Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Day and BCS Bowl Breakdown
by Matt Carroll

It's the most wonderful time of the year, as Capital One and ESPN have made sure we remember every 10 minutes with their incessant bowl commercials. And that means the conclusion of yet another fantastic college football season filled with surprises (Rutgers, Wake Forest, Arkansas), disappointments (Iowa, Florida State, Miami), highlights (Boston College K Steve Aponavicius walking on and becoming a star, Clemson DB Ray Ray McElrathbey personifying what a role model should be and lowlights (the Miami-FIU brawl, the murder of Miami DE Bryan Pata, the stabbing of the starting University of Northern Colorado kicker by his back-up, yet another mess produced by the BCS).

And now a look at the top bowl games to finish off the year.

The Best Non-BCS Bowl Game: The Capital One Bowl -- Wisconsin vs. Arkansas
If you love to see smashmouth football then this is your game. Both sides have fantastic rushing attacks and can play solid D. Arkansas has the best RB in the nation in Darren McFadden. He has an excellent combination of speed and size that makes him hard to tackle, provided that you can catch up to him first. He will undoubtedly be the preseason Heisman favorite for 2007. They have another great RB in Felix Jones which enables them to run a variety of formations. Expect to see them use their Wildcat formation where they will spread out the defense and line up McFadden at QB with Jones at his side. That formation was extremely effective against a talented LSU defense at the end of the season.

Amidst the controversy of the Michigan/Florida debate, another BCS flaw was shown this season by the Badgers. Wisconsin finished the season 11-1 and ranked #7 in the BCS, but were denied a BCS bid because of a rule that states no more than two teams from the same conference can receive a BCS bid. With Ohio State and Michigan already receiving bids, Wisconsin had the door slammed in their face. Critics would rightfully point out that Wisconsin's schedule was not the strongest, but compare their schedule and results with Notre Dame and you will see that they certainly would have deserved it over the Irish. Wisconsin has a fantastic freshman RB in P.J. Hill and he has All-American OT Joe Thomas to run behind. They also have a solid QB in John Stocco who played a fabulous season with a different receiving corps. Watching P.J. Hill will definitely remind Badger fans of Ron Dayne, except he is quicker.

Prediction: Arkansas, 27-24

The Rose Bowl: Michigan vs. USC
With the depth of young talent in this game it appears that this will be 2007 Preseason #1 vs. 2007 Preseason #2. Who will be #1 will be decided by the outcome. Both of these teams are coming off a season-ending loss, which will make it exciting to see how the teams respond. Michigan has a very balanced offense that is nearly unstoppable when RB Mike Hart is able to run the ball. Once Hart is running effectively, it opens up the playbook for QB Chad Henne's great play action to get the ball downfield to deep threat (and healthy) WR Mario Manningham, as well as Adrian Arrington.

If USC had trouble protecting QB John David Booty against UCLA, then they are in for a long afternoon with the Michigan front 7. Look for DC Ron English to take a page out of Karl Dorrell's book and try to put some pressure on Booty in the pocket. If Michigan's D is unable to do that then you will see some big passing plays as a result. USC has a phenomenal receiving corps with Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Patrick Turner. Michigan has an All-American cover corner in Leon Hall, but beyond that the secondary is quite suspect. If Booty gets the time to let these receivers run their routes then USC will have a lot of big yardage plays.

Prediction: Michigan 38-31

Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Oklahoma
All hail the return of Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson. Bob Stoops has done a tremendous job of getting this team into a BCS bowl and now he gets to add Peterson to the mix. QB Paul Thompson has really improved as the season has passed and manages the game very well with a 60%+ completion percentage. The emergence of WR Malcolm Kelly will really help take the heat off of Adrian Peterson during the game and he is peaking at just the right time. Kelly has had 100+ yard receiving games in 3 of his last 4 games and he is a downfield threat with his 6'4" height.

RB Ian Johnson is one of the best stories of the year. He was hospitalized at the end of the year for treatment of a partially collapsed left lung. He missed a grand total of one game before he returned to the lineup for the last game of the season at Nevada. How did he do? He ran for 147 yards and scored 3 TDs to finish on top of the NCAA with 24 total TD's. He is the man that gets the Boise State offense moving and really enables Jared Zabransky to spread the ball around to his wideouts.

Prediction: Boise State, 28-24

Orange Bowl: Louisville vs. Wake Forest
I have been a fan of Louisville since the start of the season, and were it not for a 2nd half in Piscataway, NJ they would have been playing for the BCS championship. They have a great QB in Brian Brohm who has two solid weapons in WR's Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas. Urrutia is 6'6", which makes it very hard for any team to match up against him. Look for them to pass early and often in this game to take advantage of their speed.

Coach of the Year Jim Grobe brings the Demon Deacons into the BCS. This team has relied on good defense to win their games and it is the only way they are going to beat Louisville. They do not have a lot of firepower on offense and they have to take care of the ball to keep their defense out of bad situations. Look for Wake Forest to try to establish the running game to keep the ball out out of the hands of the Louisville offense. Unfortunately, Louisville should not have much trouble scoring when they do get the ball. I think Louisville will win this one handily.

Prediction: Louisville, 38-17.

Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame
LSU has a very fast defense which will only be quicker on the turf of the Superdome. They have a front 7 that can really put pressure on the QB in the same way that Michigan did at the beginning of the season. They have a fantastic safety as well in LaRon Landry who should be able to limit the big play potential of Notre Dame WRs Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight.

JaMarcus Russell has the opportunity to have a fabulous game in his final game as a Tiger. The Notre Dame secondary was torched against Michigan, USC, and Michigan State, and Russell has a big play WR in Dwayne Bowe that can exploit that weakness. The fact that this game will be returning to New Orleans will not help Notre Dame either.

Prediction: LSU, 31-14.

BCS National Championship: Ohio State vs. Florida
Ohio State has been the undisputed #1 team in the nation from wire to wire. It seems like the only thing that could hold them back is the rust of not playing for almost two months. They have the Heisman winner QB Troy Smith. They have big play WRs in Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. They have two solid RBs in Antonio Pittman and true freshman Chris Wells. They have a solid defense that thrives on turnovers.

The Florida defense will be mightily tested by the OSU offense. They can attack with the deep pass, the intermediate pass, the ground attack, the Troy Smith attack. A lot of talk has been given to the "speed" of the Florida defense, but OSU's offense can match their speed stride for stride, and they have perhaps the fastest player in the game in Ted Ginn. Florida has a fantastic safety in Reggie Nelson and he needs to have a big game keeping the quick OSU WRs in front of him to avoid their big play capability.

The Florida offense is versatile as well, especially considering how well they have employed the 2 QB tandem of Chris Leak and true freshman Tim Tebow. Leak is a better general on the field, but Tebow gives an added dimension of hard-nosed running in short yardage situations. Their different styles of play will be an advantage for Florida in keeping the OSU defense on their toes. They will rely on their passing attack to spread the defense out and keep them from being overly aggressive with their blitz. DeShawn Wynn could have trouble establishing himself as a factor in this game against the front line led by DT Quinn Pitcock and MLB James Laurinaitis.

Prediction: Ohio State, 35-24.
[My] Sports Moment of 2006

George Mason wasn't supposed to make the Big Dance last season. Billy Packer didn't think so. Others who were less vocal and moronic in the expression of their opinion thought so as well.

