Friday, December 30, 2011
Both teams had chances to pull away with the division. The Giants started the season 6-2, clear front runners for the NFC East crown, and potentially playing for first round bye. This was followed by the usual November/December collapse where they were a blocked field goal away from potentially losing 5 straight.
On the other side, Dallas had a chance to pull away with the division lead after passing the Giants in early December. Head coach Jason Garrett literally iced his own kicker, and lost to Arizona in OT. The Dallas D has not been what we all thought it would be after a phenomenal first half, and blew a 12 point lead with 5:31 to go against the Giants.
Now it all comes down to this final game in week 17. This is a playoff game for both teams. This game will come down to who posses the ball last. We all know that Eli Manning can perform in the crunch, and Romo has proved to posses a "clutch gene," however coaching and defensive issues have prevented the Cowboys from being a lock in the playoffs. This is going to be the game of the week, and I think the Boys will be focused, and determined to make the playoffs.
Keys to the game:
Its going to come down to how QBs Tony Romo and Eli Manning play. Although the running game will be a factor, both of these teams can put up numbers through the air more so then on the ground.
Each of the teams have some the leagues best pass rushers. DE/LB Demarcus Ware and DE Jay Ratliff (Both probowlers) will be key in creating pressure and cause Eli to be flushed from the pocket. For the Giants, rookie Jean-Pierre and probowler Justin Tuck will be doing the same on the other side of the ball.
Finally, how well can the Dallas secondary match-up against a very talented receiving core for the NYG. Still very much underrated WR Victor Cruz had an explosive November, but cooled off in December. He did torch the Jets D for a long TD reception. CBs Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins will have their hands full. Going to need to disguise coverage and depend on the front 4 to get some pressure on Eli.
Dallas will make the playoffs this year and win by a score of 28-27
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Petr Sykora notched two goals, and Zach Parise added one as the New Jersey Devils win their third straight and collect points 40/41 in a 3-1 victory over Buffalo. Elias had a two point night with two assists bringing his season total to 30 points (17A 13G). Brodeur played a solid game in net stopping 21 of 22 shots and added an assist to Sykora for the first goal of the game. Thomas Vanek added a power play goal in the third to make it 3-1.
Devils penalty kill stopped 3 of 4 attempts to lead the NHL with a 93% PK.
Sykora netted two making him tied for 4th on the team with 10 goals this season.
Thomas Vanek has scored in his past 5 games against the Devils.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
|Photo Taken by Joshua Kelsey|
|Photo Taken by Stephen Siciliano|
For all of you that have gotten Tebow fever, I have included a couple of pictures of Tebowing at its finest. The picture above is self explanatory, while the one on the left (Jeff Cassel) is taken in front of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
San Diego State to the Big East? I Guess it's Official - Conferences Have Nothing to do with Geography Anymore
Cleveland takes on Pittsburgh on Thursday night football. Should be a good match-up with Cleveland having one of the better secondaries in the NFL and BIG Ben coming off a very strong performance to defeat the Bengals last week. Pitt needs the win, since Baltimore plays a very weak Indianapolis team. Steelers win 17-14
One of my favorite match ups this week is Houston vs Cincinnati. The Bengals need a win to stay in the very close wild card race in the AFC and still have a slight chance of catching up to either Pitt or Baltimore with some key losses. Houston pulled off a surprising victory over Atlanta last week with third string QB T.J Yates at the helm. The leagues number one defense and rushing attack still makes them a very strong team, lots of credit to Wade Philips. Houston continues to win games and wins this week 27-24
Minnesota vs Detroit is a meaningful game for only one of these teams, and that is of of course the Detroit Lions. After starting 5-0 the Lions have dropped off significantly. Suh their top DE is still serving his 2 game suspension and are coming off a tough 31-17 loss to New Orleans. I see them rebounding against the lowly Vikings. Lions on top 31-21
New Orleans vs Tennessee is quietly a great match-up simply because no one has been paying attention to the Titans this year. They are 7-5 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Chris Johnson is finally playing up to his potential, and Matt Hasselbeck has been working with the receivers that he has had without No. 1 option Kenny Britt. Drew Brees and the Saints are looking for a fifth straight win tonight, and vomited on the Detroit D last week. The Saints keep rolling 45-34
Philadelphia vs Miami is not that intriguing, but if I were Andy Reid, I would not want to play the Dolphins right now. They are hot, and are looking to keep winning games, despite their lackluster season. Miami wins 28-27
Kansas City vs New York Jets. The Jets season hangs in the balance, and the chiefs have been super streaky this season. Mark Sanchez and the Jets do capitalize when they reach the red zone and are 5-1 at home. It is tough to play at Metlife Stadium and the Jets have everything on the line. Jets win 30-17
New England vs Washington has blow out written all over it. New England looks to keep pace in the AFC and retain that number seed going into the playoffs. Pats win it 34-10
Atlanta vs Carolina is also a must win for the Falcons who are coming off a gut wrenching defeat to Houston last week 17-10. The Falcons won last time and gave the Panthers a heavy dosage of Michael Turner. Falcons will have to lose this one on their own. Should be a win for the Falcons 31-20
Tampa Bay vs Jacksonville is a battle for instate supremacy. TBay has the better of the two offenses, which is not saying much. Jacksonville struggles greatly to score TDs with only 14 in twelve games....Tampa wins in a low scoring affair 17-7
Indianapolis vs Baltimore is a game that is being overshadowed by the Andrew Luck controversy in Indy. Frankly, If I were Luck I'd be the most excited kid in the world if I knew that Peyton Manning was going to be my mentor. I'd take a back seat and watch and still get paid millions of dollars to watch one of the best QBs ever do his thing. Early playing time is nice...but look what happened to Ryan Leaf of Jamarcus Russel. Any who, Baltimore should crush the Colts, even without the future HOFer Ray Lewis.
