Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 11 Picks

Just to add my $.02 on the MVP award, I think Mike Trout should have won. The numbers are what they are, and a fine case can be made for either player but as a guy without a horse in the race, I can say that I would much rather add Trout to my Reds than Cabrera. While the upgrade from Scott Rolen to Cabrera would be welcome, swapping Drew Stubbs for Trout would be tremendous. To be fair, I'm almost certain that I could emulate Stubbs production in my current physical shape.

Marlins fans have a right to be pissed, but as the great Jonah Keri points out here, Jeffrey Loria looks to turn a massive profit this year. And that's his prime objective as an owner. It does suck for the fans, but you know what else sucks as a fan? Watching overpaid talent underachieve. I don't think this trade will work out as well for Toronto as people think, nor will it be as terrible for Miami as people think.

I've never rooted for Lane Kiffin to do anything. But I need him to beat Notre Dame next season. I can't handle a Notre Dame-anyone championship game.

Green Bay over Detroit- As a matter of fact, I have seen Stafford this season. And there's a reason he had a 5,000 yard/40 touchdown season and no one cared. I think we all knew better. Not that it would matter, as Rodgers and crew are on a roll right now.

Atlanta over Arizona- Falcons at home. After a loss. Against the Cardinals. The rest of the Falcons schedule is cake, but I still don't trust them for the playoffs. I absolutely think the Packers, 49ers, Bears or Giants could come into the Georgia Dome and steal one if the opportunity presents itself.

Tampa Bay over Carolina- Even Tampa Bay's losses this season, all four of them, have come by a touchdown or less. Most of the Panther's losses have been relatively close too. Just doesn't feel like it. That team is a mess.

Dallas over Cleveland- Shame on you for questioning Jason Garrett. Gonna be great watching Chip Kelly run that Dallas offense next season.

Houston over Jacksonville- Lol

Cincinnati over Kansas City- Now I'm really sick. Had we taken care of the Browns and Dolphins, like we should have, we'd be in great shape with injuries taking their toll on the Ravens and Steelers. As is, we'll get just close enough to break my heart when we miss the playoffs by one game. AJ Green, though. Pre-tty, pre-tty good. Hopefully this run games against KC-Oakland-San Diego can get us on track.

St. Louis over NY Jets- Do we really have to delay the inevitable? Sanchez gets some minor injury, Tebow goes 3-0 towards the end of the season to carry an offseason of "Should Tebow be the starter?" questions? He should obviously get a chance. I can't think of five current quarterbacks I would rather NOT have than Sanchez. Cassel...Skelton...and I think that's it. And even Cassel had a Pro Bowl season once upon a time. Sanchez is AWFUL.

Washington over Philadelphia- Really hoping this is the week that the Skins let RG3 turn it loose. Not counting on it though.

New Orleans over Oakland- I've already began scouting what type of talent will be available in the top of the second round for next year's draft. Thanks again, Oakland.

Denver over San Diego- Not much to say here. Peyton is booking it towards another MVP trophy and the Broncos are looking good. The Chargers are not.

Indianapolis over New England- Like you, I see the Colts getting an early lead here. Unlike you, I don't see them giving it up.

Baltimore over Pittsburgh- These games are usually bloodbaths, but each team has already been crippled by injuries. It will be a solid game, but nothing like the games of years past. A Steeler loss pushes them back towards the pack of AFC playoff teams, so I'll "root" for that.

49ers over Bears- Jason Campbell is going to go 21/26 this game. Just you watch. 21/26 for 93 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs. I was kind of hoping Colin Kaepernick would get to go here just to watch the Bears tee off on him. But I may get the same effect with Alex Smith behind center.

