Thursday, December 30, 2010

Week 17 picks: Goodell did something right for a change

By Jeff

Roger Goodell has not done a very good job as the commissioner of the NFL. No, I'm not saying that because of all the fines and penalties against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I'm saying it because he hates fun, is inconsistent with punishments and is a hypocrite when it comes to player safety, as he preaches taking care of the players but then is a major supporter of expanding the regular season to 18 games.
"Make sure you get Val Kilmer to play me in movie
'Goodell: The man who destroyed the NFL.'"

As poor a job he has done with the issues above, he has at least help make Week 17 in the NFL more interesting. Because he enacted that all teams play a divisional game in Week 17, the games have more meaning even when nine of the 12 playoffs spots have been filled.

We have the Steelers battling (former) rival Cleveland with a first-round bye on the line. The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks meet to determine the NFC West champions, The Green Bay Packers need a win against the Chicago Bears to get in the playoffs and The Washington Redskins could eliminate the New York Giants from playoff contention. Although, you could say the Giants were eliminated when they blew a huge lead in the fourth quarter to the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago. And that's not even all the intriguing games this week.

Speaking of this week's games, let's talk picks. I went 9-7 last week to improve to 110-124-6 for the season. So if I'll finish above .500 if I go 16-0 this week. No sweat!

Last week's biggest miss was taking the Eagles to cover (14.5 points) against the Minnesota Vikings. But I think everyone missed that one. This week's picks are below and the home teams are in caps.

KANSAS CITY (-3.5) over Oakland: The Chiefs have a playoff spot wrapped up and will probably rest some guys in this one. But the Raiders don't exactly have anything to play for either, so why would they try? This team hasn't had pride in 10 years.
"Please kick us out of the game.
We stopped caring in Week 6."

NEW ENGLAND (-4) over Miami: Bill Belichick doesn't like to rest his starters and he is a dick. He is the anti-Dungy. The Patriots will play hard to ensure Tom Brady's regular season home record soars to new heights. Well, improves by a game.

Tennessee (+10) over INDIANAPOLIS: This is a terrible pick. So much for 16-0. I'm just worried about two things. One, the Colts aren't used to playing this many meaningful games in December. Second, I could see the team jumping out to a big lead early and then resting their starters, leading to Tennessee covering.

Cincinnati (+9.5) over BALTIMORE: Who knew that the Bengals still had some heart left this season? They crushed the San Diego Chargers last week and didn't look terrible. I expect the Ravens to let up when they see the Steelers crushing the Browns and their chance at a division crown going down in flames. If only the whole city of Baltimore could go down in flames. I think the nation's crime rate would drop significantly.

Pittsburgh (-5.5) over CLEVELAND: Just keep telling yourself "This is not 2009!"

DETROIT (-3) over MINNESOTA: The Vikings will be driving late in the game to win or tie with a touchdown when Brett Favre throws a bad interception. It happened in two of his last three farewell games, it will happen again.

New York Giants (-4) over WASHINGTON: Fighting for the sixth seed. Just how the Giants like it.

You wouldn't be able to fire a
man with hair like that either.

HOUSTON (+1.5) over Jacksonville: Apparently, the Texans love Gary Kubiak and want him to remain their coach. David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew are out. Add these factors together and I could see Houston running away with this one. Then again, they could choke like they have the entire season. 

GREEN BAY (-10) over Chicago: Lovie Smith says he's playing all of Chicago's starters. He kind of left out the part about how long they'll play though. I'm guessing a half. I hear Jay Cutler has a manicure appointment at 3 p.m. that day.

Dallas (-6.5) over PHILADELPHIA: Michael Vick might not play and the Eagles have no reason to play their starters. The Cowboys' Jason Garrett is coaching for the chance to keep his position in Dallas, so you know he is going to do everything he can to win this game.

Buffalo (+1) over NEW YORK JETS: I hate stories that have no news value but get played up like they are important. Who cares if Rex Ryan and his wife like feet? ESPN programming had segments dedicated to this topic for the past week, but they won't even post who scored in the night's NHL games on the Bottom Line.

If you hadn't seen your feet since childhood,
you'd be obsessed with them too.
ATLANTA (-14.5) over Carolina: The Falcons need to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Panthers have guaranteed the No. 1 pick in April's draft. So one team will be trying very hard, while the other team will be booking golf outings and tropical getaways.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) over NEW ORLEANS: The Saints will win, but the Bucs are still fighting for a playoff spot. Despite some key injuries, they are going to play a tough game and make the Saints work for every point.

St. Louis (-3) over SEATTLE: Without hesitation, I'm taking Sam Bradford over Charlie Whitehurst with the NFC West title on the line.

SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Arizona: Remember when I said that Week 17 had a lot of exciting games? This isn't one of them. Not even their fans care about this game.

San Diego (-3.5) over DENVER: Maybe this season will be a lesson for the Chargers. Maybe next year they'll actually start trying before October.

The Beatles - Ticket to Ride

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sports terms I hope disappear in 2011

By Jeff

This post is kind of a rip off of Gene Collier's annual column in the Post-Gazette that makes fun of all the cliches used in sports today. It's a fun read if you have the time to check it out, and he does it much better than I'm about to do. This is more of a focus on sports terms/sayings that need to die.

Let's face it, sports broadcasters, coaches, analysts, fans and just about everyone gets caught up in using certain terms way too much. Some were OK at first, then they got beat into the ground like the Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody". Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed that song until it was played three times an hour on every pop radio station in existence.

Of course, then there are other phrases that were never cool and always sucked, making it even stranger that they continue to be used.

Initially I was going to separate all these stupid sayings into these two categories, but they all make me cringe and should be lumped together.

  • Pick Six: An interception returned for a touchdown. Greg loves this term, but I despise it now. I hear it multiple times a week and don't get the obsession with it. The words don't even rhyme. There is no Fumble Six, Return Six, Throw Six, so why is Pick Six cool?
  • Dribble-Drive: When a basketball player drives to the hoop. There is one thing on this earth that Bob Smizik and I agree on, and it's how silly this term is. What's even sillier is how often it's used. If a basketball player is driving on the court, he has to be dribbling or it's a travel. Even in the NBA. So why do we need to combine the words? Just say Player X driving the lane effectively, or dribbling well. Don't tell me he is using the dribble-drive to his advantage.
  • Quarterback of the Power Play: The player in hockey who brings the puck up the ice on a power play. Why do we have to cross mingle our sports. There is no quarterback position in hockey. It's like when someone says a safety in football is playing centerfield. No, he's playing deep or simply playing the safety position.
  • Swagger: A very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive gait or manner. I blame the New York Jets for the rise of this term in the sports world. When Rex Ryan was brought on to coach the Jets, it became the popular belief that he brought "swagger" to the team. You couldn't turn on "NFL Live" or any NFL show and not hear an analyst say the Jets got their swagger back last year. Shouldn't you have to win something to become arrogant? At least the AFC East, right?
  • It is what it is: Do I really have to define it? Of course it is what it is. If it wasn't, then it wouldn't be. It would be something else. Sounds like an argument George Carlin would make. He probably did and I just subconsciously stole it from him.
  • They control their own destiny: As long as said team wins, they will make the playoffs. Destiny is defined as a predetermined course of events. If it's predetermined, then no one has control of it. Many journalists and broadcasters also majored in english, yet they constantly use this saying when playoff time rolls around. Maybe it's destiny that we'll be subject to this misuse of the english language for eternity and there is no way of stopping it.
  • Stuff: Usually used to describe a pitcher's skill set. This one can still be saved, but it was killed in Pittsburgh last season. First, there was hearing the Pittsburgh Pirates praise Charlie Morton's "stuff", even though he had an ERA greater than 9. Then it was the people making fun of the Pirates, who were making fun of Morton's "stuff". It never stopped. I heard the word every day on the radio or at the game or wherever I went. 
  • Slugfest: Opponents are playing really physical. Sounds like an annual festival for or celebrating slugs.
  • Dagger: In sports, it means to put a team away. Well, it's supposed to be like a dagger in a the chest, or finishing blow. Gus Johnson has turned it into a common phrase used for any 3-pointer made in March Madness. This includes those made in the opening minutes of the game.
  • Useful shot: A good shot in golf. This one gets 10 times worse when the person uses a Scottish accent when saying it.
Are there any big ones I missed?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weekend Review: Bring on the Classic

By Jeff

Sorry for the delay, but it was a holiday weekend and I was too busy doing nothing to make time for writing any posts. But that break is over and there is a lot to talk about.