Even after dismantling the likes of Michigan St., North Carolina, and Wichita State, Mason supporters entered the Verizon Center on March 26 with guarded optimism. Many expected a close game early on with UConn pulling away for good in the middle of the second half. A sign like "UCONN'T BEAT GEORGE MASON" was only made in jest. Besides, it was UConn, who featured four 1st-round picks from the 2006 NBA Draft, and were a clear-cut Final Four team.

Folarin Campbell trimmed the UConn lead to single digits when he converted a three-point play near the close of the half following an immense UConn run. After the break, Mason went on a history-making run of made shots and defensive stops, eventually taking the lead. Missed free throws and five seconds of no defense forced five minutes to decide Cinderella's fate. With Mason leading by two late in overtime, Brown barely missed a three-pointer as time expired, and the 11-seed from the Colonial Athletic Association was on its way to the Final Four, something never before seen.


Pandemonium took over the Verizon Center, as the fans cheered in enjoyable disbelief, embracing anyone in sight sporting the green and gold. The Patriots' players knew what they had accomplished, but it was still sinking for many of their supporters. Although George Mason fell short of winning the national championship, they forever changed the landscape of college basketball and how mid-majors are viewed.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Clement's Football Predictions [Bound To Go Wrong]
by Chris Clement

Alright, we’re down the home stretch…almost. It’s Week 17 and a TON of games matter this week. None more important, to me, than the Jets hosting da Raiders. Fortunately, this isn’t the last time we’ve had to beat the Raiders to make the playoffs. Even more fortunate, the Raiders are 2-13. Nothing is 100%, especially after seeing our performance on Monday night (downright heinous at times, especially the rush game); yet, I’m keeping the faith.

Let’s toss out a handful of NFL picks, a couple minor bowl game selections, a movie review. and a gift certificate recommendation (that is something to spend those Best Buy bucks on).

As for the numbers, 7-4 last week equals 28-40. It’s not pretty, but we’re attracting a few glances if you saw how horrid things were before. My goal is to somehow reach 55-55. While the NFL season will be long gone for that, it’s a goal I want. 27-15. Let’s do this!


New York Giants (-2.5) @ Washington
Giants need it, yet seem to have no heart. It’s on NFL Network, so a lot of unhappy paisans have to read in the Daily News that the Giants destroyed a 6-2 start and ended up 7-9. Skins with the W.

Pick: Washington (outright)

St. Louis (-2.5) @ Minnesota
Rams are perhaps the easiest pick to make of the wild-card contenders. Since it’s in a dome and Tavaris Jackson has zero legit target, the Rams will win as Jeff Wilkins redeems himself and Stephen Jackson further improves his all-NFL third team standing.
Pick: St. Louis (cover)

Jacksonville @ Kansas City (-2.5)
Chiefs at home isn’t what it once was, but Jacksonville has to now realize all of its missed opportunities. Garrard isn’t the answer, even if Jones-Drew is. Chiefs play well in Week 17, so they’ll take home the victory and regret that loss to the Browns that much more.

Pick: Kansas City (cover)

Atlanta @ Philadelphia (-7.5)
I hate the 7.5 point spread, as the Eagles are due for a letdown week (it plagues everyone in the NFL, sans-San Diego who was very close last week). I have been bit on big spreads before. Atlanta isn’t very good, but they cover one way or another.
Pick: Atlanta (cover)

Carolina @ New Orleans (-3)
Carolina has snuck back into a slim chance for the playoffs. The Saints have nothing to play for but pride as they wrapped up the #2 seed in the NFC. Seems easy, right? Nope. Big plays will fill up the first half as the Saints cover.

Pick: New Orleans (cover)

New England @ Tennessee (-3)
Surprising, no? As well as Vince and Co. have played, the Pats still have enough to play for. While a likely #4 seed, they have the slimmest of shots at the #3 seed and perhaps a matchup with the Jets instead of the Broncos (who did dominate them, with Plummer, at Foxboro in Week 3). Hmmm. I still think they protect Brady, I’ll take the Titans somehow.
Pick: Tennessee (cover)

Green Bay @ Chicago (-3)
The flex game that might not matter. The whole strength-of-victory thing with New York is so weird. Although if the Giants win or lose, enough eggheads will not by 8:30 what the Packers need to do. Ironically enough, a win over a 13-3 Chicago team might be the difference. It’s too confusing. Bears need this and wouldn’t mind being a spoiler. Hester takes a final one back as the Bears win. Sorry Brett.

Pick: Chicago (cover

College Bowl Games

Cotton Bowl:
1/1 11:30 AM ET
Auburn (-2.5) vs. Nebraska
Auburn and Nebraska, two teams who seemed to be going in opposite BCS-laden directions over the past few years (Nebraska even missing out on a Bowl Game a few years back and the memorable, yet neglected 13-0 Auburn team two years back). The Huskers have killed me all damn season. I’m going to take the Tigers, then be beaten again, I suppose.
Pick: Auburn [Cover]

Outback Bowl:
1/1 11:00 AM ET
Tennessee (-4) vs. Penn State
Tennessee ended up 9-3 [with losses to Florida, LSU, and Arkansas). A further look shows they tanked against the Gators and LSU bit them in the arse in the late seconds. As for the Arkansas game, I have no comment. While Tennessee was usually found in the Capital One Bowl (formerly Citrus, which Spurrier quibbled you can’t spell without U-T), this is a strong matchup for TV ratings and fan interest. Penn State has a lot of young talent and an old-timer coach, but the Vols will cover and win a good game.
Pick: Tennessee [Cover]

Capital One Bowl:
1/1 1:00 pm ET
Arkansas (-1.5) vs. Wisconsin
Now we’re talking. Shafted even more than Michigan, ironically its only loss, Wisconsin’s 11-1 season steamrolls against the Wildcat formation of the Razorbacks. Everyone and their mother seems to love the Hogs. I did. Then I watched an SEC-title game in which their QB couldn’t execute even the simplest play. Big up to the Big X, they’re gonna love this upset for their BCS-bitch fest.
Pick: Wisconsin [Outright]

Gator Bowl:
1/1 1:00 pm ET
West Virginia (-7.5) vs. Georgia Tech
Reggie Ball has been declared out. That’s enough as Pat White and Steve Slaton [next year’s Heisman winner] will each pile up 150+ rushing yards and 5 combined TDs. Mountaineers erase the putrid South Florida loss and grab another 10-win season.
Pick: West Virginia [Cover]

Rocky Balboa Movie Review
Simply and succinctly put, it was entertaining as hell. Just as good as the first through the fourth (well, maybe scratch the third). It’s also good enough to make you almost completely forget the fifth. Stallone is perfect in the role he created, the boxing itself is great (past Around the Horn fans, reintroduce yourself to Max Kellerman), and even Antonio Tarver is surprisingly strong in his small role. Go out and see it, Rocky fan or not. In a crappy year for movies, it won’t leave your Top 5 once it enters it. A-quality movie.

Holiday Season Gift Card Recommendation
Season 1 of Oz. Remember the controversial-HBO drama based on prison life that changed HBO’s impact in society, yes I said that correctly, for years to come? Before Tony Soprano, Larry David, the women of Sex and the City, and even Ari Gold…Tobias, Schillinger, O’Reily, Alvarez, and Karim Said were the stars of HBO. Former Laker Rick Fox even has a decent guest starring role, as disgraced NBA superstar Jackson Vahue (indicted on sexual assault charges *cough Tyson*). It was an amazing show many passed up due to the horrors of prison life. Rent it at Blockbuster with a movie pass or pick up the DVD at Best Buy/Circuit City/Target. Either way, pick one up quickly ybefore the Cincinnati Bengals end up owning every felony-loving copy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Best Stories of 2006

As 2006 comes to a close, we look back on many stories, and not the annoying ones about wide receivers riding an exercise bike at training camp or nearly committing suicide by accident. For me, three stories stood out.

