Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quick Hits - 12/29/11

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 American midfielder Freddy Adu is headed to Spain to train with Rayo Vallecano for the next 12 days with an opportunity to join the club if he performs. The 22 year old who resurrected his career with a solid showing at this year's Gold Cup signed a contract with the Philadelphia Union midseason and netted a pair of goals and had an assist in eleven matches. Still, he went unprotected in last month's expansion draft leaving questions regarding his future with the Union. This is a great opportunity for Adu, and hopefully he's able to catch on with Rayo. Currently in 16th place in La Liga, Rayo (4-8-4) could use some more playmakers on offense so Adu may be a good fit.


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Ex-Milwaukee Buck Michael Redd has just signed a one year deal worth $1.3M with the Phoenix Suns. Injuries have limited Redd to just 61 games over the past 3 seasons, but the Suns are hopeful that he can stay healthy and reestablish himself as a proven scorer. Now 32 years old, Redd averaged nearly 24 points a game during a 5 year stretch between 2003 and 2008 while with the Bucks. A key contributor on the U.S.'s 2008 Olympic Gold Medal Winning Squad, Redd is a career 38.3% shooter from 3-point range and with Steve Nash running the point in Phoenix he should get his share of open looks if he can stay on the court. There is no timetable in place just yet for Redd's insertion into the lineup, but I like the move.

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It appears that Boston's finally found their closer for next season. The Red Sox sent a package of players to Oakland for 2-time all star and 2009 Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey. Bailey has a 2.07 ERA in 157 career appearances and has averaged 25 saves a year in each of his first three seasons with the A's. Bailey is certainly an upgrade over recently acquired Mark Melancon allowing the former Astro to fill one of the setup roles in Boston's bullpen which he is better suited for. The move doesn't come without risks for the Sox though as Bailey does have a history of injuries having spent time on the DL in each of the last two seasons. There's also the question of whether or not he can handle the pressure of closing in Fenway. Boston also gets outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the deal, while Oakland gets Josh Reddick as well as minor leaguers Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. With Oakland losing outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham this offseason and Coco Crisp expected to follow them out of town, the 24 year old Reddick will jump right into the lineup. The other two are still a ways away from contributing at the big league level. Head just wrapped up a season in A Ball where he hit .299 with 22 homers while Alcantara, just 19 years old, made 13 starts and posted a 2.20 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings in just his second professional season. 


Remember a few years back with Boise State famously went for two instead of kicking the extra point to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl? It was a gutsy move and it paid off in one of the most memorable bowl games in college football history. But here's the thing about that move. It made sense for Boise State, because Oklahoma was the better team, and it's unlikely they would have been able to keep pace with their offense. It is certainly not the percentage play most of the time.

Yesterday, Air Force found themselves in a similar situation. Down 42-41, extra point pending, and they decided to go for two. It didn't work out and Toledo won the Military Bowl as a result. Air Force Coach Troy Calhoun wasn't about to second guess himself after the game, but I am. The only time that play-call makes sense is if you think that's your best chance to win the game. I don't feel like this was the case last night and ultimately it cost Air Force the game. Gutsy call? Absolutely. Prudent? Not so much.

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Kevin Love isn't the only guy in the NBA who can rack up ridiculous amounts of rebounds. Dwight Howard pulled down 24 rebounds in Orlando's 94-78 win over the Magic tonight. It marked the 49th time in Howard's career that he'd pulled down at least 20 rebounds in a game. Now if he could just learn how to shoot free throws. Two for nine tonight. Not good, Dwight. Not good.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on Tonight's Celtics-Hornets Game

Took in my first NBA game of the season tonight. First off, wow. If you had told me tonight's game between the Hornets and Celtics was going to be a blowout, it wouldn't have surprised me. I just didn't think it would be the host Hornets doing the blowing out. This was a Hornets team that lost its two best players (Chris Paul and David West) during the offseason, and their biggest offseason acquisition, Eric Gordon, didn't dress. And somehow, they came out and just blew the doors off a Celtics team that looked positively dead. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Celtics are banged up and road weary (3 road games in 4 nights) and didn't have Paul Pierce, Chris Wilcox or newly acquired Mickael Pietrus, but still. I wasn't expecting it to make that big of an impact.
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The biggest difference between the two sides I noticed was in the front court. Compare the numbers of Boston's four big men - Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma - to the four big men of New Orleans - Jason Smith, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman.

