Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quick Week 8 Picks

No time for explanations or songs; here are my picks for Week 8 (Home team in CAPS)

Indianapolis (+8) over TENNESSEE
Jacksonville (+10) over HOUSTON
CAROLINA (-3.5) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-14.5) over ST. LOUIS
BALTIMORE (-11.5) over Arizona
Miami (+10) over GIANTS
BUFFALO (-5) over Washington-game played in Toronto
Detroit (-3) over DENVER
New England (-3) over PITTSBURGH
SAN FRANCISCO (-9) over Cleveland
SEATTLE (+1.5) over Cincinnati
Dallas (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
KANSAS CITY (+3.5) over San Diego

Last week: 6-6-1
Season record: 51-47-5

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arena Issues

Two teams, two sports, two small markets, two arena issues.

That is what we have in Edmonton and Sacramento as the Oilers and Kings continue to fight for new buildings for their teams. Though, in the case of the Kings, they are just waiting on the city of Sacramento to pass an arena bill or they are gone.

The Kings are helped by the fact that the Mayor of Sacramento is former NBA player Kevin Johnson, and he seems desperate to keep the Kings in Sac-Town. And the current lockout isn't deterring him in the slightest. Now, the issue in Sacramento seems to be a personal political battle between Johnson and councilwoman Sandy Sheedys, as this column by Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee suggests. However, this issue still has about four months left to figure out in order to keep the team in town.

Up in Edmonton, their issue still seems more like a partnership between team and city and Daryl Katz wants his team out of Rexall Place and in a new barn in downtown Edmonton. And also, today is a big day in the fight for the new building as the Edmonton City Council will vote on it. If you care at all about the Oilers (whether as a fan, rival or someone who appreciates all that franchise has done for hockey), then you should be following the Edmonton Journal's David Staples Twitter page or his live blog of the city council vote. He laid out of history of the Oilers and the arena issues they've had yesterday and thinks it's a good deal for Edmontonians if they passed the current offer now.

What happens if Edmonton doesn't pass a deal? Then I think the Oilers are gone, and 5-10 years later, Edmonton will build a new arena anyway and bring in another team, just like Winnipeg. The difference; cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City lost their teams when the Canadian dollar was failing and the economy was down and a new building just wasn't feasible then. This isn't the case in Edmonton. They have more favorable conditions and there continues to be a sense that the downtown area needs to be revitalized. Why wait until the Oilers are gone and make a deal, do so today. Let's hope a deal is passed and the Oilers stay in Edmonton.Link

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time to End the Big East

Today it looks like the final blow to the Big East Conference has been absorbed. Unless something screwy happens, West Virginia is leaving for the Big 12. Now you can blame John Marinatto (who is to blame for his horrid leadership), you can blame Mike Tranghese for defending the BCS years back, killing the Big East and making the Big 12 completely dependent on Texas. So it's about time to end the whole thing.

In this instance, I'm not writing about Rutgers, UConn and the football schools. I can careless what they do (though I do love it when Rutgers thinks they belong in the Big Ten; they have as much a chance as DePaul does). I've mentioned this before, but I'm a Seton Hall alum and have become increasingly concerned on what happens to them in this whole school shuffle. But it's not just Seton Hall, it's St. John's, it's Georgetown, it's Villanova; these great basketball programs that will be left behind because they don't play FBS football. What happens to them?

That's why it's time for the basketball schools to be proactive and former their own league. Now who goes into this league? Well, St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova will start the league, and you bring in Seton Hall and Providence because they spent all the years they did in the Big East. Throw in Marquette and DePaul since they are current Big East members. After them, look for all the great basketball schools without major football. Xavier and Butler are obvious ones to pluck. Temple is the interesting case because they're getting better in football. They might not just go into an non-football conference. I also figure Notre Dame doesn't participate in this league, and perhaps join somewhere else for its Olympic sports, but they would be welcome if football independence trumps their plans.

So that leaves us with nine members in a new Big East. Add in UMass, Dayton and Richmond and you have twelve. Twelve is a good number, enough to get multiple NCAA appearances. There, you won't have a round-robin, but with 16 or 18 games, there can be some semblance of rivalry. You can also split into two divisions (say SJU, SHU, GTown, Nova, UMass and Providence in one; Dayton, Xavier, Butler, DePaul, Marquette and Richmond in the other).

We know that the Big East as we know it is done. Louisville and Cincinnati probably follow West Virginia to the Big 12, Rutgers and UConn likely head to ACC and South Florida is the one who probably is forced back into Conference USA. Instead of waiting for this to happen, the basketball (Catholic) schools need to band together like they did once before. Form your own league, play basketball well and more importantly, keep the MSG for your conference tournament, which could be done with St. John's being involved. St. John's is the only college that truly matters in NYC, at least when they're good. If they are back, MSG will host this conference's tournament. It seems ideal for everyone involved.

