Monthly Archives: January 2013

The True Top Golfer

There’s an ongoing debate about who the best golfer in the world is. Is it Tiger Woods, the man who has shattered all sorts of records, including the most white trash girls used to cheat on a wife (highlighted by such classy ladies as Raychel, Loredana, Joslyn, and Cori)? Is it Rory McIlroy, the 23-year old up and comer, who sits atop the World Golf Rankings? Or maybe even is it Freddy “Boom Boom” Couples? The choice is simple, and he’s also my favorite golfer.

Tiger and Rory

Past vs. Present or Present vs. Present?

The sports world has been enamored with Rory McIlroy lately. He won the U.S. Open at the age of 22, something we haven’t seen since, well, Tiger Woods won the Masters at age of 21. See, sometimes we forget just how great players have been because of off-the-field incidents. With Adrian Peterson nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’ single-season rushing record, we forget how great O.J. Simpson was. The man rushed for 2,003 yards in 14 games—that extrapolates to over 2,289 yards in 16 games, which would have crushed Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards. We just forget about Simpson because of a few small run-ins with the law.

Tiger Woods may not have won a major since he won the U.S. Open in 2008, and he may have gone 107 weeks without a victory of any kind following his admitted infidelity, but that doesn’t tarnish his great legacy. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever win The Masters. Tiger, the youngest golfer to ever complete a career grand slam, and the only golfer to win all four in a row. Tiger, the quickest player to fifty tournament wins. It’s impossible to make the case that Tiger Woods is the greatest husband and father in the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still the most dominant golfer of our time. And just because Big Lurch got high on PCP and ate his girlfriend’s face doesn’t mean he’s not the greatest rapper of all-time.

There are lots of ways you can nitpick at Tiger’s game. For instance, he’s never won a major while trailing after 54 holes. Sure, but he’s also the greatest closer in the game with a 14-1 record when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round. That’s a fair trade-off. Yes, he does get angry and he does curse at fans and he does throw clubs when people take pictures during his backswing. But none of that negatively affects how dominant he was at his peak, and how dominant he may be, as he is only 37 years old. Jack Nicklaus won his final major at the age of 46, so I’d give Tiger a fairly solid chance to win four to five more majors in the next ten years.

Tiger is the lone golfer that is his own brand. Phil Mickelson may be very popular, but there aren’t too many dials being turned because Lefty is leading with four holes to go. Hell, Tiger Woods has the official PGA Tour video game named after him. He has (or had, in some cases) sponsorships from Gatorade, Nike, GM, Titleist, American Express, Buick, and TAG Heuer. Not only did he revolutionize the sport by forcing courses to move back their tees, he also monopolized the media aspect of golf, becoming even bigger than the sport itself at times.

Rory McIlroy may end up breaking the record for most majors in a lifetime. That record may still belong to Jack Nicklaus, or it may be Eldrick’s. McIlroy is a golf talent we haven’t seen since young phenoms Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler. Except none of that trio has lived up to expectations yet. Maybe McIlroy will become the greatest of all time one day. But he doesn’t have the pedigree, and at this point in his career—even if he officially the number one golfer in the world—I find it hard to put McIlroy ahead of Tiger.

(This was written as an assignment at Vanderbilt. Gotta love when you can write about sports for school.)

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The New Peyton Manning?

The first round of the playoffs went nicely for me. I’m bout to pop some tags, only got 280 apples in my pocket. Home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Ravens (+10) over BRONCOS

Yes, the Broncos might be the best team in the NFL. Yes, the Broncos have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Yes, the Broncos have won 11 straight games. But I’m taking the Ravens here.

Peyton Manning, as I have always said, is one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all-time. He has a 65.2% completion percentage with a 5.6% touchdown rate and a 2.7% interception rate, but most importantly a .688 winning percentage. Come playoff time, though, he plays much worse. His postseason record is 9-10 with a 61.2% completion percentage, 3.3% touchdown rate and 2.0% interception rate after the Wild Card round. His lone Super Bowl win came against Sexy Rexy Grossman.

Say what you want about Joe Flacco, but he’s led his team better in the playoffs historically than Peyton has. Flacco has a 6-4 record, though he should be 7-3 if not for Lee Evans’ dropped touch down in last year’s AFC Championship game.

Also, chew on this: today’s game will be sitting around 17 degrees. Could it possibly be an advantage for a 36-year old quarterback who has undergone four neck surgeries within two years and has to wear gloves for this game? Peyton is 0-3 in game under 21 degrees, and he never had to play in poor conditions when he was in Indianapolis.

Baltimore has the emotional edge with Play for Ray, and I’m not willing to give up a double-digit line to take Peyton in a cold playoff game. But I’m not sure Baltimore has enough to win.

