this season. As an aside, I could not believe that in all the coverage the Lewis announcement received, almost none of it centered on the fact he was a suspect in a murder investigation early in the 2000′s. Why? Because no network wants to piss him off so they can hire him as an analyst in five months which is an insult to impartiality. Anyway, while Andrew Luck and the Colts have been much better than expected, they still benefited from an easy schedule. The Ravens have had some struggles as of late, but I still trust that defense whether or not Ray Lewis plays, to destroy a rookie quarterback. The Colts have had a great year and should be ready to build on this success for the future. The Ravens should ride Ray Rice and Flacco should manage the team well enough for a 28-7 win.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins
This game may be the one I personally am looking forward to most because it feature two rookies squaring off. Robert Griffin III has dazzled many this year after winning the Heisman and leading the skins to the NFC East division championship. The Seahwaks have Russell Wilson, the former Badger who while not as celebrated as RG3 or Luck has had a quietly successful season. This game also features two of the premiere running backs in the NFL. Washington has rookie Alfred Morris who has amassed over 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns. Part of what makes the Washington zone read so effective is that defenses need to respect Morris’ skills with the ball. Seattle has Marshwan Lynch, the back who had a spectacular run in the post season two years ago and is no slouch himself. I see Lynch having another big game and Wilson leading the Seahawks over the favored Redskins 27-24.
This is the last weekend of Division 1 football for the 2012 season and it’s shaping up to be a good one. Georgia and Alabama duke it out for the right to play Notre Dame in the BCS National championship game. Besides that biggie, a host of other big games take place as teams look to get into BCS bowls. Let’s dig in.
SEC Championship Game: 2 Alabama vs. 3 Georgia
This is THE game on Saturday as it determines who will go to the national championship. Both teams are 11-1 and play solid defense. What may surprise you is that Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Alabama’s AJ McCarron lead the nation in pass efficiency. These two teams can still some offense. Even though they have the same record, these two teams aren’t exactly equal. Alabama’s one loss came against a highly ranked Texas A&M team lead by a Heisman finalist. Georgia was blown out by South Carolina. Additionally, Georgia narrowly beat Tennessee, a team Alabama defeated 44-13. While I think Georgia will stick around a little longer than most people think they will, I still think Bama wins 34-21.
ACC Championship Game: 13 Florida Sate vs. Georgia Tech
Florida State played a competitive game against Florida last weekend and feel short to their in state rival. Georgia Tech was blown out 42-10 in a forgettable game against Georgia. While every sign points to this game being a blowout, I think this game could be fun to watch. Florida State has a very good defense, but I think Georgia Tech will be motivated after a blowout. The Yellow Jackets run a triple option offense that can create headaches for even the most athletic defense. In my upset pick, I’m picking Georgia Tech 35-28
Big 10 Championship Game: 12 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
While Nebraska, a proud program that went through tough times and is now on the rise again. They are playing in their first conference championship game since the 1999 Big 12 game (Gotta love conference realignment right!?). Wisconsin has won the last two conference games, but they had an underwhelming season this year. In fact, in their division Penn State and Ohio State are both ahead of them, but both schools are ineligible due to sanctions. So the Badgers get to fight for a trip to the Rose Bowl. However, I think this game has upset material written all over it. First of all, Wisconsin has been competitive in all their losses, never losing by more than one score. Secondly, they have been here before. These kids know how to play on a big stage. I think the critics are shocked as Wisconsin wins 28 -21.
As a side note, there are other important games taking place that will determine conference championships, however they are not technically speaking, conference championship games. I’ll pick the winners none the less:
18 Texas vs. 6 KSU 37-40 KSU
11 Oklahoma vs. TCU 35-10 Oklahoma
20 Boise State vs. Nevada 38-28 Boise state
All in all, it looks like it’s gonna be a great day of College Football so everyone just kick back and relax as you begin studying for finals.
Yesterday news came that former MLBPA leader Marvin Miller passed away at age 95. Many sports fans don’t know anything about Miller and probably were wondering why Sportscenter was making such a big deal about it last night. The truth is Marvin Miller probably has had as big an impact as anyone in sports over the last 50 years. Miller became the MLBPA union leader in 1966 and lasted until 1982. In that time the average salary for a player rose from $19,000 t0 $326,000. Miller is best remembered in baseball for three big changes. First of all, he negotiated the first CBA in any sport in 1968. Secondly, Miller was able to achieve the players the right to have an independent arbitrator settle contract disputes. That lead to the last and arguably biggest change in 1975; the players right to free agency. Before 1975 players were bound to a team until either traded or released him. He was able to get the players the right to choose their own destination.
