Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kendrick Lamar and Week 8 Picks

I said I wasn't going to watch the World Series. I lied. I watched parts of the first two games. For your sake, I'll stop watching in hopes that it turns Detroit around.

Currently watching Kentucky-Missouri in surely what is one of the worst football games I've seen this season. There were 7 fumbles in the first half alone.  I'm really surprised at how bad Missouri is. I thought Mizzou would tread water during their first couple of SEC seasons by feasting on the Kentucky/Ole Miss types and losing to the Bama/LSU types. Nah. They're just bad. I will say that Kentucky does have some potential young pieces on their offense in Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles, Maxwell Smith, Demarco Robinson, Darryl Collins and Demarcus Sweat. The problem? The first three of those names all play quarterback. The last three? All play receiver. Woe is us.

I don't know if you caught it but that Marcus Lattimore leg injury is gruesome. One of the worst I've seen. You can't really see the initial injury, but then you see the leg flop a la EJ Henderson from a couple of years ago. I feel bad for him because he just came back from an ACL tear and was having a solid year for South Carolina. Best wishes to him on a speedy recovery.

Quentin Richardson and Justin Harper were waived by the Magic today. Why is this significant? It's not really. Both figured to be bit players off of the bench. It does show that new GM Rob Hennigan is starting to clean up old GM Otis Smith's mess. Richardson is owed $5.4 million over the next two seasons, unless someone claims him off waivers. This seems unlikely because he's Quentin Richardson. The same Quentin Richardson that Otis Smith saw fit to give a four year contract, all guaranteed with a trade kicker, as a 30 year old bench player. Justin Harper being waived was no surprised. He was a second rounder last year, Otis Smith's second to last draft pick, that played in 14 games last year. Still, we gave up two second rounders to get him and got a year out of him. Smith's last draft pick? Former Wildcat DeAndre Liggins who just made the roster for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thanks again, Otis.

Speaking of OKC, our old pal Bill Simmons had an interesting trade proposition on his latest podcast. Of course by "our", I mean myself and your brother. Nonetheless, Simmons suggested a  re-signed James Harden/Serge Ibaka for Kevin Love trade. The logic being this: Minnesota would have Harden/Ibaka locked up for the next four years. They wouldn't have to worry about Love opting out after three years, or trying to force a trade after two years. They'd also have some more minutes for Derrick Williams, the #2 overall pick from a year ago who is stuck behind Love. You can't throw free agents money to get talent to Minnesota, so if you have a chance to get two talented guys on decent deals, you make the move. The logic for OKC is simple: Building around Durant/Love/Westbrook. All 24 or younger, all signed for at least the next three years, all three in the top 9 NBA players as ranked by ESPN. You had me at "building around Durant/Love/Westbrook". That's a terrifying core that will rival any team in the NBA over the next few seasons. Sam Presti is a smart enough GM to figure out a way to full out the rest of that roster. Simmons stated that OKC should make the trade. His guest disagreed. I rarely say this, but I completely agree with Simmons here. Let's move on.

The Bengals are off this week. Thank God. We've looked terrible these past four weeks. Great article here breaking down Andy Dalton's interceptions this year. All ten of them. The AFC is extremely underwhelming this year, so we aren't out of it yet but we've got our work cut out for us.

Picks.

Bears over Panthers- Bomani Jones made a point that I hadn't heard being made: Where is the outlash for Matt Stafford? Or Sam Bradford for that matter. All top overall picks underperforming but Cam is getting killed in the media. Is it the "Superman" pose? I don't really have a problem with that. There's been talk of his body language, but nobody has worse body language as a QB than Mark Sanchez. Stafford and Bradford don't exactly inspire confidence on the sideline either.

Browns over Chargers- Weeden hasn't looked terrible and the Chargers have given up huge leads in consecutive weeks. Gimme the upset.

Seahawks over Lions- And this is where Simmons and I disagree. He said he thinks Seattle and San Francisco are about equal as teams. Nah.

 Packers over Jaguars- Couldn't be any happier for Randall Cobb. The Pack keeps rolling here.