Not to mention, it makes too much sense.

Truly A Fall Classic

It's been nine years since the last time the World Series went to a seventh game. That was the largely forgettable Giants-Angels World Series with the exception of J.T. Snow saving Dusty Baker's son's life and the epic choke job the Giants pulled in Game 6, allowing the Angels to rally and win. Since then, only twice has the Fall Classic even reached six games (both involving the Yankees). The series the AL team won usually had been sweeps, the NL winning ones were finished in 5 games.

This year, however, it's been trememdous. The Rangers and Cardinals have been thrilling for baseball fans. It's had a little bit of everything; great pitching, clutch hitting, historic performances, and the overmanaging display by both Tony La Russa and Ron Washington which you can expect to show up in Joe Girardi's binder for next season. Especially after the bizarre performance by La Russa last night. It's been 18 hours since the last out, and my head still hurts on all of Tony La Russa's moves in this game. And the shame is that it overshadows the exploits of Ron Washington, who's completely afraid to allow Albert Pujols to ever swing a bat. However, his strategy is working, so he can keep shimmying on now to a win away from the World Series (insert George W. Bush "Mission Accomplished" joke here).

Even with the 3-2 lead for Texas, I'm still uncertain who's winning this series as the Cardinals have the last two games at home. This is outstanding thing for baseball who should finally get the pay off with bigger ratings on Wednesday and hopefully Thursday with a Game 7. But even if it doesn't, it still won't ruin how entertaining a series we are experiencing. As a baseball fan who's become tired of one-sided World Series (not to mention early round playoff series as well in recent years), the possibly that a Game 7 could happen has me very excited.

Some other random World Series thoughts:

-Matt Napoli is your leader for Series MVP. It's clear after the crushed HR in Game 4, then the go-ahead double last night. The Cards don't have a clear leader; despite Pujols' 3 HR game on Game 3, he has no hits in any other game. I'm sure an MVP will present himself if the Cards do rally in the two home games.

-Derek Holland probably won't get to pitch again this series, meaning he won't win the Series MVP despite his great Game 4 performance. Doesn't matter; he wins the MVP in life after his performance in Game 5 as part of the Fox broadcast.

-Matt Holliday isn't going to win Series MVP. Looks like I got that one wrong from my preview post.

-Despite all the craziness that happened with La Russa and the controversy involving who was suppposed to pitch in the 8th, this is all avoided if David Murphy's grounder doesn't hit off Mike Rzepczynski. That's at least an out (maybe even a double play) and allows the Cards to pitch around Napoli and have Rzepczynski face Moreland in the lefty-lefty matchup.

-Home runs are usually mundane, but it seems like every homer hit in this series are either completely crushed or, in the case of Adrian Beltre, absurd looking. Part of that is a World Series blast is more important, but these are some larger than life shots.

-I hope I'm not the only NY Rangers fan to notice that both Rangers teams results seem to be tied together, at least since Game 6 of the ALCS when Texas won, but the Rangers lost to the Islanders. So far in the World Series, both Rangers won on Thursday and last night and both lost on Saturday. I'd root for a Game 7 Texas victory, however, that game won't end before New York's home opener, so Texas fans should root against the Leafs should a Game 7 be needed.

-When this is all over, I'm going to miss the Ron Washington Dance.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 7 Picks

This weekend is Tiffany's birthday (let's all wish here a happy birthday), and she was unable to write a song for us to enjoy this week. I wanted to finally do a power poll this week, as well as a couple other posts, but this week has been crazy at work. Next week will be a bigger week here at The Cycle since I'll be on vacation. Until then, here's my weekly picks. (Home team in CAPS)

Chicago (-1.5) over Tampa Bay: No home game for either team as they play in London. I give up figuring out the Bucs, Bears might not be bad, just not on the level of the Packers, Saints and Lions.

Washington (+3) over CAROLINA: Thinking that John Beck can't be worse than Rex Grossman and can pick apart the Panthers defense.

JETS (-1) over San Diego: Despite all the talking this week, it's a game that the Jets need more than the Chargers. Add the 1pm start and the fact the Chargers don't step up against good teams, and the Jets should win. And if not, then the Jets aren't good.

Seattle (+3) over CLEVELAND: Things are so bad in Cleveland right now that taking the Seahawks on the road is more viable.

Houston (+3) over TENNESSEE: Gut pick on my part. I'm not that impressed with the Titans and even hurt, I think the Texans can win.

