Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week 2 NFL Preview

The NFL season got off to a great start last week. There were some surprisingly close games as some teams looked better than we thought and some teams looked worse than we thought. The injury bug also bit particularly hard in week 1. Bears LB Brian Urlacher was lost for the season, Steelers S Troy Polamalu will be out 3-6 weeks with an MCL sprain, and Patriots LB Jerod Mayo will be out 6-8 weeks with the same injury. Will other star players go down to injury and will some of the trends we saw in week 1 continue into week 2? Let’s take a preview of all the NFL action and see:

Ravens (1-0) vs. Chargers (1-0) – This game has the potential to be extremely good and it will be a tough test for both teams. The Ravens looked pretty good in their opening week win over the Chiefs, but it was not a perfect performance. The Ravens did allow 24 points on defense to a 2nd string quarterback, but 14 of those points did come off of a punt block and a very short drive after a long interception return. I think it was a better performance than the scoreboard indicated, but there is room for improvement. QB Joe Flacco looked tremendous on Sunday as he had his first ever 300-yard passing game and 3 TD performance. Without question, Flacco looked more mature and in much greater control of the offense. Baltimore has now shown the ability to score through the air, not just on the ground.

To be successful against San Diego though, they will need good balance. The Chargers’ defense is very solid and the Ravens will have to mix it up. RB Ray Rice will need to have a good game and Flacco will have to continue to make good decisions and get all of his receivers involved. This becomes critical considering that the Ravens are on the road and making a cross country trip. For the Chargers, they will need to have a better performance than they did against Oakland. The Chargers are lucky to have escaped with a win and they were not playing their best. They allowed the Raiders to dominate the line of scrimmage and Oakland was able to move the ball on the ground. The Ravens will try to do the same with Rice in this game and he needs to be effective. The Chargers are dealing with injuries along the offensive line after week 1 and RB LaDainian Tomlinson is also fighting an ankle injury that could limit him in this game.

This should be a great game and based on the week 1 performances, I think I give the edge to the Ravens. The game against the Chiefs was closer than it should have been, but Baltimore looked in control for the most part. In the Chargers’ case, Oakland seemed to have more control of the game. The injuries on the offensive line could allow the Ravens to have a better chance at stopping LT and RB Darren Sproles and also allow them to get more pressure on QB Philip Rivers. If the Ravens can bring a similar offensive performance from last week to San Diego, I think they should be able to sneak out with a close win. I might have a little bit of a “homer” bias in this one, but what the hell.
*Note: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson has officially been scratched for the game with a sprained ankle. While I do not think that this will devastate San Diego, it obviously does not help them and it gives another small edge to the Ravens.
Prediction: Ravens

Falcons (1-0) vs. Panthers (0-1) – This will be a huge matchup this week for both teams and the Falcons have a chance to get a quick 2 game lead over Carolina right off the bat. It would seem Atlanta is on pace to do that after the horrible start to the season for QB Jake Delhomme. Including last year’s playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Delhomme has turned the ball over 11 times in his past 2 games. He looks extremely shaky and lacking in confidence. Coach John Fox has said that Delhomme’s role with the team is “unchanged” and he will remain the starter. The only way Carolina stands a chance is if Delhomme brings better play to the field on Sunday. The Carolina defense was shredded by the Eagles and it will not get much easier as they go on the road to Atlanta. The Falcons will have the advantage in the dome and QB Matt Ryan continues to improve. He already looks like he has great chemistry with TE Tony Gonzalez and is in better control of the offense in his 2nd year, just like Joe Flacco with the Ravens. RB Michael Turner had a subpar game against Miami, so he will be looking to bounce back in this one. Atlanta played a good defensive game against the Dolphins at home last week, and if they bring a similar effort this week, I don’t see how they lose. The turmoil in Carolina just does not lead me to think an upset will happen in this game. I’m taking the Falcons at home.
Prediction: Falcons

Vikings (1-0) vs. Lions (0-1) – I’m not sure that much analysis is needed on this one. Detroit lost their 18th straight game last week and it looks like it will move to 19 after this one. The Vikings are coming off of a solid week 1 performance, beating the Browns in Cleveland 34-20. Minnesota followed a winning formula that will most likely take them far this year. QB Brett Favre effectively managed the game and did not turn the ball over and he just let RB Adrian Peterson run wild. Peterson ran for 180 yards and 3 TDs in the win. The Vikings’ defense also did its job and pretty much shut down the Browns. If Minnesota continues to do this, they will rack up a lot of wins. The Lions had their moments last week, but once again they were soundly beaten. Saints QB Drew Brees lit up the Detroit defense for 6 TD passes in the Saints’ 45-27 win. Things will not get much easier for the Lions with Favre and Peterson coming to town. Lions QB Matthew Stafford did not look that good as he completed less than 50% of his passes and threw 3 interceptions. As I have been saying all along, I believe QB Daunte Culpepper gives the Lions a better chance to get a win in the first half of the season. Detroit will continue to suffer through Stafford’s growing pains and even at home, I see another loss for the Lions.
Prediction: Vikings

Packers (1-0) vs. Bengals (0-1) – This game should not be that much of a contest based on the performances we saw on Sunday. The Bengals looked horrible against the Broncos, even though it took a last-minute freak play for Cincy to lose. With QB Carson Palmer coming back healthy from injury, the Bengals were only able to find the end zone one time and it took them the entire game to get there. The Broncos’ defense is not as good as it used to be, so it is safe to say that the Bengals just flat out struggled. Their defense played well, but you have to consider that Broncos QB Kyle Orton was fighting a dislocated finger and could not throw the ball that effectively. The talk of Cincinnati possibly making a run at the playoffs seems very premature. The Packers on the other hand had a pretty impressive performance against the Bears on Sunday night. It wasn’t pretty, but NFC North rivalry games really aren’t supposed to be. QB Aaron Rodgers did what he had to do and looked good in leading the Packers to a game winning TD drive. The Packers’ defense was very good and they shut down Jay Cutler and forced him into 4 interceptions. The Pack always have a great home field advantage at Lambeau Field and I see nothing that tells me the Bengals will come close to pulling off an upset.
Prediction: Packers

Titans (0-1) vs. Texans (0-1) – Both of these teams are coming off of disappointing opening games, but for different reasons. The Texans were flat out embarrassed at home in losing to the New York Jets and rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Once again, the defense was not that strong and Sanchez did not come close to looking like a rookie last week, which is not a good thing if you are Houston. The Texans’ offense also did not show up on Sunday as they were dominated by the Jets and they had trouble even crossing midfield. The offense is supposed to be explosive and help carry Houston this season, but that was not the case in week 1. Now Houston has to travel to Tennessee to play an even better defensive unit. The Titans came close, but disappointingly lost at Pittsburgh in overtime. They did put in a strong effort, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and they deserved to win the game. They have had extra time to rest and prepare for this game, and I would expect them to win handily. Houston did beat Tennessee 13-12 late last year in Houston, but the Titans spanked them 31-12 last year in Tennessee. The Titans just look so much better and I would expect a score closer to what happened in Tennessee last season.
Prediction: Titans

Chiefs (0-1) vs. Raiders (0-1) – Before last Sunday, you would have thought this game would be a total stinker. But after the surprisingly strong efforts from both Kansas City and Oakland, this game could actually not be so bad. The Chiefs hung tough against the Ravens and amazingly had a chance to win the game. Their defense was not great though as the Ravens and QB Joe Flacco ripped them up pretty good. Backup QB Brodie Croyle was able to find some success against Baltimore’s defense, but it was not that good of a performance. The Raiders gave the Chargers all they could handle and actually outplayed San Diego for much of the game. They could not seal the deal however as QB Philip Rivers drove the Chargers to a game-winning TD late in the game. The Raiders did show an ability to run the ball and the offensive line looked good. QB JaMarcus Russell is still slowly developing, but is not at an elite level yet. This game has the look of a back and forth contest that will go down to the wire. Overall, I thought that the Raiders looked a little better than the Chiefs. Richard Seymour came in and had an immediate impact on defense for the Raiders and they look like they could have greater success in shutting down the Chiefs. If QB Matt Cassel is able to play though, that could swing things in Kansas City’s favor. Oakland did actually win at Kansas City last year, so they know what it takes. I will give the slight edge to Oakland in this game even on the road. They looked better in week 1 and Cassel could be a little rusty even if he plays.
Prediction: Raiders

Patriots (1-0) vs. Jets (1-0) – The AFC East schedule gets underway with a very intriguing game between the Patriots and Jets. You would think that the Patriots would have an easy advantage in this one, but New England’s less than impressive performance on Monday night has thrown some doubt into this game. The Patriots’ defense showed some holes against the Bills and suddenly it looked like the Richard Seymour trade might not have been the smartest move. The Patriots also lost LB Jerod Mayo to injury, so the task of rookie QB Mark Sanchez to put up points might not be as hard as it seems. I would have to think though that Bill Belichick would be able to come up with some schemes to make things hard on Sanchez. QB Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense looked sluggish on Monday night, but they eventually got things going late in the 4th quarter when it mattered. Rex Ryan will give New England hell on defense, but I would think that Brady, Moss and company will be motivated to put in a better performance this week. I think they will also be driven by all the trash talking New York has been trying to do this week. Jets free safety Kerry Rhodes claims they want to “embarrass” the Patriots this week. That is easier said than done my friend. With the Patriots being on the road, this could be a very close game and I do think the Jets have a shot at an upset. But I do not feel inclined to take a gamble on a rookie quarterback in this one and I think the Patriots find a way to win again.
Prediction: Patriots

Eagles (1-0) vs. Saints (1-0) – Due to the murky situation with QB Donovan McNabb and his injured ribs, this game could turn out to be the most intriguing of the entire week. McNabb did not practice on Wednesday, but coach Andy Reid said that he was “progressing” and has also said that McNabb will do everything that he can to play. But if McNabb does play, how effective will he be? If he makes one or two bad throws because of his ribs, it could be the difference between a win and a loss. Having McNabb in the lineup certainly gives Philadelphia a better shot at winning. Backup QB Kevin Kolb has not looked that great in limited action and he has shown an inability to get the ball to the Eagles’ playmakers. If Kolb is the starter on Sunday, then the advantage will swing to the Saints. New Orleans will lean on the hot arm of QB Drew Brees, who threw 6 TDs last week in a blowout victory over the Lions. The Eagles’ defense will have to step up and play huge to contain Brees or this game will turn into a shootout and that will not favor Philadelphia with an injured McNabb or ineffective Kolb in the lineup. This game truly hinges on if McNabb plays and how good he looks if he does. If McNabb is out, I would have to go with the Saints to win, even on the road. If Donovan is actually able to come in and effectively run the offense, then the Eagles can pull out a close win at home. This one should be good and should be a true toss up.
*Note: On Friday afternoon, the Eagles officially listed McNabb as doubtful. So it looks like he will not play and that strengthens my thought that you have to favor the Saints.
Prediction: Saints

Redskins (0-1) vs. Rams (0-1) – The Redskins will get a chance to get back on track as the lowly St. Louis Rams come to town. Washington will be looking for revenge in this game after the Rams beat them 19-17 last season. I don’t expect a similar result this time around. St. Louis continues to struggle mightily on both sides of the ball. The Rams were shutout last week by the Seahawks and they might flirt with that again against a tough Washington D. I expect Albert Haynesworth to get after QB Marc Bulger in this one. The Redskins did not look that bad against the Giants last Sunday, but they certainly did not look that good in defeat. They will have to get RB Clinton Portis going and QB Jason Campbell will need to make smart decisions and get WR Santana Moss involved in the passing game. If they do that, they should be able to put up points against a bad Rams defense. There is talk that the Redskins could make a playoff run since they get games like this against St. Louis and also against the lesser teams in the AFC West. They can not afford to lose this game at home against St. Louis and I suspect they won’t.
Prediction: Redskins