The Winter Classic is Saturday! Well, maybe Sunday if it rains on Saturday. I'm not going, so it doesn't really make a difference to me. Either way, this is going to be an awesome game. Just look at last Thursday's game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. It was played with a plethora of skill and intensity. And that was just a regular season game in December. The Classic will be a regular season in January, and outside!
Would it surprise you if Fleury's house was filled
with these? How about if he gave them all names?

I missed the live airing of the game because I was at the Pittsburgh Steelers-Carolina Panthers game (Thanks, Mike), but caught the replay on FSN later. For the 2-plus hours I was watching the game I forgot it was 10 degrees outside and thought it was June. Despite telling myself before the game that it was just a regular season game in December, the game felt like playoff hockey. The stars (Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin) showed why they are considered the best, Marc-Andre Fleury was in 09' playoff form and Bruce Boudreau was looking like a lost and angry child. It was awesome.

And it all just sets up the Winter Classic to be an amazing event. Maybe the best game in sports all year.

In all seriousness, the game should be as good as regular season hockey gets. Superstars on both sides, fans from both cities filling the stands and Mario Lemieux lacing up the boots. OK, Lemieux is just scheduled to partake in the Alumni Game Friday morning. But what if playing in that game reignites the spark to play? Imagine a tie game late in the third period, and none other than Lemieux suits up and hits the ice. It would be the greatest comeback in the history of comebacks. Of course, that means Lemieux would hold the top three spots in that category.

Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't have begun that last paragraph with the words "In all seriousness."

Even if it's 40 degrees, as long as it doesn't rain hard and consistently, this game is happening and it will be awesome for everyone participating, attending and watching on television. Try and find me a regular season game in any sport that's as much fun as the Winter Classic. You will fail.

The rest of the weekend was pretty cool too.

  • It was nice to see the Steelers take care of business at home against the Panthers. The Steelers were the superior team coming in and showed it. Last season they failed to do that several times.
  • What a bush move by the Panthers kicking a field goal when they're down 27-0 in the fourth quarter. Is three points really that much better than being shut out? In a 3-0 game, yes. Not in a 27-3 game.
  • Mike Tomlin is a very good coach, but why the hell were the starters playing the whole game? You're up big and need to win next week, rest the big guns.
Oh, buf chick dip. Where have
you been all my life?
  • When did buffalo chicken dip become so popular and why did it take us so long to find out how glorious it is? I had the buffalo chicken nachos at the game Thursday and was very pleased. So pleased, I didn't mind my hand going numb as I ate them.
  • Shocked that the game fell short of a sell out by almost 5,000 fans. Maybe they were at home watching the Pens.
  • Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to 24 with a fluky goal Sunday against the Ottawa Senators. As fluky as the goal was, it was a fluke about three other of his really good chances didn't go in.
  • I don't hear any Pens fans with common sense missing Sergei Gonchar this year. The same people who criticized the Kris Letang contract have also gone silent. Don't be fooled. This is just because the team is winning. These people are still lurking out there, waiting for a bad stretch where they can yell "I told yinz this would happen!" 
What kind of name is Norv?
  • I've never agreed with the Norv Turner haters out there. I get that he doesn't have a lot of success in the playoffs, but name five current coaches who do. That being said, there is no excuse for that choke job Turner's Chargers put together Sunday. Their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, hadn't won a game since September and pretty much gave up on the season. The Chargers were fighting for a division title and a playoff spot. There is no excuse for the effort the players and coaches put forth.
  • I hate Philip Rivers, so a playoffs without the Chargers makes me happy. Too bad we'll still have Jay Cutler.
  • What's the big deal about the NFL postponing the Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings game? There was a state of emergency in Philadelphia, meaning people were advised to stay off the roads. I get that football players are tough and supposed to play in all elements, but the safety of fans has to be the No. 1 priority. Gov. Ed Rendell saying the cancellation shows that Americans are "wusses" is an absurd statement. "Only" five inches of snow can still wreak havoc on commuters. The NFL did the right thing.
  • Go see "Despicable Me" if you haven't already. 
  • Anyone else hoping that the next Iron Man movie will have a main antagonist that isn't just another guy in some form of the Iron Man suit? 
  • Has anyone watched a college bowl game? 
Missing. Last seen in the
Denver area in the Fall of 2008.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Garrett Atkins to a minor league deal. That would be great if it were somewhere between 2006 and 2008 when he was hitting lots of home runs and batting near or above .300. Unfortunately, he has been terrible recently. Maybe a change of scenery is all he needs.
  • Anyone else thinking Ryan Church 2.0?
  • Monday Night Football showed that the New Orleans Saints are looking good heading into the playoffs. Beating a good Atlanta Falcons team in Atlanta (Matt Ryan's second loss at home in three years) by playing good defense is not something I predicted. They could be the favorites in the NFC if they keep playing at their current level.
  • Jamie Dixon coached a hell of a game last night and his team executed the game plan to near perfection in the Pitt Panthers 78-63 victory against UConn. And Huskies coach Jim Calhoun didn't complain about the refs after the game. Weird.
  • Florida International infield Garrett Wittels has a 56-game hitting streak dating back from last season. He's two shy of Robin Ventura's NCAA record of 58. Breaking that record could be hard from a jail cell, though. Wittels has been accused and charged with the rape of a 17-year-old tourist in the Bahamas.
  • Greg, his brother and I caught the Pens practice on Monday. The place was standing room only for a practice! The drills were cool, but the shootout was definitely the most fun to watch. Fleury's antics are priceless. I tried to get interviewed by HBO, but for some reason they were not interested. Their loss.
  • Sorry the blog has been lagging the past couple of weeks. I'm just not inspired right now. The weather may be getting to me. Or I'm lazy. Or I think I'm too busy. All of the above are lousy excuses that I find myself using too often in all phases of my life. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week 16 picks: Luck sweepstakes going down to wire

By Jeff

There are a lot of bad teams in the NFL in need of a quarterback for the future. The Carolina Panthers have Jimmy Clausen, but he looks terrible. The Cincinnati Bengals have Carson Palmer, but he hasn't been above mediocre in recent years. The Buffalo Bills have Ryan Fitzpatrick, who resembles Tyler Thigpen from the 2008 season. And the Arizona Cardinals have... I have no clue anymore.

Yeah, Luck will bank some serious cash,
but he'll have to play for the Panthers or Bengals.
The Bengals and Panthers are looking like the front runners for April's No. 1 pick and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. The Bills shot themselves in the foot by rallying to beat the Bengals a few weeks ago and the Cardinals have the misfortune of playing in the NFC West.

So let's take those bottom feeder favorites and find out who gets the No. 1 pick. Right now, the Panthers (2-12) are a game up on the Bengals (3-11). The Bengals play the Chargers this week, which is a guaranteed loss, and the Panthers play the Pittsburgh Steelers, another guaranteed loss.

So it all comes down to Week 17.

The Bengals will play the Baltimore Ravens in the season finale. The Ravens will be fighting for the AFC North title and a first round bye, so they're probably going to beat the Bengals into submission. Granted, that isn't hard. Cincinnati has been giving up by the third quarter most of the season.

