Hi everyone or one, I’m back after a short vacation; recharged and ready for a great 2013. How great is the NFL playoff match-ups looking this year, Green Bay vs Minnesota, Baltimore vs Indy, Cinncy vs Houston, and Seattle vs Washington should all be exciting games. How bout those Clippers!? I don’t think they could they could hang seven games versus a good shooting team like Oklahoma but they’ll be fun as hell on national TV. After David Price only signed a one year, 10 million dollar contract, there’s no doubt he’ll be traded by mid-season. The National Championship Game should be a tight game, hard to bet against a Nick Saban coached team with this much time to prepare. I don’t quiet think Notre Dame has the weapons on offense to generate any consistent pressure on Alabama. Looks like two Canadians could be going back to back number in the NBA Draft with Anthony Bennett tearing it up at UNLV and consensus once in a decade player Andrew Wiggins going to be a one and done next year. While most people thing the NFL Draft is boring in general, this years looks like the least star-studded class in years, promising to be a first round heavy on lineman and cornerbacks. I have purposeful not written anything on the NHL, why give attention to a league on lock-out, if they don’t reach an agreement this week all Canadian’s should ban together and drop Gary Bettman in the middle of the ocean for ruining hockey. Come back later for NFL wildcard previews.

Brooklyn Nets (13-10, 10-13 ATS) vs New York Knicks (18-6, 14-10 ATS) @ MSG, 7.05 PM

Line: NY by 6
Total: 194.5

In the third meeting of the battle of New York, the Nets will be making their first trip to Manhattan since moving to Brooklyn. After splitting the first two games at the Barclay Center, the Garden will be a rocking tonight, as the island shows their hip borough cousins that basketball in NYC will always belong to the Knicks.

The Nets started of as one of the hotter teams in the league but have really struggled against teams with winning records, going 4-8 against them in 2012. Brooklyn is however having a lot of success inside their division going 5-1 versus the Atlantic.

The Knicks are coming of their first home loss of the season thanks to a former teammate in Jeremy Lin. New York’s Carmelo Anthony is questionable again for tonight’s game with a badly sprained ankle, if Melo does not play, the Knicks will have to rely on J.R. Smith scoring touch. Smith probably caused more New Yorker’s to choke on their Original Ray’s pizza since the Club 54 days.

The Nets only covered 2 of the last 9 games, but one of those came against the Knicks at home as an underdog.
If Melo does not play take the Nets and the six points.

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  • The Patriots continue to struggled against defenses with elite pass-rushers. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer struggled to contain Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, before the latter left with an injury. Funny how the NFL works sometimes, the Giants and Niners both of the Patriots number, but the Niners can’t beat the Giants, and Giants consistently beat themselves.
  • Is there anyway they don’t split this year’s MVP vote between Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. Have you ever been more excited to here “now we’re going to Minnesota with a game-break“.
  • Detroit is going to be in tough position when they have to re-sign Matt Stafford. Being one of the last QB’s to get a huge rookie contract, he’s going to demand to be paid like a former No.1 pick. After a performance like yesterday, three seasons later you’re still wondering what you have in this guy. While his numbers are great, they are such empty numbers, it’s kind of like Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” “No one gives a shit if you lose the last game of the season“, no one gives a shit if you throw 400 yards in a loss with 4 picks. What is even worse is they lost to team starting a rookie drafted in the 6th round out of San Diego St.
  • I’m not seeing the logic of the Bucs trading CB Aqib Talib with no one on the roster even close to replacing him. Drew Brees took them out to the woodshed and beat them like the NFL’s ugly red-headed step-child, throwing 26 of 39 for 307 and 4 TD’s
  • Mike Shanahan is quickly regaining back his reputation as a football genius, winning games starting two different rookie quarterbacks in the same season. Has anyone ever done that?
  • Kirk Cousins made himself some Matt Cassel/Matt Flynn money yesterday, 329 and 2 TD’s.
  • Who would have guessed that the Week 16 San Francisco versus Seattle game was going to be the premier game of the week.
  • How bout those same Seahawks posting back to back 50 spots. Typical Pete Carroll trying to drum up attention for his teams anyway he knows how.
  • Yesterday’s Oakland/ Kansas City game went exactly how a 2012 Raiders/Chiefs game would play-out, five Sebastian Janikowski field goals, with the Chiefs going to 0-3 on fourth down, twice in the Raiders end.
  • Big fan of the Josh Hamilton signing for the Angles. First, who really cares about the contract numbers anymore in baseball, everyone is getting paid like a lotto winner, get over it! Secondly, you’re like holy crap they just teamed up Albert Pujols and Hamilton, then you remember that Mike Trout was the best player in the game last year, it has the potential of the best 3-4-5 of all time.
  • Baseball has resumed becoming an arm’s race again. Kind topsy-turfy when you think about how it was only two years ago the wide success of the movie “Moneyball” and that Oakland just made the playoff again last season with the payroll of what the Angels are paying Hamilton and Pujols combined.
  • Adding R.A. Dickey to the Jays is going to be a nightmare for opposing managers. Toronto is going to force opposing teams to use their entire bench’s when they play the Jays, you start with a big lefty in Johnson, right-handed flamethrower in Morrow, then a knuckleballer in Dickey, another lefty in Romero, then soft tossing Buehrle. Seems like the Jays are hoping that a more than few managers are going to over-manage prepping for the Jays.

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Cincinnati Bengals (7-6, 6-6-1 ATS) vs Philadelphia Eagles (4-9, 3-9-1 ATS) @ Lincoln Financial Field, 8.20 PM

Line: CIN by 5

Total: 45

This is one of the toughest Thursday night spreads of the season. The Bengals were winners of four straight before losing to the Cowboys at home 20-19, blowing a 9 point lead. How will the Bengals respond in a must win game on a short week. Even if Cinncy pulls this one out tonight, they still have play Pittsburgh and Baltimore, beating both to make the wild card.

Then there’s the Eagles, who I expected to roll over last week in Tampa, instead down 21-10, Nick Foles leads two touchdown drives with four minutes left, lifting Philly to a 23-21 win. With Vick, McCoy, and Jackson all missing again this week, Foles and Bryce Brown led Eagles have covered the spread the last two weeks against the Bucs and Cowboys. The Eagles are also doing a better job protecting Foles when he drops back in the pocket, but they’ll be tested against Geno Atkins & Carlos Dunlap and the seemingly endless line depth the Bengals have.

Bengals WR A.J. Green (who was featured in yesterday’s post) should be targeted early in tonight’s game, when he lines up against a battered Nnamdi Asomugha. Cincinnati will probably trying some big plays in their first series to suck the life out of the Philly faithful (cause 4-9 team and showing up on Thursday is as faithful as it gets) and lower the confidence of a young Eagles squad.

If those big plays do not workout for the Bengals, the Eagles will stick around much like they did the last two weeks. On a short week you cannot trust a Marv Lewis coached team to show up, even if the guy on the other sideline is packing up his office after the game, I wouldn’t count out the “new/young” Eagles as the home underdog on a short week.

Take Philly +5 and the under.

Here are some of the athletes that are on the cusp of becoming household names next year for sports fans.

A.J. Green

If the 4th pick in the 2011 draft had been drafted by the Falcons or like the Jets, you’d be hearing about Green none stop, but cause he plays in Cincinnati, Green plays in the shadow of the Steelers and Ravens. Green was one the top players coming into college, often being compared to young Randy Moss because of his long frame, great speed and jumping ability. In three seasons at Georgia, Green had 166 catches for 2619 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also missed the first four games of his junior year for receiving improper benefits, you could argue if he had played those four games he could have gone No.1 in the draft with off the chat numbers.

His first season in Cinncy was a huge success despite having a rookie QB in Andy Dalton and no off-season to train together. Most figured the Bengals were going to be a disaster in 2011, but ended up making the playoffs as a wild card team. Green led all rookie receivers with 65 receptions and 1057 yards. He and Dalton would go on to become the all time leaders in yards and receptions for a rookie QB/WR combination.

So far in 2012, Green has continued his development into a superstar, with 79 catches for 1151 yards and is tied for the lead in receiving TD’s with 10. The Bengals have had a revolving door at the no.2 WR spot this year, forcing Green to beat constant double teams , Green still leads the league with 7 catches over 40+ yards. While Andy Dalton is sure looks to go down as one of the best 2nd round QB’s of all time, he’s certainly not on the level of Matt Stafford, who hammers throws to Calvin Johnson, and Green does not get the support of a top RB like Arian Foster in Houston, a la Andre Johnson. If the Bengals end up making the playoffs this season, I fully expect them to have a game centerd on getting the ball in the hands of A.J. Green and he’ll be fully capable of taking his game to superstar levels. In two seasons from now Green could be in a position to be the NFL first $140 million dollar WR.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT7MEMIATQY

Clayton Kershaw

With all the attention in Dodgerland centered around Magic Johnson and the $2.1 billion it took to purchase the team, then the Hanely Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez trades, and finally the massive Zach Grienke contract, it’s easy to forget that the best player was already on the roster.

Making his major league debut at 20 years old, Kershaw, already in his fourth season with the Dodgers, holds a career 61-37 record with a 2.79 ERA and 974 K’s. The big south-paw is a two-time all-star, a two-time MLB ERA champion, 2011 Cy Young, 2011 Gold Glove, and 2012 Roberto Clemente award winner.

This is just getting started into what the young ace has accomplished in the majors, he’s the first pitcher to lead his league back to back in ERA since Randy Johnson in 2000/2001. By finishing with the lowest ERA in the majors two years in a row, he’s only the fourth pitcher to accomplish this since WWII, the other three: Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and Sandy Koufax. That’s pretty elite company.

Kershaw was a rock again in 2012 going 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA, 229 Ks in 227.2 innings for a Dodgers team that struggled with constant headlines over speculation with ownership and constant roster turnover.

If all goes right for L.A. this year, Kershaw could be looking at a 25+ win season with a sub 2.00 ERA lining up, Kershaw to be Major League Baseball first $200 million dollar pitcher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDK13__bk8

O.J. Mayo

Mayo is an amazing talent that has had trouble follow him everywhere (and he’s been to a lot of places!). Mayo is originally from West Virgina but moved to Kentucky because they allow middle school students to play H.S. basketball. As a seventh grader Mayo was averaging 23.1 PPG playing against H.S. competition. After three season’s dominating Kentucky H.S. basketball, O.J. moved to Ohio, where he’d go on to two consecutive state Player of the Year titles. With all the moving Mayo’s eligibility was always a year behind so in 2006 as an 18-year-old junior he was preparing to make the jump to the NBA, but later that season the NBA made the rule you had to be one year removed from H.S. to be draft eligible. Instead of going to college, Mayo choose to play his senior year back home in Huntington, West Virgina and that’s where the real fun begins.

Mayo ended up getting suspended for assaulting an official and then a few months later ended up making headline when he and a bunch of friends were booked by police smoking pot. Despite all that Mayo would still win his third state Player of the Year award, signing with USC to play his lone season in college.

After a strong season at USC which saw varying level of success, ESPN “Outside the Lines” series did a whole expose on how Mayo was taking improper benefits at USC and the strange odyssey of his recruitment to ‘SC. The following season the NCAA would strip ‘SC of all their wins from the 2007-2008 season and forfeting future post-season play due to Mayo’s actions while on campus.

Mayo ended up going third in the very strong 2008 NBA draft, but later would be traded on draft day from Minnesota to Memphis for Kevin Love. His rookie year was strong, scoring 30 points in a game seven times that year, finishing second to Derrick Rose in rookie of the year voting.

