Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As the Melo Turns

First of all, let me say that I am dog tired of this whole drama involving Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. This is worse than the whole LeBron James free agency extravaganza that took place in the summer. With James, it was the summer and there was no basketball going on and he was arguably the biggest free agent ever. This is going on during the season and every day something different comes about, then you hear the obvious things that everyone knew already. Then Anthony was close to being traded how many times now? It's the NBA's version of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf'. The 'he said, she said', this source, that source crap gets old. All of that aside, I do have an interest in it because of the magnitude of the player and because the Knicks are within the heart of the rumors.

It's a complicated situation that doesn't seem to be near to a close. There are so many questions that still need to be answered on Anthony's end, on the Nuggets end, and on the end of whichever team (looking more and more like the New Jersey Nets) is willing to trade for him. Is Denver trying to openly spite Anthony? Is Anthony willing to sign an extension with the Nets? Is Anthony 'all in' on eventually being a New York Knick? There is no way to accurately gauge what is going on within the trade rumors, especially when there is a plethora of different rumors every single day.

I'm not particularly sure why Anthony would want to sign his future off to New Jersey when they currently are a poor team who wouldn't stand to get much better with the trade. Of course though, there is the sticky issue of a new CBA agreement, and the money Anthony would potentially pass up by foregoing an extension now.

Of course I'm somewhat biased here as I'm a Knicks fan but I think his best bet going forward would be playing for the New York Knicks. Given the fact that the Knicks are in a somewhat tricky cap situation in this coming offseason, mostly due to Wilson Chandler's cap hold, the Knicks almost have to trade for him if they want him. Ultimately, if the Knicks trade for him they might clear their pantry of role players but the trio of PG Raymond Felton, PF/C Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony would be a force for years to come.

If I had to make a prediction now on where Carmelo will end up, I'd say he'll be a Knick. Of course, I also swore LeBron would be a Knick. I'm tempered in my thoughts this time as I saw a similar situation play out last summer. Who knows what Melo wants? Does Melo even know what he wants? Who knows anything involving Melo at this stage that isn't speculative? Nobody knows anything. But I know this, tomorrow features another episode of 'As the Melo Turns'.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For the Jets this showdown may be "business", but for me it's personal

As anyone who knows anything about me is well aware of, I'm a diehard football fan. Most of all, I'm a diehard Jets fan. I'm not going to sit here and act like I've been a fan of the Jets since football was invented. I'm a young guy, 'only' 23 years old. That doesn't change the fact that I absolutely love this team, and the fact that I cannot possibly be more emotionally invested in this team. The Jets are my favorite professional sports franchise, and I ride with them to the very end. I watch every second of Jets football I can watch, no matter what. 1-15 Jets? I'll watch. Kliff Kingsbury is starting because 4 QBs on your team are hurt? I'll watch. Chad Pennington's shoulder is spaghetti? I'll watch. My passion for this team is simply off the charts. Through everything, I stick with the team I grew up loving.

The last two seasons for the team have been among the best Jet memories I've had. I am fully aware that I'm not saying much with that statement given what the Jets have done for the last 15 years. Since the hire of head coach Rex Ryan, the culture of the team has changed. The team is far more physical than it was under the previous regime. The team in its entirety is more about physicality and beating you straight forward as opposed to the finesse, the smoke and mirrors that marred the Eric Mangini era.

Ryan definitely has his flaws, both on the field and off it. On the field, sometimes his clock management can be spotty. Sometimes, I think Rex's bravado and general overconfidence can have an adverse affect on a game (see: fake punt in Week 16 for prime example). And sometimes all the talking he does gets absolutely old, but overall the Jets are 23-13 as the Jets coach with two straight playoff appearances and three road playoff wins. I'm extremely appreciative of Rex Ryan and what he has done for my team, as far as the culture and obviously the record. I'm encouraged with the direction the team is headed. Now there are quite a few tough decisions for the offseason but this isn't the time for that. Once the season is over, I can talk about the offseason.

The Jets defeated the Colts last week on a "walk off" field goal, setting up Round Three of New England Patriots vs New York Jets. Round One was a decisive Jets victory backed by an impressive performance from QB Mark Sanchez and saw the defense pitch a second half shutout. Game Two, which pretty much decided the division, saw the Patriots take the Jets behind the woodshed behind Woodhead.

Now it's time for Round Three between the rivals. Ryan has talked all year about what he believes his team is capable of, and how anything short of a Superbowl is a failure. He's mentioned how he isn't here to kiss Belichick's rings and his particular distaste for the Patriots. Well it's safe to say that he certainly isn't alone with that particular sentiment. I'm sure many of the other Jets players, coaches, and staff members feel that way too.

