Thursday, November 29, 2007

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Packers @ Cowboys

Last week I picked the Thanksgiving games and then in the hoopla of the holiday season forgot to pick the rest... so yeah. Anyway.

At the start of the year I was not sold on the Packers as legitimate contenders. The reasons were obvious... they had no running game, and I had watched Brett Favre play the past 2-3 years, when he was just as likely to make a game-changing mistake as he was to making a big play. Plus, the Packers are my least favorite team in the world. It's true.

So when they got off to the quick start, I was just assuming that they would quickly fall back down to Earth. But then a funny thing happened... they kept winning. Now they're 10-1 and facing the Cowboys in the 2nd biggest game of the year (not that I will actually, you know, get to see it).

The Cowboys are favored by 7, and maybe for good reason. They're at home, and they've had the most explosive offense in the NFC so far this year.

But I'm going to take the Packers, not only to cover, but to win this game outright. Just a feeling. Their running game is getting better and better, the defense is fantastic (great corners, good pass rush, fast LBs). Plus, the passing game is firing on all cylinders right now. Favre is avoiding the big mistakes, the receivers are making plays after the catch.

So with that said, the Packers are my pick in this game. Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

Last Week: 2-1
Season: 75-77-10

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Michael Beasley Scouting Report

I got a chance to watch Michael Beasley really closely over the weekend, which was excellent because I had obviously heard so much about him and seen the eye-popping numbers that he was putting up. Anyway, suffice to say he lived up to the hype when I watched him.

Offensively, he has the entire package. This seems fairly obviously when looking at his scoring averages, but it is completely true. He scores in a multitude of ways, and does some things that you wouldn't really expect from someone his height.

Obviously he is not a great ballhandler, but he can handle it well and is able to get past his man. For someone of his size he has a pretty solid first step. He almost seems to glide towards the basket. On one play he had the ball at the top of the key, and just blew right before his defender and had a layup before anyone could help out defensively.

He also had solid range. He can hit from the 3-point line, even when guarded. During one stretch he nailed 2 or 3 in a row from just inside the arc. Another thing I was impressed when seeing was that he drove to the hoop, but then pulled up and sunk a mid-range jumper. That's harder than it looks, and really impressive for someone of his size.

His back-to-the-basket skills are adequate at this point. I wasn't overly impressed by what I saw in that area (relatively speaking), but I suspect that he will become very good in this area with more experience.

Defensively, obviously he's helped by the fact that he is extremely athletic. But he's not always in great position and just relies on that athleticism. But again, this is another thing that I suspect will be improved with more experience. On the glass, he has great instincts going to get the rebound, and nabbing the ball at its highest point. Again, this is fairly obvious when looking at the fact that he is averaging over 15 RPG so far, but he has great instincts knowing where the ball is, and then using his superior athleticism to go and get the ball.

Anyway, that is my synopsis of Michael Beasley, likely top 3 (or more likely top 1) pick in next year's NBA Draft. Have you seen him play? Anything else you would like to add or disagree with?

Monday, November 26, 2007

College Basketball Thoughts

I was fortunately able to watch a fair amount of college basketball over the Thanksgiving break, which was excellent because there was obviously a lot of fantastic action. Plus, I got a chance to see a lot of players that I've been hoping to see. Anyway, some of my observations and thoughts:

- I love Butler this year. They do the same things that they did last year (when they got to the Sweet 16) only they're even more experienced, other than coaching. Obviously, people know about their great 3-point shooting, and that's key. But also important is that they don't turn the ball over much and they don't put teams on the line very often. Basically, they shoot 3s very well and they don't give up easy points. That is a solid formula.

- Sticking with Butler, AJ Graves is the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year, but I think Mike Green might be their most important player. He is also a good shooter, but he is a very good defender, passer, and rebounder. Basically Graves is a better scorer, but Green does everything else a little better.

- Eric Maynor is the Preseason Player of the Year in the CAA, and he'll get a ton of publicity after his heroics against Duke last year, but don't count out Will Thomas for George Mason. You'll remember he was a sophomore on the Final Four team, which now makes him an experienced senior and one of the best posts in the country. He is a really crafty inside scorer, solid post defender, good rebounder, and a good passer out of the post.

- I'm not as optmistic about Kansas St. as I was going into the year. Obviously Michael Beasley is fantastic (more on him later in the week), but I don't like their other pieces. Bill Walker is extremely athletic and has lots of potential, but it seems to me like is still a long ways off. He can get to the rim, but he is not a really good shooter. He tends to play out of control and rely too much on his athleticism at this point... but they need him to be a #2 scorer after Beasley. It seemed like nobody was creating any shots for anyone else when I watched K State play.

