Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC Playoffs

Only two days remain in our preseason football predictions. Today, the AFC Playoffs. Tomorrow, our imaginary Super Bowl.

1. Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
2. New York Jets (12-4)
3. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
4. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
5. New England Patriots (11-5)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Wild Card Round
PATRIOTS over Chargers
The Chargers just can't get it done in the postseason. Ever.

RAVENS over Bengals
An exciting rematch of week 17. Ravens in OT, by the new rules

Divisional Round
PATRIOTS over Colts
Tom Brady channels some vintage 2007 play and wins it in an offensive shootout.

RAVENS over Jets
Mark Sanchez throws a gaggle (or perhaps a multitude, maybe a throng) of interceptions and Rex Ryan doesn't even wait until the post game conference to go all White Goodman on some chicken wings.

AFC Championship
RAVENS over Patriots
In a rematch of last year's divisional playoff, the Ravens once again run wild on the Patriots' less than impressive defense. They'll meet the Packers in the pretend Super Bowl.

Monday, August 30, 2010

NFL Predictions: NFC Playoffs

Now that our hypothetical season is over, it's time to make some incredibly accurate predictions about the NFC playoffs and what will happen. Now remember, the division winners get the 1-4 regardless of record, and the wild card teams are 5 and 6. Let's start with the seeding, and work from there:

1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
2. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
3. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
4. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
5. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
6. Washington Redskins (9-7)

Wild Card Round
COWBOYS over Redskins
The Cowboys are too loaded to blow it this early.

VIKINGS over 49ers
The Vikings are a superior team, and they will show it.

Divisional Round
PACKERS over Vikings
The Packers send Favre away once and for all (knock on wood).

SAINTS over Cowboys
This seems like an appropriate time for the Cowboys to fall apart.

NFC Championship
PACKERS over Saints
The Packers are almost as good offensively and more talented on the defensive side. They are your NFC champs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC East

The AFC East is always competitive, but this year's division is even better than those of recent memory. *Insert Rex Ryan fat joke here*.

4. Buffalo Bills - The Bills remind me of MLB's Baltimore Ravens - stuck at the bottom of a very good division, year after year. Until Buffalo finds a true franchise QB, it may be stuck there. Guys like J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick have played respectably but simply don't have the talent to get the job done. Buffalo also got a little worse at WR when T.O. left for Cincinnati. Buffalo's one bright spot is its backfield: Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and C.J. Spiller provide quite the triple threat. 5 wins for Buffalo this year.

3. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins are a dangerous team this year and have an outside shot at a playoff run. Chad Henne played fairly well last season, and he'll likely be even better with some experience under his belt. The key acquisition in Miami was Brandon Marshall. Marshall may be the solution to Miami's wide receiver woes of the last few years. The defense added LB Karlos Dansby, but lost LBs Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Look for the Dolphins to be in contention this season until week 13 or so.

2. New England Patriots - The Patriots are always a threat with Tom Brady at the helm. Wes Welker has made a remarkably speedy return, so he'll line up with Randy Moss and other wideouts like Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman. Enormous TE Rob Gronkowski will make an immediate impact. The big question mark this year, and every year it seems, is the Patriots' defense. Look for them to be improved, but still with a few holes.

1. New York Jets - On paper, the Jets are scary good. Offseason additions like WR Santonio Holmes and RB LaDanian Tomlinson help the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets improve their offense. Mark Sanchez was decent last year, but he'll need to cut down on the turnover numbers for NY to have a chance for a deep playoff run. We'll see in the first few weeks how the Jets handle the Revis fiasco; I think they'll be fine. Pencil the Jets in for a 12-4 season.

Friday, August 27, 2010

NFL Predictions: NFC East

I hate you so much

This year, the NFC East is going to be one of the most interesting divisions in football. There are plenty of story lines to follow, and any of these teams has the potential to grab a playoff spot. It should make for some ultra-competitive football and plenty of twists. Without further ado:

4) Philadelphia Eagles - The loss of Donovan McNabb, especially to a rival within the division, will hurt more than most people think. With the unproven Kevin Kolb at QB, the Eagles will only go as far as he can carry them. The departure of Brian Westbrook will greatly affect the running game. Don't expect LeSean McCoy to be able to fill his shoes right away. Also, with DeSean Jackson (5'10"), Jeremy Maclin (6') and Jason Avant (6') as their top 3 receivers, Kolb doesn't have a target to throw to that can go up and get the ball. The defense will be solid, once again. Something to watch is the lack of size in the secondary as well, with former Patriots Ellis Hobbs (5'9" in heels) and Asante Samuel (5'10") lining up at the cornerback spots. I've got the Eagles at 7 wins.

3) New York Giants - The Giants are my pick to underachieve in this division. Brandon Jacobs is coming off of his worst season since Tiki Barber hung up his cleats, and backup Ahmad Bradshaw is nothing special. There is a lack of talent at WR, with a bunch of guys who would be rated around an 82 in Madden expected to catch the ball for Eli. Kevin Boss is a TE with great size, but he doesn't move that well and should only be a serious threat in the red zone. The defense will be stacked up front, with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul dominating opposing offensive lines. However, the only other players on the defensive side of the ball that will make any impact will be the aging Keith Bulluck and impact safety Kenny Phillips. The G-Men will be a pedestrian 8-8.