Chicago vs Denver is made so much more intriguing because of Tim Tebow. He just refuses to lose! It will be fun to watch how he does against one of the better defenses in the league, and to see how Urlacher and Co. handle the option offense of the Broncos. I'm going to get shot for writing this in Colorado, but Chicago wins it with Colorado State Alumni QB Caleb Hanie at the helm. Chicago wins 24-23
San Francisco vs Arizona should be an easy win for the 49ners. Alex Smith has blown up this year into everything we all initially thought he could be, and Frank Gore is just a BEAST! Plus Arizona had no right winning last weeks game vs Dallas. Niners win 37-20
Oakland vs Green Bay is not looking to bright for the Raiders. After a successful start, they are heading into a very tough match up versus the still undefeated (knock on wood) Packers. Aaron Rodgers had a key last minute drive to set up the game winning 37 yard field goal for Mason Crosby to win against the Giants. The Packers can use this to their advantage, and they know that no matter what, the Packers are always in every game. Packers roll 45-24
Buffalo vs San Diego is a must win for both teams. Both sit at 5-7 and they both got off to such hot starts. And of course they are both still in the playoff hunt. One of these teams dreams will die (baring a tie) and I think the Chargers will come out victorious 28-27
New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys. This is my favorite match-up of the week, not only because of my loyalty to the Cowboys, but also because of its implications. The Giants are one game back of the Boys and both teams suffered heart breaking losses last week. Dallas should walk into this game extremely confident, because they won that game against Arizona. On the flip side, Eli lead the Giants down the field for a TD to tie the game against the best team in the NFL right now, so they should also walk into Dallas with a large amount of confidence. The deciding factor to this game will come down to the QBs. Can Romo shrug off his December struggles, and can Eli prove he is a big time player. This is only the first meeting between the two teams and Dallas needs some separation heading into the last 1/4 of the regular season. Dallas wins in a nail biter 34-33
St. Louis vs Seattle was a sweet game to end the season last year, but only one of these teams can realistically win the NFC west. Lynch and crew keep rolling win by a large margin 34-7
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
As I forget to mention in my last post, as I was disappointed with DeSean Jackson, I was by far, most disappointed with the lack of discipline by Eagles lineman, Trent Cole. As depicted in the bottom left of the picture, late in the fourth quarter, as Seattle was winding down the clock, left Tackle Russel Okung, Seattle's sixth overall pick two years ago continued his aggressive style of play against Trent Cole as he had been doing the whole game. Okung played until the whistle even though Cole was nowhere near the play. Angrily, clearly after the whistle, Cole flipped the 310 pound lineman who landed awkwardly on his hip.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Taking a look at the roster, there's only one other guy than Deron Williams that I'd even like to have on my team: Brook Lopez. The 7-foot Center averaged just over 20 points a game with 6 rebounds. That's a lot of production from a 5, even with a lower than normal rebound rate. After Williams and Lopez, you've got a bunch of bench warmers that have been forced to start and play big minutes. The team clearly needs other options in order to compete.
Then there's Dwight Howard, who is entering his walk-year where the Magic will try and resign the worlds greatest Center. Howard is a difference-maker on both ends of the floor and can simply out-jump, out-rebound, and out-muscle every single player in the league. Howard will get a max contract without a doubt, but the Magic may choose to trade him if they don't believe they can resign him. This is where the Nets can finally make a difference for their future.
Deron Williams has expressed his desire to test the market next off-season as a free agent, and he too, will get a max contract. The Nets desperately want him to stay, but they simply don't have enough pieces to convince him they can contend. Therefore, a trade for Dwight Howard makes complete and total sense for the Nets. The only problem is if the Magic are ready to trade Dwight Howard and if they do, will it be to the Nets? The Lakers have shown interest and they can offer draft picks, as well as a combination of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol/Lamar Odom. The Lakers know Kobe Bryant's window is closing , so they are willing to do whatever it takes to get Kobe Bryant a playmaker in the paint that can win a couple of championships.
