Sunday, September 27, 2009

New-Look Jets with a Swagger

I'll admit, I was less than pleased all last week when the Jets talked and talked leading up to their game with the Patriots.

The truth is, when they do things like that, it makes them look even worse when they get beat.

But the fact that they were able to back up all that talk and win the game makes me kind of happy they did it.

I think I like a team with some swagger.

And I think I like that it starts with the coach.

This is certainly not the type of thing that would have happened under Eric Mangini. A player who said anything under Mangini would face a fine, I'm sure ... or worse.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

Never Too Early for Must Wins

Here we are in Week 3 of the NFL season and already there are a handful of teams in precarious situations. Some of them were expected to be where they are while others are not at all where they wanted to be.

And while the tired cliche "Every game is a must-win," has been repeated around the league, it actually holds true in more than one case -- including the game I will be at tomorrow out here in beautiful San Diego between the Chargers and the Miami Dolphins.

So let's go down the list, shall we? Last week was the first time I have tried my hand at picking games and I have to say going 8-7 was a pleasant surprise. Remember, because of my affiliation with the Dolphins I cannot weigh in with a prediction on their game.

(Continue to NFL Guru)

USF Stuns FSU with Bullish Effort

Florida State University never saw this one coming.

The Seminoles were confident they'd handle upstart South Florida in the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday.

FSU never saw first-time starter B.J. Daniels coming. Likewise, the Seminoles never saw the South Florida defense coming, and that was a mistake.

The South Florida Bulls, playing FSU for the first time ever, stunned the 18th-ranked Seminoles in every facet of the game and reshuffled the state's football power structure with a 17-7 victory.

(Continue to Running with the Bulls)

Ducks Take Bears to the Woodshed

California entered Autzen Stadium as the No. 6 team in the country with the hopes of finally living up to expectations and capturing a Pac-10 title this season. The Bears leave Autzen Stadium with an embarrassing 42-3 loss to the Ducks. Now the USC/Cal game next week might be an elimination game, leaving the loser with no shot at the Rose Bowl.

After going down to the Ducks it will be very difficult for the Bears to come back and beat the Trojans next week. Oregon was off the radar after its disappointing 19-8 loss to Boise State in the first week of the college football season. Since that defeat the Ducks bounced back and beat Purdue, 38-36, and Utah, 31-24. After this impressive win over the Bears, Oregon will be ranked again and is back in the hunt for first place in the conference.

(Continue to Inside the Pac-10)

Top NBA Teams for 2009-10

More than any other NBA season in recent memory, team chemistry will ultimately define many of the top ballclubs throughout the league this year.

If Shaquille O’Neal, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and the other big-time acquisitions over the offseason aren’t able to blend in with their new squads, look for teams that pretty much stayed intact from a year ago like the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers and Atlanta Hawks to make more noise.

Here are All Net’s top 10 teams for the upcoming 2009-2010 NBA season with their ’08-’09 regular-season records in brackets.

(Continue to All Net)

Purposeful Pakistan Beats Rivals

The SubContinental showdown lived up to its pre-match billing with 550 runs and no shortage of incident as Pakistan saw off India by 54 runs.

The majestic Malik cracked 128 to set up the platform, although Yousef's 87 from 88 balls was just as crucial in setting the 300-plus total which put the game beyond India's reach.

The normally mercurial Harbhajan went for 71 off his 10 overs and, with Tendulkar going cheaply and the injured Yuvraj looking on from the stands, Indian's box office names were no draw for their more committed, though sometimes just as errant, rivals on the big occasion.

Gul and the ebullient Aamir did their best to help by overstepping and providing enough free hits to fill a career album - but India failed to capitalise.

(Continue to Crick Down the Legside)

Bittersweet Ryder Anniversary

It was 10 years ago today that one of the most remarkable comebacks in golf history occurred at the 33rd Ryder Cup match in Massachusetts. It was dubbed the "Battle of Brookline" and saw the American team rally from four points down on the final day of play.

With Ben Crenshaw telling everyone that he had a feeling about Sunday's finale his team charged out on Sunday and won the first seven matches to take a 13-10 lead. Jim Furyk defeated Sergio Garcia and Justin Leonard halved his match against Jose Maria Olazabal with an incredible putt on 17 to seal the biggest come from behind win in Ryder Cup history.

(Continue to Par for the Course)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Raiders: Just Whine, Baby!

Has there ever been a sports franchise that's fallen farther, faster than the Oakland Raiders?

This once-proud team of marauders, led by its egocentric owner, Al Davis, used to eschew anything resembling the conventional to achieve the only thing that really mattered: winning.

