Filed under: MLB | Tags: Baseball, Brian, Cashman, New York, Off-season, Sports, Yankees
Being a New York Yankee envelops a different meaning, a meaning which is regarded as being much more prestigious than just “another MLB employee.” A Yankee is synonymous with 2 things; Winning, and star-power.
So when the 2010-2011 MLB Off-Season began, many thought it was a shoe-in that New York would yet again make the largest of splashes while pursuing another World Series title. After all, there was “Yankee Money” on the table. Surely the likes of Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford could not pass up a chance to sport the pinstripes, right?
I’ll spare you the poetic story telling. Arch nemesis Boston put a stranglehold on the Yankees, pocketing not one but two all-stars in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Cliff Lee spurned that infamous “Yankee Money” and returned to Philadelphia.
The Yankees(as of 1/28) have made one acquisition of substance, dumping a boatload of cash into Rafael Soriano’s dump truck in an attempt to buckle down the bullpen. 35 million dollars later, New York had their man. Not to be outdone, the Yanks also added a former Cy Young winner, a Cy Young finalist, and a Silver Slugger winner who owns 10 gold gloves and 5 all-star berths.
How could Yankees fans not be enthralled with the likes of Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, and Andruw Jones?
But the interesting aspect of the off-season is that the real issue, besides the questionable player personnel decisions, is the antics of GM Brian Cashman.
Sure, from a talent standpoint the off-season didn’t go as planned. A reason for concern? Of course. But a team which features one of the best offenses in baseball, C.C Sabathia, and a solid back end of the bullpen can still compete admirably.
Pundits alike agree on that point, one man who perhaps does not, is the aforementioned Cashman.
For the majority of his career in New York, Cashman was able to stay hidden in the wake of an iconic manager and larger than live owner. The New York Post would send the Yankees a thank you card in the mail every Christmas, graciously thanking Mr. Steinbrenner and others for the carousel of headlines which they produced. But Joe Torre aged, his stay perhaps too long, Steinbrenner struggled with health issues in the waning stages of his career, fading into the background before passing over the summer. With the figure-heads around him disappearing, Cashman quickly became the media’s new brain to pick as they desperately looked to generate even the most far fetched of rumors.
Cashman, for the most part, stood his ground up until this winter.
He uncharacteristically spoke out on multiple occasions, leaving me perplexed, asking just a simple “What are you doing?”
When not scaling buildings or celebrity bar tending, Cashman was often bluntly answering questions for the media in the oddest of fashions. Whether he’s simply fed up in New York, or Rex Ryan is rubbing off on everybody, Cashman has left his critics with so much ammo they may start to saturate.
Trouble was presumably on the horizon when Cashman went public with the Derek Jeter contract negotiations, questionably stating, “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.” Listen, we know you’re under rule of the Steinbrenner’s and negotiations are as much a poker game as they are a contract debate, but there is a line you don’t cross. Telling the captain as well as the face of your franchise to go elsewhere if he doesn’t like what you have on the table is, well, crossing that line. I can imagine that Hank&Hal were none to pleased with Brian throughout these negotiations, siding with the perturbed Yankee Universe.
To make matters worse, Cashman was not done. When introducing the only off-season acquisition worth more than a blurb(Rafael Soriano), Cashman said he “didn’t recommend the deal” and was outwardly opposed to the signing of Soriano. Not only was this odd, seeing as he’s the General Manager, but he did so with Soriano sitting right next to him.
Talk about awkward.
What really sparked the obligatory firestorm in New York was not the struggle to re-sign Derek Jeter, or the disapproval of newcomer Soriano. Rather, it was the statements Cashman made just days ago. Cashman delivered a copius amount of “hit” one-liners, including “We’re one starter away from being a World Series contender,” “I’d be surprised if he plays SS for all 4 years. I see him moving to the out-field,”(when discussing Derek Jeter) and the ultimate head scratcher, “Red Sox. But we have better bullpen.”(When asked who was better)
Now what Cashman said was nothing that surprised non-Yankee fans. Derek Jeter is becoming a liability at shortstop. Tell a New York fan this and they’ll most likely flip you the bird, but it’s becoming fact of the matter. His range is declining and I’d be hard pressed to tell you he has 4 years left at that position. It’s also common knowledge at this point that the Yankees are one starter short, especially if Andy Pettitte does not pull a Brett Favre.