AL MVP Talk and NFL Picks

Before I get to my picks, I'm going to talk for a second about the AL MVP.  I've read a lot of things saying how it was a decision between old school stats (Cabrera) and new school stats (Trout).  I don't really see it that way at all.  A lot of the categories where Trout led Cabrera were old school, easily measurable statistics (steals, runs scored, etc.).  The UZR stat that measures defensive performance is flawed, but it doesn't take an advanced metric to see that Trout was the superior defensive player (even though Cabrera performed admirably at third this year).
The advanced stat argument can be thrown out the window.  This came down to a tough decision between two players who had great seasons.  Being a Tigers fan, I was rooting for Cabrera to win, but I wouldn't have been upset if Trout had won.
One last thing.  The two arguments I keep hearing in favor of Cabrera are as follows (along with brief rebuttals to those arguments):
1. Cabrera led his team to the playoffs and Trout did not.
The Angels play in a much tougher division than the Tigers (as evidenced by the fact that two of the teams in that division made the playoffs).  The Angels finished the season with one more win than the Tigers (89-88), and they finished 5 games back in the division.  The Angels also finished the season with a higher point differential than the Tigers (68-56).

2. Cabrera finished with more RBI than Trout.
While this is true (Cabrera had 139, Trout had 83), it ignores the fact that Trout batted higher in the order, thus giving him fewer opportunities to drive in runs (of course, it also gave him more opportunities to score runs himself).  It also ignores the fact that Trout wasn't called up until about a month into the season.

Like I said earlier, this was a tough decision, and there shouldn't be any outrage based on the winner.  If Trout had won, that would have been a perfectly fine decision, too.  To make this argument about old school vs. new school is completely missing the point.

An unrelated note.  I've been reading Chris Brown's The Essential Smart Football.  I'm a big fan of it.  If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it.  It's a collection of essays from his website.  There's a lot of great stuff in it.
Also, if you haven't read his piece on Grantland about Brian Kelly's offense, I suggest you do so now.

To the picks.

Green Bay over Detroit
Have you seen Stafford this year?  It's as if last year never happened.  Any accuracy he may have harnessed last year has left him this year.  He's back to overthrowing receivers all over the field.  It's glorious to watch.  The Packers are hurting a bit, but, coming off the bye, they should win by 10 here.

Atlanta over Arizona
I can see this being pretty low scoring, but I can't see the Cardinals being able to score enough points to keep up with the Falcons.  Something like 17-7 seems about right.

Tampa Bay over Carolina
The Bucs have been looking pretty good lately.  They were able to pull away from the Chargers last week due to a terrible interception by Philip Rivers.  They should be able to follow that script again here against Cam Newton.

Dallas over Cleveland
It'll be close.  The Browns have been looking a little better on offense, and they're a pretty solid defensive team.  Still, I can see the Cowboys putting together a good game here and pulling out the win.
Here's a question for Jason Garrett: Why not use some more no-huddle?  Romo seems to play well when operating out of the no-huddle.  It really seems to help when their offense begins to stagnate.  They have enough talent at the skill positions to be able to pull this off.

Houston over Jacksonville.
Something like 44-10.

Cincinnati over Kansas City
The only thing keeping me from being overly confident about this pick is the fact that this game is going to be in Kansas City, and that's usually a pretty tough place to play.  Plus, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not much of a believer in this Bengals team.  Still, I think they'll win this one and get to .500 on the season.

St. Louis over New York Jets
I watched a lot of that Jets game last week, just because it was amusing to watch them on offense.  They're amazingly terrible.  I love the argument of, "Putting Tebow in for a few plays a game takes Mark Sanchez out of his rhythm."  Mark Sanchez doesn't have a rhythm.  He would be terrible even if Tebow never came in the game.
I am also firmly in the "Jets should start Tebow" camp.  It can't be any worse, right?  Sanchez went 9/22 with no TDs and an INT last week.  At the very least, Tebow could equal those numbers, but he would also give you some rushing yards.

Washington over Philadelphia
I have also enjoyed watching Philly recently.  They have so much talent, yet they look completely lost.  It's amusing to me.

New Orleans over Oakland
Close game.  A lot of passing yards on each side.  But the Saints will pick off Palmer a couple times (including at least 1 in the 4th quarter), and that will be the difference.

Denver over San Diego
I really wanted to pick the Chargers here, but I just can't do it.  Broncos by 21.

