Thursday, December 30, 2010
Kevin Love- Right now Kevin Love is leading the league in rebounds by a wide margin and is cementing his place among the elite big men. Kevin Love has always been recognized as a solid player but he has never been mentioned in that "superstar" category. So far this season Love has proved he wants to be in recognized in that upper echelon of talent, and he certainly deserves to be. He is averaging 20.8 points and 15.5 rebounds per game, last season he averaged 14 and 11 but was seemingly overshadowed by the presence of Al Jefferson. With Jefferson's departure to Utah, Kurt Rambis has designated Love as the go-to-guy for this young team. The Timberwolves are filled with raw-youthful talent such as: Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Ricky Rubio, Darko Milicic, and Michael Beasley. Injuries and inexperience have set Minnesota back a few years but despite their rebuilding process, the team is getting a high level of production from their third year big man. His most impressive performance came against the Knicks back on November 12th where he dropped 31 points to go along 31 rebounds. This was the first 30-30 game in NBA history since Moses Malone. That was the first of four 30+ point performances for Love, including a career-high 43. Kevin Love's game exists away from the basket as well; he is a versatile offensive weapon. In eleven games this season Love has made multiple 3-pointers and has had two nights in December where he shot a perfect 5 for 5 from behind the arc. He shoots 45 percent from the field, 43 percent from the 3 point line, and 88 percent on free throws, proving he puts up high scoring numbers at an efficient rate. In the NBA, efficiency is what separates the league's stars from the rest of the field. Love will make a major push for an All-Star spot in the west and definitely deserves consideration as a backup forward. The starting front court will include Durant, Gasol, and Nowitzki but look for Love to be in contention as well, along with guys like Rudy Gay, David West, Tim Duncan, and Carmelo Anthony.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Take the Browns with the points. I like the upset here and the only reason the Dolphins are favored is because the game is in Miami. But this Miami has had a "home field disadvantage" as 4 of their losses have come at home. Between the Marlins and Dolphins not many games are won at Sun Life Stadium, and not many fans attend. The Browns are a team that plays up to their competition and shows up for big games. Their two biggest wins this season are extremely impressive: beating the Saints and New Orelans and man-handling the Patriots by 20. They also played tight games on the road against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. Plus if Rodney Stuckey had not fumbled the ball in overtime then the Browns could've added a win over the Jets to their resume. The Dolphins have been banged up but Chad Henne returns this week after suffering a shoulder injury. With Brandon Marshall non-existent Davone Bess and Brett Hartline need to step up for the Dolphins to win this game. Neither teams play great defense but Peyton Hillis will come out and produce so the Browns are the safe play to cover and possibly win.
2. Buffalo Bills +7 @ Minnesota Vikings
Forget the records in this matchup (both teams would love do this) and look at the how both teams have played. The Bills only have 2 wins and were winless until week 10, but they also have 3 over time losses. They took the Ravens and Steelers to over time, 2 of the top teams in the AFC, as well as the NFC west leading Chiefs. If you just look at the season numbers the Bills look pretty ugly. But people who watch games every week have seen the Bills play every opponent tough and could easily have 6 wins. The Bills defense and Brett Favre have both been non existent this season and I see Ryan Fitzpatrick and breakout wide out Steve Johnson continuing their connection against the Vikings secondary. The running game will be less of a factor as Peterson is a little banged up and Fred Jackson is up and down week-to-week. This game is going to be a shootout due to lack of defense. Take the Bills with the points and the over easily, my sleeper bet: Bills ML.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars +3 @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans are at home and getting the requisite three points, similar to the Dolphins. This is a division battle and the Jaguars are leading the division over the Colts (Yes you heard that right and yes it is week 13). The Titans are deciding between Rusty Smith and Kerry Colllins, obviously Collins gives them a better chance but I don't trust either one. With Kenny Britt still sidelined and Randy Moss leaving his talents in New England, the Titans are left with a one dimensional offense attack again. Last week the Texans recognized this and stacked the box against to stop the run. Chris Johnson had his worst game of the reason with only 7 yards on 5 carries and I bet the Titans regret releasing Lagarutte Blount right about now. We should expect Johnson to bounce back but it won't be enough to carry the anemic Titans against a hot Jaguar team. David Garrard is playing very well as of late, finding multiple targets like Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis, and of course Maurice Jones-Drew. Sims-Walker should return to action this week giving Garrard 4 viable threats to pass to. In the running game I see Maurice Jones-Drew having a better overall game with more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson. MJD has been on a tear of late and the Jaguars fate lies on his hands (and his feet). The Jagaurs win big on the road putting pressure on the Colts to win against Dallas. Take the Jags and the points to win by double digits.
