Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eagles in the Playoffs?!? What Now?

I've got to admit it, the Eagles making the playoffs is something that after last week I didn't think all that possible. Since week 1, the talent on this team has been undeniably good but the execution was consistently...sporadic. For a few weeks, they're the cream of the crop. A few later and they look like a team deserving of the number one draft pick. First half you'd think the Eagles were a semi-pro team, but in the second half the team is a unstoppable force. McNabb and Reid go from goats and idiots to stars and geniuses and back on a weekly basis, no more like on a drive to drive basis.

Last night against the Cowboys, the Eagles cemented their playoff berth (albeit with considerable help even before the game) with a flat-out dominant shellacking of their immensely talented, but tormented division rival. The offense was solid, McNabb, Westbrook, and Buckhalter were all good and the offensive line did a great job holding back an accomplished Dallas defense, especially Tra (William?) Thomas who shutdown probowler and sack artist DeMarcus Ware.

The obvious stars of the game were the Eagles defense. This unit has been great all season and only getting better and better as the season has moved forward. The Eagles have allowed the league's third lowest yards per game and are fourth lowest in points per game. In the second half of the season the defense has allowed 20 or more points only twice. Once in a loss to the Giants and once in a blowout win over the Cardinals. Dawkins is back and playing great and Stewart Bradley is emerging as a terrific linebacker for this defense.

However, this isn't a team without its flaws. Let's be honest, this is a 9-6-1 team that tied the Bengals for god sake. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Eagles pummeled everyone in their path and won the Super Bowl. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Eagles got romped in Minnesota this coming weekend. This team is entirely bipolar, anything is possible from here on out. And just as I stated a few weeks ago, it all depends on two things: Andy's playcalling and Donovan's decision-making and accuracy. The team won nine games based on the success of these two things and lost 6 (well 7 with that tie) because of the failures of these two things. The defense has been nothing short of fantastic all season, so that's not the inconsistency issue and Westbrook hasn't been healthy all season so that's not it either. Andy and Donovan are the variables so let's tackle them separately, the Eagles' playoff fate depends on them:


Most of this season was spent throwing the football, over and over again. The Eagles passed at a 60 percent clip, but it felt more like 80 percent and as the losses piled up near the middle of the season it felt like 100 percent. Last week in a loss to the Redskins the pass/run ratio was 50:14. Now if this was a blowout that would make sense, but in a 10-3 game it seems downright foolish. The Eagles have shown time and time again (with the exception of the Browns game) that we are no longer a team than can air it out 40 times and win. Reid needs to give Westbrook and Buckhalter consistent touches if the Eagles expect to do damage in this year's playoffs. Also, as I posted about earlier this month, the Eagles short-yardage struggles with be only magnified in the playoffs if Reid can't find a solid answer to get one, or two, yards consistently. The sneak worked Sunday, and it should be a focal point in the offense once again.

It's simple, when McNabb is accurate and makes good decisions, the Eagles win. McNabb doesn't have to be spectacular anymore because he has an accomplished defense behind him. McNabb has become a game manager and if he embraces the role, he will be a fantastic one. He's no longer a running quarterback but he needs to use his leagues to keep defenses off balance. If Donovan is required to put the team on his back, the Eagles are in big trouble, they've showed that many times this season.

My last Eagles concern is about both of those two. The Eagles must have the worst two-minute drill in football. Whether it is at the end of the half or the end of the game, the offense always seems out of sorts and unprepared. This is the playoffs and I'm betting that we're going to need the big drive atleast once before it's over.

Sunday will be the first team and I'm optimistic that the Eagles are good enough to make something out of this year and go deep in the playoffs, but we'll see how it goes.

Original 6 Showdown in Chi Town

On January 1, 2009 the Detroit Red Wings will head to Chicago and play the Blackhawks in the second outdoor game. Last year the Penguins won against the Buffalo Sabres in a game which fans loved.

If you're not into the NHL please give this game a shot. It will not disappoint. I would rather watch this game then one of the BCS bowl games.

The Red Wings are one of the best teams in the league and are extremely exciting to watch. The Blackhawks are one of the hottest teams in the league and youngsters Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews are some of the most talented players around.

This game is also interesting because it is taking place in such a historic place, Wrigley Field. Outdoor games are great for the game and I hope to see more of them in the future, hopefully one in the New York area so I can try to make it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

NFL Playoffs

How is the world did the Philadelphia Eagles make the playoffs? How in the world did the Miami Dolphins win the AFC East? How in the world did the Denver Broncos lose a 3 game lead with 3 games left over the San Diego Chargers AND LOSE THE DIVISION!?

The wacky world of the NFL had some crazy playoff scenarios for week 17, and some how, some way, they all came true for the team that was not supposed to win!

Let me start by expressing my frustration being a Chicago Bears fan. With a win in week 17 and a loss by the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears would have won the NFC North. However, they could not take care of business. Kyle Orton is a great quarterback for the Bears, however, that defense did not live up to expectations this year. I am blaming that loss to the Houston Texans on the defense. However, I hope the Vikings lose next week to a deadly Eagles team who can make a run in the playoffs.

Speaking about the Eagles, I give them a lot of credit for what they accomplished this season. Ever since Donovan McNabb claimed to never know there were ties in the NFL, and being benched as been on a tear. And with a tiny tiny bit of help, BAM! they are in the playoffs after thrashing the Dallas Cowboys, who were supposed to be the beasts of the NFL this season, and did not live up to hype (Stay tuned to another episode of a Cowboys soap opera coming soon).

Now the Miami Dolphins. Once 1-15 just a year ago, Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano have changed that program around and have tied for the biggest turnaround in NFL history winning 10 games more than the previous year (+10). Last Season, they were not a bad team, they were a team that were in need of a coach, and good management. With Parcells calling the shots in the organization, and Sparano on the sidelines, they were able to make that historic turnaround, and win the AFC East after 8 years.

I don't even know where to begin with the AFC West. How does a team with 3 games left and a 3 game lead blow their season? I think only the Denver Broncos can answer that. Now i know when i am writing this the game is not over (there is currently 9 minutes left and the Chargers are winning 44-21). But how does a team let that happen? The Chargers were helping the Broncos win the division by loosing their games, but not when it matters. I'm going to go out of my way and say the Chargers are going to win the division, but i don't see them getting passed the Colts next week.