Cardinals (0-1) vs. Jaguars (0-1) – The Cardinals got off to a bad start in defense of their NFC Championship by losing to the 49ers 20-16 at home. Things do not get that much easier because they have to travel east to Jacksonville. Historically, the Cardinals have performed very badly when they make east coast trips. It does not help that the offense continues to look out of sync and WR Anquan Boldin continues to battle injuries. The Cardinals will probably be desperate to try and get a win against a Jaguars team that does not look that much better. Jacksonville did go to Indianapolis and put in a hard fought effort in a 14-12 loss to the Colts. The Jaguars do not have an explosive offense by any means and if they hope to win this game, they will need RB Maurice Jones-Drew to be dominant on the ground and control the game. The Jaguars’ defense did hold Peyton Manning in check, so they stand a chance to pull this one out. I see this game as a total toss up. Arizona did get the east coast monkey of their back last year when they went to Carolina and dominated the Panthers. But even though this seems like a new Cardinals team, old habits could reform. I just think that Jacksonville will use the home field advantage and they will have just enough defense to win an ugly game.
Prediction: Jaguars

Seahawks (1-0) vs. 49ers (1-0) – Surprisingly, this game will determine who will grab the early 1st place lead in the NFC West. The 49ers are coming off a big upset win at Arizona to start the year. Their defense looked very good in shutting down QB Kurt Warner and the rest of Arizona’s potent attack. QB Shaun Hill will not really impress you with his stats, but he does enough to manage the offense and he gives San Francisco a chance to win games. To win this game though, the 49ers will need some help from RB Frank Gore on the ground. It remains to be seen how good Seattle will be this year. They turned the ball over on 3 of their first 4 possessions last week, but since it was against the Rams, it did not hurt them. QB Matt Hasselbeck calmed down and guided the Seahawks to a 28-0 win. Seattle has won their past 2 trips to San Francisco and both victories were lopsided contests. But the 49ers are improving under coach Mike Singletary and they are starting to believe that they can have success. Seattle is fighting some injuries and that could make the difference. This should be a very close game and I will give the edge to the home team and take the 49ers.
Prediction: 49ers

Bills (0-1) vs. Buccaneers (0-1) – Buffalo almost shocked the NFL on Monday night by upsetting the Patriots. However, defensive breakdowns and a costly fumble allowed New England to come back and steal a victory. The Bills did show signs of life though and their offense played better than it did in the preseason. QB Trent Edwards still needs to get on the same page with WR Terrell Owens and they need to come up with some more big plays down the field. They will have their chance against a Tampa Bay team that gave up three long touchdown passes to the Cowboys last week. The Buccaneers’ defense is a shell of its former self and they are no longer a dominant unit. That does not bode well for their prospects of winning because the offense is not getting the job done either. QB Byron Leftwich is just not an explosive passer and Tampa Bay has to hope that RB Cadillac Williams can get going for them to have any shot to win. Considering that Buffalo’s defense looked surprisingly good against New England and the fact that the Bills are at home, the definite edge goes to Buffalo.
Prediction: Bills

Steelers (1-0) vs. Bears (0-1) – Pittsburgh opened up defense of their Super Bowl title with a less than impressive victory over the Titans. They did what good teams do though. They found a way to win even when they weren’t playing their best. The Titans are no pushover, so it was a good win. The Steelers lost Troy Polamalu to a sprained knee for 3-6 weeks, but the Bears unfortunately did that one better by losing LB Brian Urlacher for the season with a dislocated wrist. This game figures to be a defensive slugfest, but the loss of Urlacher should have a bigger effect on the Bears. QB Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense have had extra time to prepare for this game and I would expect a better effort. I am not sure how the Bears will be able to put up points against Pittsburgh’s defense, even without Polamalu. Chicago was horrible on offense against the Packers and QB Jay Cutler looked particularly bad as he threw 4 interceptions. Cutler has vowed that he will be better, but I don’t think it happens this week. It should be another ugly game, but the experience and championship quality of the Steelers will be enough for them to go to Chicago and pull out a victory.
Prediction: Steelers

Broncos (1-0) vs. Browns (0-1) – This is another game that could turn out to be downright ugly. Both the Broncos and the Browns looked pretty bad in their opening games and Denver pulled off a miracle play to pull out a victory. QB Kyle Orton’s dislocated finger really hampered his ability to throw the ball effectively and the Broncos did next to nothing on offense. If they hope to pull out a win this week, they will need more from rookie RB Knowshon Moreno and the running game. The Broncos actually have a good shot at going to 2-0 because the Browns were just as bad last week. They allowed Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to run all over them and I am sure Denver will be trying to do the same. QB Brady Quinn really struggled and if the Browns have any hope of winning, he is going to have to get some things going with WR Braylon Edwards. This game could be another toss up, but I think the home field advantage will tip the scales in Denver’s favor. Cleveland could easily rise up, play better, and steal a win, but I think the Broncos will do enough on both offense and defense to amazingly get to 2-0.
Prediction: Broncos

Cowboys (1-0) vs. Giants (1-0) – The Cowboys officially open up Cowboys Stadium in the regular season on Sunday night. This looks to be another really tough game to call. You would think that Dallas would have the advantage with all the emotion of the 1st regular season game in their new stadium and having 100,000+ people there rooting them on. However, I can remember back to last year when everyone thought they would win their final game in the old Cowboys Stadium. The Ravens went in there and beat the Cowboys, so it is not a given that Dallas will ride the emotion to a win. The Cowboys did look good in their win against Tampa Bay. QB Tony Romo looked like he had very good chemistry with his wide receivers and he had a career day in terms of passing the ball. He will have to duplicate that performance and get good protection from his offensive line against a good pass rush of the Giants. Some help from Marion Barber would be welcomed as well. The Giants will need to bring the good defensive effort that they had against Washington to Dallas in order to win. QB Eli Manning made some plays in the passing game last week, but he is still lacking a big play threat. RB Brandon Jacobs and RB Ahmad Bradshaw will have to try and control things on the ground for New York. This game is very tough to call, but I think I will have to give the edge to the Cowboys. Jerry Jones and the whole organization have been looking forward to this game and I think Dallas will rise to the occasion to get the job done.
Prediction: Cowboys

Monday Night: Colts (1-0) vs. Dolphins (0-1) – The Monday night game features the Colts traveling down to Miami to play the Dolphins. The Colts were not that impressive in week 1 as they barely beat the Jaguars 14-12 at home. QB Peyton Manning did his part with a 300-yard passing game, but the team lost WR Anthony Gonzalez to a knee injury and they did not run the ball well. RB Joseph Addai will have to give Manning some more support against a tough Dolphins defense that plays well at home. Miami’s problems continue to be on the offensive side of the ball though. They were horrible against the Falcons last week and only put up 7 points. QB Chad Pennington’s dink and dunk throws does not get the job done and Miami can not get into a shootout with Peyton Manning. Both teams seem to be not as good as last year and again, this is a tough one to call. Even on the road though, I will have to stick with the brilliance of Manning and go with him to find a way to lead his team to a victory.
Prediction: Colts

The Game’s Quick Hits

Friday Night Smackdown: I have to say that Smackdown was a fairly uninspiring show this week. The action just felt pretty flat and nothing of real excitement happened. I find it funny that this happens with the reappearance of Batista on Friday nights. The Animal opened the show and claimed that he was excited because his contract with Raw was up and he finally got to make his own choice about his career and he decided to go to Smackdown. Thankfully, Chris Jericho interrupted and delivered his usual solid promo, telling Batista that he is pathetic for pandering to the fans and that he better recognize that Chris Jericho is the face of Smackdown. Batista told him that he has heard “to be the man, you have to beat the man”. He gave Jericho a spinebuster and this set up a main event match between the two. Unfortunately, they gave the main event about 5 minutes and as you would expect, Batista got the victory. At the end of the show, the Big Show was asked for his thoughts backstage and he challenged Batista to a match next week…wonderful. I really hope the WWE is not going to do something stupid like having Batista win the Unified Tag Team Championship by himself. I am already irritated at seeing Jericho being jobbed out in such a short match to Batista and I would be insulted if “creative” pulled a stunt like that.

The other main thing I wanted to see tonight was how they would explain the screwjob that CM Punk and Teddy Long pulled on the Undertaker that occurred at Breaking Point. Sadly, there were no answers to this and it looks like we will get a drawn out drama. The referee in the match, Scott Armstrong, was interviewed and all he said was that he answers to people higher than himself and even though it made him sick, he did what he was told for his family and to keep his job. Teddy Long then came out to the ring and he admitted it was a conspiracy. But again, all he said was that he did what he did because he did not want to end up on the unemployment line. So it looks like we will have a rehash of the “higher power” angle. It soon got absurd as Long went to his limo and we got a cheesy sequence where the Undertaker was the driver and he locked Teddy in the limo. We even got lightning and smoke in the backseat of the limo…yeah, exciting. CM Punk did come out to address the crowd and he cut another great heel promo about how he is better than all of us, but he offered no explanation for what happened at Breaking Point.

The other action that occurred was nothing of note. John Morrison beat Mike Knox in a decent match which featured Dolph Ziggler on commentary. Ziggler put himself over and was then called “Mr. Ziggles” again after the match by Morrison. The Hart Dynasty got a win over Cryme Tyme, so I can only hope that they will start to get a better push and will be allowed to shine. Melina got a non-title win over Michelle McCool, who continued to act like she had an injured knee. And Drew McIntyre apparently took out R Truth backstage again and that prevented him from making his match against Charlie Haas. McIntyre delivered his under hook DDT to Haas to make his point. McIntyre has a decent look and I am interested in seeing him in an extended match.

#10 Boise State 51, Fresno State 34: If Boise State wants a shot to be a BCS buster, they need to run the table in the WAC. The Broncos got a severe test as they visited Fresno State. This game looked like it would be a blowout early. Boise got an interception return by Winston Venable and a 60-yard TD run by D.J. Harper to help them build a 24-3 lead. They were dominating on the defensive side of the ball early and Fresno State looked totally overmatched. However, Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews exploded in the latter stages of the 2nd quarter. He scored on runs of 69 and 60 yards to pull Fresno State back into the game and make the score 24-17 at halftime. The huge runs from Mathews seemed to totally energize Fresno State as the game turned into a slugfest in the 3rd quarter. Both teams went up and down the field and moved the ball on each other. The teams traded field goals and touchdowns as the game went into the 4th quarter with Boise State barely hanging onto a 34-27 lead. The Broncos were on the move to start the 4th though and punched in another TD for a 41-27 lead, but then Ryan Mathews stuck again. He went 68 yards to the house once again and brought it back to a 7 point game. But once again, Boise State punched back with a 67-yard TD pass from QB Kellen Moore to RB Jeremy Avery. The back and forth action and big plays were just unbelievable. Finally though, the Boise State defense rose up and forced a turnover on downs deep in their own territory. Jeremy Avery then struck again with another 60+ yard play as he rushed it deep into Fresno State territory and the Broncos kicked a field goal to seal the game away and Boise held on for a 51-34 victory. This was an absolutely crazy game and Boise did show some cracks on defense. But many people said that Fresno could give them a challenge and annually, the Bulldogs usually do give Boise State a game. This win is just another hurdle that Boise has now cleared as they will try to march forward to a BCS Bowl game. They showed a great deal of heart and determination to continue to punch back and pull out this win on the road.

