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Tackle Tuesday: Wild Card Weekend

In General, NFL on January 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

Better late than never right?

Upset of the Week: Baltimore Ravens 33

New England Patriots 14

In what many expected to be the closest game of Wild Card weekend, the Ravens jumped out to a 24-0 first quarter lead and never looked back in handing Tom Brady his first career home playoff loss. The Ravens got an 83-yard TD run from running back Ray Rice on their first play from scrimmage, and went on to dominate the rest of the game, taking advantage of uncharacteristic turnovers by Brady to score quickly and often in that first quarter. The 24-0 lead proved to be more than enough, as the Ravens only added 10 more points the rest of the game but still won comfortably. It was a shocking loss for the Patriots, who many people expected to just turn it on once the playoffs started. Instead they will be sent home with a list of questions and concerns, including what to do with Randy Moss and whether or not this is the end of an era in New England.

MVP: Ray Rice Ray Rice (22 car, 159 yards, 2 TD) – You know you’re in for a good day as a RB when the first time you carry the ball you burst up-field for an 83-yard score. Rice came out and along with Willis McGahee, dominated the ground game for Baltimore, allowing them to chew up clock and literally carrying them to victory. Joe Flacco was just 4-10 for 40 yards, but it didn’t matter as the running game let him rest comfortably all day as the Patriots could not stop Baltimore ground attack.

LVP: Tom Brady Tom Brady (23-42, 154 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, Lost Fumble) – This was just a confusing game if your Patriots fans, and the most confusing of them all was Tom Brady not showing up ready to play. Brady started off the first quarter by throwing two picks, helping the Ravens jump out to that 24-0 lead and he seemed out of it the rest of the day. He rushed throws, threw into a lot of double-coverage and just never looked comfortable under the Ravens pressure. This is surely a game that Brady will want to quickly forget.

Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals 51 Green Bay Packers 45

Where to even begin with this one? The Cardinals jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter before extending it to 31-10 early in the third, a sign that this was surely going to be the fourth blow-out of Wild Card weekend. That is until Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense decided to join the party. Rodgers threw an interception on his first pass of the game, but eventually settled down and lead the Packers to five straight touch down drives. Kurt Warner was no slouch however, as he kept the Cardinals scoring with an unbelievable passing day. After the Packers had tied the game at 45 with just over a minute and a half left, Warner quickly lead the Cardinals down field for what was a potential game-winning field goal. But Neil Rackers missed what amounts to a chip shot and the game headed into overtime. With all the momentum on their side the Packers won the coin-toss and seemed destined to pull of the huge comeback. On the first play from scrimmage in OT, Rodgers missed a wide open Greg Jennings in the middle of the field for what surely would have been the winning touchdown. Two plays later, the Cardinals brought the blitz on third down, and cornerback Michael Adams hit Rodgers and caused the ball to pop loose, linebacker Karlos Dansby snatched it out of the air and ran untouched 17 yards for the game winning score in what ended up as the highest-scoring postseason game in history. This is a game that anyone who watched will definitely not forget for a long, long time.

Play of the Week:

Greg Jennings Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, WR

In the midst of a furious rally from a three touchdown deficit, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers drops back and throws a laser to receiver Greg Jennings, who snatches the ball out of the air one-handed for the score.

 


Stud of the Week:

Kurt Warner Kurt Warner, Cardinals, QB (29-33, 379 yards, 5 TD) – Quite simply, Warner put on what is the greatest quarterback display in NFL playoff history. Those stats are not a typo folks, Warner had more touchdown passes than incompletions in the game. Let me say that again so it settles in correctly, Warner had more touchdown passes than incompletions! Anyone who doubted if Warner could still play was silenced with this game, as he masterfully picked apart what was the NFL’s second ranked-defense. The Packers, don’t forget, are lead on the defensive side by the new Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson. Warner put the ball in the toughest of spots, giving his receivers a chance to make big plays and they delivered. This was a clinic, and if any of you out there want your kids to know how a quarterback should play, just show them video of Warner in this game. Absolutely incredible.

