Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bill Smith, You're Fired

The Twins indeed finally pulled the trigger today, and Johan Santana is a... Met. Eee. I'm not upset that he's not a Red Sox by any means - I didn't want to part with Jacoby Ellsbury. And I'm happy that he's not a New York Spankee, because then he'd start doing steroids. But to see what the Mets gave up for a perennial Cy Young candidate is just plain ridiculous. They didn't have to trade a) their best everyday prospect or b) their best pitching prospect. Twins GM Bill Smith - the man who could have had some combo of Ellsbury/Lester from Boston, or Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera from the Yankees - instead chose to make a deal for four no-names. If I'm a Twins fan tonight, I'm steaming.

You'll never guess what channel I'm watching right now. Yup, the NFL Network. They're replaying the 2001-02 Super Bowl win over the Rams, and I must say the goosebump moments are happening fast and furiously. The first came before the game, when the Rams starters were introduced individually and Pat Summerall announces to the Superdome crowd, "Choosing to be introduced as a team, the AFC Champion New England Patriots..." It was all over right there. The halftime show featuring U2 - and the scroll with the victims from 9/11 - was also emotional to watch again. U2 was absolutely on with their performance that night, and it was perfect to have the 9/11 names behind them. Very powerful.

As for this year's Super Bowl, you may have heard that the Patriots are in it again. The bad news is that it's only Tuesday, for crying out loud. We've got a long ways to go, but damn, this never gets old.

The Longest Trade Negotation Ever...

... could be coming to a close soon. We speak, of course, of the ongoing trade talks surrounding ace Twins lefty Johan Santana. ESPN and other news outlets are reporting that Minnesota is very close to making a final decision, and as such, have asked at least two of the suitors (the Red Sox and the Mets) to make their final, best offers.

There are conflicting reports that the Sox have scaled back their offer, but supposedly Jon Lester and Coco Crisp are still the centerpieces. Not sure what the Mets are offering, and rumor has it the Yankees aren't participating much at all. I still say they need him the most, and wouldn't be at all surprised if they re-enter the equation.

Can you imagine if the Red Sox get Santana this week, when the eyes of the sporting world are focused on Arizona?

A Day for Silliness

Finally, it's going to feel like Super Bowl week today as the media gets its chance to ask every stupid question under the sun. For all the good questions, there's always something completely off the wall, and I truly can't wait to find out what it is. Should also be interesting to see how many questions Coach Bill gets regarding the Week 1 chaos, and how many Tom Brady gets regarding his bodacious girlfriend. Either way, the fun begins today. The Pats will be grilled at noontime, the Giants at 2.

Couple of notes from yesterday:

The Giants arrived in Phoenix, and the big news is that several players have severe cases of the flu. Supposedly, cornerback Aaron Ross blew chunks all over the plane as the Giants were boarding, and the flight was delayed an hour so cleaning crews could, um, get rid of the mess. They should immediately give those employees free tickets to the game.

Elsewhere, in the will-they-ever-learn department, Giants all-world WR Plaxico Burress predicted a 23-17 New York victory on Sunday. Too bad he doesn't play defense, so Brady can rain bombs over his skull like he did with Steeler CB Anthony Smith. Predictions and guarantees are just plain stupid. Think Tom Coughlin will be talking to his loquacious receiver today?

Only two Patriots have played in all five of the team's Super Bowl appearances: Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown. Nine Pats have played in four SB's.

Finally, on a lighter note, my daughter's kindergarten class is having a Patriots Day at school on Friday, so being the dutiful Dad, I'm hunting for a Pats jersey for her to wear to school. When I asked her if she wanted a player's jersey, she quickly responded: Der, Dad, Tom Brady... she's 5.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Unleash the Hype

Finally, the national press is starting to come around to the notion that this two-week break thing really hurts the Giants' momentum. I've said all along that this team is on an incredible roll - ala the 2001 Super Bowl champ Patriots - and unlike that Pats team, the Giants have to take a week off and then rev up the engine again. In 2001, remember (actually, February 2002), it was only a one-week break between the championship games and the Super Bowl due to scheduling changes from the September 11 tragedy, and the Patriots just kept humming along. I'm not saying it's the sole factor why the Pats will win, but I do think it's a worthy one. Sports Illustrated's Don Banks - who makes a good case for why the Pats will go 19-0 - agrees.

