Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Braves. Playoffs.

After some technical difficulties (mainly a stolen macbook), It took an event with a magnitude as large as the Braves clinching a playoff spot to get me here, but here I am.

With Atlanta down 3-2, Freddie Freeman hit a majestic blast for the walk-off, clinching, 2-run home run and in one swing, the Braves shed the pain of last year. It was weird synergy to see Freeman hit the blast as he was the guy who made the final out last year, and what a scene from the time he hit the ball until he touched home plate.

Shout-out to Chipper Jones and company on, at the very least, getting to the dance in #10's final campaign.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: MNF Doubleheader, Braves, etc.

Greetings all.... here we go again...

  • Baltimore 44, Cincinnati 13 - For everyone that crapped on Baltimore in the offseason, this one was for you. Joe Flacco looked about as good as he's ever looked, Ray Rice is the best back in the league, and that undermanned defense made Andy Dalton look like a child.
  • Chargers 22, Raiders 13 - Horrendous football from Oakland here. 3 errors in the punting game, virtually nothing downfield in the passing game (13 catches from McFadden masked the overall ineptitude), and they lost at home to a team who ran for 32 total yards. Oakland, everybody!
  • The Braves blew a 1-0 lead that Mike Minor staked them to when Jonny Venters and Chad Durbin imploded to the tune of 4 runs in the 7th. The offense was the problem in this one (again) though, in only scratching 1 run against someone named Wily Peralta. Eesh.
  • Andy Murray won the US Open and became the first British tennis player to win a grand slam since 1936. Big-ups to him.
  • The Falcons won impressively on Sunday, but lost Brent Grimes for the season to an achilles injury yesterday. Brutal loss for this newly "pressuring" Falcons defense, as Grimes was probably the best pure cover guy, and while the Samuel/Robinson duo will be fine, a 3rd corner is really, really necessary in today's NFL and the Owens/Franks combination is something that makes every informed Falcons fan cringe.

Friday, September 7, 2012

2012 NFL Preview Part 4: AFC West

Greetings! Let's wrap up the AFC...
  1. San Diego Chargers (10-6) - I have no idea how I can make myself pick Norv Turner, but here we are. This pick is based on the fact that I firmly believe that Philip Rivers is a better player than he showed last year. In fact, he's the QB in this division that I trust the most (we'll get there), and with a healthy Antonio Gates this season, I think he bounces back huge. One huge add on defense is rookie Melvin Ingram, who should provide the pass rush they've been missing since Shawne Merriman fell off of the Earth. There's not a lot of conviction in this pick, but they still probably have the most talent in the division, and if you combine that with good QB play, it's hard to beat. 
  2. Denver Broncos (9-7) - If we knew Peyton Manning was PEYTON MANNING (in capital letters), then 9 wins isn't enough. But no one knows that. I'm going with the assumption that he'll be solid, though unspectacular (because of arm strength concerns), and that he'll play the majority of the games. The running game won't be pretty with McGahee but it'll be solid, and the receivers should leap forward with Manning directing their steps. On defense, they were flat-out bad at times last year overall, and were bad against the run all year. In a division where they see Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews, and Jamaal Charles? That's bad. Anyway, the Tebow magic is gone, but Peyton would seem to be a good fit. 
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) - Matt Cassel isn't good. That's the concern for anyone giving KC a record over .500. That said, I don't think he's bad either, and he doesn't have to do too much. The Charles/Hillis backfield combo could be scary good, and both guys can catch the ball out of the backfield. Dwayne Bowe returns as a nice #1 on the outside, and there is support elsewhere too. On defense, Eric Berry is back, and should lead a fairly productive unit. If Cassel is the guy is the guy we saw two years ago (27 TDs, 7 INTs), then they'll win the division going away, but if he's just average, they'll compete for a playoff spot.
  4. Oakland Raiders (8-8) - I have no idea what to make of Oakland. Darren McFadden is one of the most electric players in the league.... but he can't stay on the field. Carson Palmer has a big arm, and they have plenty of downfield weapons... except we have no idea if they're any good (Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford). And defensively, there's some high-end talent with guys like Rolando McClain, but the depth isn't there after some bad drafts/lack of draft picks, and I'm not sure they'll be able to hold up. If everything goes right, and Carson Palmer turns into Carson Palmer from early Cincinnati, they'll be good, or if Darren McFadden goes for 2,000 yards (and he could, by the way), they'll be good, but I'll be safe and leave them in the basement.
It's the mediocrity division!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

9/5: The NFL Kick-Off is Here

Greetings.... Short and sweet today...

