Saturday, January 31, 2009

PHSports Simulation Series: Super Bowl XLIII [Madden-Style]

Check out previews and predictions before enjoy the Madden Simulation.
Quarter-by-quarter streaming updates and instant analysis (from the entire staff) will begin tomorrow at 6pm. See you then!!!

It worked so well last year…it’s back!!!

It’s not about who’s the BIGGEST.
It’s not about who’s the STRONGEST.

It’s about something MORE.


In a tradition that has gone as far back as…last year…we here at PHSports are ready to do away with computer and metric-based simulations and instead focus on something random, yet incredible entertaining.

Super Bowl XLIII…one day early.
How does it happen? The power of technology!

Enter an XBOX360, the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Arizona Cardinals, a 26-inch flat-screen television and Microsoft’s willingness to update rosters on a seemingly weekly basis.

The difficulty was boosted to All-Madden, attributes were reset to system levels, ditto for rules/preferences/options. We tried to silence Cris Collinsworth as much as we could, but we had no hope.

Even an MVP was named.

Remember Jet fans. Blame the "Madden-curse" for this year's downfall. Duh.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Let’s check the highlights…

1st Quarter

Pittsburgh called the toss (heads) and lost. Cardinals receive and the game is underway. Arizona opened running the ball unsuccessfully with Edgerrin James (2 carries for -3 yards) and a short hitch to Edge from Warner that resulted in only 5 yards and a 3 and out. After an average punt and good field position – on their own 44 – Pittsburgh followed with a 3 and out as Santonio Holmes dropped a first down in Arizona territory. The game’s first 1st down came on a 3rd and 3 in which Warner saw the blitz coming and hit Fitzgerald on a 13-yard hitch route. 3 runs from Edge ensued after a key 3rd down to Fitz again and the Cardinals were inside the Steeler 20. Roughing the passer on James Harrison led to a 3 yard TD plunge by Edgerrin James and a 7-0 Arizona lead with 4:43 to play in the 1st quarter. Edge looks very good thus far.

Pittsburgh again 3 and out. Great pressure from Dockett up the middle on 3rd and 6. Hines Ward has not been a factor, being targeted 0 times. After a quick 1st down, a steady diet of Edge leads to 3rd and 15 and a big sack by LaMarr Woodley for a 9-yard loss. Cardinals punt from their own 42. Big Ben fumbles the snap on 2nd and 10 (0-2 with a 39.2 QB rating and the aforementioned fumble) and its recovered on the Pittsburgh 25 by Karlos Dansby. Cardinals in business. Shocking news from the sideline. Kurt Warner’s shoulder is bruised and he is probable (2 quarters) to return. Enter Matt Leinart and on 1st down a second sack for Woodley on an all-out blitz. 35-yard FG by Rackers is GOOD; fortunately, Leinart found Fitz on second down for a much-needed 10 yard completion. 2:49 left in the first.

Steelers go three and out again. Roethlisberger’s first completion to Miller for only 5 yards on 1st down. Pittsburgh’s offense is strug-a-ling. Leinart sacked by Aaron Smith on 3rd and long – too much JJ Arrington this drive – on his own 11. Leinart without a first down in two drives. Steelers have a costly false start penalty and – you guessed it – go 3 and out. Ben has plenty of time, but his receivers aren’t open. His checkdowns aren’t looking well. Ball is punted down inside the 10 yard-line. No Edge or Hightower again, surprising to see so much Arrington. Cardinals 3 and out, punt from their own 11 yard line. Holmes makes the fair catch at mid field. Steelers get their first 1st down on a 12 yard completion on 3rd and 2 from Big Ben to TE Heath Miller. Francisco on a safety blitz gets Big Ben down, no attempt for a 50-yard FG by Jeff Reed. Cardinals begin the 2nd quarter at their own 6 yard line. 10-0 Arizona after 1.

After a great first quarter, Fitzgerald would become a forgotten man.
Credit: EASports

2nd Quarter

4 rushes in 6 plays for Edge for a total of 21 yards. Fitzgerald already has 6 catches for 75 yards. Bad drop by Fitz though inside the Steeler 20 on 3rd and 6 from the 32. No attempted 49-yard FG for Rackers. Punt is a touchback, barely. Great play by Holmes to let it bounce. And just like that, we have a game. 80-yard TD from Roethlisberger to Santonio “Playoffs 2009” Holmes. Rod Hood was beat on a double-move without a safety over the top. Rolle blitzed and Parker picked him up beautifully. 10-7 Arizona leads.

Keisel and Hampton team up for a big sack on 2nd down. Let it be known Edgerrin James has 18 rushes for 66 yards and a TD already. Leinart is 6 of 8 but has been sacked in critical spots. Big Ben with a key 3rd down conversion on a 6-yard rush, shaking of DRC on another Cardinal blitz. Holmes drops a touchdown – after beating Hood again – that forces another Steeler punt in Arizona territory. Cardinals dodge a big bullet with 4:27 left in the 1st half. Leinart sacked again, Woodley’s 3rd on the day, on 3rd down. He isn’t reading blitzes on the outside well at all. Casey Hampton is giving the Arizona interior line fits. Hines Ward with his first two catches – for a total of 28 yards – Big Ben goes 5 for 5 on the drive, including an 11-yard TD toss to Heath Miller on 3rd and 9 on the Arizona 11. Miller beats Dansby to the corner on a beautiful tight end waggle. Pittsburgh leads 14-10. Will Kurt Warner be ready after halftime to return?

Leinart hits his tight ends (Pope for 16 yards on 3rd down & Patrick for 13 yards on 3rd and 7) for big completions downfield. The blitz is being picked up much better with Edge in the backfield on 3rd down. Hightower without a carry thus far. Another Blitzburgh sack, this time Keisel by himself, on 3rd down. Cardinals punt as the 2-minute warning approaches. Pittsburgh doesn’t call a timeout to save 12 seconds. Steelers start on their own 3, but punt by the time they reach their 21. Leinart sacked AGAIN – that’s 7 first-half sacks. 0 for James Harrison though. Odd fake punt call by the Cardinals from the Pittsburgh 41 on 4th down. Ryan Clark with an INT at the 30. Steeler ball. Big Ben is on fire. 4 for 4 on the drive for 59 yards. Holmes is wide open 2 out of every 3 plays. Hines Ward catches his 2nd Super Bowl TD of his career (1st of the night) with 6 seconds left on a 3 yard WR screen from Big Ben. 3 2nd quarter TDs for the Steelers. 21-10 Pittsburgh leads. Halftime.

Remember this run from "Fast" Willie? Get ready for plenty more this second half.
Credit: EASports

3rd Quarter

Steelers fair catch a great kickoff. After a quick first-down by “Fast” Willie, Big Ben is sacked on consecutive downs by Bertrand Berry. Steelers punt. Kurt Warner returns, yet the Cardinals stall out near midfield as Warner is sacked by Polamalu on 3rd down. Anquan Boldin is not starting the second half due to leg cramps. 1 catch all game. Steeler football returns as the rush game comes alive. A methodical drive ensues with manageable 2nd and 3rd downs. Parker plunges over the top for 1 yard for a fourth-consecutive Steelers TD. 28-10. Warner and Wisenhunt look rattled on the sideline. Leinart doesn’t. Wouldn’t you know it, but another Arizona 3 and out. This game is rapidly ending already. This game appears over with another dominant Pittsburgh drive. Willie Parker has been unstoppable this 3rd quarter. He may only have 88 rushing yards, but 79 of them are in this quarter alone. Funny enough, Mewelde Moore tacks on a short TD dive from the goalline to give the Steelers yet another 3rd quarter touchdown. Pittsburgh is now winning 35-10.

