Week 9 NFL Power Rankings plus picks

I am mixing things up this week in the Sports Zone with my picks column. Instead of my traditional picks with comments I am doing a Power Rankings column with picks. If you just want my picks scroll down to the bottom of this page. My criteria for the rankings is simple…. who would win right now on a neutral field. Not who will win in January or who would have won last month, but who will win if the teams played this Sunday. We are halfway through the NFL year with week nine approaching, so I think this is a perfect time to figure who will be contending and who will not be contending this year down the stretch.

Andrew Luck Division

(Teams in play for Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck)

32. Indianapolis Colts

What a decision the Colts may possibly have for themselves this coming April. If they do end up with the first pick in the NFL Draft will they take Andrew Luck? The pros of course are you have your next Quarterback for the next decade once Manning retires and the con is you are not getting your team better to make another run at the Super Bowl with a healthy Peyton Manning. If I am the Colts I think I am taking Luck after weighing the options. Manning is in his mid 30’s now and he has some health issues with his neck. All it takes is one more wrong hit to his neck and his career would end instantly. If the Colts have the first pick they have got to take Andrew Luck.

31. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have been much more competitive than the Colts this year which gives them the nod over Indianapolis. Head Coach Tony Sparano is one more uninspiring performance away from being whacked in Miami, but the team keeps fighting hard for him and that is always a good reflection on you when your team has yet to give up on you. I think they can win this week in Kansas City which would badly hurt themselves for Andrew Luck, so in a situation like the Dolphins are in don’t you fire a coach that the team is playing hard for to deinspire (if that is a word) the players from winning??

30. Denver Broncos

The Broncos will not be getting the top pick, but they will be getting a top five pick again in the draft. Tebow mania may be on life support after the performance he had last week against the Detroit Lions. Especially after an unnamed Lions defender was quoted saying something like, “is this guy serious out there?” People have to accept Tebow for what he is and not for what he is not. Tebow is a guy with a lot of passion and heart for the game. He is a great leader with a great work ethic. He can run and make plays out of nothing. He is not an accurate thrower and has a horrible delivery throwing the ball. Tebow can probably last around as a pretty decent backup for his career, but I don’t think he can be a starting Quarterback in this league and I think the Broncos have figured that out already.

29. Arizona Cardinals

The sleeper pick for Andrew Luck!!!! If they lose this week at home to the Rams they will become serious contenders in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. That is also becoming a huge possibility with reports being John Skelton will be the starting QB this week. After this week they go on the road for three straight games against Philly, Frisco, and St. Louis again before they come home for Dallas and Frisco. They can easily be sitting at 1-12 or 2-11 if they lose this week and at the point they will probably shut Beanie Wells down (Beanie has a knee injury that will stay with him all year, so if they have nothing to play for my guess is they will shut him down.) and give John Skelton some starts down the stretch that features Cleveland at home. at Cincy, and Seattle at home.  If they lose I am saying they finish at 3-13 and I read somewhere that they would hold any tiebreaker for the first pick if they had the same record with Indianapolis or Miami. Of course they will go 4-12 and get the fourth pick in the draft.

Cam Gabbert-Ponder Division

(Rookie Quarterbacks from last year’s draft)

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

I was just thinking the other day that I do not think I have ever met a Jacksonville Jaguar fan. I do not think I have ever seen a person where a Jaguars jersey let alone know a fan. This is probably why they will be the Los Angeles Jaguars within the next five years.

27. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are set for the next decade as long as they build around Cam Newton properly. Right now they are just missing a couple of players on defense from that happening. They are also waiting on the zombies of Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams to wakeup. Once they get the run game going again and start playing defense this team will be very tough to beat.

26. Minnesota Vikings

Charlie Ponder has played surpringsly well in his first two start against the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. If Ponder can prove to be their guy, with a couple of breaks next year and a good draft the Vikings could be contending for a playoff spot next year. They have a solid core group with A.P., Jared Allen, and Chad Greenway and just need to add a piece here and there and the Vikings will be contending again in the near future.

Teams that were expected to contend with 7 wins before the 49ers ruined their chances division

25. Seattle Seahawks

The first player to agree to a contract with a team when the lockout was lifted back in July was….Tavaris Jackson with Seattle. The first quarterback signed was Tavaris Jackson. Matt Hasselback, for some reason was not good enough for Seattle so they went the Tavaris Jackson route. Sometimes you wonder how people get to make NFL personnel decisions like that when 95 percent of the population would have kept Matt Hasselback.

24. St. Louis Rams

The Rams are much better than their 1-6 record suggest. They had a brutal start to the season and they finally get to play some easier games. They will finish with 5 to 6 wins this year and get another top ten pick in the draft.

Madden Cover Division

(Teams that have been hit with injuries)

23. Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis wants to get paid. The only problem is teams are hesitant to give running backs big contracts. (See Chris Johnson) Running Back may be one of the most replaceable player in sports. Unless you are Adrian Peterson, Lesean Mccoy, Matt Forte, or Ray Rice I am not paying you long-term. Hillis is out of luck if he wants a long-term deal in Cleveland. That may actually be a blessing in disguise for Hillis because he can go to a team with a chance to win in the next few years instead of rotting away with the Browns.

