Monday, January 28, 2013

MLB pre-pee

Joey Pahsons with Joseph Parsons

Flipping Omelets 2013 Major League Baseball Style

Welcome to the pre MLB preview column sautéed not fried.  Years, ago I was on one of those road trips with my grandparents. You know, the one where you go to all these places and see things that put one in a coma. Well it was not bad but I was trying to come up with an angle for my baseball preview.  Well, we happened to stop in Augusta, ME at this restaurant called Millers. In its belly is an all you can eat buffet filled with any cuisine you could like, pasta bar, meat, salad bar, meat. Well, you get the idea. Anything and everything.  Not sure if it exists anymore but props. If I was not a kid at the time it would be heaven. Instead I ate some and dreaded driving around the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia. With this in mind I have selected a culinary treat meter as a sample for MLB as we get ready to embark on another baseball trip. Predictions are coming soon.

Brazilian BBQ- Check out Midwest Grill on Mass Ave. Choice meats carved off the bone to serve with all the fixings. A truly awesome experience. And Fitting. With this we get our top tier:

Washington Nationals

Stacked lineup with my man crush Bryce Harper about to bust out.  Very savvy move adding Soriano to shore up an already good bullpen. Why do they call it a bullpen anyway? From watching rodeo, they pinch the bulls balls to get it going. Then again, I will now shut up as that is a good way to hype a reliever.

Atlanta Braves

Got to love an outfield of Upton squared with Heyward. Good times. Chipper is one of my all time faves and will be missed. Pitching. NL east is going to be tough.

California Angels

Stacked. Big Josh Hamilton fan and with Trout and  Pujols “could” be a devasting lineup. Don’t rush to judgment on these things however. Pitching staff with Weaver and CJ Wilson has questions. Both had health issues last season. Both can dominate when healthy. We shall see.

New York Yankees

Pains me to write this but lets be real. They have a good lineup for that short right field porch joke they call a stadium. Hey I have an idea, lets build a stadium and have all players who can hit a golf shot over the short fence and call it a home run. Lead MLB in homers, and act like nobody cares, then get shut out in the playoffs. Wait, there I go being impartial.  Really it all comes down to Sabathia and Kuroda. Seeing a theme here.? Pitching people.

Detroit Tigers

Cabrera and Fielder not to be counted out. Plus, Victor Martinez back. I was always pissed the Red Sox did not resign him but I digress.  Oh, and getting back to a Theme, Verlander stud and if Scherzer  and Doug Fister can contribute things look good.

San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey is a beast and love the name. Great baseball name. I still keep thinking they will come crashing back to earth but two world series championships in a few years and, “wait for it” great pitching has carried them. Hopeful Tim Lincecum gets his sexy back and Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner do what they do.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Championship Sunday

To some, today is the holy grail of NFL season: The conference championship games.  The last games that feel like the rest of the season because the Super Bowl has become a corporate extravaganza filled with more fluff than substance.  New England, Baltimore, and San Francisco are back from last year's conference championship with the latter two looking to seek revenge.  Should be fun, fun fun!

Atlanta Falcons (+3) Vs. San Francisco 49ers: 1/20 3pm ET
San Francisco travels to Atlanta to take on the giddy Falcons who came off one of the most dramatic comeback victories since the day previous when Baltimore came back against Denver.  Congrats to Atlanta for finally getting a playoff victory in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era.  It's been real.  I'm still not a believer in this #1 seed.  San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick is a true X factor that will throw the 49ers towards a victory for the following reason: Atlanta's linebackers will have to respect the possibility of both Kaepernick AND Frank Gore/LaMichael James running out of the zone read.  This means that they will have to either cheat up a couple of steps or freeze for a moment too long, which will allow Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis to be wide open on intermediate routes.  Falcons 20, 49ers 31
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots (-7.5): 1/20 6:30pm ET
Baltimore pulled off a true magic trick in its Mile High Miracle last week.  That is not going to happen again.  This is three straight weeks I'm picking against Baltimore straight up, but the second week in a row that I'm going to pick them against the spread.  There's a reason why the spread went from as high as New England (-11) to it's current spread of New England (-7.5).  Baltimore, for some reason, plays New England really well.  Throw in the fact that the Ravens play up to superior opponents almost as well as they play down to inferior opponents, and this game will be close.  And by close, I mean a one touchdown game.  New England is a machine, and can win by either running, throwing, or via its defense creating offense.  Simply too much firepower on all sides of the ball.  Patriots 38, Ravens 31

Friday, January 11, 2013

Division Playoffs: We've Seen This Before...

