Friday, November 27, 2009

This & That (Black Friday Edition 11/27/09).....

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. If you decided to go out and do physical shopping on "Black Friday", hopefully you were able to purchase the items you targeted and didn't see too much bodily harm from shoppers in the stores.

--- The NFL version of Thanksgiving Football was a three course meal of complete turkeys. The heavily favored Packers and Cowboys won their games in easy fashion during the afternoon action. While in the NFL night cap, the Giants went to Denver to face the Broncos, and looked like they wanted to be anyplace but playing football on their holiday.

Green Bay's offense was moving right along in their 34-12 victory over the Detroit Lions. Donald Driver was the offensive star with his 142 receiving yards and one TD catch. The Packer did was solid all day, and seemed to show no ill effects from the injuries they have suffered on that side of the ball.

In an off the field story, Packer defensive back Charles Woodson donated $2 million to the new University of Michigan hospital. Bravo to Woodson for his giving back to his alma mater.

While in Dallas, the Cowboys' offense seemed to wake from their two week nap by gained 195 yards on the ground and Tony Romo playing mistake free football in rolling over the Raiders 24-7. The "bad" Oakland team showed up for this game, but they did manage to gain 124 yards on the ground against the Cowboy defense.

The Giants traveled to Denver to face the Broncos, but looked like they never really got off the plane. Denver looked like the team who started the season 6-0, in whipping New York 26-6. The Broncos dominated every facet of the game and look to be back on track, while the Giants look like they are in serious trouble with only 5 games remaining.

---The best game of the day was the college rivalry match-up between the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies. In a game that brings Texas a step closer to the BCS Championship game, the Longhorns beat the Aggies 49-39 in a good old fashioned shootout. The performance by Colt McCoy firmly moved him up the Heisman discussion, and to me I think he is the leader of the race with Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram just behind the Texas QB.

The concern coming out of the game if you are a Longhorn fan, is giving up 39 points and 542 yards to the Aggies' offense. While Nebraska's offense isn't as explosive, I'm sure Coach Mack Brown will look for the defense to tighten up and play better before facing Huskers in the Big 12 title game.

Alabama faces Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Friday, while Florida hosts Florida State on Saturday, and if both clear those hurdles, it will set up the December 5th SEC Championship game as a "semi-final" to see who will be one half of the championship game participants.

Wonder what the rest of the holiday weekend sports has in store for us? Hopefully, I will be better then my zero for three turkey in picks on Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week 12 NFL Picks.....

Week 12 picks: (home team in CAPS)

LIONS +10 1/2 over Packers
Raiders +14 over COWBOYS
Giants -5 over BRONCOS
FALCONS -11 1/2 over Bucs
Dolphins -3 over BILLS
BENGALS -14 over Browns
Seahawks +1 over RAMS
Panthers +3 over JETS
Redskins +9 over EAGLES
Colts -3 1/2 pver TEXANS
Chiefs +13 1/2 over CHARGERS
49ERS -3 over Jaguars
VIKINGS -10 over Bears
TITANS xxx over Cardinals*
Steelers xxx over RAVENS*
As of this posting, there is no line on either game due to injuries
Patriots +3 over SAINTS

Week 11 record (8-8)
2009 season (39-30-1)

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/25/2009).....

The pre-Thanksgiving edition of The SportsFan Buzz. Before we scatter for the holiday, the podcast is joined by Megan Marshall (on Twitter: YankeeMegInPHL). A Yankee, Raven/Jet and Ranger fan, who is passionate about her sports.

Meg and I discuss our Thanksgiving plans, how I cook a turkey and Turkey Bowls, along with a preview of the NFL action for week 12. Plus I buy jeans for my wife.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/23/2009).....

Today's The SportsFan Buzz podcast is a late night production. Deciding sleep means nothing to us, I am joined by Mike Tricarico (Twitter mtrico) as we discuss a variety of topics. All taking place after we finished watching the Titans/Texans Monday Night Football game.

Among them in part one is Notre Dame football and whether the ND job is still a good job, LSU's clock management problems, and Mike going to the premier of the New York Yankees' World Series DVD.

In part two, we discuss NFL Week 11 and the upsets that occurred, and a glance at what the playoff picture is shaping up to look like with 6 weeks remaining.

Enjoy the late night ramblings.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 23, 2009 (Part A)

The SportsFan Buzz: November 23, 2009 (Part B)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking Baseball Awards.....

Thanksgiving is around the corner and you know what that means? Yep, it means baseball awards are being handed out. Between the time a World Series champion is crowned and the frenzy of the free agent / trading season is when baseball takes a breathe and hands out the hardware to the most deserving players from the prior year.

When growing up, I was always excited about these awards. I would make out my own ballots, and see where they compared to the baseball writers who actually voted for the awards. I had a hard time coming up with ten players for my MVP Ballot, but usually my top five were pretty close to the experts, as well as my Cy Young and Rookie of the Year "votes". I thank The Sporting News for reprinting all the boxscores each week for me to waste my summer nights reading (yes, we read boxscores a week late back then), and early ESPN so I could see highlights of all players to go with my boxscore reading.

For me, Cy Young "voting" was easy. My choice each year was the pitcher you just didn't want to face that year. You knew who the best pitcher was on a look/feel test. There may have been a few good nominees in some years, but it was usually just a matter of seeing who had the better numbers that helped determine my choice.

For me, the MVP was different. It could be a batter or pitcher, but the important distinction between it and the Cy Young was, the Cy went to the best pitcher, while the MVP was supposed to go to the most "valuable" player. Who was that player who helped that team win or be a contender that year, and they just couldn't live without?

