До сега всеки знае за най-новите главозамайващ придобиване в НФЛ. Не дами и господа, ние не говорим за Майкъл Вик. Това е завръщането на завръщането на г-н Брет Favre. Имам поглед към викингите график, който не ме интересува много преди огромния пикап. Но нека да погледнем заедно Favre се присъедини към клуба.
Първите пет мача трябва да произведе 5-0 старт в Кливлънд, в Детройт, дома срещу възстановяването на Сан Франциско, дома срещу отбранително борят Грийн Бей, а при нелеп Сейнт Луис Рамс.
Следващите три мача са трудни дома срещу Балтимор, в Питсбърг, където в Грийн Бей. Бих казал, че играта в Питсбърг е загуба. Един срещу Грийн Бей може да бъде престрелка, въз основа само на чистата емоция, която може да отиде така или иначе. Играта срещу Рейвънс фигури да бъде упорит и аз ще ви даде Vikes ръба, че едно е у дома, за да ги отведе до 6-2 средата.
След това те ще получат почивка за една седмица, преди те да са изправени пред Лайънс отново у дома, а след това в противоречие Сиатъл у дома, и Чикаго, който има у дома, както и отбранителни и широк, получаващи неволи. Мисля, че и трите са победи с доставянето им до 9-2.
Крайният участък е, когато стане трудно в Аризона, капан игра като двубоят срещу Синсинати у дома, в Каролина, в Чикаго, който може да бъде в разделението състезание по това време, и у дома срещу Ню Йорк Джайънтс, които могат да бъдат в плейоф или NFC Изток твърдението заглавие, както добре.
Ако викингите да се окаже солидна, те трябва да спечели един или два от тези последните си пет мача. Ако те мухъл в голям отбор трябва да бъде 12-13 победи на хоризонта. Favre може да бъде 40 години, и са показали признаци на упадък през последната половина на предходната година, но в Минесота той има доказана дълбока заплаха Бернар Berrian и пут-екип на моя обратно Rusher Адриан Питърсън заедно с стартер достоен Честър Тейлър.
Този отбор е много по-балансирана в нападение и по-силни защити от Jets миналата година и това трябва да бъде разликата в колко добре Favre играе през друга игра 16 участък.
Очаквайте в четвъртък вечерта Анахайм Дъкс с 2:1 серия преднина пред ответната Wings шампион Детройт Ред, както аз пиша това, те все още трябва да се изправят един срещу друг в играта четири. Независимо от изхода на играта в четвъртък Дъкс са доказали, че въпреки осем потомството им, те не се плашат от Ред Уингс, нито звезда, засегнати от техния успех. Патиците са имали толкова успех през последните години в Ред Уингс с точно както много суперзвезди и се играе без страх. Анахайм се удря Детройт в устата недопускане им да използват огромните си умения, за да пълния си потенциал. Патици със сигурност са се разчита на плейофите новодошъл Jonas Хилър, който е стъпил на предизвикателството и издържали изпита с плаващи под цветове, но те са също така се възползват от малкото възможности, които се стигна до шайбата зад Крис Осгуд. Толкова добър, колкото Питсбърг-Вашингтон серия е много биха казали, със срок на валидност, че тази серия е най-малко също толкова забавни. Има голяма вероятност, че победителят от тази серия ще продължи да спечели купа "Стенли". Сигурен, че игрите са по късно, когато играе в Анахайм, но ако имате възможност престой една нощ, за да се провери тази серия. Голямата goaltending, физическа игра, невероятно умение и много драма, съдържаща се в тази серия с тройна игра за извънреден труд, за да се зареди! Като фен на хокея или просто фен на спорта като цяло, какво е да не се хареса в тази серия?
PS Много се е случило и изключване на лед тази седмица ... мелодия в този уикенд за тази седмица в хокея преглед
Снощи ни представи с чифт на играта - TNT, че почти слезе на тел, но най-важното е, че пътните екипи печеливши. Първата игра включва три семена магия и две семена Селтикс в Бостън с Орландо получаване на W. Втората игра е пет семена Хюстън Рокетс в една схемата Лейкърс в Лос Анджелис. с екипа на пътя извади изключително разстройващо победа. Това е чудесна позиция за всеки отбор да бъде в особено значителен аутсайдера като Хюстън Рокетс. С това се каза, който има най-голямото предимство?
Едно от предимствата на двата отбора спечелили с победите си е дом съд. Освен, че има други психични фактори, които могат да предоставят предимства, както и някои недостатъци.
Орландо Меджик изглеждаше солидна и ефективна, тъй като те работят пътя си, изграждане на огромна преднина, която в един момент е по-висока от 28 точки в средата на третото тримесечие. Четирите големи голмайстори на Дуайт Хауърд, Raefer Алстън, Хедо Тюркоглу, и Rashard Люис е публикувал 10 + точки и те също получиха подкрепа от Микаел Пиетрус, който го засили добавяне на 10 + точки на собствените си. Всичко на всичко, определено приличаше на умората от седем игра в Бостън, множествена извънреден труд серията с Чикаго започва да се показва.
Това беше, докато те започнаха напън, който ги видя outscore Вълшебната 54-41 през втората половина, и дори да затвори разликата до четири точки, когато имаше по-малко от две минути преди края в игра. Сега това е едно нещо, което трябва да спечели на пътя и потеглям игра една победа. Но когато не можете да запазите скобите надолу след изграждането с 28 точки преднина през третото тримесечие срещу на екип, които се предполага да се уморяват и се играе без Кевин Гарнет и Леон Поу, че трябва да направя още една добра те психиката на Селтикс, отколкото за магията.
Що се отнася до Рокетс, те са успели да останат в тяхната игра на целия конкурс срещу Лейкърс. Дори когато LA превръща девет точки дефицит през второто полувреме в една точка преднина, никога Хюстън waivered и остана с играта си план се върна, за да държите комфортни води от 08:55 точки. Голяма част от това, че трябваше да направя с внимателно и без грешка топката обработка на пойнт гарда Аарон Брукс.
На всичко отгоре, те са получили самостоятелен емоционален лифт, когато Яо Минг беше ранен, след дясното коляно на Кобе Брайънт удари в собствената си дясното коляно. Яо е давало коляното много силно и дори слезе от съда, преди да пледира с екипа си треньор, че той е наред и може да се върне. Всичко, което той направи в неговото завръщане е бил ударен голям скок и потъват на шест наказателни удара, за да се запази LA в залива в последните моменти от играта. Сега, ако това не е добре за доверието 1/5 в схемата отбор е изправен пред задачата да е трудна ЛА Лейкърс тогава аз не знам какво е.
Поради Рокетс последователна игра в победата си, съчетани с определяне на Яо Минг, щях да ги дам на ръба на предимството края Орландо. Що се отнася до магията, това е страхотно, че те спечелиха по пътя, но те са основно висеше на косъм, тъй като играта е, който изтича, а може би и те все още трябва да се изправи напълно буден и ентусиазиран екип на Селтикс.
Въпреки, че на изток има така наречената "мечта мачове до втория кръг на Западната конференция вероятно има серия с най-голям потенциал като последните две Шампионската купа" Стенли ", ще отидете главата до главата.
2. Детройт Ред Уингс срещу 8. Анахайм Дъкс
Засяване в тази серия обяснява, който има начало лед предимство и, че е. Мач сам по себе си е много дори като всеки отбор, който да е равен на друг талант и опит, така. Очаквайте в плейофите Миналогодишният шампион Ред Уингс имаше само един въпрос, goaltending. Но след първия кръг размах на Колумб прилича на Крис Осгуд е да се формира, когато това е най-. В навечерието на Осгуд Ред Уингс продължава да се задуши на отбора, като вкарва голове, като в същото време ограничава голови шансове чрез провеждане на шайбата за толкова много на играта на другия отбор. В голямата си част може би най-добрият и може би само начин да се спре обидно зона на Детройт, за притежание на шайбата стил е чрез утвърждаване на физическото присъствие ... въведете Анахайм Дъкс. Не само Дъкс равни Детройт в умения и опит, но и по размер. Патиците са големи отпред и на синята линия, което е това, което ги задвижва на купа "Стенли" преди две години, когато те победиха Ред Уингс по начина, по който бих могъл да добавя. Доста вероятно единствената слабост за Дъкс е netminder Йонас Хилър и това е само, защото той никога не е бил тук и преди. Хилър се оказа, че е достоен в първия кръг чрез затваряне Trophy на президента печели Акулите и ако това продължава, след което разгледа отговор на този въпрос.
Така че това, което е X-фактор в тази серия? За Ред Уингс да спечели, те просто трябва да правят това, което те направиха в първия кръг и са направили отново и отново в миналото, просто играе играта си от началото до края. За Дъкс те трябва да се пазят на наказателното поле, но ако те отиват на полето, те трябва да вземат Red Wing с тях, когато те могат чрез бойни специалности или ответни санкции и когато го правят доведе до Детройт с мощност играе, че е необходимо да се уверете, че техните наказания, защото на твърда игра, а не заради глупава намеса или холдингови разговори. Патиците също ще трябва да се види дали те могат да получат Осгуд да се върне да си 2008-2009 редовна форма на сезона, в който, както е GAA и освен процент бяха ужасни. Въпреки това, в края на краищата тя ще бъде Детройт Ред Уингс, които заемат тази равностойни серия в седем.
3. Ванкувър Канъкс срещу 4. Чикаго Блекхоукс
Много хора биха казали, че това е друг равностойни поредица, която може да отиде така или иначе, но съм склонен да не се съглася. Роберто Luongo получава предимство в goaltending над Николай Khabibulin въпреки че даде Khabiblulin друго перо в шапката си, тъй като той спечели Купата като има предвид, че Luongo не разполага. Извън goaltending сравнение Блекхоукс имат много по-добър цялостен екип от Канъкс. На хартия отборите са равностойни, но Канъкс разчитат твърде много на Luongo да ги измъкне отново и отново, че е работил досега, но не е вероятно да продължи за неопределено време. Алекс Бъроус пристъпи голям време за Канъкс в кръгли точкуване огромни цели с никой по-голям от серия clinching гол в продължението на играта четири. Sedin близнаци са били добри, но извън тях двамата и Алекс Бъроус играе над заплатата си клас в първи кръг на Канъкс не се получи голяма подкрепа от останалата част от екипа. Матс Сундин сега трябва да получи шанс да се лекува и може да направи разликата за Канъкс, но след пристигането във Ванкувър, той е най-вече underachieved, въпреки че играе добре за определяне на участък.
За Блекхоукс, те имат огромно количество умения отпред (Kris Versteeg, Мартин Havlat, Патрик Шарп, Джонатан Towes да назовем само няколко), а също така притежава много силен blueline с Бен Нетърпелив, Дънкан Кийт и компания. Разбира се те са загубили два мача срещу Калгари, докато Ванкувър премина през Сейнт Луис, но Хоукс срещу много по-силна конкуренция, които те смачкани в последните два мача от тази серия. Така че всички Блекхоукс трябва да направя, за да спечели, е да продължи да играе много силна единица, докато Ванкувър е най-добрият шанс за победа се разчита предимно на Luongo. С това се има предвид, Хоукс имат много по-голяма свобода на грешка от Канъкс и ще спечели серията в шест като резултат.
Насладете се на около две всеки!
С последната седмица на сезона при нас луда надпревара за плейофите в Западната конференция започва да се втвърди. Петте най-големи петна вече са зашили Единственият въпрос сега е мястото, където в йерархията всеки отбор ще падне. Детройт и Сан Хосе са блъскат в началото на конференцията, на пръв поглед, тъй като един ден и има какво да се каже за това дойде време за плейофите. Въпреки това, най-опасният отбор, който никой не говори за пребивава в Анахайм. Патици "най-голямото предизвикателство този сезон ще бъде само отговарят на изискванията за поста на сезона, но след като те са в нея ще вземат много на натиска от тях и те ще бъдат в състояние да блесне. Патиците вече са се на дъното на запад, където те като че ли да се изчезващи в 7-та позиция, като цяло. Опит Анахайм извършването им дълъг път и това е, че много опит, който ще ги доведе до успеха след сезон. Харесва на Selanne, Pronger, JS Жижер и Нидермайер братя са били там преди и няма да се плашим от всяко бедствие, което идва пътя си. Имайте предвид, че преди две години този отбор е повдигане на купа "Стенли" и ранно напускане на миналата година е до голяма степен резултат от чиста умора. Но сега Дъкс се завръщат, те са подвижния заедно и те може да победи всеки по всяко време. Няма страх версия за 2008-2009 г. Анахайм Дъкс и въпреки шансовете срещу тях (а именно тяхната възраст) Не се изненадвайте, за да видите тези Патици отидете дълбоко в плейофите и може би дори спечели всичко.
Очаквайте участъка е имало редица отбори, които всички, но сигурни в плейофите петна, които са засегнати някои турбуленция. Например, Ню Джърси е в средата на шест поредни загуби, докато всички отбори в подобно положение като Бостън , Сан Хосе , Калгари , Чикаго и др. удари подобни груби петна през последните седмици. На другите отбори ръка, който се бори само за да влязат в плейофите ( Питсбърг , Каролина , Сейнт Луис , Колумб , Ванкувър, за да назовем само няколко) са наистина хит си крачка към края и са на съответните им горещи ивици. И така, какво трябва да се направи от всичко това? Ами, честно казано мисля, че е страхотно да има толкова много топ отбори, стават посредствени и екипи работят усилено всяка вечер да се става толкова горещо. Това е така, защото мисля, че това ще допринесе за много вълнуващ и интригуващ първия кръг. Без значение какъв мач прозорци са там, ще бъде потенциал за много разстройства с много на отбора с домакинското предимство лед, които се намират в дупка правото на разстояние бухалката. Има много клишета, за да се опише отбори като "битка изпитван" или "готови за плейофите" и докато те може да е вярно в много от случаите (оттук и защо те са клишета) нивото на интензивност на екип дойде време плейоф е може би най-голямата сделка на всички. В резултат на това, което виждаме в момента са на отбори, които се борят да влязат в игра с високо ниво на интензивност след сезон. Играчите са кацнали на всяка смяна, всеки пас, всеки удар, всяко запазване, всеки гол и точно това е което трябва да бъде, за да бъде успешна в плейофите, така трябва да бъде в тяхна полза, за да играе в такъв режим високо ниво за толкова дълго време, довели до плейофите. Междувременно, другите топ отбори заглушават заедно просто се опитва да "остане остър", както умовете им започват да се гумите на редовния сезон и те започват да гледат напред. С това, че играчите влагат половин ** усилия да си играе, което води в тях губят своя край и може да доведе не само губи, но загуба на фокус и енергия, която може да доведе до наранявания. Всички, която се свежда до това, екипите, които са били отчаяни, че ще има ниво на интензивност в плейофите веднага, докато най-добрите отбори ще имат трудно време, просто включване на този ключ. По времето, когато те серията може да бъде 2-0 позиция в сградата на други отбори и по това време на хълма може да е твърде голям, за да се изкачи в резултат на изобилие от първия кръг разстройства.