These three changes caught the attention of players in other sports who realized the gains the baseball players were achieving. They too strengthened their unions and set out to achieve the same rights as baseball players. Interestingly, Miller served as a mentor to the other sports union leaders. Baseball has the strongest union by far of all the sports. Did you know the MLB CBA expired this year? They ratified the exact same agreement 24 hours later without arguing over it at all. The players and owners are both making money so both sides are happy. Unlike the other sports baseball has had labor peace since the 1994 strike.
However, Miller’s legacy is not without controversy. Miller also lead the baseball players through three terrible strikes. He started the movement that lead to players now earning astronomical amounts of money and the rise of ticket prices. The other sports also copied these trends.With free agency he also brought in the ability for rich owners to out bid other owners for the services of players. It’s why the Yankees can get anyone they want and the Rays get squat. While he was undoubtedly good for the players, the fans have suffered too.
Miller is not yet in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He fell one vote short in 2010 and he is up again for vote next year. Since he is a non player he is voted in by the Veterans Committee. That committee is made up mostly of former and current executives. They aren’t too keen to vote in someone who stripped them of most of their power.
The fist official post on this site since May. OOO Baby! I decided to do this post on how I think the NFL playoff races will shape up. I know that heading into week 13 of the season I’m not exactly breaking ground predicting the Falcons to win the NFC South. But still it’s worth looking at. Let’s have a look.
NFC East Winner: New York Giants (7-4)
The Giants are winning this division simply because the rest of the division is horrible. The only team that has a shot to catch them is the Cowboys if they can play consistency. Guess what the big knock against the Cowboys is this season? They don’t play consistent football. The Cowboys would need to be consistently good the rest of the way and the Giants would have to lose at least 3 the rest of the way. You know what? I can see the Giants losing three more games this year. But I can’t see the Cowboys being consistent enough to catch them.
NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers (7-4)
I’m picking the Packers because I expect them to win against Chicago when they play in two weeks. That would give them the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record. That is a distinct possibly. The Packers play a slightly easier schedule than the Bears, but both will be favored in every game they play the rest of the season. The Bears losses have come against better opponents and I trust the Packers to find a way to get it done in Chicago. Both teams will finish 12-4 with the Packers getting the division.
NFC South Winner: Atlanta Falcons (10-1)
They are 10-1. The next closest team is the 6-5 Bucs. Really no surprise. Will the Falcons be good in the playoffs? That remains to be seen. They also have a few difficult matchups late in the year meaning if they stumble too much, the one seed is in jeopardy.
NFC West Winner: San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)
They play great defense and can run the ball. They should close out the rest of the season relatively easily, maybe losing to New England in week 15. But for strange reasons, we have ourselves a QB controversy! Alex Smith gets no respect from his coaches. But alas, Colin Kaepernick has played great in his two games as a starter. However, Smith did get them one game away from the Superbowl last season. It will be interesting to see what happens in the playoffs, and if one of these two players is gone next year.
NFC Wild Cards: Chicago Bears (8-3) and New Orleans Saints (5-6)
I expect Chicago to win the rest of their games, except for the showdown to Green Bay and finish with a 12-4 record. Seattle will be fighting off Tampa Bay the rest of the way and it will probably come down to better conference records. But Seattle can play good defense and they run the ball well, so I trust them over the Bucs. The Saints is a bold prediction. But look at their schedule, besides at Atlanta they will be favored the rest of the way. They have the offense to out score anybody and the defense is improving. I predict them squeaking in just ahead of the Seahawks. But this is a team that cannot afford more than one loss, and even then it still could be a long shot.
AFC East Winner: New England Patriots (8-3)
In other news, the sun rose in the East today. Seriously, besides praying for nobody else to get injured, the Patriots are just looking to see if they can claim the two seed. That lose to the Ravens early in the year hurts because it may have cost them a first round bye. If they win out and Baltimore stumbles though they’re in good shape.
AFC North Winner: Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
They can secure the division by beating Pittsburgh this weekend. They’re at home against at worst a severely injured Big Ben and at best a 38-year-old statuesque Charlie Batch. Unless Pittsburgh goes on a historic run combined with a severe stumble, Baltimore has the division. The only question is whether or not they can hold off New England for the second seed. For the record, I picked them win the Superbowl before the season and I still feel confident with that pick.
