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Tackle Tuesday: Week 16

In General, NFL on December 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

Upset of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

New Orleans Saints 17 –

Despite the fact that the Colts lost their first game this season at home to the Jets, the Saints loss to the Bucs was a much bigger upset for many reasons. First, the Colts pulled their starters in the third quarter of a meaningless game, since they already have locked up the one-seed in the AFC. The Saints meanwhile, had something to play for, as a win would have locked up the one-seed for them in the NFC, and all they had to do was beat the lowly Bucs. New Orleans raced out to a 17-0 lead before putting it on cruise control and ultimately allowing the Bucs to tie the game on a 77-yard punt return by Michael Spurlock. The Saints had a chance to win it, but kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation that could have won it, shocking the already-celebrating Saints crowd, and giving the Bucs a chance to steal this game in overtime on a 47-yard field goal by Connor Barth. This was only the second time in NFL history a team with as many as 12 losses beat a team with as many as 13 wins. The Saints have now dropped two in a row and are looking like anything but a sure thing in the NFC.

Game MVP: Micheal Spurlock Michael Spurlock (7 returns, 196 yards, TD)- Spurlock was the reason the Bucs even had a chance in this game, taking a late fourth-quarter punt 77 yards to the house to tie this game at 17. The Bucs are an offensively inept football team, and they needed a spark from their special teams in order to tie the game, and that’s exactly what Spurlock did, scoring the biggest touch down of his young career.

Game LVP: Garrett Hartley Garrett Hartley (1/2 FG, missed game-winning 37 yarder) – You hate to pin a loss solely on a kicker, especially when a team blows a 17-0 lead to a team as sorry as the Bucs, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. Hartley missed what amounts to a chip shot for most NFL kickers, a kick that everyone in New Orleans was so sure was going to be good they celebrated as soon as the ball was snapped. But Hartley hooked the potential game-winner left to the shock of the crowd, and was never given a chance to redeem himself as the Bucs won it in overtime. Seriously though, we could have given him LVP just for the picture.

Game of the Week:  Chicago Bears 36

Minnesota Vikings 30 –

It’s not often that the Monday Night game delivers us the Game of the Week, so last nights game was surprisingly good. The Vikings went in as heavy favorites against a Bears team that has struggled all season long, but came out completely lethargic and looking like anything but a team trying to lock up a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Bears capitalized and raced out to a 23-6 third quarter lead before the Vikings slowly made their push. Brett Favre lead a second half comeback for the Vikings, throwing for over 270 yards in the half alone and tying up the game at 23 after a TD run by Adrian Peterson. But the fun was just getting started at this point. Danieal Manning took the ensuing kick off back deep into Viking territory, setting up a go ahead touch down pass from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett for a 30-23 Bears lead with just under five minutes remaining. Favre then showed his fourth quarter moxie, leading the Vikings on a scoring drive that culminated in a 6-yard TD pass from Favre to Sidney Rice on fourth and goal in the final seconds to force an overtime with the game tied at 30. The Bears got the ball first, driving quickly and setting up a field goal that kicker Robbie Gould missed to give the Vikings another chance to win it. But the Bears defense stood strong, getting back-to-back sacks to force a three and out, and from there Cutler moved quickly, not giving his kicker a chance to choke again and instead hitting Devin Aromashodu for a 39-yard game winning touchdown. The win gave the Bears some kind of closure on the season, while the loss has the Vikings needing a win this weekend to avoid playing on Wild Card weekend, something that seemed like a sure thing just a few weeks ago.

Play of the Week:

 Steve SmithSteve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers

Smith gets this weeks Play of the Week not for having the most impressive play, but for his toughness on this one. Panthers QB Matt Moore drops back and hits Smith for a 27-yard TD that put the Panthers up 31-0 early in the third and all but sealed the upset win over the Giants. The impressive part of this play is that Smith takes a hard hit from the Giants secondary, and is able to stay standing and get into the end zone. Look at the video and not only will you see the hit, but you’ll notice Smith holding his left arm while celebrating, that’s because the hit he took broke his arm, yet he was still able to stay focused and fight his way into the end zone.

Stud of the Week:

Devin Aromashodu  Devin Aromashodu, WR, Chicago Bears (7 catches, 150 yards, TD) – Who? That’s the first thing that has to pop into your head. The little known receiver out of Auburn had a huge game Monday Night, becoming Jay Cutlers go to receiver in an upset win over the Vikings. After posting totals of 12 catches and 102 yards all season, Aromashodu exploded onto the scene with 150 yards and the game winning 39-yard touchdown catch in overtime. Aroshamodu repeatedly beat Vikings CB and Pro-Bowler Antoine Winfield (as seen on the game winning catch) for position and helped the Bears offense keep moving, showing that his name may be one you want to remember next season as the Bears look for a go-to receiver.

NFL Top 5 After Week 16:

1.   San Diego Chargers (12-3)- Before jumping into this, I’ll give you guys a couple minutes to scream bias and complain about the Colts dropping even though they only lost because they pulled their starters. Waiting…..waiting….done? Okay good, now let’s get to the facts. The Chargers are by far the hottest team in the league right now, having won 10 straight games, and coming off a dismantling of the equally red-hot Titans in Tennessee on Christmas Day. The Colts may have the better record, but they have looked shaky all season, and the Chargers have looked nothing but stellar since stumbling out to a 2-3 start. San Diego has no weaknesses, and are the one team that the Colts definitely do not want to see come playoff time.