The next two season ended up being filled with more controversy, with a fist fight over a gambling debt with Tony Allen, 10 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, ended up costing him his starting job and the coaching staff lost faith in him. Memphis would let Mayo walk out the door at the end of the season with little regret.

Dallas signing Mayo to a two-year deal is looking like the steal of the off-season. With no Dirk for most of the year, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry gone,the Mavs needed someone who can fill the basket. Mayo has been an absolute revelation for Dallas, scoring 20.8 PPG along with 3.5 APG and 4.0 RPG, all career highs.

At 25 years old and moving constantly for the last decade, Mayo seems to have finally found a home in Dallas. With an owner like Mark Cuban will to massage his massive ego, Mayo can help stay relevant for a few more years and live up to his immense hype as a teenager.

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Philadelphia Eagles

Top Name: Jon Gruden

Any team that gets Jon Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth will be getting a thank you basket from yours truly. Gruden has ties to the Eagles from his days as an offensive coordinator in the 90’s. Gruden would bring along his brother, Jay, who’s done a terrific job in two years in Cincinnati. Jay’s done a great job developing Andy Dalton into a top up and comer at the quarterback position. Jon’s “Chucky” demeanor would be a complete 180 from Andy Reid, who’s the proud owner of one lone facial expression. This type of hiring would avoid the McNabb-draft reaction that Philly fans take so much pride in.

Surprise Hire that Totally Wouldn’t be a Surprise: Chip Kelly

While it may finally be time to see if Chip Kelly has what it takes to hack it in the pro’s, Philly would provide an ownership that doesn’t meddle in football affairs, 20+ million in cap space (could be even more if they cut Vick), and an offense with tons of weapons with top end speed to run Kelly’s famous up-tempo spread offense. There are few teams that could provide Kelly the weapons and resources right away to give him the complete control over the roster that college coaches crave.

Surprise Hire That Totally Would Be a Surprise: Marty Mornhinweg

Couple of years ago or something like that ESPN wrote an article that based on a few elements, they predicted that Marty Mornhinweg could be a success if ever given a second chance at being the head guy. Of course, a lot can happen in a few years, reputations come and go, QB’s that can’t stay healthy and lineman that can’t protect, can turn geniuses into fools real quick. Philadelphia has been a loyal organization to most of their coaching staff and maybe giving a guy in-house a chance maybe the best solution. If the offense continues to perform with Nick Foles as their QB, their good be some internal push for Marty, as to not to rock the boat too much.

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San Diego Chargers

Top Name: Andy Reid

While I don’t think anyone would blame Andy for taking a year off and be with his family for a while, if Reid decides to get back on the saddle (one very large saddle) what better place then the beaches of sunny San Diego. Teaming Phillip Rivers and Reid would be an offensive dream, after you think about what Reid has done with McNabb, Jeff Garcia, A.J. Feeley, Ty Dytmer, Kevin Kolb, the sky’s the limit. One thing that could keep Reid away would be the fact you’d have to play Peyton Manning and the Broncos twice a year, and that’s no easy task.

Surprise Hire That Totally Wouldn’t Be A Surprise: Ken Whisenhunt

Before the last two seasons, Whisenhunt was an offensive wizard that led the lonely Cardinals to their first Super Bowl apperance. After two years of terrible decisions at the quarterback position, in a quarterback driven league, could cost Kenny this job in the desert. Antonio Gates would love this move, as Whisenhunt is a former tight end, that stress the position in his offense. With Rivers having a large say in picking the next head coach, with all off Whisenhunt’s recent success in Pittsburgh and Arizona and his buddy Gates wanting to continue being a focal point, this seems kind of logical.

Surprise Hire That Totally Would Be a Surprise: Marty Schottenheimer

This is a complete long shot, but after firing him after a 14-2 season, Chargers owner Dean Spanos has to think what might have been if he didn’t side with GM A.J. Smith all those years ago. With the uncertainty of the Chargers franchise (whether they get a new stadium in SD or move to L.A.) a stop-gap coach maybe a solution and if you’re gonna go stop-gap theres no one better than Marty.

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Dallas Cowboys

Top Name: Mike Holmgren

After a quick tenure in Cleveland that stopped his retirement train in its tracks, the ‘ole walrus maybe set to return to the sideline for one last kick at the can. Whether you want to call Holmgren’s time with the Browns too short to judge or a quick failure, his ego maybe bruised enough at the moment that he’d accept Jerry Jones as a boss and general manager. Holmgren is a good friend of Bill Parrcells, so I’m sure he’ll do his homework on the whether it’s a manageable situation or not. NFC East would easily have the oldest three coaches combined (Shannahan, Holmgren, Coughlin) at the combined age of 300, could be great competition for a few years, with play-sheets with print the size of newspaper headlines.

Surprise Hire That Totally Wouldn’t Be A Surprise: Andy Reid

While Reid certainly does not seem like the vengeful type, this would be and epic kick-in the ass to a rather lame Eagles-Cowboys rivalry. Oh how Philly would be so mixed with emotions on which Andy Reid Dallas would be getting. Reid would have all the pieces in place on offense and the Cowboys defense that’s better off then the Eagles now. Reid also lacks the ego the go toe to toe with Jerry Jones, that could also be a huge benefit to have someone with Andy’s calm demeanor taking some of the blows for the hot headed owner.

Surprise Hire That Totally Would Be a Surprise: Chip Kelly

Jerry feeling like he needs to go back to some of the old college magic that Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer brought in the early 90’s,  Jones could make Kelly a godfather offer that Kelly can’t refuse. If this actually happened you can bet this move would be all about the mula for Kelly. Anyone and everyone will tell him he’s making a mistake going from the king of the hill in Eugene to Poppet boy in Dallas. Jerry Jones is a businessman above all else and certainly has the means and gumption to get Kelly on the sidelines for Sundays.

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  • What a slate of one o’clock games yesterday. Nothing like feeling like and idiot, then a genius, then going right back down to idiot again with my picks.
  • Nick Foles 381 yards, a TD and a running TD. What a frustrating game. Tampa has serious issues against the passing game.
  • Baltimore/Washington has to go down as one of the top three games of the season. That game had everything in it. Who’d of thought that Kirk Cousins was going to come in after sitting for 56 minutes and finish off the Skin’s scoring drive. I’m getting mild chest pains just thinking about it.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick is simply not getting it done in Buffalo. Bills defense held the Rams offense to 7 points for nearly 50 minutes and Buffalo can’t score more than 12 points in horrible Great Lake weather, against a dome team.
  • Andrew Luck gets another come from behind win to add to his ever-growing legend. He’s leading the league with 17 interceptions, which will probably end up costing him the Rookie of the Year, but his talent is remarkable. If Indy ever gets a running back with some home run ability, they’ll be scary good.
  • Adrian Peterson is either a medical marvel or a has the best steroid program cycle ever. Six months removed from ACL surgery and he’s knocking on the door of 2,000 yards. There are few things better than watching AP gallop, but I hope this amazing season is not tainted.

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  • Someone lit a fire under Cam Newton and the Panthers yesterday. Carolina’s offense was hitting on all cylinders for the first three-quarters. Greg Olsen and Steve Smith seemed like they were making endless acrobatic sideline catches that kept extending drives. Atlanta continues to struggle to find consistency on a week to week basis.
  • If you tuned into the Jets/Jags games your love and passion of football well supersedes mine.
  • Colin Kaepernick’s 70 yard run to cover the spread vs the Dolphins. It was almost identical to Cam Newton’s run earlier versus the Falcons.
  • Didn’t foresee Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt getting canned after the season, but after 9 straight losses and absolutely quitting in yesterday’s 58-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, signed his walking papers. He’ll get hired quickly for another head coaching gig, he just better sign somewhere with a quarterback. Dallas, Chicago, San Diego, Cleveland, Detroit all could easily use the bright mind of the Whiz.
  • As of yesterday the places looking to hire head coaches looks like: Philly, Dallas, K.C., Cleveland, Tennessee, Minneapolis, Chicago? San Diego, Carolina, Jacksonville, and Detroit?
  • If I had to rate those in order of 1 to 11 you’d have to say 1. Philly, 2. San Diego, 3. Chicago, 4.Dallas, 5.Carolina/Detroit, 6.Minny, 7. Buffalo/Cleveland, 8. K.C., 9. Jacksonville.
  • Juan Manuel Marquez got Manny Pacqiuao with a perfect punch on Saturday night. Anytime you catch a guy square on the chin like that, its lights out no matter how big and tough you’re. While it certainly didn’t look like the same Manny from his De la Hoya/Hatton/Cotto dominance (cough! steroids! cough!), he made an amateur’s mistake faking the jab and then dropping his hands and not protecting his chin, giving Marquez the biggest opening he’s seen since golden gloves. I don’t think we will ever see Pac-man in a ring fighting again. With all his political power in the Philippians, the massive amounts of monies he’s made, and getting “KTFO”, there’s simply nothing left.
  • And finally, Johnny Manziel, 2012 Heisman winner. WOW! did you see how many votes he got in the South. I really underestimated people’s hatred of Alabama in the down there. Texas A&M has officially been put on the map in college football.

Baltimore Ravens (9-3, 5-6-1 ATS) vs Washington Redskins (6-6, 7-5-1 ATS) @ FedEx Field, 1 PM

Line: WSH by 2.5

Total: 47.5

Nobody can really understand the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Losing to a Charlie Batch led Pittsburgh Steelers is unacceptable. In the last three season the Ravens record is 35-13, but 23-22 ATS. If there has ever been an indicator of how a team can be good yet so unpredictable, this is it. Take away the Houston loss (43-13) and wins versus Oakland (55-20) and Cincinnati (44-13) the rest of Baltimore’s games have been decided by 5 points or less.

Part of why the Ravens are so unpredictable is because of their enigma of a QB Joe Flacco. Flacco started the season pounding his chest for a contract extension that would make him one of the highest paid players in the league. His performance this season has been nowhere near elite, Flacco’s completion percentage is Vick-esque at 59.2% and after throwing multiple touchdowns in three of his first four games, he’s only had one multi touchdown game since, that came against a dreadful Oakland defense.

Expect Torrey Smith to have a big afternoon, Washington’s pass defense as mentioned here before is one of the worst in the league, Smith should be able to make life miserable for former teammate Josh Wilson, who will have the task of covering the Maryland product.

Even with all the injures to the Ravens, I’m very surprised to see the line favoring the Redskins. Even though this is technically a road game for the Ravens, FedEx Field is in the state of Maryland and is as much of a home game for the Ravens as it is for Washington. I’d take my chances on the 9-3 Ravens as an underdog in basically a home game.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-9, 2-9-1 ATS) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6, 8-3-1 ATS) @ Raymond James Stadium, 1 PM

Line: TB by 7

Total: 48

Tampa has been taking care of business against bad teams this year. While Tampa is on a two game losing streak, they lost to two Super Bowl contenders in Atlanta and Denver, only losing by a combined 8 points. The Bucs are really starting to develop a real rhythm on offense, with an opposing defense having to respect the run and pass, making a lethal play action attack.

The Bucs defense has been playing better of late too, not allowing a 100 yard rusher in the last three weeks. With DeSean Jackson missing for the Eagles, I can’t see a repeat of Bryce Brown’s 169 yard performance versus the Cowboys.