22. Washington Redskins

The Redskins three wins this year are against the overrated New York Giants at home, barely getting by a one win Cardinals team at home, and squeaking out a win on the road against the Rams. They are currently starting John Beck, have lost leading reciever Santana Moss to an injury, lost Chris Cooley and Tim Hightower to injuries, and have also lost some key guys on the offensive line to injuries. Bottom line they were a mediocre team who lost a bunch of starters to injuries making them a bad team.

21. Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson has got to be the biggest non-injury fantasy disappointment in history let alone actual team disappointment. This is defiantly a guy playing to not get injured and taking in the money.

Al Davis Division

(In memory of NFL legend Al Davis)

20. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have traded their first round pick for Carson Palmer, third round pick for Terrele Pryor, and fourth round pick for Jason Campbell in next years draft. The Raiders better hope Carson Palmer can bring them to the playoffs with all those draft picks gone.

19. Kansas City Chiefs

How are the Chargers ranked ahead of the Chiefs when the Cheifs just beat them? Because like I said last week the Chargers will now officially request to the NFL offices to never have to play in Kansas CIty on Monday Night Football again after losing two fluke games in a row there on Monday Night. Like I said before I have the Chiefs on upset watch this week against the winless Dolphins.

18. San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers is long overdue to breakout into the Pro Bowl Quarterback that he is. My money is still on the Chargers to win that division and make the playoffs, but they can’t do that until Rivers decides to stop turning the ball over.

New York Division

17. New York Jets

16. New York Giants

These two team are the most overrated teams in the league. The Jets have a mediocre run game with a mediocre quarterback and a mediocre defense. The Giants lost at home to Seattle and was on the verge of losing at home to Miami. Eli Manning is still either very good, or very bad. I just wish he was bad Eli in Arizona instead of being bad Eli for Seattle. Anyways, I do not think either of these teams reach the  playoffs and I would bet big on Philly or Dallas catching th Giants in the East.

Mediocrity Division

15. Tampa Bay buccaneers

Josh Freeman has regressed a bit this season. He threw only 6 picks all of last year, this year he already has ten through seven games. If Freeman returns to 2010 Freeman the Bucs will be in contention through December, but if he continues at this route the Bucs season is doomed.

14. Chicago Bears

Can somebody give Jay Cutler a wide receiver to throw the ball too other than his running back?? Can somebody also block somebody on that offensive line for the guy?? If you watched the Monday Night game against Detroit last month then you saw the greatest performance by a quarterback with no other talent on the field with him. He was like a little kid playing against the big kids on the playground. He would catch the snap and imminently run backwards and just throw it somewhere. It was amazing the Bears only lost by 11 that game.

13. Cincinnati Bengals

I think it is safe to say they will be saying many Dalton to Green Touchdowns for the next ten years.

Sleepers Division

12. Dallas Cowboys

If this team can ever just put it all together for a couple of months they would be a very tough out in January. Tony Romo needs to prove he can win the big game on the national stage, Dez Bryant needs to mature and show up in EVERY game, and the defense needs to actually force a team to punt every once in a while or get a stop to get the offense on the field unlike last week at Philadelphia when they had the ball for something like 40 minutes of possession last week. This team has the potential, but will they ever get to it?

11. Buffalo Bills

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the man here in the Sports Zone. The guy went to high school out here at Highland High School and then went off to get a degree at Harvard before finally latching on with the Bills and just recently signed a long-term deal to be the Bills Quarterback for the next five years. If there was not already another Fitzy out there for me you definitely would have Fitzy status.

10. Houston Texans

The texans have yet to play a full game with both Arian Foster and Andre Johnson on offense, yet they are sitting pretty in the AFC South at 5-3. I hope the Texans can have everything clinched and locked up by week 17 so we can get another start by Matt Leinart.

Alex Smith division

(Teams that have been surprises this year)

9. Detroit Lions

If you picked Calvin Johnson in your fantasy draft your team is probably making the playoffs. I had a chance between Bradford or Stafford as my backup quarterback in my draft and I took Bradford….regretted that move every second since then.

8. San Fransisco 49ers

It pains me to write about how good they have been this year. Instead of talking about it I just named the division after your quarterback…is that good enough???

Dream Team division

7. Philadelphia Eagles

I still think this team will finish with ten wins and make the playoffs and at the very least make the NFC Championship game as long as Vick stays healthy. They had their bumps and I think they have it figured out now and this is a team ready to go on a tear.

Contenders division

6. Atlanta Falcons

They have spent the first half of the season just “getting through” the weeks. That attitude still got them a 4-3 record. Coming off the bye they will find their mojo they had last year and turn it into another double digit wins season.

5. New Orleans Saints

There are two Saints teams….the Saints when they are in the Dome, and the Saints when they are not in the Dome. Unfortunately to get to the Super Bowl they will have to win in the frigid tundra of Green Bay.

4. New England Patriots

It is very possible for the Patriots to never get back to the Super Bowl in the Tom Brady era. The night before Super Bowl 42, Patriots fans were sitting on an undefeated season, and a 4th Super Bowl in six years. The next day as the say the rest is history. Pats get upset, next year Bernard Pollard rams into Brady’s knee knocking him out for the year and they Pats have never been back.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Baltimore Ravens

The Steelers will win Sunday night at home so the next thing we have to look forward to is the rematch in the AFC Title game. I am getting excited just thinking about these teams playing again with the Super Bowl on the line.