The problem, is that Cashman made these statements knowing Yankee Universe would respond with cries for mutiny. In a rivalry as heated as Boston and New York, don’t ever admit as a Yankee that you aren’t as good as Boston. You just don’t do it. Even if it’s true, it’s something you leave within your inner circle. The same could be said with the Derek Jeter comments. Did you not learn your lesson the first time around? When attempting to play hardball with Jeter, Yankee fans across the country cry foul.
Surely their own general manager wouldn’t defame “The Captain” enough to suggest a position switch!
It’s bad enough Cashman let down the fan base with a deflating off-season. Overpaying for a middle reliever and bringing in 3 players who are so far past their prime Allen Iverson’s ears perked up is not anything to “write home about.” That is exactly what makes his ill timed comments so much worse. It’s the proverbial lighting a match and throwing it on gasoline effect.
An air of uncertainty was already hovering around this New York Yankees ball club. Early playoff departure and a maligned back end of the rotation is a justifiable cause for concern. It becomes even more a cause for concern now that Cashman has done a less than ample job to fix these problems. Tack on ill conceived statemtnt after ill conceived statement and you have yourself a recipe for disaster, Brian Cashman.
Hopefully he’s learned from his last batch of verbal mixed signals, and will allow the off-season to fade into obscurity.
On its own.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: College Sports, NFL | Tags: 2011, Draft, Mock, Mock Draft, NFL, Sports
While we haven’t touched on it much, as the NFL season winds down we look forward to all that the off-season brings. The most anticipated event of the off-season is undoubtedly the NFL Draft. Stretched to a 3 day process, the Draft can single-handedly alter the future of contenders and pretenders alike. While labor negotiations may cloud the future, we’ll save that argument for another day. Without further ado, The Sports Blast presents the first installment of our Mock Draft.
1. Carolina Panthers: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
While I could make a case for A.J Green, where is football won? Down in the trenches. Where else can Carolina go here? There’s no sense in drafting a high profile receiver if you’re going to struggle to get him the ball anyways(Steve Smith). Carolina’s biggest need outside of the QB position is the line, so Fairley is the pick.
2. Denver Broncos: Daquan Bowers, DE, Clemson
With John Fox in town, we figured the Broncos will move back to the 4-3. With that move comes an intensified need for pressure, especially because Fox is working with a team that produced a league low 23 sacks this past season. With Bowers, a return from Dumervil, and hopeful improvement from Robert Ayers, Denver will look a lot better up front.
3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Is it too early? Definitely. While I firmly believe Buffalo trades down from the 3 spot, I (presumably) cannot predict the future. With the 2 defensive lineman off the board and A.J Green/Patrick Peterson not being true needs, Buffalo takes another stab at a future QB.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J Green, WR, Georgia
Chad Ochocinco has more future potential suitors in mind than he had touchdowns this past season. Terrell Owens is not the answer, didn’t provide victories, and is a general nuance. Carson Palmer is still there(for now) and will need new targets down the line. Green may be the best player in the draft and the Bengals nab him here.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson is arguably the best defensive talent in the draft, and draws comparisons to Eric Berry. Whether he’s at safety or cornerback is up to Ken Whisenhunt. What he does know is that he’s solving a need in the secondary which was nothing less than shaky this past year.
6. Cleveland Browns: Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama
The toughest pick so far(yes I know, all 5 deep), it was tough to decide between Dareus and Julio Jones. This is a deep receiver draft, so hopefully Cleveland will pick up a receiver in round 2. Moving to the 4-3, Dareus provides talent and versatility on a front line which features 32 year old Shaun Rogers.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Nate Clements. Shawntae Spencer. New head coach. All 3 of those factors work towards the drafting of Prince, who shows all the cover skills to be the next big shut down corner in the NFL. With new blood needed and no franchise QB available, Prince it is.
