Posts Tagged ‘Playoffs’

For the NL Playoff Power Poll, click on this link.

The NL playoffs is a crapshoot.  The AL playoffs were suppose to be a sure thing until this week.  So who is a contender to make it to the World Series?  Let’s rank the participants.

5. Oakland Athletics – As a Nationals fan, I guess I should root for the A’s because they gave us Gio Gonzalez, and the guys we gave up (Tommy Milone and Derek Norris) have really produced for this scrappy squad.  Their entire pitching staff, from starters to bullpen is solid, even though you don’t know who their names are (because I know I don’t).  They lost their veteran pitchers, the rookies came in and picked up the slack.  The team plays hard every night, which keeps them in most games.  The hitting is much to be desired; they have a .238 batting average.  Who do they think they are, the Astros!  But if the power hitters come through, this team can keep their improbable run alive.  Is Disney already working on Moneyball 2?

4. Baltimore Orioles – The better of the nobody believes in us squads.  25 guys have contributed for this team, 40 in September.  Everyone is all in.  Buck Showalter has plugged and played and pushed this team along.  If it’s a one-run game, which most of these playoff games are, then the Orioles have to be a favorite to pull it out.  They have clutch hitting, led by Adam Jones which is crucial in the playoffs.  Their bullpen is actually pretty dominant, with Jim Johnson on the back-end to shut down opponents.  Did I mention that Buck Showalter is the best manager in these playoffs.  The ‘Orioles Way’ is back and hopefully here to stay.

From Greatest to Goat, just like that

3. Texas Rangers – It was all good a week ago.  The Rangers were going to be runaway winners of the AL West and have home-field in the AL Playoffs.  Then bad pitching, and bad Josh Hamilton defense happened.  Now they are in a wild card playoff with the upstart Orioles.  Where did it all go wrong?  I couldn’t put this team in the top 2 because of their September swoon (15-16, Sept-Oct included), but this team really has the talent to in the World Series.  It would really be upsetting if they didn’t because of the last two playoff runs for this team.  Also, the fact they may lose Hamilton in free agency makes this playoff run more urgent, but with the way he’s playing right now, would they miss him?  If the pitching returns to form with this lineup, the Rangers will be a tough out.  But can they get through the wild card game?

2. New York Yankees – If this was any other team, this would be my 4th ranked team.  But it is the Yankees, so of course they will win it all.  A week ago, they could have been playing in the wild-card game.  Now they are the Number 1 seed.  That’s the Yankees magic.  I don’t like their lineup because they are home-run or bust.  But watch Robinson Cano start hitting doubles the opposite way and Derek Jeter starts hitting seeing eye singles.  I don’t like their pitching.  I don’t even know who will be the 2nd starter; but watch that guy (probably Andy Pettitte pitch 7+ innings.  Why? Yankee Magic.  That’s why they are 2nd on this list.

1. Detroit Tigers – This may be the worst defense team in the playoffs, so how are they my favorite in the AL?  Well for one they have a Triple Crown winner.  No one has had that kind of weapon since 1967.  The 3-4 part of the lineup of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder carried the Tigers into the playoffs.  The problem with the Tigers all season has been the guys not named Cabrera-Fielder, especially in the bottom of the order.  But if they can string together hits and manufacture runs, just like experts expected them to do at the beginning of the season, the Tigers will be tough to beat.  Throw in the Justin Verlander-Max Scherzer-Doug Fister pitching rotation, and they are down-right lethal.

So the Mancave picks a Braves-Tigers World Series.  Congratulations to those fans, now that will never happen.  But this is really the 2nd best time of year with NFL, NBA starting, NHL (if they would get their act together), and now the MLB postseason.  So buckle up for the ride, because I guarantee something will happen that you don’t expect.

