Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for February, 2011

We will miss you Chauncey

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 23, 2011

Everyone on ESPN and all the national outlets are gaga about the Carmelo Anthony trade.  As a Nuggets fan, I am just glad this saga is over.  There are enough other places where you can read about his impact on the Knicks, and since I don’t care one bit about that team we’re just going to focus on Denver.  I think the Nuggets actually did very well getting four players, three draft picks and cash from the Knicks, when everyone knew that Anthony was just going to sign with the Knicks as a free agent this summer. If tonight is any indication (a blowout win over Memphis) I think the Nuggets might even find that they will be a better team without an unhappy Anthony.  It seems from tonight that the players remaining are just relieved to have this saga behind them.  I think the Nuggets did well, but there is someone caught in the middle, someone who through no fault of his own got nothing he wanted: Chauncey Billups.

For people nationally, Billups’ inclusion in the trade to the Knicks is not considered a big deal.  Sure he won multiple championships with the Pistons, but he is not on the radar nationally as a star.  This is a shame really because he is one of the true good guys in the league, and perhaps the biggest reason he isn’t considered a star is because he isn’t selfish and doesn’t market himself that way.  Unlike Anthony, Billups doesn’t crave Sportscenter highlights and marketing visibility.  For those of us here in Denver, Billups is a local icon, and for many (including me) was perhaps the only reason the Nuggets were remotely worth watching this year.

For those of you who don’t know, Billups is perhaps the best high school player ever in Colorado, winner of multiple state titles.  He led the CU Buffs to a rare NCAA tournament appearance in the 1990s.  He was the third overall pick in the draft by the Celtics.  Simply put, he is the local boy done good.  Before Billups got traded to the Nuggets, annual first round playoff exits were the norm and the team had no leader (no, Anthony doesn’t qualify.  You must be a team player to be a leader).  It says a lot that the Nuggets went from first round flameout to conference finalist the instant Billups arrived (in a trade for Allen Iverson, another me first scorer).  Billups is one of those players who lets his play speak for itself, brings championship experience that most teams don’t have, and makes his teammates better.  He is a player who I would call a glue, and I think the Nuggets are going to miss him a lot more than they will Anthony.

While I like Ty Lawson and the newly acquired Raymond Felton at the point guard position, Billups will missed for both his on court play (he’s one of the few guys on the Nuggets who played defense with any consistency), and more so for his leadership.  Let’s hope that some of Billups’ experience rubbed off on Lawson during the last year and half, because the Nuggets are going to need him to be one of the new leaders of the team.  I do think the new mix of players will actually give the Nuggets some nice pieces, especially Danilo Gallinari, who can score his share of points.  I am hopeful that without the cloud of the Carmelo saga hanging over the team, the locker room will become more relaxed and the Nuggets will start to play better as a team.  I am happy to tell Anthony not to let the door hit his backside on the way out, but Chauncey will be sorely missed.

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Get used to Aaron Rodgers

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 7, 2011

Courtesy Tom Lynn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When people think of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the first names that usually come to mind are Brady, Manning and Brees.  Safe to say after last night and indeed this season, Aaron Rodgers must be included in that group.  Last night the Packers won in large part because Rodgers outplayed his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, and I would say he did so by a wide margin.  Rodgers’ Super Bowl numbers were certainly very good (24-39 304 yards and three touchdowns with no picks) but they would have been even better if not for at least four dropped balls on perfect passes (one of which had a good chance to go for an 80-yard touchdown).  All told Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes in four postseason games, all on the road, with only two interceptions.  Those mirror the touchdown to interception ratio for his career (87 career touchdown passes to 32 picks).  Considering Rodgers has only been a full time starter for three years and is still on the upswing, well, the Packers might produce more of the same for years to come.

If anybody should feel vindicated about Rodgers’ success it’s Packers GM Ted Thompson.  After Brett Favre announced the first of his many retirements following the 2007 season, Thompson made the decision to move forward with Rodgers, who had been chomping at the bit for his chance to take over for Favre.  When Favre said later that summer that he wanted to come back, the Packers found themselves in a very tough position.  Many teams have had trouble replacing their legend quarterbacks.  Miami has still not found a replacement for Dan Marino more than 10 years after his retirement.  Same goes for the Broncos and John Elway, the Bills and Jim Kelly.  The 49ers had Steve Young step in when Joe Montana retired, but they have yet to find even a semi-capable replacement for Young.  There are other teams still that arguably have never had a franchise QB in their history (the Chicago Bears come to mind as a team still looking for their first as Jay Cutler is clearly not it).  Given this, a lot of people, including me, thought the Packers should have allowed Favre to come back in 2008.  The reasoning was simple, legend quarterbacks just don’t get replaced.  Rodgers has proven that theory wrong, and he has done so in such emphatic fashion that it’s fair to ask whether his career won’t end up better than Favre’s.