That's a huge point differential. And maybe you get away with that if you're getting strong play from your guards and your wings, but Jarrett Jack outplayed Rajon Rondo (hard to explain that one) and Marco Belinelli basically cancelled out Ray Allen. Both Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal were disappointing to say the least and while those two weren't the only ones to blame, Boston has to get more production out of their bigs.

Boston was outrebounded 48-37, shot just 37.2% from the floor, and was outscored in the paint 46-24. I don't think it's time to panic in Boston, not with Pierce due to come back soon, but I don't know that Boston can contend with the Chicago's, Miami's and New York's of the league with their current roster.

Some other observations from tonight's game:

*Boston's Greg "The Steamer" Stiemsma and the Hornets' Lance Thomas were both members of Team USA at this year's Pan-Am Games. Both players made their NBA debuts tonight. Stiemsma, the 2010 D-League Defensive Player of the year, blocked 6 shots. If there was a bright spot for Boston in this one, it was the play of the Steamer.
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*Every time Chris Kaman does anything good, they play a clip of Chewbacca yelling. Nothing like a good Star Wars reference. I guess Kaman does kind of resemble a Wookiee. Tall, hairy, physical...
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*28 year old Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson also made his NBA debut tonight. The former UAB star scored his first NBA point on a technical free throw in the 4th quarter. Squeaky is the Brian Scalabrine of the Hornets. I'd never even heard of this guy, but the Hornets fans were all about him.
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*The Hornets have a cheer that makes no sense to me. They want everyone in the audience to 'Raise the House'. I've heard of Raise the Roof, but I don't know what Raise the House is supposed to be. They even have a cartoon guy on the jumbotron jacking up a house. Can anyone explain that one to me?

*Five years ago I went to the Celtics home opener when they opened their season against the Hornets. Tonight's game between the same two teams featured only one player that appeared in that game, Rajon Rondo. Paul Pierce started that game for the Celtics, but didn't play tonight, and Brandon Bass was actually on the Hornets, and was the only player who dressed for them that didn't get into the game. Some of the players who did play in that game? Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul, David West, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Wally Szczerbiak, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen. What a difference five years makes.

Ajax-AZ Game to be Replayed in Full after Attack on Keeper

After last week's Dutch Cup match between Ajax and AZ Alkmaar was suspended following an attack on AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado that resulted in Alvarado's ejection, the Dutch Soccer Association has announced that the match will be replayed in full behind closed doors in 3 weeks time. Apparently the decision to pick the match up where it left off wasn't plausible because AZ would have had to play with 10 men due to Alvardo's red card despite the fact that it was later rescinded. In light of that, I think this was the only way this incident could have been resolved. It's a tough break for Ajax who actually led the original match 1-0, but ultimately it's the right decision and it's good to see that the Dutch got this one right. The rematch will be played on January 19th with the winner set to play amateur club GVVV in the quarterfinals.
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AZ Alkmaar is currently in first place in the Dutch Eredivisie while Ajax Amsterdam sits five points back in 4th place. The two sides played to a 2-2 draw in Amsterdam back in mid-October with AZ squandering a 2-0 lead. American striker Jozy Alitdore is second on AZ with 5 goals this season.

