Monday, February 28, 2011
Today, we begin a 3-part series that will examine the NHL, NBA, and NCAA. Teams in each league look to close out their seasons successfully; clubs atop divisions are vying to cement high seeds, while teams on the bubble are hoping make a strong playoff push. We'll begin with hockey.
NHL teams have somewhere between 18 and 22 games remaining, which means an individual team has the potential to pick up 36 to 44 points in the next six weeks. The West is currently the more competitive conference, and is shaping up for a finish reminiscent to that of the Eastern Conference in 2010 (remember Flyers-Rangers settling the last playoff spot in a final-game shootout??)
In the West, teams 6 through 11 are separated by just 2 points. The Eastern Conference, however, is also quite competitive, as Buffalo, Toronto, and Atlanta are all within close striking distance of 8th place Carolina.
Here is a look at the standings:
1. Philadelphia (86 pts)
2. Tampa Bay (81 pts)
3. Boston (79 pts)
4. Pittsburgh (80 pts)
5. Washington (76 pts)
6. Montreal (73 pts)
7. NY Rangers (70 pts)
8. Carolina (67 pts)
On the outside looking in: Buffalo (-2 pts), Toronto (-4 pts), Atlanta (-4 pts), Florida (-8 pts), New Jersey (-9 pts)
Time to call it a season: NY Islanders, Ottawa
1. Vancouver (87 pts)
2. Detroit (82 pts)
3. San Jose (78 pts)
4. Phoenix (76 pts)
5. Los Angeles (74 pts)
6. Calgary (73 pts)
7. Minnesota (72 pts)
8. Dallas (72 pts)
On the outside looking in: Chicago (-0 pts), Nashville (-0 pts), Anaheim (-1 pt), Columbus (-4 pts), St. Louis (-7 pts)
Time to make April vacation plans: Colorado, Edmonton
Cup Favorites: Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings
-The Flyers are scary good this season, as shown by their impressive 86 points. The only team with more is Vancouver, but I still like the Red Wings to win the west. Why??? Because it's hockey. Never pick against the Red Wings
Biggest Threats To The Cup Favorites: Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks
-Despite having only the fourth best record in the conference, Boston's +46 goal differential is tops in the East. Vancouver's record and +58 goal differential (!!!) are the best in the league.
Don't Be Surprised If They Blow It: Montreal Canadians, Phoenix Coyotes
-Montreal is rich with hockey tradition, but this year's team lacks punch. Their 165 goals for is the worst amongst the top 8 teams in the East. Carey Price has been a middle-of-the-pack goalie in GAA and Save %, and he might not be able to deliver the Halak magic that the Canadians got last year. The Coyotes are in fourth place, but are only 4 points away from missing the playoffs. And their -2 goal differential has to be a cause for concern.
Don't Be Surprised If They Make It: Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks
-Sure, it's a bit of a cop out to go with the #9 teams in both cases. But Ryan Miller is a great goalie who can turn it on when the team needs it, and Chicago has some of the most prolific scorers in the game. I can't see either of these teams missing the postseason.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
What can I say? I'm a fan of throwback videogames.
After an entire season of anticipation, Carmelo Anthony finally got traded on Monday, and will be a New York Knickerbocker for the next few months. Cool, I guess. 'Melo (F) will be heading to NYC along with Chauncey Billups (G), Shelden Williams (F), Anthony Carter (G), and Renaldo Balkman (F). The Knicks had to give up Raymond Felton (G), Danilo Gallinari (F), Wilson Chandler (F), Timofey Mozgov (F/C), $3 million, a 2011 first-round pick, a 2011 second-round pick, and a 2012 second-round pick.
Now let's take a look at the Knicks starting five:
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Landry Fields
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Amar'e Stoudemire
C: Renaldo Balkman/Ronny Turiaf (?)
Knicks fans are loving their chances. There was even a Black and Yellow Remix made about the trade (real original). But why? While the East may not be as deep as the West is, it is very talented at the top. Compare the Knicks starting five to that of some of the other top teams in the East:
Celtics Heat Bulls Magic Hawks
PG Rajon Rondo Mario Chalmers Derrick Rose Jameer Nelson Mike Bibby
SG Ray Allen Dwayne Wade Keith Bogans Jason Richardson Joe Johnson
SF Paul Pierce LeBron James Luol Deng Hedo Turkoglu Josh Smith
PF Kevin Garnett Chris Bosh Carlos Boozer Brandon Bass Al Horford
C Kendrick Perkins Zdyrunas Ilgauskas Joakim Noah Dwight Howard Zaza Pachulia
Now after seeing all this, how much better to the Knicks look than the rest of these teams? The answer is not much. Also, consider that the Knicks now have very little depth coming off of the bench, much like the Heat. I'm not saying that they won't be good, but to expect the Knicks to come back from being a team barely over .500 (28-26, 12GB of the Celtics for the Atlantic Division/Eastern Conference) to a favorite is nonsense. Have fun with 'Melo while he's in New York, but don't get too excited for the first or second round exit.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Pretty much, yeah.
