Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curse of the Autodraft

Frank Gore broke his hip in last night's win over the Arizona Cardinals and it was announced today that he will be out for the remainder of the season. This adds to what's been an absolutely ridiculous string of bad luck in my ESPN fantasy league. Of the three leagues that I'm playing in this year, this was the only one that didn't feature a live draft and the squad that was drafted for me has been just absolutely brutalized by injuries. Check this out.

1st Round Pick: Frank Gore - Broken Hip Week 12, out for season
2nd Round Pick: Ryan Grant - Torn Ligament in Ankle Week 1, out for season
3rd Round Pick: DeSean Jackson - Concussion Week 6, missed one game
4th Round Pick: Pierre Thomas - Ankle Injury Week 3, hasn't played since
5th Round Pick: Tony Romo - Broken Collar Bone Week 7, hasn't played since

Somehow, we've managed to overcome these losses and still sit at 7-5 and in 4th place going into the last week of the regular season, but DAMN. Who thinks an 18 game season is a good idea???

Photo Courtesy: www.tbd.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Big Ten - ACC Challenge

Just for kicks, me, Trucker, Rue and my little brother threw some picks together for this year's Big Ten - ACC Challenge. Already off to a solid start with Virginia's upset win over Minnesota. DOH! Here's how our picks break down. Check back later in the week to see who the winner was.

     Smitty     Trucker       Rue          Ian

*** RESULTS ***


Smitty 3-3
Trucker 4-2
Rue 3-3
Ian 2-4



Day 2 Records

Smitty 4-1
Trucker 1-4
Rue 3-2
Ian 3-2

Final Tallies

Smitty 7-4
Rue 6-5
Trucker 5-6
Ian 5-6

Women's World Cup Draw

Big day for Women's Soccer as the draw for the 2011 World Cup in Germany was announced today. The United States, who squeaked in with a win over Italy in a playoff last week is paired with familiar foes North Korea and Sweden as well as World Cup newcomer Colombia. This marks the fourth straight World Cup that will feature a matchup between the United States and North Korea during the Group Stage. The U.S. won the first two by scores of 3-0 in 1999 and 2003, but the two teams tied in their last meeting in China in 2007. In Sweden, the United States has a very familiar adversary with the two sides having played 7 times since the beginning of 2007. The United States has won 5 of those matches, including a 2-0 win in China during the Group Stage of the 2007 World Cup, the two teams tied once, and Sweden won the other in a shootout. The United States has outscored Sweden 13-4 over those 7 matches and won the most recent meeting 3-0 on July 17 in East Hartford.

Here’s how the rest of the groups stack up with the latest FIFA rankings in parentheses:

Group A:
Germany (2)
Canada (9)
Nigeria (27)
France (8)

Group B:
Japan (5)
New Zealand (23)
Mexico (22)
England (10)

Group C:
United States (1)
North Korea (6)
Colombia (32)
Sweden (4)

Group D:
Brazil (3)
Australia (12)
Equatorial Guinea (62)
Norway (7)

Photo Courtesy: blog.syracuse.com

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Quest for 5084

Dan Marino's single season record for passing yards has stood for over 25 years. Tonight's game between the Chargers and the Colts will feature a pair of quarterbacks within striking distance of the 5084 yards Marino threw for in 1984. Philip Rivers enters tonight's game on pace for 5083 yards (318 yards per game) while Peyton Manning comes into tonight on pace for 4894 (306 per game). What makes this even more impressive is that these two quarterbacks have been able to put up such ridiculous numbers despite their respective receiving corps being absolutely decimated by injuries. With neither team having great success running the football this season, expect to see the ball thrown all over the field in Indy tonight.

All Time Single Season Leaders, Passing Yards

Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1984 - 5084 yards
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 2008 - 5069 yards
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams, 2001 - 4830 yards

Photo Courtesy: Phinatics.com

2010 Leaders, Passing Yards

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - 3370 yards* - Pace 4902
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - 3321 yards* - Pace 4831
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - 3177 yards - Pace 5083
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - 3059 yards - Pace 4893

*Includes Week 12 Stats

Photo Courtesy: sportsbook.ro


Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - 3370 yards - Pace 4902
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - 3362 yards - Pace 4890
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - 3344 yards - Pace 4864
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - 3321 yards - Pace 4831

And the new leader in the chase for 5084:

Photo Courtesy: broncotalk.net

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tiebreakers and the Big 10... errrr 11

So who's going to the Rose Bowl? Following wins today by Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, there's a 3-way tie atop the Big Ten with all 3 teams posting records of 11-1, 7-1 in conference play. So how does the tiebreaker work to determine who's going to the Rose Bowl? Here's the rule breakdown:

A. Rose Bowl. Unless ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll, the conference champion shall participate in the Rose Bowl. The championship shall be determined on the percentage basis of conference games (tie games counts ½ win and ½ loss). If there is a tie for the championship, the Rose Bowl representative will be determined as follows:

1. An ineligible team shall not be considered in the standings for determination of the conference representative.

2. If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.

3. If there is still a tie, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on the percentage basis of all games played.

