Previewing The New Years Six, Part 1

The most exciting 36 hours of football every year from now on is upon us.  Six games.  36 hours.  Over New Years Eve and New Years Day.  What more could you ask for?  This is great!  Two of these games will determine who plays for the National Championship!  The other four are for bragging rights and the history books!  They’re all great teams!  It’s going to be incredible!

This is by far the summary of it all.  I love that commercial.  it just shows you how awesome it will be.

And yet, for the inaugural New Years Six, I’m going to be in Chicago.  For the first time.  So, I’m going to catch as much of it as I can.  I will, no matter what, see the playoff games.  Those truly count.

As for the other games, they are all great matchups.  Let’s start with the non-playoff schedule:

Peach Bowl: No.9 Ole Miss vs. No.6 TCU, New Years Eve, 12:30 PM EST

A great offense and a great defense clash in this one.  The Horned Frogs have been dominate all season with the ball, putting up 46.8 points a game.  They average 542 yards a game, which is incredible.  They run a very balanced offense too.  TCU throws for 332 yards game, with the 209 coming from the run.  Their quarterback, Trevone Boykin, was a dis-regarded Heisman candidate.  He’s been amazing, and has carried this team all season.  He, along with their coach Gary Patterson, is the MVP of this squad.

Both defenses are very good, but one catapults the other.  Ole Miss only allows 13.8 point a game!  That’s not even two touchdowns!  This defense is up there with Alabama and Clemson.  The points per game is the highlight of it.  They aren’t shut down when it comes to defense of run and pass.  You can gain the chunk yards on them, but they won’t give up points.

This, is the real matchup of this game.  Can TCU score on Ole Miss’ defense?  If they can, can Ole Miss keep up?

That’s the question.  The Rebels have Bo Wallace, who I have defended this year.  He is the ultimate up&down QB.  He is incredibly frustrating, but yet can win games when you need him too.  It’s depends on the situation, and the game he’s having.  You get one of two things: Bad Bo or Good Bo.  Trust me, it’s a thing.  We’ve seen both this year.  Wallace will make plays.  He will find his receivers and give them the ball.  However, his decision making is sometime very questionable.  That’s what gets him in trouble.  There is no way to predict what you get.  He’s very sketchy.  On the good side of, you love him.  On the bad side, you dread him.

I believe that TCU is going to score on Ole Miss.  The Rebels front seven is where they shine.  If TCU can get past the linebackers and score, they have to make the Rebels answer back.  That’s the key.  TCU has a stout defense itself.  Force Bo Wallace to make bad throws and you win.  Prediction: TCU-52 Ole Miss-38

Fiesta Bowl: No.10 Arizona vs. No.20 Boise State, New Years Eve, 4:30 PM EST

(Homerism possible, big-time)

I’m over the PAC-12 Championship Game.  I’ve realized that Oregon is just better.  They have the best player in the country.  They, well, I’ll get to it later.

Anyways, we deserved a New Years Six Bowl.  I like this game. Why?  Because I know we’ll win. Oops.

I shouldn’t say that.  Boise State is the best team no one knows about.  They are really good.  Statistically, they’re better than Arizona, overall.  However, they don’t get the respect.  Whether they deserve that or not, it’s your call.  Boise State isn’t used to competition like this.

Boise State runs a very balanced offense.  They pass just a little bit more than they run.  Overall, their offense is very powerful, just like Arizona.  They can score in an instant.  That’s what makes them scary.  It’s what makes Arizona scary to them.  That’s why this game will be a shootout.

The Broncos defense is also much better than Arizona’s.  They’re an outstanding run defense team, only allowing 141 yards a game.  Against the Wildcats, they will need that to show up.  Arizona runs powerfully.  They ground n’ pound, but when they need to, they go to the air.

That’s where, as a Wildcat fan, you get scared.  Just a teensy bit.  Anu Solomon has some great skills, I’ll admit that.  However, he’s erratic.  He is sometimes, out of control.  Solomon has a big arm, but has major accuracy issues, which leads to bad turnovers.  He’s made some awful throws this season, but yet, has thrown for a ton of yards.

It’s confusing.  It’s also frustrating.  Yet at the same, Arizona had a great season.  They lost two games.  I’m happy.  I just hope that, we can finish it with a bang.  Playing a team that I don’t know a whole lot about scares me.  It’s bit me before.

Boise State can pull this thing off.  If they score, which they are capable of, and can hold Arizona to minimal points, they can win.  You can’t be aggressive with Arizona.  They will take advantage of you.  Boise State has to be careful with their defensive schemes.  Firing a cannon is something the Wildcats like to do, and if Boise State can do it too, then this game is anyone’s guess.  Prediction: Arizona-40 Boise State-34

Orange Bowl: No.7 Mississippi State vs. No.12 Georgia Tech, New Years Eve, 8:00 PM EST

Besides the playoffs, this might be the game I’m most excited for.  Both of these teams have good defenses.  The stats may show otherwise, but matchups are key in these bowl games.

Let’s just say, Georgia Tech runs the ball, and that’s it.  They average 333.6 yards rushing a game.  A game.  The Yellow Jackets don’t throw the ball hardly at all, averaging just over 135 yards a game.  With the insane rushing attack, Georgia Tech puts up 37 points a game.

Funny thing, because the Bulldogs do the same thing.  They average 37 points a game too.  Their offense, however, is a lot more balanced.  Quarterback Dak Prescott was a Heisman candidate all year long.  His big arm allows him to get it down-field, while his body and mobility allow him to run.  Did I mention he’s 6’2, 230 pounds?  At that size, the mobility is very impressive.  It gives him the advantage to get away, yet shed tackles.

Throwing is only part of what the Bulldogs do.  Averaging 266 yards through the air, Mississippi State runs the ball for 239 yards a game.  How much more can you ask for?  They’re overwhelming.  They put up the points too.  It’s why they were the No.1 team in the Nation for part of the year.

Offense is really what matters here.  Both teams play good defense when it comes to stops.  Big plays is what these defenses will have to defend.  It’s something they’ve struggled with all year.  This game has a possibility to be a shootout.  That’s been a common trend with these first three bowl games.

I like Mississippi State.  Though Georgia Tech’s offense is unique, I don’t see them keeping up with the Bulldogs.  They can overwhelm you fast.  Dak Prescott has been incredible all year.  He’s going to have a huge game, and that will be the difference.  Prediction: Mississippi State-32 Georgia Tech-17

Part 2 will be coming tomorrow, previewing the Cotton Bowl and the playoff games.  Again, I will see as much as I can today.  Have fun and happy New Year.

NFL Week 17 Roundup+Black Monday

The regular season is over, and next week, the road to the Super Bowl starts.  It’s finally here.  Every playoff spot is clinched.  The seedings are lined up.  Times have been set for next weekend.  It’s playoff time.

In this column, I’m not going to wrap up any games.  I hated doing that.  It was so boring.  Next season, the format will be different.  In this column, I will talk about the playoff seeds, next weekend’s games, and the infamous Black Monday.

Playoff Seeds:

NFC:

No.1 Seattle

No.2 Green Bay

No.3 Dallas

No.4 Carolina

No.5 Arizona

No.6 Detroit

Remember when the Cardinals had a three game NFC West lead?  Remember when the Seahawks were 3-3, and we freaked out?  Heck, we weren’t even sure they were going to make the playoffs!  And now, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle.  Have fun with that, everyone in the NFC.

In a thrilling game, Green Bay beat Detroit 30-20 to win the NFC North Sunday.  Even with a calf injury, Aaron Rodgers had a phenomenal game, leading his team to a victory.  The Packers earned a 1st round bye, which will help heal Rodgers’ calf.  However, the No.1 seed wasn’t in their reach, and we know how dominate the Packers are at Lambeau Field.  The bye helps, but Green Bay will have a tough opponent in their first playoff game, who ever that may be.

Through all the adversity, the Dallas Cowboys defined the odds, and really embarrassed me (I had them 5-11 this season).  Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray had fabulous seasons, and the defense was exceptionally better than we expected.  An injury to the Eagles’ Nick Foles gave them some help, but overall, the Cowboys won their division, and will face Detroit next week.  Talk about big-time receivers in that one.

(Do I really have to talk about the Panthers?)

Anyways, in brutal fashion, the Panthers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-3 in Sunday’s NFC South title game.  That’s a division, that didn’t even deserve a title game.  This division was just a dumpster fire all year.  Out of anyone, who expected the Panthers to win it?   A cap-strapped team who had no wide receivers, a constantly banged up QB, and a defense THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO GOOD, BUT THEN DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ALL SEASON.

I took the Panthers defense in fantasy football, and somehow still went 8-2 with them before I switched to the Packers defense.  UPDATE:  I lost in my championship game this past weekend.  I got killed.   So much for my 12-2 season.

Anyways, the Panthers were the last team we would’ve thought to win this division.  It’s a stink bomb.  I hope my Cardinals kill them next week.  They don’t deserve to be here.