It's the Division Round of the Playoffs...It's Like Deja Vu

It's the divisional playoff round this weekend in the NFL, and three of the four matchups are repeat matchups from the regular season.  What does it mean, exactly?  Not much.  Even teams that beat their playoff opponent by 28+ points in their regular season meeting are only 11-11 in the playoffs.  That means the mighty Patriots, my superbowl pick, only have a 50/50 chance of winning against the Texans, who they embarrassed 42-14 in week 14.  Even though we've seen 75% of these matchups before (Houston/New England, Baltimore/Denver, Green Bay/San Francisco), a reversal of fortunes may be in the cards this weekend: when it really counts.

Denver  Broncos(-9.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1/12/13, 4:30pm ET 
The Broncos are really good, but not 9.5 point favorites good.  Say what you will about the Ravens, but they play up to superior opponents almost as well as they play down to inferior opponents.  By no means do I believe that the Ravens will win.  In fact, it would not surprise me if they lose by 20+ points, but my instinct tells me the Ravens will find a way to keep the game close to a one touchdown game.  If Baltimore finally realizes that they have the great neutralizer in Ray Rice (and Bernard Pierce, too) and his ability to sustain drives and keep Peyton Manning off the field...they even have a chance of keeping this to a field goal game.  Ultimately, though, Peyton Manning does not need a lot of time to torch what will be a physically and emotionally spent defense after last week's emotional win in Ray Lewis' final home game.  This is the last dance for Ray Lewis, and the Ravens season, but they make it respectable.  Broncos 30, Ravens 24

San Francisco 49ers (-3) vs. Green Bay Packers: 1/12/13, 8:30pm ET
The first time these two teams met, it was September.  A lot has changed.  This is, by far, the most difficult matchup to predict.  How much will the Justin Smith's torn triceps injury, that he will attempt to play through, hurt San Francisco's defense?  Justin Smith is arguably the most important person on the San Francisco defense.  He is an absolute monster in terms of his tenacity shown getting to the football, whether it be in the run game or in pass rush.  If Justin Smith doesn't get double teamed virtually every play, he will hurt you.  This is why Aldon Smith had a chance of taking down Michael Strahan's sack record.  Make no mistake, Justin Smith playing with one arm will affect San Francisco's effectiveness.  The question is: how much?  If the rest of the San Francisco defense can pick up the slack left by Justin Smith's one arm, then the game will rest on the turnover battle.  Speaking of which, one of the major changes since these two teams last met, is Colin Kaepernick.  If he shows the form he showed against New England's "bend but don't break" defense, then he will break Green Bay's defense like Dolf Lundgren in Rocky 4.  The key here is not turning the ball over and winning the field position battle.  It's old school, but it is what San Francisco has to do.  What makes the Niners great is that they beat you with their formations and their run schemes.  They put your defense in bad positions before the ball is even snapped.  Green Bay did contain Adrian Peterson last week, but Joe Webb was outmached at QB.  Colin Kaepernick won't be.  He's the X factor San Francisco has needed to advance to the superbowl, and it begins here: 49ers 27, Packers 23.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks: 1/13/13, 1:00pm ET
Every reasonable bone in my body says take Atlanta.  They're at home, where they perform significantly better.  It's only two points.  Two measly points.  They're on a bye, at home, and they're only giving two points.  However, I am not going to be reasonable.  Yes, I know that Seattle lost its double-digit sack leader in Chris Clemons.  But he was never going to be the real difference maker.  What sets Seattle apart are their elite, big cover corners who will be charged with blanketing Atlanta Wide Receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.  While they may not completely shut them down, they will limit their effectiveness.  There will not be large chunk plays hit against this defense because the two primary deep threats will be covered by corners that are both 6'3+.  Throw in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at the safety positions, and you have yourself the BEST defensive backfield going right now.  Bobby Wagner has been a revelation at linebacker and will have the responsibility of handling hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez (who has NEVER won a playoff game).  Another threat neutralized by the athleticism of the Seattle defense.  The only way that Atlanta wins this game is if it is able to do something no other team has done against Seattle: run the football successfully.  I don't think Michael Turner is the best running back on the Falcons, anymore.  Jacquizz Rodgers has passed him by, and the Falcons don't really know it.  Rodgers is the only player I can see giving the Seattle defense a tough time with his ability to both run and catch the football.  However, I don't think that happens.  I do see, however, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch running all over what is the softest defense left in the playoffs.  Atlanta's D is susceptible to power running, and the Seahawks can certainly do that.  Russell Wilson will also have a field day when he escapes the pocket.  Atlanta's cover 2 will break down once he breaks contain, and he will.  I really want to play it safe and take the home team coming off a bye only needing to win by a field goal, but I think Seattle is that good.  Seahawks 26, Falcons 13

