Monday, January 23, 2012

El Clasico del Rey

After a great first match last Wednesday, el clasico gets set for the second leg this Wednesday and Ronaldo and Real Madrid visit Messi and the rest of the Barcelona squad at Camp Nou. The first game was a good one, but I felt was better played by Barcelona. The first goal, scored by Ronaldo, was a shot inside the box that just went between the goalpost and the goalie. After that, Madrid was playing really conservative and it cost them in the end. You had that corner kick to Puyol for the game-tying match, and afterwards some crafty footwork by Messi and Abidal to take the lead and the goal which would prove to be the game winner. It was a hard fought victory for Barcelona, especially because it was an away game and it was el clasico, the most intense rivalry in La Liga. This was a very physical game, then there was that very cheap move by Pepe to step on Messi's hand while he was on the ground, which proves that this is a no hold barred type of game. Now Real Madrid must fight in Barca territory needing to win 2-0 (counting the aggregate) to advance into the semi finals. Based on their play from last game, I think Barcelona gets it done at home and moves forward in the Copa del Rey. Real Madrid did not get enough good shots in the last game, and Barcelona seemed to have a better fast break team. I'm taking Barcelona. They're at home, they're ahead already on the 2-1 aggregate, and they seem to be the better team right now. As to who goes on into the semi-final in this tournament, we'll have to wait and see this Wednesday, 4pm EST, live from Camp Nou. Let's go Barca, mes que un club!

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's a Fake!

Now that we're a few games into the NBA season, we've had some real nice surprises both good and bad. We've got pretenders and contender's, so let's take a look. My team, the Knicks, we're pretty much being given the Atlantic Crown, but some poor early play has led to bad losses, I mean the Bobcats, really!? Starting with the Atlantic, the 76ers are looking like a great young team that could be the next Thunder, with a mix of homegrown talent and hustle play, they're looking like legit contenders. The Knicks, despite being in second place right now, should really be higher. They have a bunch of stars on their team and a pretty decent bench, but each game it seems we win with a tight margin or get blown out. Chandler is doing his part, but it seems like if Melo doesn't score 40 a game, they stand no chance. Boston is an aging team, and was something that was expected a long time coming. Allen still drains the 3's and Rondo is a great PG, but this team doesn't dominate as much as it used to. Toronto and New Jersey are just horrible. There's no talent in Toronto and New Jersey needs someone that can collaborate with Deron. Until next year with the big move to Brooklyn, NJ will decide nothing in the Atlantic. The Central will definetaly be won by the team I have picked for this year's NBA Champions, the Chicago Bulls. Great talent on the starting 5 as well as off the bench. And with an easy conference, it should be a first or second seed for the Bulls. Indiana has been a surprise, especially with wins over Boston and Atlanta. If they keep it up, they'll be a presence in the playoffs. The rest of that division is a joke really. The Cavs are a .500 team that has young talent but lacks that Lebron je ne sai pas. Milwaukee just has Jennings, end of story. And the Pistons seem to be doing worse and worse, so hopefully the lottery will cheer em up. Arguably the strongest division in the league is the Southeast, which has Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta, which are all playoff bound teams, along with Charlotte and the lowly Wizards. Orlando, it's a bit tricky to predict how they'll do, considering we don't know if Howard will be traded in the next 5 minutes or not. Miami, the Big 3, what more can you say. I hope they suck, but we know they have that co-MVP callibur team in Lebron and Wade, Bosh can come too. Atlanta is looking like it will make a huge run in the playoffs in my opinion. Charlotte has proven to be a joke, and the Wizards are probably getting the number one pick. So that's the East.

