Monthly Archives: October 2009

Week 8 NFL Picks

So far this year, I am on pace for an NFL record of 8.5-7.5, which won’t be good enough to meet my preseason goal of having a record good enough to make the playoffs. That’s not even saying that my Lock of the Week record is 3-3, which is 1.5 games behind the Patriots, which was my preseason goal. Well, Week 8 is here, and this is where my picks, against the spread may I add, will turn around. Home teams in CAPS.

Texans (-3.5) over BILLS

The Bills are overrated this week after beating the Panthers by forcing/receiving four turnovers but had about one third the yardage and one fourth as many first downs as Carolina. Steve Slaton and the Texans will run all over the Bills’ last ranked run defense. Matt Schaub and Houston’s passing attack will also be to much to contain and the Texans will win by way more than a field goal. This is my Lock of the Week.

BEARS (-13.5) over Browns

Hey, Bears! You know how Hester scored here? On a KICK RETURN!

Hey, Bears! You know how Hester scored here? On a KICK RETURN!

The Browns are awful and the Bears are okay. But we can finally see Jay Cutler and Matt Forte explode in the same game. One question for the Bears, though: Why isn’t Devin Hester returning kicks? Isn’t that an obvious choice?

Seahawks (+9.5) over Cowboys

The Cowboys have been riding on the Miles Austin train the past two games, but here is where the train comes to a halt. Tony Romo and Roy Williams are extremely overrated and are going to be stopped by Ken Lucas, Deon Grant, and the Seahawks secondary. Look for a big game from Julius Jones, as the ‘Boys have the 16th best run D. If they are really going to give me nearly a TD and field goal, I’ll take it and run.

LIONS (-3.5) over Rams

I sincerely apologize to anybody who has to watch this game. It is a shame either team has to win a game. The thing that gives Detroit the edge is that they have more offensive weapons and an extra week to prepare.

COLTS (-12.5) over 49ers

It’s hard to pick the Colts to win if the other team is getting nearly two touchdonws, especially if the other team is as good as the Niners. But Peyton Manning is at the top of his game and the Colts’ defense has greatly improved. San Fran will be turning to former number one pick Alex Smith, and Michael Crabtree is in only his second game. I definately like the Colts to win the game, but I’m not completely sold on a 13 point win.

Dolphins (+3.5) over JETS

Okay, the Dolphins won at home last time by four and won mostly on their 152 rushing yards. With Jet’s Goliath nose tackle Kris Jenkins out for the year, their run defense will be even worse. Look for a ton of Wildcat and a Fins win in East Rutherford.

RAVENS (-3.5) over Broncos

I hat to keep picking against the Broncos, but I have to do it again. The Ravens are my second favorite team to win it all, after the Pats of course. They have a scary good defense and a great young quarterback and runningback combo. The Broncos are also a very, very good team that I don’t want to take anything away from, but you gotta like the Ravens at home by more than a field goal.

EAGLES (-2.5) over Giants

Maybe the Saints and Cardinals are very good, or maybe the Giants without Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross aren’t that good. They were torched by the great passing offenses of New Orleans and Arizona, and the Eagles with McNabb, DeSean Jackson, and now Jeremy Maclin could be as good as either of them. The pick up of Will Witherspoon will really help their defense, and I like the Eagles by around a TD.

Jaguars (+2.5) over TITANS

Again, after a while, you have to realize when a team is awful. That would be the Titans at this point. Soon, they’ll have to turn to Vince Young since Kerry Collins has not been the Collins of 2008. Mike Sims-Walker, Torry Holt, Marcedes Lewis, and MoJo Drew will tear up the Titans’ lousy pass defense. Gimme the Jags and the points.

CHARGERS (-16.5) over Raiders

The Raiders are an abysmal franchise, and I have no idea why I picked them last week. The Chargers have a way better tea than the Jets, who beat down the Black Hole 38-0 last week. The Jets were winning by so much, Mark Sanchez got bored and ate a hot dog. No joke. I expect Philip Rivers to be chomping down on a steak by the start of the third quarter.

Vikings (+3.5) over PACKERS

When these two teams faved off in the Metrodome, the Vikings won by a touchdown. That guy Brett Favre is now more in synch with All-Day Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Visanthe Shiancoe. I see no reason why Brett shouldn’t win in his return to the Frozen Tundra which is Lambeau Field. Just too many weapons on offense and too good of a defense to lose this game.

Panthers (+9.5) over CARDINALS

As bad as the Panthers have been and as good as the Cardinals have looked, there is no way either of these teams should have a nine plus point spread. Jake Dehlomme will have to throw because of their first ranked run D and fourth-to-last pass D. This is the game that swung Jake’s mojo, he hasn’t been the same since that dreadful January day, so look for Jake Delhomme to hand the Cardinals to Cajun fire, or the ball a few times.

Falcons (+9.5) over SAINTS

The Saints deserve to be one of the top two teams in the league, they have been great in every single way. But can they really win by double digits versus a very solid division rival? The Falcons have great players across the board, and I would be surprised if both of these teams found their way deep into the playoffs. This Monday Night game, could actually be a NFC Championship preview.

Season: 45-40

Last Week: 8-5

Lock of the Week: 3-3

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Categories: NFL | 1 Comment

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again: Phillies will Repeat

Yankees vs. Phillies

The World Series is here and we certainly have the best team from each league competing. We have the World Champion Phillies and the most prestigious franchise in Baseball in the Yankees. There are plenty of personalities from A-Rod to Pedro Martinez. Both aces are lefty and former Cy Young Award winners from the Indians. The similarities go on, but now, its time to play the Fall Classic.

Catcher: Although Carlos Ruiz (.255, .355, .425) has the better nick-name between the two of them, Chooch, Jorge Posada (.285, .363, .522) is a plenty better hitter. Posada will probably not play when A.J. Burnett is pitching since Jose Molina (.217, .292, .268) is his special catcher. Although he has struggled in the regular season, Chooch has been on fire this series, slugging .500 just better than Posada’s .484. Ruiz is slightly better than Posada in the field, but slightly worse than Molina.

Ryan Howard is the best player in Baseball right now

Ryan Howard is the best player in Baseball right now

First Base: Mark Teixeira (.292, .383, .565) and Ryan Howard (.279, .360, .571) have been neck and neck throughout the season, but the key for this series is that Howard is slugging a whopping .742 and Teixeira is only .308. That’s slugging percentage for Tex, not batting average. Tex is much better in the field, but the fact that has been hitting so poorly in only his second postseason lets me give the edge, here, to the Phiting Phils.

Second Base: This season, Robinson Cano (.320, .352, .520) surprisingly hit slightly better than Chase Utley (.282, .397, .508). The opposite happened in the postseason when Cano has an on base percentage of .341 while Utley has one of .439. But in the end, Utley is slightly better in the field and has more power potential and really is slightly better.

Third Base: This just isn’t even close. Alex Rodriguez (.286, .402, .532) has been way better during the regular season than Pedro Feliz (.266, .308, .386) and has not only gotten the playoff monkey off his back, he has thrown it out of the new Yankee Stadium. He is slugging even better than Howard has at .969 and is a threat every time he picks up a bat. The two are also about equal in the field.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (.250, .296, .423) had his worst season since 2003 and Derek Jeter (.334, .352, .520) had his best year since 2006. Jeter is also far more clutch at the plate and in the field, despite his poor range. There I said it! Jeter also is slugging .278 better this postseason.

Left Field: Raul Ibañez (.272, .347, .552) was by far the biggest pickup for the Phillies this past offseason, and has been a major upgrade over Pat “the Bat” Burrell. Johnny Damon (.282, .365, .460) has been no slouch either, but is plenty worse in the field. Although Damon has been worse during the regular season, Ibañez has only been slugging .387 while Damon is slugging .408. Neither is great in the field, especially not Damon with his noodle of an arm. This is a toss up, neither team has much of an advantage.

Center Field: Melky Cabrera (.274, .336, .416) has been solid this postseason, but has been awful with runners in scoring position. Shane Victorino (.292, .358, .445), on the other hand, has been on fire in October, slugging .722 and stealing two bases. The Flyin’ Hawaiian is faster, better in the field, and has been more clutch this postseason than the Melk Man.