The Panthers travel to Atlanta in Week 17. Usually this would be a guaranteed win for Matty Ice and the Falcons. But the Falcons will wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win Monday night against the Saints. If they do that, they might rest their starters and give the Panthers a chance at 3-13.

Is the tension killing you yet?

And that's why it's nice to be a Steelers or a New England Patriots or a Indianapolis Colts fan. When the end of December rolls around, your team is fighting for a playoff spot or playoff positioning. Your fans aren't hoping you lose so you get a higher draft pick. Sometimes I think fans in these cities, and other successful ones are spoiled and forget this.

Oh well, time for Week 16. I went back to my losing ways with a 7-9 Week 15, dropping me to 100-117-6 for the season. Is it sad I was excited to break the century mark? Whatever. My miss of the week was picking Arizona to cover despite not knowing who their quarterback was.

The home teams are in caps.

PITTSBURGH (14.5) over Carolina: That's a lot of points to give an offense that has scored three offensive touchdowns in their past three games. But they're against the Panthers! And Clausen fighting for job security is not enough to carry the Panthers to within 17 points.
No wonder he got punched in the face.

Dallas (-6.5) over ARIZONA: Read a rumor that New England might try and pry Larry Fitzgerald away from Arizona in the offseason. ESPN stories from their Rumor Mill rarely come true, but just the thought of a Tom Brady-Fitzgerald connection has me terrified.

It's like watching "Paranormal Activity". During the movie, and when I was reading the story, I wasn't scared. I laughed both things off and thought nothing of them. Then the movie ended and I settled in for bed. That's when it hit me, and every sound my house made had me thinking a demon was creeping creeping around. Or a demon was working the phones in New England and acquiring more soldiers for his unholy army.

Detroit (+3.5) over MIAMI: The road losing streak is over! Let the road winning streak begin.

PHILADELPHIA (-14.5) over Minnesota: Does this line go up or down if Brett Favre is healthy enough to play?

"You want who to start? Me?
You know I'm Rex Grossman, right?"
JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Washington: I picked Washington to cover last week before I knew Rex Grossman was starting. It's not an excuse, as I had time to go back and change it. Secretly I was hoping Sexy Rexy would surprise the world and lead his team to at least cover. Have I mentioned I've been sleep deprived because I'm terrified of Fitzgerald somehow landing in New England?

ST. LOUIS (-2.5) over San Francisco: Why does Las Vegas do the .5? Wouldn't .1 serve the same purpose, or does that feel too much like "The Price is Right"?

TAMPA BAY (-6) over Seattle: I'm proud to boast I still haven't watched a Seahawks game this season.

New England (-8) over BUFFALO: The Patriots were taking it easy last week. With Matt Flynn at quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Satan's Devil Dogs were playing relaxed. They might do it again this week, but they are still the top team in the AFC. And it really pains me to make that statement every week.

New York Jets (+1) over CHICAGO: It's nice when two quarterbacks you hate square off and both teams have punishing defenses.

Baltimore (-3.5) over CLEVELAND: The Ravens are playing for a conference crown. The Browns are playing for nothing. They haven't played for anything in several years. They probably won't play for anything significant for several more years.

KANSAS CITY (-5) over Tennessee: Can the Chiefs really hold off the Chargers for the AFC West title? I'm saying yes.

Happier times.
Indianapolis (-3) over OAKLAND: I have nothing witty or intelligent to say about this game. Peyton Manning is really good. Jason Campbell is not. Does that work?

Houston (-2.5) over DENVER: Remember when people were saying the Texans were finally ready to make the next step when they beat Indy in Week 1? Who knew you had to play good football for 16 games in the NFL? Well, 10 if you're San Diego.

GREEN BAY (-3) over New York Giants: Either the Giants continue the free fall that began in the fourth quarter of last week's implosion, or they use that as motivation and kill Aaron Rodgers.

San Diego Chargers (-7.5) over CINCINNATI: I'd take the Chargers to cover if they were favored by 21 points.

ATLANTA (-2.5) over New Orleans: Matty Ice doesn't lose at home.

Artists United Against Apartheid - Sun City

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Boise State getting screwed again

By Jeff

Does anyone else find it weird that since Boise State defeated Oklahoma 43-42 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos of the blue turf haven't been given another shot at a top program when the bowl season rolls around?

Despite an undefeated record last season, the Broncos were matched up against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. It was a great game, but it gave critics of Boise State plenty of ammo when saying the team doesn't have the big wins it takes to compete for a national championship. Broncos haters can say they beat a similar team in TCU, which despite being ranked high, didn't have any big wins.

This year, despite an 11-1 record, the Broncos are playing Utah in the Maaco Bowl. Like Boise State, Utah plays in a weak conference and their success has traditionally been downplayed by the big conferences. So once again, even if Boise State wins the bowl game and finish 12-1, they won't get much recognition. Most people will shrug their shoulders and move on.

While I generally don't mind the BCS (Yes, I said it.), this part of the bowl season really bugs me. I understand that the individual bowls send out invitations to specific teams, so this could have been the best offer the Broncos received. I just wish that a bowl selection committee (Is that what they call themselves? I just threw it out there.) would gamble a little bit and give us a game that let's us determine if the Broncos are on the same level as the big conference programs.

Wouldn't it be great to watch the Broncos take on an SEC powerhouse like Alabama or LSU? What about Missouri or Oklahoma State? Boise State against any of these teams would help answer the question as to whether they can stand with the big dogs. Personally, I already think they answered this. They are just as good as most SEC, Big Ten, etc. teams,  but I might be in the minority with this thinking.

Man, that was a weak post. I swear it made more sense in my head. Oh well. I took the time to write it and I'm not deleting it!

Judas Priest - Breaking the Law

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brewers, Pirates in different positions

By Jeff

With the Milwaukee Brewers' recent acquisition of ace Zack Greinke, expect a lot of hate from fans coming the Pittsburgh Pirates's direction.

The Brewers play in a similar sized market and when they succeed, Pirates fans wonder "Why can't we be doing that." Shipping off some of their top prospects for a superstar is something the Pirates have not done in recent memory and fans don't think they will ever do.
AL Cy Young winners are
flocking to the NL.

While the move is great for the Brewers, they were in position to make this kind of splash. The Pirates are not close to that position.

With slugger Prince Fielder's contract set to expire at the end of the 2011 season, the Brewers are feeling the pressure to win now. Fielder has Scott Boras for an agent, and has already turned down a contract extension. They need to make a run this year if they have any chance of bringing him back.

Along those same lines, the Brewers are capable of winning now, the Pirates are not. Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Casey McGahee and Cory Hart make for a lineup with a lot of pop. The starting rotation, which used to only boast stud Yovanni Gallardo, now has Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke as well. Only two teams in the NL, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants, have rotations with more talent. If the Pirates were to risk their future to sign one star, they would improve by a few wins, but they don't have the pieces in place to make any kind of run yet.

Honestly, how much help would Greinke be to the Pirates this year, or even next? The Kansas City Royals still finished with 97 and 95 losses the past two years when Greinke broke out. It's better than the Pirates' 105-loss season of 2010, but it's still last in the division and nowhere near the playoffs.

The Brewers are what the Pirates could be in a few years. They grew their talent from within, and once that core group of players showed they were legit, the team made moves (The CC Sabathia trade a few years ago and now Greinke) to try and get the team to the next level. Right now, the Pirates are still building that core. Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Stetson Allie, Tony Sanchez and Jameson Taillon give this team hope for the future, but they're not all ready now. Making a move to satisfy fans crying for the losing to end immediately would go against the organization's plan and only set them back more years.

Dave Matthews Band - #41 (For Mike)

Weekend Review canceled this week

By Jeff

Usually there is a weekend review in this space every Monday. Unfortunately, I was in Philly this weekend and did not watch any sports. I'm not counting the first half of the New Mexico Bowl, because it was the first half of the New Mexico Bowl.

