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The ties that bind + NFL Week 7 picks

- October 18th, 2014

I hate ties in the NFL.

They’re the worst. Football should be a game that is won or lost, not drawn.

Now, thanks to the highest-scoring tie in NFL history, we’re going to have to see records at the end of the season like 8-7-1 instead of a much cleaner 8-8. I’m sure you’re not going to care, but that plays hell with an editor’s layout.

There’s a very easy way to avoid these damned ties, which are cropping up more and more often with three in five years: Play NCAA-style overtime.

While many will say that the NFL should just extend overtime until a winning score is produced, that’s not a feasible way of doing things when you consider the players’ safety.

Longer games mean more chance at injury and that’s certainly something that you don’t want.

So play the shootout style like both college and the CFL use – although the CFL does have ties after a certain amount of rounds. It’s a lot more exciting than a battle of field position that overtime can become, when teams are more afraid to lose than they want to win.

Nobody likes ties and there’s plenty of ways to get rid of them. So let’s do it.

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

NEW ENGLAND -9.5 over New York Jets

I am a little shocked that this game came down to a blocked field goal with time expiring, but should’ve known better considering the Patriots injuries and the that Rex Ryan is always out to get Bill Belichick.

INDIANAPOLIS -3 over Cincinnati

Without A.J. Green, the Bengals aren’t so scary. Their defence is also slacking and they’re a much better team at home.

WASHINGTON -5.5 over Tennessee

With Robert Griffin III somehow getting close to coming back after that gruesome injury, Kirk Cousins may be playing for his job.

Miami +3 over CHICAGO

The Dolphins are a real Jekyll and Hyde team, but the Bears are too. I’ll take Miami with the points on the road.

Cleveland -5.5 over JACKSONVILLE

The Browns have been on fire in the past few weeks and the Jags aren’t exactly a top-class opponent. Brian Hoyer is making himself a lot of money in the free-agent market this off-season.

Seattle -7.5 over ST. LOUIS

The Seahawks will use this as a statement game after losing at home in their supposed fortress last week.

Carolina +7 over GREEN BAY

The Packers aren’t exactly impressing every week and the Cats can keep it close.

Atlanta +7.5 over BALTIMORE

When two good offences collide, I’d rather take the points if it’s more than a TD. And why the heck isn’t Antone Smith getting the ball more often, Mike Smith?

Minnesota +7 over BUFFALO

The Vikings seriously have to start blocking better, but the Bills are due for a big letdown game.

New Orleans +2.5 over DETROIT

The Saints have to turn it around and soon. Although the Lions defence is one of the league’s best, I have faith in Sean Payton and Drew Brees to break it down. Although if Megatron plays, I’m going with Detroit.

Kansas City +4 over SAN DIEGO

The Chiefs are coming off a bye and Andy Reid has made a career by winning with two weeks of preparation.

New York Giants +7 over DALLAS

The Giants will look to bounce back and always play well when visiting the rival Cowboys.

Arizona -3 over OAKLAND

The Raiders did look improved against the Chargers last week, but this Cardinals team is 4-1 and just got Carson Palmer back.

DENVER -7 over San Francisco

The Niners are too banged up on defence to contain Peyton Manning on his march into the record books.

PITTSBURGH -3 over Houston

The Steelers are a very average team all around, but the Texans are essentially a one-man team on defence and won’t be able to contain Antonio Brown.

Last week: 9-5-1

This season: 48-42-1

NFL Week 6 picks

- October 11th, 2014

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

Indianapolis -3 over HOUSTON

Can you believe it? We finally got a competitive Thursday night football game! The only problem with that is that the game was only close because it got incredibly sloppy at times. It’s a real shame that these things are going to continue on forever.

Denver -10 over NEW YORK JETS

It really is all falling apart for Rex Ryan and the Jets. Even their run defence – their saving grace this season – looked awful last week while being shutout. The Broncos should have an easy one in New York.

Pittsburgh +2 over CLEVELAND

A lot of bettors are backing the Browns and I’m not sure why. That big comeback last week was aided by the Titans falling apart. The Steelers held on to win in Week 1 and should do it again.

Jacksonville +4 over TENNESSEE

If you want to bet on Charlie Whitehurst, do so at your own peril.

Chicago +3.5 over ATLANTA

This has potential to be a real shootout. Jay Cutler has been better on the road this season and Matt Forte could really run wild on the Falcons vulnerable front seven.

MIAMI +3 over Green Bay

Just because the Packers dominated the Vikings last Thursday night, doesn’t mean it will carry over against the Dolphins. Both teams are well-rested, but it’s tough to pass on a home dog that’s frisky.

Minnesota (pk) over DETROIT

Without Megatron and Reggie Bush, the Lions could be in big trouble against a division rival that has their number.

Carolina +7 over CINCINNATI

While the Bengals are on a good run at home, this game should be a close one without A.J. Green playing.