8. Tennessee Titans: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Bud Adams’ clock is ticking, and he wants to make changes now. With both Jeff Fisher and Vince Young out, a new coach is on the horizon. New regime= New QB’s usually, so look for the Titans to reach on Newton here.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Cameron Jordan, DL, Cal
He’s had a great start to the Senior Bowl practices and has experience in the 3-4. Do I think this is a pick the Cowboys need to make? Not in the slightest. But without the ability to predict trade downs, this is the most value Dallas can get.
10. Washington Redskins: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
With Newton off the board, Jones is the best player available. Washington has a poor receiving core, the lone bright spot being Santana Moss. Moss has been around forever, so new blood is needed to anchor the receiving corps.
11. Houston Texans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC
Quinn did miss a whole year of games, but there is no denying the talent that Quinn has. A great off-season of workouts could easily restore Quinn’s stock. Throw in that Wade Phillips is now the defensive coordinator and needs to make improvements to the 3-4, and Quinn is your man.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Our first offensive tackle off the board, Solder and BC Offensive Tackle Anthony Castonzo will battle it out to see who is the top tackle in the draft. While the most glaring need is QB, there simply is not a justifiable reason to draft Jake Locker at 12.
13. Detroit Lions: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Smith will become one of the workout warriors of the off-season, but there may be more substance than usual here. Smith is big, really big, and displays great speed. He could mold into the CB of the future for Detroit, who severely lack at this position.
14. St. Louis Rams: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
The Butkus Award winner, Miller is a freak of an athlete. While consistency may be called into question, he has all the skills to succeed at the next level.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, HB, Alabama
Ingram doesn’t possess next level talent, but man is he consistent. With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams presumably out of town, new blood is needed to carry the run game. Last year’s Heisman winner goes off the board here.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Kerrigan has impressed so far at Senior Bowl practices, and will provide a steady talent at the defensive end position. The Jaguars need a solid QB, but that just will not come in this draft.
17. New England Patriots: J.J Watt, DL, Wisconsin
Although this may surprise some people, Watt strikes me as a typical Belichick player. He’s a class act and will provide interior line talent, which the Patriots sorely need. Ty Warren isn’t getting any younger, Gerard Warren can only handle so many snaps, and Mike Wright is a rotational lineman at best. With Watt in place, the Patriots may have their next Richard Seymour.
18. San Diego Chargers: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Shawne Merriman, well he’s a thing of the past. Whatever stop gap the Chargers put in place after him, well that didn’t work out either. While I could see them going off the chart here and picking a WR, I think Ayers is a sound bet at the OLB position in the 3-4.
19. New York Giants: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Coming from someone who attended every BC game personally, I kept a close eye on Castonzo. His best performances often came against the best quality talent, which bodes well in the NFL. William Beatty doesn’t look like has “it”, so the Giants will have to look elsewhere. Don’t look now, but there’s the Tom Coughlin/Boston College connection as well.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Iowa, not the place you want to send your kid if you fear “character” concerns. Multiple different outbreaks in recent months have made it rocky times for Iowa. Adrian Clayborn knows this all too well, suffering from a tumultuous 2010 season. The Bucs need a DE badly, which may cause them to take a risky player like Clayborn.
21. Kansas City Chiefs: Stefen Wisniewski, C/OG, Penn State
This is a classic Pioli pick. Not much flair, not much style, but he fits the scheme in Kansas City and is versatile in the interior of the offensive line. Kansas City is aging on the line, and could use this added youth.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The Colts need this pick more than usual. While Polian often makes obscure selections, it’s tough to overlook the struggles that the Indianapolis offensive line displayed this season. Smith comes with a bit of a mean streak, which may be exactly what the Colts need.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Gabe Carimi, OL, Wisconsin
52 sacks. Michael Vick. Those are two glaring issues with Philadelphia. You simply cannot win deep in the playoffs allowing that many sacks, and you need to protect your most prized possessions. Most controversy surrounding Vick was the amount of hits he took late in the season. Carimi can soothe this problem.
