Monday, January 31, 2011

All Star Games: Your Experience May Vary

In a brilliant move, the NHL put its own all star game on the very same weekend as the NFL Pro Bowl. Watching these games back-to-back (or, more accurately, I watched the NHL game and then about a quarter of the Pro Bowl) highlighted some key differences in these games. Simply put, the Pro Bowl is terrible, and the NHL (and NBA) have an All Star Game that works. Here's why.

We savor the big defensive play in football. A huge hit, a great interception, a key sack, etc. We love these plays almost as much as we love big offensive plays. But the Pro Bowl is a game without defenders trying hard at all. There is no blitzing (so almost no sacks), no hard hits, and the interceptions come because the QBs are just trying to throw deep because they don't care. The Pro Bowl eliminates half of what we love about football, and it ruins the offensive plays because we know the players on defense aren't trying that hard. And maybe it comes down to just that; we've been watching playoff football, where every player (besides Jay Cutler) is playing his butt off on every play because they want it so bad. To watch the Pro Bowl after that is akin to watching Spring Training Baseball after watching Game 7 of the World Series. You can feel the difference, and its ruined.

The NHL (and, for the most part, the NBA) All Star Game is different, though. It comes in the middle of the season, so we haven't been exposed to playoff hockey in a little while. We also don't love defensive hockey as much as people love defense in football. While most appreciate a good check on the boards or an open ice hit, good positioning and blocking passing lanes are not included in the highlights packages (in basketball, people usually only like blocks, and those can even show up in the All Star Game). The All Star Game, though, does showcase the athletic/offensive talents of the players better than any regular season game. The players go out there, knowing that there will be very little defense, and turn it into an awesome passing and deke fest. Thus, the game is awesome- every player out there is trying to do something awesome with the puck, and the goalies are trying to stand on their head and stop shots without the aid of a competent defense. Sure, its a shell of the 'real' game. But its more fun to watch than football players who drag themselves through the Pro Bowl. The NHL All Star Game is just a better showcase of talent than what the NFL puts out there. Football is a game that is only fun to watch when you know both teams are trying, and the Pro Bowl has none of that. The NHL and NBA games can work because we basically suspend our belief and just watch 'fun' hockey or basketball.

The only solution I can come up with is to turn the NFL game into a game of 7 on 7, pick up game rules. It's not the real thing, sure, but it would give the NFL a chance to show off its fun side.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Impending Horror

I think we're all psyched up for what should be a great Super Bowl. Packers-Steelers features a ton of talent on both sides of the ball for both teams along with a shared, storied history. It's Title Town vs. Sixburgh. Yet.... besides the Pro Bowl this weekend (snore) and the Super Bowl, there's going to be a lot of time before we see football again. Not only is there is the interminable layoff between the Super Bowl and the beginning of training camp that we have to endure every year, but now there's the looming threat of the NFL labor lockout. While I'm not highly versed in the subject, I do know that there is a good chance that the season will start late. AHHHHHHHH! Thank god I don't stay home during the summer, or I would be screwed. But what will I write about? Basketball is ok for a column every once in a while, but I don't watch enough of it. Hockey is still awesome, but the Sabres are no locks for the playoffs and the games aren't always easy to find. Baseball is... well, I enjoy baseball, but pretty much only the Cubs, and I can't watch a full game EVERY night. Only when a very interesting pitcher is on the mound. There's no World Cup this year, either. The only small solace is March Madness, the glorious event that it is, especially the opening weekend. And once we get to September, and there's no football, we'll have to focus on baseball. Yeah, baseball. It's such a step down from football its not even funny. So all I can say is everyone should be praying that the NFL fixes its issues so that we do not have to slog through endless hours of SportsCenter devoted to baseball highlights (which are terrible) and early season hockey and basketball. Or the horror of early season college sports. Oh god. Oh god. Please, NFL and us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Report From the Stands of Bears-Packers

