Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for January, 2011

Conference Championship Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 21, 2011

Last week: 2-2  Playoffs: 4-4

In many ways, this playoff year is a microcosm of the regular season.  We’ve seen both number one seeds lose in rather emphatic fashion on their home field, while both six seeds are alive and well. I knew all along that my goal of a perfect 11-0 record in the playoffs was a longshot, but I didn’t expect it blow up in the first game with a win by the 7-9 Seahawks.  No one picked that game correctly, and I don’t know of anyone who actually picked the Patriots to lose at home with a straight face.  The fact that the Pats had beat the Jets 45-3 in the regular season only to lose to them a month later and look very bad doing it, well that has to rank up there with one of the biggest playoff upsets in history.  What will we see this weekend?  I wish I could tell I know for sure, but here is my best guess:

AFC Championship: Steelers over Jets – In many ways I feel like the Jets keep winning just to spite me.  All season long I’ve felt they are the most overrated team in the league.  I think if they played in say, St. Louis and not New York, they wouldn’t get near the coverage that they do and wouldn’t be the media’s darlings.  I think the Jets were lucky in at least four of their wins during the year.  They only won in Denver thanks to a horrible pass interference call on fourth down.  They needed overtime to win in Cleveland. They only won at Detroit thanks to a bizarre Ndamokong Suh missed extra point and poor clock management by the Lions.  They only won against Houston because of a poor use of prevent defense by the Texans.  You get the idea, the Jets have several wins based strictly on luck and luck alone.  I will admit they have a lot of talent on their team, and they carry themselves with such confidence that they feel they can beat anyone.  In their two playoff games, they managed to shut down offenses led by two of the best of all-time, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  The Jets also managed to shut down Ben Roethlisberger in their regular season meeting, one of the Jets’ legit wins, at Heinz Field no less.

So why do I think the Jets won’t win at Heinz Field again?  Well, I just don’t trust them ultimately.  I think the Jets will play with confidence, I think the defense will be effective, and I think Santonio Holmes will have a good game against his former club.  I also however think the Steelers are not quite getting the credit they deserve.  They managed to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit against Baltimore last week.  No one does that.  I think the Steelers defense will force at least two turnovers against Mark Sanchez.  I also think the Jets running game has very little chance to be effective against one of the best run defenses in the league.  I also think the Steelers know how to win.  Most of the roster was around for at least one if not both of their recent Super Bowl victories.  I think this will be a low scoring competitive game, but I think Roethlisberger will be better than Sanchez and that will be the difference.  Pittsburgh 20 Jets 17.

NFC Championship Game: Packers over Bears – It should tell you all you need to know that the Packers are favored even though they’re on the road.  Green Bay has the look of a team that is playing so well at the right time that no one in their right mind should want to get in their way.  Aaron Rodgers is playing perfect football, making every perfect decision while making tough throws.  The Packers’ defense has been nothing short of dominant against Michael Vick and Matt Ryan.  The Packers also are a team that is not afraid to play on the road, and has proven an ability to win in any kind of weather.  As for the Bears, they have had a fine season, winning the division.  In their win against the Seahawks, they showed their defense is among the best in the league and they also showed they can run the ball with effectiveness.  Jay Cutler even lost his head and played a very good game, actually making smart decisions while not turning the ball over.  This shapes up for an epic conference title matchup on paper.

In actuality, I think this will be a mismatch.  I think the Bears were nothing short of lucky to get to beat up on the under .500 Seahawks last week, and I think their victory is more a reflection of how bad Seattle is than how good Chicago might be.  When that game was 7-0, Cutler threw a pass to a wide open Jordan Babineaux of Seattle, who promptly dropped the sure interception.  Had he picked Cutler off, he would have had a sure touchdown for there was nothing in front of him.  Had Babineaux taken that to the house, the game might have turned out very differently.  Green Bay played a complete game in destroying the top seed Falcons in the Georgia Dome.  I think even though this is at Solder Field, the home field edge will be negligible because the Packers are obviously used to cold weather.  I think Aaron Rodgers is playing so well that he will be good for at least three touchdown passes.  I also think the Bears offense could be in for a long day, particularly if Green Bay jumps to an early lead.  The bottom line is I trust Rodgers way more than I do Cutler.  I think the Bears are here because of their defense and running game, but as well as the Packers are playing on both sides of the ball, I don’t think it will matter much what Chicago does.  I really don’t think this is going to be close.  Green Bay 31 Chicago 17.

