**NFL Super Bowl Preview**

Posted: January 31, 2014 in NCAA, NFL, Rugby

NFL – Super Bowl XVIII – Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks – Sunday – 6:30pm – FOX – Metlife Stadium, NJ

National Anthem: Renee Fleming (opera singer)

Halftime Show: Bruno Mars with Red Hot Chili Peppers

Weather from weather.com: High of 50 degrees with a low of 28 degrees & 7-8 MPH wind — basically a non-factor

Companies who have paid the most for commercials: Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, Hyundai, Chrysler, and Coca-Cola

Current Line: Broncos by 2 points
Over Under: 48.5

For a neutral fan watching the game, this couldn’t be a better matchup. The NFL’s best defense against the NFL’s best offense. The Seahawks’s defense ranked first in both yards (273.6) and points allowed (14.4). They forced a NFL-best 39 turnovers, including 28 INTs led by All-Pro CB Richard Sherman who had 8 INTs. They’ve given up the least number of yards v the pass (172) and they will face the Broncos who lead the league in passing yards (340.3) and points scored (37.9) per game.

Everyone is well aware of all the honors Peyton Manning has received in his career. He has won the MVP award 4 times and this year he will win his 5th, which will be 2 more than any other player ever. He broke the NFL-record this year for passing yards and TDs. The only “blemish” on his record is that he has 1 ring while his competition have 3-4. A win on Sunday would end all debate and place him in the top 3 all-time. He is no doubt the sentimental favorite among the average NFL fan. In addition to his NFL expertise, he is a great off-the-field personality with hilarious commercials and a great United Way skit on SNL years ago. Overall, I think most people who only watch one NFL game a year will be rooting for Manning.

The Seahawks, however, have the make-up of the classic NFL champion. They have the best defense by a mile. Their secondary – The Legion of Boom – features size and speed which will be great matchups for the big WR’s of Denver. The front four also have the ability to get to the QB and will rattle Peyton throughout the game. The Seattle offense focuses on running the ball and not turning the ball over. They were an NFL-2nd-best in turnovers and led the league in turnover differential. They also were 4th overall in rushing led by Skittles fanatic Marshawn Lynch. Their QB Russell Wilson is a solid game-manager throwing for 26 TDs and 9 INTs this season. The X-factor in my opinion is WR Percy Harvin. He has played very little this season, but when healthy — which is what he claims now — he is fast and can cause problems for a mediocre Denver secondary.

Prediction: Seattle has the complete package of strong D, strong run game, and mistake-free football. Denver has the NFL’s best offense ever, but a defense that can be beat. I think if it’s a high-scoring game, you know the Broncos will win. But if you’re taking the under,  you have to bet Seattle. In my view, Seattle will keep Peyton in check in the first half and efficiently hold a 7 to 10 point lead. Then in the second half, when the nerves get stronger and emotions run high, experience always wins out. Second-year QB Russell Wilson and the rest of the young Seattle team are definitely winning a SB very soon, but this is Peyton’s time. Peyton will tie it up in the 4th quarter and seal the deal with a strong drive in the end. I think the Broncos win a great game 38-27.

Rugby – Six Nations – Begins this weekend

Italy @ Wales – Saturday – 9:30am
England @ France – Saturday – 12pm
Scotland @ Ireland – Sunday – 10am

NCAA Basketball – Best games this weekend

#17 Duke @ #2 Syracuse – 6:30pm – ESPN – Saturday
#6 Kansas @ #25 Texas – 4pm – ESPN – Saturday
#24 Ohio St @ #14 Wisconsin – 12pm – ESPN – Saturday
#10 Michigan @ Indiana – 1pm – CBS

Things to watch this weekend – You can assume the games I chose to watch in each sport feature teams with good records/matchups

Tennis – Australian Open

Going on now: Men’s Semi’s – Nadal leads Federer in the 3rd set after winning the first two sets — 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 2-3.

