Sunday, January 31, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/31/2010).....

Cover a small variety of topics as we wait for next week's Super Bowl and start following the other sports taking place at this time. Enjoy.

Among the topics discussed:
--- Changing the Pro Bowl format from just a regular football game
--- Kurt Warner retires
--- Johnny Damon, Scott Boras & New York Yankee "blame triangle"
--- Andre Dawson disappointed he is going to Hall of Fame as an Expo
--- Tigerless golf
--- Gilbert Arenas situation and proper perspective

The SportsFan Buzz: January 31, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Monday, January 25, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/25/2010).....

All that's left standing after three weeks of NFL Playoffs are two teams, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. The Colts defeated the New York Jets 30-17 to take the AFC crown, while the Saints worked overtime in taking care of the Minnesota Vikings 31-28, to claim the NFC crown. Mike joins me on the podcast to review what happened on Championship Sunday, and thinks I set my daughter's bedtime too early. Enjoy.

*** I was incorrect when stating The Beatles did not win any musical Grammys prior to their breakup in January 1969. In fact they won five musical Grammys along with the many techincal ones I thought they had only won before they separated. This is why I talk sports and not music. ***

Mike on Twitter.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 25, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Friday, January 22, 2010

This & That (Friday 1/22/2010).....

--- Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers checked himself into a rehab clinic for alcoholics. It was on an outpatient basis and Cabrera underwent three months of treatment. After his strange behavior during the last week of the season, when the Central Division was still on the line, most people assumed something was wrong, and it seems Cabrera himself knew there was something wrong.
Good for Cabrera to see there was a problem and to seek help to overcome it. Hopefully he is able to defeat this demon, because he has the abilities to be a very big offensive star if he gets his personal life together.

Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners avoided arbitration and instead got together to on a new contract for 5 more years and $78 million. The deal keeps Hernandez in Seattle until 2014, when at the age of 28 and in his prime, he will be able to test the free agent market and collect on a second large payday.

Hernandez and the newly acquired Cliff Lee will lead the Mariners’ staff this year and look to bring the team back into the playoffs, which they have missed since their last appearance in 2001.

Lee’s old team, the Philadelphia Phillies, who said they had to trade Lee because of their bloated payroll avoided arbitration with pitcher Joe Blanton when they agreed to a new three year, $24 million contract. While I thought it was short sighted to trade Lee after acquiring Roy Halladay, you could understand what the Phillies were saying when talking about the high payroll they were trying to avoid, but this new deal just makes you wonder if the Phillies just didn’t want Lee around. While Blanton is a nice starter, for only a little more money this year they could have had Halladay and Lee at the top of that rotation.

Add in the club extended Jimmy Rollins through 2011 before the 2010 season even started, and from the outside it has been a head scratching off season for Philadelphia.

--- To correct and then comment something discussed in the last podcast, the Cowboys only extended Coach Wade Phillips’ contract through 2011. It was first reported that Phillips was given a three year extension, but the correct story is only a one year extension. While I thought the three year extension was strange, it told me Jerry Jones had confidence in Phillips. Now by just adding a year to the contract, the same questions will start being asked of Phillips throughout the year about his contract status. Of course Phillips and the Cowboys can squash all questions by playing up to the team’s potential, but isn’t that the reason we have the questions in the first place?

Rex Ryan handed out a game ball after beating the San Diego Chargers in last week’s Divisional Playoffs. While there usually is nothing special about a game ball, this one was a little different because of who it was issued to, Marty Schottenheimer. Marty, the father of Jets’ offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, was fired by the Chargers following the 2006 season after leading them to a 14-2, but losing as the #1 seed in the divisional playoffs to the New England Patriots. I’m sure Charger AJ Smith didn’t laugh out loud when hearing the news.

--- Hopefully you got a chance to watch hockey and basketball’s best go head to head on Thursday night. It doesn’t happen often (During the regular season, Bryant and James meet twice a year and Crosby and Ovechkin four times), and even rarer that it would be happening on the same day.

In Cleveland, LeBron James and the Cavaliers were hosting Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. While in Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby welcomed Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

Kobe scored his 25,000th point and became the youngest player to do so (it helps that he started playing at 18, and oh yea, LeBron will eventually top this mark), but it was James leading the Cavaliers in the 4th quarter to a 93-87 victory.

On the ice in Pittsburgh, the Capitals broke open a 3-3 tie game with two goals in the first three plus minutes of the third period on way to a 6-3 win. Ovechkin had 2 goals (giving him 32) and an assist, while Crosby scored his 33rd goal of the year.