Right Field: While the batting averages of Jayson Werth (.268, .373, .506) and Nick Swisher (.247, .371, .498) have been relatively close this postseason (.222 to .150 respectively) the major difference has been in their power. Swisher is also slugging .156 and Werth has been beating up on opponents pitching,  slugging .813. Swisher can also be a bonehead on the bases and in the field, so Werth gets the edge here.

Designated Hitter: Hideki Matsui (.274, .367, .509) will only be playing in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 because he is such a poor fielder, which could really hurt the Yankees’ lineup. He may, also, be benched in Philly due to his .248 slugging percentage, well under half of Johnny Damon’s. Ben Francisco (.278, .317, .526) will play left field while Ibañez shifts to DH against CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte and Matt Stairs (.194, .357, .379) will DH against A.J. Burnett. Matsui is a tad better than both of Philly’s DHs since he hits a lot more and has more power potential.

Bench: When the games are in New York, the Phillies bench will be thin with Stairs or Francisco playing, so the Yankees bench of Brett Gardner (.270, .345, .379) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (.237, .352, .382), Eric Hinske (.226, .316, .512) will get the edge. Paul Bako (.224, .308, .336), Eric Bruntlett (.171, .224, .238), and Greg Dobbs (.247, .296, .383) are the only remaining hitters for Charlie Manuel to hit off the bench, and they are both way over the hill.

Starter 1: In a matchup of former Indian aces, CC Sabathia (19-8 3.37) and Cliff Lee (7-4 3.39) will be anchoring each of their team’s rotations. Lee has had a slightly better ERA than Sabathia, at 0.74 compared to 1.19. They are similar in so many ways, and who ever wins more games between the two aces will win the series.

Starter 2: Pedro Martinez (5-1 3.63) will be taking the mound against a familiar foe in the Yankees. A.J. Burnett (13-9 4.04) has been very shaky for New York, posting a 4.42 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Pedro has looked great in his two starts, but isn’t quite as reliable as he used to be. These two pitchers are also even, but I’ll give the slightest edge to the Bronx Bombers.

Starter 3: Last postseason, Cole Hamels (10-11 4.32) was money for every start. This year, he has an ERA of 6.75 and as not looked like his normal self. Andy Pettitte (14-8 4.18) has been that stopper with an ERA of 2.37. I’m have to like Hamels, though, in this situation, because he can be as dominant as anyone when he’s on, and there is a chance he will.

Starter 4: Joe Blanton (12-8 4.05) will likely be the fourth starter for Philly while New York is going to stick with a three-man rotation. Blanton doesn’t have any over powering stuff, but he can eat up a ton of innings and save the Phillies’ bullpen.

Closer: The Yankees get a big edge here with the greatest clutch pitcher in the playoffs, Mariano Rivera (3-3 1.76). After a horrid regular season, Brad Lidge (0-8 7.21) has been the only closer other than Rivera in this postseason. If Lidge can stay as dominant as he has been in his five appearances, that will give Philadelphia a huge boost.

Set-up 1: Joba Chamberlain (9-9 4.75) has not been able to get out of the fifth inning as a starter this year, so the Yankees moved him back to the bullpen, where he belongs. Ryan Madson (5-5 3.26) has been the bulldog of the Phillies’ bullpen with but owns a 4.50 ERA. Chamberlain has been better with a 2.70 ERA, but can be prone to giving up the long ball. The Yanks are a bit better here, too.

Set-up 2: The rock of the Yankees’ ‘pen this year has been Phil Hughes (8-3 3.03), but he has disappointing this postseason with a 5.79 ERA. Former starters J.A. Happ (12-4 2.93) and Brett Myers (4-3 4.84) will shore up a not so solid bullpen, but they will be able to throw a ton of innings if, say Pedro or Hamels can’t make it out of the fifth. Advantage Philles here.

Coach: The only thing more ridiculous than the blown calls of the umpires has been Joe Girardi decided when to yank pitchers by reading a binder. A good manager, like say Charlie Manuel, won’t take out a pitcher who has made the first two outs easily, say David Robertson. Manuel knows how to poke his players to do well without hurting them, just look at Brad Lidge. Phillies win here.

Key Players: For the Phillies, the key player will be Cole Hamels. If he is right, he is right, and he won’t be beat. Their rotation of Lee, Pedro, and Hamels will all of a sudden look like the AL All-Star rotation. But if he doesn’t show up, their bullpen will be over-worked, and they will lose Game 3, and more importantly Game 7. For the Yankees, their key player is Mark Teixeira. So far, he has hit only .205 while slugging .308. If he hits like he did after the first month of the year, the Yankees could make this series not even close. But if he continues to struggle, especially as he has with runners in scoring position, New York isn’t going anywhere.

Key to the Series: For both teams, the key will be to get the other teams’ starter out as early as possible. If CC Sabathia can only make it through five or less innings, the Yankees will be in huge problems. The same goes for Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and A.J. Burnett. Both teams have great lineups, so the longer each of the starters stay in, the better off their team is. The Phillies have a bit better long relief, so the Yankees need their starters in for at least seven innings even more.

Prediction: Phillies in 6. The Yankees will win Game 1 and 4, and Pedro will win both games, including the clinching one at Yankee Stadium. If Philly wins game one, the series is over. CC is a horse and if the Yanks have to depend on A.J. Burnett on short rest, they are in huge trouble.

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2009-2010 NBA Mini-Preview

The NBA season is here with lots of new players on new teams. Vince Carter is a Magic, Ron Artest is a Laker, Rasheed Wallace is a Celtic, and Hedo Turkoglu is a Raptor. Here are my predictions for each league with a short description of each team.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics

You take the Big Three and add on Rasheed Wallace and Rajon Rondo and that’s a great team. They have a deep bench and great leadership, so its hard to pick against these guys.

Orlando Magic

The defending Eastern Conference champs swapped versatile Hedo Turkoglu for former All-Star Vince Carter and a deeper bench. They still create huge miss-matches on both sides of the ball and have tons of super-stars.

Cleveland Cavaliers

After LeBron James, the Cavs don’t have much. Shaq may want to be the alpha-dog again, so he could clash with the King to cause major problems. Mo Williams is their second leading scorer, and that tells you a lot about the team.

Miami Heat

The Heat have MVP-to-be Dwayne Wade who makes any team great along with big man Jermaine O’Neal. You also take young Michael Beasley and former Knick Quentin Richardson and that is a deep team, especially with 3-point shooting champ Daequan Cook off the bench.

Chicago Bulls

Like Miami, the Bulls have tons of talent, but in Chicago’s case it is really young. Derrick Rose, Tyrus Thomas, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah create a great nucleus for the future. With veterans like Brad Miller, John Salmons, and Kirk Hinrich added into the equation, they are a team to look out for.

Detroit Pistons

Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups are gone, but the Pistons added Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace, and Ben Gordon to their core of Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince. They are a very veteran team, but they have loads of experience and talent.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have a lot of players on the brink of stardom, but no great players. Sure, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, but no legitimate big guy to bang down low. That is, unless you count Zaza Pachulia.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats have one of the top five coaches in the league and two very underrated players, Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler. They will really miss Raja Bell, who will possibly miss the first four months of the season, and should’ve signed Allen Iverson as a big time scorer.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers will miss Andre Miller, so they will have to go with either rookie Jrue Holliday or Lou Williams at the point. They have two solid but aging big men in Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert and a great young scorer in Andre Iguadala.

Washington Wizards

After compiling only 19 wins last year, the Wizards will get back Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, and DeShawnStevensonfrom injury and have added proven scorers in Randy Foye and Mike Miller. But even with all of those stars, there’s a reason they won that little last year.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors will score a ton of points this year with All-Star Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and DeMar Derozan, but they won’t play very much defense. Denver and Phoenix have proven that you need defense to succeed, so don’t expect much from Canadian basketball this year.

Indiana Pacers

After Comeback Player of the Year Danny Granger, the Pacers have no one. Troy Murphy? Mike Dunleavy? Really?

New Jersey Nets

The best new for the Nets this year is that they may be on their way to play in Brooklyn and possibly land LeBron James this summer, when he hits free agency. They do have two up-and-coming stars in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are in big trouble. They are depending on Al Harington and David Lee for scoring and hoping and praying that LeBron will come to play in Madison Square Garden next year. There is very, very, very little talent on this roster.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks may be the worst team this season after dumping Richard Jefferson for three role players. They have Michael Redd as their only legitimate scorer, and they may trade him during the season.

