Monthly Archives: November 2010

The NFC Is Just As Good As The AFC

Matt Ryan and the Falcons might be the team to beat... in the NFL.

Maybe we should start rethinking this whole AFC is better than the NFC thing.

Think about it. A few weeks ago the top 5 on the NFL all hailed from the AFC. The Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Pats and Colts were all in our top 5 in some order with the Titans and Dolphins in the mix as well.

The Falcons, Packers and Bears were all after thoughts and the Giants, Eagles and Saints we we were iffy about. Now? Who wouldn’t take the Falcons and Bears over the Jets or Ravens?

After Sunday it’s become clear that the power in the NFL is just as big in the NFC as it is in the NFC. The Falcons sit atop the league at 9-2 in a loaded division with the Saints at 8-3 and the surprising, yet well playing, Buccaneers at 7-4 and they each play again in the last five weeks. With the Saints hard charging and the Bucs getting tougher with each week, the Falcons have no room to breathe easy.

However neither does the rest of the conference. With Matt Ryan behind center the Falcons have lost only one game at home in his two plus years in Atlanta… once. If the road to the Super Bowl does run through Atlanta then we should just pencil the Falcons in right now.

Problem is that they haven’t played the Bears and that rejuvenated defense that is playing like it’s 1986. Julius Peppers and company have a overshadowed a terrible offensive line that hasn’t gotten better. Yet it doesn’t matter. What they did to Mike Vick and the Eagles attack was mind bending. Four sacks, a pick that was Vick’s first all year and shutting down LeSean McCoy in a dominant performance that may finally have skeptics believing that the Bears are really good.

The Bears defense has turned them into a contender

Also, Jay Cutler is playing efficient, smart football… yeah, I just wrote that. He’s finally realizing that he doesn’t always have to go for home runs on every play. He threw for four touchdowns yesterday with no picks and no bad passes. His steady play gave Chicago’s defense room to be as aggressive as it was without having to worry about his mistake-prone ways.

They have a date at the end of the season with the Green Bay Packers who seem to have righted the ship after an early rough start due to a rash of injuries.

Aaron Rodgers is playing like the best QB in the league and that 3-4 defense les by Clay Matthews is looking like one of the league’s best heading into the home stretch.

The Packers hold pressing wins over Philadelphia and New York and go on the road to Boston to take on the Patriots in late November. Despite the loss on Sunday to Atlanta the Packers are still in great position to get a nber two seed in the NFC and a central division title.

The normally strong NFC East will come down to two enigmatic yet dangerous teams in The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.

The Eagles have looked in good in spurts, dominating Indianapolis, Atlanta and the Giants while looking terrible versus Tennessee, Chicago and Washington.

The offense has become the strong point of the team with the big play capabilities of Jeremy Maclin an DeSean Jackson and Mike Vick is an MVP front runner. The problem lies with their game to game consistency.

After destroying Washington on Monday night they almost let the Giants win a game that the Eagles should’ve won by 14 and then came the Chicago game where the Bears physically dominated them for four quarters and left the Eagles scratching their heads.

As good as they’ve been the Eagles need to put together consecutive good efforts if they want to go further than just a NFC East title.

Then there’s the 7-4 Giants who at one point were considered the best team in the NFC before injuries and the annual second half swoon kicked in. As good as they’ve looked the main issue for the Giants is turnovers… and lots if them.

They lead the league with 30 on he season which has overshadowed top 5 offensive and defensive units which have played outstanding throughout the season putting up points and getting to the quarterback (occasionally injuring them. They also lead the league with 5 injured QB’s at their hands.)

Unfortunaely that’s 7 well qualified teams for only 5 open spots (thank you pitiful NFC West). The race for the last two spots in the conference should be exciting as every team plays against each other in some fashion with Giants facing the Packers and Eagles, the Packers against the Bears and the Saints, Bucs and Falcons all with a game left against each other. It makes for some very exciting football down the stretch as the beat are goin against the best in the last 5 weeks.

Don’t sleep on the AFC however. This weekend the two main attractions in he league are on Sunday and Monday night as the Steelers go to Baltimore to face the Ravens and the Jets head to Gillette Stadium to play the Pats. Those two games should begin to decide the seeding in the AFC which seems to have its top 2 set with along the wildcard with the South and West a mess and seemingly non important.

However the rest of the season belongs to the NFC. The most intriguing and exciting teams and games will feature the conference that we all saw as an afterthought but might be the ultimate power in the league.

After ten weeks we thought we has the league all figured out. The AFC was the king and should’ve rolled to another Super Bowl victory. Then Tennessee fell off Baltimore, Jacksonville and the Jets fell to the best in the NFC in their stadiums and here we are wrong as ever. Hey it happens, I mean I did pick the Bengals to win the Super Bowl.

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The Sad And Painful Reality Of Boise State Football

Kellen Moore watches Boise go from National title contender, to just another small school.

