Saturday, January 19, 2008

UCLA & Kansas Emerging As Tournament Nears.

Don't look now but early season prognosticators are tabbing UCLA also Kansas as the two teams most likely to meet in the NCAA basketball finals. A talented bunch, the Bruins are led by bruising center, Kevin Love, and forward, Josh Shipp. The transition game is sparked by versatile guard, Darren Collison, who impressed many scouts in last year's final four match up against Florida. UCLA comes from the deepest conference in the nation: the Pacific Ten; hence they'll be battle tested come tournament time. Kansas is also toned featuring outstanding potential pros like Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, also Mario Chalmers, but UCLA dismissed this same Jayhawk club in last year's elite eight showdown. This season's current poll sitter, North Carolina, is solid. The Tar Heels, however, lack depth; therefore it's odds on they'll run out gas just like they did last year. The other contenders are Georgetown, Memphis, also Texas AM but those squads will need a little luck to go the distance. Keep your eyes on UCLA and Kansas; the key will be if the NCAA selection committee puts them in the same regional, otherwise its very foreseeable those two could meet in the final. In the NFL, long time St. Louis Rams owner, Georgia Frontiere, passed away today at the age of 80. She became the first female owner of a professional football team. Frontiere became well known as the dragon lady for moving the Rams from Los Angeles to her hometown, St. Louis. She claims to have relocated the organization because of faltering attendance; Los Angeles based sportswriters however, maintain she couldn't resist the $20-million dollar enticement paid out by St. Louis. Known as Madame Ram, she inherited the club from her late husband, Caroll Rosenbloom, who died in a drowning incident off the coast of Florida. In a bit of irony, he became the second of Frontiere's consorts to expire accidentally. To this day, some of her detractors believe Rosenbloom was murdered. Frontiere, nevertheless, left the Rams with a value of $902-million dollars, and she bestowed her portion of the squad, 60%, to her son also daughter. In the NFC title game Sunday, the young Packers are on a roll and should prevail over the courageous Giants. In the AFC championship, the Chargers would be my pick if they were healthy: their secondary led by Quinton Jammar, is very capable of stymieing the Pats vaunted passing game, but the nagging knee injuries to quarterback, Phillip Rivers, is likely to catch up with the Chargers on Sunday. I like New England, but I don't think they'll cover the spread.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bucanneers lose their manhood

The Giants took a lot more from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than a playoff game, the G-men also snatched the Bucs' manhood. In fact, this contest resembled a botched circumcision; ouch! This was a New York team, mind you, that was playing without three starters. The center, Shaun O'hara, their corner back, Sam Madison, also tight end, Jeremy Shockey; yet, the Giants didn't miss a beat. In a season ending game against the New England Patriots, the Giants decided to throw all caution to the wind by playing their starters. The Bucs, meanwhile, rested several key players while losing their last three regular season contests. Gruden's decision to rest his stars cost journey man running back, Ernest Graham, a chance to gain 1, 000 yards while quarterback, Jeff Garcia, openly complained about being rusty going into the playoffs. In a contact sport , a coach who constantly carps about injuries could be unconsciously portraying his team as soft to a league full of virile men. For the Giants, this was no signature win. Beating Tampa is akin to besting second tier clubs like the Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, or Cardinals. Think about it, would Tampa have been 7-9 or 9-7 with a healthy Jake Delhome in Carolina; how would the Atlanta Falcons have fared if Michael Vick were not in prison. Finally, what happens if the Saints don't try that crazy play in the waning moments of their game against the Buccaneers. All things considered, Tampa was lucky, and Gruden has brought some time for this coming season; but they will need to become smart players in free agency. A stronger receiving corps, along with a break away running back would help them make up some ground in the mediocre NFC. Meanwhile, take the Cowboys and points against the Giants Sunday.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Giants have a small margin for error.

Perhaps the most difficult contest in the NFL to handicap this weekend is the game featuring the New York Giants at Tampa Bay. Tampa is 6-2 at home while the G-men are 7-1 on the road. The Bucs rested some of their key starters for nearly two weeks; the Giants, meanwhile, went all out last Saturday against the Patriots. That being said, the Giants should have the mental edge Sunday in Tampa. Resting your players out fear of injury is a wimpy way to enter the playoffs...that point alone will not be lost on a very physical Giant football team that manhandled the Patriots. Secondly, New York probably has a smaller margin for error. Consider, the Bucs have a plus ratio of 9 meaning they rest on turnovers to inspire an anemic offense. On the surface, it seems all the Giants have to do is eliminate mistakes to win. Thirdly, Tampa Bay's offense struggles in the red zone; hence, their third down conversion rate is a feeble 30%. Consequently if they get a lead, its doubtful they can put their opponent in the refrigerator. Lastly, quarterback, Jeff Garcia, is 2-0 against New York beating them with the 49ers in 2002 and last year while subbing for Donovan McNabb. Even so, Garcia's mobility can create problems because it allows him to improvise out of the pocket; unlike the past however, the Giants speedy linebackers can nullify that aspect of his game. Although the G-men are 0-3 in wild card games, their past failures should give them plenty of motivation to finish this job. Looking at the schedules, the common opponents were the Detroit Lions also the Redskins. The Giants won in Motown and walloped the Skins twice. The Bucs were beaten soundly in Detroit and were handed the game by the Redskins. Washington committed six turnovers in the first half but still had a chance to win in the closing seconds. More importantly, Tampa Bay was being out muscled by the 49ers before Gruden removed some of his starters. Out of respect for John Gruden also Bruce Allen, they have done a remarkable job in turning around last year's 4-11 team, but asking for more than a crippled South division title is getting greedy with this squad. By the way, two noted experts, Chris Collingsworth also Chris Carter are picking the New York Giants. Yet, this game is still a tossup. The Giants have been a lackluster bunch all season playing down to the level of their opponents. Highly touted, Eli Manning, struggles - in part - can be traced to ruinous drop passes by some of his receivers; other boneheaded Giants, meanwhile, have committed costly penalties. In other words, the Giants are far from being a lock...but take them and the points. In Pittsburgh, I expect the Steelers to eke out a victory over the Jaguars. This game will be a hard hitting affair, but Heinz Field is a weird place to play due to chronic poor field conditions also unpredictable winds. The Steelers will need all the magic in world to overcome a big physical Jaguar football team. I like the Redskins to continue their masterful run in Seattle, so take the Skins and the points. Finally, take the Chargers to cover against the Titans.