My Superbowl Prediction:
Colts over the Giants: 31-24

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Mike D' Antoni Era Has Begun

So far new head coach of the New York Knicks, Mike D'Antoni, has been making huge strides. Although the Knicks are currently 11-17, they have shown that they are improving in a lot of areas of their game. The attitude of the team has changed drastically and it's nice to not see terrible coaches like Isiah Thomas or Don Chaney. This is the first legit coach that they have had since Jeff Van Gundy ( Sorry Larry Brown, but you weren't fit for NY). So how is D'Antoni doing it? Lets take a closer look at the roster to find out.

They have brought in new players like Al Harrington, Tim Thomas, and Chris Duhon to run the "7 seconds or less" offense. Harrington is averaging 22 ppg since coming over from Golden State in a trade. Tim Thomas returned to the Garden in another trade and has played well off the bench. Chris Duhon, who was recommended by Coach K while him and D'Antoni coached the USA Olympic team together, has been playing almost 40 minutes per game and averages over 8 assists per game. But the player who has taken his game to a whole different level is Center David Lee. Lee is averaging a double-double (14 ppg, 10 rpg) and is benefiting from this new offense. He is undersized at 6'9 but works hard and gets the job done night in and night out. The team is scoring over 100 ppg and are an exciting team to watch.

Also factoring in the rebuilding process is the benching of Stephon Marbury. Marbury is such a distraction to the team and seems to be only concerned about himself. I give D'Antoni a lot of credit for not playing his highest paid player because he wants things done his way.

The Knicks have a lot to look forward to as they will be ready to land some huge free agents in the summer of 2010 (hopefully LeBron). Keep an eye on the Knicks because although their record might not show it, they have made tremendous improvements and are going to continue to get better.

NBA's Best Alley-Oop Combo?

At the bottom of the Friday Bullets over at Truehoop, I followed the link over to Dime Magazine's website who posed the ever-important question, which tandem of teammates is the NBA's best alley-oop combo? Here are the candidates the give:
  • Mike Bibby to Josh Smith

  • Rajon Rondo to Kevin Garnett

  • Ray Felton to Gerald Wallace

  • Mo Williams to LeBron James

  • Derek Fisher to Kobe Bryant

  • Jameer Nelson to Dwight Howard

  • Andre Miller to Andre Iguodala

  • Steve Nash to Amare Stoudemire

  • Sergio Rodriguez to Rudy Fernandez

  • Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler

  • Deron Williams to Ronnie Brewer

The way I see it Paul to Chandler is the most consistent alley-oop combo out there. They aren't the flashiest but Paul probably throws the best alley and Chandler is always looking for the oop. As far as highlight reels go, anything involving LeBron or Amare has got to be up there. Also, Sergio and Rudy usually team up for some nasty oops but lets be honest, Rudy just can't do things like the LeBrons, Kobes, and Amares. I think Kobe is the best in-game dunker in the NBA but he doesn't alley-oop all that much. Iguodala is athletically good enough to be one of the top guys, but I don't think he has the game-sense to consistently put himself in the right places on the court to get the oops. That's just my thoughts, what do you think?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What about Pettitte?

Now that the New York Yankees have signed 3 players this offseaon with combined contracts equaling near $424 million, do they have money to sign another vetran in Andy Pettitte? Pettitte has been considering $10 million offer from the Yankees for a while now, believing he deserves a salary closer to the $16 million he made last season. But unless the Yankees are able to trade one of their extra hitters, there may be no room for Pettitte, the Journal News said.

Signing Mark Teixeira and fellow free agents Damaso Marte, A.J. Burnett, and CC Sabathia will add roughly $65 million to the payroll in 2009. That would be about $20 million less than the Yankees have coming off from 2008 and they would like it to stay that way.

The Los Angeles Dodgers may be interested in Pettette however. This is not surprising to me because of Pettitte's relationship with former Yankees manager Joe Torre. Pettitte may sign a multi-year contract with the Dodgers for maybe what he was looking for Yankees. Don't be surprised if this goes through.

In other Yankee news, former Red Sox catcher Kevin cash signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. The Yankees did not announce any signing, but the newspaper said the team came to terms with Cash on a minor league deal that will pay him $700,000 if he plays in the majors.

He will be insurance for Jorge Posada if he does not recover from shoulder surgery fast enough. Another Red Sox player coming to the Yankees...

Random Sports Thoughts

There's a lot of little things that I want to talk about so instead of blogging a few sentences on a couple different post, I'm just going to put them all in one. This has been a busy time in sports with baseball's hot stove, an NBA team on its way to being the best ever, and many teams fighting to get into the NFL playoffs.

The first thing I want to talk about is Jim Rome. I never really thought about if I were a fan or not until a few months ago when I caught his show almost everyday. Yes, this guy can say some strange things that make a viewer ponder, but he is entertaining to watch. His insults and subliminals are hilarious and he does bring up some interesting arguments. Besides who hasn't seen him pick a fight on his show with Jim Everett. Some people think that it was staged but even if it was, that's pretty cool. Here it is if you don't know what I'm talking about.

My next topic is the Boston Red Sox. What the hell are they doing up there? Their biggest rivals land the 2 biggest free agent pitchers and steal Mark Teixeira away from them. The only other big name out there is Manny and he obviously isn't coming back. They could sign somebody like Adam Dunn, but that isn't going to make the team that much better, even though Dunn hits bombs. Banking on an old player like Mike Lowell and a declining David Ortiz is not a smart decision. The Yankees offered Teixeira $180 million as opposed to Boston's $168 million. How about they stop being so cheap and dish out the extra $12 million for a player you desperately need. With the Yankees greatly improving and the Rays showing they are a legit contender, I expect Boston to miss out on the playoffs and finish 3rd in the AL East.

Donovan McNabb says that he wants a new contract from the Eagles after the season. Is he serious? Why would he want to stay on a team where the fans are losing faith in him, where he got benched in the middle of such an embarrassing season, where the team has missed the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years?(When the Eagles last made the playoffs McNabb wasn't even the QB) I'm not sure if he was just saying that because he wants to please Philly, but there is no way that this guys wants to stay there, or should stay there. If the Eagles don't can this guy after the season they are morons. So Eagles fans, sorry to diss your QB who you have pretended to like all these years. After all, he did win 0 championships.

