Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011- The Year Of Love

Everyone knows LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will continue to rule the NBA hierarchy but throughout the first few months of the 2010-2011 season fans have seen some players begin to blossom. Who will to continue to breakout? and Who is going to fall back to reality?

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

Unfamiliar Names Prevail In The Endzone

Arian Foster, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, and Mike Tolbert are the top 3 players in rushing touchdowns with 13, 12, and 11 respectively. Peyton Hillis is also tied with 11 (along with others). But the fact is this season is full of breakout runners that have proven to be more than "one week wonders". Foster's success has been well documented all season but Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis has only one fewer touchdown than Foster. Arian Foster is the go-to-guy for the Texans and gets most of the touches, while Green-Ellis started the season battling for time with 4 other backs and has the league's best passing game hindering his opportunities. Despite all this, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis has taken Randy Moss's place as the Patriot's "touch down machine" and could also break the 1,000 yard plateau in the team's final two regular season games. The Chargers came into the season with a potential three headed rushing attack. Rookie Ryan Matthews was supposed to come in and replace LaDanian Tomlinson as the primary runner, Darren Sproles was there to be the spark plug for this prolific offense, while Mike Tolbert was designated to a third string role seeing possible touches on third down and on the goal line. But throughout this season Ryan Matthews has suffered chronic injuries for a myriad of alignments, nonetheless San Diego's offense hasn't missed a beat. Obviously a majority of the credit goes to Philip Rivers for playing MVP-caliber football but Mike Tolbert has taken over the full rushing responsibilities. Regardless of his full-back body Tolbert has been burning opposing defenses and using his strength to battle for first downs and powering through the endzone. The Broncos decided to "throw in" Peyton Hillis when they acquired Brady Quinn from the Browns. We know see why the Broncos fired Josh McDaniels and why Brown fans are happy they are finally on the top of a loop-sided-trade. Hillis already has over 1000 yards and 11 TD's but his most proud moment has to be on November 7th, when he torched the Patriots for two touchdowns on 210 total yards, handing New England one of there only two losses this whole year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Craziest Moments of 2010: NFL Edition

Jason Campbell has more wins than Donovon McNabb- After the Redskins had acquired McNabb from the Eagles Jason Campbell became dispensable and was soon traded to the Oakland Raiders. Oakland sent back a fourth round pick in the 2012 draft and continued on to sign Campbell to a one-year contract extension through 2011. Jason Campbell earned his starting job and has been the main quarterback most of the season, despite battling with Bruce Grankowski and fighting injury. McNabb has had his ups and down but by no means has he been the savior that Washington hoped for. Mike Shanahan has already benched McNabb twice including this past week. When Campbell was sent to Oakland everyone claimed his career was over and he would be forgotten after being sent to the Raider organization, following the foot steps of current CFL quarterback and former Raider, Jamarcus Russell. Campbell has not only resurrected his career but he is majing football relevant again in Raider Nation. Campbell now has 1 more victory than McNabb (in 2 fewer starts). This offense can put up a lot of points and is lead by Darren McFadden, but the passing game has been elevated due to the immergence of Jason Campbell and Jacoby Ford. In their most recent game against the Broncos we saw the start of a new era where, one in which the Raiders are relevant again.

The Oakland Raiders are relevant again (and Al Davis is still the owner)- The part about Al Davis is truly unthinkable but for the first time in 8 seasons the Raiders are going to finish with fewer than 11 loses. These Raiders currently stand at .500 with a 7-7 record, but the most surprising statistic is that they are 5-0 in division games. They are third in the AFC West and if they win their upcoming game against the Chiefs then the Raiders will be the first team in NFL history to win all their division games and miss the playoffs. Both of these ideas are shocking. San Diego had beaten Oakland 13 straight times entering 2010, but this season the resilient Raiders knocked off the defending AFC West champs twice. No one has discussed "the Raiders" and "the playoffs" in the same sentence, unless "will never make" was in between, for many years. We will see Oakland back in the playoffs soon, probably not this season but in the neat future.

The Minnesota Vikings- Joe Webb starts, Favre's streak ends, Josh Childress is fired, they trade for Randy Moss, they waive Randy Moss, the Metrodome collapses, they play a "home" game at Ford Field, and Monday Night Football is moved outdoors to a college field where Toby Gerhart starts at running back and Joe Webb comes in to replace Brett Favre...pretty much what everyone expected coming into the season.