  • The NFL kicks off tonight with Cowboys/Giants on NBC. The defending champs are hosting this one (as is customary) and with the unusual Wednesday start, it almost helps the build-up. NYG is a 4-point favorite at home, and I actually like them in the game despite some uncertainty with health (Hakeem Nicks) because Dallas is so banged up (Witten, Bryant, Austin), and playing on the road against a wild crowd. I'm interested to see DeMarco Murray against that Giants front seven, and whether or not Eli can follow-up on his Super Bowl season. At any rate, let's get it!
  • The Braves lost 6-0 last night to Colorado in front of about 12 people at Turner Field. Tommy Hanson simply isn't an electric pitcher anymore, and won't ever be one with his current velocity, but he was semi-effective except for the 2 homers last night. The Braves just couldn't get a hit with RISP and that was the story. Back at it tonight against Alex White and the Rockies. 
  • The Yankees have blown a 10-game AL East lead. We can only hope they completely die and miss the playoffs. No mercy.
  • Alabama is #1 in both polls, and I have one question. How could they not be?
  • The Ryder Cup team is set for this year's captain Davis Love III. He went with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as captain's picks and I like both moves. The Ryder Cup is one of the events that I'm inexplicably tied too, seemingly forever, after watching the heroism of Justin Leonard back in 1999. One of my favorite events in sports.
One last thing, I didn't finish the NFL Previews before Wednesday's kick (sorry), but they'll be up in full by Sunday. Enjoy!

2012 NFL Preview Part 3: AFC East

Greetings everyone... Let's get right to it with the ever-interesting AFC East...
  1. New England Patriots (13-3) - Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Rinse. Repeat. As long as Brady is a top-3 quarterback (and the guy that I'd have #1 btw) and Belichick is still an elite coach, they will be a playoff mainstay. They have the most loaded offense in the league with the addition of Brandon Lloyd on the outside to go with Welker in the slot and the Gronkowski/Hernandez duo on the seams. Factor in Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen in a new, younger backfield, and they'll be a monster unit. On defense, they can't possibly be worse than last year, but with 2 first-round picks in Chandler Jones (who I've read rave reviews about) and Dont'a Hightower and newly-healthy Patrick Chung and Jerod Mayo, they'll be at least a little better. Easily the best team, and this could be the most lopsided division in the league this season.
  2. Buffalo Bills (9-7) - This record is all about defensive improvement. Mario Williams and Mark Anderson both had double-digit sacks last year and were acquired to man the D-End spots. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams will lock down the middle, and this defense could be a top-10 unit. This would be a far cry from last year's team, and that alone will give them a boost. The jury is out on Ryan Fitzpatrick but I think he's at least average, and with Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller in the backfield and Steve Johnson on the outside, the offense should be solid barring injury. I like the Bills.
  3. New York Jets (8-8) - On the other side, I hate the Jets. This offense is an absolute mess. Between the QB controversy of Tebow and Sanchez, the lack of explosion anywhere, Shonn Greene never having proven anything, and the Santonio Holmes sideshow at receiver. I don't see how they're going to score even with Jesus in shoulder pads as the backup QB. The only reason I'm granting them 8 wins is because they still have defensive talent. Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson form the best cornerback trio in the league and they've upgraded at safety with Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell. It's the best secondary in football on paper. I do know one thing, however, and that is that we'll all be sick of the Jets by mid-September if we're not already. 
  4. Miami Dolphins (4-12) - Miami is probably better than 4-12.... until you realize that they are (voluntarily!) choosing to start Ryan Tannehill from game #1. This is not a good decision for this year and there's no way around that. Matt Moore isn't good, but he's unquestionably more effective at this moment than Tannehill, who is a project who wasn't even an elite college quarterback this time last season. Reggie Bush was their best offensive player last year and seems to have made the leap, but there's still injury/durability concerns and we don't know whether Daniel Thomas can take the load off of him in between the tackles. Brandon Marshall is gone as well, and the receiver situation is dire. They do stop the run and that will help them against the likes of Buffalo and the Jets, but the secondary is porous and in the division with Tom Brady... best of luck.
Enjoy! Stay tuned for Part 4 wrapping up the AFC with the AFC West.... 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 NFL Preview Part 2: AFC North

Greetings! Let's go to Part 2 of the NFL Preview...

  1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) - Best offensive player in the division (Ray Rice), best defense in the division (still, even without Suggs), and a quarterback that won't kill you. That's the recipe for the Ravens. This pick is as much an indictment of the rest of the division (chiefly, the Steelers) as anything else, but Baltimore has high-end talent and that's enough. I absolutely love Ray Rice, and I think he's the best running back in the game today when you combine his reliability, explosiveness, ability to block, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Look for Torrey Smith to explode a bit on the outside as Flacco throws a very nice deep ball, and Smith is, well, fast. On defense, Terrell Suggs is hurt and Ray Lewis is old, but the Ravens will still be good over there with Haloti Ngata, and I think Paul Kruger can and will fill in admirably for Suggs. I don't think they're a Super Bowl team, but they're the cream here.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) - Health and age are the concerns here. Ben Roethlisberger is a top-tier QB when he's on the field, but with his past injury woes coupled with a dreadful offensive line, how many games does he play? 10? 12? The backfield is a mess with a Mendenhall injury paving the way for Isaac Redman (also hurt) and Jonathan Dwyer. Mike Wallace held out and missed nearly all of camp. Did I mention the defense lost a ton of talent and that guys like Troy Polamalu aren't getting any younger? I think this is the year that it starts to unravel a bit for Pittsburgh. 9 wins shows my respect level for their culture, but I don't see it. 
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9) - Solid team. No upside. That's what I see in Cincinnati. Their only explosive player on offense is AJ Green and he is a big-timer as he enters year two. That said, I think there's a ceiling there with Andy Dalton, who is decent and nothing more, and with the Lawfirm (Benjarvus Green-Ellis) as the starting tailback and no 2nd receiver to speak of, I'm not frightened. On defense, I love the corners (Nate Clements and Leon Hall) but they need pressure to make things work. Wouldn't surprise me if they won 9 games, but it's a middling roster. 
  4. Cleveland Browns (5-11) - Brandon Weeden is the quarterback. That's virtually all you need to know about Cleveland this year. Trent Richardson may be Adrian Peterson 2.0 but he's already banged up and they have zero at receiver to go with Weeden's likely ineptitude. They couldn't stop the run at all in 2011, and while the secondary is solid, it almost doesn't matter when you're 30th in the league against the run and you're seeing guys like Ray Rice twice a year. Godspeed.
Enjoy! Stay tuned for Part 3 with the AFC East.... 

