Week 10 Picks

>> Saturday

Just picks today. However, there won't be quick picks this week, since I haven't wrote much lately. Before the picks, let's look back at Oakland-San Diego and once again, this game says more about the Chargers than it does about the Raiders. Once again, the Chargers can move the ball until they absolutely have to. The fact that the AFC West isn't led by the Chargers is a failure on Norv Turner and it doesn't help that Philip Rivers has been too erratic. Even if San Diego plays great in December and wins the West, that just means they get to lose in the 1st round. Should be the end for Norv if they don't turn this around big time, especially how quick the Chargers pulled the trigger on Marty Schottenheimer's firing.

Now onto the picks, as I attempt to finally end this middling of my picks. Until Thursday's game, I've been at .500, which is unacceptable. Let's see if there's carryover from Thursday's Raiders win. (Home team in CAPS)

Pittsburgh (-3) over CINCINNATI

Tough to pick against the Steelers after a loss. Especially when facing a rookie quarterback, even though Andy Dalton hasn't played like a rookie. Will be very telling of both teams if the Bengals win this one.

Denver (+3.5) over KANSAS CITY

I have a new rule for the AFC West, take the points. Home or away, this division is so bad that if two teams play one another, you're better off taking the underdog. Just remember, a Broncos win means they will be a game out of first with Tim Tebow as the QB.

Jacksonville (-3) over INDIANAPOLIS

Never saw an NFL team look to get the number one draft pick the way the Colts look. They really could go 0-16 to get Andrew Luck. This is a rare winnable game, but the Jags play good enough defense that should see another single-digit Colts offensive effort.

Buffalo (+5.5) over DALLAS

Just when it's time to buy on the Cowboys, this is when a curve is usually thrown and the Cowboys show us why we shouldn't believe in them. Also, expect a much better effort from the Bills, who last week could do anything against the Jets.

Houston (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY

Yes, I'm taking another road team. The Texans are playing very well lately and if they are going to come down to earth, I don't see the Bucs being the team to do so, even though you could say the season for the Bucs is on the line.

CAROLINA (-3.5) over Tennessee

The Titans are just good enough to play close games, then lose them late. As for the Panthers, I think the bye week helps them and Cam Newton is due to win some ballgames, isn't he?

MIAMI (-4) over Washington

Just read that Rex Grossman will start today, not John Beck. The Redskins have no chance to win a game that John Beck starts. At least with Grossman, he's either competent or godawful. Looks like I'm betting on awful. Of course, if the Dolphins want to stay in Suck For Luck, they lose this one.

ATLANTA (+1) over New Orleans

Because I don't trust the Saints on the road anymore. All three losses are road ones (Green Bay, Tampa Bay and St. Louis). Now they are playing a Falcons team that is finally looking like the one who won the NFC South and held the top seed in the playoffs last year. We'll have a new team in first tomorrow.

St. Louis (+3) over CLEVELAND

Two bad teams, but the Rams have the better QB in Sam Bradford. Remember when a matchup between Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy was the biggest game of the weekend? Now it's probably the worst game.


Arizona (+14) over PHILADELPHIA

I probably would of taken the Eagles until we found out DeSean Jackson isn't playing (nice job DeSean during a contract year). Now, I'm taking the points because no one seems to cover double-digit spreads this year. Besides, why should a 3-5 team give 14 points (even with John Skeleton involved)?

Baltimore (-7) over SEATTLE

I fear this game because of the Ravens propensity of losing to bad teams on the road (especially after a Steelers win). Just know that the Ravens can't afford to blow games like this if they want to finally have home playoff games this year. Besides, will Tavaris Jackson/Charlie Whitehurst really beat Lewis, Ngata, Suggs, Reed and the Ravens defense?

CHICAGO (-3) over Detroit

All of a sudden, the Bears look good. Earl Bennett has made Jay Cutler more comfortable, they still play high level defense with Urlacher, Briggs and Peppers. Meanwhile, the Lions haven't played as well as they did to start the year and the Bears could have won the meeting in Detroit if they didn't make a couple mistakes.

Giants (+3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Now this is football, when the Giants and 49ers are both top teams in the league. Honestly, this is a tossup, and I'm mostly taking the Giants because of that half point. In the meantime, here's some great video (for both fan bases).

New England (+1) over JETS

Funny feeling about this one. The Pats just don't lose 3 in a row (2002 was the last time). Everyone seems to be on the Jets here, and with reason as the Jets have won three in a row and the Pats have lost two in a row and looked bad offensively in their last 3. I just don't think the Jets take advantage of the Pats problem areas on defense and won't cover the tight ends when Brady is throwing it.

Minnesota (+14) over GREEN BAY

Thinking a close Monday night game here. Now that the Packers are 8-0, they will get every team's best shot. That means Adrian Peterson controls the line of scrimmage and Christian Ponder continues to protect the ball.

This week: 1-0
Last week: 7-7
Season record: 63-62-6


NFL Thoughts

>> Wednesday

The NFL resumes tonight with the defending champion Packers hosting the Saints. Unfortunately, work is going to keep me from watching the entire game or write a more detailed preview for the upcoming season. So here's my order of finish in each division with a brief synopsis following it.


1. New England- I'm with everyone else picking the Pats as the AFC East champs. Can't go wrong picking against Brady, plus a motivated Haynesworth is a scary one.
2. NY Jets- The only way they are better this year is if Sanchez improves. Defense didn't improve and the offensive weapons are older. It's on the Sanchise. Playoffs though.
3. Miami- Too much talent at other positions to finish in last. Of course, when Chad Henne's involved, you never know. 8-8 or 7-9 will be the record.
4. Buffalo- Long time without winning, and they're still not close to legitimate. Fitzpatrick will keep them at about 5 wins; really could use 2 wins and Andrew Luck.


1. Pittsburgh- Unlike their two Super Bowl wins with Roethlisberger, they lost and will be hungry this year. Steelers defense is still the same. AFC favorites.
2. Baltimore- Was tempted to shock everyone by having them 3rd, but couldn't pull the trigger. I think it's Ray Lewis last chance to win. Like the Jets, they go where Flacco does. Wild card.
3. Cleveland- They're getting better, let's see if the marriage of Colt McCoy and Pat Shurmur will lead to 8 wins for the Browns, maybe more. There's hope in Cleveland.
4. Cincinnati- Lost Johnathan Joseph and Ochocinco. The great QB battle between Bruce Gradkowski and Andy Dalton. Pencil in 3 wins.


1. Houston- No excuses Texans. Peyton Manning's missing time for the Colts. Wade Phillips is the DC, which he can handle. Gary Kubiak has to be fired if they lose again.
2. Tennessee- Because I think Peyton Manning misses a lot of time. Because Matt Hasselbeck will start more games than Jake Locker and put up 8 wins.
3. Indianapolis- Because Kerry Collins was going to retire. Manning's been the reason the Colts have stayed in the playoffs the last 3 years. No Manning=6 wins.
4. Jacksonville- Even if Blaine Gabbert is any good, Luke McCown isn't and could put the Jags into enough of a hole. The only way this team will is if they need head to a Canadian pharmacy and pick up some special stuff.


1. San Diego- Better special teams, going along with 1st ranked offense and defense. Full years for Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil. MVP=Philip Rivers.
2. Kansas City- This team gets a tougher schedule and falls back to 8-8. Kind of like the Dolphins after they won the AFC East in '08. Especially with Matt Cassel's injury status.
3. Denver- Broncos will still play good offense and now their defense is beginning to catch up. AFC West is about to be good again.
4. Oakland- The Raiders will slip. They can't help it after losing Asomugha to Philly. More troubles for the once proud franchise.