New England -3 over BUFFALO

The Bills could get an emotional boost with the announcement of their new owners, but the Pats ran wild last week and looked like the contenders they’re supposed to be.

TAMPA BAY +3 over Baltimore

The Ravens have some pretty poor road record while the Bucs can be feisty at times.

OAKLAND +8 over San Diego

Home dogs coming off a by favoured by more than a TD are a solid bet, according to recent trends.

SEATTLE -8 over Dallas

The Cowboys have looked very good this season, but the Seahawks – especially at home – are a very tough matchup for them.

Washington +3.5 over ARIZONA

If it’s Logan Thomas starting for the Cards, there’s no way I can back them. If Carson Palmer is somehow good to go, that’s another story.

PHILADELPHIA -2.5 over New York Giants

This will be the LeSean McCoy break out game fantasy owners have been waiting for.  Shady always dices up the Giants in these rivalry games.

San Francisco -3 over ST. LOUIS

The Niners haven’t looked anything special this season, but the Rams have barely looked average at times. Austin Davis is also punching above his weight right now.

Last week: 12-3

This season: 39-37

Our completely uninformed 2014-15 NHL preview

- October 8th, 2014

I’ll be the first to admit that when I don’t have to, I’m not paying attention to ice hockey.

I’m not a fan of it and I’m not sure if it’s a fan of me.

What I am a fan of is making predictions, especially with a new season raring to go on freshly zamboni’d ice.

So what did I miss over the summer, when really, you shouldn’t be paying much mind to a winter sport?

Well, until reading up a little bit, I had no idea who the first pick in the draft was (Aaron Ekblad), that Jarome Iginla joined my “favourite” team (Colorado), that the Phoenix Coyotes no longer exist (it’s the Arizona Coyotes now) and, really, just forgot which teams were realigned into those funky new divisions last year.

There is plenty of knowledge I did retain though. Like the fact that league is in pretty good shape and actually looking into expansion – you know, because the teams in Florida, Carolina and Arizona are working out SOOO well and shouldn’t be moved.

Also, there’s no Olympics this year, so the season should start and end at reasonable time without that idiotic two-week break to send 5% of the league’s players.

And perhaps both most shockingly and importantly, Gary Bettman is no longer the worst commissioner in sports. Not even his incompetence and the NHL’s repeated work stoppages could knock Roger Goodell off of that podium now.

But in fairness, could you imagine how terrible Bettman would come off if he had to deal with the same stuff that Goodell did.

As for my picks, I look forward to seeing a large percentage wrong at season’s end.

Metropolitan division: Pittsburgh, Washington, New York Rangers.

Atlantic division: Boston, Montreal, Tampa Bay.

East wild cards:, Toronto, New York Islanders.

Pacific division: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose.

Central division: Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas.

West wild cards: Colorado, Nashville.

Hart trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT

Art Ross trophy: Steven Stamkos, TB

Norris trophy: Shea Weber, NAS

Vezina trophy: Carey Price, MTL

Surprises: New York Islanders, Jonathan Bernier (Vezina contender), Columbus, fighting will – thankfully –go down a tick.

Disappointments: Winnipeg Jets, Alberta teams, Minnesota, the East in general.

Eastern Conference final: Boston Bruins over Pittsburgh Penguins.

Western Conference final: Chicago Blackhawks over L.A. Kings.

Stanley Cup: Chicago Blackhawks.

The rumble in London

- October 6th, 2014

The best matchup of the weekend didn’t even take place on the field. It was on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge.

In what is probably the best Vine in weeks, we see Arsene Wenger shove Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho with probably as much hatred and anger that the Frenchman has ever mustered up.

It took less than 20 minutes for the old rivals to get at each other. First, Alexis Sanchez collided with Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois, knocking out the Belgian. Then, Blues defender Gary Cahill got a little bit of retribution, sliding in for a hard challenge on the Spaniard.

This was enough for Wenger to go after Mourinho and give him a hardy shove. The two would exchange words before an official separated them, relegating the managing legends to their own technical areas.

It was the type of clash that’s harmless, entertaining and actually gives the game some brevity, despite the fact it was a physical altercation.

While I wouldn’t want to see managers go at each other every week, it’s good to see two rivals get that emotional during a key fixture this early in the season.

ABOUT THAT COURTOIS CLASH

Courtois’ injury is not something that can be glossed over.

He was clearly unconscious after getting run over by Sanchez and should have been subbed off immediately.

It was only 13 minutes later, after noticing that his ear was bleeding, that the trainers again came out and that was the end of the game for Courtois.

He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons, where it was revealed that he did in fact have a concussion.

This isn’t the first time that concussed players have stayed on the field after obviously suffering a head injury. Heck, it happened in the World Cup final. Last year in the Premier League, Hugo Lloris suffered a concussion on a similar clash.

There needs to be independent doctors on the sidelines to diagnosis these sorts of serious injuries.