2. Indianapolis Colts (14-1)- I know, I know, they only lost once, and it was because their starters got pulled otherwise they’d be a win away from a perfect season. But let’s look at reality, this team has struggled mightily against some inferior opponents, and they aren’t even close to playing on the level the Chargers are playing on right now. Indy is still a favorite to reach and win the Super Bowl, but the road to the Super Bowl is definitely not going to be an easy one, especially with so many good teams in the playoff hunt going into the final weekend.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (11-4)- After Week 14, we were all sure of two things, the NFC East was wide open, and the Saints and Vikings were the two best teams in the NFC. Two weeks later and it seems we were wrong on both counts. While Philly still has to beat Dallas to clinch the NFC East, one thing is clear, the Eagles are playing better than both the Saints and Vikings right now, and both those teams should be very afraid of what Philly can do come playoff time. With Donovan McNabb hitting Desean Jackson, big plays are not only likely, they are inevitable for the Eagles, and this team is out to prove that it has been over-looked all season long.

4. New Orleans Saints (13-2)- What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Two weeks ago the Saints were 13-0, and headed for an undefeated season and a Super Bowl birth. Back-to-back losses to Dallas and Tampa Bay and suddenly the Saints are a very shaky one-seed heading into the playoffs. While they still possess the quick-strike capabilities that have made this offense so dangerous, they look confused and unsure of themselves heading into the final week of the regular season. If the Saints are going to go as far as they should come playoff time they need to step up their game and do it quickly. Otherwise when they ask Who Dat down in New Orleans, the answer will be a one and done Saints team.

5. Minnesota Vikings (11-4)- Uh oh. That’s the only thing that has to be going through the minds of Vikings fans right now. After a 10-1 start, the Vikings have dropped three of four and suddenly look very beatable. Brett Favre is looking every bit of 40, Adrian Peterson has a case of fumble-itis and the Vikings defense is getting lit up for 36 points and four touchdowns by the likes of Jay “Biggest Loser on Earth” Cutler (harsh nick-name, but seriously, who doesn’t hate the guy?) Minnesota is limping towards the playoffs, and if they are going to do any damage they need to iron out their in-house differences and figure out a way to let AP control the ground and the clock so they can have a chance come playoff time.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 9

In General, NBA on December 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Week 9 has come and gone in the NBA season, and there has been some major shaking going on in the rankings. Cleveland started last week outside of the Top 5, but after convincing wins in Phoenix and LA, to go along with a blowout against Houston, have moved up to 3 in this weeks rankings. Now I know a lot of people will be clamoring for the Lakers to drop after that loss to the Cavs, but let’s be real here, one regular-season loss is not enough to drop what is clearly the NBA’s best team from the top. Especially after the only team that would have moved ahead of them (Boston) lost to the Clippers at the buzzer a night ago.

 

5. Atlanta Hawks (21-8) – It seems the team to suffer the most from the Cavs rejuvenation in the past week was Atlanta, who has now fallen to “Fourth best team in the East” status once again. The Hawks are off to one of the best starts in team history, and have shown everyone so far this season that they won’t be a push-over come playoff time. I don’t know about you guys but I can’t wait for the second round of the playoffs in the East, when presumably Boston, Orlando, Cleveland and Atlanta will all be going at it for spots in the Conference Finals. Don’t let the rankings fool you, the Hawks can definitely hang with the other three teams.

4. Orlando Magic (22-8)- The Lakers weren’t the only Conference champions to struggle on Christmas day. The Magic lost a home game on prime-time television in front of a national audience to a Celtics team that was missing its best player in Paul Pierce.  Orlando’s first half was abysmal, putting up 27 points, which will definitely not cut it come playoff time. This is still quite possibly the deepest team in the league though, with guys like Matt Barnes, Jason Williams, Mickael Pietrus coming off the bench, this squad can hang with any team in the league.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-8)- What a week for the Cavs. After starting off by losing in Dallas to a Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavs squad, Cleveland rolls into Phoenix to become the first road team to get a win there this season, follows it up by taking out the Lakers in LA and then hammering the Rockets. Sounds like a good enough week to bump them to first right? Wrong. The Cavs still have the same problems that have been plaguing them all season, they just played a very impressive couple of games. I’m not knocking the Lebrons, but they’re going to have to do it for more than a week to prove they belong in the conversation with the Celts and Lakers.

2. Boston Celtics (23-6) – After a very impressive road-win against the Magic minus Paul Pierce, the Celtics were all set to take the top spot from the Lakers this week. That is until Baron Davis got involved. Davis had the assist on a tying 3-pointer, and after two Rajon Rondo missed free throws nailed a ridiculous fade away at the buzzer to win it for the Clips.

 It’s losses like that which are preventing the Celts from being the best team in the league. Despite that, they are still as deep as anyone, as shown by that Christmas game. Not many people (myself included) expected them to beat Orlando without Pierce, and I definitely didn’t think they would handle Orlando in such a defensive fashion. But that game served as a reminder as to why the Celtics are always dangerous, regardless of who’s missing.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (24-5)- Interesting weekend for the defending Champs. After a disappointing loss to the Cavs on Christmas day, the Lake Show went to Sacramento and survived a double-overtime thriller against the Kings. Oh did we mention that Ron Artest sat out that game after taking a fall down the stairs of his home? Despite not having Artest and Kobe not feeling his right arm for most of the second half the Lakers were able to pull out an ugly win against a hungry Kings squad. Forget the Christmas day game, this is still clearly the team to beat in the NBA. The Lakers are the class of the league, and one off game will do nothing to change that.