 

Divisional Round Predictions:

Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings – Favre is 0-3 against Dallas in the playoffs, the Boys are rolling and probably the hottest team in the NFC. That being said:

Vikings 27, Cowboys 24

Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints – If you don’t watch this game, then you are not a true football fan. Potentially, they have a chance to break the record the Cardinals just set with the Packers last week for the highest scoring postseason game in history. Warner vs. Brees should be a sight to see this weekend.

Cardinals 45, Saints 42

Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts – The Ravens look scary good right now after pounding the Pats. The Colts haven’t played a meaningful game in over a month, but don’t expect Peyton Manning to give away this game the same way Tom Brady did last week.

Colts 24, Ravens 20

New York Jets vs. San Diego Chargers – Chargers are riding an 11-game winning streak, the Jets have won three straight do-or-die games. This will come down to which team can be more effective offensively, and I’ll take Rivers over Sanchez any day of the week.

Chargers 30, Jets 17

Football Forecast: Wild Card Weekend

In General, NFL on January 7, 2010 at 10:29 am

What’s up guys? So the NFL playoffs start this weekend with the Wild Card games, and I figured I’d try and take a shot at making some picks. Here’s just a quick Football Forecast for you guys, let’s see if you can pick it any better.

New York Jets at

 Cincinnati Bengals: Let’s get the easiest pick out of the way now. The Bengals should come out and dominate this game from start to finish. The Jets are only in the playoffs because they got two wins against the Colts and Bengals, both of which basically laid down and handed over the games because they had nothing to play for.  Once the playoffs start anything is possible in theory, especially when you have one of the top ranked defenses in the league. But offensively I just don’t think the Jets can move the ball, not with a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez (a childhood friend so don’t call me a hater) who is playing in a playoff atmosphere for the first time. The Bengals should make quick work and give us the only blow-out of the day.

Benglas 27, Jets 10

Baltimore Ravens at

 New England Patriots: Now the picks start getting difficult to make. A couple of weeks ago I probably would have said hands down the Pats take this game, but after Wes Welkers devastating knee injury last week, I’m not as confident in them. The Pats offense will be key, because the more they can score, the more pressure they can put on the Ravens offense. Baltimore likes to run and use short passes, but if the Pats can jump out to a lead it will force the Ravens to be more aggressive and could work in New Englands favor. For the Ravens D this might be their last hurrah so to speak. Ray Lewis isn’t getting any younger and eventually this is going to become a team more known for its offense than its defense. Although I think the Ravens defense can win this game by itself, the Pats offense does just enough to squeak out a win and head to San Diego next week.

Patriots 24, Ravens 21

Green Bay Packers at

Arizona Cardinals: This game is probably the most difficult to pick for me. The Packers are simply on fire, having won 7 of 8, with the only loss coming on a last second TD by the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Arizona meanwhile, is once again being overlooked as the playoffs start, and we all know what happened last season. This game has all the makings of an exciting shoot-out between two teams with big-armed quarterbacks and explosive receivers. The difference in this game is going to come down to defenses, and they key match-up will be Charles Woodson and Larry Fitzgerald. If Woodson can contain Fitzgerald the Packers will win, plain and simple. If not, well we all remember what Fitz did last season in the playoffs. As much as I hate picking against a home-team in the playoffs, I think the Packers squeak out a win in a thriller.

Packers 35, Cardinals 34

Philadelphia Eagles at

Dallas Cowboys: A week after getting spanked 24-0 in a winner-takes-all division title game, the Eagles return to the scene of the crime to take on the Cowboys. Two weeks ago I’m picking the Eagles without a doubt. There’s no way I have any faith in Tony Romo to lead a team come playoff time. Well, then Week 17 happened and now I don’t even know what’s going on in the world. The Cowboys (!) suddenly look like a sleeper Super Bowl candidate, and the Eagles suddenly are very vulnerable. They were swept by the Boys in the regular season, and their offense hasn’t done anything in two meetings with Dallas. Desean Jackson has been shut down and the Eagles have suffered because of it. It pains me to say this, but the Cowboys have looked great the past couple of weeks, beating the Saints and Eagles in games that mattered. Man this prediction sucks.