Denver (-1) over MIAMI: The Tim Tebow Era starts with a bang as the Dolphins continue their "Suck For Luck" season. Last Monday was spectacular in that sense by Miami. One thing Tiffany did do was write a preview for this game.

DETROIT (-4) over Atlanta: Bounce back week for the Lions, facing a Falcons team who took advantage of a bad Carolina defense. Don't see the same result happen today.

Pittsburgh (-4) over ARIZONA: Don't know why this line is low. I know the Steelers struggled last week, but the Cardinals in my eyes are the perfect elixir for offensive troubles.

OAKLAND (-4) over Kansas City: I know this is illogical, but the fact that the Chiefs can reach .500 after the season they had to start is also illogical. Darren McFadden should be enough to win this for the Raiders.

St. Louis (+14) over DALLAS: The Cowboys shouldn't give 14 points against anyone. I know the Rams aren't good, but they can keep it close, right? These two probably won't outscore the Cards and the Rangers in Game 3, unless Albert Pujols puts on shoulder pads.

Green Bay (-10.5) over MINNESOTA: Christian Ponder makes his first NFL start against the world champs. Bad news for the rookie.

NEW ORLEANS (-14) over Indianapolis: Let's hope this game isn't close at all so we can just watch Game 4 of the World Series tonight.

Baltimore (-9) over JACKSONVILLE: See the last section, just change Game 4 to Game 5.

Last week: 6-5-2
Season record: 45-41-4

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

World Series Preview

Well, talk about unexpected World Series matchup, but we have the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The second year in a row that a World Series between two teams who have nicknames that are used in other sports (NY Rangers, Arizona Cardinals). For the Rangers, they've made it here on the back on the balance in their lineup and their bullpen, which has been particularly dominant, especially when you remove any appearance by Koji Uehara. The Cards, on the other hand, haven't really had a formula, as Tony La Russa seems to be able to make every move work. They also have had a great postseason by Albert Pujols, and the bullpen has done the job when called upon, which has been early and often for La Russa. Here's the top storylines of the series.

1. Will anybody watch this Series? No matter how much you like baseball, it's something that needs to be asked after another year of low LCS ratings. If baseball marketed their stars well, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Neftali Feliz would be enough to get casual eyeballs to this series. Now, the only way you'll see casual fans is if the series goes 6 or 7 games (preferably 7). Since 2004, the only series to go 6 games is the Yanks and Phillies in 2009. So, let's hope for a long series.

2. Will Nelson Cruz continue his feast of famine approach to hitting? Do we see the Cruz who was 1 for 15 against the Tampa Bay Rays, or do we see the man who dominated the Tigers series with 6 HR's, 13 RBI's and a .364 average. If the latter, the Cards are in plenty of trouble. If it's the former, then the top of the Rangers lineup will have more pressure to hit, especially in St. Louis.

3. How much will DH/no DH make a difference for either team? It's a question that comes up in every World Series. Judging from Ron Washington's Game 1 lineup, expect plenty of Michael Young at first and Mitch Moreland doing pitch hitting. For the Cards, the answer for who plays in Texas is easy, as Allen Craig will play the outfield and I'll assume it's Lance Berkman who's in at DH. With Craig, the Cards have a guy who's a pitcher must be careful.

4. Can the Cardinals bullpen match the Rangers? Biggest question mark for the Cards. The Rangers, aside from Koji Uehara, are outstanding in the bullpen. The Cards have pitched above and beyond, but now it gets serious. The Rangers, though slightly, are a better hitting team than the Brewers and the masterful job Tony La Russa has done with his bullpen will say a lot if it continues.

5. How does the likes of Hamilton, Kinsler, Andrus, etc. handle their second straight World Series appearance? Last year, the Rangers made the World Series on the back of Cliff Lee, then he lost in the World Series, and no one really picked up the slack in the five game loss to the Giants. Now, Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus are all a year old and wiser. Adrian Beltre and Matt Napoli have added some pop in the Rangers lineup, an obvious need. C.J. Wilson has a payday to play for and his start could mean the difference from 15 million a year and 18 million (probably won't make a difference, but go with me). They were favored last year, how do they handle being favored this year?

6. Will Chris Carpenter pitch 3 games? Simple question, answer isn't as much. One reason, because we would need a Game 7 to happen. The main reason is because Carpenter is fighting some injury issues. Right now, it's Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson scheduled to pitch. So it probably doesn't allow Carpenter to start 3 games. But in a Game 7, win or go home, you're telling me Tony La Russa won't call upon a former Cy Young winner in a big spot? I don't think so.