How awesome would it be if Manny came to the Yanks. He could do what Marion Hossa did in the NHL. Hossa was the biggest free agent last year. He took a paycut, signed a 1 year deal with the Red Wings. Now he gets his 8 million and has an incredible chance of winning a Stanley Cup and then weill get his big contract next season. Manny, how does 1 year $10 million sound? Believe it or not, the Yankees can sign Manny and still have a lower payroll than last year!

A few other quick things....

The Celtics are nasty but I hope they don't break Jordan and company's 1996 record of 72-10.

My Super Bowl prediction: Steelers 21 Panthers 17.

I hope Tebow stays at Florida one more year, he's great for the college game.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mustaches are Cool! Go 49ers!

As reported by ESPN, the 49ers team is growing out their best facial hair and mustaches for this week's game against the Redskins. My thoughts: I love it. Facial hair can be funny and cool when used in cool ways like this and i think athletes should do stupid stuff like this all the time. Everybody is always so busy taking themselves seriously and fun stuff like this isn't very common. This has got to be doing wonders for their karma, so you know I'll be betting the Niners and taking the points this weekend!

Other notable sports mustaches:

Jason Giambi -- What a mustache! I really don't like the Giambino but he grew out a classic 'stache.

The Mustache Gang -- Back in the 70's, Oakland Athletics owner Charles O. Finley gave $300 bonuses to every player who grew out facial hair for the season and it caught on leading to 3 consecutive World Series titles ('72, '73, '74). Rightfully so. Rollie Fingers was the star of the Mustache Gang but that mustache you should vividly remember.

Sal Fasano -- Sal's handlebar 'stache is the stuff of legend. He is a terrific clubhouse guy and frankly, I'm not surprised. I would definitely get along with somebody with fantastic facial hair like that. In fact, I'm wildly jealous. I can barely grow a mustache, but that's a post for another day.

Teixeira to the Yankees

The Yankees landed yet another superstar this off season. They signed First Basemen Mark Teixeira to an 8 year $170 million contract. It was believed that the Yankees were out of the running for him and that he was likely going to sign with Boston or Washington.

For the Yankees and their fans, the past few weeks have been incredible. They sign the best 3 free agents, 2 of them are pitchers, and the other one of the best all around players in the game. I can't wait to see Tex in pinstripes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Nicknames in Sports

Recently I have been doing some thinking and trying to come up with the best nicknames in sports. There are a few really sweet ones that I know so here they are. I know I'm going to be missing some, but let me know which other ones deserve to be on the list.

Derek Boogaard AKA "The Boogey Man" is arguably the NHL's best fighter. His job is to just go out there and pound whoever he sees. I respect Boogaard because he doesn't back down from anyone and fights a lot of other heavyweights throughout the league. This wouldn't be as good of a nickname if he wasn't a fighter, but since he is, it's great.

Shane Victorino AKA "The Flyin Hawaiian". Nobody on this planet hates Victorino more than me but he has an awesome name. It's not to often you see Hawaiian baseball players. The only one I can remember is Benny Agbayani and he could never pull off a sweet nickname like that.

Rich Garces AKA "El Guapo". I realize that he is no longer playing, but El Guapo means "the handsome one" and by no means did this fit his description. The Boston Red Sox reliever who was almost 300 pounds will never be forgotten.

Eric Mangini AKA"Mangenius". This just makes me laugh every time I hear this. By no means is this guy a genius, yet he goes about himself like he is.

Gilbert Arenas AKA "Agent 0" AKA "Hibachi". Arenas has said some things in the past that make me shake my head, but the guy has two solid nicknames. Not only that, but when this guy is healthy he can put up points in a hurry.

Jerome Bettis AKA "The Bus". Another retired athlete, I couldn't keep him off this list. This is a guy who definitely lives up to his nickname as he ran through defenders his whole career.

Other Notables:
HP Pavilion at San Jose- Home of the San Jose Sharks. AKA "The Shark Tank"
Mellon Arena- Home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. AKA "The Igloo"
Chris Paul-CP3
Kevin Garnett- The Big Ticket
Felix Hernandez- King Felix

Look Who is Coming to New York

A few weeks ago, I made the prediction that the Miami Dolphins will go into the last game of the season with a chance for a division title against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands. At the time, the Dolphins had an easy road, but still needed to execute. Well here they are, winners of 8 out of their last 9 and one of the hottest teams in football.

This game is definitely something to watch next Sunday. There are so many unbelievable stories about this game. Miami QB Chad Pennington has a shot to go back to New York, against the team that dumped him after last season, and take his surging Dolphins to the playoffs. There is no doubt about it, Pennington wants to win this game more than any other game he has ever played in his career.

On the flip side, the Jets organization can look like total idiots if they lose. They gave up draft picks to acquire Brett Favre. There is a chance that this could be the worst move the Jets have ever made. Imagine if the Jets get beat, don't make the playoffs, and Favre retires after the season? Then they would have given up a ton just to go 10-6 and have Favre on their team. What an embarrassment this would be to them. They better hope they can pull this out.

Another great story is the Miami season itself. A team who struggled to win 1 game a year ago and gave up their best player (Jason Taylor) is on the verge of a 10 game turnaround and stealing the division. Even if they don't win next week, it is arguably the best turnaround of any NFL franchise ever.

I am neither a Dolphins or a Jets fan and this game is extremely interesting to me. My prediction is that the fish pull off a 23-20 win. Not only are they one of the hottest teams but the Jets are so inconsistent, I don't have faith in them showing up. Especially after an embarrassing loss in Seattle. So although many teams are going to be fighting for a playoff spot next week, make sure you keep an eye on this one, it's sure to be an amazing game.