1. Green Bay Packers

In about three weeks the Packers schedule will be analyzed by everyone to figure out if they can go undefeated. With the way A-Rod has been  playing I would not doubt it for a second.

 

Lock of the week

Seattle Seahawks 13 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Upset Special

San Fran 49ers 20 at Washington Redskins 21

Tampa Bay Bucs 26 at New Orleans Saints 34

New York Jets 30 at Buffalo Bills 23

Atlanta Falcons 27 at Indy Colts 10

Miami Dolphins 16 at Kansas City Chiefs 20

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Tennessee Titans 17

Denver Broncos 14 at Oakland Raiders 20

Coin Flip

St. Louis Rams 24 at Arizona Cardinals 27

New York Giants 24 at New England Patriots 35

Green Bay Packers 30 at San Diego Chargers 27

Game of the Week

Baltimore Ravens 16 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Monday NIght Football

Chicago Bears 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 28

Last week 9-5

Season 31-22

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God hates Cleveland and Seattle

Game 1 of the NBA Finals begins tonight between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. This has the potential to be one of the most exciting Finals in years and is expected to put up big ratings all around the country. In Miami who have the hated threesome of James, Wade and Bosh going up against a Thunder team led by homegrown stars who were put together through the draft. The NBA could not have asked for a better matchup.

Unfortunately success for someone means heartbreak for another. In this situation one city will suffer no matter who is lifting the trophy in a couple weeks. For the city of Cleveland their nemesis is Heat Forward Lebron James. While the hate for Lebron seems to be softening around the country, it is only getting stronger in Cleveland. This is a sports city that has not won a championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns. We are approaching 50 years without a championship in Cleveland and Lebron James was supposed to be the “chosen one” to end that drought. Of course he never delivered and had his infamous “decision” to announce leaving Cleveland for better places. Rooting for Lebron James to lose is the closest the people of Cleveland can come to having that championship feeling.

The people of Seattle have not had as much heartbreak as Cleveland, but watching their team grow up into a potential championship team and even potential dynasty over in Oklahoma City is just hopeless and depressing. Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett bought the team in 2006 with the intent to do everything possible to keep them in Seattle. When the city refused to pay for a new stadium for the Sonics Bennett with the help of NBA commissioner David Stern moved the team to his hometown of OKC in 2008. Keep in mind that the city just built new stadiums for the Mariners and Seahawks and the Sonics arena was only 15 years old. To compare, the Suns US Airways is approaching it’s 20th birthday.

Clay Bennett never had the slightest interest of keeping the Sonics in Seattle. Emails leaked with a couple of his partners where he said he was a “man possessed” to move the team to OKC. In the book “Bad sports” by David Zirin he gives a great story of what Bennett thought of  Seattle. In his first meeting with all the executives of the Sonics after he bought the team, Bennett flew them all out to OKC and ate at a fancy restuarant. He gave them all a OKC delicacy which everyone loved. When asked what that delicacy was Bennett told them it was lamb testicles. I am sure you get the meaning he was giving the people of Seattle.

The cities of Seattle and Cleveland have gone through numerous heartbreak and I am here to investigate what city god hates the most because one of these cities will only be adding to their heartbreak when Lebron or Bennett lift that championship trophy.

Cleveland

As I mentioned earlier, Cleveland has not won a championship since the 1964 Browns. It is also not a good thing when the majority of the most famous moments in sports feature Cleveland on the losing end. Most of these moments even are titled such as the “drive”, “fumble”, “shot” and “decision”. These moments have defined Cleveland sports fans and a championship by Lebron will only add to this list.

“The Drive” 1986 Cleveland Browns

The Browns were hosting John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. With 5 minutes left the Browns were up 7 and the Broncos were backed up at their own 2 yard line. From their Elway marched down the field and tied the game and the Broncos went on to win in overtime denying the Browns of a Super Bowl bid.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bypo-WhahYo The last 5 minutes of the game.

“The Fumble” 1987 Cleveland Browns

The Browns again hosted the Broncos in the 1987 AFC championship game. In this game the Browns were down 7 but were on the verge of scoring when Running back Earnest Byner fumbled the ball right before he crossed the goaline with a 1:12 left. The Broncos recovered and went on to another Super Bowl.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DPeiUOakis The Fumble

“The Shot” 1989 Cleveland Cavaliers

In 1989 The Cavs were hosting the Bulls in the deciding Game 5 and were up one with the Bulls in-bounding the ball. As most basketball fans know Michael Jordan hit a game winning jumper at the elbow against Craig Ehlo to win the game. These are the most famous games  in the history of their sports all happening in a 4 year span and Cleveland being on the heartbreak end of all of them. The sad thing is we are only half way through the list.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5WUOnTxwPw Jordan and the shot