Warner’s first throw of the next drive is intercepted by James Farrior down to the Arizona 11. Next play: Roethlisberger’s 4th TD toss and second to Hines Ward. Pittsburgh is beating down the Cardinals in a 3rd quarter that is in the record books now. The quarter ends and the Cardinals have nothing left to play for but pride. 42-10.

You won't be seeing this. The guy played ZERO snaps in the second half.
Credit: Photobucket

4th Quarter

Kurt Warner hits Fitzgerald for a nice 21-yard pass play downfield. However, next pass ends up in Polamalu’s hands at the goalline. After a bad pass interference call on Adrian Wilson, Willie Parker goes 59-yards for his second touchdown. The guy loves dynamic Super Bowl rushes over 50 yards, right? 49-10 Steelers. Is the scoring record of 55 in danger? YES.

Arizona gains 2 meaningless first downs and Warner is picked AGAIN, this time by Ike Taylor. A lazy drive ensues, with Fast Willie still burning it up, before it stalls inside the 5. Jeff Reed, who must be dog tired, kicked a 19-yard FG. 52 unanswered points has it 52-10. No Boldin still. Each team trades 3 and outs. An Arizona QB is sacked for the 10th time. Wow. Jeff Reed ties the Super Bowl record of 55 points with a 48-yard FG. The Steelers might as well give Tomlin the Gatorrade bath now with 4:27 remaining.

Byron Leftwich enters after Warner is unsuccessful on 4th and 2 from the Pittsburgh 41. Fitzgerald is visibly frustrated (obviously!). New scoring mark set at 58. Pittsburgh plays for blood as it keeps Willie Parker in – alongside Doug E Fresh (Leftwich) after sacking Warner on his own 32. Reed’s 28 yarder with 1:22 left is the last score of the game (I pray). Edge pads his stats with 5 useless rushes for 33 yards. Tick tock. Bryant McFadden intercepts Warner who may lose the Hall of Fame bid after this second half. Remember it was once 10-0 Arizona. Leftwich downs it and Super Bowl XLIII is O-V-A. 58-10. Yes, you read that right. Thankfully, this abomination is over for me too.

Tomlin gets the bath as Pittsburgh annihilates Arizona. Sorry Cinderella, go home. Pittsburgh with 714 yards of total offense and 0 turnovers (compared to Arizona’s 5). Pittsburgh was 7 for 7 in the redzone with 5 TDs and 2 FGs. Great day for Jeff Reed, too.

Doug E Fresh took a few snaps after it was 55-10. Now there's a moment.
Seriously, other people besides myself and SVP see it, right?


Pittsburgh earns it’s 6th Super Bowl ring in record fashion.
Here are some more specifics…

Final Score: Pittsburgh wins 58-10
MVP: Ben Roethlisberger [30-39, 409 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs]

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

Cardinals: Edgerrin James 3 yard rush for TOUCHDOWN.
[14 plays, 79 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- 15-yard personal foul on James Harrison setting up Arizona 1st and goal on the 6.
Arizona leads 7-0.

Cardinals: Neil Rackers 35-yard FIELD GOAL.
[3 plays, 4 yards]
Key Play -- Ben Roethlisberger fumbles the snap on his own 25, recovered by Dansby.
Arizona leads 10-0.

2nd Quarter

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger 80-yard pass to Santonio Holmes for TOUCHDOWN.
[1 play, 80 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Holmes not fait catching a punt at the 8, allowing it to bounce for a touchback.]
Arizona leads 10-7.

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger 11-yard pass to Heath Miller for TOUCHDOWN.
[8 plays, 60 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Hines Ward’s first two catches softened up sideline routes later in the drive.
Pittsburgh leads 14-10.

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger 3-yard pass to Hines Ward for TOUCHDOWN.
[7 plays, 70 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Big Ben avoids a mega-blitz and goes 9 yards to Holmes on the sideline on a key 3rd and long.
Pittsburgh leads 21-10.

3rd Quarter

Pittsburgh: Willie Parker 1-yard rush for TOUCHDOWN.
[13 plays, 89 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Arizona commits a stupid 5-yard offsides penalty on a 3rd and 3.
Pittsburgh leads 28-10.

Pittsburgh: Mewelde Moore 3-yard rush for TOUCHDOWN.
[11 plays, 75 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Anytime Willie Parker touched the ball, he gained at least 7 yards.
Pittsburgh leads 35-10.

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger 11-yard pass to Hines Ward for TOUCHDOWN.
[1 play, 11 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Farrior’s interception of Warner followed by a stiff arm to Warner on the return.
Pittsburgh leads 42-10.

4th Quarter

Pittsburgh: Willie Parker rush for 59-yard TOUCHDOWN.
[2 plays, 80 yards, XP Good]
Key Play -- Willie Parker shook off Dockett for a potential 5-yard loss and then was untouched.
Pittsburgh leads 49-10.

Pittsburgh: Jeff Reed 19-yard FIELD GOAL is good.

Pittsburgh leads 52-10.

Pittsburgh: Jeff Reed 48-yard FIELD GOAL is good.
[5 plays, 39 yards]
Pittsburgh leads 55-10.

Pittsburgh: Jeff Reed 28-yard FIELD GOAL is good.
[6 plays, 32 yards]
Pittsburgh leads 58-10.

Key Statistics

Arizona Cardinals
Kurt Warner: 17-33, 148 yards, o TDs, 4 INTs
Matt Leinart: 11-16, 120 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
Edgerrin James: 34 rushes, 140 yds, 1 TD
Tim Hightower: 0 rushes, 0 receptions
Jeremy Urban: 7 catches, 84 yards
Larry Fitzgerald: 9 catches, 81 yards, 2 drops
Anquan Boldin: 1 catch, 18 yards
Gerald Hayes: 19 tackles, 1 sack
Karlos Dansby: 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
Bertrand Berry: 4 tackles, 3 sacks
Adrian Wilson: 2 tackles, 1 sack, 3 penalties
Rod Hood: 1 tackle (gave up 3 TD passes in coverage)

Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger: 30-39, 409 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Willie Parker: 31 rushes, 198 yards, 2 TDs
Mewelde Moore: 15 attempts, 79 yards, 1 TD
Santonio Holmes: 9 receptions, 183 yards, TD
Hines Ward: 7 catches, 96 yards, 2 TDs
Heath Miller: 4 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD
Casey Hampton: 11 tackles, 3 sacks
LaMarr Woodley: 5 tackles, 3 sacks
Brett Keisel: 7 tackles, 2 sacks
Ryan Clark: 6 tackles, 1 INT
Troy Polamalu: 5 tackles, 1 INT
Ike Taylor: 3 tackles, 1 INT

PHSports Play of the Game: Santonio Holmes' 80-yard touchdown pass was the moment in which the game officially slipped away from Arizona. Up 10 with the Steelers on their own 20, Holmes burned Hood down the sideline and ran with open field for 65 yards. It might've been 10-7, but Pittsburgh clearly had seized control.

Art Monk Award: Casey Hampton, DT [Pittsburgh]
-Despite not as much barking as Foote and Farrior, Hampton led the Steeler D with 11 tackles and 3 sacks. He was unstoppable from start to finish. Unreal performance from the DT.