2) Washington Redskins - Albert Haynesworth is the most talked about player in the NFL not named Brett Favre this offseason, and for all the wrong reasons. His lack of effort and dedication to the team, as well and his bad attitude and constant clashing with coach Mike Shannahan will be disastrous for a team that could have been going places. That being said, with McNabb at QB throwing to Santana Moss, Devin Thomas (who is posed for a breakout season), and Chris Cooley, and with Clinton Portis pounding the rock, the 'Skins offense will be potent. Their defense will be better than most think. DeAngelo Hall is still a good CB, and Philip Buchanon can play some ball too. If Haynesworth decides to play, he should be a huge factor in stopping the run along with London Fletcher, and Brian Orakpo can put on tons of pressure rushing from the OLB spot in the 3-4. The Redskins could win 10 games.

1) Dallas Cowboys -  The Cowboys are stacked, and look ready to take this division. With Tony Romo at the helm, and newly acquired Dez Bryant lined up opposite Miles Austin, the passing game will be potent. Jason Witten is one of the best TEs in all of football, and the running game will be a force with Marion Barber and Felix Jones. The defense is going to be very strong as well. The line consists of the very talented trio of Igor Olshansky, Jay Ratliff, and Marcus Spears. Keith Brooking and DeMarcus Ware will anchor the LBs, and while Terrence Newman may not be Marcus Trufant, he certainly can cover recievers. The Cowboys are the most complete team in this stacked division, and should win 11 games before tanking in the postseason.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC North

The AFC North could be one of the most competitive divisions in football this season. There are plenty of offseason stories to talk about - free agent signings, draft picks, and - of course - sexual assault charges.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers - My bold pick of the season: the Pittsburgh Steelers finish dead last in their division. The team had a miserable spring/summer, losing various players for stupid reasons. Santonio Holmes got sent to New York after a run-in with the law. And the Roethlisberger suspension will hurt more than people think. Sure, Leftwich might win a game or two, but I expect Big Ben to be worse than post-scandal Tiger Woods when he returns. Having to play games against New Orleans, New England, and the New York Jets certainly doesn't help. The Steelers go 6-10 this year.

3. Cleveland Browns - The Cleveland Browns won't be winning any titles this year, but at least they won't finish last in their division (again). The Browns made a great move by signing Jake Delhomme. Sure, he's past his prime, but even if the veteran QB only throws 1 TD a game, it's still an upgrade from previous years. Jerome Harrison is poised for a breakout season, after totaling 709 yards and 7 TDs in the last 5 weeks of 2009, and Josh Cribbs is always a threat to take one to the house. There are still a lot of holes on defense, although Joe Haden will make an impact.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals won the division last year by posting and impressive 6-0 record in AFC North play. In the playoffs, however, the team got bounced after a lackluster first round performance against the Jets. Cincinnati is once again a threat to win the North. They added firepower at WR with Terrell Owens and (don't forget) Antonio Bryant. Cedric Benson will post good numbers, though I'm not sure they'll be quite as impressive as those from last year. It's a pick 'em between the Bengals and Ravens.

1. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens have an incredible running game, finishing 2009 at 5th in the NFL in rush yards per game (but with fewer attempts than any other team in the top 5). Joe Flacco gets better every year, and it's the first time in his career that he won't be throwing exclusively to wideouts who are AARP eligible. Anquan Boldin will add some firepower to the offense a might open up the running game as well. Look for the Ravens to win this division at home week 17 vs. Cincinnati.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NFL Predictions: NFC North

Can we get rid of this guy?

Let me start off by saying that I loathe Brett Favre. He is a despicable man. He is one of the most overrated QBs of all time, and he makes me not want to watch Sportscenter. If I had to choose between being locked in a dark, smelly basement for 48 hours with the cast of The Jersey Shore fist pumping to techno that's so loud it'll make my ears bleed or go out to dinner with Favre and his wife at a 5 star restaurant, it would be a coin flip. Now that that's done, lets talk about football:

4) Detroit Lions - They suck. They are two years removed from a winless season and, while the have gotten better, they are still the worst team in this division by far. Matthew Stafford should be a little better this year after an unimpressive rookie campaign, sans his gutsy play at the end of the Browns game last year. The offense will be sub-par, but they do have Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best at RB and Calvin Johnson at WR. The offensive line is porous on a good day. This team has no defense at all, and has football fans everywhere saying "at least we're not Detroit."

3) Chicago Bears - The Bears, once a team to be feared, have lost their bite. The defense is still solid, but is considering less intimidating since the superhuman Brian Urlacher was apparently exposed to Kryptonite. News stations no longer worry about them. The offense could be an x-factor with Jay Cutler at the helm. He has all the talent, but he's kind of a bitch and the receiving corps are very weak. Greg Olson is an elite TE and Matt Forte should have a great season running the ball. Still, the Bears are a 7 win team at best.

2) Minnesota Vikings - The Minnesota Favres are a very solid team and will make the postseason. However, they will not be the force that they were last year. Favre will not put up the same numbers he did last year. I guarantee it. Look for him to throw at least 20 INTs, many of which will be in crucial situations. The WRs are weak now that Sidney Rice is missing the first half of the year following hip surgery and Percy Harvin is sidelines by migraines. The defense is very talented once again, but 10 wins won't be enough to win this division, and that's all the Vikings will be getting this year.

1) Green Bay Packers -  Cheeseheads everywhere rejoice as the Packers can once again claim the top of this division. Led by breakout star Aaron Rodgers at QB, the Packers are loaded on offense. Ryan Grant will run for over 1100 yards, and most teams won't be able to cover both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The defense will be strong too, with A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett at linebacker and Charles Woodson lurking in the secondary. The Packers have the potential to win 12 games and make a deep playoff run.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC South

I wonder if I can film another commercial before we get the ball back...
The Tennessee Titans turned the AFC South upside-down face in 2008 when they were actually good enough to win the division. Last year, however, the Colts restored order with what could have been a 16-0 regular season had they not thrown in the towel week 16 vs. the Jets. Despite some slow starts in the AFC South, the division actually turned out to be fairly competitive, with only one team (the 7-9 Jaguars) under a .500 winning percentage.