Randy Moss plays for 3 teams this season- The Patriots shockingly traded Moss back to Minnesota in return for a third round pick next season. Although his connection with Tom Brady was historic and marked in the record books the front office grew increasingly tired of his off the field antics and contract disputes. It only took the Vikings a few weeks to realize they got a bad deal so Minnesota waived Randy Moss. Eventually he was signed by the Titans, where he is currently residing on the bench trying to recall what the end-zone looks like. Congratulations to the Patriots who after trading Randy Moss obtained former-Pat Deion Branch. Branch has more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Randy Moss. No one would've guessed that the Patriots lose Randy Moss for Deion Branch, and the fact that the swap worked out for New England is an even greater testament to this franchise.

The Patriots two leading rushers are: an undrafted free agent and a former Jets practice squad player- Only the Patriots could thrive in the run game with two guys who were unheard of before October. Danny Woodhead was cut by Jets and Green-Ellis went undrafted and was finally signed by the Patriots. Injuries to both Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris opened opportunities for these young backs and like always, the Patriots revealed their hidden gems. Ben Jarvus Green- Ellis (The "Lawfirm") has compiled over 800 yards already and is on pace to break the 1,000 yard plateau, while Danny Woodhead is used as a receiver out of the back field but is also averaging an outstanding 5 yards per carry. Woodhead also plays wide recievers is a dual threat in both the passing and run game, but his talents extend to special teams where he one of the leading tacklers on their unit.

Jaguars>Colts- Entering Week 16 the Jaguars are leading the AFC South (yes, Peyton Manning is still on the Colts and yes, this is 2010). We all assumed a division title and around 12 or 13 wins for the Colts but the Jaguars did have the same plans as the rest of America. This is not some fluke and the most jaw-dropping fact is that David Garrard's passer rating is higher than Peyton Mannings. The Colts run game has been non-existence and injuries have plagaued Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie. Everyone is aware of Peyton Mannings ability to throw to any and all receivers, but now he is running out of healthy targets. Maurice Jones-Drew is on almost all MVP lists while Peyton isn't even the highest Manning on anyones list.

Tim Tebow got his first starts AND Josh McDaniels got fired- Tebow getting a start this season over Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn was a long shot, but if any coach had the desire to try this it was going to be Tebow-Lover Josh McDaniels. McDaniels is the sole reason the Broncos used such a high draft choice on the former Heisman Tropy winner Tim Tebow. But after a couple of blow out loses and poor management McDaniels was on the hotseat. He didn't stay there for very long, instead he was quickly fired. But upon his departure it seems as if the entire team is embracing a new era lead by Tim Tebow. The dual threat quarterback showed off his arm and legs during his first start in Oakland. Kyle Orton had been having a phenominal season, mostly because of his conenction with breakout wide reciever Brandon Lloyd. Many NFL teams could use either of the Broncos back-up quarterbacks (see Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals).

Michael Vick is an MVP candidate- One of the greatest comeback stories, Mike Vick left football as a pro bowl quarterback for the Falcons and he has returned to that same form for the Eagles. Last season he was stuck behind Philly "hero" Donovan McNabb. But the team decided to part ways with their franchise quarterback but unfortunately for Vick Kevin Kolb hurdled his way into the starting job. Kolb had started the season off well and has taken advantage of all his opportunities but once Michael Vick got the nod after Kolb's injury a new chapter was beginning. He deserves the MVP award and Michael Vick has handled his entire situation with class, dignity, respect, and honesty.

This season's leading rusher: Arian Foster (1345 Yards)- Arian Foster is on pace to finish the season as the NFL's leading rusher for 2010. He has out-rain the likes of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Foster has more yards on the ground than Shonn Greene (696) and Ryan Matthews (503) combined. Joseph Addai, Beanie Wells, Marion Barber, Pierre Thomas, and Steve Slaton COMBINED have less rushing yards than Arian Foster in this breakout season. Arian Foster has been one of the most important players in the entire league this season. Similarly to Tom Brady, Arian Foster is carrying an entire team in 2010. He has 7 games of over 100 yards including one monster performance with 238 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Colts. Before the season very few people knew the name "Arian Foster". He went undrafted out of Tennessee and played only 6 games for the Texans in 2009. But in those 6 games Foster averaged: 43 yards/game, 5 yards per carry, 12 yards per reception and totaled three touchdowns. The Texans witnessed the breakout of Steve Slaton and had no expectations for Foster to blossom into an All-Pro running back.