Both basketball and hockey league offices and many fans (if it can’t be their favorite team) hope for these match ups in the spring when the playoffs roll around, but for now we’ll take the regular season collisions and just enjoy the show.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Championship Game Picks & The SportsFan Buzz (1/21/2010).....

The AFC and NFC Championships are on the line this weekend. Mike and I preview the two games and breakdown what we think the teams need to do to win. Do we think the #1 seeds will survive? Also, we poke a little fun at the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. Enjoy.
Mike on Twitter.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 21, 2010 (right click to "save as target)

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

(home team in CAPS)

Jets (+7 1/2) over COLTS
SAINTS (-3 1/2) over Vikings

Divisional Round (0-4) Yes, 0 wins!
2009 Playoff record (2-6)
2009 regular season (85-79-2)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coachable Moments.....

I don’t profess to be able to walk in and be the head coach on a NFL team, but after watching football for this long, I have enough knowledge to be an educated critic of some coaching decisions. Many times those questions are answered or echoed by the analyst doing the game or later during a review show recapping the game so I feel pretty good about my “mind coaching”. I have my peeves about how certain things are handled during a game, but nothing gets under my skin and causes me to pull my hair like the lack of adjustments some coaches ignore during a game. Poor play calling and schemes also bother me, but when adjustments are not made or at least tried, yelling at the TV is a common occurrence. The playoffs are only 2 weeks and eight games old and I have seen my fill of questionable coaching moves, or lack there of, and I feel one set on non-adjustments cost a team their chance to win the game.

My first question for Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles is how after being shut out in Week 17 can you make it seem like no adjustments were made in facing the Dallas defense in the Wildcard round? While the Eagles had made their living off the big play in 2009, in the two games against Dallas the big plays were not there and Philadelphia had a total of sixteen points against their defense. When the Wildcard game was being played out, there seemed to be no changes in philosophy made, and while I understand the Eagle offensive line was banged up which is even more of a reason to changes things up, and the Cowboy defense again shut down the Eagles. Now sometimes match-ups just are the way they are and one team is just better then the other and that might have been the case here, but to at least not try different things with the talent you have seemed like a wasted opportunity and poor way for Philly to end its season.

The same Saturday, but this time in the earlier game, Bengals’ coach Marvin Lewis was the one getting my notes about “why play it like that?” While facing the tough Jet defense and with his Carson Palmer looking nervous and out of sorts early in the game, Lewis and the Bengals were at least able to execute a descent running game in the early going. Then on a 3rd and 2 while deep in their territory, Lewis pulled his star running back, Cedric Benson and went shotgun formation. Now the Jet defense, which was getting run on by Benson, was able to worry about the wide receivers and less about a run picking up the first down, and just like clockwork, Palmer tried to connect with Laveranues Coles, but he was well covered and the pass was broken up.

Even if Lewis didn’t want to run the ball in that situation, and I don’t know why because they were having success running against the Jets’ defense, keeping Benson in the backfield would give the Jets the thought about a run, which would make the linebackers and defensive backs lean forward just a little to cheat against a Benson run, and make separation for the receiver on a short route just a little easier. Instead Lewis went with his “package” for that formation / situation and that meant Benson was off the field. Lewis is not the only coach that does this, but in that situation, at home and in a playoff game, I want my best players out there for my opponent to think about, even if they are only a decoy on that particular play.

Now this week in the Divisional games there was more head scratchers from the coaching sidelines with, in my opinion, one coach’s decisions costing his team a chance to win their game, while another called a successful play, but it may not have been the smartest idea.

It started Saturday night in Indianapolis where the Baltimore Ravens were tangling with the Colts. As the first half was ending the Colts put together a nice drive, including converting a 4th and 4, to take a 10-3 lead. Besides taking the lead, the score brought the home crowd back into the game. With two minutes to go and getting the ball back to start the second half, depending on where the kickoff return started the drive I expected the Ravens to run the ball and if they get some descent yardage, then get into the two minute offense to try and score before heading to halftime. If nothing else, running would force the Colts to use up their timeouts before possibly getting the ball back in Peyton Manning’s hands, plus it would give your defense more of a chance to catch its breath.

