Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

The Super Bowl XLIX pick

- January 31st, 2015

It’s a shame that a lot of the lead up to this excellent Super Bowl matchup has been focused on something as stupid as deflated footballs.

What we have here is a game that will be historic no matter which side wins.

If the Patriots win it, Tom Brady will win his fourth rings, putting him on the level with legends Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. It’s also his sixth start in the big game – the most by any QB.

If the Seahawks take it, they’ll be the first repeat champion since the Patriots did it 10 years ago. A feat that’s nearly impossible in the salary-cap era.

That’s what’s at stake on Sunday in Arizona.

One of the big talking points going around is how New England is going to be fired up for this game and in FU mode after feeling slighted by Deflate-gate. I’ve got news for you: If you need any reason other than “It’s the Super Bowl” to be fired up for the big game, there’s something wrong with your competitive spirit.

If anything, this only caused a distraction for the coaching staff preparing for this monumental task.

While the Seahawks did have it easy down the stretch and weren’t great in their two playoff games, this is a team that knows how to win – even if it takes some luck like what happened against Green Bay.

Their defence is punishing and will be able to pressure Brady and press the receivers, taking away his favourite short passing routes.

With a hard-hitting safety like Kam Chancellor and a corps of versatile linebackers, Seattle will have a shot at both limiting Rob Gronkowski’s impact and stifling the running game.

On offence, Seattle is going to need Russell Wilson to be a lot better than he was against Green Bay – but frankly, he can’t get much worse.

His receivers are going to be in tough against Darrelle Revis and the Pats secondarry and will have a tough time finding open space. Wilson is going to have to buy time with his legs and make up a lot of those yards himself.

Both the read-option game with Wilson and the power rushing game with Marshawn Lynch are going to be key. If the Seahawks can routinely pick up some nice chunks on the ground against the Pats front seven, it could be an easy road to success.

And that is where Seattle’s big advantage lies. New England hasn’t been good against the run -  especially teams that use a zone-blocking scheme. Baltimore’s Justin Forsett had a big day on the ground two weeks ago, Indy wasn’t terrible on the ground and even the Jets’ Chris Ivory looked like a stud against the Pats earlier this season. It should be Belichick’s biggest concern heading in.

This should also be a game of quarters, with the first and third played evenly, but the second and fourth being the keys. New England owns the second quarter while there’s nobody better in the final frame than Seattle.

The way that I see this game playing out is the Seahawks scoring first, the Patriots coming back in the second to take a lead into halftime, build on that in the third and then the Seahawks will trump New England on the late field goal.

Of course, this would go against my little heartbreaker theory – in which the team that was the benefactor of a tough loss the round before, loses the next game – but I don’t think that karma carries over for two weeks.

The pick: Seattle 26, New England 24

The MVP: Russell Wilson.

Playoffs: 5-5

This season: 141-111-4

The stupidity of DeflateGate

- January 23rd, 2015

We’ve seen a lot of scandals in the NFL this year, but none compare to how stupid this one that we’re dealing with right now is.

To say that DeflateGate, or DeflateGhazi if you prefer, is stupid is not doing it justice.

The fact that so many people are getting up in arms over the fact that New England deflated some game balls by two PSI is quite frankly ridiculous.

ESPN’s Sports Science did a very good job of looking at the effect of deflating the balls as such and the difference was marginal at best. In fact, it might have even made the balls harder to throw for Tom Brady.

Now, don’t get me wrong – what the Patriots did was cheating and they should be punished. I just don’t think that we should be caring as much as we do.

But to say that the Patriots should lose their first-round pick and that Bill Belichick should be suspended for the 2015 season – as Stephen A. Smith suggested on ESPN’s First Take this week – well that’s just nutty.

New England should be fined a large amount, take away a mid-round pick and, after the investigation, suspended whoever was involved in this mess for four games. Sounds fair, right?

It was cheating, but how much did it really affect the game against Indy?

Brady wasn’t the reason why the Colts were crushed. He actually had one of his poorest games of the season. It was LeGarrette Blount running the ball for 148 yards and three TDs, which wouldn’t have been affected at all.

The Patriots defence clamped down on Andrew Luck too, which wouldn’t have changed if the Pats offence played with deflated balls – obviously.

In fact, if you gave the Colts three points for every deflated ball used, Indy still loses that game by five points. Crazy, eh?

The press conferences aren’t helping have anybody take this situation any more seriously either.

With Belichick and Brady both passing blame and trying to distance themselves from this whole thing, it only really makes them look more guilty. And to put the blame on the ball boys is also pretty shady; as if some minimum-wage worker would alter game balls during the biggest game of the season is simply ridiculous.

And to say that the cold weather made the balls lose air pressure: Then was the 12th ball super-inflated?

The best part of these press conferences is the quotes that come out of them.