And that leads to the Wild Card teams.  My Arizona Cardinals have gone through pure torture this year, and yet, we’re still in the playoffs.  Somehow, someway,  We’ve started three QB’s this year, due to injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.  Ryan Lindley has started two games.  You have no idea how miserable that has been.  Lindley is a QB, who ON THE SAME DRIVE, can look phenomenal, and horrible.  He’ll complete a deep pass play, and on the next play, throw it to the other team.  It’s terrifying.  As said above, the Cardinals have a matchup with the Panthers, who’s shouldn’t be here.  It’s easily the worst playoff game we’ve had in awhile, no matter who is playing QB for Arizona.

Then we get to the No.6 seed in the NFC: The Detroit Lions.

This team plays in a tough division.  A division that features one of the best QB’s in the league and a spoiler-like Vikings team.  The Lions have multiple offensive weapons, and can explode at any minute.  The Lions also have a very good defense, with a front seven that is unblockable. This coming weekend, we’ll have a shootout on our hands.

AFC:

No.1 New England

No.2 Denver

No.3 Pittsburgh

No.4 Indianapolis

No.5 Cincinnati

No.6 Ravens

I find it hilarious that both teams a top the conferences were teams that in Week 4 or so we thought were done.  Now, both of them, Seattle and New England, have home-field advantage in the playoffs.  Wait, who thought the Patriots were done?

Oh yea, that guy again.

Anyways, this Patriots team.  You know what?  They’re the New England Patriots.  They don’t lose.

No matter what issues they have, they will figure it out.  Tom Brady is having another great season, the defense has been much better, and….

GRONK
GRONK

He’s been healthy.  That’s the key.  New England’s offense isn’t the same without him.  He just may be the biggest offensive weapon there is.  There is no one like him.  That’s the key.  If he’s healthy, this team is really scary.

Right behind the Pats, lies the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos are another great team.  Their defense, like the Pats, has improved dramatically.  The offense is running the ball more and more behind C.J. Andersen, which has to be a little concerning due to the lack of passing.  Peyton Manning is great, but he just hasn’t looked himself.  He has been sick and has had a thigh injury, but the performance level just isn’t there.  The Broncos are lucky they got the No.2 seed, because Manning needs a break.

Last night, the Steelers beat the Bengals 27-17 in the AFC North title.  The win though, didn’t give Pittsburgh a bye, and now, they must play rival Baltimore in the AFC Wild Card Game.  That will be fun.  Ben Rothlisberger has been phenomenal this season.  He looks better than ever.  The Steelers defense has been okay throughout the year.  It’s the reason why they’ve been so hard to figure out.  The secondary is up&down.  They’ve had multiple injuries back there, but continue to preform well.  Again, next Sunday’s game is going to fun, and hard-fought.

Then we get to the surprise No.4 seed, the Indianapolis Colts.

This team is another confusing one.  They have Andrew Luck, who is a top five QB in this league, and is sure to be the best in these next coming years.  Truly, they have nothing around him.  T.Y. Hilton is the only option.  Reggie Wayne is facing retirement (IMO), and the Colts can’t run the ball.  Like they can’t, at all.  Trent Richardson is abysmal.  The Browns made a smart move there.  Also, this defense isn’t good.  The secondary is awful.  The front seven was harmed by Robert Mathis’ injury, leaving D’Qwell Jackson to lead them.    All n’ all, with all their problems, Andrew Luck is a postseason QB, or at least that’s where we’ve seen him shine.  If he can take over, watch out.

The Wild Cards in this conference are interesting this year.  Two teams who I had in playoffs at the beginning are from the the same division.  It’s the Bengals and the Ravens.

Both of these teams are very similar.  Baltimore has an offense that leans on the run, but can pass when needed.  However, passing always comes with risk.  Both teams have very good receivers, but are always hurt.  Both of these teams are always battling injuries, which leads to backups being forced in and not preforming.  The Bengals and Ravens have good defenses, with the Bengals secondary being a lot better than the Ravens.  The front sevens on both teams are very good, shutting down any team who runs the ball.

Next weeks’ AFC Wild Card Game between the Bengals and Colts should be fantastic.  Indy can’t run the ball, and going up against the Bengals’ incredible run defense won’t help them.  I expect lots of passing in that game.

As always, Baltimore and Pittsburgh will be great.  Expect low scoring and big hits in that one.

Next week:

Wild Card Weekend

AFC:

Baltimore-Pittsburgh, Saturday, 8:15 PM EST

Cincanatti-Indianapolis, Sunday, 1:05 PM EST

NFC:

Cardinals-Panthers, Saturday, 4:35 PM EST

Dallas-Detroit, Sunday, 4:40 PM EST

Black Monday:

This was a rough one, and I do expect more coaches and GM’s to get the boot.

Coaches fired: Rex Ryan, Mike Smith, Marc Trestman, Jim Harbaugh, Dennis Allen (earlier this season)

GM’s fired: Phil Emery (Bears), John Idzik (Jets)

Who should have been fired: Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons GM), Reggie McKenzie (Raiders GM)

Mike Smith’s and Marc Trestman’s firing was no question.  Trestman’s offense obviously quit working with this Bears team, and he couldn’t get Jay Cutler to stop being Jay Cutler.  It’s shame that with such a high powered offense, it wouldn’t come together.

As for Phil Emery’s firing, he’s the one who signed Jay Cutler to monster contract and put together this team.  It’s worked before.  It can work again.  However, they need new minds in the front office.  Get someone else to work with this squad.

Mike Smith firing wasn’t unexpected, though it may not be entirely his fault.  This Atlanta team had no offensive line or defense all together.  They couldn’t run the ball.  Atlanta has good QB and good wide receivers.  That’s it.  Smith didn’t have a lot to work with.  However, it’s not just that.  Smith’s decisions over the past couple years have been awful.  He has no common sense when it comes to clock management.  There was more problems than the team.  In my opinion, more of the blame should go on GM Thomas Dimitroff.  He built this team, and he hasn’t done a good job with it.  He is wasting Matt Ryan’s career.  It’s unfortunate, but true.  He has to go, and as of right now, that doesn’t look too likely.

Then we get to the Jets, who cleaned house by firing Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik.  Honestly, Rex Ryan should still be the head coach of the Jets.  Though he is mainly a defensive guy, he gets it.  He isn’t afraid to get into his players.  Really, he’s great, and the Jets made a mistake letting him go.  He will be coaching next season, whether it’s a head coaching gig or not.

One of the few moves I agree with this Monday was John Idzik getting let go.  He drafted Geno Smith, thinking that he was the future of this team.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Smith is a disaster.  This team has had issues at running back.  Smith can’t perform with talent, inspiring my theory.  That was the right move by the Jets.  Honestly, rebuilding isn’t the answer.  They’re closer than people think.  That’s why I believe firing Rex Ryan was the wrong move.

I’ve somewhat covered the Jim Harbaugh story already, but I want to get one thing out of the way.

I’ve heard and seen people put the headline up “DID THE 49ERS MAKE A MISTAKE BY FIRING JIM HARBAUGH?

WAIT, WHAT?

HOLD ON, THIS WAS A “MUTUAL PARTING OF WAYS”.  SAN FRANCISCO DID NOT FIRE HIM.  NOR DID HE LEAVE.

WOULD YOU TURN DOWN CLOSE TO $50 MILLION TO COACH A COLLEGE TEAM!?

Yea, (I’ll stop screaming now) I don’t think you would.  Yes, it sucks for the 49ers, but if he did stay, it sounds like the 49ers would have fired him anyways.

It means more for Michigan than it does San Francisco, but it does leave the 49ers with a vacancy.  They will get someone they like and who wants to be there.  Don’t worry to much.

As for the Raiders, well, they think they can still get Harbaugh, and one report said “They had their heart set on him.”  That just shows you who’s running that franchise.  Sorry to all my  friends who are Raiders fans, you don’t deserve this.

On to the Playoffs baby!!!!!

NFL Week 16 Roundup

Week 16 gave a couple teams playoff spots, which sets up an even more exciting Week 17.  We’re at the point, where it’s meaningful games, exciting games or nothing.  It’s all about what games have playoff implications.

Games not being written about: Jaguars vs. Titans, Packers vs. Buccaneers, Browns vs. Panthers,  Texans vs. Ravens, Lions vs. Bears, Patriots vs. Jets, Bills vs. Raiders, Giants vs. Rams, Colts vs. Cowboys, Seahawks vs. Cardinals

Washington-27 Philadelphia-24

The Redskins have been one of many spoiler type teams this season.  They’ve beat a couple of really good teams this year.

And Saturday (Yup, Saturday), they did it again.

The Redskins kicked an early field goal, going up 3-0.  Soon after, the Eagles responded with a LeSean McCoy TD run, capping a nice drive by Philadelphia.  McCoy had 88 yards on the night.

But don’t leave Alfred Morris out!  A short drive later, Morris was in the end zone on a 28 yard run, putting the Redskins up 10-7.  He’s had a nice season.  I believe he’s a great running back, and will only get better.  Morris finished with 83 yards and that TD.