Няколко истории на бележката като сезон идва към своя край, относно състезания за плейофите позициониране:
1. Чикаго Блекхоукс са играли добре почти през целия сезон, но през последните няколко седмици, които са срещнали някои доста трудни времена. Включително тяхната загуба до Монреал във вторник вечерта на Блекхоукс са загубили девет от последните си 13 и са в опасност от падане на четвърта позиция и загуби първия кръг дом лед предимство, което върви с него. Може би това е умората от млад екип, който преминава през дълги години на високо равнище представления кулминацията в една изгубена участък, тъй като те очакват началото на плейофите. Спадът при игра от Чикаго е разбираемо, но само защото те не са го направили след сезон в последно време, не означава, че феновете ще бъде изобщо прощава, ако тяхната края на сезона се бори превърне в първото излизане кръг.
2. Вторник вечер беше добра за Монреал Канейдиънс фенове навсякъде не само са надолу Блекхоукс 4-1, но вторник най-накрая бележи завръщането на добра цена Кери. Изложение 29 изстрела, Цена спря 28-даване само flukie гол на Патрик Шарп в третия период цената спиране Чикаго доста добре. Но още повече, че от просто спиране изстрела, Цена накрая изглеждаше удобно отново в нетната, той стоеше земята си, да стоим на път и не изглежда като той е overplaying всеки изстрел. Това е голям знак за Канейдиънс, които се нуждаят от най-добрите игра от всички позиции, но най-вече в нетната, ако те планират за плейофите и да вдигат шум, след като отида там. В момента Канейдиънс вероятно ще вземат независимо от позицията, която толкова дълго, тъй като те се класират за плейофите, но може, ако те останат в 8-та, тъй като вече са омразните Бостън Бруинс ще бъде постоянно на разположение първо ... и Парцелът се сгъсти.
3. Премества търговски срока с Калгари Флеймс не са имали желания ефект, тъй като те са загубили осем от 13 от 4 март-та. В първия Flames са имали някои проблеми с отбраната и goaltending, но сега, че тези, които са измервани малко Калгари е трудно намирането на гърба на мрежата. Калгари вкара само четири гола в последните четири мача и са шутаут два мача в един ред от Питсбърг и Колумб в бек-ту-бек конкурси. Много прилича на Чикаго, пламъците са играли добре през цялата година, но сега са в опасност от загуба на първо място в тяхната дивизия и може действително да отговарят на изискванията за поста сезона без първия кръг дом лед предимство. Междувременно Ванкувър Канъкс са наистина хит крачката си и бързо набира на Калгари и може в действителност дръпнете разделение изпод краката на пламъците.
В редовния сезон е към своя край, е имало много велики истории, за да се развива и може би повече, за да дойде като плейофите към нас. Дали тя е на Бруинс "неочаквано покачване с известност, способността на Сан Хосе да играят на високо ниво от тел-тел; или Флорида борбата на плейофите място и продължаващото натискане Нешвил към плейофите въпреки малко пари и слухове от тях напускане Нешвил въртеливи около от време на време. Но може би на най-добрия разказ на годината е бил на невероятно изпълнение на Columbus Blue Jacket netminder Стив Мейсън, който е привидно идват, от нищото да лигата от бурята и е Колумб на път да си първи пост-сезон вид в кратка история на поредицата, . Мейсън постави невероятни номера публикуване на 2.24 GAA, 0,918 освен процент и запис на 31-18-5. Мейсън винаги изглежда да бъде твърда, когато той трябва да даде и получи това TEN shutouts! Следващите затваря за Мейсън три вратарите, вързани със седем, което е абсолютно нереално. Ако бяхте попитали около в много кръгове хокей миналата година и в ранните етапи на тази година много уважавани умове хокей не може да ви каже нищо за Стив Мейсън, ако те бяха чували за него изобщо. Netminder Блу Джакетс е последователна през целия сезон и въпреки всичко на неговия успех може би най-доброто качество на Мейсън не е ръкавицата му, позициониране в мрежата, или всяка друга техническа атрибут, това е фактът, че той е само на 20 години. Това е малко вероятно, че Мейсън ще бъде в състояние да продължи успех тази година, тъй като с течение на годините, но ако има нещо, което знаем със сигурност е, че той ще бъде NHL опоненти наистина трудно време за много години напред. С вратар като Мейсън и огромен асортимент от други млади таланти, събрани в Кълъмбъс това е отбор, който може да направи шум в плейофите не само тази година, но в продължение на много години, за да дойде ... хора в Колумб имат причина да бъде много развълнуван.
Въпреки 7-5 победа в събота вечер Бостън Бруинс имат много въпроси да зададете / проблеми за решаване. Първо и преди всичко е goaltending. Много хора не наистина вярват в Тим Томас е в състояние да доведе Бостън до купа "Стенли", но Томас все още не ги разочарова и все още може да излезе голям в плейофите. Въпреки това, един въпрос, който е отговорено за някои събота е дали Бруинс може да разчита на Мани Фернандес Томас излезе кратко в плейофите или биват ранени. Фернандес даде пет гола в 38 изстрела, но в един момент е дал четири гола само 26 удара, за да TORONTO . Повечето биха се съгласили, че Лийфс са конкурентен отбор и играе голяма хокей на края, но четири гола за 26 снимки от вратаря на плейоф екип е неприемливо. Един протест изпълнение Фернандес е, че Бруинс играе ужасно защитата пред него. Бостън все още има законен шанс да спечели трофея на президента, но тази нестабилна отбранителна игра и бедни goaltending може да направи на президента трофей единственото разумно изстрел в хардуера през този сезон.
В други новини, а тимът прави обратното на Бостън Бруинс е в Сент Луис. "Сините" изиграха невероятно добре като на края и се бореше от дълбоко във временното класиране в вратовръзка с Едмънтън за последното място за плейофите на запад, след като победи Кълъмбъс събота вечер. Това е ужасно дълго време, тъй като сините фенове са имали нещо да се развесели, така че може би това се дължи. Сейнт Луис е ужасно в All-Star почивка, тъй като те са били под 0,500 и изглеждаше, чиято единствена цел е да потърси допълнително в началото на втората половина на лигата. Вместо това, "сините" се събраха зад новия номер едно netminder Крис Мейсън и въпреки че имат опитни ветерани като Кийт Tkachuk, но са най-производството от младите хора като Брад Boyes и Дейвид Перон. "Сините" не могат да направят плейофите, след като всичко е казано и направено, и може да направи малко шум, дори ако те правят. Това каза, "сините" са дали своите фенове нещо да развесели както и с нетърпение очакваме да. Бъдещето на лед в Сейнт Луис е много ярък и се надявам, че може да reenergize град със страхотни фенове, които наистина са придобили зад "сините" в миналото и бъдещето вероятно ще бъде по-различно. Те са забавен екип да гледате и си струва да държи под око тази година и в продължение на много години, за да дойде.
Рано този сезон в НБА SportsRoids говори за успеха на LaMarcus Олдридж от Портланд Трейл Блейзърс и как той изглеждаше да се разраства в потенциален All-Star играч. Сега искаме да се преразгледа тази тема, за да заявя, че стоя до предишния нашето свидетелство.
Олдридж точки средно на играта е в кариерата висока 18.1 и му борби са изложени на 7,4, което е само 0,2 по-малко в сравнение с миналата година. И това, което е смешно да се каже, е, че за шест крака единадесет инча висок мъж той започна да подобрявам играта си вътре.
В първите етапи от неговия време той е бил повече от скок стрелец в настъпление край. Но сега той е сресване, че с още по-прозорци, големи забивки, и някои кратки куки.
Сега гледам, защото Грег Оден сякаш удари обидно крачка срещу Филаделфия 76-ърс понеделник вечер. Просто продължавай да си потенциал, който тези две като голям човек тандем и той просто може да завърши в плейофите тази година.
Аз се чудя дали да гледа на всеки, като той вече е смущаващо водите в Бъфало от отказването на доброволен тренировки на отбора, тъй като той наскоро съобщи. Искам да кажа, това е първата реална функция длъжностно лице, които са били задържани от новия си отбор и той вече може да повиши косми, както и въпросите, свързани с този ход. Въпреки това, за мен, просто човекът живее.
Преди всичко, той е вече 35 години. И сериозно, колко е голяма сделка е тази глупава мини три или четири работен ден, Тя трябва буквално да бъде няколко сесии вдигане на тежести, някакъв стандарт за кондициониране и три фини хранения на ден. Мисля, че ако 35-годишният мъж, който е на 14 години от кариерата си казва, че не иска да отиде доброволно от работа, на кого му пука. Е в лигата толкова дълго, той знае как тялото му реагира на стрес, или когато твърде малко, твърде малко, и той доведе лигата в ТД улов през последните три години.
Аз няма да скоча на още. Нека да изчакаме и да видим дали той има странична тирада, или говори съзнанието му твърде много пред медиите, преди да започнем да го изобличил.
И сериозно хора ... сметките смучат. Те нямат шанс. Те започнаха сезона 4-0 и заеквам пристъпи останалата част от пътя до финала 3-9. Това не е нещо, на шампиони, нито пък е Трент Едуардс или скитник-челно Бъфало Билс. Те лесно ще бъдат пометени от Пейтриътс Том Брейди, и ще се унищожават от много от миналогодишните плейофи отбори.
И ако питате мен, бих оприличим гледане на законопроекти надежда навечерието на подход, ориентиран към по-ниско ниво онлайн игра Мадън се опитва да набие някого през 20-те години.
На сезона ветрове надолу, и всеки има десет или игри ляво, много отбори се бавно пътя си всяка вечер гонитба за плейофите позициониране. На Запад има почти всеки отбор от две семена и по целия път до осем семена на не повече от три игри, освен. Въпреки това, една интригуваща надпревара за плейофите трябва да бъде между момента са три в схемата Орландо Меджик, и втората в схемата Бостън Селтикс. Чудя се ... най-задаващата въпроса дали Орландо Меджик да вземете две семена в Източната конференция, или е Бостън Селтикс наистина ще бъде три семена?
Селтикс беше на преобръщане през целия сезон, и бяха толкова комфортно напред в класирането на Източната конференция, че те са съперничеща на Лейкърс сегашните 9.5 игри водят в Западните класиране конференция. Сега, защитаващи шампиони трябваше да се справят с контузии на звезди като Кевин Гарнет, Рей Алън, и дори да ключовите си играчи и ролята играчи като rajón Рондо и Тони Алън. Ако Селтикс, които са само игра на магията, се ударих три семена в плейофите, тогава това означава, че те ще имат шанс да играе Орландо и Кливлънд на пътя. Това не е лесна задача.
Всичко това е също толкова интересен, защото ако някой трябва да изглежда по-добре подготвен да спечели на пътя, това е Бостън Селтикс. Те са вързани за третия най-добрият път в лигата при 25-12, но след това отново, те са позволили първите два кръга в плейофите от миналия сезон отиват седем мача. Как са го направили, че те питам? Загуби първите си шест пътни игри.
Така или иначе, тя може да бъде Шанз, които търсят като супер готино ветеринари и го издърпате като трите семена, или ще изглежда малко шокиращо, ако те не са дори техните собствени конферентни финалите.
Какво се е случило с Бостън Бруинс ? Това може да изглежда странен въпрос да се пита за отбор, който току-що публикува 100-та си точка четвъртък вечер, но тя е законосъобразна да попитам. След като прекара по-голямата част от всеки сезон раздробяване в лигата Бруинс са имали лош случай на прескачания към края. Те са загубили 11 игри само през последния месец, и с общо 27 загуби за годината 11 е ужасно много да страдат в относително кратък период от време. Като цяло погледнато, не е от Бостън прави едно нещо, по-специално погрешно, които просто трябва да бъдат коригирани преди плейофите удари. Някои нощи goaltending ги проваля и те губят 6-4 и други, те не могат да намерят на гърба на мрежата и загуби 2-0. Има изобилие от вината да обикалят и решение на проблема може да бъде усложнена, но крайният резултат е проста: Бруинс не определят своите проблеми, те няма да се ползват плейофите за много дълго, без значение кой те играят. Може би това е ръководството въпрос, тъй като повечето от момчетата в отбора не са много далеч в плейофите може би добавянето на Марк Recchi може да помогне с това. То може да бъде треньор въпрос или просто проблем на изпълнение, но независимо от причината, той трябва да бъде фиксирана и бързо. Бруинс са малко незаинтересовани с края на редовния сезон, тъй като те са толкова далеч напред от екип, който стои зад тях. Това вече не е случай обаче Девълс се поставят в поразително разстояние от Бруинс за най-големите награди в източната. Без значение причината Бруинс се наложи да го разбера и бързо. With their early season success the expectations for the Bruins have only gone up and in a city where every other major sport has experienced a championship within the last four years the fans will not be very patient. As far as New England sports fans are concerned, going deep into the playoffs will not be enough for the Bruins, they need to win and they need to win RIGHT NOW.
1. Number one Story of the night is the Marty Brodeur has surpassed Patrick Roy in wins to take the all-time lead at 552. There is not much more to be said about Brodeur at this point after the article dedicated to his tying of the record. If you missed it you can click here or on his name above.
2. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the midst of an eleven game point streak which catapulted them from 10 th into a tie with Philadelphia in fourth position in the Eastern Conference. The acquisition of Kunitz and Guerin has been golden so far as both have contributed majorly on the scoreboard as they play the respective wings next to Crosby on the top line. Roughly 20 games ago many people suspected the Penguins were very likely to miss the playoffs or do little damage even if they managed to scrape by to get in. But now not only are the Bylsma led Penguins in decent playoff position by some of those same people feel they can not only make it to the playoffs but make yet another run at the Stanley Cup. Oh and don't forget about that Malkin guy who scored his 100 th point Tuesday night, they tell me that's kind of a big deal or something.
3. The Montreal Canadiens have been in a virtual free-fall for weeks now. Carey Price has been struggling mightily, Alexi Kovalev has been subpar all season long and Guy Carbonneau has been fired and replaced by GM Bob Gainey who does not have them in much better position. It was supposed to be a celebration in Montreal this year with it being the 100 th anniversary of the franchise with allegedly their best team in a long time. Now the Habs are in 7 th position and barely hanging on with Carolina , Florida , and Buffalo hot on their trail.
4. In the West the LA Kings all the way down in 13 th place still have a legitimate shot at qualifying for the playoffs. Only six points separate eighth from 13 th as the teams play “musical chairs” with playoff positioning almost nightly. Also, the Columbus Blue Jackets have surged as of late and really separated themselves from the lower pack in the West led by rookie sensation Steve Mason. Meanwhile the Chicago Blackhawks —who were once considered to be a shoe-in—have been struggling as of late and risk surrendering the 4 th spot and the first-round home-ice advantage that comes with it
All-in-all there have been a lot of surprises over the last two months and the league continues to entertain. Things you thought you knew just a short time ago have completely changed and that's the beauty of the sport. As fun as the last two months have been they are sure to be topped in the next few weeks. So hang on to your seats hockey fans because as great as it has been thus far you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Baron Davis passes at the buzzer to Steve Novak for the win. The Nets lose in LA putting themselves 1 game further out of the 8th spot. Steve Novak played big putting up 21 points against New Jersey on March 15. He hit the buzzer beating three on March 16th at 12:09 am. Baron Davis played well as well putting up 20 points 10 assists and 6 rebounds. The LA Clippers now have 16 wins on the season! The Nets are in trouble because they had no business losing to a 15-50 team. In the 3rd quarter of this game Devin Harris left due to injury. He has a strained left shoulder. This loss and the Injury to Devin Harris puts a whole new spin on things on which team is going to get the 8th Spot in the east. This was LA Clippers first win since February.
Saturday night, with Patrick Roy in attendance, Martin Brodeur tied the all-time wins mark for a goalie and is now even with the aforementioned Roy with 551 wins. Brodeur has already accomplished just about everything else a goaltender can accomplish and now the all-time wins record will soon be his as well as the shutout record. He's won championships and broken records with nothing but class and dignity. All those who know him whether in the media or on the ice (perhaps except Sean Avery) have always had nothing but high praise for the way he handles himself in every aspect of life. And if all of that weren't enough, his New Jersey Devils have a very good team assembled in front of him. The Devils will certainly make a lot of noise come playoff time, but meanwhile they are in prime position to overtake the once high-flying Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. So not only can Brodeur claim two major records—after being out for most of the season only to return to the ice in top form—but he may be able to add another division title, regular season conference title, and most of all perhaps another Stanley Cup. Whether you're a fan of the Devils or not, watching Brodeur operate is a real treat for hockey fans everywhere. And as he goes on to break the all-time wins record and soon thereafter the shutout record, appreciate that you're watching a very special player, the type that doesn't come around every day and one we may never see again.
With about 18 or so games to go for each NBA team, the playoff races begin to tighten. By now, any true NBA enthusiast should know the situation in the Western Conference and how seeds eight through two are neck and neck. They should also know that the Phoenix Suns are in poor shape in the ninth spot being five and a half games behind the currently eighth seeded Dallas Mavericks. However, over in the Eastern Conference the race for eight is on. With Chicago, New Jersey, Charlotte, Indiana, Milwaukee, and New York no more than two games apart from one another, that battle is still very interesting.
The New York Knicks have improved mightily from last season with the run-and-gun style that has been infused by new head coach Mike D'Antoni. However, they have a run-and-gun with a bevy of role player caliber ballers. It's not like they're the superstar-filled Suns of years past that D'Antoni had before. So, although the Knicks are a much improved team, they shouldn't be making the playoffs any way.
The Charlotte Bobcats were already making positive strides prior to the trade that brought them Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa at mid-season. Now, they have improved further, but they are still highly inexperienced and will require more time and at least one All-Star player to get in.
The Pacers on the other hand have their All-Star caliber player in Danny Granger, but he has been hurt. They too are like the Knicks and tend to run, but once again, too many role player type people on their team. That's no good.
New Jersey's got All-Star Devin Harris, and former superstar, but more than capable Vince Carter. But they have too many woes at home and they can't be expected to make a run just because they are decent on the road. Decent on the road is great, where they have a 14-17 record, but a non-winning 14-19 home record just won't do it.
The Milwaukee Bucks currently hold the eight spot, but they still have one problem… they are Michael Redd-less. They did a great job in the early going of his absence from his season-ending injury, but now his loss has started to catch up and the Bucks are just 3-7 in their last ten games.
With that being said, the eighth seed has to be given to Chicago. They have the leading candidate for rookie of the year in Derek Rose, and a great scoring pickup up at mid-season in John Salmons who is averaging 18.2 points per game this season. On top of this they have a stable of young guys with playoff experience in Kirk Hinrich, and top-scorer Ben Gordon. Their big men are also efficient; Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng. Last, but not least, the other guy that game over from Sacramento with John Salmons… veteran and playoff-savvy Brad Miller.
The Bulls, in my mind, are already a team with a bright future, while the others that were mentioned still do not have much to build on except for some true grit. Bulls get in.
The Calgary Flames acquired Olli Jokinen at the trade deadline and many put them as the new Western Conference favorites—or at least up there with San Jose and Detroit—as a result. There is no doubt that acquisition of Jokinen will help Calgary's chances of winning both the west and the Stanley Cup. However, since the trade deadline the Flames have gone 1-3 including losing three in a row by a combined 14-5. Granted, Calgary is on a long east coast road trip which is really hard for any team let alone a team from out west. That said, losing is one thing but giving up 14 goals in three games is pathetic. The Calgary Flames needed more help on defense than anywhere else and Jordan Leopold is a fine player but not enough to make a big enough impact to give Calgary the defensive improvement it needs (you heard that first here on sportsroids right after the trade deadline ). So where does Calgary go from here? They are eight points ahead of the closest team in their division and it is doubtful this losing will continue once they leave the east coast so the playoffs are almost certainly in their sites. But as many fans, observers, etc. will tell you Calgary was not built to just make the playoffs but to be highly successful once they qualify. Size, offensive fire-power, and goaltending are all important aspects of what makes a successful playoff team; the missing part of that equation is strong defense. Limiting scoring chances takes pressure off of the goalie and the offense because if you don't the offense cannot always outscore the other team who will net many pucks if a goaltender—no matter how great—is peppered with puck after puck. The Flames have a lot to figure out in the next few weeks because being outscored 14-5 is the sign of a team headed an early round exit, an abject disaster for Flames fans everywhere.
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Much has been said this year about the great record and stellar play of the Cleveland Cavaliers as a unit. They currently are 2nd in the league in points given up per game only behind the Boston Celtics. Not only do they defend well, but with a league-best 28-1 home record, if they can hold onto their current number one spot in the east, then they would look to be a good favorite to enter the NBA finals. Guess again.
Although the Cavs literally wipe the floor with their non-playoff contenders when they play them, they tend to struggle against the top-tier teams of the league. They can't beat Boston, and always seem to get thumped in the fourth quarter by them, and if they intend to win a championship, they'll need to find a way to beat LA who swept them in convincing fashion with one of those losses resulting in their lone home loss.
On top of that, they even lost by more than 10 points to Orlando in Orlando this year. Their only convincing wins against a contender has been against the San Antonio Spurs, who they beat in Texas a few weeks ago after LeBron had his worst game statistically against the Houston Rockets.
In my opinion, if they face Boston or Orlando, they go down. If they somehow get to the finals and they face off against the Lakers, who not only have lots of different scorers, but are playing much better defense this year, they won't win the title. All three teams have more than one all-star caliber player; the Lakers have Kobe, and Gasol, the Celtics have Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Marbury, and the Magic boast Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson. And even though James is a league leader in MVP voting, it takes more than one man to win in a league where All-Stars are almost always a necessity.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have won six in a row, eight of the last nine and when five-for-five in their most recent road trip yielding them ten points out of a possible ten. Since hiring Bylsma, Pittsburgh is 8-1-1 with an increase in the level of scoring, a rise in offensive zone pressure and spectacular goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury. Not only did the road trip go very well for the Penguins but in those five games, four of the teams are either in a playoff spot or are tied in points with a team who is. The addition of Chris Kunitz has been priceless thus far as he has netted three goals in four games and five points overall. Kunitz gives them a presence in front of the net they missed dearly with the loss of Ryan Malone. Along with Kunitz was the acquisition of Billy Guerin who has provided invaluable experience and a right-handed forward for a power play that has improved with every game since the return of Sergei Gonchar. Pittsburgh's power play scoring has not exactly been stellar, but the amount of opportunities they are creating is more than they have in months. The amount of movement for those with and without the puck has increased which is a substantial change from recent months and will only lead to more scoring which is key to the Penguin's continued success.
As great as the last ten games have gone for Pittsburgh they have needed to use every point gained to reach a playoff position. Right now they stand in eighth with 76 points tied with Florida and New York ahead of them and are only one point behind fifth place Montreal. However, Carolina and Buffalo are breathing down their necks and even a minor slip up can spoil this ten game party. Thus far the trades have been great, the coaching move is paying dividends and Fleury has elevated his game. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh they cannot celebrate their recent success too much because they almost have to go 8-1-1 in their NEXT ten in order to ensure themselves a playoff spot. The Penguins have certainly proven that this new look team can make a lot of noise in the NHL's second season; but for now… they just have to get there.
In this year's fine NBA season the Western Conference is still the powerhouse of the league. It's not like that's ever changed since like the last ten years, but this year is definitely one of most notable.
In the East you have five sub-500 teams fighting for an eighth seed in Milwaukee, New Jersey, Chicago, Indiana, Charlotte in order from best to worst, with the best, Milwaukee, sporting a 29-35 record.
Meanwhile in the wild West the Suns and the Mavericks are shifting between the eighth and ninth spots every few games or so. Currently, the Suns are in ninth and they have a 34-26 record. That's better than the eighth seed in the East, Milwaukee, and also would tie them with Atlanta for the fourth seed and homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
It's a little different when you get to the higher seeds though. The two seed in the West, the San Antonio Spurs are 40-19. If they were in the east, that too would be no better than the fourth seed in the East. Orlando, who is 44-16 and third in the east, would be second in the west.
Although not surprising, it's still interesting.
The Carolina Hurricanes are fighting for a playoff spot and as of late have been playing some very good hockey. That is, until Saturday night. They went into Atlanta having won four of their last five including a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Buffalo in overtime the game before, putting themselves in prime position to solidify their place in the playoffs. And who better to help Carolina pad their placement more than the Southeast Division cellar dwelling Atlanta Thrashers? Everything was going smoothly as Carolina took a 3-1 lead at the 1:41 mark of the third period and were seemingly cruising to an easy victory. That is, until 10:25 of the third period when the Hurricanes gave up the first of what would be three unanswered goals in an eight minute period ultimately leading to a 5-3 Thrashers win; it was one of the worst collapses of the year. Instead of sitting safely in playoff position, the Hurricanes sit tied for 10 th with Buffalo at 69 points but Buffalo holds a game in hand over Carolina and as a result the Hurricanes will need some help from those ahead of them in the standings if they want to make reservations for post-season play. One bad game does not a season make, but when you blow a two goal third period lead to the second worst team in the Conference you probably do not deserve to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup. With the playoff race getting tighter every day, if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs they can point to the game against Atlanta and then squarely in the mirror because they'll have no one to blame but themselves.
Dion Phaneuf has played well but he's making money they pay to guys who should be in Norris Trophy contention and in that respect Phaneuf has greatly underachieved. He scored his 9 th goal Friday night but going into the game against the Wild he had 8 goals and 27 assists with a plus/minus of -10…that is unacceptable. Last year Phaneuf had 60 points and was a plus 12 on the year which are very good numbers for a defenseman and it is not reasonable to expect that from someone every year. However, when you're supposed to be the leading defenseman on a team that gives up more shots than almost anybody else out there you've got to step up and score points of your own with regularity. In recent years the Calgary Flames have had some pretty good teams who have not done too much in the playoffs since reaching the finals in 2004. Calgary made many offseason moves to get bigger and tougher in order to be more successful but to do that the Flames will need their top players to be at their best every shift and that includes Phaneuf. As of now Phaneuf's personal subpar performance has been good enough to put the Flames in prime playoff position but if his play stays at this level against the likes of Chicago, Detroit, or San Jose the Flames will find themselves making another early round exit.
The Arizona Cardinals can still be considered contenders. They went very far this past NFL season… all the way to the Super Bowl. If it hadn't been for a few costly mistakes (ie interception resulting in 100 yard TD return for longest play in Super Bowl history by linebacker James Harrison, and two fumbles by the Quarterback) and all things were to remain constant in that game, they would have been Champions.
But that doesn't matter because they aren't champions and the Pittsburgh Steelers created and/or forced the Cardinals into those mistakes. But make no bones about it; this team totally changed its approach when the playoffs began.
Their offense remained just as explosive as it had been in the air, and then they finally decided to rely on the run a little more. For next year, the Cardinals now know that they can run the ball effectively. With Edgerin James getting older, and Tim Hightower being nothing more than an effective backup, the Cardinals have plenty of room to draft a power or fast, or whatever kind of back that can be a pro-bowler. And honestly, they can't be much worse than James and Hightower.
