Category Archives: Sports

Week 14 NFL Picks (ATS): Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

Cam Newton (photo by Pantherfan11)

On Monday, the New Orleans Saints ran into a buzz saw, when they got hammered at one of the most difficult NFL venues. Hey, no one wins in Seattle; however, what should concern Sean Payton is how his team appears to struggle against physical opponents. Now, Carolina brings its second-ranked defense to New Orleans in what basically amounts to a showdown for NFC South supremacy. Winners of eight straight, Carolina looks primed to give Drew Brees and company plenty of fits. That said, good teams tend to rebound from humiliating losses, and even with the short week, the odds favor New Orleans at home. Things will be different when the Saints travel to Carolina in a couple of weeks; but, right now, we don’t like Cam Newton’s outfit against a wounded opponent. Put your money on N.O. minus-3.5 points.

Bonus Picks:

Houston at Jacksonville (Line: Texans -3)

This spread seems a bit odd, especially since the Jaguars just beat Houston in Texas a couple weeks ago. We think most of the love comes from Houston’s strong performance against New England last week. Is it fool’s gold? We’re leery of a Texans letdown, but we’ll take Houston to avoid a sweep at the hands of their equally-sorry inter-division rival. Take the Texans minus-3 points.

St. Louis at Arizona (Line: Cardinals -6.5)

After their first loss in five games, the Cardinals head home, where they’ll face a once red-hot Rams team that got a nice wake-up call at San Francisco last week. How will each team rebound from disappointing losses? We expect the Cards to win, but the Rams are apt to keep things close. Take St. Louis plus-6.5 points.

Cleveland at New England (Line: Patriots -11.5)

After a scare in Houston, New England returns home, where they’ll face another lackluster opponent. Will they struggle again? Not likely. Blame last week’s near loss on an emotional letdown following a big win against Denver. Having learned its lesson, New England should start fast against Cleveland and its turnover prone quarterback, Brandon Weeden. Go with that Pats minus 11.5 points.

Why a College Football Playoff Will Ruin the Game

college-football

As most every college football fan knows by now, the leaders of the sport are currently banging their heads together, trying to come up with a four-team playoff system that will crown a legitimate national champion, while lining the right pockets at the same time.

Although most fans agree a playoff system is what’s best for the sport, a few still shudder at the idea. Worried that a four-team tournament will render all other bowls meaningless, they’ve long argued against such a plan, claiming that it will devalue the regular season and place undue burdens on student athletes.

Most realists agree that these excuses aren’t founded in reality; and to the delight of many long-suffering college football fans, there actually seems to be a very good chance they will see a playoff of some kind within the next two to three years.

Unfortunately, although a playoff may very well be the best thing to happen to NCAA football, most fans and analysts have failed to examine the impact it will have on the sport’s storied history.

The Pre-playoff Era

Two to three years from now, when fans finally get their wish; you can expect the television ratings for the inaugural NCAA football playoff to break records. Afterward, we’ll have the first so-called legitimate national champion the sport has ever seen. Unfortunately for past champions, their achievements will be devalued instantly.

Did your team win a national championship in the 1990s? It won’t matter. Once teams are actually forced to start earning their trophies, you might as well place asterisks next to everything that happened before. Soon, this period will become known as the “Pre-playoff Era” – and that you can take to the bank.

Remember the “Pre-Super Bowl Era,” when Bart Starr led the Green Bay Packers to multiple NFL championships and the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns were perennial title contenders? Of course you don’t. Such will be the case with the Pre-playoff Era in college football.

Change at a Price

Change is usually a good thing; however, it often comes at a price. While the new playoff era will most certainly bring fresh excitement to the sport; it will also cast a big shadow on everything that has come before. To all you Alabama fans celebrating last season’s national championship win: enjoy it before it turns to dust.

2012 NFL Draft: How the Dallas Cowboys Will Fail, Again

NFL-draft

As most Dallas Cowboys fans know, Jerry Jones is notorious for orchestrating some of the worst drafts in NFL history. Whether it’s over-reaching to fill positions of need or trading back to stockpile late-round picks, the team owner/GM has established a well-deserved reputation for draft day failures. This year, the Cowboys actually made some wise free agent signings that should allow them to draft the best available player – regardless of his position – instead of selecting based on need. That said, there’s still a very good chance that Jones will fall back into old patterns and try to strengthen areas of weakness by taking less-talented players too high in the first round.