4. Tennessee Titans - Call me crazy but I haven't hopped on the runaway train that is the Vince Young bandwagon. It will be a shame to see Chris Johnson break more records while playing for a losing team, but that's the way things will go down. Tennessee is lacking a leader and sure could use a decent wide receiver too. And they've got a turnover machine under center. The Titans will be the best 4th place team in the NFL, if that means anything.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - If we were playing Madden, I'd much rather have Vince Young at QB than David Garrard. But in real life, I'll take the latter. The Jaguars are (still) in rebuilding mode, but MJD will be deadly, per usual. Mike-Simms Walker looks to have a breakout year, and offseason addition Aaron Kampman certainly won't hurt the team. The Jags are poised to have 8 wins this season, which, coincidentally, will also be their average attendance.

2. Houston Texans - Aside from having the dumbest name in football (rumor has it the Eagles are changing their name to the "Philadelphia Pennsylvanians") I love this team. Matt Schaub can get the job done (4,770 yards, 29 TDs, 15 INTs last year), and it certainly helps that he's throwing to the best wideout in the NFL. The big question for the Texans is simple: can any of their RBs hold onto the ball? RB by committee isn't ideal, but it'll be good enough. Don't forget - this team had Indy on the ropes in both regular season meetings last year. The Texans will go 10-6 and get a wild card.

1. Indianapolis Colts - Until Peyton Mannings retires, dies, or leaves the NFL to become a full-time TV spokesman, the Colts will be the division favorites. I'm not as impressed with the 2010 Colts as I have been with teams in past years, but then again, I wasn't that impressed with the 2009 squad and they nearly won the Super Bowl. The Colts will, in typical fashion, win the South and get a playoff bye. However, look for them to lose their first playoff game in an offensive shootout.

Monday, August 23, 2010

NFL Predictions: NFC South

Should I run for the 1st down, dump it off to Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas, hit Jeremy Shockey over the middle, or go deep to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, or Lance Moore? Decisions, decisions. 

The NFC South is by no means a bad division, but go ahead and pencil it in as the "least-surprising division" in the NFL. None of the teams made any remarkably powerful offseason moves, at least not in the short run. Look for 1-2-3-4 to be identical to last season.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Looking at the Bucs on paper, it doesn't take a genius to see that they aren't very good. But games are won and lost on the field. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, however, they aren't all that good on the field either. Josh Freeman is the X-factor: if he plays well, the Bucs might win 6 games.

3. Carolina Panthers - The Panthers have arguably the best RB combo in the game, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But Carolina has a lot of holes elsewhere, most notably at the quarterback position. While Clausen might be good, he won't get it done this year. Give Matt Moore some credit - I expect him to be a solid player. But in a division with the defending Super Bowl champs, he needs to be great. Compound the offensive flaws with the loss of Peppers on D, and the Panthers are staring another 8-8 season in the face.

2. Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons are a good team that didn't get much better. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner both had relative down years from their impressive 2008 campaigns. With skill players like Ryan, Turner, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta is incredibly impressive on paper. Then again, they had the same players last year and they missed the playoffs. The Falcons are a wild card team this year, but still have some work left to do before they can be considered title contenders.

1. New Orleans Saints - The Saints, defending Super Bowls Champions, will once again take first place in the NFC South and, at the very least, make a deep playoff run. They are scary good, with some of the best skill players in the league at every position. The Saints' defense, which had plagued them for years (ever play Madden '07 with New Orleans? Free points for everyone.) finally got better last year. LB Scott Fujita is the most notable loss for New Orleans, but I think the best offense in football won't have any trouble compensating for any potential defensive issues.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NFL Predictions: AFC West

"Psst... Look at that asshole who still wears sweatbands."

So when is the NFL going to start using relegation for the teams out west? Along with the NFC West, the AFC West is one of the two worst divisions in the game, and has been for some time. Despite a complete lack of a contender, someone has to come out of this division and take up a playoff spot. Here's my prediction:

4. Oakland Raiders
Al Davis' perennial basement dwellers will not be leaving their old stomping grounds. Since the 2002 season, in which the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl, the Raiders haven't had a winning season. In the past decade, they are 62-98. Despite getting rid of JaMarcus Russell, they still do not have the talent, coaching ability, or leadership to win more than 4 games.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
While Matt Cassel will definitely be a better QB in his third season than he was last year, there still just isn't enough in KC for this team to do anything. They have no real threat at wide receiver, their top running back in 4th rounder Jamaal Charles, and they have a patchwork offensive line. And unfortunately for the Chiefs, they aren't a team that's offensively depleted because they spend so much time on their defense. Last season they ranked 30th in total defense, only ahead of the Browns and Lions. It should be fun trying to watch them scratch and claw for 5 wins.

2. Denver Broncos
Josh McDaniels is a good coach. He can do wonders with an offense. But can he make Tim Tebow into a real QB? Can he make an offense work with Kyle Orton at the helm? With Elvis Dumervil out for over 4 months, and the fact that Champ Bailey can only cover half of the field at a time, how will the Broncos generate pressure? This team does have some bright spots, like Knowshon Moreno (when healthy) and a very solid O-Line. But at this point there are just too many question marks for me to see this team getting more than 8 wins.