Winner to play Stanislas Warinka in the Men’s Final on Sunday – 3:30am – ESPN

Women’s Final on Saturday – 3:30am – ESPN – Li Na v Dominika Cubulkova

NHL – Three Best Games to watch this weekend

1. Rangers @ Devils – 12:30pm – Sunday – NBC – Game to played at Yankee Stadium
2. Canadiens @ Red Wings – 7:30pm – Friday – NHL Network
3. Bruins @ Flyers – 1pm – Saturday – NHL Network

NBA – Three Best Games to watch this weekend

1. Spurs @ Heat – 1pm – ABC – Sunday
2. Trail Blazers @ Warriors – 9pm – Sunday
3. Clippers @ Bulls – 8pm – ESPN – Friday

Also the NBA All-Star Game starters were announced:

East: Kyrie Irving, Dwayne Wade, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James
West: Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love

NCAA Basketball – Three Best Games to watch this weekend

1. #21 Michigan @ #3 Michigan State – 7pm – ESPN – Saturday
2. Florida State @ #18 Duke – 12pm – ESPN – Saturday
3. #2 Syracuse @ Miami – 1pm – CBS – Saturday

Soccer – Three Best Matches to watch this weekend

1. Bayern Munich @ Borussia Monchengladbach – 2:30pm – Friday

2. Stoke @ Chelsea – 10:30am – Sunday – FA Cup

3. AS Roma @ Hellas Verona – 6:30am – Sunday – Serie A

and finally…

2014 NFL Pro Bowl – Sunday – 7:30pm – NBC

This game will features teams picked fantasy-football style by the two captains – Jerry Rice & Deion Sanders.

you can see the lineups: http://probowl.fantasy.nfl.com/

I usually avoid the pro-bowl every year since no one really tries and there is no point to it, but considering the jumbled lineup of players, maybe this year will be more interesting. Doubtful.

**NBA Mid-Season Update**

Posted: January 22, 2014 in NBA
NBA – Mid-season Update

We are at the midpoint of the NBA regular season.

Stats Leaders
Points per game: Kevin Durant, Thunder – 30.9
Assists per game: Chris Paul, Clippers – 11.2
Field goal %: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers – 63.8%
Rebounds per game: DeAndrew Jordan – 13.7
Blocks per game: Anthony Davis, Pelicans – 3.0
Steals per game: Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves – 2.66

Team who scores most points per game: Trail Blazers -109.3
Team who gives up the least number of points per game: Pacers – 88.3
Team with the best 3-point %: Spurs – 40.3%
Team with the best free-throw %: Trail Blazers – 82.2%
Team with the best home record: Pacers – 21-1
Team with the best road record: Spurs – 15-3

Standings

East – the only teams above .500 are the first three teams – pretty pathetic conference – clearly Pacers v Heat is the likely East final
1. Pacers
2. Heat (+4)
3. Hawks (+12)
4. Raptors (+13)
5. Wizards (+13)
6. Bulls (+13)
7. Nets (+15)
8. Bobcats (+16.5)
—-
9. Pistons (+16.5)
10. Cavs (+18.5)
11. Knicks (+18.5)
12. Celtics (+20.5)
13. 76ers (+20.5)
14. Magic (+23)
15. Bucks (+26)

West –  much more competitive conference than East
1. Spurs
2. Trail Blazers (+1/2)
3. Thunder (+1.5)
4. Clippers (+4)
5. Rockets (+5)
6. Warriors (+7)
7. Mavericks (+8)
8. Suns (+8.5)
—-
9. Grizzlies (+11.5)
10. Nuggets (+11.5)
11. Timberwolves (+12)
12. Pelicans (+16)
13. Lakers (+16.5)
14. Kings (+16.5)

15. Jazz (+19)

NFL Playoffs

Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos – 6:30pm – Sunday, February 2nd – FOX – Metlife Stadium, Meadowlands, NJ – Broncos are favored by 2.5 points

Notes:

  • This is the first time since 2009 (Saints v Colts) that the #1 seed in each conference advanced to the SB. Last time before 2009 was in 1993 when the Bills faced the Cowboys.
  • The Broncos were the #1 ranked offense in terms of points scored and the Seahawks were the #1 defense in terms of points allowed. The last time this happened was in 1991 when the Giants faced the Bills – the Giants (top defense) won. The top defensive team has won 3 out of the last 4 of these kind of matchups.
  • Peyton Manning is the 4th QB ever to reach the SB after leading the league in both passing yards and TD passes. The other three – Marino, Warner, and Brady – all lost in that Super Bowl.
  • If Peyton wins the SB, he will be the first ever starting QB to win a SB for two different teams.
  • This year will be the first time a team outside the Eastern/Central time zone won the SB since the 1998 Broncos.

AFC Championship: Broncos beat the Patriots 26-16.