Hideki Okajima Signs Minor League Deal with Yankees

The New York Yankees have signed left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima to a minor league contract for the 2012 season. The former Red Sox reliever appeared in only 7 games last season, but he'll be in spring training as a non-roster invitee with a chance to earn a spot in New York's bullpen. The best part of this move though? An excuse to listen to the most ridiculous entrance music in the history of Major League Baseball.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Hits - 12/27/11

*When they say 40 is the new 30, they must be talking about Brad Friedel. The 40 year old American keeper got off to a rough start this season allowing 8 goals in his first two starts, both Tottenham losses, but since then he's been on quite a roll. In fact, after starting the season 0-2, Friedel and the Spurs are 12-1-2 over their last 15 matches. Today's 2-0 shutout of Norwich City gives Friedel six clean sheets on the year and 4 in his last seven starts. As a result, Spurs sit in 3rd place in the Premier League, 4 points clear of 4th place Chelsea with a game in hand.
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*Here's a name for you to remember: Jordan White. The senior wide receiver from Western Michigan caught 13 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown against Purdue tonight in the Little Caesars Bowl. It marked the 8th time this year that White had at least 12 receptions in a game. White finishes his senior year with 140 receptions for 1911 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 14 games. Still, despite his gaudy numbers this year, he is ranked just 31st among wide receivers in terms of his draft prospects according to
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*NFL Pro Bowl rosters came out today. San Francisco and New England each led their respective conferences with 8 invitees. Currently only 4 teams don't have a representative: The Washington Redskins (5-10), the St. Louis Rams (2-13), the Buffalo Bills (6-9) and the Tennessee Titans (8-7). Guess $50M doesn't buy a Pro Bowl caliber season. Yes, I'm talking to you, Chris Johnson.
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*The Celtics really miss Paul Pierce. This is not a very deep team to begin with and not having Pierce on the court really exposes them on both ends of the floor. Tonight the Heat scored 115 points against the Boston defense, the most points scored against Boston since the Knicks put up 116 December 15th of last year - a span of 69 games. Another interesting note from this game, the Heat squandered a 20 point lead in this one and had it reduced down to 3 points late in the 4th quarter. Who stepped up at the end of the game to bail out the Heat? Dwayne Wade? LeBron James? Chris Bosh? No, no and no. Rookie point guard Norris Cole scored 8 of the Heat's final 9 points in the 4th quarter and after LeBron James' layup with 3:54 to play, he was the only Heat player to make a field goal. The kid from Cleveland State finished with 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
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*Kevin Love? Double double. 31 points, 20 rebounds. Business as usual.

*With NC State winning the... Belk.. Bowl... and Purdue winning the Little Caesars Bowl, here's your updated Bowl Standings:

Tuesday Trivia

Gonna try something a little new here and we're gonna be doing Tuesday Trivia Questions. Check back next Tuesday for the answer to this week's question.

By now I'm sure you've heard that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's 27 year old record for passing yards in a single season last night. This week's question is: Who held the record before Marino broke it back in 1984?

Top Tens - 12/27/11


1. Drew Brees - New Orleans - 5087 yards
2. Tom Brady - New England - 4897 yards
3. Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay - 4643 yards
4. Eli Manning - Giants - 4587 yards
5. Matthew Stafford - Detroit - 4518 yards
6. Philip Rivers - San Diego - 4314 yards
7. Matt Ryan - Atlanta - 4071 yards
8. Tony Romo - Dallas - 3895 yards
9. Cam Newton - Carolina - 3893 yards
10. Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh - 3856 yards


1. Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville - 1437 yards
2. LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia - 1309 yards
3. Arian Foster - Houston - 1224 yards
4. Frank Gore - San Francisco - 1202 yards
5. Ray Rice - Baltimore - 1173 yards
6. Michael Turner - Atlanta - 1168 yards
7. Marshawn Lynch - Seattle - 1118 yards
8. Ryan Mathews - San Diego - 1091 yards
9. Reggie Bush - Miami - 1086 yards
10. Steven Jackson - St. Louis - 1069 yards


1. Wes Welker - New England - 1518 yards
2. Calvin Johnson - Detroit - 1437 yards
3. Victor Cruz - Giants - 1358 yards
4. Steve Smith - Carolina - 1308 yards
5. Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona - 1262 yards
6. Roddy White - Atlanta - 1227 yards
7. Rob Gronkowski - New England - 1219 yards
8. Jimmy Graham - New Orleans - 1213 yards
9. Mike Wallace - Pittsburgh - 1182 yards
10. Brandon Marshall - Miami - 1177 yards


