#2 Minnesota Vikings (12-4) over #1 New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Offensively, these teams match up pretty well. The Saints are in the top ten in points, rush yards, pass yards, and total yards. Drew Brees has plenty of guys to throw too, whether it’s Marques Colston , Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey, Lance Moore, or Devery Henderson. He also gets a lot of help from a three-deep running back squad of Reggie Bush, Miek Bell, and Pierre Thomas, all of whom have five or more rushing touchdowns; and hey, Brees can throw to them too. No one was able to stop this offense until the last three weeks of the season and the Cardinals yielded little resistance against it last week in the divisional round.
Similarly, the Vikings have a strong offense of their own. They are in the top ten in every offensive stat except for rushing, but when the rushing attack is led by Adrian Peterson it doesn’t really matter. They also have “The Old Gunslinger” Brett Favre who, at 40 years old, has had one of his best seasons of his long career, throwing for 33 touchdowns and a mere 7 interception during the season. And then there’s that whole thing about his experience and the fact that “he’s just a big kid playing football.” His weapons include Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe (11 touchdowns), Sidney Rice (who has developed into Favre’s #1 receiver), Percy Harvin (who may not play due to migraine headaches), backup running back Chester Taylor, and the aforementioned Peterson.
But where these teams differ is on the defensive end and I think this is where the game will be won. While the Vikings are 6th in total yards allowed (2nd in rush yards and 19 in pass yards) and 10th in points allowed, the Saints are not ranked higher than 20th in any defensive category. Even though Darren Sharper was one of the best defensive players this season, the Saints defense can best be described as “opportunistic.” They’re not very imposing, but they will take advantage of any mistakes. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ defensive line of Jared Allen (14 1/2 sacks), Pat and Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards is arguably the most intimidating in the league. Last week against the Cowboys, they sacked Tony Romo 6 times (3 by Edwards) and allowed only 3 points the entire game. However, Edwards and Pat Williams are both nursing knee injuries, so the Saints will have a somewhat easier time dealing with the rush. Also, the Vikings’ secondary is vulnerable and Drew Brees should have plenty of opportunities to exploit it.
I also think the New Orleans fans will play a big role in the game. They’re known for causing trouble for opposing teams and with the Super Bowl just one win away, they’re going to be going bonkers.
Unlike the Colts-Jets game, where I’m for the Colts, I don’t really care who wins this game. I like Brett Favre and Peyton Manning and would like to see them face each other as they try to win their second Super Bowl, but I also know how much it would mean for Drew Brees and the city of New Orleans to get their first championship. On a scale of 1 to 10 on how much I want these three guys to win the Super Bowl, I think Brees is about an 8 while Favre and Manning are 7’s. Whatever the case, I think this game is going to be a great one.
After tomorrow, we’ll know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl on February 7th. Regardless of tomorrow’s winners I think the BIG GAME is going to be a good one.
Last week I went 2-4, correctly picking the NFC winners-the Saints over the Cardinals and the Vikings over the Cowboys. I picked the Ravens over the Colts because the Colts never do well the week after a first round bye and I picked the Chargers over the Jets, but they imploded.
#1 Indianapolis Colts (14-2) over #5 New York Jets (9-7)
Here’s something interesting about the Colts-Jets matchup: it shouldn’t have happened. In Week 16 the Jets were fighting to stay alive in the playoff race, needing wins against the Colts and Bengals to make it in. The Colts, on the other hand, were playing to keep a perfect season alive with a game against the Bills the following week. But the Colts only played for two and a half quarters to keep the perfect season going because coach Jim Caldwell pulled the starters to keep them from getting hurt and practically gave the game away. After the starters’ exit, the Colts didn’t score again and lost 29-15. The following week, the Jets got another win over a similarly wary Bengals team and now find themselves in the AFC Championship game against the Colts. So if you thought Colts Fan was mad about missing out on a perfect season, it’s going to be much worse if the Jets win again. Why? Because by pulling their starters in the Week 16 game, the Colts helped the Jets get into the playoffs. They had a chance to put away a team in their own conference that could potentially hurt them later in the playoffs but didn’t take it, instead choosing to essentially forfeit the game for the sake of the players’ health. Sure it was an unlikely scenario, but it was still possible. The Colts have to know this. There’s no way their preparing for the game without thinking, “Hey, we could have stopped their playoff run before it started.”
Regardless of that fiasco, I think the Colts will still win. They have one of the top offenses in the league with Peyton Manning at the helm and they have a good defense that despite giving up a lot of pass and rush yards doesn’t give up a lot of points. But it’s not going to be easy. The Jets are the top defensive team in the league and will be sure to take advantage of the fact that the Colts are one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Conversely, the Jets’ offense is the top rushing team in the league and will be sure to put a lot of pressure on the Colts’ pliable defense despite having a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez. Also, Rex Ryan has his team believing that they are already the Super Bowl winners. I think the Colts certainly have the tools to win the game and it’s little wonder that they are the favorites to win, but I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Jets pulled off a big upset.
This year’s contestants in the Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend were announced yesterday. Two-time champion Nate Robinson will make his fourth appearance in the contest and will be defending his title from last year’s. Also joining him are Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats (this is his second dunk contest) and Shannon Brown of the Lakers. The fourth participant will be decided by that goofy “dunk-in” I talked about last week between Eric Gordan and DeMar DeRozan. So that’s the entire field. Should be interesting.
But wait, aren’t we missing someone? Wasn’t one LeBron James supposed to take part in this year’s edition of the dunk contest? I remember him saying during last year’s contest that he was going to enter this year’s. But surely I must be making this up.