4. If there is still a tie, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

5. If more than two teams tie for the championship, the same selection procedures shall be followed with the following exceptions:

a. If three teams are tied, and if one team defeated both of the other teams, then that team shall be the representative.

b. If three teams are still tied, and if two of the three teams defeated the third team, the third team is eliminated, and the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

c. If three teams are still tied, and there is a tie game between two of the three teams, or if two or all three of the teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on a percentage basis of all games played.

d. If three teams are still tied, and one of the three teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

e. If three teams are still tied, and all three teams have the same winning percentage of all games played, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

So here's how it breaks down. Wisconsin beat Ohio State. Michigan State beat Wisconsin. Ohio State and Michigan State didn't play each other this season. All three teams have the same record in conference, and overall. Therefore, we go down to paragraph e. The BCS standings are going to decide who represents the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. AWESOME! Gotta love those secret computer formulas. Going into today the BCS standings had Wisconsin 7th, Ohio State 8th and Michigan State 10th. That'll likely change as Boise State (4th), LSU (5th) and Oklahoma State (9th) all lost this weekend. However, barring any major changes that means it's looking like Wisconsin is going to Pasadena. All things being equal though, I think they have the best case. They beat Ohio State and they didn't have a bad loss (Michigan State's 37-6 loss to Iowa). They've also put up 70+ points twice in their last three games. We'll see how it all shakes out though. Nothing like a little BCS controversy, right?

Friday Night Twilight Zone

Friday was clearly not a good day to be leading at halftime. Alabama ran out to a 24-7 halftime lead against Auburn and lost 28-27. Arizona went into the break up 19-14 against Oregon and were steamrolled after the intermission 48-29. Finally, Boise State and their 24 game winning streak led 24-7 over Nevada after 30 minutes, but Nevada came back and pulled off the stunning upset 34-31 in overtime. Winning streak over, title hopes dashed. So now we're down to just 3 undefeated teams, each with one game to go. Here's how it looks the rest of way:

#1 Oregon (11-0) travels to Corvalis to take on Oregon State (5-5) in the Civil War. The last time these two teams met, the Ducks pulled out a 37-33 win at home. The Beavers last win in this matchup was a 38-31 overtime win in 2007.

#2 Auburn (12-0) goes to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship game against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina (8-3). These two met earlier in the year at Auburn with the Tigers winning 35-27.

#3 TCU (11-0) finishes their season today as they take on New Mexico. The Lobos are just 1-10 this season giving TCU the easiest path to an undefeated season.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Unroll Tide

Cam Newton’s heroics aside, this game turned on two plays made by Auburn’s defense in the first half which is somewhat ironic considering the Tide picked up 17 first downs, and amassed 379 yards and 24 points in the first 30 minutes of play.

Key Play #1: Already up 21-0, Alabama had the ball first and ten at their own 40. Greg McElroy hit running back Mark Ingram on a 41 yard pass play. With Ingram stumbling and going to the ground inside the Auburn 20, Senior Defensive End Antoine Carr, who never gave up on the play, was able to punch the ball loose at the 19. The ball rolled into the endzone where Auburn recovered it for a touchback. Instead of a first down in the redzone, Auburn instead got the football and kept points off the board. This was only the second fumble Mark Ingram had lost in his college career.

Key Play #2: Now leading 24-7 and with a 2nd and Goal at the Auburn 8, Junior Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley shot through the line and picked up the trifecta: sack the quarterback, force a fumble, and then recover it. At worst, the Tide were looking at a Field Goal. In what ended up being a 1 point win, this was the difference in the game.

Equally important was how the Tiger defense were able to completely turn things around in the second half. After throwing for a career high 335 yards in the first half, Greg McElroy was limited to 8/14 for just 42 yards the rest of the way. Wide Receiver Julio Jones who had 7 catches for 174 yards including a 68 yard touchdown strike in the first half was limited to 3 catches for 25 yards after the break.

First Half Totals:

Game Totals:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Malcolm, I need that ball. Get me the ball.

The New Orleans Saints season might very well have been saved by the heady play of defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. After squandering a 17-0 lead, the Saints found themselves down 27-23 late in the 4th quarter with the Cowboys facing a crucial 3rd and 6 from their own 42. Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna hit a wide open Roy Williams in stride and Williams took the ball all the way inside the Saints 15. Enter Malcolm Jenkins, the Saints 2009 first round draft pick out of Ohio State. It was like something out of a movie. In fact, it was pretty much straight out of The Replacements. Jenkins was able to chase down Williams and rip the ball out of his hands a la Danny Bateman giving the Saints the ball and totally swining the momentum of the game.