Bears fans, as a friend of mine said, are easily taken out of a game. And this was pretty evident right after the Packers had finished their masterful first drive. The Chicago fans were in a frenzy before the game, and exploded when the Packers returner slipped and fell on the opening kickoff. Then Aaron Rodgers led a surgical drive down the field (first play was a first down dart to Greg Jennings), the Bears vaunted defense looked exposed, and Rodgers, after completing all 4 of his passes for 76 yards on the first drive, bootlegged it into the endzone for a TD. Crowd silenced. When the Bears came out for their first possession and Jay Cutler missed (or Devin Hester stopped running) a sure touchdown catch, thats when the stadium lost most of its atmosphere. There were short bursts of emotion, but they just couldn't get back in it, even though the Bears were in it for the whole game. The Packers offense sputtered through the rest of the game (besides another brilliant TD drive), but the Bears were also unable to do anything. At halftime, after a lucky Lance Briggs interception had saved the Bears from going down three scores, it was still grim for Bears fans, even though many had the trademark naive fan optimism- "It's only two scores! We're still in it!". I walked inside to get some hot chocolate (wise move) and was met with the eyes of many, filled with scorn and a dwindling hope.

Why? I was in Packers gear. My friend Andrew (the ticket man) lent me a Greg Jennings jersey, I had my own hat and that was that. On top of my many layers was the Packers jersey, and to everyone in the stadium, I slipped into that identity. Before you scream "traitor! bandwagon jumper!"- I've been supporting the Pack as part of a three part friend group for four years now, a Packers fan had given me these awesome tickets, I loathe the Bears, and going to football games is always more fun with a rooting interest. I was invested in the game, but obviously it was a little hollow for me in the end- Andrew's joy and elation were 100x more than mine, because HIS team was going to the Super Bowl, whereas a team I was supporting just won. Let me just say, if the Bills go to the Super Bowl, I will be 100x the asshole that Andrew was and celebrate LIKE A MADMAN. Anyway, back to the game, and away from my assumed fanhood.

When the second half began, and Jay Cutler had led another ineffective series (not out yet), the Packers took over again, looking to put the game away. They got to the red zone, and Urlacher made a great interception and nearly returned it all the way. Rodgers, though, had gotten in his way. But the crowd had been momentarily revitalized, until, well, the new QB came out. When Todd Collins came into the game, it was surreal. No one in the stands knew Cutler was injured. Questions ranged from whether Cutler had been benched, or injured, or what the hell Lovie Smith was doing. A eight year old fan screamed "PUT CUTLER BACK IN, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" after every play, just to ram the point back in. But I think that's when the Bears fans really knew it was over. Todd Collins is terrible. He's so bad that he couldn't land the Bills job...16 years ago. He is a hopesucker. When Lovie Smith finally put Caleb Hanie in, the fans were relieved, and cheered for him like he was a little kid playing in a park flag football game. "C'mon Caleb! We believe in you!"

For a short, glorious time, Caleb answered the prayers of Chicago fans by leading a scoring drive. But everyone was reminded of his 3rd String QB status by throwing the deciding pick six backed up in his own territory. Even with another scoring drive (where the Packers Defense just decided to not give up the big play), and the possibility that the Bears could tie the game late, the fans were fatalist, reserved, and scared-not loud and into it. They had been taken out a long time ago by the first drive, were driven into the ground by Todd Collins coming in, and only had flashes of recovery. They mirrored the team itself.

And, as for this whole Jay Cutler business. Yes, we will never know how bad his knee felt. But you have to question his passion when he sits on the sideline moping and doesn't appear to be making any efforts to come back, along with the fact that other QBs have played less meaningful games (or, in the case of Philip Rivers, games of the same magnitude) with similar injuries. What has really killed Cutler, though, is his public image. He is seen as a moper and crybaby, and so coming out of the game fed into that perception. If he was more popular in Chicago, things never would've escalated this far. It'll be interesting to see how he is treated next year and if he attempts to fix his image. Right now, the implication behind his action is that he quit. And Chicago can't handle that.

Also, I have a twitter now. Most of my posts are in jokes with friends, but I'll post about sports too. Follow me, and hear all my twats (tweets intended to be obnoxious, sometimes just because you're tweeting a lot). I'm @supercursed, ya dig?

Friday, January 21, 2011

NFL Conference Championship Picks....I'M GOING TO BE THERE!!!