7. Is this the last we see of Albert Pujols as a Cardinal? Pujols has been great this postseason, best one from him in quite a few years (I'd say 2005 for him). We all know he's getting paid by someone, but will it be the Cardinals? I really don't think the choice is difficult. Jon Paul Morosi wrote this on the pending free agency of Pujols:
When the season began, there was a credible exit strategy for Pujols: If the Cardinals finished out of the money, and if manager Tony La Russa left for the White Sox or elsewhere, then Pujols could take stock of the situation and say, “Well, maybe it’s time.”

He can’t do that now. The Cardinals are in the World Series for the third time in his illustrious career. La Russa isn’t going to the White Sox, and he’s probably not going anywhere at all. Pujols is hitting in the best lineup in the National League, one that is deeper now with the emergence of NLCS MVP David Freese. As Laird said, this team should be as good — and maybe even better — next year.
I really don't see Pujols burning his bridge in St. Louis, win or lose. The Cards will pay and Pujols will stay.

8. Will Nolan Ryan be proven right about his "Rangers in 6" prediction? No, I have the Cardinals winning a thrilling 7 games, with Matt Holliday as your MVP, since I hardly mentioned him until now. For those watching, enjoy a great series. For those not, enjoy watching the Colts and the Jaguars on primetime football games this week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tiffany's Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Picks

We begin this weekend slate with some news. The lovely Tiffany will be making her second appearance on Boomer and Carton on Friday, October 28th. You can listen on WFAN, or if you're in NYC, but get MSG, you can watch it there. Even though I can't stand the show, I'll be sure to watch for her song and I hope you all do as well. In the mean time, here's her song for Week 5.

Now we move on to Week 6 after another chaotic week of football. Especially if you're a fan of the Eagles or the Jets. And the theme I would say for the week is how many unexpectedly great matchups are on tap for this weekend. Here's the picks (home team is in CAPS).

GREEN BAY (-15) over St. Louis: We know this team from St. Louis will lose in Wisconsin on Sunday, the question is will the other one do so. If not, the Cards are in the World Series.

PITTSBURGH (-13) over Jacksonville: A team that's tailor made for the Steelers defense. Overplay on the run and force Blaine Gabbert to beat you.

Philadelphia (-3) over WASHINGTON: I can't believe the Eagles are still getting points. Still, enough is enough, right? (I really hope the answer is no)

San Francisco (+4.5) over DETROIT: Who'd thought that this is the game of the day? Short week for the Lions, and the Niners I think are overlooked.

Carolina (+4) over ATLANTA: I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton

Indianapolis (+7) over CINCINNATI: Despite the 3-2 record, no one in Cincy believes in the Bengals. Could be a game for the Colts to sneak in here, or at least cover.

Buffalo (+3) over GIANTS: I can't depend on that Giants defense to stop either Fred Jackson or Ryan Fitzpatrick. Plus, the Bills convert on fluky turnovers, something the Giants are experts at committing.

BALTIMORE (-8) over Houston: No Andre Johnson. No Mario Williams. And now the Texans are on the road against the best team in the AFC. Yeah, you read that right.

OAKLAND (-7) over Cleveland: Wrong week for the Browns to show up in the Black Hole. I expect (not to mention need) Darren McFadden to bounce back big time this week.

Dallas (+7) over NEW ENGLAND: I don't know if the Cowboys will win, but I think they keep it close in a high-scoring game in Foxboro.

New Orleans (-5) over TAMPA BAY: I might as well go ahead and rip up my "Bucs to win NFC" wager. This is what happens when you bet in March.

Minnesota (+3) over CHICAGO: This could be the week Jay Cutler gets killed (something I think every single NFL column/blog has said this week). Can't we flex this game out for SF/Det? At least this means we can focus on baseball.

JETS (-7) over Miami: Matt Moore is the Dolphins QB. Brandon Marshall said he's going to get thrown out. No reason for the Jets to be close, let alone lose. If they do, the stories this week about the Jets in trouble will be a picnic for the one you'll see next week.

Last week: 6-7
Season Record: 39-36-2

Friday, October 14, 2011

Season Saving Wins

There was a chance both LCS' would have been short. Both the Tigers and the Brewers needed a win. The circumstances were different; Detroit was down to it's last game, while the Brewers needed to avoid getting into a 3-1 series hole. And the other different circumstance was that the Brewers were going with Randy Wolf to get them back in the series, their number 4 starter, while the Tigers had Justin Verlander, the soon-to-be Cy Young winner and possible MVP.

What happens? Both men save the season.

Verlander had the tougher task. Not only for the obvious of not allowing the Rangers eliminate the Tigers last night, but he needed to give Joakim Benoit and Jose Valverde a day off after both men pitched three straight days. So one thing you were guaranteed to see was that Verlander was going to throw until his arm couldn't throw anymore.