Defining Moment: Kurt Warner’s injury with the Cardinals leading 10-0 allowed the Steeler D time to relax (with Leinart in) and their offense enough time to start the motors running. Remember that it was 10-0 after the 1st quarter in Arizona’s favor, 58-0 the final 3 for Pittsburgh.

In case this worried you about tomorrow. Check this out for a smile!
God bless you, YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed it, it was horrific to watch. But kinda fine to write.

Until next Super Bowl…

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII: Final Thoughts and Predictions from the PHSports Football Experts

The Steel crew are 7 point favorites ... but will any of the PHSports crew pick the Cards to peck away at victory?


I used the perfect analogy last year. Mike Bibby and the 1997 Arizona Wildcats, playing the role of giant killers and the team of destiny, all the way to the National Championship. The Arizona Cardinals would be a better fit, if for nothing else than the fact that they play in the same state as the Wildcats. While this year is not as big of a giant killing situation, as the Patriots went into the game 18-0, the signs still point to Pittsburgh winning this game. Last year, I should have followed my gut and predicted a Giants win. This year, I'm not going against my gut (except maybe going on a diet). I pick the Cards (which might be bad news for the Cards). My home-away-from-home team will win the championship and bring credibility to the franchise. Most importantly, they will do it as partial payback to the legacy of Pat Tillman. Somewhere he will be smiling down on the Cards as they celebrate as World Champs.

Cardinals 31
Steelers 27
MVP: Kurt Warner, QB


I’d be lying if I said I was a supporter of either of these two teams. While I used to be quite anti-Pittsburgh, I respect Mike Tomlin (aka Omar Epps), root for Big Ben when he's crazy in the pocket, and like guys like Farrior/"Fast" Willie/Ike Taylor. Meanwhile, Arizona has always been a bit of a joke; nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed their ride through the playoffs this season. Watching Fitzgerald is pure fun and I hope Boldin has a big play or two in him on Sunday evening. I’ll be rooting for Arizona, but suspect the Pittsburgh (or Blitzburgh) defense will be a little too much for Warner, Fitz, and Edge. A large part of me wants to see Edge with a ring in the desert; especially with all the good he has done for rookie Tim Hightower. After last year’s epic affair, what we all should be rooting for (those of us not with specific rooting interests, of course) is a fun, competitive game. It won’t happen. Polamalu will make his mark (and earn an MVP award, even as a safety) and Hines Ward will be game enough to catch his second Super Bowl TD (this time from Big Ben). I just don't think Arizona will be able to convert on 3rd and less than 5 as often as they need to. Steelers win 21-10, in a game odd reminiscent of the 2006 Super Bowl. Or is it eerily reminiscent…

Steelers 21
Cardinals 14
MVP: Troy Polamalu, S


I contemplated completely boycotting this farce of a Super Bowl, as my Eagles were on the business end of two horrendous calls in the final minutes. The first was a block in the back by Reggie Wells on Darren Howard at the 10-yard line (I have DVR'd the play and it's obvious), which opened the pathway for rookie running back Tim Hightower to fight his way to paydirt. The second was a blatant pass interference in which Rod Hood (on an island, no less) pushed off against Kevin Curtis. To many, this is ancient history. To the vigilant, it is one more instance of officials deciding games. Seriously, who cares about the game other than Steelers fans? Pittsburgh wins it because they are the tougher team on both lines and Arizona will actually get flagged for holds and blocks in the back, because referees always call it tight during the Super Bowl. Don't worry, Big Ben will turn the ball over once or twice to keep it mildly exciting.

Steelers 28
Cardinals 16
MVP: Ben Roethslisberger, QB


There have been three constants in the NFL Playoffs and their coverage in PHSports. 1) I have analyzed the Arizona Cardinals game each week. 2) I have predicted the Cards to lose each week. 3) The Cards have shat on my prediction each week. (A fourth could by my mentioning of Kurt Warner + Depends each week ... but nah). Each week I have suggested that Arizona's opponent would learn from the mistakes of the team(s) in the week(s) before. That the opposing team would stay true to its running attack and would also beat the snot out of Kurt Warner with an intense pass rush. And it seems that those teams have steadily avoided my advice as if I was Dave Shula. But there's really no way that Dick LeBeau doesn't rush a QB. And there's no way that a Pittsburgh football team goes pass-happy. Right? It just wouldn't make sense ... it'd be like the Cardinals winning three straight playoff games ...

Steelers 31
Cardinals 23
MVP: Willie Parker, RB

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Pre-Game Analysis: Pittsburgh vs. Arizona

Pittsburgh Do’s and Don’t’s - Clement:

Do your best to jam Larry Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage. If Fitzgerald is given too much space, he's going to cause havoc in the worst ways possible. Before you know it, a trick player will be opening up – even with Polamalu's savvy – and Breaston/Boldin will be running deep sideline routes. While Fitzgerald is murder in the redzone, the crossing route allows him plenty of space to rumble. Beware.

Do your best to allow Woodley and Harrison to go 1 on 1 with the Arizona tackles. The Arizona tackles have been the weakest link on the Cardinal line. Harrison, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, is a sack machine and Woodley may, in fact, be the more talented overall pass rusher. Both are strong and sturdy throughout the game. Arizona will need to mix up protection schemes and their backs – especially the rookie Hightower – better be more than ready to chip. Effective runs to the outside and screens against the blitz are perfect remedies.

Do your best to get Santonio Holmes in open space. If you didn't see his punt return against the Chargers or his YAC-scamper against the Ravens, you missed out. With Ward "dinged" up and Limas Sweed being a PUNK, Holmes may be asked to make 2 or 3 big downfield catches. The best way to free him up isn't with the deep ball though, it's within the 10-15 yard range with space to run. That means Big Ben better be ready to withstand plenty of hits within the pocket.

Don't forget about Anquan Boldin. Larry Fitzgerald may be the best wideout in the NFL; however, Boldin isn't far behind. Sure he's been unhealthy and too much of a primadonna in recent weeks, but Boldin is also a redzone B-E-A-S-T and lethal on the edges. He'll play his heart out and has seen far more bad than good with this franchise. Don't forget just how deadly this duo is.

If the Steelers worry too much about Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin may give them nightmares they won't recover from.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Don't underestimate the talent in the middle of the Cardinal defense. Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Adrian Wilson are flat out studs. While there are other playmakers on that side of the ball – see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – these three have to seize control of the line of scrimmage, the center of the field, and the deep ball. While Wilson's run stopping abilities aren't too shabby, his ability to lock into a quarterback is highly underrated. Each will need to help their defense for 2-3 Big Ben miscues for the Cardinals to pull off the upset.

Don't forget about "Fast" Willie Parker. The rush game is vital to the Steelers opening up their playbook and putting real pressure on the Cardinals. If Warner struggles early, the Steelers would be wise to pound the Cardinals into submission with the speedy, yet stealthy Parker. Just ask the Seahawks of 2006 how quickly Parker can hit the corner and rush to paydirt. If Parker has 20+ carries, the Steelers should win by two touchdowns.

Don't underestimate the importance of special teams. I don't want to elaborate too much. However, if you can pin the Cardinals inside the 10, you better. Free yardage is the LAST thing you want to give Warner, Fitz, Boldin and company. If Rackers struggles with his kickoffs, burn the Cardinals early and often.