More than anyone though, I feel the Jets fanbase HATES the New England Patriots and everything about them. I'm not going to speak for them, as I can only speak for myself. And on my end, I absolutely despise the Patriots. Obviously the fact that they are winning is a small part of the hatred, but everything about that team rubs me the wrong way. From the smug arrogant owner to the QB who whines whenever he gets touched, down to the coach who left us at the 12th hour to go to New England and has won three championships since then (while we've been through four head coaches), everything about them rubs me the wrong way. The fact that this incredible run they have been on for the last 10 years basically started with a fateful hit by Jets MLB Mo Lewis makes it all the more nauseating. Lewis took out then Patriot QB Drew Bledsoe, and Tom Brady took over. And from there, the story tells itself.

I can respect those guys because of how they seemingly ease into any and everything seamlessly. They are a winning franchise, with a winning coach and a winning QB. So while I do hate them with a passion, I'm not a blind fan. I recognize what they have done and why they are a model franchise. And as a result, the exposure they get makes my stomach turn. I'm not trying to say they don’t deserve the admiration and respect they get, far from it. They've been the model of consistency for years now, but the weasel head coach, and the whiny QB, along with the fact that all of this is taking place for a bitter rival in Massachusetts make it difficult to stomach.

Honestly, it hurts. And over the ten year period of dominance all they have done is beat the Jets like they stole something repeatedly. They have owned us for the better part of this decade, and I'm tired of it. The Jets have been a fairly successful franchise over the past ten years, as they have appeared in the playoffs six times. The Jets also have had one home playoff game in that time span, mostly because the Patriots have dominated the AFC East.

Rock bottom for me as a football came during week 13 of this NFL season, as I watched the Patriots run roughshod all over the Jets to the tune of 45-3. I have never been so embarrassed as a Jets fan. As well documented at the top, I’ve seen quite a bit of negative as a Jet fan. There is practically nothing negative as a football fan that I've never experienced. When they say that being a Jets fan "builds character", it's the truth. I can attest to that one.

Honestly that game was the most painful to endure as a Jets fan. I was in a bar full of Jets fans, and midway through the second quarter the game was all but decided, and everyone was dejected. The Jets were tied for the division lead going into the game, and it was probably the biggest regular season game the Jets have ever played in since I became a fan back in 1996. The fact that they lost wasn't the hard part because the Patriots are a damn good team. The fact that they embarrassed themselves, and basically no showed on National television cut deep. It stung like no other loss I've ever experienced, with the possible exception of the 1998 AFC Title Game.

Bottom line, I give the Patriots respect because for all they have represented over the last ten years (even with the cheating scandal and the weasel head coach), as they are epitome of winning. Even with the respect, comes a hatred not matched by any other sports franchises.

All the talk all year from everyone within the team was how the goal was Superbowl or Bust. Go out there and take it. The second step is walking out of Foxboro victorious. Go out there and do the "impossible". Do it for yourselves, do it for the man next to you and do it for me. I'm ready for Sunday, and at 4:30 Sunday we'll see if the Jets are too.

So to the New York Jets players, coaching staff, and everyone who is involved with the team---have the game of your lives. Make yourselves, your fellow employees, the millions of Jets fans in the world and the city proud. Go out there and shock the world. Beat the New England Patriots, and knock the smirk off Tom Brady's face. Make sure he'll hate us even more than he already does. Make sure the fourth quarter of this game won't be a Patriot trash talking fest like it probably was during the week 13 massacre.

For the Jet players, coaches and the like, this may be more business and football than anything else. For me, and a legion of other Jets fans, it's personal. Let's get it. Go Jets.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on Wild Card Weekend

-Though I didn't think much of the Seahawks, and actually laughed (and still do laugh) at the idea of a 7-9 team hosting a playoff game, I ate my crow with ketchup. I like it when a team no one expects to do anything ends up shocking the world. I thought the outrage of them making the playoffs was a bit ridiculous. Yes they were basically the skinniest kid at fat camp but the fact of the matter is they won their division. I think the outrage was a bit much honestly. Good for them.

-The Saints defense is terrible. Besides the ridiculous Marshawn Lynch run, one play was a microcosm of their performance. That long touchdown from QB Matt Hasselbeck to WR Brandon Stokley, where Stokley ran down the field unimpeded as four guys chased helplessly while he waltzed into the endzone summed it up.

-Is Reggie Bush really that bad at the running the ball to the point where he can't beat out Julius Jones. It's the worst kept secret in the history of the world that I don't think much of him as a player, but it really makes you wonder about him, where the Saints find the need to give the ball to Jones more than him. Can he really be that bad a runner?