I watched a dream die tonight. I watched a season of high expectations, hopes and dreams go up in flames due to what can only be described as $#!! happens.

I watched a program go from the penthouse to the outhouse, from destiny to the dirt roads. I watched a team who had dreams of being one of the greats and becoming a trendsetter for the next generation of college football turn into just another small conference team.

Yep… tonight I witnessed the final night of the movement that was the Boise State Broncos drive for national respect… and the way it ended is so gut-wrenching and cold that it makes me cringe with every tap of my keys.

First and foremost give credit to the Nevada Wolfpack; they won this game Boise State didn’t lose it. Nevada fought off a 24-7 deficit by bringing its vaunted running attack back from the dead with a 239 yard second half. Colin Kaepernick capped off a stellar career by leading his team back from the dead one last time on senior night in Reno and murdering Boise State’s BCS dreams.

Those dreams are the subject of debate that Boise will once again never have the chance of realizing.

Teams like the one that Boise fielded are once in a lifetime for mid-major programs. UNLV had it in 1990 with Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacy Augmon for the basketball program. Butler’s basketball program just had it with Gordon Haywood, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored, and Boise had it with a roster full of guys that will play on NFL Sundays from Titus Young to Austin Pettis and even D.J. Martin. They had Kellen Moore who if not for the amazing Cam Newton, would be a shoe in for the Heisman. They had Chris Petersen who is one of the top 5 coaches in America who turned this program into somewhat of a power.

Colin Kaepernick and Nevada won the game just as much as Boise lost it.

Yes they played in the WAC conference which is low on star power and good competition. The likes of San Jose State, Idaho and Wyoming don’t strike fear into anyone’s hearts. However, like most good teams they destroy lesser competition without a sweat leaving no room for error.

When they do get their shots at the big boys (which are few and far in between due to fear of losing to the Broncos) they have proven their worth. They swept a home and home versus Oregon, beat Oklahoma, physically dominated Virginia Tech 4 hours away from Blacksburg in a “Neutral Site” game and beating fellow BCS buster TCU in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

They have proven time and time again that they are not a mid-major program; rather they are a growing power akin to Gonzaga or the aforementioned Butler Bulldogs in college basketball. They belong in the conversation of the national title much like Oregon and Auburn and others though many people are still skeptical of their talent level and level of competition.

Then comes nights like tonight. Nights where Boise State is subject to the same kind of happenstance as other teams in other conferences but since they play in the WAC the microscope is so much brighter. Losing to Nevada, no matter the record, no matter the circumstance, no matter how underrated Kaepernick or Vai Tuau are unacceptable is unacceptable for the #4 ranked team in the country from a small conference who people are saying should play for a title. For Gordon Gee, Nick Saban and other detractors a loss like this proves their point, no matter how unfair it is, that Boise doesn’t belong with the big boys.

If #4 Ohio State or USC loses to #19 Michigan State or Arizona then it’s no big deal, it’s big time college football, $#!! Happens. However, in the life of the small budget BCS buster, $#!! happens isn’t a reality. $#!! can’t happen. You have to beat everyone no matter the competition and when you don’t, you’re just another little team from a little conference. That’s Boise State’s reality when they wake up tomorrow morning.

They are no longer darlings of the college football world. We know they can play with the best… but they lost to Nevada… Nevada. Within minutes of Kyle Brotzman becoming the new age Scott Norwood, the Broncos went from the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl or Fiesta Bowl to the Kraft Hunger Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl. They were somebody’s, now in an instant they’re that cute little team with that funny blue turf. Life on the D-list.

It was torture the way it happened too. Building a 24-7 lead in the fashion that won them 24 straight games with a quick strike offense and a defense that pushed around Nevada’s o-line. Then they stalled and Nevada came back to tie it up at 24-24. Then with the score 31-31 and overtime eminent, Moore had his Heisman moment; a 50 yard completion to Young who somehow got separation from the secondary and hauled in a prayer. It was over, 25 straight and a win over Utah State away from another BCS game. The Brotzman supplanted Steve Bartman as the biggest goat that sports has seen.

Kyle Brotzman... the new Scott Norwood.

He missed to chip shot field goals in the center of the field, wide left, wide right. Kellen Moore screamed in anguish as the second shot missed and Boise was on the ropes. Then Nevada’s walk-on kick Anthony Martinez did what Brotzman couldn’t, he ended the game by hitting a dead center 35 yarder… and ended the Boise State dream.

I have no ties to Boise, I just wanted the establishment of college football to be shaken, I wanted it to be blown up, and I wanted the little guy to prove that they belong just as much as the big boys and I was sure that this was the team to do it. they had it all, the QB, the coach, the players and the fear of every major conference foe… and in two seconds it was gone. Now Boise State is no better than Hawaii, SMU or… well… Nevada.