Titans over Colts- Another good read here making the case that Luck has been better than RG3 despite the surface numbers. It's a fine argument, but I've been on the RG3 bandwagon and I'm not budging. Chris Johnson has shown some signs of life lately. I think he carves up the Colts.

Patriots over Rams- This will be a close one because that Ram's defensive line will give Brady hell all day. Still, I don't think Bradford will be able to take advantage of that weak Pats secondary.

Jets over Dolphins- Who cares?

Eagles over Falcons- That Falcons defensive line doesn't have the horses to punish Vick with knockdown after knockdown. Asante Samuel/Dunta Robinson will have trouble with the speed of Desean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin. A couple of big plays gets Philly the win.

Redskins over Steelers- RG3's mobility will give the Steelers some trouble. Also, I need the Steelers to lose for the Bengals to keep ground in the AFC North.

Raiders over Chiefs- Because Carson Palmer is presumably better than Brady Quinn.

Giants over Cowboys- Can we switch this with the next game for the Sunday Night game? The Giants are cooking right now and I can't imagine they let another week 1 situation happen.

Broncos over Saints- If Jimmy Graham was healthy, I'd pick the Saints to continue their winning streak. He's not, so I won't. Decker and Thomas have a field day with this Saints secondary.

49ers over Cardinals- Annihilation.

I caught the Blue-White game for UK and have high hopes on the season. I have adopted Alex Poythress to be "my guy" for the season taking the torch from MKG. I think he is going to be the wing scorer we haven't had in the Cal era. He's bigger than everyone at SF, quick enough and hits the boards hard. He and Archie Goodwin are going to have to shoulder the scoring burden and I think they'll be able to handle it. Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer give UK some depth at the 4/5. Poythress' flexibility will let him play the 3 in bigger lineups or the 4 in smaller lineups. Ryan Harrow/Goodwin/Julius Mays will handle the guard spots. Harrow started for a year at NC State, then played against last year's championship bunch as a redshirt. He comes in with more experience than John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague which will help early on with so many new faces. Mays scored 14 ppg last year for Wright State so he should be more than capable off of the bench. Jon Hood looked great and if he can bounce back from an injury last year and give good minutes off of the bench, we're in good shape. I'm really looking forward to watching these guys in action.

I've given that Kendrick Lamar several more listens, and I'm sold. His singing voice is still a little harsh on the ears, but I love the work that went into this project. The skits that provide the story within the story. The way each song leads into the next one. The production is great, his lyrics are sharp and his flow is on point. Everytime I listen to this album, I can't pick just one song I want to hear. I have to at least run through three or four in succession and find myself getting caught up in the story all over again. The gang speak also fascinates the hell out of me. Kendrick and I are about the same age. When I hear West Coast rap about gang life, it's usually older stuff from the early 90's. Kendrick and I were in high school around the same time, so it amazes me that this stuff still goes on. Just a captivating album, all around.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tigers in the World Series, NFL Picks

Sorry about your Reds.  I watched Game 5, and I was fully convinced that Jay Bruce was going to hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th to win the game and drive the Reds into the NLCS.  He battled (I think it was a 13 pitch at-bat), but, ultimately he lost that battle.  When Rolen stepped to the plate, I knew it was over.
I have no issues with you giving up on watching the World Series.  That's a painful loss.  If the Tigers had lost to the A's after being up 2-0 in the series, I probably wouldn't want to watch anymore, either.

But my Tigers won, then swept the Yankees.  World Series bound!
It's been a little frustrating to read the coverage of it, though.  Pretty much every article I've read has focused on the collapse of the Yankees rather than the triumph of the Tigers.  Apparently the Tigers didn't win that series: the Yankees lost.  I know that the Yankees didn't look great, but the Tigers have an amazing rotation. Verlander, Fister, Scherzer and Sanchez.  They've all been great for the majority of the season (Sanchez joined the team at the trade deadline, had a couple shaky starts, but has been solid for the most part.)  They don't have the best bullpen (although why they don't use Albuquerque more is beyond me), but, with a rotation like they, they didn't really need to lean on the bullpen in that series.
Make no mistake: it was the rotation that won that series.  Aside from the last game, the Tigers offense never really got going.  I know they can get on a roll, so I hope Game 4 kickstarted them a bit, and that will carry over into the World Series.

