Monday, August 31, 2009

How did Brett Favre look?

Tonight we got our first real extended look at Brett Favre since he joined the Minnesota Vikings, as he played the first half plus one series against the Houston Texans. A week ago, he played in 2 series and completed 1 of 4 passes against the Kansas City Chiefs. From all accounts, the offense was very rusty with Favre last week, as he had only been with the team for a couple days.

Things looked much more comfortable for Favre and the Vikings against the Texans, as Favre completed 13 of 18 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. He was making good decisions, and making throws putting the Vikings many playmakers in position to make plays.

With guys like Adrian Peterson (who had a 75 yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage), Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin, the Vikings have lots of guys that can make plays. Defenses have a lot of guys they will have to focus on, and that could lead to some big plays if Favre can get the ball in their hands, which he looked much more comfortable doing tonight. That trend should continue as they get more reps together and the QB and WRs can get a better sense of what the others are going to do.

The biggest thing was touched on by Adam Schefter at halftime... Favre didn't make mistakes. He is the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions, and has a tendency to try and force plays when nothing is there. He can't do that this year if the Vikings are just going to be successful, as he needs to just let the defense and running game lead the team, and take whatever the opposing defense is going to give him. He was able to do that here.

The Vikings didn't have a lot of success down the field... Favre aired it out one time to Jaymar Johnson, but nothing came of it. Again, that is stuff that tends to happen when they have more practice time together, so we will just have to see how that develops.

All in all, a successful showing from Favre and the Vikings. He looked a lot more comfortable this week, and should look even better with a couple more weeks of practice left before the season opener against the Cleveland Browns.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NFC North Predictions

The NFC North was a division that experienced a lot of change in the offseason. In 2008, it was considered a pretty weak division when the Minnesota Vikings won it, but in 2009 it appears to be much stronger, with 3 teams battling for supremacy. It should be one of the most intriguing division races in the NFL.

The cellar will again be occupied by the Detroit Lions, but they should be much improved. Of course, it is impossible not to improve on their 0-16 season, but that's beside the point. The biggest change is at the top, with Jim Schwartz as the new head coach. After coming over from the Tennessee Titans, he is attempting to instill a new attitude in the franchise. A big part of that will be Matthew Stafford, the number 1 pick in the NFL Draft, a QB with a ton of physical tools, who will undoubtedly see the field at some point this season.

The Green Bay Packers should be much improved, as they were one of the youngest teams in the NFL last season. Aaron Rodgers should be more comfortable in the passing game, and that should make the passing game very potent. The biggest key for the Packers success will be how well they can transition to the 3-4 defense. Dom Capers is trying to make the change this season, and Green Bay will be in the hunt for the division crown if they can make the transition seamless.

There is a lot of excitement around the Chicago Bears, mostly due to the addition of quarterback Jay Cutler. He was acquired in a trade from the Denver Broncos, and gives the Bears an elite quarterback that they have not had for a long-time. While their receiving options are inexperienced, Cutler will make everyone on the offense better. If the defense can recapture its form from the Super Bowl team, then the Bears will be strong contenders for the NFC North title.

Last, there is the Minnesota Vikings, who will be looking to repeat and make it back to the playoffs. The biggest change, of course, is the late addition of Brett Favre. After numerous struggles at the quarterback position over the past few season, Brad Childress is hoping that the 40 year-old Favre can bring stability to the most important position in football. He will have plenty of options, with Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, and Percy Harvin to gather the attention of opposing defenses. This offense, in addition to one of the best defenses in football, should be enough to repeat in the division, in my mind.

So the NFC North will be one of the most interesting and competitive divisions in football, with the Vikings, Bears, and Packers all looking like legitimate contenders. I think the Minnesota Vikings will repeat as division champions, but opinions are varied. It will be fun to see how things turn out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NFC South Predictions

Every year there seems to be a new face atop the NFC South. In a League that is full of change and unpredictably, no division in the NFL exemplifies that more than the NFC South. Over the past 5-10 years, each team in the division has had their degrees of success and division titles, which is not always the case in other divisions. Once again, entering the 2009 season the division race looks wide open.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will probably occupy the cellar of the division, as they are in the midst of a lot of change. They will have a new head coach, new quarterback, and a lot of new pieces on defense. They made it clear that they were looking to rebuild, as they did not spend a lot of their free cap space, and drafted QB Josh Freeman in round 1. They have some nice young pieces, but they won't be contending for a division title this season.