In the West, you have high scoring talent and LOB City. The Northwest really only has two teams competing, including statistically the best team right now in Oklahoma City. Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka is a terrible tandem and that bench is nasty. With great defense and explosive offense, especially with that win over the Mavs earlier, this team will do damage in the playoffs. Utah is a contender, but doesn't have a strong team honestly, it's the weak division that gives it all it's wins. Portland is just hanging around, while Denver and Minnesota have wasted talent. Especially K-Love, who is averaging a ridiculous double double for the season. The Pacific has both good and bad. LOB CITY LOB CITY LOB CITY. It's LA, and it actually exciting on both sides. CP3 and Griffin make a great team, while Kobe seems to be scoring 40 every game lately. Hats of to DeAndre Jordan, who's really made the Clippers a competitive team. Phoenix is a declining team with the great and powerful Steve Nash, who hopefully is traded to a contender. Golden State had high scoring talent, but the record doesn't show for it. I really thought they would have had a better season. Let's not even talk about the Kings. It is le embarassing! The southwest is also a decent division. San Antonio is off to a hot start and I think they can take the division. Despite Manu out for a while, they still seem to keep winning. Dallas is another aging team, and although they have championship calibur players, I don't expect much from them this season. Then again, no one did last year. Memphis, Houston and New Orleans round out the bottom 3. All three teams currently have sub .500 records, and I expect it to stay that way. Bulls, Heat, Clippers, Thunder. These are teams that go above and beyond. Knicks, Lakers, Miami, step ya game up! and Wizards, Suns, Nets, better luck next year. Suck for Luck!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Messi Messi Messi

The non conventional trifecta of soccer. It wasn't a hat-trick, and it wasn't 3 World Cup appearances. On Monday, Barcelona F Lionel Messi received the FIFA Ballon D'Or, an award which recognizes the best soccer player in the last year. Beating out rival Cristiano Ronaldo and teammate Xavi Hernandez, Messi won his third award in as many years, a first in the presentation of the prestigious award. This 3rd award now puts him in talks of joining greats like Maradona, Pele, Zidane and Ronaldo. Messi scored 61 goals in 71 appearances in 2011, with goals coming in Barcelona or while sporting his native colors of blue and white for Argentina. And while he isn't my favorite player (see, Chicharito Hernandez), I really like Messi. He's just enjoying the game and his time as king. You hardly see him frustrated or calling out teammates. It's like he's a little kid playing his favorite sport. He is the face of the sport right now, yet you don't see him selling out or demanding more money. Not only is he a crowd favorite, but a player favorite as well. He's won multiple championships during his time with Barcelona, all that's left is the World Cup. If and when that happens, I think he'll be a soccer legend for the ages. As for now, he's a tremendous talent on a superior team, and he shows no signs of slowing down. And to Cristiano Ronaldo....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Game of the Century II

Tonight, you have the #1 team in the nation facing off against the #2 team, as the Alabama Crimson Tide face off against the LSU Tigers. These two SEC teams faced off in early November, and it was a game dubbed as the game of the century. It was a great game that ended in a 9-6 OT win by LSU and gave Bama it's only loss of the season. It was what many expected from the best defenses in the nation, but this time around, expect at least one touchdown scored. The game, which kicks off tonight at 8 ET, features a talented RB in Trent Richardson for Bama against the hard hitting offense of LSU, led by QB Jordan Jefferson. Each team features a lot of players that are set to be first or second round draft picks, and coaches which have proven to be capable of winning bowl games. And after 5 weeks of waiting since the teams were announced to play each other, it is finally decided tonight. Who do I have winning, you might ask? I'll take the same team I took in their first matchup, a loss that cost me my career high 14 game winning streak in ESPN Beat The Streak, Alabama.
I feel that Alabama has a more complete team on both sides of the football. Their defense, not much can be said other that statistically they are the number one team in the nation. As for the offensive side, Bama has a slight advantage in both passing and rushing, while LSU has scored more point per game then it's counterpart. LSU is a perfect 13-0 this year, with all of it's victories coming in double digit fashion, except for one. Alabama. Many, including myself, wondered why the National Championship game wasn't Oklahoma St. or even Stanford against LSU, with Alabama already getting a shot at them? It's what that damned BCS system does to us. It screws the nation of college playoffs to truly determine a national champion, and instead uses those 3 polls to determine the top two schools. But what's done is done, and all we can look forward to now is a new National Champion, and a first SEC loss in the championship game, tonight in New Orleans live from the Superdome. The game will be tonight at 8 ET, in ESPN. Look for a big game for Trent Richardson, a close game until the 4th quarter, and a 3rd national championship for Nick Saban. Roll Tide!