1. Dallas- Surprised? A healthy Tony Romo, another year for Dez Bryant and the Rob Ryan led defense. Also, they have no pressure this year, because of the Eagles.
2. NY Giants- I figure Eli Manning won't throw 25 INT's again. Despite the injuries on defense, Justin Tuck is still there. People will be surprised when they make the playoffs.
3. Philadelphia- And they'll be shocked when the Eagles miss them. Vick doesn't play as well as last year and their front seven weakness will show up at a key point. Gut feeling.
4. Washington- Rex Grossman beat out John Beck for the starting QB job. Add that their roster is average and another Andrew Luck sweepstakes team is compiled.


1. Green Bay- The champs get back Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant and do something they didn't do last year, win the division.
2. Minnesota- My surprise in the NFC because Adrian Peterson will run the ball and run all day like he's supposed to. Plus, McNabb has a better year with AP.
3. Detroit- Because I don't believe Matt Stafford stays healthy all season. If he does, Detroit will be 2nd, with Johnson, Suh and company. Also they make the playoffs with Stafford playing.
4. Chicago- Worst to first? Yes, because they could have easily have finished in last. Lucky team all last year, starting in Week 1. Luck always evens out in this league.


1. New Orleans- The year-after hangover is over. Brees will be his normal great self, the defense will return to '09 mode and with Mark Ingram, the running game improves as well.
2. Atlanta- Good team, not great. Suspect defense put more pressure on Matt Ryan and that offense. They can handle it in the regular season, but not in the playoffs.
3. Tampa Bay- They come back a bit, though I do think Josh Freeman gets better. I have to, he's my fantasy starting QB.
4. Carolina- Growing pains while we watch Cam Newton start from Day 1. Last again, but better, likely 6 wins.


1. St. Louis- Bradford leads the Rams to the playoffs, though being the NFC West, it doesn't say much. Big year for Steven Jackson will result as well.
2. Arizona- They have a QB in Kevin Kolb; and unlike in Philly, he'll have a chance to play without worried about a backup over his shoulder. Team needs more talent.
3. San Francisco- Enough talent to stay out of last, but too much Alex Smith to make a real run (we all know winning the NFC West doesn't count as a run).
4. Seattle- The team that proves the West means nothing. They won the division, and a playoff game, yet are still in rebuild mode. Qwest Field keeps Andrew Luck away.

AFC Title Game: San Diego over Pittsburgh
NFC Title Game: New Orleans over Green Bay

Super Bowl: New Orleans over San Diego


On Baseball Realignment

>> Sunday

MLB is on the edge of changing the game again. They are planning on making the playoffs 10 teams versus the eight that it currently has, and now there is talk of realignment, something that hasn't happened since 1998. The talk is to move an NL team to the AL and create two 15-team leagues. Not a bad idea, but here's what I've got.

Option A: I like the original idea, so I'll put that as option A. Move the Brewers back to the AL but create six divisions with five teams in each division. Brewers go to the AL Central and then move the Royals to the AL West. Division play was put in play to create more rivals. It's like interleague. Consider the 'natural' rivals that interleague poses, except it is already there with divisional play.

Speaking of 'natural' rivals in interleague, the way to play the game with odd divisions is to have rolling interleague play. Forget the whole designated time slots for interleague play and just have interleague all the time. If there are 23 weeks of baseball that would allow for every team to play each other at one point. Alternate the years for who plays home and who plays on the road. Take the current idea of five playoff teams with the top three division winners getting a bye and you've increased revenue.

Also consider this idea. I'll use the example of the Red Sox for this. When fans can't make it to Fenway they will travel to New York or Baltimore because it is a cheap flight and they can watch their home team play on the road. If the Sox had to play Seattle 10 times a year then this wouldn't benefit the home team, just as if Seattle had to come to Boston more than two road trips. It wouldn't be worth it. Move the Royals to the AL West and they can take a trip down to Dallas to catch games and visa-versa. Well that is if they had fans.

Option B: Consolidate. Get rid of 2 teams and go back to the way things were in 1993, just two divisions in each league with seven teams. Divisions are still somewhat in existences and it helps solve the problem for the lack of attendance. Fans in Miami don't care about the Marlins. You can probably eliminate the Royals too if that were the case.

This would solve another problem aside from lack of attendance; it would create better teams. Have a new draft with those players and expand rosters to 26 active players.This would take 50 'free agent' players on those teams and move them across MLB while getting rid of 22 players to the minors, or moving other players, currently on the bench, to the minors.

This would also curtail increased salaries. If the talent pool is larger, then teams would be willing to spend less and 'settle' for better than average minor league players who can still perform in the big leagues. Each division winner would make the playoffs and then you could have 4 wild cards, making six playoff teams with the division winners getting a bye. Look, another problem solved; increased revenue due to larger playoffs and increased attendance.

There are other ideas floating around for a 'floating realignment' but that just seems too complicated and hectic so we will use these two options as the best. I should just run MLB.


Stanley Cup Preview

>> Wednesday

The theme of this year's Stanley Cup Final is the exercising of postseason failure. Both the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins have experienced losing, not just in the history of both franchises, but recent memory as well.

For the Bruins, it's a history of losing to the Montreal Canadiens almost every spring, plus the years of 1988-92 which they reached the Cup Final twice and two Wales Conference Finals as well and couldn't win. It also includes the last two springs which include a Game 7 home overtime loss to Carolina and the loss to the Flyers after leading the series 3-0.

Vancouver's past include losing Game 7 to the Rangers in the 1994 Final, coming within a Nathan Lafayette shot off the post from tying the game. It also includes the Markus Naslund-Todd Bertuzzi years which they were the most entertaining team, yet dealt with playoff failures in the early 2000s. Their recent failures are the back-to-back series losses to the Chicago Blackhawks, which saw the worst of Roberto Luongo by the end of each series.

Now these two teams are set to take the ice tonight in Rogers Arena to begin a Stanley Cup Final which the matchup on paper might mean nothing. Then again, this is hockey, the matchup on paper doesn't always mean anything. The best three players in this series are probably both Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. Boston can counter with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, who might not be as good as the Vancouver three, at the very least are playing as well right now.

Just rewatch both series; the Sedins regained their scoring touch as particularly Henrik dominated the series with his passing. When he gets going, then brother Daniel starts to score, then Alex Burrows and before long, a more confident Canucks team emerges, which is troublesome for the entire league. That doesn't include Kesler, who's a jack of all trades for the Canucks, with his scoring, playmaking, and special teams ability. As for the Bruins, all three men carried the Bruins at times late in the series. Krejci, alone, has been the Bruins catalyst for the last 3 years, only no one really thinks of this as true. When they lost to the Flyers last year, it was due to Krejci's injury and no one else being able to score consistently for them. Along with Horton, who's been the sniper that Boston fans have wanted for years, not so much in huge goal numbers, but just a plain ability to get the puck past the goaltender. Meanwhile, Lucic just seems to be everywhere, skating hard and no one on the ice will take a run at him, for fear of how he'd answer back.