6. Dallas Mavericks

7. Denver Nuggets

8. Portland Trailblazers

9. San Antonio Spurs

10. Phoenix Suns

11. Houston Rockets

12. Miami Heat

13. Oklahoma City Thunder

14. Utah Jazz

15. Los Angeles Clippers

16. New Orleans Hornets

17. Toronto Raptors

18. Memphis Grizzlies

19. Sacramento Kings

20. Charlotte Bobcats

21. Milwaukee Bucks

22. Chicago Bulls

23. Detroit Pistons

24. New York Knicks

25. Washington Wizards

26. Golden State Warriors

27. Indiana Pacers

28. Minnesota Timberwolves

29. Philadelphia 76ers

30. New Jersey Nets

Tackle Tuesday: Week 15

In General, NFL on December 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Upset of the Week: Dallas Cowboys 24 New Orleans Saints 17 –

Coming into this game we knew two things that were certain, the Saints were undefeated and looked unbeatable, and the Cowboys were struggling through yet another December meltdown. So the outcome should be simple, the Saints win and continue a perfect season, right? Well that’s not what Dallas had in mind as they went down to the Superdome and ended the Saints perfect season in New Orleans with the 24-17 victory. The final score doesn’t indicate just how much Dallas dominated this game, they lead 24-3 before Drew Brees tried to lead the Saints on a comeback that ultimately fell a touch down short. This game could provide Dallas with the momentum it needs to get into the playoffs and avoid yet another late-season collapse.

Game MVP:  DeMarcus Ware Demarcus Ware (2 sacks, Forced Fumble) – Ware returned to the field one week after spraining his neck and absolutely dominated for the Cowboys, showing exactly why he is one of, if not the most feared defenders in the league. Ware’s relentless pass rush allowed the Cowboys play more aggressively in coverage and completely threw off Brees. Add into that the fact that Ware was able to apply pressure and strip Brees to cause the game-sealing turnover, and we have our first defensive player to win a Game MVP on Tackle Tuesday.

Game LVP: Drew Brees Drew Brees (29-45, 298 yds, 1 INT, 2 Lost Fumbles) – It’s not often you see Brees name in anything but praise, but despite the high yardage yet again, this loss can be attributed to Brees on a number of levels. He looked flustered and out of sync early, and accounted for three turnovers for the normally turnover-free Saints. Although Brees is still having an MVP-type year, this game is one he and the Saints would like to forget.

Game of the Week:  San Diego Chargers 27 Cincinnati Bengals 24 –

This was easily one of the most emotional football games we’ve seen in a long, long time. The Bengals were coming into this battle for the 2-seed in the AFC with heavy hearts after the tragic loss of teammate Chris Henry earlier in the week. With players being brought to tears during the pre-game moment of silence it was clear this was going to be a highly emotional game, with plenty at stake on both sides. Once the game started it did not disappoint, with the Bengals jumping out to a 10-7 lead after a long touchdown catch by a very emotional Chad Ochocinco. Before the Chargers were able to take a 14-13 lead into halftime. The second half looked like it was going to be dominated by the Chargers, who scored the first 10 points to jump out to a 24-13 lead. However Cincy was able to comeback and tie it up with just over a minute left before the Phillip Rivers lead the Chargers on a game-winning drive that culminated in a 52-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding to win it and all but seal the 2-seed for San Diego. Regardless of the outcome of this game, our thoughts, prayer and respect go out to the Bengal family in this time of need.

Play of the Week:

 Ben Roethlisberger Ben Roethlisberger QB, Steelers –

In a week full of highlights, including Cleveland Browns return man Joshua Cribbs setting an NFL record for career kick-off returns for touchdowns, one play stood out the most for its importance. With 6 seconds left in the game and the Steelers trailing the Packers 36-30, Ben Roethlisberger dropped back from the 19 and, well you can watch and find out.

Stud of the Week:

 Ben Roethlisberger Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (29-46, 503 yards, 3 TDs) –

Yet another performance we couldn’t overlook from Mr. Roethlisberger. Despite the fact that Browns RB Jerome Harrison ran for a Browns record 286 yards, the third most all-time, we have to give this award to Big Ben because of the importance of his numbers. Harrisons yards came in a meaningless game against a sorry Chiefs team, while Roethlisberger’s came in a do-or-die game against what could be the best secondary in all of football. Big Ben was also clutch, throwing the game winning TD with no time left on the clock as seen above, to keep the Steelers in the playoff hunt. Roethlisberger had the tenth best day all time in terms of passing yardage in NFL history.

NFL Top 5 After Week 15:

1. Indianapolis Colts (14-0): Fourteen down, two to go. With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season the Colts have a chance to become only the second team ever to go 16-0 in the regular season, and the opportunity to be the first team to ever go 19-0. You have to respect this teams resilience, winning games despite looking at fourth-quarter deficits and taking on a persona of their MVP QB Peyton Manning. They are always cool and collected, regardless of the score or the situation, and that has them as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

2. New Orleans Saints (13-1): Now that the chase for a perfect season is over, the Saints can focus on other things, such as healthy players and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Despite the loss, this Saints team is still having one of the best seasons of all time and look like a heavy favorite in the NFC, especially with the recent struggles of the Vikings. There is no blue-print for how to beat this team, you basically have to play perfect to knock off the Saints, and that is a true sign of greatness.

