Wednesday, December 26, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 17 Predictions

Week 16 Record: 8-8
Season Record: 160-79-1

Buccaneers at Falcons - Bucs win over benched starters.
Jets at Bills - tebow's season mercifully comes to an end.
Ravens at Bengals - Bal gains momentum going into playoffs
Bears at Lions - megatron's record season snuck up on me.  wasn't he injured?
Jaguars at Titans - the who-cares game of the week.
Texans at Colts - Indy has one last surprise this season
Panthers at Saints - Brees celebrates payton's contract with big game.
Eagles at Giants - Vick plays decently in his last philly game.
Browns at Steelers - pitts misses playoffs for 2nd time in 4 seasons
Chiefs at Broncos - Peyton grabs AFC overall #1 seed.
Packers at Vikings - Seattle's W over SF last week secures GB's 1st round bye.
Dolphins at Patriots - NE gets 1st round bye too.  Not happy about that.
Raiders at Chargers - seriously, both coaches should be fired by now.
Cardinals at 49ers - SF's two missed Ws vs Rams cost them bye.  So mad.
Rams at Seahawks - I hope SF gets Seattle in the playoffs for some revenge.
Cowboys at Redskins - RG3 completes an improbable season with gutsy W.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 16 Predictions

Week 15 Record: 12-4
Season Record: 152-71-1

Falcons at Lions - Detroit should be embarrassed about snapping AZ's losing streak.
Saints at Cowboys - Cowboys edge out Saints at home to setup Week 17 playoff.
Titans at Packers - GB's gunning for NFC 2nd seed.  Rodgers' gunning for MVP.
Colts at Chiefs - It is an awesome feat that Luck will have Indy at 10 wins this year.
Bills at Dolphins - Buffalo pulls an upset, and nobody cares.
Chargers at Jets - McElroy is the new starter.  They get a W, but its too late.  Free Tebow.
Redskins at Eagles - 5 straight Ws.  Shanahan gave up too early.  They host Dallas for playoff spot.
Bengals at Steelers - Pittsburgh wins to make things interesting in Wk 17.
Rams at Buccaneers - 4 straight losses and a 41 point beatdown.  Bucs need a W.
Raiders at Panthers - Trojan QBs stink.  Total QBR rankings: Palmer #29, Cassel #33, Sanchez #36.  There's only 32 teams!
Patriots at Jaguars - The 9ers showed that they're the best, when they're at their best.
Vikings at Texans - Peterson deserves MVP if he can break the record.
Browns at Broncos - Otherwise, Peyton deserves it hands down.
Bears at Cardinals - After 7-1 start, Chi is 1-5.  Pretenders.
Giants at Ravens - Both teams should have run away with their divisions.  Who rights the ship?
49ers at Seahawks - 9ers have the ability to cool down teams that think they're hot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Linsanity wins again in NY

Jeremy Lin returned triumphantly to Madison Square Garden in the Rockets' only visit this season and led his team to a 109-96 win.  He shot a respectable 9-15 on the night for 22 points, and considering that he was only 1-6 from the 3 point line (the lack of a consistent 3 point shot is one of the major areas he must address), he was actually 8-9 from inside the arc.  Jeremy was had a game-high 8 assists to go with his 4 rebounds.  Most impressively, the Rockets were +18 when he as on the floor, by far the biggest ratio on the night.

In comparison, the Knicks' point guards - Kidd and Felton - combined for only 19 points and 7 assists.  The Knicks were actually -20 with Kidd on the floor and -11 with Felton.

We've talked about how poorly the Knicks handled Lin's departure, but Jeremy handled his return with nothing but class.  Knicks fans fittingly applauded him during introductions.

In the Rockets' other game vs the Knicks earlier this year in Houston, Jeremy also directed Houston to a 131-103 win and the Knicks had Carmelo on the court that night.  Surprisingly, NY only has 6 losses overall and yet 2 of those were to Jeremy.  Here's hoping the Knicks miss the playoffs, right alongside Lakers as the year's biggest disappointments.