- The Boston Bruins traded winger Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two first-round draft picks and a second-round draft pick and Kessel subsequently signed a 5-year, $27 million contract with the Leafs. This trade has been rumored for a while now as it was clear Kessel did not see eye-to-eye with Bruins coach Claude Julien and he had already rejected a new contract from Boston. I think losing a 21-year old player who has great upside is not a great thing for Boston. Toronto continues to try and rebuild their team and Kessel will now be a centerpiece. I think Toronto could challenge for a playoff spot this season and Kessel should be leading the charge. The Bruins will survive this trade just fine and will still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. It is certainly not a trade that will shift any major power in the East, but it will make waves.

- The Philadelphia Eagles officially listed QB Donovan McNabb as doubtful for this Sunday, so it appears he will not be able to play. This means that QB Kevin Kolb will get the start against the Saints. This obviously will hurt the Eagles and now I believe the Saints have to be favored for the game. Kolb has not shown us much of anything and until he does, you would have to bet against him. Unless the Eagles’ defense has a huge game and can totally shut down Saints QB Drew Brees, I don’t think Philly will be able to put up enough points to win.

- Sources indicate that USC will go with QB Aaron Corp as their starter today against Washington after QB Matt Barkley has been unable to practice all week. Barkley is still battling a shoulder bruise and has not been able to throw. The reports say that Barkley will resume the starting role when he is back to being healthy. This probably will not hurt the Trojans that much. Corp was supposed to be the starter and had the job in the spring, but then he got hurt and Barkley was extremely impressive and grabbed the role away from him. The only concern for USC will be if Corp tries to press and do too much against Washington. He might want to try and impress the coaches in an attempt to get more playing time and that could lead to mistakes. The Trojans will have to be careful and work hard in this game against the Huskies, but they should still have too much for Washington to deal with and USC will pull out a victory.

- Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West was arrested Thursday after an officer pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle while carrying two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun in a guitar case. West was riding a Can-Am Spyder motorcycle and he cut off an officer who then pulled him over and found the loaded weapons on him. Well this is just another boneheaded move by another athlete. West’s first mistake was speeding and cutting off a police officer. Why he ever decided to do that is beyond me. I have no idea why he was packing that much heat and it seems pretty foolish. If you are going to take risks like that, at least take the proper precautions. I am not sure if West will be disciplined or not, but this is the type of thing that can distract a good team like the Cavaliers and take the focus off the goal of winning a championship. These actions from West are just one step away from him pulling a “Plaxico Burress”, so I hope he will use better judgment in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week 3 College Football Preview

The college football season has gotten off to a pretty exciting start this season and there looks to be a few interesting games coming up in week 3. Let’s take a look at the matchups in the Top 25 and see what we have:

#1 Florida (2-0) vs. Tennessee (1-1) – The Florida-Tennessee rivalry is one of the most heated in all of college football and this game should be at a fever pitch. But it will not be because Tennessee has a real shot to go down to Florida and win. All eyes will be on this game to see just how badly Florida wants to beat up on the Volunteers. That’s because new Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin shot his mouth off and made some crazy comments when he was hired. He said that he would end Tennessee’s 4-game losing streak against the Gators and sing “Rocky Top” all night long. More importantly though, he falsely accused Florida Coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation and was forced to apologize. The Gators may forgive, but they will not forget. History shows that when Florida and QB Tim Tebow get mad and motivated, they absolutely crush the competition. Things should be no different in this game. Tennessee has nowhere near the talent needed to beat the Gators, especially on the road. The point spread in this game is 30 and I would not be surprised to see Florida cover that easily. This one could be very ugly and embarrassing.

#2 Texas (2-0) vs. Texas Tech (2-0) – This is the rematch of one of the best college football games of last year and probably one of the best of all time. Texas went to Texas Tech ranked #1, but quickly fell down 19-0. Texas QB Colt McCoy was able to rally the Longhorns to a 33-32 lead with 1:29 left to play. Unfortunately for Texas, that was one second too much as Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell found WR Michael Crabtree with a pass and Crabtree broke a tackle to get in the end zone with 0:01 left in the game. This time around however, there is no Harrell and no Crabtree for Tech. Texas Tech lost a great deal of talent through graduation and the NFL Draft and they are not as good as last year. Texas on the other hand has returned most of their team and is the big favorite in this game. Texas always seems to beat up on their Big 12 rivals at home, so I would expect a pretty big win for Texas and a measure of revenge for them in this game.

#3 USC (2-0) vs. Washington (1-1) – USC opens up their Pac 10 schedule with a trip up to Washington as they look for their 8th straight conference title. This would appear to be a huge mismatch. USC has been dominant for years now, while Washington has been the doormat of the conference. They lost 15 games in a row until finally scoring a win over Idaho last week. Washington does have one potential advantage. Their new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, was an assistant coach at USC for each of their 7 consecutive conference titles and is largely credited with building USC into an offensive powerhouse. He also brought along Nick Holt, who was the architect of USC’s dominant defense the past 3 seasons. So Washington could have a chance to develop a game plan that will work against the Trojans. But Washington has not beaten USC since 2001 and there is a sizable talent gap. Unless USC has a total letdown from their huge win over Ohio State last week, they should be able to win this one comfortably. However, don’t be shocked if the game is closer than expected. USC QB Matt Barkley is expected to play despite a bruised shoulder.

#4 Alabama (2-0) vs. North Texas (1-1) – Alabama figures to take a cupcake break this week as North Texas pays them a visit. Alabama looked very good in their opening week win over Virginia Tech, but they lacked some spark last week in a 40-14 win over Florida International. The Crimson Tide let FIU hang around until the 4th quarter before putting the game away. Coach Nick Saban will hope for a better effort this week before Alabama starts SEC play next week. Alabama could be without star WR Julio Jones, but they should have more than enough to handle North Texas. North Texas has lost 13 straight to ranked teams since 1996 and have been outscored 297-23 in 5 games against top 5 teams since 2004. Expect carnage on the field with those types of trends…

#5 Penn State (2-0) vs. Temple (0-1) – Penn State looks to get fatter on some more cupcakes as they look to have another easy game against a weak opponent. Coach Joe Paterno still thinks his team needs to improve and he has a point on the offensive side of the ball. The Nittany Lions have not rolled up the score on Akron and Syracuse, but their defense has been dominant. Penn State has not lost to Temple since 1941 and has outscored them 123-3 in the past three games since the teams signed a 7-year commitment to play each other. Penn State won 45-3 last year and they can expect the same again this year.

#5 Mississippi (1-0) vs. Southeastern Louisiana (2-0) – Mississippi caught a break having a bye week and then an easy game against Southeastern Louisiana. No less than a dozen players came down with flu-like symptoms after the team returned home from a 45-14 win over Memphis in the opening game of the season and the outbreak spread, eventually effecting 30 players on the team. QB Jevan Snead was one of those players, so the Rebels are just trying to get healthy and work on their game before SEC play starts. It appears that the team is back to being healthy at this point, so it should not be a problem. Southeastern Louisiana is a FCS level school and they should pose no threat to Mississippi on the road. They have lost all 10 games that they have played against FBS schools.

#7 BYU (2-0) vs. Florida State (1-1) – At the start of the season, this had the look of potentially being one of the best early season games. But after the performances of the Cougars and the Seminoles, it might not be as good as early hype would indicate. BYU has looked extremely good, knocking off Oklahoma and then avoiding a letdown last week as they crushed Tulane. Florida State, on the other hand, has looked mediocre. They turned in a good effort against Miami on opening weekend but still lost the game. Then last week they mightily struggled to beat FCS school Jacksonville State. The Seminoles needed 2 late scores to win the game 19-9. Their pass defense has been very suspect and now Florida State has to deal with BYU QB Max Hall, who has looked great to open the year and has sneaked into the Heisman conversation. BYU has had a huge home field advantage in recent years and have won 18 straight games at home dating back to 2005 and they pounded the competition by an average of 30 points in home games last year. It seems like BYU will be able to handle Florida State in this one and come out with a victory. The Seminoles just are not clicking and BYU will be up for this game big time.

#8 California (2-0) vs. Minnesota (2-0) – Cal looks to take their dominant home performances on the road, where things have not been too kind to them recently. The Golden Bears have lost 4 straight road games and 8 of their last 9. If they are going to contend for a Pac 10 championship and try to challenge USC, they need to start playing better on the road. RB Jahvid Best has gotten off to a strong start and things are looking good for Cal. They probably will have enough to be able to beat Minnesota. The Golden Gophers needed a 13 point 4th quarter last week to beat Air Force 20-13 and they allowed Syracuse to take them into overtime before winning 23-20. Those are not exactly what you would call impressive wins. Minnesota has lost 10 straight games to ranked teams and Cal has not lost 5 straight road games since 2000-2001. The odds are favoring Cal to break the road losing streak in this one.

#9 LSU (2-0) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (2-0) – LSU is looking to play a complete 60 minutes of solid football as they host Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tigers have not looked like a really dominant team as they have scratched out a 31-23 win over Washington on opening weekend and a 23-9 win over Vanderbilt last week. LSU needs more consistent quarterback play from Jordan Jefferson and would like to see another solid effort on defense like they had last week. Louisiana-Lafayette will not provide that great of a challenge though. LSU is 21-0 all-time against them and have outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns 957-22 in those games. Louisiana-Lafayette has lost 10 straight to ranked opponents and that will go to 11 after this one.

#10 Boise State (2-0) vs. Fresno State (1-1) – The Friday night primetime game this week features Boise State trying to continue their climb up the rankings. After their huge win over Oregon to start the year and a shutout over Miami (OH), Boise State looks as dominant as they did last year. The Broncos are looking for their 7th WAC title in the past 8 years and a possible bid to a BCS Bowl game. To do it, they will need to go undefeated in the conference. This has not been a problem for Boise State in recent years and they are 54-2 in conference play since 2002. One of those losses came in 2005 to Fresno State and the Bulldogs can sometimes give Boise State trouble. However, Fresno State does not look even close to as good as Boise does. The Broncos won 61-10 last season and Fresno has lost 9 straight to ranked opponents. This should be a good test on the road for Boise State, but I expect them to win fairly easily.

#11 Ohio State (1-1) vs. Toledo (1-1) – Ohio State now has to try and rebound after another disappointing loss in a spotlight game on national TV. The Buckeyes should be able to get the job done against Toledo, but they will have to make sure the defense comes to play. Toledo will bring in a hurry-up, no-huddle offense to try and wear out Ohio State and keep them guessing. The Buckeyes will have superior talent, so I’m not sure how far that will get them. Toledo’s defense has been shaky, so it will be up to QB Terrell Pryor to attack them and put points on the board. He is more effective when he makes plays with his feet, so let’s see if he does that this week. Ohio State should be able to easily take care of business in this one. Oh, and Ohio State has not lost to an intrastate rival in 88 years. Good luck Toledo…

#12 Oklahoma (1-1) vs. Tulsa (2-0) – Oklahoma will look to continue to rebound from the loss of QB Sam Bradford and the stinging opening week loss to BYU. Even though this might look to be an easy game for Oklahoma, especially being at home, it could be closer than some people expect. Question marks still surround QB Landry Jones and Tulsa is a major step up from Idaho State. Tulsa has won 10 and 11 games the past two years and they have led the nation in total offense the past two seasons. They will really be able to give Oklahoma’s defense a good test. Tulsa lost 62-21 at Oklahoma 2 years ago, but by all accounts, this Tulsa team could be better, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With Bradford out and a better Tulsa team coming to give the Sooners their best shot, will the gap close enough from 2 years ago to produce an upset? I would have to say that Oklahoma should be able to win this game. However, another Conference USA team went on the road and beat a Big 12 school when Houston beat Oklahoma State last week. This game could be closer than some people think.