This year, a trend developed shortly after the college football national championship. The major sports championships were won by the teams who peaked at the right time. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers, Florida Gators, Miami Heat, and St. Louis Cardinals; however, all of these are overshadowed by George Mason making it to the Final Four (don't worry, there's an article to come).

There was also Tiger Woods, who had to struggle emotionally and mentally throughout 2006 following the passing of his father, Earl - his best friend and confidant. His eight PGA tour victories included a run of six straight that started with a win at The British Open and went until October. In a game in which mental toughness and concentration is paramount to all else, Tiger dominated the playing field in 2006, channeling his grief into honor for his father.

Jason McElwain, the 5'6" team manager from Greece Athena High School in Greece, New York, captivated audiences nationwide [thanks to someone videotaping the game] with a 20-point performance in four minutes and raised autism awareness in the process. The fans storming the court immediately after the game, hoisting McElwain on their shoulders showed the town's embrace. Undoubtedly, this is the best sports moment of 2006. If you don't think so, watch the footage (press "launch" to see the video]. If you still don't think so, check your pulse because you may not have a heart.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

[Re-]Welcoming Clement Into the Blogosphere

For those of you who frequent this site (yes, the four of you are great people), you are familiar with the work of Chris Clement as it pertains to the National Football League. He has re-entered the blogging world after a two-year hiatus with NFL Avenue, the one-stop shop for all things NFL.

If you want predictions, reactions, rumors, and in-depth mock draft coverage, then NFL Avenue [in addition to PHSports] is the place for you.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Week 16 NFL Highlights

* Vince Young's 4th down scamper (36 yards for a touchdown) to almost close the 1st half takes the highlight cake. The Titans came back from nine down to win to keep their slim playoff hopes afloat, 30-29 over the Bills. From this forward, "Vinsanity" attributions belong to Vince Young and not Vince Carter.

* Rookie running back Leon Washington's 64-yard reception off of a short screen set up the game-winning field goal for the Jets. They improve to 9-6 and will make the playoffs with a non-loss victory against 2-13 Oakland.

* The over-the-shoulder interception by B-Dawk en route to a 23-7 Eagles victory over Dallas, earning a playoff spot. There are so many candidates from the Eagles side -- the goal line stand, the long pass play to L.J. Smith, or any time that Garcia ran the ball for a first down. A lowlight: TO's post-game comments. Does anyone else think that Tuna would cut Carrie Underwood if he had the power? One Dallas fan dubbed her "the next Yoko".

* Denver's D causing 4 turnovers in a 24-23 win. Don't let the botched snap fool you. Carson Palmer misfired on no less than 3 long passes that would have resulted in touchdowns.

All of the week's top highlights for every game can be found at

Sunday, December 24, 2006

2007 NFL Mock Draft

by Chris Clement

Okay, so everyone is talking about the playoffs, the awards chase, or the Pro Bowl selections and snubs. I’ve spent plenty of time bantering about each of these three.

But what about those lost souls who have no award-winning players, playoff aspirations and little-to-no Pro Bowl attention?

The NFL Draft, yes, that draft in April, isn’t that far away. Talk always begins before the last snap of the Super Bowl. We have a decent idea after 15 weeks where everyone ends up in the standings.

We know the Patriots own the Seahawks 1st-round pick. The Skins might’ve owed their first-rounder to the Broncos (part of the Duckett/Lelie deal involving Atlanta as well), but that won’t be happening as the Skins are picking in the top 10.

Sure, I could wait until after Week 17, the playoffs, or even until March to get serious. But as you may know from my recent barrage of postings, I have plenty of free time during this holiday season.

On that note, let’s mock it! MOCK YEAH.

NOTE: Some players listed in this mock draft are juniors and have yet to declare for the NFL Draft.

1. Detroit Lions – Brady Quinn, QB [Notre Dame]
2. Oakland Raiders – Calvin Johnson, WR [Georgia Tech]
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gaines Adams, DE [Clemson]
4. Arizona Cardinals – Joe Thomas, OL [Wisconsin]
5. Houston Texans – Adrian Peterson, RB [Oklahoma]
6. Cleveland Browns – Alan Branch, DT [Michigan]
7. Washington Redskins – Quinn Pitcock, DT [Clemson]
8. St. Louis Rams – Leon Hall, CB [Michigan]
9. Minnesota Vikings – Dwayne Jarrett, WR [USC]
10. San Francisco 49ers – LaRon Landry, S [LSU]
11. Carolina Panthers – Patrick Willis, LB [Mississippi]
12. Green Bay Packers – Marshawn Lynch, RB [California]
13. Miami Dolphins – Quentin Moses, DE [Georgia]
14. Atlanta Falcons – Michael Griffin, S [Texas]
15. Kansas City Chiefs – Darrelle Revis, CB [Pittsburgh]
16. Pittsburgh Steelers – Sam Baker, OL [USC]
17. New York Giants – Daymeion Hughes, CB [California]
18. Buffalo Bills – Ted Ginn Jr., WR [Ohio State]
19. Tennessee Titans – Jake Long, OT [Michigan]
20. New England Patriots (via Seattle) – Reggie Nelson, S [Florida]
21. New York JetsLaMarr Woodley, DE/LB [Michigan]
22. Philadelphia Eagles – DeMarcus Tyler, DT [North Carolina State]
23. Denver Broncos – Charles Johnson, DE [Georgia]
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Brian Brohm, QB [Louisville]
25. Cincinnati Bengals – Buster Davis, LB [Florida State]
26. Dallas Cowboys – Justin Blalock, OL [Texas]
27. New Orleans Saints – Paul Poslunsky, LB [Penn State]
28. New England Patriots – Levi Brown, OT [Penn State]
29. Baltimore Ravens – JaMarcus Russell, QB [LSU]
30. Indianapolis Colts – Glenn Dorsey, DT [LSU]
31. Chicago Bears – Amobe Okoye, [DT [Louisville]
32. San Diego Chargers – H.B. Blades, LB [Pittsburgh]

So, there we go. There are probably a ton of guys who are way too early and way too late. No Kenny Irons here either. No Buckeyes in the late first-round like Heisman winner Troy Smith or top target Anthony Gonzalez. Any Hurricanes? No. Any Volunteers? No. Chris Leak? No. Only Brady Quinn from Notre Dame [sans Samardzija and Zbitkowski].

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to space constraints, we have truncated the Mock Draft to just the picks. For a full description of the picks, please e-mail Chris at

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Goings On

* Tune in tomorrow at 4pm on CBS for Ohio State at Florida, for no reason other than to watch the 2007 #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft (Greg Oden) versus the guy (Joakim Noah) who would've been the 2006 #1 pick had he bolted for the Association last season. The other eight guys on the floor are fantastic as well. Scratch that, Al Horford isn't playing; make that seven.

* The MSG Brawl between the Nuggets and Knicks is fresh in our mind. May I remind you of this brawl and Ben Wallace's overreaction? The use of the telestrator at the 2-minute mark is priceless. Where's the Czar of the Telestrator when you need him?