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Best Player In Baseball…By Far

I hope you are enjoying the worst day on the sports calendar; the day right after the MLB All-Star Game.  No games on, football games are weeks away from starting, and NBA free agency is lagging (even though this year, the NBA offseason has been fantastic!)  So to entertain you on this dreadful day, and catch you up on what you may have missed watching the NBA, here is the good, bad, and ugly of baseball’s first half.

Is Bryce the Real Deal?
That’s A Clown Question, Bro?

The Good – Let’s talk about some surprise teams.  The Pirates, led by easily the 1st half NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, has seemingly put it together with great pitching from James McDonald and former castaway A.J. Burnett.  Even better than the Pirates, the Nationals are the best team in the NL with 3 starting pitchers who could start for most teams, along with spark plug Bryce Harper.  In the AL, it’s the usual suspects at the top with the Yankees and Rangers.  But the Orioles have turned their fortunes around behind Adam Jones hot bat, and Cleveland is in first, if only because the AL Central is suspect.

The Bad – Well good thing we have surprise team to excite us, because these other teams have been god awful.  The Red Sox and Tigers have struggled staying at the .500 level, but it’s the Phillies and Marlins that have really been woeful.  It’s really hard to believe, since their offense is statistically better than last year with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  All these teams have proven that baseball is not just stockpiling the best arms and bats to overpower everyone.  The Tigers have no pitching outside Verlander and bad defense; the Marlins are more streaky than Will Ferrell in Old School; the Phillies have no bullpen, no depth and are too old;  and the Red Sox just hate each and everyone hates the manager.  Can’t win that way, can’t do it.

The Ugly – This is actually a beautiful thing for a Nationals fan like myself, but the National League is easily the NFC West of the two leagues.  There is no way that the Nats should be the favorites in the league, but top to bottom, there really isn’t a team that you could see upending them.  The Dodgers don’t have the offense or pitching depth.  The Nats just swept the Giants and their ace Tim Lincecum is struggling this year.  The Cardinals don’t have their ace Chris Carpenter either.  The Reds could come close but their starting pitching isn’t intimidating.  You can’t count on the Braves, especially after last year, and the Mets have been overachieving all year.  Could we see a Nats-Pirates NLCS?  The baseball gods wouldn’t allow that right?

As for the AL, I would love to see Yankees-Rangers again but the Angels, not led by grisled veteran Albert Pujols, but by the young gun, Mike Trout, could overtake the Rangers.  As for the Yankees, they clearly are the class of the MLB, and that’s with them cutting payroll.  So for the ALCS, I have Angels-Yankees.  It should be an interesting next two months for baseball as these races heat up.  If you don’t care about that, at least it will entertain you until football returns.

Yankees-Red Sox…We Still Get These Games Force-fed to Us!

 

"But Mike, Your Team Barely Got 7 Wins..."

And just like that, this shorten NBA season is over.

As I said earlier this week, this season turned out to be a lot better than I predicted.  This season turned into a memorable season, unfortunately, for the Charlotte Bobcats.  The franchise owned by the guy who led the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Bulls, finished with an all-time NBA worst .106 win percentage.  The Bobcats finished the season on a 23-game losing streak (how ironic, 23) which blew away another 16-game losing streak from earlier this season.  And it doesn’t look like it will get any better.

After hearing Larry Brown’s comments from earlier this week, and knowing how well Jordan does as a GM, I am not surprised the Bobcats are terrible.  But this bad?  I hope David Stern rigs the draft to ensure Anthony Davis doesn’t go to that cesspool.  In fact, can the Bobcats just give up their pick because no one deserve that punishment.  And I won’t punish you with more talk about losers.