Although Bynum/Gasol/Odom are all big names and big-time players, I think the Magic would be better off trading with the Nets. It makes no sense for the Magic to get an aging Gasol or Odom when it's clear they couldn't compete with a roster headed by those players. The Nets can offer Brook Lopez, 2 1st round picks (definitely better than the Lakers 1st rounders), and a bunch of players that the Magic can basically hand-pick from the Nets roster. The Nets are willing to trade anybody other than Deron Williams if it means getting Dwight Howard. Pairing the two will provide an incentive to free agents to come and play in Brooklyn and potentially compete in 2013.
The Magic are desperately trying to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu's 3 year, $35 million deal, and the Nets have enough cap to absorb it. The Lakers on the other hand couldn't do that, playing in favor of the Nets. I expect this deal to happen eventually and probably in March (the proposed new trade deadline for the shortened season).
It's going to be a wild couple of weeks in the NBA, as teams gear up for the season starting on Christmas. No official roster moves can be made until December 9th, but teams can start talking to agents today at 9 AM Eastern.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Currently, the Texans are tied for the best record in the AFC at 8-3, holding a conference record tie-breaker over New England and Baltimore. The Texans don't seem as scary anymore though with their top two quarterbacks on the shelf. Houston has one of the best rushing attacks in all of football, but it will take more than that to beat quality opponents in January. Andre Johnson is back after a six-week absence, but can he succeed with Yates? Even as the #1 seed right now, Houston still isn't secure in the playoff race. Just 5 games remain, but there is a real possibility that the Texans will be playing for the division in Week 17 against Tennessee.
Houston has ATL, @CIN, CAR, @IND, and TEN left on their schedule. The Titans (6-5), who stand just two games back, have @BUF, NO, @IND, JAC, and @HOU remaining. I can't see T.J. Yates and the Texans beating Atlanta, Cincinnati, and even Carolina, so I believe Houston goes into the Tennessee game at 9-6. If Tennessee can win 3 of their next four, which I think they can do as long as they run the football the way they did yesterday, they will go into Houston with a chance to steal the division from the Texans. This division is all of a sudden up in the air as the injury bug is to blame for the Texans. Houston must run the ball successfully to win, so it will be interesting to see how defenses play against an unexperienced QB. I expect a lot of blitzes and 8-man fronts in order to force Yates into making a play.
Up North, the Chicago Bears saw their playoff hopes take a slight fall yesterday after losing to the Raiders. The Bears are still in good position, but I didn't like what I saw out of Hanie. We all know that Hanie can move around the pocket with the ball and make throws on the run, but he struggled yesterday, completing just 18 of his 36 attempts for 254 yards. He did throw 2 touchdown passes, but also had 3 interceptions. The Bears are best when they can run the ball and control the game. They ran the ball very well yesterday, with Hanie, Forte, and Barber all rushing over 50 yards; however, Hanie can't turn the ball over 3 times and expect to win.
The Bears realistically need to get to 10 wins in order to make the postseason via the wild card. The Lions and Falcons both are at 7-4, while the Giants play the Saints tonight in hopes to join the group. The Lions have a tough schedule as they have New Orleans and Green Bay still left. I see the Lions finishing at 9-7, a game short of the playoffs. The Giants have a very rough schedule, playing the Saints, Packers, and Cowboys twice in their last 6. They need to go 4-2, but I don't think they can do it. The Giants must steal one from the Saints or Packers for a shot at the Wild Card. The Falcons are in the best position of the four right now and I fully expect them to make the playoffs. The Falcons will get to 10 wins and could even win the division by beating the Saints in a few weeks.
That leaves the Bears muddled among these teams. The Bears must win three games to make the playoffs, which is feasible. It'll be tough for Chicago to win the smallest of games with Caleb Hanie behind center, but I'm sure he'll put in a lot of work again this week in hopes to put together a couple of wins. The Bears have winnable games remaining on the schedule, even with the Packers game looming in Week 16.
My Playoff Predictions as of Today:
Monday, November 21, 2011
I will not be listing the toughest remaining opponents this week, but if you click on each team name, it will direct you to their team page on ESPN.
Note: As I said last week, the teams are ranked based on their likelihood to make the playoffs. Each percentage takes into consideration the remaining schedule, % chance of winning division, and % chance of a wild card spot.
1. Green Bay Packers (10-0) - The Packers held on against the Bucs and the offense looked great in doing so. The defense is a little suspect, giving up a lot of opportunities to an anemic Buccaneer offense. This team is still the best, but it'll be a tough road to the Superbowl.
Chances of making playoffs: 100%
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-1) - The Niners can officially clinch the division next week with a win and Seattle loss. San Francisco is in great position to get at least the #2 seed in the playoffs, which will give them a bye in the first round. If Green Bay loses, the 49ers could push for the top spot.