Please except this video as my apology. Mark this as one of the things I want to do before I die. I just hope it's not what kills me. It worked out for this guy, so I'm optimistic. Hopefully Marx or Mike will be in the helicopter and be able to find me quickly.

Thin Lizzy - Jail Break

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week 15 picks: Vikings having worst year of all teams

By Jeff

They have a better record than six other teams, but can you really argue against the Minnesota Vikings having the worst season this year?

First, breakout receiver Sidney Rice decided to put off hip surgery immediately following the season. Instead, he waits until summer and ends up sittingon the PUP list and missing more than half the season.

Second, the team was basically taken hostage by Brett Favre. They ended up sending a private plane with several of Favre's friends to talk him into coming back. As ridiculous as that was, the team had to do it. Would you feel comfortable with Tavaris Jackson as your quarterback after Favre led them to the NFC Championship game last year? Hate on Favre all you want, but he needed enablers.

Third, Percy Harvin has the worst case of migraines ever documented. It's hard to rely on a guy to be your go-to receiver when he might be knocked out for weeks at a time without warning.

Fourth, the Favre the team got this year was not the Favre from last season. Just look at his facial expressions and his body language. Like Rice, he waited to get a procedure done on his ankle and probably has not been close to 100 percent all year. But instead of taking a few weeks off, he had to keep his streak alive for as long as he could.

Fifth, Brad Childress. The team had improved every year under his watch, but this year he made every wrong move a coach could make. He divided the team by catering to one player (Favre), coached poorly, made terrible personnel decisions (Randy Moss fiasco) and lost the support of pretty much everyone involved with the team.

Sixth, Mother Nature crapped all over them and destroyed their homefield.

Seventh, the team has no quarterback for their future and no hope for the top pick. They could be this bad for a while, especially when you factor in how their offensive and defensive lines are deteroriating.

Enough about the hopeless Vikings though, it's time for Week 15's pick. I finished last week 9-7 and improved to 93-108-6 on the season. Three weeks to break .500. I can do it!

The miss of last week was a tie. I had the Denver Bronocs and the Seattle Seahawks covering. They both got stomped. Whatever. Who cares about the AFC and NFC West Divisions anyway?

The home teams are in caps.

Seems about right.
SAN DIEGO (-9.5) over San Francisco: Philip Rivers vs. Alex Smith. This could have been a really great matchup if Smith developed into a good quarterback like Rivers did. But he wasn't and the Chargers will roll. Is anyone else annoyed with the fact the Chargers only try for half the season and still end up winning their divisions?

Kansas City (+1) over ST. LOUIS: I never thought I'd say that Matt Cassel's return will lift a team to victory. But that's what will happen this week.

Houston (+1.5) over TENNESSEE: OK, Mario Williams is out for the season and the Texans have nothing to play for. But neither do the Titans.

INDIANAPOLIS (-5) over Jacksonville: Unless Jacksonville scores a meaningless touchdown as time expires to cover the spread. Damn you, Jeff Fisher!

Arizona (+2.5) over CAROLINA: Worst game of the week? Not quite.

Cleveland (+1.5) over CINCINNATI: Worst game of the week.

At least he's better than John Beck was.
MIAMI (-5.5) over Buffalo: Remember when everyone thought Chad Henne was ready to take the next step? Too bad no one specified that said step would be backward.

Philadelphia (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS: I'm taking the Eagles any time they get points with the way they and Michael Vick are playing.

Washington (+6) over DALLAS: The Redskins suck, Jon Kitna hasn't been terrible and the Cowboys will win this game. It just won't be by six points or more.

TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over Detroit: Teams with losing records do not beat th Bucs. Fact.

New Orleans (+1.5) over BALTIMORE: Short week for Baltimore and Saints offense that is clicking will result in a big win for the home team. If I were Sean Peyton, I'd be a very rich and happy man. But I would also a lot of no-huddle. The Ravens' defense was sucking wind as the Texans pushed the tempo and rallied in the fourth quarter last week. Do it for more than a quarter and I don't think they have the energy to close out the game.

Atlanta (-6) over SEATTLE: Not even the homefield advantage in Seattle will help this crappy Seahawks team.

Which one is the roommate from "Transformers 2"
and which one is Mark Sanchez?
 Or are they one in the same?
PITTSBURGH (-6) over New York Jets: That is a lot of points for Pittsburgh to give a 9-4 team. Especially when you consider the Steelers have only scored one offensive touchdown in the past two games. But the Jets haven't scored any touchdowns at all in the past two games. I guess the line makes sense if you look at those trends.

OAKLAND (-6.5) over Denver: I would like to thank Kyle Orton for abandoning my fantasy team when I needed him the most. Not even the whole interim head coach strategy could help this team. Look, the Raiders aren't good. But the Cardinals are terrible and they embarassed the Broncos last week. Expect more of the same.

NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Green Bay: Tom Brady vs. Matt Flynn. Yikes.

Chicago (-3) over MINNESOTA (at TCF Bank Stadium): I get that the Bears were destroyed last week in a game that was supposed to suit their game, but only giving three points to a team likely to start a rookie quarterback? Seems low.

Queen and David Bowie - Under Pressure

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How will Favre be remembered?

By Jeff

Jack Black's character in "High Fidelity" asked John Cusack's "Is it, in fact, unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins?" While the question was about Stevie Wonder, it translates very well to athletes, especially Brett Favre.

Favre was pretty much loved around the league 10 years ago. The only people who didn't like him were Bears, Vikings and Lions fans. Fast forward 10 years, multiple retirements, a potential sexting scandal (still waiting for that penis lineup) and miserable final season, and there seem to be a lot more haters than lovers out there.

The best example of a Favre critic is Swan. We were having a pizza a Burgh's when he said, "I hope his career ends with him being suspended. I hate him." He even went as far as to say the team is better with Tavaris Jackson at quarterback, which seems absurd, but is a legit argument with how terrible Favre has been this season.
Packers fans hate him now, but they'll be
retiring his number in the near future.

I already knew that Swan was sick of Favre and disliked him for all of the career waffling he did. But hearing him make such a statement with sincerity still caught me off guard.

Up until the whole Jenn Sterger controversy, I was a Favre fan. I forgave him for the whole retirement charades because I thought the media and Vikings were just as much to blame as him. And 5 years from now, I will remember Favre for the way he played the game. It's like the way I play "Madden". Like my little avatar in "Madden", Favre throws ill-advised passes, goes for broke and has a good time. Sometimes it cost his team the game and made him look terrible, other times it made him a hero. I appreciate that style and enjoy watching it.

He also seemed to have fun playing the game, which every professional athlete should. It pissed me off to no end when Jeff Kent told reporters that baseball wasn't fun, it was just his job. The man is getting paid millions to play a game, if that's not fun he must be the most miserable man alive.

I'll also remember Favre as the guy who played in 297 consecutive regular season games. Sure, he probably should have sat out quite a few in that time, but I respect the toughness it takes to keep getting back up and earning your paycheck.

And as good as the Packers were for the majority of Favre's career, how many Hall of Fame receivers was he throwing to as he lit the league on fire? Any?

My point is that I'll remember Favre for all the great plays he made and how much fun he was to watch. I won't remember the interception in last year's NFC Championship game. Well, at least not before I remember how terrible his line played and how many fumbles his teammates had. I probably won't remember that he may have sent pictures of his junk to a woman. Especially when you consider that the story leaked a little before a Playboy issue featuring Sterger was being released. And while I'll remember that he retired several times and took the Vikings hostage this year, it will be more of an afterthought.

So how will you remember Favre when he maybe retires for good at the end of this season?