I thought about what a privilege it must be to fill out one of those ballots (Remember, young and still obliviously naive.). How the writers must have really poured over their notes in submitting their voting sheets. Then those thoughts started to change for me in 1987 with the awarding of the NL MVP to Andre Dawson. While Dawson had a great season with his 49 home runs and 137 RBIs, Jack Clark was my choice with 35 and 106, plus Clark had 104 more walks and an OPS 159 points better than Dawson. But to me the biggest clincher was the fact that Dawson's Cubs finished 18 1/2 games behind Clark's Cardinals for the NL East divisional crown. Plus the Cubs were 11 games under .500 for the year. What was Dawson's value to that finish?

Then they did it again in 2003, when the AL MVP went to Alex Rodriguez with his good statistical year, while Carlos Delgado (with stats equal to, and maybe better then Rodriguez), and Jorge Posada ended up behind him in the voting, even though their teams won 15 and 30 games more then Rodriguez's Texas Rangers who finished 71-91, and 25 games out of first place.

What were the writers thinking? Or were they? While those may have been from lack of thinking, and just using numbers to place the players in the voting, we know seem to have gone the opposite way in some cases with over thinking. Case in point is Keith Law's 2nd place vote for Javier Vazquez in the 2009 Cy Young voting, while leaving Chris Carpenter off his ballot. Part of Law's reasoning behind his vote was the defense behind each pitcher, and the fact that because Vazquez pitched in the NL East, he faced better lineups more often. The fact that Carpenter had 2 more wins, and six less losses, seemed to be ignored by Law, and in fact he states that wins does not go into his thought process for the award. While I agree with Law about Carpenter's lack of pitching 200 innings (though he did get in 192.1), he was close enough for me to consider it a non-factor. For me, it all comes back to the look/feel test I spoke of earlier. Who did you not want to see on the mound against your favorite team. I remember lots of talk about the Cardinals top two pitchers during the summer, but not much about Vazquez and his 10 losses making the Braves dangerous.

I'm not picking on Mr. Law, and have enjoyed reading his work and listening to him on ESPN Radio. Matter of fact, I probably have more problem with the vote and reasoning behind Dan Haren's third place vote from Will Carroll. Haren had a nice year, especially the first half, and was in my top five for NL pitchers, but his 3.14 ERA and 27 home runs allowed was not Top 3 material when looked at the other involved.  Law's placing of Vazquez second, sticks out to me more, because it is in fact a second place vote. While it may seem trivial, I am probably not as bothered if Vazquez is third on his ballot. It is still puzzling, but a little less so.

I'm just getting a feeling that either not enough care is being taken by some writers when they vote on these awards, or there is too much over thinking and "smart" voting going on when compiling their ballots. Baseball is a simple and beautiful game. Look and feel. You'll get it right.

***** As I'm wrapping up this column, the 2009 AL MVP voting has just been announced. Joe Mauer won in a landslide, like everyone thought he would, but he did not win it unanimously. One voter decided that Miguel Cabrera was the AL MVP. Guess that night of drinking and subsequent arrest during the final weekend of the season was a part of that "valuable" quality. Really? Ugh!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Week 11 NFL Picks & SportsFan Buzz Podcast.....

This week for my NFL picks, I am joined on the podcast by Mike Tursi from "The SportsTwit Blog". We wrap up Week 10 and look forward to Week 11 of the NFL season with our picks and previews of this week's NFL games. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 19, 2009

Week 11 picks: (home team in CAPS)

Dolphins +3 1/2 over PANTHERS
Redskins +12 1/2 over COWBOYS
LIONS -4 1/2 over Browns
PACKERS -5 1/2 over 49ers
Steelers -10 over CHIEFS
VIKINGS -11 over Seahawks
GIANTS -5 1/2 over Falcons
BUCS +12 1/2 over Saints
JAGUARS -8 over Bills
RAVENS -1 over Colts
RAMS +9 1/2 over Cardinals
Chargers -4 over BRONCOS*
*As of this writing, there is no line on the game, so this is an educated guess.
Bengals -9 1/2 over RAIDERS
PATRIOTS -11 over Jets
Eagles -2 1/2 over BEARS
TEXANS -3 1/2 over Titans

Week 10 record (10-5)
2009 season (31-22-1)

Cleveland Rocked.....

Is there a sports city that needs a hug more than Cleveland? The Indians while flirting with championships haven’t won it all since 1948. The Browns are making their fans suffer through what might be the worst stretch in their history, and haven’t won a championship since 1964. The Cavaliers are doing well, but they have never won it all, and face the possibility of LeBron James leaving them in the summer of 2010. This is a good sports town. How much is too much?

Three weeks ago, Cleveland sport fans watched the 2007 and 2008 AL CY Young Award winners face off against each other in Game 1 of the World Series. The problem for the fans was that sixteen months prior, those two pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee were in the Indians' rotation and the two of them won those awards while pitching for the Indians.

For Indians’ fans, the current tailspin can be traced back to when the Indians blew a three games to one lead against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. After dominating the Sox to take the commanding series lead in the series, and with Sabathia starting Game 5 in Cleveland, things looked good for Indians’ fans. Instead disaster occurred, and Boston crushed the Indians by a combined 30-5 score in the last three games to go on to face the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, which Boston won.

The Indians have a descent core of young players, and a fairly good farm system to work from. They will rebuild and compete again, but after getting so close in 1995, 1997, and then again in 2007, and then seeing their top two pitchers leave in 2008 and 2009, they must wonder if they need the movie “Major League” to become a reality before they will ever win it all.

As for the Browns, what can you say besides the current situation is horrible, and the road to recovery looks very long and slow? No matter who eventually comes in to take over the team, they will have to overcome the poor player personnel decisions made at the quarterback position in order to move forward.

