Friday, January 21, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Pick - Because Aaron Rodgers' beard is cooler than Ben Roethlisberger's haircut

Season Record Against the Spread:

NFL Championship Game Results: 4-0
NFL Results Season to Date: 141-110-13

College Football Season Results: 50-44-6

Mark My Words NFL Championship Game Results: 4-0
Mark My Words Results Season to Date: 39-46-3


Green Bay -3 over Pittsburgh/Under 46 - We couldn't have a better match-up than Green Bay and Pittsburgh in what should be the highest rated Super Bowl in television history. I see this game as a defensive struggle between two teams that are mirror images of one another.

There are so many questions to debate before we choose the winner of Super Bowl XLV. Will Aaron Rodgers and his facial hair (I'm not hating - Giselle dated Rodgers and made him grow that goatee long before she ever made Tom Brady get his Justin Bieber haircut) overcome the curse of Brett Favre and strap on the Championship Belt?

Aaron Rodgers straps on Championship Belts like Ben Roethlisberger straps on condoms...wait, bad example.

Or will Ben Roethlisberger rally Terrible Towel Nation and use his manly haircut and boyish good looks to once again put a ring around that finger in the dirty bathroom that is better known as Dallas, Texas?

Let's breakdown these two teams and find out how they compare:

Passing Game - Aaron Rodgers gives Green Bay an advantage in the air, although I'm a little bit concerned with his turnovers of late. Green Bay's receivers definitely match-up against the Steelers secondary better than Hines Ward and Mike Wallace do against Charles Woodson and Tremond Williams, especially when James Jones and Jordy Nelson work against Pittsbugh's nickle and dime packages. If Pittsburgh has any advantage through the air, it is with Heath Miller at the tight end position against back-up OLB Erik Walden.  

Advantage - Green Bay.

Running Game - While James Starks has rejuvenated Green Bay's running game by adding an inside presence, Rashard Mendenhall has been effective fighting for extra yards even when the Steeler line has failed to open holes for him in the playoffs. Pittsburgh's backfield is also more versatile with Mewelde Moore catching passes and Isaac Redman coming in as a power back.

Advantage - Pittsburgh.

Offensive Lines - I expect both lines to struggle picking up the other teams' blitz. Green Bay's offensive line is their biggest weakness, and Pittsburgh's line is even worse. If starting center Maurkice Pouncey is unable to play due to a high ankle sprain the Steelers will be down to their back-ups at center and both tackle positions, which should have blitz happy Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers smelling blood.

Advantage - Green Bay, by default.

Pass Rush - Both teams rely heavily on the blitz to set up the rest of their 3-4 defense. Pittsburgh will utilize their famous zone-blitz, while Green Bay will rely on Clay Mathews coming off the edge and try to catch Pittsburgh off guard with cornerback Charles Woodson blitzing from the slot when the Steelers go to 3 wide receiver sets.

Advantage - Pittsburgh. Nobody blitzes better than the Steelers, and they simply have more horses to throw at the Packers with Lamarr Woodley, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

Run Defense - Cullen Jenkins and B.J. Raji have been absolute beasts for Green Bay, while NT Casey Hampton makes it nearly impossible for opponents to run up the middle against the Steelers. I think both teams are going to have trouble running the ball, which is going to make both teams one dimensional and play right into the hands of defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau (Pittsburgh) and Dom Capers (Green Bay).

Advantage - Even.

Cullen Jenkins flexes some serious muscle at DE for the Green Bay Packers

Pass Defense - Green Bay has more talent across the board in the secondary with Charles Woodson, Tremond Williams and Sam Shields as their corners. Still, the Packers have to tackle better than they did against Chicago in the NFC Championship game. Troy Polamalu is a game changer even though he hasn't quite been the same since he returned from an injury to his Achilles tendon late in the season, although the two weeks rest heading into the Super Bowl will give him some extra time to recover. Nonetheless, I like Green Bay's top four receivers when it comes to their match-ups against Pittsburgh's top four corners (Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay and Anthony Madison).