Cowboys 21, Eagles 17

NFL Awards Predictions

In General, NFL on January 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

It’s that time of year folks, the end of the NFL regular season, and time to decide who will be recognized for their individual accomplishments. As always, there are more than a few players deserving to be mentioned and considered in each category, but only one (or two) can take home the hardware. Without any further ado, here are my picks for the most prestigious individual awards the NFL has to offer.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

The Defensive Rookie of the Year was announced yesterday so no prediction necessary there, but what about on offense? When you look at this award the automatic question you have is what rookie stood out the most this season? When I look back 10 years from now who will I remember bursting onto the scene and creating an impact from his very first game? To me there is only one rookie who stands out among the pack, and that is Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. Harvin has made an immediate impact on the Vikings from the day he was drafted, being used as a punt returner, a kick returner, a deep threat and a guy with blazing speed who can turn any short play into a long one, opening up the playbook for the Vikings and making them that much more dangerous. Yet another great draft pick by Minnesota, who two years ago drafted a fellow by the name of Adrian Peterson and struck gold again this year with the pick of Harvin.

Winner: Percy Harvin  Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

Comeback Player of the Year:

This is actually a very competitive award this season. A lot of times people think comeback player and they assume it means a player who came back from injury, but that is not the case. This year’s candidates include Tom Brady, who came back from a devastating injury suffered in the first game of the season last year. Or Alex Smith, the San Francisco QB who had reconstructive elbow surgery, was a back up and forgotten by many, only remembered as a colossal bust as the number one pick in a draft that produced fellow quarterback and Pro-Bowler Aaron Rodgers. But the one comeback story everyone will remember when looking back on this year is Vince Young’s. Young was forgotten, backing up an aging Kerry Collins and relegated to sitting on the sidelines as one of the biggest busts of all time. One of the most hyped quarterback prospects coming out of college, Young had failed to do anything in his tenure as a starter and was replaced and forgotten last season. But this year the Titans started 0-6, and inserted Young in to see if he had anything left. Young finally showed the reason he was a number three pick and played to his potential, starting 5-0 and finishing 8-2 as a starter leading the Titans to an unfathomable 8-8 record after their 0-6 start. Young has finally put his career on the right track.

Winner: Vince Young Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

Defensive Player of the Year:

There’s a lot of competition in this one. Because a defense has so many facets to it, it’s difficult to pinpoint one player who made the biggest impact on defense. To be honest, if I was going to pick a player who was the most valuable to their defense I would probably pick Troy Polomalu, because the Steelers entire team completely collapsed after he went down. But this award is to the player who stood out the most defensively this season, and I think very few can argue that that man was Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers. This season completed a stunning turn-around in Woodsons career, and was almost completely unexpected. Woodson came into the league a Heisman winner with the Raiders who almost instantly became the best lock-down corner in football. Then all of the sudden the Raiders start regressing and so does Woodson, who turn into a shell of himself. Fast-forward a couple years, he signs with the Packers and now Woodson is back to his dominant self. Tying for the lead-league with nine interceptions, Woodson also had 74 tackles (66 solo), two sacks, four forced fumbles and three pick returns for touchdowns. He cemented himself once again as one of the top three corners in the game, and the fact that he’s doing it at an age where 99% of cornerbacks begin to greatly decline is a testament to how incredible that turn-around has been.

Winner: Charles Woodson Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Player of the Year:

Keep in mind, this award is different from the MVP Award. And for this award there really is only one candidate, Chris Johnson of the Titans. Johnson exploded onto the scene this season as arguably the best running back in football, setting an NFL record with over 2500 yards from scrimmage, becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards (2,006 to be exact) and single-handedly carried the Titans with his faster-than-the-cameras-can-follow speed. Johnson was the main offensive threat on a team that finished 8-2 after a disappointing 0-6 start. It’s sad that a team with the expectations the Titans had missed the playoffs, but the fact that they even came close after an 0-6 start is absolutely incredible, and they owe it to Johnson’s amazing season. This award is Johnson’s and nobody else is even close.