The rest of both teams' rosters are full of depth; players who are willing to step up when needed. It's no different than any other hockey team, only the quality of the depth. Zdeno Chara is the best defensemen in the series and almost certainly will be on Sedin duty this series. Tyler Seguin is the Bruins x-factor, who can carry the Bruins when they aren't scoring with his ability. Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley all provide big minutes and timely plays for Boston and Dennis Seidenberg has been key as Chara d-line mate. The Canucks depth includes Kevin Bieksa, a defensemen who while isn't a Chara on the blueline, can do anything that's needed by Vancouver. Chris Higgins has really led the team with his scoring because he's more a grinder than scorer. And then there's Raffi Torres, a man who will be called apon to give big hits to the Bruins, countering what Boston thinks as how they would win this series.

Finally, the goaltenders, where this series story will be told. Roberto Luongo has had all the expectation to reach this stage and after some tough times in the Chicago series, he's really carried the Canucks past the Predators in a low-scoring series and past a more high-octane Sharks squad. Meanwhile, what hasn't already been said about Tim Thomas. The man just competes in goal. He reminds me of Mike Richter to be honest, as both men were battler's in net and while both guys were at times susceptible to a soft goal, also can't be beat if they play at their best. The Tampa series is really what you need to know from Thomas, following up each loss with a near unstoppable performance (yes, I know he gave up 5 goals in Game 2, but followed that game with a shutout). My warning for anyone picking Vancouver; that means you're picking against Tim Thomas.

I've thought this series is a lot like a reverse 1994 with the Canucks in the Rangers role and Boston in Vancouver's role. Vancouver, like the Rangers, probably can do more of what they want to do on the ice, only that goaltender is there to shut them down, and when he does, Boston will counterpunch. This is a series that will go seven, only I see the home team losing and waiting another year.

Predicition: Bruins in 7


NBA Finals Preview

>> Tuesday

An interesting NBA Finals begins tonight as we see if the Heat can fulfill it's promise to bring championships to South Beach, while a group of old vets lead Dallas into the Finals with likely their last legitimate run to an NBA title. What makes the Dallas run so compelling is that no one has won before, aside from Rick Carlisle's title with Boston as a player. They also have Dirk Nowitzki, looking to vanquish demons from his last Finals appearance, against the Heat, along with Jason Terry, the other holdover from the 2006 Mavs team. Jason Kidd looks to erase his two title losses with the Nets, Peja Stojakovic looks to right a wrong from the 2002 Western Conference Finals and Shawn Marion will do the same after losses to the Spurs in the mid-2000s.

As for Miami, Dwyane Wade looks for his second title, while LeBron James tries to start making Scottie Pippen right (which he never could) about being a greater player than Michael Jordan. You can't even attempt to argue that until LeBron wins a title. Not when you're dealing with Jordan, who's competitive fire is greater than almost every superstar in history (probably just Russell is in the group, with Kobe a level below). The story for the Heat won't be their other guys, but if Chris Bosh continues to play at the level he showed against the Bulls, if Wade can make up for a weak (for him) series on offense and if LeBron can maintain the ruthlessness he demonstrated since Game 4 against the Celtics.

The matchup itself will be fun, as we'll wonder if Dirk or LeBron will be held by anyone. My guess; no one holds LeBron, while Dallas will survive the games which Dirk is hitting his shots no matter who's guarding him. After those two, it will be seen if the Mavs can hit from the perimeter, negating the Heat's advantage in halfcourt defense.

Prediction: Mavs in 6


Guest Post: NBA Eastern Conference Game 4 Preview

Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat Game 4 Preview

Current NBA Odds: Heat -5 O/U OFF

By: Mike Cooper of Coopers Pick

Even though 2 of the Big 3 of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did not have the best Game 3 the Bulls could not contain the 3rd member of Chris Bosh, who scored 34 points on 13/18 shooting in the Miami win. Derrick Rose scored 20 points, but for the 2nd straight game he did not shoot the rock well (8/19 from the floor) and for the game Chicago shot 41.6%. The Bulls are not a high scoring team and they have to play much better D in Game 4, as in Game 3 the Heat shot 50.7% from the floor and this season the Bulls are 2-9 when an opponent shoots over 50%.

Interesting fact that the last team to win a Game 3 in the Eastern Conference semifinals and go on to lose the series was the 2005 Miami Heat.

In Game 3 in Miami the Heat beat the Bulls 96-85 and Miami covered the spread and the posted total went Over.

This season the Heat are 48-46-1 ATS and the Bulls are 56-38-2 ATS. The Heat are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 home games against the Bulls.

Game 4 is in Miami and the Heat have yet to lose at home in this post-season (7-0).

The Bulls did have a solid Game 3 on the boards out-rebounding the Heat by 9, but they have to shoot the rock better and attack the rim and not settle for jumpers. Rose, Luol Deng (6/13 14 points), and Carlos Boozer (8/19 26 points) all shot under 50% from the field and the Bulls only had 36 points in the paint.

Rose has to get it going, as he has struggled in the last couple of games with his shot and Chicago has lost both games. He only had 5 assists in Game 3 and 0 in the first half and if he is not hitting his shot he must dish out the rock more.

Joakim Noah is not a focal part of the Bulls offense, but he has to score off offensive boards and put backs. He only had 1 point in Game 3 and only had 5 rebounds. He has to be more physical inside and get some easy buckets in the paint as well as pull down more boards.

Betting Trends

Chicago is 11-3-1 ATS in their last 15 games against teams with a winning percentage above 60% and they have an Under record of 7-3 in their last 10 games after an ATS loss.

Miami is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games, 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games playing on 1 days rest, and they have an Over record of 5-0 in their last 5 home games. Since the beginning of the season my nba picks have said to watch out for the heat this season and right now there is no exception to that. It certainly will be an exciting game 4 in the NBA playoffs


Man, Screw Phil Jackson

>> Monday

Phil Jackson is on the verge of becoming the next Breff Favre. Will he come or will he go. Here's a question, though. Who Cares? Really, does it matter if he is 335 games over .500 in his career as a coach? Does it matter that he has 11 NBA Championships? He's a mediocre coach.

Go ahead and immediately downplay that notion that he is just an average guy. Players play and coaches coach. When you have the best players on the court you are going to win more often than you lose. Phil Jackson won 70% of the regular season games he coached. That's about 57 games won a year in an 82 game season. Big deal?

Everyone jumped on Eric Spoelstra and the Miami Heat for coming out so slowly to start the year and yet the team still won 58 games. It isn't that Spoelstra is a great coach, rather he has the best players on his team. There's no such thing as luck, it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. If Spoelstra had a horrible ensemble of players, he might get canned for a bad start, but the fact is he has the best players, much like Phil Jackson did his entire career.

Do you think that if Spoelstra had the same talent on his team for 20 years that he could consistently win 57 games? Without a doubt. But no one is ever going to claim that he was one of the best coaches. Is there an award for best manager of talent? Maybe that is what we could dole out to coaches like Phil Jackson and Eric Spoelstra.

I'm not saying Doc Rivers is the best coach either. Ask anyone who knows me and I was against Doc Rivers coming to Boston. These guys are in the NBA and if they can't get up to play then they won't win. It doesn't take a coach in the NBA to motivate players. This isn't the college game. Phil Jackson has always had the best player on his team, so it is only natural that he be one of the best coaches when it came to winning percentage.

What makes the best coach? A coach that takes his team to new levels, a coach that surpasses expectations. Should the Heat miss their expectations of winning a championship it wouldn't surprise me to see Phil Jackson come and take over. Why would Phil Jackson take over a team like the Sacramento Kings and show what kind of coach he really is? If he really is that great of a coach? Look at any other team in the West right now still playing and they should be defined as better coaches. They all won 56% or more of their regular season games and made the playoffs with far inferior teams. Do that consistently and they have a case.