Sure TCU is still there, and they will be in a BCS game after they finish 12-0 this Saturday. However, if they play in the BCS title game it won’t feel the same. Boise was a dream team, the chosen team to upset the established order. They started with Oklahoma, progressed to another level by beating Virginia Tech and they were supposed to be the team that reached the mountain top of the BCS. Yet after Friday night in Reno reality sets back in as they get ready for the Aggies on Saturday next week. They’re just another team.

I know they’re better than LSU, Wisconsin, UCONN or any other major conference team that’ll play in a BCS game. They showed what they can do on the national stage. But they lost to Nevada in a cold night in little Reno, Nevada. That’s all that matters. Not that Nevada is 11-1, not that they have the most potent rushing offense in the league, but because they’re Nevada. You don’t lose to Nevada if you beat Virginia Tech and Oregon. That’s the way it is, and that’s why Boise State is once again just another mid-major.


Gee Gets It Wrong With TCU and Boise

President Gee's comments have sparked another BCS controversy

Going to Ohio State University in the last few years I’ve developed a little bit of an affinity for our school President E. Gordon Gee.

The little man with the bowtie, coke bottle glasses and satellite ears is 76 years old going on 23 it seems. When he comes to any event on campus it’s like that scene from Goodfellas when Robert De Niro’s character Jimmy Conway walked into that gambling hall with a young Henry Hill fetching him seven and seven’s, everyone goes nuts.

Kids stop partying and dancing to run over to him and shake his hand or take a picture or tell him they love him. He’s the biggest rock star on campus and we all admire him. I’ve even had the pleasure of waiting on him a few times at the restaurants I’ve worked at in Columbus and to watch even older people break their strides to talk the guy’s ear off while he’s eating a fish sandwich is hilarious.

He deserves it though. The guy runs a great university with great programs and one hell of an athletic department that features a perennial top ten program that fills up a 100,000 seat stadium every week. That program brings in a ton of revenue from its dealings with the Big Ten Network as well, which is one of the nation’s top three conferences with marquee matchups every week that catch the eye of the viewer.

So by being in an elite program in the Big Ten, as well as serving as President at Vanderbilt in the SEC, Gee decided to let his opinion be known about the possibility of an undefeated TCU or Boise State playing for the national title. Let’s just say the folks down in Dallas or Boise won’t be rushing to shake the man’s hand anytime soon.

Gee said that he doesn’t believe the Frogs or Broncos should play in the BCS title game because they lack the elite schedule and competitive balance that an Ohio State has to become a title contender.

He feels that since the Buckeyes don’t play “little sisters of the poor” as he so eloquently put it, like the Frogs or Broncos (OOOOOHHH SNAP!), that schools such as his and the other elite programs in the country regularly have the edge when it comes to having an inside track on the national title game.

Pretty much all Gee did was something that every BCS conference coach and president wanted to say about the little guys from the little conferences that are getting all of the attention. They don’t want the little guys to take the spotlight from the 80,000 seat stadiums with the million dollar facilities that teams like OSU and Oklahoma, and more importantly take their money. The BCS games hand out 18 million dollars to each participant who adds little more to the pot for spending on their facilities and coaches and bowties.

What Gee forgets to think about and mention is this… if everyone doesn’t think that TCU and Boise State play tough enough non-conference schedules and that they should schedule tougher competition… then why not play them? Oh wait, because everyone is scared too, including Ohio State.

Virginia Tech brought Boise east and couldn't keep up.

Boise and TCU can’t get a fair shake at playing a better non-conference schedule because every time they try to play someone in a neutral site game every big school says no unless it’s at their house. TCU and Boise were only able to get Oregon State to come to their houses this year and look what happened, they got beat up. Then there was the Virginia Tech game for Boise which was technically a neutral site in Washington D.C…. that was 2 hours from Tech’s campus, and a ten hour flight from Boise.

But the result is what scares teams. Boise flew half way across the country and beat up the Hokies and won the game late 33-30. The first half was all Boise in every aspect of the game. Games like that one, the TCU upset of Oklahoma at Norman three years ago and Utah’s thrashing of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl are the dirty little secret that the big boys are scared to talk about when they criticize the schedules of the smaller schools. Deep down they know that these schools on any given day have just as much talent, just as good a coaching and can beat the Texas’s, Alabama’s and others in an instant.

That’s why you’ll never see Boise versus Ohio State in Cincinnati, because the Buckeyes don’t want a loss on national TV to a small program like Boise even if it is in their own backyard.

Another point… has Mr. Gee seen Ohio State’s non-conference schedule lately?

They never left Columbus this year to face mighty Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan. Oooohhh!!!

It’s not just the Buckeyes either. No.2 Auburn had hard fought matchups against Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Chattanooga, no.7 Stanford scheduled powerhouses Sacramento State and Wake Forest and no.1 Oregon squeaked by New Mexico and Portland State by a combined 141-0. By the way all of these games were at home.