1. San Diego Chargers
By default, San Diego will win this division. Despite having questions about some of their big names like Vincent Jackson and Shawn Merriman and their contracts and suspensions, the Chargers still have the most talent in this division. They will shine like Brian Scalabrine does when he plays a pickup game at the local YMCA. The Chargers have the best QB, Tight End, and defense in this division by far. They also have a dynamic tandem of Darren Sproles and first round pick Ryan Matthews at running back. Look for this team to go 9-7 (5-1 in their division, 4-6 outside of it).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NFL Predictions: NFC West

The San Francisco Frank Gores are the NFC West front runners, by default.

Today, we begin an 8-day division-by-division look at the NFL, culminating with the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League draft on Sunday afternoon. The NFL season begins in just 19 days, and with uncertainty regarding the future of the league, I'll be sure to enjoy this season as much as I can.

We'll start west and work our way east, beginning with what has emerged as the perennial joke of the NFL: the NFC west.

4. St. Louis Rams - It's easy to forget that the Rams were Super Bowl Champions in 1999 (and Super Bowl favorites less than a decade ago in 2001). The Rams, once playoff regulars, are now good for only 1 or 2 wins a season. But they're starting to rebuild, albeit slowly. Don't expect Sam Bradford to work any miracles. He'll be OK, but he'll get get beaten up in typical rookie-starter fashion. Don't be surprised to see A.J. Feeley starting by week 14.

3. Seattle Seahawks - Like the Rams, the Seahawks fell from championship contenders to an NFC laughingstock. Seattle's downfall, though less extreme, happened much more quickly. The Seahawks won the division in 2004, 2005 (when they lost in the Super Bowl), 2006, and 2007, but finished with only 4 wins in 2008 and 5 wins last year. I want them to be better, I think they should be better, but don't expect any miracles to come from Pete Carroll. The former USC coach left his gig as a college rock star to give the NFL another try. His career NFL record is a decent but unimpressive 33-31, and he'll be under an incredible amount of pressure in his first season in Seattle.

2. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals won the division in 2008, when they made an impressive Super Bowl trip, and then won the West again in 2009. They would be the favorites to win the division again, but they might've had the worst offseason of any team in the NFL. Pro-Bowl WR Anquan Boldin went to the Ravens, LB Karlos Dansby signed with the Dolphins, and safety Antrel Rolle left for the Giants. Oh, and QB Kurt Warner called it quits after 12 NFL seasons. The Cardinals will be alright, but they can't win the division without Warner at the helm.

1. San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers are your NFC West champions, by process of elimination. They sure don't have their QB situation figured out, but with Alex Smith, David Carr, and Nate Davis, someone will start. Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Patrick Willis will be the guys to carry the team. The 49ers didn't improve much during the offseason, but they didn't lose their core. Look for them to be 9-7 division champions.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Countdown Friday: Why I Hate Bud Selig

Compared to the other major sports, I don't show baseball a lot of love. It's not that I hate the sport; I do enjoy watching the occasional MLB game (and I'll definitely be watching the Little League World Series this week). But there are a lot of things to dislike about baseball: it's slow pace, it's extreme lack of parity, or it's absurd player contracts. But the most despicable thing about baseball is without a doubt the man behind the scenes: Bud Selig.

When you here about Roger Goodell on the news, it's because he's laying down the law. When you hear about David Stern, he's coming out of his groundhog hole to make a rare decision. When you hear about Gary Bettman - well - you don't hear about Gary Bettman.

But if you ever hear about Bud Selig, it's always because he screwed something up. So here are the top 10 reasons why I hate Bud Selig.

10. On Behalf of Scott Van Pelt - Van Pelt got suspended for mocking Bud Selig. And Scott Van Pelt is cool.

9. That Stupid Tweed Jacket - That look isn't working. And no, it's not about to make a comeback.

8. The 2002 All-Star Game -  All-Star games should never end in a tie. I don't care if there are no more pitchers. Let the players pitch! Let them hit off a tee! Who the hell cares, just let the kids play.

7. The Current All-Star Game System - It sucks. This time it counts? Home field advantage for winning an all-star game? Ridiculous.

6. The Lack of Parity in the MLB - The same teams make the playoffs every year. The same teams live in the basement of divisions every year. Something has to change.

5. The Ridiculous Amounts of Money that Players Make - It's too much.

4. The Ridiculous Amount of Money that Bud Selig Makes - $18 million in 2007??? Really???

3. The Horrendous Misuse of Instant Replay - Either use it or don't. But this "just home runs" thing isn't working for anyone.

2. He Just Looks Like A D-Bag - Am I right, or am I right?

1. The Blatant Mishandling of the Steroid Scandals - Baseball was on life support in 1994. Steroids resurrected the sport. Everyone was using them, and everyone knew it. It's hard to criticize Selig for looking the other way, at least a little while. But as soon as steroids blew up and took a negative public image, Selig jumped ship. Now people are being indicted, reputations are being ruined, and - worst of all - Jose Canseco keeps writing books.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Basketball And Swimming Pools Go Great Together

These guys get featured on Sports Nation every now and then, and I can't tell you how much I enjoy it. Actually, I guess I can: a lot. I wish I had a) a pool as cool as this one b) these kind of athletic skills and c) that many friends. Too real?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sucks To Your Assmar

Today we start a new segment: "Sucks To Your Assmar". If our reader enjoys it, then we'll bring it back.

The first edition of Sucks To Your Assmar features none other than the Vikings quarterback. He's had a passer rating last season of 113.4. He's got a career completion percentage of 58.7. He's 6' 2", 225 pounds, and...black?  Yes, that's right. I'm talking about the one and only Tarvaris Jackson.