Western Conference

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs may be aging but they have the most talent in the league. All-Stars are everywhere between Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobli, and many others. Their bench is as deep as anyones’ and they have a great coach in Gregg Popovich.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers won it all last year but hurt themselves when they essentially swapped Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest. Artest will take the last second shots that Ariza would let Kobe Bryant take. The Lakers have tons of talent but their playerswill eventually get tired from playing so many games over the past two years. Two fun questions are will Andrew Bynum actually stay healthy and will Lamar Odom be more hurt by his candy fetish or his marriage with Khloe Kardashian

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs added super athletic  forward Shawn Marion for a small price and inserted him into a talented starting lineup that includes All-Stars Dirk Nowitski and Jason Kidd. They also have several more talented swing men including Josh Howard and Jason Terry.

Portland Trailblazers

Portland is one of the best young teams with superstar Brandon Roy and big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. If their young players can mature and Andre Miller can live up to his free-agent contract, they will be a team to reckon with.

New Orleans Hornets

It was only two years ago that the Hornets were a game away from the Western Conference Finals. Now, with one less Tyson Chandler and one more Emeka Okafor, the quick Hornets could be a Western Conference power. They should also flip one of their many small forwards for another quality big man.

Utah Jazz

Utah has solid players across their starting lineup, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer leading them. The Jazz certainly have the talent to play well, but will they stay healthy enough to compete. Mehmet Okur, Andre Kirilenko, and Boozer’s health will be the key.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets, lead by new acquisition Chauncey Billups to the Western Finals last year, and look to repeat. Unfortunately, they didn’t make any improvements except drafting Ty Lawson. If you don’t make any improvements, you are taking a step backwards.

Phoenix Suns

Gone are the Suns of the past: Shawn Marion, Shaquille O’Neal, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Joe Johnson. They still have Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire to run their fast paced team, but they are aging quickly. They’ll need Leandro Barbosa and Channing Frye to show up in order to make the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Look for Kevin Durant to put up MVP-type numbers with at least 30 PPG

Look for Kevin Durant to put up MVP-type numbers with at least 30 PPG

The youngest team in the leauge has one of the brightest futures in the league. They have four lottery picks from the past three years starting: Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Imagine if the trade that would have landed them Tyson Chandler would have gone through last year, that would be a great team.

Golden State Warriors

Don Nelson continued his small guard love when he drafted Monta Ellis look-alike Stephen Curry and did not trade for Phoenix big man Amare Stoudemire. There are problems in the locker room, but the good news  is that the bottom of the Western Conference is not very good.

Memphis Grizzlies

Although they have been as dysfunctional as the Washington Nationals and Oakland Raiders over the past few years, they have a ton of talent on this squad. They took their young nucleus of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, and Mike Conley and added lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet and problematic high-scoring veterans Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson. If the locker room doesn’t explode, this could be a great sleeper team.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have also been dysfunctional over the past decade, but they also have a solid young team. Baron Davis is a top-10 point guard and Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin will soon develop into All-Stars. Big men Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman are also solid. Don’t laugh, but LeBron could sign here to rival Kobe Bryant and complete a very good young team.

Houston Rockets

After losing Yao Ming for the year and Tracy McGrady for most of it, the Rockets are looking pretty awful. Think about what Houston’s announcer has to say: “NOW STARTING FOR YOUR HOUSTON ROCKETS…TREVOR ARIZA, AARON BROOKS, AND LUIS SCOLA!!!” Doesn’t sound to good does it?

Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves looked solid at the end of last season with everyone healthy, but now they blew two lottery picks when they took two straight point guard, one of whom won’t leave Italy to play in Minny. They are too young and untalented to win 20 games.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings make every other team look incredible. Its just that simple. At least they can look forward to draft John Wall number one next year to have a solid young starting lineup of Wall, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes next year.

Playoffs:

Boston (1) over Charlotte (8)

Orlando (2) over Atlanta (7)

Cleveland (3) over Detroit (6)

Miami (4) over Chicago (5)

Spurs (1) over Phoenix (8)

Lakers (2) over Nuggest (7)

Utah (6) over Dallas (3)

Hornets (5) over Blazers (4)

 

Celtics (1) over Miami (4)

Orlando (2) over Cleveland (3)

Spurs (1) over Hornets (5)

Lakers (2) over Jazz (6)

 

Celtics (1) over Orlando (2)

Spurs (1) over Lakers (2)

 

Celtics over Spurs in 6

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Week 7 NFL Picks

After Week 7 we learned a few things about several teams. New England returned to their 2007 form, the Jets may be overrated, and maybe the Raiders aren’t that bad. So with nearly one fifth of the league on bye and a game in London, let’s go on to Week 7.

Packers (+7.5) over BROWNS

Cleveland is a really bad team. Their former first-rounder now backup quarterback Brady Quinn can’t even regain the starting job from a guy who went 2-17 last week. Their only remaining offensive weapon, after trading tight end Kellen Winslow this off-season and Braylon Edwards a few weeks ago, is 30 year old runningback Jamal Lewis. The Pack has one of the top run defenses, so I don’t see this game staying within 10.

Chargers (-4.5) over CHIEFS

The Chargers have underperformed, yet again, this year while the Chiefs have played better than a one win team. However, the Bolts have too much talent to lose to the lowly Chiefs. Both teams have terrible run defenses, so aging runningbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson may return to 2006 form. 4.5 points is too low for San Diego and they will have to show up against poor teams sooner rather than later.

TEXANS (-3.5) over 49ers

The number six scoring offense of the Texans will match up against the number nine scoring defense of the Niners. The Texans have underachieved on defense, even though they have stars across the board in Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye, Dunta Robinson, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and more. Watch out for a big game from Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree, but an even bigger one from Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, and Steve Slaton.

Colts (-13.5) over Rams

The Rams have played fantastic this year and have definitely been a top 2 team in the league. This is a huge spread, but Peyton Manning is by far the MVP of the season so far. He has turned a second year receiver from Mount Union, Pierre Garcon, into a miniature version of Reggie Wayne, and a rookie from BYU, Austin Collie, into Wes Welker. Steven Jackson should score his first touchdown of the year against the atrocious Indy run D, but it won’t be enough to keep the game within two TDs.

STEELERS (-4.5) over Vikings

The dome homed Vikings will get their first taste of cold weather and harsh away crowds in this game as Brett Favre returns to his type of weather. This is a must-win for the 4-2 Steelers who need to separate themselves from the Bengals and Ravens. The Vikings are a deceiving 6-0 with miracle 40+ yard throws to win the game vs. Minnesota and Baltimore, so I see a wake-up call coming to the Vikes.

Patriots (-14.5) over BUCCANEERS

The NFL should be ashamed to have this be the London game this year. The past two matchups (Giants vs. Dolphins and Chargers vs. Saints) but this will be a blowout. Last week, Tom Brady returned to true Tom Brady form as he and the Patriots put up 59 point on the winless Titans, including five in the second quarter. The Bucs are far less talented then the Titans, but don’t look for another 59 point win. London look out for a Boston Massacre…of the Bucs.

PANTHERS (-7.5) over Bills

Neither team is great and its hard to say that the Panthers are more than a touchdown better than Buffalo, but the Bills have the worst run defense in the NFL. With the combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers should run all over the Bills. Last week, Carolina ran for 267 yards against a Tampa defense that allows ten less yards rushing per game than the Bills. Buffalo will also be missing starting QB Trent Edwards so Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the nod. Not a good sign for aging wide outs Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Mark Sanchez brought out his inner Jake Delhomme in Buffalo

Mark Sanchez showed us his inner Delhomme versus Buffalo

RAIDERS (+6.5) over Jets

The Jets are way better than the Raiders, but some key stats say that this game should be a loss for the Jets and the Sanchize. Last season, the Jets had four West Coast games, and they lost all four of them. In the last 18 games versus the Raiders, the Jets are 3-14-1. Mark Sanchez is tied for first/last in interceptions, tied with JAKE DELHOMME!!! The Jets have lost three straight and and Raiders won a huge game against the Eagles. Therefore, I love the Raiders at home. So…who have the Jets actually beat? A winless Titans squad, an out-of-synch Patriots, and the .500 Texans. Not that impressive anymore.

BENGALS (-1.5) over Bears

This is going to be a game  of revenge for the Bengals. Cedric Benson and Tank Johnson were cut by the Bears after underperforming and getting into legal trouble. Look for Benson to run angry for over 120 yards and two, yes two, touchdowns and Johnson to get at least one sack.