1. Claude Giroux - Philadelphia - 43
2. Phil Kessel - Toronto - 41
2. Henrik Sedin - Vancouver - 41
4. Marian Hossa - Chicago - 40
4. Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh - 40
4. Daniel Sedin - Vancouver - 40
7. Joffrey Lupul - Toronto - 38
7. Jordan Eberle - Edmonton - 38
7. Jason Pominville - Buffalo - 38
10. 6 tied with 37


1. Marion Gaborik - Rangers - 22
2. Phil Kessel - Toronto - 20
2. Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay - 20
2. Jonathan Toews - Chicago - 20
2. James Neal - Pittsburgh - 20
6. Patrick Sharp - Chicago - 19
6. Milan Michalek - Ottawa - 19
8. Claude Giroux - Philadelphia - 17
8. Thomas Vanek - Buffalo - 17
10. 7 tied with 16




1. USA

(Records through Sunday Night's Games)
*ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll in Parentheses

1. Syracuse 13-0 (1)
2. Ohio State 12-1 (2)
3. Kentucky 11-1 (3)
4. Louisville 12-0 (4)
5. North Carolina 11-2 (6)
6. Baylor 12-0 (7)
7. Duke 10-1 (5)
8. Missouri 12-0 (8) 
9. Connecticut 10-1 (9)
10. Florida 10-2 (10)

(Records through Sunday Night's Games)
*ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll in Parentheses

1. Baylor 12-0 (1)
2. Connecticut 10-1 (2)
3. Notre Dame 11-1 (3)
4. Stanford 9-1 (4)
5. Maryland 11-0 (5)
6. Kentucky 11-1 (6)
7. Tennessee 7-3 (8)
8. Duke 8-2 (7)
9. Ohio State 13-0 (12)
10. Texas A&M 8-2 (9)

Men's Tennis Rankings (as of 12/5/11)

1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) - 13630 points
2. Rafael Nadal (Spain) - 9595 points
3. Roger Federer (Switzerland) - 8170 points
4. Andy Murray (Great Britain) - 7380 points
5. David Ferrer (Spain) - 4925 points
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) - 4335 points
7. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) - 3700 points
8. Mardy Fish (USA) - 2965 points
9. Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) - 2595 points
10. Nicolas Almagro (Spain) - 2380 points

Women's Tennis Rankings (as of 12/12/11)

1. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) - 7485 points
2. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) - 7370 points
3. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) - 6520 points
4. Maria Sharapova (Russia) - 6510 points
5. Li Na (China) - 5720 points
6. Samantha Stosur (Australia) - 5585 points
7. Vera Zvonareva (Russia) - 5435 points
8. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) - 5250 points
9. Marion Bartoli (France) - 4710 points
10. Andrea Petkovic (Germany) - 4580 points


1. Robin Van Persie (Netherlands) - Arsenal - 16
2. Demba Ba (Senegal) - Newcastle United - 14
3. Wayne Rooney (England) - Manchester United - 13
3. Sergio Agüero (Argentina) - Manchester City - 13
5. Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Nigeria) - Blackburn Rovers - 10
5. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) - Manchester City - 10
7. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo) - Tottenham Hotspur - 9
7. Daniel Sturridge (England) - Chelsea - 9
9. Mario Balotelli (Italy) - Manchester City - 8
10. 4 tied with 7

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Fantasy Football End of the Year Awards

Another Fantasy Football Season has drawn to a close. For you weirdos out there who play in leagues where Week 17 actually counts, this doesn't apply to you. For the rest of you, here's a look at the top performers in fantasy football this year:

MVP - Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player of the Year - London Fletcher - Washington Redskins
Most Improved - Victor Cruz - New York Giants
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Patrick Peterson - Arizona Cardinals

Best Pick in the Drydock League Draft
Cam Newton - 17th Round, 236th pick overall - 279 points