These days, though, the only thing their unconventional approach has earned them is a new, embarrassing identity -- sniveling losers.

And the descent toward, and through, the bottom continues unabated.

Consider this story that has made the rounds in recent days ...

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Week 4 Predictions

North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (-2.5)

The Yellow Jackets are at 6000rpm in 3rd gear, and they don't seem to be progressing. The Tar Heels have been on the easier course so far, but their offense has sputtered at times too...

The Call: North Carolina by 7

South Florida @ Florida St (-14)

The Bulls have destroyed Wofford, Western Kentucky, and Charleston Southern so far this year, so we don't know a whole lot about them. Now that seven-year starting QB Matt Groethe is out, we know even less. But that's okay - we know the Seminoles hung with Miami, had a close call against Jacksonville St, and crushed BYU. 2 out of 3 isn't bad.

The Call: Florida State by 21

Fresno State @ Cincinnati (-16.5)

The Bearcats are beating (what should be) good teams, while the Bulldogs are getting beaten by (what should be) good teams. Like a glove.

The Call: Cincinnati by 18

(Continue to The National Championship Issue)

SEC Is So Tough ... Just Like a Duck

Most certainly, I'm not the only one who suspected that Ole Miss was a fraud. Yeah, the Rebels did beat Florida and finished with a six-game win streak last year, but what have they done in 2009 to warrant the lofty ranking of No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the Coaches Poll?

Well, nothing, really.

Ole Miss was manhandled by Stever Spurrier's very mortal South Carolina team last night, scoring just one touchdown on a long pass play in a 16-10 loss. The score would've been more lopsided, in the Gamecocks' favor, had it not been Carolina's insistence on shooting itself in the foot repeatedly.

The Ole Miss defeat, without a doubt, brought back the oldest canard (or is it a Peking Duck?) in college sports back on the table: The SEC Is the Toughest Conference in Football. I've gone around this several times and really don't want to waste another second on this dubious subject. And delightfully, the Wall Street Journal (of all papers) came to the rescue.

(Continue to BCS Guru)

Cupcakes for Florida ... Mmmm Good

First and foremost, all UF programs are about winning SEC championships, as AD Foley has repeatedly stated. Indeed they are one of the primary benchmarks by which our coaches are evaluated.

Within this context, the scheduling Ass. AD must keep in mind that our first SEC game is always UT, half the time an away game. Thus, the goal must be to prepare the team, allow it to work the kinks out during the first couple of games, let the coaches test the rotations and let some of the 3rd teamers get some playing time in case they are called upon once the brutality of the SEC schedule takes its toll on the 1st and 2nd teamers.

It is the scheduling Ass. AD's job to set us up for an SEC run, and hopefully more, not satisfy the idle urges of bored alumni who want to chew peyote in the Arizona desert.

(Continue to Saurian Sagacity)

JaMarcus Russell Continues Struggle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Following Wednesday evening's practice, Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher discovered a gift waiting for him when he greeted his wife as he left the field: a framed and autographed poster of Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Fisher coached Russell at LSU, helping Russell develop into the top overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. A lot has changed since their last season together at LSU in 2006.

Fisher left Baton Rouge for Tallahassee after the season, and Russell soon began his quest to find the same success in the NFL that he enjoyed at LSU. So far, Fisher is having better luck as FSU's coach-in-waiting.

(Continue to Seminoles Sports Center)

Dolphins Look to Avoid 0-3 Start

After all but beating the Indianapolis Colts last Monday night, the Miami Dolphins travel to the West Coast to face the high powered San Diego Chargers at 4:15 p.m.

The challenge is a daunting one: Try to avoid going 0-3 against one of the most talented teams in the NFL.

Last week, Miami dominated the Colts statistically, except for the big statistic on the scoreboard, which read Indianapolis 27, Miami 23.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

Fleury Released, But Still a Winner

Well done, Theo Fleury.

No, the comeback kid's attempted comeback didn't pan out with the Calgary Flames, but he did himself proud nonetheless.

Fleury was released by the Flames today, but he performed a lot better than anyone could have anticipated with four points in four preseason games, along with a winning shootout goal.

Not bad for a guy who is 41, has been out of the NHL for six years and is a recovering alcoholic. He's been sober for some time and will continue to fight the good fight, so kudos to him.

(Continue to Through the 5 Hole)

The World's Longest Trick Shot

(Continue to The March to Madness)

Wanderers Pitch Lifts England

After half the cricket writing fraternity have eaten large slices of humble pie this morning - myself included - it's time to reflect on England's surprise six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka last night.