#13 Virginia Tech (1-1) vs. #19 Nebraska (2-0) – This game is looking to be the marquee matchup of the week. Nebraska has beaten up on two lesser opponents in their first two games and now they will get their first real test as they travel to Virginia Tech. The Cornhuskers will be looking to avenge a 35-30 loss at home last year. Tech has won 31 straight games against non-conference opponents at home, so this seems like it will be a tough task for Nebraska. Virginia Tech stayed focused last week as they did not look past Marshall and crushed them 52-10. Tech rebounded nicely after a pretty poor performance against Alabama in the opening game of the season. Virginia Tech is always a tough place for visitors to play and Nebraska will need to play better on defense if they hope to win. They have looked a little shaky even against weaker competition. This should be a hard fought game and I probably have to give the edge to Virginia Tech on the basis of being at home. But the Big 12 is a better conference overall than the ACC, so this one should be extremely close either way.

#15 TCU (1-0) vs. Texas State (1-0) – This game will turn out to be no contest and should be a huge blowout win for TCU. The Horned Frogs opened their season last week with a dominating defensive performance at Virginia. TCU held the Cavaliers only 7 first downs and 177 yards of total offense in a 30-14 win. Virginia was lucky to get two late “garbage time” touchdowns and they did not even snap the ball inside the TCU 20-yard line. The TCU defense only gave up 10.9 points per game last year and they look just as dominant this year. They are 50-6 at home since 1999 and will have no trouble with FCS level school Texas State. They have lost 16 of their last 17 non-conference road games and they will tack on another loss Saturday.

#16 Oklahoma State (1-1) vs. Rice (0-2) – Oklahoma State will have to now try and rebound from a pretty disappointing performance and loss to Houston last week. It seems like the Sports Illustrated cover jinx bit the Cowboys last week and the loss sent them plummeting down from #5 to #16. The defense that looked dominant against Georgia on opening week totally went away against Houston. Houston’s athletic and high powered aerial game tore the Oklahoma State defense to shreds. They will get a chance to rebound against a Rice team that is not really close to the level of Houston. Rice got spanked 55-10 last week by Texas Tech and they have lost 21 straight games to Big 12 opponents. Oklahoma State is likely to be in a foul mood and they should easily beat Rice in this one.

#17 Cincinnati (2-0) vs. Oregon State (2-0) – Cincinnati has been extremely impressive to start the season and they have quickly rocketed up to #17 in the polls. However, they will get a tough test as they travel out west to face Oregon State, who is on the cusp of entering the Top 25 (are #24 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll). The Bearcats’ offense has been explosive this season and QB Tony Pike will look to continue his great play. Oregon State has a good recent track record against ranked opponents. They have won 5 of their past 9 games against ranked teams and 15 of 17 at home, including the huge win over #1 ranked USC last year. They have also won 26 straight non-conference games at home, so it will be a tough test for Cincinnati. Going with the trends, I smell an upset in this one. I think Oregon State could pull this one out and it could be one hell of a football game. This is definitely one to watch on Saturday.

#18 Utah (2-0) vs. Oregon (1-1) – The other major college team from Oregon will also look to pull an upset at home as Utah comes to town to visit the Ducks. Utah will be looking to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games. They barely escaped last week with a 24-14 win over San Jose State and had to play deep into the 4th quarter to get the job done. The outcome of the game will depend on what Oregon team decides to show up. The Ducks have the ability to be one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but they will not have much luck if they play like they did against Boise State to open the season. The trends favor an upset in this one because Oregon is playing at home. They have won 28 of 30 non-conference games at home dating back to 1995 and are 5-0 against ranked teams in that span. Utah has also not defeated the Ducks in Oregon since 1994. However, Utah has won 6 of its last 8 games against Pac 10 teams. Again, this one bears watching on Saturday and it could be a great game and another upset in the making.

#22 Kansas (2-0) vs. Duke (1-1) – Kansas has gotten off to a very solid start this year and they should be able to keep rolling against Duke. The Kansas offense has been very impressive to start the year, averaging about 42 points per game. They should be able to get another win at home over Duke, who has lost 36 straight games to ranked opponents since 1994. The Duke Football program has been abysmal over the years, but they are starting to show signs of life under Coach David Cutcliffe. However, they are still a pretty bad team and likely will not have much of a chance traveling to Kansas.

#23 Georgia (1-1) vs. Arkansas (1-0) – Georgia had to win a shootout at the end of the game with South Carolina last week to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time in 13 years. The Bulldogs continue to struggle on defense and they will get a challenge from SEC rival Arkansas. Even though Arkansas beat up on a weaker opponent in Missouri State, they still threw for 447 yards passing and looked impressive on offense. The Razorbacks are slowly making strides in Coach Bobby Petrino’s second season, so Georgia will need to be ready to play, especially going on the road. Georgia has won the last 5 meetings between the two teams, but they have not played since 2005. Georgia is also 3-0 at Arkansas and the Razorbacks have lost 8 of their last 10 against ranked SEC opponents. Georgia will most likely have enough to comfortably win this game, but their defense will need to show up.

#24 North Carolina (2-0) vs. East Carolina (1-1) – North Carolina barely escaped with a 12-10 win over Connecticut last week and will look to try and have a better performance against East Carolina. The Tar Heels’ problem has been putting points on the board. They did not score until the 4th quarter last week and needed a safety on defense to win. The Carolina defense returned nine starters and the continuity has shown as North Carolina is ranked in the top 15 nationally in pass defense efficiency, rushing defense, and total defense. They are likely to score points this week because East Carolina is not that good on the defensive side of the ball. East Carolina gave up 4 TDs through the air last week and has allowed 59 points and 478 yards passing in their first two games. The Tar Heels have won 9 of 11 games in this series, but they did lose the last meeting in 2007 on a last second field goal. Being at home should help North Carolina in this game and I would expect them to pull out a victory.

#25 Michigan (2-0) vs. Eastern Michigan (0-2) – The Wolverines are flying high after beating Notre Dame last week and sliding back into the Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season. Michigan went toe to toe with Notre Dame and made the big plays necessary to win the game. Freshman QB Tate Forcier looked like a star out on the field and the Wolverines look like they will overachieve this year and be better than people expected. Eastern Michigan rolls into town to pay them a visit and Michigan should have no problem taking care of business. The only pitfall could be an emotional letdown after last week, but even if that occurs, it would most likely only make the final score less lopsided.

The Game’s Quick Hits

#20 Miami (FL) 33, #14 Georgia Tech 17 – Georgia Tech looked pretty good moving the ball on their first offensive drive and then it was just downhill from there. Miami put in a pretty dominating performance as they pulled the mild upset over the Yellow Jackets last night 33-17. Miami QB Jacory Harris had another outstanding game. He was very efficient throwing the ball and Miami’s wide receivers just looked to be too athletic for Georgia Tech to handle. As I talked about in my preview, the key for Georgia Tech is moving the ball on the ground. After a pretty good first drive, Tech was totally shut down on the ground by a fast and athletic Miami defense. The Yellow Jackets were not able to get any rhythm and because of that, they once against could not get anything going in the passing game and the whole offense broke down. Miami actually outgained Tech on the ground, a far cry from last year when the Yellow Jackets piled up over 300 yards rushing on the Hurricanes. Miami was able to run the ball effectively and that set up easier throws for Harris to complete. He looks like he could be the next great quarterback at Miami if he continues playing like this. After two really good games, the Hurricanes look like they are starting to get that swagger back and could start to develop back into an elite program. They still have some tough games ahead, but they are looking good. Georgia Tech is not buried at this point by any means, but they need to cut down on the mistakes that killed them last night. They will also have to take a look at how they can better establish the running game and I really think they need to try and get QB Josh Nesbitt more involved with the passing game. He needs to work on some short, quick passes and not just try to throw bombs when the running game bogs down. It is a really simple formula for teams to follow to try and beat Tech…shut down the running game.

Preseason: Capitals 4, Sabres 3 OT – The Caps started their campaign with a 4-3 win in overtime against the Sabres. Brian Pothier scored on a two-man advantage 49 seconds into the extra session to seal the win. Washington also got goals from Alexandre Giroux, Mike Knuble and Jay Beagle. The story of the night though seems to be some stellar play from Semyon Varlamov in net. Coach Bruce Boudreau said that Varly was outstanding in the first two periods and prevented the Sabres from grabbing the advantage. Even Sabres coach Lindy Ruff agreed with that assessment and said Varlamov was the story. I know this is only the first preseason game, but that is really good to hear. If Varlamov can carry his momentum from the playoffs into this season and keep playing solid, the Caps can go a long way. It is nice to see Knuble getting a goal right off the bat too.

- With WR Anthony Gonzalez expected to miss up to 8 weeks with sprained ligaments in his knee, the Indianapolis Colts were quick to jump on the Eagles’ release of WR Hank Baskett. The Colts signed Baskett on Thursday to help fill the void while Gonzalez recovers. Sources are saying that Gonzalez will try to come back after Indianapolis’ October 18th bye week. This is probably a very smart move by the Colts. Baskett is not spectacular, but he is a capable wide receiver who now gets to play with the best quarterback in the league. QB Peyton Manning will likely make Baskett into a better receiver and the Colts won’t miss a beat. This goes to show you how far the Colts think free agent WR Marvin Harrison has fallen. Even with the injury to Gonzalez and a need for a receiver, Harrison being re-signed was not even considered. There has been little to no interest around the league in signing him as well. I think that is pretty amazing and it just proves that when teams feel like you have lost your speed and explosiveness, they won’t touch you.

- Houston Texans CB Dunta Robinson was fined $25,000 by the team for wearing shoes that had the words “Pay me Rick” on them during Houston’s 24-7 loss to the Jets on Sunday. The message was directed toward Texans’ GM Rick Smith because Robinson is miffed about not getting a long-term contract from the team even though he signed his franchise tender from the team over a week ago. I really have no tolerance for stunts like this. The “me first” and “pay me” attitude of some of these players is just disgusting. I have no problem with someone getting paid for their talents, but go about it the right way. There is no need to try and throw a spotlight on yourself and take away from the team. In Robinson’s case, he should be happy that he is getting “franchise player” money this season and he should be focused on helping Houston’s defense. The last time I checked, the Texans didn’t have problems on the offensive side of the ball. It has been the defensive side holding them back. And how did Robinson rise to the challenge on Sunday and prove that he is worth a long-term, big money deal? He had 1 tackle…impressive huh? This guy should just stop whining and play ball and then things will be taken care of. Dunta Robinson is not exactly a household name, so stuff the ego away and try to help your team before you help yourself.

- Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas says that he is healthy and ready to have a great season. He has been working with trainer Tim Grover over the summer and is giving Grover credit for saving his career and helping Arenas get his explosiveness back. He also took a shot at the Wizards and put some blame on them for his failed comebacks from injury the past two years. Arenas claims that if you live, eat, sleep, drink, and think basketball like he does, sometimes you need to be saved from yourself. He says that if someone has an injury that is supposed to take 6 months to heal and they are feeling good 4 months in, it should be the team’s responsibility to step in and not let the player push too hard or try to rush back out on the court just to sell tickets. I can agree with Arenas on that point. The Wizards are pretty much built around Arenas and he brings fans to the seats, but you can’t rush an injury. Now I don’t think the Wizards maliciously tried to put Gilbert into harm’s way, but they could have used better judgment and held him back like Arenas is saying. I think a good bit of responsibility should fall onto Arenas as well, but different people do heal at different paces. And if Arenas was telling the team he was feeling good, then why wouldn’t they want to get him back on the court? Apparently though, Arenas made demands that he wanted to rehab his own way and that he would tell the team when he was healthy. So maybe this whole “controversy” he is causing stems from Gilbert being mad at himself because his rehab plan did not work that well. Injuries can be very tricky, but Gilbert seems to think this trainer has the right methods to get him healthy. I hope that is the case because Arenas is one of the most exciting players in the NBA when he is healthy and the Wizards need all the help they can get to try and get back to being a respectable team.