And while teams are always reluctant to use a sub when it’s not necessarily needed, perhaps a rule could be installed where you can sub off a concussed player without having it count against your three.

Either way, the issue of concussions in soccer should get some more attention over the next week – and that’s at least one step of progress.

OH, THERE WAS A GAME TOO

With the 2-0 win, Chelsea is now the only undefeated team left in the Premier League. With how well they’re playing, it’s hard to see it falling short of winning the title. Of course, the real question will be how well it can deal with injuries when they eventually crop up and Champions League has yet to put any real strain on the team.

And if you’re a Spanish supporter, are you pleased at how well Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are connecting, or are you upset with the fact that they couldn’t do more damage in the World Cup in Brazil?

And as for that penalty on Laurent Koscielny: What were you thinking? There’s no way that’s not going to get called in any game. Leaving your foot in while going to ground in the box is about as poor defending as it gets.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

David de Gea should rightfully be applauded as man of the match against Everton. He made to awesome reflex saves in injury team to preserve the win for Manchester United and also stopped a penalty in the first half … With Luke Shaw hurting his knee – again – the Red Devils have another injury woe to deal with. It looks like the likes of Tyler Blackett and Patrick McNair will be pressed into action for a little while longer at least … It took like what seemed to be forever, but Manchester City’s vaunted attack finally broke down Aston Villa. With two goals after the 80th minute, City showed the kind of resolve it has lacked at times in the past … Another good sign for Man City: Yaya Toure scored his first goal of the season. Hopefully for fans of the Sky Blues, this could be the end of his personal turmoil with the team following his summer unsettling … Southampton finally met its match, falling 1-0 to Tottenham. Christian Eriksen scored his first of the campaign, which could spring him onto a good run of form like the one that saw him dominate games late last season … While many will say that Papiss Cisse’s brace saved Alan Pardew’s job for another week, should a draw against Hull City really be cause for celebration? … Congrats to Sunderland for picking up its first win of the season. Curiously enough, it was already sitting on five points with five draws and just one loss from its first six games.

THE LAST WORD

Could Harry Redknapp win the sack race?

While Newcastle’s Alan Pardew has rightfully been the favoured to be the next manager fired early this season, Redknapp’s QPR team isn’t exactly thriving either.

In fact, the R’s have just one goal from the run of play this season and sit at the bottom of the table with four points and a -11 goal differential.

While ’Arry stuck with QPR through the Championship, his loyalty may be rewarded with a little bit more slack than the average manager may get.

Of course, football board members have never been afraid of pulling the trigger when the fans start getting restless.

So, as for the Pardew-Redknapp race for the sack, all bets are off now.

NFL Week 5 picks

- October 4th, 2014

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS.

GREEN BAY -8 over Minnesota

In the four Thursday night games –excluding the opener – this season, the average margin of victory has been 28.25 points. That’s an average win by four touchdowns. And who said these games aren’t cash-grabs by the NFL?

Chicago +2.5 over CAROLINA

Darrin Reaves and Fozzy Whitaker: That’s who will be running the ball for Carolina against the improved Bears run defence this week.

Cleveland +1 over TENNESSEE

Surely the worst game of the week. In a toss-up, I’ll go with Brian Hoyer over Jake Locker.

PHILADELPHIA -7.5 over St. Louis

Is Austin Davis winning the QB job really a good thing? The Eagles offence will get back on track at home.

NEW YORK GIANTS -4 over Atlanta

I originally thought the Giants would blow this game with expectations being up, but they’ll be able to run the ball at will against the Falcons.

Tampa Bay +11 over NEW ORLEANS

Are we really sure that the Saints are worthy of this line? I think the safer bet is to take the points.

Houston +7 over DALLAS

When the stakes are raised, the Cowboys usually fold. Although if Arian Foster sits, I’m taking Dallas.

Buffalo +7.5 over DETROIT

Let the Kyle Orton era begin! It can’t be worse than the EJ Manuel era, right? Megatron’s injury is also concerning.

INDIANAPOLIS -3 over Baltimore

The Ravens aren’t the same team on the road and Andrew Luck is becoming a top-5 passer in this league.

Pittsburgh -7 over JACKSONVILLE

What have the Jaguars shown that proves they should be favoured by less than 10 against anyone, even with Blake Bortles starting?

DENVER -8.5 over Arizona

John Skelton starting at Mile High isn’t a recipe for success.

Kansas City +5.5 over SAN FRANCISCO

The Chiefs won’t look as dominant as they did against the Pats, but will be tough out for the Niners.

SAN DIEGO -7.5 over New York Jets

This could be Geno Smith’s last stand and I don’t see it going very well.

Cincinnati (pk) over NEW ENGLAND

It’s risky to bet against the Pats after a loss, but the Bengals are rested and really good.

Seattle -8.5 over WASHINGTON

Kirk Cousins was embarrassed by the Giants at home and now has to face a rested Seahawks squad.

Last week: 6-7

This season: 27-34