When you have a super-serious guy like Belichick or a pretty boy like Brady talking about balls for any length of time, you have to get at least a chuckle out of it.

While the NFL is diving into a huge investigation over this seemingly trivial broken rule, don’t expect anything soon. You also can’t forget who the man at the helm of this investigation is: Roger Goodell.

You have to wonder if the commissioner is milking this minor scandal to take attention away from how bad of a season he has had.

After seeing how poorly he handled the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson situations, you can’t help but think he’ll botch this as well.

Last week: 1-1

This playoffs: 5-5

This season: 141-111-4

Who’s the worst QB left? + Championship picks

- January 17th, 2015

Probably the biggest piece of evidence that the NFL is a league ruled by passers is that of the final four teams remaining, each has a superstar quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson are all among the elite pivots in the league and all likely to be among your top-5 list if you were drawing one up.

Really, who would you even consider the weakest of that quartet?

Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and is poised to be named the MVP of the 2014 season.

Brady is a future hall of famer who caught fire after a rough start to the season. He also has more playoff wins than any QB.

Wilson won the Super Bowl last year and has been lights out down the stretch. He’s more of a weapon running the ball, but that just makes him all the more dangerous overall.

All that Luck did was lead the league in touchdowns and would’ve led in yards if he wasn’t rested late in the season.

If I had to choose, I’d say the order would be Rodgers-Luck-Brady-Wilson – which makes the funniest thing about that the bottom two guys are both favoured this week and will probably be facing off in the Super Bowl.

But the real message here is that the days of getting to the Super Bowl with Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer are over. If you don’t have an elite quarterback, you’re playing with one arm tied behind your back.

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

SEATTLE -7.5 over Green Bay

Against a team with an average defence and a struggling pass rush, Rodgers is going to have a good game. Against one of the best defences of all time that will pressure him and force Rodgers to move on his ailing calf, he’s going to struggle. This Seahawks team beat up on the Pack on opening day and I don’t think that Mike McCarthy is a good enough of a coach to come up with a better gameplan this time around. Green Bay didn’t do a good job of stopping DeMarco Murray last week and will have an equally tough time with Marshawn Lynch this week.

NEW ENGLAND -6.5 over Indianapolis

Every time that Luck has played the Pats, the game has ended in a rout. What are the odds that changes? The Colts running game is a travesty, with Dan (Boom) Herron leading a rather ineffective attack. It has gotten so bad for Trent Richardson that he was deactivated for last week’s game. While Luck can put this offence on his back, it won’t be enough against a team keying solely on him. The Pats won’t need their tricks to win this week and can actually use their running game – which was non-existent against Baltimore – to great advantage this week. After all, Jonas Gray did have his monster game against the Colts earlier this season.

The Cowboys deserved to beat Detroit

- January 10th, 2015

Let’s talk about the refs in the Cowboys-Lions game.

They were terrible. But while everyone is concentrating on the picked up flag for pass interference, there was a lot more to it than that.

Several calls weren’t made for both teams, with some holds missed on the Cowboys in the fourth quarter and the league even calling Dallas to tell them that the refs missed a whopping eight calls against the Lions earlier in the game.

It was a disaster all around.

But you can’t say that the Lions would have won the game if not for that single picked-up flag.

On that play, there were several fouls.

-Brandon Pettigrew facemasked Anthony Hitchens for several yards to get separation. That’s either a facemask of offensive PI.

-Hitchens held on Pettigrew’s jersey while being facemasked, which is a bit understandable considering he probably didn’t want to be dragged by his neck downfield.

-Hitchens made some contact with Pettigrew while the ball was in the air, which could’ve been called pass interference.

Hitchens was face-guarding Pettigrew on the pass, which actually isn’t a penalty.

-Dez Bryant came on the field without his helmet on, which should’ve been 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

What would that all add up to? A replay of third down if everything was called.

And when you recall this occurred with more than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, you can’t say that it was game over for Detroit after this.

Coach Jim Caldwell could’ve went for it on fourth-and-one – and probably made it. That could’ve won Detroit the game.

The Lions could’ve also used some better playcalling than just using short passes on their final drive.

The moral of the story is that if your offence can only put up six points in the final three quarters against an average defence, you don’t deserve to win.

And if you want to give anyone grief about picked up flags, Detroit fans, just remember that the league picked up its figurative flag and let Ndamukong Suh play in a game after being suspended for stepping on Aaron Rodgers’ ankle. Saying that your feet were cold is no excuse for attempting to injure anybody.

As for the division round picks, the lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPs.

NEW ENGLAND -7 over Baltimore

Many will bring up that the Ravens have an outstanding playoff record, especially against the Patriots. I’ll bring up that they’ve never faced the Pats in the playoffs with Rob Gronkowski at 100%. While Baltimore will be fired up for this game, don’t you think that the Pats will be as well? This could be a close one, but with Bill Belichick fully prepared to defend the Ravens deep passing games – and the PI calls that come with it – New England should advance to the AFC final.