Speaking of SI, which is a sad skeleton of what it once was back in the day, the increasingly irrelevant Dr. Z made his Super Bowl pick last week and went with the Giants in an upset. First of all, having Eli Manning on the cover of SI with Dr. Z's latest prediction should put smiles on all Pats' fans faces. What's not mentioned is that Dr. Z took every chance he could this year to rub it in Belichick's face about the camera thing, even though it became clear as the year went on that it was a stupid, minor infraction that many coaches commit. Just another media member with an axe to grind.

Speaking of Eli, I truly think his carriage turns back into a pumpkin next Sunday. I fully respect what he's done, and I think he may get to a few more Super Bowls, but the lights will be shining bright for this one and he's never been under that kind of glare before. Nothing - absolutely nothing - he's encountered in New York is even close. That said, it is pretty amazing to think that two brothers will be the starting QB in two consecutive Super Bowls. Not too bad, Archie. And mom, of course. But where were you when they agreed to do that ridiculously queer Oreo-licking commercial?

I understand that Junior Seau is the motivational speaker in the Pats' locker room, but he really shouldn't be allowed near a microphone. He led the fans in some sort of chant today at the Pats' Gillette Stadium send-off, and it was, ah, a little awkward.

All eyes were on Tom Brady at the send-off. He showed up looking like his typical GQ self, without the ankle boot. He looked like he was walking okay. No worries whatsoever.

I'm starting to think that Bob Kraft just sounds like he's always drunk.

Chuck Klosterman's a talented writer, but he lost me on this one... huh?

Have I mentioned how much I absolutely looove the NFL Network? Saw little highlight packages of all the Super Bowls over the past couple of days, and earlier today, they replayed the Pats-Giants season finale in its entirety. The kick return for a TD by the Giants was an anomaly, and the Brady to Moss recordbreaking pass gave me goosebumps all over again. I love how Brady went right back to Moss after he had underthrown him on the prior play. And the image of his o-linemen jumping around with Brady was pretty cool.

I know this is always a week of big hype, but something tells me this is going to be bigger than ever before. History is on the line, after all, and it's Boston vs. New York once again.

Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall when Belichick was reviewing the film from the Giants' game, and formulating his strategy for the second time around? One thing's for sure - they're going to attack the weakass Giants secondary again and again.

As we do each year around this time, it's only fitting that we give thanks to Mo Lewis.

Check back for daily updates during what promises to be a fun week around here. Time for me to go see what's on the NFL Network. Hey, it's been a few hours... I'm getting twitchy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where's No. 12?

So this is what it's come to. The Patriots got back to practice on Thursday, and their tabloid star QB was nowhere to be found. So what's an enterprising photographer to do? Why, take a photo of the pants and sneakers lying in front of Tom Brady's locker, of course. Un. Bee. Leevable.

We've got eight and a half days to go until Super Bowl 42 (I'm boycotting the Roman numerals) and the hype machine is already in overdrive. It's gonna be one hell of a fun week. And no, we're not going to see Matt Cassel or Matt Gutierrez on the field anytime soon. They'll put Brady's uniform pants and cleats out there before that happens.

Lots of talk this week about how this game is interesting because the Pats and Giants played each other less than a month ago. Probably helps both teams a little bit in terms of prep time, but one thing to remember: the Patriots played that game without the starting right side of their offensive line, as both Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur were both out. On the flip side, one of the most impressive Giants in the postseason - backup RB Ahmad Bradshaw - didn't see much action. One thing no one seems to be asking - what does the 2-week break do to the Giants' momentum?

Also kinda cool that both Belichick and Tom Coughlin grew up together on Bill Parcells' staff in New York in the mid-1980s. At least we know there'll be a heartfelt handshake at the end of the game, regardless of who wins.