Falcons (+3.5) over COWBOYS

This is a ridiculous spread. The Falcons are better in every single way except for a home stadium. If not for the band of fans and media surrounding the Cowboys at all time, they would be considered a mediocre team, which they should be. Matty Ice is the best young quarterback in the league and Romo isn’t that good. What on earth has Tony Romo done? Fumbled away a playoff win? I like the Falcons to win the game so gimme the points because this is the Lock of the Week.

Saints (-6.5) over DOLPHINS

The Saints absolutely crushed the Giants number one ranked defense for 41 points. Their offense is so good, that they have the three more points then the second ranked Vikings with one less game played! The Dolphins had two weeks to prepare for the Saints, but it doesn’t really matter how much time their 18th ranked pass defense has, they’re going to lose. The Wildcat can only do so much to help you win.

Cardinals (+7.5) over GIANTS

As I just said, the Giants were trounced by the pass-heavy Saints offense for 41 points, and the Cards have a very similar offense with runningback by committee and lots of great receivers. The Cardinals will be missing second receiver Anquan Boldin, but Steve Breaston and Jeremy Urban will pick up the slack. The Giants really miss safety Kenny Phillips, corner Aaron Ross and linebacker Michael Boley. Plus, the anointed bets from seven ever just hasn’t showed up as expected. Maybe the Giants just aren’t as good as we thought. I like Cards plus more than a touchdown.

Eagles (+7.5) over REDSKINS

Daniel Snyder just stripped front coach Jim Zorn of his play calling duties for Sherm Lewis, who was hired just two weeks ago, after calling bingo games for seniors and being retired from football for five years. There is no way this is going to turn out well for the ‘Skins. Donovan McNabb won’t let the Eagles lose two straight. This game will not even be close.

Season: 41-35

Last Week: 8-6

Lock of the Week: 3-2

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Warriors in Troubled Waters

Stephen Jackson talking to reporters on Warriors Media Day

Stephen Jackson asks for a trade at the Warriors' Media Day

Last season, the Golden State Warriors were 29-53 and missed the playoffs for the fourteenth time in fifteen years They also had a 19 game drop-off in wins. Their losing ways are the least of their problems.

During training camp, the Warriors’ two best players, Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis, complained about playing for the Warriors. Jackson and Ellis combined for 39.7 points per game last year along with 10.2 assists, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 steals, and .9 blocks. Ellis doesn’t want to play with lottery pick Stephen Curry, since they both play the same position and will both be starting. Jackson said, “At this point, I’m 31 years old. I have four or five years left. I want to be in a situation where I can continually be in the playoffs and get another ring. So that’s where my mind is at now.” He added that he preferred playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, or one of the three Texas teams (Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, or San Antonio Spurs). Jackson also asked for his title of captain to be removed, which he was granted.

Even if the Warriors hang on to their two top scorers, they will probably end up missing the playoffs again and looking at a top 10 pick. That said, I’m not sure that Jackson will suit up for Golden State. This situation is not unlike what Stephon Marbury did to the Knicks last year; and it is echoed in the sentiment of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry this year. If Jackson doesn’t play, Warriors’ coach Don Nelson needs to suspend him for an indefinite amount of time and tell the media that he isn’t going anywhere except for the bench. At the same time, they need to listen to all offers for Jackson and think hard about them.

There will be complications if Golden State wants to trade Jackson. A GM can’t just call up another team and say, “Hey, do you want to go ahead and swap these two players?” That’s just not how it works. There is a process to trading players that includes number crunching, players’ impact on the locker room and much more research. Stephen Jackson did the one thing that makes all GMs in any sport angry: he demanded a trade. When a player tells the media that he wants out of a city, that lowers the leverage for his team to get a good deal in return. In a similar situation, Carlos Boozer exercised his $12.7 million player option to stay one more year in Utah, then said that he had reached an agreement with the Jazz that he would be traded before the season. At that point, any team calling up Jazz to inquire about Boozer could get him for less, since they new Boozer wanted out and the Jazz wanted him and his contract to go away. The same goes for Jackson. He has essentially shot his team in the foot and expects them to move on despite what he has done.

As for Ellis, he won’t be nearly the distraction that Jackson will be, but any distraction is one too many. Complaining players leads to lack of hustle, divided locker rooms, angered coaches, and bad news altogether. To make a point to Ellis, Coach Nelson needs to say that Stephen Curry is a starter, and if he has to bring Kelena Azubuike, Anthony Morrow, Acie Law, or Corey Maggette off the bench if Ellis won’t play, he’ll do it. One can only speculate whether or not the threat of other players starting will motivate Monta enough so he will be willing to play no matter the situation.

Currently, Ellis is starting at point guard alongside Morrow, but if the situation arises that Ellis and Curry need to play together, they need to be able to accept playing together. At this point, it seems that a trade of Jackson and Ellis could benefit the club. There was a rumor that Monta Ellis was traded to the Bobcats for a first-rounder and Stephen Jackson to Dallas for two expiring contracts, but nothing more about that has surfaced. The best solution for all parties would be to trade both players to one team.

If we stay within the realm of Jackson’s requests, that will limit the teams to the Knicks, Spurs, Rockets, Mavericks, and the Cavaliers. New York won’t take on the contracts, the Spurs and Mavs don’t have a starting spot for him, and the Cavs don’t have the talent to give up. That, of course, leaves the Rockets. Houston isn’t going to easily guarantee, if at all, a spot in the playoffs, but if they add Captain Jack and Monta Ellis, they’ll have a better shot.

The Rockets, however, will also need to find a starting spot for Jackson in order for him to accept the trade. Since Jackson is a swing man, they would have to trade either Trevor Ariza or Tracy McGrady, or get one to come off the bench. Ariza is perhaps their best player with Yao Ming out for the year, so its highly unlikely he will be traded. That leaves Tracy McGrady and his $22+ million expiring contract. McGrady could easily be moved and will be part of this trade. Monta Ellis also needs to start and he is a combo guard. Jackson would be starting at shooting guard, so the point guard, which is currently Aaron Brooks, who was a number one pick (26th overall) in 2007.

So, the question of which combination of guards are better, McGrady and Brooks, or Jackson and Ellis must be addressed. Brooks and McGrady combined for 27.8 points, 8.0 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and .5 blocks per game last year. T-Mac is on the way down, but Brooks is on the way down. As you can tell from the stats, Houston would get way better players. That may be evened out by the fact that Jackson and Ellis have two and five left respectively on their contract while T-Mac has one year and Brooks has two years before he becomes a restricted free-agent. If not, it would be likely that a Luis Scola for Brandan Wright swap would be part of the deal, too. Scola is more talented, but seven years older and slightly more expensive.  Scola averaged 12.7 points, 1.5 assists, 8.8 rebounds, .8 steals, and .1 blocks last year while Wright averaged only 8.3 points, .5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, .6 steals, and 1.0 block.

The Warriors need to move on from the debacle they are currently in, and they aren’t going anywhere with the team they currently have. Why not move on from their troubled players and try to start with a younger team. McGrady’s gigantic contract will be coming off the books next summer, so they can pursue a young free agent or two, or perhaps deal for a rising star.

At some point this team needs to cut their losses and collect what they can for a talented NBA Champion, albeit a problematic one. It appears that if the Warriors were to be lucky enough to move Mr. Jackson, it would be addition by subtraction. This trade with the Rockets will land them enough talent and cap room so that in two years, they will make the playoffs.

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Week 6 NFL Picks

By this time in the NFL season, we know which teams are really bad (Raiders, Rams, Chiefs, Lions, and Browns) and which are great (Colts, Saints, Vikings, Giants, and probably the Broncos). The Cowboys, Dolphins, 49ers, and Colts all have byes and we march on to Week 6. Home teams in CAPS.

Texans (+5.5) over BENGALS

The Bengals have been fantastic this year, but they have been underdogs in almost every game. Cincy is a great underdog team, but I’m not sure if they can win if they have that sort of pressure. The Texans have underachieved this year, but they are very much talented. I think they can win this game and if they lose, they will definitely keep it within 6.

PACKERS (-13.5) over Lions

The Lions are missing their star wide receiver and quarterback, and still stink. Green Bay is still a solid team with a great quarterback and wide receivers. The Lions have the 6th worst pass defense, so I see blowout written all over this game.