Ultimately, Jeremy and Harden need to find a good balance between the two for success.  If Harden dominates the ball as Carmelo did, Jeremy will probably not be the best fit for the Rockets.  At the very least, he would have to improve his 3 point shooting to be more effective.  But I don't think that's why Houston signed him.  They wanted him to be the facilitator and to keep the offense from stagnancy.  On this night in NY, he reminded everyone of what Linsanity was all about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

49ers clinch playoff spot with win at Foxborough

The Belicheats haven't lost a home game in December since 2002.  Just last week, they absolutely destroyed the previously 1-loss (likely AFC reg season champs) Texans 42-14 there, pushing their win streak to 7 games.  The 9ers were coming off an unconvincing win over the Dolphins and a loss to the Rams.  Elite veteran, Brady, was going up against Kaepernick, a 2nd year starting just his 5th game.

The SF lead was 17-3 at half.  (It should have been 34-3 but we'll get into that later).  By early 3rd quarter, it swelled to 31-3.  The 49ers had forced 4 turnovers - two interceptions and two fumbles - but actually only capitalized on the last two, both early in the 3rd quarter.

Before the half, the 9ers had squandered 4 different scoring opportunities.  After a Carlos Rogers interception which he returned 53 yards to the NE 5 yard line, Delanie Walker fumbled away a sure 3 points, if not 7.  Next possession, Akers missed a 39 yarder wide left.  I'm not sure if he's been affected by injuries lately, but he already missed game-winners in both games vs the Rams.  This needs to be fixed immediately - otherwise it will haunt us in the playoffs.

Next possession, we force a fumble, move to the NE 25 yard line.  But when Harbaugh decides to go for it on 4th and 1, Kaepernick can't handle the handoff and wastes the easy opportunity at the 1st down.  Our front line had made a great push and the 1st down was a matter of falling forward.  (Collinsworth actually called this fumble right before the snap).  Either way, we should have had at least 3 points.

Next possession, we drive the ball all the way to the NE 4 yard line with a 1st down and goal.  We walk away with only a FG, leaving 4 points on the field.  In total, that's 17 points that we could have had.  I would have been happy with at least 10, giving us a 27-3 lead at half.

I expected the Belicheats to mount some sort of comeback charge.  Their lethal offense can wear down any defense, especially a non-desperate one with a 28 point lead in its pocket.  I was angry but not surprised when Brady led them back with 4 unanswered TDs with still over 6 minutes left.

LaMichael James took the ensuing kickoff and swung the momentum of the game with a great sideline return to the NE 38.  On the next play, the Patriots blitzed everyone and left their corner on an island with no help.  Crabtree caught a short pass, made the corner miss and sprinted to the endzone for the gamewinner.

In the end, this game means something more than just a great 41-34 win over a contender at their house.  It means that even if catastrophe happens and we lose to cheatey petey's Seahawks on Sunday, we still have a home game vs Arizona to clinch the division.  It means that we are still in the lead for the NFC 2nd seed (half game lead on GB) which gets us a 1st round bye.  Lastly, it means that Kaepernick proved Harbaugh right on Sunday.

I know that Kaepernick still needs to go through playoff fire.  Alex's game vs the Saints last January was an all-time great.  But Kaep's big play ability is what allowed the offense to match the defense's contributions.  He had 4 TDs to Brady's 1.  His first touchdown was a 24 yard throw over the top to a streaking Moss.  2nd TD as a 34 yard looping throw to the corner of the endzone to Walker.  The 3rd was perhaps the most impressive - a 27 yard, 64 mph bullet splitting two defenders to Crabtree who landed in for the score.  The most important throw of course was the decisive game-winning strike to Crabtree, which put him in position to take it to the house.

Honestly, I didn't feel great about Harbaugh's decision to start Kaepernick after Smith was recovered from the concussion.  Smith had earned the right to start this year based off his leadership last year, his performance in the Saints playoff match, his willingness to come back after we courted Peyton and his outstanding play this season (4th highest rating of all QBs).  Next season, if Harbaugh wanted to go with Kaepernick, that would have been fine by me.  But this year should have been Smith's to finish.

