Thursday, January 31, 2008
Finally, can we get to the damn game already? Whatever genius from the NFL made the executive decision to stick an extra week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, look what you have wrought. Media Day is an absolute joke, where nothing of note has happened since Jim McMahon mooned a helicopter in 1986. Reporters from such sports non-entities as TMZ.com and Entertainment Tonight descend upon the host city looking for “fun” “entertaining” “stories”, resulting in such hard hitting tales of what Tom Brady is doing at his baby mama’s house at 9:00 in the morning. Riveting stuff.
It’s a shame too, because as potentially great a game this could turn out to be, one gets the feeling it could’ve been even better had it been played last Sunday. The Giants’ momentum coupled with the drama surrounding Brady’s ankle….sounds like a great game. Too bad we had to endure BootGate instead.
That said, we feel this will still be a competitive game. Let’s do a little breakdown and see where we end up:
When The Pats Have The Ball – Ahh, so many weapons, only one football. Much has been made of how this group has slowed down as the season progressed, and there is some statistical evidence, mainly on the scoreboard, to support this. However, getting back into a dome/warm environment could be just what the doctor ordered to let this bunch flourish as it did in September/October. How impressive have the Pats been in the playoffs? Randy Moss has two, count ‘em, two catches in the two games, and they’re still here, winning by an average of 10 points. Brady is not afraid to make full use of everybody, and when Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Dante Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney are all covered, he dumps to no-longer unsung hero Kevin Faulk. Truly a terrifying bunch, and one that is no doubt keeping Giant defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo from getting a lot of sleep this week. Oh, and the emergence of a ground game, which drained the final 9 plus minutes of the AFC title game behind Lawrence Maroney and occasionally Heath Evans, needs to be considered as well. If there is one team that has as front seven which could unnerve the Pats, it’s the boys from Jersey. No team was better this year in pressuring the QB, and the Pats should expect plenty of heat along with some looks they didn’t see either on film or during the Week 17 match-up. Football purists will be in their glory watching the trenches during this game, particularly the Matt Light/Osi Umenyoura battle. The key will be found here, as any lack of pass rush or general pressure from the front seven will put immense pressure on the Giant secondary, which is no doubt still smarting from that December night in the Meadowlands. It will be a long night for these guys if Osi and Michael Strahan don’t make some noise.
When The Giants Have The Ball – What else can be said about Eli Manning? The kid has been fantastic in getting his team here, and you can see his confidence and leadership growing with each win. Jersey will not be intimidated by this Pats defense, which they moved the ball on quite well in Week 17. Only when the Pats started blitzing were they able to slow down Manning, so he should expect to see some blitzes, or blitz looks, early on. One way to neutralize that is by utilizing the double barreled ground attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw – both of whom have been able to pick up crucial yardage in big spots. Doing this along with a controlled passing attack could enable the Giants to drain some clock, keep an older bunch of guys on the field for a long time and, most importantly, keep Brady and Co. on the sidelines.
Special Teams – Lawrence Tynes is an adventure, and many Giant fans are hoping that this doesn’t come down to a late FG attempt. Nothing else about either team’s units poses a significant edge over the other.
Coaching – It’s been said that if you give Bill Bellichick two weeks, and he’ll usually come out ahead. Tough to argue with that, but don’t underestimate Tom Coughlin. Rarely, if ever, mentioned when talking about great current coaches, the guy seems to always find his way to the playoffs, and finally got over the hump to make his first Super Bowl. He modified his approach this year, and his players responded in kind. Well, losing Tiki Barber likely helped him a lot as well, since it eliminated the whispers to the beat writers that the Today Show pretty boy became noted for. Watching how the Pats players rallied around their leader after the whole “SpyGate” thing in Week 1 showed how much these guys love their coach too. Don’t think for a minute that these guys don’t want 19-0 as much for Bellichick as for themselves.
The Pick – All signs point to a close game, and we honestly have been going back and forth since the Tynes kick sailed through the frozen Lambeau uprights as to which team we would pick. We could see the Giants grinding it out a la the bunch that upset the Bills in Supe XXV. We could also see a high scoring, wildly entertaining repeat of the 38-35 game from December. After all that, we’re going with what many might feel is a cop out: Pats win, Giants cover, and the inevitable 19-0 dream year becomes a reality. Bonus: we’ll never have to see another televised interview with Mercury Morris!
Let’s say Patriots 31 Giants 20
Remember, you're talking about fans who have recently seen seemingly sure things go the other way:
October 2006 - win NLCS Game 6, with Game 7 at home, huge momentum changing catch by Chavez, called striked three, game and season over.