Browns move to Baltimore 1996

The Browns are one of the NFL’s historic teams playing in Cleveland since 1940. The NFL was so upset by owner Art Modell’s decision to move the team to Baltimore that he forced him to leave behind all the team’s history, colors and name and that his franchise in Baltimore resemble an expansion team. The NFL promised the city a new team when it had a new stadium and in 1999 the “new” Browns began NFL play. Unfortunately the “new Browns have been a major disappointment having yet to win a playoff game and have yet to find a franchise quarterback in 13 years. The Ravens led by Ray Lewis have had a decade long run of playoff appearances that have included a Super Bowl win in 2000.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylNnmmZI-v4&feature=related Browns last game in Cleveland 1995

Game 7 of the World Series 1997

The Indians finally make it on the list with a meltdown of their own! In game 7 of the World Series they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th with closer Jose Mesa trying to save the game. Of course he blows the game giving up a sac fly to Craig Counsell that scores Moises Alou. The game goes to extra innings and with one out in the bottom of the 11th the Indians botch a routine double play ground ball that would have ended the inning. A couple hitters later Edgar Renteria wins it with a base hit up the middle scoring Craig Counsell. The Indians also lost the 1995 World Series to the Atlanta braves. A decade later they blow a 3-1 lead in the ALCS against the Boston Red sox in 2007.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0J8Pznxf5o Game 7 of 97 Series

Decision 2010

I don’t think I need much explaining for this one. After another playoffs heartbreak for the Cavs Lebron James goes on National television and declares he is “taking his talents to South Beach” and leaves the Cavs in shambles. If/when Lebron wins a championship it will keep this moment up there with the greatest heartbreaks in Cleveland sports history. God hates Cleveland is something Clevelanders truly believe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHSLw8DLm20 The decision

Seattle

We are now known of god’s hatred for Cleveland, but how does his hate for Seattle compare? Lets take a look. Seattle does not have the moments or individual games that Cleveland has besides the Seahawks Super Bowl loss to the Steelers. They do not even have that much heartbreak due to the fact their teams have not been very good for the majority of their histories. Their only championship comes from the Sonics in 1979. Seattle sports fans were really even thought of until Bennett hijacked the Sonics to OKC. Lets see how much pain seattle has dealt with.

Mariners

The Mariners began in 1977 and went 14 years until they had their first winning season. It took 4 more years until they won their first playoff series. In 2001 they tied the regular season wins record with 116 but they failed to reach the World Series. In fact they are one of 2 teams (Washington Nationals) to have never even make the World Series let alone win. Since 2004 they have had only 2 winning seasons and have had 5 season of winning 69 games or fewer. They have seen guys like Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson win championships once they left Seattle. This team has not even given their fans much reason to get heartbroken. They have just been flat out historically irrelevant.

Seahawks

The Seahawks for the most part are in the same boat as the Mariners. Before a 2005 playoff win the Seahawks went 20 years without a playoff win. Not much for Seahawks fans to get upset about during that time frame. The top Seattle heartbreak moment comes in 2005 when they lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 in 2006. Seahawks fans believe they were on the bad end of many calls that changed the outcome of the game. They had a touchdown and interception called back due to penalties. This is a very sore subject for Seahawks fans and they have yet to recover save for their 7-9 division championship and upset win over the Saints in 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyxXqhzCTu8

Sonics

The Sonics are or were Seattle. They were the one team that brought success to the city. They won the 1979 NBA finals and won conference championships in 1978, 79 and 96. They have had legendary players such as Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ray Allen, Lenny Wilkens, Nate McMillan, Jack Sikma and Fred Brown wear a Sonics uniform. They even had a year of Kevin Durant to themselves before the hijacking. What the Suns are to Phoenix is very similar to what the Sonics were to Seattle. The pain that Seattle has gone through with having their team stolen will only multiply if Clay Bennett is holding the trophy in a couple of weeks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i48P28281sc RIP Sonics 1967-2008

Finals Prediction

The head is telling me that the hijackers take this series in 6 games. They just do not lose at home and I do not see the Heat winning a game in OKC. The Thunder can easily take a game in Miami and I do not think the Heat can match up down low with OKC bigs. The Heat’s strengths (Wade and Lebron) are equaled by Durant and Westbrook. That leaves James Harden giving the Thunder one up on the Heat. Then again after looking over the miseries of both cities it is almost a fact that god hates Cleveland. And for that fact I would highly recommend not betting on this series because Lebron and the Heat could win this championship and again, we know God hates Cleveland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j60Fq7KUPxg This guy says it all for Cleveland sports

 

Hope for the Coyotes??

This weekend at the NHL All-Star game in Ottawa, commissioner Gary Bettman gave his annual state of the league address with the media. In his address he mentioned that there is a 3rd bidder that is now involved in buying and keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix. The 3rd bidder’s name is undisclosed, but rumored to be a serious buyer. The other people involved are Jerry Reinsdorf who is the owner of the Chicago White Sox. Reinsdorf has a home in the valley and the White Sox spring training facility is right across the street from Jobing.com arena. The other potential buyer is former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jaimson. THe NHL did not set a deadline for a deal to be reached, but Bettman did indicate that time is starting to run out. He has called multiple cities that are interested in a team to be ready when or if he opens the sale of the Coyotes to people who want to relocate them.

