Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NFL Power Struggle & Hoops Predictions!

It sounds weird to say, but even with all that is going on around me in the wide world of sports these days, there wasn't that much in the past week that got me all that excited. Oh well, I'll still try my best to make fun of those who need to be mocked, and just in general get into a little verbal mischief...

Tackle Box

*Before we get all giddy and ahead of ourselves, the Indianapolis Colts are not nearly as bad as they looked Sunday night against the Chargers. What you saw was a team still obviously hungover from their loss to the Patriots, and a team that was missing 9 of their 11 starters due to injury. I know, injuries aren't an excuse in this league, but I'm not making one, I'm just explaining the loss. Indy is still clearly the second best team in the NFL, and the Chargers were just lucky to escape that piece with a mark in the W column. Just look at it from this angle. San Diego needed unprecedented choke jobs from both Peyton Manning (6 interceptions) and Adam Vinatieri (2 missed FGs), on top of the fact that both Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark weren't even on the field. And they still barely won! A lot of people have already been quick to elevate Pittsburgh to the #2 seed in the AFC power rankings, but not this guy. The Colts are still the team to beat in the AFC not named New England, and the rest is just pure noise...

*On the flip side of that coin, maybe a lot of people (me included) put the cart before the horse a bit when it came to the New York Giants. The Giants were riding sky high a few weeks ago, but fresh off their sloppy game in London against the Dolphins, and well rested off their bye week, they got pretty beat up by the Cowboys at the Meadowlands. Maybe they are still suffering from the UK hangover (also known as the George Michael), but it might just be a case of them not being all that great. Sure, when their defense is making big, game changing plays, they can hang with anyone. I just don't think it's realistic to expect that from the defense every week, especially against top tier talent. Right now, I'd have to say Dallas is still the cream of the NFC, and Green Bay is a rather close second. Closer than I'd like to admit, granted, but by smacking Minnesota in the mouth up in Minneapolis, they're really making me a believer. I know Minnesota has zero offense, and Adrian Peterson went down with an injury, but anytime you shut a team out and beat them by 30 it's worth taking note. Maybe in the long term, the Giants can get back in the groove they were in earlier this year, but unless they do, I see the NFC as a league with two legit teams, Dallas and Green Bay. Of course if Brett Favre reverts back to being hooked on pain killers, then all bets are off. And I hear those odds are actually running 8 to 1 in favor...

*Most of the country could care less, but if you happen to be in the Baltimore or DC area these days, the only talk is about Raven head man Brian Billick and his employment situation. The one time offensive genius (right?), Billick is coming off a 13-3 season in which his team continued to win on defense, despite having one the most anemic offenses in the league. Hell, when they won the Super Bowl in 2001, didn't they go 8 straight games without scoring a touchdown on offense? I just know they set on awful record for offensive ineptitude. Fact is, no matter how much you want to point to results, I can't blame Raven fans for wanting Billick out. The guy is know as a publicity hog, and was recently called out indirectly by current Patriot, Adalius Thomas, for just that. Thomas said a lot of guys in Baltimore were more concerned with the spotlight and the "Me" factor than they were about winning games. A lot of people took that to mean Ray Lewis, but those really paying attention probably see that as more a shot at Billick, who has seemed content to rely on his defense while watching his offense sputter for about a decade. He's certainly been there a long time, and he's definitely helped the "expansion" Ravens gain an identity, but I think it's time to go. Hey, if Marty Schottenheimer can be let go after a 14 win season, then I don't see why Brian Billick can't be released after a season in which his team will struggle to score 14 touchdowns. Every coach, every player, every owner can sometime run their course with a franchise they are seemingly tied to, and I think that's the case here with Billick. He needs a new job to get his mind back in the right zone, and whether that's with another team or with a TV network, I have to think the change is coming sooner rather than later.

*One guy that doesn't have to worry about his job, is the dynasty director, Bill Belichick. This week, Billy and the boys will be traveling to Buffalo to take on the surprising Bills. Not surprising that they are 5-4, but more surprising that they could realistically be 6-3, or 7-2 if not for a few key breaks. They are better than most people give them credit for, they've fought through possibly more injuries than any other team and Belichick said himself he thinks Dick Jauron has done the best coaching job of anyone in the league this year. Too bad for them they have to play the Pats this week. It's a Sunday night game, so get your Monday morning excuses ready, and while it might be a little tighter than many think, I don't see the Bills being the speed bump on the way to perfection. Oooo Eee it's just gonna be great to get the Dynasty back on the field after the bye. Seems like it's been a month since they've played, hasn't it? Oh well, back to work. Nine down, 10 more to go...