September 2007 - up 7 with 17 to play...you know the rest.....
Until we see a press conference where the best pitcher in baseball dons a blue NY cap (not the black/blue aberration) and pulls on the aforementioned jersey, not one chicken will be counted.
According to the ESPN's Jayson Stark, the stumbling block revolves around the length of the contract. Santana's agents want a six year extension, the Mets would rather only guarantee five. Whatever, guys, either way he instantly becomes the highest paid pitcher in baseball, both in total and average annual salary. With a new stadium on the horizon, plus the cash cow SNY available to tap into, there should be no issues. Just get the damn deal done already. Now. Please?
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The deal is pending the signing of a contract extension which will deliver a metric assload of money to Mr. Santana, plus the requisite physical. It would be a huge surprise if the deal didn;t go down, since the Mets have to know roughly what it will take to lock up the lefty for the foreseeable future.
Mets GM Omar Minaya can now be forgiven for the inactivity of the last few months, with the notable exception of the head scratching Lastings Milledge/Ryan Church/Brian Schnieder deal in November. One thing is certain: there are no longer any excuses for this team to not win the East in '08. A rotation headed by the innings eating strikeout machine that is Santana, followed by a healthier Pedro Martinez, a maturing John Maine and Oliver Perez, with El Duque where he belongs as a fifth starter should be able to dominate the National League. The bullpen gets Duaner Sanchez back, which is huge as well. The offense should be fine, provided the extended slump Carlos Delgado went through last year was more an aberration than the beginning of a decline in skills. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran will still be the main cogs, and a full year from hitting machine Moises Alou would be nice. It will be interesting to see how these guys respond to being an overwhelming favorite, especially after the classic collapse of '07.
The best part of the whole trade, though? Simple - #57 will not be suiting up for the Yankees or the Red Sox, much to the chagrin of ESPN, which simply adores all things pertaining to those two teams. Ha!
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Best wishes go out to Michael Wilbon, who suffered chest pains yesterday and had an angioplasty done. As one of the few personalitites left on the Worldwide Leader whom we can tolerate, we honestly wish him a speedy return to health, and PTI.
[Must. Resist. Urge. To write "shoulda been you, name of obnoxious ESPN personality joke here]
You can bet the Patriots are a confident bunch heading into the Super Bowl, and with good reason: being the first team ever to go 18-0 will have that effect. Despite this fact, one will be hard pressed to hear any arrogance from them as the week progresses. Bill Bellichick runs a pretty tight ship, and you won't hear any declarations like "We're gonna win" out of the mouths of Brady, Bruschi, or even Moss. Boring? Maybe, but pretty standard stuff nonetheless.
The Boston media and fans, however, are a different story.
Risking embarassment, or just trying to strike just before the iron gets hot, two products hit the market yesterday:
1.) A book about the magical 19-0 season, courtesy of the Boston Globe, available for pre-order
Monday, January 28, 2008
To be fair, the Finnish star never actually said he was retiring, never accepted the farewell accolades, and never took any cars or prizes on his way out. It is heretofore unknown if he has received any ass injections prior to the return (allegedly, of course).
Teammate Scott Neidermayer did a similar thing, and one wonders if this will become standard operating procedure for guys 35-plus. Skipping training camp at that age, and joining the team for the second half of the season plus playoffs, could prove to be a recipe for success, especially if the Ducks can repeat as Cup champs.
The Ducks are currently the #5 seed in the Western Conference.
Friday, January 25, 2008
The result? A dismal 4-12 season. Losing patience, Davis allegedly asked Kiffin to resign his position so he could bring in Dennis "Crown Their Asses" Green to oversee the ongoing train wreck. As usual, control over player decisions is playing a factor. Kiffin, however, has other ideas - he's not giving Davis the satisfaction.
According to Chris Mortensen:
Davis has gone so far to draft a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign, a source said. Kiffin has refused to do so but has dared Davis to fire him instead.
Kiffin, who was 4-12 in his first season as coach, has two years remaining on his contract at an estimated $2 million per year.
We love the idea of a lawyer calling up the coach and saying that your boss would like him to step down, likely so he won't have to pay him, and expecting the coach to say, "Sure, okay that sounds perfectly reasonable."
Fight the power, Lane!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As much as we (and just about everyone else) hate how the NFL insists on taking an extra week between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl every year, we do take some small comfort in realizing that somehow, on some level, it would have been ten times more unbearable if the Packers had won. Imagine the number of slobbering articles and gushing reports from Arizona as everybody's favorite gunslingin' fun havin' good ol' warrior Brett Favre was involved.