England were desperately looking for some inspiration before this game, and they probably didn't bank on finding it inside five overs, thanks to a Wanderers pitch that offered more movement than a steroid-charged Kangaroo. Some of the top order's shot selection left a lot to be desired, but it was still a great effort to reduce Sri Lanka to 17 for 4, even if they did let them off the hook in the middle overs.

(Continue to Crick Down the Legside)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yankees Will Be Measured by October

The Yankees clinched a spot in Major League Baseball’s postseason tournament earlier this week, but that can only be the beginning for this proud franchise.

For the Yankees, and second-year manager Joe Girardi, it’s all about October. In New York, it is always a pass/fail grade. Despite being the first team to secure a spot in the playoffs, the Yankees’ final report card won’t be distributed until next month.
Going into the playoffs, there are a few reasons to be concerned.

First, the Yankees have to take care of business and secure the AL East division title. They can take a big step toward that direction this weekend with a three-game series against Boston, their closest pursuer in the division chase. After finally winning a series in Anaheim this week, the Yankees need to keep the momentum going and play well this weekend. Boston leads the season series, 9-6, after taking the first eight games against the Yankees this season. Boston enters this weekend 5 ½ games behind the Yankees.

(Continue to New York Minute)

Give the Kid a Chance

Dear New York Mets,

As another disappointing season comes to a close, I'd like to make a pitch for an opportunity to turn the franchise around.

I know as an organization you say you are committed to the losing ways of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel. But I know that it's not too late to make a change.

You can have a man who has Hall of Fame player credentials. He knows how to play the game of baseball. He has done nothing but win since he began his managerial career. And I'm pretty confident that if you pick up the phone, this person would leap at the opportunity to manage the Mets.

His name is Gary Carter.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

NHL's Five Most Intriguing Players

With the first puck set to drop on the 2009-10 National Hockey League season in exactly one week, I got to thinking about some of the players I am really intrigued to see play---for one reason or another---this season.

Of course, it is always exciting to see the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, etc. ply their craft, and I am always intrigued to see how their seasons play out. But this list of five isn't necessarily about being a superstar.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

Why Does God Hate Michigan?

Week 3 of the NFL season will kick off in less than 48 hours and we figure it's about time we got some answers in the Grill Room.

Answers to what? That's another question, sluggo. I said we're looking for answers around here.

Answers to stuff like...

Why does God hate Michigan?
Here's why we're asking: Because isn't it bad enough that Kid Rock calls the place home? What, a 15.6 percent unemployment rate isn't high enough that these poor people also have to watch their football team go on strike each Sunday?! If the Lions don't win at home against the impotent Redskins this weekend, they will become only the second team in NFL history to have lost at least 20 straight games. Then they'll have nothing between them and the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Yucks, who fumbled their way to a record 26 losses in a row. Good Michiganders all over the state will be dropping to their knees Sunday praying for one stinking win. And, if God forbid, they come up short yet again, they can least give thanks that many of them weren't forced to watch it.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Marriage of Tigers and Destiny

Last night, the Tigers did something they’ve struggled to do in the last month of the season: beat an inferior opponent to a pulp. And this three-game winning streak has given me a little extra hop in my step.

Not so much because the Twins’ 2-1/2 game deficit is now insurmountable. But because in the last three games the Tigers’ strengths — the only way they can win down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs — were showcased in those three wins.

For the Detroit to be successful in the stretch run, they have to follow the standard advice for every wedding planner in America: Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue.

(Continue to Michigan and Trumbull)

Remember Curt Flood?

Today, I discuss some Cardinal history and recall my all-time favorite St. Louis player, Curt Flood.

Flood was primarily a center fielder for the Cardinals and played 12 of 15 years with the birds on the bat logo. He retired in 1971 as a Washington Senators' member.

Flood displayed a steady presence on the Cardinal's World Series clubs in 1964, 1967 and 1968. Flood, who wore uniform number 21, hit mostly singles and doubles in his career. He totaled 1861 hits including 271 doubles. He battled a respectable .293. He was an outstanding outfielder and never had a fielding average less than .900 in his career. He totaled 1.000 in 1966.

(Continue to Paul's Redbird Report)

Soccer's Week in Review

USA-Honduras at a Neutral site?

The World Cup Qualifying match between the United States, scheduled to be played on Oct. 10 at San Pedro Sula may be moved to an alternate site amid the political unrest that is currently gripping Honduras.

Airports in Honduras have been closed down due to widespread violence in the wake of ousted president Miguel Zelaya's return to the country. FIFA and CONCACAF are monitoring the situation and hope to make a desicion sometime next week.

(Continue to Soccer 24-7)

Davis Cup 2010: What a Draw!