News and Notes

*I know I've probably said this about a zillion times over the years, but isn't it laughably obvious to everyone that college football is in dire need of a playoff system? Thanks to another #1 falling this week in the form of Ohio St., the Kansas Jawhawks stand alone as the only undefeated team left in the country. Problem is, they're currently #3 in the BCS standings behind LSU and Oregon. I mean I don't expect Kansas to win out and make this a huge issue, but doesn't it just keep becoming more and more obvious that this system of polls is about as useful as a comb for Tony Kornheiser. Think about it this way. Imagine if writers from around the country had to pick two NFL teams to compete in a title game, and try and tell me there wouldn't be absolute chaos every single year when they went to do it. Ahhhh! This system just drives me crazy, and the fact I'm even devoting any of my time to talking about it is making me even more upset! Here's to every team in the league finishing with 2 or more losses expect for Kansas, Boise St., and maybe Hawaii. Choke on that, BCS...

*In Red Sox Nation, all the buzz lately has been about Pedroia winning Rookie of the Year, Schilling saddlin' up for another season, and Mike Lowell deciding to apparently go ahead and test the free agent market. Pedroia was a no brainer. That kid be about 5 foot nothin' and a buck nothin', but I think he proved he's somehow got stones the size of Rhode Island. He's a keepa, kid! Schilling, signed up for a one year deal, loaded with incentives, that will pay him a base of $8 million, and with some reachable incentives could garner the vet as much as $12 million. Good move there too. Schilling might not be close to the guy he was even when he came to Boston, but he's learned to be a control pitcher and his post season experience alone is enough reason to take a flier on him for at least another season. As for Lowell, as much as I'd like him to hang around (to the tune of about 3 years $40 million), I can't blame him for making a grab for the cash either. He's worked hard, survived cancer, and if some team wants to give him $50 million, I say take it. Of course he will be missed, but something tells me there's a big deal in the works that would address the loss of Lowell at 3rd. I'm not saying it's A-Rod, or even Marlin 3B Miguel Cabrera, but I just feel Theo is up to something. In the past, deals like Coco Crisp and Josh Beckett have always come out of left field, so I feel a similar situation here. With Manny most likely out the door after this season, look for the front office to look ahead by either bringing in an heir apparent via trade, or actually trading Manny this off season as part of a deal for a younger, big time slugger. Again, I just don't see A-Rod signing with the Sox due to his requested financial terms, but I do see big things on the horizon for Boston this off season.

*Meanwhile, in the rest of baseball, MLB is doing it's best Wag the Dog impression by releasing names of known roid users one day, followed by Gold Glove winners the next. Anything to stay on the front page, eh fellas? It's one thing to conduct this steroid investigation with George Mitchell, but it's totally another to say you have your results, and you won't release them for another two months. Allow me to translate. We have all the names, but we want to leak them out in a manner that best fits our league and it's interests. Why else would the word be out that 11 current free agents (Sammy Sosa, Sammy Sosa, Sammy Sosa) are directly implicated as steroid users by the Mitchell investigation? If you have the names, let them out and stop pussyfooting around it. Wouldn't it be less painful and less detrimental to the league if all this were just ripped off fast like a band aid anyway? I mean are they actually milking the scandal that has marred their sport, for publicity? Hey, it's one thing to try to get your sport in the news, but when it becomes clear that you don't care how your product actually makes the front pages, then that's just downright greedy, selfish, and idiotic. Old fat men, sitting in luxury suites, running the world from their assistants' CrackBerry. God help us all...

*In news about a sport that's actually playing games these days (no, not the Bruins), the new look Celtics continue to roll. They're off to a 5-0 start, Lord knows the best start they've had since God knows when, and they don't seem to have any real noticeable weaknesses. As for the rest of the league? Well, here's an abbreviated NBA preview, and while it might be short in length, make no mistake about it, it's long on substance. From the guy that predicted the Spurs over the Cavs in last year's NBA Finals, I give you my 2007-2008 NBA season preview....Earl Boykins edition (get it? because he's so tiny!)