24. New Orleans Saints: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Do you think Marshawn Lynch is still fresh in the New Orleans Saints minds? Poor tackling and no strength up the middle was the weakness all along for the Saints, and a very solid talent in Paea will look to help Sedrick Ellis out.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Allen Bailey, DL, Miami
While the Seahawks had a nice end to the season, there are still plenty of holes to be filled on that roster. Start up front, which proved itself to be a huge question mark in their divisional playoff game against the Chicago Bears. Matt Forte ran for huge chunks at a time, something that will not happen as easily with the addition of Allen Bailey.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Harris has a world of talent, and the Ravens have a bit of a need at the cornerback position. Makeshift attempts like Josh Wilson are not sustainable.
27. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Sherrod is a another offensive line prospect in the draft worthy of a first. He’s great value at 27, I could see him going earlier.
28. New England Patriots: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
While I’m not sold on the Patriots taking a rush linebacker, simply because they never do it, the need is there as well as the value. With Tully Banta-Cain offering a sub-par performance this year, the Pats could use a high motor guy willing to come off the edge. Be weary though, Belichick loves Cunningham/Ninkovich.
29. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Baldwin is an athletic freak, something Chicago will love and also needs. The Bears have struggled to find Cutler a true #1 receiver, which needs to end in this off-season. While offensive line would be useful, there isn’t a worthwhile selection right here.
30. New York Jets: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Heyward would be great as a Jet. He’s your prototypical 5 technique defensive lineman who can still bust a lot of plays up in the backfield. Shaun Ellis is 34 and also a pending free agent. While a pass rusher could be used here, Heyward is the better pick. He’ll clog up defenders and do his fair share of damage in the backfield.
31. Green Bay Packers: Marvin Austin, DL, UNC
Green Bay really doesn’t have too much a problem with character concerns, which should ease the pain when selecting Marvin Austin. He’s one of the top defensive line talents when in shape and motivated, but do we know what we’re going to get out of Marvin Austin?
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
His older brother has amazed the Steelers this season, competing at an ultra-high level at the center position. Insert younger brother Mike into the line and not only does the chemistry stay the same, but the Steelers revamp their aging trenches. Pouncey is more need than value at 32.
Notable players left off: Kyle Rudolph, Mikel Leshoure, Greg Jones, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet.
Have a differing of opinion? Don’t hesitate to tell me how badly I screwed up your teams selection in the comment section.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: NFL | Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Football, Green Bay, NFL, Packers, Sports, Super Bowl
He’s quickly becoming the new “Quarterback Poster Boy.”
As Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees watch from the sidelines, Aaron Rodgers remains standing. Brady and Manning could very easily have already reached the pinnacle of their careers, suffering early departures from an abnormally wide open playoff hunt. Nearing their mid 30′s, it’s becoming a realization that their run can only endure so many seasons. While Rivers has yet to leave his mark on the playoffs, the only other QB worth mentioning, Ben Roethlisberger, has struggled all season to rebuild his permeated image. Brees and Rodgers could be the “next wave” of prolific passers who don shiny Super Bowl rings.
But is Aaron Rodgers for real? Has he withered enough storms to tackle the all-mighty Vince Lombardi trophy, a trophy which looms over him every day of the week at Lambeau?
Their is two schools of thought on Rodgers. There’s the class of “He doesn’t have the experience or the track record in big games to truly be elite.” There’s also the, “Rodgers’ gaudy statistical performance’s have elevated him to that level, and this is his year” legion of followers.
The easy answer would presumably sound something like, “well he’s made it to the Super Bowl, surely he can win in the playoffs right? Well, yes. But has he done it convincingly? That’s where the juicy, tender nucleus of this debate reveals itself.