Favre of course played three seasons after that, one with the Jets and two with the Vikings.  While Favre led the Vikings to an NFC Championship game appearance last year and continued to play at a high level (until this year), Rodgers showed right away why the Packers were so high on him and why they didn’t want him holding any more clipboards on the sideline.  All Rodgers did in his first full season as a starter was throw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.  At age 27, he already has many Super Bowl titles as Favre had in his whole career.  He throws the ball with stunning accuracy, and while he’s mostly a pocket passer, he has proven adept at avoiding the rush when he needs to.  He gives you the good qualities of Favre without the off the field drama or the hair pulling interceptions.  Rodgers is every bit as good as Manning, Brady or Brees.  Perhaps the scariest part for NFC opponents is that the Packers won the Super Bowl this year despite losing a staggering 15 players to injured reserve.  The running backs and receivers are young, and so is the defense.

Recent history has shown that Super Bowl champions are highly unlikely to win a playoff game the next year, let alone repeat as champions.  The last Super Bowl champ to win a playoff game the next year was New England, when the repeated as champions in 2003 and 2004.  That said, the Packers have as good a chance as any to repeat next year, and compete for a good long time.  As long as Rodgers is under center he will have the Packers in prime position  .

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Super Bowl Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 4, 2011

Last Week: 2-0 Playoffs: 6-4

To be perfectly honest, I feel like it’s been so long since the conference championship games that I’m struggling to get in football mode for the Super Bowl on Sunday.  In many ways, it feels like traditional football is over, and we’ve now surrendered to the hype machine that makes the Super Bowl feel like it’s a corporate driven party as opposed to a football game.  Of course this is different if your team is playing in the game, and it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Broncos compete for the Lombardi Trophy.  Nevertheless I will be in front of the television like everyone else Sunday (with plenty of junk food), ready to watch what should be a thoroughly entertaining game between the Packers and Steelers.  If the matchup is as good as it appears to be on paper, this has a chance to continue the trend of thrilling games we’ve seen the past five years or so, as opposed to the blowouts of the 80s and 90s.

While I am seeing many predicting this to be a low scoring, defensive type game, I think we might be in for a shootout.  When these teams met during the 2009 regular season, the teams combined for 73 points, 94 pass attempts and 886 passing yards in a game won by Pittsburgh 37-36.  While I don’t think we’ll see that kind of offensive explosion, I think we’ll see some points put up on the scoreboard.  Let’s not forget this game will be played indoors, and the Packers’ offense in particular has put up terrific numbers in dome games.  While the Packers offense struggled at times during the NFC title game in Chicago, the environment at Cowboys Stadium will be much more conducive to them passing the ball more.  I expect Aaron Rodgers to pass the ball 40 times or so, and I think the Packers’ receivers have the ability to spread the Steelers out and neutralize the physicality of their secondary.  As for the Steelers, people think of them as a power running team, and while they run the ball well, they do have deceptively talented receivers, and as much as I dislike Ben Roethlisberger it’s hard to deny his ability to make plays out of the pocket and extend the play when things break down.  Both teams have outstanding defenses, two of the top ranked units in the league, but I think this is a matchup that will lead to a higher scoring contest.

Before the season started I picked the Packers as my NFC representative in the Super Bowl largely because I thought Rodgers was due for a breakout year.  However, I picked the Steelers to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs partially because I thought they would struggle during Roethlisberger’s suspension at the start of the year (as it turns out they went 3-1 without him), and partially because I thought they had a look of an aging team.  Turns out I was wrong on both counts.  I also had their division rival Baltimore as my Super Bowl pick in the AFC, and as it turns out the Steelers erased a 14-point halftime deficit and rallied for a playoff win against them.  I bring all of this up to emphasize that early season predictions are unreliable and almost never right, but also to point out that as unpredictable as those predictions are, picking the Super Bowl winner can be even harder.  See, the Super Bowl is only one game, and what happened prior to this point in the season is completely irrelevant. 

I think both quarterbacks will have success passing the ball.  I think both sets of receivers have an edge against the other secondary.  I think Pittsburgh has a slight edge running the football only because the Packers are down to roughly their 15th running back due to many injuries.  Pittsburgh also has an edge in experience, having won two of the past five Super Bowls, while this is Green Bay’s first appearance since 1997.  Those two facts alone tells me I should pick Pittsburgh to win, but something tells me that the Packers special teams could be a major factor in this game.  When the Packers played at New England in week 15 (without Aaron Rodgers) they opened the game with a surprise onside kick.  Not saying they’ll do that on Sunday, but we saw one of those from the Saints last year.  I think this will be a close, high scoring game, and my pick, despite the fact I think this might be against my better judgement is:

Packers 27 Steelers 24

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