Candid Kobe

By BJ

As much as I hate Kobe Bryant the Laker, he seems like a cool guy off the court as evidenced by recent postgame comments with players and reporters.

Last week with Ricky Rubio:

Last night on Jeremy Lin (Hilarious. You can tell a lot about what Kobe thinks of himself from talking about another player.):

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My Super Bowl Prediction

By BJ

I may have only gotten half of the conference championship picture right, but did you really pick the 49ers over the Saints and the Giants over the Packers?

And I’m glad I didn’t get in a post on the conference championship previews like I intended. I went with an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl. (Hey, one play in either game could’ve made that happen.) But enough about trifles, on with Super Sunday.

Super Bowl XLVI

Tale of the Tape: Week 9 – NY Giants 24, New England 20. This game was won without Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks, who should contribute big in the Super Bowl. So what points to the Pats having any shot in the rematch?

First, what won’t happen. ESPN’s Dan Graziano stated that Brandon Jacobs needs to come up big for the Giants to win. Sorry, Jacobs is not the X-Factor. Despite 72 yards and a touchdown against the Pats in the first meeting while filling in for Bradshaw, Jacobs will take a backseat with limited touches. He has under 25 rushing yards in three of the last four games – all wins.

Similarly, Ron Gronkowski, who should otherwise be able to tear up the Giants’ D, is not at 100% with a nasty ankle sprain suffered at the end of the game against the Ravens. Reports of him trotting in practice without a limp say very little about his condition. He had his walking boot removed on Tuesday and might not be well enough to beat the secondary for his customary long, over the middle routes. I can see under 60 yards and no scores for the behemoth tight end, which gives Brady one less target to throw to.

Speaking of Brady, he’s coming off his worst game of the season and his first without a single touchdown pass, snapping a 35-game streak. But he’ll bounce back with what I expect to be a flawless effort against the team who gave him his only Super Bowl loss four years ago. If he doesn’t–and let’s not forget the Giants made Aaron Rodgers look like a QB playing in his first playoff game in the divisional playoff game–the Giants cap one of the most impressive postseasons in history.

MVP: Tom Brady – In a high-scoring affair, the only one I can see taking this away from the franchise QB is Wes Welker, who had 9 catches for 136 yards in the two teams’ first meeting. (Santonio Holmes won MVP honors two years ago with 9 catches for 131 yards and 1 TD, albeit the game winner with under a minute left.) However, Welker has been held to under 60 receiving yards in 4 of his last 5 games and Gronkowski is hobbled so the obvious choice would be Brady, whose optimal game–wait for it–could go north of 350 yards and 4 scores.

New England 31, NY Giants 28

Who Manny Pacquiao Should Fight Next

By BJ

On Sunday, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum went to the Philippines to present Manny Pacquiao with a list of four options for his next fight, none of which is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Back in November, Oscar De La Hoya stated Arum was the reason for the non-fight, and it looks like that continues to be the reason.

Today, Arum stated that a megafight will have to wait until an outdoor stadium is finished being built at the end of May, possibly turning it to look like it’s on Floyd, who has already set the May 5 date for his next match.

I rank the four fighters on Arum’s list on who Pacman should fight next below.

4. Juan Manuel Marquez  – Admittedly, JMM has given Manny the most trouble, but let’s put to rest this amazing trilogy. If Pacman fights Marquez again, the thought of him beating an opponent four times is historically inane.

3. Lamont Peterson – On December 10, Peterson upset Amir Khan in a split decision that shouldn’t have happened. The incompetent referee penalized Khan two points for pushing, which turned out to be the difference in Peterson’s favor. As a fan, I want to see a Khan-Peterson rematch first, and if Peterson wins, he can be a more viable candidate. But none of this will happen in time for Pacman’s next fight date in late May/June.

2. Miguel Cotto – The thought of having this fight be at a catchweight of almost 154 pounds is the only intriguing thing in a rematch of a lopsided 2009 victory. Pacman’s camp may be talking up Cotto with his three straight TKO’s since, but he’s not all that interesting.

1. Timothy Bradley Jr. – Why I like him: He beat Peterson in a unanimous decision in 2009…He’s 28-0…He’s a junior welterweight titleholder.

Why I don’t like him: He’s dodged fights, most recently, a bout with Khan with an eye on Pacman. Khan then lost to Peterson, ruining his shot with Floyd so Bradley shouldn’t be rewarded for his action – or rather, inaction…He’ll have to move up in weight to fight Pacman…He has no big fights on his resume.