New England Patriots (-9) vs. Houston Texans: 1/13/13, 4:30pm ET
Remember that stat from earlier where teams are 11-11 in the playoffs after beating the same team by 28 points in the regular season?  It's going to 12-11, and it won't be close.  Andy Dalton missed a plethora of throws last week, even a wide open touchdown pass to AJ Green.  Tom Brady won't.  I still cannot find an NFL player capable of covering Rob Gronkowski, and the Texans will provide very little resistance to Gronk one-on-one, which means there will be plenty of room for Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez to exploit, and they will (or Gronk still might).  The only way Houston has a chance of keeping it close is if Arian Foster goes absolutely crazy and runs all over New England, which he won't.  Bill Belichek always takes away what you're best at, and forces you to beat him with your #2,3,4,etc. options, and the Texans simply can't do that.  Matt Schaub will have to show us something he has not been able to his entire career: that he's a fearless gunslinger to any open target. Outside of Foster and Andre Johnson, there is not one threat that scares me (sorry Owen Daniels).  New England's D will find ways to turn Houston over (I expect at least two Schaub INTs) and hand Tom Brady at least seven points.  And He doesn't need help.  This one should be the biggest snoozer of the weekend.  Patriots 40, Texans 21

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 2013 Wild, Wild, Wildcard Weekend Predictions

It's one of the best months of the year for me.  Not only are the NFL Playoffs about to begin, but the January (mid-season) transfer window opens in soccer.  If you like the "Hot Stove League" in the MLB, this is that...on steroids (now  And a nice pun).  Anyway, after taking a week off of the power rankings ( let me down), I have returned with my previews/predictions for this weekend's action.  I hope you enjoy the hilarity that are my predictions, considering that I thought that the New Orleans Saints would be playing for the Super Bowl before the season started.  Nice factoid about this year's playoffs: there will be three rookie QBs (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson) and three sophomore QBs (Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Colin Kaepernick) leading six of the twelve 2013 playoff teams.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans 1/5/13, 4:30pm ET
The Facts: In a rematch of a 2012 matchup that saw the Texans advance in what was the Texans franchise's first playoff win, the Bengals are back with a vengeance.  There's a bunch of weird history here.  The Bengals are 0-5 on the road in the playoffs.  Only the Saints can share in Cincinnati's NFL-worst playoff road record.  However, can you guess who Cincinnati's last playoff win was against?  That's right -- the Houston Oilers.

The Reason Why The Bengals Could Win: The Bengals were third in the NFL in sacks (51), only one behind league leaders Denver and St. Louis.  If the Bengals force the Texans into passing situations (third-and-longs or by getting out to an early lead), then they will win with their elite pass rush.

The Reason Why The Texans Could Win: They have the ability to shut down the Bengals #1 weapon: A.J. Green.  Jonathan Joseph is an elite cover-corner and can take Green completely out of the game.  Without the threat of Green, the Bengals offense struggles too much to score enough points to beat the Texans.