Sorry for the obnoxious giddiness in the title, but, yeah, I was hooked up with tickets to Bears-Packers. Even though its going to be like 0 degrees, I am so excited. This is the biggest game to hit Chicago since 1985, when they had that dominant team that the fans can never shut up about. Sure, Packers-Bears hasn't always been a great rivalry playing-wise, but there is true animosity between fans (well, as much animosity as Wisconsinites can muster), a win by either team in the regular season is enough to save a sub .500 season, and, when hired, Lovie Smith said his first priority as coach was to beat the Packers. Before he said anything about the Super Bowl. So yeah, it's kinda a big deal. So, bundle up (like I will be) and lets get down to business here. Picks. In addition to the game I'm going to, there's another great game, with Pittsburgh facing off against the Jets (who I continue to loathe). Last week I went 2 and 2- completely botched the Seahawks pick, and never saw the Jets coming- but did nail the Packers and Steelers. That brings me to 5-3 this postseason. Decent.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Chicago

Hoo boy, its gonna be a good one. As stated before, there is just a little bit of animosity between these two teams, and now they play for a trip to the Super Bowl. I've been railing against the Bears all season, questioning their strength of schedule (sometimes they'd play good teams who had injured key players) and general talent. Last week, they took down the Seahawks. Well, great. The Seahawks played one good game and then returned to their real selves- a decent to bad football team. The Bears have gotten by against weaker opponents, especially as of late (only exceptions: wins against Jets and Eagles. But even those weren't "showcase" games. The Bears let the other team beat themselves). I'll continue to rail against them here. The Packers are en fuego. Aaron Rodgers seems unstoppable at this point, and the offense has discovered a running game. The defense is just as ferocious as the Bears and has a knack for big plays. The Bears offense, meanwhile, is always a little bit of a question mark. They have established a solid running game with Matt Forte, but taking away that option might force the game onto Cutler's shoulders. And I don't trust him one bit. He's thrown less interceptions, but not for lack of trying. He has to be due. With all that mind, I'll take the Packers to win, but the Bears to cover. The defense can keep them in the game, but I think Rodgers is just too much right now. And yes, I might curse the whole Packers franchise by showing up to the game and rooting for them. So be wary of this pick.

NY Jets at Pittsburgh (-3.5)

Ahh, how I loathe the Jets. Even if they backed up their talk with a convincing victory over the seemingly invincible Patriots, their celebrations as the game ended and their bravado really just rubbed me the wrong way. I find them to be assholes. And all their fans too. So I really, really cannot see myself enjoying the Super Bowl if they are in it (or, gasp, even worse IF THEY WIN IT WE WILL NEVER HEAR THE END). Thank goodness then that they now travel to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stumbled out of the gates against the Ravens but capitalized on the Raven's mistakes in the second half, and made some key plays down the stretch to take the game. Ben Roethlisberger has shown that despite his off the field problems, you have to respect him as a true big game QB. Like, really clutch. The offense, which has deep threats (unlike the Patriots) should be able to get enough points to win. Here's the part that really counts though; the Steelers have a historically good run defense. Mark Sanchez usually starts the game by relying on his running game and making easy throws to boost his confidence. But he can't do that here. The Steelers should be able to neutralize the Jets running game and force Mark Sanchez to take over. He's been good in spots, but I don't trust him to really make plays and PUT THE TEAM ON HIS BACK. So, Steelers win and cover, and we don't have the horrible combination of the Jets trash talk, along with the horrible NY media.

Friday, January 14, 2011

NFL Divisional Round Picks

After a brief brush my with own mortality (I did say I would lose my faith in humanity if the Seahawks won), I'm back to making NFL Picks. I actually went 3-1 last week, so it turned out ok! The Divisional Round is looking good. I'm very interested in 3 of the 4 matchups, and one of them has some potential (Bears-Seahawks). Here we go.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-3)

This is the nastiest rivalry in football, and the playoffs merely serves as a background for the pure hate these two teams have for one another. Let me remind everyone: Ben Roethlisberger had his nose BROKEN last time these two teams played. As for a pick, I find it hard to differentiate. Both teams have great defenses and play a pretty conservative, boring offense. I think Ben Roethlisberger is a better quarterback than Joe Flacco, especially in the playoffs, and his connection with Mike Wallace makes the Steelers offense more dangerous. The Ravens have a weakness at DB; look for the Steelers to exploit it. Steelers win, but don't cover. The Ravens will be too fired up to let it be anything but close.