Jackson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Brad Childress selected him as a "diamond in the rough" guy, expecting Tarvaris to be the future of the franchise. And perhaps he could have been.

In an attempt to help Jackson develop, Childress did not start the QB in his rookie year. Jackson was named the starter for week 16 after Brad Johnson had a mediocre season. In his first career start, he went up against Brett Favre and Favre's Green Bay Packers. Sports has a funny way of doing things like that.

Tarvaris got the nod as starting QB during the 2007 season. He went 8-4 in 12 starts. I'm impressed, but apparently, the Vikings were not. Jackson threw 9 TDs and 12 INTs in those 12 games. In 2008, Tarvaris was the starter from the beginning. But the Vikings relegated him to the back up role behind Gus Frerotte after week 2. Frerotte got injured in week 14, and Jackson found himself starting again.

In the last 3 weeks of the 2008 season, Jackson played the best football of his career. He threw 7 TDs and only 1 INT and beat the Giants in week 17 to win the NFC North! The QB of the future was finally ready to start for the Vikings.

Enter Brett Favre. The 90-year old quarterback joined the Vikings and pulled the rug (along with the starting job) out from under Mr. Jackson.

And now, he's done it again. Talk about blue balls. Or I guess, in this situation, purple ones. Best of luck to Tarvaris in the future. I hope he succeeds, I really do. But for now, Tarvaris, sucks to your assmar.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blunder In The Backfield


Last night, the Jets and Giants opened the New Meadowlands with their traditional preseason exhibition. I'll be honest, I didn't watch much of the game. But I did manage to catch Brandon Jacobs get in Eli Manning's way in a hilarious and subsequently bloody manner.

For all you (fellow) Eli Manning haters, you can enjoy watching him get pounded. For those of you who are neutral towards Giants' quarterback, you can enjoy this moment for its sheer hilarity. And for those readers who are fans of Mr. Eli, you can at least find some solace in the fact that your QB will be back on the field soon. At least it wasn't Tom Brady vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

Too soon? Yes, it will always be too soon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Casual Sunday: What Did I Miss?

There are two big stories from this week:

1. The MLB Playoff Race Is Heating Up

2. The NFL Preseason Is Underway

I talked about the second story yesterday, and number one won't really be exciting until September. So here's a video. Enjoy the week.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Let The Games Begin: Week -4

Football is (sort of) back, and it couldn't come soon enough. The Cowboys and Bengals got things going last Sunday, with the rest of the teams playing their "Week -4" games Thursday, Friday, today, tomorrow, and Monday.

The first couple weeks of the preseason are undoubtably the most fun to watch. For the first quarter or so, all the starters take the field in an attempt to get back into the swing of things. It actually resembles a legitimate football game. Then all the guys looking to snag the last few roster spots file onto the field and things get ugly in a hurry.

It's a hotly debated topic in the sports world: should the NFL shorten the preseason in order to extend the regular season?

You're free to make your own judgments, but I'm the one with the blog. So right now, we're going to talk about what I think. And I think the NFL schedule is just fine the way it is.

From a pure business standpoint, there's a plethora of reasons why the NFL would consider extending the regular season. More games mean more tickets to sell, which translates directly into higher league-wide revenue. Additional games would also make the television deals even more lucrative than they already are. (The NFL makes close to $4 billion per season from national TV deals including CBS, NBC, ESPN, FOX, and DirecTV).

Fans might enjoy a longer season too. A few more Sundays to spend on the couch yelling at the TV sure do sound appealing. As if I need an excuse.

So why would extending the season be a mistake? Well, there are two glaring reasons.

1) More garbage games - Every year, there are a few teams that just can't hack it. In recent memory, the Raiders and Lions have been the most consistent basement sweepers. So if the NFL added more games, these fans would have to spend a few more games with paper bags over their heads. No one wants to watch Al Davis make moronic front office decisions for an extra two weeks. This works the other way too, though. We all remember last season, when the Jets laughed their way into the playoffs because the Colts and Bengals stopped caring. I don't think I could subject my self to more of those games.

2) Injuries reign supreme - The NFL is a dangerous league. Every year, teams lose a few marquis players. That's just the way it is. Maybe a franchise quarterback breaks his leg or tears his ACL. Maybe the starting running back gets one too many concussions. If the regular season went even longer, crowning a Super Bowl champion would be less about finding the best team. Instead, the franchise that got the ring would simply be the team that was lucky enough to still have a few healthy players.

So there you go: the 17-week season is long enough. Of course, this is win-win. If the NFL decides to add more games, I don't think it would be the right choice. But I sure wouldn't be mad.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Countdown Friday: The Top 5 Online Sports Games

5. Mini Golf - A classic. And a great way to kill 15 minutes. Try the newly revamped Candystand version for an excellent alternative.

4. Wiffleball - It brings back memories of younger days. Always play with Kent. He's got some power and he throws a mean riser.

3. QB Shootout - I'm not sure I would have made it through high school without this game. It's the ultimate distraction from homework, or a job, or any of life's troubles. A miracle worker? Maybe.

2. Slapshot Shootout - Another Candystand gem. If you can score 10, I'll be impressed. If you can score 20, I'll buy you lunch.

1. Voodoo Bowl - What could be greater than being a football player who has to avoid zombies en route to the endzone? Nothing, that's what. It's simple to play but nearly impossible to walk away from. Enjoy.

Fantasy Football!