By comparison, having to endure 10 days of Manning related stories versus The State Of Brady's Foot doesn't sound so bad. Can't wait to see if anyone makes an ass of himself at Media Day. We're betting on Rodney Harrison, since he might actually hear some questions about A) Roids or B) his general asshole-ish tactics on the field. Grow a pair, media guys, and grill him. What's the worst that could happen, other than perhaps a little skirmish?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Obviously, it sucks to be a team comes this far and loses. That gets compounded when you are the team that is expected to do well, only to find your season suddenly over. Despite all that, only in rare cases can a team say "we were robbed" or "they didn't win the game, we lost it!" or some such things, and 99% of the time these statements are made when the loss stings like a fresh wound, so they're taken with a grain of salt. None of this, however, applies to the idiotic statement by Dallas coach Wade Phillips a full day after his top seeded Cowboys were bounced by the Giants. "The better team didn't win", said the coach. Really, Wade? Let's have a look at that, shall we?
Is that "the better team" which committed a staggering 11 penalties (for 84 yards), many of them devastating?
Or is it "the better team" whose offensive line was gasping for wind in the fourth quarter as the Giant defensive lineman blew by them?
Perhaps it was "the better team" who had receivers aligator arming several passes, while dropping several others?
Sorry, Wade, but the better team emerged with the win on Sunday, despite what the yardage and time of possession numbers say. And, you are now 0-4 in the postseason.
The biggest highlight of the weekend, maybe the entire season however, had to be this:
Man, we're getting teary just watching it again, but these are from laughing so damn hard. What an ass.
On to the picks...
AFC - 3:00 PM EST
NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) over San Diego
All things being equal, the Pats are the clear choice, despite the fact that their games have gotten tighter as the second half of the season wore on. Toss in the number of dings to key Charger players and it seems like the Bolts will have a hard time keeping this one close at all. The Pats can taste it now, and the realization that they are just 2 games away from immortality is all the motivation they'll need. Throw in some stupid comments by Igor Olshansky, and the general douchebaggery that is Philp Rivers, and you're just adding more fuel to the fire.
KEY PLAYERS: San Diego - Antonio Cromartie. The ball hawking, big play abilities of this guy can play a huge factor in how well the Patriots offense can produce. Cro is always around the ball, and has an uncanny knack for finding the end zone (see last week's called back TD just before halftime, on what was a pretty bogus call). If he can disrupt Moss, Welker and the rest, it could force Tom Brady to check off and look for his 3rd or 4th option - perhaps giving Shawne Merriman and the gang a chance to knock Brady on his butt. For New England, we'll go with Randy Moss. He caught only one ball last week, but his presence alone caused matchups which allowed Wes Welker to grab approximately 57 balls, and Brady to be near perfect. If he draws double coverage, look for a repeat of last week. If not, he'll be a human highlight reel.
The Pick: No sense picking against what has seemed to be inevitable for months. Patriots 34 Chargers 15
NFC - 6:30 PM EST
NY Giants (+7) over GREEN BAY
First things first, the weather will be just as much a pain in the ass to Brett Favre as it will be to Eli Manning. Though it was a Winter Wonderland in Wisconsin last week, it wasn't accompanied by bone rattling temps and sub-zero wind chills. You don't have to look back very far (Week 16 in Chicago) to see how this severe weather affected Favre - he was brutal, as was the entire Packer team in a 35-7 loss. Manning has been no day at the beach either in these types of situations, but all this talk of "Packer Weather" and what not just sounds like posturing at this point. Both teams have solid running games, and the one that proves more effective and mistake free will likely lead its team to the Super Bowl.
KEY PLAYERS: New York - Eli Manning. Should the game plan work as designed, Eli should have to simply manage the game, not force any passes, and keep his cool, just like he's been doing since the Week 17 kickoff against New England. He's done a good job thus far, and doesn't get rattled in hostile environments, however if the G-Men fall behind early it will be interesting to see how he responds. For Green Bay, let's go with Ryan Grant. The ex-Giant had the game of his young career last week, and the fact that he bounced back after two disastrous early fumbles which resulted in Seattle touchdowns made his day even sweeter. He won't have the slippery field advantage this week, and the Giants showed they could clamp down on the run in the second half last week. Suffice it to say that if Grant gets his yards, the Packers will be hoisting the Halas trophy around 10:00 on Sunday.