New England over Indianapolis
Another close one.  Patriots will start out slow, allowing the Colts to jump out to an early 10 point lead.  But they'll come back and end up scoring a touchdown in the 4th to win it.

Pittsburgh over Baltimore
I have a feeling this will be a "Flacco looks terrible" kind of game.  Mainly because it's in Pittsburgh.  I'm not much of a believer in Leftwich, but I also don't really believe in the Ravens defense right now.

San Francisco over Chicago
We have a game we like to play with Jason Campbell.  You watch the guy who is running the shortest route, then wait for Campbell to throw it to him.  He rarely disappoints.  Even when he has an open receiver downfield, he will almost always check it down.  And the 49ers will absolutely eat that stuff up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The State of UK Athletics and Week 10 Picks

Welp. Mike Brown coached a cool 83 games for the Lakers between last season and this season, before Jerry Buss decided he had seen enough. On one hand, five games isn't a big enough of a sample size to determine anything. Nonetheless when Kobe is dealing with nagging injuries, Dwight still isn't 100% from back surgery and Nash has a bum leg. On the other hand, it appears Kobe had lost respect for Brown and it wasn't long before the rest of the team followed. It could have gotten really ugly, so the Lakers decided to take their lumps here. I imagine the contract has already been drawn up with Phil Jackson, as the Lakers wouldn't have canned Brown without some new coach in place. Phil Jackson just agreed to meet with the Lakers, and cancelled a speaking engagement he had three days ago so I imagine this has been in the works. It has to be Phil. Any coach too soft, and Kobe would lose respect for him the way he did with Mike Brown. Any coach too strict, and they would risk pissing Dwight Howard off to the point where he flees town after the season. Unless Phil brings some courage for Dwight, some heart for Pau and fresh legs for Nash and Kobe, I'm not sure how much difference it's going to make. This team just hasn't looked good, and it's for more than the lack of chemistry, which is to be expected. Dwight's not as agile as he was, so he can't cover for everyone defensively the way he was supposed to. Pau Gasol, the most skilled big man in the league, is shooting 40% from the field. Nash is out for at least another week. Kobe's scoring more efficiently than he ever has...and it's not working. How long until he starts chucking shots? Soon and very soon, I'm hoping.

Speaking of Dwight, enjoy this evisceration of him. I know I did.

The Cats finally cut bait with Joker Phillips, as I predicted last week. I wish him well, but I'm already focused on the next head coach. Word is, that UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart is going all in because he pretty much has to. UK football revenue funds all the other athletic programs, outside of hoops, so Barnhart has to find someone that will at least get asses in seats. Though I have no reason to believe either would take the position, my picks are Kirby Smart (defensive coordinator for Alabama) and Mark Helfrich (Oregon offensive coordinator). I've heard Bobby Petrino's name mentioned and I wouldn't mind him either. Barnhart is in a tough spot because he has to take his time to make sure he gets the right guy, but he has to move relatively quickly as Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas will all likely have job openings soon.Each of those jobs is considerably more attractive than the Kentucky job. I have my fingers crossed that Smart is the choice.

Kentucky basketball tipped off last night and the gang looked less than stellar. They held off a strong second half by a lackluster Maryland squad to get a three point victory. The Cats were dynamite in the first half, but fell off a cliff in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer and Archie Goodwin carried the scoring duties for UK. Willie Cauley-Stein and Jarrod Polson looked good off of the bench. Everyone else was forgettable. While I understand that Nerlens Noel is not Anthony Davis, I can't get over his hands. They're terrible. This worries me because hands appear to be something you either have or don't. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins had them on day one. Daniel Orton and Nerlens Noel did not. I will say that Noel is active though, and there are always minutes for an active big man. My man Alex Poythress struggled from start to end and starting PG Ryan Harrow was a non factor. This Duke game on Tuesday will be a struggle if we only piece together 20 minutes of good basketball again.