Advantage - Green Bay.

Special Teams - Green Bay's kickoff and punt returners could be a liability. Tremond Williams not only lacks the burst that elite return men have, but I don't trust him when it comes to fielding the ball cleanly on punts. I have a feeling that someone like rookie Antonio Brown could come up with a big kickoff return for the Steelers. Packers punter Tim Masthay deserved to make the Pro Bowl, and was once again fantastic pinning Chicago and elite return man Devin Hester deep in their own territory in the NFC Championship game.

Advantage - Pittsburgh.

Key Players - Packers OLB Clay Mathews, Packers DE Cullen Jenkins, Packers, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay WR James Jones, Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson, Pittsburgh WR/KR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller, Pittsburgh LB Lamarr Woodley, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger.

MVP Predictions - Green Bay - Aaron Rodgers; Pittsburgh - Lamarr Woodley.

Final Prediction - Green Bay - 21, Pittsburgh - 17

When all is said and done, the cheese should stand alone and Packer fans will be singing at the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, WI after Super Bowl XLV

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NFL PICKS - Conference Championship Games

NFL Divisional Playoff Results: 1-3
NFL Results Season to Date: 137-110-13

College Football Season Results: 50-44-6

Mark My Words Divisional Playoff Results: 1-3
Mark My Words Results Season to Date: 35-46-3

Conference Championship NFL Picks (winners in parentheses):

At Chicago -3.5 Green Bay (Green Bay)
At Pittsburgh -3.5 New York Jets (Pittsburgh)

Mark My Words: (I'm not saying that the NFL is pulling for a Green Bay-Pittsburgh Super Bowl, which would probably break every single ratings record, but...well yeah, I'm saying it). Here's how I'd bet the NFL Conference Championship games, and why:

Green Bay -3.5 over CHICAGO/Under 44 points - Even with their home win last week against Seattle, I'm still not a believer in Chicago. Had they not been handed a victory that they did not earn in Week 1 over the Lions on the ridiculous ruling that Calvin Johnson did not "complete the process," the Packers would have topped the bears for the NFC North division title based on the 4th NFL Tie-Breaker for "strength of victory." Without winning the division title the Bears would have likely had to travel in the playoffs, which would have likely precluded any realistic chance at playing for the NFC Conference Championship. As for the match-up itself, don't get caught up with Green Bay's offense. Chicago is going to play bend but don't break and make Green Bay beat their "Tampa Two" zone, while Green Bay has the playmakers on defense to shut down Jay Cutler and Chicago's skilled position players on offense. Even though Green Bay is on the road I still think that they are a better cold weather team than the Bears. Look for Green Bay to beat Chicago 21-17 in a low scoring game, but if one team does break out offensively it will be the Packers.

PITTSBURGH -3.5 over New York Jets/Over 38.5 points - Pittsburgh and the Jets match-up pretty evenly on defense, but Pittsburgh has the better quarterback and a significant home crowd advantage. Even when they were down to their 5th and 6th string tackles against Baltimore's blitz the Steelers proved they could adjust with quick screens and swing passes over and around the rush. I look for the Steelers to win in a 24-17 game that is higher scoring than one would expect given the reputations of the two defenses involved.

Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL PICKS - Divisional Playoffs

Wildcard Weekend NFL Results: 0-4
NFL Results Season to Date: 136-107-13

College Football Bowl Prediction Results: 18-14-4
College Football Season Results: 50-44-6

Wildcard Weekend Mark My Words Results: 0-4
Mark My Words Results Season to Date: 34-43-3

Divisional Playoff NFL Picks (winners in parentheses):

At Pittsburgh -3 Baltimore (Pittsburgh)
At Atlanta -2 Green Bay (Atlanta)
At Chicago -10 Seattle (Seattle)
At New England -8.5 New York Jets (New England)

Mark My Words: Here's how I'd bet the second round of the NFL playoff games, and why:

PITTSBURGH -3 over Baltimore - The road team won each regular season matchup by 3 points this season. Baltimore has been particularily strong on the road all season long, including last week at Kansas City against a strong homefield advantage for the Chiefs. Pittsburgh is as tough as a place in the league as there is to play. I'm going with my gut  on this one and saying Pittsburgh covers.