Ravens (+3.5) over VIKINGS

The Vikings have had a cake walk so far this season by beating up on the lowly Lions, Rams, Browns and barely beating the Niners and Packers. This will be their best test of the year so far. The Ravens have a ferocious defense and they will show how much the Vikes will miss Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. I like the Ravens to win this game straight up, so I’ll take the points, too.

SAINTS (-3.5) over Giants

In perhaps a Super Bowl preview, two undefeated teams clash in the Big Easy. The Saints finally have a great running game between Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and maybe Reggie Bush. The Giants have a steadily improving offensive game, but the Saints defense has become one of the better squads in the NFL. The X-Factor will be Darren Sharper, who has four career interceptions versus Eli Manning.

Panthers (-3.5) over BUCCANEERS

The Panthers had a horrific start to the season by losing to the Eagles, Falcons, and Cowboys but may be able to save this season with a win here and next week versus the Bills. The last time Carolina played Tampa, DeAngelo Williams exploded for 186 yards. Another key stat is that Carolina has the second best pass defense in the league, so look for Bucs QB Josh Johnson to cool off his hot streak. This is the Lock of the Week.

CHIEFS (+6.5) over REDSKINS

The ‘Skins are by far the worst 2-3 team this year with wins over Tampa and St. Louis and losses to the Panthers and Lions. The Chiefs are pretty good for an 0-5 team with a great QB and receiver (Cassel and Bowe) plus some decent players at other key positions (Larry Johnson, Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel). There is no way that Washington is almost a touchdown better than KC.

JAGUARS (-9.5) over Rams

Somehow the Jags lost to the Seahawks 41-0 last week, but that is partially deceptive since they were missing last-second suspended star wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. On the other hand, the Rams are awful. Just awful. Completely awful. Kinda like the Lions last year, except they don’t have a receiver anywhere as good as Calvin Johnson. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went win-less.

STEELERS (-14.5) over Browns

The Steelers will be getting Troy Polamalu back from his knee injury, which will really help the reeling Steelers’ defense, not that it will make a big difference. The Browns have an awful offense that features a quarterback who went 2-17 last game and a 33-year old runningback. Pittsburgh will get Willie Parker back and the tandem of him and Rashard Mendenhall will help them run over the Browns’ 32nd ranked run defense.

SEAHAWKS (-2.5) over Cardinals

The Cardinals are another very overrated team who has been worse than expected this year. Their run defense has been great this year, but Seattle’s strength is not Julius Jones and their run game, but the passing game with Matt Hasselbeck, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Nate Burleson, and John Carlson. And speaking of Hasselbeck, they key stat of the game is that the Seahawks are 16-0 since 2002 when his mom comes to Qwest Field. Guess who’s coming to the game…

Eagles (-14.5) over RAIDERS

The Raiders are a really, really bad team. We’ve seen huge lines favoring every team playing the Raiders, but they can never cover. The Eagles now have two real deep threats at wide receiver in DeSean Jackson and now Jeremy Maclin. This game will also not even be close.

JETS (-9.5) over Bills

This game will be a story of Edwardses. For the Jets, they have a new star receiver in Braylon Edwards. They want to see if he can repeat his debut performance and become Mark Sanchez’s new favorite target. The Bills have Trent Edwards, who really isn’t a great quarterback, especially for a team who plays is cold, windy weather. The Bills need a stronger armed quarterback, and lose the game and battle of the Edwardses.

PATRIOTS (-9.5) over Titans

After a while, don’t you have to figure that the Titans are just bad? You can’t keep saying every week that they have to show up some time. I’m not going to choose them to win until they do. Anyways, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the best after a loss, so go with the Pats at home.

FALCONS (-3.5) over Bears

The Falcons surprised most by crushing the rising Niners 45-10. Atlanta has a great team and a great young quarterback. The Bears also have a great young quarterback, but not nearly as good as Ryan. The Falcons also have a better pass defense, so I like the Falcons at home.

CHARGERS (-4.5) over Broncos

LT may be on the down-swing, but he's money on MNF

LT may be on the down-swing, but he's money on MNF

All right, so Denver is very good. I am ready to jump on the bandwagon of these curious Broncos – just next week. The Chargers and aging LT are money on Monday Night Football and have owned the Broncos  in San Diego. Also, here is my explanation for the Broncos win against the Patriots: I said never doubt the Hoodie before the game and Belichick wore a puffy jacket while his disciple, McDaniels, wore a hoodie. Therefore, the Broncos won. McDaniels won’t be wearing that hoodiein warm San Diego, so gimme the Chargers.

Season: 33-29

Last Week: 7-7

Lock of the Week 2-2

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Championship Series Predictions

Four teams down, three to go. We are now into the championship round of the playoffs and the World Series Champion will be from one of MLB’s biggest three markets: LA, New York, or Philadelphia. Here we go.

ALCS: New York Yankees (1) vs Los Angeles Angels (2)

Both the Yankees and Angels swept their first round opponents, the Angels in a more suprising manner. LA swept the tougher Boston Red Sox while the Yanks swept the floundering Twins. New York and Los Angeles each took 5 games from the season series. Alex Rodriguez has apparently busted his career postseason slope, but will it be enough to stop the crafty Angels?

Catcher: The Yankees have the edge here between two mediocre catchers. Jorge Posada (.285, .363, .522) is worse defensively, but is a bigger offensive threat then Mike Napoli (.272 AVG, .350 OBP, .492 SLG).

Corner Infield: The Yankees are a bit better on the corners. Mark Teixeira (.292, .383, .565) and Alex Rodriguez (.286, .402, .532) have been great during the regular season, and A-Rod finally showed up in the playoffs. Kendry Morales (.306, .355, .569) and Chone Figgins (.298, .395, .393) are no slackers, but they don’t have the firepower that Tex and A-Rod have.

Middle Infield: Again, New York gets the edge here, but this one has the biggest margin. Maicer Izturis (.300, .359, .434) and Erick Aybar (.312, .353, .423) are bottom of the order hitters for the Angels. Robinson Cano (.320, .352, .520) and Derek Jeter (.334, .352, .520) form perhaps the best up the middle combo in the AL.

Outfield/DH: Los Angeles is a bit better here, and mostly because of the addition of former Yankee Bobby Abreu (.293, .390, .435). Juan Rivera (.287, .332, .478), Torii Hunter (.299, .366, .508), and Vladimir Guerrero (.295, .334, .460) complete a very strong hitting Angels outfield that has become much more patient, with the exception of Vladi. For the Yankees, Johnny Damon (.282, .365, .460), Melky Cabrera (.274, .336, .416), Nick Swisher (.247, .371, .498), and Hideki Matsui (.274, .367, .509) have been solid, but that may be partially due to their homer-friendly home stadium.

Bench: The Angels have the edge on the bench with Howie Kendrick (.291, .334, .444) and Gary Matthews Jr. (.250, .336, .361), both of whom could start for several other teams. The Yanks have Brett Gardner (.270, .345, .379), Jerry Hairston Jr. (.237, .352, .382) and Jose Molina (.217, .292, .268).

Starting Pitching: The Halos have an edge in starting pitching. With John Lackey (11-8 3.83 ERA), Jered Weaver (16.8 3.75), Scott Kazmir (10-9 4.89), and Joe Saunders (16-7 4.60), the Angels have a very deep rotation, not to mention Ervin Santana (8-8 5.03) if he’s needed. The Yankees are going with a three-man rotation featuring CC Sabathia (19-8 3.37) and A.J. Burnett (13-9 4.04), both of whom have struggled in the playoffs, along with steady vet Andy Pettitte (14-8 4.18). The Yankees pitchers will on three days rest on most starts.

Relief Pitching: By keeping their three man rotation, they moved low-pitch count Joba Chamberlain (9-9 4.75) to the bullpen, giving the Bronx Bombers the edge. They also have Phil Hughes (8-3 3.03) and the greatest playoff closer Mariano Rivera (3-3 1.76). The Angels have a very shaky bullpen with only Darren Oliver (5-1 2.71), Kevin Jepson (6-4 4.94), and Brian Fuentes (1-5 3.93).

Coaching: The Angels have much better coaching with manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher. The Yankees don’t have much going well in the way of managing with Joe Girardi and Tony Peña, both coaches who benefit from a $200 million payroll.