Sure, no one knew that Jordan and Kobe would be the players they panned out to be when Phil first had them but the only way Jackson would coach is if he had the best players. So if Phil stays, it will only be in a spot beneficial to him. I give coaches like Larry Brown more credit for trying again and again, only to fail again and again. They are trying to flex their coaching muscle, aka, their minds. How hard is it to say, "Kobe, let's get a win, go take over"? It really is that easy and if any NBA team wants to give me a chance with elite players, I'll gladly put a few flex offense sets on a whiteboard and say "Hey, Superstar, go get me a win. And look to Superstar 2 and 3 if you can't get your shot."


If a wrestler retires, is it real?

Look, I still think wrestling is for fucking dorks, but this was a great post I found about some famous wrestler retiring recently. His name was Edge. He looked like one of those porn stars that grunt to much and make you not want to play with yourself...

Via SOS blog

It happens very often in the world of professional sports that we see careers cut short because of injury. The risks and hazards that all professional athletes take when they step onto the field, court, ice, diamond, and pitch (or whatever their sport’s playing field is called) are always high. Sometimes these injuries occur to younger players leaving us fans to ponder questions like “What if?” and wonder about what could have been. Other times we see injuries occur to older athletes that were just hanging for a few more years. Although career-ending injuries strip away an athlete’s ability to walk away on his or her terms…they sometimes turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Although you probably would not believe it unless you were a fan, professional wrestling is a sport that sees the most amount of injuries besides football. Professional wrestlers land on their backs in a way the human body is not supposed too. There is no off-season in pro wrestling; which means these men and women are landing on their backs, being thrown outside of the ring onto concrete, and jumping off the top rope onto a hard canvas about 250 days out of the year. To say that wrestlers live daily life in pain would be an understatement. It’s amazing what amount of risks pro wrestlers will go through to put on a great show for the fans.

The old school mantra of professional wrestling has always been you suck it up, tape up any injury you have, go out there and perform for the fans. It didn’t matter if you were risking further injury and possibly threatening your ability to walk or even life a pain-free life as you got older. As more awareness about concussions and long-term injuries became prevalent and relevant in today’s sports age, the WWE decided to scale back on high-risk maneuvers and even banned chair shots to the head. Even with a toned down in-ring product, taking the bumps these guys do still leads to pain and injuries.

On the April 11th edition of Monday Night Raw one of the most passionate and talented wrestlers that the WWE has ever seen was forced to retire. Adam Copeland (known to WWE fans Edge) spoke from the heart and let everyone know exactly what the situation was. Edge suffered a broken neck back in 2003 and had to have major surgery performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He was forced to miss a year of in-ring competition. Fast forward to 2011 where Edge says he started feeling numbness up and down his arms over the past few months. The WWE asked him to take a few physical tests before WrestleMania 27 earlier this month. The lingering effects of that neck injury on top of 8 straight years of physical pain and punishment to his body had finally caught up with Edge. The test results showed that Edge would never again be cleared to wrestling in a WWE ring or he would risk paralysis and spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The decision was an easy one for the 37-year-old Copeland. He decided to walk away with his head held high and retire from the business as the World Heavyweight Champion. Edge had stated in recent interviews that he had about 2 good years left in him before he would choose to retire on his own. Although that decision ended up being out of his hands and he did not get to walk away on his own terms, Edge had nothing to be sad about. In the WWE, Edge had accomplished every possible achievement there was.

As a wrestling fan growing up in Toronto, Canada, Edge always dreamed of becoming the World Champion just one time. He ended his career as an 11-time World Champion, as well as a multiple time Intercontinental Champion, U.S. Champion, and Tag Team Champion. Edge also won the King of the Ring tournament in 2001 and won the 2010 Royal Rumble. Edge had basically seen it all and done it all in a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

Edge was set to wrestle at May 1st’s Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View in a ladder match for the World Championship against Alberto Del Rio. It truly was a blessing in disguise that these test results came back at the time they did. A ladder match is one of the most brutal matches the WWE has to offer and one wrong bump or fall off the ladder could have paralyzed Edge for the rest of his life.

Watching and listening to Edge announce his retirement on live television made me a little emotional. After all I have been an Edge fan ever since he debuted in May of 1998; and as my other favorite wrestlers such as Bret Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and The Rock retired and left the business, Edge took the top spot as my favorite active WWE Superstar. I was hoping that this would turn out to be some kind of storyline. I sat there waiting for somebody’s music to hit and interrupt Edge. When that didn’t happen I started to get the feeling that this was as real as it could get. Edge walked backstage and was greeted by a standing round of applause from his fellow Superstars. Edge was crying as he hugged his friends and the screen faded to black. Later in the week on Smackdown, Edge officially vacated his World Heavyweight Championship and gave another heartfelt speech. He thanked his mom who was in the audience and let everyone know that he’d go back to his home in the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and dogs. He even asked the fans if he come out to his entrance and music one more time because he would miss it. Edge really does have the best theme music and entrance in the WWE today and I will greatly miss it. He thanked everyone in the WWE and some his closest friends in the business. The show ended with the wrestlers coming out to the entranceway and giving him a standing ovation as guys like Triple H, Big Show, and Rey Mysterio walked into the ring and gave him hugs.

Although he did not get to walk away on his terms, he walked away with his head high and with great respect, dignity, and honor. Everyone will always respect him for the decision he made. Life -and most importantly a pain-free life- should be the most important thing to any athlete in any sport. When you’ve accomplished everything that Edge has in the WWE it is a lot easier to walk away when the doctor tells you too. Many times an athlete will try to be macho and go against the doctor’s orders because they do not want to be perceived as weak or not tough. Sometimes being smart is a lot better than being tough.

Edge will always be remembered as a young guy who came in as an upstart in the WWE and clawed his way to the top of the business through hard work and dedication to his craft. He was always one of the more entertaining guys on the mic and could have match of the night honors on every single card he wrestled on. He was dedicated to taking fans on emotional rides in any storyline he was involved in by his intense promos. From his days as a member of the gothic Brood to tearing down the house in tag team ladder matches and TLC matches with his best friend Christian. To 5 second poses and kazoo themes to breaking off on his own and winning the King of the Ring. To beating Kurt Angle and shaving his hair to winning the Money in the Bank ladder match. To beating John Cena for his first WWE World Title to the Rated R Superstar era where he had a live sex display with Lita. To main-eventing WrestleMania 24 against the Undertaker to returning at the Royal Rumble in 2010 after a year off and winning it. To winning his 11th World Heavyweight Championship…Edge has always been entertaining and exciting to watch. He called himself the Ultimate Opportunist and The Rated R Superstar.

Edge is the epitome of what happens when you start at the bottom, work hard, and succeed and make it all the way to the top. He can walk away knowing he’s left behind an amazing legacy that WWE fans will never forget. Adam Copeland will one day be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and everyone will know that he truly did deserve it because he was that good and all of his peers respected him.

(This is a video tribute the WWE put together for Edge…as always it’s worth watching and really good.)


Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

>> Thursday

Rangers-Caps: Basically, we get to see if the Caps are truly committed to their defensive gameplan of the past few months. We also see how much regular season success carries over to the playoffs. I still remember when Tampa played the Islanders in 2004, the Islanders won the season series, but still lost in 5 games. The Rangers have the goalie advantage, the advantage at the blueline (which they didn't have in '09), but without Ryan Callahan, some needs to step up (Marian Gaborik?) to put the puck in the net. No prediction, because I'm a biased Rangers fan, may as well get that out of the way.