Winner: Chris Johnson Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Most Valuable Player:

This is easily one of the most competitive seasons we’ve had in a long time when it comes to the MVP award. And because (for the most part) this is a race between a group of elite quarterbacks you have to basically throw stats out the window, they are all similar to each other. So by that token you have to look at what player made the biggest difference for their offense. So in reverse order from fifth to first, here’s how my MVP vote shakes down.

5. Brett Favre Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – Despite the lazy/dramatic finish to the season, we can’t forget what Favre did this season. Coming back at 40 he had arguably his best season of his career, which is saying something of a three-time MVP. The threat of Adrian Peterson running down teams throats opened up the field for Favre and he took full advantage of it. It says something about this MVP race that he finishes fifth in perhaps his finest season.

4. Chris Johnson Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – Johnson had what was one of the top five seasons all-time for a running back in 2009, I’ve already told you the stats, but that wasn’t what made him so important to the Titans. Johnson was such a big play threat that it completely opened up the field for Vince Young. His blazing speed means that the second he hits any type of opening he can be gone, and his speed is not the type where he needs to hit a corner then burst, he can just burst through a hole instantly and go 70 yards untouched. If the Titans had made the playoffs I think the award would be his for sure, regardless of what anyone above him had done, but missing it drops him to fourth in these rankings.

3. Drew Brees  Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints – Brees is the ring-leader of the most explosive offense in the league and one of the most dangerous in league history. Behind the hard-throwing quarterback, the Saints exploded to a 13-0 start and became the type of instant-scoring threat that we rarely see in the NFL today. But stumbling in the last two games that mattered by playing subpar football dropped Brees from his perch atop these rankings. Although to finish third in the MVP rankings probably won’t bother Brees much if his Saints go as far as many think they can.

1B. Philip Rivers Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

1A. Peyton Manning Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts –Okay so I cheated a little bit, but there is no way I can pick between these two. The quarterbacks of what are undoubtedly the two best teams in football; both of these men are responsible for their teams success this season. While all the hype as been heaped onto Manning for what he has done (and rightfully so) you can’t overlook what Rivers did this season. After the Chargers got off to a disappointing 2-3 start, he threw them on his back and literally carried the Chargers to 11 straight wins and a 13-3 record. Rivers has become the most accurate deep-ball QB in the game, and is on the short list of two or three quarterbacks you want leading your team on a last second drive to win the game. Manning, meanwhile, has come back this season and had what could be his best season of his career. Leading a team with a new coach and an inexperienced group of receivers to a 14-0 start and the best record in the NFL. Both of these men are equally important to their teams and without them neither team would even be close to where they are right now. That’s why I can’t pick between the two and am going to have to give co-MVPs here.

Winners: Peyton Manning, Colts/ Phillip Rivers, Chargers

Tackle Tuesday: Season End edition

In General, NFL on January 5, 2010 at 9:58 am

What’s up guys? So after a Week 17 filled with meaningless games and inflated stats, I decided that instead of doing a normal Tackle Tuesday where I talked about the past weekend, I’m going to do a Tackle Tuesday: End of the Season edition. I’ll give you the game, upset, and highlight of the season, along with regular season ending Power Ranking. Coming later this week, a first-round playoff predictions article and an End of the Season Awards article, keep a look out for those folks

Upset of the Season:

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20  New Orleans Saints 17 –

This game is only a couple of weeks old, and yes I realize that the Saints had already had their perfect season ended a week before, but think about how historically significant this game is. It was the first time that a team with at least 12 losses had beaten a team with at least 13 wins in NFL history. Now I know it happened a few years ago with the Colts, but they played their reserves in a meaningless game the entire time. This was completely different. The Saints were trying to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC, played their starters the entire game and were dominating the Bucs in the first half 17-0. Then suddenly everything changed. The Bucs somehow clawed their way to within a TD at 17-10 before Michael Spurlock sprung for a 77-yard punt return to tie it up with the time running out in the fourth quarter. This lead to a dramatic sequence in which the Saints missed a chip shot from 37-yards as time expired, the Bucs got the ball to start overtime and never looked back, ultimately winning it on a field goal and providing us with the Upset of the Season.