To become a part of the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League, simply follow these steps:

1. Head to http://football.fantasysports.yahoo.com/f1/signup

2. Click "Join A League"

3. Click "Join Custom"

4. Enter League ID # 309540 and Password fake23blast

5. Pick your team name* and logo!

*make sure your team has a funny name

The draft will be a live draft on Saturday August 28th at noon. Good luck, and may the best fantasy nerd win.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

The BCS. It's a bigger buzz kill than Buzz Killington. Not only is there a ton of controversy about it every year, but it is extraordinarily biased and not efficient in picking a real national champion. All of the bigger conferences get preference. It's simply not fair, and it doesn't work. Every year there are teams that have one or two losses that are ranked higher than undefeated teams because of the perceived strength of conferences. Ask Oklahoma about the WAC. Because of this, the schools from "weaker" conferences don't get a shot at the title. Here's a solution: playoffs.

In a recent survey of FBS football players, over 70% said that they would prefer to have a playoff. The fans want it too. So why not? There's too much money involved. College football is worried about losing sponsorships. Their defense is that a playoff would take up too much time and interfere with finals for the students. HAHAHAHA!!! Yeah, all those kids definitely are playing for your school because they were concerned about academics. So how can we make the fans and players happy and keep the D1 executives' wallets full? I'm glad I asked.

Let's set up a 16 team playoff, where all conference and division winners qualify. That's 2 from the SEC (East and West), 2 from the new PAC-10, 2 from the new Big 10, 2 from the Big 12, 2 from the ACC, 1 from the Big East, 1 from the WAC, 1 from the MWC, and 1 from the MAC. That leaves 2 at large bids as well. The rankings can be determined by the BCS computers. Then we have these teams play it out. Here's the twist: each game is a bowl. The round that their game is in would be determined based on how much each sponsor pays.The Meineke Car Care Bowl would be a first round game, and the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi would be a semi-final. If you win 4 games in a row against the best of the best, then you are the undisputed champion.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where The MLB Went Wrong

When talking about baseball in recent decades, it's very easy to divide things into two different periods: the "Steroid Era," and the "Post-Mitchell Report Era." Yes, baseball was more fun when people were on drugs and hitting homers every other at bat. But baseball did the right thing by cleaning up the game. People were cheating, plain and simple. The integrity of the game had to be preserved.

That's another conversation for another time.

When I look at baseball of recent years, I divide it into two different eras: the Brawl Era and the Post-Brawl Era. Baseball was more fun when every night was fight night in the MLB. It was a rare break from the monotony: Pitch. Pitch. Ground out. Pitch. Pitch. Single. Pitch. Pitch. HIT BATTER CHARGES THE MOUND AND THE PITCHER TAKES A SWING AT HIS FACE! Pitch. Pitch...

So why did the brawl disappear? I don't know. Maybe "roid range" died down when people stopped taking the drugs. More likely, however, MLB wanted to clean up its entire image, and the higher-ups figured fighting would be a good place to start. It's a lot easier to punish guys who start brawls than it is to catch guys using newly developed illegal substances.

But last night's Cardinals-Reds scuffle got me thinking: wasn't baseball better to watch when fights were the norm? Brawls add excitement. And players rarely get injured; most of the "fight" is just posturing. Fighting was part of the game once, and the fisticuffs last night reminded me that it needs to become a part of the game once again.

Here's to you, John Rocker.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Race for Daniel Norris

"Yeah, I'm a badass."

The Baltimore Orioles are currently in the lead, with a 1.5 game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates and a 4.5 game lead on the Seattle Mariners. And don't count the Arizona Diamondbacks out yet either. All of these teams have a legit shot to win this thing. I am talking, of course, about the tank jobs that some of these teams are pulling to land Daniel Norris, the future #1 pick in the MLB Amateur Draft come May 2011.

Who? I'm glad you asked.

Daniel Norris is the top prep prospect in the country. He is a 6'2" 180 pound southpaw from Johnson City, Tennessee. Norris has a 95 mph fastball, a 12-6 curveball he throws in the mid-70's, and a quality changeup that comes in around 82 mph. He has been touted by MLB Fanhouse as "the best left-handed pitching prospect to come along in the draft in... years." He has also been called "the full package" and is described as having "a nice feel for pitching" already.

As a high school athlete, this kid has 3 major league- ready pitches, and has been praised for his poise on and off the field. In a game this spring, he no-hit a team, while striking out 17 batters in only 7 innings. While he may not have the hype of last year's #1 pick Stephen Strasburg, he is certainly a player worth noting. If you're a fan of one of those teams I mentioned earlier, I'm so sorry for you, but keep your head up, there could be a top of the rotation arm coming your way.

Along with the (obvious) choice of going pro next spring, Norris is also considering offers to play at Clemson, Vanderbilt, and UNC.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sometime This Week...

...we'll be posting the info to join the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League.

Keep checking!

Tiger's Game Has No Bite

The fall of Tiger Woods continued this past weekend, where he seemed more like a kitten. He shot +18 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 30 strokes behind winner Hunter Mahan. Tiger played the worst 72 holes of his entire professional career at a course where he was the defending champion.

It's strange what a diffference a year makes. Once the world's best golfer, the face of so many products (not to mention the game of golf itself), and the owner of a squeaky clean image, Tiger Woods is now a constant dissappointment on the course, an SNL punch line, been dropped by most sponsors, and has been in and out of rehab. He will most likely not make the US Ryder Cup team. Never in the history of sport has such utter dominance come to such an abrupt end. Whether you like it or not, we are witnessing history. Mayday, mayday, Tiger's going down.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Does 600 Matter Anymore?