- In other NBA injury news, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that Kevin Garnett is making steady progress in his recovery from knee surgery. Ainge said that Garnett is working and training every day, but he is not yet playing full-court basketball. The team is taking it slow and cautious with Garnett, who is anxious to get going but realizes it is a process. This is a nice example of what Gilbert Arenas is talking about. Obviously, the Celtics are a well-run organization and they realize the value of Garnett and are not trying to put him in jeopardy. Garnett sat out the playoffs last year, so you knew his knee had to really be bothering him and it needed to be fixed. KG is starting to get a little older now and it is important that he rehabs correctly and takes it slow or he could be nagged by these injuries like Arenas. A healthy Kevin Garnett will once again put the Celtics in the mix to win the competitive Eastern Conference.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reaching into the Grab Brag

There is plenty of great stuff happening this time of year, so let’s look at some quick hits today and see what’s going on:

The Game’s Quick Hits

Preview: #14 Georgia Tech (2-0) vs. #20 Miami, FL (1-0) – For the second consecutive week, Georgia Tech gets featured in the Thursday night primetime game. They are taking a trip down to visit Miami, who are coming off a bye week after their impressive opening week win over Florida State. In that game, QB Jacory Harris seemed to grow up and turn into a star right before everyone’s eyes. He looked extremely poised and much better than at any point last season. The Hurricanes are slowly rebuilding and looking more like the dominant teams from the ‘90s. The whole team is built on speed and they look like a dangerous threat. Georgia Tech did not look as good last week as they blew a 24-0 lead against Clemson, but did find a way to pull out a 30-27 victory. The key for Tech is establishing the running game and consistently moving the ball with it all game. When Clemson forced Georgia Tech to pass last week, the Yellow Jackets were miserable. QB Josh Nesbitt was horrible as he only could complete 3 of 14 passes. I am thinking that Miami’s defense is good enough and fast enough to hold Georgia Tech’s running game in check. They also looked explosive on offense against Florida State and I would expect Harris and the rest of the offensive unit to exploit the holes that Clemson found in Georgia Tech’s defense. This is a huge game in the ACC Coastal Division and the winner will get a leg up in the division. The division features 4 ranked teams, so this game is a critical one. I expect Miami to rise to the occasion at home and pull off a win. I think they have slightly better talent than Georgia Tech and they also have had longer to prepare for this game. From what I have seen on the field so far this year, the Hurricanes just look like a better team.

- On Tuesday it was reported that TNA wrestling’s Kurt Angle was found not guilty of violating an ex-girlfriend's order of protection, and charges of possessing human growth hormone and driving with a suspended license were dropped. He still faces an assault charge, however. Angle’s attorney was able to prove in court that he had a legal prescription for the drug Hygetropin and apparently his claim that he was driving around looking for a hotel as opposed to stalking his ex-girlfriend was believed by the judge. Well I am glad to see Angle beat these charges if he did indeed not do anything wrong. We have all read the stories about Angle potentially being addicted to pain pills and how he works himself to the bone and has put himself in danger because of the physical demands of professional wrestling. Some of these stories could be overblown and I would like to think that Angle is taking care of himself and not heading down a dangerous path. Way too many wrestlers have passed away at a young age and many have speculated that Kurt Angle could eventually fall into that category. I sincerely hope that will not be the case. TNA caught a huge break here as it would not look very good on them if their World Champion was found guilty of these charges. I will hold out judgment on the assault charges, but I could find that as being believable. Angle is an extremely intense individual from most accounts, so I think he might be capable of losing his cool out of the ring. But he will have his day in court on those charges and we’ll just have to see what happens.

- The NFL handed down a fairly hefty fine to the New York Jets, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, and former head coach Eric Mangini for failing to report QB Brett Favre’s biceps injury last season. The league hit the Jets organization with a $75,000 fine and Tannenbaum and Mangini with a $25,000 fine each. By doing this, the NFL is sending a clear message that failing to report injuries will not be tolerated. It seems to me that Mangini’s “secrets” are not paying off too well. I have to agree with these fines because you need to keep the competitive balance of the league in order and it is a requirement of every team to report injuries, pure and simple. Favre is walking away unscathed in all this, but I have to say that if he had any hand in trying to tell the Jets not to report his injury, then I think he should reimburse Mangini and Tannenbaum for the fine. That seems like the fair thing to do if he had any part of all this.

- Reports indicate that the rising star linebacker of the New England Patriots, Jerod Mayo, will be out about 6-8 weeks after spraining the MCL in his right knee. There was fear that Mayo’s injury was season ending, but that does not appear to be the case. This is another big injury blow to be added to the list after the 1st week of season. New England’s defense was already struggling to improve and the injury to Mayo does not help. After the departures of Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi, Mayo has been calling more defensive signals and his significance to the defense has only increased. His injury will hurt the team and now it might be that much easier for opponents to put points on the board against the Patriots. New England faces a stiff test this week as they travel to New York to play the Jets. They might catch a break facing a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, but the Patriots could be ripe for an upset if they do not play better than they did against Buffalo.

- In other injury news, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid said that QB Donovan McNabb is making progress in regards to his injured ribs, but his status for this Sunday against the Saints is still “iffy”. McNabb did not practice yesterday and QB Kevin Kolb worked with the first team. Reid made it clear that Kolb will start and newly acquired QB Jeff Garcia will back him up. If McNabb starts, Kolb will be the backup and Garcia will be the emergency #3 QB. I am not sure how much “progress” McNabb is making, but if he is able to play, the Eagles might need him to win a shootout with the Saints…It was also reported that Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel was looking better in practice and running more briskly. There is still hope that he will play on Sunday against the Raiders, but there has been no official word from the team…

- This just in: Bears QB Jay Cutler was disappointed with his performance against the Packers on Sunday and he vows to do better this week against the Steelers. Wow, really? Well gee Jay, you couldn’t do much worse. Even without Troy Polamalu in the lineup, things will not be any easier for Cutler when the Steelers come to town. Good luck…

- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is catching flack from all sides for his conservative play calling in the wake of the Buckeyes’ 18-15 loss to USC. It was another failure for Tressel and Ohio State in a high profile game and fans are starting to get irritated and are suggesting that Tressel give up on calling the plays. Tressel’s philosophy is basically built on playing for field position, avoiding turnovers at all cost and relying on defense and special teams to win the game. This was evident in the USC game as he elected to kick a field goal on 4th and goal from the USC 1-yard line early in the 2nd quarter, punted on a 4th and 1 from the USC 45 in the 3rd quarter, and punted again in the 4th quarter instead of trying a long field goal attempt. Immediately, I am having images of Herman Edwards in my head and he’s yelling “HELLO! You play to win the game!” I think that the criticism is warranted because Ohio State definitely was too conservation against USC. Tressel has a dynamic quarterback in Terrell Pryor, yet he doesn’t let Pryor run around as much as he should to try and create plays. Pryor is not a pure pocket passer and he is better when he’s able to scramble and create. Just trying to run, run, run and then punt to protect a slim lead is not that great of a strategy. Without question, Tressel has a long track record of success and should not be in danger of being fired or anything. But at some point, he is going to have to find a way to win these big games because the fans, media, and the school itself will only be able to put up with the disappointments for so long.

- Floyd “Money” Mayweather made some waves yesterday by claiming his race is a factor in how he is viewed. He lashed out at his perceived unfair treatment from the public and the media by saying, "If you're rich, you're a rich n-----. If you're poor, you're a poor n----. If you're smart, you're a smart n-----. At the end of the day, they still look at me as a n-----." Mayweather also went on to say that if he was white, he would be the biggest athlete in America. Sorry Floyd, but you got this one wrong. It is not your race that is holding you back, it is your attitude and the way you carry yourself. I will simply offer up Tiger Woods as an example. Tiger is one of the biggest sports figures in America and the world and he is black. So does everyone view Tiger Woods as a n-----? No, they don’t. And that is because Tiger Woods carries himself with dignity and respect and he’s not out acting like a fool. Now I know a part of boxing is being a showman to try and sell fights and Pay Per Views. But Mayweather goes beyond that with an arrogance and cockiness that turns people off. He claims that anything negative a guy like Oscar De La Hoya does gets swept under the rug and no one criticizes him. Well maybe that is because De La Hoya is respectful, gracious and doesn’t run his mouth all the time. And maybe that is because people like De La Hoya and Woods don’t have police investigating a shooting outside a skating rink and seizing handguns, ammunition and bulletproof vests from their home and cars, unlike Mr. Mayweather. People perceive you as a “n-----“ Floyd because you tend to act that way. You are free to live your life how you please and have whatever lifestyle you want. But everyone else is also entitled to their opinions about you and they don’t like what they see. If you want respect, you earn respect from your actions and how you carry yourself, it’s that simple.

- As of right now, the long time manager of the Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, is not committing to return to the team in 2010 for his 25th season. Cox was supposed to retire at the end of the 2008 season, but that did not happen. The criticism of Cox has increased in recent years as Atlanta stares at not making the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season. This is a far cry from the glory years of the team which included 14 straight National League East titles, five pennants and a World Series title. He says that he still loves the game and the competition and that it would be tough to walk away. Cox is currently 4th on the all-time wins list for managers with 2,403 entering Wednesday’s games. I have to say that at this point, Bobby Cox has earned the right to walk away from the game whenever he chooses. He is one of the greatest managers of all-time and will most likely get into the Hall of Fame. I used to love watching the Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990’s. They were an exciting group to watch and their standard of excellence was only matched by the Yankees during that period. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz were just beasts on their pitching staff and they had stars in Dave Justice and the “Crime Dog” Fred McGriff who could put runs up on the board. It is amazing they did not win more World Series titles with those teams, but I am glad they got the one. Without that title, history would most likely paint those teams as a failure and the players as choke artists. It is a cruel fate that the early 1990’s Buffalo Bills could not escape. If Atlanta did not win a World Series, the Bills would have company as the greatest “losers” of all-time. I wish Cox well on whatever he decides. He is one of the greatest managers in MLB history and he will have a lasting legacy when he finally calls it quits.

- And finally, Linda McMahon has stepped down as the CEO of the WWE and has announced that she will be running for a U.S. Senate seat. Really? Does anyone really think she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning? I am sure that Linda is a smart woman and a highly capable person, but as we all know, politics and political campaigning is all about mudslinging and tearing the other person down. What is going to happen when her opponents try to dig into Vince McMahon’s closet and paint Linda as just part of some sideshow with wrestlers? Fair or not, I don’t see he standing much of a chance in all this and I don’t think it is a smart move.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ovie and the Olympics

Training camps for the NHL are now open and like usual, it seems that the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin is making waves for something. This time, he has stirred a bit of controversy over NHL participation in the Olympic Games. During the summer, players from around the league attended Olympic camps and the process is underway to finalize national squads for the 2010 Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver in February. However, there has been no commitment from the NHL about players taking part in the 2014 Winter Games. Why is this such a big problem for Ovechkin? The 2014 Olympics are taking place in his home country of Russia. Ovechkin has told ESPN that he will play in those games regardless of if the NHL sanctions his participation or not. So the big question becomes, what should happen in this situation?