There is no time to catch your breath before the playoffs; they start tomorrow with some excellent games.  Without further adieu, here is your NBA playoff preview, Mancave style

Eastern Conference:

#1 Chicago Bulls vs #8 Philadelphia 76ers (Game 1, Saturday 1pm, TNT): Evan Turner said that the 76ers matched up better with the Bulls than the Heat.  Hey Evan, just make sure you don’t get benched without a reason by Coach Doug Collins.  Also, this might be the last time Andre Iguodala can throw Lou Williams under the bus or pull out the chair under him since he will test free agency. Pick: Bulls in 5

#2 Miami Heat vs #7 New York Knicks (Game 1, Saturday 3:30pm, ABC): If Jeremy Lin was playing, I would give the Knicks a better chance to win.  But Carmelo Anthony is on the short list of guys in the league that can put his team on his back and win a series.  Unfortunately, 2 other guys on that list play for Miami. Pick: Heat in 6

#3 Indiana Pacers vs #6 Orlando Magic (Game 1, Saturday 7pm, ESPN): Ah, the go-old NBA TV series.  I want to root for the Magic just because I want them to show that they can win without Dwight Howard after all the hoopla this season.  But I ain’t stupid. Pick: Pacers in 6

#4 Boston Celtics vs #5 Atlanta Hawks (Game 1, Sunday 7pm, TNT): Remember when this season was hype as hell in 2008?  Yeah, the Hawks just never did get any better did they?  And the Celtics just got greyer. Pick: Celtics in 7

Western Conference

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #8 Utah Jazz (Game 1, Sunday 1pm, ESPN): Apologies to faithful reader @NowByAP but if there was a channel below NBA TV this series would be on it.  Luckily for the Spurs, there’s no talk of them blowing this 1/8 matchup.  And it looks like this series will get love on TNT and ESPN. Pick: Spurs in 4

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #7 Dallas Mavericks (Game 1, Saturday 9:30pm, ESPN): This was the Western Conference Finals last year.  I think Dirk Nowitzki is still hungover from that Ace of Spades bottle in Miami last year. Pick: Thunder in 5

Who wants to face these guys in a series?

#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs #6 Denver Nuggets (Game 1, Sunday 3:30pm, ABC): Lakers, still the Kings of LA.  Don’t ever count out a team with 2 7-footers and a guy named Kobe Bean Bryant.  I will enjoy watching Javale McGee attempting to play defense in this series. Pick: Lakers in 6

#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs #5 Los Angeles Clippers (Game 1, Sunday 9:30pm, TNT): I know the Heat-Knicks is the sexier series, but I think this will easily be the best.  Memphis has done this before, but Chris Paul has a will to win like no one else.  Coaching (or lack thereof for the Clippers) will be a factor. Pick: Grizzlies in 7

Picture kind of says it all about Javale McGee's season this year

Like Mrs. Brady (see above), the results of the Super Bowl left me pondering what could have been for the other 31 teams that didn’t get the chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy.  So just like Gisele, I feel the need to get these final observations off my chest without any makeup on.

1 – Regular season record doesn’t matter, just get in the playoffs: For some reason, it’s turned into a big deal that the Giants were the first team to win the Super Bowl that didn’t have 10 wins or more.  In fact, I remember watching the G-Men on December 18, as my Skins ripped them in the Meadowlands, right after the Giants won their biggest game of the year the previous week in Dallas.  I said to myself then, “the Giants won’t make it to the playoffs.”  Not even the Super Bowl, the playoffs.  So what happened between December 18 and February 5?

I don’t want to say that the NFL regular season is useless, but in today’s league, the line between a win and a loss is thinner than the line between love and hate.  Don’t believe me?  Ask LBC about his Cowboys, or any Eagles fan out there.  Ask the Bears fans when Cutler went down right when they were playing their best ball.  Ask Denver, who may have had the worst playoff team in recent memory.  Ask the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  Games are decided by a fumble either rolling out-of-bounds or into your team’s hands.  It’s a tipped pass here, a missed call there, a throw to the wrong shoulder.  It could come down to you thinking that God has destined you to win over your opponent.  Teams are so evenly matched, you can play two teams 10 times and the record would be 5-5.  It wasn’t like that in 1992, but in 2012 parity rules.  Was the Bengals and Giants the same team (they both finished 9-7)?  The

Who Saw JPP Coming?