You have to question how focused Philly is. They fired the defensive line coach, put their best pass rushers on the street and more reports that more players will be looking for new address for next September. The Bucs are a team on the rise and have consistently cover the spread, Take Tampa and the 7 points and don’t look back.

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Denver Broncos (9-3, 7-4-1 ATS) vs Oakland Raiders (3-9, 3-8-1) @ Oakland Coliseum, 8.20 PM
Line: DEN by 10.5
Total: 49

On the surface this looks like an easy win for the Broncos on another lame Thursday nighter. Denver’s 4-0 versus the AFC West this season and absolutely crushed the Raiders in their last meeting on Sept. 30th, 36-6. Peyton Manning was picking apart Oakland’s pass defense, going 30-38 for 338 yards, possessing the ball for close to 40 minutes of the games.

Oakland looks to avoid a six game losing streak that has seen the their defense allow Tampa and Cincinnati to run for over 200 yards on the ground. Reports last week of Terrelle Pryor possible starting for Carson Palmer, rumors of Jon Gruden returning to the Raiders sidelines the same day current head coach Dennis Allen was going to bury his father, and sending home first round pick Rolando McClain has put the entire team on notice, that nobody is safe in Raider-land.

Darren McFadden is probable for tonight’s game, giving Oakland a legitimate home-run hitter in the line-up. The combination of McFadden and Marcell Reece should force Denver to respect the run game keeping their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing Palmer to work out of the play-action sets he runs so well.

After seeing how tragedy can impact a professional football team, giving players a greater goal to achieve over personal accomplishments (Indy and KC), the Raiders, who have been embarrassed for weeks on end, could very well come out a very angry bunch that wants to win one for their grieving coach.

Double digit home-dogs are 88-63 ATS since 1980, 9-0 in the last two seasons. Combining that with a Oakland team that probably wants to exact some revenge after being beaten badly on the road and a Broncos team that could be looking to next weeks road game against the Ravens, I’d give Oakland a real shot tonight.

I’d never bet against Peyton, but if you feel the need to make this game a little for interesting, why not take a chance on the home-dog in a division game.

Heisman Trophy

Since the day Manti Te’o shocked the recruiting world picking Notre Dame over USC and BYU, becoming the first Defensive Player of the Year to sign with the Irish in forever, he’s held a special place with Irish fans. Te’o has lived up to his reputation in four years in South Bend,  and easily could have been a first round pick along with teammate Michael Floyd and nobody would have blamed him.

Middle-linebackers don’t usually come back for the glamour of a senior season’s to be on the cover of magazines and to be talked about as Heisman favorites on the game day shows. The Hawaiian knew if all the pieces fell into place there was a chance he could be invited to the Heisman ceremony like Ndamukong Suh or Tyrann Mathieu but likely would come home empty-handed as defensive players really need to go above and beyond to take home the Heisman.

While everything was falling into place on the football field, with Heisman frontrunners literally throwing away their chances week after week (Barkley, Geno Smith, Colin Klein, McCarron), once the media got wind that both Te’o grandmother and girlfriend past away in a 24 hour period, it melted the hearts of everyone that heard his story, leaving a soft place for Te’o, even for those who grew up hating all-things Notre Dame.

One of the benefits of playing at Notre Dame, since they’re not bound to a conference, the played in the East Coast (Miami, Boston, Pittsburgh, North Carolina) the Mid-West (Oklahoma, Indiana, Michigan) and on the West Coast (Los-Angeles, Palo Alto, Utah) so everywhere the Irish and Te’o went, his story was told all over the place. With all eyes on Te’o, he lead the Irish defense to an undefeated record and the number one scoring defense in the nation.

While the Notre Dame struggled from their own quarterback issues, the Irish only played one offense in the top 20 (Oklahoma #12) then you’d have to go all the way down to USC at #31 and Miami #39 before it drops off drastically with BYU (58), Stanford (59), Purdue (62), Pitt (65), Michigan (83), Michigan St. (92), Navy (95) and Wake Forrest (119). Not really the murders row of college football. They basically played against one fringe NFL QB in all season in Landry Jones. Which is kind of getting lost in all hoopla of ND being back on top.

This is also not Manti’s best statical season, last season Te’o had 128 tackles to 103 in ’12, 13.5 tackles for loss to 5.5 in ’12, and 5 sacks to 1.5 this season. Of course, he did have the seven interceptions with went a long in pulling out wins versus Michigan and BYU.

It’s clear that this years award is Manti’s to win by the sheer redundancy of the other two candidates. Kansas St. Colin Klein and Texas A&M’s John Manziel are mirror images of each other, the only difference being age. Klein sealed his Heisman fate when then no.1 Kansas St. lost to Baylor and Manziel while exciting, is a freshman and getting voters from the South to vote for a freshman to win the Heisman is like voting for Obama.

Not having USC wide receiver Marqise Lee at the ceremony is an outrage. The kind of year he had deserves recognition, but I guess the Notre Dame fans who voted for Te’o probably left the Trojan wide-out off their ballot as a little screw you to ‘SC fans. Lee had 112 catches, 1680 yards, and 14 touchdown catches this year, 802 yard on kick returns with 1 TD, 106 rushing yards and two tackles on defense. By my horrible math, that’s 2588 total yards, which jumps off the page a little more than Te’os 1.5 sacks.

  • The Hornets landed on the Pelicans to rebrand the franchise. Was “The Roadkill” taken? What color scheme goes with a Pelican? Dirt and Oil spill? Do they really want to associate a basketball team with something that’s known to fall out of the sky and dies? Maybe they should have dropped the nickname thing and just gone as New Orleans.
  • Must be nice to be a professional baseball player these days. Shane Victorino and Dan Haren coming off what could best be described as average seasons get paid 13 million a year. If I have a child, I’m praying for a left-handed knuckle-baller.
  • I just saw The Dark Knight Rises for the first time yesterday, that movie is so unrealistic, Hines Ward returning a kickoff for a TD, ya right! Especially when you have Gotham City Mike Wallace on the bench. What does Gotham City Mike Wallace run a 40 in? my guess like 3.99 seconds and casting picks Ward.

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Miami Heat (12-3, 7-8 ATS) vs Washington Wizards (1-13, 6-8 ATS)
Line: MIA by 10.5
Total: 195.5
Miami will be well rested when they take on Washington, the Heat last played three days ago versus Brooklyn. Expect Lebron, Wade and Bosh to play extended minutes as they prepare for a stretch that has them playing 8 games in 16 days. Washington is shooting a woeful 30.2% from three-point, so unless the they magically find their shooting touch tonight, Miami should win big and easily cover that 10.5 number.

Minnesota Timberwolves (7-8, 9-6 ATS) vs Philadelphia 76ers (10-7, 9-8 ATS)
Line: PHI by 3.5
Total: 188.5
Things are finally starting to turn around for the T-Wolves, with Kevin Love fully recovered from his broken wrist and stomach bug and Ricky Rubio returning to full contact, Minny seems to have weathered the early season storm to stay around .500. Love will be asked to carry the load for the Wolves, who are suffering with injuries to AK-47, Brandon Roy, and Chase Budinger. Philly’s been scoring over 100 ppg at home and expect that trend to continue tonight when they take on an out-gunned and out-manned Timberwolves squad.

Oklahoma City Thunder (14-4, 12-5 ATS) vs Brooklyn Nets (11-5, 10-5 ATS)
Line: OKC by 4
Total: 192.5
Two of the hottest teams in the NBA meet tonight with the Thunder winning their last five in a row, while the Nets are winners of five of their last six. The Thunder are leading the league scoring 105.1 ppg and shooting an outstanding 83.4% from the free throw line. Since moving to the borough, Brooklyn is 7-1 at the Barclay’s Center. Gerald Wallace is going to have the luxury of guarding Kevin Durant tonight, Wallace is an excellent on-ball defender and takes pride in shutting down other teams top scorers. Expect the refs to pay a bigger factor than usual in this one, whether they’re giving OKC the superstar treatment or Brooklyn with the hometown calls. If it’s close in the final minutes expect OKC’s exceptional free throw shooting to carry them through this.

Indiana Pacers (8-9, 7-10 ATS) vs Chicago Bulls (8-7, 4-11 ATS)
Line: CHI by 3.5
Total: 180
Bulls fans should be relieved to know that Richard Hamilton is returning from injury tonight, so the Jimmy Butler/Marco Belinelli era will finally becoming to  much needed end. Much like Minnesota, Chicago has battled through a rash of injuries and still find themselves in first place in the Central division. Chicago hasn’t been very successful at home against the spread, going 1-8 at the United Center in 2012. The Pacers are looking to end their four game road trip that saw them pick up big wins in L.A. and Sacramento. Pacers forward David West is playing at an all-star level again with Danny Granger missing, if they could only get Paul George to be consistent instead of one night looking like Tracy McGrady and the next Ricky Davis. I expect this game to go right down to the wire if not overtime, but in a low scoring game.

Los Angeles Lakers (8-9, 10-7 ATS) vs Houston Rockets (8-8 10-6 ATS)
Line: LAL by 2
Total: 214
While the Lakers are continuing to work out the kinks with new head man Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard seems to have found his place in the new system. Howard is coming off his first back to back 20 point 15 rebound performances, but so how has reached Shaq-esque levels on the free-throw line (46%). The Rockets very easily could implement the Hack-a-Howard defense and keep this game closer than it should be. With Steve Blake out for 6-8 weeks, Kobe is going to be forced to handle the ball handling duties until Steve Nash returns. With Kobe 52 points shy of 30,000 and Houston’s one man defense (Omir Asik) with his hands full with Howard, we could be in-store for a vintage Kobe night. Either he goes off for 50 or 2-23 shooting, either way you might want to stay up late for this one.

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New York Giants (7-4, 5-5-1 ATS) vs Washington Redskins (5-6, 6-5 ATS) @ FedEx Field, 8.30 PM
Line: NYG by 3
Total: 49.5

While home-field hasn’t been an huge advantage for the Redskins this season, Washington is 3-0 against the spread versus the NFC East this season. In Robert Griffin III first meeting against the reigning champs, New York need three forced fumbles and a 77 yard Eli to Victor Cruz pass with less then two minutes to beat the impressive rookie from Baylor 27-23.

The Redskins offense ran the ball 38 times for 248 with Alfred Morris getting career highs in carries (22) and yards (120).

The Giants have struggled when their opponent gains 100+ rushing yards against them (2-4, but really 1-4 last week Green Bay gained 100 mercy yards in a blow-out).

RGIII went 20-28 with 2 TDs and 1 INT, this time he’ll have favorite target Pierre Garcon who missed the last meeting. The only thing really holding the Redskins out from a big blow-out is that Washington’s secondary is one of the worst in the game. Washington linebacker London Fletcher-Baker, who originally got hurt in the first game, may miss his first game in like two decades.

Take Washington and the over.