* Wichita State finally goes down in Las Vegas to the New Mexico Lobos. PJ Couisnard, the team's second leading scorer (and best player, IMHO), did not play due to a stomach virus. Whoever created this should be shot ... in the face. I like how the Shocker highlight package includes moving screens by Kyle Wilson at 1m15s and 1m35s on three-pointers and a questionable carry by Couisnard. I hope some sick, sad Lobos fans make a video similar to this pile of garbage.

* In the Association, the Wiz kids snapped the Suns' 15-game winning streak. AI debuted for the Nuggets, but in a losing cause. Earlier in the week, he offered his side of the story to Stephen A. Smith in that he did not demand a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers. Spin control by Billy "35 cents on the dollar" King? Quite possibly. Thank you, Bill Simmons.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Making the NFL Pro Bowl Selections
Part II: NFC Pro Bowl Selections
by Chris Clement

The AFC selections went pretty damn well, I think. Let’s tackle ye ole NFC, which I may say has taken a step backwards.

Let’s get this rolling…

QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans [Starter]
No brainer. I’ve propped him up time and time again. Hell, he’d get my MVP-vote. Why? Without LT, San Diego might still be a playoff-esque team. Without Brees, the Saints are 4-12, at best.

QB: Tony Romo, Dallas
Why? With only 8 real games? Dallas is 6-2 and a legit NFC contender. It’s what he’s earned. You can argue the other QBs in the conference didn’t earn it before Romo did, but this won’t be his last Pro Bowl selection either.

QB: Mike Vick, Atlanta
Wow, he’s lost some games, but he’s won more than Bulger has. At his best, he’s #2 to Brees this year. At times, he’s the #2 QB on his team. Nevertheless, he should’ve been in.

“Snubs”: Marc Bulger, St. Louis
The lack of turnovers might be there, but that’s more a credit to increased touches for Action Jackson. There’s just not enough at 6-8 to get the nomination.

RB: Stephen Jackson, St. Louis [Starter]
Gore is a great starter, but I’ll take Jackson. His receiving numbers are impressive for his size and he doesn’t turn it over in the redzone. He is also more consistent without major runs. I know that sounds weird, but he is a bruiser and is responsible for his team somehow having 6 wins.

RB: Frank Gore, San Francisco
What a season! What a talent! I love the big plays, but it’s all those redzone fumbles that dump him into the #2 spot. Nevertheless, he is amazing and I hope this can continue. He is a special talent.

RB: Tiki Barber, NY Giants
Wow, how does he sneak into this spot? While I love the Westbrook-hype online, he can’t get in over Tiki. Minus these idiotic Jacobs carries (never proven to be more effective than Barber EVER), and Tiki has 8-10 TDs and not 2. While not a fixture in the passing game, he’s all the Giants have that is steady on offense. Even Plex gets garbage TDs inside the 20 more often than not after Tiki and others get them downfield.

“Snubs”: Chester Taylor, Minnesota & Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia
Chester proved me wrong and Westbrook is having his best year. But why are all of his catches so pretty and his drops so hideous? He has 3 a game of each, Westbrook. Taylor was as consistent as they came until a late nagging injury. He also broke off that 95-yarder at Seattle. Yet, he falls behind as running backs put up more gaudy numbers than any position in the NFL.

WR: Torry Holt, St. Louis [Starter]
Big game. Big game. Big game. Despite the 5-game hiccup, he is a flat-out stud. Alongside guys like Manning, Taylor, Bailey, and LT, he is a staple in the Pro Bowl.

WR: Terrell Owens, Dallas [Starter]
Yeah, the drops. I know. The attitude. The spitting. He’s a dick. But he has 11 TDs and commands double-coverage. Imagine without the drops -- 200 more yards and 5 more TDs maybe. Even with that and his attitude, he is a Pro Bowl starter.

WR: Donald Driver, Green Bay
Steve Smith missed two games and his team tanked with him aboard. Driver was on a terrible team, but fought off constant double-teams and always was willing to go up the middle for the tough yards. He played well no matter what the situation. He has earned Pro Bowl status this season.

WR: Darrell Jackson, Seattle
DJax has 10 TDs and has only missed one game so far. He might put up 12 or 13 and lead the NFL for all we know. I’d like to see him stay healthy for this game; then again my picks don’t count. He had better be a first or second alternate, because he’s earned it with Shaun & Matt down most of the season.

“Snubs”: Steve Smith, Carolina
He should be in. But I really wanted Driver & Jackson in. Sorry, Steve. You’ll be penciled in every year because you earn it.

TE: Alge Crumpler, Atlanta [Starter]
Not the best year, but he deserves to start again. He’s all Vick has. I wish he didn’t have the dropsies, but then again, look at his QB.

TE: Jeremy Shockey, NY Giants
There should only be one tight end in the NFC this year. His TDs seem inflated a bit and I honestly wonder if he’s earned this. He isn’t the best team player and sometimes seems to take a lot of plays off. Maybe I’m tough on him. We shall see.

T: Walter Jones, Seattle & Flozell Adams, Dallas [Starters] Jamaal Brown, New Orleans
Flozell will get me some trouble, but he protects Romo well and handles most pass rushers. He can be quite dominant, but I don’t know if I buy Brown as a starter over Flozell right now. Walter Jones … no questions asked. He’s the top offensive lineman in the league.

G: Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia & Chris Snee, NY Giants [Starters] Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota
You saw how much Snee was missed last week when Eli felt blitz pressure early and often. He is the glue on a very shaky line at times. Andrews has turned into a stud that Westbrook can actually follow into a gap or two. Hutchinson didn’t have as great a year as expected (sans-Walter Jones of course), yet deserved another Pro Bowl slot.

C: Olin Kreutz, Chicago [Starter] Matt Birk, Minnesota
Kreutz has been the class of the NFC for the past few years while Birk has rebounded nicely from missing 2005 to aid Chester Taylor’s breakout. Nobody else seems to stand out honestly.

Let’s shake it on over to the D.

DE: Aaron Kampman, Green Bay & Will Smith, New Orleans [Starters] Julius Peppers, Carolina
Leonard Little can’t pass Peppers, despite him being a bit overrated in an overall sense this year. Kampman has been building up to this year and I’m glad he’s gotten the due after a great year. Will Smith has finally lived up to his potential.

DT: Tommie Harris, Chicago & Pat Williams, Minnesota [Starters] Kevin Williams, Minnesota
Don’t let the Kris Jenkins online-hype fool you; these three are right. Williams and Williams combined to put up an all-time great rush defense. The numbers are staggering. As for Harris, without the injury, he would finish top five in the defensive player of the year category. Check that -- he already will.

OLB: Lance Briggs, Chicago & DeMarcus Ware, Dallas [Starters] Julian Peterson, Seattle
Damn. They really got it right here. Very well done.

ILB: Brian Urlacher, Chicago [Starter] Marcus Washington, Washington
Keep it up, NFL. Lofa Tatupu has been steady, but Julian is the Seattle LB I want in. Marcus is a stud and deserves the spot. He will be an alternate and might even get in. Marcus is an overachiever, and I respect that. I’ll let him slide of Pierce (who lets up some huge plays to tight ends he’s shadowing) and the NFL selection (Lofa).