Then when the so-called elite played neutral site games or road games against competition that couldn’t touch the Frogs or Broncos on the field, look what happened. Oklahoma almost to a rebuilding Cincinnati team at Paul Brown Stadium, LSU barely escaped North Carolina and even Iowa got blitzed by an upstart Arizona. So just imagine if any of those teams dared to face TCU or Boise on a neutral field… trouble, trouble, trouble.

What Gee doesn’t understand is that the big boys schedule worse competition than Boise plays on a weekly basis in the WAC. I mean can Minnesota beat Fresno State or Nevada? Because Illinois or Wisconsin couldn’t, I don’t think Mississippi State could go to Salt Lake City and come out with a win, and you know how pitiful the Pac-10 is against the Mountain West. So if San Jose State and Hawaii are the little sisters of the poor then what do we call Indiana, Vanderbilt and Kansas? Distant cousins?

As much as I love Gordon Gee the person, I think the president misspoke about the level of competition at TCU and at Boise State. I’ve watched the Buckeyes, Horned Frogs and Broncos if the Buckeyes got to play these guys in the Rose Bowl or wherever, it wouldn’t be a good outcome for the Bucks.

Boise’s speed and quickness with Kellen Moore’s precision passing would eat up the Ohio State secondary, and TCU’s defense would eat up OSU’s running game and force Terrelle Pryor to win the game for the Bucks.

(By the way: if we had a quiz of quarterbacks and I gave you no names just a description of play who would you choose? The QB with only 6 interceptions in the last two seasons that is a precise passer who makes few mistakes, the Nation’s leading QB in wins in the last four years with 40 wins to 4 losses, or the 6 foot 6 QB with great skill but who routinely makes mistakes and wilts under pressure? Now guess the QB and the school that they play at. Here’s a hint: the first two play for Boise and TCU.)

You understand where Gee comes from in a business sense, but on the field it makes no sense. TCU and Boise deserve just as much of a shot as Ohio State, Auburn or Oregon at playing for the national title. If you complain about who they play, man up and knock them down it’s that simple. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes they don’t have room for the Broncos pr the Horned Frogs, they have big time matchups versus Akron, Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Colorado and UAB all at home in the next two years. I guess the little sisters of the poor weren’t available.

 


NFL Trending Topics

Surprised the Giants are struggling in the second half? Don't be.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good trend?

I mean we as a society thrive on finding and wearing out trends. From fashion to music to movies, trends are what intrigue us, befuddle us and make us shake our heads.

The NFL is no different.

Trends in the NFL make us laugh and cry, heck even a little bit of both. After this weekend you saw some of the most entertaining, if not confusing,  trends emerge once again.

Trend 1: The New York Giants are a poor second half team.

It’s always funny when every year the Giants get off to great starts and all of my friends and outsiders say the exact same thing, “Boy those Giants look real good. They might be the beat team in the league.” See, I know better.

I know that the proper way to gauge the New York Giants is after week 9. Once the second half hits then you can tell me how great the Giants are… which never happens because the Giants are as good a second half team as the Miami Heat are a complete team.

Under Tom Coughlin the Giants are 18 games over .500 in the first half of their season and 10 games under in the second half. Last year they went 2-6, in 08 they were 4-4, the year before 1-7. For some reason the Giants start hibernating once November rolls around and it’s been going on four six years. If you watched the last two games there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue.

After an atrocious game against Dallas, the Giants played the sloppiest football I’ve seen in a long time (and yes I factored in the Kerry Collins and Tiki Barber years). The five turnovers against the Eagles prevented them from winning a game that their defense kept them in for the most part.

You would think that with his team leading the league in turnovers that Tom Coughlin would make his team run laps or fine them OR SOMETHING!! Then again it is the second half and maybe he’s encouraging the Giants sloppy play to make me look like a genius in this post.

Thanks Tom. P.S. Your grace period from winning the Super Bowl is up. Go fix the turnover problem and your second half record or get gone.

Trend no. 2: The San Diego Chargers always finish strong no matter how poor they start.

Just when Chargers fans thought that this might finally be the demise of Norv Turner they forgot that his team for some reason can’t lose in the last six weeks of the season. Even with guys named Seyi Ajirotutu as their number one receiver and a fullback named Mike Tolbert as their most effective running back.

Philip Rivers is leading another second half push by the Chargers.

It frustrates you an fascinates as well that a team has so much talent and starts so poorly every year then some how just goes bonkers once their staring at their playoff doom.

Where were games like Monday nights thrashing of the Denver Broncos against the Oakland Raiders? Where was Philip Rivers precision and poise versus Seattle earlier in the year? Why do they only play with a purpose with their backs against the wall?