NCAA Hidden Gems

In men's college basketball today, there are superstars waiting to go to the next level, and there are those that know who not many know about that know how to help their team win. Everyone knows about Oklahoma's Blake Griffen, and his monster numbers both in points and rebounding that he puts up on a nightly basis. Then there is Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet who dominates on the the defensive end of the court with his shot blocking and rebounding ability. Another common household name is Stephen Curry, sharp shooter who plays for Davidson. Curry can shoot for anywhere on the court, and whenever he has an open look, do not expect anything but a made basket. However, there are those names that you have probably never heard of, and if so, only because of a Sports center highlight.

Here are some players you should keep an eye out for during this year's college basketball season as conference play gets under way in a few weeks:

Trevor Booker-Clemson:
Booker is a 6-7 forward who is averaging about 15 points and 9 boards a game. He can get it done inside and outside with a good medium range jumper. Booker helps lead the Tigers to a 10-0 start and into the rankings. Look for Booker to have a strong year, and into the tournament with a solid performance.

Jeff Pendergraph-Arizona State:
We all know about James Harden and his abilities over there at ASU, but the Sun Devils would be no where near where they are with out his contributions. Pendergraph is averaging 12 points 7 boards, but has had break out games this season of 23 and 22. Pendergraph is Hardens wing man who is second on the team in scoring but is the team's leading rebounder. The Sun Devils are currently ranked #20.

Durrell Summers-Michigan State:
Summers, a freshman guard helped carry the Spartans to a huge win over Texas on Saturday with a big 3 pointer with under a minute to go. Summers is one of the best role players in the nation, and knows how to knock down the big shot. He will surely be Tom Izzo's go to guy as he progresses in his collegiate career.

Dante Cunningham-Villanova:
Cunningham is Villanova's best player this year. He has been injured all his career at Nova, but this year he has been healthy. When Cunningham has been healthy, he has shown his talent. Leading the team in points (16.7) a game and rebounds (7.6) he has taken pressure off of guard Scottie Reynolds, an All-American calibre point guard. Look for Cunningham to have a solid year.

Al-Faroug Aminu-Wake Forest:
Aminu is a 6'9" freshman who has the ability to dominate games. He is said to be NBA ready. He can put up a double double every night and uses his length to dominate on the defensive end. His scoring ability is natural, and has soft hands around the basket. Look for Aminu to be a high draft pick in next June's draft.

Other Hidden Gems:
Derrick Brown-Xavier
Jeremy Pargo-Gonzaga
Jrue Holiday-UCLA
Cameron Tatum-Tennessee
Manny Harris-Michigan

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Steelers Defense Dominant

Listening to the radio today, I heard a stat about the Pittsburgh Steelers defense that only furthers my feeling that the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl. It is easy to see that their defense is fantastic but check out this statistic:

In the last 6 weeks, the opposing teams have been called for ZERO holding penalties against the Steelers defense.

If you watched the Steelers/Ravens slugfest last week, you saw the holding all over the field. I don't know why their hasn't been any called, but nonetheless it's only even more impressive. The Steelers defense has been terrific and Ben Roethlisberger only needs to manage the game for the team to get the win every week.

The Steelers have played a murderer's row of teams this year, especially recently. The Steelers play the NFC East and the AFC South. But they're at the end of a tough stretch where they won at New England, beat Dallas, and won at Baltimore and now they play at Tennessee. They're currently 11-3 and getting impressive win after win. They're going to be grueling in the playoffs because there's a good chance that all roads lead through them.

James Harrison is making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year with almost 100 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles! Also Troy Polamalu has been tremendous, as usual. If they can get healthy, they should be the favorite to represent the AFC in the big game.

Danny Granger Deserves Better, Show Him Some Respect

Lost somewhere in Indiana is a fantastic basketball player who doesn't get nearly the hype or notariety that he deserves. Danny Granger has been a stud this season but you would never know that. Other than his highlights from when the Pacers knocked off the Lakers, the only Danny Granger you see is his ridiculous game by game stats rolling on the ESPN Bottomline. And even in that game, most people only saw the game winner by teammate Troy Murphy.
Granger was a solid player immediately after he was draft 17th overall out of the University of New Mexico and has progressed exponentially ever since. I know, he's not LeBron or Kobe or Chris Paul, but he's immensly talented and it is being wasted in Indiana where competitive basketball goes to die.

The Pacers know what they've got and gave him a big extension after last season and are building the team around his abilities. Their personnel moves are moving in the right direction by getting rid of Jermaine O'Neil and removing Jamal Tinsley from the roster, but they're still a loooong way away from being relevant. Indiana is yet to reach double-digit wins and is last in their division with little to no hope of a playoff berth.

This season, Granger is averaging 24.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.2 APG up until this point and that includes him being the other player on the team worth worrying about. Granger is 30th in the NBA in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and is a lights-out shooter from behind the arc. Should Indiana find anybody worthwhile to play along side him, Granger is going to be a star for years to come. Until that time, he is going to be living his life in obscurity while lesser players get all the publicity for being in bigger cities on better teams.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hansbrough Is King At U.N.C.

Thursday night, North Carolina University's All American forward Tyler Hansbrough set the all time scoring record against Evansville in a 91-73 win. Hansbrough scored 20 points Thursday night to break the storied program's career scoring record and helped the Tar Heels remain unbeaten.

Last year's national player of the year went 7-for-14 from the field and had nine rebounds for North Carolina (10-0). Hansbrough passed Phil Ford for the record midway through the first half. Ford, now an assistant coach with the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, finished his career in 1978 with 2,290 points.

Hansbrough, who needed nine points coming in, broke Ford's record early in the first half. As soon as the record-setting shot went through the net, officials briefly stopped the game to allow Ford, coach Roy Williams and athletics director Dick Baddour to present Hansbrough with the game ball.

After the game, the school showed a brief video montage of Hansbrough's career highlights that included congratulations from several former players. Hansbrough then briefly addressed the crowd, something he admitted Wednesday would probably make him nervous.

"I never dreamed I'd be here and be the all-time leading scorer," Hansbrough said as he stood alone at mid court. "This is a great honor to be here and to represent you guys every night in this uniform."

Being a Duke Blue Devils fan, i naturally dislike Hansbrough. However, a player of his calibre can not be overlooked. He is a grind-it-out player who out works every player on the other team every game. He works hard for his points, rebounds, and his position on the court. This is a great accomplishment for anyone to achieve. I commend Hansbrough for his accomplishments and everything he has done. He is one of the hardest working players I have ever seen, and I do not think anyone can disagree with me on that one.