Rafa Nadal against Roger Federer on the Spanish clay (the odds that Costa will choose the “red” to host Switzerland are great), Novak Djokovic in front of his Serbian supporters facing Andy Roddick. Those are just wo hot spots for the next Davis Cup first round, programmed for the weekend before the Indian Wells Masters 1000.

(Continue to ATP Tennis 360)

This Is Why I Love Sports

It's fall, and fall is when I fall in love with sports all over again. Some people don’t understand why I love sports the way I do. They just can’t fathom calling in sick to watch game seven. They can’t empathize with a fan spending his entire vacation and most of his savings to follow his alma mater to the College World Series. They can’t believe I schedule my entire Saturday around Miami Hurricane games throughout the fall. They can’t relate to a person whose wardrobe allows him to go half the year without wearing the same jersey twice. They would never be able to justify the cost of season tickets. Sure, real life is more important than sports, but they were dumbfounded when I found that dumb. They could never rationalize spending an entire Thanksgiving on the couch in front of a TV, and they can’t comprehend someone making $25,000 as a sports writer instead of $50,000 as a sheep.

When faced with the obligation of such a complex explanation, I often resort to poetry, and that’s when they know it’s me … that’s when they notice me. Sports may not make cents to them; sports might not mean much to them; sports isn’t school, church or work to them, but sports are to me what all those are to them. I study sports in lessons, I work within sports for little or no wealth, I have few favorite teams but I worship the game itself. When you have an athlete in your blood and a fan in your heart, sports are your life, and ‘til death do you part.

(Continue to Sport Imitates Life)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gretzky Quits the Coyotes

Super athletes rarely develop into super coaches, as Wayne Gretzky discovered during his four seasons behind the Phoenix Coyotes bench.

The greatest player in NHL history? You won't get an argument from me.

I had the pleasure of covering Gretzky during his time with the Los Angeles Kings, following his blockbuster trade from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988, and he was as gracious and approachable off a sheet of ice as he was great on it.

But Gretzky, who owns virtually every league scoring mark imaginable, stepped down today as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes after four seasons with a record of 143-161-24, with two fifth-place finishes in the Pacific Division, two fourth-place finishes, and no playoff appearances.

(Continue to Through the 5 Hole)

The Rise and Fall of Brad Lidge

How the mighty have fallen.

This will be the fourth and, I pray, final time I write about Brad Lidge blowing a save. The same Phillies closer who was perfect last season. He finished 4th in Cy Young voting and 8th in MVP ballots in 2008.
Now, his stats are looking eerily similar to the horrendous year in 2006 only worse!

Tonight, he lost his 8th game of the season, has blown his 11th save, and increased his ERA to an unheard of 7.48. Two run lead, bottom of the ninth....Phillies have a problem. I have ignored this obvious concern to the best of my ability but I can no longer turn a blind eye to how pathetic Brad Lidge has been this season.

I am not sure what season was more remarkable and beyond belief: the success of last season or the failure of this one.

(Continue to Philadelphia Sports Scene)

Packing Heat: Delonte, No!

Cavaliers star Delonte West, a guitar case strapped to his back, was riding a Can-Am Spyder motorcycle on the Capital Beltway last Thursday when cops in Prince George County, Md., pulled him over for speeding.

No surprise here that a rich athlete was traveling in the fast lane. Athletes tend to be thrill-seekers, often living their lives on the edge. And what is more thrilling than cruising the roadway with the wind at your back, weaving in and out of traffic with a panoramic view everywhere?

Had speeding been all West did wrong, he wouldn’t have found himself wearing a pair of handcuffs. Speeding alone might have gotten him a stern warning, and he could have been on his way home.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

Sports News? How Tweet It Is

I know, I know, you're busy. All I am asking for is a couple minutes of your precious time. Gotta get something off my chest. Cool?

So I turned on my computer this morning, checked my email, saw one from the gods at World Sports Blogs encouraging me to join Twitter, minimized that message, grumbled at all the spam, ignored (again) some dude named Norton Update, saw a message from Facebook, went there to find 'a friend' ragging me to join Twitter, saw 17 other 'friends,' telling their 13,000 friends what they were feeling at that very moment (most of them were feeling overwhelmed, by the way -- sorry, btw), was directed to YouTube and a must-see video of a rhinoceros passing gas in an unsuspecting chimpanzee's face, laughed, came back to my email account, re-read the message from WSB that I never finished, grudgingly clicked off a pop-up of a bikini-clad babe asking for a date, saw WSB was also asking me to become a fan of their new Facebook page, went back to Facebook, became a fan, watched the rhino again, laughed, checked my homepage, saw that another 8 friends were now complaining about being overwhelmed, went back to my email account, and finished reading the WSB message that ended by saying something about keeping up the good work.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Say It Ain't So, Foppa

Brett Favre, and now Peter Forsberg?