The Hooters - Nervous Night

Stop piling on the Pirates

By Jeff

The Pittsburgh Pirates are not going to be good in 2011. Anyone who knows anything about baseball, and even those who know nothing, knows this to be true. Their lineup doesn't have a big bopper (Alvarez still needs time to develop), it needs at least one more good right-handed bat and the pitching staff is a bunch of four or five starters.

With all that being said, is it really necessary for fans and media alike to make fun of every move this team makes? Did you really expect the team to try and get the likes of Adrian Beltre, Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and any other of the top free agents out there? If you did, you have not been paying attention to baseball recently. The only teams that could have afforded these guys are the big players like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, etc.
Sure, he is better than Jeff Clement,
but who isn't?

I hear a certain radio host on 93.7 The Fan make fun of the Pirates every day because while other teams are signing big name stars, the Buccos are grabbing Scott Olsen, Kevin Correia and Lyle Overbay. But that's what a small market needs to do. The Pirates, and many other teams in baseball, can't give out $100 million contracts. All it takes is for that player to be a bust or get hurt, and the franchise is set back years.

These critics of the Pirates will point to teams like the Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers making the World Series. All of the above teams had lower payrolls, but have been competitive recently. But here's the thing, they have been competitive because they developed their own talent. Tell me what big free agents these teams have recently signed. Pat Burrell? Jason Giambi? The key to these teams' success has been good drafting, player development and smart front office moves.

Just look at the Rangers for an example of a massive contract gone wrong. They signed Alex Rodriguez to a record-breaking deal in 2001. They never made the playoffs with him and could never afford to add more stars and pieces to the roster.

Then there is the case of Carl Crawford. After being developed in the Rays' system and becoming an all-star, he left because the team he had spent his entire career with couldn't afford him. Hell, they couldn't afford to even make him an offer that he might consider.

Of course, the Pirates have been terrible at drafting and developing talent for a long time. But that looks like it's changing. Scouts and followers of the game are actually agreeing with the moves we're making in the draft. It's not a quick fix, but it's the only possible one the team has at this juncture. Unfortunately for fans, that means they have to settle for seat warmers like Olsen, Correia and Overbay until their young crop is ready to take the reins.

Bruce Hornsby - Mandolin Rain

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Apocalypse is Coming

By Kelson

I know it probably wont happen, but I feel like I should write this now in case it DOES happen (and while I'm all emotional about it). Jayson Stark the "unbiased" baseball writer for ESPN - who just happened to write a book about the 2008 Phillies - is reporting that Cliff Lee could possibly sign with the Phillies instead of the Rangers or Yankees. As a retort, I will write this from the point of a Mets fan who may or may not kill himself when we finish in last place this season.

Theoretically, this signing makes sense, the Phillies were an NLCS team the last 3 years and already have a rotation with 3 pitchers who have been number 1 starters for other teams within the last 3 years (Hamels, Oswalt, and of course, reining Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay). By signing with the Phillies Lee would be going against the grain of free agency in the last few years, shunning over $50 million from the Yankees and Rangers to sign with a team that would probably have 1:8 odds to win the World Series next year. Hell, in July I even gave Kudos to a certain basketball player named LeBron for essentially doing the same thing.

But perhaps, here in lies why Lee shouldn't sign. Would this not be the equivalent of James and Wade teaming up? Halladay and Lee are UNQUESTIONABLY two of the top 4 pitchers in the game right now and Oswalt is probably top 20. Hamels - if you he ever allegedly gets another case of PEDs - would be up there too. This would be a monopoly. If I were the Phillies I would just have a four man rotation. Lee and Halladay could probably each win 30 games if they were starting 40 per year. The National League is screwed and so is parity. I demand that ESPN has daily off season coverage (ala the Heat Index) for the Phillies and the misery that Lee signing in Philly would cause the sport of Baseball. EVERYBODY that's not a Philly fan better be up in arms.

Yet, they wont be. For some reason this fiasco doesn't translate to baseball like it does in basketball. Lee is LeBron (same letter of the alphabet, obvious comparison) and Halladay is LeBron - let's see some teeth people! This is the vampire era, I know we've all been practicing in the mirror. Maybe baseball is more of an individual sport, where one player has less of an impact, but if the Phillies are throwing Cy Young pitchers 3 out of every 5 games, thats a huge impact.

What I have failed to mention, probably due to the large ulcer forming in my stomach, is that the Phillies have probably the scariest offense in the league AND we're just voted as the top farm system in the majors. I'm not even sure I could compare this to the business world, but this is a monopoly in the scariest way possible. F it, I'll try. This would be like if Apple was able to somehow score the main developer of XBox and then became the biggest gaming company in the world in addition to basically everything else entertainment. We are all screwed.

As much as I hate the Yankees - Lee should go there because the Yankees will still find a way to lose. Lee might even regress to his Cleveland days because of CC "I said 100 McNuggets" Sabathia. I cant fathom why Lee would want to stay with the Rangers, there is no home town discount, he played there for 3 months. Lee is a smart man, he already excelled in Philly and now he wouldn't even have as much pressure and I'm worried that this "intelligence" rarely found in baseball players, will cause him to make a decision that will ensure the Mets (and lets face it, the rest of the NL) don't see the playoffs for a solid 3 years. Meanwhile, I can't wait for the Mets to shell out $83 million to Chris Young over 5 years in attempt to counter. I dont like following baseball in March and I will hold my breath until then and hope that maybe the sports gods skip 2011 baseball and go right to football.

The Get Up Kids - Holy Roman

Weekend Review: Who needs offense?

By Jeff

With yesterday's 23-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals, The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 3-0 this season when their offense doesn't score a touchdown in regulation. It's not exactly a stat you want to brag about as it shows it's not uncommon this team doesn't score offensive touchdowns. But it does show how dominant this defense is.
He caught this and then delivered a baby in the stands.
The whole scenario took 20 seconds.

The highlights were Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley showing not only how good they are on interception returns for touchdowns, but how much of a joke Carson Palmer has become. Both throws were mistakes where he just didn't see the defenders. I hear that he punches a poster of Kimo von Oelhoffen every night before he gets into his USC pajamas.

Carson Palmer aside, this defense is something special again. This is practically the same defense that lost multiple fourth-quarter leads last season. Well, except for that No. 43 is healthy again this season. Other than that shellacking the New England Patriots gave the Steelers a few weeks ago, no team's offense has found any kind of rhythm against the Steelers.

This is the same unit many fans thought was too old before the start of the season. I don't know about you, but James Farrior and others don't look that old this season as they are putting the offense on their backs.

It all starts with a healthy (Kind of) Polamalu. He disappeared for a few weeks, but now he is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Of course, he would have to beat out teammate James Harrison, who is having a great year despite being fined $125,000 and targeted by the NFL.

Now it remains to be seen if this defense can carry a decimated offense to the Super Bowl. The Patriots are looking better every week and Brady owns the Steelers. It doesn't matter how much you love the Steelers, you can't look at that matchup and feel confident after what the Pats did at Heinz Field. The offense needs to be more consistent if this team wants to go anywhere in the playoffs.

As for the rest of the week?