Pro Bowl Snubs

There are three things in the sports world that I can't tolerate: the BCS, Philadelphia, and fan voting. The concept is an absolute joke, and it has caused me to lose interest in the pro bowl. I haven't even watched the game in over 5 years , because the game is not only boring, its also unfair. The best players should make the pro bowl, and thats something that just doesn't happen anymore. Here are the biggest pro bowl snubs in my opinion:

Phillip Rivers
Rivers leads the league in passer rating (101.4) and TDs (28), and he ranks 5th in passing yards (3,515). The only knock on Rivers is that he plays for an underachieving Chargers team, but he is absolutely deserving of the pro bowl.

Barrett Ruud
I don't care if you accuse me of Buccaneer bias, Ruud was snubbed for the second year in a row. I love Derrick Brooks, but Ruud is the best linebacker in Tampa. He ranks 6th in the league in tackles (116) to go along with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. Ruud is the anchor of a solid defense, and its a shame he won't make it to Hawaii.

London Fletcher
Fletcher is leading tackler of the decade, and believe or it not he is never been to a pro bowl. He ranks 5th in the NFL this year in tackles (118), and he released his frustrations this week when he delievered this gem:

"I don't know if it was because I wasn't a first-round draft pick, I don't do some kind of dance when I make a 10-yard tackle, I don't go out and get arrested. I believe in playing the game the way it's supposed to be played. You line up each and every week, each and every play and you go out and get the job done. You look at my body of work and I've done that for 11 years."

Fletcher has been an alternate to the pro bowl 8 times, and its time that he gets the recognition he deserves.

DeAngelo Williams
1,229 yards and 14 touchdowns while splitting time? The numbers speak for themselves. The guy is averaging 5.5 yards a carry for crying out loud. It's a crime that hes not in the pro bowl. Although to be fair, the NFC running back class is strong.

Other notable snubs:
D'Qwell Jackson
Tony Romo
Antonio Bryant
Calvin Johnson
Trent Cole
Aaron Kampman
Erik Coleman

Yankees Fix Numbers to Cheat Taxes on Stadium

As covered on Shysterball earlier today, emails were leaked that revealed that politicians asked the tax assessors to overestimate the value of the stadium property so that the Yankees could claim a billion dollar tax deductable. Initially estimated to be valued at 27 million dollars, the land was "re-evaluated" to be worth over 200 million dollars! No wonder they had enough money to sign C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and possibly Mark Teixieria...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NBA Lottery Odds and Mock Draft Generator

ESPN is back with another gadget to satisfy our projections need with the NBA Mock Draft/Lottery Odds Generator. It basically gives you a random project of how the NBA Lottery will be drawn out and you can shuffle and randomize the odds as many times as you like. The lottery odds come with a mock draft so it also shows you who your team would draft in that spot. I'm particularly excited to see Stephon Curry being projected in the top 5 and can sit around for hours looking at all of the different possibilities. Maybe, I have too much time on my hands.

Something Amazing in San Jose

The San Jose Sharks tied the record for the quickest team in NHL history to reach 50 points. The Sharks are sporting a 25-3-2. They have not lost in regulation at home this season and this team seems poised for a run at the Stanley Cup. They lead their division by an amazing 15 points over Anaheim. The Sharks have had a solid team for a few years now, but this season they look incredible.

Center Patrick Marleu is leading the way for them with 16 goals and 19 assist and a +17 rating. Veteran Joe Thornton is also putting together a stellar year thus far with 27 assist. Evgeni Nabokov is proving that he is one of the leagues top goalies again this season, and has a 2.48 GAA.

The Sharks haven't just been getting by teams, they have seemed almost unbeatable and win extremely convincingly. If you're not into hockey, I suggest try to and start to get to know this team because it is proving to be one of the best that the NHL has seen in years.

San Jose has some tough opponents ahead of them as their next 3 games are at the Detroit Red Wings who have quietly been putting together a great season of their own, the New York Rangers who are second in the Eastern Conference coming off a big win against the Ducks, and the Vancouver Canucks who have the leagues best goalie in Roberto Luongo. These will be challenging games for them but I expect them to stay on cruise control for most of the season. I expect this team to be hoisting the Stanley Cup at the end of this season.

Cleveland State Stuns Syracuse

Its only December, but I already have March Madness. Last night, perennial cinderella Cleveland State knocked off #11 Syracuse 72-69 with a stunning 60 foot buzzer beater from guard Cedric Jackson. Said third year Cleveland State coach Gary Waters:

"I have never been a part of one of those types of shots, I had my head down. I told my coaches we were headed for overtime. I didn't expect that to happen. Nobody in the house expected that to happen."

But the game shouldn't just be defined by one long shot. It was an excellent game which saw 16 ties and 15 lead changes. The game was tied at halftime, and Syracuse erased a 5 point deficit with just 26.5 seconds to play before Jackson stole the show. Syracuse fell to 9-1, while Cleveland State improved to 7-4.

I know its early, but Cleveland State is one of those "sleeper" teams I have in the back of my mind should they make it to the big dance. They haven't reached the tournament since 1986 (their only NCAA appearance in their history), but they made a strong run last year and earned an NIT berth. To be honest, they were snubbed last year after posting a 21-13 record. Cleveland State is definitely on my radar come March.

As a result of the buzzer beater, SportsCenter ran one of the best Top 10s in recent memory.

Top 10 Half-Court Heaves

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Super Joe Still Going Strong

Tuesday, Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno got a 3 year contract extension. On the verge of being 82 on Sunday, Paterno has been going strong for the past 43 years, and having large success this year and will be playing USC in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

The Hall of Famer and winningest coach in major college football history has agreed to a new deal with the university. The agreement will provide "for the opportunity of Coach Joe Paterno leading the football program through the 2011 season," said in a statement released by Penn State.

The agreement ends speculation about Paterno's future since his current deal had expired after this season ends. Paterno had hip replacement surgery following the win over Michigan State to clinch the Big Ten title. Paterno told reporters last week that he wasn't worried about getting an extension done before the No. 8 Nittany Lions (11-1) play No. 5 Southern California in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year's Day.