CB: Al Harris, Green Bay & Terrance Newman, Dallas [Starter] Walt Harris, San Francisco
Gonna get some HEAT. Al Harris, via online pressure, has definitely deserved this spot. His performance against the studs is pretty damn good when you break it down. He and Woodson, when healthy, have been all the Pack has had. He was sloppy when I saw him with the Jets. Yet, he was not as sloppy as his teammates were. As for Newman, he gave up quite a few bigger plays as of late, but in the end had too good of a year at his position. He hits better than expected and doesn’t draw as many penalties as other top backs. Walt Harris was also a selection that surprised most. Man, he sucked last year at Washington, but he was a deserving defensive player of the month in November and lost out on a TD via St. Louis with a tough penalty on the other side of the field. He earned this spot, much more than the overhyped DeAngelo Hall.

S: Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia & Adrian Wilson, Arizona [Starters] Sean Taylor, Washington
Sorry, but Roy Williams gives up too many big plays. While he makes more than most, I’ll take Taylor’s average year over Roy’s. Why? Because Taylor was given a load of responsibility, a weak partner (Archuleta) and did his best to win games. Plus, the personal fouls decreased. FINALLY. Wilson and Dawkins are no-brainers. Especially Dawkins, who destroyed the Giants last week.

Special teams? No complaints again with special teams. Boo ya!

P: Matt McBriar, Dallas
K: Robbie Gould, Chicago
KR: Devin Hester, Chicago
ST: Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chicago

Hope to hear some feedback. Plenty to argue with. A lack of knowledge, to a degree, might hurt me with my NFC o-line especially.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Football Picks Bound To Go Wrong
by Chris Clement
So, we decide 3-2 isn’t good enough…and we move on up to 5-3. Even with some difficult picks, I like it! Sadly, I called the Skins victory outright all damn weekend, and I have at least a dozen witnesses and a free dinner to attest. Not to mention, picking San Fran against a ten-point spread was a no-brainer.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda at 7-3 for the week. My tally is now 21-36 for the season. Know what that means? Well, I’ll tell you. It means we aren’t double in the loss column over those victories anymore. I figure with two more weeks of the regular season, I can take 12-14 picks and perhaps see 30 victories to less than 45 defeats. We’re now officially no longer the Detroit Lions of pick ’ems -- more like the Texans. Wait a second…

We’ll also be throwing in college picks for bowl games, major and minor. The NFL Playoffs won’t be absent either. I’ll pick them all once the seeds are finalized after Week 17, and then tackle the actual games when they occur.

Note: I’d like to note here, thus the note, that I make these picks far before Saturday (editor’s note: see horrific Carolina pick from last week before Delhomme was declared out) when most gamblers fork over the cash. What an excuse to have after that record was posted.

NFL Lineup
Kansas City [-6.5] vs. Oakland
The real line should be how many times will Bryant Gumbel screw up during his miserable play-by-play. Anyone who makes me miss CBS football is just terrible. As for the game, KC and Herm have plenty of pride and the Raiders are downright terrible these days on “offense”, as they try and call it. Kansas City cruises and awaits its spoiler role hosting Cincy in Week 17.
Pick: Kansas City (cover)

New Orleans vs. NY Giants [-2.5]
How quickly can we all jump off of the Saints bandwagon? While I called that Skins loss, this is a team far better than the Giants. New York isn’t a very tough place to play at this year (especially in recent weeks with 4th quarter dominance from Romo & Garcia). The Giants are not a good team and will be dealt a crippling playoff blow with a loss to the no longer ‘Aints.
Pick: New Orleans (outright)

Washington vs. St. Louis [-2.5]
Damn, I’m back to picking all those road dogs. Or am I? Action Jackson will see more catches than carries this week (0 to 31 last week), but Tye Hill will struggle with a healthier Santana as the Skins pull out the useless W.
Pick: Washington (outright)

Cincinnati vs. Denver [-2.5]
Forced to flip threw it a few times, one thing really stood out to me in the Arizona/Denver game. It should’ve been 16-13 Denver late in the 2nd if not for an idiotic 3rd down call from Dennis Green and Rackers’ 40-yarder taken away from a trivial holding call. I don’t trust Cutler, and the Broncos’ homefield advantage was taken away rather easily by powerful offenses before [see Indy & San Diego]. Cincy will get back to passing as Housh and CJ lead the Bengals to a major road victory.
Pick: Cincinnati (outright)

New England vs. Jacksonville [-2.5]
Here we go again. Five straight road teams (at least, its KC to cover). With Taylor & Jones-Drew ailing, I see the Pats grueling their way to a hard fought 20-17 victory. If Maroney is back, he’ll be the difference. If not, it’ll be that Brady guy.
Pick: New England (outright)

Okay, let’s sneak in one extra NFL game, ok maybe two. We need home covers.

Extra Serving #1: Holiday Jeers for TO
Philadelphia vs. Dallas [-6.5]

Is this the week that the wheels fall off for the Eagles Express (with new driver Jeff Garcia]? Yes and no. I’m going out on a BIG limb calling Dallas to win a close, yet 7 point game. I suppose I’m drinking their Kool-Aid (I do support Romo). No spitting jokes needed. Cowboys wrap up the NFC East. Eagles will know what the Giants and Falcons have done already. That’s both good and bad.
Pick: Dallas (cover)

Extra Serving #2: A NFC South Showdown that’s NOT
Carolina vs. Atlanta [-5.5]

Never underestimate the spoiler role. But also don’t overestimate the Panthers. I will scratch this game if Delhomme plays, but I assume the season is more than over in Carolina and the Falcons won’t choke this one away. I’ll take two Morten Anderson FGs padding a 23-16 victory, and thus, another home cover.
Pick: Atlanta (cover)

Bowl Games galore: [we’re picking pre-Christmas]
Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon vs. BYU [-3]

Good to see a pre-Christmas Bowl game when one team isn’t in the title of the friggin’ bowl (see below). While Oregon’s shoddy win over Oklahoma makes me realize the talent, BYU has a shot at finishing in the top 15. I think that’s just enough trivial reasoning for me to take them to win and cover, barely, in a shootout.
Pick: BYU (cover) Bowl [ahhh the pageantry]
South Florida [-4.5] vs. East Carolina

Somebody break out the ratings charts, this one has the entire southeast, nay nation, enthralled. Okay, enough. South Florida is quietly becoming a mid-tier Big East foe. While many might say they’ll slip after that late-season upset over the Mountaineers…I won’t. I’ll take the Bulls and the points.
Pick: South Florida (cover)

Hawaii Bowl
Hawaii [-6.5] vs. Arizona State

Talk about a mismatch. You have the game in Hawaii and it’s called the friggin’ Hawaii Bowl. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I’ll take the Rainbow Warriors to win and cover.
Pick: Hawaii (cover)

New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico [-3.5] vs. San Jose State

Yet another weird Bowl Game with one team having the damn Bowl named after them. Let’s call it a trend. Take the Wolfpack, even without Danny Granger, to trounce their way to a home victory.
Pick: New Mexico (cover)

Upcoming Picks:
Motor City Bowl [more NFL-talent than you think in the MAC], Holiday Bowl (gotta watch this one every year), Texas Bowl [Rutgers getting shafted], and the Alamo Bowl [a good spot for many of today’s NFL QBs to shine in the past]. It’s going be two weeks for the big guns to be loved [cough, BCS].