Just like it's been all playoffs, Verlander hasn't been dominant. He's been hit, but the damage always seems to be mitigated. Just one run in the 1st inning. Holds the Rangers to one run in the 5th (though a inch or two to the right and Adrian Beltre knocks the ball out). Then loads the bases in the 6th, and faces Ian Kinsler, who was hitting him hard all game long. First pitch and a double play, ending the inning. It was at that point which Verlander was rewarded for his escapability, as the Tigers put up 4 in the bottom half, helped by the 3rd base bag.

Verlander finished the game after a Nelson Cruz HR, but with a lead. Enough outs for Phil Coke to close the door and to set up a return trip to Arlington.

Meanwhile, Randy Wolf was outstanding, better than Verlander. He goes 7 innings strong, only giving up a couple solo HR's. That was enough when you pitch for the Brewers, who predictably got to Kyle Lohse. It was more redemption for Wolf, after he was hit hard in Game 4 of the last round against Arizona.

Now, the Brewers-Cards series is up for grabs, which benefits Milwaukee who are great at home, plus they have Zack Greinke pitching the road start. It would seem to me that St. Louis needs to win tonight so they don't have to win two games at Miller Park. Of course, if the Cardinals are "zombie-like", as Jeff Passan suggests, then maybe they would prefer to have to win two in Milwaukee. The best of three begins tonight.

As for the ALCS, tomorrow is Game 6, with Game 2 starters Derek Holland and Max Scherzer doing battle. It will be interesting to see who gets this game to the bullpens with a lead. Especially with Benoit and Valverde each getting two days off. It should be a fun weekend of baseball and Justin Verlander and Randy Wolf are big reasons for that.Link

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Realignment Talk, Part II

Yesterday, I gave a more rational idea for realignment of the NHL teams starting next season. Now, I'm going to get creative. I get that it's almost certain that you won't see a true transformation of the divisions, but I wanted to get this out there since I couldn't find any hockey writer/blogger that I know suggest this. Let me start with the division that I find most unique to this plan. Oh, and by the way, I'm doing away with geographical names with updated NHL legends named as divisions.

Howe Division: Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Rangers, Islanders, Devils

That's right, a division with Original Six teams. I hate to include the Islanders and Devils, but what's the point of a division of just Original Six teams if they can't play more often. Since the Islanders and Devils basically are aligned with the Rangers, they are included so we see more divisional play. Besides if/when the Islanders move, they are out of here.

Gretzky Division: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Minnesota, Buffalo

Now here is where the rest of the Canadian teams will join together. And the addition of Minnesota and Buffalo make sense because those are arguably your two most hockey-crazed American cities with the exception of Pittsburgh (obviously no Original Six teams count here) Also, since the division has seven teams, there's room for Quebec City whenever a team comes in.

Lemieux Division: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville

Now this division is more or less based on geography. It more or less pairs all the rest of the teams in the Eastern time zone, as well as Nashville, who while in the Central share a lot more in common with Florida and Tampa, than Dallas and St. Louis.

Orr Division: Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis

Here's the division that might have the most gripes because it doesn't solve the problem of travel for the Stars and now gives the Blues the same problems. It's made to pair up all the U.S. based teams west of the Mississippi. It has an open slot for a team to move to Seattle, though if the team that moves is someone like the Islanders, then you can move the Blues to the Howe Division to reignite their Red Wings and Blackhawks rivalries.

More than likely, the same split of games will occur as in yesterday's post (8-team divisions would play 5x in the division, everyone else home and away and 3 games against a team in the other 8 division team; 7-team divisions play 6x in the division, and everyone else home and away). We'll add a divisional first round, then reseed for the rest of the playoffs. How's that for creative?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Realignment Talk, Part I

The day is coming when the NHL will realign again as the Winnipeg Jets would have to leave a division that includes Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida. However, last night, Bob McKenzie started tweeting that the only realignment that might occur is a swap of the Jets to the Central Division and the Red Wings into the Southeast. I know the Red Wings are desperate to leave the Western Conference, but it seems wrong that they are abandoning their rivals in Chicago and St. Louis (at least without re-energizing their rivalries with the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs). How about the Dallas Stars, still stuck in the Pacific Division, even though they are geographically closer to each team in the Central. Shouldn't the NHL scrap the six-division format in it's entirety? Yes, it needs to be at least 4 divisions (or conferences where Greg Wyshynski called at in this Puck Daddy post). And I have two ways for the NHL to align them. Here's the first one, which does the job, but it seems ordinary:

Western: LA, Anaheim, SJ, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, Colorado.

Yes, I'm not leaving the Jets in this division. Travel benefits all these teams and each game can be played no earlier than 9 PM EST.

Central: Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville.