Instead, Baltimore started on their 18 yard line and ran Ray Rice on the first play for four yards and forced Indy to use their first timeout. To me four yards was not enough to start the two minute offense, but for John Harbaugh he thought differently and the Ravens’ offense went into shotgun formation and took a shot down the field to Derrick Mason which fell incomplete. Then after taking that shot and missing, you would think another run would be in order to run clock, but again Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was in shotgun formation and again the pass attempt fell incomplete.

After the punt and return, that left 86 seconds and two timeouts to Manning and the Colts to try and score before the end of the half. Eight plays later and with only three seconds left on the clock, Manning and the Colts scored that “dagger” touchdown to jump ahead 17-3, and in all essence it was “game over”, as the Baltimore offense is not built to make a two touchdown comeback.

Why give a quarterback like Manning that much time and two of his timeouts with the chance to put the game away? Nobody seemed to question Harbaugh’s decision to pass the ball in that situation, but I think it is a valid question and should have been addressed more by the television announcers and the media.

Then in Sunday’s first game it was the Dallas Cowboy offense, specifically Jason Garrett’s play calling, that had me shaking my head. The Cowboys were able to run the ball against the Viking defense, but on the first two 3rd and short situations Dallas ran an end around to Miles Austin and passed out of shotgun formation. Now while those plays worked, I could not understand why the Cowboys were not using their strength of running the ball to wear down the Viking defense. On the second drive with Dallas again moving the ball, the drive was stalled and Dallas was faced with a 4th and one. Instead of pounding the ball with Marion Barber or Felix Jones, Wade Phillips sent out Steve Suisham to attempt a 48 yard field goal. The kick was missed and four plays later Brett Favre connected with Sidney Rice for a 49 yard touchdown pass and Minnesota grabbed the game’s momentum.

The other curious part of that game was how Dallas handled their draw play. That play has been the Cowboys’ bread and butter running play for a better part of the season, but Minnesota was stopping it most of the time. How that was happening was that the plays were being run away from defensive end Jared Allen, and he was able to slow down the play by using his speed from the backside. Why those runs were not going to the area Allen was vacating to take advantage of his backside pursuit, while it probably would not have changed the outcome, is confusing to me.

Oh, and let’s not forget the Vikings’ last touchdown pass. While I am all for the “we are professionals” mantra and that Dallas should have stopped them from scoring, I will question why Brett Favre and the #1 offense were still in the game at that time. One Favre or Rice twisted knee and the Viking chances to making the Super Bowl go right out the window. A 27-3 lead with two minutes to play is equivalent to being 13-2 and having your playoff spot wrapped up going into the final game of the season. If you wouldn’t play your starters in that regular season game, then there was no reason for them to be finishing this playoff game.

Finally, in the San Diego I feel the lack of adjustments by Norv Turner and the Charger offense against the Jets’ blitzing defense is what eventually cost them the game. This was a game of adjustments and was started by Jet head coach, Rex Ryan, who changed his coverage schemes to negate the early success the Chargers were having by motioning either Antonio Gates or the running back (either Sproles or Tomlinson) wide to get Vincent Jackson away from Darrelle Revis.

Then as the Jets blitzes were starting to get pressure on Philip Rivers, the Chargers remained stagnant and continued to try and force their offense against the New York defense. San Diego’s offense is known for it long pass routes which are slower to develop, but the Jet blitzes when penetrating the blocking protection don’t allow for slow developing to happen, and the New York blitzes were making an impact on Rivers. The two River’s interceptions were directly related to him being rushed to throw and in the case of the first one, while moving backwards so he got no power into his throw. Why the Charger receivers were not running more slant routes, especially effective with the big receivers the Chargers employ, and drag routes to allow quicker passes to slow down the Jet blitzes is a question that was never addressed by the media and certainly not Norv Turner.

Add in the onside kick attempt and the wasting of seven seconds by not calling their timeout before the 2 minute warning, and overall I don’t feel it was not a good day for Norv Turner and his coaching staff.

Guess though the San Diego management thinks differently as Turner was given a three year extension, while I’m still calling plays from my couch.

Coaching Crazy.....

This football season sure has seemed to focus on the coaches more then any other time that I can remember, and not always in a good or flattering way. In fact, it would make you wonder why anyone in their right mind would want this job?

In the college game we have had big name coaches fired (Charlie Weis), let go before their time (Bobby Bowden), leave for the NFL (Pete Carroll), go to court to keep their job and fail (Mike Leach), resign for health and family reasons and then rescind all of it 24 hours later (Urban Meyer), and just in the past week one coach leave a high profile program after only one year at the helm to coach another high profile program and was only able to have a one minute press conference at the old job because there was concern about the reaction to his move (Lane Kiffin). Plus we had the normal hiring, firing, resigning, and jumping to other schools that seems to happen every off season.