Chances of making playoffs: 100%
3. New Orleans Saints (7-3) - New Orleans had a bye this week and their playoff prospects took a small hit because of the Falcons victory. The Saints have proven they can win big games and they have a few of them coming up soon. They must take care of business against the Falcons in Week 16, which will basically give them the division.
Chances of making playoffs: 95%
4. Chicago Bears (7-3) - I wanted to move the Bears down just because of Cutler's broken thumb, but just take a look at their schedule. They should be fine with Caleb Hanie behind center, as they will focus on getting Matt Forte the ball. Hanie will need to limit mistakes and play it safe. He showed us last season in the NFC Championship game that he can play, but he doesn't have to be a hero. The Bears are the favorites in 5 of their remaining 6 games and if they go 4-2, they'll be just fine.
Chances of making playoffs: 90%
5. Dallas Cowboys (6-4) - Here's the first change in the playoff picture compared to last week. The Cowboys were able to survive a scare from Washington as Graham Gano missed a 52 yarder in overtime giving the Cowboys' Dan Bailey an opportunity to win the game with a 39 yard field goal. It was a big win for the Cowboys, who play in three days against the Dolphins at home. Miami is hot, so it won't be an easy game.
Chances of making playoffs: 70%
6. Detroit Lions (7-3) - The Lions had another huge comeback against the Panthers, as they ended up with 49 points (35 coming in the 2nd half). Detroit had to win that game, so credit Matthew Stafford and company for coming up big when they were down early to Carolina. The schedule is not on their side, but the Lions should be fine if they get to 10-6.
Chances of making playoffs: 50%
7. New York Giants (6-4) - The loss last night was inexcusable. The Eagles were without their best player (Michael Vick) and best receiver (Jeremy Maclin). The Giants cannot win games if the put up just 10 points. Their defense is good and held the Eagles in check most of the night, but the offense needs to do better than they did yesterday. The Giants play the Saints and Packers in the next two weeks. A split would be a great result, putting them in position again in the division. If they lose both, they will likely go to Dallas down at least 1 game, maybe even 2.
Chances of making playoffs: 50%
8. Atlanta Falcons (6-4) - Atlanta must get to 10-6 in order to think about the Wild Card and probably 11-5 for the NFC South. Beating the Titans was a good start and the schedule is very favorable. Atlanta has a realistic shot at the playoffs, but they cannot afford to lose many more games.
Chances of making playoffs: 43%
Those are my remaining 8 playoff contenders. As you notice, there's a little bit of probability left which will be distributed to the new 9th place Playoff Picture team.
9. Philadelphia (2%) - Really helped their chances with a win versus the Giants, but they must win out. Their hopes rely heavily on what happens next week against New England. A win there and then we'll talk about moving them up to the "contender list", but for now they're safe here.
10. Tampa Bay
16. St. Louis
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Although this seems to make sense, there are a lot of things that will change because of this decision. First of all, simple math will tell you that interleague play will be occurring every single day starting in 2013. It may actually even out the playing field, as more teams will play similar schedules to their divisional opponents.
The part that probably bothers me and the Astros the most is the fact that they will be playing 1/3 of their games two time zones away. That will start games at 9:00 Central time for Astro fans. The Texas Rangers have to deal with this every year and you hear little complaint from them, but it is still a factor for TV ratings. The Rangers are probably ecstatic about this move because it puts them close to a divisional opponent and creates a natural state rivalry between the Dallas/Arlington and Houston regions.
The Astros will have to change the dynamic of their team completely, as many of their decisions will have to factor in the switch to the DH. I think it is a huge change for them, because they have always thought that if a guy didn't have a position, they should get rid of him. At the same time, they should be happy that they can start anew somewhere else in the MLB. The Astros have struggled mightily the past few years and really haven't been good since Carlos Beltran left the team 7 years ago. This could give them a boost as an organization and fan base, because it really couldn't get worse than it has been recently.
I will use the same structure again, ranking each team in order of the likelihood they make the playoffs.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) - Picking a top team was almost impossible. There is no team that is definitely into the postseason even after ten weeks, but the Steelers are the closest to it. The Steelers have lost two to the Ravens, but they will probably be okay considering the rest of their schedule. Winning 4 of their last 6 will get them in easily, and I think they will do that.
Chances of making postseason: 95%
3 Toughest Games: @KC, CIN, @SF
2. New England Patriots (6-3) - The Pats are in good position considering the Jets and Bills aren't playing their best football right now. They have the inside track to the AFC East crown and have a cake-walk of a schedule. The Patriots lost a game to the Steelers, so it will be an interesting race to get home-field advantage in the AFC.
Chances of making postseason: 95%
3 Toughest Games: @PHI, @DEN, BUF
3. Houston Texans (7-3) - The Texans would have been the first ranked team here, if it weren't for the injury to Matt Schaub. With Mario Williams and now Schaub out for the season, this team will have to regroup dramatically. Good news is that Andre Johnson will be back in action in Week 12 (after the bye) against Jacksonville, providing new QB Matt Leinart a go-to option. With Arian Foster and Ben Tate leading the most talented running attack in the game, the Texans will hold off the Titans for the AFC South title.
