Championship Weekend Is Upon Us

championship weekend

Something spectacular is about to happen.  After four grueling months, only four of the NFL’s best teams remain.  And with the Lombardi Trophy in their grasp, it is going to take an incredible feat, by a still unknown hero, to earn a trip to Glendale, Arizona and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIX.  We could see the ‘passing of the torch’ from a hall of fame quarterback to a future hall of famer.  Or we could see an opportunity for the first back-to-back championships in 10 years.  No matter what happens, history is about to be made.  I think we are going to witness two unbelievable football games, and I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

NFC Championship

Green Bay Packers vs. *Seattle Seahawks – Sunday @ 3:05 P.M. (FOX)

* – Indicates Home Team

The Packers and Seahawks will meet for the second time this season in the NFC Championship.  The first meeting didn’t go so well for the Packers, as they were blown out 36-16 in Week 1.  Revenge should play a slight factor, but the outcome of this game rests primarily on the calf of Aaron Rodgers.  If he is healthy enough to keep the Seahawks’ tenacious defense in check, they have a shot, however, if he is only 70% of himself, the Packers are in for a long afternoon.  Another key to this game is Marshawn Lynch versus the Packers run defense.  The Packers were 23rd in the league in rushing yards allowed this season (119.9 ypg), while the Seahawks were the number one rushing team (172.6 ypg).  Despite all the evidence to support a Seahawks victory, I think Aaron Rodgers is going to give us one of the grittiest performances we’ve ever seen.  Also, expect Jordy Nelson to wake up after a lackluster performance in the Divisional Round, and show Richard Sherman a thing or two.  Home/Road splits be damned.  Give me the Packers, in the upset, squeezing out a 1 point victory.

Prediction: Packers 28 – Seahawks 27 

AFC Championship

Indianapolis Colts vs. *New England Patriots – Sunday @ 6:40 P.M. (CBS)

* – Indicates Home Team

Oh Bill Belichick, as much as I dislike your sweatshirt and your general attitude towards everyone, I have to give you credit.  You are the best coach in the NFL.  You and Tom Brady are Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan.  Thirteen years have gone by, you haven’t aged, your productivity is still top notch, and just when everyone counts you out, you remind them why you’re still the best.  I guess cranky, surly head coach plus humble superstar is a decent combination.  I digress.  Just like the NFC, the AFC Championship is a repeat matchup of a lopsided affair (NE 42 – Indy 20) from earlier in the year.  You will remember, however, that was the game where Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns, so expect this Sunday’s game to be a lot closer.  Andrew Luck’s game also took another step forward this season, as he led the league in touchdowns, but Luck will need to come up with a performance for the ages if the Colts are going to take down Goliath.  The other key to this game will be limiting “The Gronk”.  He can’t be stopped completely, but if the Colts can keep him out of the end zone, that’ll give them a fighting chance.  Unfortunately for all of us bitter Jets fans out there, I expect Tom Brady and the Patriots to make their 6th Super Bowl appearance in 14 years.

Prediction: Patriots 31 – Colts 28

Who do you have in this year’s Super Bowl??  Let me know in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

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The Search is Over

bowles

Tuesday was a busy day for the NY Jets.  First, they found their new General Manager.  His name is Mike Maccagnan.  Try saying that three times fast.  Maccagnan has worked for the Houston Texans since their inception.  Then, four hours later, they found their new Head Coach.  His name is Todd Bowles.  He is the former defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, and his deal is reportedly for 4 years and just north of $4 million per year.

In choosing Maccagnan, the Jets are taking the opposite approach they took with former General Manager, John Idzik.  Idzik was supposed to be a number crunching, ‘Salary Cap Genius’, instead, he flopped right on his face.  This time around, they are going with a former talent scout.  Maccagnan had moved up the ranks of the Texans organization over the last 14 years until he arrived at the title of Director of College Scouting.  It is an understandable but interesting hire by the Jets, and I’d say the jury will have to reserve judgment until Maccagnan has a crack at free agency and the draft.  Then we will see what the wolves of NY have to say for themselves.

As for Bowles, it’s par for the course, as the Jets bring in another great defensive mind.  Bowles helped lead the quarterbackless Cardinals to an 11-5 record last season.  I enjoy me some defense, but is that really what the Jets need?  Jets fans everywhere better hope and pray that Maccagnan and Bowles come up with a magic spell to conjure a creative offensive coordinator out of thin air.  Oh, and they need a quarterback, a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end, and 2 cornerbacks….but hey, that’s just details, details.  Maccagnan and Bowles have a tall order in front of them.  Hopefully Woody Johnson and company will be patient, and give them two or three years to rebuild (such an ugly word that rebuild is).  Normally, rebuilding is unacceptable in New York, but the Jets aren’t the only team starting from scratch around here.  They will be following in the Knicks footsteps.  Oh, how the times have changed.