Who knows. What we do know is that Kansas City’s hold of the AFC West is on dialysis with the Chargers surging.

(side note: there’s been talk about Rivers for MVP because of his Madden-like stats. While some say Peyton Mannin has done better with less I beg to differ. Rivers has always had less talent on the outside as compared to Manning. Manning has had Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark in his arsenal while you could say the Rivers only viable weapon has been Antonio Gates. Rivers made Vincent Jackson a number one receiver when no one heard of him and has made Malcolm Floyd a valuable two and works Tolbert and Seyi into the fold very well. I would say if you’re voting right now for MVP I would place Rivers ahead of Manning for those reasons and because his team is surging whole the Colts are fading. There I just gave Phil some love. Now watch him scream at his linemen, act immature and curse out the opposing QB next week. Gotta love it.)

Trend no. 3: The battle for Tennessee starring Vince Young and Jeff Fisher.

Before we begin… WHY THE HELL DOES JEFF FISHER LOVE KERRY COLLINS?!?!?! THE GUY IS A MEDIOCRE QUARTERBACK THAT KILLED THE GIANTS IN SUPER BOWL 35!!!! HE’S TURNOVER PRONE AND CAN’T BE TRUSTED LATE IN GAMES AT ALL!!!

Who wrote that last paragraph, a. me or b. Vince Young? I wouldn’t be shocked if Vince thought it at one point.

This is the longest running drama in the NFL. Fisher never wanted Young, owner Bud Adams loves him, Young can’t ever grow up but wins games, Kerry Collins always finds his way back into Fisher’s life, and Chris Johnson is the misused kid stuck in his parents bad relationship… ok I made that part up… maybe.

The fact that Sunday’s occurrence took place is shocking and upsetting. For Young I don’t care how much Fisher ticks you off you cannot throw tour pads in a crowd, curse out your coach and storm off without speaking to reporters. Vince’s public showings of immaturity have been one too many and this latest one should have him walking the plank seeing as how his contract is up at seasons end. He’s had far too many chances to be continuously screwing up on or off the field.

Meanwhile how much longer can Fisher stay employed with his constant lack of trust in Young which belittles not only the quarterback but team chemistry. Young is 30-17 as a starter and saved Fisher’s job last season after an abysmal start to the season. If you need anymore reason to keep Young in as your QB then I can’t help you.

Fisher never talked to Young about the injury at all even though we saw Young trying out a glove so he could get back in the game Fisher inserted rookie Rusty Smith at QB Young’s day was done. With Young’s season also over and the Titans season fading at 5-5 this might be the complete end of the saga with Young gone as well as Fisher.

(side note 2: do you think Randy Moss wishes he kept his mouth shut in New England? He went from a stable situation in Boston to dysfunction in Minnesota and Tennessee. He could be on an 8-2 team vying to get back to the Super Bowl instead of twirling in the wind in Nashville. Oh wait thats trend number 4, Randy Moss ruining what’s been good for Randy Moss. Fail.)

Trend no. 5: Tom Brady owning Peyton Manning.

NFL.com had it’s top 100 players of all time released a while ago, Peyton Manning was ranked 8th while Brady was 21st… um… huh?

Tom Brady has more rings than Manning (3-1) and owns their rivalry 6-3. Brady and the Pats dominance of Manning and the Colts spawned a dynasty and made Brady the QB of the 2000’s. Take yesterday for example.

Brady played mistake free football incorporating Deion Branch back into the pass game like he never left, mixed the run with the pass and didn’t give his defense a reason to press.

Manning on the other hand through three horrible picks including one to end the game when the Colts were in field goal range to send the game into OT. He put his defense behind the 8-ball early, didn’t hand off to Donald Brown, who at time shredded the Pats D and didn’t make smart throws.

It showed the disparity on both quarterbacks and teams as Brady should now be considered the favorite for MVP and the Pats as Super Bowl favorites while the Colts will most certainly have issues holding off a suddenly hot Jacksonville team.

However none of this should shock you, it’s been happening for years. These trends have been tested and proven to be true. It’s easy as 1-2-3. Or easy as knowing the Jets love playing close games against teams they should destroy.


Raising Questions For Manager Of The Year

Ron Washington lost out on AL manager of the year without a peep from the media.

I’m about to do something I never do because of the sheer audacity and ridiculousness of the people that do this… I’m about to play the race card.

Seriously I hate doing this. So often we as African-Americans play the race card for minor instances and for reasons that make no sense. Recently in Washington the race card was played over the Donovan McNabb benching. That wasn’t a race issue, it was a stupidity issue (hi Mike Shanahan).

The issue I’m talking about took place this week during baseball’s award presentations, in particular the manager of the year awards. While Bud Black and Ron Gardenhire were both worthy of manager of the year awards they should’ve gone to Dusty Baker of the Reds and Ron Washington of the AL Champion Rangers.

