Superbowl XLV Prediction

Alright everyone, it’s about that time. Superbowl Sunday is here and we are less than 12 hours away from crowning a new Superbowl Champion. The stage has been set and the teams have been preparing for what I think will be an incredible game. Over the past two weeks I have listened to the radio, watched ESPN and taken part in many debates that have led me to a final decision on who I believe will come out victorious this evening. This was not an easy pick, in fact this was probably the hardest pick for me this entire postseason, as it should be. I really tried to weigh out the options before making my pick and here is how I did it.

In big time games, you look for players who can make big time plays in big time moments. Today, there are plenty of players who can do that. On offense alone we have have multiple guys who have not only shown they can step up when the time is right, but know exactly what they have to do in order to propel their team to victory. Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are both playing excellent football. Roethlisberger is now 10-2 in the postseason and 2-0 in the Superbowl, so experience is definitely on his side. Big Ben is tough to bring down and knows exactly how to orchestrate scoring drives. Rodgers is playing in his first Superbowl, but don’t let that fool you. He is on fire right now and tearing through defenses left and right. While Rodgers had a shaky second half in the NFC Championship game against the Bears, he dominated in the Georgia Dome and I look for him to bounce back in a big way and play like he did against the Falcons.

Both teams are stacked with receivers as well.  The Steelers have one of the fastest guys in the NFL in Mike Wallace, who proved to be a major deep threat this entire season.  Hines Ward is not only a veteran of the game, but also a Superbowl Champion.  Ward is one of the toughest receivers in the game today and has become as close to a sure thing in big games as anyone else in the league.  The Packers aren’t too shabby themselves, with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.  Both of these guys are elite and make huge plays when necessary.  If you leave either of them open for one second, they will punish you.

Tonight, we’re about to watch the top two defenses in the postseason this year.  We will be watching this seasons defense player of the year in Troy Polamalu and runner up in Clay Matthews, last seasons defensive player of the year in Charles Woodson, and 2008’s defensive player of the year in James Harrison.  Both teams are stacked and everyone is expecting a defensive battle all night long.

When trying to choose between the two, I considered using the experience argument.  The Steelers are 2-0 in the Superbowl with Tomlin and Roethlisberger and seem to be the easy choice here.  With that being said though, as I’ve said many times over the course of the playoffs, I believe that experience is out the window when playing a team who had to overcome game after game on the road.  In 2007, no one thought the Giants could stop the undefeated Patriots.  Big Blue had to play at Tampa Bay, at Dallas and at Green Bay in order to make it to the Superbowl and that momentum proved to be enough.  In this years situation, I think momentum is key.  Green Bay has won 5 straight road games to end up here and I don’t see the Steelers taking that away from them.  While Pittsburgh is a great team and one of the greatest defenses of all time, I am going with my gut on this one.

Superbowl XLV Champions:  Green Bay Packers, 28-24

Can’t wait to hear what you think of my prediction and also, what your picks are!

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Twitter and Social Media: Good or Bad for Sports?

Over the last year or so, I have become quite fond of ESPN First Take.  While there are times I wish I could get a seat across the table from Skip Bayless to argue him, I can’t help but agree with a large portion of his statements.  Today I was intrigued with a topic of discussion on the show regarding athletes using Twitter.  The discussion was sparked after Jay Cutler sat on the sidelines Sunday with a “hurt” knee during the NFC Championship game.  One of the most talked about comments came from Jaguars running back, Maurice Jones Drew who tweeted during the game, “Hey I think the Urban Meyer rule is in effect right now… When the going gets tough… QUIT…”  This comment, along with others, started all sorts of debates on ESPN, including First Take, where they not only discussed whether or not these comments were fair, but also if Twitter is a good thing for sports.

