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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Houston Texans 20
Detroit Lions 27 at New Orleans Saints 38
Atlanta Falcons 16 at New York Giants 26
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at Denver Broncos 13