Danny, get me the ball

Malcolm Jenkins saves the Saints

If Jenkins doesn't make this play, the Cowboys are looking at a first and ten inside the 15 with about 3 minutes to go and a 4 point lead. At WORST, they come away from this drive up 7. Instead they get no points, lose possession and Brees takes the Saints the length of the field and the Saints come away with a big win. WHO DAT indeed.

More BCS Controversy

Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee was the subject of controversy this week when he basically came out and said that schools like Boise State and TCU didn’t deserve to play in the National Championship game regardless of their undefeated status. Some of the quotes by Gee made to the Associated Press in a recent interview:

"...[H]aving been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there's some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame."

"If you put a gun to my head and said, 'What are you going to do about a playoff system [if] the BCS system as it now exists goes away?' I would vote immediately to go back to the bowl system."

(on Ohio State's run to the 2007 title game): "You know, it's a mystery. We were No. 1, then No. 11, then No. 7 and we ended up playing for the national championship. I think I kind of like that mixed-up mystery."

Now all things being equal, if Boise State, TCU, Oregon and Auburn all finish with undefeated seasons, I don’t think anyone can dispute that in the current setup that it should come down to Auburn and Oregon playing for the National Championship. They're in deeper conferences and play tougher schedules. It’s as simple as that. But should Auburn and/or Oregon lose one of their remaining games, to say that Boise State or TCU doesn’t even deserve to be in the conversation is ridiculous. Who deserves to go over them? LSU? They didn’t even win their division of their conference. Stanford? Oregon already demonstrated their superiority when they faced off earlier in the season. Someone from the Big 10? They all have at least 1 loss. How are any of these teams more qualified?

Over the past 3 seasons, TCU and Boise State have combined to lose 4 games. That's 4 games TOTAL between them. And 2 of those losses were in bowl games against one another over the past 2 years. The only other two losses were by TCU to Sam Bradford’s Oklahoma team in 2008, a team that would go on to play Florida in the National Championship game, and to Utah who would finish an undefeated 2008 season with a memorable 31-17 thrashing of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Their good records aren't because those teams didn’t play any serious competition either. Over the past three years, the two teams have beaten teams from the Pac 10 (Oregon State twice, Oregon twice, Stanford), Big 12 (Baylor), and ACC (Virginia, Clemson, Virginia Tech) and overall are 9-2 against ranked teams not counting their bowl games against one another. Ohio State over the same period of time? 8-5.

Now the quality that Boise State and TCU are producing may be more the exception than the rule. We saw a few years ago a Hawaii team go 12-0 and get a BCS bowl game where they were stomped 41-10 by Matt Stafford’s 2-loss Georgia team. But for every Hawaii, there’s a Utah beating Alabama, or a Boise State beating Oklahoma. In the 2005 Fietsa Bowl, non-BCS Utah beat Big East Champ Pitt 35-7. These teams CAN compete with the big boys. And the only way to ever REALLY see who the best team is, is to have a playoff. Sorry Mr. Gee, you’re not helping your case at all by saying that you appreciate the “mystery” of the current system. With any luck, Oregon and Auburn will both lose and we’ll be handed a third straight Boise State – TCU matchup, only this time it will be for the National Championship. Maybe then people some of the BCS school people will start to notice that the BCS isn’t a perfect system.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heat vs Magic, Round 2

Some thoughts on Orlando's 104-95 win over Miami tonight. You can look at this one a couple of different ways if you're a Heat fan. You can look at it from the standpoint that the Heat didn't play all that well, yet because of their immense talent this was still a winnable game for them. Despite another poor shooting night from Dwyane Wade and poor 3-point shooting as a team (4/18 from long range) the Heat actually led this game 88-87 late in the 4th quarter before Orlando finally put them away with a late run.

The flip side of this is, it showed just how far the Heat have to go. The Heat were once again picked apart by an elite point guard as Jameer Nelson went for 17 points (including 11 in the 4th quarter) and a career high 14 assists. The Heat just didn’t have an answer for the high pick and roll that Orlando ran down the stretch and that 88-87 lead became a 9 point loss in a matter of minutes. The Heat also missed the presence of Udonis Haslem as Dwight Howard went for 24 points and 18 boards (not wholly unexpected), but Brandon Bass managed 18 on 9/12 shooting and 6 rebounds of his own in 26 minutes off the bench. Haslem’s replacements?

Joel Anthony – 11 minutes, 4 points, 1 rebound, 5 fouls

Jamaal Magloire – 10 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 foul

Juwan Howard – 12 minutes, 2 points, 0 rebounds, 1 foul

Erick Dampier – Did not play coach’s decision

It should be noted, the group combined for 0 defensive rebounds as all 3 were on the offensive end. Chris Bosh actually left the game briefly in the first quarter with back spasms. Can you imagine the state this team would be in with Haslem out and then no Bosh on top of it?