Currently watching Johnny Manziel dash my hopes of a Bama-Oregon championship game. And I don't even care. He's putting on a clinic right now.

Pick time.

Giants over Bengals- Not one thing we're doing particularly well at this point. I have backed off of the ledge on Andy Dalton, just because he's had two terrible running games thus far in his career. Ced Benson's 3.9 YPC seems like a dream now that I have to watch Benjarvus Green Ellis struggle to his 3.4 YPC. Like last week, a good pass rush and a great passing attack does not matchup well with this team. We lost again.

Dolphins over Titans- The Dolphins aren't terrible. They're even less terrible at home. Chris Johnson is heating up, but it won't be enough.

Vikings over Lions- That great Vikings start seems so long ago. I'm also a little surprised to see the Lions are 4-4. Doesn't feel like they've won four games this year. They won't get to five just yet, as Minnesota wins at home.

Patriots over Bills- This seems like another whooping and another week of "Patriots are back on track!" type of stories.

Falcons over Saints- Could be a good game. Division rivalry games are usually on point regardless of the records. Saints are playing reasonably well and I'd love to pick the upset, but I think the Falcons pull out another close victory.

Buccaneers over Chargers- Bucs trending up. Chargers trending down, despite a win over the Chiefs. Vincent Jackson's revenge?

Broncos over Panthers- I still can't help but think about how Peyton Manning should have chosen the 49ers. He's been on fire lately, though the defenses he's faced lately are hardly on par with the NFC West defenses he would have seen.

Raiders over Ravens- Carson Palmer has always found a way to get a win over the Ravens. Flacco is coming off two straight Flacco-esque performances so I'm picking the upset.

Seahawks over Jets- What's that you say? Oh dear God, no. I won't be watching a minute of this one.

Eagles over Cowboys- Yikes. 80 combined points. 10 combined sacks/interceptions. I'm ready for almost anything here. Should be some shockingly bad coaching here as well.

49ers over Rams- Poor Sammy Bradford.

Bears over Texans- Now this is a game! Bears undefeated at home. Texans undefeated on the road. Both playing some great football right now. I think that Bears defense and their bigger receivers make the difference here.

Steelers over Chiefs- Who or whom thought this MIGHT be a good game when the scheduling was going on?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Week 9 Picks

Sorry for my lack of posts.  In my defense, it was October, and I was watching a tremendous amount of horror movies, which kept me busy blogging about those.  As it turns out, I have only so many words in my fingers in a given week, and I was using all of them up on horror movies.  But November is over, so I should be back to my semi-regular posting here.

Sadly, I haven't been able to catch many NBA games.  I saw the majority of that first Lakers game.  They had spurts where they looked absolutely unstoppable, and others where they couldn't seem to get anything going.  I guess that shouldn't be surprising.  I can't imagine that will last all season.  But, then again, they're coached by Mike Brown, which means they could look like this all season.  I'm practically giddy.

Just got done watching Oregon destroy USC, and am currently watching LSU beat Alabama.  Just throwing this out there: I think Oregon would beat Alabama.  And I would absolutely love to see Oregon play Kansas State.

To the picks!

Packers over Cardinals
To get ready for this game, I went back and watched a couple games (Patriots and Eagles) from Arizona's 4-0 start.  For obvious reasons, I haven't watched too much of their games this year, and I wanted to see what the Packers were up against.  According to the little I had seen - and the storylines surrounding their games - they have a terrific defense.
I actually wasn't overly impressed with their defense.  They didn't seem to get any sort of pressure unless they were blitzing, and even then the results weren't great.  They hit Vick a lot, but a lot of those hits came as a result of him holding the ball for too long (shocking, I know).  There were also quite a few open receivers downfield (a natural result of blitzing with man-to-man coverage), but the QBs were just missing them.  In the New England game, the Patriots would have won if Brady had just hit some of these open receivers.  And these weren't open receivers with pressure on the quarterback: these were open receivers with a clean pocket.  You know who hits those?  Aaron Rodgers.
I am a little worried after his less-than-stellar performance against the Jaguars, but he should be a little better this week.  Even if Nelson doesn't play, Rodgers should be a little more comfortable with his absence than he was last week.  Also, I'm almost positive that Rodgers suffered a concussion at the end of the first half last week.
As far as their defense, they should be fine.  The Cardinals seem to have a pretty good running game, but the Packers should be able to shut that down a bit.  Even with Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals rarely throw down the field.  If the Packers stack the box, they should be able to take away the running game, and the short passing game the Cardinals rely so heavily on.  The Cardinals have a terrible pass-blocking offensive line, and the Packers have been able to generate quite a bit of pressure this year.  They'll be able to hit Skelton early and often.
This should be a cakewalk for the Packers, but they seem to be playing down to the level of their competition this year.  I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up closer than it should be.  But really, they should win this game by 21.
One final thought: Jermichael Finley should stop talking trash until he can start catching passes.