I won’t even touch the Divisional round against Atlanta. The Packers thoroughly dominated on all sides of the ball. Backtrack to Wild Card weekend and the tune changes its pitch. The Packers totaled 14 points in the first half, a mere 7 in the second half. More importantly, they scored on 2 of their 3 drives in the first half, but fumbled on their first second half possession. They didn’t manage a single point when they needed to put the game away in the 4th quarter.
Outside of their sole scoring drive, which was due mostly to the breakout attack of James Starks, Rodgers amassed a whopping 1 first down in the second half through the air. He also committed one turnover. How’s that for a trade-off?
This past weekend, Rodgers’ Green Bay offense took an eerily similar approach. Their drive summary in the second half? Riddled with punts and a costly interception. Rodgers put up 14 points in 16 minutes. The next 44 minutes?
A big fat goose egg.
After the aforementioned interception thrown to Brian Urlacher, Rodgers made little to no noise the rest of the ballgame. As Chicago served up opportunities the size of beach balls, Rodgers declined, waiting for the perfect pitch that was never thrown.
Sure, the Packers won both games. This isn’t trying to take away from what the Packers did as a team or what Aaron Rodgers was able to do early in ballgames. Simply put, I question if Rodgers has what it takes to lead his team to victory on football’s greatest stage. While it’s not an individual sport, Rodgers ability to dismantle a stingy Pittsburgh defense will hold Green Bay’s collective fate.
While I think Rodgers is a good QB, perhaps even great, I’m not sold on him in the playoffs. He’s 0-5 in his career in overtime games. If Rodgers can’t finish against the Bears or Eagles, why should I blindly put faith in him to carry Green Bay down the stretch against one of the top defenses in the league?
There’s no one who believes Rodgers lacks the talent to do it. But will he?
While statistics are nice, it’s easy to overlook the struggles Rodgers has had putting meaningful games away the entire season. He relied on his defense to stop 3rd string Caleb Hanie this past Sunday, masking his downright putrid second half performance.
Aaron Rodgers is undoubtedly the future, but maybe I’m just not sold on the future just yet.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: Uncategorized
An NBA Blog? What is this?
I know we’ve neglected the NBA on-air, but as the NFL season reaches the depths of their schedule, it’s important to keep a broad focus on The Sports Blast. As the NBA and NHL take over sports headlines everywhere in the next month, we’ll continue to expand upon our coverage. Without further ado, our top 5 and bottom 5 teams.
1. San Antonio Spurs: 36-6
It’s tough to argue with what the Spurs have done on the floor so far this season. While you never hear much out of Tim Duncan and co., their play speaks for itself. They get it done at home(22-2) and are distancing themselves from the rest of the pack(L.A is fading in the rear view mirror). One of the most seasoned core group of players in the NBA, the Spurs have been there and done that. Even if they go through the motions while trying to get to the playoffs, don’t expect there to be a carryover when it matters.
2. Boston Celtics: 32-9
Much like the Spurs, Boston is comprised of an abundance of veteran talent. While that may hurt you in the “dog days” of the NBA season, it doesn’t detract from the overall talent of the team. Boston is 13-5 against opponents with records above .500, and have yet to play a game “healthy.” The return of Kendrick Perkins in the near future will only inject more enthusiasm into a team enjoying surprisingly strong showings from veterans who presumably already have one eye on the playoffs. Celtics/Lakers on January 30 is one to watch for.
3. Miami Heat: (30-13)
Wait, I thought the Heat were destined for mediocrity? Their coach was a hack, all 3 superstars overrated! Oh, that was just the first couple weeks of the season? Right. There was no way the Heat could be held down forever, and we finally see the power that is combining 3 super stars in one starting lineup. The biggest thing with Miami is making it through without a major injury of any sort. Depth is a concern for me as well as the Heat’s inability to consistently sport a routine lineup.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: (31-13)
Despite struggling to stay consistent this year, L.A can get by on raw talent. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Artest. The star power in the “city of the stars” 1-5 is scary good considering none of these guys have really peaked. Despite that, the team continues to improve their scoring outputs and sit pretty at 31-13. They may need to go on a late-season run to regain home-court advantage, which will be a huge asset on their quest for a three-peat.