Green Bay at Atlanta (-1.5)
Another great matchup. These teams already played a close game, with Atlanta winning 20-17 on a last second field goal. Everyone talks about how bland the Falcons are; and I have to agree. The defense is nothing special, and the offense is built on Michael Turner getting 3 yards on first and second down, setting up short third downs. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the Packers are made to stop this team; they can shut down the run and put Charles Woodson on Roddy White, forcing Matt Ryan to look at the rest of his shallow receiving corps. In my mind, the Packers should be able to do this and also put up points behind their offense that now may have a semblance of a running game. Packers win outright.

Seattle at Chicago (-10)

I'm going to be honest. I have no way to break down this game rationally. But I think the Seahawks are going to win again. People in Chicago are already looking ahead to a possible Bears-Packers game next week. Their hearts aren't in it. This Seahawks team has literally nothing to lose at this point. The Bears have the expectations of a city on their back. Their luck has been too good for too long. It has to run out. Cutler and Lovie Smith are due to be their true selves. The Seahawks will win outright.

Gulp. It's just a gut feeling, and I could look like an idiot after this. But I just feel like it's gonna happen. Or, possibly, it's my hope that every Bears fan will shut up. My god it is terrible in this town.

NY Jets at New England (-8)

I'm sorry, but when did it become acceptable to trash talk a team after they beat you 45-3? Sure, the Jets did beat them this week 2. In the domain of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, the Patriots absolutely destroyed the Jets last time they played. It was one of the few times the Jets were shut up. But then after the Colts game they went and yapped again. Yes, please, give the Patriots more motivation. That's a great idea. With that in mind, I say the Patriots win and cover. The Jets dug their own grave here.

In related news, Wes Welker's press conference, where he brought up "feet" or "staying on our toes" A TON, was awesome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

National Championship Live Blog

Here we go for my first live blog experience. Hope this works out well. I've got Duck Fever right now, but I'm also interested in seeing Cam Newton, seeing as he has been linked to the Bills as a potential QB of the future. Love the Ducks though. Fun, videogame offense that blows you away. All times Central Time (Chi City!)

7:21- Moment of silence for the Arizona tragedy. Weird to be playing so soon after. Glad we can forget it, for just a bit, to watch some good football.

7:25- Urban Meyer said he wanted more time with his family, and that's why he left Florida. But now he's an analyst? I don't quite get it...

7:32-Gotta love the Ducks Day Glo socks. Just by uniforms, you can see that it's a old school vs. new school deal. Has anyone noticed that Nike makes sweet uniforms for Oregon, but screws up pretty much everyone else's? Ohio States alternates against Michigan were terrible; ditto for a lot of other teams. Also glad to hear Brent Musberger in the booth tonight. When he's announcing, you know it's going to be fun. Some of the sentences he string together are hilarious.

7:34- Oh, it's the BCS National Championship Trophy! It's football? Snooze. I'm waiting for someone to drop it. Highlights of Nick Fairley now playing- another intriguing choice for the Bills with their high draft pick. Brent Musberger just said "youngsters", and I got a shiver. No one else can pull it off.

7:36- Oregon chooses to receive after winning the coin flip. Here come the cue cards, the hand signals, and the crazy, fast paced offense.

7:39- It's pretty loud in the University of Phoenix Stadium. Musberger plays it perfectly by not saying anything and letting the crowd noise speak for itself as Auburn kicks off. The stadium's become a big game stadium on the basis of its' UFO looks and sheer size.

7:43- Ill advised pitch by Darron Thomas on the option on second down. Herbstreit says its a completely new look for the Ducks, which shows the sheer complexity of their offense. A lot of motioning out LaMichael James in the first series leads to a three and out for Oregon. Both teams are better second half teams, so it might be expected. Here comes Cam Newton.

7:45- Big run to start the day for the Tigers. They might try to just beat down the undersized Ducks defense. Ducks get some pressure on the next 2nd down, and force a fumble. 3rd and Long, Newton shows some nice touch on the deep ball down the sideline, but the receiver can't bring it in. Auburn Three and Out to start.

7:52- LaMichael James is pretty fast. Takes a screen pass for a first down, Oregon's first. Oregon's gone short on every throw this game. Don't know if they're not trying deep, or if Auburn's not allowing it. What I do know is that the option is not working for Oregon right now. Oregon tries a short out on third down, ball tips off the receivers hands, and it's picked off. Not the way the Ducks were looking to start.