Sorry Detroit, you still play in a more Western division, but my plan will have an equal amount of games between non-divisional opponents, so there will be less travel; which is your compromise for staying sorta West.

Northeast: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

Splitting the East teams was the hardest chore, as it's either the Rangers in the Northeast with the Islanders and Devils, or the Penguins with the Flyers. This is one where I can go either way with.

Atlantic: Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey, Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay.

Columbus gets to move to the East because of this format. They are another team which I can see in the Northeast instead, in order to start a rivalry with the Penguins, but you can always have Pittsburgh and Philly in this division in order to do so.

Figure that each team is guaranteed to play their division foes 5 times, and a home and away against everyone else. Since that leaves an uneven amount of games (8-division teams are at 79, 7 -div at 76), I figure will use what the NHL does now and add some random games. The 7 division teams will have 6 games against one another. The 8-division teams will fill the last 3 games with games against the opposite 8-team division. As for the playoffs, you do either a 1 vs 16 format, or you start with divisional playoff round, like in the 80s, then reseed at that point. That is probably a sensible way to realign the NHL for the 2011-12 season. However, there are more way to arrange the league and I will have another realignment option that fortunately, I'm not really seeing as of yet and think can work out. This will be done for tomorrow, so comeback for Part II.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tiffany's Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Picks

A later NFL picks post due to Yom Kippur this week, and Tiffany is back with her musical goodness on a crazy Week 4.

I was planning on doing a quarter power poll after each team played 4 games, but work and other blog posts this week have conflicted. It just means that we'll have the power poll ready for next weekend. On to the picks (Home team in CAPS)

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Kansas City- In this week's edition of the Suck 4 Luck Invitational, you have the Chiefs who screwed up royally (though not Royal-like) by beating the Vikings. Meanwhile, you have the Colts (who my friend Alison called the Fauxlts last Monday) are getting closer to winning, but still find ways to lose, keeping the pole position. Roles will reverse this Sunday._

MINNESOTA (-3) over Arizona- This is getting ridiculous for the Vikings. Another game which they blow a lead. Meanwhile, the Cards continue to be a most confounding team, which makes sense since they're in the NFC West. Vikings last chance in picking terms.

BUFFALO (+3) over Philadelphia- Because I'm not sold yet on the Eagles turning things around. And because I think losing to the Bengals will be the best thing for the Bills thus far.

Oakland (+5) over HOUSTON- For the record, I was on the Raiders because of no Andre Johnson and the expectation of a bounce back game from Darren McFadden. Even more convinced that the Raiders won't lose on the first game after Al Davis' death. RIP.

New Orleans (-7) over CAROLINA- It's tempting to keep riding Cam Newton and the Panthers for another late cover, but I think they are stepping up in weight class here. Saints will put up points today.

Cincinnati (-1) over JACKSONVILLE- Why is no one talking about how bad the Jaguars are? I know they aren't the same team who played the Jets, but they just aren't good. Maybe when Blaine Gabbert gets settled, they will perform.

Tennessee (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH- Conversely why aren't the Titans being talked about as being sneaky good? The Steelers are still struggling and Big Ben is banged up.

GIANTS (-10) over Seattle- Seahawks are away from home, so don't pick them. Giants are still playing October games and Eli Manning is playing some of his best football right now. Should be an easy one.

Tampa Bay (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO- I'm a full believer in Jim Harbaugh and this Niners team will win the NFC West (maybe even with 10+ wins). But too much is invested in the Bucs by me to pick against them. They just keep grinding out victories like Knish in Rounders.

Jets (+8) over NEW ENGLAND- Upset of the week; Jets will win 27-24 as they finally step up in the last game of this 3 game road trip. Mark Sanchez will not play as bad as last week and expect a few turnovers created by the defense against Tom Brady.

San Diego (-4) over DENVER- Is this the week Tim Tebow finally gets to play some QB? If the Chargers actually decide to beat a team down, they will. The Broncos, another horrible team in a league full of them.

Green Bay (-6) over ATLANTA- And we have the Falcons, who quietly are much worse than last year. It's their mo to fall back to earth the year after a playoff season. If there is any chance of salvation for the Falcons, they win Sunday night.

DETROIT (-6) over Chicago- Everything's going Detroit way of late, isn't it? Tigers are in the ALCS (forget the loss tonight). Red Wings started the season and are already punishing teams. And the soon to be lockout will keep the unwatchable Pistons away. And this Monday night game comes on the ALCS off day, even more wonderful news.