On the professional side, it has not nearly been as strange, but they seem to be in the news for one reason or another each week. We have had the crazy on field decisions (4th and 2 anyone?), the replacement of a coach’s play calling duties by someone who was calling Bingo games in a senior center a week prior, then that same coach fired at 4am in the morning the day after the season ended. One was given a contract extension, then blew the division and a week later the playoffs to their most heated rival, while that rival coach’s job, which seemed to be on the ledge, was actually saved and extended because of those particular games.

Another picked up his new star quarterback at the airport in his own personal vehicle, then during the season seemed to lose the keys to the team to that same quarterback because the star didn’t want to leave a game.

Then for the topper, we have a coach who was supposed to get his year end review almost ten days ago, but has been told it is postponed indefinitely as of now. That wouldn’t be so bad, but there are now reports that the owner is actually interviewing new coaches before meeting and firing his old one (got to love Al Davis).

All of this has to make you wonder if you have to be a little crazy to want to coach football on either the college or professional level? Maybe, but all that craziness gets washed away whenever a coach gets that Gatorade shower and for them that makes it all worth the insanity.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Divisional Round Review - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/17/2010).....

Mike and I review the four NFL Divisional Playoff games and discuss the New York Jets upset victory over the San Diego Chargers. And yes, I was 0-4 on my picks. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 17, 2010

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Divisional Round Picks & The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/16/2010).....

NFL Divisional Playoff round is here and we have four teams rested and waiting for their opponents. Flying solo on this podcast, I give you Mike's picks for the games, and the reasoning behind my choices for this week. Plus I cover a few news stories from this week in the NFL. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 16, 2010

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Voice over talent provided by Morgan Thomas

(home team in CAPS)

Cardinals (+7) over SAINTS
Ravens (+6 1/2) over COLTS
Cowboys (+3) over VIKINGS
CHARGERS (-7) over Jets

Wildcard Weekend (2-2)
2009 Playoff record (2-2)
2009 regular season (85-79-2)

Friday, January 15, 2010

EA Sports - The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/15/2010).....

Something a little different today on the podcast as I welcome Will Kinsler and Justin Dewiel, who are community managers for EA Sports onto the podcast. Will, Justin and I discuss their jobs at EA Sports, how EA interacts with the community of gamers and lots of Madden Football. Will and Justin also talk about the sport teams they follow and give us their predictions for this week's NFL Divisional Playoff games. Enjoy.

Will on Twitter
Justin on Twitter
EA Sports Website

The SportsFan Buzz: January 15, 2010

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Voiceover talent provided by Morgan Thomas

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coaching Carousel Turning Stomachs.....

The USC and South Florida coaching jobs have been filled by Lane Kiffin and Skip Holtz which means that the Tennessee and East Carolina jobs are now open because these coaches have left for “greener pastures”. It is quite possible those jobs will be filled by current head coaches, which will leave those schools without a head coach and just start the merry-go-round up again.

Yes, this seems to happen every year in college football, but this year just feels different. Maybe it is because the jobs available since early December were at schools that we are not used to seeing open, or thought we would not see open for quite some time. If on December 1st I was to have told you that the following head coach positions would be available, you would have laughed me out of this column, but look what schools have had the “help wanted” sign up these last six weeks.

Notre Dame
Texas Tech

Plus, let’s not forget that for 24 hours the Florida coaching job was vacant. You could have had three of the top ten, maybe even top five football universities with different head coaches next year. Crazy.

Add in the other “name” schools that have replaced coaches since the season’s end (Virginia, Kansas, and Louisville) and then a dozen or so smaller schools, and that is a bunch of coaches moving around.

But this isn’t about the coaches leaving and who replaced them, it is about the process surrounding these coaching changes and how this “coaching silly season”, and especially this week’s events, have really brought into focus the need for change in how and when coaches change jobs and that the NCAA, which is supposed to be looking out for these “student athletes”, actually turns their back on them during these times.

While some like seeing this game of “move a coach here, place a coach there”, I for one am getting tired of it, especially after seeing what has gone down these past couple of days with USC and Tennessee recruits. Because of the timing of these changes, eighteen year old kids have to play games with the schools they committed to if they now decide they don’t want to honor that commitment, and that just stinks. On Wednesday, some had to resort to not attending classes at the school of commitment, just so they can transfer without having to sit out a year. Does the NCAA think it is a good idea for these kids to skip classes just to keep from losing that year of playing time?