Flyers-Sabers: The key to this series is will Chris Pronger play. If he does and plays well, the Flyers will win. If not, the Sabres are more dangerous on offense and Ryan Miller can be the difference maker. I still say the Flyers win, because they have better forwards and just need their goalie(s) not to lose it. Flyers in 7.

Bruins-Canadiens: The best series of the first round. Montreal has the history and they have the season series edge, 4-2. The Bruins have the psychological edge after their 7-0 win in March. Who wins? Boston has clear advantages at forward and the blueline, and goaltending is a wash. Unless the Bruins either don't play their physical style, or play it too much, they should win in 6.

Penguins-Lightning: Once again, the question is about a player coming back. This time, it's Sidney Crosby. I don't think he comes back and Pittsburgh has to make due without him. While the Lightning have terrific players such as Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny LeCavalier, I don't think they're ready to win yet. Pittsburgh, with Marc-Andre Fleury leading the way, grinds out a series win in 6.

Canucks-Blackhawks: Are the Canucks capable of finally beating the Blackhawks. Everyone was saying that Vancouver should be upset to play the Hawks again. I think they should be thrilled. To become the champ, you must beat the champ and the Canucks must get over this hill if they are to win. I think it's a challenge they accept and the fact that they have the deepest team in the playoffs, best scoring, best in goals against and they should win. Canucks in 5.

Sharks-Kings: The Kings had a chance to do big things this year, until losing Anze Kopitar. Now they are stuck with a San Jose team who's lurking as a sleeper to win, instead of a favorite. Sharks win in 6.

Red Wings-Coyotes: Until this afternoon, I was willing to make the Coyotes are my upset of the round. Then came the news they could be moving back to Winnipeg after the playoffs (sorry for no link, but I have no time to get one). This means the crowds in Phoenix, which weren't bad last year, will be either empty or full of Wings fans. Plus, it's never smart to pick against Detroit. Wings in 6.

Predators-Ducks: Barry Trotz should be commended for the job he does with a Nashville team who can't score, but seem to make the playoffs every year. If they played 10 years ago like this, they'd have a Cup. Unfortunately you need to score and the Ducks can with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne. Not enough firepower again for the Preds. Ducks win in 7.


NBA Playoff Predictions

>> Tuesday

The playoffs are once again among us... some predictions for the first round.


1 Chicago over 8 Indiana in 4 games
The Bulls are the more complete, talented team. They are better offensively and defensively. This should be the least interesting series in round 1.

2 Miami over 7 Philadelphia in 5 games
As much as I want to see the 76ers pull one out, it is not going to happen. They don't have the firepower to hang with the star-studded Heat. Iggy can only guard LeBron or Wade.

3 Boston over 6 New York in 7 games
The Celtics come limping into the playoffs, trying to find an identity again after the Kendrick Perkins trade. Funny things can happen when the Knicks get into the playoffs... Game 7 in Boston, though, gives them the advantage.

4 Orlando over 5 Atlanta in 6 games
I'm not sold on the Magic as legitimate contenders, but I think they have the firepower to overtake the Hawks.


1 San Antonio over 8 Memphis in 6 games
This is an intriguing game since people think the Spurs are a weak 1 and the Griz a strong 8, but reports of an upset have been greatly exaggerated. The Spurs still have the big 3, and Manu Ginobili will be the best player in this series.

2 Los Angeles over 7 New Orleans in 5 games
If David West were healthy, this might be an interesting series. As it is, I don't see the Lakers faltering, even as poor as they have played down the stretch.

6 Portland over 3 Dallas in 7 games
The upset of the first round, I like the more athletic Blazers to take down Dallas, even though Dirk is playing as well as anyone in the NBA. The Mavs need Tyson Chandler to be huge in this series, but I am not sure he is up to it.

4 Oklahoma City over 5 Denver in 6 games
It should be the most entertaining series in the first round, as both teams get out and run. The difference is that one of these teams have Kevin Durant, and one does not.

What are your predictions?


Baseball Preview

>> Friday

Earlier than normal and without the National Championship game as the finale of the day, the 2011 MLB season begins today. This season begins off the heels of an offseason which was crazier than expected. Particularly, the moves by the Red Sox and Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke moving were the biggest stories. However, the hot stove has been turned off and its back to diamond where every team (yes, even the Pirates) are in first place on Opening Day, and despite the bad weather here in NYC, you can feel grass is about to grow and spring is coming. It's also time for another preview post (I know it seems like all I do are preview posts anymore) so let's get to it before the first pitch.

We begin in the reigning toughest division in baseball, and the likely toughest for the rest of time in the AL East. You know a division is tough when the fifth-place team can realistically win another division. Baltimore and Toronto are interesting because they are up-and-coming; both teams can hit well and they have young pitching that if they reach potential, could win about 85-90 games. Even that, however, wouldn't mean the playoffs for both. Tampa lost Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and many others, but they still have Evan Longoria and David Price and with good years from Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and B.J. Upton, they can easily go back to the playoffs. However, I don't believe their bullpen without Soriano and Joaquin Benoit can establish themselves good enough to pass the Yankees and Red Sox. Both teams will make the playoffs, Josh Beckett would be the key if the Red Sox win the division or the Yankees. If Beckett's can bounce back to his best, then the Red Sox advantage in the rotation is pronounced over the Yankees. If not, then the rotations are a wash, with maybe a slight edge for Boston. I think the Red Sox win it, only because the Yankees might struggle early with the rotation and whatever trade they make won't swing the division, but solidify the wild card.

The AL Central once again has Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago as their contenders as Cleveland and Kansas City continue the rebuild. The Royals are really close to being a good team, as their best in baseball farm system continues to grow up. It won't be this year they compete for the playoffs, but in 2012 or 2013, they will. I think they hold off the Indians in the battle for last place, as Cleveland is a little behind the rebuild than the Royals (meaning Orlando Cabrera is traded to a contender by July 31). As for the contenders, I'm not sold on either the Tigers or White Sox to overtake the Twins. Chicago always seems to wear down over the year under Ozzie Guillen's managing, while the Tigers don't seem to have the rotation capable of winning the division. I know the Twins lost some major bullpen guys, but if Joe Nathan comes back to his All-Star form, that negates the loss. It also helps to have Justin Morneau back in the lineup, hopefully he can have a season which he's healthy enough for the playoffs, would be important if it's the Yankees they play again.

Last year was a change for the AL West as the Angels went by the wayside and the Rangers won the division and the league. This year, both team look to stagnate a little, opening the door for a surprise winner. Even though the Mariners seem to do good in odd numbered years, they won't win this year. They could settle for another Cy Young for King Felix (better than training him). I look to Oakland as the best team in the West as they have the best rotation (and had it last year) and with Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui signing there, they have a better offense (of course, who knows with that ballpark). Anaheim is lacking in both offense and pitching to compete, despite Mike Scioscia's ability to manage. As for Texas, they will compete with Oakland to the end, but I must say, not getting Cliff Lee to resign is the difference for this team.

On to the NL, starting in the East where the Philly Phour reside. Despite the early season injuries, the Phillies really shouldn't miss the playoffs; if they do, it's an embarrassment. Speaking of embarrassment, the Mets should be the worst team in the division. I don't see how they pitch well, even in Citi Field, which will also negate the offense. Washington will be fourth, but they won't be any good until we know how Stephen Strasburg responds to Tommy John surgery, as well as when Bryce Harper moves to the majors. Florida is probably a year away from being a legitimate contender as the pitching behind Josh Johnson continues to develop more consistency and the lineup does as well, probably a good year in the new ballpark for them in 2012. The Braves will win the wild card as they are improved from last year. The pitching is still there (unless Derek Lowe comes back down) and more importantly, they will hit better with Dan Uggla and potential Rookie of the Year Freddie Freeman.