QB - Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers - 392 points
4643 yards, 45 touchdowns
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WR - Wes Welker - New England Patriots - 266.5 points
116 receptions, 1518 yards, 9 touchdowns
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WR - Calvin Johnson - Detroit Lions - 259 points
85 receptions, 1437 yards, 15 touchdowns
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WR - Roddy White- Atlanta Falcons - 217 points
 96 receptions, 1227 yards, 8 touchdowns
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RB - LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Eagles - 254 points
1309 yards, 17 touchdowns, 48 receptions, 315 yards, 3 touchdowns 
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RB - Ray Rice - Baltimore Ravens - 253 points
1173 yards, 10 touchdowns, 74 receptions, 696 yards, 3 touchdowns
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TE - Rob Gronkowski - New England Patriots - 245 points
82 receptions, 1219 yards, 15 touchdowns
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WR/TE - Jimmy Graham - New Orleans Saints - 214 points
91 receptions, 1213 yards, 10 touchdowns
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WR/RB - Darren Sproles - New Orleans Saints - 243 points
563 yards, 2 touchdowns, 81 receptions, 681 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1284 return yards
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K - David Akers - San Francisco 49ers - 177 points
42 field goals, 30 extra points
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DEF - San Francisco 49ers - 166 points
200 points allowed, 38 sacks, 36 takeaways, 1 touchdown
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IDP - London Fletcher - Washington Redskins - 149 points
163 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
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IDP - D'Qwell Jackson - Cleveland Browns - 147 points
145 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 3 fumble recoveries
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Brees Breaks Marino's Record on MNF

Move over Dan Marino, there's a new record holder for single season passing yards. Drew Brees hit Darren Sproles with a 9 yard touchdown pass with 2:51 to play in the 4th quarter giving him 5087 passing yards breaking Marino's record that had stood for 27 years. Way to go, Drew. Congratulations. Couldn't have happened to a better guy.
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*Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba was hit up with a 66 game suspension by the Venezuelan league after striking an umpire in the facemask during a game last week. This is a significant suspension as the regular season in Venezuela is only 63 games meaning Torrealba is done for the rest of this season as well as ALL of next season. And you what? I don't have the slightest issue with the action that the league took. Argue that it was too harsh all you want, but there is no place for actions like this in professional sports. The only issue I have with the whole incident, is where was Torrealba's manager? Shouldn't someone have been running out there to intervene on Torrealba's behalf as soon as things started escalating? I mean, that's the manager's job, right?

*The defending champion Mavericks are off to an 0-2 start after getting whacked at home by the Denver Nuggets tonight 115-93. Not a good showing from the new guys either. Two points in 25 minutes for Delonte West, 1 for 10 shooting from Lamar Odom and while Vince Carter had 11 points, 6 of those came in the 4th quarter after the game had already been decided. It doesn't get any easier for the champs either as they head to Oklahoma City to take on the 2-0 Thunder on Thursday.

*What does Kevin Love do? If you're a steady follower of the blog, you know he grabs double doubles. Tonight was no different. 22 points, 12 rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

*Clint Dempsey scored his 6th goal of the Premier League season today against Chelsea giving Fulham a big 1-1 draw. It was your typical Dempsey goal. Nothing flashy, just being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of the opportunity.

*A week ago Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov had 0 goals in the Premier League. This coming just a year after he tied for the Premier League lead with 20 goals. He's had a pretty good week though. First he scored on a backheel in United's 5-0 win at Fulham on Wednesday, and then today he netted a hat trick against Wigan Athletic in another United 5-0 win. That win coupled with Manchester City's 0-0 tie with West Bromwich Albion means the two Manchester clubs are once again level on points. Both teams share identical 14-1-3 records, but City still has a goal 5 goal advantage on goal differential.
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*If you missed Jerome Simpson's front flip touchdown on Saturday, this is absolutely must see. Not sure how long the video will be up on youtube, so if they take it down, you can also view it here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

From A to Z - Christmas Day Edition - From Adrian Peterson to Zaza Pachulia

Here's a rundown on the last couple days from A to Z.

