Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pete Carroll For Coach of the Year?

Week 15 of the 2012 NFL season is almost completed and the playoff picture has not became any clearer. In fact, things just became a whole lot more interesting. 

The chaos of the NFC East and the AFC Wild Card has overshadowed many major story lines over the past few weeks. For example, the Seattle Seahawks are on fire. Since starting 2-2, they have gone 7-3 since.

While Leslie Frazier, Chuck Pagano, and Mike Shanahan all make valid cases for the award, Pete Carroll should be considered at least a finalist for the honor.

Critics of Carroll will point to several flaws: The "Fail-Mary" Week 2 versus the Green Bay Packers when the replacement referees blew the final play of the game, resulting in a Seattle win. There is a also the case that the Seahawks already had a good team to begin with. Those are two valid points. However, there several horrendous calls throughout the Packers-Seahawks game helping and hurting each team even though the final call was still the worst of them. Secondly, the Seahawks were viewed as flawed by many analysts to start the season.

The number of reasons as to why Pete Carroll should be considered a finalist outweigh the number of reasons as to why he shouldn't. To begin, his unconventional methods in all aspect of the job have directly resulted in major improvements to the Seahawks over the past year. Last year, the Seahawks were among the worst in the league in quarterback pressure, recording one of the lowest sack totals in the league. By drafting Bruce Irvin fifteenth overall, the Seahawks came under fire. However, they have silenced the critics. Irvin, with 8.0 sacks, leads the rookie class, while opposite pass rusher Chris Clemons has 9.0 - already surpassing his total from last year. Bobby Wagner, drafted in the second round, has proved to be one of the best linebackers in football as he is top ten in combined tackles while his three interceptions is tied for the most out of the linebackers.

But perhaps Carroll's greatest case for coach of the year is his role in drafting then deciding to start rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Drafted in the third round, Wilson was described as a prospect who has the skill set to be a successful quarterback. However, many believed his height would hold him back. Not many people expected Wilson to start his first year nevertheless have a chance to start. After watching Wilson during rookie camp, Pete Carroll declared an open quarterback competition between Wilson, the new, prized free agent Matt Flynn, and the incumbent starter, Tarvaris Jackson. The easy decision would be to start Matt Flynn. However, Carroll, in his unconventional ways had an honest competition and Wilson beat out Flynn and Jackson.

 After a slow start, Wilson's play since Week 5 has been outstanding. With pretty much the same offensive line, running back, tight end, and wide receiving corps, Wilson is making the entire team play better. Marshawn Lynch is having his best season not only in yards but in yards per attempt. One of the Seahawks "flaws" heading into the season was the lack of quality receivers. Starting wide receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice along with tight end Zach Miller are having their best seasons in a Seahawks uniform. Wilson is now tied for second in league history for rookie quarterback passing touchdowns with 20. He only needs three more to pass Peyton Manning's 22 for the most in league history. Wilson is finishing games and demonstrating his poise with comeback wins over good teams such as the Bears and Patriots. I'll let you be the judge on whether or not to count the game against the Packers as a  comeback win.

Carroll also has other support for his case. While the Seahawks strength of schedule is not among the league best, they have played many talented quarterbacks including Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler. That being said, their defense is ranked fourth in the league in opposing pass yards per game while their twelve passing touchdowns allowed are tied for first in the league.

Wilson's numbers before the Week 5 win versus the Patriots? Five touchdowns and six interceptions and a 2-2 record versus two teams with losing record. In the Week 5 game and since? Fifteen touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Pretty good for a "flawed quarterback" who wasn't even supposed to be starting in the NFL?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Rise of the Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles are playing out of their minds this season. A popular pick to finish 4th or last in their division in March, they sit just a game back behind the $200 million New York Yankees. The Orioles currently hold the second Wild-Card spot, which would set them up for a one game playoff against the Oakland Athletics. The most improbable number this year for the Baltimore Orioles has nothing to do with individual player statistics. It is 29. Make it negative 29. The Baltimore Orioles have been outscored by 29 runs this year. They are 16 games over .500 and are the only team over .500 that has been outscored. It's simply ridiculous. 
So what have the Orioles done to win baseball games? They simply have had magic in the air. They seem to just come up with timely hitting, solid relief pitching, and that will to win. They rank in the bottom half of the AL in ERA, Quality Starts, BAA, and walks. They are 9th in the AL in runs, 10th in AVG, and 11th in OBP. Their formula to success doesn't make any sense, but hey if it ain't broke don't fix it. They just keep winning games.