Chances of making postseason: 90%
3 Toughest Games: ATL, @CIN, TEN
4. Baltimore Ravens: The Eagles are definitely the most disappointing team this season, but the Ravens are probably the most confusing. After demolishing the Steelers in Week 1, they travelled to Tennessee and were doubled up 26-13. Blips like that happen, so I discounted it as a one-time thing. Then the Ravens went out and beat the Jets and the Texans in consecutive games, before losing to the Jaguars in Week 7. To make matters even worse, the Ravens beat the Steelers again in Week 9 and then followed it up with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. No team has been so up and down as the Ravens this year. The combined record of the teams they beat is: 31-26 (counting the Steelers twice). The record of the teams they lost to? 11-16. Not good to see from a team that many picked to play in the Superbowl. With their struggles against bad teams, the Ravens should be in the postseason, as long as they can split with Cincinnati and take care of the other winnable games. The Ravens need to win 4 more games at least to contend for the Wild Card, with 5 necessary for the division.
Chances of making postseason: 75%
3 Toughest Games: CIN, SF, @CIN
5. New York Jets (5-4) - The Jets are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Patriots and look destined for the Wild Card race. With so many teams in the race, the Jets will have a tough time beating out the likes of the Ravens/Steelers, Bengals, Bills. The Jets have an okay schedule remaining, but winning tonight is a must. Rex Ryan & Co. will need to win 5 of their last 7 to get to 10-6.
Chances of making postseason: 60%
3 Toughest Games: @DEN, @PHI, NYG
6. Oakland Raiders (5-4) - Somebody's gotta win the AFC West right? The Raiders are in the best position to take the division considering the other three teams are all a game back from Oakland in the standings. The schedule isn't favorable, but it's not going to take a great record to take this division. A 9-7 record will probably do it, which the Raiders have the ability to do. There are two fairly soft games on the schedule, starting this week against Minnesota.
Chances of making postseason: 40%
3 Toughest Games: CHI, @GB, DET
7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) - The surprise team of the AFC, the Bengals have a tough road to the playoffs; however, if the very good Cincinnati defense can keep dominating, Andy Dalton can lead this team to victories. Cincannti gave Pittsburgh a fit last week and the Bengals look to do so again against the Ravens on Sunday. The remaining schedule is tough, but it will be interesting to see if the Bengals can stick around in the playoff race. They seem to win the games that they are expected to and compete in those they are underdogs. That's the recipe of a solid football team that can catch fire at any time.
Chances of making postseason: 40%
8. Buffalo Bills (5-4) - The Bills quickly won the hearts of America in the first three weeks, knocking off the Chiefs, Raiders and Patriots. Since then, the Bills are 2-4 and have been blown out the last two weeks by the Jets and Cowboys. The Bills need to win 5 of their last 7 in order to have a shot at the Wild Card and it doesn't seem likely. Miami has really played better of late and unfortunately for Buffalo, they play the Dolphins twice more this season.
Chances of making postseason: 25%
3 Toughest Games: @NYJ, @SD, @NE
9. Tennessee Titans (5-4) - The Titans are playing better as of late, mostly due to the emergence of their running game. The offensive line and Chris Johnson did not play well the first half of the season and the Titans struggled to move the ball down the field. Johnson has put up better numbers as of late, but do they have enough to catch the Texans? The Titans have a better chance of hoping the Texans falter without Schaub, but at least they have a shot.
Chances of making postseason: 20%
3 Toughest Games: @ATL, NO, @HOU
10. Denver Broncos (4-5) - You could put the Chargers or Chiefs here too, but I'm just going by remaining schedule. The AFC West is really a toss up at this point, but the Broncos have won 3 of 4 and have reason to believe in themselves. John Fox has really gotten the running game going with the Tebow Option playbook in full effect. The Broncos have a tough game against the Jets tonight, followed by an important divisional matchup next week against the Chargers.
Chances of making postseason: 20%
3 Toughest Games: NYJ, CHI, NE
11. San Diego Chargers (4-5) - The Chargers can't seem to ever come through, despite putting together one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Rivers has played awful the past few weeks, but I expect him to get better. Still it's a longshot they make the playoffs based on their inability to win close games.
Chances of making postseason: 20%
3 Toughest Games: @CHI, BAL, @DET
12. Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) - The Chiefs have lost their most talented players on both the offense and defense (Charles and Berry), but they were able to win some games in October to bounce back. They face the improbable task of winning with a backup quarterback, now that Matt Cassel is likely out for awhile. The Chiefs will need to run the ball better and open up the passing game with their talented receivers, but it's highly unlikely they make the playoffs.