A is for Adrian Peterson. 2011 has just not been a good year for the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson reportedly suffered tears to the ACL and MCL in his left knee Saturday meaning the star running back may be out for the next 9 months. The Vikings also saw their rookie quarterback Christian Ponder knocked out of Saturday's game against Washington after suffering a hit to the head just one play after Peterson's injury. Even without Peterson and Ponder the Vikings still managed to pull out a 33-26 win, just their third win of the year. Peterson finishes the year with 970 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Toby Gerhart will handle the primary responsibilities in Minnesota's backfield the rest of the way.
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B is for Boxing Day matches. Boxing Day, aka the Day after Christmas, is a big one for soccer games over in the Premier League. Tomorrow's slate features Clint Demspey and Fulham taking on Chelsea, Manchester United hosting Wigan Athletic, Tim Howard and Everton taking on Sunderland, Brad Guzan and Aston Villa facing off against Stoke City and Manchester City traveling to play West Bromwich Albion.
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C is for Cam Newton. I'll be honest, I didn't think Cam Newton would ever be this good, let alone this good as a rookie. Newton broke Peyton Manning's rookie record of 3739 passing yards yesterday and became one of just five rookie quarterbacks to throw 20 touchdown passes in a season. Newton accounted for 236 total yards and 4 touchdowns in Carolina's 48-16 win over Tampa Bay yesterday. On the year, Newton has 3893 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 674 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns and has a 27 yard reception. Hard to make a better case for anyone else winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Newton will try to become the first rookie ever to eclipse 4000 passing yards on New Year's Day against the Saints.
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D is for the Detroit Lions. The Lions are going to the playoffs! For the first time since 1999 when they were quarterbacked by Gus Frerotte and... Charlie Batch? Man, that guy's been around forever... Anyhow, for the first time since 1999, the Lions are going to be in the postseason following their 38-10 win over the Chargers yesterday. The Lions now have ten wins making this the first time since 1995 that they've been able to reach double digits. To put into perspective just how long ago that was, that team still had Barry Sanders. Interestingly enough the Lions still have the same kicker though. 41 year old Jason Hanson has been the Lions kicker since his debut in 1994.
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E is for Eddie House. The 33 year old House is teamless after getting waived by the Heat before today's game against the Mavericks. House appeared in 56 games for Miami during last year's regular season and averaged  6.5 points while connecting on 68 of 175 3-pointers (38.9%). During the playoffs, House made just 7 appearances scoring 11 points - 9 of those in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. In lieu of House, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in early November, the Heat kept rookies Terrel Harris (Oklahoma State) and Mickell Gladness (Alabama A&M). In his 11 year NBA career, House has spent time with the Heat, Clippers, Bucks, Kings, Bobcats, Suns, Nets, Celtics and Knicks. He won a title with the Celtics in 2008.
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Fis for Fantasy Football. The 2011 Drydock League Champion won't be crowned until the conclusion of the Monday Night Game between the Saints and Falcons. I've got a 46.5 point lead heading into MNF thanks to a huge contribution from my latest waiver wire wonder Kahlil Bell (16 points), but all I've got left is Julio Jones, while Cumbo - the 1 seed - still has John Kasay, Curtis Lofton, and most importantly Jimmy Graham. Cumbo is still looking for his first ever Drydock League Title, while if I can pull this out, it will be my first since 2004. Fingers crossed!