The Broncos amassed 507 yards of offense – the most ever allowed by a Belichick-coached Pats team. The big controversy is the 2nd quarter hit by Welker on the Pats top defenseman – CB Aqib Talib. The “pick-play” knocked Talib out for the game and opened up WR Demaryius Thomas (Talib’s responsibility) who finished with 134 yards receiving and 1 TD. Peyton was nearly perfect – he completed 32 of 43 passes for 400 yards and 2 TDs. Brady threw for 277 yards and 1 TD, but he missed a big pass to Edelman in the 1st quarter which would have given the Pats the early lead. The Patriots run game which dominated against the Colts was non-existent – they rushed for 64 yards total. Shockingly, Brady rushed for 7 yards, 1 more yard than LeGarrette Blount who rushed for 166 yards and 4 TDs against the Colts.

NFC Championship: Seahawks beat the 49ers 23-17.

Before the analysis, make sure you watch the Richard Sherman interview after the game with Erin Andrews on YouTube. No matter what you say, Sherman backs it up on the field.

The 49ers led for 3 quarters in this game, strongly due to Colin Kaepernick’s legs – he rushed 11 times for 130 yards. Unfortunately for him, he had 3 turnovers in the 4th quarter – only the first INT was really his fault though. The defense for both teams stepped up. Gore rushed for 14 yards and Kaepernick threw for 153 yards. Lynch rushed for 109 yards and 1 TD and Russell Wilson played well enough to win despite one big fumble late in the game. Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin had 6 catches for 106 yards and 109 kickoff return yards.

Soccer – Barclays Premier League

1. Arsenal – 51 points – Beat Fulham 2-0. Cazorla scored two goals.
2. Man City – 50 points – Beat Cardiff 4-2. Dzeko, Navas, Toure, and Aguero scored.
3. Chelsea – 49 points – Beat Man Utd 3-1 – Eto’o scored three goals.
4. Liverpool – 43 points – Drew Aston Villa 2-2. Sturridge and Gerrard scored.
5. Tottenham – 43 points – Beat Swansea 3-1. Adebayor scored two goals.
6. Everton – 42 points – Drew West Brom 1-1
7. Man Utd – 37 points – Lost to Chelsea 3-1.
8. Newcastle – 36 points – Beat West Ham 3-1. Cabaye scored two goals.
9. Southampton – 31 points – Drew Sunderland 2-2.
10. Aston Villa – 24 points – Drew Liverpool 2-2.

NFL Playoffs – Conference Championships – Sunday

I first have to acknowledge that these are two of the best matchups that NFL fans could have hoped for this weekend. These four team were among the pre-season favorites to win the SB this year and they were the best four teams this season record wise. In addition, they both includes rivalries which add an extra element.

AFC: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos – 3pm – CBS – Broncos are favored by 5 points

Beyond anything, the first thing about this game is the matchup at QB – Tom Brady v Peyton Manning. Both are guaranteed first ballot hall of famers. Both are among the best QB’s of our generation. In terms of their history, Brady holds a 10-4 advantage in their 14 meetings. In the playoffs, Brady leads 2-1.

When looking at the Patriots this year, you can’t help but be impressed. They’re roster on offense is filled with no big stars outside of Brady. He has no big name to throw to, once he lost Gronkowski. You can’t even compare Manning’s arsenal of top stars and Brady’s combo of Amendola, Edelman, Dobson, and Thompkins – non of which would be a #1 or probably a #2 on any team. Nevertheless, the Patriots continue to find ways to win which is a testament to their head coach and their QB. In the 12 healthy years of Brady/Belichick, the Patriots have played in the AFC championship 8 times! For all you non-Pats fans, you have to be envious of that achievement. This season despite all the injuries, they beat the Broncos at home 34-31 in OT after trailing 24-0 at half — so you know they’re resilient. Their ability to run the ball against the Colts will be a key factor in keeping Manning of the field. If the Pats win, Brady will play in his 6th Super Bowl and trying to win his 4th.

In terms of the Broncos, this is their year. Peyton Manning is 37 years old and may not get too many chances left. His 10-11 playoff record is less than stellar, but another SB win would solidify him as a great full season QB, not just regular season. His team is stacked on offense. He has four top targets to throw to: Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker (former Patriots), and Eric Decker. His running game with Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno will help keep Brady off the field the same way Blount and Ridley will attempt to do the same to Manning. The Broncos defense is not spectacular and they just lost one of their best DB’s – Chris Harris – to an ACL tear. Nevertheless, the Broncos need to take full advantage of this opportunity at home.