After a good 2007 season, which saw the Browns win ten games, the Browns decided to reward the quarterback who led them to those victories, Derek Anderson. Anderson, who was only in his first full season as a starting quarterback threw for 29 TDs, and seemed to be poised to lead the Browns’ future. This all seems to be good, except there was a problem. That problem was the Browns drafted Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn in the 2007 draft with the 22nd overall pick, and in doing so, also invested a good amount of money in him.

Some would say that was no problem, because what team would not want two good quarterbacks pushing each other forward. Well, it turns out that neither Anderson or Quinn are NFL caliber quarterbacks Cleveland thought they were when signing them and investing in them, and the Browns are stuck with both of them. Plus the team has no QB for the future to help them out of this mess. Add in that their lead running back is 30 year old Jamal Lewis, who has lots of mileage on him, plus they have no real quality receivers (especially after trading Braylan Edwards) and this is not a good combination.

Matter of fact, the combination on offense is so bad, that after nine games this year, the Browns have only scored 78 (5 offensive TDs) and has only produced 1929 total yards (rushing and passing). Meanwhile, all on his own, Titans running back, Chris Johnson has 1353 total yards and 9 touchdowns after his first nine games..

The Browns best player is return specialist Josh Cribbs, who does get his hands on the ball occasionally on offense, but he is now out with a head injury suffered on the last play of Monday Night’s game against the Ravens. You would say, “Well that’s just football”, but the Browns were down 16-0 at the time, and were running a “hook and lateral” type gadget play, for a reason which is still not known. It was during the confusion of the trick play where Cribbs got hit, and injured. Right now, that play defines what Browns football is at this time.

Because of the quarterback situation, and no real impact players on either side of the ball, it will take a while for Cleveland to get back on track. Browns fans must wonder after the1980 playoff loss to Oakland, “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, and then having their franchise moved by Art Modell, when they will see their payoff.

Then Cleveland fans have their Cavaliers. After being the laughing stock of the NBA for so many years, the Cavalier fortunes turned in 2003 when they drafted LeBron James straight out of high school. After a rough rookie year, James has carried the team to five straight winning years, highlighted by a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 and last year’s 66 win campaign. Unfortunately, while last year looked like a championship year, The Cavaliers fell to the Orlando Magic during the second round of the playoffs.

While the 2009-2010 season should see LeBron again guide the team into the playoffs and possibly more, there is a cloud that overhangs above it all. That cloud is that this is the last year of James’ contract with the Cavaliers, and everybody associated with the NBA is well aware of it. For about the past 3 years, NBA fans, reporters and other teams have pointed towards the summer of 2010 and speculated to what James would do when the contract expires. LeBron has only helped with the speculation about him leaving Cleveland. Whether it is wearing New York Yankee hats, openly talking up his friendship with Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, or just not embracing Cleveland, it swirls the questions.

It wasn’t until recently that James told reporters that he will no longer answer questions about his contract and the upcoming summer. While that may help him and his teammates concentrate on the year ahead and task at hand, Cavalier fans will be left with that uncertain feeling about the future of King James and their Cavaliers.

Cleveland fans are never talked about in nasty ways like you hear about fans from Boston, New York, Philadelphia or even Los Angeles. So why are they going through this long stretch of fans’ torture? If they can’t get a championship, can they at least get a hug?

Monday, November 16, 2009

This & That (Monday 11/16/09).....

A Podcast of this column with an expanded take on events can be downloaded here.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 16, 2009

--- Caught Andre Agassi on Imus in the Morning last week (can be found on iTunes under Imus in podcasts), and if he is trying to move books, he is doing a wonderful job, as I am sure they are flying off the shelves. If Agassi is trying to make people not like him, I think he is also doing a wonderful job with that objective. I always liked Agassi, and when excerpts of the book came out, I felt sorry for him, and thought when done I would like him more. Instead, after seeing and hearing him on 60 Minutes, and then on Imus, I just ask him to please stop.

He seems to have only nasty things to say about practically everyone associated with tennis at his time, and it makes him sound angry and bitter. Agassi comes across as someone who is upset that he is not discussed among the great tennis players, but at the same time, does not realize it was his fault. While Borg, Conners, McEnroe, then Sampras, and now Federer and Nadal are always in the "great" mix, Agassi is left out of the discussion, and with good reason. He did not beat the players that were always put in front of him, and now comes across with snide remarks about those players, as though how his career turned out was because of everyone else's "fluke".

For me, I would have liked for Agassi to take responsibility for his own career, respect his opponents of the time, and show the story for how others should look at it. That is, how a terrible childhood, wasted opportunities, and angry life has now come out the other side because of the love he found with his wife, Steffi Graf, his children, and the work he now does for his charities.

Instead I feel like we are getting a "woe is me" tale, that is supposed to make us feel sorry for how his career played out, and that it could have been better. Yes, Andre, it could have been better, but tennis is a one on one game, and only you made it turn out the way it did. The book may be "Open", but after hearing Agassi, I want it to be "Closed".

--- I have really liked Jon Gruden's work this year on Monday Night Football, and was pleased to see that he will be staying with ESPN for a while. He has great energy in the booth, and when compared to the other #1 analysts (Cris Collinsworth, Troy Aikmen, and Phil Simms), holds his own with any of them.

--- After Saturday night's whipping of Utah, I want to see TCU take on one of the "big boys". They will get there chance in one of the BCS Bowl games, and I want their opponents' best effort. Not this garbage we got last year from Alabama after losing to Utah, saying  that they weren't focused because they came close to playing for championship and the Sugar Bowl was a letdown.