Nick Adenhart is still on their minds

Nick Adenhart is still on their minds

Final Thoughts: You can never underestimate the power of will, and the Angels certainly have it. They still are still getting over the death of fallen teammate Nick Adenhart, and they are trying to win it all for him. It’s as if this is set up for a Disney-esque ending. Also, with a three-man rotation, all the starters will be on three days rest. I already don’t like A.J. Burnett in crunch time, but on three days rest, no thank you.

Prediction: Angels in 7

NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers (1) vs Philadelphia Phillies (2)

In a rematch of last year’s NLCS, the Phillies and Dodgers will fight again for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. The two teams split the season series 4-4. The last two times there was a LCS repeat was Boston/New York in 2003-2004 and St. Louis/Houston in 2004-2005. The good news for the Dodgers is that they split both serieses, so does that mean it will be the Dodgers?

Catcher: Although he had a horrific regular season, Russell Martin (.250, .352, .329) and the Dodgers get the edge over the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz (.255, .355, .425) is a below average catcher, and has an upside about as high as Martin’s low point.

Corner Infield: Philadeplhia has the better corner infielders in MVP Ryan Howard (.279, .360, .571) up-and-down Pedro Feliz (.266, .308, .386). LA’s James Loney (.281, .357, .399) and Casey Blake (.280, .363, .468) are on the rise, but don’t have anywhere as much power as Philly.

Middle Infield: The Phillies win here, too, by far. All-Stars Chase Utley (.282, .397, .508) and Jimmy Rollins (.250, .296, .423) are probably the best double-play combo in the NL. After supplanting Orlando Hudson for the starting second base job, Ronnie Belliard (.277, .325, .451) has been really hot lately and he and Rafael Furcal (.269, .335, .375) are solid.

Outfield: The Dodgers have a great outfield of Manny Ramirez (.290, .418, .531), Matt Kemp (.297, .352, .490), and Andre Ethier (.272, .361, .508). They have a great playoff veteran and two stars rising quickly. The Phillies have Raul Ibañez (.272, .347, .552), who is having a career year, Shane Victorino (.292, .358, .445), and Jayson Werth (.268, .373, .506), who are very good, but not as good as the Dodgers.

Bench: The Dodgers have the deepest bench in the league with forme starters Jim Thome (.249, .372, .493), Orlando Hudson (.283, .357, .417), Juan Pierre (.308, .365, .392), Mark Lorreta (.232, .309, .276), and Brad Ausmus (.293, .343, .368). Philadephia has Ben Francisco (.278, .317, .526), Matt Stairs (.194, .357, .379), Paul Bako (.224, .308, .336), and Greg Dobbs (.247, .296, .383).

Do you really wanna depend on Vicente Padilla for Games 2 and 6?

Do you really wanna depend on Vicente Padilla for Games 2 and 6?

Starting Pitching: The Phillies have a huge edge here with Cole Hamels (10-11 4.32), Pedro Martinez (5-1 3.63) , Cliff Lee (7-4 3.39), and J.A. Happ (12-4 2.93). They have two former Cy Young Award winners, another ace quality starter, and the potential NL Rookie of the Year. The Dodgers have young Clayton Kershaw (8-8 2.79), Vicente Padilla (4-0 3.20), Hiroki Kuroda (8-7 3.76), and Randy Wolf (11-7 3.23). With Chad Billingsley in the ‘pen, the Dodgers’ rotation does not look solid at all.

Relief Pitching: LA has a better bullpen with All-Stars in Jonathan Broxton (7-1 2.61) George Sherrill (1-0 0.65) Chad Billingsley (12-11 4.03) and lefty specialist Hong-Chih Kuo (2–0 3.00). They are very deep, especially towards the back, and the lefty relievers will really help against the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. The Phillies are very shaky with no good closer between Brad Lidge (0-8 7.21), Ryan Madson (5-5 3.26), and J.C. Romero (0-0 2.70).

Coaching: Los Angeles has a great playoff coach in Joe Torre, whereas the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel isn’t a great a coach. Coaching won’t be that big in this series, but the Dodgers definately have the edge here.

Final Thoughts: The Dodgers have a lot more lefty pitching that last year, but they don’t have anywhere as good of starting pitching with Vicente Padilla pitching Game 2. If the Phillies can get Brad Lidge to return to close to 2008 form, this series shouldn’t be close. I like the Phillies big bats and twin aces (Lee and Hamels) to show up huge in this series.

Prediction: Phillies in 6

Categories: MLB | Leave a comment

Week 5 NFL Picks

Week 5 of the NFL regular season is here. The Panthers, Falcons, Cardinals, and Eagles are fresh of byes and ready to continue (or start) winning some games. Here are my picks and home teams in CAPS.

BILLS (-6.5) over Browns

The Browns are one of the worst is the NFL and they just traded star wide out Braylon Edwards to the Jets after he beat up a friend of LeBron James. So, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out, Clevelanders may be happy to know that one city isn’t big enough for Edwards and LeBron, and New York already has Braylon, so LeBron may not end up going to New York. So all you Clevelanders finally may have something good come out of bringing Eric Mangini to coach the Browns.

Steelers (-10.5) over LIONS

Even though only one game separates the Steelers and Lions in the standings, don’t be fooled. These are still the same teams that won the Super Bowl and went winless last year. Also, look for second year runningback Rashard Mendenhall to have another huge game against the horrific Lions’ D.

Cowboys (-8.5) over CHIEFS

Both teams have been severely overrated this year and have their records to show for it. Both quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Matt Cassel have not been as good as they were the year before. But, the Chiefs are much worse in every way, except their stadium’s crowd. But unfortunately for those already unfortunate enough to be a sports fan in Kansas, a home crowd isn’t going to let help you beat Dallas.

Vikings (-10.5) over RAMS

Just like the last two games, there is one solid to great team, and a downright awful team. The Rams certainly don’t fit the solid to great role and the Vikings do. This will be a blowout and Adrian Peterson, like Rashard Mendenhall, will run right over the Rams. St. Louis is so limited on offense and the Vikings are so good defensively, I would be shocked if the Rams scored more than a field goal.

GIANTS (-16.5) over Raiders

Like last week, Vegas is begging us to pick the Raiders to win, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. The G-Men are just too good up front, and the only way they won’t cover the spread is if Eli can’t play because of his hurt ankle and the incompetent David Carr has to start at QB. Just to let you know how bad the Raiders are, free-agent Jeff Garcia, who started the year with the QB-thin Raiders, called Oakland “an unfortunate situation.” Garcia could have started in the Black Hole, but he chose wisely to stay away.

EAGLES (-13.5) over Buccaneers

Again, we have a great team playing an awful team. Could this week get any less boring? We are looking forward to the Pats and Broncos playing! We thought the Broncos would only win 4 games total this year, not 4 games to start the year. Back to the game, gimme the Eagles, no matter how high the spread goes.

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Redskins

Both teams have played really poorly this year, the Redskins just happened to play the Rams and Bucs. Just in case you forgot, the Panthers went undefeated at home until the playoffs and were 12-4 last year. I still believe in this team, with the exception of Jake Delhomme and John Fox.

RAVENS (-8.5) over Bengals

The Bengals and their defense have been great year. But they are no Baltimore. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Trevor Pryce are scary good. Unless you are scared of Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, and Antwan Odom, you shouldn’t be scared of the Bengals D. The Bengals need this game, but Joe Flacco and a very improved offense won’t let Baltimore lose two straight.

Falcons (+2.5) over 49ERS

The Niners are off to a great start, but to keep it in prospective, they play in the NFC West. The Falcons have great players at almost all skills positions: Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, John Abraham, Curtis Lofton, and Mike Peterson. San Fran may be the Falcons of this year, but Atlanta is the real Falcons.

Jaguars (+.5) over Seahawks

Although I loved the Seahawks as a sleeper this year and didn’t really like the Jags, times have changed. Matt Hasselbeck is hurt, and I can’t come to pick Seattle with Seneca Wallace, a part time wide receiver, starting at quarterback. To Jacksonville’s credit, beating the Titans when they really need a win, is no small feat. The Hyphen Bros (Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Sims-Walker) should lead the Jags to a third straight win.