Instead of my picks last week, I was planning on putting together a "What's wrong with the Packers?" post, complete with lots of All-22 film.  I was looking at every sack of Rodgers, and if there was actually anyone open before he was sacked.  I didn't get it done in time, and the Packers ended up destroying the Texans, so it became a moot point.  I may still put it up at some point, though.  Maybe show how they have improved since their first 5 games.

To the picks!

Green Bay over St. Louis
The Rams destroyed the Dolphins in total yards last week (462-192), yet somehow found a way to lose.  The Packers are hurting on defense (no Raji or Perry).  So I'm a little nervous about this game.  The Rams have a pretty good defense.  And, against a defense that is less than 100%, they can obviously pile up some yards.
But the Texans have a better defense than the Rams, and the Packers strafed them last weekend.  If the Packers are even a fraction of good on offense as they were last week, this game is already in the bag.

Buffalo over Tennessee
Both of these teams confuse me.  I don't believe either of them are very good, but they can both show flashes of competence.  But, while the Titans are coming out with Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson, the Bills are coming out with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller.  I'll take Jackson/Spiller over Johnson.

Carolina over Dallas
Coming out of the bye week, I have to believe that the Panthers have put together an offensive gameplan that will maximize Newton's impact on the game.  I can see a huge game from him here.

Houston over Baltimore
A banged-up Ngata against a team that likes to run.  The loss of Webb against a team with Andre Johnson.  I can see the Texans winning big here.

Indianapolis over Cleveland
I'm sorry about your Bengals losing to the Browns.  Man...you had a rough weekend, huh?

Minnesota over Arizona
I really have no idea about this one.  I guess I trust Christian Ponder more than John Skelton?  I don't know. I don't feel good about this pick.

Washington over New York Giants
The Redskins defense seems to give the Giants quite a few problems.  And the offense is better this year.  The short passing game of the Skins should allow Griffin to get rid of the ball before the pass rush of the Giants can get to him.

New Orleans over Tampa Bay
This is where the Saints start winning.  It has to start at some point, right?  I don't think they'll make the playoffs, but I do think they'll get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later.

New England over New York Jets
With as terrible as the Jets have looked at times this year, it's hard for me to believe that they're 3-3.  Some weeks they look like they can beat anyone, and other weeks they look like they barely belong being in the NFL.  I think this game will be more like the latter than the former.

Oakland over Jacksonville
If Carson Palmer could throw a 7 yard out with any sort of authority, the Raiders would've beat the Falcons last week.  But he can't, because he's Carson Palmer.  Still, this game won't come down to that, so the Raiders win.

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh
We all knew this day would come: the day when the Steelers defense finally started showing their age.  The thing I keep hearing is, "If Polumalu was healthy, the defense would be better."  But I just don't believe that.  He has lost some of his speed, so he's having to jump routes a little earlier, or creep up to the line a little closer.  That puts him out of position more than he was in the past.  He has always been aggressive, but his loss of speed is really hurting his game.
By the way, AJ Green is going to have a massive day.

Chicago over Detroit
The Lions don't have the secondary capable of making Cutler pay for his mistakes.  Bears win big.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 6 Picks, Baseball and a Salute to Robert Nkemdiche

Welp. That Reds loss was the end of baseball for me. Not forever, of course. Just for this season, as I have no interest in watching anymore baseball for now. Losing three straight games, at home, after being up 2-0 is unacceptable. I'd love to put all the blame on Dusty Baker, but I can't. I think he handled Game 1 very well after Cueto's injury. He didn't hurt Cueto's ribs and he didn't leave his bat in San Francisco with the rest of the team. Baker's contract is up and I do feel this is the perfect opportunity to move on from him though. Dusty can cite his healthy issues, and the team can look at a manager that can hopefully get this team to the next level. Best wishes to your Tigers, but I won't be watching.

Not a doubt in my mind that Orlando is going 0-82 next season. The depth chart makes me physically ill.