I must admit - after initially hoping for a Pats-Packers SB, I'm liking the fact that we can continue to assert our sporting dominance this decade at the expense of another New York team.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Das Boot

The tabloids and the airwaves are all atwitter over the fact that Tom Brady was spotted in NYC yesterday wearing a walking cast on his foot. The hooded, bespectacled one was seen getting out of a Cadillac Escalade in front of Giselle's $15M apartment with a bouquet of flowers and a duffel bag. He had a couple of other pals helping him carry the rest of his bags. While it's true that he was noticeably limping, he was carrying stuff up a flight of stairs, and reports said that he was out on the town last night having a good time. So I doubt it's anything serious. I do remember him falling kind of awkwardly on a play towards the end of the game, so maybe that's what did it. Either way, he's got 2 weeks to feel better so I'm not concerned. Of course, that ain't gonna stop the speculatin'. People are just dying for some sort of negative to derail this train.

If you're interested, you can see the Brady/Zapruder film here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Faulkaroney, the Arizona Treat

After some anxious moments, mostly due to a surprisingly subpar Tom Brady performance, the Patriots took control behind their two running backs and secured themselves a date in the desert in 2 weeks for Super Bowl 42. Final score: Pats 21, LT-less Chargers 12.

Until Brady hit Wes Welker with the winning touchdown on a short slant, it was very much a nailbiter. Brady had been picked off three times (he was picked 8 times all year long), but the Pats still led because of their outstanding red-zone defense. San Diego drove the ball fairly well all day (credit goes to Philip Rivers, playing on a torn ACL) but in the end - with their all-world running back on the sidelines - the Chargers couldn't find paydirt all day long.

Ironically, the star of the game was the running back on the Patriots - the two-headed monster known as Faulkaroney. Kevin Faulk - easily the unsung hero on this historic squad - made big catch after big catch (some on bad throws from Brady), and Maroney's hard-running ways showed up in the second half. Faulk finished the game with 8 grabs for 82 yards, and Maroney rushed for 122.

Their opponent on February 3 in Glendale, Arizona, will be...

The New York Football Giants, who sent Brett Favre and the Packers fishing for the offseason. Great, great football game to watch, and the better team won as Lawrence Tynes connected on a 47-yard FG in overtime in the bitter cold of Lambeau Field. Giants win 23-20, setting up a rematch of that tremendous Week 17 game.

Now comes the hard part. Waiting for two weeks. Beats the hell out of the alternative though, right Charger and Packer fans? There is nothing like having your horse in the Big Game. Early line: Pats by 14.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Not much going on in the world of sports so I've been laying low.

Not much, unless you count the Pats getting ready to play San Diego in the AFC Championship game, the Packers hosting the upstart Giants at Lambeau in the NFC game, Randy Moss and ConsensualhorseplayGate, and Roger Clemens hiring Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer to help defend himself against steroid charges. Pretty hum-drum.

I'm going with the favored Patriots (-14) and Packers (-7) this weekend, but what scares me a little bit is that every single "expert" in the land is going with the favorites. It's definitely the most compelling matchup of all the possible scenarios, for the obvious reasons (Brady vs. Favre) and it would be nice to get a little revenge for the Pats' Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. I still have Desmond Howard nightmares.

Anyway, I'm going with Patriots 37, Chargers 20. This team has literally dealt with major distractions from day one, and they're friggin' 17-0. They handle it by simply winning. And they'll continue this weekend. Of course, the big story line for the Chargers is the health status of their Big Three on offense: LT, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates. Word came down tonight that Rivers - one of the biggest jackasses in football - has a partial ACL tear and is a game-time decision. I really hope he plays because I want to see him on his derriere as much as possible. Mouth. This guy talks on the field like he's won multiple championships. Shut up and play, pussy boy.

Man, not sure where that came from. As for LT and Gates, LT has a minor knee issue and will be in there and Gates has a problematic toe.