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to 12 games Saturday with a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Sidney Crosby also had an assist, extending his point streak to 18 games. Both the Pens and Crosby suck.
  • The Pensblog had two great posts reminding Pens fans to this streak in perspective. One was a mockery of Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis declaring the Capitals had arrived last year when they went on their own streak. The other was a nice piece pointing out that most of the teams the Pens have played in this stretch kind of suck. 
  • I get that the season is early and Pens fans can't get too excited about the current streak, especially with Philadelphia only one point behind in the standings. But these wins count just as much as ones in March. The Washington Capitals are on a 6-game losing streak, but they're still No. 2 in the East. Why? Because they were great early on in the season. They built a buffer. These wins count right now. It's fun watching every Pens game and thinking the only possible result is a win. 
  • While there is no doubt that the Pens would not be on a 12-game winning streak without Crosby, you have to give credit to the rest of the team for stepping up and scoring big goals. Look no further than Saturday. Dustin Jeffrey, Aaron Asham, Mike Rupp, Alex Goligoski and Matt Cooke (Empty net) all tallied goals. That's a defensemen, three fourth liners and a third liner playing with the second line.
And here is the reason the Devils played several
games with only 17 guys this season.
  • Speaking of Cooke, he now has five goals this season. It is the same amount that Ilya Kovalchuk has for the New Jersey Devils. Only Kovalchuk makes about $95 million more than Cooke. Nice work, New Jersey. You destroyed your cap to pay a man who will earn about $500,000 per goal this season if he keeps his current pace. Oh, he's also a -18 for the season. On behalf of the city of Pittsburgh, thank you.
  • I really hope that last item doesn't come back to bite me in the ass.
  • Alexander Ovechkin popped his cherry this weekend. He dropped the gloves against Brandon Dubinsky. Nothing special about the fight, not even worth a YouTube search, but it's always good to see superstars taking a stand for their teams. Yes, I just gave Ovechkin props.
  • Pitt hoops lost to Tennessee. I didn't see any of the game. Sorry.
  • The search for a new Pitt football coach is on, and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is at the top of the Panthers' wish list. He runs a completely different offense than what the team has been running in recent years. Could mean good things. Could mean Michigan. I don't know enough about him to guess which way the team would go under his command.
  • As if Brett Favre pissing all over the Minnesota Vikings franchise this year wasn't enough, Mother Nature decided to take a dump on the Metrodome for good measure. YouTube it if you haven't seen the video.
  • I really don't care if Tashard Choice asked Michael Vick for an autograph after the game. It was for his nephew. The game was over. I get it looks bad on camera, but it's just not a big deal to me. I think it angers people because they expect athletes on rival teams to hate each other. Sorry to say this, but that's rare in today's sports. 
  • Did you catch the New York Jets strength and conditioning coach tripping the Miami Dolphins player on a punt? Please YouTube it. It's awesome. It was a despicable act that could have caused serious injury, but try and tell me you haven't wished someone on the sidelines do that during a game.
  • How good did Tom Brady look yesterday against the Chicago Bears? He put up more than 350 yards in a blizzard. It made me sad and amazed at the same time. 
  • San Francisco is back in the hunt for the NFC West!
  • Season finale of Dexter was decent. Not the way I would have gone with it, but not terrible. I just wish there was more to Jordan Chase than they told us. At times it seems like the writers were a little lazy this season. They had plenty of time to develop the new characters, but instead they wasted valuable time on the Angel and LaGuerta storyline.
  • My fantasy football seasons are basically over. F-you, Swan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Democrats for LeBron

By Kelson

Can we just admit that the Miami Heat arent going to be the best NBA team ever during this 2010-2011 season ( I still have hope for 2013)? 6 Months ago, I openly pledged my allegiance to the fearsome twosome (I will not mention the former Chris Bosh) and company and I have yet to give up on that. Sure, there were those awful back to back losses against the Pacers - who sport a roster with SEVERAL white, non european players, and Memphis who wont have a basketball team come 2013. Then there was the turning point of the season - the game in Cleveland.

This was beyond ridiculous - sports writers legitimately thought LBJ would be scared and timid and that this Heat team would crumble under the pressure. They forgot that Joey Graham was starting against LeBron and probably couldnt guard anyone that wasnt hobbled by some crippling disease. LeBron and Wade destroyed and yet, people still doubted. A friend I was at the bar with was still "unimpressed" by the Heat offense, even if they had a 40 point lead at one point in the 3rd quarter. He's a Bulls fan, so he might be in scared shitless mode.

Now, Miami is in the midst of a 7 game winning streak - including a convincing win at Utah earlier this week. Their upcoming schedule goes Sacramento, New Orleans, Cleveland, New York and Washington. A fairly easy 5 game stretch that could put them on a 12 game winning streak as they head into Christmas week against Dallas, Phoenix and the Lakers. Great teams have double digit winning streaks and, of course it is easy to pick on the cupcake schedule and to over embellish, but thats what this Heat team has been and will be.

They started 8-8 and random people who never follow basketball were overjoyed that the Heat "sucked" and were only in 4th place in the Eastern Conference. Oh!!!! How terrible they are to be at .500. This is the problem that we are facing - no one wants to see a winner and even though LeBron and Wade have ostensibly drawn more attention to the NBA this season ( a good thing), we have created a new fan thats not even considered casual. We have relaxed fans. These are the fans that know the Heat play in Miami and LeBron plays for them. The end. They do not know, or need to know anything else about the sport, just that LeBron is overhyped and they hate him.

Relaxed fans can't even fathom why the Heat had a "terrible" start and even worse when I try to argue with them about the reasons, they are unintelligibly incoherent about the topic. It has almost become like politics - relaxed fans believe in something because they are told to and then dont research the topic and are too dumb to even debate with. I now know how Al Gore felt in the 2000 primaries.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guess who's in the best shape of his life...

By Jeff

This guy.
Ray Bourque is curling up into the fetal position and crying somewhere!

That's right. No. 66 is going to be donning a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey again. As a part of the Winter Classic, Mario Lemieux and other famous Pens like Ron Francis and Bull Guerin will be taking the ice against former Washington Capitals.

The story from the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is here. 

If only they could have all of the former players Lemieux embarrassed during his career (I'm looking at you, Ray Bourque.) and let him skate circles around them again. I guess Peter Bondra will have to suffice. Tickets are only $25. I'm so there if my girlfriend lets me go.

Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life Again

Despite insanity, Artest deserves props for charitable contributions

By Jeff

Ron Artest is crazy. There is no arguing that fact. He's fought fans, shaved his record label into his head, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel in just boxers, and probably thousands of more strange things nobody else knows about. But he is also a very good man when it comes to giving to charity.

ESPN reported yesterday that Artest is going to give a large chunk of this season's salary to charities that benefit mental health awareness. He is already auctioning off his championship ring, which ESPN reported is currently going for more than $460,000.
And he's a dog lover.

I'm a sucker for stories like this. Here is a guy whose reputation of being a nutcase has overshadowed his good work. Yeah, he charged into the stands in Detroit and tried to kill a few guys, but wouldn't you if someone threw a beer on you? But the money he raises for good causes is 100 times more worthy of attention than his loony on-court antics.

Mental health is a issue near and dear to Artest's heart. In a Rick Reilly column he described how he desperately needed a counselor in school when he was growing up. So now he raises money to get more counselors in schools and help troubled youth.

It's a great deed that deserves more attention. If this were a LeBron's or Kobe's caliber, it would be the top story on any major sports outlet. Instead, Artest was on's front page for a day and then gone.

It's time to forget about the brawl and recognize how far Artest has come in the past fews years. He's still one the craziest individuals in pro sports, but he's also one of the most charitable. Who would have thought Artest could be somewhat of a role model?

Billy Joel - You May Be Right

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Week 14 picks: Don't trash talk Tom Brady

By Jeff

You'd think that NFL players and coaches would know better by now than to talk smack on the New England Patriots. The New York Jets are just the latest victims of the ill-fated approach.

The usual outcome of these actions is Tom Brady goes off and makes your defense looks like crap. He did it a few years ago when Pittsburgh Steelers safety Anthony Smith did it. It happened again Monday night. The New York Jets and their coach Rex Ryan were guaranteeing a win all week. They said they were going to kick the Patriots' ass. Well, the Patriots responded with a 45-3 schooling of the Jets. Brady led the charge with lots of yards and lots of touchdowns.
When he gets mad, the Patriots win games.

Now the Patriots are entrenched in "Screw You Mode". Thanks a lot, Rex. The last thing this team needed was more motivation, now a fourth Super Bowl is very possible for Brady and Bill Belichick. If this happens, you know the drill. All of your Boston friends will become unbearable for a year, Bill Simmons will have three podcasts and a column a week touting their greatness and general goodness in the world will see a drastic decline.