"Nobody can say to me, 'You can't play for your country in the Olympic Games,'" Ovechkin said. Obviously, he should have every right to make this decision and I fully support his stance on the matter. When you consider that people can go off to war and die when they are 18-years old, surely an athlete should be able to go represent his county in the Olympics. Ovechkin told ESPN that he will risk suspension from the league and the Capitals to go to Russia and play if needs be. He also indicated that other Russian superstars like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and the Atlanta Thrashers’ Ilya Kovalchuk have pledged to play in the Games whether the NHL is formally attending or not. If this were to happen, it would put pressure on other Russian players to do the same and it could be a domino effect where other nations would want their top players participating as well. And if you talk to the NHL Players’ Association, it is clear that the players want to support International hockey and want to play in the Olympics. So what is the problem then? As always, the root seems to be money.

Olympic Games participation has apparently gotten mixed reviews from the owners around the NHL. It seems many do not want to shut down the league for two to three weeks, especially for games that will likely not be televised in prime time. Well, there you go. It’s all about the money. The greedy owners do not want to risk losing any revenue and they can’t stand to not make any money from home games for 2-3 weeks. This really makes no sense to me. First of all, during Olympic years, the NHL still plays a full 82-game schedule, so there would be no revenue loss from decreased ticket sales due to fewer games. And I thought that the Olympics are designed to showcase the sport. You know…having people watch the best athletes in a sport compete at the highest level. I don’t see how that could possibly decrease interest in the sport. Frankly, I don’t see how the NHL or the owners would be losing any money at all. The only risk, of course, is the potential that a star player gets injured. I can understand this concern. The Washington Capitals would surely be pissed off if Alex Ovechkin suffered an injury at the Olympics. If he would be out for an extended period, the Caps would risk losing many more games and potentially missing the playoffs, and that would then start to hit the owners’ pockets. However, any All-star competition is like that and you just can’t predict when and where an injury will occur.

But with every risk, there is a reward. The Olympics are a great showcase for the game of hockey and it will give the NHL tons of added exposure. I personally love watching Olympic hockey. The rink is bigger, so that gives an advantage to the more highly skilled players. The action is faster and the stars are allowed to shine. The talent level is amazing when you put the best players together on one team and the games are very exciting. Throw in all the drama of tournament play, the craziness of the fans, and the sheer desire of each and every player wanting to do well for their country, and you have the makings of an event you want to watch. In my opinion, the benefits of allowing NHL participation every 4 years in the Olympics outweigh the negatives. The owners need to recognize that the Olympics are for the good of the game and their greedy pockets will not be lightened by them.

Ovechkin is calling for a meeting of the NHL players to discuss participation in the 2014 Games. He also claims that the players, not the owners, are the ones losing money. He apparently is talking about “escrow”, the money taken out of the players' paychecks to ensure that the NHLPA-NHL split of league revenues is as mandated in the collective bargaining agreement. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true and that is just one more reason why I hope the NHLPA and all the players stick to their guns and demand Olympic participation.

When it comes to a player of Ovechkin’s caliber, I think the league would be in a tough spot anyway. If Ovechkin did bolt for Russia to play in 2014, what would the league do? The NHL and the Capitals would be within their rights to suspend him, but would you really do that to one of the NHL’s brightest lights and the face of the Washington franchise? It might be possible to give special exemptions out to allow players to go and participate, but then that would toy with the competitive balance of NHL games that would still be happening those 2-3 weeks. I believe the NHL would be in a tough spot and they have no choice but to continue participating in the Olympics.

The bottom line here is that hockey is a great game and the Olympic Games are a great platform for it. People want to see the best athletes in the world competing at the highest level. When you bring it all together, there exists the chance that some magic will occur. All that will do is help the game of hockey, not hurt it. Unfortunately, the NHL still lags behind the other 3 major sports for exposure and fans. I really do not see how pulling out of the Olympics would ever help. I hope Ovechkin is able to lead the charge so that the NHL will fully participate in 2014. I know I will be watching if it happens.

The Game’s Quick Hits

ECW Recap: I was interested to see what would go down on last night’s ECW since William Regal lost to Christian in the ECW Championship match at Breaking Point. Right away it looked like we would get some answers as ECW GM Tiffany came out to the ring, but she was quickly interrupted by Regal, Ezekiel Jackson, and Vladimir Kozlov. Regal was in classic heel form as he complemented Tiffany on her looks and on the “great job” she is doing as GM. Of course this led right into Regal asking why his boys were banned from ringside at Breaking Point and he followed that up by asking for another shot at Christian’s title. Tiffany responded that she was only ensuring a 1 on 1 match at the PPV and that it is important to have different challengers for the championship, so Regal would not be getting another opportunity. Well I will certainly give credit for that. Unfortunately, Regal did look like a chump in losing 2 title matches to Christian, so I don’t really see why he should get another shot. Instead, Tiffany announced a #1 contender’s battle royal as the main event to see who would be next in line for a title match. Before she left though, Tiffany booked Regal, who was in a dapper suit mind you, in a match against the Hurricane. Regal and Hurricane had a short match which ended with Regal cracking his knee against Hurricane’s skull and picking up the win. Hurricane was then attacked after the match by Paul Burchill, who vowed to not stop until he showed everyone how much of a fraud Gregory Helms is. So it looks like that feud will continue.

Before the main event battle royal, Yoshi Tatsu was getting English lessons from Goldust. Yeah, I know. Anyway, Zack Ryder woo woo wooed his way into the locker room and Yoshi let him know that Goldust taught him how to say loser in English…which oddly translates to Zack Ryder according to Yoshi. So, the two proceeded to have a pretty good match. I am not sure how far up the ladder either one of these two can elevate, but they are solid hands in the ring and can put on a good performance. Yoshi was able to hit a kick to the back of Ryder’s head to pick up the win.

It was then time for the #1 contender’s battle royal, featuring 10 ECW superstars. I won’t give a long winded recap of it, but going into the match, I pretty much thought it was going to come down to Jackson, Kozlov, and Tommy Dreamer as the final 3. For some odd reason, the crowd was behind Goldust and wanted him to win. Sheamus was eliminated during the course of the match and then was able to hit a shot on Shelton Benjamin which caused his elimination. The two brawled on the outside of the ring, so it does indeed look like those two will have some matches in the near future. Surprisingly, Jackson did not even make the final 4 of the match. Goldust had a nice exchange with Ryder and Zack was able to outsmart Goldust and eliminate him. The final 3 were Ryder, Kozlov, and Dreamer. I thought for sure Kozlov was going to take it, but I was surprised again as Dreamer low-bridged Kozlov to eliminate him and then was promptly dumped over the top by Ryder. So folks, your new #1 contender for the ECW Championship is Zack Ryder. I give the WWE credit for giving someone new a shot and Ryder certainly has the ability to produce some good matches. It will be interesting to see how he does against Christian in the coming weeks. Woo woo woo indeed…

- The Philadelphia Eagles activated QB Michael Vick from the exempt list and he is now officially on their 53-man roster and is eligible to practice with the team, even though he is suspended for this week’s game against the Saints. The injury to QB Donovan McNabb seemingly forced the Eagles into doing this. To make room for Vick, the Eagles released WR Hank Baskett. The team had been trying to trade Baskett to get some value for him, but there were no takers. Philadelphia carried 7 wide receivers into the season on their roster, so it is not really a surprise that Baskett was let go. Vick will now practice Wednesday and be in the rotation with QB Kevin Kolb and newly signed QB Jeff Garcia. So it looks like the Eagles are hedging their bets that McNabb might not be able to play this week or even next week and want to get Vick some extra time. I still don’t think Vick is anywhere near ready to play at quarterback full time, but the practice reps will help him regardless of how he is used. It should be a great game this Sunday against the Saints and if it turns into a shootout and McNabb is not playing, things could be mighty interesting.

- In other Eagles’ news, sources are reporting that RB Brian Westbrook will now become a free agent after next season. So how is this possible when Westbrook signed a 5-year, $32 million extension last August? Apparently, there was a revision to the contract and buried in the 60 pages of legal junk and contract terms, the team had a clause to trigger the extension of the deal from 2011 to 2013. This clause is a $7 million option bonus due in 2010 and the Eagles did not exercise this clause. Therefore, there is no extension and Westbrook’s contract ends next year. To borrow a phrase from Dave Chappelle as Rick James, that is cooooold blooooded! Really, that is a savvy and calculating move to get out of the deal. With Westbrook’s history of injuries and the fact that he turned 30 on September 2, I can see why the Eagles are going to let him go. As everyone knows, running backs usually hit a wall at age 30 and almost become untouchable as far as some teams are concerned. It is extremely tough for an “older” running back to get a premier starting role and it looks like Westbrook will be hung out to dry. The Eagles did the same thing to Brian Dawkins this year and they might cut bait with Donovan McNabb as well. Philly fans will have to hope that the team can reload it seems.

- Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley said on Tuesday that QB Matt Cassel is still questionable and he is not sure whether he will be able to play this Sunday. If he still can’t go, QB Brodie Croyle will get the start once again. The Chiefs also have signed WR Bobby Wade after he was recently cut by the Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs actually impressed me a little bit in their loss to the Ravens and I think they could steal a few wins this season if Cassel comes back healthy and gives them steady play. Wade will help their offense, but the defense is going to have to step it up because the Ravens and QB Joe Flacco ripped them to shreds.

- Oklahoma Sooners Coach Bob Stoops is not talking about QB Sam Bradford’s injury or giving any sort of indication as to how he is progressing. When asked about whether Bradford would be able to return this week or had resumed throwing, Stoops said he's "not even going to go there." Well it seems as though Stoops is borrowing a page out of Eric Mangini’s “secret” playbook. I can understand his decision though. In Oklahoma, any speculation about Bradford would likely dominate the news and Stoops wants to keep the focus on the field and on this weekend’s game against Tulsa. I highly doubt that Bradford would be ready to play this week, but when the October 3rd game against Miami rolls around, it might be a different story.

- USC QB Matt Barkley was unable to throw for the second straight day in practice, raising the possibility that he will not be able to play this Saturday against Washington. Backup QB Aaron Corp has been taking the reps with the 1st team offense and looks healthy and ready to play if needed. The injury to Barkley is only a bone bruise and not that serious, so it might be best to rest him if he is not 100% to avoid further injury. Washington is certainly a long ways away from being a powerhouse like in the past, so USC should be able to win with either Barkley or Corp behind center.

- The October 1st NHL opener between the Capitals and Boston Bruins is fast approaching and both teams are already dealing with the loss of a forward for the game. Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann will miss the start of the regular season with a blood clot in his leg. The team thinks the clot might have formed during Fleischmann's long flight home to the Czech Republic at the end of last season and he will not return to practice until early October. That certainly is a little bit of a freak injury and not a good way to start for Fleischmann. He is an important role player for the Caps and he continues to slowly improve. He is still only 25-years old and he had a career high 19 goals last year. Every team needs secondary scoring, so Fleischmann’s absence doesn’t help at the start the season. For the Bruins, it looks like center David Krejci will not be ready to start the season after undergoing offseason hip surgery. There was hope he could beat the projections of returning in early November, but that now seems unlikely. Krejci was Boston’s second-leading scorer last year with 73 points even though he played in pain all year. He now wants to be 100%, so there is only a slight chance he makes the opener. Krejci is more important to the Bruins than Fleischmann is to the Caps, so I hope Krejci takes it easy and skips the opener.