Game of the Season:

  Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Minnesota Vikings 17-

When I look back at the 2009 NFL season, there will be a lot of stories that stand out. The Pats fourth-and-two gamble, Brandon Marshalls 21 catch game, Favre playing in Lambeau, or many other highlights and memories we saw this season. But if one game will stay in my mind, it has to be when the Vikings visited the Steelers in Week 7 and we got what was easily the most entertaining fourth quarter of the season. Fast-forward to seven minutes left in the fourth, the Vikings trail the Steelers 13-10 but are in the red zone and looking to either tie or take the lead. Brett Favre drops back and FUHM-BAL! The ball is knocked out of his hands, scooped up and returned 77-yards by LaMarr Woodley to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead. Game over right? Wrong. On the very next kickoff, Percy Harvin catches the ball at his own 12, then races up the middle and hits the sideline untouched to break off an 88-yard touchdown return. Now we got ourselves a game, 20-17 Steelers. After the Vikings force a stop and get the ball back. Brett Favre once again leads them down field and into the red zone. Favre accounted for 334 yards in the air, but the biggest completion he made was for an 82-yard score, for the Steelers. After getting in to the red zone, Favre dropped back and felt some pressure, which caused him to dump the ball off to back-up Chester Taylor, only Favre threw it a little too hard, and Taylor took his eyes off of it a little too soon, and next thing you know a tipped ball is being returned by Keyaron Fox 82-yards the other way to seal the game, a 27-17 win for the Steelers, and thrilling game for us fans to watch.

Highlight of the Season:

 Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings –

Words don’t do this one justice so here’s the highlight from Week 7, which also happened to be Game of the Season, it speaks for itself.

End of Season Power Rankings:

1.   San Diego Chargers (13-3) – What did Week 17 teach us? Even with their back-ups in for over the three quarters, the Chargers are unbeatable right now. Plain and simple they are playing the best football in the NFL and despite the seedings are the team to beat. Eleven straight wins that have all been impressive (unlike the Colts wins to start the season) and they have absolutely no weaknesses. Defense is there, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league running them, and easily the best special teams unit of any team remaining. As a Chargers fan I am downright giddy at the possibilities, yes I used giddy, and no I didn’t just jinx them.

2.  Indianapolis Colts (14-2)- After a 14-0 start, the Colts basically quit the last two weeks and go into the AFC playoffs as the one seed with a 14-2 record. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for resting players to avoid injuries, especially after what happened to Wes Welker over the weekend, but how many times do you get a chance to go 16-0? I realize that they say it doesn’t matter to them, but let’s be real, even if they win the Super Bowl; they’re just another 14-2 team that won the Super Bowl. They had a chance to be the firs t19-0 team to win it, but threw that away, and as a football fan I’m kind of annoyed by that.

3.  New Orleans Saints (13-3) – The other team that flirted with perfection this season, the Saints started 13-0 only to lose their final three games. They didn’t lose like the Colts however, they were going for the win in two of the three but just couldn’t get past the Cowboys or Bucs (both at home) and are kind of struggling going into the playoffs. The Saints can still score with anyone and beat a team by exploding for one quarter, but they are no longer a sure thing to even reach the NFC title game, let alone the Super Bowl.

4.  Minnesota Vikings (12-4) – The team tabbed as number two in the NFC all season long, the Vikings too are struggling entering the playoffs. Prior to Sunday they had lost three of four and looked shaky in all facets of the game. But their dismantling of the suddenly defense-less Giants kind of shook off some of those issues, kind of. Their offensive line is still susceptible to getting hammered by a blitz-heavy team, and Favre is starting to look every bit his age. It will be interesting to see what happens to this team come playoff time.

5. Green Bay Packers (11-5) – Sleeper Alert! Sleeper Alert! Right now, the hottest team in the NFC is…. The Green Bay Packers? That’s right the team that nobody notices is chugging along, playing the best football of anyone in the NFC. Their only loss in the past two months was on the road to the Steelers on a last-second miracle touch down. If I had to make my picks today, I would not be surprised at all if I went with the Pack to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. This shocks not only you but me as well people. Also, if the Eagles and Packers win this weekend, the world might just stop next week when Green Bay moves on to (wait for it, wait for it, and….. now!) play the Vikings and Brett “I-stabbed-your-entire-franchise-in-the-back-but-everyone-still-loves-me-and-it-makes-no-sense” Favre. Now that would be fun to see.