Texans (+5.5) over Cardinals

The Texans are a great, young team on the rise, and the Cardinals are an aging team on the decline. If it weren’t for a hot streak last January, Arizona would be considered a bottom 10-15 team. Their quarterback is 38, and they have a first- and second-year runningback (one of whom is a Big-10 back) and their defense has been mostly hype. The Texans, like the Falcons, are jam packed with young studs at all of the important positions and will make a deep postseason run in a short amount of time.

Never doubt the Hoodie

Never doubt the Hoodie

Patriots (-3.5) over BRONCOS

Surprisingly, the Bronco have one more win at this point in the season than the Patriots at this point in the season. Also, this would be the game of the week because of all the awful and mismatched games played earlier in the week. The Broncos have a Bill Belichick disciple Josh McDaniels, who apparently also digs the hoodie. But we all know which is the real Hoodie. And you never doubt him.

Colts (-3.5) over TITANS

No matter how good you were last year, after losing four games to start the year, you can’t make too many excuses. The Titans lost mammoth defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but otherwise, they have the same team. It looks like they will start the year 0-6 with the next two games against Indy and New England. Maybe that will change if they put Vince Young back into the starting QB role. That is a change in Week 7, of course.

Jets (-1.5) over DOLPHINS

This AFC East battle is way more lopsided than the spread indicates. The Jets are 3-1 and just added a great receiver, Braylon Edwards, to help build around Mark Sanchez. They have a great defense and a great coach. The Dolphins have none of that except the coach. Chad Penninton is out for the year and Ted Ginn Jr. is their best receiver. That spells trouble for Miami. I guess the good news is that Dolphin fans still have South Beach…this is the Lock of the Week.

Season: 26-22

Last Week: 6-8

Lock of the Week: 2-1

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

Division Series Playoff Predictions

Yes, its that time of year again. The weather is cooling, and playoff baseball is just around the corner. The matchups are set, and the fans of the Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox, Rockies, Twins, and Yankees are ready for some playoff baseball.

Yankees (1) versus Twins (3)

The Yankees have been the best team in the best division in baseball. The Twins just eeked out a title in the worst division in baseball. After winning their playoff game versus Detroit on Monday night in the 12th inning, so they get the privilege to get trampled by the Yanks. The Yankees are very, very fortunate to not be playing the Tigers, who have a much more potent offense and more pitching firepower. Even saying that, it likely wouldn’t have mattered who New York played since they are 12-1 against the Twins and Tigers, including 7-0 versus Minnesota.

Infield: The Yankees easily have the better infield. In fact, they may have the best infield of the past few decades with MVP candidates Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira along with All-Stars Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada is the only low light for the infield, which is great to have as your weak link. The Twins are missing their biggest bat, Justin Morneau, and they haven’t gotten too much offense out of either Nick Punto nor Alexi Casilla. Joe Mauer, who will likely win the AL MVP, and Orlando Cabrera are the only highlights for Minnesota. Michael Cuddyer used to start in right field, but because of Morneau’s injury, Cuddyer will start at first.

Outfield/DH: New York also has the better outfield. I’m not saying that Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, and Hideki Masui are world beaters, but they have had much greater seasons then were expected and could ride their hot bats into the playoffs. The Twins have a not-so-solid outfield of underacheiving former top-prospects Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez, along with defensive playmaker Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

Bench: The Yankees barely win this category, too. Jerry Hairston is very versatile in the field, Jose Molina is one of the better backup catchers, and Brett Gardner will really help the Bronx Bombers on the basepaths. The Twins, on the other hand, have no decent bat on the bench between Brian Buscher, Mike Redmond, and Brendan Harris.

Starting Pitching: The Yankees also win this category, but with an asterisk. On paper, they have a much better rotation with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte compared to the Twins’ Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, and Carl Pavano. But, and that is a big but, CC Sabathia has a postseason ERA of 7.92 in 5 starts, and A.J. Burnett has never pitched in the postseason, and has pitched poorly in big games.

This guy is going back to pitch in New York

This guy is going back to pitch in New York

Relief Pitching: The Twins barely have the better bullpen, mainly because of the lack of Yankees depth. Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera are the two best closers in baseball, Rivera a bit better in the postseason. The Twins have several solid relievers in Jon Rauch, Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, Ron Mahay, and Jose Mijares. After Rivera, the Yankees only have Phil Hughes and perhaps Joba Chamerlain, so do you really want to depend of Phil Coke?

Coaching: Minnesota has one of the better coaches,Ron Gardenhire, and management in the game. To take a team with this little fire power on offense and starting pitching is incredible. Joe Girardi is improving as a coach, but his success is largely to do with his $200+ million payroll.

Key Stat: Carl Pavano is pitching for the Twins.

Prediction: Yankees in 3

Phillies (2) versus Rockies (4)

To me this is the easiest series of all four to pick. The Phillies won it all last year and a great playoff 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. The Rockies don’t have any big names in their rotation or lineup that you would be afraid to pitch to like the Cardinals, Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox do. The  lead the season series 4-2. This is also a matchup of the last two NL Champs, the Phillies won the World Series last year, and the Rockies fell to the Red Sox in 2007.

Infield: Phillies win this one big time. With MVPs like Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard along with All-Star Chase Utley, Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies are stacked here, and this is the biggest difference maker in the series especially with the fact that both stadiums are very hitter friendly. The Rockies have rising stars like Troy Tulowitski, Ian Stewart, and Chris Iannetta along with Clint Barmes and Todd Helton. They aren’t bad as much as unexperienced and young.

Outfield: The Phillies get the edge again with a solid outfield of Raul Ibañez and his record year in homers, speedy Shane Victorino, and emerging slugger Jayson Werth. The Rockies on the other hand, the Rockies are a lot young with talented rookies Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. Veteran Brad Hawpe is a great power threat and is a quiet leader in Mile High.

Bench: The Rockies actually get the edge here. They have power off the bench from Jason Giambi and Garrett Atkins along with more solid production from Ryan Spilbourghs, Yorvit Torealba, and Seth Smith. The Phillies are okay with former Indians starter Ben Francisco and aging vets Eric Bruntlett, Paul Bako, and Greg Dobbs.

Starting Pitching: The edge, again, goes to the Phillies. They have two aces at the top of their rotation with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. The back end of the rotation is also solid with innings eater Joe Blanton and either rookie sensation J.A. Happ or veteran Pedro Martinez. The Rockies have no true ace, but career years from young Ubaldo Jimenez and vets Aaron Cook, Jason Marquis, and 16-game winner Jorge De La Rosa.

Relief Pitching: Colorado barely gets the edge here because of the struggles of all the Phillies’ closers. After being perfect last year, Brad Lidge has blown ten saves and set-up man Ryan Madson hasn’t been any better. J.C. Romero and Brett Myers will be solid contributors, but can’t help in the ninth. The Rockies have a solid closer in Huston Street and several more okay relievers like Franklin Morales, Rafael Betancourt, and Joe Beimel.

Coaching: Neither team has a great coach, but the Rockies’ Jim Tracy has turned around a team that was well under .500 early in the year, after replacing Clint Hurdle, and will likely win Manager of the Year Award for that.

Key Stat: The Rockies have only won eight games on the road versus the lefty starters.

Prediction: Phillies in 3

Angels (2) versus Red Sox (4)

Vladimir Guerrero grounds out in Boston

Vladimir Guerrero grounds out in Boston

The Angels lead the regular season series 5-4, but the Red Sox have won twelve of the last thirteen postseason games between the two. For whatever reason, the Angels have always dominated Boston in the regular season, but can’t seem to beat the Red Sox when it come to playoff time. Sometimes, it has been injuries to the Angels (which there are no important ones) or running into a hotter Boston team (Los Angeles is actually playing better lately), but the Red Sox just have the Angels number.

Infield: Boston picks up the edge in the infield after trading for Victor Martinez, a great power bat to hit clean up for Boston. The rest of the infield consists of MVP Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, and Alex Gonzalez. For the Angels, the emergence of Kendry Morales as a power threat for the middle of their order has really helped their offense, along with Chone Figgins’ breakout year. Up the middle, the Angels lack a big bat, as Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are just about only useful to get on base.

Outfield/DH: The edge goes slightly to the Angels here. The addition of Bobby Abreu completes the Angels lineup and has taught them to wait for the right pitch. Conversly, Vladimir Guerrero will swing at anything, but unfortunately for the Red Sox, can hit anything really hard. The rest of the outfield consist of solid veteran Torii Hunter and improving Juan Rivera. The Red Sox aren’t too shabby, either with slugging Jason Bay and David Ortiz and speedy Jacoby Ellsbury. The weak link is J.D. Drew, who has well under performed for his massive $70 million contract.