Chances of making postseason: 20%
3 Toughest Games: @NE, PIT, GB (Also have games against CHI and NYJ on the road)
So there are the 12 teams that I give a chance to make the playoffs. The AFC West will be an interesting race, as will the Wild Card race. It's going to be a fun seven weeks and there is a lot to look forward to. Here are the last 4 teams ranked based on the probability they make the playoffs.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The story of the game was fouls. Villanova attempted a whopping 41 free throws (making 34 of them), which allowed them to stay in the game. Dominic Cheek was 12-14 from the line, while Maalik Wayns connected on all 10 of his attempts. The Junior duo combined for 40 points (18 and 22 respectively), as the Wildcats improved to 2-0.
This game overall was pretty hard to watch, as both teams shot under 40%. Villanova made just 4 of 23 three point attempts and committed 20 turnovers. The game cleaned up a bit in the second half, as both teams started putting the ball in the basket more often. Here are the five things I was thinking about after the Villanova win.
1. Dom Cheek and James Bell are the keys to this team. Yes, Maalik Wayns is the unquestioned leader of the team, but these two players are great defenders and are out there on the floor for pretty much the entire game. Cheek played 41 of the 45 minutes, while Bell was in for 38. Although both thrive on defense, they are counted upon to deliver on offense. They must improve their three point shooting, but they are most effective in the mid-range game or cutting towards the hoop. Overall, positive signs by both of these big guards.
2. Mouphtaou Yarou needs the ball more. Mouph didn't play in overtime, but he played an outstanding game. He needs to limit his turnovers (4 last night), but he showed his improved offensive touch. He only took 7 shots, which disturbs me, because this guy should be getting the ball 12 times a game minimum. He has a solid post game and he even displayed the jumper he's been working on over the summer. He scored 10 and brought down 14 boards, which is his second double-double in as many games. Mouph can improve slightly on defense, by keeping his hands up and by maintaining his balance on pump fakes; however, the future is bright for the Junior.
3. JayVaughn Pinkston needs to slow down. I have a feeling that Pinkston is just too amped up, after missing all of last season. He missed a wide-open dunk, the front end of a 1-and-1, and committed 3 turnovers in 20 minutes. He's got a big body, but he moves so quickly that he can create matchup problems regardless who is guarding him. Pinkston simply needs to relax. Stop settling for jumpers, go to the hoop and go up strong. He's trying to do too much and is struggling. There was one instance when Pinkston was standing near the baseline at the three-point line, where he received a pass from Maalik Wayns, as a defender rushed out to contest a possible three. Pinkston had Bell wide-open near the top of the key if he just swung the ball around, but he decided to dribble around the defender and he coughed up the ball. Just a fundamental basketball play. He's got a ton of potential, so there is no doubt he'll play better, but he's still rusty.
4. Darrun Hilliard is a smart player. Down 2 with under a minute to play, Hilliard stole an inbounds pass and drove towards the basket for the game-tying layup. Hilliard just seems to contribute heavily to the team with both big and small plays. I love the way he's playing defense and how he is not a tentative player. If he sees a lane, he'll go straight to the hoop. One sign that I look for in Freshman is maturity on the court and smart decision making. Hilliard has passed the test so far, though there is a long way to go. There was one play in overtime where Wayns had the ball stolen from him and La Salle was on a fastbreak. Hilliard was the only defender left and he contested the shot by just running in front of the player. The Wildcats were up 7 at that point and many times you will see players try and block that layup. It often ends in a foul or even an And-1, which stops the clock and allows the Explorers to score without wasting time. It was a good defensive contest without fouling. I look forward to seeing him play more and more this season.
5. Maalik Wayns worked hard on his shot this off-season. Even though he made just 5 of 16 shots, turned the ball over 3 times, and committed four fouls, Maalik Wayns was the best player on the court. He made a number of big-time plays, such as his three pointer with about a minute to go in regulation to pull within 3. The previous play was a putback slam by LaSalle, so the momentum was with the Explorers. Additionally, Maalik finally found ways to get to the line. He drove to the hoop at will at times and made La Salle defenders try and make plays, which usually ended with Wayns sinking a couple of free throws. Wayns also corralled 9 rebounds to go with his 4 assists. I'd like to see him run more of a traditional pick and roll with Mouph considering both players have improved their jumpers, but that will come with time. We're watching a star in the making at Nova and I can confidently say he's the most talented player to wear Villanova across his chest since the Foye/Lowry days. (Yes, he's more skilled than Scottie)
Monday, November 14, 2011