So coaches come and go as they please, but a player, who may have been highly influenced to attend a certain school because of the coach, will get punished if he wants to leave to follow said coach, or just attend another school that he had previously considered. While I am concerned about the player who already has attended the school for a year, I am more bothered by those kids who are ready to commit and attend the school for the upcoming year / season. As shown this week, some of these kids are being tugged every which way when a coach leaves a school, and besides thinking about just staying with the school they committed to, if they decide to change their commitment, they must do so in quick fashion.

Look at four star recruit defensive tackle Brandon Willis who was committed to Tennessee. On Tuesday he was on his way to Knoxville to start classes when he heard the news of Kiffin leaving. The coaches leaving with Kiffin tried to persuade him to go to USC, but he was having nothing of it. On Wednesday, he decided to attend North Carolina. How fair is it for this kid to have his mind made up, then have it swept away because the coach that recruited him leaves before he even gets on campus, then he has to make another decision on where he should attend school? If Willis had stepped on campus, and attended a class, he would have been stuck at Tennessee, or if he wanted to transfer would have had to sit out a season at the other school.

By the way, if you are wondering how coaches can just up and leave their contracts they have with a school, it is because in most cases these coaches have buyout clauses that allow them to buy their way out of the contract, so in most cases it is the school that puts themselves in this position by allowing those clauses.

While I don’t want these kids moving around from school to school just to follow a certain coach, or chase playing time, I think the NCAA needs to make it available to them as a one-time exemption during their years of playing eligibility. Yes, I know it is supposed to be about their education, but let’s be adults here and know that for a few it has absolutely nothing to do with education, and all about playing football, or basketball, etc. Brandon Willis is a perfect example of someone who wanted to play for Lane Kiffin, but once Kiffin left, Willis wanted nothing to do with Tennessee and also nothing to do with Kiffin because he felt betrayed by him.

The feeling of betrayal or being deceived by coaches who tell these kids and parents that they will be at a program is not even a part of this discussion, and can be a whole new column for another day.

My idea would be to allow each student/athlete one free transfer, without having to sit out a year, if the coach that recruited them to a school leaves that school, whether on their own or because they were fired. Any other transfer attempt following the first one would play by the current rules and the student would have to sit out one season before being eligible to play for their new school. Not all players on a team would use this “out”, but it would make it fairer for the athletes, instead of them having to watch that coach who promised them everything walk away from them and go onto to a different place without any consequences, while the same could not be the same for them. Personally, I don’t think too many players would use this “escape clause” because most of these kids get comfortable with their college surroundings and would not want to “start over” again at another school.

While not a perfect solution, and maybe addressing the coaches’ buyout clauses maybe the solution for some, it would at least give a little something to a player who made a commitment to a coach, but whose coach truly didn’t make a commitment to the player.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/13/2010).....

Taking a break from winter and the NFL, plus with it now less than five weeks before "pitchers & catchers", Paul Lebowitz (Twitter - @prince_of_ny) joins me to talk baseball. Included in our discussion is the Mark McGwire apology, this year's Hall of Fame voting and a look at what different teams have done to improve or hurt themselves this off season. Enjoy.

Paul's Baseball Blog: Prince of NY Baseball Blog

The SportsFan Buzz: January 13, 2010

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/11/2010).....

Just as Mike and I are about to record this podcast we learn that Mark McGwire admitted to using steriods. But then we get the real big news when Mike's wife calls to tell us Simon Cowell would be leaving American Idol after this season. Fighting back the tears, we move forward and review the games from the NFL's Wildcard weekend, including one of the greatest playoff games ever when the Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers in overtime. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 11, 2010

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The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/10/2010).....

Longtime friend Joe Cuomo, who happens to be a fan of the Texas Longhorns and also baseball's Andre Dawson stops by to discuss the BCS Championship Game and the Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Enjoy.
Rob Neyer ESPN blogpost about HOF voting

The SportsFan Buzz: January 10, 2010

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wildcard Picks & The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/9/2010).....