My opinion is that the Coyotes can survive one more year without an owner. The reason….the NHL may be heading towards another lockout during the next season. That means that the NHL would not want to move a team during a strike-shortened year giving the Coyotes more time for a buyer. The NHL also already moved the Atlanta Thrashers back to Canada last season. Moving another team would be more embarrassing to Bettman who brought all of these teams to the southern states. If the city of Glendale is willing to pay another 25 million to run the team I think the Coyotes can last another season.

People who say that the Coyotes or hockey can’t work in Arizona are wrong. When the Coyotes had stars like Keith Tkachuck and Jeremy Roenick and making playoff appearances every season they were selling out nightly and the hottest ticket in town. The city of Phoenix is a frontrunners city. Now that the Phoenix Suns are awful watch how bad their attendance starts to plummet. If you win people will come and the Coyotes have been winning with the threat of relocation and with the competitive disadvantage of not being able to spend as much money on players as the rest of the NHL. As soon as the Coyotes can get an owner and the threat of leaving is over, fans will come back. Don Maloney, who is one of the better GMS in the sport, and Dave Tippet, one of the best coaches in hockey, will finally be able to get the players they want and the Coyotes can finally be the winners that they have the potential to be. Until then the Coyotes will continue to scratch and claw their way to victories, which quite frankly is more exciting than anything that the Phoenix Suns have been giving us to watch.

Championship Game Previews

This Sunday is Championship Sunday in the NFL. The AFC Championship will feature the Baltimore Ravens going into New England to face the Patriots. In the NFC it is the New York Giants traveling to San Francisco to face the 49ers. Before I get to the breakdowns of each game I am going to go through and rank the 4 possible Super Bowl matchups by level of intrigue. The criteria is a mixture of game with most hype and the competitiveness of the matchup.

4. Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants

Not many story lines here for this matchup. The Ravens beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, so it would be a re-match. The game has the potential to be a 17-10 snooze-fest with two good defenses facing one very mediocre and one could go either way quarterback.

3. Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers

The reasons I have this game ranked higher than the Giants Ravens Super Bowl is because this game would feature the 2 best middle linebackers in football and the Harbuagh brothers coaching against each other (the annoyance of this possibility may lead me to not turn on any pregame talk for 2 weeks). The rumor is if Ray Lewis wins the Super Bowl this could be the last year so what more fitting way would it be for him to go out by beating the Niners and handing the torch over to Patrick Willis as best linebacker in football?? Then again a ALex Smith and Joe Flacco Super Bowl could leave people losing interest quickly once the game gets started.

2. New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers

Tom Brady facing the best defense in football. Ya this is pretty intriguing. Throw in the hundreds of stories about Tom Brady cheering for the 49ers as a kid growing up in Northern California and the Patriots quest for another Super Bowl in the Belichick Brady era and this game will grab people’s attention.

1. New England Patriots and New York Giants

The more intriguing rematch BY FAR of the two possible Super Bowl rematches if the Giants were to win this Sunday. David Tyree better get ready for the interview and television requests if this were to happen. The storylines would be through the roof. Let alone how good the game should be. Can the Giants pressure Brady the way it did a few years ago? Can they stop Gronk and Hernandez? Can ELi come through in the clutch? How about can Eli pass his brother in SUper Bowl rings on his brother’s own field? Can Brady and Belichick win a ring on Peyton Manning’s own field?? How about Peyton’s brother facing his number one nemesis for the Super Bowl?? This is the game we need to be rooting for on Sunday.

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens 23 at New England Patriots 27

The Ravens always play the Patriots close and this game will come down to the final minutes as they always do. The key for the Patriots to win is to control Ray Rice on defense. Joe Flacco can not go 1 on 1 with Tom Brady in a shootout. If the Patriots can control Ray Rice they will be able to outscore the Ravens. The Ravens meanwhile need to stop Tom Brady to give themselves a chance in this game. That means getting pressure on Brady and taking away his go-to targets this year, his tight ends. The X-factor is that this game is in New England. Baltimore’s losses to the Titans, Jaguars, and Seahawks cost them a chance from hosting this game and in effect probably cost them a shot in the Super Bowl. The Ravens can win this game, but the safe bet is on the Patriots.

NFC Championship

New York Giants 27 at San Francisco 49ers 17

This is the way this game should go, but I highly doubt it will. Deep down, no matter how much I hate to admit it, I know it is the 49ers season. It is just their season and there is no other way to explain it. How else do you explain Alex Smith scoring a touchdown on a 30 yard bootleg call on a 3rd and 8??? Really?? Anyways I have to admit I was wrong all year about them and must congratulate them for what they have achieved this far. For the game, this is a tossup call, but I feel the Giants are 10 points better in this game. It is always tough to beat the same team twice in one season. The Giants have also been here before and know how to handle themselves. The 49ers just played in one of the more emotional games you can be apart of and that could be tough for them to duplicate again. Just ask the Broncos about that. Both teams have very good defenses, but are vulnerable in the secondary. The Giants have the better offense by far if they can get the run game going. If the Giants can run on the 49ers strength, their run defense, they will win this one by two scores. Both teams believe it is their destiny to win this game and we should be in for a great hard-hitting football game.