I thought that we were just one fumble away from the Superbowl.  Sure, we should add quality WRs to stretch our offense, but the focus should have been about tweaking the offense.  Things were working - we were arguably the best team in NFL.  Its hard to be great in the NFL, much less sustaining it year after year.  Who knows how long our window would remain open?  This was not the time for messing with a working formula.  Certainly, not drastic changes, say changing your starting QB from a 7 year pro to a 1st time starter who is just 1 year and half removed from college - especially when the starter wasn't even playing poorly.  We aren't even considering possible lockerroom or long-term implications.  Now, I still don't feel good about making Vernon Davis, our sole deep threat last season and a team leader, merely an afterthought.

But, Harbaugh marches to the beat of his own drummer.  He is solely responsible for resurrecting Alex's career last year and his ways are solely responsible for turning the 49ers around from 6 wins to 13, without an offseason or significant personnel changes.  And Kaepernick has piloted wins over Chicago, New Orleans and New England when they were all at or near their peak.

If he beats Seattle on Sunday night, then there's really no looking back.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 15 Predictions

Week 14 Record: 7-9
Season Record: 140-67-1

Bengals at Eagles - Last AFC spot comes down to Cincy or Pitt.
Giants at Falcons - Tough call.  Giants in Dec or ATL after a surprising loss.  I'll take NY.
Packers at Bears - See, I told you Chi were pretenders.
Redskins at Browns - If RG3 plays, they win.  Otherwise, they lose.
Vikings at Rams - Fisher has the Rams D playing well.  Can they contain AD?
Jaguars at Dolphins - The battle for 2nd best Floridian team goes to MIA.
Buccaneers at Saints - Brees stops 3 game slide with a strong game.
Broncos at Ravens - I would have taken Bal, but they just fired their OC.  Too uncertain.
Colts at Texans - Houston licks its wounds and clinches division.  I'm pulling for Luck though.
Seahawks at Bills - Up 50 points and cheatey petey's still airing it out.  What's your deal?
Lions at Cardinals - amazingly they're both 4-9.  Cardinals are the worst 4 win team ever.
Panthers at Chargers - Can Cam keep up his good play?  I say yes.
Steelers at Cowboys - Pittsburgh needs a big W here to setup defacto playoff vs Cincy.
Chiefs at Raiders - Combined 5-21.  Oaktown hasn't won in a while.  I'll take them.
49ers at Patriots - 9ers are playing poorly.  Belicheats just exposed Houston.  Upset!
Jets at Titans - Tennessee wins on MNF in an ugly offensive game.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 14 Predictions

Week 13 Record: 8-8
Season Record: 133-58-1

Broncos at Raiders - Peyton has led Denver to 30 or more points, 10 times this year.
Rams at Bills - Fitzpatrick finally connects with Stevie Johnson for a big game.
Cowboys at Bengals - Dallas has won 3 of 4, but they were against terrible teams.
Chiefs at Browns - Teams both dealing with horrible suicide at their facilities.  Game is 2ndary.
Titans at Colts - Indy is most impressive team of the year.  5-1 at home.
Bears at Vikings - I'm pretty upset Chi didn't take out cheatey petey.
Chargers at Steelers - If wins over KC don't count, SD has lost 8 in a row.
Eagles at Buccaneers - Tampa gets an easy team after losing to ATL and Den.
Ravens at Redskins - Ravens pull the upset and get a W before a brutal end stretch.
Falcons at Panthers - Atlanta pretty much has the #1 NFC seed in hand after this.
Jets at Jaguars - Go with McElroy.  or Tebow.  No reason to go with Sanchez.
Dolphins at 49ers - SF trend this season: win 2, make a mess, win 2, make a mess.
Saints at Giants - I don't get NY.  They whoop GB by 28, then lose to Wash.
Cardinals at Seahawks - The fact that SF is only 1 win ahead is infuriating.
Lions at Packers - After getting back to .500, Detroit lost 4 in a row.
Texans at Patriots - This will tell us a lot about Houston's championship viability.