In Green Bay - and by the way, was the snow last week not the best thing ever in big-screen HD? Felt like I was in the middle of a damn snow globe - it's going to be Packers 23, Giants 17. I truly believe the Giants give the Pack a game, but in the end Eli makes a mistake or two with the bird-hawking Packers' secondary and Green Bay heads to the desert.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Coaching Carousel, and Some Weekend Picks

Just after the news came out on Thursday that Bill Belichick had won the AP's Coach of the Year award, another news item came on about a high-profile assistant coach going to a new team. It got me to thinking about one of the more undertalked-about aspects of a thoroughly overanalyzed coach - which is Belichick's ability to identify young, talented coaches and coordinators, and groom them into potential head coaches. We've all heard about the Bill Walsh coaching tree, and we know about the Bill Parcells coaching tree. Belichick is now branching off on his own, with coaching prodigies like Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels developing under his wing. It's all about who you hire, and Walsh, Parcells, and Belichick all know exactly what they're looking for. That's why it will be fascinating to see what Parcells does in Miami. He's already got his sights set on Tony Sparano (that's not a typo) - the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys - to be his head coach, and reports say the two are actually meeting today to discuss the job.

In terms of coaching arrivals and departures, you knew Cam Cameron was walking the plank as soon as Tuna chum Chris Mortensen broke the news that Parcells was heading to the Dolphins. Poor Cameron. He was literally given Lemons and was asked to make lemonade. Parcells' second order of business - after securing a head coach - is to find a quarterback. Oh, how different things would be in South Beach if Nick Saban had pushed for Drew Brees over Daunte Culpepper when both were free agents.

The Baltimore Ravens also fired Brian Billick earlier this week. Oh, how things might have been different if Rex Ryan hadn't called that timeout, and if Bart Scott didn't have a complete meltdown.

McDaniels had been mentioned as a candidate in both Atlanta and Baltimore, but he came out with a statement this week saying he was pulling his name out of the hat for consideration for any other job and focusing on the task at hand. Whether BB counseled this move or not, it's a wise one. McDaniels is obviously talented, but he's young (31) and no doubt knows he could use a little more seasoning before taking the inevitable step up.

There had been some debate over whether Belichick would win Coach of the Year due to the team's videotaping transgression in Week 1, but in the end, the AP writers did the right thing. 16-0 is a monumental achievement, and as Tom E. Curran from MSNBC articulately put it: I don't want to pick up a sports almanac 20 years from now, see 2007, see the 16-0, and then see that some other coach won the award. We'll see which way UPI goes, but of course none of it matters a lick to the subject himself.

Other than that, January 12th - the date of the first Pats playoff game - can't come soon enough. In the meantime, we've got Wild Card weekend to sit back and enjoy. Three of the games, in my humble opinion, could go either way - while the other should be an easy win for the favorite. Some thoroughly from-the-gut picks:

Seattle 27, Washington 20 - I will never put a dime on the Seahawks for as long as I breathe air (long story), and the 'Skins are the sentimental favorites, but I just think Hasselbeck, Alexander, and the raucous Seattle crowd prove too much for them. Sorry to be a party-pooper.

Jacksonville 24, Pittsburgh 21- Everyone loves the Jaguars, which is always a scary thing, but add me to the bandwagon. I think this team is ready to make the next step, even if it means winning two big games in the span of a month at Heinz Field. This should be pretty entertaining, and for Pats fans we get a chance to watch our likely opponent next week close up. Garrard and the RB's get it done for Jacksonville.

Tampa Bay 21, NY Giants 16 - I give Tom Coughlin a ton of credit for keeping his foot on the accelerator Saturday night against the Patriots. But once the game got into crunch time, and the Pats unleashed their defense on Eli, it was a different story. I'm thinking a fresh Bucs D makes some big plays to help them get to the next round, and Garcia & Co. make just enough plays on offense.

San Diego 30, Tenneessee 20 - I admire the Titans' overall pugnacity - led by feisty, underrated coach Jeff FisherThe Titans and underrated coach Jeff Fisher. I just think the Chargers and LT will emerge victorious from a vicious junkyard battle.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?