Everyone knows about the trend of Super Bowl losers not making the playoffs the next year, but remember, the Cardinals are still in a poor division with two teams that have to rebuild, Rams and 49ers, and one team that was in real shambles this season and with an aging QB in Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle Seahawks. I know that sounds hypocritical because Warner is 37 and was still dead nasty, but he is an exception to the rule of the old quarterbacks whose performances dwindle when they get older.
Another strong argument against their chances may be that if they can't keep Anquan Boldin they won't be as explosive. However, we must remember they either didn't play with him or did while he was ailing with injuries during these playoffs, and Larry Fitzgerald still tore it up.
I believe the Arizona Cardinals are right where they need to be. They showed lots of heart in the Super Bowl defensively after being down 17-7 and 20-7, because they still stuck to their guns and held the Steelers shy of the end zone twice. Of course they blew it at the end, but they still showed a lot of moxie. Do not be surprised to see them in the Super Bowl if it does happen. Plus, with the way the NFL has been the past few seasons, I think the only teams that could surprise me in the Super Bowl are the Lions and 49ers. 'Nuff said.
Currently, the Phoenix Suns are in ninth place in the Western Conference. If the playoffs were to begin today, the recent perennial show-ups, the Phoenix Suns would be no-shows and watching from home (but most likely traveling over seas and playing golf). But either way, they wouldn't make the playoffs.
When the Suns decided to drop Mike D'Antoni after his highly successful run which included two Western Conference Finals, they figured to make the playoffs by default, with the real goal in mind to win a championship. Now they are too busy stuck in a seesaw battle with Utah (8), New Orleans (7), and Dallas (6) to barely get into the playoffs, much less be involved in any championship talk.
Steve Nash seems to be relegating more of the offensive load to his teammates. He used to be more aggressive until this year. Even though Shaq is playing at an All-Star level again, it still doesn't ever seem to be enough for them to get over the contenders or even to consistently win against the other playoff teams. And with recent rumors of exploring ways they could trade away Amare Stoudamire or even The Big Cactus himself, this team is a shade away from being in shambles.
The Suns can still make the playoffs easily. However, fighting for the sixth through eighth seeds means LA, San Antonio, or Denver in the first round. They might just be able to make it in and out quick enough to catch the rest of the playoffs on TV.
In all sports there is always talk about the superstars and what they bring to teams. A lot of fans—teams for that matter—expect superstars to be super heroes. Like all sports people see superstars on a team and assess their team's chances based on—essentially—the big names alone. Now that the NHL season has hit February a lot of teams who were successful last year are learning—if they didn't know already—how much impact a role player can have on a team's success or lack thereof. Two great examples of that are the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.
Granted, the Penguins lost Marian Hossa in the offseason but even before him the Penguins were a pretty good team; but along with Hossa they lost a number of role players and now they find themselves struggling just to get into the playoffs. Pittsburgh is really missing the toughness of Georges Laraque but also his ability to handle the puck down low in the offensive zone which really helps protect leads, something the Penguins have really struggled to do. Another thing the Penguins have not had a lot of are “garbage” goals in front of the net because nobody is willing to stand in front of the net to take that punishment the way Ryan Malone did. A strong presence in front of the net for any team is invaluable and it was almost poetic for Ryan Malone to score one of those “garbage” goals against the Penguins in Tampa's 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh last week. Likewise, Jarkko Ruutu's ability to not only draw penalties but frustrate the other team getting them to focus on things other than winning the game was priceless. Pittsburgh has a pretty good chance of making the playoffs with the team they have assembled but they would be in better shape with at least those three guys back in all likelihood.
The free-falling Montreal Canadiens role player issues focus mainly on losing Mark Streit to the Islanders. With Streit the Canadiens had an incredible power play that made teams who took penalties against them pay dearly and pay often. In the offseason the Canadiens lost Streit and now their power play is one of the worst in the league. The advantage of the power play is obvious but it is an even bigger deal when a team thrives on it because when its performance goes down the team is less likely to be successful. Since their power play is no longer lethal, the Canadiens needed other guys to accelerate their respective games to be successful and for most of the season they got that. Robert Lang became the team's leading scorer providing them with more than they could have possibly hoped for from him. Along with Lang's play Carey Price's game had really improved and that allowed Montreal to stay afloat. But now Robert Lang is out for the season, Price has been struggling with his confidence and Kovalev's play has been below average all year. As a result of these recent events the Canadiens are in a free-fall and coming dangerously close to missing the playoffs. Now, both Pittsburgh and Montreal know the value of role players more than ever before.
It was a good news-bad news weekend for the Buffalo Sabres as the stretch-run approaches. The Good news is that Buffalo got three out of a possible four points including a win over seemingly playoff bound Montreal. The bad news is that they lost Thomas Vanek who is the team leader in goals, overall points, and in the locker room. Vanek will be out for a month after a slapshot hit him in the face fracturing his jaw. What this means for Buffalo is that the likes of Roy and Pominville will have to pick up the slack in Vanek's absence. It also means the Sabres will need Tim Connolly to make his presence felt even sooner than was once thought as he returns from an injury that kept him sidelined for most of the season. Perhaps most important in all this is the already heavy load on Ryan Miller will get even heavier and it may be too much to ask of a goalie who has posted amazing numbers for a team that is only in seventh position. The Sabres certainly cannot replace Vanek's 52 points—32 of which are in the form of goals—but what they can do is try to take some of the pressure off of Miller and have a little more faith in Patrick Lalime. Granted, Lalime's numbers aren't good and neither is his record but if the team can tighten up and take pressure off of Lalime when he plays–giving Miller even one extra day of rest–it can make a world a difference. Bottom line, if Lalime cannot relieve Miller he may wear down and it can cause the Sabres to miss the playoffs; or even if they make it Miller won't be able to get them out of round one. However, if Miller is kept rested and the Sabres make the playoffs it greatly increases their chances of success and in that way Vanek's injury could be a blessing in disguise but they have to play their cards right.
The Montreal Canadiens' woes continued Friday night losing 3-2 to the all-of-a-sudden surging Buffalo Sabres. Although they only gave up three goals they need much more from Carey Price now that Robert Lang is out for the remainder of the season. Price should not have to carry so much of the burden but if nobody steps up to fill the scoring void created by Lang's absence Price will have to do it and based on his performance as of late he does not appear to be up to the Challenge. In reality the pressure should be more on Alexi Kovalev who is having a solid season with 36 points but has got to contribute more than 13 goals after posting 35 last year. Granted, there are other players who need to step their game up as well but they look to Kovalev as their leader and if he does not do the job then the rest of the team will suffer. They are still 4 th in the conference but with a record of 2-6 in their last eight and a six game road trip starting next week Montreal is in serious trouble of a disastrous free-fall.
The flip side of Friday's match-up, the Buffalo Sabres , are getting healthy and getting poised to roar into the playoffs. Thomas Vanek continues his tear through the 2008-09 season with 52 points including 32 goals. Roy, Pominville, Stafford, and Kotalik (among others) are also posting great numbers which combined with the spark Tim Connoly has provided makes for a very scary team should they make the playoffs. Despite the scoring the Sabres MVP is easily Ryan Miller who is having another spectacular season. In the end however it the Sabres are asking too much of Miller and I think he'll wear down keeping them out of the playoffs.
Unlike the West, the Eastern Conference is a much tighter race top to bottom with the exception of the Boston Bruins who have all but officially secured the top spot as they are 12 points ahead of their closets challenger. But looking beyond Boston a very colorful picture is painted as Washington and New Jersey battle for the second spot separated by only one point and the difference between 4 th and 10 th spot is only 9 points (essentially 3 games). That's right ladies and gentlemen the difference between home ice advantage in the first round and being out of the playoffs altogether is merely 3 games. So you may be asking yourself how all this will end up, who's in and who's out? Well look no further folks, we've got it broken down for you right here.
Washington – The Alexes (Ovechkin and Semin) provide the Caps with enough scoring to hang with anybody from either conference and at any level of the playoffs. Supplement that with great defensive play by guys like Mike Green, outstanding goaltending by Jose Theodore and the toughness of the likes of Donald Brashear needed to wear teams down in the playoffs, you've got a team that can go a LONG way.
New Jersey – No Brodeur? Няма проблем. Scott Clemmensen has been great, Parise, and Elias combine skill with leadership, and of course New Jersey always plays amazing defense. Add in Brendan Shanahan as the proverbial cherry on top and you've got yourself an irresistible sundae—ie a team that can rely on its core not only to get to the playoffs, but deep into the second season.
Montreal – Sure they lost Robert Lang for the season (a major blow indeed since he led the team in goals scored overall and power play goals) but now Kovalev and Price and company need to step up their play. They were picked by many (yours truly included) to represent the East in the finals and you better believe they'll be there.
NY Rangers – Everything they expected to get from Wade Redden but haven't has been more than adequately made up for by the play of Henrik Lundqvist. However, his play can only get them to the playoffs so do not expect them to get very far. A lot of their games have been won in shootouts and in case you didn't get that memo there aren't any shootouts in the post-season. Scott Gomez is great too but they miss Jagr and Shanahan so enjoy the Rangers while they last because it won't be long for them in the playoffs.
Philadelphia – They are huge and can score. Big teams who can score make it to the playoffs, and as long as Biron stays solid they will be in excellent shape.
Florida – Netminder Craig Anderson has been fantastic and somehow this team has learned how to score on a more consistent basis. They have a lot of guys who are overachieving and it doesn't look like that will stop anytime soon; however, as Anderson goes so go the Florida Panthers. In my estimation a 2.47 GAA and .930 save percentage are no accident, the Panthers are for real.
Pittsburgh – They have not played well as of late and have a lot of injuries to boot. Despite all that the Penguins have an incredible amount of talent and are becoming a grittier team as they realize they cannot win on talent alone. Losing Malone, Laraque and Hossa (among others) has hurt them more than most realize but regardless the team refuses to quit and their new 1-2-2 trap will help them win enough games to make reservations for post-season play.
Carolina – Cam Ward has been too inconsistent and the Hurricanes don't score enough goals to bail him out every night.
Buffalo – They run Ryan Miller into the ground and he will start to wear down before the playoffs arrive. Thomas Vanek and company can certainly put the puck in the net and that will help their push toward the playoffs but they will fall short by “that much.”
The second half is now upon us and the playoff races on both sides are heating up. The next two articles will preview the next 2 months telling you who's in and who's out. The West today, next time the East will be the focus.
In the West the top four are more or less in place with San Jose leading everyone by no less than 8 points steam rolling toward the playoffs and possibly the President's Trophy. But as you look down toward the fifth seed it gets very interesting. The Anaheim Ducks are in sole possession of 5 th place with 55 points but are only ahead of sixth by two points where there are FIVE teams tied with 53 points with only three playoff spots to earn. Should it come to the point where a tie-breaker is needed to determine who survives this gridlock I'll have it for you right here, but until then who needs the headache? So who is going to come out of this mess to participate in the second season? Under the assumption that San Jose, Detroit, Calgary, and Chicago will all make it (in what particular order it matters not, they'll be the top 4 seeds) we'll consider the lower half. Five through eight as of this moment (in order) look like this: 5. Anaheim, 6. Edmonton, 7. Dallas, 8. Minnesota. Columbus and Phoenix also have 53 points with Vancouver just behind with 52. To conclude this article is a brief write up on all seven teams remaining in the race and why they will or will not make the playoffs. But regardless of who gets in if you're a fan of hockey then the next 2 and a half months are going to be incredible.
IN – Anaheim, Minnesota, Phoenix, Columbus
Out- Edmonton, Dallas, Vancouver
Anaheim – Despite a slow start, losing their general manager, and the aging almost before our eyes of every star on the team the one thing the Ducks did not lose was their hockey IQ. A team full of older guys who aren't as talented as they once were and are not as physical as their Cup team from two years ago but they are all smarter than the next guy. So while teams are busy skating circles around the old guys dominating almost every moment of the game, come period three the “old guys” are still hanging around and next thing you know the Ducks are celebrating a win.
Minnesota – Defense, defense, defense, and more defense. Did I mention Minnesota plays great defense? When push comes to shove, that pesky neutral zone trap always prevails.
Phoenix – Gretzky has these guys playing like world beaters. And on the backs of Shane Doan the Coyotes can and will shock a lot of teams. Not only will they get in but if the match-up (I mean you Calgary) is right they'll make some serious noise in April.
Columbus. Yes Rick Nash is awesome, and RJ Umberger provides a dynamic the Blue Jackets have lacked since their existence. But the key to their success is Steve Mason, his 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage says it all. One and done? Yes, but this team will be good for many years to come.
Edmonton – will somebody please score a goal? If you can't score you can't win, it's not rocket science.
Dallas – Marty Turco has been doing it by himself for too long and now it's finally wearing him down. When you have a GAA of 2.98 and a save percentage of .888 you're getting NO help.
Vancouver –Luongo is fantastic but Mats Sundin is not the answer to your offensive problems and never will be. The Sedin twins just AREN'T THAT GOOD! Time to scrap this team and start over; what a waste of money.
On February 1st, the Arizona Cardinals will do battle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aside from the surprising appearance by Arizona to get to their first Super Bowl, there is a very surprising trend beginning to surmise… that is if the Steelers win the game.
In the Steelers last four Super Bowl appearances they have faced off against the LA Rams in 1979, winning 31-19, the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 losing 27-17, the Seattle Seahawks, winning 21-10, and now the Arizona Cardinals. If the Steelers win, that will mean that their last three titles will have come against present NFC West teams.
Back in 1979, the now St. Louis Rams, still were a part of the NFC West, but that division consisted of the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons. Since the arrival of the Houston Texans, that division now includes the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and the 49ers.
Another interesting tidbit, like this year's Cardinals, the only other 9-7 team to ever make a Super Bowl were those same aforementioned LA Rams.
However, the most striking piece of trivia has to be that all three team's Super Bowl appearances against the Steelers were their first ever. Could this mean that the Cardinals, although a great story, are doomed to drop the ball in the non-literal sense of the phrase? Who knows, and if the world is what it is, and the Cards do lose, it shouldn't be viewed as much more than a wild coincidence. Either way, it's pretty damn cool… especially if you're a Steeler fan.