4. New Orleans -7 @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Saints are playing like the defending super bowl champs and Bree's has lost his madden curse in exchange for the Sport's Man of the Year anti-curse (see Tom Brady). The Bengals haven’t won a game since week 3 and only have 2 wins (1 was against a terrible Panther team). The Bills decimated the Bengals two weeks ago and there is no reason why New Orleans shouldn't cruise to victory on Sunday. Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson look well past their prime and Ochocino and T.O are getting increasingly frustrated with the team's lack of offense. They are cruising right now and end the season playing the Ravens, Falcons, and Buccaneers. Sean Payton will not allow his team to lose focus or look ahead because they need to keep pace the Falcons in the divison race. The Saints win big and the game will be out of hand by the third quarter. Take New Orleans and give the points without worry.
5. San Fransico 49ers @ Green Bay Packers -10
The 49ers are coming off a victory on Monday night but it was against the Arizona Cardinals and an NFC west battle which severely diminishes the victory. Frank Gore suffered a broken hip early Monday night and was placed on the IR, which will certainly lower team morale. Even Mike Singletary won't be able to inspire a team lead by Troy Smith and Brian Westbrook against an NFC powerhouse. The Packers lost a tough game to the Falcons as both teams were looking to earn a bye. But the Packers will look to take their anger out on San Francisco and hope the Falcons fall on the road to Tampa Bay. The Packers win by two touchdowns at Lambeau.
6. Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks -5
Take the Seahawks. The Panther's are the worst team in the NFL and the Seahawks play in the NFC West which means they still have a chance to win the division. Their defense is underrated and Seattle is very good at home. Give the points whether it's -5 or -55.
Extra: Chiefs/Broncos over 48- The best play of week is the over on the Cheifs/Broncos game. There is a lot of animosity between these two teams after the Broncos ran up the score the last time. Look for the Chiefs to do the same this game. Orton to Lloyd and Cassel to Bowe have surpassed Manning to Wayne and Brady to Moss this season by a large measure. Look for those connections to be prevalent throughout the game in this shootout. We also can't forget Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in the Cheifs back field so look for those guys to go for around 100 yards and a score each. Those aforementioned players alone could account for at least 42 points (6 touchdowns) not to mention Orton and Cassel’s ability to spread the ball around. Look for a lob sided game where the Chief’s might beat the over on their own.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Since 2008, Knick fans have dreamed of welcoming LeBron James to the Garden; but as the summer of 2010 passed by, Knick fans agonized at "The Decision", where the Big 3 decided to “take their talents to South Beach”. Knick fans cynically watch with a smile, as the Heat is only a mere one game ahead of the Knicks; both teams are hovering around .500. In hindsight, it's a bittersweet feeling. These same Knicks have shown signs of a bright future on occasion, while also showing signs of a regression to last season's woes.
We have been hearing demands to fire Mike D'Antoni as well as some fans screaming how Amar'e is a bust already. Those two statements, and others like them, are completely outrageous. This roster is filled with new faces and it's going to take time for a group of young guys to develop the necessary chemistry to win in this league. But there are a lot of positive things so far that hint a bright future which is why fans should keep faith and remain optimistic. During their recent 5 game winning streak the team went from 3-8 to a respectable 8-8. Winning those 5 games was no walk in the park as New York had a stretch of 5 games in 7 days, 3 road games on the west coast and a home and away series versus the Bobcats. Regardless of the opponent, winning an away game in the NBA is always a daunting task.
1. Amar'e Stoudemire is worth his max contract and is playing like an MVP caliber player.
22.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 2.1 BPG
His assist and block numbers are career highs and his points and rebounds are exactly what we fans expected, All Star and MVP type numbers. Obviously he knows and fits into D'Antoni's system and once the offense begins to click we can expect all of his numbers to increase. Amar'e has played much better basketball than Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer has yet to see the court in a Bulls uniform. The Knicks came away with the best deal when it came to signing a high priced big man.
2. Raymond Felton has been the biggest surprise so far this season for the Knicks and maybe in the entire NBA.
It looks like we finally found our franchise point guard; Raymond Felton is putting up the best stats of his career (career highs in: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, ft%, 3 pt%, 3 pointers made, and field goal percentage). 18 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals a game is much better than we expected after Felton averaged 12 points and 5.5 assists last season with Charlotte. He has been criticized for his inability to run the pick and roll with Amar'e and for not being a D'Antoni point guard like Steve Nash was for the Suns. But even if that is true, imagine how much better the Knicks and Felton will be once he learns how to play the two-man game with Amar'e. Felton has been a great defender, clutch shooter, and smart leader all season and will continue to flourish in this system. He is getting everybody the ball and making this offense click. We expected Amar'e to fill the stat sheet but Felton is not far behind.