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  • How the Steelers managed to pull out a road win with third string QB in Charlie Batch (hadn’t thrown a TD in 800 Days) is incredible. Pittsburgh’s own sideline could not even believe they pulled this off.
  • Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback.
  • The Jets are in real trouble. How can you go back to Sanchez at this point, New York has done a great job at ruining an already emotional fragile QB since training camp. If they play McElroy and he wins a few games, they’ll play their way out of a good pick.
  • Arizona better move Heaven and Earth to bring in a QB this off-season: Mike Vick, Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers. Think about how good the NFC West could be if the Cards brought in Rivers and Gates in from a San Diego rebuild, creating one of the most talented divisions in football, instantly making Arizona a top contender with San Francisco.
  • Rams/Niners has quickly become a must see game for next season. One tie, two overtimes, and now controversial call to boot. The best part of this game is when the camera shows Harbaugh standing on the sideline with this “how does this guy know what I’m calling, GET OUT OF MY HEAD!” look to Jeff Fisher.
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Kinda like this face

  • The Bears defense is not getting the same breaks that saw them quickly become one of the top scoring defense in NFL history. You know when your watching a Pats game or a old Manning/Colts game and the announcers are just gushing over the fact that Brady or Peyton have completed passes to 10 different receivers and how the teams have to account for everyone on the field, well, Jay Cutler would probably tell you that stat is stupid and quit wasting his time. Yesterday, Cutler targeted Brandon Marshall 14 times to the next highest in Matt Forte’s three! Eric Weems and Earl Bennett had one catch apiece as the only other receivers to catch a pass. How Mike Tice is still the Bears coordinator leads you to believe he’s got dirt on someone in that organization.
  • The San Diego Chargers of 2013 will not look anything like the Chargers we saw yesterday. As one of the prime candidates to move to L.A., a complete house cleaning could be on the way. If they announce a move saying they will sign a lease for the new AEG stadium in downtown L.A. and are staying in San Diego until the project is finished or a temp move to the Rose Bowl, the team is going to have little support from fans during any such move. A new general manger and head coach might want to rid themselves of costly veterans like Rivers, Gates and Quentin Jammer. Trading Rivers and Gates could bring in a huge hull for a rebuild.
  • Of course all of this will become more apparent when they hire a coach. If its a Jon Gruden, Jack Del Rio or Andy Reid, Rivers probably stays. If they decide to go with  Oregon’s Chip Kelly, they could clear house see if Kelly can hack it on the NFL level, building a winner for a potential new stadium.
  • Andrew Luck’s face is going to be all over the place his summer after his legend grew in Detroit yesterday.
  • The Jovan Belcher situation is fucked up and that’s all you can say on the topic. Anybody who can sit there and say there’s some great “Ah-Ha” moment in all of this is a moron. This is deeply complicated issue and to say this stems from gun laws in America or concussions or ‘roid rage and that’s it, is seriously ignorant.
  • Spurs Greg Popovich’s lone mistake in sitting Duncan, Parker and Gibnobli was not coming up with some great fake injuries, would have liked to see “Tim Duncan, Out (Paper-cut)”.
  • To have a Hall of Fame without the best hitter of all-time (Pete Rose), the best home-run hitter of all-time (Barry Bonds) and pitcher of all-time (Roger Clemens) should really look to get out of Hall of Fame business. What kind of operation are they running over there. How is anyone in the future going to aspire to make it to the HOF if all the best people aren’t in it! Anyone that can sit there and say that besides the random miracles in baseball (Boston comeback down 0-4, random perfect game) that watching Bonds at-bat for that 3-4 year period was not the most compelling baseball you had ever seen never really watched the game in the first place, and Bonds walked most of the time!

To truly understand my hatred for the basketball player James Harden (not the man James Harden for all I know he’s a good guy who’s just too lazy to shave) we have to go back to the winter of 2008-2009.

See my buddy Brandon and I have teamed up around March Madness to bounce ideas off each other on who we like and don’t like this year, which players could break out come tourney time. Brandon was always kid that had every issue of Slam magazine and he watched all the McDonald’s All-American game and was big into the summer leagues. The two of us in high school usually would sit on the internet during the day, reading sites like nbadraft.net, who would make bold comparisons like high school C.J. Miles to Michael Jordan and Sofoklis Schortsanitis to Shaq.

By the time we got to university and had what we thought was money to burn, we started laying some action on college ball along with our brackets. After varying success in the first couple of years, we decided that the best time to bet on college ball was around the conference tournament time. It’s the only time your going to get anywhere close to teams best efforts.

Brandon had/has a grandmother that lived out in Arizona, so he followed that area closer than others. At the time,  the then Pac-10 basketball was at a real low point. Lute Olsen was done at Arizona after 25 years of dominating the conference, USC was paying O.J. Mayo and anyone else to play there, UCLA was finally coming around after toiling in mediocrity. Brandon keeps talking about this L.A. kid, James Harden, who signed with Arizona State. The only names that mattered to me at the time out west were Mayo and the guy from the Beach Boys nephew that was going to UCLA (Kevin Love). He said you watch, this Harden kid is going to be good and he was right.

Freshman year, Harden averaged 17 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.1 apg leading a usual basement feeder in Zona St. to the N.I.T. Going into his sophomore year, the secret was out on Harden, He was on many pre-season All American lists, Naismith top 50 watch and the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college preview edition. Harden’s 2008-2009 season lead his team to 25-10 record, had him playing 35 minutes a game, scoring 20.1 ppg on 48.9% FG, 35% from three-point range along with 4.2 apg and 5.6 rpg. The guy was a stat filler. Harden even dropped 40 points on UTEP that season. Arizona St. was even ranked as high as #14 before conference play started. State ended up going all the way to the Pac-10 finals before losing to a very similarly built but not as talented USC team. While Brandon and eye watched this conference intently with all the top ranked teams in the Big East and ACC maybe someone out west was this years surprise team and we thought we had it. Harden in the Pac-10 finals versus ‘SC, was held to 10 points and missed a free throw, lay-up and three pointer in the final minute to win. Little did we know this was the beginning of a trend.

Despite the loss, Harden was named tourney MVP and shortly after Conference Player of the Year. Brandon and I were jonesing at the opportunity to ride Zona St. too at least the Elite Eight if not the Final Four. With our superstar from the desert, we were going to put big cash on the Sun Devils. Arizona State ended up with a six-seed, which really showed us no one respected them that over the heavily favored North Carolinas, UCONN’s, Pitt’s, and Louisville’s. But we knew the Sun Devils were not just a one trick pony, they also had Jeff Pendergraft (he’s currently rides the bench for the Indiana Pacers, but even to do that means you were really really good in college). Pendergraft did all the dirty work on the boards and scored a lot his points on Harden’s missed shots. Taking Zona St. to go deep in our pools, we bet big to cover in the first tourney game against Temple. If it wasn’t for Jeff Pendergraft, who knows if the ‘ole Rev would still have some oh his fingers left to write this piece.

Temple had this gunner named Dionte Christmas. Christmas could light up a basketball hoop. We figured with our boy James guarding him, this was going to be an easy win and the boys from Temple won’t know what hit them. But Harden choked hard that tournament, choked harder than the English soccer team chokes in penalty kicks (youtube any shoot-out England was in the World Cup or Euro Cup. Choke artists! all of them). Christmas lit up Harden for 29 points, while Harden; who was described on draftexpress.net as “looking lethargic and passive” scored 9 points on 1 for 9 shooting with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Not counting the four personal fouls. Not the kind of performance you expect from a guy trying to solidify his draft spot in the top five of the draft. Luckily Temple lacked an inside presence to contain Pendergraft, he scored 22 and helped the Sun Devils avoid the upset and saved my thumbs.

The next game that weekend came against three-seed Syracuse. Now this Syracuse team hadn’t made the tourney in two years and had not won a tourney game in four. With the likes of Eric Devendorf, Andy Rautins, Johnny Flynn, and Paul Harris did not inspire anyone of hopes of the 2003 National Championship team. The Orange benefited from a strong Big East tourney and received a very friendly three-seed. What happened next can only described by me as “Classic Harden”. 10 points, 2 for 10 shooting, 0-5 from three-point range. Worst part was he didn’t even make a field goal until the 9.30 mark in the SECOND HALF. Taking Zona St. by +2.5 only made matters worse. Remember I was still in college, I had delusions of grandeur of what I was going to do with my winnings. Didn’t score until half way thru the second half! Yes, Syracuse does play a good 2-3 defense, but there best defender (Wesley Johnson) was sitting out that year. Harden’s teammates, Ty Abbott (6-10 for three) and Rihand Kuksiks (6-13 from 3) scored 20 apiece. YEA, those fucking guys! Arizona lost 78-67 ending my bracket, current and future bets on Zona St. leaving me personally broke.

That type of performance is maybe….maybe acceptable for a freshman that has the burden of carrying his school, but he was a sophomore with some pretty legit players around him. The back to back disappointing games were like getting stab in the ego and figuratively beaten over the head with a lead pipe. Three lame duck games when it mattered the most, and it wasn’t cause he was trying to do too much, the guy didn’t look like he cared! Was he shaving points? problems with the coach? girlfriend trouble? Nothing came of it other than a soaring draft stock.

After the tourney and the rather large hole in my wallet, it’s fair to say who jumped up to number one on my shit list. Harden managed to land himself in the perfect situation in Oklahoma City. All the pressure that usually comes with being a high pick already was thrust up Kevin Garnett and Russell Westbrook. Harden could hide as the third wheel while receiving little blame if the team ever were to struggle.

Last season brought on a bigger role for James, after two years as a sixth man, an injury to back-up point guard Eric Maynor, forced Harden to be the Manu Gionbili for the Thunder’s likeable Big-3. Harden put up career high’s in points (16.8) rebounds (4.1) and assists (3.7), while the league and it’s fan’s were getting “Beard Fever”. OKC finished second in the conference and Harden was key in series versus the still hung-over Dirk and the Mavs, the disgruntled Kobe & Lakers, and the running on empty Spurs. Which takes us to the 2012 finals. Another “Classic Harden” performance.

While my feelings toward Harden had softened, you figured he was destined for a big series against the hobbled Dwayne Wade. Game one, was underwhelming 2 for 6 for 5 points, 3 assists and 4 fouls in 24 minutes. Game two, he did redeem himself in the loss, scoring 21 on 7 for 11 shooting. Again that was in a loss. The final three games assured me that my feelings about this guy were right all along. When the Thunder were desperate for answers and needed him to step up. He shot a combined 4 for 29 in Games three and four for just 17 points and in Game five, he scored an empty 19 points in a blowout loss that sealed the title for the Heat.

Another gut-less performance when it mattered. Forget “Big Game James” he is more of a “Lame Game James” if ya ask me. Even last night game for example, going back to OKC, all the pressure of playing against ex-teammates, he goes 3 for 16 with his shot blocked six times. How do you get your shot blocked by ex-teammates six times! and your USA gold medalist. No wonder he couldn’t get off the bench there, he sucked in practise. If there are any one he should be able to score on, it should be the one he was with everyday for three seasons. Now the world may finally know James Harden the basketball player like I have grown to know him. Houston you have a problem!

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Houston Rockets (7-7) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) @ Chesapeake Energy Arena, 8 PM
Line: OKC by 9
Total: 207.5

James Harden will be making his first trip back to Oklahoma City since being traded right before the start of training camp. So far, the trade seems to be paying off for all sides. Harden got his huge contract and ability to show he’s more then a role player.

Oklahoma has had a seeming-less transition adding Kevin Martin (15 ppg) to the starting line up, while freeing up more playing time for their endless bench of former first rounders (veterans like Collison, Perkins, Sefolosha and recent picks like Maynor, Thabeet, Jackson, Orton, Lamb, and Jones III. The Thunder could piece together another deal for a top-end talent without even affecting the starting line-up. Any rebuilding team would take back Orton and Thabeet (one of two seven-footers) a potential starting point guard in Maynor or Jackson and an athletic wing in Lamb or Jones. Scary stuff!

It’s a shame Houston had to play last night against my beloved Raptors, as the Rockets are give up 100.2 points per game and as Omir Asik is the only one playing any defense for them, the Thunder could easily drop 130 on them tonight.