7:56- Do we really need a blimp to show us the outside of the stadium? Anyway, Newton and the Auburn offense come back on, and an initial Newton run is stymied. Newton then throws a pick STRAIGHT to the Ducks. He really missed on that throw. Poor decision, because the receiver was double covered.

8:00- Weird how everyone on Oregon stares over at the sideline, almost programmed like robots. Oregon's got another first down, and starting to put together something of a drive. Option is still not working.

8:02- Oregon gets into the redzone with another short pass. I'm interested to see when they'll try anything deeper, or if they'll keep dinking and dunking for first downs. Aaaaaand Thomas throws another pick under pressure from Nick Fairley. There goes the drive.

8:04- Now Auburn's starting to put it together on offense. Newton looks more comfortable on rollouts. Oregon defense looks REALLY quick, ad are getting constant pressure in the backfield. Punt for Auburn.

8:10- Oregon gets two first downs, on one LaMichael James run, and another short pass and run. Will they ever take a shot? Barner is providing a valuable service for the Ducks, giving them another good running back. Oregon just got Auburn caught on a too many men on the field call based on how fast they were going. Another first down, and the Ducks move closer to the end zone- already near the ten.

8:12- Oregon's end around fools no one, and the Ducks move 4 yards back. Thomas ends the first quarter with a 12 yard pass, getting then within the five and close to another first down, if necessary. That's probably the longest pass Oregon's had all day.

8:16- Huge stop by Fairley on a key third down in the red zone, and a misread by Darron Thomas on the play. Ducks settle for a field goal.

8:22- Auburn hits another first down on a rollout by Newton. I sense a trend here... Also, the run game is really working for the Tigers. Musberger is calling every screen "basically a run play". You go, Brent. Now the Auburn offense seems to have some rhythm.

8:28- Cam Newton pulls off a beautiful play action pump fake, then hits a deep post to Cody Burns for a Touchdown. Maybe the offenses have loosened up a little bit?

8:31- Yep, they have. Oregon finally went deep, and Darron Thomas hits Maehl for a huge play, going from in their own endzone into the redzone.

8:35- Oregon "baits the trap beautifully" (thanks Brent) and sets up a short touchdown throw to LaMichael James. Oregon then goes for two on a fake field goal! WOAH! Anything for a spark, I guess. A kicker option? That's wacky. I love it.

8:43- Now Auburn has their own nice drive in response, all the way to the redzone. Newton's getting into a nice tempo.

8:49- Auburn foolishly goes for it on 4th down and goal, and Newton misses a wide open throw in the endzone, leaving it too low. Auburn fans have to be hoping that one doesn't come back to haunt them.

8:52- Dinner break, for anyone reading. Doubtful.

9:16-Spaghetti was tasty. Anyway, Auburn looked decidedly smart when they caused a safety on the next play. On the ensuing drive, they ran the ball effectively and then duped Oregon on a long pass play for another touchdown. Momentum shifted, 16-11 Auburn at half.

9:40- Auburn's first possession has them moving the ball easily. They can run for short and medium gains, pass for first downs, and then take shots downfield. They're back in the redzone.

9:42- Auburn wastes their chance, and settles for a field goal. Oregon's offense MUST respond with some points.

9:52- A disjointed drive by Oregon is effectively ended by a holding penalty which Oregon can't recover from. Their deep routes have been blanketed. They punt, and now need a stop to stay in this game. It's slipping.

9:57- Key play, as Newton overthrows a wide open receiver deep on a key third down. Oregon got the stop they needed; now it's up to the offense to make something happen. A huge missed chance for Auburn to really ice this game.

10:03- FAKE PUNT! Now that's a momentum shifter for the Ducks after another drive had seemingly stalled. With their first play, Oregon goes deep and the receiver makes a beautiful grab to get the Ducks into First and Goal. The run game has been weak in the red zone, and it continues on first, second, and third down. Nick Fairley makes a beautiful play to stop Barnley on third down. Oregon controversially goes for it on fourth down and is stuffed once again. Dad is really questioning the decision, but I think if the Ducks can get a stop, they're still in it, so why not? They need all the momentum they can get. Interesting to see if that comes back to bite them.

10:17- As the fourth quarter starts, Auburn has control of the game, with Oregon desperately leaning on their defense to make another stop.

10:22- A blitz on third down works for Oregon, and leads to a hurried incomplete pass for Newton. Oregon's getting the ball back.