Eric Mangini keeps his job in Cleveland, Mike Shanahan is taking over the Redskins and it looks like Pete Carroll will leave USC to coach the Seahawks. It's been a wild NFL week and we haven't even gotten to the actual Wildcard games. Mike joins me this time for a preview of the Wildcard Playoff games and we discuss the above mentioned NFL coaching jobs. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 9, 2010

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BENGALS (-3) over Jets
COWBOYS (-4) over Eagles
Ravens (+3 1/2) over PATRIOTS
Packers (+1 1/2) over CARDINALS

Week 17 record (10-6)
2009 regular season (85-79-2)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Hundred is Better than Perfect.....

After week 16 when the Indianapolis Colts gave away their chance at a perfect season, Mike Tricarico and I blasted the team on our weekly podcast. At the time, I went through a laundry list of reasons why I thought the Colts should have gone for perfection, with history (both all time and the Colts own) playing a major part of my reasoning.

Being remembered forever as a perfect team (What can you name faster, the winner of Super Bowl XIX or the only perfect team?) is forever, while unless you are part of the fan base for the team, or have the Elias Sports Bureau seared into your brain, it takes even the most ardent sport fan a little while to match Super Bowls played more then five years ago with its winner. (BTW, SB 19 winner was the 15-1 San Francisco 49ers)

Also the Colts history of coming out flat for their first playoff game after having rested players to finish the regular season and having the bye week has been the opposite of perfect. As a matter of fact, they are 0-2 in that scenario with losses in 2005 to Pittsburgh and to San Diego in 2007. So if I’m the Colts, maybe I try something different and let it all hang out to see if history can be made for the first time in 37 years.

Other parts of my thinking included the fact that Indianapolis had won many of their first fourteen games in comeback style and seven of them by four points or less. Besides Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark (more on them later), the rest of Peyton Manning’s weapons on offense had never been through the “playoff wars” before, so keeping them in rhythm and allowing them and Manning to keep their magic going in game situations seems like a good idea. Also, for Manning, while Super Bowls are how quarterbacks are measured, a perfect season capped by a Super Bowl would virtually lock him in as the greatest QB of all time.

Garbage, we were told by the Colts organization after their “white flag” effort against the Jets. “None of that personal stuff means anything to us” was the mantra coming from the locker room. Even Peyton Manning followed marching orders and did not sway the conversation to allow for any controversy. But what about the looks of disbelief on the sidelines as their first loss was being secured that Sunday, with their own home crowd booing them unmercifully? “Cameras didn’t capture the true picture” and the “fans are fans, and don’t realize the organization has a plan” were the bullet points used to answer those inquiries.

In the hours and days after the game there were many “pundits” (like what Mike and I did on the podcast and many others) along with former NFL players who questioned the Colts’ game plan and the discussions got loud. It was so bad in Indianapolis that the General Manager, Bill Polian, had to cut short his weekly radio show and the Colts website put out a request asking their fans to “let it go”. These were Colt fans who were upset at their own team. We haven’t even delved into the facts that by allowing the Jets a free pass; it blew up the AFC playoff picture.

Well, I still believed I was correct with my thoughts as the week progressed, but if the organization truly believed that ignoring history (theirs and the NFL’s) and focusing on the Super Bowl Championship was the way to get the job done, who was I say it was wrong? Bill Polian and Peyton Manning have more rings then I will ever have, so record be damned, the Colts were focused on a Super Bowl victory.

Now before I go any further, I can already hear the “Well, see what happened to Wes Welker’s injury”, or the “What if Peyton got hit and was lost for the rest of the year” arguments. First, the Welker injury was a non contact injury and could have happened to anybody, at any time, especially if playing on a poor turf (more later), and could easily have occurred during a practice. Second, if we are going to pull the Peyton getting hit card, shouldn’t there be some evidence to back up that this could occur? The Colts and Manning have a great history of not allowing sacks of Manning, so why in the world does anybody think that it was all of a sudden going to change?

Anyway, on Sunday morning, I’m all on the Colts’ “forget history, let’s get the ring” bandwagon, and I’m ready to take the reigns. Let Peyton (to keep his consecutive game streak alive) and the offense run a series and then it’s off to the showers and maybe another commercial or two for Manning to help increase his Q rating.

Really, what else would the team do after pulling the starters the prior week from a game in front of their own home crowd, which they came into undefeated with possible history in front of them, which they were leading at the time of the substitutions, and with an opponent playing for their playoff lives? Then add the week’s worth of “talking points” and the fact that the game was in cold, snowy Buffalo, and their opponent, the Bills, were done with their season weeks ago. I mean, come on, maybe one series was even too much.

Here is where the story takes a turn and ankles break from jumping off the “records mean nothing, rings are the thing” bandwagon.