What do you think about these two hires??  Do you like them, love them, or hate them??

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

NFL Divisional Playoffs Kick-Off Saturday

nfl divisional playoffs

This is the best weekend of the year.  If you had somewhere to go, cancel your plans, because that groove on the couch misses you.  I know it’s been hard to stay “into it” since your fantasy team was officially eliminated from contention, but it’s time to gear up for playoff football.  The schedule is as follows:

Baltimore Ravens vs. *New England Patriots – Saturday @ 4:35 P.M. (NBC)

Carolina Panthers vs. *Seattle Seahawks – Saturday @ 8:15 P.M. (FOX)

Dallas Cowboys vs. *Green Bay Packers – Sunday @ 1:05 P.M. (FOX)

Indianapolis Colts vs. *Denver Broncos – Sunday @ 4:40 P.M. (CBS)

* – Indicates Home Team

If the Ravens and Patriots matchup is giving you deja vu, you are not the only one.  This is the fourth time in six years that these teams will face each other in the postseason.  And while the Patriots have the best postseason record of any team since the turn of the century (18-8), the Ravens have been Tom Brady’s kryptonite.  Joe Flacco and the Ravens have beaten the Patriots in two of their last three trips to Foxboro.  As much as I would enjoy seeing that trend continue, I believe the Gronkanator and the Pats will be too much for the Ravens to handle.

Prediction: Patriots 27 – Ravens 21        

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will look to keep their momentum going as they venture to CenturyLink Field on Saturday.  The Panthers are looking to become the first team ever to advance to the Conference Championships after having a losing record during the regular season (7-8-1).  The Seahawks were 7-1 at home this season, and will look to continue that trend with their usual formula: ground and pound + violent defense = more points than the other team.  If the Panthers are going to have any chance in this game, they’ll need Cam Newton to do his best Superman impression.  Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.  Expect a defensive struggle in the first half, and then the Seahawks should pull away late in the game.

Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Panthers 17  

As we transition to Sunday, expect the best game of the Divisional Round to come from the frozen tundra; aka Lambeau Field.  This is a product of matchups.  Demarco Murray, if healthy, should run all over the Packers less than stellar defensive line.  However, Aaron Rodgers, if healthy, should have a field day with the Cowboys secondary.  This matchup marks the first time in NFL Playoff history that an undefeated team at home (Green Bay 8-0) will host an undefeated team on the road (Dallas 8-0).  Murray is the Cowboys only chance at victory, because as good as Tony Romo is, he is not winning a shootout against his counterpart.  The soon to be MVP (Rodgers) should be able to will his team to victory with or without a torn calf.  I see the Packers edging out the Cowboys in a thriller.

Prediction: Packers 28 – Cowboys 27

And to wrap up a great weekend in football, Andrew Luck will march in to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  Everyone can talk about how ordinary Peyton has looked over the last month, and how bad he is in the playoffs, but I am not ready to give up on the first family of football.  Andrew Luck is a phenomenal talent, and I expect him to be great for 10 more years, but this is not his year.  This Colts team is not strong enough defensively to stop Peyton Manning, and their running game has simply crumbled.  They have left Andrew Luck on an island.  I hope this game is close, but I see Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders being too much for the Colts to handle.

Prediction: Broncos 34 – Colts 24

What do you think?  Who do you have advancing to the Conference Championships?

Let me know in the comment section below.

Since you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Big Unit Headlines 2015 Hall of Fame Class

big unit

They are part of forever.  Despite all the controversy, and all the rhetoric, and the convoluted voting process, their individual accomplishments can never be second guessed again.  Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio were voted in to the MLB Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and they will be officially inducted on July 26th in Cooperstown, NY.  These inductions mark only the third time at least four players have been voted in to the Hall of Fame in one year (the last was 1955).  Also, for the first time, three first-ballot candidates were voted in in consecutive years.