PS: Gotta go see Rocky Balboa this week. I’ll have a one-paragraph review for everyone during next week's picks. I promise.
Three (Why not 4?) for Thursday

(1) Via the professional hardwood, something bizarre happened and I wish PHSports had its own in-house statistician, somewhat like the Elias Sports Bureau. On the same night, two teams (Atlanta and Minnesota) were outscored by 27 points in the fourth quarter. Both lost leads in the final stanza at home to Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively. I wonder when the last time two teams were outscored by such a margin on their homecourt on the same night in the NBA.

(2) I know I've veered away from college basketball in the last week, but I've still been able to follow. After a month and change of games, [in no particular order] I see UCLA, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Florida (once they get rid of their injuries) in the elite class of teams this season with Wisconsin and Arizona on the cusp of excellence. Kansas has really struggled to gel, but seeing them emerge from the ashes would be no shock given their talent; however, thus far, they are second-best in the state (Wichita State). Pittsburgh really disappointed me with their matador approach to defending Alando Tucker and the crew from Madison. They have another test at Oklahoma State, who themselves are coming off of their first loss of the season (Tennessee). Also, Duke continues to find its offensive identity against Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden. Heytvelt versus McRoberts and Raivio versus Paulus will be a treat to watch.

(3) Don't look now, but Drexel is rated 6th in the RPI (a more realistic 62nd in Pomeroy) after road wins at Villanova and Syracuse. A major reason for this is because 6 of their 7 wins are against RPI top-150 teams. After an embarrassing overtime loss at Rider, Bruiser Flint's squad has reeled off five straight. Can they keep it going upon entering the CAA conference play? Yes, but they must improve offensively and at the free throw line.

(4) Okay, one more. As tournament selection time approaches, look for Clemson to be a bubble potentially bursting if they are sitting at 7-9 in the ACC despite a high RPI. While they have a very formidable RPI rating of 7, they are buoyed by quality wins against unconventional opponents, such as at Old Dominion (67) and South Carolina (44), and home to Appalachian State (25) and Mississippi State (68). This may present a case similar to Missouri State, who had a RPI of 21, yet only had one quality non-conference win (at Horizon League champion Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Making the NFL Pro Bowl Selections
Part I: AFC Pro Bowl Selections
by Chris Clement

I won’t pretend to believe I have a better nose for spotting a Pro Bowl team than other NFL fans, coaches, or players.

Or will I???

That’s right. I’ve decided to post something non-picks oriented for the first time on this blog. It’s my 2006 Pro Bowl rosters. I’ll try and explain as best I can. I have biases, but not nearly as much as most other fans, coaches, and players have, especially because I’ve seen far more games than most.

Let’s quit the jibber-jabber. Roll on!

AFC Roster

QB: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis [Starter]
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Peyton should be the starter for the AFC squad. 26 TDs to only 9 INTS [toss in 3 “rushing” TDs too). He clearly outdueled Palmer and will finish 3rd in the MVP vote.

QB: Tom Brady, New England
Look what he’s working with. The team still has a 10-4 record and it’s due in most part to Brady. Even sans-Branch, I’ll give him the nod over Palmer, Rivers and McNair.

QB: Steve McNair, Baltimore
Here we go. 13 TDs and 9 INTs [1 rushing TD] aren’t the type of numbers that scream Pro Bowl. However, an 11-3 record is. You can’t exclaim any QB could live with this defense. What I would exclaim is how much more confident the defense is with McNair at the controls. Time and time again, Ray Lewis has been quoted as saying they can take more chances and go after more big plays with McNair ready to support them with 20+ points. As a steadying factor on a team who might be 7-9 with Boller, McNair is my final Pro Bowl selection.

“Snubs”: Carson Palmer, Cincinnati & Philip Rivers, San Diego
The sexy QB stats favor Palmer here [24 TDs, 11 INTs], but the Bengals have been shaky at best. He looked terrible against Indy too, left tackle struggles or not. Here’s the most telling stat for Palmer, 14 fumbles and 7 lost. That’s too many, folks. Rivers [18 TDs, 8 INTs] has rode stud teammates LT and Gates. While it’s true he has been uber-impressive in his first season as a starter, this team would arguably be better with Brees still in control. While he’s having an excellent year, he would not be nearly as successful in place of Brady or McNair.

RB: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego [Starter]
It almost seems a waste of time to debate this one. NFL Network showed each of his TDs, from start to finish on each play, and it could’ve nearly taken up the entire 30-minute block. He has claimed the MVP award from Brees (who needed 5,000 yds to combat what should be 35 TDs from LT2].

RB: Larry Johnson, Kansas City
No bust or slump here, fantasy or NFL-based. The Chiefs have rode their star (to think, a late 1st round pick after a 2,000 yard season at Penn State) and remained in the playoff hunt until recent weeks (a crippling loss at Cleveland rings truest). 13 TDs and over 100 yards per game (ypg) make him one heck of a reserve.

RB: Willie Parker, Pittsburgh
You can’t make nearly enough of a case against him as he can for himself. Two 200-yard games is fun, but what really draws me to his selection is the inability for Big Ben to show any consistency of late (outside of throwing multiple picks a game]. He may see 1500 yds and possibly 15 TDs. That contract extension is looking like a steal right now.

“Snubs”: None
Travis Henry would get the nod over Taylor, Dillon, and even Rudi in my book. Well, perhaps not Rudi. While the Bengals don’t feature him enough, I see him as the guy who might put up the 1200 yard and 12 TD season that isn’t mind-blowing.

FB: Lorenzo Neal, San Diego
Don’t tell me he’s underrated or underappreciated. The networks, specifically CBS, love this guy and deservedly so. He’s an easy selection this year (as often as a FB is with a top RB behind him).

“Snubs”: None at all.

WR: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis [Starter]
Steady as he goes. Even before his brilliant MNF 3-TD night, Harrison had piled up impressive numbers [now at 82 catches, 1180 yds, 9 TDs]. He is a must-insert as a starter this year, as most years.

WR: Chad Johnson, Cincinnati [Starter]
Even with Housh [a potential “snub” gobbling up possession catches, CJ is the best big play wideout east of Torry Holt. As usual, he’s leading the league in yards [1284] and had two monster games that kept the Bengals afloat [even in a loss]. While 7 TDs is nice, I’m still waiting for his 15-TD year, even with Housh/Henry stealing redzone and deepball looks.

WR: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
I’ve been a little tough on him, as some games he’s non-existent. But you can’t dog a guy with these numbers [77 catches, 1213 yds, and 9 TDs]. Especially since he’s a #2.

WR: Laveranues Coles, New York
Time for a hometown pick, right? Nope. 2nd in catches [87] alongside 1,065 yds and 6 TDs. The guy is as beaten and bruised as anyone [a weekly stable on the injured list] and has been named Team MVP and one of the toughest guys to play the game in recent years [multiple leg and heel problems]. Without a prolific #2 like most [although Cotchery has improved mightily], he lacks a strong-armed QB and the redzone looks most see [Cotchery and Baker see the majority of those]. It’s time to reward talented players on good teams.

“Snubs”: Andre Johnson, Houston
AJ…I’m sorry. I have to punish you for your team. And how useless you’ve been the last five weeks [32 catches, 335 yds, 1 TD]. Hollow stuff, especially with a Texans team that puts up a TON of garbage yards. 1 catch for 9 yards against the Raiders is just sad. Housh isn’t a snub.

TE: Antonio Gates, San Diego [Starter]
Another easy selection for the Chargers. Despite being an amazing redzone target, you know they have to give it to LT whenever they can. His blocking has really improved [why K2 won’t get a nod from me], and his 12.4 yd average looks great next to 8 TDs. Pencil this guy in.