The New Orleans Saints look like they will be the 3rd place team in this division. They have a very explosive offense (led by Drew Brees), but the defense will once again be very suspect. Expect them to air it out often like last year, with Brees getting lots and lots of passing yards. He is one of the best QBs in the League, and perfectly suited for Sean Payton's offense. However, they will need a more consistent running attack from guys like Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush if they are going to have any chance to contend in the division.

I believe the Carolina Panthers will be in second place in the division, just one year after winning it and getting a first round bye. If their running back committee of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart can stay healthy, they will again have one of the best running attacks in the NFL. However, I am still not sold on Jake Delhomme. At this point in his career, he seems like a guy just good enough to get by in the regular season, but not good enough to take a team places in the postseason.

That leaves the Atlanta Falcons, who I think will be the best team in the division. They are led by 2nd year QB Matt Ryan, who is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. He adds another weapon to his disposal with TE Tony Gonzalez, one of the best tight ends of all-time. With Michael Turner back and an improving defense, the Falcons should continue to get better under coach Mike Smith. They should win the division and could be one of the best teams in the NFC.

So the NFC South should be a wide open division once again. The division race seems to be between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, but the New Orleans Saints have the firepower to sneak in there and make some noise. I like the Falcons to eventually prevail, but it will be an interesting and entertaining division race to watch this season.

What is your prediction?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Who will be the newcomers in the NFL Playoffs in 2009?

It seems like every year in the NFL there is plenty of turnover in who makes the playoffs and who misses out. In a League with ultimate parity, a team can rise from nowhere to make the playoffs, much like the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons did a season ago. 2009 will be no different, as there will almost certainly be multiple teams that will make the playoffs in 2009 that missed out in 2008.

First and foremost, the New England Patriots. With the return of Tom Brady, they could be the most dangerous team in the NFL, and have to be considered the favorite to win the AFC East and get back to the playoffs. They will have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, with Brady pitching throws to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Joey Galloway. Look for them to lead the NFL in scoring and make it back to the playoffs after a one year hiatus.

The Houston Texans have a longer playoff drought than anyone else in the NFL, but they should be a very dangerous team in 2009. With offensive weapons like Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson, they have the potential to be one of the most explosive offenses in the League if they can all remain healthy. The defense, led by Mario Williams, needs to get better. If it does, the Texans could get to the playoff for the first time in the history of their franchise.

The Dallas Cowboys were widely regarded as one of the favorites in the NFC last season, but they collapsed in the 2nd half, causing them to miss the playoffs all together. However, they certainly have all of the pieces in place to be a very dangerous team. Led by Tony Romo and a vaunted rushing attack featuring Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, the offense will be potent under OC Jason Garrett. The defense is led by DeMarcus Ware, who might be the best defensive player in the NFL. If they can put it all together and be disciplined, they will be in the thick of things in the NFC.

Next there is the Seattle Seahawks, who just got hit with a bevy of injuries last season which doomed things before the start. Matt Hasselbeck is back and looking very good so far. The addition of WR TJ Houshmanzadeh will help the offense be more explosive, and rookie LB Aaron Curry will be a nice boost for the defense. If they can remain healthy, they will be a dangerous team under first year coach Jim Mora Jr.

It seems like every year we experience a lot of turnover in the NFL playoffs, and there is no reason to think that 2009 will be any different. Look for teams like the Patriots, Texans, Cowboys, and Seahawks to be very dangerous and threaten for playoff spots in 2009.

Article can also be found here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rick Pitino

I defer to Jeff Pearlman of for my thoughts, as he says it best:
If you are a parent, and your son is considering an offer to play basketball at the University of Louisville, you need to reconsider.

Really, you do.

I know ... I know. Rick Pitino rebuilds programs, wins championships and turns out pros. That, there's no denying. But Rick Pitino also cheated on his wife and five children in a restaurant with a woman (who in a strange twist of fate later became his co-worker's wife), and gave said woman $3,000 -- which depending on whose side you believe, to have an abortion (her claim) or buy health insurance (his).

Oh, then he "mans up" (the most meaningless phrase in the history of sports vernacular) and admits to his transgressions ... six years later after she allegedly attempts to extort $10 million from him.