5. Chicago Bulls: (28-14)
The Bulls and not Thunder? That’s the case here. Chicago continues to forge ahead despite being without their defensive and rebounding energy, Joakim Noah. Without him, they’ve still piled up 28 wins and have played well. Derrick Rose garners many a accolade this season, and the future pairing of Carlos Boozer and the aforementioned Noah should have the East taking notice.
Next in line, Oklahoma City Thunder.
The “Why is there still a draft lottery, we should go based on records” Bottom Five
5. Toronto Raptors: (13-29)
Despite the emergence of Andrea Bargnani and the seemingly yearly ray of hope in Toronto, the team lacks the big punch. They lack a big man, and continue to accumulate average talent on the wings.
4.Washington Wizards: (12-28)
They trade for Rashard Lewis, struggle to keep John Wall on the court, and have teammates who may be brawling off the court. Sounds like another typical season for the Washington Wizards. They could get the top 5 pick for the next 5 years, until new management takes over that team will never get out of the rut.
3. Sacramento Kings: (9-31)
Big name ownership and a big young talent in Tyreke Evans isn’t enough to lift the Kings out of NBA purgatory. There’s plenty of young talent in Sacramento, which allows me to hope for the future for Sacramento. Paging Donte Greene, Donte, where are you?
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: (10-33)
No ones been harder on David Kahn than me during the early chapters of his career in Minnesota. Questionable draft strategies(let alone picks) haven’t helped Minnesota in the slightest. Still haven’t seen Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson isn’t getting on the court, and their defense may as well not even garner it’s own stat. I weep for Minnesota’s dreary future.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: (8-33)
Not only is Cleveland in an all-time low sporting wise, but the Cavaliers have literally nothing to play for. Dan Gilbert may or may not still believe he will win a title before Lebron, but newsflash, it won’t happen with this lineup. Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao are now out. Good luck J.J Hickson!
Filed under: NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Bill Belichick, Football, Jets, NFL, Patriots, Playoffs, Sports
I could only make it to Thursday.
Bottling up stats, quotes, and other potentially useful pieces of information, the Sports Blast has gone through most of the week without discussing the upcoming Jets and Patriots duel, part 3. As a show based around the New England/New York/New Jersey area, this game undoubtedly harbors most of our interest.
This game pits two completely different teams. One focuses on defensive football, never shies away from an outlandish comment, and lives under the boisterous shadow of Rex Ryan. The other? Well they’re much more business like, methodically going through each week, rarely giving the media much to work with while featuring an offense which is ever evolving.
The way they talk, you’d think the Jets were the favorites to win this game. Personal shots at Tom Brady and Bill Belichick(typical Jets protocol) have resulted in, well, nothing. Perhaps most frustrating of all for Rex Ryan, the Patriots only response to any of his poor efforts to spark controversy was a playful prod by Bill Belichick himself, declaring that it’s the best for both sides that the two coaches do not suit up.
But can the Jets really be taken seriously?
I hate to be that guy, but the majority of the public needs to be reminded that the Jets are a mere 3-4 against winning teams, and that’s counting last weekends nailbiter against the Indianapolis Colts. Rex Ryan has yet to beat New England at Gillette since taking over the New York Jets, and the last ditch retort “what about week 2″ really holds no place in any discussion.
In week 2, the Patriots offense featured Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney, and Fred Taylor. They were without Logan Mankins and Danny Woodhead. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a relative unknown, Darius Butler suffered a volcanic-equse meltdown, and the Patriots still managed to lead after one half. How relevant is that game?