The 36-year-old forward and former NHL most valuable player is attempting yet another comeback, this time with his hometown team Modo in the Swedish Elite League.

The oft-injured center has experienced problems with his right foot for several years and didn't play at all last season, except for three games with Modo, when the chronic foot ailment forced him to give up the comeback attempt.

A great one in his prime and one of hockey's most entertaining players, Foppa as he's affectionately known in Sweden and by his legion of fans (especially in Colorado, where he's still revered), has undergone several foot surgeries and experimented with various skates in an attempt to return to the ice.

(Continue to Through the 5 Hole)

Cloud Hangs Over Tavares Debut

This is the night Islanders fans have been waiting for ever since the club selected its next savior, high-scoring forward John Tavares, with the first overall pick in June's NHL Entry Draft. In fact, this is the night the diehards have been salivating over since the Isles won the draft lottery.

Tonight, John Tavares dons the home blue jersey and skates in his first game---albeit a pre-season one---in front of the hometown faithful at the Nassau Coliseum following training camp in Saskatoon.

It should be a happy occasion for these fans, who have been mercilessly beaten down with on-ice foibles and off-ice turmoil the past 15 years or so. Tavares' home debut should signal that there is a bright light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

K.C. Hockey Fans M.I.A

The city of Kansas City seems to be a little confused right now. Maybe people play head games in relationships by trying to make it seem as though they aren't TOO interested even though they really like somebody, but that won't work when trying to attract a professional sports franchise.

Last night, hockey fans in Kansas City had a chance to show how badly they wanted an NHL team. The Islanders and Kings were staging an exhibition game and only 9,792 fans showed up in an 18,000 seat arena.

That's barely more than half of capacity. And guess what? Tickets were cheap. If you went to the ticket window and mentioned the name of a local sports talk radio station, you could get into the arena for $10 per ticket. There weren't too many takers. In fact, there were so few takers that the upper bowl was completely closed off.

(Continue to Brad's Barbs)

KU Fight Club: Bad Press or No Press?

By now most sports fans have heard how the KU football and basketball teams did their best Brad Pitt and Edward Norton impressions.

It's easy to say how the fights will be a black eye to the University -- and to some point they will. But will the old saying "bad press is better than no press" ring true with these two teams?

Of course everyone knows the Jayhawk basketball team is good, but does anyone on the east coast think they are better than Kentucky? For some reason, they are still viewed as choke artists on messages boards, despite defeating a one-loss team (one that supposedly even cheated) in the NCAA championship just two years ago.

(Continue to Inside Jayhawk Nation)

USF Pins Hopes on Daniels

Meet Bruce Edward Daniels, known in University of South Florida football circles as B.J.

He is fast, blazing fast, elusive, shifty, powerful and has a heck of an arm for throwing the football.

He is perhaps a reincarnation of an incredible college football player who once graced the field of the old Tampa Stadium. His style of plays bears remarkable resemblance to a former University of Tampa and NFL great.

Travel back 35 years in Tampa football history, if you will. The year was 1974 and it was the senior season for the remarkable Freddie Solomon, dynamic quarterback for the UT Spartans.

(Continue to Running with the Bulls)

Notre Dame ... Missing Tiller

As Notre Dame prepares for Saturday's contest at Purdue, Irish fans should reflect on how much they miss former Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller.

Ole Joe always seemed like one heck of a nice guy, but he might have been the only mentor in the Big Ten that Charlie Weis could out-coach. Tiller actually might have stressed defense less than Weis.

Of the three Big Ten teams that Notre Dame plays regularly, Weis has a winning record only against Purdue. He is 2-3 against Michigan and Michigan State - counting this season's results - and 3-1 against the Boilers.

(Continue to Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling)

Gary Williams on WaPo Live

(Continue to Terp Ticker)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Justice in Plax's Prison Sentence

He looks like the portrait of injustice. That’s about all you can say about Plaxico Burress as he walked into a New York courthouse Tuesday and prepared to begin his sentence of two years in state prison.

Yeah, Burress broke the law, but if his punishment reflects the best of American justice, I prefer something else.

I guess if I hadn’t seen lesser crimes than his earn a “perp” probation, I wouldn’t feel as I do about this sentence. I also know that if I liked Burress more, I might even be more outraged about it.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

What's Up with Tom Brady

OK Jets fans...let's cool it with the "Brady Sucks" chants.