 

NBA Power Rankings: Week 10

In General, NBA on January 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

Welcome back folks, the Power Rankings return this week with a familiar looking top 5, and a couple of teams moving up after impressive wins such as the Bobcats and Grizzlies. I know some of you might disagree (again) with the order of the Top 5, so let your voices be heard!

5.  Atlanta Hawks (21-11)- Another week and the Hawks continue to build on one of the best starts in franchise history. Atlanta is currently on pace to win over 50 games, which for a team that was as bad as they were a couple years ago is pretty impressive. Joe Johnson is having another All-Star year, and his supporting cast has stepped it up to the point that this is a team you have to take seriously when it comes playoff time. Johnson will be a free agent at the end of the season, and if the Hawks want to keep him and continue to grow into a contender they must continue to improve as this season goes on.

4.  Boston Celtics (24-8)- What a forgettable week for the Celtics. After losing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett goes down for what is looking like at least two weeks, they also lose Rajon Rondo for a couple of games, and suffer their first 3-game losing streak in a long time. As bad as the week was everyone knows it will get better for Boston once they get their three starters back, but something that stood out in the losses to Phoenix, Golden State, and the Clippers were how thin the Celtics bench actually is. A team we all thought was very deep may not have as strong a group coming off the bench as we expected, and this could play a huge role come playoff time.

3.  Orlando Magic (24-9)- Despite the fact that the Magic continue to win, this is a team with many concerns. Dwight Howard has scored in single digits in three of the last four games, which is unacceptable for a franchise center. Vince Carter has played well, but in games that his shooting is off he has hurt the team by shooting too much because he is so confident in his shot. Jameer Nelson has yet to play at an All-Star level, granted he’s coming off of an injury but it is another cause for concern. The Magic might be the deepest team in the league, but if Howard can’t get it going more consistently this team is doomed when it has an off-game shooting from the outside.

2.  Cleveland Cavaliers (27-9)- I was 100% sure heading into last night that this was going to be the first ranked team in this weeks edition of the Power Rankings. The Cavs had ripped off seven straight, the Lakers were looking lethargic, and it felt like nothing could stop the inevitable. But a couple of funny things happened on the last day of the week, starting with the Cavs losing at home to the lowly Bobcats in a game full of mental errors. And culminating in a Lakers win later in the evening, but we’ll get to that in the next section. Despite the loss, Cleveland suddenly looks like the strongest team in the East, although that may be default with Orlando and Boston struggling with injuries.

1.  Los Angeles Lakers (27-6)- Shaky, soft, bored. Those are all words you could have used to describe the Lakers heading into their game last night against West number two Dallas. The Lakers had struggled recently in wins against the Kings and Warriors while looking terrible in losses to the Cavs and Suns. Add on top of that they have been missing Ron Artest and this team just hasn’t looked good. Well that was until tip-off last night, when they absolutely embarrassed the Mavs, taking a 40-point lead after three en route to a 131-96 win. The Lakers got 66 points from their bench, and this was after losing Pau Gasol to an injury six minutes into the game. Granted it was the second of a back-to-back for the Mavs, but the Lakers were missing two All-Star caliber guys, and still dismantled their closest competition out West. Now if only they would focus like this every game, we would possible be looking at one of the best teams of all-time.

6. Portland Trailblazers

7. San Antonio Spurs

8. Dallas Mavericks

9. Denver Nuggets

10. Houston Rockets

11. Phoenix Suns

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

13. Utah Jazz

14. Memphis Grizzlies

15. Miami Heat

16. Toronto Raptors

17. Chicago Bulls

18. Charlotte Bobcats

19. New Orleans Hornets

20. Sacramento Kings

21. Los Angeles Clippers

22. New York Knicks

23. Milwaukee Bucks

24. Detroit Pistons

25. Philadelphia 76ers

26. Washington Wizards

27. Golden State Warriors

28. Indiana Pacers

29. Minnesota Timberwolves

30. New Jersey Nets

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