One other somewhat scary observation, Dwyane Wade was essentially outplayed tonight by JJ Redick. Wade went for 18 points 7 boards and 5 assists in 40 minutes but shot the ball poorly (6/21 from the floor, 1/5 from long range). Redick, starting in place of the injured Vince Carter, played 43 minutes and scored 20 on 5/12 shooting, hit 3 3-pointers and was a perfect 7/7 from the line while contributing 4 rebounds and 5 assists of his own. Needless to say, any night that Wade is getting outplayed by Redick, who by the way came into the game shooting just 29.5% from the floor and was 4/28 from long range, is not going to be good for the Heat.

The Miami Heat fall to 8-7 with the loss and the team some people speculated might win 70 games has now lost 3 in a row.

Udonis Haslem's Injury

What has already started out as a disappointing season has taken a turn for the worse. The talk coming out of Miami right now is that Udonis Haslem may miss the rest of the season following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his foot. This is a devastating blow to an already thin roster, especially when you consider what Haslem brought to the table. Although not a starter, Haslem is the Heat's leading rebounder notching 8.2 per game in a little over 26 minutes per night. He's also a leader in the locker room having spent his entire 8 year career with Miami, and he brings a toughness that the Heat have otherwise lacked this season. Now, it looks like they're going to have to move forward without him and I'm not sure they're equipped to do that. Here's what the Heat's bench situation now looks like in terms of big men:

Joel Anthony - 1.3 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, signed a big contract in the offseason and was anointed the Heat's starting center when the season began. 14 games in and he's already lost his starting spot to Big Z. He has never had a season where he averaged more than 4 rebounds a game.

Juwan Howard - 0.8 points per game, 2.0 rebounds per game, the 37 year old one-time member of Michigan's Fab Five has seen the court just 5 times logging only 48 minutes this year.

Jamaal Magloire - 1.4 points per game, 2.0 rebounds per game, it's hard to believe that this guy was once an NBA All-Star. Like Howard, he's only appeared in 5 games this year in which he's played a total of 31 minutes.

Dexter Pittman - The 6'11" 22 year old rookie out of Texas has not appeared in a game yet this season.

Erick Dampier - The 6'11" Dampier was just signed by the Heat after spending the previous 6 years in Dallas. He is a solid rebounder, averaging at least 7 per game over the past 7 seasons, but at age 35, he seems a better fit to spell Ilgauskus than replace Haslem.

So that's what Miami is looking at right now. Since Haslem's injury, the Heat have been outrebounded by "powerhouses" Memphis and Indiana 64-44, and I'm not sure Dampier is the piece that is going to solve that puzzle. To make matters worse, they head into Orlando tonight on what is already a two game losing streak where they will face what is likely to be an amped up Magic squad looking to avenge an early season blowout loss in Miami. On top of that, they're going to battle with no Haslem, still no Mike Miller, an injured Dwyane Wade, and ever mounting pressure to be great RIGHT NOW. Don't get me wrong, even without Udonis Haslem, the Heat are still a very talented team. They're likely even still a top seeded playoff team in the East. But there's no doubt, the road for them just got a lot tougher.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Derek Jeter and the Yankees

It's becoming more and more possible that the unthinkable might happen next season: Derek Jeter could show up on opening day in a uniform other than that of the New York Yankees. Jeter, the Yankees starting shortstop since 1996 - a total of 15 seasons - will reportedly not be offered arbitration by the Yankees this year. That means that if he doesn't accept what is alleged to be a 3 year $45M deal from the Yankees, he can walk and start looking elsewhere. It's hard to even picture it to be perfectly honest with you. Jeter, the Yankee captain, sits at 2926 hits, needing just 74 to reach 3000. Is it possible he'll reach that milestone with another franchise? It's true that last season was a down year for him. Jeter batted just .270 and recorded his lowest OPS since his rookie year in 1995. Still, it's not as though he suddenly turned into Steve Jeltz. Last season snapped a streak of 5 years hitting at least .300 (including .334 in 2009). His 30 doubles were the most he's had in a season since 2007 and his 111 runs were the most he's scored in a season since 2006. It's no question that the 36 year old isn't the player he once was, and he certainly isn't due the money he got in his last contract (10 years at $189M), but the guy is undoubtedly the face of the franchise and the epitome of what it is to be a New York Yankee. A consummate winner and team player, his value goes way behind the boxscore. Remember this play against Boston in 2004?

Jeter vs Boston

How about this one against the A's in the 2001 ALDS?

Jeter vs Oakland

Neither one of those plays showed up in the boxscore the next day, but both show just exactly what he means to the Yankees. As a fan of the game, one would hope that the two sides figure out a way to work this out. Almost nobody will be satisfied if Jeter suits up as a Washington National in 2011.