The second quarter was quite dull.  The only score was a Riley Cooper TD catch from Mark Sanchez with 3:39 left.  I can’t believe how much the Eagles have trusted Sanchez.  He threw a football 50 times Saturday! 50!  He completed 37 of them, and threw for 374 yards, 2 TD’s and a interception.  The Eagles knew that this was a must-win.  They had to do all they could in this game.  The TD gave the Eagles a 14-10 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, it was all Washington.  Two Darrel Young (Yes, two!) running TD’s put the Redskins up 24-14 at the end of the quarter.  in addition to his two TD’s, Young had, well, two yards rushing.  Both TD’s were one yard rushes!  Those were his only carries of the game!

Philadelphia though, didn’t go away.  A TD with 10:27 left cut the lead to 24-21.  It was Mark Sanchez’s 2nd TD of the day, this one going to Riley Cooper, again.  Even with Cooper’s two TD’s, Zach Ertz lead the Eagles in receiving yards.

With 6:17 left, Cody Parker kicked a field goal to tie the game at 24.

Now this was RG3’s time to shine.  After being injured and benched this year, he started due to injuries to Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins.  His day was decent.  With a 76.2 QBR, he threw for 220 yards.  The main highlight was his sacks.  He was only sacked twice during the game, which is a dream compared to the rest of the season.  Whether it’s RG3 or the offensive line, it’s better than usual.

The Redskins got the ball with 1:31 left at their own 42, due to a Mark Sanchez interception.

So yea, I pretty much said a turnover would end up deciding this game.  And it did!

So RG3 made some big-time plays, and Kai Forbath kicked the game-winning with five seconds left.  The loss eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention, as the Cowboys on Sunday went on to destroy Indianapolis and win the NFC East.

Look, the Eagles beat my expectations after Nick Foles went down.  I can’t believe they hung in there.  It’s a disappointing end to the season.

San Diego-38 San Francisco-35

This just might be the game of the year.  Just maybe.

The 49ers came out of the gate on fire after blowing multiple games in a row, and really not playing good football.  Frank Gore had a 52 yard TD run early in the 1st quarter, putting the 49ers up 7-0 early.

In the second, Colin Kaepernick found Bruce Ellington in the end zone after a long drive.  The TD catch put the 49ers up 14-0, as San Diego couldn’t get going.  This was a must win for the Chargers.  A loss made it close to impossible they would make the playoffs.  It sure looked like their season was over before halftime.

Right after, the 49ers picked off Philip Rivers, and Antoine Bethea took it 49 yards into the end zone.  21-0 San Francisco.  Who saw this coming?  This team had been dead for the past three weeks.  Where was this coming from?

Really, San Diego’s defense is just bad.  Even with the result of this game, it’s really bad.  It’s not playoff worthy.

The Chargers finally scored with 5:09 left in the 2nd quarter.  An Eddie Royal TD catch cut the lead to 21-7, but the 49ers had to score one more time before half.  Just to embarrass the Chargers.

So that’s what they did!  Bruce Ellington, who’s turning into a speciality type guy, ran in a TD, making it 28-7 at halftime.  I was about ready to shut the game off.  The 1st half was laughable for the Chargers.  Philip Rivers was playing horribly.  San Diego couldn’t run the ball as usual.

But fear not!  Philip Rivers doesn’t care how he’s playing.  He’s going to try to get his team back in it.  And he did.  He got his stuff together in the 2nd half, and did just that.

A TD pass to Antonio Gates made it 28-14 with 5:49 left in the 3rd.  Gates had great day with seven catches for 92 yards and 2 TD’s.  He may be entering his final stages, so why not give him some action?

Right after, the Chargers sack/fumbled Colin Kaepernick in the red zone, and San Diego picked it up and took in.  One.  Possession. Game.  28-21.

San Francisco has been like Dallas this year.  Though Dallas is the better team, they can’t hold on to leads.  They can’t start fast.  We’ve seen it from both teams multiple times.

Even with the 49ers and Kaepernick’s struggles, they still have his legs.  Kaepernick’s legs.  And he showed them off.

On the second play of a drive that started inside the 49ers 10 yard due to a penalty, Kaepernick escaped the pocket, and took off.  10 seconds later, he was in the end zone.  He scored on a 90 yard run.

I’m not really sure there is any else in the league who can do that (Terrelle Pryor, maybe. Is he on a NFL roster?) He’s not someone who can lead a team by himself, but can make incredible plays at the right time.  That’s what he did here.

The score put the 49ers up 35-21 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  What happened over the course of the next hour might have just changed the Chargers season.

Let’s just say, the 49ers never scored again.

Another Antonio Gates TD catch with 5:15 left in the 4th made it a one possession game.  At this point, you knew what might come of this.

The 49ers got the ball back, and did nothing with it.  They punted, and San Diego retained with 3:30.

This whole San Francisco team crumbled right in front of us.  It was like the defense wasn’t on the field.  The Chargers scooted down and scored the game-tying TD with 32 seconds left.

So we went to OT.  You saw this coming at halftime, right?

At this point, San Diego had the momentum.  San Diego was playing better football.  The 49ers had collapsed.  It was like they wanted to lose this game.

The 49ers got the ball to start OT, and on the second play of the drive, Quinton Patton caught a big pass play and fumbled it.  Eric Weddle recovered, and the Chargers got the ball.  Next score won.

So Philip Rivers took his team down the field, and Nick Novak kicked the game-winning, 40 yard field goal in OT.

The 49ers had a very good box score giving what occurred at the end.  San Francisco rushed for 355 yards as a team, with Frank Gore having 158 of those.  Kaepernick followed him with 151.  His QBR was 97.7, but he only threw for 114 yards and TD.  His completion percentage was high, which drove up the QBR.

Honestly, the Chargers box score doesn’t matter.  It stinks.  The Chargers won this game due to San Francisco mistakes.  They shouldn’t have won.  I’ll say that.  I also keep saying this:  The 49ers aren’t good.  Something needs to change, whoever and wherever that may be.

Pittsburgh-20 Kansas City-12

(Homerism Possible)

What a horrid game.  Warning: There were lots of field goals in this one.  That’s all the Chiefs scored were field goals.

Neither team ran the ball in this game, surprisingly.  Kansas City ran for 39 yards, while Pittsburgh ran for 68.

The first quarter featured field goals by both teams, making it 3-3.  The second quarter wasn’t much better.  Man, this game was boring.

Another Chiefs field goal put them up 6-3 after a long drive.  Something that bugs about the NFL is that, you have these teams that go on four minute plus drives, then they go on and kick a field goal.  Honestly, if you kick a field goal after 4+ minute drive, you should be ashamed of yourself.

That’s what the Chiefs did, by the way.

Though the Steelers didn’t run the ball well, Le’Veon Bell took a run into the end zone, putting Pittsburgh up 10-6 at halftime.

Though Ben Rothlisberger’s stats weren’t crazy, his QBR during this game was 89.7.  He continues to be excellent this season.  He’s taking this team into the playoffs, and teams should fear them.

No one scored until the end of the third quarter, when Antonio Brown caught a TD pass, putting the Steelers up 17-6.  The Chiefs never came back from the lead, capping a disappointing season.

Look, this Chiefs team this year has not been good, at all.  They can’t throw ball.  It’s not Alex Smith.  They need some weapons besides Jamaal Charles.  I expect them to use their 1st round pick on a wide receiver.  The defense is great; that they need no help on.  It’s the offensive side that needs help, and in this league, you can’t succeed without it.

Atlanta-30 New Orleans-14

Man, this was another horror show.

I’m not sure what’s up with the Saints.  This was not what we expected this season.  I had them in the NFC Championship Game.  I’ll probably write about it later.  Let’s get to the game:

Mark Ingram scored 20 seconds into the game after the Saints returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to the one yard line.  The Saints had a early 7-0 lead.  It might have just been the highlight of their day.

Coming into this game, we knew there would be a lot of passing.  Neither team can run the ball well; Atlanta being terrible all year.  The Falcons only ran for 81 yards as team, while the Saints ran for 57.

Then, three straight Atlanta scores followed over the course of the end of the first quarter and second.  Two Matt Bryant field goals and a Matt Ryan TD pass put the Falcons up 13-7 at halftime.

Julio Jones has been a monster when healthy, and Sunday, the Saints terrible secondary just helped him out.  Jones caught seven passes for 107 yards.  This New Orleans secondary is just horrid.  Benching Kenny Varccaro two weeks ago was pretty much the sign of giving up.  It’s likely that Rob Ryan gets fired after this season.  They’re a mess on the defensive side, and they don’t have the cap room to do anything.

Halfway through the 3rd quarter, Devonta Freeman broke off a 31 yard TD run, putting Atlanta up 20-7.  New Orleans never came back from it, eliminating themselves from the playoffs.

This division is horrible, no matter what.  Next Sunday, Atlanta will play Carolina for the division title.  Winner will host a playoff game.  Good lord.  That’s scary to think about.

Statistically, Matt Ryan had a 92.1 QBR, completing 30/40 passes and throwing for 322 yards.  Drew Brees, on the other hand, had a 40.3 QBR and two picks.  He’s been a disaster this season.  His offensive line isn’t great, but his performance has dipped significantly.

It’s a disappointing season for the Saints, and really, how much better do we expect it to be next year?  They have no cap room, and cutting guys won’t do them any good.  It’s not looking pretty next year.