Prediction: Broncos 24 Ravens 23

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

NINERS (-3) over Packers

There’s been a lot of talk swirling lately about how not enough is being made about the Niners passing on hometown kid Aaron Rodgers for their first overall pick in 2005. Well not nearly is being made about the Niners beating down Green Bay 30-22 in Week 1–without Colin Kaepernick.

In a game of a high-powered offense against a high-powered defense, I look back to San Francisco’s Week 15 win against New England. The Patriots are better on both sides of the ball than Green Bay, and San Francisco still managed to win a shootout. One major difference, though, is that the Patriots have a strong run defense, while the Packers do not.

In order for the Packers to win this game, they’ll need to get out ahead big early on. If they grab a double-digit lead quickly, the Niners won’t be able to pound the ball against Green Bay’s weak run D. The Packers can then play more against the pass–San Fran is missing Mario Manningham–and take the Niners away from their strength on offense. But if they fall behind early, the Packers will get Gored up the middle.

Ultimately, I’m a believer in Kaepernick–3rd best QBR this year, 9th best since 2008–and I think Green Bay will have problems stopping the Smith brothers, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman. We’ve seen how this ends already.

Prediction: Niners 30 Packers 22

KFC Double Down Game:

PATRIOTS (-9.5) over Texans

Picking the Patriots in the playoffs, a specialty of mine.

How can you not love this Patriots team? They dominate point differential. They dominate turnover differential. They have the best quarterback-head coach combination in the league. They finally have a running game. Their defense looks semi-competent.

Then we have the Texans. Matt Schaub has not looked good since before Thanksgiving, and Arian Foster has had one decent game since December. The team faded down stretch worse than a 2-year old Expo marker, culminating by them losing to the Colts by 12 in Week 17 and losing their first-round bye and home field advantage. Then they barely squeaked by the lowly Bengals 19-13.

This line may seem high, but then consider that Bill Belichick had two weeks to prepare for the Texans, while Gary Kubiak had just one week to prepare for the Patriots. This is the kind of statement game the Patriots have been winning this year. Say, like, Week 14 in their 42-14 annihilation.

For the third time this year, I’ll write this paragraph: “This is going to be the game the whole NFL recognizes the Patriots as the best team in the league. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Prediction: Patriots 34 Texans 16

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Seahawks (+2.5) over FALCONS

When is the last time there was a number one seed with less respect than the Falcons? The lack of respect is deserved (or is it that any respect is not-so-deserved?), but the point still remains. They were never that dominant, they can’t run the ball, and their defense is just suspect.

Peyton Manning's regular season vs. postseason winning percentage: .688 vs. .474. Matt Ryan's? .718 vs. .000 (0-3).

Peyton Manning’s regular season vs. postseason winning percentage: .688 vs. .474. Matt Ryan’s? .718 vs. .000 (0-3).

That said, Matt Ryan had an amazing year. He’s never been great in the playoffs, but he was great this regular season. Maybe he’s got a bit of Peyton in him, for better or for worse.

Then we have the Seahawks, a team that went under-the-radar for most of the season until the busted out 150 points over three weeks to end the season. They have no weakness, especially now that Russell Wilson has broken out as of late, notably with the long ball. And just like in the Niners/Packers game, unless the Falcons go ahead early, the Falcons are in trouble because Seahawks can just pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch against Atlanta’s weak run defense.

The biggest key to me in this game is the Seahawks cornerbacks. The main source of offense for the Falcons will be the pass–because is sure won’t come from Michael Turner–and the Seahawks have the tallest secondary in the league. Roddy White and Julio Jones measure in at 6′ and 6’3″ and use their height to leverage big plays. That won’t be the case against 6’3″ Richard Sherman and 6’4″ Brandon Browner.

If the Seahawks do, indeed, shut down Matt Ryan’s passing attack, Atlanta won’t have a chance. Honestly, I’m surprised this line is so high, and everyone should know this season is destined for a Seahawks/Packers NFC Championship game. Wait, now I messed up the other NFC pick…

Prediction: Seahawks 31 Falcons 20

Overall record: 129-124-5

Last week: 3-1

Apple Total: 280

Apple Total Last Week: 75

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An Apple Surplus

I finished the regular season with a winning record, but more importantly it looks this apples system is really working out. I may only have be three wins above .500, but I’m 205 apples in surplus. I can’t even count to 205. Let’s launch ourselves into the playoffs; home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

Colts (+7) over RAVENS

What a great matchup we have here. The Colts had the motivational edge with ChuckStrong until out of nowhere (or maybe not) Ray Lewis announces he’s retiring at the end of the season! Genius! Cancelling out some of that positive juju for the Colts.