Granted, I said Peyton Manning was the favorite for MVP, and he turned into a turnover machine. Then I said Phillip Rivers was the front runner for MVP, and he couldn't do jack against Oakland. Maybe this jinx will transfer to Brady now that I'm saying his team is scary good and is on pace to win another MVP.

As for last week's picks, I almost had two consecutive winning weeks! I finished 7-8-1 and am 84-101-6 for the season. The big miss of the week was picking the Jets (+3) to cover against the Patriots. They wouldn't have covered if it was +40. Yeah, that was a big miss.

Picks for Week 14 are below and home teams are in caps.

Indianapolis (-3.5) over TENNESSEE: As I typed that I just had visions of Chris Johnson torching the Colts for 200 yards and three scores. But I also see Manning getting back in his groove and throwing for four touchdowns of his own.

JACKSONVILLE (-4) over Oakland: West coast teams traveling east for a 1 p.m. game usually ends in disaster for the west coast team.

Cincinnati (+8.5) over PITTSBURGH: The Steelers will win this game, but I just don't see it being by more than a touchdown. These teams have gone down to the wire the last three games they've played. The difference will not be more than a touchdown.

New England (-3) over CHICAGO: This is weird. I find myself cheering for Jay Cutler. That should tell you how much I hate BRady, Belichick and the Pats.

Cleveland (+1) over BUFFALO: How the hell am I supposed to pick this game. They both look better than their records some days, and worse on others. The Bills have forced Pittsburgh and Baltimore to overtime this year, but then they just got killed by Tavaris Jackson. The Browns crushed New England, but then were a missed field goal away from losing to Carolina. I'm banking on the Bills tanking to try and get Andrew Luck.

New York Ginats (-3) over MINNESOTA: Speaking of Tavaris Jackson, the Giants are going to have fun chasing him after Brett Favre gets knocked out in the first quarter.

Green Bay (-6.5) over DETROIT: Drew Stanton is friggin' incredible! Not really. The Packers are going to roll.

Atlanta (-7) over CAROLINA: I just don't see the Falcons losing again until the Super Bowl. That could come back to bite me, but I'm sticking to it.

WASHINGTON (+2) over Tampa Bay: The Bucs' defense is hurting and so is their stud center. Don't get me wrong, the Redskins will do whatever they can to screw this game up, but somehow they pull it the victory.

NEW ORLEANS (-9) over St. Louis: I like St. Louis to win the NFC West, but I going into New Orleans is a very tough task, especially for a rookie quarterback. On a side note, people need to stop complaining about an NFC West team making the playoffs. I never hear the sports shows complaining about the NBA non-stop when they have losing or .500 teams make the playoffs in the East. Feel free to make fun of their mediocrity but stop whining that one of these teams is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Seattle (+5) over SAN FRANCISCO: No reason here, I just never think the 49ers should be favored.

Miami (+5.5) over NEW YORK JETS: Why the heck is the media saying it was a brilliant gesture by Rex Ryan to bury the game ball from Monday night's slaughter. That sounds like something you do with your pee-wee team. It's not even original. Belichick did it like 10 years ago. Whatever, the Jets just don't win by wide margins this year.

Denver (-5.5) over ARIZONA: Interim head coaches are doing great this year. The trend is going to continue Sunday in Arizona.

SAN DIEGO (-7) over Kansas City: Even if Matt Cassel recovers from his appendectomy in time for this game, he can't be 100 percent. If he doesn't play, this is going to be a blow out. If he plays, it will be a two-touchdown game.

Philadelphia (-3.5) over DALLAS: Unlike Indy, Philly is healthy. Dallas will have to focus on more than two players and Michael Vick will take over.

Baltimore (-3) over HOUSTON
: Andre Johnson is a beast. He's been hurt almost the entire season, yet he has only missed one game and has put up top five numbers at his position. Too bad the Ravens are going to be too much for Johnson and Arian Foster to overcome.

Photos to come later, but I have to head out.

Rogue Wave - Eyes

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

He did it again

By Jeff

It didn't even take 10 minutes for Sidney Crosby to extend his points streak 17 consecutive games. He tapped in his own rebound to score his 25th goal and 49th point of the season. However, reports are still coming in from the rest of the country that he sucks.

Aerosmith - Pink

Pirates making big waves

By Jeff

Who said the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't willing to spend money on big name free agents? They have been very active in the past few days signing Scott Olsen, Kevin Correia and Matt Diaz.

OK, so maybe they're not making a splash in free agency. Instead, they're just doing what they always do in grabbing a bunch of guys nobody else wanted. Sweet.

Olsen is coming off major arm surgery, has a career ERA of 4.85 and career WHIP of 1.479. But at least he's a lefty. Crap. So was Zach Duke and Mark Redman.
Zach Duke thinks Scott Olsen sucks.

Correia has a career ERA of 4.57 and a WHIP of 1.441 in eight seasons playing in the NL West. He had a decent year in 2009 when he posted 12 wins, a 3.91 ERA and 1.303 WHIP. But then he took a step back last year and saw his ERA climb to 5.40. It's encouraging that his K/BB ratio is almost two, but he is still just a mediocre pitcher on a staff already full of them.

Diaz is a career platoon outfielder. He's batting .301 for his career (Hello, Cooperstown!), but he has very little pop and it's doubtful he could be an effective everyday starter.

And that's what it's like to be a Pirates fan. While other teams are out shopping for big name players and bringing excitement to their fans, the Buccos are going dumpster diving. But unlike your typical dumpsters divers, who are hoping someone actually threw away something very valuable, the Pirates and their fans know that what they're finding isn't going to help the team win. They're getting enough guys to put a team on the field until their prospects get to the majors, or have major arm injuries that set them back two years.

With all that being said, I still believe in the current management's plan. They are trying to build from within and not overspending on the market's biggest free agents. I know it has been their plan for the past 10 years, but scouts are actually praising the team for their recent drafts, rather than tearing them apart.

Fans will come out in force ripping the team for not spending, especially when you look at the money the Washington Nationals just threw at Jayson Werth. But would you rather the Pirates pay $126 million over the course of seven years to a good player that won't put them over the hump, or would you rather them remain cheap for a few more seasons and grow their own talent? A team like the Pirates can't afford a big free agent signing like Werth to be a bust. If he sucks, the team is set back for years, they will trade him for very little and fans will be unhappy anyway.

So yeah, the Pirates' additions so far are not exciting, but they don't hurt the team at all beyond this year. They are just a bridge to guys like Stetson Allie and Jameson Taillon. You've waited 18 years, what is two more?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - The Waiting

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SDEE Bowl Challenge

By Jeff

At the request of Joe, I have set up the SDEE Bowl Challenge on Yahoo. It's your typical NCAA Football Bowl Pick'em contest. The scoring is set for straight picks, rather than confidence. I will happily spring for a small gift card to some retail outlet if we get enough people, so tell your friends.

To enter simply click here. The league ID is 13215 and the password is jcvd4life.

Queen - Gimme the Prize

Defensemen earning their big contracts

By Jeff

When the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 10 of their first 19 games, there were grumblings that Ray Shero overpaid Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. Those same people are the ones who cry every offseason that this team can't win without a scoring winger on Sidney Crosby's line.

Well, those critics are in hiding now as the Pens have won 10 games in a row and have the most points in the NHL with 40. None of this is possible without the play of Martin, Michalek and the rest of the Pens defense. This group is third in the NHL with 2.31 goals-against per game. They were 20th at the end of last season with a 2.87 goals against average. The penalty kill is second in the league at 88.8 percent. They were ninth in that category last year with a 84.1 percent kill rate.