Check back tomorrow on my story about “Why I Hate James Harden”.

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#4 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) vs #2 Duke Blue Devils (6-0) @ Cameron Indoor Stadium, 9.30 PM
Line: Duke by 6
Total: 144

Seriously, does no one else find it weird that Duke is already 6-0. Its November 28th. Notre Dame football won’t play again til January 7th, while Notre Dame basketball (already 6-1) will play eight more games before the National Championship game even kicks-off. Just me?

Mason Plumlee has really thrived since brother Miles left for the NBA last summer. Plumlee is averaging a double-double so far this season (19 pts/10 rebs). Expect Mason to continue his improved play against Ohio St., who has yet to find a replacement for the departed Jared Sullinger.

Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft will show off his lock down defensive skills when he tries to slow down the smoother jumper of Seth Curry. While Duke will have to find an answer for Bucks forward DeShaun Thomas. Thomas is scoring 24 ppg along with 7.3 rbg and 1.5 apg. At 6’7, he presents a big match-up problem for the Dukies. Duke does have all five starters averaging over 10 points per game though.

Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon looks to be next in the long line of slightly undersized two-guards to play in Cameron Indoor along the lines of Dahntay Jones, Andre Dawson, DeMarcus Nelson, Nolan Smith and J.J. Reddick.

Pretenders:

Atlanta Falcons (10-1)- When coach Mike Smith took over the Atlanta Falcons, running the football was the key to their initial success. Signing Michael Turner away from San Diego allowed the Falcons, despite a shaky offensive line and rookie QB from Boston College to start building a winner. Soon, 300 plus carry seasons were the norm for Turner who seemingly allowed Atlanta to set and forget their running back position for years.

Well it seems like the flames have finally went out on Michael “the Burner” Turner. Turner, after a career 1585 carries in 9 seasons (a majority coming in the last five seasons) has only three carries for over 20 yards this year, with two of those in the first few weeks.

There has been two direct results of the Falcons being woefully under-prepared for their 29 year old running back falling apart. First, QB Matt Ryan, who was always known for his ability to take what the defense gives him and call the game accordingly (game manager), Atlanta now has Ryan playing like he’s leading the 2007 Patriots. In 11 games, Ryan is averaging 39 pass attempts per game (4 more than his career high), he has 3,425 passing yards (3rd highest of his career), and his 429 pass attempts is more then he threw in 16 games in 2008 and 14 game in 2009.  Ryan has also been sacked 21 times this season (4 off his career high), his offensive line does not have a ton of overly athletic players and was not built to drop back 40-50 times a game. Teams like the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have defensive ends that will make life very difficult on Atlanta’s tackles come playoff time.

Secondly, the Falcons have begun more and more to rely on the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers will forever be remembered by college football fans for when he ran all over the Southern Cal team with four NFL linebackers and the Trojans had no answer for him. But putting your faith in a player who’s 5’6, 196 pounds without Barry Sanders speed can be a scary proposition.

Atlanta has also had the luxury of having one of the easier schedules in the league. The Falcons have wins over KC, Denver (Peyton had half an arm at the time), SD, Carolina, Dallas, Oakland, Philly, Arizona, Washington, and Tampa Bay. They really struggled for wins against ‘Zona, Oakland and Dallas. Their one loss came against the New Orleans Saints (31-27 in New Orleans), who have a replacement head coach! With upcoming games against the Saints again, the Giants, and Tampa it’s entirely possible the Falcons lose three of the next five games and lose their bye week and are playing on wild card weekend.

Chicago Bears (8-3)- Da Bears are another team that have been getting a lot of help from their schedule this season. Their only win against a playoff team came in Week One versus Indy (Andrew Luck was making his first career start). All the other games versus playoff teams against Houston, Green Bay and San Francisco, the Bears barely made it interesting.

If Matt Forte has to miss any significant amount of time, Chicago is in serious trouble. Putting more pressure on Jay Cutler and the 32nd ranked passing offense just simply is not an option. Cutler has some how been held to eye popping 177.2 yards per game. In the era of the 5,000 yard passers are the norm, Cutler has somehow erased all memory of playing with any receiver not named Brandon Marshall, targeting Marshall 124 times to the next Bears receiver in Earl Bennett’s 40.

If there was ever an outlier stat that shows the inmates are running the asylum, this is it! I don’t think there’s a coach out there that would go in to the season thinking “If i can get my receiver the ball 300 times, despite constant double teams and the opposition knowing our quarterback doesn’t go anywhere else, we’re gonna win this thing baby!”. Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman have more interceptions for touchdowns (5) than Earl Bennett, Devin Hestor and Kellen Davis have receiving touchdowns (4).

The teams that make the playoffs are the ones that don’t turn the ball over often. Expecting the Bears defense to create those same opportunities in the playoffs will be much harder to come by. If the Bears have to play from behind, teams are going to double down on Marshall and force Cutler to throw to players he either has no trust in or has a real disdain for.

The Bears offensive line has allowed Cutler to get sacked 26 times already, missing a start and parts of games already, they haven’t done a good job protecting the quarterback and we have seen teams like Houston (13-6) and San Fran (32-7) grind Chicago’s offense to a halt. Don’t have faith in Chicago, I mean there quarterback barely does.

Indianapolis Colts (7-4)- Every season usually has some story about a tragedy that happens in one of the organizations that bands them together and putting trivial personal achievements aside for a bigger goal. See saw this a few seasons ago in Cinncy, when defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer’s wife passed away and Cinncy played all out for a grieving coach.  Another example, how the passing of Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s wife helped bring both sides together to end the lockout last year. Sometimes a tragedy can put thing in prospective for a greater good.

This is clearly the case going on in Indy. Colts coach Chuck Pagano has given his team a reason beyond playing personal accolades and try to bring joy to a man that had to fight for his life. Having the a quarterback mature beyond his years has helped a bit too. The Colts are 7-4 despite giving up 273 points against and only scoring 230 points.

Next week they play Detroit, which is a game that could go either way, same with the Titans game, then probably lose to Houston. After the next three weeks they could be sitting at 8-6 or 7-7 then play KC and probably Houston’s second unit to lock up the wild card at 9-7 or 10-6.

The love affair with Andrew Luck will be in full force wild card weekend, where every analyst will be none stop hammering his story on us, turning the Colts into a title contender rather then what they’re, a team that never thought they’d be in this position and lacking experience in a lot of important positions. Indy will have to play either in Baltimore, In Denver versus Peyton Manning and all the drama that goes with that or in New England who dropped 59 on them two weeks ago. Don’t buy into Indy being this season New York Giants as all the talking heads will want you to believe.

The 2012 NFL season has been thrilling to say the least. With this years cast of characters finally starting to reveal themselves, we’ll look at the contenders and pretenders for this years Super Bowl.

Contenders:

New England Patriots (8-3)- First place in the AFC East, the Patriots offense has out scored the next team in the NFL by 80 points (407 Points For). Despite missing TE Rob Gronkwonski, the Pats managed to put up 50 plus points for the third time this season on Thursday vs the Jets.
The Pats have two rookies starting on defense, there’s an old adage in football, for every rookie you start on defense, you can add one more loss to the schedule. After the surprise loss in Arizona (blame that on Chandler Jones) and Baltimore (blame that on Don’ta Hightower) the one real blemish is a road loss in Seattle. Many good teams have lost games in Seattle over the years as its one of the only true home-field advantages left. The Pats offense did enough to win the game but the defense couldn’t stop rookie Russell Wilson leading from a game winning drive.

New England have struggles stopping 4th quarter drives for years now (two Super Bowls and a fourth and two in Indy). With the Addition of Aqib Talib, the Pats D will definitely alleviate some of those concerns. Since Ty Law left, the Pats have struggled to cover the entire field in the two-minute defense when they can make limited to zero personal changes. Talib has the ability to line one on one and shutdown a third of the field. He can cover all types of receivers and be a shutdown corner-back, at 6’2, he can line up against big possession types like Plaxico Buress and he has lots experience lining up against physical types like Roddy White. This by far the most talented corner they have had in a while.

While New England’s offense has been scoring at prolific rates, they lacked a running back that has kept defenses honest. Nobody really feared the Pats on a 3rd and short while protecting the lead. Players like Kevin Faulk and Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis were good players that did certain thing very well but the combination of Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and Brandon Bolden (suspended for 4 games) do everything really well. It doesn’t matter who’s back there teams can’t stop the Patriots more balanced attack.

With games against possible AFC championship preview Dec 10th vs Houston and a possible Super Bowl preview on Dec 16th vs the 49ers, those teams  should give to much away, cause the teams that play Bill Belichick twice in a season, hate it, just ask the Jets, Dolphins and Bills.

Denver Broncos (8-3)- It’s really worked out in every way possible for the two John’s in Denver. While Elway and Fox dreamed of a QB who could throw the ball, despite early scares in Atlanta and Houston, Peyton Manning has been everything as advertised. The Broncos are riding a six game winning streak that includes back to back road wins in Cincinnati and Carolina. When teams win back to back road games on the opposite coast, it shows this team is well prepared and should be taken seriously.

After winning six straight, Denver will play a tough Tampa squad at home but probably rout the Bucs after their tough division loss last week. Then a road win in Oakland would have them at 10-3 playing in Baltimore the next week than finishing up with Cleveland and Kansas City at home.

The Broncos probably finish the season at 12-4 and if Willis McGahee can get healthy and stay that way for the playoffs, there’s a very good possibility that Denver’s offense will be absolutely peaking come playoff time. With Von Miller rushing the passer and the emergence of Tony Carter opposite Champ Bailey, Denver could be singing the praises of Peyton all the way to Louisiana.

San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1)- The Niners continue to go against the grain and conventional wisdom choosing second year Colin Kaepernick, the starter over veteran Alex Smith. This was a real sink or swim move on coach Jim Harbaugh’s behalf, with the Saints playing better of late and making his second start in a front of a packed Superdome on national TV could have gone either way. Had San Fran struggled last night and waited too long to replace Kaepernick, it could have caused a serious fraction in the locker room. Harbaugh’s gamble looks like its going to pay off big time with Kaerpernick looking like a the explosive Cam Newton of last season.

While Alex Smith did not play his way out of his job, his coaches clearly saw an offense ranked 27th in the passing game, that plus struggles on third down and decided they can be that with or without Smith at quarterback. The Niners already led the league in rushing yards per game adding Kaerpernick’s speed gives another dimension that opponents they didn’t have to prepare for (214 yards, 6.9 yards per carry and 4 TDs in limited action).  Last night Vernon Davis was so shocked to see the ball delivered on time with accuracy, he dropped an easy first down.

San Francisco already had the Super Bowl defense in place, holding opponent s to 187 passing yards per game (2nd) and 91.1 rushing yards a game (4th). The offense line is loaded with former first and second round picks and leads the league with 163.4 rushing yards a game. With games with the Rams, Dolphins, Seahawks (without two of their starting corner backs) and Cardinals sill on the schedule , Kaepernick should have plenty of time to shake out some of the kinks and bone headed errors you make from lack of playing time.

The element the Niners lacked was an ability to play from behind if they were down early. Alex Smith didn’t have the confidence to throw the team on his back and win when it mattered. He wasn’t going to scare anyone with his deep ball and sometime poor decision-making. If the Niners can use the 2005  Pittsburgh Steelers template, they could easily run their way to a title in the new pass happy NFL.

Pretenders coming soon……

Something a little thicker.