Arizona Do’s and Don’t’s - Sum:

make use of the plethora of bulletin board material out there. You've been underdogs EVERY WEEK of this postseason, and the Super Bowl is no exception with the Steelers as 7 point favorites. Heck, even President Obama wants Pittsburgh to win. That's gotta sting ... now turn that sting into solid play on the field. If Barack won't be bipartisan on Super Sunday, you shouldn't be either.

keep on executing your playoff game plan. I know I've used that one before, but it's working. The shift away from your pass heavy offense (15 more rushes than passes against Carolina; 29 rushes to 28 passes against Philly) gives one playoff veteran (Warner) time to breathe, while another playoff veteran (Edge) gets to prove his worth again. The D has been stout against the run, and it will need to be again this week since Pittsburgh likes to grind it out.

go to Steve Breaston early and often. I expect Pittsburgh's heavy hitters to come out hard early, whacking whoever has the ball. The last thing the Cards need is for Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin to be laid-out by Polamalu and Co. Breaston is a quality receiver, so he can make the catches ... and as evil as this sounds, it's better for him to get upended than Fitz. Plus, with Boldin already hobbling around the field, he'll be an easy target early in the game.

expect Kurt Warner to have the same time to throw the ball as he has had in 11 of 12 quarters this postseason (the 3rd quarter of the NFC Championship being the exception). Dick LeBeau has himself a mighty fine defense with an exceptional front seven. They will look to smack Warner around early and often. This is why it will be key to keep running the ball, even if it's with limited success. If you don't, then pack some extra Depends for Kurt.

The Cards had better hope Warner doesn't wear this uniform on Sunday ...

think that an injury to Roethlisberger will be good for you. Byron Leftwich has proven himself more than capable in his relief appearances this year, particularly in the Monday Night game at Washington. But if Big Ben does go down to an injury, CHANGE YOUR DEFENSIVE SCHEME. Byron is a different quarterback who won't be rattled in the same ways that Ben will be. Still keep the heat on him, but rushing only one extra guy at a time. You WILL need your secondary beefed up if Leftwich comes in the game.

buy into this crap comparing Whisenhunt to Jon Gruden of the 2003 Super Bowl. Yes, both took their new teams to face their old teams in the Super Bowl, but there are key differences. First, Oakland promoted Gruden's successor, Bill Callahan, from within and kept Gruden's system intact. Pittsburgh brought a new head coach altogether into the fold and immediately began adapting some of the offense, giving Ben Roethlisberger more responsibilities. Second, Gruden faced his old team the very same year he left them. The Steelers have had 2 seasons to change their Whisenhunt-isms on offense. If the Cards win this game, it will not be due to Pittsburgh using the same signals and playcalls that they used 2 years ago.

Matchups - Armin:

When the Pittsburgh has the Ball:

Hines Ward vs. Roderick Hood & Santonio Holmes vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ("DRC")
Hood and DRC have been playing their best football in the playoffs, while Roethlisburger, Ward and Holmes have nothing to prove. The questions remain: Can Hood play that physical game with Ward, and can DRC keep in stride with Holmes. If Ward starts making those tough catches down the stretch, and Holmes gets open for a couple of big plays, Arizona faces a steep uphill battle.

When Arizona has the Ball:

Mike Gandy and Levi Jones vs. James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley
How do you beat Kurt Warner? It's simple. You hit him. Gandy and Jones are up for their toughest task of the season. They must keep NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison, off Kurt Warner. At the same time, they're dealing with Harrison's bookend, Woodley, who is surging during the playoffs. If Gandy and Jones don't step their game up a notch and keep Warner off his back, the Steelers defense will make short work of the Cardinals offense.

Intangibles - Armin:

Super Bowl Experience
Both 2nd year head coaches are in their first Super Bowl in that role. However, Whisenhunt won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator for the Steelers and Tomlin won one as the DB coach for the Buccaneers. Which coach will do a better job pulling from his Super Bowl experience? Tomlin also has a bit of an advantage here. He has many players that were on the team during Pittsburgh's triumph in Super Bowl XL. Whisenhunt, on the other hand, has very few who draw upon that experience. Kurt Warner is about all he has. There is no question that Whisenhunt is at an intangible disadvantage. However, the Cards seem to have destiny on their side.

... and the Steelers had better hope Coach Tomlin quits his day job alongside Gregory House

Win It For Pat
Last time around, the Steelers wanted to win it for Jerome. Now, it's the Cards who are the Team of Destiny. Can they muster up enough intestinal fortitude to play like Pat Tillman is standing behind them? Can they win it for Pat? While some don't like cliche's like "Win one for the Gipper", this situation screams for Tillman to be the reason for a franchise he proudly played for to win the Lombardi. Here's hoping that if the Cards are holding that trophy after the game, that they point their fingers to the sky and pay homage to a man who may have been the first in the NFL to say, I WANT to play football for the Arizona Cardinals.


Come back tomorrow for final predictions from the PHSports crew...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 NFL Mock Draft: Take-Two (Top 15 Edition)

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize Armin is the brains of our NFL Draft operation here at PHSports. Ditto for Pay and the NBA’s version of the annual draft selection show.

Nevertheless, I just L-O- V-E interjecting my opinion and “expertise”. Shocker, right?
At least for the top 15 picks (this time).

Sure I wanted to do 10, but Pay warned me that “any Joe Six-Pack can do a Top Ten.”
You would’ve enjoyed my top 10 more I bet…

So I’m going to play the ULTIMATE devil’s advocate (mock draft-wise, at least) with Armin’s well-researched, in-depth, much more realistic mock draft. Again, just the top 15.

Let’s venture a different route and see how things might shake up just a little differently.
While I’m not disagreeing just to disagree, I do enjoy being a pain in Armin’s Redskin-loving butt.

Missing in action: Jeremy Maclin. My explanation? Lunacy.
Credit: Photobucket

1st Round [Top 15 picks]

1. Detroit: Matt Stafford, QB - Georgia
It’s obvious that Armin is correct in declaring the tangible advantages and glaring needs for a stud offensive tackle in Detroit. 0-16 teams aren’t fixed by rookie quarterbacks typically. Then again, nobody has ever gone 0-16, so do we really know exactly where to start? Jim Schwartz is the latest “new man on the job” and often that means a new QB is coming to town as well. With Matt Cassell already being franchised and the QB market a real unknown right now, I’m going to try my best not to speculate too much on Lion plans at QB outside of the draft. There clearly isn’t a solution on the current roster and while Stafford would’ve potentially graded below Bradford and McCoy, a quarterback at #1 – even if it’s too early – is never an unsafe bet come draft day. By the way, with Millen gone, any Crabtree-related jokes should never even start. Seriously.
Armin’s Selection: Andre Smith, OT - Alabama

2. St. Louis: Andre Smith, OT - Alabama
Tit for tat, tackle for tackle. I know. Nevertheless, Andre Smith – despite the mess before the Sugar Bowl – consistently grades out as BOTH the top offensive linemen and the top player in this entire draft field. The recent successes of early 1st round picks in recent years on the O-Line (Joe Thomas, Jake Long, Ryan Clady, etc.) should only further solidify the Rams’ need to draft early for help on an aging (Orlando Pace) and still suspect (Alex Barron, I’m talkin’ about YOU) o-line. Don’t underestimate their desperate need for defensive playmakers though, despite recent 1st-round selections of Adam Carriker and Chris Long. All this potential leads to two words: trade down (especially if somewhat legitimately fears what KC might do).
Armin’s Selection: Eugene Monroe, OT - Virginia