The Cincinnati Bengals- In a year filled with surprised the Bengals are on the tail end. They have a roster filled with superstars but these names are atop the biggest busts of the year. Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, and Cedric Benson have looked absolutely terrible individually, but even worse together. The only thing that tops all these guys stats has been the Bengals record. Last season the won the AFC North, beating out the Steelers and Ravens, and swept their division games. Their playoff run from last season seems like an eternity ago after constant failure, the only consistency this roster has is in disappointment. There is no doubt Cincinnati's front office will blow up there roster and a lot of people are going to be unemployed come the spring. Head coach Marvin Lewis has not been able to work with this overrated offense despite having "Batman and Robin" lined up wide. The TOcho Show has been a complete disaster and Cedric Benson is on his last legs and no longer high quality running back. Additionally, it is tough to tell if Carson Palmer's down fall is due to a lack of playmakers or just the end of a average career. One thing is for sure, the 2011 Bengals will be filled with a completely different roster, only time will tell if different results will follow.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When Will Carmelo Be A Knick?

The question is no longer if the Knicks will get Carmelo Anthony, it's when they will get him. The options are either acquiring Anthony in a trade before the February deadline or waiting until the offseason to make him an offer as a free agent. After Carmelo's recent comments regarding his desire to play for New York the Nuggets have seemingly lost any leverage they had in trade talks. The Knicks have no reason to appease Denver by trading away any of their valuable assets like Danilo Gallinari. Before the season started it seemed as if trading Gallinari along with multiple other pieces was the only way to even enter the Melo discussions. The Nuggets were claiming to be fielding offers from the Nets, Bobcats, and many other teams but now the list has been shortened to one: The New York Knicks.

Trade for Carmelo: At this point Carmelo's trade value has significantly decreased and the Nugget's hands are tied but doesn't mean they will give him away. A trade offer from the Knicks will be centered around Eddy Curry's expiring contract which will also balance out the salaries. Denver would obviously want more than just the expiring contract and that is where the disagreement comes into play. The Knicks should label Gallinari as untouchable and look to include players such as: Wilson Chandler, Anthony Randolph, Landry Fields, and Tony Douglas. It makes the most sense to deal Chandler because he is a free agent at the end of the season and will be searching for a contract in the 6-8 million dollar range. Fields and Randolph both have very frugal contracts and are two of the biggest bargains in the NBA. Now and in the future Fields could be a very solid all around player and cement his position as the starting two guard. As for Anthony Randolph, if he can live up to just half of his potential then Randolph will be a very important role player as the back up big man on this roster. Chandler is expendable because he plays a similar style and the same position as Carmelo. Currently Chandler is blossoming in the starting lineup, as the 4, and even when he was the 6th man he put up huge numbers. But with the addition of Carmelo the 3 and 4 spots will be filled leaving Chandler back in his bench role. Except now his role as the sixth man will come along with fewer minutes and fewer touches significantly impacting his role.

Signing Carmelo in the offseason is still the smart move unless a very attractive offer comes to the table. Eddy Curry (11.3 million), Wilson Chandler (2.1 million), Kelena Azubuike (3.4 million), and Roger Mason (1.4 million) all come off the books which is a total of over 18 million dollars freed up in cap space. The Knicks could use this money to offer Carmelo a similar contract to Amar'e.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 13 NFL Game Reviews

Biggest Surprises:

Oakland Raiders 28 @ San Diego Chargers 13

The Chargers were poised for another second half playoff run and were deemed the hottest team in the NFL by everyone, including myself. But this week the lost a crucial game to the Raiders which puts San Diego in third place at 6-6. The Cheifs are first at 8-4 and Oakland second at 6-6 (owns the tiebreaker beating San Diego twice). The numbers explain the Charger's lackluster performance; 3/10 on third downs and only 7 rushing attempts for 16 yards. The Chargers clearly attempted to solely rely on their passing game but River's got sacked four times. He had very little time in the pocket Kaeding hit 2 of his 3 field goal attempts and the Chargers sole touch down was a four yard pass to Antonio Gates. The Raiders won this game on the ground and had 250 rushing yards. Mcfadden and Bush each had a touchdown and almost had 100 yards a piece (97 and 95 yards respectively). Jason Campbell only threw 16 passes but had no turnovers and did a good job controlling the game. The Chargers have a huge must-win game at home against Kansas City this week and need finish the season 4-0 and hope for help. If they won this game versus Oakland then they could've been tied for the division lead with a win against the Cheifs. It looks like the Chargers are going to have to step up their game to pull another late season miracle.