1. The Washington Capitals are for real. They have been on a roll lately but nothing like Saturday when they beat the East leading Boston Bruins 2-1 at Verizon Center. And after defeated the new trap playing penguins (more on that later) and the similar defensive style of the Bruins who supplement that with great goal-scoring the Caps showed they can beat anybody and play any style. Their team speed breaks that trap better than any other team in the East and they can win high scoring AND low scoring games… the rest of the league should be on high alert.
2. The Pittsburgh Penguins have finally figured out that with all their injuries a change in strategy is necessary and the trap is just what the doctor ordered. In casual conversation with a friend on December 12 th I mentioned the Penguins need to run a trap if only temporarily to keep themselves in games until they get some guys healthy and sure enough a month and a day later they run it and win against the Flyers. Now they have won two of three and despite all the injuries are in a playoff position. The Penguins are now a team to worry about again and once they get guys healthy the teams at the top of the standings should worry… just ask the Flyers and Rangers.
3. The San Jose Sharks beat Detroit 6-5 on Saturday. They are not going to fade away… the Western Conference has been warned.
4. The Phoenix Coyotes (yes Phoenix) is a viable team and WILL make the playoffs.
Have a great holiday everybody.
At this point there are five title contenders in the NBA; in the west, the Los Angeles Lakers (31-8) and the San Antonio Spurs 26-13, and in the east, the Cleveland Cavaliers (31-7), Orlando Magic (33-8), and Boston Celtics (33-9).
Right now, I would put the Spurs over the Lakers. I know the records are five games different, but lately I've been seeing Kobe take a lot of shots in the fourth quarter in games against Orlando and San Antonio that just haven't been going down. Pau Gasol is having a great season, but now the Spurs have four guys who can be counted on to hit big shots, and not in any particular order; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and now Roger Mason Jr.
Furthermore, the Spurs show no signs of getting older, and they even seem like they are playing “younger” than last year.
In the east, the one team with the overall best consistency has been the Cavaliers. The Celtics seem like their big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are getting older (More-so Garnett and Pierce), and their role players have not stepped up much in their recent strings of losses. I would have to say that right now Pierce and Garnett seem to be taking a step back, but I know they can turn that around. However, until that happens, I have to keep them under Orlando and Cleveland, even if they are the defending champs.
The Orlando Magic just seem like they play within themselves every game, and that has been just enough to pull out some big road wins this season. But with their ever-growing regularity of settling on huge three pointers down the stretch to win games may not be so hot come playoff time… “You live by the three, you die by the three.”
Finally, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers who are my top pick in the east. LeBron James seems to be coming into his own, as if what he had been doing already wasn't enough. He is really hitting his peak now, and is relying on his teammates much longer in games than Kobe Bryant.
What's even more is that they (Cleveland) aren't even letting any of the non-contenders come close to beating them at home. If they can hold on to the number one seed come playoff time, and have homecourt advantage in the Finals, I will pick them to win it all.
In this week, the Divisional Playoff Round of the NFL, hearts are truly broken. In my mind, there is nothing more embarrassing than being a bye team and losing your first game. It is almost as if all the good your team did was all-for-not, and similarly, for the road team, it means you were only good enough to win in the Wild Card round. The first game of Divisional Round weekend will feature the Baltimore Ravens attempting to go down to Tennessee to pull off a huge road victory.
Once again, the Ravens Defense will be the phase of their game to rely on; 3 rd in the league in points allowed (15.2), 2 nd in yards (261.1ypg), 2 nd in passing (179.7ypg), and 3 rd against the run (81.4ypg). The stinginess of their defense showed up profusely in their Saturday victory in Miami against the Dolphins as they forced Chad Pennington into throwing four interceptions, when he had only seven up until that point. On top of that, they also forced a fumble which they recovered.
What is even more is they rank higher in almost every major category defensively than the Titans; 7 th in yards (293.6ypg), 9 th in passing (199.8ypg), and 6 th against the run (93.9ypg). The Titans beat them in points per game at 14.6, but that is only for a difference of 0.6 points.
Aside from the Ravens defense, the performance of Joe Flacco in his first ever playoff game should pay huge dividends for Baltimore as he now goes into his second. In that game, his numbers were far from solid; 9-23 with 135 yards. That was only good for a slunky 39% completion. But if there are any underlying factors in his performance, it was obviously the fact he committed no turnovers, and amazingly, averaged 15.0 yards per completion. What this suggests was that when he actually did find the right target, it was a big play.
He already had the one playoff game where he saw his defense carry him. Now he knows if he can just step it up a bit, and with his defense playing like it can, that his team is in prime position for success.
The difference between the Miami pass defense (25 th at 227.8ypg) and the Tennessee pass defense (9 th at 199.8ypg) is 16 spots in the rankings. If Joe Flacco cannot increase his completion percentage, and is forced to throw the ball more against the Titans solid rushing defense, then the Ravens could be in for a long day. Maybe even the type that sees Flacco performing somewhat like Pennington did.
After that, Kerry Collins threw seven interceptions on the season, ass opposed to Flacco's 12. But sadly, that seems to be the only advantage that the Titans could have over the Ravens. And too bad for them Joe Flacco hasn't been prone to throwing games away this season. Oh… and we also saw what happened to the last quarterback the Ravens faced who only three seven regular season INTs.
We already know that the Ravens have better defense. But what is even more is the fact that their offense isn't too far off either. In total yards per game the Ravens are 18 th at 324, and the Titans 21 st at 313.6. Although the Titans are 27 th passing (172.6), versus the Ravens 28 th ranking (175.5), it is for a difference of 0.7 yards making them virtually equal in that aspect. The real kicker comes in the Ravens 4 th ranked rush offense at 148.5 yards per game against the Titan's 7 th place ranking at 137.4 yards per game. The Ravens, as a matter of fact, even score more points per game with 24.1, against the Titans, 23.4. However, that points per game number is also for a mere difference of 0.7.
The real deciding factor offensively is going to be the Ravens stronger running game, and better play-making defensively. I also predict another deciding factor to be the performance of young Joe Flacco against that of old Kerry Collins. Their stat lines, although similar, are leaving one thing out. Where as last week I mentioned the experience of Kurt Warner would take over that of Matt Ryan's, this week it will be the youth of Flacco over Collins. Warner is still a dynamic quarterback. Whereas Flacco and Collins roles in their team's offenses is to manage the game and not turn the ball over, for Flacco it is more to help ease his transition as a rookie quarterback, and for Collins it is because he is on the downside of his career.
But aside from all this, the most telling stat is the following. The combined records of the Tennessee Titans regular season opponents was 92-115, and the Ravens was 123-94. This just tells me that the Ravens have been having their mettle tested a lot more often than the surprising Titans up to this point.
Ravens move to within one victory of the Super Bowl.
Perhaps it is Wayne Gretzky working his magic or maybe they are finally molding into a decent team by the Phoenix Coyotes are in 6 th position in the Western Conference and in prime position to make a push toward the playoffs. Since finishing sixth in the 2001-2002 season the Phoenix Coyotes have had very little success and have frankly been down-right abysmal. But, at least for now, the Coyotes are a viable franchise that are unlikely to make any noise in the playoffs if they do qualify but some progress is better than no progress after all. For the most part the Coyotes' roster consists of mediocre players at best with a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov who is putting up pretty good numbers with a sub-three GAA and a respectable .911 save percentage. In the midst of the mediocrity there is a shining light who has been more or less unnoticed in the death pit of a sports market that is the great Phoenix (more on that later) and that is right-winger Shane Doan. Doan leads the team with 38 points (18 G, 20 A) with the next closets teammate at 28 points. He also leads all forwards on the team with an average ice time of 20:38 and is 4 th behind only defensemen who traditionally have the highest average ice time. He is a work horse who can not only score goals but set up teammates regularly as he leads the team in both goals and assists. Overall there is not much going for this franchise (and hasn't been since they moved from Winnipeg in the '90s) but for all the fans in that area who can get a chance to see Doan play they are witnessing something special—at least for this year.
Unfortunately for the city of Phoenix and the NHL the Coyotes are reportedly expected to lose 30 million dollars this year and are struggling to draw attention in a city that is not just a weak hockey market but a terrible sports market. The Arizona Cardinals are to host a home playoff game Saturday for the first time in Arizona and for the first time since the franchise was in Chicago in 1947. And yet despite that the Cardinals needed two extension by the NFL to sell-out the game so there would not be a local blackout in affect. The area does not even support America's most popular sport when its team is in the playoffs let alone a sport that continues to struggle in some areas like hockey. The 30 million dollar loss may have something to do with the team's futility over the years but not entirely. Sports fans in that region seem to be few and far between and if they are not going to support a team in Phoenix there are plenty of other cities who would. The Phoenix hockey experiment has basically failed and there is no reason to reward that city with a hockey team (or any other major sports team for that matter) anymore.
The final game of Wild-Card weekend 2009 may be one of the toughest to predict. It exhibits two teams that struggled to secure playoff births, but at the same time are more than capable of advancing in the post season past the obvious win that one of them will be getting this weekend. The Eagles had blown a game in Washington against the Redskins in week 16 by a score of 10-3 to fall to a record of 8-6-1, and needed to beat the Cowboys in Philadelphia, and hope the Buccaneers and Bears would lose in week 17. Luckily for them, all three of those scenarios became a reality. As for the Vikings, they would have clinched the NFC North regardless, due to the Bears loss in Houston in week 17, but could guarantee the division title with a victory in the final week. Since they beat the Giants in Minnesota 20-19 on a last minute 50 yard field goal to finish 10-6, they were able to hold up their end of the bargain. Now what has unfolded for week 18 is a bout between two teams, one filled with wily veterans in Philadelphia, and another with a collection of young and perhaps budding talent in Minnesota.
One of the key factors that Minnesota can rely on to win this game is the fact that they own the league's top rush defense giving up only 76.9 yards per game going up against an Eagles ground attack that ranked 22 nd with 106.1 yards per game. Couple that with the fact the Eagles were 4 th in the league in pass attempts and 22 nd in rushing yards with 106.1 per game, and the Vikings have a seldom-available luxury: the chance to play an opponent who is virtually one dimensional.
One of the most commonly preached strategies in defensive football is the ability to force an opponent to be one-dimensional, ie try to get the opponent to beat you with the pass by loading up the line of scrimmage with an eight-man front. What we have here is a team in Philadelphia who by preference already is one-dimensional and mainly likes to pass.
The second factor that helps the Vikings is the improved play of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson since he returned to the starting lineup. In his two games to start the season, he was 30-59, good for a 51 percent completion rate with one TD, while throwing for 178 and 130 yards respectively. Now, Jackson has risen to the occasion in the last three and a half games of the season posting 740 yards, 8 TDs, and only one interception while completing 64 percent of his passes. All this has provided the stability at the QB position the Vikings were looking for in Gus Frerotte.
The Eagles strengths lie in their defense and experience. Even though the Vikings are sporting the 1 st ranked run defense, their pass defense is only 18 th in the league, giving up 215.6 yards per game. That does not match well with the defense of Philadelphia as they ranked 4 th in run defense, 92.2ypg, and 3 rd in total pass defense, 182.1ypg. That type of run defense is more-than solid and should be able to keep Adrian Peterson, the league's top rusher with 1,760 yards, in check for the most part. And I stress “for the most part” as even though the Eagles rush D is just three spots behind the Vikings, Peterson is still the league's leading rusher for a reason, and for that, I believe he will have at least one big run in the game.
What really stands out for the eagles defensively is their pass defense, because Jackson, although he has improved, is still only averaging 185 yards through the air in his return, which is only 2.9 yards more than what the eagles are giving up. This means that he could easily be limited to within 100-150 yards, and if the Vikings main threat is going to be one to, at the most, three big gainers from Peterson and only a game-management style of play by Jackson, things are not looking up.
Although the Vikings play at home this weekend, they face a veteran team in the Eagles who are more accustomed to playing in big games. Even if it took four straight NFC Championship games for Donovan McNabb to finally get his team to a Super Bowl, he is still much more playoff savvy than the young Tarvaris Jackson, as is the entire Eagles team. Although both teams are great at stopping the run, Philadelphia is averaging 244.4 yards per game through the air, and with the disparity in the rankings of the two clubs pass defenses being 15 spots (Vikings 18 th minus Eagles 3 rd equals 15), then that is where the true edge in this contest lies.
Eagles move on.
The second Winter Classic wrapped up from Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon in front of 40+ thousand fans who unfortunately witnessed a Blackhawks loss but were part of a historical experience they will likely not soon forget. The event itself was spectacular as Wrigley Field was set up perfectly with piles of snow scattered throughout and mini games going on around the main ice surface. The fan-fair was incredible and the presence of stars from the past combined with the rich sports tradition of Wrigley Field and the two franchises who are members of the original six NHL teams.
Unfortunately the game itself left much to be desired. It was off to a fast start as the game play was fast and the buzz in the stadium was unbelievable. Both teams settled in well to the elements and put on a great show in the first period combining to score four goals with Chicago taking the 3-1 lead at the end of one. At the start of the second period things slowed down an awful lot and the Detroit Red Wings took control by establishing their slow, puck-possession style of play which works as a great offense and defense. Despite Chicago's fast start once Detroit cut the lead to one at 3-2 those who watch the game closely knew that Chicago as more than likely in trouble. As it turns out the game in fact slowed down a ton which worked very much in Detroit's favor and they skated out of Wrigley Field with a dominating 6-4 victory.
Although the hockey game ended up being fairly unentertaining after the end of the first period it was a still a very exciting event; certainly things went well enough that the NHL should continue to stage this event once a year. But for now the Winter Classic is in the books and tomorrow things go back to business as usual as the All-Star game and a push for the playoffs are on the horizon.
Game number three of Wild-Card weekend will feature two teams that had surprise turnarounds from last season. But of the two teams, the biggest surprise was last season's hapless 1-15 Miami Dolphins doing a complete 180 with an 11-5 record this season while also earning the AFC East title. The Ravens, although always strong defensively, are nothing short of surprising either as they went from 5-11 last year to 11-5 this year. What makes their turnaround so remarkable was that they did it with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, and if it weren't for injuries to both Kyle Boller and Troy Smith before week one, Joe Flacco may not have gotten his first start until later in the season and who knows what happens. With that being said, let's take a look at the key phases of each team's game.