EDIT: Also, the founder of the group Cardinals for Life:

Meanwhile a student group at the University of Louisville called for the school to fire Pitino due to a morality clause in his contract that states the coach can be terminated for "acts of moral depravity."

Abortion should count as a morally depraved act, said Matt Foushee, who founded the group Louisville Cardinals for Life.

"The real root of this issue is that we have someone who would've been a six-year-old boy or girl right now, who is dead," Foushee said. "And the tragedy is that it is not being seen as a problem. (Pitino is) being seen as the victim."


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Best Baseball Players of the 1950s

The 1950s were a great time for Major League baseball. The game was just starting to become properly integrated, fan interest was high, and there were a lot of stars playing the game. Free from a lot of the scandal that hangs around the game in the modern era, baseball was truly America's sport, and the stars of the game were loved.

One of the biggest stars of the 1950s was Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, one of the most famous players in baseball history.
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He won 3 MVP Awards in his career (including back-to-back awards in 1956 and 1957), and is one of the most talented players in ever step on the diamond. He struggled with some durability issues for most of his career, but when he was on the field he was a terror. His OPS+ ranks him 6th all-time, and with over 500 homeruns in his career he is one of the best power hitters ever.

Depending on who you ask, some people consider Willie Mays the best CF of all-time and one of the 5 greatest players of all-time. Defensively, he may have been the best to ever roam CF, as we all remember his over-the-shoulder catch at the Polo Grounds in the World Series. He was also a very dangerous hitter, and his 660 HRs are currently 4th in the history of MLB. He was definitely one of the most complete players in the history of the game, and perhaps the best of the 1950s.

Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, was one of the best SS's in baseball history, and he was at his peak during the 1950s, winning 2 NL MVP awards. Twice he led the league in HR, and was one of the best power hitters of the decade, especially impressive as a SS. He finished his career with 512 HR and over 1600 RBI, which again are especially great numbers coming from a shortstop, historically more of a defensive position.

Then there was Yogi Berra, a 3-time MVP winner and one of the most colorful characters in baseball history. Playing for the New York Yankees, he is probably one of the 3 best catchers to ever play in the MLB. In addition to his 3 MVPs, he placed in the top 10 four other times in his career, a testament to what the media and fans thought of him during his playing career. Any look at the best players of the 1950s has to include him.

So there were a lot of stars during the 1950s... these are just a few of the best players of the decade, one of baseball's most interesting eras.

NCAA Players to Watch in 2009

After the 2009 college basketball season, there were a lot of talented underclassmen that left school early to enter the NBA Draft. Guys like Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Johnny Flynn, and James Harden all would have been among the best players in the college game if they had returned to school. However, even with their defections to the NBA, there are plenty of exciting NCAA players to watch in 2009.

Perhaps the best big man return to school is Cole Aldrich out of Kansas. He had a breakout season as a sophomore, being one of the key cogs for a surprise Kansas team. He averaged a double-double over the course of the year, and really showed refined skills in the post. He could have been a lottery pick this year, and will look to dominate the Big 12, possibly challenging for the Wooden Award. Greg Monroe is another exciting big man to watch, as his versatile game could lead to him being a top 3 pick in next June's NBA Draft.

There are many great forwards returning to the college game. Best among them might be Luke Harangody out of Notre Dame. He put up 23 points and 12 rebounds per game as a junior, and showed a more versatile skill set scoring the basketball than he had in his early Notre Dame days. He will look to help lead the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season.

Kyle Singler returns for Duke, and he is one of the most athletic and complete players in the college game. He can play either on the perimeter or on the block, and should be a huge asset for the Blue Devils after losing Gerald Henderson to the draft. Then there is Damion James, another versatile wing, who plays for Texas. He is a 3/4 tweener... big enough to bang down low, but quick enough to play on the perimeter. He will look to parlay a solid senior season in a first round draft pick.

Sherron Collins might be the most exciting guard returning in 2009. He can score in bunches for Kansas, from anywhere on the court. He is very quick off the dribble, and has lots of range. He showed a penchant for hitting big shots, and will be the leader of the national title favorites. Willie Warren from Oklahoma is another exciting player returning, as he will look to lead Oklahoma back near the top of the Big 12 even with the loss of Blake Griffin, the best player in college basketball last season.

So while there was a lot of exciting talent that left for the NBA after last season, there are still plenty of exciting NCAA players coming back in 2009 that will be a lot of fun to watch.