- Mark Turgeon is a great coach and was a fantastic hiring for the Aggies. They shouldn't miss a beat without Billy Gillepsie.

- The difference between Ohio St. last year and USC/Kansas Sr. this year is th experience around the freshman. Last year the Buckeyes had guys like Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis, Othello Hunter, etc. which was a huge reason they made it to the Title game. USC and Kansas St. does not have that caliber of returning talent (Taj Gibson notwithstanding) surrounding the great freshmen classes.

- Is there a more underrated player than Jamont Gordon for Mississippi St? Maybe I'm just late to the party? Don't look now, but last year as a sophomore he averaged 16 PPG, and over 7 RPG and 5 APG. Not bad.

- Mercer beat USC to open their season and have lost 5 games since.

- Look out for Miami of Ohio out of the MAC. Michael Bramos and Tim Pollitz form an outstanding 1-2 duo.

- I really like BYU coming out of the Mountain West. And this is obvious after they beat Louisville and took UNC to a close game, but they're for real. Trent Plaisted is an NBA talent at center, Jonathan Tavernari is an excellent shooter with a super-quick release, and Lee Cummard can do a little bit of everything. I have a hard time seeing anyone else match up with them well in that conference.

What has caught your eye so far this year?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your holiday is great!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Frank Caliendo on Inside the NBA

I'm not sure when exactly this was aired, but it's comedian/impersonator Frank Caliendo when he appeared on Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley.

It's worth a listen if only for the amazing impersonations of Sir Charles and Bill Walton. Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NFL Picks Against the Spread 2007: Thanksgiving

3 games on Turkey Day... I'll make my picks for those, and pick the rest later in the week.

Jets (+14) over Cowboys
Jets have been playing a little better the last couple of weeks with Kellen Clemens, and I'm not sure they're quite as bad as their 2-8 record indicates. I think Leon Washington makes a couple big plays and allows the Jets to keep it close. Obviously I still like the Cowboys to win, but I think the Jets can keep it semi-respectable.

Packers (-3.5) over Lions
Lost in the Brett Favre hoopla is the fact that the Packers defense is really good. Kitna tends to struggle and make some bad decisions when there is pressure on him, and I think that will be the case in this game. Plus, the Lions secondary is nothing to write home about... I think Favre and the passing game will go wild against the Lions.

Colts (-11.5) over Falcons
The Colts have to be better than they showed the last 2 weeks, right? Peyton Manning has been really bad, which is not a trend I expect to continue.

Last Week: 7-7-2
Season: 73-76-10

Monday, November 19, 2007

Handicapping the Heisman

Hello everyone out there in Blog land. Twins is swamped lately with homework and the like, so in his place I'm writing a little guest post. If you're a regular to this blog or to The Sports Flow, you've probably seen my (hopefully) excellent comments on their blogs. I've tried my hand at a couple of blogs, but apparently a regular gig isn't my thing. But anyways I digress. This year's college football season has been topsy turvy all around, and this has obviously impacted the Heisman race. Since I'm all about uneven numbers, I'm going to do a top 6 list.

6. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri

Right now Daniel has a lot of hype, and with big wins over Kansas and either Oklahoma or Texas in the Big 12 championship game, Daniel can certainly shoot up to the top of the list. Daniel has thrown for 3,590 yards and 30 touchdowns with just 9 picks. As good as Daniel's stats are, I have a tough time putting him higher on the list when he isn't even the most talented player on his own team, that being Freshman wideout Jeremy Maclin

5. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Many people's preseason #1, McFadden is probably the best pro prospect in college football. 5th in the nation in rushing, McFadden has shared time with Felix Jones all year. He does have 12 touchdowns but McFadden has been hurt-fairly or not- by Arkansas losing 4 games this year. Only rushing for 43 yards against Auburn and 61 against Florida International probably didn't help either

4. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

I know what youre thinking: a cornerback? Yes a cornerback. In fact, Talib should probably be even higher. Check out these stats: 4 touchdowns, 10.8 yards per catch, 8 interceptions, 1 sack. Not bad right? Well those arent Talib's stats. They belong to 1997 Heisman Trophy Winner Charles Woodson. Talib's are even better. Talib has 22.8 yards per catch, with 4 touchdowns, plus an interception return for a touchdown, which Woodson didn't have. Talib only has 3 picks this year, because no quarterback in his right mind will throw the ball his way. Talib dominates the game more- yes more- than Charles Woodson did in his Heisman season.

3. Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon

Without his knee problems this season Dixon would probably be #1 on the list. Dixon's run pass ability is something to be marveled at, and the way he leads the Ducks spread offense makes him one of the great players to watch. Ironically, one of his best passing games came in the Ducks first loss, to Cal back on September 29th. Only one game has been a truly poor rushing game for Dixon, when he ran for just 8 yards against Stanford, but he threw for 374 in that game. Sadly, with Dixon's injury combining with the Ducks' exclusion from the BCS title race he will fall short of the Heisman.

2. Todd Reesing, QB, Kansas

Undoubtedly the darkhorse of the chase. Why in the world has no one talked about Todd Reesing? The Sophomore from Austin, Texas has thrown for under 3,000 yards, but he has 33 touchdowns compared to just 4 picks, good for a 156 rating. Kansas leads the nation in turnover ratio, and Reesing is a huge part of that. Just 5'11", Reesing's escapability has proven to be a valuable asset, although he only has 1 rushing touchdown on the season. He was hobbled by a sore ankle in the Iowa State game but still led the Jayhawks to a 45-7 win. With two more wins, Reesing could vault himself into serious Heisman consideration.

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

A Freshman or Sophomore has never won the Heisman. Both of my top two are Sophomores. Why? Well for starters, Tebow is the only player in 1-A (No I will not call it the FBS) history to both rush and throw for 20 scores in a season. He also just moved passed, among others, Shaun Alexander on the career SEC rushing TD's list. It remains to be seen how Tebow projects as a professional, but he leads the defending champs in both rushing and passing. He's thrown more picks than Reesing, but only 2 more, and they have nearly the same amount of yards. Combine that with the pass/run threat that Tebow possesses and he is 2007's best college football player.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What are the chances...

... that Bill Belicheck said something like this to Tom Brady and Randy Moss?

"Terrell Owens had 4 TD's today... let's see if we can get Randy at least 5."

Through one half - 8 catches, 112 yards, 4 TD. Wow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NFL Picks Against the Spread 2007: Week 11

Hectic week... I'm sorry. Again, just my quick picks.

Bengals (-3) over Cardinals

Browns (-3) over Ravens

Cowboys (-10.5) over Redskins

Panthers (+9.5) over Packers

Saints (+1.5) over Texans

Chiefs (+14.5) over Colts

Chargers (+3) over Jaguars

Vikings (-5) over Raiders

Patriots (-16) over Bills

Giants (-3) over Lions
(That one is for you Bryan!)

Eagles (-10) over Dolphins

Jets (+9.5) over Steelers

Bears (+5.5) over Seahawks

Rams (-3) over 49ers

Bucs (-3) over Falcons

Titans (+2) over Broncos

Last Week: 8-5-1
Season: 66-69-8

Monday, November 12, 2007

NBA 2K8 Review

A couple of weeks back I got an email asking me if I wanted to receive a copy of NBA 2K8 for XBox 360 in order to review it on this blog. Being a big fan of the 2K series, I quickly said yes. Over the past weekend I got a chance to really play it.

As expected, I was impressed. I really enjoyed NBA 2K7, and I found much the same in 2K8 but with some noticeable improvements. But first, let me mention that as always the franchise mode is very deep and fun. You can have multiple human players, which is something I absolutely love. Also, as usual there is scouting, the draft, free agents, development, etc. You can really immerse yourself into it for a very fun franchise experience.

Some of the things I noticed were some of the great graphics and animations during gameplay. The faces look excellent. The player mannerisms and unique styles are there. As a Sixers fan I played with Philadelphia for the most part, and I noticed the shooting styles of guys like Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala, and Rodney Carney looked a lot like their real-life counterparts, which is awesome.

Another thing I noticed during gameplay was the improved post play. In past game it seemed like all you could do was back your man down and shoot a hook shot. No more. You can do fadeaways, hooks, turn and shoot, fakes, etc. It's really an improvement and an area I enjoy.

Another small thing I liked was some of the player animations. After a guy makes a basket and gets a foul called against him, they will go and high-five teammates or give them a chest bump. That added realism is a nice touch.

So all in all, I really enjoyed this game (and the soundtrack and t-shirt that I also received!)... if you are in the market for an NBA video game, much like last year I recommend the NBA 2K series. The game isn't perfect, but I think you'll have a lot of fun with NBA 2K8.