Mmm... You taste like shame

So A-Roid, ahem, A-Rod, finally hit 600 home runs. It's one of the numbers that resonates with baseball fans like .400, 755, and 3000. This is monumental, right? It makes him an all-time great, right? Hall of Fame for sure... Right? After taking a few days to think about it, I've realized that this number, 600, which used to mean so much in baseball, has lost some of its charm. It is no longer the legendary benchmark that decides who really are the best power hitters in the history of America's game.

On August 4th, 2010, A-Rod became the 7th player in baseball history to hit 600 home runs. The others? Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Ken Griffey Jr. This is a pretty impressive list. My problem with it is this: Half of the players on this list accomplished this feat in the past 8 years. And elephant in the room: He used steroids. So did Bonds. Sosa used steroids and a corked bat. He's a phony. Plain and simple. His records are illegitimate. The number has lost its mystique. 600 used to belong to the legends of the game now is associated with some of the game's most notorious cheaters.

Think about the Red Sox winning the 2007 World Series. Yeah, it was cool. People were happy. But the reaction was NOTHING like that of 2004. People rioted, laughed, cries, rejoiced, and danced for a week. New England was on Cloud 9. It was a life changing experience. Some people thought they would never see the day when the Sox won it all. Then when it happened again, only 3 years later, people just didn't care as much. It wasn't as special.

So please, tell me: Why should I care about A-Rod hitting his 600th home run? Let me know when he gets to 763. Then again, don't. Let me know when someone clean approaches a number that matters.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Countdown Friday: The Top 10 Celebrations

Every sports fan loves to watch an incredible play - a great goal, an amazing bucket, and unbelievable catch - these are the moments that bring us to our feet. But to make an unforgettable sports moment even sweeter takes a little creativity. So today, we present you with the top 10 sports celebrations. These guys made the most of their time in the spotlight.

Some of these are great celebrations on purpose. Some of them are happy accidents. Either way, I hope you enjoy them.

10. Football: CFL Receiver Does His Best Juggling Act

9. Hockey: Forward Joins The Fans In Celebration (it's funny, because he didn't mean to do it)

8. Baseball: The Papelbon Jig, after winning the 2007 ALCS

7. Basketball: Premature Celebration - They Must Feel Quite Foolish

6. Soccer: Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting

The Best Catch...Ever?

This fantastic athletic feat is making its way around the television circuit. It's quite possibly the most amazing baseball play, ever. Without a doubt, it's the best catch I've seen. Perhaps someone who's been alive and/or watching baseball for a bit longer than me can confirm or deny.

If you haven't seen it yet, enjoy. If you have seen it, then enjoy it again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sports Casual Presents: Fantasy Football

As September nears, thousands of sports geeks everywhere will be adjusting their horn-rimmed glasses as they quizzically glance at their fantasy draft board.

We here at Sports Casual are no different. Except we don't wear glasses.

But why should we have all the fun?? We want you to get in on the action. And that's why we're starting the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League.

You don't want to miss out. Every Tuesday, we'll post a fantasy league update. We'll praise the winners, mock the losers, and breakdown every blockbuster trade.

The league will consist of 4 divisions, 16 teams. The first 16 to sign up will get in. So how do I sign up? Be on the lookout for the info. Sometime in the next 10 days, and a seemingly random hour, I'll post the league ID and password.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blackhawk Down

It should be one of the biggest stories of the offseason. The Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup trophy for the first time in 49 years. Mere months later, they severed ties with their man between the pipes.

So why doesn't the sports world care???

Because of Brett Favre. Son of a bitch.

How often have we seen the Stanley Cup champions let their netminder go before the next season starts? We haven't, at least not in recent memory. The Antti Niemi story is fascinating. And it's the perfect prelude to a plethora of potential paycheck problems. Alliteration aside, this is kind of a big deal.

SALARY CAP 101 - In the 2010-2011 NHL season, the salary cap is set at $59.4 million. Hockey operates under a "hard cap," meaning there are very few exceptions that would allow a team to be over the salary maximum. 

Any free agent will either be restricted or unrestricted - it depends on a player's age and years of experience in the NHL. A restricted free agent is just that - restricted. There are limits placed on his negotiations with other teams, offers, etc. A restricted free agent needs at least a little bit of leverage, and that's where salary arbitration comes in. If a restricted free agent and his team cannot reach a deal, the player can file for arbitration. 

Through arbitration, a third party will come up with a fair salary for the next year based on that player's: 1) overall performance/statistics from all previous years, 2) length of service with that team and years in the NHL, 3) "overall contribution" to the success of a team, 4) "intangibles" like leadership and public appeal, and 5) performance and salary of a comparable player, provided that the comparable player did not just sign as an unrestricted free agent. After the arbitrator comes up with the number, the team has 48 hours to sign the player, trade the player at that salary, or walk away.

Any questions?

So let's look at all this information in the context of the Blackhawks. Chicago already has some big-name players signed to enormous deals. Kane and Towes recently signed 5-year, $31.5 million extensions, Hossa was signed to a 12-year, $62.8 million deal, Brian Campbell recently began an 8-year, $56.8 million deal, and back-up goalie Cristobal Huet is warming the bench to the pleasant tune of $22.45 million over four years.

All these huge deals leave the Blackhawks in dire need of clearing cap space. In fact, earlier this offseason, they traded their best player during the playoffs (Dustin Byfuglien) to the Atlanta Thrashers along with Ben Eager and Brent Sopel. The team still needs to sign 6 players to fill out the 22-man roster, and has only $3.1 million to use. If the Blackhawks had signed Niemi to his $2.75 arbitration award, it would have become virtually impossible to complete their roster.