Bengals played the AFC South and NFC West, two of the most terrible divisions in the league and only finished 9-7.  In fact, the best team they beat record-wise was Arizona at 8-8.  Meanwhile the Giants played a grueling 6-game stretch, which featured 4 teams from this year’s divisional round, and don’t forget the NFC East.  They did most of it with Brandon Jacobs as starting running back.  Whose 9-7 looks best?  That’s why you just want to get in the playoffs.  The cream rises to the top in this league; if you’re good enough to get in the playoffs, you’re good enough to have a chance to win the Super Bowl

2 – Defense Still Wins Championships: At least, have a defense that can make a stop or two when you need it.  Look at the Patriots; they were bailed out in the AFC Championship Game by a drop and a shanked kick, but everyone knew that if Joe Flacco didn’t screw up, the Ravens would march right down the field.  So when Eli Manning moseyed on the field, did you think the Patriots defense had a chance?  I’m sure Patriots fans were hoping for a field goal and enough time to for Brady to score again.  Bill Simmons said it best in his Super Bowl defense, a smoke and mirrors defense will be exposed at this level of competition.  Patriots will definitely sure that up in the offseason.  You don’t need the Ravens defense anymore to win (unless your QB is Trent Dilfer-like) but can you at least make a stop?

3 – The Future of the League Hangs in the Balance: While Eli Manning was stopping Tom Brady from becoming the greatest QB of all-time, another QB that’s in that discussion was cleared to play next year.  Ironically, this all happened in Indianapolis.  I don’t

He Says He’s Good to Go, But Can He Move His Neck?

want you to underestimate how critical this next month will be, not just to the Colts future, but the future of the NFL.  Imagine the possibilities of the Peyton sweepstakes?  Will the Colts pay him or cut him?  Will they trade him or trade the #1 pick?  If the Colts trade the pick, that means another franchise gets Andrew Luck.  Where does that leave RGIII?  Will the Colts have the picks necessary for a Super Bowl run?  Suppose of Peyton leaves (which seems the likely scenario); imagine him in a Jets uniform.  We could have an all New York Super Bowl in 2014.  Imagine him in a Dolphins uniform under the shadow of Dan Marino.  Imagine him in the NFC East; is he what Dallas and Philadelphia needs to put them over the top?  Could he survive in Washington, the city that loves stop-gap measure like this one?  Imagine him in the desert with Larry Fitzgerald for 3 years.  The NFC West could be the most formidable division in the league (imagine that).

Or how about the most morbid of images, Peyton on any team laying on the turf, unable to move his extremities after what looked like the most routine of plays.  That’s a future none of us want, but could very well come true if his neck is not as whole as doctors say it is.  Whatever the path that Peyton takes, just know that he will go down as one of the greatest of his generation.  In fact, he’s so great, we look down on him for not accomplishing more (1 SB trophy, 9-10 in playoffs).   But don’t get me wrong, I think Peyton is still better than his brother and will be an all-time great when it’s all said and done.

It’s gonna be a crazy offseason, but we’ll sort it all out for you right here on the Mancave as 32 teams and Peyton Manning get ready to book a trip to New Orleans next year.  Hope your team makes all the right moves because it’s a thin line between victory and wait til next year.

Clash of the Systems: Old School vs New School NFL

Posted: January 10, 2012 by dontbeskerritt in NFL
Tags: ,

Well the NFC playoff matchups are easily 10 times better than whatever Tebow/Yates/Flacco throw-up that’s going on in the AFC.  An especially intriguing matchup that everyone is looking forward to is the Saints-49ers game.  Not only is it the best NFC defense versus the hottest NFC offense meeting head-to-head, it’s another battle between the NFL that we watched growing up, and the NFL that we see on Madden that is permeating into the gridiron.