Suns must trade Steve Nash

The Phoenix Suns are awful. They are not competitive. They are bad. Whatever you call them they are all of the above. The Suns are in the middle of a 5 game losing streak with stops in New York, Boston, and Dallas still left on the road trip. The Suns have no hope this year and no hope for the future. As of right now they are stuck in NBA purgatory. What does that mean? It means the Suns and their fans are staring at years of missing the playoffs and barely sneaking into the playoffs only to get smacked in the first round. They have no superstar to build around. They have a team of role players and aging stars better suited to play on teams that can win now. That is why the Suns need to trade Steve Nash as soon as possible.

Most Suns fans do not want to hear this. Heck, I do not want to even hear this. As a lifelong Suns fan and a preacher of the importance of loyalty in a world where there is not much of it, I do not want to see Nash go. The Suns ownership though has unfortunately put themselves in this boat and it is only fair to Steve Nash and the fans of the Suns to trade him now to help speed up the rebuilding process. Steve Nash is a great guy and has done wonders for this franchise. He has won 2 MVPS and took this team to the Western Conference FInals 3 times since he came here in 2004. He does not deserve to be put in the position of having to make the choice to leave the Suns to go to a more competitive situation.

From a Suns perspective, trading Nash now can bring you back valuable assets to put this team in a position to rebuild its franchise that will have to happen sooner rather than later. Nash is certain to bring you back a first round pick and possibly a solid rotation player. Trading Nash also means the Suns will not get many more wins this season that would put this team in position for a top five pick in a talent rich draft. Teams HAVE  to bottom out to have a chance to draft a star and rebuild. Chicago was stuck in purgatory until they won the lottery and drafted Rose. Ditto Orlando and Dwight Howard and Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant. You need a superstar to win in this league and that is why it is so critical the Suns do not win enough games that would take them out of a top five draft pick. Trading Nash guarantees it. Add another first round pick and the Suns who also would have enough cap room to sign up to two max deals next summer go be a team contending for the playoffs again as soon as next year.

The worst case scenario, which knowing how Suns management works could very well happen, would be to keep Nash for the season and win juusssstttt enough games that they get the 11th pick or so in the draft. You are NOT rebuilding your team by continually drafting the Markief Morris, Robin Lopez, or Earl Clark’s of the world. Then Nash is able to choose where he wants to go and he picks the Suns hated rival the Lakers who desperately need a point guard.  I just want to punch myself in the face thinking about that possibility.

If your a Suns fan and are frustrated by all of this then you know where to put your frustration towards. Robert Sarver has blown this team from being a possible dynasty. He has personally ran out-of-town the following: Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Mike D’antoni, and Amare Stoudemire. Even with the Suns roster changing year after year and stars coming in and out-of-town Steve Nash has remained a class-act and deserves the best from this team and the entire Suns fanbase. Though it is going to be tough to see him go this day is going to come eventually and “we” the fans deserve a winning product again and Nash deserves to be in a winning organization and the only solution is sadly to part ways.

NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

I hate my computer. I was almost finished with my entire column  and my computer randomly shut off on me. Unfortunately I do not have the patience or time to rewrite my entire post nor do I remember what I wrote so I am going straight to the picks for this weekends games with very basic reasons to why.

Saturday

New Orleans Saints 27 at San Francisco 49ers 16

Drew Brees has been there and done that and has bigger goals to accomplish. Alex Smith is happy to finally be playing in January. Take out the fact that Brees is night and day better than Smith and the Saints have the better team. Do not be surprised if Saints win this one easily.

Denver Broncos 14 at New England Patriots 31

Tom Brady + Bill Belichick + Foxboro in January + facing Tim Tebow on the road – the Patriots defense – the 3:16 effect + Gronk +Tom Brady= A Patriots victory

Sunday

Houston Texans 13 at Baltimore Ravens 24

5th round rookie out of North Carolina going to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed’s house. Need another reason??

New York Giants 27 at Green Bay Packers 30

This game can and will come down to the final minutes. I would be terrified if I was a Packers fan. Can the Packers Offensive line give Rodgers time to throw? If they can then the Packers may not have much problems. If that answer is no then the upset alert is on.

Playoffs 3-1

Where will Peyton go???

Yesterday on the CBS pregame show, insider and former NFL GM Charlie Casserly named the Arizona Cardinals as a darkhorse for Peyton Manning if the Colts should be dumb enough to let him go. This idea has motivated me to breakdown the most likely destinations for Peyton Manning this offseason. The Colts have until March 8th to pay Manning a 28 million dollar roster bonus or be forced to let him be a free agent. Also remember the Colts will be taking Andrew Luck in the draft so there is a possibility of this happening. Will Peyton Manning be coming to a city near you? Lets find out!!

I am automatically eliminating Green Bay, New England, Philadelphia, New York Giants, Detroit, Chicago. Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Buffalo, Houston, San Diego and Oakland. These teams either have established quarterbacks or have already committed long-term to their current quarterbacks. This leaves us with 12 teams to choose from. I will go by alphabetical order of the teams and say “Why he would” and “Why he Wouldnt.” Let the fun begin!

Arizona Cardinals

Why he would: The Cardinals have everything that you could possibly offer to Peyton Manning. This is a team that managed to win 8 games with the dynamic duo of John Skeleton and Kevin Kolb. He will be throwing to the best wide receiver in football and has a very good running back. He would be in a dome with a coach who likes to throw instead of pass. This option actually makes a ton of sense for both parties. The Cardinals could also release Kevin Kolb by not paying his roster bonus and be out of his lucrative contract to give them room to offer the house to Manning. I would have to think that this situation would highly appeal to Manning and I am now hoping the Colts make the stupid decision to let Manning walk.