Prediction: First off, can you imagine if on the final drive for the Broncos, Manning throws a potential game-winning TD pass to former Patriot Wes Welker who is notorious for dropping big passes? Talk about drama. Aside from that, I hate betting against Brady b/c I usually lose but there’s not a fitting way to end the year than to beat Brady and head to NYC for the Superbowl. Broncos 35-31.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks – 6:30pm – FOX – Seahawks are favored by 3.5 points

This rivalry is two-fold. First it’s the 49ers v Seahawks, two division foes who have been contending for the division the last two years. But beyond that, this is Jim Harbaugh (49ers coach) v Pete Carroll (Seahawks coach). These two coaches were pitted against each other at the college level when Harbaugh coached at Stanford and Carroll coached at USC. From 2007-2009, Stanford beat USC two of the their three meetings including the big upset when Stanford, a 41-point underdog, won at then #2 USC. Fast forward to the pro’s, Harbaugh’s 49ers have beaten Carroll’s Seahawks 4 out of 6 times. The issue is the 49ers, as well as the rest of the league, have difficulty with Seattle at their CenturyLink field – home of the “12th man” — the loudest fans in the NFL. Both teams feature top 5 defenses, dynamic QB play and great running RBs. The 49ers advantage is their weapons in the pass game including WR Michael Crabtree, WR Anquan Boldin, and TE Vernon Davis. The Seahawks advantage is their mistake-free QB Russell Wilson and their shutdown secondary which has led to more turnovers than any other team in the league.

Prediction: The Seahawks are nearly unbeatable at home, but they are beatable as evidenced by the Cardinals this year. It’s no surprise that they team who beat them was a division opponent – meaning a team that knows them well (49ers are another division opponent). The 49ers got crushed in Seattle 29-3, but that was Week 2. The 49ers of late have won 8 games in a row. I know there are many people out there picking the 49ers to pull off the upset and it’s with good reason. I won’t be surprised if the Seahawks win, but I’m taking the 49ers as well 23-17.

Soccer – Chelsea @ Man Utd – 11am – Sunday – Chelsea is 3rd in the league with 46 points, trailing by 2 points. Man Utd is 7th in the league with 37 points. This is a huge Man Utd to get back in the race to make the top 4 (champions league).

NFL playoff update & A-Rod ruling

Posted: January 13, 2014 in MLB, NFL
NFL Playoffs

Next weekend – Conference Championship

AFC Championship: #2 New England Patriots @ #1 Denver Broncos – 3pm – CBS – Broncos are favored by 6 points

NFC Championship: #5 San Francisco 49ers @ #1 Seattle Seahawks – 6:30pm – FOX – Seahawks are favored by 3.5 points

Divisional round recap:

Seahawks beat the Saints 23-15. Seahawks led 16-0 in the 4th quarter. Lynch rushed for 140 yards and 2 TDs. Brees attempted a comeback after his dismal first half, but the Seahawks ran the ball well and and Wilson didn’t make a mistake. Colston had 11 catches for 144 yards and 1 TD.

Patriots beat the Colts 43-22. Pats rushed for 234 yards and 6 TDs. Blount had 166 yards rushing with 4 TDs & Ridley scored the other 2 TDs. Edelman had 6 catches for 84 yards. Luck again made costly errors – 4 INTs. In his three playoff games, he has thrown 8 interceptions. Hilton had 103 yards receiving. Brazill had 2 TD receptions.

49ers beat the Panthers 23-10. The 49ers defense showed up big, stopping the Panthers on the goal line several occasions. Gore rushed for 84 yards and Kaepernick threw for 196 yards and 1 TD and also rushed for 15 yards and 1 TD. Newton threw for 267 yards and rushed for 54 yards but he threw 2 INTs.

Funny Stat: Tim Tebow is the only Heisman winning QB to win a playoff game in the last 26 years.

Broncos beat the Chargers 24-17. Denver led 17-0 at half and the lead too much to overcome despite a rally from San Diego. The Broncos rushed the ball well – 133 yards including 82 from Moreno and 52 from Ball. Manning threw for 230 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Julius Thomas led the receivers with 76 yards receiving. Rivers threw for 217 yards and 2 TDs. Allen had 142 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Long drives by Denver was the key – 35 minutes of possession compared to San Diego’s 25 minutes.