3.  San Diego Chargers (11-3): Another week, another December win for the Super Chargers. San Diego has now won 17 consecutive December games, and 9 consecutive games overall this season after defeating Cincinnati to all but clinch the 2-seed in the AFC and the first-round bye that comes with it. The Chargers are rolling right now and arguably the hottest team in the league. They have no clear weaknesses, with a clutch QB in Rivers, two RBs that can go off come playoff time (just ask the Colts) in Ladanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, a top-flight receiver in Vincent Jackson, and the best punter/kicker combo in the league in Mike Scifres and Nate Kaeding. This team will be extremely difficult to knock off come playoff time and seems destined for an AFC title game with the Colts.

4. Minnesota Vikings (11-3): What’s going on with the Vikings? After a 10-1 start, Minnesota is 1-2 in their last three games with two embarrassing losses on nationally televised Sunday night games. The team that was favored by many (including the Sports Authority) a couple of weeks ago to win it all, now seems like a team in turmoil who is trying to find out who they really are. The loss to the lowly Panthers highlighted the fact that if you can get pressure on Brett Favre the Vikings are more than beatable, and the tension caused when Coach Brad Childress tried to pull Favre doesn’t help ease the situation. If the Vikings are to live up to their own lofty expectations come playoff time, they need to get their acts together, and quick.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4): Suddenly the Eagles are in play for a first-round bye after another win and yet another Vikings loss. With just two weeks left they may not be able to get it, but they control their own destiny in terms of the NFC East. Having already clinched a playoff spot, the Eagles can now focus on clinching their tough division with wins in the next two weeks. They control their own destiny, which at this stage in the season is something that every team would love to say. Win and the division is theirs, it’s as simple as that.

Eddie in the House

In General, NBA on December 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm

As most of you know, I despise the Celtics, like literally there are few things in the world that I hate more than the Celts, but with that being said, this is one of the sweetest plays I’ve seen in a long, long time.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 8

In General, NBA on December 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

Welcome back folks to another edition of the NBA Power Rankings. This week had a couple of surprises (Philly over Boston, Memphis over Denver) and a couple of things we’ve come to expect (four straight Laker wins), the rankings shouldn’t be too surprising, as the five teams occupying the spots have been up there for most of the season.

 

5. Denver Nuggets (19-9) – Despite the fact that the Nugs are coming off of consecutive losses, including a road loss to the suddenly tough Memphis Grizzlies, I can’t drop Denver from the Top 5. They have been without Chauncey Billups the past two games, who despite what most people think, is the most important player on the Denver roster. They are still easily the second-best team in the West and the only team with a legit shot at taking down the Lakers before the Finals.

4. Atlanta Hawks (19-7) – Like everyone else, I expected the Hawks to be team four in a three-horse race for the Finals, but yet again a week passes and the Hawks are contending for the second best-record in the East with Orlando. Cleveland hasn’t gelled like we thought they would and the Hawks are running on all cylinders. Despite the great record, they have some confusing losses to weaker teams that show us they still might not be ready to take that next step.

3. Orlando Magic (20-7) – Keep on truckin’. That should be the motto for this team, who has taken injuries and suspensions more than any other team and just kept on playing like nothing was wrong. With the second best record in the East we still haven’t seen what this team is completely capable of, and once they are healthy and ready to go they may even be better than the Celtics. The Christmas day match-up between the two should be a fun game to watch.

2. Boston Celtics (21-5) –  Boston finally had their winning streak snapped in an inexplicable home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston now has losses to Philly and Indiana which are tough to explain. However the Celts seem to be at the top of the pecking order when it comes to East contenders and are championship -savvy and tough enough to make the other teams such as Cleveland, Orlando and Atlanta have to play to near perfection to knock them off come playoff time.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (22-4)- So much for the question of if this team can win on the road huh? After having 17 of their first 21 games at Staples, the Lakers journeyed out for their first extended road-trip, going 4-1 on a 5-game swing with the only setback being an excusable loss to a revenge-minded Jazz team on the second game of a back-to-back. The Lakers then went 4-0 on a pair of back-to-backs to close out the trip, starting with tight wins against the Bulls and Bucks (including another Kobe buzzer-beater) and closing out with dominating wins over the Pistons and Nets. This squad has no weaknesses, and each passing game shows just how dominant they can be. The 09-10 Lakers have a chance to be one of those teams you look back on 30 years from now and marvel at how great they truly were.

 

6. Dallas Mavericks

7. Phoenix Suns

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

9. Houston Rockets

10. Utah Jazz

11. Portland Trailblazers

12. San Antonio Spurs

13. Oklahoma City Thunder

14. Miami Heat

15. Memphis Grizzlies

16. New Orleans Hornets

17. Los Angeles Clippers

18. Sacramento Kings

19. Detroit Pistons

20. Toronto Raptors

21. New York Knicks

22. Chicago Bulls

23. Milwaukee Bucks

24. Charlotte Bobcats

25. Philadelphia 76ers

26. Indiana Pacers

27. Washington Wizards

28. Golden State Warriors

29. Minnesota Timberwolves

30. New Jersey Nets

Football Forecast: Week 15

In General, NFL on December 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: This is an interesting game to watch. The Colts come into this game at 13-0 and holding an NFL-record 22-game winning streak as everyone already knows. They have already clinched home field throughout the AFC playoffs, and have no real motivation to go all out in this game. Meanwhile, Jacksonville sits at 7-6 and could greatly boost their playoff aspirations with a win tonight against the Colts. As we all know, division games are the toughest to play because there is rivalry and you play each other twice a year, so tendencies are picked up and focused on, especially in the second meeting between teams. This game has all the makings of an upset, and while I believe the Colts would like to finish the season undefeated, they realize that the bigger prize is the Super Bowl. This one has all the makings of an upset, and I’m going to make it my Upset Pick of the Week.