First and foremost, if you’ve watched First Take over the last few weeks, you know that Skip has a bit of a man crush on Jay Cutler.  Most of the sports nation came down on Cutler for his actions on Sunday, so leave it to Skip to come to his rescue.  Now I have to admit, I actually disagree with all of the criticism Cutler got.  Not because I think he deserves it, because I don’t, but simply because you just don’t know.  Cutler hasn’t proven anything to us except for the fact that he makes a lot of bad decisions, but I don’t agree with questioning a players heart or commitment to his team.  There really was no telling what kind of injury he was dealing with and everyone making these comments was on their couch watching from home.  With that being said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if players think they would have played through the pain, then it’s their right to think that way.  I agree 100% with Sage here and think that fans love to hear what athletes have to say, good or bad, and should be allowed to voice their opinions no matter what.

When debating if social media is good or bad for the NFL, I think you would have to be insane to think it’s anything less than great, for all the reasons stated in the video and more.  Twitter and other forms of social media have become an important part of teams and their players, along with playing an integral part in marketing strategies and tactics.  Looking specifically at generating new fans and also retaining existing fans.  People want to know what athletes are doing and what they think about certain things.  You can’t allow a couple of dumb tweets negate all the positive influences social media has had on the sports industry.

Mike and Mike also made a great point this morning about all this twitter chatter, stating that it’s something everyone needs to just deal with.  Instant media, blogging and real-time commentary is not going away, so whether you like it or not, you need to learn to accept it.  This is the world we live in and everyone’s opinions are always going to be available instantaneously.  As I said before, fans want information immediately and they want the raw emotion of players as things are happening.  Sometimes players hit the send button too soon, but that doesn’t change the fact that fans and spectators want that.

It’s incredible to think how the sports world works these days.  I hear the words Twitter and blogging in almost every sports conversation on ESPN now and even during sporting events.  It has become such a huge aspect of the industry and just like Mike and Mike said, get used to it because it’s not going anywhere!

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and opinions.  Were these comments about Cutler “out of line?”  Is social media bad for sports?  Let me know what you think.

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2010-2011 NFL Playoffs: Championship Round Picks

Last week I came out strong at 3-0 and my confidence was high heading into the Sunday night game.  Unfortunately, Tom Brady screwed my weekend up and the Jets won big.  So I finished the weekend at 3-1, bringing my overall record for the playoffs to 5-3.  Let’s hope my picks this weekend hold up and I can feel good heading into the Superbowl.  These picks were not easy though, as we have two great match-ups this week.  I’ll keep it short and sweet this week, but before I do I felt it was necessary to show a clip from the post game interview with Sal Palantonio and Bart Scott.  Possibly the greatest rant I have ever seen!

AFC:

New York Jets AT Pittsburgh Steelers:  I’ve said it before, I am a big believer of momentum and the Jets definitely have it.  New York has shown they are road warriors, beating the two best quarterbacks on their home field.  You would think Marc Sanchez was a bum by the way he gets disrespected, but let’s face it, the kid is 4-1 in the playoffs so far in just his second season!  That’s pretty impressive in my opinion.  The Jets have their backs against the wall and are playing with heart.  But once again, before making a quick decision, I decided to look at the facts.  While the Steelers lost to the Jets earlier in the season, at home, we all know anything can happen on any given Sunday.  Possibly the most valuable defensive player in the game, Troy Polamalu, was sidelined and did not play against New York.  A lot of people have started to open their eyes to the Jets after defeating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady consecutively on the road.  But here are the facts…  The Jets were very successful running the ball against the Colts (169 yards, 2 TDs) and Patriots (120 yards and 1 TD), but the Steelers have the number one run defense in the league, allowing just over 60 yards per game. The Ravens had a pretty solid running game themselves, but were only able to produce 35 total yards on the ground last week.  The Patriots defense was ranked 11th and the Colts were 25th.  With Polamalu back, the Jets will not be able to run as easily and Marc Sanchez will be forced to throw the ball more often, which concerns me.  At the same time, Pittsburgh’s offense doesn’t impress me anymore than an average team and against the Jets defense, who is playing very well, I don’t see them having as big of an impact as they need.  This will be a defensive battle from start to finish.  I see this game coming down to the wire and being decided by 4 points or less.  Tough to go against them for a third straight week, but I’ll take the Steelers over the Jets, 17-13.