Seems Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark needed five and seven receptions respectively to reach the one hundred catch mark for the season. While nice, with the top seed wrapped up, the perfect season given away, and snowy conditions in Buffalo, there is no way the Colts would risk anything for personal milestones, would they? Well, it seems they would, and the Colts did just that on Sunday against the Bills. Wayne got his five catches, while Clark got his seven with Manning as their quarterback while playing in the snow.

I didn’t see a red practice jersey on Manning to tell the Bills not to hit him during the game. Nor did I see any “no touch” markings on Wayne or Clark, or anybody making sure they did not slip and injure themselves while route running in the Buffalo snow. Was there something going on that we were not privy to, to prevent any of those injuries the team was so concerned about the week prior while they went for these individual records.

So while the organization says perfection was not important, it does seem that keeping its top players happy and hitting milestones is important. How else can you describe what went on in getting Wayne and Clark those receptions? Claiming to not want to risk a Manning injury one week, was thrown aside to force passes to his two receivers to hit personal benchmarks. We are not even talking about NFL records on the line here. Just one hundred catch seasons for each player.

While getting to 100 receptions is nice, there is another question to add to the mix, and that is why not try to complete those passes to Clark and Wayne the prior week, at home in front of their fans, while still pushing an opponent that needed to win the game? Trying to get those receptions against the Jets would have knocked quite a few items off their “to do” list as the Colts could have achieved personal milestones while possibly keeping their perfect season alive in front of the home fans, and make a team earn its possible victory that was desperately needed for its playoff chances.

Instead we got a lay down against the Jets and a week’s worth of words that by the following Sunday’s actions on the field were all shown to be not quite so believable anymore.

I also wonder if some players on the team, who may have wanted to try for an undefeated season and may not play a position that has those type of milestones (offensive linemen, punter, etc.), are questioning why certain players were allowed to risk injury for personal milestones, while their own claim to fame of being part of a possible undefeated season was tossed aside?

If you want to go full throttle cynic and conspiracy theorist, you could wonder if the Colts would have rather given the Jets the playoff shot, while at the same time hurting the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who could be considered a tough match-up for the Colts, and had once before knocked them from the playoffs when Indianapolis had the AFC’s top seeding.

While I don’t believe that to be the case, I do believe that the Colts’ actions the past two Sundays raise more questions for the organization than it answers. In the end, none of this will probably matter to most sport fans if Peyton Manning and the Colts are the winners of Super Bowl 44, while others who wanted to witness perfection will wonder, “what if and why”.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The SportsFanBuzz Podcast (1/4/2010).....

Mike Tricarico is back with me this week as we review the final week of the 2009 NFL season, discuss how some teams played while others didn't seem to show up, and take a look at the games coming up on Wildcard Weekend. Enjoy.

***Note*** Giants' defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was fired while Mike and I recorded the podcast.

Mike on Twitter

The SportsFan Buzz: January 4, 2010

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The SportsFan Buzz Podcast (1/2/2010).....

Flying solo on this podcast to start the New Year. Among the topics I cover are the fantastic NHL Winter Classic, Urban Meyer's health, and Texas Tech's coach/athlete problems in the news. Also, the very good College Bowl season we have had up to this point, including the final game for coaching legend Bobby Bowden. Finally, the final week of the NFL season, week 17, is previewed. Enjoy.

The SportsFan Buzz: January 2, 2010

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Friday, January 1, 2010

NFL Week 17 picks.....

Week 17 picks (Home team in CAPS)

Last week of the NFL regular season and the games can be just as difficult to pick as in week 1 because we just don't know which players will be playing, and which will be sitting it out. Four games involve teams with no playoff involvement, while three others have playoff teams for which the games will not change their seeding, while the other nine involve one or two teams that could still make the playoffs or at least change their playoff seeding. Not a bad slate for the final week of games.

Bears (-3) over LIONS
Chicago played well last Monday against Minnesota, and even though the Vikings came back on them, they showed something to hang on and win it in overtime. The Bears finish the season on a high note, and Detroit looks forward to 2010 and hopes the young roster get better.

Falcons (-2 1/2) over BUCS
Tampa Bay is on a two game winning streak, but the Falcons are looking for the franchise's first back to back winning seasons. Atlanta accomplishes the winning season streak and point towards a playoff return in 2010.