Dusty Baker molded a young Reds team to a division title, but came up short in NL manager of the year votes.

Baker took a Reds team that hadn’t been to the playoffs in 15 years back to the postseason as champion of the NL Central division which they have been an afterthought in for the better part of this century. He’s molded a young Reds team into what may become a championship contender in a year or two thanks to a great rotation and young everyday players like Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.

The same goes for Washington. Washington took the perennial underachieving Rangers to the World Series riding a team of little known players, a talented but troubled center fielder who might be MVP, and one of baseballs best starters as well as a great mix of young arms like C.J. Wilson and Neftali Perez. Washington’s  trust in his starters and perfect use of his bullpen are what helped guide the Rangers to upsets of the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.

So how do these guys finish second in manager of the year when they have had the harder jobs of the four managers and their teams actually made noise in the playoffs while Gardenhire’s Twins folded (again) to the Yankees and Black’s Padres tanked at seasons end.

They’re the managers of the two front-runners for MVP in their respective leagues, Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton. They’ve completely turned around two perennial doormats and have their teams primed for similar runs next year (in Texas’s case if Cliff Lee comes back). Yet for some reason voters still couldn’t find meaning in making them managers of the year when they clearly did better jobs than both Black and Gardenhire.

No disrespect to either of them, I’m not disrespecting them for their wins, which are rightfully deserved especially Black for making San Diego competitive. I just have a hard time gripping why both Baker and Washington were so undervalued for the jobs they did.

For all the outrage of Derek Jeter’s gold glove and the sabermetrics junk that’s behind it, not a single writer has questioned why Baker and Washington received the few votes they did in the Manager of the year races. It’s as if it’s just an afterthought that two men of color were possibly undervalued for their position even though their body of work was better than the actual winners.

Maybe I’m wrong in my assertion but to me it’s clear as day. Baker won his division, Black didn’t. Washington guided his team to the World Series, Gardenhire rode a great regular season and absolutely tanked in the postseason. I see who the winners should be but that’s my opinion.

I just wish someone else would say something. It’s odd that there is more outrage for a shortstop winning a gold glove because numbers say that his range is nothing like the other competition at his position even though he led the league in fielding percentage and had the fewest errors at his position. Yet no one finds anything wrong with two managers of color who did great things with their talent being so far behind in voters as compared to the winners who were white.

Outrage indeed. I never do this but somebody had to say something about it.


Vick For MVP

So, Peyton Manning is having a good season, Matt Ryan is having an MVP caliber year, Tom Brady, Arian Foster (until yesterday), Clay Matthews and even Hakeem Nicks. They could all be seen as possible MVP candidates and all deservingly so… but the award is Mike Vick’s to lose. Without question.

Honestly, who else has had an impact on their team the way that Vick has had? Without him the Eagles are probably 4-5, maybe 5-4. The offense wouldn’t be as potent… scratch that, dominant.

MVP? You're looking at him.

The air around the team wouldn’t be the same. There wouldn’t be that spring in DeSean Jackson’s step or in LeSean McCoy’s. There wouldn’t be the same connection with Jeremy Maclin. There wouldn’t be an assurance to the defense (which isn’t Philly’s beat in years) that they could play more aggressive because they have an offense that can score on anyone at anytime.

What Mike Vick has done is what he was always expected to do; elevate a team to the next level and make it look easy. He’s always had the speed when flushed out of the pocket and the arm to fire a bullet for a huge game. Now however he is becoming a more complete quarterback as accuracy has been a much needed addition to his passing game. Vick not only can fit the ball into small windows, but he knows when to check down to McCoy, he puts the ball on the money to his tight end Brent Celek and Jason Avant, and when need be he can gun the ball downfield with ease to a streaking Jackson.

Vick is now more than just an athletic playmaking quarterback, instead he is now just a quarterback. You can trust him just as much with his arm as you can with his feet. However those feet are still one he’ll of an asset.

Against the Redskins Vick used his feet to run circles around the defense and scampered in for two scores to go along with his four TD tosses. With Vick behind center it has helped hide Philadelphia’s poor pass protection as defenses can’t keep up with Vick once he exists the pocket.

So how does this make Vick MVP? I mean he did miss a few games and Kevin Kolb was effective in his place. However, you can’t compare what Vick has done to other players. Vick has made the Eagles a contender all by himself. The Packers were expected to be good even with Matthews’s huge season. With Brady and Manning you expect the Pats and Colts to contend year in and year out. Vick was a wild card that has turned into a trump card. He’s putting up college football numbers in the NFL. Cam Newton eat your heart out.

(speaking of which my buddy Will sent me a text. He says that Vick just helped Newton and Terrelle Pryor’s draft status a lot with what he did tonight. That might be true because Newton to me matches Vick from the same athletic standpoint. Pryor in my opinion still has the opportunity to become a really good small forward in the NBA.)