- Boston Red Sox P Daisuke Matsuzaka returned from a 3 month stint on the disabled list and pitched 6 shutout innings to help Boston beat the Angels last night 4-1. DH David Ortiz also hit his record-breaking 270th HR as a designated hitter in the game. Matsuzaka is hoping to prove that he will be able to help the Red Sox in the playoffs and he is looking to get the #4 spot in the rotation locked down. It appears likely that Boston and Los Angeles are heading toward a 1st round matchup in the playoffs, so tonight might have been a preview of what the Angels can expect. Clearly, the Yankees are the favorite in the AL, but I would not count out Boston. The Red Sox have beaten the Angels the past 2 years in the 1st round of the playoffs, so if history holds, they could get a shot at the Yankees and a healthy and productive “Dice-K” will only help their chances if that happens.

- A group of seven Native Americans are trying to go to the Supreme Court because they find the Washington Redskins name offensive. The group claims that the name defames Native Americans and has been working since 1992 to have the Redskins’ trademarks declared invalid. Apparently, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel ruled in their favor in 1999, but since then, other judges have ruled against them and have stated the group waited too long to bring their suit in the first place. Are you kidding me here? I really can’t stand stuff like this. The Redskins name does not defame anyone. The Washington organization is not trying to take advantage of Native Americans nor are they trying to make fun of them or insinuate that there is anything wrong with the group. It a freakin’ team mascot basically…proud Indian warriors going into battle and trying to strive for excellence and victory. Come on man, give me a break! These guys have spent 17 years doing this and I am sure they have dropped a great deal of money too. Don’t they have something better to do? I have always hated the Redskins football team, but I say that this is downright stupid and the organization is not trying to take advantage of Native Americans or put them down in any shape or fashion. I’m sorry, but this is not something THAT offensive. Get over yourselves.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WWE Breaking Point Review

WWE Breaking Point occurred on Sunday night and it seems like it was an interesting show. During football season, WWE PPVs take a back seat around here. So, my thoughts will be based only on reports of the show I have read and I will be comparing my predictions to what actually happened. If anyone who saw the show live wants to correct me on anything, please feel free to leave a comment. Let’s get into it:

WWE Unified Tag Team Championship
Jericho and Big Show (c) vs. MVP and Mark Henry
My prediction: Jericho and Show win and retain
Actual result: Jericho and Show retain via pinfall
As I predicted and expected, Chris Jericho and the Big Show get the win in this match and continue their tag team championship reign. It just did not make any sort of sense to throw the belts on a hastily made team of MVP and Mark Henry. Reports indicate that this match had some good action in it. You got the standard, fast paced chain wrestling from Jericho and MVP, while Show and Henry slugged it out with their power moves. MVP played the “face in peril” until he could make a hot tag to Henry. Henry was able to dominate and Jericho avoided losing the titles by getting a foot on the ropes. The finish once again saw Big Show hitting a knockout punch on Henry and Jericho scored the pinfall to retain. This was the correct finish in my mind, but I still have no idea what the WWE plans to do here. Having Jericho and Show dominate for a long period can be good, as long as they drop the belts to a team who could use the help. I still say Legacy or the Hart Dynasty should beat them and that would cement either team as serious players. I wonder how long it will be before we get tension between Jericho and Show and the team starts to crumble.

WWE United States Championship
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. The Miz
My Prediction: I stated via Twitter that I was pulling for Miz, but expected a Kofi victory to extend this feud
Actual result: Kingston retains via pinfall
This match was a late addition to the PPV and pretty much replaced the Intercontinental Title match between John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler. By all accounts, this match delivered and it was very good. From what I read, the action was pretty fast paced throughout the match and it was filled with counters and reversals. Both Kofi and Miz looked very even and the match could have gone either way. In the end, Kofi connected with the Trouble in Paradise to retain the U.S. Title. I am fine with this result for the time being and I expected it. I love Miz’s arrogant and cocky character and he has really developed in a solid performer. In my estimation, he should get a run with the U.S. Title in the near future and I am hoping this feud will continue. Miz did the job and was John Cena’s bitch, so I don’t see how he can come up short here. If he continues to lose to Kingston and does not get the title, Miz will look very weak and will be stuck in mid-card jobber hell. Kingston has done a really good job with the U.S. Title and I think he should eventually lose to Miz and have a few good rematches before they both more onto new challengers.

Submissions Count Anywhere
Legacy vs. DX
My prediction: Legacy
Actual result: Legacy via submission on Michaels
I could not be more thrilled when I read the result of this match. After thinking and evaluating things, I came to the conclusion that Rhodes and Dibiase could not afford to lose this match and I am happy WWE creative seems to have agreed. Triple H and Shawn Michaels are bulletproof and they could afford the loss. A win over Legacy would have only buried two potential stars and it would have been stupid. Everything I have read indicates that this was a damn good match. The action spilled out of the ring and all over the arena. They fought in the stands, in the arena concourse, backstage, you name it. Obviously, both teams tried to kill each other and Legacy actually was much more effective. After going back and forth for a long while, Rhodes and Dibiase used the help of a cooler and a sick chair shot to knock out Triple H backstage. Once they got back into the ring, Shawn Michaels did a valiant job of trying to fight off Legacy, but he was not able to overcome the 2 on 1 disadvantage. Michaels eventually tapped out to a combination of a figure-four leg lock on the ring post by Rhodes and a Million Dollar Dream by Dibiase before Triple H could get back to the ring to make the save. It seems like Legacy finally was allowed to look like a real threat and they came out looking like stars in this match. I am pleasantly surprised at this outcome and hope that Rhodes and Dibiase continue to be booked strong. I don’t think they will ever become megastars, but they have the chance to be solid main event level talent if they are handled correctly. I have a sneaking suspicion though that this feud will continue and I am fearful that Legacy will be destroyed by DX at the Hell in a Cell PPV, which would very much hurt the momentum they got from this match.

Singapore Cane Match
Kane vs. The Great Khali
My prediction: The Great Khali
Actual result: Kane via pinfall
Well I don’t mind being wrong with this prediction. Although, it saddens me this could indicate the feud might continue. As you would expect, this was a very ugly match. The Montreal crowd started up a boring chant in the middle of it, so there is all you need to know. Kane and Khali apparently stumbled through the match, hitting each other with the canes a few times and trying to pull off some spots with them. Runjin Singh eventually got involved again by hitting Kane with a cane, which only angered the Big Red Machine and made him harass Singh. As Khali checked on Runjin, Kane was able to drop Khali neck-first on the ropes and then hit a chokeslam for the win. I have no more patience for this feud and it is going nowhere. Again, since Khali is playing the face in this feud, standard booking says that he comes out on top in the end. So sadly, we might have to be tortured with more matches between these two. I am not sure what else either Kane or Khali could be doing, but this feud is just boring and uninspiring.

*Special note: After this match, CM Punk was given some interview time and he actually brought up the fact that Jeff Hardy got arrested! I am surprised the WWE even touched that subject, but you can’t deny that it is a brilliant heel move for Punk to do.

ECW Championship
Christian (c) vs. William Regal
My prediction: William Regal wins ECW title
Actual result: Christian retains via pinfall
Well the swerve happened before this match even took place as ECW GM Tiffany banned Ezekiel Jackson and Vladimir Kozlov from ringside. Well if I knew that before the PPV, I may have had different thoughts about the result of the match. I expected Regal to steal the title with the help of Jackson and Kozlov, but with them being banned from ringside, it greatly increased the odds of Christian retaining and that is exactly what happened. As you would expect, the reports indicate that this was a very solid match. Both Christian and Regal are very skilled wrestlers and they seem to have delivered a good match. Christian had the Killswitch blocked three separate times before he was finally able to hit it for the win. Now, I have no idea what will be going on in ECW. I really thought that Regal would win and Christian would have to fight through the “Ruthless Roundtable” to try and get the title back. But at this point, Regal is starting to look like a chump and I don’t see how he should be in line for yet another title match. If Kozlov or Jackson step in now, that is pretty logical and could work. A title win for either one would definitely elevate that person to a new level.

“I Quit” Match for the WWE Championship
Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena
My prediction: John Cena wins WWE Title
Actual result: John Cena wins WWE Title
Surprise, surprise, surprise…what a shocker. I said there was no way in hell John Cena would lose this match and say “I quit” and I was dead on. Cena’s whole persona is based on a never quit, never give up attitude so this result seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The way the match seems to have gone down is pretty bad and was typical Cena booking. From what I gather, Orton spent about 10-15 minutes absolutely beating the hell out of Cena. He abused him with steel steps and then pulled out a pair of handcuffs. Orton placed the key to the cuffs around his neck and then proceeded to cuff Cena to the ropes, to the turnbuckle, and even to himself with Cena’s hands behind his back. Orton destroyed Cena with a Singapore cane and chair shots. However, Cena did not quit and was eventually able to wrestle the key away from Orton and then cuffed himself to Orton directly. After a little more action, Cena worked Orton into the STFU and Orton quickly tapped. WHAT THE HELL?!? I am seriously sick and tired of John Cena playing Superman and Hulk Hogan, version 2.0. The act is so very worn out and I am tired of it. I don’t need Cena’s toughness and never give up attitude continually shoved down my throat. We get the point already. I have no problem with Cena winning the belt, but I am to the point where the booking of his matches is just insulting. The STFU is treated as the most dangerous move on Earth and John Cena can just survive anything. Orton will obviously get his rematch, but unfortunately Cena will win it and we will be subjected to a lengthy title reign and more of this crap. I try not to complain to this extent with what the WWE does, but I am just totally tired of John Cena.

Submission Match for the World Heavyweight Title
CM Punk (c) vs. The Undertaker
My prediction: Somehow, someway CM Punk retains
Actual result: CM Punk retains via Montreal Screwjob, Version 2.0
Well I said that I didn’t know how the WWE would do it, but CM Punk would not be losing the title this soon. I was right on this, but unfortunately, the WWE had to go the cheap and cheesy route and pull out another “Montreal Screwjob”. Punk and Taker put on a pretty good match that was cruising along just fine until Taker tried to hit Punk with a chokeslam. Punk countered with a roundhouse kick that was then countered into Taker’s Hell’s Gate submission hold. Punk quickly tapped out and we were led to believe that the Undertaker was the new World Heavyweight Champion…that is until Smackdown GM Teddy Long came out and reminded us all that Vicky Guerrero had the move banned and that decision has not been reversed. So the win did not count and the match had to continue. Soon after the restart, Punk got Taker in the Anaconda Vice. Suddenly, the bell rang, but the Undertaker did not submit. Punk and the referee quickly left the ring and joined Teddy Long on the entrance ramp. So the fix was in and we had to relive the Montreal Screwjob 12 years later. While I applaud the WWE for continuity with the Hell’s Gate submission being banned, this is just not a good move. It seems extremely stupid and foolish to do. I think it is insulting to the fans and there was no reason for it. The WWE painted themselves into a corner with this match stipulation and this is the price we pay. I don’t think the outcome does anything for CM Punk and he deserved something better to escape with the title. I really can’t say what that might have been, but this was dumb. To look on the bright side though, the build toward a rematch at the Hell in a Cell PPV should be pretty good and that main event match will hopefully be strong.

The Game’s Quick Hits

Patriots 25, Bills 24 – This turned out to be a surprisingly competitive game to open up the 40th season of Monday Night Football and the Patriots ended up having to survive and steal a victory in the final minutes. After being in disarray on the offensive side of the ball and firing their offensive coordinator in the preseason, most people assumed that the Patriots would easily handle the Bills in this game. But Buffalo came to play and their defense played well in the 1st half. They got really good pressure on Patriots QB Tom Brady and held the running game in check. Brady was not particularly sharp early on and he missed some throws. He did engineer one good scoring drive for a TD and had another bog down right before halftime. The Bills did not do much better on offense, but they did get a 26-yard interception return for a TD from Aaron Schobel after Brady poorly executed a screen pass. This helped the Bills take a 14-10 lead into the half.