3. Rookie Landry Fields
The starting shooting guard role was the major point of discussion in the off season, Azuibuike was brought in to play that position; but, he is still recovering from injury and is yet to play a game for the Knicks. Roger Mason and Andy Rautins were thought to be perfect for this system where the shooting guard does just that, shoot 3's. But both players are not even in the rotation and have yet to impress the coaching staff. Chandler and Gallo both were mentioned as potential starters but with their size and offense style they both were better suited to play the opposite wing, with Chandler being the 6th man. Both Douglas and Fields impressed fans with their hustle and defense enough to earn consideration for the starting position. But Douglas is still more of a point guard with a shooting guard style of play. Douglas is probably the best perimeter defender on the roster but his combo guard style did not fit the needs at the 2. So as the season began rookie Landry Fields got the nod to be the team's starting shooting guard and has made the most of his opportunity averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds. Fields is the team's second leading rebounder, which is very impressive for a guard. This should not come as much surprise because Landry Fields average 22 points and 9 rebounds last season at Stanford playing on the wing. He almost always the height advantage over his defenders seeing as he is 6'7", which makes rebounding a huge advantage for the team. He makes the hustle plays and is always working hard and getting up and down the court. He is not the conventional shooting guard for D'Antoni's system, but the way he is playing you can't argue he deserves the minutes.
4. Anthony Randolph's Averages Per 48 minutes (11.6 points, 14.3 Rebounds, and 3.18 Blocks)
Anthony Randolph was supposed to be the main piece of the David Lee trade, a player with All Star potential who has been hurt. Fans had high hopes of Randolph have a Gallinari type breakout season but so far he is barely seeing playing time. The first few games he played in a Knick's uniform did not resemble his high flying-highlight reel style we saw in spurts over for the Warriors. But recently he was put in during a blowout and showed signs of a higher basketball IQ, instead of forcing the ball he slowed it down and made smart passes. Although he finished with 0 points and 2 assists, everyone has to be pleased with the improvements in his mental game. Let's hope his erratic play and constant fear of making a mistake is part of his past. Randolph is only 21 and still has that same potential plus he would be a perfect center in D'Antoni's system. He could block shots, rebound, score on the fast break, and be a presence down low on both sides of the ball. The Knicks have already transformed into a high quality defensive unit that can block shots and cause turnovers at will so with the addition of Randolph down low this team could give any offense a hard time.
The future looks bright for the New York Knicks and fans should be optimistic because as the season goes on the wins will start to come in bunches. Amar'e is one of the best players in the NBA, Felton is playing like a top 5 point guard in his first season under MikeD'Antoni, Chandler is the front runner for 6th man of the year award and is playing to impress in hope a new contract, Gallinai is always a threat when he has the ball and is one of the most versatile wing players in the league, and with the vast depth and young talent on this roster we can look forward to a fun season of quality basketball for the first time in this decade.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
The New York Jets have entered a new era, one that should provide stability and results. Led by Head Coach Rex Ryan, Franchise Quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Pro Bowl Cornerback Darrelle Revis, this New York Jets team has its eyes set on the Super Bowl.
The foundation of the team begins in the front office. Owner Woody Johnson and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum have worked together since 2006 to create the team we see on the field today. GM Mike Tannenbaum has used multiple acquisition techniques to construct this roster; beginning with crafty draft day moves to address the team's weaknesses. Most notably, Tannenbaum and the Jets traded up to the fifth pick in the 2009 draft to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Many people criticized this move because the Jets were giving up Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff, Abram Elam and their first and second round picks, but now it's evident that this move could not have worked out better. This season we see a shift from "winning despite Mark Sanchez" to "winning because of Mark Sanchez". Also in the 2009 draft Shonn Greene, RB out of Iowa, was selected in the beginning of the third round. Other running backs such as Beanie Wells, Donald Brown, and Knowshon Moreno were all first round picks in ‘09, which makes Greene look like the steal of the draft because he has out-performed all three of these running backs. In his rookie season he proved he could be the future running back making Thomas Jones and Leon Washington disposable and freeing up cap space. In 2007 and 2008 the Jets used first round picks on CB Darrelle Revis and TE Dustin Keller respectively, and both players have made huge impacts ever since. Keller has been one of Sanchez's favorite and most reliable targets, while Revis has been deemed the NFL's most feared cornerback, shutting down every receiver that dares to visit "Revis Island". The strong O-Line is held together by 2006 first round picks C Nick Mangold and T D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Tannenbaum also made great selections with DBs Kyle Wilson and Dwight Lowrey who are backups on one of the best secondaries in the NFL. And after this week’s Thanksgiving day game against the Bengals, who could forget the versatile Brad Smith, a fourth round pick back in 2006, with two huge touchdowns for the Jets? Brad Smith can catch, throw, run, and return kicks (if only he could kick FGs) and Brian Schottenheimer has multiple plays designed to get their playmaker the ball.