Both team's offenses seem to even one another out. The Dolphins score 21.6 points per game and the Ravens 24.1 points per game. Although the Dolphins average only 118.6 yards on the ground to the Ravens 148.5, Miami out-throws Baltimore by a tune of 227 yards per game to 175.5. This shows that the Ravens outrun the Dolphins by 29.9 yards per game, and the Dolphins pass for 51.5 yards more than the Ravens.
Even with that being said, conventional wisdom shows that the team with the better running game will win. And that should be the case here. What's even more is that the Ravens are 3 rd defensively against the run at 81.4ypg, and a whopping 2 nd versus the pass giving up 179.7ypg. The problem the Dolphins have, even though they get to play in the confines of their home stadium, is that they are 25 th against the pass at 227.8ypg, and 10 th versus the run at 101.2ypg. In all respects, giving up 101.2 yards a game on the ground is not that bad, but when the duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is good for a great total of 1,575 yards, and the Ravens trio of Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain, and Ray Rice combined for an outstanding number like 2,028, then not only are the Ravens defending the run better, but they are carrying the ball better as well.
Even though the Ravens outweigh the Dolphins in some key statistical categories necessary for playoff success, they have not been very good on the road playing against the projected playoff teams in the pre-season; at Indianapolis they lost 3-31, at the Giants they lost 10-30. Their only strong points against what were considered playoff teams were at Pittsburgh when they lost in OT 20-23, at the Dolphins when they won 27-13, and finally, when they beat Dallas 33-24.
Allow me to downplay. The Steelers and Ravens are diehard division rivals and always play each other tough. The Cowboys game had two aberration type plays on the Ravens final two drives; an 82 yard scoring run followed by a 77 yard scoring run. Any team would be lucky to get a run of either of those lengths all season long. Last but not least, when the Ravens beat the Dolphins in Miami in week 7, it dropped the Dolphins' record to 2-4. Since then, Miami has gone 9-1 and are playing at a slightly different level than that period of time.
The other thing the Dolphins have going for them is that they had the fewest turnovers in the league with only 13. Chad Pennington had arguably his best season since his first ever rotator-cuff injury with a career-high 3,653 yards, 19 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. Rookie QB Joe Flacco, although he had a great season for a rookie, 2,971 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs (not to mention his eleven fumbles) and completed 60.0 percent of his passes, he is still a rookie and is definitely mistake-prone.
Like one analyst put it… “What the Ravens thrive on, the Dolphins simply don't do”… turn the ball over!
Although the Dolphins play at home, and are riding the emotional high an unprecedented successful season and comeback year of Chad Pennington, I have to go with the Ravens. They can negate their opponent's run, and kill them with their own. Furthermore, Joe Flacco is quickly being molded into the confident game manager who can make a few plays here and there that Baltimore has been looking for. I only see Joe Flacco having, at the most, one turnover, and with their 2 nd ranked total defense (261.1ypg) and 3 rd ranked defense in points given up per game (15.2), the Ravens can easily overcome it. I cannot see a team who beat squads like Seattle without QB Matt Hasselbeck by two points, Oakland by two points as well, San Francisco by five, all at home, and Saint Louis by four on the road beating this gritty Ravens team.
Ravens will move on to play the one-seeded Tennessee Titans next week.
The night cap of day one on Wild-Card Weekend will have two teams on display that can light up the scoreboard. Whereas the Colts have reverted to a more proficient scoring style over the past few years with the peak-point maturity of Peyton Manning, the Chargers have remained a team that can put up points in bunches. Тази игра трябва да имат всички качества на конкурс, който се свежда до това кой отбор прави най-добре с последната офанзива диск и последен шанс градушка Богородица или "странично натискане" не се брои.
Всеки знае, че и двата отбора имат повече от способни и изпитани плейофите куотърбекове. Peyton Manning has practically carried his team whose run game which ranked 31 st in the league with a meager 79.6 yards per game, and was able to post his ninth 4,000 yard plus season with 4,002 yards, threw 27 touchdowns against a respectable twelve interceptions, while completing 66.8 percent of his passes. These numbers were good enough to earn him a 95.0 QB rating.
Philip Rivers, for San Diego, threw his way to his first ever 4,000 yard plus season with 4,009 yards. He also tied with New Orleans' Drew Brees for the most touchdowns with 34, completed 65.3 percent of his passes with eleven interceptions. All this was good for a passer rating of 105.5 which was tops in the NFL. Much like Peyton Manning, he too had to overcome his teams dip in rushing stats as LaDainian Tomlinson went from 1,462, 1,815, and 1,474 yards in the past three years respectively to his lowest output ever in his storied eight year career at 1,110 yards with 3.8 yards per carry. In those previously mentioned seasons, he had 4.3, 5.2, and 4.7 yards per carry respectively. So this should be the beginning of the down-hill part of his career.
But even with that being said, the Chargers still gained 107.9 yards per game on the ground (20 th in the league, and eleven better than Indy's 31 st ) and even with his 2008 swoon, Tomlinson is still one of the most prolific rushers in the league. Furthermore, his production is still better than the Colt's duo of Dominic Rhodes, 538ypg, 3.5ypc, and Joseph Addai, 544ypg, and also 3.5ypc. The two of them alone gained 1,082 yards. This isn't good, as the Chargers second option, Darren Sproles, had 330ypg with 5.4ypc. If you combine his total with Tomlinson's you'll get 358 yards of extra ground over the two Indianapolis runners.
As far as defenses go, the Chargers were 27 th in the league versus the pass, giving up 247.4 yards per game. On the other hand, the Colts were very good with a 6 th rated passing defense giving up 188.1 yards per contest. As for the rushing defenses, the Chargers ranked 11 th and gave up a respectable 102.6 yards per game. With teams rarely giving every single carry to a feature back, 102.6 yards per game between two to three players isn't terrible. The Colts, however, were 24 th , and they gave up 122.9 yards per outing. That kind of number suggests that their opponent's feature back was typically able to get at least over 90 yards on his own. На пръв поглед, Colts позволи седем на гърба на противника си да спечели над 90 метра към зарядното устройство трите.
Now for the X factors.
Both teams are entering the post-season on hot streaks; the Colts have won nine straight, and the Chargers have won four straight. You would think the Colts did their duty better with that kind of disparity, but let's not forget a few “gimme” games they won this season; The first time they played Houston, when QB Sage Rosenfels fumbled the ball away twice in the waning moments of the game, the game against Pittsburgh when they were down 17-7 at one point and Ben Roethlisberger threw three terrible interceptions, and the game against Cleveland when they were down 6-3 in the fourth quarter and Robert Mathis returned a fumble by QB Ken Dorsey 37 yards for a 10-6 victory. Without those three wins, the Colts wouldn't even be in the playoffs.
In the Charger's four game streak, their only luck-job win was in Kansas City when they scored twelve points in the final 1:19 of the game to win 22-21. Other than that, they have soared in beating Oakland 34-7, Tampa Bay 41-24, and most recently, Denver 52-21.
With all of that being said, the Chargers having a passing game that is actually complimented by the run, the Colts having to rely on Peyton manning for most of the season, and a renewed vigor of the San Diego Chargers by their miracle playoff push after overcoming a 4-8 record, I just simply have to give the game to San Diego at home. There is a reason the Colts passing defense was 6th in the league, and that is because their opponents had field days against their 31 st ranked run defense. I am not saying the game won't be close and that Peyton Manning isn't great on the road just as he is at home, but the game can easily slip away from Indianapolis in the second half if they have to go score for score in this contest.
The first game of Wild-Card Weekend features two teams that I'm sure many people would argue are “one-and-done” teams. However, the fact is, one of these one-and-doners will definitely be advancing with the question of course being who.
The Atlanta Falcons do not have too much upside defensively. The only standout player this season was John Abraham who accounted for 47% of Atlanta's 35 sacks with 16.5 total. That isn't very good. That means of the other typical sackers on a standard NFL team, the three linebackers, the other defensive end, and perhaps the strong safety in some cases would have produced an average of 3.8 sacks a-piece. Too bad for the Falcons that Mr. Milloy, the strong safety, had none. Their 21 st ranked pass defense gave up 220.4 yards per game, and their 25 th ranked run D gave up 127.5 yards per game.
That type of passing defense won't bode well against a quarterback in Kurt Warner who threw for over 4,500 yards this season. As far as the Falcons run defense goes, I guess that isn't too bad as the Cardinals rush offense was good for last with 73.6 yards per game, meaning if they just don't screw up any assignments and miss any tackles, they should be able to post a solid to admirable effort against the run.
But Edgerin James against the Seahawks this week amassed 100 yards on 14 carries. He has been off this season, but he perhaps could be trying to prove that he still has some gas left in the tank since that was his first game in a while, and if there was ever a game for him to do so, this could be it. And I know the argument can be that he did it against Seattle, but with a 25 th ranked run defense, the Falcons aren't much better. Who knows? Maybe the Cards will run a two-back system with James and Tim Hightower, and they could stay fresh and get a couple decent gainers here and there.
On the flipside of things, the Cardinals defense gave up 26.6 points per game. Most teams wouldn't even stand a chance at being in contention in the finals weeks of most regular NFL seasons with that kind of defense, but luckily for the Cardinals, they played in a bad division. On top of that, Arizona's pass D was 22 nd giving up 221.2 yards per game. But the worst part is that their run defense, who faces Michael Turner (1,699 yards and 2 nd in the NFL), was 16 th giving up 110.2 yards per game.
The Falcons MO all year has been to give the ball to Turner as much as possible so that Matt Ryan only needs to make 2-3 good or big plays a game, usually to Roddy White who was fourth among all wide receivers with 1,382 yards and had seven of Ryan's 16 total TDs.
The bottom line is, with the virtually identical defenses of both teams, if the Matt Ryan-led Falcons had more experience under their belt, this game would have had the makings for an Atlanta win as they could have grinded out the run game and kept the passes to a minimum as the Arizona run game and run defense has basically been non-existent for most of the season.
However… I just have to go with Kurt Warner's will, experience, two stud wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, and the home crowd to come out on top. The tandem of Boldin and Fitzgerald are enough to make up for not having a running game against a young team like Atlanta. I think Matt Ryan is just too young to take this game, and for all the criticism that the Cardinals have received in losing four of their last five games, it is almost like Kurt Warner gets to start off fresh again. And I say this because in their recent losses, the Cardinals were getting blown out early to the point where Warner didn't need to bother even trying the rest of whatever game they were playing. And if convention says that players need to stay hot going into the post season, I don't see that as being the case here with Kurt Warner.
Basically, both teams are not looking like Super Bowl contenders, and ultimately, when it comes down to two “one-and-done” type teams, you gotta go with the guys playing at home and especially with having the more experienced quarterback. Cardinals win.
It's official. The word literally just came through about thirty seconds ago, and it will be the San Diego Chargers, who were widely thought to be finished with their season, having a chance to make a miraculous comeback and enter the playoffs by winning their division. What's even more is the fact that they'd be doing it with an 8-8 record if they were to win.
This game showcases two of the big number producing quarterbacks in the league in Philip Rivers who has the league-high in TDs, 32, and Jay Cutler whose been shredding defenses for a good portion of the season. This game also features two teams who have been highly inconsistent, and where now, it is truly “put up or shut up” time.
Everybody whose anybody remembers what happened the first time these two teams met this season, when referee Ed Hochuli called a fumble by Jay Cutler as an incomplete pass that cost the Chargers the game in Denver. Now it's either going to be the Chargers getting their revenge, or Jay Cutler proving that the Broncos were the better team all along… and I simply can't wait to see what happens.
Lots of news, little time, let's go around the league in a flash.
- Mats Sundin has finally decided on a team, he's going to Vancouver. Great, now can we please stop talking about him?
- Detroit put a hurting on San Jose Thursday night 6-0. Be not afraid, the game means little because San Jose is still better than Detroit in the long run. I picked San Jose to win the Stanley Cup and I am not backing down now.
- My other finals pick (Montreal) ended Philly's five game winning streak on Thursday in convincing fashion. Despite a few hick-ups the Canadiens' season is going well so far. If Kovalev ever gets his scoring woes in order they will be in very good shape.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins scored 6 goals to defeat Atlanta by three on Thursday after a long lay-off. Any win for the Penguins right now is a good win but their defensive troubles continue to be a thorn in their side.
- Yes Boston has 22 wins and 48 points good enough for first in the east; however come playoff time it will be hard for their overachieving players to keep playing at this high of a level. Kudos to their play so far though.
- The Washington Capitals are on fire, winning their fifth in a row Thursday night and looking tremendous in every facet of the game: special teams, offense, defense, and goaltending. Washington is rolling… remember them come playoff time.
With just two weeks of play left in the regular season of the 2008-2009 year, a few teams have locked up a spot in the playoffs while others are still fighting to make it. What is about to unfold in this article is, what are in my mind, the teams that will make it.
We already know the Steelers and Titans have locked up spots and first round byes in the AFC. In the NFC the Giants have clinched their division while the Cardinals have as well. First I will go over the locks to get in.
In the AFC the only sure-fire lock I have is the Indianapolis Colts. If they beat Jacksonville this Thursday in Florida, they're in. With the way the Jags have disappointed, I do not even see them using the rivalry bug as added motivation to beat Indianapolis.
In the NFC, surprisingly, the Carolina Panthers have not clinched even with an 11-3 record, which is a testament to the competitiveness of the NFC. However, one more win or one more loss from another team or two would put them in. The Cowboys have been hot lately. I don't care about Romo's performance in Pittsburgh. The game was still close, and it has been their only slip up since his return from injury. They face the Ravens at home, and Eagles in Philadelphia. The Eagle game should be tough and they easily can lose, but to me, I think all of the air got sucked out of the Raven team with their last minute loss to Pittsburgh last weekend.