Probably the division that has the most potential contenders is the NL Central with Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Chicago and yes, St. Louis who can realistically win. I always think the Cards can compete because of Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Albert Pujols (even with the impending free agency). The Cubs are improved with Matt Garza and hope to have a motivated Carlos Pena who's on a one-year deal. Add Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd and the lineup is good. Still think they fall short of the division, trailing both the Brewers and Reds. The Reds still have the balanced offense from last year and a dominant bullpen with Aroldis Chapman and Francisco Cordero at the back end. The Brewers offense is better than Cincy's and with Greinke and Shaun Marcum, they should have enough to win the division (and they better, they put too much into this season). No need to discuss the Astros or the Pirates, both will struggle, though Houston's closer to contention because of pitching.

Last but not least, the division of the defending World Series winners, the Giants. The division won't be as difficult now that the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, and will suffer a bad year because of it, though it might not be too long a dip. The Diamondbacks are still on the long road of rebuilding since the pitching is still porous and they still don't hit with any consistency, though they do have building blocks. The Dodgers are interesting with a solid rotation and a nice lineup, but they don't have the hitting Colorado has or the pitching San Francisco has as well. The Rockies are the contender in the division, but will need more pitching than Ubaldo Jimenez to overtake the Giants. San Francisco will struggle early, but the injuries they have seem short-term and they should tread water until healthy, then win the end.

World Series Pick: Braves over A's

MVP's: Ryan Braun and Robinson Cano

Cy Young's: Roy Halladay and Jon Lester

Rookies of the Year: Freddie Freeman and Jeremy Hellickson

Managers of the Year: Ron Roenicke and Bob Geren


The Legendary Doyle Brunson Biography

>> Sunday

Doyle Brunson is the oldest pokeri player and has been playing poker longer then any other poker player out there which is a huge accomplishment. Doyle was born on August 10th 1933 and has been playing poker for more then 50 years professionally. Doyle’s nickname is the Texas Dolly and that is because he was born in Texas. Brunson also has a hand named after him which is the 2/10 due to the fact he often gets lucky with this hand and has won some huge hands with those cards.

Brunson was born in a small town in Texas with a very small population and he often traveled by foot to other nearby cities. Doyle was one of the best basketball players in America in his time and probably would have played professionally if he didn’t incur a career ending injury. Doyle continued his education and obtained his Bachelor and Masters Degree before moving onto working in a salesman position. After a brief stint working as a salesman Doyle decided to leave his job and start playing poker professionally.

Through the early parts of Doyles career himself and Dwayne Hamilton (you can find his biography at poker30) played in all of the illegal internet poker games they could find in Texas. They eventually started branching off to other regions to find more action and saved up every penny they made at the tables. Poker wasn’t like it is today back then though and most of the illegal games had no rules so things would get crazy sometimes and Doyle has mentioned having guns pulled on him and such things.

Once Doyle and Dwayne saved up enough money to go to Vegas they left right away to try there shot at the big city. They lost all of the money they had saved up for there trip and at this point they decided a partnership was no longer feasible. Doyle remained to live in Vegas and continued to play poker and eventually built his bankroll back up to a comfortable level. Doyle still is one of the biggest cash players to this day and can be seen on the $4000/$8000 tables often in Vegas as well as online at a certain Italian site.

Doyle has had a lot of success playing in the WSOP and WPT as well with 10 WSOP bracelets which has him tied in second place all-time behind only Hellmuth. In the WPT Doyle has only won one bracelet, but has finished in the money five times over his career in the WPT. Brunson is one of the only players in history to win 2 WSOP main events as well winning in 76 and 77.

Apart from his stellar poker star resume, Brunson has also written multiple poker books with some selling thousands of copies worldwide. His poker book is one of his most recognized accomplishments and almost every poker player has read his book at least once. Doyle has been in poker practically since it started and helped shape the way that poker is operated today. You can still watch Doyle play on television a lot as he often makes appearances on TV shows. Doyle also owns his own poker room called DoylesRoom where you can play online poker with Doyle and many other professional poker players.


Professional Poker Player Chris Bjorin Biography

Born in Sweden, Chris Bjorin has made the move to London England due to a professional decision: it is a pro poker player’s paradise!

A highly skilled player, Chris Bjorin prefers keeping a low profile, which is the reason why even serious poker enthusiasts are not very familiar with his name. Yet, even though he actively avoids giving interviews or appearing on televised poker tournaments, because of his reserved demeanor, Chris is more likely to be found at a poker table trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. This attitude makes him stand out among the current lot of poker pros that play at sites like PokerStars, FullTiltPoker, as well as this site, all of whom love publicity and promoting themselves if not merchandise they are brand ambassadors for!

Thus, in this era of advertising and blatant self-promotion, it is a pleasant surprise to find someone as experienced, skilled and calm like Chris Bjorin who shuns the spotlight even after decades of playing pro poker.

It was only when he overcame his pet hate for giving news bytes to journalists that brief records about his early life were shared with the poker circuit regulars, that too, only after Bjorin started participating in live poker tournament and earned consistently good results; that was in the late 1980’s. He had been playing various games before he made it big on the tournament poker circuit.

However, it was due to his 2 WSOP bracelets that Chris Bjorin received his share of admiration because now he couldn’t prevent the media attention he had rightly earned because of winning the authoritative competitions in professional poker. His first WSOP bracelet came in 1997 when he participated and won in the $1500 Pot Limit Omaha game while his second came courtesy the $3000 No Limit Holdem event held in 2001.

The years 1992, 1997 and 2001 were also lucky for Bjorin because he cashed at 3 WSOP Main Events and secured his pro status even further while simultaneously participating in the World Poker Tour, though he didn’t quite make a mark there. As far as making the final table in a major poker competitive event is concerned, Bjorin has reached it once in the PPT (Professional Poker Tour) in a by-invitation only event.

He first showed promise as a star poker player in 1990 during a No Limit Hold’em tournament organized at the Manx Classic and has also traveled extensively for poker games in the Stud, Omaha and Razz categories held in different parts of the United States.

He was spurred to improve his game after the second place position he earned during the 1991 and 1994 WSOP events and worked hard to enhance his tournament strategies, so that persistence and practice paid off soon after and Bjorin earned his first bracelet along with $169,200 in 1997 for the pot-limit Omaha game.

A ninth place finish at the $10K NLHE Main Event’s final table the same year and his second WSOP bracelet in 2000 ensured his link with WSOP events serve him best, because this is where he shone brightly like a true star: with 57 cashes he skillfully earned at the Las Vegas Series. These consistent wins earned Bjorin 8th position in the history of poker and he continues to play his favorite card game that his earned him a sizeable $4,331,535 in total winnings besides nurturing his interest in sports betting. This article was provided by http://www.playsolidpoker.com/.


NCAA Preview

>> Wednesday

Figured I'd put my entire preview in one post, I'll go through each region, giving you which teams are better than thought, which are worse and picks for the Final Four and Championship. One things for sure, this field is probably as hard as I can remember, only one team I felt any confidence in going to Houston. Maybe that means I'll win big, when if I had all the confidence in my Final Four, I'd probably lose it by Friday. Anyway, here's the regions.