New Orleans looks unstoppable right now.  They look like the best offense in the league, better than Green Bay and New England.  They averaged just under 40 points a game…40 POINTS since their bye week (that’s 7 games including the Wild Card game).  They torched the Lions for 626 yards in the wild-card; Drew Brees himself had an unheard of 466 yards in the air.  Against a playoff team.  How could this happen?

It's All Too Easy for Jimmy Graham

This is the New School NFL at work.  It has allowed teams to rack up yards in the air.  Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s 27-year-old passing record this year.  Tom Brady wasn’t too far behind.  Hell, even Matthew Stafford threw for 5,000 yards.  People want to put asterisks beside all of these fallen records because it’s too easy to complete passes in today’s NFL.  Defensive backs can’t breathe on a receiver without a flag.  Safeties now have to let receivers catch the ball instead of punishing them for going over the middle.  I see harder hits over the middle in Madden than in the today’s playoffs.  I love Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, but it’s so easy to be a tight end because they don’t have to worry about getting murdered in the seams anymore.  I wonder how Tony Gonzalez feels, he got in the league a little too early.

The great offenses have figured out the new laws of the NFL land a while ago and have taken advantage.  Everyone else is catching up.  Forget a running back, let me draft a random tight end that can run down the seam.  Forget ball-control offense; if you’re QB can’t throw for 350 easy, you’re going to be sitting on the couch.  Except there is one team in the NFC that doesn’t believe that.

The 49ers are as old-school NFL, dirty, muck-it-up, win at the end as they come in the league.  Alex Smith isn’t flashy but he gets the job done.  Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter will pound you to death.   Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will move the chains.  Their fearsome defense will smother you.  Their coach, who was the ultimate game manager in his day, Jim Harbaugh, gives his team the intensity and mental fortitude it needs to survive playing an old-school style in the new NFL.  He played that way when he almost led the Colts to the Super Bowl in 1996.  They called him “Captain Comeback” that year because he would battle back from deficits because his defense always kept it within range for him.  Harbaugh has brought that same toughness to his 49er team.  Down 13-3 in the 2nd?  Let’s pound the rock some more.  He won’t change.

The outcome of this game could start a new era in the league (if it’s not already here).  The days of defense wins Championships are waning.  Running the ball is too conservative, short passes are the new run plays.  The best defense is the defense the Saints play, score 40 points a game (the Saints defense forced the 2nd fewest turnovers this season and they still finished 13-3).  In fact the Saints were 24th in total defense and 3 other teams in the playoffs were worse; Giants, Patriots, and Packers.  Could it be that 2/3 of a team is now rendered useless?

Carlos Rogers...gulp...Difference Maker

I don’t think so.  Look back at the Lions game.  The Lions had many chances, especially defensively, to get a cushion or get back in the game with game-changing plays.  Interceptions kept bouncing off of their hands and chest.  The Lions needed a competent running back to shorten the game, because you definitely won’t win with Brees getting 81 plays in a game.  Guess what the 49ers do well?  Create turnovers (tied for #1 in the league) and run the ball (#8 in yards per game).  I’m not saying they are going to win, but the force is with them.  And the era of football that produced the Steel Curtain, Purple People Eaters, Doomsday Defense, New York Sack Exchange, and Monsters of the Midway and saw the likes of Jack Tatum, Lawrence Taylor, and Ronnie Lott is crying out to the football gods to say “offense wins games and creates highlights but defense wins Championships.”

The weather is supposed to be in the 60s in San Francisco for the game.  Some may say that gives the Saints the advantage because it will be good throwing weather. But the last time the Saints were on the grass they only scored 22 points against the Titans.  The 49ers are nowhere close to the Titans.  The Lions showed that Brees could be had.  If the 49ers can punch the Saints in the mouth and play downhill from there, they have a good as shot as any to stop the Saints.  Of course, if the Saints start a shoot-out early it can get ugly fast.   May the best NFL system win.