Last three games are a 47-20 loss to Oregon, a 14-9 win over a 4-6 Arizona St. team, and then being manhandled 55-21 by Stanford at home in the Coliseum, and USC is still ranked in the polls? Maybe I care too much about these rankings (probably), or maybe we should just limit rankings to the top 15 at most. Do we really care who is #22 in the AP or BCS poll?

Speaking of Stanford whipping USC, shame of Coach Jim Harbaugh for calling for a 2 point conversion after Stanford had scored to take a 48-21 lead late in the 4th quarter. Just like Urban Meyer and his timeouts last year against Georgia, it was petty and ego driven. It is time for these college coaches to "grow up" and not have their players caught in the middle of their "manhood" contests. Take your win, celebrate, and do it with some class.

--- One story dominating the NFL after Sunday's games and that is Bill Belichick's decision to go on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line with 2 minutes to go in the game against the Colts, and the Patriots up 34-28. The try failed by inches, which allowed Peyton Manning to lead the Colts down the short field, cumulating with a 1 yard pass to Reggie Wayne for the win, 35-34.

While I would not have had the guts to make the call that Belichick did, I give him credit for believing in his offense enough to get the yard and virtually end the game. At the same time, it brings up the question about how much faith he had in his defense, and wouldn't a punt that puts Peyton Manning 69 yards away, been the better play. While Belichick is saying he had confidence in his defense, no matter how many yards were needed for the score, a former defensive player for the Patriots does not see it that way.

I feel that only one quarterback, besides his own Tom Brady, has Belichick making that call, and that is the quarterback that was across from him last night, Peyton Manning. If Favre, Brees, Rivers, Roethlisberger, or any of the other QBs in the league were across the field, the Patriots punt it away and dare them to drive the field. Instead Belichick took a silent dare from Peyton. Score one for Manning.

There were twelve other games played yesterday, and one last Thursday night.

On Thursday night, the 49ers won a stinker of a game 10-6 over the Bears. Jay Cutler had five interceptions, and neither team looked like they would make a serious playoff run.

The Saints were again sloppy, but again stay undefeated in beating the Rams 28-23.

In the match-up of NFC North leaders, the Bengals told everyone that they are for real by going into Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers 18-12. Only one TD scored in the game, and that was on a Cincinnati kickoff return. Bengals now up one on the Steelers, and two on the Ravens, and hold tiebreaker advantage against both teams.

Denver's slide continues as they lose to the Redskins 27-17. To make matters worse, have lost Kyle Orton to an ankle injury, and Chris Simms looked lost as his replacement.

Denver's bad luck is San Diego's good fortune, as they beat the Eagles 31-23, to tie the Broncos for the AFC West lead. The two teams square off Sunday in Denver. Meanwhile, Philadelphia suffered a big blow when running back Brian Westbrook suffered his second concussion, after sitting out the last two weeks because of his first concussion.

Green Bay turned on the defense and dominated the Cowboy offense in recording a 17-7 win over Dallas at Lambeau Field to halt the Cowboys' four game winning streak. Aaron Rodgers had an OK day with 189 passing yards, but was still sacked four times, but it was the Packer defense that was the story. They harassed Tony Romo into a fumble and interception, and kept the Dallas running game in check, and stopped their own two game losing skid.

In Carolina, the Panthers again were able to run the ball, while not turning in over, and took advantage of the Falcons' Michael Turner suffering an injured leg in beating Atlanta 28-19 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Dolphins needed a late field goal to hold off the Bucs 25-23. Coming off last week's victory, Tampa Bay again played hard, and almost got their second upset win in a row.

The Jaguars also needed a last second field goal in beating the Jets 24-22, but theirs came in a little different fashion. Drive for a TD, Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the one yard line with a little over a minute remaining, which forced the Jets, who had no timeouts, to watch as Jacksonville ran the clock down and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.

The Titans won their third in a row, 41-17 over the Buffalo Bills, leading the "what if Vince Young had played earlier" whispers to get louder. Those whispers are mute, as it was team losses early in the season, along with some lousy defense, that led to the 0-6 start. Chris Johnson had another great game with over 100 yards rushing and receiving.

Not to be outdone, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had 133 yards and two touchdowns, but lost 2 fumbles, in the Vikings 27-10 win over the Lions.

The Chiefs got their first rushing touchdown of the year on a 44 yard run by Jamaal Charles, as Kansas City traveled west and beat Oakland 16-10 for their second win of the season.

The Cardinals overcame an early Seattle lead, and beat the Seahawks 31-20, to keep a two game lead in the NFC West.

Overall, a good weekend of football, but one in which the Bill Belichick "go for it" call will dominate the discussions for a while.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This & That (11/12/09) & Week 10 NFL Picks.....

A day late, but "Thank You, Veterans". We should be thanking you every day.

The podcast for today can be found in the following link. It is an expanded version of today's column. The SportsFan Buzz: November 12, 2009

--- Happy Birthday to Al Michaels. There is no better announcer sound bite in the world. I still get chills.

--- Have not gotten chance to read the Andre Agassi book, but in seeing interview and reading excerpts, a few items stick out to me. First, I feel sorry for him if he did end up hating his dad because of being forced to play tennis. Too bad that is probably going on more today because of the big sports money blinding parents and even some kids. While Agassi's crystal meth admission does not bother me, but I do find it funny that the ATP accepted his "excuse" for how it got in his system. Could they have really been that naive?

For me, the worst part of what I have come across is Agassi's trashing of Brooke Shields. Yes, my childhood crush on her may have something to do with those feelings.

--- Not a fan of shootouts to decide hockey games, but even I could not ignore the 11 round shootout that took place last night between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. Chris Clark, the Capitals captain, finally ended the sideshow.