Bench: The Red Sox get the edge here, too, with solid former starters such as Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, Casey Kotchman, and Rocco Baldelli off the bench, not to mention the fastest baseball player ever, Joey Gathright. The Angels also have some solid production off the bench from Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis, Gary Matthews Jr., and Reggie Willits, but they aren’t collectively as good.

Starting Pitching: Los Angeles and Boston are equal here, as long as Boston stays healthy. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been lights out in the playoffs, and Clay Buchholz and Dice-K have pitched well lately, with the exception of Buchholz’s last two starts. The Angels bolstered their rotation big-time when they added former Ray and Red Sox nemesis Scott Kazmir to an already loaded rotation that features John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders , and maybe Ervin Santana.

Relief Pitching: This is the Angels biggest weak spot and one of the Red Sox’ strengths. Boston’s bullpen is made up entirely of former closers and players who could close on many other teams. Included are Jonathan Papelbon, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, and the list goes on and on. For the Angels, they are very weak after closer Brian Fuentes, who is one of the more hittable closers in the AL.

Coaching: Both coaches receive a lot less credit then they deserve because of their massive pay rolls, but Mike Scioscia is by far the best coach in the American League. He is a great leader, teacher and strategist. That is no knock on Terry Francona, though, who is also one of the better coaches in the league.

Key Stat: The Red Sox have won 12 of the last 13 game versus the Angels in the playoffs.

Prediction: Red Sox in 4

Dodgers (1) versus Cardinals (3)

This series feature the two best hitters in the majors over the past decade: Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez. Since the All-Star Break, the Cards and Dodgers have gone in different directions. The Dodgers were the toast of the NL and led their division by seven games and almost lost the division to Colorado and only won it by three games. The Cardinals were struggling to take command of the Central with a three game lead over Milwaukee, until they picked up Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, John Smoltz, and Julio Lugo. St. Louis won the season series 5-2, but don’t look for that to keep the the Dodgers down.

Infield: St. Louis gets the edge here because of the 2009 NL MVP Albert Pujols (What? Who said that?) and Mark DeRosa. The rest of the infield isn’t great with Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker, but Pujols is such a difference maker. James Loney is an emerging as a great hitter, but Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, and Orlando Hudson are all on the decline.

Outfield: Just like the Cardinals win the infield because of Pujols, the Dodgers have the better outfield because of Manny. Not only do the Dodgers have a great playoff hitter in Manny Ramirez, but they have two rising future All-Stars in Andre Either and Matt Kemp. The Dodgers easily have the best outfield out of all the playoff teams. The Cardinals are no slouches either with All-Stars in Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick, along with possible Rookie of the Year Colby Rasmus.

Bench: The Dodgers have a loaded bench with former starters they picked up, Ronnie Belliard and Jim Thome, along with more solid contributions from Juan Pierre, Brad Ausmus, and Mark Lorretta. The Cards, on the other hand, only have Rick Ankiel, Julio Lugo, and Troy Glaus, who all have been very underproductive and injured this year.

Ryan Franklin and his beard

Ryan Franklin and his beard

Starting Pitching: This is the Cards’ biggest strength and the the Dodgers’ biggest hole. With Cy Young candidates like Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright along with more contributions from Joel Piñeiro and Kyle Lohse. The Dodgers have a very young rotation with Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Vicente Padilla, and Chad Billingsley. Unlike St. Louis, LA doesn’t have any ace-type pitchers in their rotation.

Relief Pitching: Neither team is great, but the Dodgers get the slight edge. They are great in the eighth and ninth with All-Stars Jonathan Broxton and Trade Deadline pickup George Sherrill. After that, they only have Ramon Troncoso and Hong-Chih Kuo. St. Louis has All-Star closer Ryan Franklin, but he had a career year that isn’t likely to be repeated. After Franklin and his beard, their next best relievers, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan are both under 27.

Coaching: The Cardinals win a close call in a matchup of the best NL manager. Joe Torre led the Yankees to four World Series Titles, but that was in New York. Tony La Rusa is the only manager to win a World Series in both leagues, and is a master coach. He and pitching coach Dave Duncan have turned former cast-offs Piñeiro, Lohse, John Smoltz, and many more into All-Star calliber pitchers.

Key Stat: Manny Ramirez hasn’t hit a home run since September 9th.

Prediction: Cardinals in 5

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How Much is Joe Mauer Worth?

joe-mauer

Is Joe Mauer a $200 million man?

When in comes to the top paid MLB players, you start off the list with Alex Rodriguez, four outfielders, two more infielders, and three starting pitchers. What is the only position not in the top ten? The catcher.  There are only three cacthers in the top 100. They are Jorge Posada, number 37, Joe Mauer, number 73, and Ramon Hernandez, number 98. Posada, is the highest paid catcher at $13.1 million, nearly one third of his teammate Alex Rodriguez. That is an extremely low number considering the catchers manage the field and call the pitches. Good, veteran catchers help to develop young pitchers and are the glue for their clubhouse.

Joe Mauer will hit free agency next winter, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension with the Twins before hand. One interesting note is that his agent is Ron Shapiro who also was the agent for Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, and Kirby Puckett, all of whom played their whole career in one city. But, again, assuming he does hit the market in the 2010-11 winter, he will easily command the biggest contract out of the group, bigger than Derrek Lee, Derek Jeter, Aramis Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera.

Joe Mauer will be one of the three finalist for the MVP along with Yankees Derek Jeter and Mark Teixera. And all of this, even after missing the first month of the year. He flirted with hitting .400 for the first half of the year and now hits a lowly .367. He also has become a great power hitter now, more than doubling his previous career high in homers from 13 to 28. He has also set career highs in RBIs and OPS this year, with a week still to go.

Mauer was the number one overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft straight out of high school by his hometown Minnesota Twins, who were heavily criticized by the media for passive over the highly touted, more expensive fire baller out of USC, Mark Prior. Obviously, Mauer has had a way better pro career than Prior, and has helped the Twins prove the rest of Major League Baseball wrong as Mauer has become a top ten player in the league. But how much is this superstar worth?

If you take a look a contracts of similar players, you are looking at a catcher like Jorge Posada. Posada’s last contract was for $52 million over 4 years. In that season, Posada’s OPS was . 068 lower, he had eight less homers, had two more errors, three less RBI, two less steals, and way less leadership. Add on the fact that Posada was 10 years older than Mauer is now, and Mauer will easily make more than Posada’s $13 million.

Three different position players with comparable stats are Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and Mark Teixeira. Ramirez, who is 25, avoided arbitration with the Marlins by signing a six year/$70 million contract. Ramirez has .087 lower OPS, one more homer, 35 less strikeouts, .033 lower fielding percentage, 12 less RBI, 19 more doubles, 47 more steals; all in 21 more games. At age 24, Cabrera signed with the Tigers for $153.3 million over eight years. The year before Cabrera signed the contract, he had a .070 lower OPS, 6 more homers, 26 more RBI, 9 more doubles, 2 less steals, 67 more strike outs, .025 lower fielding percentage, in 24 more games. In the year previous to signing his $180 million/8 year contract, Teixeira had a .069 lower OPS, 5 more homers, 26 more RBI, ten more runs, two less steals, 31 more strikeouts, in 21 more games.

Because of Joe Mauer’s leadership position on his team, he deserves more than the nearly $12 million Ramirez makes and over $19 million Cabrera makes. He has taken the Twins young pitching staff and has turned them into All-Stars. Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Anthony Swarzak are all starters under the age of 27 and have led the Twins pitching staff. The Twins’ lone veteran starter is Carl Pavano, who was acquired in early August.

Mauer is also a great clubhouse guy, and you can never measure the impact of a someone like that. They keep all the other players loose and keeps them together. Players like that are hard to find.

Joe Mauer is due for a huge pay raise in next off-season. That may come from a big market team like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Mets. It may also come from his hometown Twins. Nearly every team will be in the bidding for Mr. Mauer’s services except teams with very good young catchers; the Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, and Giants. In the end, Mauer will probably get a contract from a big market team for around $20 million per year. I predict he will end up with the Mets for a 10 year/$215 million contract, who certainly have the money and need a young catcher. He may or may not end up as a catcher, but he will certainly still be one of the top five players int he league.

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