#20 Michigan Wolverines vs #4 Ohio State Buckeyes @ Buckeye Staduim, 12 PM on ABC – Urban Meyer’s first game in this legendary rivalry that’s made and lost many national champions will 33 degrees at kickoff with chances of flurries. Somebody’s going to tell Urban “he ain’t in Gainesville no-more”. The weather and improved quarterback play for Michigan in Devin Gardner should have this one being another classic finish.

(Side note: While we are finally getting a playoff in college football. I find it astounding that the college basketball season starts earlier and earlier every year without a peep. It’s November 23 and we have the Mich/Ohio St. game, but did you know their basketball teams are 4-0 and 5-0 respectively. We still have a week left in the month!

Used to be you’d be watching the early smattering of early bowl games and ESPN would break to show you some highlights of a tourny in Maui, followed by the thought “Oh yea that starts soon!?”, then finish your third diet coke by the pool. The Syracuse basketball team started their season on Nov 9th, did the BCS even send out their first poll by then? If ‘Cuse makes it to the Championship game of the tourney, and they are good enough to do it, that games played on the SECOND Monday in April.

How can you claim these kids are student/athletes, this is basically slave labor. In the NFL there’s 32 teams, 53 roster spots and seven rounds in the draft, in the NBA you have 30 teams, a 15 man roster with a two round draft. What benefit does continuing to add games for these players when there so little opportunities for employment out there. You argue European leagues, but they have limited roster spots for foreigners, then add then all the cultural changes, it’s a weak argument.

A friend of mine goes to University of Syracuse and is a huge basketball fan, he told me that last season (now Boston Celtic) Fab Melo missed and failed all of his classes both semesters and only missed the NCAA tourny. Yea, they attend summer classes, but there’s six players in a room with 24 tutors doing everything but signing their name on the teams work. I’ve been to summer school and nothing gets learned in the summer classes.

The only reason I can come to why we haven’t heard any argument for this brutal treatment of players in a “lesser” sport, with all the networks like FOX, CBS, ESPN and NBC making deals with conference networks or school networks, they lack good content.What do you do, get your cheap labor force that actually brings in ratings, add 20 games to the schedule and boom ratings and advertising dollars roll in.

The biggest crock in all this is if the NBA makes it mandatory to be two years removed from high graduation to be draft eligible. There’s no conceivable way a large number of these “student/athletes” would be able to maintain a solid enough grades to keep them eligible to play. Good luck to the coach that has to deal with a bunch of 18 to 21 year old kids, that have to be on campus all year, playing basketball and in the library. Better luck running a prison. I’m not complaining but what took so long to get me my two more GOD DAMN FOOTBALL GAMES.

 

 

#5 Oregon Ducks vs #15 Oregon St. Beavers @ Reser Stadium, 3 PM on FOX – Oregon can keep a slight title dream alive with a win in the Civil war on Saturday. The Beavers are averaging 48.5 ppg so look for the Beavers to try and fly with the Ducks.

#1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs USC Trojans @ The Coliseum, 8 PM on ABC – How the script to this game flip on this game early in the season. Notre Dame still has a test in this match-up as USC is one of the few teams on the schedule with NFLers up and down the roster. Also ‘SC QB Matt Wittik could surprise people in this one.

New England Patriots (7-3, 6-4 ATS) vs New York Jets (4-6, 5-4-1 ATS) @ MetLife Stadium, 8.20 on NBC
Line: NE by 7
Total: 48.5

Rex Ryan and the Jets are going to be throwing everything at the Patriots defense including the kitchen sink and parts of the foundation. New England allows 290.5 yards thru the air and in the last two meetings made Mark Sanchez look like a solid QB (297 and 268 yards passing in the last two meetings). Fake punts, wildcat with Tebow, flea flicker,s expect offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to try and invent a few things on the fly.

New York dodged a huge media circus last week when St. Louis laid down and gave them the road victory to keep their record to a manageable 4-6, then the dead in the water 9-7. With new acquired Aqib Talib playing in his second game in five days for the Pats, after a five weeks off, should help him get back up to game speed after an up and down game versus Indy.

Brandon Lloyd is going to be looked upon for a big night with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez out of the line-up. The Pats will have to use a combination of Daniel Fells, Visante Shinacoe and Mike Hoomanawanui to fill the void at tight end. That shouldn’t be an issue for Tom Brady, back in his Super Bowl winning days, he had lesser known guys manning the position like Daniel Graham, Ben Watson and Christian Fauria. New England’s averaging 35 points a game this season with two 50 spots on opponents this year. Expect this game to go over unless the Jets are completely anemic in this one.

Washington Redskins (4-6, 5-5 ATS) vs Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 4-6 ATS) @ Cowboys Stadium, 4.15 on FOX
Line: DAL by 3
Total: 48

The Dallas Cowboys are 28-15-1 all time on Thanksgiving, winning five of their last six. When I dug a little deeper into the numbers, there were some very odd trends, Dallas is 6-19 when they are the favorite over the last three seasons. The Cowboys are 5-15 against the spread at Cowboy Stadium. Dallas clearly has a history of playing down to opponents much like last weeks OT win versus Cleveland. While this is Dallas and Washington’s first meeting this season, Dallas is 3-1 over the last three seasons, but funny enough the Redskins are 4-0 against the spread over that same time and nobody mistaking those teams for the Art Monk/Joe Riggins ‘Skins of old. There’s two ways I see this game going.

Scenario One: On short rest the Skin’s offensive line does not have the same push on short rest to control the clock thru the ground like they want to do. RG3 goes all Madden-Vick, and he and Pierre Garcon continue to run those school yard plays where RG3 run one way, jukes a couple of defenders, and hurls the ball across the field in the “there’s no way!…..WOW!!! how did he find that guy” moments (like at the 1.08 mark of the video below), which works with varying success. This gives Tony Romo and Cowboys to take chances on Washington’s weak secondary (289.2 yards against in the air, Safety Brandon Meriwether is not playing today) Dez Bryant continues his improved play when he lines up against the less physical/head case in DeAngelo Hall. This ends up being another close game with a final drive to win (for Dallas fans this scares the crap out of them either way).

Scenario Two: Mike Shanahan lays a coaching beat down on Jason Garrett. Washington continues their running dominance (166 ypg) with Dallas missing both defensive tackles Jay Ratliff and Keyon Coleman, this frees up the Skins to double up on DeMarcus Ware. RG3 follows up a stellar performance last week against Philly, 14-15 for 200 yards and 4 TDs, with a healthy mix of play-action pass and scripted runs. The Cowboys without LT Tyron Smith and both centers in Phil Costa and Ryan Cook struggle to protect Romo, and create little space for ‘boys running backs. Redskins win in a rout.

click to see how the play ends!

Houston Texans (9-1, 7-3 ATS) vs Detroit Lions (4-6, 4-6 ATS) @ Ford Field, 12.30 AM on CBS
Line: HOU by 3.5
Total: 49.5

The Houston Texans despite taking off the first three-quarters last week at home versus Jacksonville, managed to pull off a huge come from behind win to extend their four game winning streak. The Texans be playing their fourth game in 19 days, and after last week, no one knows which Texans team is showing up today (HOU is 6-1 when playing on six days or less this season). This game has all the makings of a high scoring aerial assault. With the Detroit Lions losing staple left tackle Jeff Backus last week, rookie Riely Reiff will be making his first career start, the question is going to be a how quickly will Detroit abandon the run game against the Texans run defense that allows 86.3 ypg. If Detroit does goes go all pass expect J.J. “SWAT” Watt to wreak havoc on the inconsistent Matt Stafford. Houston might be without top corner Johnathan Joseph. Despite playing last week, Jags rookie Justin Blackmon lit up Joseph and company to the tune of seven catches for 236 yards and 1 TD. Lions Calvin Johnson been on fire in the last three weeks with 24 catches for 479 yards and 2 TDs. Lions will look to Johnson to put up big numbers today despite constant double teams. With Adrian Foster leading the league in carries playing on short rest you’ll see a ton of Ben Tate today. It really doesn’t matter who the Texans put back there as the team rushes for 136.7 ypg. With all that said, This should be a better game than most of us are accustomed to when it comes to Lions Thanksgiving football. Usually short rest playing on Thursday favors the home squad, but these Texans have shown resolve all season and expect nothing more today. Unless they just do not show cause they all want to get on the first thing back to Houston.

If the game is a blow out in either direction, you might want to watch on mute unless you want to hear a ton about Phil Simms mother’s cooking!

“That’s my Mayor!”

With plenty of action going on in the NBA tonight with 14 games, highlighted by the Los Angeles Clippers vs the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here’s a couple of thoughts on the latest going on in the Sports world.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers bring back Plaxico Burress: When Plax was let walk after his first five years in the ‘burgh, it seemed the controversial Buress had burned every bridge on his way out-of-town. I guess time does heal all wounds.
  • Chelsea Football Club has fired its manager Roberto Di Matteo, just months after winning the UEFA Champions League title. Di Matteo was hired permanently after taking over for another short-lived boss in Andre Villa-Boas. Di Matteo over the summer lost striker Didier Drogba, had team captain embodied in a country-wide controversy, failed to land Drogba’s replacement in Brazilian Hulk, while dealing with a bunch of aging stars in Lampard, Cole, and Terry. The change will be Chelsea’s owners Roman Abramovich’s ninth manager since buying the squad in 2003
  • If you’re wondering why the price of your Under Armour went up in stores, look no further then the $50 million dollar exit fee the University just paid to leave the Atlantic Coastal Conference to join the BIG 10 (now with 14 teams including Maryland and Rutgers). It’s an odd move for a University that has a ton of local rivalries in the state of Virginia and North Carolina’s, also adding a ton of extra travel time and expenses. While bizarre has been the norm since coach Randy Edsall arrived, horrible uniforms, scaring off recruits and players on his own team, know paying for the right to get beat down by Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State every year. Who pays 50 mil for that.
  • Jays hire John Gibbons: I thought the first rule of fight club is DON’T TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.
  • For the first time in a very long time the 2012 Heisman race is as wide open as the competition has ever been. Arguments could be made for Texas A&M QB Johnny “Football” Manziel (166 yards short of Cam Newton’s SEC record for total offense in a season) Two linebackers that lead two of the top defenses in the country in Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Georgia’s Javris Jones and the ultimate stat-filler in USC’s WR Marqise Lee. Lee in 11 games has 107 receptions for 1605 yards and 14 TDs with three games to play. A signature moment in this weekends ND-USC game could push one of Te’o or Lee to the top of the list of hopefuls.

After the shock of the Mike Brown firing five games into the season wore off, many believed that the return of the Zen master, Phil Jackson, was to return to Laker-land. With Kobe’s blessing, it seemed inevitable that the 11 time championship coach was going to return to his high chair on the Lakers bench. Phil, then publicly acknowledged that he had the desire to coach another star-studded Lakers squad, with Phil, Dwight and Nash the Miami Heat may finally have been out gunned.

Of course, this was not L.A.’s first time negotiating with Jackson, the Buss family knew that achieving inner peace for their basketball squad was going to come at a huge financial price (Phil was there when Jordan negotiated those huge 30 mil pay days in Chicago and was prepared to rip a page right out of that book). This year’s negotiation came with a new wrinkle, ownership. Jackson demanding a small part of the team this round, was a lot different from the usual throwing money at the problem that saved them before.