Jags 24, Colts 20

Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints: This is a game featuring polar opposites. The Cowboys come into this one struggling through yet another disappointing December. Tony Romo looks terrible, Wade Phillips looks like he doesn’t know how to coach, and Jerry Jones looks ready to hire a new head coach and possibly get a new quarterback. The Saints meanwhile have become America’s darlings this season. Going 13-0 with a high-powered, never-anything-but-fun to watch offense that scores on big plays from a little man with 5’9 Drew Brees leading the charge. While many Cowboy fans would like to believe this is the week where Dallas turns around their December misfortunes, I think the Saints continue their winning ways towards locking up home field advantage in the NFC.

Saints 31, Cowboys 20

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets: Two teams heading in opposite directions meet in New York when the Jets take on the Falcons. New York is back to winning again, sitting at 7-6 and only a game out of the division lead in the AFC East. While everyone has been focused on Miami pushing the Pats, the Jets have quietly kept pace and are in a position where anything can happen. The Falcons meanwhile have been bitten by the injury bug and are suffering since a good start. Quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner have both missed games the past couple of weeks as Atlanta have all but fallen out of the playoff picture in the NFC. Factor those injuries in with the fact that the Falcons are a pretty bad road team and you get a J-E-T-S win.

Jets 20, Falcons 13

San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: A big-time game for both of these teams in their hopes of making the postseason. The Niners are coming off of a huge, dominating win over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football and have an outsiders chance at sneaking into the playoffs if they can win out and get a couple of lucky breaks. Meanwhile the Eagles now control their own destiny in the NFC East with a one-game lead over the Cowboys and Giants. Philly is playing better than any NFC team not named the Saints and despite San Francisco being desperate, should pull out a big win this weekend as well.

Eagles 27, Niners 17

Houston Texans vs. St. Louis Rams: In one of many games with no playoff implications, the fading Texans meet the hopeless Rams. There are really only two things to watch in this game, Andre Johnson before he inevitably forces his way out of Houston in the off-season, and the Rams fighting to keep the number one pick in this years draft so they can finally draft the quarterback they’ve needed over the past couple of years. Texans should take this one, but expect a big day from Steven Jackson for the Rams.

Texans 27, Rams 10

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills: This is a key divisional game that could shake up the entire AFC East. If the Pats win they will at the very least maintain their one game lead over the Dolphins and Jets going into Week 16. But Bills upset this weekend could potentially create a three-way tie atop the AFC East and give us one of the most interesting division races we’ve seen in a while over the last two weeks of the season. There is nothing the Bills would like to do more than fix their own disappointing season by ruining the Pats season, but I don’t think they will be able to. Look for Randy Moss to have a big day and outclass TO this weekend.

Patriots 24, Bills 14

Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens: Talk about disappointment, the Bears come in to this game as possibly the biggest disappointment in the NFC, depending on if where you had Carolina in the pre-season. Many people thought Jay Cutler was going to come in and be the savior the Bears needed, but he has been nothing short of awful in his first year with Chicago. Although it is too early to tell, the trade looks very much like a disappointment. The Ravens meanwhile are fighting for their playoff lives in the very competitive AFC and have to get this home win if they want any chance to make it to the postseason.

Ravens 24, Bears 13

Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans: A couple weeks ago, who would have ever though this game could have such serious playoff implications? But here we are at Week 15 and the winner of this game could possibly have an inside track to the playoffs. The Dolphins have shocked a lot of people and are sitting at 7-6, just a game behind the struggling Patriots in the AFC East. The Titans meanwhile are 6-1 since a disappointing 0-6 start, and shockingly could win their way into the playoffs. If all goes right for them this weekend, (i.e. A win, Jags loss, Jets loss, Ravens loss, all very possible) the Titans could find themselves in a tie for the sixth playoff spot in the AFC. This game has huge implications and the teams are both evenly matched, in which case you always go with the home team.

Titans 24, Dolphins 21

Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Really, not much to say about this stinker. The Browns look to be packing it in so that they can get the number one pick, and the Chiefs are just trying to finish the season strong after such a disappointing start. Although the Browns have been playing well recently, including a shocking win over the Steelers, I think they come back down to earth and the Chiefs take this one.

Chiefs 14, Browns 13

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions: What’s the perfect remedy for a team that was dismantled on national television by a team they should have beaten? A game against the Detroit Lions. The only way this could have been any better for the Cardinals would have been if it were a home game, but in all seriousness they should get back on track and have their way with the Lions, regardless of if Larry Fitzgerald plays with a knee sprain or not. The thing that worries me the most about the Cards however is their lack of a third receiver, when Fitzgerald went out, Steve Breaston became the number one and Anquan Boldin (remember him?) became the second receiver, but Boldin provided almost no threat whatsoever. Should be interesting to see if he can get it going against the lowly Lions.

Cardinals 31, Lions 13

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Cue the old-school music, AFL rivalry montages and videos of these two teams going at it. One of the oldest rivalries in the NFL takes the field again in Denver when the Broncos host the Raiders. Despite some big wins for Oakland, they are running into a Denver team playing for their playoff lives, and are missing their spark at quarterback with Gradkowski being out. Charlie Frye will start, meaning Jamarcus Russell is now a third-stringer; can we officially call him a bust? The Broncos meanwhile seem back on track after a four-game losing streak and are trying to keep up with the Chargers in hopes of stealing away the division.