--- I'll believe it when I don't hear it, but LeBron James told reporters last night that he is done talking about his impending free agency. I hope he keeps to that promise, because any talk about the summer 2010, takes away from what James and his teammates are trying to accomplish this year.

--- Scott Boras was stirring up the baseball GM meetings by suggesting that Matt Holliday is a franchise player on par with last year's best free agent bat, Mark Teixeira. Unless the Yankees get in on the bidding, no way Holliday pulls in that kind of contract.

Congratulations to the 2009 Gold Glove winners (AL & NL). Seven of the eighteen were first time winners.

--- Three Tennessee football players are charged with armed robbery. Let's see how Lane Kiffin spins this as they are his recruits. I will give them kudos for being "green criminals". Their get away car was a 2010 Prius.

--- Tom Brady - Peyton Manning better then Larry Bird - Magic Johnson? I don't think so.

Week 10 picks: (home team in CAPS)

49ERS (-3) over Bears
These are two disappointing teams at this point of the season. The 49ers have lost 4 in a row, while the Bears lost two of their last three (Bengals and Cardinals) in blowout fashion. San Francisco gets the win because it has the better balanced offense and are at home for this "short week" game.

JETS (-6 1/2) over Jaguars
The Jets are coming off their bye week after a tough stretch of games. Jets will key on Maurice Jones-Drew to force David Garrard to beat them with their blitzing. While on offense, they should be able to move the ball against the 23rd ranked defense and get back to winning.

Broncos (-4) over REDSKINS
Denver has lost two in a row, and people are breaking their ankles jumping off the bandwagon. I am not one of them, as this team will get back on track against a weak Redskin team. The Broncos need to get back to running the ball, and take a few more shots downfiled in the passing game, and I think they will accomplish both of them this week in beating Washington.

Bengals (+7) over STEELERS
After Monday Night's showing, the Steelers look like they are ready to strongly defend their title. Cincinnati wants to prove they are truly "for real". Both want to take control of the AFC North. This game features two backs in Cedric Benson and Rashard Mendenhall who are really running well against the #1 (Pittsburgh) and #2 (Cincinnati) running defenses. Close game that Big Ben pulls out in the fourth quarter.

TITANS (-6 1/2) over Bills
So far, so good with Vince Young back at quarterback for Tennessee. It always helps when the guy behind you running the ball, Chris Johnson, who is averaging 6.7 yards per rush, which is just a monster number. Look for the Titans to keep it rolling, and get their third win in a row.

VIKINGS (-16 1/2) over Lions
There should never be a number this high between NFL teams, but this is no ordinary season, as the bad NFL teams are really bad. Minnesota at home, unleashes Adrian Peterson for a big game, and the Vikings roll to their eighth win by halftime.

Saints (-13 1/2) over RAMS
This is another week for the Saints to face a good running attack, and in this case a great running back in the Rams' Steven Jackson. Jackson is all St. Louis has on offense, and their defense is terrible (ranked 28th). This time New Orleans will not fall behind by double digits, and they get their ninth win in a row and stay undefeated in easy fashion.

Falcons (-1 1/2) over PANTHERS
Carolina gave New Orleans a fight last week, but like the first seven Saint opponents (Atlanta the week before), ended up on the short end. The Panthers have their duel running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart going well, but the Falcons also seem to have the running game with Michael Turner back on track. Because of the better Falcon passing game, they win this divisional game.

Bucs (+10) over DOLPHINS
Tampa Bay got their first win last week while playing in their classic orange popsicle uniforms, and look to make it two in a row against their state rivals down in Miami. The Bucs are 30th against the run, and should see Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in heavy doses. It is a close game, but Miami gets the win after last week's tough loss to New England.

Chiefs (+1 1/2) over RAIDERS
Neither team should be favored over anybody. Oakland still has only scored 78 points (Rams at 77 and Browns at 78 are the only other teams below 100 points), while Kansas City seemed to get a bit of a spark from Chris Chambers joining the passing game.

CARDINALS (-8 1/2) over Seahawks
Arizona has all of a sudden become Road Warriors with their 4-0 road record, while only 1-3 in the desert. Kurt Warner came off his 5 turnover game 2 weeks ago to throw 5 TD passes last week in Chicago. Cardinals start liking "home cooking" again, and get a good win.

Eagles (+2 1/2) over CHARGERS
Two teams, despite their records, have been slight disappointments so far this season. The Eagles come off a tough home loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night and travel west. The Chargers are dead last in rushing offense, which means Philip Rivers must throw to win. Philadelphia blitzes will bother Rivers, and the Eagle offense will take advantage of a mediocre San Diego defense to pull off the victory.

PACKERS (+3) over Cowboys
The Packers are too good to be 4-4, despite the problems on the offensive line. Their defense is fourth overall, while the offense, even with its sack problems, is seventh. Dallas gives up yards, and even though they have been on a roll, Green Bay comes together and gets a big home win.

Patriots (+3) over COLTS
How do the Colts keep doing it? Lose two defensive backs, turn the ball over, have a young, hungry division foe playing them, and they still find a way to win the game. They are always facing the right direction. This week the Patriots come in and take advantage of the missing secondary pieces. Plus New England comes in with a better then expected defense, while the Colts may again be one dimensional if they again abandon the run, like they have early in games this season.

Ravens (-10 1/2) over BROWNS
Another team getting healthy at the Browns expense, and this time it will be the Ravens. Brady Quinn gets the start against an angry Baltimore defense, and he just doesn't have the weapons to take advantage of their recent stumbling on that side of the ball. Joe Flacco and the Raven offense take full advantage of the Cleveland defense ranked last in the league.