MLB – Alex Rodriguez suspension was reduced from 211 games to 162 games (including playoffs) which means he’s out for the entire 2014 season. This ruling will cost A-Rod his $25 million salary for 2014. When the suspension ends in 2015, he will be owed $61 million through the end of the contract which is 2017. He will appeal, but as this point is unlikely to succeed.

NCAA FootballBCS National Championship – #1 Florida State v #2 Auburn – 8:30pm – ESPN – Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA – FSU is favored by 10 points

This game features FSU who went 13-0 with a relatively easy schedule – but they averaged 53 points a game and gave up 10.7 points per game – both tops in the nation. They have the Heisman Trophy Winner freshman Jameis Winston who threw for 38 TDs, 10 INTs and 3820 yards. On the other side of the ball are the Auburn Tigers who finished with a 12-1 record and the SEC championship. The last 7 BCS champions were SEC teams (including Auburn in 2010-2011). Just for the record, Florida State won the BCS championship back in 1999-2000. Back to Auburn – the issue with the SEC this year is that in bowl games, SEC teams have been unimpressive, notably with Alabama losing to OU and Georgia losing to Nebraska. Also for Auburn, they have been on the side of good fortune this year with a tipped hail mary pass to win the game v Georgia and a 109-yard field-goal kick return for a TD against Alabama. In terms of stats they have the #1 rushing offense in the nation – 335.7 yards – and they have two great players running the offense – QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason.

Prediction: This bowl season has been dismal for the SEC and I think this game will be the nail in the coffin – FSU wins big 42-24.

NFL Playoffs

Divisional Round Schedule for Next Weekend

NFC – Saturday – 4:30pm – #6 New Orleans Saints @ #1 Seattle Seahawks – FOX – Seattle is favored by 8 points
AFC – Saturday – 8pm – #4 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 New England Patriots – CBS – New England is favored by 7.5 points
NFC – Sunday – 1pm – #5 San Francisco 49ers @ #2 Carolina Panthers – FOX – 49ers are favored by 1.5 points
AFC – Sunday – 4:30pm – #6 San Diego Chargers @ #1 Denver Broncos – CBS – Denver is favored by 10 points

Wild Card Round Recap

Colts beat the Chiefs 45-44. Crazy game which featured the second biggest comeback in NFL history – Colts were down 38-10 in the third quarter and rallied back. Luck finished with 443 yards passing, 4 TDs and 3 INTs. TY Hilton had 224 yards receiving with 2 TDs. Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense, which lost RB Jamaal Charles early in the first due to a concussion, played well enough to win but their defense couldn’t stop the Colts in the second half. Smith threw for 378 yards and 4 TDs but had a big fumble caused by Mathis in the 3rd to kick-start the come-back. Chiefs won the turnover battle (4-1), had more first downs (30-28) and had 15 minutes more time of possession (37:33 to 22:27) but lost the game. Tough loss for the Chiefs, but what a turnaround for team that was 2-14 last season (worst in the league).

Saints beat the Eagles 26-24. Saints finally won their first road playoff game. Graham kicked a 32 yard field goal with no time remaining to win. Saints, like the Colts, lost the turnover battle (0-2) but still won. Saints surprisingly rushed for 185 yards, including 97 yards by Ingram, despite having Pierre Thomas inactive. Foles threw for 2 TD but only had 195 yards passing, his lowest total in 4 weeks. Brees threw for 250 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Graham only had 3 catches for 44 yards.

Chargers beat the Bengals 27-10. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and head coach Marvin Lewis (coach since 2003) is now 0-5 in the playoffs. In his 3 playoff games (all losses), Andy Dalton has 1 TD pass and 6 INTs. In this game threw 2 INTs and had one bad fumble where he dove forward and the ground caused the fumble. Most impressive part of the game was the Chargers running game – they rushed for 196 yards including 54 by Woodhead and 52 by Matthews. Rivers only completed 12 of 16 passes for 128 yards and 1 TD, but he didn’t make the mistakes that Dalton made.

49ers beat the Packers 23-20. The game wasn’t the coldest game ever (was actually above 0 degrees), but it was cold. Kaepernick’s 98 yards rushing was the difference in the game with his 7 rushes coming at key moments. Crabtree had 8 catches for 125 yards and Davis had a 28 yard TD catch. The Packers did well rushing the ball – 124 yards total including 81 yards by Lacy, but the defense, who played well enough to win, couldn’t stop the 49ers in the 4th quarter when they needed to. Rodgers threw for 177 yards and 1 TD.