Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter Wildness

Brace yourselves because we have officially entered the best sports stretch of the calendar year, lasting from December 18 to February 5.  Some might give this award to the days of March Madness, but during that manic period we are only interested in one sport.  Winter Wildness encompasses three sports: College Football Bowl Season, NFL Every-Single-Game-Is-A-Playoff-Game excitement, and The Start of the Basketball Season (pre-Christmas games are usually the least exciting ones and non-predictive of a team’s eventual success even in non-abbreviated seasons). 

This might be the best Winter Wildness in recent memory. 

Convincing a casual college football fan to watch College Football’s (SEC) Championship game will be like convincing a casual movie fan to watch Citizen Kane; sure it’s going to be “great” but I’d much rather watch something more funny, bloody, or interesting.  Still, even with the anti-climactic, this-is-why-we-need-a-playoff-game Championship affair between LSU and Alabama, the entire bowl season is not tarnished.  There are a few intriguing games. 
Orson Welles would have been one of the biggest supporters of the BCS.
As usual, the best game of the bunch is in the Fiesta Bowl, where Andrew Luck and Stanford face off against OSU, who is the most logical title game replacement for Alabama.  Other high points include Oregon against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Houston and whatever remains of Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl, and FSU taking on Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.  However the game that I am most looking forward to has got to be 11-1 Boise State against 6-6 Arizona State. 

I cannot foresee a scenario where this is not the biggest beat-down of the Bowl Season.  Let me rephrase that, I cannot foresee a scenario where this is not the angriest demolition in college football history (slow down John Gruden).  Obviously, there should never be a bowl game between an eleven win team and a six win one.  It’s a joke that Boise needs to waste their time against the Sun Devils.  Boise State was a top 10 team all year and should have been in a major BCS Bowl.  Even the normally stoic head coach, Chris Peterson, bashed the BCS for taking away the opportunity for his players to compete against appropriately talented opposition.  Kellen Moore is in his last college football game.  Aside from this determination to clobber, the numbers signal a massacre too.  Arizona State is 64th in points against.  This would normally be a problem, but it is an execution sentence against Boise, who reps the number seven offense in the country.  This is going to be great T.V.
The San Diego Chargers have put themselves in a position where they
will need to win every game and get some added luck if they want to
make the postseason.  This was the plan all along.
The pro game’s contribution to Winter Wildness is at an all-time high.  At the start of the week 15 games, three teams already clinched playoff births.  An additional three AFC teams have 10 wins and are all on the verge of securing a postseason spot as well.  Two divisions (AFC West, NFC East) have third place teams (San Diego and Philadelphia) who are under .500 but within just 2 games of their divisional leaders.  If the season ended today, there would be five teams who missed the playoffs by just one game.  This number does not include San Diego, who is the only AFC West team that has scored more points than they have allowed, or the Eagles who have postseason hopefuls the next two weeks and the talent to play a major role on the playoff situation for both conferences.  Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts continue their pursuit of historic ineptitude.  Oh, and did I mention the Packers are chasing a 19-0 season?  In my preseason predictions, I said it would take until the end of week 15 for the Packers to clinch their conference.  This will be the case and I cannot imagine that the Packers would allow division rivals Chicago and/or Detroit to be the teams to ruin their quest for perfection.     

NFL Quotes of the Week:

1. “I sit at home, start watching TV and all I’m seeing is Tebow.  That’s kind of disturbing. We have a guy here [Rodgers] that’s breaking records every week and you have a guy in Tebow that’s saying ‘God’ every word and he gets coverage. Of course I love my faith and God but come on man.” – Jermichael Finley 

-If Tim Tebow gets a single first place MVP vote, I will lose all my respect for the Associated Press.  The award will be a total sham.  I will need to hunt down whoever is responsible for that Rodgers/Brees/Brady (but mostly Rodgers) injustice and write him a very, very lengthy letter. 

2. When asked about his playing status for his Week 15 game, Adrian Peterson said,  “It’s very important, especially for my fantasy team owners.” 