1. Packers (8-0) - No surprise here. The Packers play tonight, but the Vikings stand no threat to the undefeated Packers.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 100%
3 Toughest Games: @DET, @NYG, CHI
2. 49ers (8-1) - San Francisco has won 7 straight after losing in overtime to the Cowboys in Week 2. The NFC West contains three of the worst teams in football, so this race is over. The Niners are in the playoffs and will look to lock up a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 100%
3 Toughest Games: @BAL, PIT, @SEA
3. Saints (7-3) - With the Falcons deciding to go for it on 4th and inches from the NO 30 yard line in overtime yesterday, the Saints control their own destiny. The Saints are destined for another postseason, even though the Falcons have just 4 losses.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 95%
3 Toughest Games: NYG, DET, ATL
4. Bears (6-3) - Chicago looks unstoppable right now, as they demolished the Lions in a huge game yesterday. The remaining schedule is favorable, but more importantly, the Bear defense isn't allowing anything to opponents. The Bears won't be able to catch the Packers, but the Wild Card spot is definitely attainable and they should be playing in the postseason.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 85%
3 Toughest Games: SD, @OAK, @GB
5. Giants (6-3) - Despite losing to the Niners, the Giants are still in control of the NFC East. They have a tough schedule ahead of them, but they have something the Cowboys don't have: a proven, clutch QB. The Giants are the favorites to win the NFC East, but it won't come easy.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 65%
3 Toughest Games: @NO, GB, @DAL, @NYJ (I had to put the Cowboys in there, due to the magnitude of the game)
6. Lions (6-3) - The Lions better get Stafford healthy and start scoring some points or they'll be watching the postseason on their couches. The Lions got off to a hot start, but haven't been able to maintain that streak. The Lions will obviously have to get into the postseason via the Wild Card, but it'll be very difficult to do so.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 50%
3 Toughest Games: GB, @NO, @GB
7. Cowboys (5-4) - The Cowboys are starting to put together some W's, but still remain an underdog to get into the postseason. The best shot they have is through the NFC East Division Title, because there are just too many teams fighting for those Wild Card spots. They pulled within one game of the Giants yesterday after demolishing Buffalo. The Cowboys do control their destiny somewhat, as they have 2 games against the Giants later in the season.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 50%
3 Toughest Games: NYG, PHI, @NYG
8. Atlanta (5-4) - The Falcons needed to beat the Saints yesterday, but they at least are in position to make a late season run. The next few weeks pose winnable games, but they do have an uphill battle towards the postseason. The Falcons must beat New Orleans in Week 16 if they want to win the division, but it's much more realistic that the Falcons get the Wild Card.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 40%
3 Toughest Games: @HOU, @NO, TB
9. Buccaneers (4-5)- The Bucs keep digging themselves in holes, losing three straight games to quality football teams. The good news in Tampa Bay is that they have four games of the remaining seven that they should win. The other three will be very tough games and realistically the Buccaneers must go 6-1 at the worst in order to make the playoffs. That will be extremely tough to do.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 14%
3 Toughest Games: @GB, DAL, @ATL
Those nine teams are the contenders for the playoffs as we speak. Green Bay and San Francisco are locks for their divisions in my mind, with the Saints very likely to win the NFC South.
Here are the remaing teams in order of their "likelihood" they make the playoffs.
10. Eagles (1%) - The Eagles can win the division still, but it ain't gonna happen.
16. St. Louis
Thursday, November 10, 2011
- Oakland vs San Diego. I'm taking San Diego in this 35-21. VJ is on a tear coming off a three TD performance last week, and Rivers is still trying to prove his worthiness of being an elite QB
- Buffalo vs Dallas. Being a Dallas fan I am biased, but gotta go with the Boys in this one. Dallas understands the urgency of winning games with the Giants pulling ahead, and the coming of the Demarco Murray era is underway. Dallas wins 24-17
- New Orleans vs Atlanta. Atlanta has been so sketchy this season. Matty Ice is not quite what we all though he would be, but he has had his big moments this season. Atlanta wins in a close one 24-23.
- Pittsburgh vs Cincinnati. Really? The Bengals are 6-2 and atop of their division? Who would have thought that...This will be a true test for the Bengals. They win in a tight match 27-24 one a game winning FG for bonus points
- St. Louis vs Cleveland. St. Louis still looking for that offense showing, and Cleveland is not that threatening either. Rematch of 2009 national championship of Bradford vs McCoy. I'll take the rams 17-3
- Jacksonville vs Indianapolis. Its been a long long long long time that Indianapolis has played Jacksonville with a worse record (1994). Sorry Indy, Jags win 35-10
- Denver vs Kansas City. Tim Tebow has another shot to prove his NFL worth. Broncos win 21-20.