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Broncos Hire John Fox

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 13, 2011

John Elway just announced a few minutes ago that former Panthers coach John Fox has been hired as the new coach for the Denver Broncos.  Fox beat out four other candidates for the job, including longtime Bronco player and assistant Rick Dennison, who was considered to be the favorite. 

My gut reaction to this choice is that I love it.  I know Carolina had a horrible year this year, but Fox had built a team there that sustained great success for a number of years.  The Panthers were 1-15 in 2001 the year before Fox took over, and in 2003 they were in the Super Bowl, and only an Adam Vinatieri field goal prevented them from winning the thing.  That’s not to say the Broncos will be in the Super Bowl in 2012, but Fox has turned teams around before, so that gives me confidence that he’s capable of turning around the mess that’s surfaced in Denver. 

The other reason I like the choice is that Fox is an excellent defensive mind.  The Broncos have dealt with serious defecencies on defense for the past five seasons, and Fox is exactly the type of guy the Broncos need to generate improvement on that side of the ball.  He is an experienced coach, which the Broncos need because the roster is a mess.  I think it will take time to turn this team around, but I like this choice.  Now the Broncos can begin the process of rebuilding trust with the fan base and moving forward.

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Wild Card Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 7, 2011

Regular Season record: 150-105

I’m going to venture a guess that I wasn’t the only one who got swamped in the last two weeks of December, hence why you have to go hunting for my picks from the last two regular season weeks.  We ended up with a 58 percent success rate on picking games this season, which was well short of the 67 percent from the 2009 season.  The plus side for me is that I lasted until week 16 in the eliminator pool this year, finally getting done in by San Diego’s pitiful performance in Cincinnati.  With the playoffs starts a new slate and the goal is to go through a playoff year 11-0 once in my lifetime.  I have never done it, and will probably never be able to successfully do it, but it’s a goal nonetheless.  Here we go with the picks for the four wild card games:

– Saints over Seahawks: If this were a regular season game, I wouldn’t waste my breath writing about it.  This is a complete mismatch, so much so that the host Seahawks are 10 and a half point underdogs.  Seattle is in the playoffs with a losing record thanks to winning the worst division in NFL history.  I mean really, is anyone in Seattle proud to be wearing a Seahawks NFC West champions shirt after a 7-9 season?  The Saints destroyed the Seattle at the Superdome in week 11, with 34-19 final score not an indicator of how much a blowout it was due to a late Seattle touchdown in the closing seconds.  Even though the Saints are without running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, they won’t need them.  Drew Brees should have a field day as he always does, and the Seahawks offense will likely struggle to move the football against the Saints, just like they have struggled offensively in pretty much every game this season.  This game is example A for why the playoff format is for the birds.  We really don’t want to see the 7-9 Seahawks when a pair of 10-6 NFC teams (the Giants and Buccaneers) are stuck at home.  The Saints will win this by at least two touchdowns

– Colts over Jets: Indianapolis wasn’t themselves this season, and that was clear thanks to their numerous injuries and a down year for Peyton Manning, but the Colts still managed to win four in a row to end the regular season, and if the league doesn’t look out they might just be primed for a playoff run.  I make this pick based partially on the fact that I do think the Colts could be about to get hot, but I also think that the Jets are the luckiest and most overrated team in the league this season.  The Jets got exposed in December with bad losses to the Patriots, Dolphins and Bears, and during the season they needed fluke late circumstances to beat the Broncos, Lions, Browns and Texans.  That’s a lot of wins that I think were strictly luck for the Jets.  They do have a lot of savvy veterans, but so do the Colts.  Indy is also going to be highly motivated since they’re a perceived underdog on their home field.  Besides, I’ll take Peyton Manning over Mark Sanchez every time. 