Dallas Cowboys 38 @ Indianapolis Colts 35

The Colts made a fourth quarter comeback against Dallas but lost on a Peyton Manning interception in over time. Peyton Manning just hasn't been the same and hasn't looked like the same 3 time MVP QB that we are accustomed to. He had to do a lot of throwing in this game, 48 passes, and had a disastrous 4 interceptions. Interceptions have been a frequent occurrence of late for Peyton Manning. The Colts are 6-6 through 12 games, normally through 12 games we expect the Colts to be cruising at around 10 or 11 wins. Like the Chargers, the Colts had under 30 yards rushing for their 3 running backs. Javarris James did have 2 goal line touchdowns (1 and 2 yards) after Manning and Wayne marched down the field. The sole bright spot was Reggie Wayne who had 200 receiving yards and was targeted 20 times, clearly the focal point of the offense playbook. But without any threat of a running game defenses are going to take advantage of Manning and the lack of healthy receivers. The offense has always been centered on Manning to Wayne, but with no other viable threat the connection is not enough to result in wins. The Cowboys played well enough to win this game and have been impressive under Jason Garrett. The Colts were in the super bowl last season but are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time this decade. They have three divisional games coming up and it would be hard to imagine having the Colts and Peyton Manning sitting home in the NFL post season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week 13: NFL Picks Against The Spread

1. Cleveland Browns +4 @ Miami Dolphins

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

The Bronco Nation Loves Kyle Brotzman

This Facebook page has generated over 43,000 fans and is still growing at a rapid rate. Bronco fans and Boise State students have already forgiven Kyle Brotzman despite missing two field goals, inside of 30 yards, against rival Nevada. Either of these two field goals would've kept Boise's undefeated season alive, as well as their aspirations of playing in the BCS championship game.

Brotzman received so many nasty Facebook messages that he was forced to deactivate his account,t and his family began receiving so many angry phone calls to the point where the police were notified. But this page is flooded with words of appreciation towards Brotzman. This shows the type of support and fan base Boise has. Any chance of being in the BCS championship game, an undefeated season, and millions of dollars all disappeared when Kyle Brotzman missed early Saturday morning. But despite all this, 40,000 + people are showing their support for this wonderful athlete.

After being red-shirted in 2006, Brotzman lead the WAC in field goals, field goal percentage, and PATs during his freshman season in 2007, and he was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza award in addition to being an honorable mention for the freshman All-American team. In 2008 he lead Boise in scoring with 101 points (17 field goals and 50 extra points), while also leading the WAC confrence in field goals per game and handling a bulk of the punting duties. In 2009 he was the leading scorer on the team again and in the WAC with 117 points. He also lead the conference in field goals and averaged an outstanding 44 yards per punt. This season he was kicking field goals at a rate of over 82%. He has been one of the most consistent and reliable kickers in college football since 2007, and Brotzman has been a part of these legendary Bronco teams and victories. Who could forget his fake punt pass to help beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl season? He is a finalist this year for the Lou Groza award and is just nine points away from breaking the scoring record for Division I kickers. Unfortunately, he will be remembered for his game against Nevada, and it's sad that we don't look to blame the defense for allowing Nevada to rally back or even the offense for not bolstering the lead after halftime and putting the game away in overtime. When it comes down to the end, most close games are decided by the foot of the kicker. It is a huge burden to rest the fate of a team's season on a college athlete and sometimes we forget that athletes, especially college ones, feel the worst when they make a mistake. I am okay with hammering a pro-athlete for messing up in the clutch; it's their job to perform and live up to million dollar contracts. But I draw the line at going on vicious rants condemning a college athlete for an on-the-field mistake; these players are still kids and sometimes we forget that. Death threats, vicious emails, and menacing phone calls should not occur not matter how big the game is.

Fans of all sports, both pro and college, can learn from the Bronco Nation on how to deal with a bad situation. The fans came together to support their team and express their gratitude for a wonderful run. Fans frequently lose their cool during bad times and call out players which in turn only lowers player morale and diminishes team chemistry. In times of adversity, it is difficult, yet necessary to come together and be supportive in hopes to learn and grow for the future.