- That Marshawn Lynch run was perhaps the best run I've ever seen in my life when you take all the factors into account. The man broke eight tackles on one play, and made the Saints defense look like a pee wee defense. And Tracy Porter, all I have to say about you is 'C'mon man'. I think he's still flying from that stiff arm.

-Reggie Wayne. 1 catch, 1 yard. Does anyone STILL not believe Darrelle Revis isn't the best DB in the sport? If you don't, there's no point of return for you. I think Kanye West and Jay-Z put forth the track 'Monster' with Revis in mind, because that's exactly what he is--a monster.

-I thought the offensive playcalling for the Colts was particularly bizarre. Do I realize the Jets basically dared the Colts to run the ball all night? Yes. The Jets dared the Colts, and particularly Peyton Manning to be patient and I believe they were too patient the entire night. I was surprised that Rex Ryan was so patient and conservative with his playcalling and I was just as surprised that Peyton Manning was SO patient. The Colts can't run the ball, and couldn't run the ball despite the Jets giving the run game to them all night. When they passed the ball, the Jets rarely ever touched Manning, so why they didn't pass more I'll never know. I'm glad they didn't.

-The timeout that Colts coach Jim Caldwell called on the last drive was befuddling. You weren't going to get the ball back. The Jets had control of the clock. The Jets were at the 32 yard line, so the field goal isn't exactly a chip shot. In essence, all the timeout did was give the Jets extra time to think about what play they were going to run. Then Caldwell's explanation after the game made even less sense than the timeout itself. It was something to the effect of "We wanted them to run more plays,". Uh, what?

-Out of any quarterback with good numbers, QB Matt Cassel is probably by far the most unimpressive I've ever seen. Honestly, I expected the Chiefs would get blown out simply because I thought their body of work was unimpressive. I thought the Chiefs were the worst AFC team coming into the playoffs. They beat nobody all year asides from the Chargers, who didn't even make the postseason. The Ravens are simply on a different level. Back on Cassel, the guy just doesn't look like a good quarterback. I've seen some of the Chiefs this year and I've never sat there and thought, "Man, this guy is good," He didn't even crack 100 yards and threw three interceptions on Sunday. He looked like a high school quarterback for the majority of the game. Color me unsurprised.

-I will never understand for the life of me why HB Jamaal Charles doesn't get more carries. This isn't so much about yesterday as it is the just generally speaking with the Chiefs. I understand that the guy is less than 200 LBs, but the man averaged more than SIX yards per carry. He had only nine carries yesterday, and in the last two seasons he has only had 400 carries. I understand you don't want to burn him out but the guy has to get more touches. He's far too explosive to 'spare'. They have to use that guy more.

-I like Andy Reid. I think he's one of the brightest offensive minds in football, and I think his resume backs that claim. However, why is it that in EVERY short yardage situation Reid just HAS to try and get cute. I completely understand that the Eagles don't exactly have the ideal short yardage package. The interior of their line is shoddy and with the loss of Leonard Weaver they don't have anything that even looks like a short yardage back. Even so, at some point when do you just run the ball up the middle with your running back? 2nd and short, 3rd and short you run back to back QB draws with your 180 LB QB? Really? That wasn't a big deal in the game (they did score on that drive) but every time I see that I wonder if Andy Reid is trying to win a beauty pageant or a football game.

-QB Mike Vick going for the jugular on the last play of the game throwing to WR Riley Cooper was a little puzzling. Now if the throw was just a tad deeper, this part of the entry might have a different tint, but why not go with what got you there? WR Desean Jackson, WR Jeremy Maclin, HB LeSean McCoy and TE Brent Celek are the Eagles best skill players. Vick has all of those guys, yet with the season on the line he's throwing jump balls to.....Riley Cooper? Really?

-I'm glad Aaron Rodgers got his first playoff victory. He played a really good game, and I don't think the guy gets credit for how good he is for the simple fact that he doesn't have the playoff success others have. Well, in time he'll get his. He continues to impress.

-The Eagles offensive line should all thank the heavens that Mike Vick is their quarterback. Otherwise, they'd give up an immense number of sacks. They need some tinkering, especially on the interior of the line.

-All in all, three good games and a bad one this weekend. It was a pretty good weekend of football and hopefully next week brings us the same.