I've never heard of Cal State San Marcos.  Chances are you still haven't, even though we beat them easily in the 2nd half to pull away 83-60 last night.  The game wasn't televised, wasn't on the radio and wasn't attended by probably more than 3,000 people.  But I was there.

And I wasn't impressed, unfortunately.  Howland opted to practice man to man defense all night since our zone was devastated by 3 pointers from SDSU the last game.  There were several instances of SM's big men scoring on the Wears when they shouldn't have.  We didn't contain driving perimeter players as we should have.  We turned the ball over 21 times.  Our offense didn't yield as many scoring opportunities as there should have been.

Shabazz scored a team-high 19 and he really had to earn them with an assortment of floaters and other short range but highly contested shots.  His jumper was suspect and he looked terribly out of shape still.  Kyle Anderson finished with a team-high 16 rebounds while neither Wear finished with more than 7 in about the same number of minutes.  Larry Drew played the most minutes of any Bruin and finished with 10 points, 10 assists in 30 minutes.

These two weeks leading up to the nationally televised matchup vs Texas this coming Saturday has been turbulent, to say the least.  No, it hasn't been nearly as bad as the Reeves Nelson nightmare early last season or the propaganda fallout late last season, but it hasn't been good.

It started with the departure of last year's starting shooting guard, Tyler Lamb, probably due to his unwillingness to fight for lost minutes.  Then came the embarrassing loss to Cal Poly SLO, which seemed to confirm the hard truth that we are not true contenders even with the #1 recruiting class.  Then two days later, one of the most talented big man in the country, Josh Smith, left our team for personal reasons.  The sad truth is he had been utterly unable to lose the weight he needed to resurrect his career.  Ideally, a conditioned Smith would make him the most influential player on the court.  This brought our depth chart down to 8 players.

Even the beatdown handed to CSUN was forgotten immediately after the hard-fought loss to SDSU in Anaheim over the weekend.  To make things worse, their fan section vastly outnumbered UCLA supporters, though that really isn't news to those in the know.

Where do we stand?

Howland has had to resort to a 2-3 zone to cover the defensive liabilities of our team.  It is hard to say whether those liabilities are a result of a lack of athleticism or a lack of fundamentals.  Perhaps it is both, but if this were the football team, they would need a good old fashioned Jim Mora style 2-a-day boot camp in the desert to whip them back in shape.  So far, this is not the Howland coached team that we are familiar with.  If we end up playing zone all year, what's the point of keeping Howland?  What is Howland without his signature man to man D?

Our #1 recruiting class has actually been a disappointment.  They were the ones who were supposed to come in and immediately make us relevant again.  UK's success last year certainly raised the bar.  Unfortunately, our two highest ranked freshmen have been relative letdowns.  Without the hype, Shabazz and Kyle on paper have been fabulous freshmen for us.  However, though Shabazz is scoring points, he is not dominating the way a NBA ready HS star should be.  He is working way too hard to score, and again, he looks awfully out of shape.  Kyle is a great rebounder and has great vision, but is much less athletic than we knew.  He has little lift and gets blocked in traffic nearly every time.  His jumper is also prolonged and subpar.

Howland's problem in the last 4 years has been that he hasn't recruited truly great basketball players.  Jrue Holiday was really the last NBA 1st round talent that we've recruited.  Since 2009, nobody has been drafted 1st round, which should be embarrassing for a program as storied as ours.  Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt clearly had the basketball talent, but not pro bodies to go along with it.  Say what you want about how Howland has run his program, but the biggest point of failure is the same in every struggling program: the lack of premier talent.  This year, he brought in a Shabazz.

And so he'll have this year to save his job.  He'll have this month to get ready for Pac-12 play.  And he'll have Sat vs Texas to make a new statement about these young Bruins.