NFC:

Green Bay Packers AT Chicago Bears:  A lot of people have given this game to Green Bay already, completely dismissing the Chicago Bears.  I think that’s a mistake to some degree.  Chicago’s defense is playing great football and should be able to hold the Packers to a closer game than the Falcons were able to do last week.  Jay Cutler, who everyone thinks will find a way to screw this game up, played a nearly perfect game last week, throwing 2 TDs and rushing for 2 as well.  With that being said, no other team has as much momentum as Green Bay does right now.  Aaron Rodgers has been red hot the last few weeks and showing no signs of slowing.  The running game will be more important than some may think in this game though.  I think Starks will be able to do enough to draw more attention from the Bears defense, giving Rodgers time to do damage.  Chicago is known for being a difficult place to play, from the fierce cold weather to the slippery terrain.  On the other side of the ball, Green Bay’s defense has been playing exceptional as well.  They are putting tremendous pressure on the opposing quarterbacks and stepping up big when it matters most.  This was another tough game to pick, but I have to give the edge to the Green Bay Packers.

So there you have it; I’m predicting a Green Bay/Pittsburgh Superbowl in Dallas, Texas… Can’t wait!

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2010-2011 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Picks

Alright so I had a slow start last weekend, but thanks to the Pack and the Ravens I was back on track and moved to 2-2.  In an attempt to regain control of my picks, I went ahead and did a little research for this upcoming weekend.  I’ll do my best not to pick with emotions, but there’s only so much stats can do to reverse my gut feelings.  We have some great match-ups this week and it wasn’t easy to make these choices, but I feel confident heading into the weekend.

AFC:

Baltimore Ravens AT Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Steelers and Ravens each won a game in their season series.  In week 4, the Ravens defeated the Steelers 17-14 in Pittsburgh, but Roethlisberger was still on suspension and did not play.  In week 13, the Steelers rebounded and won 13-10 in Baltimore.  The Steelers were just 5-3 this season at home and the Ravens are rolling after a big win last week against the Chiefs.  With that being said, this contest is too close to pick off stats alone.  The difference maker in this game for me is Troy Polamalu, although I believe the game will come down to a field goal.  While the Ravens away record is very impressive, I have to give the edge to the home team.  Steelers win this one 17-14.

New York Jets AT New England Patriots.  In week 2, Rex Ryan’s Jets shut down Brady in the second half, beating the Patriots 28-14 in New Jersey.  Mind you, this was back when Randy Moss was still their number one receiver.  Their second meeting was hyped up beyond belief and fell miles short.  The Pats dominated the Jets from start to finish, humiliating them 45-3.  While the Jets are coming off of a strong win in Indianapolis against Peyton Manning and the Colts, they still have to travel to Gillette Stadium and take on the surging Patriots.  Not one player in the league is playing better than Tom Brady right now and I don’t see that changing.  I don’t want to take anything away from the Jets and their performance last week, but I just can’t pick against the Patriots on this one.  Mark Sanchez still hasn’t proved to me he can win this type of game and Bill Belichick will have his team more than prepared for whatever the Jets have to offer.  The Patriots win this one 31-24.

NFC:

Green Bay Packers AT Atlanta Falcons.  Atlanta barely made it past the Packers in week 12, winning by just 3 points, but Green Bay is riding high after their win last week against the Eagles.  When I look back at that game, I don’t think the Packers were healthy and where they are now.  While the Falcons have an impressive home record this season, 7-1, and Matt Ryan seems to be nearly unstoppable in that dome, we saw late in the season that they were beatable.  The Packers look to have gotten hot at the right time this season and are rolling behind Aaron Rodgers.  If they can run the ball nearly as effective as they did last weekend, they should have no problem whatsoever.  At the end of the day, the Pack are playing strong and I believe they will be able to overcome those 3 points from their first meeting.  The Falcons and their fans will be going home disappointed on Saturday as Green Bay wins an exciting game, 24-17.