Miami-37 Minnesota-35

This was one of many great games in Week 16.  The ending though, was unpredictable and disappointing.

The Vikings started the game by scoring two TD’s, going up 14-0 in the second quarter.  A Matt Asiata TD run was the first score, and a 21 yard TD pass by Teddy Bridgewater was the second.

The Vikings running game hasn’t been great this year due to Adrian Peterson’s absence, but it’s been better than I expected.  Asiata and Jerick Mackinnon have stepped up, though MacKinnon has been hurt lately.  This is a team that will need a running back, whether that be through free agency or the draft, even if Adrian Peterson does return to them.

The Dolphins got something going just past the halfway mark of the 2nd quarter with a Ryan Tannehill TD pass.  The score cut the lead to 14-7 Minnesota.  I say this every time I write about the Dolphins, but Ryan Tannehill’s improvement this year has been great, and I really do believe he’s the future of this team.  Though he still may be a project, he’s definitely developing, and that’s what the Dolphins needed to see.

A Blair Walsh field goal put the Vikings up 17-7 at halftime, in what was a pretty dull first half for the Dolphins.

Miami ran the ball very well in this game; better than they have all season.  Miami, like Minnesota, is another running back-needy team.  I expect them to draft someone, because youth is what they’re shooting for.  It’s possible, with their draft pick though, that their position may set them up in an awkward situation to take a running back.  If they fall in between No.20-25 in the draft order, then it’s too high to take a running back in the first round.  In the second, the guy they want might be gone.

Miami cut the lead to 17-14 after another Ryan Tannehill TD pass in the third quarter.  He finished the day with a 81.8 QBR, throwing for 396 yards and 4 TD’s.  He did throw a pick too.

It’s 4th quarter time.  This was a fun one.

We had SEVEN scores in this quarter!  SEVEN!  A Lamar Miller TD run kicked it off, giving Miami a 21-17 lead.  After a five minute drive by the Vikings, Blair Walsh kicked a field goal, cutting the lead to 21-20.

Then, the remaining 9:52 of the game featured 30 points of scoring between the two teams.  Mike Wallace caught a TD pass, putting the Dolphins up 28-20.   Right after, Teddy Bridgewater threw another TD pass, and the Vikings converted the two point conversion, tying it at 28.

Then, disaster struck for the Dolphins.  On the kickoff, Jarvis Landry fumbled the return, and gave it to the Vikings.  The next play, Matt Asiata ran in for a TD, putting Minnesota up 35-28.  We were still far away from the final of this game, even though there was only 4:35 left.

Miami got the ball, and Ryan Tannehill continued to prove himself.  Leading the Dolphins down the field, he threw a three yard TD pass at the end of the drive, tying the game at 35 with just 1:11 left.

Miami kicked, and Minnesota did nothing with it.  That proved to be costly, but in a completely insane way.

The Vikings set up to punt at their own 11.  It didn’t go well.  One, the snap was dribbled back to Jeff Locke, allowing him minimal time to get the punt off.  It wasn’t enough.  Terrence Fede, a seventh round pick in this past year’s NFL Draft, blocked the punt, and it went out the back of the end zone for a safety.  37-35, Dolphins win.

*MIND-BLOWN*

So yea, it was pretty crazy.  The Dolphins announced after the game that Joe Philbin will be their head coach next year, which is the right decision.  Unfortunately, the Dolphins have been eliminated from the playoffs.  I really liked this team this year.  They were really fun to watch.  It’s a big bummer they didn’t get in.

Cincinnati-37 Denver-28

What a crazy and unpredictable game. I mean, who saw this type of game coming?  With turnovers left and right and an exciting third quarter?

An Andy Dalton pick-six started the game for the Broncos, on a incredible catch and return by Aqib Talib.  This might have been a predictable start for the Bengals, but really, it didn’t affect him.

Just minutes later, Jeremy Hill broke off on a 85 yard TD run, putting Cincy up 7-3.  The run was incredible, and it was a great way to start off a thrilling game.  Have a day, Jeremy Hill.  He ran for 147 yards and that TD.  I haven’t given up on Giovanni Bernard yet.  He’s still a good running back, but there is a possibility Hill is better.

The second quarter was all Cincinnati.  Two field goals and a Andy Dalton TD pass put them up 20-7 at halftime.  One of the field goals, came on a five minute drive.

The touchdown was set up by a Peyton Manning interception.  That was only one of Manning’s FOUR on the day.  Yes, you read that right.  I’ll get into that later.

Coming out of halftime, the Broncos answered on a C.J. Anderson TD run.  I don’t know how many big time punt, kick or turnover returns there were in this game.  It seemed like every return went 20+ yards.

Minutes later, the Bengals scored on a Giovanni Bernard TD catch, putting them up 27-14.   The rest of the quarter, was all Denver.  Two Emmanuel Sanders TD catches gave the Broncos a 28-27 lead going into the 4th quarter.

Then it flipped.  The whole game did.  A huge shift of momentum took place. First, Cincy kicked a field goal to go up 30-28.  It wasn’t a crazy start, but it did make a difference.

With Denver down by two with 4:04 left, the Broncos needed a score, and fast.  Peyton Manning had already had a bad game, and nobody thought it would get worse.

Well, it did.  Manning threw a pick-six with 2:50 left, putting the Bengals up 38-27, the final score.  It was a killer way to end the game, and a killer way to put the Bengals in the playoffs.

Even with the win, Andy Dalton had another bum primetime performance.  With a QBR of 29, he had 146 yards and 2 TD’s.  He wasn’t sacked, and his stats were okay, but QBR measures everything a QB does.  This ESPN stat is great.  It takes into account what stats don’t.  I love the tool.

Peyton Manning finished with a 24.1 QBR, just adding to a horrible night.  Denver couldn’t run the ball, which didn’t help out Manning in the rainstorm that cruised through during this game.

I hate to be a downer, but if your John Elway, or a Broncos fan, you have to be concerned with Manning.  I’m not saying he’s done, but he has not looked good these past couple weeks.  He may start to decline.  The possibility of this being his last season is going up, unfortunately.

On to Week 17, where we have three division title games.  Let the madness begin!

What The Rajon Rondo Trade Means For The Mavericks+The Cost Of Having A Bad Owner PLUS The Broken Pistons

This column was strictly going to be about the Dallas Mavericks , but then the Kings lost their minds and Stan Van Gundy took over.

It’s pretty safe to say now that the Dallas Mavericks are going all in.

Last Thursday night, the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, and a 1st and 2nd round pick.

So yea, that’s a lot.  Dallas gave up a ton for Rondo.  It shows though, that they don’t care what they gave up for him.

Some people don’t like the fit, some people think it’s great.  Me?  I’m pretty balanced on it.  I hate what Dallas gave up.  It’s too much.  Brandan Wright’s had great year.  He’s a solid player.  He’s only averaging 8.8 points, but is shooting 74%.  He is a good defensive player at the 4-spot.  It’s gonna suck going to a bad team like Boston, but he’ll earn himself some money at some point.

The thing that really bugs me about what the Mavs gave up was the picks, and it’s quite clear why they got thrown in.  Boston is rebuilding.  They want draft picks to build for the future.  It may be, that this was a no deal without those picks.  Really, it probably was.  I find them necessary, unless they dropped a player from the package.

Boston needed to unload Rondo as soon as possible.  It was no surprise he got traded.  Boston couldn’t trade him last year.  No good offers were coming in.  He was coming off of an ACL tear too.  Last year, it didn’t work.  It’s a tricky spot for the Celtics.  They could have done it during the summer, but they wanted to see what they really had this year.

At first, it looked promising.  Boston started decently, but declined afterward.  That’s when Danny Ainge, GM of the Celtics, realized if he wanted to trade Rondo, the time was now.  They had already waited to long.  Rondo hasn’t had the greatest season so far.  But again, the Celtics were in a tough spot.  It was a matter of time.

It was an odd start to last week.  Rondo claimed he wanted stay in Boston.  The team had started to go downhill, but reports stated that a move in the near future was unlikely.

Then Wednesday hit, and rumors popped up that Houston and Dallas were talking to Boston about Rondo.  At first, neither team made sense to me.  I didn’t think a contender would be looking at him.  I believed a mid-level team, like Sacramento or Indiana, would look at him.

I hated the Houston idea from the beginning.  There was no way that Dwight Howard and James Harden would be able to play well enough with Rondo.  It wouldn’t work.  Houston has something going.  Let’s not screw it up.  We’ve seen this before.

Overall, the Dallas fit, I think will work.  It’s a huge move by Dallas, and easily boosts them to the top of the Western Conference.  This backcourt is dicey.  With Monta Ellis and Rondo, this offense’s pace will be picking up.  This is a stacked starting line-up.  You know everyone on this lineup.

Dallas made this move with two thoughts: 1) This makes us a contender and we have a shot at the Finals 2)  If we can get there or close to it, we can re-sign Rondo.

That’s where this gets really interesting, and really, it’s what made the trade easier.  Rondo is an expiring contract.  He’s a free agent this coming summer.  Expiring contracts are so valuable in today’s game.  If a team trades for a guy who’s cap is huge, but is an expiring, they don’t have to worry about paying him ungodly amounts over the next three years or so.