3. Kansas City: Mark Sanchez, QB – USC
Call this the Jay Cutler-factor (who I know didn’t go top 5 and was the 3rd QB taken), but I think the “next-best, but definitely not top” QB is gonna go higher than anyone expected. Tyler Thigpen isn’t the future of this franchise. Problem is: who will be their coach? I’ve questioned Pioli in the past – mainly due to the Belichick’s greatness – but now hes’ got an early draft pick which should show the direction of this team rather swiftly.
Armin’s Selection: Matt Stafford, QB - Georgia

4. Seattle: Malcolm Jenkins, CB – Ohio State
The Crabtree-selection makes way too much sense. However, there is still a lot of money in that position already in Seattle and this team is teetering on rebuilding mode. Despite spending a recent early-round pick on Kelly Jennings, depth at the CB position in Seattle has been hot/cold at best; especially since the departure of the uber-talented punching-bag for Steve Smith known as Ken Lucas. Jenkins may be considered this year’s Terrance Newman - #1 overall potential at the corner position – with a good combine. Arizona has a few good wideouts you might want to cover, too.
Armin’s Selection: Michael Crabtree, WR - Texas Tech

5. Cleveland: Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB – Cleveland
I’m going pure cheeseball pairing up Brady Quinn with Buckeye and fellow Ohioan Chris “Beanie” Wells. Can we just decide if it’s Chris or Beanie? Jamal Lewis is on the wrong side of 30 and may not be on this team’s opening day roster (just wait and see). While the Browns still need to solidify depth in their secondary and offensive line, a playmaking back will excite the franchise and can be a workhorse for Eric Mangini and company. Again, Armin was wise to tap a LB with 3-4 potential, Mangini’s preferred defensive scheme.
Armin’s Selection: Aaron Curry, LB - Wake Forest

6. Cincinnati: Michael Crabtree, WR – Texas Tech
Ocho Cinco isn’t long for Cincy and TJ Houshamzzilli will need a new counterpart once Carson Palmer returns healthy. Cedric Benson clearly isn’t “the man”, but I feel the Bengals can address that need in free agency (Darren Sproles perhaps?). Crabtree seems like a classy kid – the exact opposite of Chad “Johnson” – and this team sure needs something exciting after their return to shame in recent seasons. Let’s just say I‘ve already written off Jerome Simpson, for better or worse. Sorry bro.
Armin’s Selection: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB - Ohio State

7. Oakland: Eugene Monroe, OT – Virginia
I hate leaving such a talented tackle lingering this long, but it’s far from the end of the world. I like Monroe’s talent, but am not ready to declare him a top 5 lock just yet. Although if a team is sold on him and is rebuilding, he could go much earlier. MUCH earlier. As for the Raiders, JaMarcus Russell will continue to be this team’s QB and protecting him has got to become more of a priority. The Robert Gallery-debacle needs to end NOW with a mercy-killing. It’s nearly impossible to gauge who the Raiders will truly target though, not until Al Davis rewards 2 or 3 “Javon Walkers” with ridiculous free agent contracts.
Armin’s Selection: Malcolm Jenkins, CB - Ohio State

Wondering where Mr. Moreno is??? Look no further.

8. Jacksonville: Knowshon Moreno, RB - Georgia

Again, Maclin and the Jags seem a perfect fit. Solid work again, bastard. However, Fred Taylor is leaving and MJD can’t do it alone. True they can go fishing for a talented #2 in the later rounds, yet I feel that Moreno’s talent will be too much to pass up. Despite his lack of beef, Moreno’s pass catching skills downfield are underrated and a new 1-2 combo can be rejuvenating to a stale Jags offense. The wideout position is a MESS and the offensive line was gutted last year from injury; nevertheless, I think the skill position wins out with the most talented RB on the entire draft board going here. I also see the Jags signing a free agent or two on the line, instead of relying on a rookie.
Armin’s Selection: Jeremy Maclin, WR - Missouri

9. Green Bay: Michael Johnson, DE – Georgia Tech
This is where Armin, a few other experts, and I disagree. While I don’t consider him to be Mario Williams, I do prefer to label Johnson as a Gaines Adams-type. I think his freakish athleticism will be a site to see at the combine and for personal workouts. If the Giants were to get their hands on him, it’d be the coup of the draft. Instead, I have the Packers stocking up on a talented defensive end who will help their defensive put more direct pressure on the QB and force more turnovers. While Armin was correct to challenge his every-down ability, the Packers need talent on the other side of Kampman. Especially in the NFC North with the “risky” QB-play (at best).
Armin’s Selection: Brian Orakpo, DE - Texas

10. San Francisco: Rey Maualuga, LB - USC
Sanchez is going to be a really interesting pick in the 1st round; especially since Oakland won’t be in the mix (I think). A lot of teams before San Fran – save the top three – appear to have QBs for the realistic-future. Meanwhile, San Francisco isn’t likely to turn the franchise over to Shaun Hill. Alex Smith, on the other hand, is likely done in San Fran and that mess has been pushed into the shadows just enough to draft another quarterback in the first round. I can’t slot Freeman here (just yet); however, it’s a coin flip as I’ve allowed an extremely talented LB to slip out of the top 10 (Curry). With Willis a perennial Pro Bowler in the middle, Singletary will decide between linebackers from Wake Forest and USC. Guess which one wins out in San Fran?
Armin’s Selection: Mark Sanchez, QB - USC

11. Buffalo: Brian Orakpo, DE - Texas
While it’s almost criminal I keep allowing Curry to slip, Buffalo needs an edge rusher like it needs to avoid games in Toronto in December. Funny, right? Orakpo is a monster on the edge and should prove to be a solid almost-everydown player on a young defense. James Hardy's seleciton last season further plummets the stock of Maclain.
Armin’s Selection: Everette Brown, DE – Florida State

12. Denver: Aaron Curry, LB – Wake Forest
This would easily be the steal of the draft, so you know it’s not happening. Nevertheless, Denver needs an entire defensive makeover (outside of the CBs and D.J. Williams) and the scrap heap of LBs they picked up last season were almost as embarrassing as the roulette shuffle they had at the RB-position.
Armin’s Selection: B.J. Raji, DT – Boston College

Guess who Washington shouldn't be drafting??? Yep, Percy Harvin.

13. Washington: Michael Oher, OT – Mississippi
I disagree about the third (and maybe second) most talented tackle in this draft with a lot of the experts. While Armin has Oher in the low teens (19, to be exact), I think the guy has legit top 10-talent. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll even go in the first round if his combine is lazy or his attitude doesn’t win people over. Either way, this team better not draft a skill position player. Even if Maclin is an enticing prospect.
Armin’s Selection: Jason Smith, OT - Baylor

14. New Orleans: William Moore, S – Missouri
Obviously, Armin has the right guy. However, I wouldn’t sleep on the middle of the field getting some attention as well. The ‘Aints need a field marshal and Moore clearly is the top talent at the safety position. Don’t be surprised – even after bringing in Vilma last season – if one of the talented middle linebackers goes here; especially if one slips one too many spots.
Armin’s Selection: Vontae Davis, CB - Illinois

15: Houston: BJ Raji, DT – Boston College
Houston has the talent on offense (duh), but clearly are devoid of overall team talent on the defensive-side. Okoye hasn’t made much noise in the past two seasons and “Super” Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans deserve some legit help. While the cornerback position could always use a young playmaker, I feel that safety (see the above pick) or the interior line has the best shot. Raji fits well as a run stuffer, as the outside pass rush needs to be let loose as often as possible.
Armin’s Selection: Aaron Maybin, OLB – Penn State

While it’s far from perfect, it’s just a different thought or two. I do have to admit I hate agreeing with a lot of Kiper Jr.’s out there with Sanchez soaring to the #3 and Kansas City.