Friday, January 6, 2012

That Wildcard Weekend

Now that the NFL regular season is over, it means three things. I'm in winter break right now. It's cold as F@#K outside. And it's time for the first wave of NFL playoffs, that exciting wildcard weekend. We've been entertained in past two years, when we had Green Bay taking on the Cardinals in that thrilling overtime game. Or last year, when Lynch went "beast mode" against Porter and that Saints D. It's one of those plays that shows us that during the playoffs, feel free to throw out any regular season records, stats, or performances. The playoffs are exciting because anything can happen. It was expected for teams like the Packers or Saints to make the playoffs, but we've had some surprises like the Texans in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history or my New York Football Giants getting into the playoffs on the final game of the season. What do these playoffs have in store for us this year. Hopefully excitement, drama, and a whole lot of beast mode in every game.

Bengals @ TEXANS
The Texans are really hurting at the quarterback position, even more so with an injured Andre Johnson at wide receiver. That leaves the offense to be carried by Arian Foster and Ben Tate. This is a great 1-2 combo that allows for a powerful and effective run game all day. The offense will struggle in the air though, as Tar Heel T.J.Yates will make his first playoff start in his rookie year. The Bengals have great youth talent at quarterback and receiver A.J. Green, but lack in offensive explosion. And this is a team going up against the second best defense in the league. I'll take the Texans at home in this one.
Lions @ SAINTS
Perhaps the highest scoring affair this weekend will be when the Detroit Lions take on the New Orleans Saints, home of this year's BCS National Championship Game on Monday. Drew Brees has had a record year in passing yards and seeks to add to the legend by defeating the dangerous combo of Stafford to Megatron. While the Saints have a slight statistical advantage at offense, I give the Lions the edge at defense. If the silver lioning can get to the quarterback a few times, it will change the Saints from a west coast offense to a pound the football team, something I wouldn't want with Ingram out as your pounding back. The Saints are undefeated at home and have great, super bowl calibur, talent and chemistry. Saints beat the Lions.
Falcons @ GIANTS
A game I'll be watching with my heart racing at every snap. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons take on Eli Manning and the New York Giants to kick off the second half of wildcard weekend. Tremendous talent on both ends, from Turner and Jones on the Falcons to Cruz and Pierre-Paul. Both teams are capable of scoring multiple touchdowns, and I expect turnovers to decide this one. Manning, who is having a career year, is spreading the ball more and the Giants are splitting snaps between Jacobs and Bradshaw. The Falcons rely on Turner for the most part, but burn blitz's with a Ryan bomb into the endzone. I feel like the Giants have a more complete team, and have more momentum coming in, beating the cross town rival Jets and division rival Cowboys on back-to-back weeks. They're capable of containing Turner and forcing the Falcons to throw the ball, which will lead to multiple sacks in this game for the Giants. Giants win in front of a home crowd.
STEELERS @ Broncos
Probably the most one-sided contest this week, the Steelers take on the team with the worst record to make it to the playoffs, the 8-8 Broncos. Credit to Tim Tebow for leading them into the playoffs with a strong mid-season run, but this team is struggling hard. Week 15 and 16, they gave up 40 points to the Patriots and Broncos. Then in Week 17, with a chance to win the AFC West, they lose a low scoring affair with Tebow looking like a true rookie with a laughable performance. Not the momentum you want coming into the playoffs. And while the Steelers are hurting at both quarterback and running back position, with Mendenhall out for the season and Big Ben battling a bad ankle, the defense will get to the quarterback multiple times. I see this as a complete blowout, advantage Steelers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Forecast