AFC South Winner: Houston Texans ( 10-1)
The AFC was pretty bad this year. The Texans keep squeaking by opponents to get the best record in the conference. While I have some doubt as to whether or not they can do damage in the playoffs, they definitely have the weapons to do so. The one thing that would scare me is if Baltimore and New England keep winning, the Texans could lose the bye week. I however see them holding on the one seed.
AFC West Winner: Denver Broncos (8-3)
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have had this week division sewn up for about four weeks now. This may surprise you, but I’m not sold on this team yet. They’ll win the division, and they put up impressive offensive statistics, but I’ve noticed a tendency to struggle against good teams. Manning has gotten better as the year went on, but I still wan him to prove to me he can do it in the playoffs. Something tells me I’ll regret typing that. Also, because of the loss at New England they are distant shot at the two seed as they would need Baltimore and New England to stumble. Not going to happen.
AFC Wild Cards: Indianapolis Colts (7-4) and Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)
The Colts have games left against the Lions, Titans, Chiefs, and the Texans twice. The Texans will probably have the one seed locked up by then, meaning they could be resting the entire team when they meet on the final weekend. The Colts should be able to ride a weak schedule into playoffs.
The sixth seed in the AFC is probably the most interesting race in the league. The Bengals are going tp battling the Steelers down the stretch for the last wild Card spot. The Bengals and Steelers both have to play Dallas, San Diego, Baltimore, and each other. The one difference is the Steelers have to play a Cleveland team they already lost to, and the Bengals have to play a Philadelphia Eagles team that looks like it’s given up. The last Eagles win is September 30, 2012. The last Philadelphia Phillies win is October 1st, 2012. Dallas and San Diego are both crazy teams because they both have the fire power to wake up and put up 30 points at any time. If the Bengals or the Steelers win against both while the other loses to both, that could seal the division. If not, they play each other the second to last week of the season. The wild card to this Wild Card match up? Ben Roethlisberger. If he even does play, will he be at full strength? Is he just one hit from being done for the rest of the year? I just don’t trust a shaky offensive line, limited running game, and hurt Big Ben. This looks like Cincy’s year.
Well hello again friends. It’s been a long time. I’m sure some of you wondered what happened. Did I give up? Take the summer off? Realize the dream I aspired for in fourth grade and become a Pro skateboarder (seriously. That’s what I wrote)? No, I did not. In case you missed it I got an internship blogging about the New York Rangers. I thought to myself, “You mean I can blog about a team and sport I love, I can give more specific, nuanced posts that a dedicated and growing fan base will eat up? I know the lockout is coming but they can’t possibly be headed for a long lockout again. I’ll take it.”And here we are today with still no hockey, and limited optimism. I decided the other day I was tired of sitting around not doing anything. I’m a well-rounded sports fan, there are other things I can watch and write about besides millionaires and billionaires fighting over who gets a bigger cut of my hard-earned money. It’s ridiculous and insulting that the NHL hasn’t reached a deal with the players yet. Hockey is a sport that is a way, way, way, distant fourth among major sports leagues. However, ever since the last lockout in 2005 it had been picking up some steady steam, getting itself poised to potentially sneak into the top three by the next decade. But then they locked out again. I’ve been following this lockout closely since it began in mid September. There have been too many times where I thought a deal was close, only to have the optimism end the next morning. So, I’ve decided to stop. I can’t lie and say when there’s hockey I’ll stay away. I won’t. I’ll be back. Burt I’m not wasting my time writing about it until either it’s back on the ice, or canceled for good. If I never hear the term Hockey-Related-Revenue again, I’ll be a happy…blogger. The two sides agreed to have a federal mediator help them attempt to reach a deal, so in any case we’re close to an endpoint.
I however will be concentrating on other things. The NFL is entering the stretch run with the playoff races in full swing. There is a BIG weekend in College football coming up, baseball hot stove will heat up soon (God I hate that particular pun like no other, but I had to use it). Maybe I’ll even do some posts about the NBA and college hoops. The point is, I’m back. I can’t say forever, it may not even be two weeks. But I’ll once again be taking up your timelines and homepages with my posts. I appreciate all the views, comments and suggestions. I’ll be back soon with a more traditional post.
If you’re a Rangers fan and are curious to see some of the posts I’ve written about the Rangers/lockout this year, click here. As you can see, the posts are infrequent. That’s because I was only supposed to do sporadic off-season updates until the season started, not lack of interest.