The Vikings should clinch their division as the Bears face the Packers on Monday Night at home, but then travel to Houston the last week. Houston is on pace to finish up 9-7 and Andre Johnson should be able to shred their weak pass defense.
After that I don't think Tampa will get in as they have slipped up and their weaknesses are beginning to be exposed. The Falcons and Eagles to me will be the ones to fighting for the 6th seed in the NFL as they have both been consistent as of late.
Back in the AFC, I'll take the Patriots to win their division. They are at home against the Cardinals who have clinched, and then at a bum Buffalo team. That would put them at 11-5. The reason I see this happening is because the as-of-late inconsistent Jets should lose in Seattle this weekend, and the Dolphins will beat the Kansas City Chiefs. But when they play each other in New York, I'll take a last-ditch effort by Favre to even their records at 10-6, giving one of them the 6th seed.
The only seed I am unsure of is the 4th seed in the AFC as the Broncos are 8-6 and Chargers 6-8. If the Chargers beat Tampa Bay in Tampa this weekend, which is not an oversight, and the Broncos lose at home to the Bills, which is still a bit of a stretch even if the Broncos aren't so consistent, then they will be playing in San Diego for the division in week 17. If that happens, I'll take the Chargers.
So that's how I believe the “tournament” brackets will be set up come January.
After their 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night the Minnesota Wild find themselves in the midst of a three game losing streak, their first such streak this year. After scoring at least four goals in each of their previous four games, the Wild have managed only two goals in their last three games combined. While Minnesota is not necessarily designed to score a lot of goals since they rely on their tough defense to keep the other team off the board in setting up what should be a lot of one-goal game victories for the Wild. However, during this losing streak they have lost 2-1, 1-0, and 3-1 respectively when generally the Wild find themselves on the winning end of such low-scoring contests. It is hardly time for panic in the twin cities for a season that lasts 82 games has many ups and downs associated with it. Nevertheless, the results of the last three games are something to keep an eye on if you're a Wild fan because if this trend keeps up—despite their wonderful start to the season Minnesota—it may not bode well for them come April 12 th . The Western Conference is so competitive that a number of very talented team will end up failing to make the playoffs. At the moment spots 4 through 15 are only separated by 9 points so if the Wild do not get it together come season's end they may find themselves all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The Washington Capitals had a chance to really separate themselves from the bulk of the Southeast Division Sunday as the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed Alex Ovechkin and company to town. Going into the game the Hurricanes had not exactly been world beaters riding a three game losing streak and were losers of 6 of their last 7 earning only three points with a coaching change thrown in their to boot. The Capitals were better en route to Raleigh winning 4 of 6 before Sunday but had only won four of the last nine. Despite their struggles the Capitals had a chance to take an 8 point lead on second place Carolina and although it is early they would have established themselves as the solid Southeast Division frontrunners. Then the puck dropped and save for Ovechkin the Capitals more-or-less did not show up. The Canes outclassed the Caps and if it was the first time watching both teams one might think the Canes were the division leaders. Michael Leighton was outstanding in goal stopping 38 or 39 shots including 10 of 11 from Ovechkin alone who was also turned away on a penalty shot. Despite having only 25 shots themselves the Canes were more efficient putting three pucks behind Jose Theodore two from leading scorer Ray Whitney and one from a struggling Eric Staal. Carolina showed they are not going anywhere and are not conceding the division to Washington but if they want to win Eric Staal has to score more. It is great that Ray Whitney is scoring goals, if Staal does not get going the Canes will find themselves watching the playoffs from home yet again.
This week the Dallas Cowboys face the Pittsburgh Steelers in PA… and both teams are actually good. I for one, am very thankful that this classic matchup will feature two definite Super Bowl contenders who might actually both be in that game at the end of the season. Not much gets better than the Pittsburgh Steelers black and yellow (not gold… sorry Steeler fans. That distinction goes to the New Orleans Saints) jerseys meshing with the Cowboy's blue, gray, and white. Add to that the Cowboys are 8-4 and the Steelers 9-3, this game should be fantastic!
The Cowboys have the right amount of offensive capability to get good production against Pittsburgh's number one ranked defense. Romo's return has been vital to the Cowboy offense as they have now averaged 27.6 points per game since he came back as opposed to 13.6 in the three games without him. Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 14.2 points per game, which is first in the league. That makes this as classic as their three Super Bowl matchups as those Cowboys were all known for great offense, and those Steelers were known for their defense.
Now Romo will see if he is really back up to speed as he has opted to go without the splint he had on his throwing hand pinky finger. Ben Roethlisberger seems to have made up for his string of bad performances where he had one passing TD against eight INTs in a three game stretch against the Giants, Redskins, and Colts, to having three TDs against two INTs. Although that isn't great, that's close enough to the mistake-free kind of game that a number one ranked defense usually asks of their quarterback. Plus, he'll be playing at home.
Another interesting tidbit is the similar adversity that both teams have faced in the middle portion of the season; when the cowboys lost 3 of four, and when Ben Roethlisberger had his team looking quite mediocre with his poor play. Now, both squads have won three straight games, and only one's streak will continue (the NFL already had its tie for the next many seasons when the Bengals and Eagles finished 13-13 in week 11). Even more fascinating are the striking resemblance of all three wins.
The Steelers beat the Chargers at home 11-10 with a field goal in the waning seconds of the game. The Cowboys ran out the clock in Washington for a 14-10 victory. After that, both teams have won convincingly by an average of 30 and 19 points respectively.
This matchup is almost guaranteed to live up to its historic building, and if you're out of both team's markets and are privileged to get its television feed this Sunday at 4:15pm, you better not miss it.
The NFL has hit its third quarter mark, and after twelve of the most up-and-down weeks of football in recent history, it is still a bit of a stretch to call anybody a true lock for the Super Bowl save for the New York Giants. However, there are still a few teams that are definitely pulling away from most others as viable Super Bowl contenders.
The first team, resoundingly, is the Giants. This is the best team in the league as far as everyone being on the same page. They have shown great depth to overcome almost all injuries, and even self-imposed gunshot wounds. Their one loss to the Browns in Cleveland where they went down by a score of 14 to 35 was a true head-scratcher. However, that game can definitely hold an asterisk for being an aberration since the Brownies have been terrible for the most part. The Giants have gone from a team with potential who plays on emotion, to a team that just flat out knows how to win. They are a well-oiled machine and are unphased by whatever distractions, whatever home field advantages their opponents have, and whichever fallen soldier opponents might be playing for.
The second team that comes to mind in my view is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their loss to the Eagles was just one of those days where nothing goes good offensively. They had a slump against the two Manning led teams but seem to have their act together as they have won convincingly for the most part ever since.
A team like the Jets had their slumps early on against teams like Oakland where they lost 16-13, and only scored ten points at home against the Patriots, then rip off a five game winning streak, blow out the previously undefeated Titans in Tennessee, and suffer another inexcusable slump to the no-defense Broncos at home losing 34-17. That is not the stuff of a contender, but rather a team with potential but a little too inconsistent to have faith in.
My next team is the Baltimore Ravens. Say what you want about their rookie quarterback. They are playing lights out and beating opponents they are supposed to beat the way the good teams are supposed to… big. They have had their share of slumps, namely a 30-10 loss to the Giants, and a 31-3 loss to the Colts. However, they already took Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania to OT and lost 20-23, but that was in just the fourth week of young Joe Flacco's already budding career. If the Ravens get into the playoffs and meet up with the Colts or Giants again, it should be a lot closer as typically, second meetings between two teams in the same season are rarely ever a duplicate of the first meeting. Oh, and don't count them out to win the AFC North as they still get Pittsburgh one last time for sure at home in two weeks and trail the Steelers by just one game.
After the Ravens, the Colts should not be overlooked. They keep finding ways to win, and a handful of those wins were handed to them. However, that kind of luck coupled with their post season experience can be a bad omen for their opponents come playoff time if they get in. And yes, I am counting luck as a factor. They have shown the kind of luck that is too good to be true, ie Titans, Steelers, and Browns games.
After that, I would say the Cowboys are the sleeper. They slumped big time early on. They did not have their act together as they seemed to display the heir of a team who already saw themselves in the Super Bowl. Now with their backs against the wall, they are looking like that kind of team again.
As for other squads like the Panthers and Bucs, their efforts are certainly admirable, but their quarterbacks, Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia respectively, are just too inconsistent. The Arizona Cardinals are like the Saints… great passing attack and not much more. The only difference is their division stinks. The one team that could be close to a contender is the Atlanta Falcons. They are moving milestones ahead in their rebuilding process at 8-4, and are perhaps one or two more productive seasons, and a good losing post season experience away from becoming a perennial contender.
Other than that, all of the other teams are just a little too consistent for my blood.
So far in the NBA a few teams are back up to their old tricks, a few have been somewhat disappointing, and a good number of upstarts from last year as well as some surprising newcomers have begun to surface.
The newcomers that need to be involved in this discussion are as follows; in the east it's Miami, New York, and New Jersey and in the west all of the other teams with playoff aspirations are of no surprise at this point in the season. Miami, led by top scorer in points per game, Dwyane Wade, are currently 9 th in the eastern conference standings. Last year, everyone remembers how atrocious they were. New York seems to be hitting its stride under the tutelage of former Phoenix head coach, Mike D'Antoni as they are 8-8 and 8 th in the standings. Finally, the previous season's trade between the Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets has finally begun to payoff, as the Devin Harris led Nets are 8-7, 6-4 in their last ten, and 7 th in the east.
The Upstarts from last year that are proving their worth are as follows; in the east it's the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks, while in the west we have Portland and Denver. The Magic currently sit at 3 rd and atop the eastern conference standings at 13-4 going 9-1 in their last ten. Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu and company are really hitting their stride. The continued and improved production of guard/forward Keith Bogans and the extra lift provided by off season veteran pick up Anthony Johnson as point guard have been stalwart.
The Hawks slid a bit after starting off 5-0 mainly because of losing Josh Smith for the next few months, but have regained form and are now 10-6 and 5 th in the eastern conference.
In the west the Portland Trailblazers, continue to look like a team of the future with stars Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the potential of first-year NBA players like Rudy Fernandez, and Greg Oden. They are now tied with Phoenix, Denver, and Houston at 11-6 while going 7-3 in their last ten games.
Denver's success can be attributed to the trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. The Nuggets are 11-6 and 7-3 in their last ten while holding 3 rd place in the west. They have had many impressive victories and performances as they beat Boston in Boston, and took the Lakers to the brink of a loss in LA
Now come the disappointments. The Detroit Pistons are hovering somewhere between average and above average. Although they are 10-5 and in 4 th place in the east, they are suffering some inexcusable losses, most recently a 10+ point loss to Minnesota, do not yet seem to have their act together with Allen Iverson skipping the thanksgiving day practice (however, I do give huge props to Michael Curry for taking charge by suspending him for one game), and are not nearly as consistent as they were when they had Chauncey Billups in the lineup.
The other eastern disappointments for the eastern conference are the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Washington Wizards.
The Raptors just 8-7 and are barely holding a spot in the eastern conference as the 7 th seeded team. With capable point guard Jose Calderon, and former all-start Jermaine O'Neal, they should be doing better.
The Sixers were a team last year that without Elton Brand finished 6 th in the east and took Detroit to six games in the playoffs. Now with virtually the same team and Elton Brand, they are struggling to find their rhythm and are 7-9 and 5-5 in their last ten. As for the “Wiz Kids,” although without injured star Gilbert Arenas they may not have been a playoff contender anyway, they are still abysmal with their 2-12 record which is good for worst in the east. Last season they played without Arenas for the most part, but still managed to finish above .500 and make the playoffs. They have now fired their coach Eddie Jordan and are in a state of disarray.
The disappointments in the west are the New Orleans Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, and LA Clippers. The Hornets finished second last year and were one game away from the western conference finals. They are now 9-6 and 7 th in the standings in the west. The Mavericks are 8-8 and look like they are ready to get their act together one game, and then go back to mediocrity the next. As for the Clippers, you would think they could be more competitive than their 3-13 record would suggest with the pickup of marquee point guard Baron Davis. Oh well.
As for the Spurs, I'm sure a lot of people would like to put them in as a disappointment, but they have been playing without Manu Ginobli for the entire season (who is set to return soon), and Tony Parker has just returned from his injury earlier in the season. To further their defense, they are now 9-7 and 7-3 in their last ten while being 8 th in the west.
Finally we come to the top dogs in the league.
In the east you have the Cleveland Cavaliers with their 14-3 records, 9-1 in the last ten games, and 2 nd place spot in the standings. They have put together a bevy of blowouts on their opponents this season, and the addition of a scoring point guard in Mo Williams has been absolutely huge for them.
The second team that has picked up right where they left off from last year is the Lakers. They are 13-1 and making mince meat out of would be superpower teams and have the best record in the NBA.
But the pinnacle of all teams continues to be the Boston Celtics. They're 16-2 and are still dominating defensively and continue to get great production from their supporting cast members. And although the Lakers get much help from their bench and up and coming players, let's face it… the Celtics are still the champs.
The last three teams I must mention are the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz. To me, these three teams are in a state of limbo. Houston would look to be an upstart, but they can't seem to keep their stars, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, healthy. The Suns seem like the same team as last year, which wasn't a contender anyway, and the Jazz keep being a team with potential that can't seem to build on it.
That would about sum up the NBA season at or around its quarter mark. We'll look to see who shifts from wherever they were in this discussion and who remains where they are in the coming weeks. As for those that I did not include in this article… you really just aren't worth mentioning (Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Golden State, Minnesota, Sacramento, Memphis and Oklahoma City).
After being away for the past 2 weeks doing extensive research all paid for by Sportsroids.com to better your fantasy football knowledge, I've only came up with one solution – INCONSISTENCIES!!! Okay, I lied about getting paid to do extensive research. However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we're seeing a lot of inconsistencies with our players and we don't know who to start anymore. So here's the problem that I will answer in this article; who should we start?