Guess not. At the time, I kind of figured he would back out in the end for whatever reason. Now he has and everyone wants to know why. Is he afraid of getting beat by a lesser-known player like Gerald Wallace? Maybe, but I think it’s something else. I think LeBron has to be center of attention. Think about it. That clip took place during last year’s dunk contest. At that time, everyone is talking about Dwight Howard’s Superman dunks and Nate Robinson’s dunking prowess despite his small stature. They’re the centers of attention. What better time to bring the attention back to himself other than announce he’s going to participate next year. And come to think of it, LeBron garners a lot of attention talking about “next year.” He started all this nonsense about him playing in New York when he said it was his dream to play in Madison Square Garden. And when he got tired of everyone asking about where he’d be playing “next year” he told them to stop talking about the future, and then announced the following day that he would be changing his jersey number, wait for it, “next year.” Then there was that whole thing about him playing in the NFL a couple months ago. He gets so much attention from speculative topics and talks a big game, but he never lives up to it. This is just another disappointment.
Last week I went 1-4 with my picks, getting only the Ravens vs. Patriots game correct; I had also picked the Packers, Bengals, and Eagles to win. Maybe I can do a little better this week. Again, my picks are in bold and, again, there’s going to be a lot of links available so you can see who else is picking who.
#1 New Orleans Saints (13-3) vs. #4 Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
#1 Indianapolis Colts (14-2) vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
#2 Minnesota Vikings (12-4) vs. #3 Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
#2 San Diego Chargers (13-3) vs. #5 New York Jets (9-7)
For the entire season, my Super Bowl picks have been the Colts and Vikings. Now I’m not so sure, as evidenced by my picking the Ravens to beat them. I didn’t like that they finished the season with two weeks of resting starters followed by a bye week. And while I know that the Colts have won seven straight against the Ravens, Peyton Manning also hasn’t won a playoff game after having the first-round bye.
I’m sticking with the Vikings, though. I think that while the Cowboys are a good team, the Vikings are better than they are on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a better QB, better running backs, better receivers, and a better defense. I also don’t buy into the notion that the Cowboys are the “hottest team in football” because they’ve won one playoff game. What’s that? They’ve won four games in a row? I guess that is pretty hot.
Only problem is, the Chargers have not lost a game since their October 19th game against the Broncos. They’ve reeled off eleven straight wins. So maybe they’re not hot because they’re on fire, making the Cowboys the “hottest” team who isn’t on fire. Sounds good to me. And I think they’ll add a 12th win to that streak by beating the Jets. I feel this is a game that could go either way, but I also think that the Chargers are the superior team. If they keep Thomas Jones and Shonn Green from running over them like the Bengals did, they should have no problem winning.
I think the Saints-Cardinals game will be a shootout. Drew Brees vs. Kurt Warner- how could it not be. I think the Saints have the edge because they play better defense.
NFL Playoff home (Yahoo! Sports)
ESPN’s expert picks
Colts-Ravens breakdown (Sports Illustrated)
Chargers-Jets breakdown (Sports Illustrated)
Cardinals-Saints breakdown (Sports Illustrated)
Vikings-Cowboys breakdown (Sports Illustrated)
The grand finale of the NBA’s All-Star Saturday Night, the slam dunk contest, is a simple premise. You get a few guys together, they dunk in a competitive format, and whoever has the highest score at the end wins. Simple, right? And yet, we all enjoy watching it. So why is it, then, that the NBA keeps fiddling with it? This time around, there’s going to be some dopey gimmick called a “dunk-in.” At halftime of the Rookies vs. Sophomores game on February 12th, Eric Gordon of the Clippers and Demar Derozan of the Raptors will have two minutes to make two dunks. When they’ve done that, the fans will vote via text messaging and the winner will round out the field of four dunkers in the dunk contest the following night.
So here’s my question: why not just have both Gordon and Derozan be in the actual slam dunk contest and have five people participate? Wouldn’t that make better sense than just a mini-dunk contest? I remember a couple years ago Dwight Howard wanted to do a dunk on a 12-foot goal, but the NBA wouldn’t let him because it wouldn’t conform to regulation conditions. And then they come up with this.
But this isn’t even the worst idea they’ve had. Remember the 2002 contest? In that one, they had a format that all the players had to follow- a dunk on their own, a dunk with a teammate, and a dunk from The Wheel. You remember The Wheel, don’t you? When you spun it, you had a chance of getting a Michael Jordan dunk, a Julius Erving dunk, a Dominique Wilkins dunk, an 80’s dunk, a 90’s dunk, or a mystery dunk. It was a waste of a perfectly good wheel and none of the players could duplicate the dunks. Take Steve Francis for example, who got stuck having to do Terence Stansbury’s famous “Statue of Liberty” dunk. Stevie couldn’t even palm the ball, and now he’s having to do the “Statue of Liberty.” He failed miserably:
Am I overreacting, or is this something that everyone things is silly? I guess it doesn’t really matter since it is just the dunk contest but still, I hate when they do crap like this.
I was preparing two separate posts about the games for today and tomorrow, but I ran out of time. So instead, I’ll just put my picks down and provide some links so you’ll be covered on every possible aspect of the games. My picks are in bold.
#4 Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) vs. #5 New York Jets (9-7)
#3 Dallas Cowboys (11-5) vs. #6 Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
#3 New England Patriots (10-6) vs. #6 Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
#4 Arizona Cardinals (10-6) vs. #5 Green Bay Packers (11-5)