Negotiations are moving slowly, as fans begin to accept a work stoppage as an inevitability. It's a shame, really, but that's part of the nature of bargaining. The players attain their maximum leverage right before a work stoppage. Because of this, and the fact that the issues are quite contentious, it is extremely unlikely that we'll see any tangible progress until August approaches.
When we see headlines like this, it's easy to realize that the situation is becoming dire. The main issue, of course, is the division of money. Players want a roughly 50-50 split, while owners only want the players to get about 40% of revenues. In a league that pulls in over $7 billion per season, a difference in 10% means hundreds of millions of dollars.
When the dust settles, we will almost certainly see a rookie pay scale. (Always sell out the new employees, right?) But the idea of an 18-game season as a means of generating new revenue streams seems like an impracticality.
Finger pointing can go either way; it's easy to want to blame the players AND the owners for what seems like excessive greed. Still, with so much cash at stake, it isn't hard to see why progress has been so difficult.
Hopefully, teams can reach an agreement in which both sides feel like winners. If they can't - and they almost certainly can't - fans will inevitably end up on the losing side.
Here's to hoping.
(Sidenote: I sure am glad this NFLPA ad didn't make it on the air during the Super Bowl. What a terrible commercial.)
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
It's a face-paced, action-packed, full-contact sport. And this week, the U.S. is hosting a world tournament. If you haven't watched any rugby before, I highly recommend checking this out. It's on all weekend on NBC and Universal Sports.
Here are the rules if you want to get more familiar with the game.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Now that football season is over, things can be tough. How do you make it to September? What are we supposed to do on Sundays? Here are 10 things you can do to make the offseason a little bit easier:
10. Make a List of Reasons Why Next Year is the Year For Your Team - I'm looking at you, Lions fans.
9. Pour Your Heart and Soul into Fantasy Basketball - You know, if you're into that.
8. Eat Like It's The Super Bowl Again - There's never been a problem that some baby back ribs and pigs in a blanket couldn't solve,
7. Become a Mel Kiper Jr. Disciple - That will at least get you to April.
6. Read a Book - It's a weird thing made of paper and ink.
5. Switch from Madden to NHL - The video game of choice from February to June.
4. Try Watching Rugby - It's actually pretty cool. (More on this tomorrow.)
3. Experiment With Human Hibernation - Maybe you really can sleep until September.
2. DON'T Read News on the NFL CBA - It will only make you sad.
1. Practice. - So you can do crazy shit like this:
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
By an overwhelming 569 to 81 majority, the British Parliament voted to rename historic "Big Ben." The iconic clock will now be referred to simply as "Hagrid".
To the outside world, this change seems sudden. But to Londoners, it was long over due. "We were simply tired of having one of our greatest landmarks associated with such a stupid git," commented one British official. "The motorcycle accident was one thing, but this business with the assault was too much."Surely the Super Bowl added insult to injury, as now Pittsburgh's Big Ben has a reputation not only as a bad man but also as a loser.
Many wonder why the quarterback did not have to change his nickname, seeing as the clock was there first. In fact, there has been a push in certain U.S. circles to begin referring to Roethlisberger as "slightly-below-average-size Ben."
"We approached him about it," said Parliament member Neville Sillybritches. "But he made it very clear that he was going to get his way."
Other potential new names for "Big Ben" that were being considered include "Oversized Timepiece" and "Aggressively Large Benjamin." When asked why the committee settled on Hagrid, Sillybritches replied, "We still wanted our clock to be associated with an big bearded oaf, but we wanted one with a kind heart. Not an arsehole."
Monday, February 7, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The day has finally come - February 6, 2011. Super Bowl XLV. Despite a relatively boring week leading up to the game, the Steelers and Packers are sure to give us a good one. The roof is closed, so the bizarre weather will be snow problem (ha HA). Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the two Super Bowl contenders.
Both Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are among the game's elite quarterbacks. Ben has been great for several years, while Rodgers has recently emerged as one of the top passers in the game. And both are coming of very impressive (though slightly abbreviated) regular seasons. The edge here goes to the hot quarterback - in the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 790 yards with 6 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 109.2. Big Ben, though leading in overall Sexual Assaults Alleged Against, has a passer rating of only 75.5 this postseason.
Running Backs: STEELERS
This one is no contest. Rashard Mendenhall was out-of-his-mind good this season, rushing for 1,273 yards and 13 TDs. The Packers were forced to turn to running back by committee after Ryan Grant went down with an early injury. You know it's bad when your quarterback is tied for the team lead in rushing TDs (...with 4).
Wide Receiver/ Tight End: PUSH
It's hard to go wrong here. The Packers had the misfortune of losing TE Jermichael Finley to a midseason injury, but still boast a very impressive receiving corps, consisting of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson, among others. On the other side, Pittsburgh has experience and reliability in Hines Ward and Heath Miller. And don't forget the most rapidly emerging receiver in the NFL, Mike Wallance, who is scary fast and always a threat to go deep.