Broncos 27, Raiders 6

Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers: This one has Game of the Week written all over it. The Chargers and Bengals battle in a game that will most likely ultimately end up deciding the second seed in the AFC playoffs. The winner of this game will probably get a bye and a home game in the divisional round, while the loser will be relegated to Wild Card weekend. The Bengals have been up and down of late, but seem to be back on track and on their way to winning the AFC North. However they are running into a buzz saw known as the Chargers. San Diego has won an NFL-record 16 consecutive December games, and are on an 8-game winning streak. The Chargers seem destined for the two-seed and an AFC Championship game showdown with the Colts.

Chargers 24, Bengals 17

Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: If you asked me a few weeks ago which team would be fighting for the three-seed in the playoffs while the other was reeling with five consecutive losses I would have told you the Steelers would be team A and the Packers would be team B. However as we sit today the Packers are quite possibly the third best team in the NFC and the Steelers are 6-7, on the outside looking in come playoff time. Green Bay is finally putting it together and looks like a legitimate threat come playoff time, especially with a game at Lambeau. Pittsburgh meanwhile is reeling and needs to not only win out but get some major help to make it to the playoffs. That all being said, I will never bet against the Steelers at home in a must-win game, even after they lost to the Browns and Raiders in consecutive weeks.

Steelers 21, Packers 20

Tampa Bay Bucs vs. Seattle Seahawks: Another game with not much to talk about. Both teams are going to miss the playoffs and the only real implications in this game are whether or not the Bucs keep their stranglehold on the first pick in the draft. Seattle has been disappointing as well, losing games you expect them to win and fading out of the playoff race altogether. But I won’t pick against a home team, especially with the road team having to travel cross-country to play.

Seahawks 21, Bucs 7

Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers: The Vikings head into this game looking to clinch at least the two-seed in the NFC and have a very very very slim chance at taking the number one seed if the Saints collapse in their finals three games. Carolina meanwhile is just trying to end a disappointing season and avoid a blowout loss at home heading into an off-season where there will be some major changes made. Brett Favre should have his way against the Panthers, but look for Adrian Peterson to dominate this game on the ground.

Vikings 27, Panthers 14

New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins: This one seemed like a good Monday nighter at the beginning of the season, an NFC East division rivalry that would have big implications in the NFC East. But looking at it now, it seems like a game that will probably be boring and most likely end up a Giants blowout. The G-Men are struggling right now, and sit a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East. They need some help to win this division and make the playoffs, but first they need to win this game against the Skins who have played tough the past couple of weeks, including a narrow home-loss to the Saints. This has upset potential but I think the Giants pull it out.

Giants 24, Redskins 13

R.I.P. Chris Henry

In General, NFL on December 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm

As most of you have heard by now, oft-troubled Bengals WR Chris Henry died this morning from head injuries suffered in an apparent domestic dispute with his fiancee. While the details aren’t out completely yet, we should focus more on the tragedy of yet another young athlete passing. I hope the media recognizes the young man and not his off the field issues of his past. Our prayers go out to his family, and this just serves as a reminder to all of us that nothing is guaranteed in this life, not even tomorrow.

Tackle Tuesday: Week 14

In General, NFL on December 15, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Upset of the Week: San Francisco 49ers 24 Arizona Cardinals 9 –

I know a lot of people were much more surprised by the Browns beating the Steelers, but Pittsburgh is reeling and that was a loss that some could have predicted. This one? Not so much. The Cardinals were on a roll especially offensively, and were looking to clinch their second consecutive NFC West title on a primetime Monday night game. So of course, they came out and put up a stinker in every sense of the word. The Cardinals looked nothing like a playoff team, or even the team that handled the Vikings just a week ago, highlighting their up and down tendencies that prevent many people (myself included) from considering the Cardinals a threat to return to the Super Bowl. San Francisco came out and was much sharper than Arizona, getting three neutral zone infractions against the Cardinal defense on the first drive. The Cardinals were sloppy all game long, losing 5 fumbles and ultimately blowing a chance to clinch the division. Lucky for them they have the opportunity again soon.

Game MVP: Frank Gore, RB, Niners (25 car, 167 yds, TD) – Coming into this game Gore was somewhat of a forgotten man. He hadn’t touched the ball much the previous two games, as the Niners had been passing on an madden-like 73% of their offensive plays. A team many thought would be known for their ground game was last in rushes per game, and Gore had suffered the most. However on this night, Gore was the back many people expected him to be all season. Gore averaged over 6 yards per carry and was moving the chain and grinding the clock for the Niners while Arizona was struggling to move the ball. For one game, Gore showed why many of us thought he would be a Pro-Bowler for a run-first offense.

Game LVP: Cardinals (11 penalties for 78 yards, 7 turnovers) – This was one of those games where you can’t blame anyone specifically, because the entire team sucked. The defense was run all over by Frank Gore, jumped off side multiple times and gave the Niners new life on plenty of third-down mistakes. The offense was even worse, committing seven turnovers, including losing an astonishing five fumbles. Just overall a game to forget if your a Cardinals fan. Arizona clearly isn’t a bad team, they just had a horrible game.