10:27- Huge 3rd down conversion by Oregon. Let's see if they can build on this for a scoring drive.

10:30- And the drive stalls on a broken pass play. This game has been mostly Auburn, but they need something to really ice this game. The longer Oregon hangs around, you have to believe they'll wake up.

10:41- Oregon holds once again, but looked weaker against Auburn's offense. Another chance for the Oregon offense, and now they really need some magic.

10:47- Another Oregon offense stalled, as Auburn once again gets deep penetration into the Oregon backfield. Another punt, and now Auburn just needs some first downs to win it.

10:50- Woah! Huge forced fumble by the Oregon defense (punch out by Matthews), and they pick it up. Oregon's offense needs to pick up the slack here. They just barely avoided an interception.

10:53- HUGE fourth down conversion by Oregon that puts them into the redzone. Auburn brought the house and Thomas calmly, quickly got the ball out to his hot read for a big gain. Here they come for points.

10:56- Oregon is clinging to running between the tackles, and it's just not working. They now face a crucial 3rd and 1, and had to burn a critical timeout to figure out what they wanted. Chip Kelly isn't showing his offensive genius card tonight.

10:57- A fake option turned shovel pass leads to a Oregon touchdown to at least bring them within a field goal.Two point conversion to come.

10:58- Got it!!! Off a bad snap Darron Thomas flings it to Maehl who comes down with it! Now Cam Newton gets his chance to make some magic. Is this a Heisman defining moment (after the fact)?

11:03- Dyer gets a 37 yard run to get Auburn into at least field goal range, off a tackle that never got him to the ground. Oregon needs a stop just to get the ball back after a field goal; Auburn's kicker is money. Bad news for the Ducks. Not sure if I love that "not down" rule. He was tackled, but because his knee doesn't touch, he's still live. The players stop and he's able to get a cheap gain out of it.

11:06- Dyer down at the 1 yard line, or in the end zone. Either way, Auburn's in the drivers seat. This time, Oregon couldn't quite stop them.

11:12- And with that gimme kick, the game is over. Oregon was never able to get it going, and a failed fourth and goal conversion likely cost them the game. Auburn was able to capitalize when it mattered with an effective running game. Final analysis: it wasn't the offensive shootout we expected. It was exciting at some parts, but both offenses were hardly the well oiled machines they were throughout the season. Credit to the defense and the huge layoff that both teams got. Cam Newton showed himself to be merely decent, in my opinion-plenty of overthrows- and Nick Fairley was the star of the show, earning him a spot near the top of the draft. He'd look great in a Bills uniform. Yep, that's what it comes back to. The NFL. Can't wait for the playoffs this weekend.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cubs deal for an ace; NFL Wildcard Picks

Finally, after speculation began at the Winter meetings, the Cubs dealt for Matt Garza, trading away a bunch of prospects who I didn't know existed (which is good, because if I did, they'd probably have a ton of potential. But I suppose I could've said the same thing about the Lou Brock trade way back when, if I was alive. Apparently, the shortstop they traded was a top prospect, but we have Starlin Castro, so...

Anyway.) With this trade, the Cubs acquired a solid pitcher the staff, one that we desperately needed, and who could be an ace of the staff. Let's look at his stats last year, shall we?

32 starts, 15 wins, 10 losses, 3.91 ERA, 150 SO, 1.25 WHIP

In the AL East, playing against a great division along with the requisite games against the AL, which is a lot better than the NL talent wise. Those are good numbers. Now he's in the NL Central- a weak division- and gets to play all those lesser quality NL teams. This is a move the Cubs needed to make to even stay relevant in the division. They got their ace (or a quality 2nd or 3rd starter, depending on how you feel), responding to Milwaukee's acquisition of Zach Grienke (who's better, but still, it's a step). Pitching was a major need, and their staff was unquestionably improved by this deal.

That's your hot stove news. Onto some Playoff Football. Glorious. Saturday and Sunday's like a dream come true.

Saints (-10.5) at Seahawks

Guh, the Seahawks are in the playoffs after "winning" the NFC West after "winning" against the St.Louis Rams in a terrible game. Now they enter the playoffs under .500 facing off against the defending Super Bowl Champions. It doesn't take much to see that Seattle won't last long in the playoffs; they are pretty terrible on both sides of the ball. The Saints may not have a running game, but the Saints should be able to pass the ball effectively enough and also should be able to blitz/terrify the bajeezus out of Matt Hasselback and the anemic Seattle offense. Saints win and cover. Yes, on the road. Seattle is that bad. If the Saints lose this, then...I don't even know. My faith in humanity might be lost.