Offensive Line: PACKERS
Neither team has an extremely impressive O-line. The Packers allowed 38 sacks this season, which sure could be a problem when guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are trying to bust through. But the Steelers were worse (43 sacks allowed) and now have to play the Super Bowl with a depleted line, as Maurice Pouncey was ruled out, then declared himself 75% to play, then was ruled out again.
Defensive Line: STEELERS
B.J Raji has been a force for the Packers and came up with a pivotal pick six against the Bears. But the edge here goes to Pittsburgh. The Steelers D-line is a big part of a defense that ranked first in rush yards allowed per game (a mere 62.8).
The Steelers and Packers have the two best linebacking units in the NFL. The Packers start A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden, and - of course - Clay Matthews, who is rapidly emerging as one of the best linebackers in the game. The Steelers, however, boast skill and experience, with James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons.
Defensive Backs: PACKERS
A tremendous amount of pregame hype has gone towards safety Troy Polamalu - and rightfully so. He's one of the game's most dynamic players, stopping the run, defending passes, and forcing crucial turnovers. But Polamalu has taken attention away from some weaknesses in the secondary. Even though the Steelers have allowed the fewest points and rush yards of any team, they have a middle-of-the-pack pass defense, ranking 12th. The Packers, on the other hand, have a more complete secondary, led by Charles Woodson and and Nick Collins. The Packers rank 5th, allowing less than 200 pass yards per game.
Special Teams: PACKERS
If the game came down to a field goal, I'd certainly take Mason Crosby over Shaun Suisham. The Steelers had plenty of kicking woes with Jeff Reed, and although Suisham has been better, I wouldn't say he has ice water running through his veins. The punters are comparable (separated by less than 2 yards per kick) and neither team has had much success returning kicks (1 TD for Pittsburgh, 0 for Green Bay).
Madden '11 Says: Packers 35-33.
Super Bowl XLV Champions: I picked the Packers back in September, and I'm sticking to my guns. Green Bay Packers, 34-27. You heard it here first, and then here again.
Friday, February 4, 2011
With Super Bowl XLV only two days away, it seems only fitting that today's Countdown Friday looks at something Super (Colossal Cereal) Bowl related. (Seriously, that game is out of control these days. Whatever happened to Chuck Downfield??)
But, I digress. Of course today was going to focus on the Super Bowl. The question is, what aspect? There are just so many. And then it dawned on me: why not focus on all of them? There are already plenty of great countdowns out there. No need for me to come along as an imitator. So I present to you, the Top 10 Super Bowl Top 10 Countdowns.
10. The Top 10 Super Bowl Foods - Because the Super Bowl is, in part, about stuffing your face. (Bacon cheeseburger meatloaf? That's aggressive.)
9. The Top 10 Super Bowl Quarterbacks - Some questionable picks in this one for sure. But still, it's worth a read.
8. The Top 10 Worst Super Bowl Teams - Every few years, it seems, we get a team in the big game that just doesn't deserve to be there. It sure can ruin Super Bowl Sunday (ahem 2005 Seahawks). Take a look at the 10 worst.
7. The Top 10 Prop Bets - A lot of people in a lot of places will have a lot of money riding on this game. Here are the top 10 ridiculous things they'll be betting on - aside from, you know, who wins.
6. The Top 10 Most Overplayed Storylines - Because I'm tired of them too.
5. The Top 10 Super Bowl Teams - A look at the top performing NFL franchises, through the years. Spoiler Alert: The Detroit Lions are not on this list.
4. The Top 10 (or 15) Banned Super Bowl Commercials - Make sure you check these out. There are some real gems.
3. The Top 10 Super Bowl Moments - Here are the moments we'll always remember watching. (Unless we missed them, or hadn't been born yet. But you get the idea.)
2. The Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of All Time - Let's face it, a good portion of the audience watches the Super Bowl for the ads. And can you blame them? Often times, we'd rather get up during the game to grab some food then miss a block of commercials.
1. The Top 10 Super Bowls - In the end, though, it's about the game. Here are the 10 best games ever.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
It's bizarre. It's disgusting. And frankly, it's quite boring. So why is ESPN dedicated an entire day (and multiple networks) to signing day coverage?
I wish I knew.
The whole spectacle continues to blur the line between academics and athletics. Already, we see billion dollar television deals, behind the scenes scandals, seven-figure coach's salaries, and countless other aspects of college sports that put extreme emphasis on sports and totally disregard the notion of college. Signing day simply gives more gets the impression that they are on the fast track to the pros. It isn't so simple, though. The odds are stacked against them.
The NFL Draft is an exciting day. NCAA Signing Day should not be. As 18-year-olds across the country pledge their skills to the top D1 schools, all we can do for their sake is hope that they understand the long road ahead.
For our sake, we can change the channel.