"If we can work out something that they are comfortable with and I'm comfortable with before the bowl, fine," Paterno said. "I just get tired of recruits asking me, 'How long are you going to be there?' But most of them are fine."

Counting Paterno's 16 seasons as a Penn State assistant before taking the head-coaching job in 1966, the 2009 campaign would be JoePa's 60th year on the Nittany Lion coaching staff.

Eagles Roll Over Browns, Are They Good Enough?

On Monday Night Football, the Eagles finally did something that they were supposed to do this season. The trounced the lowly Browns who came into Lincoln Financial Field as one of the league's worst franchises. The Eagles still need some help from the Falcons or the Bucs, but first and foremost, they must help themselves and win out. Tonight was a step in the right direction.

McNabb and Reid both did enough to get a good strong win and look impressive while doing so. However, there are still some things that concerned me while watching this game, albeit minor things. Reid still struggled moving the chances on third and short. This is definitely going to be a problem moving forward as it has been all season. Also, McNabb's interception at the end of the first half was disconcerting. It was a wildly underthrown pass in a jump ball situation where you have to be looking to put the ball on the back pylon. An underthrown of that magnitude is unacceptable. However, McNabb did a good job managing the game and hitting receivers all over the field and Reid was constantly one step ahead of the Browns.

But we have to remember, this was the Browns, and that was supposed to happen. Let's see how they play at Washington this week which will be a much tougher game than advertised. The Redskins are falling apart but they are a division rival with plenty of talent to play spoiler to the Eagles' playoff hopes. The playoff picture will be a whole lot brighter for the Birds if they can go down to FedEx field and get a decisive victory but I remain convinced that either the Bucs or the Falcons will falter in the last two weeks.

Beast of the East

For the past few years the Big East Conference has been an incredibly tough place to compete. This year more so, because the depth of this conference is unbelievable. Currently the Big East has 7 teams in the top 15, which is absolutely ridiculous. Marquette is also another top 25 team. With all of these great teams, who are the standout players? Lets take a look at some names you will be hearing come March.

Luke Harangody- This Notre Dame junior had a breakout sophmore campaign last year, leading the Big East in scoring(20.5) and rebounding(10.5). He was named first team All American this preseason and so far has improved his numbers to 23 ppg and 12 rebounds a game. Harangody, who is 6'8, is extremely athletic and does a little bit of everything. His determination and hard work ethic separates him from others and is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Hasheem Thabeet- This 7'3 monster clogs up the paint at UConn. Thabeet is averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game. He greatly improved his game this year, last year he averaged 10 ppg and 7 rebounds. Thabeet is extremely strong and one of the best defensive players in the nation. Look for him to lead UConn deep into the tournament this year and possibly head for the NBA after this year.

Sam Young- The 6'6 forward for Pittsburgh is averaging 20 ppg and 5 rebounds. The senior is clearly the best player on his team and has them ranked #3 in the nation. Pittsburgh has a very solid team and he is the catalyst. Last year, Young was named First Team All- Big East and most improved player in the Big East. One of the most athletic players in the nation. As the season progresses, look for his NBA stock to rise.

Samardo Samuels- Only a freshmen, this forward is the leading scorer for Louisville. Samuels was highly recruited out of St. Benedicts Prep in New Jersey and is proving to be living up to all the hype. His 17 ppg this season is something that Louisville hopes to ride deep into the Tourney. Remember this guys name, because he will be a star someday.

Along with the Big East standouts comes role players that will sneak up on you. Keep a lookout for these guys.

Jerel McNeal- Marquette
Kyle McAlarney- Notre Dame
Jeremy Hazell- Seton Hall
Eric Devendorf- Syracuse
Scottie Reynolds- Villanova

There are a ton of other players who can make both of these list. These are just a couple that stand out to me. The Big East is clearly the best conference in the nation this year and I feel they could possibly get 10 teams into the big dance. Not because they have more teams than any other conference, but because they have incredible depth and anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Keep some of these names in the back of your mind and look out for them in the weeks and months to come.

Another Coached Canned

Monday morning, the NBA said good bye to another coach. This time, the Sacramento Kings cut ties with coach Reggie Theus. Theus is the sixth NBA coach to be fired before Christmas this season, along with Philadelphia's Maurice Cheeks, Minnesota's Randy Wittman, Toronto's Sam Mitchell, Washington's Eddie Jordan and Oklahoma City's P.J. Carlesimo. This is the most amount of coaches fired before Christmas than any other season. The previous record was three.

Assistant coach Kenny Natt has been promoted to interim coach. Natt is Sacramento's fourth coach in less than three years, following Theus, Eric Musselman and Rick Adelman, who left the club after the 2005-06 season.

"I had no idea [in advance]. We were just coming off our best win [over the Lakers] the past two years. We've had a lot of injuries. ... Everyone knew we were rebuilding and the projection was for 20-25 wins," Thues stated in an interview with ESPN.

Sacramento's victory over the Los Angeles Lakers last Tuesday night in perhaps the season's biggest upset to date appeared to ease the pressure on Theus. But the calm didn't last when the Kings surrendered 43 points to the Knicks in Saturday's first quarter and were rarely competitive in a 24-point defeat.

Natt is in his second season with the Kings after three years as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played three NBA seasons, including before moving up the coaching ranks in a path that included nine seasons as an assistant to Utah coach Jerry Sloan. Even though many people have not heard of him, why cant he get a chance just like the other 6 coaches who have never been heard of until being offered the position. We will soon find out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yankees Farm System

Many people have been claiming that the Yankees are buying themselves another championship and spend their money wildly. Buster Olney writes a great article seen here, explaining how well the Yankees are doing because even though they are spending big bucks, they are keeping their young prospects. This got me thinking about just how good the Yankees farm system is and I've realized that developing their young players is a priority in the organization again. Lets take a look at some of the future stars in their system.