Some people counter that the playoffs are all about “any given Sunday” and the Jets are riding high after a win against the vaunted Colts. The same vaunted Colts who led with less than a minute ago. The same vaunted Colts who were without Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Clint Session, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Ryan Diem, and Antonio Johnson. Wow, that was exhausting. The Jets run game overpowered an undersized Colts defensive front 7, but will the same happen in New England?
The strength of the Jets offense is their power run game. The ability to put Mark Sanchez on ice for 10 plays/87 yards needs to be prevalent in order for New York to win. And by put on ice, I mean not allow to throw the ball more than twice. But can the Jets sustain such domination on the ground against a bigger, more skilled run defense? The jump from Indianapolis to New England in terms of run stoppage is rather large, spanning from 25th in the league to 11th. You aren’t going to be able to move Vince Wilfork and Gerard Warren far, something the Jets did well with the undersized Colts Dlineman such as Robert Mathis.
While all previews are relative, it’s impossible to argue with what the Patriots have done leading up to this game. Since 2004, the Patriots are 8-0 coming off a bye week. Since Bill Belichick has been in control, the Patriots have never lost coming off a wild card weekend bye. He’s intercepted Mark Sanchez a whopping 7 times in just 2 games at Gillette stadium. For what it’s worth, Belichick has reached the Super Bowl 3 times when going 14-2 in the regular season, ’03, ’04, and ’07.
Consider this a challenge to the Jets fans throughout the nation. What have the Jets done to prove themselves worthy of the expectations they’ve placed on their shoulders? It’s been a long week(still isn’t over), and obviously the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.
But give me a team who displays a higher level of focus(the Patriots), rarely lose at home(the Patriots) and have been here before over a team who might be nothing more than a breath of hot air.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Eagles, Football, NFL, Packers, Playoffs, Sports
We shift over to the NFC at The Sports Blast, starting the coverage with potentially the most interesting game of the weekend.
Green Bay travels into Eagle country to stage a matchup which could easily pass as the NFC Conference Championship game, let alone a Wild Card Weekend duel. Both teams possess threatening offenses, while defense could be a much bigger question mark on either side.
The Packers come in as a surprising 6 seed. Needing to win out just to enter the playoffs, the Packers are still primed to be one of the toughest in the NFC due in part to the play of Aaron Rodgers. While the injury bug has done its worst to the Packers, Rodgers continues to statistically impress despite missing time due to 2 concussions. Rodgers is just a smudge under 4,000 yards on the season while posting a rating of 101.2. The connection with Greg Jennings is still there, and the Packers have received heroic contributions from Donald Driver and James Jones throughout the season.
Defensively the Packers have excelled, a huge step up from last seasons inconsistent showings on the defensive side of the ball. They posted an average of 309.1 yards allowed, which was good for a 5 spot in the rankings. Keeping with the trend, the Packers are second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers in PPG allowed. Tack on a +10 turnover differential and Dom Capers looks like a mad scientist in Green Bay.
When mentioning Philadelphia, need I say more than Michael Vick?
No? Alrighty then.
Alas, the Eagles live and breathe at the hands of the dynamic quarterback. If Michael Vick is moving the ball not only with his arm but with his feet, the end could very easily be near for the Packers defense. Coupled with Tom Brady in the MVP voting, Vick has thrown for over 3,000 yards, posted a 100.2 rating, and has been intercepted just 6 times. My mantra has always been, if you don’t turn the ball over in the playoffs, more often than not you win. Vick has the luxury of throwing to two different wide receivers who each offer a rare asset of their own to the Andy Reid offense. Desean Jackson is the burner to Jeremy Maclins’ physicality. Throw in a Lesean McCoy to take the heat off Vick and that’s a darn good offense.
Defensively, Philadelphia has its struggles. They’re 21st in points allowed(23.6), but rebound nicely by ranking 12th in yards/game. The Eagles struggle at the linebacker position. Despite what you hear out of Eagles camp, they do not have a linebacker who can be relied to plug the middle when needed the most. This may not be a huge deficit against a team like Green Bay, who for all intents and purposes has abandoned the run. Philadelphia has sacked the opponents QB 49 times this season, while the Packers have allowed 38 sacks and are known to struggle at the offensive line. Could that be Philadelphia’s plan of attack?