G is for the Green Bay Packers. It's official. The road to the Super Bowl is going through Green Bay in the NFC. The Packers won their league best 14th game of the year tonight knocking off the banged up Bears by a score of 35-21. Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes giving him 45 on the year. The favorite for this year's MVP award has only thrown 6 interceptions.
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H is for the Hawaii Bowl. Southern Miss's Austin Davis threw a 4 yard touchdown pass to Kevin Bolden late in the 4th quarter to lead the Golden Eagles to a 24-17 win over Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The win was a school record 12th this year for Southern Miss who just a few weeks ago won the Conference USA title by defeating previously unbeaten Houston and knocking the Cougars out of the BCS. Nevada running back Lampford Mark had 183 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in a losing effort. Conference USA improves to 2-0 in bowls this year, while the WAC falls to 0-3.
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I is for the Independence Bowl. The Big 12 and ACC will both make their first appearance in this year's bowl season as Missouri (7-5) takes on North Carolina (7-5) tomorrow in Shreveport, Louisiana. This will be Missouri's last game as a member of the Big 12 as they will be headed to the SEC along with Texas A&M next season.
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J is for Joe Webb. Yesterday was a pretty good day for the former UAB Blazer. Webb, who came into the game after Ponder's injury at the start of the second half, completed 4 of 5 passes for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also ran for 34 yards and a score. Webb's play helped Minnesota pull out a back and forth contest with Washington 33-26 for just their third win of the year. A 6th round pick in 2010, Webb has done a little bit of everything for the Vikings this year racking up 176 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, 152 rushing yards with 2 more touchdowns and he's even caught a pass and returned a kick.
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K is for Kobe Bryant. Kobe was diagnosed with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right wrist after falling hard in Monday's game against the Clippers. While he turned the ball over 8 times against the Bulls tonight, the rest of his stat line didn't resemble that of a guy with a serious wrist injury: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. It still wasn't enough for the Lakers though as Derrick Rose and the Bulls pulled out an 88-87 win. Chicago trailed 85-77 with 1:58 to play before closing the game with an 11-3 run. Derrick Rose hit the game winning shot with 4 seconds to play and then Luol Deng blocked Kobe's shot at the buzzer to seal the win. Rose led the Bulls with 22 points.
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L is for LeBron James. The Heat made a statement today with a blowout win over the new-look Mavericks in a rematch of last year's finals. The Mavs enter the 2011-12 season without Tyson Chandler (Knicks), Caron Butler (Clippers), JJ Barea (Wolves) and DeShawn Steveson (Nets) having replaced them with Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West. I don't know that this new grouping won't work, but it sure didn't work today. The 105-94 final score doesn't come close to telling the story in this one. The Mavs had to outscore the Heat 29-8 in the 4th quarter just to make it an 11 point game. LeBron scored 37 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 6 assists and Dwayne Wade chipped in 26 as the Heat cruised to an opening night win exacting some revenge on the Mavericks. Miami outrebounded Dallas 51-31 and held the Mavs to under 40% shooting. Not a good sign if you're anti-Heat like I am.
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M is for Madison Square Garden, the site of the kickoff of the 2011-12 NBA season. Carmelo Anthony hit two free throws with 16 seconds to play to snap a 104-104 tie and the Celtics missed a pair of shots in the closing seconds giving the Knicks a 106-104 win in the season opener. Anthony finished with a game high 37 points while Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 31 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 13 assists. Boston clearly missed Paul Pierce in this one as his replacement Sasha Pavlovic went scoreless in 15 minutes while committing 4 fouls. The Knicks were swept in last year's regular season and in the postseason by the Celtics going a combined 0-8. It was New York's first win over Boston since April 2010.
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N is for NFC East. The NFC East division title is going to be decided on the final day of the season. With the Giants beating the Jets and Dallas losing to the Eagles, the Dallas-New York matchup on New Year's Day will now be for all the marbles. If it's anything like the Week 14 match between the two sides we'll be in for a treat. That game saw 71 points scored and the Giants rally back from a 12 point 4th quarter deficit for a 37-34 win.