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 NFL Preview Part 1: AFC South

Greetings! This will be a touch shorter than in year's past, but we're still going team by team so here we go with the usually top-heavy AFC East...
  1. Houston Texans (10-6) -  Houston was one of the best teams in the league last season, and simply got derailed by injuries to Matt Schaub, Mario Williams, and company. This year, Schaub is back in full force, but make no mistake, this is a running team now. Yes, the Texans are big in the ground game and with the Arian Foster/Ben Tate combination, they really should be. Andre Johnson provides the downfield threat (when he's on the field) and Owen Daniels is a solid tight end option. They have lost some big-time talent on both sides of the ball up front (Mario Williams, Eric Winston to name a couple guys), but the defense is still very stout. The linebackers are upper-echelon, and this team absolutely stuffed the run last year. To be honest, the roster isn't quite up to the level of last year, but this division is absolutely putrid and they are still the class among these 4 teams.
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-8) - Jake Locker! That's the key to this season for Tennessee. If he's good, they have a chance at a wild-card spot. If he's bad/inconsistent, they could be going back to Hasselbeck and be stuck in the 6-win range. Couple that with Chris Johnson coming off the worst season of his career, and the fact that Kenny Britt can't stay on the field for various reasons, and you have a real question mark offensively. Fortunately for the Titans, they've added Steve Hutchinson to an already-stout offensive line, and that should help out both Locker and Johnson. Defensively, Kamerion Wimbley was acquired, and will be paired with Derrick Morgan to try to generate some pass rush. It's not a scary unit, but not one that will be getting embarrassed either. The Titans are the picture of mediocre for me, and they land at 8-8.
  3. Indianapolis Colts (6-10) - I have a confession. I absolutely love Andrew Luck, and I wanted to move him higher than this. I actually believe he's the Tim Duncan of football. He's beyond goofy, but stayed an extra year (or 2, or 3 in Duncan's case) in college to craft his game, he's absolutely no frills, his fundamentals are perfect, and he even claps like Duncan. Rookie QB's don't usually succeed when they don't have weapons and/or a great defense, so that's why Indy is 6-10, but I'm absolutely all in on Andrew Luck. Donald Brown, Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie return to form the nucleus of skill guys, and while that is mediocre-to-bad, keep an eye on rookie TE Coby Fleener for some impact early. The Colts sold off a lot of their defense in an effort to get cheaper/younger, and it won't be a great unit at all, but there is some promise on that side of the ball. It's a year or two early for Indy.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) - Wretched. That's the best word to describe Jacksonville. I've seen previews calling for them to garner as few as 1 win this season, and I feel that I'm being kind in giving them four. They have one game-changer in Maurice Jones-Drew and he's not even in camp due to a holdout. Blaine Gabbert stinks, the receivers stink (although I like Blackmon as a prospect), and the defense isn't good either. But hey, you have a new owner!
Stay tuned for Part Two on the way with the AFC North...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Alabama 41, Michigan 14

It wasn't that close... And I don't want to talk about it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Michigan vs. Alabama

Greetings! Writing this via a borrowed iPad, so please forgive the brevity... Let's take a look at the big game tonight in Dallas in short thoughts...

  • Denard Robinson is the best player on either team.
  • Alabama has at least 8 of the next 10 best players.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint is suspended for Michigan, and without a ground game, the pressure increases on shoelace.
  • I believe the single biggest mismatch tonight is the Alabama offensive line agains the Michigan defensive line. Bama is the best in the country with that unit and Michigan is severely undermanned.
  • Alabama loses a ton of NFL talent on defense.... And still has an elite unit.
  • I don't think Denard can win this game alone.... But for Michigan to win, he may have to.
  • If there's an additional x-factor for Michigan, keep an eye on Roy Roundtree who is coming off a rough 2011 after his breakout 2010. 
  • Nick Saban is the best coach in the country.
  • It wouldn't shock me if Michigan won the game outright but it would certainly surprise me.
  • I like Michigan +13.5.
  • Alabama 30, Michigan 23
Enjoy! And Go Blue....