Why he would not: He wants to win a Super Bowl now and finds a team in an even better spot than the Cardinals or he gets offered more money elsewhere.

Cleveland Browns

Why he would: Ummmm it is a close drive to the football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He could drive down there every week and visualize where his bust will be and put one on reserve.

Why he would not: In all honesty, Manning would probably retire than play for the Cleveland Browns. They have talent at the skill positions and even with the upgrade of Manning they would hardly be a borderline playoff team in a division with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. Less than 0% for the Browns.

Dallas Cowboys

Why he would: He would be offered the most money, play in a dome and have the greatest overall talent on offense of any team that would be in the running for him. Jerry Jones would give Manning the keys to the city, his yachts, his mansion and probably even the stadium. He will be inside for 8 games a year and be throwing to Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson and Jason Witten. There is just one problem.

Why he would not: The Cowboys already have Tony Romo. You are probably wondering why I put them on the possible destination list right? Well, their owner is Jerry Jones and he wants to win now and will upgrade at any position at any cost if it will win him a few more games and Manning is an upgrade over Romo. This is a major wildcard team for Manning should he be free and they would have to be in the frontrunning if Jones is interested.

Denver Broncos

Why he would: This is a playoff team with Tim Tebow. With Manning they would be Super Bowl contenders. (Obligatory opinion time on Tim Tebow) I do not get why it is a miracle the Broncos won this game or when Tebow wins any game. He has his strengths and weaknesses like every athlete to play any sport. Yesterday the Steelers played a defense that suited Tebow’s strengths, which is throwing the ball down the field. The Steelers were keeping their safeties in to stop the run and by doing that they left their corners out to dry. The Steelers defense was also depleted by the time the game was over. There was no way the Broncos should have lost yesterday. I think it would have been more of a miracle if the Steelers won rather the Broncos.

Why he would not: He does not want to deal with the craziness of the media and Tebow disciples when they go crazy to start Tebow again when he throws his first interception.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Why he would: He would stay in the Colts division with the chance to stick it to his old team twice a year and be the face of a new era of Jaguars football.

Why he would not: He has no one to throw the ball to and he wants to play for a contender, which the Jaguars are not.

Miami Dolphins

Why he would: Their owner Stpehen Ross would pay him whatever he wants and he would be able to play in South Beach. He could also bring over former Miami start Reggie Wayne with him to team up with Brandon Marshall and compete with Tom Brady twice a year.

Why he would not: I do not know why he would not jump at that possibility actually.

Minnesota Vikings

Why he would: He would stay indoors and play for a team with Adrian Peterson has it’s running back with a possible wide receiver tandem of Percy Harvin and Justin Blackman if they select him with their 3rd pick in the draft.

Why he would not: This is a 3-13 team. Remember the theme of wanting to contend for Super Bowls??

New York Jets

Why he would: He would play in the biggest market in sports and get to play Tom Brady twice. I am curious… Have Jets fans come to the realization that Mark Sanchez is not good yet??

Why he would not: Rex Ryan still believes in Mark Sanchez and Manning does not want to play outdoors in cold weather for half the year.

San Francisco 49ers

Why he would: He would be contending for Super Bowls and play for one of the hottest coaches in football with the chance to revive a great football market even more.

Why he would not: The Niners would not be able to offer him as much money as other teams and he would not want to deal with the weather conditions in San Francisco.

Seattle Seahawks

Why he would: I am not really sure there is any good reason for him to come here.

Why he would not: Bad weather conditions, limited offensive talent, not enough money…etc etc

Tennessee Titans

Why he would: He would stay in his division and face the Colts twice a year and get to play with CJ2k and Kenny Britt.

Why he would not: Will not be winning championships here.

Washington Redskins

Why he would: Money….Money….Money…. There could be a money shootout in the NFC East between Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones this coming spring.

Why he would not: Redskins do not have much talent on offense to make any threat at a Super Bowl.

There you have it. To recap I think the Cardinals, Cowboys, Dolphins, 49ers, and Vikings would be the most intriguing to Peyton Manning. This is all fictional talk of course until the Colts decide what they will end up doing. The Colts would make the worst decision in the history of the NFL if they let Manning walk, but if they do, they would make one city and one organization’s dreams come true this coming spring. Until then all 12 teams I mentioned can dream happy thoughts.

 

Playoff Power Rankings

I am way to nervous to go in-depth with picks for this weekends games and because of that I am just going to put out a playoff power ranking system with my picks at the end. Here is how I look at things…. On the outside it looks like easy money for 3 of the 4 games. TJ Yates or Jake Delhomme are starting so you automatically think Cincinnati. The Saints are at home so who they play is insignificant due to their dominant ways at the Superdome. You got the banged up Steelers facing the Broncos, a team which their fans want a quarterback change to a guy who has not played a snap all year going into the playoffs. Then you got the Falcons and Giants which is a tossup whatever way you look at it.