Although I still want to plug that last year, when most everyone else jumped off the bandwagon weeks before, I had DeSean Jackson as top 10 talent at this point. He would be drafted behind 6 other wideouts (including the aformentioned Jerome Simpson) and ended up being a MAJOR factor on a team playing in the NFC Championship game.

Let’s not talk about my “real” mistakes though.
Why you gotta go and do that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections - January 26, 2009

Talking Points …

In Saturday night’s post, I teased putting UConn at top of the scrap heap, and upon further study of their resume - which trumps all – I have no choice but to put them at the overall #1 seed. Their most recent triumph ended Notre Dame’s 45-game home winning streak. The Huskies have now defeated Miami-FL, Wisconsin, Buffalo, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Cincinnati and now Notre Dame away from home. That’s a feat.

Among the high risers this week are Missouri and Virginia Tech, who were not in the last eight out of our last bracket (Missouri due to admitted oversight) a fortnight ago. For the most part, the Tigers are playing strong basketball at both ends of the court. Virginia Tech has come out of nowhere with five straight wins behind the three-headed monster of Malcolm Delaney, AD Vassallo and Jeff Allen. Tech proved that their win on Wednesday night at Wake Forest was not a fluke by withstanding many punches and eventually knocking out the Miami Hurricanes.

Choosing the 34th at-large team is always a pain. This week was not any easier. And I know what Joe Bracket will be thinking when Penn State and/or Providence is not in. Penn State is 5-3 in conference and have wins against Purdue and Michigan; however, they have a 7-game stretch that I’m not optimistic about with contests versus Wisconsin and Minnesota and trips to East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Lafayette, Champaign, and Columbus. 5-3 can easily become 7-8. As for my dear Friars, they are 5-2 in the Big East yet all five wins have come against the six weakest teams. If they split their next four against Syracuse, @ UConn, Villanova, and @ West Virginia, then they have an argument. That said, PC lost second half leads to Georgetown and Marquette in their league losses. A bad omen.

The Switches
* Switched Michigan State and Wake Forest to avoid 2 ACC teams as 1 and 2 seeds in the same region.
* Switched Notre Dame and Memphis due to a seeding conflict.
* Tennessee slips to the 10th seed line resulting from having already played Kansas.

If you have any questions, comments, or just wish to send a shout, shoot me a line at

The Seedings
1: UConn (Big East), North Carolina, Duke (ACC), Pittsburgh
2: Oklahoma (Big XII), Louisville, Michigan State (Big Ten), Wake Forest
3: Texas, Gonzaga (WCC), Butler (Horizon), Clemson
4: Purdue, Syracuse, Illinois, Arizona State (PAC-10)
5: Minnesota, Marquette, Xavier (A-10), Memphis (C-USA)
6: Notre Dame, UCLA, Georgetown, West Virginia
7: Ohio State, Davidson (Southern), Kentucky (SEC), California
8: Florida, Villanova, Kansas, UNLV (MWC)
9: Miami-FL, St. Mary’s, Missouri, Virginia Tech
10: Michigan, Baylor, Washington, Tennessee
11: Dayton, Florida State, Utah State (WAC), Illinois State (MVC)
12: Siena (Metro Atlantic), Wisconsin, South Carolina, VCU (CAA)
13: Boston College, USC, Portland State (Big Sky), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
14: Miami-Ohio (MAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), VMI (Big South), Vermont (America East)
15: North Dakota State (Summit), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), American (Patriot), Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
16: Long Beach State (Big West), Morgan State (MEAC), Cornell (Ivy), Robert Morris (Northeast), Prairie View A&M (SWAC)

Last Four In: Wisconsin, South Carolina, Boston College, USC
Last Four Out: BYU, Penn State, Providence, Texas A&M
Next Four Out: Mississippi State, Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma State

Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Big Ten: 7/11

ACC: 8/12
Big East: 9/16
Pac-10: 5/10
Big XII: 5/12
SEC: 4/12
West Coast: 2/8
A-10: 2/14

Updated on 1/26 at 725pm ET

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Night Musings - College Basketball Edition

As we begin to turn the page into February, this Saturday's theme was separating the men from the boys. This was evident in ESPN's showcase matchup between UConn and Notre Dame. That said, here are ten points from today's action.

  1. As I alluded to earlier this season, Notre Dame will not figure into real national championship until they decide to play defense on a full-time basis. According to the Pomeroy rankings, the Irish are 165th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 14th in the Big East.
  2. Meanwhile, UConn wins ugly and this is the mark of a championship-caliber team. They only shot 41% from the field and missed 15 free throws, but they manhandled the Irish despite a strong Joyce Center crowd.
  3. With a win at the Joyce Center preceded by an impressive win over Villanova (and a killer resume), do the Huskies hop the Blue Devils in the rankings? Who cares?! It's January.
  4. Greivis Vasquez should not be allowed to provide interviews. Prior to Maryland's game against Duke, he referred to Cameron Indoor as "my house". If you watched the game, I am sorry that you will never get those two hours back in your life. Also, there's no doubt that Gary Williams sweat through at least two suits. He'll be sweating for his job soon if the Terrapins continue to falter.
  5. With Cal's home loss to Oregon State (not a typo) on Thursday and UCLA's annual defeat in Seattle, the PAC-10 really is up for grabs. For those who are thinking, "Hey, why don't you think Washington will win the PAC-10 now?", I have reservations about the Huskies' ability to win on the road. If they split the next two weekends in visits to Arizona and Northern California, then we may be in for a surprise. As for Arizona State, their schedule will get serious in mid-February. I just don't know how many games they can continue to win with 1 scorer, 1 rebounder, and a bunch of wild cards whilst shooting 29% from the field.
  6. As pointed out several times on the family of networks, Marquette is now 6-0 in the Big East, the nation's deepest conference. In this weird age of 16-team conferences and unbalanced scheduling, let's do a little bit of data mining before we crown Marquette. Before the haters hate, let me point out that Marquette is a good team. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, only two of their six wins are against teams that are in everyone's projected bracket (Villanova, West Virginia) and both were at home. With a schedule that ends with @ Georgetown, v. UConn, @ Louisville, @ Pitt and v. Syracuse, it should be noted and reinforced that they are supposed to win these games. All of that said, they are 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 48th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Both are strong markers.
  7. When Monday arrives, MANY (if not all) bracketologists will change the CAA Champion to VCU. Not this bracketologist. Though this is not the VCU team of last year which was 28th in adjusted defensive efficiency, we are starting to see the pieces gel. Eric Maynor is a constant in the backcourt and Larry Sanders (no, not this Larry Sanders) is his ace in the frontcourt. But, we are seeing steadier contributions from players like Rodriguez, Burgess, Pischalnikov (with hideous headband) and Rozell. The team they defeated today, George Mason (my alma mater), fought hard, but made too many turnovers and could have used the services of John Vaughan, who missed the game due to a concussion suffered on Wednesday at Northeastern.
  8. After my last Bracket Projections, I received some criticism from Missouri. For those of you who know me, it's hard for me to admit when I am wrong about college basketball. However, I ... am ... wrong (so far). Here's why. Though Missouri has seemingly won three games they were supposed to win along with a decent win in Stillwater, it is how they have won. As a result, Missouri is top 14 in adjusted efficiency for offense and defense. When a team does that, they have Final Four potential ... the stats do lie sometimes.
  9. I have no idea what to make of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Coming into the season, all signs pointed to a lackluster year and perhaps the end of Bruce Weber's tenure as head coach (which would have been a big mistake). All signs were wrong and the Illini have defeated teams in several ways, the most stifling being the defense that Weber brought from Southern Illinois days. Today, it was the Demetri McCamey show. He had a direct hand in 13 of 21 made field goals against Wisconsin and accounted 13 of the team's 22 trips to the free throw line.
  10. How good is Butler? How good is Xavier? How good is Memphis? All three won today, with Memphis taking one in Knoxville behind a strong second-half effort from Tyreke Evans. I asked the questions in this order, because Butler won at Xavier, who won against Memphis on a neutral court. Though many bracketologists (including me) disagree with the incorporation of the transitive property into seedings (instead, favoring the entire body of work), the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has not been shy about using it as a talking point. It's something to chew on.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Super Bowl Version