The Orioles do have positives to their team of course, as they are 2nd in the AL in HR right behind the NYY. They have a lot of players that can hit for power, as 7 players have hit double-digit homeruns this year. Adam Jones is having a great season hitting .288 with 29 homeruns. Despite all this power though, no player will break 100 RBIs, which is just flat out crazy. 

The Orioles are playing some weird, but good baseball and we can only hope they can continue (unless you're a Yankee fan). The Orioles have a pretty tough schedule to finish the season, but hey, nobody thought they could keep this up all year, so why count them out now?

We're Back!

The writers of the Point After would like to apologize for not posting the past few months. Many of us were very busy with internships and working during the summer. However, we are back in action ready for another exciting football season. Look for more posts coming shortly.
Thanks for remaining dedicated to our blog.
   "The Point After is Good"

The Greatest Time of the Year

The Fall is certainly the best time to be a sports fan. In the next two months, we will be able to see all four major professional sports in our country take the field/court/ice (if hockey ever comes back). The Fall means  the MLB playoffs are near, football is back, and basketball/hockey are going to start training camp soon. The MLB playoffs are certainly going to have a great start with the addition of another wild-card team in each league. The one game playoff will be an exciting game and each team will leave it on the field.

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the NFL season and it was definitely exciting. RGIII led his Redskins to a win in his first career game and Peyton Manning showed the world that he's still got enough to win a title. This season will certainly be interesting, as the Superbowl Champion NYG lost its opener to the Dallas Cowboys. 

The Point After hit a rough patch over the summer, but we're back and getting ready for what should be a great Fall.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Russell Wilson: Clear Choice for Pete Carroll

Last week, Pete Carroll named rookie quarterback Russell Wilson the week 1 starter for the Seattle Seahawks; a move which has been both highly criticized and praised among football analysts. 

On the surface, it seems like a bad move. Matt Flynn, the former Green Bay Packer was brought in this year via free agency to presumably start for the Seahawks. He is making $6.5 million this year. His career stats are superb even though he has only started a few games. But Russell Wilson still is the clear choice to start week 1. 

Seattle pulled a surprise move in this spring's draft, when they chose Russell Wilson a quarterback from University of Wisconsin with their third round pick. Wilson had put up great stats over his college tenure with North Carolina State University and Wisconsin. His main problem is that he is only 5"11. Most teams saw that as a key flaw believing he was too short to really ever accomplish much in the league. 

Seattle was able to look past that and draft him as a project player. The signed him to a  cheap contract (4 years, $2.99 million) and planned for him to develop for a few years. But, Pete Carroll was impressed with him after his rookie camp and declared an open quarterback competition which Wilson did eventually win. Below are a few rebuttals for several popular reasons as to why Russell Wilson should not be starting:

"Matt Flynn is being paid a lot. It is stupid for the Seahawks not to start him." Matt Flynn is  being paid a lot of money but he ranks as the 22nd highest paid quarterbacks in the league. He is the most expensive backup at the moment, but Wilson has the smallest contract of any starting quarterback.

"Matt Flynn was a waste of money and will be a major bust." Flynn could be a bust but it is too early to tell. Flynn didn't play poorly in the preseason, Wilson was spectacular. Also, if Wilson's preseason performance does not translate to the regular season, Flynn will become the starter at some point.

"Russell Wilson won the job because he played against second and third team defenses." This argument is entirely false. For the first two preseason games, he did play against second team defenses and picked them apart. But, for the third game, he started and played the entire first half against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs had a  formidable defense last year and Wilson destroyed them. The Seahawks were able to put up thirty seven points before Wilson exited. He did not throw an interception and the Seahawks scored on all of his drives meaning they did not have to punt.