Tom Brady does not suck. Tom Brady is just playing below the significant bar he has set for himself to this point in his career. I know, it's much too wordy to chant at a game. But it's more true than "Brady Sucks".

At the very least, Brady sucks right now. The question is, why?

Here are the facts:

Game 1: 39-53 for 378 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Game 2: 23-47 for 216 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Going deeper than the facts, Brady only had as many yards against Buffalo as he did because they didn't run the ball and he completed short passes. And if it wasn't for the final five minutes of that game he would have shown no life at all.

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

Romo, Defense Come Up Short for Dallas

You can't blame Terrell Owens for this one.

The Cowboys 33-31 loss to the New York Giants in what was a very winnable game came down to a couple of malingering problems from the last couple of seasons—Tony Romo's penchant for mistakes and having one of the worst secondaries in football.

For starters, I don't want hear from any Cowboys fans who say Romo is a better quarterback without the melodramatics of Owens. All three of Romo's interceptions against the Giants led to 24 points. What should really bother Cowboys fans about Romo's miscues was that it wasn't like the Giants were bringing a whole lot of pressure on the quarterback.

(Continue to NFC 'Easter)

Conservative Dolphins Done In by Colts

As we've often heard, statistics don't always tell the story, and Monday night was proof of that.

The Miami Dolphins dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than three full quarters.

They had 27 first downs to the Indianapolis Colts' 14, ran for 239 yards to Indy's 61.

Yet, by game's end, the scoreboard read, Indianapolis 27, Miami 23.

A must win for the Dolphins became a blown opportunity.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

Early Separation Already Evident

Two weeks into the 2009 NFL season there already are a handful of teams beginning to separate from the pack inside their division and conference -- and it's not the usual suspects in every case. I'll break down both conferences over the next two days, beginning with the AFC.

Let's start in the AFC East, where everybody's preseason favorites to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLIV, the New England Patriots, are one poor Leodis McKelvin decision away from joining the Miami Dolphins in the basement at 0-2. The New York Jets are the ones in control at the top after back-to-back gutsy performances by rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Their impressive upset of the Pats at Gillette Stadium, which used to be one of the hardest places for a road team to win, was reminiscent of what Miami did a year ago on the same field en route to dethroning New England as AFC East champs. This week's home game against a very good Tennessee Titans team will go a long way in determining whether or not these Jets are true contenders or pretenders.

(Continue to NFL Guru)

Giant Thanks and Steel Resolve

We're fully expecting a rowdy crowd around the Grill Room this week because we've put the 1-1 Steelers in the No. 2 position in the NFL 100-proof rankings.

But before you start any trouble and get bounced from the joint, shut up and listen:
First, we don't genuflect to upstart squads like so many of the knuckleheads that put together their weekly rankings.
Yeah, the Jets are a surprising 2-0, but with a rookie QB at the helm, and a coach whose mouth attracts flies and more and more enemies each week, it is hard to see them beating any of the teams ranked above them if matched in, say, Omaha or something.

And that last part's key, pally. Our bartenders base their rankings on what a team would do when matched up against any other team that Sunday on a neutral field.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Tressel Ball vs. Win Forever

Which is worse for a coach's reputation: losing the big games, or losing the small games?

That's not rhetorical - there is an answer, as we'll soon see.

Of course the topic relates to Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll. During the last two weeks we’ve seen continuations of trends that many thought would end this year. Ohio State lost (yet again) to a top-five opponent, and USC lost (yet again) to an unranked conference foe. There has been a lot of vitrol flung at Tressel and Carroll in the last few days, everything from deconstructing why Tressel is a bad tactician, to dissecting why LA makes Carroll a bad coach, to the ever entertaining analysis by MS Paint. So instead of piling it on, let's be constructive and figure out how these two can get out of the holes they've dug. We'll start by putting their coaching of the last few years into context.

Along with Carroll and Tressel at the top of the coaching food chain are Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, and Bob Stoops. Most folks would have these five in some order at the top of their list of current best coaches, so let’s take a look at the five’s records and other miscellaneous stats over the six seasons.

(Continue to The National Championship Issue)

Time to Pull Plug on UAB Football?

Before the UAB-Troy football game last Saturday, The Birmingham News ran a story asking the question: Who’s No. 3 in State?

Obviously, Alabama and Auburn are the top two college football programs in the state, while UAB and Troy are trying their hardest to be taken seriously at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.

Troy has a much longer and richer football history. The Trojans are celebrating their 100th season this fall. Most of that was spent at the small-college level before they made the jump to NCAA Division I-A status, now FBS, in 2001. They are members of the Sun Belt Conference.