If you look beyond the stats, you'll see two players who are getting better with every game. There is no denying they took some time to get acclimated to the Pens' style of play. I'm pretty sure Martin, who played in the New Jersey Devils' boring system his whole career, was not initially aware that defensemen are allowed to join the rush, or even cross the blue line at even strength. Now he's skating through entire teams (see Monday's Columbus game) and making plays at both ends of the ice.
Sergei who?

Then there is the Kris Letang contract Shero put together last year. Letang received a $14 million deal over fours years ($3.5 million per season) last season and it was greeted with mixed reactions. Many fans thought it was too much for someone who hadn't proven himself, basically meant they weren't resigning Sergei Gonchar and used up money that could have been spent on a winger. But Letang is currently on pace for 73 points. The last Pens defenseman to put up those kind of numbers was Paul Coffey. Even if Letang doesn't get 73 points, he is proving to be a bargain at his current deal.

Letang's game isn't limited to just offense, though. He leads the team in plus/minus with 15 and is showing more physicality every season. There have been a few times his mind has wondered and a goal was the result, but he's only 23. He's just going to get better.

The rest of the crew has been solid as well. Orpik has been his usual self. And by usual self I mean he is crushing any opponents that come within three feet of him and scaring the crap out of them with his stare. Goligoski has been inconsistent in the defensive zone, but like Letang, he's young and still growing. And then there is Deryk Engelland. The man just beats people indiscriminately with his fists. He isn't bad on defense and his fighting prowess allows the team to scratch Eric Godard against more physical teams, which is a major plus.

So the Devils are free to have Ilya Kovalcuk, and the New York Rangers can enjoy Alexander Frolov. I'm perfectly content with Shero's moves to ignore the wing this off-season and stock up on solid defensemen.

The Talking Heads - Road to Nowhere

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roberts, Guerin won over Pittsburgh fans quickly

By Jeff

Don't see this post as a rip on Billy Guerin or Gary Roberts. Quite the opposite. I loved Roberts since his days on the Toronto Maple Leafs and enjoyed Guerin's time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. I just find the following these two men gained in Pittsburgh amazing, especially considering how short their tenures were.
The fact he'd kill you if you didn't like him
might have boosted Roberts' popularity

Guerin helped the team win a Stanley Cup and scored 26 goals and 57 goals in 95 regular season games with the Pens. He added 11 goals and 24 points in 35 playoff games. Solid numbers, but not mind blowing.

Roberts only played 57 regular season games with the Pens and had 10 goals and 28 points. He put up four goals and eight points in 16 playoff games. As with Guerin's, Robert's stats were certainly not why fans fell in love with Roberts.

So what was it that made these men so beloved so quickly? Was it Roberts beating the crap out of Carolina Hurricanes player in his first game as a member of the Pens? Did Guerin gain the city's support by burying a game-winner against the hated Philadelphia Flyers in a playoff game?

Neither. Sure, those moments helped solidify their places in Pittsburgh lore, but it takes more than one play to do so. What these men did was come in and just played in-your-face hockey. Nothing they did was pretty or easy, but they worked their asses off every day despite their ages. They provided the veteran leadership that the young Pens needed.
Win the Cup, and you win the fans.

With all this in mind, I still can't believe how much love Pens fans showered on these two. If you watched the ceremony before the last game at Mellon Arena, only one man got a bigger ovation than Roberts. That guy just happened to be Mario Lemieux.

Not to be outdone, Guerin retired as a Pen tonight and received a similar response from the crowd.

I might not get it, but I'm all for it.

Warren Zevon - Frank and Jesse James

Weekend review: Steelers take control of AFC North

By Jeff

If you got last night's Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game confused with AMC's "The Walking Dead", you weren't alone.

There was blood (Ben Roethlisberger breaking his nose), head shots (Big Ben's nose and Health Miller nearly being decapitated), casualties (Flozell Adams, Daniel Sepulveda and Todd Heap) and a rag tag bunch of survivors pulling out an unexpected victory (Steelers and their offensive line). All we were lacking were legitimate zombies. Although, an undead creature may have played tighter defense than Bryant McFadden if given the chance.
Women across the nation found some joy
in the Steelers' 13-10 win Sunday night.

If you had told football fans that the Steelers would go into Baltimore, in December, and win a game (13-10) without both their starting tackles, their backup right tackle, their run stuffing defensive end, their punter and their stud tight end, you'd be laughed at. Hysterically laughed at. But that's what they did.

I was tempted to turn the game off once Adams went down. It was just too much to overcome. But the Steelers didn't break. Troy Polamalu sacked Joe Flacco and forced a fumble the Steelers recovered, the Steelers scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass to... Isaac Redman? And then they top it off by forcing a turnover on downs. It's one of those conclusions that no one could have written.

The game was not pretty. Games between these teams never are. They are practically mirror images of each other. They stuff the run and brings all kinds of pressure on defense. On offense, they try running the ball down your throat to set up the big pass plays. It's like the final boss Zelda II: Link's Adventure. Link has to fight his shadow, which mimics every move you do. Ocarina of Time had a similar mini-boss in the Water Temple, but it originated in Link's Adventure.

Anyway, Pete King pointed out some interesting facts about recent Steelers-Ravens games so I didn't have to do the research. King observed in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that in the four games these teams have played against each other in the last two years, both have won two, both have scored 67 points and both have scored seven touchdowns and six field goals in that span. Mirror Boss theory confirmed! Thankfully for Steelers fans, the team's two Super Bowls compared to the Ravens' one since 2000 prove that Pittsburgh is the real Link, and Baltimore is just the shadow.

Hopefully fans will focus on the great game and how much the Steelers overcame to win it. But the refs blew several calls (Big Ben's nose and Miller's decapitation) that will lead some to continue the conversation that the league is targeting the Steelers. It's a silly concept, seeing as the Steelers are one of, if not the, most popular franchises in the league. But at the same time, recent events have given them plenty of fuel for their fires.

As exciting as the Steelers' victory was, there actually were other things going on this weekend.

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins embarrassed the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2 Saturday for their ninth in a row. Crosby added another two goals (but still sucks)
  • I wasn't at the game, but hearing the roars after every Pens goal told me that Pens fans took over the building and embarrassed Blue Jackets fans
  • Someone put Steve Mason on suicide watch. He looked ready to give up on life after the second goal Saturday, and then they kept him in for two more
  • Suicide jokes aren't funny and I'm ashamed of the above line
  • There will be no more Thrilledge in PNC Park as the Pirates have let Lastings Milledge go. My dad and uncle made fun of me about this move, saying they should have never traded Nyjer Morgan. My dad and uncle don't watch a lot of baseball
  • Jayson Werth signed a ridiculous 7-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals. RJ is taking it very well
  • Pitt finished the season strong with a big win over Cincinnati. Well, Cincy sucks this year, and Pitt didn't win the Big East despite the conference being a joke, but the win did get them an invite to the BBVA Compass Bowl. Anyone want to give an over/under for the BBVA Compass Bowl's existence?
  • Pitt basketball beat Rider. I was busy playing touch football to watch the game. Did I really miss anything?
  • Peyton Manning has 11 interceptions in the past three games. Four have been returned by touchdowns. Remember when I said he would win the MVP this year? I was wrong
  • Kudos to Sean Lee on picking off Manning twice and returning one for a touchdown. It will be a game he and Upper St. Clair will never forget
  • The Bengals blew another lead late. I. Love. It.
  • I hate it when I see people emphasize a statement by putting a period after every word
  • Let the Tavaris Jackson Era begin... again
  • I really don't like Jay Cutler. I like it even less that he is playing very well despite my best efforts to convince him that he sucks
  • "The Walking Dead" Season Finale was kind of weak. We learned about the scenario that left to Rick being abandoned at the hospital, but before we can sympathize with Shane's decision, he goes and acts like an ass again. We also learned how the brains of zombies work, kind of. Could have been better and more creative