SEATTLE -10.5 over Carolina

The Panthers have secretly been one of the hottest teams in football for the past month and a bit. It’s a shame that the Seahawks have been even hotter for even longer. While the Cats also play the Hawks very tight and this should be a very defensive game, those past two matchups took place in Carolina. A visit to the Pacific Northwest will be much different.

GREEN BAY -6 over Dallas

As I said up top, the Cowboys may have deserved to beat the Lions, but that game really could have gone either way. Against an offence as good as the Packers, Dallas may not stand a chance. While the Boys are undefeated on the road, the Pack are undefeated at Lambeau, which carries a bit more weight in my mind. Whenever a warm-weather or dome team is forced to play in negative temperatures, you can expect them to be a little bit of uncomfortable. Granted, Aaron Rodgers is hobbled by a tear in his calf and a strain, but considering the Cowboys’ pass rush isn’t anything special, he may not have to move to make plays.

DENVER over -7 over Indianapolis

This seems to be the one upset that everyone is going with, which is why it’s most likely the Broncos pull it out. Peyton Manning hasn’t looked right the past few games, but now he has had a week off to sort out what ails him. The Colts, quite simply, aren’t that good of a team. Their running game isn’t that good with Boom Herron leading the way and if Aqib Talib can limit T.Y. Hilton’s impact, Indy could be in real trouble. C.J. Anderson’s emergence gives the Broncos a great option in the running game and should be the difference against Indy.

Last week: 3-1

Playoffs: 3-1

Season: 141-111-4

It’s wild-card weekend!

- January 3rd, 2015

Welcome to the playoffs!

While it’s sad to see the NFL regular season go, we’re in for an intense 11 games of playoff football over the next month.

There are a lot of fans that have seen their teams sent home and won’t have anything at stake, but it’s not like we want a longer regular season, right?

When you consider a team like Arizona is now down to its third-string QB and was seriously considering starting a fourth-stringer just to try him out last week, well that tells you about the never-ending injury situation in the league.

But enough about the dark side of the game; we’re here to celebrate the greatness that is post-season football. On to the picks!

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

CAROLINA -6 over Arizona

The Panthers have found their way in their secondary and became a really good team in December. They’re really coming together when it matters most, which makes them a very scary opponent.

On the other side completely is the Arizona Cardinals. This is a team that started out strong before being decimated by injuries. They failed to score a TD in two out of their last three games and haven’t looked right since Carson Palmer got hurt.

This should be a low-scoring game, which makes taking the points a little enticing, but just can’t make Ryan Lindley on the road in a huge game.

PITTSBURGH -3 over Baltimore

This classic rivalry game was the easy pick for the Saturday nighter.

While the Steelers torched the Ravens in the previous meeting, they’ll be without top running back Le’Veon Bell. That could make a big difference, but then you remember how great Antonio Brown has been for the past two years.

With Big Ben targeting Brown against an awful Ravens secondary, it might not matter that Bell is out.

The Ravens have potential to burn the Steelers, too. Pittsburgh is also quite vulnerable in the secondary and can be beaten deep. I’m not sure even the return of Troy Polomalu will help with his free-wheeling ways. This one could be a stark contrast to the defensive mindsets of both sides, with plenty of yards piled up on both sides.

The hosts should take this one though, even though it’s always most likely that either side wins by three.

Cincinnati +3.5 over INDIANAPOLIS

This rematch definitely won’t go the same way as the first.

The Colts won’t have Ahmad Bradshaw, who was a huge part of Indy’s offence when these two teams first met.

With T.Y. Hilton not at 100%, the Colts passing game isn’t the same. This is a team that backed into the playoffs too, taking it easy down the stretch.

The Bengals were fighting to the end and even saw Andy Dalton win a game in prime time.

After three straight years of home playoff defeats, this could be the first time that Cincy actually advances.

Remember, the Colts didn’t do so well when facing equal or better teams this season, earning them the moniker of the “good bad team.”

But, if A.J. Green is ruled out for this game, I’ll fully reverse this pick.

Detroit +6.5 over DALLAS

So who will choke this one away?

Both teams have a propensity to let big games slip away, although that might be an overblown storyline in this one.

What really matters is that Detroit’s defence with the unsuspended Ndamukong Suh is really good at stopping the run and could put a big damper on the Cowboys offence. If the Lions can also take away Dez Bryant with a double-team, it might not matter if Matthew Stafford misses his targets.

Dalllas’ defence is also nothing to write home about and could be exposed by the likes of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

And when you remember that the Cowboys are worse at home than on the road, this might not end so well for Dallas.

Last week: 11-5

This season: 141-111-4