"He is a fluke; If he was this good, he would have been a top ten draft pick." It is too early to say that Wilson is a fluke or to say that he is the next great quarterback. But, the talent and instincts have always been there. Despite his height disadvantage, every quarterback taken ahead of Wilson had more passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage. When the Seahawks drafted him, one of the analysts talked about how several scouts told him that if Russell Wilson had the height of Andrew Luck or RGIII, he would have been taken as a top five, possibly a number one draft pick. 

So while it is too early to declare him a fluke or the next great passer, one thing is for sure. Wilson deserves to start for the Seahawks. His play has been remarkable and he won the job in a fair, open quarterback competition against all odds.

Programming Note: Back From Summer Break

After a long break, I am back and will be posting regularly again. I had intentions of posting regularly throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs but the preparations for my trip to England this summer took much more time than expected. While I was working in England for eight weeks I did not have time or the resources to be able to post either.

Over the next few weeks, I will be blogging about a variety of topics including Rutgers Football, the football regular season and the NHL labor negations (or lack there-of). Good to be back!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Round Previews of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

With the playoffs set to begin later this evening, here are your first round previews:

In the Eastern Conference:

(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
The New York Rangers come in heavy favorites in public opinion, but this series may be closer than most people think. Ottawa went 3-1 against the Rangers this year, outscoring them 13-8. Ottawa had a nice year from their goalie, Craig Anderson, and has several top tier players including Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, Eric Karlsson, and Jason Spezza. The Rangers elite defense won a majority of their games this year while their offense was anemic at times. If the Senators can get to the Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, they have a good chance of taking the series. I think it will be hard-fought, back-and-forth series with the Senators pulling off the upset, winning in seven.

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Boston's first stop on their journey to winning the Stanley Cup for two years straight is in Washington. The Bruins have the advantage in the series, 2-1, but it was a pretty close series and no team was truly dominant. Both teams began the year horrendously, but they each bounced back. Boston has one of the most potent offenses in league, while Washington's offense led by Alexander Ovechkin can become lethal at any time. I see Boston's netminder, Tim Thomas, shutting down the Caps offense, while the Bruins cruise to the next round, winning the series 4-2.

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
For the first time since 2000, the Panthers are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last year, for the second time in sixteen years, the Devils were out of the playoffs. Both teams are looking to prove themselves in this first round matchup. The Panthers finished with less points than the Devils, however they won the season series 3-1 and found themselves the Southeast Division winner. At the same time, New Jersey comes in red hot, winning six straight and are 27-11 -7 since January. The Devils offense has been improving over the course of the season and that will be the key. The Devils goalie, Martin Brodeur, has been consistent all year and the Devils should expect him to yield 2-3 goals but their offense should make up for it. The Panthers have yet to name a starting goalie which highlights their inconsistency at that position. Lastly, for most of the players for Florida have limited to no playoff experience. All but four of the Devils have postseason experience. I see the Devils playoff experience carrying them into the second round after a seven game series with Florida

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
This might be the best series in the first round. It has all the components: A fierce instate rivalry, a close season series (where Philadelphia had the slight advantage), and pressure to win for each club. Both teams do not forget the brawl that erupted in the last meeting between them last week, which should only intensify the atmosphere. Both teams can score. But I believe the goalies will make or break their respective teams. I believe Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) has a slight advantage over Ilya Burzgalov (PHI). Pittsburgh will come out victorious in this series after an entertaining seven games.

In the Western Conference:

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The big headline in this series is goaltending - Roberto Luongo vs. Jonathan Quick. Both are elite. Quick has my vote for the Venza trophy, awarded to the league's best goalie. But there is a big difference between the two clubs - offense. The Kings ranked 29th in offense while the Canucks have a very solid offense and one of the league's best powerplays. Luongo had a disastrous end to the playoffs last yea, but I do not believe that will be a problem this year because of their goaltending depth as Cory Schneider plays well enough to start on most clubs. The Canucks will be breaking out the brooms after the four game sweep.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose
The St. Louis Blues have a problem most coaches would love to have. They don't know which goalie to start heading into the playoffs after both goalies (in about the same amount of starts) put up nearly identical numbers in goals against average (below 2.00) and save percentage (.926 compared to .940). The Blues also have a solid offense as they dominated the Sharks in the season series, outscoring them 11-3. While the Sharks have more experience, they are not brig treated as a real threat to go deep into the playoffs. They will get a lot of shots off on net (number two in the league), but it does not equate to an outstanding offense. Match that up with average goal tending and I agree with their critics - Blues in five games.