The Pick: Somehow, Favre makes it happen, and the NFL gets the match up it wants.
Packers 24 Giants 21
Last Week: 3-1
Playoff Total: 4-3-1
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Thank goodness the powers that be were kind enough to put, right there on the field, 20 yards across, the word PLAYOFFS. We smacked our collective forehead, and gave thanks that the glorious league continued with its continuing campaign to CHEAPEN. EVERYTHING. Seriously, from officially sanctioned celebrations (wearing official celebratory logo hats and T-shirts) to prepackaged, canned trophy presentations, it's just so much crap. "Wait, before you begin your spontaneous celebration, put these things on - okay, now go whoop it up!"
Eh, let's just move on.
Buck up, kiddies, we've only got seven, count 'em, seven more NFL games (we don't count the Pro Bowl lovefest, thank you very much) that matter left this season. As depressing as that sounds, don't let that spoil the greatness that is this weekend - the top seeded teams return after a well earned week off, and the survivors from Wild Card weekend all are looking to keep the magic alive another week. Good stuff.
Some late ugliness by the Titans contributed to a 1-2-1 mark last week, as only the Seahawks panned out, while the Jags decided to tank an 18 point lead, then not go for the spread covering TD late in the fourth quarter, thus earning the enmity of gambl- er, "gamers" everywhere by gaining a push. Tennessee was covering for about, oh, 54 minutes before allowing the second chance LT goal line plunge to fall by 11. Only with the Tampa pick did were we completely wrong, as Eli Manning decided he would be Phil Simms, circa 1986.
Let's dive right in with the selections:
GREEN BAY Bay (-8) over Seattle
"Packers at Lambeau" isn't as automatic as one would think - they're just 4-4 in the last 8 playoff games on the no-longer-frozen-heat-coils-under-the-tundra. Favre must've needed a week off, at his age, and the place will be abuzz with vision of a trip to Big D next week. Much has been made about the YAC (yards after catch) factor of the Green Bay wideouts, but the physical Seattle corners could slow them down.
THE KEY: The Seahawk offense. They did not look great in winning last week, as the misleading final score was padded by two defensive TD's. Matt Hasselbeck will need to carry much of the load, and the speedy Pack defense could be teeing off on him as the game progresses. It's been a magical sesaon thus far in Green Bay, as very few people outside of Wisconsin expected this team to be here. We don't see the ride ending just yet.
Packers 27 Seahawks 17
Jacksonville (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Jags, as stated above, tried like hell to give the game away last week, but were saved by David Garrard's legs (and perhaps a slight hold on the play) in knocking off the Steelers. Weather will not bother this team, as they are built to play in foul conditions. The defense, though prone to lapses (see last week, late 3rd/early 4th quarter), has enough to stifle the mediocre Pat running game while keeping some heat on Tom Brady.
THE KEY: Patriots defense. They played much better than they actually were for most of the season, owing to large leads provided by the record setting offense. When games have been tightly contested (Eagles, Ravens, Giants), the cracks have shown. There is no way this one is a blowout, despite any of the bulletin board items put out there by the press this week, and teams have shown that just by staying close to the mighty Pats inspires a ton of confidence. Jacksonville is the better than the teams mentioned above that have challenged NE, so this figures to be tight, with the aforementioned New England defense likely being forced to come up with one or two key stops in the 4th to hang on and advance to the AFC title game, but not by much.
Patriots 31 Jaguars 27
INDIANAPOLIS (-9) over San Diego
Bolts are brimming with confidence after second half surge last week produced first playoff win since 1994. The team is clearly on a roll since late October, and there is something to be said for riding the wave of momentum into the playoffs. Included in the recent surge was a win over this Indy team, which will do nothing but enhance the San Diego belief that this game is theirs for the taking.
Back it up, boys, let's take a look at that, shall we? We don't think it's likely that the Chargers will score two TD's on kick returns, intercept SIX Peyton Manning passes, and have Adam Vinitieri shank a chip shot figgie late in the game. All of those things happened in the previous match up.
THE KEY: Tomlinson. With Antonio Gates hurting, QB Philip Rivers loses one of his best weapons, and a fired up Colts defense will give him fits all day. LT needs to elevate his game and be the game breaking back he has shown himself to be, but in a big spot. It wouldn't hurt if Norv Turner tried to get him as many touches as possible - can anyone explain why he didn't do this in the first half last week? Sorry, Norv, the run ends in the Dome.