Dallas feels that they can re-sign him.  They also feel, that if they can get to where they want to go, they can re-sign not only Rondo, but Tyson Chandler.  Yup, he is a expiring too.  Oh yea, Dallas traded for Tyson Chandler!   Expirings, expirings, expirings.  Tyson Chandler wasn’t worth that contract the Knicks gave him.  He’s great, but not worth what he’s getting paid.  Dallas worries about the cap hit this year, and then figures it out next summer based on where they went and how much they feel he’s worth.

If the strategy of going all in works this year, Dallas will be able to re-sign those guys.  They will have a shot, and would probably be the front-runners.

I’m just a tad worried about Rondo this year.  Again, I like the trade, but he hasn’t had the best season.  He hasn’t been shooting well, but that’s not his speciality.  He is a passing point guard.  He doesn’t look to shoot first.

Maybe, a change of scenery will help.  I say this a lot.  Good players on bad teams may not be going 100%.  They don’t care.  Rondo is on a contender now.  He should play better.  He has better players around him now. This should work.  Giving what Dallas gave up for him, it has to.

Last week, the Sacramento Kings fired head coach Mike Malone.  In a absolutely stunning move, it shocked the NBA world.

My first reaction, as was everyone else’s, was why?  What’s the point of this?  The Kings had started 11-13, which isn’t great, but beat my expectations. Too add, DeMarcus Cousins, their best player by a mile, has only played in 16 games this year, due to infection he’s been dealing with.

Cousins has returned to the lineup and is playing.  He may be the savior of my fantasy basketball team.

So why was Malone fired?  This start was way better than anyone expected.  WITHOUT THEIR BEST PLAYER!

Then it hit me.  We know their owner, is new.  He bought the team last summer.  He’s already made a couple interesting moves.  He’s nuts.

And obviously, his expectations were absolutely ridiculous.  It had to be his call.  And that’s a really, really bad thing.

Look, owners, aren’t supposed to be the final decision makes on basketball related moves.  They have a say, since they are the owner, but he shouldn’t be making draft picks, or firing coaches.  His expectations were ridiculous.  Nobody within the Kings front office told him that.  I highly doubt there were many people that agreed with him.

For example, I could never be an owner.  One, these days, you need at least $1 billion to fetch a team, in any league it seems.  If the opportunity was ever presented, which I highly doubt it would be, I’d turn it down. I’d be too involved!

Look, there is non-invloved owners and too-involved owners.  Vivek Randive is too involved with his basketball team.  Let the people you hire make the calls, because obviously, he isn’t good at his calls.

I would be too-invloved.  I would be awful.  I would want a say in team decisions.  That’s another job.

Randive was supposed to be the savior of basketball in Sacramento, which is funny because, I lived in the Bay Area for the past four years before moving to Minnesota this summer, and I never knew one person who was a Kings fan.  Though Sacramento is a hour-and-a-half north of the Bay, I’ve been to games there.  It truly is their own community, and they can’t be to pleased with Randive right now.  I wouldn’t be either.

*BREAKING NEWS STORY*

Well, this isn’t totally a breaking news story now, but earlier this morning, the Detroit Pistons released Josh Smith after one season with the team.  Smith signed a four year, $54 million with Detroit last summer.

The move was a shock.  Nobody saw this coming.  Even though he’s struggled to fit in with the Pistons, no one saw this coming, giving his salary.  Smith’s never fit in with Detroit during his tenure there.  He hasn’t put up good stats.  He shooting has been horrendous these past couple years.  The fit just hasn’t worked out, and with a new coach, it still hasn’t.

In my opinion, this decision came from Stan Van Gundy.  That dude has all the power within this organization.  He made this call.  He realized it just wasn’t going to happen any longer.  Gundy is building this team.  He knows what he’s doing.  If your a Pistons fan, you have to trust him.  Gundy isn’t afraid from anything either.  He couldn’t have cared less about the cap hit or whatever.  He’s a basketball guy.

As for the cap hit and such, it is a bummer.  We knew Smith wasn’t worth the deal he was given.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 3.29.06 PM  This was from December 9th.  So today, I responded on Twitter to my quoted tweet.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 3.29.25 PM

 

Anyways, Smith had $28 million left on his deal.  Instead of absorbing that huge cap hit in one, the Pistons used the stretch provision.  Here’s how it works:

Enough about the Pistons.  Nobody wants to talk about them anymore.  It’s a bummer, that’s all.

As for Josh Smith and his future, he’s going to get signed soon.  Somebody will take him.  He’s not great, but good enough to get a contract.

It’s most likely, that he signs a one year, just above minimum contract with someone.  I highly doubt that during the season, someone would sign him to a long-term deal.

The main contenders I see for Smith are:

  • Kings
  • Kings again
  • Rockets
  • Mavericks
  • Suns

Now, the Kings have been trying since last season to trade for Smith, due to his struggles in Detroit.  That’s why they’re listed twice.  They’re clearly the favorites, and knowing them, as I said above, they are crazy.

Sacramento would be willing to offer Smith a big contract during the season.  That’s how they work.  They’re insane up there.  Nobody who’s running that franchise is smart.  It sounds mean and unsupported, but the decisions being made there aren’t being made by the people they should be.  It’s just how things work there, unfortunately.

The last three teams are interesting.  Let’s start with the next two.

The Rockets and Mavericks have been buying.  They are both going all in.  This column was based around the Mavericks, but then the Kings and Pistons had to ruin it.

Anyways, the Mavericks and Rockets would have to offer Smith a just above minimum, one year deal.  Rent him this season, then decide after what you want to do.

Houston may be the favorite here.  Smith is friends with Dwight Howard, and that would make a killer front court.  It would be impossible to defend.  Though, grabbing rebounds may become a fight.  Many think shots would be a problem, but trust me, I don’t think you want Josh Smith shooting more than 10 times a game.

I don’t like him in Dallas.  The Mavericks are kicking up the tempo with Rondo’s addition.  I don’t see this working.  It wouldn’t hurt the Mavs, but it wouldn’t make them better.

Then there is the Suns.  I’m being a homer, but they have a shot.  They could use him.  Phoenix’s struggles this year have to do with their lack of big men.  The multiple point guard line up doesn’t have any one to throw it to down low.  Adding Smith would put a bigger body and would do the dirty work.  Smith isn’t huge, and is a 3-guard, but plays big.  He would help out the Suns.

Whatever Smith decides to do, he can help somebody.  It’s a shame that Detroit didn’t work out, but hey: Play for a good team, and earn your cash from someone else.  Sounds good, right?

2014-2015 Bowl Season: Picks And Thoughts On All Non-Committee Bowl Games

It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s not Christmas time or the New Year.  It’s Bowl Season baby!

In this column, I’m going to pick every single bowl game there is in the next couple weeks, as it kicks off tomorrow.

There are some great bowl games this year.  Fantastic.  Though not all of them are between ranked teams, it’s still football.  Bowl season football.

This column though, won’t include any committee-selected bowl games, known now as the New Years Six.  That will be a different column, previewing and picking the games.  This is strictly picks and quick hits.  Let’s go!

As always, rankings reflect College Football Playoff Rankings.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Nevada vs. UL Lafayette

Pick: Nevada

Thoughts: Well, um.  See, this is what is great about bowl season.  Teams we don’t know a whole lot about get to play, and then we see what they’re like.  It’s too bad I have to pick it before the game.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP

Pick: Utah State

Thoughts:  Utah State plays in a better conference, and are most likely the better team.  UTEP has a cool stadium though.  Sorry Miners.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No.22 Utah vs. Colorado State

Pick: Utah

Thoughts: Great game.  Jim McElwain is now the coach at Florida.  Leaving his team before the bowl was a little unfair, so the Rams will be playing with a lot of heart.  Oh yea, Utah is playing!  As you know, Utah scares me.  Colorado State should be scared too.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Air Force

Pick: Air Force

Thoughts: Um.  Another wait-n-see game.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

Pick: South Alabama

Thoughts: This team got screwed by not making a bowl game last year, so this is redemption.  Bowling Green has been a good program over the past couple years, but this is the time they go down.  Sorry Papa.

Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Memphis

Pick: Memphis

Thoughts: Upset!  BYU lost their QB mid-year to a nasty broken leg, and also had a four game losing streak at one point.  This was a great team early, but the streak hurt them a lot.  Some people thought this was New Years Six team, but now they find themselves here.  Yikes.

Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois

Pick: Marshall

Thoughts: Great game.  Marshall has been a great program all year, and again, people thought this was a possible New Years Six team.  They have a good QB in Rakeem Cato, who’s story is incredible.  Northern Illinois has been great in past years, but this is the start of their fall.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State

Pick: San Diego State

Thoughts: So many great games!  Navy does have potential here.  I’m not ruling them out.  The Aztecs are just better.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky

Pick: Central Michigan.