Many people don’t know that the Buss family does not own the Lakers out=right like the Steinbrenner’s own the Yankee’s or Kroenke’s (Avalanche, Nuggets, and St. Rams). The Buss’s sold I believe up to 1/3rd to AEG (which owns the Staples center, and currently up for sale if you gotta a couple of billion burning holes in your pockets) and Magic Johnson’s former 4.5% ownership to Los Angeles Businessman Patrick Soon-Shiog. AEG’s pending sale would not put them in a position to relinquish any ownership as it would affect the future sales price. After Mr. Soon-Shiog pay’d millions for his shares he’s probably looking to buy or maintain rather then sell back ownership.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Buss’s were crazy enough to give up even more ownership for a one year band-aid coach. Your stuck with Jackson after he finally does stop coaching , which in turn leads us to Brian Shaw. Shaw, as everyone knows is Jackson’s guy and after being pass-over the time for Mike Brown (prob have to buy out Shaw from the Pacers) with Jackson’s new ownership stake can ensure that the succession plan was implemented this time around. If the Lakers passed on Shaw again they would have one angry owner on their hands. If you have ever owned anything in partnership, the last thing you need is the guy with the smallest stake making the biggest noise. That, plus Phil using his influence on the next owner of AEG to put the screws to the Buss family, may have Hollywood’s first family on the outside looking in.

There’s also the possibility after a tough negotiation, Phil would have changed his mind and left Lakers management with their pants down. For ownership to plop down say, 8-10 million, for a coach who’s not running practices while implementing a new system with questionable motivation is reason enough to run for the hills (of Beverly, R.I.P Chris Farley).

The 2012 Lakers goal besides winning the title, is to keep the bi-polar Dwight Howard happy long enough to resign. It’s quiet possible with all the time Lakers management and Kobe have spent with Howard may feel he would not benefit the way Shaq would from the Triangle or lacks the basketball IQ to survive in it. The nightmare scenario being: Phil screaming at Howard for always being in the wrong place all the time, fills Howard’s head with zen mumbo-jumbo, which really confuses him, Phil destroys his confidence a la Pau in ’10 playoffs. Dwight signs with Atlanta looking to get as far away from Phil and Kobe as possible, completing Bill Simmons’ ultimate wet dream.

Which brings us to Mike D’Antoni. Seven seconds or less Mike. While D’Antoni was sitting in the hospital, getting more work done than a “Real Housewife” (what else you going to do with the Jimmy Dolan divorce money) looked at the roster that’s very similar to his best Suns teams, waited for the morphine to wear off and signed the first thing thru the fax. Having Steve Nash man the point, Kobe is still better now than Joe Johnson was in his prime, World Peace and Marion are a wash, Dwight playing the Amar’e role. Not even including Pau, it’s the best squad he’s coached hands down. The whole process of signing probably took two phone calls and a fax. Lakers sign a coach with the future on mind without giving up valuable TV and sponsorship money.

D’Antoni has the least complicated system (or none, depending on who you ask) in the NBA. He get’s Nash helping teammates run the offense and where to be on the court (just judging by TV interviews and what-not, this would go 100 times smoother than the tyrannical Kobe led practices with Brian Shaw at the helm). Again keeping Dwight happy. With the ball in Nash’s hands will lead to more pick and roll opportunities (Dwight happy :>;;) while taking the ball out of the moody Kobe’s hands in the Triangle.

Bringing back Phil Jackson is the clear basketball decision, the Buss’s had to think business first here, maintaining control the team being the first priority. D’Antoni increases the chances of resigning Howard and if need be can axed as quick as Mike Brown was without upsetting the fan base.

Toronto Raptors (3-7, 4-6 ATS) vs Philadelphia 76ers (6-4, 6-4 ATS) @ Wells Fargo Centre, 7.05 PM
Line: PHI by 5.5
Total: 182

While Toronto was going bat-shit this week over their baseball trade, adding a potential franchise strapping amount of cash in the process, its hard to forget the same sports fans were willing to set the ACC on fire when DeMar DeRozan signed his extension. When DeRozan, 23, signed his four years, 40 million dollar extension, you’d have thought the Raps re-signed Vince Carter (2012 version), Hedo Turkoglu and Joey Graham in one, not a twenty three year old with unlimited potential and a proven ability to score 15 ppg in the league with relative ease. Most fans just pretended like they watched the preseason, figured he’s the same player, didn’t see the obvious improvements in his ball handling, mid-range game, and general fearlessness to the basket, they shit all over the deal with the same vigor they praise their precious Anthopolous. DeRozan’s college teammate and Chicago Bulls forward, signed basically identical deals, the difference being Gibson is already 28 years old and will be close to 33 in the final year of his extension. While Derozen is going to be 28 years old entering the prime of his career when his contract ends. What’s been even more impressive about DeMar’s game this year, in an offense that isn’t even geared around him, it’s tailored around Andrea Bargnani.

That same Bargnani that makes 10 plus million a year, has five inches and 40 pounds on DeRozan and some how still averages less than a rebound per game less than the former Trojan. Bargnani, the focal point of the offense, has been shooting a disastrous 35% on Field Goals and 16.2 ppg (his lowest since the ’08-’09) compared with DeRozan’s 45 FG% and team leading 19.0 ppg. This is also while Kyle Lowery has been out of the line up, so using the excuse “he’s learning to play with new players” does not apply here for Andrea.  Calderon is playing as well as anyone not names Paul, Williams, Irving, or Lillard. Which makes me wonder, would it have been better to ride out Brandon Roy with that first pick, have him play like he did for those few seasons (bring hype and excitement and playoff ball to Toronto) then have to rebuild or toil with this Italian enigma in Bargnani.

For the Raps, a game like tonight’s is when you’ll see the standard stout DeWayne Casey defense but scoring at a Big Ten type pace. When fully healthy, the Raps and Sixers are quiet evenly matched teams. Both squads have plenty of length in the front court and tough-minded back court players. Hard not to think, Philly born Kyle Lowery, would have gone off on the 76ers in front of all his friends and family (something like 20 pts, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds). Philly’s is going to rely heavily on sixth man Nick Young tonight. Young has been a constant pain for the Raps since entering the league. In 17 games versus Toronto, Young averages 12.5 ppg on 45% on field goals in just 24 minutes. Look for him to get a lot of shots against the depleted second unit of the Raptors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpNrVrSkXj4

First of all, thank you for visiting the site so far! it’s been a crazy couple of days, trying to write content, setting up the website (and all that came with that, designing this shit, figuring out who to connect the wordpress to godaddy. Enough to drive a man to the bottle!) running the thing, and self editing. I’m still working out some of the kinks. Hopefully with a lot of those issues ironed out I won’t be making rookie mistakes like misspelling athlete’s names in the future. I hope you enjoy all the future content and would like to hear your feedback.

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Los Angeles Clippers (7-2, 7-2 ATS) at San Antonio Spurs (8-2, 6-3 ATS) @ AT&T Centre, 8:30 PM

Line: SAS by 4.5
Total: 198.5

In the classic clash of youth versus experience, The Spurs will be rocking the all veteran line-up with Kawhi Leonard out for two weeks with quadriceps tendonitis in his left knee, Stephen Jackson will be taking his place. San Antonio are going to have to break out all the old dog tricks and slow the pace of the game to a near halt. Last thing Timmy and crew want to do is get in to a sprint with the seemingly endless supply of athletic freaks on the Clips. L.A.’s front-court of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin need to be relentless in their attack of the basket and wear down Duncan and Splitter limiting their effectiveness on the offensive side of the ball. If the Clips can force Tony Parker to try to win the game with his outside shot, they’ll have a better chance of stealing the road win. In the last meeting, Los Angeles was high motivated in a 106-84 win at the Staples centre, after last season’s sweep at the hands of the Spurs in the first round. Well see if Chris Paul and co. can dig down deep again tonight as they come in riding the high of a five game winning streak,w while starting a four game road trip in Texas.

The Spurs are 52-12 vs the Clippers since 1996, and 28-4 in San Antonio in that same span. Sad news for the basketball world today hearing that Wolves guard Brandon Roy was shut down with another knee injury, which would seemingly end his playing career. Of course, Roy shocked everyone when he returned this summer after being forced to retire early last season. Brandon had a huge impact in his short career and not only has a mountain to climb to ever have a hope of playing again let alone walk without some sort of cane. Our hopes are with you.

One last thing, the NFL has some bad voodoo with them these days. From all the concussion issues, the replacement refs, bounty gate, a possible lock-out, bounty gate (again!), Thursday night football being less entertaining than an NBC sitcom, now a Monday Night Football game featuring Jason Campbell and Colin Kaepernick. If the NFL was a stock I’d short the hell out it. Didn’t seem like yesterday, the NFL was the Mugatu of the sports world and literally could have wrapped shit in foil and sold them to the Queen of England. Oh wait they did in terms of the Pats/Rams game in London.

  • Green Bay’s kicker Mason Crosby, once counted on like a Swiss time-piece, maybe be looking to file with the other 13% of unemployed America. Crosby was 1-3 yesterday and 11-18 on field goals for the season.
  • Big day for former Oklahoma St. wide receivers. Dez Bryant, had 12 catches for 145 yards and 1 TD. While Jaguars rookie Justin Blackmon, had seven catches for 236 yards and 1 TD. And you wonder why Brandon Weeden looked so good in Stillwater.
  • Jaguars Chad Henne played like the city of Houston owed him child support. He was 16 of 33 for 354 yards and 4 TDs. That type of performance is the type that sets back a franchise for years. All the sudden Jags management thinks they had the QB of the future on the bench the whole time, instead of drafting another QB in the top ’10 (with the built-in excuse they took one “only” two years ago that didn’t work out) and end up taking a third round “project” and its Groundhog Day all over again.
  • Nobody wanted to win in the Atlanta/Arizona game. Matt Ryan had 5 interceptions and the Falcons still came out with the win. ATL literally did anything and everything to had this win to the Cards. The Cardinals offense, lines up five turnstiles at offensive line and look like their running a reality show contest for their QB position (since Kurt Warner, the Cards are quickly shooting up the list of horrible QB decision list with the likes of Dolphins and Browns. Matt Leinart, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Derek Anderson, Ryan Lindley, Richie Bartel and this is over the last three seasons. Are they just throwing darts at board?! forget the Bounty scandal, this is the Plax scandal, cause these guys are shooting themselves).
  • Notre Dame is no.1 team in the country for the first time in 300+ weeks. There’s been such a huge talent drain in that time, that centre Jeff Faine, is the only active former Irishmen to make the Pro Bowl (it’s been a real long time for the former Heisman U. The Irish also dodged a huge built after USC lost to UCLA. The Irish strength of schedule would have taken a big hit that would left them on the outside looking in if one or both Kansas St. and Oregon remained unbeaten).
  • A lot of homes are going on the market for Christmas time in Philly, Kansas City and Cleveland. Will Mike Vick be enough to keep Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. (The only place I can see Vick playing next year)
  • All QB’s name Matt shit the bed yesterday, all of them Schaub, Ryan, Stafford, Cassel even Matt Barkley on Saturday.

So just some of the Reverend’s rules about betting. I’ll never post college lines especially football, nothing ruin’s a nice Saturday more then a freshman kicker missing three chip shots to cost you your ticket or the kick returner that forgets his job is to secure the football in the fourth quarter. We’ve all been there and it sucks. Once March Madness begins and seniors start catching the ‘itis (Senioritis: when senior-laden basketball teams only have a few weeks left to play in a substantial tournaments. They take their games up to higher levels and they’re the only one’s you can count on to knock down a free throw.) Rule one, NEVER bet on or against the Steelers, those none covering bastards! Plus Steelers fans blow. They can take their terrible towel, put it i their mouths and light it on fire. Rule two, NEVER bet against Peyton Manning. Guy’s like the Peter North of football, he’ll get you from the front or the back, but either way he’ll get you. Rule three, if you must bet on college football NEVER bet against the Catholics or Mormons. Tebow, Notre Dame, BYU etc. you cannot bet against true believers or guys with no possibilities of showing up hung over. Finally, always go for the smart money. You know the only thing better then smart money…….that’s free money!!!