Eastern Conference Finals
Boston Celtics over Chicago Bulls in 6 games

Western Conference Finals
Dallas Mavericks over San Antonio Spurs in 7 games

NBA Finals
Dallas Mavericks over Boston Celtics in 7 games

*Pretty scummy of me huh? Say the Celts have no chance of winning the title this year in one breathe, and then in the other say they're going to make the Finals. Well, what can I say. I feel with all the media scrutiny finally elsewhere, Dirk and the Mavs can finally get down to business and play like the team that many have thought they were the past 5 years or so. Sorry, Celtic fans, but hopefully this finals loss will be exactly the motivation Danny the Mormon needs to fire Doc Rivers, and bring in a veteran coach with some playoff experience. What's that you say? There's turmoil in LA with Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant?!? Hmmmm....

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

*Hey, I figure if I'm gonna have the Mavs as my champs, then I have to have Dirk as my MVP right? Granted, there are plenty of players you could put into this mix (Garnett, Duncan, Nash, LeBron), but I'm goin' with the large German. He's always had the talent, and seeing as he'll be leading his team to the title, he will more than deserve the hardware.

Rookie of the Year
Kevin Durant, Seattle Sonics

*Let's see here. He was the best player in the draft. And he's playing on a team that's gonna be getting him the ball a ton. Gotta think the Sonics new owners are pumped for the draw Durant will bring win they move to Oklahoma City, in the heart of Big XII country. Yee haw!

From the guy that was the best collegiate hoopster in the land last year, to the guys that are driving for that honor this season. Without any further ado, I give you the 2007-2008 debut of my NCAA top 10 poll. The way it goes is, I list the top 10 teams that I think would have the best chance of winning the NCAA tournament if it started today. That might mean I think they're the best right now, or it might mean I think they have a great balance of talent and experience. It might change from week to week, but for the most part, it's going to have to take a lot for teams to move all that much in my mind. That doesn't mean I'm gonna be stubborn, it just means teams are going to have to prove a lot to me to crack into my poll, just as the teams already there have done enough, either in past performance or recruiting, to earn their spots. So without further ado, here's the debut of my top 10, with John Calipari's Memphis Tigers leading the pack at #1...

College Hoops Top 10
1. Memphis (2-0)
2. North Carolina (0-0)
3. Kansas (2-0)
4. Washington St. (0-0)
5. Louisville (0-0)
6. UCLA (1-0)
7. Tennessee (1-0)
8. Southern Illinois (0-0)
9. Indiana (1-0)
10. Georgetown (1-0)

just missed: Gonzaga, Marquette, Kansas St., Syracuse

And here are the guys that will be powering these teams, my first team All-Americans

1st Team All Americans
Tyler Hansbrough, North Caronlina Jr. Forward

*Michael Beasley, Kansas St. Fr. Forward (above: he's not the clown or the corpse)

Roy Hibbert, Georgetown Sr. Center

Darren Collison, UCLA So. Guard

Derrick Rose, Memphis Fr. Guard

*player of the year

Plain and simple, these are my 5 best players in the country. I'll listen to arguments for plenty of other guys, don't get me wrong, but these are the guys I'd take if forced to make a decision.

Hansbrough is probably the most relentless, physical and polished players on one of the best teams in the country, so he's in for sure. He has one goal on his mind, and that's winning a National Championship. That's why you gotta love this guy. He may be white, but he's as good an unselfish player since the likes of Grant Hill or Illinois' Deron Williams.

Beasley and Rose are the two freshmen on my list (not USC stud OJ Mayo), and they are pretty much there because talent wise they might be hands down the best in the nation. Whether they can stay with it night in and night out is obviously yet to be seen, but they have the ability to absolutely cram the stat sheet every night, and are lottery locks when they decide to bolt for the NBA. My prediction, is that Beasley leads Kansas St. on a Carmelo-esque run this season, and in doing so garners himself Player of the Year honors. Go ahead and say I'm just having a knee jerk reaction to his monster games so far this young season, but I really feel this guy is going to have his talent on full display thanks to coach Bill Huggins, and in doing so will lead his K-State Wildcats to a lot of wins.

Center Roy Hibbert can hold down the middle on my All American team any day of the week. At 7 foot 3, he's got the body to man down the middle, and with his quickness and passing ability, gives coach John Thompson III ( or JT3 if you're in the know) all the flexibility he needs in the high post of his modified Princeton style offense. Jeff Green might be gone, and with him any realistic title hopes, but Hibbert helps to stabilize a squad that should probably still find themselves in the mix atop the dangerous Big East.