Who the Cowboys Should Take

With the 14th pick in the first round, Dallas is well-positioned to nab an impact player. Any one of the following would be a wise selection:

  • Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis – This guy can impact the team by making two positions better. At nose tackle, he’s an upgrade over the undersized Jay Ratliff. His addition would also allow Ratliff to move to end, where he’d be a big upgrade over what they had last year. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, Jones has made it clear he will be keeping Ratliff in the middle, where he will continue to be swallowed up by double-teams.
  • David DeCastro, OG, Stanford – This may not be a sexy pick; but it is a smart one. This guy is head-and-shoulders the best at his position and would immediately give Dallas a strong, athletic o-line.
  • Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama – Not only is he an upgrade over Michael Jenkins, Kirkpatrick could be moved to free safety, which has been a problem area in Dallas for over a decade.
  • Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State – Jones may have to trade up to get him, but he would instantly provide the penetration and pass rush the team so desperately needs.

Who Dallas Will Take

Jerry Jones is known for not learning from past mistakes. Here’s who he will probably take instead:

  • Mark Barron, SS, Alabama – Years ago, Jones took Oklahoma safety Roy Williams with the 7th overall pick. Barron is a carbon copy of Williams, who was a big hitter but lacked coverage skills.
  • Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama – Cowboys fans were incensed when Jones tabbed underachieving outside linebacker Anthony Spencer with the franchise tag. They’ll be even angrier if the Cowboys select Upshaw, who is a lot more like Spencer than DeMarcus Ware.
  • Michael Brockers, DT, LSU – A few years ago, Dallas drafted another LSU defensive end named Marcus Spears. A solid run-stopper, Spears has frustrated fans by not providing any substantial pass rush. Brockers has shown signs of dominance; however, he’s been part of a rotational system that keeps him rested. In the NFL, he’ll tire quickly and many scouts have expressed concern that he doesn’t give full effort on a consistent basis.

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Who Will Bust?

Andrew-Luck

You don’t have to look far to find a 2012 NFL mock draft predicting which team will take which player; however, few have gone so far as to predict which players will bust. Today, let’s take a look at which overrated players are most likely to disappoint their new clubs by under-performing once they hit the big show. Instead of creating yet another mock draft, we’ll use SCOUTS INC.’S TOP 32 players available. Bear in mind, it’s unlikely that these names will appear in this order come draft day, as all teams have their own ranking systems and some are bound to draft out of pure need. That said, this should give us a good idea of what we should see on Thursday.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford, Projection: Indianapolis Colts

Most every 2012 NFL mock draft has Luck going to the Colts to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes. He won’t be a bust in the traditional sense; but he will be perceived as a bust of sorts in the eyes of many Colts fans. Much as Tony Romo cannot escape the shadow of Troy Aikman – despite having one of the best passer ratings in NFL history – Luck will forever chase the ghost of Manning and will ultimately be judged a miss, especially since he’ll face pressure from two fronts: Manning and Robert Griffin III, who will accomplish far more during his career in Washington.

4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama, Projection: Cleveland Browns

I’m not even going to say running backs don’t belong in the top ten when you consider that today’s NFL revolves around the passing game. Everyone else is saying that already. Instead, I’ll focus on Richardson, himself. He’s a big, strong, lumbering back that lacks break-away speed. Sound familiar, Cleveland? Just look at the weak impact Mark Ingram had for the New Orleans Saints last season, and you’ll get a preview of what Richardson will bring. These days, NFL teams need quick, fast backs that can run around defenders. Richardson could consistently power through defenders in college; it won’t happen in the NFL.

9. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M, Projection: Miami Dolphins

When need meets so-called upside, you get a second round talent like Ryan Tannehill drafted in the top ten of the first round. This guy is not mentally ready to lead an NFL offense, and he may never be. Originally a wide receiver for the Aggies, Tannehill has enough arm strength and athletic ability to compete with the best. What does that matter? The guy hasn’t shown any intangibles, pocket presence, football smarts and his accuracy is inconsistent. If he was two inches shorter, he’d fall to the fourth or fifth round. That’s how you know he’s being judged purely on potential instead of demonstration.