Last week, Seattle overcame a huge feat by beating the defending champions and becoming the first team with a losing record to win a postseason game.  Marshawn Lynch had possibly the greatest rush for a touchdown in playoff history, and Matt Hasslebeck played like Joe Montana.  Taking nothing away from Lynch and Hassleback, I just don’t see them being as successful against the Bears defense.  Chicago’s defense will not blow their coverage or miss 8 tackles per play like New Orleans did, and should be able to shut down the Seahawks attack.  But while I worry not about the Bears defense, it’s their quarterback that concerns me.  Jay Cutler hasn’t proven anything except that he throws lots of interceptions and another Cutler meltdown is always right around the corner.  Although I love Seattle’s story this season and wouldn’t be completely surprised if they upset the Bears, again, I just don’t see it happening.  I’ll take the Bears in this game, 28-21.

Let me know what you think about this weekend.  I look forward to hearing your picks.

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2010-2011 NFL Wildcard Weekend Predicitions

Alright everyone, the regular season is over and Wildcard Weekend is just days away.  The 2010-2011 NFL postseason will officially begin this Saturday when the Saints visit the Seahawks, followed by a classic battle between the Jets and Colts.  On Sunday the Chiefs and Ravens will face off before the final game at 4:30 between the Eagles and Packers.  I expect all of these games to be highly entertaining and can’t wait for it to start.  While we wait, I thought it would be wise to start my predictions and discuss it with some of you.

AFC:

New York Jets AT Indianapolis Colts – I have to go with Peyton Manning on this one.  While the Colts were at 6-6 a few weeks ago, they have finished the season strong, winning their last four and seem to have pulled it all together.  Manning has stepped up his game tremendously, throwing less interceptions and controlling the game just like he does best.  Along with the passing attack, I expect the Colts running game to be effective as well, rushing for over 100 yards against Rex Ryan’s defense.  The Jets put together a solid start to the season, but were unable to finish the way they needed to.  Combine that with a quarterback who hasn’t proved he can win the big games and the Colts win 31-24.

Baltimore Ravens AT Kansas City Chiefs – The Ravens have momentum heading into the playoffs, winning 6 of their last 7 games, but haven’t proved to me that they are good enough on offense to make a deep run.  At the same time, the Chiefs are questionable without their running game and against one of the best defenses in the league, I don’t see them being very successful.  I don’t want to take anything away from Matt Cassel, who has led the Chiefs into the postseason, despite having surgery a few weeks ago.  Kansas City’s defense has also played well, but at the end of the day, Baltimore’s veteran defense should be able to hold up and help them advance.  I’ll take the Ravens 24-17.

NFC:

New Orleans Saints AT Seattle Seahawks – Seattle is said to be a very tough place to play at and while it will cause some disruption in the first quarter, I refuse to believe the defending champions will make an early exit.  The Seahawks deserve some credit for winning their division and making it to the postseason, but this game will show why a 7-9 doesn’t really belong.  Brees needs to use this game as a confidence builder and try to avoid the turnovers, as he has thrown at least one interception in his last 11 games.  When it’s all said and done, I expect the Saints to roll through Seattle 34-10.

Green Bay Packers AT Philadelphia Eagles – This is another very tempting match-up, as the Eagles have shown how explosive they can be.  And while the Packers just barely squeezed into the postseason, their defense has proven to be stout and Aaron Rodgers seems to be back in the swing of things.  With that being said, the Eagles are a very young team and their defense had trouble with the Packers in week 1.  The Packers have won two straight games and I believe will use that to push them into the next round.  Green Bay wins a close one in Philly, 24-21.

Remember these are just predictions, so please reply and let me know what you think.

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