Another aspect that the Jets have utilized is preying upon other teams inability to handle disgruntled players. Tannenbaum has been able to acquire high caliber talent for mid-level draft picks because other teams cannot seem to control their players off the field. In March of 2010, New York traded a 2011 third round pick to the San Diego Chargers for CB Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie was the 19th pick in the first round of the 2006 draft and 2007 was his breakout season. He was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection after picking off 10 passes. He showed his play making ability that season as well after recording the longest play in NFL history: a 109 yard missed FG return touchdown and being the only player to have 3 interceptions against Peyton Manning in one game. But off-the-field issues and a poor playoff performance enticed the Chargers to trade him away. This season he has gone back to his true form and is playing like a Pro Bowl CB again, well worth the third round pick the Jets gave up for him. A few months earlier, in October 2009, the Jets traded for another player with legal issues who seemed as if he hasn't giving enough effort, WR Braylon Edwards (#3 pick in the first round of the 2005 draft). Like Cromartie, Edwards had his breakout season in 2007 making the Pro Bowl and finishing second behind Randy Moss in touchdowns. But the following season Edwards only found the end zone three times and lead the NFL in dropped passes. The Browns had a dismal season and as ‘09 rolled around they were getting tired of Braylon Edwards. Prior to trading him Edwards was involved in a bar fight and charged with a misdemeanor, the Browns were glad to part ways with him and obtain Chansi Stuckey, Jason Trusnik, and a third and fifth round pick from the Jets for this "diva" wide receiver. Edwards had a monster 80-yard touchdown catch in the AFC Championship game. This season Edwards has 6 touchdowns in the teams first 11 games and, despite a DUI offense, has stayed on the field for every game thus far. Alongside Braylon Edwards is late season hero Santonio Holmes. Holmes was acquired in April of 2010 from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a mere fifth round pick. Santonio Holmes was a first round pick in 2006 and named Super Bowl XLIII MVP after catching the game winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining. Holmes was suspended the first four games this season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. But Holmes has 4 TDs the last three weeks including game winning touchdowns in weeks 10 and 11. Look at the return the Jets received for only a fifth round pick, and if you look around the league this season Tannenbaum's trade looks like pure genius. The Miami Dolphins gave up a second round pick for Brandon Marshall and the Minnesota Vikings traded a third round pick for Randy Moss, and both of these guys have been enormous busts, so Holmes for a fifth round pick was by the far the best investment of 2010.
NFL teams are known for signing players to outrageous contracts only to see their investment end in heartbreak, but the Jets have gone down the path of shopping with a purpose to fill needs and get the biggest bang for the buck. It all started in January of 2009 when they secured the man who will control the team. Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan signed a four year contract to become Head Coach of the New York Jets. Previously under Eric Mangini the Jets failed to make the playoffs two out of his three seasons and it was clear he was not the right fit for the job. Rex Ryan coached the Ravens defense, which was one of the most feared units in all of football, for ten seasons including a super bowl ring in 2000. Ryan was coveted for many head coaching positions by Baltimore, Miami, and Atlanta but landed in New York. Not only did his persona and legacy come over to the Jets but he even brought along some veteran talent in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard who both signed multi-year contracts in the off season to continuing playing under Ryan. Rex Ryan has a strong reputation for stressing defense, which factored into Jason Taylor's decision to sign with the Jets in 2010 after seeing how the team's defense transformed. Taylor has been selected to Pro Bowls and All Pro teams numerous times as well as being named Defensive Player of the Year and honored as a member of the NFL 2000s All Decade Team. This adds on to Calvin Pace, the former Arizona Cardinal first round pick, who signed a 6 year deal back in 2008. Also in 2008, Tannenbaum signed RT Damian Woodey to a five year contract to bolster the offensive line. Woodey was a Pro Bowler and 3-time super bowl champion with the New England Patriots. Even with players like Kris Jenkins who is on the IR yet again, but when he has been on the field Jenkins has simply dominated opposing teams and was considered the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year pre-injury in the 2008 season. Hopefully in 2011 Kris Jenkins can return to being that dominant force at nose tackle. Rather than go after one year wonders or unproven players Mike Tannenbaum has given veteran guys long term deals to ensure stability where it matters most.
When we think about the Jets auspicious start atop the AFC elite at 9-2, we give credit to guys like: Rex Ryan for controlling the swirling variables and egos, Mark Sanchez for his growth during his sophomore season, and LaDainian Tomlinson for resurrecting his career. But the man who really deserves the credit for the 2010 New York Jets is General Manager Mike Tannenbaum for his pure genius.