Friday, January 7, 2011

NFC Wildcard Game- (5) New Orleans Saints @ ("4") Seattle Seahawks

I really wish I could summon the energy to type out some serious analysis on the game but the fact of the matter is, this game is as one sided as it gets. You have an under .500 team going up against the defending Superbowl Champions who happen to be led by one of the very best quarterbacks in the sport. Regular season record is not necessarily everything when it comes to a playoff team, as there are other factors like how the team ends the season, health, and matchups among other things.

That aside, this Seattle Seahawk team is putrid. They were outscored by 97 points in the regular season. In order to fill this out a little bit, I'll look at some things to watch for this game.

-Does New Orleans play tight? New Orleans is nearly two touchdown favorites, and it is pretty much world renown how they should have no problem winning this game. In this situation, sometimes teams either underestimate their opponent or flat out play tight and keep the opponent in the game. It'll be interesting to see how New Orleans deals with this.

-While the Saints have one of the best passers in the business, their top two running backs (Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory) are out for this game, leaving them down to Reggie Bush and Julius Jones. That is a very uninspiring duo, but given the fact that the Seahawks defend against the pass and the run equally poorly, it probably won't matter.

-The Saints need to throttle the Seahawks early. As poor as the Seahawks are, in a game of this magnitude, the crowd can be the great equalizer. The Seahawks boast one of the best "12th men" in the league. Unfortunately they are stuck with the first eleven men they have on both sides of the football

-If the Seahawks are to stand a chance, they must play the game of their life. If that is to happen, they must show something they haven't all year. They must show they have the ability to play like a good team.

Final Thoughts and Prediction:

This is a major mismatch, and the Saints will show why it is with a blowout win.

Saints 34 Seahawks 14

WIldcard Weekend- (6) New York Jets @ (3) Indianapolis Colts

I prayed as hard as imaginable to avoid a situation where my New York Jets would face Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, all that praying didn't work, and the Jets will see the NFL player that scares me the most. As the Tennesee Titans were driving last week, I was feeling good as I thought the Titans were on their way to sending the Jets to Kansas City. Unfortunately Kerry Collins did his best Rex Grossman and fumbled the snap, and thus the game away to the Colts.

Regardless, before I break into the same rage I was in last week watching it, I will talk about the game itself.

It has been an interesting season for the New York Jets to say the least. Exploits both on the field and off have made for the most interesting season in recent memory for the Jets. Dramatic wins in the last minute of games, the Boston massacre at the hands of the Patriots, "tripgate", and "footgate" have contributed to a wild Jets season.

The Colts have struggled by their standards this season as they needed to win the last four games of the season to get into the postseason, winning the AFC South at 10-6. The Colts have suffered through several key injuries, namely to offensive skill players TE Dallas Clark, WR Austin Collie and RB Joseph Addai.

While Peyton Manning threw for 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns he also threw 17 interceptions, 11 of them coming in a rough three game stretch against the Cowboys, Patriots, and Chargers where the Colts lost three straight and nearly compromised their playoff chances in the process. This season was probably the most trying season for the Colts in some time, as they dealt with more adversity than they usually do. Normally they have the AFC South division wrapped up by the beginning of December, but clinched in week 17 this season. Peyton Manning went through the worst three game stretch of his career and the Colts dealt with several key injuries. Despite all of that the Colts still made the postseason, and come into the postseason on a four game win streak.

Thoughts on the game:

-Can the Jets offense step up? Can they sustain drives long enough to help themselves and their defense? The Jet offense has been highly inconsistent all season long, but they have been better in recent weeks with good showings in road games against the Steelers and Bears. The Jets have the skill players to get it done, but often times disjointed playcalling from OC Brian Schotteinheimer and inconsistency from second year QB Mark Sanchez adversely affect the offense's production.

-The Jets have lacked a pass rush for the majority of the season as quarterbacks often sat in the pocket with an eternity to throw the ball. Fortunately for the team, they have arguably the best CB tandem in the NFL featuring all world CB Darrelle Revis and CB Antonio Cromartie which have been a significant help in masking the deficiencies in the front seven.

-How often will the Colts exploit the Jets LBs and nickel/dime backs in coverage? That has been a weak point of the Jets defense all year, as teams have consistently gone to that well and the middle of the field has been open 24/7. Dallas Clark being out there would cause major problems as he's an All Pro tight end, but Jacob Tamme has been solid in his absence. He's built in a similar mold, as he's a pass catching tight end with wide receiver like qualities. The Jets have nobody who can handle him in coverage, and nobody is better at exploiting a mismatch than Peyton Manning.

Final thoughts and prediction:

While I truly believe the Jets are the better overall team, the Colts have Peyton Manning, and I don't feel the Jets team is well enough equipped to deal with him.

Colts 27 Jets 23