Colts 24 Chargers 13
NY Giants (+7.5) over DALLAS
The only red flag seems to be that, much like the Jags last week, everyone loves the G-Men. No doubt, they were very impressive last week, and seem to be playing with a loose confidence of a team that has absolutely nothing to lose. They don't, as the 'Boys are the overwhelming favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. One small problem; Dallas has been playing its least impressive football over the past month or so. Terrell Owens is a game time decision, though it would be a big surprise to not see him out there. Tony Romo not only has a bum thumb, but has been forced to answer questions all week about his little Mexican holiday with Jessica Simpson. Add into the mix the 8 game Giant road winning streak (last loss: here in Big D back in Week 1) and you've got the current conventional wisdom which says take the Jints.
THE KEY: The Giants pass rush. If they can at least contain Romo and limit his room to scramble, and occasionally knock him on his ass, their chances go way up. Romo has killed them in both meetings, tossing for nearly 600 yards. If the defense does a better job, and newly confident Eli Manning efficiently manages the game, mixing in the suddenly potent double barreled ground attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to control the clock and keep Dallas' offense on the sidelines, New York can keep this one close, and maybe steal it outright.
Cowboys 30 Giants 27
Last Week: 1-2-1
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
As you might recall, in our preview, we speculated that Gossage would get in, along with Rice, so we're 1 for 2. Rice's chances could take a hit next year, barring any sympathy votes, since Rickey Henderson will be on the ballot and is a likely first time winner. Others affected by Rickey's emergence will be Andre Dawson (358 votes, 65.9%) and Tim Raines (132, 24.3%). Bert Blyleven (336, 61.9%) will get there, eventually, but fell short again, as should Jack Morris (233, 42.9%).
Mark McGwire (128, 23.9%) is still being punished for that jar of Andro and his "Let's not live in the past" comments, no doubt. It would be a surprise if both he and Dale Murphy (a shockingly low 75, 13.8%) don't received increasing support over the next few years.
It's hard to take issue with the voting results. What jumps opff the page upon looking at the breakdown, however, is the lower half of the list. To wit: Harold Baines, who received a scant 28 votes in his first year of eligibility, is the last player who could at least be debated as to his worthiness for the Hall. One would think that the remaining players listed on the ballot would not get any consideration. One would be wrong:
Come ON! Who is the douchenozzle who chose to throw away a vote on Todd Stottlemyre? Travis Fryman? Chuck freaking Knoblauch? Really? You want to defend that choice there, buddy? Not that these votes would have tipped the scales for any other of the near misses, but the BBWAA should take a long, hard look at the idiots who make votes like this, and consider revoking the privilege.
Hall Welcomes Gossage (mlb.com)
Friday, January 4, 2008
Seahawks 23 Redskins 17
Jaguars 24 Steelers 16
Pros for the G-Men: 1.) Nice weather, which always helps Eli Manning. 2.) Ronde Barber decided to run his mouth off in an effort to be as much of a jerkweed as brother Tiki, which provided some nice bulletin board material.
Cons: 1.) Pass rush could be neutralized by mobile Jeff Garcia. 2.) Buc defense is quite solid, if underrated, and if they watched any film from last week should quickly realize the positive effects of bringing some heat on Manning.
All in all, the Giant moral victory from last week will have no real meaning, and Coach Tom Coughlin will face the endless WFAN fueled speculation about his job for the next two weeks.
Buccaneers 22 Giants 13
We were all set to take the Chargers in a blowout, until the weather forecast: rain, and lots of it. This could slow down LaDanian Tomlinson just enough to allow a better than average Titan defense some success. If that occurs, would you really want to bank on Philip Rivers? No matter who takes the snaps for Tennessee, they should be able to stay surprisingly close and cover this number.
Chargers 20 Titans 16
Last Week: 11-5
Thursday, January 3, 2008
"My belief and what I see and where I believe we can go as a team and an organization, I believe one day that we will win a championship here and I believe a couple of these guys will be a part of that, I believe I'll be a part of that."
Outside of perhaps the trainers, or maybe the ball boy, can we realistically say that some of
these guys will be part of a winning season, let alone a championship?
Later, Ol' Crazypants seemed to backtrack just a little:
"I don't necessarily want to win a championship," Thomas added. "I want to leave something that's going to stand for a long time. I want to leave a legacy. I want to leave a tradition. I want to leave an imprint, a blueprint in terms of how people play and how they coach and how they respond when they put on a Knick uniform. " (emphasis ours)
On that note, Zeke, mission accomplished!
Isiah Thomas Predicts A Title (NY Daily News)