NFL Playoff Predictions

By BJ

Wild Card

AFC

Houston over Cincinnati – These two teams actually met in Week 14 with the Schaub-less Texans scoring the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left at Cincinnati. Now that this game will be on Houston’s turf and rookie Andy Dalton having postseason jitters, the Texans won’t have to dig themselves out of a hole this time.

Pittsburgh over Denver – The Broncos are the worst team in the playoffs, not only by record, but in my eyes, they’re not even the best team in their division (they’d lose at home to San Diego if they played this week). Tim Tebow has come down to Earth and will close out the season with four straight losses. He’ll finish the 2011 season 7-5 as a starter, but more importantly, 0-3 against playoff teams by an average deficit in the first two contests by 26.5 points. Kyle Orton was 1-1 against playoff teams in the first five games. Steelers by 25.

NFC

New Orleans over Detroit – The Saints took care of the Lions at home in Week 13, 31-17, and the score this time around should be similar. Both QB’s–both 5,000 yard passers this season–will put up big numbers, but the record-holder will rack up the touchdowns and the W.

NY Giants over Atlanta – If the right Giants show up, they should win a close one. They may have home-field advantage, but they have an NFC playoff-worst 4-4 home record.

Divisional

AFC

Baltimore over Houston – The Ravens took care of Matt Schaub and the Texans 29-14 in Week 6. It won’t get any easier with T.J. Yates at the helm.

New England over Pittsburgh – The Steelers beat the Pats 25-17 in Week 8, but so many things scream about as an aberration or a red flag. NE: Tom Brady was held to under 200 passing yards; Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker combined for 133 receiving yards and no touchdowns. None of that will happen again. Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball a season-high 50 times, although that may happen again if Isaac Redman has a game anything similar to what he had the last time out against New England. The new starter had seven carries for just 11 yards; Rashard Mendenhall went 13 for 70. The Pats, along with the Saints, roll into the playoffs as the hottest team, having scored at least 27 points in each of their last eight games – all wins. Oh, and this time it’s in Foxborough.

NFC

Green Bay over NY Giants – The Giants lose by 3 to an (almost) undefeated team in the regular season, then beat them in the playoffs. Sound familiar? The Pack will be at home for this one, unlike that Week 13 scare, but this could be closer than most people think.

New Orleans over San Francisco – It’s too bad the best defense in the NFC never faced the Packers or Saints. The best offense they faced all season was the Lions in a tough 25-19 win. The 49ers also have the lowest-scoring offense out of all the NFC playoff teams, and they won’t be able to keep up with the Saints, who will put up points.

Conference

AFC

Baltimore over New England – The Pats are the popular pick to make it to the Super Bowl, but their No. 1 seed in the AFC has been padded by an absolutely weak strength of schedule. They’ve played just three playoff teams all year and have gone 1-2, including a 25-17 loss to defensively-stout Pittsburgh, their lowest points scored all year. The Ravens sneak into Super Sunday.

NFC

Green Bay over New Orleans – The Packers won the season opener against the Saints 42-34. Expect another shootout from the previous two Super Bowl winners and the same victor in what should be the most entertaining game of the playoffs and the real Super Bowl matchup.

Super Bowl XLVI

Green Bay over Baltimore – While the Ravens deserved this trip to Indianapolis, this game is a mismatch. The best offense they faced all year was the Chargers, who blew them out 34-14. This one could get that ugly, as the Packers repeat as champions for the first time since the Patriots did it in 2005.

MVP – Aaron Rodgers – I could see Jordy Nelson stealing this away with 100+ yards and a couple of touchdowns while Rodgers holds it to under four touchdown passes or not without a couple of turnovers. But the obvious choice is Rodgers, who hoists the championship belt (aka the Super Bowl MVP award) for the second time in a row, joining Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players to do so and capping the greatest season ever for a quarterback.

College Football Bowl Predictions

By BJ

I know there are 35 bowl games and that bowl season effectively started a couple of weeks ago, but unlike ESPN, who has a broadcasting stake in the bowl season, we all know it really begins today with two BCS bowls and the first games with both teams ranked.

Ranked teams went 7-0 in their bowl games against unranked foes while Notre Dame and Tulsa, who I ranked 20 and 24, lost by a combined seven points, both in fourth-quarter comebacks.

Below are my picks for the top 10 bowls from the 2011-12 season (along with BCS rankings and comments).

Monday, January 2

No. 22 Penn State over No. 19 Houston – The Cougars have a shot to beat a weak ranked team and finish the season with 13 wins, but this is your typical choice to go with the major conference team. But Penn State is 0-3 against ranked teams this season. This is major record-holder Case Keenum‘s swan song.

