Filed under: College Sports, NBA, NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Basketball, Football, Golf, Hockey, NBA, NFL, NHL, Sports, TV, X-Games
Even though the Super Bowl is a week away, the present weekend at hand offers sports fans galore a plethora of viewing choices. 3 of the 4 major professional sports command your attention, college basketball is in full swing, golf has started up again, and extreme sports blesses us with its greatest spectacle. Without further ado, here’s what’s on tap for Sports fans this weekend.
Saturday, January 29
College Basketball: Many will just be getting into their day as Georgetown and Villanova take the air at noon ET. The Big East has displayed the highest level of men’s basketball this season, and this game figures to live up to the billing. Rivalries are our theme here on the Sports Blast, as North Carolina squares off against NC State following GU/NOVA. Both are televised on ESPN, with the battle of 2 Carolina’s at 2pm ET. One of the most intense rivalries in all of college sports tips off at 7 with Kansas State visiting Kansas. Kansas boasts one of the strongest home court advantages in the nation, but Frank Martin and Jacob Pullen look to overcome the KU backdrop. Our college hoops rating on Saturday? 4.5/5
College Football: College Football? The National Championship was almost 3 weeks ago! Don’t fret football fans, the draft nerds are here. And with them they bring the Senior Bowl, based out of Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl pits the top seniors in the country against each other, as pro franchises generate scouting material heading into the April draft. The game kicks off at 4 on the NFL Network. 3.5/5
Action Sports: The Winter X-Games are back for a 16th season, and they’ll be on the ESPN family of networks all weekend. You can catch the X-Games at 4 on ESPN 2, and at 9 on ESPN. While the extreme sport activists will love this, I question if the X-Games can get any air-time from me on a busy weekend. 3/5
NHL: The SuperSkills Competition will take place in Carolina, featuring the bright young guns in the NHL. While it may not be the most popular of sports, true NHL fans relish this weekend, and more “regular joes” should as well. Many new faces who will soon dominate the NHL spotlight will compete with current stars. You can catch this on Versus at 7. 3.5/5
Notables: Strikeforce MMA will square off at 10 on Showtime, featuring Diaz vs. Cyborg. 3rd Round of the Farmer’s Insurance Open takes place, featuring Tiger Woods amongst others. Devon Alexander vs. Timothy Bradley in a welterweight championship bout, pay-per-view.
Sunday, January 30
Action Sports: The Winter X-Games are back for day 2. They will air on ESPN at the 12:30, 7, and 11 time slots. All are Eastern Time.
Golf: The final round of the Farmers Insurance Open will air at 3PM on CBS. As a huge golf fan, I’m excited for the season’s infant stages and expect big things in 2011. Watch for Tiger Woods to be in contention. 3.5/5
NBA: The best of the best square off on Sunday in a double-header. Miami takes on Oklahoma City in a match up of young, evolving stars. LeBron James, D-Wade, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook headline this 1PM start. At 3:30, the best rivalry in the NBA(maybe even sports) takes center stage with their first meeting since an epic 7 game Finals just a year ago. Yes basketball fans, it’s the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Boston will return to the scene of the crime, hoping for a better result than game 7. Both games will air on ABC. 5/5
NFL: Done with all of that? Perfect, because the Pro Bowl is on. While the Pro Bowl has been the butt-end of a lot of football jokes, it still displays many of the top stars in the NFL. This will serve as many fans football fix, and offers a unique mic’d up style atmosphere. Many fans will get to observe Bill Belichick up close. I’ll try to hold my attention through the game, I can’t make any bets. 3/5
NHL: Unlike the NFL, the NHL’s All-Star Game is often one of the most exciting games of the year. This years class is LOADED with firepower despite not having Sidney Crosby or Jerome Iginla. The teams will duke it out, matched up thanks to the All-Star Player Draft, held Friday night. Expect a lot of offense as well as true magnificence. You can catch the game at 4, on Versus. 4.5/5
While it may not dominate Sportscenter, this weekend’s crop of sporting events figures to be very interesting. On Saturday, I’ll focus most of my attention on the College Hoops and the Senior Bowl, looking to get a read on some of the top draft prospects. On Sunday, I’ll be backing my beloved Celtics at 3:30, while catching as much of the NHL All-Star Game as possible. I’ll get my football/golf fix in as well. Sunday should be great!
- 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: 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.