Week 9 record (6-7)
2009 season (21-17-1)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/10/2009).....

Today's The SportsFan Buzz podcast is broken up into two parts today as my childhood friend, Mike T. and I start discussing football and baseball, along with the Steelers, Yankees, and steriods, and go on for a while.

In Part A, Mike and I talk about his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers winning in Denver on Monday night, what is ahead for both the Steelers and Broncos in the upcoming weeks, and the great QB class that came out of the 2004 draft.

You can download Part A directly from this link. The SportsFan Buzz: November 10, 2009 (Part A)

In Part B, Mike and I switch from football to baseball and talk about the Yankees winning their 27th World Series, Cole Hamel's collapse, Joe Girardi's uniform number, the money / salary situation in baseball, and how we look at players and steriods.

You can download Part B directly from this link. The SportsFan Buzz: November 10, 2009 (Part B)

You can also have all future podcasts automatically downloaded to you (including to iTunes) by subscribing to The SportsFan Buzz.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This & That (Monday 11/9/09).....

A Podcast of this column with an expanded take on events can be downloaded here.

The SportsFan Buzz: November 9, 2009

--- What a difference a week makes in college football. After praising Oregon for its big win over USC and how they could play with anyone in the country, they come crashing to earth with a 51-42 loss to Stanford. Add to it #4 Iowa losing to Northwestern 17-10, and you have two "National Title" dreamers awakened from their sleep.

What about Charlie Weis and Notre Dame? Losing to Navy, 23-21, for the second time in three years, and both in South Bend. Besides knocking them from a any possible BCS bowl game, it could been the final nail for Weis' time at ND. Not sure that an upset win over Pittsburgh this weekend would do anything to sooth over these wounds.

TCU moved up to fourth in the BCS standings, with Cincinnati and Boise St. sitting behind them and all three hoping that the top three (Florida, Texas and Alabama) will fall to upsets in the next week or two.

--- Normal hockey schedule this past weekend, and there were no unusual uniforms were on display. The Capitals are still playing well with Alex Ovechkin sidelined (7-1-2 in last ten games), while the hottest two teams over that same time period are the New Jersey Devils (8-2) and San Jose Sharks (8-1-1).

The biggest story coming out of the weekend was the Carolina Hurricanes losing goalie Cam Ward for the next 3-4 weeks when a skate (either Rick Nash's or one of his defensemen) accidently cut him on his upper left leg. While it looked like a "normal collision" in the crease, Ward sprawled on all fours, before trainers arrived and helped him from the ice. That was when the small pool of blood was noticeable on the ice.

This is the second time in the past three years Ward has suffered a cut. The last time came in 2007 against the New York Rangers at MSG.

With bodies flying around and players falling to the ice in corner piles, the NHL is lucky that more of these injuries do not occur on a regular basis.

--- In the NBA, The Boston Celtics are still off to their hot start at 7-1, with a point differential of 14.1 in their eight games. That is over six points better then the next best team, the Miami Heat (at 5-1), and just shows how important Kevin Garnett is to the Celtics, and how his presence greatly helps their team defense.

The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers are pacing the Western Conference at 6-1 records.

Seems like Allen Iverson is upset with his playing time with the Memphis Grizzlies. Iverson, averaging over 12.3 a game, but playing only 22 minutes a game. Iverson, who knew he would be coming off the bench when signed by Memphis, would like more playing time. Not even ten games in and AI is already causing headaches.

--- Discussion that came up on my Facebook page. Joe Namath, Hall of Famer or overrated?

My take is that if he was playing in any other city, we would not be discussing his greatness, or lack there of. Style and charisma, and being in New York, helped boost this above-average, at best, quarterback into the superstar status.

What do you think?

--- Buccaneers are the last team to get a win as they beat the Packers 38-28. Aaron Rodgers again sacked a half dozen times in the loss. Good for Tampa Bay, as no team should go 0-16 (said same about Detroit last year). I feel sorry for the punishment Rodgers has endured this season, and there is still eight games to go. Packers need to get this settled soon, or it will be another lost season.

Excuse me Bengal fans, but is there room on your bandwagon? Cincinnati impressed in their 17-7 win over the Ravens. Cedric Benson again went over 100 yards rushing against that Baltimore defense, and the Bengals defense bothered Joe Flacco all day. I thought the defense was in trouble when they lost Antwan Odem, and they have been fine. We will see now that they lost WR Chris Henry how the offense responds, but all signs this year point to them chugging along. Up next for them will be Pittsburgh.

And yes, I like Chad Ochocinco's "bribe" attempt of the referee. While I thought he talked too much when the team was losing and he was not doing well, I do enjoy his playful antics and his having fun.

Excuse me Bear fans, but I am leaving this wagon. A 41-21 loss at home? The Bear defense was awful, plain and simple, and Tommie Harris getting ejected a minute into the game did not help. Bears problem on offense is that they need a top notch wide receiver. Kurt Warner goes from five interceptions last week, to five TD passes this week. Cardinals winning on the road, which is a turnaround from last year.

Colts hold off Texans 20-17, as Kris Brown misses a 42 yard FG to tie the game. Peyton Manning through 40 first half passes in the game, but Houston hung tough. The Texans and had the 4th quarter lead, but could not put the game away, allowing the Colts to come back and win. That is the difference between a veteran team that knows how to win, and a younger team learning how to get victories.

Vince Young and Chris Johnson lead the Titans to a 34-27 win over the 49ers. San Francisco still needs more time, but I do like the core of their offense. They just need to sure up the defense, and get a little "older". This two game winning streak is making people ask if Young can be the future of the Tennessee franchise. I say he can be as long as he has big #28 running the ball behind him.