East Region

This is with the West as the toughest region, a little more because of the name schools North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky are playing like their reputation, making it harder for number 1 overall Ohio St. Doesn't help that Washington, Xavier, West Virginia and George Mason play here too.

-Potential Cinderella: We have two, Marquette and Washington. The Huskies have Isaiah Thomas, who's capable of starting a long tourney run, while Marquette is one of the better coached teams in the Big Dance.

-Potential Pumpkin: North Carolina. I know they won the ACC and have Harrison Barnes, but they scared me in the ACC Tourney by trailing big in every game. Also, this year seems too soon for a Final Four Tar Heel team.

-Picks: OSU, Kentucky, Syracuse and Washington in Sweet 16. Kentucky and Cuse in Elite 8 and the Wildcats to win region. No one is picking Kentucky and I like how they're playing now. Plus, the early struggles I think will help them at this of year.

West Region

This is the other tough region, talent-wise, the top 4 seeds can each make the Final Four. Kyrie Irving will be back for Duke, Duke haters can only hope he doesn't transition seamlessly back into the flow for the Blue Devils, or you're looking at back-to-back titles.

-Potential Cinderella: This bracket is full of Cinderellas, as Oakland, Temple and Missouri all could outperform their seed; at least are the trending upset picks. Missouri gets that moniker because of Mike Anderson's pressure style, Oakland also plays uptempo and has an NBA-caliber big and Temple plays well in the halfcourt. Other possible Cinderella; Bucknell catching a tired UConn squad.

-Potential Pumpkin: UConn only because they are spent from the Big East Tourney (though it would have to be Kemba Walker who's spent), but Texas is a team I never like in the NCAA's. Rick Barnes is someone you should always pick against in the tournament; hell he couldn't even get the Longhorns to the Sweet 16 when Kevin Durant was playing there.

-Picks: Duke, Arizona, UConn and San Diego State reach Sweet 16 (Zona after beating Oakland in the "third round"). Duke and UConn face in the Elite 8 with Kemba taking the Huskies to the Final Four. Now don't sleep tomorrow against Bucknell.

Southwest Region

This bracket seems like it should go to Kansas. It's not too weak like we'll see in the Southwest, as Notre Dame, Purdue and Louisville are legitimately good. The Jayhawks, of course, will try to right the wrongs of last year's first round exit.

-Potential Cinderella: Richmond is good and can advance far, both VCU and Georgetown can outperform their seed. The Hoyas in particular are a potential Final Four team if Chris Wright is healed from his hand injury. Otherwise, they will be one and done.

-Potential Pumpkin: We outlined Georgetown, but Vanderbilt also stands to be an early loser. They probably are the most nondescript five seed that I can remember.

-Picks: Richmond gets the upset over Vandy, loses to Louisville in the second round (calling it third round before was sarcasm, we'll call the rounds correctly from now on). Louisville is joined by Kansas, ND and Purdue; with a Kansas/Purdue Elite 8 and Kansas heads to Houston.

Southeast Region

A horror show of a region that includes the worst 2 seed, the worst 3 and a 4 who lost their last game 36-33. All signs point to Pitt cleaning up this region, but if you know the history with the Pitt Panthers, you know that you can't make that assumption.

-Potential Cinderella: There are Cinderellas everywhere; Utah St, Belmont and Gonzaga as first round potential upset winners, with St. John's, UCLA and Michigan St as potential surprise Sweet 16's at the very least. Even Old Dominion is getting upset talk, the only 8/9 seed who's I think is getting that talk this year.

-Potential Pumpkin: Also littered, as Florida was overseeded at a 2 (unless you tell my Al Horford is coming back). BYU would have been the potential Final Four team, until they threw Brandon Davies off the team, now it's up to Jimmer to carry the Cougars as far as he can. Meanwhile, both Wisconsin and Kansas State are capable of losing early, the shame is the Wildcats probably could go far like last year, but get a tough draw in Utah State.

-Picks: I have Utah State over Belmont to go to the Sweet 16, joining Pitt, BYU and UCLA. Then the Panthers head to the Final Four with a win over the Bruins.

Final Four

UConn over Kentucky
Kansas over Pitt


Kansas over UConn


Super Bowl Prediction

>> Sunday

Today is the big day as the Packers and the Steelers finally do battle. It feels like forever since both teams won their way to the Super Bowl, plus while the hype of the Super Bowl is there because it's Green Bay and Pittsburgh, there hasn't been much created in terms of these two teams, aside from Ben Roethlisberger's redemption. Quick question, what has taken place in the past two weeks that made you remember that the Packers are in the Super Bowl? Couldn't think of anything, did you, besides maybe Troy Polamalu over Clay Matthews for the Defensive Player of the Year.

Despite that, let's make sense of this game, which unlike Fox who will take four hours before the game to make sense of it, I'll just use about 10 minutes of your time. Which is plenty for you to watch Caps/Pens, Celtics/Magic and to go to or set up your own party for tonight. Here are the five things to look for as you watch this game, and none of those five include commercials or the Black Eyed Peas (sorry, no alternative halftime viewing recommendations by me, though I know people love the Puppy Bowl).

1. The Packers defense not only plays like the Steelers defense, they are actually better. The reason; because the Packers have Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, the best trio of CB's in the NFL. Add Nick Collins and it will be hard for Big Ben to throw against Green Bay. And that's not including Matthews, B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins, who can give Roethlisberger as much trouble as James Harrison, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons can give Aaron Rodgers.

2. However, if Troy Polamalu is healthy and active, that advantage swing right back in the Steelers favor. I've used this space to show my praise for Polamalu, hell, he was my Defensive Player of the Year strictly because his presence makes the Steelers better. He hasn't played well through his injury, but the Steelers have been winning despite this because the Ravens and Jets both have inferior offenses and the games were played in Pittsburgh. Switch to a game with a great offense like the Packers with two weeks to study the Steelers defense on a neutral site and indoors, which the Packers play better, and Polamalu must be more than just on the field. If he is the game changer that you watched against the Ravens in Baltimore or the Cincinnati game, the Steelers will stop Rodgers from having another game like against Atlanta.

3. The kicking game swings the special teams advantage to the Packers. Tim Masthay had a great game against the Bears, and he needed to considering they have Devin Hester returning punts. Mason Crosby is one of the top kickers in football and he gets to play indoors. Shawn Suisham hasn't been bad, and though I'd worry about him outdoors, indoors he should be fine. However, Jeremy Kapinos is an injury replacement and isn't that good. Meaning the Steelers will need to set up punts from around midfield to avoid short Green Bay possessions.

4. Until proven otherwise, the Steelers are the better running team. James Starks has been great for the Packers this postseason, and if he plays well in the Super Bowl, this possibly be a performance like Timmy Smith (hopefully it translates into future seasons). However, the Steelers have a great run defense (despite no Aaron Smith) with the LB's mentioned earlier and LaMarr Woodley, plus Casey Hampton in the middle and Brett Keisel at DE. As for the Steelers, Rashad Mendenhall ran wild against the Jets two weeks ago, but the Packers are better in the front seven than the Jets because of Matthews and Raji. Steelers will also miss Maurkice Pouncey, but they can run right behind Flozell Adams, yes, that Flozell Adams, the Human Penalty Flag. So, yes, the Steelers can run, but if the Packers defense plays well, it won't be a great advantage.