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4, 7-2 ATS) vs Carolina Panthers (2-7, 4-5 ATS), 1 PM on FOX

Line: TB by 1.0

Tampa is on a three game winning streak and doing it with a revived Josh Freeman and the official steal of the 2012 NFL Draft Doug Martin (how did Boise St. not give this guy the ball til his legs fell off). The defense that’s loaded with top picks up and down the defensive line is doing a good job at creating pressure and allowing the secondary to make turnovers. Carolina, which once looked like the potential division winners in preseason are one loss away from having heads roll. The difference between the Panthers pulling out a win for their coach and say a team like San Diego pulling it off, is the Chargers have been through a few battles with Norv Turner, where in Carolina, Cam’s leading the mutiny for Rivera to walk the plank. The writing was on the wall last week when they gave up the huge kick-off return for a touchdown and that was that for the special teams coach. The Panthers lack a playmaker of any kind in their secondary, this is a unit with less turnovers then a graveyard. Expect Carolina players to start looking around at the Bucs fans for ideas on ways to kill the Captain! RRRR!

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St. Louis Rams (3-5-1, 6-3 ATS) vs New York Jets (3-6, 4-4-1 ATS) 1 PM on CBS

Line: STL by 3.5

The Jets have hit rock bottom. They lack talent at every position that counts besides C and LT. New York is all but checked out mentally, after losing three in a row and finishing off back to back road games. Those games coming in last week’s loss in Seattle now this week in what should be a loud Rams stadium. NY is also 2-8 vs the NFC over the last seasons. The reason the spread isn’t 5.5 or 6 is because of the potential post-tie road game let down. Once the Rams see this is a stat padding game, St. Louis should crave up the Jets. If Tebow takes over ALL BETS ARE OFF!!!

Houston Texans (8-1, 7-2 ATS) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, 3-5-1 ATS) 1 PM on CBS

Line: Texans by 15

So far Houston is the bad boys of this year’s regular season. A dome team that goes on national TV, with all the elements in Chicago, they walk out with a rugged win. With a win in Denver and a home bashing of Baltimore, the Texans must be serious players for February’s tango in New Orleans. Gary Kubiak is coaching like hes got jumper cables attached to his nipples and wants to shed the them like the label of not being able to win the big one. The Texans certainly pass this year’s eye and smell test. While normally id stay away from a three score spread, but with Houston at home with the pannage of blowing teams out, I say go ahead. Kubiak is kind of like the head of the Cobra Kai from Karate Kid. Man’s out for blood. Count on Houston sweeping the leg on Jacksonville.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-5, 3-5-1 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-8, 3-6 ATS) 1 PM on CBS

Line: CIN by 3.0

While the typical big win at home followed up by the road loss as a favorite is very much in play. The Bengals have struggled stopping the passing game, but that’s not a problem cause Kansas City’s offense couldn’t catch anything standing naked in the middle of winter in Alaska. The Chiefs haven’t thrown over 200 yards in a game since Sept. 30th (we had an election and lost Atlantic City since then). If Bengals running back Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis manages to do more than his usual 2.5 yard run up the middle, Cincy should have no problem in a half empty Arrowhead. Also, A.J. Green should be able to take advantage of KC’s much smaller secondary. Lucky for you, Romeo Crennel coached teams are more undisciplined then well Romeo Crennel at a Golden Coral. That should give Marv Lewis more opportunities than even he can screw up.

If you’re looking for something to PVR for when you awake from your football coma, F1 is back in America at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It’s a brand new track and with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonzo head to head in the Drivers Championship with only two races left it promises great drama. The track promises to be super fast with tons of opportunities for overtaking and tire banging. If your on the fence and need something extra to convince you, check out the documentary on Ayrton Senna called Senna on Netflix. Cause you certainly ain’t watching the NHL.

The Toronto Blue Jays have become one of the most oddly built franchises in recent memory. Can anyone really think of a team almost exclusively built through trade and basically trades alone. Sure it’s worked out nice with guys like Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie, guy’s happy to run away as fast as possible from former teams or a sense of national pride in Lawrie’s case. The Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is a two-time lotto winner when it comes to the likes of Jose Batista and Edwin Encarnicon. I think AA himself would chalk those up to more being lucky then good. AA’s also done a fine job identifying misused parts like Brandon Morrow (who was toiling as a middle reliever as a former top 10 pick in Seattle) or Rajai Davis, but know we are starting to see the flip side of trading for others goods. Sergio Santos surely invokes memories of Mike Sirotka, Yunel Escobar was a head case in Atlanta that could not fit in with all the young talent there, had 15 minutes of good behaviour and managed to insult and entire community on his way out the door (which was the only national publicity the Jays had after April). Kelly Johnson was a professional all of last season but he had Sept.30th marked on his calendar by July 31st.

Now adding to his cast of other people’s misfits and cast-off comes five more guys that never had Toronto on their radars. Despite all the huge dollars the Yankees have been able to spend over the last two decades, the fact is they built a core around a few guys (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Petitte, Jorge Posada) that grew up in the minors together got accustomed to winning and losing together. Those guys knew how to pick each other up and how to push each other threw the grind of a 162 game season. That’s why they kept on coming back time and time again because they had a dedication to the team that groomed them and the players they went through hell and back with. With the Jays who knows who wants to be here and who’s just going through the motions of just playing pro ball. Before we start breaking down the his trade let me quickly give you a list of players acquired by trade over the last three seasons. Morrow (SEA), Escobar (ATL), Lawrie (MIL), Davis (OAK), Rasmus (STL), Gose (PHI) Santos (CHI), Linclon (PIT), Happ (HOU), now Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Buck and Bonifico (MIA). One thing that cannot be forced is chemistry. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible but the next manager is going to have a hell of a time trying to brew some up. It’s one thing in the minors where all of the players share a common goals more or less, but in the pros it’s a lot more complicated life. So good luck to who ever gonna right this ship.

The Players.

Now the prize jewel of the trade Jose Reyes, at 29 years old his days of 60, 64, 78 and 58 steals are long behind him, and that decline was probably thrown into overdrive moving to the American League, where no pitchers are bunting him over and a guys who’s missed plenty of time over the last couple of seasons with knee problems on the Rogers Centre’s FieldTurf isn’t ideal. For anyone that says he won the batting title two years ago, He only played in 126 games in a contract year and sat out the game on a last place Mets team so he didn’t blow it or get hurt. Best case: Reyes understands all the real money in this deal is in the latter years, stays in great shape for the entirety of the deal and makes the Jays feel obligated to pay him out that 7th year, $22 million he’s gonna be owed. Worst case: He’s pissed he’s not in South Florida (where he expected to be for the next half decade). He’s Uber pissed when his agent who didn’t get him that no-trade clause tells him he’ll owe a reported $8 million more in taxes for the honor to play for Canada’s finest. So after his Dubai vacation (always a telling sign a player had no idea this was coming), he treats this summer like Chipper Jones’s farewell tour. Overweight Reyes plays about 20 games before his knee gives out and gets accustomed to Toronto’s nightlife and world-class restaurants while Reyes counts dollar bills and months on a calendar all on a trainers table.

Then there’s Josh Johnson, Johnson is a big dude at 6’7 250lbs, and that’s a slimmed down to 250! Johnson is in the final year of his four-year $40 million dollar deal which makes him affordable for this year. But for someone you’d describe as horse like if you saw him in public, basically starts 30 games every 3 years. After an excellent rookie year, he had two season’s of 4 and 14 starts. Then in 2009 he threw for a career high 209 innings ( Livan Hernandez can give you 200 innings at 43 with an arm tied behind his back). He was 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA. But only one complete game. A strong 2010 followed going 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA and still only one CG. It’s quiet rare if a 27-year-old with that kind of frame is working with a sub 3.00 ERA and his coaching staff only feel comfortable letting him go the distance one time in a season. Fragile and handle with kid’s gloves is a understatment in a half. He started nine games in ’11 and 31 last season with a disappointing 8-11 with a career high 3.81 ERA. For Jays fans that probably does not provoke memories of Roy Halladay but rather a former Jays/Marlin in A.J. Burnett. Best case: Johnson tough’s it out in a contract year giving T.O. 30 starts going 16-4 dominating a league that barely seen his stuff before. Johnson, Romero and Morrow rival anyone top three in the AL and Jays are serious contenders for the wild card and division. Worst case: Call it the Eric Hinske syndrome, if a player show’s he can last a full season in the majors and puts up half decent numbers you can buy yourself 10 years in baseball. Johnson knows whether he wins the Cy Young or start 11 games someone giving him a multiple year big league deal regardless and that life. Like Cinderella, we’ll all be waiting for the other shoe to drop and Johnson to turn into a pumpkin. If he gets hurt, I think Free Agency goes to the front of his mind and that’s the last you’ll see of him. Remember he never asked to be here.

That bring’s us to Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilo Bonifacio. Buehrle much like Reyes has only his agent to blame for getting him to sign a back loaded deal without a no-trade clause. I guarantee when Mark, Mark’s wife and his agent were sitting in their living room or agents office the minute the words most money, Miami, and four years were out there; his wife put the end to that conversation and booked the family the first flight from O’hare to MIA. Like many American’s Buehrle dreamt of retirement in Florida, it seemed beautiful, NL hitters and facing pitchers. No more Yankees, Tigers and Mike Trouts. Now at 34, being thrown into the division of death. I just hope it’s a quick death, maybe our first player induced torn labrum on himself.

Good Lord John Buck, really John bleeping Buck. forget he batted .192 last year. The Jays have 12 other catchers with a future in this league. Of course, if this is explained as another grooming candidate like the Sal Fasano special, all is forgiven. Bonifacio will end up being the most reliable piece of this trade (if it goes down) and that’s probably not going to be enough to satisfy Toronto’s love affair with this deal. So was it the best $170 Million ever spent? maybe?! It’s hard for me not to look at the beginning of last season with the same hope that Jays fan have now that Marlins had then Gioncarlo Stanton at 23 is everything that Jose Bautista is and more and Hanely seemed like a genuine star before decline and/or disinterest took over. Does this trade truly justifying a team that won 79 games last year into a 12/1 favourite to win the World Series without a manager hired or next seasons version of the ’12 Marlins.

Who’s to Blame.

I think the Miami Marlins pulling off one of the shrewdest two trades in the history of Baseball is business as usual and I guess that’s why people are so mystified by it. Instead of trading of these players one or two players at a time they found teams willing to take on substantial financial burdens (know how they save the owners need to be saved from themselves, well here’s a prime example of how if these moves don’t work out for the Dodgers ans Jays their franchises will be crippled not the Marlins. Nobody forced a gun to anyone head to sign these back loaded deals without no trade clauses (begs to ask the same question did these guys all have the same agent and he’s collecting off these suckers). This is what the Marlins do,the only difference is the Marlins won titles before they blew it all up. going back to 1997, the Carlos Delgado and Pudge Rodriguez deals, til now. Don’t blame them, blame Major League Baseball for not stopping them.

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