O is for One Thousand Yards. Reggie Bush ran for 113 yards against New England yesterday bringing his season total on the year to 1086. It marked the first time in Bush's six year NFL career that he has eclipsed the 1000 yard plateau. His previous high was 581 yards in 2007. This has been Bush's most productive season as a runner since he ran for 1740 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior at USC before entering the NFL draft.
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P is for Peace... Metta World Peace... I'm not sure I'll ever get used to that.
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Q is for Quarterback. Drew Brees is just 305 yards away from history heading into Monday Night's NFC South Division showdown with the Atlanta Falcons. Dan Marino's 27 year old record for single season passing yards could be history a little over 24 hour from now. Brees, one of just two quarterbacks in NFL history to eclipse 5000 yards (5069 in 2008), threw for 322 yards and a pair of touchdowns the last time these two teams met.
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R is for Romo. The Dallas quarterback left Saturday's game with the Eagles in the first quarter after suffering a bad bruise to his throwing hand. The Cowboys remain optimistic that because the hand is not broken, he'll still be able to play in next weekend's showdown with the Giants. Stephen McGee came in in relief of Romo and completed 24 of 38 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, but the Eagles still won 20-7.
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S is for Steelers. Charlie Batch makes his second appearance in this week's A to Z having led the Steelers to a 27-0 victory over the Rams yesterday. With Big Ben sidelined with a bad ankle, Batch got the start under center and was an efficient 15 of 22 for 208 yards. The Steeler running game took care of the rest amassing 169 yards and 3 touchdowns while averaging 6 yards a carry. While the Steelers have clinched a playoff berth, their ability to win the division and clinch a first round bye will require outside help. The Steelers need to beat the Browns on New Year's Day and have the Ravens lose in Cincinnati to the Bengals.
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T is for the Thunder. The kids from Oklahoma City continue to come into their own starting the 2011-12 season with an impressive 97-89 win over the Orlando Magic. While a lot of teams this year are dealing with issues concerning their depth, or integrating new players into their systems, the Thunder return all 10 rotation players and had everything working tonight. Kevin Durant led the way with 30 points, while Russell Westbrook chipped in 14 and James Harden had 19 off the bench. Dwight Howard was held to just 11 points, but had 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
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U is for USA Roster. Jurgen Klinsmann has announced his 20 man camp roster for the USA's upcoming friendlies against Venezuela and Panama. The roster largely features MLS players (18/20) and only boasts 5 players with double digit appearances. With only 8 National Team goals between the 20 players, this is a great opportunity for some of the fringe guys to make an impression on Klinsmann as we get ready for World Cup Qualifying.

V is for Victor Cruuuuuuuuuuz! There's a saying: If you're gonna talk the talk, you've gotta walk the walk. In the leadup to yesterday's Giants-Jets game, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz contended Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis has “had to earn his money this year” because “teams aren’t really scared anymore” of him. Well, the former receiver made sure to back up his words on the field yesterday highlighted by a 99 yard touchdown reception in the Giants' 29-14 win. Cruz finished with 3 catches for 164 yards.
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W is for Wagons. As in nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Just ask Tim Tebow. Buffalo's defense picked Tebow off 4 times and returned a pair of them for touchdowns in the 4th quarter and the Bills routed the Broncos 40-14. Before yesterday's game, Tebow had only been picked off twice all season and now the Broncos find themselves losers of two straight after reeling off six straight wins. Additionally, with Oakland pulling out an overtime win against Kansas City, Denver now finds themselves tied atop the AFC West with the Raiders. Denver still holds the tiebreaker edge over Oakland so they control their own destiny with a home game against the Chiefs on New Year's Day. The Raiders meanwhile host the Chargers in what for them has become a must win game.
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X is for Xavier. The 15th ranked Musketeers finally got back into the win column for the first time since their brawl-marred win against Cincinnati with an 87-77 victory over Southern Illinois. Following the Cincinnati game, the Musketeers had dropped 3 straight losing games to Oral Roberts, Long Beach State and Hawaii. So much for 'Zip 'em up.'
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Y is for Yorvit Torrealba. The Texas Rangers catcher struck an umpire in the face after striking out in a Venezuelan League Game on Friday. There's no word yet on what type of punishment Torrealba will face from either the Venezuelan League or the Rangers. Torrealba hit .273 for Texas last year, his first season with the Rangers.

Z is for Zaza Pachulia. The 6'11" Georgian is back with the Atlanta Hawks this year. Which is funny since he's not from Georgia the state. He's from Georgia the country. The Hawks open up their season against the Nets on Tuesday.
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