Mother Nature is doing her best to stop the Cats from getting embarrassed by Arkansas. The game is currently on delay, as lightning is in the area. And not a moment too soon, as the Hogs are already up 14-0.

Between the Reds, Magic and UK football letting me down, I NEED something from UK basketball this season. More on the Bengals later.

Picks.

Falcons over Raiders- I repeat, the Falcons schedule is cake. Absolute cake. This game will be closer than it should be because the Falcons can't blow anyone out, but they get the victory. Sidenote: Julio Jones would be the best receiver of all time, if he had any type of hands.

Bengals over Browns- The game against Miami last week told me all I needed to know about this years team. We're the same team we are last year, really. Maybe a step below. Last year we beat every team with a losing record, and lost to every team with a winning record. I expected a minor step up this year, but I was wrong. With Miami and Cleveland, we had a nice chance of being 5-1 and heading into the bye week before the schedule gets tough. We get first round CB Dre Kirkpatrick back from injury after the bye, so I had high hopes. Nah. Instead, we're 3-2 looking at a Browns game that will be closer than it should. I've said it before, but I fear Dalton will never be elite and games like the one against Miami prove it. I thought he could be a poor man' Matt Hasselbeck at best. But Hasselbeck had an All-Pro year for a team that almost/could have/should have won the Super Bowl. I don't think he has that kind of upside.

Dolphins over Rams- Tannehill wasn't terrible last week, though our defense is hardly anything to write home about. You think the Rams are regretting the RGIII decision yet? He'd be the best QB in that division, and that defense ain't terrible. Now they get to spend Washington's first rounders trying to put elite players around an average QB. I don't know if that gets it done in today's National Football League. /End Gruden speak

Colts over Jets- Not a whole lot of teams that I wouldn't pick over this Jets team. They can't pass, run, defend or play at home.

Eagles over Lions- This could actually be a really good game. Neither team is that good, but both are underachieving just enough to make this a surprisingly good game.

Buccaneers over Chiefs- Here's the thing about the fans cheering for Matt Cassel's injury: Brady Quinn is the backup. Not that I support cheering for any injury, but I guess I could somewhat see it if the fans were waiting to see a promising rookie get some snaps on a rebuilding team. Nope. Brady Quinn.

Ravens over Cowboys- The Cowboys know Dez Bryant isn't that good at playing wide receiver, and that's why they continue to let him return punts.

Cardinals over Bills- Ryan Fitzpatrick is on pace for 38 TD's and 26 INT's. He wants to be Brett Favre so bad.

Patriots over Seahawks- Haven't seen much of Russell Wilson this year, but I hear he's not the best/most interesting/most charismatic/mot whatever your boy Simmons had him ranked before the season started. How about that.

 49ers over Giants- This might get ugly. San Fran is back on track after that Vikings loss and Kyle Williams won't be botching any punts this time. For what it's worth, I've got San Fran as the #2 team in the league just behind Houston. I think they win comfortably.

Vikings over Redskins- Kinda hoping Washington plays it safe here with RG3. I'd hate to see concussions become an issue on a guy with his potential. As the Great Bill Barnwell pointed out, the hit that concussed Griffin wasn't him being reckless. It was an awkward play where RG3 slipped and hung in the air just long enough on the way down for the defender to get a good shot on him. Not a case where he went head up with a linebacker and lost, or any other play where he should be mindful of his "reckless" behavior. Still, a concussion is a concussion and I'd rather Washington play it safe if there's a chance he might not be ready to go.

Texans over Packers- I'll defer to you on this one, but GB just hasn't looked sharp this year. The offense hasn't been able to get in that rhythm they need, and the defense doesn't seem to be getting the turnovers they lived off of for the past couple of seasons. The bad news is, they aren't likely to right the ship against Houston. The good news is, the schedule gets a little easier after this game.

Broncos over Chargers- Don't look now but the AFC West is replacing the NFC West as the division I have absolutely no interest in.