The Super Bowl is around the corner, and things are about to pick up for me, as it's NFL Draft Season. Look forward to NFL Draft coverage and rookie scouting PHSports style. The Pre-Super Bowl Version of our Mock Drafts will be one round without trades. Subsequent Mock Drafts will grow to 2 and maybe 3 rounds, and include trades. Looking forward to the comments.

1st Round

1. Detroit: Andre Smith, OT - Alabama
An offensive tackle goes #1 again. With Joe Thomas in 2007, and a bevy of rookie OTs helping their teams in 2008, it's clear that the focus of the draft has shifted positions. Smith is a clone of former Tide OT Chris Samuels. Smith is a great cornerstone to start rebuilding a franchise on.

2. St. Louis: Eugene Monroe, OT - Virginia
Here's a first. Offensive linemen go 1 & 2 overall. Monroe is no consolation prize. Virginia keeps churning out left tackles for the league.

3. Kansas City: Matt Stafford, QB - Georgia
Pioli nabs the top QB off the board in hopes of landing another Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco. What about Tyler Thigpen? Maybe he can play the role of Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart.

4. Seattle: Michael Crabtree, WR - Texas Tech
The Seahawks couldn't stay healthy on offense, especially at WR. Crabtree should more than fill in, and bring the game breaking ability that the franchise has sorely missed at the WR position over the years. Crabtree reminds me of Fitzgerald on some plays.

5. Cleveland: Aaron Curry, LB - Wake Forest
Curry is a monster who could come in, replace Willie McGinnest, give Wimbley a bookend OLB in the 3-4, and allow Alex Hall to team with the two bookends to force mis-matches in an all-out pass rush. He could play inside or outside in Mangini's defense.

6. Cincinnati: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB - Ohio State
Forget all the hype about Cedric Benson being a priority to bring back. He averaged 3.5 YPC, and didn't actually do much for the team. With the team's apparent commitment to the run in 2009, they will need a platoon of starting backs. Beanie Wells could end up staying close to his college roots, in hopes of being another Chris Johnson.

7. Oakland: Malcolm Jenkins, CB - Ohio State
The Raiders should probably take an offensive lineman, but the front office there is in such disarray that they can't make good decisions. If Asomugha returns, the Raiders should have a nice tandem with him and Malcolm Jenkins.

8. Jacksonville: Jeremy Maclin, WR - Missouri
Another team that should go with an offensive lineman, however they have such woes at WR, they can't pass on Maclin. Unlike current Jaguars receivers, Maclin can stretch the field and is a home run threat.

9. Green Bay: Brian Orakpo, DE - Texas
The Packers defense should switch to the 3-4 under Capers, and it sorely needs a pass rush. Orakpo was a beast sack artist for the Longhorns and can be converted to an OLB. He has a great size, strength and speed combination and could find himself in the top 5 before too long.

10. San Francisco: Mark Sanchez, QB - Southern Cal
The 9ers are crossing their fingers that they have the same luck that Atlanta and Baltimore had last year when drafting a rookie QB. If Sanchez can continue his hot play at the end of the season, getting the 9ers to the playoffs might not be such a tough feat.

11. Buffalo: Everette Brown, DE - Florida State
Expect the Bills to trade down and amass picks, as they have plenty of routes they can take. If they stay put, Brown could easily be an option. They need pass rushing and Brown is a pass rushing specialist.

12. Denver: B.J. Raji, DT - Boston College
Raji should thank the likes of Kris Jenkins and Shaun Rogers for the fact that a team will reach for him early. The Broncos will switch to the 3-4 defense with Nolan in town. The 3-4 cannot thrive without a monster NT. Tyson Jackson or Aaron Maybin would make sense here too.

13. Washington: Jason Smith, OT - Baylor
Jason Smith should not drop this far. Oakland or Jacksonville would be smart to take him at 7 or 8. If he drops to this pick, however, he is a good enough pass blocker that he could have Samuels moved to the right side.

14. New Orleans: Vontae Davis, CB - Illinois
Mike McKenzie's health is fading and Randall Gay didn't prove to be the answer. The Saints should look into a future with Davis teaming up with Tracy Porter at CB, shutting down opposing WRs.

15. Houston: Aaron Maybin, OLB - Penn State
The Texans need a bookend pass rusher for Mario Williams. Weaver isn't the answer. Maybin came out after his sophomore year and could add about 15 lbs, but his pass rush skills are right up there with Orakpo and Brown.

16. San Diego: Rey Maualuga, ILB - Southern Cal
The Chargers land another MLB out of USC with a mean streak that is unmatched. Hopefully he can have a similar impact to Seau.

17. New York Jets: Tyson Jackson, DE - Louisiana State
If there is a 3rd QB (Josh Freeman?) that rises up the charts, expect the Jets to be players. If not, Jackson fits in nicely as a 3-4 DE. Jackson has the potential to be a Richard Seymour or Ty Warren type.

18. Chicago: D.J. Moore, CB - Vanderbilt
As of this moment, it is a toss up between Moore and Davis as the #2 CB in this draft. Moore can also offer a change of pace on returns to Devin Hester, who rarely found his groove last season.

19. Tampa Bay: Michael Oher, OT - Mississippi
The Bucs would be very lucky for Oher to drop this far. He could step in and replace Jeremy Trueblood, who has the opposite of Pacman Jones's problem and can't seem to keep himself out of trouble ON the field.

20. Detroit (from Dallas): Jim Laurinaitis, ILB - Ohio State
On paper, this doesn't make a lot of sense with Ernie Sims and Jordan Dizon around. However, a pick like this brings something else to the franchise that it sorely lacks. Laurinaitis is a natural leader and brings the right attitude to a franchise that needs a makeover. He can either step into the middle or play the weak side.

21. Philadelphia: William Moore, S - Missouri
With Dawkins nearing the end of his career, the Eagles need to start thinking about the safety position. With Taylor Mays returning to USC, Moore is the top safety in this draft. He has a linebacker's size, but can roam the field like a DB.

22. Minnesota: Josh Freeman, QB - Kansas State
Josh Freeman has a lot to prove, but there is always that 3rd QB that complements the top 2 QBs in a lot of these drafts. On draft day, Freeman could have Joe Flacco written all over him.

23. New England: Brandon Pettigrew, TE - Oklahoma State
Pettigrew fills a couple of needs here. He's a nice size target around the end zone, but he also blocks like an offensive lineman. Could he be another Daniel Graham around the end zone for the Pats? Maroney would appreciate the extra blocking.