Jets at Colts (-3)

Along with Packers-Eagles, this is the hardest one to pick. The Jets have played up and down all year, and are liable to lay an egg at any moment. The Colts have been similarly inconsistent, are dragging an injured team into the playoffs, and don't have the same efficiency we've seen out of them in years past. I'm tempted to go with the Colts (out of sheer Jets hate), but I know the Jets are going to be psyched up for this game after the Colts beat them last year. It's tough to say this, but I think the Jets win outright.

Ravens (-3) at Chiefs

The Chiefs benefited from an easy schedule and a weak division (which they only went 2-4 against) in order to succeed this year. They have a good run game and a decent defense, but the rest is nothing special. Last week, they were playing the Raiders for seedings and got blown out. The Ravens were also playing for seeding and won an ugly game. Even at their worst, the Ravens were able to grind out a win in their trademark boring fashion. With that in mind, I'll take the Ravens to win and cover. They have more talent than the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs are good enough to beat the bad and mediocre teams, but now they face a solid team, and that will be a bit too much for them, unless the Ravens literally bungle the game away.

Packers at Eagles (-3)

This looks to be the best game of the weekend, and also the hardest to figure. Both teams have explosive (at times) offenses, turnover oriented defenses that blitz A LOT, and hilariously terrible coaches, when it comes to clock management. The Eagles, though, have slowed down lately, seeming to struggle in the cold weather. The Packers have been on a roll lately, and their ferocious defense, I think, can contain Mike Vick. Both teams will put up points, but I have more faith that the Packers can get that one stop. So, Packers win but don't cover. Hope the sparks fly in this one.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Week 17 NFL Picks, and the Best and Worst of NYD Sports

It's 2011 everybody! Count how many times someone says to you, "It's 2011! Can you believe it?" Yes, I can. It's a novel concept, people. Sure, it went by fast, but yeah, it's 2011. And on that note, let's talk about New Year's Day. An underrated sports day. Tons of bowl games, and now the Winter Classic. The rundown- what was good and what was bad:

-Great: The Rose Bowl. TCU proved, definitively, that non AQs belong in the conversation for national championships. Despite the fact that they've already won about 5 out of 6 of the last BCS bowls they were in, there was still some doubt heading in. TCU was able to get the offense they needed (especially on third and long) and was able to stop Wisconsin's offense- even though Wisconsin abandoned their run game, which was ripping up the TCU defense when they tried. Wisconsin had a chance at the end, but, once again, abandoned the run and had their two point conversion fail on a batted pass. Either way, TCU showed they were to be reckoned with. Also, it was a pretty good football game. Unfortunately, it means nothing more than...they won the Rose Bowl.

-Good: The Winter Classic. Love hockey, love it outdoors, love it on new years day. Old uniforms, and fluky play. Watch it and love it. In non outdoor hockey news, the Sabres beat the Bruins in a shootout off a sick Tyler Ennis deke.

-The Worst: The Fiesta Bowl. This is the worst of the BCS. It sets up a terrible matchup and makes it a zero sum game. No one enjoys this. All Oklahoma gets is some hats that say they won the Fiesta Bowl! But wait...who cares. What would be nice is if this was a first round playoff matchup... one can only dream.

Onto week 17, the flukiest of the season. Picks! Good thing I haven't been keeping track of my picks. It's a new year though! It's 2011 man!

Oakland at Kansas City (-3.5)

Kansas City is in the playoffs, but does have seeding to play for (3rd or 4th seed-and 3rd is an easier route-avoid the Patriots). They also have a fierce rivalry with the Raiders, who are just playing for pride. It's a game that means something to both sides, and the Chiefs superior talent and run game should be enough to get by the cagey Raiders. Chiefs win and cover.

Miami at New England (-5.5)

Not sure if New England is going to play their starters for the whole game (especially since Wes Welker was injured last year in the final game before the playoffs), so I can't say with full certainty that they should roll over the Dolphins. They're only playing for Tony that really so motivational? I'll take the Patriots to win, but the Dolphins will cover, because of the Patriots subs.