Thoughts: Um.  Both of these teams had the same record.  I know one thing about each team: 1) Eric Fisher went to Central Michigan 2) Western Kentucky almost beat Marshall.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice

Pick: Fresno State

Thoughts:  It wasn’t long ago when I watched a Houston-Rice game on ESPN2.  I was like 12, and some guy named Kevin Sumlin destroyed Rice from the sideline.  Not that it’s the same team, but that’s my main impression of Rice.  Sorry.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

Pick: Lousiana Tech

Thoughts: Louisiana Tech and East Carolina are very similar.  They are in a bowl game every year, but it seems like it’s the same bowl each year.  They haven’t taken that next step.  Beating a Power 5 team will help them with it.

Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers vs. North Carolina

Pick: North Carolina

Thoughts:  As much as I would like to take Rutgers, the Tar Heels are overall the better team.  I don’t see any potential upset here.

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: NC State vs. UCF

Pick: UCF

Thoughts: Tough call.  Two evenly matched teams.  Pretty much a crapshoot.  A good one, at least.

Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Pick: Cincinnati

Thoughts:  Wait, how did the Hokies get into a bowl game?

Hyundai Sun Bowl: No.15 Arizona State vs. Duke

(Homerism Possible)

Pick:  Arizona State

Thoughts: Did you really think I’d go with Duke?  ASU got disrespected.  Put them againist someone better, please?

Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. South Carolina

Pick: South Carolina

Thoughts: These games are getting good.  Anyways, South Carolina is another “Wait, how did they get in?” team.  They play in the better conference.  They know big boy football.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl:  Boston College vs. Penn State

Pick: Penn State

Thoughts: Boston College had one big moment this year, beating USC.  That’s about it.  They also hung close with Florida State.  Penn State is finally bowl eligible.  I expect them to make a statement.

National University Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. No.24 USC

Pick: USC

Thoughts:  Not even close.  I really wanted to like and take Nebraska, but after the Mike Riley hire, that collapsed.  I think this will be a close game, but USC will pull out.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia

Pick: West Virginia

Thoughts: It was a QB shuffle for Texas A&M this year.  They were a disaster for part of it.  Remember when we thought Kenny Hill was a Heisman candidate?  Yea, exactly.

From lostletterman.com This is from Instagram after the Mountaineers beat Baylor.  I got rid of the obscene language.
(From lostletterman.com) This is from Instagram after the Mountaineers beat Baylor. I got rid of the obscene language.

(Let’s recover)

Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. (17) Clemson

Pick: Oklahoma

Thoughts: Clemson is another QB carousal team.  They’ve had a rough year, but have stuck it out, and ended up here.  However, Trevor Knight is back for the Sooners, and though Oklahoma isn’t ranked, I feel like they’ll end their season on a positive note.

AdvoCare Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas

Pick: Texas

Thoughts: I cannot wait to watch this game.  Arkansas was one of those spoiler and sneaky teams this past year.  The play in the SEC, which hindered their success.  However, Texas is the better team.  They are more complete and have been consistent all year.

Franklin America Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. No.23 LSU

Pick: LSU

Thoughts: Hey look!  It’s the All-Dissapointment Bowl!  Just rename it now!  Both of these teams had disappointing seasons, based on my expectations.  Notre Dame collapsed after losing to Arizona State, and it’s a miracle they made a bowl game.  LSU underachieved, but got on a roll at the end of the year.

Belk Bowl: No.13 Georgia vs. No.21 Louisville

Pick: Georgia

Thoughts: I’ve liked this Georgia team all year after I disrespected them in the preview.  They’ve continued to burn me, and it’s not happening this time.

Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford

Pick: Stanford

Thoughts: The Cardinal were secretly really bad this past year.  I can’t believe they got this far.  I know nothing about Maryland, which is pretty scary.  Anyways,  House of Card baby.

Outback Bowl:  No.19 Auburn vs. No.18 Wisconsin

Pick: Auburn

Thoughts: Great, great game.  Two teams who had rough endings to the year, meet in a big bowl game.  I love it!  This is awesome!  Expect lots of points with this game.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: No.25 Minnesota vs. No.16 Missouri

Pick: Missouri

Thoughts: It’s not even close.  I think Missouri blows out the Gophers.  I’m sorry, but the competition and talent of the Tigers doesn’t even compare.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh

Pick: Houston

Thoughts: Upset!  Pittsburgh just lost their head coach to Wisconsin (he will coach this game) and fired their AD.  It hasn’t been a great holiday season.  It won’t get better.

TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee

Pick: Tennessee

Thoughts:  Odd matchup.  This is kinda a crapshoot, but a good one!

Valero Alamo Bowl: No.11 Kansas State vs. No.14 UCLA

Pick: UCLA

Thoughts:  Talk about points.  This thing is going to be a shootout.  This bowl game usually is.  We have two great QB’s in this game, in the complete opposite way.  I really want to take the Wildcats.  If they win, I wouldn’t be surprised.

TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State

Pick: Washington

Thoughts: Another “How did that team make a bowl game?”  I never have thought Oklahoma State was good.  This is where that will show.

Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida

Pick: East Carolina

Thoughts: Haha.  This is a funny game.  I have no idea where to go with this.  It sucks that East Carolina didn’t make a bigger bowl game, but their opponent is a lot better this time.  This should be a good game.

GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State

Pick: Toledo

Thoughts: Um, my dad was born in Toledo? (Cover-up way of saying I have no clue)

Have a great bowl and Holiday season.  I will be publishing next week.  I will also have a preview column of the New Years Six games at some point before December 31st.

NFL Week 15 Roundup

This week was better than last.  We had a couple close, down-to-the-wire plays.  We, like any week, are starting to eliminating teams after bum performances.  The AFC Wild Card picture is still a clutter, with five teams fighting for two spots.  The AFC though, has three teams that have clinched division championships.  Those help, big time.

Games not being written about: Bengals vs. Browns, Panthers vs, Buccaneers, Chiefs vs. Raiders, Cardinals vs. Rams, Giants vs. Redskins, Ravens vs. Jaguars, Cardinals vs. Rams, Jets vs. Titans, Vikings vs. Lions, Saints vs. Bears

New England-41 Miami-13

The first score of this game was one that made you go “It’s another one of these games for the Dolphins.”

After a five play, 57 yard drive by the Dolphins, Miami lined up to kick a field goal, only to have it blocked and returned 62 yards for a TD by Kyle Arrington.  It gave New England a early 7-0 lead.

Oh yea!  Guess who returned for this game, and actually did something?

Haha.
Haha.

Jonas Gray sighting!  He ran for 62 yards on Miami Sunday.  He didn’t score, but did play an effective role.

Towards the end of the first quarter, Miami got something going, but couldn’t put it the end zone, leading to a field goal that wasn’t blocked this time.

Tom Brady is Tom Brady.  He’s going to do Tom Brady things, and Sunday, he did just that.  Completing 21/35 passes and throwing for 287 yards, he lead the Pats throughout the day.  Who said he or the Pats weren’t good anymore?

Oh.  He’s said other things that have looked really bad before.  But I have too!

Anyways, New England took a 14-3 lead with 7:59 left in the 2nd on a Shane Vereen TD run.  Shortly after, Miami kicked another field goal, cutting the lead to 14-6.

I keep reiterating this:  This was Ryan Tannehill’s make or break year.  He’s made it.  He has proved to the Dolphins to keep him around.  Even though Sunday’s result wasn’t pretty, and there is some ugly rumors with their coach, Tannehill is really good.  He’s starting to show it.  Sunday, he completed 29/47 passes, threw for 346 yards, with a TD and two picks.  It wasn’t great, but it’s one game, also against a better team.

Right before halftime, Tannehill threw that TD pass to Mike Wallace, making it 14-13 at halftime.

Miami never scored again, not once.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 3.57.08 PM

(Chart from ESPN.com)

That’s your second half.  Five Patriots scores.  Three TD’s and two field goals.  It was an absolute offensive explosion from New England.  So much for boring third quarters.

This really didn’t have much to do with Miami.  Yes, the defense needs work, but it’s the Patriots.  They can do this to anyone.  It doesn’t matter what defense their playing.  Rob Gronkowski is absolutely insane.  He just may be the non-QB MVP.  His presence changes an offense.

Miami just couldn’t defend this assault.  They were helpless.  The Dolphins have a good offense, but not one that’s capable of exploding for points.  It’s not built like that.  Really, neither is the Pats’, but look at who’s behind center and on the sidelines.

Buffalo-21 Green Bay-13

Wait, so how did Buffalo win this game?

Or is it how did Green Bay lose this game?

I don’t know.  This game was weird.

This game should have been tie!  Yea!

Alright, both teams played awfully.  Neither QB had a good game.  No wide-reciever blew any one out of the house.  This was one weird game, and it had to be disappointing if you were a fan of one of these teams.

Mason Crosby scored the first points with 4:27 left in the 1st quarter, putting Green Bay up 3-0.  Field goals dominated this game, surprisingly.

Soon after, the Packers got the ball back and ended up punting.  The punt was returned by Marcus Thigpen, who took it 75 yards to the end zone, putting the Bills up 7-3.

Neither QB had a good game.  Hilariously, both of them, Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Orton, had the same QBR, OF 17.2!  17.2!  THAT’S TERRIBLE!