Who Will Win: The Texans, at home, do JUST enough to squeak a victory over a very competitive Bengals team.  There is a reason why the spread for this game is only 4.5.  This means that Houston is only a 1.5 point favorite + the 3 standard points for home field.  I think this is a field goal game, but in favor of the Texans.  Houston 20, Cincinnati 17 (CIN covers)

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers 1/5/13, 8:30pm ET
The Facts: In a rematch of the week 17 matchup that Minnesota was able to win in order to reach the postseason, the Packers look to get the last laugh in this wildly entertaining matchup.  These two teams, offensively, could not be more different.  The Packers have not had a 100-yard rusher since Brandon Jackson in 2010 (43 consecutive games).  The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, who just fell nine yards short (2,097) of the single season rushing record.  Additionally, Peterson rushed for 409 of those yards against the Packers.  Yikes.  Combine that with the Packers' recent home playoff struggles (2-4 in previous six games), and we've got a game on our hands.

The Reason Why the Vikings Could Win: As mentioned earlier, Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards in the two regular season games against the Packers.  An effective Adrian Peterson does two things for the Vikings: 1) Puts points on the board and 2) Keeps Aaron Rodgers and the potent Green Bay offense off the field.  If the Vikings control the clock, they can win.

The Reason Why the Packers Could Win: There are not many teams that can put points on the board faster and more frequently than the Packers.  Assuming Randall Cobb returns healthy, the Packers arsenal of passing weapons can overwhelm what is a very young Minnesota secondary.

Who Will Win: Let's not get too carried away with the Vikings' week 17 victory against the Packers, at home.  Playing in the friendly, domed confines of the Metrodome will be far different from the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  No better motivation to beat a team soundly (covering that 7.5 point spread) than losing your first round bye position because of them the week previous.  Green Bay 31, Minnesota 20

Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts: 1/6/13, 1:00pm ET
The Facts: The Colts have converted the second-most amount of third downs (98), and are 7th in percentage (42.8).  The Ravens?  80 third down conversions and a 36.9 percentage (that's the same percentage as the New York Jets).  Yikes.  In an equally startling contrast, the Ravens ranked third in the AFC with a +9 turnover differential.  The Colts?  13th...with a -14.  Double Yikes.

The Reason Why The Colts Could Win: They have the better quarterback, a head coach who was hired because of how well he managed the Ravens defense, and a recent good run of form.  In a word, they have been Chuckstrong.

The Reason Why The Ravens Could Win: Experience.  Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Lewis have been there and done that when it comes to playoff football and can come up big against rookie QB Andrew Luck.  If Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce (underrated backup RB) get effective touches in both the run and pass game, the Ravens offense can do enough to take advantage of what is an extremely mediocre Indianapolis defense.

Who Will Win: There's something to be said about a wildcard team getting hot at the right time.  Andrew Luck and the Colts went 6-2 in the second half of the season, and 3-2 on the road (losses @ Houston and @ New England).  With that, give me the 6.5 points, and I'm calling for the win outright.  Colts 16, Ravens 13

Washington Redskins vs. Seattle Seahawks: 1/6/13, 4:30pm ET
The Facts: In the battle of district vs. state (wait for you get it) district's Robert Griffin III and state's Russell Wilson are phenomenal.  They finished the 2012 season as the third and fourth highest-rated passers (102.4 & 100.0 rating respectively).  Both of those numbers were higher than Tom Brady's and Drew Brees'.  They're really, really good.  Throw in Alfred Morris (district) finishing second and Marshawn Lynch (state) finishing third in rushing, and you have two very balanced offenses.  Virtually mirror images.  Will be the sexiest matchup of the weekend, hence it's 4:30pm Sunday slot.

The Reason Why the Redskins Could Win: Given the previous facts, let's assume the offenses are a stalemate.  If the Redskins win, Jim Haslett's pressure-based defense has to get home against Russell Wilson, causing sacks/turnovers.  If they Redskins don't win the turnover battle, they will lose.

The Reason Why the Seahawks Could Win: Once again, taking the offense out of the equation, Seattle's two top cornerbacks, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, will both be back for this game.  These two physical cornerbacks are both over 6'3 and can keep up with nearly any receiver.  Those timing plays the Redskins run off of the zone read can be disrupted with physical cornerback play, and the Seahawks have that.  If those two play good games and reroute the Skins receivers, they will win.

Who Will Win: Seattle's defense will be the determining factor in this one.  Washington will put up a good fight, but team speed with Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin off the edge combined with the likes of Bobby Wagner at the linebacker level, and the two previously mentioned elite corners will prove to be too much for even RG3 to overcome.  Seahawks 27(-3), Redskins 23