– Ravens over Chiefs: Baltimore was my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, and I am going to stick with them.  The Ravens finished 12-4 during the regular season and appear to have all the pieces in place to potentially make a run.  Baltimore has won three road playoff games in the past three seasons under John Harbaugh, so they know what it takes to win in January.  For that reason, Arrowhead Stadium won’t be a problem for them, particularly since Arrowhead isn’t what it used to be thanks to the new club seating and the Chiefs misfortunes of the past decade.  The Chiefs have had a nice bounce back season thanks to a strong running game, but it will be interesting to see if Jamaal Charles can make any headway against one of the best run defenses in the league.  I like the Ravens’ ability to have offensive balance in this game, but I also like their ability to toughen up defensively and slow down the Chiefs.  I think this could be close early, but in the end I think the Ravens win without too much difficulty. 

– Packers over Eagles: This should be the most entertaining game of the weekend.  Green Bay was my preseason Super Bowl pick out of the NFC, and I think they do have the tools to make a playoff run.  The Eagles are everyone’s sexy playoff pick because of Michael Vick, but he has really struggled in his last two appearances against the Giants and Vikings.  I know the Eagles came back and won in New York, but they were down 31-10 in the fourth quarter.  Against the Vikings, Vick had no answer for any of Minnesota’s blitzes, and I think the Packers will employ many of the same tactics, which they used successfully against Jay Cutler in week 17.  I also think Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game could be poised for a big afternoon against the Eagles’ secondary.  This will be close, but a hunch says the Packers will win, and I think that will mean three of the four visiting teams will win this weekend.

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Is It April Yet?

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 4, 2011

 It’s been really depressing around here the past few months for us Denver sports fans.  The Broncos have just finished their worst season in more than 30 years, the Nuggets know their star player is getting traded and the Buffs failed to qualify for a bowl for the fourth time in the past five years.  At least the Avalanche are winning, but no one notices because the NHL doesn’t get any coverage.  That’s why I can’t wait for the calendar to turn to April, and we can get baseball season started.  Strange as it sounds, the Rockies are the best product in the Denver sports scene, and it may not even be close now that they have locked up their two best players through 2017.

In November the Rockies signed Troy Tulowitzki to a seven year $134 million deal.  They followed that up this week by agreeing to a seven year $80 million deal with Carlos Gonzalez.  What makes the Gonzalez deal so surprising is he is represented by Scott Boras, who is notorious for not allowing his players to accept hometown discounts.  A Boras client almost always lets himself get to free agency, where he can cash in a megadeal on the open market.  I say almost because Gonzalez is the only Boras client I can think of who has actually agreed to stay with his current team.  In any case, Rockies fans should be dancing in the streets celebrating these signings.  Sure the money is staggering, but the Rockies are finally doing what they refused to do for the first 15 years of their existence, lock up their star players.  Look at teams like the Royals, Twins, Padres and other smaller market clubs that never spend the money to retain their best players.  If the Rockies hadn’t made an effort to keep Tulo and CarGo, they would have surely been members of the Red Sox or Yankees in three years.

I find it laughable that national reaction to these signing is not positive.  After all the Rockies are doing what we continually criticize small market clubs for not doing: keeping their best players in the fold.   An ESPN.com poll finds that more than half of fans think this is a bad investment on the part of the Rockies.  I think the only reason that poll is slanted that way is because most national fans have no idea who Tulo and CarGo are.  The Rockies are never on national tv (zero regular season appearances in the last two years), so it’s no wonder people think the Rockies are spending money wildly.  The fact is that if either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez played for a big market team, especially in New York or Boston, they would be talked about as sure fire hall of famers.  Because they play in Colorado, national folks don’t think these are great players. 

This assertion is absurd because I would stack Tulowitzki up against any shortstop in baseball.  He is better defensively than Derek Jeter, has as much pop as Jimmy Rollins, and is in every way the definition of a team leader.  As for Gonzalez, he is a true five tool player.  He can play all three outfield positions flawlessly, can hit for power, and as he proved last season can be a legitimate triple crown candidate.  He is so highly thought of that he was traded twice for All-Stars (Dan Haren and Matt Holliday).  People nationally can think what they like, but I’ll take my chances with Gonzalez and Tulowitzki leading my offense for the next seven years.

Let’s just say that I can’t wait for opening day this year.  I see no reason why the Rockies can’t be a legitimate contender for years to come.  After all, we do need something to look forward to here in Denver.

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