My final player could have been anyone from Marquette's Dominic James, Southern Illinois' Jamaal Tatum, Kansas Mario Chalmers, or even UNC's Ty Lawson, but I went with Darren Collison of UCLA for one major reason. He's more important to his team than any of those other guys. Collison proved to be one of the best point guards in the country last season, and with the departure of Arron Afflalo to the NBA, he should be able to show off his skills even more in coach Ben Howland's system. Having blue chip big man, Kevin Love, in the middle for all those half court sets isn't gonna hurt his stock either, that's for sure.

Make sure to check back here every week for my college top 10, as well as updates on big games, big performances, and pretty much anything BIG going on in the world of college hoops...

My Picks

Last Week: 3-4-0

Overall: 34-25-4 (.571)

*From college hoops, something I know a ton about, to picking winners, something I like to think I know a lot about. In the early games this week, I was 2-0, always a good thing. Then the wheels just came flying off faster than racial epithets out of Dog the bounty hunter's mouth. Luckily I was able to bounce back with a Monday night win to keep my weekly record somewhat respectable, but it was just real bad on Sunday afternoon. Maybe I've learned my lesson and should never take Detroit again, let alone Detroit and Oakland in the same week. Or maybe I'm just crazy like a fox! Yeah, it's probably the former, but I don't care, man. I pick with my gut, and that's the way it's gonna stay! Next week, St. Louis and Miami are my locks of the week! he joking???

College Picks
Last Week: 8-13-0

Overall: 109-95-6 (.533)

*I don't feel so bad, because nobody seems to be doing well with college games this year, but it's still disconcerting. I try to anticipate upsets, they don't come through. I try to ride with some big time programs, they get upset. I just can't seem to catch any breaks. Right now, in all honesty, I'm just gonna try and finish the season up with a record above .500. Might seem like a lock, but I've been about as dependable as the phrase "Magic Johnson has AIDS" since like week 4. If that guy has AIDS, then we should all be so lucky...

Fantasy Update
Last Week: Make It Reign! 81 Team Brady Bunch 80

Overall: 8-2-0, 2nd place

*Sabby almost managed to pull off an incredible comeback on Monday night with Seattle's defense pitching a shutout, but I was just able to hang on. And for a guy that often complains about the small breaks never going his way in fantasy sports, I have to admit I got a little fortunate. No, not because Dallas Clark and LenDale White were injured this week, and no not because the Giants defense got lit up like a menorah. No, I got lucky because while my team was clinging to a one point lead late Monday night, I had to sit and watch 49er QB Alex Smith avoid rush after rush and throw wobbly ball after wobbly ball into the Seattle secondary. One Seattle sack, and I tie. One Smith interception or fumble, and I lose. It's a dangerous line we walk when we play the dealy game of fantasy football, but it is after all the very thing that makes it worth while. I'm livin' on the edge, I'm flyin' by the seat of my pants, and if I can hold off the injury bug for just long enough, I could very well be headed to the playoffs, and the big money!

On a movie note, I went and saw American Gangster, the biopic based on NYC heroin dealer, Frank Lucas. For those of you living under a rock, the movie was directed by Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Bladerunner) and stars cinematic heavyweights Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe and Cuba Gooding Jr. Not to be outdone are appearances by about half the hip hop community, including T.I., Common and RZA from the Wu Tang Clan. Overall, I give the movie about a 7.7 out of 10. Specific enough for ya? The story was a good one, the acting was great, and the opening scene immediately became one of my favorite movie moments of all time. But it wasn't all good. There wasn't enough background information for my liking when it came to the actual drug trade in New York City, and the other colorful figures that helped build those drug slanging empires. Also, the entire storyline involving Russell Crowe's character, Richie Roberts, and his dissolving marriage, was totally one the movie could have done without. It didn't totally drag the movie down, but at 2 hours and 40 minutes, the movie could have definitely done without it. Most importantly, Denzel was the man again, and the life of Frank Lucas was more than interesting enough to turn into a movie. Do yourself a favor, and go see it. Unless of course the new Coen Brothers movie "No Country For Old Men" is playing, then I would go see that. Looks sick!

Oh, and then there's this. I hope you like movie themes written by John Williams! The NBC Olympic theme song is my favorite, and I apologize in advance for getting half of these tunes stuck in your head. This kid never leaves his basement (the kid in the video, not me you wise asses), and it shows! Enjoy, gangstas!


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