No. 9 South Carolina over No. 20 Nebraska – The Gamecocks, who are the fifth-best team in the SEC, are better than the best team in the Big Ten. The Huskers are the fifth-best team in the Big Ten.

No. 16 Georgia over No. 17 Michigan State – QB Kirk Cousins leaves the Spartans with his first 3,000 yard season. He’s 0-3 in bowl games, including a 2008 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. It’ll be deja vu.

Ohio State over Florida – The only game on this list that’s not a battle of ranked opponents. Both finished with disappointing 6-6 seasons, both will be losing key players to the four-year maximum rule. For OSU: Dan Herron. For Florida: John Brantley, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

No. 5 Oregon over No. 10 Wisconsin – Arguably the biggest mismatch of the five BCS bowls, the Ducks should score points at a faster pace than the Badgers can keep up. LaMichael James and Montee Ball, who has 2,000 total yards and 38 total touchdowns, will likely forgo their senior season and enter the NFL draft. This is also the last game for Russell Wilson, who led the nation in QB rating with 31 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.

No. 3 Oklahoma State over No. 4 Stanford – This will likely be the last game for Justin Blackmon, who is expected to enter the NFL draft early. Brandon Weeden, who threw for 1,158 more yards with a higher completion percentage than the likely-No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, will get the opportunity to cement his career as a winner against him.

Tuesday, January 3

No. 13 Michigan over No. 11 Virginia Tech

Wednesday, January 4

No. 15 Clemson over No. 23 West Virginia

Friday, January 6

No. 6 Arkansas over No. 8 Kansas State

Monday, January 9

No. 2 Alabama over No. 1 LSU – A rematch of November’s tilt in a game the Tide should’ve easily won based on missed field goals alone (4), this one is for all the marbles. The best game that no one wants to see again, the special teams might do in the Tide again in a game where every point matters. Tide kickers are just 2-for-11 from 40 yards or more this season. I can easily see the Tigers winning comfortably this time around, but I’ll go based on what I saw in their previous meeting.

This will be junior Trent Richardson‘s last game, who has had a tremendous 2011campaign. The last time an SEC running back ran for 1,583 yards was Trent’s teammate in 2009, Mark Ingram. The QB tandem of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson will both be graduating after the National Championship Game. Expect only Jefferson to play in it.

Injustices Across Sports Pt. 2

By BJ

College Basketball

Last Sunday, suspensions were handed down to the players involved in the Cincinnati-Xavier on-court brawl that ended the game early. The most egregious act came from Cincinnati’s best player, senior Yancy Gates, who sucker-punched an opposing player a la LeGarrette Blount.

Blount, if you remember, was also a senior in 2009 and sucker-punched an opposing player immediately after a season-opening loss

Blount

to Boise State in 2009. His punishment? Suspended for 10 games. Blount went undrafted in the following year’s NFL draft but signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he became the team’s primary back in Week 7.

With that precedent, I would’ve liked to see Gates suspended for the rest of the season (at least 23 games) but would’ve found 20 games reasonable, roughly the same number of weeks Blount missed before returning right before the season ends and the playoffs. His punishment? Suspended for six games, along with two teammates.

That is an absolute travesty, considering how unlike with Blount’s

Frease - the martyr.

victim, Kenny Frease did not provoke Gates before the hammer punch, and he was immensely bloodied. What also isn’t mentioned is how Gates punched a second Xavier player in the face but received the same suspension that two others got, including one who stomped Frease on the ground, and just two more games than two Xavier players got, all while Gates is the only player to throw punches.

It sure is nice to be coddled with superstar treatment. To mitigate the

Gosselin before and after.

backlash of the short suspension, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin offered tough words, saying that no player would automatically be allowed back on the team after serving their suspension; rather, Cronin would have to be fully convinced that the players were remorseful. What a load of bull. That’s about as unbelievable as saying Kate Gosselin didn’t have any plastic surgery done on her face. The players will be back asap, and if not, for a very short time that won’t make up for what the true suspension should be.

In the first game since the brawl, Cincinnati handled Wright State by 20; then-No. 9 and 8-0 Xavier lost to Oral Roberts by 22 at home. Got to love how karmic justice works sometimes.

NFL

Tuesday, James Harrisonwas suspended one game for his vicious

The hit.

helmet-to-helmet hit on defenseless QB Colt McCoy that left him with a concussion. Yes, it was the first suspension arising from a play on the field, but in comparison to Ndamukong Suh‘s two-game suspension for stomping and Harrison’s rap sheet, again, we have a suspension that falls far short of the crime.