(Continue to Rue's Rant)

An Avalanche of Teens

It's beginning to look like the Colorado Avalanche could have a couple of teen-age phenoms on the roster for its Oct. 1 season opener against San Jose.

First-round pick Matt Duchene, 18, should be a lock to start the year in Denver, even if new head coach Joe Sacco is reluctant to say as much. The final 23-man roster, he's said, won't be determined until after the Avalanche plays its final three exhibition games.

Matt Duchene (left) and Ryan O'Reilly have been impressive in Avalanche camp.

"I think he's made some progress every day, and that's what you're looking for," Sacco said of Duchene, who was taken third overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft after collecting 31 goals and 48 assists in 57 games last season for the Brampton Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League.

(Continue to Through the 5 Hole)

Hockey in K.C.? Not a Good Idea

It was only a pre-season game, but by the looks of the crowd in Kansas City last night when the Islanders came to town, the 9,000-plus fans in attendance is a good benchmark for what it would be like in the regular season.

Ironically, the Coliseum looked awfully similar last season and by mid-season this year, will probably look the same. On a day when Islanders fans stormed the Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University to support their team and the Lighthouse initiative, the Isles were hundreds of miles away losing to the Kings, 4-2, in a foreign land.

A few days earlier the Islanders were in Saskatchewan - also far and foreign to Long Islanders. Let's hope that's the last time the Isles play in K.C. - aside from pre-season tune-up contests.

(Continue to Thin Ice)

PGA's Off Week Still Eventful

So we take a week off from the chase for the FedEx Cup in the PGA and you think that means all's quiet on the golfing front do you?

Not so fast.

A 57-year-old Southern California man decided to pay tribute to fallen duffers everywhere by throwing golf balls out his car window while driving through Joshua Tree National Park, located in the Mojave Dessert just northeast of Los Angeles.

By the time park rangers discovered who had been tossing the golf balls in the park, Douglas Jones had deposited nearly 3,000 golf balls in the dessert. Park rangers, who had to pick up each golf ball, along with some other items Jones left in the park for various reason, were not amused.

(Continue to Par for the Course)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Milton Bradley: Going, Going, Gone

You can only show compassion for so long, because at some point, compassion has to step aside and let pragmatism move into its breach. In Chicago, it did just that when the Cubs told Milton Bradley to take his baseball gear and go home.

Like a handful of teams before them, the Cubs tried and failed to fit Bradley’s combustible character into a situation that would keep it from turning into an inferno. They surrounded Bradley with professionals, partnered him with a player-friendly manager in Lou Piniella and plopped him into a city that reveres men who wear Cubs jerseys.

The organization was hopeful that, under these circumstances, Bradley would achieve the stardom that has long been predicted for him. He would build off the season he had with the Rangers a year ago and give the Cubs a potent bat in the middle of the batting order.

(Continue to Justice Is Served)

R.I.P. Tiger Stadium (1912-2009)

Tiger Stadium, which stood watch at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull for nearly a century, will most likely be laid to rest today or tomorrow.

All that remains is a portion of the lower deck wall at the corner of Cochrane and Michigan.

The official age of death will be 97.

The corner of Michigan and Trumbull, known as Bennett Park, became the Tigers’ first home on April 28, 1896 — a 17-2 win over the Columbus Senators.

(Continue to Michigan and Trumbull)

Lanny Wadkins Has Plenty to Say

Golf Magazine features one of the best sports interviews you'll ever read when it goes shot for shot with Lanny Wadkins in its October issue.

Writer Alan Bastable stood in there strong and put a number of potentially contentious issues in front of the feisty Wadkins.
Wadkins (pictured) seldom backed off and gave as good as he got, taking on, among other things, the World Golf Hall of Fame, CBS Sports, and Tiger's lack of competition.

But rather than continue to tease you, we'd like you to check out of the Grill Room and go to this link so you can read the thing.

Yeah, yeah, we know that by directing you out of here, we are probably breaking some golden tenets of website traffic, or page views, or unique visitors or something else we don't understand. No matter, we are nothing, if not committed, to serving our clientele with the very best in sports prose.

(Continue to The Grill Room)

Bucs 'D' a Big Nightmare

Tuesday is the traditional day off for NFL players, thank-you Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Some might argue that certain members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense take Sundays off as well.

This 2009 Tampa Bay defense has become youthful head coach Raheem Morris' nightmare.

The question was posed to him at his Monday press conference: "Is this defense getting out of hand?"

Morris, without hesitation blurted: "It's already out of hand!"