So up next are the New York Giants a defense that has had success against Vick when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. Yet that was the old Vick, the one who thought his athletic ability would help him get by.

This Vick is much different. His game has evolved and he ha gotten better. He’s as good with his arms as he is with his legs. So things might be a little different this time around.

Just watch and see for yourself. Vick isn’t back, he’s just better. How much better? Better enough to be the NFL MVP. No doubt about it.


The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (NCAA Basketball Preview)

The Dukies look to go back-to-back for a second time.

In all of my madness and melancholy of covering football from college to the NFL I almost forgot what time of year it was… THE START OF THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON!!!

It happened last night as I was watching the Bengals season go down in flames (still can’t believe I picked them to win it all), I look over and what do I see? Number 4 ranked Pittsburgh taking on Rhode Island. Hmm, I love the excitement of the crowds, the college kids from the Oakland Zoo to the Little Apple to The Kennel all going crazy with the prospectus of their team somehow going for the glory come March.

You see college basketball trumps the NBA to me in so many ways; 1. The atmosphere, there are no places in the NBA like Cameron Indoor Stadium, Rupp Arena or Hinkle Field house. The crowds are right on top of you and the energy is surreal. Even when watching it on TV at half volume you can feel buzz, the stadium shaking, and the kids going bonkers. Maybe Madison Square Garden and maybe Arco Arena do that in the NBA and that’s it.

2. The rivalries. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kansas-K-State, Syracuse-UCONN or Duke-Maryland, every time interstate enemies or inter-conference rivals go at it its must see TV. Last year I watched Memphis play Tennessee in a down year for both programs and t didn’t matter. The game was still full of energy and passion and don’t turn your head away action that made for an awesome night especially when you’re procrastinating as to stall yourself from studying for a meaningless exam. Not that I ever did that in college.

Kansas- K-State. One of the many rivalries that make college basketball so awesome.

(speaking of which, the greatest sporting event from my college years had to be the 6 overtime marathon between the Cuse and UCONN about 20 months ago. I was struggling through that quarter of school badly, I’m talking Carolina Panthers quarterback situation badly, and I absolutely needed to focus on getting at least a 2.0 that quarter and it was finals week. So what did I do instead of study for an Italian final or write my medieval poetry final paper, I watched Jonny Flynn, A.J. Price and a cast of thousands go hard for nearly 4 hours of grueling basketball that left my roommate Ian wanting to kill me for yelling so loud at 1230am and had me up until 4am watching highlights and trying to figure out what the hell just happened. That one game is the reason you watch college basketball, because the unexpected is always bound to happen. You never know when the next ESPN Classic moment will happen. Side note: I did pass all of my finals that quarter but it wasn’t pretty. I blame the referee for blowing the Eric Devendorf call on the three that was clearly good before the buzzer and the fact that St. Patrick’s Day fell during finals week.)

3. The fact that college basketball is changing. The elite programs are still there… sort of. Last year UCLA, Arizona, UCONN and North Carolina DID NOT MAKE THE TOURNAMENT. Yeah you read that properly, four of college basketball’s best programs didn’t even sniff the tournament. There was a point in the tourney where we were looking at a final four that could’ve consisted of Northern Iowa, Butler, Xavier (hi Sean Miller) and Baylor. Yeah that’s where we are at. Granted UNC won it all in 2009 and Duke took home the crown last year, but the game itself is no longer the top heavy huge program dominated juggernaut it has been for the last 20 years.

The top 3 teams expected to make a run at the crown for this year are Duke, Michigan State and… KANSAS STATE! Yes the same Kansas State who you couldn’t name one single player from their roster for a 20 year period. The same Kansas State who wasn’t even a factor in the BIG 12 until Bob Huggins convinced a guy named Michael Beasley to come to Manhattan, Kansas three years ago and then left before Beasley arrived. The same Kansas State that was Kansas’s whipping post for every season that I’ve been alive and they are now viewed as the best team in Kansas. Time’s they are a changing.

What Frank Martin has done at K-State is amazing, he got great results from Beasley and Bill Walker and he is now able to bring in excellent recruits to Manhattan and leave the folks in Lawrence feeling a little salty. Led by Jacob Pullen and his beard and guys like Wally Judge and Curtis Kelly, the Wildcats have what it takes to overpower the Jayhawks and get to the Final 4. Yep, Kansas State, believe it.

Then of course there is last year’s darling the Butler Bulldogs who were two inches away from pulling off one of the greatest upsets sports has ever seen against Duke in the title game. The Dogs proved that they belong in the hunt for the crown for a long time to come with a run that stunned everyone in the sport that included wins over K-State, Syracuse and Michigan State. They return with no Gordon Haywood but pretty much same team from Ronald Nored and his tough defense and Matt Howard and his inside post game. They have replaced Gonzaga as the best little guy in the game and will be a tough draw in the tourney for anyone.