11. Mark Barron, S, Alabama, Projection: Dallas Cowboys

Nearly every 2012 NFL mock draft has Barron landing in Dallas, where safety problems have plagued the Cowboys for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, this guy isn’t your ball-hawking roamer (think Ed Reed). Instead, he’s a slow, hard-hitting safety (think former Dallas safety Roy Williams). These days, teams don’t need run support from safeties; they need coverage. This guy is not going to be able to handle fast, athletic NFL tight ends. Barron is like a carbon copy of Roy Williams, who was a team leader and dominant player at Oklahoma. If Dallas drafts him, it will be making the same mistake it made nearly a decade ago, when it drafted a throw-back player who had no business in today’s modern passing league.

2012 Texas Rangers: The Best MLB Team Ever?

Texas Rangers (photos by mjl816 and Red3biggs)

Out to an 11-2 start that has them seven games ahead of the heavy-spending Los Angeles Angels, the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers look far-and-away better than any other AL or NL contender. Currently in the midst of a 6-game road winning streak that saw them dominate a formidable Detroit Tigers team which currently holds the second best record in the AL, the Rangers are the only team to have successfully combined pitching, speed, power and average. After 13 games, it looks as if this team has few if any weaknesses, which has many wondering if Texas can make a run at the MLB all-time single season win mark of 116.

Talent Everywhere

Over the past two years, the Rangers have leaned heavily on offensive production; however, these days, it’s the pitching that’s carrying the team. Colby Lewis now looks like a legitimate ace; Matt Harrison and Derek Holland have emerged as consistent performers; and Yu Darvish and Neftalí Feliz have combined to create the most dominant 4 and 5 starter combination in the league. Currently, Texas starters are 9-0 with an average ERA well under 3. What’s more, the bullpen looks as strong as ever, thanks to Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and a host of other talented young arms.

The previous two seasons, the Rangers faced all sorts of injury concerns that caused them to struggle at different points during the regular season. This year, they are enjoying good health throughout the lineup. The team has looked dominant in nearly every game it’s played; and the two losses Texas endured came in games it probably should have won.

What Can Stop Them?

If the Rangers have one weakness, it may actually be in the bullpen. Closer Joe Nathan has looked wobbly at times; however, the team could easily replace him with Ogando or Adams if need be. That said, if there’s anything that can stop Texas from making a run at the best all-time MLB regular season record, it may be Texas, itself. The hot climate can have a tiring effect on players and could lead to some bad stints at certain points throughout the summer.

All things considered, however, this club looks to have all the parts necessary to have a chance to win every game it plays all season long.

Steve Nash to Lakers? NBA Star says Everything in Play

Steve-Nash

With his Phoenix Suns struggling to qualify for the playoffs, Steve Nash is growing frustrated with his team’s lack of ambition. Prior to the trade deadline, there was serious speculation that had the NBA star being traded to the Lakers, the Heat and a host of other contenders. To the delight of Suns fans, the trade deadline passed without any movement; however, with the star point guard set to become a free agent this summer, many believe he’ll be jumping ship for a chance at an NBA title.

Recently, Nash appeared on Jim Rome’s nationally-syndicated talk show, where he was asked about his frustration with the team’s talent level. According to the league’s current leader in assists per game, he’s trying to be patient.

“It is tough, but I understand what they are doing,” he said. “They want to get as much flexibility this summer to do something substantial. I couldn’t fault them for that. You know, it’s difficult to not try to improve the team, especially as we get close to the playoffs here; but, you know, I understand.”

Although he clearly has no desire to create a media stir, Nash admitted he may leave Phoenix when he becomes a free agent after this season.

“Obviously, everyone wants to be a contender; everyone wants to have great players on their roster,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a tough decision, but I wouldn’t want to say that anything is not in play right now. But if I’m going to come back to Phoenix, I definitely want to see an ambitious move to become a contender again.”

Many analysts believe Steve Nash would be a perfect addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, who have struggled to establish consistent momentum all season. According to the long-time Sun, that wouldn’t be out of the question.

“I think, for me, everything is in play,” he said. “I’m going to just take some time after the season and evaluate what it is I want to do and what the different options are. It’s not necessarily my style to chase a championship; but at the same time, I’d say if the right situation afforded me the opportunity to get a championship or to play in the finals, I’ll definitely consider it strongly.”

Although he admits he would very much like to play in the NBA finals for a chance at a championship title; Nash said he can live without a ring.

“I know a lot of great players haven’t won championships; and I know that a lot of mediocre players have. It’s a team game, and if you’re lucky enough to play on a team that gets a chance to win it; you’re fortunate. But if you don’t, I don’t think it’s like a pivotal thing in your life.”