Play the game smart. Now is not the time to look for sleeper picks unless your starter is hurt. Wide Receiver Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers is an example of a very inconsistent starter. If you have him, you cannot risk not starting him in week 13 even though he did terrible in week 12. Quarterback Brady Quinn of the Cleveland Browns is another inconsistent starter. He did great in week 11, but had to leave after the first half in week 12 to let Quarterback Derek Anderson in to possibly spark any hope in coming back. The only difference between Brady Quinn and Hines Ward is, don't not start Brady Quinn. Look for another quarterback asap. Quarterback Matt Cassel of the New England Patriots is an awesome quarterback and I've always believed he'd produce and he is. If he hasn't been picked, pick him up NOW and start him if you are having quarterback problems.
Running Back Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints is a keeper but I wouldn't start him in week 13. Right now, Running Back Pierre Thomas of the New Orleans Saints is looking pretty good especially with week 12's game ending with 87 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers. The Saints might let him get a few more carries over Reggie Bush if they let him play in week 14 to allow Bush to get the rest he needs. Wait for week 14 or 15 before you start Bush again. If you're having problems with your running back position and you need to make the playoffs, you might want to consider dropping Reggie Bush. Look for Kevin Faulk of the New England Patriots, Mewelde Moore of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Peyton Hillis of the Denver Broncos if they haven't been picked up.
Running Back Tatum Bell of the Denver Broncos was expected by a lot of fantasy football owners as a potential sleeper pick but ended up as a fluke. I wouldn't count on him for the rest of the season. Running Back Peyton Hillis will carry most of the rushes for Denver as long as he keeps doing what he has been doing for the past 2 weeks. In week 12, he carried 12 times for 74 yards with an average of 6 yards per carry.
The Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks are a team you should stay away from. I wouldn't start any of their players except for Tight End Kellen Winslow of the Cleveland Browns because they are struggling teams that aren't going to produce for you. Quarterback Donovan Mcnabb of the Philadelphia Eagles is struggling right now and isn't getting any support from his team, his coach, or his fans. Mentally, he will be down and until he can prove that he can come out of his slump, do not start him. A once first round draft pick, Running Back Brian Westbrook of the Philadelphia Eagles is also a player who you probably don't want to start. He is still hurt and even though he's playing through the pain, he obviously isn't producing the stats he needs to for you to win. Look to sit him out for week 13.
Look at your starters and keep them in unless you have the starters I've named in this article to bench. Remember, play the game smart and don't risk anything yet. Your team is on the line and you NEED to make the playoffs! Leave comments and I'll respond to them with any tips I can offer.
On Thursday night the Dallas Stars lost to the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 6-3. The Stars have lost three of their last four and now sit last in the Pacific Division with 15 points in 18 games played. The more alarming stat is that they have given up a league worst 68 goals, and that begs the question what has happened to Marty Turco? The last few years Turco has been considered one of the best goaltenders in the league and rightfully so. Turco has a career save percentage of .911 and goals against average (GAA) 2.21 which are both incredible career numbers. However, thus far this year he is way off those numbers with a .867 save percentage and a 3.67 GAA. Sure the Stars have a lot of talent and that talent combined with the brilliance of Turco drove them to be Western Conference finalists before they ran into the brick wall that was the Detroit Red Wings; and although that talent has scored a below league average 51 goals (league average is 54.4 total goals) they still need to get a lot more from Turco if they expect to be contenders. Despite his rocky start Turco is probably the Stars' best chance at making the playoffs so there is no logic that supports demoting him at this point but if the old Turco does not show up sometime soon it will be a very long season for Dallas who are on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season.
On Saturday night (11/1) the Toronto Maple leafs were down by 2 against the New York Rangers at Air Canada Center. The Leafs had been dominated for the greater part of two-and-a-half periods not generating very much offense and showing very little signs of life as it appeared the Rangers would continue their amazing start to the season. Then with 7:56 remaining in the third period Toronto exploded scoring 5 goals in the next 5+ minutes of the game sending the Rangers home with a 5-2 loss. Is this the turning point for the Leafs that will send them steamrolling toward the playoffs? Probably not. But what it told us about Toronto is that these are not the same old Leafs. Toronto is slowly making their way back to being a playoff caliber team. It means that these are a bunch of guys who care enough about each other and have enough pride in the club and fans that they keep playing hard despite everything going against them. This is fight we have not seen in the Leafs for quite some time and credit that not just to the players but also to coach Ron Wilson. People do not always like his style but all the man does wherever he goes is win. Now while the Leafs are probably going to be watching the playoffs from home yet again—a first round exit at best—they are finally moving in the right direction and will soon be consistently in contention.
Lets rewind the clocks back two years ago. The Atlanta Hawks were dubbed as one of the worst franchises ever in professional sports. They had the longest playoff drought in the NBA, spanning back to the 1998-1999 lockout season. For those of you that don't remember this team featured a young Dikembe Mutombo and Semi-All Star in Steve Smith. The Hawks showed signs of promise as they started off the year 4-1 and were atop the Eastern Conference standings during the infancy of the 2006-2007 season. Joe Johnson had completed one full year in Atlanta under the tutilage of Mike Woodson. The end result? A 30-52 record, finished last in their division, and amongst the worst of the NBA.
Last Year the started the season at 3-10. People had written off this team from the start with good reason I ight add. They finished the season at 37-45 and had snatched the 8th seed for their first playoff birth in 9 years. Of course this is not impressive by any means because this is the Eastern Conference we are talking about, where if you won 3 games in a row you could catapult from the 12 spot to the 7 spot. No as far as I'm concerned they were just as pathetic as they were before. But! When the playoffs came around, this was a different team. They pushed the Celtics to a crazy 7 games and almost created a huge upset. We as fanatics all talked about how this team was going to be good next year, and now next year has come around.
The Hawks have started off 3-0 and have beaten Orlando, Philly, and New Orleans, respectively. All three of those teams were playoff teams last year, with Orlando and New Orleans being division winners. There are whispers in the wind of the Hawks being legit this year. I am here to tell you otherwise. The Hawks are still a bad team. After years of poor management of the Coaches and Personnel, poor draft decisions (Not picking Chris Paul or Deron Williams when they had the chance), barely squeaking into the playoffs last year, this team is far from being much better than what they were last year. Teams like Atlanta are young and inexperienced, and live off of the hype of the beginning of the season. This is when coaches can reach them because they are eager to win and to learn. But as the season progresses and the players face the strain of traveling and going through the physical depreciation of their bodies, the true colors of the Hawks will show.
Think about this, Joe Johnson left the Suns to be the “man” on a bad team. In which he isn't even the franchise player, Josh Smith is. Speaking of Josh Smith, you think he wants to play in Atlanta? After how he was treated this offseason because the Hawks didn't want to shell out money to keep a young and athletic shot blocker and scorer. We all know as regular people, who have regular jobs or go to school. We follow the lead of our bosses or teachers. This Atlanta management team is a great example of how to not treat your players or managers. This group of players in Atlanta need more time to develop and need better coaches to help them develop. Despite Joe Johnson having a career year so far (28/5.7/3.7) the other parts of the Atlanta core (Mike Bibby and Josh Smith) are playing rather poorly. The loss of Josh Childress has placed more pressure on Marvin Williams, who has not risen to the occassion (6.5/6/0.5). I guarentee that this team will place out of the playoffs this year or at most the 8th seed again.
But, who knows, miracles can happen. After all Obama did become president.
by Tony E
A note to all NHL fans, PLEASE CLAM DOWN! Overall the bad teams are not as bad as they seem and teams that started off too fast are not as good as they seem. Let things settle down, allow teams to mesh and by the end of December we will know more. In the meantime I give you my early season picks that you can take to the bank! In the west a lot of teams will be challenging the Red Wings; namely Minnesota, San Jose, and Anaheim. But the San Jose Sharks match up best and will represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals. They are big, experienced, and talented, but more-so than that they are disciplined. They run their puck-possession system to perfection and they DO NOT TAKE STUPID PENALTIES. The Sharks will never beat themselves and come playoff time neither will anyone else.
Joining San Jose will be the Montreal Canadiens who are off to a flying start. Last year they could score but the team was overpowered by a much bigger Flyers team in the playoffs. However, combining the offensive prowess of the Kostitsyn's and Kovalev with the likes of 6'5” Ryan O'Bryne and Georges Laraque; throw in a more experienced Carey Price and voila, an Eastern Conference championship for the most storied NHL franchise as they celebrate their 100th season. But the greatest celebration will take place in the bay area as the San Jose Sharks will win their first ever Stanley Cup title.
OAK 2-4 at BAL 3-3
Oakland has been one feisty team as of late. I expect them to remain feisty, but it won't be enough to overcome the Baltimore defense and improving play of QB Joe Flacco.
ARI 4-2 at CAR 5-2
Carolina slaughtered the inconsistent Saints last week winning 30-7. The Cardinals come off a huge win against Dallas and a bye week. I look to see Carolina showing some consistency. I'll go with Carolina.
TB 5-2 at Dallas 4-3
Tampa is slowly coming into view from being under the radar. Either way, I don't think Dallas is a smart enough team, collectively, to see this. I think they'll lose at home!
WAS 5-2 at DET 0-6
Washington won already.
BUF 5-1 at MIA 2-4
Miami's head-turning victories against the Pats and Chargers are becoming more and more distant with losses to the Texans and Ravens. The surging Bills continue to surge!
STL 2-4 at NE 4-2
Expect to see a partially competitive game. St. Louis has improved under Jim Haslett, but the Patriots look like they will be playing smart football for most of the remainder of this season. New England wins it.
SD 3-4 at New Orleans 3-4… in London
It's funny. Both teams are highly inconsistent but have massive potential and both share equal records. This game won't prove who's ready to turn things around since they're both so unpredictable. Both have great offense, but I'll take the Chargers who have better defense.
KC 1-5 at NYJ 3-3
The Jets need to make up for that “barn burner” in Oakland. One would think this is a great opportunity for them to do so, but who knows? I'll still take the Jets at home against the struggling, running back-less, and quarterback-less Chiefs.
ATL 4-2 at PHI 3-3
Both of these teams are coming off of a bye. Even though Philadelphia looks to right its ship after a few stunning defeats this season, I just have a feeling that Atlanta is coming in confident while Philly is thinking it's a team they should beat as long as they play well. Atlanta pulls the upset.
CLE 2-5 at JAC
Cleveland looked like they were righting the ship when they blasted the Giants on Monday Night Football. However, their showing in Washington last weekend wasn't promising and Jacksonville is not a team to play around with. Jaguars win.
CIN 0-7 at HOU 2-4
Houston looks like they're ready to keep opponents on their toes finally. But the Bengals aren't a team you worry about keeping on their toes. Texans win at home.
NYG 5-1 at PIT 5-1
The Steelers will be without Willie Parker, and Santonio Holmes. But they do have Casey Hampton returning to help stop the Giants powerful run game. Eli's stats have dipped lately and I think that will continue this week, and while both teams are getting to the quarterback at a high rate, I will go with the Steelers just because they're at home.
SEA 1-5 at SF 2-5
In all honesty, the Niners should win this game. But in all honesty, both teams are pretty bad. Still, the Niners are a few notches more consistent than the Seahawks. San Fran wins.
IND 3-3 at TEN 6-0
It's make or break time for the Colts. I believe it's wake up time for the Titans who have been riding a fairly easy schedule. I'll take the Colts to pull off what most people will call an upset by getting the victory.
Last night's game two between the Boston Redsox and Tampa Bay Rays was a shootout. Both teams kept trading momentum, and they did so until the end of the 9 th inning, where the two teams hit a stalemate that lasted until the bottom of the eleventh inning.
With the next two games being in Boston, the Rays better take what they used to attain a winning record against the Redsox in their regular season series, and try to at least come out 2-2 heading back to Tampa.
This is where the Rays really have to prove their not just a feel good story, but a team that was in it to win it from the beginning of the season. But they still face an uphill battle going into Boston. The Redsox are not the team searching for a title anymore. They're the team that now knows how to win one.
The loaded rosters of both the Redsox and the Rays were shooting them out of the park like it was the Derby, and they provided a lot of entertainment last night. However, is this a sign of things to come? If so and the Rays have to match firepower, I would say that doesn't bode well for them traveling to Boston for the next two games in the series and tied 1-1.
Mad Nuff writes:
Well it's the beginning of the season so who is going to win the Superbowl? TO early to tell?
Not for me. I am going to call it right here and right now before the season even starts, before a single snap is taken. Bold you say. Very; but I called it when the Steelers won in 05 and called it when the Colts won in 06 before a single snap was ever taken.Will I be right? probably, but the statistics are against me. So who am I saying? You really want to know?
Well For the AFC I have the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning the Division and fighting through the toughest schedule in the NFL the Steelers will push out to the super bowl.
For the NFC I have the Dallas Cowboys. Yes the boys, no they are not my boys (I hate them) but I gotta keep it real. After they come in second behind the Eagles in the Division the Cowboys will make the push to the Super Bowl. Which means a repeat of the 1995 match up probably with the Steelers playing the colts in the AFC Championship game again. With the Steelers winning it all. Защо? After losing to the Cowboys in the regular season they will win this rematch because in the NFL the losing team always has the upper hand. So there you have it folks. My super bowl picks, so make sure you write them down, note the time, date and lock it up because I called it.
Mad Nuff writes:
Well it's the beginning of the season so who is going to win the Superbowl? TO early to tell?
Not for me. I am going to call it right here and right now before the season even starts, before a single snap is taken. Bold you say. Very; but I called it when the Steelers won in 05 and called it when the Colts won in 06 before a single snap was ever taken.Will I be right? probably, but the statistics are against me. So who am I saying? You really want to know?
Well For the AFC I have the Pittsburgh Steelers after winning the Division and fighting through the toughest schedule in the NFL the Steelers will push out to the super bowl.
For the NFC I have the Dallas Cowboys. Yes the boys, no they are not my boys (I hate them) but I gotta keep it real. After they come in second behind the Eagles in the Division the Cowboys will make the push to the Super Bowl. Which means a repeat of the 1995 match up probably with the Steelers playing the colts in the AFC Championship game again. With the Steelers winning it all. Защо? After losing to the Cowboys in the regular season they will win this rematch because in the NFL the losing team always has the upper hand. So there you have it folks. My super bowl picks, so make sure you write them down, note the time, date and lock it up because I called it.