TE: Todd Heap, Baltimore
I see the Ravens far too often. While Gonzo has rebounded from a slow start, I like what Heap does more. He is blocking extremely well and stretches the field as his team’s best target (even over Derrick Mason). Gonzo can be better, Heap has been at his best. Process of elimination has me tabbing Heap in the Pro Bowl over Gonzo.

“Snubs”: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City & Kellen Winslow Jr., Cleveland
Props to both. K2 doesn’t block very well and can disappear for entire games at times. Gonzo is just slightly below Heap in my book, who does more with less these days.

T: Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore & Marcus McNeil, San Diego & Tarik Glenn, Indianapolis
Not sure how I squeezed out Willie Anderson, but I did. I suppose a lot of Carson’s fumbles have other reasons, but I expect an anchor to stand out more. McNeil has been the 2nd best rookie OL (Mangold has to do tons more for the Jets as a center on a young line] while Ogden has avoided Freeney embarrassing him enough to remain a top OL in all of football.

G: Brian Waters, Kansas City & Chris Naeole, Jacksonville [Starters] Alan Faneca
Props to Pete Prisco, for once, of CBS Sportsline for tabbing Naeole as a top snub. He is the most talented player on a Jags team that could spot two 1,000 yard rushers (and a nimble Garrard). Shield made it due to reputation, but at least Waters jumped in while Faneca was just another name spot in my opinion, who was close with several others.

C: Nick Hardwick, San Diego [Starter] Nick Mangold, New York
Jeff Saturday is having a great year. Yet, the Colts rush game never plays to him and 3-4s eat him alive in every big game. Not to mention, I’ve spotted more than a few penalties on him with downfield blocking. Hardwick has been a monster (downright dominating DTs in run blocking) and Mangold has been a force at rookie on a team with a lot of youth and not one solid runner. Nevertheless, he is great at spotting blitzes and the Jets rush very well inside the 5 behind him.

There’s the offense. Let’s move to the D.

DE: Jason Taylor, Miami & Aaron Schobel, Buffalo [Starters] Derrick Burgess, Oakland
Taylor is a no brainer, plain and simple. He is right there with Champ Bailey for Defensive Player of the Year. Each will have TV audiences watching them this weekend. Guess who I hope does worse? As for Schobel, he’s been working towards this for years. His 13.5 sacks have been quite impressive, especially since Pat Williams departed to Minnesota this season. Burgess, who is having another strong season (alongside Warren Sapp in case you didn’t know), is a strong alternate as Freeney can’t stay healthy enough to earn a selection.

DT: Richard Seymour, New England & Jamal Williams, San Diego [Starters] Casey Hampton
I hate agreeing for a second straight category, but it makes too much sense. Seymour is the most talented and valuable interior lineman in football and Williams may be the highest-rising star at the position. As for Hampton, I’m stumped to name anyone better. Wait, I can. Warren Sapp. Check my selection. I won’t even edit it the easy way. Warren Sapp has 8 sacks (leading DTs) and is the anchor of a surprisingly good Raiders defense.

Insert as reserve for Hampton: Warren Sapp, Oakland

ILB: Al Wilson, Denver [Starter] & DeMeco Ryans, Houston
Al Wilson is as good an athlete as this position is likely to see over the next few years. He has blazing speed and hits incredibly well. While his D has taken a bit of a step back, he has allowed his interior lineman a lot of leeway with some major tackles. Ryans, my defensive rookie of the year, has been an all-out tackling machine on a team that can’t tackle. He has taken away a lot of the heat from “Not so Super” Mario on his way to an impressive debut for the lowly Texans.

“Snubs”: Zack Thomas, Miami & Ray Lewis, Baltimore
Tackles aren’t enough for me. I honestly wonder if a guy like Vilma (so undersized in his 3-4 role, as Thomas is) has done as much as Taylor has. London Fletcher-Baker (when did this idiotic Baker get inserted anyways?) is just as deserving as Thomas is. DeMeco sneaks in over my boy Ray Lewis, who is back as being one of the truly elite.

OLB: Adalius Thomas, Baltimore & Shawne Merriman, San Diego [Starters] Bart Scott, Baltimore
As if we didn’t already have enough love for the Ravens linebackers, here’s two more. Scott is an easier selection than Suggs, far more sturdy with more tackles and 2 INTs. Although trailing in forced fumbles, Suggs has far less responsibility on his side of the 3-4 than Scott. While I hate Merriman (mainly for cheating with ‘roids, shocker it was), he is an easy selection and with those four games probably a runner-up defensive player of the year. Adalius is a force, even with a rather bland ESPN the Magazine cover, and has changed Baltimore’s defense even more than Ed Reed was able to years back. Sorry to not be able to give more love to Keith Bulluck.

CB: Champ Bailey, Denver & Rasheen Mathis, Jacksonville [Starters} Nnamdi Asomugha
I was forced to watch Houston/Oakland with a Raiders fan, and saw Nnamdi (how do you even begin to pronounce that?) gobble up Moulds and AJ without any help over the top. As for the starters, Mathis lived up to his deal with a solid season (especially v. CJ) and Champ is arguably the best corner since Deion. Asante Samuel is a close fourth followed by Chris McAllister and Pacman Jones [if only for the past 5 weeks]. Anyone who voted for Ty Law should be stripped of their votes.

S: Kerry Rhodes & Ed Reed [Starters] Chris Hope, Tennessee
Lynch is a crackpipe decision in the AFC and Polamalu, outside of the hair pull, didn’t make nearly as many big plays as people label him with this season. Reed has been strong, yet not stellar. Hope has to make a lot of tackles, especially if Bulluck can’t make them all, and has done well in coverage with young cast mates back there. As for Rhodes, he may be the biggest snub of the AFC. For safeties, the numbers don’t lie: 4 sacks [1st], 3 forced fumbles [t-1st], 71 tackles [3rd], and 4 INTs are just sick for a safety, especially on a defense that just shifted into the 3-4 and is undermanned. What a crying shame he wasn’t a starter, no less a reserve. Shame on the AFC here. Shame on hacks like Skip Bayless, Sean Salisbury, and Peter King for not noting this guy’s amazing year. SHAME.

I’m going to leave the special teams as is. I won’t even explain them. The numbers say plenty and I couldn’t be happier with the selections this year.

K: Nate Kaeding, San Diego
P: Brian Moorman, Buffalo
KR: Justin Miller, New York
ST: Kassim Osgood, San Diego

Wow. That’s a mouthful to say the least. NFC tomorrow hopefully. Enjoy the day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday Thoughts

Yesterday, those in the Washington D.C.-area enjoyed a balmy record-high of 76 degrees. Although the temperatures in the area have since chilled to a mere 50 degrees, such issues of climate change have ramifications on the NFL and how teams adjust to the new conditions.

(1) Can the notion of the "cold weather team" (e.g. Pittsburgh Steelers) fade away in the NFL as global warming claims new territory? It could possibly fade in our children's viewing era. In spite of these changes, the best organizations are those that adjust readily to foreseen and unforeseen alterations. As for other sports, they will also be affected negatively by the addition to new and reintroduced diseases that were once only subject to tropical areas.