In closing, I'd like to tip my hat to Robert Nkemdiche for a second. He's the consensus top high school recruit in the country. A 6'5, 265 pound DE that has been compared to Demarcus Ware and been called the best prospect out of the southeast since the 1980's. Cool. But that's not why I'm tipping my hat to him. Nkemdiche has been at the center of some controversy after he verbally committed to Clemson, but claimed he'd sign with them today if they offer a couple of his buddies scholarships. Not only that, but he has delayed signing with anyone so coaches will keep coming to his games, and thus get a chance to take a better look at his friends. People are fake outraged at how this kid is "using the system" and "holding schools hostage". Me? I love it. This kid has the leverage  here and is using it to his advantage. As he should. He hasn't made the story about him by repeatedly bringing it up, but he has been quick to mention that he thinks reuniting with some of his HS buddies will create a "favorable environment". My only gripe is that Joker Phillips hasn't knocked on his door with a burlap sack full of scholarships for his entire high school team, if necessary. Well done, Mr. Nkemdiche. Well done.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Playoff baseball & Picks

I'm currently watching the Reds/Giants game.  Reds looking good so far.  When Cueto had to leave in the first inning, I assumed the game was lost.  Fortunately, that wasn't the case.  Hopefully they can hold onto their 2 run lead.
And hopefully Cueto will be able to pitch in Game 3.  That would be a HUGE loss if he had to miss another start

The Tigers won earlier today.  Verlander had to throw quite a few pitches, but he ended up going 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, and 11 strikeouts.  That's a very good day.  He was less than great in the playoffs last year.  So when he gave up a lead-off home run today, I was a little worried.  But he really shut down the A's after that.
Game 2 is tomorrow at 12.  So it will be on the same time as the Packers are playing.  That could be a very stressful couple of hours.

Picks!

Green Bay over Indianapolis
In anticipation of this game, I watched the Colts/Jaguars game from Week 3.  Here are a couple things I picked up on.
1. Luck didn't look quite as accurate as I thought he would be.  He sailed quite a few passes.  He threw behind quite a few receivers.  He hung quite a few of his receivers out to dry on passes over the middle (they should be used to that, though, having Peyton Manning doing the same exact things for so many years).  By my count, he had 1 interception, 2 dropped interceptions, and another that was called back on a non-existent pass interference call.
2. Luck can run.  I knew that from watching him in college, but I was reminded of it in watching this game.  He took off a handful of times.  He's not looking to run, but he will if the play breaks down, and he's fast enough to make the defense pay.
3. The defense looks about the same as it has for years.  There's room to run between the tackles.  They have a pretty good pass rush, but it didn't look nearly as good as it used to.  If their ends can't get immediate pressure, the quarterback has plenty of time.  (What I'm saying is, if the initial move doesn't work, the secondary moves don't get them to the quarterback.)  They don't have the best secondary, and they definitely can't handle it if the quarterback has time.
4. The Colts don't have much of a run game, but their screen game seems to be pretty good.  Between that and the threat of Luck running, the Green Bay defense will definitely have to be on their toes.

Overall, I wasn't impressed.  I can see where they could be competitive in a couple years, but I can't see them having much of a chance against the Packers.  The Packers finally got their offense on track a bit last week, and I can see that continuing here.

Cincinnati over Miami
As you mentioned, the Dolphins strength is their run game.  The Bengals strength is AJ Green.

Baltimore over Kansas City
I can actually see this game being kind of close.  The Ravens seem to get up for their big games and come up flat in some of the lesser ones.  Flacco won't look great here.

New York Giants over Cleveland
Man...the Browns are really bad.  They show the occasional flashes of being decent, but they're just flashes. I'm not a believer in the Giants, but you don't need to be a believer to see them beating the Browns.

Pittsburgh over Philadelphia
At some point, the Eagles being terrible has to catch up with them, right?  I mean, it did against the Cardinals, but they're going to start losing games at some point, right?  Might as well be here.

Atlanta over Washington
I'm really not a fan of your "Matt Ryan - NFL MVP" thought, but you may not be far off.  Then he'll lose 31-3 in the first round of the playoffs.
I can see the Falcons jumping out to a huge lead, then watch the Redskins battle back and making the score look closer than it should be.