Despite the potent Philadelphia offense, my gut tells me to go with the Packers. The trust I have in their defense to not only be more physical with Philadelphia, but to contain any kind of run threat, is what puts them over the top. The ability to trust both Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams on the outside is huge, allowing Green Bay to keep the middle of the field occupied. Michael Vick won’t be able to hit the checkdown or escape into the open field with Clay Matthews having the luxury of shadowing him the entire game.
Green Bay is just 3-5 on the road, but the Eagles did not rise above .500 at home this season. This could turn out to be a battle of two uncomfortable, tight football teams. In the end, give me Aaron Rodgers, who desperately needs to win this football game to gain traction as a playoff QB, not just a fantasy football all-star.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Chiefs, Football, NFL, Playoffs, Ravens, Sports
In the less heralded game of the weekend on the AFC side, the Baltimore Ravens head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.
On a quick outlook, this game looks to be pretty evenly matched. The 10-6 winner of the AFC West hosts the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens. When looking at the Chiefs, you see a team that has only lost once at home and boasts the second leading rusher in the game, Jamaal Charles. Charles compiled all 1467 yards of his while splitting time with Thomas Jones, who is the thunder to Charles’ lightning. Matt Cassel has had a phenomenal second season in Kansas City, throwing just 7 INT’s opposed to 27 TD’s. One could say he is having a poor man’s Tom Brady-esque season.
Defensively, the Chiefs are stout against the run allowing only 4.3 yards a pass. While they’re young, and sometimes look the part in the passing game, Romeo Crennel has got his boys playing at a higher level than all pundits expected. The Chiefs rank 14th in yards per game allowed, 11th in PPG allowed, and own a +9 turnover differential. Tamba Hali has become one of the league’s better pass rushers, and Eric Berry seems to be the next in line at the safety position to take over the top throne.
Baltimore meanwhile, carries much more fan fare and publicity. Our very own Brandon Dowling thinks they are the best team in the AFC, despite losing to Pittsburgh down the stretch and displaying shaky defensive performances. The Ravens boast an offense which is much more 2 dimensional thanks to steady improvement by Joe Flacco. A new arsenal of weapons at WR such as Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, and T.J Houshmanzadeh will give the young Chiefs DB’s all they can handle. The Ravens have struggled on the ground, which is uncharacteristic of a Ravens squad led by Ray Rice. They’ve only been able to amass 3.8 yards a carry this season, a problem which will only expose itself more against the Chiefs.
While the Ravens still have a good defense, it isn’t great opposed to other Raven defenses who have laced it up in the playoffs. They’re a “mortal” 10th ranked defense in yards per game, but combat that by ranking 3rd in PPG allowed. They’re also in the green when it comes to turnover differential at +7. They don’t blitz as much as they used too, and outside of Ed Reed, are merely average in the secondary.
That will be the key to the Chiefs beating the Ravens. The ball will be forced to come out of Matt Cassel’s hands, and he’ll need to find his offensive weapons consistently. Cassel has been sound in this area interceptions wise, but has only completed 58% of his passes.
Realistically, it will be tough for the Chiefs to beat the Ravens. The Chiefs were 6-4 down the stretch, with wins coming against the Seahawks and Rams. Kansas City has not tested themselves this year, at all. While the Ravens have faced the likes of the Patriots, Steelers, and Jets, the Chiefs biggest game was against the Colts, a game early in the season which they lost. Beating up on the cupcakes is nice, and a good foundation to start the “winning tradition,” but it won’t get you far in the playoffs. You’re hard pressed to say the Chiefs have impressed you this year in terms of winning big games, which is why I have to go with Baltimore despite the game being played at the Arrowhead. Look for Kansas City to keep it close, but not have enough gusto to take it in the end.