- Washington vs Miami. Second coming for Reggie Bush? I'd like to see that, but never know what is going to come your way with Shanahan at the helm. Washington win 27-20
- Arizona vs Philadelphia. Mike Vick and the Eagles still have a lot to play for, and Arizona has been skeptical on defense aside from Patrick Peterson. Philly wins in a blow out 44-21
- Houston vs Tampa Bay. I like this game. Houston has the best running game in the NFL with 155.5 ypg on the ground. DT Albert Haynesworth just got picked up off waivers by the Bucs. Houston wins 31-24
- Tennessee vs Carolina. Cam the Man Newton will take over this game. Carolina wins 28-14
- Baltimore vs Seattle. Never know with Joe Flacco, but he did have a decisive TD pass to Torrey Smith to win the game in a very unfriendly Heinz Field. Baltimore wins 31-10
- Detroit vs Chicago. I love this match-up. Chicago defense had a huge game against Philly, and Detroit needs to get back on track. Stafford and Co. are 4-0 on the road, but I expect that streak to end here. Chicago wins 24-21
- New York Giants vs San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh has done wonders with this 49er team. The question will be if Frank Gore can carry the team against one of the league top run defenses. Giants win 17-14
- New England vs New York Jets. Sunday night football has a great game. New England just loss to the other New York team, but I can't see Brady's Bunch losing two in a row. Patriots win 27-17
- Minnesota vs Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is a beast of a football player and Minnesota relies to heavily on Peterson to put the ball in the end zone these days. I want to see Minnesota run the ball all day, but do no think it will be enough to handle the high octane offense of the Packers. Green Bay wins in a blow out at Lambeu 42-14
After reading what Sandusky did, I haven't changed my view of Penn State. Not as a school or an even in an athletic standpoint. I guess Joe Paterno can take some blame for not doing more, but still this doesn't concern the "legacy" of Paterno. More focus should be shifted twoards a horrible human being that victimized under-priveleged boys. The scandal has nothing to do with sports. So please stop talking about how Penn State's football team will be different without Paterno or how Paterno's legacy was changed. We should really be trying to help the victims and their families. Sorry it took so long to figure this out, but let us hope that justice will be served. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
- Can anybody beat Aaron Rodgers and the Pack?
The Pack are halfway home without a loss, but I don't think they can go undefeated. They are clearly the best team in the NFL, but they play too many close games to go undefeated in my mind. Do I think they can? Yes of course. The Packers are battle-tested and have overcome key injuries. This team is damn good and is the favorite to repeat as champs.
- Who will win the AFC West?
It seems as if nobody wants to win this division. A week after the Chargers gave away a victory to the Chiefs, Kansas City lost to the winless Dolphins. The Broncos are somehow only 1 game out of first place after defeating the Raiders, who have struggled to click after the addition of Carson Palmer. This division is completely unpredictable at this point, but as hard as it is to say, the Chargers are still the best team among the four.
- Will the Bills or Lions fall back to Earth?
The Bills (5-3) are tied for first place right now, but only time will tell if it lasts. They have a winnable game against the inconsistent Cowboys this weekend, as well as another game against the Pats and Jets each. The Bills need to win 5 more games at least to make the playoffs and I don't see it happening.
The Lions, on the other hand, are 6-2 and looking as good as ever. If the Lions can keep Matthew Stafford upright, this team is destined for the playoffs. This game coming up against the Bears will be crucial, as it would secure a head-to-head tie-breaker over Chicago.
- Are the Bengals legit?
Cincinnati has benefited from an easy schedule, but they've taken advantage of every opponent. It's no joke to go 6-2 in the NFL, no matter who you're playing. The road ahead will be tough for the Bengals though, as they have important division games against the Steelers and Ravens. The Bengals need to win 11 games to make the playoffs, as it will be a four horse race for the two wild card spots.
- Who will win the "Suck for Luck" race?
The Colts are leading the race, but ultimately, do the Colts need Luck? It wouldn't hurt to start grooming a stud QB behind Peyton Manning, but the Colts may have more pressing needs. The Dolphins want him badly, but they've actually been quite competitive the past month. In the end, I think the Colts will probably have the worst record, but the Dolphins will do whatever they can to get that first pick away from the Colts.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
NYJ@BUF: New York Jets 27, Buffalo 24
SEA@DAL: Dallas 16, Seattle 14
ATL@IND: Atlanta 24, Indianapolis 10
MIA@KC: Kansas City 17, Miami 9
TB@NO: New Orleans 24, Tampa Bay 23
SF@WAS: San Francisco 24, Washington 13
CLE@HOU: Cleveland 14, Houston 13
CIN@TEN: Cincinnati 20, Tennessee 14
DEN@OAK: Denver 20, Oakland 17
NYG@NE: New England 31, Giants 24
STL@ARI: St. Louis 17, Arizona 13
GB@SD: Green Bay 27, San Diego 17
BAL@PIT: Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 16
CHI@PHI: Philadelphia 27, Chicago 20
- NYG 5-3
- PHI 4-4
- DAL 4-4
- WAS 3-5
- GB 8-0
- DET 6-2
- CHI 4-4
- MIN 2-6
- NO 6-3
- TB 4-4
- ATL 4-4
- CAR 2-6
- SF 7-1
- SEA 2-6
- STL 2-6
- ARI 1-7
- NE 6-2
- NYJ 5-3
- BUF 5-3
- MIA 0-8
- BAL 6-2
- CIN 6-2
- PIT 6-3
- CLE 4-4
- HOU 5-4
- TEN 4-4
- JAX 2-6
- IND 0-9
- KC 5-3
- SD 4-4
- OAK 4-4
- DEN 3-5