Phil Hughes- Hughes was the Yankees first round pick a few years ago. Drafting him right out of high school, the Yanks have been grooming him for stardom. Most of you have already seen Hughes in pinstripes already and although I don't feel he is ready quite yet, he has shown glimpses of what he can do. Hughes took a no hitter into the 7th inning against the Rangers before getting hurt 2 years ago. His mid 90's fastball is good enough to strike people out and he has a great curveball. Hughes also doesn't walk many batters and still is only 22 years old. I expect Hughes to start this year in the minors and be a call up if anything happens anyone in the rotation, but a few years from now I can see Hughes being a #1 starter.

Austin Jackson- Jackson was an eighth round pick by the Yanks in 2005. He is the Yankees top position player prospect. After struggling in A Ball for a while, Jackson has been putting it together ever since. In his last 128 games in the minors he has hit .304, 88 runs, 21 doubles, and 33 stolen bases. He is also a stellar defensive player and could be seen on the Yankees as early as mid-season 2009.

Brett Gardner- Gardner saw some action during the 2008 season, and showed that he can cover some ground in Center and absolutely fly on the base paths. Gardner is a solid contact hitter and if he can add some more pop in his bat and put up a solid on base percentage, he can be a part of the Yankees quest for the World Series in 2009. He is well liked by manager Joe Girardi. Garnder's biggest contributions came from swiping bases and applies a ton of pressure on the defense when he is on base. I can see Brett being a part of the team next year and expect him to emerge into a Johnny Damon type player if he can put it all together.

J. Brent Cox- Many of you probably know him from his days when he was closing out games for the University of Texas. He followed Houston Street and posted many collegiate records while he was there. Cox has had success so far in the minors and is still only 24 years old. He has a great fastball and slider, and does well against both righties and lefties. Expect J. Brent Cox to be talked about either during the 2009 season if the Yankees bullpen is struggling or maybe a call up to the 40 man roster in September.

Like Buster Olney mentions, the Yankees were going to have to pay Santana a boatload of money last year on top of giving up prospects. Instead they were patient, still spent a lot of money this off season but have not given up any of their young guns. I like the fact that they are trying to develop their own players instead of trading them away for veterans. With the Yankees recent signings of Sabathia and Burnett and still looking to land Teixera or Manny, Yankee fans have a lot to look forward too, especially now that they held onto their young talented players.

Interesting Bill James Projections

I'm a big fan of Bill James and I love his annual handbook. There are plenty of crazy projections that make you shake your head, but for the most part they are a good indication of the upcoming season. Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue recently compiled a list of 2009 free agents, and there are plenty of interesting projections:

Bobby Abreu
35 159 604 19 107 0.286 0.389 0.455 0.844
Rocco Baldelli 27 103 312 12 47 0.279 0.330 0.465 0.795
Milton Bradley 31 123 442 20 83 0.287 0.391 0.489 0.879
Pat Burrell 32 157 537 32 98 0.253 0.377 0.490 0.867
Adam Dunn 29 159 562 42 112 0.246 0.386 0.527 0.913
Rafael Furcal 31 119 486 9 71 0.286 0.354 0.409 0.763
Brian Giles 38 149 579 16 96 0.280 0.387 0.435 0.822
Jose Guillen 33 145 557 21 76 0.271 0.322 0.445 0.767
Orlando Hudson 31 140 533 11 78 0.283 0.353 0.420 0.773
Raul Ibanez 37 159 623 22 95 0.278 0.343 0.448 0.791
Manny Ramirez 37 150 552 34 121 0.301 0.404 0.551 0.955
Juan Rivera 30 99 317 13 48 0.281 0.327 0.467 0.794
Brian Roberts 31 156 623 10 96 0.283 0.364 0.414 0.778
Mark Teixeira 29 154 589 36 129 0.299 0.397 0.559 0.956

Pitcher Age G IP H HR BB SO BR/9 ERA
A.J. Burnett 32 33 224 199 21 88 218 12.0 3.62
Ryan Dempster 32 30 195 182 16 90 166 12.9 3.89
Jon Garland 29 30 186 203 22 57 93 12.8 4.38
Randy Johnson 45 28 170 153 21 41 178 10.7 3.40
Derek Lowe 36 32 206 205 17 56 132 11.6 3.60
Jake Peavy 28 32 202 173 19 65 202 10.9 3.26
C.C. Sabathia 28 34 240 226 21 70 205 11.4 3.48
Ben Sheets 30 29 186 178 19 41 159 10.7 3.39
Randy Wolf 32 32 195 198 25 70 161 12.8 4.29

Pitcher Age G IP H HR BB SO BR/9 ERA
Kyle Farnsworth 33 53 54 50 8 23 58 12.3 4.15
Brian Fuentes 33 63 62 50 6 25 70 11.6 3.43
Trevor Hoffman 41 42 42 35 4 10 38 9.6 2.94
Brandon Lyon 29 54 55 61 5 15 35 12.6 4.16
Will Ohman 31 79 50 44 4 23 50 12.4 3.69
Arthur Rhodes 39 66 38 34 2 14 39 11.6 3.29
Juan Rincon 30 46 56 55 5 23 50 12.9 4.01
Francisco Rodriguez 27 73 66 47 5 30 85 10.6 2.90
Kerry Wood 32 62 66 53 7 28 74 11.7 3.51

My thoughts:
  • Seems like a step back for Milton Bradley. His batting average drops 40 points, and he only gets 83 runs created. It will be interesting to see if last year was really a breakout year for Bradley. His 2009 projections look identical to his 9 year career averages.
  • The Phillies better hope James is wrong about Raul Ibanez. A .278/22/95 line is definitely not worth $10 Million, and Pat Burrell's 32 HR's and 98 RC's would drive Phillies fans crazy.
  • Is it just me, or does Manny Ramirez put up the same statline year in and year out. James has him at .301/34/121 which seems about right. Is there a more consistent hitter in the game?
  • I think James is way too conservative with Orlando Hudson. I really feel like he's going to have a breakout season, and hit upwards of .320
  • Teixeira leads the group with a .956 OPS. I get the feeling that he will be worth every penny to the team that signs him. Please don't let that be the Yankees.
  • No way Randy Johnson pitches 170 innings this year. Let alone an ERA of 3.40 and 178 K's. It's just not happening.
  • I would be perfectly content with Fransisco Rodriguez's statline. He continues to strike guys out to go along with his 2.90 ERA, and he only allows 47 hits in 66 innings. That would translate to around 45 saves for the Mets.
  • If C.C. Sabathia really does throw 240 innings this year, the Yanks are in for some serious trouble down the road. But based on these projections, C.C. is gonna dominate 2009.
  • Ben Sheets looks like one of the top 3 free agent pitchers based on these projections. I think if he stays healthy these numbers are justifiable.