(2) From the balmy to the fuming, how on earth does Isaiah Thomas get away scot-free for his antics? There is an obvious double standard between player and coach discipline coming down from the league offices, as both have brought the game into disrepute. Back to the general manager, team president, and head coach, Isaiah Thomas. He allegedly told the opposition best player to avoid going into the lane. He also thought he was coaching the Nuggets, because he suggested who should be in the game with two minutes left. Thomas did nothing short of inciting riot on the court during the game and stink of hypocrisy afterwards. A real coach would've smacked Nate Robinson upside the head for going into his version of the Edward Petrossi fighting stance. He didn't throw out a white flag, because the players (namely, David Lee, who was the best healthy player that the Knicks had on the roster that night) he had on the floor didn't indicate as such.

Perhaps, it's true that actual Nuggets coach George Karl was sticking it to Isaiah Thomas for his hand in the tumultuous dismissal of former coach and Karl's close friend Larry Brown. Perhaps, Isaiah's Knicks may want to enter a YMCA elementary school league in which the score is not kept. That way, he won't instruct his youngsters to become savages that commit unnecessarily hard fouls just because the score is lopsided.

(3) And from the fumes to the spit. I am understating like the British when I say that Terrell Owens is a hypocrite and a scumbag. Did I mention liar? Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall is an in-your-face player who tries to match his talent with his mouth. PFT is all over the fact that TO cites a spitting incident prior to his professional career (he was the recipient) and how degrading it was in his children's book.

The $35,000 fine is a joke, and especially for someone who has pocketed $10 million this season. The player, one with a horrific reputation, spat on another player. Had the 1st quarter infraction been caught, TO, or anyone, would've undoubtedly been ejected. He didn't get ejected. With that said, why is there no suspension?

I don't know, but it might have to do with padding his league-leading 15 drops.

(4) And from the spit to ... "The Answer" whose value is still not yet known by one Billy King. AI was traded a few hours ago to the Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two 2007 first-round draft picks. This is a bad trade financially (only $7 million from the expiring contract of Joe Smith and Andre Miller won't be off the books until 2009) and on the court, as Philadelphia loses Iverson for the Nuggets' third best player. Speaking of Miller, he'll cost in excess of $19 million over the next two seasons. That's in the region of Dalembert's earnings and just a million less than what Chris Webber will make in the 2007-08 campaign.

Good luck inking Iguodala in a couple of years.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brawl Suspension Aftermath

If you want to get suspended, there is no worse suspender than David Stern. Sadly, he got it wrong again. Badly. The Knicks acted like clowns and they had five less suspension games than the Nuggets. Just like the Brawl in the Palace in which then-Piston Ben Wallace overreacted to a hard Ron Artest foul, starting a huge melee ending in the stands with fans also getting hit on the court, the NBA Commissioner failed to pinpoint the chief escalator. In the case of the Palace, it was undoubtedly Ben Wallace, and at the Garden, it was unmistakably Nate Robinson.

All in all, this sends one message to instigators in the Association: instigate and you shall get your way.

While it's true that Carmelo Anthony let down his team, organization, fans, and the NBA as a whole, but it's unfair to ban him for almost one-fifth of the season just because he is a recognizable face in the league. The crime doesn't fit the time, and if there is an arbitrator, his ban will be reduced. Nevertheless, the heavy suspensions to the Nuggets' top two scorers should expedite the Iverson trade and decide his destination.

Suspension Effect on the Trade

Courtesy of the ESPN Trade Machine, the latest three-way trade example is below.

Philadelphia gets: The expiring contracts of Jamaal Magloire (POR), Julius Hodge (DEN), Joe Smith (DEN), and Earl Boykins (DEN), 2007 1st-round pick (28th pick overall) from Denver via Dallas, 2008 1st-round pick from Denver
Denver gets: Allen Iverson (PHI), 2008 2nd-round pick from Philadelphia
Portland gets: Eduardo Najera (DEN), 2007 1st-round pick (21st pick overall) from Denver
Billy King, The BS Machine

For every BS Machine, you need a BS translator. Here are some quotes from Sixers Team President Billy King regarding the AI saga from an article written today.

BK: "We never put a timetable on this. The only timetable I'll put on this is to make the best decision for this franchise for the long haul. We've got to be very methodical as we go through this and do our due diligence. This is not something we're going to rush into."
BST: Every NBA general manager called my bluff when I said there would be a 72-hour window to trade Allen Iverson.

BK: "We've had some great dialogue."
BST: We're getting nothing in terms of young talent in return for the guy I drove out of town by the horrible contracts I've either signed or traded for.

BK: "I think the teams out there that we're talking with know exactly what it will take to get it done. We'll keep talking. This is a process where you make a lot of conversation."
BST: The teams out there know what we want and they're willing to offer the goods, but I'm an idiot, and my ego comes before the team, so Allen is sitting at home.

BK: "Once it was there and out that we were going to trade him, and he had asked to be traded, I felt it was best to keep him out and let the team focus on playing. It gives me the chance to evaluate our team as we're talking to people. What pieces would fit best to go with the pieces that we have."
BST: My ego got the better of me and I am bigger than AI. I know that I want to keep Andre Iguodala, Rodney Carney, Kyle Korver, and Willie Green as my core, so I'm going to leave my best player at home so I can draft Greg Oden with the first pick overall.

BK: "I'm going to do whatever I can to help this franchise for the long haul."
BST: Except for resign from my post.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Garden Brawl Fallout

You know a team is bad when they only make the news for negative reasons, but the Knicks continue to outdo themselves as an organization. Tonight's newsworthy is the Broadway Brawl. I've perused the brawl that took place at the end of the Denver Nuggets 123-100 win over the hapless New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. It started after a flagrant foul by Mardy Collins on J.R. Smith, escalated, dissipated, and then hit a crescendo when Carmelo Anthony stilled Collins in the face. Referee Dick Bavetta then proceeded to eject all ten players who were on the floor prior to the brawl irrespective of their involvement. In the post-game press conference, Knicks head coach Isaiah Thomas noted that the Nuggets shouldn't have had their starters late in the game with a comfortable lead.

After a good dozen looks at the brawl and post-game comments, I would do the following if I were in David Stern's position.

  • Before I go into the suspensions, I would absolve Marcus Camby, Channing Frye, David Lee, Andre Miller, and Eduardo Najera from further punishment. Of course, the league office will fine these players simply for breathing because that's how they roll.
  • First things first. The rookie Mardy Collins committed a heinous and unnecessary flagrant foul against J.R. Smith. This was his second flagrant foul in as many nights. For the reason that his stupid foul initiated the stupidity that ensued, he gets slapped with a 3-game suspension.
  • Second, we address the victim, J.R. Smith. After the foul, he gets in the face of Collins only to be thrown by Nate Robinson. Later on, Smith, held by David Lee, retaliates after Robinson gets in his face. J.R. Smith gets a 3-game suspension, mostly for taking Robinson into the stands.
  • Third, we have Nate Robinson, who shoved J.R. Smith after he got in Collins' face and started jawing at Smith to bait him. It worked. I hate the idea of little guys getting away with stuff. He gets a 6-game suspension for being a moron.
  • Fourth, it's none other than 'Melo. He sucker-punched Collins as the melee dissipated. In this climate, you cannot punch anyone. No one. As a result, I would issue nothing less than a 5-game suspension for Anthony.
  • Fifth, I would suspend Jared Jeffries for one game after holding Anthony inappropriately (across his neck) and then chasing him after the sucker punch.
  • Sixth, I would publicly warn and fine Isaiah Thomas for his comments after the game. It is not the responsibility of the opposing teams' coach to determine when the opposition's starters exit the game. Period.