Friday, November 09, 2007

NFL Picks Against the Spread 2007: Week 10

Home for Veteran's Day... quick picks:

Lions (+1) over Cardinals

Bengals (+3.5) over Ravens

Bills (-3) over Dolphins

Falcons (+4) over Panthers

Bears (-3.5) over Raiders

Cowboys (-1.5) over Giants

Vikings (+6) over Packers

Colts (-3.5) over Chargers

Chiefs (-3) over Broncos

Rams (+11) over Saints

Browns (+10) over Steelers

Jaguars (+4) over Titans

Redskins (-3) over Eagles

Seahawks (-10) over 49ers

Last Week: 5-9
Season: 58-64-7

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

2007 College Basketball Predictions

I wanted to do detailed predictions of each conference, but, well, time is a little short these days. So with the season underway, time for me to scrap the rest of those and give my season predictions.

By the way, I am so pumped that college basketball is back. And Gardner Webb shocks Kentucky early... college basketball is the best. Anyway.

All-American Team
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC - Of course. He's on everyone's team, and for good reason. He's a junior now, playing for one of the most talented teams in the country, and he's going to put up great numbers. No brainer.
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown - With Green gone, Hibbert should get the ball more and more down low. He was getting more comfortable in the paint as last year wore along, and should be even more developed. He's got great touch around the rim.
Chris Lofton, Tennessee - He's the best shooter in college basketball, and should get a lot of shots and numbers playing for a team that likes to get up and down the floor.
OJ Mayo, USC - Yes, the freshman sensation should be pretty spectacular in his lone season for the Trojans. He's going to play tons of minutes, get tons of shots, and put up lots of numbers. Oh, and the Trojans should be a pretty good team.
Darren Collison, UCLA - Best pure PG in college basketball. He's a fantastic defender with his long arms and exceptional quickness, excellent penetrator, finisher, and he's even developed a reliable outside shot.

All-Freshman Team
OJ Mayo, USC - See above.
Michael Beasley, Kansas St. - A freakishly gifted athlete, immediately becomes the go-to-guy in the Kansas St. offense. He'll be counted on very heavily for the Wildcats.
Kevin Love, UCLA - Love this guy. He's a great rebounder, fundamentally sound on the block, great passer, and has been called the best outlet passer since Wes Unseld, which should help Darren Collison and the Bruins get up the floor quickly. He's the reason that i think the Bruins offense will be better this year even without Arron Afflalo.
Eric Gordon, Indiana - We've been hearing a ton about the guy, and for good reason... he's going to have a huge impact in the Big 10. He could be in the running for the Conference Player of the Year. He's explosive offensively, and will make a fine duo along with DJ White (and Armon Bassett is pretty good too).
Derrick Rose, Memphis - We've already seen him in a couple games... he's like the college version of Jason Kidd. Just a great all-around player.

Surprise Teams
Clemson - OK, maybe they won't be a huge surprise, but I could see them challenging for the top 3 in the ACC this year.
West Virginia - They're being picked very low, and while I can understand why (they'll be playing a vastly different style), I think they'll be OK. Huggins will bring a toughness to the team on the glass and defensively, and I think the talent and efficiency will remain on offense. I think they'll challenge for an NCAA berth.
Arizona St. - Herb Sendek is turning things around for the Sun Devils. With Jeff Pendergraph and very talented freshmen James Harden in the mix, Arizona St. will be much improved. They might not be ready for the NCAA tournament yet, but they'll be vastly improved from last year's 2-16 Pac-10 mark.

Final Four Picks

UCLA - Of course, I had to pick them. But they'll be really good. As is becoming a Howland Staple, they'll be one of the best teams in the country defensively. They have great quickness on the perimeter, versatile defenders, and lots of depth up front. They were also a very young team last year. They lose Arron Afflalo, but with the return of basically everyone else plus the addition of Kevin Love, I think UCLA will be good enough to make their 3rd straight trip to the Final Four.

Tennessee - Just really like these guys this year. They'll be really talented, deep, and tough to prepare for and beat. They have a unique up-and-down style... if you let them run on you, you will get beat. They'll also immediately add Tyler Smith, one of the best freshmen in the Big 10 last year. With experience (especially after last year's tough Sweet 16 defeat), talent, and a tough style to play against, I like the Volunteers to reach San Antonio.
Memphis - They're really, really talented. I think the addition of Derrick Rose will be enough to push them to the Final Four, especially with guys like Chris Douglas-Roberts already in place and playing well. This will be an experienced group... they should get a #1 seed playing in C-USA (better than it's been in years past, but still not up to par with the Major conferences), and this will lead them on their drive to San Antonio.