49ers (-7) over RAMS
The 49ers thought they would be looking at playing games in the post season this year, but it has not worked out like they anticipated. St. Louis is looking to wrap up the worst season this franchise has ever experienced.

Titans (-4 1/2) over SEAHAWKS
This game has two non-playoff teams, but it does have a history element involved as Chris Johnson runs towards 2,000 yards and an outside chance at Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. The Titans self destructed on Christmas against San Diego and wiped out their playoff hopes at the same time, but with an 8-8 season in front of them after the 0-6 start and Johnson's pursuit of 2,000 yards, Tennessee puts it together and finishes the season on a high note.

BILLS (NL) over Colts
The Colts decided to give up their chance at perfection last Sunday against the Jets and will probably rest their players even more this week in a game with nothing at stake. With Indy disinterested, the Bills sneak out a victory to end a disappointing season on a good note.

PANTHERS (NL) over Saints
Saints locked up the #1 seed when the Vikings lost Monday night, so don't expect many starters to play much. The Panthers' management has stated that Coach John Fox will return in 2010 and the team has played well the last part of the season. Losing Steve Smith to the broken arm concerns me, but Carolina rides their momentum to another victory.

CHARGERS (-4) over Redskins
San Diego is playing the best football in the AFC and possibly the whole NFL. I still don't like their running defense, or their rushing offense, but the Redskins come cross country just looking to finish off a dismal season.

BROWNS (-1 1/2) over Jaguars
First game with playoff implications, but Jacksonville needs a ton of help along with their own win over the Browns. Cleveland is on a three game winning streak, may have found a running back in Jerome Harrison, and is trying to impress their new head honcho, Mike Holmgren. They win and knock Jacksonville from the playoff picture.

Giants (+9) over VIKINGS
Minnesota needs to win and have Philadelphia lose to Dallas to regain the #2 seed they relinquished in Monday Night's loss to Chicago. The Vikings have some problems and can use the week off. The Giants had a terrible effort against Carolina with their playoffs on the line and will come into this game without Brandon Jacobs, but I think they will put up a fight, and keep this close.

Chiefs (+13) over BRONCOS
Who would have thought after starting 6-0 that Denver needs help, win or lose, to gain a playoff spot? Denver came close last week against the Eagles, but in the end lost on a last minute field goal. The Broncos are the only team that can make the playoffs even with a loss on Sunday, but they will get the victory over Kansas City in a game that the Chiefs will keep close.

Ravens (-10 1/2) over RAIDERS
The Ravens win and they are in the AFC playoffs, and they will not let the opportunity slip away. While Oakland has played other playoff caliber teams tough, Baltimore will not allow the Raiders the chance to get the upset as they go on the road and bring home a playoff birth.

Patriots (+8) over TEXANS
Houston needs the victory and help to get into the playoffs, while New England can secure the 3rd seed with a win. Texans also secure their first winning season if they beat the Patriots. Even though New England knows they are playing next week, they play this game hard and at least keep it close, if not beat the Texans outright to spoil their playoffs and winning season hopes.

Steelers (NL) over DOLPHINS
The defending champions have life, but the pulse is weak as they must win and get victories by rivals to gain a playoff spot. Miami has lost two in a row and while they could still make the playoffs, the amount of help they need would fill another page. The Dolphins may be without Ricky Williams, so the task could be even more difficult, and that is not good when facing a tough Steelers team.

Packers (+3 1/2) over CARDINALS
Both teams are in the playoffs and could possibly face each other in Arizona again for the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals have an outside chance at the second seed in the NFC and the week off, but with the possibility of the teams facing each other, this will be a "vanilla" game with neither team showing the other any of their tricks.

Bengals (+10) over JETS
The Jets got a huge break in the Colts pulling its starters and allowing New York to face their second team and get an important victory that puts them in a "win and in" position for this game. Cincinnati can only move up to the third seed if New England has lost earlier in the day, but they may not be too important to them as much as making sure they are healthy. These two teams also have a chance at facing each other in the first playoff weekend, so while the Jets need the win, the Bengals will do enough to keep it close.

Eagles (+3) over COWBOYS
This game means something for both teams as the winner gets the NFC East division title and a home playoff game. The Eagles secure the #2 seed with a victory, while the Cowboys could also move to the second seed with a win along with Viking and Cardinal losses. The Eagles have been playing the best football in the NFC and with the week off within their reach, they keep up the good play and get revenge for the Cowboys win in Philadelphia back in week 9.

Week 16 record (7-9)
2009 season (75-73-2)