(With that said Gonzaga is ranked higher and with Robert Sacre at center they still aren’t a team to be messed with. Also the recruiting class they have for 2011 is stupid silly good. You think Mark Few is happy he stayed at Gonzaga instead of take the Kentucky job a few years ago? Yeah, me too.)

So what about the big dogs? Oh they’re just fine thank you. Ohio State behind one of the silliest recruiting classes including Jared Sullinger since the “Thad 5” is primed to go toe-to-toe with Sparty for the Big 10 and the national title. They have a date in November with SEC rival Florida which finally seems to have shaken the title hangover of a few years ago and are expected to rule the SEC this year behind do it all forward Chandler Parsons. They still have Kentucky hanging around in the background however. Yes they lost John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe and Enes Kanter is still awaiting eligibility pending an NCAA investigation (hmmm, another investigation involving John Calipari? No way), however they get another top flight point guard for John Calipari to groom in Brandon Knight and swingman Terrance Jones from Oregon. They’re young again but if anyone knows how to get the best out of a young squad then its John Calipari.

Now I know what you’re wondering, Kevin, you haven’t even begun to wax poetic over the Mighty Big East yet. You know the conference you love so much that you’re willing to through any other program under the bus when playing them. You know the conference that you think is so much better than everyone else but last year underachieved in mostly every big out of conference matchup. Yeah yeah yeah I know. I know they struggled last year with off years by UCONN, Georgetown and Louisville and honestly past Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh every team is the same. G’Town, Marquette and Seton Hall all have shots to make an impact behind guys like Austin Freeman, Jeremy Hazell and others and Steve Lavin may finally bring St. John’s back to where it belongs in the picture of college basketball. Yet I’m not sold that the conference is better than the Big 10 who have 3 teams who could make a Final 4 run including Purdue who I think is getting undervalued because of the loss of Robbie Hummel. In the Big East I think only Syracuse and maybe Pitt has a shot at the Final 4. However, even though it might be a down year for the conference the games will still be a blast to watch.

Something about the words Melo and Syracuse just sounds good together.

(Side note: I really like this Syracuse team. They are deeper than last year’s squad and they have a guy in the middle that will be a huge problem for everyone in the future, Fab Melo. Hmmm, an impact freshman in Syracuse named Melo? Smiley face.)

However with all of that said, from the little guys to the big ones, from the “Thad 5” part two to the beard, from Indianapolis to Spokane the two teams to beat come from tobacco road and (ugh) the ACC, Duke and UNC.

Duke brings back everyone from last year’s team including the soon to be player of the year Kyle Singler and they get Kyrie Irving, a lightning quick guard, and Seth Curry, yep there’s another one of them running around. Plus the Plumlee twins return to roam the middle with their size and athleticism which is going to be a problem for anyone to handle.

As for UNC you knew that last year’s flame out was only an aberration. Roy Williams returns with a team that has a year of experience under its wing, a healthy Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes one of the most talked about freshmen in the nation. Barnes as well as Reggie Bullock should help shoulder the load left by Ed Davis and the Wear twins who transferred to Stanford.

Both Duke and UNC should have little trouble running the ACC with one exception, Maryland might be back. Gary Williams has escaped the firing that seemed eminent years ago and has his best team since the Steve Blake, Juan Dixon days.  Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams provide a great in and out game and Mychal Parker and Pe’Shon Howard will provide some pop off of the bench.  If he can find the right rotation for this team then it should be happy times in Gary-land for the Terps.

With all of this said who should be playing in the Final 4 come March? How about Duke, Ohio State, K-State and Syracuse with Ohio State winning it all. No it’s not a cop out because I went to OSU it’s because OSU has the best mix of under classmen and youth of any team in the nation. David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and Willie Buford all return to blend with the aforementioned Sullinger, Jordan Siebert and Deshaun Thomas. I think Michigan State is a tad overrated with no Kalin Lucas and the Buckeyes should steamroll through the tough Big 10 behind their talent level and Thad Motta’s defensive scheme.

So there you go, even in the changing landscape of college basketball where the little guys are getting bigger, the top dogs still reign supreme. However, don’t be surprised if everything I said gets blown to smithereens and the landscape changes again. That’s the beauty of the college game, and I’m so happy that it’s back.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR- KYLE SINGLER

BIG EAST WINNER-SYRACUSE (SLEEPER: VILLANOVA)

ACC- DUKE (MARYLAND)

BIG 12- KANSAS STATE (TEXAS)

BIG 10- OHIO STATE (ILLINOIS)

PAC 10- WASHINGTON (ARIZONA)

SEC- FLORIDA (TENNESSEE)

THE NEXT BUTLER- San Diego STATE

ATLANTIC 10- XAVIER (mark my words; you will take the A-10 seriously again. The league is too good to be considered a mid-major)