The Colts, though, are a very strange playoff team. 22nd in rushing. 21st in pass defense. 29th in rush defense. They’re even 25th in DVOA. Then again, the Ravens haven’t been particularly spectacular this season, either; they’re not top ten in offensive or defensive passing or rushing.

This game should be great on the surface with, but I don’t think either team is that great. The Ravens have lost 4 of the last 5, and the Colts have won 5 of their last 6, but the Colts have been outscored by 30 points this season. Luck set the record for rookie passing yards but is third in the league in interceptions–although he hasn’t had one in the last three games. Ray Rice is one of the top running backs in the league, but he has 257 carries to Joe “Elite” Flacco’s 531 passing attempts.

Bottom line is that neither team is especially great, and I’m not comfortable giving up 7 points to take the Ravens. I love Andrew Luck, but I also can’t imagine a player, team, and crowd more pumped than Ray Lewis’ Baltimore Ravens.

Prediction: Ravens 23 Colts 20

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

PACKERS (-7.5) over Vikings

How often do you get to see teams play two weeks in a row? The Packers were playing for home field advantage with the Vikings playing for a playoff birth last week, and Adrian Peterson happened. Clay Matthews did go out on a limb this week, though, and guaranteed that Adrian Peterson wouldn’t rush for 200 yards.

Should Adrian Peterson be the MVP? Maybe you should read The Knuckle Blog more.  http://bit.ly/UhKMmD

Should Adrian Peterson be the MVP? Maybe you should read The Knuckle Blog more. http://bit.ly/UhKMmD

The thing is, the Packers gave up 409 yards to Peterson in their two matchups this year. Green Bay is 17th in rush defense, and they can’t even stop Peterson when they know he is by far the focal point of the offense. No one has been able to. But what’s most amazing about the Vikings offense is that Peterson has out-gained Christian Ponder over the last 10 weeks. 1598 yards to 1501 yards.

But then you have the Packers. They may not have a running game, but Aaron Rodgers is miles ahead of where Christian Ponder is. Not only that, but he has more weapons with Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and Jermichael Finley. Greg Jennings might not think that Lambeau Field has a home field advantage, but I can promise you that Ponder will not be good in the 25 degree weather.

As hard as it is to pick against Adrian Peterson, it’s even easier to pick against Christian Ponder. I’m not in love with the Packers against the stronger teams of the NFC, but what are the Vikings going to do when they fall behind Green Bay by double digits early in the game?

Prediction: Packers 31 Vikings 17

KFC Double Down Game:

TEXANS (-4) over Bengals

Five weeks ago this line would have looked very different. The Texans were 11-1 and the Bengals were 7-5. Arian Foster started to look more like DeShaun Foster, and Matt Schaub looked more like Charles Schwab. Then again, the Bengals are ran by Andy Dalton.

This line seems a bit low to me. The Texans have far and away more talent, but they haven’t been able to put it all together down the stretch. Andy Dalton is good enough to take his team to the playoffs, but he leaves too many plays on the field.

I’m going to make this simple. The Texans are just much better than the Bengals. Geno Atkins is a very good defensive lineman, but he’s no J.J. Watt. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is serviceable, but he doesn’t compare to the combo of Foster and Ben Tate. This won’t been too close.

Prediction: Texans 24 Bengals 13

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Seahawks (-3) over REDSKINS

People keep saying this game is about Russell Wilson vs. RG3. But it’s not. It’s about the defenses.

The Seahawks come into the playoffs as the only team that is top-5 in offensive, defensive, and special teams DVOA. Marshawn Lynch has been sensational for the second year in a row, and Russell Wilson has become one of the best deep-ball throwers in the league, tops in passing touchdowns of over 20 yards.

More importantly is their defense, which allows almost 2 less points per game than any other team. They’ve given up more than 20 points just three times this season. Washington’s D, on the other hand, allows the 11th most points and 3rd most passing yards in the league. Seattle is winning without Russell Wilson being an elite quarterback, but if DeAngelo Hall and crew allow him to tread on that territory, this game may not be close.

Yes, the Seahawks haven’t been great on the road this year, but they’ve been the best team in the league in the last five games, out-scoring their opponents 193-60. Vegas is having a tough time giving lines for the Seahawks because they were so average early on this season and because their offense doesn’t have any big names.

But make no mistake. Seattle is one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs.

Prediction: Seahawks 34 Redskins 16

Overall record: 126-123-5

Last week: 8-8

Apple Total: 205

Apple Total Last Week: -75

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Players show Butler ‘ain’t just a football school’

Good news, team. I’m back in the Charlotte Observer after a five month hiatus! I got the chance to talk with the Butler High School basketball team and football coach and came up with this story, which ran online on January 1st and in the print copy on the 2nd.

Players show Butler ‘ain’t just a football school’

Please check it out, comment, and spread the word!

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