Denver over Cincinnati
If the Bengals could take away the underneath throws that Manning has been thriving on, they'd be fine.  But they seem incapable of stopping anyone right now.  Sorry man.

Cleveland over Baltimore
The Ravens haven't looked great.  The Browns have been playing pretty good defense.  I can see the Ravens losing 17-13 or something like that.

Houston over Buffalo
This game will not be close.

Indianapolis over Miami
I've read a lot of things this week about, "If the season ended today, both these teams would be in the playoffs."  The season doesn't end today, and I can't realistically see either of these teams making the playoffs, even in a weak season for the AFC.

Detroit over Jacksonville
I said earlier in the season that Gabbert looks much better this year than he did last year.  That's still true.  But he was so abysmal last year and any improvement this year can be seen as good, even if he's still not a great quarterback in relation to any other NFL quarterback.  He had stretches last week against Green Bay where he looked great.  He had other stretches (like the entire second half) where he couldn't hit a wide-open receiver to save his life.
What I'm saying is, Stafford is better than Gabbert.  And Stafford's weapons are better than Gabbert's weapons.

Chicago over Tennessee
The Bears are a good team, but I don't believe that they're a great team.  It doesn't matter.  They'll handle the Titans.

Carolina over Washington
Because I just have to believe that the Panthers are going to win another game at some point.  Might as well be here.
And you know what that means: in losing their last home game before the election, they will hand the election to Romney.  Congrats Mittens.  You won because Shannahan didn't know when he should start having Griffin throw more than 5 yards downfield.

Tampa Bay over Oakland
There are times when the Raiders look like a pretty good football team.  There are other times when they seem completely and utterly lost.  Sure sounds like your typical Raider team.  The Bucs have looked better than I thought they would this year.  The end.

Seattle over Minnesota
The Vikings are slowly falling apart.  I kind of love watching it.

New York Giants over Pittsburgh
I don't like it, but the Giants are looking pretty good.  The Steelers looked good last week, but that was really the first week when I was actually impressed with them this year.  I could certainly see a scenario where the Steelers win this, but I think the Giants will end up winning by 10.

Dallas over Atlanta
Just because.  Can't you just see Romo coming up huge here and knocking off the undefeated Falcons, only to fall on his face against the Eagles next week?  Seems like a very Romo thing to do.
Still not sold on the Falcons.  They haven't played a tough schedule, and they barely won a couple of games they had no business winning.  They're a good team, but not nearly as good as most people seem to believe they will.

Philadelphia over New Orleans
The Vick talk will certainly calm down here.  Mainly because the Saints can't stop anyone at this point.  He'll have a huge game and make everyone forget about Foles for a week.
I'll say this for the Eagles: their line isn't great, but Vick often makes it look worse than it is.  He still, after all these years, has absolutely no feel for pressure.  None.  He'll get tagged by a blitzer coming off the edge - and not even coming from his blind side.  Instead of stepped up into the pocket, he'll just step right into the pressure.  He'll also just stand/dance around for 5 seconds until the pressure gets to him.  He really does his line no favors at all.