One fan made a comment that rings so true. He said that the worst Suh could’ve done with his stomping is bruise the fallen player’s arm; Harrison could’ve, and likely did, give someone long-term brain damage. The linebacker has recorded his fifth flagrant hit on a quarterback, making him and Suh among the league’s dirtiest players.

The unsurprising response from Harrison: it shouldn’t even have been flagged, he appealed the one-game suspension, which he lost and he’s not going to change the way he plays. I fully expect Commissioner Goodell to push the envelope the next time Harrison goes dome-first on a defenseless player. And there will be a next time.

Injustices Across Sports Pt. 1

By BJ

It’s been an absolutely crazy week and a half in sports with superstars joining new teams via trades (Chris Paul) or mega-signings (Albert Pujols). But not to be overshadowed are the injustices that also seems to be breaking every other day. Let’s examine the darker side of sports.

NBA

Last week, Dan Gilbert made himself an owner to be dubiously

The desperate owner.

remembered–had anyone possibly forgotten about the LeBron James fiasco–by single-handedly getting the attention of Commissioner David Stern with this email I’ll re-post in its entirety.

Commissioner,

It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).

I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen.

I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.

When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?

Please advise….

Dan G.

I didn’t know you could shoot down a trade for fear of a team’s next move or that a player who averaged 12 and 7 last season is a max-salary player. (Marc Gasol quietly signed with Memphis Wednesday for four years and $57.7 million.) It’s nice to see the inner workings of NBA owners colluding to bring down better teams.

Whiny. Bitch.

Stern vetoed the trade citing “basketball reasons,” which sure as hell

The subject of all the fussing and fighting.

had nothing to do with ensuring the league-owned Hornets get as much as they can for their superstar.

What they got from the Clippers
Eric Gordon
Chris Kaman
Al-Farouq Aminu
1st-round pick

What they would’ve gotten from the Lakers and Rockets
Kevin Martin
Luis Scola
Lamar Odom
Goran Dragic
1st-round pick

I could make a case and simply say would you rather have Odom and Dragic or move up in the first round of next year’s draft? I’d argue you if you said the trade to the Clippers clearly got them better value nor did they have the foresight to see that marginal difference when they vetoed the first trade. Rather, Stern, Gilbert and co. saw the Lakers an already great team and the Clippers a non-threat.

Part of the reason the trade was admittedly vetoed was because they tried to prevent superstars from going to only big-market teams like L.A. That’s blatantly hypocritical to overlook the Clippers, who share the same stadium as the Lakers, as a big-market team.

Sunday, Lamar Odomwas traded to the defending champions for a

Maybe, 'Big Baby' Davis can finally hand off his nickname to L.O.

bag of peanuts. When responding to the trade, Kobe Bryant said they gave away the versatile forward “seemingly for nothing.” Now, you know how the Pau Gasol trade felt to everyone else. Lakers 1, Washington Generals 1.

Lakers fans have got the Odom giveaway all wrong. Or maybe, they’re just turning a blind eye as they do whenever anything doesn’t go their way. Odom cried his way out of the team. I can’t remember the last time someone got so publicly butthurt over a trade, failed or not, but the man missed both practices and had no intention of returning to the court in purple and gold. He got his wish, and there will be no sad eulogy for his departure.

MLB

Saturday, NL MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for PEDs and if it holds, will be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season. The injustice? No baseball award has ever been revoked, and there’s absolutely no talk of Braun losing his. But that’s the second injustice. How Braun ever won the award to begin with, or it even being a two-man race, is beyond belief.

Matt Kemp owned Braun across the board and was one homerun shy of 40/40, a feat that I believe would’ve made the voting a little easier for the Jayson Starks‘ out there. The only reason I could think of for voters choosing Braun over Kemp is because the Brewers made the playoffs, a criterion I hate in MLB MVP voting. Braun had Prince Fielder, who had as good a season as him; the Dodgers didn’t have a single other player even have a decent offensive season, which ensures better opportunity for Braun. As if the PEDs didn’t do that.

I disagree with everything Starks says in his article, defending Braun in that he should keep his undeserving award. From reasons ranging from ‘because it’s never been done in history before and if we do it to this, when will it stop” (like a total idiot) to ‘his stats weren’t any better this year than in his career’ (which is even worse; question his entire career), it should be a no-brainer that Braun should have to give up his award to the second-place Kemp. You know, the best guy who did not cheat this season.