 

Game of the Week: Philadelphia Eagles 45 New York Giants 38 –

A shootout in every sense of the word, this divisional game gave us all the fireworks that we expect from such a rivalry. Whether it was big plays (Desean Jacksons 72-yard punt return for a TD or 60 yard TD reception) to big numbers (27-38, 391 yards, 3 TD) this game had it all. Philadelphia took a 30-17 lead into halftime before the Giants quickly came back and took the lead 31-30. That lasted for all of well, 15 seconds because on the first play from scrimmage after that Donovan McNabb hit Jackson for that 60 yard score to put the Eagles back up 37-31. That touch down was significant because it stifled any momentum that the Giants had gained, and also gave Jackson his eight touchdown of over 50 yards this season, tying an NFL record. In the end, the Eagles defense was able to hold late and Philly left New York with a huge road win and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

 

Play of the Week:

Desean Jackson, WR/KR/PR, Eagles –

Jackson is known for his big-time, electric plays, and this punt return is exactly what we’ve come to expect out of him. Watch as Jackson takes a step back, waits for the blocking to develop then bursts up field for the score and the two touchdown lead.

 

Stud of the Week:

Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos (21 rec, 200 yds, 2 TDs) –

The Broncos fell to the Colts, giving Indianapolis its NFL-record 23 game winning streak and dropping the Broncos two games behind the surging Chargers in the division, but it had nothing to do with Marshall. All the much-maligned receiver did was go out and set an NFL record with 21 receptions, breaking fellow loud-mouth receiver Terrell Owens 2002 mark. Marshall spent most of the off-season demanding a trade/being suspended/pouting then ultimately showing up to play, and Sunday proved that despite his ego and off the field issues, on the field he is a force to be reckoned with.

 

NFL Top 5 After Week 14:

1. Indianapolis Colts (13-0) – Props have to be given where they are deserved. After winning their 23rd consecutive game, the Colts stand alone in NFL history with the longest winning streak ever, breaking New England’s streak from a couple years ago. The Colts seem to be getting stronger and are beating better competition now than they did at the beginning of the season. 16-0 seems likely for this squad if they want it.

2. New Orleans Saints (13-0) – The Saints keep marching after a Week 14, closer-than-it-should-have-been win over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta was missing their quarterback in Matt Ryan and their Pro-Bowl running back in Michael Turner but still gave the Saints a fight. Ultimately, New Orleans won again and head into a game against Dallas next week on a roll. A win next week could potentially lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Saints.

3. Minnesota Vikings (11-2) – Well that was quick. A week after an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals on Sunday Night Football, the Vikings went home and cured all their problems by demolishing the Bengals 30-10. Cincinnati is by most accounts the second or third best team in the AFC, so the win was impressive and silenced those critics who said Minnesota hadn’t really beaten anyone yet. Although home-field and the one seed may be out of reach for the Vikes, they can clinch a first-round bye and at least one home game if they continue winning.

4. San Diego Chargers (10-3) – Quick, which AFC team holds an NFL-record winning streak that stretches over more than three years? That would be the Chargers, who are now 16-0 in their last sixteen December games, an NFL record. This team is built for the end of the season not the beginning, and once again we are seeing that this year. After a 2-3 start the Bolts have ripped off eight consecutive wins and are firmly entrenched in the playoff picture. A win this weekend against the Bengals all but ensures them the 2-seed and a bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – Welcome back Philly. After a couple week hiatus from the Top 5, the Eagles are back following an impressive road win against division rival New York. The Eagles are now in control of their own destiny, holding a one game lead in the division race and have the inside track to the third seed in the NFC playoffs. If the Eagles continue their big plays they may shock a rested Minnesota team in the second round, but let’s get through the regular season before looking that far ahead.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 7

In General, NBA on December 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Welcome back to the Power Rankings. A quarter of the season is over and the top 5 is a little different than we might have expected. Let’s take a look at the biggest storyline for each of the teams in the Top 5 through the seasons first quarter.

 

5. Denver Nuggets (17-7) – After a couple week hiatus from the Top 5, the Nuggets are back in the fifth spot. Denver is the clear-cut number two in the West after the first quarter of the season, and are being lead by an MVP-caliber Carmelo Anthony. While other teams such as the Spurs and Blazers have stumbled out of the gate, Denver has seized the opportunity to claim its spot in the pecking order directly behind the Lakers. While the talent gap between the two may be too much for us to consider Denver a true challenger, they are currently the only team in the West with a remote chance of beating the Lakers in the playoffs.

4. Atlanta Hawks (17-6) – This is the most surprising team of the first quarter of the season, yes even more surprising than the Suns. After getting off to a hot start the Hawks stumbled back down to Earth the past couple of weeks but have settled in nicely as the third best team in the East. Despite many people thinking that Cleveland was going to be the third team in the East’s big three, Atlanta has made it clear they are in the same class. This might be the deepest team in the East, with scorers all over the place, including Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford. This is a team to watch out for, and if Orlando or Boston take them lightly we could very easily see an upset come playoff time.

3. Orlando Magic (17-6) – The story of the first quarter for Orlando was injuries/suspensions and trying to balance new players with a fluctuating roster. Despite a 10-game suspension for Rashard Lewis, injuries to nearly everyone on the roster and stretches of disappearing from Dwight Howard, the reigning Eastern Conference champs are sitting at 17-6, tied for the second best record in the East.  Once the roster gels and players start returning from injury this becomes the best team in the Eastern Conference.