-Adrian Peterson is officially the number 1 overall fantasy pick until he retires.  Not only is he the best running back in the game, but he seems to be legitimately concerned with maintaining that position, unlike other previous running back elites like Brian Westbrook, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Arian Foster. 
There is no denying it; Adrian Peterson is the Vince Lombardi of
Fantasy Football.  
The NBA is going to be exciting for its usual reasons but the anticipation has been cranked up this year, at least for me, because I can’t wait to see the next, and then the next, and then the next managerial/Sternian/league-wide disaster.  Every week we have something new.  Since the lockout has been resolved, there’s no longer a fear of a canceled season, which means we get to just sit back and watch the countless catastrophes unfold.  My prediction for the month of January: Howard refuses to go to practice until he is traded, he gets sent to New Jersey, Mikhail Prokhorov is found to have  tampered with Howard, he loses his ownership of the team, and part-owner, Jay-Z, takes over the helm, telling reporters, “I got 99 problems but Prokhorov ain’t one.” 

This reminds me…   

Does something seem strange about this.  Battlefield 3 has chosen “99 Problems” by Jay-Z as the song for their commercial.  Great song, but why use one that has “bitch” in it’s chorus if you can’t say that in a television commercial?  The first time I saw the commercial I was wondering what word they chose to replace it.  But, alas, there was no replacement, just an awkward edit.  I guess they’re trying to appeal to a certain audience by using a Black Album “throwback”, but at what cost?  It sounds terrible!  Do you seriously mean to tell me that someone thought, “hey this is a good song choice,” and then, somehow, that final version of the commercial got passed up from executive to executive without anyone saying, “Hey, wait a minute here.”  Not to mention, what in the world does a racist cop and an attempt at an illegal drug bust have to do with war? 

I conclude this article with my picks for the weekend. 

Dallas (-7) over Tampa Bay.
Dallas cannot lose another game this season.

NY Giants (-6.5) over Washington
If they win their next two, the Giants will be one of the top NFC teams come playoffs.

Green Bay (-13.5) over Kansas City
The Jets covered this spread last week against KC.  Green Bay wins by double it.

New Orleans (-8) over Minnesota
Brees is on a tear and New Orleans must redeem themselves after a near loss to Jake Locker last week.

Seattle (+3.5) over Chicago.
Seattle will win this game outright.

Miami (+1) over Buffalo
Two team heading in the opposite direction. 

Houston (-6) over Carolina
Cam Newton will struggle against Houston’s number 3 pass defense and number 4 rush defense.

Indianapolis (+6.5) over Tennessee
Playing at home, Indianapolis will show what they’re made of and lose by 4. 

Cincinnati (-7) over St. Louis
Gruden and Jaws were legitimately angry watching The Rams on Monday Night.  They should be Alabama’s BCS game replacement.

Oakland (+1) over Detroit
Detroit should send a thank you note to injured Bears offensive leaders, Cutler and Forte, for allowing them to limp into the playoffs.  That is, unless they continue their losing ways…        

New England (-7.5) over Denver
This game ends one of two ways: (1) New England wins by 2+ touchdowns or (2) Denver wins by less than a field goal.  I’m going with option 1. 

Philadelphia (-3) over NY Jets
I still can’t get the mismanagement of mobile Tim Tebow out of my head.  The AFC playoff chase is about to get really, really interesting.   

Cleveland (+6.5) over Arizona
Upset!  Arizona’s three-game win streak has people thinking they’re significantly better than Cleveland.  They’re not.  Fitzgerald will be held in check on Haden Peninsula. – (that was the best line of this column) 

San Diego (+2.5) over Baltimore
I still have a difficult time believing in the Ravens.  They’ve looked very average several times this season, but their crazy, not-indicative-of-the-quality-of-the-team wins against Pittsburg hide this fact.  San Diego can officially not lose another game, which is just where they want to be. 

Pittsburg (+2.5) over San Francisco
Forget the Baltimore loses; Pittsburg is one of the NFL’s elite.  With or without Big Ben, the Steelers teach the upstart 49ers a thing or two about big time football. 


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