With the new year here, we've got a new year to wish, to dream, to hope that our team wins the championship. I myself am guilty of that, hoping that my Mets will at least finish .500, or that the Giants make great strides in the playoffs this year. What else do we have to look forward to? Well on the 9th of January, we'll have a new BCS National Champion, with wither Alabama or LSU taking it all. I've got my money on Alabama, since I feel like they have a better defense and can make more explosive plays. Trent Richardson was held in check last game, but surely that'll change this game. If bowl season has taught us anything, it's that you better score 40 points to have a chance. Ok, that's a bit of a stretch, but this game will have at least three touchdowns, not like the "thrilling" 9-6 victory LSU had over Bama to give the school it's only loss of the year. So Roll Tide on this one.
On February 5th, expect a record crowd to view the Superbowl, an event that will be streamed live on NBC for the first time ever. And while we're far from knowing who will participate, I'll take a stab at determining the NFC and AFC championship games. On the AFC side I've got the Patriots and the Ravens facing off, considering the Texans have issues at QB and the Steelers are very down on offense right now. The Broncos, with a QB that completes 2/20 passes and the Bengals with inconsistent offense shouldn't make it far in the playoffs. In the NFC I have the Giants and the Saints facing off. Detroit has an explosive offense but it's defense will give up a few touchdown to Drew Brees, while the 49ers don't have enough offense to compete with these MVP quarterbacks and the Packers barely edged out the Giants last time they met, a lineup that had their starting RB on the bench at the time. These games will be great though, so lets go Giants!
March Madness comes after, with favorites like Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina leading the charge. I really like Duke this year, with outstanding athletes Seth Curry and Austin Rivers leading the charge. Surely my bracket won't be busted like a last year, so no Butler and VCU in this championship matchup this year. Don't expect much from my Scarlet Knights, who play in the toughest conference known as the Big East. With lots of ranked teams in the Big East, they'll make noise in the tournament but won't win it all.
April brings the opening of the MLB season. Just like the scene from Family Guy for my Mets, "And here's the first pitch...and the season's over". That pretty much sums it up for my team. Although we do have excitement brewing across the NL East. The Phillies still have the strongest pitching staff. The Marlins are know the Miami Marlins and took he-who-must-not-be-named as their new SS and Buehrle to go with Johnson in that pitching staff. The Braves have great talent in Heyward and McCann, and just missed the playoffs last year. While the Nationals have a very intriguing team with Werth, Strasburg coming back, Harper possibly being called up, and Fielder potentially signing with them. And on the AL side we have a new manager for the Red Sox in one of my favorite managers, Bobby Valentine. We also have Pujols sporting new wings and a relentless Rangers team who has lost the past two World Series. The new Buffalo Bill's? Only time will tell.

Perhaps the biggest sports tournament this year will be the 2012 Summer Olympics. Before, I wasn't a huge fan of the games in 2004, but the games won my heart in 2008. I watched live as Michael Phelps won his second gold against the French, and Usain Bolt breaking every track record. Plus I am guilty of watching the woman's gymnastics, purely for the sake of competition., yeah. We also had the great American Redeem Team led by LeBron James and Dwight Howard. This year the headlines should be the continuing domination of Phelps, a second gold for USA men's basketball, and Spain or Brazil taking the soccer gold.
In September the NBA season commences (but it just started!). That's weird, but this year brings the free agency of Dwight Howard and the movement of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Exciting time for Jay-Z's team. Let's keep the bandwagoning to a minimum guys. Hopefully before the season starts, LeBron hasn't won a championship, the new look Knicks are NBA champions, and Steve Nash hasn't retired!
In the last 3 months, you have the World Series and hockey/basketball/football in full swing. Championships will be won and lost. Legends will be born and fall. It's the beauty of sports. All can go right or everything will erupt in your face. I can't wait to see what this year brings!