Last week: 8-8
Season Record: 33-29-2

Saturday, October 8, 2011

ALCS Preview

Time for a quick preview of the ALCS with the Detroit Tigers set to face the Detroit Tigers momentarily. We begin the series with the two aces of each team's staff pitching as Justin Verlander gets to pitch on normal rest here in Game 1, facing C.J. Wilson, who hasn't pitched since Game 1 of the Tampa series, which he was hit hard by the Rays lineup at the tune of 8 runs, 6 earned in 5 IP. Verlander is off a gritty 8 IP, 4 ER performance which he at times was toying with the Yankee hitters with his fastball and curve, but had a couple inning make Game 3 much closer than it should have been.

Just like in the Yankees series, the Tigers will have the perceived weakness in their lineup and their bullpen. And again, it's not accurate when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are batting. The thing that hurts Detroit is the loss of Delmon Young to an oblique injury, but this means that Don Kelly will get more playing time after the great series he played. The Rangers lineup seems to have new heroes every game; the last one being Adrian Beltre hitting 3 HR's in the deciding game. In my eyes the bullpens favor Texas as while Valverde=Feliz and Benoit=Adams, the Rangers are deeper with Ogando and Mike Gonzalez. As for the rest of the rotation, it's a slight edge to the Tigers, with Doug Fister ready for a Game 7 and the terrific pitching of Max Scherzer. And that's why I have the Tigers winning the series in 7, back in the World Series for the first time since 2006.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

NHL Preview

Tonight is the start of the NHL season, with the puck dropping in Toronto, Vancouver and Boston (who will see the banner raise). I wanted to write a quick list of 10 things to expect to see in the 2011-12 season.

1. I basically agree with everything Steve Lepore from Puck The Media wrote the other day. The NHL will take advantage of the NBA not being around this year. Especially come playoff time, since college basketball will get its share of attention most of the year. Expect the biggest ratings ever for Versus/NBCSN as well as the games on NBC.

2. This is something we are already seeing, as now there is more accountability in terms of headshots. Brendan Shanahan is already upping the suspensions for players targeting the head. Plus, his video explanations on why someone is suspended is must-see TV.

3. I've seen a bunch of experts saying that Henrik Lundqvist will win the Vezina this season. I have no choice but to agree with them.

4. I think Jeff Skinner sees a little sophomore slump, while Logan Couture will be just as good as last year. However, Tyler Seguin will be the breakout star this year. Expect him to play more consistent this season for the defending champs.

5. Shea Weber will be your Norris winner. He's the best defensemen in the league and getting some national spotlight (at least in Canada) during the playoffs will give him a chance at winning, not just being a finalist. I also have Barry Trotz as my Adams winner, another one long overdue for his award.

6. I see too many people picking Adam Larsson for the Calder. Can't get myself to pick the Devil, so Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is my guy.

7. No repeat for Corey Perry in terms of being the Hart winner. I think Jonathan Toews has his best regular season, and adds a Hart trophy to his already extensive trophy case.

8. Sidney Crosby returns in January, but doesn't help the Pens win the Atlantic. Instead, it's Hank and the Rangers winning the division. My East standings: 1. Caps 2. Bruins 3. Rangers 4. Bolts 5. Pens 6. Sabres 7. Flyers 8. Canes 9. Leafs 10. Habs 11. Isles 12. Devils 13. Panthers 14. Jets 15. Sens.

9. You would think the Canucks would drop off, but I still say they are the best team in the regular season, since they still have plenty of depth. 1. Canucks 2. Sharks 3. Hawks 4. Kings 5. Wings 6. Preds 7. Jackets 8. Blues 9. Oilers 10. Ducks 11. Flames 12. Wild 13. Yotes 14. Avs 15. Stars.

10. The Caps reach their first Stanley Cup Final with Alex Ovechkin, but it's not enough as the Blackhawks win their second Cup in three years. Enjoy the hockey everyone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Is A-Rod The Scapegoat?

I was at yesterday's Game 2 of Yankees-Tigers and it was a pretty ho-hum contest. The reason I'm writing is because in the 8th inning as everyone knows, Alex Rodriguez was booed after his popfly. If you are going to boo someone, it should have been Jeter, for his 0-5, the strikeout while the Yankees tried to rally in the ninth and the error in the sixth which helped the Tigers get two more runs in the inning. Otherwise, the entire Yankee team decided to allow Max Scherzer to pitch a no-hitter into the sixth inning and could have been booed as a unit, if possible.

I think it's absurd that I even have to write another post pointing out how unfair it is to boo A-Rod. We all know that he's playing hurt. He hasn't played much in the second half and is clearly not in rhythm. Plus, he's not making excuses, as evident by his postgame comments yesterday. So give him a break, that's what A.J. Burnett is for.

Some other thoughts from yesterday:

-My friend Justin who went to the game with me is calling Miguel Cabrera "The Monster". A fair and accurate statement.