And the statistics don't work in Niemi's favor either. Niemi was 4th during the regular season in goals against average. But this is a misleading stat - it's just as much a reflection of the defense as it is of the goaltender. His save percentage - a more telling statistic - was .912, putting him at 20th overall. In fact, he's one percentage point behind the man who'll be replacing him, Marty Turco.

And don't forget, in 6 Stanley Cup Finals games, Niemi let the puck in 22 times. Yikes. At first glance, getting rid of Niemi seemed like a real head-scratcher. But crunch the numbers and add up the dollars, and it makes quite a bit of sense.

Boston Welcomes The Big Shillelagh

Did somebody wish for banner #18?

Big happenings in the NBA, as it has been reported by multiple sources that Shaquille O'Neal will be signing with the Boston Celtics for the upcoming season. ESPN somehow found time to break this story between Brett Favre highlights. O'Neal's deal is going to be for the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million per season, which helps the Celtics deal with the cap while adding some much needed size.

Last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers he averaged 12 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game in 23.4 minutes. Look for him to play between 15-20 minutes per game for the C's in 2010-2011.

With Kendrick Perkins out until at least December, look for Shaq to get some meaningful time. While he has lost a step or five since he won his last title with the Heat in 2005-2006, he still has the size and skill set to make an impact. He will be abused on pick-and-rolls, but he will take up a lot of space in the lane and deter slashing-type guards and forwards from getting to the rim. He will be a non-factor in the offensive transition, but then again, neither was Perkins. This move makes the Celtics the clear second best team in the Eastern Conference, behind the South Beach Superfriends.

If you'd like to learn more about the finances behind this deal, read on.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sorry, Long Day

No real post today. My apologies. I had quite a long day, and I hope both of our regular readers will forgive me. Tomorrow, an exciting discussion of the Antti Niemi fiasco. Here's a video to get you in the hockey mindset.

Has anyone heard anything about Brett Favre??? I can't seem to find news about him anywhere.

Monday, August 2, 2010

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

You know what really grinds my gears? When these super-talented, rich, spoiled, world-class athletes kick and scream and whine like little babies over their contracts. Oh, boo-hoo you're only making $5 million this year and someone on another team is making $5.5 million. Go ahead and hold out, I don't want your pampered ass playing for my team anyways.

There are some guys who do it the right way. Ryan Howard comes to mind. He played out his entry-level contract with the Phillies, despite putting up massive MVP-esque numbers. He was hitting over 40 HRs a season and getting paid less than $1 million. He kept his mouth shut, did his job, and in the end won a huge sum of money through arbitration.

However, we always get guys like Chris Johnson or Darrelle Revis, who think that because they played well for one season, that they deserve a huge deal that reflects the quality of their play. I bet you if they were getting paid a ton and played like shit they wouldn't complain about not getting paid ilke a scrub.

Or how about Albert Haynesworth? This fat baby demanded a trade all off-season because he didn't like the defensive scheme the new coach was putting in. Then he went ahead and collected $21 MILLION IN GUARANTEED MONEY. After this he skipped all of the teams summer workouts. Oh yeah, and then when he finally did show up, he came in overweight, failed his conditioning test twice, and hasn't even tried it in 3 days due to a "sore knee". I bet he has a bruised ego too.

The general thesis of this rant is shut your mouth, do your job, and let your agent take care of it. You have nothing to complain about. You make more money than 99.99% of people in the world to play a game for a living.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Casual Sunday: A Rather Weak Week

It wasn't the best week to be a sports fan. Football training camps got off to a start, which made me miss football that much more. Baseball's trade deadline saw its typical flurry of action, but with no real blockbuster, read-about-it-all-day-in-the-papers deals.

Anyhow, here are this week's winners and losers.


Philadelphia Phillies - The Philadelphia Phillies pulled off the biggest deal of the week. I'm not so impressed by who they got (Roy Oswalt, who lost his first start to the NATIONALS), but I am impressed by how they got him. The Astros not only shipped Oswalt up to Philly, they also sent $11 million to the city of brotherly love. Quite a price to pay to get rid of your best player.

Ole Miss - Jeremiah Masoli announced today that he would walk on at Ole Miss. He might be a troublemaker, but he sure can play. Oregon will miss him this season; Ole Miss will reap the rewards.

Terrell Owens - I hate this guy. I think he's way past his prime and more trouble than he's worth. But for the first time since, well, maybe never, he'll be playing in a place that's built for him to succeed. The Bengals have the perfect environment for Owens - a skilled veteran quarterback who knows what he's doing, a solid passing offense, and another crazy WR to match Owens' personality. I still don't think he'll succeed, but he certainly should.


Denver Broncos - The Broncos sure have had their running back woes in the past. We all remember two years ago when it was almost at the point of hilarity - they were somewhere in the realm of a seventh stringer. Well, today didn't get off to a great start. Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter both got hurt during day 1 of training camp. The Broncos don't know-shon when they'll return. (Too easy?)

Boston Red Sox - When every team still in a divisional race was scrambling around to make pre-deadline moves, the Red Sox were doing the same. But you wouldn't know it. The Sox got virtually nothing at the trade deadline, failing to fill a noticeable void in the bullpen or bring a guy to alleviate outfield injury woes.

Albert Haynesworth - Ha. This story has gone from bad to worse to near-hilarious. Haynesworth gained a reputation as the highest paid spoiled brat in football after turning on the Redskins. Now, Mike Shanahan is set out to embarrass him. The big DT has failed an overly harsh conditioning test twice and then fell victim to a knee injury. I can't decide how I want this story to end, but for now the disaster continues.