The Saints are sloppy on offense (2 turnovers), allowed rushing yards (182), and fall behind again (down 11 at halftime) for the third week in a row, this time to Carolina, but right the ship in the second half to beat the Panthers 30-20. The New Orleans defense scored for the 7th time this season, which is one more TD then the Browns have scored all year. Next up are the Rams and Bucs, who have 2 wins combined, so a 10-0 start for the Saints is a real possibility.

The Cowboys took control of the NFC East with a 20-16 win over the Eagles. Dallas executed a few more plays, including the winning 49 yard TD pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin, in getting a tough road win against a division rival. Neither team was able to run, but the Philadelphia being on 4 for 12 on third down, while Dallas went 7-15, was a big factor in the Eagles loss. Both teams have tough games ahead as the Cowboys go to Green Bay, while the Eagles go to the west coast to play the Chargers.

Speaking of the Chargers, they drove 80 yards in 1:46, capped off by a Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson touchdown pass, to stun the Giants 21-20 in the Meadowlands. That is the fourth loss in a row for New York, and puts them behind the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East standings. The Giants picked off Rivers and returned it to the Charger 4 yard line with 3:14 to go. After a holding call on first down (a game killer), and a no gain pass after the penalty, Giant coach Tom Coughlin decided to play it safe and run Brandon Jacobs twice to force San Diego to use their timeouts, and set up a field goal that put the Giants up 20-14. Too much time for Rivers & Co. The Giants played well, but this loss will sting more then the previous three because the game was theirs for the taking.

The Giants will be off next week for their bye, along with the Texans, so we will have an almost full slate of games back in the NFL. Thank goodness, as I do not like bye weeks. Also, weekly Thursday night games start this week, when Chicago goes to San Francisco.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Week 9 NFL Picks & The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/5/2009).....

SportsFan Buzz now also has a podcast. I hope you enjoy, and please provide all comments as this is in the very infant stage. Thank you.

Week 9 NFL picks (see below). Yankees' championship & celebration. Yankees buying World Series. A different turn in the Brandon Spikes suspension.
Please click on the below link to directly download the episode, or you may use this link Subscribe to The SportsFan Buzz (also found to the right) to get a subscription and automatic download (including iTunes).

The SportsFan Buzz: November 5, 2009

If you have picks you want to share, please use comment section. More details behind the picks is discussed in the podcast.

Week 9 picks: (home team in CAPS)

JAGUARS (-6 1/2) over Chiefs
Jaguars should ride Maurice Jones-Drew to a victory at home over a poor Chiefs team. The Larry Johnson mess during bye week did not help Chiefs. Picking up Chris Chambers, should help Matt Cassel and the Chiefs passing game.

Ravens (-3 1/2) over BENGALS
Another desperate game for Ravens, as a loss puts them 2 games behind Bengals, plus losing season series. Ravens seemed to put it together last week, and they get revenge for the early season late game loss to Cincinnati back in week 4.

Texans (+9) over COLTS
Houston's offense will put up enough points to keep this close, but Peyton Manning and the Colts should win the game. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson really have the passing game clicking. The loss of tight end Owen Daniels could slow them down.  Colts losing CB Marlin Jackson for the remainder of the season could be huge to Indianapolis' defense.

FALCONS (-10) over Redskins
Atlanta played well in New Orleans, and seemed to get running game rolling. Matt Ryan needs to protect the ball better from the interceptions. Washington is a mess, and I don't think it got fixed during bye week.

Packers (-9 1/2) over BUCS
Tampa Bay could go winless again 33 years after first winless year. Green Bay gets back its two offensive tackles in Mark Tauscher & Chad Clifton, which should make Aaron Rodgers very happy and keep him upright, which will allow him to get the ball downfield to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

BEARS (-3) over Cardinals
Arizona is in that group of teams that you just are not sure about. Chicago also fits into that category. Think the Bears at home will get enough offense to win the game, but they way these two have flip flopped in their efforts, anything is possible.

Dolphins (+10 1/2) over PATRIOTS
Back to the scene of the "birth" of the Wildcat. It may not be all Wildcat, but expect the Dolphins to run Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and try to keep Tom Brady on the sidelines. Miami runs enough to keep the game close.

Panthers (+13 1/2) over SAINTS
Carolina may have finally realized last week what every fan has known all year. That they are a running team first, and should pass only when needed. If they stick to that gameplan, they should keep it close and could even surprise a Saints' team coming off a tough Monday Night victory.

SEAHAWKS (-10) over Lions
Lions looked very poor last week in losing to the Rams, at home. Traveling cross country will not help them. Even though Seattle is beat up on defense, they should have enough offense and home field advantage to win and cover this game.

49ERS (-4) over Titans
Tennessee got their first win last week, but it will stop there. San Francisco is looking good on offense with Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree & Vernon Davis. Those weapons should be able to take advantage of the Titans defense which is still playing poor. Look for the 49er defense to cause a couple of Vince Young turnovers.

Chargers (+ 4 1/2) over GIANTS
I think the Giants will win this game, but it will be a 4th quarter victory. Expect the Giants to get back to basics on both offense and defense, and take advantage of a Charger defense which is not where they were 3 years ago. Battle of the "traded 2004 QBs" with Philip Rivers facing Eli Manning.

EAGLES (-3) over Cowboys
The Giants helped Philadelphia's offense get very healthy last week, and look for it to keep rolling this week at home against Dallas. Philly's speed could mean even more big plays against this Cowboy defense. Roy Williams sounded "TO ish" in his reasoning behind his poor numbers will not help the Cowboys. Look for the Eagles' defense to harass Tony Romo.