Dallas Bounces Back

Many questions were answered in Dallas Sunday night as the Cowboys topped the New York Giants 20-8 at Texas Stadium. Tony Romo was 20/30, 244 yards, and 2 TD's and the Cowboys defense sacked Eli Manning 8 times(3 from DeMarcus Ware, the NFL's current sack leader). Even though the Giants were missing their leading rusher, the Cowboys were all over them and did not give up a touchdown. Other than Dallas winning a crucial game to remain a wild card in the NFC, many other questions were answered.

The Terrell Owens and Jason Witten beef seemed to be non existent as the two of them, along with Romo, were seen laughing together in the second half on the sideline. Owens caught 3 balls for 38 yards and Witten grabbed 5 for 44 yards. It was reported on Saturday that bru-ha-ha broke out on the practice field between the two, and it almost got physical.

The biggest question going into the game was if the Cowboys were going to let the drama affect them on the field, and obviously it didn't. Dallas seemed comfortable on both offense and defense all night, there were no confrontations between any of the players, and everyone on the team contributed somehow in the win. I feel like this could be the turning point in their season if they want to make a run in the playoffs. Maybe somehow, they can all pull together and play as a team from here on out. They know play an extremely tough game on Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers late in the 4th quarter on a questionable call. I don't expect any distractions during the week because the team is coming off a huge win, and even during all of the controversy, every player expressed how winning was most important to them. Dallas controls their own fate and it will be interesting to see how bad they want to be playing in January.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sean Avery Never To Be A Star Again

Former Dallas Stars winger Sean Avery was told by the team he would not be allowed to rejoin the team after the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended him for a remark about ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players. Details of Avery's departure still must be worked out. He could be traded, sent to the minors, such as the AHL or bought out after the seas is over. The club said it will work with Avery to try his departure from the team as "clean" as possible. However, there is no telling when Avery will play again.

Avery is seeking treatment through a program set up by the NHL players association. When he was suspended, Avery told the Stars he needed help dealing with anger issues. Along with the Stars organization, Hull placed Avery is in a 10-day, program that could be extended pending how he is progressing.

"We don't want to ruin Sean or his career. We want him to get better," Hull said. "The team needs to move on and start winning and he needs to take care of himself. ... As a hockey player, I think there's no question he can be an asset. That said, he's got to fix the demons he has. It becomes such a huge distraction that it almost takes away from his ability to play the game."

Avery has a reputation of being the NHL's most-hated player. However, Avery does have a soft spot. He has a love for fashion showed it off during his interview a few weeks ago on CBS's 60 minutes. He's dated actresses, been written up in People magazine and spent this summer as intern for Vogue magazine. The fact he has a publicist makes him unique among NHL players.

The 28-year-old Avery is on his fourth team in seven seasons. He came up with Detroit, was traded to Los Angeles and then was dealt to the New York Rangers, who didn't re-sign him when his contract expired. But is there a fifth team in stores for Avery? We will soon find out.

Eagles Playoff Hunt Starts Tomorrow

I've got to admit, I was wrong about the Eagles a few weeks ago when I ranted about McNabb and Reid. However, I am not surprised by their recent run of success. It was obvious at the beginning of the season that this team had enough talent to make a run at the Super Bowl and that was before we discovered DeSean Jackson's abilities. The Eagles have a pro-bowl QB, an accomplished coach, a stout defense and a superstar running back. Other than a top-notch wide receiver, what is this team missing?

Then, as the season progressed, the Eagles continued to let game after game slip away. Winnable games against inferior opponents constantly got away from us and ended in a loss. Brian Westbrook and Shaun Andrews got hurt, Andy Reid got predictable in the playcalling, and Donovan McNabb's happy feet and bouncing passes returned. The tie against the Bengals was rock bottom.

Who honestly saw the wins against the Cardinals and Giants coming? The Eagles were a team in disarray and now they're 7-5-1 with a good chance to make the playoffs if they run the table and win the rest of their games against the Browns tomorrow night, the Redskins the next week, and the Cowboys at home to finish the season. In my opinion, 10-5-1 is good enough to make the wild card in the NFC this year.

So tomorrow begins the playoff hunt for the Eagles. I think that everything up until this point is irrelavant. The highs and lows of this season are in the past and have to stay there. The McNabb benching, the 3rd and 4th & 1 woes, the injuries have to remain in the rearview mirror or this team won't be able to push this season to another level and make the playoffs.

And to make the playoffs, the Eagles are going to have to ride their surging defense which has been stifling as of late. Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown have been playing great on the corners and Brian Dawkins has rediscovered his youth this season and has been the ball-hawking safety that we all love. But leading this team has been Stewart Bradley. You only need to watch the games to see how Bradley is all over field and in on every tackle. Trent Cole has been great again this season and the rest of the D-Line has been playing well too. They basically pitched a shut-out against the Giants last week if it wasn't for a garbage-time TD while they were in the prevent and a blocked field goal that was returned for a TD.

During that Giants game, McNabb managed the offense and didn't make any mistakes. It's true that he didn't do anything phenomenal, but he did everything we needed him to do. Westbrook took advantage of the newfound commitment to the run and ran all over one of the best defenses in the NFC. Keeping the ball on the ground and turning McNabb into a game manager is another way that this team is going to be successful as the season gets late. McNabb is still a good QB, however he isn't good enough to throw it 40-50 times a game anymore.

Against the Browns, if the Eagles control the line of scrimmage and stay tough on defense, they should roll against the lesser opponent. It really shouldn't be much of a game and the Eagles should be on cruise control by the middle of the third quarter.

It'll be interesting to see how the Eagles perform to finish the season because if they sneak into the wild card, they'll definitely be the team that no one wants to play in the first round. However, if they don't make the playoffs, it will also be interesting to see what changes come, if any for next season. There will be a post on the Eagles possible changes coming soon, if they stumble down the stretch.
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