5. The QB matchup is a wash. The reason, Big Ben's experience. Rodgers has the advantage in terms of dealing with the weaker secondary and gets to play indoors. However, if the Steelers get pressure on Rodgers, that advantage is taken away. Meanwhile, while the secondary will be tough for Roethlisberger, he still has Heath Miller to go to as a fallback look. Green Bay, while I think have the better WR's, are about even when you include the TE's (mainly because of no Jermichael Finley). The question is, what do you believe in more, Big Ben's 10-2 playoff record and two titles or this being the year Aaron Rodgers ascends to the top of the list of best QB's in football, like Drew Brees last year.

Prediction: I love Aaron Rodgers indoors, he seems to have control of the offense and their receivers benefit from a fast track. Meanwhile, I think Big Ben will have trouble against the Packers corners, particularly Charles Woodson, who will right things after losing in the Super Bowl as a Raider back in 2003. The Packers will 34-27 and the score is closer because the Steelers get a late TD to make it only 7. Otherwise, enjoy the Super Bowl.


Sunday Playoff Picks

>> Saturday

We now move onto Sunday's games, but first, let's recap yesterday. I probably was as right as I've ever been as the Falcons didn't look good in the spotlight, Aaron Rodgers was just tremendous and played QB yesterday as good as the position can be played. Meanwhile, the Ravens once again couldn't finish a close game while Ben Roethlisberger made a play late as he always does. So what's on tap for today? Probably with me getting both games wrong since I got both right yesterday, but he's my previews anyway.

Last week, I was so down on the Seahawks and they proved me wrong. So does this mean I should go with the Seahawks this week? Not so fast, unlike the Saints, I don't believe the Bears will take Seattle lightly because they lost to them in Chicago this year. Also, back in the beginning of the season, the Bears offensive line was atrocious. Now, it's still not good, but it's better at home. I also don't think the Seahawks will travel well, and the Bears defense could use a good home performance after a few games that they've been shredded at Soldier Field. The real question, should you lay the 10 in this game? Here's the answer, when the Seahawks lose, they lose big. So if you like the Bears, lay the 10 and don't think twice about it. I have the Bears winning 31-14.

Now to the nightcap and the Jets and Pats. So much has been said all week, but that doesn't matter once kickoff happens. Here's the best case for the Jets: They win the toss and they must receive so they have the chance to establish the offense early. I know they like to defer the opening kickoff, but I won't give New England the ball to start the game. Also, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene can control the clock, the Jets OL can outplay the Pats front seven. When that happens, Mark Sanchez needs to be accurate with his throws, even if they are short passes. Defensively, they need to attack Tom Brady, because the passive approach won't work with him. Brady would eat up the Jets secondary if he has the time. To be fair, I think Peyton Manning would have if he had Dallas Clark and Austin Collie.

So what will happen? I just don't believe Sanchez, after all the struggles in the last few weeks, plus the possibly still injured shoulder will play consistent enough and while it won't be the 45-3 thrashing that it was in December, Brady will still have success against the Jets. Pats will win 27-10.


Week 17

>> Sunday

The regular season comes to a close and it's time for the list of awards. Joel Sherman of the New York Post does a great job with his baseball award column by having his top 5 in each award and an anti-award winner for those who were terrible. So I figured to do the same for this year's NFL season. With all the credit due to Mr. Sherman, he's my awards for this season.

NFL MVP- Tom Brady - Runners up: 2. Mike Vick, 3. Troy Polamalu, 4. Maurice Jones-Drew, 5. Peyton Manning

If Vick played in every game this year, it would be a closer race, but Brady has been nearly flawless this year with 34 TD's and only 4 INT's. Polamalu is the most important defensive player in football, as the Steelers go as he does (in terms of health). MJD was the only reason the Jags are still alive as of Week 17 and ditto for Manning (who can always be in the top 5).

Anti-NFL MVP- Brett Favre - Runners up: 2. Carson Palmer, 3. Chad Henne, 4. The entire Texans secondary, 5. Albert Haynesworth

Favre in so many ways had the worst performance, as his season clearly brought down a Vikings team who should have been to the Super Bowl last year. Palmer and Henne have both helped derail talented teams, but Palmer is more established so he stays ahead of Henne. The Texans secondary was just brutal this year, the Jets game being the best example, while Haynesworth was too fat to be on the field.

Offensive Player of the Year- Arian Foster - Runners up: 2. Phil Rivers, 3. Roddy White, 4. Tom Brady, 5. Maurice Jones-Drew

I don't like to have the same MVP and Offensive Player of the Year and Foster was the best running back this year. Rivers was terrific despite no Vincent Jackson for much of the year and the Chargers not making the playoffs isn't on him. White is the most important weapon on the Falcons offense, yes, even more than Michael Turner. I already got into Brady and MJD's seasons.

Anti-Offensive POTY- Randy Moss- Runners up: 2. Donovan McNabb, 3. Any Dallas RB, 4. Derek Anderson, 5. Marshawn Lynch

Part of this award is that I don't put rookies in this category, thus no Jimmy Clausen. Randy Moss only caught two touchdowns of note this year and his teams were terrible when he played for them. McNabb started to show his age this year and the fact Rex Grossman is starting games says it all. The Cowboys had no running back who was good, while Derek Anderson was so bad, whoever still didn't have Kurt Warner as a Hall of Famer will put him in now. Lynch is officially done as he failed on both Buffalo and Seattle.

Defensive POTY- Troy Polamalu- Runners up: 2. Clay Matthews, 3. Cameron Wake.

Running out of time, so I'm going with the top 3 for the rest of the blog post. As I said earlier, Polamalu is the difference maker on the Steelers and is clearly the best defensive player, look at the Ravens and Bengals games as to why. Matthews is the best player on the Packers defense and Wake has been a revelation for the Dolphins, who also have a good defense.

Anti-Defensive POTY- Albert Haynesworth- Runners up: 2. Jason Taylor, 3. Alphonso Smith

Haynesworth won this award in training camp, just another terrible signing the annual offseason champions Washington Redskins. Taylor has been a failure with the Jets (Vernon Gholston would fit if anyone expected good things from him) and Smith won 3rd place from his Thanksgiving showing.

Coach of the Year- Bill Belichick- Runners up: 2. Todd Haley, 3. Lovie Smith

Belichick had his finest coaching job by getting this Pats team with young defenders and no Randy Moss to the best record in football. Haley led the Chiefs to the playoffs and showed he isn't afraid to be gutsy in the process. Smith gets here by default, since I had little expectation for that team. Not a lot of great coaching to be fair.

Anti-Coach of the Year- Mike Singletary- Runners up: 2. Marvin Lewis, 3. Norv Turner

Singletary was singlehandedly responsible for the 49ers not winning the awful NFC West. Could game manage well, couldn't pick a QB and gave up on games too soon. Lewis is responsible for the Bengals crashing to earth and is likely gone, while a team that's top 2 in offense and defense shouldn't be 8-7, right Norv?

Here's my Week 17 picks:

(Home team in CAPS)

Oakland (+4) over KANSAS CITY
Miami (+6) over NEW ENGLAND
Pittsburgh (-6) over CLEVELAND
BALTIMORE (-10) over Cincinnati
DETROIT (-4) over Minnesota
Buffalo (+3) over JETS
ATLANTA (-14) over Carolina
NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) over Tampa Bay
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Tennessee
HOUSTON (-4) over Jacksonville
Giants (-5) over WASHINGTON
Chicago (+10.5) over GREEN BAY- Packers win outright and clinch NFC berth
Dallas (-1) over PHILADELPHIA
Arizona (+6) over SAN FRANCISCO
DENVER (+4) over San Diego
St, Louis (-3) over SEATTLE

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