24. Atlanta: Peria Jerry, DT - Mississippi
While they could probably use a beefier DT, Jerry can still come in and make his impact. The trio of Curtis Lofton, Jonathan Babineaux and Jerry would cause a lot of match up issues for other teams. Sen'Derrick Marks could also fit here.

25. Miami: Brian Cushing, OLB - Southern Cal
Cushing would be a textbook Parcels guy. He has a nasty mean streak while keeping his head on his shoulders. Michael Johnson could be a nice fit here too.

26. Indianapolis: Sen'Derrick Marks, DT - Auburn
Using a LB-sized DT last season didn't do the Colts well. They need a DT more than anything right now, and Marks could easily be available at this pick. Don't rule out a trade-down.

27. Baltimore: Clint Sintim, OLB - Virginia
With Ray Lewis rumored to be headed to Dallas once free agency opens, along with Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs also hitting the market, linebacker suddenly becomes a shaky position for the Ravens. Sintim can do it all. He can rush the passer, he can stop the run and he can cover against the pass. He could play inside or outside in Baltimore.

28. Philadelphia (from Carolina): Knowshon Moreno, RB - Georgia
Regardless of who fills in for Westbrook when he gets hurt every season, they never fill the void. Time for the Eagles to start looking at another option. Maybe with a RB of Moreno's caliber around, Westbrook can share the duties a little more and stay fresher as the season goes on. An offensive tackle would be a nice pick too.

29. New York Giants: Michael Johnson, DE - Georgia Tech
The Giants can select the best player available, and have the luxury of giving that player some time. Johnson is a monster pass rusher who is too light to play DE on every down. He can step in and play his spots and cause mismatches for opposing offenses.

30. Tennessee: Percy Harvin, WR - Florida
The Titans can't expect to win a Super Bowl without their receivers taking some of the pressure off the run game. Harvin can also help out in the return game.

31. Arizona: LeSean McCoy, RB - Pittsburgh
With Edgerrin James seemingly pulling the plug on his Arizona career, and Tim Hightower unable to prove that he can lead the Cards on the ground, McCoy makes a lot of sense. McCoy could easily take the reigns from Hightower, and cause a resurgence in the running game in Arizona.

32. Pittsburgh: Duke Robinson, OG - Oklahoma
The Steelers offensive line somehow got the team into the Super Bowl, but they are the weakest unit on the team. Robinson would fill a huge hole at right guard.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

InClement Weather: Wednesday Night College Basketball Thoughts...

Ten Thoughts on a Wednesday night...stretched out just a bit.
Yes, even while watching Lost and being more confused than ever before...and still LOVING it.

Don't let the face fool you, I firmly believe Tech walked into their matchup tonight expecting to win. Funny how often you do win with an attitude like that.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

1) Jeff Teague and Wake Forest will no longer remain #1. Not unless about six or seven teams fall too a crazy string of upsets this week(end). It should come as no surprise though, as the life of a college basketball #1 is always week-by-week at best.

2) Virginia Tech, winners of their last 4 of 5 against the Deacs, went into Winston-Salem and walked out 78-71 victors.

3) Jumping out to an early lead, the Hokies combined timely three-point shooting with an aggresive temperment on the boards to lead by as many as 13 in the first half. What had to surprise Wake most was the depths the Hokies went to allow them to come back into the game; especially during three or four stretches in the second half. Missing free throws left and right and not cleaning up on the defensive glass, the Hokies allowed Wake an opportunity to have the ball down only 2. An inability to box out on poor Tech shots and, on their own poor possessions, kick out before driving to the hoop with a little too much steam cost Wake dearly down the stretch. Len "Troy Bell Sr." Elmore might've noticed the most disturbing trend too: Jeff Teague was passive and far too quiet, due to his own inability to demand the ball, in the closing ten minutes.

4) Perhaps the Naismith frontrunner at this point, Teague appeared a little "pouty" according to Elmore. While his teammates were quite frustrating at times with silly fouls and a lack of control (especially with those aforementioned drives to the hoop), Teague passed up several shots late and almost seemed unwanting of the ball in the final possessions. Not a good trend to say the least for one of the nation's most talented playmakers at any position.

5) While that reason can't be divulged as without Teague's input, it did question my faith in Wake Forest in the following:
A) Close games
B) After slow starts
C) Without an inside presence to depend on
The same could be asked of all top tier teams; however, Wake's first blemish - especially at home - did open up some important questions.

6) As for the Hokie-side of things, it goes without saying how HUGE this W is; especially for a 5-loss team. While they have some iffy non-conference losses, the ACC will offer up plenty of opportunities for big time Ws. Let me also state a clear-cut fact: Tech won this game MUCH more than "Mistake" Forest lost it.

7) Unfortunately for the Hokies, due to the strength at the top of the ACC, their worst-case scenario isn't tough to decipher. See Maryland last year after their front-page news upset (on the road, unranked, against an undefeated UNC team) and then see how they faltered late time and time again and even when possessing the most impressive single-win of the year, it wasn't impressive enough come March Madness. In fact, it wasn't close. I have to wonder how much that home loss to Georgia might hurt the Hokies too. Just something to think about, raining on the parade of a team's top effort of the year. My bad.

...after seeing Sayid toss a guy off of a two-story balcony to imminent death (with the amazingly viscous back-breaking sound effects on the side), I'll note three other "affairs" of importance to me...

Outside of Jack Bauer, this is TV's most badassed man.

8) Believe it or not, there are "mid-major stories" out there that don't involve Stephen Curry and Davidson. SHOCK and GASP! While this website has an obvious bias towards the CAA-side of things, it doesn't go without reason. Tonight was an important night for the conference:
A) George Mason fell from the top perch with a 58-57 loss at Northeastern.
B) Both are joined at 7-1 with red hot VCU, who after a rough loss at Delaware two weeks ago, has reeled off six impressive conference victories, although tonight's 5-12 Georgia State team doesn't exactly scream "road test".
C) The true test for Anthony Grant, Eric Maynor, and the Rams will come when the Patriots - who play notoriously well in Richmond (both the Siegel Center and the Collesium) - come marching in Saturday afternoon at 4pm.
Some advice: buy tickets and go if you are affiliated in any way with either school OR figure out when it's on television and watch a truly stellar conference rivalry play out. Sadly, they don't double dip each year like they SHOULD.

9) Northwestern upset Michigan State on the road, South Carolina likely took Florida back out of the rankings on some last-second hoopla, UCONN held off a feisty Villanova team in their hideous gray jerseys, UNC will one day be 100-0 against Clemson at home, and Memphis is going to steamroll through Conference USA and really confuse "bracketeers" come March.

10) Watch college basketball. I can try and inspire you. But I deleted that diatribe. Just watch it. It's awesome.

Tonight's victory will (likely) overshadow their early season's top highlight.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If You Care About Top-Notch Mid-Major Coverage ...

... then you should read this piece by Kyle Whelliston at the Mid-Majority. If you think that sports is safe from the economic decline, then you have another thing coming.

Per the article, ESPN is planning 50% percent cuts to its college sports coverage (across the board), which immediately affects Whelliston, who provides some of the finest pearls of wisdom on the path less traveled [to mid-major arenas].

If you have read the Mid-Majority, used obscure statistics from Basketball State to win an argument, checked out his work on ESPN, or seen others citing him, then you should consider donating in order to keep this engine steaming. You can donate by clicking here.