AARON RODGERS HAD A QBR OF 17.2!  That’s the worst of his career, and this game probably was statically and performance wise.  Rodgers completed only 17/42 passes, throwing for 185 yards with two picks.  No passing TD’s.  Yikes.

Kyle Orton though, didn’t do any better.  Orton completed 14/27 passes, throwing for 158 yards with one pick.  No TD’s.  Neither QB threw a TD pass!  How crazy is that!

To start the second quarter, Eddie Lacy ran in a TD, giving the Packers a 10-7 lead.  Lacy had 97 yards with that TD.  It doesn’t matter how bad his team is playing, Lacy is going to contribute and preform.  He’s a beast.

The next four scores of this game were Bills field goals.  FOUR

After those FOUR field goals, the Bills lead 19-10 with 9:23 left.  Green Bay tired to get back in it with a field goal of their own with 4:51 left, but their next possession resulted in a safety, ending the game.

So what really happened here?  Well, the Packers didn’t play good football as a team.  Green Bay is built so that if one thing goes wrong, they can cover it with something else.  Nothing was cranking.  Rodgers’ bad game didn’t help, and poor offense line play didn’t allow the Packers running game to ground n’ pound as usual.  The stats might have said different, but it just wasn’t Green Bay’s day.

Buffalo, like St.Louis, is a spoiler team.  They will ruin your weekend, as they did to many Packers fans Sunday.

Pittsburgh-27 Atlanta-20

Both of these teams are playing for division championships.  Neither team though, is great.  Atlanta plays in the stinkiest division in football; the catastrophe that is the NFC South.  The Falcons aren’t a good football team.  I mean, there 5-9, and could easily win their division.

The Steelers though, at 9-5, and have clinched a winning season.  They play in a division where three teams could make the playoffs.  They are still in the race for the division crown, but better teams surround them.  This game gave them a boost.

Two Shaun Suisham field goals in the 1st quarter put Pittsburgh up early.  Both of those drives took five minutes each, something that the Steelers have done well with this year.

To open the second quarter, William Gay picked off Matt Ryan, and took it 52 yards into the end zone.  It was thankfully Ryan’s only interception on the day, but it did sure cost them.  Matt Ryan finished with a 68.5 QBR.

Ten minutes later, Devin Hester caught a TD pass from Ryan, cutting the lead to 13-7.  Hester has made an impact on the Falcons this year.  He had five catches and 85 yards on the day, with that TD catch.  It was one of two Matt Ryan would throw.

Right before halftime, Le’Veon Bell ran in a TD on the one yard line, giving Pittsburgh a 20-7 halftime lead.  Bell finished with only 47 yards, but had 2 TD’s.  He’s been phenomenal this year.  With 1,278 yards and 7 TD’s, Bell has been one of the best running backs in the league.  Really, he’s one of the NFL’s most exciting players.

The lead but held for the Steelers, even though it took Atlanta a while to get their stuff going in the second half.  Matt Bryant kicked two 3rd quarter field goals, making it 20-13 heading into the 4th.

The halftime lead was a little to much for Atlanta though.  Le’Veon Bell ran in his second TD at the start of the quarter, putting Pittsburgh up 27-13.

Ben Rothlisberger threw for 360 yards and completed 27/35 passes.  Though he didn’t throw a TD, his completion percentage was outstanding.  He’s had a great year.  It’s to bad his team isn’t just a tad better.

Seattle-17 San Francisco-7

This was a really boring game.  I mean, who would’ve thought?  These were supposed to great teams this year.  This is a game we’d get hyped for each week.  This was the NFC Championship Game last year!  Now look at it!

It was 3-0 after the first quarter due to a Steven Hauschka field goal.  You can call it: 1) Bad offense 2) Good defense

It was a combination of both.  San Francisco’s defense did well, but their offense is literally stagnant.  It does absolutely nothing.

Early in the 2nd, Frank Gore ran in a ten yard TD, putting the 49ers up 7-3.  Gore only had 29 yards due to a concussion suffered later in the quarter.

There was one score per quarter in this game.  I’m not even sure it was a defensive game.  Marshawn Lynch ran for 91 yards and a TD.  Seattle ran for 152 yards as a team.

The Frank Gore TD was the 49ers only score of the game.  Lynch ran in his TD in the 3rd quarter, putting Seattle up 10-7.  Early in the 4th, Russell Wilson threw a TD to Paul Richardson, putting Seattle up 17-7, and that ended up being the final score.

Colin Kaepernick had another pretty bad game.  Completing 11/19 passes and throwing for 141 yards, his QBR came in around 16.  Not good, at all.  I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the 49ers.  Look, they aren’t a good team right now.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something needs to change, wherever and whatever that may be.

On a completely different note, Seattle is playing their best football this season, and are doing it at the right time.  With my Cardinals

(Hold on)

(Shedding a tear)

(I get to watch Ryan Lindley play against this Seattle team next weekend)

(cont.)  heading in the opposite direction as Seattle, the Seahawks are soaring.  They are finally playing defending champion football.  I really wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking about them in late January.

Denver-22 San Diego-10

This was no where near as close as the score shows.  The Broncos dominated this game on all fronts.  They forced two key turnovers, which didn’t help an already poor playing San Diego team on Sunday.

The Broncos got out to an 9-0 lead, odd for such a powerful offense.  Even without a touchdown by Denver, you could tell that it wasn’t San Diego’s day.

In fact, there were no TD’s in the first half as Denver lead 9-3 at halftime.  Right before the break, Peyton Manning left the game.  He had been battling the flu all week, and first reports suggested he was getting an IV.  Later to find out, he suffered a thigh injury on a nice block near the end zone.

Manning left early, but returned for the 2nd half.  Through all of that, Manning still had a QBR of 93.2, with 233 yards and a TD.  Denver ran the ball nicely with C.J. Andersen, as he rushed for 85 yards.

Late in the third, Manning threw his TD pass to Demaryius Thomas, on a 28 yard throw.  It put the Broncos up 16-3, a lead that Denver extended and one that San Diego never came close to.

With a QBR of 30.9, Philip Rivers had a rough game.  Throwing 232 yards, he had two picks and one touchdown.  His accuracy was terrible, completing 24/41 of his passes.  San Diego didn’t run the ball, which hurt them offensively.  The Chargers don’t have big-time receivers, so leaning on the minimal running game they have is essential.

I don’t think this Charger squad is a playoff team.  Their defense is terrible, especially the secondary.  They may have a better offense than Kansas City, but the Chiefs play outstanding in the front seven.

I’m not being a homer and saying the Chiefs will make the playoffs, because there is a pretty good division up North that will sneak a team in, at least.  I’m saying that Kansas City has better defense than San Diego does, and that may help one team or the other get in.

Dallas-38 Philidelphia-27

Wait, how was this game so close?

Oh yea, the Cowboys can’t start fast because they’ll just blow the lead!

Dallas opened up and lead 21-0 with 11 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.  Tony Romo had thrown two TD’s, both to Dez Bryant.  Bryant had an incredible night, with six catches, 114 yards and 3 TD’s.  That’s as many TD’s that Tony Romo threw Sunday night.

But, it’s the Cowboys, folks.  They blow leads.  And that’s exactly what they did!  Three running TD’s by Chris Polk and LeSean McCoy put the Eagles up 24-21, also thanks to a field goal.  24 unanswered points given up by Dallas.  Sounds like a Cowboys thing to do.

Toward the end of the 3rd, DeMarco Murray ran in a TD, putting Dallas up 28-24.  The Cowboys soon after scored again, icing the game.

Murray had 81 yards and 2 TD’s in the win, but suffered a broken hand in the contest.  Murray had surgery yesterday, and will game-time decision on Sunday, which is surprising.

Overall, Dallas needed this game after getting embarrassed on Thanksgiving.  This will be a critical game in determining this division.  Whoever loses the division, will probably get a Wild Card.  I say that, imagining that the NFC North or West only gets one team.

On to Week 16….

Checking Into The Scorer’s Table.

We’ve hit the quarter poll (a little passed that now) in this year’s NBA season, and were already starting to realize who’s taking shape, and who’s crumbling.  This is my first NBA column since the preview, since I’ve been busy with the NFL and MLB.

Just because I haven’t written about the NBA since October though, doesn’t mean I’ve haven’t watched it.  Here’s my main reactions from the still-early season:

The Grizzlies are a lot better than I expected

Every year there is predictions and things you say that end up looking really dumb later.  This was one of those.

I was really concerned about Memphis’ depth.  They are still pretty average on offense this year, ranked 12th in the league.  The Grizzlies though, make up for it on defense.  With their 4th ranked defense, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both key factors.  Gasol protects the rim and puts up the baby shots, while Randolph shoots more outer shots and grabs the rebounds.  It works fine, and it’s obviously doing great so far this year.

Memphis’ guard play has improved dramatically, where they have tons of depth, unlike the front-court.  The Grizzlies’ guards may not score much, but they play excellent defense, featuring the magnificent Tony Allen.  Allen leads the team in steals, which he is known for.  Memphis is 19-4, and is second behind Golden State in the Western Conference.  There are better teams behind them, which is why I expect the seedings shake up the rest of year, but Memphis is playing better basketball than I imagined.  They won’t fall far.