Things did not get much better for the Patriots in the 2nd half. They dominated in terms of time of possession and they were able to move the ball with two long drives, but one ended in a turnover on downs and the other in a field goal. Brady looked passive and tentative in many situations and things were not clicking. The Bills were only slightly better until there was about 10 minutes left in the game. QB Trent Edwards was able to engineer a long scoring drive which ended in a 10-yard TD pass to RB Fred Jackson. This gave the Bills a 24-13 lead with just over 5 minutes left and it looked like Buffalo was going to pull an amazing upset. But then, the Patriots turned back into the Patriots. Brady got the hurry up offensive going and he easily drove New England down the field and threw an 18-yard TD pass to TE Benjamin Watson to pull the score to 24-19 after a failed 2-point conversion. Then, the Patriots got the break they needed when Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin elected not to take a touchback on the kickoff and then proceeded to fumble the ball away. It only took Brady 3 plays to hit Watson again with a 16-yard TD pass to give the Patriots a crazy 25-24 come-from-behind win.

So in the final analysis, the Patriots may not be as good as everyone thought and the Bills might not be as bad as everyone thought. You could attribute the poor performance to opening game jitters, but the Patriots’ defense did have some holes that can be exploited as the year goes along. But this is what good teams do. They find a way to win games even when they do not play their best. I do expect Brady and the rest of the offense to round into form though and they should be fine in the long run. Considering how bad Buffalo looked in the preseason, this was an excellent performance. The no-huddle offense actually did some good things, but Trent Edwards needs to get better and take more shots down the field. The defense will also have to play this well in subsequent weeks to give the Bills any chance to win some ball games.

Chargers 24, Raiders 20 – In the final game of week 1, we got another strange game and a shocking performance from the Oakland Raiders. Just like the Bills, the Raiders looked bad in the preseason and no one expected them to really give the Chargers a game tonight. But Oakland came out rolling and was able to dominate the line of scrimmage with their offensive line. They were able to run the ball effectively on offense and their defense was surprisingly stout as they held Chargers QB Philip Rivers and RB LaDainian Tomlinson in check. Richard Seymour looked great and delivered an immediate impact on defense for the Raiders. If not for a few mistakes, a near miss of a TD catch late in the 2nd quarter, and some bad coverage on kickoff returns against RB Darren Sproles, the Raiders could have had a 14-7 lead at halftime. Instead, San Diego was lucky to go into the half with a 10-10 tie. Things remained ugly as both teams struggled on offense to start the 3rd quarter and both defenses were in firm control, but it was clear the Raiders continued to look better than the Chargers. Things finally heated up in the 4th quarter as the teams traded touchdowns and the lead. Rivers hit WR Vincent Jackson with a 15-yard TD pass to put the Chargers up 17-13. Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell then responded with a beautiful 57-yard touchdown pass to WR Louis Murphy on a 4th-and-15 to give Oakland the lead back. But Rivers and the Chargers had the final say as they drove down the field and Sproles scored on a 5-yard run to give San Diego a 24-20 win. Once again, good teams find a way to win games. This win will now be a good confidence booster for San Diego and it should be one hell of a game against the Ravens this Sunday. The Raiders look like they are buying into Coach Tom Cable’s philosophy and are playing better fundamental football. They actually could win a few more games than expected this season.

Monday Night RAWind: I thought the WWE was able to put on a pretty good show last night, but some things left a great deal to be desired. The show opened with Batista coming out, still in an arm brace, to make a “career altering announcement”. He stated that he was there to tell everyone goodbye, but before Batista was able to say much more, Randy Orton came out to the ring. Orton mocked Batista and claimed that he was retiring because he wanted to get away from Randy Orton. This seemed to amuse Batista, who then swerved everyone by pulling off the arm brace and attacking Orton. He then told everyone that he was saying goodbye to Raw because he was going to Smackdown. He finished off the opening segment by saying that tonight’s guest host, Trish Stratus, gave him one final match on Raw: a no holds barred match with Orton.

I was pretty excited for the show after this segment, but that turned into major disappointment as we got to the main event. Looking at the time, I could see that the match would be short and it was. Batista basically threw Orton around the announce table a bit and then took advantage of John Cena coming out and throwing Orton back in the ring as he tried to run away. He hit a quick Batista Bomb and the match was over. So you mean to tell me that after a man injures you and puts you out for 3 months and costs you your title that you are happy coming back and winning a meaningless match before switching shows? Will someone tell how the hell that makes sense? I could give it a pass if Orton and Batista had a long, kick ass match and Batista ended up destroying Orton, but this type of stuff is crap. Batista looks like a chump as far as I’m concerned and now he will be going to Smackdown to try and ruin CM Punk. I can dream that Punk will go over Batista, but I know better and I expect Batista to make Punk his bitch in the near future and that is sad. I am tired of Batista at this point, at least the face version of “The Animal”. If they turned him heel and allowed him to be a ruthless badass, I could be interested again. But like John Cena, Batista is stale and not that entertaining anymore.

Luckily though, there were some other good things to be found on Raw. The 10 pm main event featured Ted Dibiase against Shawn Michaels. Legacy cut a pretty effective promo before the match where they put themselves over as being the only people to make DX tap out. This was a good move and Rhodes and Dibiase are starting to look better out there. Michaels and Dibiase had a good match that ended in a DQ when Rhodes interfered and then all hell broke loose. DX and Legacy brawled around the ringside area and it was later announced that the teams would face each other in Hell in a Cell at the next PPV (to go along with Orton’s rematch against Cena which was also announced). So there is confirmation of my fear that Legacy will just get destroyed and set back.

We also saw a tag team match between Kofi Kingston and Primo against The Miz and Jack Swagger. It was short, but the most important development is that The Miz stole Kofi’s United States Title belt and walked out with it. So it seems this feud will indeed continue. In other action, Alicia Fox defeated Gail Kim to earn a shot at the Divas Championship against Mickie James. Now why in the hell is Alicia Fox getting a push? That makes no sense to me and she should not be getting anywhere near that belt. I think Beth Phoenix should be challenging James for it, but at least Beth did get a good spot on the card last night. She got in Trish’s face about the #1 contender’s match and Chris Jericho made an appearance as well. This led to a tag team match between Stratus and MVP and Phoenix and Jericho. The Big Show and Mark Henry got involved and it became a 6 person tag. In the end, Trish showed that she still has it in the ring and she was able to pin Beth for the victory. All in all, Trish was a good guest host and this edition of Raw was passable.

- The injury bug bit the Chicago Bears particularly hard on Sunday night as LB Brian Urlacher dislocated his wrist. He was forced to undergo surgery for the injury and he will be out for the rest of the season. This is terrible news for the Bears and they will take a big hit on defense. Urlacher is the heart and soul of the Bears’ defense and the unquestioned leader of the team. He is responsible for being the coordinator out on the field and he communicates what the team is doing to everyone else. And beyond that, he is just a ferocious player and can dominate a game. Chicago has enough playmakers and talent on the defensive side of the ball to still be a good unit overall, but they will not be as good without Urlacher. This is the exact same situation that the Pittsburgh Steelers face when you take Troy Polamalu out of their defense. I expect the Bears to still be tough to score on, but now it becomes a little easier for everyone to score points on them. Through the course of the season, this could be the difference between making the playoffs and coming up a game short. Chicago is already behind the Vikings and Packers and things do not look that good without Urlacher. The Bears have already been talking to free agent and former Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks, but it looks like they will not be signing him at this time. Brooks knows the defensive scheme that Chicago runs, but at his advanced age, he will not be able to come in and make an impact like Brian Urlacher can. This is a tough situation for the Bears and I’m not sure they can overcome it to make a playoff run. QB Jay Cutler will have to start playing MUCH better to give Chicago any chance.

- Coach Andy Reid says that Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will try to play through the pain of a fractured rib this Sunday against the Saints. Reports indicate that McNabb was in a great deal of pain yesterday and he found it hard to even sit comfortably. He is not expected to practice on Wednesday and it seemed highly unlikely he will be able to play this week, but his health will be monitored by the Eagles and he is officially “uncertain”. I have heard reports that he could easily be out 2-4 weeks, but apparently McNabb is going to try and give it a go. If McNabb can’t start on Sunday, QB Kevin Kolb will have to assume the starting role. As I have said before, things will be tough for the Eagles without McNabb if he can’t play. Kolb has show an inability to get the ball to the Eagles’ playmakers and that will not get the job done. The Eagles signed free agent QB Jeff Garcia as insurance on Monday afternoon. This is a smart pick up considering that Garcia is a proven veteran and he knows the Eagles offense. At this point, Kolb is the back up but if he struggles, the team can now turn to Garcia. It will be interesting to see what happens if Kolb plays and really struggles this Sunday because Michael Vick will be eligible to play in week 3 and now Garcia is around. Without question, the Eagles will have to sail through some choppy waters.

- A definitive update has finally come in on Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. It was reported that he will not need knee surgery and he should be out for 3-6 weeks as originally speculated. This is a bit of good news for Pittsburgh that it is not more severe, but they will definitely miss Polamalu while he is out. I am hopeful that the Ravens could catch a break and Polamalu’s absence could cost the Steelers a game that they should win. Hey, you have to take whatever you can get.

- Carolina Panthers Coach John Fox stated on Monday that QB Jake Delhomme’s status with the team is “unchanged” and he will remain the starting quarterback. Including last season’s playoff loss, Delhomme has turned the ball over 11 times in his past 2 games. Fox compared Delhomme to Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, saying that they don’t win every tournament. Excuse me while I have a chuckle with that one. Delhomme is no slouch, but he certainly is not on the same level as Woods and Federer. Regardless though, the Panthers really do not have much of an option behind Delhomme so they will have to stick with him. The evidence continues to mount that the Panthers will just not be that good this season. Delhomme will have to regain his confidence and his form to turn this thing around.

- On the college injury front, USC QB Matt Barkley is listed as day-to-day after suffering a bruised shoulder against Ohio State on Saturday. The injury does not appear to be anything serious, but Coach Pete Carroll said Barkley will be monitored. He hopes that Barkley will be able to play this Saturday and that QB Aaron Corp is ready to step in if needed. Considering that USC is playing Washington this week, I don’t think it matters who is starting at quarterback. Washington still has a long way to go to become a powerhouse again and USC should handle them easily, even on the road.

-U.S. Open Update: Due to rain delays, the men’s championship match was pushed to Monday for the second consecutive year. The wait was worth it as #6 seed Juan Martin del Potro shocked #1 seed Roger Federer and beat him in a 5 set classic, 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. Amazingly, Federer seemed to crumble down the stretch as del Potro punished him with strong forehands and played extremely smart by getting in a great percentage of 1st serves. Usually Federer wears down his opponent and brings his game to another level, but in this match it was del Potro who delivered. He came back from 2 sets to 1 down and denied Federer his 16th Grand Slam title, his 6th consecutive U.S. Open title, and snapped his 40 match winning streak at the Open. It was a great match and a huge win for the 20-year old from Argentina. Even the best find it hard to deliver every single time and it was Federer’s turn to not deliver the goods when it mattered.

Serena Williams also returned to the court after her profanity-laced tirade against a linesperson in her semifinal defeat to Kim Clijsters. She won the U.S. Open women’s doubles title with her sister Venus Williams. They defeated defending champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to capture their 10th Grand Slam doubles title and first at the U.S. Open since 1999.

And on a final note from the Open, Kim Clijsters’ amazing win in the women’s championship match propelled her all the way up to #19 in the latest WTA rankings. She had no ranking prior to the tournament and she would have come into the rankings at #181 if she lost in the first round after competing in a few warm up events.