You dig deeper though and realize that the Texans and TJ Yates just beat the Bengals on the road. They can just as easily do it at home in the playoffs. (If for whatever reason Jake Delhomme enters this game all bets are off and check my twitter feed @jesanders11 for some Gus Johnson excitement like tweets) The insignificant team the Saints are playing is the Detroit Lions who are very similar to them and if they can play football and keep their heads on straight will keep it close enough to steal. The Broncos are at home and who knows what Tim Tebow will pull out against a VERY banged up Steelers team. My warning to everyone out there is to save your gambling money this week because ANYTHING can happen this week and nothing will surprise me.

12. Cincinnati Bengals

They can very easily win a first round game, but that is their limit in the playoffs this year. There is no way they can keep up with Tom Brady in round 2 if they pull off the Wildcard upset in round 1. Andy Dalton spent the other day in the hospital due to an illness so he may not even be 100% come Saturday afternoon. Marvin Lewis earns a huge congrats for the job he did to lead the Bengals into the playoffs this season.

11. Houston Texans

How good would they have been if they had Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Andre Johnson all season?? The Texans had to of been the unluckiest luckiest team in football this season. Lucky because they were in the weakest division in football and unlucky due to the injuries that will cost them any chance of a deep run in January.

10. Denver Broncos

I do not think I have ever seen a bandwagon fill up so quickly and break so quickly as I have the Tim Tebow bandwagon. Kurt Warner was on the Bickley and MJ radio show today and there was a question asked to Warner about if Cardinals quarterback John Skeleton could improve his accuracy and he gave an answer that relates to Tim Tebow. He said, “that he was a very firm believer that if you have gotten to this point as a not very accurate passer, then it is very difficult to make yourself an accurate passer.” Tebow is never going to throw the ball efficiently and that is just how it is. What Tebow does best is the intangibles and for those to come into play the game needs to be close in the 4th quarter. If it is close than Tebow will always give you chance. He will never be a good and efficient passer and most people need to realize that and accept him for what he does best not bash him for what he does not do best.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers

Way too many injuries this season. They just lost their starting running back and Ben Roethilsberger is still only 80 percent. I would not be as confident as most Steelers fans are this week. You guy are without your leader on defense Ryan Clark for this week and on the road in Denver. The other X factor could be overconfidence. If the Bengals win on Saturday then the winner of Broncos/Steelers would face Baltimore. It is human nature for the Steelers to begin to overlook this game for another rematch against the hated Ravens. I am not bold enough to call the upset I am just putting the upset alert tag on.

8. Detroit Lions

Same deal here with the Lions. Stafford and the offense can definitely score enough to beat the Saints. The question is can they control their emotions to give them the chance to beat the Saints? Even if they do beat the Saints they would have to go back to Green Bay where they just lost to their second stringers. Odds are low for a Super Bowl run, but hey, your back in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years!!

7. San Francisco 49ers

This team has caught the most breaks of any team in football this season. They played almost every team on their schedule at the EXACT right time to play them. David Akers attempted 50 field goals this season. I do not think any other kicker even reached 40 attempts. Alex Smith will need to prove he can win a playoff game for me to believe it because odds are high he will be facing Drew Brees in 2 weeks and field goals will not beat the Saints.

6. Atlanta Falcons

The goal for them this year is to win A playoff game. They will be putting so much into beating the Giants this week that even if they do I do not think they will have enough to beat the Packers in round 2.

5. New York Giants

Does anyone have a good feel on this team?? Anyone?? Bueller….Bueller???? They lose to the Redskins at home in between beating the Cowboys twice and the Jets. They win at Arizona and lose at home to Seattle. They win at Philly and lose at home to Philly. How can you ever beat a New York Giants game? They have a Super Bowl winning quarterback and coach plus experience from a defense that beat Tom Brady 4 years ago. I would not doubt that they have another run still in them.

4. New England Patriots

The patriots do not have the defense to win a Super Bowl. Winning a Super Bowl means beating Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers inside a dome. They would study New England’s secondary and be overcome with excitement. The Patriots can very easily make another Super Bowl. The road to Indianapolis runs through New England in the AFC.

3.Green Bay Packers

If this helps Packers fans I actually think they are the second best team, but this is a top 12 of best chance to make the Super Bowl so I have to put an AFC team number 2.

2. Baltimore Ravens

Can Joe Flacco be a Super Bowl quarterback? My answer to that is if Jake Delhomme can do it then why can’t Joe Flacco!! The Ravens always play Tom Brady tough to begin with so they do not face any demons there unless they somehow face the Steelers which is very possible. If that is the case I would also like to switch this pick because it is almost IMPOSSIBLE in the NFL to beat a team 3 times in one season, especially your hated rivals and a team that has knocked you out of the playoffs 2 times in 3 years…just ask the Suns how long it took them to beat the SPurs.

1. New Orleans Saints

My hidden secret has come out. I have a love affair for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. I do not care that they will have to win in Frisco and in Green Bay. I do not see anything stopping the Saints other than themselves. I honestly believe they are the best team in football right now and will be the one’s celebrating in Indianapolis on February 5th.

Wild Card picks

Saturday

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Houston Texans 20

Detroit Lions 27 at New Orleans Saints 38

Sunday

Atlanta Falcons 16 at New York Giants 26

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at Denver Broncos 13