(Continue to Buccaneer Bow Shots)

Redskins Going Nowhere Fast

If you witnessed the Washington Redskins 9-7 victory over the hapless St. Louis Rams squad at Fed Ex. Field in Landover, Md., you would have probably would have thought you were in South Philadelphia with all the booing that went on along the Beltway this past Sunday.

Even though fans are no doubt happy about seeing their Skins get their first win of the season, they are frustrated with an offense that rolled up 362 yards offense, but only managed to come away with just three field goals.

While it's never good discount any victory in the National Football League, I think Redskins fans are looking down the road when they have to run across teams the high-powered offenses in their own division like the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles—that have all put more than 20 points on the board so far this season. The team has not scored 30 points during head coach Jim Zorn's tenure in Washington.

(Continue to NFC 'Easter)

Good Weekend for Kessel, Dubinsky

A couple of NHL mini-dramas came to a close this weekend as the Boston Bruins finally traded free agent winger Phil Kessel, and center Brandon Dubinsky ended his holdout with the New York Rangers. Now if there could only be some end-game with the Phoenix Coyotes situation, the NHL would be soap opera-free, and we could move straight ahead and begin opining about where the Atlanta Thrashers are going to deal Ilya Kovalchuk by the trade deadline.

Dany Heatley traded? Check. Phil Kessel traded and signed to new long-term deal? Check. Brandon Dubinsky holdout ended with new multi-year contract? Check. Francis Bouillon free agency courtship ended with one-year deal in Nashville? Well, yes, check. But let's not get off-track here.

After Heatley was traded by the Seantors to the Sharks, even more focus was placed on Kessel's saga in Boston. A 21 year-old with one outstanding season among three in the National Hockey League, Kessel was poised to break the bank after his 36-goal campaign a year ago. With the Bruins up against the cap, it was a foregone conclusion that Kessel would be dealt, and, in fact, he was on Friday to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

Who'll be the First to Five?

One riveting sidebar story that will most likely persist the entire 2009-2010 season is which future Hall of Fame NBA player, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant (photo above holding trophy), will possibly capture his fifth championship title first this year.

Big Shaq won three straight titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (2000, 2001 and 2002) and one with the Miami Heat (2006). The Big Fundamental has captured four championships with the San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). And Kobe, currently the best baller in the game, got all his rings with the Lakers of course (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009).

(Continue to All Net)

Hansbrough Will Succeed in NBA

There have been plenty of naysayers who doubt Tyler Hansbrough's ability to transition from the college game to the NBA. Well I say nay to their nays.

Hansbrough played four successful years at UNC at Chapel Hill. He is not what some would call a "natural athlete," but for anything he lacked in raw talent he more than made up for by putting in blood, sweat, and tears. In the workout room he even earned himself the nickname "Psycho T" for his high intensity, maximum effort workouts.

Many question whether his 6'9" 250 pound frame will be well suited for banging around under the boards in the NBA. To make his game more complete and well rounded at UNC, Hansbrough worked tirelessly to improve his outside shooting. By the end of his tenure are UNC, all of his hard work and extra practice helped make him a threat even outside of the paint. His work ethic and leadership contributed to the Tar Heels' success and helped them bring home the 2009 NCAA Championship.

(Continue to The Pine Rider Writer)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here's the Bill, Belichick

The football gods really have long memories. Either that, or they took extra-long notes on the 2007 NFL season.

How else to explain what happened to the New England Patriots on Sunday at the Meadowlands? Better yet, how it happened?

Think about this: in Week 2 of 2009, the New York Jets talked junk about the Patriots and threw it all into the streets about what they wanted to do to them, and how they weren’t about to bow down to them, and all the things that should have had them eating about 10 flavors of crow by game’s end. And not only did the Jets back it up, they actually did make the Patriots look bad, even keeping them out of the end zone.

Not a huge deal, you might say, since this clearly is less of what we’re used to seeing of the Patriots, less of what we expected of them, and more of the injured Tom Brady than the rehabbed Tom Brady. But those who believe in karma have no doubts about what went on Sunday.


(Continue to The Steele Drum)

Buccaneers Get Buffaloed

"No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!" - Chris Berman, ESPN

The Buffalo Bills didn't have to circle their wagons on Sunday.

No, the team they were facing wasn't that big of a threat.

Sure, there are no easy wins in the National Football League, but before some of the hometown fans were planted in their seats, the Bills had run up a quick 17-0 lead on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sure Tampa Bay fought back and made a game of it for a while, 20-14, Bills, but when all was said and done, when all the Buccaneer defensive weaknesses were exploited, Tampa Bay headed for home 0-2 and absorbed another defensive setback in the 33-20 loss.

(Continue to Buccaneer Bow Shots)
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