Tennessee at Indianapolis (-9.5)

Indy is playing for the playoffs, so I can't see them losing this game. But the Titans played the Colts close last time, and they'll do it again this time. It's a stats cushion game for Chris Johnson- Indy wins, Titans cover.

Jacksonville at Houston (-3)

It's TRENT EDWARDS time! And the playoffs are on the line! It's the perfect storm of crappiness for the Jaguars, as Maurice Jones Drew is also out-just when they need him most. I've seen Trent Edwards more than any other person, probably, so I know this won't be pretty. But he is playing against the terrible Houston secondary, which made Tim Tebow look good. Still, without Mojo D, I can't see the Jags winning. Houston wins, Jags cover. Unless the Trent Edwards era has BEGUN!!

Pittsburgh (-5.5) at Cleveland

Pittsburgh, fighting for the number 2 seed and a first round bye. Tough to see them letting this one slip, especially with that defense against the Browns offense. Steelers win and cover.

Cincinnati at Baltimore(-9.5)

Same deal- Baltimore wants a first round bye as well. Cinci's offense shouldn't be able to dent the Ravens defense. Baltimore wins and covers.

Minnesota at Detroit (-3.5)

The battle for the NFC North cellar! Despite Minnesota's pluckiness last week, I don't see it lasting. The Lions are on a bit of a roll right now (by their standards, anyway), and I see them winning and covering. The Vikings train wreck season needs to end right. Baby steps for the Lions, right out of the cellar.

NY Giants (-4) at Washington

This is the Giants playing for just a shot at the playoffs. If they drop this, against the Redskins, they really were shaken by their breakdown against the Eagles. I can't see it happening, because the Redskins are just that bad. Giants win and cover, but it won't matter in the end. Because...

Chicago at Green Bay (-9.5)

Chicago already has a first round bye and needs a lot of help for a first round bye, which I doubt they'll get. So, they'll be resting some people, especially if they see the Falcons beating up the Panthers on the scoreboard. They won't lay down too easily for their fierce rivals, though. The Packers are in a win and in situation, and are playing en fuego lately. I expect them to win, but the Bears will cover, for pride's sake.

Dallas at Philadelphia (-3)

Backups for the Eagles! Kevin Kolb will sling out there, Dallas won't be able to stop it. Eagles win and cover, because they have a potential starter as a backup QB.

Buffalo at NY Jets (-1.5)

Jets are locked into the 5th spot, so the starters will be playing lightly. This would be good for the Bills, but Brian Brohm is playing instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brohm is an unknown quantity at QB besides one start last year (in which he was terrible). I can't fully back the Bills here; too many injuries, and not sure they'll be able to move the ball. Jets win, Bills cover? If the Bills lose, they are in the top 5 for the draft-perhaps Ralph Wilson won't allow them to lose, so he can save some money.

Carolina at Atlanta (-14)

Atlanta's playing for a number one seed. So yeah, this shouldn't be close. Bye John Fox! The Panthers will really miss you. They might be able to drown their sorrows in Andrew Luck...unless he doesn't come out this year (unbridled joy that at least the Bills won't be close to getting him, at least this year!)

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-7)

New Orleans is also playing for a number one seed, albeit needing some help. If they see Carolina winning big, they'll probably rest their starters. The Bucs are playing for the playoffs too, so it won't be easy for the Saints. So, with not much certainty I can say, Saints win, Bucs cover.

Arizona at San Francisco (-6)

This abortion of a game has to exist? Yeeeeuch. San Francisco wins and covers? I wouldn't touch this game with any ridiculously lengthy object.

San Diego (-3.5) at Denver

San Diego can pretty much mail this one in, which seems like what they've been doing all season. Tim Tebow gets his chance to prove he can play against a real defense. And you know what, I think he'll do it. Football needs a new self righteous player that many will openly loathe despite his talent. It was Favre; now it's Tebow. Broncos win, Chargers cover.

St.Louis (-3) at Seattle

Seattle has no advantage besides their crowd at this playoff game (who gets to host a playoff game and lose in the first round!), which, according to a local poll, Seattle fans want them to lose. St.Louis is playing NFC West inspired football, which means good enough to stay in it against some good teams, and good enough to beat the bad teams. St. Louis should beat this bad team and punch their ticket to the playoffs, which is pretty amazing because they had the #1 draft pick THIS YEAR. Rams win and cover.