The Eastern Conference is really bad

The 4th seeded team in the West (Portland) has a better winning percentage (.750) than the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

(Is that all you need to know?)

Nope.  I have pound out 250 words on this catastrophe.  It’s not really a catastrophe.  The NFC South is a catastrophe.

Anyways, this conference sucks.  Milwaukee is sitting at No.6 with a 12-12 record.  I mean good lord!  Milwaukee!  Where did this come from?  Are they really trying to win?

Miami and Brooklyn are barely hanging on right now.  The Heat are in better shape, but aren’t quite getting it together.  Chris Bosh has become the man down there, leading the Heat in points and rebounds.  He is the leader of this squad.  The assist-to-turnover ratio needs to improve for Miami, as it sits at 1.6.  It’s pretty little things for Miami that are adding up.  They’ll be okay, but playing better basketball would make it easier.

Now, that talk of playing better basketball has taken two massive hits.  Released earlier today, Chris Bosh has a strained calf, which will keep him out at least three weeks.  To go along with that, Miami lost Josh McRoberts, who they signed in the offseason, for the season with a torn meniscus.  These hits are huge, and suck.  This Heat team is hobbled, and it’s been a rough start.  The good news:  Below.

The East has six teams under 10 wins currently.  That’s not good, by the way.  Charlotte has to be the most disappointing team out of them all.  I have no idea what’s wrong there.  I thought Lance Stephenson was a great addition to the roster, and would expand that offense.  He’s played poorly, and hasn’t gotten any help.  The Hornets major problem is at the wing.  They have no one there; not even some one who could try to play there.  Losing out on Gordon Hayward in free agency has proved to fatal.  The position is a weak spot in the NBA, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to acquire some one.  Selling isn’t the key.  You have a great start, and so far it’s not coming together.  I really think this Hornets team is going to get hot at some point.  This can’t and won’t continue.

Could the 76ers win less than 10 games?

Yup.  This team is really bad.  Like really, really bad.  They’re trying to lose games, which sounds crazy, but yea, it’s true.  Philadelphia started 0-17 before pulling off a win in Minnesota on December 1st.  The only bright spot for them is that the lottery system didn’t get changed this summer, so they have a pretty good shot at getting No.1.

In the future though, this will be a great team.  Even though it’s a stupid strategy and it has to suck to be a fan of their’s, they will be a playoff team within the next four years.  Watch it happen.

They have lots of young guys who are playing overseas or injured right now. K.J. McDaniels looks like the steal of the 2014 Draft so far; at least Sixers fans get to watch him.

The MVP race has too many early contenders

Stephen Curry tops my ballot right now.  He’s leading the Warriors to the best record in the NBA.  Curry’s averaging 23 points per game, shooting 49% and 40% from three.  His defense has been so much better than past years, which is something the Warriors wanted him to work on.

Marc Gasol and James Harden have been very good this season.  Harden’s name is a shock, but with Dwight Howard out for the Rockets, it’s been Harden’s time to shine.

As I said above, the Grizzlies are blowing me away, and Marc Gasol has been phenomenal.  He’s averaging 19 points a game, with eight rebounds.  His offensive stats aren’t huge due to Zach Randolph’s presence, but Gasol’s defense is where shines.  His rim protection is outstanding, and that’s Memphis expects out of him.

This might be a year where Kevin Durant and Lebron James don’t appear on it.  That would be interesting.  I also have Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul on my list, but they’re a lot farther down.

Cleveland has gotten it together after the slow start

This isn’t a shock.  I mean, we knew they would get it together at some point.  It started out rough.  They started out around .500, being as low as two games below, but it wasn’t awful.  These guys knew it might be tough getting things sorted out.  When the Big 3 joined up Miami, they started 9-8.  It’s a chemistry thing.

Cleveland was riding an eight game win streak, but two back-to-back losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans derailed it. Still, they are definitely hitting their stride.  There’s a good chance it won’t end.  I really think these guys are going to dominate.

Everyone is freaking out about Lebron James. We have to realize that he is getting older.  He’s not 2008 Lebron.  He’s still the best player in the league, but that margin is closing.  He also has more help than ever before.  He actually has big men now.  Guys he can pass it to down in the paint, and they’ll do the dirty work.  His stats are going down, and they will continue to do so, but he’s still the same guy.  He doesn’t have to work as hard as he did with his 1st stint with Cleveland.

To me, Kevin Love has been phenomenal, but not in ways I expected.  He claims he’s still finding his groove, which is fine, but boy, I love him on this team.  He’s averaging a double-double this season.  Love is taking less shots, but 1) He’s a big guy 2) Look who’s surrounding him.

I expect the Cavs to keep this up.  I don’t see it slowing down.  Barring an injury, they can cruise their way to the playoffs.  I mean, look at the conference they play in.

The Warriors could be the best team in the Western Conference

I’m being a total homer, but the Dubs sit at 1st in Western Conference, and own the league’s best record at 21-2.  They’re the fifth team in history to start a season with this record.

Golden State has been on fire offensively, but it’s not like were shocked.  The Warriors are 3rd in point per game, with Stephen Curry averaging 23.7 points.  Andrew Bogut has been huge, grabbing 9.3 rebounds and swatting two blocks a game.

Golden State has improved massively on defense, allowing 96.8 points a game.  The Warriors defense the past couple years has been sly, so this is a mild shock.  Klay Thompson has been great this year, and has improved, like his team, on defense.  Thompson is also shooting best from three on his team, at 42%.  He’s just below Curry in points, which shows you how dynamic the Splash Brothers are.

The most amazing thing about this season for the Dubs is the absence of David Lee.  Lee’s played in one game this year due to a foot injury, which is supposed to keep him out tomorrow. night and possibly beyond.  Lee is expected back soon, which is a thankful thing for my disastrous fantasy basketball team so far this year.  I may trade him though.

In place of David Lee, Draymond Green has been excellent.  Green is averaging 13.4 points per game and eight rebounds.  He’s shooting 46%, which is incredible for a stretch-4 player.  When he’s on the court, this is a different Warriors team.  He expands the floor, and will also increase the tempo.  Though he’s not a three point shooter, he make deeper shots on the right.  While looking at his shot chart, Green may not be a three point shooter, as said above, but he has made 51% of his three from the left wing.  That’s a weird but cool stat.

I watched the Dubs first game against the Clippers earlier this season.  It was their 4th game of the year, and my first time seeing them. After watching that game, I was automatically inclined that Draymond Green was going to go off this season.  He was incredible.  I knew though, that to start playing Green, someone had to go.

I expect the Dubs to trade David Lee at some point this year.  He is hurt every season, and hurts the team when he’s not playing well.  There has to be someone with open arms for him.  Even though Lee is greatly liked around the team and fans (trust me), this is strictly a basketball move.  Do it, and save yourself trouble.

The Western playoff picture has set up pretty close to how I predicted it

The Grizzlies are the biggest surprise for me, but besides their high ranking, the West is shaping up very nicely.  The only team who isn’t in the picture right now is the Thunder.  They’ve been plagued by injuries after Kevin Durant broke his foot in the pre-season, and then a hand injury kept Russell Westbrook out.  This team was awful for a stretch of time.  Oklahoma City was playing Perry Jones III in crunch-time!

It was bad, but now they have their stars back, and are playing much better basketball   They currently sit in 12th in the Western Conference.  The Thunder are climbing.  They will be fine.  I don’t expect the Thunder to be a top four seed anymore, but they’re in better shape than I thought they would be by now.

The rest of the West though, has some interesting seeds lining up.  San Antonio and Dallas sit at 6&7 in the conference.  They’re both great teams, we know that.  Youth though, is starting to show.  Younger teams like Portland, Golden State and Houston are winning more games.

The Spurs will be fine.  They are the defending champions.  There being careful this year.  The West is dicey, yea, but they have it figured out.  They may climb, or they could stay put.  Adding or trading for someone is unnecessary.   They know they can win with what they have.

If there is one team in the West that I’m worried about, it’s the Clippers.  Though they sit 5th in the conference, they aren’t playing great basketball.  It’s gotten better over the past week or so, mostly due to a tear that Chris Paul has been on.  The hype about Blake Griffin’s ascension was sky-high before the season.  He hasn’t taken that next step.  We expected him to work more on his outer game, and it just hasn’t been there.  I’ve seen flashes, as he hit a game-winning three a week ago against the Suns in overtime.  Griffin had 45 points that night.

Quick hits

  • The Sixers are really bad, but I want to watch them play after looking up K.J. McDaniels on Youtube
  • Hawks!  They are flying!
  • The Knicks, well….. aren’t good
  • Rajon Rondo is probably staying in Boston; they are decent, better than I thought
  • The Spurs do what they do, even though they are a little bit back in the standings
  • The Thunder are really lucky to be where they are, giving where they could have been without their stars
  • I refuse to talk about the Lakers
  • The Nets are old
  • Bullets Fever/Wizard Party!
  • Fly Pelican Fly!  C’mooonnnnnnn Pelican!
  • My Suns need to shine a bit brighter
  • Oh yea.  Kings: Your crazy.  Stauskas?