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
If you would have asked who would have won this series back in November, I would have said Blackhawks in four or five. They have a more talented roster, greater depth at each position and they have a very supportive fan base. However, two things have happened since. Chicago's stellar, young center Jonathan Toews, after suffering a concussion in February, is expected to return at some point in the next few weeks, but there is no guarantee he will play in this series. Toews won the Playoffs MVP two years back and is vital to this hockey team for them to dominate. Secondly, Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith is on fire right now and his stats this year were extremely impressive. If he continues to be a brick wall in front of the net this series could be really exciting. I believe Chicago's goaltending will hold them back as Mike Smith's Coyotes win in six games.

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
There is something about these four vs. five seeds. There is always the mood that the series will be thrilling and will go to seven games. I believe this series will be no exception. It is a major point that Nashville is home four times and only plays in Detroit three times. Detroit had ten regulation and overtime losses combined at home this year compared to thirty-one wins. One might ask, how are they seeded fifth. That is due to their sub .500 record on the road. Despite being ranked 7th in Goals and Goals Against, this club just does not know how to win on the road. Nashville is a very solid team. The are eighth in the two categories mentioned above but have the best powerplay and a top ten penalty kill unit. They are very good in several ways which makes them difficult to beat. I see this thrilling series going in seven games to the Nashville Predators.

After each day, I will break down the action and give insight to the games coming up next. Enjoy the first few games which are:

-Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins - 7:30PM EST - Coverage on NBC Sports Network

-Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators - 8:00PM EST - Coverage on CNBC

-Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks - 10:30PM EST - Coverage on NBC Sports Network

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Dust Settles

After an exciting end to the NHL season, all of the playoff seeds are locked in as we get closer to The Stanley Cup Playoffs, slated to start April 11.

The dust has settled over the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs picture. Here are the final standings:

Eastern Conference:
1) New York Rangers - 109 Points, Clinched Atlantic Division, Best Record in the Conference
2) Boston Bruins - 102 Points, Clinched Northeast Division
3) Florida Panthers - 94 Points, Clinched Southeast Division
4) Pittsburgh Penguins - 108 Points (Atlantic Division)
5) Philadelphia Flyers - 103 Points (Atlantic Division)
6) New Jersey Devils - 102 Points (Atlantic Division)
7) Washington Capitals - 92 Points (Southeast Division)
8) Ottawa Senators - 92 Points (Northeast Division)

Western Conference:
1) Vancouver Canucks - 111 Points, Clinched Northwest, Best Record in Conference and NHL
2) St. Louis Blues - 109 Points, Clinched Central Division
3) Phoenix Coyotes - 97 Points, Clinched Pacific Division
4) Nashville Predators - 104 Points (Central Division)
5) Detroit Red Wings - 102 Points (Central Division)
6) Chicago Blackhawks - 101 Points (Central Division)
7) San Jose Sharks - 96 Points (Pacific Division)
8) Los Angeles Kings - 95 Points (Pacific Division)

I honestly believe a lot can be learned from these standings. Mainly, each conference has a dominant division. The Atlantic (East) and Central (West) are obviously the two premier divisions. Each had all but four teams above the 100 point plateau. Eight of the sixteen playoff teams come from these two divisions. I also believe there was at least one surprisingly sound teams in each of those premier divisions. From the Central Division, The St. Louis Blues were more or less projected to be in the hunt for one of the final playoff spot. Instead, they ended up fighting for the top seed in the NHL. From the Atlantic Division, the New Jersey Devils after looking horrendous during their 2010-2011 season and missing the playoffs for the second time in sixteen years, they were mainly written off. Top-tier analysts believed they would be fighting for the number one pick. The optimists believed they could possibly sneak into the playoffs with the eighth seed. Surprising nearly everybody, they placed sixth in the conference, ten points above seventh and eighth place, one point out of fifth place. Both of these teams are looking to make a deep playoff push starting this week.

Analysis of the first round match-ups will be published in the upcoming days