Randy Johnson, regarded by many as the best left-handed pitcher of all-time, garnered 97.3% of the votes (the 8th highest percentage of all-time).  The “Big Unit” is one of only two pitchers to win four consecutive CY Young Awards, the other being Greg Maddux.  Johnson was a strikeout machine, as he is still the all-time leader in K’s per nine innings (10.6).  Standing 6’10” tall, Johnson was an intimidating force, playing on six different teams during his 22 year career.  Most impressively, Johnson is a member of the 300-Win Club (303).  Pedro Martinez, a three time CY Young Award winner, received 91.1% of the votes.  Martinez had one of the most dominant stretches of any pitcher during his prime, finishing in the top four of the CY Young Award in seven out of eight years.  He also helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.  John Smoltz had a unique, 21 year career.  He is the only pitcher ever to record 200 wins and 150 saves.  Playing almost his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, he was a staple in their pitching staff, along side fellow Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.  That Braves dynasty won a record 14 straight National League East titles.  And last but not least, Craig Biggio will enter the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility.  Biggio is a member of the 3,000 hit club, playing multiple defensive positions over his 20 year career.  While playing second base, outfield, and catcher he won four gold gloves.  He is the only player in Major League history to have 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 250 home runs, and 400 stolen bases.

It is wonderful to see these great players honored for their achievements, but a dark cloud still remains, constantly hovering over Major League Baseball. No, that cloud isn’t filled with water vapor, it’s filled with steroids. And every time we have this conversation, it serves as an annual reminder of all the cheating and accusations that surround baseball’s best players. My opinion of these players is simple. It is impossible to know who did or did not take steroids. Therefore, in order not to falsely accuse innocent players or unknowingly allow cheaters into the Hall of Fame, we must view everyone on an even playing field. Barry Bonds existed. Barry Bonds broke numerous records and is one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived. Personal opinions aside (I for one can’t stand the guy), baseball is doing itself a disservice by not allowing Bonds in to the Hall of Fame. As for Mike Piazza, here is a guy to feel bad for. While he will most likely get in to the Hall of Fame next year, it is absurd that solely rumors are keeping him on the outside looking in. He is the best offensive catcher of all-time. The voting system is not a fair system at all. Instead, it is a group of ego maniacal sports writers, who think this process is a platform for settling personal vendettas. Yeah, not so much. The writers need to stop pretending an entire era didn’t exist, and they need to put em’ all in!!

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

How do you feel about this years Hall of Fame inductees? Did the committee get it right? Should accused steroid users be allowed in to the Hall of Fame?

Let me know how you feel in the comment section below.

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Tank Mode Is In Full Effect

jr smith

The New York Knicks were able to trade who?!?!  That’s right sports fans, someone voluntarily took on J.R. Smith.  In a three-team, six-player trade, the Knicks traded Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  In turn, the Cavaliers traded Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and a 2019 second-round pick to the Knicks.  The Thunder will send Lance Thomas to the Knicks along with a protected 2015 first-round pick to the Cavs.  This trade took place just before tip-off of last night’s games, so none of these players suited up for their respective teams.  The Knicks also waived Samuel Dalembert which will clear $3.8 million of cap space.

This is a good trade for all three teams.  The Thunder added a solid scorer in Waiters for a first-round pick and a throw-in player, making the Thunder a good team who just got better.  The Cavs got two rotation players for the price of one, so as long as Lebron James can corral J.R. Smith, this trade will help the Cavs this season.  And the lowly Knicks continued to clear cap space, including $6.4 million owed to J.R. Smith, in hopes to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The best part of this deal, by a mile, is that the Knicks were able to rid themselves of the cancer that is J.R. Smith.  Some people believe that the Knicks gave Shumpert away for nothing, but he is hurt, again, and probably wouldn’t have been re-signed following this season anyway.  The Knicks now have only 4 players under contract for next season in Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Cleanthony early.

Just when you thought the 76ers knew how to tank, the Knicks are going to show them a thing or two.  Following last night’s loss, the Knicks have now lost 12 straight games, tying a franchise record.  The Knicks have the worst record in the league at 5-32, and there is no doubt they are en route to the #1 overall pick in the draft.  Now this may be wishful thinking, but I think Phil Jackson planned on tanking this season all along.  He obviously would never admit it, but I’d bet the polygraph would side with me on this one.  He traded Tyson Chandler just so he could rid himself of Raymond Felton’s contract, and last night he did the same with Shumpert and Smith.  He will certainly be waiving the three bench players he just acquired, so he doesn’t have to pay them.  And now he is left with a pile of cash in hand, and his reputation, in hopes to attract a group of free agents who will bring winning ways back to the Big Apple.

Do you still believe in Phil??  Or have you lost faith in the Zen Master??  Let me know in the comment section below.

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!