BRONCOS (+3) over Steelers
Denver at home on a Monday night is a nice combination. The loss last week to Baltimore was not totally unexpected, and we will see how they respond after their first setback. Look for the Bronco defense to get back on track and put plenty of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.

Week 8 record (8-5)
2009 season (15-10-1)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/3/2009).....

SportsFan Buzz now also has a podcast. I hope you enjoy, and please provide all comments as this is in the very infant stage. Thank you.

World Series Game 5, Monday Night Football between Saints & Falcons and the Urban Meyer "suspension" of Brandon Spikes is discussed. Enjoy.

Please click on the below link to directly download the episode, or you may use this link Subscribe to The SportsFan Buzz (also found to the right) to get a subscription and automatic download (including iTunes).

The SportsFan Buzz: November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (11/2/2009).....

SportsFan Buzz now also has a podcast. I hope you enjoy, and please provide all comments as this is in the very infant stage. Thank you.

Please click on the below link to directly download the episode, or you may use this link Subscribe to The SportsFan Buzz (also found to the right) to get a subscription and automatic download (including iTunes).

The SportsFan Buzz: November 2, 2009

This & That (Monday 11/2/09).....

--- Sunday, November 1, 2009 was the first day that the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL all had games scheduled on the same day. The day before, October 31st was just as good as you could swap the NFL for college football. Great weekend to be a sports fan. Your remote batteries still work?

--- The NFL Game of the week was "The Return of Favre" in Green Bay, but Minnesota took care of business 38-26, with Favre throwing four TD passes in his Lambeau return. The Packer fans did boo him with a little extra zest then a normal visiting player, but Brett got the last laugh with the victory. Aaron Rodgers played well and through three touchdowns, but Rodgers' biggest problem was that he was sacked six times, and in the two Viking games he has been on the turf fourteen times.

The Broncos suffered their first loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, 30-7. The Ravens stepped up after 3 consecutive losses, and took control in the second half, which in the first six games had been Denver's strongest time in grabbing their victories. Be interested to see how the Broncos respond next Monday night against Pittsburgh.

The Colts had a tough time with the 49ers, but remained undefeated with a 18-14 fourth quarter victory. The Colts needed a bit of deception for their final score, as the winning TD pass to Reggie Wayne came from Joseph Addai on a halfback pass, and not a traditional Peyton Manning connection.

The Tennessee Titans (30-13 over Jacksonville) and St. Louis Rams (17-10 over Detroit) both got their first victories of the season, and both rode their monster running backs to the wins. Chris Johnson had 228 yards rushing and two TDs for the Titans, while Steven Jackson had 149 and one TD in the Rams win. In Jacksonville's losing effort, Maurice Jones-Drew had 177 yards on only 8 carries. Amazing running days for these three excellent running backs.

Meanwhile the Giants lost again, this time the Philadelphia Eagles 40-17, and just look confused on defense, not in sync on offense. Did we over value this team, or is it just a slump?

--- The Yankees take the two weekend games in Philadelphia to take total control of the World Series.

What a difference a year makes, especially in the cases of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. Last year both had complete confidence in their pitching and were on the top of their games, and this year it is a 180 degree turnaround.

Hamels was pitching pretty well on Saturday night up until the 3-2 pitch to Mark Teixeira. Yes, it was close, but it was inside for ball four. Perfect sense that Hamels wanted it, as the camera caught his reaction to the ball call, but he needed to get back on track. The 2008 Hamels would have done just that, but the 2009 Hamels let it effect him. Once the Alex Rodriguez drive was ruled a home run (which I disagree with, as there was no conclusive evidence that the ball does not come down and hit the fence if the camera was not there), Hamels was completely lost. I knew watching that he would implode, and Hamels certainly followed his 2009 pattern. To me that was the turning point of the series.

As for Lidge, his confidence thread snapped in the 9th inning of game 4 as soon as Johnny Damon stole second base, then took third when no Phillie (Lidge) was covering the bag. As soon as that happened, Lidge went away from his slider and was only throwing fastballs. Huge mistake and the Yankees took advantage as both Rodriguez and Jorge Posada's hits were against Lidge's fastball.

Cliff Lee starts tonight trying to send the series back to Yankee Stadium. I think the defending champions will have enough pride in the tank and will send it back to New York for a Game 6.

Game 3: Yankees 8 / Phillies 5
Game 4: Yankees 7 / Phillies 4

--- Biggest news or event out of the NBA this weekend was Manu Ginobili swatting a bat out of the air during the Spurs game against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday (Halloween) night. Of course PETA has made a statement about the tragedy of the event.

--- The NHL had a quiet weekend, but a few of its biggest stars are banged up right now. Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Alex Ovechkin and Eric Staal (both upper body) all will miss some time, and are needed by their teams and the NHL back and healed soon.

Some separation is starting to take place between teams as each club has played about a dozen games. Two teams, Carolina and Anaheim, have been huge disappointments so far, and need to start looking at how they want to correct their problems.

I don't want to see them every night, but I did get a smile from seeing the Montreal Canadiens' 1912 uniforms on Saturday night.

--- Florida and Texas tried to set themselves apart from the other top college teams on Saturday, with more impressive victories then they have had in prior weeks. The story out of Florida's win over Georgia was that linebacker Brandon Spikes was caught trying to gouge the eyes of Bulldog running back Washaun Ealey while making a tackle. Spikes has been suspended for the first half of next week's game against Vanderbilt.

The game of the weekend was Oregon putting it to the USC Trojans 47-20 to take control of the Pac 10. The loss was USC's worst of the Pete Carroll era, and biggest losing margin since 1997.