-Girardi didn't help things by pinch-hitting Brett Gardner for Eric Chavez with two on in the 6th. Also, Luis Ayala is this year's Sergio Mitre, meaning when he comes in, the white flag is being waved.

-There were three Tigers near me in my row who I didn't know even where who they were until Detroit added that run in the 9th and they were brave enough to cheer aloud. Really wanted to say something to them if Jose Valverde blew the lead.

-Glad not to see Valverde get to do his celebration. Small victories.

-This was only my third ever Yankee playoff game I saw in person. The other two were 2000 ALCS Game 2 (the only time I sat in the Bleachers with the Creatures) which the Yankees put up seven runs in the eighth to salvage a split with the Mariners, turning around the series and 2001 ALDS Game 5 which was the first Jeter catch in the stands (and incidentally, the forgotten one after the one against Boston). Same we had the opposite type of game from Jeter yesterday.

-This Sabathia vs. Verlander matchup will decide the series. Don't want the season to hang on the arm of AJ Burnett. Enjoy the game everyone.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tiffany's Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Picks

Good news, Tiffany is back! After being out with a camera, she has her Week 3 song up on YouTube, but never fear, we have the video up here on this post and hopefully every week from now on.

Now after that musical awesomeness, it's time for my picks, which are slowly but surely improving. Can you guys believe that we've reached the quarter pole already. Seems like football season moves so fast. Anyway, here's my Week 4 picks. (Home team listed with CAPS)

Detroit (+1) over DALLAS: If the Dallas from Monday night shows up to this game, the Lions probably win by 3 touchdowns. Even if the Cowboys play better, the Lions are better and should be at 4-0 after today.

New Orleans (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE: Can't you just see the Saints putting up 35+ points and if you think the Jaguars can score 28+ to cover this spread, by all means. It won't happen, but it's your money.

PHILADELPHIA (-9.5) over San Francisco: Not just because the Niners are playing on the East at 1 pm (last week proved that's no be all end all), but because I do expect the Eagles to give the Niners a whooping after the loss to the Giants last week.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS: Rams continue their death march to 0-7. Next stop; a good Redskins team, though if the Rams keep it close late, I'll trust Sam Bradford more than Rex Grossman.

CLEVELAND (+1) over Tennessee: Why in the world are the Browns giving the point to the Titans when their best WR just suffered a season-ending injury. Plus, Chris Johnson will only carry more of the load, likely to see 8 men in the box.

Buffalo (-3) over CINCINNATI: Tough call considering there maybe some week after in terms of the Bills. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick will face his former team and I expect he'll play well, and that's enough to be the Bengals.

Minnesota (-3) over KANSAS CITY: The Vikings won't blow 4 halftime leads this year, will they? Not against the Chiefs, setting up Chiefs-Colts: Battle for Luck.

Carolina (+7) over CHICAGO: The only way the Bears win easy is if they either injure Cam Newton or a monsoon shows up at Soldier Field. The Chicago forecast says sunny weather.

Pittsburgh (+4) over HOUSTON: How many times do the Steelers get points when they face someone not named Patriots or Ravens in Baltimore. Despite the close game in Indy, I still think it's early to proclaim Pittsburgh in trouble.

Atlanta (-6) over SEATTLE: My policy is that if the Seahawks play any NFC West teams at home, I'll pick them. As far as I know, the Falcons no longer play in the NFC West, despite NFC West like play against the Bucs last week.

Giants (-1.5) over ARIZONA: Great memories for the Giants as they return to the scene of the greatest Super Bowl ever (at least in my eyes). The game Eli Manning had a week ago, expect more of the same. Wish I can watch though, but Game 2 of Yankees-Tigers calls.

Miami (+7) over SAN DIEGO: I'm so disgusted with the Chargers. And they probably will win by a touchdown just to frustrate me some more. I hate this game, because now I must back the Dolphins; hoping for a bunch of field goals.

GREEN BAY (-13) over Denver: I tried to make a case for the Broncos, but they are playing above their weight class. Not going to happen at the home of the champs. Besides, it's time for a statement game by the Packers.

New England (-6.5) over OAKLAND: I wish the Pats didn't lose last week. I would have grabbed the points for certain, plus it would have been more. But you have a big win for the Raiders and a bad loss for the Pats. This won't repeat.

BALTIMORE (-4) over Jets: The Jets are staring at the barrel of a 2-3 start (with the Pats next week on the road), unless they win tonight. Problem is, the Ravens are just a better version of the Jets.

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over Indianapolis: With Curtis Painter starting, should be an easy win for the Bucs. Which is fine because no ones going to watch either on TV and the stadium might be a bit empty with the Rays playing a playoff game (different than the regular season Rays crowd).

Last week: 10-6
Season Record: 25-21-2