ATLANTA -2 over Green Bay - Matt Ryan and the Falcons just don't lose at home, but if Green Bay is able to negate Michael "Burner" Turner and the Atlanta running game, things could get interesting. I'm not betting on this game.

Seattle +10 over CHICAGO - I can't believe that one of these two horrible teams will be in the NFC Championship Game. When in doubt, take the points.


NEW ENGLAND -8.5 over New York Jets - While the Jets and the Patriots have split in the Rex Ryan era with the home team winning every game, New England has won their two games at Foxborough decisively.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lance Armstrong: Living strong, or living a lie?

Surprisingly, dating a 21 year old Olsen twin when he was 36 wasn't even Lance Armstrong's most questionable relationship

According to USA Today Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir, American cyclists Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis co-ranked as the #30 Sports Personalities of 2010:
"We long for the days when our cycling news was dominated by great performances. But it was hard to ignore the back and forth between our greatest cyclist ever and one of our most disgraced."

While Landis won a tainted Tour de France in 2006, it's a bit of a stretch to call him "our greatest cyclist ever." On the other hand, Armstrong should certainly be one of our nation's most disgraced athletes. Instead, he is glorified and widely revered for those hypocritical yellow rubber "LIVESTRONG" bracelets given the plethora of independent sources who have implicated him as one of the most biggest cheaters in the history of sports.

You would think that any self proclaimed "clean" champion in a sport as dirty as professional cycling would steer clear of an questionable associations. Yet dating back to 1996 Armstrong has "consulted" with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who just so happens to be notorious for having trained numerous cyclists who have tested positive for doping and performance enhancing drugs. Dr. Ferrari was even convicted in 2004 by an Italian court for malpractice and sporting fraud for showing cyclists how to use performance-enhancing drugs.

While Dr. Ferrari's convictions were ultimately overturned by an Appeals Court, the sports-fraud verdict was only thrown out because of a legal technicality based upon a determination that the applicable statute of limitations had expired. Armstrong himself has said of his relationship with Dr. Ferrari:
"Is it questionable? Perhaps. Has Lance Armstrong ever tested positive? No. Has Lance Armstrong been tested? A lot."

No, Armstrong has never publicly tested positive for doping or performance enhancing drugs, but isn't that Dr. Ferrari's specialty, being one step of the testing curve so the athletes that he trains don't get caught? I'm sorry, but whenever an athlete accused of using performance enhancing drugs refers to him/herself in the third person and employs the, "I've never tested positive" defense, it only makes me even more skeptical. Let's count his relationship with Dr. Ferrari as "strike one" against Armstrong.

In addition to Armstrong's questionable relationship with Dr. Ferrari, Floyd Landis, Armstrong's former teammate who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win after a positive doping test, accused Armstrong and other members of the U.S. Postal Service Team of doping and using performance enhancing drugs.

While Armstrong simply brushed aside Landis' allegations by saying, "Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago," Chad Gerlach, who rode with the U.S. Postal team while Armstrong and Landis were on it said he's inclined to believe Landis's account of widespread doping based on what he saw during his own career:
"I believe it because I have seen it personally. I am not ready to out my friends or provide names. I just saw it. It's just a systematic thing."

While Gerlach was not willing to name names, Armstrong has also been accused of doping by American cycling legend Greg LeMond, a three time former winner of the Tour de France who is an outspoken anti-doping advocate. LeMond has publicly expressed his disdain for Armstrong's failure to admit that he engaged in doping. LeMond voiced has skepticism as to whether or not Armstrong was a clean rider when he was quoted as saying:
"When Lance won the prologue to the 1999 Tour I was close to tears, but when I heard he was working with Michele Ferrari I was devastated. In the light of Lance's relationship with Ferrari, I just don't want to comment on this year's Tour. This is not sour grapes. I'm disappointed in Lance, that's all it is."