NBA Talk and Week 9 Picks

Just finished watching what I imagine is the last game for Joker Phillips as head coach of Kentucky. When you lose 40-0 to Vanderbilt at home, it's probably safe to say things aren't working out. Joker had some success as offensive coordinator and head recruiter for the Cats, so I can't imagine his coaching days are done. If this is the end, I wish him the best. He wasn't necessarily given a lot of help, as much of Kentucky's income from football goes to cover other sports. There are rumors that Brian Kelly wants him on his staff at Notre Dame. If true, that would be a good look for Joker.

The NBA is underway and I couldn't be happier. The Magic are undefeated. The Lakers are unvictorious. Life is good.

It's old news, but I figure the world still needs my two cents on the James Harden trade. I think both teams win here. The Rockets get a star in Harden, locked up for the next five years. Houston had been stockpiling assets for years trying to get a star big man. Didn't work so they went after a budding perimeter star. It's early, but Harden has been dynamite for Houston. This shouldn't surprise anyone because he's always been a scorer and an efficient one at that. He will now be getting more shots. On Twitter, I joked that Harden would average the wackest 25 PPG ever. Turns out I might have been selling him short. OKC gets a fine haul for Harden in Kevin Martin (keeping them competitive this  year) and Jeremy Lamb/draft picks (helping them build for the future. This also likely means more shots for Kevin Durant, which is good. And more shots for Russell Westbrook, which is not so good.

Picks.

Broncos over Bengals- Just not a good matchup for us. Peyton Manning is cooking. Our secondary has not looked well. Denver's defense is top 10 in terms of passing yards allowed. We throw the ball a lot by default. This could get out of hand.

Ravens over Browns- I can definitely see a 21-17 type of Baltimore win here. Weeden hasn't looked terrible and Trent Richardson is legit. The Browns will keep this a lot closer than it should be.

Packers over Cardinals- Not much to see here. Packers winning streak continues. Cardinals losing streak continues.

Bears over Titans- A la Baltimore, the Bears will win this one but it will be a lot closer than it should be. Word to last weeks comeback and last second victory over Carolina.

 Dolphins over Colts- Meh.

Redskins over Panthers- If nothing else, this one should be exciting. Washington can't stop anyone from passing the ball. Carolina's defense has been decent, but I still imagine RG3 has a good day here. Hoping for a high scoring game here.

Lions over Jaguars- Battle of the two guys who look least like NFL quarterbacks. We all lose here.

Texans over Bills- That Buffalo defense is terrible. Mario Williams gets his vengeance on Houston with half a sack on TJ Yates late in the fourth quarter after Houston is up 41-17.

Buccaneers over Raiders- Tampa Bay has played well lately, sans that loss to NO. The Raiders winning the last two weeks are really messing up our chance at a high second round pick. How inconsiderate.

Vikings over Seahawks- Adrian Peterson's amazing recovery gives me hope for Derrick Rose and even Marcus Lattimore. As it stands, Peterson is the leading rusher in the NFL just 10 months after tearing his ACL and MCL. Phenomenal. 

Giants over Steelers- Another good game. Giants pass rush should keep Roethlisberger on the move, but that NYG secondary has given up a lot of yards. I don't see Big Ben throwing three first quarter interceptions the way Romo does, but he'll also be able to pull out the victory if the Giants can't shut the door.

Falcons over Cowboys- Tony Romo is the most entertaining player in the NFL. With 13 INT's and two fumbles in seven games, you know he's coughing it up at least twice here. None of which are "traditional" turnovers. I say he's good for at least two picks and a lost fumble here, as the Matt Ryan for MVP bandwagon gains steam. I will say this, Ryan has improved considerably. He's making better decisions, looks a bit more accurate and his deep ball looks the best that I've seen it.

Saints over Eagles- I'm about tired of the "Bench Vick" storylines, but he just hasn't looked good. I can't imagine Nic Foles would look any better behind this line, and with $40 million guaranteed coming to Vick, I imagine he'll be given every opportunity this season to right the ship. This could be a high scoring one as well, with two subpar defenses taking the field.