Seattle over Carolina
This is due more to my belief in the Seahawks defense than my belief in their offense.  Because their offense is kind of terrible.  I can't see Newton having a big day here, and they'll need a big day out of him to win.

Chicago over Jacksonville
I think I have watched every Jaguars game this year with Game Rewind.  As you mentioned, Gabbert definitely looks better this year that he did last year.  But he won't look impressive here.

Minnesota over Tennessee
It looks like Matt Hasselbeck will be starting.  That's too bad.  If Locker was playing, I would be taking the Titans.  As it is, the Vikings will be 4-1 after this game.  Is that right?  Can they be 4-1?

New England over Denver
Everything Manning throws is underneath.  The story last week was how he carved up the Raiders.  I watched that game.  I'm pretty sure he didn't complete a pass that traveled more than 15 yards in the air.  Everything was screen passes and underneath crossing routes.  It was ridiculous.  Against a better (or smarter) defense, that would not have worked.  The Patriots don't necessary have a good defense, but I have to believe they're smarter than the Raiders.  They'll jump a couple routes and end up with at least 2 interceptions.

San Francisco over Buffalo
Fitzpatrick may not survive this day.  The running game will be shut down, and he'll be forced to throw 35+ times.  And he will be murdered.

San Diego over New Orleans
It somehow seems fitting that Drew Brees will break a long-standing record, yet the Saints will drop to 0-5.  It's hard for me to believe that this Saints team could be 0-5, but it's also hard for me to believe that they'll beat the Chargers with how they've been playing so far.

Houston over New York Jets
Hopefully the Yankees/Orioles game will be close, so there will be something to watch when the Jets are down 21-0 heading into halftime.

Week 5 Picks and Postseason Baseball

Currently watching Geno "The Great" Smith get his lunch eaten by the Texas defensive line. Just biding my time until the Reds- Giants game. I don't like the team with the better record having to travel for game one. But so be it. Here's to hoping we don't get embarrassed in postseason play again.

Da picks.

Bengals over Dolphins- The Dolphins excel at stopping the run, which works for us because Benjarvus Green-Ellis isn't that good. Dalton has been looking good and AJ Green is making the leap. Our defense looks much better now that Carlos Dunlap is healthy. I expect a win here.

Packers over Colts- Packers are too good to be 2-2. I think they make a statement here dropping 40+ and go on a nice winning streak.

Ravens over Chiefs- Turns out Romeo Crennel still isn't a good coach. Hmm.

Giants over Browns- Poor Trent Richardson. Julio Jones is living it up with Matt Ryan and hitting strip clubs with Jason Heyward and Josh Smith. Richardson is taking handoffs from Brandon Weeden and having game nights with Kyrie Irving and Cleveland Indians baseball player. So sad.

Eagles over Steelers- Eagles are the worst 3-1 team ever. And about to become the worst 4-1 team ever. The Steelers run game is non existent and they don't have enough weapons to throw the ball as much as they have been. Philly kept Vick relatively clean last week against the Giants, and I think they'll do enough here to keep him upright.

Falcons over Redskins- Have you seen the Falcons schedule? 14-2 is not out of the question. And that would probably mean Matt Ryan- NFL MVP. Yikes.

Panthers over Seahawks- Ron Rivera is terrible. The Panthers secondary is worse. Russell Wilson won't be able to exploit either of those things.

Bears over Jaguars- Gabbert looks...better than he did last year. Smokin Jay Cutler is still hilarious to me. Bears win.

Vikings over Jaguars- You have to figure Adrian Peterson gets stronger/more confident in that knee as the year goes along. If Ponder can keep the ship steady until then, the Vikings might slip into a wild card.

Broncos over Patriots- Going crazy against the Bills in the second half is not reason for celebration. I think the Broncos pull the "upset" and Von Miller has a nice day.

49ers over Bills- Can you see the "Since the loss to Minnesota, San Francisco has won nine straight!" stories? Me too.

Saints over Chargers- This can't go on forever, can it? It'd be funny as hell if it did, but the Saints have looked bad but not Cleveland Browns bad. I think the defeated streak ends here.

Texans over Jets- Lol