2. Boston Celtics (19-4) – The Celtics were one of the most up and down teams of the first quarter of the season. After a dominating start, Boston had a bit of a drought in the middle of their schedule, losing a couple games they should have won and nearly losing a couple more. But no the Celts are on a 10-game winning streak and seem back to the dominating defensive team that we’re accustomed to seeing. The most intriguing thing to watch about this team is how the younger players step up as the season continues. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are all getting older, and will need help from the younger players if Boston wants to get passed Orlando and return to the Finals.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (18-4) – The Lakers had perhaps the nicest schedule of the first quarter of the season, playing 17 of 21 games at home and not leaving California for nearly a month. This played a part in them racing out to the best record in the league and reeling off 11 consecutive wins before a loss Saturday to Utah. That one loss was not enough to drop the Lakers behind the Celtics, especially not when it comes on the second game of a back-to-back in arguably the hardest place to win on the road, and a night after Kobe suffers a broken bone in his shooting hand. Regardless of the cushy schedule, this is the best team in the league, and right now it’s not even close. We should get to see just how good this team can be with 18 of their next 27 games on the road.

 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers

7. Dallas Mavericks

8. Utah Jazz

9. Phoenix Suns

10. San Antonio Spurs

11. Oklahoma City Thunder

12. Houston Rockets

13. Portland Trailblazers

14. Milwaukee Bucks

15. Miami Heat

16. New Orleans Hornets

17. Detroit Pistons

18. Memphis Grizzlies

19. Sacramento Kings

20. Toronto Raptors

21. Los Angeles Clippers

22. Chicago Bulls

23. New York Knicks

24. Charlotte Bobcats

25. Indiana Pacers

26. Washington Wizards

27. Golden State Warriors

28. Minnesota Timberwolves

29. Philadelphia 76ers

30. New Jersey Nets

NBA Power Rankings: Week 6

In General, NBA on December 7, 2009 at 10:24 am

Another week has gone by in the NBA and what a week it was. Friday night proved to be the night to watch if you were an NBA fan. First we had the Nets finally snapping a NBA-record 18-game losing streak to open the season with a win over the Bobcats, who looked like they were making strides towards the playoffs before falling apart against New Jersey. Then just when you thought that no NBA story could top that, we had Mr. Mamba make perhaps the looniest, luckiest buzzer beater we have ever seen in a 108-107 win over the Heat. Now I’m a little biased, I was in the building for that Kobe buzzer-beater and I have never gone crazier in my life than I did when Kobe hit that shot. It was a thing only he could do. The only buzzer-beater I can think of that compares is Devin Harris’ juggling half court game winner last season. Although it matches in ridiculousness, Kobe’s shot was over D-Wade, and that image of an stretched out Wade barely missing a fading Kobe’s shot will stick with us for a while. Just for the hell of it here are links to both of those shots, you tell me who you think had the best one.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-5) – Are the Cavs starting to overtake the Celts as the most hate team in the league? They continue to rub teams the wrong way with Lebrons dances, the ridiculous group intros and celebrations after dunks. People celebrate don’t get me wrong, but I’m sure Joakim Noah isn’t the only player in the league annoyed with Bron Bron’s dances and bench parties. At the end of the day Lebron needs to worry about winning and not about what dance him and Danny Green can do on the bench. Regardless they seem to be figuring out how to play with Shaq and finally look like one of the top three teams in the East.

 

4. Denver Nuggets (15-5) – Even though we all thought it was going to be the Spurs, Denver has turned out to be the second best team in the West. Despite the Suns revival, the Nuggets remain the only team that legitimately look like they can challenge the Lakers in the West, and they have a drubbing of LA back in the beginning of the season to prove that. Carmelo Anthony is having a break-out, MVP-caliber season and his scoring ability on any given night makes Denver a team to watch for.

 

3. Boston Celtics (16-4) – So much for all those questions surrounding the Celtics that we had a couple weeks ago. Boston is back to its winning ways and is once again a title contender. Kevin Garnett is starting to look like his old self, and the younger players are getting stronger as the weeks go on. If Rasheed Wallace can find his range from outside this will be a very difficult team to knock out come playoff time.

 

2. Orlando Magic (16-4) – Last season’s Eastern Conference finalists have done nothing to make us believe they’re not still the team to beat in the East. Despite dealing with as many injuries as anyone, Orlando has continued to play strongly and they keep winning games. Once Jameer Nelson gets back and they are at full strength, they will be one of the most complete teams in the NBA, period.

 

1. Los Angeles Lakers (16-3) – Now on a 9-game winning streak that include 8 double-digit wins such as the 20-point thrashing of the Suns last night and a buzzer-beating miracle that they got against Miami, the Lakers are starting to look more and more like the force we thought they would be. With the team now at full strength, they seem to be getting bored with their competition, blowing it open early and cruising the rest of the game. It’s scary to think what this team can do once they really get rolling, and despite a nice opening home schedule, they have give no reason to believe they won’t continue winning on the road when they finally do leave Staples. Don’t believe me? Just look at this quote, “We’ve played the other teams,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, “and I think they’re by far the best team.” By other teams Gentry is talking about the Celtics, Magic and Cavs, who are all thought to be the Lakers biggest challengers this season. But as the season moves on we are slowly starting to realize that the talent gap between LA and everyone else may be too much for any team to overcome.

 

6. Atlanta Hawks

7. Phoenix Suns

8. Dallas Mavericks

9. Miami Heat

10. Portland Trailblazers

11. Utah Jazz

12. Houston Rockets

13. San Antonio Spurs

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

15. Los Angeles Clippers

16. Sacramento Kings

17. Milwaukee Bucks

18. New Orleans Hornets

19. Toronto Raptors

21. Detroit Pistons

22. Charlotte Bobcats

23. Memphis Grizzlies

24. Washington Wizards

25. Indiana Pacers

26. Golden State Warriors

27. New York Knicks

28. Philadelphia 76ers

29. Minnesota Timberwolves

30. New Jersey Nets