Let's consider a credible attack from a legend and mentor like LeMond as "strike two" against Armstrong.

If that isn't enough, Armstrong's former teammate, Frankie Andreu, testified that he overheard Armstrong tell his oncologist that he had used “steroids, testosterone, cortisone, growth hormone and EPO" while visiting him in the hospital as he treated for testicular cancer.

And before we rush to judgement and say that these other riders were out for vengeance or to bring Armstrong down, I've never really heard any other cyclists criticize his personality (actually, Landis was the one they all seemed to hate). Rather, they seemed to simply be standing up for their sport and/or coming clean. Let's call Andreu's testimony in a court of law where he was not personally the one on trial as "strike three" against Armstrong.

As mentioned above, it is well known that Lance Armstrong was diagnosed as having and treated for testicular cancer, which was the inspiration behind his very public and popular LIVESTRONG campaign. I'm not saying that doping or the use of performance enhancing drugs caused Armstrong's cancer, but I will say that IF he did use PED's as the circumstantial evidence suggests (which are known to cause other types, but have never been linked to testicular cancer), his "LIVESTRONG" anti-cancer campaign is hypocritical.

This post is not meant to diminsih Armstrong's charitable work for cancer, just his motives behind it. I've donated money to cancer research, but I'll never feed Armstrong's ego by buying one of his stupid yellow rubber bracelets, at least not until he comes clean about how he came about his success in order to become a public figure and promises that 100% of his LIVESTRONG foundation proceeds go to cancer research with all the administrative costs of running his charity coming from his own pocket. Until then, I'll just look at him as any other semi-talented joe who only  made a name for himself because he was willing to illegally enhance his body, which puts him even lower than someone like Snooki, who at least whored her way to fame au naturel.

NFL PICKS - Wildcard Weekend 2011

Week 17 NFL Results: 11-5
NFL Results Season to Date: 136-103-13

Week 17 College Football Results: 0-0
College Football Season Results: 32-30-2

Week 17 Mark My Words Results: 2-2
Mark My Words Results Season to Date: 34-39-3

Wildcard Weekend NFL Picks (winners in parentheses):

New Orleans -10.5 At Seattle (New Orleans)
At Indianapolis -3 New York Jets (Indianapolis)
Baltimore -3 At Kansas City (Kansas City)
At Philadelphia -2.5 Green Bay (Philadelphia)

Mark My Words - Here's how I'd bet the first round of the NFL playoff games, and why:

PHILADELPHIA -2.5 over Green Bay - Green Bay won by 7 at Philly in Week 1, but Michael Vick did not replace Kevin Kolb until the second half and was still nearly able to complete a 4th quarter comeback. One thing is for sure, this game will be high scoring.

INDIANAPOLIS -3 over New York Jets - Not only does Indianapolis have Rex Ryan's number, but I can't conceivably pick Mark Sanchez over Peyton Manning in a playoff game at Indy. If the Jets win it will be entirely upon their running game and their defense, and both were disappointments this year.

Kansas City +3 Baltimore - I'm not afraid to say that Kansas City is the most overrated team in football, but there's something about their balanced running attack and playing in front of what should be an insane crowd at Arrowhead Stadium that has talked me into taking the points even though Baltimore has been outstanding on the road this season.

New Orleans -10.5 SEATTLE - If Seattle had the 8:00 EST kickoff that the Jets-Colts got instead of the early 4:30 EST kickoff I'd probably go with Seattle and the points based upon the 12th-man home crowd momentum. However, the Seahawks had no answer for Drew Brees and the Saints offense at New Orleans in Week 11, so they should be able to subdue the Seattle crowd if they can take advantage of a weak Seahawk secondary and strike early. Couple that with Seattle's questionable quarterback situation and I'll predict this game as the one blow-out on Wildcard Weekend.