Kansas - Like the other teams in my Final Four, they lose one guy (Julian Wright), but everyone else is back, making for an experienced, deep, and talented team. Assuming Brandon Rush is back healthy, they'll be tough to beat. Led by Mario Chalmers, they'll be really good defensively. Another thing to watch out for is the emergence of Darrell Arthur, who should come into his own starting this year in Julian Wright's spot. Bill Self finally reaches the Final Four

National Championship

UCLA over Kansas
OK, shouldn't have been too hard to guess that I'd pick UCLA. But they are going to be a fun team to follow this year.

What are your choices?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Someone you should know: Rashard Mendenhall

If most people were asked who the best RB in the Big 10 is, they might say Michael Hart. Or Chris Wells. Or PJ Hill. But how many people would say Rashard Mendenhall?

That's right, Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois, who might just be the best RB in the Big 10. If you haven't heard of him before, you probably aren't alone.

But taking a quick look at the numbers, this junior should probably be in the Heisman running right now. He is currently tied for 3rd in the NCAA (with Darren McFadden) in rushing yards, with 1314 so far this year. Even more impressive is that this has come on only 192 carries, giving him a disgusting 6.8 average. Oh, and he's also got 14 rushing touchdowns. He's also got 25 catches for 226 yards and a couple of TDs through the air.

His coming out party was when Illinois beat then #5 Wisconsin back in early October. All Mendenhall did in that game was get 19 carries for 160 yards and a couple of scores. He also caught 4 passes for 33 yards and 1 TD.

So Rashard Mendenhall is not a household name yet, but maybe he should be. He's probably got the talent to be. He is one of the main reasons why Ohio St. can't afford to look ahead to the game at The Big House in Michigan... because if they do, they might be going in there a 1-loss team.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Adrian Peterson is pretty much my hero

Before the season, I said he would be the Rookie of the Year.
After the Bears game, I said he was the most explosive RB in the NFL.
That might have been selling him short.

I have watched the Vikings my entire life. There have been only two players that I get excited just when I think about what they can do on a football field... the first was Randy Moss, and now there is Adrian Peterson.

The numbers are obviously, but just a part of what makes him so special and so fun and exciting to watch. But let's start with the numbers, because then tend to be more tangible.

- He now holds the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards rushing in one game. He did this in his 8th NFL game.
- Everyone knew that he would be running the ball all day, and he still was able to rack up 253 yards in the 2nd half.
- Halfway through his rookie season he has 1,036 yards rushing. My simple math skills tell me that this would have him on pace for 2,072 yards for the season. The rookie record is 1,808 yards. The overall single season record is 2,105 yards.
- Peterson is the first rookie ever to have 2 200-yard rushing games in his rookie season.

More intangibly speaking, he is breathtaking to watch. The cuts, the speed, the power, the vision. It's all there.

He has the power to run the ball inside. There were concerns about his so-called upright running style in college... well, those concerns seem to be gone. He does not shy away from contact, he lowers his shoulder and goes through the defender. He is one of the strongest running backs in the League.

Then there is the speed. On one play on Sunday Shawne Merriman looked like he had him on contain to the outside, and Peterson just simply beat him to the corner. On many other plays he just outran the defense. On Sunday he had TD runs of 64 and 46 yards. He has been a big play machine. This is said about a lot of guys and it's not always necessarily true, but Peterson is truly a threat to take it all the way anytime that he touches the ball.

Best RB in the NFL? I think it might be tough to argue with that right now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

NFL Picks Against the Spread 2007: Week 9

Sorry, been a hectic week... just my picks this week, as I continue with the drive to .500.

49ers (+3.5) over Falcons

Bengals (-1) over Bills

Browns (-1.5) over Seahawks

Eagles (+3.5) over Cowboys

Broncos (+3) over Lions

Packers (+2) over Chiefs

Patriots (-5) over Colts

Jaguars (+3) over Saints

Texans (+3) over Raiders

Vikings (+7) over Chargers

Bucs (-3.5) over Cardinals

Panthers (+4) over Titans

Redskins (-3.5) over Jets

Ravens (+9) over Steelers

Last Week: 7-5
Season: 53-55-7